Adjusted Reality

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

Earning the right to run

Back in the day when I started this whole “trying to not be such a fatass” thing in 2007, I had no intentions of ever running unless chased.

I also didn’t know what a deadlift was, so there’s that...

The elliptical or the Dance Dance Revolution game pad were more my style, as was the weight room.  You see, at 200-something lbs, running doesn’t even seem possible.  However, more low impact cardio (or cardio that at least DISTRACTED from the impact like playing a game) wasn’t terrible.  However, even at my highest weight, I could still enjoy and make progress at lifting heavy things.

I started my fitness program with 20 mins of cardio three times a week, and did strength exercises or lifted weights almost as much at 15 minutes at the same frequency.  From there, as I found I enjoyed it (and as the holiday season approached and I decided I wanted to keep losing weight instead of gaining it), I increased the amount of time little by little.  For the first two years or so of this whole shebang, I was working out up to about five hours a week and two of those were lifting.

Oddly enough, I had very little complaints in terms of injury.  I was running miles and 5ks faster than I do now on approximately 2 hours per week of actual RUNNING.  I was also able to maintain a weight that is about 25-30 lbs lighter than I am now.

Once I started training for half marathons, I didn’t have the 2 hours a week to lift, so I cut it down to just a little maintenance lifting and then when I found triathlons, forget it.  Three sports to train meant something had to give.  Besides some targeted, focused periods where I lifted heavy throughout the last seven years, I tended to shy away from it.  I would either do bodyweight stuff, or just slack on it entirely.  Don’t get me wrong, mat exercises are both worthy and important, but the best way to build muscle and get strong and stable?  Lift heavy things.

Step one, pick up heavy thing, step two, put it down, step three, don’t collapse on the way to the car.

Once I get into a routine of doing it, it’s great.  I actually look forward to the gym.  It’s one exercise where my performance doesn’t suffer doing it in the morning vs when I’m actually awake.  The shock of different things feeling sore fades after a few weeks and you just feel… good.

But, those 2-3 weeks of prelude to that, feeling like a baby deer with noodle arms?  Those are hard.  I’m actually doing much better initially this time because I have spent the last two months doing bodyweight work (foundations).  Funny how doing something the right way makes it easier.  The next few weeks are actually remembering how to swing a kettle bell around in three sets of eight reps and where they keep the little weight lock things so the plates don’t fall off while I bench press (hypertrophy).  So far, it’s going well, and I’m kind of looking forward to when the weights get to three digits in some lifts and the reps are more like 3 because that’s all you can handle.

I read somewhere a long time ago that you had to earn your right to run with proper strengthening of your muscles FIRST.  I inadvertently did that in 2007 and 2008.  The problem is you have to re-earn it over and over and over, not just once.  I’m now complaining on and off about a wonky shoulder and knee and ankle and heel and every race for the last year, if not longer, has had a caveat of “I did well considering my body wasn’t 100% at the starting line”.  Guess how long I’ve been out of the gym – that period of time plus about six months.

It’s time to re-earn my right to run.

I’m not doing anything revolutionary.  Three times a week, with at least a day in between, I’m heading to the gym to do all the things that make me harder, better, faster, stronger.  Squats.  Kettlebells.  Bench presses.  Deadlifts.  Core exercises that make me play the “cramps or just sore abs” game.

Hopefully these days will come back soon… sans the wonky heel.

I haven’t set food on a road, track, or treadmill since over two weeks ago, and my heel is still giving me shit off and on.  I’m super sick of being broken and limping along and doing alright considering at races.  I’m looking to this next 6-8 weeks to fix me.  It has before.  I hope it will again.  I’d give anything to show up to a start line completely healthy, without any caveats.

These three hours a week are the most important things on my schedule.  I’ve also got 30-60 mins of cardio three times a week, but to be honest?  If something had to fall off, it would be this.  If the air stopped being both stupid cold and trying to kill me with allergies, I could knock this out with my normal walking I do on a weekly basis if I wanted to count that.  I don’t, because I’d like to not die when I start triathlon training again, but I could by the letter of the program.

It’s a weird adjustment to be paring down so low on cardio (and calling it cardio, not training, it feels so un-triathlete of me), but it’s refreshing to shake things up.  I know the endurance comes back quickly, and I’m not training for anything long for quite a while.  Hopefully, I can take the next two months and earn my right to run, and run fast.

Pace Bend Ultra #teamdfl but still #ultraAF

I don’t think I’ve ever been so unprepared for a race.

Ready to ride?

