Sunday, August 26, 2012

Clear Lake Triathlon 2012

Pre Race

The week before this race we were on vacation and I enjoyed a very light week of training, (19 miles/4 hours total training time) which followed several weeks of heavy training in preparation for Cactus Rose.  I upped the training time a bit this week, heading into Clear Lake with approximately 55 miles on my body and finding myself having to practice extreme self-discipline by not going all out during the workouts.  

Wednesday, the boys, Richard, and I headed into town for packet pick up.  I really try to not give negative feed back about races, but honestly, packet pick up is a huge pet peeve of mine.  In a world that is trying to become more "green" how much sense does it make to ask 900 people to make the drive twice to the same event?  Surely, most of this could be done on race day morning, since we all have to stop and be body marked as well.  And how does packet pick up really prevent anyone from not giving their bib to someone else?   Every running race I have participated in has allowed for race morning pick up.  Why triathlon can't do this is beyond me.  Rant over.

My last real training day was Thursday and I felt amazingly well.  Friday I did a short yoga session and at the end of it, I felt an unusual "pop" in my right low back.  By the evening, my back felt quite sore and I had pain radiating into my leg.   I also had been having some neck spasms that I attributed to sleeping in a different bed and using a pillow that was not my own on vacation.  I took some Advil and figured all would be well in the morning.

Race Day

At 3:40, the alarm sounded and we were up and ready to get out the door by 4:15.  Back pain was still with me.  I tried to ignore it as I ate my breakfast and slammed down some coffee.  I took a few Advil which seemed to take the edge off.

We arrived at the race site and were pleased to see that we were being placed into a covered parking garage.  A very nice accommodation indeed!  Transition set up went smoothly and I went through my mock T1/T2 simulation, noting all the in/outs and landmarks to help me find my bike.

Mark and I walked the docks to find the swim start.  The water was lit up by the lights and was a very creepy neon green color.  The first thing I saw in that neon green water was an alligator gar.  I tried to push that out of my head and not get overly concerned with what exactly I would be swimming in.  

The Swim:  1500 meters/40:21

I was in the 5th and final wave of the Olympic distance.  It was a large group incorporating all women 39 and over, AND the relay swimmers.  I was a bit nervous about having to tread water for a few minutes before our official start, but kept it under control focusing on any thing I could other than where I was.  
The start was sounded and I began my swim from the pack.  I spent the first half of this swim climbing over people, getting hit, etc, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not seem to get away from the group.  I noticed that I was the only one who really cared enough to stop swimming, look around and try to find a clear path.  Once I realized that I needed to act like Dory and "just keep swimming", I kept my swim going and didn't stop as much.  I did try to avoid the guys as a hit from some of those big guys could take me out of the race.  I felt stronger with every stroke and in the last few yards I recall thinking that I could certainly have continued swimming longer.  
The finish was up a ladder.  It was quite the stretch to get my leg upon the first rung and set both my calves into cramps that I was able to quickly stop as I stomped my feet onto the running surface.
40:21  10th AG

T1:  3:30   

I have no idea why this transition is so long.  Obviously I took a nap, got a massage, and had a pedicure... or maybe I just need some tweaking and practice.

The Bike:  46K/1:41:05

My plan was to take the first loop at a slower pace than the second loop in an effort to adequately recover from the swim, gain course knowledge, and then prepare for the run.  The first loop went well, other than getting passed by everyone.  But I am not really competing against anyone just yet.  I am still new to the bike, new to triathlon, new to how to do nutrition on the bike, etc.  I took the time I needed to feel comfortable handling the food while pedaling.  I did pretty well taking S caps, honey stingers, and even Clif shot blocks while keeping a 17 mph pace.  
Kemah Bridge

The course was a very nice route winding through the NASA area, (on the day that Mr. Neil Armstrong passed away, rest in peace good sir), through some local marinas, and across the Kemah Bridge.  I braced myself for the climb as I finally saw it about a half mile from the actual bridge.  It took my breath away and then I remembered this.
Thank you, Fish!

