Adjusted Reality

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

Author: Quix (Page 1 of 187)

I need to learn how to fail

The last two weeks have been a trial of patience.  I have been empty and in the winter without something to ACHIEVE and it’s taken me to some weird places.

Oh my gosh I’ve never missed the gym so much in my life…

Typically, I have coping mechanisms for that, but with coach’s orders to not engage in physical activity more intense than walking, I couldn’t go chase my tail for a few hours and reach that blessed state of blissfully spent.  I had a brief respite after hours of riding back to back roller coasters on Saturday, and it was like balm to a wound – THIS was the feeling I was missing!  Obviously, I hadn’t really *achieved* anything besides getting strapped into a seat and whirled around, trusting that metal harnesses would save me from certain death, but the aftereffects of the adrenaline rush rivaled those of a race or great speed workout.  Brain chemicals are wacky, man.

Fifteen days have passed since Waco.  It feels like an eternity, but I’ve made it through the required waiting period without either breaking down and sneaking in a sweet, sweet endorphin hit or going *completely* insane.  Last night, I got to go lift and I can’t remember a time when I’ve been more excited to go push a bar with very little weight up and down over and over.  It’s time to start tracking my food again and eat at least 80% healthy food again, and I’m oddly stoked about it.  In both cases, I need to make sure I don’t take this new, shiny mega-maniacal drive I’ve found and completely overdo it as is my typical tendency when I find some enthusiasm about a thing.  A thousand miles an hour or collapsed on the floor are the only two states I find myself in lately.

This offseason break has been VERY different than others.  Usually, I’m mostly fine doing nothing for two weeks.  Honestly, it usually takes me a kick in the pants to get back to it, contrasted this time with counting the hours until the embargo on gym-related activities were lifted.  I’ve never felt so much difficulty turning OFF, and though I stuck to it in terms of athletics, wanting to be ON seeped out in many other different facets of my life.  For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to put my finger on what are these heckin’ things in my head?  I mean, feelings, obviously, but why do I care so much about bizarre things ALL OF A SUDDEN? 

Over the last few sessions, I had this odd compulsion to WIN at at Dungeons&Dragons, a cooperative storytelling game, aka – a game that doesn’t really have a true victory condition. I thought I had been REALLY clever at some things, and instead multiple times, I either mildly or spectacularly fucked things up after spending all sorts of time preparing and it really affected me for a moment.  What the-?  All of a sudden this really fun thing became about being great at it, and then when I wasn’t, it kind of stung instead of being HILARIOUS (which it absolutely was).

Feeling the feelings again sucks sometimes. I’m really, really rusty at it.  When nothing needed a feeling it was much easier than when everything has a dice roll at being a feeling whether it is deserving or not.

The feelings go up, the feelings go down…

It was really fun when those feelings were confidence, courage, power, elation, and worthiness, when I was building up my race persona before Cozumel.  It’s decidedly less fun when they are shame, inadequacy, disappointment, and despair (and especially less fun when THERE’S NOTHING REALLY WRONG AND YOU’RE JUST BEING DRAMATIC).  With the peaks come the valleys, I know.  It’s inevitable, but that when you’re used to riding the flats for a long time, the rolling hills feel like mountains.

As a perpetual student of psychology, I tend to step outside of my head a LOT into that overhead third person over-the-shoulder view.  It’s entirely obvious that that the gross overreaction in my head isn’t about a game at all, and even in the moment when I’m experiencing these things, I know I’m projecting.  I’ve spent the last few months under extremely high stress conditions at work.  Tapering for a big race is crazy-making already, tapering twice in a row was enough to endanger a non-consensual trip to the funny farm.  Pressure makes diamonds, and under pressure I do thrive, but one can’t push on forever without consequences.  The cracks from 2018 have finally let the light in, which I am ultimately grateful for, but I need to be careful they don’t cause me to crumble.

This is complicated by the fact that I actually kind of like myself right now.  Weird sentiment, I know.  Bear with me.  Minor fumbles aside, I’ve had quite the banner year – my first triathlon season gracing the podium multiple times, hitting personal records that have stood for many years, qualifying for Nationals, losing a noticeable amount of weight for the first time in forever, my first brand ambassadorship, success at work.  Great, right?  But what’s clanking around in my brainpan right now isn’t pride in my accomplishments, it’s that evil villainess voice shouting loudly at me – HEY DUMMY GOOD FOR YOU THAT YOU DID SOMETHING GREAT NOW YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO LOSE DON’T SCREW IT UP (you’re going to screw it up you’re going to screw it up you’re going to screw it up).

As the reigning queen of Ye Olde Village of Self-Sabotage, this is not an unfounded fear.  I’m hoping that this is the moment, the year, the age that I break that cycle, but I’m already doing stupid crap to the contrary.  Case in point, falling on my knee and twisting my ankle, which turned out okay THIS time because it’s almost all the way better two weeks later, but I could have EASILY broken something and derailed my spring season.  I haven’t gained any weight, frankly, I’ve seen some new lows on the scale this month, but I’m not doing myself any favors with the lack of tracking and any attention to diet quality lately.  I’m hobby hopping instead of actually pursuing excellence at things I care about which means I’m avoiding the uncomfortable nature of having to actually TRY at something beyond the jack-of-all-trades level. 

I’m shying away from delving into the dark place true mastery of a craft demands, when that’s all my little heart desires.  Screw you very much, brain.

My brain personified, being eely, eely annoying.

I want to be an author with a published book.  It’s been a dream of mine since I was sixteen, probably even longer, and I’m the closest I’ve ever been in my life.  However, I’ve spent months ignoring my completed first draft.  Thinking about editing it actively pains me.  I realize now that my Pavlovian block here has very little to do with my perceived capability as a weaver of words, or the work necessary to arrange approximately 90,000 of them into a state of coherence.  I live for that stuff.  It’s the other parts that I didn’t really think about when I wrote some sentences and saved the draft for the first time fourteen months ago.