I’ve gone to races a little battered and broken.  I’ve shown up to short races with zero speed in my legs.  But generally, if I’m planning on an endurance event that will take most of a workday, I’ve trained for it.

Not this time.

I had INTENDED to train for 3M by doing a long ride every third weekend, but then I needed a brain break and my body was falling apart and vacation and then all of a sudden it was the end of December.  I had just a few weeks left and had to cram for a half marathon, which left little time for cycling, save 20-45 minute trainer rides and one very broken up multi-hour cruiser bike ride at 10 mph.

I had INTENDED to do a long ride the weekend before, but instead we raced the Indoor Tri hard and fizzled out after another hour on the trainer and called it.  We got in one 90 minute trainer ride about a week and a half out, which felt REALLY LONG.

Yeah.  Entirely unprepared.

Then, I decided to look up the start list and scope out who else was showing up.  Huge mistake.  I found six girls in my division, and most of them were cycling pros minus one super fast triathlete that always wins her age group.  Last year I was mid-pack.  This year, there was absolutely no way except for a mechanical on someone’s part that I wasn’t coming in dead f#%*ng last.

We got to camp around 5pm and set up and cheered the 24 hour racers off at 6pm.  It was actually quite inspiring because if the were going to ride bikes for a full day, I could do it for an afternoon.  It was chilly (40s), so I added some extra layers to my ensemble while we cooked pre-race dinner of chicken, potatoes, corn, and pre-made salads.  We enjoyed a leisurely dinner and bedtime since we had a lax wakeup time as our race didn’t start until noon.  More afternoon races please!

Credit – taken from Rob Jan Martinez’s event photos.

We had set an alarm for 10, but the camp got rather noisy after 8am (there was a race going on, after all), so we were up and had a very relaxing morning with green tea and bean and cheese tacos and split a turkey bacon guac bagel closer to the race.   That would never fly with a triathlon or running race, but my stomach is pretty sturdy on the bike and some good solid non-sweet calories really set me off right.  Again, more races starting at noon, please!

Around 11:45, we lined up with the other six hour racers, got a briefing, and got sent on our way right at noon.  As expected, everyone else in the race took off like a bullet and Zliten and I settled in at the back.  We made the call to wear our non-aero helmets that had our walkie talkies and try to hang together the whole race.  It was a challenge to sort out the cadence of following him because we had to stay non-drafting distance but couldn’t be *too* far or the walkies cut out, but we got it handled within a lap or two.

We made a quickie stop to pick up his inhaler after the first lap, and then watched the miles tick by fairly pleasantly and effortlessly at first.  I was amazed at how good I felt at 20, 25, and then just more than 30 miles when we made our first pit stop to get nutrition and fill bottles.  This was encouraging.  Maybe somehow my legs remembered how to ride bikes for a long time even after a 3 month break?

Credit – taken from Rob Jan Martinez’s event photos.  My layers were keeping me warm, but definitely not looking very sexy….

Around mile 40, my legs started to feel that little bit of fatigue burn.  While I was pretty impressed with how long it took to feel tired, I was facing the idea that the second half of the ride was not going to be so pleasant.  Time slowed to a crawl once my garmin hit 3 hours.  My 16 mph consistent pace started to slow in the 15s.  I spent some time doing the math here on how long laps were taking and how much time was left to distract myself from the unrelenting hills.

So, yeah, let’s stop for a moment and talk about elevation.  The course is a 6.2 mile loop with 300-some feet of climbing.  While that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider the 50 miles I had in my legs at this point had almost 3k of climbing.   My Ironman race had less than half of that in 112 miles.  There’s a decent size hill every mile here.  I am fairly certain that my legs would have had a little more in them if it wasn’t for the constant up and down.

I was shifting a LOT to keep pace and all of a sudden I heard a loud crunch and had no pressure on my pedals.  It sounded like a simple dropped chain, but when I got off to look, it looked all mangled in the gearing.  I figured I had done something bad to my bike, and luckily Zliten was within earshot so I told him to stop.  Since we weren’t supposed to ride backwards, I walked my bike up to him and he looked at it, shook his head, fixed my dropped chain (apparently they drop differently on the TT bikes…) and we were off again.

Before that stop we were skating the line between being able to make 13 and 14 laps, but this put us back a little, though 13 was still possible as long as we didn’t take too long at our last break.  We rolled into camp at 62 miles in just over 4 hours of riding (though it was about 4:25 total race time).  While my legs weren’t feeling awesome, I also didn’t expect to feel like a little baby deer all of a sudden when I got off the bike.  I spent 10 minute on the couch of my camper trying to stretch the cramps out and got myself up and back on the bike to make the cutoff of when I wanted to be back on the bike – 4:40pm.  This would give us time for 3 more conservatively paced laps + about 5 minutes of wiggle room.

