Monday, September 28, 2015

Race #5 of the Season: Littlefoot Triathlon

Although Harvest sucked, I couldn't dwell on the DNF that long - I had another race a week later. On Sunday, September 20, I had a sprint triathlon to do. 

As I was still waiting to hear back regarding my official Harvest times, I didn't want to clear out my watch yet, so I raced this one with only a general sense of how I was doing in regards to time. I figured I'd get official times later. 

I worked Saturday morning and had to work Sunday afternoon after the race. I still had bad sunburn marks from my tri tank, so I wore an ancient old Skirt Sports rash guard tee underneath said tank to prevent me from more sun. I tried a waterproof bandage with waterproof tape on my neck to help prevent further wetsuit chafing, but that came off within like five minutes of the practice swim (sorry, Bear Creek!). 

I got to Bear Creek Lake Park right as transition opened and was one of the first cars there. I unpacked all my stuff in the dark and took a while to set up my spot. (It was dark, and windy ... and I may have walked back to my car for a blanket to huddle in until I felt like setting everything up). I got my packet and quite possibly the best race shirt ever.

It's a dinosaur!

Eventually I used the light from my phone (and others) to set up my transition spot. I kind of dilly-dallied until we had 10 or so minutes left in trans before I went to go wander down to the water and warm up.

The water was a little cold, but nothing horrible. The ambient air temperature and the wind made life much worse. Thankfully, as the swim had in water wave starts, I never had to leave the lake once I got in it until after I finished the swim.

The Swim:

For once, a swim NOT into the sun! Hooray! One of the kayakers said we should sight often as the wind was screwing with everyone. I took this to heart somewhat, but I think the wind actually helped me swim better, as I felt like I sighted/swam in a straight line like a champ.

Still chafed. Was still slow. I love sprint swims (750m).

Time: 21:50 (253rd overall, 136th gender, 29th division)


Felt like I knit a damn sweater, taking my sweet ass time. Still ended up being one of the fastest T1 times in my division, though.

Time: 1:37 (81st overall, 34th gender, 7th division)

The Bike:

Ugh, my legs still felt trashed from one of those Harvest rides. There was more climbing than I wanted and I felt kind of on the verge of death the whole ride ... all 15km of it. 

(In other words, how you want a sprint ride to feel like.)

I was really surprised to see how I was in relation to others on the bike afterward, as it felt like the bike went awful and was in no way indicative of what I can actually do on a bicycle.

Time: 33:14 (167th overall, 60th gender, 9th division)


T2 is always slower for me. I gotta sit down, body glide my toes ... y'know.

Time: 1:55 (245th overall, 134th gender, 25th division)

The Run:

Oh, 5ks. I can suffer for a 5k. Like the ride, I felt on the verge of death for most of this run. The first mile was the longest mile ever (funny how they usually are). I was, happily, able to run probably a good three-quarters of a mile before walking the first time, so that was nice. Mostly, though, the run ended up being a run-walk slog to the finish before I managed to haul my ass across the line.

Time: 32:47 (231st overall, 112th gender, 25th division)

Overall Stats:
Time: 1:31:24
19/38 division (F30-34)
93/181 gender
205/318 overall

I need to get good at this race so I can get one of the awards - they looked like fossilized dino footprints! Come on!

Really, this race was just a way for me to regain my confidence in racing and get back into it. Race #76 was my 75th finish ... and it got me my second round of post-race pancakes, which made it TOTALLY worth it. Mmmm, pancakes.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Race #3 of the Season - Harvest Moon Long Course Triathlon

I talked a bit in a previous post how Aurora Reservoir riding is my nemesis, and quite often finds a way to defeat me.  So it only seems natural to race out there, right??  Riiiiiiiiight.

A couple days before the race, we found out the bike course had changed, and while I put on a brave face, I was actually very concerned.  Instead of doing a lollipop style bike course, we were instead doing a 4 loop out and back.  While that sounds good in terms of bike nutrition and staying close to home, it was actually going to be quite hilly.  But as I said, I put on the brave face.  Fake it til you make it?  

