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8 Days and Counting

April 27, 2012 Fitness No Comments

I am competing in a Half Ironman triathlon in 8 days and I haven’t made mention of it on this blog. At all.

Is that you, Denial? It’s me, Molly.

I actually think it was denial for a long time. It took until mid-March for me to realize that I am not, in fact, training for Ironman Canada — a race that takes place on August 26. I am training for the Wildflower Long Course. IT TAKES PLACE ON MAY 5. I also can’t believe the mental block. I love Wildflower!

Wildflower 2010

A huge mental shift had to happen in my head for Wildflower to come into focus. For the last two years, the 70.3 triathlon distance was my “A race.” It was the hardest thing I had ever done and everything I had ever trained for wrapped up into one 6-hour day (give or take 23 minutes). The shift happened, and very little changed.

Here’s why: I’m not going balls-out for this race. My coach’s orders are to compete at my projected full-Ironman race pace. I can tell you that I will not be swimming 2.4 miles in 1:04. I will not be averaging 18.8 mph on my 112 bike ride. And I will not be running a sub-4-hour marathon.

My training these days is good. It’s consistent. I complete 99.5% of every workout prescribed, as I have for the last two years. I am just as tired and just as hungry as I have been in years-past. I know I’m fit, but I feel slow. In some cases, the data proves I’m slow(er). The difference this year is that I don’t care. I don’t have anxiety going into this race with aggressive goals and expectations for myself.

I gotta tell you, it’s freeing!

My #1 goal is to get through the race without feeling like shit. And let me tell you something else — I haven’t ever finished a race without feeling like shit, so that’s a pretty big feat. I’ve been focusing on my nutrition and hydration. I’ve been pacing myself, especially on hills (both Wildflower and IM Canada very hilly). I’ve been doing strength workouts that include plyometrics. I get the proper amount of sleep.

So this race is uncharted territory for me. That it’s not about going as fast as I possibly can NO MATTER WHAT. It’s about racing smart. It’s about enjoying the journey, and taking notes for the Big One.

Eight days until the gun goes off!

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Equipment Matters

May 22, 2011 Fitness 1 Comment

I don’t claim to be any kind of expert when it comes to triathlon — gear, training, nutrition, racing. I feel like these are largely very personal things that each athlete will need to work out for him/herself. But there is truth in the adage that we should learn from the mistakes of others because we don’t have time to make them all ourselves.

Behold! Here are my equipment mistakes at Wildflower:

NEW SHOES
I bought new running shoes four days before my race. For the first time in three years, I went with a different model. I made the decision based largely on how super cute they are and the lightweight form factor. These shoes are an unknown quantity. But don’t get ahead of yourself, condemning me for breaking Racing Rule #1: Never Try Anything New On Race Day.

They’re cute, amiright? But I didn’t run in them. I didn’t even bring them to the race. They’re all shiny and new and I didn’t want to get them dirty! I ran in them once during taper week, but packed my old faithfuls for the dusty 10K race. As I was setting up my transition area, I pulled my old shoes out and lo! I had stolen the SuperFeet insoles from these to put in the new pair and forgot to replace them!

Luckily, I also use a SuperFeet insole in my cycling shoes, so I made the decision to ride 25 miles on a plastic-bottom cycling shoe rather than run 6.2 miles with no insole in my well-beyond-needing-replaced running shoes.

Workable, but not ideal.

HELMET HEAD
In the transition area, I set my helmet atop my handlebars with my sunglasses in it, ready to go. Admittedly, I finished my swim three minutes faster than last year, but I didn’t get a big head about it …

Or did I?

You see, I usually have my hair pulled back into a slick ponytail for bike rides, and my hair is dry when I start. I did not account for messy wet hair coming out of the swim and my helmet did not fit. At all. Rookie move!

I set the helmet on my head and buckled it under my chin as I was running out of the transition area. I hit the quick-release button, thinking it would let go a notch and things would be fine. Things were not fine. It let all the notches go! My helmet was basically bobbing on my head like I was a little kid playing dress-up. Since I was working so hard to improve my transition times, I kept going rather than stopping to fix it.

Time first, safety second?!

It’s a steep climb up Lynch Hill immediately out of the transition area and I spent all of it trying to one-handedly get the notched strap back into the other thingy so that my helmet would render effective in the event of an accident. My wet stringy hair was getting in the way. I can’t ride uphill with no hands. (Who am I kidding? I can’t ride on a flat road with no hands.) I finally got it to a point where it wasn’t falling into my eyes every time I looked down. It would have to do.

