Friday, April 24, 2015

Life on wheels

I've gone four days now without a tow truck in my life! Things are good! After the pre-race mini-van breakdown, I was without my "portable transition unit" for a week. One PCM module and one Wireless Ignition Node later, I thought I was back in business.

Two days later, the battery light came on. I tried to limp back to the dealership, but the wheels stopped turning and I had a "DNF". AAA to the rescue...again. (I am a BIG fan of AAA...get the Plus version though with further towing options) Now I have a new alternator, which was maybe the source of the problems to begin with, and I hope I am good to go for a while now!

deja vous

The rest of my wheeled escapades have been going well. The miracle of miracles - the lawnmower worked first time out, and none of the wheels fell off (yes, we've had that issue). Despite having two teenage lawnmower operators in the house, I opted to mow for the "zen" of it, even though I still believe grass is stupid for many environmental reasons.

The bike "wheels" are great, with a new rear tube and tire from the race flat, and spring cycling is the BEST. I had an impromptu ride with my friend Eric who was in town for the day and I explored some new-to-me routes with my still race sticker-ed helmet. Doh!

The sights and scenes on our back roads of SW Virginia just can't be beat!

In terms of my personal mental "wheels" -- well they are always on the verge of coming off! LOL!

It's never easy to fit the training into the parental working life. Last week was nearly 13 hours of training across 11 sessions - factor in all the before and after, preparing, getting to and from, and it was probably close to 20 hours. 

Yesterday was unusual with three workouts - a morning swim, a mid-day hour long negative split run, and an evening trip to the gym. I asked Coach Jim if that was deserving of a gold star. And I got one!!

In all the hustle and distraction of life, I realized last night I had not yet signed up for my next race that is in 8 days! Oops! So now I am signed up for my May & June races. 

I'm hoping for some smooth cruising for a bit now - with all my wheels! 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Belews Lake International - DNF Race Report

Thanks to a nice rock slicing the side of my tire and tube, my race ended at mile 18 of the 27 mile Belews Lake International bike course. I experienced my first DNF (did not finish).

Let's back up though, shall we? To when the real fun of race day began....

I left home at 5:15 pm Friday after dropping youngest off at soccer practice, intent on making the 2-1/2 hour drive to the cheapie motel near the race site, rather than drive it Saturday morning. I had planned on a relaxing evening and good night's sleep.

That wasn't meant to be.

About 75 minutes from home, the van dashboard went insane with warning lights, so I promptly pulled off road, thinking OH $HIT, now what. The van wouldn't start, it seemed to think it was in reverse, and would not shift. The front wheels were locked up. I called AAA, and not too long after the towtruck arrived and they dragged the van on to the flatbed. With the front wheels not turning...literally DRAGGED. I couldn't watch. We stopped on the way to buy dish soap to help the van slide back off the flatbed.

We took the van to the dealership about 30 min back the way I came. There I witnessed an amazing display of car unloading and extraction of the tow truck from an impossibly tight situation.

They very graciously gave me a ride to the airport to rent a car. I went back to load my equipment into the new car, and went back on my way, arriving at the questionable motel at 11:15 pm. I slept fitfully, but awoke for the race, still optimistic that a good day could be had!

The venue was gorgeous, the morning was crisp but warm, and I was calm. It was a time trial start, with us heading out two-by-two. I got a few strokes in and the goggles I chose to use started to leak (see last post, I broke up with my goggles). The goggles that worked ok in the pool, did not work well in the open water, and I spent parts of my swim with one eye closed, stopping to empty goggles, and wondering what if a contact fell out. I did not swim good lines, it was just not a great swim. Still, I kept calm and told myself that racing is as much about minimizing the impact of the crap that happens. I hoped to make up time on the bike.

Swim was not good - many of the bikes around me are GONE!

The bike started off pretty really well - it was a two loop course and I made it a goal to pass 25 people. The Duran Duran song "Hungry Like the Wolf" popped in my head for some reason and I felt like a predator picking off my prey! I was picking up some speed on the second loop.

