Adjusted Reality

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

Tag: racereports (Page 1 of 12)

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!

Cozumel 70.3 Bike and Run (Part 2)

When last we spoke, I was spitting vinegar and dropping all sorts of f-bombs over every inch of T1.

While I would be reluctant to want that feeling more frequently, I wish I could channel that pure adrenaline coursing through my veins, at least in shorter races.  I do well on the bike when I feel aggressive and I was ready to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war like nothing I’ve felt in competition yet. 

I had a RAD first hour, maintaining 20+ mph at around 150-160 power, just like I had planned.  I knew I’d have to pay for that pace somewhere along the course, but I enjoyed passing people, even if sometimes it took a few attempts for it to stick (things I learned this race: dudes with their names on the butt of their tri suit don’t like to be passed).  After a while,  the teeth-gritting seething rage wore off and I relaxed into a more normal cadence and started to race more within myself.

Suddenly, we turned from the nice, sheltered tailwind to the exposed east side of the island right into the fray.  This is fine, I thought to myself, I’ve got my power to watch.  150 watts are 150 watts at whatever pace the wind dictates.  And that worked for a while.  Then, for some reason, 150 watts sustained got HARD at any pace.  My legs started cramping and I started getting passed as well as passing other cyclists and that’s just WEIRD for me on a one loop bike course.

From about mile 20 on, I had one simple thought in my head, dear merciful and fluffy lord, let this ride be over soon.  And that’s an oddity for me so quickly into a bike ride.  My leg situation continued to deteriorate until we turned out of the wind.  My speed picked up but my power didn’t rally much.  My legs just felt DEAD.  I kept ping ponging with another girl, I’d get some oomph and pass her and then she’d just pass me back.  I couldn’t pass decisively like normal.

My husband caught me around mile thirty-five (he actually beat me on the swim by a minute but I blew past him in transition and cooked the first half of the bike harder than he did).  He told me he had the same problem on the windy side.  It gave me a boost to follow the lightning bolts on his butt (legally), so we passed back and forth for about 15 miles and then I got ahead the last few miles because THANK THE MERCIFUL DEITIES OF CYCLING the ride was over.

Bike time: 3:05:42. 18.1 mph. 38/85 AG.  Not the sub-3 hours I wanted, but still my best 56 mile race effort yet by about 10 minutes.  I’ll take it.  I was super excited for this course, regaling everyone that would listen that FLAT IS MY STRENGTH, but I’m revising that.  It’s my strength on a sprint, or even Olympic, but once you get much past that one hour mark, I need some elevation (read: speed/pace/power) changes.  I have some ideas on how to mitigate this on a similar course in the future (forced interval work), but it really threw my legs for a loop not to get any coasting breaks.  Nutrition note: I consumed about six bottles of gatorade, two of water, three gels (two caffeinated), four salt pills, and two 303 muscle relaxers.

Transition 2:

As soon as I got off the bike, the outsides of my feet cramped.  Of course, I was entirely on the other end of the transition zone, so I ran in my bike shoes shouting “Ouchie, ouchie, ouchie, ouch, ouch, ouuuuuch”.  I took a moment to sit down and put on my socks and tie my shoes and get mentally prepared to run.  This was it.  This was what I wanted to nail.  Sub-6 hours was still in my grasp if I had a stellar run.  I exited the parking garage and emerged into the daylight, ready to find the darkness.

Transition 2 time: 4:41.  I took a moment here intentionally, but this could have been better.  I also could have not had cramps and had a better rack position.  Life will go on.

Run:

Once I got my feet under me and onto the road my legs felt… good.  Not great, but I had some decent speed and turnover.  Okay, I thought, I can work with this.  My plan was to go out aggressively and see what happened.  I passed both Matt and Zliten in the first mile which ticked by at 10 minutes/mile exactly.  It felt like a comfortable effort and I continued on similarly for the first 4 miles, slowing only to shove as much gatorade and pepsi and bags of water in my mouth as I could without stopping.

I even had a triathlete first and peed whilst running.  If you remember, I had to pee on the swim (and didn’t), kinda had to pee the whole bike (but didn’t), and then someone hit me with a warm garden hose around mile 3 and my bladder just lost it.  Wheee, I peed in the streets of downtown Cozumel!  Party! Aren’t triathlons SO glamorous?  I was actually pretty stoked I saved time skipping a porta potty stop, but the happiness faded quickly after the turnaround.  The sun, my adversary, just backstabbed me when I hit a sunny stretch with no shade on the horizon.

