Monday, June 22, 2015

Eagleman 70.3

Holy Hot & Long Day!!! 

I went into this race with lofty - and realistic - goals. My swim and bike training has been solid. And though I haven't been as on top of my running as I would have liked, I did have a few decent long runs under my belt, albeit maxing out at 8 miles. The forecasts were calling for warm temperatures, but I was ready!  Deb picked me up and we made an easy drive to Cambridge for check-in and bike racking.
Xena settled in for the night!
Once Xena was settled in her position for the night, Deb and I went back to the hotel to get all of our stuff together and set for the morning.  Then we found a cute restaurant on Tilghman Island, picked up some last minute groceries for breakfast, had some ice cream and lounged around.  My nutrition plan was simple:  double concentrated Infinit on the bike along with water in the aero-bottle that I would grab from each aid station.  I also had salt tabs with me and was going to take one in the last couple hours to prepare for the run. On the run I had some BASE salt that I had picked up from the expo, a couple gels, and planned to use the water and gatorade from the aid stations.  We even had a freezer in the hotel room so I could freeze all my water bottles.  Everything was ready!
We woke up at 3am to thunderstorms, and then again at 4am to the sounds of people leaving.  It was still too early for us, so we slept until about 5am, collected our things and made our way to Great Marsh Park.  I pumped air in Xena's tires and made sure everything was ready before heading over to the Team Z tent.  It was so freaking hot and humid already!  In fact, Coach Alexis asked me how the water was... it took me a minute to realize he thought I had been swimming, when in fact, I was just covered in sweat!  Ha!

Then I met Christine, who I had connected with on facebook a few days prior, also on Team Z, and we figured out we might be close to each other in speed.  I spent the rest of the time until my wave with Team Z and Deb, in the port-o-potty lines and hanging around the swim start.  I was anxious to get going!

Oddly, I was nervous about this swim, despite my swim training.  The thing is, the last time I did this Eagleman swim, I missed the cutoff and was DQ'ed.  Once again, they announced that it was not wetsuit legal, and I wasn't sure how I would fare.  We waded into the water and were able to stand (versus tread water) until the horn went off.  Finally, we were on our way.... It was actually shallow enough that I walked a bit of the way, rather than dive into the masses.  By the first buoy though, I was horizontal and finding a good stroke.  For some reason, I thought all the men had gone off in earlier waves, so I was surprised when I started getting bumped and kicked and swum over.  Annoying!  At one point, someone swimming on my left hit the back of my head with his/her arm.  And then they did it again!  Come on!  You know when you are right on top of someone!  So I started thinking about and executing the high elbow drills from swim practice... that was the last time that person hit me.
Someone in the facebook group captured this shot -- look how far out people are walking!
At the first turn buoy, I decided to look at my watch, knowing the hardest part, the part that went against the current, was over.  25 minutes.  Not bad!  I was feeling good about this, knowing that after the next turn buoy, we should have a little current in our favor.  Right as I was going around that next turn buoy, another guy knocked my goggles off of my face.  Luckily, the water was shallower there and I could stand and readjust.  That's when I noticed how much people had started walking.  I was still chest deep, so it would've been counter-productive for me to walk, so I went back to swimming, plugging away buoy after buoy.  Finally, with about one buoy left to go, I stood up for good and just walked the rest of the way back.  It was hard for me to walk at this point, but I chalked it up to the way I normally feel going from horizontal to vertical, and figured it would work itself out in a few minutes.
I exited the Choptank River and walked over the timing mats.  Official time for the swim was 50:50.  I will take it!  It's my best non-wetsuit swim, and I had just been hoping for under and hour.  I grabbed some water and walked to where Xena was, put on all of my bike gear, and headed out for what I hoped would be a great bike.  3:45 was my goal.  It always takes a few minutes for me to settle down after the swim, so I just took it easy for the first mile or so.  But.. I never caught my breath

