Monday, August 17, 2015

On Not Giving Up... Kawela Triathlon 2015

Last weekend I jumped into a bike race. I'm not really sure why, maybe just for fun and because I thought it would be a good change of pace/effort for me... In reality it was very humbling. Those girls took me to school! Not only did I not have the top end fitness to hang with them, but I also didn't have the cornering on wet roads skill nor the ability to absolutely SMASH it on a downhill like they did. It was like pick an aspect of road cycling that is important (any one!) and that was an aspect of cycling that I would need to develop before trying something like that again. I wasn't very upset about how all that went down because I have a clear understanding about how and why my diesel engine (chug chug chug) works.

Fast forward to this weekend and I had a chance to put my diesel engine to work in a race more in my element. Kawela Tri is the only long distance race we have here on Oahu. It's mostly like a half ironman, except like most races here on Oahu, it disadvantages swimmers. I did it last year and had a decent race coming in 3rdOA. This year the gals who beat me last year weren't on the start list which gave me this little glimmer of hope, like hmmmm... Could I win it this year? I saw a name I recognized- younger gal who comes to visit in the summers. She and I raced once a few years ago in a shorter race and she ran by me like I was standing still so I knew she was a great runner, but we'd never raced long together so I really didn't know how it would go down against her in this kind of event. I have to say, racing on an island can feel a bit monotanous b/c we all know each other and often I can look at a start list and call the outcome before the gun goes off. But the element of this unknown young racer made the whole thing more exciting to me because it was like, can I hold her off? I really didn't know. But I figured we would find out!

The swim in this race isn't a real 70.3 swim because they make us run in the middle of it... At least this year it was longer than last year. It was like 1/2 mile swim, 1/2 mile run back up the beach, repeat 1/2 mile swim, then run back another tenth of a mile in deep sand to the end of 'swim' timing mat. For sure this takes away some of the advantage my swim might normally give me, but it was fine. My total time was about the same as it would have been in a legit 70.3 swim (28:xx) and while I didn't know it at the time, looking back at results I had almost 5' on the next woman. In good news, the Roka speed suit not only works to reduce drag while swimming, but is also comfortable enough to run in when necessary. :)

The bike at this race is point to point 57+ miles so just slightly long, but a lot of it with a tailwind so that sort of cancels out the extra mile+. It goes along the east and north coast roads up to the North Shore and manages to remind us that the City & County need to repave Oahu's roads so badly. I kept complimenting my Cervelo and my Enve wheels for holding up on a course that at times might have been better suited for a fat tire full suspension mountain bike.
My goal for the ride was to stay upright, ideally keep air in my tires, and get myself a decent cushion going into the run. I haven't felt great this past week so my mental goal was to not focus on how I was FEELING, but rather to focus on what I was DOING. I managed to check the box on each of those goals. I don't race with power or data and I think that usually works out ok for me. That ride was about staying aero, trying to not get pissed off at the bumpy roads, not bogging myself down with too big of a gear, eating and drinking appropriately, etc. I did get a bit frustrated when I was stopped at an area where there was road construction and it was a one-lane contra-flow situation. I pulled up at just the wrong time when they had just started letting the other lane go, which meant I was foot on the ground stopped for ~1:20. It was a total luck-of-the-draw type situation so some people might have been stopped longer while some were able to roll right through. I stayed frustrated about that for maybe 3 minutes and then I let it go and kept up with my focus on everything else. I did manage to use my 80 seconds to eat and drink so that was the bright side of that stop.

Not much else to say about the bike other than I felt like I did what I set out to do. I felt like I was riding pretty hard and stronger than last year but my split was about the same (actually it was ~1' slower but subtract for that stop and ride time was about the same 2:37). My biggest issue was that I started with 2 bottles of Osmo but sucked them both down before an hour had even gone by, and after that was stuck with just water, and even the water I picked up didn't last me until the next aid station (there were 3 total aid stations which should have been enough but for me yesterday it wasn't). I was often rationing out my hydration and I was dry for probably 10-15' before the last aid station. So if I could go back and do one thing different on the bike, it would have been to try to get 2x bottles at each aid station vs just 1. Otherwise there's not much I would change about how I executed the bike.

I was thrilled to get off my bike! I didn't rush through T2 like I probably should have, but sort of took my time getting everything sorted and then started off running, immediately noting that holy crap I felt like shit. Refocus Michelle don't focus on how you FEEL focus on what you are DOING so it was just one step in front of the other hands up cadence up chin down drink Osmo, etc. I was feeling twinges of cramping which I haven't felt in forever but I attribute that to the fact that I was drinking water vs Osmo for the last 90+ minutes... I had a bottle of powdered Osmo in T2 that I mixed up as I ran out, and we were allowed "outside assistance" at this race so I had Scott up there ready to give me 2 more bottles of Osmo (one on each lap) so I was looking forward to getting back on track drinking my magic solution that has saved me so many times when it's stupid hot and I'm dying.

My first glimpse of how I was actually doing as far as the overall race was concerned came when I was about a mile and a half into the run and I saw Carly coming at me headed to the first turn-around. At this race there are 5x u-turns so we would have adequate time to see each other and watch the gap shorten... Prior to the race starting I sort of guessed that maybe I'd need ~13' cushion in T2 and then I would need to run well in order to hold off anyone who's actually running. Carly is like this little whippet runner girl and when I saw her I sort of guessed my cushion was more like ~11' and I didn't truly think that would be enough. Especially given how I was feeling...
That first lap was really bad. Like, one of the worst feelings running I've had in quite some time. I battled with myself so much in my head like I can't do this. I've had that feeling so many times before and it sucks in a race when you talk yourself out of being able to perform up to your abilities. Honestly during that first lap of the run I was jogging like 4 minutes then walking for a bit then forcing myself back to slogging again and it all just felt so ugly and it was like here we go again another race where Michelle squanders away her lead because she can't run... This time though I did a (little) better job of keeping myself together and even though I was just in survival mode, I was really trying to get myself to NOT give up and NOT be a quitter. Focus on what you are DOING Michelle so it was just a matter of guzzling down as much Osmo as I could (4 bottles would have been better than the 3 I had but 3 was better than none!). I was trying desperately to keep myself cool (it was hot #understatement) grabbing ice at the aid station and dumping it in my top and in my shorts and holding it in my hands and chewing it and what else can I do with ice?!
Being able to take Osmo from Scott was a lifesaver.

