Wrapping up 2016

Once the dust from last Sunday’s race settled, I went through a bit of a period of disappointment. Trying to examine what I could’ve changed, yet trying to still be proud that I did something big. Dallas was my 14th marathon, and even though I didn’t reach my time goal, that’s still kind of a big deal. So I decided to do some reflecting on my year as a whole to help myself move on past the post-race funk.

2016 was a big year for tri-ing new things and facing fears. (See what I did there.)

I conquered my first open water swim. In a group. Of strangers. Very fit triathletes. I didn’t die from embarrassment.

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I did my first Olympic triathlon – which coincidentally was the first time I swam a mile.

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I rode in my first bike rally. It wasn’t what I thought it would be, but I survived. I also learned not to grip the handlebars too tightly.

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I completed my first¬†half Ironman. Now that was a hard day, and I didn’t even know I could do it.

Until I did.

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I set a new PR at the Hot Chocolate 15k back in February. And I took a “shot” of M&Ms in that race too. That was a first, and not recommended. At least not at a fast pace.

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I also drank a whole lot of chocolate milk this year! ūüôā

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The triathlon adventures brought renewed passion to my running. I have decided to continue to pursue my running goals while keeping up my fitness in the pool and on the bike. I learned that I can continue to improve in many ways and continue to find new goals to challenge myself.

It’s been a pretty busy year, and I’m looking forward to 2017!

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Buffalo Springs 70.3 (Part 2 Bike and Run)

If you missed my last post about the start of my Half Ironman at Buffalo Springs, you can catch up on it here. The next part of the race was the longest and required some mental effort. I apologize in advance for being long-winded. I love to write and I love to give details. Double whammy here.

To sum up where I left off, I had completed the swim not knowing how long it took me, and made it to the bike with people still behind me. I was feeling pretty good.

THE BIKE:

I had a nice mental boost from seeing my husband and brother right off the bat,¬†then¬†I passed where we parked and¬†the downhill was followed immediately by another climb. This one got to me. I was breathing heavy, focusing on my turnover when a guy passed me and said “Easier gear.” The guy right behind him said “You have two more.” I acknowledged with “Thanks” and shifted – twice. I was calm and ready to tackle the ride. Once I completed that hill, I knew I had a while before the next one.

The weather was cooperating so far with a cloudy sky and low winds. It was a nice day for a bike ride.

As I moved forward into¬†the second major climb, I saw the athletes¬†coming down and it didn’t seem as scary as it had in the car. This was the one that curved around with a¬†guardrail that bordered¬†a cliff. The downhill that kept me awake half the night. The one I was most worried about. But focusing on my climb, I noticed some riders walking their bikes up the hill. I focused my legs on a steady cadence and stayed in my seat all the way up. I honestly could’ve run a flat road faster than my speed climbing,¬†but I got it done. My motto all throughout the ride became “the tortoise always wins.” I repeated it out loud as needed. I focused on my race, my speed, and my skills. After the turnaround when I began descending, I kept my confidence in place and braked all the way down. “That wasn’t so bad.” I knew that if I made it through that one, I’d be okay for the others. The next big climb had a sign “Spiral Staircase.” This one was steeper but there were no big drop-offs. I saw people walking their bikes up again. It definitely hurt going up, but again I focused on a steady climb. A straightway for several miles, and then a turn around right into the wind. Coming back down the Spiral Staircase was a little faster than the other hill, and scary in a roller coaster thrill way. Oh thank goodness it was a low wind day,¬†because the rest of the ride I fought the wind one direction or another. I¬†couldn’t get my average pace above¬†14.0. Even with the downhills.

By mile 50, the wind had taken its toll on my legs. They were done and I wanted to be off the bike. The sun had come out about 2 hours into the ride, and I was on my last bottle of Nuun. I was getting thirsty so I tried to ration the rest of my drink. I didn’t want to stop before I finished the bike. My bike was moving¬†slower than I estimated, and since I didn’t know my swim time, I hated¬†to push the time limits. Looking back, I should have had more chews on the bike instead of the extra Clif bar I never ate. At mile 55, I audibly groaned¬†“Oh no!” as I began to climb the final hill in the park before the downhill to transition. It was a straight up hill.

