A Few Things Right Now

March 27, 2015 — 3 Comments

1. Wednesday I was in Palos Verdes and I biked past a guy down on his hands and knees in his perfectly green manicured lawn. He had a pair of scissors and was pulling out errant strands from his perfect lawn one at a time. Obviously, he had to compete against the more perfect lawn across the street, denoted by the sign in front of it saying it won the neighborhood’s lawnscaping award. My second thought was: Don’t you know there’s a drought. But my first thought was: Man, I wish I had that kind of time.

2. You know when you time your sprint finish just perfectly, but then it turns out that the finish line is just around the corner and you end up like sort of limping across the line because you used everything up. That’s how I feel about life right now. I finished my thesis (yay!), but it turns out I still have six more weeks of grad school left after that (ah!).

3. Remember when I said I wasn’t going to apply for the Women for Tri board thing and you can too. Look, I know people think I’m a “shit-stirrer,” as was explained to me the other day. But Hillary Biscay isn’t. And if she’s saying that she’s resigning from the Women for Tri board because it is not the place to affect true change for women, then you should listen to her.

4. I wrote about the new L.A. professional frisbee team and the competing professional frisbee leagues. Yes, there are two professional frisbee leagues.

5. I know a lot about obstacle course racing right now. I think I might become a professional(ish) obstacle course racer. Watch out.

Sunday I raced the West Coast Collegiate Triathlon Conference championship in San Luis Obispo. Because I am a moron and I thought why not follow-up one of your most debilitating non-finishes with 30-40 hours straight of thesis work, complete emotional and mental fatigue, and then an Olympic-distance triathlon.

The race was fine. Whatever.

I almost threw up at the start simply from the overwhelming desire to not do it. But then I did it anyway. Needless to say it was not my most amazing effort ever.

During the race, though, I actually felt like I was keeping it together. I felt like I was mentally totally in it. When I got out of it for a little bit, I came back. I felt like I was redlining and going as hard as I could, which was my only real goal. Since I had no knowledge of the course and no real computer or anything on my bike and it seemed slow and windy, I was just going off that feel. The only problem is that my “feel” is all messed up.

It turned out that what “felt” like redlining as-hard-as-I-could-go pace, was really more like moderately hard pace. This occurred to me about two-thirds through the bike when I started getting passed. Then I tried to go harder, but I’m still sort of a mess about twisty steep descents on my bike, so that didn’t go great. It’s not that I’m consciously trying to be conservative on descents; it’s just that subconsciously my brain is screaming, “NO MORE FAKE TEETH!

That my feel might not be accurate occurred to me again just before the turnaround on the run. The girl who was winning was on her way back and I looked as her as she went by, 10 minutes ahead of me or whatever stupid ungodly amount I was behind her and seven other girls by. She won collegiate nationals last year and she’s definitely a fast runner, but she was also so clearly trying so much harder than I was. I “felt” like I was running hard and strong and keeping a high cadence and could not possibly go any harder, but she looked like she might keel over before she reached the finish. (I was going to put a picture of her in here, but that seemed pseudo-creepy. Suffice it to say that she, generally, looks like she’s killing herself on the run.) Yeah, she probably is a more talented runner than I am. Even at the same effort, she would probably still be faster than me. But, we weren’t even at the same effort. She was pushing herself so much harder than I was. And that’s probably what really separates people: how hard you can push yourself.

For comparison, here is a picture of me as I sprinted my 7-minute mile into the finish and tried to not throw up:

11026079_874932445881500_7168368314213698_o

Side note: There was another different sprint race going on at the same time, hence the woman behind me who is clearly not of college age.

That doesn’t look like I might keel over does it? It looks like I’m trying hard, but not that hard.

So I’m on a personal mission now to re-remember what hard feels like. Granted my whole perception last week was distorted because, oh man, I was really messed up after the two-thirds-of-a-marathon, and I didn’t run at all between the lying down on the side of the road last Sunday and the pre-race warm-up this Sunday. But still. If I’m going to go through the trouble of racing and being in a bunch of pain anyway, I might as well really make it hurt.

