Sunday, August 30, 2009

Poops, whomps, and whoops!

Just a hunch...but I think I found the guilty one.

The fact that she's turning away from the camera? Classic denial. Hopefully, we won't have any more poop-in-shoe incidents. But with Tabbitha, you never know.

In other news, instead of biking-running-biking long on Saturday, I spent the morning with Nathaniel, at his new squadron's family day. And honestly...? There was no other place I'd rather be - it was great spending the morning with him and being up-close-and-personal with the Gunfighter's helicopters.

I'm so used to seeing them flying overhead or along the coast, hearing the 'whomp whomp whomp' from afar - this was exciting! Though my palms were slightly sweaty when I noticed the four guys hanging from the bottom of the helo...

After the show, Nathaniel and I waited for one of the lovely buses to take us off (one of) Camp Pendleton's firing ranges. I'm smiling because 1) I love the desert 2) I'm practicing my heat acclimatization (pushing 100) 3) The port-o-potty is faaar away and 4) I'm trying to angle myself to get as much breeze as possible. There was a hint of a zephyr every now and then.

Later, Nathaniel gave me a quick tour of his squadron and - more importantly - the briefing room.
Just in case you were wondering: toys are included with some pre flight briefs.

Sunday was a day filled with biking, running, and (drum roll please...) more biking. I had the lovely opportunity of running at the top of Mt. Palomar. After biking up said mountain. Yes, I carried my running shoes up with me, yes I got crazy looks from the bikers and motorcyclists at the top, and abso-friggen-lutely yes, my legs felt heavy with those first few steps.

Okay, I jest. They felt heavy with nearly every step.

But with every pedal stroke taken, with every stride run, I reminded myself that 'this is EXACTLY where I'm supposed to be right now...exactly in this moment.'

The highlight?

Well - cresting the top of Palomar, a ride that gives me sweaty palms just thinking about it, is always wonderful. Reaching the top is an emotional experience for me - its tough, raw, challenging, filled with ups and downs, uncertainty, beautiful views, mind tricks, happiness, doubt, joy, and everything in between.

But it was ten times more enjoyable today when - with 2/10 of a mile left to go - I was passed by another rider, training for the Everest Bike Challenge (a two-day bicycle race from Nevada to California that includes 29,000+ feet of climbing). I did my damnedest to keep on her wheel, and we exchanged encouraging words during her pass. It was a thing of beauty, I tell you. Not because she dropped my rear like a bad habit - but because of the joy and passion she exhibited at the top.

Fortunately I was within range to see her fist pumps and hear the "WHOOP WHOOP!" she screamed as she crested past the STOP sign. I couldn't hide my smile and had to give her a hug when we finally came to a stop at the Palomar Mountain General Store just down the road.

Seeing (and hearing) her joy made my climb that much more real: its not every day that one has the opportunity to successfully reach the top of a mountain. Life isn't a given - and even though we set out to accomplish certain goals, there are just as many times where we don't (or can't) reach them.

That's why its SO IMPORTANT to celebrate the things we do on a daily basis. Embrace the journey and realize sometimes finishing what we started, is as important as doing it well. Climbing Palomar is hard for me - not so much in the physical sense (because I know its going to hurt), but because I know exactly how hard I have to work to set a new personal best or best watt average.

Not every time that I climb will I set a personal best - yes I'll try my hardest, but I also realize there are so many variables that can come into effect. And I'm okay with that - because I know that what I learn in the process is much more valuable than some record ever could be. And being able to PUSH HARD when you know that you're a few minutes off your best time, BUT STILL CONTINUING AT YOUR HARDEST IN SPITE OF THIS KNOWLEDGE...well (that takes guts for starters).

But give me life's lessons any day. In the end I'll be happy and that's what really counts.

As for tomorrow? Well for starters, I know I'll be sore. But proud of my effort.

Speaking of proud.... A BIG CONGRATULATIONS to all who raced this past weekend! Ironmans Kentucky and Canada, in addition to the Chicago Triathlon. Plenty of races, plenty of incredible performances (and plenty of incredible sherpas!) I am proud of you all -

WHOOP WHOOP to you too! Bask in the glory, raise your hands over your head, and scream for joy! You - my friends - have earned it! WHOOP WHOOP!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Feeling hot, Hot, HOT!

My first mistake was to drive with the air conditioning on. Nothing says "heat acclimatization" like stepping from your 65-ish degree car interior, to an outside temperature that's easily pushing 100. But I had already spent 30+ minutes driving inland, away from the sanctity and cool breeze of the Pacific, and at that point, I just wanted to get my 14-mile run finished.

The fact that my skin felt as though it was on fire less than one hundred seconds after stepping out of the car - well, it only added to the "experience." And yes, I did wear sunscreen. SPF 70, or something of the sort.

The run was long, hot, long, hot, hot, long, and did I mention - hot?

I mapped out a 4.4 mile loop somewhere in the furnaces, err, along the fire roads and trials of Camp Pendleton. Part of the loop would take me around Lake O'Neil - which at the time of my planning sounded awesome. Right up until I started running with the heat index in the 3-digit range.

I have to hand it to my will power: it's A LOT stronger than I give it credit for. I remained on dry land the entire run, even though my head was telling my feet to head over there towards the water! No, IN the water. No - you're GOING THE WRONG WAY! TO THE WATER! Now if only I could apply the same will power against Ritter Sport Chocolate. THEN we could talk.

First loop found me getting lost, in spite of my quick Google Earth map study. Yes, my sense of direction sucks, but once I figured out my way - well, I was less "lost-er" (as long as I stuck to the same trail and didn't venture off and "explore" other fire trails. I'll have to save that for next time. And when I don't hear gunfire.)

Second loop was a little faster, as I felt more sure of myself. As for the last loop? Well - it can be summed up in 3 words:

It.

Was.

HOT.

Yes, I carried a water bottle and YES, I grabbed a new water bottle with each successive lap. And I even paused half way on laps number 2 and 3 to re-fill near the group campground and picnic area. The Marines and civilians assembled at some sort of event barely glanced my way the first lap; by the third one had asked if I was okay.

I think I mumbled something somewhat coherent, because I found myself running. Again.

The good news was that each loop took me past the Naval Hospital twice - and I almost considered checking myself in after the run. I guarantee they would have given me an IV. And probably a lecture about the dangers of exercising in extreme heat and black flag conditions.

But I got it done, and wasn't too much worse for the wear. Yes, my pace was slower than I would have wanted, my heart rate well above its prescribed zones. But just under two hours spent running in what felt like the fires of, well, you-know-where, and I managed to finish intact, alive, and without need for the IV.

My second mistake was walking out of the gym wearing BRIGHT PINK COMPRESSION SOCKS. One of the gym attendants - who sees me doing functional strength from time to time - looked quizzically at my legs and asked if I played soccer.

I replied, "No, I do triathlon." At this point, I think it would be pertinant to add that the shirt I was wearing read: TRIATHLON.

In BOLD letters.

"Oh.." he answered, nodding his head. "Oh, I though you did a real sport...?"

I didn't really know what to say. For the first time in a while, I was speechless. Maybe it was the heat. Or the run. Hell, it was probably both. But I just shook my head and walked out.

My third mistake was wearing BRIGHT PINK COMPRESSION SOCKS into the military commissary. And even though my shirt read "TRIATHLON", I still replied 'Yes' when someone asked if I played soccer. It just wasn't worth the effort, and I was afraid of the Lime Tortilla Chips that were staring me down across the isle from the almonds I was choosing.

Hhhhmmmmm....almonds or Lime Tortilla Chips....hhhhmmmmm.....what would you do? Lime Chips? Good Choice! I agree. But they weren't on the list, and in my post-run delirium, I swear they were calling my name. Maaarit....Maaaaaaarit....

Maybe I should have gone for the IV.

My fourth mistake was shopping at the commissary after a long run. Yes, recovery bars and chocolate milk are nice and all...but man. Everything looks good after a workout. Luckily my will power wasn't all used up by not running into Lake O'Neil; I stuck to my list. And only one Ritter Sport Chocolate Bar made it into the cart.

Okay, two. Humph.

And I guess that my fifth and last mistake was putting Tabbitha on a diet. I thought everything was going great, really well. Until...lo and behold, some kitty had pooped in my shoe.

