Friday, September 30, 2011

Extended Absence Greeting

Interestingly I just noticed that I started this blog exactly one year ago today.  The purpose of it was to chronical my journey toward my first 70.3 race.  At the time I thought I needed something to keep me accountable (besides my Coach of course) and focused on my goal.  I'd always found that it was way more difficult for me to chicken out of something if I'd told alot of people about it. 

Fast forward 365 days and I've come to learn that I have become a triathlete.  I raced the 70.3 distance (almost twice - ha!) and instead of coming across the finish line feeling like I had ticked off a monumental box on my bucket list and could move on I looked back on my races and analysed what I'd done right, what I'd done wrong, talked to my coach about what we should change, etc.  I look at this sport and specifically the training that is required for it as an essential part of my life.  I've met amazing people that inspire me and have helped me to see what I'm capable of. 

In the 365 days since I started this journey my life has changed tremendously and for alot of reasons I've decided to take a bit of a hiatus from blogging.  I am focused now on training for an Ironman (who would have ever guessed) and improving my 70.3 times.  I know that I will be focused and dedicated to training without having to report in.  I will be fine.  And I will crush next season.

Thanks to everyone who took the time out to read and comment.  I will continue to follow your journeys and wish everyone the most success.

Peace out.

mary - xo

Monday, September 26, 2011

Half Rev Cedar Point Race Report

This was my redemption race after the 70.3* that was Steelhead.  I knew that I needed to get the full distance in this year and have a race at that distance without the *.  My training had continued to go well and I was feeling good and hopeful about this race.  My anxieties this time were around whether I could pull off what I had accomplished at Steelhead and prove to myself that it wasn't a fluke.

Unfortunately, three days before the race I woke up in the morning with that "swallowing hot knives" feeling in my throat.  Oh no!  Sydney had been sick for the last week and I had been trying to avoid her all the other sick people at work and everywhere else but it caught me.  Shitty timing.  I instantly called my doctor and begged them to get me in for an appointment.  I called in sick to work and spent the day in bed drinking my weight in hot water with lemon and honey.  My doctor said it was too early to tell if it was strep throat but prescribed me penicillin anyway since it couldn't hurt.  She wouldn't weigh in about the weekend but said I'd just have to see how I felt.  By Thursday night I thought I was out.  I was so sick and knew that there was no way I could race that distance feeling the way I felt.  Friday morning I woke up feeling worse and spent the day in bed again feeling very sorry for myself.  I waffled between just not making the trip at all to Sandusky or going and at least cheering my friends on. 

I had to make a decision by Friday evening since Sydney and I were driving up Saturday morning.  I decided to pack my stuff, go along for the ride and see how I felt.  Worst case scenario I would be there to cheer everyone on.  Best case scenario I would feel well enough to race and give it a go.  Fortunately I felt a little better on Saturday as long as I kept my rotation of medications going on a timely basis.  Unfortunately I had started to develop a cough that had kept me from sleeping much Friday night. 

The trip to Sandusky was pretty uneventful except for some wonky weather and a detour that resulted from a boobing up of the directions on my part.  Once at Cedar Point we met up with some local friends and did the packet pick-up thing.  It went very smoothly since there was hardly anyone there.  Syd and I checked into our hotel and commenced the extremely thorough and diligent bed bug inspection that comes with rooming with Sydney.  Happy to find no bed bugs we sorted our stuff out and made plans to have dinner with some friends.  After dinner we made a quick trip into town to get a few things, made our way back and hit the sack by 10.  Fortunately we were 5 minutes from transition so didn't have to be up until 6.  Unfortunately I didn't sleep much because of the damn cough.  The cough syrup helped me to stop coughing but then kept me from sleeping.  Ugh.

The morning went by uneventfully.  We had breakfast in our room, got dressed and tattoo'd with the temporary tattoo race numbers and packed up our stuff since we were checking out.  We got to transition with lots of time to spare and I loaded my bike with my nutrition, pumped my tires and chatted with the people I knew.  Before long it was time to hit the beach to warm up.

Swim - 50:54 (31/34 AG  174/221 OA) 2:38/100m
I seeded myself about halfway back and in the middle which in retrospect was a very bad move.  Once the gun sounded it was a flurry of dolphin diving and flailing arms and I got hit alot.  I'm not a fast swimmer but I'm fairly steady if I can get into a rythm.  Once I started swimming my cough started in full force.  I hadn't wanted to take cough medicine before the race, not knowing how it would effect me.  Unfortunately my swim consisted of me trying to cough during my exhales but every time I would take a breath I would start to cough.  It was a mess.  About halfway through the swim the men's wave that started 5 minutes after us started to catch up and I got pummelled  and dunked by alot of guys.  I was so happy to see the beach after what felt like forever.  I was certain I had been in there more than an hour and was surprised to see that there were actually a couple of pink caps behind me when I got out.  Very disappointing swim considering the amount of time I've spent working on it.

