Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Reasonable Man

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. - George Bernard Shaw

When I talked to Kurt about my race a few weeks back, I mentioned that I beat everyone it was reasonable to beat.  He reminded me that one shouldn't approach a race with that kind of thinking. One must believe she can win whether it's reasonable or not. Who cares who's racing? You are there to win, and you can win. You need to know it.

I know people who believe like this. It's not that they don't doubt themselves at times; it's more that they believe that they can beat everyone--it's possible--and they know this at a deep level. These people don't check to see who is on the entry list. It doesn't matter. They just know that they can win. A good example of this might be Julie Dibens. In the most recent issue of Lava, she talked about how she believes she can beat Chrissie and Miranda at Kona this year. Some may agree with her (I do, actually) and some may believe she is being unreasonable, but the point is she believes she can. She has that hard to come by faith; the unshakeable kind that when challenged simply nods and then goes out and gets it done.

Unfortunately, I don't know I can win. In fact, in the case of the previously mentioned race, I knew I couldn't win because I could not beat Karen Smyers (or Kim Webster or Lisbeth Kenyon, but let's just stick with Karen). I know this because I'm reasonable. I will not beat a person who has previously won the Ironman World Championship as recently as 1996 and who is still racing incredibly well--that is, unless something catastrophic happened to her during the race, like, for example, if she was plucked from her bike by aliens or chased off the run course by a rabid fox or something.

Even when it is actually reasonable to believe I can win, I usually don't allow myself to believe it. You never know who will show up on race day. There are people who are faster than you who live just around the block, the town, the state, the country. I know this--and I know it because I'm reasonable. It's not self-deprication and it's not lack of confidence. I just know that more often than not, there will be someone who can challenge me on the race course.

The question is, how much has my being reasonable held me back?

I think sometimes we are reasonable only to protect ourselves from disappointment.
And sometimes we are reasonable simply because we have been trained to believe in evidence and without it we become unmoored.
And sometimes our consciousness just doesn't allow for the unreasonable.
And sometimes we are reasonable because unreasonable people can be really fucking annoying and we don't want to be one.

Enough on that.

I leave for Kona in less than a week.
I'm a mixture of excited, nervous, and mired in the details of preparing for a trip.

I've been doing hot yoga in an attempt to acclimate myself to heat. Today I took a 1.5 hour class in a room set to 110. Sweat came off of me like rain. At times I could not see because I was blinded by it pouring down my face. My mat towel and my shirt were so wet I could wring a puddle of water out of them at any moment in time, even if I had just done so.
Will any of that insane sweating NOW help me in my race?
Oh, who knows. I've also been layering my clothing on my rides and runs, but this doesn't produce the sweating action that hot yoga does. The only thing that comes somewhat close is riding the trainer with the windows closed and no fan. I've been doing quite a bit of that too, all in hopes that I won't melt into that lava pavement, never to be seen again.

Here is a picture of Hazel.
I took it the morning after she kept the family up all night barking. Who knows what got into her. She just would. not.stop.
So to punish her I woke her up. :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Little Red

My Canondale road bike, Little Red, has briefly come out of retirement. This morning I brought Mrs. Z  to Fast Splits, where she will get a quick little tune-up from Brian, the mechanic there, and then shipped off to Hawaii by TriBike. It's a long trip. I'm hoping she makes friends with all the other bikes.

But, in her absence, enter Little Red.
Here she is in 2007 at Timberman, her first and only 70.3. Soon after she was replaced, coldly, by the super slick, Mrs. Z.

Little Red has been spending time in the basement lately. When I brought her up I had to clean her thoroughly. She had become a tad moldy and cobwebby, I'm afraid. After a complete bath and a little lubing, however, she looks quite snappy and rides quite well. We all ride better after a bath and lube, eh?

