Friday, August 31, 2012

august: the wild ride evens out

Checking in with July goals:

Diligently follow whatever crazy regimen of medicine is handed down from the breathing doctor.  Do not neglect the nasal spray just because it’s weird and gross.  I have been a picture of nasal spray perfection.
It’s time to do some more cooking experiments.  Lots of these this month, with sweet potato burritos a new favorite in our house.
Do not get sucked into end-of-summer swimsuit sales.  Not a single swimsuit was purchased!
Do not become addicted to expensive running shorts.  This is only going mediumly well.
Spend more time with the 3D people in your life and less time worrying about the 2D people that live inside the laptop.  I am a work-in-progress.
Do not buy any more nutrition until the cabinet is EMPTY.  I bought more powder, but only after the other powder was gone, and nothing else!  We're still working through the pile of freebie EFS liquid shots.

Life is returning to normal.  I had a tough time readjusting to life as a triathlete-in-training, but I'm up and over that hump and tapering for my next race.  I don't think I'm having a hard time readjusting to life back in the working world, other than never bringing enough food with me, and I'm grateful that I only spent five months being unemployed, feeling terrified and useless.  Today I bring home my first paycheck, which feels like an exhale, a sigh of relief.  Sadly, it will not go towards the dishwasher I promised myself all those months ago, but instead towards starting to rebuild.  Once all our bills shake out, we will be able to make a payment that will bring Graham's debt out of the 4-digit range and down into the 3, and I'm thrilled about all of it.  I'm happy that we're working hard to pay it down, but I'm the most happy that he's alive and snoring on the couch, snuggled up next to me as I type.  A lot of people leaned over to give us a hand in many ways, not just financially, and we haven't forgotten.  We won't forget.  And maybe Santa 2013 will bring us a dishwasher.

I still feel like I'm sitting on a plateau in the pool (I KNOW MASTER'S SWIM OMG I KNOW).  I've had some good solid workouts, but I'm producing the same times I've been turning out all season which isn't awful, I've made some big jumps this year, but I'm grumpy when the big jumps turn into little steps.  I did have a workout yesterday where I was able to hold a lower pace than I've seen for a long set of 50s on descending amounts of rest, but 50s descending are very different than what I can do for 1.2 miles.  Of all the things I'd like to do next weekend in my race, I feel like my swim goal is the most "magical unicorns are sparkly and magical" goal, but I'm chasing it as hard as I can.  I spent a lot of time on the bike early in this month, and that was really the toughest part of leaping back into training.  My legs - along with my head, my heart and my vagina - put up a pretty vicious fight.  By now I've done this enough times to know that as I taper into my race, I'll get some of that deep rested pep back.  I saw a glimpse of it earlier this week, but didn't get to enjoy it because my ride was fraught with sprinkler malfunctions and an insane pack of possessed bees and then my poor decision-making about what time to leave for a hard run under the boiling hot sun reburied me in fatigue.  But it's coming back.  And the run, always the run. I'm not sure what exists in my legs right now, it's always the biggest question mark.  I know what I'd like to do, I know what I'd be happy with, and I know what I'm desperately hoping is hiding deep down inside.  And I think that's all I'm going to say about that for right now.

September will bring only one race, a little bit of recovery, and then right back to work.  Right now my triathlon season has about seven weeks left before it turns into run and swim camp for the winter, and I'm planning on racking up plenty of outdoor bike miles as the weather starts to cool off.  Riding in the fall brings me a shitload of joy - arm warmers that get rolled down two hours in, digging out the warmer socks, stopping for hot chocolate after a long ride - I'm excited for all of these things.  I'm also starting, very tentatively and with lots of hand-holding, to head in another direction as an athlete, and that's to start doing a little bit of coaching.  One of the common threads that has snaked through all of my various careers is how much I enjoy teaching and training and helping people grow, especially when it hurts, and I'm glad to be sticking my toe in the waters of it on a one-to-one basis.  It's going to be a learning process for me, certainly, but I'm ready to get bigger (fatter?) in this way, and I'm ready to work with awesome people who want to grow with me.  (Email me if you want to be one of those awesome people).  A lot of this desire comes from my history and experience, but certainly I wouldn't want to move in this direction without the awesomeness of Sonja rubbing off on me all year (you knew she was getting dragged in somewhere).  Leap directly at the thing you feel like you cannot do.  

It's also getting close to time to celebrate the birthdays of all five of us, and despite the ups and pretty serious downs we've experienced as a family this year, I still feel like we have plenty to celebrate.  We're here, four out of five of us can run, and our house is full of love.  Dog hair and half-chewed toys and smelly running shoes, but also, love.

Miles run: 82
Hangovers: 0
Hoodies purchased with the podium present excuse: 1
Hoodies lusted after with no excuse: 3
Days I missed a dosage of nasal spray: 2
Days I brought twice as much food to work as I thought I would need: 4
Days that I ate all of that and went home starving: 4
Bags of potato chips eaten by stress: 3

September Goals
Start setting the alarm again instead of assuming you will wake up when the poet does.
Get a haircut.  A real one, from the nice ladies in the very high heels.
Make pupcakes for the birthday of Molly and Sofie. 
Don't get swallowed up by training.  Balance is good.  Beer is good.
Keep working on that nutrition cabinet until it is gone.
Actually investigate master's swim instead of just talking about doing it.
Do the buy-a-WTF-vegetable-and-figure-out-how-to-cook it thing again.

