29 June 2012

Recovery fun

After last weekend's long, hilly rides and runs, I was truly in need of some serious recovery time.  At the time I didn't realize just how tired I was.  That fatigue manifested itself in my inability to wake up before 7 and wanting to shut my eyes and be asleep by 8pm.  I had Monday and Tuesday completely off from workouts.  It was all kinds of fantastic.  I know that recovery days make some people go crazy, but I'm not one of them.  I'll take any excuse to be lazy for a few days.  It was liberating to leave work and think I have nothing I have to do tonight except sit on my couch and watch The Office on Netflix.  And to wake up in the morning and realize the most I have to do this morning before work is get in the shower and pick out what I'm going to wear today.  The workouts lightly started up again on Wednesday and after the two-day break, it felt nice to be doing something active again.  Recovery week has also meant I had time to goof off and be social - last night I went to a Josh Ritter/Brandi Carlyle concert at Wolftrap with a group of fellow triathletes.  SO MUCH FUN.  I never go out during the week and I think an outing like yesterday's was just what I needed to break the monotony of Ironman training.  We didn't even get home terribly late and it was so nice to have a chance to catch up with friends, especially when we weren't all clad in spandex and straddling our bikes.  Thank you to Kendra for organizing the evening out!  This weekend is back to the grind (in a good way).  Skyline is still the plan for now, but apparently there are a few wildfires on Skyline Drive and Mt. Massanutten so we may rework the plan and substitute it with Poolesville.  Either way, it's going to be a hot weekend out there on the bike with the record heat they are expecting.

26 June 2012

I thought it was the chocolate...

Part of my focus this year, as I try to become a better triathlete, has been on nutrition.  Since I started doing triathlons back in 2007/2008, I've slowly but surely cleaned up my diet.  I used to eat a box of macaroni and cheese for dinner a few nights a week (when I wanted to get wild and crazy, I'd add in a couple chopped up hot dogs - double wide dinner!!).  When I realized how many calories are in a box (because I never bothered to look before), I figured the blue box special was putting me on the fast track to Slowville and I'd better quit that habit.  In recent years I've also embraced the idea that cereal is for breakfast and NOT for dinner.  Progress.  Going out to eat hasn't really been a major roadblock, we don't go out terribly often and I'd rather make my lunch and bring it in than buy it because I am a cheapskate.  And there is my chocolate addiction (FYI, the chocolate chips or PR sign on the pantry chalkboard is still staring me in the face).  The chocolate actually hasn't been too much of a problem this season, we just haven't been buying it and when I do have it, it's usually in the form of frozen yogurt as a reward for weekend workouts.  But, despite all of this progress, I felt like there was more that could be done.

Enter Beth, triathlete and dietician extraordinaire.    

I won't go into great detail of what we discussed, but it did involve a food log (which provided me with the realization that I eat a crap-ton of food) and it turns out that my big weakness isn't chocolate, but rather... cheese and butter.  You don't realize how much of those things you consume until you are writing down every morsel of food that passes your lips.  That handful of cheese you down as you are making your cheese-laden veggie quesadillas - busted!

I also need to eat more fruits and vegetables.  Guess what, you probably do too, even if you think you are eating enough.  Do you know how much fruit and veggies you need to eat in order to get a day's worth of 5-8 servings.  A crap-ton.  In fact, you should be having them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as snacks.  Then, just maybe you will meet the recommended daily quota.  As I was cooking my meals and filling out my food log, I was all hoity-toity about my fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, I was all look at meee, we get weekly deliveries of fresh fruits/veggies from the green grocer and we cook all our own meals with said veggies and I had a fruit smoothie for dessert instead of ice cream, blahblahblah.  And Beth's analysis of my food logs said otherwise, womp womp.

SO, I can count on one hand how many weeks until Ironman - this means it's time to put the nutrition lessons I've learned to work, cut the baloney (or, rather the cheese and butter), pile on the fruits and vegetables, go off recreational sugar, buckle down and get serious.  The sweat and hard work I left on Skyline Drive during all those rides this summer won't be for naught.  And that entire sheetcake and can of frosting I plan to devour post-Ironman will taste that much better if I don't cheat beforehand.  Au revoir nutritional weaknesses, I will see you sometime post-Ironman.

25 June 2012

Peak training is coming to an end

I looked in Training Peaks to find that this coming Saturday is my last scheduled 100 mile ride before Ironman Lake Placid.  Last peak ride in the final build cycle before taper.  Truthfully, I'm a bit sad.  I've enjoyed Ironman training this time around more than I ever have before.  Part of it stems from feeling more focused and grounded during the training - since the end of March when things began to get serious, starting with triathlon camp, I've had tunnel vision when it's come to training and fit in the rest of my life around it.  This has meant alot of early mornings, alot of Friday nights and Saturday nights at home and in bed at a reasonable hour, and I don't remember the last time I went to a happy hour.  Probably sometime in April and I probably just drank water.  Another reason I've loved the training so much has been because I've met so many great training partners through it.  I've ridden Skyline and SkyMass a bunch of times this year, always with fantastic people who keep the ride light with a sense of humor and challenge me to work hard.

