25 April 2011

My First Tri

This weekend, the Lauvers are taking the Wildflower triathlon festival by storm. And it's not just the East Coast Lauvers - Mark's mom, dad, and his sister Allie are joining in the fun by doing the Wildflower Oly as their VERY first triathlon! I'm super excited for them and I know they will all do great. I chatted with Allie this evening about the upcoming race, and our conversation made me think of my first triathlon, back in 2005, and how woefully unprepared I was (Allie, Ted, and Lori have been training, and they will NOT be woefully unprepared).

Here is a list of things I learned from my first race:
- Start with a road triathlon; off-road ones are a bit dicey on the bike, especially if you've only mountain biked two other times your entire life.

- Buy a bike more than a week in advance of the race. Especially if the last time you owned a bike, it came with streamers on the handlebars and a banana seat.

- Successfully doing a marathon does not translate into instant success with triathlon. Especially if you can't swim more than one length of the pool without feeling like you are going to die due to lack of oxygen.

- Dog paddle may not be efficient, but it gets the job done.

- Trail running 5 miles is WAY harder than running 5 miles on a road. Things like boulders and rock walls will definitely slow your time down.

- Biking the course the night before is a smart idea. It gives you a heads up on what hills you should walk down so you don't vault over your handlebars a second time.

- Nutrition? What nutrition?

As the above evidence shows, I knew NOTHING about triathlon. I fished around on the internet and found my (embarrassingly slow) results from that first race. I came in 5th in my AG (out of 7, haha). It took me 34:47 to swim about 1200yds; 2:24 to bike 14 miles; and 1:01 to run 5 miles - a grand total of 4 hours. Longer than it took me to run my first marathon. I'd like to say that I was hooked after that first race, but that would be a lie. I was simply happy to have made it through that bike ride alive.

It took me two years, but I decided to give triathlon another go, and what better way than to do that first race again? This time I actually trained for it and cut my times down to 31:28 for the swim, 1:38 for the bike, and 51:58 for the run, finishing in 3:01. NOW I was hooked. But, I've stuck to road-tris. Maybe sometime in the future I'll give the off-road tri another shot.

So, I think my in-laws doing their first tri will be leaps and bounds ahead of where I was during my first triathlon. They've trained, they've had their bikes longer than a week, and they can keep themselves afloat in the water. Next weekend will be exciting!

18 April 2011

Rumpus in Bumpass Oly Tri - Race Report

I've seen alot of blog posts lately on other people's blogs about the power of believing in yourself. I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to join in the trend with this post here. Rumpus was not an "A" race for me - it was an early season, short, fun race. But it became something more. Since the Tucson tri camp, it's as though something as finally clicked - I'm trying to make triathlon a priority and do it right. What's the point of spending the time and energy training when you don't bother going to bed early, don't eat right, miss workouts, and don't focus? Jen has mentioned to me before that there has been a disconnect between how I train and how I race. Success in training doesn't often equal success in racing; at least that's been the case for me over the past couple of years. I crack during races. I look at my watch, see a pace or a heart rate and start to over-think things. I don't do enough mental prep work - it's almost as though I am too scared to fully invest myself in a race, because what if the race doesn't go well? I can't really explain it, but it's like I'm afraid to put all of my eggs in one basket, lay it all out there, set high goals and really go for them. Because what if I fail even if I give it my all? Sounds silly, right? Sounds like I'm giving up before I've really even tried. It sounds like I've already failed.

