Finish Line 70.3

Finish Line 70.3
Finish Line 70.3

70.3 Finisher!

70.3 Finisher!
70.3 Finisher

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wave on Wave: 13 days to race day!

Just to prove I am not totally the creakiest skeleton in the wetsuit, I do happen to listen to music that was invented after say, the invention of the microwave oven. Pat Green is a greater rocker and guitar slinger IMO who manages to combine country and rock in a good way (sometimes, artists combine them--or try to--in bad ways. See, for example, Kenny Rogers and "Islands in the Stream"). Wave on Wave is a great jogging song.

Our swim waves were published last week. Like most large triathlons, we start in swim waves 5 minutes apart. The pros go first, and there are some big pros entered in Galveston and I hope some of them show up. I suspect many are training for the first Houston Ironman (TM) in May. Mirinda Carafree, who won the women's division in Kona, is entered. I hope she is not worried that I will pass her on the bike.

Then the age groups get divided up, and my group (old ladies 45+) is the first of the females to go off, after most of the males, at 8:20 a.m. The good news is that this gives me about 20 minutes more for my cutoff times (the cutoff times are based on the start of the last wave group). The bad news is, of course, that a giant battalion of younger and stronger chicks are going to be swimming right up my a$%&* very quickly. I figured at my pace, I have about 400 yards of peace before I will get plowed into by a lot of female rubber. Therefore, I will be sure to try to keep my position a bit outside in order for the Fasties to pass me by on the inside rail, so as to speak. And I am prepared to kick out or flail my arms like a maniac if someone should still try to run me over. I learned the last time to protect my space with my legs and arms. Meow!

Now, I ordered a new wetsuit from Quinta Roo and it arrived 7 days ago in its box. There it has sat for a week. I have not found the time nor the energy to try it on, and yet I knew it needed to happen pretty soon. Trying on a wetsuit, for me, is an experience alarmingly like a tough workout. Although I am not necessarily a Fat Chick, I carry 135 pounds on a 5'5" frame and no one is going to ask me to audition for America's Next Model anytime soon. Cramming those 135 pounds into a vise of rubber is not what I call a Fun Time.

Last night Patient Spouse left for a business trip and since there was no one to watch my antics, and laugh at them, I decided it was time to try on the batsuit. Because the manufacturers are very clear about NOT using bodyglide when you try on a wetsuit if you think you might return it, I had to go without any assistance from chemicals.

I am not going to describe in painful detail how long it took me to wiggle into the thing, or how frustrated I get when I can't find a purchase on my legs to pull up the wrinkles (don't use your fingernails! Righto, and just how am I supposed to get a grip on this tight rubber vise without using my fingers, huh?), and how I wondered if Aussies were all short in leg and long in arm. Finally--FINALLY I got the thing on, except for the back velcro flap which has an extra piece of fabric to tuck in which I simply could not do without assistance, not at 9:30 p.m. at night, anyway. But the dadgummed thing fit perfectly AND it was soooo much more comfortable than my other suit in the neck and shoulders that I was amazed. I can't wait to try it out this weekend on my practice open water swim. I hope it warms up before then, it's 50 degrees right now and that doesn't sound too appetizing for a dip in the lake.

This week and next week are easy weeks as I taper down for the race. I have a short run/walk tonight that I'm looking forward to after my last long brick this past Saturday (90 minute ride and 30 minute run). I am trying to continue to eat well, keep the pounds down (if I lose one more, hoory, but 135 is fine for race day, and I don't want to undereat), keep the hydration up, and get some sleep (as much as I can, anyway). I plan to try and change a fake flat tire one night this week for practice, and over the weekend I will slowly start to assemble my gear. It takes a lot of gear to go 70.3 miles!

It's been a year of training for this event, and I've not regretted one minute of it. Whether I get across the line or not, the journey was the destination. So many hours in the pool, on the bike, on the hoof, and it all comes down to the starting gun in 13 days.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Superstition: 19 days 'til race day!

Stevie Wonder is simply one of my greatest hits guys; he's all over my iPod and he was all over my life, throughout high school, college, law school and thereafter. Although he had a couple of duds IMO, most of his stuff was simply true music--a variety of slow, fast, fun and tuneful (the fact that he was blind is simply beside the point--I mean, the man can ROCK).

