Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Inspiration - Part IV

Alright, I promise this is the last installation in this series. Who knew it would take so long to talk about this. When we left off, our heroine was just exiting the T1 transition area and setting off on her 56 mile bike trek!

What? It sounds a lot more dramatic than how it actually happened, which is this: I got out of the water and almost fell back in because my legs felt like jelly. I finally regained my balance, however, and booked it for the sandy shore and transition gate. Once I made it to my spot I yanked on my shoes. Pretty sure I even skipped the socks part of this exercise (as if the extra 10 seconds really mattered). I dried off, put my GUs and water bottle in my butt pockets, made sure my stuff was in the bag and strung up on my rack, and headed out. Jeremy filmed me running out, which was half exciting and half embarrassing as I had a massive wedgie.

I mounted my bike and settled into the ride with the full knowledge that there was probably a maximum of twelve people behind me in the entire race. I was a little embarrassed by this, but not too much. I had to focus on the cutoff at that point. So I rode and rode, and watched as I was slowly passed by each of the riders behind me. For the first two hours I just chugged along and, while the cutoff was at the back of my mind, it wasn't a pressing concern. I figured the four and a half hours I had would be plenty. It wasn't until about 2.5 hours in that I started doing mental calculations of my current pace and the distance I still had to cover. I just kept telling myself to push harder and make the cutoff even though a sinking feeling had begun to creep over me.

I won't go into some of the sad details of the rest of the race, though I will admit that I'm not above grunting and screaming my way up a massive hill. Let's just say it wasn't my finest hour (or five). Finally, I was pulled from the course at mile 47.

As much as I hated not finishing, it was a huge lesson in failure for me. Normally when I fail at something, I become intimidated by that activity. Not this time. I couldn't stop thinking about all the things I needed to do to get better and finish. And while my first instinct was to sign up for the next 70.3 race I could find, another part of me said to wait until next year so that I could not just be ready, but do well. I'm still struggling with this dilemma.

So the point is, I failed. But I can't wait to jump right back in (and on).

That sounds like a really good blog post ending, but I still have things to say so I guess it will be wasted. Once again, it's really early in the morning. But I decided that I really need to develop a structured training plan that incorporates swimming, biking, running and weight lifting. It's no longer enough to just do whatever, whenever. Triathlon is too demanding for it and if I don't have a schedule to stick to, I'm much more likely to either blow off a workout or water it down. There are a few ways to do this. One is to do lots of research and develop one myself. It's not an altogether terrible option but, let's face it, I'm not exactly the most qualified person to be doing that sort of thing. Another option is to join a triathlon team. I found an all-women's one called Team Lipstick. I'm looking into joining because their training program seems really comprehensive and I'm intrigued by the all-female aspect. Although it would preclude me from meeting guys, it would also provide a more appropriate level of support than a typical team, most likely. Regardless, I think it's worth a shot.

In other news, I'm starting to look at upgrading (or purchasing for the first time) my gear. My bike is a piece of crap, but I don't currently have the resources to invest in good bike, which would cost at least $1200. I need to talk to someone at a bike or tri shop about adding aerobars and clip-on pedals. At some point, I'd also like to get a wetsuit and bike computer. Triathlon is an expensive sport.

On the running front, training for the marathon is in full swing. The Queens Half Marathon was last weekend and it went really poorly due to a combination of circumstances, not least of which was that I just wasn't prepared. But I plan on getting better and more disciplined. Just have to work out some of these kinks. This weekend is the NYRR Sprint Triathlon. It should be interesting to see how I do. Last year was terrible, and while I don't expect to place at all, I do hope to perform markedly better.

Well I'd better quit. This is getting long and I have logistics to work out!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Inspiration - Part III

Where did I leave off? Oh, yes, the swim. I wrote about finishing it but I didn't write about the swim itself. So, the gun went off for my wave and all of us ran out to meet the water. I fell behind right away, unfortunately. For a couple of minutes I was hanging with one girl, but it didn't last long. Another problem I didn't anticipate was the panic I felt almost as soon as I started swimming. And I really should have anticipated it since the same thing happened to me during the sprint triathlon last year. Both times I panicked and was unable to breathe underwater. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) this swim was long enough that, at some point, I just wanted it to be done faster and was finally able to settle down and breathe properly. Even once I sorted that out I had to deal with really inefficient swimming. I'm not good at keeping an eye out for which direction I'm swimming, so I would swim with my head down for a few strokes, look up, realize I was going too far right or left, overcorrect, and repeat the whole process on the other side. I'm sure this just resulted in a lot of unnecessary zig-zagging.

So the part where I had to swim with my head above water lasted for almost half the race, until the turnaround. In that time, people from the two waves behind me caught up and started passing me. It was demoralizing but not altogether unexpected. It also seemed endless. Every time I swam up to the next buoy hoping and praying that it was the last, there would be another one right behind it! And when I say "right behind," I in fact mean far, far away. But I did finally finish and head into the Transition 1 area. The transition went pretty well even though I was one of the last ones out. I forgot to put on my Garmin ForeRunner, but as it turns out this wasn't a big problem.

Oh my God I'm falling asleep again. Four parter? Meh, it's not like anyone is reading anyway. If any of my non-readers are following and offended, I'll try to avoid future four part posts. Night@

Monday, July 26, 2010

New Inspiration - Part II

It's late. I don't think I can make blog posts at normal times. I'm actually feeling sort of restless tonight. I feel like doing some writing but I never know where to start. But that is a topic for a different blog.

