That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. - Nietzsche

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cincinnati Triathlon - race report

Let me tell you why I did this race: this was me overcoming fear. I think I've mentioned before, I'm a little afraid of deep water. In my carefree college study abroad years, I had a bad experience with a riptide off a secluded beach when my friends and I were not exactly sober. Since then, water that's not in a pool and especially water that isn't still is not my friend. Don't even ask how I embarrassed myself snorkeling on my honeymoon.


So honestly, I chose this to be my first Oly because I figured there's nothing scarier to swim in than the Ohio River. (Not 100% true, but I seriously doubt I'll ever be mentally able to do a tri with an ocean swim. And there's no ocean for hundreds of miles anyway.) The downside of this race is that it was pricey pricey, and run by a company from Tuscon. Their lack of familiarity was obvious when they thought it was a good idea to have packet pickup (mandatory) the day before, at Sawyer Point, the day of a Reds game. First of all, finding it was difficult, and there was nowhere to park that didn't cost $10. Fortunately, my husband drove around while I got the pickup taken care of.

They had ONE other packet pickup time and location, but I couldn't make it because I was watching Megadeth/Godsmack/Disturbed with the husband. But anyway....

The event itself was really well organized and the crowd support was fantastic. I was pretty much terrified but I was happy to find others in the same boat while we set up our transition areas. Got marked with my number (95, good even number) and my age and an O on the other calf for Olympic, and made our way down to an unfamiliar part of the river for the swim start. We got to watch the men start, and then our wave wandered down some steps (and under branches) to get into the river.

People were really, really nice. Triathletes, at least the non-elite ones, are a friendly, supportive bunch, and our wave being mostly female, there was some bonding going on. I mentioned being a slow swimmer and another girl, Casey, was thrilled that she wasn't the only slow person there. I also warned everyone that I would probably pee as soon as I hit the water. (There was a line for the restrooms and I was terrified of missing my start!) We got in, where there were rocks that were shallow enough to stand on. This made me happy because I didn't want to expend any energy treading water. However, our wave was not just women but Clydesdale men, and I kept having to move because these big guys were right behind me. I ended up finding a pretty isolated spot behind everyone. THEN I got sweet relief for my bladder. (No, it's not gross; there are WAAAY grosser things than my pee in the river!) The guy counted minute. 45 seconds. 20 seconds. Crap, dude, I'm still peeing!!! Luckily I was done just before we started.

The swim started out smoothly. No trampling or scrambling, at least not in my spot. I followed the pack...and they got further and further ahead. There was one person beside me for a bit, but then they were gone, too. Now, I was intentionally taking the swim slow and steady, because I was afraid that if I got tired, I'd start panicking. But this was a little ridiculous. Open water swimming tends to feel like you're not going anywhere anyway, because it takes so long for scenery to get closer. I channeled Finding Nemo and told myself to just keep swimming. I counted strokes. The "I'm So Lonely" Kim Jong Il song from Team America got stuck in my head. Seriously?? I was swimming all by myself. I was a little worried, actually, because I didn't see any kayaks and I could only guess they were up with the majority of the swimmers. It was kinda fun swimming in the river but it got really boring. I almost seriously wondered if I was the victim of an elaborate prank and they were all going to see how long I'd swim in the Ohio River by myself.

The good news is that I'm pretty good at sighting with little practice. I stayed pretty close to the shore without straying off path. At one point, I was totally surprised that my hand brushed the bottom and I managed to cut my finger. All I could do was file a mental note to douse that thing in neosporin later. Finally, I got to a point where there were lifeguards along the shore. I asked one if I was last and he said yes, then he said something else that I couldn't hear through the water in my ears. I took my head out of the water to tell him not to let me drown. He walked with me. Then the water got pretty choppy. See my aforementioned issues with non-still water. I panicked a little and asked the guard why the water was so choppy. He said a boat had gone through earlier. I had to force myself to calm down and not be silly about it, the water wasn't going to kill me, although it made breathing a little harder.

FINALLY I got to the end. It felt like it took forever. It was a little bit of a struggle because the water got too shallow to swim, but the rocks were too sharp to walk on. They had multiple people there to help me out of the water and onto dry land, and then I looked around like a crazy person trying to figure out where to go. Someone asked me if I was ok and I responded that I was just disoriented as they pointed me to the transition area. There were LOTS of volunteers and spectators and they were all cheering, which was awesome, and I tried to look strong and athletic as I jogged toward my bike.

Yep, I must've been last. My bike was all by its lonesome in the Olympic tri area. I made my way onto the course, mounted the bike, rode for a minute, and......crap. A hugely steep hill. I made it about halfway up and seriously doubted my ability to continue. I managed to get a foot unclipped and pulled over and just stood there, doubled over my bike. I pulled out a gel and sucked it down and decided that if I was going to be taking up time, I might as well be moving forward, so I walked up the hill. At the top, I stopped to catch my breath again. I've pretty much never felt so defeated in my life. A spectator asked me if I was ok, if I needed water, and I remembered I had some on my bike. I took a swig and, after I nearly threw up, I remembered that it was gatorade, not water. "It's SOOO HOT!" I heard myself saying. I managed to get back on the bike and move forward.

I'm not going to lie. At that moment, I was about to just head back to my car and go home. I thought about having to tell everyone that I DNF'd my first oly tri and I was surprised that the idea didn't bother me an iota. Then, out of nowhere, a thought crossed my mind. "If you can't effing hold your head up and do your best when you're in last place, then you don't deserve to ever be first." And with that, I kept moving.

The bike course was a lot of suck - mostly rolling hills. The Oly tri was two laps, so I was getting passed by some of the frontrunners on their second lap. My goal was just to survive. At one point, I passed a guy standing by a pickup truck. I later found out he was the race director. He asked me if I was on my first lap and then wrote down my number. Great, that confirmed it - I was in dead last place. Thankfully, I recalled something that had been posted on the beginner triathlete forum: DFL>DNF>DNS. So I kept going.

