30 September 2012

Big thanks!

I raced today and it went really well.  But more importantly, I was reminded about what an awesome, awesome community the triathlon community is.  I have made so, SO many friends through this sport - great friends, people who are willing to help each other out, even though we are also each other's competitors.  People who send you words of encouragement, because they know you have a race coming up.  Who knew that you could make some of your closest friends through riding a bike??  I'm also reminded just how small and intertwined the community is, in a good way.  This leads to a never-ending string of awesome people to train with, hang out at races with (and, of course, eat cupcakes and ice cream with both pre-and post-race, ha!).  So, I just wanted to say thank you to all my friends and training partners who have made my life so much richer.  From my fantastic Tucson tri camp friends for all their messages and cheers (special thanks to Stacey for all the in-person cheers today, you are great!), to my local DC triathlon training buddies and friends who flood my phone and Facebook wall with encouragement and are awesome people to race with, to the fellow athletes I've met through blogging.  I'm just so happy right now!

27 September 2012

Hangin' Tough

What were the lyrics again for that New Kids on the Block song? (I loved NKOTB as a kid and I'm not ashamed to admit it - though it was probably what kickstarted my love affair with terribly bad (yet oh-so-good at the same time) pop music).  Come to think of it, I don't think the lyrics amounted to much more than Whooaa-hooaaa-hoooaaa-hoooaaaa hangin tough!  Sums it up.

What's this have to do with triathlon?  Other than having an obnoxious ear worm stuck on repeat for the entire bike ride, the whole concept of "hangin' tough" could be applied to the mental aspect of racing.  I know this is my bajillionth post about mental this and mental that and blahblahblahblahblah.  I clearly have NOT conquered my mental demons when it comes to racing since I keep circling back and harping on it time after time after time.

Since I started triathlon, I've made some progress when it comes to keeping it together mentally during a race.  Prior to race day, I've visualized how I want my swimbikerun to play out - smooth long strokes on the swim with a high elbow catch; a strong bike with good cadence; a run where I push forward, even though I'm tired, and pass others with authority.  Sometimes I'll throw these visualizations to music a la Mumford and Sons or U2.  Kendra has a good entry on race visualization practices she uses on her blog.

There's the Central Governor Theory of Fatigue, which comes into play during races when the going gets tough.  If you're feeling super nerdy, you can read this academic article by Tim Noakes.  For the non-nerds (myself included), the Central Governor is basically the brain's protective mechanism that shouts warnings to us during hard efforts in exercise Hey, you're going too fast, how about slowing it down a bit!! or Sub-8 minute miles are overrated, trust me, you'll be more comfortable running easier! or What made you think you were cut out to race the fasties in your age group?  Really, the Central Governor will say anything to get you to let up on the gas pedal, right down to doubting yourself and your abilities.  Suddenly it becomes easier to say I guess today is not my day for X, Y, and Z reasons and you find yourself giving in, slowing down.  As the nerdy academic article AND Wikipedia state, the Central Governor might be erring on the conservative side, and in reality, our muscles do, in fact, have alot more to give.  The Central Governor is essentially a helicopter parent, trying to save us from ourselves.

But maybe we don't want to be saved.  The key to success is quieting that voice and pushing past what you thought your limits were and breaking new ground - in the process, achieving times that you previously didn't think were possible.  How do you do this?  To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure, I haven't had much firsthand experience with it.  But in reading the blogs of others (Jen Harrison, my coach, being a pretty awesome example), one of the obvious keys to success is having a goal, never losing sight of it, and relying on that goal and your pursuit of it to carry you through low moments in a race.  Another thing - believe in yourself and your training and your abilities.  Oh so cheesy, I know.  But oh so true.  I can't tell you how many race weekends I've gone into where, deep down, I haven't believed in my abilities.  I'm still trying to figure out how to stuff away and hide my self-doubt.  Because when you doubt yourself, it's easy to let the Central Governor win.  

New goal for this weekend: Kick the Central Governor's ass in his own game.

