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!

Resetting Expectations

The thing with injuries is that it allows me ample time to reflect. An injury pretty much grinds all of my training plans to a screeching halt. The Whidbey Island Marathon in April (which was downgraded to a half marathon, which was then downgraded to a 10K) is definitely out of the picture. I think I’ll still be on target for some Olympic tris this summer, but my 70.3 and 140.6 may be a bit at risk. It’s going to take some time to rehab this ankle and get my strength back to where it was last December. To think that so much could’ve gone right and wrong in the last three months…

Resetting expectations isn’t a bad thing. For someone like me who loves going at full throttle, there’s value in slowing down every once in awhile. It’s frustrating, but I think back to my rack of medals hanging in my living room and I remember that it’s all a process — I didn’t get to where I was overnight, and it’ll take a lot more than an annoying ankle injury to keep me away from the activities that I love.

These next few weeks will be a bit crazy with work deadlines, but I’ve given myself a stretch goal: Over the next 16 days I need to log 30 miles in the pool. I think it’s doable. The pool won’t aggravate my ankle. It’ll help me build some much needed conditioning. My long swim days (which are most of them) can be broken up into shorter day and night segments, or a long day/short night, or short day/long night segments. This will probably help cure some of my insomnia woes and will force me to manage my time a little better. What will be difficult will be juggling the long swims during the weekends, which is generally the time I go skiing. I guess if I can go skiing in the mornings I might be able to squeeze the swims in to the evenings. Maybe that’ll be too taxing. Now I’m just speculating…

Regardless, it’ll be nice getting back into training mode.

Here’s my schedule, for those of you who are curious what 30 miles over 16 days looks like:

Looking forward to knocking out this stretch goal…and if I don’t, I’m sure I’ll come close and at least get some swimming in. I’m certainly looking forward to some spring swimming with my tri group and some summer swimming in Lake Union. By the way, that cover image is one of me, swimming into the sunset in Lake Union. Best thing ever!

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!

My 7-Week Training Forecast

Starts off at 13:30 a week. Tops out at 16:30 a week.

Clear your mind of can’t

The goal is to leave room for two consecutive rest days on the weekend, so that I may actually get a chance to enjoy my weekends doing non-training related stuff. Wednesdays by far are the hardest day since I stack all of my training on that day and I will be coming off of my long ride and going into my long run.

Okay, maybe it’s a bit overzealous. Now that I have a schedule I will probably do everything in my power to *not* follow it anyways…so this is a start.

Better head to bed so that I can get my training in and get to my 9:30am meeting!

(Click through to the calendar to see it in full size.)

My training plan for the next 7 weeks

I Wish You Could See What I See

As I’m sitting here enjoying a warm bowl of oatmeal and a mug of white tea, I’m reflecting on one of my best open water swims I’ve ever had. I have a hot compress to my feet, my heater is on full blast. And my cats are nodding off.

It’s warm, cozy. Snuggly even. About the exact opposite of what it was like this morning.

I got the text sometime after 6:40am today that my (friend? co-worker? insta-swim buddy?) was outside my apartment. We parked his bike in the garage, dropped some goods off inside my apartment, and headed down to Terry Pettus Park.

Seriously though, I will never be able to leave Eastlake. I mean, look at this.

View from this morning’s swim at Terry Pettus Park

After wriggling into my wetsuit, I hung out on the deck for awhile. I let him jump in first. He didn’t make too big of a deal of the water temperature, so I gingerly climbed in. The best and worst feeling of jumping into cold open water is the feeling of water leaking into the wetsuit. It’s like long, cold fingers reaching all over you until it gets a grip on you — and then the warming begins. I did a few strokes before I dunked my head under water. The moment your head goes under is really the moment of no return.

We swam out about 20 yards to start. Then we went another 20. Then another 20. And pretty soon we got into a groove of just doing laps. I felt at peace, almost one with the water. I swam like I never stopped. Reach, turn, pull, reach, turn, pull, sight, breathe, repeat. It felt so automatic, so natural. I thought the same thing that I think when I finally do something for the first time — what took me so long? Why didn’t I do this sooner? I wish you could have been there to see what I saw, to hear the music in my head, to feel the cold envelope me and carry me through the motions.

