Tag Archives: Challenges

Race Recap: Ironman Lake Stevents 70.3

As I sit here enjoying my coffee from the couch and waiting for the Ironman Canada expo to open I figure I may as well recap Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3.

It seems like IMLS happened forever ago. Worlds ago! But really it was just 5 weeks ago that I thought I was exhausted, yet actually had no idea what the word exhaustion truly meant, and then woke up at 3:30am to drive an hour north to race a Half Ironman.

From the beginning, my head wasn’t really in it for this race.

Pre-race photo courtesy of Megan!

Pre-race photo courtesy of Megan!

I wanted it to be – I really wanted to go out there and impress myself – but a number of things kept my head from being that clear. I was on week #3 of a 5 week-long build. I knew the next 2 weeks of training would be the hardest thing my eyes had seen or my body had done (see: Whistler Training Camp & a 125mi ride weekend). I was tired from the previous 2 weeks of training, which rivaled my 2 peak weeks from last year.

These are not excuses, but facts, really. I’m actually pretty pleased with how I did that day considering, but there are also some pretty clear things I can improve upon.

SWIM: 34:27 // 1:38/100 yd average pace

Me and Megan pre-swim. Why on earth do we look so excited?!

Me and Megan pre-swim. Why on earth do we look so excited?!

My swim goal was fairly simple – DON’T STOP. My swimming anxiety has improved a lot, but sometimes it’s still second nature for me to freak out and stop. For example, Victoria. I really wanted to practice an aggressive-for-me start and swim through that feeling I get a couple minutes in that tells my brain I CAN’T DO THIS I MUST STOP NOW.

I started in the middle of the second row and when the gun went off the first row took off. I hung for a couple buoys and then I honestly don’t really know what happened! One stroke I sighted and there was a huge gap (clean water hellz yeah!) and when I sighted next there were all these people in front of me and in my way. I tried to go around them and swam SMACK into a buoy. I sort of swam over a few others. Sorry ladies!

On the way back to shore we all started catching up with the slower swimmers from previous waves (M 3034, M3539, F3539) and that wasn’t pretty. But I zig-zagged around them and made it across the timing mat.

I was hoping for a swim closer to 32 minutes, but I’m pleased with the fact I accomplished a smooth swim where I was able to work hard.

T1: 2:02

Not too shabby time-wise, but my transition felt clunky. I ripped off my wetsuit, put on my helmet with glasses attached, put on my shoes, grabbed my bike and started moving, and realized I didn’t have my race belt. WHICH YOU DON’T NEED FOR THE BIKE. Yet for some reason I decided I needed to go back and get it because I usually do wear it for the bike leg. Dumb dumb.

Mount line ahead!

Mount line ahead!

BIKE: 2:52:50 // 19.44 mph avg speed

As I mounted my bike and put my sunglasses on I heard a popping noise. Goodbye lens! Drat. My lens bounced across the road and I started spinning down the block with glasses in my hand. I saw a team member and tossed them at her hoping she’d realize I wanted her to keep them for me.

Here, please take my worthless glasses!

Here, please take my worthless glasses!

Almost immediately I felt disappointed on the bike, because I knew I couldn’t ride as hard as I wanted to. I watched the riders in front of my pull farther away but when I tried to ride harder my legs screamed. I knew if I kept it up I’d be screwed for the run. I checked in on my heart rate frequently, but it was low for how hard things felt. About 10 miles in I decided to ride on feel and use heart rate as a looser guide than usual.

I kept going, thinking about my lost sunglasses but felt thankful it was overcast and misty so I didn’t really need them. Lost in my thoughts at about 20 or 30 miles in I got stung by not one bee, but two! Descending I felt something smack my knee and instantly it felt like glass had sliced me. Whatever had hit me was stuck in my skin, and as it turns out two bees were hanging by their stingers. Having never been stung before this made for an interesting rest of the ride. I waited until I hit a flatter and slower portion and tried to wipe the bees off in the direction to pull their stingers out with them. Then I proceeded to breathe deeply out of my mouth about every 10 minutes or so to make sure I could still get air. Guess I’m not allergic!

