Saturday, September 10, 2016

2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championship Race Report

Five o’clock AM.  Race morning was finally here.  I had wondered many times over the past 10 months how I’d feel at this moment.  I woke up an hour before my alarm went off and lay in the warm bed those last few moments as if it was the calm before the storm.  Not that I needed to, but one more time I played out every segment of the race in my mind, mentally practicing my plan and visualizing strength, confidence and determination.  I didn’t come here for an experience, or to enjoy the ride.  I didn’t come here to complete the event or to be a number down the list of finishers.  If anything is worth dreaming about, it’s worth dreaming BIG about so I came here hoping to have the race of my life against the best in the world.  Having had no previous world championship experience, I was left with a lot of unknowns, including the unknown of what my competition was capable of.  The only thing I could really control or know was what I was capable of.  The thing is … that was really an unknown too.
With all that had been raging through my minds in the weeks leading up, along with my high expectations, one would think that race morning would be a near melt-down experience.  Quite to the contrary and much to my relief, instead it was a wash of peace, quiet, calm, contemplation and I arose to begin my pre-race morning routine.  It took only 20 minutes to get all ready and I did my best to stuff down my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I wasn’t hungry, at least not for food but today my impulse to eat was not to be dictated by hunger.
With only my “morning bag” clothing, bike nutrition and swim equipment in tow, we walked the few short blocks to the transition area.  My bike and bike/run gear bags had been checked in the day before and my only transition area tasks this morning were to place my hydration and nutrition bottles onto my bike and pump the tires.  This went smoothly and I was thankfully able to borrow a bike pump to save me the added stress of lining up for the bike tech folks to pump them up. I was in and out of the area in just a few minutes and
Sunrise Race Morning
rejoined John on the beach to watch the sunrise.  It was now 5:45 AM and my wave, second to last of the day, didn’t go off until 8:10 AM.  In all the calmness that surrounded me, I watched day break over a calm ocean.  Yesterday the ocean was anything but calm.  The northerly winds drove the surf, causing chop and swells.  The days leading up were stormy and unpredictable.  But today was calm. It was in fact the pattern of the last 10 months, stormy, choppy, unpredictable, but now pristine and ready.  Now, before the storm was to begin, I had time to reflect on everything and everyone that went into this moment.

Ten months earlier I earned a slot to this World Championship via my participation in the IM 70.3 Arizona.  I entered that race injured and had quite a difficult time completing the run.  But the effort was enough to earn the slot and I looked at John with “puppy-dog eyes” – Please?  If I earn it can we do it?  Can we go to Australia?  “Puppy-dog eyes” were not necessary.  As is always the case, John is 100% in favor of any challenge I bring to him. 

Once I accepted the slot and entered the race, my next need was to find help to get me ready.  I knew a little bit but I needed someone who knew a lot and was willing to invest the time, and as it turned out, also willing to deal with the headache I’d give him.  Fred Maggiore answered the call.  He spent a lot of timing laying out the plan, doing his best to explain it to me and preclude any rough spots by letting me know I won’t always agree or like the plan.  I had only ever approached training as a runner and there was going to be some sacrificing of my strength in order to strengthen my weaknesses. 

Over the next 10 months, I began by recovering fully from my injury and working on a nice solid base.  In January the triathlon specific training began.  I would like to say that it was all bliss and I loved every minute of it.  But of course that is not the case.  I struggled immediately with the decrease in volume of running and felt that anything I did other than running was just not giving me the strength I needed.  Fred patiently reminded me there is a big picture here that he has in mind and I may not see it or understand it.  Trust, he told me, trust.  I allowed the weeks of training to settle in still thinking I needed more, could handle more, wanted more but all the while my body was slowly transforming never the less.  Change is subtle and often undetectable until hind’s sight steps in.  Eventually my big workouts got bigger and my moderate workouts got more focused.  I finally began to get the volume I thought I needed but it was all in good time. Had Fred put too much on me too early I would have ended up injured or worse.  He knew what I needed and when to apply it. I completed basically two full four month training cycles.  One that lead up to my preparatory “B” race, IM 70.3 St. George, and the next one leading up to TODAY.

I asked, and Fred agreed, to keep the big brick workouts run heavy as I knew that was when the suffering often takes place.  I wanted the fitness but even more, I wanted the mental toughness.  By the time we neared the taper, my big bricks included at least 12 mile runs off the bike at sub-7 minute pace.  Every one of them (except one) went exactly to plan and provided me fitness, confidence and a chance to test out my nutritional needs.  By taper time I was so done with the heavy training load.  I was in a perpetual fatigued state (meaning never fully rested going into workouts but not meaning over-trained) and I knew the taper would now be the key.

During the three weeks of taper, my energy increased and with that came way too much time to think and to get nervous.  I can’t imagine I was very fun to live with over the last month but John remained so patient.  I was constantly thinking and was distracted from daily life and my emotions were unstable.  It was during this time that the final pieces were worked on.  I read through the Athlete’s guide and met with Fred to strategize about the transitions (which were not like any I’d experienced before). I made my final plan for nutrition which consisted of a front load aero-bottle of electrolyte infused water with another spare on board and one bottle containing 4 scoops of UCAN which made a thick liquid but contained the energy sustaining carbs I needed all in one bottle.  I would also eat two bananas, starting with a half a banana with me and the rest to be grabbed at aid stations.  I also would carry a gel flask with more UCAN during the run and one gel to use if I ended up really needing it in the end.  I also knew when I was going to take all of this in.

So as I sat on the beach race morning, now waiting for the Pro’s and other waves to begin, I knew I was ready.  I had nothing to think about any more.  It had all been thought through, at least everything that could be predicted.  I was soon to be reminded that you can plan for everything except what you don’t know will happen.  You can scope every detail out but no one really knows how it will go on the day.

I watched the nervous waves of athletes go off one by one.  There were over 3,000 competing.  As my wave neared I began some preparations.  I gently jogged on the beach and felt the wind was already picking up.  I got into my wetsuit, cap and goggles and did a light swim.  The water was warm and felt good but had already begun to get a bit more agitated.  I couldn’t really afford to spend any time worrying about how going off in a late wave typically meant harsher conditions out on the course.  Winds pick up, temperatures get more extreme.  Before my thoughts went there I reminded myself all the women in my age group would face the same challenges.

Race time.  I said goodbye to John and entered the staging box then soon we were released to swim out to the deep water starting line.  My mind thought of nothing but the swim.  Mark Allen was our official race starter and he sounded the horn and off we went.  There were 122 women in my age group and wave and as we began to swim in a tight mass I was already awakened to the fact that many of these women were unfriendly foes in the water.  I had women pawing and grabbing my feet just meters into the swim. We were all packed close together and I wondered where they thought they were going by trying to swim over me.  It felt like forever before we finally began to thin out and I popped my head up to see how far ahead the leading green caps were.  There grew a gap between me and that first pack and before long I got the sense that I must be in last place.  Somehow the ocean can feel so lonely and you can’t really tell where everyone else is. I knew I’d be way down the line in the swim but I sure hoped I was faster than some.  Then came the wave that started behind us, the 18-29 year old women, who clearly had some amazing swimmers.  They made up the 5 minute wave difference by the time I was half way through my swim.  The aggression of these women was worse than those in my wave.  They didn’t bother to swim around you, they swam over you.  I was grabbed, kicked, elbowed repeatedly and frustration dug in. I felt this was unsportsman-like and that I had an equal right to a fair swim and wasn’t getting it.  That’s when I stopped and threw a stiff elbow into the ribs of the woman who just elbowed me in the face.  From there I just dealt with it.  The swim otherwise was good though I still had the sense that I was one of the last in my wave.  I never really have a sense of how the swim went until I look at the final results.  I had to just move on to the next thing in my mind as the swim was now done and nothing could be done to better
Swim Exit
the result except pass them on the bike and run. I exited the water actually having caught some women in the wave ahead of me and some two waves ahead of me.  Note:  I did NOT run them over when I passed them.  That means I swam 5-10 minutes faster than them.  This made me feel a little better.  I later would learn that I was 43rd in my age group out of the water so I swam faster than more than half of the women my age at the World level.

