Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gulf Coast Tri

6:25:04 ... Not quite the race I was hoping for but I got bit after the swim!

The day started out great. We'd found a good parking spot close to the race start/finish. The person next to me on the bike rack had not shown up, which meant extra space for me and the woman on the other side. The new Aqua Cell aero bottle I'd bought at the expo fit in my aero bars and would provide me with nearly double the fluid capacity as my old one. (This was a training race for me so I was trying a few new things.)

And as I was wiggling into my wetsuit, I heard someone calling my name. Shirley? Shirley? Well, talk about lucky. It was TriCajun along with his wife who was also doing the race! I was so happy to see them having missed meeting up with them the day before. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet Ryan at the race.

We chatted briefly, mostly about the water conditions, then wished each other luck. Damn Gulf ... Every time I come to do a race here, it's pretty rough ...

But not as rough as a year and a half ago. And this time I was better prepared.

The worst part was getting to the first buoy a little ways beyond the breakers. Of course, a set of waves decided to come in just as we were heading out. I dove underneath several times to avoid getting clobbered by them. I swear it didn't seem like I was making any forward progress at all for a while.

But finally I was past the breakers and able to focus on the task of swimming rather than ducking. Like last time I was here, the buoy markers were only really visible on the crests of swells and I had to time my sighting, but this time I could breathe on both sides (bilaterally), which was good. There was no fear, no feeling of being in over my head, no worries about Jaws. I just kept swimming.

57:56 later I was done and quite happy. I'd made it under my 1-hour goal time and I'd even managed to pee before coming ashore, something I'd never been able to do in a race before. Hopefully, it'll mean less time in the transition area!

On my way there, I pulled off my wetsuit (no wetsuit strippers). I was a mere 50 feet or so from my bike when I felt a sharp pain in my left heel.

At first I thought it was just a rock or something and tried to knock it off with my hand. I stepped down again and OUCH! I looked down and saw a piece of dark-colored glass stuck in my left heel. CRAP!!!

I picked it out and it was promptly replaced by blood. I made it to my bike walking only on the ball of that foot. Luckily, I always bring water with me to rinse off my feet in the transition area. The cut was about a half-inch long and bleeding pretty good. Figures ... As a kid, I always seemed to be stepping on nails or other sharp objects, and having to get tetanus shots. One of the reasons why I rarely ever walk around barefoot ...

The thought of visiting the medical tent briefly crossed my mind. Instead, I put a sock on it. I wasn't sure I'd be able to run on the heel later but I should be able to bike just fine since most of the downward pressure is through the ball of the foot when pedaling.

As expected, we had 10-15 mph winds with us for most of the outbound leg and against us for most of the inbound leg. Because of the glass incident, I'd decided to make my bike segment the strongest of the three sports and walk the 13.1 miles if I had to in order to finish. The course was flat except for one bridge and parts of it had been repaved since I last rode it during an IMFL Training Camp, which was good. But it made it hard to break up riders and I saw a couple pelotons roll past me. Where the hell are the course marshals when you need one?

Anyway, I rolled back to the transition zone in 2:48:37 (19.9 mph), well below my original 3 hour bike goal time. Now for the real test: Can I run?

Well, I didn't even look at my foot in the transition area. I just put my running shoes on and headed out. To my surprise, I hardly felt any heel pain at all when I stepped, just a little sting. Don't know if it was the adrenaline killing the pain or what ...

BUT, it was soon evident that I'd ridden too hard and had not fueled up enough (judging by how much food I had leftover, I was able to eat only about half of what I had planned to - doh!). I started out at around a 9:30 pace that soon became a very slow shuffle. I probably could have pushed a little harder but it was very hot (with the humidity factored in, probably close to 90) and I kept worrying that my heel might swell up at some point and really start bothering me. I settled for slow and steady with walk breaks through the aid stations to hydrate and cool off as much as possible.

By mile 12, however, I knew I was going to make it and I wanted to salvage some pride. You see, for the last couple miles, there was this one woman in my age group who'd kept passing me and slowing down until I caught up to her, passing me and slowing down, etc. The kind of stuff that drives a fairly competitive person like me batty.

So on the final turn to the finish, I pulled out all the sponges tucked into my shirt and let loose everything I had left. If I could just beat her to the finish, I'd feel better.

