Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Climb and other Cheesy Thoughts

When I was young I closeted my musical tastes. The music I really liked I told no one about. Not even my closest friends.

I'm sure you remember how teenagers are. They search for a way to define themselves through the type of clothing they wear or the cool music they like.  I wasn't exactly like that. The music I liked, in particular, was not music it was cool to like at all.  So I hid what I liked. Instead I feigned my musical penchants -- and allowed these "loves" to morph constantly according to the boy I wanted. Let me be clear: I did seek to define myself according to dress and music. It's just that the music and clothing I used to define myself were the same dress and music that the boy I liked liked. It was pretty simple.

The problem was that I think it may have been a little obvious that I didn't really like the dress or music of the boy I was attempting to snag (no, not shag. well maybe that too in certain cases.)  Anyway, the give-away was that I was pretty fickle when it came to boys. I liked a new boy every couple of months--longer if I couldn't quite get him, shorter if the conquest was easy. So one month I would like The Alarm (they only have one good song) and the next month I was just gaga for The Smiths (snore). One day I dressed slightly Euro and was into the English Beat and the next month I was dressed full out in tye-dye and was planning on attending the next Dead show.  (Okay, I admit the tye-dye lasted over a year. It's because I could never quite get Nick. Argh. And I hated the Dead. What a painful morphing that one was...)

Anyway, all the while I was mum about what I really liked.
So I'm telling you now. Twenty-five years late.

I really liked Holst's The Planets. I liked Louis Armstrong--especially the song Munching on Cheesecake. I liked instrumental soundtracks to movies--music by John Barry (Somewhere in Time I must have listened to 8 million times by the time I was eighteen)--(later he did Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves... just awesome) and John Williams (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Superman). And I loved Billy Joel and the Beatles--with Billy Joel the early stuff (Summer Highland Falls is still top three of my fav. songs) with the Beatles--the later stuff (Abbey Road. fav album with Sgt Peppers a close second). If I was feeling frisky I listened to early albums by The Police (Outlandos...such a great album.)

But who the hell liked shit like that at sixteen?(Who the hell likes John Barry at any age? Except me?)
I will tell you.
No. One.

I had a chance to be totally original. And that was cool. But admitting you liked Holst, or Rachmaninoff, or that you preferred listening to early Chicago  than The Steve Miller Band--that was tough. Plus, I always wanted the boy of the hour. There are many ways to achieve this--but one of them is to flatter him into believing you share a deep connection with him. Stroke. Stroke.

Why am I writing all of this?
Because today I had a musical orgasm at mile 20 of an (obviously) very long run--and I had it to a song by Miley Cyrus. And that is tough to admit.
But I needed to purge. I'm forty in one month. I'm done with hiding my true loves....snicker. cough.

I can almost see it
The dream I'm dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head
"You'll never reach it"
Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking.

I was pumping my arms, singing aloud.
 Always gonna be another mountain. I'm always gonna want to make it movvvveee...!

A shiver went through me and I was there, hydroplaning in ecstasy.
No, not a literal orgasm.... (now THAT would be tough to achieve at mile 20...) but an orgasm of the musical variety. Some of you may know what I'm talking about.

Now my calves ache. My feet are killing. I'm unsure I can get up and do it again tomorrow. And it might be all for not... my faith really is shaking.
sometimes I'm gonna have to lose. 

And it scares me to work so hard and then have that be all I am.  I'm trying to keep the faith, baby. Miley (or the writers of the song, I should say) don't have to tell me it's the climb. I know.
I just have to remember that.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Busy Busy

Craziness seems to start each year in early May and then it escalates gradually until it reaches frenetic pitch in mid-June. Training picks up, racing begins, kids' activities seem to have endless celebrations to end the year,  it's Lara's b-day and my Mom's b-day and MY BIRTHDAY (very important--esp. since it's such a big, terrible one this year) Father's Day... I don't know. It just feels relentless and crazy, but also good. good. good. good.  It's warm! Things are growing! I can swim outside!!

Today it is close to 90 degrees. I celebrated by making it a point to fit in an open water swim, my first of the season except for my race swim in that warm, alligator-infested lake in Florida. It was just awesome out there: warm on the surface and sharply cold a few inches below that. I forgot how much one's shoulders need to adjust to the wetsuit. I swam for only 50 minutes, but my shoulders were super tired by the end.  It made me happy to swim outside, though. Really happy.

I am each day letting go a bit more of my fuck up at Florida 70.3.
Sort of.

I will say that my fuck up in Florida has put an even bigger fire in my belly to compete well this season. I started out the year in awesome form with a slew of PRs. That trend needs to become a trend--again. I'm so determined I am actually annoying myself. I eat sleep and TRAIN to the music of I will kick ass. I will kick ass. I will kick ass. and I will never run more than I have to in a race again (Repeat 5 billion times. Do you know I have run considerably more than I had to in three races in the last calendar year? Mooseman 70.3 70.3, CELT sprint, and Florida 70.3. I have an issue, clearly. But not anymore.) THAT TREND is OVER. I have asked Andy and the kids to stand at the entry to the finishing chute at Couer D'Alene, and their assignment is to steer me into it--and not let me go off course.  I'm not kidding. That is really their job for the day--the only thing I really really really need from them.

Lately it is has occurred to me that I must be the most boring person to be around because I rarely--okay NEVER-- leave my little universe of focus focus focus. (okay, obsession. FINE!)
And lest you think this obsession will end with IMCDA, you are sadly mistaken.  I actually believe that CDA will just fuel the obsession fire.

Sometimes I think I need electric shock treatment.

So, in line with the obsession piece I will detail what I became obsessed with this week.

