Week 24: Then I Got Hit By A Car

There are three weeks left until Ironman Mont Tremblant. As of today. It’ll be my first pro Ironman, which is basically the same as other Ironmans (I think) but completely different. You can read all my weekly recaps of being a pro triathlete here.

Yesterday I got hit by a car. Or I hit a car, technically. After biking up to Ironman Santa Rosa, I was riding near the course when an overwhelmed (by the road closures) and confused driver made a right turn suddenly in front of me. I slammed the brakes on, turned and skidded, almost made it — for a second I thought I’d avoid the impact — and then hit on my side and went down.

Turns out my gut instinct, before you even consciously think about what you’re doing, is to jump right up from the ground and start screaming swear words. So that was interesting.

Continue reading “Week 24: Then I Got Hit By A Car”

Week 14: Are We Still Doing That?

At one of the many goodbye parties I attended this weekend, a woman said to me, “Oh, you must workout, I’m so jealous of your arms.”

And I almost said, “Fitness hack: Exercise 20-30 hours/week.” Which is actually a @DarkMark joke from Twitter, but it cracks me up. Only, then, I remembered this wasn’t the internet and I shouldn’t be a snide bitch to some random woman I just met.

Continue reading “Week 14: Are We Still Doing That?”

Week 8 & 9: This is the Dream, Right?

I’ve been writing weekly recaps of being a professional triathlete. You can read all the weeks.

Sunday, after Oceanside, we drove the 9 hours home from San Diego, got back around 11 p.m., and I sort of fell out of the car. Turns out, full-on post-race mess mode doesn’t get prettier during a drive across California. I felt nauseous and dizzy. I stood up out of the car and my legs buckled. Everything hurt. We dropped all our crap in the middle of the floor and I tipped over into bed. Then I woke up Monday around 9:30 a.m. to an email from my boss at the radio station asking if I could fill-in last minute for someone who was sick. Uhhh, OK? If I can do it remotely and you give me 30 minutes to, like, shower.

I was a mess. I’m not even sure what happened that day. Other than I was living the dream.

Actually, I’m not sure what’s happened most days the last two weeks.

Continue reading “Week 8 & 9: This is the Dream, Right?”

8 Weeks to Kona: A Running Diary

UPDATED: Original post – Aug. 12

Tomorrow is 8 weeks to Kona. I know this because 1. people on Facebook keep saying it and 2. it’s a Saturday, so that sort of makes sense.

People ask me a lot of questions about Kona training. Am I ready? (No, duh, I have 8 weeks still.) What’s training with Hillary like? (Hard.) How much do I train? (A normal amount for someone going to Kona.) I must train so much. (Not really.) What is that like? (Hard. Normal.) Am I excited? (Sure. And tired.)

I was reading this amazingly hilarious running diary of the opening Olympics weekend in Rio by a Sports Illustrated writer, and I thought that’s perfect for capturing the flavor of it all. I should do that. I should just do a running diary of these last 8 weeks and it will answer all these questions, which really all come down to one question: No, really, what’s it like?

So, this post will just be a running post from here until Oct. 8. (Just had to look up that date; blissful ignorance is my secret sauce.) I’ll add short notes and thoughts to the top, below this intro, maybe every day, maybe every few days. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll be so tired, it’ll just be a weird jumble of words. Welcome to the journey.

Friday, Oct. 7

2:10 p.m.

It’s time to go, I suppose. I’ve improvised a way to get my number on my bike, packed up all my bags — so many bags — and put the stuff that I need in the places that it needs to be. And, at this point, I guess if it’s not there, then I’ll make do without it.

I don’t know how tomorrow is going to go. I’m not just saying that. I really don’t know. When I do the math on what I can expect, my rough range for a good day is about a 50-minute window. That’s a wide range. And that doesn’t even count if it’s not a good day or if it’s a really really bad day. It’s just really hard to know. You can’t know. I’m alternating wildly between feeling fit and confident, and feeling very worried. There’s so many little things you could fuck up and any one of those little things could be un-recoverable from. I’ve managed to forget all the bad parts from IM Wisconsin, so all I remember now is how it just smoothly floated by. But that’s not really what it was like or what tomorrow will be like.

Last night, at the welcome banquet, Mark Allen was talking about embracing the island. He got all poetic on the topic. Instead of just hoping it’ll be 72 and overcast, with a tailwind all day, he said, you have to lean into the heat and the humidity and the wind and the miserableness. So that’s my goal.

I’m #2126, but you can track by last name too (if you know my last name). And I’ll be handing my twitter over to Steve, though who knows what he’ll tweet.

No matter what, I’m probably going to end up crying, and definitely going to end up drinking. Either way, it’s done tomorrow.

