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.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Beach Challenge - 2011

Because Antwerp 70.3 is so close, this year I chose to do a team triathlon and do the swim.  I had a great time. I was afraid for only the first 10 minutes when I kept getting waves dumping on my head. The sea was really steep. 

On the second lap (yes, swim 750 km, get out, run back, swim another 750 km and run all the way back and to the transition zone), the waves swept me and a group of swimmers past the first buoy and it took forever to swim against the current and get around it. But I did.

I'm starting to the left of the masses. And what's with the guy standing on shore when it's time to go?
Okay. some of the gory details from yesterday. I ran 11km in the morning with the dog on the high-tide sand line with a 20k/hr wind at my back on the way out. Easy-peasy til I turned around. I had an upset stomach/digestive system while running, which is unusual, but I think I got a bad chunk of ham on the pizza last night. I didn't spit it out. Then I grabbed a quick powdered recovery shake (tried & true and doesn't upset my stomach), took a shower, packed my kit bag, and booked it down to kijkduin on the mountain bike about 5 miles south (into that head wind). 

The dunes I rode through were beautiful and full of yellow flowers (mallow, I think). I needed to be there by 3pm to meet up with my team "No Sweat". I'm glad I brought an ankle band for the timing chip since the guy with the chip has never done a triathlon before. Since I joined the club I now know a bunch of people and it was a friendly, warm atmosphere. Checked in. Met up with my team mates, who arrived about 3:30 p.m. Met up with the volunteer coordinator at 4 pm, got another t-shirt for being part of the crew, got my assignment for after the swim. Changed into my wetsuit and headed down the beach a 1.5 km walk - to the start. 

it was planned to be a 1.5 km swim to the south. I went into the water to warm up a little and get used to it. The current was so strong I didn't think it would be possible to swim south. Even the motor boat was having trouble with the surf to go out and set the marks. I stood around with friends and found the guy in my swim practice lane, and decided I'd try to draft him. after standing around quite a while, they announced a change of course - two laps to the north, starting back near the transition zone with a 750 m run back for the second lap, and about a km run back to the transition zone. 


I was kicking myself for the morning run - but really this was a training swim for me, and I needed to get a long run into my training bank account. So be it. The waves were huge. My lap-friend headed off towards the buoy. I did not think you could swim towards it and make it, with the effect of the current. I swam straight out to the left a little, starting to the left of the big group. It paid off. I was faster than last year and in with a bunch of swimmers, so much that I was having to fight for my own room. It was hard to get moving because I felt so frightened at first. There was a second line of breakers off shore that was breaking on the swim line - so I got tumbled a couple times just like what happens when you're in closer to shore. A really large group of swimmers undershot the buoy and had to swim back to it.

My stroke pace beeper was useful, but not in the way I had imagined. Somehow the setting got adjusted to way too slow. So it wasn't counting the pace for my strokes. Instead I used it as a reminder to be calm and just keep moving. I tried to get on some feet to draft but they were too slow and I passed some people. Then I got to the third buoy and turned for shore. I can't decide if it would have been faster to swim with the current to shore at an angle and run further. I tried to go straight for shore. I think it might have been faster to just go with the current.

Anyway, the run back up the beach was into the wind and my legs were really annoyed with the whole idea that they were part of this race - I kind of shuffled with a really rapid turnover and it was fine.

Then, time to go back in the water. Yikes. I cut the buoy too close and several big waves in succession carried me past it. I had to work really hard and dig deep to get back to turn around the buoy. I even had thoughts of the rescue swim I did last year, which was a hard and fast swim. I know I can swim hard, I told myself. Well, I churned it up and got past it finally after another big wave had carried me back again. (I felt like I was never going to get there.

But I finally did and then floated on my back a bit to catch my breath. Then I found another swimmer to draft, but again I was faster and she was going off course a little. Navigating with current is really tough.

Then I ran back up the beach into the transition zone. I wasn't the last yellow cap (teams) by any means. I finished in the middle of the teams. I would have been third in my age/gender group. 42 minutes. First out of the water, a 24 year old man, did it in 20 minutes.

My team mates were rock stars and I felt a little guilty for not telling them in advance that I would be in the middle of the pack. The runner placed second of the teams - an incredibly difficult 10 km in 47 minutes. Up and down several stair cases, beach sand and off-road terrain, and what not. and the biker was also a rock star - placing sixth in the teams. We finished 3:11:26 (Winner was 2:39 with a swim of 26 min.) We were 8 of 19 teams, I think.

