Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Training on a Broken Heart.

Well, this sucks.

I've been putting off an entry post-Everest since... well... post-Everest. That last post was the last time I would be in a relationship with my vegan roadie boyfriend, who, upon return to LA  vanished  to ruminate on his DNF for over a day and then declared himself incapable of being a good boyfriend. He has since been MIA. This was a big shock to me, as, if you could not tell by the fact that I climbed the equivalent of Mount Everest on a bike for him, I didn't see any end in sight for the current moment. Otherwise I maybe wouldn't have what... climbed Mount Everest on a bike for him.

It puts a serious damper on your training when the sight of your bike makes you burst into tears, when trying to do 100 miles out in Malibu reminds you of him cheering you on during your first podium race, when you have to stop during long runs to sob and when your friends say, "How was Everest?!" your face contorts like a baby who's just been accidentally smacked in the face. But I kept on training, of course, because what option do I have? Stop life? Nope. Painful as it's been, I've been putting in my miles. I also conveniently stopped eating most of the time, which, if you can't do the math, means I'd have already increased caloric deficit from the added volume of my peak training days with now an inadequate amount of fuel. So I lost over 10 pounds. In under three weeks. So... Hooray for race weight? I went to the body fat truck recently (yes it is a real thing, a mobile body fat test center... look it up online!) to get dunked in a tank of comfortably warm water and find out my real composition. Tanita be damned. I'm down to 141, and 21.4% body fat. Another six pounds and I'm at peak race body fat of 18%. Strange to think about winning Malibu at 151... I wonder how much of that weight was also muscle... not too much I hope...

This month has been an ongoing torture fest of me hoping and hoping and hoping to get some explanation or closure, and I'm finally at the conclusion that, if a person who claims to have loved and respected me can toss me out like a sack of garbage, can ignore my texts for five days after promising to meet up, can treat me like I'm less than nothing... well... the love and respect thing doesn't really hold. And since he won't fill in the gaps, I have to create my own piece of the narrative. Namely that he never cared and I should forget those months as they were fiction. They seemed awfully real to me, though. But I can't keep spending my hours on the bike going over and over this in my mind. He won't put it to rest for me, so I have to move on without understanding. Which is the ultimate and most lasting way to injure someone you dumped... make them feel like the entire relationship was a farce.

Is this entry too much personal information? Hell yes. But I have all these unresolved feelings, and no place to put them. So I'm putting them here, and hoping they go away, so that I may continue swimming, biking and running without them dragging me down anymore. I have been through a series of terrible romantic encounters, which stuck me in a series of ruts over the past year. It hurt my training, hurt my heart, stalled my life. I'm determined to not let that happen this time. It's just truly pathetic that something simple and nice turned into this horrible plague of brokenheartedness. Earlier in the month, when I was waiting for the talk that never came, I said "I feel like I'm underwater and I'm waiting to catch a breath or develop gills." I think I've developed gills. It's time to scar over.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Everest Challenge

Here are a few things I learned this weekend:

1.) Stage races make you stupid.
2.) Sometimes boredom is worse than pain.
3.) Being mentally strong is more important than physical strength.

 So, firstly, I say bike races make you stupid, because both Jake and I spaced out multiple times after racing, to the point where it was as though an alien had blacked out our memories and made us forget everything. Among various random things getting misplaced, Jake lost his keys (they got locked in the car), I lost my phone, and left my ID in La Grange's support van on the way home. Luckily all this things were found, but every time we'd blank we'd think "ok, this is the last idiot moment". But no... we were permenantly idiots for the weekend. I think stage races shouldn't be done by people with children, because they'd forget they even had families.

 Second, I spent a lot of fearful moments ruminating on the pain and suffering I was going to have to endure this weekend, and likened it to thinking about what it's going to be like to give birth. I still stand by this metaphor insofar as, now that it's over, I can't adequately remember the pain, and while I was on the race was constantly saying "this is bullshit, fuck this, I'm not doing these things ever again" but now feel like "eh, I might do something insane like that again". The one thing I think Everest Challenge has that giving birth does not was a LOT of monotony. The problem with doing a race you haven't trained for is that you're gonna be slow. And when you're slow, that's a LOT of extra race. At least when you're competative, you get to stick with the pack, but I was-- understandably-- dropped within the first hour of riding. I resigned myself to this pretty early on, given that I hadn't even climbed a hill on the bike since Santa Barbara (wtf, why did I do this race?? Crazy.) But once dropped, it was just me on this big, long, sad ride... because even those who'd catch up to me would, in turn, speed ahead at a rate that I wasn't down with (I had goal heartrates for survival, had to keep it lower than 175, yo). If anything, I felt crappy about not training just because I knew if I were stronger, the damn thing would be OVER already. What made it even worse is that I am still a very poor descender, which, I don't know if you've figured this out, but it's an essential part of climbing a mountain... coming down it. Yeah. So while we'd all be slogging up these giant climbs for miles, I'd even pass a few people going up, but on the way back down I'd be lucky to get up to 30mph, riding the breaks like a total lameass, while even those riding as "tourists" were confident enough to cruise back down, crouched over, hands well clear of the brakes. (Meanwhile, I'd have hand cramps by the end of every descent and near anxiety attacks from crosswinds shaking the TT frame and the vast vast expanses and steep drops flipping me out.) Jake says I just need to gain the ability to NOT think about it, the way I don't think about the danger of tripping when I run down a trail, I just find the line and take it. I believe I need better health insurance. The plan I got the day before this race needs me to call before I go to the hospital or "coverage isn't guaranteed". Yeah, that will help. I crash my bike: "OMG, call an ambulance!" "No, no wait, please call this number on this card and ask them first. I'll just wait and bleed, it's cool." 

