Saturday, July 5, 2014

So You Had A Bad Day...

Buffalo Springs, Lubbock Texas (BSLT) 70.3, I race I swore I would never do!  As a NYer, transplanted to TX, I've always felt that I am not genetically engineered to handle the heat in the way  that Texans do.  It wasn't until NOLA 70.3 pre-race meeting, when Coachie told me 'if you want to get stronger, you have to step out of your comfort zone', that I decided I would have to look into this race.  With nothing on my plan over the summer, other than NYC olympic tri in August, I decided to go for it!

Training was going great up until about two weeks before the race, then came my two best friends: Heat & Humidity!  I knew this would be perfect training weather for race day conditions, but my body responded in the only way it knew how.  Both of my long runs ended in high heart rates & vomiting.  I tried not to let that get in my head & talked to my Coachie & other triathletes on how to prevent it.  Before I left for my race, I even had some blood work done to check my electrolytes & give my loving husband a piece of mind.  All is well, you are cleared to race!

Saturday morning Shelly, Kris, & I drove up to Buffalo Springs.  We picked up our packet, went to the lake, where Shelly, Kris, & Trent tested out their wetsuits, and then headed back to the hotel to rest.  Race morning came early as usual, and so did the nerves.  I don't think I've ever been this nervous going into a race.  I knew that besides the heat, the winds, and the hills, I had something else going on inside of me that I would have to battle through.  I found Coachie and she talked me down off of my ledge & reassured me that I was ready, 'trust in your training!'

We made our way over to the swim start just in time to line up front and center when the announcer yelled, GO!  I reached down to start my Garmin and noticed I hadn't even turned it on yet! Ugghhh!  I ran through waist deep water turning on my Garmin, waiting for satellites to pick up, & changing to multisport mode, all the while ladies around me were swimming.  I finally just hit start button and started swimming.  By the first turn buoy I was in my rhythm and just swam.  The swim felt great, by the last turn buoy I executed Coachie's plan and just went for it!

I quickly ran through transition, grabbed my bike and headed out.  We had driven the two big hills coming out of the park the day before, so I felt pretty comfortable riding up & out.  We initially had a nice tail wind which I took advantage of and settled into my bike.  The heat didn't feel too bad & the wind I had learned to appreciate as a cooling breeze.  Around mile 35 a girl rode past me & complimented my race wheels, then pulled in front of me and slowed down!  I know it was my responsibility to drop back 4 bike lengths, but I really didn't want to slow down.  I tried to pass her back, but didn't have it in me.  Next thing I knew, a race official rode up on a motorcycle & waved a red card at me.  Drafting penalty!  Ugghhh!  Right as this was happening Kris rode by me yelling at me to not let it get in my head and to keep going.  A little confused as to what had just happened, I shook it off and kept riding.  The canyons and switch backs were beautiful to ride, but the headwinds were making me curse.  At one point I was feeling a little sleepy, never a good sign, and got a rude awakening when the wind tried to knock me over!  I realized, I should probably eat something, so I grabbed for a bite size peanut butter snickers I had in my bento box.  I pulled into the penalty tent to serve my 4 minute sentence for drafting & immediately felt dizzy.  I forced down the rest of the snickers in my mouth, trying not to let it come back up.  After 4 minutes on pause, I was raring & ready to go!  The next 9 miles I high tailed it back to the park, fighting the wind, but dead set on 'staying in the game'.

I reached the bike dismount line and the next 13:49 minutes on my Garmin were a blur.  I just remember volunteers pouring cold water on me & trying to make me drink it, but all it did was make me choke!  They threw me in the back of a golf cart & hauled me over to the medical tent.  The first thing I remember was seeing Jordan Rapp in the medical tent receiving his post-race IV rehydration.  They laid me down, put cold towels all over me & started pumping 3 IV bags into me.  Although race officials reported temps in the upper 90's at that point, I had never been so cold!  I was shivering uncontrollably to the point where I started cramping in my legs.  They kept asking if I wanted the cold towels replaced & I refused.  They tried to explain why I needed the towels & I told them I already knew, I was a doctor!  Ahhh, that explains it!  Doctors are the worst patients!  When I was finally able to speak complete sentences, I asked one of the volunteers if they would ask Jordan Rapp to come take a pic with me because my friend loved him!  He gracefully obliged & we talked for a little bit.  I congratulated him for his second place finish & his first place finish at Syracuse 70.3 the weekend before.

The next two hours I spent in complete solitude, crying & begging the race officials to let me go run!  I kept looking around the empty medical tent thinking, I wasn't suppose to be here, I had to go run!  I fought off at least five volunteers that tried to take away my timing chip.  I kept asking for Coachie & finally a volunteer brought me my phone so I could call her.  I asked how much time was left in the race & we figured about 3hrs.  I knew that even if I had to walk I could complete the 13.1 I had left.  She said that she didn't think they would let me because I had already had an IV.  I asked the volunteers to speak to the medical director & he confirmed that I could not be allowed to continue having already received an IV.  I finally succumbed to defeat and handed over my timing chip, it was over! D.N.F.

