Patriot Half IM Race Report: The Swim

Yes, I am aware I have been slacking on this whole blogging thing; such is life. But, I figured I should post something about my recent triathlon–one which I actually FINISHED (insert a million smiley faces), not only that, but finished faster than I expected. Since there is so much to share regarding this race, and the fact it is almost dinner time and I need to work the next couple of days, I decided to separate the post into a couple different installments. Yes, the post about Mooseman was gut wrenching to write. But this post may just be the polar opposite 🙂

Before the Race

The days leading up to the race were raining and yucky–perfect for stopping any motivation I may have had to sneak in an extra ride or run. Truth be told, my conception of “tapering” meant “do as little training as possible.” I did follow my training plan for the most part. And, I even swam in my wetsuit twice (I’ve mentioned how I despise swimming in one). With all the hills around us, I just couldn’t be motivated to do longer than 50-55miles on any long ride, especially knowing I would be jogging after. Sure, back in the autumn I went on multiple 50+ mile rides a week, but those rides never proceeded runs. Or attempts to run. My thought process was, “hey, I’ve run numerous half marathons this year. I’ll be find running on race day.” My mindset preparing for this race was completely different than the last time I trained for a triathlon. Nutrition? Unlike the last race when I thought you would be able to complete a full half IM eating perhaps one power bar and drinking gatorade, this time around I started my nutrition plan when I began my long rides. In the end, I think it helped. Finishing a couple long bricks made me hopeful that I would finish this race. I was filled with postitive excitement for the race.

And then I had a seizure. One week before race day.

Yes, I’ve had them before; I was diagnosed with Epilepsy when I was 16. But I’ve gone for a couple years being seizure free. This one, however,came out of the blue. I kept thinking, “I didn’t even do a long hard brick work out today….I fueled well…I think I hydrated myself enough…” It has been years since I have had two seizures within six months of each other. If you have epilepsy, you know the feelings associated with having a seizure. Thankfully for me, I know when I’m going to have one. But despite the fact that I know I will “survive” a seizure, the post-ictal phase (or when you are “coming to” from having one) freaks the living day light out of me. It is a weird out of body experience, and there is always a small part of me that is terrified that I will have a seizure that will be prolonged requiring medical intervention.

By chance I had a doctors appointment a day after I had a seizure and I was trying to think of things which might have provoked it. It couldn’t have been physical exhaustion; I had completed far tougher brick workouts in the weeks prior, and the day before the seizure I only did a small easy brick–one I’ve done time and time again- which never caused me to have one. Even thinking back to when I worked night shifts with sleep deprivation and lack of nutrition, I never had one. My doc, on the other hand, thought differently. In fact, he advised me against doing the race. He told me I was at a higher risk for having a seizure when my electrolytes were out of balance and probably had one as a result of not a single work out, but an accumulation of stress on my body. “It is your body, but just keep in mind what can happen when you push yourself to the limits.”

Not exactly what you want to hear the week before a race which you have been training months for, huh?

Having this seizure changed my feelings towards the race. It especially changed the feelings I had towards swimming. Before, I had no problems swimming by myself. Heck, it was something I loved to do–being the sole person swimming at dawn at Onteora (or Stissing) while the water is still with a mirrored reflection of the trees, and the songs of birds brought on a sense of serenity and peace that biking and running never really brought. It was a sense of calm. Over night, my feelings about swimming changed drastically. For the first time, I was afraid to swim by myself. I remember a couple days after having the episode, going to Stissing and looking out thinking, “there is no one here. What if I have an aura…What if I have a seizure and no one sees me and I drown?What if I get to the beach, but can’t swim back to the car? What if I have a seizure during the race?” These feelings of anxiety were different than those I felt having to swim in a wetsuit. I actually feared for my life. (Sounds crazy, I know).

Somehow, I managed to just face this forgotten fear of the water and just swim. Race day was soon approaching, and the thoughts of Mooseman were still fresh in my mind. I couldn’t just give up on all these months of training because of what happened. I’ve never let my epilepsy stop me from doing what I wanted to do in the past, so why let it govern my life now?

