Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pumpkinman 70.3 Race Report - aka The road to Crazytown

Pumpkinman Half Iron distance - September 7th, 2014 - South Berwick, Maine

Wow...I don't even know where to start. I've been mentally composing this recap since the race and it's now exactly one month from that day. If I thought training 12+ hours a week was putting me through an emotional roller-coaster, I had no idea what the actual day had in store for me. Let me back up a bit since it has obviously been a while since I last wrote and a lot has changed. I'll also warn you, this may be a bit choppy. And long. Did I mention long? I should really split this into a few posts, but I know I will never write more than one part of a recap, so here you go. I also don't want to forget any of my memories of that weekend, so I'll just be throwing things in as I go. Also, I'm going to add some song videos as I go so you can just click and listen if you want.

This spring as the swim class I've been taking for a while was winding down, I found out that the pool would be closed for renovations over the summer and there wouldn't be any classes. Bummer! My teacher is so great. She has helped me with my swim so much. She manages to really push me and I leave feeling like I got my butt kicked, but always feeling so positive. I had it in my head that I would be seeing her almost right up until my race. I knew I could do it on my own, but I was sad anyway. I signed up for the South End Fitness Center, because I had heard they had a nice, non-crowded pool. Since I tend to go during off hours, most days I had the entire 6 lane 25 yard pool all to myself. It was actually kind of lonely and sometimes a little creepy due to an overactive imagination - WHAT WAS THAT SHADOW ON THE BOTTOM?!

Anyhow. I decided I needed some positive specifically-triathlon support. I wasn't getting it at the gym, it just isn't their thing. I didn't have my swim teacher. My hubby was already exhausted by his new business and my training trickery. "You want to go for a ride?" is now known to mean, "hey, how 'bout 90 mins moderate with 8 X 3 minute hill climbs?" It also means I was now doing my rides solo. About 2 weeks after my last blog post I went to a triathlon expo and met a few tri teams. Wheelworks Multisport stuck out to me as being the perfect balance of newbie welcoming, but also really committed to training and racing their best. I found out they were having a fundraiser night a couple of weeks later and was pretty much sold on the team as soon as I arrived. I signed up that night. It's been great having them as a resource and even better having them around before races. I feel so much more calm as part of a group for some reason.

I quit personal training. It was not an easy decision, but I'm even more sure it was the right one now.

A few months later I quit that gym entirely (I had two gym memberships before that point). There was no need to have that membership if I wasn't doing personal training anymore. I had to have a gym with a pool and the one I was using had plenty of cardio and weight equipment. Plus, I'd save so much money I could take an occasional spin class at one of the awesome spin boutiques near me if I really missed it (my one hesitation to canceling the fancy gym).

I became a big girl and marched myself into Belmont Wheelworks and asked for help getting shoes and clipless pedals (which may sound confusing to some of you, but they're actually the shoes that click into the pedals and attach you to the bike). I had the chance to work with some great employees and had a cleat fitting for my shoes and later, a bike fit. I took away a ton of great info. The bike fitter also 100% solved some major neck pain I was having by putting me through some drills to fix my form (and the death grip I had on my bars). Did I mention this was a month before my race? If it wasn't for procrastination, I'd have nothing to do tomorrow...

Let me do my best to recap the training. It was usually Monday off, a run and swim on W, F and Sun and a bike on Tu, Th, Sat. Sometimes the Sat bike or Sun run was replaced by a bike/run combo (brick). It is a lot. I knew it was a lot. I had days where I loved it and I had days where you couldn't pay me to do my workout. Skipping workouts sucks for so many reasons. The guilt. The knowledge that you only hurt yourself and your race. Knowing that no matter what you do, you will short something. Your training. Your personal life. And no matter what you do you'll still be tired. One day I was laying on the couch fighting a cold, exhausted and I just started crying. My apartment was a mess, I had food for a few meals I needed to make (big bulk meals to last the week) that was in danger of going bad and no energy to deal with any of it. Luckily the Hubs is the worlds best tri Sherpa and came to the rescue. For all the ups and downs, I learned a lot in the process.

As race day approached, I was crawling out of my skin. It was taper week. I felt like I needed to squeeze in just...one...more...long...ride....but it was the last thing I was supposed to do. My workouts were pretty much to keep me loose and ready to go. Nothing too big. I had work to distract me Monday through Thursday that week, but way too much time to think otherwise. I got really good at math. Anyone who spent ANY time around me knew my worries about the course cutoffs. Each leg has a limit. If you don't make the time cutoff, you will get pulled from the race. This race has a slightly shorter allowed time than some others, but it's also not as difficult as some. I figured, you win some, you lose some and went with the race that looked the best. Here's the cutoff breakdown and what it meant for me:

Swim: 1 hour after the last wave starts (approximately 8:30am)
Bike: 12:30pm
Run/Finish: 3pm

I knew I would most likely be starting in a wave around 7:25 (and I was right). So, here's the worst case scenario. I hoped for a 45-55 minute swim, but knew I could take an hour if I had a bad day. That got me out of the water at 8:25 and onto my bike by 8:30. That gave me 4 hours to finish the bike and in theory, at 14mph minimum, plenty of time. I had ridden the course before and could hold 16-17mph, even more with the bike shoes and pedals. If I had a bad day 14 would be all I could do. I felt confident I could make both those cutoffs with room to spare, BUT if I took the entire time allotted, it only left me 2:30:00 to run the 13.1 miles. My personal best at that distance is about a 2:37:00. This scared me and I had many dreams about it over the week leading up. My best case scenario would put me just over 6.5 hours. Worst, a bit more than 7.5. I spent hours calculation and recalculating paces and predictions. It ended up being totally pointless (DUH).

Friday I started my vacation and ran through my list of gear, did a final check and then packed my race bag. We'd be leaving to stay in Ogunquit on Saturday morning. It was crazy hot and humid for early September and storms were forecast for early in the weekend. I begged the weather to be nice to me on Sunday, then cleaned up my bike and took it for a quick spin to make sure everything was working okay.

Saturday I woke up with the sun and tossed and turned for hours. There wasn't any point in leaving early since both check in at the hotel and the packet pick up weren't until later in the afternoon. By late morning I finally asked if we could just go and take the scenic route. That should kill time and we could stop for lunch on the way. Next time I will have an actual plan for nutrition the day before. Breakfast was small (an english muffin? I forget) and then lunch didn't end up being until 2:30pm. Dinner was at 7:30. Ideally I would have had big meals earlier and a lighter dinner. We headed to packet pick up and then back to Ogunquit to pick up some groceries and then head out to dinner.

Ogunquit for lunch 

Thunderheads at packet pick up.

Then it was the worst part - the night before when you're in for the night. It feels like SO LONG to be nervous, but there's really not much to do to distract yourself. I lurked around facebook and someone posted Diana Nyad's TED talk (check it out, it's awesome). Two things stuck with me. First, was when her swim got tough, tough to the point where everyone "knew" it was impossible (it wasn't!), her friend leaned over and, seeming like she was going to tell her to give up said, "Find a way."

Find a way.

