Monday, April 30, 2012

It's "Just" a Half

I am a marathoner, dagnabbit! A marathoner who after a debilitating and slowly rehabilitating injury, hasn't run a marathon in two years.  I missed that distance, the disciplined 18-week training plan, the early bedtimes, the carefully laid out clothes and Gu the night before a long run, the camaraderie that resulted from running with folks for hours and hours on end and most of all the rush of emotion that resulted upon crossing the finish line and the pride that followed for months afterward.

Half marathons?  Really?  Why?  I scoffed at the t-shirts and bumper stickers that said "13.1: Half the distance, double the fun".  Fuck that!  I snubbed my nose at the fact that us marathoners had to share our day, our lime light, our course, and spectators with those JUST doing the half.  Dammit, they had no right to the term "marathon".  Each distance had it's own term: there's a 5k, 10k, marathon, ultra marathon and a variety of distances in between.  Why couldn't a half marathon have it's own unique name rather than co-opt one?  I was such a marathon snob.

So what's a marathoner, whose body doesn't allow them to run marathons supposed to do?  I was running, cycling, swimming, yoga-ing, and weight lifting.  I didn't have any goals.  I was coasting along wondering what I should be doing.  What was my body was capable of doing after this eight month long injury-rehab induced hiatus?  I was pissed as hell that I would miss out on my annual marathon not one, but two years in a row.  Fuck it, if I couldn't run longer, I'd at least run faster.  

Over the last year, I lost ten to twelve pounds.  This along with my new running partners resulted in a spring in my step and a slightly zippier pace.  When I became a "master" (age 40) I decided to be really brave and try working out with the speed group whom I had previous been too intimidated to join.  The first few weeks were humbling.  I had folks ten and twenty years older than me running circles around me.  I was in awe.  I was ready to work.  I wanted to get faster.  I finally believed that myself and speed weren't necessary mutually exclusive.  I set out to discover a new speedier version of me.

Let me remind you that of all the cities for this nine to ten minute miler to live in, I chose "Track-Fucking-Town-USA."  The bell curve for running times here is ridiculously skewed.  I would need to toss away all my preconceived notions of speed, learn not to compare myself with others and to strive for goals that were just within my reach, yet far enough away that I had something to work towards.  After my race drought, I got overly ambitious when I realized I had finally healed.  Before I knew it, I had run in the Hood to Coast relay, cycled a century (my first), ran a half marathon trail run (PRd), raced a 5K (another PR), raced a 25K trail run (another PR!) then registered and started training for a half marathon, a sprint tri and a half ironman.  If I couldn't run a marathon, I'd at least run a shit-load of other races, and run them fast, well faster, anyway.

How exactly was this supposed to happen though?  It was time to kiss my generic Runners World on-line training plans, change my relationship with running and work directly with a coach.  I was just training for a half though.  This only required a ten week training plan, as opposed to an 18 week training plan.  Since I was simultaneously tri-ing, I would only run three days a week and cycle/swim the other three days.  How hard was this going to be?  Half the distance, twice the fun, right?  No, prob.  I got this.... or so I thought.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Shaken Confidence

For the last ten weeks, I had been training with Happy Running's half marathon performance group three times a week.  My three weekly runs were speed, strength and/or endurance focused.  There were no easy runs or recovery runs to which I've grown accustomed in marathon training.  My recovery days were comprised of bikes, swims or bike/swim bricks.  The first six weeks I nailed every workout. Then the weather turned to crap.  I got sick, my motivation dropped, my legs always felt like lead, speed dropped and my confidence plummeted.  Those last couple weeks of training were mentally and physically tough.

I considered scratching the race many times.  My husband had accidentally registered for a 40 mile run on the same day.  We didn't have childcare for us both to run.  It was highly unlikely that I'd accomplish the 1:48 time goal.  This wasn't an "A-Race" for me.  I mainly signed up for this training group and marathon to build up speed to help me out in June at Boise 70.3.  It seemed like the universe was trying to tell me not to run this race.