Jesse's Triathlon Calculator

Jesse is the founder and head coach at QT2 Training Systems. The Q in QT2 stands for Quantitative, which should give you an idea as to what his training protocol is all about.  It is data based--and if you look at the results his athletes put forth, his approach does works. I think the reason his approach works is because athletes are taught to pay attention to the numbers--especially, and most importantly, on the bike. QT2 trains the run by training the bike... which is to say, the belief is that more time on the bike allows for the run to be executed as it should be--according to the athlete's potential. Also,  the bike portion of a race (longer than a sprint, anyway) is done at a prescribed power or hr pace. The cardinal rule is not to exceed that pace during the race, no matter what the athletes around you or the conditions on race day seem to command of the athlete. The QT2ers therefore excel on the run every time. It is their trademark.

Anyway... about the calculator.  He created it awhile back and this week I have been studying it.

I am generally not a fan of deterministic models. It's hard to nail down specific data pieces with a degree of accuracy that justifies placing huge faith in them. However, I'm still obsessed with Jesse's calculator, because even though I ostensibly don't believe in such models, this one does seem to work with relative accuracy.  I'm less interested in the actual time the calculator gives me in terms of predicting my race performance, because as I said, the model's accuracy is not absolute. However, the calculator is very useful in terms of thinking about how to execute one's training and racing in a way that produces success. I've been manipulating the variables he uses to see what combination of things seem to produce the best result (at least according to the calculator). This process has been really illuminating. Thank you, Jesse!

So here is what I have found:

If I weighed 50 lbs my power to weight ratio would be so good I could do the bike course at CDA in 4 hours while only pushing 130 watts, average. The problem is, I would be dead at 50 lbs.

More realistically, I now really, really understand why Jesse makes sure his athletes are slim and trim.  For every pound you drop, your bike split improves if you are able to push the same wattage on average that you could before you dropped the weight. I think most of us think of the weight loss helping the run. According to the calculator, it only does so inadvertently. By improving your power to weight ratio on the bike, you have a faster bike split and still do the run as you should. Your run isn't necessarily faster, but you can do the bike faster without dire consequences resulting on the run.

The only problem I have with the whole thing is that it appears that by just losing one pound you can significantly improve your bike split (by several minutes over 112 miles.) But weight is variable. Does that mean that right before I get my period when I weigh 2 lobs more than usual I will be slower on the bike? Apparently...yes.  Also, scales are variable. Even very accurate scales are never completely accurate. So how do you know what exact, to the pound weight you really truly are the day of IM? You can't.

Also problematic is the fact that power meters vary in their measurements. For example, in discussing the SRM power meter juxtaposed to my computrainer, I have been told that there may be as much as a 15 watt difference between the two meters. That is a huge huge difference. Even just five watts is a huge difference. According to the calculator,  changing my output by four watts over 112 miles produces a 6 minute improvement in my bike split. But yet meters can vary by up to 15 watts in their measurement?  How am I to determine which meter to use when using it to monitor my output?

However, as I said, I am less interested in the calculator giving me a specific time, and more interested in how it can guide my race day plan.

Take home messages:

  • Train more on the bike, and you will have a better run.
  • Make sure you figure out what your zone 2 watts are, and stick with them on the bike for IM.
  • Get as close to your ideal race weight as possible without having it affect your power output.

I know that those three points are likely considered givens... but I'm not sure how much attention I, for one, have really paid to them until now.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Race Day Pics

 Checking my watch after the swim.

On the bike, sans sunglasses. This is as good as it gets for me in terms of a cleavage shot these days. I like that my drink matches my shirt. These things are important.

Focused on getting through the run.
Below: Not too happy with my finish. No smiles here! I also look fat. Figures.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Race-- AKA Thank God I didn't Eat those Pomegranate Seeds

When we left off I had just started for the race site.

I was ready. I knew how to get there. This directionally challenged girl was up for the challenge.

I was fine until I hit the cones. I didn't literally hit them, but they blocked they way I needed to go. I stopped the car on the side of the road and stared. I had to go that way! That was the way to go! Sadly, I steered my little van down the wrong exit. I had no choice; the correct way, the way I knew, was blocked off. So much for preparation.

Time for plan B. This plan usually works when I'm lost before a race (and trust me when I tell you, I am often lost before a race). Here's the strategy: find a car with a USAT sticker or a 26.2 sticker or a 70.3 sticker or a 140.6 sticker or... you get the pictures--and FOLLOW THAT CAR! I drove around aimlessly for a bit. I found a police officer hanging in his cruiser on the side of the road and I asked him where to go. He didn't know, but assured me that three other people had asked him the same question. Great.
And then I saw it. A car with a USAT sticker! I skidded away from that cop (probably not smart, I know...) Follow that car!  The car was a zippy SUV. The driver was MOVING! I wouldn't lose him. I wouldn't lose him. I wouldn't! We hit 50, 55, 60. We weren't on highway. Was this guy trying to lose me? I would not lose him! I would not stay lost! And then I saw a sign for Triathlon Parking. Hallelujah! I had made it!!

The Tweedledee and Tweedledum parking attendants ushered me kindly into the Dopey (appropriate placement for me, eh?) parking lot. When I stopped I took careful note of where I had parked my car. Second row. Second spot. Next to a white Volvo. I would not fuck this up. It was 4:30 a.m.

I got out of my car and got my stuff. I chatted the white Volvo man who had parked next to me.
Did you have trouble with those cones? I asked.
What cones? he said.  
The cones blocking the road?
He looked at me strangely.  No, he said. I just came the same way I did yesterday.  
Oh, I said. Right. Of course you did.

Little voice: Is there something wrong with you Mary? Yes, there is. We know this, Mary. Covered Ground. Move on. Then a bike shoe dropped out of my bag. He picked it up. Then the handle of my bag got tangled on a car we walked by. He untangled it. I might have to stay away from you, he said. You're not having a lot of luck this morning.
I tittered. He moved away from me, and I didn't see him again.
Whatever, I thought. I made it here, Dude. I made it from Boston to Orlando to this race site, and I did it by myself. You have no idea what an accomplishment that is for me. Plus I will probably beat you today. So there.


