This is the week I both realized the L.A. Marathon is less than three weeks away and I haven’t run enough for it, and also that I need to work on my biking short-course speed because collegiate triathlon is fast. Oh, and also, sleep, tired, breakdown, crying, etc, etc.
In case you were wondering: the end of this story is that those things don’t all go together really.
Ran 2 hours, 40 minutes up in Marin, on a variation of my favorite loop. Exactly how far it was is currently a topic of debate between my Garmin and I. But, the one thing we can agree on is that it was really hilly and debilitating.
I was really messed up from that run. Maybe it was longer or harder than either the Garmin or I think. Maybe I’m really not ready for this marathon. Swam 1,400 meters (ew, meters) and struggled through the day.
Rode 25 miles on the TT with 4 x 3 minutes at “hard” pace. Because I haven’t had time to put the Power Tap on my TT bike yet (which is going to happen this weekend!) and because I was riding on the beach bike path (which is not ideal for, well, anything), this was possibly stupid. I don’t actually know.
Crossfitted. Weirdly, the gym I randomly ended up going to down here turns out to be one of the legit Crossfit gyms and one of the girls in the story I wrote about Grid trains there. So, that was sort of like ‘ohhh, heeeeeey, just ignore me over here doing my weakass deadlifts.’
Rest. I was messed up this week. Yoga’d and rolled and called it.
Ran 6.5ish miles in the morning with a few 1 minute pick-ups, because racing Sunday.
Swam 1,750 yards with a few pick-ups. Felt ok about all this.
Rode 10 miles with the pre-race standard: a few hard sprints and a bit at race pace. Skipped swimming, for life reasons. Felt semi-ok about all this.
UCSD Tri: Did the UC San Diego sprint race and, wow, I almost had a total mental breakdown in the middle of this. The summary is: I couldn’t figure out why so many people were ahead of me. (The answer—that they’re going faster—should have been obvious.)
I swam great, for me, but came out far enough back that spectators stop counting at that point. When you’re the third woman, they tell you you’re the third woman. When you’re 17th, they’re like ‘yay, Kelly, you can do it.’ Collegiate triathletes are fast swimmers; there are a number of reasons for this, which can be discussed at some other point, but the end result is that my actually-pretty-ok swimming lands me pretty far back. I, then, started to pass people on the bike and thought I was killing it until two people passed me at the end of the first lap and another at the start of the second. That motivated me enough to try to pick it up, but then I had a lap-and-a-half long meltdown, where I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and why I wasn’t biking faster. I did catch one of the girls, but then another (really annoyingly drafting) girl re-caught me, and I couldn’t drop her and my legs were killing me and I suck and I should probably just quit and it’s clearly not my day and, oh my god, how am I so far back.
By the time I started the run, I was very discouraged and maybe 15 seconds back of annoying drafting girl. I spent most of the first lap of the run feeling bad about and sorry for myself. But, I still managed to pass one person and I was kind of getting a tempo going. At the start of the second lap, I caught the annoying girl and from there I actually raced a race. I spent the second and third laps trying to reel people in and finally feeling like I was moving. Towards the end, I almost had another meltdown when I realized a group of girls was ahead of me that I did not expect to be ahead of me. I mean, man, I just kept passing people and there just kept being more people. BUT—and this is a big but—instead of crying, I picked it up, passed them, slipped and half-fell, and got right back up to kick hard to the finish.
I ended up 7th. I was not thrilled about this. In retrospect, though, I knew it was a very competitive race. Colleges had come from far away and all the good people out here on the West Coast were there. I had expected it to be tough and it was. I was also really proud of myself for not entirely falling apart and coming back from the near brink. What is most interesting, though, is that when I looked at the results later it became clear that my biking didn’t suck as much as I thought it did (especially if I had actually not had the meltdown in the middle) and my running wasn’t as great as I felt like it was. Really, it was all mostly in my head.
I don’t know. I’m having panic attacks and if I had the time I’d be panic training, but I don’t have the time, so instead I’m like panic not training? I don’t know. I need to work on my biking and my running and my swimming and my not having weird breakdowns.
Me: Do you know how many girls were ahead of me?
USC person: Out the swim?
Me: No, at the end. You know I don’t care about the swim.
The answer was six. It was a competitive race for a local collegiate sprint. But, it gave me a good idea of where I stack up two months out from nationals.