Speaking of ambulances, the major bummer of this whole experience was that Jake didn't finish: he was way ahead and riding really strong, strong enough to pass me on the first descent, in his little pack of first place Cat 4s. I saw him again about three miles left up on the second climb as he was descending, and he looked super stoked and happy, so as I was dragging my ass through the rest of the ride, I thought at 6 hours "Jake's probably done now," and at 6:45, "he's probably relaxing by now, getting some food..." while I was still working my way through the hot hot shadeless climb to Tom's Place before the last 11 miles to the summit. Of course then I get pulled aside and am told that Jake's in the hospital because he got heatstroke and asked for an ambulance to be called. Of course that just completely wrecked me... the only reason I was even here was because I wanted to support him on his big race weekend, and thought it would be a cool way to show solidarity. This was his race to win... he'd been training all season, even last season, but missed last year because of a crash. I was told that he was okay, and of course I was relieved that he wasn't hurt or something, but I immediately felt totally overwhelmed with how sad and disappointed he was probably feeling, and just felt like crying and didn't even know why to bother with this stupid thing anymore. And of course I felt really worried because I had no idea what to do: Jake had the car keys, I'd left my cell in the car, and I didn't have his cell number memorized (cautionary tale, everyone.) I'd thought of taking my phone, but then left it last minute, when having an early morning freakout about going to the bathroom ahead of time. Now I had absolutely no contingency plan to him finishing ahead of me and meeting me at Tom's Place with the car. And I felt like an idiot. And of course just wanted to hug him and say how terrible I felt, since I knew how much this race meant to him. But I still had to climb 11 more miles. Yeah. It was hard to stay positive, but I tried to think how he'd want me to finish, and how I had to finish so I could get a ride with Steve, the race director, from the summit (he also had Jake's bike.) It got me through it, and of course once at the top I burst into tears, since I'd spent the whole time suppressing empathic depression. And I just finished over 88 miles and over 15,000 feet of climbing, and was at 10,000 feet of elevation, so, it was hard to keep it together. Very happily, it all got sorted out, though it took some time: I went with Steve back down along the race course to take down signs while he told me war stories from the 508, and somewhere along the way, Jake got Steve's cell number and reached us (it was late, so he was already well out of the hospital, and sounding super cheerful and well, which was an enormous relief.) We finally rendezvoused back at the car, where Jake'd been for a while, and drove home.

 The second day is supposed to be shorter, and therefore, I suppose a little easier, but the mental strain of the day, the fact that we didn't get home until nearly 8, and the feeling that it was dumb to do this race anyway because this wasn't even my race to do all sort of added up to make Stage 2 WAY more of a challenge. When I think of Stage 1, it feels very long, but I can remember a solid few nice parts: the first climb was chilly but gorgeous: actual fall foliage up in the mountains to admire and all that. The second climb was a horrible sunny death march, but even the stressful last climb worrying about Jake had a pretty view of a lake. Stage 2 I honestly think I was in a pissed off angry mood the entire time. I was just a big old grumpy asshole. I tried to find something positive to focus on, but it was not happening. It started early, and mitigating circumstances just made the day feel worse and worse. I got dropped on the way up the first climb, feeling very weak... HR was barely 150 and I already felt like I had no strength-- I suspected an early bonk-- didn't have time to eat a real dinner the night before because of the late day and was too tired to wait for seating at the one local pasta joint in Big Pine, so I just ate random frozen foods from the convenience store, and woke up in the middle of the night to eat a banana and a half a PB&J I made blindly. I was probably still pretty calorically deficient and doubt I'd adequately restocked my glycogen stores. So I ate a Bonk Breaker and banana at the top of the climb, and then had my minor panic on the descent, which had a HUGE drop off to the right and cars still coming up on the left, no guardrail, and racers whizzing by asshole-breakriding-terrified-me at over 40mph like it's no big whoop. The grade was even too steep at points to be able to stop, not to mention that there was no shoulder. Of course, had I been a confident strong descender, I would have been moving too fast to notice this. Instead I hardly even broke 19mph. On a DESCENT. What the eff. It's like I've never ridden a bike before. That basically demoralized me, and my hands, neck, and arms were already super sore, and I felt like crying from feeling like I sucked-- literally EVERYONE was better than me on downhills, even people who didn't try, it made me feel like crap. The intense fear of death added into the constant reminder of being a failure and the fact that it was 2.5 hours into the ride and that climb wasn't even the long one made me feel totally demoralized and I was already pretty weepy-whiny to Jacob at the aid station before the Death Valley Road climb. Another volunteer said something encouraging about me doing better than most people by making it that far, and to not worry about other racers and just do tempo. I said I wasn't going to give up, but that I just felt very unhappy.

