And the Training Months Tick By…July and mid-August Recap

Hmm. It’s been an interesting month. I don’t have a lot of time to go into too much detail about what’s been going on, but let’s recap:

 

-I went on a weeklong vacation to Waikiki with Erik. By day we hiked, ran, snorkeled, swam, surfed, boogey boarded, and by night we hopped skipped karaoke bars.
-I acquired two gnarly quarter-sized blisters on the bottom of both of my feet that prevented me from racing in Seafair.
-I rejiggered my tri training schedule (rather unsuccessfully) and my marathon training schedule (successfully).
-I’ve added P90X3 to my training repertoire and have been loving it! It’s been helping me a lot with my cardio output on my runs, and strengthening a lot of weak spots in my legs. Reminds me of when I was training with a personal trainer. I’m looking forward to adding some more Team Beachbody DVDs to my collection. They are intense but great!
-I finished out my first semester of grad school. There were tears and fussy nights, but I did it.
-Things at work are moving along.
-Bought a new mountain bike (taking it to Duthie Hill tomorrow with Alex!)
-Trying to get down to race weight on my old two gigantic salads a day diet (with tons of protein and snacks in between).
-I invested in way too many blender bottles.
-I keep exercising my control muscles. Look at all that candy at the office!
-I’m finalizing plans for my awesome ski trip to Niseko next February. Japow hereeeeee I come!

I’m still training for the Portland Marathon in October. I also have three sprint tris coming up in three consecutive weekends starting next Saturday. And still planning on a HITS triathlon in Palm Springs in December but I’m still majorly undecided as to which distance. I’m pretty sure I can pull a half IM again if I really focus on cycling and running (and I guess swimming too) after the marathon. Regardless, here’s my training plan for the next 1.5 months:

So, essentially life is full of work, grad school(s), training, fundraising, eating, and sleeping. And not much else. Until next time!

Monday Morning Stand Up: Seafair Weeks 6-7-8 + Portland Weeks 1-2-3 2014 Training

For lack of a better way to combine the concurrent training threads, I’m now officially lumping them both together in the headline. The last few weeks have been insanely bizarre. Not only is my sleeping schedule all over the map, but so is my schoolwork and work-work (because when you say it twice, it’s legit).

So my swimming activities are pretty much nil. Same goes with my biking. I’ve finally switched out all the batteries on my speed/cadence sensors and my heart-rate monitor so things should be paired and working well with the Bluetooth dongle and TrainerRoad. I tried riding to work and making it a habit but I find my messenger bag to be quite infuriating. It’s not really worth riding the few miles to and from at this stage. I think when I was still learning to ride it made more sense. I suppose it would make sense now so that I could get comfortable clipping in and out at stops and stuff, but for most of my races I will be riding long distances between clipping in and out anyways. (Maybe I’m just rationalizing myself out of riding to work?)

Week 6 Seafair Sprint Tri/Week 1 Portland Marathon Training:

Monday, June 16: 4.08 mile run, 0.5 mile swim

Tuesday, June 17: Rest day

Wednesday, June 18: 4.06 mile run

Thursday, June 19: Rest day

Friday, June 20: 4.02 mile run

Saturday, June 21: 8 mile run

Sunday, June 22: Rest day

Week 7 Seafair Sprint Tri/Week 2 Portland Marathon Training:

Monday, June 23: Rest day

Tuesday, June 24: 4.68 mile run

Wednesday, June 25: 2.05+1.54 mile bike commute, 5.22 mile run

Thursday, June 26: 1.41 mile bike commute, 4.02 run

Friday, June 27: 10.09 mile run…before work

Saturday, June 28: Five Mile Lake Tri, which served as a season dress rehearsal – 0.25 mile swim, 14 mile ride, 3.1 mile run

Sunday, June 29: Rest day

Week 8 Seafair Sprint Tri/Week 3 Portland Marathon Training:

Monday, June 30: Rest day

Tuesday, July 1: Rest day

Wednesday, July 2: 4.88 mile run

Thursday, July 3: 5.01 mile run

Friday, July 4: 6.84 mile hike up Mt. Si, probably one of the most challenging hikes I’ve completed this season

Saturday, July 5: Rest day

Sunday, July 6: 5.67 mile run around Green Lake during one of the hottest days of the year

Week 9-10 training resolutions:

-I resolve to use my vacation as a partial jumpstart to my tri training. I would actually argue that it is way too late, but I’m going to aim for it anyways. I’ll continue my marathon training and try to add swimming during my leisure downtime and maybe wake up early to run and jump on a spin bike at the Waikiki 24 Hour Fitness. (I don’t think I’ll be renting a bike this time so this is my next best and free alternative, since I already have a membership.)

-I resolve to do as much swimming in Hawaii 5 out of 7 days, with a half-mile minimum. The clear and shallow water will be good for me. I can practice dodging humans and form while working on my tan. And since I’ll have to swim in open water without a wetsuit, it’ll help me regain some of that alignment I may have lost in all of the time I’ve spent out of the water.

-I resolve to ride on my trainer while doing my reading (as much as it is possible for me to still comprehend my reading and still focus on the workout). I would like to get at least 2 rides in while I am still in town, and to ride 4 times in the early mornings while in Hawaii.

-I resolve to continue with my marathon training plan, but giving myself permission to drop one of the easy/short runs, or to break up the weekly long run with half-run sandwiches (splitting a 12 miler between 2 consecutive 6 milers)

What’s really important is that Seafair will be the weekend I return from Hawaii, so it is really important that I at least get *half* of my resolved sessions in. AT. LEAST. I’m sure I’ll survive. I think I will. I think I can!