I’ve written before about why I don’t think triathlon should become NCAA, and I’m going to go ahead and double-down on that argument—although I will admit some of the issues and questions are being addressed (but not all). But, what I want to talk about today is why collegiate triathlon is sort of awesome. Unfortunately, part of what makes it awesome, I think, will be killed with systemic corporatization. So, get in while you can.
This weekend, I’m heading down to San Diego with the USC Tri Kids (aka The Kids) to do the UCSD race. I signed up for $50 and I signed up only because The Kids told me to. For the collegiate triathlete, there is no season outside the collegiate season, there is nothing else to worry about, there is no larger annoying triathlete community obsessing about Kona. Collegiate triathlon exists in a vacuum, in many ways. And, that vacuum is still relatively untouched by the things that eventually touch all sports.
This is why collegiate triathlon is awesome.
People talk a lot about how collegiate triathlon is The Future. These athletes are so fast and they must be developed. We will never win Olympic medals unless we start shepherding our 18-year-olds into the Olympic development funnel.
The thing is, though, yeah, some of the collegiate triathletes are fast, but plenty of them aren’t. Some of them will become Olympians, but lots of them won’t. And, that’s fine. Hell, it’s better than fine. Last year, I was sitting in the shade on the boat ramp at Wildflower while the collegiate wave went off, because I started almost two hours after them (ugh), and I listened to the announcer rave about how these racers were The Future. The college race was the highlight of the day. Yet, despite having a cold and coughing up green stuff and starting so much later in the heat and behind every. single. old. man., I went faster across that course than all the collegiate women except one (who was faster than me by less than a minute). This isn’t a humblebrag. There were another four or five age group girls who were faster than me that day. The point I’m making is that yeah, some of the collegiate triathletes are crazy fast, some of them will be once they learn how to swim or ride a bike or sleep, but creating a breeding ground for greatness isn’t actually what collegiate triathlon is about. Not really.
(Now, I’ve totally jinxed it and I’m going to lose to lots and lots of collegiate women this weekend. But, in my defense, the fast ones are largely out here on the West Coast. Largely. So, when I lose it’ll be because they’re good and not because I suck, or something.)
But, what makes collegiate triathlon awesome is that not one of those kids at Wildflower gave a shit about the fact that everyone in the 25-29 age group had beaten them. They did not care. I don’t think they even knew. They only cared about the other collegiate racers.They were racing in a vacuum. It was a vacuum of tunnel vision and trying your hardest and the joy of racing.
That’s why collegiate triathlon is awesome. Because you can pay your $25, show up and know you’re going to have some good hard racing, and maybe you’ll win a water bottle, maybe you won’t. Maybe there’ll be future Olympians at your little race around campus, because some of these kids are fast, and maybe there won’t be. It’s awesome, because it doesn’t seem to care about the most expensive gear, or qualifying for bigger races, or cultivating sponsors with your Twitter account. Hell, they don’t even seem to worry much about any of the classic triathlete things: gadgets and training zones and what some study of five people said might give you a tiny advantage if you sit in a sauna after your workouts. Sometimes, this drives me nuts, because The Kids can make a one-hour ride last three hours, and training zones have a purpose. But, that’s what triathlon was like before we all became triathletes.
It turns out the UCSD race is actually part of a big weekend-long Tri-palooza thing, and Julie Moss was there for the draft-legal race today (because, you know, we’ve got to funnel all these kids into draft-legal racing or we’ll never win medals!). And, Meb is part of some big awards dinner tonight. And, that’s cool. It really is very cool. But, part of me keeps thinking I’m not ready yet for real triathlon again.
Turns out that 1. the Women’s World Cup final is in Vancouver, which is basically Northern California, and 2. tickets are still available and not expensive, which is a little insane.
Also, I’m a little obsessed with the Women’s World Cup, which I wasn’t even totally aware of until this past summer it became very clear when people talked about the World Cup that I thought they meant the Women’s World Cup. What other one is there?? Come on, I’m of the generation of girls that all played soccer and grew up with Mia Hamm. Somewhere there’s a picture of me and my sister at a match at Soldier Field when it was in the U.S. in 1999—also the last time the U.S. won, so, maybe I’ll be a good luck charm.
Basically, how could we not go when it’s a short flight (or a long drive) away.
This is now the thing I am most excited about this year.
