Adjusted Reality

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

Tag: race Page 1 of 4

Texasman Cometh

I have been absent from the blog, but not from life.

In fact, life has been full of things, starting immediately the next day after vacation. Work has continued to challenge me, some days, in the way that makes me want to fist bump someone and say eff yes, and some days, in ways that makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Training was a challenge to resume after vacation, as well as proper nutrition, but I feel like a fortnight of that is behind me and things look to be settling into a comfortable level of organized chaos.

This weekend, I journey back to Texasman as my first outdoor triathlon of the year, and I’ve had varying levels of feels about it over the months. A few months out, I was, like, megamaniacally ready to crush it. I had some aggressive thoughts about how I was going to conquer and run everyone down and be amazing and powerful and it fueled some of my training to be better than before.

Right after vacation, I had thoughts of despair. “I can barely make myself train, ” I whined to myself, “how am I going to do anything worthwhile at this stinkin’ race in a few weeks? I’m bloated and soft and fat and I probably have forgotten how to even do this ish.”

Spoiler alert: I have not forgotten how to do this ish. And I’m actually down a few lbs.

I have been utterly lacking on swim training, but something lately has clicked with my form to help me at least maintain that slightly-under-2:00/100m without much effort. I’ve swam twice in the last month or so, and they have both been *fine*. In fact, I jumped into Quarry Lake in a wetsuit for the first time this year, expecting the normal mild panic and feelings of aqua-incompetence (not to be confused with incontinence, though I did pee in my wetsuit because this is how we do as triathletes…) and found that I felt great.

It wasn’t my fastest time around the buoys, but at a nice cruising pace, I feel like I may be able to improve my ~10th out of the water this weekend. My goal is simply to keep form as best I can, a comfortably hard pace, and try to find some feet to follow that are going slightly faster than I want to go from which to draft.

The bike is another place where I feel like it’s more about muscle memory than anything. I have been spending time with Death Star riding in my living room, but not as much as I think I should. I crushed my recent FTP test, finding 181 watts out of nowhere, and when I make the effort, I’m mentally and physically ready to rock. I just remember by this point last year I felt SO EFFING CONFIDENT about my biking prowess and I’m not entirely in that mindset yet.

I’ve found in the last few races though, having a bit of untested fitness and an open mind has lead me to things that I didn’t believe possible, so I’ll roll with that on race day. I want to replicate last year, where I set out on the bike to go hunting. I know I can do it, and I want to concentrate on chasing everyone down. That’s how I rock on two wheels, and I can’t wait to have my first opportunity of the year for relentless pursuit.

The run is always my question mark, although, I have much more confidence in my feet this year. I’m about 11-13 lbs down from where I was at last year this time. My body has finally come to terms with that, as well as absorbed a year of strength training, and my average paces are much lower than they were before even with the minimal hours I’m calling training this year.

I can’t wait to see what I can do with my new running proficiency and also my new mental strength. I have had visions over the last few months where instead of falling back on the run, I rise to meet the challenge and run people down. I’m not sure what I have in me in this situation but that is SO EXCITING to me right now. I know there’s greatness in there somewhere, and I’ve found some really unbelievable things in my body and brain this year, and I can’t wait to go run it out for 3 miles, testing my mental and physical fortitude.

While I always strive for excellence as of late, the pressure is off. Zliten and I discussed the matter, and we are probably not going to go to Nationals even if we qualify (he reserves the right to change this if we both qualify, but it’s not a driving goal). I simply get to go out there and give it my all, however the chips may fall. I could have an amazing day and come in first. I could overestimate my capabilities and blow up or have a rare (lately) day where I just don’t have it, and in all instances, that’s okay. I’ll either win some or learn some and live to race again this season.

However, with all the caveats, this year my goal is to lead out strong and fight my arse off for first place. Aiming for anything less is bullshit.

Cleveland National Championships Race #1

After finishing all the things right on time at work, with a huge sigh of relief, we headed out to the airport to jump on a plane at 6pm to Cleveland, Ohio.

Everyone kind of gives you funny looks when you say that’s where you’re going for the weekend (usually my vacation destinations are a little more… tropical), but then when you say it’s to compete in a National Championship race, they nod and say “good luck”.  I wasn’t expecting much out of Cleveland, but I was pleasantly surprised!

