Monday, May 11, 2015

Kinetic Half AquaBike [Xena's first race & a new swim PR!]

It was about 4:00 when Deb picked me up and we were a little concerned with what traffic would be like on the drive down to Lake Anna at that hour.  Luckily, it wasn't too bad, and we got down to the park in time for packet pickup and the Team Z dinner.  Ed had the television set up and it was awesome to be able to catch the Caps game from the tailgate. 
Deb and I scoped out the lake to get a feel for temperature.  The water was warm!  I immediately started wondering if I would need to wear my wetsuit for the swim.  I am so much more comfortable without it, especially thinking back to last year's Kinetic sprint where I did the swim relay, and did not like the fit!  After that race, I bought a larger size wetsuit that I used throughout the season, but by the time I did the Tiki Swim, it was too big, so I was back to that smaller wetsuit (without trying it on).
Finally, we made our way to the campsite and it was time for bed.  With the sun rising and birds chirping, it wasn't hard to wake up for the early start, and we were back down at the race site around 6am.  Unfortunately, Deb's ankle, that she had hurt the previous week in soccer, was swollen and really painful, so she made the wise decision to sit this one out.  We have Eagleman in a month, so no point exacerbating an injury now that could sideline her for the majority of the summer.  Instead, she helped me carry my stuff over to transition where I quickly put everything together and gave Xena a kiss before her very first race.  Then we made our way to the Team Z tent for breakfast.  Toasted bagel with nutella..yum!

I was still having an internal debate about whether to wear a wetsuit or not.  I really wanted to swim without it, but at the end of the day, this was a practice race to make sure I had everything together for the rest of the summer.  Knowing if my wetsuit fit, and getting practice wearing it was part of that plan, so I ended up putting it on.  I hung out around the swim start with Jen G and we made our way to the water.  I wasn't super excited at the idea of racing, and was trying to view it as just another long training day; a brick workout.
The gun - or horn?  or just someone yelling "go"?  I really have no idea how we started.  Anyway, we were off.  I waded in a bit before diving in and starting my swim.  I never really got swum over or had too much contact with anyone.  The water was calm, and I knew there were four buoys before the first turn.  I found my sweet spot pretty quickly and was pleased that my wetsuit fit so well.  First buoy, second buoy.  I found myself going on the inside of a few of the buoys, and wasn't sure that was allowed, but realized it's OK as long as you go around the outside of the yellow turn buoys.  I think being on the inside helped me keep my path straight, as this is one of the most accurate swims I've done.
As I made my way around the first turn, I knew I was at least a third done, and was feeling good.  I started thinking about Ironman and how I'd have to do double this swim.  In the Choptank river.  Yikes!  But.. that is not today, so I kept swimming along, made the second turn and headed back towards shore.  I haven't done a swim of this distance in several years and was hoping that my time had improved.  I didn't want to look at my watch though and risk discouragement.  At some point though, somebody kicked my arm and I was worried that a button got pressed.  So, I glanced down to make sure the timer was still going and it said 45 minutes!  My previous best 1.2 mile swim time was 53 minutes, and I was less than 100 meters to shore... I knew I could do this!
Some people were already standing, but I know my swim is faster than my walk through water, so I kept going until I felt the bottom of the lake with my hand.  I stood up and started running to the timing mat.  I actually passed that guy behind me in the picture, and he must have thought I was nuts, but I wanted to get to that timing mat and get my time!  Official results, 46:53 for the swim, and a new personal best!  By over 5 minutes!
I walked most of the way into transition and took my time getting my bike stuff together.  Another Zer, a guy, thanked me for pacing him on the swim, and said that he was right next to me the whole way.  Funny, I had no idea he was there but glad to be of help.  The only men who were in my wave were clydesdales and novice athletes.  This guy was certainly not a clydesdale, so I was happy that maybe I helped someone on his first race.  I grabbed Xena and made my way to the bike start, dreading the initial hill out of the state park.

I knew this course was going to be challenging.  They posted it all over the race website, so I braced myself for the worst.  I got in my lowest gear and slowly made my way up that initial hill and out of the park.  After this, I had no idea where the hills or the hard parts were.  Maybe I should've driven the course.  It always takes awhile for me to settle down in the first part of the bike after swimming, so I took my time, sipped some water, and tried to envision what the next few hours were going to be like.  People were passing me. Lots of people were passing me.  I am never there to compare myself to other racers, but I did smile internally knowing that since I started in the last swim wave, I beat everyone out of the water who was passing me now.  It's the little things.
It took a while - a long while - for me to find my groove on the bike.  The miles seemed to come and go like molasses, one mile, three miles, holy cow, I've been out here forever and only gone five miles?!  My pace wasn't too far off of what I'd been doing in training, so it wasn't physically taking longer, but mentally it was draining.  The course was not closed to traffic, and there was a stretch from maybe mile 10 to mile 20 (give or take) that had heavy traffic and very small shoulders on the road.  There were several times I could've reached my arm out and hit the tractor trailer passing me.  It was hard to pass people on this stretch, and the few times that I was passed or <gasp> I actually passed someone else, we exchanged comments on how ridiculous it was. 