Two hours later Kris & Shelly crossed the finish line and came straight to the medical tent to receive their IVs.  I looked around the medical tent at that point and it looked like a M.A.S.H. unit!  A completely different scene than I had experienced earlier.  After the race I asked the race director approximately how many IV bags they went through, her answer did not surprise me... 450!  With about 1000 participants, that was nearly half!  

It's been almost a week now since the race & I am able to talk about it now without tears in my eyes.  I've had time to reflect on the days events & make lemonade out of the lemons.  So I had a bad day!  So what?!  What can I take away from all of this?  In retrospect, I know I dug myself into a HUGE nutrition hole on the bike.  I will NEVER let that happen again.  I think my concern for throwing up kept me from taking in much needed calories on the bike.  I will also start my Garmin prior to lining up for the swim start!  And I will never fight to keep running after collapsing!  Really?!  What was I thinking!!! But most importantly, I must visualize!  I've always been big on visualization & I tell my friends the same.  As ridiculous as it sounds, I feel like I willed myself into collapsing.  I focused so much negative energy on the fear of the heat & my body's response to it, that it actually happened!  Never again!  From now on, I'm like Olaf... "All good things!  All good things!"  Lastly, I need to lead by example, especially for my girls.  If I fall, I must get up!  Maybe not right away, but I can't let myself be defined by 'my bad day'!  If we are able to choose, then I choose to define myself by 'my good days'.  It happened, and it's done... tomorrow I race Tri for Old Glory!  What a great name of a race for redemption!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sometimes... It Ain't So Pretty!

After SARnR back in Nov., we all vowed... No more stand alone marathons.  Well, it didn't even take a month, not even another coupon code.  It wasn't a matter of IF we were going to do another one, it was which one?  We decided on Austin marathon, Kris had some history with the race & I had done the half marathon 2 times and enjoyed it.
After Nov., I "bargained" with Coachie to let me take a break from training for Dec. & Jan.  I wanted to continue running and do a half in Jan (3M) & then Austin Marathon in Feb., then pick back up with triathlon training afterwards for New Orleans 70.3 in April.  I have to be honest, I can really "feel" the difference in not having biked in a long time.  My biking muscles feel weak when I run.
I felt pretty strong going into the race overall. I was actually excited this time, as opposed to SARnR, at which my mood was less than enthused.  I had my pre-race chat with Coachie and set up our race plan.  The plan was to negative split 4 10Ks + some change.  I'm not gonna lie, that 3rd 10K scared me most because I had studied the course map elevation & that was all up hill.  Let's go for it!
Race morning came early.  I picked up Kris at 4:30am & drove up to Austin.  We met Orissa, Brian, & Herb there and headed to the start.  We were all very happy & joyful & ready to take on this beast of a challenge.  Brian & I made our way to the front for the start in order to avoid slow crowds, a mistake we learned from in SARnR.

And we're off.  The first three miles, I thought we had gone out a little fast, but I felt super comfortable and was just going with the flow.  It was extremely humid, although the temp was ideal, low 60's to start.  Around mile four I took my first gu, it didn't go down very easy.  It was salted caramel, my fave!  I HAD to love it, because I had to eat 7 more of them for this race!  I alternated water & gatorade at the water stations in order to stay hydrated.  At mile six, we were keeping a good steady pace & were feeling great.  I knew the next 3 miles were downhill, but I didn't want to go too crazy!  Dawn had warned me about this!  Brian stopped off to use the restroom at this point, which was a good thing because we both probably would have wanted to have some fun going downhill, like at 3M!  I told him I was going to stay to the far right, catch up to me!
I kept running, just going with how I felt.  I tried not to look at my Garmin for any feedback.  I was just giving whatever my body allowed in each moment.  Mile 9 marked the start of a 10mile steady climb.  I was mentally prepared for it & knew that my efforts would be rewarded with a 6 miles downhill home.  By mile 11, where the marathon and half marathon split, I hear Brian yelling at me from behind, "Aixa, don't you dare go right!"  Sweet, High Five!  Let's do this!  We kept a steady pace, definitely faster than SARnR, but it felt great!
At mile 16, I did NOT feel great!  I got a painful stitch in my right ribs that almost made me cry, ok... I did cry!  I did not help any, and I couldn't breathe, and Brian had this look of panic like, 'What do I do?' I walked it off, took a deep breath and started running again.  All I could think was, 'Get a grip, Brian didn't sign up for this, and you have 10miles still to go!'  The next 10miles were some of the most painful ever, the stitch seemed to move in all four quadrants.  Each time all I could do was walk it off and make dying animal noises.  I tried to send Brian off several times, in order to "save his race", but I think he felt responsible for my well-being at this point & was determined to get me to the finish line.  He offered tremendous encouragement & I tried my hardest not to let him, or myself down.  Around mile 18/ 19 we saw the 4:10 pace group pass us.  Brian tried to get me to jump on the train, but I just face planted and watched them fade off in the distance.  Ok, we are still having an amazing race, though!  Let's just get to the finish!
The last 10K, as always, was extremely painful, but not as much as the 10K before... so I'm good now! Finally, we had gotten over the hump at mile 19 & would "cruise" it home!  Not quite!  Although it was downhill, it still didn't make it any easier.  I pushed as hard as I could, and at this point, it wasn't all that fast!  We got up one last cruel hill at the end and let the legs loose!  We sprinted it in & I can literally say that I left it ALL out there.  I tied my PR from SARnR, 4:25.  I'll take that as a WIN because SA, although the weather was horrendously hot, the course was flat.
I'm starting to understand 26.2 a little more each time I run.  That's why this time I didn't kid myself and say, never again.  We are already signed up for SARnR 2014, this time in Dec. & praying for cooler temps.  I love the lessons that I learn & the array of emotions that I go through to get to the proverbial finish line.
My friend Janet always says, "Finish Pretty", well that took on new meaning this weekend.  I realized that when I crossed the finish line, my hands were thrown up in the air with a huge smile on my face!  I guess it's easy to "finish pretty", when you love what you are doing!  Although, sometimes the road to get there... AIN'T So Pretty!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Amazing Race. Interrupted.