Thursday, Oct. 6

7:10 p.m.

I might be a little emotionally strung out. We’re at the welcome banquet and, literally, everything is making me start to choke up. The odds of me reaching the finish line without sobbing are basically .05%.

9:05 a.m.

Also, I think it’s probably better I missed that.

8:33 a.m.

I slept through the Underpants Run. I needed to get better quickly, obviously. And I do feel somewhat better, but now I just want to sleep all day.

Wednesday, Oct. 5

11:10 p.m.

God, I still feel terrible.

6:43 p.m.

I don’t think throwing up over the side of a boat is good prep for Kona. But that is what I am doing.

I don’t care how cool the lava flowing out of the volcano and into the water is, clearly my body does not like small boats and planes. This, uh, finely tuned machine is finely tuned.

Tuesday, Oct. 4

9:35 p.m.

‘Well, I’m racing on Saturday’ is the universally accepted excuse for why I can’t do shots with you, Mr. Triathlon Legend, even though it’s your birthday. He told me I better do good on Saturday then.

Man, I hope so. I did not not party to suck.

9:05 p.m.

OK, I will go with you to the bar, but I’m just having one more beer. A Bud Light is basically water.

8:44 p.m.

I’m just having one beer with dinner. That’s fine.

8:15 p.m.

Alyssa and Lauren are very concerned that I should be home sleeping.

7:25 p.m.

I’m driving to meet some friends and the DJ on the radio station I’ve been listening to for the last month is telling everyone, “Look, I know it can be frustrating, but we got to show these triathletes the Aloha Spirit. Even if we don’t feel it, they came to our Big Island, so let’s show them what it’s all about.”

So there you go.

5:33 p.m.

The one thing I’ve been stressing about a bunch is heatstroke. And one of the factors in that is the sunburn factor. (As someone who has had heatstroke, I know there’s not much you can really do to stop your body from overheating — other than not going so hard — but you can not do things to make it worse.)

I’ve been going back and forth all week about whether I wanted to buy this skinsuit for the bike, which would cover my back, helping prevent sunburn too early, and ideally be fast. The problems were 1. I had not raced in it, which stresses me out, because you’re not supposed to do too much stuff you haven’t done before, 2. I had never run a whole marathon in a skinsuit, so would probably end up wanting to change in T2 in some capacity, which I have also never done, and 3. I want to be sure to wear some of my team’s stuff (Team Freeplay, yo) during the race, because they’ve been supportive all year.

This has basically been my thing I’ve been angsting about all week, because everyone has something. And then this afternoon I took the plunge. I got the speedsuit. And I’m just going to change in T2. Not 100% sure into what combination of stuff yet. So, you know, I have something left to worry about — which is what I’m doing now.

1:05 p.m.

I decided to go ahead and check-in today, do a walk-through of the expo, and then be done. That way I won’t have to go back there until I drop off my bike on Friday. It was a good choice I think, but I walk in to the ballroom, am directed to a table, and the volunteer asks me, “What’s your bib number?”

Uh, I dunno. Don’t you guys have a list of that?

Solid start.

3:00 a.m.

I keep alternating between being pretty confident about all this — at least in the sense that I’m ready and I can do what I know how to do — and pretty freaked out that I’m going to screw up something stupid and end up with heatstroke. I have had heatstroke. It’s not fun.

Monday, Oct. 3

7:55 a.m.

In a week, I will be on my way home. First time since Aug. 25 or whatever. I had a crazy dream last night that involved me trying to get home with 20 different rental cars and then I got there and Tupac the Cat was like: Fuck you.

Sunday, Oct. 2

4:17 p.m.

Alyssa and Lauren got back to the condo and told me my car had been semi-vandalized and someone had written on the windshield: “Move your fucking car.”

I am now having a very awkward conversation with a very drunk and stoned guy, which primarily consists of me saying, “I’m sorry, I thought this was a public beach” and him saying, “Don’t fucking do that again. You’ve been warned. You’ve overstayed your welcome, fucking move along. Don’t fucking do that shit.”

As far as I can tell, the primary problem seems to be that other people want my parking spot so they can also get very drunk and stoned.

12:43 p.m.

Here’s a secret about Kona: no one is actually doing anything cooler than you are.

8:24 a.m.

Oh my god, my back hurts so bad. And my hip flexors. How am I possibly going to do the rest of an Ironman after swimming this? It is impossible. Everything is impossible.

8:16 a.m.

OK, it’s fine. Fine. Super easy, smooth, except my back hurts.

8:02 a.m.

I take it back. This is the longest swim ever.

7:52 a.m.

This isn’t a bad swim. Maybe the first time I haven’t felt terrible since Wednesday. We’re flopping along looking at fish.