Not to get all graphic and stuff, but I'm pretty sure about who was the culprit. Trust me. Anabelle couldn't produce something of that size if she tried.

So in addition to diet food, we may have to work on some behavior therapy. But that will have to wait for another day.

For now, that's all I've got. I guess I didn't really need to list "mistakes" - because overall (aside from the poop-in-shoe incident, because who wants to find that?), it really was a good day. For some reason I started writing the post in my head in the middle of my run - so there you go. And yes, it was hot, Hot, HOT out there!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some Days...

I have to admit, with this Ironman-thingy, there are some days when I feel like this...

While, during others - everything just 'clicks' and I can't keep the grin off my face...

Today I was lucky enough to have not one, but two stellar workouts. And for someone right smack dab in the middle of two Ironmans - well, that's enough to make me jump for joy.

This road hasn't been easy, and I never for a minute thought that it would be. There have been times in the recent few weeks where I barely thought I could get through (let alone finish) long and hard sessions. But through it all, I've tried to remember the good things; why I'm out here in the first place, doing a sport that I love. As long as I've kept it upbeat and positive - in spite of feeling like shit while climbing some big-assed stupid hill in the middle of no where - I've been happy.

Because at this time last year - I never, not for a minute, imagined that I would be here. And that's reason enough to celebrate.

Want something else to celebrate? How about a Cappuccino Rittersport in the middle of an Alaskan Hike? Huh? This chocolate treat was brought to you by Nathaniel. And no, you can't have him, because he's mine!

(Even if he's unwilling to hold girly-shopping bags in the middle of Victoria while I take yet another picture.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"C" is for...

"C" is for Charisa! The best training partner and bike mate a girl could have. I had a few tough moments during our Henshaw Loop (112 miles/7-hour) bike ride today. But she was always there - encouraging, smiling, and (most importantly at times) pulling me along in the wake of her draft. She made it clear that I could bail at any point if I was feeling like crap, and she wouldn't think anything of it; but with a partner like her, I just didn't want to stop. THANKS Charisa!

"C" is for colorful. Yep, I had a few colorful words during my ride. Not necessarily blog-appropriate.

"C" is for crap. Not the literal kind - but in the very beginning of the ride, its how I felt. But some very encouraging words from Charisa, and my own acceptance with the fact that my legs felt flat from my race last weekend - and after 1:45 or so, I finally came around.

"C" is for Coke. 3:30 into our ride at the Julian Pie Shop stop, I decided that the gels just weren't working. So I switched to coke. And for some magical reason only known to the triathlon gods - it worked. I think I had at LEAST a liter of the stuff, maybe more. But it was delicious and my fuel of choice (along with carbo pro 1200). The first thing I did, though, when I got home - was to brush my teeth. Ugh!

"C" is for chopsticks. As in I will NOT be eating my post-workout leftovers with them. It'll just take too long, and I'm hungry.

"C" is for carbs. As in the beer kind. 7 hours of drinking only water or coke, and the diet coke and seltzer water awaiting my arrival just didn't seem so appealing. So Sam Adams "Boston Lager" it was. And it was/is delicious.

"C" is for cupcake! I found a cupcake store!! "Elizabethan Desserts" in Encinitas was a recent discovery (since Friday!), and Nathaniel and I just had to stop by to pick up one. Or three. And it was more ME wanting one, while Nathaniel was willing to go along for "morale support". Its waiting for me...in the fridge...and I thought about it during my long ride... (And when I eat it, I will think of Molly, Kate, Julia, and Deirdre!)

"C" is for courage. Because sometimes it takes a little bit of courage to push through and not quit, when everything seems impossible, hilly, long, hot, and uncomfortable. And if YOU reading this have ever felt this way, know that you're not the only one. I think we all feel this way one time or another (and another...)

"C" is for CRAVING. And I've got more. Perhaps a cupcake...? We shall see. Now, please excuse me while I head to the kitchen...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Aaahhh, the joys of Recovery!

Cats aside (read: Anabelle busting through the screen and Tabbitha's diet and flea saga), there's nothing like a good recovery week. Yes, I've got some structure to my program, but there's nothing wrong with, oh say, swapping out a bike ride for a run. Because bottom line, this week has been all about the recovery.

Now is the time to really rest up, let the work absorb, and enjoy the physical and mental bonuses (because there are plenty!) of taking an albeit small break. Because just around the corner remains a big push and even bigger race. But let's not talk about that...

The nice part - and don't get me wrong, I love to run fast when I can (and remember like I've claimed before...fast is relative. My fast is different from yours and blah blah blah...) - about getting hopelessly turned around, lost, discombobulated, (and did I mention...lost?) during the run segment of Sunday's race, is that I didn't run as fast as I normally would have. Call it unfamiliarity, fear of getting lost-er, call it what you may... Ultimately, my legs felt relatively fresh, even the day after.

As crude as it sounds, I use the ability to lower myself onto the commode to gauge my post-race recovery. After Coeur d'Alene, I could hardly walk forward, let alone sit on a toilet. My upper body was absolutely necessary for helping to, er, attain the proper peeing position.

Happily, Monday morning found no quivering in my quads; lowering myself down and then the subsequent up passed without a problem. It's the little things in life, I tell you.

I suppose the most 'interesting' things have happened while swimming. Firstly, Wednesday afternoon, I set off with Chad Holderbaum, (in town for business) for a quick swim at The Cove. The Ocean was beautiful, albeit a tad choppy. But the water felt warm once we got going and the clarity visibly improved a few hundred meters from shore.

It was actually pretty laughable. We ALL know about my fear of Unmentionables (with really big teeth), and my hesitancy to swim in the Big Wide Open Pacific Ocean. Yes, I'm taking great steps to quell my fears - but rest assured, they are still there (every time I set toe in the water). Apparently, Chad harbors some of the same fears that I do, and I found myself reassuring HIM of how safe Cove-swimming is.

"How far away was that shark attack last year?" he asked timidly as we walked down towards the steps leading into the water.

It was hard work to keep my fears in check as I explained what had happened, and how far we were from the site. Truthfully, I think about sharks every time I swim in the ocean. Statistically though, I know I'm in greater danger on the drive to the beach than when I'm in the water.

What was most interesting to me, though - was that I was the one assuring him that it would be okay. Usually when I swim with others, its the other way around.

Still, I was grateful that he didn't tell me about the shadow that he saw in the water until after we were safely ashore. I don't care what you think you see, a shadow is a shadow - and oftentimes our imaginations do the worst damage well after the initial incident/sighting. After all, The Cove is well known for its seal and sea lion population, and there were plenty out basking in Wednesday's waves and sun.

One of the more interesting swimming-related phenomenon that I've experienced of late, has been the cross over between Masters Swimming and Open Water swimming. I've spent more time open water swimming in the past few weeks than ever (which is pretty laughable, because I still spend quite a bit of time in the pool). My stroke, and more importantly my sighting, in the open water feels better - longer and more efficient.

Which doesn't really translate well when you show up to the pool and see 40 X 50 meters on the board. Let's just say that my 'fast' speed and 'regular' speed over a 50 differs by - oh, gee - about three seconds. At the very most.

So, while I'm not the most ideal person to swim behind on the fast stuff, at least I can hold my own during a 400. Or more (which is pretty rare at Carlsbad Masters. I'm already excited about short course speed next year!).

But I really don't mind the short stuff: it mixes things up and keeps me honest about my speed. And really - on a recovery week, in between 2 Ironmans - I don't expect my 50 meter swimming speed to be "all that much there".

My week of recovery officially ends Sunday morning when I head out for a long ride. Tomorrow though, I've got an easy "embarrassingly slow" run on tap, and then the rest of the day to enjoy time with Nathaniel. I'm excited, but a little bit at odds with what to do. Through some miracle he doesn't have duty and I don't have a long ride...or race...or anything above 45 minutes on my training schedule.

And you had better believe that I'll enjoy every minute of it.

Starting Sunday - let's bring on Hawaii training. I'm ready and excited!