Six hours of riding = crazy eyes and non functional brains.

Then, I realized both of us were attempting to roll out without our helmets.   Right.  Race brain.  Grabbing them put us a few minutes behind so I attempted to pull us along a little faster to make up for it.  We timed lap 11 and we were on pleasantly on pace.  Lap 12, my legs started cramping again and I said that maybe it was time to go drink beer and watch everyone else finish, but Zliten convinced me not to, and then he unconvinced himself, but I was already re-convinced and in the mindset of “if I cross with more than 25 minutes to go, I can make the last lap” so we decided that was the plan.

We crossed at 5:33 and change.  26-ish minutes to finish one more and that was just enough.  Now, I knew this last 6.2 miles didn’t mean anything in context of the race.  I had been lapped at least twice by every single female out there.  My legs were screaming.  But, we both made the decision to make the turn away from BBQ and beer, sitting and salvation, to ride another loop around the park because that’s what mother effing Ironmen do.  It wasn’t our fastest lap but it certainly wasn’t our slowest, and we came around the last corner and attempted to line our wheels up to finish at the same time.

It didn’t work – technically I still haven’t DFL’d because it counted Zliten’s finish as one second later than mine.  We were the absolute two last people to cross the finish line with our 81 miles, and had the least laps by far, but it was still a glorious day of riding bikes.

Six hour racers!

Riding 80 miles on no training is no joke, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to the mass population, but it was a fun experiment to see what residual endurance I had left from last year.  While my legs fatigued a little early, they hung in there until the end.  And so did my brain.  I had a MUCH better day mentally this year than last year.  In 2017, at points I had wanted to throw my bike away and never see it again, and this year, I kept a pretty even attitude through the ride.  My speed was only 0.1 mph less than last year, so I missed that 14th lap because we took longer breaks, not because we were riding slower. And that’s pretty freaking impressive.

I ain’t even mad that literally everyone else in the race besides me got a medal because there happened to be 4 people in my one age group, especially because 3rd place was a freaking pro cyclist I know who kicks some major ass on the bike.  I would have been outclassed on my best day and that’s just the facts of life sometimes.  There is no earthly way I could ride 100+ miles at 18mph right now and that’s what it would have taken.  To get third.  It was kind of freeing to just get out there and ride my bike and not worry about where I stood with anyone besides myself.

NOMS. Doesn’t look like much but the pork was DIVINE.

Oddly enough, when people have been riding for 6-24 hours straight, there’s not much of a party atmosphere after, so we were the sole racers awake after 9pm.  We followed suit not too far behind them after housing a giant plate of BBQ and talking a lot about how our legs were sore.

I’m really torn.  I said I wouldn’t do this race next year unless it was my focus, and it probably won’t be.  It was too expensive.  It’s too pro.  However, I had so much darn fun, I’d consider plopping down the scratch to camp for the weekend and ride bikes for the afternoon.  Maybe a relay?  Maybe offering to crew for someone?  Maybe just randomly try the 12 or 24 hour race and see how far I can go with a bunch of breaks?

Either way, this ended this weird little three weeks of racing on an unexpectedly happy and positive note.  Onward and upward!

January wrap up, February goals

January is my least favorite month.  And now it’s over!  Woohoo!

Both nacho cat and I are thrilled about this.

I spent some time thinking about it and while the cold kind of sucks, and it’s depressing that it’s dark all the time AND there’s no Christmas light to brighten it up, the real bummer is the allergies.  January is a month where you just have to stay inside a lot and that’s kind of against my nature.

However, there are opportunities that come with the cold and the dark and the inside that I don’t get to capitalize on all year.  Let’s call them the silver lining, because they’re still under the rain clouds, but if nothing else, January and February feel unique.  And that’s something.

I went a little gung ho with goals last month, even trying to moderate, and I definitely realized the need to back the eff up on some of them.  I definitely underestimated how crispy I was from the last two months of remodel and all the other DOING THINGS last year.  January was a bit of a forced reset in some aspects, and some nonsense wrapped up and it actually felt pretty good.

Sporty Stuff:

These feet are moving faster than they have in quite a while.  Thank you speedwork.

I’ve covered this a lot.

I had a very short but fairly successful cycle training for 3M, breaking through some barriers.

Then, I had a really rough day where blisters, nagging injuries, and my digestive system decided to undermine my chance at a PR at 3M.

