Wildflower part two: the glass is half full edition

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So, when we last left our intrepid author, she’d just finished crying on the boat ramp and was getting ready to head back to camp. I went back to transition and gathered up the majority of my gear. I left Slim there because the shuttles for bikes wouldn’t be running until later in the afternoon and I did not have the wherewithal to lug him up the steep walking trail back to camp. Todd was kind enough to carry my pack and I started my mental shift toward the new agenda for the day by looking forward to a hot shower.

As we got into camp, I ran into numerous team mates who were surprised to see me and had to tell the sad tale of what happened. Everyone was so unbelievably supportive and kind, which really lifted my spirits. My shower was magnificent and after a little chilling at camp, we packed up a lunch cooler, my little portable chair, some cowbells and pom-poms and staked out a good place to cheer for Catherine when she came by on the bike.

It was really awesome to cheer for the other cyclists out on the course. (And, to be honest, seeing how miserable some of them looked really took the sting out of not being among them.) I had an idea of when Catherine should be coming by and before we knew it, there she was. She looked surprised to see me and when I cheered her on, she said something to the effect of pulling the plug after the bike. I told her she was absolutely (effing) not and then Todd and I powerwalked down to the transition area.

Because I still had my race numbers, I could go into the transition area and found her fully changed into her run gear, standing in front of her spot. Having been in this situation so many times myself, it was easy to see that she just needed a little nudge and she was going to be just fine. So, I coaxed her onto the run course with a “just go out for the first mile, if it really sucks you can come back. Besides, what else do you have to do today?” And just like that, she headed out.

I texted our OTC teammate Betsy the situation and told her I was grabbing my bike and then would meet her to cheer Catherine on the run course. Todd and I rode the blessed shuttle up the hill and I released him to go nap/chill in the campground, grabbed my hydration pack full of anything Catherine might want when she came by, my chair, can of wine and cheering supplies and joined Betsy to wait for Catherine at approximately the halfway point of the run. There was a long hill that Betsy was planning to run with Catherine and I said I would do the same. After a little while a few more team mates joined us and we made quite a commotion when Catherine finally came into view. This picture says it all:

She looked so strong and steady, we were all amped up with pride and excitement for her. Betsy and I headed to the next viewing spot, right before the one-mile descent back to transition. It was great to chat with Betsy and get to know her better. Some more of our teammates joined us to high five her as she came by, all smiles.

The only bummer about the set-up was that there was no real way for us to get to the finish line in time, so we left Catherine to her well-earned triumph and headed back to camp for a group photo:

Clif was hosting an 80’s party, so soon our camp was filled with all sorts of rad fashion:

One of our teammates brought his costume box, so those of us who weren’t as prepared as Ms. Erica here could still join in the fun:

So. Much. Awesome.

I hadn’t really brought a full costume for the party since I figured I’d just finish racing about the time it started. But I did find some crimped colorful hair extensions that I tucked into my bag. There was one black one that I pinned on Todd as a makeshift rat tail. So stylin’!

Sadly, the 80’s party was a little bit of a disappointment when we got there. They turned off the 80’s music for some country western band (?!?) so a lot of us abandoned the party to go spectate an impromptu beer mile happening in another part of the campground. It was fun to cheer on that insanity and then we headed back to camp. By that point, we could hear that the 80’s party had ramped up, but we were too tired to go back.

The next morning, Todd and I had a leisurely morning at camp and then headed down to cheer on the sprint and olympic athletes. It was such a blast to cheer for everyone and see OTC kick some major ass. We stationed ourselves in the same bike course spot as yesterday and got to see most of the olympic distance folks pass by on the bike. Then, we went back and packed up camp. Originally, we were told that the roads were closed until 3, so I was planning to pack up and then go down to the finish to cheer. But, after we’d packed up, we noticed cars leaving the campground and decided to press our luck. I had to catch a plane to North Carolina early the next morning, so any extra time to pack my suitcase and be at home was too tempting to pass up. I was super bummed to miss the finish line antics and hear everyone’s race stories, but I will plan better for next year and not have a stupid business trip right non the heels of this race.

As you might imagine, I am already planning ahead for next year. I definitely have unfinished business with this course and a head full of plans on how to improve. Stay tuned for Wildflower: the redemption edition post in 2019! Huge thanks to all of my OTC peeps. This would have been such a huge bummer of a weekend without you!

Wildflower part one: the “what happened” edition

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For those unfamiliar with triathlon culture or who haven’t had to listen to me yammer on about my doings (you lucky bastards!), Wildflower is an iconic race that’s been around for ~35 years. It bills itself as the “Woodstock of triathlon” which is pretty accurate. It’s this weird combination of hippie festival and Type A sporting event. And I’ve wanted to do it for as long as I’ve known about it – approximately ten years or so. But logistics of flying to a race where you need to camp combined training for an early May half ironman in the Pacific Northwest were too daunting. Then, after we moved back to CA, the drought had taken it’s toll on the event – the lake levels continued to drop until last year when they had to cancel it.