I crested the top, rode past our car and began the descent. Then I saw my oldest daughter¬†right as she turned around and saw me. She began to cheer, and I saw all the other kids, my brother, and my husband. They all began cheering so loud, people were turning to see who was coming. I felt like a superstar! I made the final turn and when I hit the dismount line, the volunteer said “Coming in smiling. That’s a good sign.”

“Yes, because I’m done,” I said.

The tortoise always wins.

Here’s some of the data from my Garmin. Ignore the elevation gain, because it’s not correct. It’s actually just over 1000′ of gain, but I wanted to show¬†the hills on the graph!

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Side note: I can’t say enough about how wonderful it was having my family cheer coming in off of the bike. I needed that lift going into the next part of the race.

THE RUN:

Coming off the bike, I was surprised my legs didn’t feel more wobbly. My first mile I stayed busy trying to make sure I was headed in the right direction, and I didn’t pay attention to my pacing. I knew the run was two loops so when I saw the first mile marker I relaxed a bit. Not paying attention to my pace was a mistake. The first mile averaged 9:30. In the second mile, I slowed to grab a cold towel at the aid station. My second mile pace was in the 10:30s. Then I guess you could say my wheels fell off. (Good thing this wasn’t on the bike. Ha!) The third mile started the walk breaks and I had an 11:30 average pace for that mile. Oops!

My legs were fine. It was my breathing I was struggling with. I was getting hot, and somewhat nauseated at the thought of taking in my chews. I tried a couple of them after the third mile, and kind of gagged a little while chewing. I took in some more around mile 5 and had the same problem. This is the same stuff I trained with, but my body wasn’t handling it at this point. Ever since before the swim, I had felt like my food was sitting at the back of my throat. I handled it ok on the bike, but the jostling from the run made it worse.

With¬†this kind of trouble on the run with the heat, I quickly shifted my plan to run/walk/smile. I walked through almost every aid station. Wet cold towels, ice in my visor, and taking in¬†Gatorade to get the carbs. My stomach did okay with that and I still had my Nuun in my bottle along with some Nuun Plus. As I came across the bridge to finish my first loop, I saw my husband. I called out, “You know that 2 1/2 hour half marathon I planned? Not gonna happen.” But I was okay with it. I was the tortoise. As he ran alongside me for a minute, I told him about being too hot, and my nutrition problems. My legs were still okay, but my effort felt hard even staying around a 12 minute pace.

The second lap was even tougher. The crowd had thinned out as most people were done by now, and I still had well over an hour to go. I talked to other runners, and fell into a run/walk pattern with another athlete for a while. We chatted about goals. Mine was to finish. She added, “finish with a smile.” I thanked all the volunteers. They were so uplifting at that point in the race. The ice was wonderful and I would grab handfuls at the aid stations and put it in my hat and down the front of my tri top to stay cool. I walked up the monster hill along with everyone else and noticed one of the hand cyclists rolling up the hill backward to get up. That was a game changer for me. There I was, walking to get through the tough parts of the course with all my limbs functioning, while those guys didn’t have that option. They did¬†the swim, the bike, and the run all with their arms and upper body. It was so inspiring to see him working up that hill, and I know he was tired but he kept going!

I began to feel a little energized in the last mile. Two of my kids ran alongside me for a couple of minutes. They told me they had been swimming in the lake. Then I saw my other daughter, then my husband, then my brother, then his wife and kids were near the finish line. I felt like I was flying at that point. According to my Garmin, it was my third fastest mile. I made the final turn and saw the finish line, crying and smiling at the same time. I heard the announcer call out my name, and just like that I had a medal on my neck and a finisher shirt in my hand.

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The finisher shirt was an XL, and I tried to exchange it for a smaller size. Then I found out when you’re near¬†the back of the pack, you don’t have much¬†to choose from. I could have XL or XXL.

