Learning to Move On: Pumpkinman Race Recap
Updated: Nov 6, 2019
Matt Dixon posted a podcast episode recently reflecting on Sarah Piampiano's performance at and post Kona (aka IRONMAN World Championships), and one of his key takeaways was about moving on. Particularly moving on from bad days, knowing that they're just that: bad days. One single day out of 365 days in the entire year.
In the 2-3 weeks leading up to this race, I was undergoing a tremendous load of stress. More so than usual. To the point where by the time we were about to leave for the race, my heart would pound when I'm just sitting down doing homework. To the point where I was essentially having mental breakdowns every other day. To the point that I wasn't even able to just shut my brain off and relax when we set off on our 13 hour road-trip from snowy Fort Collins to sunny Boulder City.
I was so wound up that even once I was able to loosen my mental grip on the stress, the bouts of anxiety kept cropping up (mostly because of a major programming project that was due that night and I knew I wasn't able to complete the entire assignment in time). But I came to realize the next day that letting my stress avalanche out of control because of one homework assignment wasn't really worth it, especially since it was taking away my enjoyment of other things and my focus on other tasks.
So I focused on what I came to do in Nevada...gamble! Just kidding, y'all. My bank account can barely accommodate rent and food. I came to race and experience a new place, but mostly to race. I let go of my stress and shifted my focus towards Pumpkinman.
Before heading into the race recap, I want to emphasize the beauty of the Lake Mead landscape. I mean seriously, my phone could only catch a fraction of view. It was honestly what my stressed-out brain really needed.
On top of that, I had some awesome vegan lunch at Vege-Nation in Henderson as my last big pre-race meal. Unfortunately, I have no photos of my glorious meal, but at least I can tell you it was delicious!
We spent quite a bit of time trying to decide what to eat out after picking up our race packets and setting up our T2 in Boulder City. I played it safe and waited to get back to the hotel to eat my oatmeal and Greek yogurt.
Pumpkinman Race Recap
After sleeping poorly all week and experiencing an extreme amount of stress, I had low expectations for the event. The one thing I was actually least worried about was my calf injury.
Quick Injury Side Note: If you haven't followed my Instagram stories in the past few weeks, I've been working with a PT here in Fort Collins. After some postural realignment exercises over the course of 4-5 weeks, my calf symptoms have greatly subsided and my confidence has grown. Still a work in progress, but there's progress!
While I was catching 10 minutes of sleep, the coffeemaker I brought from home was brewing away and slowly waking me up. Yes, I brought my own coffee and coffeemaker, as it sure beats hotel coffee. I got up, and slowly started to get ready. Because I ate so much the night before and the race nerves started to kick in, I didn't feel like eating much apart from a few spoonfuls of applesauce and a granola bar.
The team rode down in the pitch-black darkness with bike lights illuminating a narrow path for us to follow. The air was actually pretty chilly as we were descending towards T1 and the stars shining in the black sky. Once we got to transition, we started setting up and preparing for the race. It felt really strange setting up transition without having my run gear. It felt like I was missing something (Nice was different because you had to have both transition bags ready before the race start). The sun took its time coming up over the mountains as the race start approached. I chugged my Yerba Mate can about 40 minutes before the race start so I had enough time to visit the porta-potties beforehand. I didn't have the same gut distress leading into the race like in Nice, so I my confidence was slowly building the countdown continued (but I think the copious amounts of caffeine probably also contributed). I slipped into my wetsuit for extra warmth and waited with the team for the swim warm up.
It was about 20 minutes before the start of the race when we started to make our way down to the water for warm ups. I did a few strokes and turns to get the muscles going, but with the caffeine now in full blast in my veins, I was just attempting to contain my energy and save it for the race.
They called us back in just before the race start. Just before we all parted ways for the race start, the team came in for the team cheer, which I learned on the go. To be honest, I can't remember it off the top of my head right now, but I at least got the "Rams" at the end. 😂Don't worry, I'll get it in time for nationals.
