Sunday, September 25, 2011

Trials, Tribulations, Tears, and Ecstasy

A year of training is coming closer to the end and I've reached a point of reflection, especially during the adventure of the weekend.

Searching on a journey of who you are and what you are capable of is put to the test in an Ironman. You have to push your mind and body beyond its limits every time you train with a new experience. This weekend I experienced trials, tribulations, tears, and ecstasy...

Friday, I found myself looking for a long bike ride. I felt the weight on my shoulders of training on my own...the trials of loneliness and solitude delivering an extra judgment in my mind needing deliberative debate. And the sleep deprivation of my work begging me to just allow myself to sleep in for a few hours on a weekend...

But the group rides dictate an early start and I succumbed to the tribulation of hitting up anyone I know with a bike to find a partner...and maybe even someone that likes to sleep in a bit. Alas the sleepers said no, and the early birds said yes. So off to Napa I went for a bike ride.

Riding has become my joy this a turbulent year filled with so much change...I have sought the feeling of a single moment of ecstasy that I can get on a bike. Pedaling up 1500 feet of elevation wondering "why did I do this?" and "will this hill EVER end?"...I also feel the ray of sunshine on my face...the slight wind hitting my face...the nature around me that embraces me in an open hug to my soul...and a drum beat building in my ear from music. When the combination hits in just the right way, I feel that single moment of ecstasy and am happy to be alive and to experience moments like this.

The roller coaster of life means that the ride will not only have you screaming with joy but also in fear and pain. And of course I found myself in the trials situation with 3 tire blow-outs on a ride...and my 650 wheel size means other riders don't have spare parts for me. Instead of tears, I used my feminine wiles and with 20 miles to go and being in the back country roads of Napa...I put my faith in human kind and stuck my thumb out for a hitch-hike lift.

My faith in humanity was restored! People stop to help a sweaty greased up biker with a smile on their face and a story to tell. Thank you to Paul and to Lisa, each of 2 drivers that took me as far as they could on their glad our paths crossed on this day.

My Ironman weekend training can't be complete at 1 small bike ride....but the tribulations of work meant Sunday was going to be hard to get anything substantial in. How to balance the weight of 200 random strangers calling for my work and 1 person calling my mind and soul to get back outdoors into nature?

I escaped with only a couple of hours left of sunlight and sought out the ocean...something about the smell of the salty air, the sounds of the waves, the way the sunlight reflects off the water....or perhaps the need to mask my tears with the tears of the pacific?

I made the attempt to find a training partner again in a few quick emails and text messages, but knew I was again on my own. A feeling I have all too often lately and pondering if this gives me strength or is an act of eternal stupidity?

Golden Gate Park was the choice of my respite...I saw the lake and ran towards that water. My chest was heavy with all the work and thoughts of the day so when I saw a hill with a trail of steps...I felt the need to run up them...again and again. I felt every gasp of air expire from my chest and heaved for fresh air after a cycle of 5 minutes in anaerobic stage. I sensed that the intent of the fresh air was to refill my life as well as my lungs....and I kept repeating it over and over again until I felt back in balance. Many would call this training "hill repeats" or "train to finish strong" but today I will call it "expire the demons"

The hill was not enough and I needed the ocean... the salty smell that was just out of I turned West and ran. When I saw a road I turned away and found myself in the glorious desertion of trees and dusty trails....the feeling of anticipation of the water brought the ecstasy moment back for a second time in a weekend. You can see why people get addicted to exercise if this is what you get....and as I ran passed the water and felt the sea spray hit my face...the tears that had been held back from all the emotions of weeks joined in and streamed across my face.

I stood still for a moment and took in the moment, reflecting on the trials, tribulations, tears, and ecstasy that I have experienced this year on my IronMan journey....and with a big breath I turned around and ran back towards the car...and back to reality.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Top 20% Runner - OMG where did that ever come from???

Just finished a race tonight running around the city of San Francisco for the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge.

It's a 5k (actually 3.65 miles) and I treated it as (1) a fun time and (2) to test a fast pace

I set the goal to be under a 10 minute mile pace...perhaps I was not aggressive enough...ended up as a 8:32 minute per mile pace....feel great about that one.

And then I saw the results...I was placed 503 / 3168 females...which means I was Top 16%.

Wow! Yes I'll concede this might be a fun corporate run, but still you always get the crazy fast pacers in any race, so I am super chuffed that I was so high in the rankings.

Now I have to train to keep a fast pace...with distance....after doing a bike and swim.

