Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sick of being Sick

“I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Fannie Lou Hamer

I wish I could say everything was going according to plan. That after my awesome 15-mile run last Friday, I was able to resume my original training plan and find my pre-half-ironman strength. But, alas, it hasn't been as simple.

Sunday, we planned on doing an awesome Olympic distance triathlon in La Quinta( I was really looking forward to it. I was going to use it as a gentle workout, knowing I had run long on Friday and been under the weather previously.

We drove up to Palm Springs on Saturday and picked up our registration packet. Drove to the race site and walked around the gorgeous park. Such a beautiful venue. Clean, calm lake for the swim. Flat, pleasant bike ride around lots of resorts and gardens and golf clubs. Nice, easy run around the lake. Seemed like such a great place for a race.

Checked into our hotel. I stretched my sore muscles religiously and laid out all my race clothes. Woke up at 4:30 on Sunday. Didn't feel so hot. Pushed that thought aside and continued getting ready for the race. Ate breakfast, drove to the race site, laid out my transition area, got body-marked. Ignored the stabbing pain in my head that was ebbing into nausea. Downed some Sudafed and Tylenol. A worried little voice in the back of my head protested. "It's not good if you have to race after taking all those drugs. Hard on your liver. Predispose you to hyponatremia (" I continued to push these thoughts aside. "I'll feel better once we start." Still I couldn't help but feel worried that my body felt tired and my head felt like it was in a cloud. I was dizzy, tired, congested, and had a terrible, pounding headache that was pushing on a migraine.

I got in the water and "warmed" up. Only I couldn't warm up, even though the water was a balmy 65 and I had my wetsuit on. I had been fine in 60 degree water in Oceanside a few weeks ago. Still, I thought I'd feel better once the gun went off. Waited at the back of my wave. The gun went off. I was in a daze. It didn't feel like a race to me. I kept trying to picture how it would feel to bike and run but I couldn't wrap my head around it. I started swimming. The stabbing pain in my head got worse. Tried a few more strokes. Nothing. Dismally, I stopped, turned around, and headed to shore.

I dejectedly handed in my chip, peeled off my wetsuit, gathered my things and headed towards the car. I have never quit like this before. I've been depressed all week. I know I quit for the right reasons. I know I was/am sick and racing would have made me much worse. Still. I really wanted to do it. My body just wasn't up for it.

Jason drove us home. I slept the entire 2 hours in the car with my mouth hanging agape and my head flopped back and to the side. Dragged myself to bed without even showering once we got home and slept another 3 hours. Woke up to shower and eat and then went back to bed for another 10 hours.

Tuesday, I went back to the doctor for a second time. By now, I've been sick for 6 weeks, including 2 weeks before the half-ironman. I'm dizzy and exhausted and feel like I'm in a fog. I'm completely congested and can't even blow my nose. Allergy meds did nothing and neither did 10 days of antibiotics. He sent me over for a CAT scan. Pretty cool. Called me this morning and said I was severely blocked in all of my sinuses. (CAT scan image to right is not mine but example of another patient with blocked sinuses). I'm now going back on the antibiotics but for much longer--3 or 4 weeks. Ugh. I hate the side effects of the antibiotics. But I hate being sick more.

I know dropping out of the race was the right thing to do. Basically, I think I had a cold going into the half-ironman and the extreme conditions of the race pushed it into a sinus infection. Afterwards, deep fatigue from the half-ironman combined with marathon training has not allowed the sinus infection to be defeated. I thought a week of rest after the HIM would be sufficient. Apparently, it wasn't. After the first week, I took the 2nd week very conservatively, only running twice and doing weights once. Last week (the 3rd week), I tried a little more, running twice, weights once, swimming once, and biking twice. This is still very conservative compared with the volume I felt comfortable with during the HIM training. But it felt too much last week. Basically, I feel overtrained with minimal training right now, probably from the infection and deep fatigue from the HIM.

I'm having a much harder time bouncing back than I thought I would. Boy, I feel like a weakling! I can't believe how much it took out of me! Regardless of how I wish I felt, I have to listen to my body (new nickname: The Boss). I have to stop judging myself for how I feel and just accept my body for what it is and then take care of it. Okay.
A. I'm sick and need to get better.
B. I want to do the marathon in 6 weeks (my doctor said it would be okay if I trained conservatively--he's manning the med tent at mile 25; very cool! I love my doc!)
C. I can only withstand minimal trainig right now without making myself sicker.
D. I need lots of rest and good nutrition.

New Strategy:
Based on these needs, I've decided to only focus on running and weights until the marathon is over since I'm afraid my body can't handle much else. If I start feeling a lot better later on, I can always add back more. But for right now, I'm going to let my swimming and biking slip and hope it will come back quickly when I pick it up again after the marathon. Sigh. It's so hard to relinquish any fitness but I think it's what I have to do. So I'm going to try running 3x/week and doing weights 2x/week along with daily stretching. I'm going to start there and see what happens. 2 small runs (4-6 miles) and 1 long weekend run. When I start to feel better, I'll slowly add back the biking and swimming--swimming first since it's easier on the body. I would like to be able to handle 2x/week biking, swimming, weights and 3x/week running but this is overly-ambitious right now. On the plus side, running should help loosen up my sinuses. I hope the Boss will approve of my new plan.

Friday, April 20, 2007

My Adventure

The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.
Don Williams, Jr.

This week has been tough. I have not been feeling well, and my energy levels have been low. I have discovered that, in addition to my sinus infection, I have terrible allergies this season. Every time I go outside, and the wind hits my face, I feel awful. I finally succumbed to trying a shotgun-approach of allergy meds and found that Zyrtec really helped. It also knocked me out. The antibiotics I'm taking also have a bunch of nasty side effects (my last day is tomorrow!!!), including vertigo, dizziness, stomachache, and extreme fatigue. Yippy. After a few nights of not being able to sleep because of incessant coughing, my body felt like a zombie. I kind of felt like Towlie on South Park. "Dude. I don't know what's going on. I don't even know where I am right now." Except that I haven't taken any fun drugs and am certainly not enjoying myself. I went home early on Thursday and slept. And slept. Then I slept some more.

Despite feeling bad, I've slogged my way through several light workouts, trying to recover some of my fitness after 2 weeks post-half-ironman. I feel like everything is an uphill battle right now. Monday, I had a great weight-lifting session and not-so-great bike ride (outdoors, windy, allergies?). Tuesday, I had a good but quick swim. Wednesday, I slogged my way through a run and felt completely run-down afterwards. Thursday, I had a pretty decent albeit slow bike on the trainer (indoors).

Understandably, I was a bit nervous going out on my long run this afternoon. 14 miles. Ugh. That's a big load on the table. Plus, it's windy, cold, and rainy here in San Diego. Very weird. At 4:00, the sun came out and the rain stopped, and that was my cue. I stretched, strapped on my fuel belt and headed out the door.

These long runs are becoming somewhat of a religious experience. I can feel wonderful or completely devastated at the end. It's like an awakening. I felt like I was beginning an adventure. I was nervous about the weather, my endurance, my knee, my tummy, etc., etc., etc.

I started out slowly, settling into a relaxed pace, finding my stride, and taking it easy. I felt good. I sipped on my water quite often. Every 10-15 minutes, I took a gulp. I felt like I kept on top of my hydration the whole time and was able to keep from getting dehydrated. At mile 4, I took 2 salt tablets. I ate a Cliff Shot a little later. And another one later on. I couldn't believe how well my system was handling food, water, and electrolytes. Plus, it made my body feel so good. I could keep going and going. Like the Energizer Bunny.

At mile 6, I realized I felt good. Great, even. This was going to be a good run. This mood-elevating effect snowballed, and my feet felt light like a gazelle. I was able to really focus on my stride, elongating my steps, pushing with my glutes, landing evenly on my forefoot. At mile 8, a little cottontail hopped across the path. Everything was wet and smelled great after the rain. Flowers were even blooming. Plus, the rain dampened all the allergens, preventing my allergies from acting up. My knees didn't hurt but I stuck to my plan. I walked conservatively down and up the steepest hills but was able to run comfortably on mild slopes.