This just wasn't my day for biking.  In the first few miles, we went around a sharp turn and my aero-bottle flew off.  Now I had no way of taking in water, other than grabbing the water bottle at the aid station and drinking as much as I could before discarding it before I exited the aid station.  My shoulders hurt, inexplicably, in a way that my shoulders have never hurt biking.  There was not a single position that was comfortable, not to mention, I still couldn't breathe!  Riding in the aero position is probably the worst way to try to catch your breath, but my shoulders hurt if I sat up a little straighter.  Then, about 20 miles in, I got hot spots on both my feet to the point of unbearable.  And then I got stung or bitten by something... hard... on my right calf and then my butt... the third time, I glanced down at my left calf and saw that whatever it was had drawn blood!  If something could've gone wrong on that bike ride, it did.
Finally, when I got to the third aid station around mile 30, I stopped.  I took my shoes off, took a gatorade and drank the entire thing while just standing there.  I thought that maybe by standing up for a bit, I would be able to catch my breath and breathe normal, though that never happened.  I have no idea how much time I wasted at that aid station, but it was probably a lot.  Reluctantly, I climbed back on the bike and proceeded on.  From that point, I stopped every 4-5 miles.  There were times that I had to push myself a little further than I would've liked to because somebody else was stopped in the only shady spot available.  It was getting really, really hot by this point.  There were several times that ambulances raced down the street.  That's something you never like to see during the race.  I realized that I wasn't having a great bike, that I was super slow and way beyond my goal, but I was safe.  I was thankful for that, at least.  But... I have never had to stop on a flat course like that.  Ridiculous.
It was also around mile 30 that Christine passed me for the first time.  We leap-frogged each other from that point on, and I am so grateful that she was out there with me, also struggling with her own issues on this damned bike ride.   For my last stop, around mile 52-ish, I pulled up right behind Christine and we exchanged a few words that would probably not be deemed safe to repeat.  We both just wanted to be off that bike course!  I really could not believe how crappy this bike was going. I basically did the entire 56 miles with a consistent asthma attack, and I have zero explanation for it.  This has never happened before.  4:27:19 was the official time for the bike.  Pathetic.  Checking my data, I did have a couple legs that were over 15mph, which was my goal, but all the stopping and breathing issues really killed it.

Finally into transition.  Christine was a minute or two ahead of me, but I met up with her at our transition spot, which were actually right next to each other!  We both sat down, flat on the ground.  I don't normally sit in transition, but it was all I could do.  I put on my visor, running shoes and race belt all whilst sitting.  The idea of doing a half marathon at this point was mind blowing.  Once I was ready, I stood up and Christine and I made our way to the run course.  It was hot, hot HOT by this point.  I knew that there was just no way that I was going to make the cut off time at this point unless I really pushed it, and I just didn't have it in me to really push it at this point, in this heat.  So I walked.  Christine went ahead to do some intervals and power walking, and I also tried to run for small bits of time, about 100 meters feet here and there.  But not much.  It just wasn't worth it.
Z'er, Kris captured this shot... the first part of my death march...
passing the finish line in the wrong direction...
The first couple miles went through neighborhoods and the residents were all outside cheering with music and sprinklers.  The town of Cambridge really embraced the event which was great!  I was so thankful for those sprinklers, even though it completely soaked my shoes leading to some fairly significant blisters.  Someone on facebook had posted that we had over a mile to the first aid station, and recommended carrying a disposable water bottle for the first part of the run.  I took this advice with a frozen water bottle at transition, only now it was very hot water.  It burned my throat as I tried to wash down some salt.  This quickly turned into a death march.  I was so happy when I got to that first aid station and found oranges.  I had basically abandoned my nutrition on the bike, and oranges sounded like the best thing ever at that point.  I think I ate about 5 orange slices.

Other than those first couple miles there was no shade.  Zip, zero, zilch.  It was hot, my feet hurt and I was still getting bitten by those dang horse flies(?).  Then I remembered that I had packed a bug repellant wipe in my race pouch.  I got that out and started applying it to my arms and shoulders.  That's when I first found the chaffingOuch!  I was miserable.  I am so thankful to all the friendly athletes going the other direction who were cheering me on.  I'm pretty sure my resting face at work is bitch-face, but my resting face during a race must be a smile because everybody was so freaking nice, not only Team Z, but everyone!  And it seemed it was more so with me than people in front of or behind me.  I can't remember the last time I high-fived and fist-bumped so many people, many of them saying "keep smiling" -- ugh, I was not meaning to smile!!
Christine found this weather data for the day -- OUCH!
...note the "feels like" temperature of 123.. ONE-TWENTY-THREE!!!
I knew that I probably needed some additional nutrition, so I picked up some bonk breaker chews at one of the aid stations and forced some of those down.  The volunteers were so wonderful, dumping ice water on you, handing you as much water and gatorade as you could take.  Not all of the stations had food options, but for the most part they stayed fully stocked - and at least always had ice, water and gatorade - even for the back of the pack.  I have never been so hot in my entire life.  The crowds were thinning out at this point, with only us stragglers left behind.  And I wasn't even halfway yet.  I just had no idea how I was going to manage to make it back to Great Marsh Park.  I thought about giving up.  I mean, would anybody really blame me?  It was ridiculously hot, I'd had a terrible bike, I wasn't going to make the cutoff... but damnit, I came out there to do 70.3 miles, and as long as I was standing upright on my own, I was going to do 70.3 miles!