Lessons learned from the last three weeks:

-Respect the distance: Just because you’ve done the distance before, it doesn’t mean you can attempt the distance (comfortably) without the training. During my last race/open water swim I seriously thought I was down for the count. I’ve never flagged down a safety kayak but I did that morning. I ended up making it out of the water just fine but seriously…I can’t let that happen again. It’s a safety hazard at that point. I need to get in the training if I expect to be able to finish these races comfortably.

-Train before your brain knows what’s going on: Making things dead simple and automatic is the name of the game. You perform what you practice, so take the brainpower out of practice by scheduling everything in advance (as much as possible) so that you can focus on execution. This became apparent to me on race morning when I got my gear ready at the last minute (instead of laying everything out the night before) and then being at a loss of how to fuel before the race (since I’ve made it a habit to train in the morning on an empty stomach). It’s one thing to be self-aware…it’s a completely different story to self-correct.

-If you can’t get the little things right, you can’t achieve the bigger things: Seriously…fueling issues? Can’t get my swim training in? How do I expect to ever finish a 140.6 if I can’t nail the little simple things? 140.6 miles is no joke, and it’s a dream I’ve been chasing for years at this point. If I want to go for it, I’ll need to prove that I can stick to something consistently and get the training in. The more I fumble on these little things, the more the bigger goals are out of reach.

Humble brags from the last three weeks:

-Nailing an A-average across both of my grad school classes, despite my insane schedule

-Getting most of my marathon training in, on point and on schedule

-Still cognizant and self-correcting on my triathlon training mishaps

-Actively trying to make better eating choices, going to begin logging my food intake again

-Still managed to finish a triathlon, even though I had some pretty severe highs and lows during the race

-Raised $215 for my Stand Up To Cancer fundraiser in the first week

2014 Charity Fundraising Announcement: Stand Up to Cancer

Hi folks! It’s that time of year again were I announce my fundraising efforts for the 2014 racing season. Since I have (haphazardly) already finished my first race of the season (with at least seven more to go between now and December) it’s time to unveil my charity of choice this year…

A couple of years ago, I was tested for cervical cancer and received a false positive. The week between receiving the erroneous results and the final results were one of the most nerve-wrecking times of my life. I spent most of that week getting my financial affairs in order, and considering how I’d break the news to people who were closest to me in case the biopsy came back positive. When I received the final negative test results, I felt relieved but I knew deep down inside that not everyone got that second (or third or fourth) lease on life.

Since then, I’ve met a handful of survivors and known of friends and family/friends of friends who have been negatively impacted by cancer. The survivors I know are incredibly resilient and strong people. In honor of those people who are still fighting it today, and in memory of the people who have lost their struggle, I dedicate my 2014 triathlon fundraising season to them. Here are my first 10 people I will be honoring this race season:

  1. Garland
  2. Cardoni
  3. McNamara
  4. McCormick
  5. Repp
  6. Appiah
  7. Kiraz
  8. Schultz
  9. Harvey
  10. Wang

As an added twist to this year’s fundraiser, I will race with the last names of people who are still fighting or have lost their fight to cancer temporarily tattooed to me throughout the season. For each donation, donors can specify a last name to add to my list.

I’m hoping you’ll join me on my triathlon journey this year, and help me fundraise and reach my $2,000 goal by December 6, 2014.

Thanks again for all of your continued support!

Week 4+5 Seafair Sprint Tri Training: Just Show Up

It seems like the weeks just zoom on by. Less than a month to Hawaii…and a month and a few days until Seafair. Oy vey! I’ve been pushing the distances a bit, presumably testing to see if I could even be ready for the Olympic distance instead of a sprint. I think it’d be a really big stretch but I think it’s possible. Should I go for the sprint distance still? Or upgrade to the Olympic? These are the thoughts that plague me. Small potatoes. I can’t even seem to get any swims in, so maybe an Olympic is still too ambitious. Maybe this week I could focus on getting more swims in. Who knows? What does it matter? Why can’t I just swim/bike/run? I like hiking so much. Can I substitute my long runs with long hikes? I’m just conditioning my legs right? (The answer is wrong, by the way.)

The theme of my last few weeks is ‘Just show up.’ I guess that’s pretty similar to ‘Just do it’ but there’s a different sentiment to it. A few years ago I took a meditation class and the lesson for us that day was that you could effect a pretty big shift in dynamics by just showing up. Your mere presence can make a difference to someone else. Or sometimes, all you have to do is just show up for yourself — as is the mentality with my training. I’m showing up to reach my goals, incrementally.

Today was one of those days where that lesson of ‘Just show up’ reared its head. I was laying in bed last night (Saturday evening) and browsing a local triathlon meetup group here in town. I’ve been feeling a bit blasé about cycling lately (nothing less than 15 miles is worth getting dressed for….?) so I wanted a change…I wanted to ride outside instead of riding on my trainer, which has been getting incredibly boring. I knew that I was too caught up in my head about cycling in the city ever since Ron’s accident, so I decided to follow a route I saw on meetup just south of Seattle. I got everything prepped, set my GPS, and headed out on my adventure of the day.

On the ride, I thought a lot about my reticence to ride outside more often. I thought a lot about how silly it was to think I could forget how to use my clipless pedals. (Turns out that I still remember how to use them!) It felt great having the wind in my face and it was a beautiful day out. However, the trail was eerily quiet. I remember seeing that there was a 50% chance of thunderstorms and figured that I would just chance it. Only chumps stay at home, right?! It was pretty nice for the first third of the ride. I saw a group of long-haired touring cyclists on the road with panniers and sleeping bags. I envied their lack of compression gear and clipless pedals and the way their hair flowed in the wind with a touch of “I don’t give a fuck.” It was nice. We exchanged pleasantries on and off as we passed each other and took breaks. I thought a lot about forgetting my RoadID and riding across railroad tracks. Always perpendicular, never parallel. I’ve seen too many cyclists crash on rainy days in Seattle and I’ve done my fair share of reading about riding in wet weather.