Now excuse me while I go find those NKOTB lyrics on iTunes... I need an earworm for this weekend.

26 September 2012

So I'm Racing this Weekend...

Have you ever had a haircut that just pisses you off?  I got a haircut tonight, same person I've been going to for years, and it's not that she did a bad job, and it is relatively similar to the same haircut I've gotten for the past four years, but there are enough differences that I just don't like it.  I've decided that it makes me look old, frumpy, and boring.  Mr. Sweetie, of course, has tried to appease me.  I told him to just let me sulk and, like a good husband, he has kept his distance.  I suppose this harkens back to the dark ages of junior high when I had the world's worst hair cut.  You think I am being dramatic, but I am not.  At least right now I can take solace in the fact that my piss-me-off haircut of today does NOT make me look like a boy (sadly, the same couldn't be said about my junior high haircut debacle).

Vent over.

I have a race this weekend.  I don't usually talk about races on my blog before they happen (superstition - hard word to spell, by the way).  But with the way my past few races have gone down (Seventh Ring of Hell - I mean Vegas - Lake Placid, Rev3 Quassy), obviously this whole superstition thing hasn't really worked.  Oh, and I have nothing else exciting to report, so pre-race crap it is!

The good news: no need to board a plane to get to Poconos 70.3, as it's being held in the great state of Pennsylvania, our friendly neighbor to the north.  I've raced a grand total of once in PA (oh, make that twice - did a Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh once).  I remember bonking pretty good on the run at that triathlon (Black Bear?  It's now defunct) and every time now that I don't feel like eating on the run, I remind myself of that bonk and that makes me force another gel down the hatch pretty quickly.  More good news - temperatures will be in the low 60s, which is about 45-50 degrees COOLER than Vegas.  THIS is very good news.  Do you want to know even MORE good news??  The run is NOT 3x2 mile hill repeats.  All in all, Poconos is sounding mighty fine right now.

There really isn't any bad news.  I'm excited to race, though I haven't felt super nervous or anything this week.  I started my pancake binge a few days early when Mr. Sweetie made me pancakes on Tuesday while I was on the trainer.  So nice.  I've been getting enough sleep.  I probably could do without the apple pie, but I love apple pie and it makes me happy, so it stays.

Goals for the race?  Go fast.  Go faster than I have in my other half Ironmans recently.  Stay focused during the swim and come out of the water in a time that's an improvement over my usual - and ever predictable - 35 minute swims.  Bike my face off.  And run like I stole something.  Overarching goal - come away from this race feeling like I gave it all I had, that the journey and final result are something I can be proud of, and I stayed focused and motivated from start to finish.  None of this rolling into T2 thinking "womp womp, guess who doesn't want to run 13.1 miles."  Wrong attitude.  I'm going to spend the bike ride getting pumped up for the run.  It is time to MOVE ON from the crummy race performance that was Vegas and make happier memories.

23 September 2012


Welcome to my life.  Only if this was actually Bissell, he'd be giving the middle claw too.
I saw the above picture on Facebook and almost fell over laughing (if I wasn't sitting, I surely would've fallen over).  I guarantee that my neighbors are tired of hearing me yell at my pets (Bissell in particular).  Every evening is a battle, a face-off between the cat and I over my dinner plate.  Sneaky little jerk is on my chair, paws on the table within nanoseconds of me getting up to get a glass of water.  Or tonight, as I'm trying to FaceTime with my lovely goddaughter (HAPPY THIRD BIRTHDAY, REAGAN!!), Bissell is in the background, leaping up on the counter to steal leftover greenbeans.  I alternated between trying to chat with Reagan and trying to nail Bissell with the squirt bottle.  The kitchen counter and floor were soaking wet by the end of the conversation.  Sigh.

