Friday, August 30, 2013

Timberman RR also known as the 3rd year annivesary

Better late than never, but here comes my Timberman race report. Timberman 70.3 was my 1st race under the guidance of coach Jorge, my 1st race on a tri bike, the 1st time I went sub 5 hours, and the 1st time I made it on the podium although barely (I was 5th in my AG). I haven’t done this race since then, so I was really looking forward to the weekend! We had booked a couple of condo’s only ½ mile from the start of the race, and had a BIG group of us racing as well as supporting and that is always FUN! There is just something special about seeing so many of your teammates/friends either on the race course or as support crew!

I was excited to finally race again. I knew that based on my training I was more than ready for a great performance. I was coming off one of my best training blocks. I was consistently seeing numbers in the pool, on the bike or run that I have never seen before and I was just feeling strong and ready to go physically as well as mentally.  I mentioned in my previous blog post that I have trained on the course a few times this summer and so I really had an idea of what I was capable of, which was a huge mental boost come race day.

I arrived in Guilford on Friday afternoon, and bunch of us went to register, followed by a quick jog. I felt good, and honestly, I was just ready to race!  The few days before the race are the worst, and I really just wanted to get the party started. One advantage of staying at a condo is that you can make your own food, which far exceeds going out to eat especially when you have excellent chef’s around! Huge thanks goes out to Jorge THE chef, and Brett THE grill master! 

 2 choices of pasta thanks to chef Jorge

 Gotta have some greens too - Thanks Jeff! 

Somehow I didn't get the pic of the delicious bison tips, and chicken, and turkey tips or the loafs of bread! (Could be because I ate them all?). Some quality time spent with teammates/friends which definitely helped to calm the pre-race nerves, and Saturday morning was here before we knew it. Little spectating during the sprint race, followed by an awesome BIG breakfast and my favorite part of the day before the race (more pancakes and bacon please!)

Maybe if I ate less, I could have been faster? Somehow this blog post seems to be all about food so far!

Some last minute bike maintenance, one last pre-ride, and run and “Fireball” was ready to spend the night at Ellacoya State park ready to rumble on Sunday.

Ready as always!

Repeat dinner from Saturday night, and the alarm clock was set for 4am! I slept fairly well till about 2am and that was that. Just let me race already! I couldn’t visualize the race any longer! Breakfast went down slowly as usual (Amazing how bagel with peanut butter and jelly can taste so good one day, and so blah on race morning), and we were off. Thanks to top notch service by super Sherpa Briana that dropped us off right at the transition area we didn’t even have to walk much. Bonus! 

Up at 4am, on her feet all day, and wide awake at 10pm. I on the other hand am 1/2 asleep! Super Sherpa!

One very long PP line later, I found myself trying to squeeze into my wetsuit as fast as I could so I had some time to warm up before my wave going off at 7:29am. 

SWIM:  37:45 (39th AG/104, 223rd female/638)
I was ready to have a GREAT swim. I felt very good, and I was ready to finally show what I have been up to in the pool, but it clearly wasn’t meant to be. I felt really good all the way to the first turn buoy even following some feet, but as soon as we made the turn to make the trek across the lake, couple of things happened. The water became VERY choppy which made me nauseous, and I was starting to swim right into floating objects (I mean other competitors from previous waves that were out on a leisurely float). I know I wasn’t exactly moving very fast either, but for whatever reason these peeps seemed to be everywhere and I felt like there was no way around them.  I didn’t panic, but it definitely made it hard to get into any sort of rhythm and I found myself having to actually dead stop a few times, find my way around said floaters and get back on track.  I say floaters because one minute I would sight and see them up ahead, and the next minute I was barreling right into them because they were dead stopped with their feet pointing down. Once we made the last turn towards the beach, I tried to sight the finishing arch, but that wasn’t happening because I couldn’t find it. That made getting back and bit more difficult and I reserved to following the buoys instead. As we finally got closer to shore, I was still feeling strong, but I knew deep down that I didn’t exactly have the swim I knew I have in me.  I don’t swim with a watch, but I took a quick glance at the race clock and after a quick math, I figured out I probably was somewhere in the 37 min range. Boooo! I didn’t dwell on it at all, and just kept moving.