A few sprinkles came down. Didn’t seem like a big deal. My jacket was waterproof. I would actually tag it as water resistant at best, because when someone turned on the firehose I was soaked TO THE BONE. I knew that if I stopped for too long I’d definitely get cold so I made it a point to keep pedaling, no matter how slow I was going. At some point the Interurban Trail signs switched from Tukwila to Kent to Auburn, and even though I didn’t make it to the city center, I decided to turn back around. I was getting tired and I knew that 1) I still had homework to do when I got home and 2) I could always come back for another ride on another weekend. No big deal. On my way back I managed to fumble while clipping out of my pedals…uphill again…and so I crashed. I was about 20 yards shy of oncoming traffic. Some pedestrian trotting along with his umbrella made eye contact but since I got up just fine he kept moving. I have a small cut in my palm and it’s still a bit more, but it beats shattering a shoulder.

I pedaled back towards home base. All I could feel was the squish in between my toes. I felt like I was swimming with my bike. I was soaked from head to toe. I don’t have any fenders on my bike so I was pretty sure that I was getting pretty dirty. At least I finally learned how to ride clipless, otherwise the ride would’ve been really dangerous on slick medal pedals. I kept going and then in my field of vision I saw a downed cyclist. He had faceplanted into a railroad crossing that happened to pop out from a turn and he was lying in a small pool of his own blood. I saw his bike to his side and an oncoming train, so I rushed to clip out of my bike and signal the train conductor to stop. After ensuring I got the conductor’s attention, I turned my focus on the rider. I asked him how he was doing and if I could help. Moved him off the tracks and saw that he was in pretty bad shape. Didn’t look like he had any broken bones and he seemed to stand okay. We moved his bike to the side and the train took off. I stayed with the rider since he seemed like he was pretty shaken up. I handed him my water bottle so that he could clean up his face and mouth a bit since he was bleeding a lot. It seemed really painful but nothing life threatening. I saw that he broke his tooth so I went back to see if I could find the fragment. Nothing.

I went back to him and asked if someone knew he was out riding. I asked if he knew someone that could come get him and if he knew that number by heart, and he said yes. I tapped out the phone number and dialed. His girlfriend was understandably frantic but I tried to assure her that he was banged up but nothing life threatening, and that we would need her to come pick him up. I moved him away from the scene (we were at a weird part of the trail that was inaccessible by vehicles but somehow navigable by every single train car south of Seattle) to somewhere more quiet and along the road so that it would make for an easier pick up. There, he cleaned up some more and we chatted a bit. I tried to keep him calm but he was obviously very scared and the shock and adrenaline was beginning to wear off for him. His girlfriend peeled into the parking lot, threw his bike into the backseat, loaded him into the car, and headed off to the emergency room and I headed back on my way.

In hindsight, I was glad that I turned on my GPS. I generally track all of my workouts live with RunKeeper, and recently I had downloaded the RoadID companion app for the safety beacon feature. A couple of times during the whole ordeal the safety beacon countdown timer began beeping and it gave me assurance that if I were ever met with a fate like this rider, that someone would know that something went wrong. I really shouldn’t have forgotten my RoadID and will probably never forget it ever again after a day like today. ‘Just show up’ had a whole new meaning after today. It’s one thing to be on course while helping a fellow racer with dehydration, like during my last Seafair triathlon. It’s another thing to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right training to help.

Speaking of which, I should really look into the wilderness first aid classes. That was something I wanted to do this summer. With all of these hikes and future backcountry/sidecountry skiing I plan on doing, it is always better to be prepared.

Week 4 Seafair Sprint Tri Training:

Monday, June 2: Rest

Tuesday, June 3: 5k run/39:47

Wednesday, June 4: 10k run/1:25:24

Thursday, June 5: Rest

Friday, June 6: 5k run/38:16

Saturday, June 7: 3.16 mile hike/1:07:28

Sunday, June 8: 5k run/41:24

Week 5 Seafair Sprint Tri Training:

Monday, June 9: Rest

Tuesday, June 10: Nothing 🙁

Wednesday, June 11: Nothing, again. Work and school got really busy!

Thursday, June 12: Nothing 🙁

Friday, June 13: Feeling like a lame duck

Saturday, June 14: Make up a week of sloth with a killer 7-mile hike up Poo Poo Point. Will definitely hike this one again. This was a great workout, and the view was pretty spectacular! Need some better shoes or insoles…I could feel it in my knees on the way down. Definitely don’t want to feel those twinges ever again in my legs.

Sunday, June 15: Had my explorer helmet on and went for a nice long ride along the Interurban Trail, from Tukwila to Auburn and back. I will definitely make this a recurring route. I really liked it!

Week 2+3 Seafair Sprint Tri Training: Stay Overzealous, Friends

Hi party people! Four weeks in to my new training regimen and I’m feeling good. Still squeezing workouts into random time pockets in my calendar but at least I feel like things are somewhat back to normal. Week 2 was particularly momentous because I got some wonderful news: my fracture was completely healed up, and I received my long-awaited Bia! Woo-hoo!

Because my fracture was all healed up, I took to the streets and trails to make up for some lost time. Hence, I haven’t been biking and swimming as much as I should be. Running is just so convenient…all I do is lace up and head out. I suppose with my bike on the trainer it is still sort of like that. My swims are at odd hours of the day, mostly because of my work and school schedule. So far 2am has been the best time to catch some laps at my local pool. It’s okay though. Even though my training is not as regimented as seasons past, I think I can still forgive myself because I’m really still just getting back into the swing of things.

