Thursday, October 15, 2015

Race #4 of the Season - Silverman 70.3

It's been 10 days since the race, and it's time to plunge head-on into my blog about it. There's going to be a lot of negativity, and a lot of things that I'm not happy with.  For this blog, it will purely be a race recap.  The reflections will come on my next post.  Also, there's a lot of emotion.  The readers of this blog know I don't mince my words, and I'm essentially baring my soul to you all.

The days leading up to the race were a typical Vegas visit for us, minus the driving of T's car from Denver to Vegas.  The drive was actually pretty cool - there's some really cool canyons in Utah.  Plus, we did a small 30 mile drive in Arizona.  Driving into Vegas was neat.  We were both really relaxed.  We pulled into the Candlewood, which is off strip, and has basically become where we spend our first night in Vegas every time we go.  This time it had a double purpose.  We wanted a kitchen so T could make our rice cake nutrition for the race.

The first night, we played tourist, visiting a food truck expo at a casino nearby and just enjoying ourselves.  

The next day, T made the rice cakes, but she struggled a bit because we didn't have a dry measuring cup, nor did we have our Skratch paper to wrap them in.  It was possibly an ominous sign, but I was forcing myself to be positive.  After the last race, I refused to be negative.

We met up at the Mirage with a couple of our neighbors who were in Vegas as well, then headed to Henderson to get checked in for the race.  After that, we headed back into Vegas to get checked in to our hotel, the MGM Grand.  We had dinner at an Italian place with our neighbors that night, along with some good conversation.

Saturday morning we did a shakeout run on the Strip.  I love running on the strip, and our run went really well.  We got a high-five from another triathlete while running (I love these Runners World moments!) and after that, were just on cloud 9.  Clearly that had to mean something good for the race, right?

After that, we prepped our gear bags for the race, went and played some pinball at the Pinball Hall of Fame (highly recommend you go, it's an amazing place for video game junkies), and headed to the check-in to drop our stuff off.  

We dropped our run stuff off in Henderson, then headed to Lake Mead to drop our bikes off and our bike gear.  Two different transitions, woo.  We drove the bike course as well.  We were both a bit nervous about the hills, but we kept our fear in check.  I actually got out of the car to ride the bike on one of the stretches.  I was doing over 20 mph and thought that bode well for the next morning.

After that, we dropped our stuff off and headed back into town.  We found a chain for lunch that sold good soup and sandwiches and salads.  Had a good lunch, then relaxed in the afternoon at the hotel.  We had a sushi dinner and called it an early night for the race.  I arranged for room service breakfast to be delivered at 3:30 am.

Pre-Race
We woke up at 3:15 am.  Normally when I wake up race morning, I'm not nervous.  I'm not apprehensive.  When I awoke in the MGM that morning, my heart was racing with anticipation of the race.  I didn't like the feeling, and tried to shake it off.  Breakfast came (whoa, pricey) but it's kind of cool at the same time.  However, neither T or I were really able to eat much, if any, of it.  I think the nervousness was affecting us way more than we would have liked.  I wrapped some bacon in a napkin to take with us.  We loaded up our stuff and left.

Down in the lobby of the hotel was interesting.  The club kids were all coming back.  That used to be me back in the day, so I know the feeling.  4 am, we're heading out for a race, 4 am, they are heading back in from a night of partying.  T said she saw some girl's naked ass; I missed it sadly.  

We found a parking spot in Henderson close to where the buses were picking us up.  We both hopped on a bus and sat down.  T dozed on the drive to Lake Mead while I listened to people talk about the race.  A lot of people were talking about the dreaded climbing which I tried to put out of my mind.  Maybe I was refusing to acknowledge that I wasn't prepared?

When we got to Lake Mead, I had the bike guys fill my tires with air, as I had drained them the previous night.  After that, I just rested in transition.  I was scary nervous, and I couldn't get settled down.  Truth be told, I hadn't been that nervous before a sporting event since the first time I stepped on the ice for a high school hockey game.  T tried to calm me down, but she was dealing with her own band of nervousness and nausea.  It wasn't a good pre-race morning for us at all.

