Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bala triathlon 2010: Now with less crazy

Sunday morning found me in the car, music on, driving to my first triathlon since Ironman and I was just plain happy. That's all. No anxiety, no underlying fear of a panic attack, just a sense that I was so lucky to be able to do what I was about to do and gosh, I was going to do it well.

This is unheard of.

I've struggle with swim panic almost since I started racing. I spent 12 weeks with a therapist to overcome the anxiety, gave up chocolate and coke for a while (they're back baby!), and lastly got needles stuck in my sensitive skin to treat the anxiety.

Bingo needles. The rest worked to lessen the level of anxiousness but it never really went away. Having done the swim portion of Ironman as back stroke I was actually starting to feel like that was just who I was and as long as it was manageable then I'd just consider that my invisible handicap. Well, this summer I've been our open water swimming 4 times - real open water, not just swimming around our bay - and I can tell you that I'm a different person. I'm really enjoying it and feel a little sad on those weekend days when I can't get in the water.

So, back to the race. It was what I think of as a long sprint, 750m swim, 30 k bike and 7.5 k run. It was the third time that I'd raced this one and the first time that I didn't panic. I actually swore off sprint races as the atmosphere was too tense with tri newbies hanging around talking about how nervous they were but, given my complete and total, almost unnatural relaxation in swimming this year, well, I signed up to face my demons.

Demons stayed home that day. What am I saying - demons have been kicked to the curb and left to rot.

Absent of the mental panic I can now see that I do get a little asthmatic for the first portion of the swim and I did resort to some back stroke to get in some shallow breathing to calm down my lungs. That worked fabulously and I was back on with front crawl for the rest of the race. After the 3.8 k Ironman swim 750 m was such a delight.

Also delightful was the 30 bike ride. The road is closed to all but local traffic making for a very safe atmosphere and the hills on this course are just perfect. Lots of rolling fun and decent pavement.

The competitors were also very much different from Ironman and longer races, lots of mountain bikes and hybrids. I really had to laugh as I passed a guy on his mountain bike (that's fine), wearing his Crank the Shield jersey (famous MTB race, that's fine too) and wearing a Camelback (not so triathlon, but that's fine) but the very ancient aero helmet that he had on just set me off.

I laughed less when he passed me on the last 5 k. Guess I couldn't compete with the helmet.

I was hoping to hit a new record for the bike portion but ended up about the same as last year.

The run was much easier this year - I've always hated the course, it's very hot, there are a bunch of little out and backs that screw with your head and there is a big hill right near the end that sucks out the happiness in your soul.

This year, pacing with my new friend Nancy, I felt strong and steady and took off over a minute over 2009. Not stellar but I'll take it. With the swim and better transition times it all added up to 4 minutes less than last year which, for the first time in my life, put me in the middle of the pack at a triathlon.

Perhaps I'll do more sprints after all. I'll have to take off an hour at my upcoming half-iron to move up from last in my age group and that's just not going to happen this year. There are some seriously fast women out there.

The most groovy thing, I think, that came out of the race was the announcement that the top 5 men and women in the race were all over 40. I love triathlon for setting examples of how incredible the human body is if we just take care of it. I passed women in their 30s and in turn was passed by those in there 50s. I've got lots to look forward too it seems.

Recovery, however, still seems to follow age and Monday was a tough day to get through.

As an aside, the ankle held up but then seized up about an hour after the race. No track workout this week and the only running for the weekend is the 3x3k runs that match up with our 3x25k bikes for Saturday's brick workout. Just open water and a 60k hill workout on the bike for Sunday. Just...it's good to be fit. (insert happy face!)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

'Cause everyday should start with a lube up in the bathroom at Walmart

A few months ago, probably before summer training started, and therefore feeling full of vim, vigour and unrealistic expectations, I signed up for two trail races - one 28 k and one 50 k. They would open and close my season with the 28 k in July just before triathlons began and the 50 k 3 weeks after my A race, the Muskoka 70.3. They would be fun, a change and a challenge.

My husband thought I was being an idiot. Post 28 k evidence seems to support him somewhat, but, there was a mitigating circumstance to Saturday's DNF race.

Which takes us to the bathroom at Walmart approx 7:30 on Saturday morning as I whip in to buy generic Vaseline for immediate application to all know hot zones on my body. That would be pretty much 99% of the body, I've yet to chafe anywhere on my forearms but, well, time will tell.

