Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Timberman Sprint RR

Timberman Sprint Triathlon
August 19, 2006
Swim: .33 mi, bike: 15 mi, run: 3.0 mi

I had been looking forward to this race for some time. It was the last race of the season. I was camping with two friends (Rocket Pants and Spence), watching my cousin (Pete) and friends (Joe and John) race the ½ IM on Sunday… It had the promise to be so great…. And it WAS.

2 weeks prior to this, I raced the Greenfield long course (slightly longer than an oly). After Greenfield, I was tanked – physically, mentally and emotionally, and I essentially took two whole weeks OFF. I swam 3 times, biked 10 mi once and ran once. That’s it. Finally, I just gave into my malaise and figured at the very least I’d be incredibly well tapered for Timberman. It was a case of less is more. I was a little scared going in that maybe I had really made a mess of things, but I honestly didn’t care that much.

My only goal for this race – Leave it ALL out there. Race the sucker. Including the swim (which I normally just survive) AND the bike (which I tend to lollygag on).

So, RP and I got going Friday afternoon. After a long, hot drive, we finally got to the campground – the MOST high tech camp I’ve ever been to. We get camp set up and then head to the expo. Register, get cool socks. Head to dinner. Wait, and wait some more. Finally they let us in (these folks were sticklers for time, let me tell you, but everything about this entire weekend was just so organized, so no complaints!). And Pete and Cookie arrived. Sooo good to see them, as it’s been years. I’m a little worried as he has a knee brace (had gotten it drained and a cortisone shot the day before), but he’s in good spirits, as usual. We catch up, grab some food, and listen to the speakers (Michael Lovato, Kate Major, Chris Leigh, and Karen Smyers – the last two were great). After some pics, we say our goodbyes.

Just a short time later Spence arrives and we head to our campsite and settle in for a restless night of sleep. 5am comes much too soon, and it takes me a while to get moving. Finally, RP makes a suggestion that we eat at the race site, and I realize that we’re running late. Again. Spence is so great (She really took care of us all weekend!), and leads the way, since our car is a complete MESS – ever try to combine camping with a race? Yeah.

We get to the site, pump tires, get organized (oops, RP, I grabbed your chip – heh, don’t think she’d like that!). Mosey to the transition area – which is tough… they have so much fencing set up, sometimes it seems like you have to go miles. I plug in the tunes, wrestle with my bike, and set up. (Black horse and a cherry tree, if you were wondering). Transition is so much less the mystery it was at the beginning of the year. I’m learning.

Wrestle with the wetsuit and head down to the beach – and realize I still have my tevas on – whoops! Back to transition. Tevas off. Back to beach. Meet up with Spence, say goodbye, and head on out to the swim start (Loooooong walk, and I’m determined to not be late this time!). Swim around a little. Wait. Ruh roh. There’s a truck overturned smack dab in the middle of the course. The announcer is fantastic, though, and keeps us posted (ooh, here comes the tow truck….Now they’re sweeping the course). I’m hoping that Pete found a place to sit to save his legs. Strangely, I’m not nervous. Just ready. This race is mine.

Finally we head out to the very shallow start. 3-2-1-GO! I settle into a rhythm quickly, dodging slower (!) swimmers and head to the turn. It’s a little slow there, but looky here, I’m swimming strong. Nice long strokes, good balance, nice rotation - I can feel I’m going places. A little wavy here and there, oops there’s someone walking. I see a lady from the previous wave eyeing the kayak, and give her some encouragement. Every couple of breaths I say something, and she rallies. So good to see that.

Finally I head into the beach. People are walking in from a good ways out, and I swim by them all. Beach run. Ugh. I see Pete and Cookie, but somehow miss Spence (bummer!). I think by that point, I was just trying to get the suit off without blinding everyone with my bright white skin.

Swim: 12:02 (holy moley – it WAS only .33 mi, but still, I just know I smoked it…. For me, that is. And actually, looking at the swim, that was my BEST placement throughout the day – WEIRD.)

Transition goes well – especially since I see RP there! Wow. Okay, I don’t ever compete with this girl. She’s called Rocket Pants for a reason. And, I don’t like competing with friends. But, it was a huge lift to see her there, but I simultaneously hope that her swim was okay.... I say hi, and finish stripping. Give up on the drying. It’s no use. I see Pete and Cookie again on my way out of the bike (wow, they ran fast!). It’s amazing to see them there. I’m pumped and ready to go. And I think: Even if I blow up on the bike and the run, I just had the swim of my life. I’m happy already!