My husband has a new shirt to wear.

That evening, I finally saw¬†what my swim time was and it completely surprised me. Overall, I expected I would finish in about 7.5 hours, and I wasn’t too far off the mark. I was surprised at how the run knocked me out, but my goals were to finish.¬†I was the tortoise, and that was quite all right with me.

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Buffalo Springs 70.3 (Part One)

I didn’t think it was possible to sum up my weekend and half Ironman race in one blog post, and once I started typing it out I decided to split it up into two posts. I’ll post the rest of it later this week, since I now have some free time on my hands.¬†There was a lot to it, and I want to do¬†my race¬†justice with my recap! I’ll start by saying the race itself surprised me with the parts I¬†expected to¬†struggle with were actually the smoothest part of the day.

We headed out on Friday the 24th. Two adults, three kids, two bikes, all in a loaded down VW.

My husband just loves the camera!

All smiles! Well, mostly.

It was a family trip to go see family, with a nice bonus of me putting in 70.3 miles on Sunday. With a little over a six hour drive to get to my brother’s house, the scenery headed west¬†just couldn’t be matched. (Ha!)

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Hey, kids, look! Another windmill.

When we got to my brother’s house we talked about the race, and what our plans were for the next day. My sister-in-law had done a little bit of research and my brother had actually been out to the lake several times to fish the past year, and even ran a couple of road races in the area.

Side note: I’m a football coach’s daughter, and my brother is a football coach. Sports were, and still are, a big part of our family. As kids, my brother and I were always brought to¬†each other’s events because my parents wanted us to support each other in everything we did. To show up at my brother’s house for a triathlon, and to see their excitement about the race meant so much to me.

Saturday morning we loaded up two vehicles and drove in to Lubbock. My brother, his wife, their three kids, and the five in my family all descended on the expo for packet pickup. I was excited to find my name on a shirt.

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…but not my size…

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After we ate lunch,¬†¬†my sister-in-law took all the kids to a movie, while my husband, brother, and I headed back to the expo¬†for a Q&A I wanted to go to. My nerves were pretty much building throughout the day. After listening to some of the questions and discussion about the hills (where the word “treacherous” was mentioned about one of the descents), I was basically a knot of nerves. We headed out to drive the bike course so I could see what was up. Or down.

I knew going into this race that there would be “five challenging hills.” But all throughout my training, I imagined climbing – not descending. I also spent so much time worrying about getting my swim pace down, that I didn’t consider much with the bike. Until we drove the bike course, and all swim worry got tossed out the window.

No, I’m not kidding.

I am still a beginner when it comes to cycling. I’m a chicken on the downhills. I slow considerably to make a turn. I’m not very fast. But I feel like I have one strength on the bike, and that’s climbing. I like to think my running background helped with that, because¬†of all the hills I run. But these hills were nothing like I’ve tackled in my training. Not even close. And it wasn’t the climbing that worried me while driving the course; it was two of the¬†descents that scared me. I was thankful that we drove the course though, because I knew what I’d be facing and tried to mentally prepare. My husband reminded me to go slow, use more pressure with my rear brake, and I would be fine.

The rest of the evening, my nerves were on full blast. I had trouble sleeping, imagining coming down the hills. As silly and irrational as it seems now, I couldn’t shake it. It kept me awake until after 11 pm. Then I woke up at 1:30 – a full hour before my alarm was set – and couldn’t sleep any more.

Race morning was a different story. I had a lot of people praying for and thinking about me. I felt calm and purposeful. I had all my gear together, and my husband and I loaded up early to get to the park before transition opened at 5:00. My brother was going to come when the race started at 6:30 and my sister-in-law was bringing all the kids later.

Even though we left so early, we were not the first ones there by any means. I thought we had the early arrival down, but this was no running race. Triathletes take it up a notch on early mornings. We parked and loaded up all the gear to trek down the steep hill (climb number one on the bike).  I got my area set up in transition. I noticed someone tied a green shoelace on the end of the rack, and I made a mental note to look for it coming in to get my bike.