The next week, I had a pretty solid day at the Indoor Tri.

This weekend I will ride my bike much longer than I am trained for and call it the end of this weird little winter mini-season and start the process towards being a well-built sprint triathlete.

I’ve detailed my frustrations in previous posts, so let me focus on my wins:

  • I think I’ve figured out what my left knee/heel/ankle issue is (mildly collapsing arches) and the solution is pretty easy and apparent – my insoles.  I’ve worn them to walk around in since I got them and they’ve been comfortable and I’ve felt way better.
  • I have found some momentum (not perfection, but getting there) in proper planning and sticking to it.  If I make sane, and specific plans, I tend to follow them.  I may have to accept that giving myself a bunch of slack right now is asking for me to hang myself (not literally).
  • While I haven’t been perfect, I have re-established some good habits with stretching (and shoulder rehab – whatever is crunchy in there is getting better).  I think spending the 5-10 minutes doing something good for myself almost every day is worth it.
  • I’ve made it to this point, even with some hiccups along the way, extremely excited to start building for 2018 spring and fall seasons!

This month is all about going back to foundations.  I have a few goals:

  • 3x week heavy strength training for the next 4-6 weeks.  This is priority number one.  I’m going to pump (clap) ME up.
  • 3x week 30-60 mins cardio.  While I’m going to play the intensity a little by ear depending on how the lifting is going, I want to continue to keep a little speedwork in my life and not lose the gains I’ve made with remembering how to push myself on the run.
  • Continue to stretch and roll and boots and shoulder rehab on the daily.  Get used to my insoles on shorter runs.
  • Make a structured training plan through the end of September (Cozumel 70.3).  Try to narrow down what races I actually want to do (I could race every weekend from now until then if I wanted…) and plan exactly when I’ll take a small break in the middle.

Nutrition:

The only possible thing you can eat on a day that your car pees and freezes is pho.  Them’s the rules.

It’s been a month of baby steps.

I tracked my food for about 18 days and fell off the wagon near 3M and haven’t yet started again.  I can put up some excuses but I just didn’t do it and I’ll own it.  Without even finishing tracking this month and without analyzing what I did track, I know I ate probably a little too much for my activity level and also ate stuff that was lower quality than I should.  But, the holiday leftover treats are finally making its way out of our fridge and pantry and I’m not replacing them.

I made some steps to track my alcohol intake, but like a dummy, I forgot to get my own bottle of vodka and because I shared it, I have no idea when I ran out of what I intended, but I’m pretty sure I went over.  However, the win here is that we’re back to our normal FREQUENCY of enjoying a cocktail (1-2 times a week max) and it’s starting to feel normal again instead of a drag.

February is about quantification.  I’m not going to make a bunch of crazy rules that nitpick specific things like I can only have whiskey between 7-9pm on a Wednesday or I can only have a splurge meal on Saturday afternoons or whatever.  I know how this works and I know how to succeed, it’s just, like, DOING it, and being consistent.

  • Track all my food starting Feb 5th.  Aim for roughly 1600-1800 calories per day (yes even on weekends).
  • Analyze diet quality once a week.  Keep the average over 20.

This should simultaneously work to control my portions, limit alcohol, sweets, and refined grains, while pushing good quality food.

Life and Stuff:

Random days off because your city is frozen (and has no infrastructure to fix it) make for some awesome relaxing productive happy fun times.

Here’s a funny thing – when you’re not knee deep in a giant project, training is steady but pretty light, and you’re in town the whole month… you can accomplish a lot without feeling overwhelmed!  Here are things that I did:

I finished one chapter of my book.  Chapter 7, if you will.  I’m not 100% happy with it and I know it needs a lot of revision but it was one of the toughest yet to muscle through and I did it and I’ll fix it when I do my second pass.

Christmas stuff is put away.  Sadface.  At least I have my disco kitchen to make me happy year round.

The garage is half done.  It was either spend the time shoving shit in random places so we could get the second car back in or actually take time to organize and clean some things out and do it right the first time.  So we’re doing the latter, and we’ll finish the job next weekend.

I think I did a decent job at relaxing this month and spending some actual downtime slacking.  It’s much easier when it’s cold outside and/or the air is trying to kill you to not want to adventure and DO ALL THE THINGS.  Like I said, this season is a great opportunity to hide inside and not feel bad that I’m missing all the beautiful weather.  Feeling a constant itch in my eyes and tension in my sinuses does not nice weather make, no matter if it’s actually in the 60s or 70s outside. 😛

I have really really really gotten into a few games again and it feels nice (and actually quite peaceful) to spend some time actually playing video games.  I mean, it is my livelihood…  Hopefully my left leg continues on it’s healing path and I can feasibly play some Dance Dance Revolution soon for recreation!