What are your goals for September?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

three things thursday

1. I've been on the wild round of breathing meds for about three weeks now, and I think it's safe to say they have made a pretty significant difference in my life.  As my body adjusted, my heart rates as related to pace in training balanced out to numbers that look familiar.  The long run I did the week before I started on the regimen was averaging in the 12 minute/mile area, which I'm not sure I've ever seen.  The one I did three days after starting the drugs averaged in the low 11s, net uphill out the W&OD trail to work, and the one I did last weekend was well into the 10s.  My associated heart rate averages also dropped with these runs.  Numbers = science = drugs are good.  I'M NOT DOPING I SWEAR TO GOD.

The only symptom that is still lingering is a decent amount of congestion, but I've got my follow-up appointment next week so hopefully my doctor can slightly adjust a drug that will help me dry out.  There's a decent chance that the congestion is related to the amount of puppy that is in my house, but I'm happy to live with that.
2. A few weeks ago, I managed to bend Beth's ear about supplements, something I don't know much about but have been taking for a while now (I know).  I was mostly curious about the beta-alanine supplement.  I've done a tremendous amount of reading about it and the research seems to indicate that it's a good one, especially for people who don't eat meat (which has been me for about a month now, again, but that's a story for another time, or maybe #3).  At the most basic level, it's an amino acid that helps to fight the drop in pH that happens when you exercise.  The natural dietary source for it is generally beef, pork, fish, and chicken.  Anyway, I started taking it about two weeks ago and haven't noticed a significant difference yet, but as a science experiment of one I'm excited to see what happens.

The other supplements I've been taking regularly are a multi-vitimin (Flintstones chewable), glucosamine, and a calcium supplement.  I added an iron supplement with a Vitamin C chaser in the evenings about a month ago, mostly for insurance, but if I don't notice a difference I'll drop it back out.  Obviously I'm not a scientist or a dietitian so take everything I say with a grain of salt because it's entirely likely that I'm full of crap.  However, I pretty firmly believe that trying out these things won't hurt me in the long run, which is why I'm doing it.  If I decide that it's not helping me at all, I'll get rid of it.  I have mixed feelings about taking pills and supplements instead of getting what I need from real food, but since I've dropped meat back out of my diet and am planning on dropping dairy any day now, I want to make sure I'm filling in those blanks.  So we'll see how it goes.  

3. Yesterday I got stung by a bee three times on my ride and this morning I swallowed a whole mouthful of gnats.  It's good to be me.
Happy Thursday, friends!  Do you take drugs like me?  How many of these things I just talked about did you have to google?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

sorta wordless wednesday

I cleaned my own drive train yesterday (even though my mom told me I'd someday go blind).
I ride the crap out of my bike and clean/lube it sooooort of regularly, but I was still a little amazed at how much funk was up in there.  The word "ouch" showed up again in today's workouts and I'm pumped to go out and ride my squeaky clean sex machine.  Please ignore the fact that my pants are three sizes too big, I didn't realize that until I was putting them on at the gym post-swim.
In other news, Sofie's hair is in the in-between stage of growing it out and she isn't handling it all that well.
A hat might be a good answer for a while, Sof.

Happy Wednesday, friends!  Have you ever taken your bike apart and then let someone else much more knowledgeable put it back together?

Monday, August 27, 2012

and then you bounce back

After I wrote my post last week about how I was in a giant hole, I got a couple of mildly concerned notes.  Nothing dramatic, just an, "are you sure you're ok?" kind of check-in.  And I was okay, but I was also a little worried about how fragile my legs felt.  Along the same lines, Sonja became weary of listening to me whine about how tired and trashed I was, and she went in and slightly adjusted my schedule so I could find something else to complain about.  
Wednesday I had a mildly long ride which I rode pretty far into the range of "all easy."  Thursday I was actually able to put a little bit of spring in my swimming step and by Friday everything was starting to really calm down.  I'm sure I was in a similar hole during ironman training, but I appear to have erased it from my memory and was pretty startled and not at all amused when it came crashing back.
By Saturday I was starting to get a pretty serious case of the antsy-pants.  I had my last (?) long (?) run before my 70.3 to do, and it ended being a huge confidence booster.  10 miles (pretend there is a picture of me here holding up all 10 fingers), and I didn't go wild woman on my heart rate, but instead ran controlled up the gentle incline of the trail and then let it loose the way back down.  I felt a little creaky around the edges throughout the day, but a flop in the pool took care of some of it and compression plus couch time with the puppies took care of most of the rest. 
My sneaky bitch of a calf started to act up early last week, right along the time I almost fell over the edge into overloading.  Pulling back the training and getting the crap Graston'd out of it seems to have kicked it back in line.  I also have been leaning on my Ravennas a bit more than usual, to the point where I might race in them next week.  

Even after running SO FAR on Saturday, I woke up Sunday feeling fairly bouncy and actually happy to get back on the bike again.  I managed to guilt Caroline into riding with me, and we combined our prescribed interval sessions into a ride that I finished feeling a little fatigued but strong.  She also took me off of the "T and back" ride route that everyone in DC does a billion times a season and back into some quieter roads that we combined with a loop I knew to avoid River Road almost entirely.  It's actually been a while since I've ridden with someone, and while she is definitely a stronger cyclist than me, I think we're close enough that chasing her down through my intervals was the perfect amount of tough.  And the two four eight extra pounds that I'm still lugging around made it pretty easy for me to catch her anytime we hit even the slightest descent.  We didn't take any pictures because we are blogging failures, but I wish I had taken one of the heart rate strap mark on her forehead after she did the entire ride with it stuffed in her helmet. 