Fish had written this out for me as he headed to bed on Friday night.  If you know Fish, you know  he is not a "mushy" sort so this was very precious to me.  He remembered my favorite scripture verse, Phil 4:13, and he loved me enough to give this to me.  I tucked it into my spibelt and had it with me for the entire bike and run.  
I recalled this immediately upon seeing the bridge and instantly, my eyes filled with tears.  I am so blessed.  I get to do THIS for fun!  I thought of Bean who was heading back to school probably at that very moment to finish up her last year of college.  I thought of my beautiful grandbabies and all of my children, my family, and was overwhelmed by gratitude.  Ride the bike, Karen.  Ride the bike.
I kept my head down so as not to see the actual climb, (this is something I do while running hills also.  I think it tricks my brain...probably not, but I am going with it.)  Before reaching the very top of the bridge, I noted my speed was 8 mph.  I could have walked faster, but that wasn't even in my mind.  A guy passed me and encouraged me and then reminded me to use "the other gears".  Oh.  Yeah.  I forgot about those.  Honestly though, as little experience I have on the bike, I have even less on using those "other gears".  Where is Youtube when you need it!?!
I managed to make it to the top and fly down the other side at 25.7 mph!  Very fast for me!  I know this is nothing to other cyclists out there, but to me, it was huge.  
This is when I noticed my back was in rough shape again.  No worries, just focus on the race.

I was determined to take loop 2 faster, but Mother Nature had other plans.  It so has it that as I left out on loop 2, I could see a magnificent thunderstorm rolling in from the bay. It was HUGE.  It became windy and suddenly, the flat roads were all hills.  I thought of the recent spin classes I have been attending and tried to focus on my pedal stroke, consistent stroke count, hearing my metronome in my head.  This seemed to work until the bridge showed up again.  I tried to figure out "the other gears" well before the bridge, but my confidence in not losing my chain was minimal.  As I hit the base of the bridge, I saw that every other rider was off their bike and walking it.  I didn't know we could do this.  Seriously.  I figured they knew something I didn't so I followed suit.  I got off the bike and started walking.  I with the gears a bit to see if I could figure out how to get to the others rings, when another woman passed me asking if we were told to get off the bike.  I told her no, and assured her that I was just a wimp.  
Then I realized I needed to ride that bridge.  I hopped back on and somehow managed to crank up that dang bridge, "using the other gears", passing the other walkers, and then made up some good time on the flip side.  
Looking back, of course, I wish I had not ever dismounted the bike on that bridge, but it is what it is, and I probably was only off for about 2 minutes.  
I finished the second loop with my last two miles at a 21 mph pace.  Felt very strong coming into transition.
1:41:55/16.8 mph/14th AG

T2: 2:15

Obviously, had the manicure this time around. 

The Run:  10 K /55:14

My strength.  My comfort zone.  My happy place.  The run.  I wasn't excited by the idea of three 2 mile loops, however, it wasn't as horrible as I anticipated it to be.  I rather enjoyed seeing the same volunteers 3 times, encouraging runners on the out and back, and seeing Mark at the transition area twice.  First loop, I took it easy, about a 9:30 pace, I suspect.  Second loop a tad faster, Mark was smiling saying, "You are going for a sub-9, aren't you?!"   Told him I was just running on feel, which I was.  Garmin wasn't cooperating, (seriously, don't know why I wear the thing anymore!)  
The third loop I kicked it up a bit and crossed the finish feeling stronger than when I started the run.  
55:14/ 8:55/mile/7th AG

The most interesting thing I discovered this race was that each discipline, I felt stronger at the end than at the beginning.  I suppose this confirms my place in the endurance/ultra world.  This is where my strength lies.  I am not that fast, but I can go for a very long time.  
I won't lie, I would like to become faster, but I always try to keep in mind that I would rather never be fast to have the ability to do this stuff for a very long time!

My back is still not feeling very well, which is not good as I am heading into full on CR training.  The mileage is going to pick up for running and those work outs will become my primary source of mileage for the next few months.  I will continue with the swimming and biking because I feel that they are helping me to become a stronger all around runner.  Oh, and I have a little race in May that I registered for.  

The best part about today was Richard's performance!   I will let him tell you about it!  Congratulations, friend!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bridgeland Tri

Heading into Bridgeland, I didn't consider tapering much as I am attempting to keep my endurance building looking forward to Cactus Rose in October.  My average training mileage for the 5 weeks leading up to Bridgeland was about 75 miles per week, and 9-10 hours per week.  I have been feeling good at this level which was another "goal" I had for a reason that I will speak to later in this post.