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The swim was “barely wetsuit legal” (75 degrees) and I knew I’d probably get hot, but I needed all the help I could get with buoyancy. So my husband helped me into it, and I headed down the steps to the lake for a little warm up.

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It seems like the time before the race flew by. I couldn’t believe it was already time to start! I was in the third swim wave, and the first two went quickly. The time cutoff for the swim was 70 minutes from the last wave (which gave me an additional¬†15-20¬†minutes). Surely I could make that! The weirdest part was not being able to see the layout of the swim because of the way the lake was, but the instructions were to turn left at the yellow buoys.

THE SWIM:

Once¬†in the water, I settled into a rhythm. The water was calm, and I focused on really stretching out my arms. When I get in open water, I tend to forget about my stroke because there are so many other things to think about. My goggles started to leak a little, so I flipped over on my back to fix them. I had trouble with them fogging up during the whole swim, even when I tried to fix them again. Whenever I got¬†frustrated, I would somehow spot a buoy and knew I was still on track. The only other hiccup for me was the guy who slowly passed me who¬†made such a big splash every time his arm entered the water. I couldn’t get around him so I slowed until he finally pulled ahead enough not to give me a face full¬†of water. I glanced¬†at my Garmin once and couldn’t see the time, so I knew I messed it up somehow. I shrugged it off and just kept swimming until I saw the last turn and people getting out on the dock. One of the main positives was that this was the first race for me that the buoys were on the left. I’m a left side breather and it made sighting much easier. Since my Garmin was messed up, I didn’t know how long it took me to swim, but I knew there were people still coming in¬†behind me and no official¬†stopped me with “I’m sorry, but you didn’t make it in time.” ūüôā

I was grateful for the volunteer who helped me get out of my wetsuit. There is no gracious way to do it, but she was awesome! Then I ran to find my bike. It’s a good thing the racks were numbered, because I forgot about the green shoelace. Unlike Texasman, there were still quite a few bikes in transition. I ate half a Clif bar, reset my Garmin to start biking, and then headed out to face the hills.

Out of transition, beginning the first climb on the bike, I heard my name and saw my husband and brother cheering for me. I smiled and called out, “I made it!”

My first hurdle – the swim – was done.

 

Time 2 Tri & Tri It for Casa

It’s race week! I can’t believe it’s here already, and I feel so totally unprepared (even though I’ve been training my tail off for the past 15 weeks). I’m just anxious and nervous about it all, and I feel like my training has been scattered since the week after¬†Texasman. My poor husband has had to put up with my obsessive worry, and I feel really bad for him. So in order to not think about it right now and get myself worked up anymore, I’m going to take a look back.

June 12th, the day after the Collin Classic, I completed a sprint triathlon. This race was the culmination of training with a group called Time 2 Tri. This group had a weekend event back in April at Playtri, as an effort to get more women involved in triathlon. I came across their booth at the Dallas Rock ‘n Roll expo in March. I decided to go to the event, even though I wasn’t brand new to triathlon, because I want to keep learning and meeting people.

This weekend event at Playtri kicked off eight weeks of training set up by a coach: strength training, group rides, swim sessions, and track workouts. With my distance from the workout locations, I was only able to participate in some of the swim sessions. I feel like I gained a huge benefit from it. For some of these women this was their first venture into triathlon, and it was great to see their excitement about completing their first race.

The Tolltag Triathlon (Tri It for Casa) was a 500m open water swim in a small man-made lake. The main thing I was nervous about was the fact that my hands were still kind of numb from the biking. The water was too warm for a wetsuit, so I hoped my legs wouldn’t drag me down too much. I was in the last swim wave (again) but this race was much smaller and I wasn’t nearly as anxious. I felt calm in the water, and didn’t worry about my speed. The hardest part of the swim was hoisting myself up on the floating dock. Thankfully someone was there with a hand out to help me up. It was slippery! I made it out of the water in just over 15 minutes. Not fast by any means, but I felt good.