And we're off! The collegiate guys started about 3 minutes ahead of the collegiate gals. The water was just the right wetsuit temperature (probably even warmer than the air at the time). We would be swimming into the sun in the last stretch, but it wasn't an issue for about 90% of the race. I had a really good start to the race, until I started to fade pretty quickly half way through. Not in terms of energy, but because I felt off in the water position-wise. I realized my hips were rolling way forward and causing my to tense up the rest of my body.
This didn't set up an ideal start to my hill climb out of T1, where my legs, back and hips were super tight from that type of positioning. For the first 5 miles, I was just trying to get my legs going and forgetting about the chilly air cooling off my body temperature. In those 5 miles, I was having a hard time getting into my mental game, which was evident in the way I handled my bike. Instead of just pushing the pedals and moving forward, I pushing side to side and wasting energy. I essentially told myself to just have my own race and just do the best that I could that day. And that's what I did. I kept pushing the pedals, staying straight, and tucking into the descents. Worked with a few of my teammates and fellow competitors on the bike, and I felt like I was becoming more race-focused. After the turnaround point, I saw I was catching up to the chase pack, which motivated to push a little bit more. But I still held back because I was anticipating the much-talked about final climb.
And the climb came, and went. I felt like I should've pushed harder, but I wanted to save the legs for the run that followed immediately after. As soon as we crested the climb, my feet were out of my shoes and ready to do a flying dismount after the downhill left-hand turn. I came into T2 and saw one teammate ready to go run, and a few other gals making their way out of transition. Another teammate came in as I was running out with gels and race belt in hand.
Initially, my back and calves were really talking, but I gave myself at least one mile before considering any major management options. Especially since the big climb just happened I didn't have time to spin my legs out. So, my first mile was the spin out. I let the downhill carry my legs and do most of my work. I was using my watch's buzzing every kilometer as my countdown for the race. However, what I messed up was setting my watch to kilometers instead of miles, so I was very confused when we reached the 5k turnaround and my watch said 3.something, only for me to realize it was showing miles. 😂So after 5km of still saving my legs, I went to work on the 5km back uphill. Boy, that was hard. This was bringing me back to high school cross country. At this point, there was nothing else left in the race. So my muscles gave it as much as they had left. Surging and trying to catch up to my teammate ahead of me, which worked at one point and we ran together for half a minute, until my legs couldn't keep up . I kept trying as we were approaching the finish. Then my watch buzzed for the 10th time, showing 6.2miles...and the finish was no where in sight...
My heart dropped. My legs were about to fall out from underneath me. And there was another steep hill as I turned another corner (the one that's pictured to the left), but I told myself, "It's the last one. Last one and you're done." So I kept pushing, and used the last bit of energy/caffeine I had in my system to get to the top and the finish. I didn't cry at the finish, I didn't feel a wave of emotions crashing down on me, but this finish was more satisfying to me and a great way to end the season. Racing with a team gave me the emotional and race support that I've honestly lacked in the latter half of my season. And racing for a team gave me another sense of purpose and finding more potential within myself. I raced the best that I had that day and tried to give some more, even when I was reaching my breaking point on the run. It's in these moments you learn what you are capable of, and that no matter what crap goes down, there's always another good day waiting to happen.
Off Season and Beyond
After spending another 18 hours in the car, I took a week of totally off training (plus some fun gravel/dirt-road riding, and I'm taking my time to get back into training in the following weeks before fully getting back into the grind. This gives me time to focus on coursework, mental health, and get ready for the 2020 season. As of right now, I'm still finalizing a full plan for 2020. I'll also do a few more pieces before the decade turns, as well as a short video edit from this race.
Overall, I'm super stoked for the 2020 season. I reminded myself how much I enjoy racing with a team and I can't see where this next season will take me.
Until next time, happy recovery!
Update 06 Nov 2019: Here's the Pumpkinman Video. Enjoy!
Let me know if you'd like to hear about specific topics or things going on in my life, or if you'd like to see me try different formats, such as vlogging, day-in-the-life on Insta-stories, etc. I'm open to suggestions and opinions!