Our flight got in late, around 1am, and that meant we were settling into our room around 2.  Not ideal, but it was much better to get the travel day done with and wake up in the city ready to do all the things vs try to fly in the next morning.  We slept until 11am, and then unpacked and put our bikes together.  Zliten did an amazing job doing it rather quickly, and then we attempted to hightail it down for the official pre-race swim practice that ended at 1.  We left the hotel at 12:30, it was supposedly a 20 minute bike, what could go wrong?

Well, we got HORRIBLY lost, had to backtrack a bunch, and then ran into construction on the bike path.  It took us 45 minutes to go the 4 miles to the race, and we OBVIOUSLY missed the swim, so we just splashed around in Lake Erie for a few and then headed to packet pickup.  After that, we dropped Death Star off for her weekend at sleepaway camp, and split a burger for lunch from a food truck on site because we were DYYYYING by that point and just needed something… anything.  We made the journey back to the hotel, which involved walking about 2 miles and then picking up a bikeshare and riding that 2 miles back with my husband on his tri bike (since he couldn’t drop it off until the next day).  It was suuuuuper fun hauling ass and huffing and puffing my way up the bridge while my husband was taunting me about averaging 17 watts.

By that point we were back on the verge of hangry, and after perusing the area, settled on an Irish Pub for pre-race food.  I had a salad, and then this amazingly decadent meatloaf filled with bacon and gouda.  I would have felt guilty about eating the entire enormous brick of it, but I knew what I had done today and what I was about to go do tomorrow, and did not feel bad in the slightest.  We stopped by Heiman’s, a pretty fancy grocery store, and got some breakfast for the morning and snacks and random essentials, and then headed back to the room to prep all the things and relax.

Then the wedding DJ started in.  Our room opened to this beautiful arcade, which was awesome.  However, they host events there every weekend.  The rooms were these old converted offices from the old Arcade, so they were super substantial, but even through two heavy doors, I could hear the *thump thump* of the wedding DJ until 11pm when it ended.  I did not sleep well the night before the race, for various reasons, and that being one.

4:30am came super early, but I’ve got this pre-race thing down to a science, and this morning was no different.  Caff beans. Tea. Sunbutter honey english muffin.  Bathroom and contacts.  Quick appointment with the foam roller.  One more bathroom.  Kit up and go.  The shuttle situation was REALLY convenient, it took about 20 minutes from hotel to race site, and I was in transition setting up before I knew it. 

I had decided to do a really dumb thing and wear my new kit (just took the tags off) on race day since it was rushed to me.  Do as I say, not as I do… but honestly, I justified it because this race was for funsies and I just wanted to wear my new and shiny, damn the conseqences.  I got nervous about it while I was lying awake in bed the night before and I packed a backup kit just in case. 

Well, I’m super glad I did, because as I zipped it back up after using the porta potty, the zipper failed in the same spot it did on the last one.  I was SUPER frustrated, and I chided myself for being too effing fat for the kit (which, I’m not… my measurements put me one size DOWN).  This started a cascade of all the negative bullshit in my head.  My specially cultivated calm, confident, and slightly egotistical race day persona went right the hell out the window to “what the hell are you doing here, fatty mc fatterson?”.

I changed and tried to clear my head and headed down to the race start about a 10 minute walk away.  However, my head was too clear, and I left my swim cap, goggles, and earplugs in my morning bag, which I had in the bag I had checked.  We walked alllll the way there and back, and I had to run to join my wave and missed the warmup swim.  Oh well, it was consistent with the shit show the morning had become.  Oddly enough, I traded stories about popped zippers with the girl next to me (her wetsuit, my kit, I hoped it made her feel better), and then it was 3, 2, 1… GO TIME!

Hey, look at me, almost the only idiot in Lake Erie without a wetsuit! 😛

Swim:

Lake. Erie.  All the fun of an ocean swim without the salt water.  It had looked deceptively calm in the early morning, but as we headed out, the waves and current picked up.  I cursed myself for not bringing my wetsuit.  It took up a bunch of room in my suitcase, last water temperature reported before I left was NOT legal, and I rarely use it, so I just left it home,  However, some extra buoyancy would have been REALLY REALLY nice in the chop.  I swallowed a crap ton of lake, once even choking on it to the point of ALMOST hurling in the water.  I took a few seconds to breast stroke while I hacked and coughed and then got going again, albiet slower as I continued to try not to yak.