GOOD LUCK to everyone racing this weekend! It's a biggie - ENJOY!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

So sad...then...zzzzzzzzzz

The epitome of "So Sad...." Anabelle trying to find a way through the blocked screen, and Tabbitha lurking hopefully in the background. Both stuck. Inside.
Lately Anabelle has taken to bursting under the screen door. We normally let Tabbitha out on the back porch (because she's to *ahem* big to squeeze through the rails), but Anabelle slips through and romps through the pool and common area. Totally unacceptable for a peg-legged kitty whose idea of self-defense is scampering under the couch.

Tabbitha though, after an encounter with a few California fleas and more determined vet, has also been reassigned to the lovely indoors. (And is also on a diet. But we'll save that for a different post).

Until then...

Anabelle is one with the couch.

And Tabbitha has The Ugly Green Recliner. Cat barf stain and all.


So - even if you can't get exactly to where you want to be...there are usually some pretty good alternatives (cat barf stain not included).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TCSD (almost) Half Ironman RR part 2

WARNING: LONG! (But you already knew that)

Transition 2:

I got my bearings as quickly as possible and located my transition towel. The giant POWERBAR logo did wonders and I carefully deposited my bike back to its safe locale on the ground. Glancing around I saw a few bikes - some laying as mine was, but a few others upright in their special stands. Oh well, next time for my bike, perhaps.

Even though I was RACING, I still took my time to make sure I had everything that I needed. I had planned on carrying three Powergels (even though I would probably only consume two. I just wanted the extra for "just in case" something went awry and/or I found myself totally and utterly lost, running for 2+ hours or something disastrous like that), a container of salt tablests, and a full, 24 oz bottle of water.

And before you say anything, YES, I could have worn a fuel belt OR Camelback (which I have worn on two occasions during half ironmans). But 1) the fuel belt makes my mid-section feel jiggly and that's NOT conducive to positive-mental-thoughts while racing and 2) my Camelback valve is broken. Note to self: get it fixed!


So the water bottle carried football style it was!

Again, Nathaniel was right there - taking pictures and talking to me. I know for a fact that we DID have a conversation. For the life of me, I can't remember any of it, though. I can't reiterate how surreal it was to have him right in transition with me. That never happens. It's like wearing shorts on Christmas: it's just not supposed to happen that way. Unless you live in Florida. Or North Carolina. Or California. Humph! I miss my snow flakes and white-covered ground!

One last check confirmed that I had everything that I needed. All that was left was to run approximately 13.1 miles. Super!

But as I paused for thought - the task at hand seemed near impossible. Don't get me wrong - I love running, have always loved running, and even though I miss my short course speed from a few years back, I love the run segment of triathlon. But the relative safety of transition was downright appealing. And I was pretty convinced that I was going to get stupidly lost and mixed up on the run. I looked over and saw the guy that I rode into T2 with, sitting on his transition mat having a chat with his significant other.

If only he would get a move on and exit with me, I thought. Then I could follow him - safety in numbers! Two head are better than one! But he seemed totally unmotivated to leave and continued to sit...and chat.

Okay. Need I say that this was a VERY relaxed race?

Time to get a fire under my ass and GO!

The Run:

This picture - my absolute FAVORITE of the race - totally sums it all up.

I'm standing on the timing mat (yes, this time I DID run over it on my way out), asking for and verifying the run directions. I know for a fact that I'm giving the RD an incredulous look while he points one way with one hand and another with the other. I think the guys watching was highly amused, as I only repeated myself four or five times.

"Left, right, left, right?"

No.

"Oh. Okay - right, left, take a right on the path as you hit the canal, left on the street, and another left a few blocks down. It's marked...? Okay. Got it. Um...yeah. Okay. Right, left, right on path, left...."

It sounded awful - but what could I do, except for run out?

I bid farewell to Nathaniel and started running. Not super fast because I was convinced that I would go the wrong way and then have to back track in front of the RD who had just given me directions and everyone else in transition.

I looked down to make sure my watch was working and set off to run the best that I could.

So far, so good. I'm just running...and running...and running... Okay - made the right turn, now the left.... I see a woman on a bike....and what I think is the path...are there markings? Okay...I can sort of see what I think is an arrow and "TCSD" so I think I'll follow that.... Okay...running...I think I'm going the right way...running.....oh good! There are the basketball course that I recognize from Google Earth. I MUST be going in the right direction.... Running...running...running....

I am totally fucked.


A few minutes later the path emptied out onto a pretty busy road, and I took a left, even though I didn't see the chalk markings. From studying Google Earth, I knew that I was supposed to take a left on Onvly Street. Or at least that's what I think the name was. But I remembered it because I "only" have another 13 miles to go. Or some mind trick like that.

Took a left on the street and kept running. Running...Running....

And then - came to a "T" in the road.

Now - common sense would dictate that I SLOW DOWN and look for chalk markings. Race sense would dictate that I KEEP GOING FAST. But I was so petrified of going the wrong way that I actually stopped and scanned the sidewalk.

I looked ahead.

Nothing.

I looked behind.

Nothing.

Right, left, further back...further ahead....

Nothing.

Nada.

Zip, zero, zilch.


Meanwhile, time was ticking away and I could feel the desperation mounting.

To my left loomed the bay, or at least an offshoot of the bay. Weren't we supposed to stay on or close to the bay at all times?

To my right were neighborhoods, but I could see Mission Bay and its marshes stretching off in the distance. I knew that was the general direction, but what if the path I was supposed to take was on my left....?

I looked down again, hoping that through some miracle of sorts, the wonderful chalk markings would suddenly appear and I would see something. Anything.

Bueller?


Straight ahead there was a chain-link fence that had a small opening, and a semi-visible dirt path extended beyond it. Maybe we were supposed to go through there? But I didn't remember any urban-extreme-challenge-bit to this triathlon. And besides, the links looked a little rusty, and I didn't think having my tetanus shot bolstered was a prerequisite for this race.

I looked behind me hoping for the appearance of anyone from the race.

No one.

I was alone. And lost.

So...um...hello?

I choose the left, the road that went down towards the water. After a minute or so, it just didn't seem right. And I hadn't remembered anything about running towards transition, even if there was water between me and the race site. So - for the first time EVER in my race career, I turned around and ran back - retracing my steps.

Okay, back at the "T". This time I took the road on my right and after thirty seconds or a minute, decided that this too was totally wrong. I saw some guys grilling on their balcony a few stores above, and was tempted to call out to them, "Hey - did you just happen to see any people in spandex running semi-fast and/or shuffling in this direction? They're probably carrying water bottles or some form of liquid with them.... Do you know if they passed by here within the past twenty or thirty minutes?"

But I didn't.

Instead I went back. Again.

I am totally fucked. Totally and utterly screwed.

And then, I did something that I NEVER EVER though I would EVER do. I started running back towards the transition. Hell, I had only been running (at this point) twelve minutes, with probably less than a mile covered. Maybe I could ask for more directions or - with some luck - see another racer running towards me.

Within a block, I saw someone turn off the busy intersection, running with a fuel belt and sporting spandex. BRILLIANT!

"Which way?" I shouted, probably loud enough for everyone back at race site to hear.

He pointed towards the right and I looked dubiously down the road that lead away from the bay.

I waited for him to get closer.

"Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure," he responded.

And then I did my best to keep him in my sights.

We covered three blocks fairly quickly, passing by the grillers in the process. At the top of a small hill, we saw a "road closed" sign on the left. "So this is where the detour must be," he commented. I think I grunted and commented that I was happy that he were there with me.

Another block down and we took a left.

The bay stretched beautifully out ahead of us, blue waters sparkling in the bright sunlight, and I could see a pedestrian path that snaked its way through the sand. My friend upped his tempo, and I did my best to keep him in my sights - if anything, for the peace of mind of knowing that I was probably going in just about the pretty much correct direction.

The next few miles passed pretty much uneventfully, except for the fact that I just didn't feel like I was going fast. Come to think of it - pretty much the only thing that I knew for sure, were that 1) my lifeline was running somewhere ahead in the distance and 2) there was supposed to be an aid station around mile 5.

I think my fear of being lost and total unfamiliarity with the area really slowed me down. My race became more about survival and just "getting through" rather than pushing at the extent that I'm used to. I could see pedestrian runners ahead, and I did whatever I could to pass them by.

My salt tablets were making a distracting rattling noise, so I pulled them out of my rubber-banded-group-of-3-gels and slipped them in my back pocket (along with the salt tablets from the bike). Oops. So I was carrying roughly 4X the salt that I needed - oh well. Who knew what I would actually need during the course of the day?

