Friday, August 7, 2015

I'm only happy when it rains: An Ironman Canada Race Report.

I'm only happy when it rains. I'm only happy when it's complicated. -- Garbage

Speaking of complicated: notice my use of the metric system throughout this post. Not only did I do an Ironman, but I learned math. 

The weather report was not ideal: there was great potential for 50F, 10C temperatures and a downpour during Ironman Canada. The Whistler area had been plagued with fires (poor air quality) and hot weather in the weeks leading up to the race, so I was grateful for cooler air. Fortunately, I had packed some extra gear, and was ready to spend some extra time in transitions to change into dry clothes. I borrowed some thicker arm warmers and shoe covers from super-Sherpa Kathy.

Assessing the situation before the swim start.
Swim: The swim was in Alta Lake - fresh water and about 21C, 70F. The weather didn't affect my swim because no matter what, it was wet! The only part of the swim that worried me was the mass start and where to position myself among 1,600 other athletes. I picked the back-to-mid right side of the pack. I didn't want to be all the way in the back, but I was willing to swim a little extra to the right of the buoys in order to maintain sanity.

The rest of the swim I tried to maintain a very zen-like state. When I felt like I was losing my focus, I tried to draft for awhile, or would pick a swim focus between each set of buoys. (Between this set, I'll think about relaxing my head, next set I'll think about reaching, next set I'll think about pulling, etc..)

There is a point in every swim over one mile where I think, "Geez, am I done yet?" I thought this would happen after the first lap, but instead of being negative I thought, "This is going to be the longest swim you've ever done - good job!"

My worst fears 1.) total panic, and 2.) being kicked in the face, didn't happen.

A 1:23 swim time made me happy. I would have been happy with 1:30, or even 1:40. I just wanted to get on my bike!

Pleased with swim time.
T1: Transition #1 was long because I decided to change most of my clothes and put on dry capris, a bike jersey (with my nutrition in it), a vest, arm warmers, full gloves, and socks. Oh yeah, I also grabbed the wrong transition bag and had to run back out to return it and grab the correct bag. Sorry, #609, I hope you found your stuff ok. :)

At least there was no lighting!
Bike: This is Ironman. It's not supposed to be easy. So, the rain was going to make it more difficult. So what? Just keep pedaling!

My heart rate was off the charts for the first 10 minutes - about 170 or so. I knew I needed to settle in and just enjoy the journey as much as possible in the pouring rain. My shoes were drenched in the first 30 minutes. My arm warmers were drenched at about 60 km. I had to keep my body temperature up!

Luckily the first hill was early into the ride, which kept me warm to some extent. There were many athletes coasting on the downhills, but I took the advice of my coach who says to keep pedaling, even when breaking. This kept my body temperature up on the downhill, and shielded my legs from lactic acid build up. Thankfully, I also enjoy downhill sections and didn't feel out of control descending, even on the wet roads. I passed A LOT of people going downhill because I refused to stop pedaling. I was a pedaling machine.

Pedal smooth up.
Pedaling down.
Pedal all day.
Pedal to the metal.
Pedals and pearls.

The rain caused two rivers of water on the road, so you had to make the decision to swim on one side or the other - or you'd just get yourself (and the person behind you) wet. No one wanted to be up on someone's wheel when they are spitting water back at you, so drafting didn't seem to be a problem.

Passing through Whistler was fun with the crowds of happy, soaked, cheering Canucks. I got a glimpse of Marek and Brian standing in the wet (bless 'em). About half way through the course though, I worried that if it kept raining, I would be completely soaked and very uncomfortable. Fortunately, as we approached Pemberton, the rain subsided.

I decided that I would stay at a low heart rate at the TT portion beyond Pemberton and save myself for the final climbing section, and the marathon. I stayed below 150, closer to 145 and still felt like I made good time through the flat section. I also felt like I had enough time to stop at the port-o-potty. My coach believes you should just pee on your bike, and that's fine. But she never said anything about #2 on your bike - and I was wet enough already.