I tried to motivate myself by telling myself, over and over, that the next time around I was going to defeat that first hill (which was actually an exit ramp that we had to ride up to get to Columbia Parkway.) But really, I didn't believe it, and when I got to the hill I walked it again. I didn't stop this time, though, and did the course again. This time, the guy got in his truck after I passed him and was stopping to pick up cones. On the way back, he was actually coaching me. He was really nice and I appreciated the gesture, but part of me was also thinking, "JUST SHUT UP AND LET ME SURVIVE THIS!!" Before I reached the turnaround, I had seen Casey on her way back and truck man kept telling me I could catch her. "I see her! She's up there! She's going slow! You'll get her!" Toward the end of the bike leg, I did pass her. Then she caught me again and was trying to make conversation. I got a little nervous, as we were breaking the three bike length rule, then it hit me - who's going to penalize the two people in last place??? So we had a couple of miles to chat as we rode into transition.

She seemed pretty terrified of the run. I knew it was her first tri, and in the beginning I'd told her to keep moving, no matter what. She said her legs felt like jello. "Keep running! It'll get better!" In transition, I held up Speedy. "This is my good luck turtle! He'll give you good luck too!" Her husband was on the other side of the fence cheering her on too. I started out ahead of her on the run and I knew from our previous conversation that I was a faster runner, so I kept going.

Holy crap - the run. It was SO HOT. The course was an out and back through a park, then over a bridge and back, and twice for the Oly. So I got to see a lot of the other runners on their way back through the park, and a LOT of people were walking. I was even with a girl who was on her second lap and she was taking walk breaks. My garmin said I had a decent pace but soon I had to walk too. I stopped at a water stop - actually STOPPED moving - so I could inhale another gel and drink some water. The rest of the run was a lot of trying to get myself to a certain point - time or mileage wise - and taking little walk breaks, grabbing water at every water stop, pouring it over my head. I was afraid of dehydration but I drank too much water and my stomach felt sick and sloshy. I apparently got ahead of someone else and I don't know how, because I didn't remember passing her, but she was walking the whole thing and apparently favoring a hip. We cheered each other on every time we passed each other. I got through the park and ran away from it, but a spectator stopped me and said, "Wait, you've got to go that way. Up the hill." I swore. Then I apologized. Then I swore again. I ran up to the "hill" - the purple people bridge - and I realized that was just ridiculous. The sun was in full force right there and it was HOT. People ahead of me were walking. I asked a course monitor if anyone had ran up the bridge and he laughed and told me no. So I walked the hill, ran the bridge, took a walk break, ran back down the hill toward the finish line. The course got within eyeshot of the finish line before I had to turn around, although I won't lie, I thought about being really dishonest and just finishing!

I gave up on any hopes of a good time or pace and focused on surviving. Any running I did was because I knew the race would be over sooner. I stopped at a water stop and the water I poured on my head was pretty warm. I mentioned it to a volunteer and they apologized, so I quickly clarified that I knew it wasn't their fault!! I got to the water stop at the end of the park and the volunteers commiserated with me. "Just think, you paid to do this!" one of them told me. Since I was by myself, I had their full attention and got four cups of water to pour on myself.

My shoes were squishy. I stopped at the warm water stop again, about 4 3/4 miles in, and OMG. THEY HAD ICE!! They had PILES of ice in the cups and I swear, it was like Jesus Christ himself had come down and put it there. "I LOVE YOU!!" I yelled at them as I dumped a cup over myself. "You want more? Come here!" The woman who said it was standing next to an open water jug full of ice. I ran to it, grabbed as much as I could hold in two hands, and shoved it down my bra. I took two more cups and thanked them profusely as I walked off drinking my cold water. When I finished the water, I dumped most of the ice down the back of my shorts and stuffed a few cubes in my headband.

The ice on my head actually started to give me a headache so I shook it out, but the rest of the ice felt AMAZING. It gave me a new boost of energy. I was able to run a bit more and passed someone ahead of me. She told me she was just trying to survive and I agreed. I told her I was rattling because I had a bra full of ice. Innocent passersby were giving me strange looks as I kept running, sounding a bit like a well-shaken martini.

One more time across the bridge! As I was taking a walk break, a pedestrian asked me what the race was all about. I told them the distances, feeling pretty proud of myself. I high-fived Casey, who was on her way across. I cheered on the walking/limping woman. Over the bridge, hit the 6 mile mark. Casey's husband and kids were there cheering for me and I told them their mom was still in it. Just .2 to go! I can run .2 miles!! Those .2 were about all I could manage to run at one time. By the time I hit the finish line, I felt extremely hot, but I was getting chills at the same time and I knew I had hit my physical limit. The ice in my shorts had only taken a half mile to melt. By the time I hit the finish line, I was down to maybe one or two cubes left in my bra. That's hot, people!!

I was greeted at the finish line with not a medal....but a bottle of cold water in a finisher koozie. I drank the water in no time. They were going through the list of winners. I grabbed some food and made sure I cheered on the three women who finished behind me. The first thing I did when I got to my phone was to check the weather: heat index 109. Hoooooly crap.

That was mentally the TOUGHEST race I'd ever done. The one thing that disappointed me was the swim. I absolutely know I'm a slow swimmer, but I've NEVER finished last. I'm still a bit perturbed by that and I'm thinking there must be something terribly off about my form, even though a swimmer friend told me it's not half bad. This winter, I think I'm going to take a few lessons. The bike and run were just destined to be tough in th heat and I'm not bemoaning my times from them at all. The run, especially, was WAY off my running pace and not at all reflective of my ability. It was just freaking hot.

