Friday, December 12, 2014

Seattle Half Marathon 2014

Well I suppose it’s time to talk about the Seattle Half Marathon, which was a couple weeks ago.  Kind of a crazy few weeks, but it was such a fun race it needs to be written about! :)
A couple weeks prior, Mac told me I needed to run the race myself and see how I did.  Which is good, but also kind of scary!  She has always been there with me, and it has allowed me to focus on having a good time and running it with a friend.  We’ve both gotten PRs in the process, but it was a lot easier to just think about having fun that focus on numbers.  So, this time did feel different.

I initially decided I would shoot for 1:45.  That was my 13.1 PR, which was from Skagit Flats (pancake-flat course) so if I could manage the same time at Seattle (very hilly), then I would be happily impressed.  But of course, that’s never enough, and somehow 1:40 worked its way in my head—just because it’s a nice round number, I think.  Anyway, I spent a lot of time thinking about it and going over the math and trying to figure out if that was actually do-able or not.  I’ve run the distance and run fast enough, but never at the same time (and also never on hills)…and I didn’t want to set unrealistic expectations only to be disappointed, when really a 1:45 was a perfectly reasonable stretch of a goal.  Besides, I could shoot for the 7:38/mi pretty easily (needed for 1:40), but then you always run a little further on the course, etc etc etc so needed to account for that so I figured 7:28ish… all in all, I was thinking about it a lot and trying to balance my eagerness to really push myself hard, along with still have fun and manage reasonable, physical expectations.
I finally I would go for 1:45 (8:00min/mi with hills sounded reasonable) and would be super happy with that, but would push it and see how close to 1:40 I could get (assuming it felt alright).  Then of course, the night before the race (as I was procrastinating and NOT packing my stuff) Kyle texted me to wish me luck..and told me to run a 1:40.  Well, shoot.  Now that someone ELSE is putting it in my head again…  After  a quick pep talk from him, consisting of both numbers/logic and friendly encouragement (my friends know me so well), I figured sure, I’ll shoot for it!  And if nothing else, at least I tried.  The plan was to take it mile-by-mile and try to stay on pace one mile at a time.  I needed a 7:35/mi (for the 13.1 mile distance) and would rack up as much “extra” in the beginning as possible.  I remembered the first few miles were slightly downhill, and it’s always easy to get a little extra speed at the beginning, so gaining any extra time would be perfect and I wouldn’t have to worry too much if I slowed a little with the hills at the end.  Plan in place, it was finally time to get to bed.

The next morning was early—and COLD.  I think it was 17F when I got up, and I think temperature in Seattle at race time was up to 24F.  Did I mention COLD?  We picked up MacBeth and met Kyle there, and basically spent the time waiting trying to not freeze.  Soon enough, it was time to get rid of the puffy jackets and mylar (sad…), so Mac and I pushed our way to the start line.  Then it was REALLY cold.  My toes were completely numb, and really just needed to get moving!  I saw the 1:45 and 1:35 pace groups were right ahead of me, and right next to each other, so figured I’d keep an eye out and try work out positioning from there.
After a pretty underwhelming countdown, we were off!  No horn or anything which was odd, but suddenly everyone was moving so—ok, guess it’s time to go!  I quickly tried to weave and navigate the first few blocks, which is always tough… but managed it ok.  I was greatful that I had remembered the first few miles correctly—it really is mostly all a gradual downhill.  Not steep enough that you really feel like you’re going downhill, but enough that it definitely speeds you up.  I even ran a 6:45 for a mile!!  I was very conscious of gauging how I felt, because I did NOT want to burn out later, but everything felt in check so I tried not to stress it too much.

My toes were still number.  It hurt to run.  They slowly began to thaw, but as feeling returned, it was a pins and needles feeling.  Not pleasant.  Spoiler alert: it took about 5 or 6 miles for them to thaw out completely and stop hurting!
Anyway, we came up to the big overpass which is the first real hill.  Not bad.  It’s long and gradual and intimidating looking, but luckily it’s so early that it didn’t bother me.  I kept sighting people and then passing them, which was nice…of course, some people went BLAZING past me.  Oh well.   Still on pace.  Even with the big hill, I was around a 7:35 so just right.

The I-90 tunnel was next.  Bleh.  Luckily it wasn’t nearly as humid, but still..yuck.  No GPS either, so just kept running and tried to match the speed of people around me, knowing I could adjust when we got out.  That’s when I realized that I had just about caught up to the 1:35 group, which was right ahead of me!  I considered pushing it ot meet up with them, but then remembered that just 24 hours ago I was thinking 1:40 was a huge stretch, and figured it would be better to hit 1:40 than to try for 1:35 and pay for it.  When we got out of the tunnel I kept them in my sights for a while, but eventually they got away—and I let them go.  (I found out later that my cousin was actually the pacer for that group!  If only I had known.  I definitely would have caught up and tried to run with him if I had known it was him!  Oh well.)
Running along the lake was nice.  The sun was finally coming out and it was gorgeous!  Overall I was a lot less cold and unzipped my jacket just a little..but it definitely was not warm.  I kept tabs on everyone around me, kept tabs on my pace (still looking good), kept tabs on how I felt..really tried to play it safe.  Around halfway done with the race at this point, and while it wasn’t super effortless, I knew that I wasn’t going to run out of gas just yet, so that was encouraging. But, there was still on giant hill and then the hills in the arboretum coming up…

And, there was the big hill!  In all honesty, this was the only hill I truly remembered from last year.  It’s a short, VERY steep hill…and then goes a round a corner and gradually continues up for a long time.  It’s deceptive, but also annoying because you use up energy on the super steep part at the beginning, but then you have a long way to go before you get any time to recover.  I managed it ok, though.  Tried to be smart, and not push it super hard…I knew I could push it on the downhill.
The arboretum was next.  I knew there were hills there but honestly didn’t remember much of them, so figured they couldn’t be too terrible.  Turns out, yes, there are a whole lot of hills…and some are a little steeper and its’ very repetitive up and down..but I don’t know, still not terrible.  Thinking back, I don’t remember any hugely terrible ones, I think because they are at least relatively short so there is always a downhill coming up to look forward to :) There was one photographer on one hill that was awesome…all alone in the arboretum, and there he is, sitting there yelling “woah, yeah, you look AWESOME!  GREAT JOB, you are KILLING IT!  Looking AMAZING, you’re like a model!” etc etc etc.  It was soooo over the top that it just made everyone smile and laugh—which is brilliant, because then you got good photos.  So, that was fun.

The last few miles got tough, as expected.  It seems so far away, since you can see the space needle waaaay off in the distance and you know that’s where you’re headed, but you know there’s only about 3 miles to go.  Plus there are still hills.  And it just seems to go forever…  I started doing the math near the end of the arboretum, and knew I should hit 1:40 as long as I kept going, so that was a lot of great encouragement for me.  I was feeling it, but I wasn’t dead just yet and it wasn’t TOO far to go!  It’s funny, my legs rarely get very tired, it’s usually just my heart rate and breathing that let me know I am going hard and struggling.  But that’s manageable, so kept on going.  Staying on pace, checking my garmin way too often to see how much further….
Running through the streets of Seattle at the end feels like forever.

