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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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Race Recap: Winter Half Marathons

I realized that I never recapped the Lake Samammish Half Marathon on March 9, or the Tacoma City Half Marathon on May 5th, so for record keeping purposes here’s the gist.

In all honestly running hasn’t felt very good to me since winter 2012, when I was on a half marathon PR roll. Training for my third 13.1 in so many months I got another stress fracture and had to take time off of my feet (which was replaced by the bike and swim).  Once I returned to running amidst IM training things just never really felt the same. Running was a struggle, my heart rate was high, and I couldn’t ever get back into the groove and rhythm of it.  Running was a fight and I fought hard, but running off the bike is very different than “just” running, so I went with it.

Leading up the NYCM I felt the same slow, heavy, and sluggish feeling: running was difficult! I continued to fight it and I’m sure I would have finished that race with a PR of a few minutes or so, but at that point neither my heart nor body was really in it. And that race was cancelled.

This winter I took a step back and really worked on building my base back up. All of my runs were very low heart rate (on purpose) with a slow and easy pace to try to build back up some of the endurance I’d wrecked fighting my training all fall.

Lake Sammamish Half Marathon – 1:37:38

Megan, Meghan, and me at the start of the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon. Photo courtesy of http://meghanswanderings.blogspot.com/.

Megan, Meghan, and me at the start of the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon. Photo courtesy of http://meghanswanderings.blogspot.com/

During the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon it worked. I finished in 1:37:38 on only 3 easy slow runs per week. Back when I hit my 1:35:XX times I was busting my butt running at least 4-5 times per week with tough effort! I was surprised at and happy with my performance at the LSHM. Though it wasn’t a PR, for the type of training I’d been doing it was a good result.

Tacoma City Half Marathon – 1:42:15

The Tacoma City Half Marathon was not as successful; I finished in 1:42:15. Did I go out too fast? Yes. Was it the first hot and sunny day of the year? Yes. Did I have allergies? Yes. But those are all lame excuses. I set out with a heart rate target and though I kept that part right on track my pace was almost 45s/mile slower than it “should have” been. The “should have” being based off of data taken from training.

 

So that’s the story. Would I run both of them again? Yes. I really enjoyed the LSHM for the small size, easy start, and flat course. I also really enjoyed the TCHM course and the fact that it was a small race, however it was definitely hillier than I expected and I don’t have strong feelings toward it simply because I didn’t have a great day.

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New Team

There’s no time like now for a little training update. Right? Especially since tomorrow marks exactly 3 months out from August 25, also known as Ironman go time?

After IMC last year I was ecstatic about my race for a couple of days, then exhausted for a few more, and pretty soon after that I started thinking about the next one. It didn’t take me very long to decide for certain that there would be another, but I didn’t want a repeat of 2012. I wanted, and still do, a lot more than that.

I want to go to Kona. And if I don’t get a spot I want to walk away knowing there was not one thing that I could have done to be more well-prepared to earn it. If I believe that in my heart, I will be a happy Ironman no matter what.

I can’t complain about my 2012 season or Ironman Canada. If I had a magic ball the only things I’d change are things that can’t be controlled anyway: freak weather in Boise, freak bike crash in July, more freak weather at Lake Stevens. I have not an ounce of regret about how I handled any of it, but when the season quieted down I knew, and know, that I can do better.

What worked for my first Ironman (and second summer of triathlon) isn’t the same thing that that will help me continue to grow as an athlete. If anything, 2012 was more of a preparation against failure rather than aggressive and planned growth. So last fall I outlined what I needed to do to be better and came up with a few things:

  • Bike more. No matter the bike, no matter the weather. Saddle time!
  • Train, purposefully, with FAST friends. Force myself to (try to) keep up.
  • Join a master’s swim group to swim more. <- Thinking that if I swim more, I’ll get better, and hate it less, maybe.
  • Challenge myself. Make myself uncomfortable. Work through it, and find confidence.
  • Have fun.

Then in December I did something that was pretty challenging for me (thus meeting one of my goals?). I broke my routine with the friends and coaches I had become comfortable with and  joined a new tri team: Pauole Sport. And I think I was more afraid for that first day of master’s swim than I was the morning of Ironman Canada.