So, when the announcement came that Wildflower was coming back, I decided this was a sign from the universe and pulled the trigger pretty early. I’d been wanting a big goal to train for and now I lived close enough to be able to drive my ridiculous amounts of stuff there. Plus, as an added bonus, OTC announced it as a club race, so there were a ton of people to train and camp with. Huzzah!

Spring rocketed by and, before I knew it, it was time to pack up the car and head to Lake San Antonio!

I wanted to get there early so that we could settle in and not do a big three hour drive the day before the race. I was very glad I did, because there was a little bit of drama with our camping sites. The club had been promised ten reserved sites, but between the event organizers not really marking them and mis-communication over which campgrounds were first-come/first-serve, we only had three. Thankfully, our president carries caution tape in his truck, (WTF Charlie?) so we hastily marked off some open space:

But, thankfully we got that resolved and we could settle into the serious business of glamping. Charlie’s hammock got the party started:

Then Todd raised the ante with his inflatable couch and travel bar:

And then it just went from there. Todd and I have met our match!

The next morning we went down to the festival/race start. I knew this was a big race, but looking at the transition area was the first solid indication:

The swim start/finish. The long concrete hill to climb after swimming was an especially nice touch…

There were these cool steps with the winners’ names on them. It was basically a greatest hits list of racers in this sport. It reminded me of the bricks at Ironman Canada in Penticton – such a sense of triathlon history.

They also had these big cut-outs of famous past racers (I assume?) set up around the park. It was pretty cool.

It was hard to stay off your feet and rest before the race. There was a huge expo to look at, packets to pick-up, food trucks, music, etc. But I finally tore myself away and went back to the camp site to put my feet up and watch Erica hang the disco ball:

You heard me, disco ball!

The majority of the group had shown up by this point, so we had a great afternoon/evening of hanging out and chatting:

Then it was time to go to bed because the next morning was race day! (I have butterflies just typing that.) Ear plugs and melatonin helped me get a few hours, but I did my usual tossing and turning, followed by the butterflies/pit of dread in my stomach when it’s time to get up. It’s weird that I choose to do a sport where I don’t actually enjoy competing. I love to train for a goal, but the actual racing – not so much.

So, as I gathered my backpack of race gear and headed down to the start, I was doing my usual pre-race warm-up of breathing/trying not to cry/going to the porta-potty a million times.  The transition area now looked like this, so I had LOTS of company:

Photo credit: Erica Hruby

I hadn’t really planned well for a bright and sunny start line (note for next year, bring cheap sunglasses… ) and was generally feeling rattled. They said that transition would be closed at 8, 45 minutes before my start time and I didn’t know if I would see Todd beforehand with the huge crowd, so I had to leave my watch and wedding ring in transition instead of giving them to him. By the time I saw him, I was a little bit of a mess. He’s seen this movie before, to he hugged me and helped me into my wetsuit and generally calmed me down.

We found a place to sit on the dock and watched the swim waves start. It was good to take a minute to chill and gather myself. I was still super nervous, but feeling okay. Way too soon, it was time to put on my hot pink swim cap and join my wave. I gave Todd a final hug good-bye and headed over.

The swim start is super narrow and I’ve heard many stories of getting punched and kicked, so I started way in the back of my wave. As usual, the adrenaline of the race start had my heart rate through the roof, so I did my customary stop/breast-stroke for a couple of strokes to look at where I was heading, get my breathing under control and find my rhythm. I’ve done this so many times and while I’m not a fast swimmer, I am a steady one. I usually settle into a nice stroke, find a line a little off the buoy line, so I’m not getting swum over by faster swimmers behind me and get it done.

But this time, I just couldn’t seem to catch my breath. I stopped and breast-stroked a few more times and it just wasn’t working, so I finally stopped at one of the safety kayaks and paused for a little while trying to figure out what to do. (The poor 20-something on the kayak had no idea what to do with me, so thankfully my only real option was to keep swimming – either back to shore or to finish the course.) I started to feel better and so I headed out again.

The swim course is a big triangle and my kayak stop was probably a third of the way up the first side of the the triangle and I was finally starting to feel better and get into my groove a little bit. Then when I made it to the turnaround point (the top of the triangle) it felt like someone stepped on my chest. I moved over to the side, so I wasn’t in the way of all the swimmers, but I was seriously freaking out (which didn’t really help things). I was wheezing and thinking about all of Todd’s pre-heart attack symptoms and various bad scenarios.

