Saturday, December 3, 2011

November - By the Numbers

November 2011:
Swim: 13,000 yards (5 swims)
Bike: 176.2miles
Run: 60.65miles + 24.7miles walking
Other:  2 pilates, 3 weights, 3 yoga
Total Time: 36 hours 16 minutes

November was officially the off-season. I had my final race of the season on November 6 and then took a full week completely off. Then spent the next week doing what felt like hardly anything -- as little as I could force myself to. My mood tanks when I don't workout so this was very tough. I ended up walking a lot and doing easy yoga just to keep from getting too grumpy. In the second half of the month I finally got back to the pool after no swimming for 6 weeks (and only one swim in the 2 weeks before that - September!).  Realizing that I needed to sneak in 24000ish yards before the end of the year to reach 250,000yards/150miles was motivation enough to get going. I brought toys with me and enjoyed drilling and swimming without looking at the clock. Actually had 3 pretty good swims in a row, then 2 crappy swims. After having no interest in my bike at all for most of October I had a few more enjoyable rides (on trainer in my cozy spare bedroom) toward the end of the month. Running has been pretty pathetic. Harder than they should be given the pace. Not surprising though given the 5(ish - who knows, I'm not getting on the scale to torture myself right now) pounds I've gained in the past month. I have in my head the gain no more than 8 lbs rule of thumb from Racing Weight...but its amazing how much harder running gets with just a handle of pounds. Makes me really want to see what my running would be like if I could drop another few below where I spent this summer (a pretty happy weight - but perhaps not quite lean and mean).

Not much else to report for November really. Off-season sucks. Its hard for me to rest when I should. And gets easier for my to settle into the laziness just when I feel like I should be getting back into gear.

Something about late November, early December seems to get everyone thinking long and hard about their upcoming year. I've been doing some of that but feeling discouraged for some reason. Perhaps I need a few more weeks of unstructured time...paradoxically though, it seems like my regular routine (regular from Feb-Sep) is the thing that gets me in the mindset in which it becomes possible to think positively about future goals. We shall see...

Addendum: After posting this realized that I never wrote any sort of race report for the half marathon I ran at the beginning of the month. I was feeling cautiously optimistic heading into the race and then gave in to an uncharacteristic surge of outright optimism and fearlessness the morning of the race. This led to me abandon my realistic goal of going sub 1:50 and admit that what I was really gunning for was 1:45 (and had the times in the 3 weeks leading up to the race to think it was possible). This was a mistake. Made the same tactical error I always make (too fast in the first 3 miles - in this case something like 7:45 pace when goal average pace was 8:00 and had been very clear that first mile should be 8:15 or slower - not the 7:25 that I actually run). And blew up. It was pretty ugly. Every mile slower than the last kind of thing. Crossed the line in 1:48:24, a 3 1/2 minute PR but not even close to 1:45. Had I been shooting for 1:50 I think I would have come in faster than I actually did. Lesson learned? We'll see I guess. I felt off the whole time. Nothing like the super-hero runs I had been having in the preceding weeks. So maybe it was an off day. Maybe I screwed myself. In the week after the race I entertained the fantasy of jumping right back in and trying to go after another HM immediately. That faded though.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

MI mi.

Today on a nice easy 5mile ("offseason") run I crossed a milestone. 1000 miles.

Actually I'm at 1001. Last year I made it to 1000 but I included miles walked in that total and think given how I did my training log miles on the elliptical may have also snuck in there. This year I decided I really wanted to see the true run total. And, I made it, with 6 weeks to spare! I know there are folk out there crossing 2000 right about now. That totally blows my mind. I wish I could run that much. Maybe in a few years my feet with love me enough to let me put in that kind of mileage. For now I'm pretty happy with the thousand I did run. Now I just have a few hundred miles to cross 5000 on the bike and if I can get myself back to the pool another six to ten times I might hit 150 miles of swimming...

Friday, November 4, 2011

2 Months in Review - September and October by the Numbers

September 2011
Swim: 14,950 yards
Bike: 343.3 miles
Run:  93 miles
Other: 14 miles walking, 3 mobility/stretching sessions, no weights
Total Time: 41 hours 28 minutes

October 2011
Swim: 0 yards
Bike: 295 miles (all on trainer)
Run: 141.5
Walk: 29 miles
Weights/Core: 10 sessions
Total Time:  49 hours 39 minutes

September marked the peak and the end of my triathlon season. I tapered for the first 10 days of the month heading into FirmMan on 9/11/11. After some early season aspirations of big swim yardage my swimming fell flat in late August and by the start of September I had little interest in the pool. Thankfully I stumbled upon this small local lake (that I knew about but had never been to) and did basically all of my swimming there leading into my race. The decreased yardage didn't seem to matter much, with my swim leg holding relatively steady (30 seconds slower than last year but with tougher - colder and choppier - conditions). My riding this summer and leading into the fall also shifted in a strange direction. After the accident I witnessed it was hard to get myself motivated to go out on the roads. I forced myself out once leading into FirmMan but mostly just pounded out awesome trainer miles. Riding on the trainer certainly improved my strength and fitness, but not my handling or confidence. I took a good chunk of time off my bike split from last year and was oh-so-close to breaking the 3 hour barrier (next year!). It was only in the few weeks before FirmMan that it really dawned on me how much harder it is possible to be working on the bike. I tend to settle into a comfortably hard zone but don't think I spent nearly enough time pushing my limits. My running leading into FirmMan was solid enough until I started having some weird knee pain that freaked me out enough to cut things back quite a bit during taper.

Looking back on FirmMan itself I feel kind of neutral (is that weird?). I PR'd. Pretty significantly actually (9 minutes). I held strong on the swim. I made real gains on the bike - which was quite clear by the difference in the company I had out on the roads this year compared to last - I was actually with guys who could ride, not all by myself at the back. I fell apart on the run. Same as last year. I barely held on. I was hungry for a strong run but wasn't able to execute it. 6 weeks later I am feeling okay about that but it took a while. I ran a strong first ever half marathon 2 years ago. I way over-achieved relative to my expectations. Since then I have raced only one open HM and I completely blew up. I'm not sure that I even posted about this race, back in May, because it was so bad. I didn't realize at the time but I was in the midst of a cluster of migraines and basically was in an altered state trying to push through (with little success). That race and the slow difficult plodding along of run legs of 70.3s is in my head. I'm not a strong runner, or so I tell myself. Without any solid performances this year to point to it can get me discouraged. With a little time I have also realized that the big (very big for me) volume I was putting in on the bike this summer (600+ miles a month) may have taken away from potential gains I might have made on the run. Looking back at my training log its pretty clear that I was doing little legit speed work and of that work it probably wasn't at the training targets/paces I should have been shooting for.

Okay, back to September though. After the race I took 10 days to recover. Swam (doggy-paddle) at the lake. Spun in a low gear on the trainer. Ran at whatever speed I felt like. I also wallowed in some post season blues and tolerated wild swings in mood and appetite. After about two weeks I started to feel a little more like myself. I noticed that unlike last fall when my legs came back to me on the bike but not on the run, this year I was all about the run and had no interest whatsoever in the bike.

