Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Peaking through a brick wall: Race report for the Buffman & Squeaky

Well, this past Sunday I toed the line in the sand with over 100 other triathletes at the Buffman & Squeaky Olympic distance triathlon just outside of Lubbock, TX at Buffalo Springs Lake. My hip was feeling a bit better but the fact that I could feel it at all was not a good sign. On the other hand I did not do this race loaded up on ibuprophin. I did get the medical go ahead to keep racing and training just so long as I don't do things that really hurt. That being the case I wanted to be able to feel any pain I may have.

The race started out great. It was a mass start running off the beach. When the shot went off, actually it was when the race director yelled GO, I hit the water with everyone else and ran into the 68 degree lake to about knee depth and then dove and started swimming. There was some bumping and josteling but nothing like some of the slugfests I've been involved in during other races. The great thing is that I was able to find some open water pretty quickly and was able to just cruse along. My navigation was spot on but large numbers of others were swinging wide on the course. I only began to stray once and that was in the direction of cutting it too close instead of swinging wide. I was the second Clydesdale out of the water missing the top spot by 3 seconds.

Transition went pretty well. I'm kind of slow stripping the wetsuit so my T1 was 3 minutes 5 seconds but I was the first Clyde out of transition.

The bike went great. If you have raced Buffalo Springs before you know that right out of transition you climb, everyone is out of the saddle, in the small ring and mashing away. I was hitting around 6 - 7 mph and my heart rate soared. Then you get a brief respite, fly down hill and then climb back up out of the canyon onto the flats, which constitute about 80% of the race. The only other climb on the Olympic distance is in and out of Yellow Horse Canyon, another lung buster. I passed a few people on the bike but had such a good swim that I was pretty far forward in the pack so most of the atheletes ahead of me really belonged there. The ride on this course is actually 25.2 miles instead of the usual 24.8. My average pace ended up being about 20.1 mph with an average cadence of about 95. Not bad considering the climbs involved. By the end of the bike I was 14 minutes ahead of the next Masters Clydesdale (my group in this race) with only 10K to run. I was 4 minutes ahead of the nearest Clydesdale overall. This is when the whole injury thing kicked in. I got through T2 in a reasonable 1 minute 15 seconds and started out on my "run."

I felt like the proverbial 98-pound weakling. It isn't so much that my hip area hurt as much as it was stiff and weak. I shortened my stride and tried to clip along at a reasonable pace but within short order I began having real bad pain in my hips and lower back, all the core muscles that are strengthened by running, which I have not been doing so that I can heal up a bit. At mile 2 the Clyde that took 1st in the 39 and under passed me, then at mile three the Clydes that took 2nd and 3rd in the 39 and under passed me. I was hopeful that I could hang on for something but the temperature was also over 90 degrees and I was having a hard time cooling down. Everytime I hit an aid station I grabbed a couple cups of cold water and poured them over my head. At mile 4.5 the Clyde who won the Masters division passed me like I was standing still, which I was very close to doing. I just kept trudging along with my lower back and hips feeling like they were about to completely fold up on me. Finally and mile 5.5 the Clyde who took second in the masters passed me. At this point I was just hoping to hang on for a finish. Finally, in an excrutiatingly slow 3 hours 14 minutes and 1 second I crossed the finish line to hold on to a podium finish earning third palce in the Clydesdale Masters. I had done the run in a mind bogglingly slow 13 minute 17 second per mile pace. To put this injury in perspective, on January 15 I ran the 38.5 MILE Ghost Town 38.5 Ultramarathon at a 13 minute 33 second pace.

Now this isn't a picture of me or even of Buffalo Springs Lake but this is preciselywhat I did immediatly after crossing the finish line. I marched right over to the lake, stripped off my shoes, socks and race belt and hit the water for a nice cool swim. It was absolute heaven. I was so hot and my lower back hurt so bad I just couldn't stand to do anything but float in cold water. Did I say it was absolute heaven?

One nice thing for my efforts was earning the coveted lucite dog bone..that is actually the award...lucite dog bones engraved with the event's name and your place, 1st through 3rd. The race is named after the race director's pair of Boston Terriers...Buffman & Squeaky.

Any who...the experience felt like I was looking through a brick wall. My performance on the swim and bike were up to snuff and the run did not hurt at the location of the injury so I can see some improvement but my running legs are totally deconditioned and though I could see some improvement, there wasn't a damn thing I could do to hold on. It was just a mental fight to cross the line. Oh well...the Buffalo Springs Half Iron is just 4 weeks away and I still don't know what I'm going to do. I suppose like the docs say, keep stretching and keep active but don't do anything that seems to agrivate the injury, whatever it is.

By the way, it's looking like I strained an adductor muscle, probably a grade 2 strain with some tearing in the muscle and tendon. I saw the sports medicine specialist today and that was his guess, which was also my chiropracter's guess, he's also a sports medicine specialist. The MD has ordered up an MRI. In the mean time it's the New Mexico Team Time Trial championships this weekend and of course, I'm right there. Can't let the team down, you know how it is.

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