Adjusted Reality

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” – Mark Twain

Ring the bells that still will ring

Alrighty folks, it’s race week. It’s been both a lifetime and a wink since I started this training cycle, but whatever has transpired in the last few months, here it is!

70.3 training, conquered.

It’s been over a month since I’ve penned anything in this space, fiction is simply holding my interest a little more than status reports, but I would be remiss to completely abandon a training log. So, let’s catch up.

In my last post, I was incredibly proud of how my brain quieted down a bit and training felt fantastically familiar. I was practically at my typical maximum training distances already and feeling confident. Then, I had some rough days at work and things went a little sideways with the training schedule. I took an extra day off the week of August 20th, and my long training that weekend took an unfortunate turn – I had a pretty great bike but took a digger at mile 2 of my run and bruised the heck out of my knee and elbow. While I could tell I had no permanent injury from the tumble, my body reminded me each step of what had transpired. I also felt weirdly dehydrated, had to take lot of breaks to drink, putting down almost a full bottle per mile. I had to cut it short due to both time and bodily conditions, clocking 9 miles instead of 11.

I took the next week almost completely off. It was supposed to be a rest week, but I had a little more planned than a one hour run Thursday and a long workout Saturday. I fared much better on that one, though. My bike was a wee bit under race power, but I had a much more successful run, finishing out my 2 hours at 11.56 miles in much hotter conditions. I’d be more than thrilled with this pace at the race.

September 2nd kicked off my last peak week. I hit every workout planned, for 10.5 hours total. I hit two long back to back swims. I ran a speedy almost-half marathon, clocking 2 hours and 5 minutes exactly for 12.5 miles (about 10 min/mile pace). Then, while I had flagging motivation to start the session, once I got going, I absolutely crushed my long day – 57 miles with a faster pace and higher power output for the distance than ever before, and a 6 mile run conquering the noonday heat in feels like 105 degrees. It was confidence-building and great problem solving practice should the race be this sweltering (though please no!!!).

Labor day bike and run play time. Every Monday should be like this…

Two weeks ago, I had a resurgence of work stuff going on, so I missed a few sessions. It was taper, I completed the big stuff, I wasn’t too concerned. Unfortunately, I ended up having to cut my long workout a bit short as well, which caused me a little consternation. The hour bike went fantastically, easily holding race power, but I got out on the run really late, it was really hot, I wasn’t feeling 100%. I pushed through whininess and uncomfortable feelings, but when I started getting goosebumps and feeling dizzy, I called the run at 90 minutes instead of 2 hours.

Last week started with the same chaos, but thankfully my workout plans were simply to do something for between 30-60 minutes most days this week, and the only non-negotiable was a race distance, race pace swim. I had a pretty fantastic brick, clocking 3 miles around sprint distance pace off race power (I’ve slowed a little as it was 9:12/mile instead of in the 8s but DANG IT’S HOT, I’m going with that as my excuse) and that swim yesterday, clearing race distance in just under 41 minutes. My PR is just over 40, and I’m nowhere near as trained as I was at that time (and also the water was at least 10 degrees hotter), so the final piece fell into place with that workout.

I’ve probably clocked less midweek miles than typical, especially some of those work-crazy weeks, but in recollect, I’ve never climbed to race distances so quickly in the training cycle with such ease, and I’ve never completed so many long runs, especially off the bike. Holding race power (140-150 watts) feels natural both indoors and out (though outside is always easier). I’ve spent plenty of time in the heat, and I’m as acclimated as I could possibly be. I didn’t swim that much this cycle but I did put up four 2k+ swims, three of those in open water.

I do believe I’m ready to race in seven days.

I’m going to refrain from laying out my entire strategy from Saturday morning until the finish line since we’ve done this many, many times and I don’t plan to fix what isn’t broken, but let’s talk a bit about the swim/bike/run plan even if we’ve heard this all before a million times. It’s a good reminder.