Then we hit the turn buoy and I was fairly impressed with my time at the moment, thinking I was swimming against the current and would have an easier time from then on.  I turned and found that was not the case.  The next 12 minutes felt like the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the knights run at the castle and it never gets any closer.  The chop often was above the buoy when I’d try to sight.  I almost ran into some boats and had to stop and ask which way to go (I wasn’t far off course, thankfully they were just very tight in directing us).   The swim back was a little faster but I was TIRED from fighting that current and by the time I got to shore I was very frustrated with the swim in general and especially the time it took.

Swim time: 44:06.  My garmin registered 2052 yards which means it was about 400m long.  Some of this might be sighting but I’m confident most of it was not, I stayed on the right path fairly well.  Still, I’d be at least mildly disappointed by this time for a 70.3 swim (which was actually only about three pool lengths longer than this…), so I’ve gotta hope Cozumel is a little less rough.  Or I’m a little better.  Or both.

T1:

I had been thinking “say something nice to Zliten, say something nice to Zliten” the whole way in, and what came out of my mouth was something like “don’t let me fucking forget my wetsuit ever again, that was bullshit”.  Oops.  Transition was a long run but it gave me time to check my head and realize I was about to start my best sport and I was going to be happy about it. 

On the way out, I shouted again to Zliten, “Yay, I get to ride my bike now!” and took off on Death Star to try and catch someone in my age group, as I was fairly convinced I was in last place at that point.  The truth is, I wasn’t quite, there were three people in my age group that took over an hour to complete the swim, and I heard accounts of people (who had legit qualified for the National Championships here, not newbies) getting towed in by kayak or even just making it to shore and handing in their chip for the day after completing the swim.  Regardless, I certainly wasn’t in the normal position I’d be in at this point and I was looking forward to chasing people down on the bike.

T1 time: 5:01.  Honestly, my garmin clocked the transition at almost a third of a mile.  I’m okay with five minutes for that length.

Smiles because I did. not. drown.

Bike:

I ate my gel and I worked the pedals and my speed was just NOT coming up for the level of effort I was putting out.  I was wondering if something was wrong… and then I realized it wasn’t me, it was the weather.  Headwind.  Cool.  17 mph into that isn’t too bad.  I went up and down the hills at the beginning and then got onto a freeway (cool!) and then made my way onto a crazy narrow single lane interchange thing that was super bumpy (scary!) and was relived when we headed into a neighborhood onto better roads.

My speed came up and my legs got under me, and I hit the turn around seeing about 18 mph on the garmin.  Ok, I could deal with that when I knew I had some help on the way back.  I just got to work and ate some blocks and passed everyone I could.  My bike was still doing the delayed shifting thing it has been lately but besides that everything felt nice and smooth and I just kept working my average up until I crossed the line.

The most obvious thing I learned on the bike ride?  If I leave my top tube straw out, instead of tucking it in after each sip, I will drink much more liquid over the course of a bike ride.  If nothing else, this race has taught me that. *captain obvious salute*

Bike time: 1:19:15 (18.9 mph).  Honestly, I paced the thing more like a 70.3 (155W/172W normalized @ 158 BMP AVG HR), because that’s what I’m practicing for right now.  The other “gear” I have is to race a sprint, and I knew going out like that would be a bad idea.  I’d love to race more Olympics and nail what that 25 mile race effort feels like, but for now, I’ll just be happy with that.

T2:

Again violating the “nothing new on race day”, I was feeling incredibly protective of my feet and doing everything I could to avoid blisters.  Even though I knew it would cost me time, I ditched the quick laces for regular ones.  Also, I left my socks OFF for the bike ride, and set them in my run shoes covered in powder so they’d be dry.  I can report that I got ZERO blisters on my feet during the two days of racing so it was worth it.

T2 time: 3:27. Big transition was big.

This is what a happy runner en route to the finish line looks like!

Run:

I got out and my legs felt pretty darn decent.  And then they sent us directly up a big hill.  D’oh!  I knew I only had to contend with it twice so I charged up the best I could without burning too many matches, and picked up my pace once it evened out.  I realized that my legs were definitely carrying me at a Olympic run PR at this point, but feeling like they had a lot more in them.  My options at this point were to pick up the pace or to cruise a bit, and considering I am inexperienced at this distance and also was racing the next day, I kind of cruised. 

All the lifting this year, and following my mountain goat husband up hills with less complaining has made me a better hill runner this year, apparently.  Everyone was complaining about the hills and I managed them just fine.  There was that first one, and then a short steep-ish one around mile 2, and the third, which I called optional hill because you went off the path simply just to go down and back up a steep hill.  Race directors are mean. 