I saw Deirdre after she had turned around from the out and back at Pemberton. She was "faffing" with her watch, but looked strong. I timed myself from the location where I spotted her and figured 20-25 minutes behind SpeeDee was fine with me!

The climbs out of Pemberton were not as nasty as I imagined. Instead of a steady climb, there were three or four moderate climbs with some downhill and flat sections between. Another cyclist commented, "There shouldn't be many more of these - we are running out of kilometers!" Right he was.

About seven salty balls got me through the bike. Nom, nom, nom.

Grab bag! Go! Sun is shining.
T2: Ironman volunteers gave so much help in the transition area. The gal who helped and set out all of my essential run items for me while I changed was really awesome and encouraging. Hats off to all of the volunteers throughout the day! They really make the experience.

I ate 1/4 of a turkey sandwich. It wasn't as delicious as I had imagined.

More rain. 
Run: Kathy gave me a little pep talk out of T2, and asked me if I needed anything. I couldn't believe I was going to run 26 miles. My longest training run was 14, and I think it's because I went over the planned workout.

The run course had two loops - starting and ending in Whistler Village, where most spectators are out on the course. The turn around was by the beautiful Green Lake, a glacial lake with very pretty colors! The two loops gave me plenty of "fan" sightings (Kathy, Brian, Mel, Marek) and also competitor sightings (Dee, Brynje, Tana, Stephen, Jeff to name a few). Mentally, seeing others out on the course was so motivating!

The few kilometers out of Whistler Village were slightly uphill and I had shin cramps.  I walked a bit and adjusted my shoe laces. Once the cramps subsided, I picked up some time on the downhill.

Going into Ironman my goal was to "run" as much of the run as possible. Too many times I had heard about the Ironman-shuffle, which is often more walking than running. Although I walked a little bit and through a few aid stations, I was able to use some of my CIM training and keep a pace throughout. I tried to think of it like a slower marathon; I kept a pace where I felt that I was holding back slightly. Once my pace got below 5:30 per km, I backed off the pace. That was going to be too fast to sustain for 26 miles. I tried to keep the pace closer to 5:45 throughout, which is about a 9 minute pace per mile.

Another trick that worked really well to break down the marathon, was envisioning the race at four 10k races. (Thus my love of the metric system really began.) The first 10k was adjusting. The second 10k was settling in. The third 10k was maintaining. The fourth 10k was giving everything I had left. I'm not sure if I negative split the marathon portion - but the second loop of the race was much more comfortable than the first.

Best things on the run besides seeing my friends on the course: pretzels, and chamois butter. (My arms and thighs were chafing like no body's business.)

It started to rain again during the last 2 km of the run, and I was starting to get cold. But I remembered thinking, "OMG! I'm not going to bonk or have gastrointestinal issues! This is fabulous!"

You can't just finish. You have to do something with your arms to show that you are still alive. Unwritten rule.

Finish Line: I had done the math, and realized I would be finishing in under 12:30. There was still plenty of day light, despite the rain clouds which had accumulated overhead again. There was only one more little loop through Whistler Village.

I saw the red IM rug appear under my feet, lifted my arms above head. Finished. Hugged a volunteer, then Kathy, gave Brian a sweaty kiss. Kathy made me take a finishers picture because she knew I would just walk by, then she made me get in the massage tent.

It was only then that I felt any pain. Yep, my body hurt. I kind of wished I was still running. It was so much harder to stop - it hurt much more to be finished. What an awesome journey!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

5:30 AM Wake Up Call

Those who say that Disneyland is the “Happiest Place on Earth,” are sadly misinformed. Clearly the happiest place on Earth – is my bed. When I jump under the covers at night, I declare, "I LOVE YOU, BED!" Being wrapped up with my head on a fluffy pillow and drifting off to sleep is like heaven. When the alarm clock goes off in the morning, my day begins with denial and sadness, as I emerge from my happy place to take on adult responsibilities. 