If you’re going to ask about #projectraceweight, see my answer in the bottom left. I’ll get back to that after the race…

Swim:

If it’s legal, even by 0.1 degrees, I’ll wear my wetsuit. It helped a lot yesterday. Either way, my goal is to not get caught up in the craziness and to swim like it’s a warmup. If it takes an extra minute or two, that’s fine. I’ll make up that time before I hit a few miles in on the bike if I feel warmed up and refreshed instead of gassed.

I’d love to see under 40 minutes, but only if it’s at the proper effort. I’m guessing closer to 40-42 if all goes well.

Bike:

Give myself some time to warm up, but by the bottom of the first lap (around mile 13 I believe), I should be at race power and maintain it the rest of the ride UNLESS it feels particularly awful and like I’m trashing my race to do so. That means pushing downhills as well as uphills, and passing aggressively as needed. Gel as quickly as I can stomach one, and then every 45 minutes after for the entirety of the race. One bottle of electrolytes every bottle stop. Depending on the weather, I may take 1-2 salt pills per hour for the remainder of the race as well, and I’ll have 303 muscle relaxers on hand in case I need them. Though I’ve been blessedly pain free most training days, I know ish can go sideways during a six hour race.

I really really really want to see a sub-3 hour split here, finally. I rode 3:01 in practice in what I expect were more difficult conditions than the race, so if all goes well, I’m gunning for 2:59:59 or bust! Well, as long as it’s not going to tank my run. Again, I’ll sacrifice a few minutes to feel fresher if I need. Though I do covet a bike PR, you place in the race with your overall time, not your bike split, much as I try to will that change into existence.

Guys, this is really fast for me in feels like 90s…

Run:

This is always my wildcard. I can peg my swim and bike times within a few minutes maximum. I know I have a ~2:10 run in me right now if I can keep my cool, literally (core temperature) and figuratively (quieting the arsehole voice in my brain telling me it’s okay to stop and walk). I’ve also had over 3 hour run split days when everything falls apart. So, the goal is not to do that. Keep it together, woman!

Every long run has me pegged to finish between about 2:10-2:20. I know this is within my reach if I can simply keep myself from walking. If that means taking an extra few seconds to shove ice in my kit and pound three cups of electrolytes every aid station, I’ve proven to myself that it’s worth it.

Transitions:

Are lava. Get in, get out, get on with your life.

Overall:

I’ve definitely in a different place than I’ve been with racing as of late. I’ve not had the mental gymnastics of last year’s race prep. There was something in me that so badly needed to prove my competency by having a stellar race. I felt an inkling of self worth for the first time, and I was grasping it so tightly it could barely breathe. A year removed, I have more faith and confidence in the fact that in many facets of life, I am putting forth a lot of effort and kicking some ass on the daily. While I really do quite want to showcase my true potential next Sunday, I don’t feel like the entirety of my ego is on the line.

I don’t know that there’s any way I could want a PR more than I did at Cozumel without my heart actually exploding, so I’ll say I’ve got a little less hunger, but in reality, it may be the same level, just in a different fashion. It feels quieter, it feels calmer, but that fire in my belly is super totally there. I am a little behind on race visualization, I’ve been distracting myself to get through sessions, this week I will concentrate on being wholly inside myself.

This one last year was a freaking warrior. I can only hope to do the same this year and make past me proud!

I’ve been listening to Leonard Cohen – Anthem a lot this cycle. It’s got the famous quote, yeah, the one with the crack and the light, but I believe it’s the first part of the lyric spoke to me more.

Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in

There will be a point in which the race will stop feeling good and nice and fun. It might be two seconds into the swim, or perhaps I’ll have a banner day and it won’t arrive until the second hour of the run. That’s the point in which I need to forget perfection, and ring those dang bells that still will ring. Whatever cylinders I have at the time, I will be running on all of them, whatever that looks like on September 29th.

And if that looks like a unicorn day clocking sub-6 hours, a solid day putting up a PR (sub 6:28), or a day full of challenges where getting to the finish at all is a mountain in and of itself, I’ll be content as long as I don’t lose my fight.