And that was basically how it went. I kept trying to get past being a d-bag, but shit kept going wrong. I put in a good effort up the second climb, and was actually making a good time, with little sprints and good cadence, but then the turnaround wasn't at mile 37, where it was supposed to be, and I'd timed out my water and fluid for that, so then I had ANOTHER anxiety attack moment where I got minorly hysterical as more and more road with cyclists on it kept extending ahead of me, and my bottles were emptying and I hadn't refilled at the vans because I thought "oh, it's just 1.25 miles away". But no, BY MISTAKE, they'd put the turnaround at mile 40, another BROILING unshaded 3 climbing miles away. Of course, having put in some good efforts, I was pretty spent, and it was really hot by that point, so I was sweating out a lot. It felt like a Sisyphean hill climb, where you keep thinking "this is it!" and then another bend or dip reveals ANOTHER stretch, and no turnaround. I did reach the turnaround, because what other option was there but to continue? Of course I was grumpy about that, and then had another shitass descent where everyone cruised down like it was a steel rollercoaster and I couldn't get any speed because of crosswind fear and general shittiness. But all that was left was more climbing, so that was oddly comforting (that is seriously how bad I am at descending, how pathetic.) Of course now that the aid station had been at mile 40, I had no idea what the end mileage was going to be, and I am very much a goals and numbers person. I saw Jake again at the bottom of the road, and he said, "don't think about the mileage, you know you have to get to the top, just keep going." Well, yes, but when you don't know where the top is, there is no way to mark progress and you feel like you're in hell. (I believe I said aloud "I am in hell" multiple times this weekend, btw.) Stage 1 was like purgatory, because it seemed endless but I knew I was progressing. Stage 2 was hell because I'd think I was progressing and then it would turn out I had to go way further.

 Jake pointed out the number of cars that had left as people who'd abandoned the course, and encouraged me to feel good that I was still going, since my goal was just to finish anyway. There were only a ragtag few of us by then, and we were the last through each aid station before cutoff times. I found out at the next aid station, six miles away at 6,000 feet elevation that the aid station was a mistake, but no one could tell us what the final mileage was gonna be. I thought we had 11 miles left, but then we were told 14, which, again, kinda made me cry. I was soooo whiny. It's embarrassing. But it was my way of getting the bad feelings out I guess, because it certainly didn't make me actually quit. I think I just needed to bitch to feel better, since otherwise I was just suffering alone the whole time. Those 6 miles were really rough, SUPER hot and steep, and there wasn't any shade to look forward to in the future, either. We all took our time to douse ourselves with cold water (unfortunately I got my shorts wet-- soggy chamois is NOT GOOD for chaffing) and refuel before another heavy effort. The next (and last) aid station was at 8000 ft. elevation and was 7 miles away. I thought I remembered the map saying the last aid station was 5 miles from the finish, so I just kept chugging alone like a very very slow little Engine that could while being whiny about it, and Jake was able to drive alongside and give me some chammy cream and words of encouragement, which really helped me, and then I was on my own for the final climbs in the park. Of course, hell that the day was, the last aid station wasn't five but eight miles from the finish, which might not seem like a lot, but involved a LOT of climbing up to 10,000 feet. I filled up my bottles and took a last pee break and thought of Jake's advice to keep going, sang Disney songs in my head, thought about finishing soon and how that was the best news ever. Then I had ANOTHER anxiety moment where I was four miles into the last 8, and didn't see any chalk marking on the road indicating that the end was near. I was over 9000 feet and it was over 9 hours by that point, so I was barely holding it together. Of course I knew I was close to the finish, but by this point I didn't trust anyone, and when I didn't see any sign of progress like the previous day, I started to worry that it wasn't 8 miles, but 12 miles, or God knows what. A bit over 70 miles, I saw another steep climbing up a switchback turn and literally had to stop because I just randomly started to cry. Crying at this point very much resembled hard breathing, which was also happening, so I'm sure I just looked like any other suffering person. But yeah, I was just crying like a child, because I just really needed to know that it WAS four miles, and that that was the truth, because I knew I could make it that far, but couldn't handle another fake out. A woman in a car said some encouraging words, and I asked how far, and she said "my husband guesses about 4 miles," and that was all I needed: proof that there wasn't going to be a 10k mark in another mile, but that I had already made it this far and only had four more to go. Of course there was another guy who said "one more mile" when there were three left, and the woman saying "just one more hard section and then 2 more miles" (uhm, yeah, it wasn't easier, but sure.) I saw one of the guys I'd been sticking with taking a cellphone picture of the vista to the left, and all I could think was "ugly stupid crapass mountain". I was super over it. Grumpy with a horribly sore butt and emotionally ragged. After all the fake outs, I sort of assumed there'd be another climb when someone said "just around the corner," and as I rounded the corner and climbed up this last incline, two ladies at the top said "you're almost there" and then I saw at their feet, no I wasn't almost there, I was literally there, it was the finish line. With just two ladies. What the eff??? Super anticlimactic! I thought I'd see the food tent and would be able to really go for it for one last reserve. But the whole day was a mindfuck and the finish was no different. For a second I thought "oh man, I'm so slow they already packed up everything else and now I have to go back down alone!" But really the food and drop bags were just a little further down, out of sight down the hill. So that was nice, though I basically didn't even feel like it was over, I was so disoriented. Tee shirt and medal say otherwise, though, and I was super lucky to find a friend in the La Grange guys, who, seeing how desperate I'd looked, offered me a ride down to where Jacob was (the thought of me trying to do more tight-fisted descending after that made me want to cry... some more.) I felt immediately better once I stopped, because hey, it was over, and no one could add in anymore climbing for me to do. And my mood was the best mood ever, and I felt bad for being a crabby asshole. So, I apologize world, that I was a crabby asshole. I was working through some issues on my bike.

