Tuesday, 20 December 2011


As if I didn't have enough to keep me busy. The truest sense of misery loves company. Janathon.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Dune Run: Meijendelloop 2011

Meijendelloop race report. Today was a great run. I will have to wait til my buddies share photos, since I decided I didn't want to carry my phone around with me on the course. I didn't do anything in preparation for this race except register. The longest run was 12 km in August.  More recently, 8 or 9 km.  I nearly talked myself out of it, thinking there was no way I could do it blah blah blah. But heck, in July I ran a half marathon after swimming an hour and cycling for five. I can do it, I told myself. I am an ironman.

I think because of my ambivalence about even starting, I stayed up too late futzing around with my Garmin and making a playlist for my iPod (which I reclaimed from my son) (past midnight) and decided I would pull out my race kit in the morning, since of course I know just where everything is. My right shoulder has been bothering me since the last time I was at the gym (remember me boasting about lifting heavy). So the pain in my shoulder woke me at 5 or so . I flopped around until 7. And made my coffee in the dark and enjoyed it in bed. My house is 5 km from the start, and I planned to ride my bike. I decided to see how it went. walking around collecting stuff didn't take too much time, I thought. I had to fish out a race belt to carry water and gatorade, even though I hate drinking when it's cold. Then I had to find my nifty Ironman bib belt, which made me feel strong and proud. Then I had to dig through the dirty gym laundry to find my tights and winter shirt since it was cold. And then find my gym bag to locate the hat and gloves. 

So you won't be surprised that I started six minutes after the 8 a.m. gun went off. I really should not have had that coffee in bed. I stuffed gel packets and a banana into my pocket on the way out and cranked up We Are the Champions on the way out of the house. In the dark, I startled a small red fox with a white spot on its tail. He scampered off with cat-like motion. My friends yelled Chris! hello! as they ran past me on the bike path, me pedalling furiously to the start line.

I used to be more nervous (and more prepared) for races. I figured out my nutrition off the top of my head. In the past, I've spent way too much time planning a pace. This time I just used my GymBoss timer to do a 4:1 run/walk ratio and kept an eye on my heart rate. 1 min walk breaks were too long, so I started running when I felt like it - usually after 40 seconds. One minute and I started to get cold. The walk break let me catch my breath and settle my heart rate and gave me confidence that I could run forever. Which is true.

I checked in at the start line and asked if I was too late. They laughed, I started. I was really happy to be behind the guys in green jackets on bikes who were trailing the pack of runners - I think the race sells out at 500 people. Last year, the bike guys trailed me, picking up the signs and I felt totally irritated by their presence, guilty every time I took a walk break, imagining they were watching me and judging me and hating me for keeping them outdoors on a snowy, sub-zero day. (Last year I was also still feeling sorry for myself for climbing into the meat wagon when I timed out on the bike at my first 70.3 tri the previous month, so I was probably more resentful than most to having a tail.) 

Well, I was thoroughly enjoying myself, running in the gorgeous red-sky dawn, following the markers and sign posts. At one point though the walking trail split from the bike trail, and there were no markers. I couldn't tell which to follow. I looked in vain on the dry ground for indications of the herd of runners I was following, and doubling back to see if I had missed some sign. No. The sign indicated straight ahead. So I stayed on the wider bike path, since surely I would have seen foot prints had they run down the foot path. 

I came up over a hill and around the bend and saw the water table. Wow, I thought. They've added another water table - since according to the race scheme, the water post was at 15 km, and I had just run only 3 km. Wow, they look surprised. Wow, they're still pouring water into empty cups. The herd hasn't been here yet. Then another woman wearing a race bib came running up too. 

Turns out the bike patrol was pulling up the signs, and without any signs to tell us to keep going north, this gal and I had missed 10 km of the race - the whole of the north loop - and had taken the turn that you would see after completing the north loop. (the course kind of resembles a shoe lace bow. not really, but that will give you a vague idea). 

She had gotten very lost trying to drive to the start, and had started after me. She seemed a little upset and told me she had really wanted to do the whole 25. I started joking around with the volunteers that I didn't mind, I would still get the shirt and the apple cake, and told them I was withdrawing from the race (An "out-faller"). We ran a small loop back north and around to the water table again; she was hoping to wait for the herd to catch up. I knew for myself that was rather pointless, since the herd was so much quicker than I that they'd run me down in a stampede. (The guy who won (1:35:22 , 25 km) is a tall, nice looking, incredibly graceful runner. I had the pleasure of watching him run right past me. He was speeding by without any visible effort).

Anyway I thanked the universe for cutting 10 km off the run and making it possible for me to thoroughly enjoy the day and run 15 km and finish. The course passes the path back to the start line on its way out for Loop 2. And it passes the road to my house..... I was tempted to run an even shorter course, but decided I would simply run the rest of the course and enjoy myself, taking the pace as I wanted. Absolutely no anxiety about being too slow, being last, etc. The herd was way behind me. I folded my bib to indicate I wasn't racing and started looking at the gorgeous oak leaves as the course took me into parts of the dunes where I had not run before. 

There is a sweet spot in running where I find pure pleasure. Colours become more intense. I lose a sense of time. Motion is effortless. This sweet spot eludes me when I am doing interval training or other kinds of pace work. Sometime if I don't run hard enough, I can't find the zone either. But today was sweet. 

I haven't run with music in more than a year, after my son borrowed my iPod to replace the one he lost. And after I grew more confident in just going out for a run by myself, without music. But today, the music was great. I have some running tracks that are composed with specific running paces - they sound like trance music and they'd probably kill you if you listened without running. But they melt my mind so my body can run.

Soon the gazelles started passing me. A thing of beauty. These fast men. Tall, lean, some loose, some tight. nearly all the leaders had the same body type. I'd run like that with those legs too. Glide, I told myself. 

I remembered to eat some gel and drink some water and drink some gatorade. My stomach wasn't that interested in too much. And the run wasn't that long. I ended up with 15.5 km. I had a little trouble with temperature control. I really hadn't needed my coat. But did need it sometimes when the wind picked up. So, the gloves came off nearly immediately. Same with the hat. Zip up shirt & coat. Unzip. Take off coat. Put it back on. Zip shirt, unzip coat. The problem was I let myself get sweaty, which made it very easy to feel cold. Most of the race I ran with my coat rolled up and tied around my waist.