So my last "big" weekend before my 70.3 went surprisingly well.  Ironman has forever ruined my perspective on everything training, because running 10 easy miles and riding 50 plus some swimming doesn't sound like a big weekend at all anymore.  I'm a little concerned that I over-reacted to the loading part of the cycle and am now hitting the recovery too early, but it was pretty fabulous to feel fresh for at least the first half of my ride yesterday so I suppose I should just shut up and go with it so I don't wake up tomorrow to see a five-hour ride on my schedule.
As far as my race is concerned, I'm trying not to think about it too much at all.  For my spring 70.3, I made a complicated race plan full of times and heart rates and silly pictures, and I'm glad I did, but this time around I think I'm going to race on the no-plan plan.  
I know how to feed myself to get through 5-7 hours of exercise, I've got a pretty good idea about what half-IM effort should feel like, and if I can run at 11:30 pace or faster off the bike, I should have the kind of day I'd like to see.  Looking back, I think that both sprints I raced this season are a pretty good example of what happens when I don't obsess over the details of the day, and I'd like to replicate that feeling, at least mentally, going into this one.  I've made a lot of decisions recently that I'm hoping will take the pressure off of race day this time around, and I think the only plan I really need is to get the fuck out of my own way.  And to grab my puppies before crossing the finish line.
Oh, and my bike shoes have very rudely started hurting my feet, but my plan is to ignore it for the rest of the season because I don't want to plunk down any cash for new ones which I'm sure will work out just fine.
How was your weekend?  What do you think of the no-plan plan?

Friday, August 24, 2012

random friday facts

1. I almost never answer the phone.

2. I haven't eaten meat for about three weeks now (thanks to the poet for correcting my grammar).

3.  ....but still haven't managed to start the dairy-free experiment.  Is vegan cheese any good or is it just pretentious like the little seeds?  Does it defeat the purpose of the experiment?  Lie to me, please.

4. I've changed my mind about one of my fall races.  Don't worry, it didn't cost anything.

5. I think my resume sucks, and I'm terrible about writing cover letters.  You know what I'd be good at?  Let me tell you everything I am bad at, professionally.

6. I can burp on command.

7. We go through quite a bit of Powerade Zero in this house.

8. I have never done an olympic-distance triathlon all at once.  I've raced each of the legs.

9. I finally picked up my new contacts this week.  My right eye is a million times happier.

10. The muscle on the outside of your upper arm?  Mine is really big, I assume from swimming.  I think it's weird.

11. About 90% of my house is some combination of brown and light blue.

12. I'm not sure I've ever had an iPhone case that I've really loved.

13. I never get the rules right about which numbers you type as numbers and which ones you spell out.  18?  Eleven?  I don't know.

14. I know that I'm extra tired when my swim takes as long as the "planned time" in Training Peaks.

15. I pretty seriously OD'd on cheese last night.  Today might actually be the day.

16. You guys had some pretty strong opinions on Oreos last week.  Let me explain it to you.  Buy a package of Double Stuf, take off one cookie and throw it away, now you have the perfect Oreo.

17. After my last post, the poet made sure to track me down and let me know that he will never care about my watts (if I ever have watts).

18. My mom gave me a pack of running socks that have R and L on them.  I almost never get it right.

19. I don't drink juice.

20. Another week filled with food facts tells me I must be starving.

21. I am sadly overdue for a bikini wax.  Mostly because I haven't had enough days in a row away from the bike seat.

22. I have never been able to keep a plant alive.  Even our rhododendrons died.

23. When cars are rude to me on a bike, I make sure to yell "I'm following the law and you are not!" after them, even though they probably can't hear me and it's not doing any good.

24. I've been procrastinating a very short run for almost an hour while thinking up extra facts.  Time to go.

Happy Friday, everyone!  Tell me random things about you that I can steal for next week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I know this much is true

I know a lot of things (not everything, trust me, just go with me here for a minute).

I know that taking a month off after CdA was important for me to do.  I was afraid of getting burned out with only half the season behind me (and the rest of my life in front of me).  I spent a lot of time in May on a bike looking forward to sleeping in and having Oreos for breakfast and I reveled in it.  But a month was a long time, and by the end of it I was itching to get back in the swing of training.  I know that is true.

I know that no matter how gently I eased back into training, my body was going to be pretty crabby about it for a while.  Going from minimal activity - 30-60 minutes, if any, per day - back into what I would consider a fairly normal training schedule was always going to be a bit of a shock.  That isn't making me less pissy about not being able to hit a lot of my workouts right now, but deep inside, I know it's going to be okay.  And my body, it is in shock right now.  Wide-eyed open-mouthed horrified terror about what the fuck has happened to the nice life with the naps and the cookies and the sex.  

I know that if I take four caffeinated gels to get through a 5K swim because I forgot to eat after a 7+ mile run, I will not sleep well for two days.  But I do it anyway.  

