Adjusted Reality

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

Tag: triathlon (Page 1 of 33)

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

Spoiler: it involved SO MANY TURTLES!!!

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

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

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

This Tuesday was a lot different than last Tuesday.

Here’s where I’m at right now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, this week, I has plans.

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

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

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

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.

Courage and Confidence

Well, it’s race week.  Hoo boy. 

I keep bumping against the old instincts to feel self doubt.  Who am I to dare to dream?  Who am I to expect something extraordinary? 

Then I go out and do shit like almost PR my standalone 5k run off the bike Sunday feeling like it’s a comfortably hard effort, and the next day notch my fastest time around the buoys twice on the swim… if not ever, at least in years.  I feel like a gorram tiger in a cage right now.  I actually skipped the run off the bike Tuesday because I had a feeling I might go out too hard and PR my mile time with the situation at hand.  The potential energy I feel right now is mystifying me.

I’ve also found a brand new decade on the scale.  Somehow, with very little time and attention during taper to logging and tracking diet quality (oops), I’ve journeyed to 160-town.  Just barely, but it’s enough that most of my clothing staples are now too long, too loose, or just plain look ridiculous on me.  I’m also finding that I often look in the mirror, wink at myself, and think, “hello lover, you’re looking mighty fine today”.  It’s a refreshing change from the constantly negative self-dialogue that’s been the norm the last few decades years.

I’m in the best freaking 70.3 shape of my freaking life, both mentally and physically.  I deserve to strive for an extraordinary day.  Me.  I do.

So, I head into this race with two thoughts: CONFIDENCE and COURAGE.  They might sound similar, but they represent two different aspects of racing to me.

CONFIDENCE is rolling up to the start line, clad as the woman in black, sizing everything up and planning my day of domination.  I’ve been feeding my head a lot of SWAGGER the last few weeks, trying to lose the self-deprecating humor I trend toward, the humility, and err on the side of being kind of an arrogant asshole, if only internally.  Yes, thank you, I *DO* look fucking awesome in my new one piece race kit, my sweet new Roka swim skin, my new aero WC helmet, on my fast Cervelo TT bike… things which I have finally earned the right, in my own head, to race with.  I’m  a motherfucking icon, boots made of python… something kicked in this cycle and I FINALLY FEEL WORTHY.

Of what, I’m not sure.  Of everything.  Of whatever I can take from the tip of a sword from this race day.  And it feels ABSOLUTELY FUCKING PHENOMENAL as a career “imposter syndrome” cadet.  It’s like a weight lifted.  Just like picking up a 20 lb kettlebell and having the realization that this was all on my friggin body in January, having the shitty mentality that I’m not good enough being gone for a few weeks feels like sudden relief.  Feels good man.  I don’t ever want to go back.

I’ve been working on my mental game for about a year now and the effects are finally settling in.  My race persona has some friggin’ swag on her!!!  Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.  However, I need to EARN that swagger if I’m going to keep it.

COURAGE is really my proving ground this race.  If confidence is being capable in the light, courage is being capable in the darkness.  To me, courage is standing at the abyss, the turning point of the race, facing myself, my fears, my inadequacies, and having the cojones to dive into the dark place, the untested place, where I have no proof where I’ll come out on the other side. Courage is not racing afraid of hurting, or trying to avoid discomfort, but standing at the start line with a smirk and sneering, “come at me, bro”.  Courage is sending a formally engraved invitation to my old friend pain.  When, not if, he arrives, I plan to throw open my door, invite him in, and share a glass of whiskey and a few rounds of fisticuffs to see who is weighed, measured, and found wanting.

If I could set ANY GOAL for this race, it’s not placement, nor time, nor process goals.  I know, weird, right?  What race do I show up to without a bullet point list of A/B/C/Z measuring sticks?  My biggest goal for this race is earning the right to look myself in the square in the eyes Sunday night and say, “I didn’t back down“, then and only then will I have succeeded at the highest degree.  I want to have faced whatever challenge the day presented and shouted, “NOT TODAY MOTHERF*$&ER” and persist right on through it, continuing to proclaim to the world that there are FOUR LIGHTS.