So, when the second 20-something kayaker asked if I was okay, I was like “I don’t think so?” Like the first one, he didn’t really know what to do once I said I thought I needed to stop, but thankfully he found a lady with a radio who did. I cried on his kayak for a bit while the medical team came over to give me a ride back to shore. They handed me off to some nice paramedics (one of whom made my day by asking my age and then doing a double take when I told him. It’s the little things, right?) The paramedics checked me out, ran an EKG and listened to my lungs. They asked me a million questions and didn’t really have any explanation for me, but at least I could rule out my horror scenarios.

I walked up the ramp to meet Todd and had a good cry saying good-bye to the race day I wanted and accepting the one that I got. I was full of doubts that I’d done the right thing. (Was it lack of fitness? Was it an anxiety attack? Would it happen again?) Thankfully, my many years of doing this sport kicked in and I had to accept that even if I’d “toughened up” and made it back to shore, I was in no shape to tackle a long, hot, hilly bike ride and would likely have not made the bike cut-off. That mental picture went a long way and helped me be thankful that I could listen to my body, even when I didn’t like what it was saying. Plus, having my race end on the swim meant that I could still cheer Catherine on the bike and run. Stay tuned for part two!

Finding my flock

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Author’s note: I was hoping to write this post before Wildflower so it could be it’s own thing, but life got in the way. So, there will be some unavoidable foreshadowing happening, but I will try to stay true to the original post I was planning to write. Good news, it’s going to be crazy long, but at least it will also be chockfull of pictures…

Wildflower training has been as full of ups and downs as it’s race profile. It’s been a long time since my last half-ironman and I’m not only going into this one without the fitness base of my previous ones, but it’s early May as opposed to the summer/early-fall races I typically train for. So, I’m super nervous about it. But something that is hugely different from my previous training is joining a tri club and having access to a community of like-minded crazy people.

A while back on a club ride, I got to talking with Catherine, a fellow Wildflower long-course trainee, and we were commiserating about the hilly bike course and how we were nervous about it. We both had plans to do a crazy epic ride that combined two shorter hilly club routes, so we made plans to tackle it together.

Here’s a little graphic comparing the elevations of the race and our training ride:
It was definitely a tough day, but I was really happy about how it went. I was definitely slow, but I felt steady. Plus, riding a harder course really bolstered my confidence.

Then the following weekend, I did an all-women’s metric century with some of my OTC ladies. We had a great day of snacks, tutus and 64 miles of saddle time:

Then, the following weekend, I hopped on a plane to head to the awesome trail running camp that I went to back in 2015. I was super excited to go back to an awesome area, hang out with my friend Jenn and meet some fantastic ladies. (I was also hoping to be in bad-ass trail-running shape, but hey, three out of four isn’t bad.) Plus, I was looking forward to a good confidence boost with my running like I’ve been feeling with my riding.

Sadly, my run fitness is not coming along as well as my bike fitness, so I can’t really say I felt great about it. Initially, I was really struggling with this and beating myself up about it. When you’re chasing a big goal, it’s easy to get swept up in negative self-talk and doubt. But then I decided to use this opportunity to train my mental strength as well as my physical. And from everything I’ve heard about the course at Wildflower, I’d need all the help I could get.

So, I decided to work on being gracious with myself and roll with where I am right now. I figured this would come in handy if things got tough at Wildflower. Plus, it allowed me to really enjoy the experience of being surrounded by amazing women in a spectacular setting. There was a much bigger group at camp than the last time I went. Initially I was dubious but, somehow, everyone I talked to was so rad.


It’s always so nice to spend time in this area. I mean, look at this scenery!

Plus, one of my awesome book group ladies also came up. She’s pregnant with her first baby, (which meant that I could actually keep up with her). Here she is, posing on this weird frozen white stuff that kept showing up on the trails:

And one with me photo-bombing in the background…

And then one with Jenn and I, enjoying artisanal post-run chocolate milk:

Let me repeat that, ARTISANAL CHOCOLATE MILK:

Plus, I got to meet Jenn’s new co-owned pony Strawberry:

And there was outdoor yoga in a beautiful place:

And as a special bonus: cans of wine by a roaring fire, laughing so hard it hurt and coming away with a bunch of new friends. In short, the training over the last few weeks has been tough, but it’s been made much easier by finding my way into this awesome new tribe of bad-asses.

March musings

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The rains have finally arrived in Northern California. I know we need the water, but man, I don’t know how I ever lived in the Pacific Northwest! I truly hate the dark skies and cold water dripping down from above. Add the omnipresent darkness of current events and it’s really hard to find stuff to write about that isn’t just ALL CAPS PSYCHOTIC RANTING. But lord knows there’s enough of that on the internet already, so I’ll confine myself to random tidbits from my life.