Over those ten weeks, I loved having a coach and a set training plan that took all the guess work out of my training.  It was fabulous to meet and run with new people who challenged and inspired me. While running alongside these awesome folks, the race became more and more important to me.  I wanted to run it well.  I thought I could, but at the same time, I was scared.  What if I hurt myself?  What if I couldn't finish?  What if I didn't PR?  After my triathlon brain fart the previous weekend, I just couldn't take another disappointment.

The night before the race when I was still on the fence about whether or not I could and should run.  I got a side ache and fatigued legs just running three easy miles at ten to eleven minute pace!  What was I thinking?!  I was supposed to maintain an 8:14 pace for THIRTEEN miles?!  I know that doesn't sound fast to many of you but that's BLAZING for me!  I am a nine to ten minute miler.  I don't particularly like breaking a sweat or pushing myself to discomfort while running.  How could I suddenly believe that I had changed overnight to an eight-ish minute distance miler?  I had never  felt so insecure going into a race.

Thankfully I had my husband and coach's support.  They had seen me through all my training.  They are experienced and amazing runners whose opinions I highly value.  "You are stronger than you think."  "Fresh legs from two weeks of tapering and race energy will get you through." Thank you!  I had busted my butt training for this thing for the last ten weeks, why not another two hours or so to run the darn thing?  If I sucked, I sucked and life would go on.  If they were right, my training paid off and I had a good race, all the better! I decided to listen to my heart and give it a try.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Blond Moment at the Beaver Freezer Sprint Triathlon

I was thrilled to get into the Corvallis Beaver Freezer.  This is the first triathlon of the season in this region.  It holds the bragging rights of being the largest triathlon (with an indoor swim) in the United States! It fills up within the first few hours of registration each year.  It consists of a 500 yard swim, 12 mile bike, 5K run.  Perfect for easing back into tri season.

This would be my third sprint tri.  I knew how these things worked.  I had trained and was ready to "git 'er done".  I had hoped to break 84 minutes.  What I didn't anticipate was the series of unfortunate events that started at 3:15 PM the Friday before the triathlon and continued until the race was well over.  I deleted several drafts that described these pre-race and race glitches.  My posts have come off rather whiney lately.  My melodrama was starting to get on my own nerves.  What a grump I'd become! With so many people facing real challenges; who the heck am I to whine about a couple bumps along my road?  I train and compete for health and for fun.  It's not as if my life or death, mortgage or employment depends on it.  I don't "have to" train or compete but rather I "get to".  It's pretty awesome to engage in this amazing sporty world.

I arrived solo, as my hubs, at the last minute needed to stay at home with a sick kiddo.  When I arrived, I discovered tons of helpful, enthusiastic volunteers.  Parking was super easy, packet pick-up was quick, transition set-up occurred without a hitch.  It was dry and the clouds were clearning.  I chatted with a couple of tri-friends and met some new folks while killing time before my wave started.  My Garmin 310XP was set in multi-sport mode.  I was cool calm and collected.  This was going to be a great day! 

The swim was 500 yards, short even by sprint tri standards. I was shooting to swim somewhere between nine and ten minutes.  Once in the water, I never quite found my rhythm.  My breathing was off which negatively impacted my form and efficiency.  It was all work out there.  I forgot to count my laps.  It seemed to take them forever to dunk the kick board in the water.  When they did, they told me to get out of the pool.  Man, was I confused!  A dunked kick board usually indicates one more lap to go.  Disoriented, I climbed out of the pool, neglected to click the lap button on my Garmin, toweled off, slipped on sandals, and ran for what seemed like a quarter of a mile to the transition area.  I was pooped and had two more legs to go!

Official results indicate my swim split was 11:13.  This seems slow to me.  I can't help but wonder if they under-counted my laps.  The women's pool for this year is a long ways away from the timing mat that records the swim split.  So it might be possible that it took me that long to get out of the pool and across the mat.  I still vividly remember eye-balling the pool clock as I climbed out of the water.  It read 8:40.  Did it take me that long to get from the water across the mat?  I'll never know and it's driving me CRAZY! 

