Yadda yadda yadda, using my words in other places lately, excuses excuses, and *scene*.
It’s good to know that some things stay constant around here, even if those things are the asshatery regarding my consistent stream of extenuating circumstances. Ahem.
Let’s recap. Since I last graced this digital space with my presence, I’ve spent an inordinately long time recovering from laryngitis. I spoke less than a dozen words over that initial weekend of infirmary, which was a feat akin to the most introverted person in the world getting in front of a sold-out auditorium to give an improv performance – very much against my nature. I got by with a text to speech app and lots of interpretive dance to communicate with my husband that weekend, but it was not easy. It was worth it, though, as on Monday, I had some of my voice back and by mid-week, sounded almost entirely like a human being again.
However, some minor effects lingered for quite a while. I’m still not exactly 100%, as I determined last night, when I completely bowed out of singing the high notes at the end of Phantom of the Opera instead of making an arse of myself in the attempt, but I’m about at that 99% mark – mostly unnoticeable, even in sport. I’m okay with this timeline.
It took a frustratingly long process to get there. I’m not used to being knocked out this long, which was exacerbated by the fact that the week I got sick had JUST kicked off the Finally Not Being A Petulant Child and Following A Schedule and Training Again initiative, which got highly derailed by feeling and sounding like a pile of hot garbage. I ditched all workouts that weekend, and spent the entire next week laying off both swimming and running, only riding my bike super easy peasy lemon squeezy.
By last weekend, I figured, I *had* to be recovered, and I mounted my steed for the FTP test I had missed the weekend before. While I’ve had good FTP tests (the bar for a good test is feeling like absolute detritus as the last seconds tick down, but being pleased with the number on the screen), and I’ve had disappointing FTP tests, I’ve not had the issue where, with 8 minutes to go, my body just SHUT DOWN. I went from pushing my ~190 watts to ~130 with little perceivable reduction in effort. Folks, I become intimately acquainted with The Man With the Hammer at that moment in a way that I have not in some time (FYI, I just finished the Velominati book The Hardmen and if you enjoy cycling humor, or cycling, or humor, you should give it a read).
It was ultimately frustrating, but a clear sign of a few things: 1) I was not yet recovered, I definitely felt some crud remaining in my lungs and 2) my brain felt a little broken as well. It’s been too much serious around here all the time. I needed to go play bikes. So, I rested up Saturday and Sunday, and on Memorial Day, I slept in and then went for a joyride around North Austin in the early afternoon. It was peace and love, and kicked off a week in which I did not entirely follow a plan, but I did FOUR WHOLE HOURS of intentional triathlon training. Two of these were in the morning before work. This is progress, people!
Before Thursday’s brick-with-a-wee-bit-of-spice on it, I felt like it had been three years since I gave anything in the zipcode of maximum effort, but I had a doozy planned for the weekend. Yesterday’s workout was the first triple brick in quite a while, that is, a 10 minute warmup, and then 10 minutes on the bike transitioning quickly to a 1 mile run, both at a moderately painful pace, and against all odds, do this two more times, each faster than the instance before. The first bike felt pretty good at approximately 150 watts, the 8:57/mile run felt like a jog, and then ish started to get real. I actually tanked my power in the last bike segment (holding 149W instead of the 160+ goal I had) simply because my legs wouldn’t turn over for the first five minutes, and I just narrowly missed my run goal of 8:30/mile or lower for the third mile, but at 8:34, I’ll call it close enough, especially since it met the secondary goal of being faster than the second mile.
All in all, I’m back baby, physically and mentally, just in time for the next two weekends of racing – Windcrest Tri and Pflugerville, respectively. Then, we begin to lay the foundation deep and wide, but that’s a topic for July.
One thing I’ve been ruminating on lately (care of The Passion Paradox, another recent read, which I talked about last time as well) is the difference between these two motivations: the fear of failure and the desire for success. They are both means to the same desired end, and they might seem similar on first blush, but I’m finding that they feel oh so different on inspection. Fear of failure is running scared out of transition two, hoping no one will chase me down. It’s compromising a little too much at work knowing I’m up for a promotion. Pursuing success means running with heart and courage, conscious of triathletes ahead and behind me, but only invoking meaning in those circumstances if I can use it to my advantage. It means making the choices at work, boldly, that I believe will benefit my project and my team and therefore my company in the long term, and letting the chips fall where they may.