I think I left off with Jeremy and I getting dinner at the food court in Providence. I got spaghetti from Sbarro. It was meh, but spaghetti is a reliable pre-race food for me. After we finished, we headed over to the GNC to sort out my liquid breakfast situation. A store associate guided me right to the section that everyone else in the triathlon had been hitting all day. It was the section with the new Gatorade G Series line. I got a couple of the Step 1 products that had a few hundred calories each. Hefty, I know. But I figured it would be necessary. And I think it would have been had I made the bike cutoff and been able to finish. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I spent the evening preparing all my stuff for the morning and solidifying the plans with Jeremy. I then did what I do most evenings, watched a lot of tv. I probably should've been in bed by 10, but of course I was not. I was busy watching Harry Potter IV. I don't know that I would have been able to fall asleep at 10 but I should have at least tried. I ended up going to sleep at midnight (approximately 3 hours before I was supposed to get up).

Each of my five alarms went off unmercifully at the right time.

Man, I'm getting tired. But this story is taking so long! Now I'm going to have to switch to the condensed version and then maybe get back to it if I ever feel it's necessary. We got up at 3, left to catch the shuttle at 3:30, caught the shuttle at 3:45 and arrived at T1 a little before 5. Once there,I set up my transition area. It was a "clean transition" area, which meant that they didn't want anything on the floor and everything had to be hung up on the rack or bike. Almost everyone had a wetsuit and, although I'd ideally like to get one, the one I saw at the check in convention was priced at $400. No way am I paying that much money for that. I found one website that sells one for $99, but it's still something I'm going to have to think about.

Honestly, though, the water wasn't that cold. I was okay in just my tri suit. The race itself started at 6am with the professional men. My start came 45 minutes later. I knew I was way out of my league when one of the girls I was talking to said she intended to do the swim in 35 minutes. The one standing next to her mentioned that she was slow and would be doing it in 45. My anticipated time was 1 hour. No joke. But I calmed myself and kept thinking about how I'd practiced and timed the swim and thought I had definitely given myself enough of a cushion.

And I had, the swim did take me a little bit over an hour, but I was still one of the last ones out of the water and that just does not bode well for the rest of a race...alright I can't do this anymore as I'm too sleepy. Will have to make it a 3 parter. TTFN - ta ta for now.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Inspiration!

I don't know if it's a good or bad thing that I view my spectacular failure at the Half Ironman as an inspiration. Probably a bad thing. And yes, the Half Ironman was a massive, massive failure. I thought I was ready but I absolutely was not. Not logistically and not athletically. So, I guess let's back up to that part.

Jeremy (who was nice enough to come with me) and I left the apartment around 6:30am that Saturday (7/10) to catch the bus to Providence at 7:30am. I was kind of worried about getting my bike on board just because their policy, while it did allow for bikes, also included a caveat about the bus driver being able to put you on the next bus if there wasn't enough room in the cargo area. We got to Port Authority about 30 minutes early, but it ended up being a good thing because I was able to get the bike on without a hitch. Well, sort of. I guess you could call the bus driver's griping a hitch but overall it didn't impede my progress.

We got to Providence around 11:30 and headed straight for the convention center. I checked in and got all my stuff just fine, but soon realized that I would need to check my bike in at the start. This wouldn't have been a problem if the start had been within walking distance of downtown Providence instead of a 45 minute drive away. Alas. As you might imagine, this worried me a little bit since no bike meant no race and a complete waste of time and money. So Jeremy and I started frantically thinking of what to do. After finally deciding that renting a car was going to be the best bet, we left the convention early (in order to get a leg up on anyone else who might be as incompetent at planning as I) and headed over to the Avis across the street.

30 minutes and $70 later (damn under-25 fee) we were on the road to Roger Wheeler State Park. Fortunately for us, the day was nice and the drive was scenic. We had a little trouble finding Point Judith, but finally managed to get to T1. We had 15 minutes to park and check in the bike so I quickly pumped my tires and rode back and forth a few times making sure the gears were in passable shape. I then took it into the transition area and hung it up by its seat at my spot (1041). I was a little self conscious because the entire transition are was full of tri and expensive road bikes (LOTS of Cervelos). I don't think I saw a single other bike that didn't have proper pedals. More than anything, it finally gave me some inkling of how serious most of the racers were about the sport and made me want to be competitive as well.

After my bike was secured we headed back to downtown Providence to check into the hotel and drop off the car, which we'd had for approximately 3 hours. I have only nice things to say about the Hampton Inn in Providence. The room was nice (though I think anything with air conditioning would've pleased me by that point in the heat wave we'd had all week). We also had 50 more channels there than at home. AND there were free cookies in the lobby. How much more could you ask for, really?

Once we were checked in and the car dropped off, we walked to Providence's one (albeit nice) mall to eat and find me a liquid breakfast for Sunday. I got this idea from a triathlon podcast I've been listening to (TriTopics, if anyone is interested). It seemed brilliant to me as I tend to have...digestive difficulties before races.

A quick look at the mall directory revealed that there was a GNC near the mall entrance and a food court on the third floor. Needless to say we headed for the food court first. I read in a beginner triathlete forum that it's best to finish your last large meal before a race about 12 hours before the start and by that point it was about 5pm. The choices at the food court were mostly not triathlon friendly but at least there were lots of options. I ended up going for the standard bowl of spaghetti and tomato sauce. It's a safe option.

This is getting really long so I'm going to break it up into two parts. TO BE CONTINUED...