Thursday, May 31, 2012

three things thursday

1. I've got one more ridiculous weekend of riding before my schedule downgrades to merely insane, and I'm not sure I've ever looked forward to a taper as much as I am looking forward to this one.  But being at the top of this build, I've had a few moments of, "you know, I think this is going to be okay."  Even though my legs are stripped with fatigue, I still feel like I had a pretty solid ride on Sunday - my first crack at the SkyMass loop out in the Shenandoah with my weekend smashfest buddies.  I've ridden the first 25 miles of it multiple times but this time around we white-knuckle descended through Luray, climbed the Massanutten cursing the entire way (that was me), and then rode bumpy little rollers the whole way home.  

My legs weren't exactly pleased about the two miles I ran off the bike - and the five I ran later in the evening - but I've certainly felt worse after so much time in the saddle.  And this ride had not quite twice the amount of climbing in it that I'll see in CdA next month.  I'm certainly not going to win the race, but I have hopes that I'll do more than merely survive my way to the finish line.  

2. I'm pretty pleased with how my body feels after yesterday's long run.  However, my calves started complaining a bit earlier this week, and I'm taking the "ounce of prevention" route and heading up to get the shit Graston'd out of them this morning by my bruiser, Dr. Paul.  I've been trying to be even more diligent than usual about recovery this week, because this is the time when little niggles get really destructive.  So I dug the compression socks back out, I've been putting fabulous fuel (with a few exceptions) down the hatch despite having almost no appetite, and I'm sleeping like a rock star.  I'm hoping my body is grateful for how nice I'm treating it and doesn't throw a rod in the next couple of weeks.  

3.  I've always heard about ironman-training-brain, but it's starting to get personal over here.  This morning, as I was getting ready for my ride, I pulled my clean bike shorts out of the laundry basket and then they disappeared.  I spent ten minutes tearing the house apart before I gave up and pulled on a pair of tri shorts.  I wheeled my bike into the driveway and then got incredibly frustrated at my garmin because it wasn't picking up my HR strap...because I wasn't wearing it.  I didn't realize I wasn't wearing a helmet until I diagnosed the odd feeling on my head two blocks away from my house, I squinted into the sun on Hains Point for two laps before realizing I wasn't wearing sunglasses, and no matter how much math I did, I couldn't figure out how 4*6/6 intervals would fit into a 90 minute ride.

When I opened the fridge to make my post-ride recovery smoothie, I discovered my bike shorts neatly folded in the cheese drawer.  Someone, please, tell me this brain damage isn't permanent.  And if this post is full of typos, well, you can just bite me.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

wordless wednesday

Longest run I will do before IMCdA?
Check.  And yes, I am icing my calves with "baby bud broccoli florets."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jim McDonnell 5K swim: race report

I decided to do this swim a few months ago because my love affair with open water swimming has always been a bit rocky.  I cover this distance in the pool all the time, but when you get into a lake, there are bugs and fish and branches and lake zombies to worry about.  However, I had no desire to race the distance.  I didn't do any specific race preparation, I didn't taper, and my ZOMG EXCITED race persona stayed home.  I had strict instructions to swim steady and easy, and that's what I did.

It's been on the warm side in DC here for the past few weeks, and when we rolled up to the lake Saturday morning, the "official" water temperature was 76º (the guy that posted the temperature commented that he had to boat around to several places in the lake before finding a wetsuit-legal-temp-spot.  Excellent.).  In a triathlon, there is no WAY I would swim in a wetsuit for 76º, but one of the big points of doing this swim was that I wanted to spend more than 35 minutes in my wetsuit.  The water temperature in CdA is usually around 65-67º on race day, and I wanted to make sure I was comfortable swimming for a long time wrapped up in neoprene.  So that was that.  Caroline made the better decision to leave her wetsuit at home.
There was a lot of standing around yawning saying, "I don't want to do this" and fussing with my goggles at the start (typical).  I was actually surprised by how many people still chose to swim in wetsuits, although most had sleeveless suits (almost none of them visible in this picture for some reason).  
And the poet was there, doing his thing.
My friends were all in different waves, so I got to watch some of them take off, but pretty soon it was time to splash down into the water.  It was WARM.  The waves were pretty small and there was lots of room in the lake.  Going along with my "taking it easy," instead of thrashing and fighting as soon as someone said, "GO," I just put my face into the water and started paddling along.  My unfortunately full-sleeved arm and bizarre delicate hand entry visible far left:
And the swim was pretty much unremarkable.  It was three one-ish mile laps of the lake - one tight hairpin turn, one two-buoy turn, and one turn around some crazy prison structure in the middle of the water.  On the first lap, I swam so wide on the two-buoy turn that I almost crashed into a boat.  The second lap wasn't much better, but the third lap I managed to swim fairly straight.
My goggles kept filling with water, and I tried the "backstroke dump" a few times, but then realized it wasn't working, so I stopped to tread water and fix them.  Twice.  I'm pretty sure that's what is going on here.
At the end of the first loop I realized I was being boiled alive by my wetsuit, so I stopped to yank the neck open for some cooler water.  It was glorious.  During the second loop I did the neck flap every few hundred yards, and by the last lap I was so hot that it became "strokestrokestrokestrokestroke breathe strokestrokestrokestrokestroke frantic wetsuit flap" and repeat.  The only benefit of the wetsuit is that it prevented me from swimming any harder than "ridiculously easy" because of how over-heated I was - that and I couldn't find any feet to draft off of.  But then suddenly it was the end of the third lap.  I know, my head is too high out of the water and my cap is about to pop off.  And my crazy recovery arm is crazy and I desperately need an eyebrow wax.
I swam until I touched ground and then started to charge up the dock and rip off my wetsuit.  
But then I realized I didn't need to go find my bike and start sucking down liquid nutrition on a stopwatch, so I stopped and instead, we ate. 
For some reason, all of the ridiculously fast women were safe at home in bed in other age groups, so this happened.  I don't often get to win, especially not in swimming, so I'm going to try really hard not to qualify it.
All in all, it bodes well for CdA next month, especially when I considered how much time I spent dicking around not making forward progress in the water.  Next up: racing 150 miles on the bike and 30 on the run, just to make sure I'm ready.

