Liar liar pants on fire

So my past two triathlon seasons I didn’t actually TRAIN for my races. Oh I put in a session here and there, showed up for a group test race or two but ultimately, there was no consistency or plan. Everything else in life took priority. Why? Because I firmly held the belief that I was not, and could not, be a “real” athlete…triathlete or otherwise. It’s really convenient to laugh off a race with “Of course it was slow…I didn’t even train!” when you’re convinced that even if you HAD trained, it wouldn’t be any better. And yet, I kept signing up for 5ks & triathlons…all while saying I wasn’t an athlete. I would have called out anyone else as a liar. YES, you ARE an triathlete (or athlete). You completed a swim/bike/run (or whatever distance run or bike or whatever). I don’t care what distance you completed or what place you ranked. You completed it. But me? Nope. I didn’t complete it well….I didn’t even TRAIN. So I’m not. I can’t be an athlete…have you MET me?

This year something clicked. Maybe it was turning 40 and not caring if I look “nice” or “ladylike” after a hard run, or while trying to pull myself out of a pool after 1200 yards. Maybe I was finally tired of rationalizing or the recognition that I feared my definition of failure. Maybe it was all of the above. But I started training regularly. I downloaded a plan and (mostly) stuck to it. I’ve been to every group session possible, even sacrificing events with friends to be in the pool with someone that can say “Hey, try breathing every two strokes instead of four and see how that helps.” (spoiler alert – a LOT) or giving up time at home so I can do a group ride/run and hear “You look really good off the bike this year.” Whatever it is, the fact is that a notable portion of my life is occupied by triathlon related activities. Every day this week I have biked, ran, swam or slept 11 hours straight. (Yes – the sleeping is triathlon related. It’s called recovery. Duh.) And you know what? I feel stronger and faster overall. I gained confidence on the bike, then promptly had my first “incident” but bounced right back up with no injuries to show for it except a gnarly bruise on my hip. I have felt like I was swimming through concrete only to have two amazingly strong sessions the following week. I have left a run feeling powerful only to finish one the next day whimpering and shaky but recovered quickly

I might still have slow races but it won’t be for lack of training. That being said, I have yet to sign up for what I want to be my “A” race. I keep telling myself it’s because I’m considering the cost but I have to wonder if that’s another lie I’m telling myself. Cause it scares me a bit. A lot. Most of my friends aren’t actually doing it. The bike course is not flat. There are TWO transition areas to set up. It’s intimidating. But ultimately those are excuses, right? And if I’m going to embrace the triathlete piece of my identity, that means dispensing with those excuses.

 

Y Not Tri 2016 – Preamble, set up and swim report

I honestly did not intend to sign up for any races this year at all. Nope. Wasn’t in my game plan. I had my year planned out and it consisted of relaxed, low key, workouts that vaguely focused on strength training and yoga. But for some indecipherable reason, if something sounds scary or hard, my usual reaction is “I need to do that.” I’m going back to school this fall and was told I didn’t need to take micro-biology for this particular degree path. My immediate reaction “But I WANTED to take it!” I’m uncoordinated and nonathletic and yet I signed up for softball last spring. And after talking to a friend in April, I signed up for the middle distance of the Y Not Tri (400 meter swim, 6 mi bike, 2 mi run). Also – I am quite susceptible to peer pressure. 😛

I did this race two years ago (except I did the version half the distance of what I did this year). I was pretty confident about it. I actually trained somewhat and while I knew I would not be taking any podium spots, I knew I would finish. The Pulse Running and Fitness shop puts together a FANTASTIC training group each year. (Seriously, these people are phenomenal) I managed to make it to some sessions with them, including a run through of the full race the Tuesday before. On my own I spent a lot of time in the pool. My run is stronger than ever. My bike….well…I know how to ride a bike….My goal was just to finish strong and feel like I had given what I had to give that day.

Part One – Set up

I wish I could say my confidence remained strong. However, I didn’t sleep well the night before and woke that morning slightly terrified.  We got to the race site just over an hour early so I could have plenty of time to set up and get ready. I met up with the training group, found a couple of other women were as nervous as I was and promptly calmed down. It’s not that I WANTED them to be nervous. I sincerely wanted each and every one of them to have an amazing morning. But misery loves company and knowing they were nervous normalized my anxiety. We talked, we joked, we had our numbers written on us, we walked down to check out the swim course. Standing on the shore, looking out at the buoys marking the course, I smiled at someone next to me and said “Oh we’ve GOT this.”