So far the odd scheduling is working for me: work during the day, go to sleep immediately when I get home from work. Wake up at around midnight. Maybe head in for a swim or get cracking on my schoolwork. Try to catch some sleep by 5am. Wake up at 7, get some training in, and then head to work again. Weekends are for resetting the sleep schedule and hiking during the day. I’m really beginning to appreciate my decision of sticking with sprint triathlons this year…it’s really opening up my schedule for school and for all the hiking I missed out on last year. Maybe I can finally have it all…?

I think what’s most confusing about me is that I focus on so many things simultaneously. I can’t choose one sport…I choose five. I have so many simultaneous goals and aspirations that it’s hard for me to give my time accordingly. Also, it really cuts out time for socializing, which I think is semi-okay, since the people I want to spend my time with will have similar interests anyways and will join me on some of these excursions! I just sent out a save the date for my December San Jacinto Peak hike. Still keeping my tri goals in check. Ever excited about skiing Niseko next winter. This girl can’t choose just one sport. (Believe me, I’ve tried.) So, I guess the only alternative is to do it all. Be overzealous. Always have a reach goal — something that causes you to stretch out of your comfort zone, something a little more difficult than what you want to take on. It is in that discomfort zone that the magic happens. Been there…and I want to be there again.

Hiking Cougar Mountain

Week 2 Seafair Sprint Tri Training:

Monday, May 19: Rest day

Tuesday, May 20: 11.25 miles cycling on the indoor trainer/45 minutes

Wednesday, May 21: 3.17 mile run. My first run in eons. My fracture-is-finally-healed victory run!

Thursday, May 22: 3.2 mile run. Still feeling good.

Friday, May 23: 3.56 mile run. Okay, maybe a bit overzealous. Legs are getting really tired at this point but I don’t really care because I get to run!

Saturday, May 24: 11.25 miles cycling on the trainer

Sunday, May 25: 2.81 mile hike at Cougar Mountain, Shangri-la Trail

Week 3 Seafair Sprint Tri Training:

Monday, May 26: Memorial Day weekend called for back-to-back hikes. 3.83 miles up Poo Poo Point trail. It was really steep for our level so we backed out. Will definitely go back soon!

Tuesday, May 27: That steep hike really kicked my butt. It kicked my butt so hard that my hamstrings were totally shot. Tried to head out for a run and only made it up the street and back. 0.46 mile run.

Wednesday, May 28: Tried to run again. 0.42 miles. Still hurting. Still icing and rolling. I hop on the bike instead for half an hour, 7.5 miles. (I killed my time going out for that test run so I couldn’t bike as long.)

Thursday, May 29: Squeezed in a 0.5 mile swim. Quick and efficient. Still hovering around the 20-minute mark. Would like to continue working on this and work my way down to 15 minutes. I wonder if I should even bother with a wetsuit for a sprint tri. I guess it depends.

Friday, May 30: 1.01 mile run. Hamstrings are mostly on the mend but are still a bit sore. Decided not to push it so that I could bank my recovery for weekend hiking.

Saturday, May 31: 3.74 mile hike at Cougar Mountain

Sunday, June 1: Today, I haven’t headed out yet…but will probably hike Tiger Mountain or Cougar Mountain, hopefully something in the 3-4 mile range.

Lessons learned this week (and last):

-Don’t go too hard too fast. My hamstring is still kind of annoyed with me. My heart has more endurance than my body — that’s a fact that I need to accept. Gradual adaptation is best.

-Balance and harmony is everything. If I’m not feeling a workout, it is better to stop early than it is to push myself and get injured. Personally, my injuries come from when I’m not paying attention. I rarely slack.

-Have goals in mind, but follow where your heart leads. My goals are an Olympic triathlon and a summit at the end of the year, but right now I want to focus more on running and hiking. That’s okay. I know that I won’t perform as well in the swimming or biking portion for now but it is a trade-off I am willing to make.

-Training slows down life just enough so that I appreciate my surroundings and the people I am with. Life moves at such a hectic pace, and training really allows me to slow down and regroup for a few small chunks of time. This time is sacred to me. I don’t get to experience the holistic picture of my life in front of a computer screen, at a bar, or with my nose in a book. I get to experience it when I unplug and explore my surroundings and my limits.

Sunset over Lake Union

-One of these days I’ll actually have to swim a bit more consistently. And I’ll have to do some practice swims out in Lake Union, just to make sure that I haven’t forgotten how to swim in open water.

-I need to take my bike off the trainer. There’s a park nearby — Interlaken Park — that is supposed to be wonderful for cycling. I can always hit the Burke-Gilman though. There’s just so many tree roots in the way.

So, on that note…onwards to week 4+5…Seafair awaits!

Week 0+1 Seafair Sprint Tri Training: Making Time for Priorities

I reached a point of terminal velocity with my schedule where I had somehow managed to wriggle out of all physical activity. (How did it ever come to that?!) Obviously my schedule had run amok and it was time to whip it back into shape. A 40-50-60-70-80 hour work week be damned — if I were going to delay my Ironman dreams yet again for another launch then at the very least I’d better get some mental breaks (and not to mention a few races) on my calendar.

So it started with another challenge again. Guy-that-I’m-dating (we’ll call him E) and I decided that enough was enough and that we needed something to keep ourselves honest to our goals. It’s one thing to say that something is a priority…it’s a completely different thing to make the time for it and to commit to it.