  • Biking faster
  • Not overcommitting to massively large projects that I can’t possibly do well in the time allotted
  • Actually, just ‘not overcommitting’
  • Recovery
  • Work stuff
  • Winning races again
  • But, seriously about the biking

The odds of you winning nationals are actually probably better than the odds were that L.A. was going to go well.

Steve on how likely it was that the L.A. Marathon was going to be a disaster for me, in retrospect. Because, just to be clear, I am also not going to win collegiate nationals.

Short version: I ran myself into the med tent with mild heatstroke just after mile 16. All the non-sports people I know are like, ‘Oh my god! Heatstroke! You almost died!!’ And, all the sports people are all, ‘It was only mild heatstroke. You could have kept going.’ I’m falling somewhere in between those two right now, and very much never want to try running a marathon again. For at least a few years.

Long version: It was warm. Arguably, it never got as hot as some people were predicting it might, but at 5:45 a.m. at Dodger Stadium it was concerningly warm. All last week I’d been preparing myself for ‘this is going to suck, but you can tough it out.’ My tentative race plan was: 1. You will probably not run your pie-in-the-sky, ‘A goal’ of 3:06. 2. You could still run a PR around 3:10, sub-3:15. 3. Only if you aren’t stupid; don’t be stupid. 4. Go for it, but in a conservative way and 5. When it starts to suck early, because it will, hang tough and know it sucks for everybody.

So, that’s what I tried to do. I ran some 7:05s for the first few miles, but they were all downhill (more or less) and it felt easy slow. I did not let myself get ahead of the 3:05 pace group, because “don’t be stupid.” By mile 2 I was dripping sweat and thought ‘well, this is going to get hot.’ Around mile 4, we went up a steep hill and I let the 3:05 pace group slip away, because “don’t be stupid.” After that, I was sort of just running, some by myself, some through people who were already looking hot and tired.

By 7 or 8, it was feeling really hard and I was getting the chills a bit. But I, literally, thought to myself: It’s not possible to be having heat issues this early; I haven’t even been running long enough, so these chills must be because of the breeze or something (?). And, anyway, I was still running 7:10s or so, so it’s fine. It’s fiiiiiiiine. I was taking water and Gatorade at every aid station, but I wasn’t making it to the next one before I was dying of thirst again. (And, for the record, I had oatmeal, a Gatorade and some water, and a gel before the start, and one more gel around mile 7. After that I was having a hard time imagining swallowing anything else.)

By mile 10, I was struggling. Somewhere around 9, two guys next to me were talking to each other and one said, “It’s not good if it feels this hard this early” and I went, ‘heh.’ I remember hitting the 10 marker and just thinking, ‘Fuck.’ I was still running in the 7:15s-ish, though, and it was hard to tell if we were going uphill, so it’s fine, I thought. It’s fiiiiine. I had promised myself I was going to be mentally tough for this race. I wasn’t going to drop out or check out. I was going to fight for it. So I did. My thing I had planned on telling myself was: ‘You’re tougher than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can.’ I had planned on telling myself that in the second half of the race, because I didn’t expect it to be nasty hard too much before then, but oh well.

By 11 or 12, I was in bad shape. I was getting the chills and things were a little light-headed and dizzy. I was fighting for every mile and keeping them somewhere in the 7:20s, but I knew that it was not fine. At this point, it became one of those battles: If you know you’re in bad shape and it’s only getting worse and you don’t think you can finish, but you promised yourself you wouldn’t voluntarily quit, then what do you do? You make it so you’ll be involuntarily done, whether that’s because you get to the finish or crash out sooner. At least that’s the option I took. I have this tendency to wallow and, like, hope that someone will just spontaneously pull me from the course and tell me I should sit down in the shade and have some nice ice water. But, I wanted to be mentally tough. Instead of wallowing, I tried to smile. Studies show that you can affect your mental state by smiling in races. So. I tried to do all the things that keep you mentally positive. I tried to hang on to people next to me and get whatever boost there was from the atmosphere. I repeated ‘you’re tougher than you think you are’ in my head until it became gibberish. Mostly, I thought, if I’m going to end up running myself into the med tent (which it was starting to seem that I was), then I’m going to run as hard as I can until that happens.