So, off we go, me delightfully greasy in my Skirtsports running dress, Alex packed for his planned double brick that should correspondent, time wise, with my trail race. He's sceptical that I'll be done in 3:30 hours but he's not wearing the dress so what does he know.

Like so many other Saturday and Sundays in our life, we wind up in a field praising the practicality of our Subaru and look around a perky, fit, excited people in various stages of preparation for the race.

I'd like to take a minute right now to pass on some advice to buddy seen lubing up the boys in public - there was a change tent, perhaps you could use it next time. Just sayin'. Anywho...

This is no triathlon, there is something decidedly low key about the event. The athletes look scruffy, a little wild and there certainly isn't that undercurrent of materialism that permeates a transition zone full of bikes that cost more than my first car.

There is also no chip timing! This takes a moment to comprehend. I'm a little thrown; how am I to validate my existence without that reassuring buzz from timing mats? Further evidence of the downhome feeling is the fact that the race simply starts with a countdown from 5 to "go" led by one of the race directors.

We're a mixed group, 14k, 28k and 56 k racers and I remind myself to run my own race since there is no use keeping up with the 14'ers. It's tough going, a real black diamond trail and I try to settle in at a steady run/walk pace so I can still have juice left over for a bike and swim the next day.

It's also just so beautiful in the woods and I was really enjoying the shade and cool and the camaraderie of a group of 56 k runners when suddenly, at about the 5 k mark I painfully went over on my ankle.

I saw stars. I did. Truly.

The 56 k crazy people stopped with me commenting on how bad it looked and said they'd report it to the next aid/medical station. I sat at the side of trail, overlooking a wonderful lake thinking that my race was over and feeling so disappointed. The pain subsided however, and I ran to the next check in feeling pretty good. I told the med station that I was continuing and confirmed it again at the next turn point.

Shortly before the 14 k turnaround at the start/finish line I went over again but managed to grab a tree to stop the twist and felt that the run was still doable.

As a side note, ultra running events appear to be all about the food and I was very tempted by the pancakes and bacon that I saw on the buffet and looking at at 2:15 time for only 14 k I really wondered if I should continue or just scratch myself from the 28.

Alex thinks that given my ankle I should have quit at the time and if he was there I'm sure he would have convinced me of the merits of that decision but, he was off running and riding his own black diamond course and having spent the last 5 years learning how to run through pain and having never not finished a race I was unable to really contemplate the possibility so...off I went.

I got into trouble pretty quickly, my left foot screaming every time I was jostled by rocks or roots and the trail was nothing but rocks and roots. I considered dropping out at the first aid station at about 4 k but the presence of people and sugar gave me a boost and off I went. I considered dropping out again at the last aid station at 9.5 k but some crazy shirtless guy handed me some magic balm that made my ankle feel loose and happy just long enough for me to get away from the station.

The magic balm then ricocheted however and the tightness that I was feeling for the second loop just got worst and worst and it wasn't long before I was on my third loosening of my shoelaces.

Every race has a low point and mine came as I tried to climb up a steep hill when I was passed by a grey pony tailed crazy man, who, and I can't make this up, actually passed wind as he overcame me. I was very sad about just about everything at that point.

By the 11 k point I was reduced to using a stick as a cane and discovered that there were 3 types of people on that course. A minority went wizzing by me focused on their race. I have no problems with that as they knew the majority of runners would stop to give aid. Another minority stopped long enough to make snarky comments like "it's tough out here isn't it". Karma's a bitch however and I'm sure they will get bitch slapped.

The majority, however, were wonderful, offering water and Gatorade (note to self, it takes a long time to walk out on an injured ankle, take the water), an unbelievably cute couple in matching shirts took Alex's description and found him to update him on my progress (apparently I was injured but in good spirits). Countless stopped to assure me they would get medical in to help.

I walked on to the 12 k mark with no idea of what time it was only that I was very thirsty, very hungry and the Deep Woods Off was wearing off. Around this point my saviours started appearing - saviour on a mountain bike who assigned me saviour number two, one of the young people from a fantastic program that runs in the reserve. James served as my crutch but it was his incredible attitude that took what was at that time a really horrible day and turned it into just another wonderful experience of being the recipient of another's good will.

The saviours were coming fast and furious at this point, Lowell, the chief medic for the day, ran around the corner and introduced himself and took over a chief crutch as James went back to his volunteer station. Actually James tried to go back but at that moment we were shocked by a very loud bang, akin to thunder, and we all looked up in terror as the top of a very tall tree collapsed and started to fall. I'm sure Lowell was weighting the options wondering if he should just leave me and bolt but he might have been as shocked as I was, unable to move. Yup, a tree fell in the forest and we all heard it. We all saw that it blocked the trail as well and the detour that presented itself was straight through a bog. Good times!