I might have broken. The biggest liability for me right now—in training, life, whatever—is if all the stress and deadlines and lack of sleep breaks me. And, it’s getting damn close.
That’s even with last week being the first week in a few that I got real training in again, so that doesn’t bode great.
Biked the 12 miles easy to school to recover from the Aquathlon.
Swam 2,000 yards slow. I wasn’t deliberately swimming slow, but I was definitely not fast.
Ran track with The Kids: 6 x 800 meters. We were doing them as in-and-out intervals, basically alternating 10K pace and fast pace, which also prompted a lot of ‘that’s what she said’ type of jokes. I ran 3:03, 2:55, 3:04, 2:48, 3:02, 2:49. That’s the fastest I’ve run 800s in years. If I don’t have endurance and general health going for me, at least I sort of got some speed right now.
Did 20 minutes of TRX and strength work after shooting some TV footage of the real track team.
Biked 44 miles down the bike path, out Palos Verdes some, and back. I had intended to do some tempo or hard work, but my derailleur snapped off at the start of the ride. See, that is not what a derailleur is supposed to look like:
That meant I did the whole ride in the little ring, which isn’t great for pushing power, especially on a bike path with the wind at my back. And, I had a weird freakout about potentially crashing over a rollerblader or a speed bump or into a parked car. So, I mostly just did a steady moderately hard ride, pushing it more on the way back (into the wind).
Swam 3,050 yards in the evening with The Kids, though I am 98% convinced that the PED pool on campus is not actually 25 yards long. We swim too fast in it. I’m not accidentally dropping 2:30 200s in other pools. Multiple times in a row.
Swam 1,250 yards easy in the evening, on the way home from work.
The Run That Wasn’t: Was aiming to run about 12 miles with 4 x 2-miles descending from Goal Marathon Pace to Goal Half-Marathon Pace. I barely made it out of bed to the bike path, but in the spirit of “the hardest steps are the first ones” I thought it’d get better. Spoiler alert: They lied; the hardest steps are the hard ones. This random guy ran the first two repeats with me, which we did ok on. (7:04s for the first one, which felt fine. 6:58s for the second one, which felt like I was going to die.) Then, I had to take a long bathroom break, which used up most of my allotted time, so I thought I’d just do one more repeat in the 6:40s. I made it about three minutes and I stopped. I don’t know why. I was struggling. A lot. But, it might have been in my head. I don’t know. I’m too tired to think about it anymore. Jogged back home.
Cross-country skied a bit over 11 miles with Steve, during which he let me know that his heartrate was lower than the last time we went skiing. I wasn’t wearing a heartrate monitor, because mine (naturally) has torn a huge cut across my chest and I’m currently avoiding it, but the day felt pretty hard to me and I was pretty wiped out. We were out for over three hours and skiing pretty consistently in that time, though there were plenty of stopping breaks and fueling breaks, etc. So, who knows.
Swam 2,000 yards at the Truckee High School pool. I was going to swim more. I was going to run after too. But, I could barely move. Instead, I took a two hour nap.
Yeah, I don’t know. No more self-evaluation, introspection, whatever. Clearly, I’m tired. I need to sleep and I need to get through things and, hopefully, it’ll sort itself out.
Here are a few observations about perception:
- In L.A., I am the most intense athlete I know—give or take. (Like, yeah, yeah, everyone is intense in their own way. Some of my friends are taking some time off right now. And, you should, obviously, always do what makes sense for you.) But, the net sum effect is that, generally speaking, I don’t know people doing harder workouts than me. This messes with my head. Because (CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF AROUND HERE), I’m not really a super intense workout person. I’m used to lots of people I know doing crazier workouts than me all the time. I’m used to lots and lots and lots of people being lots faster than me. And, I’m used to telling training partners my workout plan for the day and having them nod and be all, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’ When everyone I know is, instead, like, ‘What?! That sounds insane,’ I start to think maybe it is insane. So, if all my internet friends who are Hillary’s athletes (Maggie? Alyssa?) could tell me about their super crazy workouts she has them doing, it would make me feel better and get me back in a good mental place.
- Friday I bombed a workout. It was 4 x 2 miles and I only did 2.3 of the four repeats. I just was not hitting the times and I had only given myself 1 hour and 25 minutes exactly to do a 1 hour and 25 minute workout. So, when I had to take a loooong bathroom break, I was stuck reevaluating. But, it was easy to cut and I was weirdly not stressed about the fact that I bombed it, because I don’t think I really expected to finish it. This is not good.