I remember walking through the expo at San Antonio Rock & Roll 2012 & seeing the poster board! An elevation map that would make you want to throw on some rollerblades and just coast downhill! 3M 13.1! Sign me up! Unfortunately, we were already going to be out of town.  Allen was running his first marathon in Houston. Yes, he ran two years ago, when the weather was cold & rainy.  Definitely, 2014!

Well, this past Sunday I finally raced 3M 13.1, it's 20th year anniversary of the race! As usual, race prep started the night before with a race plan call from Coachie.  Completely opposite of our previous race prep call from SARR 26.2, I was slightly giddy!  I was really excited to run a half marathon, but mostly because it was going to be downhill.  I had no idea what to expect from my legs, was it going to be easy street or would a whole new muscle group scream out in pain? So we talked about breaking the race down into four 5Ks +, trying to negative split each one.  Then I commented on how I've had some pretty strong intervals during long runs but I would never "risk" throwing down those kind of numbers during a race.  WHY NOT?, of course that's what Coachie would say!  Ok! Lets do it!

Race morning started early, I woke up at 3:30 to be out the door by 4:00 & at Orissa & Brian's house by 4:30, to pick up Linda by 5:00 & head to Austin by 5:45/ 6:00 am. Like clockwork we arrived at 6am, used the port-a-potty, dropped off our warm clothes at bag check, and headed to the starting line.  We made our way up between the 1:50 & 1:45 pace group, not planning on following a pace group though! 7am we were off! Brian & I settled into our pace, we had discussed "the plan".  Before the second mile I gave him a hand signal to reel it back.  Too fast, we were at a 7:15 pace, albeit downhill :-). I knew we had to stick to our plan of negative splits.  The first three miles flew by, I had adequately stretched so nothing was achy or tight, I felt great! The first split was faster than planned, but I just told myself to stay in the moment & give whatever I can.  The next 3mi, negative split!

We were half way there... when I felt, the grumble!  I said to Brian, next port-a-potty, I'm stopping!  Not to my surprise, he had to go too.  We ran up to the door with our hands on our Garmins ready to pause, when out of nowhere a man ran up and jumped in the port-a-potty before us! Tick Tock, Tick Tock... I just took a deep breath and resolved there was nothing I could do.  5min later ;-(  we were, back on the road with a vengeance!  We picked up right where we left off, negative splits!

I had no idea how long the potty break had cost me until I noticed we were gaining ground on the 1:55 pace group.  Ugghhh!!!  Time to dig deep & try to catch the 1:50 pace group in the next 4 miles.  Virtually impossible, but it didn't stop me from trying.  The last 3mi I went for it, Coachie didn't want me holding anything back.  The last three miles were all under 8min pace.  My interval pace for my training runs, which I didn't think I had the cojones to throw down during a race.

Although my official race time was 1:52, not officially a PR; my Garmin time was 1:47, a 4min PR! But it's not about the numbers this time... what I learned from this race was how to take a race devastating situation & shake it off mid-race & continue to smash myself! I also learned to just go for it... what's the worse that can happen??? :-)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Finding the Power of ME!

"Off season" started for me the day after Longhorn 70.3.  I knew I had Rock n' Roll 26.2 on the calendar, but also knew I could step down to 13.1 either at the expo or even on race day by taking a left hand turn at mile 11.  I was confronted many times with the big question, 'Are you running SARnR? ' With a big sigh and a less than enthused face I would answer, 'Yes, the full!'  I tried to stay as positive as I could, but I couldn't find a single thing to be positive about.  Why did I sign up for it then? ... A coupon code 11 months ago!  Save $20... run 26.2 miles... WOW, what a brilliant idea!!!

The night before the big race I see Coachie's name come up on my phone.  YAY, she is calling to tell me she has the pink Smash long sleeve shirt I had texted her about!  Nope, race plan!  Ugghhh!  'How are you feeling?'  I'm a terrible liar & blurted out, 'Less than enthused'!  NEVER tell your Coach this the day before a race!  She shook me out of my funk & laid down the law!  I was to break the race down into chunks; 5mile warm up, 10mile steady, 5mile faster, 10K at current pace or faster!  Ta Da, 26.2 in the bag!  Easier said than done ;-)  Let me also add that I had only done one marathon prior to this, excluding Ironman.  NYC 2010, it was suppose to be my one and done race.  I felt like I had done one of the best marathons, no need for more.