The Race

The Patriot Half IM takes place in East Freetown, MA, a little less than three-and-a-half hours away from me. My chief cheerleader and chauffeur took Friday off and we drove down, and, like we have the tendency to do on races that take place out of town, made a mini-trip out of it. (By “trip” I mean stay in a hotel and eat dinners out. Yes, very exciting I know. But when you have not had a weekend off from work in over a month, an over-nighter trip in a hotel in a different state is freaking amazing.) The race itself is small–limited to 1000 participants and that includes the aquabike portion (please don’t ask me what aquabike means. I assume you swim then bike then swim, but really have no idea.) The whole vibe from the event differed tremendously from Mooseman three years ago. For one, it was raining and dreary. For another, there weren’t a zillion vendors offering free samples (I admit it, I love those free samples from race expos!). Long pond, where the swim would take place, is the largest body of fresh water in Massachusetts. Kevin willingly stayed while we listened to pre-race tips and then we headed out to dinner for the big pre-race dinner. As we departed and learning what I should do for my transition, Kevin stated the only transition he would be doing is from his bike to the couch with a beer 🙂 Ohh my love.

I think I have everything I need

I think I have everything I need

It is my tradition to have a veggie burger with french fries the night before any race (I’m not a pasta kind of girl) but the restaurant we went to didn’t have any veggie burgers. So, I decided on a sandwich with french fries. I don’t think I have ever, in my life, said, “I think I will eat this because it has more carbs.” I may never say that again, either.

I’ve read that it is typical before long-distances races for participants to have trouble sleeping; I was no exception to this. I kept thinking of the place I was in three years ago before I attempted my first half IM and triathlon. Man, I’ve grown so much since then, not only as an athlete but as a person as well. So much can change in three years.

My  0430 alarm went off sooner than I would have liked. I’m not sure if I know of any non-athletes (or athletes) who enjoy waking up at that time on their weekend days off. But my man was a trooper and we were able to grab some grub before I did some last-minute foam rolling and were out the door headed to the race course. (Our hotel provided early breakfast for those participating in the Patriot Half.)

I got my body marked with my number 700 and set up my transition area.

I've never had a specific spot in transition before.

I’ve never had a specific spot in transition before.

Triathlons include way more accessories than duathlons and the transition area seemed so much more cluttered than my usual transition areas at races. Mind you, this race was three times longer than my normal duathlon race so, I guess there would be more “things.” I got zipped up in my wetsuit and kept thinking calming thoughts. Instead of fearing the suit and thinking it was constricting my airway and choking me, I decided to think of it more as a flotation device to help me in the swim. Mind control :-p

Pre-swim warm up...I'm the one in the wet suit

Pre-swim warm up

There were people getting into the water to warm up a bit and after I had a gel, decided to do that in order to acclimate to the temperature of the water. I swam for a couple strokes to warm up and the fear, tension, and anxiety I felt was nowhere to be found.

See me? I'm the one in the wet suit and pink cap haha

See me? I’m the one in the wet suit and pink cap haha

 

No panic attack means thumbs up!

No panic attack means thumbs up!

It just so happens a fellow Hudson Valley-ite/mountain biker/triathlete/duathlete who has been in a number of local races I have done in the past was at this triathlon too. It was great having her there, to get triathlon/swimming tips from someone who has done triathlons and group swims in the past. She also brought it to my attention that my number, 700, could be read as “007.” Little did she know that would have a big effect on me during the run portion of the race.

Bev--an amazing athlete :-)

Bev–an amazing person 🙂 and fellow Hudson Valley athlete

The 1.2mile Swim

Unlike Mooseman, Patriot’s swim start was a “time trial” start. Instead of having a mass exodus of swimmers (which is what I remembered), three swimmers ran into the water to start the swim every ten seconds. Swim waves were categorized by age group. A pro to this style of swim start (not that I can really speak of triathlons, since I haven’t really ever completed a full one before) is that you are not surrounded by thousands of swimmers splashing at you and trying to drown you. A con is that you are unable to acclimate to the water. ( That mini-swim I decided to do ended up being a good idea as I knew what the water temperature would be likes). Before I knew it, it was my turn to start the swim. If I was able to finish the swim portion of Mooseman in frigid water, I could do this. And sure enough, I did. From the start I was able to get into my normal rhythm of breathing. As I swam I thought, “Just keep swimming.”

And, we're off

And, we’re off

Just keep swimming...

Just keep swimming…

 

…To be Continued…

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Patriot Half Race Report: The Ride and Run | A Rendezvous with Sneakers

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