Finally, the turnaround point.  This was where I noticed that there were people behind me.  At least 8 people behind me and I cheered on every single one of them as I passed them.  I seriously had to force myself to put one foot in front of the other.  I wanted to stop and stand still for a little bit.  Or even better, sit or lie down.  This was excruciating.  A couple of the people behind me caught up and passed me.  I didn't mind because it was getting lonely out there, and them passing meant that I had a couple minutes of conversation.  Then I saw some of the people who were behind me pass me on the golf carts, abandoning their race.  I didn't blame them.
As I was approaching mile 10 (only a 5K left!) I saw someone from Team Z out there cheering for us final athletes.  Mike joined me and decided to walk with me for that final few miles.  At the aid stations, he grabbed extra gatorade, oranges and ice-soaked sponges for me.  Then, about a mile later, we found Deb who joined the death march.  Two miles still seemed like a really, really long way to go.  At the final aid station, we collected Patty and Marti, also from Team Z who had been out cheering, and the group of us did that final mile together.  I am so very thankful to all of them for keeping me company!!  We were finally coming back to the park and we could see the Team Z tents.  After that, it was just a matter of turning the corner and going down the finisher's chute.  I decided to run from that point on.  Mike ran ahead of me with his camera to make sure I got a finish line shot, and I was delighted to see that they had kept the finish line open with the clock still going and everything.  I made it!!  It was a technical DNF because I didn't make the cutoff, but I didn't care.  I did 70.3 miles.
My fantastic, impromptu sherpa, Mike -- THANK YOU!!
I was wobbly as the volunteer unpinned and took my timing chip from my ankle.  Mike and Deb collected some food and water for me as I made the long (not really) walk over to the Team Z tents.  Christine was there and I found out she finished only 7 minutes after the cut off.  7 minutes!!  I am so proud of her though, she really powered through for that entire "run".  I sat down and would've probably stayed in that chair forever if I could have.  Thank you Mike for helping me collect all of my stuff from transition and to Deb for going to get the car so I didn't have to walk any more.  As we were waiting for Deb to get back with the car, we saw the final athlete come in.  I was so glad that he made it!
Look at Deb sporting a Team Z jersey :-)  She did awesome, coming in under 7 hours!
Then came the long drive home.  I was definitely dehydrated.  I'd peed before the swim and not again until after we crossed the bay bridge (after sitting in a good amount of traffic).  A quick shower and then my friends met up with me for a late (9:30pm!) celebratory dinner (and Joann brought cake!!).  It was a long day.  Of course I started having thoughts about whether I can handle Ironman or not given that performance, but I have to think that bike was an anomaly.  I did the aquabike at Kinetic about a month ago with no issues.  I'm just going to try to shake it off and move forward.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Washington's Crossing

A few months ago, in preparation for her Bay Swim event next weekend, Andrea suggested doing the Swim Across the Potomac event.  Since I have Eagleman next weekend, a little extra open water swim practice sounded perfect, so I signed up.  That morning, I met Andrea and new friend, Anne, who is also doing Ironman Maryland, at sunrise at National Harbor to begin our adventure.
We got ourselves checked in and body marked, and had a few minutes to sit around.  Well, I sat around while Andrea and Anne applied their body glide and put on their wetsuits.  I'd brought my wetsuit, but decided to do this swim without it.  Water temps were in the low 70's and I just didn't feel like going through the struggle.  Then it was time to board the boat that would take us to the Virginia side of the river.  We settled in on the top deck as we listened to details about the swim as well as "an ironic safety announcement.... in case of emergency, life jackets are located on the bottom deck..." - ha!
Check out the distance this swim was supposed to be!
The boat stopped and we lined up to jump off.  I followed the girls off of the front of the boat and kind of heard Anne exclaim about the coldness of the water.  Indeed, it took your breath away, and I would have probably screamed also, except... wedgie!  Yikes!  Kinda wished I'd had my wetsuit on for that 3ft jump!  Thank goodness we weren't in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean!  And indeed, crystal blue waters these were not.  Brown, murky water with debris floating around was what we were greeted with as we swam over to the starting area to wait for the horn to sound.

