Continuing from Yesterday’s Bike Recap…. and onto the Run!
When I got off the bike, I was looking forward to the run, since it’s my strongest event. I was feeling really good on the bike and expected to have a strong run, since I was nailing my nutrition and my legs still felt fresh. My plan for the run was to stay with a 7:30 pace and break 1:40, or faster. This was not out of the question giving my training and my running ability. If I stuck with a sub 7:30 pace, I was would be on track to break 5:00 hours for the race (which was my goal!).
Once I passed through T2, I was on my way. The run course was one 13.1 mile loop, which I liked, because a lot of these races have a down-and-back run or two loops. At this point in the day, it was VERY humid outside and the air was thick… the sun wasn’t out, but it was hot folks.
As soon as I started to run, I could tell something in my stomach was NOT right. I felt REALLY full and I had upper stomach pain and acid reflux. I have struggled with nausea before during a race, but this felt different. I felt like there was a giant air pocket in my stomach that could not get out, and I was sick to my stomach. On top of the stomach issues, I was having trouble breathing. Before I even got to the first aid station at mile 1, I started to get really wheezy with my breathing. I felt like something was closing my airway and I could not for the life of me, take a full deep breath. It felt like I had bronchitis, but I wasn’t even sick. I started to panic a little bit, worried that I was having perhaps an asthma attack (but I don’t have asthma, I thought…) Feeling frustrated and scared, I stopped before the first aid station and walked, trying to catch my breath and relax. I was wheezing like crazy, so I stopped and leaned over trying to breathe. A girl running by asked if I was OK and even offered me water, I told her I was fine (even though I definitely wasn’t). I struggled to get to the first water stop, and once I got there, I asked everyone around me for an inhaler, no luck. The volunteers asked if I wanted to sit down and they could call someone back at the race site, but I declined. I thought about stopping for a moment, but I knew if I stopped, I might not be able to finish. Thinking about how frustrated I would be if I gave up, I continued on, feeling like absolute sh*t. For the next couple of miles, I struggled, hard. I took mini walk breaks at each aid station and continued to ask everyone around me if they had an inhaler. I was coughing a lot and my breathing was fast… and I was still incredibly nauseous.
There were SO many times during the first 3-5 miles of the race that I wanted to give up. I knew what was happening to my body was NOT good and that I could potentially be putting myself in danger. I probably should have stopped at those first couple of miles, but I wanted to finish the race… every competitive bone in my body wanted to finish the race. I kept saying these mantras in my head: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “Mind over matter…” I was averaging around a 8:30 mile and was trying hard not to get pissed off about it. At that point, I was throwing the idea of PR out the window and I just wanted to finish and be OK.
At mile 5 things started to change slightly for the better. A guy ran from behind and said he was also coached by QT2 (my tri team/coach).. he knew I was on the team because of the tri kit. He asked who my coach was, and it turns out we have the same coach! This guy was my saving grace and I met him at my lowest point the race, when I wanted to give up. He asked how I was doing, I told him I wasn’t feeling well and he told me to just relax my breathing and try to burp and get some of the air out of my stomach (I found out later after the race that he’s a Doctor!). He was going at around a 7:45 pace, and I decided I was going to try and stick with him. Running with him helped take my mind off the pain, big time. We talked about what races we have this season and it turns out we are both racing in our first Ironmans this year, he’s doing Lake Placid and I’m doing IMMT. I took water at every aid station and tried to eat my Shot Blocks. I was supposed to eat a shot block every mile, but I felt so nauseous that I could not stomach eating one that frequently… I probably ate one block every 2 miles. I stuck with my runner friend for about 3-4 miles, until we got to a hill and I told him to just take off and not wait for me. Finally at around mile 8, I was feeling slightly better. My breathing was relaxed at this point, still coughing a lot but not as wheezy. I got a surge of energy during the last couple of miles and was passing people left and right (it’s too bad this didn’t happen from the beginning, ugh). I saw men on the run course that told me they saw me on the bike course and were impressed with my speed… I also got comments about my great clip on the run… if only they had seen me in the first 3-5 miles. I was watching my Garmin closely, and knew I wasn’t going to break 5 hours, but I also knew I was darn close to my time at Timberman 70.3, which was 5:08. My goal at that point was to hopefully PR and break 5:08.