The truth is, I’m sharing a real and raw story about myself and seeking approval.  I do the first part all the time on this blog, but it’s because I know no one really reads this that I know in real life (minus a few of you… hello!) and I’ve convinced myself I don’t care about the paltry few hundred views very few comments compared to the alternative.  I hit a big mental block when I considered trying to promote AR.com and see if I could make it popular as an exercise to learn about marketing.  Not because I care what the world at large thinks, but because I didn’t find myself very comfortable sharing that stuff with the people represented on Facebook, collections of coworkers, family, friends, people I knew from high school, etc.  I’m great at the stage, but I’m terrible when I have to look people in the eyeballs.  Instagram feels like a stage.  Facebook feels like eyeballs.

I knew I would also hit that same conditioned response about my book, which is a HUGE issue.  As an unknown author, I need to leverage every avenue I can to build an audience if I really want to have a go at this thing.   I need to believe in myself and my product wholeheartedly and have ZERO shame or hesitation shouting about it from the rooftops.

Which feels just about like… this… right now.

In the last two months, some switch flipped where I got brave and shared some things in a similar vein of what I’m sharing in my novel on the Book of Face, and at first I got a lot of positive responses!  That was awesome!  Then, I think I pushed it a little far and continued to write stories and I think people were like, “ugh, we get it, you are having insecurities about triathlon, and you lost some weight this year and you’re using big words GOSH”.  I’m trying to pull back on the sharing a little bit –  simply because I think I’ve proved my point to myself that I am worthy of self-promotion and also brave enough to open up to people I encounter in real life instead of being an enigma, and I don’t want to continue gilding the lily too often.

The truth was that I got to the point where I was having fun with it.  The likes and the comments were actually making my day instead of being WHATEVS, someone noticed me on the internet, and then, the LACK of them on some posts were making me feel like I failed somehow.  From that third person perspective, I know this is stupid, it feels like regression to care about public opinion.  Not everything I write is going to resonate with everyone.  But there I was, feeling like I might as well take my ball and go home if not enough people wanted to play my game with me. 

Let’s lay it all bare and dig further.  I’m honestly terrified I’ll write this book and maybe it will be well-written, interesting, witty, and amazing, but I’ll fail every charisma check trying to promote it.  I can’t care this much about what people think about ME, but the product of my work, when I’ve actually dedicated myself to it, that has the potential to actually crush me and I’m worried that being that vulnerable could actually hurt my heart.

Just like the lionfish could hurt my body if I touch it.

The romance of taking the leap, going into the dark place, being brave is so alluring to me, but the problem is… it doesn’t always come up roses.  Just being confident and courageous isn’t going to finally lead to all my dreams coming true all of a sudden.  It does mean the OPPORTUNITY to pursue my dreams instead of being frozen with fear and forced into inaction, which is a step in the right direction.  I may find that I’ll never have the skill to have award winning photographs, and maybe no publisher will ever touch my writing with a ten foot pole, and maybe first place in my age group twice in 2018 is the best I’ll ever do in triathlon.  I have to accept that just because I’m willing something into existence doesn’t mean it’s inevitable.  I’m not a wizard even though I play one on the internet sometimes.

The one thing I know is that there’s something about this anxiety from which I don’t want to run.  I can solve this easily – stop caring.  I’m pretty sure I can quit anytime I want – log out of social media, stop looking for avenues to share my photos and writing and other creative work, stop actively searching out things that grow my comfort zone, give myself permission to just… exist – for a while, or forever.  The problem is I don’t think I want it to go away.  It feels like there’s something worthwhile underneath all these growing pains, so instead of turning it off I’m going to see it through and follow this where it goes.

One thing has become clear to me: I am not accustomed to failure, and it’s darn uncomfortable.  Let’s be clear, I’m not perfect, I don’t do everything right, but WHEN I fail, most often it’s because I blow it off or don’t really put much effort into it.  Bright student, lacks initiative.  Then I can truthfully say, “well, if I *really* wanted it and dedicated the time, I could totally do it”.  To further protect my psyche, the dark place in my brain keeps me from actually trying hard because I’m terrified beyond belief that my highest capability at said thing isn’t enough.

I need to spend some time there, actually leaping with every fiber of my leg muscles, and still falling flat on my face enough times to desensitize myself to the experience.  I’ve spent a lifetime this year convincing myself that I was enough, and now I’m pretty much there.  I kind of think that I’m worthy, finally, but it feels very fragile to say it still, I can whisper it but not *too* loud.  The next step is shouting it out and convincing the world because this is the lot I’ve chosen in this life.  The challenge is to maintain that confidence while having the courage to willingly put myself in these positions where someone will tell me that no, indeed, I am NOT enough for this particular opportunity.  And then, I need to pick myself up, spend a minimal amount of time licking my wounds, and throw myself off the next chasm of opportunity with reckless abandon.

Offseason: the death of superheroism

Offseason… yeah…

It me! Ok, fine – it Nachokitty, but very REPRESENTATIVE of my week.

Each year, it’s a little bit different.  I’ve had experiences where I was one hundred percent ready, willing, and able to let go and blissfully do nothing for a while.  I’ve had seasons where I just couldn’t and instead kept at it, and that way lies only tears and burnout.  Usually, I’m somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, and that’s where I find myself this time, a few feet to the left of the middle.