Also, in case you missed the crazy updates on Friday, shirts are now only $19 and there are two versions - a "puppies shitting rainbows" and a "faith not fear" version, so you can wear one safely to work/raise your children/clean the church pews.  I'm ordering them TOMORROW, so please let me know ASAP if you want one!  Right now the way the order stands, we're in a good place to not have a lot of extras, which means you will be a SAD SAD panda next week when you're the only blogger on the block not to have my URL dangerously close to your ass.  You've been warned.

Friday, May 25, 2012

team amazing day (take two)

Okay, so let's start over.  After I posted this originally, Jared from Kompetitive Edge reached out with the fabulous news that this was WAY too expensive for printing shirts.  Imagine him with a hero cape on.  So, everything is the same except for the two things that are not.  1. The shirts now only cost $19 (if you Paypal'd me money I am PayPal'ing you back the difference).  2. There are two versions - a "puppies shitting rainbows" version and a "faith not fear" version for those of you that don't want to/can't walk around all day with profanity on your back.  Everything else is the same!  Now you can afford to buy two (don't check my math)!  

As you were, proceed with your day.  Remainder of this post is the same, just with an extra demo screen shot.
Aaaaaaaaaallrighty, let's get this party started.  I was going to do a "four things friday" post, but then I realized that I might be referencing this link for the rest of eternity and I don't want to be remembering how incredibly crabby I was at this point in the training cycle every time I do it.

I'm making a big pile of shirts for my mom and dad and number one fan to wear at IMCdA next month (you didn't know?  I'm doing an ironman!).  The shirt will be a purple technical tee and look like this fierce lady:
And like this for men (football not included), but also in purple:
The front will look roughly like this (I'm not good at the online design thingy):
And the back will basically look like this (ditto):
And the "safe for work" back will look like this:
And I figured that maybe some of you guys might want one for spectating at home or wearing to your own wedding or just so people will stare at you at the gym.  Sadly, I am not rich enough to give them away for free, so you're gonna have to send me some cash.  So here's what I'm going to do.  If you want one, send me an email with your size to (please don't sign me up for any penis enlargement newsletters) or drop a comment, with your full name please so this doesn't become more difficult than it already is.  They do have men's and women's separate sizes, so please specify men/women S-M-L-XL.  Next, you are going to send me a PERSONAL GIFT (this part is important) of $19 via Paypal to  Once I've received your generous gift, I will order a shirt in your size and generously gift you one when they arrive.  If you're local, we'll figure it out.   If you are going to be at CdA, I can bring it there.  If you're from far far away, please drop $5 or so on top so I can mail it to you and MAKE SURE TO GIVE ME YOUR ADDRESS.  I actually have no idea how much it will cost to mail, but if $5 seems ridiculously high, let me know and I'll correct this post.  I'm doing it through Paypal so no one gets sucked in by the mean mean scamming triathlon con artist girl, but if you live across the street and want to give me cash or a check, that's cool too.  Basically, if you want one, let me know, we'll figure the rest out.  It's not like I have a JOB tying up all my time.  

They are going to take about 2 weeks to get here.  If you don't read this until later and you want one, I'm going to end up ordering a pile of extras so let me know.  If you think I'm a self-absorbed wench and can't believe I'd have to gall to expect people to pay for shirts with my URL on them just because I'm doing an ironman, WELP, you're right, but being self-absorbed and expecting people to like it is what blogging is all about, now go stroke yourself somewhere else (but feel free to flame me in the comments first!  comments are love, don't you know?).  