It was beautiful.

Race Recap: 2013 Lake Stevens Olympic Triathlon

So, let me tell you about a time when I finished last place. You read that right, last place.

I headed out to Lake Stevens with my training group. There was a handful of us who had trained since the Seafair Triathlon for this event. I didn’t doubt that my teammates could go from non-swimmers or sprinters to the Olympic distance without a hitch. They all blew me away with their performances. I think overall we were mostly pleased with our results, with exception of those who were particularly competitive 😉 Generally, I like to stay close to my race the night before. However, I’ve been on a money-diet of sorts (trying to aggressively pay down my student loan debts now) so I opted to stay at home and drive in to the race. It also worked out since a few teammates and my coach came by my place on Friday night for a carb feast. (Again, this was in lieu of eating out. I think I fed everyone for the same price it would’ve been for me to eat out. 1 meal of eating out = host and feed 4 people at my place! That’s especially true when you pick up the ingredients from Costco, too!)

We drove out in separate cars to the race. It was about a 45 minutes to an hour north of Seattle. Very manageable, if you ask me. I think it would be fine to drive up again for IM 70.3 Lake Stevens next summer since it seems very manageable. (I’m guessing that packet pickup would be out there though. Bummer!) As I drove in, I got a peek at the water as the sun was coming up. What a gorgeous lake! It reminded me a lot of American Lake — glassy, smooth, and clean. Well, from the outside it looked cleaner than Lake Union, but I’m guessing anything is cleaner than Lake Union.

The roads were not drenched. They were a bit wet from the drizzle but nothing major. I tried not to think too much about it and psych myself out since the bike leg is already hard enough for me as it is on flat/dry/smooth ground. To think about hills and wet, oooooh that was a different story. I told myself that I was ready (enough, at least) and that I would give it an honest go. About a half hour to forty five minutes later the rest of the team showed up and we hustled over to the transition area and prepped all of our gear.

I headed out with a teammate, Sara, to the water to get some warmups in. Sara was doing a relay with another teammate, Andy, who would be doing the bike and run later that day. She had a lot of tension about swimming in open water, which was surprising because she looked so effortless in the water to begin with. The minute I got in I felt instantaneously happy. If I could just float the day away I would. I peeked and looked for the buoys but there were none yet. After a few more minutes more triathletes were joining us in the water, and I saw the crew load up the safety kayaks with buoys attached.

We all got in position and our waves were called, one by one. This was the first deep water start for me. Thankfully I got a lot of practice swimming in Lake Union with deep water starts. There is no beach area at the park where I practice at. You just jump in the water and begin swimming. Here there was a boat landing ramp thing but I was able to swim out to the start and just float/wade until I was called.

WIthin the first 1/3 mile I was already winded. Did I not eat enough? Was I too stressed during the week? I was starting to think that the wetsuit was too tight for me. After all of the practice I’ve had in open water without a wetsuit, wearing one and feeling winded was surprising. I tried not to overanalyze or think about it too much and just concentrate on the next buoy. I also focused on the other red-capped swimmers next to me. One girl was going off course and I tried to tell her to come back. Another girl towards the end (on her second and last lap) just started floating on her back. Why?! I wanted to tell her that she was only about a tenth of a mile from the finish and could’ve pushed it out, but I let her be and I swam on my merry way.

After that first moment, I had a pretty cruising swim. No major hiccups or worries. I got distracted by one of the safety kayaks. He was talking to another kayak and I popped up my head and said “what?” and he was confused. I quickly calculated that he wasn’t talking to me so I went along. I turned the second to the last buoy, sighted my last one, and went for it. Over and over, in my head, I kept chanting “find a way,” which was Diana Nyad’s manta during her Cuba to Florida swim. My breathing was fine except for the moment I just about made it to shore. It was the only time I took in water during the swim! Oops. I’m usually pretty good about that. Coming up the boat landing ramp I made a beeline to my sandals (the transition area was on concrete, and a gravel-y one at that) and my feet are a bit sensitive. I headed to the bike area and saw that Sara had already made it out of the water! Hooray! She survived!

