Monday, April 23, 2012

It Was Only a Matter of Time

That time was last Wednesday. I'd be lying if I said this never happened. It had actually been since 2010 Kona training. It’s the point in your training when you have a breakdown. Why did it happen when I was the only girl in my lane? Tired, beaten, sore, tight, tired, I was OTB (off the back) set after set after set. Then one of the guys gave me a smile, acknowledging that I was having a tough go. That’s when I lost it. I kept thinking of the title of Amanda Beard’s book, “In the Water They Can’t See You Cry.” Unlike Beard, my story isn’t one of prodigy, recreational drugs, depression, and Olympic medals. My tears were probably something most of us go through: feelings of doubt as we approach a big race when we’ve trained tirelessly. I tried to keep it together as much as possible through the rest of the workout, even though it’s hard to breath when you’re crying. After my warm down, I needed a heart to heart with my coach.

Kainoa (Coach K) had all the right things to say, reminding me when you’re tired you resort to your bad habits in the pool, which didn’t help my cause that morning. But more importantly, reminding me that it was a tough build, how much she’s pushed me, that the St. George course will play toward my strengths, I often compare my swim to people who’ve been in the water their whole life, and ever so sincerely, “I love how hard you’ve worked,” as she gave me the big, wet, chlorine hug that I needed.

Later that morning I received emails from two different friends reminding me that one bad workout isn’t a trend, and once I start to feel more rested “this cloudiness is going to pass and you’ll be smiling internally because you love this sport and it fuels you!” This is true; triathlon has given me so many reasons to be happy over the past few years and I do love this sport. But despite the fact that I’m often a very upbeat, positive, happy to be doing what I’m doing person, I also put a lot of pressure on myself. And it breaks my heart when a workout feels like I’m taking steps backwards (which probably would have been faster than how I was swimming that day). And another friend told me, “Feel free to have all the breakdowns you need…it’s a good sign that you have put everything into your training and are depleted.”

During a big training build, we dig from the deepest trenches of our physical and mental stores. I’m not much of a crier, but sometimes a good breakdown is a reminder of the fact that I put a lot of heart into this sport. We all do. And then days, weeks, or months later, we’re reminded of the bad days that make us appreciate the good days and the whole process that makes me fall in love with life over and over again.

I'm fine now, great actually. I just got back from a fun weekend of training near Lake Chelan with some awesome friends. My legs are starting to feel fresh, I'm not tired all the time, and my weekend workouts were long enough to not go crazy and short enough to relax most of the day. Besides that, I was able to unplug from the triathlon world for a bit and just laugh and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. It was just what I needed. 

Keep your head up and I will too.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2012 Oceanside 70.3

Ah yes, first race of the year… always somewhat of a cluster and a dress rehearsal before the “A” races get underway. It’s a good chance to dust off the triathlon gear, test where fitness has gone over the winter, and remember the ups and downs (mostly ups) that go along with racing.

Pre-race: Sydnie, Tesia, Alicia, and I flew out of Seattle on Thursday night after work and landed in San Diego pretty late. We were delighted to arrive at our condo where two of our teammates (Robin and Katherine) had already checked in. They surprised us with Easter eggs filled with GU packets, a Bonk Breaker bar, and sweet notes on our pillows. These types of thoughtful gestures absolutely warm my heart. Friday morning was filled with packet pick-up, an expo walkthrough, a little bike, a little run, and a little splash around in the ocean to get a feel for the temps and make sure my wetsuit still fit. Luckily, it did. Friday evening, I picked up a friend who had flown in from San Francisco, and then we headed back to the condo for some pasta, last minute race prep, and early bedtimes.

Saturday morning: Our condo was less than a mile from the finish, so the six of us racing were up early to bring our bikes to T1 to claim decent bike spots. We pumped up our tires and then strolled back to the condo to finish our breakfasts and stay off our feet until we had to head back to transition. By 6:45am we were slipping into our wetsuits (and by slipping, I mean the wedging, wetsuit workout dance). Katherine and Robin started in the waves ahead of us, but Syd, Tesh, Alicia, and I were able to line up together in the 7:33 wave. After a quick “Happy Birthday” announcement to Tesia by Mike Riley, we were plunging into the cold water and swimming out to the start buoys.

