I should probably stop planning races

I’ve been joking that in 2018, my body decided to fall apart.  Labral tear, ovarian cyst, and just lots of random aches and pains, mostly related to recovering from the tear and from surgery.  Last week, for example, my back randomly went into a spasm and it still kind of hurts over a week later.  Getting old sucks.

This weekend, I tracked a bunch of friends doing various races, from marathons to 70.3s to 140.6s, and it was just another reminder of why I love racing so much.  It was so fun to see the alerts pop up on my phone or photos from spectators showing up on social media.  I loved seeing everyone’s post-race posts.  Some people set PRs and met personal goals, others struggled, and a few ended up with DNFs.  But everyone was so very positive. Sometimes, a race goes great and sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, your race goes wrong.  I’m so proud of everyone, but especially those who chose to stop when they realized that continuing meant risking harm to themselves.

I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I want to race a 70.3 next year.  It’s a lot of training.  I did one in 2016, and loved it, but took 2017 off because I couldn’t make things work with my schedule.  I kind of regretted that decision, which was why I was scheduled to race 70.3 Chattanooga this May.  My body falling apart took that off the table.  And I still have a ways to go to be back in the shape I was this time last year, so part of me says to take another year.

The other part of me says “GO FOR IT!”  My recovery is going well and there is no indication that I won’t be able to race long a year from now.  I’ve got multiple double-digit run races already on the calendar for this year, and it’s the run where I’ve got the most work to do.  The next couple of months will certainly give me a good idea of where I’m at recovery wise and if it’s a good idea to try to race.

Honestly, I think my body will be fine.  The big question is whether I want to put in the time.  Training for a  70.3 is no joke.  It’s especially no joke when you’re a slower racer.  It’s a lot of hours.

But I do want the camaraderie that comes with a big race.  I want the challenge and the rush of the finish.

Let’s be honest. I’m going to end up signing up for something big.  I just have to figure out what.

Another OWS Practice

This weekend, I had an opportunity for an open water swim practice, so I took it.  In general, I think every triathlete should get in as much OWS practice as possible.  Swimming in open water is incredibly different from swimming in the pool.  Obviously, pool work is important too, but I’ve seen so many triathletes end up panicking during their races because they haven’t spent much time in open water.

There are some clear differences between open water swimming and pool swimming:

  • pools have lines on the bottom to follow
  • pool water is typically much clearer
  • no plant matter attacking from the deep
  • pool lanes are short, maybe a max of 50m before you get to turn around and push off the wall

But in addition, a true open water experience also involves a big variable – other swimmers.  In the pool, you might be splitting a lane or circle swimming, but there’s generally a lot of consideration for the shared space (except for you, annoying butterfly guy).   However, in open water, it’s every man for himself.

For the most part, I don’t think the “contact” in open water is intentional.  I don’t intend to run into people while I’m swimming.  But it happens.  Someone slower ends up in front of you.  Someone faster ends up behind you.  People aren’t swimming straight lines.  Current pushes you into someone else.

If you’re freaked about contact with other swimmers, the advice is typically to swim wide.  The further you are from the straight lines between buoys, the fewer swimmers you will encounter.  Of course, you will also be making your swim that much longer.  So the best thing to do is practice.  What will you do if you find you’re running into someone?

Some people will tell you “Well, just swim over them.”  That’s not really my style, plus it’s rare that I’m coming upon someone who is that much slower than me that I’m able to pass them that quickly.  I just try to alter my course a bit to get around.  I’ve gotten stuck behind someone who is swimming in a zig-zag motion and had to really go wide to get past.  I’ve also been touched and clobbered by other swimmers.  It happens and you just deal with it.

However, the first time you encounter this, it’s definitely jarring.  So the best advice I have is to go to an open water practice.  If there isn’t an organized practice around you, get together a group of friends and get in the water.  No open water for you to practice?  Then get in a pool lane with six of your friends and get swimming.  Or find a bunch of kids who are willing to hit you with pool noodles while you swim laps.  I’m sure they’ll be happy to do so.

The more you get used to open water swimming, the easier it gets.  It’s probably the part of triathlon that gets the least amount of practice but has the best chance of derailing your race.  So get out there and practice.

Race Report – 2018 Rev3 Williamsburg Olympic

I cannot tell you how excited I am to be writing a race report for my first race of the year.  I got to race Rev3 Williamsburg and it was absolutely, completely amazing.

Most importantly, I raced smart, and after the race, nothing hurt that shouldn’t hurt after racing (if you finish a race and absolutely nothing hurts, you’re doing it wrong – or very right).

