Monday, September 9, 2013

And the Moral of the Story is...... Pumpkinman!

OH, I really love this race. A few days before the event Ange asked me why I liked it so much. There are many things to love about Pumpkinman. Among them: the venue is gorgeous, the course is fair but pretty fast, the race director, Kat, puts a lot of time into the details of the race, the post-race food is amazing--better than any other race I have every been to--, the booty is awesome, and the entire volunteer/organizing party is incredibly friendly and helpful. But my favorite thing of all about this race is that it is a big, MAINE race. So I know a ton of people. I love it when I know a ton of people!

A few weeks ago at Timberman I had an awesome race, and the week after that I had another great race at the REV 3 OOB Oly. Both performances were sweet and special gifts from the Triathlon Fairy. Yes, the Triathlon Fairy: She's the one who allows you a great race even though you have been super lazy and unfocused for... like a year.  Unfortunately, this weekend the Triathlon Fairy decided to spray her magic fairy dust on some other lazy soul--not me. I can't complain. She showered me in that dust for two whole races, right?

So. The race was a tough one for me from the moment my face hit the water. But you know what I always say-- When the Tri Fairy doesn't show up, at least I have my grit on which to fall back.
Or that was what I was trying to tell myself over and over again as I plowed through my race on Sunday. It sort of worked. Sort of.

Yep. I needed grit yesterday. My freshness has given way to a bit of fatigue, for starters. And... take away both that freshness and the magic dust, and what was I left with? Sadly, not a backlog of fitness to count on! Nope. Just ... grit. And also some joy, despite the need for grit. I'm still pretty psyched to be racing these days. So I had that too. Joy can actually take you farther than you might think.

One thing that made the race joyous - (okay, I know the word is corny. How about... made the race fun? special? awesome?) was that some of my favorite people in the world were there. Alina came down to watch, and brought with her Maria (her daughter) and my Jordan. Thank you, Alina! xo Kurt was there--and that always makes me happy and makes me race better, and my good friend Mike was there too, taking pictures and supporting and making me laugh. And of course, Ange was there.  If you haven't yet read her race report it is here.  I love it when Ange and I are able to race together. There's nothing more reassuring than seeing her on the course as I work to stay tough.

So, the actual race...

I was hoping for a quick swim. I have felt pretty good in the water all summer. But alas, it was not to be! I knew within about 15 strokes of starting that the swim was not going to be easy. My breathing was labored, and I lost the lead girls almost immediately. After I caught my breath I did gain some ground, and swam with another woman from my AG for the whole first loop. Then the waves got all mixed together (it's a two loop course, so new waves joined us as we swam on) and I lost her. The rest of the swim I spent weaving around other swimmers.  I did not feel bad, exactly--but I knew I didn't have that feel-good-fire of my last two races, either. I was just sort of... swimming. I'd push, and then pull back, then push, then pull back.

I stumbled getting out of the water, but by the time Mike took this pictures I was smiling.
Of course I was smiling! Even on a tough day I love to race !

I was first in my AG out of the water, but not the first to exit out of my wave. We were mixed with the 45-49 year old women, and two of them beat me -- by a few minutes I will add!  

There is a large ski hill that we had to climb coming out of the water. In a twisted way it's fun. Kat, the race director, gives out a special award called "The Hill Climb"-- awarded to the athlete who is able to ascend that bad boy the fastest. I was not that person! I really wanted to keep my heart rate in check, which was already beating wildly as I exited the water. Unfortunately, no matter how slowly you run it, running up a steep, grassy hill in your bare feet after a long, hard swim will jack your heart rate. I tried to remind myself that I wasn't the only poor soul who had to climb that mofo ... even though the whole time I kept thinking... I'm so tired! Poor me! I  need to save myself for that bike! 
and speaking of.

Onto the bike! 