After my turbulent swim and lengthy run to transition, I was out of it.  Although things were set up just as I needed them, I put things on in the wrong order and had to try again a second time.  Helmet after shirt! When will I ever learn?!  Geez, just get me on the bike already so I could make up for some lost time.  My T1 time was 4:21. Slow for me.  My other two events I transitioned in less than 2:30.  Was this because I pulled on socks this time, because the pool was so far from the transition or because I was so out of it while getting into my cycling gear?  Likely all of the above. 

What a gorgeous day to be out cycling!  Weather's been so wet that I've been cooped up indoors spinning.  It felt great to hit the roads.  I realized a couple miles in that I forgot to click the lap button after the swim, then again after the transition and yet again at the cycle start.  I tried to remedy the problem, but only messed things up further.  I'd have to wing it old-school.  No technology to help me determine and maintain a certain pace.  I'd have to go by feel.  I hunkered in, enjoyed the ride, sucked down a GU and drank some water.  Before I knew it, the ride was over.  12 miles in 45:36.  Nothing to brag about speed-wise, but a sprint-tri bike PR all the same  

Made it through without a hitch in 2:19.

A mere 5K to run.  My spirits were good. I was hoping to maintain an 8 min/mi pace.  Again, I had no Garmin device to indicate my pace.  I just pushed as hard as I could.  I was supposed to run three loops around the OSU campus.  There was a volunteer at the crossroads.  When I saw him for the third time, I assumed that I was done.  I flew through the finish line feeling like a million bucks and completely satisfied with my performance.  That's three loops, right?  After the finish, I got stretched out and massaged at the free booth.  I never do this when I have my family there.  Highly recommend it!  I also hung out chatting with folks I knew.  I looked at my posted finishing time and age-group placing and was delighted.  It was warm, the sun was out,  I had completed my try without a hitch (or so I thought).  It was time to go home, celebrate and spend the rest of the day with my family. 

I was all aglow for the rest of the day.  Tri high!  Then official race results with splits were posted.  My heart sunk when I saw my swim time.  Then I was utterly baffled when I got to my 5K time.  According to results I averaged sub 6 minute miles.  IMPOSSIBLE!  I can't even sub 6 on one mile! What the heck happened?  I thought and thought, crunched number after number, whined and moaned to my hubs.  Then it came to me!  I had shortened the run course!  Crap, dookie, poop, SHIT!  How could I have done that?!  I had plenty of energy to run the whole thing!  Do over!

Then I did the 20/20 hindsight thing:  If my daughter hadn't been ill, they would have counted my laps and sent me along my way for the final one.  If I hadn't forgotten to operate my Garmin, I would have had a distance measurement and known that I needed one final lap.  Bottom line was that I felt like a fraud.  I couldn't plead "rookie" either.  I had trained and was experienced.  I had messed my race up big time.  Worst of all was that my inaccurate race results were posted for all to see.  I e-mailed the RDs.  They stood by the swim time.  I still wonder about it though.  They said that the run results couldn't be changed.  If I wanted my own unofficial time, I could add a third to my time. 

I beat myself up over it for the rest of the evening and well into the next day.  I was seriously bummed out.  My hubs encouraged me to look at the positives:  I got my tri practice in, got a bike PR, had a good time out on the course and performed as well as I could given the circumstances.  My errors needed to be viewed as opportunities for learning.  It was time to practice using my Garmin's multi-sport function.  I need to understand the directions and course well-ahead of time rather than learn it on the fly.  I need to keep my head on my shoulders.  Triathlons are just as much mental as they are physical.  There's a lot to think about while swimming, transitioning, biking, transitioning and running.  My husband also talked me into being thankful that I learned these lessons at this event rather than at my BIG event of the year.  He's a wise man.  I'm trying to let it go and learn from it.  I think my ultimate lesson is to cut myself some slack, forgive, move on and not take myself quite so seriously.  This is supposed to be fun, right?!