My next focus, now that the swim was done, was T1 and actually pre-T1 because I first spent some time passing women on the run up to transition.  I peeled off the upper portion of my wetsuit once up out of the sand and up the stairs and began the long run to and through transition.  It is not an exaggeration when I tell you that T1 was over a half mile of running. I entered, grabbed my bag which was easy to find because most everyone else (the 17 previous waves) was already out on the bike.  With my bike bag I ran to the clearing and removed my helmet, glasses, bike shoes/socks and then proceeded to get the wetsuit off my legs and feet. This went ok for my right leg but my left leg, on which was my timing chip, was stubborn and as I struggled, my bike bag began to blow away.  Yes, the wind was picking up.  I had to have my bag so I grabbed it and finally sat down to complete my exchange of clothing and gear.  I then stuffed the wetsuit, cap and goggles into the small bag and was up and running toward my bike which was a long way up the transition.  Finally I arrived at my bike and grabbed it.  One small mistake occurred as the impact of my bike hitting the ground dislodged my banana but I quickly scooped it up and stuffed it in my shorts pocket and was on my way to the distant bike exit that included a steep hill climb just to get out.  Thankfully they had carpet on the pavement as I was running all of this in bike shoes that contain no traction for running and certainly none for climbing.  Finally ….. finally I got to the mount line. 

My focus now was to the bike.  Many, including me, were fairly certain the bike course was going to be fast.  I believe this delusion was based on the fact that the normal 70.3 course that is done here in Mooloolaba is fast.  However they changed the course for the championships, which I was aware of, and that created a bit of an unknown, though I still thought it would be fast.  And then there is the factor of wind.  The course started out with some steep rolling hills until we entered the Sunshine Coast Motorway (a highway). The motorway was straight and generally flat and going out ended up being nice and fast as we were riding with a tailwind.  I spent time passing women and a few men over this section and was of course also passed by some women.  I took time to eat my half of banana which proved to be very difficult.  I was force-feeding myself and my stomach was not happy.  I gagged a few times but finally finished it.  I regularly drank my fluids and every 15 minutes or so I'd take two large gulps of UCAN.  I noted everyone seemed very tuned into the rules and I did not see any intentional drafting nor large packs of drafters so I was grateful but I heard from others that this violation was occurring and not many penalties were being dealt.  After a while I noted that on the flat sections some super stud women powered by me but low and behold when we got to a slight incline (overpass) I passed them right back.  This gave me a clue that they weren’t necessarily climbers and the second half of this course was hilly.  When I got to the first turn around point this was when my first reality check hit.  Up to that point I was averaging about 22 mph but once I turned I discovered why. Now I had to travel 17 or so miles back into a stiff headwind and my average began to drop.  I kept a constant eye on my power output and my speed and was dismayed to discover that I was riding at my FTP much of the time but dropping below 20 mph. I knew I couldn’t grind away into the wind without potentially losing more for it so I metered my effort based on power.  It was tough but I kept in mind it was tough for everyone.  I realized too that I remained somewhat close to the same women.  Sometimes they would pass me and eventually I would pass them.  It was really because you just couldn’t push hard for too long and our paces were becoming more along the lines of interval work, which wasn’t
necessarily a bad thing.  Eventually this long stretch ended and we exited the motorway to head to the two loops through the hilly hinterland. The looped area had rougher roads, sketchy really, with potholes, cracks and otherwise bumpy conditions.  It was also very hilly, more so than I thought it would be.  I kept up my power even though my average was dropping into the 19 mph range.  This was not what I hoped for the bike and I just hoped everyone else was feeling the pain and stress of this effort as much as I was.  On the first loop of the hinterland section, we had our featured steep hill. This hill was the only “challenge” mentioned and it was stated to be a short steep hill.  Not much more was noted.  For instance, they didn’t mention it was an 18-20% grade. We had driven this section of the course the day before and when we got to this hill in our car, John just started laughing.  I almost passed out (which is not good when you’re the driver of the car).  Our car had trouble getting up it.  So everyone who knew about this hill began talking about it prior to the race, some deciding to just not risk it and would walk their bikes up.  I did not plan to walk my bike up this hill.  So when I got to it, I already had my gears properly situated to the easiest position and tried to carry as much momentum into it as I could. It was unreal as there were about three of us powering up it while dozens were walking their bikes. The first part was the steepest and it was a relief to get up that but then came the second section that was almost as steep and that one hurt.  I was moving so slow that my Garmin paused as it registered me as having stopped. I didn’t stop though and got to the top and immediately thought “I’m glad we only have to do that one once.”  On it went over constant hills.  And I realized that the “power on the flat” women I had been around before were now in my wake and I was approaching and passing a new set of women and men. I completed lap one and finally lap two.  It should be noted that around 45 athletes were disqualified because they failed to do the second lap.  I wonder what they were thinking when they got back to transition and looked at their time.  What a bummer but it is the responsibility of the athlete to know the course.  Having completed the two laps I was now getting ready to ride back 16 miles to the transition and hoping to pull back some time and pace.  I had one more aid station coming up and I needed my final banana.  When riding through the aid stations you need to yell to them what you need and someone up ahead will hold it out for you.  In Australia everything happens to the left instead of the right (driving, walking on the side-walk, cycling). So too the aid stations were on the left and this was something I knew ahead of time and thought I’d be able to handle. Never mind the fact that I normally don’t ever let go of my bike with my left hand as that hand is my stability on the bike.  Everything I do is done with my right hand, including shifting.  So this was an adjustment and I had been successful at the previous 2 aid stations.  I slowed as I approached and called out “Banana” and saw a woman up ahead hold one out.  She actually had a handful of several things, one of which was a banana and this was a mistake.  It is hard enough to grab anything, harder to do so left handed, and even harder if you have to pick out the banana while it’s surrounded by gels and bars in the person’s hand.  This time I missed the banana and I noticed another hand went out right away.  I can’t say what happened exactly but it was at that point that I let go with my left hand to grab, having just tried to grab the last and I am pretty sure I just hadn’t had time to stabilize myself in between left handed grabs.  I veered to the left and found myself headed right at a volunteer.  She darted one way to get out of my way but unfortunately that was also the same way I turned to miss her.  I slammed right into her, felt my back wheel lift up as I made an abrupt stop, she went down, I ended up sliding on my right side.  I quickly got dis-entagled with my bike (I don’t really know how my shoes got unclipped) and stood up.  My only two thoughts at that point were to see if the volunteer escaped injury, which thankfully she had, and next, I need to get rolling again.  I did a quick body check.  Nothing broken, no major pain, my head did not seem to hit and I noted only a few abrasions.  I did a quick check of my bike and discovered my front loading water bottle came off and this also had my bike computer.  A nice volunteered fumbled with it to try and get it attached while another ran for some tape so we could at least tape it on.  I however made a quick decision and grabbed my computer off of the bottle and put it on my other mount on my bike and asked them to turn my bottle in to lost and found (somehow it never made it to Lost and Found so I'm hoping at least the volunteer kept it as a momento).  They gave me another bottle to carry in replacement.  Next, my chain was off and stuck between the frame.  I finally got it dislodged, my hands full of grease, and I wiped them on my nice clean black shorts (I reminded myself NOT to touch my face with my greasy hands).  Another quick bike check.  One more check to make sure the volunteer really was ok and a HUGE thank you to all of them and I was rolling again.  I quickly found out my bike wasn’t ok as it was making odd noises and clicking and wasn’t correctly in gear.  I soon found out on the next hill that if I put it in the small ring to climb it will not hold a gear at all.  That’s not good because the hills weren’t done yet but I knew I’d have to do the rest of them in the big ring no matter what.  This whole experience just sort of happened and it played out and somehow there was no panic.  I just went with it and didn’t even lose heart over the lost minutes.  All I was thinking about was to get done with the bike and onto the run. I was so thankful to be able to finish and I salivated over the run.  My pace heading back was definitely inferior and produced more lost time but yet I was making forward motion.  I lost 3 more places and was now in 46th.