T1: 3:19

The hills start pretty quickly. Or, should I say HILL. Just one gentle hill. Unrelenting. And a lovely head wind made to order. Nothing gusting, just enough for me to think that I shouldn’t feel this bad going up this dinky hill. And then I realize, Hey, that’s going to be a lovely tail wind on the way back – SCORE! Not much to say here, except I was passed and but I also passed a few as well… I decided right then and there that I think my A races need to be big ones. The way back rocks. DOWN, TAIL wind. So nice. I grab a much needed gel, and manage to get almost completely through my drink. Good going! I’m happy too that I kept pushing throughout the entire bike. I start to think forward to transition, and the run.

Bike: 1:00:20 (14.9)

Transition was great, except I ran the wrong way, toward the bike start. Duuuude! Must pay attention to exits next time! I get going the right way finally, and everything is right with the world. I see Pete, Cookie and Spence all together and throw a mini party (I went completely berserk, actually) that they all found each other! On my way out to the course, I see Joe, going absolutely bananas, telling me to pull the entire way. He jogs along side of me for a minute and I yell at him to quit it (grin), that I’m going to get in trouble. But, his words stay with me for the entire run. So glad he was there!

T2: 2:04 (so close to sub 2 min…. goal for next year)

The run is beautiful, right along the shore. More than that, though, the course is full of people, so unlike Greenfield. It’s a beautiful sight. I settle in. Short strides, getting stronger. I feel good (go ahead, sing it.). I’m tired, but I still have enough gas to finish the run. My goal? Leave it all out there. I want almost zero kick left in me at the finish. I hit mile one at 10:30… Hmm, kinda thought I was going a bit faster than that. And the world makes sense again when I hit Mile 2 after the turn around at 8:14. Ha. No way, Jose. But, I’ll take it that I’m running 9:30s right now. Very cool. One more mile. Okay. I can’t think that far ahead. Let’s just push it a tad more for 2 more minutes. Then 2 more minutes after that. Up ahead I see some guy run with his girlfriend… Get a little disgruntled, but keep them in my sights. I realize it’s not my problem, but they are helping me forget my pain.

Sooner than I think, I see the turn around and hear Julia yelling something…. She’s great, I see Joe just behind her. Kick. Where’s my kick? Hellooooo? (Ooh, this is a good sign!) I muster a little something up and head down the grassy hill (almost losing my knee there) down the LONG finish chute. I pass my cheering section, give a grin, and cross the line.

Run: 28:11 (9:24 – YEAH BABY!)

Total: 1:45:54 (43/59)

I manage to make it through the finish. I’m completely incoherent, but HAPPY. What a great time, what a GREAT race. I had so much fun this time. I kept my head in the game, and stayed positive. THAT’S what it’s all about.

I also think it was hugely wise of me to take 2 weeks off after Greenfield. I realized that I was out there for 4 hours, which was nearly a marathon effort for me. I remembered feeling flat after Nashville, and instead of fighting it, just worked on sleeping and eating well. That was the ticket.

It was also so, so great to have family and friends there. It really makes you work harder and smile wider. When I was spectating on Sunday for the ½ IM, it was such a lift to see a competitor smile. Maybe this world would be a better place if we all did it a little more.

What was just as much fun, was watching Pete, Joe, and John in their own efforts on Sunday. The conditions were not ideal (late start, rain, very wavy swim), but they all stuck it out, and enjoyed the day. It was so great to support them.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dusting off....

Yeah, yeah. I've been gone. I got a wake up call (hmm, literally) today. Must. Pay. More. Attention.

I can't promise that I'll be reading much or posting much in the next weeks or months. I can promise that I'm working my ass off (literally, if not actually working).

Greenfield, Schmeenfield. It's over. And, I'm proud.

This just for you TriFeist: What would you say the chances are of getting scooped not once, but TWICE in 6 years? Yeah. You know it. I'm working through it. It ain't gonna be easy, but my momma didn't raise no quitter... I think.

Amazingly, I've been going through these past weeks/months with sufficient poise so as to convince those around me that I'm actually still sane. That's a new talent!

Okay, something did have to give. I decided not to run the Chicago Marathon after all. There are really too many reasons to list. All way more important than a race that I can run for the rest of my life, if I so choose. Most of all, I'll miss seeing my WL2R friends and Sheila. But life is long. :-)

This weekend is Timberman - doing the old recover-from-last-race-slash-taper-once-more. Next season will be MUCH different. But, I always told myself this one was just for fun. Must keep it that way, and smile as much as possible!

OH, yeah! Check out Rocket Pants' new blog, and send her some comment love! (Erm, that would be my training partner!)

Take Care, everyone!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Greenfield Lightlife RR

Greenfield Lightlife Triathlon
Greenfield, MA
August 6, 2006
Swim: .63 mi/Bike: 30.4 mi/Run: 7.2 mi
First ever Olympic (plus a little for good measure)
Goal 1: Finish.
Goal 2: Be happy.