I did all the stuff you do before a race. Pumped tires. pee. Set up area. pee. Fill bottles. pee. Lube everywhere. Pee. Check tires again. pee. pee. pee. pee.As I prepared I looked around me. Everyone had such nice bikes! Everyone looked so fit!  How could I actually believe I was faster than all of these tanned, slim, strong women with killer bikes?

Negative thought. Alert! Exit Brain!

At the swim start I watched the pros loosen up and jump around. I didn't recognize any of them, but they were universally chiseled and compact. I ate a gel. I stared. I looked at the water, placid and dark. The sun was still not up. I wished I could pee, but I didn't have a wetsuit on, and it would be a little too obvious to do so. I'd have to wait until I was in the water. I shivered.

I was wave 6 out of like a billion. The pros and the older athletes started first. I guess I am now old, because the 40-44 year old women were included in this OLD mix. When they called us to the water I went in and sunk to my knees in the shallow water and peed. No shame. I know. Then I moved out again. It was a running entry, not a submerged start.

At the GO! I ran in and dolphin dived. and then again. and again. and again. Would I ever reach deep enough water????? And then I was swimming and I was latching onto a fast girl's feet. We moved away from everyone else. There were three of us. This continued until we hit the orange caps (men 18-24 (okay, yes, they're young) and W45-49). We swam through them. As we did, I lost my feet. Damn! After several more minutes I was swimming through the blue caps (M 55+ and W 50+) and then again, there was the calm water. I continued to see orange and blue caps sprinkled throughout--and here and there a green cap too--(the paratriathletes, wave 3) but for the last 10 minutes of the swim it was relatively calm swimming. I never did find my two compatriots from my AG. I had no idea if they were with me somewhere, or ahead of me or behind me. I knew I would be one of the first AG women out of the water. I did know that. The only other waves ahead of us were the sliver and pink caps--the pros.

Stats: 33:03. 3rd out of the water in AG. The fastest woman in my AG was 31:45. The second fastest was 32:20--so those two women I was with in the beginning did finish ahead of me. The swim was long and slow. The fastest pro of the day was only a 24+, which tells me it was slow because of a lack of wetsuits, but also because it was simply long. 

It was a longish run to T1. I passed a 46 year old woman in the chute. At my rack I noted that there were no other women around me. Good sign. As I put on my helmet a girl zipped in behind me to her bike. I fumbled with my Garmin. I took off my glasses to see what I was doing because they had fogged. The woman who had come in was leaving with her bike. GOD DAMN IT! I am a SNAIL! I grabbed my bike and ran after her. I forgot my glasses on the way out. DOUBLE DAMN! A 56 mile ride sans sunglasses on the unbearably white roads of Disney in the hot sun of Orlando in May? TRIPLE DAMN and FUCK TOO!

On the bike.

Often when I   ride a song comes in my head. When it's raining I may started humming "Here comes the rain again, walking on my head like a memory..." or " Blame it on the rain, yeah yeah." (yes, I am an 80s girl.) When it's hot I may think "Some like it hot and they sweat when the heat is onnn. Some feel the heat and decide that they can't go onnn ..." I

And for this ride? Click here.
Theme of this ride. Theme of this trip. Okay, pretty much the theme of my fucking life. He moves into a Rachmaninoff stint in the middle. Rachy is also the theme of this race--and my life. Right, Andy?

So I was alone on the bike. This makes sense. On the swim I passed the bulk of the people in the waves ahead of me. The pros were WAYYYY ahead, and the young, super fast men and women were behind me by a lot--having started more than 20 minutes after me on the swim. I did realize that the 40-44 year-old female fasties would be on me if I didn't ride well, and that helped to motivate. It was hard to ride in fear, though, because I actually wanted them near me. I wanted to do battle with them.

So the bike was lonely and involved quite a few 180 degree turns. Executing 180s is not a honed skill of mine, unfortunately. Think I lost a bit of time there! Still, Florida is relatively flat and so the course is fast. It's not as fast as Clearwater, but it's fast. It would have been faster if I had seen a living soul and been able to chase or catch up to anyone.

Stats:  2:38:06. 21.3 mph average. Came off the bike in 3rd position in AG, but my split was only 9th fastest in AG. There were some women right on my ass coming off the bike, that is for sure!

It happened. Nothing exciting to report. I glared at my sunglasses.

The run.
As is often the case, for the first mile I felt AWESOMMMMMEEEEE. I was relaxed, I felt smooth and I knew I was running too fast. I slowed, reluctantly.

At about 1.5 miles we hit the grass.


I didn't before this run. But now I do.
This grass was not clipped. not mowed. not pristine. This was trail grass--straggly, dry, crackling, loose dirt and ruts in the ground grass.  It was twist your ankle grass, out in the hot open sun grass, crispy central Florida wilderness grass. I slowed more. Damn it Damn it! The course was three loops. The grass portion of each loop was a little under 3 miles. That is nearly 9 miles of grass.

I didn't feel the blisters coming, but they were soon there. I needed trail shoes, and I had on light trainers. Fabulous. At mile 6 the blister on my left foot burst and blood soaked the side of my shoe. The other blister stayed closed. Here she is!

What a beauty. I snapped this photo in the airport. I'm sure those around me were thoroughly disgusted.

Onward. Also at mile 6 I lost control. Of my bladder. I dumped a cup of water over my head and I immediately began to pee. I have a history of "stress incontinence" as it's called. Having three babies--hell, having one baby--does that to you. You get working hard, break a sweat--and then you pee. Your muscles just don't work down there. It's one of five billion unfortunate consequences your body must face after having babies.