There’s some sort of mental block I’m having with movies.  I did two of them and felt ridiculous.   I think I may want to do LESS of them, but maybe get myself set up with the webcam in front of my computer and actually plan out what I’m going to say and talk about something useful.

I made a necklace and two pairs of earrings!  I had brief thoughts of setting up an Etsy store to sell the earrings (the necklaces are a labor of love and too much work to be cost effective to sell).  I still might, because the idea of selling a handful of them and paying for all the money I’ve sank into the hobby for ten years is intriguing, but the last thing I want to do right now is to make something I’m having fun with into an obligation.  I think once I teach myself a little more about marketing, it might be a nice, low risk thing to practice selling.

I read Millionaire Fastlane as one of my non-fiction books this month.  The guy is a little rough around the edges, but a lot of the things in his book resonated with me.  He addressed some things that have felt icky or squishy or weird to me about starting a business and I feel like I have just a little more focus on at least what I need to learn.  I definitely have more to say on this later, but I’m really happy I picked this one to read.

I also read a very badly written book geared toward newbie triathlon (badly written both in style/editing and also some of the advice was totally bunk) that I won’t bother mentioning much about.  However, it made me realize that really and truly any Joe Schmo can write and publish a book.  It IS possible for me.  And I guarantee mine will be better (I think it probably is already more coherent already as a first unfinished draft), so it won’t be the absolute worst book in the world!

What’s on tap for February?

  • Finish picking up and organizing the garage so it’s back to normal with two cars in it and everything stored away properly.
  • Organize the pantry.  We didn’t do this over Christmas break like normal and it’s definitely in need of about 1-2 hours of love.
  • One more chapter in my book.  While this schedule means I won’t have it done by my birthday, I don’t want to force it to the point of burnout to make some arbitrary deadline.  If I’m so inspired, I’ll write more.  Three more to go!
  • Read a business book and read a sporty non-fiction book.
  • Make one 3-5 minute one-take live video about… something.  Let’s start small here.
  • Remember to do fun things that aren’t just dorking on social media like playing games, making jewelry, maybe break the paints out and get some canvases.
  • On a day in which the air is not trying to kill me an it’s nice outside, go for a cruiser bike adventure day.

I’m looking forward to February.  From this side of it, it looks calm.  Peaceful.  Like a chance to recharge my batteries and reset to kick ass through the rest of the year.  That seems like a breath of fresh air, even if the pollen in said air is trying to kill me…

Lifetime Indoor Tri

Sunday, I found myself up at 3:30am.

While the reason for the ridiculous time was actually allergies, it wasn’t too far off from my 5am alarm for the Lifetime Indoor Tri.  While it was fairly inconvenient timing – I really should have spent the weekend logging more saddle time and also getting prepped for camping next weekend – I love this stupid little race and I couldn’t say no when Zliten gave me the puppy dog eyes to sign up.

Funny thing – on the way into work Monday, he was like, “wow, I didn’t realize how much this would disrupt our week”, and then, thankfully, “I see what you were saying…” because, yeah, I did complain about it.  However, even given the alternative, I’m still glad I did it.  It’s a great opportunity to start chipping away at the bottom of the well of the pain cave to make it deeper for the races that actually matter later in the year.

I did more of the things right than I did last week.  I ate a full sunbutter and honey sandwich, I had a few caffeinated beans and my earl grey tea (hot).  I also woke up in enough time (barely) to use the restroom enough so my stomach was clear before the race (grumble grumble maybe I do need to set my alarm earlier grumble grumble).  I went into the race feeling probably just the right amount of pressure – I wanted to do well and I knew I had a chance to podium, but it wasn’t like… the most important thing in the world.

Swim:

I slipped into the water and found a song that didn’t suck on my swimp3 player and was actually longer than the 10 minutes I was going to swim, and the countdown started… 3, 2, 1, and I pushed off the wall.

I am a steady pace swimmer, I’m not one to sprint out of the gate, and I saw my husband, who was sharing a lane with me, pull ahead.  I knew we had different swim styles, and the last thing I wanted to do was race him head to head getting in each other’s way, so I actually dropped back a little and drafted off him for the first half.  He started to slow, so I passed him and offered up my feet to draft on – I think he hung on for a while but by the end I was approximately half a lap ahead of him (though since he made it halfway we both got credit for our 19 lengths).