So the run continued on it was this long out/back back and forth. Just straightforward suffering.
I could see Carly after every turn-around and she was getting closer but not nearly as quickly as I'd anticipated. So ok, she must be suffering too. By the time the second lap came around I was feeling a bit better- not great but I wasn't stopping as much and was able to get into a better groove (the Osmo was kicking in!) and after I turned around at mile 9.5ish I was shocked to see that I still had maybe 4' or so on Carly. I wasn't taking splits- I never looked at my watch during the run because I KNEW that what I would see would just piss me off and I didn't want to get pissed at myself I just wanted to keep moving forward best I could each moment... So I was never taking splits, but I could just see that while the gap was coming down, it was still a gap and it was at that point where I decided to RACE. I had the thought like Ok maybe she will catch me but it won't be because I gave it to her... I figured 4' with 4 miles to go and she's running like a minute/mile faster than me it's going to come down to the wire this is going to get ugly...

I've had so many past experiences where I was leading a race only to get caught in the last little bit. Ironman CdA 2011 I led my age group all day until mile 25 when I got passed. Boulder 70.3 in 2012 I led my AG until a gal sprinted by me in the last 100 meters. Lanikai tri a few years ago Sandy got me right at the line for 3rd OA... This story of me getting passed right at the end has been so common place. And it's not like getting 2nd at a big event is anything to be ashamed about but it's more like I just wanted to change that old story where I don't truly fight to hang on to my lead. If I get beat by someone who is faster than me, fine. But if I get beat because I didn't give it everything I had, that sucks.

So at the final turn around just after mile 12ish I was almost afraid to see what the gap was... Turns out, it was more than a minute and it was at that point where I was like ok I am NOT going to let this slip away now!!! Yet I ran that last mile so scared she was coming... and she was... but I got to the line with 40 seconds to spare. I will say, that last mile or so was one of the most painful miles I've ever run. But it was worth it!

Mostly this was about re-writing the story in my head about how I tend to give up when I feel like crap. This might have been the first time in my life where I hung as tough as I did when I felt that way. Yesterday wasn't a physical breakthrough but it might have been the biggest metal breakthrough I've ever had. I want to thank Carly for pushing me the way she did. It was awesome to really have a RACE and I'm trying to recruit her as a training partner for her remaining time here on Oahu. :)

After the race Krista wanted to know why I felt so bad running... my reply...

I have to say one of the best parts was texting Marilyn afterward and telling her that I didn't give up. She's tried so hard to pound it into my head that I need to COMMIT ALL THE WAY TO THE FINISH LINE at these races and her voice was in my head during that last mile for sure. I appreciate all the support coming from her and it's finally starting to click in.

One of the best parts about local races like this is that you know a ton of people at the aid stations and at the finish line and many of the athletes you're suffering with. That makes the finish area quite fun as well! Scott brought up a cooler full of Black Butte Porters and have to say WOW those really hit the spot after 5+ hours of hard hot racing. Then of course standing around and hearing everyone's stories after was really fun! Have to give a shout out to Coeur Sports for making such awesome custom kits for TeamBSC... Heidi and I got to be matchy matchy today! And here's a little fun fact... 3 of the top 6OA gals in the race were wearing Coeur Sports kits. #GetOne #BestKits

And of course I'm super proud of how my team performed on Saturday as well! Kevin won his AG and was 5thOA, Heidi won her AG and was 6thOA, Matthew (not pictured) placed 3rd in his AG in his first ever half ironman, and Zach finished saying he felt strongest at mile 11! (Who says that?!) TeamBSC in the house!!
Mahalo to Raul and Hina for taking on the challenge of putting on a race like this on Oahu! It's not an easy task but they pulled it off in a great way and it's appreciated by us all. :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

2015 North Shore Swim Series!

Ok well I didn't manage to blog about each of the summer swims this year, but here's a little summary of all five of them together as a whole. :)
I totally look forward to these swims every summer. This was my 10th summer here on Oahu and my 10th time doing most of the swims. I've missed a few here and there over the years but I think only when I've been off island... For the most part, if there's an ocean swim race going on up at the North Shore, I'll be there!

Some people take these swims quite seriously and are really racing to WIN. Most us aren't that serious about them though. I'd say the vast majority of people who do these swims do them because it's a super fun thing to do every other Saturday morning during the summer. We swim as fast as we can on the day, of course, but we don't go up on the alternate weekends and recon the courses or anything. If you want to win, taking that extra step is a really good idea because a lot of the results can be affected by strategy. These aren't pool or lake swims! We're navigating point to point courses, sometimes without many (any?) buoys, usually either with or against a current, often also diving under head high white water breaking waves, always in awesome crystal clear water... This is like adventure swimming at its absolute best.