They had announced that the race was not wetsuit-legal.  Very simply, if you wore a wetusit, you'd start at the back of the pack and not be eligible for age-group awards.  That's not an issue for me, obviously.  The back of the pack thing made me think.  I knew I would go off well after T and we'd have a shot at completing this thing together.  However, ultimately, it's our own race.  I made the decision last-minute to race in my wetsuit, deciding that I'd feel more comfortable with it and I'd be okay.

I kissed T and wished her good luck, as she went off well before me.  I then just waited for my turn to hit the water.  I got in and waited for the horn.  The water felt nice and warm, but not too warm.  I joked with a couple of other guys, and then the horn went off.  Redemption time!

The Swim
It's rare that I get a swim with waves, and this was one of them.  The wind was stronger than anticipated, and I had to adjust my sighting.  That being said, I swam well.  I felt a bit constricted by my wetsuit, and I vowed this would be my last race with that suit.  I was doing well for the most part though.  Just keep swimming, right?

Towards the shore, we were being yelled at to keep swimming even in the shallows.  I eventually did a bear crawl until I hit the carpet and ran into transition.  Saw my watch and was a bit surprised at how slow, but didn't worry about it.

Swim time - 45:25

T1
I heard someone yelling my name, and realized T was in transition at the same time I was. That couldn't be good.  I also realized we'd be racing the entire bike course together, and hoped that we could do well as a result.

The Bike
The trans area was at the bottom of a hill, so we rode uphill right away.  Terrific...

Both T and I leapfrogged each other early in the race.  The wind was already starting to blow, but at least it wasn't hot.  The clouds were out, a rarity in Vegas.  For the first 12 miles or so, I felt okay, even with the wind and the climbing/descending.  Then we hit a stretch of awfulness.  Nearly 15 miles of straight climbing.  I was averaging maybe 12 mph on this stretch?  And the worst part is, I couldn't get my nutrition in because I was breathing so hard on the climbs.  To make it worse, the winds were howling, so the descents I was more concerned about, you know, not dying?

It seemed that no matter what I did, I couldn't find a groove that worked, and I was getting frustrated.  Around 40 miles in, we began a very serious climb out of the park.  I was lucky to average 8 mph on this climb?  I also felt my spirit sink as I realized I might not finish the race.  Even typing this is bringing tears to my eyes.  

The stretches we thought would benefit us were not to be, and the hard stretches?  Much harder than anticipated.

There's a road called Gibson Road that takes you up towards transition, about 5 miles out.  It broke me.  I started crying at one point climbing it.  I screamed and cursed and again, this is actually hard to type right now.  Oh how I wish I was a good climber.  Instead I'm a shitty climber and I paid for it.

Finally, we made it back to transition.  Another race, another shitty bike, and another long ass ride.  This time, however, I was going out on the run.

Bike Time - 4:33:23

T2 
Both T and I were very depressed heading into the run.  The clouds had all burned off and it was just hot and windy and miserable.  I was very sad knowing that I had an uphill battle to try to make the cutoff.  However, I quickly got my stuff on and T and I marched out there for the run.

The Run
We knew we had a fight in front of us, and finishing wasn't likely to happen.  However, as long as I could put my feet in front of me, we were going, dammit.

The first mile was pretty much all walked.  I had very little strength and T's feet were killing her from the ride.  We tried to run a bit but we needed to build.  There was a brutal climb and we walked most of it, but were able to run down it as well.

On the 2nd loop, we ran a bit more and thought we might have a shot at this thing after all.  Then the dreaded climb happened, and I knew our day was cooked.  I accepted it.  We both talked about how we'd bail before the 3rd loop, turn in our chips, and go to the hotel.  Acceptance of failure.  However, it wasn't that easy.
The guy running transition didn't let us give up.  He encouraged us to keep going.  I knew we didn't have a shot, but he refused to let us give up.  Okay, fine, we'll humor you.  Jerk.  Seriously buddy, I'm hurting enough out here, but now I have to save face?  Whatever, fine.

Mercifully a sag wagon came and got us, and ended our day about a half-mile out of transition.  Our timing chips collected, we went and bagged up our stuff, retrieving our morning clothes.  Two 70.3's, and two DNF's on the year.  It pains me to write that.

Post-Race
We chatted with a MaccaX teammate who was very nice and encouraging.  It was a brutal day out there, to be sure.  It was great to meet Milhouse and I look forward to corresponding with him in the future.