Finally, finally, FINALLY, the last turn into the stadium was in sight!  Check the garmin—it was around 1:36 so YES, I was going to make 1:40 unless I fell over and died on the spot!  I could probably walk and make it, so now I got to run and see if I could go UNDER 1:40…what?!  I was shocked, and also super happy.  As I ran into the stadium, I tripped in a pothole and seriously almost fell and twisted my ankle (my ankles aren’t super strong, and I felt it twist and give out, but THANK GOODNESS it didn’t give out and I didn’t hurt it).  Phew, crisis averted!  Running to the finish line was great.  I saw 1:38 on the finish line clock, and just like that, I was ready to stop running!
It wasn’t until after I had gotten my medal/water/mylar and found Allen and had time to really realize I was done…that I realized I had pushed it.  Which was a great feeling.  Probably could have pushed it more ;) but I had pushed it none the less.  My chest was tight (I think from just all the cold air) and I had trouble focusing on too many things at once so…decided to focus on breathing.  Finally started feeling better and headed over to cheer on Mac as she finished.

Overall, such a fun race!  I am so stocked on my 1:37:59 (officially haha), and so glad that everyone encouraged me and pushed me to go for it. :)  And I think the BEST part was rushing over to Mac when she finished, and Kyle must have already told her because before I could even get to her she was yelling “BADASS! Awesome job!”  Barely finished her on race, and she was already happy about mine!  She is like the epitome of badass in my mind, so it was such a compliment and just really sweet.  Icing on the cake.  She had a great run too, solid time and it was a beautiful day so all-around good times.  The giant breakfast festivities afterwards weren’t bad, either ;)
Anyway, it was an amazing way to end 2014.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: the bike will always be my #1 love, but this year was truly a year for running.  From running my first marathon in May, to seeing huge improvements and speed (both in tris and also just long runs), I feel like I have really “grown” as a runner a lot this year.  I’ve learned so much about how my body feels and what it needs and how it reacts, and when to push it (and just how far it really can be pushed).  You wouldn’t there there’s too much to “learn” about running, but I have definitely learned!  The fact that my VO2 results confirm that I’m stronger running that on the bike kinda sealed the deal on the “2014 was all about running” front.  Go figure.

I’ve had such a fun time smashing goals this year, and now more huge goals for next year, for sure.  Only a few more weeks to take advantage of loose, no-plans training..then it's time to buckle down and really focus in on a little somethign happening Juen 28th, 2015.... ;)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fall is here!

So, what have I been up to?  Not too much, really.  I did try cyclocross—that is one crazy sport!  I’ve done two races now and wow, it has definitely shown me my bike handling skills could use some work (especially in the mud, which I already knew I was afraid of).  It has certainly been a blast, though.  Not sure how far I’ll pursue it, I almost feel like I SHOULD like it more than I do, but on the other hand I do have a really fun time so..who knows.  If nothing else, it has been a great little experience trying something new for now.

Otherwise, trying to maintain some level of fitness, running and biking a as much as I can during the week without doing anything crazy.  The time change (and shorter days overall) has been making it difficult, and now it’s just plain cold!  Luckily, I can deal with it running as long as I can find a time to go during the day, and there’s always the trainer ;)

Officially signed up for the Seattle half marathon, so that’s good to have something “coming up.”  I’m pretty happy with my run right now, I think it’s definitely my strength so figure I may as well try to work on that with the half coming up.

I’ve also gone and finally done all the testing at Cycle Science Training—just waiting for my official “results” report.  VO2 and lactate on the bike and the run, max watt, max cadence, FTP…all sorts of stuff.  From just the raw data I saw I’m pretty happy with the numbers, but honestly the coolest part has just been seeing all these things being applied and really understanding what various things correspond to (oh, went anaerobic, oh yes, that’s exactly the moment where my legs died).  They are also super knowledgeable and explained the biomechanical/chemistry behind things which I found really interesting as well.  Overall, a great experience.  Just want to see all the final data now! :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ho hum

Now what?

Nike Women’s Half Marathon was a week ago, and it was fun.  Not too much to say about it: spent a great weekend with the girls in San Francisco, then ran for 13.1 miles.  Good times.  :)  Bummed it was so foggy and didn’t get to see any of the views (I had no idea we ran right by the Golden Gate Bridge…) but I guess it made for good running weather..?

Now I’m kind of stalling, though.  I know it’s ok, I know this is expected..but I am getting restless and feel lazy!  I think I’ll do the Seattle Half Marathon at the end of November, so that’ll be my next “thing” to look forward to, and I guess I’ll keep trying to run and bike during the week.  Still no pool.  Not going to lie, I really do not miss swimming..but I am getting anxious about how much it’s going to suck to start again!

I’ve gone in for my first round of testing with Cycle Science Training, which was pretty neat.  Did V02/lactate and some max wattage test or something on the bike.  This week will be running, and then one more time for FTP and stuff like that on the bike.  It will be interesting to see all the results!  Just from the first day, they seemed politely impressed and nice about my results haha.  We’ll see :) Mostly I just think it’s really cool to see the numbers and relate them to myself… I “know” what the lactate thresehold means and what it does, but seeing the data real-time, and feeling my legs absolutely die right when the numbers showed it..pretty cool :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Taper week is boring!!!

And I actually AM trying to taper!..kinda.  This week I've done a couple of shorter runs (shorter and slower), and GASP a full rest day!  Some spinning tonight, and maybe a quick little run tomorrow before flying down to SF for the Nike Women's Half Marathon.

I also took is pretty easy last week, so I feel really lazy right about now.  And it's "only" a half marathon so I feel like this is all silly and not very necessary..but hey, doesn't hurt to try to actually follow it for once, right?  I have a couple months to kinda chill out and not stress about following any particular schedule, and just focus on maintaining everything and I figure I need to appreciate it and try to enjoy it.  :)  I feel a little guilty..but I also don't feel like i NEED to be doing a ton more.  I feel like I should, but my body is kinda ok with being lazy so just tryign to soak it up and give it the rest.  Certainly going to start doing a lot more work in just a few months... ;)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Taking it easy...

Things have been fairly relaxed lately, which I guess is good.  Istill need a pool, and am kind of anxious about losing all this time swimming and having to start over..but I don’t exactly  miss swimming itself ;) Hopefully this week or next I’ll have a pool again.
Nike Women’s Half Marathon is this weekend, which is exciting!  I’m looking forward to travelling and having fun with the girls...and running, of course.  It feels weird having just this coming up, although I’m really trying to do what you’re “supposed” to do and cut down the volume/intensity and taper a bit.  I feel lazy.  Oh well…

Got back on the mountain bike yesterday, for the first time in probably a month (aside from downhilling in Whistler the previous weekend which was AMAZING!).  Really looking forward to being able to mountain bike more this winter.  The woods make me happy :)  Plus, I need to get back and conquer that drop/step-up (where I broke my collarbone) before December 31st!!!  Definitely excited to hang out and play in the woods on a bike.  Summer is definitely over, time for fall and wintery weather!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A little break from swimming

It’s a little strange now, not having a very set plan.  It’s nice to take advantage of a very relaxed, moldable schedule..and I know I need to keep taking advantage of the opportunity, because things will get much stricter again in a few months :)
I took a week off of swimming, just because I could.  It was nice to not swim, since I hate it..but I also kinda missed it.  I missed getting up early and feeling good when I was at work at 730am and already got one workout in.  I missed getting a second workout in later in the day!  And I missed feeling like my arms were a little better than just clumps of arm flab ;)  So, back to the pool today..and while I definitely still don’t like swimming, I still kind of enjoyed it.  At least, in the sense that I was back to normal and getting my swim in in the morning and just feeling good.