I preceded to take in water and then pee for the next 6 stops. I'd drink, dump water on my head, and then urine would stream down my legs. I was a vision with my sweat soaked shirt and shorts, my red chapped face, my bloodshot eyes (remember, no sunglasses on the bike), my sunburned back, my urine soaked socks and legs and my bloody sneaker. lovvvvveeeeelllly. 

Fortunately, I'm pretty sure no one cared or noticed my appearance. Everyone was focusing pretty hard on not expiring. There was little chatter among the athletes. It was a bit of a death march. I'd say 50% of the athletes were walking, and with every mile, more stopped. It was just so hot and the grass so difficult to run on. I didn't think much on this run except for the mantra Just Keeping Running. Just Keep Running. Don't think. Just run. I did emerge from my deep focus when a tiny, tiny woman passed me with such tight little prance I had to notice. As she trotted on I saw the name on her ass--Loeffler. She didn't look anorexic, but both of her butt cheeks were like the size of one of mine, and her legs looked like extremely muscular sticks. And she was moving like a gazelle. I wanted to be her. Actually, I wanted to be anyone but me or anyone who was suffering as bad as me on this run.

I knew I was pretty out of it starting the third loop. I was really working through the pain, refusing to slow down but slowing nevertheless. I realized at mile 10 I hadn't yet taken a gel as I  had planned to (at ummm, mile 3), and the thought of taking one made me immediately nauseated. But I did take one. It was okay. And for a few moments I actually felt better.

At mile 12 or so--very close to the end now, I felt my skin and noted I was no longer sweating. My skin was dry. Wasn't this a bad sign? But I couldn't think. Just keep running. Also, my vision was fuzzy and was doubling and I was starting to feel very disconnected from my body. But it was okay. I just needed to hold on and I would get in in just over 5 hours. Just Keep Running. Just hold on. At 13 I looked for the turn. It was coming. It was coming. The turn I wanted so much should be right here. But it wasn't... where was it? I ran. Where was it? Finally at 13.45 I stopped. I swayed a little when I stopped. 

Where is the end? Where is the end? And then I was shouting out loud, Where is the end???!!!

I was delirious and panicked. I shouted. Where is it?? !! Fuck! Where is it!! People stared at me. They were quiet. It is three loops! a woman said nicely. You need to keep running. She was behind me. I turned to face her. I've done my FUCKING THREE LOOPS! I screamed. WHERE THE  FUCK IS THE FINISH! I was spitting. I was hysterical.  I was waving my arms. She looked at me. She took a step forward and took my shoulders and she turned me. Go back the other way, she said gently. You will see it. The finish is back there. 

I began running again. Everything was fuzzy. I could tell my gait was not steady. Just keep running.

After a few minutes I found the turn. I was crying as I ran. I was crying as I hit the blue rug that was rolled out for the finish. I cried as the photographer snapped my picture crossing the line.

I clicked my watch. 5:06:45. A quick calculation told me I had added nearly 5 minutes to my time with that mistake. Nearly five minutes. I had just kept running--and I had lost five minutes to show for it.

A volunteer asked me if I needed medical help.
No. Yes. No. I think I'm okay, I said. The tears dried up. Do not be stupid, Mary. Do not.You are fine, Mary. You are fine.

I saw a small woman in QT2 outfit standing with a man. I was still sort of fuzzy. I knew her. Did I know her? She had passed me on the run. Her bib read Stacey. I said, Hi. Did you win? She looked confused. I realized I wasn't being quite coherent. Did you win our age group? I asked. I knew she was 40. I had noticed, of course, when I examined her leg for the tell-tale mark when she passed me on the run. I don't know. Maybe I did, she said. Did you have a good race?  I didn't cry again, but I'm not sure what I said in response to her question. I'm fuzzy on that too. Later I looked her up in the results. She is a girl I have raced with before. I made a mental note to find her on FaceBook and explain that I was slightly delirious when talking to her. (*I did this and found out she is doing IM CDA.  So I found both a new friend--and my competition....! Ekk! She seems very cool and friendly.)

I saw Keish and Kyle, two of my teammates, as I went to leave the finish area. I didn't make it out of the finish area though. I was fucked up enough so I decided I had to sit on some cases of water bottles in the shade to try to get my balance. Keish and Kyle talked to me as I sat there. They were surprised I had missed the turn. No way would I have missed that! laughed Keish. I wanted to go down that chute so bad!

So had I, I thought. What the hell is wrong with me?
I couldn't find the way out of the parking lots on my bike.
I couldn't make the turn because of cones--cones that no one else saw but me.
I missed a turn that I ached to make and that was an obvious turn--totally well-marked.

Am I more than directionally challenged? Is there something literally wrong with my brain?  For real?
I thought all this as I tried not to throw up and as talked with Keish and Kyle.

After I collected myself I went to the lake. I knew we were not allowed in--you know, the alligators and all. But I soaked there. I just soaked. A few other atheltes joined me. We didn't talk, we just soaked. Then a ranger came by in a boat and told us to leave.

I said no.

The others got up to leave. I stayed. NO.
You need to leave the water, Ma'am, he said.
I lifted myself out of the water and slowly, slowly made my way to the TriBike tent. 
On the way there I talked to Michelle Joaquin, who was down visiting some family and had come to cheer some of her athehltes on. It was great to see a familiar face She was encouraging about my race. She had seen me go on the 4th loop, but thought perhaps I was still on my 3rd, so didn't try to correct me.

I hung with Carolyn and Nancy and then the TriBike Transport Teammates. We took a picture.

Keish, George, me, Kyle, Jennifer, Andrew

And then I had to fly--so I could catch my flight. Before I left I found out that I had placed 5th and lost two spots to my mistake. I tried not to care. I tried to let it go. But there was no chance of that.

I chatted with Andrew on the way back to the parking lot. It felt a huge relief to have a friend with me. I was sad to say goodbye, but when we got there, we said our goodbyes and I went to my car.
Except my car wasn't there.
It wasn't next to the white Volvo. There was no white Volvo.