I don’t remember much from 12 to whenever I stopped just after mile 16. I have no idea how I made it that far either. I was almost totally cognizant at the time. I knew where I was and I knew I saw Steve at one point (and tried to tell him with my eyes that I was in a bad place), but it all got a bit blurry, in that way things get in races when it’s like you’re watching from far away on the other side of a bright light. I kept trying to be tough and I would have sworn to you I was hanging on to 7:30 pace, but my Garmin suggests that I actually dropped pretty sharply to 7:50s.

Look, I expected it to get that bad. I did. I’d been preparing myself all week for it to get that bad, for me to have to tough it out for 8-10 miles. I’ve had bad heatstroke before, and I knew there was a chance I’d end up lying down in a med tent with an IV. I just expected that 8-10 miles to be the last 8-10 miles.

By around 16, I was getting the chills regularly. I was cold and hot, and I was dizzy, and things were getting light and dark, and then my chest started to hurt, and my heart felt like something tight was around it (which is new, by the way, that’s never happened before). And somewhere in my head I thought, ‘oh good, a med tent’ and I stepped out of the race and did that crumpling/collapsing thing and laid down on the side of the road. Of course, it turned out it wasn’t a med tent, it was actually just a random tiny tent of people cheering their friends on. So I freaked those people out.

For a few minutes, I just laid there with my eyes closed and rolled onto my side and tried to sit up and tried to get my eyes to focus and the lights to go back to how they’re supposed to be and then that was a lot of effort, so I laid back down. I don’t think I had the capacity to say anything for a couple minutes. And that freaked out the random people I had decided to lay down in front of even more than they were already freaked out. Then the cops and paramedics on bikes got there and also freaked out, and called an ambulance and a fire truck. And, I think my head was sort of lolling to one side and when I did start talking it was all slurred and along of the lines of: ‘It’s fine, ‘tsfiiiiine, my chest just hurts, *wave hands, close eyes*,  whatevvvver, *lay back down*”

Somewhere in my head I knew I was fine, actually. Or, I would be fine relatively soon. This was not a permanent state. I also knew that I always look really bad, even when I’m killing it. And I just didn’t have the wherewithal to explain to a bunch of people the degree to which I was messed up. They wanted to send me to the hospital and I kept saying, “No, no.” Finally, it was decided the ambulance would take me 200 meters down the road to the actual med tent. Then, those doctors kept trying to send me to the hospital and I kept saying, “No, no.” I think I even said, “I don’t go to hospitals,” which is absurd. Of course I go to hospitals. I’ve been to lots of hospitals. That’s how I know they won’t be able to do much for mild heatstroke.

Eventually, Steve found me and Natalie drove over to pick me up and, by then, almost an hour later, I was fine. Not great, not really even ok, but fine.

So, could I have toughed it out for longer? Yeah, maybe. Would it have been worth it? Probably not. Part of the mental calculus that my brain does when it can’t even see straight was that it decided there was no reason to land myself in the hospital. I didn’t care much about just finishing. It wasn’t going to be a good time. And I wasn’t competing for a place. If I really screwed myself up for good, what would be the point? After lying in the med tent for 20 or 30 minutes, I actually thought I should get back up and start running again. Steve said that was dumb.

It always seems to me that how soon after a race you start planning the next one, how much you want a do-over, is often dependent on how much, subconsciously, you felt like you had left to give. The day after my Ironman I basically was Googling to find another one later that month. This time, there is almost no part of me that wants to think about another marathon. People keep suggesting them and I keep cringing. No, no, that sounds terrible. I even paused on an email from the Chicago Marathon and thought about it in passing for a second. I like the course and it’s fast and late this year, but then it made me want to gag. I can, actually, barely think about any races at all right now. They all sound awful. (Which is unfortunate, because I am definitely doing some triathlons that I was excited about.) The amount I am still emotionally and mentally and, to a degree, physically messed up makes me think I didn’t have much more to give on Sunday. For whatever reason. That was all there was.

