Monday, July 13, 2015

Swim for Life and my first century ride!!

I had been semi-sick with some weird stomach virus all week, but luckily when I woke up Saturday morning, I was feeling OK.  I got dressed, packed up my swim and run gear and set out for the Eastern Shore.  It was raining pretty consistently the whole time I was on 495, but started clearing up as I made the turn onto 50 and crossed the Bay Bridge.
I arrived and hung out at the Team Z tent, ate breakfast and listened to the safety briefing before we all headed down to the beach to get ready for the start.  The water temperature was 81 degrees, making it a non-wetsuit event, and indeed as we waded in to test it out, it felt like bath water. 
There were about 200 swimmers there doing either 1-mile, 2-miles, 3-miles, 4-miles, 5-miles, or the special 2.4-mile triathlete challenge, which is what I was doing.  The started the longest distance first, and soon it was time to line up to begin.
You can pick me out with my bright green Team Z tri top!
There was a strong current going against us on the way out, and with buoys located half mile apart, it took FOREVER to get to that first buoy!  The current got worse the further out in the river we got.  And the water was dirty.  Not dirty the way you usually think about the Potomac, but literally dirt.  I could not see anything underwater except brown.  I put my hand up to my goggles and could not see it!  I was disgusted.  Once I had to readjust my goggles and remembered the announcement that it was very shallow, so I stood up.  The bottom was even more disgusting.  I sank into whatever mush was down there, almost like quick sand.  I did not like swimming in this.  At all.
That's me lingering behind waiting for everyone else to start so I don't get kicked
Finally the second buoy, and after that it seemed that the 2.4-mile turn around came pretty quick.  I checked my watch and it had taken me just over 55 minutes to go halfway.  For the return trip, we'd be swimming with the current.  Or so they claimed.  I did do that second half faster, in 47 minutes, but at some point the currents shifted and was no longer in our favor.  After passing that final buoy, all we had to do was get to the shore, which never seemed to get closer.  I do wish there had been more buoys, just to be able to mark progress. 
Unlike Eagleman where I stood up pretty early, I did not want to touch the bottom of this river anymore than I needed to, so I swam until my hands touched.  I finished in 1:43:17, which is a new personal best for me at this distance!!
I sat on the beach sipping water for a few minutes and then headed up to the Team Z tent.  I had a little of that dizziness that I usually get after swimming for awhile and then standing up, but not the breathing issues that I experienced at Eagleman.  Still, I kind of wished I'd had an inhaler.  I changed into my shorts and put on my running shoes, ready to head out on my brick run. 
Hot run, no shade... I had flashbacks to Eagleman!
The plan was to run 14 miles.  Not so much.  It was getting really hot out and I just wasn't feeling it.  I decided to call it a day just under 3.5 miles and headed back to the swim venue just in time for lunch to be served.  I stuck around for a little while hanging out with my teammates and cheering in the final swimmers before heading home.  It took over 2 hours for me to get home with all the Bay Bridge traffic.. I was not looking forward to doing this same drive on Sunday!  After a much needed shower to wash off the dirt of that river, Jon and I went out for a pasta dinner and then I prepared my nutrition bottles for Sunday and was pretty much in bed around 7pm.
Good morning, sun :-)
I was back in the car again at 5:30 on Sunday morning to head back to the Eastern Shore.  This time skies were clear and I made it to Easton early enough to stop at McDonald's for a bathroom stop and get everything ready.  I got to talking with Kate and we realized we were the same pace, so we agreed to ride together.  Coach Alexis was worried about the heat, so he told some of us that we could go ahead and start ahead of the group.  We were off at 7:45 to start the long day.
Xena loaded up and ready to go!
It was great biking with Kate.  For once "same pace" actually meant "same pace" and not, "well I'm kind of the same pace as you" as they disappear around a bend never to be seen again.  We maintained a good pace for that first 25 mile stretch down to Tilghman's Island where Coach Alexis was set up with the first aid station of the day.  After a couple photos, we were off again... just that stretch 3 more times, easy peasy!
25 miles in, feeling pretty good.
Kate and I had been back and forth, one in front of the other, and I ended up in front at some point.  I felt good in my aero position and was just plugging along thinking she was right behind me, but I looked back and she was nowhere to be seen!  Yikes!  Something must have happened, but I had no idea where (and enough teammates were around and passing me that if something *bad* had happened, someone would have said something).  So I kept on, biking alone now, thinking how happy I was going to be in 50 miles when I was on this stretch for the last time.  That thought was a little daunting.  Baby steps, I just had to get back to Easton and I'd be halfway.