I signed up for a half marathon. I had been sort of fantasizing about jumping in with James at the Hartford Marathon on October 15, 2011 but was able to be reasonable with myself that a marathon (premiere) on 4 weeks training post 70.3 would be a bad idea for me.

I wrote a training plan for the 6 weeks starting after my 2 week recovery period up until the race (this weekend!). For the first time since before I got bitten by the triathlon bug I have really invested in my running. Hello, October! To be completely honest --- it has been AWESOME! I gave myself permission to not worry about swimming. In fact, I didn't swim once in October. I thought about it. I even brought my suit and goggles when I headed to the Y. Never once did I feel inspired to swim. For the most part I haven't had much interest in my bike either. Part of that may be that as soon as its cool enough to run comfortably it's almost too cold to ride my bike (on the trainer, in the outdoor garage) without my feet going numb. I did finally bring my bike inside a few days ago so hopefully will find some mojo again. So this month I lifted religiously 2-3 times per week and I ran.

I ran a lot! I ran 141.5 quality miles! In July, I ran nearly 119 miles with 4 long runs and some 10k oriented speed work at the track. This had been my biggest running month to date for me. October I ran only 3 long runs (14, 12 and 13.5 miles) but I steadily build the distance of my fourth weekly run and added a very short 2ish mile run on my weights/xtrain day. I was super diligent with the training plan I wrote. On Tuesdays I did a short trainer ride (40-50 minutes) mostly to loosen up and because I don't have to be in to work until 11 followed by a true speedwork session at the local track. I did mile repeats. I did 800's, 400's, 200's. I checked paces with McMillan before workouts and went after those paces at the track. On Thursdays I did tempo work. If you'd asked me over the summer whether I was doing my tempo runs I would have said yes. Looking back on it, maybe not exactly. I have a tendency to run my endurance runs and long runs a little too fast. I then run my tempo pace a little too slow. I think in my mind running is hard, even endurance zone running so its hard to think about running harder. This month has totally busted that thinking wide open. I can run faster than I thought I could. It is hard. But it feels good (on rested legs)! Throughout the month I have watched my paces improve and my effort at given paces come down. I have had more than my fair share of confidence building runs. In the second half of the month I started playing a game with McMillan where I would try to out-do him (or rather, beat myself). Its a pretty fun game when you're winning!

What I think started coming into focus for me is that this thing I thought was impossible for me - to build effort and speed over the course of a run - is possible. During a track workout that was planned as 800's at 10k pace with 400 recovery intervals, I found myself getting faster on successive intervals. As I hit my last planned 800 I did some math in my head and realized that if I added a bit of a push and an extra 600 meters or so that I could take down my old 10k PR. I couldn't resist. I pounded out that last 3/4mile at faster than 5k pace and bested my official 10k PR by 1:02 and my unofficial PR by over :30. I felt damn good about this.

Then I realized something about this McMillan game. When I "win" it tends to be in one direction - given a particular time I have run before, I can out-do his predictions for distances shorter than the benchmark. When I look at playing this game in the other direction it gets pretty daunting. I can't imagine running a 10k in the time he predicts based on my 5k. Or a half marathon based on my 10k time. I ran a strong (untrained for) 5k in June and have been using that as my benchmark. Here's the thing; I have also been telling myself all along that I can't really run that time. That it was a fluke. Turns out - not a fluke. This past weekend I didn't have a long run on the schedule, instead two short 6 mile runs. James had a run Halloween race. We got dressed up in costumes and drove early on Saturday morning to Salem, MA. I was planning to run my 6 miles while he raced. When we got there though it seemed like the only reasonable place to run (without risking getting seriously lost) was on the course. So I jumped into the race. It was 6.66 miles (Devil's Chase). I was not going to race. This is one week out from my half marathon. Just going for a run. James and I started together because he always starts slow (for him) and I tend to start not slow (for me), which evens out. We ran the first mile at an 8:15 pace which felt comfortable, then I let him go. I have been having some angry calves (from the increased mileage and switch over the mostly running in kinvaras) so was in my heavy trainers and just running along. I'm not sure what happened but I spotted a woman who was running strong. In my head I mostly thought I would watch her run away from me because I was not going to push it (and I'm not really a runner). But I kept plugging. And she didn't pull away. After a mile or so I finally acknowledged that I wanted to stick with her. I was running faster than I had planned but it felt like controlled chaos. I latched on. She would pull ahead on the downhills but then I'd catch back up on the flats and inclines. By mile 5 it was clear that I was pushing much harder than planned. And I was still with her. I stuck with her until the last half mile then I let her go. I stopped my watch at the 10k mark and checked the time. 50 seconds faster than that track workout from 10 days before. The time is exactly what McMillan predicts based on my 5k. I am faster than I think! In fact, that impossible 5k time from June, I ran the last 5k of this 10k+ race at exactly that pace!

Wow, I'm rambling! Guess I should post more often...

So October has been a really good running month. It has really crystallized in my mind the importance of true dedicated speed work for me. Working at my edge makes me feel strong. While it is easy for me to get into the whole narrative that I'm not fast and will never be fast (and I do believe this to be true in some objective absolute sense), this isn't really about being the fastest kid on the block. Its about the feeling of killing a workout, of raising the bar, of outdoing myself. When I can stick with that it feels pretty good.

And now, with November upon us, its time to race. T-minus 2 days!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

FirmMan 2011 - Very Short Race Report

My head still isn't screwed on straight after the race, so here is the thumbnail sketch.

Waves were huge and crashing. Current (turns out) was fast. Seaweed was disgusting. Thankfully I wasn't in the water for too long.
look at that mohawk!
Still dilly-dallying, as usual.

Was on pace to go sub-3 and was gunning for it but then there was a 6 mile stretch in the last 15 miles of all torn up, scarified highway so I slowed down to be safe. The ride was good, harder than I have ridden before. I love riding during races, when there are volunteers stopping traffic. I only got passed by 2 or 3 women in total - a huge improvement from last year. 


Crash and burn. Totally fell apart and it was not pretty. Started out with those numb legs that want you to run yourself straight into a cramp. Quickly those legs disappeared. I never found my good strong pace. By mile five I was above 9:00. By mile 9 I resorted to my first walk break. Miles 10 and 11 were very sad and very slow. Whenever I would try to speed up I would puke. I got basically zero nutrition in on the run. I was worried I wouldn't make it to the end. At mile 11 a woman passed me and I latched on to her heels. I was able to hold on for about 2/3 of a mile then I had to let her go for fear that I was exerting so hard that I would collapse (at a 9min pace, wtf?). When I reached the beach for the sprint to the finish I didn't have a sprint in me, just a trudge. 

Total: 5:36:17

I spent the next hour crumpled on the ground, spontaneously puking and generally worrying those around me. After that passed, we went down to the beach to cool off then indulged in a delicious picnic that my mother brought.

Crazy thing is...with so many people racing IMWI, Rev3 Cedar Point, PumpkinMan and 70.3 Championships, the field at FirmMan was small. My 9 minute PR was good enough for me to place 2nd in my AG!!!

(pics are misbehaving but i'll try to get them up soon!)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Month in Review - August by the Numbers

Swim - 25800 yards
Bike 616.45 miles
Run 120.8 miles
Weights/Core: 6 sessions
Total time: 63 hours 16 minutes

I had high hopes for this month. July was a very solid month and I planned to capitalize on it with even more endurance building plus some honing heading into my big A-race of the season (Sept 11). Looking back on the month I feel unsure of how it went.