The official results may have some errors. They say I beat four people (including two of the men who were ahead of me because their swim had started earlier - I knew I had beat one, though, because he was barely ahead of me on the run) but the one woman behind me is missing from the results. Oh well. They also have a slower swim time for Casey, which makes no sense because she definitely started the bike ahead of me. I can't figure out exactly what happened....but my bike and run times match my garmin more or less, so I think my time's about right.

My results:

Swim: 30:28 (faster than two people)
T1: 2:13 (looks to be somewhere in the middle)
Bike: 1:44:36 (faster than 5, tied with 1)
T2: 2:01 (one second more than FTF, haha)
Run: 1:17:42 (yup, for a 10k!!!) <--still faster than 15 people
Total: 3:37:02

Not exactly the 3 hour goal I had for myself, but these weren't exactly ideal conditions, either!! And honestly, I've been really neglecting the bike lately because I don't want it to cause me any issues while running. My goal was to finish....and that's what I did. So ultimately, I'm happy with myself. The end!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fit to Fight official results, and I FREAKING SURVIVED!!

The important news: I am still alive after the Olympic tri!! I am an Olympic distance triathlete!!! It was a sloooow performance, but it was hot. Way hot. And for some unknown reason, I was dead last on the swim. Now, I don't pretend to be a fast swimmer, but I had noooo clue that I was that slow. Small sigh there.

The good news is that I was absolutely NOT last on the bike or run. I finished overall ahead of three women, and one man was barely ahead of me (after their swim started 10-15 minutes before ours.)

And I FINISHED, which was really my only goal.

Here's the facebook note I posted, entitled "things I learned today":

The Ohio River smells like butt, and has surprise shallow parts.
The hills on Columbia Parkway are annoying. The bike course could not have been on Riverside instead because....???
Sports bras will collect amazing amounts of driftwood and river funk if you swim in them.
Sports bras also are great for holding ice while running on a hot day. (Yes, I absolutely did stop at a water stop and shovel ice into my bra. And my shorts. And it felt AMAZING.)
Adding to that, my butt apparently melts ice 1/2 mile before my breasteses do. (The butt ice was completely melted after only a half mile. THAT MEANS IT'S HOT.)
Even when you're slow, you're still beating everyone who's not out there.
Spectators who cheer for everyone are heroes.
Spectators who only cheer for their friends and then stare at you as you go by should be kicked. (Or even better, sit there and read their freaking newspaper. Do that on your front porch.)
And finally, if you can't suck it up and smile and hold your head up and keep going when you're in last place, you don't ever deserve to be first. (I did not come in last, but I was the last one out of the water on the swim leg. Makes it really easy to spot your bike in transition.)

And also....I have the official results from last weekend, and I'm happy.

Official time: 1:42:11 (ps - 11 is my lucky number)
99th place out of 195 total. (Top half. Ish. I'll take it!)
8th out of 19, 30-34 age group
Swim: 12:12, 16th place age group (that's at least 2 minutes slower than I usually swim. Hmmmm.)
T1: 1:43, 5th place AG
Bike: 53:29, 5th place AG
T2: 2:00, 16th place AG (stupid calf sleeves!)
Run: 32:45, 10th place AG

Overall: 160th place swim, 92 bike, 110 run

I'm switching my focus more to running now, but guess which discipline I'm going to really work on over the winter??? (And guess which one is my LEAST favorite?? LOL!)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fit to Fight Triathlon - race recap

First of all, I threw caution to the wind a little bit when huz and I were invited to a pool party yesterday. I drank four beers and ate potato chips and sat in the sun all afternoon, followed by a pretty healthy dinner at an Asian bistro and, in the aftermath of beer/sun/food, passing out on the couch by 9 pm.

I woke up a few times in the middle of the night for water, probably because I dehydrated myself a bit, and I was a little worried about race performance. In the aftermath, though, I never really felt like I was under-hydrated or under-fueled. I may just be a bit lucky there.

Woke up at 5 am, coffee, breakfast, normal routine. Mentally, I didn't feel nearly as nervous as I did for Tri for Joe, but I still felt like I'd been suckerpunched in the gut and like I could (sorry for the grossness) either pee, poop, or vomit all over myself at any given moment. So, therapist that I am, I spend the entire 40 minute ride analyzing my nervousness. I have all the cognitive tricks down and I KNEW, mentally, that there was no reason for nerves at all, but my gut never did really get the message. Luckily, breakfast stayed inside. My fear of dehydration was still hanging on, so I had three water bottles with me - one gatorade and one water for the bike, and one water for the drive up, during which I was so nervous I forgot to sip on said water until I was about 5 minutes down the road.

The race was really well organized (HFP FTW again); they were sharpie-ing people's  numbers onto their arms and I noticed that everyone had a different number on their calf. As it turns out, that was for your age. I'm not sure why, although during the bike and run, I did appreciate knowing whether someone passing me was in my age bracket or not, so I suppose that's why. I'm not a super competitive person, but I guess we all have it in our nature sometimes. Also amusing - the woman with the sharpie asked me for my age and I blurted out "30" like it was nothing, even though I'm actually not yet 30. Guess I'm getting used to the idea, and the fact that in the tri world, I am 30. Then I clarified it by saying, "Well, I'm not yet. But I will be. Later this year. That's what you want, right?" Nerves only exacerbate my usual verbal diarrhea. She gave me a funny look, branded me with a nice big "30", gave me a chip to strap on my ankle, and sent me off to transition.