Also, the day before the race, I did my annual "proficiency check" with my airline.  I think I've described them here before, but for those of you who need a refresher, a PC is simply an opportunity for my airline to evaluate me in a simulator environment.  They throw some emergencies at you, see how you handle adverse situations, etc.  It's a stressful event, but can be lessened if you adequately prepare.  I felt prepared for this checkride, but until the ride is over, it's nerve racking to say the least.  But I passed.  Woo!

So putting aside the course change, the stress I was under with my PC, and the very hot forecast, I was actually excited and ready for the race.

Little did I know...

We got there quite early, early enough for me to capture a beautiful Colorado sunrise.  

We found a good trans spot, right next to each other.  I went over to actually pick up my packet, since I did race day packet pickup.  In trans, T and I got our stuff together and did the usual pre-race getting ready.  We found one of our fellow TriSports athletes, George, and had a good conversation and some laughter.  He helped us apply some TriSports tattoos to our legs, then we finished getting ready for the race.  Wetsuits on, we walked down to the water to warm up.

Getting in a decent warmup, we waited for the race to start.  T went off before I did, so I had about 5 minutes to kill.  I lined up on the outside of the swim wave, prepared to face the sun.

The Swim
I started the swim a bit more aggressive than I normally would.  There was a lot of bunching, and I figured I could push it a tad and climb towards the front of the wave.  It worked out pretty well, but it skyrocketed my heart rate and I definitely dialed it back.  My sighting was fine for the most part, very little drifting off course.  I tried drafting off people as I usually try to do, but it didn't work too well.  

The swim back to shore felt like it took forever, and I don't know why.  Maybe just not used to the open water right now. Who knows?

Time: approx. 42:34 or 44:30, depending

Climbing back up the hill to trans, I saw T's bike still on the rack.  Given that I started 5 minutes after her, I figured I'd catch her on the swim, but wasn't sure how much by.  I decided to be real leisurely in T1, taking my time to sunscreen and relax a bit.  After a couple minutes, I saw her.  I bolted while she was getting her stuff together and told her I'd see her on the bike.

The Bike
I started off feeling good.  I was actually excited to be riding.  

That lasted 1/2 of the first loop.

In the first half of the loop, I didn't ride hard or aggressive.  I dialed it back a lot, taking in Skratch and our Skratch bacon cookie bars.  The ride was sunny and getting warm, but not hot yet.  I saw T a bunch on the ride and that was pretty cool.  When I got to the turnaround point for the ride back into the res, I was feeling optimistic.  I was averaging nearly 19 mph and just feeling awesome.

Then the ride back happened, and my day was doomed.

The ride back was hot.  Hot horrible misery.  And mostly uphill.  It was not fun, and when I realized I had 3 more loops of this course, I damn near cried.  My head was still mentally in the game for the most part, and I knew if I just put it down, shut up, and rode, I'd be okay.

Loop two, I could feel my body start to heat.  It was getting warmer and I was intaking more liquid than I would have liked.  I also struggled to eat my nutrition (too sweet I think).  I was definitely slowing down, and realized that it was going to be a (literal) uphill battle the rest of the day.  

Near the turnaround point of loop two, I saw T.  She was miserable and let me know it.  I told her I'd wait for her and we'd ride the rest of the ride together.  Normally she doesn't let me do this kind of stuff, but that day there were no objections.  We rode loop three together, which for me was the most miserable I had been all day.  I was trying to stay mentally focused, and I was, but physically, I was falling apart.  My right quad was in massive pain for some reason and I could not for the life of me get a pedal stroke that didn't hurt.

Loop four was the end, in more than one way.  The course was thinning as the competition was all on the run.  There were us stragglers and that's it.  T was ahead of me for the loop and while I liked keeping an eye on her, I wanted to catch her.  But it wasn't happening.  My liquid was all gone and the aid station was not helpful.  I began shutting down mentally.  On the ride back in, I started dry heaving, and soon I vomited for the first time that day.  I saw T at the aid station getting her feet doused by the med staff.  She told me they were overheating and she was miserable.  I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade Endurance to just force liquid down me, and promptly threw it up.  I knew I was done, but didn't want to admit it.  T cinched the decision by telling me she was pulling me off the course.

