Monday, June 25, 2012

Silicon Valley Long Course Race Report

Sorry, this one is LONG, skip ahead to the bottom if all you want are the raw final numbers.

Saturday's race marked my 6th 1/2IM distance race.  If you look at my past races (and all have been logged here on the blog), the history looks something like this:

  • 2008 Vineman 70.3: First time at the distance!
  • 2009 Boise 70.3: Holy bad (wind/rain/thunder/lightning/hail) weather day
  • 2009 Barb's Race: 10 months with a coach brings me a shiny new PR!
  • 2010 Austin 70.3: Holy nasty (hot humid) weather day
  • 2011 Big Kahuna: 3 years with a coach brings me a shiny new PR!

If one followed the pattern, I was up for a bad weather bad race.  But I've learned a thing or two from all this training and I think even in days with bad conditions, you can find ways to overcome.  So what if my legs were cranky and achy leading up to race day.  So what if my race packet never arrived in the mail and I had to go through the trouble of getting a new # assigned less than a day before the race. So what if I spent too much time in the sun trying to get my gear checked in Friday afternoon.  So what if the course changed a few weeks before the race, into something likely to be hillier and more challenging.  I've trained too hard for the little things to disrupt my day.

My instructions were simple.  No need to fixate on positive fluffy thoughts all day, the negative moments will be there.  Just let them come and go but stick to the plan above all else.

I had no idea how important these words would be.  Because when the negative thoughts came, instead of getting down on myself for being unhappy or cranky, I embraced them, I enjoyed my bad mood, I said some really funny curmudgeonly things.  And then I moved on!

Race day started dark and early at 3:45 am.  I coated my entire body in sunblock (with the death of my beloved Scape, I've been testing out Endurance Shield*), got dressed and ate a bowl of cereal standing up in the kitchen by the light of my iPhone so that Jeff could keep sleeping.  I walked the beardies because they would have been giant pains in the ass without a stroll, grabbed my bottles from the fridge and hit the road.

By 4:30 I was in the race parking lot, along with a number of other athletes, but our shuttles - set to depart for the start at 5am - were not.  I just plopped myself on a curb and played with my phone until the buses rolled up at about 5:15am.  With that, we were off to the start 18 miles south at Uvas Reservoir.

When we arrived at the start, it was the usual fun pre-race chaos.  I worked through my list setting up everything I needed on the bike and then used the restrooms and got body marked before the lines for both became ridiculous.  It was a bit chilly out but eventually I had to take all my sweats off and start getting ready to go.  I pulled out my giant tub of Aquaphor (I love this thing) and applied an obscene amount in my shorts (but it worked - no bike chafing this race!) and on my neck (wetsuit) and wrist (watch).  Right about the time I started putting my wetsuit on, Jeff arrived with my mom, my official photographer for the day.

Starting to feel a little queasy about this whole thing - is it too late to back out?

View of one side of the reservoir

I finished gearing up and headed down to the swim start.  Once the first wave went off I wanted to get in to start warming up.  I had the chills but I think that was more nerves than body temperature!  I was also still trying to get the hang of a brand new wetsuit.  I tore my beloved wetsuit at last week's open water swim race and I didn't want to do a big race like this with a huge rip, so I bought a new suit in a hurry.

Finally it was time to go get in the water and warm up.  Neoprene is not especially flattering, but I'm including this ass shot for brand-new Ironman Katie!

Mary was at this race as well and I found her in the water right away - it was good to have someone to chat with.

Brrr! Totally NOT in a smily mood but Mom is making me do it anyway

OK fine I'd better warm up.  The water was around 72 degrees so it felt much nicer than the air.

When I swam up to the start to wait, I found Sharon, who is also doing IM Canada.

Women 39 and under...waiting waiting waiting...

And we're off!