One little note- it always shocks me that more local triathletes don't take advantage of this opportunity to improve their open water swim skills. Here's an environment that is legitimately challenging yet with adequate safety measures given the 600-700+ other swimmers and lifeguards on duty. There are some triathletes who show up at these races but not nearly as many as one would think. I don't really get it? Here's an absolutely perfect chance to hone in on open water swim racing skills. I encourage all my local athletes to enter the whole series, because the more you put yourself out there in these types of scenarios, the more skilled and confident you'll become as a swimmer! All of these swims, maybe with the exception of #2, are more challenging than any triathlon swim... so if you can do these, triathlon swims become complete no-brainers. I just think it's interesting that more local triathletes do not take advantage of these opportunities.

Anyway, swim #1 was about a mile point to point from Sunset to Pipeline. (2ndAG; 56thOA)

It's supposed to be a mile but finish times always make it seem like it's longer than that. This year there was some legit surf to contend with pretty much along the whole way. I quite like swimming through surf but on this day I was pretty convinced that the faster line would be to stay outside the surf and just swim head down hard. So that was my strategy... Head down flat out HARD swimming. And I got my ass kicked! Too funny. I really felt like I swam quite well at this race but I wasn't even on the same results page as some of my peers who I normally swim near... Turned out staying inside and getting pummeled was the faster route on that day and I missed the boat. Such is life. I had a blast though. Really it was one of the most FUN finishes I've ever had to any swim race because I just body surfed it in on this giant wave that I otherwise never would have been brave enough to take!

Two weeks later we all showed up again to race a much more straightforward course. Waimea Bay is a 1.2 mile triangle swim around the bay and usually there's not much surf or current to contend with in the bay. (1stAG; 46thOA)

The biggest challenge at this race could have been that the far turn is actually navigating between two giant black rocks... In reality the biggest challenge for the women was that we started 5' behind the men and that gap just wasn't enough at all for some of us who swam near the front of the women's pack. We asked for 10' gap but it was too late to change this year. Hopefully next year they will make that change and give us a full 10'. At this race I felt like I swam as well as I could have given the obstacle course of men I had to swim around/through. I was pretty stoked to come away with the AG win! I tend to get top 3 in my age group at most of these races but seems like there's almost always someone faster so in years past I have rarely gotten that top spot. To be fair, there are a ton of really fast swimmers who come out and do these races. In triathlon people think I'm a 'fast' swimmer but when I'm up against real swimmers, like in these races, it's humbling.

The best part about this race was that Scott and Moana came up and we all hung out at the beach for the rest of the morning. It was a gorgeous day and the water was super warm and nice and it really couldn't have been any better!

Race #3 is usually the wildest race of the series. It's a 1.6(ish) mile point to point course from Chun's Beach to Waimea Bay. (2ndAG; 25thOA)

This one is often against some current, against some wind chop, and just generally not the easiest to navigate. But it was a mass start which is super! It's for sure one of my favorites. Funny though this year we had some weird storm going on somewhere in the Pacific that was affecting our weather and it was a random light wind day with some drizzling rain. Light wind usually means calm ocean and I don't know, I think I just figured it would be flatter/calmer than normal. To be honest, I didn't give it much thought. I should have had a heads up though because even trying to swim out to the start line I was having a really hard time... ducking under wave after wave and hardly making any progress at all over some shallow reef. Eventually I made my way to the start line but without much time to think or strategize... Horn sounded and we were off and I just sort of swam hard and tried to stay around people near me. It was weird though I felt like I just wasn't swimming strong at all during this one... like I couldn't get a good grip on the water. I should have known it was against the current from the start. Then I ended up in some giant breaking waves and I'm sure I was uttering expletives out loud as over and over I was just getting pummeled by big waves! It felt like I couldn't make my way through them, but of course eventually after diving under like 6-7x I finally did. I remember thinking that I wish I had been more mentally prepared for psycho conditions like that because in all honesty these are the conditions where relatively I can gain an advantage on many others... I'm frustrated that I allowed myself to be caught off guard on this one and wasn't mentally prepped for full battle! That said, eventually I figured out that if I was having a hard time getting through this course, most others would be as well, so I turned my brain around and made myself BUCK UP. <Just Keep Swimming> Needless to say everyone's times on this day were WAY slower than most years and I heard later that there were a bunch of rescues which doesn't surprise me at all. Funny thing though, those of us who ended up getting pummeled on the inside (I ended up inside accidentally not on purpose!) ended up swimming relatively faster than those who took the calmer outside line, so this was sort of like making up for that first race where I did it wrong. Apparently the theme of this years races was that taking the white water beating on the inside is the faster line.

So on we go to race #4! Lani's to Haleiwa 1.9 mile point to point... (1stAG; 36thOA)

I took the lessons from the earlier races here and opted to stay the inside line on purpose, even though there were some decent waves breaking along our route. The good news about this one was that we were swimming west, and I breathe right, so I could see the waves before they were going to smash over my head! Perfect. I just watched for them to come and dove under before the waves had a chance to roll me over. In all honesty there weren't too many of those today just a few in a specific shallow reef area. I wish I could say I swam well at this one but I just felt off. I could blame Ironman training for leaving me with some excess fatigue, and that might be a valid excuse, but it's still an excuse. I don't know though, I was swimming in a big pack with several other gals who looked like they could have been in my age group and we all exited the water together and I didn't contest the run up the beach just jogged it up with no competitive grit. Looking back that always disappoints me but at the time I just didn't care. Turns out those gals weren't in my age group, so I ended up winning my age group, but knowing how I didn't fight at the finish left me with a bit of a hollow feeling. It did turn out to be quite a nice day though and I really have nothing to complain about- just my own rising level of fatigue setting in that's all.