Also, I thought about doing them with different sayings on the back of them all (F'ing legit.  Faith not fear.  You have no idea what you can do.  Have you seen my sweet sweet ass?  Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist.  CAR blog mafia.  Ass broken?  Look no further! etc. etc. etc.) but after a long conversation with the tee-shirt-printing-lady, it sounds like that will be horribly complicated and expensive.  Maybe for the next round of printing, if there is one.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

wordless flashback wednesday

It's just a little less than two years ago that I bought my first bike, mostly on the advice on my good friends Heather and especially Liz, who was the first person to tell me that you should think your bike is sexy.
I did then, and I still do now, but my oh my, have things changed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

it's not all puppies shitting rainbows

I realized after posting my ride recap yesterday that I might be giving off an overly positive view of how ironman training is going.  And while I'm trying to stay positive, I also believe in being honest and raw with a side of cussing.  That's who I am, that's why you are here.  

So the truth is yes, I did have a fantastic century on Saturday.  Everything clicked, everything happened in the right order at the right time and while the prominent thought in my head when getting off the bike was, "Wow, I really don't want to run a marathon right now," I felt pretty brilliant.  But then it rolled over to Sunday, and I had another huge workout to tackle.  And the flip side of that is everything did not go as planned, everything did not fucking "click."  Along with many other annoying distractions of the day, I couldn't even get remotely close to the heart rate window I was supposed to be riding in for the first interval.  For the most part, I've stopped being mad when this happens and instead just hammer my hardest to get as close as I can, but on Sunday I got frustrated, and then I started getting upset at myself for being frustrated.  And when I rolled back to my car at the close of the first loop, 2 hours into a 3.5 hour ride, I had a bit of a meltdown.  I was exhausted.  (But we're all exhausted).  I had ridden the first 2 hours in my tri shorts and they made my 100-mile saddle sores about a billion times worse.  (But we all have saddle sores).  I was head-to-foot covered with EFS that splashed out of my now-soon-to-be-replaced-by-something-else aero bottle and dead bugs and smelled completely disgusting and the last thing I wanted to do was ride another 1.5 hours, then run. (We would ALL rather be on a beach somewhere eating bon-bons and drinking frosty margs). 

I have no idea what got me back on the bike and rolling again, other than the very clear thought that a meltdown like this was probably normal and expected and it's actually a little surprising that it hasn't shown up sooner.  I decided to ditch my HR plan and just rode steady for the remainder of the ride, talking nice to myself and looking around at the turtle and the snake and the cow and all the other creatures that wandered by while I was riding.  But I have never so badly wanted to rip off my bike shoes and throw them in the bushes, followed by my bike.  When I got back to the car, I took the time to change into run shorts and when I peeled my bike chamois away from my crotch, my sticky sweaty bike shorts pulled away about 7 layers of skin off as well and I shrieked in the parking lot like I was being murdered.  I took off running at a blistering 10:40 pace and it took me 2 miles to find a spot on the trail where I wasn't being boiled by 88º heat and a cloudless sky and when I found it, I ran back-and-forth on that quarter-mile stretch until my time was up.  

So no, training isn't all perfection, it's not unicorn fairies and shiny PRs every day.  On most days, it's not hard, it's not impossible, it's just hot and tired and really needs a shower and a nap.  But sometimes it IS hard.  Sometimes it's standing in front of the refrigerator at 2am drinking Powerade Zero in your underwear like some crazy electroylteaholic because your body woke you up with twitchy legs from dehydration.  Sometimes it's wearing a long-sleeved shirt on your run just so you will really have no idea how slowly you are moving forward, because you just can't stand to watch the 11s roll past yet again.  Sometimes it's calling your coach after climbing out of the pool halfway through your long swim and trying to not let your voice crack into tears from exhaustion while you talk.  Sometimes it's spending two hours and forty-two minutes puking your brains out at the end of a race that you busted ass for, that you worked hard for all winter because you desperately wanted to have the day you feel you deserve.  Sometimes it's being angry, really angry, at all the people in your life who you thought were your unfailing support system but instead have let you down.  And you can't even deal with stress in your life by throwing on your running shoes and heading out for a mind-clearing run, because that's not on the schedule today, what's on the schedule today is two hours of swimming followed by intervals on the bike followed by falling asleep on your foam roller on the living room floor after looking at your husband just long enough to be reminded that he exists.  

