Racer: Andrea Carlson
September 14, 2019…my first racing in five years, to the weekend. For some crazy reason, I decided to make my first race in all those years an Olympic distance. All my other Tris have been sprints.
The five months leading up to the race were challenging, with three injuries that set me back for a few weeks each. In usual fashion, most of my injuries don’t happen through sports. The first, in April, was a bruised tailbone from falling down my basement stairs. I could not run or bike for a full 8 weeks.
Then, in the early summer, I significantly bruise and cut up my elbow while on a training run in NYC. I was running in the city at rush hour, which is a bit of an obstacle course, and crashed into scaffolding on 5th St. Running was painful for a week, and I couldn’t get on a bike for a couple of weeks.
Next, in August, I jumped up onto the hood of a car in Iceland. (Don’t ask! Some day, I will remember that I’m not 10 years old!) The hood buckled, and my kneecap shifted up and to the left. Gross! Pain! I was down for the count for 3-4 weeks.
Through it all, though, I trained the best I could. I had saddle issues on my bike, so the longest training ride I did was 21 miles. I needed to do 24.7 on race day.
I woke early the morning of the race, had a decent breakfast and packed up the car. Well, my sherpa/husband did most of the packing, loading the bike. etc., but I had to get it all organized. He drove the hour from the house to the race. I checked in, got my number and set up my transition area. I walked down to the water’s edge…it was a beautiful morning with mist rising from the water.
It was time to get ready for the race start. So runners and spectators headed to the beach. We waited…and waited…and waited for the race to start. Unfortunately, the first responders were late to arrive, and the race started nearly one hour late. The longer we waited, the colder my toes felt in the morning sand, and the more nervous I got about the swim.
Pilgrimman is a “loop” race. I had to do three swim loops, two bike loops, and two run loops.
Finally, we got the word that the race was set to begin. First the Half Ironman racers were in the water. Then it was the Olympics’ turn…my turn. Racers entered the water two at a time. I made the mistake entering the inside chute. By the time I was set to go, the Half Irons were already coming around for their second or third loop. So I had to deal with really choppy water, racers in front of me, racers to the right and left of me, and racers behind me. Uhg!
I got in quickly and started my swim. I had done 0.9 miles countless times at Walden this summer. There was no reason I couldn’t complete this distance in a reasonable time. Actually, I felt more prepared for the swim than I did the bike or the run, given my injuries through out the spring and summer. Then the panic set in. Face in the water and afraid of crashing into someone, I started to hyperventilate. I stopped swimming. I was treading water. I looked at the buoy so far away. I looked at the shore, closer, but there is no way I could get back there with all the swimmers coming at me. I wanted to quit, but I did not want to not finish! Too many people knew what was I was doing, and I didn’t want to tell anyone I bailed 100 feet from shore.
A lifeguard in a kayak came over and threw me a line. She talked to me, calmed me down. She never encouraged me to keep going or head back. She was just there. I let go of the line after a bit of time, flipped on my back, and started to back stroke to the first buoy.
I think I backstroked about 50-60% of the swim. After each lap, I had to get out of the water and re-enter. Each time, the panic returned until I got to the first buoy. I think I was 3rd of 4th from last out of the water. Exhausted, I made my way to the transition.
As quickly as my tired body could, I got out of my wet suit, dried off a bit, put on my helmet and bike shoes, and jumped on the bike. I hit my groove fairly quickly and felt good on the bike for the first 14-15 miles. Then I started to feel my sitz bones on the saddle. I was starting to get a bit sore. By 19-20 miles, I was in pain, for sure, but I pushed through, and made it back to transition in a little less time than I planned.
I quickly (as if) changed up for the run and started on my way. My legs were a bit clumsy for the first 2 miles. They needed to adjust to running off the bike (I didn’t do enough brick training), and my shins and calves were super tight. They worked themselves out, though, and I felt good until about mile 4.5, That’s when the back spasms kicked in. I had to do a bit of a walk/run for the last 2 miles or so. There was another racer head of me. I was pacing her. She, too, was alternating walking and running, but I wasn’t catching her, until about 6 miles. I had 0.6 to go, and I ran the full distance. As I got to about the 6.4 mark, I saw that most racers and spectators had left (the vast majority of sprint distance racers were done), but my husband, Eric, and my best friend and her son were there to cheer me on. I got a burst of energy and finished strong!
My goal was to finish in under 4 hours. I finished in 3:57. I was so happy with my performance, but I know I can improve. I look forward to 2020!!