So finally that leaves us with the 5th and final swim of the series... Pipeline to Waimea 2.3(ish) miles point to point. (1stAG; 14thOA)

This last race is always my favorite. Maybe because it's the longest one? My goal going into this one was to feel proud of my effort at the end... I wanted to avoid feeling like I did after the last swim where I felt like I didn't really give it a good RACE effort. Once again I opted for the inside line- so far inside in fact that at one point a lifeguard paddled up and directed me to go out so I wouldn't end up in water too shallow. #whoops The whole time though I kept checking in with myself and asking if my effort was one that would make me happy later and every time the answer was a resounding YES. I was really working on the upper limit of my ability right from the start and I never let up which was just great! In the last ~20' or so I merged with a guy and worked hard to stay on his feet all the way into the last bay. Then, remembering how I felt last time after I didn't fight for the finish, I just buried myself in the last 300M swimming beside this guy stroke for stroke feeling like I might just puke stay on it Michelle don't give this away... In the end he beat me up the beach BUT it wasn't for lack of trying on my part! Funny too after I got done panting, I realized it had been my friend Mike that I was racing, so we had a good laugh about the max effort there at the end. Without a doubt the effort and execution of this day was the best I'd done all summer so I was quite proud of myself for finally putting one together where I wouldn't change a thing if I could. That's probably the best feeling one could have at the end of any race! 
Men and Women 40-44 Podium

Big Mahalo to Chris (race director) as well as all of the sponsors who make this race series possible for us. Summer just wouldn't be summer without these swims!

Ocean racing isn't over for me yet though... There's a 5K up on the North Shore coming up next month then the Double Roughwater 7K this fall as well... Can't wait!


Monday, July 13, 2015

Eating Ice Cream At The Edge

One of the good things about having done this triathlon thing for a long time is that I've had an opportunity to personally test out different training methods and can see how they work (or don't work!) for me. As they say, there are a lot of ways to skin a cat… Of course, I love my cat and have no interest in skinning him. ;)

My point here is that I've done the group training thing, have trained on an 'as I feel' every day basis, I've done the extended HR training thing, I've tried high volume and low volume approaches, high intensity and low intensity, etc. Some definitely work better for me than others, and my what works for me may not be the same as what works for others, but I've found some general guidelines that I think are important for me.

In a nutshell, in order for me to feel good/strong, I need to train frequently (3-6x/week per sport and more seems to be better here). I need to do the vast majority of my running with my HR low. The more running I do with a controlled HR, the faster I run at that controlled HR, and the more I *can* run in total. And for me, total run volume is a big factor. When HR is controlled I find I'm able to go out and run 10-15 beats above that normal/low HR and feel awesome- like a machine. This is the feeling I find myself striving for. The thing is though, the only way for me to feel like a machine running at HR 160-165 is to get good at running at HR 145. That's why I'm willing to do so much running with my HR in the 140's.

I need to do a lot of specific strength work on the bike, and similar to run, total volume is big/important (for the most part, more is better), but I don't think tooling around with HR <130 is really all that beneficial for me so bike volume needs to be balanced with total overall fatigue. If/when I'm too tired to get HR >130 then it's time to rest.

As much as I hate to admit this, I don't really need to swim more than ~10K/week. Swimming more does make me slightly faster but after 30+ years of swimming a ton, I can get by on 10K/week and spend my extra time on bike/run and that is beneficial to the overall picture. I seriously hate to admit that because swimming more does make me feel better in the water! I just am reluctantly understanding that for me at this point with the goals that I have, 10K/week is enough. Bummer.

Anyway, I'm back on a higher volume bike/run training plan and for the most part I'm really liking it. I did a 10 day block where my hours were quite big (by my standards) and it was interesting to watch what was happening to my mind and body as those days went on… I was actually feeling quite good through day 8 or so… Just physically feeling good and motivated and HR was coming down for giving pace/power and everything was right in the world. I was on a roll! Clicking and ticking! Then on Day 9 I screwed up my fueling (by not taking in enough) and that hit me hard… Major bonking at the end of a run… walking home… emergency trip to McDonalds for some french fries that I hadn't had in years… I was a mess. (No, I have not checked yet to see if I won anything on that Minion Mania?)

The problem with under fueling even once during a big volume block is that it takes a while to recover from that. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the next day wasn't any better. I was pissy during my swim. An hour into the ride I stopped for a snickers and a gatorade, hoping that would help (it didn't'). An hour later I stopped again for a giant Coke, which perked up my brain a little but did nothing to bring up my HR or my power. At that point I felt like I had a choice to make… continue on for a few more hours to hit the workout goal, or bail and go home? I spent a long time arguing with myself about this but eventually opted to just go home. Part of me felt like a failure for that, but another part of me remembered the overall big picture goal of training> Take yourself to a new fitness level by pushing just beyond your current limits. Then rest/recover. Then hit it again.

There were a lot of signs that day telling me I was (temporarily) DONE… HR was low and didn't want to come up, brain was pissy, appetite was gone (but I was eating crap out of desperation). That might be the most unhealthy part of Ironman training- when you get past the point where healthy food is enough to sustain you so you end up eating ice cream and french fries and mac-n-cheese. I know I am not alone in getting to this point but yikes fuel your body with crap and you're going to feel like crap. Except the ice cream worked I think b/c I came back the next day and ran pretty well. :) I guess there's a balance there.

Anyway, the good news about the training I'm doing now is that it feels really right because there's some recovery built into the plan. I think where I screwed up in 2013 was that there wasn't much recovery built in… so I'd push to this point then keep barreling right on through it. I really wanted to see what was on the other side that year so I'm not bummed I went and found out, but a series of poor race results was enough to scare me away from making that same mistake again. The thing is though, for me anyway, I don't get results if I don't push myself at least close to the edge in training. I think that was my pitfall last year. I tried to do it on a lower volume plan and made up for the fewer hours by increasing intensity and damn I wish that route worked for me but it just doesn't.