The last saviour to present himself was Alex who seemed to appear suddenly as soon as the tree settled on the trail. The cute runners had found him and he started the hike in to fetch me. Having felt so alone on the trail for so long it was wonderful to have everyone, especially Alex, show up. I was helped out to the road, and then ferried in Lowell's car to the finish line where everyone came together to get me water and pop and ice for my foot.

So, my first trail run, my first DNF, and the first race I couldn't finish just through sheer force of will. That alone was a pretty humbling experience for me. It's not so much that I've built up any sort of outrageous ego from my journey from couch to Ironman but that I've really come to the conclusion that we are all capable of so much more than we think and suddenly, well, I wasn't.

I'm still on for the 50 k next October - the trail will be much less rugged and I'll be that much fitter but I'm certainly carrying my own water and I have a new appreciation for trail running and the hazards so I'll be doing some serious off roading to prepare this summer.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The pit of despair

 These are trying times to be in the investment industry and we are dealing with a couple of irresponsible pet owners whose dog is attacking and threatening ours so I've fallen into a bit of a funk lately.

I'm still getting in the workouts and in fact, I've picked up 2-3 km/hour in speed on the bike over this time last year but although I'm pretty stoked about making my 7 hour half ironman race times this year, it's recovery week and I'm feeling the heaviness in my legs which also makes it hard to get terribly positive. But, I'm trying. I'm focussing on that 7 hour mark in my workouts much like I kept the idea of the Ironman finish line in my head last year. By the way, anyone thinking about the Iron route, that finish line is a thousand times better than you can ever imagine. Get off your butt and get there.

To recap the race schedule, I have less than two weeks to my 28 k Limberlost challenge trail run and I'm really not sure what to think. I'm pretty sure that my Skirtsports running dress in the Endless Summer print will be perfectly appropriate (ultra runner females seem to put a lot of emphasis on cool outfits for the race) but the question of course is, will the legs be appropriate. Mostly I think that I'm Iron, I can do anything, but, training is making it clear that although speed has improved, endurance is lacking. I may have to race my endurance back that day.

The following week is a sprint triathlon in Bala, very close to our cottage. The absolutely unbelievable Gord Pauls will be there on his way to his triple Ironman this August in Penticton. Gord will be completing the Ironman Canada course on Friday and Saturday before racing Ironman Canada on the Sunday. He's doing this to race money for micro credit in Haiti. I'm so honoured to know Gord and his wife Esther (who did Ironman Arizona with us last November). The Ironhusband saw Gord on Saturday when we were out riding. Gord was in the middle of an epic training weekend and was actually on the way to have a hamburger in the middle of the workout to fuel the second half. Gord clearly also has an Iron stomach.

First half iron distance race is the second Sunday in August and second, and last, is the second Sunday in September. Then it's 3 weeks off before my first ultra marathon in Paris Ontario. When you can't get to France, there's always Ontario. Paris, Ontario is also the site of the Paris to Ancaster cross country bike race that saw the debut of the Ironprincess tiara last April so, if, as planned, I don't race again until that bike race next spring I'll have done a nice little Paris, Ontario race bookend.

In the meantime the appetite has increased with the training increase and I'm trying to fulfill my vow to not spend the summer mainlining sugar. I'm having fair to good results on that as Ironhusband continually rebuffs my suggestions of buying cookies. Of course, then I find chocolate bar wrappers in the car.

Finally had a chance over the last day or so to catch up on everyone's blogs. Dennis have patience you'll be running soon, in the meantime enjoy the pool, Big Clyde, have patience too, slow weight loss is the best, Barbara, don't force yourself to race if it's not in your heart this year, don't ruin the sport for yourself. Duane, you have come so far, you inspire me, keep it up, and Mike, wow, you are so close to the adventure, get lots of sleep and know that you can do it. Finally, Molly - please use your science skills to bottle your energy and enthusiasm and ship some to me. In the meantime, lots of video of Stanley on the course barking and barking. That always cracks me up.

Yours in health, happines and raw nuts and dried fruit (in lieu of ice cream - sigh)


Monday, July 5, 2010

Too many things trying my positive nature right now. I write these "go get 'em grrrl" postings for myself as much as others and I'm going to have to work hard on focussing on what's good in life right now. I'll get back to you on that.