Going into this race, I felt prepared. PREPARED. Bikes had been around 40 mi, runs were there, with a little speed, and swimming… Well swimming still sucked, but I figured I now KNEW I could handle most swim conditions. In the weeks previous to the race, I had dealt with a few major blows to my psyche, however. Mom needs major neck surgery (and needs me to come home to take care of her). I only have a year to finish my work in grad school (which makes #1 even worse). And some other personal issues I won’t bore you with. Let’s just say I was fully aware that things could go south just because of the lack of mental preparation and concentration.

Somehow I managed to keep it together. I’m not sure how. It just happened. I took all day Saturday, talked at length with some great friends, got my stuff together, and went over my race plan (Finish. Be Happy.). It was simple, but it made me feel safe.

Race day dawns and I plan extra time for everything. I’m starting to really learn what gets me to that “happy” pre-race miracle place, and I had timed everything wonderfully. I pack the car in a jiffy, get the iTrip going, and get on my way. It’s going to be a beautiful day. I get to the Dunkin Donuts, where I’m supposed to meet Jo, and run in for a quick bathroom visit. Perfect. NOW, I can have a good day.

Jo shows up right on time, and we both admit we are a little nervous. We laugh, and get on our way. We get to the race site, register, and find our transition areas. I’m pleased as punch that I YET again have primo space, right on the outside of the row, RIGHT in front of the bike timing mat. I set up my transition area with time to spare (enjoying my calm with iTunes). A good friend of mine had written me a pre-race letter. I read it once. Read it again. Such great advice that I plan to follow to the letter. I find a few more friends in transition: Carol (who had raced IMLP a couple weeks ago) and Laura (who has been QUITE competitive in races past, and swims about once a year – only if she has to…), and also one of the Robins (Cain –great lady, we wished each other luck).

Twelve minutes to go until the race start, and I figure it’s time to head on down to the race site. I catch Jo in the line for the potty, and can tell her stomach is doing major flips. I tell her to try to envision her favorite place, and get relaxed. Not a whole lot of time left, I decide to head down… only to realize that the oly start is WAY the hell down the beach. In the distance, I see the first wave start. Ruh Roh!!! I briefly recall that I’m in the second wave, and that there are only 2 minutes between waves! CRAP!!! Jo comes up next to me and we start our own quadrathon (run-like-heck-swim-bike-run). We get in the water. 30 seconds. Goggles on. Cap on. Head in water. Okay, wait! HOW does this swim go? I only see a single line of buoys. HELP! I frantically ask around. We’re to swim to the end, back again, and then around the buoy we started at to the finish. Guh. That seems long. No time to think about it though! 3-2-1. GO!

Swim: Sooo, the swim is in a river. A shallow, narrow river. So, you could potentially walk the entire swim. And, due to the torrential rain that this area received the previous fall and this spring, it’s a bit of a mess. Thankfully, that doesn’t bother me too much. What DOES bother me is the fact that I keep running into the buoy line, can’t seem to swim straight, and there is A LOT of contact. People are standing when they need to get their bearings, and those of us that are still swimming keep running into them. Then comes the next wave, and the one after that. I get to the first turn around, and feel like I’m in a bit more of a rhythm, when I realize I can’t see a darn thing. I never had time to spit in my goggles so they are fogging up. I give them a half hearted swipe, and get going again. After that it was the sun reflecting off the water… We’re talking the light of GOD here, folks. Can’t see buoys. Can’t see people. Can’t SEE. I just keep swimming, wanting to get finished! Somehow I manage to pass one blue cap near the end, get out, kiss terra firma, and get to my bike. Swim: 27:18

T1 goes pretty fast. No strange gymnastics with the wetsuit. But lots of fighting to get the grass off my feet. Guh. 3:08

Bike: Finally. Now I can start to enjoy this. The day is absolutely beautiful, and I know from having ridden the course a couple of weeks ago, that it’s very picturesque. Coming out of transition is a healthy hill, which doesn’t quite end for a couple of miles. Until mile 4 it’s gently rolling, passing some beautiful sheep farms and countryside. And then I travel into a beautiful cool grove of trees and through a covered bridge (a little tricky to navigate because it’s DARK). There is a great support vehicle right before the bridge BLASTING great tunes, and two guys that are total hams. Out of the bridge is a MONSTER steep hill. Every time I wonder if I can do it again (it’s a 4 loop course). After the monster hill comes some nice down hill, that’s very tempting to absolutely mash (must do this again and again and again). And finally a nice downhill, speeding through the transition area loaded with spectators. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 3x.