There was no walking today, besides a few steps at one crowded aid station to get some water down.  I kept my pace fairly even – 9:45s to 10:15s (with a speedier 9:30 for my last mile).  Even though I didn’t feel like I needed it, I ate a gel halfway though just like I planned.  I finished feeling like I had a lot left in the tank, at least one more of the 3 mile loops, without needing to slow down.  For an Olympic run PR, I’ll totally take it!

Run time: 1:00:09 (9:42 average pace).  First sub-10 minute mile Olympic run!  I’m stoked!  And it wasn’t even all out racing.  I’m excited to see what I can do for my half ironman races this year if this is any indication of where my run fitness is…

Overall time: 3:11:58. 138/162 AG.  So close to those top 18 slots that qualify for worlds, hahaha!

I’d say overall, I put about 80-85% into this race, but besides the pre-race BS and the fallacious swim, I had a total blast on this course and couldn’t wait to race it again the next day.  After some food.  And sleep.

Dear self, medals are not food.

After wandering aimlessly for a bit, I picked up my bag and changed into clothes.  We waited around for a while hanging out with friends and then when transition opened, I moved my bike to the place it was supposed to be for the next day.  For our commute, we walked two miles to get to the city bikes, and then rode them back to the hotel.  Next on the agenda was to get cleaned up and food in my face to fuel tomorrow’s race!

Part two coming soon…

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!

Not-quite-so-hotter’n Hell 100

The heat is my KRYPTONITE.

I tend to die a quick and early death when it’s super hot.  So, it makes sense that my choice for a ride this summer was Hotter’n Hell 100, in late August in Wichita Falls, TX, where the temperatures can climb to 105+, right?  I knew it was a stupid idea, so I did stupid things like ride outside for 3 hours at 5pm on the hottest day of the year in feels-like-110 temps and bike commute two days a week in the heat for the last month to prepare.

Then came hurricane Harvey last week.  The devastation in the Houston/Galveston area is terrible, and I would not have wished that on anyone for any reason.  However, a teeny silver lining, the effects up north made for some really unseasonably cool and still dry temperate weather.

We stayed up too late on Thursday night because we are dumb and I have determined that we need an adult sometimes to tell us to go to bed.  Friday morning, we finished final packing and drove our Turtle Home to work for a half day.  Showing off the trailer to a coworker, we realized that we had a tire about 10 miles away from blowing out (ack!), so we took time to fix that and got on the road later than expected.  We stayed just a little ahead of the storm the entire time and found Wichita Falls a little wet but sunny!

We didn’t get into town until after 6pm, got a little lost trying to find packet pickup (but got to see some awesome fast boys crit racing which was exciting!), and then by the time we got camp set up and cooked a very quick dinner it was after 9pm.  After falling asleep around 10, our propane leak sensor starting wailing at midnight.  We fixed it pretty quickly, but… crap.  Two pre-race nights full of sleep fail.  Not optimal.

Let me step in here and give a shout out to the KOA campgrounds in Burkburnet, TX.  They. were. awesome.  They offered free shuttles to the race… which was 14 miles and a few towns away.  Instead of stressing about parking (and with 12,000 people racing, I’m sure that would have been a NIGHTMARE), they dropped us off at about 6:30 AM (45 mins before the race) a block away from our corral and gave us a number to call to be picked up whatever time we finished, bikes and all.  They were all also super nice and it was family owned and the vibe felt good.  If I do this race again, I would ABSOLUTELY stay there.

12,000 people with bikes looks about what you would expect it to – we swarmed this downtown area.  I have never seen or experienced anything like it.  I was terrified of that many people that close together with bikes, but they know what they’re doing with the start.  I was able to get across the line with minimal space invasion and freaking out.

The first 10 felt easy, but I had to stop at the first aid station.  Normally I would hate to stop so early, but I felt like I couldn’t drink because I had to peeee, and not hydrating could have been a HUGE problem later.  There was a  HUGE porta potty line, but it was necessary, so I waited.  After that, I consumed some redbull and some fruit and then we got back on the road and I could drink again had a gel and life was good.