T1: 1:54 min
I bypassed the wetsuit strippers although on a 2nd thought maybe I should have used them, because my wetsuit got a bit stuck on my timing chip. Nutrition in the pockets, helmet/sunglasses/shoes on and I was out of there. I got slowed down a bit by other competitors walking their bikes through transition but I tried to make my way around them given how narrow the “isles” were as fast as I could. 

BIKE: 2:22:43 (1st AG/104, Fastest Amateur bike split by almost 8 minutes, and 2nd fastest  female bike split only behind the speedy Melissa Hauschildt)  

I have been biking better than ever and if my 2:26ish that I rode during the race prep ride 2 weeks ago with my race setup on tired legs was any indication of what I may be capable of on race day, I was in for one fast ride. My goal was to ride around 2:25. I have looked up previous Timberman bike times, and when I saw the likes of Chrissie Wellington riding 2:25 or 2:22 with her fastest time being just under 2:20, I couldn’t help but to be “scared” a little. I know I am a strong cyclist, but coming near some of these pro times have never even really crossed my mind! (Ok maybe it had just a little bit, but it’s still a bit surreal) Back to the race. I hopped on my “Fireball” and of we went. The first part was a bit sketchy with coned of sections that made passing a bit more difficult, but I managed. Lots of very loud “ON YOUR LEFT”, “ON YOUR LEFT”, I said “ON YOUR LEFT” (Image me really screaming by now) and I made it through without knocking over any cones or competitors or myself, although it was close a few times and I felt like I was in a driving school where they do make you get around cones cuz that is exactly what I had to do to actually end up on the right side of the road!

Rider on the right, cones on the left, and me thankfully still upright! 

Once on 106, I just put my head down and went for it, sling shooting when I could although I was just really moving fast, and everyone else I was passing seemed to be standing so at times it was just easier to follow the white line.  I made it to the turnaround around 1:10 which I knew was fast, but I was in the lower range of my target watts, so I wasn’t alarmed. The way back was a bit cleaner (in terms of competitors, and there weree no females to be found).  I was able to just put my head down and go.

Go, go, go, go, go 

I absolutely bombed the freshly paved downhill in the 2nd half of the course hitting 52mph at some point, and I made my way into transition, consistently riding at the bottom end of my watts for the full 56 miles. I probably could have pushed harder, but I wanted to have a great run! One that I know I am capable of but have yet to be able to show in a race. I rolled into transition, and have seen my teammate Carolyn heading out on the run (she is a speedy)! I knew she started in one of the earlier waves, so I knew I was doing well. She was now my little target because this girl can run!

Rolling into transition

T2: 1:38
I was in and out of there as fast as I could. Not many bikes if any at all in my row so I knew I most likely was towards the front of the race. Put my socks on, grabbed my watch and off I went. 

Heading out on the run! Moving Soooo Fast even the camera can't catch me (How I wish) ;) 

RUN: 1:35:54 (2nd AG, 5th fastest amateur run, 12th fastest run including the PRO’s)
Bummer! I had a good run, but not a great one. There weren’t that many people out on the run course during my 1st loop and since it’s a 2 loop out and back course you get  a great look at your competition. I ran the first loop relatively comfortable with the hopes of negative splitting the 2nd loop, but that unfortunately never happened. I was keeping tabs on Carolyn who is a GREAT runner, and was just really trying to keep my distance between me and her the same. That didn’t quite happen, but I also didn’t see anyone coming for me which was great.  I was also on the look out for coach Jorge because given my earlier start, I knew we could have potentially finished the race together. I started to struggle a bit on the 2nd loop and was just simply running out of energy even though I took a gel at mile 2, and between miles 6-7, and started on coke. The 2nd loop was way more crowded but it also gave me a chance to see so many of my teammates and friends out on the course cheering me on. I was in my own little world and may have not returned some of those cheers, and I’ll try to do better next time.  Thank you guys, I heard you all! I believe I just needed to fuel a little better so I don’t let that happen again, and quite honestly I need to grow bigger balls and just go for broke little earlier than a few miles from the finish. I ran the last 1.5 mile sounding like a freight train, but I gave it all I had and good thing I did because as I was nearing the finish line, I only had a few seconds to spare before the 4:40 ticked on the clock. And let’s face it – 4:39:xx sounds MUCH faster than 4:40 …ha!