Part Two – Swim, 400 meters, 13:04

I got in the water about 5 minutes early to adjust, along with the women from the training group. We positioned ourselves towards the back of the pack – exactly where I wanted to be. I looked out over the crowd in front of us, to the buoys that suddenly looked very VERY far away. I had a flash back to the open water swim on Tuesday night. Someone yells “Are you ready?!!?” and I whimpered “No, no I’m not.” Someone from our group said “Yes you are. You’ve got this.” And then we were off. Kinda. I swear the first quarter of the swim felt like I was pulling just as  hard as I could…and going backwards. After what felt like forever, I glanced over and noticed someone who is a MUCH stronger swimmer than me was on her back. It was with great relief that I switched from the hybrid front crawl/dog paddle I was attempting to the side stroke. My breathing evened out, I started feeling like I might be making SOME progress and suddenly we were at the first buoy. I decided to try and actually swim again when suddenly I was incredibly hemmed in. There was a guy practically on top of my right side and someone kept smacking my feet. We were at the back of the pack, there should have been plenty of room but I couldn’t seem to get away from the woman on my left (sorry Amber). The guy on my right would move away, I would try to pull away from Amber and a few strokes later, we would be on top of each other again. And still, right behind me…”smack….smack….smack….” Dude. Back off or go around. I’m not moving fast enough for you to get ANY advantage being behind me. I couldn’t breath and resigned myself to side stroking the entire distance. At some point I gave a firm kick and whoever was behind me backed off. FINALLY somewhere between the 3rd and 4th buoy space started opening up and I felt like I was getting a rhythm.  I still had to be super aware or I would drift to the left and start to crowd Kim (Sorry Kim) (Amber had pulled ahead somewhere in the chaos). Dude on my right was doing the same thing to me so the last hundred meters or so was punctuated by calls of “Sorry!” as we tried not to swim over each other.  FINALLY I touched bottom and stood up. I was woozy but managed to high five a friend without falling over and jog most of the way up to transition until the rocks were too painful and I had to do the weird prancing, tip toe thing to the bike rack. I decided if the swim had taken less than 20 minutes, I would be happy. I felt like we had been out there at LEAST half an hour. So I was surprised to see under 15 minutes.

 

 

Tri 2016 Training – weeks 2 & 3

Well. The house we’re renting is being sold so we’re preparing to move. We don’t have a “drop dead date” to be out. We also aren’t 100% certain where we’re going yet although we have several leads. We considered buying but have pretty compelling personal reasons why that’s not the best idea right now…the least of which is financial surprisingly enough. Our landlords are great and I totally understand why they’re selling. Please don’t think I’m in any way upset. However, adding the fun of packing and keeping a house “show ready” while we’re still living here does create a bit of a hiccup in training. I’m training for a triathlon. And I am also playing softball. That’s four sports worth of equipment and clothing that I’m using which means my laundry room and bathroom often have more of a locker room aura than one might particularly enjoy. Not only that but packing is time consuming and, depending on what is being packed/purged/cleaned, tiring.

All that to say, my training the past couple of weeks has taken a bit of a hit. I started packing in earnest this last week so I only trained once. It was a quality session though. I met with a training group that a local running store puts together every year. We met at the pool and I was able to get some critique on my swim form! I was so excited. The coach corrected my head position and my breathing technique. I don’t rotate fully and she said I “frog legged” when I turned to breathe. She demonstrated on the deck and I can only HOPE she was as amused watching me as it was to watch her imitate me. She had several of us work with a swim buoy and I ended the first lap laughing. At the time I described it as “fantastically awkward”. Just focusing on correcting those small things was exhausting! And difficult. I felt like I was learning to swim all over again! We ran a (very painful) mile afterwards. I was the last one in but didn’t even care. I was so happy to get home, shower and sleep but thoroughly enjoyed meeting with them. I’m looking forward to the next one.

The rest of the week consisted of packing, softball and friends. However, I’m in a good spot with the whole packing thing so my focus will be much more on swim/bike/run this week.

Tri 2016 Training – week 1

Well folks. I survived week 1 of training. I can’t say I stuck with the plan 100%. I replaced one of the biking session with a Spin class. And I chose to not do the other bike and one of the shorter runs. Those were very calculated decisions that I have not once second guessed or regretted. Friday I planned a 20 minute run at lunch. I was struggling with low energy all morning and walked across the street to get coffee. The wind was whipping, it was cold and I almost started crying at the very idea of running later…outside, treadmill, whatever. I was just TIRED. So I made the decision to not run. I had a softball game that evening and didn’t get into bed until later but I optimistically set my alarm for 7:00am to get in a ride Saturday morning before all our plans for the day.

My husband woke me up at 9:00am. I use my phone as my alarm and it lays on the floor next to the bed. Hubby said when HE woke up, I was still laying halfway out of bed, my hand on the phone. I turned off my alarm and IMMEDIATELY fell back asleep without getting back in bed. Apparently? My body was determined to sleep. I also managed a two hour nap both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. So no. I think nixing those two small workouts were the best call. Especially since I woke refreshed and ready to roll at 4:00am this morning. And the race is still 2.5 months out.