As I mentioned in my last post, I dropped from elite to age group so I would have people around me as I rode the bike. I hate racing the bike all alone. I  need people around me to push me--people who I can catch and snake around and well, race with!
But alas, moving to the AG ranks did not really help.  I was still alone! I was in one of the early swim waves, and because I am a decent swimmer I beat a lot of the athletes in the first three waves out of the water. The result... there were very few people on the bike course when I got there. This never really changed. I spent a lot of that ride alone. Some of the faster men were about--but they usually just sailed right on by me. No chasing allowed if you must ride 100 watts higher to achieve that chase... 
There were a few women I would pass and lose, who would then catch up and pass and lose me. One was this 55 year old woman with a QT2 kit on who I later learned was Janet. HOLY MOLY if I can ride like that in 12 years I will be thrilled! She was awesome. There were also two Cyclonaut women with whom I played some chase. I later figured out it was these women who beat me out of the water. They then went on to beat me on the bike. 
and then the run. 

For the first part of the bike I was working hard. 
I was working hard... but my speed sucked! I reasoned this could be for one of three reasons. 

1. I had a flat.
2. A brake pad was rubbing against the panel of one of my wheels
3. I was super out of shape and had no business attempting to do a second 70.3 in a three week period. 

Naturally I figured it was number 3. I would KNOW if it was a flat, and I suspected that a brake rubbing was wishful thinking on my part. But the longer I rode, the more I thought... Okay. I know I am in lousy shape, but I am literally not moving! WTF!  So, I finally got off my bike 58 minutes into the ride, spun the back wheel and GRRRRRRRRR observed that my rear brake pad was hitting the wheel, and then realigned the wheel so the offending brake was free. 

argh! I was pissed. 
but then I got over it.  
my bad. 
my fault. I should have spun the wheels as I racked the bike. Etc. 

Things after that point got a little better. I was faster, and not using as much energy as before. I still wasn't feeling super awesome and speedy, though. And my joy was definitely subdued. I admit I felt a bit pissy thinking of the speed I had lost and the energy I had used to push a bike with a slightly rubbing rear brake. But eventually I got over myself. That is racing! Things go wrong--and often those things are your own damn fault. So... you try to fix them. Then you keep going. 

And then I had another snafu. When I came close to ending the bike I slipped out of my shoes and carefully began to place my feet on top of the empty shoes. Except suddenly one of my shoes twirled and scraped the ground and my bike leaped, stopped short, and I fell to the side. 
I know. 
I am so cool. 

Mike snapped this picture right before my debacle. I couldn't get my feet back in my shoes, and I couldn't even get them on top of my shoes without falling! (ummm. hello embarrassment.) 
So I jumped off my bike and ran the final eighth of a mile or so to transition. DOH. 

I made transition REALLY FAST to try and make up for my "dismounting" fiasco. I also hoped that maybe Mike was my only friend who had seen my blunder. But then I commented on this acquaintance's post on FB, and he said, Mary- were you the one coming into T2 w your feet out of the bike pedals when you stopped on the hill?

Ummm. yeah. That was me. 
Hello I am a dork!

Okay, so onto the run!
Mike caught me coming out of T2. Happy face!

In Ange's post she talks about that little devil that sits on your shoulder and tries to convince you you can slow down, that you don't really care--that you don't mind if that chick ahead of you kicks your ass. Usually I do some battle with that devil. But alas, not this time. This time that devil totally HAD ME! 

One of the Cyclonaut women came off the bike with me, and we started the first mile together. She passed me; I passed her; she passed me... 
I ... let her go. 

My reasoning went something like:
I don't care.
I don't care. 
I don't care. 
I don't care.

I would have brief flickers of YES! I care! But they would fade... and hence Cyclonaut women faded into the distance. I did have one great moment when Alina and the kids drove by in the car and honked and said GO MARY! And I smiled! And I waved! And I picked up my flagging spirit and RAN! 

and then I got tired and started to shuffle again.

I ran the first mile in 7:30. I told myself... Mary. Just keep them at 7:30s. I ran the second mile in 7:46. I told myself Mary, just keep at 7:45s. I ran the third mile in 8:06. I told myself Mary, just shoot for 8:10s. I ran the fourth mile in 8:16. 