Around mile 18, I was making a pass with another cyclist ahead of me, and did not see a big patch of mud and sizeable rock in the middle of the lane. I hit the rock, heard a very loud noise, nearly lost control of the bike, and turned around and asked if something flew off my bike. Then I realized I'd had a flat. It sliced the side of the tire and tube so my bike ride was done. I sat down in the grass along the road and asked the passing cyclists to alert someone at the next intersection to come and get me. It felt like a long time to wait but I got a ride back to the start.

I really wanted to punt the run but was encouraged to do it anyway. "You'll thank me later" I heard. I cleared it with the race director and headed off. It was hard. My heart was heavy, and so were my legs. It was a hillier course than I expected and I was deflated, but I did it. So at least it was a decent training day.

My takeaways from this race:

Find new dependable goggles. I need a new goggle solution pronto. I emailed Aqua Sphere to tell them their new goggle redesign on the Lady Kaimen is a big fail and why (whoever reads it will probably not care), but in the meantime I've ordered four new various pairs to try. Whatever I go with, they should know I will be loyal!

Carry a flat kit on Internationals. I've never carried a flat kit on sprints and international distance races figuring if I flatted I'd lose so much time that it wasn't worth it. But now I know that it would have been nice to have legitimately finished the whole thing, no matter what the time. Although, in this case, I needed a new rear tire, not just a tube, so I was probably screwed anyway.

Remain attentive to the road! The road conditions were amazingly smooth and clean. I hardly saw any debris, and on the second pass around I may have let my attention lapse, assuming the road was clear. But even if that were true on the first lap, it can change on the second. Be careful when passing behind someone because you can't see the road ahead!

Bad races happen. I didn't quite know what to feel, it was definitely different and weird and lacked the typical post-race satisfaction. But I am very thankful that I didn't go down and that the bike and I are both OK. 

The next race is in three weeks. At least I will feel like I've dusted off the cobwebs. This was a pretty big wake-up call. I expect I will be far sharper!

And Belews Lake...I will be back next year to seek my revenge! Thanks to the Jones Racing Company for a very VERY well run race. That was my first time at one of their events and I was extremely impressed with the organization of it, the communication, and the staffing. Truly a great job!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I broke up with my goggles.

 pictured with swim mentor Laura 
and the Swedish goggles that are new in the mix.
Water is NOT normally murky, a motor went out overnight.

Dear Goggles,

After a five year relationship, built on trust, comfort, and water-tight dependability, the time has come for me to move on.

No, it's NOT me. It's YOU.

You've changed. I see the small differences. I see how suddenly this year you decided to "improve" - strap holders are different, you don't fit the same. Maybe it was to shave some costs. Maybe you didn't think I'd notice.


You're a little leaky now. But a little is too much. The goggle marks are worse. The strap loosens. The gaskets have changed. I'm just not comfortable with you now. The trust we built over the years is gone.

I haven't replaced you yet. I'm still kind of grieving and I'm not in any hurry to commit. Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll have a "training" goggle and a "racing" goggle, different tints...maybe get all crazy and go mirrored!

But yes, it's true. I am sort of seeing a Swedish pair. It was a setup. Speedy Ironman Laura from swim group was like "hey I'm ordering Swedish goggles, want some?" and I was like "sure whatever" and a week later there they were (top photo). I figured if the time together was bad I'd find some excuse and duck out of them after the warmup laps, but things went better than I expected. We are still together, but it's casual, and not like I'm ready to race with them. I'll just see where it goes.

Meanwhile, I'm still open to others.
Triathlete seeking swim goggle partner. Must be trustworthy, comfortable, dependable, like to race and go fast, and above all, prevent leaks. Minimal goggle eyes a plus. 