Our bet went something like this:

A: Hey, I’m tired of not going to the gym.

E: Yeah, I’m tired of not getting any time to run.

A: So let’s make a bet. Let’s make it a goal to SHOW UP at our scheduled workouts at least three times a week.

E: (Details are getting fuzzy…)

A: Loser cooks for the other. Deal?

E: Deal!

And so began our challenge. At the beginning of the challenge, I went ahead and purchased a sprint tri training plan. I didn’t have any time or brainpower to come up with a plan myself, or to add it in to TrainingPeaks or Google Calendar. So I found a decent 8-week plan that’ll whip me into shape for a sprint tri somewhere in July and I went for it. So far so good…I’m trying not to miss any workouts but it still happens. (Legitimate excuse: I got sick over the weekend!) And trying to cram in an hour to go to the gym is harder than it looks when you’re jugging a pretty intense workload at your day job and a few grad school classes. (My second one started this week. Eeeeeeeeeeee!)

Week 0 Seafair Sprint Tri Training:

Thursday, May 8: 17 minute/0.5 mile swim, 40 minute/10 mile indoor trainer ride. I’m sucking wind in the pool!

Saturday, May 10: 20 minute/0.5 mile swim, followed by 35 minute/2.47 mile elliptical run

Sunday, May 11: 20 minute/0.5 mile swim

Week 1 Seafair Sprint Tri Training:

Monday, May 12: Rest day

Tuesday, May 13: 40 minute/10 mile indoor trainer ride

Wednesday, May 14: 45 minute/4.1 mile elliptical run

Thursday, May 15: 45 minute/11 mile indoor bike ride, followed by a 15 minute/1.5 mile elliptical run

Friday, May 16: Out sick

Saturday, May 17: Out sick

Sunday, May 18: Reward – 4.29 mile hike at Rattlesnake Ledge

Lessons learned this week:

-Just because I can’t reach my A goals this year (Ironman + Grand Canyon hike) it doesn’t mean that they are forever off my plate. It just means that they are rescheduled.

-Always pick alternate goals in lieu of the major ones in case you can’t make them for sure. I will aim for an Olympic-distance tri in Palm Springs in December and couple that with summiting San Jacinto Peak in the same trip. So technically I still get an A-race and a major hike in this year. All in all I feel like I’m winning!

-Grad school and work is not enough of an excuse to not exercise. I’m at my best when I have a training/race goal. I know that. I need to design my lifestyle around my needs too, not just around other people’s needs.

-Finding zen in a shorter race will be difficult. I’ve had my sights set on an Ironman for so long. I need to make do with the time I have. I don’t have a lot of time for training through the rest of the year so I will take any level of triathlon participation I can get.

-Rewards work! I was looking forward to my hike all week and would’ve been bummed if I didn’t get to do it.

Looking forward to a fantastic 2nd week of training!

It All Works Out In My Favor

So with this broken leg still a’healing, and my free time at an absolute black market premium nowadays, I’ve considerably scaled back my Ironman goals this year. There is simply not enough time to get in the requisite base training at this point for me to comfortably tackle a full 140.6 event by year’s end.

So, what exactly does that mean?

As you may already know, I’m not really one to throw in the towel. The goal hasn’t changed…but perhaps the milestones and timeline have. Here’s the thing: triathlon is who I am. It’s in me. It’s like my little black dress: I wear it with pride, it looks great on me, and it makes me happy. It doesn’t matter what distance I get to swim, bike, and run, so long that I get to do it in succession and to finish with a smile on my face.

That said, I’ve scaled back my goals to the sprint distance for the rest of the year. Except for my last event, which is still the HITS Palm Springs Championship. Maybe I can work my way up to Olympic or Half-IM again. Not sure if it would be worth taking the time off and traveling with my bike for such a short event, but that’s neither here nor there right now.

I’ve had trouble wrapping my brain around racing sprints again, mostly because they don’t seem worth my time. But take a look at that sentence again. How arrogant and presumptuous of me. I used to aspire to a sprint! Since when am I beneath a sprint triathlon? There is so much room for improvement — my times could be way better, I could focus on form. A shorter race means less time for recovery, which will be great with my heavy workload. A shorter event gives me just enough time to train since, again, my free time is at a black market premium at the moment. I don’t even know the first thing about putting together a sprint tri plan. How many hours a week should I be training? What are the miles like? Shorter training times means less excuses to NOT go to the gym, easier to fit brick workouts into a workday. I can work on speed and form. And, for some reason, shorter distances also seem to get me into better shape. It’s at the longer distances that I seem to overcompensate for my training and I end up eating more than I burn anyways, which defeats a few of my purposes for racing and training for triathlons.

My broken leg isn’t the only reason for scaling back my Ironman goals though. Work will be guaranteed crazy through the end of the year, so I will be pretty swamped there. I also got in to the human-computer interaction graduate program over at Iowa State earlier today, so hopefully I’ll start classes in a few weeks. I’m already starting my marketing class (went back to another school too to finish my masters) so with two concurrent grad school programs and a full-time job, my free time is *really* at a premium. I need to spend my time wisely, so I think sprint tris are still the way to go. I’ll still get to do what I love, at the distance that I originally fell in love with. And I get to go to school. And I get to push my limits at work. It’s all this delicately amazing experience, when you think about it.

All I know is that there will always be another Ironman…another marathon…another ultramarathon. There will always be another lofty goal to chase. I guess it all works out in my favor.

Race Recap: 2013 HITS 70.3 Championship Palm Springs

It is not everyday that you can say that you had a perfect race…but I had the most perfect race that anyone could have dreamed of!