Second, she talked about listening to the Beatles' "Imagine" over and over during her swim....for like nine hours. She sings a little bit of it to drive her point home,

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." 

I think I listed to that song at least 10 times before I went to bed. I felt like, at the very least, I had finally mentally conquered the swim. I had great swims all summer. I had even brought the horrible 15 minute 1/4 mile swim from last year's Cohasset tri down to 9 minutes this year AND I loved every second of it!

I looked around for some positive quotes and inspiration and tried to fall asleep around 10:30. That's when the stomach problems started. I was running to the bathroom every 30 minutes or so until 2am. I finally slept until 4am and then got up to get ready for the race. 2 whole hours of sleep. I felt mostly okay, so I ate the oatmeal I brought with me. And then promptly threw it up. Now I was freaked out because I really had no idea what was going on. Was I sick? Was it nerves? I'd never had this happen. I decided I would try and race under two conditions. #1 I had to keep down 2 Honey Stinger Waffles and a bottle of Heed drink before the race. #2 If I started vomiting (or worse!) during the race it was Game Over. The temps were predicted to be in the mid 70s by the run portion but I knew it would probably be hotter. It would be dangerous to race sick like that.

Somehow the Hubs and I made our way through the dark windy back roads to Spring Hill in South Berwick and I kept my nutrition down. We arrived at 5am, but transition didn't open for a bit. I got my timing chip and got body marked and walked around for a few minutes. As they open the transition to let us in they turned on the music. The Beatles. Here Comes the Sun. I almost cried.

I was already feeling pretty emotional and had been humming "Imagine" to myself on the way. It was such a beautiful gentle song to start the day, the sun was just barely cracking the horizon.

I teared up and just stopped for a second to be grateful that, no matter how the days ends, I got a shot at it. I have the time and money. I have my health.

I had plenty of time to set up and talk to my neighbors and use the porta-potty a couple of times. By then I ran into a few of my teammates and felt pretty good about that too. I always joke that the very worst part of the morning is committing to leaving the transition area. It's so hard to decide that everything is there and that you have what you need for the swim! It's silly. You need a wetsuit, goggles and your cap. Hopefully you have your timing chip on already.

We headed down to the swim start. Seriously, how beautiful is this? I stopped being so nervous because I was in awe. I was just anxious to start.

The swim 1.2 miles (.6 miles X 2 loops):

As I started, a song came on that I hadn't paid attention to much. It didn't strike me as a big, Go Go Go! start the race type song, but it set the mood perfectly.

It was great. I did the swim in about 54 minutes. It was not a fast swim for me, but it was a huge success is so many ways. I started the swim towards the back and on the inside. I didn't feel like being swum over, but I also was confident enough to hold my line close to the buoys. I really didn't want to swim extra. The course is set up like a triangle. You swim counter-clockwise - out two buoys, turn, across two buoys, turn, back in two buoys and the repeat the course a second time. I got to the first buoy, halfway to the first turn and started to feel fatigued. I wondered if I was really going to make it. How could I come all the way here and THIS?

Find a way.

Yes. Diana Nyad. Find a way. There is no way I can't go the distance at some speed. Stick to the plan. I wanted to swim by effort at a moderate feel. I knew I could do that easily in under an hour. Pushing it in my first long swim could spike my heart rate to start the bike. I'd save maybe 5 minutes in the swim. If I stayed relaxed on the swim and started the bike calm, I could bank SO much time for the run on the bike course. I reached the turn buoy and started along the long back stretch. I favor breathing to the right, which gave a a view of pine trees, a few cottages and the mist. It was perfect Maine. I thought of my family up in Union. I thought of Owls Head Light and Spruce Head. I daydreamed about my trip up there at the end of the week to visit everyone. I turned towards the shore to see if I could spot the Hubs, but all I could see was a mass of color and hear cheering and cowbells. So exciting, but way too early to get too worked up! I was singing "Imagine" to myself and cruising right along. I passed the midpoint buoy along the back and realized I felt great. As I rounded the turn and headed back to shore I knew I had it. A second loop would be a piece of cake. I poked my head up as I turned and was actually able to wave to the Hubs and have him see me as I headed out for the second loop.

I'm the creeper in the second blue cap, looking directly at the camera instead of, you know, swimming...

Finally out. Yes, I am like, 4th to last out of the water and there was a wave behind me.

I finished the swim feeling great. I know I can take quite a bit of time off next year. I wanted a controlled swim and did exactly that. No panic. No safety stroke needed.

Coming out of the swim is a huge hill up into transition. It's actually it's own timed mini event with a prize. I didn't give it any thought, other and not falling on my face going up it.

Transition 1 was pretty uneventful. Wetsuit off. Helmet, gloves, sunglasses, socks and bike shoes on. Clipped on my run number so I wouldn't forget it later and I was pretty good to go. I took a big gulp of water from my extra bottle and ran my bike out.

Yes, it's like me and the tumbleweeds here.

Bye now! Feeling good!

Bike 56 miles:

The bike course is shaped kind of like a lollipop. You ride out 8 miles, then you do a 20 mile loop twice and then ride the 8 miles back for a total of 56. I did the 8 miles each way and one loop during a preview and even pre-bike shoes and pedals I did okay riding in my sneakers. I always feel kind of yucky riding after swimming. My stomach gets kind of funny. I took the first few downhill miles easy and drank some Heed. I ate a couple of Honey Stinger chews to get a bit in right away and started to get up to speed. At that point a guy passed me and cheered me on. I kept about 30 feet behind him but had him in sight for a long time. I knew, being so far back in the swim and not being particularly fast at anything would mean I'd be pretty lonely on the bike. Luckily I did a lot of loooong rides by myself. Some were pretty ugly and I was grateful to have made it through them. I was feeling pretty good at this point, so I continued to eat and drink and push the pace. I was keeping 16-20mph on the flats and 25-35 downhills. Even the medium uphills I kept to 10-12mph which was great for me. I knew there was a bigger one I'd see at 20 and 40 miles.

Some people complained about rough pavement, but I thought it was mostly great. The only place where I was forced to ride on the rough parts was the first and last mile, which was on a closed road and you could move around a bit. There were parts of a busier road where the shoulder was very rough, but if you rode just to the left of the white shoulder line you were good. That's what I did and it was fine. The cars gave me plenty of room and a couple of people cheered me on. Bikes do have the right to ride as far into the lane as needed for safety and I did that when I needed to. I'm also used to riding with traffic in the city, so I can see how others aren't used to it. Mostly the roads were very rural and pretty. There were plenty of trees and fields. You go by some farms and a beautiful golf course. Families sit in their yards to watch as if it's a parade. People were even pulled over onto the dirt shoulder sitting on their tailgates to cheer. Families were out with their kids, dogs and coolers with cowbells, hoses and bubble guns. I was amazed at the spectator support on stretches of road with nothing but trees. I was mentally prepared to see NO ONE for a long time. This was such a nice surprise. I was overwhelmed again. At some point I made it up the bigger hill around mile 20 and started a very nice long downhill to the start of the second loop. As I made the turn onto loop 2 I checked my time. And rechecked. I think I checked like 5 times. An hour and 40 minutes? No WAY! I felt like I could go faster and could make a 3 hour 15 min bike! I couldn't believe it.