Tri Season

I’ve been fascinated with the sport of triathlon for quite awhile. Years in fact. A couple of years ago I did a super short race (200m swim, 3 mile bike, 1 mile run) with absolutely no training. It was hot. It was hard. And I loved it…several hours later. I signed up to do one that fall…and again neglected to do any training. I DNF’d after getting horribly sick on the bike.

Fast forward past a few random 5ks. This year I was determined to train quietly, focus on swimming and biking and strength training and attempt racing again next year. Then I went to SE Asia for 10 days and came back 20 pounds lighter. After five years of eating well, training and the extra weight inexplicably refusing to budge, suddenly it’s disappearing at a satisfactory rate. I have no idea why but I feel pretty great so I’m running with it. Um…quite literally.

I’ve never considered myself an athlete (I’m not exactly coordinated) but this year I signed up to play softball (THAT’S a learning curve). And after talking with a friend, I signed up to do the same triathlon I did two years ago, but double the distance. True confession – there’s also a longer version that’s 4x what I originally did. And I was tempted. The race is at the end of July. I have thirteen weeks to train. But given my previous history with training I opted to stick with the middle distance while (VERY) tentatively eyeing another race in mid August with an actual Sprint distance.

Yesterday I went and bought new running shoes. After a couple of years of trying to save money, I have returned to my beloved Brooks Adrenaline line. I also grabbed an extra swim suit & a couple of pairs of capris & shorts that I can run in without them falling off. Hubs pulled out my bikes and aired up the tires.

There is a lot to do. I haven’t run more than a couple of times in…yeah. Long time. I have a road bike with cages on the pedals that I have to learn to ride. (I’m used to a mountain bike with basic flat pedals). And my swim…yikes. My training plan called for 15 mins in the pool this morning. I scoffed. Fifteen minutes. Pfft. I headed to the Y this morning fully expecting to bust out an easy half hour. I did not take into account the fact that at 5:30 in the AM at the Y…the pool is full of ultra intense and serious athletes that don’t even pause in their super fast flip turning laps long enough for someone to ask to share a lane.

It was intimidating. But I was just about to jump in a lane and let the other occupant figure it out when the life guard pointed at a spot for me. I bobbed under the ropes until I got there. The guy in the next lane over was buddies with my lane partner so we switched and I got a lane to myself for approximately two laps. Regardless, I climbed out after fifteen minutes wondering if I had dreamed every other swim I’ve ever done. I’ve never been fast but this was a struggle on an entirely different level. I never did get my breathing rhythm.

Tonight calls for a 20 min run. The wind outside is approaching seemingly hurricane levels so I think I’ll be cheating with a treadmill for this time.

 

 

YMCA Fall Sprint Triathlon 10/18/2014

In the Spring and Fall, our local YMCA organization puts on a triathlon where you swim Friday in the nice indoor pool, then start your bike leg on Saturday morning when the clock hits your swim time (and run after that…naturally).

I signed up for the full sprint distance (750m swim/12.5 mi bike/5k run) in August, ready to start training and confident that I would be ready.

Then I promptly hyper-extended my knee and knocked myself out of running (or walking…or standing…)- at all – for the duration of the training period. Confident that bike training would translate to the run, I put in my time there and in the pool.

I projected half an hour for my swim. (I’ve never been fast). I arrived at the pool with time to spare but the woman in the lane before me was going long. I was supposed to start at 7:05pm. About 7:12, she finally finished. I expected to take half an hour and had people due to show up at my house at 8:00. My timer asked if I wanted to do a couple of warm-up laps but I said “Nope. Let’s get this thing started. I have to GO.”

And go I did. Final time was 21:01. I was just a LITTLE happy with that. Seems time in the pool paid off.

I got home with enough time to tell my kiddo my time, get a cheer and high-five….and the admonition of “You need to change; you smell like sweat & chlorine”. I changed, ran a brush through my damp, chlorine infused hair, threw on a headband and greeted my lovely guests. We sat around the table partaking in amazing conversations and laughter and chili and cupcakes.

I slept fitfully but surprisingly woke up with my alarm feeling well rested. I jumped out of bed…and immediately ran to the restroom for the first of multiple times that hour. My body was not happy with something and was determined to eliminate it by any means necessary. I will spare you the graphic details. But as the clock ticked closer to the time I had determined we needed to leave, I was feeling better. I figured there was nothing left in my system (foreshadowing anyone?) and I would be fine once I got going.

TheKid went with me to the race. We got there early and sat in the van to stay warm until it was time to cluster with everyone else outside of the bike racks. As my stomach started to churn and cramp again, I repeated multiple times “This was probably a mistake.” but then chalked it up to nerves and reassured TheKid that I’d “be fine”. He made it his life’s mission to make me laugh and be goofy with him but I didn’t have it in me. I stood huddled in a jacket with the other racers, vacillating between desperately wishing I was still in bed and looking forward to seeing how the bike work paid off.

