Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Orleans 70.3: race report

The last thing I felt like doing after all the events of last week was racing.

The week before the race didn't feel like a normal taper.  I wasn't crabby and crazy and finding mysterious injuries everywhere, I didn't give up something essential in my diet, and I did not almost get divorced.  The only noticeable difference in my life was that with only one workout to do most days, I slept in and then felt blah and had crazy hair until lunchtime.  I spent the entire week not wearing a watch or a strap or looking at a clock, and I had almost no desire to complete workouts with everything else that was going on.  I floated through the week feeling meh.  No pre-race anxiety, no stressing about times or distances, just meh.
Saturday morning I flew down to New Orleans, where it was sunny and full of palm trees and 70+ degrees out.  That helped.  I picked up my tiny rollerskate of a rental car and drove to Heidi's house (best race host ever, by the way) with the windows down and the music blaring.  That helped too.
Pre-race logistics were relatively simple, especially compared to the nightmare of my last 70.3, and I was fed, organized, and in bed before 9.  I asked Sonja for a "go fucking hurt yourself you aren't going to die out there" pep talk, but instead she just told me to go have fun.  No paces, no digging a hole in the floor of the pain cave, no visor down hurting hard.  The point of this race was to chase the dust bunnies out of winter, not hunt for speed and pain.  And I almost felt disappointed, somewhere inside, that I didn't have numbers to hold myself to especially off the bike, but I also felt relief.  No pressure, just go have a ball.  I have no idea how my bike box fit inside that car.  
We showed up to transition about eight minutes before it was closing, which is exactly how I like to roll on race morning.  Get in, pump the tires, lay out the crap, and get out.  The race was a TT start, so there was no getting in the water beforehand to get the OWS freakout out of the way (first time in my wetsuit since October; this race report is "do as I say not as I do" for the record).  I met some really nice women while waiting to start, and as I stood around, I realized that I felt no anxiety about my day whatsoever.  And when it was my turn to go, I was ready and there was a smile on my face and I leapt off the end of the dock and cannonballed into the water.

Swim: 1.2 miles, 34:56
For the first time ever, I didn't wear a watch for the swim, and THAT was one of the best decisions I made all day.  I felt like I swam hard.  The swim course was relatively confusing, and instead of doing recon on it beforehand, I assumed that I would just follow everyone else (as I say...).  I actually thought that with the TT start, there would be a nice straight line of people to follow all the way to the dock on the other side.  However, the breaks between waves plus the fact that I started near the front of my group meant there was no one to follow, so I got a little bit lost and almost swam into a boat.  It was actually a pretty strange feeling - usually I can find some sort of pack to hang onto - but instead every time I popped my head up, I saw no one in the water around me.  Maybe a red cap far off in front, or a pink cap stroking 30 feet to my left, but no one nearby.  So I swam for a while, I watched the sun come up, and then it was time to climb up the steps and jog into transition.  Wetsuit off, helmet sunglasses shoes on, clack clack clack out to the mount line and off I went.  Hours after the race, when people were complaining about the swim being long and there being an extra buoy to turn around and blah blah blah, I didn't care because I didn't know my time.  And when I found out my time, I still didn't care, because now I understand why people say to not wear a watch during the swim.  I could look at this time and go nuts in my head because of how "slow" it is compared to my swims in the past and the work I've done this winter and my TT at this distance and my 100s and all kinds of stupid shit that doesn't matter, or I could go, "eh, sure, maybe it was a bit long," and move right along.