My swimming had not been very good - maybe 2 or 3 good swims all month. My shoulder stopped nagging me but I've been feeling flat in the water. I also had to take an unexpected week off from swimming due to a neck strain in the third week of the month. I've had 2 swims since then and I can't find my pull. My endurance also seems to be falling apart - losing 1 or 2 strokes per length after only 1500 yards (usually doesn't happen til at least 2500 yards).

My riding was going very well in the beginning of the month. With my extra free time (and recovery time) I have been able to do 4 quality rides + 1 recovery ride each week. I love being on the bike. I should rephrase that. I love riding my bike on the trainer. I'm way more into the trainer than I should be. I have a good deal of trepidation about riding outdoors (flats, traffic, road debris, etc) so often only go out for my long ride and otherwise do the work on the trainer. I signed up for another century ride on August 20 (Blazing Saddles Century). Having really enjoyed my first one at the end of July, I was pretty excited for this day. I drove up to the North Shore by myself and found a nice group of women to ride with. Without going into detail, 40 miles into the ride, my riding partner (a wonderful woman who I had just met that morning and had been riding and talking with all day) had a pretty bad accident. She was thrown from her bike and had a bad concussion. I was the first responder. I held it together until the EMTs arrived but then was pretty shaken up. That night my neck went into spasm - a pretty classic stress response. It took over a week to fully resolve and for me to have full range of motion back. So eventhough I knew it was important to get back out on my bike (outdoors), I wasn't able to do it until this weekend. With all the time on the trainer though I have been pushing myself more than I have in the past. I think because (for me) the simple motion of riding is so enjoyable I often don't push as hard as I might/could. In the past few weeks I have made an effort to push into an uncomfortable zone sometimes and lo and behold, it gets easier to stay there. I'm not sure what all of this will mean for my bike leg at FirmMan next week. More endurance + more power + more fear = ???

My running this month has been good. Not fast. But good, I think. Only 3 proper long runs, one of which was an epic fail. However I ran 16 times in the month. 4 times per week. Consistently. This is still new for me and I'm glad its going well.  In my peak week, I hit 30 miles for the first time. This was my big goal for the training cycle. Feels good to know that I can do it. Beyond that, I am not remembering too many of my runs. I know I had two brick workouts that were extremely badass, in which I was flying along on the run (faster than my runs on straight run workouts) and didn't have the regular poop-out at 2-3miles in.

Although according to my log I have done core/kettle workouts at about the same frequency as in the previous months, I am feeling decidedly weaker. Most of those workouts were in the beginning of the month. Amazing how quickly I experience a sense of losing strength (or really, its this hard to explain tautness through my core when I am in motion). I remember feeling really weak by this time last year. I don't think its nearly as bad this year, but the weak of no swimming or weights and very tentative biking/running certainly didn't help things.

Lastly, as of August 31, I am back at work full time. Having 2 months of vacation was amazing. But truth be told, I don't think I am actualized enough to enjoy myself indefinitely without work to give contrast to my other "more enjoyable" activities. So although I'm not looking forward to my schedule tightening up and having to squeeze in workouts before the sun is up, its good to be back.

1 week til FirmMan!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

July - By the Numbers

Swim - 26800 yards
Bike 624.35 miles
Run 121.75 miles
Weights/Core: 7 sessions (+4 sessions z-health mobility)
Total time: 64 hours 9 minutes

July was quite a good month all around. Starting on July 1 I have been off from work. We spent the first week visiting my hub's parents in Iowa and since returning I have settled into a blissful lifestyle of sleeping in past 6am, training whenever it suits me, cooking lots of delicious and healthy food, and reading for pleasure. I haven't had a proper (read: 2 weeks or more) vacation since college...this is like getting to make up for all those missed ones all at once.

Starting at the beginning of the month my nagging shoulder problem started getting a little more bothersome. In the second half of June I had upped my swimming yardage a little bit with the thought that I might do the Aquaman Evenup triathlin in Derby VT in August which has a 3.5 mile swim. It didn't end up fitting into our summer schedule so when the race got nixed I've dropped my yardage back down. I think I missed two planned swims this month. I had a number of not so good swims (mostly due to pain) but also surprised myself with a good showing at Mass State Tri with a 24 minute swim. I have made it out for OWS four times this month (including the race), which has been very nice. When my shoulder flairs I have been doing a sequence of mobility exercises (called z-health) which seem to help.

Biking has been steady. I have had 3 3+ hour (56+miles) rides plus my first century ride.  I think I expected huge gains this year but I'm not sure when they are going to come. I see the kinds of speeds that women can throw down on the bike so am not sure what I would need to do to take another step in that direction. My endurance is certainly up; it takes longer before I start falling apart.  Yet none of my (outdoor) rides have been very fast. Admittedly, I do most of my riding on the trainer and often only get outside on Sundays for my long ride. Last year I think I used to hammer the bike when I'd get outside b/c it was the only time I could see my speed. Now with my cadence sensor I at least have numbers to look at while I'm inside (and those are my "quality" workouts) so perhaps I don't push as hard outside. Maybe I need to suck it up and ride outdoors more often. Honestly, I find it stressful to get myself and my bike ready to ride outside. And I find it stressful to deal with traffic and traffic lights and road conditions (potholes, gravel, roadkill) - none of that comes into play on the trainer. I have just under 6 weeks until FirmMan and I really want to go sub 3:00 on the bike. I guess I have some thinking to do about what I need to get in place to make that happen. I know I have the base (according to Jesse K's critical volume posts on the qt2 website) for I guess I need to figure out how to sharpen things up. [Ideas anyone???]

Running this month has been surprisingly good. With my legs finally recovered after Mooseman, I spent the early part of the month zeroing in on my (super secret) goal pace for the Mass State Tri. And I NAILED IT on race day! These few weeks also reminded me that its good for me to run slow on long days and hard on fast days. I hate the "slow" running b/c I feel like a slug and I don't actually find it easier on my body that running at my natural pace (which is too fast for long runs, although I often will run that speed if I don't force the issue). I do like doing the "fast" running. I get that you have to go "slow" so you can go "fast" - but it is hard. Having bumped up to 4 runs per week (for the first time ever) has opened the window for the slower running a bit more, I think, because at least one of those runs is sort of for extra miles. It terms of bests and worsts - the run leg of the Mass State Tri may be one of the best runs I've ever had. I was in the zone. I nailed the pace. I engaged in positive self talk. I pushed to the end. I had it to the end. This past week I had one of my worst runs in a long time. I had a 1hr50min run on the schedule for Saturday. Because I signed up to do a Century ride on Saturday I moved the run to Friday. I had done hard 3minute VO2max intervals the day before on the trainer but usually am fine after intervals on the bike. I got out the door around 8am and it was already in the upper 70s with humidity nearly 90%. By mile 3 I felt like I needed to stop. By mile 5 I was talking significant breaks to gasp for breathe. By mile 7 I was reduced to walking. I reset my watch and walked for nearly a mile before shuffling the remaining 4.5 miles home at somewhere between a 9:20 and 10:00 pace. It was ugly. Very ugly. I think there may have been soap in my water bottle. Either that or Accelerade Hydro is very foamy. Regardless, I puked foam a number of times. For once, Gu saved the day and settled my stomach. In the end I'm going to call it a character builder. Amazingly the next day when I headed out on for Century, my legs felt quite excellent. I guess slow running might not be the worst thing in the world ;-)