Wildflower is looming large on the horizon. Thankfully, a good-sized number of folks from my tri club are doing it, so there is a training plan to follow and group workouts I can join when I need company/ass kicking. Especially for getting out on the bike when it’s cloudy and cold:

(Photo by Charlie Keen. I’m in the back on the left. I think you can see my arm… )

But little by little I’m finding my mojo again. It’s been a LONG time coming. I’ve been getting up at zero-dark-thirty to get on the bike trainer or go to the pool, which I never managed to do consistently before. On Friday, I made it for my pre-work, outdoor swim in the actual rain. (I was feeling like such a badass about this, until the aquacize ladies rolled in and showed me what hardcore really was. It’s one thing to do an activity where you’re largely under heated water during a cold drizzle. It’s another thing altogether when you’re treading water with your full torso out there. Mad respect, ladies!)

Yesterday, I went out to do a long, hilly bike ride. Originally, Todd was going to join me, but he had some work stuff and his back had been twingy, so he stayed home. I decided to ride out near where I worked and tackle a climb that I’d bailed on the only other time I’d attempted it – Patterson Pass. I figured it would be a good confidence builder, assuming I could do it, and a chance to bump down to a shorter distance if I failed.

Patterson is a long, somewhat relentless climb. It seems like it goes on forever. I generally like climbs like this for training because they build mental strength, along with the physical.

And, of course, there was a ridiculous little steep section before the last part of the climb where I had to stop and take a wheezing/panting/recovery break…

But, I made it to the top and the view was AMAZING:

It was crazy to look down on all of those windmills, completely the opposite of the view I usually have. That climb was followed by many miles of screaming fast/slightly terrifying descents and then some lovely riding through the country. I was feeling so good that I decided to take on a second climb that had eluded me – the road up to Del Valle regional park.

My brother and I have ridden part of it as part of lunchtime and weekend rides, but we’ve never made it all the way to the top. Usually, it’s a million degrees and we have time/fitness constraints, but it’s always bugged me that I’ve never finished it. It’s another long, relentless climb with about a million switchbacks that seem to go on forever. It was the end of my ride and I was tired, but I put my head down and basically willed my legs to get me there. All in all, it was 40 miles of confidence boost. I was tired, but also really proud of myself.

Aside from all of that craziness, life has been work stuff and random adventures with this guy:

And this one…

Even when the weather is bumming me out, I know I’m so deeply blessed to be able to do this crazy athletic stuff and have such wonderful people (and dogs) in my life.

T in training

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This blog is chock-full of my training exploits, but for whatever reason, the desire to train for tris has been non-existent this year. T is super gung-ho to do Leadman, so I’ve taken on the role of sherpa and joining him for parts of training as I feel like it. It’s been going pretty well. I have major FOMO (fear of missing out) about Leadman, but I’m pretty sure getting to hang out with a bunch of friends will more than make up for that. Plus, it’s been so fantastic to watch T so fired up about training. He’s been killing it in training and seems to be really enjoying the process.

He’s also learning first-hand how exhausting long course training is. The penalty for napping in our house is a bed full of animals:

NappingI think young Austin misses his dad when he’s gone. I came outside to see this. Since I know exactly how bad that sweaty run shirt smells, it MUST be love:

AustinTshirtBut he’s learned to take advantage of T’s recovery time:

TonDogBed CouchTandAustin For one of T’s long run days, we parked the car at Magnuson park, which is right next to the Burke Gilman and has a fantastic dog park. So Austin and I got to enjoy this:

AustinDogParkWhile T did this:

T-running

While T is doing all of his training, I’ve had time to tackle fun projects. Like making experimental cocktail cherries.

CherriesBuying too many things at Oiselle’s sample sale:

OiselleClothesAnd M did a Whole 30! We had them over for W30 dinner and backyard time. Rowan showed us the magic (and deliciousness) of bubbles:

RowanBubblesAnd continued her deep, abiding friendship with Wally:

RowanWally

It’s certainly a challenge balancing T’s training needs with the regular demands of life, but I think it’s going pretty well. I’ve been struggling with exercise, but I’m signing up for some new classes that I’ve been wanting to try and am plotting my next big undertaking. More on that later… In the meantime, the weekly produce box has been keeping our meals healthy. But mostly, it’s been good to switch places with T, I’m learning a lot about this side of the fence.

 

‘Murica!

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We spent our Fourth of July weekend at Jenn & Bryan’s cabin. In addition to all of the other awesome things about going out to the cabin, they also don’t allow any fireworks out there, so poor Wally wouldn’t be traumatized. (And not teach Austin that fireworks are SO SCARY THAT YOU MUST FREAK OUT WHEN YOU HEAR THEM!!!!)

We had a fantastic weekend, filled with all kinds of adventures. We took the boys for nice long walks in the woods. Austin was up every morning at dawn, jonesing to chase all of the woodland creatures. (He got a few epic off-leash jaunts when we felt it was safe, but by and large had to enjoy the woodland creatures from behind windows or on a leash. Poor abused puppy… )

Wally enjoyed a quieter form of adventure, but was still very happy to be in the woods.