I removed Little Red's aerobars because I think they cause me to be even less aero than simply being on the drops. I think I might have 70 spacers atop my stem. Not sure.  I admit I'm slightly relieved that I will be unable to measure power output for the next few weeks. My legs are cooked. I just want to rest, man! Luckily for me, I am resting a bit this week. It's funny--before IMLP I was constantly paranoid I wasn't doing enough or working hard enough. Now I'm doing exactly as prescribed, and no more, with no worry. I'm just too freaking tired to worry. End of the season, can you hear me calling your name??

I leave you with a few illegally copied photos of my racing at Pumpkinman. 

I look cut and tanned! You know I'm going to look at these pictures in January and sob, full of self-pity because my tanned cut-ness has turned into pasty flabiness.

And here are a few of my awesome tri friends who raced (and all placed, fyi) Stacy, me, Kelsey, Amy, Erin and Michelle.

For now. Namaste.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pumpkinman Race Report

I've never raced Pumpkinman. I've always raced the Lobsterman Oly in Freeport instead, which is usually held the week after Pumpkinman. At one point I thought I'd do Lobsterman every year until death do me part. It is the ONLY triathlon I have done every year since I began triathlon in 2007, and I figured I could have a streak. I've always wanted to be a streaker. It would be a race I could always come back to... a race  I knew by heart... a race I considered all mine.

But then when I went to sign up for it this year I thought, I'm sick of that race. Time for something new.

I'm so steadfast. What can I say.

So, enter Pumpkinman.

When I qualified for Kona I nearly bagged the idea of racing it. According to the pros, racing a half four weeks before the big show is "perfect timing." I put that in quotes, but I am actually not quoting anyone in particular. It just seems a lot of them said something like that when being interviewed before the 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas this year. Anyway. It may be perfect timing for a pro, but I am not so sure it was perfect timing for me. I'm no spring chicken and I don't always bounce back the way I'd like to,  and, more importantly, I'm no seasoned pro. I'm just seasoned. To race hard, recover, and still get in all the training I need to race Kona?
hmmmm. Probably a bad idea to race.

So, naturally, I felt the need to race. Badly.
Steadfast, reasonable, practical. That's me.

My introduction is getting too long already. Bear with me.

Truthfully, I decided to race Pumpkinman because I wanted to have a good race before Kona. This season started out with a bang... full of promise! full of surprises! full of success! Think Quincy Half (pr!) Think Boston Marathon (pr!), Sudbury Sprint, (pr and second OA!), Mooseman (1:36 half! woot woot!)
But then... not so much later in the season. Think IMLP (dashed hope for a sub 11 and lots and lots of puke), and AG Nats (lots o'fun but not much speed).

I felt a deep need for that promise, suprises, success thing again before I faced Kona. You might be thinking, why not just get that at Kona? Well... good question. I cannot be sure what will happen at Kona. I could nail that puppy and have a perfect day. Or I could get really hot and dehydrated and decide to take in cold margaritas for fuel on the run. I'm just not sure. I was sure, though, that I could get it at Pumpkinman. I knew I could. The fact that Kurt had me training right through this race with no rest did not phase me. I just knew I could have a good race, tired and un-tapered or not.

I'm sure you're very glad I explained that all to you.
I'm getting to the race report, all right? Leave me alone! Geez. Have a little patience.

The day before the race Kurt texted me to ask me if I wanted to switch my entry to elite. The race director (Kat) had emailed him and suggested it. Only four girls were signed up for elite, and there was MONEY to be had--through five places. At first I balked. My only experience racing elite came in 2009 when I raced the Fireman Oly. Catherine Sterling (right, the woman who was second behind the Olympian at AG Nats a few weeks back) and I were the only registered elites. She beat me by like a half hour. In an Olympic. Really. I'm not lying. Also, I remember spending the ENTIRE bike alone. The elite men and Catherine rode off quite briskly, and the age groupers took forever catching up to me, and I was just ALONE. I didn't want a repeat of that. I race to be around people and compete! Not to ride alone hum de dum wondering when and if I will see another racer ever ever again.

But there was money... and with only four signed up? I'd make five... so money for sure.

I decided to go for it.

