Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2010 Lake Logan International Triathlon Race Report

It’s pretty funny to say that the Lake Logan Triathlon was my first International/Olympic distance triathlon. I say that because I did not take the “normal” sequential steps to increase my distance. Most people start with a Super Sprint: 300-500 yard pool swim, 10-15 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. After completing that distance they move to a Sprint Triathlon: 750 meter (0.46 miles) swim, 17 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. Then they move to the Olympic distance: 1500 meter swim (0.93 miles), 24.8 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run. From there it’s the Half Ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and a half marathon (13.1 mile run). At the top of that pyramid is the distance many, including myself, dream of achieving: the IRONMAN! 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a full marathon (26.2 mile run).

I didn’t do things in that order. I did my first Super Sprint then signed up for an Ironman that was a little over a year out (at the time I signed up it was a year out. Now it’s closer to 4 months out). Six months after my first Super Sprint and with only 4 months of formal training, I did my first Half Ironman. I then back tracked and did a Sprint Triathlon. Last Sunday, Aug. 7, 2010, I did my first Olympic Distance. NOTE: International Distance and Olympic Distance triathlons are synonymous. They are the same distances and the names are interchangeable.

Before I gripe a little, let me say that I loved the course and it was super challenging! A beautiful, beautiful venue! The course description for the bike, however, was EXTREMELY misleading! A big reason why I probably won’t do this course again! It felt as if we were lied to in order to increase participation in the event. The bike route was advertised as flat…while it was 85% flat it was rolling at times and had some significant climbs. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this race. Ok are you ready for a looooooong race report?!?!?!?!

Pre Race:

Thursday morning I woke up at 5:00 am after having a bad dream about the swim! I was panicked when I woke up. I didn’t think I was worried about the swim but I guess I was. Friday Night we took the 3 hour drive to the Northern part of the state outside of Ashville. We were in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. On the road trip out the sun was just barely starting to set and we could see the silhouette of the mountains. It looked like shadows in the sky. Just breath-taking!

We arrived at Haywood Regional Health & Fitness Center in Clyde, NC to pick up my packet. I think Clyde, NC is probably the fittest country town in NC. There seemed to be a LOT of fit people in the area. TrySports, a local triathlon retailer, sponsored this event and they had a truck setup outside Haywood Fitness Center selling items. We picked up my packet and headed back to the hotel to check-in. About the rooms…as KP would say, “It was nothing to write home about.” It wasn’t the best place I have ever stayed. It certainly wasn’t the worst. I started unpacking my bag to make sure I had everything and…PAUSE…REWIND.

I had asked KP to bring my Tri jersey and Tri shorts because I left them at her house after doing some training over there. I always bike and run on her side of town which is only 20 minutes away. Before we left KP handed me my Tri jersey and under them were my Tri shorts. I threw them in my bag and we were on the road. Fast Forward.

I began unpacking my bag in the hotel room and realized these weren’t my Tri shorts! They were my regular cycling shorts!!! DILEMMA!!!!! For those that don’t know, triathlon shorts (Tri shorts) are made from quick drying materials. They also have very little padding in the buttocks that is used for the cycling portion of the triathlon. Cycling specific shorts have a much thicker padding in the rear that would likely retain water after swimming in them. Therefore they are not ideal for triathlon events. I asked KP to put the shorts in the bag that had red padding. I didn’t realize my cycling shorts also had red padding! Something I totally overlooked. So she put the shorts in the bag that I asked for; the one with red padding.

KP and I rushed back to the Haywood Fitness center praying to catch the TrySports trailer before they left. Even if they hadn’t left there was no guarantee they would have Tri shorts that would fit me, if they had any at all. I really didn’t know what to do. I was panicked and praying all the way there! We arrived at the center and the trailer was still there! Thank You Father!!!! I started to look through the items and I prayed, “Father please let me find Tri shorts!” Most Tri shorts, from what I have seen, generally sell between $75 and $100 dollars. I really didn’t want to spend that kind of money, but if I had to, then so be it. Then I saw the sign that said they were selling everything 50% off! Oh YEAH!