We got back up to trans, and she took my chip from me.  At this point, it's fuzzy.  I barely remember walking down to the med tent.  I don't recall putting on flip flops or anything.  She said I was dry heaving in the grass which I don't remember.  

In the med tent, they gave me a pill to keep me from puking and some electrolytes.  It tasted like seawater, but helped me get clarity.  Then they gave me regular water and sent me on my way.  We trudged back up to trans, packed our stuff, and left, defeated.  Aurora beat me.

Post-Race thoughts
In the week and a half since, I'm much more clear on what happened.  It was a brutal day.  Hot and windy.  To be sure, everyone else had to deal with it, and not everyone DNFed like me, but I think a couple things played. 

Number 1 - I did not train for that course.  My bike mileage is fine, and I've ridden long to be sure.  But I was not used to long sustained climbs, to be rinsed and repeated over and over again.  I calculated that we climbed over 3000 feet that day.  Simply put, I was not prepared for that.

Number 2 - the stress of my PC caused me to lose mental focus.  It's often said/understood that you only have so much mental acuity and I think I burned most of mine up in the sim the previous day.

Regardless, I didn't finish a race.  It's leaving me hungry and wanting to prove myself even more.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Race #4 of the Season: Harvest Moon Long-Course Triathlon

Also affectionately known as "Baby's First DNF."

Let's rewind. 

I raced this last year. I knew I could do better on training.

We pre-rode the course - or at least the best estimation possible given available roads - the week before. It went better than it did last year. Yes, we stopped quite a bit, but I didn't hammer as hard as I would in a race, either.

Seen on the pre-ride.

Then, the week leading up ... I haven't had that bad of a week since April/May and the house stuff. Some sort of malaise came over me and training was little to non-existent. I mean, I meant to ... it just didn't happen. Ever feel not right in your skin? Same deal ...

Saturday, I went up to Skirt Sports for their anniversary Boobie Run. I didn't run, but I did hang out and help out back at HQ while everyone else was running.

(I am the burrito master (mistress?).)

Very professional start/finish.

Super delicious Kim and Jake's cake!

Helping out didn't give me time to get in a super quick run, and then the afternoon saw packet pick-up, a phone call with my friend Courtney that was much needed, and then race day nutrition.

Skratch cookies! Okay, cookie bars. Chocolate chip and bacon. Picture seen on Instagram/Twitter.

Race day dawned fairly normal. We were a bit worried about the heat, as the temperature in the forecast just kept rising, but there's nothing you can do about it, you know?

We were also concerned for the bike course. We found out a few days prior to race start that (apparently) thanks to the farmers on the course, the sheriff's department said we couldn't do the normal loop. Instead, we got a four-loop, closed-course that was partially in the reservoir grounds and partially on Quincy. It looked ... not fun.


I started before Brandon in the swim, which was good, because we were hoping to be close enough so that we could do the run together.

The Swim:

I couldn't sight for shit going out, partially due to the sun. I aimed myself at a buoy ... and apparently it was a buoy on the return trip because a kayaker had to poke me back on course. Figures. Still, I kept on trucking, feeling like I was doing ... okay ... and for the most part, swimming by myself with NO ONE around me.

About halfway through, I felt the telltale signs of neck chafing which REALLY pissed me off because I vaseline'd the ever-living CRAP out of my neck. Any advice on how to combat this would be MUCH appreciated

In any case, the sighting of the finish arch when I could see it as opposed to the buoys worked well again and I successfully managed to avoid the boat dock this year.

Got out of the water and saw 52: or 53: something on my watch and slightly grumbled.

Estimated Time: 55:55


Took a bit longer in T1 than I usually do because of my new DeSoto Cool Wings. The TriSports kit we have is a racerback and I wanted to avoid sunburn (fail), so I decided on the cool wings as opposed to just the arm coolers. Problem is ... they're kind of a pain to put on, especially over wet arms. Live and learn ...

Estimated Time: 3:03

The Bike: 

In short, it sucked.