I may have inherited the love of sleep from my father. Dear old dad was always a hard worker, but he was also a big fan of naps. Not those short, 30 minutes naps either - like falling asleep for a couple of hours in the middle of a Saturday. Now retired, he sleeps in until 10 AM, only to the chagrin of my mother who has always been an earlier riser. “People wonder if I’m depressed,” Dad says, “I’m not depressed. I’m so happy – it’s almost like meditation.” 

I hope I can retire someday and be just like him.

People claim that all kids get up early, and that I probably just don't remember waking my parents up at 6 AM. But, as long as I can remember, I've loved sleeping. Here is where I admit to my parents that,  as a pre-teen/teenager, I switched off their alarm clock on Saturday nights a few times – because I didn’t want to get up early and go to church. It worked once.  Another time, mom and dad made us get up anyway and hurry to service. We were half washed, and half asleep, and we had to walk in late with the good Christian folks looking us up and down in disdain. 

Have you heard of these crazy people who actually choose to sleep less in order to work more? I don’t get it.  As Steve Wozniak once said during a talk, “People are so worried that robots will take our jobs. But, if we don’t have to work, we can sit around and watch movies. I like movies.” Touché, Mr. Wozniak. If I could get a robot to do my job, I could sleep more.

Then there are people with children, who really don’t have a choice. They make me feel particularly spoiled, and I get no sympathy from them. They roll their red, sunken in eyes as if to say, “Suck it up, bitch, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

With Ironman on the schedule this year – how on earth can I train myself to get up earlier? Or do I just need to learn how to endure the early mornings?

While half Ironman training fit nicely into my sleep-heavy lifestyle, Ironman training has been different. I’d heard about these “double days” – when you do a workout in the morning, then another at night. I thought I could easily adjust my schedule, but it’s not that easy. I’ve so far had one week where I was up before 5:30am three days (thank God not in a row), and I walked around work in an “Ironzombie” state.  Still I have not yet gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to eat because I’m hungry. How long will it be before I need to put food on my bedside table so I don’t have to walk 100 feet to the kitchen? Further, when will my stomach ruin my sleep cycle?

The most difficult part has been going to bed at a decent hour. Sometimes I don’t get home from a workout until after 8 PM, and then I’m tired and hungry. I’ve found some quick cooking options, which are usually healthy. (It doesn’t take long to bake fish and vegetables, and it’s also rather healthy.) The trick is just to get myself into bed as early as possible, and read. Unfortunately I often get stuck in my Netflix cue, or chatting with a friend online. This turns my brain on more than off.

When I do get up early and complete a workout before my day job, I do feel really accomplished. I don’t feel like the workout was a waste of time or energy. It’s worth it to get up. It’s convincing myself that this feeling will be worth the drudgery of pulling myself from my cozy quarters. Still, I lay there weighing the options while I hit snooze. If I sleep one more hour, will I still have time after work? Will I still have the energy? Will the pool be open, or will the sun still be out long enough? Will I get wrapped up in work and not be able to leave? It would be nice to get home and just make dinner and watch TV? Oh wait, it’s a double-day. Ok, I need to get out of bed. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

Why hasn’t some pharmaceutical company invented a pill that releases a sleep aid at night then releases caffeine 30 minutes before you are supposed to wake up? This would be helpful to more people than Cialis. I’m sure, like depression medicine, they would find other useful applications. I'm sure there would be more sex going on if people were better rested! This is definitely the year I become addicted to caffeine.

If only I could wake up like the late, great Dicky Fox (Jerry Maguire movie reference), “I clap my hands together and say, ‘This is going to be a great day!’”

Never happens.  

The days are unfortunately not getting any longer. We are stuck with only 24 hours, and I am stuck on loving sleep. The hours I’m awake need to be used wisely – working hard, training the smartest way I know how, spending my time on projects that inspire and fulfill me, and surrounding myself with quality people who make me better.  Anything else is a waste of time, and cuts into my beauty sleep.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pacing, Not Racing

This post is two months in the making (errr, writing). It's not late, I was just pacing myself.