I got big cheers at finishing and had to unfold my number, since they kept asking for it. Then I reminded the gal who was recording the finishes that I was an uitvaller. I saw my fast lady friends who had passed me earlier, and some who finished behind me. We cheered on more finishers and then went into the pancake house for baked apple cake and coffee with lots of fresh whipped cream.

The event is really well run. The volunteers are friendly and offer encouragement. The paths are gorgeous. The number of runners make for an intimate race. Perhaps next year, they'll hold the bikes back ten minutes after the official start to let me enjoy having my coffee in bed without losing the signs on the course. Or maybe I'll get out of bed a little earlier, set out my race kit the night before, and run the whole race. Third time's the charm. Til next year!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Amsterdam 8

The Amsterdam 8km race was great. Getting there was a little too exciting. The bus connection skipped the stop at the marathon expo center due to the marathon and took us up and around so we had to literally run 15 minutes back to the start area. one of my colleagues thankfully was able to pick up our start numbers from the expo and bring them to us, so we could start on time.

I planned a pace I thought my new running buddy C could handle (under 7 min/km) with a one minute walk break every 1/2 km (so every 3 1/2 minutes, more or less, like we practiced). She did beautifully, though the last couple km saw her stop talking and refuse to tell me any jokes. I was trying to keep her talking so as to make the distance fly by faster. She told me afterwards she was thinking evil thoughts when I was trying to keep her from falling behind too far between walk breaks. We finished together in 55 minutes, which was so fantastic for her first time. She said in the beginning of the race she was self-conscious, and didn't feel at all like she had any business out there on the course. She was particularly nervous about all the spectators. She got a big charge from spectators calling out encouragement to her by name (names were on our bibs). By the end, Christel had such an adrenaline rush, finishing in Olympic stadium, making half a lap to cheering crowds. She earned her finish medal! 

The temperature was perfect - a bit on the chilly side but clear blue sky and sunny. A new women's course record was set. We stayed in the stadium to watch the men's and women's winners finish. I felt so inspired watching these talented runners.

Saturday, 17 September 2011


I decided against racing Sunday. This past week I've been laying low due to an unrelenting stomach bug. I didn't run until Thursday and felt unusually sore afterwards with cramps in my hamstrings that made me think my electrolytes are off-balance.  I rowed today and felt clammy. I'll try an easy 5k tomorrow and see how that feels. I ordered a replacement Gymboss interval timer. I lost my timer in the first minutes of the Rotterdam marathon. My coach had recommended using it for walk-run intervals. I'm looking forward to having one again. They're so useful for so many things.

Sunday, 4 September 2011


I have a 10-mile race coming up. While out running this morning I managed to convince myself that the race was next week. So I cut back my planned run from 18 km to 10 km. I justified this change on the basis that I'm following a half-marathon training schedule for a race in November, so I "ought" to adjust for the 10-miler, and not go too long today.

The joke's on me. Now that I'm sitting at the computer planning next week's training, I see that the 10-miler is two weeks away, on  the 18th of September.  So, really, I should lace up and run another 8 or 9 km, and get in the over-distance that will make the race easier and more fun.

Maybe I will, later. I'm already well-fed after breakfast and enjoying another cup of coffee. My clothes are damp and I'm cold.  And did I mention already that it has started to rain?  I think I'll wait a little while for my motivation to return.

The other reason I ought to go out again is that I ran the first five this morning with a friend who is learning to run. She had some leg pain leftover from her first run last week, so we walked often and ran at a much slower pace that I usually use for "long slow distance."  I thoroughly enjoyed her company.  And I ran the second five on the beach with the dog.  So I'm feeling the need to stretch my legs out a bit at a faster pace. Maybe later this afternoon.

me, running.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

the end of superstition

I checked the shoes I used for marathon training. Riders. I found the other shoe of my current pair of Riders -the ones I thought hurt my knees. (Odie hadn't stolen it - I stuffed it in my closet and forgot). I ran in them tonight 6km, easy. No pain. They feel a year old, which they are, but they're fine.  I think I'll keep the new pair and buy another pair of Ultimas, and rotate them.

Problem solved.

So for accountability, I'm logging my food again. I'm trying  going to lose the last 15 lbs. by my birthday, 1 December. I have a public journal so one of my trainers can check up on me. I did feel sheepish recording the cookies and the very small serving of ice cream I enjoyed tonight. I have to explain myself tomorrow when we meet.

So, back to my Paleo roots and avoiding inflammatory foods.  The race to Lean is on.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

time for new running shoes. the horror. the shame.

I love my Mizunos. When I first learned to run a couple years ago, I tried a lot of different manufacturers and struggled with knee and foot pain. Then I switched to Mizuno wave riders. And I started running barefoot as often as possible. And suddenly I was running pain free. There are some competing theories. Maybe it's not the shoes. I may have simply become a lighter, stronger, better runner.  But I'm now as superstitious as a major league baseball player.
Wade L'Chaim  Boggs
So I was stunned today to realise that the shoes I have enjoyed this passed year are Ultimas, not, as I had thought, Wave  Riders.  I have to go back to last year's Amsterdam Marathon expo to explain.  At the expo, I bought three pairs of shoes, including these Aero racing flats.  (They had great discounts.)

Aero racing flats

I also bought a pair of Riders and a pair of Ultimas, the latter after taking the Precision Fit quiz online.  In order to make my purchases easier to carry, I threw away the shoe boxes. And I mixed up the names of the shoes.  When I ran in my new shoes, one pair bothered my knees in runs longer than 8 km and the others didn't. Without actually checking the names on the shoes themselves, I thought it was the Ultimas that hurt. That's because I knew that Riders were my shoe of choice. And I didn't want to believe that shoes designed for someone of my (heavier) weight -- more cushion -- would be better for me. That notion interferes with my vision of myself as a barefoot runner.

So you can imagine the horror today when I pedaled off to the running shoe shop to buy replacements, only to realise I left without my (very wet) favorite shoes.  (By the way, if you are still reading, you can only be a runner.) I bought Riders, a half size larger than I usually wear, since the toe box felt a little tight in the 8.5. The guy first tried to sell me the new Enigmas, but I felt loyal to my current model and didn't bother to try them on.

So long story shortened, when I got home I looked at the label on my wet shoes. I was very surpised. I have been loving the Ultimas, not the Riders. The cushiony-fat-runner shoes.  