On that last half mile, there were a lot of spectators and I must have passed like 20 or so people. I saw Dave waiting for me up in the bleachers. Poor guy, it took me a half hour longer than I thought to do the run (2:30:00) but I put nearly a minute (51 seconds) between me and the other woman on that last stretch. Hooray for small victories!

1.2 mi Swim: 57:56 (2:44/100 yd)
T1: 6:07
56 mi Bike: 2:48:37 (19.9 mph)
T2: 2:25
13.1 mi Run: 2:30:00 (11:28 min/mi)
Total race time: 6:25:04, 24/43 F45-49

And heel injury looks to be nothing major, no infection. In fact, all the water I was dumping on myself during the run segment to stay cool got into my shoes and seems to have kept the wound quite clean.

Unfortunately, though, I found out the next day that another triathlete had died during the swim segment of a race here at the gulf ... that makes 3 in less than 2 years :-(


Wendy said...

Excellent work out there, Shirley -- and in particular you should be very proud of that swim!! (Hurrah for bilateral breathing!)

I'm sorry to hear that there was a tragedy during the swim.

skoshi said...

I'm glad that you felt more prepared for the swim. That water looked scary (to me) and I think I might have gone into my panic mode. It's good to know that you felt more comfortable in it.
Your heel looks great after the race, but that's quite a cut you got.
You did a great job with this race.

I'm sorry to read about the triathlete that died. My condolances to his friends and family.

Susan said...

"Instead, I put a sock on it." Now that is a metphor about just 'sucking it up' if I've ever heard one. Good job! Sorry about the cut. But I have to tell you that I was soooooo excited to read this report. Your reports never disappoint!


Dear Ms. Ankle,

I'd like to thank you for picking up a piece of glass because this is probably the only way on planet earth that I can claim to have EVER been faster than the Humble Triathlete in a half marathon. By the way, Ms. Ankle, I am selectively forgetting the fact the HT had just swam and cycled a ton. Also, let's selectively forget that HT has helped this wannabe triathlete get a little closer to her first sprint tri. Yep - let's focus one this one isolated incident! :)

Ms. Peroneal Tendon

(Luy ya Shirley!!!!!)

TJ said...

Great race Shirley! Way to not let a little piece of glass slow you down. :)

My thoughts and prayers will be with the family of the swimmer who didn't make it.

ShirleyPerly said...

Thanks Everyone!

Indeed, it wasn't that long ago that I would never have considered swimming in the ocean, especially if it looked like that. But I've come a long way and knowing I've swam in worse conditions helped.

I'm still learning at every race, though. Not sure I should have pushed so hard on the bike because it made it quite difficult to eat as much as I normally would. Still, I feel lucky to have gotten away with a 6:25 ... Could have been much worse!

Cliff said...


Congrats on finishing. Ouch. I can never imagine biking and running with such a cut in my feet. Way to stay strong at the end and beat the lady :)

I am sorry to hear about the loss of another triathlete in the swim.

Calyx Meredith said...

Well done Shirley! What a swim you had! (Those pictures of the chop are scary.) And what perseverance you showed biking and running with a cut heel! (Way to raise the bar there - thanks! Now when I feel like wimping out, I'll think WWSD?) :D

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family/friends of the triathlete who died. Somber news, that. Peace.

Sarah said...

Nice job Shirley! I can't believe you tackled that swim - it looks pretty scary to me. You did a fab job on the race!

I've got Patrick's family in my prayers.

akshaye said...

Great race! To run with a bleeding foot.. you are tough. I hope it heels quickly.

I read about the swimmer too. My thoughts are with his family

Brent Buckner said...

Good event - and another tribute to KPN's swim camp!

MarathonChris said...

Congrats on your race and on conquering the swim...also your perserverence with the foot thing!

You are a inspiration to us all!

Maddy said...

You are amazing!

You just pulled the glass out and kept right on truckin'! AWESOME! You should be proud!

It's sad to hear about the loss at the race.

Jim said...

I just looked up the word "perserverence" in the dictionary and it had your picture. You are awesome! As a runner, I can't imagine going 13.1 miles with a laceration to my heel. The surf looks nasty. Lest we forget you did a marathon two weeks earlier. Congratulations!

It is always tragic to hear of a loss at any event.

Donna N. said...