It was the most frustrating thing.  My legs felt fine.  Nothing on my body was cramped up or really complaining in the slightest.  I was just way too fucking hot and I stopped.  Running a half marathon in the upper 80s and humid (read: feels like 100s when the sun was shouting at us, which was much more often than not) is no joke, especially when I’ve already been racing for four hours previous in said weather.  But, I trained for this.  I ran constantly in the fiery hot and hellishly humid conditions of the Austin summer.  And still it wasn’t enough. 

Zliten even passed me and I couldn’t muster the run to go with him.  That should paint a sanguine picture of my brain at that very moment.

I spent the next two miles feeling like I was having a pity party.  However, looking at my splits after the fact (13:01 and 12:46 respectively), they weren’t SO bad.  That’s not giving up.  That’s taking walk breaks to keep from keeling over on the side of the road and slowing through aid stations taking down two cups of gatorade, two bags of water, a cup of pepsi, and shoving ice down my bra so I could cool my core and take a stab at running another half mile before it all melted.  That’s still a fight, even if the battle looks different than imagined.

Around mile six, the torrential rain hit, flooding the streets in a flash.  You don’t walk another damn step until it’s sunny again, I told myself, you will make the most of this.  I passed the turn around, and started to smile a little for the first time in hours.  I stomped through puddles, took down a gel, and smacked my husband on the ass as I passed him around mile eight.  I was back, BABY! My splits were only about a minute per mile faster (11:45 and 11:58), but it felt more like conquering the run vs being conquered.  The glee was short lived, the sun started singing the song of it’s people again as we turned to the section with zero shade and it was once more trudging through hot soup.  Bleh.  Four more miles to go.

Miles nine and ten were pretty cruel, 12:44 and 12:53 respectively, though one of these included a short stop to hug my husband who was not yet to the turnaround and looked like he might keel over at any second.  He asked how I was doing and I replied stalwartly, “I’ve got a PR if I hold it together”.  I had been monitoring total race time for the last hour.  While I watched a sub-six hour finish slip away at mile four, I still had a sub 6:30 in my grasp… though it definitely wasn’t a given.   I couldn’t give up, in fact, I had to increase my pace a bit

I saw plenty of people giving up.  Triathletes were dropping like flies on the side of the road, either sitting on benches looking overheated or calling for SAG or medical.  I vowed to not be one of them.  I still found something inside that kept my feet turning over.  I still took walk breaks each mile, but the run segments got faster and faster with mile eleven at 11:50 and mile twelve and thirteen at 10:57 exactly.  By the time I saw the barricade at the end of the road, I was running nine, then eight minute miles, willing myself to get through the arch before the clock hit six hours and thirty minutes. 

Run time: 2:32:35. 11:42/mile pace. 49/85 AG.  While obviously this was not even close to my original goal, and not even a run leg PR, this is the hottest half marathon I’ve ever run.  I’m more than okay with my performance here for reasons I’ll explain below.

This is my face when I crossed the line.  This is someone who picked the important battles, maybe not the ones I expected, and kept fighting to have a shiny new half ironman PR, and possibly more importantly, to keep the house half ironman PR. 😉

Overall time: 6:28:01. 49/85 AG.

The aftermath:

Two successes to note: first, my new Roka kit is AMAZING.  I had NO chafing for a SIX AND A HALF HOUR HOT RAINY RACE.  I’m not sure if anyone but long course triathletes can understand how incredible this is, but showers after these races are usually among most painful things known to man or beast.  Not this time, no tears at all.  Also, I applied sunscreen ONCE, before the swim, and I can report that I had no sunburn the next day (skin was a little warm post-race but not lobster red) with many, many hours being exposed to the elements.  Heat acclimation success!

I finished right before 2pm and I was FLYING HIGH.  I got gatorade and my medal and shirt and then laid down on the grass in the shade to stretch waiting for Zliten and Matt to finish and then when they did, chattered away at them like a squirrel on speed, simultaneously stuffing my face with the best crappy pizza in history.  After we collected our bikes and stuff from transitions and walked the mile back to the hotel in the pouring rain (JERK WEATHER), I continued my face-stuffing at the hotel with a burger and some beer.