I wanted this race to be different. I wanted to finish the race and feel like I left it all out there. I wanted to know what it felt like to set a goal and really go after it - give it everything I had to achieve it, failure be damned! I did NOT want any shoulda, woulda, coulda's in my rearview mirror. So, in addition to eating right, going to bed early, doing all workouts, etc, I focused on the mental preparation side of things. I have NEVER been so mentally focused on a race in my life. I wrote down quotes from Jen's scary e-mail and posted them on my computer at work, so I could read them 20x a day. I wrote the quotes down in a notebook I carry with me and I'd pull them out to read while I waited for the bus or the metro. I visualized EXACTLY how I wanted the race to go down. How I wanted my pull to feel during the swim, how often I would sight the buoys, how quickly I would get the wetsuit off in T1, how I wanted my pedal stroke to feel on the bike, what I would do for nutrition, how quickly I would get my running shoes on in T2, and how I wanted my legs and arms to feel during the run, how I wanted to feel out there on the course. I listened to "The Cave" by Mumford and Sons probably about 1,000 times during the days leading up to the race (nothing like frenetic banjos to get you jacked up - but actually some of the lyrics were quite appropriate). I thought about my race strategy - SUFFER. I thought about my goals and told myself over and over again that I was fit enough to achieve them - that I should be confident and just believe in myself. By the time race day arrived, I was nervous, scared, excited, and - most importantly - ready.

Pre-Race: Some of the race-day jitters were eased by seeing some good friends I hadn't seen in awhile - I caught up with Melody, saw Tricia from college and her husband Sean and met their adorable son Kieran. Kate and I took some pictures of our miserable, wet selves and sent them to Jen.

The swim:
Thanks to Mother Nature, I was already soaking wet by the time I got into the water. It was chilly enough that it almost took my breath away and gave me an ice cream headache when I did some practice strokes. But, it's amazing how your body adapts when it's go time. By the time the horn sounded, I wasn't cold anymore - I was ready to swim. The swim out to the first turn buoy was uneventful; however, as we made the turn, we were fighting the waves and the wind for the rest of the swim. When I initially got out of the water and saw the dismal time on my watch, I was really disappointed - I've been working so hard on my swim and seen progress over the past year. But looking at the results later that night, alot of people had dismal swims, so I feel less like a slowpoke. Unfortunately, I didn't fully meet my goal of making the swim a 1500m time trial - I found my focus wandering and I know I could've swum harder. So, in the future, along with my swim stroke, I need to work on mental focus during the swim.

A muddy mess. By the time I got on my bike, I think I looked like I had rolled around in mud. Lovely. I didn't put my shoes on in T1 because it was so muddy. I put them on when I got to the bike mount line, so my bike time is a little skewed.

The Bike:
I've never biked so hard during a race in my life. Honestly. The course was decent - a few rollers, a lovely false flat with a headwind for about two miles, no terribly sharp turns, and some fun downhills. I stayed in aero most of the time, kept my chain in the big ring, and pedaled hard. I had my Garmin set on multi-sport mode and, being the non-techy person that I am, had no idea how to get it to display heart rate, current pace, etc. It only showed me overall time and total distance. This actually turned out to be a blessing because it didn't allow me to focus on pace or heart rate - my head wasn't able to get in the way of my racing. It was a liberating way to race - I listened to my body and trusted it to tell me where my limits were. It worked - I didn't blow up, and I biked faster than I've ever biked before in a race. I felt good - not in an "oh-this-is-such-a-pleasant-bike-ride" type of way, but in a "I'm-working-my-face-off-and-I-like-it" type of way. I managed to take in two Hammer gels on the bike - normally I have no problems eating on the bike, but I was working hard enough where I had to force the gels down. I pedaled hard up the hills, I pedaled hard down the hills. No girls passed me, but if one did, I planned to go with her and not let her get too far ahead. Periodically I'd ask myself if I could go harder, if I was suffering enough or if I could eek out a little more. I didn't hold back at all during the second loop, no regrets, right? My pedal stroke felt just as I had visualized it would. I didn't question whether or not I could keep my pace - I had visualized it so many times, I felt like I was just doing something I'd already successfully done before.

Also a muddy mess and it was great fun getting run shoes onto my frozen feet.