Finally T2.  The bike dismount can sometimes be hairy, but this one went smoothly.  But there is only one narrow lane through transition and no way to get by someone if they are blocking you and wouldn’t you know it, I’m dying to get to my run shoes and I’ve got a slow-poke in front of me.  And as a reminder, the transition area was very long.  I couldn’t stand it any longer and I yelled at her to please let me pass. I don’t know if she let me but I did pass her and darted to my bike rack, threw the bike up onto it and sprinted to my run bag.  My T2 was much better and faster than the average.  Helmet off, run shoes on, race belt slipped on, Garmin activated and nutrition in my hand as I ran to drop off my bag and exit. From here on out I was hunting and looking to grab back as much time as I could. 

The run.  Immediately out of transition comes the hill which you will hit a total of 4 times over the course of the run.  It is a two lap course so you run up and down the hill twice (that means 4 times up, 4 times down).  I was extremely prepared to run off the bike and my running legs were already there for me when I hit the hill.  Up and over and onto the flat.  I had my Garmin strapped on and during transition had gotten it connected to the satellite so I knew my pace and mile times from the start.  I felt great and was clipping along at 6:45 pace for the first three miles but I also knew that it was unlikely I’d feel this good soon.  I actually wanted the Garmin so I could dial back early on and I tried to dial back.  It was about this time that I realized that at the last bike aid station I never did get my last banana.  That solid food was a must for me and so I needed to figure out plan B.  I read recently that if your mood begins to change during competition (as in if you become moody and grumpy) you need nutrition.  I felt light and happy up to mile three and then I felt grumpy.  I took the gel I had in my pocket.  I was now headed back toward the transition on the second half of loop 1 and I saw my pace begin to slow to around 7:00 minute pace. That was ok because I was otherwise ahead of pace but then I also found that I wasn’t getting water into my body at aid stations unless I walked a few steps to drink it.  So I had to walk through for some water and at that point felt like I needed to keep the sugar input coming so I also drank several gulps of cola.  That was yummy. I was feeling ok by the time I hit the hill again but it was a bit harder this time, no doubt. I rounded the turn-around and headed back up the hill for the third time, definitely not feeling cheery anymore.  Then on lap two, although my pace stayed robust
and I truly still felt quite good, I had some GI issues which required porta-potty stops. Three in total when it was all said and done.  I despise my colon.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have an issue with this today so when I did it was truly dis-heartening.  But I did the stops and just kept running hard.  I was finally heading back to the final time up the hill and into the finishing area.  I completed the run with more in the cardio vascular tank but my energy system was depleted.  It is an odd feeling to be so tired yet still feel so good.  I passed a total of 23 women in my age group on the run.  I think I did all I could do. I finished 23rd out of 122 in my age group, the 6th American.

So it was completed.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I wasn’t elated.  I didn’t finish with a smile but I was very glad to finish.  I think I felt at the end the same way I felt at the beginning.  Calm, peaceful, quiet, contemplative.  I walked through the recovery chute as they handed me a medal, a towel, a t-shirt and hat.  I was happy but occasionally something would lurch in my psyche.  Maybe just a bit of disappointment but it wasn’t justified.  It was my own stubborn competitive nature picking on me.  I have since squelched it and told it to “shove off mate.”  It was a good day.

That night as I tried to go to sleep I told John, “well I think I’m pretty well cured of my desire to do these long races.  I don’t want to do anymore 70.3’s.”  When I woke up the next morning I was planning my next 70.3.  I’m in search of something I guess.  The thing about triathlon that captures me the most is that there is always more to work on.  Especially for me. I’m convinced I’m more than just a runner so I am going to be searching for that perfect race.  And yes I realize it may never come.  And if it does come I may not recognize it.

It was a beautiful blessing also to have shared this experience with other Santa Barbara athletes: Brittany Braden, Zack Paris, Elke Peirtsegaele, Sandy Roberts, George Esahak-Gage, along with loved ones that came to support each of us. I saw Sandy and Elke a few times during the race and it was comforting.  It was a huge blessing to hear John and Cindy (Braden) cheering for me on the run.  Australia was wonderful.  The people are so friendly and informative.  I discovered they don’t really have cream for their espresso. They use milk and were so thrown by my request for cream. We eventually bought our own “sort of” cream and I carried it in my purse when heading for espresso.  But they have a ton of espresso and it was good.  We learned quickly to walk on the left side of the sidewalk.

This was a beautiful journey from day one and I have so many people to thank.  I want to thank those who coached and guided me starting with my husband John. Thank you John for encouraging me, believing in me, guiding me and tolerating me! And I’d like to thank Fred Maggiore for the huge amount of time he applied creating the workout plan and often training with me, and also for his willingness to talk through any question or concern I had.  And I’d like to thank Nash Jimenez who has been a long time running partner to John and I and mentor.  And then to those who trained with me either on the swim, bike or run.  There are so many.  John, Desa, Jen, Lynelle, Tabitha, and Nash on the run.  On the bike: Fred, Doug, Poul, Jim, Chris, Joe, Greg, James, Victor, Dave(s), Mike.  In the swim, lane-mates Joe, Renaud, Sam, Amy, Chrystal, Christie, Laurence, Bob, along with the “encouragers” in the next lane.  And I’d like to thank the very, very many who simply encouraged me, cared and showed it: My sons Ryan and Jordan, Michael Acton, Amy Williams, Heather Royer, Liz Boscacci, Mike, Jennifer, Jacob and Joe Mansbach, many of my co-workers.  Thank you also to De Soto Sports for allowing me to be an ambassador of their amazing triathlon clothing.  Thank you all for making this special experience mean so much more.  It’s no fun doing something epic without many with whom to share it. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Black Blanket - IM St. George 70.3 Race Report

Jess occupied the solitary gurney when I entered the paramedic vehicle. She cheerfully engaged the three paramedics that monitored her, already well on her way to gaining back her body heat. I, on the other hand, sat quivering in my wet clothes, shaking so violently I was actually embarrassed by all of the involuntary motion. I was quickly wrapped in multiple heated blankets and hot packs placed next to my ribs. One paramedic announced, "we're going to need more blankets and more heating pads." It was quickly obvious to them that there were going to be issues today. They monitored my blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate as I sat shivering. Why wouldn't my body stop shaking.  "I got 91 degrees."  Soon they moved Jess off the gurney and placed me on it and attached four heart rate monitors to me. "Is your heart rate typically low?" Jess consoled me and assured me I'd warm up more quickly on the gurney. 