We met a guy who used to work for REI and we spent about 10 miles talking about Novara bikes and the store and all sorts of other randomness.  The temperatures were cool and apparently I was overhydrating, I had to stop again for the second aid station potties.  I think I waited for about 20 mins that time.  Sigh.  In my face went more redbull, watermelon, and a bunch of cookies.  The bottles were filled, we let the cookie monster jersey people know that this was their aid station because they had cookies, and we rolled out again.

In the 30s, riding started to feel a little tedious.  This is my least favorite part of any long ride – when you have enough miles down where you feel like you’ve ridden bikes (achy arms and hands for me before anything else), but you’re not even halfway yet.  Mentally, I felt like I was starting to slip, and we had turned directly into the wind, so I asked my husband if we could take turns every mile or so pulling.  He agreed that it was a better idea than riding side by side so we did that.

That made all the mental difference for me.  I had something to count down to, and  alternated the effort of pulling (harder) and recovering (easier) was better for me than riding a flat pace.  I felt so (hahaha) pro actually coordinating our efforts to conserve energy vs just riding.  We skipped the next but hit the fourth aid station around 40 miles with a little more of a quickness.  Pee, stuff face with PBJs, fill bottles, and hop back on.

At this point, my pulls started to pull away from my husband.  Something wasn’t completely right but I figured he was just having a moment and he’d be pulling me later.

To do the full hundred miles, you have to get to Hell’s Gate (mile 60) by 12:30pm.  We laughed about this earlier and said no problem.  Well, we started calculating times and it was looking like it was starting to become a potential problem, not because of our riding pace (over 15 mph at that point), but our really long stops.  There was debate at that point whether it was at 60 or 62 or 66, so we picked up the pace a little to make sure we didn’t get diverted.

We passed by the next aid station to stop instead at camp, since our route went DIRECTLY by it.  It was our quickest stop yet, hitting a real bathroom with no line, eating some chips, putting some gatorade in our bottles, grabbing some 303s, and we got in and out and on with our lives in about 7 minutes.

Zliten seemed refreshed after the break and feeling better, and we turned away from the wind, so we enjoyed riding side by side a bit again.  Sadly, mile 59 had the aid station I was looking most forward to – bbq sliders (real food!) – but we had 20 minutes to make Hell’s Gate, so we stopped for some cliff blocks instead and put in one more good effort to gain insurance if the gate was more like 66 than 60.

And then, it was indeed mile 60, and we were through with 15 minutes to spare.  My husband let me know that riding that effort definitely burned a match for him and he needed to slow a little.  We started comparing heart rates – he was in the 160s and spiked into 180s and I’d hear him panting and complaining about the heat (it did reach 90 and sunny but still…) while I was leisurely pedaling with a 130-140 heart rate and feeling fine while pulling.  I wasn’t going to leave him, but the slower pace was KILLING ME.

When we got to the 70 mile aid station, I told him that we were stopping, and for a good while, until he felt better.  We sat under mister tents for at least half an hour.  The guy next to us was taking a nap.  I ate probably a jar of pickles and a power bar and some fruit.  Nothing at the aid station was either palatable or wouldn’t cause an allergic reaction for Zliten so I went and grabbed him some blocks out of his bike bento box and gave him some of my gels because he had left his on the table in the camper.

We started out and got a mile before he went to take his turn to pull and just immediately stopped pedaling and started wincing in pain.  I had to block a bunch of cyclists that were drafting off us from running him over as he pulled over to the side.  We waited for the cramp to pass and I said, “look – we’ll go whatever pace we need to finish and if we have to stop and stretch every mile, so be it.”  I don’t know who this person is who was so rational and kind and positive 70 miles into a bike ride, but I’m thankful that was the version of me that showed up that day.

I’m also thankful that we didn’t have to get off the bike that often.  We took turns pulling, me for 2 miles, him for 1 mile, and got to the next aid station.  We almost didn’t stop, but we pulled in to top off the bottles and heard tell of hot dogs, and sure enough… real food he could eat (and FRITOS, which *I* pigged out on).  Later, he said it tasted so good he almost cried while eating it.  We thanked those volunteers profusely and then headed back out fairly quickly.

Another mile out… and another cramp.  Same deal, block my husband from getting run over by wheel suckers, stop, let it pass, and then get going slowly.  I didn’t have one damn person besides Zliten pull for me but I was constantly trailing between 3-7 people who never took a turn at the front.  One mile before the next stop, another really bad cramp hit him in a different spot and he got off the bike and sat down on the side of the road and I had to talk him out of sagging out.  At 89 miles.  With 11 to go.