Tears flooded my eyes. I could not take it. I couldn't take it--not again.
I searched the parking lot for 15 minutes. The pavement was steaming and my blisters were on fire and I was sweating and parched.
Then I realized my mistake. I saw I sign. I was in Goofy.
I needed to be in Dopey.
I was one parking lot off. Goofy didn't house people like me. Only Dopey did.

I found my car, turned on the AC, sighed, and prayed to Heaven Above that I could just get to the airport without making ONE MORE GOD DAMNED FUCKING MISTAKE.

I did.
My next mistake was not being able to find the elusive EZ car rental. They sneakily put themselves on the third floor of the garage. Oh, and I also was in the wrong terminal when I dropped off the car. When I got to Terminal A, where I should have been, I nearly ran into a man as I headed for the restroom. Watch out for the marathoner! another man shouted at the man I had nearly careened into. I smiled. I'm sorry, I said. I'm not quite with it.  And that is a massive understatement, I thought. Massive.

On the flight home I played those final minutes of the race over and over again in my head. I simply couldn't let it go. I was in a daze--hair still wet with sweat and lake water, smelly, body marking smeared over my arms and legs. After a half hour of rubbing my temples and swearing at myself I STOPPED.  I pinched myself, opened a new book, and shut off my brain.
I got into Boston at close to midnight.

Okay. That's the end of the RR. It got sort of sad there at the end, huh? Or maybe just REALLY self-pitying?
Two days later I'm LIKE SO OVER IT.
(ha! whatever. I'll never get over it.)

But really. I had a great swim. I had a good bike--even if it was a lonely ride. And I had a good run. I pissed and sweated and focused my way through the 90 degree baking heat on the grass.
And I fucked up big time, but I still finished relatively well.
And I will not fuck up again.

Or, I should say, I will fuck up again. I am forty and I haven't yet experienced a long stretch of time without making a mistake of one kind or another.
But I will not make a mistake at CDA. I will not.

Final stats: run 1:50:43. 7th fastest run in my AG. A 1:45 would have given me the 3rd fastest split. And I would have been 3rd overall in AG.Both times are slow for me, but I am forgiving myself for that. That run is just not fast. It is a hard, hard run.
WITH my mistake I was:

5/132 AG
35/627 for women including Pros
23/615 for AG women
218/2017 overall

The End! Thanks for reading this novel!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Intro: Rohto 70.3 Florida RR: or - -Mary's Goes to Hades and Lives to Tell the Tale

I have been writing this post for five days straight in my head, from the moment I was dropped at the airport by Andy and the kids on Thursday night, as I moved about the scenic and charming city that is Orlando (cough) the last few days, as I raced on Sunday morning, and as I made my way home again last night, flying north on JetBlue in all of my un-showered, sweat-stained, stinky, body-marked glory. If I told all that is worthy of report, and there are some really good, funny moments to convey, this post would be too long to hold your interest. It's a shame. There are so many, many good tidbits.

I will start at the beginning, not of this trip, but of me. (See what I mean? This could be long.)

I am directionally challenged. This has been established in earlier posts and it is well known for all who know me well, and even those who know me only sort of well (think driving in Tucson, right Cheryl?). However, this weekend really revealed me for my true, God-Given directionally challenged self. In short, I'm exhausted from trying to recover myself from getting lost, disoriented, confused, and off course.

You see, it requires great energy to be programmed on high alert, knowing I am always just a turn away from being lost (figuratively and logistically). It takes even greater energy to  deal with myself when I find myself lost despite this high alert vigilance, and it takes the most energy and greatest mental fortitude of all to overcome the sheer stress of righting myself once I have fallen into the abyss of being lost.  

Those of you who don't suffer from this ailment don't know what you're missing. An otherwise competent woman can be taken down and humiliated when afflicted with this disorder. Trust me. I have been humiliated by it, exhausted by it, and traumatized by it my whole life.

I don't like traveling alone. You can imagine why. There are many things that can go wrong when you are directionally challenged and traveling. You need to find, in order: the right terminal, the right ticket counter, the right surveillance check, the right gate. You must find the right baggage claim, the right car rental, the right car, the right way out of the airport, the right way to the hotel.

Anyway, though I dislike traveling alone because it causes me break out in hives I get so anxious, I did travel alone for this trip. Ange's flight was delayed (I was scheduled to arrive after her), so I was relieved that she would be late enough flying into Orlando to catch a ride to the hotel with me, however. That was a HUGE relief. I wasn't looking forward to negativing Orlando alone, in a new car, for the first time, at night.  Of course, it took me a huge amount of time to find her in the airport....but when we finally found each other, and we finally found the right EZ car rental (there are two in the same airport. Long story. It took a long time). After we finally found our way to the bottom floor of car rental, or the top, I can't remember which, and after we had found our little navy minivan, and after we had found our way out of the airport, and through the toll booth, and onto the highway and then to the strip, and then to the hotel...  After all of that, I was exhausted.

I was also happy. What fun! I was with Ange! And I was here to race!

The next few days were spent getting to know Orlando, especially the roads leading into Disney and the lovely Disney parking lots. The Disney parking lots are long expenses of asphalt that all look the same and are seemingly endless. They are controlled by men outfitted in bright yellow pants and bold, white and yellow striped shirts, white bucks and bowling hats--courtesy of Disney, of course. I felt pity for these parking lot attendants. It just seemed bad enough that they have to spend their days in the baking heat of central Florida, pacing asphalt and dealing with sunburned tourists who yearn to meet Mickey. Adding a ridiculous, scratchy, I am like Tweedledum outfit to this lot (no pun intended) just seems so awful and unfair to me.
Anyway, the parking attendants in their ridiculous outfits were kind to me when I was in the car and also on the bike, lost and hopeless, trying but failing to escape the maze of parking lots so I could be free, and just ride.