The hard stop which was falling down and my knee swelling up to about twice it’s size has both put a damper on last week but also made me take it reeeeeeeeeal slow, which is exactly what I needed, if not wanted.  No “let’s just bike commute today because it’s beautiful” (read: 25 miles and 1k climbing) or “I can’t resist a little run”.  It’s been a zero week – I’ve averaged less than 5000 steps per day.  Somehow I’ve been able to resist gaining back all the weight I’ve lost this season even though I wake up every day thinking, “this one, this is the day where the scale is going to tell me the bad news”, but so far, so good.  It feels like I hung up my running shoes so long ago, but it’s barely been more than a week.  But this is just as coach has ordered, so it will be done.

It doesn’t mean I don’t have the feels about it.  I was joking with a coworker about not being a superhero any more, but as much as I try to be a fairly well rounded person, a core part of my identity is *triathlete*.  It’s much easier to shed that when I can assume another one – like woodland nymph (camping), mermaid (diving), or vagabond (traveling).  It’s hard to just sit on my couch and binge nextflix and play video games like a normal human.  That’s the ish I earn after riding my bike and running all morning.  Without it, it feels… just wrong.

I know the first week is always the hardest.  No matter how AWESOME the race was, there’s always the comedown after.  Generally, the advice is to sign up for another race to look forward to, but I’m honestly not ready to dive into my next season planning yet.  I’m pretty sure I want spring to be a carbon copy of this year, short stuff and trying for podiums (and maybe have my eyes on improving my run enough to seek some overall placements, possibly the first one, at the smaller races) and to get BOTH of us to Nationals this year.  The fall is still unclear to me.  The 70.3 distance tortures and excites me so.  Eight tries and I still haven’t nailed the run.  That’s both frustrating and motivating to me.  I’m not sure what sort of fire I want to put my feet into yet.

But I know where I want to put my feet at the end…

I’m not letting myself think too much about triathlon right now.  I’ve tried to look back, and had planned to dedicate most of this blog to that subject, but every word I eek out about triathlon sort of feels like work right now.  In short, it was the best friggin’ season of my life that went on just a little too long even if I felt like I barely trained at all week to week.  I qualified for Nationals twice and notched PR after PR at sprints, and then another, even on a hot crazy day where nothing went right in Cozumel on my 70.3 distance.  It wasn’t all I dreamed of, but I’m still proud of how I fought.

I had a few spectacular fails as well, but I will take solace in that they were due to random body problems (lady cramps at National Day 2, GI issues out of friggin nowhere at Waco), not my brain spontaneously combusting without reason, as I have in the past.  Nationals – I have no answer for that besides maybe pre-emptive painkillers (which I HATE taking) and just adjusting my expectations.  Waco… I’m still baffled that actually following my fairly conservative nutrition plan resulted in overfeeding.  Maybe I have to accept that I’ve lost enough weight that 400 calories of gels and about 400 calories of Gatorade is too much in 3 hours of moderate cycling, but that seems wrong as well.

For right now, I’m putting a pin in all that and moving forward with offseason.  Now that my first zero week is done, and I have two working knees again (thank god), I’ve got goals.  Because how can I relax without things to accomplish, right?

Hopefully I still enjoy taking silly selfies after the diet derailing gauntlet of the holidays + offseason…

The scale has yet to freak me out.  So far, I haven’t gained weight by sitting on the couch, eating junk food, and drinking whiskey.  However, I know that this is untenable.  This week, I reintroduce the normal diet of vegetables and fruit and lean proteins and nuts and whole grains and minimize the crap (read: give up most of the junk food but probably only about 25% less whiskey).  Next week I start tracking again and try to stop imbibing like a frat boy.  It’s okay if I don’t lose weight during the holidays, but if I’m regularly tipping the scales above 170 at any point, I need to get that ish in check RIGHT NOW.  Next year I’d like to make the big push to get down to for my for realsies, actual #projectraceweight weight of 150, but I’m not daft enough to start that project in earnest in November. 

I need to let my body heal.  Saturday, when I woke up, I noticed my left heel, the perpetually cranky one that seemed to REALLY ENJOY running down those steep hills in Waco, and my right ankle, the one I twisted falling down because I am a klutz, hurt.  While that sucks, it also meant my knee was finally not the overwhelming, all consuming pain that it was for the five days previous, overshadowing everything else.  My ultimate goal is to slide into January 2019 completely, totally, 100% healthy, so that looks like a lot of REST, getting back to walking every day, stretching and rolling, some rehab and strengthening, good food and plenty of hydration, taking the anti-inflammatory stuff like turmeric, and being very conservative about when and how I resume the swimming, biking, running, and weight lifting.

When the time comes to resume the lifting of heavy things, my offseason goal is this: an unassisted pullup.  I can sort of muscle one up by jumping halfway up on my bar at home but it definitely doesn’t count.  I’m interested to get to a more stable bar at the gym to see if I can do one with a kip, which also doesn’t count but is closer, and to check out the assisted machine and see how little weight I can manage there.  How this helps me with triathlon, I have no idea.  It just seems like a fun little distraction that also hinges on me not gaining any weight (since I have to lift every ounce of me that exists). And also, who doesn’t pass a bar-shaped object like a pipe or a door jam and have the first instinct to do a pullup as they pass it?  Just me? Heh.

Once it is time to do so, I plan to make all swimming, biking, and running about pleasure and adventure vs any sort of training plan.  My schedule is blank and to be written spontaneously until at least mid-December.

Fun fact: it took me about 5 minutes to remember the word I was looking for was spontaneous.  So, you’ll have that.

I also have other, non-sport or weight related goals.

While I’m doing a CRACKING job at procrastinating, I need to get back to editing my book, and resist the urge to rewrite the whole thing or scrap it and write some sci fi that isn’t extremely raw and personal instead. 

I want to continue to work on self-promotion and becoming comfortable with sharing stuff like I will in said book by posting personal stories on social media with a level of writing that makes me feel proud, not just dashing off a handful of words and throwing them at the screen as has been my habit for a multitude of years. 