Superstition, like many of his songs, is a combo of blues, reggae and rock. It's a great song with cool words (13 month old baby broke the looking glass? C'mon, what a great line. Who uses the term "looking glass" anymore, anyway?). Listening to it last night during a long (2400 yard ladder drill) swim made me think about superstitions and talismans and anything else people do for "luck" prior to, or during a race. When it comes to the start line, we all tend to go thinking about that magic potion that will lift us across that finish line.

This is different than chanting mantras (my mantras tend to evolve, like my training, and what works one day gets tossed aside another day), or even eating and drinking the same stuff, because that is more training than voodoo. Superstitions and rituals are the stuff of the mind, and hey, never let it be said that the mind can't be tricked into thinking certain ways, because it sure by golly can.

I've seen runners touch milepost signs as they go by, I've seen bikers get worried if they get on their bikes on the "wrong side" (like it was a horse or something), I've read about the racers using the same underwear (really, now, who wears UNDERWEAR during a tri race) or socks or hat or whatever. Special bracelets, necklaces, shoelaces--you name it, we got it going on. Writing inspirational messages on one's hand, one's arm, or leg is another thing--although I would probably sweat mine off, which would concern me.

Me? I'm not so partial to anything particular, and I'm suddenly worried about that. I think I might need a bit of the voodoo myself on this race. Is it too late to claim a pair of fairly new socks as my lucky socks? I do have one ritual though: I put on my Ironman Timex ($40, on line) the day BEFORE the race, and take off my regular watch and stow it away. This tells me it's time to get serious; the Watch Is On. Otherwise, I'm pretty non superstitious (my spouse would tell you that isn't true); the pragmatist in me says it's the training and the planning and the nutrition and execution that gets you to the finish chute, not the lucky bracelet.

I'm starting to get a bit nervous now, although so far it's a good nervous. Last Sunday was my last long brick and I didn't perform as well as the prevoius ones, had a good bike ride but a slower run; it was very very windy (30-35 mph) and very hot. Just like race conditions might be! Still, I'm very convinced I am going to do this race, and finish strong. The wind is the same for everyone.

Tonight is a shorter run (intervals, but short) and tomorrow a swim, followed by an interval bike on Thursday, and another swim on Friday (lots of swims lately!). Saturday is a shorter brick (90 minutes) as I start to taper down for the race itself. I'm starting to watch what I eat more carefully, trying hard to ingest lots of good fruits and veggies, good carbs and lean protein, and staying away as much as I can from sugar and booze. I'm at a pretty good weight now, but don't want to put any more on before the race and have to lug it through 56 miles of biking and 13 miles of running! And if I can shed one more pound before the race, that's one less pound to carry. But I have to be careful not to eat too little and get fatigued or out of gas.

I've bought the new goggles, and am still awaiting arrival of the new wetsuit (any day). I've scheduled a haircut. I've bought a new bento box for the bike, a new CO2 cartridge (mine is old, and I worry they may go bad?) and I still have a few little things to put together, but most of the big stuff is done. The bike is right now at the bike shop getting the deluxe tune up and clean and lube so it will be in prime condition on race day (this gives me a couple of weeks to ride it "just in case" someone at the bike shop turns a screw the wrong way--it can happen).

Superstitious? Maybe my new socks will be my talisman for the race. They are from deFeet, and they say "run like hell" on them. Good idea.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

All She Wants to Do is Dance--31 days 'til race day

The Eagles, without a doubt, were one of my top five fav bands of the 70s and 80s. I adore their mix of country twang and rock, and to know the lyrics of their songs was kind of a badge of honor back in college at UT Austin (especially Hotel California--not that anyone understood what the song meant, of course, but to sing it all through, drunk or sober, was considered very cool). The first time I saw the Eagles in concert was 1975, and they were the BACK UP band for the Rolling Stones at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, where I and about 10,000 other weary souls stood, or passed out, as the case was, in 110 degree heat for 12 hours to hear the Stones play, but the Eagles were just as good IMO that day, plus they came on at a reasonble hour. Yeah, I was 18 and stupid, but it was good to be 18 and stupid. It's good to be 53 and stupid, too. Trust me.