I got my wetsuit off (eventually) and got my things together and headed out for my ride. Almost forgot my gloves, and they ended up being a godsend on this ride. I lost my cycling gloves (well, actually they were weightlifitng gloves) and haven’t been able to locate them since my last long ride with Kurt about a month ago. The ride was wet to start and was wet the entire 25 miles. No fenders on my bike, so water was splashing on my legs at a constant speed. It felt like a shower…a shower from the street. The first few miles had a lot of turns and police and volunteer escorts, which was very nice. I hate getting lost during a race. (I’ve only done that once and I didn’t bother finishing.) It had just the right amount of signage and since it was a small race (maybe 400 or so?) I got a bit lonesome. I tried not to dwell on speed or anything, just kept pushing along. The course was insanely hilly (by my standards) which was made harder by my lack of cycling fitness and lack of clipless shoes. Yes, I used my running shoes on this leg again and this time, they were a mistake. I should’ve used the end of the summer to learn how to ride clipless because the rain, mixed with my metal pedals, were slippery as heck. It was like trying to bike with ice pedals! Every few miles or so my feet would lose grip with my bike and I’d wobble here and there.

Soon enough plenty of people were ahead of me, or passing along the other side of the loop, and I was alone. The scenery was beautiful and if I weren’t racing, I would’ve definitely pulled over to take some pictures! Rolling hills with a handful of steep climbs that I never thought I’d survive, I tried to focus on that luscious landscape, trees, llamas, horses, and cattle I saw. There were some beautiful homes as well. Each time I came across a hill I tried not to psych myself out and think to myself “find a way.” I leaned into the climb and put myself into it, and tried to remember all the things that Kurt and my books have told me about shifting gears. I got wobbly and weaved a bit but luckily I had the road alllllll to myself with no other racers. (Perks of being last?) Actually, I lied — at this point I was not last. When I was at the turnaround on the bike leg, I noticed the sweeper (a big pickup truck that follows the race) following behind two bikers who were riding along. So at least at that point I was third from last. Anywho, I think I started to wonder if I had taken a wrong turn somewhere because I had not seen a car or volunteer for miles at this point. I thought to myself, who would come get me if I got lost? How would I get back? I didn’t have my phone or GPS on me. What would happen if I just skipped the race and kept riding along? Who would know? Could I just skip the run and say I did a duathlon instead? (Someone would know, I’m sure.)

I finally came up to some more turns and volunteers and huzzah, even more turns. I’d never been happy to see turns. I eventually turned in to the transition area and racked my bike. My legs felt trashed from the ride. I was exhausted. If you know me at all you know that I have very little balance on the bike and I can’t eat or drink while riding. I generally pull off my training rides to get my nutrition in, but during a race I just do the whole thing in one go. So, I was pretty hungry and thirsty and I wondered to myself if anyone would know if I skipped on the run. It was a 2-5K loop around the bend of Lake Stevens. I bargained with myself (which I’m pretty good at) and said that I’d try doing the first 5K and then re-evaluate how I was feeling. My ankle had not really given me any problems at all, despite its soreness all week. What felt most sore were my hamstrings and my lower back.

I headed out on the run and as I made the first turn, I heard one of my teammates names being called and I saw a few other girls on my team running and cheering. People on my team were already finishing their race and here I was starting my first run leg. I ran by my teammate and my coach and kept on plodding along at what seemed like slow motion running. I made my first turn heading back to the transition area for loop two when someone came up to chat with me. He seemed like a nice enough guy and then after a few more minutes it became apparent that he was flirting with me. And then he asked for my number. I politely told him I was taken and he ran off. He was going at a decent enough pace that I didn’t want to slow him down anyways! I made my last turn and saw that couple that was right behind me on the bike leg. I was happy to see them together and we exchanged pleasantries. After that last turn I never saw them again though, which put me at last place! About a mile from the finish the sweeper came on by and asked me how I was doing and I said I felt good and would be finishing soon, so he gave me the peace sign and drove off (presumably to go pick up the volunteers at the turnaround). I headed straight into the finish chute with a volunteer running by my side and crossed the finish line just a minute before they were going to shut down the course, with the team there cheering as well. It was a good race!