 On the whole, I think the moral of the story is, a.) triathletes are EXTREMELY data reliant-- Jake was so casual about the miles discrepancy-- "eh, it happens, you just keep going", whereas for me it was like the end of the world and b.) when you feel like a crabby asshole, you will not ride fast, and when you feel hopeful and happy, everything will be easier. Stage 2 took about 9.5 hours, while Stage 1 took 9hours and 16 minutes. And Stage 1 was considerably longer, even if Stage 2 was longer than planned (73.5 miles instead of 65, for the record.) So there you go: it's all mental. I did know intellectually not to be negative, but it was just a toughass day and grumpypants was the situation. I'm usually the person on the course who smiles at everyone even when it sucks, but I was just so past my good mood threshold at that point. I'm just happy I finished. Let's not do that again, though. Grumpy racing is NO FUN, and so very slow!

In the meantime, I was also convinced during the first day that it's kind of dumb to spend this much time doing something that gives me fear of death and makes me feel lonely, and that I should probably invest more time in something that makes me unique, like my songs or, I dunno, my LIFE/career, since we basically know that I have the capacity to suffer, so it's not even that exciting for me to do this kind of thing anymore, right? So I will probably not do as many ultra endurance things... at least not until I can do them faster and can descend like a fucking adult. Heh. Just don't like the waste of time. And I miss people. And if I were trained, I wouldn't have felt as grumpy, too.

So in conclusion... do races you train for and be happy when you do them. I feel like that's how most of my tris go, and they've been pretty nice. So there: I did Everest Challenge without specific training, it was really awful, but I did it, and next year Jake's gonna come back and win. And now I know IMAZ will be even easier, because that 140.6 ain't going NOWHERE.

Friday, September 28, 2012

To the pain.

On the way to Big Pine, 30 minutes away from our race start in Bishop, where Jacob, myself, and my fly bike (his bike too) will be engaged in extreme self-combat over the course of this weekend.

I'm never one to shy away from big endurance challenges without proper training, because I'm stupid like that, so when Jake asked me at the end of last month if I wanted to do this ridiculous stage race with him Sept 29th, I said, "sure!" Subsequently, everyone I've told about this has looked at me with wide eyes upon hearing "Everest Challenge"... when I got my lactate thresholds retested (update on that to come... newsflash, I'm stronger!) Gareth said, "do you know what you've gotten yourself into?" Answer: no. I have a vague idea that it is going to be extremely, terribly punishing, but that's about it. Because look at topography all you want, it's never going to translate to the actual stress on your quads, the sweat, the pain, the heinous suffering, the saddle sores and trembling legs that whimper after Day 1: not again!

I've never done this race, so I don't know what that's like really... except intellectually that, as a matter of fact, suffering will occur. So, uhhhm, I'm kinda scared. Scared in the way a young expectant mother fears impending labor. Everyone looks at you with a kind of pity, knowing the suffering you'll endure, and you just hope lamaze can help. Much like a pregnant lady, I've resolved it won't help at all to think about how much it's going to hurt. It's going to suck ass, but that's just life. Birth is painful, and so is biking up mountains. But you suffer through it, because that is also life, suffering, and eventually it does end, and then you forget the pain, because that's how we're built. I can't do much at this point to help myself except not worry. Worrying will hurt my sleep and my rest and build cortisol. I gotta be the best most rested version of my current self to get through this. So I'm just not going to think about it, and drink lots of electrolytes, and trust that having a compact and 28 will be enough to get me up these monsters. I'm mostly nervous because of the thin air... I have NO elevation training at all. I just hope I can dig into the Muller reserve and do that achieving thing.