At mile 11, the skies opened up, and a deluge hit me. I started to get soaked. By this time, I was reaching town again and jogged in place at the stoplights. I realized it was cold. My legs were red but I felt warm and toasty inside. And numb. I couldn't feel anything. I was drenched. I started having weird thoughts. Like, "I could pee my pants and no one would know." I retreated inside to my safe, happy place, trying to block out the coldness and wetness and windyness of it all.

A bike commuter cycled past and gave me a big grin. We were both miserable and wet but what could we do but smile at each other? I gave him a big grin back. This grin stayed on my face for another mile. Yes, I was crazy for being out here but it felt great to be out and, yes it was raining, but there was nothing to do about it. I could be miserable or just choose to laugh about it.

Suddenly, it seemed kind of funny. I kind of liked the cold wind and hard rain. In a way, the extremeness of the weather combined with the many miles of running accentuated why I was out there doing it. To know that I'm alive. Ah, the joys of voluntary human suffering.

At that point, I knew I was going to finish. Not only that but I was going to finish at the pace I had set out to do and my knee wasn't going to hurt. For the first time, I realized I hadn't really cared about my pace. If I had to walk a hill to be on the safe side, I didn't hesitate. It wasn't about the speed or even the distance. I didn't want to get it over with. I wanted to enjoy this and stay in the moment. This was my journey. My adventure. I saw the streams of rain from the big rainclouds hitting the ocean in the distance. Juxtaposed to the dark thunderheads were beads of sunlight, streaming through the clouds in an ember gold. It was truly a magical run.

I just recorded it on Gmaps. What I thought was a 14 mile run was acutally 15!!! Bonus! took me 2'22" and 42 seconds, which means despite taking it "slow", I still managed 9.5 min/mile. Not too shabby!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Learning about Compromise...and 1 more thing...

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
This week is all about compromise. I tend to be an all or nothing person. Go for a 60 mile bike or do nothing because it's not worth it. Even though I know that rationale is not healthy, I still do it. It's hard to relish the little workouts, the little efforts, the baby steps forward. But in reality, these are the most important steps, the ones that lead to great things.
HIM Recovery--Longer than I Expected:
Last week was sort of a wash. Apparently, I need 2 weeks of R&R after my first half-ironman, not 1. Looking back, I wish I had taken more walks or done Yoga or something to help loosen me up. Fitness-wise, I don't think I've lost too much. I think I'll bounce back nicely within a few weeks of being back on a regular routine. Anyway, I've been listening to my body, loud and clear.

The first week after the H-IM, I waited an entire week before going on an 8-mile run (too long). Probably too much for my first time back. My legs were pretty stiff and, after only 4 miles, I ended up walking the 4 miles back because of outer knee pain on the right side (probably a combination of tight IT band and tight peroneals). That was my low point. Then, I went for a great, little 4-miler mid-week with no knee pain and was ecstatic about it. The PT appt. almost put me in a wheelchair for the next 2 days, until my deep-tissue massage rescued me.

My Personal At-Home Physical Therapy Program:
On a side note, I have decided not to continue, at the moment, with the PT appts. I have decided to try my own at-home program with a religious, daily stretching and strengthening regime. Now before you get all excited, let me explain. First of all, I may decide that I need more PT but if I go back, I need to go somewhere (or to someone) else because the person I was going too was a) way too agressive with me (she wanted to loosen me up too much too fast; this takes time; little bits over a long time; compromise--remember?) and b) she didn't know what she was talking about (she had no idea what periodization was or what a long run constituted and she thought I had shin splints and flat feet. I have neither. In fact, I've been told by several specialists including a podiatrist that I have extremely high arches). Second, if I don't see improvement in 6 weeks with my at-home program, or if my knee gets worse at any time, I will pursue professional physical therapy more aggressively. Third, I had a great PT in St. Louis when I first started getting knee pain, and she set me up to do an at-home program. She told me if I had problems in the future, it would probably stem from the original problem she had diagnosed and that I should return to the prescribed stretches and strengthening exercises. Fourthly, I have not been doing any of the prescribed stretches or strengthening exercises I'm supposed to so my homework has been very poor.

The Self-Prescribed Diagnosis:
No stretching and tons of working out over long hours and distances for the half-ironman left my legs extremely tight. Now that I'm starting to train for the marathon, my natural biomechanical issues and tightness is starting to form a pre-overuse injury. I suffer from excessive internal hip (adductor) rotation. This is common in many women, who have tight adductors (the muscles you use when you cross your legs--BAD!) and weak abductors (outer hips). This is me to a tee! Basically, I'm knock-kneed. This predisposes me to IT-band syndrome. Check. Plus, my left side is weaker (and tighter) so my right leg has to work harder, which is where the knee pain resides. Combine that with high arches which causes me to land on my toes when I run, and that produces additonal stress from the bottom (feet), which is why my peroneals (tendon from side of knee to foot) are tight. So my knee is getting it from the top and the bottom. If you examine my feet, I have well-developed callouses on the balls of both feet but on the right (where the knee pain is), the callouses are more to the inside of the ball of my foot. Because my hip is rotating in when I land, I'm landing on the inside of my foot.

Even though I wear corrective shoes with custom orthotics, they only help to a point. Now, I need to do 3 things. 1) Focus on correct form when I run. Recruit my glutes and abductors more when I run to take the pressure off my knees. Basically, think about squeezing my ass when my foot falls. Also, lengthen my stride slightly to help my foot land more mid-sole to lessen the shock from landing on just my toes. (Sounds counterintuitive, I know, but it works for me. Coaches always emphasize short strides and running on your toes for good form but apparently, you can do too much of that!) 2) Stretches and foam roller daily to loosen my very tight hamstrings, calves, peroneals, glutes, quads, and IT band. Did I miss anything? Avoid stretches that exaggerate my internal hip rotation fault (anything where I'm crossing my leg across the body). 3) Focus on strengthening exercises 3x/week on targeted, weak muscles e.g. abductors and glutes. Avoid strengthening already overdeveloped muscles e.g. calves, quads, adductors, hamstrings. 4) Okay, 4 things. Continue with regular deep-tissue massage to help loosen trouble spots. This has been a life-saver for me! It's probably kept my pre-injury from becoming a full-blown one. And 5) Last one. Ice after every long run (or every run). 6) Oh, and take my long runs slower and with walk breaks (see race strategy below). Also, walk the hills. These are murder on my knees (both up and down. surprisingly, up is way worse than down).

Too early to tell but I think I'm starting to see improvement already (see below)!

Race Strategy for the Marathon:
I've decided I want to run the marathon but without injuring myself. So I have 2 scenarios. 1--my knee pain gets worse and I back off right then and there. I'm not going to push myself through the grueling long runs only to make a pre-injury worse. I'd rather bail on the race then hurt myself. 2--However, if I can work with my knee, maybe I can coax us through the marathon with a different set of goals. First, no time goal whatsoever. My goal now is to finish without injury. Compromise. See? This theme just keeps popping up. To do this, I will a) run slower (lessens impact) and b) take planned walk breaks (30 sec to 1 min at each aid station). No, I won't be fast but I just might, if I'm lucky, be able to finish a marathon. And that, in itself, is something to be proud of.