I'm enjoying this year though watching HR like a hawk again and patiently building myself back into the bulletproof athlete I want to be. The only way I've found I'm able to keep my HR controlled is by watching it on pretty much every run and adjusting my efforts accordingly. Sometimes, when our humidity levels go up significantly, this means slowing down a ton and walking (gasp!) when it's stupidly hot. In good news, I've found that when I drink Osmo Pre-load prior to a long/hot effort, HR stays more controlled for sure. My goal is never to run slow- it's always just to keep HR in control- so whatever tricks I can use to keep HR lower are tricks I learn to use! Staying hydrated and getting enough sleep are probably the two biggest factors there.

Anyway, enough about this for now. I've had a few lighter days which I've really enjoyed (I don't resist rest when I know I need it!) but it's back on for big training over the next few days again. We'll see if I can go find the edge again. You'll know when I've found it because I'll start posting pictures of ice cream... :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Back In The Saddle

I was going to write a blog post about the first swim of the North Shore Swim Series... but never got around to it. In a nutshell, was a fun swim! There were some decent sized waves to navigate- I navigated those wrong, which was a bit of a bummer when I saw my finish time/place but whatever... Live and learn... Next time I'll make a different choice! Love this picture though- it's not me but I felt like I took a wave like this at the end of the race... Was so exhilarating! Normally I'd never be brave enough to body surf shore break like this, but given the race situation I did and it was so fun! I had a goofy grin on my face for the rest of the day because of the wave I body surfed in.

After that race it was on to Ironman training... Marilyn and I had some good discussions about how things went down at Honu and how my training could be tweaked going forward. Essentially, I begged her to put my on the high volume plan because based on past experience I just 100% believe that's what works best for me... and she agreed. Super! So my Training Peaks calendar showed a good meaty week... like the kind of week that was a bit scary even to me... The kind of week that really made me think "Wow if I get through all this I'm going to be tired." Truth be told, those are my favorite weeks.

That Sunday I rode ~5.5 hours with Lectie and Michelle and Gary. Really should say that I got my ass kicked for 5.5 hours but however frustrating that was, it was certainly a step in the right direction toward the goal of fixing this gaping hole in my fitness so I was happy to have that done. The next day I rode a solid 56 miles alone, mostly in my aero bars and holding ~Ironman power steady throughout, and that felt stronger than I expected it to so that was super. Then the next day bike week continued with bunch of hill reps... so off I went to Tantalus to climb climb climb.

Unfortunately I didn't make it very far into this workout before I ended up with a broken helmet.

I was descending Round Top Dr, thinking about how (since this was the 3rd time in 7 days I'd been on this mountain) how much more confident I felt about descending it... I wasn't really trying to go fast or anything, but I was less cautious and more relaxed than I had been in the past. I actually took that as a good sign (progress!), until I hit a big pothole and both my hands popped off my bars and I lost control and landed on my head.

My first thought after I hit the pavement was that I need to go see Dr Zen. He's our local chiropractor and he's awesome and I knew my back/neck were going to be a mess after taking such a hit. My next thought was that I needed to get back on my bike right away.

So here's the thing. Last month two of our TeamBSC athletes went down on their bikes (one of Krista's athletes and one of mine). My advice to each of those guys, after a bit of sympathetic yes bike crashes suck, was that riding a bike can be a risky endeavor and it's a risk we all accept every time we go out to ride... And after you crash the best thing you can do it suck it up and get back out there on your bike again as soon as you can.

This kind of tough love may sound a bit harsh, but I picked it up from Hillary Biscay when I went to her Tucson SmashFest camp in 2012. On the last day of that camp, she took us out on some rocky trails where several of us fell and ended up a bit bloody. To be honest, I was sort of shocked at her response when I fell... She gave me like a minute to collect myself and rub some of the blood away and then we were back off and running again... Just like yep falls happen out here its no big deal. I remembered that because I think I expected her to baby me a bit more. But the fact that she didn't baby me was actually quite empowering. It was as if her perception of me was that I was tough enough to not let a silly fall like that interrupt the rest of my run session, and I rose to meet that expectation and in the end was really proud of myself. So that was a good lesson and for the most part going forward, it's one I've applied not only to myself but also to my athletes in many cases as well.

So given that just weeks prior I'd pretty much told those athletes to buck up, I knew that following my own advice was my only option. In good news, my bike was scratched up but functional, so I got back on it and continued down the mountain. I actually considered trying to finish the hill repeat session, but after 1x10' climb I knew for sure that was a dumb idea. Mostly b/c I couldn't take a deep breath without some real pain and I sort of wondered if maybe I'd broken a rib? I rolled back to my car and called Dr Zen who, because he is awesome like that, agreed to see me over his lunch break. While he couldn't take away all of my pain, I do believe that seeing him so quickly was a big part of how quickly I recovered on the whole.

I spent the next 3 days grunting and groaning and gritting my teeth through every deep breath. In good news, I didn't break any bones... Just had some sore muscles around my shoulders/back/neck and maybe some bruised ribs and spasming intercostal muscles? Whatever it was, it was getting better every day, and by Saturday I felt like I might be okay to go ride my bike again. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have any fear- of course I had some fear getting back on my bike. But I reminded myself that I've been riding for 20 years now and only fallen off 4x. That statistic was pretty favorable toward me being able to get through a short ride that morning without crashing again, so I pretty much banked on that! And toward the end of that ride, once I was able to relax, I felt joy... Like Yes! I love riding my bike. I think that joy needs to be there at some level, and if it's not, why bother being a triathlete? Sometimes I hear athletes complaining about riding their bikes and that just makes me wonder why they bother with a sport that doesn't bring them joy? There are too many other options out there to waste our time forcing ourselves to do something that doesn't bring us joy. In the end, I think that crash was good for me in that it reminded me of how much I really like riding my bike. When it was taken away, even if only very temporarily, it became crystal clear to me how much I wanted it back. So maybe that's the silver lining.