I know that I have a 70.3 in a few weeks and need to be doing appropriate training to have a good - or maybe even great - day there.  Taking a month off meant I couldn't increase my time on the bike one mile per week.  It instead means that I need to be yanked through the glass.  Fitness by force.

I know that most of the time I need to just man up and get through the workout but sometimes, every once in a while, it's okay to crawl home with only half of it done and sleep for the next 18 hours.  In a row.  And I will not proudly hop on the internet and declare, "I LISTENED TO MY BODY" because I know that I want to punch people in the piehole for saying shit like that.  And it wasn't really listening, anyway, it was more like giving in.  Like letting the water close over your head and floating down into the dark. 

I know that Sonja can't hear me when I stomp my little foot and say things like, "Today I am NOT getting on the bike for the 7th 3+ hour ride in two weeks SONJA," but I say it anyway.  And then I get on the bike anyway.  

I know that my fitness isn't gone, it is just in a valley from my layoff.  A valley that would either take three months of base building or two weeks of soul-crushing workouts to rise up from.  Guess which one I'm doing.  

I know that laying in bed in the dark breathing through my nose to try and force my resting heart rate below 40 is not listening to the feedback I'm getting about how rested I am.  But Restwise sure does like it when I plug in that 39.

I know that deep down, I'm actually really REALLY excited about racing this fall.  It's just hard to remember that through the bleary haze of tired that I'm wandering around in during the few hours a day I'm not on my bicycle (what IS it with so much time on the bike this block???).

I know that sometimes all it takes for a ride to go from grumbly and hard to happy and chipper is stopping to pet the alpacas (and pee behind that farmer's mailbox).  
I know that in about two weeks, I'll come out of the nasty funk slump I'm in.  I'll start tapering for my race and my legs will perk up and I'll be able to stay awake later than 7pm and my voice will stop sounding like Darth Vader (bizarre side effect of being exhausted) and I won't be cursing Sonja's name when I look at my schedule on Tuesday morning (love you, Son, you know that, sorry about dragging your good name through the mud).  I won't have to remind myself to blink or finish sentences.  The ride where I rode so hard that I cooled down in aero with my head propped up on my water bottle because my arms were too weak to hold myself up on the bullhorns will be a distant memory.  I'll be excited about being back in the swing of things, I'll be so ready to go out and just plain old fucking hurt myself, to see if I really can put the pieces all in the right order all at once all in one day.  

I know that I do all of this because I love it.  Because there's nothing better than the sound of you and your girlfriends clipping in and rolling out to explore on two wheels.  Because no matter how much it hurts, to run across that finish line - be it ironman or the tiniest smallest sprint ever - and know that you turned yourself inside out - that is one of the great reasons to be alive.  To have a life where you wake up and go run or ride or swim and then come back to the table to stuff yourself with pancakes and gasp over the details (your husband being the possible exception to NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR WATTS) with your sweaty partner, that is the life I want.  

I know this much is true.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

random friday facts

1. I love oranges, but I almost never eat them because I hate my fingernails being orange all day from peeling.

2. I don't like soft-serve ice cream all that much.

3. I only learned recently that riding with people that have poor cycling manners makes me really nervous.

4. There are always bananas in our house.  

5. I must be starving due to all the random food facts.

6. I've had the part of the "Some Nights" song stuck in my head the past few days...the part that goes, "What do I stand for/what do I stand for/Most nights I don't know."

7. I'm reading the Stephanie Plum books for the 10th time.  Team Morelli.

8. The major difference between half-IM and IM training is the amount of times per week I want to throw my bike in the bushes.  

9. I'm getting ready to kick off my dairy-free experiment, and by "getting ready," I mean every day I declare, "I'm starting tomorrow!"

10. I have Yuengling porter and Bud Lite Lime in my fridge.  I think they're fighting.

11. I'm considering eating my "I will never do a marathon without a 6-hour warm-up on the bike first" words.

12. Still haven't managed to bring enough food to get through a workday, but I'm getting closer.

13. A twitter conversation about 80s music yesterday prompted me to fill my shuffle with all my favorites.  And this is embarrassing, but I love, in no particular order: The Eagles, Chicago, Huey Lewis, James Taylor, Billy Joel, George Thoroughgood, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, The Doobie Brothers, Journey, Genesis.  I love all of it.  Too bad my shuffle malfunctioned so I couldn't listen to any of it.

14. If I could crate-train humans like we do to our puppies I would be much more open to considering one.  They can't hurt themselves in there!

15. I need to find a Produce Junction-like place in Alexandria, where I can buy 2 weeks of produce for $30.  Ideas?  I miss having 5lbs of spinach and 15lbs of sweet potatoes in my fridge at all times.

16. Double Stuf Oreos would be perfect if there was only one cookie attached to the cream.

17. Yeah, must be starving.  The pancakes (GF, almonds, blueberries) haven't sunk in quite yet.

18. I've added chia seeds to my diet.  So far I haven't noticed a difference other than I feel pretentious when I drink my smoothies.

19. I have a bunion on my right foot and my gorgeous shiny red tri shoes have been irritating it lately. Rude.

20. I bought a new pair of running shorts that are quite a bit shorter than the two pairs I've been running in for years.  Still not used to it.