Mind you, a part of this journey included: a (minor) black eye, a painfully popped blister on my pinky toe, 30MPH gusts of headwind and crosswind, and a potential bout of dehydration.

Regardless, it was still a flawlessly executed race.

The night before a new distance, I get incredibly nervous and anxious. They say that sleep the night before a race is pretty much a write off. From experience I know that to be true. I got plenty of sleep during the two nights prior, but during the night before my race I woke up every hour, on the hour, between 10pm and 3am. I eventually gave up on sleeping and got up to head out to the race.

I left my hotel at around 4:30am and got to the race site in record time. I snagged an awesome parking spot, steps from the start, and headed to transition to set up my gear. I had a separate bag packed for the changing tent, which was a totally new experience for me. All of my races prior to this were in warm months, so I was used to being able to continue racing with a tri-suit. The weather was way too cold for that this time around, so I had to put on proper cycling clothes. 56 miles is too long of a leg to tough out cold weather! (For me, at least.)

After things were neatly set up, I snuck back to the warmth of my car. I brought my music with me, so I spent some time trying to get into the zone. By the time 6:20am rolled around, I decided that it was time to wriggle into my wetsuit and to drop off my jackets and windbreakers at transition. The plastic bag technique ensured that I didn’t spend an hour sweating into my suit or getting too frustrated.

Afterwards, I headed lakeside to get some practice in, and before I knew it, I was ashore for final announcements!

My heart nearly leapt out of my body when we watched the men swim off at the sound of the horn. I high fived a girlfriend who was also racing, and when our horn went off, it was game time. At the sound of the horn, all anxieties melted away and I set out to execute on the plans I’ve made during training…no deviations, not pushing out too hard — just doing everything exactly to plan. The night before the race, I did one last mental rehearsal and wrote out, step by step, how I was going to execute my race. It helped to review that in my head leading up to the race. This was also something I practiced for Ironman Louisville, so it wasn’t new to me.

The swim was a mass beach start. Maybe 250 or so females got in at the same time, so for all intents and purposes it was not as crowded as it could have been. The swim was two loops, with the first half of each loop along the shoreline and the latter half of each loop in the deep end. Swimming in the shallow end was interesting. Every once in awhile when I tried to sight (navigate) into the sunrise! I saw people standing and walking. Needless to say, it was strange and distracting, but not as much as the blinding sunlight. (Next time I’ll be sure to opt for tinted swim goggles!) I kept my head underwater as much as I could to focus on my breath and form and before I knew it, I glanced up and spotted a buoy about two feet in front of me. My reaction time was a bit slow but I swam into this large metal anchor, which proceeded to ram itself into my goggles. It completely startled me. I felt around for blood and maybe a crack in the goggles. Nothing. I pressed my goggles back on and continued swimming.

After the ten foot buoy (which, by the way, totally blocked out all that blinding sunlight!) I took a sharp turn and continued down the next set of buoys. At each buoy, a group of swimmers would realign themselves around it, effectively creating an environment akin to a washing machine. Aside from these momentary churns, the water was relatively calm, and definitely not as frigid as the other racers made it seem. (Thanks, Lake Union and Puget Sound!) The water was a beautiful shade of aquamarine, and I spent a good deal of time admiring it while managing my swim.

And then the evil thoughts came creeping in. What was I doing? Why was I breathing on only one side? Had I trained enough? What would happen if I just stopped racing? What were my alternatives? As my mind looked for an escape, I reined in my emotions and began thinking through my list of mile dedications. I wasn’t even 1.2 miles into the swim yet and I began thinking of my mom, and eventually the charity that I dedicated the swim to, RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network). I thought to my earliest memory of sexual assault at the age of six. I thought about the long ten years I endured from my attacker. Just like then, I knew that I was in the deep end now, and that the only way out of this challenge was to work through it. I had too much on the line — the support of my donors, my closest friends who made it out to the race, but most importantly, I had something to prove to myself. I got my mind under control, began breathing bilaterally again, and zoomed past the other racers.

So, two loops around the lake completed my distance for the morning. It was interesting having to run up on shore only to get back into the water. Indeed it was strange, but it was actually kind of nice being able to take a quick breather before continuing. As I finished my first loop, I thought to myself “Awesome! Only 50% more to go!” (Breaking up the distance would be a mind game that I would continue playing all day long.) Taking the second loop around, I knew what to expect and worked it to my advantage.

Reach, pull, reach, pull, reach, breathe, pull, sight, repeat. I kept going and before I knew it, I was running up the beach on my way to T1. I headed over to the changing area and managed to wriggle out of my wetsuit and into my thermal cycling kit, headed over to T1 to fuel up, and head out.

The first mile of the bike was also interesting. I wasn’t too disoriented but my feet were frozen cold. I couldn’t really get a feel for where my feet were, if they were clipped in, or if they were even on the pedals, so I dismounted my bike. I came upon a small hill and went ahead and took the liberty of walking up it since I didn’t want to fall or crash or do anything stupid because of something so minor. Once I got to the top, I shook out my feet a bit, slapped my calves around, and headed out on a long ride. In the first mile outside of the park, the road was quite narrow and the pavement was a bit bumpy. Per the race instructions, I took it incredibly slow, fluttering my brakes the entire time. The street eventually widened up and I loosened my death grip on my brakes.

I was incredibly thankful for having done that short test ride the other day. It really mentally prepared me for the scenery and change in terrain. Don’t get me wrong — the course was primarily flat, but the pavement quality changed frequently, and there were landmarks and winds to get comfortable with. The ride was pretty, in its own way — flat lands, scenic mountains, palm tree farms, kale farms. No wild dogs on the course as I had previously feared. For the entire bike leg, I had company — between 3 to 7 racers at any given time. We took turns passing each other, cheering each other on, and more.