T1 - 3:08
The timing mat was just out of the water and I ran over it and up the beach.  Once I ran through the shower I was surprised to see wetsuit strippers since there was nothing mentioned about them in the athlete's guide.  I already had my wetsuit down to my waist and as I ran toward them one of them pointed at me and yelled "sit down!".  He and a girl in a purple wig grabbed my suit and stripped it off of me in two seconds.  They each grabbed an arm and pulled me up and tossed my suit at me.  They hurled me almost into the transition area (I'm not that big)!  Wetsuit strippers are awesome!  Once at my bike I got into my shoes, grabbed my bike and ran out.

Bike - 3:16:25 (28/34 AG  155/221 OA)  17.1 mph avg
Once out on the bike I felt awesome.  My legs felt great and I was flying.  I passed the 10 mile mark at just under 30 minutes and was excited that things were looking and feeling so good.  The course wasn't as flat as advertised but I like rolling hills so it didn't bother me.  Unfortunately, once mile 25 hit things started to go south.  Here is where my tale should be repeated to all newbie triathletes as a big fat what not to do the week before a race.  While out on a group ride the Sunday before this race someone mentioned that I could get alot more aero if I took out a couple of spacers from my stem and lower my bars.  I hesitated because of the upcoming race but let him do it.  BAD.MOVE.  By mile 25 my neck and shoulders started to really bother me.  This is so unusual because I love being in aero and can stay there for a 3 hour ride with no problems normally.  The change to my position, without any time to get accustomed to it was race suicide.  Within a half hour my shoulders and neck were seized and I could not look forward it hurt so badly.  I was riding with my head lowered trying to peer up ahead.  This was of course very unsafe and made for slow going.  I couldn't even ride on my hoods.  By mile 35 I thought my day was over.  I was in so much pain that I was crying and it was starting to result in numbness in my arms and hands and an inability to control my bike.  I almost rode into the gravel shoulder.  I finally stopped and got off my bike thinking my day was done.  I stretched my neck and contemplated what to do.  Do I sit on the side of the road and wait for a SAG vehicle?  After about 5 minutes I got back on my bike and although I couldn't get into aero I could ride on my hoods.  This only lasted about 5 miles.  The remainder of the ride consisted of me riding about 5 miles, getting off my bike and stretching my neck out, and rinse and repeat.  Finally, with about 10 miles to go I figured out that I could put my right arm in the aero bar and put my left elbow on the pad of the aero bar, then prop my chin on my hand to keep my head up.  I must have looked like a complete fool and am so thankful there were no photographers out on the bike course.  This was of course less than ideal but at least it allowed me to finish the bike without having to stop again.  I am kicking myself for this idiotic mistake to this day since I was on my way to a really great bike split.

T2 - 1:57
I was so happy to be done with the bike but once I got off and ran into transition I realized that the damage I'd done to my neck and shoulders would effect me on the run.  I threw my socks and shoes on and went on anyway.  I've DNF'd once and it was the worst feeling in the world.  I would do what I could on this run.

Run - 2:14:44 (21/34 AG  123/221 OA)  10:17/mile
It was going to be a long half marathon but I resolved to just put one foot in front of the other and finish it.  Within the first mile I saw a friend who was on his way back and was having an awesome race.  This made me smile since he deserved to have such a great race.  Another couple of miles after I saw another friend who asked how I was doing.  I almost started to cry and said, "It's not been a good day."  He said I looked good and encouraged me to finish strong.  I started taking nutrition at every stop and contrary to Steelhead had to walk through the aid stations to make sure I got it down.  I finally saw Syd and she looked great.  I told her I wanted to stop so badly.  Finally, with about 5 miles to go I told myself to HTFU and do this.  I picked my pace up a little and was surprised to see Syd up ahead.  I went past her and I know she said something to me but to be honest I was in a bit of a daze.  I kept going and passed another local friend that I was surprised to see.  With about two miles to go I started to feel really bad.  I had cold chills and had stopped sweating and my face felt tingly.  Weird.  Finally, the turn back into the park and the end was in sight.  I ran down the finish chute and across the line.  It was done.  70.3 in the books. 