19 lengths (475m) in 10 mins (5/17 open women)

Exactly the same as last year.  Considering how different this pace is from my normal swim at Pure’s pool (which is admittedly a little short), I think their pool is a little bit longer than 25m.  Though, I’ll never know.  Last year I was definitely in better swim shape at this point, so I will take it.  Could I have pushed harder and maybe eeked out another half or full lap?  Probably, but I always see my swim as my warmup, and honestly, anything I gain by pushing really really hard and redlining on this leg generally counts against either my transition or bike.  So, I don’t.

That’s not to say that I don’t plan to work on my swim, or work on efforts in practice that would be considered finding my edge… but that’s not where I need to be in racing.  In non-drafting triathlon, there’s not a huge advantage to coming out of the water in the first pack so I’ll continue to swim uncomfortably comfortable and save the puke-worthy efforts for later in the race.

Bike:

Having 10 minutes to transition always seems like such a luxury until you actually have to manage it.  I finished at the far end of the pool so making my way back took probably a minute.  Then, I put on my bibs and jersey and grabbed a bag I had put together with all the rest of the crap I needed (good job, past me, that was helpful), and got to the cycle studio quickly.  However, I didn’t do a great job at making sure it was all packed efficiently (bad job, past me) and after fumbling with my stuff I was on the bike and pedaling just in time.

This level of effort always surprises me this early in the year.  I’ve not prepared specifically for a sustained 30 minutes of pain – I’ve been either riding easy to recover during half marathon training or doing shorter (1-4 minute) intervals.  I had a number I wanted to see (170-180 watts), though I had a coin flip in my head whether that was the right one, and I knew the effort would sort itself out eventually.  Watts don’t lie when pitted against level of effort.

Ten minutes in, I wanted the watts to lie to me a little.  I was holding in the low 160s, which was not *terrible* considering I don’t those bike’s sensors calibrations from a hole in the ground, and the effort felt like “kill me noawwww” but not “I’m dead”.  I did take 15-20 seconds every few minutes near the end to get out of the saddle and jog, dropping my watts a little, but I had to do something to break up the seemingly never ending UNCOMFORT.

Just like tempo runs, FTP testing/long intervals are my least favorite bikes.  Which means I need to do more of them.  The best way for me to force myself to do more of them is to go to cycle class and schedule them in the program and also maybe do some TT bike racing if I can find such a thing that fits in with the sprint-triathalon-a-palooza I plan to do this spring.

10.1 miles in 30 minutes (20.2 mph) (3/17 open women)

Considering that I was all bike all the time at this point last year, and in the last few months my cycling has been sporadic and highly recreational, I’ll take the .2 mph in reduction from last year.  Things are looking good for when I actually start digging into getting fit for a short and painful sprint triathlon bike split this spring.

Here’s the painful part, I crunched the numbers and if I would have pushed harder (10.4 like I did last year), I would have ended up 3rd overall.  It’s a great confirmation that it’s. all. about. the. bike.

Run:

Again, five minutes to walk next door and find a treadmill sounds luxurious, but I decided to change out of my jersey (on the gym floor, I am the opposite of modest) and futz with my shoes a bit and music and then OMG all of a sudden it was 3, 2, 1… GO!

I was super excited to crush this 20 minute run because I had been training for this – all the intervals I’ve run in the last six weeks may not have necessarily paid off for the half marathon, but surely it would help me here, right?  I had wide eyed dreams of holding some 8 minute mile pace because I actually have some experience at that this year.

However, I forgot about the whole “off the really hard bike” part of triathlon.  It’s been a while.  My goal was to start with low-9 minute miles and see how quickly I could get into the 8s.  My legs had other plans and felt incredibly noodle-y off the bike and that was a hard NO out of the gate.

Luckily, 10 minutes/mile felt fairly relaxed, so I got my bearings there and quickly found the oomph to press the UP button on the treadmill speed a few times until it felt ROUGH around 6.3.  I stuck with it.  My heart rate wasn’t pegged yet (it was high 160s, low 170s, I know I have a little more before I hit my ceiling), but my legs just felt like lead and it was taking all my concentration to keep them turning over fast enough to stay on the treadmill.

I spent more time than I wanted to in those mid-9 minute miles because I barely felt like I was hanging on, but then I found something else with about 5 minutes to go and picked up the pace.  I finished strong and improved on last year.

2.13 miles in 20 minutes (9:20/mile) (7/17 open women)

While this is confirmation that my run still needs work and is still my lowest ranking in the disciplines, it’s getting better.