After the cancellation of Ironman Tahoe 70.3, I had no excuse not to jump right into marathon training for the California International Marathon. CIM is coined "The Fastest Course in the West" and is often used as a Boston Qualifying race since the course has negative elevation*. I had the fitness, but needed to make sure it would translate into running fitness, so I mostly put away my bike for a couple of months.

*(Note to future CIM runners: It's not a "flat" course, and there are a bunch of rolling hills in the first half. But technically, you run downhill more than you run uphill.)

I followed the "Run Less Run Faster" (RLRF) training plan for a 3:40 marathon time which is the Boston Qualifying time for my age group, but had to modify slightly since I only had 11 of 16 weeks to train. I wasn't too upset about skipping three 20-mile training runs, and only completing the last two. RLRF is great for triathletes: three days of running (track, tempo, long) and two days of easy cross training.

The run days are really intense though. I think I saw Jesus a few times. He says, "Hello."

My running buddy, Matt, likes to say things like, "Hey, Suzanne, why don't we run every 200 of this 1,600 at exactly the same pace?" This is Matt's very kind way of saying, "Why don't you back off so you don't die in the middle of the interval, you big idiot?" Matt has run enough track workouts with me to know that my tendency is to go out too fast, slow down, then hammer the last bit to make the interval time. Converse to my Chicago Marathon experiment where I decided to run the first half close to a half marathon pace (then almost died), Matt ran the New York City Marathon, and consistently clocked around 8:45 per mile. It was decided - this was the year I would learn to pace myself. Whether or not I hit a Boston Marathon qualifying time was less important.

Why is pacing so difficult?

Everyone knows the scenario when you realize your gas light is on in the car. So, what do you do? Do you fly down the street to the nearest gas station to get there faster (and probably burn more gas)? Or do you slow down and follow behind a large-moving vehicle and take your time (a la Driving Miss Daisy)? I tend to charge forward and hope that I have enough steam to get to the end. So far, I trust that the car has warned me far enough in advance and I live in a city where gas stations are everywhere.

Unfortunately our bodies don't have a very good gas light. In fact, by the time your inner gas light goes on - you are probably going to bonk, or shit yourself. The goal is to get your body to the finish line on one tank of gas. Knowing what pace you can handle is part of the battle. (The other HUGE part is eating/nutrition. To be continued.) Run Less Run Faster holds you to very specific paces for each workout. To do it "right" you have to chose a realistic goal time that you know you can achieve, and use the pacing given for each workout.  If you are pacing correctly, it often feels like you need to hold yourself back from running too fast. Matt called this, "Run slow to run fast."

It seems counter intuitive to slow down when you feel good and want to pick up the pace. But, as it is with life - sometimes the right thing to do is slow down, hold yourself accountable (to a pace), and manage your expectations.  Trust that the universe (or your good training) will get you past the finish line.

I did not enjoy training for previous marathons. I went out and completed the mileage, but I didn't know what pace I should run or what my time should be. In fact, my long training runs were well over 9-minute miles. When I saw a 20-mile run at an 8:30 pace on the RLRF training plan, I thought it was impossible. But, I trusted that I'd chosen a reasonable goal based on other race times. October was difficult; I almost threw up during an early track workout, and shin splints plagued my first significant long run. (This run was quickly followed by a trip to my physical therapist, and many weeks of butt-strengthening exercises.) By November, I was on fire; my paces were slightly faster, and my legs felt great!

The days prior to CIM, I didn't really know what pace I should run. A 8:23 pace would lead to a 3:40 marathon, but I wanted to be at least one minute under. I also took into account that runners usually end up going further than 26.2 miles, there are aid station stops, hills, and possibly other obstacles along the way (i.e. people, the need to use a port-o-pottie). So, at dinner the night before the race, I talked to my pacing buddy, and we decided to stick around 8:18 per mile for the first half, then see if we couldn't run the second half slightly faster. Easy pace, plenty of room for error.