General Training Update
General training has picked up now. Joined a power cycling class that I'm trying to do 2x per week and also joined a swim masters class (the 1x per month in San Diego or a race was not going to cut it) and let's see what I get in the schedule.

Running seems to be more fun lately - varying up routines with intervals and locations by driving to new cities and trails to explore.

I'm telling myself to do more core and strength and flexibility...if I keep telling myself I might get to it...

60 days to go!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Big Kahuna 70.3 Race Report

Another race under the belt...decided to do this race a couple weeks back as a pacing pace towards IronMan Arizona...which is 70 days to go BTW! Eek!

Short story here...and read on for the juicy details

Short Story 
Based on the 3 timing devices I used (really gotta buy 1 decent one), my estimate of times was:

Swim    00:45 hours (1.2 miles)
T1         00:10 hours (Beach run+)
Bike      03:10 hours (sooo close to under 3!)
T2         00:05 hours (standard bike to run)
Run       02:20 hours (uuurggh need to work on this!)
Total     06:30 hours

This *might* be in the top 50%...or pulled out a good performance. And beat my Wildflower time of 8:18 hours by a good margin (but must allow for 3 bike flats and a much harder course)
Juicy details says more.....just keep reading.

Juicy Details

Waking up at 4:30am...uurgh. But I'm starting to get used to weeks of sleep with less than 5 hours a night, so this was a luxury of 8 hours! I was ready to go!

Morning pre-race routine starting to become a natural instinct and not needing a checklist as much to ensure I don't forget something like helmet, suncream, etc...

Routine was: Eat (ensure, peanut butter muffin), fill up bike tires, get dressed, apply lots of suncream, have transition kits and goodies in appropriate bags ready to pick up and use, get to transition, lay out the whole caboodle, chat to strangers about their race history and get excited!

Pre-Race set-up

The 1.2 mile swim was in the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz. I've been swimming in pools, lakes, rivers, and some inland ocean parts....but when I heard the water temperature was 59 degrees...I took a big gulp and tried to prepare myself.

I put my feet in the water and it was FREEZING cold! My poor little footsies said "get out the water now!!" so I did and said I'll brave it in the swim start.
I got into the corral for my swim wave and this was a bit different...on the horn you had to run to the water and run / dive into that ocean. No time to 'warm up' just get in and go.

Swim and jump in the 59 degree water

OMG - it felt like a truck hit my chest! I couldn't breathe at all and started to panic. I was trying to swim but just could not get a breath, so face in water was NOT an option. I was trying to tell myself that it was normal and that you would settle in....but it felt crazy...and took at least 200 yards before I could even get my face in the water. Then trying to get a calm side breath pattern built in took 1/4 mile.
Take-away: Don't enter races that have an ocean swim with water at 59 degrees!!

Thank goodness the waves were not like this!!!

The ocean swell was pretty calm...but of course after the start..I was just a little out of it...and it made me feel dizzy and sick. Swallowed a bunch of water and had to stop to gag and throw up a bit. uuurggh...this was not my favorite swim so far!

The swim was around the pier and back...except it was a little longer that definitely played on the mindset of distance. At this point the age group behind us that started 5 minutes later had started to catch up (well at least those strong swimmers). With a whole ocean and a pretty small wave group size of 50 people you'd think we wouldn't be on top of each other...wrong!

I kept swimming off into the wide open distance and getting told to get back in line (terrible swells and sighting today) so as I got closer to the other swimmers, the inevitable swim on top of each other occurred. I'm used to this now and its now really a big deal. You swim, stop for 1 second and adjust. No malice or bad intent.

But a new one happened aggressive guy decided that it wasn't enough to swim on top of me...he actually put his hand on top of my head...and pushed it down as he took his full swim stroke! Now that was a surprise (and a little scary). I survived, swallowed more ocean water, gagged, and then carried on...of course in the opposite direction to Mr Bad Man Swimmer

hmmm seems like Mr Bad Man Swimmer was here too!

Final Swim Time: 45 mins

Transition 1
Usually a transition is un-eventful (or at least we like it to be!). This race had a new twist for me. You had to run out the water on the beach (no real mats to speak of) and then run a few blocks to get to the transition area. I heard about this the night before so added some flip-flops near the each exit and used these to save my feet getting shredded. Good decision!

