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!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Ironman, the aftermath...

Everyone always warns you, but just like in training, you won't actually know until you are there.  Well, I am definitely "there", post-Ironman boredom!  Some have actually called it a depression, but luckily I haven't sank that low.  The week following the race I followed a structured "cool down" plan, an easy swim 2x, an easy run 3x, and an easy 45min ride.  Then my plan ended.
Monday came and I checked workout log.  I knew I hadn't paid my coach, so I didn't actually expect a plan to be there.  I remember saying during Ironman training that once this was all over I was going to take a whole month off.  OK, well the time has come & I can only stand 1 week!  I'm itching to workout, but forcing myself to take a mental break.  In the meantime, I've been entertaining myself with other activities such as shopping, getting my car washed, organizing the girls dresser drawers, lunch with my ladies, anything to get my mind off of swim, bike, run.  By Tuesday I had already texted Coachie, "Help! I'm bored!"  Of course, she reassured me that this was all part of the journey & my body needed to recover, all things that I knew, but didn't relieve the itch.
Today we had lunch and planned out my triathlon future & discussed all things glorious about triathlon!  Now I'm back to feeling normal, with butterflies in my stomach, thinking what am I getting myself into next!  Ahhh... the journey continues...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I AM an IRONMAN! :-)

As I bask in the glow of this that they call Ironman, I finally understand a lot of the lessons I learned along they way.  When I crossed the finish line and heard those words I had been waiting to here for almost 6 months now, I didn't feel like I had reached the finish; I felt like I was passing through the golden gates and entering into a very prestigious club and it was just a mere milestone along my Ironman journey.

Race weekend started on Thursday when Kris, Robert, & I headed to the Woodlands for packet pick up and the athlete's dinner.  In similar fashion with any other ride, run, or event during the season, we were matchy matchy all the way.  Linda & Jenny met us at the hotel & together the four of us went together to make it official... #314 in da houzzz!!!  Walking around the expo we were called out for our matching outfits and asked to be interviewed for YouTube Ironman AG  That night we attended the athletes dinner and met up with a HUGE San Antonio crowd!  This just got even better!!!

Friday we went to Lake Woodlands for a practice swim.  The temperature was perfect and at that point it think it was still wetsuit legal.  It was until race morning that it was officially announced that the swim was wetsuit optional with a 10min penalty.  I practiced a little sighting and also drafting off of Jenny's feet.  Being that visibility was close to zero, I instinctively turned to tactile drafting, I was feeling with my hands the bubbles from her feet.  Cool.  After our swim, we went back to the hotel and gathered our belongings for bike & gear check-in.  After check-in we headed to Lululemon for a little retail therapy to calm our nerves, and also because we had heard that all of the athletes names participating in IMTX were on the window.

Race morning came early, alarm went off at 3:45am, but I had already been up multiples times looking at the clock.  It's game day!!!  Robert dropped Kris & I in front of transition and we went in to drop off our nutrition, air up our tires, and make sure everything was in its proper place.  Then we started the mile walk to the swim start.  Here we met up with Orissa & Brian, Shelly & Patrick, Herb, Heather; Hooray, all of the Iron-Whiners were here!  Next thing I knew we were being herded into the water to start treading water.  Kris & I let Linda go on ahead, she was vying for a front row spot!  Kris & I finally got in and tried to find an open area.  We gave each other one last hug and said have a wonderful race day!  BOOM!  GO TIME!

SWIM- 2.4 miles
I tried to stay in the open area that Kris & I had wiggled into before the start.  I tried to settled into my stroke as fast as I could.  I tried sighting the buoys a few times and realized that was going to be impossible.  From then on I sighted on the flow of traffic.  I'm pretty sure I was swimming all over the course because of this, but I'll never know because my Garmin got kicked into T2 20min into the swim.  Luckily, I had a great swim in the sense that I did not get beat up, have my googles knocked off, or get swam over.  I took the turn into the canal, the final 900m stretch, and it occurred to me that I was almost done with the first leg of my first Ironman, it was actually unfolding before me.  As I approached the finish I had no idea where it was, left or right?; 100m or 200m?  Finally, I was about 15m from the swim exit and I saw that arch on my left.  I exited the swim with a HUGE smile, DONE!