When I approached mile 12, I forgot about the pain and gunned it for the last mile. I remember a guy saying to me ‘this is the easy part.’ I don’t know if I agree with him about that, but I did cruise to the end. I was so excited to see the race venue and all of the spectators as I approached the finish. When I got to mile 13, I took a right onto a dirt trail and actually ran onto grass for the finish chute. Sprinting down a finish chute is probably my favorite thing on earth… it’s just so exciting! The adrenaline at the end of the race took away my stomach pain and I was able to forget about the breathing.
As I approached the finish line, I held my arms up in the arm, as I always do! You can see by the photos though, I was in quite a bit of pain… I looked down at my Garmin and it said unofficially, 5:11… not the PR I was hoping for, but at least I finished.
Clearly not comfortable here
As soon as I stopped and received my medal, I couldn’t breathe. I literally could not inhale and was struggling to take air into my lungs. This was probably the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me at a race finish. I felt really dizzy, almost like I was going to collapse. My poor husband, Todd, ran over to congratulate me and saw me struggling to breathe, being helped by a volunteer. The volunteer who helped me was fantastic. She sat me down in a chair at the finish line and put a cold towel with ice around my neck. Crazy enough, I had packed an inhaler in my transition bag, but did not take it at any point during the race. I only packed it last minute in case I wanted it afterwards. I sometimes have coughing fits after a hard race or from the cold, but have never been diagnosed with Asthma… and I have NEVER had breathing issues during a race, until this day. I mentioned to the volunteer that I had an inhaler and Todd sprinted over to transition as fast as he could and grabbed it for me (thank god I packed that thing!). Once I took the inhaler, it was like night and day, I could breathe again! I was still nauseous, but at least I could breathe. I was so angry at myself for not taking my inhaler with me on the run, but I didn’t think I would even need it. I also wish I had turned around at mile 1 to go back and get it… oh well.
I’m not sure what caused the breathing episode, but I am going to follow up with my Doctor about it. Part of me thinks it could have been the pollen (I am allergic to pollen), and perhaps I inhaled a lot of it on the bike? Part of me also thinks I might have sports induced asthma and will need to have me inhaler with me at all races going forward. I have also heard another opinion that it could have been a horrible case of acid re-flux from the sports drink and this could have impacted my breathing. Whatever the cause was, it was awful and I don’t want it to ever happen again.
After I gained my composure, we walked over the post-race area and relaxed. I took my recovery drink (3 scoops of Cappuccino Ultragen), hoping it might make me feel better, which it sort of did. I did not want to eat anything AT ALL after the race. This happens to me often… I see everyone eating the post-race grub and I never want to eat it, I always feel queasy. Since I was still feeling crummy, I had Todd go over and check the race results, I wanted to know if I placed in my Age Group, but was scared to know the answer. I saw there nervous, waiting for him to come back with the news. When he came over, he said I was 2nd in my Age Group! I was relieved and really excited. Of course I wanted to win my age group, but given how I felt, I was happy with 2nd place. The awards ceremony was not for another hour, so Todd, Oliver and I hung out and relaxed. I snacked on pretzels and raisins, and drank some sprite (hoping it would help my stomach).
When it was time for the awards ceremony, I made sure I put on my QT2 podium T Shirt!
They called up the female age groups first and gave us our awards. Standing on the podium is always a goal of mine, it is honestly the best feeling being up there. When I stood up there on the 2nd place podium box, my smile was beaming and I was so proud of myself. All of my hard training paid off and despite not having the run I wanted, I still had an incredible race!
The award was a RacePak box, which I am pretty much obsessed with. It’s a wooden box that they stamped with ‘Patriot Half Ironman.’ My box said 2nd place Female 30-34. Inside the box was tons of goodies like dried fruit, sports drink, cookies, etc… totally awesome! Race Pak is a subscription service, similar to birch box, that you can give to yourself or your favorite athlete.
After the podium, we snapped lots of great photos with my award and then we were on our way.
Finish Time 5:10:22
2nd Place 30-34 Age Group
10th Female overall (out of 239 females)
Hours Trained the week of Patriot Half Ironman: 15.5 hours (including the race!).
Todd and Oliver had a great day spectating! Oliver met lots of other doggies, including a golden retriever puppy, needless to say, he was almost as tired as I was… he even decide to ‘cool off’ his tail;)
Sharing one last photo with you… my favorite of the professional photos (that I plan on purchasing)
Next up: Mass State Triathlon on July 13th. After that, it’s onto IRONMAN Mont Tremblant!
What’s next on your race agenda? Have you ever suffered with breathing issues during a race? How did you cope?