Exercise--the homeopathic antidepressant:
On Saturday, I was moping on the sofa when Jason got up and left for the pool. I was brooding about how late in the day it was and how I would never get all the workouts in that I had planned (bike and swim). I sat on the sofa miserably for about 10 more minutes before dragging myself to the pool. I'm SO glad I did. I felt sluggish and depressed through the first half of the workout. Lots of negative thinking about how slow I am at everything despite how much effort I exert. Then, I got a 2nd wind and finally stopped beating myself up and started just enjoying the feel of the water. I was doing a descending ladder so by this point, I was going faster for shorter sets. For some reason, it seemed like getting my heart rate up a little more put me in better spirits. All I know is by the time I got out of the water, I felt like I had worked through my blue mood and felt 100% better. I am true testament how exercise acts as a natural antidepressant...if I can just drag myself off the sofa. Compromise. Going for a swim and not biking too is better than doing nothing at all.

I've had more energy the rest of the weekend. I even did my seasonal (spring) cleaning. Although it only took an afternoon since I go through everything so routinely, I still managed to drag out 4 trash bags of junk. Every season, 4 trash bags. How does this happen?

Long Run--Form, form, form:
Sunday, Jason and I headed out for our weekly long run. We do have a marathon coming up, you know! Originally, I had overzealously (the all-or-nothing approach) planned a 16-miler. But the rational me (and my knees) convinced me to do a 12-miler instead. We headed up the coast for an out-and-back. That way, I could turn around whenever. I decided if I felt great, I would push it to 14 total but if I was feeling catious, I would do 12. I ended up doing 12 at a slow pre-planned pace of 10 min/mile with walking up and down all hills. Again, compromise.

We headed out and it was gray, windy, and chilly (56 degrees). I realize I have become soft and wimpy after living in SoCal for a year. About 1.5 miles down the road, 3 cyclists zip past, the middle one looking very familiar. By the time it registered, they were gone. It was Michellie Jones! If that doesn't put a spring in my step, I don't know what does. I love the fortuitous celebrity sightings around here. I settled in and found a nice pace. About mile 4, my knee started hurting. Uh-oh. I'm so sensitive to it right now, I can feel the beginning of it come on, and it sends me into a panic. How bad will this get? Will I have to stop the run? What am I going to do about all the races I want to do? And my mind just keeps going....

All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don't sit looking at it - walk.
-Ayn Rand

Instead, I decided to focus on where the pain was coming from and, using the knowledge I have gained about my biomechanics, see if I could alter my running stride to correct my footfall and alleviate the pain. I've noticed when I'm running on a slope where the outside slopes up so that the outside of my foot lands first, the pain is sharply exacerbated. This is because is exaggerates my biomechanical deficiency, placing excessive stress on the inner ball of my foot, and thus, my peroneals and IT band, resulting in outer knee pain.

So, as my PT from St. Louis long ago had instructed me, I focused on squeezing my outer hip muscles (abductors) and glutes as each foot fell to help align my knee, and guess what? It helped. Then, I started lengthening my stride, experimenting to see what it would do. This seemed so counterintutive to me. I've always been told, land on your toes, take short strides; this is the "correct" way to run. As with everything, you can take it too far. My strides were too short and I was landing almost exclusively on my toes. By lengthening my strides, my glutes seemed to be engaged more, and I could roll through my entire foot more when it landed, instead of just on the toes. The knee pain suddenly disappeared, just like that (snapping of fingers). I couldn't believe it.

The rest of the run, I felt like I was in a dream. I was SO happy. Everything had clicked and I could run the entire 12 miles without pain. Plus, I wasn't too sore afterwards! Obviously, I stretched A LOT after the run (and before, and that night too). And I iced.

I'm being religious about my stretching. It actually feels good! I guess stretching and strengthening isn't optional. Went for a 20-mile bike ride yesterday. Felt sluggish but I'm glad I got out there. It was my first time on the bike in 2 weeks! Yikes. I still have the remnants of my sinus infection--I'm on day 6 of antibiotics. I think they're helping, I hope. I just hope I don't need a 2nd course. I can't believe I've had a cold for 5 weeks! Anyway, I do feel less congested and I have more energy. This morning, I did my strength training. Whole body with emphasis on core, glutes, and abductors. It felt great! Only my ass is sore now.

Oh, and 1 more thing:


"Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible."--Doug Larson

Friday, April 13, 2007

Quick Update

Just started antibiotics for this damn sinus infection. I've been sick for 4 weeks now. Now, I realize I raced that half-ironman while being sick. That couldn't have made things easy. So sick of being sick.

Turns out my blood pressure is great. It must have been the Sudafed. I bought a cuff and let the Sudafed wear off and then retook it. I took it several times last night and this morning. New verdict?
(pulse 49)

I'm in the clear!!! One less thing to worry about.

That stupid physical therapist made me so sore I can STILL barely walk (or sit down). Needless to say, I took yesterday off because my body legitimately felt like crap. I'm trying to be patient with myself. If I can do the marathon in June, great. If I'm just not up to it, that's okay too. We'll just have to see how it goes and how quickly my body can recover from all this.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Getting Better All the Time

Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know that so it goes on flying anyway.
--Mary Kay Ash

My negative mood has lifted and things seem to be improving little by little each day. I realize I'm battling a lot of stuff right now and am trying to be patient with myself. Lab is very hectic, and I have a big talk coming up in a few weeks so I'm trying to get everything done in time to put together a nice presentation. I've been fighting a sinus infection for 4 weeks and finally convinced the doctor to prescribe antibiotics. I've never been so excited to start antibiotics before! I just want to be able to breathe, sleep through the night, talk normally, and not have a sore throat anymore. I've been playing a lot of catch-up with errands; I can't believe how much I got behind!

Finally got a short, relaxing 4-mile run in yesterday afternoon. It really lifted my mood. I felt so good afterwards. It just felt good to go out and do something for myself. And the biggest thing? My knee did NOT hurt!!!!! I hope this continues as I'm trying to do my first marathon June 3rd. Very nervous about being able to handle the long runs. I've done 13-14 miles but need to start going up. Is it too much to try a 16-miler this weekend?

I've started seeing a physical therapist in addition to my awesome but painful, deep-tissue massages. I've been doing both once a week. I think this is my only hope to get my body through the marathon. They both want me to do lots of stretching. I'm verrrry tight. The PT wants me to stretch 2x/day but I realize that's simply unrealistic with my schedule. I've decided if I can do a solid 15-20 minutes 1x a day, that's 1x a day more than I'm doing right now, so that's my compromise. The PT thinks it's my IT band that's causing all the issues, and I tend to agree. So she's also having me do lots of hip strengthening excercises.
(above: me after a physical therapy session)

Plus, I just started using the foam roller. Does anyone else think this thing originated from some sort of dark, twisted Mideval inquisition torture chamber? I've never been in so much agony! I must be secretly masochistic for putting myself through all this.

Speaking of enjoying pain, I woke up this morning more sore than I can remember (including half-IM training) from the damn PT session! You have to be kidding me! Apparently, deep stretching and a few key hip exercises that target my weak spots produce soreness akin to running 50 miles, uphill, in the snow (both ways). I could barely ride my bike in this morning. WTF?

In addition to my sinus infection, it turns out my blood pressure has been suspiciously high lately. Yup. High. With training 8-14 hours a week and eating healthfully and being borderline underweight and 29 years of age and a pulse of 50. 150/90. So I have to go BACK to the doctor again next week. Sigh. I don't know what's going on. Hopefully, the cuff was inaccurate. However, I'm concerned because they did the reading 2x (it was an automatic cuff at the dentist), and it came out the same. Plus, at the doctor's office last week, it was also abnormally high, and that was taken manually. In the meantime, I'm going to buckle down and buy my own home cuff and start monitoring my own BP. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I hope it's just a string of faulty readings and not actually high BP. 'Cause if it is, it's a red flag of something weird going on. Side effects from the thyroid meds I'm on? 4 weeks of sinus infection? Sigh.