Race morning came, it was already hot & humid.  I picked up Kris and headed down to the park & ride.  We tried our best to stay sarcastically positive.  On the bus a gentleman asked us about our matching visors.  Yes, we are Ironmen.  Then he asked the dreaded question, 'What did you do to prepare for this race?'  We looked at each other and laughed!  It had been a running joke between us all that although we were in tip top shape, we hadn't done any "marathon training", ie. no 20 mile runs, etc.  We also didn't want to come off as pompous asses either.  We have a strict rule of respecting the distance, respecting the race, respecting whatever is put in front of you as a challenge!  So we explained that we are in "triathlon shape" and are hoping to finish this Fun Run, no pressure!  And that as crazy as it sounds, we would MUCH rather have a swim & a bike to precede this event about to happen!

With ~26,000 people starting this race between the full, the half, the relay, & the 5K it took us almost 30min to cross the starting line.  Race start time, 8:00am, and it was already hot & humid!  Orissa & I ran together for the first 7 miles at a slow, yet steady pace.  It was pretty much all we could manage anyway due to the crowds.  By mile 2 I already had to pee, but was not willing to stop if it required waiting in line.  3 miles later Orissa pointed out a set of port-a-potties with no line.  I ran over quickly & jumped in.  I was in such a rush that I forgot to lock the door and sure enough... 'Oops, I'm so sorry!'  No worries, my fault.  I jumped out as fast as I jumped in and took off running again.  Brian had caught up to us by this point and ran us up and down the lovely hills around Trinity.  People were moaning & groaning about the "hills", but they really weren't that bad & honestly it felt good to use some different muscles.

By mile 11 it was just Brian and I,  Orissa had trailed back slightly.  He let me know that he had to use the restroom & to go on.  I was terrified to run the next 15 miles... alone!  I promised him to slow down if he promised to catch up to me.  He didn't pinky swear, so I knew I was on my own.  I was doing well keeping my steady pace, staying positive in my head, eating all of my nutrition and taking my salt tablets on schedule because Brian & Orissa had been there with me.  What was I going to do now?!  ...Keep running!

I was still feeling good at this point and was sticking to Coachie's plan.  I had my iPhone on me and headphones to listen to music, just in case things went south.  I wasn't ready for that yet, just like I wasn't ready for the emergency use only snickers stashed in my fuel belt.  I decided at that point that this race was going to be me, myself, & I.  I was going to find the power of ME!  My feet, my legs, my mind were going to get me through this.  My mental game had stepped up tremendously since Longhorn, my head was in it to win it!  I pushed on feeling a sense of accomplishment with every mile split.  Coachie was right, I CAN do this!

Mile 17 was the start of something special, and not in a good way!  It was a pleasant 2 mile out and back consisting of little rolling hills, concrete pavement, and NO shade.  The cloud coverage was sparse at this point and the sun was staring to rear its ugly head.  'Keep moving!  You feel strong!  Your race is just beginning!  You just got off your bike, time to RUN!'  About 1/2 mile after the turn around at mile 18, I saw Brian!  He was only slightly behind me and I willed him to catch up to me.  Then I saw Kris & Linda looking strong & fabulous in their Smash tri tops & Lulu skirts!  I completed the out & back feeling like I was fading, or rather melting, but I was still surprisingly keeping on pace.

At mile 20 I was still keeping with the plan, but it was time to throw down!  I knew a "faster" 10K was NOT going to happen at this point, so I went with plan B, hold my pace.  This lasted for ~1.5 miles.  'You feel great! Time to make it hurt! This feels JUST like Longhorn!'... that's when the tears almost started!  'No it doesn't... it feels JUST like IMTX!'  I had stopped sweating, I was getting goosebumps, I had been down this road before... and it was NOT pretty!  I wanted my bike Zion sooo badly at this point!  I had 5 miles to go, roughly an hour more, HOW was I going to get through this?!  By RUNNING!!!  I walked when I had to, but not more than I need, and I kept pushing a decent pace while I was running.  I also started pouring water over my head and arms to bring down my body temp.

Then finally, like a ray of light from the heavens... Loftin!  Brian had finally caught up to me around mile 23.5, just when I needed it... the power of WE!!! Together I knew I/ we could get through this!  We walked through one last water station at mile 24, fist pumped, and said let's do this!  The next 2.2 miles were run in silence, but no words were necessary to convey what we both knew we were going through!   The last home stretch lasted for- ever!  Finally, we crossed the finish line... D.O.N.E!  Amen!

We found a spot in the shade and waited for the rest of the crew to roll in.  Robert found us first & let us know that the race had been cut short due to record breaking heat.  Why didn't that surprise me?  I was right!  Flashbacks to IMTX!  We met up with Kris, then Orissa, and finally Linda who unfortunately ended up in medical tent, another flashback to IMTX!  We all hobbled to the buses to bring us back to the park & ride & all swore that we would NEVER do another stand alone 26.2... EVER!  Until the next coupon code... ;-)

p.s. NYC marathon 2010- 4:27:17... SARnR 2013- 4:25:16... 2 min PR!  I'll take it :-)

Monday, October 28, 2013

When All of the Stars Align on Race Day!