Loop 2 was really lonely. While on loop one I had the company of everyone doing loop 2. Now I was really on my own. I picked off a few people but sadly they were doing the Aquabike (swim and bike only) and would not end up being company on the run later. Mile 35 is where I started what I called bargaining. My left groin area started to HURT. Like, CAPITAL LETTERS HURT. Right at the top of my inner thigh. Why is this happening now? I shifted forward and back to ease the pressure but it just moved the pain elsewhere. I told myself, only 20 more miles. Only? REALLY?! So I did 5 miles at a time. Just 5. I felt good otherwise. I got to 40 and made it up the hill again. People were stopped all along the side at the aid station, but I kept on going. I crested the top and knew I was home free. It's all down hill and a few miles of flat. Just a little hill at the end. Around mile 45 I started to feel weird. Like a switch was flipped. I wasn't sure what it did, but something had changed. By mile 48 I was convinced something was wrong with my bike. It was wobbling. No flat. Nothing seemed wrong. By mile 49 I realized something was wrong with ME. I was causing my bike to wobble. But that wasn't scary. What was scary was that I only realized something was wrong with my body by noticing how it was causing my bike to act. I ate some chews and chugged my water. What else do I have? Am I missing something? I felt so weird, like I was a spectator to my own body. I could only guess at what was wrong but for some reason I couldn't feel what it was. I also knew I had slowed wayyyyy down. I was seeing the minutes tick by way faster than the miles. All of a sudden my huge time gain for the run was gone. I need that time! I saw my mph dwindle down to 10-12. I asked my legs to go faster and they didn't. I felt nauseated. I felt thirsty but that water wasn't helping. I was oblivious to what I knew to be my major nutritional problem in long hot races. Salt. I was losing a ton and taking in hardly any. Even on a cool day I didn't have close to enough. On a day like I was having, I was at about one tenth of what I should have consumed. I'm not sure how I even functioned at that point. Somehow I made it back and barely swung my leg over my bike to dismount without falling.

 I ran into transition and was encouraged by a bunch of guys who had already finished. I sat down to change shoes and looked up to see the Hubs standing at the fence. He looked concerned. Like, a sad, urgent concerned. He asked if I ate. If I drank. I look at my watch. It was 12:26. I had barely made it. I was stunned. At that point I knew I was in trouble. I started to tear up and said, "I'm not going to make the cutoff. It's at 3. I can't run a 2:30:00 half marathon. Not like this." He just looked at me and said, "you've got to go. Now. Just don't stop. GO."

I grabbed my visor and ran out of transition. I hear the marshalls saying the last bike had just barely made it in. There is one person behind me exiting. The volunteers are screaming, "we've got a runner!" I have no idea why. I just start really really running, because I just need to get out of there. A lady at the driveway entrance cheers us out and waves her poms poms. I try to smile at her.

The run:

I got through the first three miles okay. I have no idea how. I saw the hubs at mile 3 and he was happy to see me that soon. "Just keep moving! Don't stop!" I said that no matter what I was going to finish and told him I'd see him in 5 miles. This is where the course starts being hilly. There wasn't a lot of shade and it was hot. I asked for salt tabs at the first aid station and after a little while I felt much better. I tried to start doing run 4 minute, walk 1 minute intervals like I had practiced to get myself up and down the hills. I got to about mile 4 when I noticed that I could not, for the life of me, pay attention to the time. I'd start my 1 minute walk and then realized it had been 4 minutes. I'd get going again, only to repeat the same. Soon I was mostly walking. I came up to mile 5 and realized that almost every person around me was on their second loop. So many people were running back towards me, only a couple of miles to the finish. I was going to be alone again and for so long this time. It was a bit demoralizing and I felt defeated. I know I'm supposed to run my own race, but you have to understand I was 6 hours into the race at this point. I had been in some sort pain for HOURS. Like, 3 or 4. I just couldn't really think anymore. Around mile 6 I stopped for a bathroom break, dropped all my gels onto the floor (one in the urinal, ew!) and then could barely get my shorts back on. I wanted to cry. I walked out to the aid station and drank some gatorade. Why I didn't ask for more salt, I have no idea. I am sure it was the cause of my fuzzy brain and my dead legs. I had plenty of calories and fluid. I ran down the road and into a subdivision to turn around on loop one. As I ran along, there were so many funny signs. I can't remember the first ones I saw other than "Margaritas Ahead" and "Remember, you paid for this!" The aid station at the cul-de-sac turn around was awesome! They called it The Oasis. There were not margaritas there, but there were more port-potties and all the gels, snacks, drinks and ice cold sponges you wanted. Oh! I forgot about that part! All along the run course were little kids with their parents handing out sponges that were soaked in ice water. People, you saved me! I can't even tell you what a huge difference it made. Plus the kids were so cute about it. These weren't even the volunteers, just nice people who were excited about the race. Anyway, back to The Oasis. These people were seriously so nice. It was clear I was struggling and they all encouraged me. I told them that I was sorry, but only on my first loop. I felt bad they would be waiting for me. They just said, "we'll be here! See you soon!" I walk/ran back to the main road and turned down it to head back to where the Hubs was waiting. As I ran down the hill I laughed so hard. There was a group of guys pulled over to the side, just yelling at us. Yelling and yelling encouragement. When I passed them the first time they were blasting this song. At least I had something funny stuck in my head.

By the time I got to mile 8 where the Hubs was, I was Done. With the running. Done. I had joked about the funny things I was going to yell to the Hubs as I got the the crazy place in the race but I had nothing. I hurt so bad but was numb. My hips killed. I was just kind of shuffling. I had all sorts of stomach pains. I thought I had a headache but I wasn't even sure. I wanted to be done so badly. The finish was .1 mile away but I still had one more 5 mile loop. I walked by the Hubs and he followed me.

"I'm not going to make the cutoff. 3pm is in 40 minutes. I have 5 miles left." He told me he was coming with me. I said okay, then I stopped walking and looked at him. WHAT?! "I'm coming WITH you, I said. Let's go!" and he starts running. In flipflops and jeans. I wasn't thinking straight and I started shuffling too. Then I hugged him and sent him back. Beyond the fact that it was outside help and could get me a DQ or a time penalty (like I NEED my time to be any longer), it just felt wrong. I needed to do this solo. Plus, I felt like I was on another planet and it felt really weird to be around someone who was still "normal." I was so sad to leave him. It felt like 5 more miles was so far. I felt so sick. I can't really rehash those miles because a lot of it is hard to properly put in words. This ended up not being an athletic race for me, but an emotional mental toughness race. I wasn't able to race like I was physically able, but I was able to dig really really deep and see what was left. It was kind of ugly at times. I did a lot of questioning about myself, my identity, who I am. I though of the people back at work who are unable to do any of what I was doing. People who were proud of me just for showing up. I pictured all of their faces and knew I could not go back and tell them that I quit. That it was too hard. On and off I ran and walked and thought. At about mile 10 one of the race directors pulled up next to me in the golf cart. I knew it was 3pm and I had prepared myself to hand over my timing chip. I would get a DNF but I could still finish the distance unofficially. Instead he checked in and urged me to push as much as possible. He mentioned working towards the time cutoff, but since I was still kind of fuzzy-brained I didn't ask him what I meant. Weren't we at the cutoff? I did, laughing, say, "I'm last, huh?" (yes) I did my best to run and he said he'd check back in. I saw him go ahead and talk to the few who were just up ahead of me and then leave. I was never so happy to run back onto the main road, a straight shot to the end. As I exited the side street I could hear it. Around mile 11/11.5. Music. An MC. Cheering. It was the finish line. It was SO close but at this rate, my run shuffle would take me close to 30 minutes to go the 2 miles to there. I just kind of stopped and looked at the ground. I was SO FAR behind the cutoff. There was no way. It was like watching my dream slip away. It was so close I could hear it. I felt desperate to get there but my feet would not go. I was going to go 69 of the 70.3 miles and not make it. Almost 8 hours at this point. I remembered the quote I had posted on facebook the night before:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 
- Theodore Roosevelt