On race day, our three-person pace group went out too fast for the first couple of miles, but were able to hang back for the rest of the first half. I felt like I could pick up the tempo, but knew it wouldn't pay off in the end. This was pacing, not racing. There was no way I'd let my Garmin tick below 8:15, and I wouldn't freak out if it ticked at 8:20. I was in the zone.

The second half came on, and our pace group was separated, so I was on my own. The second half, in theory, should be run slightly faster. I felt good with 8:15-8:20 and wanted to pick it up a bit, but made deal with myself to hold back until mile 17. I had been fooled by this feeling of second half exhilaration before - but not this time.

At mile 20, it was on! I had paced long enough, it was time to make sure all of my limbs were still attached, and pick up the tempo. I tried to imagine the last six miles as a 10k race, or the 10k after an Olympic distance triathlon. Now it was a mental game. Tired, but pushing through, I realized that I had enough left in the gas tank to make it to the finish line by my goal time. I wasn't going to bonk, shit myself, or see Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, for all of those tempo runs.

I am grateful for the training, the day (perfect weather), my friends . . . and the Boston Qualifying time is nice too. I want to thank Matt (deemed "Run Husband" from henceforth), Gemma, Deirdre, Andrew (the 3:40 pace team), and everyone on our Facebook page for helping to keep me on pace - literally and virtually. I will use my new pacing abilities in every aspect of my training. But, I will probably still panic and speed to the gas station when my gas light goes on.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tahoe 70.3 Non-Race Report

I would have loved to bang out a half Ironman this year, but it didn't happen. Wildflower was fantastic for an early season event, but to have ended with a great performance in Tahoe would have been the ultimate year. Unfortunately, due to the King fires near Sacramento, North Lake Tahoe was filled with smoke, which ultimately shut down the race - 10 minutes prior to the start. There are plenty of athletes who trained very hard to compete, and gave up many more personal and family obligations than I did to compete, not to mention those who came from a distance or another country. Furthermore, people are in risk of losing much more than a race, but their homes and potentially their lives.

I refuse to complain about my own ambitions. It wouldn't be right.

Top 10 Reasons I'm ok with IMLT Cancelation

1.) I am so glad I didn't cave and buy branded race gear! Win! (Suzanne +1, all of you other suckers who bought the jersey and shorts -1)

2.) I didn't have to eat 1000 calories of Clif Bar for lunch.

3.) This is the first event that didn't give me serious chafing, or a sunburn.

4.) There is no need to rest before going into fall/winter marathon training! It's on!

5.) I rode my bike from Kings Beach to Squaw after the cancellation announcement, and broke every one of my course records on Strava. 

6.) Free cookies, bananas, and Red Bull. They were just giving stuff away.

7.) I am pretty good at Swim, Bike, Run but am surprisingly good at Gin, Beer, Rum as well (not in that order)... I learned that endurance sport nutrition is more similar to endurance drinking nutrition than I originally thought: Pre-load on a bunch of protein, eat at least 500 calories for breakfast, and remember to drink water and eat consistently, and you'll be fine. Sherpas are recommended. (We had a lot of fun at the Irish Pub in Squaw.) :)

8.) I am lucky to live in the Bay Area, and Lake Tahoe is only a 4 hour drive. I spent 18 glorious days with some of the best damn people on the face of this earth. From my Trans Tahoe Relay gals, to Silicon Valley Triathlon Club, to all of the other athletes I met while training. You guys are my rock. Thank you for your support, and most of all, laughter. We had some great times up there in the altitude and blue water.

9.) I met a pair of Challenged athletes who inspired me. One was trying to finish his 25th Ironman, and the other trying to finish his 1st. 

10.) We all have our lives, and our health. We are all capable of training for another event.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Confession: Endurance Sports Make Me Cry

I'm a total baby.