The pace felt alright to me at the start.  The swim is essentially a long rectangle around a peninsula - we start at one end of the island and swim around it into the open part of the reservoir, then at the end hook a left into the boat dock.  My preset time alarm for my watch went off at the 2nd turn buoy and I was surprised at how fast I'd made it there.  Unfortunately that was when I made the turn into the long leg of the swim and right into the chop from the strong north wind that had picked up.  The rest of the swim was a struggle - with only turn buoys and no sighing buoys on the course, it's a LONG way to go trying to sight far away.  I think my sighting was decent but the tightness of the wetsuit wore my arms down as I fought against the waves and I started feeling the slight nausea I associate with overheating as well.  On the positive side, my work on bilateral breathing paid off so I didn't have to inhale water every time I took a breath.

I got out of the water with one of my slower 1/2IM swim times ever, FAR slower than the pace of last week's 1 mile swim.  I. Was. Pissed.

Hello, negative thoughts! Nice to see you so soon!  

I tore through transition in 1:16 - ripped my wetsuit off and tossed it in the bag for transport to the finish, threw my helmet and glasses on and was out of there.  My T1 was not only the fastest in my AG, it was the fastest of all women in the race.  I'd say sometimes it pays to be racing from behind but really I set myself up in advance to transition quickly.  I even had my best mount of the bike with shoes clipped in - I've been practicing this, with rubber bands, every ride for the past week.

Still pissed, I tried to give my family a smile as I headed out to ride 56 miles and was determined to stay on my plan.  Initially I was to keep my watts below 1/2IM watts for 20 minutes and get settled in.  At this point the course was flooded with long course AND sprint cyclists so it was a zoo out there.  Not only that, we were headed uphill and straight into that nice north wind.  I had to focus to keep my watts under control and start fueling on time.

All I could think was how slow I was going, how slow I was on the hills, how much the wind was slowing me down, how slow I would be as I stuck to these target watts!  But I did it anyway.  Just eat and pedal, Molly.  Yes, it sucks.  It's a sucky sucky race and it sucks.  Get on with it.

Jeff and my mom popped up about 15 miles into the course and again around 25.  It was so windy I couldn't really hear what they said as I went by, I just tried to give a little wave or smile and keep going.

I made a point to follow my instructions and not chase watts on the downhills/in a tailwind.  I pedaled strongly through them but I didn't hammer it to get my watts up to a certain number.  I was just thankful for the free speed in those few moments and hopeful it would balance all my slow hills a little.  Surprisingly I spent more time passing people, while maintaining what felt like a stupid slow pace, than being passed.  And every man I passed gave me a little ego boost, as they had a long head start before me, between my wave going after theirs and my horrific swim.

One of the goals I was given for this ride was to pee at least once on the bike.  Hit that one out of the park.  It was so damn windy that it blew away off my saddle immediately.  Another goal was to achieve a Variability Index of under 1.15, meaning ride the course under enough control and at a steady enough power that my normalized power and average power were close to one another.  My Powertap decided to stop working in the last 30 minutes of the ride (as I told Coach, I was NOT pushing 4 watts going 20mph into a headwind, I swear!).  With that data removed from the big picture...nailed it!

In the closing miles, the bike course headed into very familiar territory and I got even more twitchy to be done with it already.  Stupid slow stupid bike.  Stupid bumpy roads.  Stupid wind.  Stupid tired legs.  I did mention I was embracing my negative side, right?

It turns out I ran into transition only 4 minutes off my best 1/2IM bike time and did that on a hillier windier course!

I was in and out of T2 in 1:02, again the fastest of all the women in the race.  I started the run...muttered something as I went by my mom about "Holy shit that SUCKED" and then realized...I felt pretty darn good!

The run was supposed to be 2 loops out and back on the trails around Lake Almaden but instead they set it up as ~1.5 loops, where on one loop you did a double out and back on one part of the trail.  My next mini-goal was to make the first 3 miles of the run my slowest of the day.  I took in my gel and salt tabs on schedule and waited for the miles to tick by.  I slowed down, then slowed down more, then more, till it felt like I was jogging in place for the first 3 miles.  Due to lack of restroom facilities, I even stopped to water the bushes quickly.