A midsummer weeks training…

To cycle, to run, perhaps, to train…

Commuting means time to stop and take pictures of the flowers. Though, you gotta be careful before smelling them…

While I’ve been really non-attentive to this space in place of other fiction writing and also work, I definitely want to make sure to document this training cycle, even if it’s not with as much scrutiny and obsessiveness as typical in years past.

First, let’s talk details with the actual swim/bike/run stuff. I had some fits and starts with attending every training session and not just blowing off the days I didn’t feel like completing, but it’s now just rote. Six weeks ago, I stood at the bottom of a mountain, looking up at the work to get there, facing the idea and found myself terrified. Even though this is my ninth, this beginning felt different. I couldn’t fathom any of these distances separately let alone together. I couldn’t remember how it felt to train regularly. But you know what? Screw all that. I love to climb.

Now, I swim on Monday, we ride about 60 miles of commuting in 36 hours with a brick run off the morning bike on Tuesday or Wednesday, we long run on Friday morning, and we ride bikes for hours and run in the heat on Saturday. This is simply how it is done. I can barely remember six weeks ago when this wasn’t the norm, but I do remember how scared I was that this was the cycle where I wouldn’t be able to give myself the chance to earn the race I deserved. Not the case at all.

I have five and a half weeks before I toe the start line, and I’ve swam (almost) the race distance, I’ve cycled the approximate race distance twice, I’ve nudged my long run up to 10 miles, and I’ve put together some long bricks – 3 hours of cycling/4 miles running and 2.25 hours of cycling/6 miles of running. I’m happy to have more time to gain more endurance and sharpen the stick, for sure, but if I had to get out there and race tomorrow, I think I’d be in good shape for completion if not a shot for kicking ass. And that’s about a million billion trillion zipcodes away from where I was six weeks ago.

Typical Saturday these days…

I’ve been splitting my rest weeks over two weeks, starting Saturday and ending Friday (honestly, due to scheduling necessity), and I finish my second block in two days. I have three more weekends and two more weeks for the last block, and here’s what I’d like to accomplish:

  • 13.1 long run. Let’s do it at least once.
  • 56 mile bike/6 mile run. This is typically my longest workout of the season and they’re typically big confidence boosters.
  • 1-2 hour intense bike/2 hour run (hopefully twice). I have the major mental issue where I get a few miles into the run and my mind reels at how far I still have to go and I stop and walk and get discouraged, even if I can pick it up and do well the second half. I can trot for a long time in the heat if I get out of my own head. I think preparing myself mentally to run longer off the bike will help.
  • At least 2-3 more ~2000 yd swims in the lake. I wasn’t unhappy with my pace or feeling after the first one, but mentally it was just so LONG. I want to raise my comfort level.

I plan to keep the volume this block about the same, everything seems to be working just fine, and finish things off just in time for a nice 2-week taper. Typically, I taper for three, and I may make the call to cut the last week short anyway, but I think with my 2019 volume (not much) and how my body feels right now (a little tired but pretty good), that seems right.

Since I’ve given a lot of lipservice to mental machinations here on the blog lately, I think I’ll save the bulk of my words here for closer to the race. However, I’ve been pleased to find that when I set myself up for success I do well. This is what I’ve talked about before – focusing on morning training, my weekday bike volume as commutes (even if you don’t effing feel like riding after work you gotta get home somehow), and managing my expectations properly. I’d like to swim more, I’d like to do weights, but something has to give and I am doing enough and the right things with my 7-10 hours per week I can spare.

I’ve also found saving a topic to ponder on long workouts to be a huge win. I spent 10 miles thinking about the cost of hamburgers as it relates to pricing structure and tolerance and I barely remember feeling any malaise on the last long run in feels like a billion degrees at crazy early o’clock. I’ve spent bike rides thinking through conversations my D&D character will have in the next few sessions. Having something mentally challenging to chew on really helps to pass the time. I will definitely put a few subjects in my pocket for race day. Sometimes I’m better living in the moment, sometimes I need the distraction. I plan to be ready for either eventuality.