Go figure, that’s my last swim for a while.  No more pro club membership with me.  Looking into other options, and now I really need to get it sorted out.  Oops… :P

Friday, September 26, 2014

Kirkland Triathlon 2014

It’s been another chill week..and now I finally have a few weeks to get back into the groove!  September was busy, and while we still have things booked almost every week, the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in mid-October is the only real “event” to worry about right now.  It’s also super rainy now, so maybe it’s good that all I need to do is really think about running right now. J

That being said… last weekend was gorgeous!  And fitting, too, as it was the Kirkland triathlon and the weather was perfect.  Last tri of the season, and it was also my very first triathlon last year!  It was a lot of fun being able to now do one where I already knew the course and how things worked, and see the comparison to last year.

I had way too much energy in the morning.  Megan spent the night so that we could carpool over, but maybe having someone else around just made me more awake and energetic.  I was super hot with my big jacket, I was terrified and intimidated by everyone (why? No idea), I wouldn’t stop  After selecting our racks (on the end, but way at the wrong side..oh well) and setting up, it was time for the wetsuits.  I put it off as much as I could, since my stomach was really upset that morning, but finally figured to suck it up and put it on.  Once that was out of the way, it was time for the pre-race meeting.  Let’s just say that was pointless, since we couldn’t see any of the buoys and couldn’t hear the guy talking.  After a really pointless long time of standing there wondering what was being said, we were pushed back and Megan and I got a chance to walk out on the dock and actually SEE the course (shocking), and get in the water a bit—surprisingly the water was super warm, it was actualy warmer to be in the water than out of it! Crazy.

Anyway.  We started shuffling forward, and it seemed a whole lot sooner than expected, but we were suddenly in the water and waiting for the gun.  I positioned myself on the outside edge, and wasn’t really paying attention, when suddenly the horn blew annnnd I guess I had to get going!

The water was rough.  Really rough.  Rougher than I remember last year and rougher than anything I swam in this year.  I swallowed a lot of water.  I had to stop a couple times because I had water in my lungs.  So annoying!  Truthfully, the swim was awful.  Aside from all the water going down my throat, there were people that kept kicking me, and I couldn’t get around them..and my wetsuit felt super tight around my neck.  I kept telling myself it was a short swim, if I could do it last year I could do it this year..but it was tough.  I’m not sure why it was so much harder (the 1500m last weekend seemed a whole lot easier) but..whatever.  I checked my watch as I (FINALLY) got out of the water and it turns out I was right about where I had been expecting/hoping, so I tried to shake it off and focus on what was next.

The bike was good.  I decided to use my road bike, since the course has lots of hills and 1) the gearing is better for climbing on the road bike, and 2) I am still terrified of going downhill on my tri bike.  I was immediately happy with my decision!  I passed a lot of people going uphill, including a LOT of people on tri bikes.  I also knew that I would not have been able to go down this hills on the tri bike (without slowing down a LOT), because there were a few steep ones, and the really long one at the end reminded me SO much of the road I crashed on.  I started getting nervous on the road bike even, but managed to keep it under control :)  The second lap was good too, I tried to just go fast and not worry too much about saving my legs—I figured I could suffer anything for a 5k.  It paid off, I ended up having the fastest bike time of all the females!  :)  Not important, but good re-affirmation about me and my bike.  <3  yay bike!

And then it was on to the run.  I took a lot of time in transition, at least it felt like that.  Again, waited until the last minute to take my helmet off.  Why do I do that?!  Anyway, after what felt like forever, I was off.  I immediately felt the normal what-the-heck feeling in my  legs, and tried to remind myself to just go hard.  5k and I was done!  There was a girl in front of my for the first mile or so who was FAST, and it was a struggle just to keep up with her.  I considered easing up and letting her go…but no, I decided to just try to stay with her, and worry about nothing else.  It was good, since she kept pulling me along!  Near the halfway, there is a STEEP HILL.  It’s not just a steep hill, it’s like a vertical wall.  Thankfully, I was at least expecting it this year—and I was STILL surprised at just how steep it was!  This is where I finally passed that girl.  She was speedy quick everywhere else but barely moving up hill.  I expected her to catch up and pass me after that, but I never saw her again.

Anyway, the way back was nice.  A lot more downhill than up, and I was truly coming to the home stretch.  I was also finally feeling more normal while running.  The last mile was getting tough because I wanted to push it, and I distinctly remember telling myself I could breathe once I got to the finish go faster!  I saw Megan on her way out on the run, which was also good to see a friendly face.

As I rounded a corner, coming to the last 50m with the finish line up ahead, I heard a guy running up behind me.  Which is no big deal, until some spectator saw us, and yelled “DON’T LET HIM PASS YOU!” at me.  Thanks, dude.  Both of us kicked it up, and it was an all-out, neck-to-neck sprint at the end.  Suddenly the finish seemed a whole lot further away, and I felt myself ease up a little—but then I realized the guy was also still not past me yet, and hey!  This was the last race!  It was like 20 feet away!  Why the heck was I giving up??!  So I snapped out of it, and pushed it hard to finish.

At the finish, the guy I was running against and I high-fived.  What a great way to end!  No slacking here.  Overall, it was a great race.  Lots of fun, and it was so wonderful to be able to compare and realize how much I’ve learned in the past year!  I am thankful to so many people for all their help and support and encouragement this year, and I was definitely feeling it then.

It was also really fun to be able to wait at the finish line and cheer Megan in!  Always more fun with friends.  She had a great race too, and it’ll be fun to see where this whole journey takes her J

In the end, I ended up winning my age group (well, I guess second but the girl who was before me finished 2nd overall, so…).  And 5th female overall!  Which to me was super awesome and still kind of shocking.  I know placement isn’t really important and can depend on so much, but I guess it just makes me realize that I can push myself.  And that I should continue to push myself J  Most importantly, I improved my time over last year, by about 11 minutes!  Each leg was faster, and it added up.  So, definitely happy about that!  Looking forward to an even better year next year—although now I have something much bigger to work towards…  Ironman!!   To say I am excited is an understatement.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Black Diamond Olympic-Distance Triathlon 2014

I have been so worn down lately!  I guess a half marathon one weekend and an Olympic tri the next weekend does that to me.  Funny, because I didn’t feel particularly extra-tired after either of those (in fact I thought I could have gone faster in the triathlon) but here I am..totally uninspired and tired this week.

In any case, it’s as good a time as any to go over the Black Diamond Olympic.  In short: soooo much fun!