The rest of the bike was ho hum. It’s a very tough course in the back half so I spun up the many hills, pushed the few downs, and went back and forth between trying to catch people and letting them go. When I focused on me I knew I was working the right amount of hard for a Half Ironman, but when I focused on others I got complacent and a little bit down, honestly.

The highlight was a cheer from my friend Colleen who happened to be on course on mile 55 of the bike. “Go get that f*$#er!” So I sped up and passed him with less than a mile of the bike left.

T2: 1:50

Again with the bad decisions! I took off my bike shoes and decided to wipe my feet off on my towel (wtf). Then I fiddled with my socks and made some lunch and did some online shopping and headed out to run. (Not really – there’s no Internet in transition, silly! – but that’s how I felt)

RUN: 1:44:35 // 7:59min/mi avg pace

Happy to be off the bike.

Happy to be off the bike.

The run is a fair course: moderately hilly with some rewarding downs but not much flat. I don’t have a lot of play by play memories, but I know I caught a few of the women that had been leapfrogging me on the bike early on but who had ultimately won out on that leg. I ticked them off and chatted with a particularly nice one for a few strides and we thanked each other for pushing the bike.

Eat my dust, guy!

Eat my dust, guy!

About 3 miles in I noticed a guy was running right on my heels, so I moved over to let him pass. He didn’t, but instead pulled up alongside me. Nice pace. Without speaking a word he and I ran together and took turns “pulling” for the next 7 miles. He crushed me up the hills, but I’d get him back on the down hills and flats and we kept each other trucking along at a good pace.

The run is essentially a figure 8 that you travel twice. Running through the center so many times give friends and family a good idea of where you are and a great opportunity to cheer. I have a tendency to get in the zone and can lose appreciation of what’s going on around me, but when I heard “More Knutson!” from the sidelines and looked up to see my teammates and friends I stood a little taller and stopped sandbagging behind a girl in my AG in front of me.

With 3 miles to go I tried to push harder and within a few blocks I lost my run friend. But I knew I could keep up a harder effort in this final countdown and I wanted to squeeze out any additional seconds that I could.

Finishline in sight, and my run doesn't look like a shuffle!

Finish line in sight, and my run doesn’t look like a shuffle!

OVERALL RESULTS: 5:15:44 // 11th AG

Overall this was a 9 minute distance PR and a 30 minute course PR for me. I can’t not be happy about that! But I know I have a better bike in me with the fitness I’ve gained this year, and even if I hadn’t shaved seconds anywhere else I would have been better served not being such a scatterbrain. I would say this was a well executed race for me, but a little on the safe side.

After I caught up with friends and teammates we hit the road back to Seattle. Hours later I found myself on our deck with a glass of wine and got a note from a friend; I would have gotten a roll-down spot to the 70.3 World Championships in Vegas had I stayed. (You have to be present to claim awards and qualifications at IM events)

For .5 seconds I wish I had been there, and then I let it go. The championships are 2 weeks after Canada and I have bigger fish to fry and more important things to stay focused on. Like Ironman Canada!

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The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

I don’t even have any pictures I’ve been so tired and busy, so you’ll just have to believe me.

The last 5 weeks have been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. By far. IMC was tough, I’d argue that finishing Boston was tougher, and then there are the private and personal struggles we all go through that are a different kind of challenge than anything physical.

I can easily say though, that the last 5 weeks of training, my build to peak, were the hardest thing I’ve ever done: 5 weeks of steady building (training mileage + hours) with a finale weekend of a 128 mile ride + hour-long run on Saturday, and a 20 mile run on Sunday. With a taperless 70.3 and a 3-day training camp in the middle, no less.

Ever single day for the last 5 weeks I’ve woken up more tired.

It can’t get harder than this, tomorrow you’ll feel better, I’d tell myself multiple times per day.

You just need to warm up, I’d tell myself to limit discouragement at the start of each workout.

You should be tired, as I got sleepy earlier and earlier each night.

I watched my Garmin and fought to keep pace, and watched my heart rate drop drop drop. By the end I couldn’t get it above zone 3b if a tiger were chasing me.