As I ran along, I could feel the sun beat down on me, and heat sizzle up from the sidewalk. Having Mission Bay on my left side - at some points within two or three feet - was downright distracting. I was very close to chucking my uber-heavy water bottle, salt pills, and gels away into the nearest trash container and splashing headlong into the cooler waters. Seeing beach revelers only ticked me off more, and for a few moments I thought about how completely stupid this sport was.

Which - I tried to reason with myself - was totally the wrong thing to think about while racing a half ironman. Hello? Racing! Let's go!

The minutes ticked by and I convinced myself to not turn off my watch. I already figured my run time would be slow and I just didn't want to recon with the numbers. However, I DID need my watch to gauge my Powergel ingestion, so for that reason, and that reason alone, I kept it running.

Finally, just under 38 minutes into my run, I saw a chalk marking for "TCSD aid station".

Even though I still have 8+ miles to go, I was absolutely ecstatic. Contact! Human contact with other people who knew what I was doing and that I was out there and who cared enough to take the time and volunteer and support this race! YEA!

Another race first for me when I (again) STOPPED at the aid station and chatted with the two volunteers. I thanked them profusely, while asking one guy if he could 'please fill up my water bottle'. I immediately drank two cups of water, dumped two more over my head and looked for the trash.

The girl said, "You're doing great! First girl to run by and tenth overall. Keep it up! Its a scorcher out there!"

I think I babble incoherently because the guy handed me my water and asked if I needed salt. But I was already thanking them and running away, afraid that if I stopped much longer I would never start again.

I quickly did the math. 10th place meant that there were 9 people ahead of me. I had already seen one and knew that I was a strong enough runner to catch a few. Just keep running...

So I did.

Gradually the time ticked by, and I found myself running over bridges (where yes, the though of jumping over the rail into the water DID occur to me, but obviously I kept going), trying to desperately stay on course. If I could just get to the aid station at or around mile 10 close to Fiesta Island, I was pretty sure about the route back.

At the bottom of one of the two bridges we crossed, I came upon another confusing bit. I could no longer see the runner ahead who had been so helpful when I was lost, and there was a stop light with a semi-visible "TCSD" arrow pointing LEFT.

Okay.

To the left brought me back towards the water. Hhhhmmmmm..... but the half block that it would take to get me there didn't seem right.

However - maybe I was supposed to hang a quick left and then a right? I wasn't really sure....

Not wanting to waste MORE time, I took the left and made an immediate right. And then kicked myself because I thought (again) that I was going the wrong way. Okay - I rationalized - the road HAD to lead back to the bay...Right... All drains lead to the ocean!

But after a few minutes, I realized something was horribly wrong. I was running against traffic - that was actually pretty heavy with people going into restaurants and shops and other touristy-places along the bay. I was pretty certain that the race organizers wouldn't deliberately put us in this situation.

I tried to reach back into my memory and picture the run course on Google Earth. But it just didn't work - I DID know that this road would eventually re-connect up with another bridge that we were supposed to cross, but I just wasn't sure when. Oh well - I may be running a little more than I had anticipated. Oops.

Eventually I wound my way back around (through parking lots and a very very busy road) to the bridge that was to be the only out-and-back section of the course. And then.... Then I was greeted with THE BEST SIGHT I HAVE EVER SEEN!

OTHER ATHLETES!!!

I saw two guys running shoulder-to-shoulder down the bridge on the other side of the road. I didn't even care that they were a mile or two ahead of me. Seeing them made me feel so much better. Ahead in the distance I could see another runner trudging up the bridge, and I figured either 1) he was going super slow or 2) I had come upon him from a very different direction.

Running over the bridge didn't physically feel great - but just knowing that I was actually semi-on-course did wonders for my psyche. I think I doubled my pace, assured that I was going the right way.

Over the bridge, past one person, and seeing a few others in the distance, rounding a stop light and seeing the "TCSD" arrow marking was great. I upped the cadence and wasn't even jealous when I passed a group from the Korean Church Congregation getting watermelons out of their church vehicle in anticipation of a picnic. Before I hit the bridge on the return portion, I passed another guy and commented, "Boy - are you a sight for sore eyes."

I didn't wait around for his reaction.

I was more curious about whom I would see running towards me; interested if there was anyone else close by. Half way over the top, I saw two other men - but no women. But I still upped the pace - partly because I didn't want to be passed, but mostly because I thought I pretty much knew the rest of the way back.

Running past Seaworld and its subsequent mile(s) of parking lots was interesting. I could hear people screaming on the roller coaster and only got one or two honks from motorists as I ran the opposite direction of traffic. Unbeknown to me, Nathaniel was somewhere in that mess, hoping to catch a glimpse of me running. The poor guy was just as lost as I was, and eventually gave up and headed back to the race site. What a trooper!

I felt that I had finally found my stride - and my pace was something that I would normally try to hold for a half ironman run. I was still taking sips of my water every few minutes, along with 4 salt tablets at the one hour mark. At 1:15 into my run, I took (what I figured) would be my final gel. I knew that I needed the calories and salt that it offered, and the berry flavor tasted great in my mouth.

And then.... just ahead up the road....was the final, 10-mile aid station. For the second time, I actually stopped and chatted with the volunteers. One guy refilled my water bottle while another recorded my race number. They offered me salt and gatorad, bananas and water - but I only dumped a few cups of water over my head. I thanked them again and set off down the path.

Suddenly I heard them screaming, "GO TO YOUR LEFT! TO THE LEFT!!!"

Looking down I could see the chalk marks and TCSD arrow pointing towards the left path, while I had been ready to run headlong down the right.

Oops.

"I'm directionally challenged!" I shouted back. I heard one guy laugh. If they only knew....

"Just under three miles to go!" was the response that I got.

Okay - I quickly did the math and figured that I could pretty easily go under 1:40, in spite of all my wrong twists, turns, backtracks, and stops. I picked up the pace (again) and kept going, satisfied that I would be finished soon.

I recognized the blue gazebo from the Google Earth map and - for the first time - knew where I was. SCORE!

Up ahead, I could see runners and pedestrians, families out enjoying the day and couples walking their dogs along the bay. A few sail boats and watercraft dotted the bay and I made sure to keep the cadence up as I passed a fellow racer - telling him, "Good job! We're almost there!" in the process.

The last three miles were uneventful. I chased down a few people, but kept running. And running. And running. 1:40 came and went and I figured that either I was really REALLY slowing down, or perhaps the course was a tad bit long. Whatever. I couldn't affect anything at this point, except for how I choose to run my race. IF I wanted to finish, I had to keep going.

Eventually I recognized De Anza cove off in the distance, and I worked hard to dodge kids on bikes and excitable dogs on the running path. Rounding the final turn and within sight of the disgusting rest rooms, I saw a familiar figure in red sitting on a park bench.

"Hi Nathaniel!"

I waved and actually smiled, holding my water ball football style as I passed my hubby on the way in. I was so relieved to see the finish line, happy that I had actually FOUND the thing that I slowed to a walk on the way in.

I didn't even see my time until a few minutes after I finished. I chuckled - IF the course had been accurate, I would have just set a monster Half Ironman pr (whatever that means - because all courses are different, given the terrain, wind, temperature, etc...). As it was - my swim and bike were super fast, while my run was, well, slower-than-I-have-ever-run-but-I-found-my-way-back-so-YEA!

But seventh overall (I think...I haven't seen the official results yet), and first amongst the ladies was great. More than what I could ask for on a day like today.

I removed my chip and told Brian the race director that he didn't have to touch it and that I would be MORE than happy to put it somewhere. But he (bravely) took it by the plastic and after that, I'm not really sure.

After chatting with Nathaniel and Kevin Korsky of Finishline-Multisports, I did my best to gather my things and cool down. I managed a quick shower - where I found most of the other guys who had finished ahead of me - commenting on the course. We all had similar stories to tell, and I profusely thanked my friend who had pointed me in the right direction when I was lost the first time. He actually laughed and commented that, "I can't believe you were actually running BACK to the start!"

Desperate times call for desperate measures, my friend.