And worse, I now have a very expensive new pair of shoes that are possibly the WRONG kind. I would take the old Riders out for a run to see if the knee pain returns, but I can only find one shoe. Odie is the likely suspect. He carries shoes around when he wants to go out for a walk. 
Wave Riders

For a superstitious runner this is a major catastrophe. Whatever I decide, it will have to be before Tuesday, when I run again. And I will no doubt have to go back to the shoe store and possibly even admit that I was wrong and that I'm not such a big-shot runner. And that I prefer the cushiony-fat-runner shoes.
Wave Ultimas

PS. I took the quiz again and it recommends all their models. Some help.
PPS. I looked at the shoes I used for training and running the Rotterdam Marathon. Riders. So much for superstition.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

up next.

I'm still feeling quite satisfied after the half-ironman. I have no burning desire to race. Or do any more tri's this year.

I'm just starting to want to get back to a regular training routine. Just after the race, I went sailing for a couple days on a large brackish lake in Holland. I enjoyed swimming in the salty water.  Then we camped in Switzerland under the Jungfrau for almost a week.

Mountain biking and very long, high altitude hikes drained whatever was left of my legs. By the fourth day, though, the soreness was gone.

Odie loved camping and hiking.

I took Odie down to the beach today for a run. It took a little convincing before he would follow me. I'm not entirely sure he wanted to run. But we did.  Summer runs on the beach have been uneventful. But this time a very polite policeman in an off-road truck told me I was lucky to be running south with the dog. That meant I hadn't seen the sign restricting dogs from being on the beach. He let me go without a fine, only to come back a few minutes later to tell me to take Odie into the dunes, pointing over to a trail. Fair enough, except I was barefoot.  The dunes running trails are either brick or crushed shells. We made it alright. I had to stop a couple times to pick pieces of shells out of the sole of my foot, but nothing of any important.  We then took another trail  back down to the part of the beach that is dog-legal year round and made our way home.    My left hamstring was a little tender sometimes on the run, so I kept it slow and walked regularly.

Total run 12 km. Long & slow. I had intended 16 km but apparently my luck was to turn back soon enough to avoid the ticket I would have surely received had I tried to go a few more km north (and thus presumptively would have been able to read the sign saying no dog). The policeman explained that while dogs can't read, humans can. 

I've looked at my running races that are lining up for the fall and need to decide between two that six days apart. I ran them both last year and was too tired (and cold) to finish the 25 km race after running an easy 15 km the weekend before. The 15 km is a well-run, well-attended hilly race out of town.  My friend who injured herself has offered to give me her bib (and the shirt she ordered). I already registered myself for the 25 km. That one's close to home - just out my front door.  Choices choices.  I figure I could drop out again this year after 10 km, but I was harassed by club-mates last year - better to be last than a drop out. This one is an intimate race of about 400 people that includes a t-shirt and apple pie with coffee afterwards.  I registered early to avoid being shut out.

So as I move into the fall, I've come up with some goals. 

My goals: shorter term: kick some more weight to the curb; maintain my fitness; longer term: increase my ability to ride hilly/mountainous terrain; run a little faster; improve my swimming technique. continue to enjoy training & racing.

How to get there: 
Weight-loss: No sugar/no starch. Except during long exercise or immediately afterwards.
Swimming, I will resume swimming 1-2x with my club and continue to drill  Total Immersion techniques on Sundays.  
Cycling: I have group rides easily available to me with my club and with friends, plus lots of inexpensive organised tours around Holland. And the indoor TACX trainer.
Running - I enjoy 3x a week. I'll work some speed work into my training as the running races approach, so long as I get no complaints from my hamstring.
Get back into the gym 2x for core strength etc.
Racing next year. Nearly immediately I wanted to do Antwerp again, but faster. But I will have "home leave" next year, which means travelling for 4 weeks in July/early August in the US.  That means I could conceivably pick a US race and bring my bike (which would be a pain for my family). Regardless of when I decide to race, I will have to work my racing/training plans around this trip - kind of like last year. (I'm planning to summit the Grand Teton with my older son, so it won't be a "total loss.")  I also realised that I need to work on my power for cycling in the mountains. That, or abandon any hope of racing anywhere else in Europe. 

Monday, 1 August 2011

Antwerp Ironman 70.3 - Run to the Finish Line

I finally made it to the second transition zone.  The cyclist I was “chasing” – more like following –  disappeared ahead of me when the course took a couple turns.  Riding up, I saw so many people wrapped in silver space blankets. They had already finished and gave me big cheers of encouragement. I was excited and a tiny bit discouraged at the same time since they were done and I still faced a half-marathon run.

Then suddenly there was the entrance into T2.  A wonderful volunteer at the entrance asked me my number in order to direct me to the proper rack. I couldn’t remember, so she checked my bib and pointed.  I found my spot very quickly and was pleased to see my blue and black garbage bags –  the one from the lake with my wetsuit and backpack and the other with my running gear. I had read terrible stories about another race (one in Germany) where all the bags were mixed up and athletes had a terrible time finding their stuff.

I racked my bike and took a deep breath. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. It was surreal. I was so happy to be finished with the bike that I never had another thought of quitting. I did some quick time calculations and told myself that I had enough time to finish even if I had to walk the whole way. Well, on second thought I realized that wasn’t exactly true, since walking takes 10 minutes a kilometer and I didn’t actually have 210 minutes. But it was reassuring to know that even if I took a lot of walk breaks, I’d be able to finish before the course closed.

I have to explain this fixation I have about finishing in time. I learned to run distance only two years ago. In March 2009 I ran my first 10k race, which took something like 76 or 79 minutes.  Before then I had never run more than five kilometers – and then only because I was training for sprint triathlons. I had tried running in the past and had never progressed to the point where I enjoyed it. I found it too difficult. I took a big scary step at New Years 2009 and registered for a learn-to-run course that included a local 10k race. I loved it!  And I wanted to continue to run.

By September, I ran 16k from Paris to Versailles (10 miles) (2:22), and in October, I ran the Amsterdam Half Marathon (2:42).  I enjoyed it so much I set my sights on a marathon, selecting one in December that had a 5 hour time limit. It was quickly apparent to me that the required pace was beyond my ability so I chose instead the Rotterdam Marathon, with a 5:30 limit, the following April 2010.  I wasn’t last, but I was nearly, finishing in 5:30, which was my plan.  

The short course limits here have created a good deal of anxiety for me since I run “slowly” in comparison to others on the course.  In a half-marathon in March 2010 I got behind the sweepers early and got so upset when I was asked to leave the course at 7km that my race fell apart and I didn’t finish within the 2:30 time limit. I felt devastated even though I had cut about 10 minutes off last half-marathon time six months earlier.  Learning to finish last and validate my own finish have been some serious character-building lessons for me, a perennial over-achiever Type A personality.