There were a few days, specifically in the last 2 weeks, where I truly didn’t know if I could finish my workout. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t know if I was capable. Spoiler: I did. But had coaches and friends not surrounded me the first day of camp, or had I not had others to meet and keep me entertained for a 7+ hour ride (that started with 2-3 hours of rain!), I don’t know if I could have blocked out the mountain of a day and focused on moving one mile at a time.

Even though it was only 2 days after the peak of my training, yesterday I woke up feeling better. To say I felt “good” would be a laughable overstatement, but better than I’ve felt for at least a month. Even if my body hasn’t gotten the memo, my brain knows: Taper Has Arrived!

I feel grateful to have arrived at taper in one piece this year. I feel happy that I held it together and didn’t have a mid-build meltdown like I usually do (nevermind some exceptionally grumpy days – no tears is an incredible feat!). I am proud that I worked so hard every single day.

At this point, I couldn’t panic train if I tried. There is nothing left, I am empty, and my tank needs to refill itself. But I believe that I did everything I could this year. I know I did. I will always wish to be faster, and fitter. But all you can do is give each day your whole body and heart, and I did that a hundred times over.

With about 40 miles to go (of 128) of our last long bike ride on Saturday we started talking about how we were heading home.

Crossing the bridge this direction means we’re headed home, and

This is the last time we’ll have to climb this hill until next year, and

This is the last time we’ll stop at this gas station

Then there was a pause.

Well, unless any of get to Kona this year.

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Photo Post: Wenatchee Century Ride

I never wrote about one of my favorite training weekends so far this year – the Wenatchee Century ride.

I’m lucky enough to have a friend and training partner whose family has a vacation home in Eastern Washington, and she invited a bunch of us over for the first weekend in June to ride our bikes in sunshine on nice roads.

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Here we are at around 25 miles in, but the smiles never stopped for all 98 of them!

 

We ended up riding about 98 miles with 4,300(ish) feet of climb in under 5 hours and 30 minutes.

I wish that was real life every weekend!

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New York City Not-Marathon Recap

There was a hurricane. And the New York City Marathon was cancelled less than 48 hours before it was slated to begin.

We arrived in NYC last Friday, went straight to the expo, and as soon as I made it through the line for my shirt, bib, and chip it became very apparent that the marathon was not going to happen. Though hardly a person in the Convention Center actually knew at the time, ABC, NBC, and MSNBC were reporting that Mayor Bloomberg had just announced that the marathon would no longer be held due to becoming a divisive hotbed of a topic in a city that needed nothing more than to be unified for recovery.

I saw some tweets, received a phone call that confirmed the rumor, and seconds later received texts from many west coast friends extending hugs and consolations. Dammit. In a fog, we stayed at the expo for a little while watching all of the innocent knowledge-less runners shop in an amped up state that only a pending marathon can induce. As we left it became  apparent that news had truly broken. People were gathered around lobby tv’s with banners – NEW YORK CITY MARATHON CANCELLED – scrolling along the bottom. The scene was dream-like. Everyone was quiet and stood there without words. We all exchanged glances and were instant friends; we were going to go through this together, as runners. One man cried. Another who we talked to was positive but quite disappointed; he was going to propose to his soon-to-be-fiance at the finish line.

We left, went to the hotel, and decided we’d salvage a good vacation out of the weekend.

Was I upset? Yes. Disappointed? Immensely.

But the truth was, in the end, I only felt partially emotional about running that marathon to begin with. I had registered as a product of qualification, but after a long dramatic season full of changed plans and injury, when it came time to ramp up my mileage I was too emotionally spent to pour my heart into training like it deserved. Or like I deserved. I checked every box and made every day count, but I wasn’t waking up or going to sleep excited and I didn’t like myself very much for feeling that way. In the two weeks leading up to the race I had started to get more excited about the raw experience of running the five boroughs of screaming crazy spectators. I was anxious to see the sights. I anticipated feeling the hurt and looked forward to it, and I hoped it would inspire me. But my excitement and anticipation was nothing in comparison to the people who trained all year – or for the last four – for this one single day. So I felt sad, but I felt exponentially more sad for them.

