Adjusted Reality

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

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Who am I to dare? (Texasman Race Report)

Once again, race week was not ideal. Some random baloney at work hit me kind of hard and I sucked at sleeping and had a minor nervous breakdown – which for me, doesn’t really look like much outwardly, but I was probably a little more curt and cranky than my best self by the end of Friday.

Saturday morning, though, I woke up feeling fresh and renewed and ready to go play in the woods for the weekend. The first thing on the agenda was hitting the Roka warehouse sale on the way out of town, in which we spent hundreds of dollars on thousands of dollars in triathlon items. Score! Then, we made the long drive to Plano for packet pickup, and then Lake Ray Roberts to camp and race. We left the house for the Roka sale before 9am and listened to my epic classic rock playlist for many hours, pulling into camp just short of 5pm. It’s a long trek for a sprint triathlon for sure.

I was a superb eater Saturday. I’ve been at a pretty decent deficit lately, but I fueled well. I had a protein bar for breakfast, a footlong subway turkey for lunch, jerky and watermelon to snack on, and a salad, potato, and chicken for dinner. I hydrated DECENTLY well without needing to stop every 2 minutes to pee on the drive up.

While I had been utterly lacking in training the week of the race (I ran once for 2 miles easy, biked once for an hour fairly easy to make sure I remembered how to do that), I eased into the water about 6pm to remember how to swim and make sure my swimskin was still intact and fit and found a nice stroke and pace and figured that would have to do.

I slept only about 6 hours, but for a 5 am wakeup, that’s not bad, and it was the opposite of fitfull, I crashed hard. In the morning, I had my two cups of earl grey tea, my gluten free everything bagel, and two sport beans. When I hit the restroom, I looked at myself in the mirror, and for a moment, I believed that the person looking back at me looked like someone that could actually win. That is something right there. I’ll remember that one.

At the race site, I set up my transition, hit the potties, ate my rocket fuel gel, and found my confidence start to waver. I felt like all the fit girls I saw had a 40-something age marked on their calf. This wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. “Who am I to dare,” I thought to myself in a moment of insecurity, “everything last year was just a fluke.” I knew that was my irrational brain trying to nope out of being tough, so I reminded myself of the process. The population of the day didn’t change my strategy. Get out in front on the swim and find feet. Don’t eff around in transitions. Chase on the bike. Run your ass off.

As you’ll see below from the age group vs overall placement, 40-44 was indeed FREAKING STACKED, it wasn’t simply my imagination.

Swim:

I got to a spot on the beach in the front and high-kneed into the water and got to swimming hard. It’s not often I find myself in a mass start these days, and there was a lot of jostling with my neoprene-clad friends. I held my line and hit my tangents pretty well even going directly into the sun. I had someone tickling my feet (dangit, *I* was supposed to find the feet, not you, mysterious stranger!) half the swim but I could never really find anyone to return the favor ahead of me. I settled for finding some clear water and swimming smooth, and I was actually pretty pleased when I saw the time on my watch when I crossed the timing chip.

Swim time: 9:17 (1:51/100m). 15th F overall 5th AG. I’m actually really proud of this pace, but the placement sucks. Spoiler: only one of the girls who placed in my age group beat me on the swim and not by much – some people went out a little hard and faded. However, I’m kind of glad I didn’t know how far I was back in placement at that point, I might have been cranky about it.

T1:

It’s a long run and the pavement is very rocky, so I took two seconds to grab my sandals under the tree. While I ambled quickly up the hill, I took all the swim things off my face and peeled my swim skin down to my waist. Everything went fairly smoothly except the couple extra seconds it took to get the swim skin over my hips. I’ll peel it down a little further when running next time.

T1 time: 3:06 13th F overall 5th AG. I dunno. Maybe I could have done better but I don’t feel like anything went wrong or there was any faffing around.

Bike:

Even if I’m a little less confident and feeling a bit untested on the bike this year, going hunting on two wheels is my favorite. I mounted my steed and got. to. work. There was a nice, fairly steady uphill but not too uphill section out of the park and I just pass, pass, passed. My goal for the race, but especially on the bike, was mostly extrinsic motivation instead of oogling my own power numbers, so I literally just put targets on everyone’s backs and readied my arrows. Ready, aim, fire, repeat.