Later that evening, I checked my results and I was surprised. I knocked off 3 and a half minutes from my swim and shaved 15 seconds off my run. I took a pace hit to my ride, which was completely understandable since there were so many hills. So, even though I finished last, I actually made a marked improvement overall. All in all, it was a really good race. I am still icing my back and sporting my compression socks around the house, but I’d love to try this race again next year and see how much better I can do. I’d also be curious to check out the Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens next summer since it is so close!

Week 2+3 HITS Palm Springs Training: A Twisted Ankle, and Then Some

Oh boy. I got one good training week in and then BAM — I was hit with another twist to the ankle on my morning run. I was down by half my training time this week (week #2), and I’ve reloaded it on week 3 hoping that it doesn’t overload my week 4 which, coincidentally, ends with my last “prep” race before the big 140.6, even though it is quite a ways out.

Making the time for training hasn’t been too much of a problem these last few weeks. It’s working around getting injured again. I’m icing and wrapping my ankle everyday. I might need to look into something like KT Tape to wear consistently. How paranoid is paranoid though? Can I really withstand 15 weeks of training with KT Tape on both of my ankles? And will I really know how to effectively wrap my ankle on my own? (I guess I could probably learn…)

Today was Ironman Louisville. A DNS. Blerg. Trying not to beat myself over it. I even grabbed a drink on Friday with a bunch of friends at work to help lessen the blow to my morale. It was followed up with a massive apartment makeover, along with lopping my hair off for charity this evening. (Hooray for knocking off something from my 30×30 list.)

Cutting my hair to donate to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program

I think I will be able to make it back to training tomorrow morning with a new appreciation for fresh beginnings. I’m trying not to let the baggage of my DNS at Louisville get to my training for Palm Springs. Most people seem more excited that the race is in Palm Springs anyways…I guess the weather will be in my favor, with exception of the ice cold swim. I’ve been getting my share of non-wetsuit open water swimming lately and I can feel the water temps dropping lower and lower. Polar plunge. I’m getting all of my training buddies together at the dock near my apartment, and it’s been fun swimming with more than just one other person (usually Shant, and he is of course very good company).

I’ve been looking at a few charities to race for as well. There’s lots of causes that I champion, but I want to make sure that my fundraising dollars make a great impact. I’ve been debating between a few causes — maybe 3 charities, $1000 each. It adds a different stress to my training. I remember when I trained for my first marathon I really wanted to focus on the training. It wasn’t until my second marathon that I added the charity element to it. I’ve thought about joining a charity team too but I’m not sure if anything is forming specifically for the HITS race. Hence, I may attempt to do it on my own. Look for an announcement about it soon. Training for myself is a pretty selfish endeavor and I’d like to balance it all out by doing it for some sort of greater good, rather than just to cross something off my bucket list.

I think the biggest win I had with training for Louisville was really getting over my fear of open water swimming. Sometimes on my first 100 yards I still get a bit choked up, but I’ve really learned to move beyond my fears and just push through and have faith in my abilities. I hope that I similarly learn how to do that with cycling this coming season. It will be difficult with the rainy season upon me, so I will need to look for ways to get some outdoor riding in when things get slushy. I can’t remember how bad the weather gets after Labor Day but…yeah, I will need to figure something out.

Anywho, on to some training recap. I need to be in the pool at 5:30am! (Which is less than 7 hours from now…)

Week 2+3 HITS Palm Springs Training: 

Monday, August 12: 50 minute swim, 50 minutes strength training with the team

Tuesday, August 13: Rest day!

Wednesday, August 14: 55 minute swim, 50 minute strength training, 35 minute open water swim.

Thursday, August 15: 1 hour cycling, 45 minute run

Friday, August 16: 1 hour cycling, 35 minute run

Saturday, August 17: 1:31:59 run (a rather sad 6.5 mile run, I was so exhausted!)