So when I realized I had met my race plan for both the swim and the bike, I felt like I had already crossed the finish line. But I still had to put on fresh socks and my running shoes. My feet were numb getting off the bike. And my wool socks were wet with you-know-what. I was very glad to have a nice dry pair of running socks to put on my feet. I had planned for rain and “treated” myself to some dry socks  for the run. I was partly right.  The sun had come out. I started chatting and joking around with the race volunteer who had guided me to my spot. I had no sunscreen! But I had a hat.

When your feet are numb, it’s hard to feel whether your socks are on right. I got the right sock all twisted up in the process of putting it on my damp, numb foot, and had to straighten it out. Then I realized there was something in the toe of my left shoe.  I pulled my foot out and checked – and found the two salt capsules I had stashed in my shoe early this morning.

The capsules were part of my nutrition plan. Endurance racing is as much about fueling as it is about pacing. Pre-race planning required a lot of decisions:  how many calories an hour to eat (300), how much water to drink (about 500 ml an hour), and how to get enough electrolytes to avoid cramping (take capsules during the week leading up to the race, then two before the swim, two before the run).  All this I had practiced in earlier races and during training sessions.

I had also decided I was going to run “commando” – naked – that is, without a fuel belt.  In the past, I’ve looked like a running tourist with the amount of stuff I’ve carried (fanny back, hat, coat, camera, dual water bottles).  Once, when I was running home after a race, someone commented that I looked like I had strapped a BBQ on my backside. To be honest, I hadn’t run with that pack! It held my race kit.

The race instructions promised aid stations every two kilometers with water, Isostar (yuck), Powerbar Gel (edible), oranges and Coca Cola. I decided that I would rely on these rather than carrying my own stuff, except for a bottle of Gatorade that I would carry at the beginning of the run and then toss.  I planned to drink coca cola and water and eat gel. (Just the mention of that now makes me shudder. Seven and a half hours of eating pure sugar is gross). So the plan was to run between aid stations and walk through them as a reward.
The run course was three laps winding around the old quarter of Antwerp.  At each lap, runners pick up a wrist bracelet. When you have three, you enter the finish lane.  

When I left T2, the course did not seem clearly marked and I was a little worried I had missed a turn since I didn’t see any runners at first. Then the little road I was on fed into a stream of runners. I joined in and matched up with another woman, Liz, who was running at a similar pace. We started talking. She was running at about 6min/km (10 min/mile), which was faster than I had planned for the first lap, but I could keep up while still being able to talk.  She mistook my yellow Livestrong bracelet for a lap marker and thought that I had, like her, already run a lap. She kept telling me she thought we had already run 7km. I had just gotten onto the course, worried I had missed a part. At some point I realized she was simply a lap ahead of me.  I felt disappointed that she was going to finish sooner. She helped me to run well. I don’t think I could have pushed myself so consistently by myself. Actually, I know I could not have since I cut myself too much slack! And have a mental barrier about running faster than a 10 minute mile (6 min km).

My Garmin was giving me very strange pacing numbers, so I stopped looking at it. Talking with another runner who’s running at the same even pace makes the miles just fly by. It definitely helped me break through a mental barrier. I went from “I don’t think I can run this fast after swimming and biking” to “I’m doing it.” So we just kept going, walking through the aid stations and running to the next one.

I saw my husband and my two boys during the first lap. What a great boost that was. And besides, I could shed the hat I was carrying that ended up being too hot and unnecessary. I looked for them again throughout the rest of the race, and saw them just before the finish.
Next time I will comb my hair or something!
On my second lap, Liz’s third, we took a couple walk breaks. It’s funny how well we were motivating each other without saying a word. It’s as if we were passing silent messages of strength.  We got to the dividing point on the course where I would continue and she would finish. I teased that she should run one more lap to keep me from walking. (Silently in my head I’m thinking I can’t wait to get rid of you so I can walk).  Liz is saying to me, you better not walk or I’ll have to scream at you from the sidelines!  We gave each other a big hug and said goodbye.

I felt really strong. I had clearly reached my goal of finishing before the course closed. I just needed to keep moving, and here I was, one lap away.  I switched to cola at the aid stations and used the water to cool off. I tucked sponges on my neck, beneath my tri-suit. And squeezed water over my head. Shocking, but effective.  The aid stations, by the way, were NOT two km apart. I don’t know how they were organized, but they seemed few and far between.   

Bye Liz, hello Sue.  I continued running by myself and saw another woman, Sue. I paired up with her. She was celebrating her 50th birthday and was eager to join her husband, who had already finished the race. She seemed a little out of gas and I asked her if she wanted to run the last lap together.  She was walking a lot and I encouraged her to run a little more and run a little faster between walk breaks.  She wasn’t quite running next to me, but just behind. I kept encouraging her. I wasn’t sure how hard to push. I didn’t want her to become discouraged or annoyed, and what do I know about racing anyway. But I thought she needed some cola and encouraged her to give it a try. She was discouraged about how tired she felt. She told me she had run a 2:10 half marathon but felt quite tired after the bike leg.  She kept telling me to go on without her and not to let her slow me down. But I had already met my goal mentally and I was enjoying running together. Helping Sue kept my mind off the blister that was forming in the usual spot on my right foot and the chafe on my inner thighs from my tri-suit that was beginning to bleed.  I liked running an easy last lap.
Me and Sue!

When we got to the finish chute I started to run as fast as I could. I put my hands in the air as I ran across the finish line and yelled as loudly as I could. 
I felt so happy to be done. Now I could sit down. My quads and my glutes were feeling pretty tired. Sue finished about five seconds after me.

 I turned to clap her across the finish line. We did it! 

Then I got my HUGE finishers medal and walked along the end of the course, clapping and cheering for the people behind me.

I met Sue’s husband and congratulated him on his finish. Then I spied my kids and husband and got some great high fives and hugs. 

Then we made the long walk back to T2 to pick up my bike. Ouch Ouch Ouch.  On the way to the bike, I met up with Liz and her husband and congratulated them. I thanked Liz a lot for helping run a good race.

After finishing the race I was suddenly really tired and hungry. I confess we stopped at McDonalds off the highway on the drive home. I liked the burger but the fries had no salt. So I didn’t eat any. Salt is what I was craving. That and coconut. I think the fatty acids in coconut attracted me.

I feel so proud of my effort and so very satisfied.  I raced without any injuries. I kept a patient pace on the bike and pushed myself harder than I thought I could – without blowing up. 