Because I tend to think in Dungeons&Dragons terms these days, my thoughts went to barbarianism every time I had to make a difficult pass – rage and reckless attacks. It made a little more sense in my race brain than now when I’m relating the actual mechanics, but to make a successful pass, you need to not only get ahead, but you need to drop the person behind you and make them think that they don’t have a chance to catch you (rage). I needed to have the oomph to not only get ahead, but fly by them at a speed much higher than they were maintaining (reckless). It worked, as I only got passed back ONCE going up a hill I decided to spin easy, and I never saw them again after I bombed past as soon as it flattened.

Very close to the turnaround, I started counting girls and they were all pretty much bunched up within a few minutes of each other (and me). I picked off three before I made the last turn, and thought I might have been in third at that point.

I took it a little easier on the way back into the park, I spun a little lower resistance higher cadence to hope to ready my legs to run because I felt a little tension in my left hamstring (which is not a place it’s supposed to be on the bike) and I didn’t want to cramp. I wasn’t peeping my power *too* much, but the average I saw was damn near close to my FTP, which was both impressive and a little worrying as that effort shouldn’t have been a thing I could do, and certainly not one after which I should be able to run well.

Bike 50:52 (19.6 mph) – 5th F overall 2nd AG. 174w average, 188w normalized. I am more than happy with the process and the output, it was a tougher day than last year (to the tune of 10w higher for the same pace when I’m ~12 lbs lighter). I might have done a little better to let up a little less the last few miles but maybe it saved my run so… *shrug*. I’m peace with this.

T2:

Uneventful. I was sad they weren’t calling out places like last year but I focused on getting my gear changed expediently and ready to run. My new hokas are a little troublesome in transitions, the tongue likes to slip back and takes a little adjustment but it was but a few seconds to fix. I headed out to see if my hunting prowess now extended to this next leg as well.

T2 time: 1:17. 18th F overall 4th AG. Okayfine.

Run:

Quickly, I found my legs forgot themselves as we set out up the hill. It felt like a repeat of last year when someone blew right by at the beginning with a 49 on her calf and I could not figure out how to go with her. She wasn’t going that much faster but it was uphill and my calves were whispering rumors about potential cramping if I abused them too much too early, so I let it be, hung back, and resolved that if that was the masters win, I would waste it all to catch her on the downhill.

Then, I had another girl blow by me. She also had 40-something on her leg. I stuck with my effort, but I was really demoralized by the end of mile 1. As I approached the turnaround, I counted women – no one was that far ahead but far enough and going fast enough that I had no confidence I could catch them. So, I went strategic. I would maintain my pace – the two gears under redline I had right then, and if anyone faded, I would save my kick to attack then.

Sadly, that meant one more girl blew by me at a pace I couldn’t answer to on the way in, and I never ended up catching anyone. If I have one regret, the thought that was playing in the theater of my mind during the run was that I just wanted this sh!tshow to be over, I went to the bad place. I had 49-year old within my sights the entire time, but there was absolutely no advantage to me catching her besides perhaps some pride recovered and some practice to see if I could actually do it, but I decided to let her have her finish nine seconds ahead of me and save the fight for another day.

Run: 27:59 (9:01/mile) 17th F overall 4th AG. Let’s talk about the good – this is a great pace for me in a race (if you ignore that I’ve been running off the bike in the 8-something minute miles, though not after a bike with this level of effort, for sure). I placed higher on the run than the swim which is a huge thing for me. However, I think I could have pulled this pace down a little and I’ll talk more about that below.

Total: 1:32:30 8th F overall 3rd AG. Honestly, I only lucked out because the OVERALL winner was 41 and MASTERS winner was 43, and they took them out of the age group awards. I would have been 5th.

The encouraging part is that the winner clocked a 1:28:44. That’s less than four minutes faster than me. That’s fathomable in the future or maybe even a magical unicorn day – which this was absolutely not. My age group winner was 1:30:48. That’s less than 2 minutes faster. That’s even more doable. Our paces were really close, she just had a bit more on the bike than I did and she was 90 seconds ahead of me on the run already, otherwise, I may have been able to find the motivation to beat her 8:50/mile pace if we were racing side by side. I had cards left to play if I found myself in the position to play them, I fully believe that.