I collected my medal and finisher's shirt and waited for Sydney.  A couple of volunteers continually asked me if I was okay and whether I needed medical.  I must have looked like a train wreck.  I was determined to be there for Syd at the finish and was happy to see her.  After a couple of minutes we stumbled to the food and sat down.

Total Time - 6:27:09
AG - 21/34
OA - 123/221

I was very disappointed with how this race went.  Some factors were beyond my control (my getting sick and coughing my way through the swim) and some were completely my fault (screwing with my bike fit a week before a race).  Not the way I wanted to end the tri season - and this is why there is one more race report to come.  Stay tuned, and if you've read this far you're a trooper!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bulldog Sprint Triathlon Race Report

So, I am a little behind in the race reports.  Will try to remedy that as quickly as possible.  Here is 1 of 3 I owe you.

I raced this sprint tri last year and had a really good time.  I also snagged a 3rd place AG which I think helped elevate the fondness.  I had included it in my plan from the very beginning of the season even though it was the weekend following what was to be my first 70.3.  I went into this race with no expectations and hoping to just better my times from last year.  I do enjoy doing a race I've done before so I can compare my results and (hopefully) see improvements.  Coach Mary wasn't super thrilled about me doing this race.  Especially since I had immediately signed up for another 70.3 after Steelhead that was only four weeks later and therefore only three weeks after this race.  "I'll just use it as a training day.  Nothing crazy." I said. 

I drove out to the race site that morning by myself.  None of my usual group were racing but it turned out that I knew a couple of people once I got there.  I checked in and was surprised at the line of people who were trying to register that day and being told that the race had sold out.  This race is held in a provincial park which I guess must really restrict the number of people they can have racing.  According to the race results there were only 121 people total that raced.

Swim - 500 meters - 19:53 (74/121) 2:40/100m
(Last year - 23:36)
All I can say about this swim is that it must be long.  For one thing it looks long (though they all do) but when reviewing the race results and looking at the /100m times posted by a couple of the top local athletes it seems everyone either had a really slow swim or it was long.  I am happy that I improved on my time from last year - especially because last year's swim was a hot mess - but overall I was still disappointed by this time.

No idea on time for this because they included T1 and T2 times with the bike time (I hate that!).  I stripped off my wetsuit and got into my shoes and helmet pretty quickly.  The transition area was set up in a grassy/sandy area that made everything a filthy mess.

Bike - 20 kilometres - 41:25 (81/121) 29 kph
(Last year - 42:22)
It started to rain during the bike leg and I have to admit that I held back a little because I was nervous about it being slick.  This course is two loops of the park with alot of turns and I really wanted to have a fast bike time so I was a little disappointed by this.  Given how much training I've done on this bike over this last year the difference between last year and this year should have been much different.

I overshot my spot in transition because the girl next to me had racked her bike in my spot - GRR - so I lost a minute or so here.  I tossed on my shoes with no socks and headed out of there.

Run - 5 kilometres - 26:57 (82/121) 5:24/km or 8:41/mile
(Last year - 31:22)
I went out as quickly as possible and my intention was to try to maintain that pace for the whole 5k.  Here is where my screw up with my nutrition caught up with me.  I forgot my sports drink and gel at home so had had nothing during this whole race.  I think I started to bonk at about 3k because I zoned out a little.  Fortunately, someone I knew was going in the other direction and yelled out a "Looking strong Mary!".  It actually snapped me out of a bit of a fog and looked down at my watch to see that I had started to slow down a bit.  I also couldn't remember the last couple of minutes!  Ooops.  Anyhow, I got my wits about me and kicked the pace up a little.  With about 200 meters to go I turned it on and ended really strong.  I was excited with the time because it a new PB for me for the 5k!  Yay!

After the race I made a beeline for the food because as mentioned earlier I had forgotten all of my food.  Very disappointed to see that they only had hot dogs.  WTF?  Hot dogs?  I had paid $85 for this race!  Not impressed.

Total time - 1:28:14
AG - 7/14 (there's that middle of the pack again)
OA - 82/121 (funny coincidence was that my bib number was 82)
Last year - 1:37:18

I think it's interesting that I knocked 9 minutes off last year's time but didn't place.  Booo.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hello Again

So, it's been pointed out to me that I'm a little behind in the blogging (thanks Syd!).  September was a busy month and I not only owe a race report for the Half-Rev at Cedar Point but two other sprint tri's I've raced.  I'm working on them I promise.  I learned some lessons and had some triumphs but most of all I've come to learn what this sport means to me - a revelation if you will.   I'm trying to put it all into words and will endeavour to have something up soon.