While out walking the dog the next day, I caught myself wondering how much faster could I finish next year. And wondering if there was something wrong with me since I preferred an enjoyable slower lap and running with another athlete to speeding off alone.  No. I’m just fine. My desire to push myself evaporated once I realized my goal (“just finish”) was in hand.   That was enough for this race.  I ran this half in 2:33, after swimming 1.9 km and riding 90 km.  Not so bad for an Athena! 

PS After the race, we went sailing for a couple days. This proved to be the perfect way to recover from the race.  I took a lot of naps - not much moving. Some swimming when I felt ready.  I wrote my friends:
About the half ironman,I learned the most important lesson about myself. I can do the most extraordinary things if I will only reach a little further, push a little more, and believe that it's within my capacity. Throughout the race, I had to control my negative thoughts that were telling me to quit, that the next stage would be too hard. When I focused on just what I needed to do at that moment, and kept myself moving forward, I eventually crossed the finish line. Dozens of people who started didn't finish. I FEEL SO PROUD OF MYSELF.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Ironman Antwerp 70.3 Race Report - The Bike

I left the water feeling very happy. I didn’t feel dizzy, which is something about which the books warn you. We had to leave the swim caps in a barrel and I fussed with it for a moment, trying not to dump the Tempo Trainer into the barrel along with my cap.

While I was waiting to start, I got to see the handicapped athletes finish. They had teams help them to strip their wetsuits, change clothes and get into their bikes. I was so inspired to see these men racing.  That feeling stayed with me all day as I saw them on different parts of the course – kicking my slow butt, of course.
I found my bike. It’s not usually too hard for me to find my bike. Being in the back of the pack and in the last starting wave means the Transition Zone is fairly empty by the time I arrive. Though tempted to ride without socks, I took the time to put on my favorite wool cycling socks. I chose these because of the temperature and forecast of heavy rain. I also wore a light-weight cycling jacket that I borrowed from my husband (after promising to take good care of it and not throw it away on the course if I got too hot).  

As I mentioned before, I had clipped my shoes into the pedals before the race started.  This is what the clips look like - so you can see why I can't run in them.
my shoes might be a  little nicer than these well-loved items.
Clipping my shoes on the pedals enabled me to jog my bike to the mount zone, whereupon I tried to put my foot into my shoe instead of trying to ride with my feet on top of my shoes.  This picture shows an athlete doing a flying mount correctly. I, of course, had only practiced on the bike trainer, which doesn't tip. 

someday I will have a pointy time trial helmet, cool wheels and a flying mount.
I burst out laughing at the difficulty of trying to put my shoe on. I  told the Race Official watching me that this looks cool in magazines, but in reality, it’s much harder to do than you might think. I took the shoes off the pedals and put them on, then got on my bike.  My shoes have a strap that makes it much harder. So it’s not really my fault….

Off and riding!  Having my hair pulled back in a pony tail initially made for a poor fit for my bike helmet, demonstrated in the picture below. As I was riding away from T1, I saw this photographer stepping out in the middle of the street. Turns out it was my husband. As I flew by, it registered on me that my kids were standing near him. I tried to wave to them without dropping the gel pack I was tearing open. 

The first order of business on the bike is to eat and drink. I had remembered to start my Garmin watch, which I had cleverly programmed for the bike and run legs. (Garmin warns against wearing the watch during the swim. Something about risking electrocution.)  I needed to hit the lap button on the watch to get the course segments to progress, and remembered to do that. 
There were lots of turns and corners in the beginning of the bike leg.   I reminded myself to spin fast before changing gears (spin high, then gear up, rather than the other way around).  The heart rate information from the watch seemed way off, as did the cadence.  I am quite convinced that my average heart rate for the bike leg was more than 69 beats per minute with a high of 144.    

Regardless, I like having all this electronic information, but I am ready to race without the numbers too. A couple weeks ago, I fiddled with the information the watch would display and didn’t change the settings. So the watch would read one “page” steadily until I tapped it to get to the next page.  That’s okay, just not optimal. Anyway, I eventually realized that what I thought was cadence was actually calories burnt.  Not the settings I usually use.  And riding without my reading glasses means I can’t read the fine print. Oh, the joys of the +45 age group.

I had programmed the bike portion of the course with the min & max heart rate range. The watch kept signaling that my heart rate was too low. Maybe that was correct. Or not.  Maybe there was electronic interference, which happens sometimes, or maybe I should replace the battery in the chest strap. Going by feel and breathing (Rate of Perceived Exertion), I seemed to be going hard enough.  And besides, I knew what minimum pace on the bike would keep me ahead of the meat wagon, and I was fine.  So I concentrated on maintaining an even pace.

Again, on the bike I experienced a lot of negative thoughts. These included, just finish the bike leg, you don’t have to do the run. The run will be too hard after 90 km. I won’t be able to do it, etc.   One reason I was racing Antwerp was last year’s DNF in a middle distance triathlon in Weymouth.  I timed out after riding 60 km of the most difficult hills I have ever attempted.   That race had category 4 and category 5 hills. I trained entirely on flats. So I picked the Antwerp course because it was most like where I live (The Netherlands).
After listening to this on-going debate in my head –quit –no-quit-no –  I told my brain it was time for “No Thought.” The only thing I needed to be thinking of was what I was doing right now. Cycling. Against. The. Wind.  There were several small climbs on bridges that I could crank out in 20 or 30 strokes out of the saddle; small descents. Mind the railroad tracks. Keep to the right.  I saw some cyclists receive a drafting penalty. I enjoyed the fact that many cyclists were wearing nicely-scented deodorants.   I passed some cyclists. Mostly I got lapped by really big guys on really nice bikes.  I enjoyed looking at the numbers on people’s calves as they passed. Hardly anyone seemed to be in my age group, so it didn’t matter they were passing me. On the contrary, I passed some people in my group.

Navigating the bike route may have been a little easier if I had studied it more closely before the race. In training, I rode half the course on TACX bike trainer care of Google Earth.  So I was surprised to see that it was three laps, after I had read somewhere on the race instructions that it would be two laps.  The bike course went through a shipping harbor with lots of container storage areas. It was a boring area in which to ride, but eminently within my skill level.   I saw the hand-cyclists on the course, inspiring me again to continue doing my best.  My last long training ride (75 km) gave me a lot of confidence that I could complete this distance at a higher pace. And I also felt confident after the Olympic distance duathalon in June. I drew on these experiences, plus the idea that I had made a lot of deposits during my training sessions. And now it was time to make a withdrawal. 