21.  I've been listening to a serious amount of James Taylor over the past two weeks (that's two facts with JT, whew).

22. My favorite Splish suit has turned into a parachute.  The saddest.

23. I'm about a year overdue for a real haircut.

Happy Friday, friends!  Drop me some random shit about you.  Make it entertaining, please, no, "I eat celery every day" garbage.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

three things thursday

1. One of the things that I'm trying to do better is get out of the cycling-route rut I've been floating in all summer.  So when a monster long ride showed up on my schedule for Monday, instead of riding out to Poolesville for the 200th time, I packed up my car and made the trip out to Purcellville to do some of my favorite climbing loops.
There aren't any really sustained climbs, but there's a lot of short steep stuff mixed in with long gradual rollers.  I did two loops plus another small half loop and my climbing legs were shot.  But I had a perfect day.  I bumped into a friend and we rode together for about 45 minutes, and I got to spend a lot of time in the scary dark places in my head, and then I put on some James Taylor and sang away the miles.  Going long on the bike just plain old makes me happy (especially when I don't have hard intervals to hit, word).

2. Stalking of the official race photos from the sprint brought this gem to light:
Hopefully you're as pumped as I am to see that even as I'm sprinting my way to the finish, I'm not heel-striking my ass off.  Go ahead, get excited.  Bent knee, good push-off in the back, about to land squarely on the midfoot, and foot only slightly turned out from my slightly tight hip flexor.  GET EXCITED DAMMIT.  I'm such a nerd for running form.  Let's bring back an old favorite to compare:
LAWD HAVE MERCY.  I'm actually probably running at close to the same pace in these two shots.  Okay, enough of that.

3. Since last year, I have definitely made significant progress in the pool.  (That's my disclaimer before you get mad at me for bitching about being slow).  However, I feel like I've been at a bit of a plateau over the past few months, and I'm not sure exactly how to bust past it.  One answer, I know, would be to join a master's group.  However, I'm a spoiled brat who doesn't like to be massively inconvenienced by other people's schedules, so I'm not sure that's the answer for me just yet (and it's only $30/month to swim in the manky LA Fitness pool as opposed to grotesque master's fees).  Sonja writes great swim workouts, and my execution is usually pretty solid, but I've been trying to pay a little extra attention to my effort in the water and the details of the session.  I know that for some workouts, especially short ouchy stuff, I tend to just float along at a sub-1:30 pace (yards, don't get crazy) and call it good.  There are times when I know that I could man up and swim a little harder, so that's probably part of it.
Another piece is probably swimming with people a lot faster than me (see above, see also: master's, sigh), so I'll be hunting around for some fast feet to chase in the pool whenever I can fit it in my life.  I also know that those extra 20-40 minute easy swims I was putting in my schedule all spring made a difference, and I need to get back in the habit of doing them again on hard leg days.  Which is exactly what I'm going to do on the way to work once I finish sucking down this delicious recovery smoothie (switched to strawberry protein powder, a big win).

Happy Thursday, friends and neighbors!  What are you sucking down this morning?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Druid Hill Sprint Triathlon: race report (guest post)

A sprint tri is fun. This was my big revelation for the day. I had fun walking lane to lane and cheering Katie on in the swim and watching her run up the stairs of an Egyptian pyramid towards transition. I had fun chatting with the people around me in line for the pool as we watched perfect swim form and muscular bodies devolve into oddly flapping jellyfish, knowing our bad form was yet to come. I had fun swimming to the left of people, to the right of people, making a hole in the middle and going for it. I had a great time having my friend Brian (race photographer for a day) cheering me on as I came out of the water. God bless those who will wake up at the crack of dawn to watch the salmon spawn.

In T1 I received a compliment. The woman who started just in front of me, who was not a jellyfish, who had a kit on and told me about her last 70.3 and used all the right words, said I was fast in the water. Tee hee. Me. Who trained all of two days in the pool. Silly but fun. 
In T1 I also showed why there was a big old N on each of my calves. The race people were yelling, "Cross the orange line before you mount." So, I crossed the orange timing mat and mounted well before the orange chalk line on the ground that read "Mount Here." I was chastised but yelled, "It's my first time!" And kept going.
On the bike I was amazed to get going without incident, and really freaking happy that I was able to get my feet into my rat-trap pedals. Yea me! There were little up hills and little down hills. What can I possibly tell you about the course? I don't know anything. I'm a novice. And then.... the downhill. I saw it coming. I pulled the left lever towards me (big ring) and pushed the right lever away from me (little gear), put my head down and pedaled as fast as I could. Three quarters of the way down the hill I yelled out "Hooooolllllyyy Shhhiiiiiitttttt!"
Luckily I saw the cop at the bottom of the hill or I may have found myself in the face of oncoming traffic. The rude awakening was that what goes down must go back up. Slowly. Painfully. Did I mention slowly. The second time around I had a realization on the way up that hill. This was the Druid HILL sprint triathlon. Druid HILL (Yes, I didn't realize that until the second lap). When I verbalized this to the woman next to me as we worked up this hill with our butts off the seats she claimed there was no way I could be a novice. My second compliment of the day.

I came into transition to get ready for the only part of this race I had any idea how to do, run a 5k. I dismounted (before the orange line) and sauntered into transition saying out loud, "Wobbly legs. Wobbly LEGS. I HAVE WOBBLY LEGS." I went to move my Garmin from my bike onto my wrist. The band snapped and it exploded into pieces. My reaction to this was to look at my Garmin, look at the band, look at the visor and sunglasses I was going to wear, pause for a brief moment of reflection and say, "Fuck it!" and just went to run.
The run course was perfect. I knew exactly where I was because of the big lake in the middle. When I saw Katie and Brian yelling for me I was filled with joy and happiness. When I hit the gas to take off my right leg charlie horsed. In my head I paused for a brief moment of reflection. I offered up a prayer to God that started with, "Fuck it!" and just continued my run.

