Third time is not always the charm. My third time doing Couples Triathlon was my worst. Not my slowest (I was a little slower in 2013 right after Denali), but my worst. My overall time was only two minutes slower than last year, but the swim was cut down to 500m this year from previously being 800m. But really it wasn't just that I had a terrible run that made it the worst, it was that I got such a bad calf cramp in T2 I was actually limping later in the week.
Contributing largely to my poor race, I put in kind of a hard week of training the week beforehand. This race was two weeks before my next Ironman, in the past I would have already started tapering and lightened up on my training. However, the prior week I was out of town at a family reunion. While I did some running and swimming, and even a little bit of cycling on a mountain bike I rented, it didn't feel like an adequate end to my training cycle.
Not having a "usual" triathlon partner, I left it up to my triathlon team captain Erin to pair me up with someone on the team. When I signed up, my partner was Karen. When she had to drop out a few days before the race due to illness, Erin paired me up with a guy she recently started coaching named Jason. The race director was nice enough to transfer Karen's entry to Jason, with the only residual effect being that he had to wear a bib with the name "Karen" on it. Since I hadn't ever met Jason or learned much about him, it wasn't until race morning that I learned that this would be his first triathlon. And that he is signed up for Ironman Cozumel in the fall. We arrived at transition about the same time; he guessed I was the guy he was looking for based on my team kit. I was taken aback when he was asking about race logistics and mentioned pinning his bib on in transition. I always aspire to "pro-level," so the very nature of his question threw me off until I remembered my spare race belt I keep in my backpack. I very briefly went over the course with him, and pointed out the buoys of the swim course when we went down toward the start. Jason acted nervous right before the race, kind of dancing around. He seemed amazed I appeared very calm, sipping a little bit of water.
The race started at 8am, Jason and I went off together toward the back of the first wave, "friends- male." I saw him for the last time after a short run and a few strokes. We seemed to be going the same pace at the start, but I really wouldn't have seen him even if he was on my shoulder or feet. He did finish the race, so at least after the fact I know he didn't drown. The swim was okay for me. I didn't run into too many people, just one or two at the turns and exit. I was kind of disappointed when I got out of the water and saw a time about 11 minutes, as I was looking for about a 2 minutes per hundred meters pace. After the fact my watch showed I swam closer to 550 meters than 500, but that was probably more due to my meandering about than the course being longer than advertised.
The bike went pretty well. The course is one I've done quite a few times now; while my overall time was not my best, I did get a couple Strava personal records. I passed lots of people, nobody passed me. However I did find myself slacking a little bit on the stretches where there was nobody around me. On the one hand, it was good that when I was flat there wasn't someone ready to overtake me, but on the other hand I should be able to hold and motivate myself without anyone watching.
It was when I got back to transition that disaster struck. I racked my bike and started to put on my left shoe when my calf cramped. It hurt. I should have just sit down to finish putting on my shoes, but I continued to stand and struggle. I managed to finish putting on the shoe and flex so to break the "lock." My right calf twinged and nearly seized as well when I put that shoe on. I hobbled out to the run course, hoping that the knot would unwind once I started moving again. Every stride hurt. I tried to stretch out while continuing to move, but it didn't help. I considered stopping and quitting the race, but figured I could at least walk the three miles to finish. I finally came to a full stop at the chain-link fence and did a "mountain climber" stretch. That helped enough to get going again at a moderate pace. I was passed by a few people in the first two miles of the run, clearly fast people (many of them I know) who probably would have passed me if I had been going my "fast" pace. When I got to the bottom of the "dam(n) hill" or "quadzilla," I gave a big "Nope!" and started walking. My legs were just plain done and had no interest in running up a big hill. When my teammate Zack, and later when my friend Mike passed, I gave running to keep up with him a brief shot, followed quickly by "F*$k that." The trickle of runners passing me the first two miles became a steady stream up the hill. At the top I get my legs moving again for the last 500 meters of tarmac at a lackluster 9-minute pace.
My overall time was 1:15:47. Jason's total time was 1:23:51, certainly respectable for a very tough sprint course. Our combined times put "Mixed Nuts" 7th of 11 teams in the "friends- male, combined age 70-94" category.
My calf didn't feel that bad after the race. I rolled it when I got home. It was pretty sore on Monday. It might have been okay except that I went for a bike ride Monday evening. I normally take Monday off, and certainly would have with a calf issue, but I wanted to make sure the bike was in proper working order in the brief window between getting a race tuneup Monday and dropping it off for transport to Lake Placid on Tuesday. Between the injury Sunday and exacerbating it Monday, I was limping on Tuesday. I did all I could to massage, knead, and foam roll. It felt better on Wednesday, but still tender enough that I took another day off of training. Thursday I skipped the usual track workout to run in my neighborhood, which went okay. Swim was kind of crappy that evening, but not necessarily related to the legs.