Sometimes I get choked up during my own races. Suddenly, an overwhelming feeling of "Wow, this is awesome!" kicks in, and I have to hold it back (wastes too much energy). Most of the time, I cry watching other people compete - amateur competitors. Rarely do I get choked up over professional athletes. Professional athletes are amazing, and worthy of being lauded for their achievements. But, I typically don't know who wins a race. I can hardly pay attention to the first person over the finish line, when the real warriors are often an hour or more behind them.

October 2009 - My first big-city (San Jose) half marathon. I'd finished my race, and was standing at the finish line to watch the other participants - especially waiting for the arrival of my friend, Paul. Paul was involved in a nasty motorcycle accident 15 months prior to the race in which he broke his femur. He was probably lucky as hell to be alive. As a physical education teacher, he wanted to do a race to help overcome the injury both mentally and physically. So, he signed for for the San Jose Rock and Roll Marathon. He didn't have a goal time.

While waiting for Paul, I probably watched a thousand other people enter the finishing shoot, and run to the finish line. The sight of that big finish line banner makes people do the most incredible things (even if they were walking just moments before): they sprint, they smile, they find their loved ones and cherish the moment of the big finish. Some of them wear t-shirts in support of an organization, and some have personal messages on their clothing from a family or friend who has passed on. Some cry. Some turn on the engine at the last moment, and try to pass as many people as they can. This finish line is not just the end of a race, sometimes it is the end of another journey, or the realization of how wonderful it is to be alive.

Finally, Paul walked around the corner, and as soon as he saw the finish line, his face lit up with a smile and he picked up the pace, hobbling somewhat to the finish. I totally choked up. Shit, what a great moment for him. His finishing time was 2 hours, 38 minutes, but his race was so much more of a win than mine. Here is a man who could have possibly lost his life, battling 13 miles of a road race on a rehabilitated leg.

This summer, I volunteered for the California International Triathlon and was assigned to the absolute worst part of the course: the run turnaround at the top of a dusty hill. Man, people were really suffering on that hill in the heat, and they had to do it twice! At first it was exciting to see the competitive age-groupers conquer the hill, but as the crowd came down to the one or two who would walk most of the last two miles - my heart was full and so were my eyes - of tears. I wasn't at all sad for these people. I was so freakin' inspired.

As all good volunteers should do (take note), I decided I would stay until the bitter end and make sure the last runner returned safely to the finish line. Her name was Katherine, and she was the mostly lovely woman. Her calf read her age, which I believe was 66. As she came up the hill for the second time, she had to walk. So, I walked a bit with her. She started talking to me like a friend. She wasn't happy with her swim time, but didn't want that to stop her, and she knew she was either last, or the person behind her had decided not to finish. She wanted to see her husband at the finish line.

At one point, Katherine asked me if they had taken the finish line down. "It doesn't really matter," I said, "you are awesome!" I was so thrilled that the finish line was still up when she reached the final stretch. She raised her hands above her head, found her husband, and they hugged.

Then, the waterworks came!

Ok, I'll admit, watching Meb Keflezighi in the last mile of the Boston Marathon this year was pretty thrilling. But, typically my tears are reserved for the regular people, the common man, the weekend warrior who has overcome obstacles to be at the finish line. They didn't have the best performance, or the best time, but they endured. Everyone is on their own journey. Those who reign supreme, and those who "just finish" are fighting different battles, and have overcome something to be where they are. If you asked me who my favorite athlete is, I would probably say someone like Paul, or Katherine.

In about a week, I will be live and in person at the Ironman Tahoe finish line. I will need to pack some Kleenex.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

35 Years

When I was 25, I smoked Marlboro Lights. I could go out to a bar and drink four gin and tonics, eat very little, and be home by 4 a.m. with the ability to catch the bus and get to work at 9 a.m. My heroes were Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones.

