Sunday, September 28, 2014

And another one!

I sure do love small races, especially close to home. It's not nearly as intimidating as the larger ones, especially when you're doing something outside your comfort zone.

Last weekend was my second triathlon, Tri Doc Georgetown Sprint. It wasn't a long race, but still about twice as long as the super sprint I did in August. 400 meter pool swim, 14 mile bike, 4 mile run. I had a general idea of how I wanted to do in this race, and I did want to be competitive since it was a small race, but most importantly I wanted to have fun and not be freaked out by the experience. I wanted to fall in love with triathlons.

Leading up to the race the weather forecast did not cooperate and it looked like rain was going to derail things for a second year in a row. But miraculously, the forecast cleared and the temps looked to be just about perfect for race morning, with a very minor chance of rain. The humidity would still kill me, but at least wet roads wouldn't.

I surprised myself for not having nerves leading up to the race, at least not bad ones. I really didn't get nervous until I pulled into the parking lot race morning. I was one of the first racers there (just the way I like it) and it was still dark out. But as more of my teammates arrived, my nerves faded and I got excited.

I was a bit unsure about where to place myself for the pool swim. My practice laps were about 30 seconds per 25 meters, but I know that I would need a few seconds every couple lanes to catch my breath and my goal was merely to be under 10 minutes. I placed myself by my friend Joe, whose goal was around 9 minutes. I wanted to be sure I wasn't faster or slower than anyone while swimming, but could wave someone ahead of me at the end of the lap if necessary. I was swimming better in the weeks leading up to the race and hoped to do well. The swimmers were started only 5 seconds apart, however, which was okay for about the first 10 people or so, but then as you got near my pace it quickly got congested. Within four laps, we were swimming 5 or 6 deep in each lane, but because we had to swim down and back in the same lane before moving to the next lane, we couldn't pass while swimming. We quickly piled up at the ends of the lanes and it got crazy. I tried to keep my breathing as even as I could, and even switched to backstroke for about a half lap just to calm down. I mostly swam unilaterally just to get more oxygen as I tried to avoid resting at all. When I was swimming, I was definitely swimming well (for me) and I hoped my time reflected that. I've never been happier to get out of a pool!

Teammate Joe and I heading into transition from the pool

I immediately was nauseous when I exited the pool and got into transition. I needed to throw up badly, but tried to concentrate on getting my bike gear on. Coach Christine was there cheering us on and telling us to suck it up and get out of transition. She really didn't want to hear my bitching! It felt like it took forever, but I was finally mounting my bike and getting the heck out of there. I drank some water, took several deep breaths, and slowly worked up to my racing speed on the bike. After about 2 miles or so, I was feeling much better and doing well with my speed. I did ride more conservatively than in my first triathlon since the humidity level was very high and it was a longer distance. I didn't want to go all out and then blow up on my run. My goal was to stick to around 18 miles an hour for as much of it as I could, and try to pick up speed for the last two or three miles. I saw Joe ahead of me, but figured there was no way I was going to catch him on that split.

Joe quickly got way ahead of me on the bike

The bike course was great. A few hills, but nothing too steep and a lot of downhills where we could pick up some speed. I got caught behind a car that was driving extremely slow with no room to pass while in the park at the end of the first loop and that frustrated me a bit. I had been riding well over 20 miles an hour on this stretch and had to slow down to avoid riding right into his bumper and he just wouldn't speed up or move over, despite three of us right behind him. He eventually did move and I tried to pick up my speed again. My first loop was solid, and I hoped to do my second loop in the same amount of time. I was having fun!

Bike loop 2 was mostly uneventful. I had to barf up the rest of the pool water (gross!!) and when I made the turn to head into transition, I saw my teammate (and age group competitor) Tiffany off her bike and cheering me on instead of racing like she was supposed to be. I asked her if she was okay and she told me to stop talking and get my butt into transition (yep, that's Tiffany). I had a decent transition but I knew it wasn't as fast as my first triathlon. I was definitely shakier. Joe was in there with me but exited before me, so I knew I'd have to hunt him down on the run portion. Tiffany was now right by transition yelling at me to get out of there and start running already (seriously, she and Christine are drill sergeants!).

Confused when I saw Tiffany cheering instead of racing

Trying to get my crap together while heading out of transition

As I started my run, Tiffany jogged beside me (in her flip flops!) and explained that she had missed a turn on the bike and gotten off course, so she pulled out of the race. I was so bummed for her as I knew she had been doing very well in the race. She was mad but seemed to still be in good spirits and was being an awesome cheerleader for the rest of us still racing. Joe was ahead of me on the run and it took me probably about a mile to catch up to him. My legs felt like lead in that first mile and I hoped they would loosen up and I could pick up some decent speed. I definitely didn't want to have to walk at all.

The run course was just as great as the bike course, mostly on dirt trails through San Gabriel Park, with one hill to contend with but nothing too difficult. It was two loops just like the bike course, and my spirits were very high as I finished the first loop, saw my friends and family, and had only 2 miles to go to complete my second triathlon. About a mile into the second loop Tiffany decides to run with me again, in her flip flops, and she would not let up on me! She kept telling me that if I was able to talk back to her then I needed to run harder. She's really quite mean! With less than a mile to go we saw teammate Barb ahead of us and now my goal, according to Tiffany, was to catch her. But Barb is a beast and she didn't seem to be getting any closer to me. By the time the finish line was in eyesight, I got pretty close but Barb crossed ahead of me and Tiffany ran back to find Joe, who I figured couldn't be far behind.