When I hit the 3 mile mark, I cheered because finally I could pick up the pace and RUN!  And I still felt FABULOUS!  When I went past my mom this time I think I said "this is awesome!"

About 5 miles of out and back later, I came by again with "this is slightly less awesome but still pretty good!"

I just motored along, taking my gels on schedule and smiling at people running the other way, cheering them on.  I think some of them probably hated me because I was having far too much fun.  I had a nice blister forming in one arch and my legs were getting tired but I was able to push through it with the confidence of all my recent run training behind me.

And then before I knew it - possibly before I was even ready for it - I was headed into the finish, no more loops or aid station visits.

Not only did I finally have the run off the bike in a 1/2IM that I knew I was capable of (in good part due to careful bike pacing)...I had a new 1/2 marathon PR altogether (1:44:49!!!).

For a day that started out with a terrible swim and was spent mired in negative thoughts, it was astounding to me to end it with a 15 minute 1/2IM PR and finally breaking the 6-hour mark with a total race time of 5:54:46!

To paraphrase a very smart coach of mine, it doesn't have to be a cupcakes and daisy race experience to be successful.  This one is going to stick in my head for a very long time as an example of a day where I took those negative thoughts and turned them into a positive outcome.

Thanks to my awesome coach who always knows what to say, my amazing photographer, my husband who drove her all over the course, and my wonderful teams - TrainingPeaks who provides the best training log and analysis tools out there and Aquaphor for keeping my skin protected from the dreaded race chafe (NO CHAFING ON THIS RACE where I used Aquaphor!).  Onward to IM Canada!

*This sunblock mostly worked but the tops of my shoulders did burn quite a bit.  The rest of me was OK though so...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Race Week Fun

I always assume the decreased volume of race week means a lot more time to rest and relax but things seem as busy as ever - organizing, making lists, dropping the bike off for a tuneup and so on.  Between that and being trapped at work for one meeting after another, it's a miracle that I'm starting to feel a little zippy and eager to race!

And someone needs to grocery shop around here because there is not enough food to keep me in business as I scavenge in the cabinets at night after dinner.  Thankfully I think my appetite has dropped a little bit finally.  I wondered yesterday if forgetting to eat was my new race weight strategy or just dumb.

Don't answer that.

I finally got around to writing my race plan and sending it off to my coach - it was good to write out everything I planned to do for the day so that I can just check that if I'm not sure what I need to be doing this week!  She had some great input and some highly entertaining goals for me to check off when it comes to race day.  I will report back what they are and if I accomplished them after Saturday!

My TrainingPeaks kit will get its 1/2IM debut on Saturday, I know it'll be up to the challenge :)  The lines on my favorite Performance Management Chart show my "tiredness" (not official term but close enough) line is dropping as my "freshness" line climbs, so I'm as rested and ready for this thing as I'm gonna be.

This is about as close to a backyard race as I could get, with the finish just a few miles from home, so I'm glad they've added this distance to the race weekend (I've done the Olympic here the past 2 years and the sprint was my first tri ever). 

Onward to race day!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Splish Splash

My sorta-taper has been going well this week.  I've had just enough exercise to keep me in a good mood, while theoretically dialing the volume back enough to start resting my body a bit.

Despite work conspiring to keep me from the pool Friday morning, I got my long swim in Friday night, which is nothing short of a miracle.  This girl does not go swim at night, when the couch is much more inviting.  But it turns out Friday nights are nice and quiet at the pool and so I was able to hog all that 80-degree sunshine in a lane by myself!

I've gotten some fun things in the mail this week, like my first round of Team Aquaphor kit and samples. If you see me at a race (or the pool or wherever) ask me for a sample!

And my first Picky Club shipment! I've been enjoying Picky Bars for pre- and post-workout snacks for a few months now and I decided to join the Picky Club.  Not only are these really yummy but the people behind them are a total hoot (and crazy fast athletes).