I waited around a short while for Elizabeth to finish, and cheered in a few other athletes along the way. It was really great getting a chance to chat with other SD Triathlon Club members (who I really don't know all that well), and I loved the laid back atmosphere. Nathaniel had a great time too - walking through transition and chatting with a few people.

Finally it was time to head out. I thanked Brian one more time for a great race, congratulated Elizabeth and a few other athletes, gathered my stuff, and huffed my way back to the car.

There were important things to do!

Post-race festivities:

First up: Mama Testas. Nathaniel wanted authentic Mexican food and I just wanted to make the guy happy. He had been so supportive throughout the day - driving all over, shouting encouragement, taking pictures... If that's what he wanted to eat...well....I would do my best.

In the car I chatted with Jen and recounted my race. She groaned about getting lost on the run, but was happy with the swim and bike. And in reality, it WAS my responsibility to know the run course. If I had been more comfortable, I probably would have gone faster - just knowing where you are, I discovered, is half the battle.

But that - my friends - is knowledge tucked away for the next big race.

Mama Testas was fun...but fried fish tacos within 45 minutes after finishing (almost) a Half Ironman was...well....just disgusting. My stomach flip flopped a few times and I found myself running towards the bathroom. Thank god it was unoccupied, but I felt awful as I got some pretty weird looks from fellow eaters. Sorry! If you only knew!!

But just because I couldn't finish my fish taco, did NOT mean that I wasn't up for sheet cake. So Nathaniel and I made a quick stop off on the way home for the ever-important-post-race cake and I was very happy.

Post shower and recovery food (ie recovery bar and chocolate milk), this was my happy smile. Sheet cake and all!

Yes, I'm slightly sunburnt and yes - that was the piece with the MOST frosting available.

Later - and here's the real topper: Nathaniel made me a home made beer sampler. Very carefully, he made his beer selections and this was the result. Before you get too worked up, no I did NOT drink all the beer. Rather he poured me a few ounces of each to "sample".

Up close and personal with the selection. My favorite was the Stone Pale Ale, but I was also partial to the Boont Amber Ale. The chocolate porter was interesting (albeit a bit heavy) - but as you all know, I love beer samplers. So...there you go.

In addition, I made my favorite Amy's cheeseles pizza. Because - let's face it: sampling beer on sheet cake, one fish taco, 8 oz of chocolate milk, and a recovery bar is NOT a good idea.

Finally - at the table and ready to go! YEA! South Park smile and all...

We eventually polished off the pizza and then beer. And were soon joined by a friend who made it seem as though SHE had eaten her fill and was passed out from overindulgence. (And no - we keep them off the table. We didn't have the heart to kick her off. Would you?)

And because I can't post a picture of One without the Other. Here's the House Monster in all her glory, having reclaimed the Ugly Green Recliner by throwing up on the cushion last week. Hard as I worked, I couldn't quite get the cat barf out of the upholstery. This won't matter, as I'm outvoted 3-1 by Nathaniel and the kitties who all love This Thing.

She must have been pretty close to this position when she threw up in the first place.

In the end, I had a great day. I am GRATEFUL to the Tri Club of San Diego for putting on this race, and doing such a good job in its first year. Nearly everyone who I met or spoke with (except for the Green Wheeled Drafter) was really positive and nice. They make it easy to see why I love the sport so much.

And for the record - I'm totally not upset about getting turned around and hopelessly lost on the run course. Bottom line: it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to know the course. And in the future, I'll take a little more time to study the course and make sure that I really REALLY know where I'm going. Had it been a higher priority race or one where I was really passionate about the outcome or time - then maybe yeah...I would be kicking myself more. But I'm actually happy that things turned out the way they did - because I still learned a lot in the process, still had fun, still really enjoyed myself.

Thanks to everyone for your support AND (for those of you who stuck with me through TWO stupidly long race reports) patience. And congratulations to all who raced and who supported-people-racing this past weekend!

Monday, August 17, 2009

TCSD (almost) Half Ironman RR part 1

Translation: The Triathlon Club of San Diego not-quite Half Ironman Triathlon Race Report.

I went into this race not really knowing what to expect performance-wise. After Coeur d'Alene I took a much needed, deserved, and well-earned month off from serious training. After looking through my schedule, I realized I only had a good two or three weeks worth of training. And while Jen assured me that my body would come around to race, I really wasn't sure.

Yes, I trusted her completely - as one should believe and have faith in their coach and good friend - but there were still unknowns insofar as race speed and how my legs would come around. If anything, I figured it would be a phenomenal training day and great opportunity to WORK HARD and PUSH and SUFFER for roughly 70.3 miles.

Goody!

Race morning dawned early, as I wanted to give my stomach plenty of time to digest my pre-race breakfast. After my stomach catastrophe at IM CDA, I wanted to test something new. In the past, protein ensure has worked really well, and I think that will be a very good alternative to Greek Yogurt (for my protein source). Oatmeal, ensure, and baby food bananas were on the menu. Oh yes, and coffee - definite necessity. All before 4 am.

Yeah.

After eating and getting dressed, I waited around. And waited...and waited...and waited....

Finally just before 5 am, I roused Nathaniel. I wanted to give the poor guy a chance to sleep in as much as possible - we ALL know how tiring "spectathleting" can be. But after a cup of coffee and ever-so-necessary bowl of Raisin Bran, he was ready and raring to go. We were out the door at 5:20 - when I decided that arriving at the race site at 6 am for a scheduled 6:45 am start would be cutting it too close.

(In the past, I've been one of those athletes who arrives exactly 2 hours before the race starts. Why...I have no idea. Come to think of it...I still do that sometimes....hhhhmmmmmm.....There's just something comforting about being there early and NOT having to stress out. Race day is tough enough without worrying if you'll make the start. But because this was a relaxed and hometown race, I figured getting there an hour before start time would be perfectly acceptable.)

We pulled into De Anza Cove on Mission Bay shortly before 6 am. True to form, Nathaniel had made record time in our 25-mile drive from home to race site. I didn't want to look at the speedometer, and he certainly didn't want to divulge his speed. Yes, my palms were slightly sweaty and I think I only "fake braked" (from the passenger side) once or twice.

I was greeted with triathlon at its most wonderful and grass-roots form. The San Diego Tri Club van was open, and Brian (the race director) was setting up a small table next to transition area. Nope - there weren't any bike racks, and I noticed that several people had propped their bikes up against trees or lamp posts, while others had balanced backpacks and leaned their bikes upright. A few people even had bike stands that held their bikes upright via the front or back wheel.

Me?

Not so much. I figured that IF I tried to prop my bike up against my near-empty transition bag, it would only fall over spectacularly, (probably) breaking a cable or aero bar in the process.

Instead, my bike was safe - on the ground.

After registering and getting my number (15!) and timing chip, I set out for a very brief warm-up. First up: the bike. A quick five, or ten minute ride confirmed that the gears were shifting and brakes working (and honestly - I'm not really sure what I would do if they weren't...beg for help or try and fix it, I suppose). I was reminded how awesome race wheels feel to ride on, and my legs felt GREAT, ready to go for 50+ miles of HARD riding.

Very quickly replaced my bike with running shoes and ran another few minutes out along the running path and back, making a quick bee-line towards the restrooms. BIG mistake. They were disgusting; and I commiserated with fellow-triathlete Elizabeth about their sorry state.

I didn't realize it was Elizabeth until she timidly asked, "Are you Marit?"

And then I remembered: we had a brief conversation during the bike segment of Oceanside. I would pass her on the flats and she would drop me like there was no tomorrow on the hills. "YES!" I replied. "You must be Elizabeth!"

I offered her my semi-clean bathroom stall, but she was so sickened by the state of the others, I think she skipped the bathroom-thing all together.

We chatted briefly and eventually I made my way back to transition, where I noticed the race directors were holding the pre-race meeting.

While slipping into my wetsuit (okay - who am I kidding? Prying it on inch after painful inch), I listened while the RD went over the course.

The swim was pretty basic - one and a half loops that was the equivalent to 1.2 miles. Glancing at the cove and the buoys, the distance didn't appear too daunting. And that's what worried me. Most of the time when looking at a swim course, I always think that it looks too far or waaaay too long. This looked about right - so I figured it was probably a tad short.

But what did I know?