Training is coming along.  I'm definitely less strict with my sweets intake this fall compared to this summer.  It's my goal to keep my fridge stocked with a homemade apple pie every day of this glorious season.  Because what is life if you can't enjoy a slice of apple pie every day of autumn?  I've not been feeling super peppy on my runs or rides, a week ago I blamed it on still being tired from Vegas.  This weekend, today in particular, things seemed to be coming around.  Probably had something to do with being in bed at 9:30 last night.  This past Thursday I joined the Ignite/Tri360 evening ride through Arlington.  It went through some beautiful neighborhoods that I didn't even realize existed.  And it was full of hills.  Hills, hills, hills.  It was an hour of heart-thumping, leg-pumping good times with a friendly group of people.  Highly recommend coming along in the next few weeks if you're looking for something fun to do on Thursdays.

Today was a weekend of triathlon firsts for some of my friends.  I was talking to my mom and she told me her boss (HI DR. PAISNER!!) was doing his first triathlon today.  Dr. Paisner - when you read this, I want a full report!  Ask my mom for my e-mail address.  And my good friend Jonathan, who I have known forever, was doing his second triathlon ever this weekend.  And my friend Jessie, who isn't even 21 yet (why oh why couldn't my motivators in college have been swimbikerun instead of beerwinetequila??) smashed her age group AND most of the other female competitors in her first half Ironman today.  I think there's something pretty neat about your first few races - no major expectations, going out of your comfort zone, the thrill of accomplishment that comes with completing a race/race distance you've not done before.    

19 September 2012

Threat from the skies!

Fellow athletes out there, I suggest you read the following article.  It appears that there's a threat from the skies that could swoop down and attack at any moment, mistaking one's ponytail for a giant squirrel.

Full credit for alerting me to this article goes to Sarah.  Sarah and I also have a bit of a personal stake in this matter, seeing as we almost fell victim to a swooping giant bird (possibly an owl) during our bike ride last Saturday.

The scene: a beautiful Saturday morning, the picture of fall perfection - low humidity, blue skies, zero clouds.  Bike perfection as well - low traffic roads, a good girlfriend to chat with, no ridiculous intervals, and beautiful forest and farmland scenery to enjoy.

Picture this - Sarah and I, having a chatty ride on a low-traffic road.  Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah the way girls chit-chat.  We start going down a hill, still chatting, when OUT OF NOWHERE, swooping down from the trees, this GIANT BIRD, with the wingspan twice the size of Michael Jordan's, comes flapping down right at us.  Sarah and I screech in unison, ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED that the bird was going to land on one of us, grab our helmet in its talons, and take off, biker and bike in tow (since it would be awfully hard to unclip while being carried off into the blue yonder).  And there really wasn't any way to get away from the bird if it decided to attack - we were already going 30+mph down this hill and it was keeping up.  Oh, and there was a pack of deer straight ahead of us, crossing the road.  So if the bird wasn't going to get us, the deer were going to trample us.  Saturday was a day of vicious wildlife in Maryland.  Somehow, we made it through unscathed, escaping the talons of the bird and the hooves of the deer.

Lesson: riders and runners beware.  Birds that look cute when perched in a tree are about a billion times less cute when they are dive-bombing you, intent on scooping you up in their talons.  

17 September 2012

SwimBikeRunTRX and Apple Pie. And lazy dogs.

We've had some cooler than normal weather over the past week - 70s, low humidity, absolutely gorgeous.  It's like Fall arrived and slammed the door on Summer, the change has been that sudden.  The cooler weather had Mr. Sweetie and I all jazzed for fall foods - so yesterday we cooked up (or rather, Mr. Sweetie cooked up) some butternut squash soup and I baked the first apple pie of the season.  I pulled out my mom's secret recipe that I had jotted down over the phone with her last year.  Sadly, I wrote some of it in such shorthand that I didn't bother to note important things like: how many apples to use.  And then I had a line that said, "drizzle over the top of the pie."  Drizzle what??  I had no liquid ingredients listed.  I eventually figured it out (I think - the pie turned out OK), but my mom is very protective of her recipes so I shalt not say it here.