Please, folks. This one is not about comfort, it’s about safety. Learn from this mistake and adjust your helmet accordingly!

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
I bought a tri suit prior to last year’s Half Ironman in Vancouver. I was guilty of Trying Something New in that race, but it wasn’t like I was screwing around with important things like nutrition or hydration (because I didn’t have either of those figured out – as evidenced by the 60 oz of fluid you can see in my bladder in the below photo. Also, I obviously have not mastered peeing on the bike…). Anyway, as far as the tri suit idea goes, it was a winner. I really like having a one-piece so that my top isn’t riding up and everything is more streamlined in general. But you get what you pay for. I bought a nothing-special suit at REI. There was minimal selection and I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money. That tri suit left a chafe mark at every seam and showers for the three days following the event were pretty miserable. Of course, the showering was also miserable because I FELL DOWN and scuffed my knees and elbows…

I fixed the chafing issue with multiple washes and have been happy with the tri suit in the two races I’ve done since Vancouver. Problem solved! Except I realized a new problem at Wildflower. I applied two layers of waterproof/sweatproof sunscreen before the race. My wave didn’t start until 10:35 AM, so I knew I’d be in the midday sun for most of my race. I had Greg spray me liberally, making sure to get hard-to-reach places like the backs of my shoulders, triceps, ears, and neck. My tri suit covered the rest of me.

When I got back to camp after the race, I changed into a tank top and shorts. Everyone remarked on how sunburned my chest was. FOR THE LOVE OF AGE SPOTS!! I immediately admonished my sunscreen-applier for his sloppy work! And then I realized that my tri suit zips up to my collarbone. I got a sunburn through the fabric!

There are manufacturers who make tri suits that have SPF in them. There are even some that have some magical cooling feature to bring your body temperature down. If I had to guess, I would imagine these high-end suits don’t leave chafe marks at every seam… I’ll say it again: you get what you pay for. I’m saving up for a better tri suit, and in the meantime, I’m applying sunscreen even where the sun seemingly doesn’t shine.

None of these were dealbreakers and I still pulled off a better-than-expected finish, but they are simple things that could have been prevented. My next race is another Half Ironman (if I can get the shoulder injury under control) and I definitely won’t make these blunders again. Do you have mistakes I can learn from?

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Wildflower 2011 – Goals Revisited

May 8, 2011 Fitness 2 Comments

It has been a crazy busy week! Let’s talk about the goal setting I did for Wildflower and my accomplishments toward them.

1. Sub-30 minute swim. I hesitate to write this. I was solidly on track for a great swim this year before the rotator cuff injury. I worked hard on my swimming all winter and even had a great first (and possibly only) pre-race open water swim. My time last year was 0:30:36 and I really want to break the 30-minute barrier this year.

Success! My swim time was 27:37 — shocking! I felt really slow in the water. I was out of breath for most of it and had trouble getting into a rhythm. I had to keep reminding myself to focus on displacing water, not just moving my arms in some sort of swimming fashion. I remembered looking at my watch at the turnaround point last year and it read 17 minutes. I was apprehensive to look this year, fearing it would be much slower than that. Much to my delight, it read 14 minutes! I finished the last straight-away strong and was thrilled when my watch read 27:33 as I stepped out of the water. Greg missed me coming out of the water because I was so fast!

I made the mistake of playing Stomp Rocket with the kids in the campground on Saturday night. Not thinking about my shoulder, I made several lunges to catch the rockets and my shoulder definitely felt the pull. I took 4 ibuprofen about 2 hours before the race and hoped for the best. It didn’t feel great during the swim, but not bad enough to be a real nuisance. It was obvious I was doing more pulling with my left arm because I’d tend to drift toward the right when I’d swim for any length of time without spotting myself. It has been a month since the accident and it isn’t getting any better, so I guess it’s time to have it checked out by a professional.

2. Faster transitions. My transition times last year were horrendous at 4:40 and 2:12, respectively. Admittedly, it’s a long run up the boat ramp from the water to the far side of the transition area… but I am clearly not being as efficient as possible once I get to my spot. Maybe I should practice this week like these guys?