I’ll be honest.  I was pretty nervous going into it.  This was my chance to re-do an Olympic distance, and prove a lot to myself after Milwaukee.  On the one hand, I was basically guaranteed to do better unless something catastrophic happned (if nothing else, I sure as heck would have my flat kit with me so even if I got a flat, it would be better).  But who knows?!  Rationally, I knew things would be fine, but I was still really nervous; yes I had done it before, but I essentially had big long 36 minute break in the middle of it, so what would it really be like to not stop?!

Anyway, we got there bright and early.  And when I say “bright and early,” I mean it was really early and really, REALLY freezing cold.  After quickly grabbing my packet and setting up, we went back to the truck and tried to warm up a little.  It was cold.  Transition closed at 8:40, there was a meeting supposed to be taking place at 8:45, and my wave started at 9:20.  So, at around 8:25, I headed back to double-check (triple- and quadruple-check) my gear and grab my wetsuit.  Thankfully, the sun was coming up over the treeline by then, and while the shade was still very cold, the sunlight was actually warm!  I sat on the grass and listened to the guy talking (and zoned out, and kept realize I should really be paying attention because he’s talking about important information about a weird spot on the bike course that people get confused about but oh wait, what?  That’s right.  Pay attention), and tried to relax.

At 9am, the first wave went off!  It was kind of neat that they had so many events going on—a sprint tri (individuals and relays), the Olympic (also individuals and relays) as well as a half-marathon!  Of course this also made things a little hectic, and prevented Allen from seeing me in certain spots because different courses crossed each other…but still, led to a pretty festive atmosphere and a crowd.  I think the first wave was the sprint men, and I decided it was time to accept the inevitable and wriggle into my wetsuit.

One mistake in Milwaukee was getting too panicked before the swim, partially due to putting off getting on the wetsuit for too long.  So I was (relatively) happy just to have it on and have enough time to stand around and be bored and wish I weren’t wearing it! :)  We watched the fast men doing the sprint finish, watched a few more waves going off…finally it was time to head to the water.  Mistake #2 avoided, get to the water with plenty of time and don’t be confused!

We all lined up, waist-deep in the water, in one giant line spreading out across the water’s edge.  I think I was one of the few people who actually was behind someone, but I didn’t want to feel like I was right up in the front, and also tried to move to the left half (counter-clockwise swim, so this would give me a wide angle and hopefully avoid the number of people coming into me).  I don’t really know what goes through my head as I wait to start the swim..mostly I think I try not to think about anything at all, and just focus on being as relaxed as possible.

And we were off!  Deep Lake (yes, I know) really is a gorgeous lake, and the morning sun made it even prettier.  It was a lot more calming than any other open water swim I’ve done, I think the size of the lake and the way the course was laid out… you were never very far from the shore, but not too close to feel claustrophobic.  Anyway, I quickly noticed that I was swimming..and still swimming..and there were still people around me!  As we neared the first buoy, I was still in pretty big group, which means I was still getting kicked and grabbed and rammed into a lot.  But I wasn’t falling behind quite as quickly!  That’s when I realized—in Milwaukee, it was faster people.  I make up time on the bike and run and suffer on the swim, but everyone in Milwaukee was also fast swimmers so I was dropped almost immediately.  This was a much more normal group of people like me, and while they were certainly pulling ahead, I was also ahead of a handful of people as well.  I did notice myself getting short of breath and taking too many breaths, so I had to focus on calming down and regulating my breaths and strokes..but after that, I settled into a good rhythm.  I’m so glad that I can breathe equally-comfortably on either side, because I did end up changing which side I was breathing on a lot (switching every other stroke, only to one side, etc), but that was no problem.  As I neared the third buoy (two circles around 4 buoys total), I noticed there were a couple of red caps I was catching up to and passing!  These were the guys that started 5 minutes before me.  Who knows what happened or why they were behind, but it was so weird!

The rest of the swim was fairly uneventful.  It got kinda boring.  I think about the strangest things while swimming.  Not really about anything in particular, just random thoughts.  Then I started thinking about the how random all my thoughts were, but I couldn’t concentrate on that either.  And then, finally, there was the swim exit!  I went as far as I could until I saw the bottom, got up and ran the heck out of that water!  I looked down at my watch as I was running to transition and saw it just tick 34 minutes.  Woohoo, that means the swim was 33-something which is about the same as Milwaukee (except this was WAYYYY less stressful and terrifying), and is pretty darn amazing for me.  I also felt my heart rate skyrocket (out of the water, go go go go go!) and had to remind myself to calm down.  Again.

Stripped off the wetsuit, threw on my shoes/glasses/helmet/garmin, grabbed a shot block and then one more for good measure, and I was out of there.  Good riddance, lake!  Time to see how the bike felt.

I was nervous.  My bike hasn’t been quite right ever since crashing—either having actual mechanical problems, or just not feeling like it was performing quite right.  The day before the race, I had to go get the front wheel re-trued.  AGAIN.  Because two rides after the last time it was trued, it was already wobbling like crazy.  Not exactly the most confidence-inspiring thing ever.

I can sum up the entire bike like this: awesome.  I loved the course, no real hills just some rolling terrain.  I still passed plenty of people going uphill, and even some people going down.  Passing people with disk wheels and aero helmets is the best :)  I even passed a lot of guys, which was extra satisfying—starting ahead of me, and undoubtedly a lot faster swimmers.  Best of all, my bike felt great!  There were some weird shifting things going on but nothing too troublesome. I felt confident on the bike and the angles of the downhill was just right—I’m still really scared to go down hills at certain gradients, but I never felt scared on the course.  I kept thinking to myself how good it felt, and how happy I was, and how much fu I was having!  Because that’s what it was—FUN.

As it turns out, I was in 116th place after the swim.  Out of ~150 people.  After the bike, I had moved up to 47th.  Not too shabby.  Time to run.

I got off the bike, swapped to my running shoes, grabbed a gu and headed out.  Allen met me on the run out, and yelled something about “see you in 30 minutes!”  I laughed.  I think everyone else who was running out at the same time thought I was crazy, too.  Sorry buddy, but a 30 minute 10k isn’t going to happen.

Anyway, I felt good.  I always run too fast off the bike, but at least I know it and figured I may as well do what I could as long as I didn’t wear myself out.  The run course was also pretty cool, parts were weird on a big road, but then a long out and back on a semi-private road was nice because it was just runners and you could see people.  I counted about 4 or 5 girls ahead of me, so I knew roughly where I was (knowing there were likely a few more I didn’t see right then).  I still managed to pass a bunch of people, which was kind of cool.  My legs felt good, and I was keeping a 7:45 pace fairly easily, and pushed it when I could down hills, etc.  I still kept a close watch on how I actually felt,  because I didn’t want to tire out and slow down at the end, but there were no signs of over-exertion so I kept at it.  Yes I was pushing it, but there was still some left in the tank.

The last mile-ish is a loop around the lake.  I loved that!  Such a fun change, and more varied terrain.  This meant there were a couple steep little hills, and also way less people (at least, you couldn’t see them in front of you), but I had my eyes one girl off in the distance.  I realized I was slowly, slowly gaining on her, and kept at it with about half a mile to go.  I got past her, and kept sprinting.  I noticed I was looking at my garmin a lot, to see how much further until the end; I wasn’t really slowing down toooo much yet, but I was definitely ready to get to the finish line!  With maybe a quarter mile to go, and there was another girl!  She was definitely tiring out, but I had all sorts of energy (of the “just get to the end so you can stop” variety) so I ran as hard as I could to pass her and then keep my speed up (it’s my biggest fear to pass someone and then have them pass me again haha).  At this point I just wanted to pass people in order to incentivize me to keep running hard and finish as fast as I could, and it worked.