Sunday, August 18: 2:25:46 cycling, 24.1 miles. Lots of headwind and also rode with a few friends which called for an early stop.

Monday, August 19: Rest day

Tuesday, August 20: 55 minute run…and then I twisted my ankle! BOO! 🙁 🙁 🙁

Wednesday, August 21: Nothing. Mostly pouting.

Thursday, August 22: 30 minute open water swim. Ankle is incredibly sore to start but feels a lot better after my swim.

Friday, August 23: 55 minute swim, 50 minute strength training

Saturday, August 24: 45 minute swim, open water, mostly helping teammate getting acquainted with the darkness that is LAKE SWIMMING

Sunday, August 25: 1:15/1.2 mile swim in the lap pool. Half the distance I originally wanted to do but oh well. There’s always next week.

Onwards to week 4!

Open Water Swimming Without a Wetsuit

My heart was pounding in my jaw.

I spent more time being apprehensive about jumping into the water than actually being in the water. I had a fear that somehow, without my wetsuit, I would just sink to the bottom of the lake. Like some giant pair of hands would just come up from the dark, dark surface of the water, grab me by my belly, and pull me towards the bottom.

Well, that theory went out the window today.

As apprehensive as I was — I think I spent about 15 minutes debating whether or not it was a good idea to swim in the lake — I eventually leaned in enough to get up to my knees submerged. I found something to hang on to and then just plunged in, scared as hell.

Once I was in the water, I took a minute to get my wits together. I’ve swam in open water before. It’s not new to me.

Swimming in Lake Union

Apprehension makes me scared. It makes me slow. Overthinking as always. Feeling paranoid. I swam about 10 yards to the small floating log/plank bridge and hung on for a bit. I swam back to the dock. I did that a few times and did a triangle swim to the thingy that was about 25 yards away. I opened my eyes for the first time.

There is a first for everything, but registering for Ironman Louisville meant conquering my fears, one at a time. Swim without a wetsuit? Check. Now to swim 2.4 miles without a wetsuit! I’m hoping to get some more practice with Shant in town, and hopefully with some other swimming buddies. Maybe I can get some of my work friends to come swim with me and make an event out of it. If there’s something else to distract me I am sure I wouldn’t be as apprehensive.

All in all it was a beautiful sunset swim. Shant was with me the entire time. He swam like a champ, and he too was a bit apprehensive. He doesn’t even have contact lenses so he’s just freestyling it without 20/20 vision! It was a good night. Here’s hoping to more minor victories over the next week. Our campground has open water, so I’m planning on taking a few tri suits along with me!

Week 19 Ironman Louisville Training: Finish What You Started

Among many silly reasons, I started my journey to Ironman because I wanted the challenge. I wanted to see what it felt like to take something from concept to completion. I wanted to do it to see if I could do it. There have been a lot of things I’ve started and never finished…plenty of unread books, academic and career endeavors, design projects, and so forth. At this point in my life I don’t think that’s a practice I should continue. I mean, welcome to adult life, right? Take a stand, deliver on your promises to others, but most importantly, yourself. Ironman Louisville is THE BIG RACE but it really just is a celebration for a training season well done. I’ve been training since November 19, 2012. Come August 25th that will have been 9 months and 6 days since I’ve made the honest effort at training for a 140.6. It started out with HITS Marble Falls TX and then got replaced with IMLOU. And, even if that doesn’t work out, there will be HITS Palm Springs.

But, on to this week — at the completion of my training week, I was all smiles. I survived three long days in a row! A 2 hour run on Friday night, a 5 hour indoor triathlon on Saturday, and a 2.5 hour run on Sunday. I felt like I was finally ready to move up to the comfortable half Ironman finish, meaning that I could probably pull off a 70.3 at this point in my training if I really wanted to. Lake Stevens is in a few weekends but I already have my tune-up race scheduled that same day — The Seattle Seafair Olympic-distance tri. An olympic-distance tri will be more than enough for me. A 70.3 a month out from my big A-race may not be wise since it may set be back further because of recovery from such a hard effort. I should put that effort into my training instead.