If this had happened to Ironman Canada I would have been inconsolable. I would have been absolutely and completely wrecked. For me a marathon was a fun way to close out a season, but to most other runners it meant so much more than that. My first marathon wasn’t that long ago and I remember the meticulous effort, planning, and emotional investment. Six days later I still feel a loss for those runners much more than I do for myself.

On Marathon morning we walked to Central Park, mostly because I wanted to see it in its beautiful autumn state, but also because we had heard rumors about a newly organized run happening on the outer loop. When we arrived it was quite a sight to see. There were groups cheering lining the entire south end of the loop, makeshift water stations set up by caring individuals, and a few thousand runners were participating in a newly formed marathon. Many of the runners were proudly wearing their NYCM bibs. People were running for their country, their charity, Sandy victims, and because they trained for this damn thing and wanted to finish what they started. It was an overwhelming show of the human spirit.

Standing there watching I didn’t want to leave. I regretted not treating Saturday like Marathon Eve to wake up early and participate in this 8am marathon. Part of me even thought about heading back to the hotel to change so that I could run an afternoon 26.2 with the runners who were still “on course”. A significant part of me still wishes I had done any of those things. But I didn’t for many reasons and starting my offseason then and there on Friday at 5pm in NYC was the right thing to do for my body. For my heart? I’m not sure yet.

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Aging Up

Today is my birthday, and in the amateur sporting world of running and triathlon it’s a big one. Though I only turn 29, based on the timing of my birthday I will from this point forward be aged up into the 30-34 age group.

Eeeeek!

The 25-29-ers are fast and fierce, don’t get me wrong. They feel and look friendly, kind, and caring, but out of nowhere athletes will in essence eat you up and spit you out. But in a friendly way. They’re there to compete, but there’s an air of compassion and we’re-all-in-this-together-ness. Athletes are there to race, but against the clock, the course, and themselves. All season long this year, at the start of every race, I watched those 30-34’s and thanked goodness that I was still in the 25-29 group.

The 30-34’s look more hardcore. They’re geared up. They know what they’re doing. They line up, size each other up, and are ready to go. There are fewer athletes that are new to the sport – it ain’t their first rodeo – and they look more confident, calculated, and dialed. They chat and smile and wish each other luck, but it looks to be surface. The 30-34’s are there to race too, but against EACH OTHER.

Next time I pin on a bib I’ll be racing among athletes who are older than me, but in triathlon age is (to a certain point) a virtue. My set of competition will be more experienced and they’ll have more years of endurance build up under their race belts. And there will be more of them! The 30-35 in women’s triathlon is one of the more popular female age groups so the swim start is large and the field is wide. I’m worried that I’ll be intimidated. I picture the swim start at Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3, lined with fellow-colored swim caps, and wanting to turn around and walk back ashore.

Not that I don’t usually feel that way but…

The upside is that I have about 10+ months until I race an Ironman again, and when I do (assuming I race Canada) my age group will have not only double Kona slots but more to start with due to the age 30-34 participation ratio. Another upside? In an Ironman every last athlete starts together so I can seed myself in the chaos or on the fray depending on how I feel; no matter what I’m up against 2,800 people for the first 1:00:00-1:30:00. And I’m not a competitor in road races, plus there’s no violence like in a swim start, so the worst thing that happens is I get crushed (in performance) in NYC. But unless your name is Kara Goucher that’s pretty much a guarantee, meaning I’m used to it and unafraid. However in triathlon I’m generally average enough at everything and not terrible at anything  so I perform and place decently; every second I spend swimming rather than getting beat up counts!

Another upside… when I actually turn 30 it will feel like a nothing birthday because I will have already endured the worst part: aging up. 🙂

On a more serious and sap-tastic upside note though, I’m about 800 miles from home, my husband, my family and friends, and I’ve never felt so loved. Riding into San Francisco in the back seat of a cab I was reading birthday wishes from so many people and I’ve never felt more satisfied with my life. I never imagined that I’d be right here, right now, but the details of my life are exactly how I always wanted my adult life to be but didn’t know was possible. As a 12, 15, 17, or even 22 years old if you’d have told me this would be my life I’d have responded:

Living in Seattle? Maybe. Seattle’s cool.