If anyone has any advice to running after a previous activity (in water or off the bike), now would be the time to offer it. I have not been happy with the two times I have tried it. I am sure I will get better with practice. But my body (or maybe my brain) is pretty much like, "Sir, haven't we done enough today?" But, I had cheering fans and a beautiful morning, and I passed the 9 year old who swam with little t-rex arms in the pool. So, who am I to complain? I just hope to get better over time.
Then it was done. Which is maybe the most fun part about a sprint tri. You are in the water, than transitioning, then on a bike, then transitioning, then running, then eating pizza and listening to stories about the day. You never do any one thing long enough to get deep into it or bored with it or question it or have deep thoughts. It's just boom boom boom. Done. It's fun. You should do one. Go sign up right now. And if you have a hot fast wife, have her sign up too. Then you can share the day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Druid Hill Sprint Triathlon: race report

So, if you had asked me on Saturday morning if I was racing this weekend, I would have said no.
After the bike leg was canceled on his debut race, the poet signed up for a sprint this weekend in Baltimore in an effort to complete a triathlon with all three legs.  Which would make the ninth consecutive day that I had set my alarm for a number starting with a 4 or 5, so I was a bit grumpy about it, but not too grumpy, because come on, now, he stood around in Idaho for almost 14 hours while I repeatedly tried to pee on myself.  
But then it turned out that I didn't have to work on Sunday and then it turned out that we had access to a 50% off race entry situation and then it turned out that the poet thought that maybe I would be less grouchy about getting up in the middle of the night to watch him race for less than an hour if I was also racing (spoiler: NO).  So I texted Sonja and she let me know that if I couldn't get through a sprint right now I was basically a massive failure at triathlon not to mention life in general (or something far more positive) and it was done.  

I used one of the at least eight hours between deciding to do the race and the race actually starting to think about whether I wanted to have any goals.  I've talked before about how, as my races have gotten longer and my training has slowed WAY down, that I find it hard to go to the place where it hurts.  So I decided that I wanted to see how badly I could hurt on the bike and the run (a snake swim in a pool is not a place to try and find the pain).  And that scared me, a little, so I knew it was a good call.  I also over-heard/read a conversation between Sonja and the poet and a little snippet jumped out at me...something about how vulnerable you are when you go really hard and you don't let up and then you have to face what's out there.  Sounds like the opposite of what I did in ironman, sounds perfect.  I obviously didn't taper for the race and had a brief thought about how non-snappy my legs felt after a decent week of training, but then pushed it out the window and let it explode on the ground.  No excuses.

So I got up at the crack of dawn and stumbled around in my dark house trying to find ride glide and two running shoes that matched each other and were the same size, and then we drove to Baltimore and after trying to turn down no less than four one-way streets in the wrong direction, the poet got us to the start of the race.  
I "helped" him rack his bike and set up transition ("do NOT put your bike near mine") and then we headed down to the pool.
Because I signed up that morning, I got stuffed into the cracks of the time trial swim start, which meant I was leading the second wave.  One of the guys right behind me won the race last year and he was pretty cranky about being in the second wave, and promised to basically swim over me as quickly as he could.
The girl with the stopwatch counted down and I left.  I had put exactly zero thought into time or effort on the swim, so I just sort of....swam.  The race director had let us know that flip-turns were allowed under the lane lines as long as you didn't kill anybody, but the pool was set up to snake swim in one direction and I, sadly, flip-turn in the opposite direction.  After several confusing attempts to flip the other way underwater that ended up with me shooting off the wall in a very not-straight line and my heart almost exploding because I couldn't find the surface, I just decided to touch and go.  The two guys behind me swam their brains out to get ahead of me before 50 yards had gone by....and then were two inches in front of me for the rest of the swim.  I decided not to pass them back because I left my enormous dick in the car, so I just drafted and made sure to stay right on top of them, which was far less challenging than it should have been based on how quickly they swam the first 48 yards.  The swim was over before most of these thoughts were even complete, so I hopped out of the water, ran around one of those guys, and headed to transition.  I glanced at my watch as I was heading around the pool deck and saw it flip to 4:40, which means I probably swam somewhere around 1:30 paceish.  Neat.
Swim: 300 yards (plus 2 mile run): 5:45.

As usual, transition (and the swim exit timing mat) was miles away, but this time the race director managed to throw in two flights of wet concrete stairs coming out of the pool.  We ran around the edge of the pool, through a gate, up the stairs, up some more stairs, across the road and then crossed the mat.  Which explains why official times for the swim are pretty ungodly slow for 300 yards across the board - because they include an equal amount of time swimming and running.

Anyway, got into transition, put my helmet on backwards, put my shoes on, fixed my helmet when I whacked the tail of it on the rack while putting my shoes on, ran out with my sunglasses in my mouth and hopped on.  I really need to learn how to do the flying mount thing because I waste so much time at the line figuring out which leg goes over the bike to make it go forward.
T1: 1:32. 