Today was one of those days where I was in sweaty workout clothes all waking hours, except for the 8 hours I was sitting at my desk.  I overslept this AM (big surprise, not really) and didn't make it to the pool so I did the TRX instead, since I had to get some strength stuff in today.  Then I biked in to work. Post-work I biked to Tri360 to take part in their Monday night group run.  We had two different options (3.2 miles and 5 miles) and I chose the 3.2.  That route was nice and rolling, it flattened out a bit during the last 1.5 miles or so, but 90 percent of the run was on quiet neighborhood roads, and with the exception of maybe 200 meters, we avoided the bike path altogether.  I didn't wear a watch, I wasn't out there for time or pace, and there was a super nice group to socialize with.  I highly recommend the Monday night 6:30pm Tri360 run if you are looking a group to join.  After the run I biked to the pool at Washington-Lee and did the WHOLE swim workout (Do you SEE that JennyParkerHarrison!!??).  Including the IM sets (they got Uuuu-gly by the end).  I'm discovering that I like IM, INCLUDING fly.  I never thought I would say that, but I just did.  I Like Fly.  Backstroke is coming around too.  After the pool, Mr. Sweetie came and picked me up.  At this point it was 9:30pm and I was tired and hungry and VERY intent on getting home.  So much so that I almost forgot my bike at the pool.  I remembered it as we were pulling out of the parking lot.

Now I am here.  Blogging.  Eating apple pie.  In my still-damp swimsuit I never bothered to change out of.  

Can I just say that I'm a little disappointed in our dog.  For the past 2.5 years I've always thought that his excitement on our arrival home was genuine excitement TO SEE US.  But today we've discovered that it's really just excitement that we're home to open the bedroom door so he can laze around on the bed.  This morning when I got up and did TRX, Miles laid on the bed the whole time.  He didn't bother to come down and keep me company, which is a little unusual.  I think the trip to Eastern Market and Clarendon yesterday did him in.  So I took pity on him and left the bedroom door open when I left for work so he could sleep on the bed if he wanted (we never do this - last time he was loose in the bedroom he chewed up half my wardrobe, I kid you not.  Granted he was a 6 month old puppy, but I've never trusted him in there by himself since then).  Mr. Sweetie got home from work this evening and came in the house and Miles didn't even bother to get off the bed to greet him.  He wasn't excited at all.  Why should he be - he had the bed all day, which is apparently all he needs to feel fulfilled in life.  Lazy pup.

13 September 2012

So You Had a Disappointing Race. What Next?

In racing we all suffer disappointments.  Disappointments in pacing, in our placing, in our overall time. Disappointments in our effort, or the result of our efforts.  Disappointments in our mental preparation and execution.  There are so many components to a race, it's pretty rare to have everything be 100% from start to finish; thus, it's to be expected that here and there you'll wish there were things you did differently.  Isn't that why we keep racing?  We're always in search of doing X, Y, and Z better than last time.  If every race was perfect, I'm pretty sure we'd lose the drive to better ourselves.  Half the fun is seeing how much we improve from race to race.

But sometimes you have a race that knocks your ego on its rear end and you do a double-take: Is that really my finish time?  What the efff happened?  These are times where the wheels don't simply come off.  The tires explode, the spokes crack, and the wheels end up somewhere in a ditch.  THAT kind of race.  We've all had them.  So how do you move past these types of races and how do you learn from an experience that you'd simply rather forget?  I don't consider myself an expert in much, but I HAVE had my fair share of disappointing race results (ahem, Vegas...) and I can tell you this - a bad race does not spell doom for the rest of your triathlon career.  More often than not, it is simply a bump in the road.  My 2010 season was full of disappointments but my 2011 season was one of my most successful.  So, here are a few tips for getting past a less than stellar race:

- Don't Dwell.  Nobody likes to suck, it's a fact.  And when you have a sub-par race, you're going to be less than thrilled.  Allow yourself a pre-determined allotment of time, whether it's two hours, ten hours, or one full day post-race, in which you can mope and be cranky and complain.  And then stop, cold turkey, and move on.