But the other side of it is, it's taking responsibility for your own decisions that have led you to that day.  I decided to sign up for an ironman.  I didn't decide because someone else signed up and it sounded like a good idea or I didn't want to be out-enduranced or any other meaningless reason.  I signed up because I wanted to do it.  I picked CdA because the race drew me in, not because of the people that were going to be there.  I decided to be coached by Sonja, knowing fully well that she would whip my ass but also that I would be unrecognizable by the time June 24th rolled around.  And while she makes my schedule, I choose to follow it.  I chose to ride a tough and hilly century on Saturday and follow that with a hard brick on Sunday.  I also understand that one bad workout, no matter how important it seems on paper, is not going to make or break my ironman.  The decisions I have made for the past six months, those will decide.  All those times that I decided to obey my HR monitor and chug along at 10:55 pace instead of running the 9-minute pace I wanted to be running, all those times that I turned down the beer and put spinach in my smoothie instead, all those times I turned down the crazy group workouts that weren't on my schedule so I could recover, all those times I chose to go to bed early instead of reading one more chapter, all those days and weekends upon weekends that I chose to leave my family at home alone without me and spend time swimming, biking or running.  Those are the choices that will shape my day.  

So yes, sometimes ironman training is shitty.  Sometimes bad workouts happen.  But how I react, the way I choose to respond, I think that says more about the kind of race I'm hoping to have.  More importantly, I think it says more about how much I've changed, about how much a good influence on my outlook Sonja has been for me these past months.  Instead of searching for external factors - people or places or things - to blame, I'm getting better at just logging the data, slamming the book shut, and moving forward.  Because if I had to carry around all those negative thoughts along with everything else I'm going through, I'm not sure I would make it.  The load would just be too heavy to bear.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Casa River Century: race report

So, I generally don't like to talk training numbers here, mostly because for the most part, it just doesn't matter.  But today I want to talk about it, so if it stresses you out, here's a puppy pic and I'll see you tomorrow:
(Graham has a hot spot on his foot, so we're trying to prevent him from licking it while it heals).

My friend Gretchen - the same friend that talked me into doing the full 100 miles at Reston less than two years ago - has been talking about doing this century ride all spring.  I wanted to wait until the week of to decide, because I didn't know where my training would be until then.  But when Monday rolled around, I emailed my coach, she gave it the green light, and I was in.  Riding 100 miles just doesn't seem like a big deal to me anymore, and I know that sounds ridiculous, but I've done it more than a few times in my life and it doesn't scare me, it just takes a long time.  On the flip-side, running more than 15 miles sounds terrifying.  Just looking for a little perspective here.  

I was able to stay with a friend on Friday night to avoid a 90-minute drive before 6am Saturday morning. I haven't seen her in a while, and it was wonderful to catch up with her and her incredibly cute baby (sorry about the crappy iPhone shot).
It took me a bit longer than I anticipated to get to the ride start, but we were on the road by 6:45am.  I had been given a large but fairly low window (far below IM pace) of heart rate to ride in for the day, so when the girls I rolled out with started hammering up every tiny descent, I let them go.  I figured either they were much stronger than me and going with them was going to lead to an ugly mile-70 blow-up, or they were not much stronger and I would end up catching up later in the day when they had their own blow-ups.  Either way, I felt no grumpiness at watching them pull away.  I had been warned that it was a hilly course with a lot of climbing, I was coming off of a solid week of training, and I wanted to start about as easy as I could.  

The ride was split into two 50-mile loops, and the course was very well-marked - I think I only glanced at a cue sheet once the entire day, when we missed a tight turn and bumped into a group of cyclists retracing their steps who had done the same thing.  I kept my HR in warm-up range for the better part of the first hour.  A rest stop showed up pretty quickly, but I was trying to minimize non-riding time and practice self-supported IM nutrition all day, so I just peed, filled up my water bottle, and rolled back out.  There were two rest stops in the first loop, and both were pretty empty (and looked stocked full of delicious snacks!) because of how early we had started.  I don't really remember much about this loop.  I was riding alone and I feel like my mind was quiet.  I brought music with me but never turned it on.  I rode steady in the middle of my heart rate zone, trying to stay even on the climbs and descents.  The riding was peaceful but generally unremarkable, and I was actually startled when a left turn brought me back into the parking lot at the halfway point.  I needed to pee and was ready to ditch my long-sleeved shirt and refill my bottles, but I didn't feel tired at all.  I took a longer break here to go into the school and use the restroom, change, restock nutrition, etc.
As I was rolling out my friend came rolling in, so I pulled over to wait for her.  Since I was over the halfway point and feeling so good, I decided that I'd try to ride closer to the top of my heart rate window for the second half.  A few times in the back loop I picked up a couple of friends on my wheel, like the guy who yelled at me for "racing" the course when I passed him (small dick syndrome is noisy), but for the most part I just hung out alone in my own head, in the quiet.  I didn't even mind when it got pretty hot in the last 20 miles, I just kept working my nutrition and watching my heart rate.