7:16 a.m.

I don’t like getting up early if I don’t have to, but evidently every other person in Kona doesn’t have this problem. We’re meeting teammates at the pier to swim the course (and my condo-mates already went running at 5 a.m.) and it is already swarming with triathletes.

All of whom I’m sure will post photos online.

ONE WEEK TO GO

Continue reading “8 Weeks to Kona: A Running Diary”

Whistler 70.3 and the Lessons of This Year

This year, this season, has been important for me. I’ve needed it to prove to myself that Wisconsin, which seemed to come out of nowhere, wasn’t a fluke. I needed this year to build a consistent base of actual training, to make sure I could sustain the load without getting hurt. I needed to see what I could do and I needed to see if there was a glimmer of more potential on the horizon, more reason to keep at it. Because if not, that’s fine and it’s been fun, but then this is sort of it.

So this year’s been all about progress, constant incremental progress. Mostly, that’s been easy. Not easy in the day-in, day-out work, but easy to count on the workouts getting faster. The PRs have come, again and again. Every single race has been a personal best. That’s easy to do when you have so much room for improvement. But I also knew these leaps and bounds wouldn’t last. At some point, I wouldn’t be able to PR a 5K during a random training block anymore. And that’d be fine, because it’d mean I’d picked all the low-hanging fruit. But it’d also mean that all that’s left is the chiseling of small constant incremental progress.

I raced Whistler 70.3 last weekend because I wanted to race one more half before Kona (and I won’t be doing Australia since I screwed that up). It was a good race, a solid race. 2nd woman, 4:48 on a slow course on a tough day. It was also the first race this year that hasn’t been definitively obviously better than the one before it. This may not be obvious to everyone else — courses are different, times are different, competition is different — but it’s been obvious to me. Still. Whistler wasn’t obviously better, but it was slightly better, better enough. Constant progress.

When things started to go really south in the last two miles, when I was swallowing down vomit and covered in urine — so much urine — I kept thinking about all the halves I’ve tried in the past and failed, all the times things went really south in the last four or five miles and I shuffle-walked it in. I started having flashbacks to the underprepared death slog that was the last six miles of Ironman Canada on this same course two year ago. And then I thought: I am not that athlete anymore.

So, instead, I ran as fast as I could, which wasn’t as fast as  I wanted, and did what I needed to do to hang onto second. And then I ran all the way through the damn timing mats (learning! progress!) before I was carted to the med tent to dry-heave bile for a little while.

I had wanted to win. I had wanted to run a sub-1:30. I had wanted to kill it and go into focused Kona training confident that I’m prepared. But that’s not what happened. We don’t always get the lessons we want, I guess, but I got one I needed. I am not the athlete I used to be; I can hang tough. I am getting better, bit by bit. Progress. Constant tiny progress.

Here are some other random notes and bits from Whistler, which may be one of my favorite places if not my favorite race:

  • Caps no longer stay on my head for the whole swim. Almost every race I either have to stop to pull it down or let it slowly slide off. I dunno if my head got bigger or the caps have gotten shittier.Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 5.39.16 PM
  • Rolling swim starts are stupid. A race is a race. If it’s not, then it’s just a random assortment of people completing an arbitrary distance. (A guy tried to argue with me about this the day after, something about how ‘if I really looked at the history of triathlon…’ And, well, you do not want to argue with me the day after a race. I literally said, to this person I had never met before, “No, that’s stupid, you’re wrong.”)
  • At one point, after I swam past all these people, I thought, “Maybe I did something weird, took a wrong turn, and don’t remember it because I blacked out.”
  • I ended up totally by myself for a long time in the swim. Eventually, I saw a guy behind me, so I slowed down to let him go by and then sat on his feet like it was the end of my race. This is how I know I’m getting better at swimming. I used to think that when swimmers said things like ‘and then I let him go by and sat on his feet,’ they had to be lying, because there was no way anyone could be that on top of things during a swim.
  • When the eventual winner and another girl went by me about 8 miles into the bike, I actually tried to go with them, which I never do. Sure, I dropped my chain and lost them when we merged with the Ironman racers, and then I went back to my regular ‘just keep pushing your own pace.’ And it probably wouldn’t have worked out great anyway, if I had stayed with them, since I ended up getting 6 minutes put on me by the winner. But at least I’m trying, at least I’m starting to respond to the race when it goes by me, at least I’m starting to think I belong.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.38.27 PM