One of their great jogging songs IMO is All She Wants to Do is Dance. If you can listen to that tune without moving some part of your body, you are in more trouble than I can help you out of. Great lyrics too--the Eagles actually knew how to throw in words on top of a tune.

I listened to that tune this morning ("Malatov cocktail, the local drink...and all she wants to do is dance....mix it up right in the kitchen sink...and all she wants to do is---" you know the rest, sing along here) as I headed out on an hour tempo run at 6:55 a.m., my reflecto bands glinting in the daylight savings time darkness. Very windy and humid--gonna be like that on race day, though, so good practice. Did a couple of hills easily, thinking, wow, after spending 5 days in Colorado clambering uphill in bulky ski boots, this is easy stuff (no wonder the pros live up there and come down to race). Of course, by minute 45, it wasn't as easy as minute 2had been, but it was okay, even in the howling wind.

Last night was a 2200 yard swim drill and the water felt great. 5 days away from swim-bike-run last weekend has re-energized my muscles, even though I spent 3 of those days doing some hard skiing (the hardest part was, as you know, putting on those dadgummed ski boots--busted 300 calories each time, I swear to you). I felt like I was gliding through the water, even during the 8 x 25 yard bust yer rear sprints. Never underestimate the power of going hard, and then going for a rest.

Broke down and ordered a new wetsuit today. My old one is fine, a used Zoot Fusion I snapped up for $85 on sale, but it has several (repaired) tears in it that are starting to think about leaking, and so now I'm going to sell it and get a new Quinta Roo Hydrofull (assuming I like it once I try it on). I realize back of the packers don't need to spend all this $$ on gear, but dernit, if I'm going to swim 1.2 miles I am going to be comfortable doing it. Plus I intend to keep doing this triathlon stuff for many years (although probably Oly and sprint distances until I hit work retirement). There. I've just justified spending money on something non-essential. I'm very good at that.

Now all I need is some new goggles--I can buy those locally--a haircut and a bike tune up, and a night next week pretending to fix a flat tire so I can remember how to do it if that becomes an issue on race day (I didn't train for a year to DNF on a flat tire!). Last long brick this weekend, and a long swim without stopping.

So today, I'm feeling good about the whole thing. All I want to do is dance! :-) I'll get my opportunity soon. Here's hoping for good weather and good health on race day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It Don't Come Easy-Four Weeks 'Til Race Day!

Back when the Beatles divorced, it was a shock wave felt 'round the world. Each member of the fab four then went on to have somewhat varying degrees of success alone. One would argue that John didn't have as much time as the others because his life was tragically shortened. Still, it's hard to deny that Sir Paul isn't the one that rose the highest after the great divide, if you can forgive some of that terrible bubble gum pop out of Wings.

Ringo, bless his nose, never rose very high above the post Beatles era, but he did have some good rockin' songs. It Don't Come Easy was one of the best, if not the most grammatical.

Last week was not easy. After a hard brick on Sunday (54 mile bike and 3 mile run) I had a long swim on Monday (2500 yards, pretty much straight through), spin class on Tuesday, a 7.6 mile run on Wednesday morning, and then back to back bricks on Thursday (I took the day off work for this fun)--90 minute bike followed by 30 minute run, followed by SECOND 90 minute bike followed by SECOND 30 minute run. By THursday night I was really tired, and we were leaving to go skiing the next day. Friday, a travel day, found me hobbling around with a terrible, terrible back ache that worried me immensely, but fortunately, Advil and a night's rest made it totally disappear. It would just be so bad to have an injury at this point.

Friday morning my heart rate was elevated from its usual 62 beats per minute to a 70 beat per minute, a classic sign of getting close to overtraining. I was glad to have some time off to recover.

We skiied hard the next 3 days, which certainly helped my cardio and strength, but I did no biking or running. After travel on Tuesday, I'm back in the saddle, or at least in the pool tonight, as my heart rate is back down to its normal state and I'm rested and ready for the next push.

I am starting to envision the race lately, trying to make it all come together in my head, which is hard since there is no way I can obviouly picture 8 hours in my head! But I am thinking about the swim start, how I pace myself in the water and keep myself from freaking out, how often I will lift my head to sight (about every six left arm strokes), where I will position myself (in the back to the right), how I will exit the water and what things I will take off wear, and how I will get onto the bike and out on the course. About this point, I tend to fall asleep while thinking about it, so I've not contemplated the run yet!