Breaking six hours in a century was a goal of mine last year, but I never quite got there, mostly because half-IM training kicked Reston off of my schedule and I never got around to finding another 100 miles to ride.  I didn't roll out on Saturday with any time goals for the day, but when we stopped at the 73-mile point, I realized that as long as I continued to ride fairly evenly, I would slide in under six.  There was a descent amount of climbing in the last 25 miles, and my HR popped up out of my zone more than a few times, but I didn't want to hammer home.  I wanted to ride honestly in the right place and just see what happened.  
Going into the ride, I felt a little unsure of my fitness.  I even wrote and deleted a text to my coach several times on Friday asking if she was sure I was ready to ride 100 miles coming off of my half-IM recovery weddingapalooza week.  In general, I've been feeling uncertain of my cycling fitness this spring - I think largely because it's difficult to see progress there.  I do TT efforts in the pool and MAF tests on the track, but with cycling, I just ride what I'm told and work the workouts.  I've been doing so much hilly riding in preparation for CdA, and I think that with hilly riding, you don't see progress through the numbers because the numbers aren't consistent and clear.  But here, now, this - this looks like progress.
I'm not throwing a party because I rode 100 miles faster than I have before on the hilliest 100M course I've been on.  I'm throwing a tiny party because at no time on Saturday did any of this feel hard (my ride Sunday - totally different story), and that more than anything is what makes me feel like maybe I am going to be okay on June 24th.  Or maybe I might be more than okay - maybe I might have a blast.  
How was your weekend?  Did you ride a billion miles kind of fast?

Friday, May 18, 2012

random friday facts

1. I Just bought and ate an entire container of strawberries.  In about 90 seconds.

2. I know that my Garmin isn't right but I will still run until it says x.00 miles anyway.

3. I'm finding it hard to concentrate on blog writing while watching the finale of Grey's from last night.

4. My favorite flavor of powerade zero is blue.

5. Swimming isn't as fun with a cranky left shoulder.

6. I would never drive a red car.

7. Yesterday I spent an embarrassing amount of time reading about how to become a private investigator.

8. I really need to find a job.

9. I always unclip my left foot.

10. I still have the same instant message account that I made my freshman year of college.

11. I bought another pair of the neon shoes.

12.  I KNOW.

13. One of my favorite toys when I was little was a dollhouse my grandfather made me.  I wish I could live in a house just like that one.

14. I still prefer real books to e-books.

15. There is a tree in the backyard that makes berries and our dogs think they are the most delicious treat.

16. I think pet birds are weird.

17. I have tiny teeth.

18. I got rid of the rest of my giant Nike sports bras from two years and cup sizes ago.

19. We've outgrown the water bottle shelf in the cups cabinet.

Happy Friday, all!  I'm going to spend a ridiculous amount of time on my bike this weekend - what are you up to?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

three things thursday

1. We talked a few months ago about switching up our crazy house and sleeping in the basement.  Last night, we moved most of the furniture to try it out.  I slept like a rock in the cool dark basement but the puppies are real confused about what is happening and Graham spent half the night running up and down the stairs trying to figure it out.  They love having me "work" upstairs now though.
Today (at some point) I'm going to move the rest of our crap and we're going to try it for the summer.  

2.  I'm less than six weeks out from CdA and feeling....sort of fine about it.  I did a 4 hour brick earlier this week to test out my newly revamped nutrition, and I only had to sneak down one gel instead of the 800 extra calories that I kinda thought I might need.  I'm several days into my last big build and none of it seems scary or overwhelming.  It just seems like a lot of work, and I'm going to get it all done, and taper, and then fly across the country with my bicycle and have a really long day of training with a medal when it's over.  And beer.  There will be a LOT of beer.

3. I'm also starting to finally get thoughts in my head about what I want to do with all the months that come after CdA in the triathlon season.  I'm still not planning anything except beer drinking and non-lap-swimming for the month of July, but I know the itch to get moving again is going to come around pretty quickly, especially when the swamp-like summer conditions start to depart DC in early September.  I'm still not sure what it will look like - maybe a few swim meets, maybe I break down and try to PR my stupid 5K after all, maybe I try not to kill myself on a trail run - but I am glad that I haven't planned anything immediately following just yet.  I think that what I'd like to do is jump in things at the last minute that I feel like doing, instead of being stuck in a giant block of training for ironman.  Quite a few people have asked me if I'll do another IM after CdA - and the answer is, probably.  I've loved the training, there is very little of it that I have flat-out not enjoyed doing.  If I have an awesome day in June - which is the plan - I'm sure I'll want to do another one.  If I have a crappy day, I'll probably want to do another one even sooner.  I've thought a little about where and when but don't have any strong ideas yet because I want to see what my body does after this one.  But the plan is to keep moving for another 60 or 70 years, at the very least, which gives me plenty of time to work my way through all the crazy ideas in my head.  

Happy Thursday, all!  Do you hate living in DC in the summer like I do?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

wordless wednesday

When you get a triathlete drunk (only takes 1 glass of wine, pitiful):

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

it was worth it

A long time ago, back in the dark ages when I first started this blog, I told the story of my tattoo.  You can go read it, but essentially it was something I did for myself when my life was a big pile of crap.  The story that I did not tell, however, came up this weekend.
I am lucky to have a lot of girlfriends in my life.  I am lucky to have them spread out all over the country, spread out all over my history from the first time I went through college until now, and they all mean different things to me but I would step in front of a bus for any of them.  My friend Brynn is one of those friends.  We met when we were both in graduate school in Boston, but really, we were both just lost.  Constantly in the darkness.  Neither of us realized it at the time, but we were both in relationships that now are easy to see were doomed.