4 weeks left of vacation. (I'm so LUCKY, I know.) I have my eye on August to be a really big, really fun, really good month. Friends' wedding this weekend. PhD graduation ceremony in 2 weeks. Potentially another century in 3 weeks. James has another half marathon in 4 weeks. My goals for the month involve finally hitting 30 miles running for a week. Continuing to hit my weight/core workouts and mobility sessions to keep my shoulder quiet and prevent the weak feeling I got last year at this time as my volume got big for the first time. Continuing to eat well (I've been liking the recipes from Thrive way more than expected) with a focus on fitness and recovery without getting too sucked into hitting my "racing weight." [Sidenote: I got on the scale for the first time in about 2 years. This has been good to keep my honest, but feels like a slippery slope of worrying about the wrong numbers, or thinking about how I look rather than how I perform. I feel much more balanced about this than in past years though. Just something to keep my eye on so I continue to enjoy myself as much as possible.]

Happy August everyone!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mass State Tri Race Report

James and I drove up Saturday afternoon, I picked up my packet and we scouted the course. Looked the same as last year ;-) except that my perspective is a little different. The water was 76F so wetsuits were legal and after wading into the water I decided that I would wear my wetsuit and deal with the increased T1 time.

We went for an early dinner at the Gardner Ale House. Same as last year. Had an amazing appetizer of greek salad, hummus, babaganoush, and pita. I then put away the better part of a cheese pizza and brought the rest back to the motel. Motel was pretty nice, had A/C, microwave and a fridge. I prepped my nutrition and we settled in for the evening.

I didn't sleep very well, seemed to be waking up every hour on the hour. Not nervous, just not finding my sleep groove. I got up just before 5am and had my tradition 2 bertucci's rolls, banana and diet soda. I did some mobility exercises and ran through the morning in my head. We packed up and were out the door by just before 6am. We made the 25 minute drive back to the race venue and I got my transition set up. I then posed for some ridiculous photos:
Muscle shot (kind of) = Getting MANIC!

Last season as a F25-29

New ridiculous pose!
 After the national anthem we all headed over to wait in our waves. The morning was quickly warming up and I was afraid I'd overheat in my wetsuit.
Fake smile much?

Eventually it was time to get in the water and get this party started!

Per my plan I lined up toward the front at the right. I had been talking with some ladies in my wave and it seemed like it was gonna be a speedy bunch. I was hoping for some good feet to latch onto. The cannon boomed and we were off. The speedsters were super fast. The person I was hoping to follow was too fast for me so I let her go and found someone with a nice quick turnover and swim next to her. We swam together for almost the whole course. I'm not sure if she was glad or not to have the company. When we started catching the wave ahead of us she took the most aggressive line, even if it was through me, every time. It was fine with me, I was glad to have someone to swim with. Without a watch I didn't know how I was doing time wise but felt like I was certainly swimming harder than in past races but was nowhere near a red zone. I swam all the way till my fingers hit the sandy bottom and popped up. Ran into transition while pulling my suit down to my waist. Still no idea of my swim time. In T1 I saw James and as I was ready to grab my bike asked him my time. He said he thought I was in the 27's. That seemed impossible. But lo and behold he was right! A good fast (much faster than intended) swim. I tried not to lolly-gag in transition but still had a slow (relative to my competitors) t1 time. I took endurolytes and drank some water before heading out.

Swim: 24:10 (58/382)

T1: 2:25

Got out on the bike and spun for the first mile or two. I knew I'd hit the big hill at mile 5 so wanted to bank time but also didn't want to jack my heartrate too much. The bike was relatively uneventful. A fair number of guys passed me, but far fewer than in past races. A few women passed but nothing like in past races. I sort of wondered where everyone was. First and second lap were evenly paced. Both a little slower by my garmin than I was hoping but there were a fair number of small(ish) hills on the backside side of the loop where the roads were very pitted that slowed things down (other than the big hill). Was pleased with my effort and pacing throughout. Both laps felt good. My new Adamo Road saddle was super comfy!

Bike: 1:20:13 (174/377)

 Back in transition I took more endurolytes, slid my feet into my kinvaras, messed with my bondi band and got going. Still a slowish transition...not sure why.
T2: 1:51
Not a flying dismount

I look puzzled

Out on the run I could feel the day getting warm but there was a nice tree cover on the run course. James yelled to me "just like our tempo runs" as I headed out. As I got going there was a guy just ahead of me who seemed to be running a good pace (as opposed to a freakish pace like some of the other guys). I didn't think too much about staying with him initially but quickly realized we were well matched. I stuck behind him and just listened to my breathing and turnover. I didn't look at my garmin until it beeped 1 mile and saw a 7:57. Oh my! That's fast! Quick body scan, feeling good. Kept with the same rhythm and just settled in. Lost the guy at the 1.5mi water station and kept trucking. Mile 2 beeped 7:59. Made a mental note of it of the variety "good, I banked a minute for when things get hairy later."

Miles 3 and 4 are sort of rolling hills and where I expected to lose time. I don't know what happened but I guess I got into a zone here. I saw the lead females coming back and started counting women. I cheered them on for a bit then decided to conserve energy (air). I got passed and passed women equally. Few men passed (likely they had all gotten ahead of me on the bike), but I passed my fair share. When I hit the turnaround there were 21 women ahead of me. As I started counting women behind me (them still on the out, with me on the back), there were a lot of them within half a mile of me (like 15). I worried a little about how many people would pass in the last 2 miles. I hit the hill that wrecked me last year and just told myself not to worry about pace and just do whatever I needed to without redlining. The wasn't so bad. ! ? ! ? As I came to the top there was a woman who had been 50m ahead of me for almost 2 miles who came within my grips. Here heart rate monitor started beeping at her menacingly and she slowed right as we crested. I didn't want to pass (and have her chasing me) but she slowed and I went by. Then a woman in my age group came flying from behind. I could hear her wicked cadence. She passed me easily. Through this whole time I hadn't looked at my garmin. Unheard of.

At mile 5 I was amazed to find myself still feeling good and checked my lap pace 7:58, with average pace also 7:58. I was very surprised, but in a mellow sort of way. I resolved at this point to hold the sub-8 (IMPOSSIBLE!) pace til the end. I didn't want to kick just yet. At mile 5.5 I came up on 3 men and ran with them for a bit. With half a mile left I expected them to pick it up but they didn't. A voice in my head said "Go!" and I did. Not a sprint, just and upsurge. One of the guys yelled "Go get'm!" - it was just what I needed to hear.

It doesn't look like I'm kicking but I've opened a gap on those guys behind me regardless
At mile 6 it was time to really push. And I did. As I came through the chute and stopped my watch it read 49:50. UNTHINKABLE!
So fast I'm blurry ;-)

Run: 49:50 (108/376)

I did my traditional knee grabbing and wind sucking and found James. I felt good! Then I made the mistake of eating a bite of watermelon and my system got very angry. Ten minutes later I went to the bathroom/shed to change and lost a bit of my nutrition. It was nothing that some ice cream wouldn't fix half an hour later.