I want to keep my eye out for some brand ambassador applications (’tis the season) and apply.  It’s been fun to rep Wattage Cottage, and I hope to continue if she’ll have me again, but I have a few other non-competing brands I like a lot that would compliment that.

I’d like to progress a little in my photography, which for right now, honestly means study versus action.  I think I have a pretty decent eye for it, and I’m willing to do a lot to get the shot, but I think I need more KNOWLEDGE.  I need to learn my camera and all it’s myriad settings inside and out.  I need to learn what the heck I’d use a wide angle lens for successfully.  I need to learn how all the talented nature photographers I follow on Instagram get those amazing shots that give me all the wanderlust feels.  I also need to learn my editing tools a little better and editing conventions in general instead of winging it, and find out if I want to make the jump to better programs like Lightroom.  This will start with online research but might also progress to finding an actual class somewhere with an actual person to be my Obi-Wan.

It’s video game season.  I’m looking forward to having the oomph to play interactive things in my downtime instead of just staring passively at Netflix.  I have no specific goals beyond just PLAY MORE.

I’m sure other things will come into play as I embrace offseason, but I’m looking forward to indulging in my other hobbies and having the freedom to do stuff like pop by a friends house on Friday night with dinner and see family and go to Six Flags on a Saturday without twenty years of notice and expert-level schedule juggling to make it happen.

While I still mourn the death of the season, I’m also excited to shed my supersuit (what? it’s spandex…) for a while and just be mild mannered me.

Wacky Waco 70.3

I’ve been hesitating writing this one, and almost convinced myself to just copy my social media posts over here and phone it in, but I do look back at this stuff for posterity, so rock and roll, let’s do this.

The week of the race was probably one of the most hellaciously hectic – not just the “to do” list, but I had to be ON a lot with filming, live streaming, and other things going on in work and life.  The problem for me sometimes is not being ON (I live for that stuff), but turning OFF after.  On the week where sleep matters A LOT, I spent a lot of nights awake thinking all the things, which is SO abnormal for me.

Thankfully, I had the headspace to take a little time off work Friday and arrive in Waco in the late afternoon (versus Saturday like we had originally planned), and all went smoothly with the trip up.  Once I got to athlete check in and did all the pre-race things, this is what I had to say:

I’ve been fretting all day, all week, heck, all month about various and sundry things both related and not related to this race. At one point, I questioned, is this what ACTUALLY losing your mind feels like? Are THEY going to find out and whisk me away to the funny farm?

After the comedy of errors which was this week, I hoped I hadn’t spent all the mental energy I had left for the race. My cup of give-a-crap hath runneth dry mid-race before, and folks, it’s not pretty. On the drive up, thankfully, things pivoted. I enjoyed conversation and actually peeping that big, beautiful, bright ball in the sky. Oh sun, I have missed you so. Never stray for so long.

When I saw the finish line today, that familiar arch, I smiled. The spark is still there. I’m pretty certain there’s still some poetry left. Forget all that fast flowing freeeezing water with debris we’re supposed to be swimming in. Never mind that race day is twenty degrees warmer than yesterday. I’m ready to do battle on Sunday, once more, with feeling, with whatever course the race director lays out before us.

And, of course, I’m enjoying the opportunity to eat all the things. That is partially why we endure, to order something from the BBQ truck called The Terminator guilt free, right? ?

It was a bit of a brave face at the time, I will admit – but I was there, I was going to race whatever course was deemed appropriate, and that was that.  I don’t back down.  I’m not a quitter, even if the notion flits through my mind occasionally.

I got the best night of sleep all week in the camper, and woke the next day naturally to do the rest of the race prep things.  We went on a test ride, dropped off our bikes, attended a race briefing to find the swim cancelled (about 10% boo since I’ve been swimming well lately, and 90% yay because that water looked VERY UNSAFE).  The only thing I botched a little was that I ate my lunch (turkey bacon guac bagel sandwich) around 4pm instead of at a reasonable hour, but followed up with dinner (chicken, potatoes, and some veggies and hummus) quickly and the calories got in as they were supposed to.  I snacked a little more than normal and was probably about 2200-2500 calories, which is a lot more that I’d take in on a rest day, but a nice surplus to start the race in the morning.

I ended the day with this thought:

While I adore fine food and drink, being pampered, and penthouse views, there’s nothing quite so peaceful as waking up in the camper. Even if the situation at hand involves all the mosquitoes, one shower for the whole camp, and the illustrious “pee bucket”, being outdoors stills my soul. Best night of sleep and the most relaxed I’ve felt all week. I’m feeling the proper amount of nerv-cited butterflies fluttering around inside.

I haven’t been able to visualize this one yet. Cozumel, I pictured it clearly months in advance. This race has remained hazy. Of course I have a race plan, I just haven’t really been able to transport myself there mentally. Now, I’m pretty sure I know why.

A week ago, one course was set. Two days ago, it was altered to a point to point swim through rapids and obstacles, and the bike course changed as well. As of this morning, the run course has changed, and the swim was scrapped. Instead of kicking off the age group racers in the first wave of the swim at about 7:30, I’ll be hopping on my bike in the middle of the fray around 9am. That’s ok. I get to chase. I love the hunt.

While there are some minor logistical adjustments with gear and nutrition to consider, the overall plan for tomorrow is unchanged: bike with my head, run with my heart.

I slept a little fitfully that evening, but it was typical pre-race.  Luckily, with the swim cancelled, we did not have an early wakeup call, and rolled into transition around 7am, with plenty of time before the race to get set up.  I had my “Courage and Confidence” playlist on repeat, and actually didn’t take my headphones off until about 5 minutes before we queued up (around 8:40am).  It was nice to hide and listen to Willy Wonka about 6379 times. 