The good news is: it’s working. I’ve gotten stronger in the water and on the bike. And on my run off the bike as well. I have a pool (literally, ha) of talented athletes to use as carrots, training buddies, and resources. And I’ve met some awesome people who I’d want to hang out with even if we didn’t all have to ride for a million hours every Saturday so we may as well do it together. And on top of all of that my new coach is fantastic.

Things still feel exhausting and hard on many days, but having confidence in my coach’s plan, having friends to endure it with, having resources to learn from, and having the occasional day off is currently making all of the difference in the world for me. These things make it possible for me to spend time with my family and friends, have a (small) life, stay sane, and still think Ironman is fun while getting better.

Greg LeMond’s quote is the real truth, “It never gets easier, you just go faster.”

 

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(Training and Normal) Life is Good

I’ve been terrible about keeping up with this blog, mostly because I know that almost no one can – or does – read it. I like to think that’s due to the privacy settings I have set up for the time being and not that I’m totally lame. Fingers crossed that’s all settled soon so I can really get to the bottom of this.

In the meantime sometimes I feel like OMG SO MUCH HAS CHANGED since I updated the Internet about my training progress every few days. Other time I feel like there’s nothing to talk about because it ranges from similar to the exact same every.single.day. I love the schedule and repetition in my life, but know, and am cool with the fact, that not everyone cares. I love working hard to achieve gains that only I notice. I love proving to myself that hard work pays off.

Training friends, normal life friends, and family ask, “So how are you? How are things going?” And I feel like I don’t have a reply. Things are calmly perfect. There are actually very few ways that they could be any better, really. I’ll take a winning lottery ticket any day, but outside of that I’m at a loss as to how life could be better than it is. I don’t have a lot to talk about.

I’m chipping away at training very well. After every single swim, bike, or run, I wish I had done better or been stronger. But when you add it all up? I have gotten better and stronger. A lot better and stronger, in fact. I question less, I work harder, and I recover more effectively. My new coach and team is exactly what I needed this year. My hours and fitness are up and my fatigue is down. Win/win.

I love my job. It isn’t really work to me, but rather it’s what I want to be doing during the hours where no one will swim/bike/run/drink wine with me. Of course there are days that I would rather sleep than wake up at 5am to fit everything into my day, but 99.9% of days are awesome and there really isn’t much that I would rather be doing from 9-5. And then there’s the fact that my colleagues WILL actually swim, bike, and run with me.

My best friend/husband/tri sherpa/the-most-wonderful-person-on-the-planet and I just got lucky and found our dream home. And then we purchased and moved in to it. It’s a lot of work, but we knew that and are okay with it because we get to live here for forever if we want to. It was a hellacious process to get the house and be where we are, and I swore up and down that I’d NEVER FORGET HOW TERRIBLE IT WAS, but dare I admit that I’m starting to?

My friends and family are healthy and happy and life is good. What else matters? Oh. I’m drinking a really awesome glass of wine right now while I watch the sunset’s reflection in the lake.

So. Things are pretty rad.

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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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IMC – Successes and Opportunities

Post race, even small ones, I always try to pull out a couple of successes and learnings. No matter how awesome or terrible a race is there are always things to remember and replicate – or never ever do again – next time.

Lather. Rinse. And Repeat. Self, remember these tips!

Pre Race

  • Race vacations are a must!! Spending the week in Penticton, but away from the chaos, was a really great decision for me. By the time race day rolled around I not only felt totally engrained in what was happening, but also totally relaxed. Heck, I even had a favorite Safeway checker at that point! When all of the crazed triathletes arrived I retreated to our castle townhouse and stayed away from anyone that would psych me out (everyone). I lived in my Ironman-less bubble of denial until I was ready to get amped up rather than letting the crazies rub off on me.

Swim

  • As part of Operation: Survive the Ironman Swim I’ve been quietly trying to figure out ways to avoid a panic attack during the swim. Turns out a mile warmup run with strides plus swimming for just a few moments does the trick quite nicely.
  • Usually I try to only focus on myself during the swim, thinking that if I don’t acknowledge the feet kicking in my face that it’ll calm me down. It wasn’t intentional, but during the IM swim I found myself focusing on EVERYTHING happening around me, and sighted far beyond the clusters in front of me. I didn’t get an anxious about the people right in front of me because I was able to look past them, to the open clear water up ahead or the next buoy.