Very little chance of being a contender here, friends... I am in no way adequately conditioned. I'm moderately conditioned, but I'd been preparing for a sprint triathlon with some rollers. This is a 204 mile stage race with over 29,000 feet of climbing... hence the name, since that's the elevation of Mt. Everest. We are climbing Mount Everest on bikes. (Oh my God, I just thought of what that means... what the eff have I gotten myself into!!? Ok, don't worry, just do lamaze...) It's really too great a figure to really comprehend. It's not going to sink in until I'm on the first 21 mile climb and think "I have to do this TWO MORE TIMES today... and then TOMORROW, too." Yup, that's gonna happen. And I will do it. Because this is war. The other day I looked down at my legs when biking around town on my foldie and I said, "you can do this, right, legs? You are some powerful things, you won't quit. You can do it." I hope so.

I've gained 30 watts of power on my bike, and we did some (very minimal comparatively) climbs earlier that I felt good on, and the gearing is very climb friendly on the new bike... sooooo.... eeeeeeeek. Gerardo thinks I'll get through it, William thinks I can, and Gareth says just try to keep the HR under 175 and eat a load-- and offered the reassuring fact that "you don't have to run after!" When I think of that, it DOES make me feel better... I can get through the first grueling day, and relying on my Wolverine skills of recovering, I'll drag my sore ass through the second day and use it all up, 'cause there's no marathon, half-marathon or even a 10k left to run after! Right? That's good! And the overall time over the two days is comparable to an Ironman. So... I'm like... doing an Ironman that I didn't specifically train for. Meh.

 The VERY good news is, while I'm not going for time here, just finishing, it will be FANTASTIC conditioning for AZ... is far enough away from the race that it won't harm, but will help increase my power, and those flat aero rides will seem dreamy after brutal climbs. Accentuate the postiive, right? What does not kill you makes you stronger. And I can kickstart some fat burn, too. No big whoop. ;-) (I already forsee myself thinking about this while suffering on the hill and calling myself an asshole in my mind.) 200 miles away from Bishop, which is the equivalent of what we will cycle this weekend... only more mountains. Meeeeh! Updates to come... depending on time, strength and mood, might be during or after... and maybe one more just before bedtime. Depends on how much I'm freeeeaking myself out. Ok. Let's not freak out. Let's just get it done.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

There's a *first* time for everything...

Oh damn!

Well, sometimes, races just don't go like you'd hoped. You get a flat, you bonk, you have GI distress, you cramp, and so on and so forth. Other times, they go exactly as you've hoped, and you achieve greatness. You never know which it will be, or if it'll be somewhere in between the two. That's where the jitters come from. You want to hope for the best, but know how fragile the balance is. I've been lucky enough to never get a DNF, knock wood... you always see a few on the list of times, and you think "there but for the grace of God go I." This time, my friend skidded out on her bike, crashed, and didn't finish. And she's a roadie. It can happen to anyone. (For this reason, I feel I need to ride more and get better at fixing flats, for the inevitable time when I'm "that person" stranded on the road's edge.)

This time, however, was happily a case of the perfects. I had a mental image of what I wanted to happen that I saw very clearly the night before (aka beating David Duchovny.) I wanted a 1:45 time. What I got was very close to that (and Duchovny wasn't even there, so, who cares) at 1:46. And to make it sweeter, I made my FIRST podium... and not just podium, but I WON!!! As in, I got FIRST in my age group!!! Say what???! Of course, I feel like I don't deserve it, as I've been slacking and am not even at race weight (blah blah who cares) but ultimately, uhhhhmmm... I WON. It was a pretty close race between the top 3, but I came out on top thanks to everything going exactly as I'd hoped. One false step: a sloppy transition, a bike problem, a foot cramp, and all would have been lost. But there were no false steps, so I got first. Amazing! 

Here are my splits: 
In brief, my swim was WAY faster than hoped (I got out of the water in 15, across the mat by 15:51) and put me ahead of the others (I gained a minute or two on 2nd and 3rd here, mainly.) I was about fifth fastest in the group.) Both my transitions were very good, I think I was the fastest in my group in T1, actually, 2nd fastest on the bike (2nd place beat me in that split by three seconds) and 3rd fastest run (I coulda picked it up a wee bit earlier at the end, but have my reasons, as I shall explain.) In an exciting finish, I wound up getting first by 12 seconds, and my aforementioned friend Angela (who is a fierce competitor and beat me at Wildflower) got third, being a very close three minutes behind. So truthfully, it was anyone's race. Like I said... if I tripped or something, I could've lost it. But would have still been honored to be up on that podium, because it was a really solid performance by all. [We can pause to appreciate, with the new bike, according to the numbers, my bike is now as solid as my run. HOLY CRAP! That be some news.] I'm pretty honored to have gotten 1st, and can't believe I'm the 9th best out of overall women and in the top 10% of all finishers. This is my first sprint... so, uhhh... maybe I should do more sprints? ;-) I keep going over it in my mind and thinking of how delicate the balance was that made this success possible. It's so crazy to me that I won. I mean, I believe it, but at the same time, I feel so lucky that it all fell into place so perfectly for the day. Very happy and lucky!