Bike:

At first, the bike course was incredibly narrow and crowded and that made me a little cranky, but I figured it was the best they could do with the situation at hand.  I wasn’t going to do unsafe things to keep my power or speed up, so I knew early on that the bike wasn’t where I was going to kill it this race.  The idea of staying draft legal (6 bike lengths) in this situation was laughable – it was just impossible.  I did my best to not hide behind anyone for too long but I’ll admit that there was no way I was technically legal for at least the first quarter of the race.

Once it got clearer, I found that I was maintaining the 150W average I wanted to (though the plan wasn’t to find it so early) with absolutely no effort, so I went with it.  I also found that I LOVED this bike course.  It had enough elevation changes to keep my legs fresher than Cozumel without any killer climbs – lots of rollers – which I just adore.   While other people complained about the chipseal on the country roads, to me, it just felt like home, like riding out at Pflugerville or Kerrville. 

About mile 40, I felt some deep fatigue/minor cramping in my lower back and inner thighs.  I’m frustrated about this, I don’t know why this has happened in both my races when my training rides were pretty spectacular.  In practice, I took less salt and nutrition in wayyyyy hotter conditions and my rides went by in a blink of the eye.  My power dropped steadily but I stuck with the pace.  I’m proud that I rode REALLY evenly – I stayed between 18-18.7 mph the entire time.  My goal was to push the last hour to try to come in under 3 hours, but with the threat of cramping looming fiercely, I played it a little more conservative.

Bike time: 3:06:03.  I would have been about 3:04 and change, but I had to stop and pee early on and that took about 90 seconds.  This is right about what I did at Coz time-wise and power average, but I enjoyed this course MUCH more and smiled through it instead of being angry (first at others, then at myself) the whole time.

Transition:

The chute was crowded and muddy, and everyone in front of me was walking their bikes so I did too.  My legs just didn’t have it in them to run through the mud in my bike shoes (read: still on the edge of cramping).  I sat to put on my shoes and talked to people next to me.  I could have been a little more expedient, but I honestly just didn’t care right about then.  Once I got up, running felt okay so I did that, heading out under the arch, wondering what the run would hold.

Transition time:  5:29.  Meh.  I’m not impressed with this but I can’t hate myself for it either.

Run:

My legs felt oddly okay, so I just tried to pace myself at that 10-something minute mile and hoped for the best.  Quickly, I knew it wasn’t going to be my day.  I had followed my nutrition plan exactly on the bike (2xcaff gels, 1 pack of spearmint blocks, 4 salt pills, 2 303s after I started cramping, and probably about 3 bottles of gatorade).  However, within the first mile of the run, I started feeling AWFUL.  Overfull.  Nauseous.  I tried to hold it together, sometimes that fixes itself, but I walked the first aid station and could only take in water.  Not a good start.

Then, I saw Zliten, and he had one communication for me as we crossed paths, “No shame in walking the hill” and then “oh yeah, love you!”.  Then, when I got to the hill, just the bottom looking up, I shouted, “OH HELL NAW!”.  In that moment, the switch in my head flipped from “shooting for a PR” to “maybe let’s survive this and resist the urge to turn in my chip at each aid station I pass”.  While I will give the Cameron Park area props for being BEAUTIFUL, it was so hilly.  They rerouted part of the run there, which added extra elevation, and not just a little bit, the kind of hills you maintain running heart rate walking up at 18 minute mile pace and bust up your quads running down.

I’ll be honest, I sulked a lot of the first lap and walked a lot (I ran the downhills- that’s about it – not even the flats after mile 2), while also visiting at least five different porta potties to try and take care of business out of one end or the other, and figure out how to make my revolting digestive system feel better.  I could not even fathom eating anything solid (I took ZERO gels or blocks in over the course of the run), but after a while I found I tolerated gatorade and the coke was actually settling my stomach, so I stuck with that so I could at least get SOME calories in.

Finally, I got my shit together on the second lap.  I stopped hitting the porta potty at every aid station even though I still felt like I could use it the whole race.  I figured whatever happened, happened, I was beyond giving a flying fig.  I established a 100 step run/100 step walk cycle, except at aid stations and the hills (which I walked).  Once I finished up the stupid hilly section (which I said goodbye forever to – because I don’t think I plan to do this race again), I started pushing myself to increase my run cycles to 200, then 300, then 400.  I had entirely lost my internal monologue and I had a few people call me out and ask me what the heck I was counting.  Oops.  At least I was mostly passing people by that point.

My last three miles were 12:10 (a fair amount of walking), 11:24 (just a little walking), and 10:17 (I think I walked once for 100 steps), so my RUNNING was on point, I just couldn’t keep it up for that long.

Once I realized that I was close to a 3 hour run, I wasn’t willing to let that time tick over.  I’ve only run over 3 hours in a half Ironman once and it was in 2013, after being injured and having a 5 week cycle to go from being unable to walk to racing hot and hilly BSLT 70.3.  Surely, I could do better than that during the best season of my life.

Run time: 2:58:37.  Spoilers: I beat it.  But it took a pretty good physical and mental push at the end to overcome the fuckery of the rest of the run.  I’m happy I was finally able to latch onto a goal and conquer it, but gosh, it came so late in the day.  A few days out, I feel less content with this than I did after the race.  I think on Sunday I was just happy to be done, both with the race and the season, but now I have a different perspective.  Now, my sentiments about the run go something more like “fuck that race, fuck that course, fuck my stupid malfunctioning body, fuck my weak ass brain, fuck that day in particular”.  If I raced with my heart, it was kind of like this. I could have been in a better situation, but I also could have handled my cards I was dealt a little better, especially in the first lap.

