and that was a long-ass day

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Heat, wind, hills and rough pavement -- in sum, that was Wisconsin 70.3. It was one of the hardest races I've ever done.

And let's be honest: I was in a major mental funk going in, and much of that was due to factors that had nothing to do with triathlon but everything to do with living far away from my family and friends. Even though I have a history of uprooting myself and moving from city to city every few years, I still get lonely. And all of that somehow came to a head over race weekend. (Would it have been totally creepy to wallpaper my hotel room with pictures of Layla, Annie, Thai and Arvan?) It was all I could do to keep from getting in my car, leaving Madison and driving home.

Thankfully, my Coeur teammates didn't let that happen.

We met up for a practice swim the day before the race.

Thank you, Kendra, for all of the encouragement!

Also, the mister surprised me Saturday night after he originally told me he wasn't going to be able to make it to the race. And he brought chocolate. He's such a nice man.

So I got to the starting line. I knew conditions were going to be rough and that a PR was not going to happen. (Never a good sign when it's only 6:30 a.m. and temperatures are already in the 70s.) My only goal was to make smart choices (which is also what I tell my cats on a daily basis, but they still do things like get their heads stuck in Kleenex boxes, and I really wanted to use this race to set a good example for them because if you can't be on the podium, setting a good example for your cats is the next best thing).

The rolling start meant athletes self-seeded by anticipated swim time. Since I have a ton of self-confidence, I ended up in the very last group to get in the water, almost 40 minutes after the gun. (For the record, it is not fun to stand around in the sun in a wetsuit.) My goggles were leaking, so I kept stopping to adjust them. And when I finally started swimming, I realized I was in the "totally freaking out" group and had to dodge a lot of people who were backstroking or breast-stroking or clinging to buoys. And I felt bad if I accidentally touched someone, so I found myself popping out of the water and yelling "I'm sorry!" every time I bumped into another swimmer. That said, when I was actually able to get into a rhythm of swimming, I felt fine and perhaps even a little more efficient and streamlined than I have in previous races. But of course, I still ended up with my typically crappy swim time of 52:58. Hey, at least I'm consistent.

Guess which tooth is fake!

I also ended up with a fantastically long transition time of 8:15. (Do they give awards for this?) The path from the lake to T1 was long and uphill, and I didn't want to get all worked up running. Also, let's be real: When you swim as slowly as I do, is running to transition really going to make a difference? So I walked. And since it was hot and my whole goal was to make smart choices, I took my time to make sure I had all my hydration and nutrition, and I applied extra sunscreen.

I love it when people aggressively pass you on the bike like five miles in because clearly they need to beat your ass as soon as possible. And then you catch them on a hill at mile 40 because they blew up. Anyway, despite crosswinds and rough pavement and not being able to drop down into aero very often because I thought I was going to either get blown off the road or ride into a pothole and crack my head open, the bike was not bad. Those hills everyone was afraid of? No problem. (And seriously, nothing about this course was flat. And a lot of people were walking up those hills.) However, the birds were another story. Because I totally got attacked by one -- it came out of nowhere, cawed at me and then swooped down and pecked my helmet, all while I was riding by. (I guess I can now check "attacked by a bird mid-race" off of my bucket list.) Also, I drank more liquids than I ever have in any race and had to stop three times to refill bottles (and I peed once). Also, whoever made the sign that said nothing but "Motivational Sign" on it is a genius. My bike split was 3:59:02. Given the difficulty of this course, I'll take it.

False flat, not in aero.

At this point, the heat was kicking in, and mentally, I was pretty much over the whole race. I saw the mister at the start of the run and tried to convince him to just take me back to the hotel. But nothing was hurting, so I kept going. T2 took 4:21.

About six miles in, still feeling OK.

The heat was bad. God bless all the homeowners out there on the run course who turned their sprinklers on for the athletes or stood out there and sprayed people down. No one was running except me. I passed a ton of people -- just kept a slow, steady pace -- only walking through aid stations so I could dump ice down my bra, pour water on myself and refill my handheld bottle. I felt pretty great until Mile 9, and then I started to get fuzzy-headed. But I kept running and shoved ice everywhere I possibly could and downed more electrolyte pills and gels and cola. And I tried to keep a smile plastered to my face the whole time. But I'm not going to lie: I really wanted that race to end. Run split was 2:34:11.

At the finish, kind of maybe alive.

And when I finally finished (total time 7:38:47 -- my slowest 70.3 time ever), I felt like I was going to pass out. I wandered around in a daze, not sure what to do with myself. A woman wearing a sports bra with the Golden Gate Bridge on it asked me if I was OK, and I said that I was either going to faint or start crying. She told me she really just wanted to vomit but couldn't. I started walking toward medical but ended up sitting in a chair under a tree, crying by myself and suddenly feeling really cold. The mister found me later in transition and helped me gather my stuff.