I don't know why I kept sticking my tongue out at the photographers

Crossing that finish line and seeing my friends and family was just amazing. Two triathlons under my belt! And I felt like I had done very well in this one. My swim was solid, although slightly terrifying, my bike loops were evenly paced and relatively strong, and I ran negative splits on the run. I really couldn't ask for anything more than that.

Shocking enough, I ended up being the 2nd overall woman finisher. Because Barb had started ahead of me, my finish time was a few seconds faster than her. But she's in her late 50s, so basically she's ridiculously awesome! I ended up winning my age group (although that wouldn't have happened if Tiffany hadn't gone off course!). The overall female finisher completely kicked my ass by over 5 minutes. If it was a bigger race, my placing would have been much much I said, small races are awesome!!

It wasn't easy, and the swim was frightening, and my lungs were screaming at me, and barfing on the bike wasn't exactly pleasant, but I had an absolute blast during this race. I am so excited about what next season has in store for me!

So now what are my friends saying to me?

"When does Ironman training start?"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

And now for today's lessons, boys and girls...

Many, many years ago when I worked in corporate America, my boss said something very wise during a team meeting. He wanted to make sure his new team understood how he liked to manage and that he always wanted honesty and openness.

He recalled a recent conversation he had with his college-age daughter. He had asked her whether or not she had had sex yet. Her response?

"Dad, don't worry, I've never had unprotected sex."

He did a double take. It wasn't really what he had expected to hear from her. But it made him realize something. If he wasn't prepared for the answer, then perhaps he shouldn't have asked the question. He went on to explain to the team that if he asks them a question, even a difficult one, to shoot straight with him. He wanted honesty no matter how difficult the truth might be. Needless to say, he gained a lot of respect from his team that day, and over 14 years later I still remember the lesson.

This week, I'm again reminded of this lesson. A friend was asked to choose between "A" and "B," and the person doing the asking clearly expected "A" to be the answer. Unfortunately for this person, my friend chose "B"....and now the questioner is left with a few broken pieces and probably several pissed off people.

Lesson 1 - if you're not prepared for the answer, don't ask the question.

Lesson 2 - if you issue an ultimatum, be prepared to lose.

However, it's not all drama and regret in these parts this week. I'm learning a couple lighthearted lessons as well and I'm trying to keep my chin up.

Lesson 3 - if a race is canceled due to weather one year, you can bet your ass the same weather will appear the next year. 

Oh, yes. What was supposed to be my very first triathlon was canceled last year due to a thunderstorm. Guess what's on tap for the same race this coming Sunday? You guessed it! Thunderstorms! I'm hoping that we get some clearing, but it'll be an exciting couple of days for sure. And I might not ever sign up for this race again.

Lesson 4 - when one thing falls apart, everything falls apart.

My right leg hates me. First plantar fasciitis, then an ITBS flare up, now my ankle is angry, all in the last few weeks. Good news is that the PF seems to be clearing and my IT band is loosening up with home therapy. But WTF is with my ankle? I felt the first twinges during the end of my run last Saturday, it had a few hiccups during Sunday's long run, was fine on Tuesday, but is now angry and making me slightly limp.


I didn't run today and will skip Saturday if I must to prepare for the race-that-will-be-canceled-Sunday, but seriously. It's annoying. Myofascial release therapy is thankfully scheduled for next week and I continue to treat myself at home, but clearly I've got some kind of imbalance that needs a little work. Or I could just amputate my right leg.

Any good lessons you've learned recently?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Trail Freakout and a Thank You

In October I'm running Ragnar Trail Hill Country, a 120 mile relay of teams of 8. My husband is on my team and I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun. But since it's trails, I figured I should probably get my trail legs under me again since it's been over a year since I ran on one.

This past Thursday I headed out to Goodwater Loop on Lake Georgetown, a trail I've run on many times before. It's pretty technical, but shaded, which is a must in summer after the sun comes up. When I arrived about 8:30 it was already into the 80s with high humidity. It would be a tough run for sure. The plan called for a 10K.

I started out slowly and tried to get used to the rocky trail. And when I say slow I mean really slow. I was very cautious about not twisting my ankles or falling and it definitely was making me tense up. I hoped I'd loosen up by about a mile into the run, but even mile 2 was very slow and very tense. There were so many huge bugs that kept running right into me, and lots of creatures making noise in the brush. Don't even get me started on the spider webs I kept running through. Talk about major heebie jeebies. During Mile 3 the weeds along the trail were very overgrown and all I kept thinking about was snakes.

After turning around 3.1 miles into the run I hoped I'd stop being so freaked out, but no....I never loosened up. The whole run was just kind of a mess. I had to walk a lot during the last couple miles because of how hot I was getting. I really just wanted it to be over.

The good thing is that I got time on my feet on the trail, which is what I needed. But I'm pretty sure next time I'll be dragging someone else with me so they can be the one to go through the spiderwebs.

I also wanted to take a moment to say thank you for the huge outpouring of love shown to me after my last blog post. I really let my true feelings show, in all their ugliness, and it was a difficult thing to do in the age of the "perfect social media life." I lost count of how many texts and private messages I received of people who are going through similar things and wanted to show support. I don't feel so alone. THANK YOU.