AdventureWally

Bryan had a big chainsaw project, cutting up a big old tree. It turned out to contain a woodpecker nest, which was really cool. It’s amazing what a little bird can do:WoodpeckerNest

T was a training machine. He went out for a solo ride, but his phone was out of batteries, so he had to borrow mine. I later found a series of hilarious selfies:

T-selfies

He and I also went out for a ride together. I dropped him off in Twisp and then drove to Winthrop to an agreed upon starting point. Since he’s significantly faster than me, I then just started riding with the plan that he’d catch up. Of course, there was no way to know when that would actually be, which can be stressful. I really needed to pee, so after carefully scanning the road behind me, I stopped to use the porta-potty, hurrying as fast as I could. But naturally, when I looked out at the road afterward I saw Todd pedaling up the road, well out of shouting range. Crap!

There is very limited cell service, so I sent a hail mary text, but just had to ride the best I could and hope that he might be at our usual water stop. I somehow missed that campground and was getting pretty grumpy since I was riding longer than I wanted to, but couldn’t stop lest T be frantically worried. FINALLY, I saw him coming down the hill as I was coming up. Thankfully, it was all downhill and smooth sailing after that.

Following our melodramatic bike ride, I got to go for a horseback ride with Jenn. I haven’t been on a horse since the summer after T and I got married, seventeen years ago. (I’m pretty sure the girl from the stables that was helping us hadn’t been born yet… ) It was so much fun and I’m going to look into riding lessons. Stay tuned for a blog post on that adventure…

Jenn, of course, had an insane holiday-themed dessert planned:

CakeAssemblyMontageI liked the mid-way camera adjustment:

CakeAssembly2

The end result was… formidable:

CakeTime

But when you cut the cake, voila! Flag magic!

FlagCake

This was a common sight in the evenings:

RecoveryTAs was this:

ArtsyWallySleeping

But we managed to stay awake late enough to play an epic Mexican Dominos game. We had to invoke the “T rule” when Bryan won three games in a row. We probably need to invoke a “spouses shouldn’t pour the penalty shot” rule:

MexicanDominosPenaltyShot BryanDominosPenalty BryanShotApparently, we were having so much fun that Austin decided to join the party:

AustinTable

We checked out the Twisp farmers market:

FarmersMarketJenn and Bryan scored an awesome owl nesting house from this guy:

BirdhousesAnd Austin learned to swim. He was not really pleased with T and I swimming far out into the lake, but otherwise, I think he enjoyed it. The next time, we’ll take both dogs so Austin can watch Wally chase sticks and things. 

LakeAustinOn our way home, we stopped in Lake Chelan, where T’s boss has a vacation house. We hung out with her, her partner and her partner’s nephew/girlfriend in a gorgeous park next to the lake.

Chelan3 Chelan1We even did a little kayaking. Here’s T’s boss Tee, showing how it’s done:

Chelan2There was also some gorgeous porch time, which made it very hard to leave. But eventually, we had to hit the road. Tee had recommended a burger place in town, but we weren’t quite hungry enough to stand in the long line, so we hit our normal drive-in burger place… which had a 30 minute wait on TO GO orders. So, we soldiered on to Leavenworth. T had looked up a decent sounding burger place, which was somehow closed at 7:40 on a very busy holiday weekend. Grrrr… We settled for the Ye Olde McDonalds. Which screwed up T’s order. Twice. Way to make a bad situation worse, Ye Olde McDonalds. Then to add insult to injury, we passed a very respectable looking drive-in burger place on the way out of town. With a huge sign that said “LEAVENWORTH’S BEST BURGERS.” Have I mentioned how much I hate Leavenworth?

But this was a tiny blip on what was an insanely fantastic weekend. As always, thanks so much to Jenn & Bryan for being such amazing hosts and inviting us to enjoy their wonderful cabin. And best of all, this was young Austin when we got home:

PoopedAustinPriceless.

 

 

 

Welcome to the taper zone

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When you’re in the middle of training taper shines ahead like a mythical land. The reduced workout time and increased couch time sound like heaven. Of course there are some elements of taper that suck, but you never remember them when you’re in the thick of things. So, I thought it would be fun to write a post about the whole process. For me, taper is a mixture of the following phases. They last for varying amounts of time, but as the race gets closer it seems like I can hit all of them in a single day. (Poor T, they should really give him the medal… )

Energy Swings
Holy crap, I feel great! What should I do now? Clean the house? Walk the dog? Oh, never mind. I’ll just lay on the couch and watch old Futurama episodes on Netflix.

