Sunday, September 09, 2007

Weekend Update--Amazing Recovery

After my last very depressing post, I am happy to report that I am feeling much better. I had a rockin' weekend so I seem to have worked out of my rut. I took an extra off day on Friday and was able to literally soar through the weekend. Here's my weekend update:

60 mile training ride with hills--
Rachel Ride #4

This was the 4th ride I've hosted, and it was a blast. I prepared the map and route slip, which ended up being more complicated than I wanted with lots of turns to find the most scenic route. I was actually very nervous--had a hard time sleeping the night before--worried about bonking on my own ride or getting us lost or everyone having a miserable time and blaming me. I studied the map over and over again until I had it memorized.

We started from my apartment. Nice. All I had to do to show up was roll out of bed. One of the many perks of being ride director. A fantastic group of 15 riders showed up--all abilities--but all out for a good ride with good company. Sweeet. We headed out through Sorrento Valley, Rancho Penasquitos and then twisted around Lake Miramar and Scripps Ranch. Rolling hills, morning cloud cover, not too hot, not too cold. Just right. I really had to break out the leadership skills since no one was familiar with the ride, and the group was reluctant to break out the maps I had provided. My memorization skills were put to the test (I admit, I didn't really know where we were going either).

At mile 18, we began climbing up the grade at Scripps Poway Parkway. And climbing. And climbing. The rollers we had dealt with before seemed insignificant. Some of the stronger riders in our group new to the route saw the "mountain" in the distance, and their faces widened. "We're climbing that? Nice!"

Another rider asked, "Did you plan this climb?" I had, actually, but it had snuck up on me. I somehow had thought it was coming later and was devastated thinking this was an extra climb. As I was going up, I couldn't think straight. I didn't know what was going on. So my feeble reply was, "I don't know." What was worse--I didn't seem to remember the hill even though I had climbed it before so it took me by surprise and left me unprepared mentally. I began to get a little unraveled, thinking--"what if it gets even worse after this, and I can't do it?" I started just focusing on the climb I was doing at the moment instead of worrying what was up ahead. I just tried to focus on pedaling at my 6 mph pace in my lowest gear with sweat dripping off my face, my lungs and legs burning. Good suffering. I passed another suffering cyclist on the way up, and he said, "I'm a surfer, not a cyclist." My sardonic reply was, "Oh, yeah. This is much better than being out in the ocean, enjoying the cool waves." He laughed.

Finally, I recognized where I was and felt relief--at the top of the climb (mile 25)--after 1600 feet. I soared down the hill, ecstatic that I had made it, and we regrouped at the bottom. One rider said, "Now I know what the "M." in front of your name stands for--Masochistic!" That's right, folks--it's Masochistic Rachel to you.

After a short stint on Hwy 67, we turned west to go down the steep grade on Poway Rd. It was a bit dangerous since it was so windy and had no shoulder but it felt SO good to go downhill. I zipped and spiraled downwards, riding my rear brakes to slow to 38 mph. Tight. Torch's rear brakes had been squealing (apparently, the back was hitting the rim first so my options were a) wear them in or b) adjust them). At the bottom of Poway, I realized my brakes no longer squeaked. Problem solved!

As we weaved our way through Poway on Espola Rd and then Twin Peaks Rd, we had some very interesting conversations. That's the great thing about long group bike rides. You're out there for a Looong time. You have to keep yourself entertained. The subject of Normann Stadler came up. What a spectacular athlete he is, how he's in San Diego, how he's coming to all the (tri club) functions lately (he's the guest speaker at our club meeting this week!), how he won't swim in the ocean because he's afraid, etc., etc. I mentioned that I hadn't realized how cute he was until I had seen him at the Club Aquathlon but that I didn't care for his personality too much. I further mentioned that some duct tape and a pair of handcuffs might take care of that problem. Oops. I may have gone a little far on that one. Later, someone mentioned how you can use Vaseline on wetsuit-illegal cold swims as an extra layer for warmth (another fantastic use for Vaseline--there are so many). Someone else mentioned that the Vaseline might be a nice addition to the handcuffs and duct tape kit. It was a very fun ride.

After a brief rest stop at mile 33.5 (yes, 0.5), we headed out again, and I started to feel really good. A nice breeze was keeping me cool, and I had refilled my bottles and eaten 1/4 of a Twix. I am loving the Twix at the halfway points! Sometimes, it's hard to get the calories down and comfort food just hits the spot. I'm going to get a jersey that reads, "Powered by Twix" on the back.

At mile 40, one rider got a flat. The group stopped and we all assisted. By this point, we had decided to stay together as a group, which was really cool. Another rider got a flat at the same time. Both riders were riding the same exact bike. Weird!!! After we got going again, I felt sluggish and stiff. I had cooled off, and my body thought we were done. It took about 20 minutes to find a good rhythm again.