After our burgers, Zliten started feeling crappy and laid down, while I bounced around and posted incessantly on social media, answering replies in about .0215 seconds (THANKS BROWN PONY… ahem, I mean Pepsi).  I hit the first half life of the caffeine in my system around 6:30pm, collectively no more than a Starbucks coffee or two in total, but a massive amount for me, and started crashing HARD.

I began to feel cold outside in the 80+ degree weather, and when I climbed into bed, I started shivering uncontrollably while feeling hot and cold at the same time and my eyes wouldn’t stop watering. Every fiber of muscle in my legs and feet ached, and the top half of my body tingled. I felt incredibly nauseous and even tossed my cookies (I have an iron stomach, this is not normal for me) and eventually around 9pm, after he was feeling better, my husband had to bring me a plate of food to the room.  It took me another two hours and two sprites to be able to stomach more than a bite at a time.

I’ve had mild heat sickness before because I am an idiot triathlete who trains to do stupid shit in the heat like this all the time, but this was by far the worst go at it yet.  While it may sound crazy, while I was shaking and sweating in my blankets, it made me feel redeemed. I can’t much say I didn’t give this race my all, now can I?  Again, the fight may not have looked exactly like I pictured it even hours before, but I can’t say it wasn’t a valiant effort nonetheless.  I. did. not. back. down.

TL;DR – I’ll wear this shirt proudly.

The malady was short lived and I slept like a rock even if I did sweat through my pajamas (which was a WONDERFUL gift the rest of vacation ><).  For breakfast I ate fruit loop french toast, which is exactly as decadent it sounds, and proceeded to go drink beers and play in the ocean the rest of the day with my husband and Matt and family.  My conscience was clear, nothing heavy hung on my heart about race day, and it was time to play for a week!

Cozumel 70.3 – Pre-Race and Swim (Part 1)

I have said and thought and plastered all the words about this race race all over social media.

My name is here!

Subtitle – what you wear on the plane when you’re equally excited to race and also scuba dive on this trip.

Blogging about it feels like the continuous flagellation of a deceased equine.  However, in an effort to record my thoughts here for posterity, and also provide a path for improvement in the future, let me take up the stick one more time and the beatings shall commence!

Race prep in Austin went just about as ideal as ideal could be, minus the normal taper freakouts that I broke my heel (didn’t) and was getting sick (wasn’t) and that level of ease continued with our flight into Cozumel.  I didn’t have any crazy half-days without food, or flight delays that kept us from getting a decent night of sleep, in fact, we were able to hit packet pickup and engage in some retail therapy at the expo before we had dinner Friday night, built the bikes, and got a great night of sleep.  The only hitch was both of us had overlooked our check in date at Hotel Cozumel was actually SATURDAY, but thankfully, they had a room for us anyway and only rolled their eyes a little bit behind our backs at the stupid gringo tourists who couldn’t keep their ish straight.

My husband is the ultimate friend-maker.  Breakfast the next day was hopping at 9am and there was no immediate seat space.  Instead of waiting, he asks the first single person to share a table, and lo and behold, it’s pro triathlete Angela Naeth!  We follow each other on Instagram, and it was a really serendipitous experience.  She was super nice (and fast – she ended up getting third!) and it was fun to talk triathlon over pancakes. 

Super shaky selfie but PROOF!

Even with so many things checked off the long to do list already, Saturday was SO busy.  After fueling up, we rode our bikes up and down the street next to the hotel, changing gears and resetting our sensors until we were satisfied they were in good mechanical order before riding the 5 miles on the main road to drop off our bikes.  I was really hesitant to do this, but I hoisted up my big girl bike shorts and within a mile, I found that riding bikes here was quite comfortable, more so than most places in the US, actually.  Everyone actually paid attention because there was always bikes or scooters on the road all the time, not to mention the roads are in great condition.

After getting the required bodymarking (? – that’s new for the day before) and nestling our bikes snug in their racks for sleepaway camp, we puttered around the docks a bit to get the lay of the land.  Then, we quickly realized we were getting zapped by noonday sun rolling around sans sunscreen.  Not ideal for the day before racing a hot, humid, windy 6+ hour race.