I really enjoyed the day, and the runner was happy since he beat his office-mates, which was one of his goals for the day.

Volunteering was really great. I guided runners and got to see all these really good looking fit runners working really hard. it was exciting to see the # 1 man and # 1 woman running (they each had a bike escort in front). what athleticism. One funny thing was seeing all the men in tri-suits who had their race numbers on elastics that slipped down to their thighs (since they have no hips).

It was great to have my family there. They stayed for the swim and cheered me and got me some fried fish while I was at my volunteer post. Then they headed home. I stayed til the prizes were awarded. Had dinner there. Good catering. And again, fun to hang with my team and then friendly club mates.

And since when am I so small?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

6 juli and counting

I got a short run in this evening. I'm feeling challenged by the last couple weeks of training & being very busy at work. I need 24 hrs to recover from intense interval work (which I've been doing in the evening), then I feel tired in the morning, so sleep instead of train, busy at work, so don't train at lunch, then get home at 7:30 pm with a dilemma - eat vs train.

So I got home a little earlier tonight and enjoyed a run, feeling good and feeling that what I could do this evening was good enough.  Odie gave me a great teaching opportunity when he lunged at a police horse.  Down! Then we practiced walking calmly back and forth around the horse, and then he spied the other horse and lunged at that one too. Repeated the "calm submissive" exercise. And then we continued our run. I did "informal" speed work - running up the stairs to a big tower and running up and down the ramp to the beach. All of 100m ascent.

I've been focusing on "mental" training - look at my thoughts, re-framing fears, visualizing a successful, enjoyable day.  I found some fun training videos on You-tube - like how to avoid panic in an open water swim start.  (A good idea, in my book).

I have a race on Saturday where I am on a team, doing the swim leg for 1500m.  I hope I make them proud - they've got the harder legs, in my opinion.  I'm volunteering afterwards at T2 to help the cyclists back into the transition zone. I'm excited about this.

And of course my mind is drifting out to events in Aug (a sea swim & run race) and October (Amsterdam marathon? more likely the half-marathon? ).  Thankfully the Berlin marathon is already sold out, so it's not an option.  And there's a fun off-road triathlon in the fall. Another half-ironman is on my schedule, but it really conflicts with some work deadlines (as in I have a major project due the Monday after the Sunday race, so that's likely a no-go.  I'll keep dreaming.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

2 July nourishing choices

I decided not to go to Rotterdam for the ride. Travelling there & back by train would add three hours onto the workout, and I had a late-night phone call with my brother, so I was still awake at 1 a.m.  Lying in bed this morning as I repeatedly hit the snooze button and the 8 a.m. planned departure time drew near, it occurred to me that I could change my mind if I wanted. And at the decision point (having coffee at 8:00 a.m.), the skies were dark and heavy with rain and the wind was building. Not an auspicious start to what promised to be a long day.

Instead, I may run on the beach this morning with Odie and ride on the trainer tomorrow (or vice versa).  Of course, now the blue sky has returned, but I am still pleased with my choice.

I like being flexible, although sometimes I'm a little suspicious of my motives.  The line between slacking & being reasonable can be a bit fuzzy.  However, the simplicity of leaving my bike on the trainer, and getting the whole workout completed in three hours - instead of a six- or seven-hour day seems appealing.

The bonus is I can go lift at the gym, get in a swim and still help my older son with his planned BBQ for his school mates later this afternoon.

That feels supportive and nourishing to me.  I validate my decision!

turns out to have been a fabulous idea. I ran in my vibrams, did 100 m sprint repeats and a fartlek (5x3 min speed intervals). I knew it would be low tide, so the beach sand was hard - just right for barefoot running. Odie had a great time too. I enjoy being able to run with him off leash. It was a little chilly when I walked out the door. I've come so far as a runner. It used to be heading out for a 90 minute run would make me nervous. I'd have coat, hat, water & fuel belt, sunglasses, iPod ad nauseum. Now, it was just me, my running shirt & shorts, my silly blue VFF's and the dog. oh, and a house key. 

I hit/exceeded all my planned paces and thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine. And it's nice to be with my kids today too.