There's still a lot left for me to do to get organized, including buying a new bento box for the bike (the one I have is too floppy), getting a new pair of goggles (same brand, but mine are almost 18 months old and pretty scratched up), getting my bike cleaned up and tuned, getting a hair cut (really! Who needs hair in your eyes for 56 miles?), and more. I've made our hotel reservations, intending to stay over Sunday night after the race (as I told Patient Spouse, after 8 hours on my feet, I am NOT getting into a car for another 5!). In addition, of course, I have to keep training and working for a living. Oh, yeah, that.

If it came easy, everyone would do it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Will Survive: Five Weeks 'Til Race Day!

I was (and still am) very much into Motown and blues especially from the 60s and 70s (which of us from that era did NOT grow up learning the Supreme's hand motions for "Stop In the Name of Love?"). Gloria Gaynor actually cut her teeth singing disco (for which we will forgive her) and she released "I Will Survive" in 1979, just in time for me to learn the lyrics during studying for college graduation. Great lyrics for any generation. Great song on the iPod for working out.

Thus we continue with the hard workouts as we move closer to the 70.3, which increase in distance and intensity until taper time. Coach Claire is leading me up to the event by making sure I am ready both physically and mentally for the challenge. I'm finally convinced I can not only do this thing, but, barring injury or illness or something outside my control on race day, I can do it with a smile at the finish line (it may look like grimace to YOU, buddy, but to me, it will look like a smile).

This weekend was a short (one hour--when did one hour runs become short in nature?) run in the blast wind from the north on Saturday. The good news is that it was a north wind, which means my last mile home is downwind and that little push in the backside from a strong wind means a lot some days.

On Sunday, it was semi dress rehearsal day--a 3.5 hour ride and a 45 minute tempo run. The wind was still blowing, but not as hard as Saturday thank goodness (only about 10-15 mph, which is normal for this time of year). It was a chilly morning, and as I ate my oatmeal with honey and berries (thanks for the crock pot hint! it cooked perfectly all night long) I debated my fashion options. It would probably be best to wear tights, but I had just purchased a new pair of (expensive) carbon Tyr tri shorts that I wanted to tri out, because they are going to be my choice for the race if they worked right. So I decided on the shorts, but a long sleeved wicking shirt under my new (expensive, but not as much as the shorts) tri top and a medium weight bike jacket on top.

We arrived (the Patient Spouse and I) at White Rock around 9 a.m. and brrr it was brisk in that wind. I was grateful for my jacket and was happy to put on the bike helmet and gloves. The bike bento box was loaded with a hard boiled egg (cut in quarters, salted, and in a baggie), 3 gels in my squeeze bottle, some gummy bears, and a cut up Luna Raspberry Chocolate bar (cut into widdle bite sizes, and in a baggie), and my water bottles were loaded with Gatorade Pro (on the aerobar bottle) and water (on the seat tube). Two Advil were tucked in a small nose clip plastic holder and stuffed in the bento box just in case. My run fuel belt held my small Gatorade bottle, some gummies, and another gel. I flelt like a camel headed to the desert for two weeks.

Off into the cool wind we rode, trying to go easy pace but the chill making us want to pedal harder. Six times 'round the lake was my goal (about 9.1 miles each trip) for the 3.5 hours. Patient Spouse was going to do 2 laps and a short run (he's my sprint tri guy) and then take his car on home.

First lap was faster than I wanted, over 15 mph average for the 9 miles, and then I had to stop to use the portapot (I had hydrated quite well the day before, thanksverymuch), and we were off for lap 2. Patient Spouse took off on his sprint pace and all I saw of him was his north end headed south for awhile, and then he disappeared from sight. At 14 miles I took in a half gel, and was careful to ensure that I took a large hefty swig of Gatorade each time the Garmin beeped a mile.