- In the fall, I was very not fit. Yet, I went on a killing-it streak at a bunch of races in October/November. I think it may have been because I knew I wasn’t in shape, so I expected it to be awful and that I’d have to power through. Then, I wasn’t surprised when it hurt. Now, I’m really fit (for me), so I keep subconsciously thinking it won’t hurt. But, it still always hurts.
- Evidently, somewhere in the back of my mind right now I am expecting an accident or disaster. I’m just waiting for it. Wednesday, I had to cut through a parking garage, because “cycling routes” *shakes head*. And, I had this weird crazy PTSD. It might be the first time I’ve cut through a parking garage since shattering my teeth and I was freaking out. I was convinced that I was going to hit something, or someone was going to hit me, or something terrible was going to happen. Yesterday, Steve and I went cross-country skiing and I was having the hardest time on the downhills, because I was positive, 100% sure, that I was going to have some bizarre accident and end up in the hospital. I’m just too in shape right now, too ready for the L.A. Marathon and collegiate nationals. Something has to go wrong. Something always goes wrong. And, if you really want to get into some Psych 101 stuff, this may be why I’ve been self-sabotaging workouts and races lately, because somewhere in my head I think that I need to balance the karmic universe. (Subconsciously, ok? I’m not doing any of this consciously.)
So, yeah. That’s been fun.
Last week was all about getting un-sick. And, it mostly worked. Fingers crossed, but this may be the first time I’ve gotten a cold and not also gotten a debilitating cough for weeks after.
The frustrating half of that was, obviously, the fact that I basically can’t seem to get back into a training groove since school started. I spend all my time, instead, having mild panic attacks about how many things are due and how I may have overbooked myself but it’s too late to cut anything loose.
But—and it’s a big but—I’m changing my peak focus for the spring, so I have a few more weeks to get ready.
It’s official, now: I’m going to race collegiate triathlon nationals at the end of April with The Kids. It’ll be fun and fast, hopefully, and it means that I’m not going to focus as much on the L.A. Marathon. I’m still planning to run it, but I’m spending more of my training re-learning Olympic distance race pace. I hope. And, anyway, I was doing a heavy cross-training marathon plan, so it should all work out. You know, hopefully.
Swam 1,000 yards after the Race That Sucked.
God, I still felt awful. Nothing.
Woke up with a cold, so didn’t do the long ride I was planning. Alternatively, just rode 20 miles easy on the bike path.
Swam about 1,500 yards with The Kids in the evening. I was going to do the whole practice, but I felt pretty awful, so I went home and coughed myself awake all night instead.
Ran a bit over 5 miles easy with Natalie in the morning. It felt like death.
Since I felt like death, I slept 11 hours Thursday night and did nothing Friday.
Rode 24 hilly-ish miles in Palos Verdes with The Kids. I was going to run after, because I was going to try to get back on schedule and test my legs. But, we started from this house on top of a hill, so I didn’t really feel like running downhill and then back up. Oh well.
UCLA Aquathlon. Given what the rest of my week looked like, in retrospect, I’m surprised I kept it together for this actually at all. Plus a couple miles running before and after, and a few minutes of swimming warm-up.
The quick version before I go back to bed:
Today was the first race of the official collegiate season. Evidently, that one in the fall was a fake-out, or a warm-up, whatever. Today’s was an aquathon (or aquathalon—disputing opinions) at UCLA.
I was kidding around with one of The Kids afterwards that if you could invent a race that I was going to hate it would have been this one. But, actually, I might not have been kidding. It was a 500m swim, mass start, around buoys in an Olympic-sized pool. This is basically my nightmare swimming scenario. It’s too many people and not enough space. Then, it was a very hilly 5K run, with everyone super close together and sprinting for the finish. Oh, right, and I still have a cold and couldn’t breathe good. Yay.
The swim was fine, though far from my best ever. (Notably, not my worst ever either.) I couldn’t breathe well, which was partially because I can’t breathe good right now and partially because people kept hitting me in the face. I swam on one of my teammate’s feet for a little while and then I decided that was probably annoying the shit out of her, so I tried to go around, but succeeded only in running into her.
I almost fell over pulling myself out of the pool and then I was sprinting onto the run, because THERE ARE PEOPLE TO RUN DOWN!