Outside, the dark clouds hung heavily over the race course and rain fell steadily at an angle. A few moments earlier I was still in the race, still in the elements. A mental and physical battle ensued within me as I considered how hard I'd worked to prepare, how ready I was to race well, how careful I was to keep tabs on the forecast, and yet how deathly cold I was.

We traveled with high expectations to St. George a few days earlier. The days before an epic race are electric and exciting, even a bit exhausting if you're not careful. We arrived mid-day Thursday having left Santa Barbara around 3:00 am. We arrived before our room was ready so we took the opportunity to grab an amazing sandwich and preview the run course. It was a perfect course for me, nothing about it flat, but the hills were friendly and offset by sweeping slopes of recovery. I thought, as we drove, I will really like this course. I had been studying the elevation maps which don't really provide a clear idea of what to expect, so now I saw with my own eyes what we would be up against.

The remainder of that day was filled with a bit of work, a bit of rest and a nice shake out run, a good dinner and solid night's sleep, bringing us to Friday's pre-race chaos.  On Friday we slept in, knowing we'd likely sleep very little that night, and arrived to the Athlete Check-in, late morning. The skies were partly cloudy and it was a nice temperature, a bit breezy. The forecast called for a rainy, stormy day but all was due to settle down to near perfection for Saturday.  We completed check-in and walked the expo while we waited for the mandatory Athlete meeting. It was hot out, sunny and a bit humid and clouds were drawing near.  We arrived back for the meeting and listened as they went through all of the various details of tomorrow's race. The water temperature in the lake was 62 degrees, wet suit legal. There was a mention of a chance of thunderstorms later in the day but nothing beyond that mentioned related to whether. We received all the details related to the two separate transition areas and I made sure I had it all straight in my head. We would be shuttled out to T1 and the race start in the morning, so T2 (which was located at the finish area) had to be set up before we left on the shuttle.  All of our swim and bike gear and any morning and after clothing was to travel with us on the shuttle. 

After the meeting it was time to drive to T1 (about 30 minute drive from the race expo/T2/Finish line) and check in our bikes (mandatory). We drove out and there began a transformation in the weather pattern as a storm blew in and kept blowing. There was no precipitation but the wind was fairly gusty so that it became obvious that we were probably not going to do a short bike ride before racking our bikes. We moved into T1 and located our spot. I noted all of the bikes already racked, were held onto the poles by wedging the pole under the brakes on the handle bars, not racked by the saddle. It was recommended they be racked this way to prevent them from blowing around or away in the gusty wind. Great. We racked them thus. I will note however that there was not enough room on the poles for all the bikes to be racked this way so handle bars were literally overlapping. We studied the Swim In/Bike Out and noted our paths and marked our areas. It was getting late in the day and we still needed to drive the 56 mile bike course.
Red rocks in the area of Snow Canyon

The bike course was hilly but not a slow course. The uphill sections were shorter and steeper while the corresponding downhill sections were more gradual and longer. The farther along we drove the more I realized how awesome the course was and again my heart filled with hope for a good race. The course featured a final climb through Snow Canyon that via the elevation map looked long, steep and difficult. To our amazement as we drove that section, it was very tame compared to what we were used to and on which we trained. And after that final climb came the closing 10 miles of downhill. Ah, I was feeling so excited and ready!!

Race morning: Both transitions were set up. T2 (mostly consisting of my running shoes and a few accessories) were kept bagged up because there was a chance that rain might come through. T1 was more involved and I fussed for a while getting that all set up. It was cold out, colder than was forecast, and it was a bit windy. There wasn't supposed to be any wind today. I assumed this would all dissipate in a few hours. There was no swim warm up allowed. I feel very strongly that allowing athletes to warm up in the water should not only be allowed but should be mandatory. I jogged around to stay warm but eventually had to get the wet suit on and step in line to make my way to my wave start. Even with my wet suit on I was cold and kept socks on and a sweatshirt until the last moment. My wave then entered the water to swim a few strokes to our starting line. The water felt cold and I didn't have much time to acclimate before the horn sounded.

Waves went off with only 3 minutes between each, so it was not far into the swim that we began catching the slower swimmers from the previous wave, and in fact ended up catching swimmers from at least 3 waves ahead of us. There was nothing but a sea of caps in front of me, pink, silver, yellow. At no point did I ever have clean water or a clear path and multiple times had to stop swimming to get around a crowd in my way. I tried to remain calm and did what I needed to do to get around but in doing so I swam farther than I should have and eventually swung wide, away from the buoy line just to have some open water. Even that did not work very well. As I finally neared the swim finish I realized I was still cold. That was unexpected and slightly alarming. I usually warm up nicely in the swim, even in cold water. I exited up the ramp amidst a flood of other athletes, feeling slightly frustrated but staying calm. In transition I realized my fingers weren't working very well. I clumsily got my socks and shoes on, helmet and glasses too. None of it went quickly. It was cold, I was cold and it was now beginning to rain. The wind was still present. I grabbed my bike and headed out. Once on the bike I began to shiver. I was trying to get myself settled on the bike and settled into a pace. Bikes were all around me and ahead of me. My jaw grew tight, almost as if it were locked and ached with a searing pain. I realized I was in a full body shiver and getting colder. The rain was cold, my feet were now soaked, and the wind was hitting from the side. The pain in my jaw intensified causing a harsh headache. I began to feel nauseous. I kept my mind engaged trying to mentally correct my physical situation. I analyzed everything and everyone. No one around me had extra clothing, everyone was wet. The dropped water bottles that littered the road indicated people were unable to hold onto their bottles. I reached for mine simply to see if I could hold onto it and found I had incredible difficulty just pulling it out of he holder. I tried my nutrition bottle in the back of my bike and could not pull it out. I didn't have enough control in my hands and fingers to pull them out. I thought to myself I need to begin warming up soon. I can't continue on like this.

The rain continued or quite possibly had stopped and then started again. To be honest I can't remember. A crash occurred just behind me. I heard a woman's panicked cry and then heard the crash. I glanced back and saw some bikes tumble. I wasn't sure how many were involved. This was unsettling but didn't surprise me. There were just so many athletes crowded together and no one seemed overly stable. It seemed all of the rules were cast aside. Many were not riding single file nor keeping proper gaps between them and others. There were riders on the far left side (blocking) so that it was not possible to pass them correctly. It seemed to me chaotic so a crash was almost inevitable. My focus then reverted back to my own personal situation. I kept shaking my head trying to loosen the pain in my jaw and wondered how long I could tolerate this. At this point I was no longer racing. I didn't have the ability to push any power into my peddles and was drifting along with the current of other riders. I passed some, some passed me but no one else seemed to be in distress. I was in distress. Why was I the only one in distress? I vaguely remember passing through the first aid station 10 miles into the bike. I began spending time coasting because the faster I went the colder I got. I no longer wanted to have any forward motion. The quivering in my body grew more violent. I couldn't shift my gears nor pull against by brakes with my fingers. I could do so only if I clumsily used the palm of my hand. Around 15 miles into the bike I spotted the emergency vehicles and police officers up ahead. I didn't decide to stop as I approached but instead passed by them. It was then that I made the decision to stop. I made sure I was clear of other riders, pulled to the left, and rolled to a stop. Unclipped. Hung my head. Cried. Walked my bike back to the police officer waiting to help. All the other athletes pushed on. I stopped. I kept thinking "why?". Why couldn't I handle it? 