Race morning I got up at 2:50 a.m. That is correct. It was the middle of the night.
I decided to drive to Maine the morning of the race because I didn't want to rent a hotel room, and my parents' home in Maine is at least an hour fifteen from the race site. So, I got up in the 2:00s...
I had a lovely ride, listening to my book (Cutting for Stone) and drinking coffee. When I arrived it was 5:15 a.m. Transition had just opened. I found Kat and got my entry changed to race elite. "So," I asked Kat, "Are all your elites racing in the World Championship 70.3 today?" I queried.
"Oh, not at all!" she said. "We have 21 people signed up for the elite wave!"
I'm hoping I didn't look to stricken. 

21 people?
Oh fucking fuck.

As I got ready at the elite rack I noticed who was there:
Karen Smyers.
Kim Webster.
Lisbeth Kenyon.

Oh sure. Good idea to race elite. VERY good idea. I pinched myself and screamed internally, "I TOLD YOU, YOU STUPID WOMAN! WHEN WILL YOU LEARN! ELITE IS BAD! BAD BAD BAD!"

It was cold outside, so after I finished racking and getting myself all dolled up to race, I went to the car to listen to my book, eat a banana and get warm. I also contemplated my fate. There were NOT four women here to race elite. There were more like 10 girls, goddamnit.  But it was what it was. I would just have to beat all of them it was reasonable to beat. I might not be able to run down Karen, Kim or Lisbeth... but there were a few others to out swim, bike and run. Right?  I said, RIGHT?????

The swim start was delayed because of fog. I waded in the water and chatted with a few friends I knew. I wanted to hide my white cap, which marked me as a person who thought she could hang with the big cats. I actually chatted with Karen for awhile. She is extremely hard not to like, I will say that. Classy woman, that Karen.

The fog had JUST lifted when they set us off. I was suprised that the whole pack of elites didn't swim right away from me. But they didn't. Or some didn't. I stayed with the some who didn't. The first loop was rather nice, as we had the water to ourselves. The second loop we merged with the waves just starting, and that was rather un-fun. It was a tad crowded. I got distracted and sighted the wrong buoy for a bit and lost some time there. But it was fine. I got out at 29:34. I would have been elated with that time, except for the knowledge that the swim is likely a little short. Stats here: 26/445 overall, 9th woman (in terms of time on the swim) and 4th fastest elite woman (in terms of time on the swim).

We had to run up this mother fucker of a hill to get to T1. It's big enough so they have a separate time for it in the results--"the hill challenge" or something. I was extremely winded and ready to collapse at the top of it. They ranked us according to our time climbing this hill. I don't remember what I was. It wasn't terribly impressive, I do remember that!

T1 was fine. I didn't forget anything. That's always a plus.

When I began the ride I observed that I was only riding 38 watts. average. I continued to look. The average moved to 37w. average. hmmmmm.
I had just cleaned my bike. I THOUGHT I got that magnet back right...
Oh dear.

Also, my quads began burning about 30 seconds into my ride.
I think this may be because I was tired from my rides in the days previous?
In any case, I figured, if they burned now what did I have to lose? Let's just make 'em burn a little more, shall we? Can't save yourself if there's nothing to save, right?

(Belief in this axiom has gotten me into trouble in past lives, I will add.)

About 35 minutes into the ride my power meter started working normally. Thank God! I'm nothing if not dependent on that little thing.  I settled in at my goal watts, comfortably hard. I like comfortably hard. I stayed in aero. I focused. The course was rolling. Not flat, but definitely not a hard course either. The only problem: I WAS ALL ALONE.

Of course I was. This is what you get when you race elite and you are not really elite! You get LONELINESS! I sang to myself....

I think we're alone now... there doesn't seem to be anyone around... (Tiffany. I am an 80's girl...)


All by myself.... Don't wanna be... All by myself.. anymore (Celine Dion, although I'm sure a million others have sung that tune...)


Well someone told me yesterday.. that when you throw your love away... (The Police, So Lonely)

That's all I could think of. Give me a break, though. I was racing.
Except it didn't feel like racing, because, as I have reiterated several times now, I was all alone.