Transitions

  • You don’t win an Ironman in transition… but I feel like I sort of deserve a medal for my T1 time! And my T2 time was slower but it included a trip to the porta potty so I’ll take it. Though I haven’t done many triathlons to truly have the art of transition down I did put a lot of planning and thought into what I was putting in my bag and what I could enlist help with should I get a volunteer to myself. I didn’t put anything extra in my bags because I knew I didn’t need to take time making decisions and it kept me focused and moving. Keep it easy.

Bike

  • I went out on the bike too hard, and I knew it. So once I calmed down I checked my HRM and worked hard to relax and lower my average heart rate. I let people pass me and said “so long!” It was hard to do, but when I got to Yellow Lake and passed folks back during the climb I knew I made the right move. I made smart decisions and stuck to the plan.
  • Special Needs Rules. I had plans to not stop, but once I did the math I realized I’d need more hydration and infinit than I could carry (duh) and I didn’t want to have to mix on the go. I included 2x 24oz bottles in my bag and made sure to drink from mine first. Those extra bottles saved me, because I was having trouble taking in calories that weren’t in liquid form. The set up was easy and the volunteers rocked. I just tossed my empties at stations along the way, slowed to a stop, grabbed my bottles from the volunteer handing them to me, and rode on!

Run

  • Again with the smart decisions. My stomach was not happy and I feared that everything would make it worse. Rather than risk a total bonk I had tiny drops of gu at a time and resorted to Pepsi for additional calories. When the pain scale got too high to think about withstanding for more than a mile I slowed to a walk for however long I needed to alleviate the pressure. None of this was in my plans, and I’ve never had GI issues during a race or training, but I’m glad I stayed calm because no matter how much my run disappoints me I still believe this was the right method.
  • I didn’t allow myself to think of the run as a marathon, but rather an aid station-to-aid station event. This attitude got me through 4 hours and 16 minutes of running, but looking back it felt like maybe 3 hours. Small goals worked for me at that point much better than larger ones.

Do Not Accept $200. Do Not Pass Go. DO NOT REPEAT!

Pre Race

  • Too. Much. Food. I attribute my demise on the run to my Ensure, 2 bagels, peanut butter, and banana. Blech. All that after the previous day’s pasta dinner, sandwich, bagel, etc. My stomach still sort of hates me, over a week later.

Swim

  • There are many things I could do to improve my swimming, but given my current fitness, pace, and swim anxiety there is nothing I could have done – other than be a better swimmer – to make my swim better.

Bike

  • I knew I would go out too hard, I always do. I wonder a little bit if my stomach issues were due to the intensity up front. They started on the bike but didn’t hinder my performance until the run.
  • I could have used more nutrition on the bike; once my stomach started up I stayed conservative. Ideally I would have had more calories and more liquids to top myself off for a strong and hydrated run. I did a good job bringing a couple of options just in case, but I need to force myself to eat while I train like I want to eat during a race to simulate how to handle GI upset.
  • Cut up Powerbars don’t work. If you slice 3 up into little tiny bits and put them in a bag – even after letting them try out for 24 hours – they will still end up as a single glob.

Run

  • Mile 15 was the only point during the run where I remember focusing on distance. My thought was, “Well, eff. I haven’t run more than 15 miles during training, and I still have over 10 miles left to go!” At this time my body was starting to kick the GI distress and wanted to run, and my legs were honestly not that poorly off, but my knee-jerk reaction was to continue to conserve. With some better psychological preparedness I could have better spent that energy focusing on HTFU.
  • Despite stomach issues, tiredness, etc., etc., I could have pushed myself more on the run. As soon as my GI alleviated I picked it up for a handful of miles. Then I let doubt creep in a bit knowing that I still had 5 miles left and backed off. At the time I thought playing it safe was smart, and it might have been, but I know that I could have fought harder out there.
  • There is no need to carry any food, at all. With aid stations every mile my own bouncing gu’s did nothing but annoy me.

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Delayed Recap

I’m not quite ready to write about Ironman Canada itself.