One one hand, I’m at peace with the run. Yeah, I didn’t quite accomplish what I was after – the pace nor the feeling nor the process, but I made a strategic decision in the moment. I’m left wanting, I’m left feeling like I missed an opportunity for growth as an athlete, but I’m also left with less wear and tear. Even so, I need to remember that if extrinsic motivation wanes, turn to intrinsic. I think if I would have seen how close I was to 8-something minute mile pace, I would have increased my effort just enough, and maybe THAT would have been enough to catch Mrs. 49.

On the other hand, the mad passionate irrationalist is left wondering what would have happened if I would have given every inch to that run. The realist keeps coming back to the fact that I don’t think I had the runway to chase down first within my capacity, the rest of the race being the same. I could have practiced the chase, but I think that’s all that it would have been – practice and still coming up short.

Luckily, I have some more chances at this practice in 2019. My next race is Windcrest, where I hold a bunch of Strava QoMs on the bike course and also have a nice shot at first again. It all depends on who shows up, including my own legs, lungs, head, and heart.

A crack to let the light in – Austin Indoor Tri

I feel like I say this every week lately, but it was a heckuva week.

The day before, I wasn’t sure if the cracks were letting the light in or just breaking me.  But you have to toe the line to find out…

A thing I’ve pondered on lately is that when you really and truly want to change, when you really want to transform into something different, life tends to present you the opportunities to do so.  Over the last few months I’ve been really delving into my creative side, developing my leadership skills, and then this week, I got pulled right by the nose into some left brain analytics and logic and pattern recognition work.  I still maintain that it’s EXCITING and I feel STRETCHED vs STRETCHED THIN, so it’s all good.

However, it’s not optimal when you wake up at 1:30am on race day contemplating the future of your project and how it relates to the four quadrants and applying that analogy to triathlon and triathletes as well.   I watched the clock tick over from 1:59 to 3:00 am (daylight savings… wheee?) and after a while just gave up and read my book until my alarm went off at 4:30am.  Great night of pre-race sleep, check! (as Borat says… NOOOOTTTTTT!)

Always looking for silver linings, being awake already made it easier to do all the pre-race things and I got in a foam roll, boots, and a spin before we had to leave, besides all the other normal things I put in my body (caff beans, two earl grey teas – hot, everything bagel + cream cheese).  We arrived with plenty of time, we got the lay of the land, and holy crap, we then had 3 minutes to get situated before the race start.  Scramble!!!

First jaunt in my new #teambss kit.  I’m a fan!

Swim:

As I started the swim, my goggles completely flooded. I had to doggie paddle to the end of the lane and stop to clear them. Then the same thing happened as I submerged again. SIGH. I took the time at 50 yards in to remove them entirely from my head, fix and adjust things, and yank them tight. I had some droplets bouncing around but they were holding so finally my swim began in earnest!

I resisted the urge to start sprinting and instead held the same uncomfortably comfortable pace I had planned and noticed I was gaining time on the clock each lap from my expectations.  Later I discovered the pool was 25 YARDS not METERS, so that was expected, but it did the job to buoy my confidence that this wasn’t going to be a complete shitshow after all.  I ended at the far end of the pool at 21 lengths (525 yards) in just under 10 minutes, which wasn’t horrible, considering the goggle drama.

Bike:

I’ve done this a few times now so I was able to transition quickly and was set up and ready to go in the spin room well before it was time to start.  Once we got going, one of the volunteers told me that we were supposed to stick on a specific resistance – which for me is the equivalent of pedaling slightly downhill.  Okay, not my favorite, but if that’s how the rules go, I’ll work with that… thirty minutes of extremely high cadence drills coming up!

Felt weird, man.  Spinning at 110-120 cadence for that long taxes your system in completely different ways than I normally ride.  My power was suuuuuuuper low (120-130W), and my legs got sore in places they don’t typically, and I wasn’t breathing very hard but my heart rate was up there around 165 bpm average.  To pass the time, I calculated the most efficient way to finish – each tenth of a mile was taking me about 20 seconds, so I did some really fast spinning to line that up with the moment when the minute ticked over to x:00, and then held my pace.  Sure enough, I went from 8.8 to 8.9 right as the clock struck 30.  Pacing win!

