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70.3 in 11 Days

April 23, 2013 Fitness 1 Comment

I have my *A Race* in 11 days and I haven’t talked a bit about my training all Spring. You’re welcome and/or I’m sorry. 

So, Wildflower 70.3. Let’s break this down:

The outlook was pretty poor from the start. My knees were the main culprit, creaking all the time and causing pain doing simple things like standing up  from a seated position and descending stairs. Things were really looking bad as I considered running a ridiculously difficult half marathon after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56 hilly miles. But my magical chiropractor evaluated me and said that it’s the scar tissue in my calves that is causing the issue. He gave me some homework that I have been good about and things are going much better. I did have a literal run-in with Miles’ 85-pound girlfriend Lola — straight to the side of my left knee — and that has me a bit concerned. I went to yoga over the weekend and it was sore in Warriors 1 and 2, but it was fine on my long run after that. I will keep icing everything and hope for the best on race day.

My swimming is going well. I am in the pool at least twice a week and everything there feels very consistent and good. I have to remind myself to focus on my form (rather than figuring out what I’m going to wear to work, for instance) and that helps my interval times tremendously. Go figure. I expect the swim will be my best event at the race. Update: my goggles and Ironman swim cap were never recovered. Karma’s a bitch, people. Watch out. Miles and I went for an open water swim on Friday to cool off and I went on my first real swim in the Bay yesterday. It wasn’t as fast as I maybe would have liked, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Cycling is what it is. And by that, I mean I don’t care. I’m just not driven this time around. I bike three times a week, two shorter mid-week rides and one long weekend ride. I force myself into incorporating punishment like hills and sprints. I know I will be glad I did when the time comes, but I’m not enjoying the process. I finally got on my tri bike on March 16 — the first time I had ridden it since Ironman on August 26. This expensive bike had collected a lot of dust in the garage in that time. The good news is that getting back on it was a treat. I am actually far more comfortable on this bike than my road bike. The bad news is that not even a fancy bike can make me fast like proper training does.

As for my running, I am 98% hill-centric. I have done the majority of my training on very hilly terrain that largely mimics the Wildflower course: hot, dusty, hilly terrain. I am doing almost no speed work. My average run pace is slow, but very consistent. I’m fine with that; I left this race last year saying I’d never do it again. I realize that everything is relative, and I want the suffer-fest to be relative as well. Slow and steady will win this race for me.

I don’t know what kind of race goals I’ll put together. I want to say something arbitrary like, “Just have fun!”, but who am I kidding? First of all, that’s not a measurable goal. Second, I’m competitive enough that I’m sure I’ll endure a fair amount of discomfort if I see a lot of people in my age group passing me. The best news of all is that I don’t have to train for a full Ironman once this race is over. It will be a blissful summer compared to 2012!

 

 

 

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Yeah…so

February 7, 2013 Fear, Fitness, Fun No Comments

That whole Wildflower thing. Yeah.

You know what slapped me in the face last year? Everything is relative. When I battled the Wildflower Long Course last year, it was The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done (–> at that time). I got to Mile 12 of the run and declared to my friends, “I want to die.”

Now, Wildflower is only a 70.3 triathlon. That run — as brutal as it is — is only 13.1 miles. My whole frame of reference since the day I completed Ironman Canada 2012 is, “As long as I don’t have to run a full marathon after [whatever it is you want me to do], I am good to go.” And you know what? Almost no one asks me to run 26.2 miles in addition to their original request.

The race is May 4, so I’ve got ~12 weeks to train. I’ve stayed active through the off-season, especially with HIIT workouts and running. Swimming and long-distance biking? Not so much. In fact, Monday was the first time I had been swimming since September. But that’s the beauty of the human body and mind. There is muscle memory, and all those muscles do remember.

Plus, the party that always ensues at Wildflower is worth it!

 

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Wildflower 2012 Race Goals

May 4, 2012 Fitness No Comments

We’re on the highway heading south to Lake San Antonio. It’s Wildflower weekend! I can’t believe how many cars and vans we’ve seen that are loaded with bikes and camping gear. None, of course, are as awesome as the setup we have.

I’m surprisingly not nervous about tomorrow’s race. I think there still some denial that it’s actually tomorrow, but the real reason is that this is not my A race. So it’s a lot like a very expensive training day with friends. That said, it would be totally unMolly-like to not set some race goals.

1. Execute my Ironman nutrition and hydration plan.
This goal is actually two-fold. If I can get my food and water dialed in, I won’t have a stomachache during the run and for a few hours after finishing. This has plagued me at every race and I really want to do better this time.