My goal right now is try to get back into a regular schedule and maintain some balance in my life. I would love for my schedule during the week to play out something like this:
6:00 Wake
6:00 Bunny chores and small snack
6:30 AM Workout
7:40 Breakfast and coffee
8:00 Dress for lab
8:30 Bike to lab
9:00 Lab work
11:50 Snack
12:00 Lunchtime Yoga, stretching, and/or light walk
12:30 Lunch
1:00 Lab work
4:00 Snack
6:00p Evening workout
7:30p Snack
7:40p House/bunny chores
8:00p Dinner
8:30p Stretching/ice
9:00p Relaxation (e.g. play w/bunnies; drink tea)
9:45p Get ready for bed
9:30p Read in bed
10:00p Lights out

Tentative 2007 Race Season:
As far as the rest of 2007 race season goes, here's what I have planned:
4/22/07 Desert International Triathlon (La Quinta, CA (near Palm Springs))
5/6/07 Spring Sprint Triathlon (Mission Bay (San Diego))
6/3/07 San Diego Rock 'N Roll Marathon
7/14/07 Camp Pendleton International Triathlon (Oceanside, CA)
9/9/07 Big Kahuna Half-Ironman Triathlon (Santa Cruz, CA)

(above: Barbados, may he rest in peace)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lab Takes Over

I've been too busy in lab to even think about anything else right now. Good and bad. I like producing data! Also, boy do I miss my workouts! I've been getting in at 8 and leaving at 12:30 so there's not really time to even eat or sleep right now. I can't wait for balance to be restored.

Things Going On In My Life Right Now:
(not that it matters)
1. A large bug with lots of legs (some sort of millipede?) hid in my robe and started crawling down my back Sunday morning. I did the jiggity-hop for about 20 minutes afterwads. Eeeeeeeeeew!
2. My doctor insisted my 3-week (now going on 4) cold was allergies. The allergy medicine has done nothing. Meds: 0. Cold: 4x7=28. Cold wins. Now it's getting worse. I think it's a sinus infections. Time to go back and beg for antibiotics.
3. I was in lab until 12:30 last night (don't ever try to start 2 new ELISAs-4 96-well plates each at 2 in the afternoon). I'm loopy. I'm not even going to tell you what Jason (my hero) brought me for dinner (fast food). Too embarrassed. Some triathlete.
4. The scent of jasmine all around is strong enough for even me to smell with my stuffed-up nose. Spring is here!
5. I got some solace when I biked in to work (on my commuter bike) Monday.
6. The bunnies were extra cuddly this morning since I've been in lab so much. Oscar wouldn't even let me leave the bedroom until I gave him his pettings.
7. I completed (2) entire (Monday) crossword puzzles yesterday! That's gotta be a first.
8. If it weren't for the coffee cart outside this building, I think I would have dropped dead by now.
9. Why is it when I miss my "bedtime", I can't fall asleep even though I'm exhausted?
10. The 1 nice thing about not sleeping well is that it's pretty easy to wake up in the morning.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Big Galoomp-a-oomp

"One ceases to recognize the significance of mountain peaks if they are not viewed occasionally from the deepest valleys."--- Dr. Al Lorin

This week has been rough. I took a much-needed rest week but without the regular, vigorous workouts I'm used to, my natural Prozac is suddenly absent, and I feel like I'm going through withdrawal. Post-race blues is actually a real thing, and I think I'm getting a taste for it. Take a look at the article I attached to the link on the title. I'm trying to take it little by little and just ride it out.

Sunday and Monday I was still on a high. I felt super positive about everything and was surprisingly not very sore or stiff at all. I got a massage on Monday and felt a lot looser afterwards. Tuesday, all the congestion from a cold I'd been fighting for 2 weeks came back, and I could barely speak. When to the doctor. Lungs and chest are clear and no sinus infection. However, I'm still very congested. He gave me some meds and sent me home. Sigh.

Wednesday I started physical therapy. I had made a pre-emptive appointment, assuming I would desperately need to be put back together again after the race. I fear I may be a little too much like Humpty Dumpty, however. Unfortunately, although I was tight on Wednesday, I wasn't having any pain so there wasn't too much for me to show the PT. She found TONS of things wrong with me though. I was tight everywhere, which wasn't surprising. She watched my gait and tested my range of motion and then showed me some stretches and strength moves. By the time I left, I felt so biomechanically flawed, I felt it was a miracle I could even walk. My hips are tight, I can't bend my knees as much as I should, I have collapsable arches, I pronate, etc., etc., etc. I'm not sure if she thinks I'm espeically tight because I am, or because I'm such a klutz, it takes me 3 or 4 times to correctly attempt the new stretch she was trying to teach me. The next day, I realized how tight I actually had been. I strained an oblique muscle trying to stretch my hips. It hurt for 3 days!

Thursday I thought I was feeling pretty good. Then, Friday, my energy levels came crashing down. My congestion rebounded and I pretty much slept all day Friday and Saturday. This has given me way too much time to think. Negative thoughts are clinging like cobwebs, and I simply cannot brush them off right now.

Sunday I tried to go for my first run since the race. It was overcast and chilly but it felt good to get out. After a brief warmup and stretching regime we headed out. I took it easy and slow. After 2 miles, my knee, the same injury that had bothered me before the race but for some reason, not during, came back full force. I focused on my running form and biomechanics for the next 2 miles, which helped. At 4 miles, the road sloped upwards, causing a sharp increase in my right knee. I stopped, turned around, and walked the 4 miles back to the car. Jason was kind enough to walk with me.

It was a long, cold, gray walk. I was wearing my finisher cap from the race last weekend and wanted to throw it in the bushes, thinking I didn't deserve to wear it. I'm frustrated about this nagging injury and concerned about the marathon at the beginning of June. I have nothing but doubt in my head right now. Plus, I feel like no matter how hard I work at this, I will never be anything than mediocre, and that just sucks. I thought about how the PT had picked me apart, and it makes me feel like a big clumsy elephant, a galoomp-a-oomp, out there, shuffling along. Sometimes, just once even, it would be nice to feel fast. Or agile. Or graceful. I have never felt any of these things. Lately, all this training just makes me feel even slower. Even more average.

I know these thoughts are exaggerated. I know they're not true. I know I'm in this for more than glory (obviously). I do this because of the life lessons it teaches me with regards to goal setting and accomplishing the impossible. No one ever said it would be easy. So I'm going through a rough spot right now. Needless to say, my confidence is nil. My energy is gone. I'm going to focus on trying to get back into a low-volume workout routine this week to preserve the fitness I worked SO GOD*MN HARD to achieve (even though I feel like I have nothing left to show for all the hard work I put in) and also to try to get some energy and positive attitude back. Will I be able to do the marathon in June? Should I sign up for IM-AZ for '08? These are decisions I need to figure out. And fast. But I know, worst-case scenario, these races will be waiting for years to come.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

New Post! New Post!

Scroll down 2 posts, please, everybody. My new, epic California 70.3 race report is up and ready but it's below a few posts. Sorry for the confusion.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I finished!

Just wanted everyone to know that I finished! It was tough; a whole lot harder than I thought but I learned a ton, and it was an amazing experience. I have a (very) detailed race report on the way. In the meantime, here are my (slow) times:

Swim 1.2 mi: 49:09 (2:35/100m)
T1: SWIM-TO-BIKE: 5:43
Bike 56 mi: 3:31:23 (15.9 mph)
T2: BIKE-TO-RUN: 5:42
Run 13.1 mi: 2:12:29 (10:06/mi)
Overall: 6:44:26
(no penalties)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

2007 California 70.3 Race Report

"The gun goes off and everthing changes... the world changes... and nothing else really matters."
--Patti Sue Plummer

This quote helped me focus immensely yesterday. Everytime my mind would drift, or negative thoughts would creep in, I kept silently repeating to myself, "Focus. Focus. There is nothing else. There is nothing else." And it actually worked.