This is one of the good things going into my tummy lately…

The one part of training I’m not nailing, or perhaps nailing a little too hard (TWSS?) is nutrition. Let me tell you, after the majority of the last two years under restriction, being a little freer with my consumption has been AWESOME. It’s been great to get pizza because I feel like it, not carefully scheduled to minimize the calorie deficit impact. I *have* to eat like a trash compactor on Fridays, since I’m running long in the morning and then training for another 3-4 hours the next day.

However, it’s time to shut that unrestricted sh%t down and be a bit smarter. I’ve been gaming and avoiding the scale to stay in the 160-somethings, but I’ve gained a little weight. Like, maybe 2-3 lbs max from my lowest low this year, and I’m probably still under 2018’s Cozumel race weight, but I don’t like the trend. Between training inflammation, eating some stuff I don’t normally eat (simple carbs and more sugar), and short term medication that sent my hormones into a tailspin, I feel like I have this giant gut and I’ve gained like 20 lbs instead of just a few.

I know this makes no sense, and the rational part of my brain is aware of my crazy. However, I know I can do better so I’m back to tracking my food so I can make sure I’m eating enough on the days I should and not too much on my days off. I’m not doing anything utterly nutzo like tracking diet quality, but when I have to log what I eat, I generally eat a little better, so we’ll go with that for now.

Made this after training one Saturday… 🙂

I suppose the last part of training to mention is heat acclimation, which is a huge part of readiness for a six-hour race in late September. Kerrville has the potentiality of a nice cool day, but it’s also been in the 90s/feels like 100s as well. Being ready to run in the hot sun after over 3 hours of exposure to the elements is key, and if the day is temperate, even better.

While last year we were bolstering our heat acclimation with walks, I think we’re doing alright. All our swims are outside in the soup. We bike commute ~4 hours per week. All our runs are outside and not confined to sunrise when it’s the coolest. Last weekend, my AC was set to 78 degrees and I donned a fleece sweatshirt, fuzzy socks, and a blanket. Running and biking when the feels like temperatures are under 90 feel like a breath of fresh air right now.

Oddly enough in the next few weeks, I start to root for summer to stick around a little longer. The worst situation is to suffer through all this heat training and then September is weirdly temperate… typically until race day when we get record heat :P. So, sorry, y’all. Hoping for feels like 100 until the week before the race. I promise after that we can get all pumpkin spice up in this bizness.

Form vs Function

I posted about this on social media and it was like my least popular post ever, so let’s talk more about it, right? The key to being beloved is to keep shouting about random bullhonkey on your mind?

No? Well, let’s go with that anyway.

Right now, I’ve got a disconnect going on between the lump o’ crazy between my ears and some of the facts of actual real life. First, let’s talk about function, specifically function as a triathlete. I’m sure someday I won’t be able to pull these performances out of my behind, as nothing else will explain it, but I’m finding some pixie dust action going on in the first stages of 70.3 training.

Things I have done in the last few weeks:

  • Transitioned very smoothly and happily from almost no workouts, and being very cranky about training, to maintaining a reasonable schedule of ~6-7 hours a week of swim, bike, and run.
  • Extended my long run comfort zone from 3-8 miles.
  • Pulled off a sub-10 minute mile pace for said 8 mile long run in feels like 91 degrees.
  • Somehow increased my FTP PR from 181W to 190W. My last hard ride was Pflugerville June 16th.
  • The last time I rode more than 20 miles before this block was February 2nd. I rode 39 two weekends ago and comfortably ran two miles sub-9:30 at 1pm after. Yesterday, I extended this to 3 hours at race power (so probably about race distance) and three miles at the same pace… at 3:30pm.
  • Have heat acclimated pretty well and haven’t had an issue where I stop sweating in the heat or feel overly overheated.