- There's a Lesson in Everything.  Look at it this way, bad races happen for a reason most of the time.  Maybe you didn't get enough sleep, maybe you had a nutrition fail on the bike, maybe your run legs forgot to show up at the party because your run shoes had been hiding in your closet for the past week.  Or maybe you don't thrive in hot weather.  Maybe you were mentally underprepared.  Or maybe you thought you did everything right but things STILL did not go your way.  Look back at the race, pinpoint what might've gone wrong (nutrition, weather, salt, sleep, training, etc) and figure out how to improve that shortcoming for your next race.  Work on it in training.  Make at least some good come out of a crummy experience and then it's not a complete failure.

- Don't Compare Yourself to Others.  People are different - ability-wise, pace-wise, training-wise, and in how we handle various race conditions.  Sure, we'd all like to be at the top, but that's impossible and you're just going to make yourself more crabby by making comparisons.  Who knows, maybe that girl who biked 10 minutes faster than you this year at a local race, a girl who you usually beat on the bike, has gotten herself a PowerMeter, quit her job, and decided to become a full-time triathlete.  And even if that's the case, what good is making comparisons going to do?  If you did the race to the best of your abilities, then be proud of yourself.

- Stay Positive.  A Bad Race does not Define You.  There were points during Vegas 70.3 that I was thinking to myself what's wrong with me?  Was my 5:14 at Monticelloman in May the high point in my half-Ironman career?  I always thought I had more in me, but maybe not.  Low moments are inevitable in rough times.  They help us appreciate the good moments.  Sure, maybe you could've done a few things differently to have a better race, but oftentimes a bad race can be considered a result of circumstances.  Keep in mind that there will be other races and you can have a crack at crushing your PR another time.  Just because you kind of sucked today doesn't mean you'll be total crap next race.  Keep your head up, learn from the experience, and don't think that just because you had one bad race that you are doomed to a lifetime of bad races.

- Have Another Goal Race on the Calendar.  Even if it's Six Months Away.  Sometimes revenge is the best road to redemption.  A good race never felt sweeter than when it follows on the heels of a bad race.  Having something on the calendar to look forward to and train for is often the best way to put a bad race behind you and move onward.

- Racing is NOT Everything.  Look at the big picture.  We do this for fun; for most of us, this is a hobby (and for the few of us for whom this is a job, it's still done mostly out of enjoyment).  We're lucky to be able to do this, we're lucky to be able to have bad days on the race course because at least we're able to have days on the race course.  At the end of the day, our training and racing should not define us or our worth, it is simply something that adds value to our lives.   

12 September 2012

Changes Afoot

As I've probably mentioned in passing in previous posts, I've been part of the triathlon club Team Z, based here in Arlington, VA since 2007.  Over the summer an opportunity presented itself to move over to a smaller team, Ignite Endurance, sponsored by a local triathlon shop, Tri360, that was opening its doors Labor Day weekend.  I decided to go for it, as sometimes changes can help you grow and I really liked everyone who was going to be part of this new adventure.  I also hoped that it wouldn't matter to my friends what tri kit I wore and friendships would continue, even if I was no longer part of Team Z.

I stopped by Tri360 on their opening day, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.  I biked over because they are located about 4 miles from my house by bike path.  It's actually faster to bike than to drive because I hit zero traffic lights.  I bought them out of their Hammer Gel supply and had their mechanic, Mike, take a look at my bike because I felt like it was making funny noises.  I also decided it was time to get my drivetrain cleaned (in June I did a big cleanup/tuneup on my road bike and now it was time to show my tri bike some love).  He was great, took the time to explain what would be involved in the drivetrain clean, and took care of the bike right away.  He also lubed up my pedals and cleats because I'd been having a hard time recently clipping out (and it's no fun to make a crash landing because you can't clip out, been there, done that).  I had a chance to chat with Kate and Blaine, the owners, who were super friendly and were more than willing to take time out of their day to talk with me about the store and what they hope to offer.