I was a little annoyed that I didn't get a great spot in transition, which would make me have to take a few extra steps to get there, but I got my stuff all beautifully organized. (That morning, I had double-checked every single thing in my bag, from helmet down to lucky stuffed turtle, no less than 3 times each.) Found a bench so I could do some of my PT prescribed stretches and was happy that my hip seemed much more compliant than it has recently. The one thing I was missing was a step for calf stretches, which I was happy to find in the kiddie pool. This gave me the extra bonus of simultaneously stretching and testing the water, which was really, really warm. A little dragon pose as extra encouragement for the hip, and then I noticed people swimming laps in the lap pool. YES! Warm-up time. It was a little chilly still, and I HATE cold water, so I was pleasantly surprised that the lap pool also felt like bathwater. Did a nice, slow 100 in the pool, got out, waited.

They lined people up by speed, starting with under 5:00. (HOLY EFFING CRAP.) I waited...waited some more...then they announced 9-9:30. On a good day, I've been doing 400 in about 9:20 at the gym, but that's been a recent development. By the time I stopped debating with myself and went to join the line, they were announcing 9:30-10:00 and I hurried up and joined in. Good thing, too, because the last group was 10 and over. I hate being in the "...and over" group. Happened during the thanksgiving 10k too. Nothing to make you feel like a slow kid than being told, "Yeah, and the rest of you, get in behind everyone else here!" :)

The pool swim was really, really organized. I wondered how it would work out in reality, if people needed to pass or be passed or whatnot, but it stayed pretty organized. They let us go one at a time (so I was waiting FOREVER), then when the last person reached about the middle of the pool, the next could go. Swim the length of the pool, come back down the other half of the lane, duck under the rope into the next lane, repeat times 8. The girl in front of me mentioned that she always swims 10:00 400's. I never caught up with her but I think we stayed about the same distance apart the whole time. I mostly tried to match the speed of whoever was next to me and tried (and mostly failed) to keep track of how many laps I had to go. Before I hit my last lap, I felt someone touch my ankle and realized the girl behind me (who hadn't actually been the one right behind me in line) was catching up to me, so I stopped for a few seconds at the wall and let her pass.

Swim was mostly uneventful. I tried to focus on my zen, my form (which went to crap at times until I reminded myself of things like reaching and rolling), and making it as strong as I possibly could. The photographer was positioned beside the last lane and as he zoomed in on me, all I could think of was, "Great, just what I need, a pic of myself with my mouth wide open like some retarded fish"...but it did help me really clear up my form for a few seconds!

Got out of the pool, fighting the woozy feeling that always hits me after swimming. The volunteers at transition were awesome. One was yelling at me, "She's smiling! She's breathing!" I didn't feel like I was smiling but I did after she said that, and I gave her the verbal agreement that I was, indeed, breathing!

Time to bike!! I think I transitioned pretty quickly, especially with no clothing changes like at Tri for Joe. (Swam in a tankini top and tri shorts.) Almost forgot my sunglasses, but putting them on my bike seat was a fantastic idea. Mounted the bike, and my right foot did NOT want to clip in. It took me several tries and some pleading with it out loud before I heard the satisfying click. Sucked down a gel and looked around for somewhere to put the empty. Settled on my sports bra. Cleavage is good for something.

The bike leg seemed pretty empty, which felt weird. I passed a few people right off the bat and then.....nobody. After a while I saw the frontrunners coming back, but even that took a little while. The course was way hillier than I thought. I remembered mapping it out and noting some gradual inclines that didn't look too bad; I didn't realize the first leg was pretty rolling. Then we had to turn, do a loop, and come back the same way we went out. The loop was a bit miserable. It was one of those deceptive gradual inclines that don't really LOOK like an incline, but make the ride a lot tougher. I had to slow down and at one point got some mucus in my throat that WOULD NOT GO AWAY. I tried some gatorade and that just stuck in my throat, too. I was still passing people, but hacking like a lifetime smoker. I finally felt better when I remembered seeing the incline on this part of the course when I mapped it out. THAT was why I was kinda sucking. And I remembered the other side of the loop was mostly downhill.

The hills were still a bit rough. Down the road, I saw a HUGE incline. One of those that looks like it magically goes straight up toward the sky. The voice in my head started cursing. As I got closer, I saw a police car and an officer. He was pointing to the left!! This was where the loop turns around - right BEFORE that hill!!! OH, THANK GOD!!!

The rolling hills sucked a little more on the way back, but I kept plugging along. I was very happy to only be passed by three people during the bike leg, while I probably passed at least 10. Everyone looked a bit stunned by the hills! Saw some of the runners starting down the run path, along with some of the obviously very fast, fit, athletic men starting the bike leg, and a group of men running. Took me a second to realize that was the men's duathlon. So that put me at about an hour into the women's tri, judging by my late swim start.

Transition time again. The downside was that you had to dismount, then walk/run your bike through grass allll the way around the transition area. My legs felt rubbery and running in my bike shoes is tough anyway. That was a long walk/half-jog. As I did, I realized that I was starting to bake. Oh, this run may be a bit of a pain. Had to take off the chip to put on the calf sleeves, which was annoying as all get out but necessary. Put on running shoes, ditched the helmet, drank some gatorade, nearly forgot to put my timing chip back on but grabbed it at the last second.

I skipped the water station right outside transition, but I did give the gel pack to a volunteer before blurting out, "Sorry, that was in my bra!" They all cracked up. The rubber legs sensation SUCKS, but I also know from experience that it goes away and that I'm usually running faster than I FEEL, so I kept at it. A lot of people were taking walk breaks. It. Was. HOT. The road out of the park was loooooong. Passed some people, got passed a few times. Goal was to just survive the run. I got to feeling relatively comfy after a while and told myself that I was going faster than I thought. I became more and more aware of the heat, though. I was very aware that my armpits were incredibly sweaty and I hadn't thought to re-apply deodorant after the swim. Wouldn't be a half bad idea next time! Sometime after one mile, we had looped around the park and had to go back in. There was a short but steep hill. I was determined to run up it, but my legs decided to start walking without my consent. Dang it. I let them for a minute, then ran again. I really really regretted skipping the water. There was another water stop further up and I took a small sip from a cup before dumping it on my head. The water was cold enough to shock me for half a second and I had to catch my breath before I could run again.