Somehow I got moving again and about 10 minutes later a pickup truck came towards me and stopped. It was the same guy who had check on me. I stopped. Here it is. I'm going to have to give my chip back at mile 12. 12!!! I wasn't mad at them at all. I knew the cutoffs going in and they had been more than generous so far. I was just disappointed. He gets out and says, "So here's the thing....(I wait for it)....we're going to let you finish."

OMG. I'm going to finish! Officially! I'm starting to realize that the may have also changed the course cutoff that day to 3:30pm. I'm not sure, really. I thank him and tears spring to my eyes. I joke about not crying and he's like, "you have 10 minutes! Go!" Haha. I realized I had no idea if I was really at 12. He tells me I have less than a mile. I take off up a hill. OUCH. But I don't really care. I get to the last aid station and round the corner. I know it's just up the hill. I can see the tent and hear the music. I hear the man who was just in front of me finish. I stop at the bottom of the biggest hill ever. Maybe not biggest ever, but it was cruel. I walked so slowly and so carefully up this hill. The finish chute is literally at the top. I'm not even sure I can walk up it. I'm so overwhelmed. Cars full of other athletes are leaving and people are hanging out their windows literally screaming me up the hill. I see a woman with a walkie talkie at the top. She's wearing a pink jacket and I realize she was the lady with the poms poms from the start of the run. She waves them and yells, "You got this girl! I told them we weren't leaving my runners out there! I'm so proud of you! I'm going to run with you down the chute!" I'm just stunned. I'm in the finish chute. She stops about 1/2 way down and I run in alone.

Total race time: 8:21:33

It's at that point I hear the MC announce "the pride and joy of Boston!" and my name. I hear him change the song. Now, if you know me and know how sappy I am, you know that my very favorite daydream is that I'm winning a race and a certain song is playing for me. The song always changes, but the daydream's the same. I'm coming down the chute and so much is happening that I can't really make myself listen to the song. I see ALL of the volunteers from the aid stations that drove by me as I passed their area waiting at the end. The see the ambulance and the drivers cheering and putting on the light and sirens. I see the Hubs and a few spectators, including one guy with a Boston Hub on Wheels shirt waiting and yelling "YEAH BOSTON!!!" Then, I start laughing when I hear the words and realize what it is.

"Weeeeeee, are the champions, my frieeeeend, and weeeeeee'll keep on fiiiiiiiighting, til the eeeeeend"

How appropriate and awesome. Also note: I now sappy-cry every time I hear that song. Sorryimnotsorry.

The announcer is telling everyone how we're all champions. We all fight for something and finishing is a win, from the winner to the very final finisher (me). I thought I'd be crying at this point when imagining the finish, but I don't. I feel like I'm watching it all happen. It was unreal. The lady with the poms poms (I wish I knew her name!) hugs me and tells me she's proud of me. I tear up and thank her. I'm given a finisher medal, and awesome finisher shirt and a gatorade. The pom pom lady leads me to the harvest feast. Food! I forgot all about it but they have food for me! I assumed I was kind of too late for that. I explained I never picked up the Hubs meal ticket that I purchased for him and she waved us on to get food. I ate and then the guy from the Shipyard beer tent comes to offer all of us beer tickets. I forgot I got a free one, but the Hubs ended up getting one too. We sat and ate and drank and chatted with the volunteers. That was one awesome thing about being last. We got to actually got to know some of the cool people who volunteered. It was so nice. Even though their day was mostly over, they still insisted on taking care of me. One insisted I not only have dessert, but sit and let him get it for me. When I discovered possibly the most horrifying blister of my life that had consumed my right pinky toe (how did I not feel THAT?! RIP pinky nail) one of them insisted I let him run up the hill and get an assortment of bandaids. The Hubs had to get my bike from transition (no one would let me go) and then they were like, "Eh! Just drive your car down the hill and put your stuff in here!" Haha. There was no saying no. By the time I left, I felt like I was saying goodbye to friends and family. I didn't want to go, but it was time. For like the zillionth time, my favorite Zac Brown Band song came on the radio.

As we drove back to Ogunquit I felt happy. It was the worst I had technically and athletically executed a race ever. I was sick. I messed up my nutrition. I didn't follow my run plan. I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was the most vulnerable I had felt ever. I was out there and risking being pulled with everyone knowing it. DNF. Did. Not. Finish. The only way I could move forward was to truly believe that there was a purpose to what I was doing. I was finding a part of me that I really needed to REALLY race this distance. I knew instantly I'd be back next year even though I was too scared to admit it. Instead of wanting the challenge of the race there was a fire now.

We spend the next few days cruising around the Ogunquit area, eating lobsters and drinking rum punch at Barnacle Billy's and relaxing. Monday I could barely shuffle, but I marched myself and my finisher's shirt allll around Perkin's Cove.

I will definitely be back next year. The difference in how I feel about my body and training and how much I learned in that race is enormous. I can't wait!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Signs from the Universe

aka What the Heck Have I Been Up To? (aka sorry this is wayyyyy long)

Before I get into why the Universe is sending little old me signs when it probably has other important things to do (but it's the UNIVERSE, so it can like, do a LOT of things, it's really NBD), let me back up and tell you what I've been up to. There have been a lot of changes.

First, right around the beginning of February I made a pretty big diet change. I know that I feel best when I eat as little processed food as possible and when I exclude dairy (wahhhh...cheeeese...). I had been lurking around the Vega Sport Website and was looking at their Thrive Forward program. They have tons of free recipes that are heavily plant based and vegan. I've been using their protein powders for a while and really like them. Their energy gels and electrolyte powders are great too. They don't upset my stomach like most do and are all natural. It's all vegan too, for those that need that.

