Ironman Canada: 11:32

July 29, 2014 — 1 Comment

kelly - im finish

In case you missed my twitter and my facebook and my general calling everyone I know: I did finish Ironman Canada at 6:32 p.m. on Sunday. But, man, that shit was long and hilly and rough.

Since I’m unpacking my bags, after getting home at midnight, and packing them back up to move to LA this evening to start my program at USC, this will be brief (for now).

My goal was sub-11 hours. My big goal was 10:45, which I thought would get me top two in my age group. (At least I was right about that.) I still fundamentally believe I can do that, but I also knew I had no idea what would happen after six hours. And I was right about that too. Sure, part of me is upset I was off my goal and I’m pretty annoyed with myself for switching out of race mode and into just-fucking-finish-the-damn-thing mode around 15 kilometers left in the run — since it was in Canada, I only think in kilometers now — but I went for it and I did really well for a long time and when it went badly I still kept it together enough (just enough). So, I guess it wasn’t too bad for my first one ever. But, no, I don’t know that there’ll be a second one.

In case you want to know how most people would advise NOT to go into your first-ever Ironman, here are some tips:

First, you should definitely move to LA and start a fellowship program the day after you get back from doing the international race — and you should make it as logistically complicated as possible, so that you have to get everything done in the weeks before your Ironman. That will make prep easy and stress-free.

Then, you should work A LOT so that you have money once you move to LA. The extra work will help ensure that you don’t get overly rested and relaxed. You don’t want that.

About two weeks before your Ironman, when you decide to do a get-the-legs-moving race, it would be ideal if your car could break down on the way just to add some personal obstacles to overcome.

Then, once you pay $750 to have the alternator fixed in the car (even though the car has a limited lifespan since you crashed it back in January), it would help if you could have it fail smog check. Ideally, not because it actually has any emissions, but because the state changed the list of approved catalytic converters and your’s is no longer approved for this model of this car. While you’re arguing with the used car dealer you bought it from, you should drive it to a wedding just so on your way home the back tire can blow out on the freeway and start smoking. Nothing like learning to deal with adversity to get ready for triathlon.

You should also get pretty sick at the wedding, just to make sure you don’t overtrain. Call it a taper.

When you go to fix all those things in the car, try to make sure that the steel wire sticking out of the blown tire punctures your hand and you get a weird blood bruise across your palm. Get some oil in it while you’re trying to wipe up the the quart that spilled in the trunk during this. That’ll take your mind off the fact that your left knee has been hurting since the one long run you managed to do two weeks earlier.

If the car stalls while you’re driving to the airport it’ll just give you a chance to practice your powerful positive thinking and not crying. Think at the car ‘you can make it to the airport, come on, just do this’ over and over until you get there.

Once you’re at the airport for your flight to Seattle, try to wait until the last possible second to remember that you need a passport to drive from Seattle to Canada, since you didn’t need a passport the last three times you went to Canada. Have a small panic attack while trying to Google whether or not you’d be able to talk your way across the border. Walk around Seattle for a day, refreshing the FedEx tracking page to see when the passports will arrive and checking the Ironman schedule over and over as you worry if you’ll make it before check-in closes.

Once you finally arrive at your race, you’ll be so on edge and tired and relieved to have made it that you won’t even worry anymore about the bears, even when Steve runs right by one on the trail.

But, at least you’re there and ready to go.

I’m trying to remember that even though we arrived in Whistler 38 hours later than planned, it’s still the earliest I’ve ever showed up for a race. And, maybe I’ve gotten at least some of the shit going wrong out of my system. And, when more things go wrong (because they will), maybe I’ll be able to deal with it because I certainly know how to deal with things. Except for my left knee hurting still. That could be a problem.

I’m trying to just get the (GIANT) list of things done that need to be done before the start and rest the rest of the time and remember that I’m ready to go.

Because it is time to go. IM Canada starts at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning. I am #427. You can track me online or I’ll probably tweet and facebook when I’m done. Which will hopefully be sometime before midnight. I have some time goals, but they’re sort of general and I’m not really sure what’s going to happen. I actually don’t know what’s going to happen at all. One guy today tried to tell me that KFC chicken in my bike special needs bag is the secret. (Also smoking pot on the run?? He was full of advice.) Let’s hope he was not 100% right, because I think this is going to be hard enough without KFC and pot.

The two things I’m telling myself over and over are:

- You don’t have to move fast. You just have to keep moving.