Gluttony
Training requires a lot of calories, but my body doesn’t seem to notice when the training stops and continues wanting teenage boy amounts of food. Usually of the pie variety…

Mood Swings
“This race is going to be so great. I can’t wait to go down there and kick some ass!” A few minutes go by… “OMG!!! THE RACE IS IN XX DAYS!!! I’m not ready. It’s going to be a disaster!” A few more minutes later, hysterical crying over absolutely nothing. Good times.

Paranoia
If you’ve been training for a big event, and have somehow managed to keep from getting injured thus far (knock wood), you start getting nervous that something stupid is going to happen to you in the final weeks. It only stands to reason that somehow the universe is going to reward all of those hours of work with a random mishap or stupid accident. I find myself wanting to wrap myself in bubble-wrap and hide in my basement.

Germaphobia
Much like the previous stage, this phase is especially inevitable if you’re prone to cynicism. You find yourself looking around every public place for signs of infection and washing your hands all day long. You start wondering if maybe one of those surgical masks isn’t such a crazy idea after all. Add some antibacterial gel to the bubble-wrap/basement plan.

Phantom injuries
I don’t know why this happens, but I always seem to get these weird mystery twinges or pains. Which only seem to feed the Paranoia phase.

Training amnesisa
There’s always a moment or two where I’m convinced I haven’t trained for this race. Heck, I usually doubt whether I’ve done any athletic activity at all, ever. Can I even ride a bike? Or run a mile? What am I thinking, doing this crazy race? Thankfully, I’ve done this enough that I know it’s normal.

Brain fog
I swear I get stupider during the taper process. I wander around my house trying to figure out what exactly I went into the bedroom to get. I start to do simple tasks, only to abandon them for a different simple task and then forget to finish either one of them. (Things like plugging my phone into the charger or putting food in the microwave. You know, the really complicated multi-step things… )

This week has been chock-full of taper madness. I leave for California next Wednesday, so I’m trying my best to wrap things up at work this week as much as possible because who knows how productive I’ll be next week. (Scratch that, everybody knows how productive I’ll be next week… ) I’ve scheduled the pet sitter, gotten my bike tuned up, gotten a massage and will wrap up the final bits of race prep this weekend. Soon, all that will be left is the actual race itself. (Gulp!)

Redemption

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First of all, I have to thank my fabulous friends for not only putting up with so much whining on this blog. Your comments on Facebook were so great and made me feel so much better.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that this last week was a huge improvement and I was definitely fighting off some sort of bug. I hit all of my planned workouts, including a Friday night 2.4 mile swim race at Lake Meridian. I last did this event four years ago and I’m pleased to say I dropped five minutes off of my time. I even passed someone right before the finish line (he was swimming in a zig-zag pattern that was driving me nuts.) I was especially pleased because I’d spent the day riding my bike with my co-workers after a full week of training, so I wasn’t exactly fresh.

On Saturday, T was going to try out a Crossfit class with Bryan and Jenn. I went for a nice easy run and then met up with them for breakfast:

MorselJenn & Bryan had been to this place before and recommended it. They were right, this place was delicious. They turn out some seriously awesome biscuits:

MorselInteriorAfterward, we hit up the University District farmers market and picked up some nice produce. On the way home we also picked up a little present for Wally:

WallyPoolHe isn’t really sure what to do with it, but I’m pretty sure when we get another really hot weekend he’ll be on board. In the meantime, George really enjoys it as a water dish. Speaking of Wally, he took his ridiculousness to a new level by taking a nap with his head in his toy box. Poor dog has been seriously neglected in the play time department today:

SillyDogOn Sunday, I had my final long ride with a short run afterward. Originally, I was planning to do the full race distance with a planned two loop route. Unfortunately, the loop in question had a road under construction on one side and a scary two lane highway with no shoulder on the other, so it got shortened down to 80 miles. It was really gorgeous though:

RideMontageI did pretty well otherwise, practicing my nutrition strategy until I ran out of water and had to detour up to a gas station. I chugged a coke, which would have been fine if I’d had the 40-something miles I’d originally planned on instead of ten. Running with that coke sloshing around in my stomach was NOT fun. Plus, I’d chosen a less than optimal spot to run so it was pretty ugly. But I put on my big girl panties and got it done.

After the drive home and a nice shower I was FAMISHED. Since I’d left the boy home by himself all day, I thought we needed a nice dinner out – preferably on a sunny patio. I gave him a choice and he opted for burgers. I went all out:

EpicFood

It was delicious and a nice way to kick off taper. I can’t believe the race is in less than two weeks!

Lessons will be repeated…

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So, despite this blog post, I made the decision to do Pacific Crest as a practice race for Vineman. I still hate this race, but it was ideal as a practice race for a couple of reasons:

1.) Heat: One of the things that is really scaring me about Vineman is the fact that the temp is likely to be between 80 and 90 degrees. Pacific Crest is typically pretty toasty and this year did not disappoint.

