Saturday, April 27, 2013

I left my legs in Canyon

Seriously, I underestimated today's bike. But we all know the bike is my weakest link. Those hills did not look so bad when I drove the course or when I reviewed them in my Garmin Connect account.

I guess I should start at the beginning.

I arrived early and was the second person in transition and since the first person took the most ideal spot, I went with my second choice. I set up and wandered around until more folks arrived. First to arrive was Mary Sue who was doing her first triathlon. It's always a relief to see Mary Sue since we do so many races together. Pretty soon my Del Rey Mom's started arriving and it started to feel like a social event. In all seriousness, the greatest thing about this race was that it was in my backyard and there were so many familiar faces. The one thing that I really love about this adventure is the sense of family when you come to an event, we are all in this together and the sense of family and community was strong today.

The swim was in a pool (yay!) so swimmers were sent off every ten seconds based on the time they provided for the swim. I was starting 155th so I had some time to be cold and watch the other swimmers to get an idea of what I would need to do. I would traverse all 8 lanes in the 50 meter pool, which meant you had to swim under lane lines as we zigzagged through the pool. The nice part about being a slow swimmer and starting 155th is that most of the field had cleared out and there aren't many people there to judge your swim stroke! There were no warm-ups allowed so I did my best to stay warm until I needed to get in line to jump in. That means I kept my fleece on until the last minute to get in line. Jumping in the water never felt so good! I waited for the "go" and then I was off. My goal was to swim comfortably, breathe bilaterally and stay calm. The swim was going to be the easiest leg of the day. So I stayed focus on easy breathing. All was going well until I hit the third lane, all of a sudden we were really jammed up. One male was trying to pass me and we caught up to the swimmers in front of us. They were swimming three wide, the guy trying to pass me and was just swimming next to me was swimming breaststroke because he had no room to pass and I kept swimming into the woman in front of me. We all hit the wall together where I had to basically sit and wait for them to swim under the lane and push off. Um, okay. Then I thought this is bullshit, I'm not going to let these people decide my swim time. As the two of us pressed on I continued to hit the feet of the woman in front of me with my hands, she finally stopped turned around and gave me a dirty look. I think at this point she actually realized they were swimming three wide and not allowing anyone else to make a pass. I found a spot and made a move, I'm a slow swimmer so if you are swimming slower than me you seeded yourself wrong and I have every right to try and get past you. Once I got past her I actually passed the others at the wall. This allowed me to swim the last 2 lanes with no hindrance. I even passed the guy who was trying to pass me earlier. Before I knew it it was time to climb out and run to transition. And by run I mean, really run to transition. It was a long run. I got out of the pool in under 10 minutes but my swim time is 10:21 because half of the distance to transition is included in your swim time, the other half is in your T1 time.

The other nice thing about being a slow swimmer is that most of the field was already out on the bike and transition was easy. I was worried because people racked their bikes all in the same direction and the folks next to me had their towels and gear taking up the entire aisle of transition into the next rack. Thankfully, since they were all out already it wasn't too bad getting out. T1 time 2:08, long for not having a wetsuit, but I also need to remember that some of that was the other half of the run from the pool.