AND

- Everyone else feels like shit too. (Unless they’re smoking pot, probably. But then they may not be following piece of advice #1 – keep moving.)

So, I will keep moving and it will feel awful and then I will be done. Ideally. And, none of this other stuff that happened before and sucked will matter. Because it doesn’t matter how you get to the start line as long as you get to the finish line too.

Bears in Whistler

July 22, 2014 — 3 Comments
Bears in Whistler

Bears in Whistler

In case you missed the memo, there are bears in Whistler. In fact, you can take bear sighting tours. (Which definitely sounds like something I will be skipping.) Sometimes they even come out during IM Canada. And, we all know how much I love bears and am not scared at all of pretty much everything in nature.

So, that’ll be fun.

Hopefully, I won’t have to use my mad bear skills.

That would be me on the bike, except screaming.

That would be me on the bike, except screaming.

Bears, they're just like us. They hate golf too.

Bears, they’re just like us. They hate golf too.

Week 30 is really the last week of training (since this week is RACE WEEK!?!!). That makes just about seven-and-a-half months of training. It’d be hard to screw it all up in a week after more than seven months, but I’m definitely worried that’s what I’m doing. This past week was not ideal. Now I feel sluggish and antsy and tired and slow and fat and ready to be done with this already.

That’s pretty much how you should be feeling, but it’s a hard line to walk.

Monday

Rode about 12 miles to an appointment and back, since our car was still broken. Shit did not feel good. My knee’s been bothering me biking, so I tried to change my cleats, but that evidently just made everything worse.

Swam about 1,000 yards open water at the clinics I teach Monday night. By the time I got home, my left knee was really painful and swollen.

Tuesday

Like what the fuck is wrong with my knee. Couldn’t do anything.

Wednesday

Swam 2,800 yards at Masters. Then, some light yoga and rolling. Still resting my knee some.

Thursday

Rode 37 miles around the reservoir to test out the bike and the hydration system and fuel box. Since changing the cleats on my bike shoes was not productive, I put them back the way they were before. It mostly worked. My knee still hurt really bad a few times, but better. I felt pretty fast and strong, but my watts were insanely low in the end. So, who knows.

Friday

Swam 3,000 yards with a few hard 50s and then a whole lot of tempo 100s. I am not swimming amazing these days. But, I’m telling myself that it’s because I’ve lost speed and gained endurance. That’s what I’m telling myself.

Saturday

Ran something a bit under 5 miles on trails with some of the guys at the wedding.

Sunday

Trying to move from the bed to the car was enough of a workout.

TOTAL: 6:25

Not really as much training as I had intended or hoped to do. Hopefully, still enough.

This weekend we were down in LA a wedding with a bunch of friends. It was fun and exhausting and probably not amazing Ironman prep. All weekend people kept looking at the wine glass in my hand or the piece of pizza and going, ‘OH MY GOD, don’t you have an Ironman next weekend?!’

Clearly, I should have been locked in my bedroom resting and eating appropriate amounts of lean red meat and kale.

Friday I got fried swimming in the sun. Saturday my planned long trail run + open water swim turned into 40 minutes of running early because when the groom wants to go early you go early. Duh. And, then I needed to nap and meet up with other friends and OOPS! Saturday night I had four glasses of wine at the wedding and then was suddenly very sick. It didn’t seem like I’d drunk enough to feel as abruptly terrible as I did, but I didn’t think too hard about it. Sunday, though, when I got up, I started breaking out in a cold sweat and my stomach felt like it was ripping in half. I had to lay back down until about noon — when I was forced to get up to check out of our hotel. By then, I hadn’t kept any food down in 15 hours, so I was pretty pale and shaky. (It seems the burger I had earlier in the afternoon Saturday may have not sat great and the combination of things made me pretty sick.) Eventually, I had some soup and then a sandwich, but any workouts for Sunday were out. Now, I have blisters on my feet from my shoes — even though Erin lent me flip-flops halfway through the night — and one of my ankles is twisted and my stomach still hurts a little and I could sleep for days.

This does not seem like ideal Ironman prep.

There are lots of very good athletes I know who are very, very good because all these do is be athletes. They skip going out; they eat at home where they can control the food and know what they’re getting; they go to bed at 9 p.m. and pass on social outings. They’d have worn comfortable sandals and gone home early from the wedding after splurging on one glass of wine.

There’s a degree to which you have to be serious if you want to be serious. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and setting yourself up for failure. But, in the times I’ve tried to be super serious, turning myself into a swim-bike-run machine has never gone well. It’s too easy for me to get burned out and over it. What’s the point if you’re not having fun?