I quickly realized the work was not going to pay off. At all. After the first slight incline I started checking gears and trying to figure out why the bike wasn’t moving like it should. A few minutes later I realized the bike was fine. I was not. (See above: nothing left in my system) A guy cruised passed me yelling encouragement. I glared at his rapidly disappearing back. A few minutes later a girl passed me, shooting me a concerned look. She wasn’t moving fast and I decided to keep her within chasing distance. She disappeared just as quickly and not long after, I found out there wasn’t food left in my system so my body was going to eliminate water too. Yay. No fuel. No hydration. It’s the stuff of legendary bonks.

The bike course was 12.5 miles, mostly a square but with two little out and back additions. By the time I got to the first one, I was barely staying hydrated, barely moving and could only focus on my front wheel and the white line. I told the race official “I’m not going to be able to run. And I am most definitely not doing the extra mileage. I’m going back to the start as quickly as possible.” He waved me through, I hiccuped through a few quiet sobs and continued trying to find a gear that didn’t feel like I was pedaling through quick sand.

I spent the rest of the (approximately) 10 miles desperately trying not to weave all over the place because the truck of volunteers picking up cones was following me, very obviously keeping an eye on me. And I was determined that I was going to roll back in under my own power, not in the bed of a truck. That (approximate) 10 miles felt like 100. And felt like I was climbing a steep grade the whole time. It was a miserable long morning. But when I (finally) rolled back into transition, gross, defeated & destroyed, long after everyone else was out on their run, TheKid was standing there waiting. And as soon as I came into view he started jumping up and down and cheering “THAT’S MY MAMA! GOOOOO MOM!” And somehow, that made it better.

I checked in with the race director to make sure she knew my status and that I did not actually complete the bike portion. And then we started the limp to the van. A friend was there watching and he came over to say “hi” and see how I felt. I know we talked. But all I really remember was trying to hand TheKid my bike then realizing I wasn’t sure I could walk entirely un-aided. But by the time TheKid pulled the van into the driveway, I was starting to second guess myself. I had been sitting for a bit, re-hydrating and only slightly nauseous. Then I tried to stand upright, the world tilted alarmingly and I found myself slumped against the side of the vehicle. Soooo yeah. Probably a good thing I stopped when I did.

Surprisingly, it’s only twelve hours since I first arrived at the race site and I feel quite human again. I showered and slept for a couple of hours. I met some friends at a pizza joint to celebrate birthdays and while I avoided pizza, the bread sticks were the BEST THING EVER. I’m able to drink water without my stomach complaining and cramping. And I have realized, as frustrating and painful as the day was, a lot of good came from it too:

1. I realized I do not regret the attempt. At all. I probably would not have been nearly as sick if I had not pushed myself. But if I didn’t start, I would have always second guessed myself.

2. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in training and goals. Those can become so much a part of my identity that I start to weave my own self-worth into them. Having my day destroyed by circumstances  (mostly) outside of my control made me re-evaluate. I could have had a total melt-down, beat myself up, hid in bed, etc. I was on the razor’s edge when I passed the point of no return at that first out and back. As soon I skipped that mileage, I solidified my DNF. And I did cry. I could have easily ridden the spiral down into the pits of disappointment, embarrassment and despair. That incriminating internal voice was ready to deliver be-ratings, to cover me in the labels of “failure” and “worthless” and “hopeless”.  Or. I could embrace the fact that this was my experience for the day. It was painful, and yes – embarrassing. But I could decide how it defines and impacts me. I could take the lessons given to me (don’t eat chili the night before a race?), accept that this was the race I had to give and move on. That’s not to say that I didn’t have to battle that nasty little voice. There were definitely moments I considered sitting down on the side of the road and calling TheKid to come get me. And when I had to get off and walk up a fairly small incline because I could not physically push the pedals in the easiest gear I had…well….I was NOT saying anything positive in that moment…either verbally or mentally.

There are times I can honestly say  I was physically doing everything I possibly could…and there are moments I look back and wonder…maybe…did I have a little extra speed in me? But in the end, my child cheered un-embarrassed, despite the situation. And this afternoon I sat surrounded by friends who, when hearing that I did not finish, simply said “I’m so sorry. How are you doing now?” They were not disappointed IN me. They were disappointed FOR me. They do not love me any less and the only way a race is going to impact our relationship is if I let training take priority over them.

My legs are absolutely destroyed. It’s oddly a reassurance that my body really was as thrashed as it felt at the time. I’m giving myself today and tomorrow to lick my wounds, bandage my pride and recover. Monday I’ll be back in the pool. Next week I’ll be back on two wheels. I have the winter to add in strength training & yoga and dial in nutrition. I’ll build a solid base and Spring Sprint, I’ll have my redemption on that course.