Finish Line kick - am I there yet? Tick, tock, tick, tock ... don't fall, don't fall

Coach Jorge didn’t catch me (AWESOME for me because I really didn’t want to try to match his 5 min per mile pace at the end of a race), and let’s face it, getting passed in the last mile of a race by anyone is NOT an option ;) but I didn’t have to wait for long.

We both had very good races with lots of room for improvement, and that’s what this is all about - Fun and the quest for perfection!

I know I have a 1:30 run in me, so now I just have to prove it! Easy, right? My next chance is going to be in October during the Rev3 South Carolina and I will be going for broke.

I may have not had a perfect race, but I am super-duper happy with how it turned out anyways. I may have not had a perfect race, but I am super-duper happy with how it turned out anyways. For our 3rd year anniversary I gave my coach a new 70.3 PR, and a 15 min improvement on the same course Yeah I know – 15 min, 3 years of hard work may not seem like enough, but believe me when I say it is. If back then anyone told me that I would ever see 4:3x on the clock for 70.3 distance, I would laugh at them (unless of course the swim was with a current, and the bike and run courses were downhill only, which is certainly NOT the case with Timberman). Back then and for the longest time, breaking 5 hours was the magic barrier, but guess what – NOT anymore.That 4:2x is in there and I know it!

Final tally: New PR of 4:39:54 – 1st 30-34 AG – the biggest maple syrup bottle award there is (YES!), 2nd overall Amateur, and 8th Overall Including pro’s. Last but not least another $400+ lighter and a spot for next years 70.3 World Championships in Mt. Tremblant!  #Mission #Win

 I can finally open the tiny maple syrup from 3 years ago! 

Yes, yes - the biggest bottle of maple syrup I could get = Happy Czech Chick

Aaaand the weekend wouldn't be complete with some post race FUN! 

Don't ask!

And I won't tell!
Till next time! 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ready for FUN!

Timberman 70.3 was my 1st race ever working with coach Jorge, and it was the first time I went sub 5 in a 70.3. It was actually my first 70.3 on a tri bike (his tri bike because I didn’t have my own and he was nice enough to let me use his). Little did he know, I had marked my territory ;), became addicted to Felt, and that’s how “Fireball” came around.

Fast forward 3 years later, and in just 5 short days, I will be toeing the start line of that same course ready to rock!  

I will be ready to swim like a shark is chasing me

Or maybe I'll be the one chasing the shark? ;) 

Bike like my “Fireball” knows how!

 And finally RUN like I stole it for 13.1 miles!

Just keep moving ;)

Due to it’s close proximity to my home, I have trained on the course! I have swam, biked, and ran the Timberman course in the last few weeks many times, and it is pretty safe I know every pothole, turn, uphill, downhill that will get thrown my way. I have biked the course with Fireball being race ready and I have ran on the course more than I can count one hand.

Sure, I have goals, few time goals, and quite honestly the possibilities are a little bit “scary” but also very realistic! I have worked my butt off and have been consistent. Day in, day out, week after week, month after month, and year after year.  The last 5ish weeks have in my eyes have been “special”. I had good days, I had great days, I thought I couldn’t, but yet I always surprised myself, and with each week I have been feeling physically and mentally stronger.  And then there were the “bad” days - the days when it didn’t come easy. The days when I had to mentally dig deep to make it happen, and the DAY when it just didn’t happen.