In the meantime I'm eagerly following everyone and am SO excited to watch some important people race at Kona very soon!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Steelhead 70.3* Race Report - Part 3

Sorry for the delay.  Training in earnest has continued as I'm racing the 70.3 distance again on the 11th.  I'll talk a little bit more about that later.

So where was I?  Oh yes, T2, or T1 as it turned out on this day.  I came in off the bike feeling really strong.  Other than almost slipping as I ran in my tri shoes with my bike - note to self: work on getting out of the stupid shoes without unclipping! - I found my spot and felt like I transitioned quickly.  I had already put my soks on before the bike start and grabbed my gel flask, baggie of salt pills, visor and was out of there.  The reality is that my time was slower than I thought it would be and I'm not sure why but it is what it is at this point.

I started out on the run feeling fantastic.  I was at a 5:30/km (8:51/mile) pace and not feeling taxed at all.  This was though the pace that I had held at the Oly in July until shit fell apart at mile 4.  I decided to keep going at that pace until I couldn't anymore as this day had turned into one big experiment.  At one point (I don't remember when - it's all a little foggy) I went to open my little sandwich baggie to take a salt tab and they all flew all over the road.  This would come back to haunt me later but otherwise things were going really smoothly.  I was passing people and the heat wasn't bothering me and I was able to jog through the aid stations.    I was feeling great and excited to see a PB for the 5k, then a PB for the 10k.  People all around me were stopping and walking and I felt awesome and would pick them off one by one.

During our discussion that week Mary had said that it would start to get hard around mile 8.  Well, she's obviously coaching for a reason because mile 8 started to get hard.  I started to feel my quads and lamented the loss of my salt tabs.  I went for Coke at the next aid station and was very disappointed that it was Pepsi - blech!  Coke is bad enough, but Pepsi?  I was looking for pretzels, which I'm almost positive was listed as something that would be at the aid stations but no luck.  In retrospect I should have taken a piece of banana that they were offering but I didn't know any better.  By mile 10 my quads were on fire from the cramping.  At one point I saw a little bag on the ground that looked  like it had salt pills and actually considered picking them up.  I then thought better of it because a)they could have been anything, and b) I was seriously worried that if I bent down I would not be able to get back up.  I wanted to stop to walk so bad but knew that if I stopped, I would likely not go again.  Around mile 11 is the second go at this hill on the run that is a pretty decent climb all things considered.  I used my arms to motor me up and was satisfied to pass all the walkers.  I got pretty big ovation at the top with all kinds of people cheering because I had run up that hill.  That helped a little.

The last mile was Hell.  My quads were cramping and burning so badly that I couldn't feel my feet.  I ran alongside a couple of guys that were struggling as well and we just tried to keep each other going.  I was never so happy to see a finish line in all my life.  Sadly though, the triumph that I had envisioned feeling whenever I thought of crossing the finish line at this race was missing.  I was disappointed and felt a little robbed.  What I can say though is that I am proud of myself for running every step of that 1/2 marathon.  Every aid station, every hill.  I also managed a PB for the 1/2 maration by almost 2 minutes. 

At the end of the day this race was a little anti climatic.  And maybe that's my fault for having built it into such an epic event in my mind.  What I will say though is that it showed me that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for sometimes.

That evening I was already emailing Coach about potential redemption races in September.  I HAVE to get that 70.3 miles in.  I cannot check that box after Steelhead.  And so, on September 11 I will be racing the Half-Rev at Cedar Point.  70.3 miles.  It's not an "Ironman" race but that's just marketing in my opinion anyway.  Of course with this new race comes so many doubts and anxieties like, "What if that was a fluke day?", "What if the swim (my weakest) proves hard enough to screw up the rest of my race?", "What if I bike slower or have a slower half marathon?"  So many questions and worries!

Steelhead in Numbers -

Bike - 3:00:21 (18.63 mph - 53/92 AG)  - My goal on the bike had been 3:15 so this was awesome.
T2 - 2:34  - You'd think I'd stopped for lunch or something.
Run - 2:05:49 (9:36/mile - 46/92 AG) - My goal had been 2:30 so this was awesome too.  NEVER expected to PB. 

Overall I finished 46/92 in my AG.  Dead middle.  I guess maybe I'm not a "back of pack" triathlete anymore?

Almost finished!