Warning: Very long, detailed post ahead. You are under no obligation to read the whole thing.
The Short Version:
Yes, I FINISHED!!! And I'm happy about it. I am also truly humbled. This was the hardest thing I've ever done. I've never felt so tired or had to rely so much on inner strength to finish a race before. This was the first time I really had to push beyond my body's limits. When it wanted to quit, I kept pushing. And, yes, it was that hard, even with all the training. Despite having an off day, I still did pretty well, eh? But I know the next one will be easier. ;)

To answer Don's questions:
Did you:
Get blinded by the sun as you swam your way back to shore?
Get stuck behind a slowpoke in the no passing zone?
No. I was the slow one holding up others.
See a Tank Xing?
No (wasn't paying attention) but I did see tanks and hear artillery fire!
Hear a Marine tell you how much you rocked?
Yes! They were so awesome! (And hot. Oops. I didn't say that.)
See the dudes with the gross road rash?
Not too many. Again, I was off in my own little world.

Race Review:
The Good:
Before I get started on the race report, here's my 2 cents on California 70.3:
This was the biggest triathlon I've ever participated in. Very impressive. They really roll out the red carpets for you. They treat all the athletes like royalty. Lots of volunteers, lots of aid stations, medical tents, lots of onlookers cheering you by, everyone's cheering your name (b/c your name is printed on the race number! Awesome!). Great support at the end with well-stocked food tent and really neat visor with "California 70.3 finisher 2007" embroidered on teh lid. Seamless organization. Very clear courses. You can really tell that Roch and Paul have a ton of experience and know what they're doing. A really A1 event. As far as the course goes, you don't get more scenic than southern california. Ocean, rolling hills, springtime greenery, songbirds singing--all quite lovely. Plus, there's a military ambience you don't get anywhere else since you race on the marine base where civilians aren't normally allowed. The marines that volunteer for race support are AWESOME!
The Bad:
Not too much. I only wish there had been more Port-A-Johns in the transition area! We had PERFECT weather this year. Started out in the 50s and rose to the 70s. Clear and sunny. Doesn't get any better than that. In previous years though, the weather has been pretty nasty. Since it's an early season event, training is tough and the weather forecast is a gamble. Also, the bike course is not just hilly--it's EXTREMELY hilly.
Overall Rating: A (a must-do event at some point)
Picked up my race packet, which took the better part of the afternoon, especially with traffic. At registration, showed my I.D. to a bunch of marines, guarding the door. Very official. Then, I had to sign a bunch of insurance papers, reminding me that, yes, I could die, and no, it's not their fault. Then, I had to weigh in with a handsome marine bearing witness. Good thing I don't have weight issues!
Triathlon Flair--
Afterwards, they branded me with a fluorescent green wristband with my number on it and the words, "California 70.3 Triathlon." I had to wear my "flair" for the rest of the afternoon and that night. Kind of cool, in some respect, because people would ask what the wristband was for and you could brag about the crazy thing you were going to do. Plus, when Jason and I had lunch, we saw others with their wristbands. It was like our little secret. Perfect strangers wishing each other luck.
From Office Space (most awesome movie...ever)--
Peter Gibbons: Doesn't it bother you that you have to get up in the morning and you have to put on a bunch of pieces of flair?
Joanna: Yeah, but I'm not about to go in and start taking money from the register.
Peter Gibbons: Well, maybe you should. You know, the Nazis had pieces of flair that they made the Jews wear.

On the way home, I joked that we should sit at the beach and scour the ocean for dolphins because they symbolize good luck. We took Coast Hwy home because traffic on the 5 was sooo bad. I gazed at the ocean, glittering under the setting sun like jewels embroidered into a ball gown. All of a sudden, I saw a flash of silver break the surface of the water, crested by the tell-tale dorsal fin. Then another. And another. A few miles down the road, another. I saw 5 dolphins! They were out and about and wishing me good luck.

Sweet Tooth--
Went home and had a nice little dinner (salmon and rice) but then overdid it on dessert (brownie and doughnut holes--I have a sweet tooth, ok?). Watched a really bad movie (the new Rocky movie--thought it would be inspirational; was more like a porn-o but the lead-in was an hour and a not-so-great fight was the climax). Tried to go to bed early but it was a futile attempt. Was in bed at 9. Did a crossword puzzle. Read a bit. Watched t.v. a bit. Turned the light out before 10. Tossed and turned.

Then proceeded to try visualization techniques to play out how I wanted race day to unfold (again). Whoever recommended the whole visualization-thing for athletes should have attached a disclaimer: DO NOT practice race-day visualization in bed the night before the race!!! My heart rate went from 55 to 100 in a few seconds. I thought it was going to leap out of my chest. Tried to watch a little t.v. but couldn't pay attention. Turned on the light and tried to read but kept reading the same sentence over and over again. Switched to the latest issue of Runner's World but the whole focus was on the Boston Marathon. Is this a joke? Everywhere I looked, all I could see was: Race, Race, Race.

Sleepless in San Diego--
Finally, listened to some relaxing music on my iPod, and this seemed to help. Fell asleep restlessly about midnight, although I woke up several times through the night (every time I rolled over, I could feel my flair on my wrist, reminding me of what was to come tomorrow). Woke up at 3:15 and forced myself to fall asleep again. At least I felt more excited than nervous. Honestly, I just wanted to get started already.

3:45--Time to Get Up--
When my alarm went off at 3:45 am, I was so ready to get up. I didn't feel tired at all, and I know the lack of sleep the night before did not affect my energy levels on race day (it's the sleep several nights before leading up to race day that count). I got ready quickly and even had 1/2 cup of coffee to get everything going (I drink coffee every day so my body's pretty used to it). Put on my "racing stripes" (tri club top and tri shorts) and felt a renewed surge of excitement. I never wear my tri club top unless I'm racing so I guess it just injects that race-day excitement into me. After that, my spirit just knows it's race day. All of a sudden, it was 4:40 and time to go.

I was so sure I would have plenty of time before the gun would go off but I couldn't believe how quickly time flew from 3:45 until 7:29 when my wave went. I had enough time to do what I needed to do but no extra time. In some respects, this was good, as I had no extra time to be nervous. Plus, I had everything so organized, it was really easy to set everything up. We arrived at parking, and I unloaded, did a final tire pressure check, and attached lights to my bike. Yes, it was pitch black. I also had on a thick sweatshirt and sweatpants over my racing stripes but I was still freezing. It was about 49 degrees. Pus, when I'm nervous, I'm more sensitive to cold for some reason. I proceeded to bike to the start from parking (1.5 miles), which actually isn't a bad warm-up except it felt more like a freeze-down. I was cold. And shivering. Normally, even when I'm cold on the bike my legs feel warm because they're moving. But I was doing the whole body shiver, and even my legs were shaking. Ergh. Shivering always makes me feel like I'm wasting so much energy.

Transition Set Up--
The transition area was HUGE. I finally found my rack and saw some familiar faces. It was so nice to see so many friends at the race. Lots of people from my club (Tri Club San Diego) and also some blog friends (Jodi). Everyone was very friendly. I love the comaraderie between triathletes at races. It was difficult to set up my area in the dark but I got it done. I figured out where we biked and ran out (same spot) and where we swam in and biked in (also same spot) and then trotted the transition course to make sure I could find my rack. One nice thing is that the race directors designed the transition area so all athletes had to run the exact same distance irrespective of where their spot was located. No one had a transition advantage. So cool. That takes special planning. I noticed a plaground adjacent to my rack and made a mental note to use that as my landmark. Then, stood in line for a looong time for the potty. Made small chat with strangers. Don't you love other triathletes on race day? Everyone is your friend. I love it. At this time, the sun made its first appearance of the day (~6:15), and I instantly stopped shivering. Aaaaah. Back in transition, applied body glide, safety pinned my ankle strap together (to appease my paranoid self) and put on my wetsuit. It was only 6:40 but my wetsuit helped keep me warm while waiting. Grabbed my ear plugs, goggles, and 2 caps (1 silicone to go under the latex, neon green, race cap) and proceeded to the swim chute.
  • Equipment in Transition:
    Bike (flat kit with tube, tire levers, patch kit, and CO2 cartridges in small bag under seat).
  • Towel under bike for stuff.
    Towel on top of bike for drying off.
  • Garbage bag for wetsuit.
  • Bike shoes with socks with baby powder.
  • Helmet with sunglasses, racebelt with number.
  • Vest with nutrition in back pocket.
  • Water bottles (thawing) with Carbo Pro and electrolytes in cages on bike (2).
  • Running shoes with regular old laces (tried the quick-ties but didn't like them) with fresh socks and more baby powder.
  • Fuel belt with 2 bottles with electrolytes and number.
  • (I'm not a believer in sacrificing comfort for speed. I'm here for the experience. Saving 10 seconds in transition is not going to make a difference for me.)