One of my best friends, Kaylee, managed to pull together a cheer station of other random lookyloos. I recognized her car, and her, but no one else. At first I thought that maybe I was so tired that I was already spacing out, but no, it turned out that I genuinely didn’t recognize anyone there. It was helpful having her before the turnaround, which meant I saw her three times before she had to bail. (The bike portion was also a two-loop course.)

At the last turnaround point, I decided to dismount for just a minute to take in some gels and to drink some water. The last leg would surely be a challenges, and I didn’t want some of the basic physiological things to get in the way. I knew I’d be in for a mental challenge. I quickly glanced at my phone for the first time to see that I was making excellent time, and that I would definitely not get sweeped from the race. In a cheerful and chipper mood, I mounted my bike, clipped in, and rode off. The winds were surprisingly absent from this portion of the ride, so I knew that I’d better not coast. After all, just like life, there is calm before the storm. I increased the intensity and cadence, knowing very well that the end of this rather comfortable ride was near…and I was right.

I’d say I was about five miles out from the finish, when the wind finally picked up. The wind whipped me back and forth a bit. It wasn’t quite sure which direction it wanted to blow. I was, more than anything, scared that I would get blown off my bike and into oncoming traffic. Alex had told me the night before that the chances of that happening, with my smaller bike frame and all, were pretty slim. I hung on to that thought with a sliver of faith and pedaled on. I turned my last corner near the residential area and knew that the roads would be well maintained, but I did not anticipate the dust storms and the gusts of wind coming off of the base of the mountains.

This was the hardest part of the race, hands down. The sidewalk blocks creeped along, rather than flying by like during the last fifty miles of my ride. I thought about the merits of dismounting my bike and just walking through the windstorms. I cursed at the wind, quite literally, not yelling too loudly in an effort to conserve what little energy I had left to push through. I tried some positive self-talk and some inner singing as well, and when I ran out of juice (demoralization really drains it out of you) I thought back to my dedication list. My brain was mostly disorganized so instead of trying to remember everyone, I went through a mental slideshow of faces and thought about what each person meant to me. (Admittedly, a few people flashed in my mind more than once.) I thought about Diana Nyad’s mantra (“Find a way”) and James Lawrence’s mantra (“I get to ride my bike”) and so, through the power of crowdsourced motivation, I made it back to T2 in one glorious piece.

Lots of bikes were already racked. I think the guy next to me had already completed the race. He saw me coming in and I wonder if I looked disoriented or something but he began helping me try to rack my bike. It didn’t require much precision and as thankful as I was to have an extra set of hands, it was exactly that…an extra set of hands that I couldn’t manage. I sat down to peel off my bike shoes and took the liberty to change into a fresh pair of running socks. So cushiony! So luxurious! I have a weird sense of what true luxury is, apparently…

Towards the end of the bike, I made a pact with myself that I would walk and jog the run portion…nothing more, nothing less. Walk and jog my way to the finish. Finish easy, finish strong, finish with a smile on my face and enough energy to enjoy the evening with my friends. Lucky for me that I made that pact because had I started out too fast (like I’ve done historically) the race would’ve had a much different outcome. I eventually came up on the first aid station outside the park, and stopped for some gels and Heed. At that point I felt like I was going to overheat, wearing effectively two windbreakers that I rode the bike portion in, so I took one of them off and tied it around the leg of the aid station. I would come back for that jacket later, since it was one of my favorites. I plodded along, flashing smiles and the occasional “good job!” at the athletes who were rounding their last lap as I was beginning my run. Everyone looked so good, and I was truly happy for them. The woman in front of me was donning a sparkly skirt, which I’m pretty sure was giving her the legs to jog out this race.

The run was flat, and mostly uneventful. I wasn’t too tired, but by the time the next two aid stations had rolled around I began getting a metallic taste in my mouth. I felt parched. I thought that I’d been having enough water and gels, but then a wave of cramps began settling in. I downgraded from a jog to a walk so that I could let things settle. I glanced at my phone really quick. I was making great progress and according to my calculations, I would definitely make the cutoff if I hustled for just a little bit longer.

I saw one of my girlfriend’s girlfriends zoom by and gave her a big cheer to send her off. I caught up with another guy who was just ahead and chatted with him for about a mile or so about his start in triathlon, and she did for a living. When things seemed settled enough I continued my strategy of jogging and walking.

Right around the 11 mile run mark, I caught back up with the sparkly skirt girl. She and I exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes before we came up to the last race photographer on the course before we headed in to the finish chute. He asked if I could run for a few yards so that he could snap an awesome race photo, and I said the equivalent of “Sure! Why not?” I picked up my feet and my pace, flashed a smile, and actually felt pretty good so I kept going…Forrest Gump style.

At this point I began thinking of my dedication list and began feeling quite emotional…I was actually doing this thing, finishing it like I had dreamed of doing so many times before. My eyes watered and I tried not to choke up, since I needed my breathing to be pretty steady if I were going to knock this thing out of the park. I thought about that list and realized that this last mile was indeed, for me…so I kept running, feeling my footfall transition from the streets to the trails of sand, eventually to the grassy path that would take me home. I cheered along the iron distance triathletes who were in the lane next to me, knowing that this time next year, I would be on the other side.

I crossed the mile 13 timing mat and was met by my support group. My friends were there, wildly cheering me on, and for a second I stopped running out of confusion. Was this it? No, it turns out…I actually had another tenth of a mile to go, and so sheepishly I flashed a grin and kept going. My friends ran the rest of the way there to meet me underneath the finish chute, and before I knew it, I was announced as a finisher and a medal was placed around my neck.