I have trained my body to work pretty efficiently while working, so I don’t need much food. But hydration is another story. By the time I feel dehydrated, it’s too late. I anticipate the bike will take over 3 hours and I need to drink one bottle per hour. I’m going to be drinking water and Nuun, taking in my calories from food. I had Greg install a water bottle between my aero bars that has a straw so I won’t have the hassle of coming out of the bars to grab a bottle. It has an easy-fill opening and I’m planning to pour new water in at the aid stations. I’ll carry an extra bottle as backup in case I miss an aid station.

As for food, I don’t do that well with the gels and manufactured food. I’m going with my stand-by from Barb’s Race and having almond butter-filled dates. I am going to aim for about 200 calories/hour and keep my belly full of water so that everything is moving into my small intestine quickly and not sitting in my gut sloshing around.

2. Pace myself.
This race is a training race, meant to test strategies for the full Ironman in August. I am going out with the understanding that I need to be able to go twice the distance at X pace. I am competitive and it’s hard for me to not want to really hammer on the bike. I succumb to this pitfall every time I race and I die on the run. This is a notoriously difficult run to begin with and I need to pace myself to not be defeated when I’m out there in the heat of the day.

3. Have fun!
Because there isn’t a tremendous amount of pressure to hit a time goal, I need to remember to enjoy myself while I’m out there suffering. I’m already somewhat burned out on training, so I need to use this race to recharge my batteries a bit. I’m fortunate that I am able to do hard things like this, that my body accommodates everything I ask it to do. It’s a beautiful venue and a fun weekend spent with friends.

4. Realistic finish time. 
I honestly don’t have a defined time goal in my mind. I’ve kind of backed into it based on what I think I can do at Ironman Canada. I suppose I’ll finish this somewhere around 6.5 hours. My first 70.3 time from 2010 was 5:39. Last year’s time was 6:02. I expect to finish the swim somewhere around 35-40 minutes. Spend a couple of minutes in transition. I’m shooting for under 3.5 hours on the bike. Another minute or two in transition, and then hit the hot and hilly run course. It will take over 2 hours, but I don’t know how much over. I want to stay under a 10 minute-mile (which just sounds slow as I type it out), but I’m really trying to be realistic.

Thanks to all who have sent well-wishes! I’ll carry them with me on the race course!

 

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Independence Day!

I did the un-American thing and celebrated Independence Day in Canada this year. For me, it was all about completing my Half Ironman race and being “free” from the intense training that has been my existence for the past six months. While I missed some fantastic weather and a barbecue with friends back in California, this was my weekend to make good on a new year’s resolution and six months of training. Bring it on!

My expectations going into the race were to finish in under six hours and not want to kill myself in the process. I’m already a week late in getting this updated, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer:

Swim – 36:39
T1 – 4:19
Bike – 3:05:13
T2 – 2:58
Run – 1:50:44
Total = 5:39:51

SUCCESS IS MINE!

Well, kind of. I pretty much wanted to kill myself by the time I finished. But, I didn’t have a blunt object handy so I was left with no choice but to grind it out. The taste of victory was strangely identical to the salty saliva that fills your mouth just before you vomit, so I can’t recommend it. However, I chased that with some chocolate milk at the finish line and the world started coming into focus again.

Grab a drink and settle in for all the gory details, including many lessons learned:

PRE-RACE

My start time was 6:30 AM, so it was an early morning. I got up at 4:45 AM and felt like I had slept pretty well, which is rare for me the night before a race. Having packed everything the night before, the morning ritual at the hotel was short (though I got up early because I wanted extra time to get things moving in my GI tract). I got up and ate a piece of peanut butter toast and a banana, as well as 16 oz. of FRS. I got dressed in my new tri suit and a pullover and woke Greg up to head down to the race site at 5:30. I ate a yogurt in the car and had a glass of Trader Joe’s Essential Greens Veggie Juice + Very Green Juice Blend to simulate the concoction we make at home.  The weather was overcast and ~55 degrees (F) on race morning.

I picked up my timing chip on the way into the transition area (usually they give it to you when you pick up your packet — I’m not sure why it was separate for this race). I got my transition area set up and went back out for body marking and a final visit to the porta-potty (I had my single-use Handi-Wipe ready to go. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way at a previous race). I caught up with Greg and Argus as I was putting on my wetsuit and we made our way down to the beach. Greg snapped a couple of pre-race photos, I splashed around in the water with Argus, and we parted ways.