The finish line totally sneaks up on you, and suddenly I was off the trail and the finish line was right there!  I was actually really surprised, and saw the clock was at 2:56-ish…considering my wave started 20 minutes after the official start, that put me around 2:36 which was basically exactly what I was shooting for!  (2:40 was my goal I would be happy with, and 2:30 was my go-as-hard-as-you-can-and-maybe-you-might-live goal)  Awesome :)

Post-race food was awesome—strawberry shortcake!  Always delicious, but it was extra-amazingly-delicious after racing.  Also ended up finishing first in my age group and 8th female overall, so that was super cool!  So happy I was able to go hard and finish strong.  It really was a fun day, I couldn’t get over the fact that I was just enjoying myself and having so much fun.  Can’t wait for the next one!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Skagit Flats Half Marathon 2014

On Sunday, I did the Skagit Flats Half Marathon!  Last year, this race was my very first half marathon, which I decided to do on a whim about 5 days beforehand.  Last year, I was really just starting my whole running journey, and I know I have come really far since then.  So, I was really excited to run it again and kind of compare!

On the one hand, I know I am a much better runner now, and know a lot more about how I feel and how/when to push myself, as well as have a lot more confidence in myself (if I can run a marathon, I don’t need to be so worried about a half).  That being said, I also knew I was putting pressure on myself, because I knew that I “should” be faster, but I also knew I ran pretty well last year anyway, so who knows.

The day started out early, that’s for sure.  4:45am, or something like that.  This year, though, I am getting up at 5am to swim three times a week, so it really wasn’t quite as terrible (except this was a weekend! Grr)…  Drove up with Mac, Katie and Megan, tried to wake up, etc etc etc… I was really not feeling it.  I just did not feel like running—mentally or physically.  Nevertheless, I got ready and laced up.  Mac was shooting for a 1:45 (or less), so I figured I’d run with her... last year, we finished in 1:46:20 (which was my 13.1 PR), so a 1:45 goal would beat that.  It also meant a sub-7min/mile average but…ehh, if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that I can easily push to go faster when I’m actually racing, and that just because training feels one way, an actual race is always different.

After standing in line for the porta-potty one last time, I gave up (just a few people to go!) because they were about to start.  At that point, I was more nervous about the race starting than anything else, so I crossed my fingers that everything would be ok (it was).

And suddenly, we were off!  As always, it was crowded and we got swept up for a bit. After a mile or so, it kinda normalized and people found their paces.  After a couple miles, as we also settled into a pace, we were hitting 7:40-7:50, which was perfect.  The sun was coming out and I was worried it would get super-hot out, but luckily, the real heat held off.  At around mile 5, Mac and I agreed we were going a comfy pace and that so far, so good!

The second we turned around and head back for the second half, we were reminded that there was a headwind.  Funny, I didn’t feel a tailwind on the way out!  Oh well.  We were still hitting 7:50, creeping up to 8, but it wasn’t quite as easy.  No worries though; again, we both agreed that it felt good, and there was certainly plenty left in the tank to push it later.  No point it using up that energy now.

Hitting the mile 10 mark is always nice.  Somehow, being in the double digits sounds a whole lot closer.  Plus, now it’s only 3.1 to go!  I can do anything for 5k, right?  We kept at it, and my legs were certainly starting to feel a lot heavier than before, but nothing too bad or unusual.  We saw friends on course (the best part of an out-and back like that is seeing so many people!  Kind of a good distraction), and had lots of people (mostly spectators) comment on our neon outfits :).  Right after mile 11, I could feel side ache coming on, just a minor irritation and I was hoping it wouldn’t turn into anything more.   As I turned to joke about it to Mac, she suddenly stopped abruptly, with HER ab hurting (but obviously a lot more).  We stopped a few seconds.  We walked a little.  We cautiously started running a bit.  We stopped again.   I think she said something about me going on but there’s no way I was going to leave her behind now; we were so close, kinda pointless and I knew she would be able to start running again soon enough.

The next time we started running, we stayed running.  A little easier, but really not a huge deal at this point.  Thanks to our strong pace at the beginning, we were well on track, and even with the stopping, we finished in exactly 1:45:00!  Awesome.  So we would have finished about a minute or so faster without that, but definitely not complaining.  The most important part was being able to jump back into it after that setback, and finish, AND we both still got PRs out of the deal!  It’s always so much more fun to run and finish with a friend, and this time was no different.  There’s just something different about going through the whole race together and sharing it :)

We hung out and lay out on the grass by the finish line (comfiest spot ever), and finally met up with Katie, and then Megan.  Turns out Megan also had some serious cramping issues, but she got through it like a champ.  We waited and watched Francis finish too, since he was doing the full marathon…he finished his very first marathon in 3 hours and a couple seconds.  Insane!

All in all, it was a great morning of running.  I wasn’t very excited about it, but it turned out great, and once I got moving, I was totally into it—a good lesson for next time.  Plus, running with friends is always better!

Now I’m trying to find the balance between taking it easy, and being ready for the next couple weeks:  Black Diamond Olympic this Sunday, and Kirkland Sprint the following Sunday.  Oh boy.  Need to sleep!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Arms are sore!

So weird.  Got in the pool this morning and immediately, knew it was not my day to swim.  My arms were totally dead.  The hurt, and I just could not move them at all.  I guess I did swim the last two days in a row, and had really pushed it.  Felt kinda bad, since it was kind of a bad/wasted morning at the pool (shouold have/could have just slept), but still....

I was kind of excited, though--that means that I actually WAS able to push it the last few days!  And that is good!  I've never felt like I was really working, since I was too busy the fact that I can work enough that my arms are actually sore and need a break?!  Kinda cool ;)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Settling in

Things have been…off.

Most notably, I decided to NOT do the Black Diamond long course (70.3)… Well, Mac gave me the idea, and pointed out that if I just did the Olympic, then I could also do the Skagit Flats half marathon (the weekend before) and the Kirkland sprint (the week after), both of which I did last year so I really want to do them again.

Plus, let’s be honest, training has not been going well lately.  Ever since that crash, nothing has been normal—from recovering, to my tri bike issues, to silly things like the pool being closed…it just hasn’t been happening the way I had hoped.  Granted, I’m still doing plenty, but I mostly am not comfortable on my tri bike, especially for that distance.  And oh guess what!  The spokes came undone the other day so I’m tri-bike-less again.  Ugh.  I figure I can wing another Olympic distance without too much practice on that bike, but I definitely want to have more practice long rides before racing on that bike.

As an added bonus, now I can try to redeem myself and re-do an Olympic, after the epic disaster at Nationals ;)  (note: I don’t really consider it an epic disaster, but just go with it)

Anyway, this has left me a little lost, really.  Yes, I’m still roughly following my schedule, but I’m really  not worried about the bike distance/time during the week, since my race just basically got cut in half.  I’m trying to keep up the running at least a bit, since I do have Skagit now, and have Nike coming up in October so I’ll be focusing on more running soon enough.  And I’m trying to keep up the swimming because, let’s be honest, I need as much swim practice as I can possibly get.