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In transition, I heard a woman come in saying “I did it! I really did it!” She was just talking to herself, but you could see the sense of accomplishment on her face. She was excited!

Then I headed off on the bike for a flat, fast (for me) 11 miles. The woman from transition passed me and asked, “Hey do you know how I make this thing easier to go up hill?” I quickly told her how my bike worked, and she was off. This was a great ride for beginners. Long stretches of straight road. Cracks and gravel were marked with paint. No crazy hills. Riding in my aerobars. I loved it. 15.3mph was a good pace for me.

Then back in to transition for the run, and I was much faster on this race by carrying my hat and number belt out with me to put on while running. The sun was starting to come out and it was getting warm, but it was a 5k. Three miles to run just sounded awesome in my head. I’m almost done! I ran steady but not all out, and I was able to negative split my run with a time of 27:10. A good brick workout for me.

It was great seeing other Time 2 Tri members out on the course. Someone had brought pink ribbons for all of us to tie on our shoulder. It was a good way for us to identify and encourage each other. The coach was at the finish line cheering everyone in, along with a couple of others who came out to watch and will be doing their first triathlon in a week with a pool swim. I had a lot of fun, and it was wonderful to be a part of a group that was so supportive and encouraging.

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So instead of continuing to be anxious about Sunday’s race, I’m going to try to focus on how far I’ve come. It was just about a year ago that I started training for my first triathlon, and a 300m pool swim scared me. I couldn’t even make it to the wall without going stopping.¬†Now I’ve done four triathlons, two with open water swims (and one that was very tough). I may not be fast, but I’m making progress. It’s me against me. That’s all that really matters.

 

 

 

 

 

Collin Classic

I know it’s been a few weeks since I posted, so here’s a quick synopsis before I launch into some details.

The end of the school year and peak training do not mix well. There were concerts and award programs, banquets, and senior stuff to do almost every night for two weeks straight. We had a weed eater, dishwasher, and a hair dryer all go out in the same week. Then came high school graduation on a Saturday morning.

Proof I don't always wear workout gear!

Proof I don’t always wear workout gear!

 

I dealt with a slight head cold that week, and I wondered how I should adjust my training around losing a Saturday for a long workout. (This is where hiring a coach would be beneficial.) I opted to spend a few hours on the bike trainer the following Sunday morning, with my long run a few hours later. I’ve been fortunate to have the company of my husband for my long run the past few weeks.

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It’s a nice way for us to spend time together and the miles pass by so much faster – especially when I want to get whiny because it’s hot. ūüôā The runs are slower than they were earlier in the training cycle, but the temperatures are higher and the mileage is building.

Last week was my peak week for my first half Ironman. The swims were longer, the runs hotter, and there was a 60 mile bike ride on my plan. A friend talked me into going with her to the Collin Classic bike rally. We registered for the 62 mile ride.

A beautiful day for a ride!

A beautiful day for a ride!

This was my first bike rally and I was a little intimidated. As we lined up and bikes started to fill in around us, she told me “don’t look back.” There were bikes everywhere! When we started, I tried to keep up with the crowd. I still get nervous when starting and stopping, but my two rides with the local cycling club helped me with my bike handling skills. I lost sight of my friend in the first mile. Did I mention all the bikes?

Then I came upon my first crash site. There were bikes down and people scattered. Someone had caught their wheel in a large crack that was between the lanes. As I navigated around, I saw a man on the curb moaning with a bloody face. That got my heart rate up as I wondered why I was even out there. I felt like an outsider Рa rookie with poor biking skills who wanted the comfort of some space around the bike. But I kept going, and was surprised to see my first 5 miles averaged 16.3 mph.

I passed a sign that said “Break Point 1” and I had no idea what that was, but it was a turn off so I kept going. After seeing a few more of these, I figured out they were¬†rest stops. On a rough road, I noticed my brand new bottle (attached to my aerobars) was working its way out of the holder. I pushed it back in, and tried to keep an eye on it. Three more times, it almost bounced out while on a bumpy stretch – and when going downhill. Further into the ride, I tried to open my Clif bar and couldn’t get it open. Because of the bikes around me and the unfamiliar roads, I wasn’t able to fiddle with it. That’s when I decided for my half Ironman, I will section my stuff out in ziploc bags that I’ll open before I start biking.