Pressure makes diamonds…

Run:

This was probably the thing that mattered most to me.  I’ve really been working on my running, both physically with good form, turnover, and speed, as well as mentally with not being effing intimidated by a pace on my watch or moments where the effort starts to feel slightly beyond me, because, oftentimes, it recenters within my capabilities if I simply let time pass.  While I was worried that doing other difficult stuff all week month might have worn down my will here, I found it was actually the opposite.  We are what we repeatedly do.

I started at the same 7.0 (8:34/mile) pace I did last time, and oddly enough… it felt good.  Not easy, but not outside of the realm of my capacity.  Someone at work recently called me tough as nails and that permeated my mind during the run.  Tough as effing nails.  No surrender.  Don’t back down this time.  There was a moment where I started to falter my mind pleaded with me to decrease the pace a little, but I talked myself out of it and when I got to the second half of the run, I thought, Okay, you made it this far, time to crank it.

I’m sure I looked like a crazy person mouthing the words to whatever was on my music at that time and flashing myself the horns when I made the choice every so often to INCREASE the pace instead of backing down, but I’ve gotten over that.  Triathletes, we’re all a little mad here, we all look a stupid in wet spandex, why not go full straight jacket, right?  With five minutes to go, I found a wall when I ventured into 7 minute mile territory, and had to halt my progression a little, but I kept on turning over those legs, trying not to hurl.  I found something extra with about 90 seconds to go and willed the time to pass before I had to surrender.  And it did.  And I didn’t.

As I reached 20 minutes, my treadmill ticked over to 2.39 (8:22/mile).  This is ludicrous speed for me – well below my 5k PR pace from 10 years ago.  I thought 2.33 (8:35/mile) was insurmountable in January.  I beat that by 13 seconds per mile today and if I’m being honest, I wasn’t dry heaving at the end so I probably could have found just a little more in me somewhere if I looked hard enough.

Matchy matchy…. this one also had a pretty superb race himself…

After cheering on the other waves, we had a little informal awards ceremony.  I tied for first on the swim, was first on the bike by almost half a mile, and came in fourth on the run.  They didn’t say anything about overall placement, but it’s very likely, unless someone tied me on the swim, came in second on the bike, and then got first or maybe second on the run, with the points schedule Lifetime Tri uses, that I came in first overall.  I definitely at least podiumed.  Third race of the year, a swing and a hit!

Let’s be fair, this is a triathlon aimed at beginners, so I’m not expecting that I’m going to be finding the top step overall when I start racing larger races outside, but maybe it’s not THAT far away at the sprint distance.  My swim is pretty solid, I can tear it up on the bike, and maybe, just maybe, with some continued progress, this is the year I can hold my own on the run or maybe even make up some ground – aka run those beetches down.

Or software… the medals were rubber!  It was neat!

The way I get there is continued (and maybe a little less half-arsed as of late, if I’m being honest) attention to body composition, and lest I sound like a broken record, confidence in my growing capabilities, courage to stick it out when it gets tough (as nails), and the vulnerability to lay it all out there even when I’m not sure I can hold the line. Because my racing so far in 2019 has shown me that I CAN.

Indoor Tri – #fasterasamaster

Second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse. Seven days removed from giving everything in my pursuit of the finish line at 3M, I was ready to rip it all up once more at maximum effort.

I’ve raced two, even three weeks in a row at times, so I know how to do this. Very little training during the week, check. Lots of rest, and a nice low stress work week, errr, big NOPE there. Proper nutrition, uhmmm, well, okay, I know HOW to do this well, even if maybe I didn’t follow my own advice in this particular instance.  I crashed into Friday feeling a little worn, but I knew I had most of the weekend to do myself well, as well as the benefit of racing in the last wave of the day at 11am (sleep, precious sleeeeep!).

Saturday was fantastic regardless of my sins and failures previous. I slept well until I woke naturally around 9:15, ate a bagel, and spent the morning lazing around until I finally hopped on the trainer.  The plan was twenty minutes with spinups every two minutes directly into a one mile run, easy with strides. In both instances, I had to keep telling myself, “slow down slow down SLOW DOWN, you need to save it for tomorrow.”