Married to my best friend at 27? I’m too selfish to conceptualize what that means. Or I was… until I fell…

A Boston Marathoner and Ironman? HAHAHA. I HATE RUNNING SOOOOO MUCH.

Working at a full-time job that isn’t work because you believe in the purpose? I wish! But since I don’t feel that strongly about anything other than exercising I doubt it. Unless someone will give me a salary for elliptical-ing!!

But when I string it together right now my life is just as me as when I was 12, 15, 17, 22, or 25. The things that have always been common, that are unchanged with age and experience because they are inherently who I am, are thriving right now because I’m living the life that I always wanted but never knew specifically existed. I’m 29, and I’m truly happier and more myself than I ever remember having been.

I hope for many things, but when I blow out the proverbial candles tonight I will wish for this feeling to recur on every birthday for forever. Life. Is. Good.

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Filed under Goals, Ironman, Life

Always Wear Your Helmet

Written July 1, 2012.

Yesterday morning I set out on what should have been my first century ride; 100 miles in the overcast drizzle. I was not looking forward to the drizzle, but I was looking forward to getting this ride under my belt, exploring a new route, and most of all not being in a hurry to get it all done. 100 miles in the saddle – and my previous longest ride being 85ish – and I planned to pace myself to enjoy it. For once I didn’t have a slammed schedule in the afternoon so there was no rush to fit it all in.

I made it less than 1 mile before I found myself splattered on the pavement.

Leaving my neighborhood there’s a hill to descend about 1 mile long, and at the bottom the road curves right. You can’t see around it until you start turning, it’s pretty blind for cars and cyclists alike. I’m familiar with how scary it can be and have nearly gotten hit there by careless parkers before. Though I see people fly down the hill at times I don’t. EVER. I ride my brakes all the way down like a weenie.

Yesterday I hit that turn and had about 30 feet to stop on wet pavement. A truck was blocking the bike lane, plus the entire vehicle lane, while backed into a driveway unloading. I braked, fishtailed, released to straighten out, tried to brake again gently, and went down. Hard.

My right side was first, and went straight into the raised (sidewalk height strip) median, and I bounced. Everything seemed in slow motion and while still being catapulted with the crash’s momentum I actively thought about 2 things: 1. How close my face was to the edge of the sidewalk as my head bounced along it 3 or 4 times. My eyes were literally centimeters from the corner but my helmet kept hitting first and created a buffer. And 2. WHEN.WILL.THIS.END. I could feel myself rolling, flying, bouncing, and tumbling forward but knowing that I couldn’t stop the momentum I stayed loose and tried to keep my awareness of which way was up and where to land. Thank you very much 16 years of gymnastics.

When I finally stopped moving I checked my face (no blood), my extremities (nothing catastrophic), and my bike (TBD) and dragged myself to the side of the road. I’m certain, the witnesses were much more afraid for me than I was for myself in those moments. They approached – one man running – to see if I was okay. The looks on their faces while I stood there trying to assess the damage and figure out what to do next were more paralyzing than the moment I realized I’d either be flying straight into the truck or straight into the pavement.

I’m beat up, hurting, partially broken, frustrated, and tired. I’m damaged, my things are damaged, and I’m quite sure that Garth is damaged from receiving that phone call while half awake and half dozed off enjoying a Saturday morning. Hi, it’s me. I need you to come scrape me off the pavement and take me to the ER. I had a crash. 

But I’m also incredibly grateful and lucky. And LUCKY. It could have been so much worse. Garth could have been out for a long run. That truck could have been moving. My helmet, now misshapen and cracked, stayed on my head and did its job. It most certainly saved me.

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Filed under Bike, Health, Injuries, & Prevention, Training

Quite Apropos

What a whirlwind the days since Saturday at 8:30am have been.