Both T and I were surprisingly okay with the decision to not finish.  We promised reflection would come later - all we wanted was In N Out.  We grabbed our 4x4 burgers, fries, and shakes, and headed back to the hotel.

Reflection
Two 70.3 failures on the year.  My tri season is over without completing a tri.  I raced, but didn't finish.  Holy shit, that's hard to type.

Reflection will come in another post.  Just typing this has made me mad, and I need a ride to clear my head.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Race #6 of the Season: Ironman 70.3 Silverman

Who would have thought I'd be writing about a second DNF? Not me, that's for damn sure.

I'll lay it out on the line - I may have decent mileage this year, but I am NOT race prepared whatsoever. I've trained, sure, but has it been with a purpose? No. Therefore, I guess I shouldn't be surprised with this. Annoyed, sure. Pissed, definitely. But surprised? Probably not.

That being said, I tell stories with race recaps, and I'll do the same with this one.

We signed up for this race way back in ... March, I think. We were still living at the apartment, I know that much. It lingered in the back of our minds for most of the year, but we never really had a sense of urgency regarding it. That's probably our first sign of pending doom.

We took a decent couple of days off for this trip. Race day was October 4th, and we left on October 1st. Like the crazies we are, we drove to Nevada. Parts of Utah are really cool, I will say.

We got in the afternoon of the 1st and did our typical Vegas trip first night stay at the Candlewood off strip. We usually do this because it's easier when we fly in. However, we decided to do it this trip because Candlewoods = kitchens, and I had rice cakes to make. We grab dinner, drive around, play tourist, go to bed.

We wake up the morning of the second and grab breakfast at a fantastic diner. We go to prep for the rice cakes ... and I realized I forgot the Skratch paper for wrapping them at home. Eff. Off to Target ... no foil/parchment hybrid paper or Martha wrap. Off to Albertson's (a ghetto, sketchy Albertson's that we're pretty sure had a drug deal going on in front of it). Still no dice, so we had to decide between straight foil or straight parchment. We figured the cakes might melt in the foil, so we went with the parchment, as I found smaller pieces specifically for cookie baking.

Note: If you're in this situation ... use foil. The stuff I used was a giant fail. Or just don't forget your materials at home.

Back to the hotel. I made the bacon at home, but we brought a giant mixing bowl as well as rice, eggs, salt, soy sauce, a baggie of brown sugar, and chocolate chips with us. Scrambled the eggs just fine. When it came to the rice, though ... the Candlewood had a wet measuring cup, but not a dry one (and yes, there IS a difference). So ... I made do. It worked, or so I thought ... until come race day, and the rice is all grainy and ... not good.

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Makin' rice cakes!

Eventually, I had something resembling rice cakes, and they would just have to be good enough.

We checked out, met up with some neighbors of ours who happened to be in town as well, and then drove to Henderson to check in for the race.

(In the parking lot, we actually saw a Colorado car that we'd been leapfrogging with on the drive there.)

We got checked in, made a rookie mistake of buying merch beforehand (luckily just a coffee mug and stickers ... related: anyone want an Ironman Silverman 70.3 coffee mug?), and then went to check in to our actual hotel, the MGM Grand.

Saturday the 3rd, we did a shake out run on the strip, grabbed breakfast, prepared our bike and run gear bags, 
 photo 10-3raceprep_zpstihy3f02.jpg
played pinball (Pinball Hall of Fame. It's the best.), and then drove back to Henderson to drop off our run gear bags. Silly two transitions ...

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Farewell, shoes, visor, body glide, sunscreen, race belt skirt, and socks! See y'all tomorrow.

We then drove the bike course to Lake Mead and the bike drop off. We noticed that yes, it was a tad hilly and that it would probably suck the next day. We were trying to stay as positive as we could, though, although it was rough.

The initial plan was to ride bits that looked terrible, but we didn't end up doing that. Brandon did pop out on his bike for a quick mile or so for his own piece of mind and said it was doable. Good enough. We rolled into where transition was and checked our bikes and bike gear bags in.

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Sweet Cheeks with Lake Mead in the background.

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Amaryllis.

Back to the hotel to rest for a while, eat sushi for dinner (reviving an old pre-race tradition), and head to bed.