The bike segment was also pretty straightforward. Exit transition and bike like mad towards Fiesta Island, whereupon we would ride 11-loops criterium-style and then ride like mad back to transition. After each loop we were instructed to call our race number to the lovely volunteer (NOT plural - originally there was to be one lady keeping score. If I was southern or still lived in the south, I would (at this point) insert a "Bless her heart!".) The RD joked that we were supposed to do 11 laps, but we were also on an "honor system". 12 would be okay - but no one would be punished or DQ'ed if they only did 10.

Again - we were totally on an honor system; racing because we wanted to be there. Not for a slot, not for an award, but for our own personal reasons. Some wanted a challenge - to tackle a new distance, to try something new. Others just wanted a GREAT training day or to beat their spouse.

And finally: the run. Per the pre-race instructions sent out via email earlier in the week, I had studied the course. Saturday night, Nathaniel and I used Google Earth and looked at the overhead and street view of the 13.1 mile run. While most of it seemed pretty basic (run around Mission Bay!), and the RD said that they would mark the street with chalk the day before, I was still dubious.

It seemed a little complicated (to put it very mildly), with twists and turns through a few streets in the beginning. We were assured of the two aid stations - at miles 5 and 10 - but at every other point, we were on our own. And while I had viewed the course and had a pretty decent idea of where I was going; I was secretly petrified of getting lost.

Finally after the briefing I was ready to go! Wetsuit on I gave Nathaniel the biggest smile I could muster and set off towards the lake for a brief warm-up swim. He said that I looked like someone from the future, while I felt like a stuffed sausage with semi-flexible shoulders.

The water felt incredibly warm, at what was probably 74 or 75 degrees. I felt like a cheat for using a wetsuit, and worried slightly about overheating. Oh well - too late for that now, I thought. I swam out maybe a hundred meters but noticed that absolutely no one else was out as far as I was. Pushing aside thoughts of rogue sharks, I swam determinedly back to shore and got ready for the final instructions.

One more final chat with another racer on shore, a good-bye kiss to Nathaniel ( I LOVE having him there for me! It makes racing so much more enjoyable!), and I was ready to go.

The Swim:

I lined up on the outside, towards the left of the main crowd of swimmers. I heard one guy a few places away joke about "good training for Kona" and I smiled inwardly. If he only knew... There wasn't a lot of jostling for position or underwater kicking. Everyone was so...relaxed. VERY different from every other race I've ever done.

One final countdown, and we were OFF!

Immediately I kicked out fast, setting a HARD pace and looking to catch the two or three really fast people who did the (seeming) impossible and managed to morph themselves twenty meters ahead of the main field.

Off to my left, I could see Elizabeth swimming strongly to my field and I figured I would keep her in my sights as long as possible. Then suddenly, from out of no where "BAM!!!"

Inadvertently the guy swimming next to me on the left side made contact with the watch on my left arm. Somehow the force of the contact pushed my watch strap higher up my arm and (unbeknown to me at the time), slowly began cutting off circulation to my left wrist. The blow hurt a lot, but I shrugged it off, attributing it to the contact of a mass swim start.

Shortly I rounded the furthest buoy and headed towards the orange buoy in the middle of the course. Even though there were several people around, I had open water through most of the swim. I could see a small group ahead and figured that I was somewhere in the second group. On my right inside, a swimmer slowly pulled up and passed, and I did my best to stay on his feet and in his draft. We swam together through the first orange buoy and then turned slightly towards the orange buoy on the far end of the course.

Eventually he picked up the pace and I just couldn't match his tempo. And it was very weird: I kept drifting slightly to my left and had to over correct my position. My right side felt strong and solid, but my left shoulder was beginning to ache in a very odd way. And I just couldn't produce the power that I was accustomed to. I made my way around the buoy and headed back, parallel along shore for the second loop, passing the orange start buoy in the process.

Half a loop left to go (or so I thought)!

A quick glance behind me confirmed that there was no one there. Peeking ahead, I could see a tight group of swimmers and I was doing my best to bridge up to them. Aside from the mysterious left-side weakness, my strokes felt long and really smooth. The wetsuit provided buoyancy to my legs, and my kick felt light but effective. I tried to maximize my glide, making each stroke count and focused on executing the most efficient technique possible.

Rounding the far buoy, I set my sights on what I thought was the final buoy before turning back towards shore. Man, I though, my had, arm, and now shoulder are fucking killing me! This is absolutely awful. Then the realization struck: the contact at the start must have done something to make my watch band cut off circulation.

I stopped very briefly to try and tug it back in place, but the wetsuit sleeve seemed stuck and there was little I could do without the pack behind catching up. I knew the swim would be over within a matter of minutes, so I rationalized that I could deal with the numbness for a short while. Had the swim been any longer though, I would have fixed the problem. Pronto!

But when I arrived at what I thought was the final turn buoy, I noticed the first pack had kept going towards the other far buoy (essentially making the course a 2 loop instead of the prescribed 1.5 loop course). As this was a practice race, I figured 'Why not?' and set out to follow the leaders.

Besides, in spite of the pain on my left side, the swim seemed really really short. Perhaps the leaders wanted to extend the distance...? So I put my head down and glided the best I could to the other far turn buoy. Rounding it felt great, because I knew I would be on shore shortly and could fix my tightly lodged watch.

The very first thing I did while running out was NOT to unzip my wetsuit or remove my cap and goggles (which is what I ALWAYS do). Instead, I wrenched my wetsuit arm up over my watch and shoved the watch as far down over my wrist as possible. One glance confirmed that it had been forced half way up my arm, and the deep welts looked awful. But I kept going, running up towards transition, ready to get on the bike.

I groaned when I saw my time. Yes, I've been working on my swimming but NOPE, there is NO WAY IN BLOODY HELL that I could ever swim an 18-minute 1.2 mile swim. Otherwise Hello USA Open Water Swimming! I am your new sensation! Another 10-minutes, and perhaps yes, the distance would have been correct. But 18 minutes? Sadly to say, not even close to 1.2 miles.

Transition 1:

The weirdest thing was having Nathaniel RIGHT THERE. As the transition was a completely OPEN one, he could meander leisurely through, watching as I got ready to bike.

I think we had a conversation, but I don't really remember what was said. Sorry Sweetheart!

I quickly ran to the sidewalk, backtracked to the timing mat (when the Race Director worriedly yelled to RUN OVER THE MAT!), ran over said timing mat, and got ready to ride!My heart rate was probably at or near its highest at this point. Barely on the bike and I was already going the wrong way. And getting yelled at for missing the VERY OBVIOUS RUNWAY OF YELLOW BIKE OUT CONES. Oops. I felt like a complete idiot. Foreshadowing of things to come (the getting lost part, but I suppose the idiocy was there at times as well).

The Bike:

My main goal was to GO OUT AND SUFFER. To put my head down and work my honest-to-god hardest. I knew that the flat course was deceptive: the winds on Fiesta Island could be fierce. But, having lived in flat hot spots such as Eastern North Carolina and the Florida Panhandle, I knew that a flat course isn't always an easy course.

Trust me when I say that by mile 30, I would have done anything for a hill. And nope - the small "bump" on the Eastern end of the island did NOT count (as it took all of two seconds to climb over. By the 5th or 6th loop I began to look forward to it). Riding in the same three gears for just over two hours is tough at best, and I was grateful for all my years of riding very flat regions of the country.

Exiting transition, I had a vague idea of where Fiesta Island was. Ummm....just head south until you hit the island, hang a right over the bridge, and you're there....

I could see two riders up ahead, and figured that one of them was Elizabeth, whom I had seen in transition while I was wrestling off my wetsuit. She had made quick work of hers and sprinted out ahead of me. I was so shocked to actually see her there, though, as I know what a superb swimmer she is. I was just stoked to be in the same stratosphere as her.

Her cadence looked really strong and I made an effort to pass her quickly and not let her keep within my sight. I have so much respect for her and know what a strong cyclist she is; having seen her pull away from me during Oceanside 70.3 in the last part of the bike. If I could prevent the same from happening now, then all the better.

I put my head down and told her that she looked STRONG as I rode by (and I truly believed that), but was quickly destracted by what I thought was Fiesta Island...but wasn't really sure.

I quickly applied the brakes and yelled back to her, "Is this the turn?"

