like i mentioned in a previous post, i decided to run kansas just a few weeks back. after a few last minute planning details, my pal steve and i hit the road on FRI around 4:00pm. we made it to des moines, iowa by 11:00pm after stopping for a quick bit to eat, and were on the road with our other teammate mike shortly after. while we did have a hiccup checking into our hotel in lawrence, kansas at nearly 3:00 in the morning, we were able to be sleeping by 3:30. it was a long day of traveling, but we all thought it would be nicer to be able to sleep in, wake up, and be there instead of having to drive two days in a row.
after sleeping in some, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed down to the race site for a small workout and race check-in. despite a long travel day the day before, i felt great on the short ride and run the three of us did. but since it was getting a bit hot, we called it short and headed to the finish area to get checked in. and there’s where we saw ‘the line.’ we never did find out if there was some sort of computer problem like we heard or if they were just way understaffed, but athletes had to stand in a crazy long line for upwards of an hour to check in for the race. outside, with no shade, in temps pushing 85°. certainly not ideal for the day before a long race, that’s for sure. the other issue i took with the race was the layout – parking was a good mile from the race area, and T1 was another mile or so in the other direction. we did a lot of walking SAT, spent way too much time in the sun, and all felt a bit tired when we got back to the hotel around 4:00 in the afternoon.
after an evening of lounging and an ok night of sleep, the alarm sounded at 3:45am and we were in the truck by 4:15 in route to the race. setting up both transitions went fine (there were separate transition areas for T1 and T2), and it was nice we got an early start – i never felt rushed and was plenty prepared for the start of the race.
the swim: a strong storm had pushed through the area race morning, and the water was still showing signs of it: super choppy water, a few big waves, and a pretty strong current. i figured i’d be fine being a stronger swimmer, but was concerned for the other athletes who didn’t feel so confident in the water. the swim started in waves of about 30-40 athletes leaving every 3 minutes, and I positioned myself at the front of our wave. when the horn sounded, i sprinted for about the first 25 meters and found myself in open water out in front of the rest of the swimmers in my heat. i was glad i chose to do this, and was able to settle into the swim for about the first ten minutes without much traffic. i did end up swimming through the majority of two previous waves, but never felt like i was pushing it too hard. i did swallow a few big gulps of water due to the conditions, but was able to climb out at 30:51, feeling great as i ran to my bike.
transition 1: even though it only took me about two minutes to change and pull my bike off the rack, transition 1 took me 3:39 due to the fact i had to run about 300 yards to get out of the transition area. it seemed to go on forever.
the bike: everything i had read about the bike course said it was hilly. living and training in wisconsin, i figured it couldn’t be any worse than what we have here. and while I was right, it was a very tough course. hills, wind, no shade, and more hills. still, i stuck to my plan of riding to an average of 170 watts and eating what i had planned to eat. in the end, i succeeded at just that – 174 NP and my food intake was spot on. like the swim, i never felt like i was pushing the bike too hard, and was fairly comfortable the whole time. around mile 50, i did notice the slightest fatigue in my legs, but figured it was the result of the relentless hills and ever increasing winds. other than that, the ride was pretty uneventful. the views were rolling countryside with pretty farms along the way, the roads were in pretty good shape, and despite the fact most triathletes have no clue how to handle a bike, i had no close calls or frustrations along the way.
tranition 2: swinging my leg over the bike to dismount heading in to transition, i felt a tightness in my stomach. i was able to get though transition in 1:48, but was concerned about two things: 1. the ground was still soaking wet from the storm, so I had wet feet and socks heading out into the run. 2. my stomach felt way tighter leaving transition than it did entering it two minutes earlier.
the run: i knew i was in trouble about 100 meters into the run. my stomach cramped so bad i thought i would have to stop until it passed. while i kept running, my pace was about 30 seconds slower than my target rate. by mile 1, my cramps had passed. that’s the good news. the bad news is they were replaced with nausea. by mile 2, i couldn’t stomach anything. clearly this is not ideal after being in motion for about 3.5 hours and having a half marathon yet to run. that, and it was over 80° at this point. over the next four miles, i watched my pace slow to around an 8:30 min/mi, and it was round mile 7 i started to throw up. from there on, it was pretty much all over. survival mode. the next four miles were the same: run until you puke, rinse mouth out with water, dump ice down jersey and shorts, walk about a minute, repeat. by mile 11, i was done. i walked the remainder of the race and finished with a total time of 5:44:47, nearly 45 minutes slower than i had hoped.
what frustrates me about this problem i keep having is the fact it’s 100% nutrition related. my fitness is there, and then some. it seems like no matter what the temperature is, how hard I’m exerting myself, or for how long, it’s inevitable that at some point i’ll get severely nauseated to the point i’m unable to eat or drink. this has happened in every long course race i’ve run over the past three years. and the kicker is i’ve taken a different nutrition approach to nearly all of them. i’ve tried liquids only, liquids and gels, gels and solids, and all solids during my races only to find myself in the same boat at the end. i’d be lying to say i’m not worried about madison this fall after yesterday’s race, and i’m currently looking to add another half ironman race in early june to give myself two races to try and figure this out before september. while i certainly don’t regret the last minute decision to race in kansas, i’m frustrated. frustrated because it seems like after a ton of hard work over the winter and this spring, i’m in the same place i was last fall.
but don’t worry. i’ll be up in the morning, busting my ass in the pool. this is only a bump in the road.