The Run:
I didn't think about the run at all while I was on the bike. I was focused on the here and now and doing what I could to go as fast as possible. As I headed out of T2, I was passed by two girls - both of whom kept a good pace. I struggled that first mile - there was a hill and I was trying to settle into a pace. I wasn't really thinking at this point in the run - nor any other time during the run. I was just running as hard as I could. I had no idea what my pace or heart rate was - I only saw my mile splits when they popped up after each mile. For me, they were good splits, and I challenged myself to stay consistent. I fully believed I could do it and I knew I could reel in the two girls who had initially passed me at the beginning of the run. By the end of the first loop, I did pass them both. There's not much more to say about the run other than I didn't crack, didn't have a meltdown, and didn't think. My friend Tricia took some pictures near the finish line and you can see it on my face that there was nothing left. No smiling and waving like I've done in previous races.

In the end, I got a 6 minute PR - on a day with windy and wet conditions. I was 2nd in my age group and 11th overall (just missing my reach goal of being top ten - I missed that by 22 seconds). I took a look at the USAT website and I believe my placing at this race qualifies me for Age Group Nationals (held in my college hometown of Burlington, VT!). Alas, it's the same weekend as Timberman - I race I signed up for about 5 days before Rumpus.

I'm thrilled with how I held it together during the race - Jen's advice to "don't think, just race" worked perfectly. I think I may want to race more often without HR or pace data - it really freed me to go hard while listening to my body. I raced with the big kids and didn't get completely dropped. I believed in myself and my capabilities. There aren't any nagging "shoulda, woulda, coulda's" - instead, there is just excitement for the rest of the season!

13 April 2011

"Stop Being Safe. Do Not Think, Just Race."

With the first triathlon of the season on the horizon (as in, this weekend), Jen sent me a little motivational response to my race goals I sent to her. Actually, it was a bit of a scary motivational e-mail and I kind of felt like wetting my pants while reading it, but really, this was exactly what I needed.

That blog post title, "Stop being safe. Do not think, just race" is a line I stole from the e-mail. It's my new goal for the race; that and suffer. No time goals, just go hard and don't hold back. I also wrote down a few other quotes from the e-mail and stuck them on my work computer and wrote them in a notebook I carry around with me. Just to remind myself of what I need to do on Saturday.

Last season, I cracked during just about every single one of my races. Usually on the run. Things got hard (it's a race, they are supposed to be hard) and I would allow myself to cave - slow down, walk, tell myself it's an accomplishment just to finish. I took a look at my race report from this race last year and here is a gem of a line "my head wasn't really in the run and i was just so pleased with how the bike turned out, I almost didn't care how the run went" WTH??!! No wonder I had a crummy race, with that kind of attitude.

I'm trying to turn things around this season. Mental focus and preparation are just as important as the swimbikerun training. I've been reading books and blogs, trying to soak up and understand the different mental prep techniques and how I might be able to apply them to myself and my races. Saturday's tri will be the first true test - I feel like such a poser sitting here saying I'm going to try to race with the big kids (seriously, who am I?!), but that's what I'm going to try to do. Answer when I am passed, no more of this "I'm here to race my own race." That is bull - I am here to race (OMG, such a pretender!). Work hard from start to finish, don't look at the clock, and plan on having this simple conversation with myself over and over:
"Will I die?"
"Then go harder."
If the end result of the race is that I finish with absolutely nothing left and there are no "shoulda, woulda, coulda's - then I think we can call it a success.

I'm a little leery and uncomfortable with this "race-bravado"-type talk. I feel like an arrogant fool saying it and writing it. But I'm kind of hoping if I just write it and say it enough, I might begin to believe it, and one of these days it'll actually come true.

I'm not this arrogant in real life. Honestly.

07 April 2011

I almost cracked tonight

I almost cracked tonight - I was [this close] to having grape nuts and toast for dinner tonight. Or, worse, walking to CVS and getting a package of Kraft Mac and Cheese. It was late, I was only cooking for one, and in a sick and disgusting way, mac and cheese actually sounded appealing. I haven't had it in about a year. Fortunately, I gave myself a mental smack to remind myself that I would likely feel disgusting if I ate a whole box of mac and cheese (which I would do since I have little self control).