Partial success. I reduced my overall transition time from 6:52 to 5:46, cutting 1:18 from T1 alone! But T2 went up by 8 seconds and I’m not sure why. It felt fast, I didn’t screw around with sunscreen or anything in the transition area. I don’t know what happened… All in all, I’m happy with my transitions. The transition area is huge, so just running across it from one entrance to the other exit would take at least a minute without stopping to change things out.

3. No walking. Before you write me off as a pussy, let me explain. There are actually people who RECOMMEND walking the hills on this course, saving their legs for the flat and downhill sections. This is not my run strategy. I tested both approaches in my training over the last three weeks and I shaved 2:30 off my run time by running all the hills (even though my lungs were burning and my HR was nearing danger levels the first time). My problem is this: my tendency is to leave everything I have out on the bike course. This is a hilly run course — 518 ft of elevation gain over 6.2 miles — and it is very exposed. My race starts at 10:35 AM, which will put me on the run course around 12:30 PM. My goal is to run all of it.

Fail. I went into the run knowing that it could be a disaster and I’d still break 3 hours overall. With a 3-minute improvement on the swim, at least a 1 minute improvement on the transitions, and a couple of minutes gained on the bike (by my watch), I knew I had some wiggle — or make that walk — room. I ran the first half and made it probably halfway up the long hill on the back side of the course before I gave in. No one in my age group had passed me and I could speed-walk as fast as some of these people were running. I ran up the last couple of small hills, taking Greg by surprise as he camped out at the top of Mile 5. I sailed down the hill for a strong finish!

4. Finish sub-3:00. Last year’s official race time was 3:00:07. I’d really like to come in under the three hour mark and I think it’s possible. If I plan to shave a couple of minutes on both transitions AND the swim and the run, this is doable. Right? Tell me my math works. My bike leg was very good last year at 1:29 and my cycling has been inconsistent this year. I don’t know that I can expect to do much better than that this year, especially since one of my goals is to leave enough for a strong run. I hope my savings in the other areas are enough…

Success! My official finish time was 2:55:40. Hooray! Considering I wasn’t in the mood to race that day and I didn’t feel like I gave it a full 100%, I am thrilled with the outcome. My stomach was very upset after the race because I took 3 AccelGels over the course of the three hours. I don’t train with them because I know they upset my stomach, but I also know they are great for quick energy in a race situation. I need to find a real food substitute — maybe an Amazeball. Does anyone have any other ideas?

I am considering this year an overall success! The Olympic distance — 0.9 mile swim + 24.8 mile bike + 6.2 mile run — is a really manageable distance, and it’s great to have the first race complete. I’m toying with the idea of Ironman Canada 2012 and I’ll have to do the long course (or some 70.3 distance race) in May if I commit. The long course at Wildflower scares me greatly, especially after watching Greg and Kidder suffer through it this year… Luckily, I have time to decide!

Next up: Bay to Breakers!

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Taper – Race – Recover (and WWW: April 24)

May 3, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun No Comments

TAPER
I really love the taper week. The workouts feel like they’re my own again. They don’t have to be the best work I’ve ever done; I’m just out there to stay loose and keep things well-lubricated. No pressure. In light of choosing my own adventure, I did two Bodyrock.tv workouts on Monday that left me hobbling from sore muscles the rest of the week. That Zuzana is hard core! I wouldn’t say this was my smartest taper week move… I enjoyed a massage on Wednesday evening and went into the race feeling as ready as possible.

RACE
The race was a success! I’ll give more details later, but here are my splits:

Swim: 27:37
T1: 3:26
Bike: 1:28:54
T2: 2:20
Run: 53:23
TOTAL: 2:55:40

RECOVER
It was a fun weekend at Lake San Antonio with beautiful weather. Actually, the folks participating in the Long Course (Greg and Kidder) would say it was a bit too windy for their liking on race day… Our recovery plans on Monday included a nice lunch at Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay followed by a couple of hours of stand-up paddling. What a fun afternoon!

I’m exhausted, but in a good way. I feel like I can take this week for my own workouts again, so that helps mentally as well. I did one Bodyrock.tv workout today followed by a 15-mile bike ride to run an errand. My goal is to enjoy the sunshine this week!

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: 6-mile run

Monday: 2 Bodyrock.tv workouts

Tuesday: 16-mile bike ride

Wednesday: 4.5 mile run + massage

Thursday: 14-mile bike ride

Friday: 3.25 mile run

Saturday: OFF (unless you count 3 trips up and down the big-ass hill at Wildflower as Spectator Extraordinaire)

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Humbling Transitions

April 27, 2011 Fitness No Comments

My transition times at Wildflower last year were 4:40 for T1 and 2:12 for T2. In my age group, I was solidly in the middle of the pack, but there is obvious room for improvement here. The fastest time for T1 was 2:30 and 1:27 for T2.