So, the plan for this weekend:  Mindy and I are going to climb the hills of Skyline once more.  We are going to work hard and suffer so we'll be ready to do the same thing in less than 4 weeks (!!!!!!) at Ironman Lake Placid.  I can't believe it's almost here.  BEYOND EXCITED!!!!

24 June 2012

Ride Report - Gran Fondo Diabolical Double 125 miler

I like hills.
But, there are hills, and then there are hills.  This weekend's Garrett County Gran Fondo Diabolical Double was FULL of 125 miles of the latter.  It was 16,500 feet of climbing - like climbing up Mount Lemmon twice, just without the nice sweeping descents or a Cookie Cabin waiting for me at the end.  After this weekend, I could practically cry tears of joy that there are TWO rest days in a row scheduled in Training Peaks.

Hills anyone?

Originally my friend Karen asked me back in March/April if I was interested in joining a group of friends up in Deep Creek to do this ride.  But when she asked I was in the midst of my spring travel extravaganza and couldn't contemplate the thought of more travel, even if it was two months away.  Fast forward a month or two and I have one of my long ironman peak training rides scheduled for the same weekend as the Gran Fondo.  Lots of my friends were doing the ride.  Deep Creek Lake is a gorgeous area.  It would be nice to get out of the city.  And there were going to be six aid stations fully stocked with PB&J sandwiches and cookies galore.  There was no reason why I shouldn't sign up, 125 miles with company (even if it is full of hills) is better than 125 miles with no company.  So I signed up.

There's something about racing/riding in Deep Creek that brings out the butterflies.  As Tim (my chauffeur extraordinaire for the weekend - thank you for carting me everywhere!!) and I drove out to western Maryland on Friday, I started to feel the nerves set in.  There wasn't anything to be nervous for (except for killing myself on the descents) because this wasn't a race, it was just a ride.  I've also gotten really nervous every time I've done the Savageman half out there.  Something about that area, the hills bring out the nerves.

Minus my nightmare that I ate too many Klondike bars for dessert and couldn't make it up the climbs (I actually woke up in a sweat from this dream and tried to remember how many Klondike bars I did have for dessert - one), I slept pretty well the night before the ride.  We were all moving pretty slowly that morning and it was a mad scramble to get to the start area by 7am, whoops!  I managed to find Mindy and Sarah at the start area and we let the masses pass by before we jumped on our bikes to follow - no need to be mixed up in a group of testosterone-fueled two-wheeled vehicles bombing down a 4 mile descent.  I was more than content to hang off the back.  The first 10 miles were deceptively easy on the legs.  Then the course slapped you in the face with a right-hand turn that brought you face-to-face with a silly steep hill.  I had no shame in taking full advantage of my triple right from that first climb.  By the end of the ride, I could've kissed my triple for getting me through the ride in one piece without destroying my legs.  Worth its weight in gold.

I stopped at each of the aid stations, didn't linger terribly long at all of them, but in the first few stations that were being used by the rides of all distances, it was so great to run into to many people I knew who were out biking.  I ran into so many friends I hadn't seen in awhile, it was definitely a highlight of my day.  After the first aid station, Karen caught up to me and we spent the next 40 miles riding together, it made the miles absolutely fly by.  When we split off after the third aid station at mile 60, the ride mentally and physically got tougher.  Within two miles of the split, my ride went through a few miles of unpaved gravel road.  Maybe the ride directors thought they would add to the fun?  I was cursing this choice of road at the bottom of a hill when you had to make a sharp left hand turn to go back up another hill and my back wheel almost spun out because I couldn't flip through my gears fast enough.  There were multiple times on that ascent that I thought I was going to eat gravel.  And sadly, after that section of road my nicely cleaned up/tuned up roadbike was covered in dust and began making funny clanking noises that lasted the rest of the ride.  Sigh.

Do you see on the elevation chart that section right before mile 80 where you lose about 1,800 feet of elevation in just a couple of miles?  That's the descent into Westernport where I definitely thought to myself I am never doing this ride AGAIN.  I didn't think I would be able to brake enough and I'd find myself flying off the road and landing in a ditch. I wanted to wave hello to my bricks encased in the Westernport Wall as I biked by but I was gripping my brakes too hard and there was no way I could let go unless I wanted to launch myself over the Wall.  Once I got to an area that was slightly more flat, I pulled over to stretch out my hands and let them un-cramp.  I can unequivocally say that I would much rather bike UP the Wall and its continuation than bike down it.