Now, before I lose some of you, I'm not vegan. However, since I don't eat much meat and can't really have the dairy, these recipes are great for me as is, or to add some meat to. I'm loving making "power bowls" which is basically a grain on the bottom (1/2-3/4c of quinoa, brown rice or barley usually), lots of greens (I actually really love kale, so that works), whatever veggies are around (bell pepper, onion, carrots...can't do broccoli), some protein and then whatever fun toppings you have (seeds, dried fruit, fresh fruit, avocado, olives etc). Sometimes I make a sauce out of cashews (you can find the recipe for "cashew cream" on the Vega site or on other blogs) to put on top. That's usually my lunch, and I'll have plain rolled oats with unsweetened coconut milk (in the carton in the dairy section, not the canned stuff...totally different), fruit and nuts for breakfast. For dinner I usually have eggs, tofu or some chicken with whatever leftover veggies we have. My new favorite snack is a couple of pitted dates with peanut butter in the middle.

P.S. If you want an easy, really yummy tofu recipe check out this one from Eat Live Run (you have to scroll down and as a side not, I don't agree with her calorie breakdown, just go by the package label).


That was change number one. Then I finally went to spin class. I kept on chickening out, because the intro class was a wee bit to early for me to make it to. For some reason I feel especially wary of new things in the morning. I was saying this to my personal training partner and she was like, "DUH GIRL. Just go to the Saturday morning class and tell her you're new. She is awesome and will help you. I promise!" And I did. And she was so right. AND THE CLASS WAS AWESOMEEEEE!!! I am now addicted.

Before I knew it I felt totally different about training and food. I had been waiting since last summer to figure out how to motivate myself. There's no magic. There's nothing I purposefully did. I was just sick of feeling crappy because I didn't eat right and at the same time, got caught up in spinning. My swim class also started up again so I got caught up in a pretty good routine. Spin for 45-60 minutes two times a week, 75 minutes of swim, 60 minutes of personal training and 1-2 runs of about 3 miles (the mileage will be increasing soon). It's like all of a sudden I don't question if I'm going to do a workout. I just go. It's as automatic as going to work or making a stop at the grocery store. I feel really good.

As fate would have it, The Husband uncharacteristically insisted we sign up for the Ras na hEireann 5K in Somerville. We usually try to go to that or it's sister run, The Jingle Bell Run every year, but this year I wasn't feeling it. I was only getting in one run most weeks, but more often than not I skipped it for another workout, or I did treadmill sprints, so I had no idea where I was with my 5K time. Usually I am bugging him to do races, but this time he insisted. 

That Sunday we went to do our usual 3 mile loop. It's pretty flat, starts with a downhill and ends with a decent little uphill. It was mercifully in the high 40s after weeks of temps in the teens. The ice was melting and I figured our loop would be clear. Not so much. We had to cut off part of the loop due to it being covered in ice. There wasn't even a shoulder on the side of the road to run on. I figured it was still almost 2.5 miles and on we went. At one point I commented that I was actually enjoying the run and it seemed like The Husband was able to easily run my pace. When I'm not doing so well he has to stop and walk every so often because he literally can't run that slow. I forget what my total time was, but it ended up being about 2.6 miles at a 9:50 pace! I typically run a 10:30 to 11 minute pace (except for one glorious day where I set a 5K PR of 31:24 or a 10:08 pace). The entire time I had a song stuck in my head that I really liked and I joked that I would have to make sure that it happened for every run from now on!

Two things were clear. #1 I had more energy, because I had been eating much better. #2 the added workouts, and spinning in particular, had made me MUCH stronger. I felt so different when I was running. I just felt like I had more power, another gear and that I had some added endurance to carry it out. I also had the voice in my head to tell me it was a fluke. That I wouldn't do it again and certainly not on race day. I have a tendency to choke on race day. Argh.

A week later we go out and this time I know the ice is gone. We're going to do 3 miles this time. I am totally not motivated and I know my resistance to go is self-sabotage. If I don't try I can't fail right? No. Because choosing to stand aside, to not make a decision, is failure too. I eat breakfast, I eat lunch, I take a nap and then can't avoid it any longer. I also so actually get that song stuck in my head again. We head out and I pray that every light will go green so we can't cross. They don't.  I beg for the traffic at the Fens to be heavy enough that we can't get a window to get through. It isn't. No ice. No packs of rabid Canadian Geese. No stopping. Nothing. My legs burn and I'm scared to look at my watch. 3/4 of a mile in and all of a sudden it's back. I catch up to the husband and check our time at mile 1. 9:04. WHAAAAT?! Yes. We run another mile, this one much harder and get there by 18:24, a 9:20 second mile. Now I really hurt. I slow down for a bit and then crank it up again. We dodge the crowds leaving Symphony Hall, run up the hill and finish. 3 miles in 28:41, a 9:34 pace.

So, I PRed my 5K, right?


I knew better. It's notoriously crowded (5,000 runners) and for all but the fastest should really be just for fun. I figured, if I started well ahead of my pace time I'd be fine. Nope. I just have a really really hard time running in a pack of so many people. The pace was fine, but I tend to slow a little and surge a little. Not by huge margins, but enough that I need some space. I also wasn't trained for this course. It's hard. The first mile is a hill, there's a decent one at mile 2 and then a monster at 2.5 (that wasn't there until a recent course change). That last mile does me in.

My A goal was a miracle sub 29, which would require a 9:20 pace or so. Possible but not likely. My for real B goal was sub 30, a 9:40 pace and one that I've done before. I've been dreaming of it for a while, but never been so close. I should have had a C goal of PR but I got kind of caught up in the sub-30.

I ran a 31:58. Whomp whomp. I figured, hey! This course is hard! I'm pretty sure it's at least a course PR, right? Well, I looked it up when I got home and in 2010 I ran it in 31:57. Yep, I missed by ONE SECOND!!! (well two seconds to beat it) I was happy to get into our favorite Pub, The Burren, and see our favorite band, The Johhny Come Latelies. I was also happy to get some (well one) of the free beers Harpoon donated, as evidenced below.

Today I'm already stalking 5Ks to find one without such a crazy course and one that is relatively soon catches my eye. The course is FLAAAAT with a slight downhill at the end. It's perfect. It's close to home, not too early, has 1/10th the runners of my last one and also has a USATF Grand Prix race as part of the 5K to add to the atmosphere. There's actually lot's of stuff that weekend that will leave me amped to race, so how could I not? Well...the fear of failure. I can chalk my performance yesterday up to not being ready for a hilly course and the crowds. What if I fail under ideal conditions? Then it was really all just a fluke. Or, uh, maybe I just had two bad races. So, I should try. Or maybe I should wait. But I could try now AND later.

I realized that if I have any chance at getting a ticket into the 5:30 spin class I have to leave NOW. I head out and try to shake the race off. Of course, as soon as I get on my bike and I'm pedaling to kill the extra few minutes before the official warm up starts, my brain starts at it again. YOU WILL FAIL. YOU WILL BE AWESOME. YOU WILL KILL IT. I go through all of it and all the reasons to run/not run and almost miss the instructor announce that we're starting our group warm-up. It was the song she put on that snapped me out of it. It was MY song. My fast running song. The one that got stuck in my head during my training runs. This song:

I shake my head and start laughing. This is too good. The song is pretty random. I love music and I hadn't even heard of him until a couple of weeks ago. The signs are there if you want to see them. I knew I needed to sign up when I got home.