I felt energetic and coherent. The fatigue had not settled in to my bones yet. (Ironically, it never did.) There was a sense of warmth, accomplishment, happiness, and almost a longing for more. My first half ironman was behind me. It went by so quickly. I treasured the experience. I felt like a caged tiger that had just been let out. I wanted to swim a victory lap in the lake. I had so many thoughts that raced in my head and honestly, the biggest and goofiest smile to show for it. We posed for a few photos, but I remembered that my friend wasn’t too far behind me. She had been so supportive of me along the way and I really wanted to see her finish. This had been a goal for her for so long.

She came through the chute all right — her big smile beaming brightly. She looked great, fresh, and ecstatic as I did. We hugged it out at the finish line. Thankfully I still had my sunglasses on or she would have seen me tearing up. We finally did it. This moment was two years in the making for us. We had sacrificed so much. We had gone through so many changes. And now, we were here together, celebrating yet another training season well done.

After the celebrations were over, I packed up my stuff and wheeled the bike and gear back to my car. It wasn’t until I got into the driver seat, inhaled a thing of butter sugar cookies, and took off my glasses to see a nice, small black eye greet me back in the rear view mirror. I examined my eye…no blood clots. It looks like smudged eyeliner, which I guess I may have to even out when I head back to work. Or I could just rock the mini black eye.

So, that’s the story of my first half ironman. The day felt like a training session….one super long brick workout, executed to perfection. The conditions may not have been perfect, but it always goes back to how you manage the way you react to a situation, right? After all, that’s the only thing you can control. I am thankful for all the obstacles I faced on this journey. I am thankful for every demoralizing ride, every frustrating swim, every panic-ridden open water swim, the uncomfortable runs, terrible weather, training cramps, misplaced flip flops. Without the discomfort I would have never known what a flawless race looked like.

I can’t wait for next year’s 140.6. Let’s do this!

On Fear and Falling

Ladies and gents, I am so happy right now. Like, bursting at the seams happy.

So, finally after many months/years of this weird mental game of being scared of clipping in, I decided to give it a go again. And guess what? I did it! I’m still in one piece!

It might sound kind of lame but I finally felt like a *real* cyclist. Is that even such a thing? Anyhow, I am completely over the moon. I felt pretty comfortable since I had plenty of practice leading up to it. I worked on some clip in/out speed drills on the trainer. Skiing definitely helped me get over the fear of feeling locked in. Seeing that my feet didn’t come flying off when tumbling down the bunny hill was pretty reassuring for some reason. And skydiving definitely helped assuage my fear of falling.

There is a moment when fears and dreams must collide.

For some people, this is probably a really trivial skill. But, for me, it means a lot. I was scared to do it, but I did it anyways. Falling is normal — it’ll happen again eventually. Just like in skiing and skydiving, I need to embrace the fall. After mentally agonizing about this for years — yes, YEARS — I feel accomplished in finally getting over this hurdle. I look forward to previewing the bike course tomorrow morning and also getting some more riding in. Nothing too strenuous…just want to get the legs moving. The weather here is so beautiful that it would be a waste to not get in some fun riding in the sun!

With this under my belt, I somehow feel more confident that I can finish the bike leg under the time limit. It might be a mental crutch, but I’m hoping that this will give me the badly needed boost in the cycling department.

In other news, I fell in love last weekend. (It was my first time ever on skis.) Felt so exhilarating to learn something new, get over old fears, and practice patience with myself. I seem to be thinking about it a lot more, trying to schedule it in as much as possible, etc. I’m definitely working it in to my off-season training! I think a part of it is that I felt that I was nearing the top of my triathlon career (note: I said triathlon and NOT Ironman!) — I’ve got the basics down, and now I just need to work on strength and endurance. With triathlon, I’m working on improving what I currently have. However, with this endeavor, I’m venturing into unknown territory again — learning new things, getting out of my comfort zone, facing my fears head on. I’ve not felt this way in a long time. I struggled with the basics of just standing up. I fell every two to three feet. I don’t feel comfortable turning left. It’s the little things, you know?

Anyways…yes, I am bursting at the seams happy. Might’ve been all of the delicious food I had today, the fact that I’m finally on a real vacation, that I got to travel and read today, that I successfully clipped in and out of my bike, or that I’ve been sipping a mint melange tea for the last few hours, but I am quite excited at what the next few days, weeks, and months have in store for me.

Two Weeks Until Race Day

I’ve had a decent stretch over the last few weeks getting back into training for my impending half Ironman. To think that I could lapse out of training and kind of pick back up where I left off is nothing short of astonishing, really. And a little punishing.

To give me enough buffer time so that I don’t do anything stupid (like sprain another ankle or something equally race-cancelling) I silently decided to go after my three race distances in one week to see if I had what it takes to finish all of the segments. It turns out that I did. One day after work I completed my 1.2 mile swim. The next morning, I slogged out a 56+ mile bike ride on the trainer. (Still not as good as out in the outdoors but I’ll take it…) The next day after work, I headed out for a half marathon jaunt around town. I made it through all of the workouts without a hitch. Some mental efforts, but my body was able to physically keep up.

Getting the race packet in my email today was a big wakeup call. I have to survive Thanksgiving (otherwise known as Friendsgiving) and perhaps a ski weekend (where I don’t break my legs or twist an ankle) and then I’ll be boarding a plane to my race. I’m hoping to get some test miles out on the road in Palm Springs. Biking is still my biggest worry. I’m not sure why. I’m most insecure about it, but I guess everyone has to have a hangup (or two or three), right?

Less talking. More doing. Before I know it, it’ll be game time.