I convinced him to get to the next aid station, a mile up ahead, and figure it out from there.  There was an ice bath, which may or may not have helped him, but it was something to do.  There was an annoying kid that kept throwing ice at us, but it was late in the day and he was probably super bored so I cut him some slack.  Zliten said he was going to medical but instead he just sat down for a bit until he was prepared to tackle the last few miles.

We took it really slowly the rest of the way.  It wasn’t windy anymore, so I just let him pull so he could pace us to his comfort.  It worked until about mile 99, riding up an overpass, which he ended up doing with one leg while the other was cramping, and we pulled over one more time to wait it out before we made the final descent into the downtown and through the arch at about 4:45pm.  7:16 riding time, 9:20-ish total with ALL the stops.

Here’s probably my second complaint about this ride – at the finish, there was no water, there was one booth handing out cups of coke or sprite but no gatorade, the beer tent was closed, and all the food cost money.  They hyped the finish line village and said it was open until 6pm, but nowhere on the website did it say that there wasn’t any thing freely available for athletes.  We drank our sprites and called the KOA people for the ride, and we were so thankful they were there to shuttle us to Turtle Home instead of driving.

After a shower and getting changed and shoving about half a bag of popcorn and some strawberry cake in my face and using the recovery boots, I felt pretty great!  We grilled up chicken, potatoes, corn, and had some pre-made salads for dinner, which is incredibly healthy compared to the normal gluttony that would ensue after burning about 4000 calories riding bikes.  We sipped our beers (and a flask of fireball) and relaxed and watched a beautiful sunset.

While this is already “longer’n hell”, I liked the race enough that I would consider going back if it fit into my plans (doing a back to back 100 mile ride/13.1 mile trail run would be EXCELLENT Cozumel training next year).  So, here are things I learned and what I’d do differently next time.

  • I’m stingy with my PTO usage but it would have been worth it to take a quarter day Thursday and a full day Friday and stay an extra night.  It would have been amazing to have an extra day Friday to relax, leisurely pick up the packets, hit the pool, watch the crit racing, etc.  Only two days camping made it feel rushed.
  • CHECK YOUR BIKE AT EVERY STOP.  Zliten’s front tire pressure the next day was under 40 PSI (and it’s supposed to be about 100-110).  While I don’t know if it was the entire problem, it can’t have helped to have a under-inflated tire.
  • I would totally stay at this KOA campground next time.  The free shuttle to and from the race was awesome.  It was convenient to have access to it at mile 56 as our own “aid station” and it was wayyyy cheaper than a hotel.
  • I’m usually the one that effs up my nutrition, but I’ve been training myself to be a hoover on the bike and fueling with burgers, fries, pizza, etc.  I can now ride at a sub-maximal effort fueling on damn near anything.  I went back and tracked and I am estimating that I ate/drank over 2000 calories on the ride and had ZERO stomach issues.  I’m going to look into some portable food options that work for both of us that can supplement gels and provide something savory.  And I’m going to start trying to train Zliten to eat pickles on the ride.  I’m pretty convinced the jar or two I ate over the course of the race saved my life.
  • Having a pulling rotation was actually pretty great.  I thought it would feel more like work than a fun bike ride (which, really, was the intention for this one, I had no pace goals).  It helped with the mental management of everything.
  • A pocket sized sunscreen.  Because after the ride, my face matched my drink.

Overall, I’m really thrilled with this ride.  My legs seem to handle about 80 miles before they start to complain, and I would put their decibel level at the end of the race as politely protesting instead of screaming bloody murder.  I’m excited to see what potentially cooler weather and two more months of riding will do, especially because we need to be faster than this (our riding time is fine, just less than the ridiculous 2+ hours of stops) to make the 8h30m cutoff for Livestrong 100.

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Lake Pflugerville Tri – shallow wells, walls of wind, unreasonable ambulation

Let’s be real: I don’t love racing in offseason.

Generally, during offseason, my race helmet is reserved for protecting me from falling off the couch.

Especially THIS part of offseason where I’ve just mostly finished being broken, and I haven’t yet had time to build anything yet.  Ironman took a lot of physical recovery time, and I’m still working with some muscles that don’t exactly want to do what they should yet.  I’m working with a brain that’s starting to warm up to the idea of being a triathlete again, but I also am struggling with the motivation to put together 5 hours of training in a week.  And this is all totally fine until you throw a race into the mix.

