Monday, May 15, 2006

St. Croix Ironman 70.3 Report: The Run (Part 4 of a Series)

The grounds of the Buccaneer Hotel and Golf Resort were first built on by a Knight of Malta in 1633 and he named it Estate Shoys. A century later the first Danish governor of St. Croix selected the same site for his mansion. Undoubtedly, it was chosen for its rugged cliffs, powder beaches, and rolling green hills. Two and a half centuries later it hosts golfers and vacationers whiling away the day under the Caribbean breeze. The beach bar serves drinks called Cruzan Confusion and Jump-Up-and-Kiss-Me. It’s the perfect place to recline and take it easy. One day a year the gentry share its slice of paradise with hundreds of grimy, sweaty athletes that have just swam 1.2 miles and biked 56 miles before lunchtime. Some of them run and some of them walk but all have one goal and that is to complete the 13.1 mile course as fast as possible. To do so they will have to take on the resort grounds twice. Nobody gets out before getting schooled in heat and hills.

The run route is a two loop course that first travels east for two miles to the entrance of the Buccaneer. The run surface changes from asphalt to mostly dirt trail and golf cart path for the two mile loop inside the resort. After leaving the resort it’s a long two miles back to transition and the turnaround.

I trained for this race in the same way I would race this race. There was a nutrition plan, a heart rate plan, and a pacing plan. The goal was to run at a ten minute per mile pace until the last few hundred yards to the finish. Each plan element was executed well and despite the broken aero bar I was ahead of my time goal. What I didn’t train for in Dallas was drinking a bunch of seawater before cycling. I was in for a lesson.

The rain had stopped and the sky remained overcast as I grabbed a cup of water and bolted out of T2. My heart rate monitor had been silent since the last big hill and it read a surprisingly low 138 beats per minute. The first half mile of the run route is the most fun because here the runners pass each other on the loop while the bikers finishing their leg fly by on the shared road. The first water station was less than a mile away and I ran past grabbing some Gatorade in one hand and a GU with the other while not breaking stride. Despite being passed by a few people I felt like I was making good time. My watch read 9 minutes, 03 seconds as I passed the first mile marker.

Just before reaching the entrance to the Buccaneer ….

(Now, dear reader, if you get squeamish or think it distasteful to write about gastrointestinal functions you might want to switch from this blog and check out Ebay, or the American Idol blog, or dare I say, get some actual work done because I’m about to be keeping it real.)

eh hem … Just before reaching the entrance to the Buccaneer I felt an intense lower bowel pressure. This was not a just a little putt-putt gassy-gas this was the sudden urge type of pressure. My run came to a halt. Everything above the belly button was clear skies but below the belly button a storm was raging. I waddled passed the second water station without taking anything they offered and stepped into a Port-a-Potty. Once inside I felt my quads cramp and worried about not being able to stand up again. My heart rate monitor began to sound its alarm and I felt the panic of loosing time. Everything proceeded as normal and relief was immediate. Once out the door I backtracked to the water station for two cups of Gatorade and joined the others headed for the golf course hills.

My watch read a little past 24 minutes as I passed the two mile marker. I picked up the pace even though my monitor was beeping.

When I reached the first major hill the urge hit me again. It was so intense it took my breath away and I began to walk. I tried my best mall-walker speed walk and gritted my teeth through the pain. At the top of the hill were a cluster of guest villas and a common lavatory. I got the attention of a volunteer and she pointed the way. This time nature took its time but the result was nothing unusual.

Again, I felt better right away and my plan was to run as hard as I could to the next water station. I’m sure my pace wasn’t very fast but I thought I was making up lost time. At least twenty people passed me. I reached the three mile marker at 43 minutes.

My pace slowed to over 13 minutes per mile. Although, I felt good it was hard to keep my heart rate below my set maximum. Ten miles to go and I was redlining at a little more than a walking pace. Ugh!

At mile four my heart rate settled and I started to push the pace again. I reached the right turn out of the Buccaneer and headed back to Christiansted and the half way point. My paced slowed again.

Coming down the road towards me came a group of bikers wearing backpacks. They had finished the race and were headed back to their hotels. The lead biker was Joanna Zeiger. I yelled, “How was your race, Joanna?” She didn’t say anything. I’m sure it’s only because she didn’t hear me.

It took me an hour and 40 minutes to cover the first six miles but I was feeling good… slow but good. I knew that if I didn’t have any more “retreats” I could still finish in less than seven and a half hours.

Just after turning around I was struck again. This time harder than before. There was no time to waste and no little blue building to be seen so I did my best run attempt while desperately keeping everything in tact. Back at the entrance to the Buccaneer and mile eight I made yet again another stop. This time it was diarrhea and it hurt. Once finished I again back tracked to the water station and asked for a water bottle to carry with me. I knew I was facing accelerating dehydration and tried to get as much liquid in me as fast as possible.

(Now, before you I give you the wrong impression I really didn’t feel as bad as this reads. For almost the entire race I had a smile on my face. Every time I saw a teammate I would yell, “Go TEAM!” I gave a couple of high fives to some and smacked a couple others on their backsides like a third base coach does to a batter after hitting a homerun. I knew I was going to finish in good shape and I was elated.)

By the time I reached the 12 mile mark I had to make two more stops to clear my bowel on the way. My watch read 3 hours and 4 minutes as I passed the marker. I could see the transition area and hear the remaining spectators. Once I passed the transition area the course turns left into Christiansted for a six block loop for the final mile. I was caught and passed by a 35 year old age grouper and I felt I had some gas left in the tank and sprinted to catch him. He saw me over his shoulder and picked up the pace. The road started to incline and eventually I dropped him. I turned right for one block and then a final right for the last couple of hundred yards to the Finish gate. Running hard and watch beeping fast I raised my right hand and extended my first two fingers to signal victory. I heard my name announced. My teammates were there and they clapped, rang bells and waved the Texas State flag.

7 hours and 52 minutes. It was done.

There was only one more thing to do...

Stay tuned…


greyhound said...

I hate that feeling of running with imminent "business" to attend to. Is that really a function of the salt water, or might there be something else I might need to watch for. (My race is freshwater, unless Lubbock has recently and unbeknownst to me become a sea port).

Elizabeth said...

Sorry to hear about your "retreats" 'boomer. That's just something else to make me worry about! Congrats on such a great race. Way to go!