On the second half of the second lap some age group men starting passing me. FINALLY! I wanted to scream at each one that passed, "WTF! Where have you been you slow pokes!!" My friend Ted zipped by just as I had stopped pedailng and was taking a piss. I would've yelled hello, but it takes a lot of focus to pee on the bike. Also, I was distracted by the warm wet streaming down my legs and into my shoes.

Toward the end of the ride a few guys played Pass and Park with me. The game is as follows: Pass the chick, slow down, and park your fat ass in front of her. She gets pissed and exasperated, and finally passes you back. Then, after a few minutes, you catch up to her again and pass her, and then slow down and again park your fat ass in front of her. And by the way, if you decide to play this game, please make sure that you are not wearing ten year old tri shorts that are see-through and reveal your ass crack. Thanks.

I did make a few friends toward the end of the bike. A couple guys just rode around me, and didn't play pass and park. I liked them. We all rode into T2 together. 2:39:xx. 80/445 overall, 10th female (in terms of time on the bike, 4th elite female (time wise), and off the bike in 4th position. The ride was more like 55 miles. I'm just saying.

I dismounted very very carefully after removing my feet from the shoes while still riding. It was so tentative and slow that it is likely it would've been faster to just hop off the bike with my shoes on, but hey. I'm trying. I WAS racing elite, after all.

I felt super when I started the run. I was calm. I was smooth. I had on Noah's cool black IM visor. I was ready to rumble! This lasted about 2 miles. Then I didn't feel like running anymore. But hey, two miles! I'll take it. The easiness of the first miles gave way to a steady, hard effort. The hard effort was not producing the splits I wanted to see, but I just kept on running and hoping that the NEXT mile would be a wee bit faster. The course was not flat. Like the bike, it also wasn't particularly challenging. But it was not flat. This disappointed me greatly. I was really pining for some FLAT. At about mile 3 I saw Karen Smyers coming in the other direction. I tried to figure out how far ahead of me she was. 20 minutes? 25minutes? Then came Kim Webster. She looked like she was just barely grazing the pavement with her dainty feet... sailing along. Then came Lisbeth. I reckoned I was only 10-15 minutes away from her... Not so bad!

I scanned the opposing direction for any more females.
There were none. I hit the turn around. I was runinng in fourth. On the way back I scanned again for females. Ahhh... there was one! I recognized her: Andrea. I had never beaten her. I thought I might be 2-3 minutes ahead of her. Could I hold on?

I began to run scared. My miles picked up a little. But I had this... I had this...

At mile 8, as generally happens in these races, I started really really hating life, running, triathlon, myself, my coach, my competitors, humankind etc. I drank Coke. That helped a little. A noted on the turn around that Andrea was closer... maybe just 2 mintues? Hard to tell. I hated her, too. She was young. (actually, she is in my age group, but she LOOKS young.) She was blond. She looked fresh and strong. My lungs hurt and I could smell my pee and sweat. Plus I have wrinkles and brown hair...
You get the picture.

I tried to gain inspiration from Karen, Kim, and Lisbeth, all friendly, all beaming at me as I ran by in the opposing direction. Were they so nice because they knew I would never in five trillion years catch them? Lisbeth looked really strong and pretty (really, she looked pretty), but also she looked like she was working. Not so much for Kim and Karen. I know looks can be deceiving. I remember an athelte friend of mine asking me when running got easy for me. I looked at her quizzically.
Ahh, never?

A friend told me before the race that the run measured 12.9 miles. It was not 12.9. It was 13.1. Barely, but yes, 13.1.
I had really really been looking forward to getting that little .2 in my pocket for free.
God damn. Maybe it WAS 12.9, but it had been changed.

The last little bit was up a hill (OUCHHHHH) and then down a big hill (OUCHHHH) and then finally! The end!
1:40:16, 50th overall, 11th woman (in terms of time on the run), 5th elite woman (in terms of time on the run), 4th position overall.