The run was painful and wheezy from the start, which was uphill. By the top of the hill, though, I could see the girls who had probably come out of the water first. They only had about 30 seconds on me and there was maybe a half-dozen of them spread out at varying speeds. There was a long downhill and I run downhills fast (generally), so I decided I was just going to have to go for it and hope that I could hold on. I caught some of them, but I could not close on the last UCLA girl in front of me. We made the loop at the turnaround and I felt like I was still running hard, but the gap was staying at about 30 feet or something.
Side note, here: I can never close the last little gap on people. There’s something about them being in front of me that screws with my head and makes me assume they must be faster than me, even if I’ve closed minutes on them. That last 5-10 seconds is impossible.
I started to think I just didn’t have it today. This was too short for me to really be good; it wasn’t enough things. I’ve been too sick lately. Perhaps, it is no surprise that, even though I was still running hard, this is when people I had passed started to catch back up to me.
I could hear one girl right on my shoulder as we started back uphill to the finish, and I was pretty sure there was another one right behind her. I definitely didn’t want a sprint finish today. (While I usually feel confident in my sprinting abilities against adults and the general triathlete population, against college kids today I did not feel confident.) So, instead, I tried to break her. Except, I did a really shitty job of it. I ran the long uphill hard, but I never made any decisive move; I just let her stay right on my shoulder. The effort was killing me too, which showed. You don’t really want it to show, if you’re trying to convince someone they can’t beat you.
We crested the hill and there was a short little downhill to the finish and I thought I had it. I started kicking hard. I came around the corner, but then, oh no, there’s another corner to go around! It’s another 150m! And, I just couldn’t hold it. She kicked past me. In the end, the UCLA girl was just steps ahead, and all four of us finished within maybe 15-20 seconds. But, this isn’t horseshoes or hand grenades, right? Close doesn’t count.
Basically, that is everything about how not to beat someone.
And, then, anyway, it turned out there was last year’s national champion like a minute ahead of us, so oh well, anyway.
Obviously, I was all worried that I got in my head, that I could have found 10 seconds somewhere, that I need to toughen up. Could I have gone harder?? But, then I thought about right after the finish, when I was seeing stars and wobbling and coughing things up and snot was everywhere and I decided: No, I was pretty messed up at the end, that was probably as hard as I had today.
Oh, right, what I did last last week. Sorry, I know so many of you care about my training. What I’ve done this week is try to not be sick and not have a mental breakdown. What I did last week was try to get my training block started again. Last week, I came back from my first real rest week in a long time, which somehow led to a semi-sprained ankle, a night of throwing up, and strange bouts of vertigo. Oh, and now a cold. Lesson here: don’t rest.
(No, actually, this week has been nothing but rest. But, last week I tried to train.)
Rode 13 miles. With the messed-up ankle, I didn’t want to run my hard intervals, so I did hard cycling hill repeats instead. This made sense to me. I did 5 x Baldwin Hill, which was about 5 minutes long and was full of people lunging backwards uphill with ankle weights. Seriously, it was a mad circus. I was going to do the first one moderately easy and then build for five repeats from there, but it turns out it was too steep for any kind of easy. So the first one was slightly easier, then three more of varying levels of harder and one “easy-ish”. Then, I did the last one all-out-ish. I’m pretty sure, if I was on Strava, that I would have taken the QOM, so I’m totally counting that in my mind, since it’s all made up anyway.
Swam 1,100 yards easy. It turns out really hard hill repeats are, well, hard. I was pretty tired.
Rode 12 miles easy to school.
Light strength work in the evening. Some TRX, some core, some screw-it-it’s-too-crowded.
Rode 32 miles up the Malibu hills. I did not pick an amazing route. Some of it was nice, but some of it involved a busy road with a tunnel. On one of the completely not busy roads, though, where there almost no cars, I actually almost got totally taken out by someone driving fast and cutting into the turn, and into me. It was one of those times where you can see how close the car is as the front passes you and you brace yourself for the back to just take you down.
Swam 2,800 yards with The Kids in the evening. 500s and stuff.
Ran 5 1/2 miles with 4 x 2 minutes at 5K pace, just to remember how to run fast again. And, to run for the first time in 10 days. Stupid ankle. This also made me surprisingly sore and tired. Ugh.
Rode about 30 miles with The Kids in the morning, again the Malibu hills. Not my ideal pre-race prep, but whatever.