Jess made way for me to lay on the gurney and shortly after that, three more shivering athletes entered the paramedic vehicle. The entering woman simply said "F*** that." The men quivered as I had been and said "I just can't stop shaking." I remained on the gurney and Jess let me know that her support crew was coming to pick her up and they could bring me to the finish area. I was grateful as I had no other options to get back. By the time her crew arrived, maybe 40 minutes later I was warmer and in better condition. Her crew got my bike loaded on their bike rack. I grabbed my helmet, glasses and soaked shoes and socks and exited the warm van back into the nasty elements. I began to shiver again. Their SUV was blasting heat and they actually had heated seats. I sat down into the warm seat and a black blanket was handed to me. "Here Cindy, wrap up, keep warm. I want you to keep this blanket."
I was dropped off at the finish line, still soaked, still cold but at least now wrapped in the black blanket. My head hung low. I passed by a woman and she asked me if I was in a relay. I explained. She approached me and stood close to me and looked me directly in the eyes. She said "Don't let this get to you. You made the right decision today. I can see you are a strong athlete. You have opportunities ahead. Don't let this define you." She had similar experiences in the past and had gained wisdom. Every word she said was exactly what I needed. She spoke with me for a long while. She may very well have been an angel. For me she surely was.

I made my way toward the expo and in doing so passed by the finish area. A race volunteer ran up to me and took my timing chip as I walked along. My story was clear from my dejected posture. Rain began to fall again and I slipped under a tent. Still wet, still cold, trying not to let this define me. I was then able to get to my "morning bag" which had all my dry clothes. I changed out of my wet stuff and remained wrapped in my black blanket while I searched for a sheltered place from which to watch those finishing the bike. John, I thought, was still out on the course and I waited a long while for him to roll in. During that time I processed the morning. I watched athletes come in on their bikes. All of these people got through it, why couldn't I? This recurring "why" was potentially damaging to my psyche. I found a limitation within me that I was unable to break through. I felt like the elements beat me. I was angry. I was sad. I thought about the 4 month training cycle I'd completed, and the precise taper that preceded the race. Every piece carefully put in place. I even tried to be prepared for the weather. But it was not predictable. It was supposed to be warmer, no wind, and a chance of scattered showers later on. I pondered how much money we spent to make the trip. And all the while I was watching 100's of athletes reach T2. Another type of black blanket fell upon me in those moments. A dark and ugly cloud in my mind.

John, as it turns out, also had to drop and eventually we found each other. We came to discover that while many athletes did stay in and complete, many did not. 30% of my age group was a DNF including the defending champion and the second place finisher from the year before. Many of the pros had to drop out. Depending on the timing, not everyone faced the exact same conditions and so many got out ahead of the rain on the bike and had a better chance of warming up. Some had extra clothing that helped, some had extra body fat that helped. Everyone's story was a bit different. 

Before we headed home on Sunday, I ran most of the run course. I made some kind of peace with it all and it wasn't long before I was able to look forward. I began making a list of all of the positives that came out of this experience. I survived. I am not stupid enough to kill myself for a race. I didn't crash or hurt myself. My bike got a nice bath. I learned some lessons. 

I will keep the black blanket. Maybe there will be a time I can pass it forward. It sits now as a symbol of warmth, of caring, of hope. Jess said, keep it Cindy. I want you to have it. Jess had to stop that day too. She understands. The black blanket took away the cold and replaced it with hope. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Thrill Ride - No Turning Back!

Years ago I visited Disney World and talked one of my sons into riding the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (featuring Aerosmith) with me. I have long loved thrill rides but not all of them. I usually need to see the whole ride, watch it for a while before deciding whether I feel it would be fun versus flat out terrifying. I would need to see all the loops, twists, turns, drops, upside-down sections, and determine the speed of the ride. I would also judge by the screams whether I could personally handle the ride.  So here we were standing outside the entrance to the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, reading the warnings among which was stated "this is a high speed thrill ride" followed by the Do Not's. Do not ride if you have heart, back or neck issues, or high blood pressure. Do not ride if you are pregnant. Do not ride if you have claustrophobia, etc....  It features an extremely fast acceleration from 0 to very fast within seconds. This roller coaster is housed inside a building so I couldn't study it ahead of time. All I knew was it was the newest ride and was all the rage and I thought it sounded cool, and it had a very long wait. But I had to make the decision to ride it or not without really knowing what I was getting into. And again, thankfully at least one of my young sons was gutsy enough to try it with me.

So we stepped into line and began the slow movement inside of the building, spending a couple of hours inching around the winding path within. Along the way there were glimpses of what was in store and Aerosmith rock blasted around us. I looked around to see who else was in line. Were they normal people or crazy people? Were there young kids? Was anyone panicking as we got closer? I became bored at the wait, and then would be pushed into an adrenaline rush when we made quick progress forward. At times I eyed the exit signs along the way and kept in mind I could bail if I needed to. I tried to imagine what the actual coaster seating would look like. Would I feel secure? I reminded myself that I would most likely not die which was slightly comforting.

The anticipation and apprehension grew stronger as we neared the end of the line. I had been reminded 15 times that this is a high speed thrill ride and that the high speed part started immediately. I like loops, twists, going upside down, but I am not a fan of super high speed. I finally got close enough to see the roller coaster start and finish location and I studies the demeanor of the people getting off the ride. Were they staggering? Was their hair standing on end? Were they smiling? Was anyone saying "let's go stand in line 2 more hours so we can do this again?"  I began to feel just a little panicked and looked to my nine year old son for reassurance.  A moment ago I was pretty sure I'd survive this ride but now I wasn't so sure.  Sweaty palms, quick glances to the "last chance" exit. The room was dark, full of people and I still couldn't see the actual ride. All I could see were people shot off into the darkness like a bullet, with their screams quickly fading. And Aerosmith Rock all around me. Steven Tyler was scary enough. Did I really want to do this?

Soon it was our turn to board. I was attempting deep breathing techniques to calm myself and project some type of facade of confidence. Hey, this was going to be fun ... not. I hadn't stepped into the coaster yet. There was still time to bail. Bail, don't bail, bail, don't bail. Once they strap me in if I freak out it would look very bad ... note to self "don't embarrass your son." I stepped in, the cage came down over my shoulders. There was no getting out of this now ... and that was a very bad feeling. Heart pounding. What's going to happen next? How fast are we about to go? WHEN will we go? Will it be dark? Will I be able to see where I'm going? And then we shot off into some cylindrical tube full of lights. I don't think I breathed for about 3 minutes.

That which I just described is the exact feeling I get when I'm lined up for a wave start in an Ironman 70.3. Every bit of what I described above happens to me as I move closer to my race start. It's a thrill ride. I'm about to be strapped into this ride and no turning back.

Next Saturday (May 7th) is the next thrill ride. The Ironman 70.3 St. George. I'm already beginning to feel panicked. But this time I think I will feel something else besides panic. This time I think I will also feel excitement, eagerness, confidence. With the help of some very wonderful people, I am prepared for the depths of pain I will be facing.  I am injury free and have had 4 solid months of focused preparation, countless epic workouts, high intensity efforts. I've tested my nutrition plan several times. I've studied the St. George course and have trained specifically to prepare for the challenges of it. When I stand amidst my wave of competition, I will be able to look around and know I did everything possible to prepare and probably more than most others, maybe more than all others. Besides preparation, the only other factors are talent and execution. I can't determine my abilities compared to others' abilities but as far as execution. I knew the plan. Everything has been thought out, including plan B's if needed. It's still going to be a little scary but for the first time ever, I am doing a triathlon as a triathlete instead of as a runner. It seems an intricate balance to become a well rounded triathlete and this will be the first test to see if we've struck the right balance.