I haven’t forgotten about writing a recap, but rather I’m still processing the race and the weekend. During that day and at the finish I was so so so happy with how I performed, the decisions I made, and how everything played out. The day WAS actually rainbows and unicorns for the most part. Once I got out there and started I felt like I was prepared to handle everything that came my way, and due to practice, focus, and somewhat due to luck, I made the right decisions when things got less than perfect.

However as days pass I guess I feel less content with how things went and more hungry to take what I learned and put it to the test again. I still think I made the right decisions for the day, and wouldn’t trade the positive experience I had to risk shaving off a couple of minutes here or there. But I feel less and less victorious and more eager to push myself much further than I went – and dig deeper than I had to – last Sunday.

Maybe that’s normal. Maybe I’m nuts.

And don’t get me wrong. I know I did well. I exceeded my own expectations in countless ways. For the first time ever I didn’t have a panicked anxiety attack during a race swim. Some people want to swim fast, but I wanted to swim smooth. On the bike I had a strong 56 miles, then patiently took in more food and drink, and let people pass by while I dropped my heart rate average by a few BPM. It paid off because I was able to tackle Yellow Lake with energy to spare. And the run. From mile 4-17 I had stomach cramping that slowed me to a walk every 5 minutes or so, but I took in enough calories to keep going and not make things worse. It paid off and mile 17-26.2 felt how I wanted to feel; like a RUN.

In all senses of the word this race was a huge achievement. Overcoming early season stress fractures, a scary bike crash, and gearing up to race an Ironman with barely any triathlon experience under my belt. However I still struggle with the fact that I know there is so much more I can do out there. I can push myself much further than I had to last Sunday.

I am happy that I don’t feel done out there though. Next stop: sub 11.

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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

Race Recap: Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3

Since Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3 wasn’t really a race for me, I instead decided to use it to learn a few new things and test out some others.

Overall the day was okay. 5:46:50

The Swim: 37:50

The water was warm and relatively calm. I was happy to start in the first wave following the pro’s, until it became clear that with the frequency waves were starting with it would be extremely difficult to maintain personal space to minimize the chance of getting smacked in the head (exactly what I didn’t want to happen). I swam on the inside of the buoys on the way out and moved to the outside right before the last buoy. The problem was that I didn’t realize that was the last one and I overshot the turn by probably 50 meters. Drat!

The Bike: 3:16:21

We got poured on during the bike. I told myself if it was raining during the bike I would stop for safety reasons, but once I got out there I couldn’t quit. For better or worse I don’t have that in me. As demoralizing it was to watch people fly by me it would have been a bigger blow to myself to stop. So I bargained with myself and kept my focus on the next aid station, and then the next. And I stayed as far away from other cyclists as I could, because though I trust myself to be safe I couldn’t risk another crash. The course would have been hard without the weather conditions combined with my conditions but on a different day I really think I would have liked it.

The Run: 1:48:53

And the sun came out for my favorite part of the day – the run. The run course was awesome – basically a figure 8 with one of the loops being an out and back. The smaller true loop was tougher with not much to look at and a few pretty steep, but thankfully short, inclines. The out and back leg was heavily lined with the crowd for much of it, and even once the road narrowed you still had “oncoming traffic” to look at. I went out at a pace that was very maintainable. And I ran, and cheered, and focused on maintaining effort up and over the hills. And for the first time in history my splits were almost identically even with an 8:20 min/mi pace for the first half and an 8:17 min/mi pace for the second half.

Things that went well: 

1. Because I wasn’t “racing” I used the day to test random new things, including keeping hair out of my face, how to keep a new outfit chafe-free, using on-course nutrition rather than packing my own (minus on the bike and 1 emergency gu on me). These are things I’m never really willing to risk during a race but I learned new stuff that works for me. It’s nice to know that in future races I can rely on aid stations a bit more to simplify my transitions.

2. I used Infinit on the bike for the first time in a race, and forced myself to drink 2 bottles. I probably should have had even more but consuming even this amount was a nutrition breakthrough for me. It prevented the “empty” feeling quite well and I was happy to stay hydrated and not experience any stomach issues either. There was a point where I didn’t quite feel topped off in terms of energy so I broke the rules of Infinit and indulged in some chomps. I thought I was going to have stomach issues around mile 3 of the run but it settled and everything was great.