So, like, this ol’ bod of mine is holding up really well, and honestly? Most of the weird anxiety/stress issues I had earlier this year seem to be dissipating. I mean, it makes sense. I’m spending a lot more hours a week outside than I was previously. Bikes are the cure for everything and I’m doing a lot of that. Outdoor pool swimming makes me happy. I’m not even hating these hot runs, not even a little, and besides the fact that I wish I could be doing more training, I feel awesome. I don’t even have a season training plan, I’m winging it every week, but I still have a high confidence that I’ll have a successful Kerrville this year.

Obviously I still have work to do because I need to be able to run thirteen miles off that bike instead of three, and not to mention putting them together with a 40 minute swim warmup, but I’ve got 8 weeks to go. That’s plenty of time to build.

What’s causing me strife is the mirror. Stupid, I know, but I’m not going to lie about how I feel on my little corner of the internet here. I’m still checking in with the scale every few days, so I know I don’t have a ton to worry about, but the inflammation from ramping up my volume (and the eating to support it) is causing my stomach to feel like a subcutaneous water balloon has been inserted in my midsection. My husband swears he can’t see it and he’s honest AF about that stuff, but I keep making slightly looser clothing choices and giving myself side-eye when I’m getting ready in the morning.

I may be cranky about the fact that I haven’t made any MORE progress towards 150-ish lbs as my ultimate goal, and I’m confusing that with actually gaining weight. I’m frustrated that I was eating like crap before but had no appetite, so the scale was cooperating. Now, I’m eating mostly healthy food but like, the other day, I remembered that I’d crime for a snack even though I just ate one 90 minutes previous. And a normal sized lunch 2 hours before that. And breakfast 2.5 hours before that. And a protein bar an hour before that after my swim… #thestruggleisreal

So, I’ve got this balloon that’s one part training, one part fiber/food bloat, and probably about three parts totally in my mind. As long as the training keeps coming along as it has, I’ll wear some mumus and get over myself for the next two months.

In terms of goals, I’ve been pretty good at the training stuff, the eating stuff, but I’ve balked at the tracking my food stuff. If I want to lose weight, I need to get back to that eventually. However, let’s list the successes here:

  • I’ve been following a schedule well. I’ve rearranged some things, but I’m not regularly skipping scheduled sessions. I wish I could schedule MORE sessions but I’m trying to be realistic and I feel good about what I’m able to accomplish!
  • One reason I’ve been able to do that is I’ve been training before work almost exclusively. I prefer afternoons/evenings in a perfect world but it makes sure it gets done.
  • I’ve swam three times in the last three weeks. While I’d like to be 2x week, just getting there right now is a victory. It’s also the sport that’s the least important (40 minutes vs 2-3 hours for each of the others), and I’m fine just making sure the ~2000m distance is comfortable at a comfortable pace.
  • Recovery – I’ve been sleeping well, I’ve been rolling/stretching/boot massages many more days each week that I have not doing these things.
  • Batch cooking – while we didn’t do much last weekend, it was because our fridge was full of leftovers and easy stuff to cook. This is going well. I feel fueled and happy and my body seems to agree considering how training is going.

So, my brain is torn on what’s next. I have one more 3-week block and a 2-week block with a rest week in between. Do I try to ramp up the sessions? I’m at one swim, three bikes, two runs each week. I would give anything to have time to throw some weights around, and I know I should be doing two swims per week and man, three runs really would be cool too to get more base miles and endurance because that’s always the wildcard in these races. I can usually peg my swim/bike performance within a few minutes, but my run has varied over thirty minutes depending on the day I’m having even at the same level of fitness.

However, I don’t want to overdo it. I found doing success by doing LESS but with more intensity earlier this year. I’m going to try to keep within the spirit of that for the next few weeks.

Kaboom!

I’ve been away for a hot minute, for reasons. Contrary to what you may believe after viewing the following photo, that reason is not that I’ve become a sorcerer in real life.

After Pflugerville, the work crazy did not calm down. In fact, to quote Teal’c from Stargate, it indeed “calmed up”. For the two weeks between the race and vacation, I put in a ridiculous amount of hours and maintained a ridiculous level of stress. I ran ONCE, because it happened to be 75 degrees after work one day and I couldn’t pass up that experience in late June. I spent the weekend in between doing almost NOTHING productive to keep my sanity intact, even if I should have been packing for camping.