Race Day

Due to the double transitions, we were to park at T2 in Henderson and we'd be bused to Lake Mead. Buses left from 4:15am to 5:45am. We scheduled a room service breakfast for 3:30am so we could try to eat something (the most expensive fail ever) - that didn't really work so well.

We stumbled down to the car probably just before 4am. Let me tell you, 4am in the lobby of a major Las Vegas hotel is a very interesting place. Our day was just dawning, while many people's days were winding down. I legit saw some girl's half-naked ass, as her dress had ridden up that much. If she had underwear on, it was some very skinny thong. Not pleasant.

Drove to Henderson. Parked. Caught a bus. Pretty much fell asleep on the drive to Lake Mead, but I did that purposefully as I felt like shit that morning. 

Got to Lake Mead. Had the bike tech guys fill my tires with air (used the ol' IMAZ trick of letting some of the air out overnight). Attempted to eat the expensive room service bagel - that didn't go so well. Pretty much laid down on the mat next to my bike and stared up at the clear sky, feeling like (although I don't like the movie,) Rose floating on the board in the ocean in Titanic

(In hindsight, this was fitting, really, given how the race went.)

Eventually I got up and started to get all my stuff ready, delaying dropping off my morning clothes bag until the last possible moment. We were told it would be a non-wetsuit legal swim, although you could still wear one if you wanted; you just wouldn't be eligible for awards. Given that I hate my wetsuit, I was fine with this news. Brandon hemmed and hawed on whether he would wear his; wearing it would put him at the end of the swim waves and therefore behind me (as opposed to 15 minutes ahead of me) which would give us a chance to complete the race together. I didn't want him to sacrifice his race for me, but ultimately he decided to wear it as he felt that it would give him the most confidence. (I'll let him explain more about this in his own recap.)

We stayed together as long as we could and before I knew it, I was in the actually relatively warm water of Lake Mead ready to swim.

The Swim: 

Hooray! Another swim NOT into the sun!

I actually felt really good swimming in the lake without my wetsuit. I felt I sighted really well going out and that it took a while for people to pass me and that other white swim caps were near me instead of nowhere in sight, like usual. 

We turned, and the swim started to drag a little. I was having some mucus issues, but I was also able to catch on to some feet and boardshort/draft a little.

We turned again, and I felt my neck chafe, which means that is NOT a wetsuit problem. More experimentation needed.

The sun was on my breathing side, and it made sighting slightly more difficult. While I felt straight and awesome on the way out, the way back ... not so much. I saw a wetsuit pass me and I thought it was Brandon for a second, but when I managed to catch up to it, it was not Brandon.

The end of the swim is stupid shallow, but they don't let you stand up until a certain point. "Float in on your belly," they tell you. Riiiiight, because you can do that while still making forward progress. I sort of used my hands to walk my way in very awkwardly.

I exited the water ... with my slowest 70.3 swim to date. 

Time: 1:07:23 (1050th overall, 263rd gender, 34th division)

T1:

While the wetsuit I saw in the water was NOT Brandon, Brandon was in transition, so he beat me out of the water anyway. I got my shoes on, struggled with my cool wings, got my sunglasses and helmet on, shoved my swim crap in my bike bag, and got the hell out. I actually think I beat Brandon out of transition.

Time: 4:24

The Bike:

We started uphill, and I felt the wind. Great. Brandon and I stayed together that whole, horrible ride, flip-flopping and probably at some points illegally drafting each other (okay, him illegally drafting me, as I'm too paranoid of a rules follower in tris).

There's not much I can say about the bike except:

It was hilly.
It was windy.
It was hot.


I tried eating the rice cakes - there weren't many good places to eat; not the easiest eating on a fast decent and I need all my breath power up hills - and learned that the rice was not cooked well. Stupid Candlewood and their lack of a dry measuring cup. Stupid me for not getting one at Target.

We learned later that the winds that day were around 30 mph and I believe it. There was one descent where I probably should have been going at least 30 and I saw my speed just drop - 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19 ... I had to shift to an easier gear on a downhill! What the hell? Story of the ride ...

My feet started overheating early, so every aid station I doused them with water. I also grabbed water at every aid station to douse myself and I grabbed a banana to eat.