I had a nice short ride yesterday - only 1:45 (gotta love IM training for making that look like a breeze) - with a little run off the bike.  It happened to be our hottest day of the year so far, ended up at about 100, so I was quite pleased to run comfortably off the bike at 80+ degrees.  Heat acclimation is slowly starting to happen!

With an open water swim on my schedule for this morning, I decided to sign up for a local swim race so I was guaranteed to get in OW safely and without hassle.  Kristi was there as well, fresh off of hellish Honu 70.3 and doing the 2-miler, so we took our requisite ELF-athletes-at-the-same race photo!

The entire 1-mile swim loop is shown in this photo, you may have to squint to see the far turn buoys

While Kristi went off at 9am for the 2-mile swim, followed by folks doing the various distances of splash & dash in the subsequent 20 minutes, those of us doing the 1-mile swim had to wait until 10am for our start!  Apparently there were enough people who wanted to race both swim distances that they had to give them time to finish.

The quote of the day came as Kristi and I sat there waiting for her start and the race director was explaining to a woman that if she finished her 2 miles after the 1 mile race started, she could just swim 3 miles straight and the woman said "Oh that's no problem, I'm swimming 11 miles next weekend."  We both looked at each other and said "did she just?" "WTF?!" and giggled.

And this is why people shouldn't say *I* am crazy.

Kristi starting the 2 mile swim, which she smoked!

I was representing for Team Aquaphor today!  It was fun to hand out samples and chat with a lot of people while I waited.

And waited and waited and hour after everyone else has started is a long time to wait.  Especially when it seems like everyone else is gone!  There were only a handful of us who started the 1-mile swim together.  In the meantime this is what transition looked like!

Finally was time to start our little swim "race" (I use quotes because I had a specific open water workout to do and I was not redlining it today, just swimming).  About a minute before we started, Kristi got out of the water, so I cheered and waved and she was on her way to get her bike workout done.  The announcer counted down and we were off!  There's really not much to narrate in a swim race - I mostly stayed on course, I avoided being kicked by the lady who breaststroked the whole thing and the guy who kept stopping to breaststroke, I pretty much stayed around the same people the entire time, I settled down after the start and breathed bilaterally (though I saw I will have to work on sighting better when doing this), I warmed up easy, I did my little sprints, I cooled down, and eventually I hit the boat ramp and trotted up to the timing mat.

While prying off my wetsuit and packing up, I chatted with my friend Diane who raced the swim-run - after all the Alcatraz swims she's done, this was probably a piece of cake!

I guess I should have attempted to decipher the posted results better (as far as I knew they were only giving awards for top 3 overall) but I had a 1/2hr drive home and wanted to get on with relaxing and enjoying my day.  Turns out I was 3rd in AG (30-39 women)!  And only a minute out of 2nd so if I'd swum a little harder... Well, this leaves me in a good state of mind for next week, when I'll be back at Uvas Reservoir for a little 1/2IM distance race!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Catching Up, Again!

It's been another one of those super busy weeks, rushing from one thing to the next with barely a minute to think, so here I am playing blog catchup again.  Last weekend was our beardie club's regional specialty, embedded in a 4-day dog show, our 5th wedding anniversary and Jeff's birthday, not to mention the end of a huge training block that involved a LOT of workout hours over the weekend.  So, a quick recap via photos...

5 years ago we did this, with Max, baby Stanley, and Cujo

On Friday Puck was NOT enthused about another boring workday.  Little did he know he'd be going to the dog show with me instead!

Stanley showed the best I've ever seen him and I was super proud.  It's a lot of chaos to stay at a show for 4 days but he handled it as always, being a happy and easy dog.

Saturday started dark and early as I had 6 hours of bike-run to get done and didn't want to spend all day - Nigel and I were riding by 6am!  Mostly I was chasing the boys up and down hills, while sticking to my workout, so I didn't get a lot of photos along the way.