Once I hit aid station 4 at mile 84, I just wanted to haul through the rest of the ride and get it done.  The sun was high in the sky at that point and the morning start through the cool fog felt like a lifetime ago.  The 16 miles from aid station 4 to aid station 5 at mile 100 was probably the low point of the ride.  Sure, you are more than halfway done but you still have FORTY more miles of hills and you've already been on your bike for what feels like forever!  At mile 94.5, right before the 7 hour mark, my Garmin quit.  This was a little discouraging, but probably a blessing at the same time, because the miles were just creeping by slowly and it seemed like I'd never arrive at aid station 5.  My spirits picked up after mile 100 - only twenty-five more miles, how hard could that be (haha, TWO more hours of riding!!).  This section still had some decent climbs and I caught up to a rider in a red jersey sometime during this section.  We traded places back and forth for the rest of the ride, commiserated about the climbs (it was about this time that swear words were flying past my lips every time I saw another hill), and it was good to have company for this last part of the ride when all I wanted was to be off the bike.  After our ride when we were eating our finisher fries, I found out he works for Chipotle and gets to eat free burritos WHENEVER HE WANTS.  He arguably has the best job ever.

By mile 100 I was remembering what Karen told me - you should just sign up for the 100, it has more than sufficient climbing.  At this point, I was in agreement because that meant I could be off my bike, but sadly I was still 25 miles away from the finish and had no choice but to continue onward.  The last 14 miles, from aid station 5 to the finish were the easiest miles of the day - much flatter, except for that pesky climb up a ski mountain during the last 1.5 miles.  The Team Z tent halfway up that climb was the most welcome sight ever.  Jenny Gephart and Alexis did a great job at making me smile during that last mile when I was covered in sweat, salt, and absolutely dying to get off my bike seat.  I wanted to timetrial up that last section but I didn't have a whole lot left in the tank.  After a few more rollers after that doozie of a climb, the finish line came in sight and I could finally stop pedaling and get off my bike.  Best. Feeling. Ever.  Since my Garmin died partway through the ride, I'm guesstimating my ride time was about 9:35.  It took about 35 minutes to get from mile 95 to the aid station at 100.  Then it took exactly an hour to get to the aid station at mile 111 and exactly an hour to get to the finish line at mile 125.  I crossed the finish line about 10:40 after I started, and this included the time spent at the six rest stops stuffing my face with cookies and lemonade.

This was an epic, awesome ride and I'm so glad I did it.  It should be on any biker's bucket list for sure.  I can't tell you how many times I was so happy to have a triple for my gearing, too many times to count.  Also, the Fat Tire bike jersey Mr. Sweetie's parents gave to me was a great wardrobe choice for the day - good conversation starter, as a number of random bikers would bike up behind me and say wow, what I wouldn't give to have a Fat Tire right now.  It was such a fun weekend seeing friends out along the course and at the rest stops.  Kristin and her boyfriend Chris were having a solid day and it was fun to catch up with them at the rest stops.  Sarah and Mindy crushed the bike ride (and this ride will make Placid and Mt Tremblant seem silly easy in comparison).  It was fantastic to have a chance to ride with Karen again, we haven't ridden together in far too long.  Tim did an amazing job in conquering the Masochistic Metric (and in putting up with carting me all over the place and taking me to the grocery store when I was hungry, an adventure in and of itself).  I'm tired and sore from this weekend for sure.  Jen had a sense of humor and put in an hour run for me off the bike.  HAHAHAHAHAAAAAA.  I managed to do about 30 minutes of running before I decided that sprawling out on the porch of the rental house with a glass of chocolate milk was much more appealing.  It was also past 7pm at this point and I was ready for the day to be done.

View from the top of Wisp

Today I had a long run and an open water swim on my schedule.  I can tell you that biking up Wisp Mountain is MUCH better than running up it.  Partway up the mountain during my run today, I had to stop, pull myself together and talk myself into moving forward, I was ready to just turn around, my hamstrings and quads and glutes were screaming at me as I shuffled up the hill.  But I took a suck-it-up pill, pulled down my arm warmers, and started up the hill again, this time just keeping my gaze on the pavement a few feet ahead of me rather than looking at the steepness I still had to climb.  As I came around the corner where the Team Z tent had been stationed yesterday, a good song came on my iPod and I could tell that the road was flattening out and I knew I would make it up to the top.  I think I was almost happier about that accomplishment today than I was about it yesterday.  The rest of the 15 miles was uneventful, except that by mile 12 my legs were absolute toast.  I also made up my mind that my "swim" later that morning would consist of goofing off in the water and not much else.