In the Water--
I stood in the swim chute with my wave for about half-an-hour but it felt like 5 minutes. Chatted with friends and met new people. Very friendly group. Watched in amazement as Andy Potts flew by like a rocket jet, kicked off his wetsuit with the fling of his leg, jumped on his bike, and was gone. We all watched with our mouths agape. Is he even human? (He won, for those of you who didn't read the race results and from what I could see, deserved to. Seemed like he had an awesome day.) We watched the other pros exit the water and fly past us into the transition. We cheered them on.
All of a sudden, it was time to line up to get in the water. Knowing the water would feel chilly, I jogged in place and jumped up and down to "pre-warm" myself and also psych myself up. The sun was out by this time, which also helped. We were allowed to get in just a few minutes before starting, just enough time to swim to our in-water start. As soon as I found a spot, I dove in, anticipating freezer burn. Surprisingly, the water felt very nice. Not cold at all. I guess swimming in mid-50 degree water all winter did help prepare me afterall. Bonus. In addition, absolutely no waves, no currents, just calm, easygoing harbor water. Like swimming in a saltwater pool, except with murky water and colder (and dirtier). Had just enough time to swim over to the start, position myself, pee (also helped warm me up), and start my watch (I always start it a minute early and then subtract later; then I don't have to think about it anymore). We were all hootin' and hollerin' and the announcer said we were the liveliest wave of the day, which psyched us up.

Swallowing Water--
Unfortunately, I also had just enough time to lift my head as I was swimming, open my mouth, and allow a ton of salt water to pour down my throat from an adjacent swimmer's arm, siphoning it down like a beer funnel. I hate swallowing salt water! This would not be the first time this happened today, unfortunately; however, it also taught me a valuable lesson (DON'T SIGHT SO MUCH!).
The horn sounded and directors in kayaks shouted, "Go!" and it was time to begin what I had been preparing and waiting for 6 months. We all took off and the telltale full-contact sport of triathlon swimming ensued, complete with kicking, elbowing, and pushing. Very violent. I held my ground, having to kick extra hard when a few swimmers attempted to swim over me, and quickly found my way to the back and outside of the pack. Luckily, I had put my goggles on under my race cap so there was no chance of it getting ripped off.
Find a Rhythm--
There were swimmers everywhere throughout the whole race. Always bubbles coming from someone's feet to draft off. Nice. I'm a slow but steady swimmer so I was prepared to have most of the wave take off in front (and waves starting behind overtake me--sorry Jameson; I was probably one of those to get in your way) but, since I knew this would happen, and prepared myself for it, for the first time, it didn't demoralize me like it has in the past.
I settled into the swim, easily finding the buoys every 100 meters. I focused on slow and steady breathing, ensuring I didn't push too hard, and counted strokes to relax me. Every 20 strokes, I switched sides to equalize the effort and to help with swimming straight. I could actually feel myself settling into pace and feeling stronger and stronger. This has never happened. Usually, I can't wait for the swim to be over. Plus, I was so stoked about feeling good and finding a rhythm, it just made me feel even better, giving me confidence. Now, I just need to learn how to maintain this rhythm/pace.

About 500 meters in, the course veered to the left, and this totally threw me. I was prepared to swim in a straight line, not veer this way and that! Luckily, kayakers were lined up to the right to help keep us on course. "Left!" they would shout. I sighted off them and made sure I was between the kayakers and buoys. At this point, I got a little panicky. "Where is the turn-around?" I couldn't see the last buoy, and it was freaking me out. "How much further?" I was sighting way too much with the full head-up, exhausting water-polo stroke to try to figure out where the turn-around buoy was. Every time I did, I got a beer funnel-full of water down my throat from a nearby swimmer. I probably ended up swallowing water like this about 4 times. Yuck. At least I was getting electrolyte replenishment! Lesson to learn here? Do NOT sight so much. I knew where the next buoy was. That's all I needed to know. I began focusing on that. Just swimming to the next buoy. Count strokes. Next buoy. That's it. And I relaxed again, settled into a rhythm, and focused.
Halfway Done; Blinded by the Sun; Floaters--
All of a sudden, I was at the turn-around. Okay. That wasn't so bad. No need for panicky feeling. Coming back was easier psychologically. For one, I knew I was over halfway down. 2nd, more swimmers were around me from other waves so I had more people to draft and sight off of. 3rd, the dock was to my right so I had lots to sight from on both sides without having to pick my head out of the water. Unfortunately, the sun was right in my eyes to the left, making it difficult to find the buoys. In addition, because I was on the outside, I kept running into the floaters (swimmers having a bad day, chilling on their backs; one guy was singing a little ditty to himself). I focused swimming between the other swimmers, which were spread out from buoys to dock, making a very wide lane. It was difficult for me to envision a straight line to swim on.
Gotta work on this.
Focus, Focus; "Are We Done Yet?" to "Done Already?"--
I fell into a rhythm, felt strong and focused, and then my mind would drift. "Am I going straight? How much further? Will my water bottles be thawed enough to drink on the bike?" I'd catch myself and tell myself "STOP! Focus on task at hand. Focus on the task at hand." That mantra helped. All of a sudden, I could see the boat ramp. The exit. Already? For real? I couldn't believe it. Swimming for me is SO psychologically disorienting. Physically, I'm fine. But it's a psychological test for me. I feel like I don't know where I am or what's going on. Throughout the whole swim, I kept falling in and out of a rhythm. "Feel good, feel great, stroke, stroke." Then, "where am I? What's going on?" Back and forth.
Overall Swim:
I have improved. I can actually find a rhythm and relax now in the swim. Last season? No way. I always felt beat up, exhausted, dizzy, and completely demoralized by the end of the swim. So, even though I'm not any faster, I'm stronger. I have more reserved for the bike and the run now.
Lessons learned from the swim:
1. Don't sight so much! This was a biggie. I was directly negatively reinforced every time I did this by swallowing water--dirty, disgusting, polluted harbor water.
2. Focus on finding a rhythm and maintaining a good pace and relaxed feel throughout. Here, I could find the rhythm. I just couldn't keep it. This will come.
3. Become stronger to the left. This is my weaker side but in triathlons, because the buoys are inevitably to the left, and I'm always to the right (because I'm slow), I'm always breathing to the left on race day. Although I practice equally on both sides, the left is naturally my weaker side. Maybe I should focus on swimming a bit more to the left to make it stronger.
4. Lots of open water practice (in cold water) helps. I felt calm and cool as a cucumber. Plus, the water felt warm to me!
5. The masters swimming has helped. Yes, I'm still slow, and the same speed as last season. But the key is that I'm more relaxed and stronger. I'm not wiped at the end of the swim. I feel strong, raring to go. So that's a step in the next direction. Speed will come. It will come. I'm building the foundation.

Out of the water onto the boat ramp. I felt strong and focused. Not disoriented, tired, and dizzy like I normally feel. My watch read ~49 minutes. Okay. A little slow but not horrible. I think if I had sighted less and focused a little more, I could have done 45. Next time.
I trotted on up and down the corral to the transition area, maintaining a nice little pace. My breathing wasn't even hard! I casually unzipped my wetsuit and got the first half off, removed my race cap, goggles, ear plugs, and silicone cap, as I've practiced before, all while running to my bike.
Had no problem finding the bike, using the playground landmark to sight. Removed the rest of my wetsuit. Put on my sleeveless vest with nutrition inside back pocket, ready to go. Put on socks with baby powder and shoes. Race belt, helmet and sunglasses.