St. George here we come, along with several other Santa Barbara athletes. This will be the ultimate EPIC thrill ride!!  A chance to chase dreams. Never stop dreaming and never stop chasing!

On the eve of this race, I again want to thank the following amazing people! My husband John who doubles as my swim coach and he is the best at both! Fred Maggiore who has selflessly shared from his wealth of experience and has guided my entire training plan. My preparedness is a direct result of all he has done. Nash Jimenez who has been my running inspiration and guide and gives me (and many others) a reason to give it my all. My many training partners and teammates: Desa Mandarino, Jen Brown, Lynelle Paulick, Tabitha Elwood, Doug Moore, Jim Adams, Chris Latham, Bob Kitson, Crystal Martin, Dave (Spaulding and Adornetto), Poul Jorgensen, James Kantrim, Joe Sullivan, Christie McDonald, Renaud Gonthier and Laurence (the French people), and many others. 
Thank you to the Santa Barbara Triathlon Club and all of the amazing community, support and encouragement that comes from this club, and for Santa Barbara Running Company, De Soto Sport Triathlon Company, and Rabbit Running apparel (Rabbit clothing officially launched April 2016 and I am blessed to be a first supporter and user of the apparel as a member of the Founder's Club. My newest Rabbit outfit is pictured above), for equipping me with the right clothing for all aspects of triathlon. Hazards Cycling (Bruce and everyone!) who has my bike well fitted to me and tuned up, ready to go as fast as I can drive it. And Dr. Ernie Ferrel (Ferrel Chiropractics) who has helped keep me injury free and works out the issues that crop up.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Double Brick

I've learned a lot during this cycle of triathlon training. I'd thought I was adequately familiar with the tri-geek lingo and "different than how I typically train as a runner" training methods and workouts, but this whole Double Brick thing is actually something I'd not heard of until just a few months ago. I am very familiar with a Brick workout (single brick), which is simply a bike workout with a run to follow. I'm pretty sure they call that a "Brick" because B=Bike, R=Run and ick= ... well need I say more? They are icky (and tough) combo workouts.  They can be done using various distance combos, the longer the ickier.  But a Double Brick? Ew, why?

So this idea of doing a double brick, which of course is a combo workout of Bike, Run, Bike again (are you kidding me?), Run again (double icky), was a little tough to wrap my mind around.  Fred introduced me to the knowledge that I'd be doing this workout toward the end of the training cycle for the upcoming St. George Half Ironman, and of course it will be repeated in the future during the final weeks prior to the World Championships, so I knew this thing was coming.  The fact that it is a double brick wasn't actually the worst (I mean best?) part. It was the fact that the total mileage on the bike would equal race distance, and the total mileage on the run would also be pretty close to race distance, both done at race effort, essentially making this workout a true test of current conditioning, current mental stamina, a chance to try out my current nutrition plan, and it was sure to flat out kick my butt. I'm not a fan of doing a half Ironman a month before I'm actually doing a half Ironman.  The workout doesn't include the swim (thank goodness there's at least one mercy).

The Double Brick needs to be placed very precisely into the overall training program.  The race date is May 7th, so this workout needed to hit about 5 weeks prior. Unfortunately for me, 5 weeks before the race I was entered to do the Carlsbad 5000 (running race) - our beloved CBad. At first I had my heart set on doing CBad, but with some persuasion I saw how important it was for me to let go a little bit more of my competitive runner self, and embrace my inner triathlete. I agreed to forego CBad, but we already had our hotel and travel plans secured, and John, Desa, Nash, Lynelle, Jill and a few other Santa Barbara folks were competing so I still wanted to travel down to watch it. I decided to do my Double Brick down there, which of course worked out great because I used to live in North San Diego County so I was familiar with great cycling and running routes. I felt a tinge of disappointment to have to make this change, but it lasted like 2 seconds and then I quickly knew it was the correct decision.  

On April 1, John and I traveled down the coast by train, with all of our triathlon stuff crammed into a backpack. This included specific clothing, food for the pre-workout breakfast and "during the workout" food and bottles filled with UCAN and electrolyte charged water, all of the special equipment, shoes, gadgets, and really the list goes on. My backpack was a bit on the pudgy side, kind of heavy. And then of course we had our bikes. Why take the train? Because we were going for ultimate epicness. It was great to just stretch out and relax (coming home was another story because oops, it was the end of Spring Break and Amtrak overbooked - we sat on the floor for the first part of the trip). The train takes a bit longer but the benefits are worth it.
Train Ride down to Carlsbad
We arrived late Friday night (just after midnight) and the workout was planned for Saturday morning. I received instructions to make this workout as close to how I planned to do the race as possible which meant starting out Saturday morning with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I also brought my De Soto two piece trisuit. I had pre-mixed my workout nutrition and had my bike tires pumped up before leaving home.  I had pre-determined my bike course using Map My Ride and every leg of the brick needed to start and stop at our hotel room which was coastal, in the south end of Carlsbad Village.  My runs would take me down the coast and back.

I was almost as nervous for this workout as I am for a race. So much of the nervousness related to competition has to do with how much pain you know you'll have to endure. This one, I knew, was a new level of challenge. It was unprecedented as far as the amount of distance I would cover (in a workout) and the amount of time it would take. The other odd variable is that I didn't know how it would feel to do the first bike and run and then have to get back on the bike and do it again. I'd only ever done a single brick. I had expectations of what I wanted to achieve regarding paces and I didn't know if I could hold out for the full distance and hold it all together. That was a big unknown but of course that's why you do these types of workouts. You have to find your limits and in order to do that you have to place a challenge before yourself that is bigger than you.  

I had three main goals:

  1. Race Effort all the way. As I'll explain in a moment, I selected the courses to resemble conditions I will encounter in St. George. In a word: hilly.  So I wasn't sure what pace I'd hold on the bike but was fairly dialed in with what I'd hoped to hold on the run. On the bike I wanted my effort level to be high, measured primarily by my heart rate.  On the run I wanted to be as close to 7:00 minute pace as I could get without blowing myself up. So my run needed to be manageable seeing as how I'd have to do it twice.
  2. Have success with my nutrition plan= Do not bonk.
  3. I wanted my second run to be the same pace as my first run. In other words, I wanted to hold it together all the way to the end and if I could have that kind of pacing and consistency, that would speak a lot to race readiness.

Workout course and distances: 

The Bike loops: I mapped out a bike loop that was supposed to be around 28 miles with a considerable amount of climbing (totaling 3500 feet of climbing over the course of two loops). My calculation for the bike loop was a little too long (I discovered this on my first loop) so I adjusted the distance slightly on the second loop.  First bike loop was 31.5 miles, the second loop was adjusted down to 25 miles.  Total bike mileage = 56.7 miles

The Run loops: The run calculations were easy. I ran a total of 6 miles per loop (South on the Coast Highway) - out and back on rolling hills. This was a stretch along the coastline that I used to run regularly when I lived down there. It never disappointments. If I hadn't been so focused and somewhat in pain, I'd have enjoyed the scenery even more. Total run mileage =12 miles

Double Brick: 31.5 mile bike, transition to run, 6 mile run, transition back to bike, 25 mile bike, transition to run, 6 mile run.  Total time of actual movement: 4:45

Paces: The first loop of the bike was a little stronger at 17.5 mph amidst untimely stoplights and some extra climbing. First run - 6 miles at 7:04 pace. The second bike loop was 17.3 mph but with a stiffer headwind. Second run - same exact 6 miles at 7:04 pace. I'm wasn't exactly happy with the mph on the bike but with so many interruptions and a headwind, it was respectable enough for a training effort which was mimicking race effort. I was thrilled with the run paces.