At 35, I smoke fools on my bike. I can drink a gin and tonic or a glass of wine at home, eat every crumb out of my refrigerator (starving from workout), be in bed by 10 p.m., and get up to drive myself to work in a compact SUV and arrive promptly at 7:30 a.m. I'm don't have any specific heroes, but am inspired by everyday people who are awesome. Carrie Bradshaw isn't real, and I now realize that there is no way a lawyer, a housewife, a PR mogul, and a writer could have time to meet in a coffee shop once a week. It just wouldn't happen. And Bridget Jones is pretty much a basket case. How she ended up with a barrister is beyond me.

At 25, I had just moved back to California from Las Vegas. I took the $400 I had in my bank account, asked a friend to help me put my belongings into a moving truck, and moved the F#$% out of that town. Vegas has the diversity of the Bay Area, but drop the education and common sense by about 80% - and there you go. I probably contributed to that while I was there. Not my place in the world.

At 35, I'm "making it" (whatever that means) in the Silicon Valley and seriously kicking ass. I surround myself by quality people, because I aspire to be a quality person myself. I have a much better understanding of my place in the world.

Ten signs that I'm officially in my mid-30's

1.) I drive a compact SUV. It's a total mom car, except my children are bikes and wet suits. I love taking the kids to Tahoe!

2.) I seem to be suddenly more attractive to men in their 20's than when I was in my 20's. I also seem to attract men who could be my father. Eeewww.

3.) Eating whatever you want is a myth. Even if you work out, you can't eat whatever you want. Not at 35, or any time after that. I've heard that your appetite is supposed to decrease as you get older. This has not happened to me. I'm only getting more hungry. It will be interesting to see how much I eat when I train for Ironman Canada next year.

4.) My skin is on a revolt against my face. What I thought were cute freckles ten years ago are not - it's melasma (look it up)! Also, I'm having a strange case of adult acne.

5.) I bought a basil plant. I thought it was ridiculous to buy a pound of basil for a recipe that needs only a tablespoon, so the $2.99 plant made sense to be both sustainable, and economical.

6.) I considered cat ownership. Then, I thought about what it means to be a cat-lady, and decided that this is not the direction for me. Cats are pretty cute, and I saw one walking outside of my house last night (It's a sign!). I will resist the temptation for a furry friend. I would much rather have a dog anyway.

7.) People at the grocery store officially call me ma'am. I don't get ID ed either, except at the airport.

8.) I recently went into H&M and was horrified by what I saw. It looked like a garage sale multiplied in there. No wonder you can get a pair of pants for $5! I've been told that I am not old enough to shop at Chicos. .  . although that blazer is really cute. So, I have found a fashion stepping stone!  My new locale for age appropriate clothing is J Crew. That's right. I'm preppy.

9.) Speaking of preppy, I've decided that the term "yuppie" does not apply to me. Yes, I am still upwardly mobile, but I am not upper middle class - at least not in the Bay Area.

10.) I lived through three complete decades, and feel I can finally use terms like, "Back in the Day" or "Kickin' it Old School", and it is age appropriate. No one "kicked it" until the 80's. So if you don't remember the 80's - stop using that term. (Love, the Bitchy 35-year old.)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Donner Lake Race Report

I had a title selected for this blog already - a week before the race. It was going to be called, "Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride," in response to a 4th place age group ranking. This is usually where I end up in an Olympic distance triathlon - just shy of the podium - usually because of a slow swim time. My plan was to wrap up a race report with memories of being a bridesmaid. Kind of like the movie "27 Dresses": only less dress, more sweat.

That would have been a really funny post. But, I'll have to save it for another time...

The Donner Lake Triathlon was a planned "A" races this season. The event is a smaller, local event, but the course is challenging, and many seasoned triathletes come out to race it. I'd spent the last nine days at altitude already with some awesome training under my belt: Trans Tahoe Relay swim, a practice ride of the Ironman 70.3 course, and a few running opportunities. On the flip side, I'd also spent nine days eating everything in sight, and drinking some gin (also beer, wine, and a Wet Woody....). Don't judge. I was on vacation too!