Speaking of swimming, I almost feel like there is starting to be improvement.  In the pool, at least, when I’m not freaking out with a wetsuit and open water.  But I can sometimes get slightly better form, and yesterday I was doing under a minute for 100 yards..which is slow, but for ME, that’s totally hauling it.  So that’s kind of cool.  I am also noticing that I’m a little out of breath after some sets, which is kind of cool because it means I’m actually able to push myself!  So far, I’ve been mostly trying to survive and not panic and keep moving, and it wasn’t much of an actual aerobic workout.  But, now I’m a lot more comfortable and am doing better with the whole “breathing” thing and consequently, I get to push it a little more!  So that’s kind of cool J  I really need to make sure I keep swimming a lot over the winter, though.  Maybe someday I’ll improve.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Pool Closed

Well, I was all excited to try to get back into the swing of things, after an iffy week last week.  So, yaaay, Mac and I were going to swim this morning.

Except then she found out the pool is closed this week (thank goodness she found out before going!)…Closed all week!

So, time to mix up my schedule all over again.  No pool means I really should get to the lake..but that isn’t something I can really do before work.  And it’s a pain.  And bleehhh….

Swimming is dumb.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

USAT National Championships - Milwaukee 2014

Ok, it’s time to talk about Milwaukee, and the USAT Nationals.

People keep asking how it was.  It’s hard to answer.  It sucked.  But I’m also super glad I did it, and happy.

The whole thing was stressful.  It started Thursday morning, before we even left, when my new wheels finally arrived and I had to go pick them up and get the cassette swapped, etc etc etc.  We made it to the airport, and our flight was delayed two hours, meaning we got in to Chicago at around 2am local time.  Got to the hotel, slept a few hours, had to shuttle back to the airport to pick up the rental car...which took a few hours because of all sorts of small, minor things which all snowballed into huge delays.

We finally made it to Milwaukee, after traffic and construction and detours and wrong turns.  I wanted to be down at the race area by then to get some swim practice in, but needed to get my bike back together.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  Everything went fine until we put the wheels on—new wheels are wider than my old ones.  Also not a big deal, because we can just open up the brakes so they fit, right?  Wrong.  After messing with them and just making this worse (and being starving since we hadn’t even since breakfast, and now it’s too late to swim and we just need to get moving), we brought it down to bike support at the race area.

One mechanic looked at it.  Another did.  And another.  This guy was supposedly the “expert” and did manage to make things a little better—able to ride, at least.  The rear brake had about a hairs-width gab between the rim and the brake, so any tiny movement would make it drag..but at least the wheel was spinning.  I had him double-check my derailleur and the shifting, since I didn’t trust myself at that point.  Rode up and down the street a couple times, and figured things felt fine.

Finally picked up my packet and chip.  Finally got the bike racked.  Finally was ready to relax.  It was not relaxing.  At this point, nothing had gone very smoothly at all, and I not exactly feeling confident about the swim (ummmm the swim area looked HUGE) or the bike.  Plus, we were hungry again.

Figuring there wasn’t much else to do there, we left and got dinner.  Got back to the hotel, actually went to the pool and tried a couple laps but the pool was so crazy-short (not exactly meant for swimming) that it was pretty pointless to try.  I was trying to pay attention to my arms, and do what Mac had explained to me earlier in the week, but was hard to do in such limited space.   Forget it—time for the hot tub.

After prepping everything (and packing, since we were checking out of the hotel in the morning), it was finally bed time.  Luckily, I think I fell asleep pretty quickly… running on just a few hours of sleep had its perks ;)

Race morning, I was feeling surprisingly rested.  I certainly could have slept (a lot) more but I was ready to go!  I wore compression socks overnight and my legs felt great; will need to do that more J  After grabbing everything, we headed downtown.

I set up transition.  I deliberated on where/how to put things.  For the first time, I was NOT on the end, so I had to figure out the best way to position things.  As an aside—transition was HUGE!  I mean I knew it would be, with thousands of athletes, but I knew I would get lost and have trouble finding my bike after the swim.  I actually kept getting lost and missing my bike just walking around (the numbering made no sense to me…I’m not sure what my deal was).  I borrowed someone’s pump, since of course I didn’t have mine.  I sliced open my finger.  Awesome.

I put my spares kit on my bike, as usual.  I tried to rack my bike.  I couldn’t.  The combination of the silly race number + rack meant I couldn’t have my little kit on the back like usual.  I considered my options: leave everything out and try to shove it in my back pocket after the swim? Too bulky, I knew it wouldn’t fit (if I had been prepared to do that, I could have bundled things up better; as it was, I just had things shoved in my bag).  Put the bag somewhere else?  I tried putting it on the top tube, but it didn’t stay on very well and I wasn’t sure if it would hit my legs, and mostly I was actually worried it would fall off while I was riding..which was much scarier than anything else.

I went over to the edge of transition and discussed the situation with Allen.  We went back and forth.  Finally, we decided I could probably just leave the spare stuff behind—less to worry about.  I joked to Allen that “now that I’m not brining it, I’ll probably get a flat…”  Famous last words.

Allen had me running back and forth a couple of times, checking a few last-minute things with my bike/gear that he thought off, and I eventually decided it was time to be done.  Transition closed at 7:30am when the first wave went off…and my wave was scheduled for 9:18am!

So we waited.  We watched the first wave, walked around the entire swim course (how is 1500m sooo long?!), used the porta-potty about five billion times, ate a little, etc etc etc.  Finally, it was time to get the wetsuit on.  I decided to rush to the bathroom ooooone last time (I was nervous, what can I say).  As I was standing in line, a girl with a 25 on her leg (my age group) was leaving and the guy she was with was saying “hurry, your group is next!”  I panicked and checked my watch…it was right around 9am, so I should have a good 15-20 minutes.  I got through the line, and made it back to Allen, and he assured me everything was fine.  But I started to get worried.  There were so many people, and they were staging the groups so strangely (to me) that I wasn’t really sure where I was supposed to go.  I got the wetsuit on (looking like a drowning fish all the while), then heard something over the speakers about my age group.  I couldn’t catch what they said, but the fact that they said my age group, and it was still early, freaked me out.  I pulled on the sleeves, scrambling, and Allen zipped me up and told me to breaaaaathe.  Apparently I was already all red and panicked and suddenly, I was both terrified of the swim AND terrified of NOT being on time, even though my watch said I had plenty of time.  I realized that standing there trying to calm down was just making it worse, because I was suddenly more worried and had a sinking suspicion that maybe my group was already starting! I headed to the big starting area, and some lady saw my purple swim cap and started saying “what, you’re in the water RIGHT NOW, GO” annnnnnd that’s when my heart rate started going through the roof.  When had they said anything?  Why are there so many people?  Get out of my way, I need to get to the water!  I can’t be done before I even start!!!  I ran through all the crowds, pretty sure everyone thought I was crazy.  Definitely got pushed around a lot.  I tried to apologize.  Whatever.  Made it to the dock, and although basically the entire group was already in the water, ready to go (only a couple people were still standing there, waiting to jump in), I was there.  I made it.  They didn’t start without me.