Normally here’s the point where I go through and lay out my race plan.  I mean, I have one.  You can’t logistically race a 70.3 winging it.  It’s probably worth immortalizing it in a few bullet points for the high points, so here we go:

  • Morning nutrition – almond butter honey english muffin, coconut water, some fruit
  • Between breakfast and race start – sip gatorade as I can
  • Pre swim – some strong mint (to combat the salt water and keep me from being nauseous)
  • Swim comfortably hard – I think I nailed the effort on Monday – and try to find feet to draft.  I’m guessing 40 minutes, give or take.
  • T1: Going sans socks for the bike, and hopefully sans gloves (if it’s rainy I’m might take the time but I’d like to save the seconds)
  • As soon as I’m on the bike – more strong mint if I need it to settle my stomach
  • As soon as I can tolerate it and every 45 minutes after – gel (caff, non caff, non caff, caff is the plan) and a bottle of gatorade per hour. 
  • 150-160W on the bike average, stay in aero, and make good on my new bike mantra – “find the butts, follow the butts, pass the butts“.  If I have any time goals here, I’d like to break 3 hours on the bike.
  • T2: a crap ton of powder in my socks and shoes to ward off the blisters.  As usual, I’ll have my handheld but I don’t plan to actually use it.  One set of 303s either at the end of the bike, transition, or the first mile of the run.
  • Gel within the first two miles, then again at 6, then again at 9-10. Start coca-cola as soon as I can and ride the brown pony train to seeing-sounds-and-hearing-colors town as my stomach allows.
  • Instead of a pace goal on the run, I know the FEELING I’m looking for.  And the second half, I want it to HURT.
  • Swag my way through the finish line like I won the race.

I’m unexpectedly succinct this week, because I think that’s all she wrote.  It’s hard to put what’s different this time into words, what I’m feeling, what I’m thinking, but I hope to make good on a performance that seems like the culmination of  years of effort and progress.  I’m on the edge of a breakthrough.  I can almost touch it.  I will reach for it on Sunday with conviction.  Get ready, Cozumel, I’m gunning for you.

Ready to do battle.

The pieces of my brain haven’t quite gone back together the same way after last week.  And I’m more than okay with that.

I am completely broken when a day in the high 70s meant I was just friggin freezing all day, even after a fast 4 mile poker run.

There’s a crack now that has let some light in, and it’s actually wonderful.  I’m excited for this race.  I’m hopeful for this race.  With everything in me, I cannot wait to stand on that dock and dive off and go toe to toe with whatever the day puts in front of me.  I start difficult sessions feeling excited to try my hand at the challenge ahead of me instead of feeling apprehensive or apathetic.  Instead of a hazy numbness I’ve been rocking for the last few years, things feel different right now.  I can’t really describe it, but I feel changed somehow with the machinations that my brain has run through and I wouldn’t go back even if I could.

Besides the fact that I’ve been needing to drink about it a bit, the mental gymnastics has gone just fine along with my taper performances.  I had some fairly stellar run performances last week, my slowest pace being 9:26/mile, and while I skipped a few other sessions due to residual fatigue from the long brick on Monday to rest instead, what I showed up to went rather well in all aspects.

These new goggles make it easier to see fishies underwater AND the sunset even more pretty, even if they look crazy nerdy.

My swim is improving a little right near the end of this cycle.  I swam almost the race distance yesterday (2056yards vs 2112) in open water practice just under 41 minutes and I was daydreaming the whole time.  I don’t expect to hit a personal best pace at Cozumel since I’ve been in better shape both endurance-wise and speed-wise, but I expect to do OKAY and after yesterday, maybe even WELL.  It just hasn’t been my focus this year.  Oddly enough, when you stay uninjured, you don’t have to sub in swimming for other activities…  I’ll need to learn how to actually and intentionally swim a lot at some point but that’s not a problem for this particular moment. 

For now I know that a) I can swim the distance and feel pretty good after and b) I have a pretty good judge of the level of effort I can swim where I get out of the water feeling warmed up and ready to attack the rest of the race, and that’s what I plan to do.  Swim steady, find some feet, and try not to throw up from the salt water because I am incapable of swimming with my mouth closed.