The trail in the park was really pretty. I would've enjoyed it more had I not been frying. There were a few moments of blessed relief in some shady spots, but most of it was wide open. I had to force myself to keep running. I could hear the announcer and thought it was almost over, even though that felt a little fast, and then found out we had to pass the transition point and run in another loop. Then we passed it again - I could SEE the finish line - and there was ANOTHER big loop to run around!! There was a woman who was kind of running with me at that point - she was walk/running and I would pass her when she walked, and she would pass me when she ran. Every time we passed each other, we'd try to muster up something encouraging.

Aaaand the finish line!! All I could do when they handed me water and a medal was to blurt out, "THAT WAS HOT!!" and then grab for my ankles. I felt like I may never catch my breath again.

Post-race was a really nice spread. I went straight for the watermelon and thought of my running buddy. :) They also had frozen yogurt (SOOO AWESOME!) and a PT booth where a nice PT stretched out my legs as I ate my yogurt - after I gave him the laundry list of current issues, of course. And they had potato chips and pickle spears. OMG. Pickles make a great post-run food. I'm going to start keeping them in my fridge. They're juicy, they're salty, they're refreshing.

I waited around for the latest update of times. I can't say I wasn't a little disappointed. I was optimistic, because overall, the race felt good. It felt like I'd given it my best...and the time they posted for me was 1:42:11. It didn't even beat Tri for Joe, which had a longer swim (although it had a shorter bike) and where my run was awful. I was hoping that between the swim and the run, I could beat that time by at least 15 minutes.

BUT....I was in 94th place. I was told there were 600 participants in the tri and I'm guessing at least half those were in the women's tri. It's possible people who started and finished after me could have a faster time than me - which is one thing I love about tris, btw. If someone passes you or finishes with you, you could still totally be beating them. You never know! But with my late swim start, I doubt it. So I'm guessing I finished in the top third. Even the people at the top didn't have that great of times, and I'm guessing the hilly bike and hot run killed us all a bit.

So, despite the numbers, I'm determined to be happy with this one. I enjoyed it, and I did my freaking best. I didn't give up. It FELT like a good effort and I'm happy about it. And, comparatively, I really didn't do so bad. The numbers actually don't mean a lot when they don't take into account the conditions, right?

Can't wait until they post the actual splits. I'm a little worried about the Oly next weekend, because this took quite a bit of effort. I also think that if I make myself, I can sustain that effort. I also hope to GOD that the weather is better because a 6.2 in those conditions might have about killed me. It also may be kinda fun because I'm putting NO pressure on myself other than to just finish....but part of me knows that's also how I usually PR!

I also will say that this race was for a great cause - Ovarian Cancer awareness and prevention - and doing a women's tri was a fantastic experience. SO many women of all different shapes and sizes, but all of whom have trained to do something that's no small athletic feat - it was really, really, really cool. I wasn't going to spend the money, but I *may* have to sign up for Tri for a Cure now.

Also, the volunteers were all fantastic and enthusiastic and the officers who kept the course safe and nearly traffic-free did a wonderful job. And finally, the race shirt is awesome! It's my first ever sleeveless race shirt, which is a great idea, and it's adorable. Techincal fabric too. I was bemoaning my lack of sleeveless running gear in this heat.

I'll definitely be back to do this one next year!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

little bit of burnout

I love running. But at times, it feels a bit like a second job. I love my job, too. But running and my job both have a high potential for burnout - a lot of effort put in, and the returns aren't always immediate. Some days, they're not there at all and some days it feels like I'm working backwards. But what I love about both things is that when there are rewards, they're FREAKING AMAZING and that's what keeps me going at both things.

Right now, I'm checking in with myself about running and working out in general. I've had two craptastic runs in a row and a few more scattered in there recently - although my 12 mile run on Saturday pretty much couldn't have gone better. While the weather is NO help, I also think I may be overtraining a little. This is also one of those times where I have to develop some tunnel vision with regard to my training. I don't train as much as some. My mileage isn't back up to where some people's is - heck, it's not even up to where I was before. But I've been overdoing it FOR ME, and that needs to be fixed.

Signs I'm becoming a bit burned out:

-More tired lately
-More irritable lately
-More things hurt
-More forcing myself to work out
-I feel guilty when I have nothing to do, like if I have any down time at all I NEED to squeeze in some kind of workout (I feel like this one is probably more common amongst triathletes)

I wanted to do a 10 mile run today, because I can't do a long run this weekend and I'm not planning on doing one next week, because I need to be WELL-RESTED if I'm going to do an Olympic tri. That. Was. Dumb. I've been hurting a bit more than usual, and I JUST EFFING RAN 12 MILES LESS THAN A WEEK AGO. Plus, it was hot and humid and gross.

I made it five miles. I took a break for water and stretching and decided to run the five mile loop again. I barely made it one mile and stopped to regroup. I decided to try to keep going. A half mile later and I was done. I was hot, woozy, a little delirious, my calf hurt, my hip was tight, a blister on my toe was killing me, I was running way slower than even my usual long run pace, and I was trying to force it.

So my run ended up being 7.5 miles (I walked a half mile and then decided to jog so I could get to my car faster.) And I decided that running 7.5 miles is far from failing. I also decided to ease up on the exercise for the rest of the week. I may do a few miles easy on the bike and an easy swim if I decide I WANT to. I'll do the same for next week. Lots of stretching for sure, but only easy exercise and only if I want to do it, not because I feel obligated to follow a training plan or because I go "OH MY GOD IF I DON'T GO FOR A RUN/BIKE/SWIM TONIGHT AND DO EVERY SINGLE INCH THAT I'M PLANNING TO DO THEN I WON'T FINISH THE RACE!!!!!!"