T1- 6:18
I quickly grabbed my bike gear bag and ran for the changing tent.  I was ready for some intense pampering from all that I had heard, they will put your shoes on, have them help you with your cool wings, I even heard horror of volunteers offering to put on chamois cream.  "I need help!", I yelled as I ran into transition, just as I had been instructed to by Coachie!  Great, a volunteer came over to me and stood in front of my chair and... dumped out my bag in front of me!  I started to grab my things and put them on myself and finally asked, "could you help me with my cool wings?" I stood up and she held them out as if slipping on a silk robe!  Are you serious?  I forced my still wet arm into the sleeves and left them all wrinkled.  "My shoes! I need my shoes!" Hoping she would put them on me, all she did was move them closer to me.  OK, thanks for your help... I got it from here!  I ran to my bike still fixing my cool wings and shaking my head... not the royal treatment I had imagined.

BIKE- 112 miles
I ran to the bike mount line and hopped on my bike.  As I started pedaling, I saw Allen with Ailani on his shoulders & Aleina at his side.  I gave Allen a quick high five and yelled a quick "I LOVE you guys!"  It was time to settle in and get comfortable.  I had already been warned by Coachie that I needed to go out "crazy, stupid, slow."  The first 20miles flew by, I remember looking at my Garmin and thinking it's already been an hour!  I stopped at mile 30 to get some water and mix my Infinit bottles.  I headed back out very impressed with the ride so far.  There had been a nice tailwind, the roads were smooth like butter, and the heat was fairly tolerable... at that point!  The next time I checked my Garmin was at 56miles, 2:58!  I was a little nervous that I had gone out too fast, but I felt fine and just thanked the tailwind.  The second half was a combination of crosswind & head wind, but I had ridden Castroville plenty of times and every time there was some sort of wind, I got this!  I remember approaching a righthand turn and seeing a little boy on the corner holding a flag, it was standing sharp at attention!  Headwind... here we go!  I buckled down and broke it down into 10mile sections.  I stopped at mile 90 for a quick pee break & hopped back on to finish the ride.  The last 2miles dragged on, as they always do when you are praying for T2.  I hit the dismount line and jumped off my bike with a HUGE smile, DONE!

As I headed for my run gear bag, a volunteer called out for my helmet & shoes.  I clipped off my helmet and handed it to them, but kept my shoes on.  I was too tired to take them off standing, I would later find out that was a wise choice.  My friend Jeff & about 300 others who did take their shoes off ended up with 2nd degree burns to the bottoms of their feet from the heated pavement!  I ran into the changing tent expecting to do everything myself again.  Luckily, my volunteer was a lot more helpful this time.  I quickly geared up for the marathon that faced me.  I looked up for a split second and saw Linda exiting the tent.  I yelled, "Linda!" and my volunteer asked, "Do you want me to go get her?", "YES!"  I ran out of T2 and couldn't believe it, I was about to start the run with my training partner for the past 6mo!  This is AWESOME!