Heading into the race, I wasn’t nervous, which surprised me.  I was excited and ready to go (and worried I would forget something) but in general, I was ready.  I think not having a real time goal for the race helped in that regard.  I was just trying to race smart and race healthy.  It probably also helped that the course was just enough changed from last year that the races wouldn’t be an exact comparison, so I didn’t feel that pressure.

Race morning dawned bright and early and I was ready.  This race had a half and an olympic distance racing at the same time, so the half racers set off first.  We watched them go, then lined up for our start, scheduled for 7:20.

And then we waited.

And waited.

Rumors started flying about what was going on.  The timing mats were under water (we had to jump off a doc and the water was high so the doc was partially submerged).  There were unauthorized people on the course.  The half swimmers were “enjoying the paddleboard support” and we needed to wait for them.

Whatever it was, our race started nearly an hour late.  And that set off a lot of people’s nerves.  I was lucky to be standing with some friends so we just had a good time talking and trying to keep stress levels down.  I was a bit worried about my nutrition, but I knew I had an extra fig cookie in my bike bag (they come in packages of two, I only eat one on an oly bike, but had shoved the second one in because I was too lazy to do anything else with it – good thinking self).

This year was the first year they had us jump off the dock and swim to the boat ramp.  Previously, the race was in the other direction.  The water was ridiculously warm (something like 84 degrees, so warmer than the air) which made the jump easy.  When it was my turn, I walked up, leapt in, and started swimming.  There was a definite current assist, but there were also some sizable waves due to the wind.  I wasn’t expecting the chop in the water.  I found it mostly annoying.  I tried to stay tight to the buoy line, which was easier said than done with the buoys moving all over the place.  I got clobbered by one at one point.  Maybe too close to the buoy line.  The race had one turn, and once I made it around that buoy, I couldn’t see the buoy line for anything.  I’m not sure if it was the sun, but it definitely made for a tough last length.  It felt like a long swim, but my time was excellent, so that current assist definitely helped.

Swim: 26:19

And here started the fun part.  There was a quarter mile run to transition.  I didn’t want to screw up my left side this early in the race, so I forced myself to power walk the majority of it.  I finally got fed up with walking and gently jogged it in once I got off the blacktop and onto the grass, but it still took forever.  FOREVER.

T1: 6:43

Onto the bike.  This course was the same as previous years, so I had goals.  I’m still not back to where I was this time last year FTP wise, but I knew I had a good shot at getting near last year’s time.  For the first time, I tried to pay attention to my power as I raced.  Of course, I forgot that while in aero, my watch sometimes drops my power meter, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared.  (Should I get a dedicated bike computer? Probably.)  I set my watch to alert me when my goal power was low and this was a stupid idea.  I struggled to hold that power on the flats, so my watch was constantly yelling at me.  This did make me push harder, but maybe I should have set that alert a bit lower.

As with any race, there is a lot of passing early on in the bike leg.  And I started to notice a trend.   Women would call out when they passed.  Men would not.  So I started counting.  My final tally was that five men called out when they passed. The rest were silent.  Three women stayed silent and the rest called out.

Obviously, this isn’t an “all men” or “all women” thing, but come on, people.  Just a quick “Left!” is a huge help.

I called out every time I passed someone, and always thanked people who called out to me and told them they were doing great.

I felt like I was pushing way harder on the bike than I had in previous years, so I’m really pleased with my final time.  I was just over a minute slower than last year, and given all that has happened in the past year, that is amazing.  I put in the work and it’s showing.

Bike: 1:35:48

T2 was pretty cut and dry, one second faster than last year.

T2: 1:51

Onto the most mentally challenging part of my race, the run.  I needed to be smart here.  I hadn’t run much over 4 miles since November.  I had been keeping a 3 minute walk, 1 minute run pace in most of my training.  When I ran hills, I had a tiny bit of pain (as compared to the no pain on flats).  So there was a lot to consider.

I started out at my 3/1 pace, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to work.  Why?  I wanted to RUN!  So I decided to try out a 2 minute walk, 1 minute run, see how that felt.  And it felt good!  I basically walked all the uphills, just to be safe, but there weren’t that many.

I felt so freaking fast, compared to my recent run times. I held a sub-14 pace.  That’s huge, coming back from injury and surgery.  And the best part was that nothing hurt.  I did notice that immediately off the bike, my entire left side was tight and the first thing that popped into my head was “Oh, this is familiar.”  This was something I had been dealing with for a while, and it makes me wonder just when this labral tear really happened.  I did loosen up eventually, but it was slow going.