I started looking through the basket which I can best describe as organized chaos! Have you ever gone to Wal-Mart and looked through the $5 dollar basket of DVDs? It was the same idea. I was looking for a needle in a haystack. Extra-small, women’s, women’s extra small…ugh! I thought I would never find something my size! But then... BINGO!!!!!!! I found a pair of Sugio Tri shorts with my name on them! At 50% off, it cost me just under $30 and secured my place to race the next day!

Ok Lord, I know you brought me here to race! This is YOUR race. Thank you for letting me be part of it!!! Just a side note: KP accidentally knocked my bike over which knocked my seat post on my bike down about 2 inches and left a pretty nice gash! Thank God I had tools to adjust the seat post. It wasn’t the exact height but I think I was able to get it pretty close to its actual height. She put a pretty good gash in the bike and I didn’t think about killing her more than once! This must be the real thing! LOL I’m kidding! It’s just a bike…that happens to be worth more than my car… :p I will try to buy another Seat post from Cervelo before the Ironman…look good, feel good, race good right? (forgive the poor grammar)

Race Day Morning:

ANOTHER beautiful night of sleep thanks to my sleeping aid (race nights are the only time I ever seem to need a sleep aid)!!! I went to bed around 9 :00 pm and woke up at 4:00 am; the alarm was set for 4:30 am. I felt alive, though! Only a few hours prior my race was in jeopardy, but now I would be able to participate in the event.


It turned out to be a bad morning. In my mind I didn’t necessarily feel anxiety about this race, but I think my body did. Promptly at 4:00 am it started. Back and forth to the bathroom! Sometimes I was vomiting and other times…well I wasn’t vomiting but it was coming out the other end. I think my body was getting rid of excess in order to prepare for battle. At 5:10 am,10 minutes late because of my morning purging, the car is packed, the hotel is cleared out, and we are headed to the race site. As soon as I got in the car, I had to go AGAIN! UGH! We get to the race site and I drop all of my equipment by my race number and head to the porta-johns. No lines and I quickly get in and out! Afterwards I thought there is no way I am going to have to go again! I’m ready for war!

I set up my transition area and at 6:30 I head over toward the swim start. OH NO! I HAVE TO GO AGAIN!!!! Except this time the line was extremely long! I finally made it in and out with 5 minutes before my swim start! I was in the first wave and I started at 7:00 am. I threw on my wetsuit as quickly as I could an ran over to the swim start! I heard the announcer say “90 seconds to the first wave start.” Oh no! I wasn’t even in the water! I threw in my ear plugs, put on my swim cap, nose plug, and goggles. Often my goggle strap gets twisted in the back of my head. I tried to fix it and then I heard “45 seconds to go.” I sat down on the dock quickly to jump in the water. I sat so hard I bruised my left gluteus maximus (aka my left butt cheek). It hurt so badly! I thought, I hope this doesn’t come back to haunt me in the race. Praise God it didn’t!

Before I jumped into the water I thought to myself “The Voice of Truth!” It was a reminder for me to listen to the Voice of Truth. To remember why I race. To remember that God put me here to race in His name. That is what I did. Besides, I was running way too late to have anxiety about the swim at that point!

Thirty seconds until the wave start….Doh! I was in the water, but 5 feet away from the pack. I swam over to them with my head above the water and as I reached them the horn sounded! I have had some really great swim workouts and had planned to try and swim with the pack the entire swim.

I remember as we drove to the race site, I prayed for God to give me an uneventful race. In all of my races something has happened. I faced cramping in the swim in New Orleans and nausea in the swim in the Latta Triathlon. Also I changed that guy’s tire at Latta Triathlon. I prayed for God to just give me an uneventful swim. I wanted so badly to swim with the pack this time because I wasn’t afraid and felt strong enough to swim with the group. I surrendered this race to God. I remembered that I prayed for God to provide for me so I could race and He did. I found the needle in the haystack; the one pair of Tri shorts that would fit me in the sea of chaos. I knew this was God’s race.

