The Race in a Furnace for 5 hours

Every other DC triathlete: “You’re doing Eagleman!??!!?”
Pipsqueak me: “Yeah! I’m excited!”
Nay-sayers: “Do you know what that course is like?”
Me, doubt starting to creep in: “No…”
The bubble-deflators: “It’s windy. It’s hot. There’s no shade. Your back is going to cramp from being aero for so long on the bike, your shoulders will get burned, and you will be dehydrated on the run. Oh, and the swim is choppy and there are jellyfish. Did I mention it’s a 13.1-mile furnace you’ll be running through? But great luck, I’m sure you’ll be fine!”

And it was true. Every. Single. Warning. Eagleman Tri 70.3 was a true race through a furnace.
The hottest day of the summer yet, and I was scheduled in the second-to-the-last wave. That’s right, my take-off time was more than 90 minutes after the pros went off. A quick calculation meant that I would be hitting the run course as the pros were doing their post-race interviews, and I’d be tackling the half-marathon run in the high heat of the day. Ugh. At least the faster males were all getting out before me so that I wouldn’t be my normal hazardously slow self on the bike course.

For a week leading up to Eagleman, I had checked the water temps hourly, hoping for the non-wetsuit swim to happen with temps over 76.1*. The thermometer kept teasing me with its waffling between 74 and 76 degrees, but race-day morning, Robert announced that water temps were 75.6*. I was bummed that the water hadn't warmed up quite enough to be non-wetsuit, but suctioned my Xterra Vendetta on for the extra buoyancy.

Surprisingly, the water was quite chilly for being borderline non-wetsuit. I lined up at the front edge of the corral and tried to look for my Snapple teammate Holly Geldhauser, but all I could find were goggly-eyed smug triathletes staring back at me. Hmmm…anyone with fast feet who wouldn’t mind me drafting off their bubbles?

Eagleman start was awesome. In-water, which is really the only way to save spectators from wincing at my awful attempt at dolphin-diving into open water. Wide enough that we three age groups clustered together weren’t fighting for space. I quickly grabbed Big Bubbles’ feet and swam in her draft for the first leg of the swim. Occasionally I would have to do a hacking cough underwater to expel the salt water that tasted oh-so-nasty, but that was the worst of it.
Eagleman Swim
Second leg, I passed Big Bubbles and tried to find another red-cap’s feet. No luck. Hum-diddly-ho, all by myself. This meant that I had to sight, which I think I am good at (I follow the line on the bottom of a pool pretty well!), but have been told that I am a horrendous zig-zagger in open water.

Last leg took a while, as the waters became a bit choppy. Something about the tide shifting. I tried to put an extra kick into my stroke, but the waves were a bit stronger now so I just focused on staying on-course. Apparently, there had been reports of jellyfish near the swim exit, but my Xterra Vendetta not only kept me buoyant, it also kept me from getting stung!!
Ready to hit the bike and roll! 
1.2-mile swim: 28:31, 8th AG.

Based on my time, I wouldn’t be surprised if the swim course were a wee bit short!
Out of T1 in a jiffy, and I settled on my bike Penelope and was instantly reminded of my saddle sore. Yeeee-OUCH!!!! Dammit, a saddle sore from a week earlier somehow felt as if it deserved to claim residence to my crotch, so I had to constantly shift positions during the bike course until I found an optimal position where I wouldn’t feel the zit-like bump on my you-know-what.

At about mile 2, I realized that I had so brilliantly left my watch sitting in transition. DOH!!! I wondered how best to gauge when to eat, since I was following a nutrition plan that Snapple teammate Matias Palavecino (and last year’s Eagleman amateur champ!) had sent me:

Matias's Nutrition Plan for me
So, my gregarious self figured out a brilliant plan: I would ask people what mile their Garmin read if/when I passed people (which, being in the second-to-the-last wave of the day, guaranteed there would be a lot of cyclists on the road before me). This probably should win me the Most Annoying Cyclist award, but I tried to pick out nicer-looking-folk before I annoyingly screamed “What mile are we on!?!?!?” I mean, what could be worse than a 5-foot midget wearing a sperm helmet, asking YOU to read the current stats because she has idiotically forgotten her watch?!?!?!?

There’s nothing to write about on this bike course other than: 
  • It’s flat.
  • Cambridge has a lot of straight highways.
  • The cars that somehow got on the race course at Miles 10 and 35 should not have been there.
  • The back and neck cramps from being aero for 2:40+ was inevitable. I’d try to stretch them out by getting out of the saddle every 10 minutes, but there were some massive knots that grew in my neck by the end of the bike leg. 
  • Another successful pee! I am getting to be quite good at this pee-on-the-go thing.