I stopped making deals with myself and flicked my watch off. 

Sometimes you just have to turn the fucking watch OFF. You know? 

And then, I saw Ange! And she read my mind, or maybe she was reading her own, and she said, STAY TOUGH! 
And she was right. I needed to stay tough. So I did. I kept running! The only deal I made with myself was this: Don't stop pushing and do not, under any circumstances, stop running. 

And smile. 
Try to smile. 

So that was my game plan. I admit I nearly wept in self pity on this small (but it seemed mountainous!) hill in the last quarter mile of the race. But other than that I kept smiling! and I kept running! And I kept pushing! 

And I finished! 

And then I wet my pants. 

I was really nice, though, and told the young dude taking chips off that he should probably wait to take my chip off until I finished pissing. I  mean, it's not like I MEANT to piss. It's just I've had three kids and when I work really hard and I'm really tired... well. The old bladder just goes.

The boy looked at me askance and than called over to this girl, also taking off chips, who had on rubber gloves.

Okay, then!

I finished in 4:59: xx. A few years ago I finished this same race in 4:52--so it wasn't exactly a stellar performance for me. But I must say it's not a bad performance given that I am no longer fresh, but I am also not exactly fit. 

And also, I'm proud. I gutted that sucker out! And I was ninth overall woman. And I was first in my AG by 15 minutes. So that's good. I'll take it! 

(Thanks for the picture, Jeff!)
(Just so you know I changed my shorts before this picture was taken. Just saying.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Things are about to get really crazy.

I will be honest. Things are always crazy here.  As most of you know, I'm Type A, pretty neurotic, slightly OCD and more than slightly ADHD. Lots of labels there. In short, I'm generally an uptight and anxious person.

I'm told this makes me a *bit* hard to live with. :) And I'm super crazy when things get as crazy as they are about to get!

I have just started graduate school in English!

At this point I'm not quite sure how I will squeeze in all that I need/want to do this semester. I am a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course entitled The Monstrous Imagination--Monsters in Literature. I will lead a discussion group on Fridays, and I have quite a few responsibilities (more than I expected) in terms of planning, grading, and even some lecturing. I'm excited. Also a bit ..... well, anxious and uptight. I am also taking a nineteenth century/early twentieth century American Fiction course. I think ultimately I'd like to focus on the works of James or Wharton (in terms of future Master's thesis), so I'm glad I'm starting with this course. I'm also taking a reading/writing novels course which involves a great deal of writing, and some reading of contemporary fiction and memoir.

My real problem is not fitting in the class time, but fitting in the work time necessary to do well in these courses. My kids are at that multiple activities which each meet several times a week age. They all need homework supervision and help--like every day. And I still have my coaching job. And I have those five dogs. Somehow this will all work out...

Anyway! Enough on that.
This weekend I race!
I'm racing the Pumpkinman Half Iron, which is my favorite 70.3 ever.  I did this race a few years ago, and had a great day.  In reading over the post detailing that day, however, I remembered how much I dislike racing elite.
This is mostly because I am not elite.
So after talking with Kurt I decided to drop to the age group ranks. Yay! This means there is no chance of winning some money, but that's okay. I just want to be with my people, and my people are not the elite people.
In order to prep for the race I decided I should return to Masters swimming this week. Yes, I know that doesn't actually prepare me for this race. The hay is in the barn, etc. But oh well. I still wanted to head back to Masters.

Here is what I learned.
I am really out of pool swim shape.

I really believe there are different swim "in-shapes." You can be super speedy in the open water, but suck in the pool. I'm not really super speedy in the open water, but I am definitely more speedy there right now than I am in that pool! Holy Moly did that workout tire me out! Towards the end I could feel myself getting slower and slower and slower. I actually got out before the end of the workout, because I feared I was moving so slowly I would sink to the bottom of the pool.

More after the race!
Happy Back to School Holy Shit Crazy Time of Year to all of you!