Everything started out fine, and I was OK with not having a wetsuit.  After the initial shock, the water started feeling good, and there wasn't too much contact with the other swimmers.  I think I was swimming next to Anne for awhile, as I noticed the bright green strap of her watch, but then all of a sudden I couldn't see her anymore.  As a matter of fact, I couldn't see anything!  My goggles had fogged up so much that they had even blocked the sun!  I stopped to rinse them out and must have slammed them back on my face because I ended up with the worst. headache. ever.
Now check out how far I swam...
After swimming for awhile, I felt like I was making some good progress and looked at my watch.  20 minutes.  Wow, this swim is going really well!  I looked around for the buoy that we were told would mark a third of the swim, but didn't see it anywhere.  Weird, I must have passed it without knowing it?  Oh well, onward!  Except, my headache was getting worse and worse.  I had to stop and take my goggles off and do a few strokes of breaststroke just to give my head a break.  Of course, there was no way I'd make it across that river doing breaststroke the whole way, so I made sure to only stop for a few minutes.  And of course, the headache immediately came back.
I should have arrived at the finish from the south side... complete opposite direction!
After a few more stops of breaststroke, I looked at my watch again.  40 minutes.  I was awfully close to the Wilson bridge.  I didn't think we were supposed to be so close to that bridge.  Then I looked to my right.  There in the distance (like half mile away) was that dang buoy!  I was really off course!  Yikes!  Now I was just annoyed.  Every once in awhile I'd see another swimmer around me, so I knew I wasn't the only one off course, but geez.  Even the [longer] Save the Bay swim in Newport, with no buoys at all, I wasn't that far off course!  55 minutes had now passed and I was nowhere near the Maryland side of this river.
This swim should not have taken me this long.  The thing is, my swimming didn't feel awful, and I'm sure that part of the slowness had to do with a) not wearing a wetsuit, and b) stopping so many times to do breaststroke because of my headache.  So, I'm not super disappointed with this swim, just annoyed.  Andrea and Anne both reported swimming off course and close to the Wilson bridge also, but their Garmin's read 1.35 and 1.39 miles respectively, so my 1.47 was way off.  What the hell was I doing out there?!
Of course, the main reason we do any of this is for the post-workout food and drink, so Andrea and I made our way over to the Redstone and grabbed a table outside.  The wait staff asked us if we'd gotten the bronze medal for something... and we said absolutely we did!  It's the closest I'll ever get to a podium finish!
Tommy was supposed to do this swim with us also and bailed at the last minute, but Paula still came to join us for brunch.  It was lovely weather and good company, though we were all completely exhausted by the end.  If it hadn't been for being in the Potomac all morning, I would've seriously considered bypassing the shower.  I was thankful this was a recovery week and I got to spend the rest of the day lounging around.

Friday, June 5, 2015

fighting the gorilla

"Training is like fighting with a gorilla. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the gorilla is tired."
- Greg Henderson
I'm tired.

I am always tired.
My alarm goes off in the morning and before I can get myself out of bed, I have to mentally plan for the next time I will be able to get into my pajamas.  Sometimes it's a nap before my evening workout.  Sometimes it's an 8pm bedtime.  For real.

And I hurt.
Thanks, Mom, for the compression socks!
My whole body hurts. All the time. My calves, my quads, my arms, my shoulders, my back.  Massages hurt.  You know you're in trouble when massages hurt!
Heidi, Darcy, Me, Joann, Angelika... wineries the day after Kinetic!
My friends have started seeing a grumpier version of me.   I am always complaining. I am always hungry.  I even ate McDonald's once!!
Ironman is my gorilla!
But Ironman doesn't care how tired I am.  Ironman doesn't care how sore I am.  Ironman doesn't care if I get to hang out with my friends, or if I get all of my housework done. 
Though... despite being tired and sore, I am making progress.  In May I took my first vacation day from work to get in a ride before a weekend getaway... and did my longest bike ride ever!  Solo! 
And then I hopped on a plane to celebrate Heidi and Dan's wedding (and a bonus reunion with Chris and Meredith - Go Hoos!).  Travel during build weeks takes a special kind of effort (exhibit A: girls weekend in Vegas).  But I got it done, including a beautiful run along the coast of Narragansett.

May was a big month with 4 build weeks and only one recovery week:
Some other firsts (during May and the first week of June):

I had my first Ironman meltdown following a terrible, terrible ride in 100 degree weather.  This was recorded as either the hottest or second hottest May since they started recording weather.

I also had my first Ironman dream.  I'd heard of this happening.  I had finished the swim and headed into the T1 changing tent.  I saw a bunch of people sitting on folding chairs changing into their bike stuff.  I went to get my gear bag, but couldn't find it anywhere! Rather than a tent, we were in a large warehouse with racks of clothes and I was tearing through all of them trying to find my bag. Then the other athletes kind of disappeared and it was more like a real warehouse and I kept trying to get someone to help me, but everyone was too busy. I woke up in a panic that I had spent over an hour in T1 and there was no way I was going to make the cutoffs. It actually took me a minute to realize it wasn't real.  Strange!
And this is only just beginning.  I still have the whole summer to go.