As I made my way to the mount line there were two speed bumps so I ran past one before I mounted and was trying to get clipped in prior to the second speed bump, I had some issues getting clipped in, but I managed to push off and clip in once over the second speed bump. As I hit the road iItried to think about when I would take in nutrition, there would be a lot of ups and downs and some intersections to navigate at the beginning. I ate a couple of chews at the start and got some water in after I cleared the intersections. I spotted my friend Stephanie from a distance, or I spotted her dog Gilbert first and then yelled out to her as I approached. It always helps to see a friendly face along the way. As I made my way into Canyon I tried to just get comfortable. Lots of ups and downs and lots of shifting gears. As I  started my first decent climb a huge sense of relief washed over me as I crested and prepared for a downhill. That is until I looked over and saw the hill that the folks ahead of me were climbing on the return out of Canyon. Holy hell, I think I may have shed a tear at this point. I had to use my granny gear on that first hill, and the return climb was longer. I thought to myself, I'm going to have to walk that. There is no way I can ride up that, what am I going to do. I tried to put it to the back of my mind. the rest of the way out to Canyon and at the turn around I focused on riding easy so that I would have something for that hill. That planned work as I actually made it up the hill and without tears. A huge sense of relief rushed over me as I felt the worst was over. I did still have a bit of biking to do (that was only half). Let's just say I wasn't too stoked to do more climbing on the second portion of the bike. At one point I looked at a volunteer and begged for no more hills. My legs were toast and I had serious doubts that I had anything left for the hilly run that was too come. The remaining part of the ride along Moraga Road seemed to take forever. Especially the last mile, I wanted off the bike incredibly bad, my legs were so sore. As I made the left hand turn into the school I attempted to navigate those speed bumps again and unclip. Bike time was 1:07:26, seven minutes slower than I had hoped for.

You can see me unclipping here and hoping I don't eat it

Big smile to see Scott and the girls
As I tried to navigate the millions of people wandering around transition (no one watching it to allow athletes only) I racked my bike, changed my shoes and took the time to give kisses to my girls. This is the first race the family has ever come to. Normally, this is Mom time but it was really special to have them there and I wanted to be sure that they knew that! After all, they make lots of sacrifices for me to enjoy this hobby.

And then I was off.
T2 time 1:06, kisses and all.

The first part of the run is flat so that helped, but I knew my legs were not happy with me. I had grabbed my Gu and knew I would be taking it early into the run so I just held onto it. I whimpered a little as I passed the 8-11 year old turn to the finish line, never in my life have I ever wanted to be an 8 year old so bad! As I rose up into the neighborhood, I realized I ran the course backwards on my practice run. Oops, okay that through for me a little loop, but it's all the same right? Still lots of hills. I decided to take in my Gu on the first hill, it was a nice excuse to slow down and walk. I started doing run/walk intervals up the hill, that had been my plan anyway. It was such a sufferfest as I reached the first turnaround point but at least it was going to be downhill for a little bit. That's when it hit me, right at that turn around sign. Cramps. I've heard of people cramping up badly before but I have never experienced anything like this. Oh the pain, and right at the downhill, which seemed so unfair. I worked through it and running downhill seemed to be much better than uphill. I knew that meant I would be walking more of the next hill than running it. As I made the turn for the longest hill on the run I took it as easy as I could. When I tried to run it hurt immensely so I just walked. As I finally made it to the top of the hill I was more than ready to embrace that downhill. Sadly, my body had other things in mind. The pain became so bad and it didn't matter if I was running or walking. I knew this was a result of the bike, but I have never experienced pain like this during a race. I truly felt I would be limping to the finish line or that I might actually just collapse and cross the line all bloody, because I was going to finish no matter how much it hurt. I actually stopped and tried to stretch. That didn't seem to help much but someone offered me some Gu which I knew I didn't need as I had just taken some, I just needed it to kick in! I ran with the woman who kindly offered support and finally the pain started to dissipate. As I made the turn into the parking lot I faced the one last hill on the course before I had to run 3/4 of the way around the track to the finish line. The pain started to kick in again so I walked the hill.

that's when I spotted Scott. He somehow thought that saying "come on, is that all you've got!" would motivate me, so I flipped him the bird.

Once I reached the soft, flat track running again seemed nice.

No longer angry and flipping off people

My kids jumping and taking a second to cheer me on. 
I didn't have much kick left for the finish line but just running on the track was such a huge improvement and I was so happy to be done.

Wearing her Snow Day shirt, love it! 

Run time 35:50, 50 seconds over what I expected, not too bad considering the major cramping that was going on.

Another race logged int he book with my race buddy! 
Overall time was 1:56:53. I was shooting for 1:50 but knew I would be happy with anything under 2 hours. Once again, I need to work on my bike! But I'm happy with how I did on a hilly course and how I continued to dig deep and push and not give up. My mental game prevailed today.