The problem with this philosophy is that if you’re not the check on yourself, then who is? In the past, Steve has been the backstop, since he’s not as prone as I am to eating a brownie sundae every night or throwing ourselves a party of two for Cinqo de Mayo. Only Steve isn’t training seriously anymore, so there is no backstop.

People asked a lot of questions about Ironman this weekend. (Also I asked a few people some questions about it too: like are you sure it isn’t a mass swim start?) One of the most common, though, was how did I think I was going to do? I was just doing it for fun, right? Just to finish? But, I’d definitely win my age group, right?

No, no, and no.

When I decided to do Ironman last fall and started training for real again, I was going to do it for real. Train for real, be serious about it, take things seriously. I don’t want to pay as much money as Ironman costs, go all the way to Canada, and spend all day racing without aiming to do it well. But, no, that doesn’t mean I’m the most serious or for real athlete there. I don’t expect to win my age group. That’s sort of the GOAL; winning would be winning. I expect that there will be a number of other people in my age group who didn’t accidentally drink and eat too much this weekend (or didn’t have their car break down on the way to a race last weekend, or didn’t go out the night before their last big workout, or screw up all the other things it’s possible to screw up). I know that my “serious” is not the same as other people’s “serious.”

What I don’t know is if my version of taking things seriously has set me up well enough, created a better balanced athlete, enabled me to deal with whatever comes my way, gotten me in the right spot for ME. I hope so. Because things are really about to get real. This week is serious.

The gods of the world with the pens say I play mental games. But, if I can convince you that I’m going to beat you and you believe me, that’s your fault.

Bernard Hopkins in the new ESPN body issue, which I totally just got because I was curious and which I was vaguely disappointed with except for this. This quote is now my new motto.

Malibu Creek State Park.

Malibu Creek State Park.

We’re in LA this weekend for a wedding, so I’ve been looking at places to swim and run. That got me a little excited about some of the potential places to run and swim and bike while I’m living there for the next year. And, then I started making big plans. Naturally. (I’m actually not that excited about biking, since it seems like there’s lots of traffic and narrow roads. Any tips on which routes to hit up?) But, I love lake swimming and while Marin is awesome, you can’t swim in most of its lakes. It looks like there’s some decent lakes and lagoons and cool tide pools/swim holes to check out in LA. I’m also scoping out some of the trails at the state parks. I’ll be living sort of between Marina del Rey and Culver City, so the massive Santa Monica Mountains National Rec Area, Malibu Creek State Park, Topanga State Park, Westridge, etc looks like it’ll be a good place to hit up. The only problem is I’m not really sure where to start? Oh, and Justin and Erin don’t realize yet that I’ll just be turning their house into a training base for the Angeles Forest.

This weekend is totally turning it a recon mission. Oh, and also a wedding.

Any suggestions on bike routes I have to try in the next 10 months? Trails to run?

Ugh. UGH. UGHHHHHH!!!!!

I know how to taper. I’m actually quite good at it. It’s one of the few reasons I’m able to perform better than my training would suggest. But, this taper is killing me. It isn’t even really a taper. It’s been more like: exhausted, rest, rest, try to jump start and still get some training in because it’s not like the race is this weekend, feel a little hurt, rest more, worry, worry, worry.

I finally realized that the problem (or at least some of the problem) is that I can’t do my usual winging it with an Ironman. I have to actually have a plan and think things through in advance. There are a lot of small things that can go wrong in an Ironman — basically all the things — and there’s a pretty good chance some of them will. So, you have to try and minimize those things, because fuck, it is going to suck if something small turns into something big after 10 hours and ruins all this work. That means I’ve mostly been stressing about things I usually wouldn’t bother to think about.

Not racing Sunday also means I didn’t burn any matches or whatever your metaphor of choice is. I’m wired now and edgy and ready to go, but also feeling fat and stupid. Oh, and my left knee swelled up last night. It hurts to bend right now, so I’m back to putting all my faith in ice and Flector patches. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Monday

Biked 12.5 miles on the TT with one set of 1′ at 190W, 3′ at 170W, 5′ at 140W, short rest, then some hard one minute efforts to try it open up the legs.

Light core work, PT, and yoga when I got home.