I don't feel like a champion after this. I had a slow swim time, and as much as I joke about it, I'm endlessly frustrated by the fact that I try so hard with swimming and nothing seems to change. But I do feel like a survivor, and I know I can get through a race in tough conditions, even when my mind is screaming at me to just stop already. I can climb hills when everyone else is walking. I can keep running when everyone else has stopped. So at least there is that.

Also this medal is pretty cool.

hi, I'm alive

Thursday, May 18, 2017

And now it's almost June. And I'm sitting here in my pajamas (the pink ones printed with cats going to the hairdresser and lounging at the pool), sipping recovery drink (out of a mug that says "Just Meowied") and wondering how the hell these weeks go by so quickly. (Meanwhile, Mouse stares at me, judging, most likely thinking: "I would never in my whole life wear pajamas with humans on them. WTF is wrong with you?")

She's also thinking: "Clean this mess up."

Anyway, clearly I survived the Hot Chocolate 15K. In fact, I actually nailed my race plan and ended up with a nice PR on a course that was much hillier than last year -- 1:27:41 vs. 1:35:28 a year ago. (Also a guy ran next to me and said: "Hey. I like your pace." Seriously. He really said that. Was this a line? Or was he just being nice? Either way, if I ever see Ryan Gosling running out there somewhere, I'm totally using it.)

I also did the Cinco Du Mayo duathlon earlier this month, largely because there was a taco party at the finish line. The weather was perfect, and the vibe at the race was great. It's a small event but well-organized, with a challenging course (rollers!). But the best part: Everyone I talked to was really friendly and down-to-earth. (I'm planning a swim-bike brick with one of the gals I met that day. I feel like a dork because I'm so excited -- I've really missed my TN Multisports teammates, and I can't wait to train with another human being.) Again, I stuck to my plan and had a good race -- 1:16:02.

Doesn't everyone enjoy eating tacos against a backdrop of port-a-potties?

So training is coming along. I feel like I'm much more committed to the process and am working harder than I ever have before. There are ups and downs (don't even get me started about my love-hate relationship with swimming), and I'm also trying to keep injuries at bay (currently having an issue with my neck and nerve impingement in my left arm, likely tracing back to the bike crash I had in 2015). But I'm "getting it done," as we triathletes are so fond of saying.

And now the countdown to Madison 70.3 is on, with June 11 rapidly approaching. I stared at elevation maps today and had to remind myself that I'm from California and nothing in California is flat and I can do this, but -- surprise -- I'm freaking out anyway.

And all these things are just steps toward the big dance in September. Disco in Wisco, here I come.

think positive thoughts

Friday, April 14, 2017

I'm running the Hot Chocolate 15K tomorrow, but the last thing I feel like doing right now is racing. (OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. Of course I'd much rather run a race than, say, projectile vomit onto a wall with a velocity so forceful that the vomit immediately splashes back on my face. That would clearly be much worse.) I'm exhausted from training, I'm frustrated because my last two swims have been pretty craptacular, and "heavy thunderstorms" are predicted for tomorrow.

Accurate feelings.

Blah, blah, blah. Whine, whine, whine. You get the picture.

I need to fix this, so I'm creating a list of 10 times when I felt like a goddamn champion so I can call up these happy memories if I'm still feeling dumpy on the course tomorrow. So much of training and race prep focuses on the physical, but mental strength is just as important and often gets taken for granted.

So here goes. Let's flex those mental muscles, baby.

1. IMAZ 2014, the first Ironman. It was a culmination of hard work, a celebration of strong friendships, a turning point in an otherwise shitty year. Quite possibly the best day of my life.

2. The first time I completed an Olympic distance swim. After struggling with my fear of open water for so long, I wanted to cry with joy when I did that swim without freaking out even once.

3. Canyoneering in Costa Rica. Want to feel like a bad-ass? Jump off a cliff.

4. When I climbed Green Valley Road for the first time and didn't have to get off my bike and do the walk of shame.

5. The night I arrived in Seattle. After driving for 14 hours from Sonoma County with two very confused cats (Mouse did not yet exist at that time), it hit me I'd be starting a totally new life in a city where I knew no one. And I felt excited.

6. When someone asked me, in French, for directions in Paris. This is how you know your outfit looks good. (Also related: When I successfully bought tampons in French.)

7. When I broke the two-hour mark for a half marathon. (Side note: I'd really like a new 13.1 PR. It's been awhile. But that's another goal for another time.)

8. Cutting my CSS pace and realizing I don't have to be in the slow lane forever. God, I want a sub-2:00/100 swim time so badly.

9. When I was on a relay team for Iron Girl and it felt so good to pass a ton of people on the bike and our team kicked ass and we had a blast.

10. Vineman 70.3. My favorite race ever. I'll never forget the first time I crossed the finish line -- again, a feat I never in my life thought I'd be capable of. Or the year I set a PR there and it was cathartic and I ran straight to Layla and cried my little heart out.

You know what? I'm feeling better already.
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