When I went out to Albuquerque to visit her that first time, I was essentially at rock bottom.  I couldn't decide what to do about my failing marriage, my job was a new level of stressful hell, and my spring half marathon - the one I had trained for twice and gotten hurt for twice - had just been canceled due to the arrival of a clunky boot on my right foot.  My girlfriends were doing everything they could to support me, but I'm sure I was pushing them away.  I was in a spiral of self-destruction - drinking far too much, behaving badly, essentially just hating myself for all the choices that had turned my life into what it was.  Going out to visit, for whatever reason, was like coming up for air.
I'm not sure if it was the timing or just getting out of DC or what did it, but it changed me.  When I came home, I could see clearly what I had to do to turn my life around, to move forward, and over the next six months, I did it.  That doesn't mean that it was easy or that I didn't have set-back after set-back, but I turned the corner.  I'm here now.
I'm glad that our friendship hasn't gotten lost in the business of our lives.  We all have those friends that sometimes weeks or even months go by when you don't talk, and then you pick up the phone and it's like no time has passed.  That's what this is.  And this weekend I was lucky enough to stand beside her while she got married.  
Both of us, I would say, are unrecognizable from the day we met (and not just because I'm wearing far too much purple eyeshadow).
Her happiness is explosive.  
I am obviously not saying that we are both happier because we are married (men are not the answer, people!), but rather we were both able to figure out how to be happy and then engage in relationships that are stable and strong and filled with joy.
I'm having a hard time finding words that are not ridiculously trite to describe how much fun our weekend was, and how much I enjoyed getting to know the "other women" in her life.  
It was worth the hangover(s), worth the airports and planes and smelly people eating onions in confined spaces.  It was worth living in Boston for a year to find our friendship, a place that was essentially hell on earth for me, full of uppity rich 21-year-old graduate students and 18" of snow just appears for no reason and giant rats the size of my microwave.  
All of it.  It was worth all of it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

three random things friday

1. I'm in New Mexico right now for a wedding, and the place where we stayed the first night has chickens.  Like, real chickens, strutting around six inches behind the headboard of our bed.
As it turns out, one of the chickens is a rooster, so we all decamped to a hotel room so we could get more than 3 hours of sleep in a night.  

2. I timed my spring schedule pretty well so that I'd be recovering from a 70.3 the week I had to travel across the country for a wedding of one of my closest friends.  What that means for triathlon this week is that I'm not on a training schedule.   I got the official approval to this week, which means I'm not wearing a watch or a heart rate strap or keeping track of how long or how far and definitely not fast I'm going.  Instead, I'm just moving.  I love data, I'm addicted to tracking, but I also really needed this break.  I'm sure that by the time my schedule rolls in next week I'll be grumpy and feel slow and fat and be raring to go. 

3. Last night was the bachelorette party, which means I have a lot of pictures on my phone like this:
And this:
And this (what is your name?):
But right now, I am doing this:
So please, no yelling in the comments, my brain is quite large right now.

Have a good weekend, friends!  Are you racing?  I'm pretty backed up on race reports from last weekend but it seems like everyone is pretty much rocking the hell out of the spring season.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rev3 Knoxville 70.3: race report

Last winter my cycling PIC Emily and I did quite a bit of 70.3 hunting, looking for a flat, fast, monster-PR course for the spring.  We settled on Monticelloman, but then she decided to be a crazy roadie instead.  At some point in early January, I talked to Sonja about the 70.3 and she recommended Knoxville instead, pointing out that the hilly, technical bike course would be a better prep race for CdA.  Plus she was going to be there, along with several of her athletes, so I jumped on board.

The poet and I drove down Friday so (different) Emily and I could spend Saturday getting all of our pre-race business done without rushing.  Our biggest goal was the get in the water for the practice swim, especially because I’ve only been in open water once so far this year and it was for less than 15 minutes. 
We managed to get in, get warm, stroke around, and practice our synchronized swimming for a few minutes before climbing back out.
Other than ripping a huge hole in my wetsuit and wiping out cartoon-road-runner-style on the dock, I was happy with the swim.  We ate dinner early enough to get back to the hotel and have some quiet time before tucking into bed.
Race morning always comes early.  I’d organized all my nutrition the night before so all I had to do was add water and shake it up, and other than that, I was ready to go.  
But getting all three of us ready and our cars packed took longer than we estimated, and by the time we headed down to transition, I was stressed.  Once I had dumped my pile of shoes and Gus, it was too late for the warm-up jog I had been hoping for, so instead we just power-walked down to the swim start.  My only real regret about the morning is that I had wanted time to sit quietly and/or go jog alone and gather my thoughts.  I had hoped to feel calm and centered by the time we got in the water but instead still felt slightly frazzled as I got ready to yank on my wetsuit.

