It is now four days after the race and I am finally awake enough to write up my race report. The quick summary is that I survived and finished in 14:42:19, with a swim time of 1:55, bike time of 7:04 and run time of 5:22. My blood sugar never got low and I confirmed once again that I am in fact diabetic even after 10 hours of continuous exercise. The pump worked like a star and the Dexcom even hung on for a good portion of the race.
Now for the rest of the story... This first part is just about the days leading up to the race. The report on the race will follow soon.
Checking in to Coeur d'Alene
We arrived Wednesday morning, checked into the hotel and headed down to the expo at Coeur d'Alene City Park. I bought some new bike clothes and other schwag while the selection was still good. If I wasn't committed to finishing yet, that $80 bike jacket might give me a little extra push along the way. That and the bike shorts, bike jersey, etc. I decided to go for a quick swim in the lake and relax for the evening.
Thursday, Gatorade sponsored a morning swim on the actual course. I swam out to the first point of the rectangular course in about 29 minutes. I had only planned on a 30-minute swim to begin with and so cut my way back to the return buoy line. The chop on the way out really bothered me and I found it difficult to find a good swim rhythm. My mind was mostly on how bad the conditions were. Furthermore, as I was swimming back, I had that feeling of doom that my BG was falling. I started to breaststroke and wonder how I was going to make it through the swim on Sunday. I tried to eat a gel while treading water but kept getting submerged. A woman in a kayak came up to me and I held on while downing a GU. I chatted with her and she mentioned that conditions would probably be similar on Sunday, since cooler weather was moving in. Fantastic. She asked me if I wanted to get taken in by a jetski but there was no way I would completely shatter my confidence by doing that. She did pull me along for a bit while I waited for the GU to kick in, and then I swam the rest of the way. Seeing a time of 59 minutes on my watch caused me great concern, since I hadn't even swum the whole course. I began to really wonder whether I would make it through. I did gain some reassurance after calling my fabulously enthusiastic and helpful swim coach Laura, who gave me some strategies for choppy conditions and reasoned with me that I should be able to make the cutoff, given my past swim times.
Friday, we met for a team swim, shorter this time. Here I am, ready to get into the water, hoping for a smoother swim. During this swim, I focused on using good technique and on practicing sighting. I rehearsed my mantra of "smooth, strike, relax" and thought about my body rotation and arm position throughout the stroke. I thought about pulling with strength through the water and feeling the water in my hands. Having some objects to sight on above the chop, instead of buoys often hidden by the waves, helped me to swim much straighter. By relaxing and getting a feel for the waves, I was able to swim more efficiently and to be less disturbed by getting tossed around a bit.
After a final 8-minute swim on Saturday, I was feeling much better about how I felt during the swim, but still had some concern about how long it would take me. From practice, I know that a significantly higher effort on my part leads to a very modest reduction in my time, and that I would need to maintain a moderate effort during the race that would not drain me for the bike and run. I was not as concerned with the bike and run, and felt that I could face those if I made it past the swim.
Thursday, we rode the first leg of the bike/run course, which is pictured here. The bike went out and back along this road, and the run along the trail on the right. Just around the corner is the biggest hill on the run course, which was actually pretty short--about 1/4 mile at most. I was happy to see that the run course was otherwise nearly flat with only modest grades.
We drove the rest of the bike course on Friday and all met up for the welcome banquet that night. I was a little dismayed to hear that the swim cutoff time was actually 2:20, not 2:30, but tried to maintain my confidence. Also, it was a little freaky to see the videos of people staggering across the finish line. Umm, I didn't want to finish that way. I have been eating a gel about midway through my long swims, and was planning to do this for the race. Also, I wanted to check my BG after the first lap, since it had been running so high and I usually have a problem with high BG after the swim anyway. I had fixed this problem during training but since I had entered taper mode, I was needing a lot more insulin. I wasn't sure how quickly my insulin sensitivity would increase once I started the race. I met with one of the race officials at the banquet who arranged for me to have a friend meet me after the first lap of the swim; he even met up with us on Saturday to deliver a restricted swim area wrist band. I was greatly relieved to know I would be able to test my BG mid-race and to take on extra gels if needed.
Saturday I packed up my T1 (swim-to-bike) and T2 (bike-to-run) bags and finished preparing my bike. I had purchased a couple of the new One Touch Ultra Mini's and covered one of them with red velcro. I also smothered the lancet and one vial of test strips with velcro and attached some of the fuzzy velcro side to my bike stem and along the side of my right aerobar. The other Mini I would use for the run. Plus I still have my older One Touch Ultra that I need for the Dexcom, and another backup Ultra, just in case. I wasn't going to take any chances this time around.
While putting my race number on my bike, I slipped and banged my knee hard against the front chain ring. Ouch! I had drawn some blood and my knee began to throb. Ugh! This was now about 18 hours before the race. I iced and elevated and rested but it continued to throb. I tried to convince myself that at worst I would be in some pain during the race, but it was probably just a bruise and would not interfere with my performance. At least it took my mind off of the swim. I just couldn't believe that, after being overly careful about not getting injured for months and especially the last week, I was so clumsy!
Saturday night came. My drinks were mixed and hopefully freezing in the styrofoam cooler filled with dry ice that I had bought from Safeway. I was surprised to see dry ice for sale at a grocery store, since the past few places I've lived (Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco), sure didn't sell it to the general public. My special needs bags were packed and I was ready for bed. Now I just had to fall asleep...