Nutrition: Breakfast= Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread. On bike: 1 bottle of UCAN (three scoops) and 1 bottle of water with Nuun electrolyte. Refilled this bottle when transitioning into the second bike loop. 1 powercrunch bar at the end of the second bike and finally a gel flask for the final run which contained a thick mixture of UCAN (1 scoop).

Considering all of the planning, panicking, preparation, goal setting, and outcome. This workout was 100% successful. The two highlights were that I didn't bonk, and the two runs were identical in pace. Even if I squeezed out every drip of hope I'd ever hoped for anything, I could hardly hope for those two runs to align as they did. And to complete that amount of work and effort without bonking (and that includes the time in transitions which dragged the overall time to be over 5 hours) was a huge accomplishment. I have been searching for a nutrition plan that would work well for me and I think I've got it dialed in. There is very little sugar in anything that I consumed. In fact the only sugar was the 5 grams in the powercrunch bar. Everything else was complex carbohydrates or non-caloric electrolyte. UCAN is designed to stabilize blood sugar which allows your body to tap into other energy sources (stored fat) and because of this, it is important to avoid consuming sugar. I felt energetic the whole time though I'm not going to "sugar coat" the reality. It was the hardest workout I'd ever done. And it came at the end of a hard week which included other unprecedented efforts. I was fatigued to begin with so there was a great mental challenge in this one. I felt like I was out there literally all day long.

Very fast diners. Look at their dinner choices!
Saturday night I ate a lot at a really cool Italian restaurant next to a table full of World elite runner!

And then Sunday came and I got to watch CBad and it was awesome!! I had a Slurpee with John and Desa and met Bernard Lagat who'd just lowered his Master's World Record! Oh, and we had a pizza from Pizza Port and found an amazing Acai bowl. 

Bernard Lagat. Wow!

It's done and behind me now, a notation in my training log, but the benefit of it will carry me forward with a new level of confidence. I am nearing the end of this training cycle now. The final weeks play out like this:

  • April 2 - Epic Double Brick (completed)
  • April 10 - Final Epic run (long warm up, 4 x 2 mile repeats on hilly Mountain Drive) (actually did this this morning with two amazing running partners Jen and Desa, so this one too is complete)
  • April 16 - Final Epic long bike (brick - which means I get to run after the long bike) which will be up HW 33
  • Then comes the taper
I'd mentioned the Epic workouts of triathlon in a previous post (click HERE to read). I must reiterate how valuable these workouts are and how they've built over the past 4 months so to the point that I am good and ready for that taper to begin. 

And as mentioned before, I have an important list of people to continue to thank because this is not a solo effort and if I were trying to do this alone, I be no where close to where I am right now. I again want to thank John for coaching my swim, training with me and for being the most amazing and encouraging husband I could ever hope for. And thank you to Nash for coaching and guiding my running training, and thank you to Fred for the overall training plan and building me carefully toward the World Championships, along with all of the cycling training and advice and for being a training partner. And then there's Desa, Jen and Lynelle who have trained along side me, joined me for some of the hardest workouts and did them with me, pushing, pulling, encouraging, believing and so much more. And I have the pleasure of training with several other of the most amazing athletes as well (swim lane buddies, and cycling buddies). 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

From Runner to Triathlete - Transformation Almost Complete

In the movie A League of Their Own, there's a dialogue between two characters (Tom Hanks and Gina Davis) that resonated with me long ago and frequently comes to mind. The film is about the All-Women Baseball league that formed during World War II, and Dottie (played by Gina Davis) was one of the star athletes, and Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) was the coach. Dottie decided to (try and) walk away from the sport when her wounded husband returned from battle.  To her coach she says, "It just got too hard." Jimmy (Tom) replies with one of my favorite movie lines, "It's supposed to be hard.  If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard ... is what makes it great."  

Triathlon training is full of epic workouts. Workouts that are meant to push the body beyond comfort, beyond expectation, beyond current fitness.  Big workouts that simulate race stress and conditions. Workouts that not everyone can do. Great ... Hard workouts.  When I look over my weekly schedule, the epic ones stand out. Just reading the description about the set increases my heart rate. If I have to ask the question, "Can I do this?", I know it's an epic one. I'm not training to complete, I'm training to compete and I know how much it hurts in the middle of the race. I don't want to back off when the pain hits. It will be these epic workouts that carry me through with power and energy, and will get me to the finish line ahead of my competitors. Within these workouts I will learn what I'm capable of and how to give myself a chance to accomplish something ... great.

Over the past 4-6 months, I've been working hard to transition from runner to triathlete. There are many reasons why this has been a very difficult task and I still struggle with letting go of certain strengths and advantages in order to gain other strengths and advantages that will make me (hopefully) a great triathlete. But I've had expert advice to rely on and incredible support and understanding when it comes to my headstrong grip on running. Epic triathlon specific workouts have been the key. As I swing high above the ground afraid to let go of the vine called Running in order to reach out and grab the vine called Triathlon, fearing I may fall completely, a transformation has been occurring. I am about to fully embrace the sport of triathlon.

Here are 3 transformational steps I've taken:

  1. Data Gadgets - My bike is equipped with an awesome power meter and I regularly train with a heart rate monitor now. It has been hard for me to learn how to pace myself on the bike and I have too many times erred on the "too easy of a pace" side of things and have had to learn how to ride hard and understand how long I can hold a given pace.  Along with the addition of the power meter, Fred has had me do Functional Power Threshold tests to determine how hard I can ride maxed out for an hour. This forms my base for training paces and this step alone has made a huge difference. The heart rate monitor is less of a tool for me than it is an interesting indicator. Through almost 40 years of training as a runner I've learned to know my body and my run paces based on feel but the monitor helps me on the bike and I can see how bike efforts and run efforts match and differ. 
  2. Equipment - I want to be clear regarding how I feel about gaining time or advantage because of equipment. This has been one of my sticking points in the past. I didn't want the aero-helmet or special race wheels, or even an aero bike frame. I wanted my time and performance to be pure and based on physical training, ability and mental strength. Over the years I have grown aggravated that I would end up realistically racing with many noted disadvantages. I'd line up with women of similar ability and get beat, not because they were better or stronger, but because they had the stupid equipment. I resisted for a long while, much because I raced with a runner's mentality (which means I am a minimalist when it comes to equipment). I have more recently decided that I no longer want to race with all these disadvantages. I have equipped myself with an aero-helmet, and recently found a great set of used race wheels on Ebay. This of course is more evidence that I've morphed to some extent into a triathlete and while I still feel that training, ability and mental strength are the real keys, at least I am able to compete on a level playing field again. 
    Zipp Wheelset with cool green decals.
  3. The accomplishment of epic workouts that are getting more epic each week! In preparation for the two Ironman 70.3 races (the first of which is in May), I have done several 4 - 5 hour workouts (bike/run combos). To help me with these workouts, I've also had incredible training partners. Here's something else that has been a huge key. I have a coach, Fred Maggiore, who not only writes these workouts but often does them with me. I really haven't got enough words of thanks and gratitude to express how much it has meant to me to have these experiences with other athletes. A few weeks ago we did a 70+ mile ride (around Lake Casitas starting out toward Ventura first, then coming back on the 150 - which I consider to be "Around the lake in reverse direction"), followed by a 30 minute run at tempo pace. Dr. Greg Gaitan weathered that ride with me (high winds that day) and Fred also joined for a solid portion of the ride. A week ago we increased bike mileage by doing a 75 mile ride around Lake Casitas but also looped around Ojai. This ride was then accompanied by a 40 minute hard run off the bike which ended up totaling over 5 hours. Mike Desmond and Fred did this workout (the bike portion) with me. I flatted on this one, making me even more grateful that I hadn't had to do it solo. 
    Photo credit to Mike Desmond who was obsessed with capturing this awesome telephone pole.
    And this weekend we rode Figueroa Mountain and Happy Canyon in Santa Ynez amidst lush green fields and wild flowers. The ride wasn't as long (this is the recovery week) but had 4700 feet of climbing. Riding buddies on this one again included Mike Desmond and Fred, and also James Kantrim. 
    Happy Canyon en route to Fig Mountain