Lots of people were around at the halfway point as I refilled my water bottles, offering food, salt tabs, whatever.  I thought about waiting for Kate, but again, Coach Alexis was concerned about going too late into the day and hurried me along.  So I was off again... just one more loop down to Tilghman's and back, no biggie!  Except.. I was starting to struggle.  My stomach started hurting and I could no longer stand the thought of taking in any nutrition.  I just felt too full.  On the first loop, I'd gone through my entire Infinit bottle (3x concentrated) plus 3.5 bottles of water.  Now, I couldn't do anything. 
My speed throughout this ride... looks about right :)
I passed Jen F at an aid station halfway down that stretch and she had a ton of food and drink also, but I just didn't have the taste for anything, so I kept going.  I needed to get to the end of that road.  Breaking it into smaller goals was the only thing that made this seem doable.  But I was struggling.  When I finally got to the water's edge, Teresa was there with more food and drink.  I got off my bike and feasted on orange Gatorade and grapes.  Don't ask me why, but these items sounded delicious.  I sat there for awhile with her, reminiscing about the days we used to spin in someone's basement during the TriCats days, years ago.  But, I knew I couldn't sit there forever.  I had 25 more miles to go.  Just 25.  I could do this.
The drawbridge, trying to head off of Tilghman's Island.. this bridge was NOT fun to bike over!
I passed Kate a mile or so later and realized she wasn't too far behind me, and we both talked about how we were struggling.  Then I got caught at the draw bridge.  Part of me was happy for the unscheduled stop, but part of me just wanted to get going.  The sooner the better for getting this last part over with.  My stomach just did not feel OK and I didn't take in any additional nutrition.  Just a couple sips of water here and there.  I really slowed down on this last stretch.  Actually, looking at my logs, each 25-mile stretch got slower and slower.  Oh well.  The only other time I stopped was for a restroom break in the woods, hoping I didn't walk through poisonous plants.  I knew once I hit the town of St. Michael's, I only had 10 miles go to.  Then, once I got to the bridge, I only had 5 more miles after that.  I could do this.  5 miles!!  But wow, did those 5 miles seem to take forever!
I was greeted in the parking lot with lots of cowbells and cheers.  My team is pretty awesome for hanging out to cheer on everyone.  My watch read 99.7 miles though, so I literally rode around the parking lot until I saw it switch to 100.  I did it.  100 miles.  My first century!  And Kate was right behind me.  Coach Alexis celebrated by dumping ice water all over both of us... The heat actually had not bothered me too much, but that water sure did feel good.  It was actually much hotter now that we'd stopped and were standing in the parking lot.  Maybe I just had enough other issues going on that I hadn't noticed.
Took the victory picture at mile 75 because the scenery is much better than the Target parking lot!
I capped off the ride with a stop at Rita's for some Italian ice with Euge, Christy and Kate and then tackled that Bay Bridge for the 4th time in one weekend.  Luckily, traffic was decent this time and I got home in an hour and a half.  Straight to the shower and into bed. 
No traffic going westbound on a Sunday afternoon - never have I seen this before!
Jon was awesome for bringing me dinner in bed, so that is where I stayed for the rest of the day (which.. it was already after 5pm when I got home).  What a long weekend!

Monday, July 6, 2015

sometimes the bear eats you

"Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you."
- The Big Lebowski
June was a weird month.  It was book-ended by recovery weeks, and included Eagleman, which subsequently included a small taper and small recovery.  I also experienced some of the hottest days of my life.  This means there was not a whole lot of mileage done this month. 
Not all training days go your way.  I had my first bad day about a month ago which I posted about along with my Herndon Festival 10K race report.  That should have been an 80 mile ride.  Then week before Eagleman was a recovery week, but I did an open water swim and which didn't exactly go completely my way.

I wrote about how I struggled with the bike at Eagleman.  I'm not upset with my performance at Eagleman.  I know the conditions were brutal.  And I finished.  But I had hoped to do better, so that sits with me a little.
Not only taking a break, but leaning Xena against a tree and sitting down!
It was just so hot!  This was maybe 40 miles in at Riley's Lock.
Then the week after that should have been a 90 mile ride.  But it was hot.  So very hot.  And humid.  And we biked at Riley's Lock which is hilly.  It was the trifecta of things I hate (heat, humidity and hills).  I struggled through that ride and threw in the towel after 50 miles.  Then I went home and laid in my bed.  All damn day.  Just trying to cool off.

It's funny how I am frustrated that I *only* got in 50 miles when just a year ago I was so freaking thrilled with myself for being able to bike 50 whole miles!

So there I was at the end of June with my longest ride to date being just over 70 miles, and that was done over a month ago.  And July looms with two 100+ mile rides on the schedule!!  I'm not saying June was a *bad* month.  I got myself out there on the hottest of days, even when I didn't feel like it.  The workouts just didn't always go my way.  I guess that happens.  You can't always feel like a rock star.
We paused just beyond the Lincoln Memorial about 8.5 miles into our long run!
The bright spot of the month was doing my first long run with Paula the week after Eagleman and feeling good for the whole 10 miles, despite the humidity!  The last recovery week in June, I took a much-needed break and went hiking with Sweeney - it felt fabulous to do something different (and we still covered over 6 miles)!

During that ride at Riley's Lock, as I was mentally preparing to stop after 50 miles instead of going out for that second loop, I made a plan for myself to get in a nice long ride over the Fourth of July weekend.  I am happy to say that I *did* get in that ride (82 miles!), and am feeling a little better about the weeks to come.  So that's something.
I used to post these countdowns to the big day with excitement and anticipation.  These days looking at how close we are actually getting freaks me out a little.  Double digits!  Yikes!  Will I be ready?