This trip was made complete with an ice cream and a run-in with the Lakeside Creamery's bear.  I think I got gypped on the size of my ice cream cone in comparison to the bear's ice cream cone.

        Ice cream is the best recovery food ever


22 June 2012

I KNOW I look like a fool!

So my roadbike/commuter bike has been in the shop for part of this week for a much-needed tune-up (I got the bike back last night, it looks brand new with snappy new wheels, newly taped up bars, cleaned, everything.  No longer looks neglected).  I had to get to the pool on Thursday AM so that meant... commuting on the tri bike.  I know I looked like a tool - I am exactly who I secretly make fun of in my head when I bike down the mall on my way to work and see others commuting on their tri bikes with ZIPP wheels (at least I didn't have the wheels).  To top it off, I was wearing the "worn-too-thin-definitely-almost-obscene" bike shorts.  To anyone stuck behind me on the bike path, I apologize (though, Katie, obscenely thin bike shorts can take your ass shots to the next level... just saying...).

18 June 2012

Thoughts on failure and success

Everyone wants to be successful, right?  Who wouldn't want to have success in every endeavor, achieve anything you set your mind to?  What place does failure have in our daily lives?  The word failure conjures up a multitude of negative connotations.  Failure = unsuccessful; failure = the opposite of good enough; failure = falling short of your goals; failure = coming in last place (or second place, depending on your perspective).  In short, failure sucks.

But does it?

The NY Times published an absolutely fascinating article last September asking "What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?"  While this piece focused mainly on education and how failure and success fit into that area, many of the points could also be applicable elsewhere in life (like triathlon, of course).  The article looked at the way failure can positively impact a person's character development and ultimate success and happiness.  There is a focus on what they call "performance character" - such as effort, diligence, and perseverance - not simply moral character and the article states that failures in life can help lead to "the ultimate product of good character: a happy, meaningful, productive life."  The character strengths that were the focal point were zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity.

So how are failure and these performance character strength intertwined?  If everything came easy and you found success at every turn, there would be no need to be gritty - to never give up, to never learn how to suffer, to never face a problem and figure out a way to overcome it on the fly.  The perseverance and ability to recognize your own shortcomings and work to overcome them and become a stronger, better person for it would never develop.  Why has failure become the enemy instead of the opportunity?

By now I'm sure most have heard about the commencement speech David McCullough Jr. gave at Wellesley High School's graduation a few weeks ago titled You're Not Special.  This commencement address was fantastic for its bluntness and substantially more interesting than the "Wear Sunscreen" address that went viral my senior year of high school (and, coincidentally was the exact speech one of our student speakers at my high school graduation decided to give.  Word. For. Word).  The heart of this speech goes hand-in-hand with the idea of failure (or, rather, experiencing failure and finding ways to overcome it and move on) = eventual success.  We live in a world where EVERYONE gets a trophy, everyone gets a medal, everyone gets a pat on the back just for showing up and participating.  If there are no losers, how are there possibly winners?  If there is only success and no failures, are we actually achieving our greatest heights - or, through trial and error, through failures, can we achieve more than we ever thought possible?  I love the lines: We have, of late, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.  We have come to see them as the point - and we're happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that's the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.  No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it...  as a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors."   

I've failed more times than I've succeeded in triathlon.  But I learned more during those awful races than I ever did on my best ones.  And those races where I took those hard lessons learned from previous failures and successfully applied them when the situation called for it, averting a crisis and not just finishing the race but wildly exceeding all of my previously set expectations - that feeling I got crossing the finish line was made sweeter by all of the failures, all of the trial and error I went through to get to that point.  I used to do triathlon just to do it - to say hey, look at me, I'm a triathlete blah blah blah.  I'm still proud of my accomplishments, yes, but I'm more proud of how I've grown as a person through my involvement in this sport.  The people I've met, the places I've traveled to for a race, the dedication and perseverance that I've learned has all been invaluable to my character development.  I love what I am doing and I am in awe of how much it has changed me (hopefully for the better).

17 June 2012

Weekend shenanigans

Happy Father's Day, especially to the two great dads in my life - Ted Lauver, thank you for raising Mark to be one of the best people I know.  And to my own dad - thank you for being such a great father who always made me feel loved.

So this weekend on my ride I learned that bear cubs are very cute but mother bears - not so much.  I was doing the SkyMass ride with my friend and co-worker Kristin and some of her friends and we came around a corner and a black bear and her two cubs had just lumbered across the road and were climbing the hill on the side of the road.  I think my heartrate spiked up pretty high as I took one look and started pedaling like mad to get as far away as possible.  I spent much of the rest of the ride trying not to get dropped and they made me work to keep up.  It was a perfect day for a ride - not too hot and not humid, absolute perfection.  I wouldn't call my T-run off the bike perfection, it was ugly but I got it done.  I then spent about 20 minutes in 7-11 trying to talk myself out of a pint of ben and jerry's frozen yogurt and M&Ms.  Fortunately, common sense prevailed and I left the convenience store with chocolate milk, a banana and some grapes.