THAT was the day that opened my eyes. See, sometimes it’s really easy to get caught up in the numbers. That day, when I struggled through the 2nd half of the workout really unable to complete it the  way I knew I could left me looking deeper and searching for the “why”, “how”, “when” etc.  I struggled within my own head.  The next swim workout after that was not pretty either. As a matter of fact, it was worse than the one I wrote about. I mentally didn't have it. I had no fight in me, and I gave in. I gave in to those loud voices in my head.  I so quickly forgot about the weeks and months of great training, and continuous improvement because I felt slow that day. The numbers got the best of me! Thankfully I have great coaches, and friends who talked a bit of “sense” into me.

And then I came across this quote:

"If you want to be your best, spend a lot of time exploring what is more than enough. Push yourself right off the edge of your capacity."

Aaaaand, the light bulb went off. 

I really let numbers get the best of me which is so easy when very specific goals are involved. What I am really trying to get to (and I know it’s taking way too long) is that sometimes it’s important to take a step back and realize WHY we do what we do.  For me personally, I am competitive – always have been and always will be.  I have short term goals. I have long term goals. At Timberman, I want to win and I want to qualify for 70.3 worlds next year, but none of that is going to happen if I just chase numbers. 

Those few workouts when I struggled really opened up my eyes, and made me realize, that I need to “forget” about the numbers a little bit. I need to just go out there and have fun, because that is really why I do this – it is FUN! It is FUN to watch myself grow as an athlete and person whether it be physically or emotionally, while along the way hopefully motivating some of you too because YES – anything is possible if you just want it bad enough. 

The day after I took a step back and stopped chasing paces or watts, I had the best workout I have ever had. It so happened to be on the Timberman course itself, and it gave me a huge level of confidence going into Sunday’s race.

No, I will not bore you with graphs, fitness curves, or paces or watts, but I can tell you that I cannot wait to race! I feel more ready to race than I ever have before, and I am ready to have a blast! Whatever happens happens, but I know one thing – I will leave it all out there … in that water, on that bike or the run course, and I’ll cross the finish line having no regrets! I am going to relax and I'll let my training take me through the day. I am ready for some FUN, and I am ready to RACE my heart out. I am ready to WIN! (And I really want some maple syrup ;) ) 

Who else is excited for this weekend?  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ladder Up!

Also known as the title of yesterday’s swim workout that kicked my ass, but more than anything “fried” my brain to the point of no return.

The Workout:

100-200-300-400-500-600-700-800-900-1000 at race pace with 10 sec rest after 100, 20 sec after 200 etc.

The red guy is me! You will soon know why!

Not that bad, right? I was super determined to make this happen, and I really wanted to live up to my self made goal of treating every single swim workout like the 6 by 4s or 4 by 10s on the bike. Why you may ask?  Because I do have a unique ability to hurt on the bike more than I can hurt (I really mean have tons and tons of fun) anywhere else. I have no idea why, but that is just how it always has been.

Grossness alert: I can get myself to the point on that bike where I can lose my cookies before giving up in my head, and if I can just translate that into the pool, and have just a tad bit more fun each time, I will be in business. Not the chase mode business, but the catch me if you can business.

But back to the awesome workout that I knew was going to test my both physically and mentally. I purposely waited to swim after work for 2 reasons. One – the water tends to be cooler at night because there is no water aerobics class to follow, and two – the Y swim team usually practices which tends to help my motivation. I mean I still get lapped all the time by kids half my age or younger but something about seeing those guys working just as hard as me instead of seeing aqua joggers and breast strokers enjoying their morning float helps when the going gets tough.  Plus the hazard of getting kicked or punched from the lane line over by an excessively wide breast stroke kick or super wide arm flying back strokers is minimized.
Both of the reasons for an after work swim where a major fail yesterday, which had messed with my head a little bit before I even started, but I was able to quiet to demons down like a champ. The Y team didn’t practice today (I guess their last day of swimming for the summer was the day before), and as a result water was warm because there were too many kinds playing around in the pool.(code for you know what)  Ok – whatever – I had the just get it done attitude.