I need a break, that's all. It probably won't even need to be a long one, I just need to feel less worn out physically and mentally and be happy to be doing both of the tris I'm doing. If I'm happy, I'll be fast. If I train until I'm miserable, I'll be dragging myself to the finish line anyway.

I have netflix on the xbox and ben and jerrys in the freezer and beer in the fridge. I think I'll be all right with this resting thing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I lied

I registered for the Cincy tri yesterday, because it was the last day to save $10 on the registration fee (which I gave back nearly in full to due to their "fees" to register online). So I'm officially in for my first-ever oly tri on 7/24.

The temperature was in triple digits yesterday. The humidity is routinely 80%+. Please cross your fingers that I don't have to bike 24 miles/run 6 in that kind of crap!

Also cross your fingers that I don't drown. (Scary fact about triathlons - when there's an open water swim and the race doesn't provide swim caps, it's recommended that you don't wear a black cap because you won't be seen as easily if you slip under the water.) Realistically, though, I shouldn't drown. I can swim in a pool for an hour+ without stopping. The swim is the scariest part, for me, because a person is not nearly as likely to die during the bike or the run. If you need to stop, you can stop. If you stop swimming, you can die. YAY.

Also cross your fingers that I don't get some crazy disease from the Ohio River. It's a little gross in there, although there shouldn't be anything grosser in there than there was in the mud from Warrior Dash. Or the internet-diagnosed lake parasite that my running buddy finds so intriguing. :) (Seriously, it only left me with a few random blisters/welts that healed. Well, except the one on my hand because I keep picking at it.)

And finally, I need some finger crossings for my iffy hip and shin. I'll be extra nice to them for the next two weeks.

PS - I have no time goal. None. I haven't been biking as much as I should lately because of my hip iffiness. I know I can cover the distance, I want to overcome my fear of the river swim (which has decreased significantly since I actually tried an open water swim) and I want to be able to say I did it. I've been eyeballing the Cincinnati tri since I moved here three years ago. The bike is a bit hilly (Columbia parkway) and the run is flat except the purple people bridge (which I get to cross twice since I'm doing the oly.) And it will probably be hot.  I don't even feel like I can remotely predict my time and for the first time in a race, I don't care to. I'm just going to do it!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

listening to my body

My shin is making me a little nervous today. For the first time in quite a while, it went from grumbling to actually protesting carrying my weight while running.

I was doing a hilly 5 mile run and it was twinging at me, but nothing too bad. I hit mile 4, though, and realized I was developing a limp on that leg. So I walked the remaining mile home. I probably wouldn't have done this in the past, but if I don't listen to my body when it protests, it'll resort to screaming again. Plus, I have tris coming up for the next two weekends and I don't want to be hurting.

Not to mention that the PT told me to take two rest days after a long run. I had to squeeze this in due to my work schedule, to make sure I can get some running in this week and still rest before Fit to Fight.

I was a little worried anyway. I've been feeling more tired and owie lately and I think it's because of the sudden, inadvertent increase in hill work. The 12-mile run this weekend went really well but I have increased the length of my long runs a little quickly. It may be worth it to back off a little. I mean, two months ago I was barely even allowed to run at all, and only on flat ground. I may be pushing limits a little too hard.

Plus I'm nervous because I was about at this point in my training for the Pig when I really started having issues. I really really need to watch what I'm doing.

I still want to get a longish run in sometime this week, either Wednesday or Thursday (because I can't do it this weekend) but I'm going to go somewhere flat for it and stop if it's bothersome. Lots of ice and stretching this week, too. And I want to get at least one good, solid bike ride in as well, but since I can't get out of my neighborhood without some pretty serious uphills, I'm going to drive somewhere for that too. I can do hilly rides, but they seem to really tighten my hips. Not going to do that this week or next. Next week I'm definitely backing off on the running a little. Cincy tri that Sunday, but I'm not registering until the last minute to make absolutely sure that no body parts are going to stage a revolt.

After that, I'll be focused - carefully - on the marathon training again. Hopefully I'm listening well enough that everybody - hips, shins, etc. - will be content to STFU soon. :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

and furthermore, I rock.

I'm feeling absolutely great about myself right now, for a change.

I did complete my 10 mile run last week. I also mistakenly mapped out a ridiculously hilly route for it. The first 6 miles were great. The first 1-2 were a little hilly but I conquered the hills like they were nothing. The next few were in a pretty flat neighborhood, so I was enjoying that, and running at about a 10:20 pace in the flatlands. I'll take that for a comfy long run pace. Then mile 6 was downhill.

At that point, I should've realized it was not a good idea. Actually, the thought crossed my mind, but I decided that it was a relatively easy, gradual decline and wouldn't be bad going back up.

How wrong I was. Mile 7 took me nearly 13 minutes, and I just had to laugh. It was pretty ridiculous, me trudging up a 300+ foot hill in the middle of a long run. Ugh. The last few miles had some ups and downs that were pretty hard to handle, but I was proud of myself for hanging in there. Seriously didn't even give a crap about my time because I knew that route was ridiculous and probably would've counted for a handful of extra flat miles, effort-wise.

Today, I did 12 and it was fantastic. It was hot, but I think the humidity calmed down a bit because my sweat actually seemed to be going somewhere instead of just pointlessly soaking me. I found some of the flatter areas around here and noticed that the hills were feeling a bit easier. Even when I'd see one coming, I focused on just keeping the same "easy" feel, and I'd be up and over before I even had a chance to be mentally cursing the hill.

My strategy for my long runs is now on feel, rather than pace. With the rolling hills (and mountains) around here, it's hard to keep a consistent pace, and trying to force myself to stick to a certain number just makes me miserable. Instead, I'm going for a good-feeling run. It should feel relaxing but not totally effortless - like I can keep going all day but it's still taking a bit of energy. I think it's working. The downside is that I have literally NO CLUE what my goal marathon pace is or should be or will be, so I guess I'll be surprised. I'm thinking that if I can mimic the feel of my long runs, I'll be good - especially since it'll be flat.