If you're looking to get a run or ride during the week, we're leading group runs on Mondays out of the Tri360 store starting at 6:30pm and group rides out of the store on Thursdays at 6:30pm.  Come join us!

11 September 2012

Vegas 70.3 World Championships - Race Report

While I wish the saying What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas could apply to anything having to do with my race last Sunday (because I'd kind of like to forget about it altogether), I'm sure there are nuggets of wisdom and learning buried in there somewhere.  And sometimes the progress and growth you make as an athlete comes from difficult experiences and disappointments.

Pre-race: the mental stuff.
I got a slot to Vegas last year when I did 70.3 Galway.  I had come in 8th in my AG and before the race I told myself that I could go to the rolldown if I was in the top 10.  I managed to nab a slot and looked at this as a once-in-a-lifetime sort of opportunity.  Kind of the way one might look at qualifying for the Boston Marathon - the goal is to qualify and once you are there the goal is to enjoy the experience.  I knew going into 70.3 Vegas that this would be a super stacked field and that coming in anywhere near the top would basically take an act of God (as in God striking down all of my competitors with bolts of lightening until I was the only one left standing).  Walking around the Expo in the days leading up to the race was intimidating.  Heck, walking around Whole Foods, surrounded by sweaty fit people wearing spandex and carrying giant jugs of water and handfuls of bananas, cleaning out the bagel section - THAT was intimidating.  The best triathletes in the world had descended on Henderson, Nevada.  Many of them, no doubt, looking at this race as simply a tune-up for Kona.  Meanwhile there I was, buying anything emblazoned with World Championships 70.3 because who knows when I would get the chance to compete in a race like this again (as if I needed another IM-brand hoodie.  Seriously.)  It was also hot out and I'm not the greatest competitor in the heat.  And when I say hot out, I mean triple-digit heat.  I feel like when the number of digits in the temperature exceeds the number of digits for race distance, that could be somewhat problematic.  The day before the race I took this lovely temperature photo:

Doesn't this just make you want to ride your bike?
I drove the bike and run course on Friday so I would have an idea what I was in for.  The verdict - I better really like sun, appreciate the lack of shade, and enjoy looking at desert scenery (actually, the desert scenery was quite pretty).  The swim was in Lake Las Vegas, a resort area on the outskirts of Henderson.  T1 was located by the lake and once you jump on your bike, you head out to bike about 30+ miles in the nearby National Park (Lake Mead National Park?).  The last 16 miles of the bike course take you into downtown Henderson, NV where you find T2 in the middle of a pretty neighborhood and proceed to run the 3-loop run course (which started to feel like 2 mile hill repeats, I am not kidding).

Scenes from the bike course.  There's a lake in the distance.

More bike course

In short, I didn't have PR-aspirations for this race.  In fact, I didn't really know what my aspirations were.  I wanted to finish well, but what was going to be my definition of that since a PR was out of the question and I likely wasn't going to be anywhere near the top of the field?  Anything under six hours?  How about not melting into a sweaty puddle on the sidewalk?  Or wanting to still do triathlons after this race?  Or not coming in last?  Actually, none of the latter items really crossed my mind.  I had looked at the results from previous years and saw that the majority of people had come in within the 5 hour range, so I figured I could easily do that.  I hadn't gone over six hours since I did Savageman in 2009 and that race has billed itself as the hardest half ironman in the country so going sub-6 at Vegas should be cake, right?  Hmmmmm, not so much.