I’m sure Sonja is sorry by now that she told me in an email last week that I am fucking legit, because I spent two days repeating it to the poet and the internet and then Emily joined in with the fist-pumping on Saturday.  My plan for the swim was to go out hard, and when we lined up in the water I recognized someone I had met in Colorado briefly while at KE and remembered Sonja calling her sick fast, so I decided to try and hang on her feet (spoiler: huge mistake).  Emily’s strategy was to hang on mine, and the last thing she said to me before the gun went off was, “Don’t forget.  Fucking legit.”
Swim: 1.2 miles, 33:40, 5/16 AG
The gun went off and I put the pedal down.  I hopped on the feet right away but they kept getting away from me, and I just kept telling myself to swim harder, harder, harder.  After about 400 yards of this I went into cardiac arrest and had to flip over and catch my breath.  (I found out after the race that those fast feet came out of the water almost TEN minutes before me.  Whoops.)  I stroked easy for a few minutes to try and let my heart calm down.  It didn’t feel like panic as much as it felt like I went from a heart rate of 50 to NEW MAX HR HOLY SHIT! in about 8 seconds time, and as it turns out, your body is not so much a fan of that.  So I did some breaststroke and tried to get my act together.  It felt like I spent 15 minutes dicking around in this manner before I was able to put my nose back down and swim, but I’m sure it was only a minute or two.  Once I got it together and looked around, my wave had busted apart and I couldn’t see any packs to hang onto, so I just settled into a reasonably hard effort and headed into the sun.  When I hit the turn-around, I was feeling much better and was able to loop around the buoys without stopping or swimming directly into one (significant progress).  On the way back towards the boathouse, I ran into one of the olympic waves that had gone off after my own.  From there on out it turned into a game of hopping on feet, realizing the feet were slow, passing the feet, finding new feet, and repeat.  

When I got to the dock there was a bit of a traffic jam, but I pulled up as quickly as I could and started walking to avoid another wipe-out like the day before.
The thing I didn’t like - but understand was unavoidable due to the logistics of the race - was that we got out of the water, walked across the dock, up a long ramp, across another dock and into the boathouse before we hit the timing mat.  I forgot to turn my watch on at race start, so I’m not sure how long my actual swimming time was.  I’m curious not because I’m upset about the split, but because I’d like to know how long it took me to swim the distance.  The only timing clock I could see was reading 14 minutes when I got out of the water (??).  So I’d guess that it took me 45-60 seconds to get to the timing mat.  And for the first time on Sunday, not having any time goals for the race paid off - if I was trying to swim a sub-32, for example, the timing mat placement might have put me over that and then I would have been real cranky.  (Side note: Emily thought I was going to pull her to a 30, and then she was pissed when I stole the crack she was smoking).  Whatever my actual swim time added up to be, it was still at least a 3-minute PR on paper over my last open water half-IM, and I’m thrilled.

So we all ran through the boathouse and then up a sidewalk and then we crossed the highway and ran up another sidewalk and then past transition on the grass and then back around into the parking garage.  As I ran with my bike towards bike out, I could hear and feel the sound of my rear brake rubbing, despite being adjusted a dozen times the day before. I stopped right after the mount line to adjust it and then hopped on and went.
Bike: 56 miles, 3:11:23, 6/16 AG 
I’ve been spending the past few months trying not to think about the bike course.  My training has included a decent amount of climbing but I knew from reading race reports that this course was serious.  And it was.  It was challenging in so many ways - it was technical and there were steep climbs and long sections of false flats and killer descents with tight turns.  And I loved it.  There was never any time for my legs to get a break - either I was climbing at 6mph or I was hammering down descents or I was pushing the false flats.  It was fantastic riding, gorgeous gritted-teeth kind of riding that really tests your handling skills and I was almost sad that I only got to ride 56 miles of it.
The first 60 minutes or so I rode hard.  My HR popped up out of my race zone a few times on some longer climbs, but for the most part it stayed put.  I started sipping water and working my nutrition, and after my :40 nutrition I realized that my stomach still hadn’t settled from the swim.  I figured I had just swallowed some river water and needed to let it digest, so I decided to hold off on putting anything else in for a little while.  When I hit the 20-mile mark on the course, it was starting to get worse, so I very reluctantly decided to bring my heart rate down out of the race pace zone in the hopes that this would send more blood towards my tummy to let it digest.  I usually just do Hammer Perpeteum on the bike, but I had packed several nutrition options in the event that my tummy started revolting, and I’m mostly glad that I did.  I spent the rest of the bike talking nice to my tummy and trying to troubleshoot what was going on.  When I hit mile 50 on the bike, I realized that my stomach had taken a turn for the serious and I needed to find a place to unload it and soon.  Sadly, the last stretch of this course is on a highway, so I just had to coast and soft pedal back into town.  Every time I pressed down hard, I felt like I was going to be sick.  
Nutrition aside, this leg kicked ass.  I really regret that I rode the last 90 minutes or so at an easier effort than race pace, because my legs felt like little coiled springs, ready to work hard.  I knew coming in that this course would not be a PR bike effort for me at this distance, but I care less about the numbers and more about how surprised I was to feel solid and strong on a tricky course.  I’ve been having doubts about my bike fitness this spring and this was a great check-in for where I am.