The bike course was interesting, and by interesting, I mean stupidly technical for the distance.  It was a two-loop course for slightly less than eight miles, which I imagine sucked later in the morning when it filled up.  Being near the front, it wasn't bad.  I passed a few woman and some men, and a couple of guys with $10K bikes whizzed past me.  When you left transition, you rode up a little flat part, hard 90-degree turn, then a gradual but long climb, another hard 90-degree turn, steep descent that you came to a screeching halt at the bottom of only to make a 150-degree turn and essentially climb back up what you just descended.  Then some very tiny rolling stuff to get you back to the front of the loop.  There was one little descent in there that was impossible to enjoy because of the extremely large speed bumps that went across the entire road.  On the first lap I didn't see them coming and caught some pretty serious air, but on the second lap I screeched my brakes a bit so my vagina has the hope of recovering from the slam it took the first time around.  Someday.

I didn't really pay attention to my watch because there was no hope of settling into any kind of effort (plus I accidentally reset it in the first mile and then wasted time going through multisport mode and finally gave up and switched it over to bike mode), but instead just hammered as hard as I could the entire time.  It hurt, only a little because it's the bike, but ouch.  The teensy tiny bit of fatigue I managed to accumulate during the six days I've been training since my ironman bender got shut down piped up a bit to complain.  Wasn't today supposed to be an easy swim day?

It wasn't until I was about to turn back into transition that I noticed the guy in front of me had his feet out of his shoes (I have recently mastered this skill without crashing) and I managed to get my own feet out and dismount like a grown-up.  About ten things in this picture make me incredibly happy, including my run form.  
Bike: Somewhere sort of around 8 miles: 25:09. 

I took the time in T2 to put my greased socks on and took off with my visor around my bicep and my race belt in my mouth, leaving a trail of sunglasses and pool water destruction in my wake (sadly, no photo exists of this hot mess).  It's been a while since I've done a race where you aren't on the bike long enough to dry off from the swim.  

T2: 1:14.

The run, as always, was a big unknown.  All I wanted to do was hurt as hard as I could, but run steady.  I didn't want to run a 7-minute mile followed by a 10-minute mile followed by walking, I wanted to run evenly but the word I kept repeating to myself was HARD.  I've found that I do a lot better when I have the knowledge of the Garmin, so I set up my screens to show me run time, average pace, and lap pace.  The run course was excellent.  You left transition, did a short out-and-back and then did two complete laps around a pond before heading to the finish.  Except for the last 25 feet of the race which had maybe 700 feet of elevation change (up then back down), it was completely flat.  Average pace was going nuts for the first minute or so, of course, but settled down to about 9:09 pace by the time I came out of the turn-around.  I wanted my pace to be in the 8s without question, so I tried to move into the hurt.  And it did hurt, and I relished it.  Mile 1, 8:38.  

I came around into the second lap just when the burning was starting to really get to my brain, and I started thinking what I usually think, which is, "when the mile beeps, you can walk for 10 seconds!"  Which is exactly what I didn't want to do - I didn't want to surrender, I wanted to stand on the edge of the pain, I wanted to roar into it.  When I came up onto the out-and-back, a guy had just come flying through and I latched onto him, hard.  He was wearing an UnderArmor shirt that had a logo on the back right under his neck (hi, mister age-51) and he was running just a little bit faster than I was.  I fell in step about six inches behind him and just stared at that logo and tried to empty my brain.  Mile 2, 8:27.  

It's been such an interesting journey this year as I've been working on getting my mental crap sorted out.  I've realized that sometimes I need to talk nice to myself, but sometimes I think that expending the energy to try to convince myself that something is happy and nice when it sucks isn't worth it.  And 5K effort is probably a pretty good representation of that.  Instead, I just try to empty my mind completely.  It's pretty dumb and cheesy, but I have this perfect little image of a tiny bare piece of beach with waves washing up onto the shore, and I just go into the place where it hurts and watch those stupid waves.  Crash.  Crash.  Crash.  

I hung onto my UA boyfriend hard.  He sped up, I sped up, he slowed (thank GOD), I slowed.  I'm sure he wasn't happy about the snorting buffalo sitting on his tail but I wasn't letting him go for anything.  I remember reading somewhere from one of Sonja's reports that she told herself to eat the pain, and that popped into my head while I was running (which was for far less time than I've been typing it) and I made a little growl face with my teeth and repeated that over and over for a while.  Eat the pain.  EAT THE PAIN.  Mile 3, 8:30.

When I hopped off the UnderArmor train to turn towards the finish, I thanked the guy for the ride and he laughed, so I guess he wasn't that pissed.  Up the extremely short but steep hill, down the other side and done.  (6:46 pace for the .1?  Can that be real?  Probably just unicorn Garmin math.)  I did not walk, I did not slow down, I did not surrender.  Victory.

Run: 5K, 25:54.