Second lap done a bit slower, wind a bit stronger and the crowds a bit heavier to dodge, then guess what, off for a portapot visit again (some of this is good hydration. Some of this is old age. Being over 50 is not for the faint of heart) and quickly back on the bike for lap 3--halfway. Sun's out strong now, beautiful early spring morning with trees in bloom and flowers starting, heaving my way up the 4 hills and muttering only 3 more times to do these, trying to save my legs a bit for the run while still not puttering along too slowly. At mile 28 (halfway for 56, even I can do the math) I ate my hard boiled egg a little at a time, and it was VERY tasty, the salted egg just hitting the spot for me. Learned something: put a marble or rock in the baggie to weigh it down when empty or else the wind is going to try to snatch it away, and littering on a tri can mean a DQ. Remind myself not to eat the rock.

Third lap down. I managed to not stop at the portapot this time. Starting to get cross eyed at seeing everything for the FOURTH time and knowing there was more to come (oh, there is the dog park...again....). Decided that my gel bottle should go in my back pocket instead of the bento box since it's taking up too much room in there, and I can't reach my other goodies. Takes a minute to stuff in it there. Cyclists have to be so good at riding one handed while using the other to grab nutrition, stuff our faces with it, put away trash, change gears, wipe nose (what gloves are for!), scratch, etc. I wish I was better coordinated at all this.

Park getting more crowded and more people to dodge, more children to worry about, more oblivious walkers stepping out in front of you from nowhere. Feet getting numb. Wiggle toes, arch feet, point upwards. Butt getting numb. Making sure I stand up in the saddle on every small downhill, sometimes on the flat. Winstead Hill getting higher (okay I made this one up).

Fourth lap down and two to go. Getting warm, had to stop and strip the bike jacket and (again) use the facilities. I am going to lose five or six minutes just visiting Mr. John. Can't be helped. I know the pros sometimes go on the bike--yes they do--but it's not gonna be me, babe. Quickly off for lap five, feeling it now in my legs a wee bit. Try to ease off on the 4 hills, seated climb and not standing, hunkering down low into the increasing breeze. Taking in more gel, some Luna Bar bites, a few gummies. Reach back for the gel bottle. Can't get it out. new shirt (Orca) that has flaps over the back pocketes. Great idea for not losing things; lousy idea for getting things out. Takes five minutes and six curse words to unleash the gel--put it in the bento box again. New shirt is now on the bad list.

Still feeling strong. Hit the bad hill and say ONE MORE TIME SUCKA to it.

Sixth lap coming up--last one! Butt really getting numb and so are toes. I can make the toes do okay by moving my feet around but the backside is just what it is. I love love the new Tyr carbon shorts but nothing short of getting off will make my rear get comfortable, let's face it.

Felt good to say to each hill that I won't be seeing you again. Still pedaling smoothly, no real issues, no real pain other than tired butt and numbish toes. Still over the aerobars so that tells me I'm not too tired. Reminding myself I have a run to do.

Parking lot coming up! 54.9 miles for the trip in 3:40, not too bad on time. If I can do 56 in 3:45 at the race, I'm way ahead of my time goal, so this is good news.

Stand up a bit in the pedals to get the blood flowing, shake my legs one at a time, come into the lot and unclip, GENTLY hop off the bike (learned the hard way that after a long bike, a quick dismount can lead to ugly things for shaky legs), into the car with it, on with the shoes and fuel belt, grab the Garmin off the bike and snap onto the wrist band, off with the helmet and gloves, and a quick trip (last one) to the portalet--and now I'm off running. Er, jogging. But moving.

Actually I didn't run all that slow. My running pace was between 10:30 and 11:15 min per mile pace, but I did run 8/walk 2 the entire time which is my goal for the first 4 miles of the real race (after that, I have to re assess how I feel; I may go to run 7/walk 3 etc). I did walk one other time when I turned up the area to the dam and forgot it was straight uphill so I gave myself 1.5 extra walking minutes and ran the rest of that steep uphill gritting my teeth. I continued to swig Gatorade and consume gel and Luna Bar each walk break, cursing at the flaps on the shirt pockets and wondering if I could sew them open later.

I was happy to see the finish line at 45 minutes (3.9 miles) but I wasn't falling over exhausted and could have kept going if I simply had to. I did note my mind was a bit fuzzy. Not uncommon for post race syndrome.

A great post workout stretch, some yoga, a burger and a Diet Coke put me back into mental swiftness. I didn't feel all that tired the rest of the day, and got some chores done, but was grateful for lights out that night around 9:45 p.m.

