Bloody Sunday

Wikipedia's disambiguation for the search "Bloody Sunday" yields 19 results. I suppose at this point, my own personal triathlon story the past year or so could also need a disambiguation for "Bloody Sunday". There's been a few.  

As some of you may know, IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria kicked off my racing season for real. I had raced earlier at the Oregon Dunes Sprint Tri and nabbed a win, but that race was really an appetizer in my mind to Victoria. I had been prepping for this, my first half, very intently and I felt excellent going into the race. Tim and I had prepared all spring, passing by races in favor of consistent training and distance. My mind was solely focused of this race. 

Sarah and I took a lazy course up to the Great White North as we headed up 5 days before the gun went off. We visited friends, enjoyed good weather, did some nice runs and rides, and arguably most importantly, visited a distillery. Despite this, I was more nervous than usual. A sort of primordial dread would sink over me. No reason came to my mind for this dread, but I was uneasy. I just knew something was amiss. We bumped into competition on the ferry that I didn't know was coming and I realized this race wasn't the "off the beaten track" race I was hoping for. The field was stacked. So much for a relatively uncompetitive first race. 

We enjoyed Victoria immensely and had a great time exploring the city, it should be noted. Sarah and I loved Butchart Gardens, Old Town, Craigdaroch Castle and the rest. The race venue proved to be a thorn in our sides, however, as the literal absence of parking led to a multitude of headaches that could easily have been avoided with better planning by IRONMAN. Alas. 

The weather proved to be glorious on race morning. Warm sun and clear visibility led to a sweeping view of the northern Olympic Peninsula to the south. Sarah put up with my anxiety and nerves by teasing me and telling me to channel my inner "covfefe" a la Trump. Thanks darling... 

After cramming into the wetsuit, I waited in line right at the entrance to the swim, and after a lengthy prelude of thank yous, anthems, and introductions, the cannon went off. Due to the nature of Ironman's Swim Smart initiative, we were channeled through to the start one at a time. This led to a relatively clean start, for once, and saw me join a pack of about 5 chasing a single break away.

The journey 1000 yards out was relatively uneventful. Besides the first two age group women and an overexcited male relay swimmer who sprinted in front me and promptly slowed down immediately upon hitting the water, I would not pass anyone. Instead, I made myself content to hold onto my spot in this lead group and bide my time.

Our return to land saw me almost lose contact with the pack, but a few strong strokes and I was back on. I had to whack a relay team person a few times as he obstinately kept swimming into my head, but a few solid blows to his torso sent him back onto a straighter course and my own head free from aches. I got to play a bit of water-polo, yay. 

I dashed free from the swim and passed through those who were transitioning slower. Here, I spied Nick Noone, Collegiate National Champion only feet ahead of me. Well... guess that swim went well.

I moved onto the bike with glee. I was ready to lay down a quick split. Passing most of the earlier starting professional women's field in approximately 15 miles, I made my way up to Nick quickly. I was enjoying the ride thus far to be frank, besides hitting every pothole in my flight to the front. 

We rode close for the next 30 odd miles, occasionally trading the lead, but still driving onwards, passing into the pro men field. The course had turned from mild hills to much more aggressive beasts that led my legs to tire a bit and I faded from Nick's sight. I was trying to keep my effort tempered as best I could, though I was not very sure how to go about doing that, as I did not want to fall too far behind. However I felt fatigue hitting my limbs and that telltale feeling of  weakness leaking in. I would ease off the gas these last 10 miles and try conserve energy. I ate a bit and made sure to drink all my bottles. However, it would appear that I had overcooked the bike. I was trying to get food and more importantly, electrolytes into my body to stop what I feared from happening, cramps. 

And they would come. I felt my first cramp at mile 2 of a slow start to the run. By mile 3, I would be on the ground. I fell and couldn't get up. Both legs cramping all over, I writhed. A nearby spectator ran down the trail to me and helped me up. I had lain on the ground for 2 minutes or more and there we stood, assessing the situation. These were bad. I started to walk and cramped again so I stood more. Then finally managed to start putting both feet in front of the other and started running again. At first, I felt great but then the deep, dead feeling, painful soreness and aches hit at mile 5. My legs felt like literal lead and as I staggered through the halfway point, miraculously still in 2nd, I informed Sarah of the situation via a short yell. This was the end. 

My downward spiral would begin. Pros I passed earlier rolled past me and, soon enough, most of my main competitors would too. Luckily, I was able to trek on slightly below 8 minute mile pace and do some damage control. The pain stayed. It felt like I had done squats all day long and had kept doing so without pause. I rammed down gel after gel and drank sports drink after sports drink. I was hoping to stave off any more cramps and while I was successful in this task, I made myself quite ill feeling. Nausea hit strong with a mile to go and after crossing the finish line I was shepherded to the medical tent where I would make camp for an hour or so while I recovered fluids. But I made it!

Despite my backwards march during the run, I finished in the top 10 overall for the amateurs and 25th with the pros in there. I snagged a spot to the 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga as well (I declined the slot as this race is during school).

While I may still be digesting what to do for the future, and how to fight these cramps, I can take some solace in knowing that I can do this longer distance race to some degree of success and if all goes well, be very very competitive.

Thanks to CBT Nuggets for the support, without them this expeditionary voyage to the 70.3 would never have been possible. We get to do it all again at the end of the month.