Get your shit together and pick it the fuck up.

What you’re supposed to say if you see me during the L.A. Marathon tomorrow. It’s going to be hot and it’s going to be miserable and I’m just going to try to leave it out there, without mentally breaking down. So yell at me if you see me. (I have something else I’m telling myself in my head, but it’s along these lines.)

Record-breaking heat is expected for the race on Sunday! We’ll have ‘cooling buses’ stationed throughout the course! We’ll start in the dark! Ahhhhhhhh!!!!

Depending on what weather service you look at, Sunday is projected at a high of 85-90 degrees. This is not good. Running a marathon in 90 degrees is awful. But, a few days ago, before everyone started completely losing their minds, I saw that it was going to be in the high-80s for the race and I just thought, ‘well, that’ll suck.’ And that was it.

Today, at Universal Sports, we were interviewing Ryan and Sara Hall, who are going to be racing it and, you know what, Ryan Hall had almost the same reaction to the heat as my initial reaction:

  • Yeah, sure, it’s going to suck.
  • But it was that hot this past weekend, did you not run this past weekend? It’s been in the mid- and high-80s in L.A. before…
  • And, honestly, anyway, that’s the high for the day, not the average. It’ll be cool at the start, especially starting at 6:55 a.m. now. It’ll probably only get to high-70s, maybe 80 while we’re running. (OK, he’s going to finish like well over an hour before me, so it’ll be hotter for me, but you get the idea.)
  • And it’s cooler in Santa Monica, where it’s only projected to be a high of about 83-84 degrees. We’re running towards Santa Monica. That’s got to be good.
  • Mostly, you just have to hydrate and fuel well and not let it get into your head. Seriously, don’t let the heat mess with your mind.

So, at least an Olympian agrees with me. Now, I just have to put it into practice. Because, despite all that, I still don’t do great in the heat, and it’s still going to be nasty and awful, and I’m sure some people will get heat stroke, and it is entirely possible one of those people will be me. Plus, the elites have the benefit of only really caring about their place. They’re not out there just trying to run a personal best; they can run slow (for them) and just focus on the race and the other elites. I am not an elite marathoner. I do not have any particular goals in terms of my place—somewhere in the middle??—but I did have somewhat aggressive time goals. Those time goals are pretty much going to have to get thrown out the window now. It will not be fast on Sunday. It will just be a hot race.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 9.47.38 PM

Sunday was International Women’s Day and, besides the fact that I had a hard time getting into a manufactured holiday that allowed brands to jump on board with pseudo-pro-women messages that they could and would quickly move on from and forget, I actually thought the #50WomentoKona campaign used the moment interestingly and effectively.

I haven’t been incredibly vocal on the internet about the fact that a world championships, of any sport, needs to have equal spots for women and men to compete. That’s not because I don’t think someone should fight the equal-spots-at-Kona battle. I do. It’s more that I haven’t gotten into it for the same reasons I wasn’t that into International Women’s Day as a whole. I’ve been trying, for my own mental health and with some success, not to fight the obvious fights. Because they shouldn’t even be fights in the first place.

I don’t need a specific day to tell me that the contributions of 50% of the population should be valued. In fact, I find doing so implicitly allows that they don’t need to be valued the other 364 days.

And I don’t feel like rationalizing why women should get the same right to start a race as men, because that implicitly allows that there’s some reasonable argument as to why they shouldn’t.

Yes, I know that there are fewer women in the sport of triathlon than there are men. That’s true across most sports. Ironman has claimed they’d like to fix that, if for no other reason than self-interest. It is also true that female participation in all sports historically has increased when opportunities for those women have increased. It’s as if no one has ever heard of Title IX and the growth in female sports participation in the decades since. (Arguably, I think Title IX should now be changed and/or amended, with the collegiate sports climate having changed so much since, but different debate.) I was going to list more examples of how opportunities at the highest levels have increased the number of women participating from the bottom up, both because they had something to shoot for and because they had role models to follow, but there’s too many examples. Google.