56-mile Bike: 2:41:32, 11th AG.

I was happy with my bike split, but the run is really what it all boils down to…

The Heat. Oh my god, the Heat. I will never disrespect you again or think that you can be ignored/overcome/enjoyed. You made my life HELL for nearly 2 hours and you made 3 people pass out on the side of the road – and those are only the ones that I saw.
I don’t ever carry a water bottle or gels with me on any run, but I sure wish I did. This was worse than any sense of defeat I’ve ever felt, and the only thing that kept me going was knowing that once I crossed the finish line, I could stop moving. I also passed people who looked to be suffering so much worse than I felt – vomiting, walking, standing by the side of the road and rubbing ice from an aid station up and down their calves – that I told myself that my pain was a blip on the pain radar compared to these people fighting nausea and cramps.

Miles 1-3: I can do this. This isn’t too bad. Hammie feels great. What’s this heat that everyone always says will make me want to shrivel and die? I am invincible!!!! I laugh in the face of heat!

I should have known then – don’t you always say that in hindsight?? – that the racers I crossed paths with, coming in on the final stretch of miles 10-13, whose faces looked gaunt, lips parched, bodies barely hanging on…that I would become that in a half-hour.

Mile 4: OMG Get me out of here. Where are the f*&#ing aid stations? I couldn’t even feel the ice that I had stuffed in my bra, shorts, and cap from aid station Mile 3.5. The ice in my cap didn’t cool my brain at all, and you’d think that I’d feel the ice against my boobs or crotch. Nothing. I was numb to the ice cubes and they were only making funny clinking noises. I started doing what I knew was a recipe for disaster: I started to count down the miles. 9 to go.

Mile 5 – Guy farting passed me. Secretly, I was jealous. If I could fart (but I can’t, I’m a girl!!! We don’t fart or poop), I would, too! My stomach was bloated from the 3 cups of water I inhaled at every aid station. Although Matias had advised me to stick with the Pepsi and drinks w/ sugar or electrolytes during the run, I was so desperate for fluids that I just gulped down water. And now I was running with a bloated stomach. 8 more miles.

Mile 6Dammit, I should have taken a water bottle on this run. I kept looking down the vast highway of racers, desperate to just catch sight of the next aid station. Nothing. Just strings of suffering people, like a mass exodus across the Gobi desert. That’s what it felt like. We were all marching toward nothing except the next aid station. Nobody was in a good mood. I crossed paths with Holly and Adriana as the course does an out-and-back, and couldn’t even say anything. Just a pathetic high-five to cheer them on. 7 more miles.
Mile 7 – OK, more than halfway there. What is that funny sloshing sound? Oh, that’s my stomach. Apparently, the turnaround point for the run course is famous for having sno cones. I grabbed 3 sno cones without any sugar water and stuffed them down my bra and shorts and into my cap. Again, nothing. This heat was relentless! 
I tried to give myself a mental pep talk about having reached the half-way point, but my body told me to “Shut up! I will never, ever forgive you for making me do this!! You idiot! You didn’t even carry a water bottle or salt tabs with you on this run and I will maaake yooooouuu suffffferrr.”
Mile 8 – stood in front of a neighborhood boy with a hose for about 20 seconds. I asked him to spray me right in the face, and he sure did. When I finally conceded that others may want the hose, too, I started running in sloshy shoes. That was quite annoying and is probably the reason I had 2 enormous blood blisters when I peeled off my running shoes. C’mon Mindy, time to dig deep. 5 more miles.

Mile 9 – passed a 29-year-old. It felt like I was running about 10-minute miles, but I kept reminding myself that I was still passing people, so there were others hurting more than I was. A sense of needing to vomit and clear my stomach of this nutrition-from-the-bike clump crept up. I had never, ever vomited in a race before. But it felt like it was coming. About 5 false alarms and I ignored my vomiting alert. 4 more miles.
Mile 10 – Cookie Dough ice cream. I remember seeing a Dairy Queen on the way down to Cambridge. Oh my god, I could use a 48-oz Blizzard right now. Butterfingers. No, Heath. Hmmmm, maybe both???
Then, about halfway through, I started to concentrate on steps. Not miles, but steps. Making sure I didn’t trip over my own feet and concentrating – so hard – on keeping my feet moving. It wasn’t about how many more miles anymore, it was about keeping my run cadence up so that I didn’t resort to a walk. Cause if I started to walk, I knew that the 29-year-old I had passed a mile ago would pass me back. Nuh-uh, ain’t gonna happen.