Turns out that James, in the excitement of the start and the frenzy of photo taking forgot to start his watch, so I didin't know my overall time. Although I knew it was good. Very good for me. We waited for results to get posted.

A real smile, for an awesome PR!
Overall: 2:38:27 (8/28AG, 22/157 Female, 117/376 Overall)

A nearly 25 minute PR!!!!!

Things that went well:
1. Swimming harder. From what I can tell, no negative effects from adding a little bit of pace. May consider this for FirmMan.
2. Even pacing on the bike.
3. No ego on the bike.
4. Nutrition was spot on.
5. Endurolytes! I often don't do the whole electrolytes thing as evenly on long efforts as I should. Some part of me thinks that my great run may have been due to this magical little pills!
6. The RUN!!! I've never been in a groove on a run like this before. Not looking at my garmin and just going was great. Distracting myself by counting woman also seemed to work quite well (perhaps because there were - for once - far more behind me than ahead of me). Had I seen either my mile 3 or 4 splits I think it would have messed with my groove (mile 3 was "too fast" and mile 4 was "too slow") and I would have told myself that I was about to fall apart.
7. Even effort throughout. I am amazed at the difference a year makes. Last year this was my first race. At the time it was a huge accomplishment to finish. I tapered before the race and needed time after to recover. This year my fitness is clearly at another level. My energy was so even. I didn't fatigue. I had a kick at the end. Its not just that I went faster, its that I am able to go at a harder effort for longer. Its very cool to see and feel that.

As seems to be my tradition - today - the day after the race I am beating up on myself for not being better, faster, leaner. While my race kit was comfortable, as the photos attest, it was not attractive. Body composition needs work. Major work. Racing Weight and Thrive are on my immediate to-read list. Also, a weird turn of events. The woman I passed at mile 4 - she is 30. I stared at her calf for a long time. She won the 30-34 AG. I came in 8th in my AG. Do I want to be 30? Not really, but I'm crossing over in 6 months anyway...if only, if only, if only.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mass State Tri Goal Post

 This weekend I am racing at the Massachusetts State Triathlon. Last year this was my very first triathlon! It will be my second Olympic distance event and hopefully an opportunity to smash my PR. After a few weeks of recovery from Mooseman, I've gotten in about a month's worth of solid training, with a renewed emphasis on tempo runs at tempo pace, track workouts with speed (just a few), and long runs intentionally slowed down. I am hoping this will translate into a strong(er) run on Sunday. Last year I went 3:03. This was WAY faster than I had planned, despite a very conservative swim (29:xx) and a painfully slow run (6.35miles in 57:12). I rode my dad's old hybrid and only purchased Nimbus after the race when I knew triathlon and I were going to make excellent bedfellows.

This year my endurance is certainly better. My volume is higher and I am much less worn down by training that in those first 6 months last spring. I haven't made huge gains in the swim, but I was pretty pleased with where I started. My biking has come a long way, by definition, given that I hadn't spent any time on a bike in 20 years. I hope to gain most of my time on the bike. My run, well, we'll see.

Other factors: last year was hot as all get out. 90F by noon, which was right about when I thought I would be finishing. My wave didn't go off til close to 8:40am. Up until 2 days ago they had been calling for highs around 80F on race day, but the temps have slowly been creeping up and now its looking like 88F. If I'm done by 11:30 it might have only reached 80F. Still 80F is too hot for me. So I expect I will suffer on the run. Last year, it had been quite hot for a while and the water was up above 80F as well so they strongly discouraged wetsuits. I didn't have one, so no problem there. This year, I have a wetsuit (sleeveless) although I'm torn about wearing it. On the one hand, I swim faster with it on (duh). On the other hand, with temperature regulation being an issue for me, I don't want to be overheating from the get-go. In addition, in both of my HIMs when I've worn it I've had a stripper to help me out of it. In this race, no strippers (not that I would expect there to be). So there could be a slight T1 disadvantage to wearing it.

Enough with the preamble. Here are my plans and goals:
Swim: Line up towards the front, second row on the right. Go out slightly harder than in past races and see if there are any feet to find. No sprinting. But unlike past races, no lollygagging either.
C goal: sub 30:00
B goal: sub 29:00
A goal: 28ish
A+ goal: No such thing. I can swim 25:xx but it just means getting passed by more people on the bike and run. I don't want to get caught up with people I can't hang with.

Transitions: I seem to have a particular aptitude for spending a long time in transition. It would be great to spend just a little less, particularly in T1. Under 3:00 each?

Bike: The course is a double loop with one significant hill (x2). Find a comfortable pace in the miles leading up to the hill the first time and then spin up the hill. No ego. Open it up as much as I want between the back side of the hill and when I come up on it for the second time (miles 6-16). Then spin again. Steady effort back in to the park for T2. Given the heat I am planning on my aero water bottle (22oz) to be filled with G2 + 200cal or CarboPro and an addition bottle on my down tube with Nuun + 100c CarboPro. I will take endurolytes at least once (in T1 if I swam with wetsuit, on bike if not) and maybe twice if its turning into a scorcher. I have had good training rides with Medjool dates so that is my plan for additional nutrition on the bike. Will also keep a chocolate outrage Gu handy in case the dates don't strike my fancy. Although my goal splits don't look much different than what I hope to be writing for FirmMan 70.3 in two months, my goal here is to have a solid run and to be reasonable given the heat. No ego, Rachel, no ego.
C goal: 1:25 (17.5mph)
B goal: 1:23 (18mph)
A goal: 1:21 (18.3mph)
A+ goal: sub 1:20 (18.6+mph)

(T2: As above, here if I don't save time I will be okay with it. Sometimes my heart rate spikes as I run my bike into transition. Standing still for a minute and catching my breath is not the worst thing in the world before I start what will be a hard (but hopefully solid) run.)

Run: Don't start too fast! First two miles are false flat (1-2% grade) and then there are 2 miles of jagged hills. My biggest goal on the run is to feel like I can push it during the last two miles. Suggesting, or even intimating in any way, that I want to negative split the run would be ridiculous, so I am not putting that on the table. But I don't want to blow up. I don't want consecutive 9:30 miles like last year (miles 4 and 5). I have been practicing running at an uncomfortable pace -- its uncomfortable. I am going to try to keep this in mind and not freak out about it. If I execute bike hydration/nutrition well then hopefully I won't be dealing with side stitches and will be able to stick with the discomfort for the last stretch. Last 2 miles. Give it all I've got! Last year I mustered a sprint to the finish, I hope to do the same this weekend. The course is long (6.35 by my garmin, mapped twice, on the tangents) so the times are slightly off for 10k. Depending on the heat, I will likely carry my small 10oz fuel belt handheld with G2+carbopro and a gu. If its sweltering I might grab my big 20oz bottle with water and take endurolytes in transition. Both will be in T2.
C goal: better than last year's 57:12
B goal: 55:00
A goal: 53:30
A+goal: 52:30

C goal: PR. sub 3:03:09
B goal: sub 3:00
A goal: sub 2:55
A+goal: sub 2:50

[For the sake of completeness and honesty I also want to put the following FUTURE goal on the table. At the Olympic distance I would eventually like to go 2:40. Did I just say that?!?!? No, no, I meant 2:45. Okay, actually, I want to go 2:40. To go sub50 on the run would also be awesome. 2013?]