I like to toe lines when I feel fit and fiery.  I like to stack my training, block by block, to create my fortress.  I like to dig my well real deep.  My tendency is more towards building a skyscraper that topples over or hitting a water pipe while digging too low, and not that overtraining is good, it’s not, but I really enjoy trying to find that edge.  Right now, my well is about two inches deep and my foundation is just starting to be built again.  Be this as it may, it’s Lake Pflugerville, which is my husband’s favorite race, and a lot of the BSS team would be there.  So, in the interest of fun, camaraderie, and showing my lack of fitness to hundreds of people, I was in to play some triathlon!

We did the normal things you do the day before: pre-race swim, packet pickup, eating a turkey sandwich for lunch and chicken, rice, veggies, and a salad for dinner.  We watched a movie.  We practiced transitions in the living room while packing up our stuff.  Oh, and we test rode about 5 different mountain bikes and came home with one we found on SUPER closeout sale.  What?  You don’t do that the day before a race? (oops)

Food and bikes, the stuff of life…

I couldn’t sleep too early (my brain just doesn’t shut off at 9pm these days), but I slept SOLIDLY when I did for about 7 hours, and waking up wasn’t too hard.  I ate half a sunbutter jelly sandwich on wheat toast and drank a coconut water en route to the race.  All the pre-race things went as planned, except one weird moment about 20 minutes before my wave started where I felt super sick for about 3 minutes and then magically it passed.  I was just about to eat my caffeinated gel before that happened and I abandoned that plan and stuck it in my tri top for later.  I may be kind of underfed right now, but the last thing I need to do is shove too much in my stomach when it’s already doing flip flops.

Swim:

I made my way over to the beach, and in moments we were in the water, and I actually did a good job positioning myself near the front.  I found some feet for a while but then they were going faster than I wanted, so I ended up in fairly clear water for most of the way out.  Some people were talking about the chop, and I’m usually the first one to complain about notice those things, but I didn’t.

Except for the sighting mistake on the way back into the sun that landed me almost in the middle of the lake, this one kinda went like clockwork.  I passed lots of different colored caps and I swam into the beach as far as I could.  I nailed the effort, every year I swim something with an 11 in the beginning, the best 11:10, the worst 11:40, and this one came in at 11:38 which is fine.  6/11 AG.

Ouch ouch ouch ouch pebbles hurt my princess feetsies (picture care of our tri captain, Claudia!).

T1:

Also, pretty much like clockwork.  I didn’t have any weirdness or fumbles, but I can tell offseason has made me a little more tenderfooted than I’d normally be around this time of the year, so I was a lot slower than normal running barefoot.  I was a little slower than my worst at 2:57 (by 4 seconds), but I also didn’t get the normal pimp spot right by bike out.  *shrug*

Bike:

We got going and I drank gatorade and sat up the first mile because the roads are extra super crappy and then noticed my speed.  I was holding 22 mph average.  This made me ecstatic until I remembered that I’m not *THAT* strong of a cyclist and if I was flying sitting up pushing almost no power, the back half (majority) of the course was going to be a bitch.

A girl and I were riding together (legally) and she kept going straight at a completely unmarked/unmanned corner and I followed her, and then two people behind us yelled at us to turn around.  While it might have only taken ~30 seconds, it totally killed my momentum and we both swore about it for a bit as we u-turned into WHOOOOOOSH!  A wall of wind.  Ugh.

Instead of worrying about pace I started paying attention to my heart rate and it was staying around 165 average, which is probably just as high as (or higher than)  I’d like it to be.  My level of effort was probably a little below I know I can race a sprint at, but since I’m relatively untrained right now and my heart rate is pegging itself very very quickly, I decided to be safe rather than sorry.

And honestly, it’s not like I was on a pleasure cruise.  The effort felt hard, but I know I’ve pushed that race harder.  And I know I’ve held more than the ~150 watts doing it.  I found another friend to ping pong back and forth with on the back half of the course, and Ironman has forever distorted time for me because it was all over in a blink of an eye and I was dismounting my bike while I wondered what happened to the rest of the ride.

The good: 3rd in my AG/11.  I got in a really good pocket where I had very few complaints about the course being crowded and people being annoying which is normally the majority of my race report on the bike here.  Also, I only got passed by ONE of my BSS teammates, and it was almost near the end of the bike.  The bad: my heart rate was higher than watts, and this is a pretty weak pace for me.  Not my worst, but not my best.  And I should be crushing my previous bikes with my new TT bike.  Total time was 44:47, which is technically a PR, but the course was shorter by a mile, so it doesn’t count.