Tuesday

Ran 2:40 (which I think was around 19 miles on trails). Yes, this was my longest run and I actually intended it to be longer, but I covered the ground faster than I thought? Maybe. Or, I did bad math. My long runs do not feel good. I last about 1:30 and then my left leg starts to hurt. My left leg is going to be my un-doing. The terrible bone spur that got irritated almost over a year ago has just gotten bigger. Sometimes it hurts; sometimes it doesn’t. But, I’m subconsciously running on the outside egde of that foot to ease the issues. And, I’ve always had problems with my left hamstring/IT band/ankle. So, will my left leg make it through a marathon? Who knows.

Wednesday

Swam 2,800 yards, including a 1,000 yards for time — which was 42 seconds slower than last time, but I may have done an extra 50 yards. Who knows.

Thursday

Fuck, I was tired. My sister left around noon, after visiting for three days, and I took a nap.

Friday

Biked 43 miles on the TT around Pt. Reyes with 3 x 10′ at Ironman pace. It felt ok, but my left knee was hurting a lot by the end, so I decided to change the wedges under that shoe. This may have been a mistake.

Ran 3.5 miles with 2 x mile at 7:08 or so. I meant to run more. I meant to do a lot of stuff this week, but I was tired and worn out.

Yoga and rolling out the legs.

Saturday

Swam 1,800 yards shittily.

Sunday

Did not race Tri for Real.

After making it home and taking a nap, I couldn’t figure out how to replace the race. Ultimately, I rode about 16.5 miles on the TT with 10′ at threshold/Olympic distance race pace (which was quite hard, since I haven’t done that in two months), then did a full-out effort up Lucas Valley hill just because, and a slightly faster than tempo effort back through the valley. It all felt pretty hard.

Swam 1,000 yards with some HARD 25s, or rather 22 yards since that’s how long our complex pool is, and some short race tempo.

Light core and PT, with the hope that maybe that will help fix some of the imbalances and problems I’m having this week now. Tried to roll and yoga too.

TOTAL: 10:15

AGHHHHHHH!!

The Race That Wasn’t

July 15, 2014 — 5 Comments
wpid-wp-1405447809037.jpeg

This is a picture of my car.

If it is true that you ‘get back what you put out there’ and the power of positive thinking can bring us Oprah-esque levels of success if we just try really hard to think Secret-style happy thoughts, if all that is true, then it is also true that Sunday morning I broke the car with my mind.

Once in high school on the way to a weekend speech tournament (for which you had to get up ungodly early and do your make-up and hair and put on a power suit — probably explaining my predilection now for sweats and forgetting to shower), I was laying half-asleep in the bus seat thinking about how I really didn’t want to do this and if only something would happen so we didn’t have to go to another high school cafeteria and make passionate speeches about recent world news. And, then, the bus broke down. After 15 minutes on the side of a freeway somewhere in Illinois, I decided actually I’d like to compete afterall and we should get a move on it, and magically — upon that thought — the bus started working again. I point to this and that one time I swear I locked the door by thinking hard at it as proof of my Jedi-like abilities.

I did not want to race Tri for Real on Sunday. I’d been going back and forth all week, until Saturday I signed up because I needed to snap out of this shit. Of course, then, Saturday night I was awake all night freaking out some more. When my alarm went off after 2 hours of sleep, I did not want to drive 100 miles to race. I dragged myself around the house. I took my temperature, hoping maybe I had a fever and shouldn’t race. I stood in the hallway and worried about going all the way there just to have a repeat of that episode in San Jose when I laid down on the side of the road in the middle of a race and started to cry. (In retrospect, that actually happened at two separate races in San Jose. The city, itself, may prompt spontaneous crying.) Finally, 20 minutes late, I snapped out of it and got ready to go. Because you can’t fall into the trap of not racing just because you don’t feel super excited at 4:45 a.m. on race morning; otherwise, you’d talk yourself out of 90% of races.

I made it an hour, with another 50 minutes to drive, when the red car battery light came on. I’m pretty sure that’s one of those serious lights you need to pull over for, so I got off the highway and found the car booklet thing. Apparently, a red battery light means ‘Proceed immediately to the nearest Volkswagen dealership.’ Of course, it was 6:45 a.m. on a Sunday, so even if I could make it to a dealership, it’d really just be a place to sleep in my car until Monday morning when it opened. I did some phone Googling and trying to look under the hood and calling the Volkswagen hotline just to find out what I should do and getting disconnected and calling back and having some guy tell me that ‘Oh yes, Darren is going to call you right back after he finishes putting in your order.’ YOU ARE LYING, I didn’t say. THERE IS NO ORDER. YOU ARE LYING TO ME. Of course, he never called back. Eventually, it was decided I would drive to Autozone 25 minutes away, or longer when you’re going 40 mph in the far right lane of the freeway in case the car battery suddenly dies.