Bike: 56 miles, 2:59:38
We turned out of transition and climbed a tiny hill and I started to settle.  I was worried about the wind but it seemed calm...until we did a 180-turn at a cone and headed the opposite direction and I realized that the wind had been at my back.  Now, if you've ever ridden a bike with me, you know how much I hate the wind (and how much I curse and talk about my crotch).  And I spent a lot of time last year trying to make peace with it, but then I moved to Boulder and learned a whole new level of wind.  The wind, on race day, as I described it to the many, many people who didn't really care, was Boulder-windy.  It was lifting my helmet off my head and smacking me in the wheels and trying to suck out my water bottles, and I spent almost three hours trying to figure out how the fuck I was going to train for a windy ironman when I could barely deal with half the distance in those conditions.  The thing I said to myself over and over that was a comfort was, "everyone is dealing with this, everyone is riding the same course with the same wind," and that kept me calm and focused, albeit a bit grumpy.  I worked through my nutrition and desperately prayed that we would turn our backs to the wind at some point, and there were a few miles of sweet tailwind, but for the most part we were all tucked tiny and tight with a death-grip on our aerobars trying to get nutrition down before it was blown to Mexico, for 56 miles.  (Blatant race photo thievery).
As far as numbers go, I didn't look at my Garmin very often.  It's set to auto-lap every 5 miles because that is the setting it comes with out of the box, so I caught a couple of those lap beeps, and laughed when I calculated how slowly I was moving.  For the first ten or fifteen miles, I held back a bit in hopes that the wind would just fuck off like I was telling it to.  At some point I realized it wasn't going anywhere and I needed to buckle down and crank, so that's what I did.  I rode entirely based on effort and in looking at my file after the race, I'm pretty happy with the work I did in the back forty miles.  

Run: 13.1 miles, 2:03:49
There is no greater joy than racking your bike on a windy day and pulling on the run shoes.  None.  I couldn't wait to leave the ride behind.  I sat down to pee and tie my shoes (another sign of a season opener...where are my elastic laces?), grabbed my watch, my visor, and my nutrition and bounced on out of transition.

My instructions for the run were to run at a pace I knew I could hold, to high-five people and smile and laugh and just have a little party of one.  The screen that is always showing on my Garmin in training shows elapsed time and heart rate, so I know what my heart is doing and when it's time to turn around, and that's it.  I barely looked at it on Sunday.  I still have a hard time believing how happy I was for the entire 13.1 miles.  

I lapped the watch at the first mile marker and was a little surprised to see it say 9:22.  The next two miles were somewhere in the 9:20s and then there were only ten miles left to run.  I was waiting to see if a low was going to come, if I was going to blow-up and fall into a black hole, and I never did.  A few women blazed passed me and I cheered for them (relay assholes with fantastic hair and no black river beard, just kidding, love you girls), and a man with a 69 on his calf smoked me around mile 6 and I was flat-out impressed.  There was a woman handing out Coors Light somewhere after the mile 5 marker, and I'm not exactly saying that I stopped and drank one, but that 9:43 was my slowest mile of the day and I burped for the next four miles.  And when I arrived at the first timing mat somewhere between miles 5 and 6, I jumped into the air and stomped on that sucker with both feet, in hopes that it would broadcast my glee back home to the poet, who I knew was anxiously waiting to see how I was doing.  I wanted him to know that I was having a blast.  

The miles passed pretty unremarkably from there on out.  I never lost my joy, I never for one second felt weak, the smile never fell from my face, I ran every single step from T2 to the line.  As I ran by, people cheered for me (because they were drunk and cheering for everyone) and told me I looked strong, and for the first time in my life, I believed them.  I was passing people - not many, and quite a few people were passing me - but I don't think I've ever passed a single person when running off the bike.  Ever.  And all too soon it was over.  (More shoplifting).
The amazing takeaway from this race for me is that my head, my mental game, my brain is exactly where I've spent so much time wanting it to be.  I look back to January, where I started off this year, and what I am looking for, and I am here.  I didn't go into this race chasing times, I went in chasing happiness, and that's what I found.  And deep down, WAY far inside, do I actually give a flying fuck that I PR'd my run off the bike by almost 15 minutes?  Just typing that makes me laugh, I almost feel like I shouldn't mention it because it just doesn't matter.  If I had done the entire race Sunday and never known what my times were, I would be just as content.  What matters is that I got to swim, bike, and run outside on a glorious day, I finished happy.  I am that girl, the one that drinks a beer and slaps men on the ass that she's never met and sings "BOOTS WITH THE FUR" along with the aid station and cannonballs off the dock.  I am jumping up and down, face cracked in half with a stupid grin, yelling, "that's right, motherfuckers!"  I am changing, I am growing, I am figuring my shit out.  I am back.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I don't have anything new to say.