The leg beasts felt ready to roar the next day, which was encouraging, considering the week I’d had. I have some pretty steep goals: PR every leg from every single time I’ve done this race, even the crazy 8:30/mile pace I held many years ago when I was more of a runner. Should I achieve all of my lofty goals, I stashed a nice bottle of Baby Blue waiting in the cupboard for me to break my January resolution for one day only (whiskey and I decided it was best that we see other people after spending too much time together this fall).  Well, again, because I made the deal with myself for 3M.  Whatever motivates, right?

Power food!!!

For posterity, I ate half a club sandwich + some brussels sprouts + some french fries for lunch, and chicken, potatoes, and a greek side salad for dinner.  I slept fantastically, 9 hours with over 4 hours of deep sleep.  While the days leading up may not have been stellar, I did Saturday right.

I woke around 8:30 (suuuuuch a luxury for a race day), and did things similarly to the week before.  Morning included a mini bagel with bacon and cream cheese (and everything bagel seasoning!), two cups of earl grey tea, two caff beans, a quick trainer ride, a quick foam roll, a short drive to Lifetime Fitness, and we were off to the races, literally.

I felt almost jittery from caffeine already (it doesn’t take much), but Zliten convinced me to take my watermelon rocket fuel anyway.  Wheeee! I planned to push the swim harder than I normally would due to the format. Typically, I like to use the first leg as a warmup and then go chase on the bike, but since you get points for your rankings for each sport and not just a finish time there’s a different strategy to employ.

I swam a consistent pace that kept me slightly out of breath and my comfort zone, but not too far (I wasn’t shattered at the end).  19.5 lengths has been my best so far, and I smashed my record by hitting the wall at 21 right as the clock hit 10 minutes.  This is kind of surprising as I have been in the pool very few times since Waco in October, and I also had to deal with some rando dude hopping in my lane late and smacking me repeatedly while he did the breaststroke the entire time. It’s okay, I’m used combat in open water, it was annoying but didn’t shake me up too much.

Unicorns, rainbows, stars, and SO MUCH CAFFEINE!

The transition was fairly uneventful, ten minutes sounds like a long time, but it’s always JUST ENOUGH, as it was this time as I started spinning while loading up my playlist as they counted down from 10, 9, 8…

This level of effort on the bike was unfamiliar as I’ve spent the last few months riding smiley pace with the only exception being the FTP test I took earlier this month. I tried to tap into that effort, willing my speed to stay where it needed to be (21 mph) to beat my best of 10.4 miles. It was really challenging, and I had to take a quick jog out of the saddle every few minutes to recover, but I hid inside my carefully cultivated playlist and worked through the pain of my lungs and legs burning and ended at 10.5 miles in 30 minutes.

Two legs down, two PRs, but diggity DANG I was already dusted and only had 5 minutes to transition (up and down some stairs and across the building), which got me to my treadmill with like 90 seconds to go and not feeling very ready to run, let alone run fast.

It would have been easy to back off on the run, but I decided to ride this wave of confidence I’ve been feeling and tell my brain to suck it up, buttercup because I COULD DO THIS.  I set the treadmill at the exact pace (7.0 with a wee sprint at the end) I needed to beat my best of 2.33 miles in 20 minutes. Through the first five minutes it felt oddly doable. The next three minutes felt like a long, painful hour. I actually took a itty bitty breather in the middle, stepping back to a more comfortable pace (6.5), letting my heart rate settle a bit, but quickly returned to where I needed to be within a few minutes and tucked in to the effort. With about five minutes to go, I started the increasing my speed to get to true puke pace to meet my goal. Doing some fuzzy math, I knew I was close.

So I gave it everything I had for the last few minutes and hung on as I crested 8, then 8.5 miles an hour. And when the clock ticked from 19:59 to 20:00, my mileage changed from 2.33 to 2.34.  For reference, 8:30 per mile is my standalone 5k PR pace from 10 years ago, which I also haven’t been able to beat since.  I jumped onto the sides of the treadmill as I hit pause and tucked my head between my knees for a minute because I. was. spent.

Victory whiskey!  Can’t lie that this popped in my head a few times when things got tough on the run...