This sounds so obvious now, but it honestly hadn’t occurred to me at the time. I was talking with a fellow competitor — a man who is 50+ years old — and he told me that he did this event last year and came in DEAD LAST in the swim. I had to admire him for coming back for another beating. He asked me if I knew about the “tides.” He was referring to the currents of the ocean and that they were quite strong in one direction. In other words: Don’t swim straight for the buoy because you’ll miss it. Thank goodness for this man! Again, it seems so obvious now, but my head wasn’t thinking about that and I’m chalking it up to a lesson learned.

We wished each other good luck and I got my goggles and ear plugs in place for my start. My stomach was doing its usual pre-race clenching. My adrenaline was pumping and I knew I was ready.

SWIM

The water temps were about 60 (F) and were warmer than the air temps so it felt good to get in. I splashed around and did about 25 yards of strokes to warm up before the race start, which is something I rarely do. I think it probably helped, so lesson learned there. I knew from reading the race materials that this was a “cattle call” start and there would be no waves: everyone doing the long course was starting together.

The start of a swim is never pleasant, and it’s usually limited to ~150 people. This start was probably ~400 people, both men and women. If it sounds unpleasant, multiply that by a zillion and you’re getting close to reality. For people who are really frightened of open water swimming or otherwise claustrophobic, this is a living nightmare. There are arms and legs and torsos and open mouths everywhere. I was no more than 20 strokes in when I looked up to spot myself and the first buoy. I happened to meet eyes with a male swimmer just ahead of me who had LOST HIS GOGGLES. Oh dear! He was frantically looking all around, to no avail. There were too many people and too much chaos. I felt bad for him, knowing that he had ~1.1 miles left to go and he would have to do it without eye protection. Lesson learned: I’ll tether my goggles to my wetsuit next time.

I hoped I’d finish the swim in about 35 minutes and this was a 2-loop course. When I exited the water after one lap, my watch read 18 minutes. Having to come into shore, run around a buoy, then swim back out adds time and the water was very choppy. By the time I started out for my second lap, the crowds had thinned considerably and I was able to settle in. It was a triangle-shaped course and I felt like I could “relax” and swim with the current on the straight-away, which helped me mentally. I got out of the water in just over 36 minutes (by my watch) and I was pleased with this. The swim exit was the usual uphill run on a sandy beach, which is surprisingly difficult.

BIKE

I am not fast in the transition area and I don’t care too much about it. I don’t want to be over 5 minutes, but I’m otherwise happy to take a breather and make sure I have what I need for the next leg. I got to the transition area faster than my neighbor Richele (who finished in 2nd place overall). She’s a Vancouver local and mentioned that the swim course was much rougher than it was last year, so I had a little more confidence with my swim finish going into the bike leg. In my new tri suit, I couldn’t find the back pocket to stow my banana, so I opted to carry it rather than risk losing it. I ran out of the transition area and made a quick mount onto my bike at the appropriate line. I felt confident, having ridden the course the day prior.

Even with cycling as my strongest suit, this was not a great ride. Having to do four loops on the same course made the “flat” course less flat. Overall elevation gain was 2041 ft; it wasn’t the Death Ride by any means, but it wasn’t a ride along the Bay Trail either. The course was good for spectators and it was good to see Greg and Argus on an out and back each time. Otherwise, it was mentally defeating to have to do the same short course over and over and over and over again. It just wasn’t fun. At the second loop, I couldn’t tell where I was among my competition because the Sprint Distance athletes were on the course and there was a lot of traffic on the road. It was a little stressful, actually, based on the stern talking-to we had gotten related to drafting. Rather than trying to compete against others, I settled in with myself. I knew I needed to average somewhere around 18 mph to finish the bike leg in ~3 hours. This would leave me enough time to have a disastrous run and still finish in under six hours overall. I was averaging over 18 mph after the first loop and never dropped below, so I knew I was well-positioned. Traffic cleared out by Loop 3 and I engaged in a little meditation to help pass the time. This really helped me calm down and level-set myself mentally. I made my last climb up the hill at UBC while Greg cheered me on. Argus was growing weary from all the excitement… I finished with an average pace of 18.2 mph and knew I had time on my side going into the run. And that is a good thing!