Swim: My plan for the swim was to try and push it more than I have in the past and simulate the tempo of swimming harder sets in the pool. I got on the feet of a girl in a sleeveless wetsuit and managed to stick with her. Sighting and swimming through the earlier waves was pretty rusty and at the first turn sleeveless wetsuit girl and I cut in too sharp. The paddle boards told us we were going to miss a buoy, so zigzagged out to the far buoy and made the correct turn. I’d say this mistake cost me at least 90 seconds. Finally I was headed back to the swim exit with a disappointing 35:38 swim split. Even after overcoming a shoulder injury that kept me out of the pool for 2 months, I’ve put in a lot of swim yardage this season and am very eager (close to the point of tears - like I did this morning) to post a good swim time. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

Bike: After a bit of fumbling in T1, I was on my bike and ready to make up some time. Being in one of the later waves and also being a stronger cyclist, I knew I would spend most of the day passing people. Most people who follow the WTC circuit already know that Oceanside 2012 wasn’t the typical sunny, warm beach race that it should be. It was in the 50s, cloudy, and rainy. I was warm enough without arm warmers, but there were definitely a couple times when I thought, “this is not fun.” (This rarely happens when I’m on a bike.) It was also not fun during the 10 mile stretch when I lost my gel flask stuffed in my sports bra, one water bottle containing energy drink, and last but not least, my water bottle that contained both of my spare tubes and flat kit. When I lost my repair kit, I hesitated and considered stopping, turning back, and grabbing it. But it was on a fast descent and not a safe area to turn back. So, I rolled the dice and hoped I didn’t flat (spoiler alert: luckily, I didn’t). Lessons learned: if you put your spare tubes in a water bottle, tape the bottle to the cage.

I rode strong, but never had the “get up and go” pep that I normally do when I’m well rested. Considering my taper was quite short leading into this race, it was no surprise. I felt good on the hills and just okay everywhere else. I was hoping to ride under 2:40, but came up just short with 2:41:21. I was not a fan of the change on the bike course that moved T2 near the pier. Athletes had to ride single file for a stretch of The Strand to finish off the bike. I was cruising behind two guys at a measly 15mph when I wanted to be coming in hot.

Run: I started off with enough pep and ran strong through the first 7 miles. Coach K thought I was in maybe 6th place (I was in 9th – ouch) off the bike, so I had some major ground to make up. I was picking girls off, but with a two loop course and one of the later waves, it was hard to figure out where I stood. It was fun seeing so many friends racing and cheering for me on the course. I faded a bit at miles 8, 11, and 12. It was nothing disastrous; my slowest mile was a 7:26, but when you’re trying to run sub 1:30, anything in the 7:00s doesn’t help your cause. I think I passed the 4th place girl around mile 9 and held my ground from there. Looking back, I feel like I could have pushed the run harder in the later miles. I didn’t see anyone to catch, but in hindsight I shouldn’t worry about that. I need to focus on my own performance and summon motivation internally. I was pleased with a 1:32:01 run, but not ecstatic. More fuel for the next 70.3 fire.

Finish: After I crossed the finish line (and got my finish line hug of course), I knew it wasn’t the race of my life, but I did know it was a PR (by 5 minutes). Everything was just a little slower than I had hoped for or really expected. But there are a lot of days when you have to accept that some race performances are part of the process of a bigger goal. Oceanside 2012 was both a confidence and fitness boost. I know I’m stronger, fitter, faster, and smarter than I was a year ago. I’m also older; I had to age up to the W30-34 age group this year. So instead of the winning the W25-29, which I would have done this year, I was happy with a podium spot in my new AG. I finished in 4:54:20. I was 3rd in my age group, the 4th Amateur, and 20th OA female.

Post-race: After the race I ran into other friends who were finishing, stumbled around, ate some pizza, drank some chocolate milk, and then met up with Zach who acted sincere when he told me he had fun watching. The rest of the day was spent attending awards, lounging at the condo with my friends, eating Mexican food with my team, and then getting birthday cocktails for Tesia’s 32nd birthday. It was a wonderful day for our whole group and so much fun to have a girls’ getaway that included a race. How did I end up so lucky to have friends like this?