I’m really happy with my speedwork allowing me to dig deep and not surrender here. A scant .05 more in 20 minutes seems like an incremental gain, but I will take it.  I think what I’m more proud of is the process.  I felt the uncomfortable part of the run where I wasn’t sure I could hang on AND I DID.

I need to do that and feel that feeling a million more times over the course of this year and realize that I’ve got more in there than I realize, I just have to get messy and tap into the uncomfortable place, and frankly, blow the hell up a few times to find the line.  Not quit because my brain says it’s hard.  Not quit because a stupid injury is nagging at me (though obvs. I need to take care of these things).  No, I need to find the point of being crumpled up on the side of the road dry heaving and barely able to stand.  Only then can I *really* know where the line is.  For the last few years I’ve been working on finding the endurance line which is actually really effing far given a reasonable pace and proper training.  Now I’ve got the need for speed.

2018 is going to be the year of HANGING THE F%#K ON.  I’ve been whining about my speed for years, but I haven’t been willing to do anything about it.  Why?  Because that work isn’t sexy and it’s really brutal.  It’s thrilling to go through the process of doing your first Ironman.  Century bike rides!  Twenty mile runs!  You look accomplished as f#&k on the instagrams.

The kind of work I’ll be doing this year will look totally weak in comparison.  Taking 20 seconds of a 5k PR, hell, finding my 5k PR again from many years ago, these things don’t smack of the heroic.  But, they are the horses that I’m choosing to chase down this year in the pursuit of race podiums.  The end result is sexy.  But the work to get there totally isn’t.  Gotta keep my eyes on the prize though!

Overall – I ended up 6/17 in the open women’s division.  If I was 2 years older, I would have ended up 3rd in masters and if I would have pushed harder on the bike…. yeah.  A little disappointed at the result but not at the process so I’ll move on and take it as fuel for the fire to train harder for the races that really matter in the spring.

Next up in the crazy winter race-a-palooza, the ill-advised six hour bike race.  I can’t lie, I would love to see a podium here (but certainly don’t expect it) and depending on who and what (aka – my brain and legs) shows up, could either be a hilarious notion or a distinct possibility.

3M Half Marathon – Rebellious Appendages

This race.  I love it, but it doesn’t love me back.

Packet pickup in Austin involves Police escorts on mighty steeds.

The cycle usually goes something like this – early in the year, I sign up for this race.  I think “next year, I’m totally going for a PR.  The course is perfect, it’s January so the weather can’t totally suck, and I’ll actually train for this one.   For reals.”

This time, I had even designated it as a goal race and made plans to train.  For really reals.  And then I was dealing with minor but nagging injuries with my left heel, ankle, and knee, so I cut into the beginning of this cycle to rest.  I let it heal, but apparently didn’t solve the actual problem, so the pain came back once I started running again.  It was never to the point where I couldn’t run 2-3 days later, but the carefree happy fun run love I’ve experienced in previous winters is so not there this year.  I’ve spent the entire last five weeks playing the “is my left leg going to let me run when I need to train?” game.

The answer, fourteen times, has been yes, since I started training December 18th, but it was always a question and added stress.  After feeling like a rockstar crushing my speedwork on Monday, my knee/ankle started to hurt an hour later and took much longer to feel better than normal.  I skipped last Wednesday’s planned run entirely and my foot never quite recovered, even staying off it for the rest of the week.  Three guesses how moody I was about that last week….

Saturday, we had family over for lunch and cards.  It was a wonderful day (and since we didn’t have long workouts in the morning, it was a very CONVENIENT day to host as well), but I did play it fast and loose with my pre-race nutrition by eating a lot more fatty meat and fiber than usual, as well as much more dessert than I should have because I am weak, it was in the house, and I couldn’t keep my grubby mitts off it. (cue ominous undertones)  Lesson learned.  Back to my tried and true pre-race meals and I need to be STRONG and skip dessert even if it’s around.

While I haven’t slept the BEST this week, I actually got pretty great pre-race sleep, almost 8 hours, which is kind of incredible.  I fell asleep putting myself through my race day plan repeatedly, which helps me wake up focused and motivated.  We both popped out of bed around 5:30 feeling fairly awake and refreshed.  I got a 10 minute bike warmup, ate, used the potty, and we left when we meant to and got to the race with plenty of time to spare.  Maybe today would be my day after all!

This one killed it with a 2:08 – just about a minute shy of his PR.

We hit the giant porta potty line, and then did some dynamic warmups and I went for a tiny jog to make sure my feet were working.  We found Brian and tried to get in at the 2:05 pacer, but everything was all blocked off, so we had to start in the back instead.  Around that time, I started thinking I could use the bathroom again, but the potty lines were still incredibly long, so I was hoping it was just the normal pre-race jitters instead of something more sinister.