And so I did. I'm not saying much else about it other than it's soon and I will fill you in when it happens.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Friday Favorites

I am still working on the tri series. The swim will be up next, I'm just really really paranoid I'm going to forget something that I want to share. I'm going through my emails, because I have lots of good stuff saved from swim class and from triathlon athlete letters. Also, the world is conspiring to never let me get to spin class. Either my work or training schedule has changed and prevented me from going. I will go and update you when it happens. Good news though! I got into my swim class! It starts on 2/11.

So anyway. A few of the blogs I read do a Friday Faves rundown, usually of things that come up during the week, and I really enjoy them. So...here we go (product title is a link when available):

I bought this on a whim, because I love the smell of fresh figs. I started using it right around when I started swim classes and now the scent or fig and chlorine, and the happy memories from training for my first tri, are intertwined. It's pricey, but a little goes a long way and I don't use it all the time. I got my last tube for Christmas 2012 and still have some.

While I do like the grapefruit version, I'm talking about the original formula with peppermint. It's amazing. I use it all year round and just bought 5 more tubes at CVS. I have one in every jacket and purse and also in my gym toiletry bag. You need this in your life.

Booo. It appears that it may not be available now and that I discovered it just as the last of it was being put out. It was only $4.99 and amazing! I mostly used it to drizzle over some air-popped popcorn and it went pretty quick! I highly recommend keeping your eye out for it.

I get really annoying pimples on my chin and this is one of the very few scrubs that works but doesn't feel harsh. My skin feels amazing after I use it! And, thanks to writing this post, I just realized I can buy two of them on amazon with the gift card I have. I originally bought it at Whole Foods, but haven't seen it there recently.

I'll let you just click the link above and check it out. I found it a few months ago while browsing through iBooks on my phone. I haven't read anything like it in quite a while, but I was sucked in right away. It's a pretty quick read and I was sad when it was over.

Lululemon Cool Racerback Tank

I KNOW. It's a $42 tank top. I know, I know!!! But let me tell you that I have a few (let's just say a few, mmkay?) and I live in them. I workout in them, I sleep in them, I wear them out in the summer and layer them in the winter. My very very favorite one looks to be back in stock. It's the "wee stripe white heathered medium grey" color. I have had this one for YEARS and sometimes hand wash it in the sink because I can't handle when it's dirty and I can't wear it. I end up sleeping in this on a lot and it has still kept it's shape. I might need to order a couple more of this one. I always regret when I love something and don't buy extras. I also have some cool colors too - hot pink, dark aqua, heathered charcoal.

Capri Blue Jar Candle - Aloha Orchid

I love this candle. It was an impulse buy a few years ago that ended up being a favorite. A guy friend even saw it and exclaimed, "my wife buys those! They smell so good!!!"

Vanderpump Rules

Yeah, I'm not sorry. I seriously love this show and I have no idea why. Even Time agrees, even if they admit the show is trashy. So there you have it.

Wyndmere Lavender Oil

That and my eye mask/pillow that I can't find a picture of. I have an eye mask that I got at Whole Foods that has extra padding under the eyes so light doesn't get up under the mask next to your nose. I brush a little oil onto my pillow, put the mask and and I might actually sleep the whole night. During the summer, I wake up as soon as it's light out and it's really annoying. The mask helps with the light and the lavender makes me sleepy. Just be careful of how much oil you use. Some people are really sensitive to it and it's not recommended to put right on your skin undiluted. I used too much once and ended up congested the next day.

Commanderie de Peyrassol

I love rosé, as I think you've gathered now. Don't confuse it with your great aunt's white zinfandel (aka pink wine!). This is slightly sweet and minerally. It's really special. It should start appearing in about 2 months, just when spring starts to hint at a warm up.

I first saw it mentioned in Formaggio Kitchen's blog a few years ago and apparently it's come up again:


This is a fairly interesting profile on the estate:


and it was #1 in a New York Times taste test:


I drink rosé year round, even though I think of it as a year round wine. Well, except the Peyrassol, which starts to disappear in May. It also goes from about $20 a bottle, which is quite enough, to closer to $30 as it gets more scarce.

Well, that's it for today. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

10 (more) Things About Me

Since writing posts about triathlon training is giving me nightmares, I figured I'd break it up a bit. Also, my last 10 Things About Me was one of my more popular posts. That and any post that involves booze. Can't help you with that tonight. Just sparkling Rosé. What? It's the drink of snowstorms!

1. Okay, since I mentioned the rosé I guess that can be number one. Do you have a song that distinctly reminds you of a place or event? Last February, we had Nemo. It was a Noreaster? Maybe a blizzard? It doesn't really matter. We got 2 1/2 feet of snow on that Friday and my Saturday schedule at work was pushed back to Sunday. We spent all day shoveling out the alley where my car is parked. The alley is city property and city maintained but you bet AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. Not one plow. Most of us realized that we would have to get together and shovel the length of the alley to get out, so we did. By about noon we were done and I said to The Husband, "you know, the local restaurants are posting on facebook that they don't have food (delivery trucks could not get through), but they're open for drinks. I think we should stop by." So we went to Tremont 647. It was hoppin in the there! Not only did they not have food, but at that point they were also out of OJ for mimosas. It was pretty funny. I took one look at the menu and said, "this might be ridiculous timing, but eff it. I'm ordering rosé and pretending it's spring." And then, just when there was a lull in the collective conversations in there, someone changed the song that was playing to something much more appropriate:

Everyone simultaneously started dancing and looking around like, awww yeah, who did this?!

2. I have some random habits that I always do. One of them? When I get home and know the next time I will be getting in my car is the next morning for work, I ALWAYS put the preset to 105.7 WROR. I feel like it HAS to already be on that station when I turn the car on in the morning. I always listen to Loren and Wally and classic rock in the morning. I just can't handle the top 40 DJs on the way to work. I'm cranky. I'm barely awake. I'm not in the moods for shenanigans. Unless it's Loren and Wally Shenanigans, then that's ok.

3. My "classic" bad dream that I have when I am stressed out, like REALLY stressed out, is that the lights either aren't working, are dim, or a combination of both. In the dream I feel like I'm in danger because I can't see well and am super frustrated about it. It almost has a supernatural feel to it, like there's some sort of demon or ghost controlling the lights. Towards the end of The Husband being in grad school, the on light from our track lights pointing towards the kitchen, plus the light over our sink went out. Only the dim bulb over the stove was working. It felt just like the dream and I was ready to move out until he graduated. Of course I couldn't reach the track light to change it and was afraid to mess with the sink light. ARGH!!!

4. HUGE pet peeve of mine? When pedestrians are crossing at a light where it specifically says WALK or DONT WALK and they somehow don't get it. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that maybe you are from somewhere without stoplights. MAYBE. But probably not. But seriously don't walk out into traffic that has the green light, while you have the pedestrian equivalent of the red light, THE BIG ORANGE HAND THAT SAYS DONT WALK, jack up traffic and gesture to us, "ehhhhhhh, this is a crosssss waaaaaaalk." Yes. It is. AND YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.