I got the PT recommended orthotics (the $35 ones, not the $400 ones) and tried them out for the first time this morning, too. At first I was worried. For one thing, it took a little bit to get used to my feet being higher up in the shoes. Then the front of my ankle started to hurt, which is new. Then my bad shin started to hurt, which is not new. I considered bagging the run, but it didn't seem to be affecting my running, just annoying me a bit, so I kept going. About mile 5 I realized the shin didn't hurt, but it started to again once I had that thought. Once I banished it from my mind again, the pain went away entirely....and stayed away for the rest of the run. I can find a little owieness if I look for it and squeeze, but it's not bad at all. I think those things are gonna work. Still stretching the heck out of my left hip. Dragon pose is fantastic for that.

My hip tends to sound like rice krispies when I do this.

I haven't been biking as much lately. I still love it, but it's more time-consuming than running - more effort to map out routes and more time spent on a workout compared to running. I mean, a 30 minute run can still be a pretty decent workout if you run hard. A 30 minute bike ride isn't much even if you ride hard. At least, that's how it feels to me. I'll try to get out there tomorrow, though.

I'm even getting *gasp* a little tired of triathlon training. I'll be happy to focus more on running, and the timing is perfect. Fit to Fight next weekend, Cincy tri the following weekend, and then I can keep up the biking and swimming for cross-training but not be as worried about actually TRAINING for the bike and run, ya know? For the next two weeks, I'll get a nice little taper down (going to try to squeeze in a midweek long run this week and skip the long run the following week) and then I'll be ready to attack the marathon training with a vengeance, with just under 2 months left. Right on schedule - actually ahead of schedule as far as running goes.

Oh yeah - my first attempt at open water swimming was not only successful, it was great. I hung out in shallow water for a while but it didn't take me long to be able to swim without giving the water depth a second thought. Plus, it was MUCH more fun than swimming laps in a pool. OK, so I got a little sunburn and a few welts that according to the internet come from a lake was still great. I LOVE sunshine and nature and it reminded me of being a kid. So I'm really leaning toward doing the Cincy triathlon now that open water swimming isn't such a big huge scary beast.

Meanwhile, and I hope this doesn't sound horribly arrogant, I'm enjoying how awesome I am. For real. I lose sight of that, mainly because I spend time talking to runners and triathletes, and sometimes they tend to throw around things like, "I bike 50 miles at 20 mph" and "I ran 20 miles today" and "I run at a 7:22 pace" like they're completely normal things to say, like "The sky is blue today." And I lose sight of all that I've accomplished because it doesn't seem that great anymore. But really - HOW many people spend their Saturday morning doing double-digit long runs? How many people out there that I know, and that you know, could successfully complete a triathlon of any length? How many people would fall off a bike, end up in the ER, and get back on to ride 63 miles? How many people would get a running injury, have to struggle to start running again, and not give up? How many people that you pass on the street could run a freaking mile without passing out??

Not saying I'm better than anyone else, not at all. I'm saying that I'm realizing that I have accomplished a lot, that I'm doing a lot, and that instead of beating myself up as much as I do because I'm not doing more or better, I need to keep a healthy sense of awe about all the things that I DO and AM capable of doing. Because really, we runners and triathletes do some pretty incredible stuff by training and showing up and giving it all we've got and crossing the finish line - or whatever combination of those things. :)

Pat yo'self on the back, ya'll. It's from me.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Updates

The Finger
I thought something must be terribly wrong, but apparently dislocated fingers just take forfreakingever to heal, and mine is coming along quite nicely. I started hand therapy, which, as it turns out, is considered occupational therapy, not physical therapy, so I have 20 visits authorized instead of using up my remaining 4 PT visits, which I would like to save in case I hit some big snags in the marathon training. I'm only supposed to wear the splint for strenuous activity now (I chose weights and biking) and try to actually use the finger more now. That's a little laughable, as it's still swollen (1/2 inch larger than the same finger on my other hand, to be exact) and it doesn't exactly want to move. So I have to exercise it now, and holy crap, that's hard. At the very least, I'm trying to hold it in a normal position instead of holding it straight out, because at a quick glance, it looks like I'm flipping people off. I'll be thrilled to wear my engagement and wedding rings on the correct finger, but that could take a couple of months. (!)

The Leg
I've officially graduated from PT for that one, but I know I'm not totally out of the woods. It still makes its presence known occasionally during runs. I found out my insurance specifically excludes orthotics (grr!!) and rather than spending $400 on the custom ones, the PT told me to try some retail ones. I just haven't had the chance to price and order them. I swear I'll get on that SOON.

The Swimming
Blah. I'm starting to get sick of swimming. The good news is that if it doesn't storm tomorrow, I'm joining a group open water swim. This could be a little ridiculous, but I HAVE to get into an environment other than a pool if I want to do an open water tri this year - which I do. Right now I tell myself that I'm not trying to swim faster, but I'm trying to get comfortable enough in the water that I don't freak out if I get a little tired or if I gulp down a mouthful of water or if someone kicks me in the head or whatever.

The Biking
I rode with a group a couple of weeks ago - there was a ride lined up with my quasi-normal group, but I couldn't find them, so I rode with some other people who were training for a charity ride. They were quite nice, and a smidge slower than I am, especially on the hills. It made me feel good. Last night I mapped out a ride that turned out to be absolutely gorgeous, but a bit hilly. There are some pretty good hills around here; unfortunately, if I ride from my house, I'm surrounded by them, so I have to take big hills in order to leave the neighborhood, and big hills to get back in. It's that darn Escher staircase again.