Now, for the play by play: We woke up at 4:30am, had some oatmeal I'd made the night before (smart idea!) and rolled into the Malibu parking traffic by 6am. I got my transition area set up, hit the port-a-potty, saw my LA Tri buddies, and felt nervous. They tried to lock us out of transition after our safety talk, but I luckily snuck in to put away my water bottle, get my tri glide on under my wetsuit and take a beta alanine (I swear it helps.) I saw Angela was racing too and thought, "oh shoot, she'll totally beat my ass", since she's the real deal, but then noticed the podium had five spots and thought, "oh, well we can both podium, and if there's five spots, I can definitely get up there!" I started to get nervous again when I saw the ocean. There were some pretty big waves coming in by our 8am swim start, and I'm not the most confident about open water swims in the sea ever since that one time at the Sunday Zuma swim when I got totally owned by a wave that bitchslapped me on my way back to shore when I had my back turned. (Never turn your back on the ocean... it is a notorious asshole and will try to kill you whenever it can.) I was then bucked back up by Will, who said that the current would make it a fast swim, and that he thought I could do it in 15 or 16 minutes. Well, leave it to Will to call it: any time he says something I find mildly over-optimistic, I choose to believe it (like sub 4 Santa Barbara-- almost) and I do it. He has the years of tri experience and an objective viewpoint that makes me think "if he says so, it must be true!" I was wearing a gold cap for my wave and joked with my group: "Gold for gold!" (I was secretly hoping for podium, but didn't know that gold was a tangible goal.) So those moments pre-race were the usual high and low of "what's gonna happen!?!?!?" excitement/anxiety with a rising heartbeat, until the cannon went off and we all ran into the ocean.

I'd positioned myself at the front right, and they said to account for the current for hitting the first buoy. I guess it didn't really drag too much, because I was right in line with it and wound up precisely in the right place. I think this is what gave me that edge in swim time, efficient entrance. (I often wind up zig zagging a little. Maybe if my lines are better I will cut more time in future events!) Getting in wasn't a big whoop: just dove under the first big crashy wave, and was able to swim up over the next two big swells and then was at the buoy. Cake!

I swam as straight and hard as I could, keeping up my buoy sighting, which was super easy because it was short swim. I noticed there weren't many gold caps around me, so I had to be up front, and that was rad. I was also catching up to the yellow caps, and some very slow white ones, which is also a good sign. Before I knew it, it was time to get back to shore. This proved a little annoying and awkward... getting out of an ocean with big waves always is, cuz it tries to suck you back. But I did a little scissor kick on my side some I could keep an eye on the wave and ride it in correctly, and was lucky to not time it wrong and get bitchslapped again, and I trudged out as fast as I could, and was astounded to find 15 minutes on my Garmin: Will was right!!

Put ahead by the swim, I rushed to get through transition as quickly as I could. I had my new tri shoes ready with powder in them for my soggy feet (I found going sockless didn't bug me on the ride and would save time-- socks on the run wouldn't take long and the feet would be dry by then) and was up on the bike in no time flat. I saw Angela running in shortly after me, so I knew it would be close.

Race wheels, aero helmet, and new TT frame all combined, I felt strong and efficient and ready to fly. I could see myself from outside my body, bent over, in the drops, weird Tron helmet on, speeding by folks barking "LEFT!" I was the fast one! I was the one who, on the first tri I did, I let go by and thought, "Damn." I wasn't a dick about it... I try to be nice... but dude, if I'm flying up, you need to get left so we both don't die. And I got a nice few "good jobs" on my passings that I said thanks to. There was one 40-something year old man who I played back and forth with, he kept joking "you let me pass you again?!" We stuck with each other until the final timing mat, where I slowed down again due to the volunteers and I told him "they told me to slow down!" It was extremely headwind-y, which was annoying, but I had my Tron helmet, so I felt like I could still cut through it pretty well. I of course was a little slowed down on the uphills, but blasted it on the flats, coming out with an easy 26 mph without feeling like I was going to die. What a difference a bike makes!! There was ONE scary coulda-been-bad moment-- actually, two, the other being that someone's errant helmet sticker got caught in my front brake, but I brushed it away without incident. There's a BIG descent right before a very sharp right, and you can get your speed real high before you notice "oh snap I have to slow down, pronto." This happened to me, 'cause I was thinking, "fear not the descent" and trying to embrace it, and now I'm going 30 mph and have to slow down in like 200 feet or something shitty. Braking was making my bike tremble, because it put tension into my arms, and I had a minor freakout that I was going to crash, but I managed to gently pump the rear brake-- I thought I'd fly over the front if I hit the front brake-- and slowed down JUST (and I mean just) in time for that right. Evidently this is the area where Cheryl crashed. It's not surprising. I was a little shaken up by that and biked rather timidly for a few minutes after. But I still averaged 19.6 mph, and finished in under 55 minutes, which was slower than my ideal goal, but still within the range of my hopes.