The swim: 37:28.
Well, the day didn't start off on a high note with a relatively slow swim (spoiler alert: this is going to be a theme - NONE of my splits were even close to fast).  Actually, I take that back, there was a bit of a high note - as we were standing in line with our wave, waiting to enter the swim start corral, the pro men came flying by us on their way to their bikes in T2.  We had a perfect, unobstructed view, and I fully enjoyed the three minutes of eye candy.  OK, so THAT was the high note of the day.  On to the rest of the race.  It was an in-water start, right in front of the pedestrian bridge that went over the water (very Florence, Italy-esque).  It was a pretty neat place to start and I spent a little time flipped over on my back looking at all the spectators crowded onto the bridge and the hotel guests standing on their balconies above them, all watching the swim start.  The water was hot, definitely not wetsuit legal.  It was a simple course to follow, one loop - swim out, then swim back in and it basically followed the shore.  Unfortunately, we were swimming into the sun on the way out, but that's life.  On the way out, I managed to stay in the mix with my wave.  The water was murky so it was tough to see feet in front of me to draft off of, but every time I breathed, I saw that I was surrounded by my fellow purple-capped women.  We rounded the turn buoy and then headed back in.  It was right about here that I was dropped off the pack and ended up swimming the rest of it alone.  I put in a few surges here and there to try to bridge the gap and catch the girls in front of me, but the gap size remained the same.  I kept reminding myself that this was a competitive race and EVERYONE is a good swimmer so keeping up is going to be a bit more difficult.  I put in a final surge at the end before I made it to the swim exit.  I was disappointed with my swim time, but the swim was over and it was time to move on to the bike.

T1: I haven't looked at my time, nor do I plan to - it was a long run to T1 and a long run with my bike out of T1.

The Bike: 3:10:27
Holy hell.  Hi slow bike time, it's not really nice to see you and after our rendez-vous on Sunday, you're never invited back again.
My plan was to take it easy for the first 25ish miles, to the turnaround point in the National Park, and then try to pick up the pace for the back half of the bike ride if I was feeling good.  I wanted to negative split this ride and be smart about it.  There was a long uphill after you left T1 so I had my bike in an easy gear and spun up it, getting passed right and left by guys and girls alike.  I kept my ego in check and didn't try to chase anyone.  I put a cap of 155 on my heart rate so I wouldn't implode.  I kept an eye on my cadence the whole time, keeping things around 85-90rpms in an effort not to kill my legs.  I remembered how not fun it was to be dehydrated during IM Lake Placid so I made it a point to take three giant gulps of water from my aerobottle every 5 minutes.  I also downed a saltstick tab every 20 minutes and for the first two hours I was knocking back a Hammer gel every 15 minutes.  I was probably a bit overzealous with the Hammer gels (I think I was still in an Ironman nutrition mindset) but I didn't want to bonk either so I went with the belief that more is better (note: more is not always better).  I'm not a big drinker so I was quite proud of myself for polishing off more than 4 waterbottles worth of fluids during the bike ride.  This was my only PR-setting for the day.  On the way out to the turnaround, I felt like I was moving so slooooowly.  I was spinning up the hills, trying not to burn my legs out, but I felt like I should've been going much faster based on how hard I felt like I was working.  People were cruising by me and sadly the only people I was passing were the 60+ year old women in the waves ahead of me.  Every time I passed a water stop I remembered Jen's advice and grabbed water to both drink and dump all over me to keep cool.  By the time I hit the turnaround, it was starting to feel warm.  The way back after the turnaround felt much easier and went by alot faster, so I think there was a definite false flat on the way out.  When I reached Mile 45, I managed to hit one of the reflectors embedded in the road, knocking my rear tire out of alignment.  At first I thought I got a flat, but then I realized the awful noise and bumps were being caused by the tire rubbing against the brakes.  I stopped and quickly fixed this and continued on my way.  I don't know if the stop caused me to lose momentum and motivation or if it was simply that the last 10 miles of the course were demoralizing; either way, I felt slow as molasses, the sun was hot, the last few miles were uphill, and I was really tired of being on my bike.  I had stopped looking at my watch to track my time a long time ago.  I'd basically shifted into survival mode.  I was feeling pretty full from all the drinks and 9+ gels I had eaten (a bit excessive, I'm now realizing).  Oh, the one major accomplishment of the bike ride - I managed to get my feet out of my shoes and dismount shoeless and without falling over.