Arriving at the transition area there seemed to be a lot of water. More than expected from racers coming in with a wet suit...My transition area and towel was soaked drenching wet with my socks and hat and gloves wet. Why I hear you say? Turns out the sprinklers went off during the swim and the lucky people near them got drenched. That was me!

Just did the business and got out. Think total timing was 10 minutes with the run...

Right, this has been my focus area and strength for the past few months. Couldn't run so I doubled down on the bike. And this was the area I wanted to really test my limits on today. The route was on highway 1 along the ocean as an out-n-back course. Didn't know the elevation, but expected it to be pretty low (turned out higher than expected at 1900 feet overall but in little rollers rather than 1 big hill)

Recent bike rides had me getting to 50 miles in the 3 hour I wanted to get the full 56 miles in under 3 hours.

My plan of attack for the bike was: 10 mile warm-up easy with high cadence, then 20 miles of getting into a good 17-20 mph speed, then the back portion of the ride was planned as a negative split - as in push it hard!

What happened was the first part went well, the second part went ok, then I lost my bike chain and had to stop to fix it...getting all covered in grease in my haste to just get that blooming thing back on the bike.

At the turnaround point of 28 miles there was suddenly a drop in speed from 25 mph to like 12 mph...from a huge headwind. Crazy!! It lasted for about 15 miles so blew my chances to get below 3 hours...but I pushed hard...overtook bikers and said "go for it!!" I also wanted to learn how far I can push my bike to not destroy the legs for the run.

Bike Details. Avg Moving Pace 17.5 mph
Nothing major eventful other than this...ate a lot...stomach felt good....and chatted to the bikers about random stuff. I of course played my music tracks in my head from my list on my bike! Go "Love Shack" and "Dirty Bit"

Final time: 3:10 hours (close but no cigar for the target 3 hours)

Transition 2
Nothing eventful. Great!
Time was 5 minutes or so.

My arch nemesis of the run! Had to do this race JUST so I could see how my run is. Was I going to blow up? Was I going to collapse in pain from the leg? Who knows!

The leg pain had started on the bike which made me worried....took lots of pills and stretched out on the bike. NOTE: might be time for another bike fit, think it might be due to being in the tri position for most of the ride and the leg angle...

My plan for the run was to use a run-walk routine. I didn't have a target time/distance for the run or walk...just had heard many folks tell me that this was better on the legs rather than pushing too hard. And that your overall pace could often be better because of the rest on the legs.

So off I went. I started off fast due to coming off the bike and found myself son in some 8 minute mile pacing. Wow! My expectations for the run just went up! It lasted for 5 miles...

Run splits...kept a good pace for 5 practice needed to maintain

I found myself in a tag-game with another guy called Bill. He ran at a consistent pace and my run/walk meant we kept passing each the usual banter and chit-chat occurred, helping pass the time and giving us both something to look forward to.

Course was a flat (total elevation 360 feet) along the beautiful ocean coast and then some inland trails. Was gorgeous to take in the views of the ocean.

Scott Wilder Ranch - the view on the run - gorgeous!
After mile 5 I started to flag and my pace got slower....took in salts, Gu, banana...but just could not really get back into a decent pace. I didn't give myself a hard time and instead just was happy that I was running and going to complete the whole 13.1 miles (which was actually 13.4 miles!!) in a healthy state.

A surprise for me though was how many people I passed! Running is NOT my best sport, and yet I passed all these people? An interesting thing to analyze when the full results come out...

Watch finally broke (aka ran out of battery). Got to get a decent watch! so at mile 12 I just winged it and hoped I got my final time right.
Had some fantastic supporters out there (Many Thanks Carolyn and Dan, such a huge uplift in emotion and fatigue when you see a friendly face!)

Final chute on the beach...yes you finish running on the beach!
"See you at the finish line" they called out. This one line got me through the final horrible section which is to run on the beach. Yes! After 70.3 miles, they make you finish by running on the beach.! Kids and families are at the beach playing on the sand so you spend your time bobbing and weaving frisbees and kids running. Then you get to look so graceful as you head into the final chute in the sand. NOT looking forward to that photo!

Run time estimate: 2:20 hours

A great race overall and really proud I pushed myself to see what I could bring. Lots of learnings to take to the 70 days I have left before IronMan Arizona!

Again - thanks to my supporters today - it was the smiles, hugs, and waves that got me to the finish line smiling myself! (FYI - I can squeeze a supporter of two in my hotel room in Arizona if anyone wants to come and stand around for 16 hours! LOL! I'm serious!)

Thanks to my supporters today - Carolyn and Dan!