Anyway, check out this spiffy new helmet I got! It's the Smith Overtake. I'd been wanting this helmet for a while but couldn't really justify it since I had a perfectly good functioning helmet... But this one is the bomb. It's light and airy and fits my head really snug.
Cheers to not babying ourselves and being back in the saddle!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Honu 2015... I'm Conflicted!

One of the best parts about doing big races with lots of friends is hearing everyone's stories after it's all over. There's always something to be learned no matter how the race goes, and I'd argue that often we learn more when the race doesn't go well vs when it does.

When I crossed the finish line on Saturday, I had some friends ask how it went... and all I could say was "I'm conflicted!!" In a nutshell, the truth is that I raced to the very best of my current ability on Saturday. Unfortunately my current ability makes me slower than I've been in years and it didn't put me in the mix for top 3 in my age group the way I hoped it would.

So how do you deal with it when you look back and think you executed the very best you could, nothing you'd change, but yet the results weren't even in the ballpark of where you want to be?? I definitely don't want to bitch and moan b/c for the 5th year in a row I came away with a podium spot in my age group in this race so it doesn't really feel right to complain about that, but I'd be lying if I said I was even remotely satisfied.

There were some really good things about how the day went down on Saturday. I'd say I did the following things exactly right:

~Managed my time and stress levels all week so it was a really relaxed lead in to race day.
~Fueled and hydrated prior to the race really well.
~Felt like I was as rested as I've ever been going into Saturday.
~Was appropriately nervous/excited but not overwhelmed or fearful.
~Executed the best swim I could have given the scenario.
~Stayed upright on my bike when it was mass mayhem during the first ~10 miles.
~Fueled and hydrated exactly as I'd planned on both bike and run.
~Kept my head together and didn't mentally cave when it became clear to me that I wasn't going to reach any of my big goals.
~Never gave up.

Not sure how interesting it is to go through the details of each leg of the race, but here are some thoughts about how it specifically went down (if you're interested?!)

I knew my swim fitness was good so I started on the front line. W40+ started in the last wave and I hoped I'd have someone to swim with but was mentally prepared to go it alone if there was no one. Cannon went off, I swam hard for about a minute, took a quick look around and saw there was no one around me at all... so at that point I went with Plan B which was swim hard all alone. I caught what seemed like 1/2 of the pink cap wave (W39/under) by the first far turn buoys, followed my plan of staying on the inside of the pink marker buoys, passed a steady stream of people the whole way but for the most part had clear water, hit every yellow turn buoy straight on, and felt like I was swimming really well. Not super stroked with 29:48 but swim might have been like a minute long this year... No one else in my wave swam <34' and only 4 gals in the wave ahead of me swam faster, so I felt 100% satisfied with my swim. I will say this- I own 3 different brands of speed suits and without question my Roka one is the fastest material. Plus, I used my new Roka goggles which are mirrored/tinted in such a way that allowed me to no be completely blinded by the sun after the final turn when we were heading into shore. I'm a giant fan of Roka products for the swim!!

T1 and the start of the bike was a giant cluster*ck of a mess. I swam myself straight into the middle of the men's race and it was a disaster. Super scary, men everywhere riding all over the place weaving passing on both sides, etc. It's a minor miracle I stayed upright and didn't completely lose my shit. I had the thought that I really missed the days when this race used to be a mass start. I know a lot of people don't like the mass start b/c it doesn't spread things out, but for me personally it was so.much.better because I was able to get out onto the bike with some relatively clear roads and then the men who passed did so with authority b/c they were fast. So it's just less of a mess (for me) that way. Alas, starting in the back and dealing with this chaos is something we as women apparently just have to deal with now so I'm adapting.

I will say this- the worst is when these men refused to let women pass. Several times I found myself in a scenario that was 'illegal'... meaning I'd ride up on a guy and start to pass but then he would see me and step on it and surge ahead. Um, ok. I was sort of trying to figure out if that was my fault for not completing the pass or if it was his fault for not falling back after the pass was initiated? I didn't feel like I gained any drafting advantage when this was happening (it happened at least 4x with 4 different guys- the last one I just yelled at to BACK OFF AND LET ME PASS ALREADY) but I knew it wasn't 'legal' riding and that bugged me. They said the new rule was 5 bike lengths but even with the athletes spread out over 5 waves, there was simply not enough room on the roads for all those athletes to be spread out 5 bike lengths apart. And this course is a lot of rolling hills so depending on whether or not athletes were pushing the downhills or the uphills, there was a ton of passing back and forth. I'd say this- I didn't see any blatant cheating/drafting going on but I did see a lot of 'technically illegal' riding which just seemed to be the nature of how the race had to go... No solution to this really other than maybe to further spread out the swim wave starts?! I really don't know.

My 'best case scenario' plan for the bike ride was that I'd find a gal 39/under from the wave ahead of me who swam ~33-34 who was a strong rider and I'd be able to work with her... Sure enough around mile 10 a young gal rode by me and I was like PERFECT. She was strong and aggressive but I felt like I was too and neither of us ever settled to just sit behind and let the other get complacent out front... we (legally) passed each other back and forth probably 10x throughout the ride and came into T2 together. So that really was great and I loved riding with her.

During the bike I gave myself a little mental pat on the back every time I managed to eat. I never felt like eating but I knew better than to skip fueling, so I ate 2 bonk breaker bars + 2 gels + 2 bottles of Osmo + a Gatorade from on course + water as needed at each aid station. It's probably the best I have ever done fueling a 70.3 ride.