So, instead, I had homemade pizza with lots of vegetables and a big glass of water.

I think I may have finally put my unhealthy, college dorm-style eating habits to rest for good. THANK GOODNESS.

In other news, my dog has been busying himself with eating potpourri this evening. The cats gracefully knocked over a glass of festive potpourri and I thought I managed to pick up most of it, but apparently not. Thank goodness Mark gets home from his business trip tomorrow - I'm not sure how much longer I can handle being outnumbered 3:1 by the animals. As I write this, Bissell is dumpster diving in the garbage disposal... and I'm not even going to waste my energy trying to intervene, I just don't care anymore.

05 April 2011

JHC's Tucson Tri Camp 2011

This past weekend I attended one of Jen's Tucson Tri Camps. It absolutely did not disappoint. JHC's camp gave the words "hammered" and "trashed" a totally different meaning from the usual college frat party connotation (though the result was much the same - passed out, but without the hangover).

I had blog-stalked many of the other campers, so it was nice to meet them in person and put a face to a blog (now I can comment on others' blogs without seeming like a creepy stalker). Everyone at camp was a great athlete and happy to be there. I was hoping I could hold my own - was also hoping I could make it up Mount Lemmon in my 25, since I was lazy and didn't change it to a 27 - had a minor panic attack when I flew into Tucson and saw those hills - yikes!

Day 1: Mount Lemmon (25 miles of UP) and T-run.
What a fantastic bike ride - LOVED it! It's just the type of climbing I like - challenging and steady climb, not too steep, but a climb where you can settle into a gear and power your way up. The views were great and I tried to snap a picture of every elevation marker I passed. One of Jen's Tucson-based athletes was so nice and provided sag support at Mile 14, Windy Point. Sag support complete with pretzels, bananas and NUTELLA - perhaps I died and biked my way to heaven: pretzels + Nutella = Bliss. After Windy Point, it was a short 6.5 more miles of UP before beginning the descent into Summerhaven (home of cookies the size of your face). We all regrouped at the top, took a few photos, enjoyed the sun and cool air, and eventually found the motivation to climb back out of Summerhaven and then descend. I wasn't too nervous about the descent - the road was in good conditions, turns were wide, and no switchbacks. It was so much FUN! I surprised myself by getting into aero here and there and pedaling through some of the turns, and taking some of the turns more aggressively than I normally would. I made it down in one piece and Melissa and I cycled back to the house to begin the T-run. That T-run was HOT. I think I was a bit dehydrated as well - my mouth was dry and I thought about water during the whole run around the neighborhood. I was so happy to get back to the house, I grabbed a big glass of water and jumped into the pool with my clothes on. Four miles in high 90s heat will make you do that. Dinner was at Blanco that night, courtesy of camp - I had a huge burrito and ate my bodyweight in guacamole, which is one of my other most favorite things besides Nutella.

Day 2: Swim, Bike, T-run
We had a bit of a later start because we didn't have the pool until 9ish. Alot of us were on East Coast/midwest time so we were all up with the sun. This allowed for a leisurely breakfast as we packed up our stuff, as we wouldn't be coming back until after the swimbikerun fun extravaganza was over later in the afternoon. We swam in the beautiful sunshine OUTSIDE at the U of A Rec Center. The pool was so, so nice and it was lovely to be out in the sun - even though I was hanging onto the wall, gasping for breath between sets, I really enjoyed the swim. I think I managed over 4000 yds by the end of it. We went to TriSports for a tour of the facility and I had the yummiest veggie sandwich ever for lunch. Then we headed out into the 95+ degree heat for a two hour ride, sagged by TriSports. I actually found that the heat wasn't too bad when you were riding your bike - no humidity and there was a breeze when you were moving. However, the false flat on that ride was NO FUN - I just kept watching my speed slowly dwindle and my heart rate slowly climb - blah. I was in a funk during that part of the ride, but fortunately it passed. I got lost and totally missed the turn I was supposed to take - I ended up a mile or two down the road near a park ranger station in the middle of nowhere. Eventually, when nobody else showed up, I figured out I was lost and turned around and caught back up with the group. We did the Pistol Hill loop a couple of times - a short climb that was rewarded with a nice descent on good roads. The way back to the cars was a challenge - we were hot, our legs were tired, but I pushed it as hard as I could and it was helpful we were going back down the false flat. I only managed to eek out a 2 mile T-run, but the heat was brutal and I was honestly glad it was only two miles. Then it was back to the house, pool time, and most of us just ordered in pizza and called it an early night. I loved going to bed early and waking up early - we were all so tired, it was hard to stay up past 9pm.