After the race James and I will be hightailing it back to Boston to watch the Women's World Cup final at my parents'. I also intend to gorge myself on pizza. Chocolate my be consumed.

Monday, July 11, 2011

June - By the Numbers

June 2011
Swim: 29,650 yards
Bike: 425.65 miles
Run: 80 miles + 16 hiking/walking/shuffle recovering
Weights/Core: 4 sessions
Total Time: 50 hours 36 minutes

Not sure exactly what to say about June. It started off with taper into Mooseman, followed by recovering from Mooseman. Physically my body seemed to recovery better after this 70.3 effort than FirmMan last September. That being said, for around 2 weeks (maybe more, maybe less, I can't seem to recall) after the race I just felt blah. Slow swims, slow runs, not great energy. I would have these surprisingly good rides and get psyched that I was back, only to wake up the next day with a crappy attitude and then have a not so stellar workout. This went on for quite a while it seemed. Two weeks out from the race, James and I decided to do a 5k. I think I may have found a little bit of mojo during (or following) the race. Slowly put together the realization that when I don't do speed work (especially on the run), I get very flat. All my runs turn into moderate tempo efforts but on this neverending plateau. I need to move back into slow runs (long), fast runs (track), and only one tempo run (at a harder tempo) per week. If I am able to get into the habit of a fourth run per week then that one should be easy (slow) or a transition run. The latter portion of the month was uneventful (besides the untimely destruction of my beloved garmin forerunner, Minny). As my body came back to me I was somehow able to put in some relatively solid hours and pull my month total up over 50 hours. Initially many of those hours were slow, recovery, easy, or surprisingly hard while going at an easy pace, but things started coming back into focus toward the end.

As a belated birthday gift, my parents got me a bike fitting. I've had my bike since last August and this was the first fitting. The guy was totally great and I had a blast talking with him. I learned more about my bike in that hour than I think I have all year. He massively changed just about everything. Pushed the cleat on my shoe forward, moved my saddle back (a lot, 10-15mm?), raised the saddle (1.5-2 inches?), replaced my stem (80mm for the 110mm it came with), dropped my bars (removed about 1-2cm of washers from the stem), and raised the pads of my aerobars.  I gave the new setup 4 rides before an initial assessment of the fit. The shorter stem and raised aerobar rests are great. Ultimately I decided the saddle was just too high. I couldn't get any power and felt like I was reaching all the time. I brought it down about half an inch and things were better. After a few rides where my lady parts were not happy with me I realized that my saddle had a growing split in the middle of the nose. Time to upgrade -- so further setup changes were going to wait until I could see the impact of the new saddle. Will let you know how this goes...

June 30 was also the last day of my internship year. At the end of the day I was addressed by many as Dr. Wasserman for the first (official) time. My new job/fellowship doesn't start until August 30, so I have a summer free to play!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

RIP Minny

25 miles into my ride this morning I hit a ridiculous patch of scarified pavement. It went on for miles. Up a hill. My garmin forerunner, Minny, dislodged from her mount and I heard her fall to the ground. I unclipped, jumped off my bike and went running the 50 yards back toward where I thought I would find her. As I locked eyes on (with) her laying helpless on the other side of the road, a huge black pickup truck came barreling down the road. I waved like crazy for him to slow down but he took no notice of me. His left front wheel exploded Minny into pieces. I watched it in slow-mo in my mind. I yelled and grabbed my helmet in disbelief. The truck driver didn't even slow down.

In the next 5 minutes 4 cars stopped to ask if I needed help as I stood on the side of the road. I was just so angry I didn't think it was smart to get on my bike. I felt like I was going to cry. Not to mention that I was on this stupid hill with scarified pavement. I collected Minny's broken remains and walked my bike a mile up the road before the pavement smoothed and flattened out enough that I could mount my bike.

Major fail.

I'm so pissed.

I had just wrapped my head around making the investment in a new saddle and now I need to replace Minny. This Sucks.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rove the Cove 5K

I have been having some trouble locating my mojo since Mooseman. All my runs have been pretty poor - slow, sluggish, and hard. There have been many sides stitches. My rides have been mixed - some pretty good, but more than the usual frequency of rides in which I just can't get my legs to turn over at even 85rpm in an easy gear. My swims have been okay - actually had my longest swim ever (4400 yards) yesterday.

Last weekend James and I decided to sign up for a local 5K. I was not looking forward to the race. It was a new distance for both of us. We've each done 1 10k, 2 Half Marathons, and then I've done an Oly and two 70.3s. So we had no idea. In March when my running was going really well I ran an unofficial training run 5K in 23:09 (it was truly all out). Given how poor my legs have been feeling I was just hoping to go sub-25. I was frustrated with myself ahead of time for being so slow. Needless to say I was not pumped for this race.

We got up this morning, ate a regular breakfast and headed across town to this local race. It was cool seeing so many families and young kids planning to run. We had looked at the times from last year's finishers and knew that we needed to line up in the front despite planning on race finishes between 20 and 25 minutes. (In fast, last year the female winner ran 26:15.) There were no chips or anything so being up front gave a better chance of your listed time matching garmin time too.

I don't remember all that much from the race. I went out with the first 15 people. There was a woman at the very front. I promptly got passed by two women as we ran through the woods on an uneven trail that made me a little nervous. Just before mile 1 there was a turnaround and I got passed. Shortly thereafter I passed a woman. I ran in this position for a while. It was painful. My legs did not want to turn over. I could feel my pace slipping as I went. I was breathing as heavily as I think I ever have while running. It was good actually to just give in to breathing fast and hard and not trying to control it. Just before mile 2 I got passed. Then we hit a hill and I passed the woman back. Then she passed me back. I don't know if I could have held on to her. I don't know why I didn't try harder. I had in my mind that I was in 5th place and I was pleased with this. The third mile was hard as hell. My pace I'm afraid was quite sad. I actually tried not to look at my garmin at all and just keep moving. With a third of a mile left we turned back onto the trail and through the woods to the finish. I just didn't want to get passed in this last stretch. I tried to pick up the pace. I did, but it didn't feel fast. As I crossed the finish line I was handed a popsicle stick with my rank - #22 overall. I pulled over, sucked wind and grabbed knees. Two minutes later I felt fine. James came in #12. He was not pleased, having blown up around 1.5 miles in (a "learning experience"). There were two women who finished ahead of him. As they hand posted the results I went to check whether I had in fact held on to 5th woman. In the end, I don't know! There was no indication of gender on the results sheets. I was either 5th or 6th depending on whether we think Antolin is a man or woman's name.

We stuck around for the raffle. There were no awards based on time. James won a gift certificate for 3 personal training sessions. Very cool.

In conclusion - 5Ks are not fun. But its nice to race for less than half an hour and then be done and get to hang out. Now I'm off to the pool...