T-minus 6 weeks until the next one.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Adventures with mermaids

It's no secret that once a year I coach a girls running club through the folks at Mermaid Series called Mini Mermaid Running Club. Running with my girls brings me such great joy and I am so thankful to the lovely ladies who developed this program and bring it to hundreds of elementary school age girls. the majority being from under served schools.

Part of coaching these girls and my own children involves encouraging the girls to overcome their fears and be confident in themselves and their bodies. The best way that I can teach my children these traits is by my example. My oldest daughter and I both learned to swim freestyle around the same time last year. My youngest is learning right now despite the fact that she was adamant about not swimming swim team six months ago.  They observe so much about my training; they notice when the swim bag comes out, they run around crazy asking for things when they see me put on my bike clothes (they know I won't get off the bike to get them drinks and snacks), and they wait by the door when I go out for a run.

This weekend I attended a tri clinic with the Mermaid Series in Alameda. The main goal for me was to swim in the bay along Crown Beach. I don't have any fears of water but I do have an interesting relationship with the ocean. Having been a scuba diver in a previous life it has made open water swimming less daunting for me. Putting my face in cold water is not a big deal, having no visibility can be dealt with, it's motion sickness that is my weakness. I have been known to get sea sick in Hawaii and Lake Tahoe (not kidding). I can't read in the car, video games make me queasy and even Soaring Over California in Disneyland is borderline. There are so many great triathlon's out there and many of them are ocean swims, and in the back of my mind I told myself I probably couldn't do them. When this clinic came up I figured it was a perfect opportunity to try it out in a very safe environment and it's not like the water off of Alameda is the open ocean.

When I arrived to the beach it was pretty cold and the water looked choppy. I know that I have dove in much colder water so I wasn't too terribly worried about the water temperature, I was however concerned about the chop and how that would bode for breathing while I was swimming. We were told there was a current and we would be swimming into it. Again, I'm accustomed to current when diving, but that also involves the use of fins. My last open water swim had been at the See Jane Run Tri at Shadow Cliff's where I already felt like I was swimming on a continuous treadmill, so I knew this would be interesting.

The only time I was cold was at the start while we were in the water listening to instructions. I felt a little concerned being in a sleeveless wet suit when nearly everyone else was in a full suit. I reminded myself of why I purchased sleeveless in the first place. I dove in and off I went. My first thought was "salt", silly I know, I hate salt water. So far the chop was not creating any issue with breathing and I was able to do my usual bilateral breathing. I think I was swimming a fairly straight line. I remember looking at my Garmin and might have thrown out a cuss word when I realized I had only traveled 68 yards. Okay, this was hard, but I was not panicked, I was fine and would keep swimming. I periodically stopped to check my sighting and how much further I had to go. I started realizing that there wasn't anyone really around me, when I looked ahead I realized there were only a few people ahead of me, including the guy on the surfboard who was paddling out to mark our end point. That felt good, even if I kept thinking that it was really, really hard. At some point I had the thought that there was no way I could get on the bike and run after this. While I stopped frequently to compose myself, at least the time spent swimming seemed to be efficient and I felt no motion sickness. I was super excited to be approaching the surfboard, what I didn't realize was I had to just get to him. I was ready to swim around him and up to the beach! It was very exciting to learn that I was done and had made it when I reached him! I looked around and realized that I was the 3rd or 4th person in. I did it! And I wasn't sick! What a great feeling.

As we walked back I mentioned to Coach Heidi that this swim was going to be the determining factor in whether I signed up for the Mermaid Tri since Alameda was the site for the race. She looked at me and said "Looks like your signing up."

So of course, I came home and registered. I obviously forgot how I felt during the swim in regards to biking and running (kinds of like childbirth).

The greatest part is that the night before we will run with the girls in the Mermaid vs. Mermen 5k. This will be Kylie's first 5k. For the past two years she has run part of the Mermaid SF course so I am so excited for her to complete her first full 5k.

It's good to be a mermaid.

Proving that we can swim too!