Finish what you started, and never forget to start

Week 19 Ironman Louisville Training: 14.1 hours; Swim: 4892.8 yards; Bike: 58.85 miles; Run: 29.33 miles Rowing: 1.09 yards

Monday, June 24th: Rest day

Tuesday, June 25th: 0.5 mile swim/10 mile ride/45-minute tri team speed/agility class

Wednesday, June 26th: Rest day b/c my surgery site was very sore

Thursday, June 27th: 0.5 rowing/4 mile run/3.75 mile ride

Friday, June 28th: 0.96 mile swim/11.08 mile run

Saturday, June 29th: 1.32 mile swim/45 minute cycle/2.57 mile run

Training with a new/old lap watch and some new nutrition

I’m testing out using a watch for the race, since I can’t have my phone on me the entire day. I’m really kind of paranoid about finishing before the 17-hour cutoff, and all of the other cutoffs in between, so I’m hoping my phone will help pace me. I want to track all of my race splits — Swim – T1, Bike, T2, and Run — and I think I can use something this simple to help me. Too bad I can’t set multiple alarms for different things. So far I’ve been able to use it in the pool to count my lap times — but, because it only counts 30 laps, I don’t hit the splits button until after every forth lap. I then tested out some new nutrition mixes today as well as a fueling plan — 100 cal HEED after the swim/getting on the bike, and alternate between HEED and Gu every 35-45 minutes. Worked out great and I was fine for my run.

Sunday, June 30: 11.69 mile run (only!) Got it out of the way in the morning so that I could enjoy the wonderful day ahead.

On a side note, I live in this small neighborhood called Eastlake. It is on the east side of Lake Union. I originally chose this side of town because of the proximity to the lake and thought that it’d be great for open water swimming. In the last year I’ve never seen anyone jump into the lake and tonight was the first night I saw a group of people dive right in. So, I think I’ve finally realized that I am two blocks away from a lake swim. Huzzah! Now all I need to do is to grab a few buddies to join me a couple of times every week.

Swimming in Lake Union. No one else looked scared!

In other news, Ironman Boulder is opening up for registration. I can’t imagine what it’s like to race at elevation. I (obviously) live at sea level and I’m pretty sure my lungs would just explode!

Week 16 Ironman Louisville Training: It All Goes Up From Here

11 weeks left in my training plan. It was a good week, even though I was short two hours. I was short because one evening, I was coming down with some flu-like symptoms and canned my workout. The other was because of my bike shorts seams digging into me. The two hour ditch was meant to save the other 16.5 hours that I managed to wrangle out of my week, and for all intents and purposes it was successful. I got in three open water swims this week — count them! THREE! — where I finally moved forward from my inner freak-outs. It was a good week overall.

I’m really excited that my next tri is next Saturday. There’s going to be a lot of hustle over this next week. 1 mile in open water?! I did a half mile yesterday and maybe a little more the day before. What about 26 miles on the bike on an actual road? Or the 10K run? Since the race is close enough I will be driving in and checking in the morning of the race — something I generally avoid. I like checking in early and resting in my hotel, but in an effort to save money (can’t forget to do that too!) I will be driving in the morning of. Hopefully all goes as planned. I don’t care about my time and I don’t care if I finish last. I just want to finish my first Olympic distance tri!

After looking at my training calendar, I think it is only going to get crazier from here. I see a 4 hour bike ride at the end of my week…a 5 hour ride (or 85 mile…which ever comes first). The weeks get intense and in two weeks, the hours drop a bit…I scheduled my wisdom teeth surgery for that week and I am terrified of the downtime. I’ll most likely be completely off my feet for about a week. The dentist said two days but I kind of don’t believe her on that one. Call me a cynic but my last wisdom teeth surgery put me on a liquid diet for three weeks and off training for about two. Do I really have enough in my fitness bank to make that work? My dentist thinks so (she also doesn’t know me) and Shant thinks so, along with some other friends. I’m terrified. T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D as to what this will mean for my race. I have the plane tickets booked, about to put some cash monies down for my place to stay during that week…They say that it is better to be undercooked than overcooked on race day. How much of that do you think is true?