After checking the results from the previous year, it seemed I would need to finish in around 3:00 or 3:01 to be on the podium for the DLT. My goal was to listen to my body, and start each leg easy. After spending nine glorious days at altitude, training and vacationing, I could still feel the lack of air, but knew I could manage if I could also relax into each event, and not hyperventilate. Plus, I've never really raced up a major climb before...

The Donner Lake Triathlon is mega scenic. The .9 mile swim in Donner Lake is a rectangular course with buoys to the swimmers left side. The bike ride up Donner Pass, passed the Sugar Bowl, into Kingvale and back is absolutely gorgeous, but also a challenging 2,100 feet of climbing over 24.8 miles. The 6.67 mile run around Donner Lake starts out flat, has one significant hill half-way through, then rolls to the finish line.

Swim: 34:21
The water of Donner Lake is clean and lovely, slightly chilly. The sun had risen high enough that the buoys were not completely out of sight, which was nice. The lake is very deep in the middle, so it suddenly goes from sand to a black abyss below. The ghosts of Donner Lake were messing with us swimmers because apparently no one was able to swim the course straight. (Thanks to Jimmy for putting the image of dead bodies in my head.) I never swim the course straight, so it was an average swim for me.

With Randi before the swim. She's a real swimmer. Like really awesome n' stuff. 
Bike: 1:31:12
There was no choice but to start out slow on this bike course - the course begins with a 3 mile climb up Donner Pass. So, I went into my lowest gear and churned at a comfortable pace. Such a gorgeous climb! The absolute best scenery of any climb I've ridden. Breathtaking. Lovely. . .

When I got to the top of Donner Pass - it was ON like DONKEY KONG! I knew there were only a few miles to take advantage of the downhill, so I got low and jammed down the other side into Kingvale like it was no body's business. Just before the turn around I saw a group of really strong women coming up the hill and I really wanted to catch them. I had taken it easy long enough, so I cranked it up a notch up the longer ascent up the other side. There were two short downhill opportunities where I saw other cyclists stop pedaling, but I knew I needed those few extra pedal strokes to make up some time.

This is the first year that I've felt comfortable descending, but I would typically ride the breaks a bit more doing down a hill like Donner Pass Road on a training ride. Not today, folks. That hill was mine! All mine! Wah ha ha! *evil laugh* I was shooting for 1:30, and it wasn't too far off.

Coming in from the bike. Photo credit: Pim K.
Run: 55:24
My first practice run at altitude was brutal. I thought my sports bra was on too tight, then realized it was just the lack of oxygen. I was prepared for this feeling again. It was difficult not to look at my watch, but I tried to run by feel instead of by the pace on my Garmin. The run would not be a sub-8:00 mile run unless, for some reason, I felt awesome a couple of miles in. The first 3 miles are typically difficult as my legs adjust to the road. I calmed to my 3 (in) - 2 (out) breathing cycle repeating:

This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)
This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)
This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)
This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)

I never felt "awesome" per say, but it was a good run despite walking one hill at mile three. No one passed me on the run, and I closed the gap between me and a couple of other women in front of me who weren't in my age group. Isn't it funny how during the race you think, "Oh my God, I can't go any faster." Then the second the race is over you think, "I could have caught them." Hindsight 20/20.

It would have been great to have been the sub-8:00 mile range, but I was happy with the run overall.

Photo credit: Pim K.
During the race, I didn't see a lot of women in my age group at all. This is a typical scenario. I always assume they get out of the water before me, and I never catch them. The only thing that kept me motivated during the run was knowing that I had set out to give it my all.

Finish time: 3:04:12

After the race, I found my compadres and awaited the results that (I thought) would put me in 4th place in my age group again. I didn't think my time was enough for a podium finish, and I definitely wasn't expecting a first place ranking - shit, third would have been really great! So, I was very happy with a first place age group finish at the Donner Lake Triathlon.

Finally! I'm a bride!! Er... podium finisher!

Podium ceremony, without a podium.. or the 3rd place AG finisher. Photo credit: Pim K.
Getting fresh with sweaty people after the race: With Jimmy, Kathy, Rune. Photo credit: Pim K.