Nature of the Beast

Rev3 Portland Half – Portland, Oregon

A near perfect course; that is what the Rev3 Portland half distance course is to me, if only I could have had ocean water to swim.  As you always find the Rev3 races to be well organized and fully supported with amazing staff and volunteers, I knew this race could be nothing less than a top quality operation.

Portland, Oregon – if you have never been, is a place where I believe every American should travel to at least once in their life.  Great food, perfect summer racing weather and picturesque scenery that makes it almost difficult to race in because you just want to stop to take in the mountains, rivers and forest that surrounds you.

I knew I would be training through this race, but it would be my final prep-race before the KMD Challenge in Copenhagen.  With already 250 miles of riding on my legs and 35 miles of running this week, I was looking forward to a hard day on the course and welcoming the fairly flat terrain.  After I had crossed the finish line in Italy a month ago, I was truly looking forward to racing flat courses for the rest of the year.

It was going to be a quick trip to Portland, so as I always do, Friday I downloaded my pre-race material so I could go over the course in my head on the plane and be fully prepared by the time my plane landed.  With my bike packed and all my gear ready to go on Saturday morning, I headed to the airport.  About half way there I remembered I had forgotten to change my cassette on my racing wheels from the previous race…oh well, what can you do now – climbing gears for a flatter race.  What is done is done.

I LOVE Pre-TSA!  For all I deal with in all the traveling I do, the one great benefit I have now on national flights is my Pre-TSA boarding; no stripping down, taking off your shoes, pulling out all your computers and 3-1-1 bag – 30 seconds and you are through!  I just need to be careful to never have a CO2 cartridge accidentally with me; I’d hate to get banned from this privilege.   I get boarded and take off through to my first of two-legged journey and pull up my race day information file.

I want to be most efficient when I arrive in Portland, being on such a tight schedule, so I start reading through the logistics of check in and all that needs to be done.  I get to the course; I need to visualize what I will be doing so I go over the swim course…sounds like cake.  Swim out to the first buoy, left and keep the rest to the right of you.  Since I am doing the longest race, go out to the last set – easy enough.  Now to the bike…what…is something wrong here…this is not what I signed up for…is there a mistake…OMG, they changed the course!

Less than 24 hours before the race, I am just looking at the changes on the course and they are not even near from being flat.  In fact, it is going to be one of the hilliest, technical courses I have done all year.  Wow, I was not mentally prepared for that.  But quickly decided to shift my own gears and go with it the best I could, besides, this type of bike course is always a favorite to me.  Any opportunity to go fast…and I mean 45+mph fast, I am in!  (Note to self:  always look at the possibility of routes being changed at least a month in advance, not a day in advance)

You can’t always expect traveling to be seamless and this was one of those trips with the second leg being delayed, keeping me from getting to the race site early enough to have a relaxed afternoon.  3:30 flight lands, 4:30 car is picked up, 4:45 arrive at race site, check in and hear the end of race meeting, 5:00 hit the NormaTec booth for some serious leg compression action, 5:30 hit the road to drive the course that I now have to see.

And happy I was that I at least got to drive the course.  Beautiful and engaging, filled with blind twisting turns going up and down in all directions, it is not a course you want to see for the first time in the race itself.  Stunning Historic Route 30 takes you over the river and through the woods as you cross over the Columbia River Gorge 3 times, hit the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway, pass tree farms and horse farms, while taking on climbs that will last up to 5 miles long, covering a near 1000 foot gain.  It will be exciting…challenging, but exciting.  I was sad to have missed my team dinner because I choose to drive the course instead, but slept much better knowing what I had seen was something I could do without problem.

Without problem until…

Race morning everything was going great.  Transition set up, I went back to the car to get a 30-minute nap and was feeling even better at the starting line.  I take just behind the front row in the on-beach start and the horn goes off!  1, 2, 3 steps into the water, I am just above ankle deep and everything goes downhill – THWAP!  There it was, I took a hard head blow to the face with an upright flailing elbow.  I stumbled forward until I was able to get space to move forward by swimming instead of running, but in the first 50 meters my head was throbbing.  After making it past the first buoy my head was hurting even worse, feeling dizzy and finding it hard to stay in a straight line, I kept telling myself it would be better once I was out of the water.  After what seemed like an eternity of zigging and sagging across the small lake I finally hit shore 40 minutes later, resulting in a very slow swim and staggered to my bike.

I had convenience myself do just make it to the bike and I would feel okay, but even at that I found myself challenged to ride in a straight line, still dizzy I started my nutrition earlier than usual to see if that would remedy the problem.  Holding out until the first aid station, I was forced to pull over to see if anyone had something for this excruciating headache I had been living with for over an hour now.  After about 5 minutes at the aid station, I decided to forge on.  At this point and knowing I had already lost 5 minutes off the clock, I knew I stood no chance for a prize (which at the starting line before the first 5 seconds of the race, I was feeling competitive) so I decided to back off the intensity to see what my head would do.

After hitting a series of twists and turns, feeling my head was cloudy and not sharp, I had to hold myself back from pushing the descents I knew I could take top speed, at one point I almost took my bike into the forest paths, rather than down the road.  Odd, I had never felt this way before.  I have put up with a lot in races, but never has my head felt this way before.  “I can shake this off, I can shake it off, I just need a little more time”, I kept telling myself.

I tried.  I tried all the way through the swim and on the bike.  I tried through T2 and 200 meters into the run where I became more dizzy and unstable.  I needed to go to the aid tent.  There is nothing glorious about going to the aid tent, especially in the middle of the race and not at the finish line.  More so, there is nothing great about it when you are there before the first finisher has crossed the line.  After few tests of head movements and making me follow a pen with my eyes, and me getting nauseous and dizzy at almost every movement I did, it was determined I had a mild concussion.  Wow, that never even occurred to me of that being a possibility.

Taking the philosophy of there will always be another day to race, I found no need to try to play hero and finish the race in a dazed cloud of confusion leaving myself to wonder if it was really worth it 3 weeks from now.  It is always good to leave from a race feeling like you can’t wait to be able to have a do-over next year, rather than the feeling of – that sucked and never again.  I left with the do-over feeling.

It was a great ride regardless.  It was a great race.  My only regret is that I didn’t get to hang with my team as much as I had hoped, but there will be a next one soon enough.



4 thoughts on “Nature of the Beast

  1. YIKES! We were all curious what happened to you since I told everyone I had just seen you on the bike course finishing up. That is terrible.

    Hope you’re feeling better now and yes, onto the next one!

  2. Smart move on getting to the med tent. You know your body and what you can fight through – and what you can’t. Sometimes it’s a tough call – but you totally made the right one!

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