Bridgeland was by far, one of the best run events I have ever participated in.  Organized, clean, pleasant in every way.  Whatever these race directors are doing, I pray they keep doing it.  I can't believe this race is only 4 years old.  It had the taste and flair of a highly seasoned race.  In a  pool of 1650 participants, I never felt crowded, overwhelmed, lost, etc.  I found several people I knew and met many I had only known by name until race day.

Packet pick up was a breeze, save for the horrible traffic to get to the site.  249-290 was under construction and this made for a slow drive time.

One aspect of triathlon I do not enjoy is the stress of getting to the packet pick up on time.  I imagine this is true for most people.  Trying to carve the time out of the day to get to some of these locations the day before the race is difficult at best.  But it is what it is and aside from this issue, everything else seems to move along quickly on race day morning, which I am sure is the whole reason behind packet pick up.

Race morning is always an early rise time.  This day, I was up by 3:45 and Mark and I headed out the door pretty soon after that.  The drive to Cypress was much quicker than the day before alleviating the pre-race "am I going to be late?!" anxiety I typically feel.

Body marking went well and I headed into transition to set everything up.  I was close to both the bike out and the run out which was great!  I walked around to get a feel of what it would be like coming out of the water and to get a general acclimation to the layout of the transition area.  

As Mark and I headed to the swim area, I started feeling quite a lot of anxiety regarding the swim.  I have no idea why the nerves jumped up, but a little pep talk from Richard, and I felt a bit better.  I walked towards the swim start and just tried to keep myself calm.  550 meters is nothing compared to what I normally swim, but for some reason, I was really spiraling into a puddle of self-doubt.  Perhaps it was related to my experience at the Y Freedom Tri, or perhaps it just was what it was.  I decided to throw out any expectation to time for the swim and focus on feeling comfortable while having a good experience in the water.  

I was in one of the very last waves, making my wait time about an hour to get into the water.  When it was  finally my turn, I got in the water, waited for the go, and started swimming.  Instantly, the anxiety left, I felt calm, and I focused on slow, steady form.  Kind of a funny thing to focus on when one can't see through the water.  I hope to one day swim in clear open water.  That would be amazing!

I finished the swim in 13:16 and was pleased at how well I felt during the swim.  I only used the breast stroke briefly while trying to site around the last buoy.  

T1 was a bit slower as I wanted to be sure to hydrate well and eat a bit.  3:19 was most definitely a bit too long and I will work on that for next time.

This race was the first race for the new bike and she did fantastic!  I felt very comfortable the entire ride and again, settled on the idea of not pushing myself too much, saving a bit more for a very hot run.  The first 4 miles on the bike felt great.  For some reason, miles 4-8 or so felt like much more work and my quads weren't real excited to push through.  I chalk this up to my inexperience on the bike and hope that more training on the bike will result in a better average mph.  The last 5 miles went well when the quads turned back on.  Total bike time was 44:17 (avg 17.6 mph).  T2 time was 2:36.  Again, another area to cut some time.

Philomena and I after her first race.

Heading out on the run, I again made the decision to hold back and not go all out.  I really wanted to savor this experience on this day.  It was very hot, and I didn't know how my body would respond to the heat and full sun.  I felt great the entire run, feeling stronger with each stride.  I tried to encourage the other runners along the way and made sure to hit every sprinkler that was set up to keep us cool. I crossed the finish line with a run time of 25:59 (8:23/mile).  Total race time  1:29:29.  17th in AG.  

I would highly recommend this race to anyone interested in a good sprint tri.  I enjoyed my time very much and will probably register for next year as soon as it opens.

Coming off the race, I have not let up on the training at all.  I am increasing the amount of cycling and running that I am doing.  Follow me on Dailymile (right side bar) if you are so inclined.  I am registered for one more tri this month, Clear Lake.  I will be taking on much more of a challenge as I am registered for the Olympic distance.  Then full on Cactus Rose training will be here.  

My reasoning for the heavy training over the last 6 weeks has been simply to prove to myself that I can handle the training load that will come from Ironman training beginning in January. (yes, I registered).   I am at about 3/4s of the time that I will be putting in weekly and feel tired, but good and stronger than 3 months ago.

At times, I feel like I am cheating on my trails by enjoying the tri training so much.   This evaporates rather quickly after noting the increased endurance and overall strength that I feel I have gained.  

Once I cross the finish line at CR, I will take some time to ease up and recover and then head into full time IMTX training.  I can't believe I am at this point in my "career" but I am embracing it all realizing that each moment is truly a gift!