The first step in transformation is being cognizant about behaviors that you wish to change, and I’m there now. I’m hoping to take this knowledge into the next two weekends to practice chasing down success instead of running from failure, and at the respective finish lines, let the results separate themselves from the processes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have been absent from the blog, but not from life.
In fact, life has been full of things, starting immediately the next day after vacation. Work has continued to challenge me, some days, in the way that makes me want to fist bump someone and say eff yes, and some days, in ways that makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Training was a challenge to resume after vacation, as well as proper nutrition, but I feel like a fortnight of that is behind me and things look to be settling into a comfortable level of organized chaos.
This weekend, I journey back to Texasman as my first outdoor triathlon of the year, and I’ve had varying levels of feels about it over the months. A few months out, I was, like, megamaniacally ready to crush it. I had some aggressive thoughts about how I was going to conquer and run everyone down and be amazing and powerful and it fueled some of my training to be better than before.
Right after vacation, I had thoughts of despair. “I can barely make myself train, ” I whined to myself, “how am I going to do anything worthwhile at this stinkin’ race in a few weeks? I’m bloated and soft and fat and I probably have forgotten how to even do this ish.”
Spoiler alert: I have not forgotten how to do this ish. And I’m actually down a few lbs.
I have been utterly lacking on swim training, but something lately has clicked with my form to help me at least maintain that slightly-under-2:00/100m without much effort. I’ve swam twice in the last month or so, and they have both been *fine*. In fact, I jumped into Quarry Lake in a wetsuit for the first time this year, expecting the normal mild panic and feelings of aqua-incompetence (not to be confused with incontinence, though I did pee in my wetsuit because this is how we do as triathletes…) and found that I felt great.
It wasn’t my fastest time around the buoys, but at a nice cruising pace, I feel like I may be able to improve my ~10th out of the water this weekend. My goal is simply to keep form as best I can, a comfortably hard pace, and try to find some feet to follow that are going slightly faster than I want to go from which to draft.
The bike is another place where I feel like it’s more about muscle memory than anything. I have been spending time with Death Star riding in my living room, but not as much as I think I should. I crushed my recent FTP test, finding 181 watts out of nowhere, and when I make the effort, I’m mentally and physically ready to rock. I just remember by this point last year I felt SO EFFING CONFIDENT about my biking prowess and I’m not entirely in that mindset yet.
I’ve found in the last few races though, having a bit of untested fitness and an open mind has lead me to things that I didn’t believe possible, so I’ll roll with that on race day. I want to replicate last year, where I set out on the bike to go hunting. I know I can do it, and I want to concentrate on chasing everyone down. That’s how I rock on two wheels, and I can’t wait to have my first opportunity of the year for relentless pursuit.
The run is always my question mark, although, I have much more confidence in my feet this year. I’m about 11-13 lbs down from where I was at last year this time. My body has finally come to terms with that, as well as absorbed a year of strength training, and my average paces are much lower than they were before even with the minimal hours I’m calling training this year.
I can’t wait to see what I can do with my new running proficiency and also my new mental strength. I have had visions over the last few months where instead of falling back on the run, I rise to meet the challenge and run people down. I’m not sure what I have in me in this situation but that is SO EXCITING to me right now. I know there’s greatness in there somewhere, and I’ve found some really unbelievable things in my body and brain this year, and I can’t wait to go run it out for 3 miles, testing my mental and physical fortitude.
While I always strive for excellence as of late, the pressure is off. Zliten and I discussed the matter, and we are probably not going to go to Nationals even if we qualify (he reserves the right to change this if we both qualify, but it’s not a driving goal). I simply get to go out there and give it my all, however the chips may fall. I could have an amazing day and come in first. I could overestimate my capabilities and blow up or have a rare (lately) day where I just don’t have it, and in all instances, that’s okay. I’ll either win some or learn some and live to race again this season.
However, with all the caveats, this year my goal is to lead out strong and fight my arse off for first place. Aiming for anything less is bullshit.
I'm a video game producer and a lover of anything game related by trade. I'm a triathlete by hobby. I live for being on or in the water as much as I can - scuba diving, snorkeling, paddleboarding, water slides... you name it. The dichotomy between my outdoor and indoor realities are interesting, but they're all mine! Longer version here...