Rove the Cove 5K
Official Time: 22:29
Pace: 7:13
Place: 22/175 overall, 5th or 6th woman

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

A little over a week out from Mooseman and I am finally acknowledging that I did not take my recovery seriously enough. The day after the race I was pleasantly sore, hobbling a bit, but getting up and down stairs and on and off the toilet without much difficulty at all :-)  On day two I convinced myself that I would just take an easy spin on the trainer. Which ended up lasting an hour. And when I got out of work early I found myself at the pool, where I swam 2000 slow but comfortable yards. On day three, I felt like crap and wanted to sleep. But I got on the trainer again. Could hardly turn over the peddles. Seriously, like 2mph and 5-10rpm slower than the day before. Day four I went for a run. We'll call it a run, I'm not sure what it was. A shuffle? 9:30 pace and had a side stitch within a mile of starting. Lasted about 35 minutes then called it a day. I resolved not to run again til after the full week. Day five for whatever reason I thought it would be a good idea to ride for 2 hours. That was fine actually. Day six I went for a 90 minute hike. I was feeling very energized by the hike so was going to go to the Y and just bliss out on an arc trainer for a while. But when I got home from the hike my energy tanked and I didn't want to go anywhere. A few hours later I rallied and went to the Y for an hour. Day seven I met up with a friend and rode in the Concord area for an hour forty-five minutes. We had planned to swim but he doesn't have a wetsuit and it was 50s and raining. I tweaked something in my right shin (second time this has happened on a ride with him - I wonder what I change in my technique when we ride, or where we ride). We rode VERY slowly, yet it was kind of hard.

So Sunday afternoon I am sitting at home and realize, shit this is the end of my recovery week and I've put in 9 hours of training. That was dumb. That is not recovery. Last year I was so wrecked after FirmMan that it was clear that some serious recovery needed to happen. This time around my brain (ego?) thinks I'm ready to go. Its not going so well though. My energy is all over the place. I feel right at the edge of unraveling (more than is usual for me) over little things.

Over the weekend James decided he wanted to run a 5k. We looked for 2 weeks out but the better race is this weekend. So we both signed up. This meant that  I needed to do my long run earlier in the week so I could do "speed work" on race day. So I went out for my long run this morning. Perfect running weather: 50s with drizzle. Flew out of the gate with 2 8:15 miles then blew up. Ran a few sub 9 minute miles but then fell apart further. Gave in and switched to a run/walk for the remainder. Every run I've had in the past 2 1/2 weeks has involved side stitches. I do not know what causes these (other than going too fast). I know its stupid to go out at an 8:15 pace on a long run where the planned overall pace in 8:40. And yet I do it time and time again.  Its time to reign myself in. But its so hard for me to do. I want to be a better athlete than I am. Its hard for me to be where I am, who I am. I'm always looking for a plan to keep me busy and to distract myself from "not being there yet." The plans are good when they succeed in distracting me, but when my body doesn't cooperate the illusion kind of falls apart.

I'd love to have a positive wrap up on this one...but I'm drawing a blank.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Theme Song for a 70.3

James made me a mix to get pumped before Mooseman. This was the only song I could remember while racing, buts its pure AWESOME.

Ali in the Jungle

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mooseman Race Report

I find that by the time I have completed the race, told James about it, told my parents about it, told my closest friends who will tolerate triathlon talk about it, and answered numerous questions from people who ask to be kind but think I'm crazy about it that I've often lost some of my steam to blog about it. That being said, I am going to give this a go.

Mooseman. The race I didn't plan to race. The race I didn't know I'd be racing. The race I had 3 weeks to wrap my head around.

James and I drove up to Newfound Lake for registration (and Ironman brand shopping) on Saturday morning. We stopped in Manchester just after 11am at a Bertucci's Ristorante along the way to pick up a dozen rolls. These rolls make my stomach happy and since I never know what sort of food I'll find in a new place, we either plan to eat dinner there (like at FirmMan last year) or bring rolls with us. We got to the race site a little before 1pm. It was a little chilly but gorgeous outside. I stood in line for registration and packet pickup. Chatted with the guy in line behind us who was super friendly. He warned that the roads were in pretty bad condition from the hard winter, with a lot of frost heaves in inconvenient places. When I got to the front of the line the volunteer could not find my name. I chose not to freak out. I know I had registered because I saw the $300 WTC charge on my credit card. A staff person sorted it out. They only had me down as Rachel W, not my full last name. It occurred to James that that might mean when I crossed the finish line they wouldn't call out my name correctly. (He was right.) Got my number, chip, and other goodies in the tent. At this point I started to get the whole WTC/Ironman thing. As James would say its a "racket" and I agree. But because of that you get all sorts of cool stuff. Gorgeous tech shirt for the race. A timing chip strap made of neoprene that was so comfortable that I forgot it was on and it left not a single mark on my leg. Fancy booths so ogle. Etc, etc, etc. We went into the Ironman store. I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted the Mooseman cycling jersey. This is my first proper cycle jersey and I was stoked to get my hands on it. It was a little pricey but James bought it for me as a birthday present. I also sprung for a 50% off 2xu tri top. Good deals. I'll take it. We then grabbed my bike and put it in transition. Having registered late my number was high (1106 out of maybe 1200-1300), so I was way in the back of transition, and had to run through trees and over roots to get out and in. We left the park and drove the bike course to get a feel for this 3.5mile 4-16% grade hill I've been dreading. As well as the 5 miles 5% descent that follows. It was not a confidence boost. I'll say that much. I couldn't decide if it was better to know or not know about this hill. At the very least it was better to know about the false flat 2/3 of the way up so it wouldn't break me when there was more hill to come after. After the drove the course we went to the athlete's meeting. We listened in on the the pro meeting and then scooted out shortly after the age-group meeting started. As we got back to the lot there was a pro leaving us a note. She had hit James' car as she was pulling out. Everyone was very friendly but it was a tough and stressful addition to the afternoon. We then drove 30 minutes east to our motel on Lake Winnipesaukee. It was so cute and the view was amazing.

I prepped my nutrition and we headed to dinner by 6. Dinner was not so good. Its hard to mess up pizza (but they managed to). We were back at the hotel by 7:30 and I started to gear down. Reviewed my race plan for the second to last time, played some sudoku and then dozed off as the Bruins-Canucks game started.

Race Morning:
Alarm was set to go off at 3:50am. I woke up before the alarm wondering what time it was and checked my phone (alarm) to see and found it was 3:49. Perfect. Hopped out of bed. Took a Coke Zero, banana, rolls, and sunscreen into the bathroom to start morning preparations.
We were out the door by 5am, for the 35 minute drive back to Newfound Lake. This place was so cute we wanted to stay another night, but alas I had work to go to Monday morning. After a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and an unsuccessful bathroom break we arrived 1.5miles from the lake around 5:40. A cop directed us to park on a side road. James was not thrilled to see others driving past but us getting diverted. It was a long walk with all my transition stuff, hydration, bike pump, etc in tow. But on a 45 degree morning it was good to get moving. I got body marked and set up transition. Transition was very tight. I forgot to do some stuff. Didn't pull sunscreen out of my bad for reapplication after bike. Didn't lube my neck or shoulders for my wetsuit. By the time I was standing in the portopotty line in was 6:30 and we had to leave transition by 6:45 so I realized those things just weren't going to happen.