RUN- 26.2 miles
We started the run & quickly exchanged stories of how our day had been going.  Neither of us had seen Kris at that point in the race yet and just wanted to know if she was onto the run... that meant she was off the bike!  We ran the first mile or so together and then Linda went on ahead.  I was trying to take it all in as I ran/ walked the first lap.  It was actually happening, I was becoming an Ironman!  I completed the first lap at a decent pace being that I still had my cycling legs, but by then second lap, I was a runner.  I started to feel really good and was in a good  rhythm.  I caught up to Linda and ran/ walked for a bit.  She looked like she was hurting at this point, a look I would soon see in myself!  But since I was feeling good I ran on ahead.  Again, I thought, I am on my second lap, one more lap until I am an Ironman.  I got this!  Lap three... THIS is what becoming an Ironman is all about!!!  Nausea, dizziness, lack of sweat... Uh, Oh... I know exactly what is happening here and it's too late to fix it!  Heat exhaustion was setting in!  The last few people I remember seeing before "the bridge" were Marco & a little further down was Patrick, Linda's husband.  I knew my race was taking a turn, when I heard them cheering and I could barely usher a smile.  I tried running because it had felt so great a little while ago... not anymore!  I made it to the bridge just in time to stand on the edge and lean over!  Vomiting!  I was hoping to get it all out, feel better, and keep running!  I had seen a sign earlier that had made me laugh, which had just become me: PUKE & RALLY!  I tried to rally, but it only made me more dizzy & nauseous.  I looked at my watch and I knew that if I walked I would still make it home by midnight.  That's when the switch got flipped into survival mode and I just needed to keep moving forward.  A couple of people tried to pick me up and get me to run with them when they heard it was my last lap, but I gracefully declined.  Mostly because I didn't want to puke all over my new found friend who was only trying to help.  With about 5 miles to go, I saw Roland!  I knew he HAD to have been struggling because he had started the race having had food poisoning a few days before.  Yikes!  We walked together and tried to keep each others minds occupied by talking as we kept making forward progress.  We also picked up Jeff along the way and walked a bit with him.  Jeff had the misfortune of burning his feet on the hot asphalt when he transitioned from bike to run.  I remember at one point I told Roland my husband's info was on my Road ID band in case anything happened, like passing out, I've been known to do that.  He reassured me I would be fine and he would see me cross the finish.  We had just finished the last 0.5mile out & back when we saw Kris!  The first time ALL day that I had seen Kris!  I told her I was hurting, she said she was too, but she looked great and strong!  Roland & I kept walking and as I approached the finishers shoot I saw a bench!  I need to sit on that bench!  Roland disapproved immediately, but I PROMISED him I would get up!  I took what seemed 30sec. to breathe and stretch a bit.  Then I got up, "Let's DO THIS!"  As we started to run into the finishers shoot, Kris came running up behind us... "Let's FINISH THIS!"  "YES!", I screamed, "Let's FINISH THIS!"  6 months of training and working together towards the same goal, our first Ironman finish!!!  And we were going to get to finish TOGETHER!!!  We gave high fives and hugs in the finishers shoot to family & friends.  Kris had to slow me down and tell me to take it all in!  Then what we heard next was never what we had imagined in a million years... Aixa Alvarez AND Kristina Cordova... YOU'RE IRONMEN!!!

T3- medical tent
I had already decided when I started vomiting that I would be going straight to the medical tent for an IV after I finished.  But what happened next was a whirlwind!  Kris & I crossed the finish line, gave a HUGE hug, smiled for a picture, and then... more vomiting!  I tried to make it to a corner and not puke on anyone, Kris thanked me later!  Next thing I knew I was sitting in a wheelchair and being escorted by Heather & Omar to the medical tent.  Along the way I saw Coachie!  I gave her a quick thumbs up & told her I'll be right back.  Then I saw Allen & the girls!  I tried to smile my best, so that he would know I was ok!  He gave me a look that said I am so proud of you, then a quick sneer that said why are you hurting the woman I love!  As I entered the medical tent, I immediately thought, Wow, this IS all it was talked up to be!  The first room was filled with people in chairs icing knees, taping blisters, etc.  The second room was twice the size and filled with stretchers and IV poles and it was FULL!  They quickly drew labs and asked a few questions, including if I had urinated on the run... yikes, NO!  My creatinine was 2.1, yikes! Acute renal failure!  The rest of my labs were surprisingly good, my sodium was 140, normal.  That told me I did good with the salt tabs, but not enough water!  Lesson learned.  I sat back and chatted with the girl next to me about her race while my IV finished.  I exited the medical tent and there was my family waiting for me with open arms!  NOW my IRONMAN was complete!  WE did it!!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Camp Day #4... finally too!