Uh-oh. Left knee started to hurt. It was an injury from a week ago, but decided to emerge at the double-digit miles of this course. However, the pain from the heat was so much worse than my left knee’s twinge that I quite easily managed to ignore it.
Mile 11 – got passed by a girl wearing an Air Force kit from my age group that I hadn’t seen on the bike or the turnaround at the run. She passed me with some pretty good authority, so I didn’t chase. I couldn’t. I was barely holding on. Water. Water. Ice Cream. Pool. Ice bath. Keep your feet happy. Feet happy. Feet happy.
what I felt like...
Mile 12 – I tried to pick it up a bit, and although my left knee and the soles of my feet were screaming at me to Just walk!  No more running! Don’t you want us when you are sixty years old!?!?!?, I wanted more than anything to just cross the finish line. I could hear race director Robert Vigo’s voice announcing the finishers. I didn’t hear my name…maybe because I was three corners away…Robert, your voice sounds like angels calling…

Mile 13 – “One more corner! You’re there! Snapple is GOOOOD!” screamed a spectator. Just around the bend…and the finish line! Crossed and immediately hugged a volunteer. Well, more like I draped my sweaty self all over him, and when he asked if I was OK, I said, “Yes, but just walk with me to that chair”. And he did. Mr. Volunteer, you are awesome. I want to tell you how you much I appreciate that you didn’t shudder when you felt my ice-cube-bra press against your dry shirt, and how much that cold, wet towel on my neck meant to me.

13.1-Mile Run: 1:51:49, 9th AG

Sat in a chair for about 5 minutes, just giving my legs what they deserved: no weight or pressure or pounding. I downed about 48 oz of water during those 5 minutes and still wanted more.

Saw Bart, loved that he was telling me I looked strong on the run (total BS), then loved him even more for telling me my bike split was pretty good (unlike the typical “Where was the hammer?”). I felt like crap and my stomach was bloated and I was still thirsty and where the hell is a Dr. Pepper when you really need one!?!?? But seeing Bart, and congratulating Adriana on her kick-ass half-Ironman a mere 3 ½ months after having a baby girl, and just simply not moving felt sooooo good and soooo well-deserved.
Eagleman Half-Iron: 5:05:48, 7th AG.
So relieved to be DONE DONE DONE!!!
Lessons Learned:
  • Don’t leave feet on the swim too early. I could probably have kept on Big Bubbles’ feet for 800 more meters and saved more energy rather than thinking that the 1st turn was a good place to pass her.
  • Don’t forget the watch on the bike. Ever again.
  • I can hammer on the bike. It didn’t leave my legs depleted on the run and kept me in a good position in my age group!
  • I hate heat. But will prepare for it. Next race in 90+* weather, I’ll carry a water bottle and some extra salt tabs. Having no nutrition or fuel on the run was just idiotic.
  • The pain is temporary. Less than 24 hours later, I’m itching for my next training weekend up at Lost Barn with the Snapple Tri Team. I’ve already forgotten how much I hated the suffering and dehydration.
  • Stop the pity party. I chose to race this. I chose to train for an Ironman. At Mile 10, when I was blaming everybody but myself - "Damn the VA Tech spectatos with beers lounging under a tent! Damn the racers who already finished! Damn the sun! Damn the Cambridge ciy planners who made such desolate stretches of road! Damn you...and you..and YOU!!!" This is my choice. I signed up for this suffer-fest and I admit that I LOVE IT.
  • Man, this sport is getting tough as nails! My age group was stacked with super-women! 
I found this bubbly Sexy Momma at the finish line!
Just 3 1/2 months after having her baby girl, and she's already logged 2 HIMs! 
Congrats to the Snapple Tri Team for an AWESOME race day! 
Ben Winterroth won the AquaVelo, and Holly Ann Geldhauser (4th AG), Ellen Wexler, and Andy Sovonick (7th AG) also beat the heat!!!

And thanks to Bart Forsyth for being race photographer and race-morning chaffeur, and to my wonderful IM-suffermates Katie Ingram, Sarah Littlefield, and Caroline Lauver for the good-luck wishes and words of encouragement!
And thanks to the wonderful TriColumbia crew for another awesome race! The sno-cones at Mile 7, the sprinklers along the course, the volunteer who was my support pole when I crossed, and the carrot cake at the post-race tent…you know how to make a race experience complete!

Hello, friend. 
I recovered later that day with 2 wonderful pints of Ben and Jerry’s (Red Velvet and Cookie Dough, if you’re wondering).

I popped a gynormous blood blister and, later in the shower, discovered that I now have TWO saddle sores. Guh. It had grown a twin. This will be a recovery/rest week for sure.

Next up: Ironman Lake Placid!!! Can we say PUMPED UP!!?!?!?

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