On Thursday and Friday I got in a few short short easy easy workouts on the bike and run, I registered for the race, cruised through the Ironman store and bought a cute pink IM cap, and met a few people. I didn't swim because no one was allowed in the race at all, no exceptions. The rumor is that we were not allowed to swim because of gators and water moccasins. I think it may have just been the boats speeding around on the lake, though. Anyway, I also retrieved my bike From TriBike, and then proceeded to hang there for quite a bit of time both days. I liked the guys that worked there who were young, nice and even kinda cute. Also, I met four of my teammates from TriBike there--Keish, Jennifer, Kyle, and Andrew. Great people. Also kinda crazy people. What kind of crazy? Race crazy....

George's season: Ford Ironman Lake Placid, Ford Ironman Louisvlle, Steelhead 70.3, Rev 3 Cedar Point, Ford Ironman Arizona, Rohto Ironman Florida 70.3.
Keish's season: Ford Ironman St. George, Rohto Ironman Florida 70.3, Rohto Ironman Hawaii 70.3, Vineman 70.3, Ford Ironman Louisville, USAT Age Group Nationals, Ford IMWC-Kona, Foster Grant IMWC 70.3, Ford Ironman Arizona, Ironman Asia-Pacific 70.3.
Kyle's season: P.F. Changs RnR Marathon, Kaiser Half Marathon, Rohto Ironman CA 70.3, Boston Marathon, Wildflower OLY or Escape from Alcatraz, Rohto Ironman Florida 70.3, Alcatraz Challenge Swim, Rohto Ironman Hawaii 70.3, Silicon Valley Tri, Vineman 70.3, Catfish Swim, Folsom OLY, ITU Short Course TriWorlds, Age Group Nationals, Ford IMWC Kona, Metro Silicon Valley Half Marathon, Foster Grant IMWC 70.3.

Jesus! And I thought I was a crazy bad ass! Jennifer's season is much like mine: a few halves, an IM,  a marathon, some shorter races, and hopefully a trip to a world championship.  Anyway, my teammates were awesome. Very fun to hang with.  I also met some new friends, Nancy and Carolyn. They are both very hip and pretty, so at first I was intimidated. But not now. They are very real and good and fun people. And they swear, not as much as me, but they swear, so they are definitely okay in my book. I met them while hanging at Tribike. They are Bostonians, and hopefully we will get to ride together a bit up here.

At night I ate out with Ange and we chatted and laughed. That was possibly the best part of my trip.

Okay, enough pre-race blather. 


The alarm went off at 3:12 a.m.  That is too early for anyone to be up. I tried not to be too loud while preparing to leave, but of course Ange woke anyway. I ate my pre-race stuff--smoothie, bagel, pb, a few raisins, and then Ange and I said our good-byes and I was on my way. The night before Ange and I had scouted out a 7/11 that was open 24 hours. Coffee is a pre-race necessity. Actually, coffee is a pre-anything necessity. As I entered the 7/11 I noted there was a party still going on at the motel next door. Drunken party goers swayed to music and laughed. Nothing like night meeting day.... Anyway, Ange had told the 7/11 clerk I was coming, and this girl promised to have a fresh pot of coffee for me. She did. What a great person. When she found out my favorite is hazelnut, she made another fresh pot, just for me. She was young, pierced, tattooed, and had spiked hair. A girl with attitude--except she had no attitude. She was so sweet she even gave me the coffee for free! Seriously. How often do you meet people like that? The coffee she made was nasty, but her kindness really made a difference in the start of my day.

Got my coffee, jumped in the little navy mini-van, noted what was clearly a prostitute getting a proposition at the party next door, took a deep breath and readied myself to drive in the dark all alone.
And then I was off to the race site.

Are you tired already? I am.
How about I finish this puppy up tomorrow?
I know you just CAN'T WAIT!
If you need me to just write the final lines of the novel, here they are:

The race was great. And not. I conquered and I was beaten. I am pleased and I am despondent.
I gave it everything I had--and with this race, I realized I am actually finally capable of doing that. It is not as easy as it sounds to give every scrap you have. But I did, and I can.
Also, I am becoming a contender. Watch out for me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Florida Bound

Just so you know, poison ivy freaking SUCKS! I am itchy itchy itchy and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it except for squirm and examine the ugly red welts. Ugly and itchy. Just fantastic for my upcoming trip to bikini-land. humph.

Of course, I wont' be doing much sunbathing on my trip south. Nope. Just racing. And then splitting.  Luckily I get to be with Ange while there. She is taking the USAT Coaching seminar this weekend in Orlando, so we are hanging, talking shop and sharing a hotel room before I race the 70.3 on Sunday morning.

Last Friday I shipped Mrs. Z away. Literally. I dropped her at Fast Splits because on Saturday TriBike Transport was coming to pick her up and truck her down to Orlando. She got all spiffed up for the trip: cleaned, new cables, tune-up, race wheels on. She's ready to rock it. She's feeling good because she knows that course is fast. Unfortunately, it's not so fast for the swim (no wetsuit) or the run (heat, open sun), but she doesn't have to do those portions. Lucky.

In the last few weeks I've gotten a few packages from Tri Bike Transport. I'm a part of their Ambassador Team, and I must say, it's pretty darn cool. On the plane I will have on my fancy schmancy TriBike jacket and carry my super cool Blue Seventy transition bag, and I will be all decked in a spiffy new Rudy Project helmet, KSwiss shoes and a neat little kit for my race. I also, of course, get to use their awesome service to my travel races this season. There is nothing better than dropping your bike, fully intact and all cleaned and ready to go, at a local store and then picking her up just outside of transition at the race site. You can even send down a gear bag with your bike, so you don't have to haul all your race gear with you on the plane. I can attest first hand that it's a hell of a lot nicer way to get your bike to a race than to take it on the plane. Anyway, TriBike has treated me right, and I basically adore them. I'm eager to meet a few of my teammates who are competing in FL 70.3 too. I think we're all pretty proud to represent such a fantastic company.