Day 3: Sabino Canyon and Lemmon (Again!!)
We were up bright and early to run the Phoneline Trail at Sabino Canyon - a challenging and super pretty trail run. I tried to stick with Jen's husband Jerome, but within the first mile up the trail, my HR was in Zone 5 and I was scrambling over rocks and gasping for breath and wondering how the heck I was going to continue like that for 4 more miles. The trail did start to level out and become a little less technical, my HR went down, and I managed to find a rhythm. Still couldn't catch Jerome, but I did manage to pick up the pace in places and I had a great time on the run! The run back to the car was (mostly) downhill on a paved road - a good cooldown. I was glad we all started early because by the time we were done, it was HOT outside. We went back to the house for a cooloff in the pool and some breakfast. And then... We went back up Mount Lemmon! Not all the way up this time. I rode up to Windy Point and tried (very unsuccessfully) to keep up with Jerome. Riding Lemmon on Day 3 of camp, in the afternoon heat, was a totally different ballgame than riding it on Day 1 with fresh legs in the morning. It was hot, hot, hot out there. I also didn't eat enough and was feeling it by Windy Point. When I got back to the house, I had a beer (well, a quarter of a beer) and sat in the pool in celebration of being done. We did Blanco for dinner again that evening (comment of the night goes to Angelina who correctly observed that Tucson is home to some questionable fashions).

Day 4: Saguro trail running and swimming
Apparently I missed the memo that wild boars and mountain lions are the things to see in Saguro - everyone else some some interesting wildlife - me, I just saw a few rabbits. Boo. The run was hard, my legs were tired, and even though it was only 7am, it was hot. Throw in a looonnngggg false flat that never ended and a run-in with a cactus and that would adequately describe my run. Jerome was being very nice and trying to chat with me during the run (I was running, he was strolling) and all I could really manage were a few gasps and dying animal noises. I just kept counting down the miles and telling myself that I could do it, willing myself not to stop, roll over and die. Sad thing was, it's not like I was running that fast. I'm going to blame it on overall fatigue. When we regrouped, everyone had war stories about seeing wild boars and mountain lions. I, on the other hand, busied myself pulling cactus needles out of my elbow because I accidentally stumbled into a cactus toward the end of my run, oops. The swim was a great way to finish off camp. Jen was nice and didn't have any speed sets in there. Melissa lapped me about a billion times, but I didn't care, as long as I didn't drown, it was a good day. By the end, I had a nice sunburn on my back and the back of my legs - I love outdoor swimming!

I had so much fun that whole week - everyone was super nice, the weather was perfect (a little toasty, but otherwise perfect), and the workouts were a great challenge. This may sound strange, but this was my dream vacation - good weather, no distractions, lots of swimming, biking, running, good food, great company, and sleep. This camp was exactly what I needed to get excited about the 2011 tri season. Good thing too, since my first race is in, ohhh, about a week and a half (are you ready Kate and Bethany?!)!

Thank you to Jen and Jerome for putting on such a great camp - I can't imagine the amount of work that went into planning it and executing it, but I thought it was flawless. Looking forward to next year!

**I have pictures that I will post, but right now I am too lazy to hunt for the cord to my camera. Pictures will have to wait.