This morning I had my long run.  It was less of a mess than last weekend's long run when I already felt like poo before I had even taken one step.  My legs were far less sore after yesterday's SkyMass ride than they were after Culpepper last weekend.  I also got alot of sleep last night (yaaay!!).  So I headed out this morning looking forward to my run instead of dreading it.  This run was a confidence-builder for next month's Ironman, I know I won't feel as good on my Ironman run as I felt today because I didn't exactly bike 112 miles immediately before I headed out this AM in my run shoes - but mentally I felt like I was in a good place and even though my legs felt pretty fatigued by the end, it wasn't overwhelming and could definitely be dealt with on race day.

Highlight of my day - we went out to brunch in Shirlington right after my run (after the obligatory ice bath and 50+ ounces of Gatorade, of course).  I was hungry so I ordered an entree-sized salad, an omelette with a side of homefries, and a plate of pancakes with fruit.  As I was getting ready to order the last plate, the waitress stopped me and asked oh, do you want all of these right now or do you want me to wrap up one of these orders for you to take home?  I told her I wanted them all right now (well, salad first, then everything else).  She obliged and three huge plates of food soon came my way.  And I ate everything in rapid fashion.  As she came to clear off the plates she said I was wondering if you were actually going to eat all that food.  I thought there was no way, but I'm impressed, you proved me wrong.  I'm pretty proud of my ability to pack away three entrees during brunch.  I'm sure this talent will backfire on me sometime when I'm 60 and my metabolism goes kaput, but for now I am fully enjoying it.

13 June 2012

Feeling a little MIA

I've been feeling a bit detached and MIA lately.  Training for Placid has ramped up in recent weeks and I just feel behind in life.  I think this would still be the case, even without the additional hours of training, but I guess without the training I'd be a bit less tired.  For example - on days that I swim, I am on my bike on the way to the pool before 5am.  And I don't get back home from my house until sometime after 7pm when I am done with work.  Then this leaves me with about 2-2.5 hours of time to fold laundry (or at least do the laundry so I have something to fold), chase tumbleweeds of animal hair with a vacuum cleaner, make and consume dinner, say hello to my other half, fit in an evening workout if I didn't get it taken care of that morning, update the blog, catch up on other blogs (which I am so behind in doing, BTW).  And go to bed.  Sadly, I'm rarely motivated enough to do housework and thank goodness Mr. Sweetie likes to cook; otherwise it would be tempting to revert back to my cereal-for-dinner ways, and all I really want to do is veg in front of the tv in front of The Office (a newly-discovered find on Netflix streaming - 7 seasons for freeeeeee)!  I haven't spoken to friends on the phone in what seems like forever.  Speaking of phones, I bought my new phone in March and I have yet to set up my voicemail (I also only checked my voicemail about once a quarter, so this whole not setting up my voicemail is sort of preventative action - if I can't get voicemails, I don't have to check them).  Today I finally updated Training Peaks, poor Jen got a data bomb of about three weeks worth of workouts, pre-dating Memorial Day weekend.  We went out and were social this weekend with friends - but sadly, when we left the bar to go home to bed, it was still light outside.  So yes, Ironman training gets part of the blame here.  I'm more focused than I have been in years past, I care more about this race than I have in previous years.  I'm not screwing up my training or recovery time by doing karaoke and sake bombs on a Friday night.  I don't go out during the week, I rarely go out on the weekends unless it's 7am and I'm on my bike or wearing my run shoes.  I like how focused I am right now, I feel like I have a purpose and a goal and that's a really neat feeling in general.

11 June 2012

Ironman Training Killed My Legs

In theory, a bike ride up Skyline Drive should be harder on the legs than a bike ride around Culpepper, VA.  In theory.  In reality, Culpepper made my legs hurt more than Skyline ever has.  Though the majority of Skyline's climbs are long and steady, sometimes lasting for miles, there is nothing terribly steep.  Culpepper, on the other hand, only had one climb lasting for awhile (and it wasn't really that long), and some of the climbs were steep - the whole ride was just filled with rollers.  There wasn't much time that you could just sit back and relax or take in a nice long descent.  It was constant shifting, pedaling, and up and down.  For 100 miles.  I also spent the first hour or so of the bike working like heck to catch up to people - I was taking my sweet time in getting my bike all ready to go, stopped by the porta-john, and when I came out, everyone had rolled out - oops!  I caught up to Bob Young and he and I averaged a very decent pace until mile 25ish... then a giant hill came along, killed our average speed, and it never quite recovered after that. It was great to be doing a Team Z ride - the sag support is always good peace of mind and the company is always great.  I had a T-run to do after the ride and while it was REALLY tempting not to do it (it was 90+ degrees and all I wanted was frozen yogurt and fruit), the run has been my nemesis and I'm not going to get better at it if I constantly skip my T-run.  My friend Brian who I drove down with was very nice and didn't mind waiting while I did my run immediately after the bike, getting it over with right there, rather than waiting until I got home for the run misery.