Last night, part of my ride was on the bike trail, and I met a guy riding a high racer recumbant bike. It was so cool that I had to ask him about it, and we had a pretty good chat about bikes and riding. Actually, one of the first things I asked him is how you DON'T fall off that thing. It's pretty precarious looking, but also looked really comfy! So I had some nice bonus comeraderie. Other bonuses: wildlife (a deer that I thought was about to run into traffic and a fat ground-hog looking thing), a little kid in his yard who yelled, "HIIIII!!!" at me, and beautiful views of the Little Miami River. Seriously, I've driven all those roads hundreds of times and didn't notice how gorgeous they are until I was on a bike. This is why I love biking. Another bonus: stopped for a cone at the Creamy Whip. I have a weakness for soft-serve vanilla.

The Triathlons
I'm officially signed up for the Fit to Fight Tri. It's a sprint tri divided into women's/men's races, with a serpentine pool swim. I'm stoked about it because I shouldn't have any swim-related freakouts, and I should kill my run time from Tri for Joe. It'll be a good chance to see what I can really do now. I want to do the Cincinnati Tri the next week - the Olympic distance. It'll be a challenge for sure, but I think I can do it. There are two problems: it's pricey, and swimming in the Ohio River is terrifying me a little bit. Not because it's dirty - it IS dirty, but I have a high tolerance for grossness. It's deep and it has a current and I have a fear of drowning. I'm trying to talk some sense into myself - I can swim longer than 1350 m (the distance of the swim) without stopping in a pool, so there's no reason I wouldn't be able to do the swim. Plus, it's downstream, so it wouldn't take as long as a pool swim. It doesn't matter if it's 4 feet or 40, I can stay above water. (I'm not even afraid of the typical open water stuff - fish, etc. - I'm afraid I'll get exhausted or kicked in the head and slip under the water and nobody will see me.)

Signing up for that one is going to depend on how much open water time I can get in beforehand and how that's going. I'm figuring I will freak out at first. I'm not a half bad swimmer (albeit slow) but being in deep water, or water of unknown depth, and knowing that I CAN'T just stop and stand up if I want to, freaks me out. It's all mental and I have to see if I can get over it in time. It'll also depend on how Fit to Fight goes.

The Running
A little background here: I've never been especially athletic. I tried to be. I tried really hard to be. Looking back, I don't think I especially enjoyed sports, but I went to a small high school where ALL the cool kids played sports. There weren't a lot of other EC options. So I wanted to play sports. I actually really liked volleyball, but I got cut after junior high (when they didn't have cuts.) I played basketball because they didn't have enough participation - so little participation, in fact, that at barely 5'5" I played center - so they didn't cut anyone. I remember one summer, I think the summer before my sophomore year, I decided that when the season started up again, I was going to be GOOD. I ran (I actually ran! Although I don't think it was much or it was fast...) and I shot baskets outside in my driveway every day. People did comment on how much I improved, because I had. All said and done, though, after busting my butt, the end result was that I was a slightly below-average basketball player, and I couldn't hope to compete with the people that were good athletes even though some of them had quite possibly not even looked at a basketball all summer. I sat on the bench and got to play when we were already either winning or losing by at least 30 points. I quit my junior year, after my friends and I had started a rock band and my parents told me to pick one.

So I pretty much gave up on doing anything athletic. I resigned myself to the fact that I was the smart one and I could be the validictorian without much effort, so as a trade-off, I was pretty much hopeless in athletic pursuits.

Fast-forward to today. Obviously I've discovered some athletic pursuits that I'm really really into. But for a while post-injury, I was having flashbacks back to being that girl who worked like crazy only to be slightly less than mediocre. I felt like everyone who trains at the same volume, has trained for the same amount of time (or less, in some cases) ends up being better than me. So what's wrong with me - do I not train hard enough? Am I slacking? Should I just give this whole thing up because I'm no good at it?

That is why running was not fun for a while. I started thinking back to last summer, when I was training for my first half. I never really battled those thoughts, because I never really talked to other runners (besides my husband, but I'm faster than him - although if he really trained, he'd probably run circles around me). I was just happy every time I added a mile and did my longest run ever. I ran at my speed, and didn't consider whether it was fast or slow - it was just the pace I happened to run. Part of the problem, too, is that I made my comeback just as the weather was turning. Some of you have never experienced summer in Cincinnati, but let me tell you - the humidity is generally 80-90% and it's awful for running. So even if I'd be faster on a good day, I have no choice but to slow down when my sweat won't evaporate and the air I breathe feels like it weighs me down.

So I'm trying to get back to not worrying about my pace, and accepting it. I decided to try, and my long run - 8 miles - a couple of weeks ago felt awesome. And the pace wasn't bad at all. I've actually had some pretty stinking fast runs since I abandoned the idea of running faster and decided to just run.

Today I had a crappy run. I woke up this morning and I knew I was tired. I tried to bust out 10 miles, but my left hip was pretty much shot from biking, and no amount of stretching would undo it enough for a run that didn't feel somewhat like torture. Add to that the humidity, a random side stitch, some stomach discomfort, and I decided to cut it short. A few weeks ago I wouldn't have done that. A few weeks ago I would've pushed myself through all 10 miles, risked injury and then felt like crap about my slow pace. Today, I was able to accept that good runners have bad days, the biking didn't help, and I run because I enjoy it. I couldn't get any enjoyment out of today and it wasn't worth the pain, so I stopped. I'll try again another day.

I still worry about the low mileage of my training plan. I still worry that I won't be ready for 26.2. I still am tempted to get pouty about my pace and to compare myself to everyone else. I'm still tempted to read the triathlon forum and emulate the training plans of those who swim, bike, and run 3-4 times each a week and say that you can't get faster otherwise.

But in the end, I'm trying to do what I can do and accept it. Trying. :)