“Get a picture with both my Bicycle Sport Shop shirt and my Wattage Cottage socks!” “Oh crap, I’m wearing socks and sandals… socks only it is!” (sigh)

We boarded the shuttle back to the hotel, ate lunch, put together our run bags, and then hoofed it to transition two, about a mile from the hotel.  I had to pack light because space was at a premium, so once I dropped off my only pair of running shoes, I was left with my massage sandals.  Those walked another two miles through the grocery store and back to the hotel.  I sucked down a powerade in two seconds because I was dehydrated like woah by that point.  My legs and back and heel ached.  I clocked about 1o miles on my feet (not counting the bike and the quickie swim I had later) by dinner.  If I could turn back time, I’d spend less time puttering around swim start, and take the cruiser bikes the hotel so nicely offered for the rest of my errands instead of walking.

My pre-race nutrition wasn’t perfect, but it was as adequate as possible making use of the hotel buffet.  I drank plenty of water that evening and supplemented with nuun, had lots of carb options (though whole grain was few and far between), and got whatever meat looked reasonable and safe for protein (and backed it up with some protein bars), and there were plenty of veggies and salad available.  I didn’t overeat to uncomfortability (plenty of time for that later!) but I felt full and fueled.

The food is almost irrelevant with a view like that…

I went to bed feeling a little worried about being fatigued, but without a time machine, all I could do was sleep all the sleeps possible.

Race morning, I was up with the alarm pretty quickly, and thankfully, all my parts felt like they were in working order.  I spent the morning listening to my Confidence and Courage playlist and going over my race strategy.  Apparently, in Mexico, english muffins don’t exist, so we ended up with pre-toasted bread (!!!) and honey from the grocery store to go with the packets of almond butter we brought.  I drank most of a giant coconut water and also a gatorade.  I can’t eat a ton in the morning but I can suck down sugar water like a champ!

The bus quickly transported us to the swim start, and I finished up all the last minute prep has become rote to me as this is my eleventh race this year.  Getting my tires pumped up.  Setting up my three transition items (shoes, helmet, sunglasses). Resetting my stuff up under the bike clothes bag once the rain dumped on our heads.  Looking to apply sunscreen but finding it was actually Vaseline instead.  Wiping some of that lube on my unsuspecting husband (LOVE YOU), and then finding actual sunscreen and applying it.  The porta potty lines were long but they had a dedicated volunteer giving out toilet paper, so that was handy, and all too quickly I was stuffing all the carbs I had eaten over the last two days in my swim skin and merging with the mass of spandex-clad humanity. 

Another “if I had a time machine” moment – I got in the rolling swim start line after they dropped the pace corrals.  By the time I realized where I stood, Zliten and I were about 200 people (out of 2000) from the end of the line and it would have been incredibly difficult (and rude) to shove my way further up the dock.  Que sera, sera, I thought… and kept thinking, and thinking, as I started the race 27 minutes after the first age grouper.  At least the Dolphins at Chankanaab Park kept us entertained with flips and tricks while we waited!

Dolphins back there!!!

Swim:

I joked to Zliten that he should go first, since I was totally going to pee the minute I hit water.  Once I got going, there were just too many bodies and combat and fists.  I tried to find a line to draft, but since I was with people who planned to swim 10+ minutes slower than I was, I didn’t have much luck.  It was just masses of bodies.  Slow moving ones.  This was totally my fault for taking too long to poop, but it still made for a very frustrating swim.  The solace was when I finally found Wattage Cottage bolts in the water and figured at least I could save some energy and draft off my damn husband, who was going a *little* faster than the crowd.

It took 21 minutes to go out (maybe 900 yards), and then 2 minutes to swim about 10 feet directly against the current.  This was hilarious.  We were swimming at a 45 degree angle and STILL it was almost impossible not to be carried past the buoys.  We were like salmon swimming upstream.  I kind of had to hoist myself on top of the mass of human fish to save from getting swept away or kicked or punched too much.  Once we got around and swam with the current it was fairly easy breezy.  I enjoyed those 12 minutes.  Then we had to fight the current one more time to get to the dock and that’s about where I lost it when someone actually grabbed my arm to try to use me to pull them along.

I screamed all sorts of obscenities into the water and shook their hand off and sprinted quickly for the stairs… which took at least an extra minute because so many people kept cutting in front of me and squeezing through.  By the way – I still hadn’t peed.  I think I was too angry to pee.  That would be a good band name – TOO ANGRY TO PEE.  I defiantly hit my watch lap button at 39:42 while I was hanging onto the ladder waiting because I was frickin’ done swimming, but I knew my actual time would be slower.

Swim time: 41:08.  2:07/100m – 49/85 AG.  Not even my PR (about 40 seconds off) for what’s supposed to be one of the fastest swims on the circuit.  Not my favorite first leg of a race.