RUN

If you want proof to the idea that “You get what you think about whether you want it or not,” this run is it. I have been afraid of completing this race for many weeks now. It hasn’t been about swimming 1.2 miles. It hasn’t been about biking 56 miles. It hasn’t even been about running 13.1 miles. It has been about running 13.1 miles AFTER doing those other two things. Because cycling is my strongest sport, it’s hard for me to not leave it all out on the bike course. By doing this, I don’t leave enough in my legs for the run. This race was no exception. Why can’t I learn this lesson?? I got out of the transition area and realized almost immediately that I had forgotten my water bottle (which I had dropped a Nuun tablet into). Damn! I’d have to get water and gels only when they were available to me at aid stations. About 2 miles in, I realized that I was toting along about 60 oz of fluids in my bladder and it wanted out. This just makes an uncomfortable situation nearly unbearable. I’m not so die-hard that I’ll pee down my leg and into my shoe, but the potties weren’t so conveniently located that I could make a quick entry and exit… So I held it, all the while continuing to drink at every aid station as my body threatened to bonk again. There is probably a lesson here, but I’m still not convinced that spending the extra time to go in a potty is worth it (especially in a one-piece tri suit)…

It’s a two-loop run course that is basically a Figure-8. The first couple of miles are through a nice wooded section of trails that loops back to the transition area, then you head out along the coast for an out-and-back along the waterfront. I got into a pretty good groove around mile 5 or so and thought I’d be able to knock out the second loop at a reasonably steady pace. Just as I was coming out of an aid station where I was complimented for the third time on my great tan, I made a turn onto the sidewalk. About 5o yards down, a fellow athlete came up behind me and gave me a big shove!

Actually, that’s not what happened at all.

I wish my story was juicy like that. The truth of the matter is my feet got caught on each other and I did a windmilling arms + cartoon-fast-feet stumble that resulted in a fall. DOH!! I don’t know why I didn’t put my hands down, but my elbows took the brunt with a slight assist by the left knee. After a very quick assessment of my injuries, I was back up and running. I ran a few hundred feet and then stopped to walk and assess the damage further. My body quickly filled with adrenaline, so I used it and ran on. I looked and looked for Greg and finally saw him — what a welcome sight! As you can imagine, he was a bit aghast to see me dripping blood. I slowed down for a quick photo and ran on, more miserable than ever. My mind was working on me.

I kept a keen eye on my race watch that was chronicling my overall time (my Garmin was tracking my individual events). I knew I had a little time to burn, so I made the most of walking through the water stations and even stopped at one to stretch out my right glute. I was really miserable and I knew I was down to a mind-over-matter finish. I hated every minute of those last five miles. I was bitter. I was angry. My legs were cramping and my head was dizzy. It was all I could do to mentally talk myself to the turn-around point and then talk myself to when I would next see Greg. When I saw him, I was near tears and begging him, “I need you to run with me! I need you to be there with me at the end!” And he did! Argus was safe in the car and Greg ran with me the last half-mile or so to the finish, talking me in the whole way. I was so elated to look up at the race clock and see 5:39 as I finished!!

POST-RACE

From there, my emotions consumed me. I could not contain my tears and the physical pain hadn’t even begun to set in… I don’t know how to describe it. Greg wasn’t quite sure what to do. I was bleeding all over and crying semi-uncontrollably, so I’m sure he was a bit overwhelmed. The other race participants were very nice and concerned about my wounds as we commiserated in the recovery tent. I felt so grateful to have finished within my expected time and so spent from the exertion. It’s very hard to explain. When I called my parents later, my mother said, “Now you know what it’s like to have a baby. You work so hard for this moment for so many months and you go through all of the effort and then it’s done. There’s nothing left to do but cry.” For me, the good news is, I got a medal and a few bragging rights for my efforts and not a baby!! Ha!

I knew my age group was a shallow field and I felt like I had done well, so I made Greg stay for the awards ceremony. In the meantime, I visited the Medic Tent to have my scuffed elbows fixed up and we got my gear packed up from the transition area. I was admittedly disappointed when they announced the third place winner in my age group and it wasn’t me… By the time we got back to the hotel, a friend on my Facebook page told me I had earned fourth place. Damn!

My post-race shower was nothing but fire. Let’s see, I had the wounds on both elbows and one knee from the fall, I had additional chafing in unmentionable places and realized only at that moment that I had small chafe wounds in every spot there was a seam on my new tri suit. My entire body was on fire. So much for the hot tub later! I got dressed and found my cheering section completely exhausted, napping together on the bed. Triathlons are hard work for everyone involved!

If there had been fireworks and a bonfire with s’mores at the finish line, my Independence Day would have been over the moon. I settled for a handful of Advil and many accolades from my virtual cheering section via Facebook and text messages.  It was a wonderful day (in a very masochistic way, of course)!!

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