The wind was awful. It was blowing hard – seemingly in all directions. Mostly there was a steady crosswind that caught us in both directions. Some parts of the course had a beastly head-wind, but the reward for enduring that was the effortless ride in the opposite direction.   I tried to connect with the surroundings to pull energy from the Earth but the cargo areas seemed so lifeless. And the air quality wasn’t terrific either. Sometimes it smelled like glue or a particular smell I associate with electrical transformers. 

Laps on bike courses can be a lot of fun because they give you a good sense of how far you’ve gone.   The last lap I didn’t see a lot of other cyclists, but the route gave me the chance to see that there were people behind me. And I was able to see how far ahead I was of the last rider.  He/she was followed by a huge parade of course officials and emergency vehicles with their lights flashing. I rang my bike bell and flashed thumbs-up.  At this point, the sun came out and I began to look around. There was some sparkling water and lots of ships. It was sort of pretty for an urban environment.   Last year’s race in Weymouth was gorgeous but impossibly hard. I’ll take urban and flat – at least until I’m faster and stronger.

I was quite successful picking up food and drink from the aid stations while riding. Unlike some of the hammer heads, I slowed down a lot, made eye contact, shouted out what I wanted and said thank you.  I don’t like Isostar, the brand of sports drink being offered. I got one bottle and drank some of it, which made me start to burp. After that, I stuck to water and the gel I was carrying. I didn’t eat as much gel as I had planned since my stomach was bothering me. And I felt like I had good energy.  So I didn’t force it down.  I also ate a couple pieces of banana, which I liked very much until I got one that was quite starchy and unripe. Yuck. But I didn’t drop anything. Nor did I hesitate to toss empty bottles. Plenty of volunteers were out on the course picking up all the athlete-trash.

Now, if you’re a sensitive sort, skip ahead to the run because now I’m going to talk about peeing on the bike. Yes.  When you’re riding 90 km and drinking enough water, eventually you’re going to have to pee.  I first heard about this aspect of racing from a podcast by a triathlete about her first Ironman race.  I asked my coach about it and she said, yes, people do that. During this race, I saw some competitors jump off their bikes and dash into a bush or lean up against the wall.   And I saw some others just kind of standing on their bikes for no apparent reason…. I decided that I would try this sneaky tactic since maintaining a constant pace is easier than stopping and starting, and besides, you can keep moving forward, which is the name of the game.

The other problem I faced was my one-piece zip-in-the-back tri-suit. If I got off the bike to pee in the bushes, I would have to either pee in my suit or quickly remove my race belt and struggle out of my tri-suit.  Peeing through the suit to save time starts to look like peeing on the bike. So after about 50 km, my bladder was complaining. And if I let it go too long, it can be painful. So I tested the situation and found that yes, in fact, it was possible to pee while on my bike without slowing down.  In small quantities, it seemed quite discrete.  At 75 km, I thought I was alone on the course and it was time to get to Really Empty before starting the run.  I let loose an indiscrete, splashy stream, and felt very pleased with the instant relief.  But I was immediately passed by some guy who had apparently been riding behind me.  I thought I would die of embarrassment.  But I didn’t. And my bladder was very happy.

After three laps, the course heads off toward the old city center of Antwerp and the second transition zone. The ride into town seemed to take forever - much further away that the roughly-ten kilometers remaining.  I was glad there was a racer in front of me to follow to T2. The signs were difficult to spot and it was fun to chase this guy and keep up.  So much of my time training is spent at a low heart rate (under 136) that I don’t often ride in groups. Nor do I chase other cyclists since it’s not on my training plan!

I looked at my bike time and current pace and realized I was doing really well against my race plan and felt confident that I would have plenty of time to run the half-marathon.  I finished the bike in 3:43:53.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Ironman Antwerp 70.3 Race Report - The Swim

The race began months before I got to the starting line, in February, when I began training. Ironman 70.3 means a 1.2 mi. swim • 56 mi. bike • 13.1 mi. run. But I train in meters. So to me, it means a 1.9 km swim, a 90 km ride and 20.1 km run.   

The first question is why triathlons? I love each component. I really enjoyed every single training session.  And the three together are a sport unto themselves.  I love the excitement of racing and the daily training discipline that grows out of fear of failure.  The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed on race day.

Why middle-distance racing? I chose middle-distance because of my size. I’m an Athena.  Until now, I haven’t thought of myself as a fast runner or cyclist or swimmer. So the longer the race, the more my size favors me, I suppose.  In 2004 and 2005, I raced in the Athena division for my first Sprint distance triathlons.  And I ran a fairly uncomfortable 5h30 marathon in 2010. So I’m not keen on a full ironman just yet. The training commitment is substantially higher, and I don’t want to spend so much time away from my family.

Race day arrived at the wrong end of my alarm clock. I hit the snooze button several times because I didn’t want to get out of bed and start the day. I felt afraid of the race. I marked a smiley face on my left hand with a permanent green pen to serve as a reminder to enjoy every step.  I also wrapped a blue and yellow cloth strip on my bike handlebars to remind me of my dedication to race in support of the families of the children who were killed in Norway.

I had wanted to eat sweet potatoes for breakfast but didn’t get up early enough to cook them. So I had a Powerbar Recovery shake with milk. I’ve eaten this before and it’s low fiber and goes down well.  I also had my standard espresso with milk.  Why give myself a headache from caffeine withdrawal?   I got the kids moving while waiting for my morning toilet routine.

I had planned a 7:30 a.m. departure time, and then thought to leave earlier at 7:15 a.m.  I didn’t communicate that clearly.  We ended up leaving at 7:45 a.m. That felt like my second mistake. My first was cycling a little too hard Saturday for 30 minutes. It left my quads feeling a little tired. Once we were in the car and moving, I started to get upset and caught myself, thinking that this was a recreation event and I wanted to keep it fun for the whole family. If I yelled at them, they probably wouldn’t think traveling to watch me race was fun.

Despite the late departure I had to make another pit stop while en route. That brought great relief to my nervous tummy and turned out to have been a time-saver, given the lines to the port-a-potties at the Registration Tent and at the first Transition Zone.

Notes for next time: pack before the day before.  The stress I felt on Saturday made packing difficult. It would help to print a detailed road map too.  The internet service on my phone doesn’t roam automatically, and I forgot about this when using the map service to navigate, and it suddenly stopped working.

As it turned out, navigation went smoothly. Antwerp's just not that big. We found a place to park and I rode my bike over to the Registration Tent.  Registration also went smoothly. I got a nice backpack and race belt.