As far as actually racing, I'm pretty excited to be kicking off the tri season.It's a tad strange that my first tri will be a half, and that my first OW swim of the season will be in Florida, in a race. Still, how can I not be psyched? I get to race! The long winter wait is over and racing season is here again! Wahoo!

I have a plan for the race, but it's not terribly complex. It involves going really fast for 70.3 miles. That's pretty much it. I also plan to drink a lot (of fuel and water, sillies) and take my salt tabs. It will be interesting to see how I hold up on that run. I'm a northerner. A non-heat-acclimated Northerner. The weather for Sunday calls for sun and 90 degrees. O.U.C.H.

You know what, though? Bring it on, Baby. I need to toughen up for IM, and this is my chance. How much would it help me to blast a 1/2 in cool temps just to prove I'm fit and ready to rumble? Better to test my mettle -- force myself to get my focus even when the conditions aren't what I'm used to. Right? (This is the line I'm feeding to myself.... )  Oh yeah. I'm going to tear up that course. Even in the heat. Just watch me.
(I'm not sure it's working....)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tri Sprouts Triathlon Race Report and Other Stuff

This morning Jordan competed in her first triathlon. She was a rockstar out there. I'm basically bursting over with pride.
The triathlon was designed for kids -- with a 50 yard swim in an indoor pool, a one mile bike, and a 1/2 mile trail run. They placed the kids into five different heats based on age. Jordan was in the third heat with the 16 other 7 and 8 year-olds who were competing.

Here she is before the swim.

 Jordan has been swimming with a USA team called the AAC, a club which she had to try out for, and which is pretty competitive. Since she joined she's become a very strong swimmer.  I knew (and she did too) that she'd likely win the swim portion of the race. They pushed off and Jordan quickly took the lead. She did a fast flip turn at the wall, and extended her lead by a lot. I was just tickled and so proud, and also cheering like a crazy woman. She finished in 41 seconds. That's damn fast for a kid who is eight, and who didn't even start from the blocks!

 I know you can't see her at all, but she's the tiny purple dot half way across the pool. The pool looks empty because she is so far ahead of everyone else. The rest of the crowd was still finsihing the first length.

Things didn't go quite as smoothly after the swim. She ran outside to transition, but it was POURING when she came out, and I think it threw her off a bit. She padded her way over, but then really struggled putting on her shirt, shorts and sneakers, because they were soaking wet. In transition, a girl caught up to her who had decided to just compete in her bathing suit and to forgo struggling into wet clothing. Finally Jordan was able to get on her bike, and she took off. The bikes at kids' races are awesome. There were baskets and fat tires--even a few training wheels! Jordan has a Trek Stormy-- a mountain bike that weighs about fifteen tons.

Lara and I stood by the Bike In and waited for Jordan to get back. We got soaked, but it was still great fun. Lara cheered for all the competitors streaming by.
Here she is! You can see how wet it was!
After struggling a bit to find where she was supposed to rack her bike, she was out on the run. She was in second place for the 7-8 years, and I screamed, You have this Jord! as she scrambled out. She just smiled and put her thumb up. So cute. She ran fast, and finished the 1/2 mile run in 4:07. Not too shabby!

She got a big medal and we went out to Bertucci's to celebrate. She had a great time racing, and wants to compete again, so I'm looking for more kids' tris for the summer. In the meantime, she'll compete in the pool. She has a meet tomorrow, and will swim the 100 free, 50 back, 50 breast and 50 fly. It will be an awesome Mom's Day present to watch her.  I love racing-- but really, I love watching my kids race more. I can't tell you what the pride is like--. It's just awesome.

I've had two good rides this week. My weeks, lately, seem to be measured against the backdrop of biking. If I have a few good ride? Good week. A few bad rides? Breakdown. Mrs. Z holds the ropes these days. She has so much power over me, and I know she is just loving it, the brat.

She was good to me this week, though. We had a fast ride on Monday which picked up my confidence a bit after last week's fiasco ride. I felt strong after my days off and I only had to ride for three hours, which seems like a short jaunt these days.  Even my T-run felt great.

Then ,on Thursday, I did a super long ride of 115+ miles.  I was supposed to do 120, but a few wrong turns and come commuter traffic sort of wrecked my goal mileage. I was actually nervous to start this puppy. What if I sucked just as bad as last week? What if I crashed and burned again?

When riding long I have to load up Mrs. Z like a pack horse. I had five bottles, countless bars, salt tabs, phone, money, credit card, a couple mini-bagels with pb & j, tubes, tools, co2... I started as early as I could, because getting it all in before the kids get off the bus is tough. Sometimes that fact truly stuns me. I get them on the bus, jump on my bike, ride all day, and then jump off the bike and get them off the bus. And it's not like they have half days...

I actually left even earlier than the bus this for this ride. I left the kids with a friend and hit the roads at 8 a.m. What I forgot was the fact that 8 a.m. = commuter traffic. I tried to take a few new back roads, but ended up on dirt paths. Not good. In an hour or so I got clear, and headed west. Into the wind. And it was slow. And hilly. And I doubted.

But I trucked on. and on. through town after town. At one point there was a thunderstorm and the rain pelted me so hard I caved and held out in a Dunkin Donuts for a bit. But it passed, and I went on, steam oozing off my body and clothing as the day warmed up again and I dried out.

At one point I took a wrong turn and ended up going into farm country I had never seen before. I was a little bit despondent when I realized how far I'd come on the wrong road, especially since this wrong road had included about hundred killer hills. To reset my bad attitude I decided to get off the bike and pee. I found a wood patch off the road. I remember thinking it was probably full of poison ivy.
Mental note: if you think you are heading into poison ivy, find another place to piss.