After we turned on the 56 bike path, my confidence was soaring. I knew where we were, I knew where the hills and turns were, and I hadn't lost anyone or gotten anyone lost. Bonus! Mile 47--a 3rd rider got a flat. WTF? Some rides are just like that. He told us to go on without him but I didn't want to leave him alone. I wouldn't have wanted to be left alone. I told everyone else how to get back and told them to ride ahead (the ride was beginning to take an eternity). The rest of the group refused, and we all stuck together. The camaraderie was just amazing.

We hit the coast (mile 50) and the sight of the Pacific was a sweet reward. The water was a brilliant turquoise blue and a cool ocean breeze revived me. We merged with other riders doing a century ride from Riverside as they struggled up the Torrey Pines hill. All of a sudden, mile 55, I felt a surge. This was my hill. My territory. I ride this hill on every ride, and I know it like the back of my hand. I normally just cruise up at 6-8 mph. Today was different. Even though it had been the longest ride ever, and I was tired, I could sense I was close to home. It was the horse smelling the hay back in the stable. I took off. The lead riders in our group were taken by surprise and stayed with me, encouraging me, "You are really moving!" It felt so good. We maintained a 10-11 mph speed, zipping by about 50 tired century riders the whole 1-1.5 miles up Torrey Pines. At the crest, I let out a huge sigh of relief. 3 miles from home--all downhill. I sat back and cruised.

Lesson Learned:
Several of us went for a late brunch afterwards--tired, exhausted, sore, hungry, and completely satisfied. Organizing group rides may take some work and be somewhat stressful at times, but the rewards are well worth it. There is nothing like good company and conversation when you're out there on the roads with a celebratory meal afterwards. It is awesome making new friends and meeting new training partners.

Sunday 9/9 (10 mile training run and La Jolla Rough Water Swim):

Still extremely tired from the epic Saturday ride, I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 am. I didn't want to run. No way. However, my running group had specifically planned the run to start and end at La Jolla Cove so that I would be able to do the 1 mile Rough Water Swim afterwards. I couldn't just bail. Neither could I skip the swim if that was the reason why we were starting from there. Mentally, I told myself to just show up. If I wanted to walk or cut the run short, I could.

Arriving at the cove at 7:00 am, I got rock star parking on Prospect. We headed south through Wind and Sea and Bird Rock, winding through the gorgeous neighborhoods by the coast. It was a new run for all of us, and I had mapped it out beforehand. I was the run host for the week. Boy! All the pressure! We reached the boardwalk at PB and ran to the Crystal Pier at the 5-mile point. Then, we turned around and headed back. I actually felt better on the way back than the way out. I surged from mile 5-7, mistakenly thinking I could hold a sub-9 min pace for 5 miles. I simply didn't have it in the tank. After mile 7, I returned to my slow base pace and finished the run. It was a good, solid effort. I had finished and still felt good.

Some of my running buddies stayed with me for a quick breakfast at a cafe up the street. I checked in at the Cove and the adrenaline began to surge. I was just doing the mile swim for a fun workout. With absolutely no taper, I had no expectations. However, I had never done a swim event before, and I am a slow swimmer. I had looked at the times from the previous year and knew I would be coming in at the very bottom of the pack. "That's okay,"
I told myself. "It will be a good experience."

Despite trying to talk myself down, I was extremely nervous. I couldn't eat anything, and I had to run to the bathroom several times. "What am I so nervous about?" I knew there was no rational reason. I swim the cove all the time. I know it well. It was just all the race energy--the people, the loudspeakers, the hustle and bustle--it was rubbing off on me and getting me all worked up. As I stood in line to register in my sweaty running clothes, I could feel everyone else's eyes burning holes in the back of my head. I felt completely out of place.

Finding a quiet spot on the lawn, I stretched and practiced deep breathing exercises. A large group from the tri club showed up and set up a tent. I hung out with them but it only seemed to increase my nervousness. Most of them were doing the 3 mile Gatorman swim after my wave went for the 1 mile Rough Water Swim. I felt small and insignificant. What was I even doing here? I felt out of place. "I don't belong here," I told myself. I was introduced to another woman doing the Rough Water Swim and was immediately intimidated. She swims an 18-minute mile and is currently training for the English Channel Open water swim (a 22 mile swim in 50 degree water--no wetsuits allowed). Sheepishly, I told her my mile time would be about 40 minutes. Unfazed, she tried valiantly to talk me up. She treated me like a little sister and gave me a ton of pointers.