    The view from the top of Fig Mountain

As final proof to myself that I am close to fully morphed, I decided to forego the upcoming Carlsbad 5000 which I was planning to race. It interferes with the big epic workout planned for this weekend so I decided to omit the race and make sure and hit that planned Double Brick instead. The 5000 meter race would have fed my competitive nature but would be of little value in preparing for a 5 hour triathlon. The Double Brick however will be a key workout in which I will simulate race effort over 4.5 hours and will allow me to test myself, push my fitness and endurance to a new level and provide the opportunity to again test my nutrition plan for the race. This brick will be comprised of a 30 mile bike ride followed by a 6 mile run (both hilly), followed by another 30 mile bike ride and then another 6 mile run (both hilly). This will be a little over 3 hours of cycling and 1 1/2 hours of running - similar to the race time/distances. A workout that will push me physically, mentally and nutritionally. And this one will be done solo. I believe this signifies the letting go of the Running vine and grabbing hold of the Triathlon vine, and in the transition ... I didn't fall to the ground. 

It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard ... is what makes it great.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Gemina and Beef Jerky

What the heck kind of title is that for a blog?  I'm sitting here writing, using my unpublished novel, tucked away in a folder, as my mousepad.  It is day 3 of daylight savings time.  I'm pretty sure I am somehow sleep deprived because of it - let's not get started on how I hate changing the clock in the Spring, and how it has health implications for everyone.  The point is Gemina and Beef Jerky.  Here they are:

Gemina with beef jerky
Gemina is a stuffed replica of "the crooked-necked giraffe" who lived at the Santa Barbara Zoo until her death in 2008.  I can never remember her name and am not sure the proper pronunciation so I renamed her Jemima.  Like Aunt Jemima.  She comes to track practice most weeks and sits just inside the first lane on the curve.  She is our team Kenyan and good luck charm.  She watches us - kind of from a sideways slanted view, and sends us fast vibes and helps us dream of pancakes with lots and lots of syrup.

Jemima is pictured today with a package of Beef Jerky.  Why?  I have no idea.  Probably something having to do with her inner conflict - am I a vegetarian, am I a carnivore, omnivore, vegan????  Not really.  The common denominator is simply that these are both gifts to me from a dear friend and teammate.  She gave me the giraffe many moons ago and from there Jemima became the team mascot.  And today she gave me the beef jerky.  Our teammate quietly gives gifts 100% of the time.  It could be a physical gift such as these. Sometimes it's a secret gift as she slips away to "use the restroom" during a team dinner at Eurekas, and then Boom, miraculously the waitress lets us know our bill has been taken care of.  Sometimes it's a gift of words and encouragement.  Sometimes it's a promise to be there when we need her.  I arrived at the track extra early this morning because my workout required more time to warm up.  I started doing my laps in the Westmont darkness (I remind you it is now DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME) by myself and every time I went around the far corner, the darkest corner which borders the scary forest, I thought of the Mountain Lion sightings they had right in that area the year before.  My teammate told me - "next time you have to do an early warm up, you call me and I will be there with you, no matter how early." That's just who she is.

That is the theme of today's blog - the giving nature of the wonderful people around me. Here's a couple of them right here:
Nash and Desa.  Photo credit: Lynelle Paulick
I had a challenging workout assigned to me today.  It was a tempo interval workout that would require me to do repeats of 1.5 miles. I had a pace in mind that I needed to hit (of course a bit faster than coach prescribed).  John (hubby and #1 Wonderful, giving person in my life) ran the first three intervals with me and we fell beautifully into the correct pace together. The rhythm of our feet in unison, John's very loud breathing (which makes it hard to hear my quiet breathing, so that works nicely), looping past our other teamies (they did a different workout so this in no way implies we were lapping them), was the creation of a magical workout.  After a few sets, my mind no longer focused on the work we were doing, but rather the art in it.  Nash joined me for (most of) interval #4 and allowed me to continue with this experience.  It was a sacrifice for him to do this because he had already completed his speed workout. He tacked this extra interval on because I asked for help.  In the end, it was a 12.5 mile workout done completely on the track. I am certain I've never run that many miles on a track before but not only is that what happened today, I loved it.  I loved it because it was done with wonderful, giving, positive people.  Half asleep from DLS imposed sleep deprivation, yes. Trying not to run into each in the dark, yes. Thank goodness for those white lines on the track.

On a side note - the beef jerky was a fun little gift because we had a lot of discussion this week about diet. I have a background in Nutrition, with a Bachelor's degree from Nevada (UNR). And I work for FDN Inc. (which stands for Functional Diagnostic Nutrition®). I usually don't assert my nutritional opinions on others but if asked I'm happy to tell you my take on nutrition, and happy to explain the principles I follow regarding my own diet. I also will provide unsolicited advice if I am concerned about someone I care about. So our dietary discussion this week focused on the importance of meat in the diet, especially an athlete's diet. Here's my opinion about meat (definition of meat = the flesh of any animal): eat it. Well let me just put it this way, because I know there is a growing trend of meatless diets, and I don't mean to step on any of those toes. I eat meat (you don't have to if you don't want to, but I do. I won't judge you if you don't, and you won't judge me because I do) - just like in the old, old days when we learned to eat a balanced meal, I have that chunk of meat on my plate along with the other representatives of the Macro-nutrients. I also make sure I consume meat before a long bike ride (usually salmon or sardines). Because of my type of metabolism (fast oxidizer for those who are familiar with Metabolic Typing®), protein is very important in keeping me fueled. I ultimately consume less Calories overall (the correct amount of Calories) on my high protein diet because I feel full with less food. Protein also helps by body repair and recover and gives me an overall feeling of health and wellness. I take in my protein via food, not supplements, shakes, mixes or powders (except when I take in food during training or competition when real food isn't practical). The best source of protein is meat, not only because it contains all of the essential amino acids, but also because there are many other nutrients contained therein. I am sure there are countless revelations yet to be uncovered regarding nutrients in food, and the combination of nutrients in their naturally occurring state and how they affect processes in the body. To be healthy, the rule is everything in moderation, not "some things in over-abundance and some things completely restricted" (except in cases where there is an allergy or sensitivity/intolerance of course, and probably donuts and carbonated beverage should be completely restricted). Dietary trends come and go and they are not harmless. Eat wisely, use logic, don't let someone else choose for you or influence you, educate yourself, and most importantly, eat to win.  To be clear, I don't follow any specifically labeled diet (such as Paleo). I simply eat without putting too much thought into it.

So that's the story behind the beef jerky.

Gemina (Jemima) = wonderful giving people
Beef jerky = Eat meat

Have a great week and good luck adjusting to the time change. I clearly haven't yet.