Transition 2 was also respectably fast, with very few bikes on the racks (I saw Angela run in shortly after me again!), so I was up and running quickly, trying to maintain a lead. I felt a little ragged, which was expected after holding threshold for that long, so I was pleased to find that I was still already running under 8 minute miles, though I was hoping to average 7:30s. I made the sensible decision that I'd let the first mile or so be slower as long as it wasn't over 8, so I could save a little for the finish. I passed one woman with a 26 on her calf and hoped she wouldn't catch me. Then, at around 1.5 miles in, a woman in a WB jersey with a 27 on her calf came loping up and passed me, getting about 10 feet ahead. I had a flashback to Santa Barbara and thought, "oh crap, is that going to happen again?"  I figured it would be in my best interest to stay on her heel, and then if she picked it up to 6 minute miles, I would still be ahead of a bunch of other women, and she'd deserve first anyway. (At this point, I had a feeling we were the top contenders, judging by the lack of bikes I'd seen on the racks.) I stuck with her, grabbed some extra Gatorade and water, and at around 1 mile left, I caught her and we were side by side. "Not much longer," she'd said to me. "Yup," I said, "Just .6 miles!" She was nice and clearly a very strong athlete, and I was entirely convinced that she was going to pull ahead in these last moments, so I wanted to save my sprint for the finish. But then I noticed her pace was slowing: earlier, I'd been doing a 7:20 to stay with her, but now with under a half mile left, we were back at 8 minute miles. "This is too slow," I thought, and I decided, the hell with it, I'm putting in the final push, even though I was afraid I'd burn all my matches too quickly and she'd catch me. My Garmin had been beeping the miles about a tenth too early, and I heard it go off shortly after I pushed ahead. "Here we go!" I thought, as I dug into that horrifying last reserve and pumped out that last effort down the carpeted corridor, around the bend and across the timing mats. I vaguely recalled in that moment the announcer at the prerace meeting saying, "Don't forget to smile!" and noticed the multiple cameras catching my look of anguish. I remember thinking "I will smile when I'm fully across these mats and I know she hasn't caught me." And I did! I saw her come in a little bit later-- apparently 12 seconds later-- and I congratulated her on a strong run. She was a good sport, and congratulated me on a great finish. I'm aging out of our group, so I hope she wins next year, 'cause she's awesome. And if she'd pulled away and won, I would have felt honored to be silver to her gold.

Jacob said he thought I might have gotten first, and I suspected it might be so, too, since, while the gold caps and our racks included all females from 18-29, I was still competing only with my age group. We waited in line to look it up... first time, nothing appeared, annoying... then checked back again and-- voila!!! I was first in my division! For a moment, I second guessed it, as Will told me sometimes ranks change, like if someone races in a different swim wave or something, but I checked another time and yes, I was still first. 

I got to stand up on the podium, and, for Carrita's sake, thrust my fist in the air and yelled "Tonight we dine in hell!" (And the announcer said, "she just said "drinks are on me"-- ha, ha.) Everyone was so thrilled, proud and surprised-- it felt a lot like college, where I did a lot of theatre and extracurriculars and was very social, and then stunned everyone by getting highest honors in my major even though I wasn't an introverted library invalid. Suddenly I had proven that I, the fun comedienne triathlete, who likes to work hard but also play hard, wasn't only a good time, but also a totally solid badass and capable athlete. And that I, indeed... am a contender.

Oh, and if it weren't epically victorious and amazing enough of a day, I also met IRONMAN LEGEND Chrissie Wellington... who gave me not one, but TWO hugs. WORD!

Prerace jitters.

So it's nearly 5am, and time to drive to Malibu for the Classic. My goal is to beat David Duchovny, which evidently means 1hour, 45 minutes. I've mathed it out and I think, with my new race wheels hammerin' it hard, this might be feasible. I'm thinking 18 minutes on the swim (maybe better???), 50 minutes on the bike (or at least under and hour) and 30 minute run. Add 5 minutes for transition and... well it's a ballpark.

This also means I could be a contender: that time would put me up in top three from last year's finishers in my age group. But, knock on wood. This knowledge makes me nervous. And it's the fastest race I've ever done, so it's threshold the whole time. If I don't... that could make all the difference!

But hey, ultimately... it doesn't really matter. So I should just enjoy myself. I will report back soon! Time to pump it up with Queen's "Princes of the Universe".

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Introducing Grane, redux!

A quick post to introduce you to my new bike! I'm still calling it Grane, after Bruennhilde's steed, and I shall ride it to glorious victory! Right now, we've got my old components on it, and will convert over to the aerobar configuration after the Everest challenge, since aerobars a.) aren't legal and b.) aren't helpful for all day climbs. But boy is it gonna fly on those flats in AZ!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Santa Barbara Long Course

After the raging glory of Wildflower, I had an extremely quiet race season, with nothing but a little July 10k between May 4 and late August. I was super off my game for about a month-- June til July-- thanks to my bout of sadness, and gained back the weight I'd lost in my concerted efforts since LA Marathon (alas!) Lots of late night beer drinking and Pattaya Thai 4AM karaoke and noodle sessions are going to equate to a certain calorie surplus.