I warned Zliten and Brian that I wanted to keep up with them, but I wouldn’t be talking at that pace, so I hid in my headphones while they chatted away.  The first few miles were rather uneventful, besides the lady I had to scream “OH MY GOD DON’T DO THAT!!!” toward, who was stopped in the middle of the road with 7000 other runners dodging around her taking a fucking selfie.  I almost ran her over.  JUST NO.  I told Zliten I felt bad about it because it just kind of slipped out, but he thought she needed to be educated as well. #sorrynotsorry

The pace felt just on the side of uncomfortable, but doable.  For now.  As my goal was to PR or blow up trying, I tried to keep my mile splits as close to 9:30s as possible, and succeeded through mile 6.  So far, so good, minus some wicked underarm chafing and a blister forming on my left pinkie toe (hello 70 degrees and 100% humidity…).

About halfway is when things started to fall apart.  The situation in my left shoe quickly went HIGHLY blisterific (I have no idea why – that didn’t happen in training).  This was altering my gate, which was making my heel and knee absolutely crank-tastic.  There’s a level of pain I’m willing to put up with to PR a half marathon, and between mile 6 and 7, it surpassed it.  I’m willing to dig deep mentally and work through being tired and normal muscular aches and pains but when my entire left leg starts to protest in a way that starts to feel like I’m doing damage, I knew I needed to cut my losses.  I slowed down about 30 seconds per mile and it felt better.  So I hung there for a bit.

I made sure to stick to the fastest pace I could, because at that point, I did have a little wiggle room.  If I needed to take an extra minute on miles 7 and 8 and I could speed back up after, I still had a shot.  However, the final blow landed during mile 9 when my gut started to revolt.  I was not entirely sure which end was going to win the privilege of introducing something from my body to the outside world, but either way, it was not going to be pretty.  Walking, I felt reasonably fine, running felt terrible.  I covered mile 9 in 11:17, running until I felt too terrible and then walking to recover.

I finally hit the porta potty (cue the angel’s chorus) at mile 10’s water stop for about five minutes.  While I couldn’t resolve the chafing, or my left leg’s utter rebellion, I felt like a new woman after that stop. Hooray!  I grabbed a nuun and was about to take off and saw Matt!

I felt bad because it meant he wasn’t having a great day himself, but it was nice to have a buddy to run/walk some 12 minute miles with.  I knew my PR was super busted at this point, and I didn’t care about my finish time one way or another.  Finally, Matt was tired of my company and shoved me ahead and told me to run to the finish, which I did, because finally, I could end this ordeal and rest my heel and drink some beer.

Note the outfit, which was soaked in sweat and salt by the end.  WHEN IS IT EVER 70 DEGREES AND HUMID ON A JANUARY MORNING???? #%%*^@!

Finish Time: 2:30:02.  Not my worst, but definitely not my best.

I was less bummed than I thought I’d be, for what months ago was going to be my goal race.

Even with the regular training, it’s now clear to me that I didn’t respect the distance.  I know the way I nail races, and it’s not on five weeks of training that flirts with over half the distance a few times.  It’s always nice to show up and give it a shot, which I did, but it’s not surprising that I wasn’t able to hold pace and fell apart.  I am a volume kid, if my body can tolerate it.  I train for a marathon, I take three weeks off, and then PR a 10 mile race.  While the speedwork is necessary for me to get my legs to turn over, the other component is miles, and 5 weeks of 15-20 per week or so just wasn’t enough base, which again, shocks no one.

Here’s where there is light at the end of the tunnel – I think I finally have the solution for the knee and foot issues.  Two weeks ago, my chiropractor suggested an insole that I’m currently wearing in my daily shoes.  And they actually feel pretty amazing!  She did NOT recommend trying to get myself used to wearing them for a two hour race in that short of a time period, so I haven’t been running with them. Now that my volume is significantly reduced, I’ll be breaking them in and hopefully within the next month, my pain will be a thing of the past and I can be set up for a healthy tri season.  My next crack at the distance is off the bike in Cozumel, and honestly, that’s the one for the pesos (figuratively – I R NOT PRO).

Next up in our whirlwind winter race tour: lifetime indoor tri on Sunday.  I’m looking forward to the “go so hard you almost hurl” pace a bit more than I should be, and also (possibly unreasonably) hoping for high placement in the ranks and notching another fake-podium this year if all my appendages cooperate.

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