It’s Race Week!!

Here I am, FINALLY just 4 days away from my first 100 mile attempt and so much is going through my mind.  The strangest thing is what isn’t going through my mind.

Generally speaking, I LOSE MY MIND every time I taper.  It is a common affliction and many in my sport like to call it the “Taper Crazies”.  I am usually consumed with anxiety, restless energy, doubts and fears.  More times than not, I do something really, really stupid.  Like going for my first open water swim, slipping on the boat ramp and breaking my toe.  Or I go crazy on Ultra Sign Up and register for races that are harder than the one I’m about to run.

But this taper…. The taper before the BIGGEST race of my life to date, and I have yet to experience any anxiety, doubt, restless energy, or fear.  I keep trying to assess why I am so calm, because there HAS to be something wrong, right? Or maybe not.

I am confident.  I worked my ass off in training.  No, I didn’t run every mile that was scheduled, but I was consistent.  And during all that training, I never went out and “just” ran.  Knowing I gave it my all has helped me trust my training.

I am mentally tough.  I fought many mental battles during training and spent countless hours outside of training getting my mind right.  I read everything I could get my hands on and listened to countless podcasts to gain insight into tackling this distance.

I am prepared.  I have packed everything (times 3 – no kidding) that I can think of that I might remotely need.  (Well, I’ve decided not to take the kitchen sink.)

I know that nothing is guaranteed.  NOTHING IS GUARANTEED.  I may not finish and I am OK with that.  My goal this year was to push myself and get to that place that I had to fight with every fiber of my being to continue.  If I get to that place and I am unable to finish, I will still have accomplished what I set out to do.

Pain isn’t optional – it’s guaranteed.  Whether or not I suffer is completely and totally up to me.

This distance is ridiculously far.  I understand the challenges that I’ll be facing, but I’ll also be in the same boat as veterans toeing the start line.  No one can predict what hardships will be visited upon them during the course of 100 miles.  Part of the challenge; part of the lure of this distance is that uncertanty.

My race plan is aggressive.  Probably too aggressive for my first 100, but, honestly, how does one really know what “too aggressive” is on their first attempt??  Many have suggested that I should just “race just to finish”, but I’m not a race just to finish kind of gal. In most of my races this year, I had a feeling going in what I would run.  And every race, I was within minutes of my guess.  After this happened a couple times, I began to trust my instincts more and more.  I feel in all my being that this is the right race plan for me.  I know that it won’t go completely according to plan.  Hell, it may not go AT ALL according to plan!  But if/when it all falls apart, I’ll use my strengths, which is assessing my situation and coming up with possible solutions.

This race is going to be epic.  It will be an epic success or an epic failure.  But if I fail to finish, I will be FAR from a failure.  If I fail to finish, I will have hopefully found that place, that line that I’ve not been able to find, let alone cross.  If that line is revealed to me, I suspect I’ll have learned much more about myself than I would have coasting easily and cautiously to the finish line, if I had just raced to finish.  Either way, I believe that I will prove to myself something that I’ve known (but not acknowledged) for a very long time – 100 miles is going to prove to be my favorite distance.

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Race Recap – Pioneer Power Sprint Tri

Today I raced my first triathlon and the universe, again, is giggling because I said many, many times that I would NEVER, under any circumstances, do a triathlon.  When will I learn??

Taylor and I spent the night with one of her college volleyball buddies (THANK YOU, Erica!!) so that we wouldn’t have to leave our house at 4:15 AM to get to the race site.  I didn’t sleep well – not because I was in a different environment, but because I ended up with a lot of race jitters last night.  We got ready in record time and headed out to the transition area.  On the way, I stopped to get coffee but it was so close to TWU that I was able to take a total 2 sips before we were there and unloading all our gear.  Carrying it with me wasn’t an option – my hands were full.  I decided it wasn’t anything I could change so just move on and not waste any energy fretting about it. Little did I know this would become the Theme of the Day.  #keepmovingforward

Swimming Sucks

Let’s just get to the point.  The swim didn’t go the way I hoped it would.  I jumped in the water and realized near the end of the first lap that I FORGOT TO TURN MY WATCH ON!!!  Next, I started feeling out of breath because I hadn’t had a chance to warm-up.  Then, I went into minor panic because I knew the guy behind me would be much faster than me which, of course, made the breathing harder.  I got to then end of 50 yards and he was right behind me so I waved him to go in front of me.  I almost went into full panic mode during the 3rd lap and decided to start swimming backstroke at that point.  What happened next?  MY HEART RATE MONITOR FELL OFF IN THE POOL.  I use MioLink, which is worn on the wrist.  It’s great, except when it comes off in the pool during competition.  I didn’t even consider trying to retrieve it.  I knew that there were a ton of people in the pool; I was in the deep end; it might take me more than one attempt to get it and I didn’t want to waste any more time.  So, I backstroked.  My mind was completely and totally in the zone of making a plan for how to deal with the rest of the race without a heart rate monitor and….BUMP….I ran into the end of the lane.  (Go ahead and laugh…I can barely type right now.  Hilarious!!)  By this point I was 150 yards into the 200 yard swim and I was calm and collected, but I also was not trying to break any swim records.  I had decided to go easy at this point because swimming was such a minute portion of the race.  Two minutes probably wouldn’t help me or hurt me in the end.  I considered moving back to freestyle to finish it up, but that caused anxiety so I decided to finish it out and leave that swim in the pool.  I’m really proud to say that I did actually leave it there.  I didn’t carry any of that stress with me in the next phases of the race. #keepmovingforward

Swim time came in at an embarrassing 5:38.