I woke up Sunday morning with very sore and tired legs, facing a 2.5 hour run.  I've done Ironman training before, but this round feels harder.  I like to think it's because I am taking it more seriously than before and putting forth more effort and working harder.  But we'll see what the results are come Ironman Lake Placid time.  Sunday's run was a major effort in mental fortitude and focus.  Admittedly, I didn't do a great job focusing during the majority of the run - the Air Force cycling race was going on when I ran by the AF Memorial and Pentagon so I slowed down and took a few photos of that.  Then it was hot out so I kept stopping by various bubblers along the Mall to refill my water bottle and take a few additional swigs of water myself.  While I was running through Georgetown, a staff member at PinkBerry was standing outside giving away samples and I couldn't help myself and I stopped and sampled (sooo good).  Miles 14-18 were rough.  The sun was out in full force, it looked like I'd been swimming I was so soaked in sweat, my legs were tired, and I was not the happiest camper out there.  Soon I found myself doing what I tend to do in triathlons when I am tired: lollygagging on the run.  The wakeup call came when I was on the bike trail around mile 14 and this girl zoomed by me like I was standing still.  At first I just let her go, but then I thought hey, maybe you should pick up the pace.  See how I feel.  Maybe it won't be so bad.  It was still bad, but picking up the pace was less painful than I thought it would be.  I didn't catch back up to the girl, but the distance between us didn't increase.  For the rest of the run I just focused on quick turnover of my feet and moving forward.  I stopped thinking about anything else and felt myself just retreat inwards and focusing on the ground just a few steps ahead.  My last three miles were my fastest ones of the day (as well as the most painful).  I think I need to do this type of focus more often on race day.

I had a swim on my schedule for Sunday afternoon.  I met up with Katie at the outdoor pool in Alexandria and I don't know if you'd call what we were doing swimming, unless you count tooling around with giant paddles (and I mean giant paddles - you felt like a loggerhead turtle lumbering through the water with them) and having swim races using the ankle straps as swimming.  Oh, and we can't forget playing with the diving board.  Let it be noted that even if you were on the diving team in college (and I use this term "on the diving team" loosely because I was a TERRIBLE diver and the only reason I ever competed was because there weren't enough people and they needed to fill spots), if you haven't touched a diving board in about 10 years, DO NOT expect to be turning out beautiful 1 1/2s or anything like that.  Expect, instead, to look like a person who has zero clue what she is doing.  In front of a poolful of people.  Yup.  I was one and done.

07 June 2012

Triathlon - it's a dirty, dirty sport

Still feeling a bit irritable about my race, I re-read my Quassy race report and was taken aback by my frankness about T2, probably a bit too much TMI and I'm sure stuff like that grosses people out.  But keep this in mind - there are alot of things that are socially acceptable in triathlon that are NOT kosher in the non-spandex realms of everyday life (peeing your pants to save time being one of them).  And you know the triathlon way of life is well-engrained when your husband goes to help bring your bike into the house, but before touching it he pauses and asks did you pee on this thing today?

In normal life, I'm an avid user of hand sanitizer, especially after touching doors, anything on Metro, the refrigerator handle or the water cooler at work and before I touch anything I'm about to eat.  In a race, there is no room for hand sanitizer in my bento box; hours will pass, many bars and gels will be touched by my sweaty, bike grease caked hands and eaten sans hand sanitizer.  I haven't died yet.

Last year on mile 16 of the run at Ironman Lake Placid, a runner was hobbling around on the side of the race course, clutching his cramping legs.  You know what the cure for muscle cramps is?  Salt tabs.  Even if the bag of salt tabs has been tucked inside another racer's beyond sweaty sports bra for the past 10 hours.  You accept the salt tabs with gratitude and even a thank you - thank you for saving me with your sweaty, nasty salt tabs.  I can become an Ironman because of this oversight of basic hygiene.

Snot rockets and loogies.  They are kind of awesome (as long as you aren't stuck in the direct path of one).  There is nothing worse than being on the run and having mucus supplement your gel intake.  And while I still apologize to those around me on the course as I ungracefully try to rid myself of excess mucus, I know they understand.  They've all been there.  In fact, they've probably had to stop themselves once or twice from blowing a snot rocket walking from the metro to their office, realizing at the last moment that antics like that aren't the norm when you're dressed in a business suit.  