I’ve done this race over five or six different years and I performed better on Sunday in each leg than I ever have before. This doesn’t sound like a huge deal, except I am probably the LEAST trained I’ve been going into this race, ever, and I’ve had some pretty bright moments before, especially that one run many many years ago.  I had ZERO EFFING CLUE how I was going to surpass than and  I DID IT, it just took some friggin’ mental fortitude.

I was incredibly excited to tick every ambitious box I set in front of myself.  I’m proud of what my body was able to do, but even more than that, I’m proud of my mind.  Confidence and courage are pretty magical things, along with stars and unicorns, and I have carried all those things with me through the last two weeks.  That’s all that really mattered to me that day.  

However, I was also pleasantly surprised that my first race as a master (40+, even though I’m still 39, I’ll be 40 at the end of the year so it counts), I came out first in that division.  Even better, I was 3rd female overall, and 9th overall, and with 80+ people, that means I almost crested the top 10% of the entire race.  It was the cherry on the top of an amazing err… Sunday!

Now, it’s time to start getting real.  I have no idea where these last two weeks have come from, but it’s been a pleasant surprise that’s buoyed my already budding confidence.  If I can pull these results out of an untrained body but strong and confident mind, who knows what I can do with the same mental state and a few months of SPECIFIC training.  It’s time to eat the foods I should eat and not the ones I shouldn’t, lift the heavy things, and train short and fast for sprint triathlons this spring!

3M Half Marathon – when the stars align

Life has been whirlwhind-ly hectic this week/month/year, and I feel like I used a lot of words on social media to talk during the days around the race, but I still always like to put together these reports for posterity. So, let’s do this!

This is the first year I haven’t had any high hopes for this race.  3M has fooled me enough times already.  I’ll sign up really early in the year, purporting that THIS IS MY YEAR TO PR and then when winter comes around I’ll train halfheartedly or start training really late after a triathlon offseason, or maybe even train seriously and be dedicated to a plan and then I perform somewhere between OKAY and TERRIBLY –  like last year.  I always want to love this race, but it’s never loved me back.  I decided I wouldn’t get fooled again (no no), and I was running this one purely for funsies.

Saturday went fairly normally, but not *quite* to pre-race spec.  I had a giant club and soup for lunch instead of a turkey sub on wheat and had turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, veggies, salad, and some tater tots vs my normal grilled chicken potatoes and salad.  Similar but not the same.  Instead of swimming, I rode the trainer for 20 minutes.  Packet pickup saw my legs and back and neck start to ache.  We were rear ended while driving home Friday, and apparently, it was not one hundred percent without bodily consequences.  

I wore stars all week as I could because stars have just felt right lately, so I kept that clothing trend going. Perhaps in the attempt to influence them to align the next day?

The headspace is always different staring down a starting line so early in the season. There were the nerves and doubts stemming from the utter lack of preparedness. On one hand, my thoughts rang with self deprecation – the eff am I doing out there on a literal handful of runs in the last three months? But… there was also some budding excitement after the killer twelve I ran the weekend previous. I was an unknown quantity and there’s a lightness that correlates with the lack of expectations.  That was neat after driving myself batty this fall under the weight of them.

I planned to run this one pretty much solely on perceived effort. I watched Dune that afternoon, and they constantly quoted, “fear is the mind killer”. I aimed to go out there the next day unafraid to put my hand in the pain box and then let the chips fall where they may, no judgies. Ok, maybe very little judgies, I’m not really good at rationalizing not being good, but I honestly was just so happy about the run the weekend before, even if I choked at the race, I had showed promise.  That was good enough for me to feel optimistic about the season to come.

I did my best to spend the rest of the day relaxing, actually sleeping rather decently.  All the thoughts rattling around in my head didn’t perturb me as they had earlier in the week, probably due to the fact that I mentally reserved the two hours of the race to ponder and let my thoughts distract me from the effort. Oddly enough, I didn’t need distractions the next day, I was happy to be present and inside the effort, but it was a nice balm to put me to sleep the night before.

I woke up race morning at 2am with my glutes and lower back seizing up. More fender bender after effects. I fell back asleep on an ice pack and woke up two hours later and it felt kinda touchy but OKAY. I would start.

