Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Musselman 2013, my first 70.3: Part 1 - Practice, preparation, and a friend by your side

Me after the Musselman Triathlon with the greatest medal ever.
Photo by the wonderful Victoria Freile. 

(Related: I am a marathoner, I am a duathlete, I am a triathlete.) See part 2, about the race itself, and part 3, about the aftermath.

After I set out to do this in earnest almost a year ago, I completed the Musselman half ironman, Geneva, NY in 7:18:15. It broke down like this: 1.2 mile swim in 49:17, T1 6:21, 56 mile bike in 3:42:36 (included an 8 minute wait for an accident to clear), T2 8:02, 13.1 mile run in 2:31:59. This put me far under the 8 hour cutoff that I was so worried about making

This came almost three years to the day after I completed my first 5K in Columbus, July 17, 2010, so it was only fitting that Musselbaby, the little stuffy they gave all of us, now lives inside the beer glass I got from that 5K (if I ever travel to the top of Mount Everest or the bottom of the ocean, I need to take Musselbaby, get a photo, and then I'll win a prize.)

All in all it was a phenomenal experience. Geneva is a wonderful and welcoming town, and the race was top notch. My personal experience was all about planning, practice, and having an unbelievable support system to see me through.

But there was a cloud cast over the race. This year's event was in remembrance of Heather Boyum, who participated last year and two weeks later was killed while riding by not one but two drunk drivers, who were later cleared of the top felony charges.

This year, during the Saturday sprint race, a cyclist was killed. On Sunday, the bike portion of the race was held up because a cyclist was critically injured. Everyone participating walked away with a heavy reminder to be careful on the road. I'm buying a new helmet soon -- I learned this weekend that they do wear out. I am going to join a group here to learn more about cycling safety.

I'm seeing now that the triathlete community is very small, and has become a wonderful group of people to be around, so these losses ran deep.

This race report will be divided into three parts: Leading up to the race, the race, and after the race. As usual, I'm setting them up to autopost late at night, so I'll probably find a million typos in the morning. This focuses on my experience in Geneva. Part 2: The race. Part 3: The aftermath, and the crazy things I'm thinking about now.


DeCordova Hall, where I stayed.
Like the Keuka Lake Triathlon, you got to stay in the dorms, this time at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, for cheap. I came into town Friday evening intending to get some R&R and escape the Corn Hill Arts Festival, which would involve someone selling watercolors on my front lawn, a beer garden 30 feet from my door, and good luck trying to leave.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges is a lovely little private campus in the heart of Geneva. The camaraderie built through conversations in the shared bathrooms helped ease me into the event, and into what I was about to do.

The volunteers were wonderful and accommodating from the start. I got checked in, and put my yogurts and bag of ice in the secret fridge in the dorm.

Wine ice cream on Seneca Lake. As wonderful as it sounds.
I walked down Route 14 to the water, where I got some wine ice cream. That's right, it exists, and it's delicious. I had half Cherry Merlot, half Chocolate Sauvignon.

I ended up at Microclimate, a cozy little wine bar in downtown Geneva. I ordered a flight of Riesling and chatted it up with some other folks in town. Very friendly place.

I fell into bed that night feeling calm and ready. I only had forgotten one thing -- sunglasses, easily remedied by a trip to Wal-Mart after realizing it halfway to Geneva. (The Canandaigua Wal-Mart is a somewhat scary place.)
Musselman swag.

Saturday I was up early, went to the expo, did some yoga outside and took a nap.

I bought a plant stand and old National Geographics at The Second Hand Shop in Geneva. The clerk gave me the wrong change, and made me feel like a good person, thanking me for being honest when I corrected her. I took it as good race karma.

At 4:30 was the pre-race meeting.

Race director Jeff Henderson did a great job explaining the course. USA Triathlon has so many rules. The USAT race official demonstrated what constitutes drafting. Strict! She also asked us to check our helmets to make sure they were legal. I didn't know there was a such thing as not legal helmets, but there were! Mine was good.

But still, the nerves were back in full force.


Pre-race cuddles from Victoria. 
I'm used to doing these events by myself, and I was content to go to Geneva on my own. It's freeing to not have to worry about someone else's schedule or travel arrangements, and the racing community is wonderful -- so you're never really by yourself. But Victoria wanted to come -- and still wanted to after I made it very clear that it would mean getting up at an ungodly hour then eight hours of waiting around while I was out killing myself.

"Sure, if you want to," I said.

Victoria is a marathoner, and knows how races work. She blogs for the paper, and also at Scootadoot. She also knows how race brain works, the crazy things we do like swing back to the room for something I forgot -- and almost forget to grab that very thing (I should note: In this situation, that thing was my bike.) Earlier in the day I almost left the room with my toothbrush instead of my room key.

I was a bundle of nerves as I left the pre-race meeting, and met Victoria back at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

I cannot put into words how wonderful it was to see a familiar face. Not just a friend, but someone who understood exactly what I was going through.

Next up was a delicious pre-race meal at the college, where we met another friend, Solveig, who was doing the aquabike. Then we dropped Flower off at the transition area at Seneca Lake State Park.

Seneca Lake State Park.
When I practiced the bike course, I debated whether paying $7 to get into the park was worth it. I was so glad I did. Sounds silly, but knowing what the park looked like, the layout, approximately where transition was, helped me. I joined the steady stream of triathletes walking their bikes in and leaving empty-handed.

I bid Flower goodbye. We stopped at another lakefront park and put our feet in the water. The temperature was a little chilly at first but then perfect.

Back on the fourth floor of DeCordova Hall, Victoria helped me pack the rest of my stuff. We packed a swim bag, a bike bag and a run bag. We sorted my nutrition, laid out clothes and went down to put the bags in the car. We checked everything twice.

We walked down five steps. "Wait, did I get my goggles?'

Victoria: "Yes, we put them in the bag, but look we'll check, see?"

A few more steps. "The envelope with my race number, where is it."

"We'll check, yes, it's in here," Victoria said.

That's how pre-race brain works.

Everything was good to go. The next morning I just had to remember six things, which were on a list.

I tossed and turned all night. When I started getting nervous, I'd grab my phone and reread all the well wishes from friends on Facebook and that calmed me. The alarm went off at 4:45 a.m., and I joined the other weary eyed athletes in the dorm bathroom.

It was go time.

See part 2, about the race, and part 3, about the aftermath.

1 comment:

  1. First off, I need to try this WINE ice cream. Because WHAT IS THIS WORLD and how have I not heard of it before???

    Also, I agree, Victoria is a great ally to have when prepping for a race. She totally gets how race brain works and has her own little rituals so that yours seem perfectly sane to her. :) She was so happy to cheer from you and through her tweets and updates, I nearly felt as though I was there with you!