3. The swim and bike were pretty bleh, but I had a lot of fun on the run. Yes, we do this sport for fun, but by the run I’m usually more dying (and it’s fun when it’s over!) than rallying and enjoying every mile. I used keeping myself at 80% as an excuse to scream for every person I knew who passed by, to cheer on people passing me (or that I was passing), to high-5 everyone with their hand out, and to thank every volunteer within earshot. It was good times and helped redeem the day for me.

4. My transition times were decent. I kept it simple, stayed focused, and followed the plan/layout that I had visualized prior to the race. It worked. Now I just need to figure out how to repeat it. T1: 1:50, T2: 1:56 

Things to improve on next time: 

1. The swim was sucky. Not only because I was afraid of getting smacked, but it took me about 3/4mi to feel warmed up, comfortable, and panic-free, and by that time I was near done. I felt disoriented/seasick on the swim – which happened the Friday prior during an OWS too – and I wonder if it is concussion related or that pool swimming is making me soft. Regardless, by about 800 in I could only breathe on my strong side to keep from feeling affected by rotation. To me this means I need to focus on open water a lot more before I head to Penticton. It’s more important to get comfortable swimming in open water than chance that the minuscule strides I might make in the pool in the next month will be worth it.

2. I would love to know how this bike could have gone without the crash. It felt okay; far from awesome but not terrible. The bike I borrowed fits great and rides great, but it simply isn’t what I’m used to. The balance and weight were really different, and had never ridden a road bike in my life until a week before this race. I did much better on the climbing than I thought I would…but I know I could do better. Needless to say I didn’t make use of downhills – or even flats – other than to let people fly by me! With technical terrain combined with pouring rain this was not the day for me to test anything here. My mantra was to stay as far away from other people as possible.

3. Also on the bike, I need to work on shorter TT type efforts. The flats weren’t terrible but my cadence felt way out of whack. Either high (ie. mid 90’s) or low (mid 70’s). Historically I’m most comfortable in the low 80’s (I know, should be higher and I try!) but I just couldn’t find the effort and gear to match comfort or ideal range.

4. I need to continue to train the nutrition and hydration plan that I’ll use race day. I’m really exceptionally horribly bad at this when I train, but I need to force myself to take in calories and water at the same intervals that I want to on race day. I need to practice everything from bike handling while eating to hydrating with a high HR. I have a really hard time “compromising” my training pace or intensity to do this, and though I had an easy out today at only holding 80% I need to be better come Canada.

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Filed under Goals, Race Recap, Racing

General Update

So, Ironman is almost here. 27 days away. Insanity.

I haven’t been writing much for a few reasons.

#1. All I do is train, eat, and sleep. And work. I’m not stressed out, but I’m so focused on getting from one of those activities to the next in the most efficient way possible that it doesn’t leave much time to write about how things are going. Or to embellish my stories for my future self! (Kidding)

#2. Training was altered for a bit by an accident that I was in and can’t share the details of. Though I’m still dealing with it on multiple accounts I’m still able to race Ironman Canada. I’m grateful that I can still go, but am disheartened by what’s happened. As time passes I’ve become more polarized too; I find myself going from acting like it didn’t happen – because I wish it didn’t – or breaking down in tears for “no reason” while driving myself home like I did last week.

#3. The breakthroughs just don’t feel that big anymore. I’m getting down to the wire which means more pressure on myself (from myself) and so even when I do something new or great I immediately just feel like that’s what I should be doing by this point in the training cycle. I can’t stop measuring myself against where I wanted to be at this point, and though I may not be too far off I thought I would feel different by now. Because I feel like these things are not significant it makes it uninspiring to try to eeek some writing out of just for the heck of it.

But more is coming soon. There are a few things specifically that I want to write about.

Until then please take a look at my studly husband. On maybe 8 weeks of training he killed a hilly 5k, finishing in the high 18:40’s, on Saturday night at the Seafair Torchlight. Amazing. If I didn’t love him I might hate him be a little bit jealous. 🙂

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Filed under Life, Training