Sunday was spent sleeping in, napping on the beach, and going out to a fancy dinner in Del Mar where we consumed a couple slices of Jake’s Del Mar Hula Pie. Monday morning Tesia, Sydnie, Alicia, and I did an easy shake out run on The Strand before packing up the condo and heading back to Seattle. The weekend was filled with so many laughs and memories that it somewhat overshadowed race day, which was fine with me. It was a great way to start the 2012 season, a warm welcome into my new age group, and very promising for all of us. I think we are all now eager to focus on areas that need work and get ready for the next big race. For me the next big one is less than 3 weeks away when I toe the line at Ironman St. George (cue nervous panic).

Sorry this took so long to write. The two weeks after Oceanside were not so much recovery and downtime, but rather a pretty big block of training. Luckily, I survived my monster weekend and have started my Ironman taper. I’m hopeful that I will stop sucking at life, but no promises.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

30, Flirty, and FAST!

Although I love celebrations and recognizing holidays, I’m not really a big birthday party person. However, when you change decades (and age groups) your friends certainly don’t let you off the hook when it comes to ridiculousness. Hence the title of this post and the chosen theme for my birthday run/party.

The fancy celebrating was done in Southern California when my friends and I traveled down to Oceanside 70.3. But there also needed to be a Seattle celebration. My 30th was on April 3rd, but since I like to ride hills on Tuesdays, I opted to celebrate on the 4th and my friends obliged – true friends won’t screw with your training routines! So Tesia and Alicia hosted a birthday pub run with a few of my favorite people. It was modeled after the “holidazzle” (which I love) with a couple bar stops. We were asked to dress up and bring food for Mexican fare. The invitation said, “Girls – wear something flirty and fun. Guys – please wear something.” I opted for my favorite running skirt (worn only for themed runs and walking around Kona), a pink top, pink striped gym socks, and a sparkly headband from Sydnie.

We all met around 6:30, started our 6-mile loop around Greenlake, took pictures, had a lot of laughs, and shuffled up the hill to some bars on Phinney Ridge. Several of us were fresh off Oceanside 70.3 or Leadman125, so a shakeout run was just what we needed. The first bar stop was for a champagne toast at “In the Red” and the second was at “Prost” for shared boots of beer.

Here are some pictures:

After the run we gathered for Mexican food and sundaes! I haven’t really worried about my age for the past few years. Growing up I always thought, for no particular reason, 24 was the magical age when I would become a real adult. But then 24 came and went and I didn’t really feel any more grown up. And since then, I haven’t looked back. Celebrating entry into a new decade with running and friends was just perfect! Thanks to everyone who came out, tied one on, and ran around the neighborhood laughing. I am so lucky to have these type of friends who inspire me and make me laugh every day.

Up next, my Oceanside 70.3 race report. I usually get these written up fairly quickly, but I'm in my last big push of Ironman training and this week is currently kicking my butt.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

30 Years

For my 30th birthday, I wanted to write a Top 30 list of advice, but it turns out I'm not that wise. I also thought about a chronological highlights list for each year of my life, but who would want to read that?! Instead I went out and celebrated the best way I know how: with a race. I traveled down to southern California for Oceanside 70.3 with some really great friends. I'll write my race report and weekend recap later (spoiler alert: it was awesome).

After my first year in Kona I included this in my race report: "I realize my life is measured in miles and miles and miles, race finishes, Mylar blankets, post-race celebrations, finish line hugs, training partners, friends who support my hours of training, family who will watch me race, digging deep, recovery months, and enjoying the race. All of it. Life really isn’t what I expected it to be at 28. I didn’t know I’d get to swim, bike, and run all over some really great places and into the arms of my family, friends, coaches and teammates." A year and a half later, as I turn the page into another decade, it couldn't be more true. Life gets better with each race memory. I don't know if or when I'll ever grow up, but I do know that I have a really fun life and I am surrounded by truly kind and inspiring friends and family.

Every year is a gift and I am lucky to have 30 of them.

With Heart,