The 1500 meter (0.9 mile) Swim

When the horn sounded, I put my head down and started with the group. I was excited that the race had finally started! 100 meters into it, my goggles started leaking, probably because the strap was twisted in the back of my head. I didn’t check the strap though, I just pulled it tighter. Another 400-500 meters the goggles leaked again! On the way back in, my goggles leaked two more times. I was also struggling with shoulder fatigue. I know this was because I didn’t take my time to put the wetsuit on properly. In between the leaking goggles, I was able to find my groove at times. It was difficult sighting because of the water in the goggles. I would literally have to stop, tilt my head to be able to see past the water and attempt to swim to the next buoy.

This form of sighting took waaaaaay too much energy. The last time my goggles leaked I stopped, floated on my back, broke the seal and then re-strapped the goggles. I wished I had done that in the beginning! I then found a groove and a way to sight that seemed to fit my swimming style. I can’t wait to get into the open water again to use this new sighting technique!

With everything that happened to me on the swim, I never became angry or upset. I was ready to get the swim over, but I was still excited to be in the race. I had surrendered this race to God and whatever happened was part of God’s plan! So…how could I get mad at God if this was His race?!

The end of the swim was a floating dock WITHOUT ladders! We were in 4 to 5 feet of water and trying to climb up on top of this dock in a wetsuit…poor, poor planning. How nice would it have been to have had ladders for the triathletes. Luckily, I found a large rock to stand on and made my way out of the water.

KP told me everyone runs out of the water and I just walk out like it’s a stroll in the park. She encouraged me…strike that….she TOLD me the next time I get out of the water I need to be running into the transition area.

Despite having some events happen to me that I would have preferred not happen in the swim, I felt good coming out of the water. I felt comfortable. I didn’t know what my swim time was...Frankly, at this point I didn’t care! I was just so happy to get out of the water. I jogged into transition as was “suggested” and I jumped onto the bike looking forward to riding this “flat bike course.” It was my fastest transition yet! One minute and 50 seconds. I know can get faster!

The 40k (24.8 mile) BIKE:

Remember I complained about the false race description…Again, it’s not that the course wasn’t flat like they advertised it’s just that if someone tells you the car they are selling is a Corvette, You don’t want to get home to find out it was actually a Honda with a Corvette engine. The description of the bike course: “The 40km bike course is one loop with no significant climbing. There is one small ascent at the beginning and end of the bike but otherwise this course is surprisingly flat and fast…”

Wow…I don’t know who came up with the description they used to describe that hill as small going out! Even so, it wasn’t too bad for me because I felt strong, but it wasn’t small! Based on this description, I left my bike in the big cog in the front. I have gotten pretty comfortable at getting out of the saddle to climb small hills. Uhh yeah, when I saw what was waiting for me….I shifted to the small cog and fussed all the way up the hill…ok, not really, but I was thinking small ascent my foot!!!

After that “small ascent” I was excited to get onto the “flat” course. I should have known that the dictionary they used to look up the word “small” was the same dictionary they used for the word “flat.” The course should have been described as rolling with two major climbs; one at the beginning and one at the end. I wish I could tell you how beautiful the course was, but for most of the course my glasses had condensation on them. I could barely see the road and nearly wrecked a few times because I had moved too far to the right of the road.

While on the bike I was holding speeds comfortably that I didn’t think were possible. Yet still, I was getting passed…constantly! One guy FLEW past me. He sounded like a freight train. I know what the turtle felt like when he raced the hare! This dude was decked out with wheels and an aero helmet. He was legit. I got passed by a lot of fast women too! I told one lady to slow down because she was speeding!!!