T2: Major accomplishment - I peed.  Dehydration was not going to happen today!

The run: 2:13:22
The run was basically the Ironman shuffle without the excuse of a full Ironman.  I left T2 and my stomach was unhappy, being so full of fluids and gels I think.  I had decided I wasn't going to stare at my pace, or even my overall time.  I was going to run this as well as I could in the heat.  My main goal became not walking.  I did walk a few of the aid stations to get in fluids and calories (because guess what brilliant racer forgot ALL of her nutrition in her T2 bag.  On the upside, it was gels and now I had an excuse not to eat any more gels).  I dumped water on myself at each aid station to cool off.  I walked once at mile 3 (what is it with awful mile 3) because I was dry heaving on the side of the road.  Again.  And I walked once at the beginning of my third lap because I was tired and cranky and wanted to spend as much time moving through the misting tent as possible.  Other than that, it was all running.  Little victories.  The run was basically a four mile loop run three times.  It was up and down a hill in a neighborhood.  Most of it was unshaded and it was as hot as Hades on the pavement.  My pace was dismally slow and I didn't even care at that point.  I would've liked to run faster on the downhills but the jostling was bothering my stomach so I simply ran a pace I could tolerate.  I saw Melanie out on the course and she looked strong and fresh, like she was just out for a run and hadn't swam or biked earlier.    I was pretty thrilled when the finish line came in sight.

Like an oasis in the desert
I finished in 6:09:58.  Pretty far away from a PR.  Actually, much closer to my personal worst time for this distance.  I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about the race.  The heat took alot out of me, more than I expected it would.  My legs aren't super sore right now, so that makes me wonder if I worked hard enough out there, but then I remember how my legs were protesting those last few miles of the race and I don't know if I could've gotten much more out of them that day.  If anything, this race has made me want to buckle down and work harder so my next half will be much closer to a PR than a PW.  

Overall, even though I am not thrilled with any of my splits or my finish time, I'm glad I went and did this race.  It was an honor to be there racing with some of the fastest age groupers in the world.  I know, looking at the results, that I wasn't the only one to have a rough day out there, it looks like a number of people had a hard day.  It makes me feel a little better to know that I wasn't alone in that.  I'm still trying to figure out the take-away lessons that I learned from this race.  An as hard as this race was, I want to someday go back there and give it another go - only this time, have more confidence in myself and really race like I belong there.  I had a great time racing with old friends and meeting new friends.  By far, this is the best part of racing.  Melanie had a great day out there and so did Andy - running himself all the way to 6th in his AG by the end.  

Melanie and I in front of the fake Tour Eiffel on the Vegas Strip


08 September 2012

It's Hot in Here!

So it's hot here in Vegas. Sort of feels like being back in Burkina. The heat has made me rethink my goals a bit. Rather than trying to go as fast as I can, it's going to be all about racing smart and not ending up as a puddle of sweat on the run course.

The bike course is super pretty, winding through the Red hills surrounding Lake Mead. It's hilly and challenging and honest. The temps were over 100 degrees while i was driving the bike course and there was no shade. I've been drinking a ton of water but feel like i will never be fully hydrated. I dont think the New Englander in me is cut out for the desert. Nationals was a humbling experience and I fully expect Worlds to be the same way. It's an honor just to be here.

And can we talk about how many fit people are running around here?! Its hard not to silently compare yourself to every tiny girl who walks by you with zero percent body fat and who probably doesn't even know what chocolate is. But I just need to remind myself that tinier isn't necessarily better. And really, what is the point of making comparisons? I went to the Whole Foods today And they had run out of bagels. The store was absolutely overrun with triathletes in sweaty spandex. Speaking of dressing like a triathlete-I'm actually trying to do more of that. I wore workout shorts and a sports bra and tank top all day. I used to go to races and drop my bike off while wearing a dress. No more. I'm embracing the spandex and dressing for comfort. And to look like I belong.