And then there is the pee.  Peeing in your wetsuit to get ready for a cold swim.  Peeing on the bike because you don't want to stop and break your rhythm.  Sitting down and peeing in transition while putting your running shoes on because you don't want to waste precious seconds and risk missing out on a PR (true story - my urinary success in T2 at last year's Timberman is the only reason I eeked out a PR by the skin of my teeth).  Pee is just colored water.  Whatever.  Nothing that a little douse from the waterbottle can't fix.

I'm sure there's more dirty, dirty secrets of triathlon but the aforementioned ones are the biggest offenders when it comes to TMI on a blog.  On the outside you are totally grossed out reading about loogies and snot rockets and pee if you haven't done a triathlon yet.  But I am sure, deep down, you are curious about this other social dimension where it's totally acceptable, and even encouraged, to pee your pants.  And for those of us already established in triathlon, you know you wear it like a badge of honor every time you "warm up" your wetsuit.

04 June 2012

Rev3 Quassy Half Ironman Race Report 2012

This past weekend I drove up to Connecticut to do the Rev3 Quassy half Ironman.  I did this race last year, loved it, finally broke the elusive 5:40 barrier, and so I hoped I'd have similar luck this time around.  Maybe not a PR because this was much hillier than Monticelloman, but I at least wanted to do noticeably better than last year.  And I wanted a sub-3 hour on the bike course.  Well, I got the latter and that's the bright, shiny star of the race.  Otherwise, I only went 39 seconds faster than last year, finishing in 5:28:13.  Do you know how many races I have finished in 5:28??  Three.  But Quassy is by far the hilliest.

OK, let's fast forward a minute - I was feeling really good about my race until a few steps before mile marker 11 on the run.  THAT was when another girl in my age group passed me like I was standing still.  It's OK I told myself shake it off, so you've moved down one spot, and she was moving too fast for you to keep up if you wanted to finish the race in one piece - or finish the race, period.  So, I shook it off and kept moving forward.  The final nail in the "I feel good about my race" coffin came as I crested the last hill, less than half a mile from the finish, and I got passed by another girl in my age group.  Again.  And my legs had nothing left to give.  Or, at least that's how they felt at the time.  I was physically drained and mentally, I just gave up.  I spent the last two minutes of the race alternating between watching her speed away and glancing at my Garmin and trying to will myself to at least get a 5:27.  Kind of a sad end to the race.  I was for sure less excited about this year's finish time than I was about last year's, which I'm sure is pretty obvious from the tone of this race report.

There's more to a race than the final two miles, and I was pretty darn happy through the first 68.3 miles of it.

The Swim:
Swim was great, I managed to find some clear water pretty quickly, I did draft a bit here and there when I found packs of people, but there were frequently times that I was just on my own.  I also need to stop being a cheapskate and invest in some tinted goggles.  I do love my pink goggles, but they aren't the most effective when you are swimming directly into the sun. Strangely, I felt much better in the swim this year than last year but ended up with almost exactly the same time.  Foreshadowing, I suppose, of the final result.

I think I'm finally a little less craptastic when it comes to transitions.  Maybe I've even said goodbye to the 3+ minute transition forever?!

The Bike:
I knew from doing this race last year that the bike course is one of the hillier ones out there.  Wildflower has some impressive climbs, but it also has a fair amount of flats and easy downhills.  Timberman has some steep climbs, but also a ton of flats right in the middle.  Quassy is just up and down, hardly any flats, and while you do have some descents, there are some sharp curves and the pavement is a little rough so it's hard to just let go and fly (well, for someone like me who doesn't want to die on the bike course, I had a hard time letting go).  Anyway.  When I got out of the water, there were still a bunch of bikes racked in my AG area, so I felt pretty good about my swim.  The first few miles of the bike was downhill, so it gave me a chance to settle in and get comfortable before the real work started on the hills.  I think I have my nutrition nailed down pretty well - a Hammer gel every 15 minutes for the first hour or so, then one every 20 minutes until the end; sip water every 10 minutes; and finally have a salt tab every 30 minutes.  I don't find myself bonking on the run or dreaming about a Slushee five miles from the finish so I think this nutrition plan is working.  And thank goodness my poor sports bra is always half empty, it makes carrying that crap-ton of gels pretty easy.  I was in one of the later waves so the bike course was pretty busy by the time I made it out there.  I wasn't seeing anyone in my age group and I had no idea where I stood, but by the end when I had only passed one girl in my age group, I figured the rest had to have been crazy-good swimmers and bikers (which they were) and I was holding out hope that they were craptastic runners (which they were not).  The bike ride was relatively uneventful.  I pedaled my bike, ate a gel at what seemed like every five minutes, found myself not loving the uphills quite as much at mile 53 as I loved them at mile 5, and kept my fingers crossed that I wasn't pushing my legs over the edge to inevitable implosion on the run.  It's always had to find that balance between working too hard on the bike and blowing up on the run and working just hard enough on the bike where you get a respectable time yet still have enough in you for a strong run.  I managed to just barely eek in under three hours with a 2:58 and with all of those hills, that's definitely a bike split I will take with pleasure.