It wasn't until my conversation with Orissa on the car ride up to Austin that I realized, I haven't raced a 70.3 in over a year!  Kerrville 2012 was my last 70.3, with a time of 6:02.  I had a few goals in mind which I discussed with Coachie & Orissa & Brian to throw it out there and make it real.  My first goal was to PR, for the course and the distance.  Austin was my first 70.3 in 2011 with a time of 6:39.  I was pretty confident, unless something catastrophic occurred that I could beat that time.  So the real goal was to go under 6:02 for a distance PR.  Next, I set individual swim, bike, run goals. Swim- 33- 34min! I knew that was a stretch, but I felt confident because I had been watching my 100m pace drop since August.  Funny thing is that it took a herniated cervical disk in my neck to correct my form & force me to breathe bilaterally, hence faster times!  Bike- sub 3hrs.  I knew this was going to be a long shot because I was not happy with the course on our pre-ride.  Tons of potholes & chip seal, lots of headwind, & a few hills (not really, maybe slopes!)  Also, I wanted the focus of this race to be my run, so I was willing to hold back on the bike to make this happen.  Coachie killed that idea on our race prep chat!  She said go for it, but break it up into 20min intervals, just like training.  Run- sub 2hrs.  Again, a long shot.  My fastest stand alone 13.1 was 1:51, but add a swim & bike before it & I slowed down to 2:21!  I promised myself & everyone around me that I would force my nutrition down, even if they had to pin me down & squeeze it down my throat! This, I think would be the key to keeping my run alive!
Game day! Rain! Drizzle, but rain none the less! With occasional bolts of lightening!  Aye... we spent the better half of 2hrs. contemplating the possible outcomes. Are they going to cancel this swim?  Are they going to delay the start?  Can we just go home & back to bed?  In retrospect I really think it helped calm my nerves because we all just sat around waiting & talking.  Next thing we knew they were singing the Star Spangled Banner & the start gun went off for the Pros!  Alright, game on! The start was only delayed for 15min, so our swim start got pushed back to 8:25ish.
Kris, Orissa, & I made our way into the water, gave each other a fist pump & said have a great race!  And we're off!!!  Immediately, I was reminded of how much easier a wetsuit makes the swim!  Then I got pummeled in the face & brought back to reality!  One, two, three... Breathe!  OMG, this is MUCH easier in the pool without a million people creating a whirlpool and touching me!  I forced myself to get in my rhythm and swim my OWN race.  I sighted & counted the buoys the best I could, trying to swim the straightest line possible.  By the time I got to the first turn buoy I was feeling good, especially since I had already passed a green cap (the wave in front of us!).  Now it was starting to get a bit crowded.  I tried to not only spot the buoys, but to also spot a clearing to swim towards.  I noticed that the men I were passing were slower swimmers from the wave in front of us and were using a breaststroke kick occasionally to catch their breath. That meant a good chance of getting a strong kick to the face, ribs, or quads... neither of which I wanted!  I made my way to the last turn buoy & turned on the turbo boosters.  Let's bring it home!  I was starting to feel it in my breath, but Coachie always says to swim hard until the very end!  So I did!  One, two, three... Breathe! or Gasp!  I swam up until I only had to take two or three steps to get out of the water.  I ran for the timing mat, hit my Garmin & took a peek... 33:05!!! I internally screamed & may have accidentally let out an external "F, Yeah!"  As my dolphin fast friend, Linda, would say... SUPER STOKED!!!  As I ran up the hill to get my wetsuit stripped with adrenaline pumping, & now out of breath, I thought, Slow it down girl, you still have a race to get through!  I grabbed my wetsuit & took off again towards T1.  On the way I heard my Iron- friends Linda, Brian, Herbito, & Meagan cheering for me!  I gave them a HUGE smile and hand gestured 3-3!!!  Right as I entered T1, there was my ray of light... Allen, Aleina, & Ailani!!!  They made it!!! There is nothing better than seeing their smiling faces and hearing their cheers!  They followed me around the outside of the fence to where I was gearing up for my bike ride.  I was ecstatic telling Allen about my swim, I killed it!  Then Ailani looked at me very seriously (like she does) and says, Where's Orissa???  She's coming sweetheart!  Then we ran together along the fence to bike exit and said, See you in 3hrs... I hope!!! And I was off...
That's me in the orange cap to the right, along with four other color caps! (four wave starts ahead of me!)