I'm very happy I'm confident descending, as I made up a lot of ground on people on the downhills. I feel perfectly fine going 44 mph down a hill ... until a wind gust threatens to kill me.

Riding in Lake Mead National Park was pretty awful, though. Neither of us were enjoying ourselves - at that point, triathlon was not fun. The ride back to Henderson was mostly shitty. There was a stretch on Warm Springs Road that we got some speed back on ... but I was in such pain (feet, lady bits) that I couldn't even take advantage of it at that point.

The uphill on Gibson ... oh god, I think I wished for death. I got off my bike to walk before hopping back on realizing yes, it is actually faster to stay on the bike. I think I was going about 4 mph at the time. 

Eventually, we slogged back into transition. We didn't think a bike could get worse than Harvest. We were proved wrong with a horrible vengeance.

Time: 4:34:01 (1014th overall, 241st gender, 33rd division)

T2:

Use the melty Body Glide on my feet, change into my socks and running shoes, put on the Race Belt Skirt, put on my visor, grab my bottle of Rescue. Meet up with Brandon and hobble out. Get some sunscreen on the parts of my back that fried last year and have the volunteer accidentally get my chafed neck. OW.

Time: 5:36

The Run:

As miserable as we both were, we wanted to still try to finish this damn thing. So we got on the run course. Running ... really wasn't happening. We tried here and there, but weren't really successful at getting anything going until a couple miles in.

I had a massive headache at this point, so I was grabbing oranges, bananas, and pretzels at the aid stations, trying to get myself back in control ... not to mention ice and water. We encountered another one of our TriSports teammates who we'd had some back-and-forth on Twitter with leading up to the race.

We began loop two, and were able to run a bit more. Maybe things were looking up.

Then we got back to the awful uphill-into-the-wind section, and it about cooked us. We knew, time-wise, that there wasn't much of a shot of finishing. We were reduced back to just walking at this point - running was painful for both of us; a bit moreso for Brandon I think - and I think we just wanted to leave on our own terms.

At the turn to the finish or loop three, the volunteers said we were still good to keep going, so we went. We tried turning in our chips at transition, knowing how much time we had left, but the very insistent volunteer captain shooed us down the run course, saying there was totally a shot.

Okay buddy, I appreciate your faith in me, but there's only a shot if we can run, and we ain't running right now.

Not too long after we started loop three, the sag wagon came around and talked to us. He said we could try to finish if we wanted but ...

The "but ..." told us all we needed to know. We said that we had tried pulling out a bit earlier; he said he'd take us back if we wanted. Our day was done; the former World Championship course had defeated us. We got about 8.5 painful miles in, but no more.

We went into transition, collected our things, and walked back to the car. A small bright spot was seeing MaccaX teammate "Milhouse" as we left transition. We'd been wanting to meet him for a while, so it was super cool being able to meet him and chat with him and his wife Lisa. Milhouse, you rocked it out there, and it was awesome to meet you!

Back to the car, on to In-N-Out for two 4x4's, fries, and chocolate shakes, and back to Las Vegas.

************

Two DNFs like this, back-to-back, mean serious reflection. We let ourselves do it for two days - Sunday, and then Wednesday on the drive back home. We decided we don't want to quit the sport - good, because next month's credit card bill has two very expensive registrations for IMCHOO on it - but we do need to give it the respect it deserves. We did not do that this year, with either of our 70.3s. 

As I alluded to in my September recap post, October 8th became a January 1st of sorts for us. Time to stop making excuses. Nothing changes unless you change, and we need (and want) to change.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

September Round-Up

This ... was not a good month.

Swimming: 6250m (3.88 mi)
% to goal: 33.5%
Cycling: 165.87 mi
% to goal: 26.2%
Running: 24.61 mi
% to goal: 43.4%
Lifting: two sessions (:44)
Other: four yoga sessions (1:08), one equestrian session (that is, playing with horses) (:30), two walks (:45)

This month was basically my DNF at Harvest, vague redemption at Littlefoot, and a whole lot of blah. I lacked ... anything resembling motivation. The numbers show this.

October is already off to a dismal start, but October 8th is our new version of January 1st regarding a lot of things, so hopefully things start looking up. Hopefully.

(Also this month: we signed up for Ironman Chattanooga. Eep.)