Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sorry Kona...though I do still Love You

Editorial comment: yeah, yeah...I realize having to make a decision as to whether or not to race the Ironman World Championships is a good problem to have.

Sunday was a superb day. I executed a good race and the placement fell in my favor. I finished as the top amateur in an Ironman, which has been a goal ever since Coeur d’Alene 2011 when I finished as the second amateur in an Ironman. I’ll write up a race report once I’m able to organize my thoughts about my 10 hour and 16 minute day. But first I wanted to address something that a lot of people have had questions about since I turned down my Kona spot on Monday.

Fond memories from past races in Hawaii: Body marking, the epic swim start, and pre-race relaxing

First of all, Ironman is HARD. It’s hard mentally, physically, emotionally. If there is anyone who tells you otherwise, they are LYING. There is nothing about the training, racing, or planning that is really that easy. When I woke up on Sunday, I was excited about the race, but I also knew it would be a long day with an even longer recovery. I raced Coeur d’Alene followed by Kona in 2010 and 2011 and it made for very long seasons with August and September being especially challenging. It can be so challenging that if I pushed it too much, I’d worry about burning out. There are also weeks during Ironman training when I'm sure I'm not the most pleasant person to be around; I feel like I turn into a monster. I talked through some of my options with my coach prior to and after the race and she told me that the decision was entirely up to me, but also that I could always go to Kona and not try to make it an “A” race. Still, I don’t think my heart would have been in it if I was basically just going for fun.

Secondly, if I committed to racing another Ironman this year I wouldn’t have the time or flexibility to spice up some of my training and focus on some of my weaknesses. I want to be able to swim more times per week and also work on my bike and run speed. I feel like my endurance is there, which is why I still think Ironman is a great distance for me. But sometimes, and I realize this isn’t necessarily my case nor the case for everyone, but sometimes racing long and racing a lot can make your training and fitness stagnant. I needed to look at the bigger picture and decide what a Kona build and a Kona recovery would do for my fitness and athletic goals.
And third, I had to look at the really big picture, like the fact that I want to be able to visit my dad this summer and not feel like I also need to fit in long brick workouts and rides when I’m in Minnesota. I want to crew for my teammate at Ultraman and not stress out about fitting in my own workouts when I want to pace him to do well on the run. I want to do some later season local races that I haven’t been able to do in years and also try some new races. I’ve been racing 2 IMs per year since 2009 and basically I just wanted to give myself a freaking break. It’ll give me some time to decide that if pulling the Pro Card trigger in 2014 could be in the cards.
Ironman Hawaii is an amazing experience and I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to race it - twice. I recognize that they don’t just give away Kona slots and I’ve been on the losing end of badly wanting one and not getting one more than once. I’m sad that I will miss the magical vibe that takes place on the Kona coast and meeting up with some triathlon friends. Going back to Kona this year would be fun and it’d be great to hang out on the big island in October, but I’d be going just to go and it wouldn’t make special. I don’t want the allure of Hawaii to wear off with just a mediocre race or one that I can’t get excited about from the beginning of training until race day. I do hope to go back some year, but it will have to be a year when it aligns correctly with my goals. And if I’m lucky, it will also fit correctly in my life.
My season is far from over and there will still be hard workouts and tough races and big goals. But the long rides won’t be quite as long and the race recovery won’t take as many weeks. And I think in setting up these new race plans, I will have more fun and reach new fitness goals. Once I feel recovered from Sunday (give me some time), I’m excited to start training. Thanks to everyone who helped me make this decision (especially Sydnie, Kainoa, Mom, Dad, and Gerry). I think I'll be a lot more fun to be around without Kona prep looming later this summer. Mahalo.     

Monday, June 17, 2013

the day I stop getting nervous for races

I was editing something on my blog the other day and I noticed in my bio I wrote, “The day I stop getting nervous for races is the day I stop racing.” It struck me a little, as I noticed this year’s build for Ironman Coeur d’Alene felt a little different than years past. I don’t have my massive spreadsheets of predicted times and I haven’t scoped out my competition. I haven’t done any forecasting on how many Kona spots will be awarded to the W30-34 age group and I didn’t even look up my bib number until today (#425 – seems like a good one, I’d say). Had the fire in my belly burned out? Where was the fierce competitor that pictured herself on top of the podium? Is the absence of a “Kona or bust” mentality working against me? Is it just that after nine Ironmans #10 is going to seem like no big deal? Or worst of all, have I fallen out of love with Ironman and am I not going to get nervous for my race this week? Maybe my neurosis just died down a little…

Training has gone well this season and while there haven’t been any workouts ending in panic or tears for fear of a bad race, there have been many other emotions that have been poured into this year’s training. There have been fun-filled morning swims, from holiday themes to swim tests to beautiful open water swimming. I’ve gone on many bike rides solo, in groups, with old friends, new friends, and the boyfriend. And there have been many runs filled with laughter, but also tears – like the times I think about my dad’s cancer or when I thought about the bombings in Boston or just some solo long runs filled with self-reflection on what makes me happy, sad, or excited!