5. I really REALLY like how I smell after swim class. I love when I go to bed after (it's usually a late class), curl my arm around my pillow and can smell the chlorine on my skin still. Now that I'm waiting on signing up for my next round of classes, one of the things I keep thinking of is that I will get to drift off to sleep dreaming of swimming.

6. My bird, Peete, gets really, REALLY upset if I lay down anywhere (especially my bed) in the apartment. He shrieks, paces back and forth and generally loses his mind. I don't know if he thinks I'm dead, is upset he's no longer getting attention or is just a jerk who won't let me nap. I also think it's really funny to go to bed wile the husband is still up so Peete loses it with him too.

7. I'm almost incapable of making a dinner recipe without doubling it, especially if it's a soup. Even if the recipe looks like it makes a lot, I will still double it. That's how we ended up with 8 quarts of Minestrone Soup last week. It was totally worth it though. It was yummy and now have it, like, forever.

8. We live in a +/- 650 square foot studio apartment in the South End of Boston that houses the two of us, two bikes, a cockatiel with a HUGE cage and a wetsuit that hangs on a wall because there's no place else to put it. Oh, and our kitchen table is mostly commandeered by my husbands "mad scientist experiments" (read: legit technology projects). It's "cozy."

There are now two bike parked here...

9. I am really bad at keeping plants alive, but am obsessed with cacti and succulents. I know. Everyone is bad at plants, right? However, there have been two or three plants that The Husband (who works with plants for a living) deemed as dead lost causes that I not only brought back to life, but are now beautiful. I got my amaryllis to bloom after 18 months of being told to throw it away. I have a 13 year old Jade Tree. I even got his Bonsai Tea Tree to bloom 3 or 4 times while he was in school. Too bad I forgot about it just long enough for it to die weeks before he graduated. Wah wahhhh...

10. My bike is named Tater. I was jokingly calling it The Orange Crush, because it's orange and tried to crush me but I knew that was SO LAME. After doing my last triathlon this past summer, I said, "I'm pretty sure it needs a trip to the bike shop. There were so many rollers and I was mashing those gears like 'taters." And then it felt right. Tater. Right from Ron White. (Because Tater is so much cooler)

I'm serious, it's worth watching the first 8 min to the punch line!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Triathlon - An Overview

Psssst! Hey you. Yes you, the person who has secretly wondered if they can do a triathlon. No, seriously. YOU. The person who has just planted the seed. Maybe you've heard of other completing a tri or seen one on tv. Maybe you imagined, step by step, if you could get through all 3 legs of the race. Maybe you started to think through the gear. Then maybe you dismissed it. For whatever reason(s), you did. I did too. But maybe that seed had already rooted a little and the thought came back to you. You won't admit to yourself that you might be taking it a wee bit seriously, but you might be. You definitely haven't told anyone yet, because that's crazy right? Maybe not! So here's what I say. Follow along because you're JUST CURIOUS. Okay? No one will tell.

See? I get scared too. Second road race ever, a 5 miler at Harpoon Brewery.

To give you some background if you are new here, I am a newbie triathlete. I have done 4 sprint distance races since my first one in August of 2012. I started sharing my running, and then triathlon, experiences partly to document it for myself but to also share with all of you. So many of you said what I was doing was brave, but I didn't feel brave. I started pushing myself because I felt so NOT brave. So here I am. I want to help you feel brave. Maybe sometimes terrified and brave, as triathlons can do to you, but brave none the less. I am also not of the traditional background, or body type that most people picture an athlete to be. That's why I am here for you now. I want you to see that if a totally goofy, clumsy "mortal" girl, who has more of a tendency for Bravo tv marathons than actual marathons can do this, you can too. I struggle with my weight, I have major battles with motivation some days and I work full time, just like many of you.

This series is geared towards someone who has never done a triathlon, or is very new and looking for tips. I will be focusing on the Sprint Triathlon for this series, although there are shorter "super sprints" and longer distances as well. I am really trying to make this as no nonsense and clear as possible. For that reason, I'll let you know the very basics you need. I will also let you know what the "nice to have" things are too so that you can make that choice. In upcoming posts I will go more into the transitions and the swim, bike and run individually. For now, I want to give you a sense of the logistics and how it all works.

Here's where I have to be the fun police. Please make sure any of the types of exercises you will be doing to train for a triathlon, and the race itself, is safe for you. It's a good idea to clear it with your MD if you are not sure. While I am not looking to scare you, there have been deaths in triathlons (same for running races). The vast majority of them happen in the swim to people who have undiagnosed cardiac conditions, but you never know. There have also been deaths on the bike course, mainly from bike-car collisions. Please ALWAYS wear your helmet when you're on your bike. ALWAYS. I fell in my driveway while standing over my bike with my feet on the ground. I hit my head HARD and was lucky I was wearing my helmet. 


First things first, you have to register. For each race you do, you must have a USA Triathlon license. There is absolutely no way around this. You choose during the registration process to get a "day license" for $12 or you can get a year membership for $45. Obviously, if you think you'll do 4 or more races, you will save money with the year membership. With the year you will also get a spiffy card, a USAT sticker for your car (STICKERS!!!!! I love them!) and a whole load of discounts. One of them is 20% off Tyr, which makes swim and tri apparel. I only wear their swimsuits and with that discount, made back that $45 in one summer with the money I saved. I plan on buying a one piece tri-suit (we'll get to gear later) later in the season when I have a better idea of my size. You also get ranked nationally if you do three or more races, which was pretty cool to see this past year. Fun fact: I rank better nationally than locally. Not surprised at all. Thanks crazy competitive Boston people.


So now that you've registered and have wiped your sweaty shaky hands off, how will the rest pan out? Well, first, don't forget to train. I used a plan that my personal trainer made for me for my first tri. To her dismay (ha...she is so patient with my craziness!), it was complicated by the fact that I had also signed up for my third half marathon, which was about 2 months after the tri. That meant 5 or 6 weeks or training overlap. The two books that I do own and would recommend are:

Your First Triathlon by Joel Friel

This is a good overview for beginners and has a very basic training plan. Of course, like anything else, it has to be taken with a grain of salt. You have to consider your own differences and needs. One example? My first race included a half mile open water swim. This book, and many people in my life, said that was a horrible idea. Mostly because they wanted me to be successful. However, I knew, and so did one of my friends who encouraged me to sign up, that I'd be fine. I was. It was scary but SO awesome!

This book is fantastic, because it includes training plans for the sprint distance right on up through the full Ironman and has ten (TEN!!!) levels of plans for each distance, depending on your experience, how much you want to train and what your goals are. I bough it and then proceeded to be totally intimidated by it until I signed up for my half ironman and things got REAL. Don't be intimidated. The workouts are coded and you have to flip back and forth to get the workout for each day. I made a google docs table and wrote out the workouts for each day so that I can see what I have every day for the whole week/month/plan. Write it out online or paper, whatever works for you! Remember to be flexible in training. If you have to swap days, it's okay. Just make sure you don't do a ton of days in a row. You need rest days too. 