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Return to the Run

Taking time away from the sport weakens your mind and body no matter how you spin it, and no matter how fit you remain – or get during cross training (DUH! Cuz we all love cross training!)– resuming running is hard work.

It’s hard physically for obvious reasons. Even if your injury is healed your muscles aren’t as tough as they were. Neither are your joints, so though they’re fine they scream about the impact while conforming to the fact that YOU.WILL.RUN. Your heart rate will soar to new heights even if the work doesn’t feel that hard. Every muscle, right up to your teeth, will feel tired post run.

Your mind will think that everything is unreasonable. However fast you were 2 months ago? Yeah, impossibly ridiculously fast. When you do eventually try to run at that pace you once were your mind will tell your legs GO-OMFG-BALLS-TO-THE-WALL-FAST-GO-DYING-HURRY-HURRY-FASTER.  You’ll test it by riding a more comfortable (pace) line, which will be discouraging because you probably won’t hold on long enough to build back the confidence you need to do it right.

Every time I get injured I learn something new about the sport of running. This time it’s that fitness is vital, but your mind is what will make or break your return to running. In the running moment the challenge feels 100% physical while you sweat, pant, and burn. But it’s only a physical challenge for a short time. Your body adjusts to that pain once your mind forces it to (gradually, within reason).

Every single time you can just hold on that next run is an improvement. Re-proving and reminding yourself that you have it in you is just as important as keeping your legs strong and heart healthy.  In reality a large amount of focus, some pushing through it, and forcing yourself to ride that line of barely holding on will do it. And you’ll be well on your way back to where you were.

Self, please remember this. That’s all.

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Filed under Health, Injuries, & Prevention, Run, Training

Sick of the Disclaimer

I’m in a bit of a psychological funk right now. Again. Still. Whatever. And so training goes.

When I’m out there is absolutely nothing I’d rather be doing. I LOOOVE CYCLING! I LOOOOVE SWIMMING! Heck, I loooove jog/walking! (<– Note not an all caps kind of love, but love nonetheless) However it’s getting increasingly difficult to feel inspired to get out of bed and put my kit or swimsuit on. I’m still hardly running which makes it hard to feel like I’m big-picture-prepared to do my best at Boise, or beyond. I mean come on here, the ticker to the left says THREE MONTHS. Le sigh.

I’m doing everything I can to be prepared, but I just don’t feel like there’s anything I can do to catch up. I’ll do just fine given the circumstances I’m sure, but I’m sort of over having everything undermined with that statement. How about a standalone “awesome” rather than “awesome given injury”? I’m sick of the disclaimer. I realize that I allow myself to feel like it’s disclaimer, but  I’m certain I’d be better if I could be pushing myself on the run rather than just hitting the 40 minute mark on a slow jog. So the disclaimer is at least sort of real.

In the meantime I’m doing my best to celebrate the small accomplishments and total them up to equal something meaningful so that I don’t A) Feel overwhelmed by how much/little of this training cycle is left, and B) Cry myself to sleep in a bottle of wine every night out of frustration. Kidding about B, sort of. Maybe. Or not. You’ll never know!

Swimming and cycling are coming along nicely, truly. I feel stronger on the bike than ever and when I’m riding I am happy, grateful, fulfilled and am starting to understand what true cyclists do. My swimming isn’t fast but it’s at least 1,000,000x more efficient than I was last summer.  Yes, 1 million times, and if I can’t get invest enough to get FAST fast, then efficient is nearly as good on the shortest (by far) leg of the race. And my foot is coming along, it really is. X-rays yesterday showed improved healing and bone density in the fractured spot, meaning it’s physically on the mend. I’m well into the land of slow jogs and adding 5 minutes increments, and I can even get on board to celebrate 40 versus 35 minute jogs. But the pain that still radiates from the fracture at random times can be scary and at this point I don’t trust myself to differentiate healing sore pain from injury pain (and with good reason) .

Hmm. And perhaps therein lies the problem: That I don’t trust myself to do this right.

Any suggestions? What CAN I do to be prepared? Or at least to make my mind feel as such?

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Filed under Health, Injuries, & Prevention, Training