I hopped on the trainer for 15 minutes to spin up my legs.  I ate a mini bagel with bacon and cream cheese and two caffeine beans.  I drank my earl grey tea, hot.  I was up early enough to use the bathroom about 3 times before we drove to the race start, but of course I STILL needed to hit the porta potties, which continued my tradition heading out on the course almost at the back of the field (about 11 minutes after the race started), but let’s just say it was worth it.

At the outset of the race I was freezing (the feels like was in the 20s) but less than a mile on the course and I was like, ” why the eff do I have all these things on my body” and while I fixed that by ditching my Goodwill sweatshirt and wrapping my buff around my wrist and pushing up my sleeves, I dropped my phone and took about twenty seconds on the side of the road situating myself.

That’s the last of my complaints. My stride felt awesome, better even than last week’s magical run, and the mid 30s temperature that irked me so much before felt absolutely perfect. Derezzed came on and I pretended I was a Tron light cycle avoiding all the slower runners. Blah blah blah came on and I dedicated that to the haters in my head saying I was going too fast while I continued to tick off consistent splits right around 9:20/mile.

I passed 10k, with my fastest time running THAT distance in almost 10 years and I still felt freaking amazing. I kept waiting for the darkness to descend, as it has every year moving down Shoal Creek, yet somehow this time I kept outrunning it with those consistent splits far outpacing my current personal record from years and years ago.

Around mile 9 it was no longer playtime, the hills began to appear, but I was ready for some pain.  Four more miles like this, I said.  Starboy came on (stars!), which is a terrible song if you listen to the lyrics but for some reason makes me MOVE and I found another gear to power up the hills that usually defeat me.  Then mile 10 was roooooough with another longer hill, but my random playlist struck back with Devil Went Down to Georgia (metal cover), and while that was my worst split of the day at 9:37/mile, it was still highly below PR pace.  As I did the math all I had to do was just hang the eff on.  I was so close I could taste it.  I hurt, but not insurmountably, and I was not going to let this slip through my fingers, not this time, no way in hell.

2:08 is my personal best. As I made the last turn and saw the finishing arch in the distance, I was on track to hit 2:04. I decided that I wanted 2:03 because this is how we do. I found a little something left in my belly and put everything I had into the last few minutes and crossed the line at 2:03:48. I almost both cried and horked at the finish (seriously, y’all, I gagged RIGHT NEXT TO A BUNCH OF SPECTATORS) but I held it together in both regards.

I can’t tell you how much this one means to me. More than finishing Ironman, more than qualifying for Nationals, this was not months but something I’ve been trying to crack for over EIGHT YEARS. From no hopes to almost a FIVE MINUTE PR in a matter of days after dozens of cracks at it over the years.  What a banner start to 2019!  I’m over the moon about this one.  It was awesome to go out with confidence even though I’m not a proven entity right now, and I had the courage to believe in myself, that I had the capability to push through when it started to get dark, and persevere right through the finish line.

I will note that this was probably one of the roughest recoveries for a half marathon yet.  I did have brief thoughts mid-race about really going for it and descending my pace another 10-15 second/mile and trying for a sub-2 hour half, but I decided that I didn’t want to jeopardize my PR and played it a *little* cautious so I didn’t fall down on the side of the road at mile 11.  It was a good decision.  My bodily conditions post-race told me that I had absolutely drained the tank.  I could barely walk the next day, staring down curbs like they were mountains to climb.  I took a few days off simply because I was tiiiiiired, yo.  I had some serious meetings on Monday and they. took. everything.  Today is the first day I’ve felt like a normal human.  I’ve felt better after a half ironman, maybe even some of my marathons.

And now, I have the opportunity in few more days to toe the line once more.  I’ll be racing the Indoor Tri on Sunday, and since I’ve done this one on multiple years, it’s a good offseason benchmark.  Hoping to PR all my legs, which would be 19.5 lengths in the pool in 10 minutes (I swam 21 today at a lesser effort so here’s hoping!), 10.4 miles on the bike in 30 minutes, and 2.33 miles in 20 minutes on the run (this one will be the toughest, I haven’t run this fast in FOREVER but with what I did last weekend… anything is possible).  Also excited to finish this little racing block and then move into for reals #preseason training with a plan and heightened attention to nutrition and a little more seriousness.  If this is playtime, I can’t wait to see what a little hunkering down will bring…

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!

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