That, of course, made packing for camping even more stressful, because I was attempting to do it between 10+ hour workdays. The night before I left, I worked, attended our game night, went back to work, came home and packed for camping around midnight, and then logged back onto work until almost 4am. My husband had to drag me kicking and screaming from work the day we departed… about 30 minutes later than we were supposed to leave because I had to finish things.

My switch had been stuck ON for days, and it took a bit to turn off. I spent the drive there ridiculously hyper (I had actually ingested some caffeine, the horror, I know), and was inexplicably UP on very few hours of sleep while we did our normal first night of camping things, including hot dogs, classic rock, and adult beverages.

However, when I crashed, I plummeted.

The next day, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the camper and face human beings, so I buried myself in a book all day. Two days later, I got some sort of stomach ick, and again, I didn’t leave the camper that day either except to go nap in the hammock for a while. I read another entire really long book that day as well.

However, the rest of the trip was lovely. Once I went through all that, I emerged a relaxed, happy, and peaceful version of myself.

I spent the week with my nose either in a book or behind a camera. I fell out of two different hammocks. I did two flips into the pool off the rock wall. I rode Evilbike twice, and I believe that first ride the day before the fourth of July really was the turning point where I started succeeding at Operation: Get My Chill Back. When I started out on the ride, I was cranky about the heat, the hills, and the circumstances. Halfway through, I started noticing beauty, both in the effort and the surroundings, and the ride back was much more pleasant.

The fireworks on the fourth were spectacular as usual. Occasionally, I’ll have thoughts about camping somewhere else over that particular holiday weekend, as the campsite can occasionally get crowded and the slots are very close together, and then I remember the show they put on for free and perish the thought.

Friday, I spent the morning in the woods, hopping dexterously from tree root to moss-covered rock to avoid the drink, with my camera and tripod in tow. Caked in dirt, sweat dripping off my brows, I took my time to learn some new camera techniques, spending almost thirty minutes in front of a waterfall.

It was amazing to visit familiar spots every few days to see how the lighting and conditions changed – especially the butterfly garden. The flowers changed both by time of day and as the days passed, budding, blooming, and wilting. I was happy to have spent a few minutes with my favorite early in the week as the bush was pruned and they were gone the next time I came around. One particularly pretty pink bloom only opened on the last day, mere hours before we departed. I watched the butterflies on the milkweed and coaxed them to stay just a little longer in front of my camera to get the perfect framing and focus. We’ll see if anything turned out when I sort through the all the shots I took over the nine days.

Our last day, I woke earlier than normal for a bike ride with friends. I noted an entirely new attitude of gratefulness. On the slippy gravel, I was impressed with my core strength, bike handling skills, and lack of fear, even a year ago, I would have felt my heart plummet into my stomach under the same conditions. The grass and trees were this vibrant shade of green, almost as if I was seeing the world through my photo editing program having already saturated the colors. The company and chatter was unsurpassed. Matt got a flat, and while I waited for him to change it, I befriended this itty bitty baby dragonfly. I coaxed him onto my hand twice, and watched him preen and wiggle his tail at me. Time slowed for a bit, and at that moment, I knew I’d found the peace for which I’d been waiting.

I have 1600 photos from the woods, so don’t expect this is the last you’ll hear of this, but also, don’t expect anything too quickly. 🙂

Since then, I’ve embarked on another, different journey, my first week of Half Ironman training, for my fifth attempt at the Kerrville Half at the end of September. It’s been a paradigm shift, for sure, and it’s come into focus how far I’ve fallen from some of the normal athlete and even normal life things that had become habit. It’s mystifying how easy it is to unmake habits under times of duress. So, my friends, I know the worst thing I could do was to try to be perfect all at once. So, each week, I’m going to attempt to introduce a few new or returning habits and soon, it will all be like clockwork again.