Can someone please slip this gorilla a Xanax or something?!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Herndon Festival 10K [and one terrible bike ride]

My running motivation lately has been zilch, zero, nada.  So, I started to search for local running events to try to force myself to get in a good run.  I found the Herndon Festival 10K and it was perfect.  I wanted to get in more than 6.2 miles, but figured I could just add on an extra couple on my own after the race, and even if I didn't feel like it, at least I'd have done 6.2.  So I signed up.

The weekend didn't start out so great.  I had an 80 mile bike ride on my schedule for Saturday.  Originally I had planned on doing the Team Z ride, but they canceled the Saturday ride, and I already had plans on Sunday, so once again I was on my own.  Luckily, Deb agreed to keep me company and we met out in Leesburg at 7:30am, hoping to beat the heat.  It was going to be a scorcher.
The plan was to do 2 loops of 43 miles each.  I knew that the route would start off mostly uphill but then the last few miles would be all downhill.  Sure enough, that first five miles were hard, but manageable.  Then we found ourselves on a busy road with signs announcing a parade and road closure at 11am.  Hmm... Then we continued on and came upon a small road that was closed for a half marathon.  The nice officer at the end of the road told us it was fine to bike down the other side of the road, so we continued on, having to jump off the road into the woods to allow vehicular traffic to go through (interesting considering the road was closed!). 
We had a pretty good little stretch, albeit on terrible rough road conditions, and then turned onto Loyalty Rd.  I hate hate hate Loyalty Rd.  That ten mile stretch was some of the hardest cycling I have ever done, and I was not prepared for it.  It was so demoralizing for me.  I guess the positive - if you really want to see a positive - is that I did not have to stop and take any breaks (or walk) at all on those hills (and trust me, I wanted to!).  When we finished the first loop, we both agreed we did not want to do that same route again, especially with the road closures (and my flat out refusal to do Loyalty Rd again), so we mapped a new route.  Of course, we got lost, but ended up forging our way around, making it up as we went along.  It was miserably hot at this point.  We found a water fountain and I tried to soak my head, but it didn't help.  I puked around mile 55, not sure if it was the heat or the salt tabs I was taking (first time with those) or my mood or what.  I knew I was done and we circled back to the cars at just under 65 miles.  Terrible.
Andrea sent this to me and Paula after my terrible bike, before my run!
I am thankful for good friends like Joann, Rob, Paula, Tommy and Andrea who talked to me and helped get my head back on track.  Still, given the awful training day on Saturday, I wasn't sure how this 10K was going to go, if I was going to be able to move at all.  I pulled myself out of bed, popped a few Advil, chugged some water and nuun, and started driving out to Herndon.  It was a small race (maybe 250 people) and immediately I wondered if I was going to be the last person, if I would even make it the whole distance.  But as they started us, I started jogging along, slow and steady.  I'd decided against intervals, that I would run when I could run, and walk when I needed to.  I ran nearly the first mile, took a short walk break and finished that first mile in just over 12 minutes.  For me, that's fabulous!
The next few miles slowed down, but still in the 13 min/mile time frame, which again is amazing, especially after a long ride the day before.  I was leap-frogging some people for awhile but eventually got far enough ahead of them that I couldn't even see them when I turned around.  I was thankful there were 3 water stops versus the one they advertised.  It was another hot day, even with the 7:30am start!  I saw some runners in front of me and wondered if I could catch up.  I did.  I was consistent the whole way and finished strong with an official time of 1:23:21.  Not my fastest, but felt good.  This run made me happy, and I was glad to end the weekend on a positive note.
Before getting in my car, I decided to do an extra couple miles on the W&OD trail which was right there.  A few steps in, I had a sharp pain just under my front hip bone and I think I pulled something (biking or running?  who knows.. ice later).  So, I basically walked / hobbled the additional couple miles, but I got in the distance for 8 miles total.  I will take it.  And for a bonus, I got back to my car, checked my phone and had a text from Jon telling me he was proud of me for getting in my workouts this weekend. 
Tired legs!
I drove home with a stop at Panera and spent the rest of the day at a couple wineries with Jon, Sweeney and Anjelika.  I made it to recovery week!!  Yippeee!!  I've never been a huge fan of yoga, but damn that felt good on Monday.  Then Tuesday morning at swim practice, Linda told me that she was a SAG for the team ride on Sunday and many people there had issues with the heat also, so it wasn't just me.  Feeling a little better... and looking forward to my massage this evening!