Fatal Error #1 (of many)--
Did not change to more heavily padded bike shorts, which I would sorely (pun intended) regret later. Damn adrenaline convinced me I would be fine in my thin little tri shorts.
A volunteer asked me if I was cold and offered me warm soup to warm up. I realized I was not cold at all! I didn't even need the arm warmers I had laid out. I felt great and ready to go! My transition time was ~5 min. This seems egregiously slow for most but I'm fine with this. Afterall, it's a long race. No reason to kill myself for a minute gained here.

Start (miles 1-5)--
Had no problem clipping in and smoothly taking off. Usually, I'm very shaky and this takes me a few tries. I felt calm and confident. Jason cheered me on from the sidelines on one side and a good friend from my running group had climbed up a tower to cheer me on from the other. This put a huge grin on my face. I felt like they were with me, cheering me on the whole way.
I eased into a pace the first few miles, taking my time. Took a few sips of my thawed yet cold drink. Ate a Cliff Shot. Yummy.

Miles 5-25--
The first 25 miles was very flat and very fast, and I was able to maintain rocket-blasting speeds at about 18-20 mph with very little effort. I felt like I was just spinning and wasn't breathing hard at all. I couldn't believe how quickly the miles flew by. The ocean sparkled to my left, and the short, green stalks of grass sparsely carpted the landscape around me. It was as green as it gets around here for San Diego. I couldn't believe what a beautiful day it was. I heard songbirds singing their sweet, mating lullabies all around me. High 60s, calm. Perfect day for a race.
Miles 25-45 (The Forbidden Zone--Battle of the Hills)--
After a stint on the Trestles Bike Path, we turned back and reentered Camp Pendleton and went inland. I was excited. We were now biking in the forbidden zone, where no civilian has gone before (unless you've done this race before). I could hear artillery fire, popping in the distance. Whoa. I was psyched about the killer hills looming in the distance, infamously mentioned to me time and time again by more experienced triathletes. "Here we go," I thought. Now it would begin to get tough.
Fatal Error #2 (Humbling Rookie Moment)--
At about mile 30, I saw the first hill. There was no mistaking it. A guy next to me said, "There it is." And I said, "Here's what we've all been waiting for. Bring it." It was huge and winding and went up and up and up. Hills always appear more intimidating from a distance because you ride down into them before they start going up. I got some momentum up on the downhill and kept repeating to myself, "There is no hill. There is no hill." In retrospect, I should have said, "Respect the hill. Respect the hill." While several other athletes conservatively walked their bikes up the hill, I attacked the hill with gusto and had no problem getting up. About halfway up, I had to stand for a bit before resuming pushing from a seated position. It was a tough hill but I could handle a hill. It was the hills (plural) part over the next 10 miles that was the problem. First hill, no problem. 3rd hill, then 4th hill (I thought there would only be 3 but I SWEAR there were 4!)--problem. I was starting to feel pretty tired, especially in my legs. (Not to mention what it did to my heart rate). Looking back, I didn't pace myself properly for the hills and psyched myself up waaaay too much for the first one. Rookie error. Hey, I AM a rookie. That's right.
Keep on Going--
Luckily, the nice thing about hills is that each uphill is followed by a downhill. That's the great thing about hills. You know where they begin and where they end. And you are almost always rewarded by a nice downhill recovery after your hard effort. You can size up the enemy. This kept me going. I was able to maintain a pretty good speed because of the rewarding downhills, although my overall mphs did drop a bit (before 18-20 mph, now my avg speed was in the 17s).
By the end of those 10 miles, my legs were starting to feel a bit beat up from the hills. I had planned on 3 big hills, not realizing in between would be a bunch of smaller, yet steep hills, rollers, and false flats (I HATE false flats! I want to see the enemy and size him up before being attacked). Mentally, I felt very positive, however.
Miles 45-56 (The Torture Begins)--
Mile 45 the hills ended, and I should have been relieved but 2 bad things started happening:
1--terrible headwind. Terrible!
2--my ass was killing me! Sharp pain...difficult to block out. Wearing the tri shorts in lieu of the bike shorts was coming back to bite me in the....
Rookie Error #3 (Nutrition)--I had eaten too much.
I guess. To be honest, I can't figure out why my body says I had eaten too much when simple logic says I didn't eat nearly enough. I had 100 cals in my water bottle of Carbo Pro, 5 Cliff Blocks (~200 cals), and 2 non-fat Fig Newtons (~150 cals). This is only 400 cals. I had spread out eating throughout so I was getting calories every 15-30 minutes. Plus, the Carbo Pro ensured I got cals every time I drank. In addition, I was eating like I had trained. Typically, I have a pretty finicky stomach though so it's verrry hard to eat enough. Could it be my body is just different, and I don't need as much? Obviously, I need to figure out my nutrition better before my next long distance event.
Only thing I can guess is that all the climbing had caused my heart rate to skyrocket, shunting the blood away from my gut and preventing the food (and water) from clearing . I was beginning to feel very bloated and a bit naseous. I came out of the aero position for awhile to try to allow my gut to digest. That helped. Unfortunately, every time I got aero again, my gut would complain.
Did I Say How Much I Hate Headwinds?
I couldn't believe how bad the headwind was for the last 12 miles. It may have been flat but with the headwind, there was no reward. At least with hills, you can see where they start, how steep they are, and when they end. Plus, you get a downhill afterwards. With a headwind, it feels like a never-ending hill that you can't see, never ends, and no reward afterwards. It was relentless. This was the most important part for me to stay aero. But I just couldn't. The naseous feeling building up sharply increased every time I got aero.
First Smart Decision of the Day (Swallow Your Pride)--
I realized I would never be able to do a half-marathon if I got off the bike feeling like this so I swallowed some pride, sat up, downshifted, and slowed to an achingly slow pace of 12 mph for the next 10 miles to allow my legs to recover and allow my gut to clear. Athletes flew by me. I didn't care. I was hurting. But I knew I could manage less than 10 miles. In retrospect, this was one of the smartest things I did all day. I kept telling myself, "just 10 more minutes. You can do just 10 more minutes." I must of done a good job of zoning out because all of a sudden, I was biking back into the harbor and the transition area was up ahead. I had no idea how I was going to run a half-marathon, and I blocked it out and tried not to think about it.
Overall Bike--
I still managed an average of 16 mph, which is my average training pace. And that was with the hills, bloating, headwind, and feeling like crap. Obviously, I need to work on pacing and nutrition here.
Racked my bike and tried not to pay attention that EVERY other bike in my wave was already racked. I took off my helmet and vest, strapped on my fuel belt, put on my running shoes, and trotted off to the loo. Luckily, I had stashed some tissues in my fuel belt because the Port-a-John was disgusting. After a quick pit stop, trotted off onto the run course. Including the pit stop, my transition time was still ~5:30. Fine by me.
Moment of Inspiration--
A 68-year old woman in fantastic shape rode in with me. She said some very encouraging words before heading out. This wouldn't be the last time I saw her today.
Start (Miles 1-3)--
I had a lot of concerns starting out. However, running is my strong suit. Throughout the entire run, I had little conversations with myself.
Me: Am I going to be able to this?
Legs: Get out of the way. We can handle this.
Me: Awesome. I'll just sit back and enjoy the ride.
I took off. I felt great. My legs had no problem finding a rhythm. They were there and ready to run.
Rookie Mistake #4--
Feeling good had a dangerous snowball effect. Feeling good makes one feel even better. I hit mile 1 at 8:15 min. I was flying. Normally, I run ~9:30 min/miles for my long runs. I knew I had to slow down. But my legs wanted to go! I took the first 3 miles way too fast, hitting mile 3 at a sub-9 min/mile pace. I think I was just glad to be off that damn bike! At the aid stations, they had everything. I particularly loved the cold, wet sponges and cups of ice that I poured down my shirt to cool off. Plus, all the volunteers were cheering us on. Our numbers had our names on them so everyone was calling out, "Go, Rachel!" It was pretty awesome.