T2:

Everything here also went like clockwork.  It’s 4 seconds slower than my worst at 1:46, but also, I was not in a primo spot on the rack.   We slept in a bit instead.  I’m going to say 30 extra minutes of sleep vs a few seconds in transition for a D priority race was worth it. 🙂

Before, during, (no, not me running, but it’s representative of a thing I was doing) and after.

Run:

Here’s where the problem with offseason racing is for me.  I made the decision to give myself some time away from running to really let myself heal up after the Ironman, and long-term-me won’t regret that at all, but short-term-me is going to be VERY whiny about it.  My run fitness goes so downhill so quickly if I’m not training, it’s why I never quit running for more than a week or two MAX during offseason, and I know it’s going to be a long road back.

I didn’t even feel super gassed after the bike, but I got out on the run and someone had stolen my legs and replaced them with these funny appendages that wouldn’t move correctly and took a lot of effort to ambulate at any reasonable pace.  Normally on sprint runs I’m cursing 10 minute miles and willing the garmin to show me 9s (and occasionally 8s), today I was lucky to shove the pace under a 12 minute mile.

I ate a gel right away since I couldn’t even with that while fighting the wind on the bike, and gave myself some time to let my heart rate settle to race effort, but the first mile split was 11:52, and my heart rate was staying pegged at about 174.  At this point, that’s what I have to give, so I switched my display to just heart rate and cadence (which, of course, is also in the toilet at this point) to make sure I kept the proper effort (and also so I stopped seeing paces for the effort that made me think I was back running in Veil at 8k feet).

The wind was so strong yesterday that it actually affected me on the run, about a mile and a half in, I felt like we were running into a wind tunnel and I really really wanted to walk.  On an effing sprint.  I didn’t, but my pace combined with a headwind almost made me feel like I was running in place for a while.  With only a little break, that wind continued to the finish of 3 miles in 32:34, or the pace in which I normally can jog an easy 5k, or 8th/11 in my AG.

We couldn’t manage to get a picture of the entire team contingent but here’s a bunch of us (picture stolen from Frank, our vice captain).

Total time: 1:33:44, for 5th in my age group out of 11.

On the surface, it’s not bad.  I got 5th last year.  I actually placed better in the bike this year.  I expected to tank the run (not quite as bad as I did, but still) so that was no surprise.  However, I had wayyy less people in my age group (11 vs 21 last year), so it’s a top quarter result last year vs top half (barely) this year.  To add insult to injury, this is the Jack’s Generic course.  I did 1:26 on that last year.  This year, I would have been second in my AG and finally podiumed.

However, I spent my pennies on Ironman this year.  I got to the finish and earned my M dot.  I have to cut myself a little slack on not PRing the crap out of things eight weeks removed from that.  That’s not how I work.  I know this, but yet, I’m still letting it frustrate me a little bit before I get over myself in a day or two.

I think the most fascinating thing as a student of the sport and also the most frustrating thing as a highly competitive person is that my husband DOES work like that.  He rocked out a great performance of 1:26-something and had his best AG placement so far (5th as well).  He beat me on every leg (even the swim by a few seconds).  At some point I hope things tip back to my favor (by me improving, not by him sucking more, heh) at least once in a while, but it’s cool to see him climbing the ranks in his age group to the point where he has his eyes on the podium someday soon too.

At the end of the race, I had resolved not to race Jack’s Generic in August.  Why suck at something repeatedly when you can just NOT go? However, after consideration, I think I have an opportunity to put myself into a petrie dish and do an experiment since it’s the exact same course.  I’m not willing to train a LOT over the next 7 weeks, but I am willing to focus.

What if I start going back to cycle class and doing more structured rides with other goals besides #happinesswatts and take FTP tests so I actually have an idea what sort of watts to hold? What if I actually do the running drills and do speed work and work on my turnover even if I don’t run much more than 10 miles a week?  What if I actually take my toys back to the pool and do drills and actual sets instead of just paddling?  What if I actually incorporate the plyometrics workouts in my week like I know I should?  In 5-7 hours per week max, can I get back to a performance which feels respectable?  Good, even?  It might be fun to try and see what happens even if I’m not really ready to go all in on anything just yet.

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