Total time: 6:10:09.  Nowhere near the 5:30 I was hoping to beat, which was kind of unrealistic with that stupid run course, but I could have gotten closer if I tried a little harder and gave up a little less at some points.

My face at the finish.  Big difference in how I felt at the finish line vs Cozumel.

Lest you think I am hating everything about the race, let me talk about the awesome parts.  As I said, I was a pretty big fan of the bike course.  I got to camp, which is always a bonus!  We raced with a billion people we knew, both on Bicycle Sport Shop team and also Wattage Brigade.  The town came out in force to support us.  I’m so happy they made the call to cancel the swim early, versus having us out in transition at 5am lugging gear and wetsuits, wondering if it would happen.  It was a well done race for an inaugural one.  It just wasn’t my race, and it probably will never be with that ridiculous run, and that’s totally okay.

My heart goes to the long stuff.  I love the training.  Somehow it feels more epic and heroic to come into the finish line 6 hours later instead of under 60 minutes.  I love the idea at someday being able to podium here like I can at sprints, but my head now knows its unrealistic without a BIG change in my strength, my weight, and my brain.  While that’s a bit of a downer, it’s also enough to already make me hungry to tear shit up next season.

That is, after a NICE long winters nap where the only requirements on the schedule is lifting heavy shit a few times a week.  Ah, offseason.  I am here, finally.  Embrace me with your arms of blissful recovery!

Waco 70.3 Pre-Race – The Precipice of the Unknown

It’s race week!  Again!

Four days out, I’m finding the emotions and the machinations to be different this time.  For various reasons, anxiety as of right now has overshadowed the excitement, and uncertainty has replaced the utter SWAG I had last time.  That’s fine, that means I REALLY CARE about this, and while my sneaky little soul is trying to hide this by manifesting it in a million other things right now, I appreciate this feeling.  If the spark is there, I can fan the flames towards excitement in the next few days.  Fear of failure is much closer to courage to try than the typical unbridled apathy I’ve found in racing for the last few years.

Feeling all the things and practicing being brave has been a little tiring – literally – I haven’t been sleeping as well as normal.  Giving a crap is weird and squishy and while some of the side effects are unwelcome, this is some positive personal development.  I hope I find some peace on the other side of the finish line on Sunday.  However, now that I have been practicing things that scare me a little to get comfortable at courage, I have a few OTHER things in play that I’m going for, so I may just sit here constantly reverberating like a nervous chihuahua until my heart explodes.  Stay tuned.

My head and my heart also haven’t had enough time to forget how much these things HURT.  Cozumel took every ounce and the only reason I actually still existed afterwards was massive amounts of caffeine until the epic crash crash crash that literally incapacitated me.  I intend to start a little slower on both the bike and the run, but my intention is to put forth the same or more effort OVERALL.  It’s fun to be all confident about seeking the man with the hammer… once.  While that’s what I want with all my courage this time, part of my heart feels like it’s just pure masochism to thrust myself into that fire walk again so soon. 

Also, this whole “giving a shit” thing also comes with the baggage of wanting to race well in front of people I know.  I’ll be on the course with a TON of BSS teammates and some of the Wattage Brigade.  While logic dictates they’ll be wholly absorbed in their own races, there’s the performer in me that wants very badly to do well on the closest thing to “home court” right now.  I also want to show myself that PR’ing in Cozumel wasn’t a fluke.  This race has the potential to have perfect conditions (as in NOT AS HOT AS THE CENTER OF THE SUN) and the only thing that would hold me back is my head, heart, legs, or lungs.

Putting aside sports and racing psychology – the race conditions are also incredibly uncertain.  I’m told we’ll know tomrrow if we have a swim or not, currently the water is dookie brown, fast flowing, and full of debris.  The current transition area is underwater.  I don’t know if I’ll be racing a 70.3, a 69.1, a half marathon, or just heading up to Waco to camp and drink beer for a weekend.  I know what to do – I need to be prepared for anything and everything and stay adaptable, but between the unknow and the constant crappy weather, it no longer feels like triathlon season in the slightest and another reason my excitement is waning.

Here’s the good news – the legs and lungs part of the equation seem to be willing.  The sludge I was experiencing post-vacation is mostly gone.  While it’s been PULLING TEETH to get myself to train, when I show up, the magic happens.  In the last week, I’ve PR’d my 1.2 mile swim and ran an 8:36 mile off a race power (read: not easy) bike.  This does not suck.  As long as I can summon the motivation to strap on my armor and pick up my axe, the odds seem to end up ever in my favor.  I’ve had no spectacular blowups, which I kind of expected on the way back to being whole after Coz, just solid days pushing the numbers I’m aiming for without too much strife in my grey matter, at least during.  It all feels so much less magical than last time, but the foundation is there.   That’s a big building block in the confidence to try again.

So, the order of the week is rest up.  Psych up.  Show up.  Make the magic happen!

For the record – here’s all the gory details I’ll want to look back on later.

Oct 15-21 training.

  • 35 min and 30 min race power trainer practice
  • Fastest swims in a while – 1:55/100m at the longer Lifetime pool and 1.2 miles in about 38 minutes. 
  • 1 hour race pace run (5.7 miles)
  • 1 hour race power bike/5k faster than race pace brick (9:30/mile)
  • One kettlebell session

Oct 22-28

  • One bodyweight session with a nice long stretch and roll
  • Short brick (20 min race power/1 fast mile)
  • Pre-race swim/bike shakeout (if we swim, if not… meh)
  • RACE!