I am happy to report I made it through the 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, and 600 right on race pace which I should add is a little challenging and yes is a pace that I have never been consistently able to hold for a very long time at all. Yesterday – I lasted 2100 yards – 1.2 miles – perfect! Perfect for 1.2 miles, not so perfect when you are not even half way through your swim workout.  (I had to get reminded of this because my head automatically went to the “fail” you are about to read upon)

And then it happened! My head got the best of me and my brain said enough is enough.

The conversation went something like this: “Do you really think you can swim 5500 yards at this pace? You are out of your mind if you think you can. (SHUT UP BRAIN!) You still have a 700, and then an 800, and 900, and then there is the 1000 (SHUT UP BRAIN!!!!!!)  Quick math and I realized I wasn’t even half way done” (SO WHAT BRAIN – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH).  You are HOT, you really can’t do this. What makes you think you can?  (I AM SO DONE WITH YOU BRAIN) … FIIIIIIIINE – I hear you loud and clear and you win – are you happy now?

That so positive “what is another 100 yards thought” quickly disappeared, and as much as I tried to fight those very loud “you are on crack” voices, they had overtaken my brain! I was done! I lost! I was disappointed.  I stood at the wall a tad bit longer than I should have before heading out for the 700 trying to regroup, but I had no fight in me. Physically I was ok. I had done work, but I know I could have done more work. Mentally, I was way over the edge to the point of no return.  I quickly made the decision to JUST swim, float, whatever you want to call it. I didn’t watch the clock, I was just counting down the 100s. I didn’t even try to aim at my race pace. My effort was non- existent. In between trying to not lose count, and those loud voices in my head, I tried to pick it up towards the end of that 700, but it just wasn’t there. My brain was really starting to hurt, and it took all I had left to not get out of the pool and call it quits. The negativity of my brain was overpowering, and after fighting through the 800, I finally threw on fins for the 900 while negotiating with my brain on how to make the last 1000 count!  It was just ugly. I timed the 700, and the 800 on my watch, but I didn’t look at the time. I didn’t care. I set out for the last 1000 yards, swam the 1st 100, floated the next 100, and called it a day!

Hugely disappointed in myself I texted my swim coach:

“You are NOT going to be happy with me! I made it past the 600 on pace and then it got “ugly”. I then spent the rest of the swim NOT even giving myself a chance to swim that race pace”

In my head, I failed! I hate to fail. In retrospect – I did swim 2100 yards faster than I ever have, and my floating pace was my race pace just a few weeks ago, but I continue to be disappointed in my own head. I am not disappointed in the times, I am more disappointed in the fact that I didn’t even give myself a chance starting with the 700. If I blew up half way through the 700 I would be ok with that – I had reached my limit, but I didn’t do that. I just stalled – completely stalled and gave in. Hate is a strong word, but I hate that. The thought of having to swim another 3,400 yards at that pace just completely overtook me and I couldn’t quiet down my head.

I wanted to just get out and go ride my bike. Just turn myself into a cyclist because maybe just maybe if I rode my bike more than 3x a week, I could ride stronger/ faster and then who cares if I swim 30 min or 40 min – I could just let mega legs do the work. I had few other thoughts which I will spare you but you get the point.  I was mentally done before I could physically reach my limit, and that’s a big no no in my head.
So now I am trying really hard to focus on the positive – that 2100 yards at a pace that will get me to where I really want to be for the 1.2 miles come Timberman in 2.5 weeks, and forget about the rest of the workout because tomorrow is another day and I have some business to take care in the pool again and yesterday’s attitude will not help me …. but I am curious …

How do you deal with your head? How do you fight the mental daemons that just want you to stop! How do you “forget and learn" from the tough days/the ‘failures’ and focus on the positive next time you get out there?