Training is also the time to figure out what works best for your pre-race meal and also if you need some nutrition during the race. I will get into this later as well.

Race Week

This is the week that you should be considering how you will lay out your transition area (at the latest, feel free to experiment ahead of time). Transition is your home base and I will do a separate post just for that. Essentially, it's where your bike is racked, where all of your gear will be and where you will get "transition"from one stage to the next. You should also be cutting back on workouts as your plan will tell you. Eat normally and as you get closer to race day, start considering how sensitive your stomach is and if you will want to avoid certain foods. For me that's dairy and anything with a lot of fiber. Later broccoli!

If you have the opportunity, I strongly recommend going to a pre-race packet pick up and not the pick up on the morning of the race. It's just one less things to worry about. It also give you a chance to look through everything in your packet and make sense of it. You will have numbers for your helmet, your bike, your body (for the run) and maybe even for your swim cap. You will be give a color coded swim cap that corresponds to your wave and maybe even temporary race number tattoos (if not someone will write them on you with a sharpie on race day). Something that might throw you off is your "age" during the race. If you are racing in 2014, you will race as what ever age you turn that year. Even though I will be 35 through the entirety of the 2014 race season and turning 36 in the fall, I will race as a 36 year old. You will also be in whatever age group that "race age" puts you in.

You may also be given a neoprene timing chip. If so, DO NOT LOSE IT. DO NOT FORGET IT. This is how you get your time and has to be worn the entire race. You are also responsible for giving it back or being charged a fee. Some races don't give them out ahead, which I prefer. Otherwise I sleep with it on the night before, because I am THAT paranoid. Make sure its on good and secure. You don't want to yank it off with your wetsuit if you are wearing one that day. No chip = no time = no results = sad trombone for you. Wah wahhhh...

Since you have all of your numbers, you can go ahead and put the ones for your bike, helmet and swim cap (if used) on ahead of time. One less thing to worry about on race day! I suggest using a race belt that holds your number for the run so that you don't have to fumble with safety pins after swimming. No matter what you think, safety pins are a horrible idea and I'm glad that's one of the things I didn't learn the hard way. I will give you an option for using them that has been suggested in a future post, but I like the belt.

Race Day

Most races start at 8am, but some are even as early as 7. For an 8am race the timeline is often:

4:30/5am - race day packet pick up opens (and possibly day-of registration)
6am - transition opens (you are allowed into the corral where you will have an assigned bike/transition space. Only athletes, volunteers and USAT refs are allowed in here)
7:30 - transition closes
7:45am - pre race meeting/national anthem
8am - first swim wave starts

So you see why you don't want to wait to pick up your packet? Think of how long the drive will take. Think of how early you will have to get up to eat, get dressed and pack up/double check your gear before the time you need to leave. You could easily bet getting up at 3/3:30am. If your a terrible sleeper like I am, it might mean only 2-3 hours of sleep that night. If you don't have a choice, just bite the bullet and get there as early as it opens. You will be tired no matter what time you get there and the more time you have to get settled in, the less nervous you will be before the race. Don't put yourself in a position to rush.

This line is 30 minutes after I arrived and is tame compared to what it looked like 30 minutes later.

After you get there and set up your transition area, try and make a last minute porta-potty run. Even if you think you don't have to. If you are wearing a wetsuit for the swim, leave plenty of time to get it on correctly and get into the water. Soon you will be called to the pre-race meeting, which is usually safety basics, random announcements, reminders and any changes. After that you will be grouped into your wave. Waves are made up of elites and then different age groups. It's done this way so that you have 50-100 people rushing into the water at once instead of 1,000 plus. There is often a "novice" or "nervous swimmer" wave as well. I highly recommend signing up for this wave and have placed myself in it for 2 of the 4 I have done. It's a little more, "Yay! We're in this together! Go us!" and a little less, "I will push you under and swim over you if you are in my way!" than the age group waves can be. That being said, I've had great experiences no matter how I've raced. Except for the guy who grabbed my toe and needed a kick in the face. A typical sprint distance swim is 1/4 to 1/2 a mile and in a pond, lake or ocean. You will almost always have a separate time for the swim, along with T1, the bike, T2, the run and your overall total time. Small races may not give you more than your total time.

Yep. I'm so cool you can't even stand it.

After the swim is the first transition or T1. Here you will go from the swim to bike. All of your gear will be next to your bike and hopefully laid out in a way that is helpful to you. Keep in mind that unless you are doing a full Ironman with a changing tent, you will not be able to change clothes and nudity is a big no no. We'll go over how that will work with clothing in the gear section. Do not forget to put your helmet on here! The bike leg is usually 10-15 miles, with 12 being pretty average. Elevation changes vary greatly race to race, so consider this if you are not a strong biker, but remember that you can train for hilly courses too!

Running the bike out of T1. You cannot get on your bike until the mount line.

After you bike, you will enter the second transition, or T2. Here you will end the bike and start the run. Don't forget to take off your helmet (you'd be surprised how many forget!) and have your run number on (I usually put it on before the bike and turn it so it's behind me while I ride). Get going on your run and expect your legs to feel pretty heavy for the first 10-15 minutes or so. The run is usually about a 5K (3.1 miles) but can be up to 4 or 5 miles.

After that, it's the finish! Be proud, post it allllll over facebook, talk your friends' ears off and wear that medal and race T-shirt out to brunch!

Then go find your next race.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Update on this week

Well....I didn't do either the spin class of the swim. Yep.

Let me distract you here with a training playlist favorite...

My days off from work this week were Thursday, Friday and Sunday (I work four 10 hour shifts). However, there was an opportunity to work an extra 10 hours of OT and get ahead on a pile of paperwork, so I offered to help out. I went in on Thursday, which was the day I wanted to go check out the pool. Turns out missing it was okay, because I just found out that I have a chance to rejoin the group swim class I had been taking back when I had a Harvard Athletic membership. The class registration opens on Monday, but allegedly I cannot register until Monday the 27th if the spots have not been filled by members. Realistically, it looks like anyone can register whenever they want, even before tomorrow. Cross your fingers for me!

Ideally I will end up in one of those classes. They are pretty much identical to the warmup/drills/swim/cooldown that my off season plan and eventually my training plan call for. The advantage is that I have someone watching me for the 8 classes and giving me feedback and it means I won't skip class or slack off in the workout. If I do get a spot, I won't sign up for the pool until later this spring since I will only be scheduled to do the one swim workout anyway. I would have just kept the Harvard membership and had access to the pool and the early sign up, but since The Husband has graduated, it's quite a bit more expensive as an alumni. That's why I will eventually be checking out the cheaper community pool later on, I just hopefully won't need it for a few months now.

I really have no excuse for skipping spin on Friday other than being exhausted. I slept so horribly all week that I crashed Thursday night and slept until almost 11 on Friday. Spin was at 8:45 and I knew I needed the sleep more. I also realize that the time is coming very soon where I will need to train more and that there will be some benefit to learning to train fatigued. I'm off next Friday (and will not be exhausting myself with OT) so I should be able to make the same class next week.

The triathlon series I've been promising is mapped out and the first one partly completed. Coming soon!