Nutrition plan:

  • Friday night camping food: hot dogs and a carbtastic side
  • Saturday breakfast: bean and cheese breakfast tacos
  • Saturday lunch: turkey bacon guac bagel sandwich (trying for a little more calories than normal)
  • Saturday dinner: grilled chicken, baked potato, pre-made salad
  • Race breakfast: two caffeine beans, earl grey tea, english muffin with sunbutter and honey, coconut water, watermelon, sip on gatorade before the race
  • Race day nutrition on the bike: caff gel ASAP and every 45 mins (alternate caff/non caff), gatorade handoffs at every bottle stop (or as necessary depending on the temperature).  Cocktail of salt pills and 303s halfway through (possibly one more dose of salt pills near the end depending on the weather). 
  • Race day nutrition on the run: One more cocktail, probably about mile 3, bring a caff gel, non caff gel, and a pack of spearmint blocks, and try to consume at least two of them.  Take in all the gatorade and coke (yeah brown ponyyyyy!) possible for that sweet sweet sugar and caffeine high!

Race plan:

Feet up as much as possible Saturday, get to the race EARLY Sunday since parking is up in the air and I’m in one of the first waves.

Swim the same effort I dialed in on Saturday.  Just an inch past comfortable.  Concentrate on either finding some space or some slightly faster feet.  To do that, I need to have confidence to seed myself properly (for a race like this, probably not front pack but at least first half) and concentrate on long, relaxed strokes.  Around 40 minutes would be ideal, give or take depending on the conditions.

Transition 1 I plan to roll the same as Cozumel.  Wetsuit off, helmet, glasses, shoes, go.  This is a single transition race, so I should save some time not having to bag everything up.  The goal is motivation for quick locomotion without pure seething rage, like last time.

Biking during this cycle, all my really successful training rides involved a slower start and then chasing a power number.  They also involved elevation, pace, and effort changes, not a constant effort.  I’ve got a plan to make sure my race goes this way as well:

  • Hour 1: 130-ish power.  This should feel like holding back.
  • Hour 2: work up to 140 power average.  This should feel like a good ride.
  • Hour 3: try to work up to 150 power average, if it makes sense.  I don’t want to be gassed at the end, but it is allowed to feel like work at this point.
  • Every 15 minutes, stand up (or at least sit up) and push out 30-60 seconds of 200-250 power if I haven’t had to do anything similar recently.
  • Also, be advised that my power is not 100% dialed in, it’s my first season really tracking it, so perceived effort can trump this, especially in the later miles.  It’s a target, not the arrow.

It would be nice to break 3 hours, but I’m not going to tank my run to do it.

Transition 2 is lava.  It will be slower than T1 because I have to put on socks and tie my shoes, but the goal is a minimal amount of time of effing around.  Socks, shoes, race belt, hat, go.

Running has been going well, but is always the wildcard.  My one confidence building workout didn’t do quite so much as I was hoping, but it was a nice, solid, race pace double digit run off a not-so-easy bike.  So, I’m going to start this one a little more conservatively than Cozumel.  Frankly, the first trek up the hill on the way out, I plan to sandbag myself a little bit.  I find when I PUSH UP THE HILL SUPER HARD it bites me in the ass later, so taking a little extra time on the way up the first time based on how I feel may pay divedends later.  I plan to ENJOY THE HECK out of running the downhills and push THOSE fast.

I want to run the whole thing as long as it’s the fastest means to the end.  The marathon I ran every step of the way was a proud accomplishment, but not my fastest.  However, if I’m just steadily jogging 12 minute miles, I know that suuuuuuuuper sucks for me and I’ll get more out of myself if I strategically alternate walk breaks and faster running (Coz average, with LOTS of walking, was 11:30-ish).  Plan A is to start out running 10:30-ish minute miles and stay there (or speed up) until death or the finish line.   I’d like to see approximately 2:15 here, whatever that looks like.

Overall, that looks perilously close to 6 hours with some decent transitions.  I know total time was REALLY motivating in Cozumel, so I will probably switch there sometime in the second lap and work on busting ass to hit the closest even number.  I would be over the moon if that even number I was striving to beat was 6:00:00.

I’m not entirely sure why race weeks also end up being the craziest in work and life, but this one hasn’t disappointed in that regard.  I’m more than looking forward to wrap up doing about 20 different nerve-wracking and brave things (we are what we repeatedly do) and spend the 36 hours before the race in the woods, in the peace and quiet.

Last time, I needed to bring all the noise.  This race, I need some quiet, to center myself, and to prepare myself to race once more with renewed feeling.  I know in my heart, if I do it right, I’ll toe the line with my heart, head, legs and lungs ready to do battle, I just need to spend a little time in bubble wrap to get myself there.

Forward

For now, I’ll skip over the vacation parts of vacation.

Spoiler: it involved SO MANY TURTLES!!!

Believe me, it was epic, and I posted some tales on Instagram when my phone decided that it would hold a charge and also connect to wifi (which was rare).  My soul feels very recharged after a week under the water and in the sun, and the amount of pictures I have to process and edit is both daunting and exciting and I can’t wait to share them.

The transition was quick.  Sunday at 1pm I was hanging out in a hot tub in Mexico.  Monday at 9am I was back in the office.  Monday at 6pm, I was in the gym throwing around kettlebells.  Less than 48 hours after my plane landed, I was (barely) holding race power on the bike and trying to shake the sludge out of my legs with some faster running.  If I’m going to race Waco, there’s no rest for this triathlete.  Y’know, besides that week where I had a very heavy training load (10+ hours underwater, more weight training hauling tanks and gear) but absolutely no specificity.  And actually, not pushing too too much because that would be counter-productive.  Let’s just say, back to a (sane) training schedule I went!

I’ve never raced two long races this close back to back, so this is a new, fun experiment of ONE (ok TWO since my husband is also doing these crazy things with me) that could fail miserably or perhaps produce race day magic. Considering my success with a lot of back to back racing weekends earlier this year, I’m hoping for the latter!

This Tuesday was a lot different than last Tuesday.