2.) Uninspiring run course: From everything I’ve heard, Vineman’s run course is hot, isolated and uninspiring. I can’t think of a better practice for that than Pacific Crest’s terrible tour of Sunriver resort.

3.) Practice with new stuff: I wanted a chance to see how the kit and wheels did in race conditions and test out my nutrition strategy.

4.) No other options: There were literally no other half-iron distance races in this time frame. Everything else was either too early or way too late.

With all of those things in mind, I signed up. I lucked into a free place to stay from a girl on Slowtwitch who I’d met when I’d volunteered at Ironman Canada. She’d posted some questions about the race on the forum and I’d mentioned that I might be up there as well, so she messaged me and offered me a place to stay at her dad’s place. So nice! (And after all of the Smokey Joe expenses, pretty much the only way I could make this race happen financially.)

Per usual, the day before the race was filled with all sorts of errands. Thankfully, there was an option to pay 10 bucks and drop your bike off at Packet Pickup for them to transport up to the lake. Since this saved me two hours of driving, I considered it money well spent. I passed this sign as I was checking in and thought it was amusing:

PC_DeschutesThere’s something about a brewery congratulating you on your courage that makes me laugh. I also snapped a photo of tomorrow’s goal:

PC_finishLineI was able to wrap up all my errands and spend a nice relaxing afternoon/evening hanging out with Lisa’s lovely Dad and Aunt. They made a delicious dinner and then it was early to bed.

Because I was doing this race solo, I was a little worried about where I was going to park on race morning. I needed the car to be close enough to hobble to post-race, so I left extra early and scored a nice convenient spot somewhat close to the finish line (and a grocery store, score!) I walked over to transition, set up my T2 and caught the bus out to the lake/T1. As usual, the bus ride was a mix of quiet and nervous chit-chat. It was already a gorgeous day out:

PC_BusRideWhen I got up to the transition area and found my bike, I realized I’d remembered my race number wrong (and set up my T2 in the wrong spot!) I had to have a volunteer fix the number on my calf and felt like a total spaz. (Why yes, I have been doing triathlons for ten years, thanks for asking!) I set up my transition area and tried to keep the butterflies in check by reminding myself that this was basically a training day with company. I also learned that for some unknown reason, they’d changed the swim course to be two loops. Which meant that those of us in the second to the last wave would be passed by all of the people in the the four waves in .6 miles of space. Blergh.

I went in for a practice swim and reminded myself of how freakin’ cold that damn lake is. They claimed it was 67 degrees, but it sure felt colder than that to me! When it came time for our wave to line up, I found a really good spot, to the right of the start, in line with the buoy. There were only two fast looking guys near me, so I didn’t have to worry about a lot of people next to me, although there were a million people to my left that would be merging into my line. I decided not to worry about it.

The horn blew and I focused on just taking it out nice and smooth and use the time before the first buoy as a warm-up. I was surprised to not really have too much congestion from folks merging in. There were a few TnT-ers with some crazy swimming (special shout out to the person somehow swimming freestyle arms and a scissor kick. I’m not sure how you could even do that!) but for the most part I avoided them. After the first buoy, it was a total cluster. There were slower people breaststroking and faster people from the previous waves trying to get through. I got caught up in a big pack just after the second buoy and had a total panic attack. Like, had to stop and catch my breath/calm down freak-out. It totally sucked and threw me off my mental game. I had one other section where I had to stop to figure out where to start the second lap, but by the second lap I found a bit more open water and was able to get a steady pace going again. It was a super slow swim time, but according to my Garmin, I swam 1.27 miles. Sigh.

I finished the swim and wobbled my way to the bike. I struggled into the Coolwing sleeves (I’ll have to wear these under my wetsuit if I use them for Vineman, they took FOREVER to put on.) I finished my changing and stuffed all of my crap into the plastic bag and headed out. I felt surprisingly good on the bike, but tried to keep things easy for the first part. (Which was hard, I really wanted to to fast and pass more people.) I kept up on my water, but my stomach felt really weird and queasy. I assumed it was from the swim, so I eased off the food until my stomach felt better.

By the time the climbing started, I felt like I was riding well. I was steadily passing folks and not getting passed back too often. I was drinking my Infinit and taking in some gel, but not really wanting to eat the solid food I’d brought along. The heat wasn’t too bad, except when we got to some of the longer climbs. Then it was brutal. The climbs weren’t as easy/breezy as I remembered from Leadman, but they weren’t as bad as the last time I’d done Pacific Crest either. I kept my effort as low as possible on them, but was feeling frustrated that I wasn’t going faster. I was so happy to get to the big descent back to town, looking forward to making up some time. But as I started barreling down the hill, a cross-wind hit and moved me over a foot or two. I screamed and grabbed the brakes and nearly stopped the bike, I was so scared. This, of course, made me take the rest of the descents far more gingerly than I ordinarily would. It got better and I started to get a better sense of how to handle the bike in the wind, but it really rattled me.