I also dropped off my running kit. The bike-to-run transition zone (T2) is at a different location than the swim-to-bike zone (T1). You have to pack what you’ll need for the run into a labeled garbage bag and the race organizers deliver it to the T2 Zone. So I said goodbye to my racing shoes, a clean pair of socks, a hat, a bottle of Gatorade, and a running coat. Based on the forecast I expected rain, so I thought I’d be glad to have a dry pair of socks by then. I also tucked two minerals capsules in my shoe.

I rode back to the car, momentarily panicking since I wasn't quite sure how to get back to it, and changed into my tri-suit in the parking lot.  I stuffed everything into my new backpack and rode over to T1. I forgot my bike gloves, but that didn’t matter. I also forgot to get my bib number marked on my arm at the Registration Tent. I was relieved to read in the instructions that I could get marked at T1. The other number written on the athletes is your race category. (It’s definitely a stress-reliever to see another race category on the calf of the person who just passed you.)  I love getting marked for a triathlon race. It’s a temporary tattoo that I look at with pride on the days following the race.
Not me. My bike though! And why does this guy have my race number?

I set up my bike and stuffed myself into my wetsuit. It was cold and I wanted to keep warm before the start.  Some people had shower shoes or disposable togs. I stood barefoot. I had been worried about having to set up and leave T1 by 10:00 a.m. But T1 was right on the start chute for the swim.   I felt so excited and nervous and well-prepared.  My race plan was simple enough to know by heart.

Swim = a refreshing warm up for the rest of the day. Bike = patient. Run = steady pace.

I felt confident that this course was within my ability and that I could meet the time limits on the course without too much trouble. My goal was to finish before the time limit. Actually I had three goals:

Goal 1: give it my best try. Never give up.  Embrace the sucky parts and push through them.

Goal 2: finish ahead of the meat wagon

Goal 3: finish further ahead of the meat wagon. :> And magically a spot in Kona or Nevada will roll down to me. ha ha ha. That would be very funny indeed.

Really excited about the race!

There were lots of nervous athletes around me.  I felt really proud to be there. It’s funny to look around at how everyone else sets up their bikes.  Everyone has a particularly method to setting out the stuff: bike helmet, glasses, shoes, etc. I clipped my SIDI’s into my Speedplay pedals. I practiced a couple times putting my feet into my shoes after mounting the bike. The way my shoes clip in makes it difficult to walk or run in them – they have a clip that sticks out. Anyway, my thought was I could at least run barefoot to the mount zone and put my shoes on there.

Realising there's no way out of the starting pen except to start!

I felt inspired by the disabled athletes who would be doing the race in special wheelchairs – pedaling with their arms.   They started with the pros and understandably lagged behind. What courage to swim that distance.  The swim was in Lake Galgenweel, a fresh water lake off the river Scheldt that runs through Antwerp.  Did I mention I hate swimming in lakes? I dislike muddy bottoms. In hindsight, I should have practiced lake swimming. The fresh water was very cold and green. I didn’t mind the lack of visibility, but I don’t float as high as I do in salt water. That took some adjusting.

Athletes started in waves every ten minutes.  We in the dark blue caps stood in the rear, slowly inching up towards the front to take our turn. No matter how far back we lagged, our turn approached. 

Somehow I ended up near the front of the pack, where I did not want to be. I figured I’d swim in about 50 -60 minutes, slower than most.    Eventually we all had to climb gingerly down these metal steps into the water (and the mud). I saw a woman bravely dowse her face in the cold water immediately. I will teach myself to do that.  Get over the shock of cold water as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, only the pros were allowed to warm up before the start. A warm-up definitely would have helped me.  I was impressed by the various sizes and shapes of the people in my age group. Not everyone was possessed of a “body beautiful” like the pros.  In the 45+ category, you find brave souls like me who are willing to work with the bodies they have, and not wait for the bodies they want to have.

ready set go!

waiting to begin!

When our gun went off, not much happened. Some of the group began to swim immediately. Others, including me, just stood there trying to adjust to the water temperature and coax ourselves forward.   Swimming 25 meter laps is one thing. Swimming a kilometer along the coast line is something else. Staring at a huge triangular course of the entire distance is just plain frightening. So I looked at the kayaks and other rescue boats.  They’re there for me if I need them. And off I went. 

A large group had broken off and was swimming too far to the right. That told me there was current in the lake. I kept to the left, but realized that unless I breathed on both sides I would veer to the right. I had difficulty swimming a straight line. The Tempo Trainer bravely beeped out the strokes I planned to take, but I had a lot of difficulty settling myself into the swim. I found some feet to draft on, but the swimmers proved to be either too slow or poor navigators.  The TT was helpful but seemed too slow and I had trouble putting together more than four strokes before pausing. It took a full third of the course before I settled down and felt more consistent. I was sinking in the fresh water. Breast stroke worked fine and that helped me to settle myself. And to navigate in a straight line. I was seeing some people ahead of me making good headway with the breast stroke.  So I followed them.

I had a lot of negative noise in my head and was out of breath a lot. That tells me in hind sight my swim form was poor. I told myself I was not quitting and just to keep going. I had told everyone I know that I was doing this, and I couldn’t bear the thought of having to tell everyone I gave up. I thought about fibbing and faking a cramp. But I didn’t want to become a quitter.  I only quit one race before when it was very, very cold and I was tired and didn’t want to run the whole 25 km.  I felt bad afterwards, and thought it’s dangerous to quit – it can be habit forming. It takes such strength to continue when your mind is saying quit. So I tried to remember my Total Immersion focal points. Swim tall.  Glide.

After the first turn buoy I started to settle down. I felt some growing confidence. I’m doing this, I thought. The second leg was marked with blue buoys which enabled me to focus on just swimming to the next one.  I tried counting strokes and told my brain that all I have to focus on was what I was doing right now.  Not think about whether I could have practiced more. 

I have been teaching myself how to swim the Total Immersion way. I can see how my race reflects the highest points I’ve achieved in my practice sessions.  I love this swimming method because when I’m in the groove, it feels effortless and it feels like I am flying through the water.   A woman near me stopped in the water. I paused and asked her if she was okay. She replied that she just peeing.  I found that very funny.  As we closed in on the last leg, I saw I was nowhere near last. I started feeling really proud of myself. Having intense feelings of happiness has triggered asthma in prior races, so I continued to breathe well even though I felt a little asthma coming on.   I had to battle for space on the direct line to the finish. It was kind of fun to feel like I was really in a race.  I kept going strong and finished the swim  at 0:47 – the time of day – but I thought that was my swim time. So I was ecstatic.  In fact, the official time was 54 minutes.  Regardless, the actual time is at least a 15 minute improvement over last year’s 1.8 km swim in Weymouth. I was fantastically happy.

