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??? :-)