Last week, I started small:

  1. Following a schedule again. I didn’t plan terribly ambitiously, and I actually missed a swim because I scheduled it kinda wishy-washily (maybe this day, or that day, and then I didn’t do it at all). However, I was able to do three runs and three rides, logging 10+ and 75+ miles respectively, logging 7.5 hours. It felt amazing, like coming back to myself.
  2. Morning workouts. I don’t trust myself right now to be able to leave work at a certain time and if I do, that I’ll have motivation. I need to get my ass out of bed and on the road if I’m going to log the miles.
  3. Batch cook. I’ve been leaning on Snap Kitchen a lot, and I will in a pinch, but I miss my home cooked food. Last week, I cooked chicken/veggie spaghetti and zupa toscani. To compensate for more cooking time, I’m starting to do the grocery delivery thing instead of shopping. While it costs a little more for each item, I think we may save money in the long run, since we’re not adding impulse items as we walk down the aisles.

This week, I’ll do a few more things:

  1. Swimming. Riding and running are easy to do since all I have to do is step right outside my door. Swimming is harder to make a priority. I need to swim at least once, hell or high water (ha!).
  2. Recovery. Stretch, roll, massage boots. Pick one per day. You can’t do the same two in a row (otherwise I’d just use the massage boots every day).
  3. Diet quality. We’re going to start slow here, not logging food or tallying everything, but if I put something in my mouth that I would consider “sometimes food”, I will keep track of that this week.

If these all seem kinda like softballs, they are. It’s not as if I’m completely ignoring other things. My alcohol intake is down, my vegetable intake is up, I’m getting on the scale a few times a week and I’m not completely mortified of the results (160-something every time, though it’s been close a few times…). I’m just chosing to give myself some easier victories to build on later once I have some momentum. So, while neurotic me is itching to count calories and really make a go at losing the weight and speaking of weights, do some of that, and swim more and do two-a-day sessions and start logging a lot of hours training, I know that way lies madness right now.

For now, I’ll keep riding my bike to work and back and longer on Saturday mornings, shoveling myself out of bed and into my running shoes before I’m awake enough to realize what I’m doing, putting good food in my belly to keep my energy and enthusiasm up, and hoping that taking the simple route this training cycle will be enough.

The rise and the fall (Pflugerville Tri)

This, friendos, is the one I’ve been putting off.

Honestly, this last year and a half of racing has been beyond my wildest expectations, and that brings levity fairly quickly to a few stinkers. Doesn’t mean that they’re fun in the moment and I will admit to a fair amount of pouting that day, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a blip in the radar, and actually one that probably did me more good than harm overall as I know I can’t take the fire in my belly for granted. And also, don’t be stupid. That’s always a good lesson.

But I digress.

My life had/has been utterly non-stop the last few weeks before this one, and the week previous brought it to a crescendo. Work was extra extra, we had social or adulting obligations every day which meant finding time for training or relaxation or even opportunities for seeing my own house were few and far between, and that crashed us into 6pm the day before the race. Honestly, I was mostly ready for it to be over.

I did my best to clear my mind and go through the normal routine with my normal breakfast, playing my normal playlist, and it centered me. I felt ready to give this sprint triathlon thing one more valiant effort before a wee break.

Our hair says OMG WINDY DAY…

Swim:

This race has a wave start, which is annoying because of swim combat, but also nice because you know exactly where you stand in the race – if someone in your age group passes you, you know they have overtaken your position instead of questioning when they started exactly in a time trial start.

I started as close to the front as I could, and I found some feet, swam along feeling rather ready and caffeinated to seize the day… and then my stupid #%^&ing goggles flooded. Again. I had to pull up to tread water to fix them, leaving the pack behind, and a few seconds later, they flooded once more. I took more time clearing them and pulling them taut to suction to my head so hard I thought my brain might come out, but the seal held. I continued my paddling, a little cranky, but figuring if this was the worst of it, I could still rock this race.

Then, after the turn, my thoughts straying and my goggles a little foggy affected my sighting so much that I ended up in the middle of the lake. A jetski had to buzz me and send me back around a buoy that was quite far away. I wasted a heck of a lot of time and swam 650 yards to my husband’s ~550 and Matt’s ~517.