Final finish 4:52:40, 4th woman overall, elites and AG combined.
I was in the money, baby!

And I got to stand on a podium with Karen Smyers, Kim Webster and Lisbeth Kenyon and Andrea, who I had never beat before! So cool.

I had a great race. Thanks to Kat Donatello for putting on a really superior race. Thanks to Kurt (even though you asked me to run after the race was over. I forgive you)... and thanks to Andy (who took the kids and dogs camping this weekend--that's worth like a gold star and five... nevermind)....Also thank you to all my super awesome tri friends at the race. You know who you are!
Now onto those margaritas while on the run in Kona....

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Wet One

Because you asked... here is THE PURSE.
It's a beauty, eh?

On Wednesday I went for a long ride. Or I was supposed to go for a long ride. Thirty-five minutes into it I looked down and observed my front tire. Was it flat?
I stopped. Usually I'm wrong. Usually a tire I believe is flat is totally fine and I kick myself for being so damn paranoid.
Not this time.

I changed it. I got really dirty, because, I need to add here, it was pouring out. Kurt's favorite little adage about riding in the rain: We are not motivated by the sky....

Well now. Honestly, I'm not motivated by the sky. It's also fair to say, however, that I can be extremely un-motivated by the sky. The forecast for Wednesday was not firing my motivation, but it was definitely dampening it. The hourly forecast looked something like:

8 am rain, 9 am rain, 10 am rain, 11 am rain, 12 pm rain, 1 pm rain, 2 pm rain, 3 pm rain

and so on. Still, I went out bravely into the cold, wet misery.
And now I here I was--alone, cold, soaked, dirty, and changing a tire on the side of the road as cars drove by me mercilessly, splattering me in muddy guck.
BTW, does anyone know a trick for not freezing your fingers off when you use the Co2? I find I have to hold the canister firmly in place or some of the Co2 leaks instead of going into the tube, but when I hold it my fingers FREEZE. It's awful. Anyway.
After changing the tire I put everything bike into my little pouch and headed on my merry, dirty, wet way. Two minutes later I observed my front tire. FLAT AGAIN.

I admit I got a little weepy. It was one of those moments during which I really wanted a knight in shining armor to ride up and throw me on the back of his steed, bring me home, put me in front of a warm fire and give me hot cocoa.
Alas, not to be. There were no knights riding around on Washington St in Walpole on this sad, rainy day.

I changed the flat, and then observed the grim reality. I had no more tubes and no more Co2. Additionally, I was just forty minutes into a five+ hour ride and I had lost a good 25 minutes fixing flats. Here is the thing: to get in a five + hour ride I have to leave immediately after the kids get on the bus. Once riding there is no fucking around taking breaks to have a snack or take a long piss. Every minute counts if I want to get home and also get the transition run in before the kids get off the bus. Losing a half hour was not good.  Not good at all.

And so I headed home. I worried the whole way I would flat again. Clearly there was something embedded in the tire that I had not found while changing the tube in the pouring rain.

About ten minutes before I reached my house I looked down at my front tire, and I saw..... not a flat. I saw a BUBBLE. My tire was bubbling! I stopped and examined the bubble. Slowly, slowly it was expanding to form a rip.

Okay, I did cry. I cried and walked home in the rain, in my cleats, muddy, dejected, alone, pitiful. WHY hadn't I changed the tire? I knew it was old! I knew it had very little life in it!
It was truly sad and pathetic.

When I got home I checked into Training Peaks to figure out what I could do instead of the ride. The long run. I'm racing Sunday, so the long run was only an hour. Still. An hour. In the cold rain. I almost burst into tears again.

But of course it was fine. Running in the rain isn't bad at all, really, and there is no chance of getting a flat when running, which is one of the reasons I will always love running MORE than riding.