Now it was time to breathe.  It was only then that I realized just how completely panicky I was feeling—and it had nothing to do with swimming itself.  The announcer mentioned there was 3 minutes until the start, so I looked around for Allen but had no idea where he was, but with so many people (and with dirty goggles..AWESOME, way to go Rosanne, way to be prepared and check your gear..not) I had no idea where he was.  I felt super lost and out of place…everyone around me looked happy, as if they were actually excited and enjoyed the water!  I was mostly realizing I shouldn’t even be there.  So I spent the last 3 minutes trying to calllllllllm down and breathe, and joking with one other girl who shared the same swimming sentiments….and suddenly, we were off.

There’s not much to say about the swim, other than it felt like forever and it was terrible.  Right off the bat, I freaked out.  I really didn’t get pushed around too much, a couple feet at the beginning and a little pushing, but not bad at all (I was expecting worse).  Starting way in the back and being a slowpoke that falls behind quickly is a plus, I guess!  There were 2 other girls that I kind of swam in the vicinity of for most of the time, I think we were the three last people in our group…mostly I just didn’t want to be the last one, so I kept my eyes out.  That, and it was something to focus on and keep me moving forward.  I split up the landmarks and buoys, and just focused on getting to the next one..but I was also very aware of my stroke, after the conversation with Mac about it.  Suddenly  nothing felt right—trying to do what she said felt wrong, but then I could’nt figure out how I “normally” swim, either…  So I reverted to my usual method of imagining exactly what Mac would say in that situation, which is “just keep swimming!”  At one point, there was a kayak or paddle board or something off to my side that I kept seeing out of the corner of my eye, and I actually just imagined it was her out there, making me keep going.  That helped.  :)

Eventually, I made it.  Eventually.  Turns out, the swim was something like 33 minutes, which is faster than what I was hoping (35min), so somehow my frantic flailing propelled me.  The second I got out of the water, I left it all behind.  I was done with the swim, and now it was time to have fun!  It was as looong run to transition but I was more than happy to make it.

And then I couldn’t find my bike…just as I suspected.  I had made a mental note earlier that it was actually closer than what I thought (again, the numbering was weird…it seemed to skip a bunch of numbers).  So I was running along and I knew I had gone too far…but where was it?!  I’m pretty sure I stood there turning in circles for a few seconds, run back and forth a couple times..oh, there it is!  No idea how I missed it.  There were two bikes still on either side (I think on the other side of the rack, for a different age group) so I must have not seen it between their fancy discs. :P

In any case, I happily stripped off the bottom of my wetsuit, grabbed everything, and ran off.  I saw Allen on the side while I was running out, and was happy he found me.  Onto the bike and…go!

The first couple blocks navigated out to the street, so once I made it to the main road, I got settled and tried to shift into a better gear.  Time to ride!  But, why does the chain feel funny?  And what’s that noise, is that normal?  Something felt just a little off, and I was worried that my brakes had gotten knocked to the side.  As I was looking down, trying to see if it was the brakes or the derailleur….pffffffssstttt….yup, that’s my rear tire.

I pulled over.  I think I started swearing a lot in my head.  What..the..heck.  Yes, upon further investigation, that rear tire is most certainly, 100%, no doubt about it, totally flat.

My flat kit is in Allen’s backpack.  Why didn’t I bring it?!  And how the heck am I supposed to get bike support here?  I stood around a little, trying to figure out what to do, and a policeman saw me and came over.  He asked if I was ok, and I said I was fine, just had a flat and wasn’t sure how to get help.  He went over to talk to a volunteer, who in turn got on the phone.  After a few minutes (seemed like a whole lot of minutes, for a pretty quick phone call), I was assured that bike support was on the way.  Thank goodness!

So I waited.  And waited.  I passed the time by thinking about how stupid I was to not bring my spare kit.  I briefly considered giving up and not finishing, but then I realized that all I had done so far was swim, and I did NOT fly 2,000 miles just to swim.  So, I quickly went into damage control mode, and focused really hard on NOT getting upset.  After all, I just came for the experience, right?  I had time goals, but I knew that they were purely arbitrary and meant for me to use as motivation, not because I had anything hinged on this race.  But with so many people going was discouraging.

I conveniently got a flat 0.5 miles into the course, which meant that not only was it on the out-and-back of the bike AND The run course, it was also close enough that there were tons of spectators.  I kept thinking “geez, someone here MUST have a spare tube!”  But, they mostly all just ignored me.  It was about a quarter mile from the end of the run, so I saw everyone running by, pushing their hardest to get to the end..and there I was, at the very beginning of the bike.

It really, really sucked.

Especially when pretty soon, the number of bikes going by went down.  I knew there weren’t too many waves behind me, and I knew I swam slowly, so naturally, I began thinking that obviously these were all the last bikers, and pretty soon I was going to be the LAST PERSON ON THE COURSE.  I tried not to think about it.  I just needed a tube and some air….

Meanwhile, the volunteer and I took my tire off (and inspected the wheel and the tire, nothing there, just a huge gash in the tube.  I also noticed that the edge had come off, so my guess is that the tire slipped off, which moved the tube and caused it to rub and rip).  I didn’t know how long we were there, but my garmin kept telling me it was about to go into power save mode, and I kept having to wake it up…awesome.  I suggested I walk towards the start of the course, and the volunteer called again.  And again.

Finally, he tried calling someone else, and guess what!  Another biker had accidentally dropped his little kit of spare stuff on the course, so this other volunteer had it… the guy that was helping me ran off to get it, and in another few minutes, I finally had a tube and CO2.  The tube looked huge, for some reason.  We ignored that, and stuffed it onto my wheel anyway.

As I was watching the guy change my tube, I saw a spectator run over.  She must have seen me, and crossed the run course and the bike course to get to me; I briefly noticed she was decked out in USA gear.  She ran up, looked me straight in the eye, and gave me the best pep talk of my life.

“Hey!  You’re going to finish, right, and that’s all that matters.  You’re a finisher.”  I think I kinda smiled and tried to nod, and she kept on going.  “Really.  This guy is going to get your tire changed, and you’re going to get out there and keep on racing as hard as you can, and you’re going to finish.  This exact same thing happened to me at this race last year.  I still finished, and I ended up getting a roll-down spot on Team USA, and I ended up winning at World Championships.  So you are going to get back on that bike, and finish, ok?  Promise me.  No matter what.”

Needless to say, I was kind of..stunned.  In a good way.  It was one thing for me to try to tell myself to calm down and just finish the race, but the fact that someone saw me, and came over to tell me that, really hit me.  It got my head on straight again.  I remembered what I was doing, took a step back, and realized how glad I was to be there and that I was still in control of finishing.  Not that I was ever aspiring (or remotely close) to going to Worlds; the important part was that it was ok.  The day wasn’t ruined.  I had 2/3 of the race still in front of me, and I sure as heck wasn’t about to slack off and let it destroy me.  I thanked her, I was speechless but managed to croak out a feeble “yes, yes, thank you…” and she ran back to where she had been watching before.  Whether or not she realizes what an impact that made, I don’t know—but I do know that that was a pivotal moment, which reminded me just how much I love the sport itself.  It was humbling, not in the sense of being put in my place, but of seeing the character of others.  Out of everything that happened that weekend, I think those 30 seconds were the most impactful.