Day #4... another 7am start, but today it was for my favorite... a RUN; yet not... a TRAIL run!  I have NEVER trail ran, except for maybe a small of road portion at the Kerrville Tri.  I was slightly nervous because we had already decided 1:4 will fall... who was it going to be Kris, Linda, Herb, or myself?  Nobody wanted to take one for the team!

Once again, we were split up in groups.  Hillary's team consisted of Linda, Kris, Marc, Kate, Susan, & myself.  I started out on Hillary's heels, mimicking every step she took, yet leaving enough room between us that I could see where my feet needed to go.  WOW, this takes focus and concentration, but once I got the hang of it... it was kinda fun!

Well, for the first 2hrs at least.  By then, Linda had stepped up... and took one for the team!  Ouch!  I put my Dr. hat on and cleaned her up really quick, scrubbing some rock pieces out with water.  She wasn't my biggest fan at the time, but she thanks me now... ouch!  And like a true trooper, Linda headed back out with the team to finish up the run.  It was around the 2hr mark that I remember Hillary pointing out the JW Marriott (near our casitas) and then we continued running... AWAY from them!  Aye!  3 1/2hrs later our run was over... and so was camp! ;-(  We DID IT... We SURVIVED Camp!!!

Camp Day 3... finally :-)

 Day #3 started off bright and early... again... at 7am!  The mornings in Tucson were pretty chilly, so the idea of getting in the pool... again... was less than appealing, even to Linda, the human fish.  We made our way down the to pool, and assumed our respective lanes.  Kris, Taryn, & I got to chase each others feet again, if you ask us, we could probably go into pretty deep detail after 3 days :-)  Luckily, this was more of a technique swim and was a pretty short set.  Good thing, because afterwards we saddled up to ride Mt. Lemmon!
We parked our cars and started the ride up the access road towards Mt. Lemmon.  Our group consisted of Hilary, Kris, Linda, Taryn, Kate, & myself... Smashing Girls!!!  This had been the ride we had all been waiting for.  Listed amongst the most epic bike rides in the US, with a 27 mile climb at about 5% grade, this was going to be one for the books!  I knew it was going to be a challenge, I knew it was going to burn... constantly, I knew there was only one way up & no way to get out... so time to pedal... and pedal... and pedal!!!  But what I also knew was that at the top awaited the prize of all prizes, the infamous, the coveted, the most ginormous cookie I had ever seen in pics... and I was going to ride to one!!!  After miles and miles of changing scenery; from rock formations, to cactus, to pine trees, and finally snow, we made it to The Cookie Cabin!!!  We made it!!!


The decent was #2 on my list of things I looked forward to.  After we threw on a few layers that we had sent up in the SAG, we were ready for our decent.  I tried to take in the scenery, as I had on the way up, but it wasn't as easy.  Especially since Hillary had explained to us on day #1 that on the bike, you look where you need to go... so don't be looking over the cliff! ;-)  I did stop a few times to get some pics, but that rest of the time was flying downhill!!!  I hit 42mph... the fastest I have EVER gone!  

 That night Hillary & Maik were gracious enough to host a dinner at their house, where we met Sam McGlone, a longtime friend & kick ass Ironman champion, like Hillary!  Sam is now in her first year of medical school, so we got along right off the bat :-)  After dinner & a Q&A session with the Pro's, Hillary lead us to the mecca... Smash Warehouse!  The girls, quickly swiped up TONS of smash gear... and we even convinced the men to rock the Smash!  And ROCK it, they did!!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tucson Tri Camp- Day #2

