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. :)

1 comment:

Dianna Grundhauser said...

This is precisely why I love you as a coach. You are REAL. You are human. You have been there and know how we feel on some days. You can relate.

So impressed and so happy for you!