"YES!" She yelled. "TURN HERE!"

I thanked her - feeling like a complete idiot (again) - and did my best to gracefully navigate the tight turn from without falling over. Crossing the bridge, I hammered my way onto the island, and rode.

I didn't really know what to expect while riding around Fiesta Island. Yes, I had run around it once during the Resolution 10k race back in January, but having never ridden it via bike, I was unfamiliar with the territory.

I could see one rider in the far distance and did my best to keep him in my sights. Long sloping turns to the right, a long straightaway, a shorter turn to the right, slight uphill, slight downhill, sharp (but well banked!) turn to the left, another brief straightaway, a sharp left, and then a LONG straightaway with slightly left-leaning turns, more straightaway, more left, more straightaway, and again...more left.

And there - in the distance - I could see the aid station and what was presumably the end of my first lap. Sure enough, I could see a small cluster of volunteers and as I rode by, I yelled, "15! THANK YOU!!" and kept going.

And going.

And going...

For. Another. 11. Laps.

But actually, it wasn't that bad.

The first two or three laps I got into my rhythm, allowed myself to really settle. And then I started to build, gradually upping the tempo and increasing the pressure. My stomach felt awesome - absolutely NO bloating or pain - and I knew my pre-race meal was working the way that my body needed it to. I was doing a great job of taking my Powergels every 45 minutes, and two sips of Carbopro 1200 on the :30 of every hour.

Occasionally I would sip on water, and I also made sure to take in salt tablets, as the temperature was heating up into the upper 70s/low 80s. No, it certainly didn't feel hot, but the sun was shining BRIGHTLY and I knew that by the time the run came around, my body would need it.

Suddenly on lap 4 on the backside of the island, I saw Nathaniel.

"Hi Sweetheart!" I yelled. "I LOVE you!"

And then I kept going. But I knew - that as long as he stayed in place - I would see him in approximately 12 or 13 minutes.

Sure enough - the boy was still there, cheering me on and snapping photos as I rode by.

He also snapped a few other pictures - because, after all, what does one do when one is waiting for one's wife to appear every 12-13 minutes?
Wave runner/water craft person on the bay...
One of the many stretches on Fiesta Island...flat, flat, and MORE flat!
The VORTAC in Mission Bay. Yes, it looks like a giant bowling pin, but its actually a type of radio navigation for aircraft. In the military its called a TACAN. Can you tell that Nathaniel LOVES to fly, and really likes to tell me these things? I suppose he could recite all different types and models of race wheels...

During my ride, there were several riders who I went back and forth with - trading the lead. One guy on a silver Cervelo was especially nice and every time he passed me, I did my best to keep him in my sights. We exchanged pleasantries throughout the ride and I was grateful for the company.

I didn't see a lot of drafting per se, although I was passed by two different trains of riders, one that included two people who were doing a very good pace line that would make Tour de France cyclists proud. Humph! I suppose that drafting is inevitable, and there's nothing I can do to prevent it save for keeping myself OUT of such groups.

But one glance over my shoulder shortly after I had passed a woman, confirmed that I had a illegal passenger (drafter!) of my own. Unfortunately, I knew the girl and didn't feel comfortable 1) launching a mega-snot rocket of my shoulder or 2) swearing at her to GET THE FUCK OFF MY WHEEL.

It was actually quite annoying. Especially after she settled in for a while and nothing I could do seemed to shaker her. I rationalized that I HAD caught up to her and lapped her (as she wasn't ahead of me out of the water), so by default I was faster than her. I knew I would shake her eventually, but I was annoyed. Shame on her!

Another lap of this, and I was pissed. I deliberately sat up and braked - something I would NEVER do - and she sailed by. I watched her pedal off into the distance and wondered how long it would be until I caught up again. Shortly, I passed Nathaniel and took the opportunity to vent: I pointed at her, looked at him, gave her the finger, pointed again, and then flashed the "thumbs down" sign to him. He just looked confused (as though my signal wasn't clear! Ha!)

Within a few minutes, I passed her and again settled into my rhythm. Only to have her pull up next to me and say, "Boy my legs are KILLING me." I didn't even respond, and instead took a glance at my computer. Yes - 23+ mph when you can't sustain that WILL make your legs hurt I thought to myself.

And then she kept riding ahead.

That was IT. The pleasantries were officially over. NO MORE BEING NICE. Up until then, I had made an effort to say something nice to each rider who passed me, or that I passed. I was also very vocal about yelling THANKS to the growing number of volunteers at the checkpoint. But this - this woman on green wheels - was beyond comprehension.

Maybe she didn't realize what she was doing. Perhaps this was HER race strategy.

I didn't know.

But when I finally dropped the hammer, I did it fast, hard, and with stealth. I put my head down and time trialed my ass off for five minutes. When I passed her I said nothing, did not glance her way, and refused to offer a smile. Yes - I felt like a bitch, but hey - no free rides! I didn't even waste the energy to peek behind me. Firstly, I didn't want to give her the pleasure and second, I had enough faith in my surge that I knew she couldn't hold on.

Honestly, I'm not normally a super aggressive person, but on the rare occasion when the mood strikes - WATCH OUT!

The final few laps were uneventful, and I'm happy to report that I felt stronger as the bike went on. The legs were still firing well, the body felt good, breathing was controlled, and I was (literally) counting down the laps until I could get OFF the island.

On my last lap, I let everything go and threw caution to the wind. The traffic had picked up and more and more cars were passing. I could see people playing in the water - both on jet skis and also in rowing boats - but I knew that there was NO OTHER PLACE THAT I WOULD RATHER BE.

I wanted to make sure that I had completed the 11 laps, and though some may think it foolish, I stopped at the volunteer table to make sure they had me down for 11 laps. Yes, I know I could have looked at the computer - but I just wanted to be sure.

They confirmed that I HAD completed all 11 loops and yelled that I should RIDE HARD back to transition. So I did my best, carefully navigating the stop signs and watching out for cars.

I could see one rider ahead and did my best to close the gap. He slowed for the stop signs and I did the same, all while yelling, "CLEAR!" at the top of my lungs. I think I confused him because he looked back at me. "It's okay!" I shouted. "No cars - keep going!"

Duh. Again - I felt like an idiot, and he just gave me a funny look.

Oh well.

Nearing transition, I downshifted and took the final few turns carefully. I made sure to keep the cadence high and spun out my legs. I felt really great about my bike ride and was now thinking about the run. Correction: was now thinking about not getting lost on the run.

Yeah.

I hopped off my bike and ran across the mat.

To Be Continued....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Let's GO!

Well, it seems surreal - almost - that I'm racing tomorrow. Yes, a change in plans has me toeing the line at the local San Diego Tri Club Half Ironman instead of the Lake Stevens 70.3. Which is totally great, absolutely fantastic! Rather than worrying about the stress of travel, airline fees, and post-race-sickness that tends to always happen when I fly, I decided the hometown race was simply the way to be.

I had mixed feeling about bagging Lake Stevens, though. I really DO love to travel, and having spent a good amount of time in the Pacific Northwest this past summer, I was eager to visit again. But with Kona rapidly approaching, I just didn't want to risk getting sick or a travel burnout.

So... the local Half Ironman proved to be too good to pass up!

And while I realize it's not a WTC/IM-brand event (YES - I'm OKAY with that! Support the local races!), there's also a bit of a grass-roots feel to this race that I'm downright excited about.

We're just going to race, just showing up to have a great time, to work hard, to push ourselves in ways we wouldn't normally in a practice. And yes, this is a RACE - but no one is concerned about getting a slot, and I have absolutely NO CLUE as to who (or is it whom?) I'm racing.

Which is totally fine - because I'm just going out there to have a great time, to really WORK, and to take risks that I wouldn't normally do in a super serious event. Race strategy? Well... I suppose swim like I'm not biking, bike like there's no run, and run like there's no tomorrow. How about that?

In all seriousness, I just want to throw caution to the wind, push myself, and throw down a great workout. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

Err.... but I would be SUPER excited if I manage to not get lost on the run course. With 60 participants and only 2 aid stations during a 13-mile loop, I'll do my very best to follow the people ahead and PAY ATTENTION to the markings on the ground.

Other than that - all bets are off.