Plus, my stomach was feeling really weird and I was feeling just strange. I wasn’t sure if it was heat stroke or what was happening, but I was just feeling AWFUL. It was a struggle to ride the last five miles and I wasn’t sure what was happening. I was in tears when I finally pulled into the transition area, but the minute I stood up and started walking the bike, my stomach started growling like crazy. I was super hungry and bonking like crazy. I put my bike in it’s proper place at the rack and walked over to where I’d incorrectly set up my run stuff. I sat down, burst into tears and ate a Honey Stinger Waffle while I changed into my running stuff. I was a mess, but I stumbled my way out of transition and on to the run course.

I’d put my phone in my pocket, so I got it into my head that I should call the boy and get his advice. I sat down on a stump, next to some poor bastards condo, hysterically crying while other racers jogged by me. The boy talked me off the ledge and helped me realize that doing the run was going to put me in a pretty deep hole that would likely effect my ability to train for the rest of the week and that was just stupid. So, I decided to cut my losses and call it quits. It’s official, Pacific Crest, I’m done with you. You aren’t the race for me.

The next morning, I was feeling deeply regretful that I didn’t know if I could have rallied from the bike nutrition fail. It was making me feel insecure about my readiness for Vineman, so with a fairly empty stomach and a decent level of hydration, I went out to do a hot weather run in 90 degree Salem. There’s a great area with running trails at Minto Brown park:

MintoBrown

I’d planned to do a 90 minute run, but ended up getting lost and doing two hours. I stashed a couple of bottles of water at various places, but only ended up passing one of them. (D’oh!) I was able to eat myself out of that empty/pre-bonk feeling and found a run/walk strategy that helped when the heat got to me. While I ran, I thought about the previous days’ race and what I’d learned from it. I actually found myself feeling better about the whole experience and extracting things to apply to my upcoming race.

So, even though it was a really crappy race experience, it was a great training weekend. I’m still feeling nervous about Vineman, but I’ve got some sound strategies to make the race go better.

 

 

In the thick of it

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Training is a funny thing. At the very beginning, it’s fun and motivating. But as the weeks go on, the novelty wears off and you have to find ways to get yourself out the door. Then, I always seem to hit a point as the event looms closer that the combo of physical exhaustion and nervousness at the proximity of the event turn me into a bit of a mess. It’s at these moments that you just have to take motivation where ever you can find it.

This weekend, I had to do a practice ride in my race wheels and new race kit. I made a plan to have T meet me in Snohomish, where we could do a short ride together and then get a slice of pie or something. Originally, I’d planned to leave early in the morning to avoid some of the multi-use path traffic. But I procrastinated and talked the boy into making banana pancakes for breakfast, so the denizens of the Burke Gilman were going to have to deal with this girl:
RacePractice(I really wish I could have borrowed an aero helmet to complete the ensemble… ) It was a beautiful day, but I was still having a hard time getting my head in the game. I did my best to look at the scenery and get the work done. It took me a little longer to meet up with T than I wanted, but I found him eventually and we had a nice little ride together. There was a section where I could put the hammer down with the new wheels and pull T along, which was pretty awesome. All told, I got 60 miles on the bike – not too shabby. Afterward, I went out for a short brick run. It felt terrible for the first couple of minutes, per usual, but it actually felt pretty decent after that. And turned out that I was going much faster than I thought I was, which is never a bad thing. Then there was a delicious slice of pie with the boy in the sunshine, so it was a successful day all around.

The next morning was another tired/don’t wanna sort of morning. I had friends doing Ironman Coeur D’Alene, which provided excellent motivation and reminded me of what I’d be facing in one months time. (YIKES!) As an added incentive, T made biscuits for breakfast, which Wally was very interested in.

WallyBiscuitsI needed to do a bit of open water practice, since I’d missed my opportunity last weekend. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been very good with the sunscreen yesterday and had a nice little sunburn on my back. That made the wetsuit very un-enjoyable. But even with gray skies and a little rain, Green lake was as smooth as glass without a hint of wind, so it was a pretty decent swim. T brought Wally to the lake for a little walk/swim. I tried to coax him out to swim with me, but he wasn’t having it. (I don’t think he wanted to leave T, sweet boy.)

Afterward, I rested up for a little bit and watched more Ironman coverage. Then it was back out the door for a run. I told myself that I had to do at least two loops of the lake, but got myself to do three, which made me happy. I felt pretty solid too, which was nice. We had a nice chicken dinner and got to see David finish his first Ironman. I know it’s been a goal of his since his bike crash before IM Canada in 2009, so I’m very happy for him.