I hit the bike mount line and tried to clip in... No go! Again... Nope!  Meanwhile, I was trying to weave & bob around everyone else trying to clip in and falling over!  The mud in T1 was stuck to everyone's cleats!  Ugghhh!!! I rode for the first mile or so with my left cleat unclipped.  As we rode by what would be the run course later they were announcing to pull over and have your cleats cleaned with a hose.  I thought, No way am I stopping... Figure it out!  I had already lost my Cateye (odometer) coming it of T1 and didn't stop for that ($100 down the drain), so I surely wasn't going to stop now.  I kept pedaling and finally settled in.  I didn't have my speed right in front of me, so I was just going by feel.  I knew the first 14mi would be the hardest elevation wise, with two other smaller climbs later on.  By mile 20 my legs were starting to fatigue and I thought, Oh, no... What have I gotten myself into?!?!  I had no idea what my speed was up until now, so all I could think of was that I just hammered it & wasn't going to have enough left to finish strong... Let alone run 13.1miles!  Then came the first decline in elevation... phew!!!  My legs got a much needed rest, but I was able to keep up the pace!  The rest of the ride kind of dragged, but I was able to keep the pressure on! Right before the end of the ride I took my gu that I had been saving for 2wks now... Salted caramel!  DELISH!  It should be called Dulce de Leche! Normally, I HATE gu's and they cause an immediate gag reflex.  This one I almost fell of my bike trying to scrape every last drop out!  Alright, my nutrition is on track, for once!  As I turned the last corner & saw T2 up ahead I decided to take a peek at my Garmin for my average pace... 19.6mph!!!  What the???  I didn't calculate in my head that that was sub 3hrs, but I was floored by the number alone!  I pedaled as hard as I could up until the dismount line, weaving around people who thought the bike was over 0.25mi ago.  I ran my bike into transition & wasn't sure what I had left in my legs for the run,  Yikes!!!

I quickly threw on my run gear & took off... for the port-o-potty,  Luckily it was inside of T2, because I wouldn't have stopped if it would have affected my run time... OCD, I know!  Right out of transition I saw my Iron-friends, this time joined by Shelly & Patrick!!! Yeah!!! I rubbed Shelly's belly for good luck (she's 8mo pregnant w/ baby Liam!), got my high fives from the rest & took off!!!  My goal was for negative splits on 3 laps, so when my first mile split on my Garmin read 8:23, I thought, Whoa, sailor! Slow your roll!!!  I got into a comfortable cruise pace & tried to hold steady.  I saw Coachie around mile 2 and with a huge smile yelled, I had a 33min swim!!! A man in front of me commented he was impressed with my enthusiasm, I told him I hope to have the same enthusiasm about my run!  By mile 4 I saw Orissa & Kris, they both looked great & strong!  The good thing about loop runs is that you know exactly when & where you will see your friends racing and spectating.  So for the last two laps I had something to look forward to & knew where.  Finishing my first lap I saw Lexa & Jamie & their crazy costumed Alamo 180 group, this time joined by 2 new young recruits & Allen!!!  Ailani sprayed me with a squirt gun & Aleina blared an air horn at me! They loved every second of it!!!  The second lap I tried to push a little harder.  I thought a lot about these "hills" we were running and how two years ago I had to walk up each one.  Not this time, I was determined to run the whole 13.1, with exception of a few water stops.  I can't drink & run, it just leads to choking!  Lap 3 came quickly and I was ready to make it hurt!  I saw Orissa & told her the same.  I believe her reply was, It already does!  At mile 11 I glanced at my Garmin which read 1:38.  2.1 miles to go... I can do this in under 22min for a sub 2hr goal!  Get it!!!  Mile 12,  1:47... Make... It... Hurt!!!  As I entered the finishers shoot, a right hand turn as opposed to another left hand turn, finally... I heard Coachie yelling to me to finish strong, pick my head up, pull my shoulders back, open up my rib cage, dig deep... OMG, Coachie!!! That's a lot of info you're throwing at me and I can't really think straight right now, but OK!!!  Then I saw Allen & the girls one more time!!! Then my Iron- friends!!! Then.... finally... The Finish Line!!! 1:54 run!!! Goal... Check!

I walked my way to my Iron-friends, picking up my 10lb medal & a water on the way.  I hit reset on my Garmin for the big reveal... 5:26!!!  Wait, WHAT?!?!?  NO WAY!!!  I had no idea that I was even capable of throwing down those numbers!!!  I was floored!!!
So this is what the perfect race day feels like, the kind that you piece together in your head, but never expect it to be a reality... Perfect weather; wetsuit swim, cool water; little to no wind on the bike & overcast, the potholes from the pre-ride were filled in so the roads were slightly more favorable;  cool temps for the run, still overcast.  Nutrition was spot on, nothing upsetting your stomach; being able to drink & take gu's as planned without nausea or gagging.  No technical issues like a flat tire, of which there were MANY!!!  All in all, I truly can say I had the perfect race and once again I am reminded of why I LOVE triathlon!
Smashing Finish!!!
(I didn't notice that guy until I nearly landed on him!)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I feel the need... the need for SPEED!!!

After IMTX my new goal became to work on my speed.  I refuse to say that I had a "bad" race at IMTX because there is no such thing, but I do feel that I could do better... minus the heat exhaustion!  Training for an Ironman was a lot different than training for a sprint, olympic, or even a half Ironman.  My focus had switched from speed to endurance, which meant my training times were a tad slower than I was use to.  So after sitting down with Coachie & planning my life after Ironman, we decided that Longhorn 70.3 will be my next A race, with a few Olympic tri's before that to amp up my speed.  I told Allen my new goal & he told me I needed to visualize speed, feel speed around me, and be speed!  He may have regretted that advice because for the past few weeks I have been like a crack addict, speed freak, focusing on all things... FAST!!! :-)  It worked though:

First came Tri for Old Glory, an Olympic distance, in San Marcos.  I had sat on the idea of registering for a while, being that none of my Iron-Whiners were doing it too.  The weekend before was Buffalo Springs 70.3, a super hot & tough course that Kris & Dawn were racing.  I virtually cheered for them all day watching them CRUSH the course & setting PRs!  Well, that's all it takes to get pumped up and sign up for a race of your own.  That day I bit the bullet and signed up for Tri for Old Glory, alone!  Race morning came & I drove out to San Marcos, alone.  I set up my gear in transition, a strange feeling because I had not done a race with a true transition in a long time.  Ironman races give you bags that you prepare & drop off the night before.  I looked to my left & looked to my right, no familiar bikes racked next to me, that's ok.  Then like a ray of light from the heavens, I saw a brand spanking new CervĂ©lo, similar to mine... Denise!!!  I was so excited to see a familiar face!  She introduced me to her friend Anita who was also racing & we chatted & passed the time until it was time to start the swim.
Transition piled into my helmet due to ants!
Denise & I & our beautiful bikes!
My age group was the second group in the water, time trial start.  Coachie had given us all a pep talk about how she had won her age group at Buffalo Springs, mainly on the swim.  So keeping that in mind I left it all out there.  It was an out and back swim with buoys to our left.  About half way out I took a left at one of the buoys and then realized there was no one in front of me. Yikes!  I turned at the wrong buoy!  Luckily, I had only taken a stroke or two before I realized I was not at the turn around yet!  I got back on course and kept the pressure on.  I remembered reading on Hillary's blog once that it is the athletes responsibility to know the course.  Mental note to self, this includes the swim course!  As I rounded the last buoy I spotted the swim exit and gave it all I had.  I noticed a lot of people breaststroking their way out of the water, not me!  I heard Coachie's voice telling me to push until the end.  Finally, my hand touched the bottom and I knew it was time to stand up & exit.

I got on my bike and put the pressure on!  A mile into the course, chip seal... yuck!  Oh well, you get what you get & you don't throw a fit!  Keep pedaling... hard!  I had put a lot of thought into my water bottle situation and asked my friends for their advice the night before.  I decided to go with one bottle & to freeze half of it the night before, hoping it would melt but still be cold by  the time I got on my bike.  At mile 4, I reached back for a drink; Ahhhh, cool & refreshing!  As I went to put it back, pot hole!  I Jack Motted my bottle of Infinit!!!  I quickly tapped my breaks, then thought, "Hell, NO!"  19 miles to go and now I have NO reason to get out of aero position!  Stay down & pedal on!  I thought about asking fellow riders for some water as I passed them, but wasn't sure how well that would have been received.  Around mile 19, the first female passed me going up a slight incline.  It was Anita!  "Go, Anita!"  This is where doing my homework had paid off.  I knew the last 3-4miles on the bike elevation map were downhill, so I thought "Get on her wheel & don't let go!"  Much to my surprise we rode into transition together.

I quickly threw on my running shoes, which had speed laces on them now ;-) and headed out on the run.  As I was leaving transition, I saw Anita out of the corner of my eye still by her bike.  I took off at a decent pace, trying to keep the gas on, as Coachie tells us.  At the first water station I saw Kelly who was volunteering.  She yelled to me that I was in first place and to keep it up!  I knew I wasn't in first, but wanted to at least keep my position.  Anxiety kept building as I kept waiting for Anita to pass me by.  I don't like the feeling of being chased, so this made me mentally stronger.  And in her defense, Anita was just coming back from injury & was not 100%.  I saw Denise on a few of the turn arounds as well & her beaming smile energized me.  By the second lap I felt slow as molasses and wanted to walk just a little bit.  I looked down at my Garmin after much resistance & realized I was at a much faster pace than expected.  Alright, let's finish this, I can keep this up until the finish.  Second place in my age group, but more importantly a 14min PR for the Olympic distance!

Next came Marble Falls, Spri-lympic, not quite an Olympic distance, the swim was only 1000m & the run was 4.4mi.  Team Alvarez was back in action & Team Loftin was in as well, along with Denise.  Something about knowing that you have friends out on the course suffering with you makes it a little more enjoyable.  I had set a few goals for this race: 1) to catch Brian on the swim.  His wave went off 3min. before Orissa & mine.  2) to hold Denise off for as long as I could.  Her wave went off 6min after ours. 3) because it was a short race... Balls to the Wall!!!

Orissa, Karen, Kevin, & Michelle
Team Alvarez
The swim was great to was a mass start by age group.  Orissa & I made our way into the water and I quickly got a front & left position in order to hug the buoys.  I yelled to Orissa to get on my feet, then Boom!... it was Go Time!  I got into my rhythm and tried to keep the pressure on.  I learned from the previous tri to know your swim route!  I counted the buoys while still on land so I wouldn't have any doubt where the turn around was.  I passed the first blue cap (men's wave before us) before I got to the turn around buoy.  The whole way back I tried to sight the next buoy and the next blue cap I was going to pass.  I swam full throttle until the very end until my hand touched bottom & I knew I could stand & run!  I ran up the delightful hill that brought us to transition & ran to my bike rack.  First thing I noticed was Brian's bike (with his mini American flag)!  My first thought was "I hope Brian's ok!"  My next thought was "Did I really beat him out of the water?"  Goal #1, check!