P.S. I'm not naming names of my goggles, because we did have five good years together. Lots of wonderful times and adventures. And probably for plenty of other people, it's still a wonderful match even with the manufacturing and design changes. Just not for me. Sniff. sniff..... 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Race Week! The week I wonder if I know what I am doing?!

It's officially race week for my 41st triathlon (if you want to get was an Aquathlon). You'd think I'd have the hang of this thing by now and be like YAWN...another day at the office! But no, it's more like do I really know how to do this? Do I know how to work hard? Will I remember how to swim? And get on my bike? And make my feet go fast??!

Weather report is projecting low of 63, high of 78, maybe some rain, but I'll take that over 40's and 50s'!!

I feel good about how winter training has gone. I've been consistent and motivated, but then last week suddenly I did not feel great. I was super tired (like uncontrollable napping tired) especially early in the week and I even skipped a swim for extra sleep. I HATE when my energy is low. With nothing specific really "wrong", I opted to dial back my workouts a bit and focus on sleep hoping things would pass. It seems they have. I went on a major spring house cleaning/purging binge Saturday and Sunday which is a sure sign of extra energy.

Good thing I bounced back because I had my first double-brick (bike-run-bike-run) of the year on Sunday, moved by request to the warmer Easter Sunday in the hopes of a tri suit dress rehearsal. Spring has been slow to arrive around here. I was still cycling in a headband, thermal jersey, and long tights on Saturday (pic at top). Sunday started in the 30's but got to the high 50's by the time I headed out around noon so I was good.

Roo had gotten a thorough tune-up and cleaning (thanks East Coasters and Solar Connexion).

The workout took up most of my arm.

All went according to plan with the exception of the unscheduled rest stop courtesy of Norfolk Southern. Fortunately, it was just 10 minutes into the aerobic part of my first ride.

Lots of time for taking photos...but only one backdrop!

I love trains though - the sounds and vibrations and just watching them move along. Some day I want to take a long train trip out west. 

I'm looking forward to a lower volume training week and a new-to-me race with my friend and lane-mate Janet and her daughter Kate. 

Have a great week!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Me & Jesse Thomas have a lot in common

Neither one of us is an IRONMAN.

We like to run together. And in our cool sunglasses.

OK, I am lying about the running together and totally Photoshopped that...poorly...but I couldn't resist. Haha.

But back to that thing about neither of us having done an IRONMAN (which is all I really know that we really have in common) --

He wrote an article recently called, "I’m not an Ironman (and that’s okay)" and went on to talk about how often he is asked if he has done THE IRONMAN. His response echoed much of what I say and think.

When the IRONMAN question is posed to me (have you done one?!), I say as briefly as possible no, I concentrate on the shorter faster races. I used to say I was waiting till the kids were out of the house, or waiting until I am slow, but honestly, I may never do one. Or maybe I will. Who knows? I take it all one day, one week, one race, one year at a time.

I LIKE the balance I have with the distances I train for - sprint, Olympic, and the occasional half-iron.

My reasons are very similar to his, well aside from the prize money! Here I quote him:
"You could argue the same thing for age-groupers. If your goal is to stay healthy and fit, training and racing shorter distances is probably more likely to keep you consistently healthy and fit than an Ironman will. If you’re doing it for fun and happiness, it’s easy to argue that preparing for an Ironman can venture past the fun/happy side to borderline cray-cray. Whenever I imagine training for an Ironman, I think of that YouTube video with the robotic-voice dude who says, “This is fun for me,” in response to why he has to go to bed at 6 o’clock. Many of my age-grouper friends say that training for an Ironman is hard—not just hard physically, but hard on their families, on their jobs and friends. It seems easy for that natural happy balance of life to sway a little too far into training mode."
These are the reasons I have no current interest in iron-distance races:
  • I prefer going faster to going longer (it's a boredom/attention span kind of thing). 
  • Going long tends to result in injury for me. (see missed Boston Marathon #1 and missed Boston Marathon #2)
  • Cycling for up to 2-/12 or so hours is FUN! Cycling for much longer - notsomuchfun.
  • The amount of time required to train to be successful at sprint and Olympic distance is sustainable and permits some semblance of balance. It allows me to be a mom, attend to and enjoy my work, and get sufficient (albeit barely) sleep. 
  • I love the type of training my coach has me do for short course racing - there's a lot of structure, changing gears, holding wattages, going after particular paces and holding them. I like the mental aspects of it, it feels like play, like a game. And I can get an awesome workout in an hour or hour and a half. 
  • There is no major buildup then letdown/breakdown after my races. I take a day off, then it's right back to it! Emotionally, that keeps everything on a much more even keel. 
  • If I have a bad race, it's not such a big deal since I can race the shorter distances more often. 
  • Short course racing has been good to me! It's led to amazing experiences at USAT Nationals and on Team USA racing in Auckland, London, and this year Chicago!