I woke up this morning getting mentally prepared by convincing myself that nothing happened yesterday and today was a new day!  Gates Pass with McCain Loop AND 100 x 100 swim!  No sweat... :-o
As we rolled out from the casitas, we all left in groups: the A group, the Gold group, and the #1 group... I was in the Gold group along with Kris, Linda, Jeff, Taryn, and Kate, lead by Coach Doug.  We quickly renamed our group the Golden Girls and headed out.  Immediately, a certain part of my body jumped off the seat... What are you doing here again!?!?!?  I can't remember the last time I had rode my bike two days... in a row!  To my surprise, unlike yesterday's ride, we took a left out of the development and... time to climb!  What???  Don't I get a few miles to warm up my legs?... Oh, this IS our warm up! We headed up towards Gates Pass & at about 6mi hit the outlook to which we would decent on the other side and ride McCain loop. But before I reached the top, we had a pile up! As we were climbing Kris noticed Taryn was still in her big chain, beast!  She later told us she likes to keep it in the big chain as long as possible & use the small chain as a "treat"!  Well, I guess it was dessert time at the top of the climb!  Taryn switched from big chain to little chain mid-climb & dropped her chain! Kris was behind her & was able to clip out and stop, Linda was behind Kris and moved quickly to the left, I came up behind Kris and slammed on my breaks!  The next 3 seconds went like this, in slow motion: WTF?!, Brake!, rear wheel lifted in the air!, stalled out on my front wheel! (which seemed like 1 minute), and slowly tipped to the right!  I did a quick 1 sec. inventory to assess any injuries... I was fine.  Then I looked to the right... hmmm, that could have been a lot worse.  We had been climbing with a cliff to our right and LOTS of cactus! Yikes!  Luckily, I did not become a pin cushion & continued our ride.  Good thing, because the next part of the ride was my fave!  McCain loop was a beautiful 4mile stretch of some rolling hills and a few small climbs, surrounded by gorgeous views!  Now, the hard part, climbing back up the steep 0.5mi hill we had descended to get to the loop.  My legs were spent from day 2 of riding, but there was no way around it... literally!  I breasted up the hill the best I could; sitting, standing, sitting, standing... DONE!  I'm pretty sure I yelled out a dying animal noise when I reached the top & quickly hugged Kris & Linda who also were beaming at their accomplishment!  We even got a shout out from our Coach Doug on how well we all ride together! Blush!!!
The ride back to the casitas was glorious and downhill... until we were turning onto our street! I was riding on Linda's wheel a little to close and swerved to miss some gravel... Oh, hello pavement, fancy meeting you again!  A little less than slow motion: I fell to the left, clipped out quickly, and tucked & rolled, and popped back up onto my feet!  Hanging my head in shame, I picked up my bike & tried to scrape my ego off the pavement, the only thing that got hurt! And to add salt to the open wound, I hear Hillary yelling from the car riding behind us, Are you OK?  Wow, nice, I really just fell in front of Hillary... I'll go hide under a rock now!!!

We made it back to the casita, showered up quickly and got into the caravan to Sunnyside pool where  we were going to tackle Hillary's fave 100 x 100!!!  My longest swim to date had been 4100yd, so to tackle 10,000yd was going to be a huge challenge!  Well, that's what I came to camp for, so let's do this!  We got our workout which included 15 x 100 warmup, 30 x 100 swim, 200 easy kick, 20 x 100 buoy band,  20 x 100 PBB, 12 x 100 swim, 100 cool down!  Kris started out leading the lane for 15 x 100, Hillary had told us to alternate leading our lane, which consisted of the two of us and Taryn.  After the first set I got nervous, it was my turn to lead.  Kris had warned me a while ago about being lane leader and all of the pressure involved in counting laps, yikes! So I knocked out the set of 30 & was feeling great.  Kris asked me if I wanted to keep on leading, um ok?! The next 5500 went by fairly quickly, all things considered.  We were at a public pool, so I was thoroughly entertained by the kids jumping off the high dive, a scuba diver, and other kids fooling around in the shallow end.  Between 6500- 8500, I started to get really cold.  I could feel my lips turning blue, as they usually do whenever I am down too long scuba diving.  Finally, we were done!  Taryn & I decided to celebrate with a jump off the high dive.  I hadn't done it since college, but I was so elated that I threw a 1.5 in pike position off the high dive! WooHoo!  Day #2... in the books!