In case you can’t tell from the photo above, the hood of our car is sort of smashed a bit. It’s all just (incredibly expensive) bodywork, not anything seriously wrong. But, we hadn’t been able to get the hood open recently. The guys at our car shop said you just have to “pull really hard.” It turns out that means REALLY hard. Like stupid hard. So, when I got to Autozone just after it opened, I was trying to pull the hood up, standing on the bumper and yanking, the whole car moving up and down. And, the guy came out to ask if I need help. Actually, yes, but not with this; this actually how you do this.

I am now a fan of Autozone, fyi. They spent over an hour helping me figure out what was wrong, charging my battery, testing it, pulling it out and putting it on the super charging machine, testing the alternator — all for free. It was determined the alternator needed to be replaced and the battery was rapidly losing power (information I had to then pay another $100 to the auto shop for Monday morning). With the battery charged 100%, though, I could make it home. Carefully.

It turns out that at least 67% of the tired shittiness you feel after a race is simply from getting up at 4:45 a.m., getting ready and pumping yourself up, driving far, and dealing with things. I felt at least almost as messed up as I would have if I had actually raced and I only eventually made it home about 45 minutes earlier than if I’d gotten all the way there and done the race. I had to take a nap.

But, I’m half-convinced the world was saving me from myself by not letting me race. The power of negative thinking.

 

Last night, I ended up pouring over all my training logs and race reports from this spring as some sort of way to remind myself that I’ve put in the work and can go fast when the mood strikes. Of course, it also reminded me that I was a mess three months ago and it’s a little amazing this trainwreck ever got back on the track.

So, that was productive.

After reading all the training I’ve done, I then spent all night trying to decide what I should do for my last hard race, shakeout thing before IM Canada. I’d been planning on Tri for Real, but that was sounding shitty. Then, I thought about doing the 5K in San Rafael, but that sounded a different kind of shitty. Then, I concocted different schemes to do my own time trials to test my bike set up and my legs and why my arms feel so heavy. All at 1 a.m. last night.

Unsurprisingly, I had another crap workout this morning. I’m pretty sure I was swimming with those stupid leg weights tied onto my legs and arms. Invisible ones. Reading last night also reminded me there were two brief weeks in mid-March when I was swimming stunningly fast, faster than I’ve ever swum. That was nice.

This somehow inspired me to go home and sign up for Tri for Real. Logically.

That makes this officially a taper. Last week was a rest and recovery from the last big training block. This week was supposed to be the start of my two week taper. That taper’s so far included my longest run to date (which the rereading my training logs reminded me I hadn’t done) and me feeling like shit. Hopefully, tomorrow snaps me out of that.

Monday

Swam 800 yards easy and some yoga after the super hard all-day workout.

Tuesday

REST

Wednesday

Biked 18 miles in the morning before biking over to the fair and working all day — where yes I did eat crappy fair food and it was disappointing. The bike was not really anything, just a moderate ride on the TT.

Swam 1,000 yards easy in the evening.

Thursday

TRX class after the fair, followed by:

Swimming 1,400 yards moderately. I don’t know what your YMCA is like, but mine is like this. I am used to being the fastest person in the pool at the Y. So, I jumped in and started sharing a lane with a nice-looking 13-year-old girl. When I flipped turned I realized she was passing me — dolphin-kicking on her back. She then proceeded to lap me, repeatedly. It was alarming.

Friday

Accidental rest day, more working at the fair.

Saturday

Biked 25 miles up in the mountains. Like up, up. It was a long climb and then a long descent and then some wondering where I was exactly. Oh, and also some wheezing. As if there was less air. I had to take a nap afterwards.

Swam 1,700 yards or something tangentially across the lake. Steve swam with me, or near me until I dropped him. It was a nice, clear lake, but I forgot there are motor boats on the lake. So that was fun.

Sunday

Steve decided to take the previous day out on me during our run around the lake. Or else he didn’t quite believe me when I said I can’t breathe in the mountains when running. Oh, and also, my stupid left toe bone spur has been making trails hard and my ankle has been weak since falling during the Dipsea. All in all, it meant that I was having to pay close attention to my footing and working hard to not fall and also struggling to breathe, which made it harder to pay attention and not fall. It was an exhausting 5.5 mile run.

Swam another 1,000 yards easy in the lake.

TOTAL: 7:10

Alright, no freaking out tonight. Maybe.