Tried to piss myself while sitting down putting on my shoes so I wouldn't have to make a pit stop during the run, but it turns out I suck at multi-tasking and only managed to get my shoes on.  It's also likely I was a little dehydrated because I didn't visit a bathroom until after 7pm that night, so I guess that had something to do with it too.

The Run:
I started the run feeling about as decent as one can feel after racing for over 57 miles.  Fortunately for my ego, the first two miles were downhill so my Garmin was giving me fast-for-me splits.  Then we hit the uphills and they were a little more normal.  Mile 3-5 are basically uphill on a gravel road.  But, it's shaded and if you take small steps and don't burn yourself out, you make it to the top pretty painlessly.  At this point I preferred the uphills because my stomach was bothering me on the downhills, sloshing around all that water and gel.  Ick.  It was during one of these climbs that I felt a thrill go through me, I'm racing, I'm running and enjoying it, I'M HAVING FUN EVEN THOUGH I FEEL LIKE CRAP AND I'M WORKING HARD.  I still have so much work to do in order to figure out how to have a fast run off the bike, but these slower run times aren't a total waste and they aren't indicative of a bad run - I understand that I'm not supposed to feel good at this point in the race and, if I am feeling good, I'm not working hard enough.  I've figured out how to deal with the inevitable low points, push past them, and realize that they are temporary and not forever.  So half the battle is done - now I just need to figure out how to run faster.  That should be the easy part, yes?  There was an out-and-back at mile 5.5 and at that point I didn't really see any other girls in my age group.  Mile 7-8 is all uphill, but then after that you have some flats and downhills.  As mentioned before, the first girl nabbed me right before mile 11.  At this point, I was still feeling like I was in one piece.  It was just two miles to the finish, two miles is a piece of cake, two miles is a run to the dog park and back when I am home, I can do anything for two miles.  That's the mental self-talk I was giving myself as I was trucking forward.  It was beginning at mile 12 where the wheels were starting to come off and I just went into autopilot to keep it together.  One. Foot. In. Front. Of. The. Other.  As quickly as possible (which was not quickly at all).  At this point, I didn't know that the second girl was hot on my heels.  I was just looking ahead to the bridge we were going to have to pass under and the steep part of the hill were were going to need to climb before we could coast to the finish.  It was right near the top of that hill that I heard the footsteps behind me, heard the panicked breathing, and out of nowhere this girl, with a half-crazy look in her eyes, runs by me like she's being chased by a black bear.  And I don't go with her.  Now, of course, part of me is pissed I did nothing and just let her go.  Half a mile from the finish - this was the chance to race head-to-head with a girl in my age group and see who would cross the finish line first.  A "sprint" to the finish.  This is what a race is about.  Aaaaannd I did nothing.  I do feel slightly better about my decision when I saw she ran a 1:35 half marathon, a time I can barely do when I'm just running a half marathon without the biking and the swimming.  At this point, I just focused on damage control and trying to get myself over the line faster than last year, which I just barely was able to do.

I did love this race.  It was so nice to see my parents who came down to watch, hang out with some of the other Z'rs doing the race who I don't get to see nearly enough, and swimbikerun on a beautiful course.  The night before the race I got to spend time with my friend Dawn and her absolutely wonderful family, as they invited me to stay at their house rather than a hotel.  It was so much more pleasant to spend race day eve in a welcoming home with a homecooked meal, great company and conversation (and homemade cake!!) than staying in a hotel - so thank you Dawn and family!!  I think the only things I'm disappointed about is dropping from 5th to 7th place in the last two miles of the race AND not being much faster than last year.  I feel like I've made progress since last year and it was disappointing not to see a more measurable result of that.  I lamented all of this to Jen last night in a semi-dramatic e-mail and she responded by reminding me that I've not exactly been race-taper friendly to my body lately, with last weekend's combined 5 miles of swimming and 150+ of biking.  I didn't go into this race rested, this is not a PR course, and when I look at things that way, I feel a bit better about it.  I don't have any other races scheduled between now and Lake Placid - which is just under 7 weeks away!  That means I just have one more month of a build cycle (hello 100+ mile rides every weekend, good thing I like my bike seat) before taper.  I love racing, but I'm looking forward to just focusing on the build and recovery cycles until Placid - I am sure Jen is too, it's got to be like a jigsaw puzzle trying to fit in build cycles between races every other weekend, whoops!