I don’t really know, either, if the women’s triathlon field at the top is deeper or less deep than the men’s. That seems like a rather arbitrary argument, the type of which I tune out of on sports talk shows because of its inanity. What makes something deep? What makes it competitive? A race could be close and slow; is that better than if one person runs away with it quickly? Some decent analysis suggests that the women’s races are at least close to as deep as the men’s. But, even if they’re not. Even if you want to argue that women’s racing sucks balls (because you’re a moron), are you arguing that you’re going to make it better by restricting it?

These are all the same arguments that have been used time and time again to stop women from competing in the same events as men, to limit them to shorter or smaller versions. You know, so as not to damage their reproductive systems. Oh, is that not the argument anymore? Well, it was originally. And now, after women weren’t allowed to do those things for centuries, we just can’t, for the life of us, figure out why there aren’t more women doing them currently. Guess we’ll have to wait until a competitive women’s field emerges in order to grant them permission to compete in the thing they have to first prove they have developed sufficiently in. Why didn’t women get to compete in ski jumping until this past Olympics? Why do women race the 6k instead of the 8k in collegiate cross-country? Why don’t female swimmers get to contest the 1,500 meters at the games? Because, the old white men say, they just don’t have the competitive depth to earn a right to be here. They don’t deserve it.

So, no, I’m not having that debate. It’s not a debate. It’s already been had, these battles have already been hashed. I can’t get myself excited about posting a race photo in my support of #50WomentoKona because my photo doesn’t change the facts; it shouldn’t tip the balance of what is right. I’m having a hard time getting outraged, because it’s an obvious fight. It’d be like if a company told you that only people whose eyes were blue got to do this race. You’d know that was dumb. Clearly, people with brown eyes can race too, but there’s not much point in arguing with that. Instead, you’d just start to question other things about that company, start to wonder who was running things around here and what are they thinking. Maybe you’d start to think there must be better races, where people with all kinds of eye colors get to stand on the same start line.

The main focus right now is not getting sick, hurt, or overly-exhausted. There’s not much else to do for a marathon this Sunday. Then next week is mostly recovery. Then three weeks of hard training, then taper for nationals.

I did want to work some on my Olympic pace biking, which sort of happened, but also I’m sort of too tired and booked for much to happen. I had actually planned on doing more this week, but erred on the side of letting my body recover and my body decided this was what it was going to do. Sometimes my body’s pretty smart. It’s my brain that sucks.

Monday

Rode 10 miles easy on my time trial bike. I almost never ride my TT in the rain, at least not deliberately, because it is an expensive bike and I have an older road bike, so might as well keep the nice one nice. Since it wasn’t raining anymore Monday morning, I thought it’d be fine. I didn’t think about all the sand on the bike path turning into piles of wet sand from the storm the night before. By the time I got home, my bike was the dirtiest it has ever been. There was sand in everything. And, naturally, the brakes on the TT are underneath the frame, so they were filled with wet clumps of sand. God, I hate the beach.

Swam 1,450 yards with some band swimming and pulling and stuff.

Tuesday

OFF, in all caps

Wednesday

Ran 7 miles in the morning, which was supposed to include a decent amount of Goal Marathon Pace and slightly faster miles. I did 3 miles at 7:01, 7:04, 6:57 and it felt shockingly hard, which was concerning and also a sign that it was time to end the workout.

Swam 2,900 yards with The Kids in the evening, which was also shockingly hard. Basically, everything felt disgustingly difficult on Wednesday and my legs hurt and the cut on the back of my leg was still all raw and gross.

Thursday

Swam 2,000 meters. (Turns out the Westwood Community Pool is meters, not yards, who knew.) Did not get up to ride in the morning because I was tired, but didn’t sleep great that extra hour either, so probably wasn’t worth it.