A peek at Crystal Springs Reservoir

Rolling by Larry Ellison's house in Woodside

And then Jeff and I hit the road for a mystery destination (mystery to me anyway) for our anniversary - a pretty resort in the midst of Napa vineyards

We did a little wandering around in Yountville before dinner at Bouchon (yum!).  Amazingly there was no alcohol involved in this photo.

Sunday morning I did my first long run of the day through the vineyards of Napa at sunrise - NOT a bad way to live!  On our way home, we picked Stanley up at the dog show.  He was a snuggly tired lap puppy that night but I still needed to get up and go for my second long run.  I waited till 6pm and it was still 84 out so I went for it - if nothing else it was a good confidence boost as far as managing heat.

Monday morning was my first rest day in 4 weeks and I learned an interesting truth...I am addicted to endorphins.  Without my crack, you could infer I am NOT a nice person to be around.  I felt actual chest-crushing stress from work on Monday evening.  It got worse on Tuesday as there were nearly 48 hours between my last run on Sunday and my bike workout Tuesday afternoon.  And then...I could just FEEL the tension release...phew!

Last night concluded 11 days of The-World-Revolves-Around-Stanley (well, he thinks it's every day but...) - 4 days of dog shows, 2 herding lessons, 2 agility classes, 2 nose work classes, 1 hike in the Sierras, 1 beardie playmate, and 1 day at the groomer.  He might be a little tired today.

At this point I'm quasi-tapering for the Silicon Valley Long Course next week.  Not a true taper, says my schedule in TrainingPeaks, but still decreased volume and a bit of rest for the body.  With my last big training block for Canada coming up after this race, I'll take all the recovery I can get!

Hope everyone is having a good week!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...

If my dogs could write about a few of their favorite things, they would write about this past weekend, where they got to have all the fun a bearded collie can have!  Along with my beardie BFF Shannon, we took our four dogs (the boys are also pretty much BFFs) to Nevada for a weekend of herding and fun.

One minute, you're in the flat central valley, the next you are in the foothills.

 One minute you're in the foothills, the next you are clearly in the Sierras! (I <3 the Sierras, how they smell how they look everything!)  The poor dogs, however, were then convinced we were going backpacking and not happy that we kept driving.

 Last bit of the Sierras before we dropped into Nevada where it was flat and dry!

We arrived late morning on Saturday and started right off with some (mostly goat) herding.  It was 90 degrees out and the boys got hot fast.  Stanley jumped right in the stock tank and completely submerged himself to cool down.  Hmm, not what I had in mind as far as getting dirty this early in the trip but it sure made him happy.

After that, we headed to our friend's house to see her 6-week-old beardie puppies!  The boys - Stanley and Max and their BFFs Loki and Beckham - played for hours in the yard with the beardie girls of the house while we soaked up the puppy breath.

So tired, I fell asleep face down.

On Sunday I was up just before dawn to run 2:10 up and down the main drag in Carson City.  It was not the MOST fun place to knock out my long run of the week but I did better than expected for running at elevation.  And then we were back to herding again, which Stanley clearly enjoyed more at a slightly lower temperature.

 I swear he touched the ground somewhere in here...

That'll do, pig.

As if all that fun weren't enough already, we decided to stop in the mountains and hike the boys on the way home.  Any time I cross the Sierras on Highway 88, I have to stop at the Lake Margaret trailhead, even if only for a few minutes - it leads to the lake where Jeff and I got engaged!  So it was the perfect place to take the boys for a romp, as I knew we could hike down to a meadow and big stream for them to play.

The trail beardies moved as a pack!  And silently!

All bets were off once we got to water though.

Synchronized shaking - Stanley on the right and his cousin Beckham

What scenery!

At least they are washing the goat poop off

And then the loud mouthing REALLY begins.

You don't believe me?

Are you all tired now (please?)?

We got at least one day of quieter dogs out of this trip, though when my alarm went off at 4:45am for masters on Monday, Stanley was right there at my side chirping about his walk. *sigh*