I was humbled — and inspired — when I saw this video of Hector Picard’s transitions at the Ironman 70.3 California race earlier this year.

Competitors from the Challenged Athletes Foundation participate in Wildflower each year and it is always so impressive to see what accomplished athletes they are, despite their physical disabilities. It is an honor to race among these individuals!

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Wildflower Race Goals (and WWW: April 17)

April 25, 2011 Fear, Fitness 3 Comments

The first race of the season is a week away. I’ve done what I can do training-wise. I’ve put the work in — hopefully it was enough. Depending on what my race goals are, I can rig it so that it is! Ha!

I mentioned in my last post that Greg’s Sea Otter race goal was not to win or necessarily place high in the rankings. It was to work hard. He considered this a “B-level” race and he successfully achieved his goals of working his race legs to prepare for Wildflower this coming weekend.

So, what are my race goals for Wildflower?

  1. Sub-30 minute swim. I hesitate to write this. I was solidly on track for a great swim this year before the rotator cuff injury. I worked hard on my swimming all winter and even had a great first (and possibly only) pre-race open water swim. My time last year was 0:30:36 and I really want to break the 30-minute barrier this year.
  2. Faster transitions. My transition times last year were horrendous at 4:40 and 2:12, respectively. Admittedly, it’s a long run up the boat ramp from the water to the far side of the transition area… but I am clearly not being as efficient as possible once I get to my spot. Maybe I should practice this week like these guys?
  3. No walking. Before you write me off as a pussy, let me explain. There are actually people who RECOMMEND walking the hills on this course, saving their legs for the flat and downhill sections. This is not my run strategy. I tested both approaches in my training over the last three weeks and I shaved 2:30 off my run time by running all the hills (even though my lungs were burning and my HR was nearing danger levels the first time). My problem is this: my tendency is to leave everything I have out on the bike course. This is a hilly run course — 518 ft of elevation gain over 6.2 miles — and it is very exposed. My race starts at 10:35 AM, which will put me on the run course around 12:30 PM. My goal is to run all of it.
  4. Finish sub-3:00. Last year’s official race time was 3:00:07. I’d really like to come in under the three hour mark and I think it’s possible. If I plan to shave a couple of minutes on both transitions AND the swim and the run, this is doable. Right? Tell me my math works. My bike leg was very good last year at 1:29 and my cycling has been inconsistent this year. I don’t know that I can expect to do much better than that this year, especially since one of my goals is to leave enough for a strong run. I hope my savings in the other areas are enough…

It’s scary for me to write these down. I have created a space that can be filled with disappointment by saying it out loud. Greg suggested that maybe I’m sand-bagging and I should be more specific on Goal #4 and shoot for an overall time of 2:50. But he also said it’s up to me based on how I feel. I’ll tell you how I feel right now: tired and injured. And accountable.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: 21-mile bike ride + 3.5 mile run

Monday: Bike — hill repeats

Tuesday: 5.25 mile run

Wednesday: 20-mile bike ride

Thursday: 1600-yard swim + errands on the bike (10 miles) + chiropractic

Friday: OFF

Saturday: 34-mile bike ride

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Early Onset Burnout (and WWW: March 6)

March 13, 2011 Fear, Fitness 2 Comments

Here we are at the beginning of March and I am already tired of the weekly workout grind. When the idea came up, I jumped at the chance to join Greg in Tahoe on Friday/Saturday. I worked hard both days tackling black diamond runs, and my legs definitely got a workout! It was a nice change of pace and left me almost anxious to get back to the Bay Area for a bike ride. Win!

I can probably talk myself into believing that I am fit enough now to compete in an Olympic distance tri and perform reasonably well. I hold myself to a very high standard and that is a double-edged sword. Sure, I’m dedicated to my training and make no excuses to miss a workout. But I fear I may have hit it too hard too soon based on my level of burnout already. After Wildflower, I’m running Bay to Breakers and I already signed up for Barb’s Race — a half Ironman — on July 30. It’s not like I’m going to be taking it easy this summer… This weighs heavily on me.

Is anyone else doing any of these races? It’s the 100th running of Bay To Breakers (and my first time)!