One thing of interest: somewhere around miles 5 or 6, I'll be running past the San Diego Crew Boathouse. One a long long time ago, in (seemingly) a galaxy far far away, I used to row. Will it be tempting to jump into a boat? Who knows. One thing for sure - I'll be doing what I love, and as long as I don't get too lost on the way - I'll be happy.

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend! Let's go and have a BLAST!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It just hit!



The fear. Oh my God - I'm racing the Hawaii Ironman. And it's only ______ weeks away?

Wait! Do me a favor and don't answer that. Ignorance is bliss after all. I'll just leave the planning up to Jen, and wait until the magical date of October 10 pops up in my Training Peaks window.

Suffice to say, this is the furthest out that I've ever gotten pre-race jitters. Luckily they're small, and its only a few bathroom-inducing twinges. But in a few weeks, all bets are OFF.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

TRW

Totally Random Wednesday!

T: TABBITHA! (And yes, she ate herself into a frenzy and fell asleep.)

O: Overall great mood. YEA!

T: T-Bone. I wanted one, but had salmon instead. Somehow, just not the same.

A: ANABELLE! (such a lady!)

L: (I) Love Nathaniel

L: (I) Love the kitties (even if this is the closest they'll ever get)

Y: Yes, I CAN finish the workout at the designated pace! (Even if I want to throw up and think my arms are about to give out.)

R: RACING - this weekend! Bu not what I originally planned. Lake Stevens is OUT. Instead, replaced by a local Half Ironman put on by the San Diego Tri Club. Three Cheers for 1) sleeping in your own bed before and after a LONG race and 2) Post race Beer sampler!

A: Almost scared myself silly by catching a peek of Ghost Hunters. Not that I'm afraid of the dark or anything. I'm just afraid of what I KNOW is there, but that I can't see (hhhmmmmm.....this could be applied to open water swimming as well)

N: Nathaniel - what a guy. And we finally got around to putting away the Christmas Decorations (and no, we do NOT have Christmas lights on the porch. Anymore).

D: Dill! I sprinkled some on the salmon.

O: Open water swimming - will happen this weekend!

M: Mythbusters - is on in the background while I write. Nathaniel and Anabelle are captivated.

W: Wheat Thins (of the Tomato Basil Variety). I had a box last week. They were delicious. And they didn't last long. But I kind of want some now...hhhhmmmmmm

E: Energy! It's building, in anticipation of my race this weekend (SUNDAY!!!)

D: Darned Psoas. At Active Release Therapy yesterday, I nearly kicked my therapist in the groin as he released the tension. It was one of those "I'd rather be giving birth" moments that I don't recommend.

N: Nathaniel - still love the guy. How could I not?

E: Eeks! 10th high school reunion happened last weekend. I didn't go, but it got me thinking (always dangerous). If I could meet the girl that I once was - I would tell her to STAY EXACTLY THE SAME - because I really like how I've turned out (slightly awkward and all). But perhaps...err....to lay off the open faced Peanut Butter Sandwiches late at night.

S: Sugar, which I spilled in my attempt to re-fill the brown sugar bowl. Luckily the sink caught the most of it. But still - I need to work on my hand-eye coordination. Oh well.

D: Delightfully anticipating my bike intervals tomorrow (small cough). The puke bowl will be present.

A: AMC - BOTH Nathaniel and I are excited about Sunday's premiere of Season 3 "Mad Men". The writing is wonderful and I'm looking forward to this season.

Y: Yes, I realize I still have Alaska photos to upload - and they WILL be shared at some point. But...here's one of The Family. YEA!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tortoise and the Hare

An interesting thing happened during Master's swimming today. And before you cut me off, I DO realize that I've still got pictures to share (so yes - they are forthcoming...just not this post). But life - pictures and all - flows ever so swiftly forward.

I've noticed a few things about myself post-Ironman, that I could have never ever predicted. Well, perhaps I could, but I just didn't want to admit them.

The biggie?

I'm not fast. Okay - let me rephrase. I don't feel fast. There's a difference. And before you get into the semantics of it all: we ALL have different "fasts". (ahem). Someone else's slow is my fastest fast and my fastest fast is just a little too fast for someone's slow. Or fast.

Confused?

Don't be.

Because what it all boils down to, is the fact that I will forever rely on my Ironman mantra of "steady, solid, strong."

Somewhere I forgot "fast".

Oops!

Oh well - in a race such as Ironman - that's not always necessary (unless you've decided to "sprint" at the end. That's different).

In Masters Swimming - fast, along with steady, strong, and solid IS necessary. And essential.

Today was the kind of swimming workout that, on first glance, seemed cruel and unusual. Errr, difficult and hard. NOT the kind of workout you sprint or GO FAST for the first 500 or 800, because you would surely pay for it later.

The focus of the workout, starting with 1,000 meters of pulling and followed by a 2,000 meter main set dessert, was to sustain the same pace over nearly 3000 meters of various intervals. A brief break after the pull set to discuss the intervals of the main set was all we were granted.

I KNEW that strapping on giant paddles and pushing the pace during the pull set would be unwise. If anything, it would guarantee a spectacular, if not devastating, blow up during the even more challenging main set (with a chance of blowing out my shoulders in the process). And yes, while I love distance work - today's workout would be just as mentally tough as it was physically challenging.

Goody!

So I did what any smart, self-respecting Ironman-in-training, steady, solid, strong athlete would do: I moved somewhere to the middle and opted to not utilize paddles.

And yes, the pull set kicked my butt. Not because it was overly difficult - but because our lane leader had decided to 1) strap GIANT paddles to his hands 2) push the pace 3) play the game of 'how-many-people-can-I-drop-in-1,000-meters-holding-x:xx-base pace-but-swimming-:15-per-100-faster 4)all of the above.

If you choose 4, you would be correct.

300 meters into the pull set, the guy swimming ahead of me was laughing his head off, amused by our lane leader's antics. "He's going to blow big time, the Bastard!" And then he pushed off the wall, in desperate attempt to stay on Lane Leader's draft.

Somehow I managed to survive, but just barely. I was cursing under my breath, ticked that the LL Bastard had decided to (what felt like) race the pull set. But what could I do? I hadn't stepped up to the plate to lead the lane; instead I kept my mouth shut and pulled to the best of my ability (and our lane's base pace). Yeah, I had little draft - but I was steady, consistent, and slower than some.

But I got the work done and was (still) in the game.

During the main set, things got interesting.

Our esteemed Lane Leader decided that he wanted to continue leading the mainset. My amused friend swimming in spot #2 turned to me and said, "He won't last - you just wait!" while our LL Bastard pushed off the wall a few seconds early.

I (and the six people behind me) breathed a sigh of relief when Guy #2 pushed off when he was supposed to. All was well. And sure enough, not even 200 meters into the first piece of the mainset, I suddenly found myself on the feet of Guy #2, who was on the feet of LL Bastard. True to form, an early pull pace that had seemed so easy and effortless, had suddenly come back to hit our leader square in the respective rear end.

We coasted in, just making the split, and Guy #2 stepped up to lead while I assumed position #2. Another few hundred meters later, and I was falling off the pace - the set was HARD and the new lane leader is a ROCKSTAR swimmer (24-25 min 1/2 Ironman swim!! WOW). I moved a few places back and let someone else attempt to stay in his draft. The extra :10 did me good.

Unfortunately, LL Bastard slipped in ahead of me and took off before I could start in on the 4 X 100 descend. Oh well, I figured, I'll just do my best and wait it out.

And while I didn't descend the pace as much as I would have liked (in part because my "fast" is pretty much "steady"), LL Bastard blew up. Again. It was so awful, the (dare I say poor? because I really wasn't feeling that sorry for him) guy couldn't even finish the final 100, and then sat out another 200.

But I just kept swimming. And swimming. And swimming.

There were times when the workout was really tough, and I didn't know if I could make the next set, let alone the set in another x,xxx meters. But I just put my head down, ignored the speed demon rabbits at the beginning, and kept trucking along. Just call me the tortoise (and we ALL know how much I love turtles.)

Sure, the rabbits of the world may be a heckuva lot faster, but patience, being smart, steady, and strong is what worked for me in the end. And I made the entire workout - all 3,000 meters and all.

Take THAT you Waskly LL Bastard Wabbit!