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….  :)

Saturday, August 9, 2014


It has certainly been a busy week. 2 chiro appointments, 1 massage, mountain bike, open water swim, run, road ride, plus a long team building event at work meant that I was basically racing around like crazy all week leading up to Thursday. 

Well, after a highly eventful journey, we made it to Milwaukee.

Delayed flight, long lines, you name it, it happened. I was thrilled that my bike went together so easily, until I realized my brand new wheels (which arrived mere hours before our flight) were wider and therefore the brakes didn't fit. 

But now, everything is ready. Bike is racked, transition set up, and there's nothing left to do but wait!  The swim course looks so long, it's kind of terrifying, even though I know I have swam longer before. 

Anyway. Time to go!!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Getting Busy!!

Well, things are certainly getting busier!

I am swimming a little faster, I think.  I’m not actually sure, it’s actually hard to tell.  If nothing else, I’m not feeling worse, so that’s good.  I still hate it, though.  There was a guy swimming next to me in the lane next to mine this morning, and of course he looked really slow, until I swam next to him and he shot past me at a million miles an hour.  Ughh.  On the plus side, it made me work really hard to keep up with him, so that was cool.  Actually pushing myself?!  In the water!?  Whaaat?!?!

Running is alright, honestly I don’t know how I feel about running right now.  I just haven’t really gotten into it at all in the last few months.  I love the idea of it, I love how it used to feel, but now, I just feel slow and tired when I run.  No energy.  But, I do it anyway.  I know it’ll come back, I just need to keep on going.  On the plus side, I don’t think I’m getting toooo much slower.  I know I can be faster, and it’s frustrating when I can’t even push myself and maintain it, but I’m not going backwards too much.  It just feels that way.  I think part of it is the mindset; with the marathon, I was much more focused on getting the time and distance in, and not really paying attention to my pace.  I knew what ballpark to shoot for every time I ran, but it wasn’t a huge concern to me.  Now, I’m a lot more conscious about pace.  Oh well.

Didn’t do much (or any) road biking since last Wednesday, which feels like forever!  But, at least I finally got to go mountain biking again :)  Good to be getting back to normal, although I was SUPER sore the next day, and my back was less than happy.

Speaking of which, went to the chiropractor today.  He was able to find plenty of things that could be contributing to the pain (and my limited range of motion), and I can already twist and turn my head more than I could before I went!  Going again on Thursday, so we’ll see.

Currently stressing: wheels.  Oh my gosh.  Come on, fedex!!  Bike is all packed to go (yayyy thanks to awesome friends!) and now I just need those silly wheels!  Can't even believe we are leaving in 3 days.  Holy cow.  Commence panic attack now!