As I passed mile 20, I began wondering where the water stop was.  It was advertised that there would be 3 water bottle hand-offs on the course, and surely that meant the first one would be before mile 20??  I began to worry that I wouldn't have enough water for the duration.  I had 2 double concentrated Infinit bottles with me, and as such, needed water to wash that down.  My plan was to grab water from the stations and refill my aero-bottle and consistently sip on that through the bike.  Luckily, not too long after that, I came upon the first station.  It was seriously well managed with a couple kids out ahead of the station asking if I water or gatorade.  They screamed my response to the next group and they had a water bottle opened and ready for me to grab.  I slowed down and dumped the contents into my aero-bottle, discarded it and I was on my way again.

It still seemed like the miles just weren't coming and going fast enough.  As I came upon mile 25 my thoughts were "ohmigosh, I'm only at mile 25, I have more than double this distance to go".  I started to get discouraged and forced myself to look at the scenery and try to remember why I do this sport.  I enjoyed watching horses and cows and somehow got my mind back into the game.  Soon, I came upon the next aid station.  I wasn't anywhere near needing more water at this point, but decided to grab another bottle just in case.
On one of my training rides, a ride leader talked to me about my cycling technique and suggested that I keep myself in my small ring, even on flatter rides, because it would keep my cadence higher.  Fair enough, and I had been doing that, but this day it just seemed like I was spinning and spinning and not getting anywhere.  Around mile 30, I decided to give that big ring a try.  That's when I found my biking groove.  I started cruising and was loving cycling.  Don't get me wrong, my sit bones and I were ready for that ride to be over, but I really started feeling good.  Finally, the miles started ticking away.. mile 35... mile 40... only about an hour left!
There were definitely a few hills on the course, a few long ones that reminded me of the ride in Vegas (though certainly not as bad) and a few steep ones.  I came up to one of the biggest hills of the day and noticed a man stopped about a quarter way up.  As I approached him, I yelled out to ask if he was OK, and kind of wished he'd say no, that he needed some help, to give me an excuse to stop.  But, he was fine, just resting, as I have done so many times before on hills like that.  But not this hill.  Not this day.  I never stopped pedaling and I made it to the top.  My legs were burning and my muscles were screaming, but I made it.  I am getting better at hills!
One more aid station and I refilled my water supply for the last time and was definitely on the home stretch.  I came to the entrance to the park and knew that I only had a few miles left.  I also knew that once I got to the camp registration building it was all downhill.  I had made it.  I saw Deb in that final mile and she captured a few pictures, and then I coasted to the dismount line.  I hopped off and made my way down the transition path to the AquaBike finish line.  Bike time was 3:54:54, and technically this was an AquaBike PR for me (4:46:47), though I don't really keep track of that stat (hmm.. maybe I should?).
I got my medal, put Xena back on her rack and met up with Deb.  Time to get some lunch at the Team Z tent and cheer in the 70.3 finishers.  For my entire race, the sun had hidden behind clouds (and it had even started drizzling at one point), to the extent that my tinted goggles and dark sunglasses were a bit overkill.  Now the sun was burning down on us and I was more than happy I wasn't out there on the run course.  We didn't have any sunblock, and Deb had already been sitting around cheering for over 5 hours at this point, so we decided to go pack up our campsite and head home. Thanks, Deb, for taking all these photos!!

I have only done one other half Ironman AquaBike, and that was the summer before my first half Ironman.  I remember distinctly feeling like death and not knowing how I was possibly going to do a half marathon after that.  This time, while I was happy I did not have to run, I could have.  I am feeling better about upcoming Eagleman and the rest of the summer.  Definitely a good warm-up event!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

hooray for warmer weather! finally!

This was a rough winter. I did a total of THREE outdoor rides all winter.  And [mostly] not because I was lazy.  Many of them were simply canceled for shitty weather.  Seriously, it seemed like every. single. weekend. there was rain.. or ice.. or snow.. or some combination of all of that.  Yuck, yuck, yuck!  It was cold and rainy for the Lucky Leprechaun 5K on St. Patrick's Day.  It even snowed on the first day of spring!
March 20, first day of Spring.
But then April arrived, and it was warm enough to wear shorts for the Charlottesville 8K, and it only got better from there.  Good thing since Ironman training officially started on April 6!! I traveled a lot in April, to the Vegas desert and to the Florida rainforest (kinda...that's how it felt), but got to enjoy some of springtime in DC.
40 mile ride on W&OD trail
I love being outside, and not all bundled up and freezing!  I did not make it to any of the midweek team rides (got them done on my trainer), so that will be a goal for next month.  I did however, get in my first two long(ish) rides of the year!
Look how green the lake is now - where I do my mid-week runs!
Running is so much easier when I can come home and throw on some shorts and not have to consider the treadmill!  It definitely makes it easier to get outside!  The numbers are starting to build...
April by the numbers.  This is only going to grow!
Oh and for the foot update that I know everyone is sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for... no stress fracture!  The MRI revealed a stress reaction... yeah, I don't really know what that means either.
Dr. Lutta showed me the areas of fluid in my foot that he believes is causing the pain, and wonders if perhaps a Vitamin D deficiency is to blame.  Interesting considering how much time I spend out in the sun!  I won't go back to see him until early June, so until then I'll be icing and I guess eating more vitamins?  The good news is I can't damage it any more by running on it.
Then May started out with a great training ride in beautiful Frederick, MD.  It was a team ride, but I did it mostly by myself, which I am fine with.  For this ride, I didn't take any unscheduled rests (there was one rest stop built in), and didn't have to walk or break on any of the hills.  It was my longest ride to date and I was consistent the whole way.  I'm starting to feel good about my training.
Now let's just hope it doesn't get too hot too fast!