Some of that self-reflection included “what the hell am I doing with this sport?” And I believe the answer is still a work in progress. When I first got into triathlon it was for something fun and exciting to do, something to challenge myself and push my limits. I later progressed into chasing podium finishes and World Championship qualifications and I’ve even flirted with the idea of going pro in this sport. But those goals would all be for naught if I wasn’t excited to toe the line race morning. And I can assure you, that is not the case; I am still looking forward to race day! Wednesday morning I was having a quick chat with my coach after swimming and we were talking about CDA and how a lot of people in Seattle have shied away from it this year, because of some of the later season races that are now offered (Tahoe and Whistler added in 2013). She mentioned that you really need to have your act together to be ready for CDA and I brushed it off like, “oh yeah, you do…it’s been a good race for me.” And then Kainoa’s eyes lit up as she said, “oh, it’ll be good to you this year too,” which made my eyes light up, which was basically like tinder exposed in the Northern Idaho sunlight waiting to fire up in my belly.

And ever since then I’ve had race butterflies, so I know I will be ALL IN on race day. It’s a race and lifestyle that still makes my heart pitter-patter, even if perhaps after CDA I might need a break from full Ironman for a while. I thought a lot about this year’s race emotions this past weekend and noticed that I’m going into Sunday with feelings that are a bit different than what they were 2 years ago. I don’t know if it’s my maturity as a person, experience as an athlete, or the fact that other life things seem a lot bigger this year. From friends having babies, to thoughts on my dad, to my own relationships, or watching friends go through injuries, I’m reminded of what Kara Goucher says: “it’s just running.” (Well, swimming, biking, and running, but you get the idea. And yes, I’ll relate to Kara Goucher whenever I can…perhaps delusional self-confidence also comes with age.)

While I can’t say what’s next after this race, I can assure you (and more importantly myself) that it was a good idea to go through this journey and there are no plans to stop racing for a long, long time. Best of luck to all competitors who toe the line on in Coeur d’Alene on Sunday! Have a safe and special day. And thank you to everyone who helped me get to the start line healthy and happy. Ironman is a good, long race and I’m sure I will feel your presence as I’m fighting through the pain on Sunday!

With Heart,

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Park Tour!

A few weeks ago my friend Arielle tweeted this article by professional cyclist Alison Tetrick: “20 Tips on how to be a Triathlete by a Cyclist.” While I may disagree or struggle with some of these tips (like #20 the bike is the best part of triathlon – I can’t cheat on my first true love, running), she brings up some very valid points to embrace the practicality, beauty and style of riding a bike. I particularly like #14: Cycling doesn’t have to always be considered a “workout.”
However, with a full plate of workouts during a training build, it’s sometimes hard to find time to pump up the tires, slap on the spandex, and spin around for a while. But every time that I do, I fall in love with the bike even more and tell myself that someday when this serious triathlon stint ends, I’ll still put in bike miles because it’s just so damn fun.

It's especially fun when the Pacific Northwest weather is so beautiful.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy riding my bike when I’m not training or doing a workout is through “Park Tour.” Park Tour is something Gerry (the BF) introduced me to a couple years ago. It goes like this:
1.       Grab your bike and helmet on a nice day.
2.       Fill a backpack with a few beers.
3.       Bike to a park.
4.       Hang out and enjoy a beer.
5.       Repeat until the sun goes down or you’re out of beer.
There’s no shortage of public parks in Seattle, so we change up our route and sometimes we can convince other friends to join us. No matter the parks or the beer or the friends, it’s always a good time. It’s a great, cheap date and the public parks are much more enjoyable than a stuffy bar. Put away your bike computer, call up a friend, and head out on Park Tour. I’m quite certain you won’t be disappointed. Obviously take caution when drinking and biking and having open containers in public places.

Part of the tour: Golden Gardens, Greenlake, Madrona
Continued: Lake Union, (sometimes there's a pub stop), Lake Union from another angle.
I’ve also embraced the practicality of cycling by turning in my parking pass at work and becoming a regular bike commuter. It adds another level of complexity (and packing and changing clothes) to Ironman training, but the easy spin in Seattle’s awesome springtime weather twice a day plus the cost savings makes it completely worth it.
Ride safe and enjoy the bike! Rubber side down!