Transition 1:

I have never been so angry during a race in my life as when I exited the swim.  There’s a particular race picture (here if you want to dig through, I just can’t quite pull the trigger to spend 60 bucks on the set even though I was actually tempted this time) that made me LAUGH so hard, I’m shooting some mad daggers ahead of me.  I remember the full run through the parking lot (which was actually pretty speedy), I spent saying the F word, out loud even, a whole lot, about the people ahead of me and how I was going to absolutely destroy those stupid mother effers on the bike.

I was worried about taking off the swim skin under pressure since it’s tiiiight but it slid off in mere seconds, and since I’ve simplified my T1 to only include my helmet, sunglasses, and bike shoes, I was in and out and on with my life rather quickly.

Transition 1 time: 3:55 (and it was a rather long run from the water to the bike mount line – almost a third of a mile).  Happy with my efficiency here.

I’ll pick up next time when my feet hit the pedals.

Cleveland National Championships Race #2

After what I had just done, and what I was to do the next day, I knew I needed some massive food.  My goal was to redo my pre-race meal plan with a turkey sandwich for lunch, and considering I was already in the hole, it needed to be epic.  The Butcher and the Brewer did not disappoint.  It is one, if not THE best sandwich I’ve ever eaten (top left corner).

After lunch, I finally got cleaned up with the most painful bath/shower.  Humidity + my gear not really fitting right because of weight loss = SO MUCH CHAFING.  Ow.  Then, we had a glorious little nap before we had to wake up and do the whole commute to the race thing all over again.

Zliten rode the tri bike, I rode a bike share bike, and he dropped off his steed.  I then rode my ride share bike up to the closest place I could rack it (1 mile away) while he walked there, and then we walked a mile to where there were two bike share bikes, and rode those the two miles back to the hotel.  I had 33k steps that day, and the entirety of my running race was approximately 12k.  It was not exactly super restful!  Good thing I walk A LOT.

We had 15% off at the hotel restaurant, and it sounded like the easy option, so we dined there.  It was actually really, really great and stood on it’s own even without the convenience sake!  We started with salads, and they had super yummy homemade dressings, and then a chicken, mashed potato, asparagus main course with this delicious dijon sauce.  We split some blackberry wine sorbet for dessert that was drool-worthy as well!  It’s actually kind of fun to eat back all those calories versus indulging in post race beers… though I probably won’t make a habit of it.  I really like post race drinks!

I slept a little better that night, even though I think the next night’s wedding DJ was EVEN LOUDER, but still I woke up dragging ass.  I figured it was due to racing the day before, two bad nights of sleep, so I just did all the things I did the day before as if by rote.  The shuttle was just as convenient and we got set up and started to walk down to the water, and then an announcement came through about 10 minutes before the first wave started: the swim had been cancelled due to unsafe currents.

Well, considering my experience the day before was considered SAFE, I was JUST FINE with them cancelling the swim.  However, they decided to make the format a run-bike-run situation, and if there’s something I don’t like lately, it’s running fast (or at all, really) without a bike ride first.  I was happy that today was simply for funsies, and I stayed loose while lining up with my wave of ladies.  We were sent off in groups of 4 per “karate chop”, as they called it.

Just hangin’ out with the leg lamp.  As you do.

Run #1:

I poisitoned myself in the back for various reasons, and it went exactly how I expected it to go… everyone ran out at “sprint to the finish” pace because everyone else next to them was doing the same thing, leaving me in the dust going about 8:45-9 minute miles (which was probably too fast for me anyway, but still felt like I was running through sand compared to everyone else). Then, we hit the first big hill and I passed a bunch of people who did not expect to go up quite so quickly.  I started feeling awful but I figured it was just sprinting upwards faster than I should have and I just tried to run through the terribleness.

But the terribleness didn’t go away like normal.  On that stupid hill of the first run of a sprint duathlon, I got lady cramps that went from zero to 11 in about 2 minutes.  Looking back, Zliten said it makes sense because I was really out of it that morning, but I just figured travel, lack of sleep/rest, and racing two days in a row.  I tried to keep under 10 minute miles, then just tried to keep running, then found a bathroom at 1.2 miles and crashed there.  I couldn’t stop sweating and shaking and just sat hunched over trying to either cry or puke or do SOMETHING to expel the demon from my body.  I had stopped my watch at that point because I was just DONE.