Week 16 Ironman Louisville Training: 16.6 hours; Swim: 5183.2 yards; Bike: 107.52 miles; Run: 21.38 miles.

Monday, June 3: Rest day from traveling

Tuesday, June 4: 45 minute strength session / 1 hour run

Wednesday, June 5: 1.5 hour ride / 1 hour run / open water swim session in the evening

My other open water swim group. Why do I always look like a schmuck with a swim cap?

Thursday, June 6: 50 minute swim. Wasn’t feeling well so I cut out early. Headachey, chills…even in the hot tub.

Friday, June 7: 45 minute strength session / 1.25 hour run

Saturday, June 8: Stacked day! Open water swim session in the deep end in the morning, followed by a 2.5 hour ride, then a 1 hour run, and then a 1.5 hour ride. Yes, my first time in the deep end. It was really really hard. Lois, my new (additional) swim coach was in her kayak, gently luring me out into the deep end. I took a few breaks on my way out into the deep end and remembered how to tread water (thank goodness!). I was really freaking out (inside) when swimming and peering into the infinite abyss that is open water —

Yeah, this is what it looks like.

So the infinite green was a bit scary. I kept imaging myself in the third person swimming — which is a weird thing to do, especially considering that I was in the motion of swimming. This is how I thought I was swimming —

Doggy paddling in the water. This is how I think I look when I swim in open water!

So, thinking back to some blogs and stuff I read earlier, I figured that I should just keep my eyes closed whenever I am face down in the green, green water. Worked like a charm! After that I only opened my eyes to sight forward, and when I came up for air. I finished the swim and celebrated my victory with a bike-run-bike brick afterwards. And yes I ended up signing an additional coach for my swimming and overall IM goals.

Run around Lake Union in the summertime

Sunday, June 9: Open water swim session in the deep end, followed by a 30 minute run, followed by a nap and then an almost 2 hour ride. Cut out a bit early because the seams in my bike shorts were REALLY digging in and I didn’t want to hurt myself like last time (when I couldn’t get back on the bike for days). The group was fairly small and for the swim, we tagged along with another small group of friends. There is a small little black buoy that we spotted too off in the weeeeee distance. I ended up spotting to my coach. On my swim out I was the last one to the buoy…had to take a lot of quick breather breaks and keep my eyes closed. As a rest interval the group was treading water and chit chatting around the buoy, but I noticed that I was getting more tired treading water than I was swimming (must be doing something wrong) so I told my teammate that I was swimming out early since I was slow anyways. On my swim back I saw some people ahead of me and couldn’t tell if anyone was behind me. Thoughts of doubt and defeat started creeping in. There was a girl in the group that hasn’t been in open water for a year and she was swimming along just fine. Why do I always finish last even though I put in the time training? Where was everyone else? I was spotting to the shoreline but I didn’t see anyone else. Did they all pass me? I saw some people peeling off their suits and chilling on the beach already and I was still halfway out. Swim. Breathe. Relax. Pull. Push. Spot. Repeat. I was getting annoyed. This was only a half mile swim. I have to do FIVE TIMES this distance in the Ironman. I could barely pull off a half mile with a wetsuit. How am I going to do this without a wetsuit in 11 weeks time? Maybe the Olympic distance was the farthest I could go. Maybe a half at the end of the year would be ambitious. I tried to quiet the thoughts but they kept coming, up until the time I made it on to shore and realized that I was one of the first out of the group to finish the swim. I wasn’t fast or anything, but I had left much earlier than everyone else. The other people on shore I saw were from a different swimming group. I looked out and saw that my coach and teammate were still heading out to to shore so I stopped to pause and think about all of those negative thoughts that crept into my head. They were totally unnecessary and I really need to work on some more positive self-talk out there in the water.

Team swim and run at Green Lake

We have agreed to meet every Sunday for an open water swim. Out and back from the black buoy is half a mile. I will need to gradually work myself up to doing two, three, four, and five sets with breaks in between just to get used to the feeling of swimming that far in open water. The lake is only a few miles from me so I think it will be doable if I am diligent and actually put together a plan towards that.