Stay tuned for Part 2. First I have to make dinner, though.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

I'm a 70.3 finisher

I had a great day. The swim was challenging, and it took a while to find my groove. But I finished 1.9 more than ten minutes faster than last year.  50 min.  The bike was heavy. Into fierce headwinds, then running in front of them. Three laps. I told myself to be patient and finished in about 3:40. That gave me room for the run.

I paired up with Liz, a lovely woman from UK who was pacing a little faster than I had planned, but I sustained it for 15 km. She was a lap ahead of me and turned to finish. I then slowed a little to run with another woman from UK, Sue. Talking with these women made the run seem short and [nearly] effortless. I'm so grateful for my companions. I felt strong and could have a little finished faster perhaps. But I really enjoyed running with other women in my age group. My running split for the half marathon: 2:33.

Finish time: 7:24!

Thanks liz and sue. You made my day!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

T-1 race day essentials

I've arrived the day before the race. I'm feeling nervous and excited. I've trained consistently for months and months to the best of my ability. I have no regrets. I've built the structure for race day one training session at a time. Now it's time to execute the plan.  I found some tips  from Mark Allen:

The first tip: Realize that no race will ever go as planned. Have this be part of your race strategy, and be prepared to deal with the unexpected.

Second tip: You don't have to feel great during the race to have the race of your life. In fact, you could feel bad the entire day and still come up with the race of your dreams. Any negative effect that feeling bad might have on your race will be accentuated by placing importance on having to feel good to race well.  [NB - Embrace the Suck.]

Third tip: Eating, drinking and pace are the three most important variables that you can work with to maximize your body's ability to keep going. Reach for those first if you are feeling like you need something extra or that your energy is dipping. Eat a little to get energy, drink a little to make sure you are hydrated and slow your pace down just about a half a percent so you relax for a moment and see if this brings things around.

Fourth tip: The most important element overall is going to be your attitude. With a positive attitude miracles can occur. With a negative one, disaster is certain. The catch is that in the midst of going as fast as you can and having your body going into full mutiny over it, a positive attitude can be just about impossible to conjure up.

Solution? Think no thoughts. Yes, stop that brain of yours from getting in the way of what you are trained to do. Have no thought. Have you practiced it? Can you do it under pressure? This simple skill will help take you past impossible moments when your logical brain is telling you your goal is way out of reach. It keeps you on track when thoughts would derail your efforts. Simple yet powerful.
Race day essentials

I've filled the training bank. Now it's time to make the withdrawal.

The fear peaked and dissipated.  I did my last two training sessions: 30 sweaty minutes on the bike then a 15-minute run.  The sea was too rough and I couldn't be bothered to ride across town in a hurry to the public pool that is open in the summer for a 30-minute swim. So I "air swam" a bit with elastic cords. Will review swimming focus points tonight.

Then I watched the time trials and cheered for Cadel Evans.  What an inspiring ride.  What strength. Though I wonder whether he left 8 seconds on the course. I wanted him to win the stage too.

Self assessment

Swim - Was a bit complacent with volume of pool training. But confident that I can make the time limit. Credit myself for learning Total-Immersion swim techniques and regularly swimming in open water. So much nicer than the pool.

Bike - worked hard here; found a lot of power and stamina I didn't know I had. That and sweat.

Run - I'm faster and stronger with healthy legs. Wish I was a bit lighter, but it is what it is.  I need to break the mental barrier I have with 10-min. miles. I'm always surprised to see that I can run faster than a 6 min kilometer. So I will pace myself and hope that a Tri-Half Marathon is only 30 seconds a mile slower than a regular one.

Mental - I've studied the course, learned a lot from the DNF last year, and the duathlon this year. I feel like a total success already because I'm well prepared and healthy at the start. What more can I ask?

Leave it all on the course - saving some for the run. Pick up the pieces afterwards.

Send strength in every stroke, spin and step to the families of the children of Norway.

Monday, 18 July 2011

ready to ride Antwerp


Saturday, 16 July 2011

sea swims

two laps and then.

North sea swims take some planning to stay safe. And just a bit of courage (or madness) to get in the water.

I look at the tide table and pick my time of day. I prefer an hour or so after slack low tide, when the tide is just starting to think about coming back in.  Then I check the wind and surf conditions.  And then look at the direction of the current by scanning the horizon for container ships at anchor.

Today it was grey, flat, windy out of the south and a bit cold. And raining slightly. I rode over to check out the conditions, with my wet suit rolled up in my back pack, ready to swim if the conditions were right. As I dressed, I kept my hoodie on to stay warm. Then it started to drizzle. As if getting wet was going to be a problem.  I coaxed myself into the water by saying I could get out if I wanted, I could swim as short as I wanted, and so on.

Getting into the water is always a bit of a shock, so I let myself warm up slowly, not putting my face in until the rest of my body has adapted.  The first couple times of getting my face wet bring a bit of a choking reflex because the water is cold. I adjusted and got swimming.  I needed to swim out away from shore to get past a secondary surf line that breaks on a sand bar. It's a bit strange to be a couple hundred metres off shore and still be able to put my feet down on the sand.  Sighting is a bit of a challenge since no matter which direction I swim, a combination of the current and wave action orients me towards shore.

I brought the tempo trainer today and tried using it to help my concentration and rhythm. I liked it. I adjusted it to a little slower (1:40) after 1:30 felt a little rushed.  The beeping helped me focus on gliding, driving the high hip down, relaxed hands, stretching long, and so on. I liked reading Swimming Outside the Box last night while soaking in the tub.  Good pointers there.

I swam about 2300 metres in two laps, getting out and walking back up the beach rather than struggling against the current. I felt tired by the end of the second lap, so got out by the cat club rather than continuing as far north as the first lap (to the nudist club).  That felt right. I didn't time myself or try to go fast. Instead, I focused on my strokes, trying to string together a relaxing sequence of good technique.

Now I'm going to get warm and fed and watch some bike racing. Then ride a bit on the trainer probably, since the drizzle has turned into a storm.

I decided against riding with Jeff's mates this morning since likely I would have pushed myself too hard. Not the right choice in taper week.  Eight days and counting.