Friday

Ran in Topanga State Park. My plan, initially, had been to do 10-12 miles easy as my last longish run. Typically, this would take about 1 hour, 20-30 minutes or something. Since I ended up picking a route that had 1,800 feet of elevation gain in 3 miles, it didn’t quite work out that way. I ended up doing a lot of hiking up and a lot of trying not to break my ankle down. I only got a bit over 7 miles done in 1 hour, 15 minutes, but I was really over the stupidity of it all.

20 minutes of quick and dirty strength work: TRX, deadlifts, back squats, box jumps, four pull-ups (except technically I think they’re like chin-ups, I don’t know, I can never do them with my hands in the “right” position), and a couple other things and I was out.

Saturday

This weekend was not one of my finest weekends. This weekend and last were supposed to be moderately big training weekends to work on my weaknesses for triathlon nationals. But, school keeps getting in the way. Saturday morning I had to interview someone at a 5K they were doing at the Rose Bowl at 8 a.m. for my documentary. I got there at 7:30 a.m. By 7:50 a.m. it was clear that I had mixed up my days and was supposed to be there on Sunday, not Saturday. By 8:05 a.m. it was also clear that the super unnecessarily mean police officer wasn’t going to let me leave the parking lot, because they had closed it off for a triathlon/duathlon/5K. Goddamn triathletes!

Fine. I’ll just do my workout here. So, I rode about 16 miles in the neighborhood and then around the Rose Bowl. The goal had been to do a few hard laps at race pace around the Rose Bowl, which I thought wouldn’t be a problem, since there was an actual race going on. I mean, my hard training pace should fit right in with a race, right? Nope. I managed to get stuck right in the mix of all the people coasting their way through the triathlon and my hard laps turned into hard efforts + stopping and braking and coasting. Oh well.

Then, Justin met me and we ran 4.5 miles around the outer perimeter, during which it became clear that maybe my Garmin isn’t the most accurate ever. The plan had been to start easy and build to marathon, then faster pace. As I was running pretty hard towards the end, he asked what my watch said I was running. 7:10, why? Because we were definitely running 6:30s, which actually is what it felt like.

Sunday

Back at the Rose Bowl at 7:30 a.m., with the time change. (Did I mention the Rose Bowl is not near my house?) Finally, after wrapping up around 10, I headed out on my ride. I originally wanted to ride about 3 hours, but since I was falling asleep on the drive and felt the worse I’ve felt in a long time, I ended up just riding 2 hours instead. Up Angeles Crest, back, around the Rose Bowl again, and then home to do all of the work.

TOTAL: 9:05

Time to go.

lion

This is the picture that’s been going around of a mountain lion in the Santa Monica mountains. Apparently, there are about 10-12 mountain lions in the mountains over there and researchers have been tracking them for a decade or so in an attempt to understand their habits and, ultimately, how humans are impacting those habits. (Spoiler alert: Badly.) Part of the research includes cameras set up in wildlife areas to try and catch pictures of them doing their mountain lion thing. Thus, this picture of the mountain lion near the L.A. county line.

Personally, though, I like this picture better:

Hi, who are you? Will you play with me?

Hi, who are you? Will you play with me?

Of course, that also happens to be where I went for a run the other day. In one of my less brilliant ideas—not because of the mountain lions—I decided to do my last long-ish run down the Santa Ynez trail in Topanga State Park. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but it went something like: ‘Oh, a canyon trail to a waterfall, that’ll be nice.’ I didn’t think about the fact that if I started at the top of a mountain and ran down to a waterfall, I’d have to run down for a long time. And then I’d have to come back up. I also thought, I dunno, that the trail would be maintained, and not that steep, and not rocky, and not heavily unpopulated.

Anyway. Only one of my miles was under 10 minutes. And it prompted this conversation with Justin this weekend:

Me: Well you know how I don’t like too much nature in my runs.
Him: Right, because of the mountain lions.
Me: Yes, see, everyone knows that.

Because everyone knows I don’t like too much nature with my nature. I prefer for it to stay over there and I’ll stay over here and then we can all get along.