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: 45 mins on StairMaster

Monday: 30 min swim + 18-mile bike ride

Tuesday: 60 minutes yoga + 4.0 mile Track Attack + 4.25 miles run

Wednesday: 2300-yard swim

Thursday: 21-mile bike ride

Friday: Skiing (10 runs)

Saturday: Skiing (12 runs)

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Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

March 6, 2011 Fitness 3 Comments

This post is not about food, but I hope you have that song in your head now. Hello Meatloaf!!

(You’re welcome.)

Even with mid-week travel to/from Oregon to help a friend move, I had a pretty good workout week. Two weeks ago, we were given a “free” day off mid-week that I moved into this week, knowing I’d have a rough schedule. So glad I did! I put myself through 11 days of back-to-back workouts and looked forward to this Thursday with every one. I spent Thursday on two turbulent flights getting home from Eugene, basking in the rest. Did you know that Horizon Air offers free local wine/beer on all flights? Bonus!

In the workout world, my swimming has been solid all through the off-season. My interval times are improving and the best news of all is that I don’t hate the very thought of going to the gym for a swim workout. I am even mentally preparing for my first open water swim. Props to Caryn who has already been in the lake a few times!

Even my running is coming around after a slow start. I pushed myself last Sunday to complete a four-mile run after a 15-mile bike ride, just to see how bad it would hurt. I purposely chose a hilly course to mimic the run course at Wildflower. Considering I completed 41 miles on the bike (including climbing Old La Honda) on Saturday, it felt pretty good. I did my track workout on Monday, which left me VERY sore for two days. The kind of sore where it hurts to have to get up/down from the toilet seat… I ran 6.5 miles in the rain on Wednesday in Oregon, and then did a swim/run brick yesterday that entailed 7 miles after a 2300-yard swim. I feel great! I have been using the foam roller and icing my right knee about every other time and it must be working.

The trouble is the bike. I’m really struggling to stay motivated. I dread all the usual routes around here and I don’t have interest in driving to a new starting point. Even once I’m out there, I feel lackluster at best. There is no fire in my legs. My average speed seems to be down. Blech. The bike has always been my strong suit, and I want to believe there is latent fitness hiding in there and it will show itself on race day… It’s just that motivating myself to get out there was always easiest with the bike, so it’s frustrating to have lost that edge. Greg says I must not have taken enough rest in the off-season, and he’s probably right. But it’s too late now. Wildflower is 7 weeks away and I’d like to beat last year’s performance, so I can’t back off now.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up: February 27

Sunday: 15-mile bike ride + 4 mile run

Monday: Track Attack (5 miles total) + core

Tuesday: 1600-yard swim

Wednesday: 6.5 mile run

Thursday: OFF

Friday: Tracy Anderson + 30-mile bike ride

Saturday: 2300-yard swim + 7 mile run

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It Officially Begins (and WWW: Jan 30)

February 7, 2011 Fitness No Comments

Training for the 2011 race season officially began this week. I also signed up for my first race of the season — Wildflower (Olympic distance tri) on May 1. My last race of 2010 was November 15 and it hardly seems like I’ve had enough down-time. Probably because I’m not very good at resting… That is really unfortunate, because I’m sporting a lot of aches and pains that will make for a very long season if I’m injured.

My knees are giving me the most trouble, though something is off in my back also. I know it’s all connected — whatever is going on in my back is affecting my hips, which is affecting my knees, which is affecting my ankles. Or maybe the trouble is happening from the ground up? Either way, I need to attend to it. I have a great chiropractor that has helped in the past, so I am hopeful. The yoga helps keep things loose as well.

I follow a set training plan and that is half the battle for me. Like Kirsten, I’m a rule-follower. If someone says to ride my bike 25 challenging miles and then run 2 miles, I’ll do it. If I were the one coming up with the workout plans, I’d probably ride my bike 15 flat miles and not run. Also, I like that these training plans put core workouts in writing. I’ve been doing them as prescribed, and I dare-say I am starting to see a difference!

One note of interest: I am entering this training season in reasonable swimming condition. I swam over 6000 yards last week and it felt great. And I’m gaining speed! My knees certainly enjoyed the break as well… By contrast, my long run was only 5 miles and it felt awful. I’ve come such a long way in just one year!