T2 was a mess for me but mostly b/c the way they had it set up- no passing zone for the last mile of the bike and of course I got stuck behind a guy who stopped pedaling and coasted in... Then he proceeded to jog as slowly as he could to the bike rack where we had to rack in the order we came in (vs in a pre-assigned spot by number) so I was basically walking single file behind this guy who was clearly not actually 'racing' and it seemed like forever... Finally I couldn't contain myself anymore and was like CHOP CHOP BOYS MOVE ALONG!!!! It didn't help but made me feel like I was at least being slightly proactive about trying to not waste time in T2. I hope they fix T2 for next year because it doesn't seem fair to the women who are competitive to get stuck behind men who are not... being in a situation where it was literally impossible to pass just seemed wrong.

I was told by some spectators that I was 6th woman coming into T2, and I knew that 4 of those women started 4' up on me- I'd been passed on the bike by one gal in my age group so knew I wasn't leading the age group but was still doing really well overall... I didn't know my exact bike split but I glanced at my watch which was showing time of day and did a bit of math and figured out that I didn't bike particularly fast (as compared to how I'd ridden here in the past) so I was trying to figure that out. I didn't spend much time or energy on it though I just got my run shoes on and set off onto the run course. Within a mile, Nell went running by and I thought SHIT now I'm third... Then like a minute later Audra went running by and I was like TRIPLE SHIT now I'm 4th... Kudos to those girls for being such badasses of course, but that pretty much confirmed to me that I hadn't had the ride I was hoping I'd have. Don't get me wrong- I wasn't sightseeing out on the bike- I was working as hard as was appropriate given my fitness, but that just resulted in speed that was not where I want/need it to be when I'm racing women as strong as these gals!

I wanted to win, but by mile 1 that goal was out the window because I was already 4th. In the past this would have been a giant mental blow but the thing I might be most happy with about this race is that I completely let that disappointment go and made a vow to salvage what I had... keep trucking along and just do the best I could with what I had in each moment. And that's what I did. I continued to follow my plan, ran as fast as my heart and legs would allow. Part of my plan going into the race was to not judge how it was going until I'd cross the finish line. I wanted to FOCUS on the here and now with every pedal stroke and with every step and I think this might have been the best I've ever done at achieving that goal.
Osmo continues to be a lifesaver at this race- it was stifling HOT with no shade and no wind but I had a bottle of Osmo waiting for me in T2 and I drank that down then survived on ice/water/gels/coke for the rest of the run. I didn't have any cramping issues (which I've totally had in the past!) and my energy stayed good/steady throughout the whole race. I was limited more by the fact that my HR was super high so that just placed a ceiling on how fast I could move along. I walked all the aid stations b/c I wanted as much ice and water as I could get each time and I also walked most of the short spiky hills in an effort to keep my heart from exploding out of my chest. Speaking of my chest, gotta give a shout out to my awesome Coeur Sports kit! I filled that bra with 2 cups of ice at every aid station so I had my own personal little cooler full of ice for the majority of that run. :)
I felt like I finished as strong as I started though, and I didn't get passed by any more women in my age group, so I smiled through the last mile or two. Holding myself together the way I did was certainly something to be proud of!

When you do the best that you can, but don't end up in the league where you want to be playing, what do you do? I'll tell you what I did. I came home and dug through 5 years of training logs and found the problem. I don't for a second believe that I am too old to be getting faster! And while I wish a lower volume/higher intensity plan was one that worked for me, the proof is in the pudding. It's back on the high volume bandwagon for me. If you need me this summer, come find me on my bike. :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On Being "Lucky"

I got a comment from a friend yesterday about how I am "lucky" that I'm able to swim. I'm pretty sure I understand what she meant, because I've had similar feelings about those little gals who run a lot faster than I do. I've thought, with a hint of jealousy, about how "lucky" they are. But the reality is that the vast majority of those gals have been running most of their lives. And they probably eat less than I do. Those things aren't luck. They are choices.

To be honest, it bugs the crap out of me when people call me "lucky". I remember when I graduated college and landed my first teaching job. My grandma told me I was lucky. And immediately I thought, NO. I am not lucky that I got that job! I worked my ass off in college and graduated with a 4.0 with a degree in Elementary Education. I took jobs working in after school care positions so I would have something about experience with kids to put on my resume. I sent in a lot of job applications and prepared for my interviews and showed up on time and did everything that was expected of me (and more!). I didn't feel lucky that I'd landed a job. I felt I'd earned it. There is a difference.

Back to swimming. I didn't learn to actually swim until I was 8. I don't remember a lot about that time except that my mom told me she felt bad that she'd waited so long to put me in swim lessons. I got put into the beginner "Minnows" group with all the 5 year olds because that's the level I was at. I learned how to swim that summer and competed in the 8&U division at the swim meets, swimming 25's. I have no memory of how any of that went, but I do know I looked forward to summer every year because it meant I could go back to morning swim workouts.

I continued that summer league swimming through middle school... I'd ride my bike by myself to the pool every morning, do everything that was expected of me at swim practice, then was a pool rat for the rest of the day before riding my bike home in time for dinner. I was never the most talented swimmer but I worked hard and never skipped out on anything. This continued though high school as well. In high school we practiced every day after school. I remember our coach opening up morning swim practices. Some parents thought that was too much (including my own mom), so coach made them optional. I always opted to attend. I got a huge sense of satisfaction from adding up how much I swam each day. Between the two practices it was often 7-8K/day. Am I lucky that I chose to do that? Maybe just lucky in the sense that I enjoyed it?

I do remember feeling a sense of jealousy toward the gals on the team who were more talented than I was. I really wasn't as fast as my friends on that team but I made up for it by working really hard and being willing to swim the events that the others didn't want to do. That's why I swam fly. And the 500. It's where I found I could shine, but only because no one else wanted to swim those events!

