As happy as I was after my race at the Olympic Distance Age Group National Championships, I didn't have too much time to celebrate right after, because I was doing the Sprint Distance Age Group National Championships the very next day. I love weekends of double racing, and after crossing the finish line on Saturday, got right to work with ice and compression and rehydration so that I was ready for a good race on Sunday. One of my goals this season was to qualify for 2016 sprint worlds, which meant placing top 8 in my age group at this race - difficult, but definitely possible based on how I'd done in the Olympic distance race.
Despite all my recovery efforts, Saturday night, I was still too buzzed from the race - and possibly caffeine - to get to sleep before midnight, and then woke up at 4 am with no alarm. Ah well, sleep is overrated for recovery, right?
I set up transition and went through my warm up routine to find that when I jogged, I had a REALLY tight windpipe and all the puffs on my rescue inhaler didn’t make a difference. I tried stretching and massaging my chest to loosen everything up, but it didn’t seem to help.
You can probably see where this is going.
Not being one to DNS a race when I've already racked my bike and warmed up, I hopped into the water for a brief warm up. As we were warming up, I could hear the announcer reading off names of women who were expected to place high in our age group, and thought about how weird that would be to hear yourself called out like that.
Then he read my name.
It was weird.
I am not sure who I know who knows somebody at USA Triathlon who thought that would be a funny joke, but it was definitely bizarre.
Swim: I lined up on the dock - and it turns out I did so on the wrong side, since there was a last minute announcement about the buoy pattern that differed from the Olympic course - and got ready to go. I went out hard, and felt pretty good for the first few minutes. Then, I started having trouble breathing. By the last 300 meters or so, I was gasping for air and constantly lifting my head out of the water, and got to the swim exit and pretty much fell over.
T1: The volunteers got me back on my feet, and I was so out of it that I couldn’t even get my arms out of my wetsuit and completely forgot to lap my watch. My breathing only got worse and worse, and when I ran past Jason, I told him I couldn’t breathe and I was really starting to panic because this wasn’t getting better. I wound up running right past my bike, backtracked, and fumbled all my stuff together while hyperventilating.
Bike: I considered not even going out on the bike course, but thought maybe everything would calm down. I pedaled SUPER EASY at the beginning, and after maybe 4 miles, was able to do some kind-of-normal breathing, so I tried upping the intensity for about 15 seconds before I realized that wasn’t going to work. I tried that a handful of times more before I resigned myself to doing the biking equivalent of a brisk walk. As I neared the end of the bike course, I considered dropping out at T2, but I’m scared that if I DNF a race, it will be too easy to DNF other races in the future.
T2: I stopped to fix my shorts since I was clearly done with actual racing, so what’s an extra 15 seconds? When I left transition, I stopped to talk to Jason (again, done racing, who cares) and tell him I was OK as long as I kept with low-end aerobic stuff so that he could go and do his own race without worrying about me.
Run: I took off with some easy jogging, and stopped to walk when I felt the wheezing and hyperventilating starting up. It was pretty painful, and there was a convenient bail-out point about 1.5 miles in that was quite tempting, but I figured worst case, I could walk another half hour. The last mile or so, I was getting extremely dizzy and was still hyperventilating even when I was walking, so when I jogged past my parents in the finishing chute, I told them I was going to medical.
They got me on a nebulizer and some supplied oxygen, and I was good as new after about 10 minutes. Then I went out to cheer on Jason and laugh about how miserable my splits were (I haven't bothered to post them here, but you can go look them up for yourself).
I obviously didn't meet my goal of qualifying for 2016 sprint worlds. That's ok. There will be sprint worlds in 2017, and 2018. The bigger issue here is getting my breathing problems under control because it's frustrating to not be able to race to my abilities, and I'm sure my friends and family are kind of sick of worrying about me out on the course. I have, since the race, had a chance to see my pulmonologist, and found out some interesting and very surprising things that I'll discuss in a later post, but I think we have a good idea of how to prevent or address future episodes.
In the end, I'm just happy I at least had a good race on Saturday, and I have some high hopes for nationals next season.
If I can, like, learn how to run.