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 talking..man.  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 line..so 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 not-drowning...so 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.