Nothing profound, nothing moving, nothing more than what is merely an echo of what is being said by thousands of others this morning.

I may or may not even hit publish, and if I do, I will know that it is likely because I am just trying to make myself feel better.  I am searching for comfort that I don't even understand why I need.

I'm not sure why this has affected me more than the dozens of other tragic events that have filled our world over the past few years.  Maybe it's because I lived in Boston for a while, but I don't think that's it.  Maybe it's because I stood in the exact spot that is being circled on maps and infographics, two years ago, myself cheering for loved ones.  But I don't think that's it either.  The poet pointed out that had he been running, the time on the clock would have been his and I would have been there on the sidelines, and his voice shook when he said it.  And I had a pretty bad ten minutes yesterday afternoon trying to track down some of the dearest friends to my heart, one running, some cheering, all in harm's way.  All, I know now, safe.

I could write about how these are my people, this is my family, but if you are reading this, than these are also your people, your family, so you understand.  That is not something that needs to be said.

All I could do yesterday afternoon was stare out the window and watch the snow fall.  And then I came home and gathered my family to me and sat on the couch and stared into space until I looked up and noticed that it was night.

I know that social media is reaching out and gripping each other's hands, together, like they tend to do.  People need people, people need reminders that they are alive, people lean towards fight.  But I desire flight.  And maybe it makes me horrible, but I can't bear to be a part of it, to watch it all go by.  I don't want to repost quotes or RT so someone will donate money or wear things or say things or do things.  

I just want to sit here.  In my own silence, stunned, with my aching heart, and grieve.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Boulder Spring Half Marathon: race report

This was never going to be a race.
When my fellow ponies asked Sonja if we could do this - a half marathon in our backyard - she said yes but cackled evilly while letting us know that we'd be running it on tired legs, and I vaguely recall a threat of getting on our bikes instead of going out to brunch afterwards (these are our grumpy faces).
The theme of the past month, for me, has been a generally manageable kind of tired.  I started to notice it in the weeks before Yasi came out to visit - I'm feeling worn out from the work, yes, but I also feel like I am absorbing it well.  No particular workout or day had really dumped me into a big hole.  Rather it was just day after day of steady and continuous loading.  As the days went on, I started to wonder when it would come - the CRRAAAAAAACCKKKKK as I fell off the ledge (foreshadowing here) into exhausted psychosis.