My garmin says I sat there for a little over 6 minutes, but it felt like an eternity.  While I didn’t actually HURL, it was the exact same feeling and situation as this fateful turkey trot.  Just as it passed last time, after a while, I found the ability to at least stand up and take some steps forward.  I was at least going to make it back to transition on my own accord, even if just to hand in the chip.

Once I got out into the fresh air I felt a little better, and I walked a little faster.  And then I tried jogging.  Then, before I knew it, I was back at a steady, if conservative, run clip and I figured it couldn’t hurt to try to ride the 12-ish miles, even if it was slow.

Run time: 23:13.  I came into T1 last by at least 5 minutes.

Transitions:

Note: I’m actually going to skip transitions on this one since I don’t have a record and they don’t either.  My finish time includes about 6 minutes unaccounted for by run/bike/run time, and about 3 minutes each seems reasonable to me considering the size of the transition and the state I was in.

Bike:

I got out, got going, and noted that I felt OKAY, so I got a gel down (I know caffeine is a bit of a painkiller and I didn’t have anything stronger on me…) and got to working.  I had too much chafing to put my heart rate monitor on that morning, so I don’t have any of that data to work with, but I do have power and I averaged 5 more watts THIS day vs the day before (9 more normalized), so I didn’t completely soft pedal, but I would definitely say it’s one of the more conservative sprint rides I’ve done this year.

On the way out, the same headwind plagued us, but I was ready for it.  On the way to the turnaround, I started seeing ladies that looked like they might be in my age group, so at the turn around I went hunting.  I caught 7 people from my wave, 2 of them from my age group.  It was fun racing a similar bike course two days in a row!  I didn’t love some parts of the freeway we rode on, but all in all, it was a pretty great course.

Also, my husband is a rockstar ninja cyclist.  I didn’t see any of this happen, but a woman passed him very aggressively about half a mile to the finish, and then as she flew down the hill, she wrecked her bike by overcorrecting a turn.  She flew off her bike and it skidded across the road.  It actually hit Zliten in the leg and then on his bike frame but he leaned into it and stayed upright.  He actually ran over her skidding bike tire and continued on to the finish without wrecking.

My bike wasn’t so eventful, however, I didn’t have any debilitating cramps and rolled into transition like I might actually finish this race.

Bike time: 39:38 (18.8 mph)

Run #2:

I got back out on the run course and at this point, my goal is just to flipping finish.  When I started on the course the second time, the 60+ year old men were getting their “karate chops” to start the first leg of their race, and some of them just FLEW by me.  I jogged up the first hill very very conservatively and the demon cramps did not appear, so I increased my pace a little.  I worked on hunting people down but I kept the effort to something like a 10k-half marathon paced run versus what I’d normally try to run the closing 2 miles of a sprint triathlon. 

I flew down the last hill for the fourth time in 24 hours and crossed the finish line.

Run #2 time: 16:17 (9:30/mile pace)

Overall time: 1:24:59 – 70/72 AG

If I was able to match Zliten’s time of 1:11 (and we’re usually fairly even so I imagine I would have been close if not a little behind due to fatigue), I would have hit approximately mid-pack for my age group, which I would have been stoked about.  In this case, I was just extremely grateful for my patience to wait until the cramps passed, and my wisdom to not overdo it to try to make up time (or conversely, give up) and have a decent performance when I wasn’t in a bathroom, hoping to die.

After the race we hung out with friends (and I sat two chairs away from THE SISTER MADONNA BUDER at the food tent and was too out of it to realize until later), and puttered around until they let us grab our bikes.  We made the final commute back (four round trips in three days…) to the hotel, with a parade full of people riding on tri bikes.  We got cleaned up and then we spent the next day and a half playing and sightseeing and eating reprehensible bar food in Downtown Cleveland!

We actually even went INSIDE the Rock and Roll hall of fame the next day!

I had a super fun time, and glad that this was just a “for fun” race – the travel delays and the sheer amount of non-race related activity would have frustrated me otherwise, but it was a fantastic training weekend (and practice run) for Cozumel.

The same race is there again next year.  The deal is, if Zliten qualifies, we go!  I have to say I would NOT be disappointed to go back.  The cool temperatures, the fun downtown area, the neat hotel we stayed at, and the AMAZING food definitely made me indeed think, “Cleveland rocks!”.

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…

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