Fortunately, a slow turnaround back to normal got underway. I got back in the swing of things exercising, stopped drinking too much, and yes, even started dating a man! (Jacob, the previously mentioned cyclist man.) Fun story, we weigh the same even though he's 6'2". Ah, skinny vegan cyclists. Since we started dating he's started to outweigh me by a pound, which means he's building muscle (the boy just does not have any fat, period) and I'm losing fat. I think the former is due to the fact that he's sleeping more and I feed him and the latter is because he doesn't drink so I don't drink when we hang out. Plus, we can use quality time together as cycling time. Hooray, it's win win! It's nice to have the person you're dating go on rides with you. Well, at least when he's in zone 2. He's fast.

Fast forward to August, and it's time for me to be a triathlete again. I've forgotten how to taper, that I have to hydrate, carbload, what have you. In trying to stay Paleo (yeah, trying being the operative word... succeeding, maybe not as much) and I've grown wholly confused as to what the carbload entails. I guess mostly yams and fruit... I'm trying to stay whole food based, but sometimes some gluten-free noodles are good. (She says as she eats some gluten-free angel's hair.) I've learned that a gluten-free diet is all sorts of related to healthy goodness, since it's thought that

Jake drove us out to Santa Barbara ass early in the morning that Saturday (4am) and we arrived with enough time to find parking, do packet pickup, and leisurely prepare while compulsively refreshing the ebay app on my Droid, since I was bidding on a 54 Felt frame (two years and a full tri on a 52 frame, it was time to upgrade to a bike that fits properly... I'd saved up a bit, and the cost of a build with my old components would be much less than getting a full new bike. We found a Felt B2 (read: aero as hell!) and the price was increasing all week, but looking at the original cost ($2,000 for the frame, $6,000 for the full bike), it would still be a steal at a grand. I was stressed, though, since bidding ended at 8:45am, namely RIGHT when I'd be cruising through the bike leg of my race. Oy! Jake promised to keep an eye on it for me, like a good sherpa, since he knew it'd just distract me from giving it my all. So I was able to relax and do my best, knowing he'd take care of it. Hooray.

The weather was perfect, cool and just slightly drizzly, with the ocean calm and easy to swim through. Shortly before the start, Will said I should do sub-4, and since I don't know any better, I decided, hey, let's see if I can. My mile took 33 minutes, and there were still plenty of bikes racked when I got in. Of course, I wish I could be one of the 28 minute ladies, but five minutes is not so terrible, and a new bike could shave that. Transition was fast, just under three minutes, and soon I was out with Jake on the bike. Since it wasn't a closed course, he was able to bike with me in his Animal Liberation kit, keeping track of my auction and helping me keep a good pace. He pulled to the side, since about 20 minutes into the ride someone tried to outbid me, and then caught up, saying I'd won! Yay! I was now the proud owner of a badass aero Felt frame. The rest of the race wasn't no thing.

I guess the bike frame gave me some extra gumption, 'cause I kicked it up a notch for the second half of the ride and finished is just around two hours, which was my hope. I had to pee like a mad man, and had to run in the opposite direction in transition from the run out in order to do so, so my T2 took over 3 minutes which I'd wished weren't so, but hey, peeing is very necessary. (I'm looking forward to Malibu, since it'll be the first race I do that's fast enough that peeing won't come into play. What a relief.)

I was feeling very good on the run, and was keeping up my 8:30 minute mile., even with the steady uphill on the run out. I smiled at everyone and kept an eye out for calves with my number on 'em, since Jake said he really hadn't seen many other women before me on the swim out, and thought maybe I could be a contender. On the way downhill, I increased my pace, and looked at my Garmin... I was getting close to 4 hours, but thought maybe I could do it! Running sub 8-min miles, with two left, a lithe leggy 28-year-old whizzed by me, and I tried to keep her in my sights, but she was GONE. Must have been doing six-minute miles or some madness. I pushed it as hard as I could, slowed slightly by the annoying sand patches and finished at just over four hours (darn!) Of course, the most exciting part would be right before the finish line, I spotted a woman who was finishing and had a 27 on her calf, and I sprinted to outstrip her. So I got 5th, and she got 6th, by one second. (If I were her, I'd be pissed.) The chick who passed me got 4th, beating me by two minutes. The podium ladies beat me by about fifteen. That's not too terrible a spread. Though speedy 4th place lady did her 10 mile run in, I believe, 1:09, and ranked somewhere like 46th OVERALL on the run (that includes all the men and elites.) In other words, she is fast as hell. But her bike was very slow. So if I get as speedy as we all hope I will with a new aero bike that fits, maybe I can still be a contender! (Although I looked up my age group for next year... 30-34, eeeek, and they are all EVEN FASTER. DAMN IT!!)

But I'm pretty pleased with how that went, and hoping I can put in a good show at Malibu. It's my third tri of the season (yikes, slow season) so I can finally get a ranking. Will be fun to find out how I'm doing!