We previewed the course, and I began to freak out. There were only 2 buoys. I was expecting buoys every 50 meters like I'm used to for triathlons. I had examined the course on-line. We swam northeast towards the Shores, turned west for 450 meters, and then back to the mouth of the cove in a large triangle. However, staring at the first buoy, waaaay off in the distance, I got a little unhinged. First of all, it was beyond the 1/2 mile buoy that I normally swim for the turn-around, meaning that if we were to swim another 450 meters west, that would be over 1 mile. I was not mentally prepared. My impromptu big sister/swim coach agreed that it was more like 2000 meters. Of course, she was happy with the distance; I was unable to share her joy. She was also hoping for a lot of chop; I was definitely NOT. Plus, the water temp had dropped and was hovering around 69 degrees. No wetsuits allowed! She told me to expect a current pulling me towards the Shores on the way out, to expect significant chop after turning west, and then if I hit the 2nd buoy wide, I could find a current to pull me in, if I angled just right. I was skeptical since I had always fought the current coming in but she told me it was because I was swimming too far to the inside (east). "I'll be lucky if I can just finish the damn thing, let alone have a strategy," I thought to myself.

Okay. Well, 2000 meters is perfect training for a half-ironman, I told myself. I can swim that, no problem. I'm just worried because it was not what I expected. I had a different picture in my head. Once I realized this, I swallowed, took a deep breath and resolved to do the course with the 2 buoys the 1+ mile, chop, cold water, no wetsuit, seaweed and all.

We lined up on the beach to start. I seeded myself towards the back. All of a sudden, I relaxed. I was ready. In familiar territory. It was just like the start of a triathlon. The gun went off and everyone ran into the water. I found a mellow place in the back and settled into my stroke. With so many other people in the water, I felt very comfortable in the draft for the first 600 meters or so. After that, I got pulled too far east by the current and found myself swimming alone. Damn! I kept having to angle myself west. Finally, I reached the first buoy at 800 meters and turned 90 degrees west. A freezing cold patch of water (about 58 degrees) hit me, and I gasped, pulling my head out of the water. "Just a cold spot," I thought. I fought my way through. Just like Heather had foreseen, there was significant swells and chops. I felt like I was swimming uphill. I was bobbing up and down a lot. Every time I would drop, my stomach would lurch. I swallowed a bit of salt water, and my stomach complained. Luckily, I had taken a pre-emptive Pepcid to buffer my stomach beforehand. I focused on the tree line to my east, and my stomach steadied.

I continued fighting my way through. I was still too far to the outside. I could see the waves behind my zipping ahead of me on the inside line. I was alone. The negative thoughts began to build. "What am I doing here? I don't belong. I suck at this. I am so slow. I'm such a loser. I should just quit now. Give up. I should quit triathlon altogether." I don't know if it was the extreme absurdity of the statements or the fact that giving up altogether would mean drowning but all of a sudden, a much louder, stronger voice in my head took over, "What are you doing? Now is not the time. We can deal with this later. Now! Swim!" Because I hadn't argued with the negative thoughts but told myself I could think about them later, it was like a switch had been flipped. I had completely disarmed the negativity. I began counting strokes and focusing on my form. I began to just swim. And I found my rhythm.

Finally, I hit the 2nd buoy and turned 90 degrees again, heading south towards the mouth of the cove. Final stretch. Because I had accidentally swam the entire distance wide, I had positioned myself perfectly, like Heather had advised. Normally, being out so far west by myself with everyone else in the race so far down to my east would have been really unnerving. Luckily, she had prepared me. I knew they would be fighting the current I normally fight. Let's see. If I angle myself slightly southeast like this...Bingo! I found the current! Suddenly I was being pulled forward. I was gliding through the water. I felt slippery. It was effortless. I had a rhythm, and I was moving. Not only that, but I could see that I was making up time and gaining on the other swimmers fighting the current.

Elated, I hit the beach and ran across the timing mat. 39:13. 1 minute off my mile swim, and considering I had swam even farther, this was quite good for me. I was satisfied. Spent the rest of the day eating, drinking and relaxing on the grass by the cove, enjoying the beautiful weather.

Hope everyone had a brilliant weekend. Time for my massage.


jameson said...

way to rally for the weekend. keep it up.

Lisa said...

I'm glad you had such a fantastic weekend come-back!

Andy said...

Sometimes if you want to do something right, you just have to do it yourself! Great job on taking the initiative on creating an group ride! And isn't it convenient that it begins and ends at your place??? I am slightly jealous ;)


Paul said...

Sounds like a wild weekend! Good job on the gatorman and run!

Leah Flickinger said...

Wow! Your swim experience sounds so much like what happened to me when I did an open water swim race in August. I totally felt like I didn't belong and it was hard to shut down those voices! But what an accomplishment! Congrats!

JeffM said...

That's a heck of a weekend! Sounds like you did a great job on the ride organizing.

Anonymous said...

Wait... lemme make sure I read this right. You knocked out a 10 mile run _before_ the La Jolla Rough Water swim, then did the swim? AWESOME. Way to push through the negative thoughts and get into the swim! :-)