I took ~3 years away from swimming as I focused on my collegiate diving career (I had more talent for diving than I did for swimming, so diving paid for my college. No swim coach would have given me a scholarship to swim on his/her team.) But eventually I went back to swimming and joined an adult 'masters' group which rekindled my love for the sport. Since then, I don't think there have been many weeks where I didn't swim at least 3x. I used to teach math but adding up all the swimming I have done in my lifetime would be a pretty near impossible task. Let's just say it's been A LOT. I'd guess I average 10-15k/week now, depending on the time of year. I don't take extended breaks away from the water. I don't skip swim sessions. I don't cut sessions short. I time everything I do. I write detailed notes about every main set I swim.

33 years of consistent work. Does that make me lucky?


Monday, May 18, 2015

Honolulu Triathlon... And On Racing By Feel

Well we are in the thick of the racing season now, eh? Races every weekend are fun to follow along and regardless of outcomes, always a good learning opportunity.

This past weekend we had two races here on Oahu- a small local one up on the North Shore and a bigger one on the South Shore (Honolulu Triathlon). While small local races are always super fun (and racing with your friends is more fun than racing against a bunch of strangers), I chose to do Honolulu triathlon for a few reasons... #1) It's the only race on Oahu all year long that has a legit swim for the bike/run distance. Every other race around here has a short swim, and as a swimmer, I feel it's my duty to support with my dollar the race that is more fair to swimmers. And #2) The feel of the 'big race' environment is a good one two weeks before Honu. Walking around a giant transition area 30' prior to race start, surrounded by a 1500 athletes you don't know, brings butterflies to your belly in a way that little races just don't.

To be honest, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to get to the start line of this race. Last week Moana got pretty sick (lots of throwing up, followed by some nasty diarrhea explosions). Scott and I thought maybe she'd eaten something bad (??) but then 36 hours later it was my turn to spend some violent time in the bathroom, followed by ~24 hours flat out in bed... Then it was Scott's turn... On Wednesday when I couldn't lift my head off my pillow I pretty much wrote off the idea of racing this weekend. But the good thing about those kinds of viruses that come on really quickly and hit you like a ton of bricks is that they tend to lift just as quickly and then suddenly you're back to normal. I felt normal by Friday and was able to eat again so the race for me was back on!


Since I'm a female, and now that I'm 'old', I tend to get shunted to the last wave with these race starts. As a strong and well trained swimmer this can be frustrating because it means my swim becomes more about dodging all those people who started before me but don't regularly swim train. Yesterday, the horn went off, I ran into the water and swam alone in clear water for ~3 minutes before I started running into the wave that started 3' ahead of me... then for the next 19' passed probably (and I'm not exaggerating here) 500 people. In good news I managed to do this without a) ending up with a black eye or b) getting pissed off, so we'll call it a successful swim. I will admit though I had the thought "These people really need to swim train more."

On the bike it was kind of more of the same... I tend to enjoy racing by feel more than racing with data so I don't start my watch or wear a garmin. At this race I ended up with a false sense of how fast I was actually moving. I kind of knew I wasn't really pushing very hard but I was passing so many people the whole time that it seemed like I was moving really fast! Unfortunately my bike split shows I was not moving as fast as it may have appeared. DOH! The lesson from this race that I'll take with me will be to focus more internally on my own effort and not judge my own bike performance based on the others directly around me.

The last few years I've blown up spectacularly on this run, so on purpose I took it out a good bit more relaxed than normal. This strategy worked for me and I felt like my legs kind of came around and I was able to go a little faster as I settled in. Again, without a garmin I didn't know how fast I was running but I did a few gut checks, asking myself if this was as fast as I could go in that moment and the answer was always yes this is the right effort right now so just kept doing what I was doing. My run is a constant work in progress but for the first time in a long time, I felt like I ran a pretty even/steady 10k that didn't result in any meltdowns. I didn't have the energy to pick it up and go faster at the end, but I didn't feel like I slowed significantly either. Finishing feeling like that left me satisfied with my effort for the day.

In my post race recap to Marilyn, I wrote the following:

Thanks! Ya as I was finishing up yesterday I did not know my time or place, but I had the thought that I was pleased enough with my effort and execution of the day so I figured no matter what the time/place was, I'd be satisfied. It was reminiscent of how I did things toward the end of my diving career in college- I'd gotten to the point where I knew how to do all of my dives really well. Whether or not I executed them well in a meet was up in the air, but I knew I was capable and I always knew if I did them well or not. Anyway, toward the end there I got really tired of 'being judged', which is how we won or lost diving meets. I would, on purpose, hang out under water after every dive and decide for myself if I'd done it well or not (vs coming up in time to see the judges' scores). So I'd go through the meets not knowing what any of my scores actually were! It was my way of judging myself vs allowing others to judge me and it worked well for me once I'd gotten to the point where I was capable of accurately judging for myself how I'd performed. I feel like I'm there with triathlon now too- like I KNOW if I'm moving well and working to the right effort swim bike and run and focusing on that while I'm racing works better for me than focusing on numbers. I think good/fine to watch numbers in training b/c it helps me hone that feel and helps me keep track of how the training is working for me, but racing by feel is where I get the most out of myself (most of the time!)

To be honest, I was shocked when I heard my name coming from the announcer's mic... I wasn't paying attention and didn't even know they were doing awards (they did the OA really early like as soon as I crossed the line?!) and I was like What?! I got 2nd?! Sweet! I hadn't even really had time to digest my race and wonder about placings before I found myself up on the podium. So that was fun!

Anyway, I think the experience I had out there starting behind all those people was actually a good one going into Honu- they've changed the start format there so that women 40+ go off last... So yesterday was actually good practice for what I'll experience on another big stage in less than two weeks. I'm excited to tackle that challenge!