This wasn’t as mentally challenging as I thought.  Yes, I got passed constantly.  But I didn’t care, because I was out there getting it done.  Yes, it was slower than last year.  And the year before that.  But I was finally getting to race, and that was incredible.

Run: 1:25:31

Total time: 3:36:11, less than 10 minutes slower than last year.

I am so pleased with how this race went.  Immediately, I wanted to race again.  This has been my goal race for so many months, and my hard work has paid off.  I do still have a ways to go with my recovery, but I feel great!  And of course, it was amazing to be out there with my friends and my Coeur Sports teammates.  I am so lucky to be surrounded by such phenomenal people.

Race Preparations

qimono / Pixabay

Guys, I don’t know if I remember how to triathlete.

I was supposed to be starting my race season all the way back in April.  APRIL!  (I’m kind of glad I didn’t because that race looked cold and miserable, but I might also be saying that to make myself feel better about the fact that I was broken and couldn’t race.)

But Sunday, I’m showing up at the start line at Rev3 Williamsburg Olympic, so I’d better figure this out soon.

This race is going to be a huge mental game for me.  This is probably the “easiest” Olympic course I have raced, so naturally it’s my PR course.  But I’ve set course PRs each year I’ve raced it.  That’s not going to happen this year.  And no, I’m not just saying that.  I’m in a very different place physically.  I’m still in the recovery phase of my labral tear.  And I did have abdominal surgery four months ago, which set me back as well.

So while my race plan for this race is usually “KILL IT,” this time it has to be “race smart.”  Which really should always be my race plan, but triathletes are dumb.

Mental challenge 1: The course has changed a bit and the swim is reversing directions (to go with the current).  Awesome, I don’t like swimming against current.  But the downside is that there is now a quarter-mile trip between swim exit and transition.  It’s on paved road, but far enough that people can leave shoes at swim exit if they want.

I’m intentionally not leaving shoes, because I need to take this slow.  I wouldn’t want to leave my running shoes, for fear they would get stolen and then I would be without shoes.  And I don’t need to be running in flip flops or other shoes that I’d be okay with losing.  To make sure that I’m protecting my hip, I need to be taking this slow, and the easiest way to force that is going to be walking barefoot.

That obviously leads me to mental challenge 2: The run.  I haven’t run more than 4 miles since November.  I’ve walked much more than that, of course, but not on a dedicated run.  I’ve been slowly working to get back to my normal 1:1 run/walk, but right now, I’ve been doing a 3 minute walk 1 minute run pattern, occasionally a 2 minute walk 1 minute run.  I need to start out easy with the 3:1 pattern and only if I’m really feeling good after at least two miles should I start to think about stepping it up.

Yes, this means I will be passed constantly.  Which, let’s be honest, happens every race anyway.  But it’s going to be a huge mental challenge to have lost so much of my speed.  I’ll get it back eventually, I’m sure.  The point here is to run without pain and finish the race.  I expect to be sore afterwards, but I don’t want to do something that leaves me in enough pain that I set back the progress I’ve made.

It’s going to be a hot race.  The water temp was 88 degrees on Thursday which is disgustingly warm.  The bike will be hot.  The run will be hot.  So being slow won’t be such a bad thing.

Mostly though, I’m excited to get to race!  I’m excited to see my friends!  I’m excited to finally be back out there and I hope this isn’t my last triathlon of the year.

 

 

June Mileage Update

Another month of quality training down.  I definitely pushed this month and am feeling it in my body.  It’s a reminder that my hip is not and will never be healed, but I just have to keep going with my strength work and stretch and remember that I’m still in the recovery process, but I’m getting stronger every single day.

June Miles
Swim – 10.2 miles
Bike – 178 miles
Run – 34 miles

In all three sports, I had my highest monthly mileage all year.  Yes, much of that run mileage is actually walk during my run/walk workouts, but it’s miles on my feet and that counts.   I’m so excited to be at this point in my training.  I do have a long ways to go, but finally, FINALLY I’m really feeling like I’m seeing solid improvement.  I do have aches and pains, but nothing like what I was feeling back in December when I ran.

I still hate going to the pool.  I don’t hate swimming, I just hate the logistics.  But clearly, this month, I showed up anyway.  That’s what it’s about.  (Okay, so my training plan had at least another mile or two on it.  I got close.)

2018 Miles to Date
Swim – 29.4 miles
Bike – 974 miles
Run – 43 miles