Definitely a pre-poop face

I'm not looking so psyched to race, am I?
Finished in the line and headed to the swim start. Put on my wetsuit and new neoprene cap. People seemed really cold. Lots of blue lips and shivering. I'm generally not thrilled with my "natural insulation" but on mornings like this it was great not to have any trepidation about getting in the water (which was 60 degrees).

The elite men and elite women went off. My wave was 4th. I lined up toward the right just behind the first row of swimmers. It was hard to know where to position myself. I figured I would rather get swum over than have the wiggle past people right away. Given the modified rectangular route I had to swim in toward the buoys  to get a good line but this wasn't too hard. The announcer counted down and we were off. I swam comfortably. Got my bearings. Quickly realized that this was the most gorgeous lake I had ever been in. Reveled in the clarity of the water and the brilliant morning sun. Oh wait, am I racing? Rachel, are you racing right now? Okay, back to business. I took the first 800 relatively comfortably. Picking people off who were ahead but mostly just looking for feet to follow. By the back of the rectangle we were catching the male wave ahead of us so things got congested a little. It occurred to me that maybe I wasn't swimming as hard as I should be. Although I was breathing every stroke (which I never do in the pool) I was hardly kicking and my RPE seemed moderate (at most). I decided that with 500 yards to go I would pick it up a bit (hopefully to get feeling back in my numb feet). In the intervening 500 yards I focused on stretching out my stroke and finding red caps to pick off ahead of me. It felt good to swim harder. Maybe next time I will take the whole swim out harder to see what I can do. I came out of the water and crossed the mat at 34 minutes. I was pleased with this. Maybe if I swam harder in the future I could hit 31? That would be good. [Sidebar - the 30minute time in FirmMan doesn't really count in my mind given the current for the majority of the swim.]

I pulled off my cap and goggles and ran toward the strippers. Dropped my neoprene cap but wasn't going to turn around for it. As I lay down to get stripped a volunteer had retrieved the neoprene and gave it to me (awesome). I jogged into transition and tried to get my frozen feet into my socks and shoes. Race belt on. Garmin on. Glasses and helmet. This takes me a long time.

Compare the determination on this face to how I look in the similar shot post ride...

Off I go!
The bike leg was as advertised. Double loop: rolling, 3.5mile killer hill, 5mi descent, rolling, hill, rolling, repeat, then rolling to finish. I was proud of myself slogging up the big hill. I stayed on my bike and stayed moving. I was very glad to be riding a triple. Those baby gears are money for keeping spinning (is it spinning at 50-60rpm?) on a tough climb. The descents were wild. I've never gone that fast and the roads were winding. I was a little afraid that I would lose control. Saw guys go flying by me on the descents and don't know how they do it. Kept a good effort on the rolling back stretch although my pace wasn't very even. Kept to my nutrition and hydration plan well (4 bottles - 2 w/G2+200cal carbo pro each, 2 water; 4 large dates, honey zinger chews, 1 gel). The gel didn't sit well with me. I think in the end gel is not my best bet [foreshadowing...].  I had been hoping to come in at 3:40. I know this is not a good time. I was figuring that with the hills anything less than an hour slower than my flat FirmMan time (3:09) would be acceptable. I do believe I am a stronger rider now (and want to go sub-3 by the end of the summer), but haven't done any work on hills, so I was going into this blind. I ended up finishing around 3:25. I was pleased with this. I was in T-2 as the winning men were crossing the finish line 100 yards away (ridiculous how fast they are!).
Not looking so great, huh?
 I took my time in transition. I wasn't feeling great so I wanted to give myself a chance to regain a little composure and maybe have my heartrate come down just a smidge. My stomach wasn't very happy with me. Not an all out revolt, but I was immediately nervous about nutrition on the run.

Off I go. That hat didn't last more than a mile...
 The run was gorgeous. Flat to rolling, with a more sizeable hill in the first half of each of the two loops. It was weird running on a double loop because you couldn't really tell who was on their first and who on their second lap. Well, with the fast people you could tell ;-)  The scenery was gorgeous. I tried to take that in.
 The weather (objectively) was perfect. Maybe 70 degrees and we got some cloud cover quickly so the sun wasn't too hot. Regardless, I got to overheating almost immediately. I took sponges at each aid station and choked down my carbo-pro and G2 as best I could. Didn't take any gel or chews on the run like I was supposed to. It was a hard run. From the first mile I couldn't find my target pace. I know there are people who can start slow and pick it up. But for me, if I can't find it in the first 1-2 miles, it generally isn't there. I didn't find it. There were no 8:30 miles. I stopped looking at my garmin and just ran/jogged/shuffled/slogged. The fantasies I had been harboring for the past week of doing an Ironman at the end of the summer (I told no one this) VANISHED. A large part of me wanted to stop. Well, not stop, but not be running. I kept telling myself that walking would just prolong things. So I kept going. My miles ranged from 8:42 (first) to 9:40 (8th - on the hill); mostly they hovered right around 9:00-9:08. When I saw James here at mile 7.5 I told him to expect me 5 minutes slower than my goal sub 2:00 run split.
In the home stretch (3 miles) it occurred to me that I hadn't been running this whole time. I was never in my stride. I was watching other people suffering (or others flying along seemingly effortlessly) and doing the same (suffering). I asked myself, could I be running harder now? It seemed that perhaps I could. I pushed a little harder. And it didn't seem worse (just equally painful). I saw a woman with a 28 on her calf ahead of me and had the thought to catch her. I have never passed anyone in my age group on the run. I swear. Never. At the next aid station she walked through and I passed. I didn't see her again. Then there was another 26 up ahead. I wouldn't say that I took chase, but I certainly did something (stalking and chasing at 9 minute miles seems absurd). And I caught and passed her. I am 90% sure they were both on their second laps so these were true passes. The last mile I pushed. And the last 300 yards I opened the throttle. Garmin says last mile 8:37, fastest mile of the day.
"Sprinting" to the finish
Came through at what I believe will be just over 6:05 official time. Pulled off to the side. Grabbed knees. Sucked wind. Saw stars. Hacked up a lung. Got my medal. Hobbled off to find James.

As bad as the running feels, the stopping sometimes feels worse. I get super nauseous. And do a lot of uncontrollable hacking. And feel dizzy.

After 2 bottles of water I was feeling a little better. Then I got in the lake in my race gear. Instant ice bath! This made things much better. I love this lake! Then James and I got food and ice cream and hung out for a bit. I met the fabulous Mary of Mary: IronMatron. She rocked it with a 3rd place Age Group finish.
 Having not posed for ridiculous pre-race "Manic" photos, James grabbed one as I was rebounding after my dip in the lake, food and soda.
Rolldown was happening by the lake so I swing by to see if I might get a glimpse of what had happened in my age group. I saw something like 45 women in 25-29 and my name was listed 15. Unofficial top third!!! I'm still awaiting results to be posted.

Then we packed up transition and headed home.

It was a great way to spend my birthday. I have a long way to go. But I like the journey.

Swim 34:00 (AG rank, 13)
T1: 3:37
Bike 3:25:23  (AG rank, 20)
T2: 3:49
Run 1:58:27 (AG rank, 15)
Total 6:05:16
Age Group Final 15/45