Swim time: 12:42 (2:32/100m) 6/9 AG This is almost 2 minutes slower than last year. My actual pace shows as 1:55. This was a really really really really bad swim for me. My normal pace would have seen me 2nd for my age group.

T1:

I was motivated to get on with the race quickly and this transition is decent – worse than last year but they didn’t put the carpet in the right place so we had to navigate the rocky hill instead of the clear stairs. My teammate Kari caught me running out (so she swam something like 3 minutes quicker as she started the wave after me) and we headed out on the bike together (legally).

T1 time: 2:28 5/9 AG – this doesn’t look good but 8 seconds earlier would have put me in third. Everyone was pretty similar.

Bike:

My goal was to keep up with Kari. Normally, she’s much faster than me, but she did say she had celebrated her birthday the day before with lots of adult beverages, so I thought MAYBE that would handicap her enough that I could (legally) ride her wheel. Not so much. I kept her in my sights about half the race but could never catch her. She finished three minutes faster than me and first in her age group.

I rode hard and fast and just tried to keep my pace under redlining, and I did well, passing people and staying in aero and being a good cyclist. I even ate my gel when I was supposed to, which is something I don’t always do. However, it felt like there was something missing, a bit of the fire, but I was hoping it was just the wind beating down on us and I’d find something extra on the run.

Bike time: 42:18 (19.5 mph) 2/9 AG. First was in a class of her own, almost 5 minutes ahead of me. I never had a chance. So much slower than last year (almost 2.5 minutes) but HOLY HELL THE WIND. It was brutal. Considering my cycling performances in other races have been similar to last year, it was external conditions versus internal failings.

T2:

Nothing to note, fairly fast and efficient, I was hoping the wind on the bike would continue on the run, thinking that it would keep it cool.

T2 time: 1:16 4/9 AG (but by seconds).

Run:

Be careful what you wish for – I can’t remember a triathlon where wind on the run was not helpful, but it was one of those days.

The first half mile was running into a wind tunnel. I was running between 10-10:30 min/mile and it felt like a sprint. Soon after, two women in my age group caught and passed me, and I couldn’t summon the oomph to respond. I tried. I convinced myself that I was probably not first off the bike (which I was not, I was second), and I had to catch either one or both to podium. The first was just too far beyond my running capabilities. The second was within reason, in fact, she kept walking water stops and I almost caught her a few times, but her average pace just surpassed what I had in me, mentally and physically, and she found the finish line over a minute before I did.

Run time: 27:45 (9:15/minute miles). 5/9 AG. Technically, this is a 5 second PR for me, as last year I ran my best of 27:50. I can be proud of that. My splits are hilarious at 9:50, 8:59, 8:57, so you know I was *trying*, but I couldn’t keep my heart rate up like normal and again, there was just something missing.

Total time: 1:26:31. 4/9 AG. 12th female overall. If my swim had been my normal pace, I would have never seen the third place woman before the finish line and possibly even second as she finished less than 2 minutes ahead of me and I would have had a nice and shiny plaque telling me what a good athlete I am. Instead, I ended up the first position off the podium. Any other age group, I would have placed either first, second, and in only one case, third. 40-44 is soooo stacked.

But, I’m over it now. Failure happens. It doesn’t define me as an athlete or a human. And honestly, with the training I’ve put in this year, I don’t really deserve the results I’ve obtained. This was a good and proper reminder that I need to swim open water (or, swim at all) between races, I need to throw out my damn goggles, and actually train a little (or a lot) less sporadically if I want to get successful results. And, as always, continue to work on the dialogue in my head staying positive even when things go south.

I’ve taken a week, and I’ll probably take another two more to gather as much mental and physical energy and recovery as I can before I head into training for Kerrville Half (ironman) in September as a stepping stone to Ironman Texas in April. Not just yet, but soon, it’s time to start training like an athlete instead of showing up to races as one every now and again.

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