So for this sucker, there was no taper or rest or anything leading up to this, it was simply a supported long run dropped in the middle of a steady training block.  The day before, we rode out and up to Carter Lake - the first time for me - and my legs felt pleasantly ripped by the time I crawled in bed.
I woke up with the Darth Vadar voice that I associate specifically with the cycling variety of exhausted, and there was a noticeable strain in my cheerful race morning persona.  It was nice to only have to drive twenty minutes to the race, and all the general pre-race happenings went quite smoothly.  Sonja showed up and sent us all out to warm-up, and when we jogged back to her, she stripped us of our electronics (WHAT?!) and dumped us on the line.
Her parting shot was something along the lines of, "this should feel like the last 13 miles of the IM marathon," and boy oh boy, was she right.
When we had chatted a few days earlier, before she stole our data-capturing machines, the plan was run at MAF.  Running at MAF lately has been a fight to get my HR up, and I was not looking forward to a frustrating day of hauling ass to only see 135 HR.  So I wasn't that unhappy to be without my watch, but as soon as we started running, I knew it was going to be a rough.  My legs weren't sore, exactly, it was more that my system felt completely beat to hell.
Mo and I ran together for the first mile or so and then she dropped me on one of the first long uphills and I never saw her again.  I remember seeing the mile markers for miles two and three, and then it started to get really ugly.  There was no "start slow finish fast," there was no "increase the effort at this point," there was no race strategy of any sort, there was simply tuck in and hang on and get to the finish line as fast as you can.
For me, the best way I can cope with the pain is by blocking out everything I can.  In ironman that meant pulling my visor down over my eyes so I couldn't see anything but the shoes of the person in front of me, emptying my mind and focusing on nothing but how to keep moving forward.  That's what this felt like.  That's the darkness I was in.
After the turn-around, I managed to catch up to two women who were running together fairly easily and chatting about their neighbors, their kids, someone driving too fast down their street, I don't even know what else.  I jumped on the train behind them and let their voices wash over me while I stared at the pink shoes one was wearing.  For miles, I ran like this.  Up hills down hills (my God so many hills) into the wind with the wind.  Not looking at anything or moving any part of my body more than I needed to, eyes locked on a pair of feet.
At some point I heard the poet's voice yelling and I chucked my water bottle in his direction, and Sonja ran next to me for a few seconds and said something about swinging my arms.  I walked for about five seconds twice to get gels down - the second one I really only think I took for the walk break, not for the calories - and I stopped to pee somewhere because I felt like I was bursting, but those are really the only details I can pick out of the day.
I feel like I should have more words, eloquent meaningful words, for how much this hurt - but I don't.  I only know that it was horrible, and I let it be, and I didn't step away or distract myself from it.  I didn't dive in the bushes and take a nap, I didn't let myself walk (other than for water), I kept the pressure on as hard as I could, which was probably not very hard.  I hung on until it was finally over.  It's a lesson that I need to learn, how to not back down from pain, and knowing that is probably part of what got me through.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, the poet was there, and I burst into tears.
Ugly, holy shit that hurt, can't move another step, horrified sobbing.  Complete emotional let-down (gross).
It only lasted for a few minutes, thankfully, and then we proceeded to food and pants and cheering for my training buddy that won her AG and then brunch and puppy and napping.  But that was the crack.  I spent the rest of the day in bed, I got a solid night of sleep, and I woke up Monday feeling empty.  Irritable.  I spent the day crying at everything and throwing my goggles at the fence after 500 yards and hiding in my office with the door closed so I wouldn't get fired for showing up and acting like a complete lunatic.  Tuesday was better, although still a touch insane, and this morning I woke up and people have stopped telling me that I look like shit.  But my well is deeper now, that I know for sure.  This is how it gets deeper, this is how I break through, this is the work that needs to be done for me, this year.  And I know that when I'm in the final miles of the marathon in July, I'll remember this day, and I'll be able to dig deeper, to run a little faster, and to hang onto the pain just a little bit longer.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

random Wednesday brain dump

Last week we had quite a bit of sunny weather.  While I was working from home one morning, I left the back door open and the puppies went out and laid around in the sunshine.
After realizing how happy they were, we decided to put in a dog door.  We can gate them into the kitchen/back part of the house so they can't get into too much trouble, and they can go outside whenever they want to.  As soon as they figure out how to get through the door...
Completely unrelated, I've been worried that I have a bit of a sugar addiction lately.  Not so much candy and crap, but more the evil secret sugars that everybody hates on for sneaking into all of your food.  This weekend, I discovered how to break that addiction.  I made this for Easter (no, my hair was not combed but at least it was clean, thanks).
I had less than one slice and three days later, still have absolutely no interest in eating any sugar or a peep or really anything but green vegetables.  Maybe ever again.

In other random shit that really doesn't matter, the poet has returned to running after the five-month break he took following his big marathon PR.  We did our long runs together Sunday morning.  For the first time since he started running, I get to be faster than him.  I'm sure it won't last longer than another week or so while he gets his heart rate back under control but it's nice to not be smoked by my tall, lanky, runs-with-perfect-form-and-never-gets-injured husband for once.
Oh, and we painted the living room.
Happy Wednesday!