I knew I needed the calories, but this part of the course was hilly and I felt like I was at the back of the pack, so I didn’t want to stop. Then I was coming downhill and around a curve toward an intersection where an officer was controlling traffic when my bottle bounced out through the aerobars and hit the road. In that split second, I decided it was just too much to try to go back and get it. I was upset. ¬†Upset about how much we spent on the setup, how much trouble my husband went to installing it for me to have for my next long ride, and that it didn’t even work right for one ride. ¬†So I griped in my head for the next few miles, but at least I wouldn’t worry about it coming out anymore.¬†Just past mile 30, I turned and landed right in the middle of the next rest stop. This one was right on the road, and there were bikes and people everywhere. That’s when I realized I wasn’t at the back of the pack.

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This is just a small section of the rest stop.

I took one of my two remaining bottles to fill with ice and water, and devoured half of my Clif bar while I waited in the line. I also had¬†some orange slices and banana. I texted my husband to tell him how it was going. It wasn’t a happy text. There were tears in my eyes (I’ll blame lack of calories and hormones) and I was ready to go home. But he was encouraging as usual, so I took a deep breath and got back on the road.

I stopped again at mile 45 to fill my other bottle. I started to notice I was having trouble with my hands. At one point for a major uphill, I had to reach over with my right hand to gear down because I couldn’t push it with my left hand. My hands would start to tingle or feel numb, and I would shake them out. When I stopped, I had trouble holding my bottle still for them to pour ice in. I took a few minutes to eat again, drink some gatorade, and then I headed out with the determination not to stop again. And I didn’t until I finished.

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This was my longest ride ever, and it was an experience.¬†Maybe I should have started with something on a smaller scale. I don’t know. I didn’t enjoy it like I thought I should. My friend says I need to do the HHH100, because I’m already up to 60 miles.¬†¬†I’m just going to leave that right here, because I’m perfectly fine stopping at 60.

But just¬†so my rally recap is¬†not all negative,¬†here’s my happy list:

  1. There was a nice stretch of road that went over Lake Lavon by the dam that is closed to traffic. We rode out on that and on the way back.
  2. The rest stops were well stocked with all kinds of food. Granola bars, bags of chips, pb crackers, oranges, bananas, popsicles…It was like a buffet.
  3. Texas Land and Cattle was grilling up hamburgers at the finish area, and they were wonderful.
  4. It was a good chance for me to be on different roads, different sized hills, and out of my comfort zone – which will ready me for my half Ironman. I learned a lot.

Also,¬†I learned not to grip too tightly on the handlebars and carry a lot of tension in your arms. When I went to bed Saturday night, my arms were still achy I didn’t have full feeling in my thumbs. It looks like it’s called Cyclist’s Palsy – which I didn’t know anything about until now – caused by vibration (thanks chip-seal), pressure on the nerve from holding the bars tightly, poor handlebar position. In my case, all of the above. That’s why I couldn’t shift with my left hand¬†later in the ride.¬†Even now two days later, I’m still having some trouble with fine motor function – but I can almost write normally again.

My biggest worry from Saturday night was that I would have trouble riding in my sprint triathlon the next day. I’ll put up another post later this week about that race though. This one has turned into a book.

So I want to know, what is an event you’ve done because someone talked you into, but it didn’t turn out the way you thought it would?

 

Texasman Olympic Tri

This past weekend, I did two things that I was afraid of. I was nervous and anxious about both, but you know what? I did them anyway.

On Sunday I completed my first triathlon of the season (my first Olympic distance) and I was scared of the swim. But first, let me talk a little about the bike ride I took on Saturday with the local cycling club.