Surprising Myself on the Bike

Transition went well.  I’m sure that I can cut some time here or there but most of the time spent was travelling to and from transition.  I hopped on the bike and was off for the 16 mile ride, having honestly put the swim in my rear view mirror.  I had spent quite a lot of time fretting over this bike during the past couple of weeks.  I mapped the route on Garmin and realized that it was more hilly (on the PC, at least) than I had anticipated.  OK….no, I hadn’t really even thought about it until it occurred to me that Denton is rather hilly.  Regardless, I had wasted time fretting because I was afraid I wouldn’t be strong enough on the bike.  I just hoped that I could get the ride done in an hour’s time.

The bike started out well.  I felt surprisingly strong and the terrain was in my favor to get some good rhythm and speed going before hitting the first serious hill.  It wasn’t too difficult at this point, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t use ALL my energy on the first half of the bike to be left with misery for the rest of the race.  However, I continued to feel strong – not as strong with a killer headwind on the way back, but still strong.  I passed a ton of people.  Two guys passed me not far out of transition, but I am almost 100% certain that I overtook one of them before the bike leg was done.

The problem on the bike was fueling.  I took rocket fuel and water with me on the bike.  I had the rocket fuel in the bottle cage between my aero bars, but it kept spitting and the OCD took over.  I couldn’t handle it!  So I tried to switch the bottles (yes, I even realized how dumb it was at the time but continued on course) but since I don’t have three hands ended up dropping the bottle with water.  Again, decided that I was NOT going to dwell on it as there was nothing that I could do now except manage the situation.  I moved the rocket fuel to my other bottle cage and kept rolling.  My intention was to drink every ten minutes.  I *may* have managed every 20-25.  #FAIL #keepmovingforward

All in all, though, I was happy.  I averaged 17.4 on the bike with a time of 55:35.

Status Quo Run

**Disclaimer** My brain knows that I am still building my endurance speed from when I was out with my psoas.  It’s hard to get my heart to understand.

I wanted 8:30 miles on the run.  I’m not sure if that was ambitious or in line with what I could do in an event like this.  Doesn’t really matter because that’s what my heart wanted.  But then came the hiccup of the lost heart rate monitor.  I am so dependent on running by heart rate.  Yes, I can tell when it gets high, but I generally don’t realize it soon enough.  Especially in a race situation.  So this was definitely something I had to overcome.

I came into transition and drank too much rocket fuel – I knew better but wanted to get some fluids in me and did I have an extra bottle of water handy? NO.  I quickly threw my run shoes and visor on and ran out to the run.  There was a skinny red-head that came out of transition right ahead of me and without even noticing, I just kept the distance between us.  I looked down and was running a sub-8 pace and realized that my current level of fitness wouldn’t hold up to that.  I could also tell that my heart rate was probably going through the roof.  So I slowed down, but the first mile came in at 8:20.  The next mile was tough.  I was getting tired.  I was getting hot.  My stomach was mildly upset from the rocket fuel.  I stopped worrying about the red-head and decided to run what I needed to run.  Mile 2 came in at 9:18.  Mile 2 was tough but mile 3 was torture.  So much uphill. In the heat.  EVIL.  But I was close so I kept chipping away and ended up with 9:16 on that mile.

Run time came in at an OK 27:59.  Not what I wanted, but I may have been a little unrealistic on that front.

Total Time: (200 yd swim, 16.1 bike, 3.1 run): 1:34:25

Making the Podium

When I finished the race, I went back to get my phone from transition and immediately went to Pioneer Hall to see if anyone was left at the pool.  A race volunteer found one of the pool employees and had him come over so that we could look.  Sure enough, my HRM was at the bottom of the pool AND the pool guy just jumped in and retrieved it for me!

The HRM retrieval took some time and by the time I left Pioneer Hall, I ran into Taylor who had finished and had been looking for me.  She did really well and came in exactly 10 minutes after I did!  I am really proud of her and it was such fun having her company for this race!

We went to check our times and realized that: Houston – we have a problem.  I was listed in the 20-24 age group and Taylor was listed in 55-59.  Apparently the race import completely changed many people’s ages.  We hung around just to see if either of us placed and the next list showed me 2nd in my age group.  I was still a little hesitant, though, because I knew that they were still trying to get it all fixed.  Finally, the awards were announced and I did actually take 2nd place in my age group!!  Knowing that I actually placed in my first try at triathlon lifted my spirits and helped me let go of the run over which I was still somewhat upset.img_0666

No worries, because I’m pleased as punch with my performance as I sit here this evening.  I am celebrating today, but tomorrow it is back to work!!img_0672

Next Time…

I definitely went into this race with the mindset that it would be a learning experience and it was just that.

I learned that I handled transitions better than I expected and I felt like I was prepared with most of what I needed for the day.

Things that need improvement:

  • Heart Rate Monitor:  I’ve already been wondering if my HRM will have the battery life to last at Galveston 70.3.  After losing it in the pool today, I’m almost completely convinced I need to go back to the chest strap in these types of race situations.
  • EXTRA WATER at transition.
  • No icky, sticky drinks in aero bottle cage
  • Manage run more efficiently – hold back a little more in the beginning (which will be easier with HRM).
  • Hire a swim psychologist (joking…kind of)
  • COFFEE

I need to shout-out to all my friends that took the time out of their busy schedules to send me well wishes.  There are simply too many to name – and that means I AM BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE!

Love you guys!!

Jen