Because of the way the swim started, I passed the poet in T2 (he was in T1, we high-fived, it's fucking adorable) so I had a rough idea where he was in the race.  So I chatted with my new friend Lindsey (overall female winner, rude) and then headed up to the bike course in time to catch him getting off the bike and heading out on the run.  We waited down on the run course to scream his name and yell GO a million times as he headed out on his first lap.
While he was out on the lap, I stopped back in transition to clean up a bit and then we made it back down to see him heading out on the second lap, and then we checked out the unofficial results and listen to men complain about being beaten.  At that point, unofficially, I was on the first page.  That's never happened before.  But with the TT start, I knew a lot of women were still out there, so I ate my piece of pizza (approximate time, 8:15am) and we walked over to wait for the poet to finish.  Which he did, with style, looking fly (don't worry, he gets to tell his own story).
When we checked the fifth round of unofficial results, I was still on the first page.  And once all the finisher dust settled and all the people who only did one lap of the bike course were DQ'd (MANY), I was still there.  6th overall woman, 2nd in 30-34, with the fastest female bike split of the day by about 20 seconds.  (My not impressed with second face).
It's really difficult for me to type that and not immediately start to qualify it with the size of the race, the depth of the field, the length of the race, a million other reasons why I should not make a big deal out of this.  But you know what?  Fuck that.  I'm going to just celebrate it and not shit all over it.  I've never been on a triathlon podium before.  And I might not ever be up there again, but yesterday, I was.  
Even better than getting on the podium, I set goals before the race started and actually achieved them.  Do I feel a little sheepish that my hard 5K effort right now is a 25:xx?  A little, but again, I'm going to try not to qualify it.  It hurt like hell and that is honestly what my body could do.  I feel like I might have been able to run at that pace for a little while longer but there was no way I could have run faster (although when I found out that I was only 13 seconds behind the 30-34 winner...well, never mind).  My data files for the bike and the run paint a very different story than the sprint I did in the spring, where I essentially rode at half-IM effort and then ran at MAF.  My heart rate on the bike yesterday hovered well over 160 and hit 166, a number that I've maybe never seen on the bike before and haven't seen on the run since last November in Philly.  And this is the first hard run in a while that doesn't have the big heart rate drop in it showing where I surrendered to the monsters in my head.  Instead it's a picture of perfect effort.  Steady and hard and can never remember to stop the watch at the finish line.
But I'm honestly less excited about the specifics of this day.  The thing that I am excited about is the progress I am making in race day execution.  I've always been a mule in training but for so long, I could not for the life of me put my shit together on race day.  Showing up for a sprint was terrifying.  I'm not in sprint shape at ALL.  I'm actually not in anything shape right now.  I spent nine months teaching my body to go long and easy, raced for 14 hours, took 5 weeks off to be a fat drunk (SOAS kit not fitting quite so well this weekend), and then was only back in training for 6 days before I showed up for a race.  And you know what?  None of that matters.  What matters is I showed up, I went hard, I didn't give up, and I don't give a shit about the numbers.  I'm finally figuring out how to execute, and this step is making me so excited to race this fall.  
The puzzle pieces are starting to come together.  Maybe I'll never be fast, maybe I will never get on the podium again, and maybe a steady stream of women will always blow past me on the run.  Or maybe, just maybe, this is how it begins.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

four things friday

1. After the unmitigated disaster of last week, I feel like I should get a big gold star for the past four days.  Not only have I completed every minute of each workout I've had scheduled, I have captured the living shit out of the spirit of the session.  I was patting myself on the back last night about it and then realized that until my life went off a cliff and deep into the land of crazy, this was normal for me (completing workouts without a lot of fanfare).  Normal.  Right.  But it sure does make me feel content to see all those Training Peaks boxes turn green.

I am laughing, though (again at myself), because it only took a month of the "do whatever I want" schedule for me to completely forget what it feels like to be the tiniest bit tired.  I did some of the fastest running I've done in months on Tuesday and my quads and hamstrings are STILL sore, to the point where I was noticing my quads in the pool on Wednesday and bending over to touch my toes feel like brilliantly unwinding.  The flip side is that I've slept better the past few nights than I have since I was peaking for ironman training.  I'll take it.  

2. Speaking of fast running, I'm hesitant to say that my magical asthma drugs are kicking in already, but the long run I did yesterday morning was a whole different world than the one I did on Sunday.  I ran up the gentle-but-steady incline of the W&OD trail from my house to Falls Church and expected to be cranky about the uphill, the heat, the humidity at 6am, the bugs, the sweat, the wedgie my shorts were giving me, all of it.  But instead I felt happier than I've felt on a run in months.  I did zero walking, ran faster, kept my heart rate lower and was smiling when it was over.  The doctor told me it would take 10-14 days for the drugs to start working (although he did say it's different for everyone).  Placebo effect?  Maybe, but if so, I don't care.  It's so nice to be able to run longer than two miles without choking and walking and throwing a major hissy fit.  It was still on the "slower" side of what is normal for me at that heart rate in the non-summer months but the improvement from the last run was so significant that I'm shocked.  My doctor also gets a big fat gold star, and I get a smack on the nose for not getting tested two years ago when this crap started.  

3. I've completely forgotten how to function in a world where I spend more than two hours a day away from my own kitchen.  Now that I actually have to GO to work, I somehow have to figure out how to pack enough food to sustain myself for the eight hours I am gone.  I realized that this sounds like the overprivileged whining of someone who has been lucky enough to work from home since 2009, but I packed WAY more food than I thought I would need on Wednesday...and had eaten it all after about five hours.  I'm trying to not resort to living on Clif bars and bananas, so I'm going to be working on packing full (balanced?) meals and eating enough before I head out in the morning.  Like a grown-up would do.  What do you people eat all day?

4. It's been a while since I've posted some puppy pics.  For shame.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  Let me know if you are racing so I can cheer for you with my much-less-icky lungs!