Here’s where I’m at right now:

  • Officially, I should be back in taper.  I had planned to do a little more last week, but it actually worked out to be about 6.5 hours.  This is fine.  I’m a little cranky I skipped my wetsuit swim but everything else went well.
  • Back in June when I laid out the full season’s training plan, I set October 13th to be a CONFIDENCE BUILDING workout.  I knew I’d have ONE shot to rectify whatever was the biggest chink in my armor at Cozumel, and I’d tailor the workout to that.  Two weeks out, I’m not going to be building much endurance, so the purpose of Saturday’s workout was 100% mental.  That workout was a 1 hour trainer ride at race power (result was a little low but also my power meter kept dropping out :P), and then a 2 hour run at race pace (a shade under 10:30/mile for eleven and a half in conditions not dissimilar to Cozumel – hot and muggy with a few sprinkles).  I haven’t done any longer runs off the bike and that may be part of what broke me on race day (and, also, the ridiculous heat, but let’s focus on the things I can control).
  • How I feel right now at this moment: a little sludgy, both mentally and physically.  I definitely feel like I just raced and gave it a lot but it’s coming around.  I’m confident I’ve got what I need under there, but I’m just not SHARP right now like I was before Cozumel.  Maybe that’s good.  I expended a LOT of nervous mental and physical energy that I had in excess over the three weeks of taper last time, maybe this cycle I’m destined to be calmer and have things come together at just the right time.

Here’s what I feel like I could improve from the last race (and what I’m doing to fix it):

This is the last wetsuit pic I have… from 2016.  I own 3 and I don’t like any of them, really…

I had too much time on my feet before the race.  We had originally planned to get to Waco Saturday morning, but now, we’re taking a quarter day off work on Friday and plan to get there in time to hit packet pickup, mayyyybe athlete briefing, and set up the camper the day before the day before.  In theory, all I should need to do on Saturday now is drop off my bike and do a practice swim, and the rest of the day is lounging in and around the camper.  Pefect!

I will get up early enough race morning to not be rushing to the swim start in the back of the line.  I swim about 40 minutes for this race, that’s where I need to seed myself.

This swim will likely be a wetsuit swim, and I take a little bit to get used to swimming in my sausage casing.  I will be hitting a lake at least THREE times before race day (even if I have to swim in 50-something degrees air temperatures).

The elevation change for Waco is about 1k feet over the 56 mile bike.  Still very flat, but not quite pancake like Cozumel.  I need to work out a schedule to have some forced intervals in there (with easier sections) so my legs don’t get stale.  Maybe 1 minute 200+ power, 1 minute ~100 power every 15?  I also plan to go out a little more conservatively – every training ride I would start at lower power and build over the three hours.  I’m going to make that my goal (build to 130W hour 1, 140W hour 2, 150 or as close as I can hour 3 or something like that) instead of heading out of transition like a rabid squirrel on speed.

The run is a little hillier – double the elevation gain of Cozumel – though it’s hard to be as flat as FLAT.  There are two longer hills.  My goal is to NOT WALK ON THESE HILLS.  If I want to walk, it’s gotta be on the downhills.  And I feel stupid walking downhill, so perhaps with this mentality and some luck with the weather, I can goad myself into running the whole damn thing finally.  There will be a lot of people I know at this race, and I plan to ask them to literally BERATE AND YELL AT ME if they see me walking.  I don’t want encouragement or kind words, I want to be told to SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP and GET A FUCKING MOVE ON.  I doubt I’ll get that because most people are really nice, but hopefully the FEAR of it will motivate me.

A week back from Cozumel and I feel like I’ve lost most, if not all, of the crappy inflammation and water weight.  I think, somehow, it all came off during Saturday’s run (I felt the extra weight hauling up some of those hills for sure), because since then I’m *about* back to where I was before I left (168-170).  Two more weeks of tracking calories and Snap Kitchen mainly and hopefully I can race Waco slightly lighter than Cozumel.  I’m super excited that my race prep will be 100% my own food cooked from the camper grill, that should help things immensely! 

While I wish two days of carb gluttony before the race helped me, because it’s SUPER FUN, I’ve never seen any sort of success with it, so I’m planning just to eat like a normal human with a few extra snacks (fruit, crackers, almonds, etc) the day before.  I think any benefit I get with slightly-more topped off carb stores, I lose with a super gross sloshy stomach and extra weight on race day.  I may look back on this in 3 years and do this…

…but it’s my current strategy.  So I’m documenting it.  I work differently than other humans, and I’ve accepted this.  My best 70.3 previous to Cozumel (2014), my only carb sources for the season were corn and potatoes the day before and I didn’t eat to excess.  I’ve found I tolerate some whole wheat now as well, and brown rice is back to being a homie, but I don’t plan on going crazy, just my normal sprint plan (normal breakfast, turkey sandwich on wheat for lunch, grilled chicken with potato and salad for dinner) plus extra snacks to be like 2000-ish calories vs 1500.

So, this week, I has plans.

  • Two weights sessions (today and Wed)
  • Four trainer rides practicing the progression to race power (today, tomorrow, Wednesday, Saturday) 30-60+ mins
  • One pool swim (tomorrow), one lake swim (Saturday)
  • 8 mile run race pace (Thursday), 5k brick run off the bike faster than race pace (Saturday).
  • Stretch  or roll every day.
  • Track food – 1500 calories most days with 2-3 slightly higher (due to workout load).

The unicorns and Wattage Cottage sock doping will get me through.  I hope.

Two more weeks of triathlon season.  While I’m not itching to be a lazy slob and sit on my butt, I am really excited for a few months of the plan pretty much saying “lift weights and do whatever else you feel like for the cardios” for a while.  Just 13 more days of holidng it together and being good, and then one more massive, herculean effort at another 70.3 PR to go!

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