There's more to come, and I'm ready for it, but I've done part of the race already (I realize there wasn't a swim beforehand, and I only ran a little more than a quarter of the distance. Still. I KNOW I can do it).

Me and Gloria. We'll survive!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Six Weeks 'til Race Day: Another Brick in the Wall

Pink Floyd was one of those rock groups that you either hated or loved, and there was generally no in between, except for me, who detested them except for that one popular song "Another Brick in the Wall." The reason I loved the song was the term "another brick in the wall." It just stood for so many things symbolically. Day's over? Another brick in the wall. Dishwasher unloaded? Another brick in the wall. I realize you can carry this metaphor too far and brick yourself into several literary corners, but I still use the dadgummed expression.

And with training bricks, here's another way to abuse the phrase all over again. Six weeks out and my weekend training is now focused on bricks--run based ones, bike based ones, hard ones, easy ones, and all sorts in between. "Bike-run-in combination." Hard stuff. Necessary stuff.

Last weekend was a killer. The wind in Dallas was blowing 40-45 mph and it was late afternoon before I could get on the bike, so you know it was really howling that time of day. Our windiest day of the year so far. Perfect conditions for my 2.5 hour bike/30 minute run on Saturday. But time and weather wait for no man, or woman, or triathlete, so I girded up my loins and loaded the bike for White Rock, where I watched EMTs rescuing capsized boats whilst I pumped my tires (this is a true statement. No one seemed to have drowned, but there were 3-4 small upside down boats that rescue craft had to go out and tow in with along with their damp owners).

Off we go, downwind for the first part of the ride, not too bad, crusing smoothly and then here's the first major turn and whammo! Blast winds straight into your face, causing that nice light bike to shimmy and shake and your sweaty palms to grip those tiny little areobars (why did I get the short ones???). Legs pedaling hard, but moving about 12.5 mph even downshifting like mad. Fun? I had four laps of the lake to contemplate with this fun.

I kept thinking the downwind portions (which logically should be about half the trip, but illogically, as Spock would say, seemed to only be about a quarter of the trip) would make up for the lost speed of the into the wind portions, but it really didn't. I would average between 15-18 mph on the downwind parts (sometimes a bit more if there was a slight downhill), but struggle around 12-14 mph on the upwind areas. My average pace for the 2.5 hour ride (37 miles) was around 14.2 mph which is slow (not creepingly slow, but slow). And that was pushing it on the windward portions, which you had to do or just topple over.

However, I told myself this: Self, if you can do this ride, you can handle anything that old Galveston tosses at you wind-wise, because anything stronger than this and it's a stupid tropical storm (looked it up. Tropical storm winds are above 38 mph. So really, I was already riding in one, at least from a wind standpoint). Great training ride for the real thing. And I did handle it. Not terribly fast, true, but within my parameters for my race (which is 14-15 mph for the 56 miles) and I didn't fall over and collapse from it either (although I did consider canceling my dental appointment next week since I felt that I had already had my teeth sandblasted clean). I managed to jump off the bike and still go for a 30 min run (2.7 miles) which wasn't terribly slow in nature, although I did take a couple of quick walk breaks during it, and I was pretty glad to see the Garmin hit the 30 minute mark.

On Sunday I had to get up and do a 60 minute run. Friends and neigbors, I am here to tell you that I was tired on that run. I know part of the training is teaching your body how to run tired (so it won't be so shocked when you ask it to do just that on race day), but this was not easy--and the wind was still howling, making my downwind running legs just delightful. Still, I stuck it out, doing the planned run 8 walk 2 the entire time, and never really bonked or hit the wall, just felt tired and a bit heavy legged.

This week I get two days off (yeah!) in preparation for the Big Rehearsal on Sunday. This will be a 3.5 hour bike (very close to race distance) followed by a 45 minute tempo run. I will sleep, pack, dress, eat and hydrate as if it were race day morning. I'll try to hit the trails about the same time of day that I estimate I will hit the bike portion on the triathlon (around 8:45 a.m. or so) so I know how my body reacts to things at that time of day.

I'm praying the wind gods go elsewhere this weekend, but if they don't, I'll manage!