I grabbed my bike & took off as fast as I could.  I knew now that the next goal was to hold him off on the bike as long as I could!  That didn't last long, by mile 2 or 3 I heard him coming up behind me, "Go, Aixa!"  I tried to grab onto his wheel but that only lasted until the next hill.  At the turn around I saw Orlando & was energized by his cheers!  On the way back I saw and cheered for Orissa, Karen, Michelle, & Kevin... all wearing Smash!  How could you miss those beauties!?  The course was tough with some good climbs and even better descents.  I rolled into transition, grabbed my shoes and took off.

It was hot & my legs were feeling the effects of the tough bike course.  I tried to keep the pressure on as best I could, but I felt like I was fading.  About half way through I saw Brian already on his way back, he looked super strong & gave me a burst of energy.  On the homestretch I saw Orissa and gave her a weak Holla!  Brian was waiting for us at the last turn.  He yelled to me that the finish was just around the corner after those trees!  What he failed to mention (purposely, I'm sure) was the nasty little hill we had to beast up to reach the finish.  I pumped my arms as best I could to get up the hill and... D.O.N.E.!  Somehow that 4.4mi run seemed 10x harder than the 6.2mi I had done a few weeks before.  I assume the bike had taken a lot out of my legs.  Regardless, I was super excited with a 1st place age group finish!

The following day Allen & I took off for a week long of rest & relaxation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica! :-)


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Feelin' the Love @ a 5K!

My last 5k was in May of 2011 with my speedy friend Janet.  When we finished the race I vaguely remember a vow saying we'd never pay to run anything less than a 13.1!  Running snobs, I know!  Well, once again, never say never came back to bite me.  When Kris & Shelly mentioned they were doing a 5K for work AND it was going to be in my backyard, I said cool... I'M IN! We had originally planned on bandit-ing the race, the Iron-whiners, but then I realized how "un-cool" Kris & Shelly would look at work Monday morning having showed up with a bunch of friends to SMASH a 5K.  Under false pretenses; I thought the race benefitted Kris & Shelly's work, not that they were doing it as a team building exercise FOR work; I paid my $40 and signed up to run in my backyard!

I had a bit of a different Sunday long run on my plan.  I was suppose to do 4mi race pace (I assume not 5K race pace, but that's ok!) followed by 4mi cruise in the afternoon.  What?, who wants to get sweaty twice?!  So I ran ~2mi from my house to the race & met Kris & Shelly there.  It's been awhile since we've all been together, Shelly is 19wks pregnant, YAY!  We stood around for a little bit and got our race instructions, then Kris & I went out for a 1mi warm up.  We talked about our "game plan".  Kris' goal was to crush some co-workers!  She pointed them out, so I had their numbers too!  My game plan was to barrel it down the hill & try to save some to make it back up at the end!  In all fairness, I felt like I had a home court advantage.  We were running the same course which included my 0.25mi hill repeat workout.  I've done this hill 10x at once, this time will only be once, but it will feel like #9... You GOT this!

3miles done for warm up... Now it's GO time!  We didn't toe the line, so we were weaving and bobbing initially.  I finally found my pace and went for it.  I was feeling comfortable the first 1.5mi, mainly because it was downhill and then flat! A little after the turn around, which was literally my backyard, I saw Kris, she was right on my tail as we had planned!  She yelled at me to run faster, I was in second place!  What? Really?... so that lady 10ft in front of me must have been first!  Do I go for it?  Do I hold back a bit and save it for the hill?  I don't know, I've never led a race before!  Let's go for it!!! I picked up my pace enough to pass her & tried to hold my lead.  I've never liked the feeling of chasing anyone or being chased, I like to run my own race, which is a lot easier when you're in the middle of the pack.  Time to step up!

Right before I got to the hill, I felt and hear something that would make Kris cringe!  My shoelace came untied!  Immediately I thought, Kris would KILL me if I stopped to tie it... especially in a race!  It has happened multiple times on training runs, to which Kris would yell at me, "That's ridiculous! I'm not stopping!" ;-).  So I kept running.  I was even imagined myself sprinting for the finish line with one shoe flying off!  I guess in a way it helped a little because I was half way up the hill already & wasn't even thinking about it.  Still in first place, I heard a sweet little voice behind me, "You can stop and tie your shoelace, if you want!"  "No, that's ok!", I replied.  "No, really, it's unsafe!  I will stop with you!"  WHAT?!  I didn't know what to make of it!  So, I quickly stopped, tied my shoelace & said, "Thank you, let's finish this together!"

For a moment my heart melted at the show of camaraderie I had just witnessed!  Usually in triathlons, we are fighting for dear life trying to stay out of DB age groupers way, who will knock you off your bike and keep going!  But the race was not over yet, no time to get sappy now!  We continued along side of each other for a little bit until she said, "Go ahead!"  That was my cue to wrap it up, I knew the finish was around the corner.  I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face & a warm feeling in my heart!

After the race, I introduced myself to my new found hero, who's 9y/o son had won his age group!  For me, THIS is what "racing" is all about!  Bringing people together from all walks, (or runs,) of life; for one main goal... to be healthy!  First place or last place we all showed up & got our groove on!!!  First thing that I did when I got home was tell my daughters how this "competition" turned into a show of friendship & caring!  These are the hidden lessons that I want my children to thrive from!