I may have just died going up this hill but I look great at least in my new kit 🙂

Cycling… I had such amazing things happen earlier this year, I’m not sure how to feel about it right now because my improvement is hard to judge.  I haven’t done a lot of stretching my legs and really riding hard this cycle, it’s been more about increasing the distance without decreasing my pace too much.  For various reasons, it’s been difficult to see where my true potential is right now, so I guess I’ll have race day for that!

My power meter being messed up for weeks means I don’t have a SOLID target to keep in mind yet, though hopefully I can dial it in a bit this weekend.  My guess is approximately 150W, give or take a few.  This should be a fairly choice bike course for me (flat, not technical), and I’m really looking forward to riding around the island and chasing people down and having fun on Death Star, trying to end the bike with a 2-something-hour time if the stars align properly.

Lookie, both feet off the ground like a real runner!

The run is where the magic and the pain and the darkness lies this cycle.  I have made leaps and bound on this leg this year, and this is where the race really starts for me.  I have been steadily finding paces off the bike that are either equal or less than my sprint triathlon runs earlier in the year, which were PRs upon PRs already, and I’ve been able to push mentally into places I haven’t before either.  This is my big test and I’ve studied very well the last few months.

I’m ready to do battle with the abyss, and I’m ready to dig deep.  I know it’s going to hurt and hurt bad, and instead of being scared I plan on welcoming my old friend Pain and we’ll sit down in his cave together and have some mother effing words until one of us gets up and leaves.  I’m stoked to show myself what my newly minted 46 VO2 max (thanks for the random update today, Garmin?), my stronger body, and my more fortified brain can come up with when challenged.   I am ready to do battle.

In the next two weeks, I can’t do much to improve my fitness a whole lot, so it’s all about:

  • Staying sharp.  All the hay is in the barn, ending with an incredible 8 mile run this morning that ended entirely too soon for my tastes.  Every other session from now until the race is short, sweet, and swift compared to what would normally be on the plan.
  • Recovery.  I think I’m past the point of needing to untangle my head so much, so I’m going to do my best to be a SLEEP MONSTER from now until I leave.  Additionally, I generally try to either stretch, roll, or use the recovery boots more days than not.  I kicked this initiative off with a killer massage Sunday, and a great stretch yesterday.  I will either stretch or roll EVERY DAY from now until I leave, it takes 5-10 mins and I have zero excuses not to besides laziness.
  • Packing and preparing.  This trip is unique in that I also need to bring all my diving gear so space is at a SUPER premium.  I need to make sure I bring everything I need and not one ounce or square inch more.  This will be much more effort than packing for Cleveland.

In terms of nutrition (day to day), I’ve sort of let things go for a few weeks, both because I’ve been consumed with other things and also to give myself a little bit of a break while my training was high enough to sustain it.  Now that my hours are reduced, I have returned to tracking (food, diet quality, and weight) so I don’t gain during taper.  That started yesterday.  I need to make sure I’m eating ENOUGH good food and not a bunch of junk and be accountable for the bite of chocolate here and potato chip there before it gets out of hand.

I’m stronger and lighter than I have been in many, many years.  I need to not fuck that up.

Maybe I’ll just wear a helmet the whole time… that’ll help, right?

And, that’s really the biggest goal for the next eleven days.  I’ve got a great race in me, if I can resist succumbing to the self sabotage (eat whatever you want! you have more time since you’re training less so why don’t you go ahead and have a drink or four?  why not squeeze in one more really long bike ride to make sure nothing’s changed since the last time you did that?) and keep my head on straight.  My body is ready, my mind is ready, and if I can deliver myself to the start line no worse for wear, I have a chance to kick some serious ass next weekend.

Instead of being a dummy, it’s time to eat all the good food, do the EXACT sessions that coach set out months ago with a straight head, sleep all the sleeps, and listen to Willy Wonka on repeat because apparently that’s become this season’s power confident swaggy song, so I’ll use the hell out of it while it still has magic.

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