Since I’m training for the half Ironman (where the bike is the biggest portion), a friend encouraged me to¬†go on one of the group rides on Saturday. They have a distance builder where they add miles each week, and this one would be about 40. I’ve never rode in a group, and I consider myself a beginner cyclist. Falling over when stopping (while clipped in) is a highly probable event. I’m a chicken on the downhills, and I’m not real fast. Those were my excuses to not go. But I tried to rationalize my fear (what’s the worst that could happen) and think of the benefits – different route, company on a ride, learning from others. So I showed up Saturday morning and rode 41 miles with some company. I only fell once, near the end of the ride when a car came to an intersection at the last minute. Other than the car, there was only one cycling witness, and he helped me by putting my chain back on. We talked about how it happens to everyone, and even after people have been riding for years, it happens. So I didn’t die from embarrassment, and the ride was enjoyable. There were a few hills, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

Sunday was the Texasman triathlon. This was my first race with an open water swim, and I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t think much about the bike and run portion, because those distances were manageable in comparison to the swim. My first triathlon last August was a pool swim of 300 meters. The second tri was a pool swim of 250 yards. I have had two open water swim practices in the past two months, which went okay, but my confidence on the distance wasn’t in the best place. Swimming is my weakest link of triathlon, and my fear had everything to do with being able to complete the distance. I’ve done it in the pool, with rest breaks, and¬†pushing off of the wall, but there is so much to consider in the open water.

My first obstacle: the wind. There was a slight breeze, which created some waves in the water. I looked out at the buoys, and all I could think was “Wow, that’s a long way out there!” I got in the water for a warm¬†up swim. Two strokes out, two strokes back. That wasn’t helping me at all. I thought it was a negative aspect that I was in the last wave of swimmers (all female Olympic distance), but as I got to watch the other waves start, I began to calm down. I went out in the water again, and then I started to relax. By the time my wave started I was in an okay place in my head.

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Hands on the hips. Always.

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When I started swimming, I was good. I was settling into my rhythm and then whoops, I had someone swim into me on¬†each side. Even though it didn’t hurt, it shook me and I had trouble getting back into my swim. I flipped over on my back, caught my breath, and then tried again. This was a repeat process. For the mile swim, there were two marker buoys before you got to the third buoy for the turn. By the time I hit the first marker, I heard someone say “I didn’t expect to be having this much trouble so soon.” The water was so choppy I couldn’t get a good breath without a mouthful of water from a wave. At the second marker buoy, I saw a guy from a previous wave hanging on. I asked if he was okay, and he said he was. I realized my fear of being last out of the water was no longer valid. I kept on as best as I could, but I think I spent more time on my back for the first stretch, and I was well hydrated before I made the first turn from all the water I swallowed. It took me 30 minutes to get to that point. The second stretch was better, there was a bit of cross wind, but I had an easier time. It took me 10 minutes to make the turn back. This was supposed to be the easy part, where the wind pushes you back. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the effect of it because it was pushing me out to the left and I needed to head toward the right. I felt like I was swimming in circles, and didn’t think I’d ever get there. I could see the finish area, with the beach ball on top of the arch, and I wanted to be¬†out of the water like you wouldn’t believe. My arms were tired, but I was finally swimming smoothly, just like in the pool. I had my rhythm on the home stretch. Then I touched saw my husband near the exit. I touched sand, and stood up – a little woozy. It took me 1:04:07 according to my Garmin¬†to complete the swim.

This is my “I really did it, and oh my gosh I’m so tired” expression for my husband who is my best supporter ever!

IMG_0094After some wonderful volunteers got me out of my wetsuit, it was off to transition for the bike portion, where I heard other athletes talking about how awful the swim. That made me feel so much better.

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Once on the bike, it took a few miles before I could settle my breathing. It was still overcast, and I felt some sprinkles at the beginning of my ride. My quads were feeling the bike ride from Saturday, but it was manageable. I was just so happy that I did the swim, I didn’t care how the rest of the race went. I took in some nutrition and just enjoyed the road. There were some good hills, which I need so that was okay. There was one lady who I passed going up a hill who called out, “Look at you climbing like a beast.” Apparently that’s my strength on the bike, and I’ll blame my hill running. There was one kicker near the end of the course that I thought might have blown my run. There was a spectator at the top giving positive feedback. “Nice cadence, keep it up.” The bike distance was almost 25 miles, then it was back in transition to head out for a 10k.

