Reply To: Good Luck Racers?

Katie O’Driscoll

Race Information
What: HITS Hudson Valley
When: July 13, 2019
How far:  70.3 miles
Where: Kingston, NY
Finish time: 06:24:40.534

| Goal | Description | Completed? |
| A | Swim my swim (don’t race anyone) | *Yes* |
| B | Wide arms while swimming (no crossover) | *Yes* |
| C | Mind the cadence and HR up the hills | *Yes* |
| D | Don’t go too hard on the bike | *No* |
| E | Find a good rhythm on the run | *No* |
| F | Finish | *Yes* |

| Section | Time |
| Swim | 00:46:34.212  |
| T1 | 00:02:55.790  |
| Bike | 03:05:39.102 |
| T2 | 00:01:41.303 |
| Run | 02:27:50.127 |

My training was up and down. I had some awesome workouts and stretches of weeks where I felt fit and fast. Training was really tough at the end of my rowing season (I’m a collegiate head coach), and there were a few times where I didn’t make training a priority in my life. (Which is stupid, because exercising helps me deal with stress.)

A huge coup for me was learning to be comfortable swimming in open water. I started swimming with Wave One in the Washington DC area, and kept going back, week after week, despite how slow and not in control it made me feel. Got two more open water sessions in the week before the race, and by race day, I could honestly say I finally felt comfortable out there.

A major challenge in my training was two pronounced bouts of depression, one lasting about a week, and the other about two and a half weeks. That second one snuck up on me, and I didn’t even realize what was happening until about 10 days in. Unmotivated isn’t the right way to describe how it hit me. More like complete lack of willpower coupled with no energy. I had some stretches of missed training days as a result.

By the time race day came around, I felt 100 percent prepared for the distance. I did not feel prepared for the race. The bike course had more hills than I realized, and I knew I was pretty slow up hills. I also trained like a princess: I did everything I could to avoid training in the DC heat and humidity, with the excuse that I needed to get the miles in, and I might not get them in if I was in the heat.

Try as I did, I didn’t get the eight hours I aimed for the night before due to nerves. I ended up with about seven, which isn’t awful, but it was already a long week of work travel, and I was operating on a bit of a deficit already.

The morning went fine. Ate my breakfast about 3 hours before the start gun, and had my coffee before we left for the course. I crammed down a Clif Bar an hour before start time, and a GU with about 15 minutes to go. It was too much. I don’t know if it was race jitters making my stomach so upset, but my stomach felt pretty upset the last half hour leading up to the race. I did some dynamic stretches and swam about 200 meters as a warm up, but couldn’t muster much more. I never ate that much before any of my training days, and I think I just wasn’t used to that much food.

My husband was awesome in his efforts to mitigate my nerves. He walked around with me, joked a bunch, helped me carry things to transition. Another nerve-calming moment was when one of the other athletes walked up to his transition spot, looked at his stool marking his name and distance, and exclaimed… “Half male? What are they trying to say?” I literally slapped my knee. Then he continued “And you know there are guys here with ‘full male’ on their stools…” Talk about easing the tension.

Swim: The swim was awesome! I hung back for about 20 seconds after the gun went off, hoping to get a bit clearer of a path around the lily pads that were in line with the straight-shot to the first buoy. I didn’t get that path, and ended up cutting through the lily pads. (I made sure not to do that on the second lap. It wasn’t worth it.)

Usually, it takes me a while to be comfortable with open water swimming, but I felt great right away. Maybe it was because the water of this lake was so clear that I felt like I was in a pool, unlike the murky depths of National Harbor. And nothing phased me: I got tangled in the aforementioned lily pads right out of the gate, I choked on some water, I definitely swam through someone’s puke, and got elbowed and knocked a bunch of times, but I kept calm…somehow. I think this was the proudest part of the day for me.

T1: My transitions had been going fine in my training races, so initially I wasn’t worried about them. While I was setting up in the morning, I realized that at some point before I left, my puppy chewed the top strap to my left bike shoe, making it hard to close, and impossible to undo. I actually had a hunting knife in my transition area (it had been left in the car after a camping trip) so I could cut the shoe off.

I was a little out of it after the swim, and I think this transition too longer than I wanted because I was certain I was going to forget something.

Bike: Hills. Gorgeous course, but hills. I did a good job at watching my heart rate on the uphills, but despite never having a problem with a 90 spm cadence during training, didn’t feel like I was being efficient at the gearing that allowed me to get to 90. My average spm ended up at 82 (taking into account the hills, where I was at 50 spm at times.)

I thought I fueled right, and my energy level was great throughout the course. Ate every 7 minutes, drank every 5 minutes. First hour was a Clif Bar, second was pierogies and a GU, and the last hour was only GU. I finished three 20oz bottles of hydration (2 Scratch and 1 Gatorade). Apparently, I messed something up, because of what happened after I got off the bike and started the run. More on that below.

T2: This transition went quicker this time. My husband was at the end of the bike, yelling that I was the third woman in and that the first woman only had 15 minutes on me. I love him, and he knows I’m competitive which is why he said it, but that knowledge came back to haunt me as I struggled with the run and kept getting passed

Run: So. Slow. The 9:15 pace that I trained at immediately went out the window. And I was cramping like a mother. Not once in any of my training sessions had I cramped, but for the first 6 miles I felt awful.

That led me to not want to eat for those 6 miles. My nutrition plan went out the window, since I didn’t feel like I could stomach eating anything. I instead used what was available on the course: water, HEED, and Endurolytes, the latter two of which I had never tried before in my life. I also sucked down two GUs, but nothing felt great. I also randomly got chills. I was throwing cold water all over my head and chest at every water stop, but it was HOT. My heart rate was fine, so I don’t think I was overheated, but the Internet keeps telling me it was heat exhaustion. At about the 8-mile mark, I touched my face and it felt like sandpaper. I’m not normally a salty sweater, so that surprised me, too.

I walked more than I wanted to. Every time I did, I felt a little defeated. I didn’t ever do that during training. It was the turnaround to do the second 6.5-mile out and back that I realized my goal was now just to finish. Coming off the bike, I was worried that I might have had a little too much fun chasing speed on the downhills on the bike, and I think my crap run confirmed it.

Everything felt awful. I don’t even remember feeling good about finishing. I was just glad it was over. I downed a bunch of water, but didn’t want anything else in my stomach for hours. And I immediately started a mental list of things I could do better.

I feel proud that I finished. And I want to be more excited about it. I wish I had executed a smarter race so I could have properly raced the run.

I will say, this race has humbled me. I don’t think I respected the distance as much as I should have. I’ve done marathons and centuries before, and I equated it to the same experience. It was not. It was the hardest thing I’ve done so far. That said, I’m going to keep at it. Because as JFK once said, “we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”