Any who…at about 20 miles in I checked my bike speed and I was averaging 18 mph. That is great! 3mph improvement over New Orleans! The best part…I felt comfortable at that pace. Then about mile 23…I hit the “small ascent” coming back. THAT HILL WAS A BEAST! Even the faster cyclists were having a challenging time getting up this hill. Cyclists were all clumped together trying manage the climb. This was the time in the race that I saw race officials. Imagine that! I had hoped they wouldn’t mark anyone for drafting at this point because that would have just been wrong! (They didn’t by the way).

By the time I hit the finish my average dropped about 1mph. I didn’t know a “small ascent” could drop your overall average by a whole 1 mph (small ascent my foot! Those scoundrels!). I finally made it up that hill. As I neared the dismount area, I contemplated taking my foot out of the shoe and leaving my shoes clipped into the bike the way the professionals do. I had done it several times in practice, but wasn’t comfortable enough to do it in race conditions so I stopped and unclipped out of the bike like a normal person who doesn’t want to wreck his bike.

I enjoyed the bike course. Even though I was getting passed but what seemed to be everyone, it was the fastest I had biked. I felt in control and when people passed me, I hope they were inspired by the cross that sits on the back of my jersey. Maybe they said a prayer. Maybe they were reminded that Christ was with them while they raced, too. I heard several people shout-out to Team Endurance (Fellowship of Christian Athletes Team Endurance). This is why I race! Not for me but for Christ! Now that doesn’t mean I don’t get competitive sometimes, too though!

The 10K (6.2 miles) Run:

I had one goal for the run. I wanted to actually run the entire 10k without stopping. That’s it. That’s all I wanted to do. I was transitioning in and out pretty quickly until I realized I had nutrition shoved into one of my shoes! I had to stop, take the shoe off, take out the nutrition, then put said shoe back on. Because of this my transition was a little slow in T2. I need to work on getting out a little faster.

When I hit the run course I felt good! Really, Really good! I hope I feel that good in the Augusta Half Ironman at the end of September. Fortunately they described the run course perfectly. There was a slight incline going out to the halfway point that turned into a decline heading back in. Again I was feeling really good. Better than expected. I ran alongside a woman for most of my run. I learned this was her first Olympic distance and her longest distance yet. I was feeding off of her, letting her push me. About a half mile left to race she said, “Well, it looks like I am going to actually pull this thing off.” She turned up her pace and I didn’t have an answer!

I was moving faster in my mind but my body really liked the pace we were going. It was actually kind of a weird feeling to tell my body to do one thing and not have it respond. I made the final turn for the finishing chute. And here is the small miracle…the announcer said my name correctly! My name is Hassan (Ha-sahn) yet I have been called Hussein, Hey-son, and Obama! (kidding about Obama). I don’t know how people can mispronounce that name. Don’t they know every good terrorist on the FBI watch list has a name similar to mine (ha-ha). Never the less, I finished the Olympic distance without having to walk the run. I don’t know why that was such a big deal for me, but it was.

I finished this race better than expected. I thought worst case scenario… 3:30 hours. Best case 3:15. I did it in 3:07 with a really bad swim. I’ll take that! Not fast…but “slow and steady wins the race.” It just so happens my slow is a lot slower than most other people!

“Why did God make me so [slow] and weak?”

“So he can show how mighty He is!”

I have now completed every distance of triathlon EXCEPT the IRONMAN! So far, the one I have enjoyed the most, is the Half Ironman distance. That distance really makes you dig deep! It gave me a glimpse of what I’m made of. It exploited my weaknesses and even showed that I have some strengths. Can’t wait to see how I am going to do at the Half Ironman in Augusta. I still am concerned about the full Ironman…I would be a fool not to be!

1 comment:

  1. Congrats Hassan!! You'll do great in Cozumel cause you have the mental toughness thing down pat - I can read it in your reports. Can you believe it's only 4 months away?! I just did a HIM and had a pretty bad time on the run and overall, but I'm glad I did because I feel like the bad experiences are what make us better, if we learn from them that is. Happy training, good luck in Augusta, no more races for me til IM Coz :)