Loop one was ... okay, not great. Realized there was a lot of climbing, some descending, no long stretches to just fly ... this bike course was going to be a lot of work. Given trial and error, figured out I was about 3/4ths of a mile behind Brandon.

Loop two was hell. I've been working on strengthening my hips and in the process ... I think I'm messing with something in that area as my adductor (inner thigh? never remember ...)/hamstring/whatever on my right leg was giving me shit. It was okay if I stayed below around a 75 cadence ... which isn't efficient and sucks when you've trained yourself to be most comfortable in the high-80s/low-90s. The pain made me want to mail it in by the time I finished.

I snagged Brandon on the out-and-back near the start/finish of the loops and talked to him. He said he wasn't doing all that well, but he'd slow and wait for me to catch up so we could (legally) ride the course together.

Loop three, whether by coincidence or not, was loads better. It felt, well, more normal, and like I could possibly finish this stupid course.

Loop four I was cooked. It wasn't hot out there until it was, the wind was popping in and out, and I experienced something I've never experienced before on the bike - my feet overheating. Sure, it happens on the run quite a bit (especially if it's over 90 degrees out), but on the bike? It made every single pedal stroke utter agony for about eight of the 14 miles of that loop. I stopped at the aid station to get more water and ask the med staff about it; they just doused my feet with water (which admittedly helped, but wouldn't work on the run due to blisters) and did not give me very helpful advice.

At this point, I also learned that Brandon had puked once or twice ... and he continued to do so on the ride back up the hill into transition.

In conclusion, there were two good things about the bike:

2.) Seeing the aid station guys (and later, a park ranger) wrangle an unhappy (and huge!) rattlesnake at the edge of the aid station.

Estimated Time: 4:07:29


With my feet the way they were, with the bike being so goddamned slow, and with Brandon puking, I decided that we were done. I hit transition already just over five hours on the race clock and if my feet kept overheating (likely), I was unsure if I'd be able to complete the run without getting yanked off. As we still have Silverman to go this racing season, I made the decision to leave the course.

I changed us into flip flops and walked down to the medical tent. Brandon half-collapsed in the grass on the way down (he doesn't remember this). I steered him to the tent and then handed in our chips. I apparently wasn't 100% clear with them that we were DNFing because if I had been, we would have had official splits (some weird timing company quirk). As it was ... I'm going off the rough estimates off my watch (so scientific).

With how overheated Brandon was (and, as we found out later, how fuzzy his memory turned), I have no regrets in making him finish his day after the bike. I had my bottle of Skratch Rescue mix that I had made for the run and was drinking it in the tent - that was one of my more genius ideas and, had I attempted the run, probably would have helped me out tremendously.

As for me, it's hard to know that I willingly pulled myself out of a race that I could have (maybe) finished. Had it been my final race of the season (or at least only 70.3), I would have kept going. However, I had to do what was best for the long-term, and that was bowing out gracefully and going out on my own terms.

Harvest Moon was my 75th race and my first DNF. All things considered, one in 75 ain't bad.

Monday, September 14, 2015 is awesome!!!!

For those longtime readers of this blog, you know that both T and I have a very strong attachment to in Tucson.  We first visited there in April 2010 to buy wetsuits, and have been loyal customers ever since.  We've become friends with the owners and are proud to represent TrSsports as athletes in 2015.

So it should come as no surprise that I have an awesome customer service story from them that I have to share.

Last weekend, we were on a 50 mile ride on the Aurora course and my aero pad bracket snapped off.  The metal seemed like it fatigued and just went.  I cursed a lot, put the aero pad in my tri tank pocket, and eventually caught up to T.  She sent out a tweet to, Profile Design, and Quintana Roo asking them "so this is probably NOT supposed to happen to your aerobars, right???"

A day later, Labor Day, mind you, TriSports tweeted her back, saying "yeah, um, no!  We will have you fixed in just a bit!"  Debbie, co-owner of TriSports, sent T a text asking for details on my bike and aero bar set.  She got ahold of me as well, and told me that they would be getting me a new aero bar bracket in the mail ASAP, being that I had a race coming up on Sunday (recap coming soon).