I dismounted my bike and headed immediately into the porta-potty parked next to transition.  I felt a LOT better when I came out, but I was stressing about calories I had lost.  I dropped off my bike, pulled on my shoes, grabbed all my run crap and headed out to run.  
Run: 13.1 miles, 2:42, 9/16 AG
I hadn’t noticed the weather on the bike but as soon as I started running I realized that it was boiling hot.  When I added that to my nutrition worries, I decided right then and there to ditch my aggressive race plan.  I decided to run easy the first mile and get settled down, and when I got through that I would reevaluate.  I had half a nuun tablet in my handheld so all I had to do was dump some water on that, and I took a gel immediately after leaving transition.  Mile 1 clicked through and I felt okay, so I picked up the pace a little bit in mile 2.  My legs felt fantastic, but as soon as my heart rate started to rise, my stomach grumbled in warning.  Just past mile 2 there was a little park with a building of restrooms, and I ran past the aid and directly into the building, where my stomach again let me know that it was extremely displeased.  I tried to get back on track and not let things spiral downhill.  The run course was no less hilly and tough than the bike course.
There was a long and steep up hill that lasted for most of mile 4, and when I rounded the corner and looked up it, every single person I could see was walking.  I tried to alternate between walking and lightly jogging up the hill, but by the time I got to the top things were pretty bad.  The course crossed over into a neighborhood that was one big rolling hill, and that’s where my race really started to go down.  I was sick again in a porta-potty somewhere in mile 5, so I decided that I would put down some water and calories and then walk for a mile.  I walked the mile, and then jogged a mile, and then started vomiting, which was really the beginning of the end.

From there on out, the rest of the race was a cycle of jog-puke-walk-drink-eat-jog-puke-walk.  I spent a lot of time talking to myself (sometimes out loud), saying again and again, “I am strong.  I am tough.”  Over and over.  Jog.  Puke.  Walk.  Jog.  Puke.  By the time I got back out onto the highway - about 2 miles from the finish - I was starting to feel like boiled Gu packets.  When I pulled into the second-to-last aid station, two volunteers offered to take me to medical, but I told them, “I’ve been puking for two hours, I’m not going to medical now.”  They followed me down the highway for a little while but once I hit the last aid station they let me go.  I still felt like I was just fine.  All I wanted to do was get to the finish line and sit down for a while.  The race turns off the highway and goes under the street in a tunnel, and for the first time in over two hours, I didn’t feel like my brain was on fire.
I don’t have a clear memory of coming into the finish line.  I was told that when I crossed the line, I didn’t stop running until a nice man tried to give me a medal and I collapsed on him.  I woke up in the medical tent covered in ice and blankets with an IV in my arm.  (The poet didn't document this in photographs, fail).

So that was my race.  I’m a little sheepish about ending up in medical, because I’m usually kind of snarky when I hear about people running slow races and ending up in medical, but that’s exactly what happened to me.  I’ve already had the post-race nutrition pow-wow with my coach, and I can identify quite a few things that went wrong in here, lessons to learn.  

People often say about the marathon, respect the distance.  And after my third shot at the 70.3, I’m going to say the same thing.  In a lot of ways it’s more challenging than ironman (says the girl who hasn’t yet done an ironman), because your effort level is so high and you really don’t have a lot of time to correct errors.  In a sprint, you don’t have time for errors to get out of hand and in an ironman you’ve got time to fix most of them.  My nutrition started to get out of hand, I tried to fix it, made a few mistakes, and that was my day.  But there's a big win buried in the piles of vomit I left on the streets of Knoxville.  Not once did I give up inside my head, and I can't explain why it's different and new, only that it is.  I didn't get frustrated on the run, not one time did a mean thought wrapped in self-defeat cross my mind.  I spent the whole day talking nice to myself: on the swim when I dropped the feet, on the bike when I decided to relax the effort slightly, and on the run where all I wanted to do was lay down and die.  Even though it's still not the race I want to have on paper at this distance, it was the race I needed to run.  And like always, it was my race, my journey through this sport and I will own every second on that clock, I get to call this day a success.  All that crap I was telling myself on the run?  I was right.  I AM strong, I AM tough, and while I'm still learning how to put the pieces together on race day, I belong here.  
Because I am fucking legit.