I am on a Facebook group for triathletes that is populated mainly by women and moms. I see regular posts from folks beating themselves up for struggling to train for longer races with family situations that really don't seem to lend themselves to a good balance with training for long races. Why do they set themselves up for that? Do what is manageable, do it well, and enjoy it! It makes me sad as I wonder if they have a need to do something "epic" to feel good. 

What makes me feel good is that I've sustained this lifestyle now for nearly 7 years; it's truly become a way of life. I attribute some of that to my choice of race distance.

I'm in no way criticizing those who do seek and achieve iron-distance goals (and beyond!) I think it's fantastic, I truly do!! I'm just saying the goal is not right for everyone! 

Every race distance is difficult in its own way and every race distance offers unique challenges. Find the distances and events that enrich life without dominating it. Train at a level that does not sacrifice healthy relationships with those you love.

I am thankful my family supports my training and racing. I hope part of that is because I've tried to respect the amount that works for us.

And totally unrelated to this post, this came today! Pretty cool, but we are already well into 2015 and it's a whole new ballgame.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Happy Artery-versary To Me!

This is my one year anniversary of my patched up left external iliac artery! Technically it was "endofibrosis of the left external iliac artery with disabling left leg claudication" whereby I had a 50% documented decrease in blood pressure in the leg during exercise. Left unrepaired, I believe it would have been the end of my running. The fix was vein patch angioplasty using the great saphenous vein harvested from my left inner leg.

The physical scars have faded some, but they are still there and I guess always will be. I'm OK with that. They are an ever-present reminder to appreciate that healthy running was restored in one operation (thank you, Dr. Jesse Davidson) on April Fool's Day, 2014.

As tri pro and "sister in artery repair" Kelly Williamson wrote, "Life would be boring without any scars to show."

Like all the injuries I've had along the way, I would not change this one either. If I could undo it, I wouldn't. It would mean undoing the lessons learned, un-having beautiful times recovery walk-walk-walking the trails with my dog Trixie, and undoing the gratitude borne of facing the real fear that I might not run healthy ever again.

My friend Bryan said early on, that I'd look back at it as a "blip" and he was right.

But in EVERY run, there is always that moment that I remember back to the times that I due to the pain and congestion in the left leg. I can feel how I felt...beyond frustrated and driven to tears...and then just as quickly I feel the lightness of remembering I can let that go. I have let it go.

If you are fighting through an injury or a recovery right now, have faith, have patience, and know that the sport will be there when you are ready, whether that's in weeks, months, or years. It can be heartbreaking at the time, particularly when big races are missed, but so often we can look back and see how things ultimately worked out. I missed the Boston Marathon two years due to injury before I finally got there.

If you have a mystery injury, keep searching for answers, keep looking for the right medical professional to help. The key is getting in the right door with the right person, which I am thankful I found relatively quickly.

Wild (just a little).

Those are some words that symbolize the past year that I will carry into this race season, which starts in 10 days with the Olympic distance race at Belews Lake in NC.

I certainly prefer where I am this April 1 compared to last. No fooling! Happy April, all!