By Mylah Garlington
By Mylah Garlington
My training for this race kind of started in October when I joined UMD Master’s swim team. I used to let the swimming slide and focus on the weaknesses. This year I thought it would be good to work on my swimming so I could complete the same time/distance with even less effort. Plus, swim meets are fun. I had oodles of laps under my belt by the time I got to Luray. I signed up for a June ½ marathon to make sure I came into the training season with something of a base. By race day, I had 24 weeks of pretty consistent running under my belt. I was also doing some of the injury prevention and strength training that I needed to do to make it to the start line limp-free. My bike goal was just to try to not to go backward while focusing on the other two. I’d already looked at past Luray times so my expectation was that I’d be near last. I just wanted to have a good race.
I watched as each wave went out and noticed that there were very few stragglers in each group. Everyone was staying pretty tight which meant everyone was fast. One game I like to play during the swim is to catch anyone I see from the wave in front of me. That wasn’t going to work in this race. The previous wave wouldn’t be in sight. I went to the back of my wave, looked at the people in front of me and told myself, “I have 1500 meters to pass all them.” The horn blew and I went to work. So, this was a mistake. The tightly packed group was like swimming in a can of sardines. Everyone was all over each other and it took about 2 bouys to clear up. I had to “stand my ground” against a few people and vice versa. The Luray visibility was the best I’ve experienced and I could see well in front of me. I came out of the water with 1545m recorded on the Garmin. I can’t complain about that given my history of previous sighting issues. I was 16/35 out of the water. Can’t complain about that either. I came out of the water feeling good. Luray has a looooong flight of steps between the Swim Out and T1, but the steps are shallow and easy to climb. At some point during the swim, I remembered that I racked my bike without putting the chain back on.
I really wanted to have a good solid bike so I didn’t go huffing and puffing to rush out of T1. Starting the bike already out of breath has been an issue in the past. I took my time getting out of T1. I should have taken the time to manually put my chain back.
While I didn’t put my chain back on by hand, I have “ridden” it back on many, many times. I just pedal and shift up and it clicks onto the gears. I usually closely supervise this, in no particular hurry, before a group ride. But, this was not a group ride. This was a race. I wasn’t looking down and didn’t realize that the chain overshot the big chain ring and fell off to the outside. Because I didn’t recognize this soon enough, the chain got wedged between the big chain ring and the crank arm. Metal wedged between metal is no bueno. I got off the bike, pulled a few times. No luck. I had to move out of the lane for incoming bikes. An awesome Luray volunteer came to assist. I pulled. He pulled. No luck. A third, equally awesome, Luray volunteer came and we worked together. I held the derailleur down so that it would stop moving every time we pulled. Volunteer #3 held the slack of the chain from the depressed derailleur taut from the bottom. Volunteer #2 and I pulled hard a few times and it came free!! Thank God! I thought my race was going to be mechanically over. I pulled away with my Chamillionaire mantra in my head “They see me rollinnn, they hatinnn, patrollin’, they tryna catch me ridin’ dirtyyy...” I was riding dirty. Both my hands were pitch black from the chain grease.
The Luray bike course will work you, but it won’t kill you. It’s a lollipop-type thing with 2 loops around the pop. On the first loop, I was feeling my quads talking. I popped some Margarita-flavored shot blocks and drank some water. My nutrition goal was to come back from the bike with an empty tube of ShotBlocks and 2 empty water bottles. I told myself to ignore all the “on-your-lefters” and just chill out. It was all good until a long false flat at the end of the lollipop. My bike goal was to keep my lap speed above 12miles/hour. Seeing it go from 12.3...11.8...11.5..10.9 really had me frustrated because I was in my lowest gear doing the best I could at < 60 rpms. I made the wise decision to switch my Garmin to a different screen with no lap time. I was encouraged by my 154 HR, that’s light work for me. At least I wasn’t burning out cardio-wise. On the second lap, I hit one of the nice downhills and when I came out of it, my legs were back!! Just like that. I was like “aw shoot, let’s go!” After a few minutes I reminded myself not to get too hype. The run was coming. The next time I hit the false flat stretch, I just tried to focus on my pedal technique. It helps me alot if I remember to keep my ankles loose and use them. I lost a lot of time on that stretch, but it felt much better the 2nd time around. After a nice downhill stretch you approach the “bitter end” of the ride.
The end of the ride is the worst of it with 2 hills you won’t forget. The first of the last 2 killers has a gradual, relatively benign incline followed by a quick steepening. I got up this one surprisingly okay. The next one steepens quickly and stays steep. I stayed in my lowest gear and committed to grinding until I was done. I heard footsteps behind me. Someone was walking. I kept pedaling. Two ladies who passed me earlier were also off the bike. I was grinding, but not suffering the kind of muscle-burning fatigue I expected. At one point, I almost tipped over a bit because I was going that slow. I reminded myself about my form and started to use boths leg and all joints as evenly as possible. My cadence picked up and I saw light at the end of the tunnel. The walkers cheered me up the hill and I actually felt pretty good going into T2. I finished the bike 31/35 with no shame. I put some work in for that one.
Again, I was in no particular hurry. I sat on the ground to put my shoes on and headed out of T2 walking with the Gerber Graduates applesauce squeezee that I have grown to love mid-run. Sorry boys and girls, I’m eating your food.
My teammate Tiffany was there cheering me on and walking with me to the main road. I had my positive run mantras on tap. I thought about the many successful training runs and bricks and just told myself to repeat those. I hit a respectable slow jog and I felt like this was going to be a pretty good race. This is where I would like to end this race report. Let’s just say two miles into the race someone handed me a piano. As I have experienced for almost every race for the past, ohhhh 7 years or so, my legs started to stop. It was struggle time and there was no getting the legs to pick up for more than a few strides. I had been steady with shotblocks and water. I had eaten my fruit pouch. I stopped at every water station for water and Heed. I’d trained for this run for 6 months. I’d had a good bike and swim. Nothing was even hurting. I trudged, I walked, trudged, walked. Tried to run faster than a trudge. Legs like “nah.” This is where I got pissed off (not a good thing). But seriously, WTF was all the training for is this is what the race was going to be? Why bother? These are bad, bad thoughts. Somewhat irrational and bad, bad thoughts. I saw Jessica, Christy and Tiffany at the finish line chute and they forced me to pull it together. They brought my smile back and I finished the race with a strong 50 meter run. This Luray run is incredibly hilly. I finished the run 33/34.
End of Season Thoughts
It’s not all bad!! I know that I am a stronger runner this year than I was last year. My endurance is actually better most of the time. I still have such a long way to go and it takes a mile of consistent work to see a millimeter of variable improvement. Not to mention, few people know more about running than I do. I help people to run better for a large part of my job. I live this stuff all damn day. Those who can’t do, teach, right? I’m hype that I dropped 5 seconds off my 50m swim time (about 50” to about 45”) and I’ve got sighting down. I’m in lower range of where I was last year on the bike according to course comparisons. So, I didn’t lose much. Now, I have to decide if I really want to work my butt off all winter and spring to see if I can maybe be a little bit better at running next summer or if I should just stick to a sport I can actually do well. Right now, I’m super sore and walking like a penguin so it’s not a good time for clear decision making.