Thursday, I checked the mail, and the new set was there.  I nearly broke down in tears, just so happy with the awesome service that I had received from TriSports.  As I told T that day, I felt loved.  That's the power of great customer service, something TriSports is very very good with.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Negative Thoughts

The other day, we went out on a 50+ mile ride along the Harvest Moon course.  It was going to be a last big ride before our race this weekend, so I was mentally prepared and even excited for it.  Unfortunately, that didn't last long.

The morning of, I didn't wake up in a good place.  Not sure why - just didn't.  Wrong side of the bed perhaps?  I don't know, but I was a tad grumbly and that carried into the start of the ride.  You might say that I started off the ride with negativity.

We all know that negative thoughts and negative energy will impact you in long-distance racing.  We've all been there; you are doing okay, not having a bad workout, but not a good workout either.  Suddenly negative thoughts enter our heads and the workout takes a quick nosedive.  I've heard that 90% of racing is mental, so you can assume training is even more mental.  

Without going into a lot of details, I struggled for most of the ride, and around mile 35, my aero pad snapped off.  The metal fatigued somewhere on the bracket holding up my aero pad and bent/broke, and suddenly I had one aero pad.  After much cursing and screaming, I eventually caught up to T and showed her what happened.  I made it abundantly clear that I was not enjoying myself and was frustrated with the ride in general.  We rode together for a bit, but I told her to ride ahead of me as I wanted to be alone.

As we turned onto Quincy Road to ride back to the res, I was muttering a lot of things to myself that I don't want to repeat here.  I look back on it and am in awe of how deep my negativity went.  To make matters worse, I took a tumble on my bike and ended up in a ditch.  No worse for the wear, I kept pressing on, cursing and nearly crying.  

At 50 miles, I still patted myself on the back for making it 50 miles on a broken bike and a broken mind.  T had pedaled much faster than I and had gotten the car, sag wagoning me at 51.15 miles.  My horrible, negative ride was over.

So why is it so hard to be positive?  Or more aptly, why is it hard to shake negativity when it enters your brain?

I've done some sports psychology reading, but the answers are more complicated than just reading a book and repeating positive mantras.  Our brains are amazing tools; no one disputes that.  But the levels and hidden corners of our brains have an uncanny way of popping negativity at the time when we need them to release those happy chemicals (dopamine?  I think?) they instead release mental toxins.  

I've tried doing the power of positive thinking, which has mixed results.  I've tried repeating positive statements, to mixed results.  

I think sometimes, no matter how hard you try, a workout just sucks.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

August Round-Up

Oh August. You had ups, and you had downs.

Swimming: 10700m (6.6 mi)
% to goal: 31%
Cycling: 170.97 mi
% to goal: 22.9%
Running: 54.45 mi
% to goal: 38.5%
Lifting: five sessions (1:46)
Other: six yoga sessions (1:41), one race volunteering (6:00), two walks (:50), one plyometrics session (:10)

I hit five digits for swimming, but I couldn't keep up the consistency from July. This is definitely something I need to improve upon for September.

On the bike, I had a lot of quality rides (woo 40 miles!), but the lack of quantity showed up. Still, I rode more miles this month than in July, so win?

Running is what really went well in August. I more than doubled my previous highest month total (March, for 24.29 (or May for .01 less than that)) just due to running consistently. Three times a week with a long run really ramps up the mileage. Funny, that.

The swim and bike numbers would have been a bit better had I not crashed and burned hard at the end of the month. My sleep got way out of whack which means I was averaging 1-3 house fewer a night than I typically get ... which is a lot. That lack of energy means a brain fog and one that's usually not smart to work through. It didn't mean days off; it just meant a bit more yoga and strength than normal. Which also isn't the worst thing, but y'know.

September's not off to the best start (yesterday was just a bit of strength, but led by the amazing Erin Carson from Boulder's RallySport), but I slept a bit under 12 hours last night (finally!), so things should be looking up shortly. Plus I have two tris this month so that should really help on the mileage front ...