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: OFF

Monday: 21-mile bike ride + 10 45-second planks

Tuesday: 1650-yard swim + Tracy Anderson

Wednesday: 90-minute yoga + 20 minute sauna + 2050 yard swim + 4 mile walk with a friend (and Argus!)

Thursday: 25-mile bike ride + 2 mile run + Tracy Anderson

Friday: 20 minute sauna + 2350-yard swim

Saturday: 5-mile run + 10 minutes core (from Fitness magazine)

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Wildflower: The One and Only

May 5, 2010 Fear, Fitness, Friends 2 Comments

Thank you for letting me bask in my 11th place finish! If anyone asks what I’ve been doing with my time as an unemployed person, you can tell them that I’ve been training AND STOP ROLLING YOUR EYES.

The Wildflower Triathlon happens to be a bit of an icon in California and among the triathlon community at large; plus, it would do you good to learn something today. After all, you’ve heard me drone on from time to time about all the training for said event, so let me share with you the details of my race weekend.

The Wildflower Triathlon is one of the largest triathlon events in the world. The event is hosted at Lake San Antonio in central California and nearly 35,000 athletes, volunteers, and spectators travel to this site for the event. This year, there were 3,280 competitors in the Olympic distance event that I competed in. It was my first event at this distance. I knew it would be a good training event for the Half Ironman I am training for later in the season.

Part of the fun of Wildflower is seeing our friends from Kansas City and Santa Barbara there. We camp in the same spot every year and enjoy the camaraderie that goes hand in hand with the competition at this event. Greg, Kidder, Martz, and myself were all competing in the Olympic distance race on Sunday. A few members of the Santa Barbara crew were hard-core participants in the long (70.3) course and competed on Saturday, arriving back at camp pleasantly exhausted. We had a few cocktails and warmed up some homemade chili garnished with Fritos before retiring for the night. The double-edged sword of this event is that it doesn’t start at the crack of dawn, so we knew we’d have time to prep our race gear in the morning. Unfortunately for me, I don’t do so well with sleeping in a tent and I did not wake well-rested. I chalk it up to par for this race course and look forward to the reality of Greg actually owning a Sprinter van.

Race morning! Ever since I was a kid, I have enjoyed the jitters that accompany the anticipation of my participation in something. As we walked down the steep hill to the race area, the butterflies started and I could feel myself getting into race mode. I had quite a bit of time to wait before my start, but there was plenty to do in getting my transition area set up and supporting the guys. Every five years, they will all fall into the same age group — and this was the year. Martz at 40, Greg at 43, and Kidder at 44. The competition was fierce! As I watched them plunge into the cold lake water, my stomach was really fluttering.

My wave started a full hour after theirs, at 10:35 AM. This seems like a good thing when you’re going to bed late at night and have a lot to prepare in the morning. However, it means your bike ride and run will be in the heat of midday and that can often mean disaster. The forecast called for a sunny 78-degree day and it was already warming up fast. I made my way to the start line. As I was stretching out, the announcers called our attention to a swimmer who was coming out of the water momentarily. His name is Talmadge Atkins and he has cerebral palsy. This athlete had just swum 1.5 km (0.9 mi) by himself, alongside a companion swimmer. The announcer told us he was then going to ride tandem with a cyclist for 40 km (24.8 mi), and then his mother was going to push him in a “stroller” for 10 km (6.2 mi). Hearing this feat helped to put my own race into perspective.

I paused for a moment to take in the sights and sounds of the competitors and spectators around me. I am so grateful for the physical and mental ability to take part in these activities. Not only that I’m reasonably good at it, but that I am ABLE to do it. At the end of the day, it was helpful to put into perspective that it was less about how well I finished, but that I was able to start and finish at all. Let the race begin!

It was our turn. The women 35-39 age group. We had our chance to test the water, then lined up behind the timing mats at the start line. The buzzer sounded! It’s quite a swarm of flailing arms and legs as everyone runs and dives in, and not at all enjoyable. The only up-side is that it takes your mind off how cold the water is. It takes until about 100 yards past the first buoy for the crowd to thin enough to be able to get into a real swimming rhythm. Overall, I was pleased with my swim and how straight my path was, relative to other open water swims I have done. Clearly the practice has paid off! I only looked at my watch once to see how long I’d been out there (0:17:34), though I did not know how far I’d gone. When I finally made it to shore and stood up, I was pleasantly surprised to see my time right about where I wanted it to be at 0:30:36. I made my way up the ramp, catching my breath. I was refreshed and felt good going into my strongest of the three events: biking!