The first loop I try to take it easy. The second and third loops I bring the speed back up, and the fourth loop…. Well just is. I see my speed slowly inch up from 14.6 mph to 15.2 mph. Not too shabby, I think. I kind of notice, however, that I haven’t passed anyone, and EVERYone seems to be passing me. Hmmmmm. The last loop is pretty quiet, and my brain starts to wonder…. Could I possibly be LAST? As I’m going up the hill after the bridge, the runners on the course are going up faster than I can bike. THAT was interesting. Bike: 2:01:00 (15.2 mph)

I finally zoom into transition, realizing that I’m starving. I’ve never had fig newtons during a race, but many times before, so I dig into my post-race food bag and grab two. Smartest thing I did all race, maybe. I chomp on them double deck style, thinking that now would be a great time for them to take my picture. Grab some water to wash them down. T2: 2:13 (I did sorta take my time at this point…)

Running. La la la. Darn, it’s lonely out here. Am I even on the right course? It follows the bike course, for the most part, but did I mention that there is NO one out here? I hope the water stops are still up, as I’m pretty sure that it’s nearing the mid 80s now.

Mile 1 is around 12:00. Oy. I purposely went slow for the first mile, and I’m a little surprised that I actually don’t want to/can’t push any harder. I know there are 6.2 more of them to come. And I have to pee. Badly.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spy a blue truck. I see a guy take down one of the triathlon signs and my heart sinks. I MUST be last. Well, I’m not going to think about that right now. The man pulls up to me and says, “Now, don’t feel bad or anything, you’re doing great, but they tell me that you’re last. I’m going to be pulling down signs behind you and relieving water stops. Don’t mind me, okay, you’re doing great!” UGH. NOOOOOO. I NEVER for a minute thought that I would be last. How could…? Well, the swim sucked. The bike was probably hillier than I gave it credit for (that would be 8 decent hills, since it was 4 loops). The run… well, my goal was always just to finish. So, what’s the problem, right?

But still. Two HUGE tears stream down my face. I realize that maybe I’ll just be the last at everything I attempt (Grad school woes.) Then I get a little angry. Eff this. I’ve had to pee for like EVER. They can all wait for me. I finally find the pull off I have been looking for and honestly it isn’t what I thought it would be. But, I feel better. Physically. Mentally, however…..

Why do I do this? Why not just train? Why do this race bs? HOW could a 15.2 mph bike make me LAST? I suck.

Wait a minute. No I don’t. There have been plenty of races where I’ve finished much better than this. I’m not sure what the deal is, especially since mentally I’ve been ON all day. WhatEVER, dude! So, I’m last NOW. That means that there must be at least a FEW people I can pass up ahead, right? RIGHT! I do NOT want to be last. I still have 5 more miles to run. That’s a lot of real estate. Let’s pick it up.

So, no real clue what my splits are, since my watch died as I was trying to retrieve them after the race, but things were getting better. At the second water stop, I see a blurred figure up ahead. Could it be? At the third water stop, I can tell it’s a girl. Oh, honey. I’m so sorry, but you are a marked woman. Because right now, I’m a woman on a mission. I bet she doesn’t know I’m last. Part of me thinks that maybe we can run in together and then another part of me says no way.

I finally pass her with a mile to go, and give her as much encouragement as I can. I’m starting to bargain with myself. 2 more minutes at this pace. Put some distance between you and her. (I can still hear her feet…). Okay, great. You know, it would be fantastic to finish under 4 hours. Let’s try that. 2 more minutes. Guh. This hurts. Bad.

And then I see another person. Walking. Oh, dude. I’m sorry, but um, I ain’t walking. I pass him with 200 yds to go. Flying. Or at least trying to, thinking that this is really going to hurt tomorrow. Shut up. Who cares about tomorrow? This is today, and I’m on a mission.
The finish clock says 3:59:53…..I run sooooo hard through the shoot, just feeling like I had something to prove. I know in my head I have a 2 minute wave ahead of me, but I want to try it. I miss by :02, but it felt good. Run: 1:24:26 (11:40)

Well, the results say that I only finished in front of one person. I’m guessing that they stopped the clock at 4:00:00, so I guess it’s good that I put the speed on. Whatever. It was my race. My goal was to finish my first Olympic race, and I DID. And, while the run was a bit of an ego bust, I was mostly happy for the rest of the day. I managed to keep my crap together through a pretty stupid swim, had fun on the bike, and pushed myself mentally and physically on the run. Total: 3:58:02

One thing I learned already. Just because it’s your “A” race, does not mean that everything is going to go well.

I decided not to stick around after the race. There was a great bbq going on, and Jo and her friend were heading over. I knew also that I had a pretty decent drive ahead of me, and I was already VERY tired (this makes me think I actually did leave it all out there). On top of it all, I wasn’t feeling incredibly sociable. I didn’t really know what I felt at that moment. I was shocked, I think. A little disappointed, a little stomped on ego-wise. But proud too. It was a strange juxtaposition of feelings that I just needed time to sort out… alone.

So, I’ve sorted. I’m so happy I set out to do this. There will be many more races in the future, and much more learning to be done. I had a great day, and the end result does not change that.

Thanks for reading!!!