Miles 3-6 (Disorientation, Stomach Speaks Up and Doubt Settles In)--
As soon as I hit mile 4, it caught up with me. Bloated. Naseous. Upset stomach. Uh-oh. I slowed down. And slowed down. Miles 4-6 seemed to take forever. I suddenly realized I was tired. Very tired. And disoriented. For about 20 seconds, I ran to the right of the cones (luckily, no one was coming the other way) until I snapped out of it and jumped back to the left. This kind of freaked me out. At another point, I was looking for a place to throw away my now-dry sponge and had to remind myself that a mailbox is not the same thing as a trash can. I wonder what the mailman would have thought? I normally don't feel so disoriented during a workout. But I wanted this. I had to finish. That's all I cared about. I was so close.

Mile 6-10 (Feel Like a Stone; Just Keep Going)--
At mile 6, the dreaded turn-around for the 2nd loop, I saw Jason, cheering me on.
"I still have another lap to go!" I called out to him, clearly worried.
"You can do it! You're doing great!" he shouted back.
Well, he thinks I can do it, so I must be able to do this, I thought. And kept going. One foot after another. Then I realized, of course I can do this. I've trained so hard. I've run this far before. Many times. I can do this. Having Jason there at mile 6 was a godsend that day. A little bit up the road, my tri club (Tri Club San Diego) was manning the aid station. They saw my jersey and went nuts.
I can't let them down. I can't look bad now, I thought. My rhythm returned. Other athletes I knew and had met also kept cheering me on as they ran the other way. It's great motivation having people around you egging you on at an event like this. The last thing you want to do is puke on their shoes. So many people were calling my name and cheering me on. I only wish I had the energy to respond. I didn't know who half of the cheerers were and didn't know if I was supposed to know them. My body felt like stone and didn't respond when I tried to smile and wave. I was suffering. Plain and simple. I took comfort in knowing everyone else around me was also in their own private hell as well. We were suffering together. Hey, misery loves company.

Miles 10-13.1 (Inner Battles)--
My stomach argued with me in waves. We battled each other throughout the whole run and exchanged words. I swear, my stomach is like a bratty 3-year-old sometimes.
For awhile, I could run and maintain a rhythm, and everything was fine. My legs felt great. No knee pain at all, even though I'd overcome a recent pre-injury, and the entire run was on unforgiving concrete.
Choices, choices: Thirst or Nausea?--
I started to feel really thirsty. Then, I would drink. Then, I would feel naseous again. I was being forced to choose: fluid or nausea? What a choice! At this point, I began to take little 30 second walk breaks. This allowed me to drink, give my stomach a chance to settle, and then resume running. I did this about 4 times during the last 7 miles.
Argument with Stomach--
When doubt began to sneak in, I tried encouraging myself with little mantras:
"One foot in front of the other."
or "left foot, right foot."
or "focus on the task at hand."
Oddly enough, though this had worked on the bike, this backfired on the run. The mantras just made me feel worse.
Me: Focus on the task at hand.
Stomach: Shut up! I don't want to hear about "task" right now.
Me: Okay. How about left foot, right foot.
Stomach: No! Just shut up! Go away!
Me: Are you sure? It helped on the bike. What about, "Left foot, right foot." Very simple.
Stomach: I swear to God, if you don't shut the f*#k up right now, I'm going to puke here on the spot!
Me: Okay! Okay!
A few minutes later...
Me: Look at how pretty the ocean is.
Stomach: It makes me want to lose it. Stupid ocean. Full of currents.
Me: Okay! Okay! Look at the ground. It doesn't have currents.
A little bit down the road...
Me: I really need water, stomach. Please? Just a little.
Stomach: Just a little.
(Gulp, gulp.)
Stomach: Too much! Too much! Don't feel good!
Me: Okay! Okay! Look, we're walking now.
Stomach: Okay, good.
Legs: Godammit. You have got to be kidding me! Again!
Me: Ready to start runnin now?
Stomach: No. Want to go to bed.
Me: We'll start jogging very slowly.
Legs (to Stomach): We really are going much more slowly than normal. You should be able to handle it.
Stomach (with arms crossed in front of chest, pouting): Fine. But I don't like it.
Legs, Me: We know!
Disorientation at Aid Station Mile 10--
Mile 10 I was craving cold, aid station water not the nasty, warm salty water in my fuel belt (now almost gone anyway). They were offering water (yes), Gatorade (yuck), and Coke (WTF?). I wanted to be sure I didn't drink the wrong thing. Volunteers were shouting out their wares as I passed by: "Water! Gatorade! Coke!"
"Water?" I parroted back, still running.
"Water!" they responded, trying to offer me a cup. For some reason, I was confused (disoriented) and missed several handouts. Also, I couldn't stop. My legs were on autopilot.
"Water?" I called out again, like a worried puppy.
"Water!" they shouted with urgency. Great. I'd missed it.
"I'm coming to get 'ya!" a young boy shouted. He took off sprinting after me. I turned and gratefully accepted the cup of precious water from him. The volunteers were so awesome. Then, I coaxed myself to a walk and automatically drank 3/4 of the entire cup on the spot. Whoa, Nelly! Be careful about drinking so much there! For some reason, my stomach didn't object too much.
Repeat Sighting of My Muse--
Mile 11 came flying by. The 68 year old woman I had so foolishly passed on the run came loping past me. I knew I was on the homeward stretch. At this point, I knew I could make it. I started feeling waves of happiness. I wanted to high-five the people cheering me on but couldn't muster the strength. My stomach told me not to push my luck. Jason cheered me on 100 meters before the finish. Everyone was telling me to "Go, Go, Go!" Couldn't they see I was going?

The Finish!
I was going down the chute and so happy I could cry. They held up a ribbon for me to break as I crossed the mats, and the sweet, sweet sound of Mike Reilly's booming voice over the loudspeakers yelling my name overwhelmed the victorious beeping of my chip as my legs crossed over the mats. The volunteers placed a medal over my neck and loaded my arms with shwag before helping undo my ankle strap. Everyone was saying, "Congratulations!" I was so dazed, dizzy, and disoriented but very, very happy. I must have looked better than I felt because no one directed me to the medical tent, although I must admit, I lingered there for a few minutes to determine if I would need assistance. After sitting down for awhile and sucking the juice out of an orange slice (I couldn't stomach actually chewing), I made my way back to the transition area and somehow collected my stuff. I was already starting to feel better.

The Aftermath--
At the transition area, I saw the 68-year-old age grouper who had done so awesome and congratulated her. She was very humble and modest obviously much more experienced and she gave me some tips.
"I hope I'm in as good of shape as you when I'm your age. Jeez, you're in better shape than me now!" I said to her
Her husband came over and leaned into me and said, "I just have to tell you a little bit about this woman. She holds the world record for her age group for Ironman Hawaii at Kona." What, what, what? I couldn't believe it. Amazing. People like her inspire me even more than the pros because they're not in it for the money or the fame or the glory. They have jobs and lives and families. It makes that accomplishment mean all that much more. That put things in perspective for me.

What I Learned--
1. So much. So much.
2. It was a very humbling and rewarding experience.
3. I have a lot to learn but in reality, what I need most is patience, time, and more experience.
4. I will work on pacing and nutrition the most.
5. The next one will be easier.
6. Speaking of which, when is the next one?
7. When is the first IM I should do?
Finally, thank you so much to everyone for all your support! You guys really keep me going out there!