This was my first time wearing a wetsuit during an event, though it didn’t really slow me down in the transition area. I’m not known for fast transitions anyway, and this doesn’t bother me all that much. I felt reasonably speedy and was headed out in just a few minutes. Wildflower boasts a very hilly bike course. It’s an out-and-back, so there are no surprises on the second half of the course. This is good and bad, as you can imagine. Right out of the gates, we have to climb Lynch Hill. Admittedly, it isn’t an easy climb, but I was shocked at the number of cyclists walking it. Not just Team In Training people, but “real” athletes who have supposedly trained for this event. Talmadge Atkins was a distant memory at this point and I secretly scoffed at them. I actually feel kind of bad now…

I reached the top of Lynch Hill and refueled with a banana and some FRS (too much manufactured food upsets my stomach). I had ridden this course before and I knew what to expect — rolling hills that are less easy than you think they are. Only three women passed me on the way out, and only one was in my age group. I felt reasonably good about my “standings” at this point. I was passing a lot of people — including Talmadge Atkins on his tandem — and knew I was moving up in the world. On the turnaround, two more people passed me, but I was able to re-pass two of the people who had previously passed me, including the woman in my age group! Knowing I didn’t have enough fuel for the run in this heat, I ate an Accelerade gel and downed the rest of my water. I looked at my time and knew I could finish within 1:30 if I really pushed hard. I did…and came in at 1:29:22.

I quickly transitioned and headed out on the run. I was disappointed that I didn’t see or hear Greg on my way out, as I knew he had been finished for quite awhile by this time and had hoped to get his vote of confidence. It was 1 PM by this point and the heat of the day was bearing down on us. I had brought along my water bottle with a Nuun tablet in it and I’m glad I did. I was really unprepared for how hilly this run is. I like to tell myself, “You can do anything for two miles.” Not only is it true, it helps break something big down into manageable pieces. I simply had to “do anything for two miles” three times in a row. These are the mental games I play with myself.

I managed the first two miles without walking. It was hot and hilly and I was tired; I wanted to walk a million times. I told myself that I could walk the next hill if I made it through the first two miles without walking. When my Garmin showed I had passed the two mile mark, I almost begged for the next hill so that I could walk and catch my breath. My heart was racing at 170+ bpm. I turned a corner and faced a huge hill in front of me. I was sooooo prepared to walk and then I saw him: a challenged athlete running with a prosthetic leg like athlete shown in this picture. Again, my own race was put into perspective and I kept running. I made it to the top of that hill and then HAD to walk. My heart was going to pound out of my chest. As soon as I brought my heart rate down to a reasonable level (in the 150 bpm range, in ~10 seconds), I ran again. I had to walk a few more hills before reaching the road that passed by our camp — so I knew it was the last hill of the day. One more mile and it was all downhill! The Santa Barbara crew was there at the last corner cheering me in. I let gravity pull me down the hill, looking and listening for Greg as I passed through the 100-yard finish line. I raised my arms when they said my name as I finished and felt great!

I knew when I returned from the bike leg that I was doing well when most of the bikes around me were still gone. It felt great to finish and see a sea of bikes still on the racks in the transition area. No one in my age group had passed me on the run, so I knew I had done well as long as I had held my own during the swim. I finally caught up with Greg and Kidder and expressed my disappointment that they weren’t there to see my finish. He was sorry and admitted that he hadn’t expected me to finish for another 30 minutes and raced to the finish line when they heard my name being called. I was glad to be able to share my feelings with him rather than let it stew the rest of the day. We moved on to the next order of business: a cold beer! The final “event” after finishing a race at Wildflower is trekking up the steep hill back to camp. We made our way and celebrated with a few photos, a few margaritas, and some snacks with the gang. The Santa Barbara crew headed out and we enjoyed a few more beverages while waiting for the traffic to clear. Kidder and I continued to booze it up on the way home while Greg chauffeured us. After picking up Chinese take-out, Kidder successfully passed out fully-clothed and still wearing his contact lenses. Ouch! Greg and I checked our standings online. Hooray — 11th place!

Kidder didn’t have to leave until Tuesday, so we spent Monday at the beach in Half Moon Bay. After a 5-mile recovery run on the cliffs above the beach, we enjoyed lunch on the deck at Sam’s Chowder House and then had a couple of beers at HMB Brewing Company. It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

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