Shortly thereafter, my wheel was back on and I was ready to go!  After profusely thanking the volunteer for all his help, I hopped on the bike and rode up, as he shouted “go have the ride of your life!” after me.  Again, the support of others really came through (and these were all strangers, not friends or people who were obligated to be nice).  I carried their well wishes with me, and you better believe I didn’t slack off the rest of the race.  I was not about to let all their help and support go unanswered.

Even so, it was demoralizing.  At this point, I was absolutely positive I was the last biker on the course, and was worried about cutoff times (I couldn’t remember what the times were).  I got past the end of the run course, and was off alone, with just one guy that I could see in the distance in front of me.  I don’t think I ever caught him, but I sure wanted to.  We finally got to the turn around of the first out-and-back, and as I headed back down the way we came—I was shocked.  There was actually someone behind me.  And someone else! And..oh!  So many I really am not that terrible after all.  I knew there were all out of my age group and probably started their swim way after me, but I was NOT the last person on the course!

Things got better after that.  I looked for Allen as we passed near the transition area again, thinking he might be there waiting for me.  I wanted to tell him I got a flat, because I knew he would probably worry, but didn’t see him.  I figured he probably thought that he missed me, and was probably waiting near the bike in…guess he’d just have to wait a long time, and worry.  Oops.

We went over the “big bridge.”  Yeah it was, but it wasn’t terrible.  It was long, but no worse than any other hills in the area.  I got passed, but I also passed a couple people.  I was keenly aware that nobody around me was in my age group, but tried not to think about that too much.  If I was going to finish last in my age group, at least I did have a reason…

The bike course was alright. Actually, the course itself was fine, it was just the terrible Milwaukee roads that were no fun!  I get it.  Milwaukee gets some harsh winters, and the roads suffer.  But geeeeez!  Massive potholes and gaping cracks and ledges…this was really NOT the ideal ride for someone who was finally back on the tri bike for the first time since crashing on it.  I was on high alert, scanning everything in front of me; there were some massive metal plates on the downhill of the bridge that were covered in rubber..helpful, but still basically a giant speedbump.  I did NOT go barreling down.  Nevertheless, I think I navigated it all moderately well, considering I was basically terrified of going flying off!  When I say there were cracks and holes everywhere, I mean that it was difficult to find a smooth piece of pavement, anywhere.  I basically zig-zagged around, trying to avoid things.  There was one close call with a HUGE pothole that snuck up out of nowhere, but I managed to swerve around it juuuuust enough, just barely in time.

At the second out-and-back turnaround, I noticed I was hearing things.  It was pretty windy, so I couldn’t hear too well, but occasionally I could hear a strange clicking noise coming from my rear wheel (presumably).  Or maybe I just wasn’t used to these new wheels?  Then my chain started slipping some more.  Some shifts that would suddenly happen five minutes later.  Progressively feeling less and less happy on the bike, I was ready to be DONE.  I have never been so uncomfortable on a bike, and I wanted to get off the bike while it was all still in one piece!  Sad.  As we rounded the final corner to transition, I finally saw Allen.  While navigating the craters and bumps of the road, I yelled to him that I had gotten a flat… Sheesh.

I happily dismounted the bike, and ran to my spot.  At this point, I wasn’t super worried about taking my time.  I hustled, and probably went as fast as if I had been really trying to go fast, but I felt much more relaxed.  I wasn’t about to have a great finish, so a couple extra seconds to grab an extra shot block was not going to kill me!  I got my shoes on, and was off.

Ironically, the run is always my favorite part of a triathlon.  You can go all out, and not worry about pacing yourself or saving anything for the next leg(s).  Running is all about you and your ability (not your ability to navigate through water and breathe, or have the most expensive equipment or ride a bike), so this part was entirely up to me.  I noticed on the bike I was getting hungry (a 30+ minute delay will do that), so I ripped off the top of a gu and slowly ate some as I ran.  I don’t think I ever finished it, I ended up tossing it around mile 5, but it gave me something else to focus on.

And I ran.  All the speedy people in the later waves (most wearing their Team USA or collegiate kits) went blazing past me like I was standing still—and I was at a goo 7:30/mile for the first couple miles, which for me is pretty darn good.  But I kept my head down, and focused on moving forward.  Dumped some ice down my shirt a couple times (a 30+ minute delay also means that much more time for the sun to get overhead…it was HOT).  I did start seeing a few people in my age group on the run, but mostly coming back in, while I was still on the “out” part.  Nevertheless, it was good to know they would finish minutes in front of me, not an hour ;)

I actually really enjoyed the run course.  It was pretty, even though most of it was along a road and was kinda boring-looking on the map.  My quad was super unhappy, but I knew I just had to get through 6.2 miles so I kept pushing it, and ignoring it.  The run hurt, but it was also really good.  In the end, I was really happy with my run, and finished a good 3 minutes faster than my goal time, so I was more than thrilled about that!

Turns out, Allen actually missed seeing me at the very end, because I told him I was hoping to shoot for about 50 minutes, if I could…and instead finished in 47.  Oh well.  Finishing was strange; once I saw the timer as I was coming to the line, it was pretty depressing.  Since it started counting when the first wave started, it was somewhere in the 5:30 time..even subtracting a couple hours to account for my start time put me way over 3 hours, which was..depressing.  Not because the time itself was depressing to me, just knowing that I could have done so much better.  On the other hand, I knew I had put together a really good run (didn’t know my other times yet), and I knew I had finished strong and didn’t give up when I had all my problems.

I happily took the wet washcloth and Gatorade.  I was starving and thirsty and sweaty and HOT!  Someone managed to give me a medal finally, and I turned around to hear Allen calling for me.  I was really happy, but still disappointed with everything that had happened and was super bummed that I finished wayyyy later than I had told him I was shooting for…but he stood there calling for me and just looked sooooo happy and gave me the biggest hug!  He kept saying he was so happy and proud of me, which I found hard to believe because, um, it kind of sucked…but still.  So nice to have him be so cheerful about it :)

Anyway, the rest of the day and trip were good too.  I started to have time to really think about how I felt, and see my swim time (faster than I thought, whaaat?!) and later my bike time (subtracting the big delay due to the tire, I was right on my goal time, awesome).  But aside from results, I realized that as I was out there, knowing full well that I was very likely going to come in dead last, not only did I go for it and race as hard as I could—but I had fun.  I still wanted to go as hard as I could, and execute my plan.  It wasn’t about getting a certain time, and it wasn’t about placement.  Sure, those are great goals and great motivators, and a represent a quantitative way to measure success and/or improvement..but it’s not everything.  And I was really happy to realize that I love it for the sake of doing it, regardless of the fact that, by those standards, I did “really badly.”

So that’s that.  It has taken me a long time to write all this because it was hard to figure out how to express how it all felt.  It sucked, but it was also really, really good, and I am so thankful to have gotten a chance to get that experience.  Now, to focus on the next things….  :)