The sun started to come out during my run and heat things up a bit. There was Nuun on the course (yay!) so there was one less bottle I had to pack. It felt strange running empty-handed, but so nice. The run portion of¬†triathlon is so different from running a road race. You have loops and people going opposite directions on both sides of the sidewalk, from all three race distances. There were a couple of times, I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place, then I would see a sign or mile marker and breathe a sigh of relief. At¬†a turn around between miles 4 and 5 I lost my footing and stepped off the sidewalk. I almost fell, but caught myself. The volunteers asked if I was okay, and I responded, “I just can’t feel my legs anymore.” I was heating up, and ready to be done, but I was pleased with my running pace. I took a total of 3 short walk breaks, mostly going up a hill to catch my breath, but then I would pick up my pace after the break. There were some overhead sprinklers in a couple of places that helped me cool off too. Coming in near the finish, a young girl called out “The end is near! 400 meters if you’re on your last loop.” Hallelujah!

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As I crossed the finish, I was ready to cry. Not in pain, not in regret, but in the fact that I really did it. I did more than I thought I could, and pulled in for a strong finish on the run (with a 9:24 average pace). My official finish time was 3:51:54 (swim 1:04:07, bike 1:41:09, run 58:03).

A year ago, I didn’t have a bike and couldn’t swim with my face in the water. I was nervous starting this journey, but I have done more¬†than I imagined I could, and that is a feeling that can’t be replaced. I have five short weeks until my half Ironman, and a lot of work still to do, but I will keep training hard and pushing myself because I want to keep reaching for those goals.

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Have a great week!

Stick with It

When I set out on my long run last¬†Sunday afternoon, I was instantly reminded of how hard running¬†feels at times. As I wrote in my last post, I am moving the long run to later in the day so my body can adjust to running in warmer temperatures. That day, my first mistake was eating too soon before¬†I headed out. I wanted to hurry and get back so I had time to catch up on¬†yard work. That’s the other hard part about training for an endurance event through the spring. Everything is growing! I have crape myrtle trees that look more like shrubs because they need pruned. The English Ivy is creeping everywhere. The miniature rose bushes are thriving – thankfully.

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It would be a lot easier to keep up with if half my family wasn’t prone to allergies, but anyway… back to my training.

I realized one mile into my 9 mile run, that my food wasn’t settled. By the second mile I adjusted my route. Mile 3 involved a few walk breaks and was¬†my slowest mile. I thought I might throw up so I¬†headed back toward my neighborhood. I went in the house at mile 6.5 and asked my three kids who wanted to go finish my run for me. There were no takers. I forced myself back out to finish,¬†and it was between miles 7 and 8 when I felt like my food had settled and I was feeling better. I finally got it done after a quick chat with a neighbor who asked me if I was training for a 5k. “Yes, something like that.” ūüėČ

I was reminded of a few things with that run:

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve had to really talk myself through finishing a run. I wanted to quit so many times.
  2. Running later in the day requires better planning. I should’ve thought about how my meal would affect me running when the sun is beating down on me.
  3. Even though running is the easiest sport to me with triathlon, it doesn’t mean the run will be easy. I’ve got to break through the mental aspect of getting through a hard run.

Once I finished, I was glad I pushed through. These are the moments I will try to remember on race day when it gets hard. Getting through a tough run reminds me that there are ups and downs throughout and an upward turn could be just around the corner.

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I was rewarded with my next run at the track on Tuesday when I was able to nail my 5k pace for 600m intervals. When I looked at the workout, I thought “yeah, right” but I did it! It was my first track workout in months, and it was refreshing to have some pep in my legs.

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I like the fact that you never really know how a run will turn out. It’s nice to surprise yourself sometimes – on the road, on the track, on the trail. Wherever your training takes you, just stay with it. You won’t regret it.