  • I finally successfully peed on the bike. I have never done this. Of course, the only reason I was able to finally pee on the bike is because I really needed to pee. I thought it’d be subtle. It was not. And because this was on a long downhill, basically there was suddenly a massive torrent of urine, which hit my wheel and sprayed everywhere. I don’t think the people behind me were too happy either.
  • I do not usually pee on the bike, because I do not usually pee in races period. Everyone’s different, but if I get my nutrition right I don’t pee in races shorter than an Ironman. The fact that I peed in my wetsuit warming up before the race was rare enough. Then I peed everywhere on the bike. Then I started having to pee again by the end of the bike. This was concerning. This meant I had screwed something up, and things were going to get nasty sooner or later. I troubleshooted, downed some gels, but…
  • By halfway through the run I had to pee again. It, too, was not subtle. There was pee everywhere. It settled in my shoes as I ran. And I wear Hokas, which meant that I was basically wearing urine-soaked sponges tied to my feet. You could hear them squish with every step.
  • Things went south. I hadn’t taken in enough electrolytes or calories, especially in the hours and day before the race, too much water. But I kept running. And people kept cheering for me. There are lots of downsides to being a woman in sports, etc, but one upside: People love to cheer for you. They love seeing women near the front. And people really love to cheer for me. They’re so excited I haven’t passed out yet. I look like I’m going to die! But I haven’t died! I get a lot of: “You’re doing it!” And I am, I am doing it.

Ready to Race?

Two weeks ago I was so ready and jacked to race that I was about to tear someone’s head off. Then I was in a hole for a week and now I’m at the teary part of being ready to go. Basically anything about people overcoming stuff is making me cry. This story made me cry a little. This one definitely made me a little wet-eyed on the ferry home from work. Even the University of Phoenix commercial got me choked up — though, in all fairness, it’s a very good commercial.

I suppose I’m ready for Galveston 70.3 on Sunday. I don’t know. I don’t know that it really matters how I feel either. I’ve been training a lot, so it’s probably time to see if what I’ve been doing for the last six months (since Wisconsin) holds up.

We’re weird about how we view talent and ability and performance. We tend to overvalue prodigy. We love the stories of how someone was soooooo good right away, without even trying. We love the blank possibility in that. We think, then, when someone gets better it’s just because they worked harder than everyone else. But none of that is really how it works. The part of The Sports Gene that I read made the fair point that how good someone is at the start and how much someone improves from training are two very different genetic traits, neither of which necessarily predicts how good they will be at the end.

I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my life. I know that. Steve and Hillary know it. I don’t know how good that is exactly. But I know it didn’t happen overnight. It’s the end result of years of playing soccer and running in high school and getting into triathlon in college and learning to ride a bike but having no endurance and racing elite for two years, because why not, even as I worked 60-hour weeks and having injury after injury and learning to deal with all that and quitting from burnout for another few years and building up a different base of random endurance and strength — yes, Crossfit and obstacle course races and marathons and open water relays — and deciding to do an Ironman just to see what it was like but not being ready to get back into the sport and then having fun again with The Kids last year. All of that, every little bit of it, made me ready this past summer for what I considered “the pilot project.” The ‘what would happen if I went all in, if I tried my hardest, if triathlon was what I did and I really did it as good as I could’ test project.

I wouldn’t have been ready for the training Hillary gives me before now, and I wouldn’t have been ready to give it my all until now.

Part of the deal I made with myself coming back to triathlon was that I was doing it my way, which means not being all triathlete about it and not being so worried about what everyone else thinks. That means, in classic fashion, getting to Galveston was a bit of a mess, because all things always are with me before races. When my bike didn’t show up at the baggage claim for an hour or so, I literally just thought, ‘Yeah, sounds about right.’ I already had a Plan B by the time it eventually came. And at least I didn’t forget a passport or have a car breakdown this time. (I also just finally thought all the way through my schedule and flight back, and realized I have about two hours between when I should finish and when I have to leave for the airport. So, packing the bike in the transition parking lot it is.)

We’ll see what happens this Sunday. It may go well; it may not. I’m not excited about the wind and I’m not excited about the humidity and I’m not excited about the waves of drafters behind me, since I’m in the first age group wave. Whatever happens, though, I’m excited to finally get out there and see what happens.

 

Not Always Alone: Team Freeplay

I spend a lot of time by myself. Besides Steve and Tupac the Cat, there are plenty of days I don’t really talk to anyone. And that’s fine. I prefer that. I especially prefer it when it comes to hard workouts.

If things are getting nasty and ugly and rough, I don’t really want to have to deal with anyone else besides myself. I don’t even want to have to deal with being nice to someone else. I just want to get out of this on my own. I’m familiar with the inside of my own head, even if it’s not always a nice place to be. This is so true that I have been known to let myself get dropped more than once when I didn’t want to deal anymore. Oops.
Continue reading “Not Always Alone: Team Freeplay”