"Instead I put a sock on it?!?!" Are you kidding me? Shirley I love YOU!!! Talk about giving me courage. You exude courage. Prepare to get the big HUG next time I see you at Track Shack.

You are an awesome lady.

CewTwo said...

I can hear (see?) that spreading across the internet! Put a sock on it! Shirley DID!

Wow. What a race report. I felt the pain as you pulled the glass out! Tough!

The ocean is a strange thing to me anyway (being a landlubber and all). Seeing like the picture showed would have sent me home!

Great report! Thanks, Shirley!

P.O.M. said...

Wow. YOu did awesome. I would have taken one look at that water and turned around to head for the hills. ha ha.

I can't believe that someone had died. Makes you think about things a little differently.

Rural Girl said...

Sorry about your heel cut.

Nice job on the swim. You should be proud.

As usual, you held it all together well!

peter said...

I'm sorry about the swimmer who died.

Nice work on the race, especially with such an inauspicious start (glass shard in the heel). Way to get beyond it though, and nice strategizing on the fly. You made the right decision to push the bike and see about the run, even if you had to walk it. That's an impressive medal you're holding up, you certainly earned it!

Sunshine said...

Appreciated reading your interesting report... And OH .. I loved the pictures!!
You certainly survived well.. be well.
And Congratulations.

Kevin said...

Great job on the race. You showed some amazing strength making it through all that after stepping on the glass

Stef said...

That picture of you getting out of the water is awesome!! Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for your encouraging comment. That ocean water looked mean in those pictures but to read about someone who not so long ago would not have considered swimming in the ocean is very inspirational. I will definitely be back to check out more of your adventures.

Ryan said...

Sorry we missed each other.

Great job and way to power through the race with a cut on your heal.

Could it have been anymore humid?

I'm sure next time we'll find a way to get together.

Smithposts said...

Congrats on the race! The water looked frightening but the glass in the heel sent a chill up my spine. Way to show strength in the face of some tough challenges!

jen said...

Congratulations! Great race- way to finish strong. :)

Sorry to hear about the athlete that died. What a tragedy.

BreeWee said...

I LOVE your race photos, they make me want to go race! Seriously that swim looks insane! Just crazy but I see you are waving at the finish!

Yikes! This is the first I am finding out about the loss of one of the athletes... Thanks for sharing... prayers are on the way to the family!

Petraruns said...

Wow Shirley - what a race! Great going on the swim section - you really slayed an internal dragon (or shark) there in the course of the past year haven't you? Shame about the glass though it doesn't seem too bad? And all kudos to you for just putting a sock on it (there's a life lesson in there for me I think) adn getting on with it - I've said it before but honestly - you never fail to inspire!

Robert said...

Great job!

RBR said...

Holy Cow! I am not sure I could go in with it that rough. You are a braver (and significantly faster) woman than I. Awesome swim and awesome race! Congrats on your revenge!

I hope your heel is healing up well. I have to admit the "I got bit" part freaked me out at first. Glad to her it was NOT in the water and from an inanimate object!

Rocking race Shirleyperly!

lizzie lee said...

Congratulations Shirley. Man, if those waters weren't as rough as last year, I don't want to imagine how they were in 2007. They look pretty choppy to me...

Sad to know about the tri-athlete that died. It doesn't suppose to end that way.

you, please, take care of yourself, would ya?

lizzie lee

Tammy said...

Wow. Incredible. Great job on your training and goals. It does make if very sad to hear about someone losing there life on something they love to do. And that cut you your foot, that must have hurt, shows how much concentration you were putting into your race.

SimplyStu said...

Love your race reports - they always get me so excited to race. It is still too cold here for racing, but soon....I hope.

Fe-lady said...

Congrats! Great time! Man that water looked ROUGH!
You have smooooth heels! :-)
And you are a biking ma-SHEEN lady! Great MPH ave.

PLANET3RRY said...

what an epitome of a "training race". You did excellent out there!

That water looked rough... caps whiter than a grandma's head! I couldn't imagine trying to swim through that... okay, you got me wanting to experience it now.

The picture of the bike looks just as dreary as the swim picure AND strong winds too...

Then, what could make the run worse? Sun... and you said plenty of it.

Way to conquer the course. Took some damage in the process, but hey, makes for a cool story and a gory picture! Excellent work!

Flatman said...

Great bike split!!!