This patch is on my hip. WTF? How did it get on my hip? I know it doesn't look that bad, but it itches like a m-f-er.
After my reset piss, I turned my bike around, not knowing I had just exposed myself to the IVY, and headed back down the hills I had ascended while on my wrong road. I got going FAST--like 40 mph fast.
And then I saw a pit--a huge sand pit and I had to MOVE over or direct hit direct hit! but I couldn't because there was a truck coming fast in the other direction and the road was narrow (as I said, farm country, winding roads) and I was FUCKED. I flew into the hole and my whole bike slammed and then jumped! I unlclipped, and ended up, somehow, upright. My heart was thudding like a hammer. The truck blazed off into the distance. Then I looked down. My handlebars! They were pointed down! I also noted I had lost two bottles--and the liquid in them. fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.
I couldn't get the handlebars back up. They were wedged down, and I didn't have the right sized Allen wrench to fix them. (stupid). I retrieved my bottles, sighed, and got on Mrs. Z. I'd just have to ride the rest of the way with my bars pointed toward the ground. No problem! So I looked like a tool and I had to sit straight up. No biggie. I was at mile 80. Forty miles to go.

Then my thirst kicked in. Problem is, I was short on time. Had to get to bus. Had to get to bus. Two hours and counting and where was I? How far did I have to go? No time for a water stop. NO TIME. I admit towards the end I started battling with myself. Water or kids? Water...... please water..... I thought of the stewardess on a plane reminding her passengers that they need to put the mask on themselves before their spawn... water water water water. 

So why was this a good ride you ask? Because I finished it (without water). And I wasn't unhappy. I wasn't defeated. I got home, finally, and did a very short t-run before racing to the bus stop. I got my kids, and they offered to finish up my t-run with me. It was cute. We went another six minutes.

The end.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

We Went to The Animal Fair

Otherwise known as the zoo.

I had two days off from training due to my mental and physical breakdown on Thursday. So on Saturday I took the kids out to lunch. Then we went to the zoo. Then we went to a birthday party. In the end I was more pooped than if I had simply trained all day.

At the zoo we saw all sorts of cool animals, including:

- a cool camel named Humphrey who the kids rode
- little ponies that Lara decided she wanted to adopt
-a tiger that paced back in forth in front of us in a really agitated way
-a boa constrictor that the zoo dude took out for us to see and touch.
-a really inappropriate monkey that wiggled his ass in our faces, in addition to making other, even more inappropriate gestures such as sticking his tongue between his fingers and stroking himself. I kid you not. It was kind of hilarious--and also really mortifying. The more the crowd laughed and pointed, the more the monkey decided he would put on a show.

Here is Humphrey. He is the MAN. Don't you love that mug??? I wanted to take him home with me!

Here's the pacing tiger.
And here is Lara riding Cherry Pie, who she wants to adopt.
No, I didn't take any pics of the monkey. I was too much in shock.

Here we are out to lunch.

Today I ran. I was actually uneasy about it. Would I feel fresh? Would I struggle? Turns out it was fine-- Maybe a little faster than usual because it felt really good to finally sweat. Two days is a long time when you are used to doing, well, -- a lot more than that.

My friend Steve wrote a post on getting back into sprints the other day. He pointed out that the trajectory most triathletes take is to start with a sprint and move "up" in distance. Rarely do people decide to just stay doing sprints, unless they are too busy with life, work and family to take on more than that. But why? Why don't more people decide to try to really excel at that sprint distance?

I would argue that many of us aren't sprinters-- that's why. Steve is a gifted sprinter--a man with many a fast twitch muscle fiber and a work ethic that made him fast fast fast as a high school and college swimmer, and later as a triathlete. But many of us aren't like that. Many of us (or maybe I should just speak for me, here) aren't sprinters at all. I didn't excel in sports as a young person, and I believe that's because the longest distance we could swim in high school meets was the 500. It's funny to me now that we considered that an endurance event. How long did it take, 6 minutes? Less if you were super fast? And anyway, I didn't know I was a person who could go long. Frankly, I had never tried to run longer than a mile or two--and in swimming, I had no real ambition to do more than a 100 back.

It wasn't until I trained for my first marathon that I realized that I had something that could make me a good athlete in my adulthood. I had never had much speed, but I could go for a long time--a little bit more each day. I may not be faster than my sprinting friends, but maybe, if I tried hard enough, I could outlast them. This was toatlly novel and liberating thought for me. It was with that realization that I was finally able to consider myself a person capable of great athletic feats--if I could just put in the work.

So it's really no wonder that I was one of those who quickly moved from a sprint to an Ironman. Actually, I signed up for a 1/2 IM before I had even ever completed a sprint. And I know I'm no turtle. It's just I'm also no cheetah. I like the idea of Ironman because IM is about pacing, planning, working, and outlasting. It's not (at least in the age group ranks) about sheer speed.

Unfortunately, though, there's a catch. Sometimes, hard work and long hours aren't enough.
Sometimes you actually have to give up some long hours in order to gain fitness. Nothing makes an athlete like me panic more than being told my long hours may be holding me back--that I need to rest. Nothing. Those long hours are what I have--the only magic I own.

I think the reason so many IM athletes drive themselves into the turf with their training is because like me, that's all they have. They can't fall back on their speed. They can't fall back on their natural ability. They have only their hard work and their ability to endure. What are they-- who are they-- without their willingness to work harder and longer than everyone else? These are the same people who excelled in school not because of their innate brilliance, but because they were willing to study longer and harder than everyone else; the same people who excel in their jobs not because they have a knack for what they do, but because they spend longer at the office, honing their craft, than the other Tom, Dick and Harrys.

I have no real point here. I'm just attempting to convey the helplessness that comes when that magic--the magic of working longer and harder than everyone else--fails us.