Race: Folsom Triathlons
Location: Lake Natoma, Folsom CA
“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.” – Napoléon Bonaparte
I knew RA, (Rheumatoid Arthritis), had plans to reap havoc on my body the night before my race when I went to stand up from the sitting position and pain in my right knee almost had me laid out on the floor. Pain all night in my knee and in my hips poured into race morning. RA was like “Oh you’re racing today? That’s cute.”
Hence the hardest part sometimes about being a triathlete with RA – no matter how hard I train, or how prepared I am going into race day, it can all be derailed in seconds without reason or warning. When this happens I have two options: 1. Don’t race, or 2. Don’t let the disease detour me from chasing my dreams.
Because I’m headstrong, I usually choose the later. (Through 13 years of battling RA, I’ve learned what I can push through and what I cannot. However, I can only use my best judgment – again the disease is completely unpredictable and I must suffer the consequences regardless.)
This race held lots of firsts for me: first race of the season, first one post total wrist fusion, first one racing my sponsored bike, and first race having a coach. This triathlon season I’ve been working harder than ever before, and was stoked to start racing.
At the same time, I was also extremely nervous. All the normal race nerves, but I was mostly nervous about my new wrist in the swim leg. Any triathlete would understand why – it can be violent in the water. Getting kicked, hit, and even swam over is a normal occurrence in triathlon. If I were to take a hard enough hit to my wrist in the swim, it could’ve forced me to pull out of the race or even worse break my wrist.
Training details leading up to race day:
My main event is Olympic distance triathlons, so my training thus far has been focused mainly around Olympic. I’m usually training 6 days a week, (with a couple of those days having two workouts on the same day), and one rest day per week. As a triathlete with RA and many other chronic pain conditions, I sometimes require additional rest days and also changing scheduled workouts to adapt to how my body is feeling on any given day. This is a constant struggle which results in me feeling like I’m not able to train at my “full” potential.
Nutrition leading up to race day and on race day:
As far as day to day nutrition goes, I eat to help treat symptoms and to help control my disease. For me, this means lots of whole, natural, real foods: veggies, fruits, chicken, fish, nuts, whole grains, etc. This diet matches up nicely with a triathletes diet/ nutrition needs. Win- win! When it comes to nutritional supplements for training and racing, my trusted favorite is Hammer Nutrition products. The regulars in my regime are: premium insurance caps, mito caps, tissue rejuvenator, race caps supreme, endurolytes, heed, recoverite, and hammer gel.
Woke up earlier than normal to give myself enough time to ice my flaring knee and use my tens unit before leaving the house. Arrived at the race venue shortly after transition area opened and hobbled around setting up my gear and bike before the rush of triathletes. Then found a bench that I could put my leg up and ice my knee/hips. Got to ice a couple of times before getting my wetsuit on.
Decided that it would be wise of me to get in the water much earlier than my wave start for two reasons: 1.So that I could see how it felt to swim with my wrist brace on (I hadn’t swam with it before, and wearing it was the only way I could help protect it), and 2. Let my body get accumulated to the cold temperature to avoid lower back cramping and spasms (my body doesn’t play nice with cold water. See my Nationals race report).
Started the swim towards the back of the pack and to the outside, but I still took some kicks to my wrist. They hurt, but not enough to pull me out of the race. It was enough though to slow me down out of fear. I was scared the entire swim, which forced me to swim very cautiously and slowly. Swimming isn’t my strong suit anyway, so I tried not to let it upset me too much and focused on playing catch up on the bike.
In T1 I struggled trying to get my wrist brace off so I could get the wetsuit off. Then I had to put the brace back on for the bike leg, just in case of a crash or fall (plus I promised my Ortho surgeon I would). The bike mount area was a mad house – way too small of a space for the number of people racing and it was on an incline which made it a total recipe for disaster. Again, I was scared that I would crash right there and hurt my wrist so I waited for a clearing so that I could take off as safely as possible.
By the way, I had started my Garmin as a swim instead of in multisport mode and I didn’t realize it until after the race. So when I got going at a good pace on the bike, I started to scroll through my watch looking for my pace but none of the stats were making sense. I had no clue what my speed was, how much time had elapsed, or what mile I was on. My knee was hurting but overall I was feeling pretty strong one the bike, so I tried to pace off of how I felt. I ended up asking someone what mile we were on about half way in. Towards the last couple miles I started recognizing the course and knew I was almost done. I sped up trying to empty the tank, but when I got off the bike I felt like I could’ve gone harder.
Running has always been my strong suit, at least it had been until this race. As soon as I started out on the run course the impact killed my flaring knee and hips. The heat also started to hit me. Very quickly I started to realize all the things I did wrong leading up to the run. For starters, I took my pain meds before the race for my knee and hips – I never do this. I didn’t hydrate enough to account for the pain meds being in my system. On the bike, I forgot to take my electrolytes plus I didn’t drink enough water.
I believe the combination of these things played a role in causing me to get heat exhaustion on the run leg. The pain was slowing me down significantly, but the heat exhaustion brought it to a whole other level of suck. I remember getting the chills and then goosebumps – shortly after that I threw up. The rest of the run I felt nauseous, disoriented, and sharp pains in my knee and hips each time my feet struck the ground.
Once I crossed the finish line I hobbled straight to the med tent where I tried to regulate my body temperature, hydrate, and ice my pained joints. I was so disappointed in my run, but was relieved that I finished. After such a grueling experience, I was thinking that I’d be lucky to break top 5 in my AG. My boyfriend and I were just about to pack up to go home when they posted printed results. Out of curiosity I checked, and was shocked to see that I placed 2nd in my AG!
Podium? How did that happen?! Missed 1st by 2 mins, and also missed a qualifying spot for USA Triathlon Nationals. That was a bummer for me because my run was what caused me to miss 1st. Hard pill to swallow because I’ve never had such a horrible run before (for some perspective, I run faster in training runs). Aside from the run, I managed to clock my fastest bike split I’ve ever had – which landed me at the fastest split in my AG. Overall (OAF), I ranked 15th in my division.
None of this would have been possible without my amazing coach Stephanie Artis who pushes me outside of my comfort zone, and my incredible sponsors: Hammer Nutrition, Rudy Project, Love The Pain, Kinetic Cycles, Pearl Izumi, and Team Freeplay – thank you all for believing in me. Can’t wait for the next one!