The  next morning I woke ready to RIDE, BABY! But okay, I admit, I was a little bit leary of going out because the forecast looked surprisingly familiar:
8 am rain, 9 am rain, 10 am rain, 11 am rain, 12 pm rain, 1 pm rain, 2 pm rain, 3 pm rain
I decided to ride the first few hours on the trainer--safe and comfy in my little home as it poured outside.
Naturally I felt guilty. And wimpy.
So I decided to make my ride on the trainer the toughest mother fucking ride ever.
I turned the heat to 87 degrees. I did not use a fan. I rode the watts I was required to ride outside.


I contemplated putting a bucket underneath me just so I could see how fast it would fill with my sweat. A bonus would be I could use it to barf. I have never ever sweat that much in my life. Nasty. Nasty x 1,000,000.

After three hours of sweating like that I went outside to finish the ride. It was still raining, of course, but at least I only had 2.5 hours left, and wasn't staring down 5+ in the pouring rain.
I made it. Granted, Mrs. Z and I were covered in grit and slime and gravel and mud by the end. But I did it.

And today it's sunny out. It's sunny because on my schedule I just have AN INDOOR SWIM.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Post 40

The other day I shopped in the little Ocean Park Grocery store. I found a purse for sale there. Strange, I thought, for a purse to be for sale in a tiny grocery store that specializes in making subs and frosted cinnamon rolls, and in supplying tourists with sunscreen, coffee and the morning paper.

The purse was covered in a cloth overlay that bore a picture of a mom and puppy bull terrier. The colors in the photo were garish: bright green grass, orange flowers, the puppy nestled inside a watering can that sat by his mother. On one side of the purse the dogs sat pictured in studded collars with actual miniature rhinestones embedded into them. The purse cost $9.99.

I loved it.

Hmmmmm... Did I dare? Who carries a $9.99 dog purse around?

And then I remembered.
I'm over 40. I can carry whatever damn purse I want.
My days of caring whether people think me bizarre (at best) for carrying a cheap purse covered with a cute puppy picture are over. Plaster my bedroom walls in puppy pictures! It just doesn't matter anymore!

One of my favorite movies growing up was Meatballs, starring Bill Murray. You may remember (if you are old enough to even be familiar with the movie) that the ragtag Camp North Star tries to compete with the richer, smoother Camp Mohawk. At one point, after Camp North Star has lost quite tremendously to Camp Mohawk in a basketball game, Murray (aka Tripper) gives a motivational speech to the deflated campers. The speech ends... It Just doesn't Matter

It just doesn't matter. That's the key, and it's one of the greatest things about being 40. It took me this long to realize it: I've got one spin on this planet, and if I want to carry a fucking dog purse, I can carry a fucking dog purse.

Here are a few other things I realized I could do when I turned 40:
  • Wear a skimpy, purple sequined bikini  (or the like--I have quite a few outrageous bikinis, actually). Counter-intuitive, I know, but when I was young I felt I couldn't wear the skimpy bikini... I had to be thinner, I had to be more toned, etc. Now that I'm 40--It Just Doesn't Matter... really!
  • Read a cheesy novel or listen to a cheesy song on Kiss 108 and readily admit that I loved it
  • Kiss my dogs on the lips
  • Get a tattoo (or more than one)
  • Dye my hair (okay, I admit, I've always had fun with dying my hair...)
  • Eat real ice cream with all the fat
  • Admit I don't like red wine and just stick with white
  • Embrace my nasty feet, complete with their bunions and blood blisters, and not apologize for them or try to hide them
  • Ask when I don't know, even if I should know, and not apologize for not knowing.

Those are just a few things--all seemingly insignificant. But they aren't. 

Exhibit A: At 40 I feel I can wear a zebra suit and think I'm hot shit because of it, to boot.

Training has been... going. It hasn't been bad or good--it just  has BEEN. Kona is in 5 weeks, and I'm now trying again to TAKE off  some of that ice cream weight I put on after IMLP. (Yep, I went a little overboard there!) Next weekend I race a 1/2, Pumpkinman, up in my beloved Maine. I've never done this race, so I'm excited about it. Who will be there? Anyone? Anyone? Let me know!