Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Run with Runs

It's been awhile. I've been super busy--more on that in future posts. I'm officially in taper now (gulp). Only 2 weeks to go. I'm breaking in my new "marathon" pair of running shoes as planned. This week, I'm reducing my mileage by 50% (last week was 25%). I got my taper cold last week so everything is right on schedule.

Two weekends ago, I visited my lil' sis in Sacramento. Since I had completed my final 20-miler the weekend before, I decided to go 16 on the American River Trail http://www.saccycle.com/bikewaymaps/map6.htm. My goal was to run the second half faster than the first half to up the intensity and get used to race pace. After last weekend's stomach problems forced an agonizing slow run, I was hoping an increased pace would be a breeze. Unfortunately, my stomach reared it's ugly head yet again. When will I learn that slamming a coffee and stuffing myself with a large breakfast is not a good idea before a long run?

The first 2 miles were okay. The temps were steadily rising but still cool (Sacramento was HOT!!! In the 100s. Ugh). The American River was expansive and serene to our south. Myriads of cyclists whizzed by on the bike path, pushing the runners off to the side. Luckily, there was a narrow dirt path, which I prefer anyway, but the cyclists were very reluctant to budge an inch for us runners. What's up with that?

A few miles into the run, even though we were going nice and slow, I had the urge to, well, go. I looked frantically around for a bathroom. I saw none. I kept running. The urge grew. Tremendously. I knew it was going to be a bush or bust. I hurriedly motioned to Brent that I'd be right back and dove off the trail into the bushes to find a good spot. I unwittingly disturbed a herd of grazing deer, who took off running every which way. The cacophony of crashing through the trees must've really thrown Brent for a loop. "What did she eat? She must be having a really tough go of it!" I did my business (although the only available leaves had thorns--ouch!), and we resumed running. I felt SO much better.

Of course, a mile up the trail, I stumbled upon...a bathroom. DOH! Seeing the bathroom stimulated my urges yet again. I stopped, again, to take care of business. Sigh. How frustrating! We kept running. I felt better. We finished the first 8 miles, and I waved goodbye to Brent, turning back around to do another loop. Only 8 more to go.

Unbelievably, I had the urge to go....again. Dammit! I was determined to make it to the bathroom, 3 miles down the path. I've never run 3 miles so fast in my life! Somehow, I made it to the bathroom and avoided the bush.

Ah, much better. My pace slowed after that. Who knew? The best way to PR is to race to the bathroom! I hit the final turn-around and picked up the pace. The temps had risen considerably but I only had 4 miles to go. I was running faster and faster, and it felt sooo good.

I finished in a blissful state. It was damn hot but I had done it. Time for an ice bath! I shaved 10 minutes off that 2nd loop. Not sure if it was running to the bathroom or trying to beat the heat but I had accomplished my goal of negative splitting the 16-miler.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Checking In

Still here....

Taz-enjoying one of his favorite activities...EATING!!! (Sleeping is his second).

My life is actually the most balanced it's been in a long time. Weird, huh? Who ever thought marathon training would be so "easy"? No, but really, although it's been wonderful to focus on my passion for running, I really miss biking and swimming. I've still been swimming and biking 1-2x/week but the main focus is for cross-training. I actually love biking and swimming for the purpose of cross-training; it's much more enjoyable when the pressure is off. It's all about the run right now (4x/week and weights 2x/week). Plus, I'm getting faster just by doing it more. Miraculous!

Last Thursday was our club's final Aquathlon of the season (sniff). I had a blast. I felt very confident in the water and had one of my fastest swim's ever (15:17 for 1,000 m). It's amazing what a favorable current, catching the draft, and a wetsuit will do! Plus, I swim so much harder on those things than I ever do in my Master's sprint sets. As always, the swim of TCSD's Aquathlon was rougher than my Ironman swim. One guy didn't just bump into my foot as I passed but actually grabbed me by the ankle and pulled me backwards. I know who you are, even with your goggles and wetsuit, mister! And, I know where you live! I can't believe how aggressive everyone gets! Two other times, someone came and sideswiped me, knocking me off the swimmer in front of me and stealing my draft. I'm going have to up the ante a little on these swims. No more missus nice girl! Afterwards, we all joke, eat, and pat each other on the back even though we just pummeled each other in the surf.

I allowed myself to catch my breath and settle into a nice rhythm during the first 1/2 mile of the 3 mile beach run following the swim. I felt gooood. I decided to see how hard I could push it. I ran faster and faster and faster each lap. I tried to no avail to catch Brent, just a hair in front of me, although I was gaining on him at each turn-around. He crossed the finish a few seconds before me. If only I'd had 100 more yards! Someone has gotten really fast on his swim!
Brent--beating me out of the water by over a minute.

me--trying to catch him on the run. Soooo close! Oh, well. At least my running form is spot on! Toe runner, anyone?

Celebrity sighting--Jessie Stensland--at the Aquathlon
Go Jessie! http://www.gojessi.com/site4.aspx

I was still really happy with my run. I felt calm and in control. I was able to recover from the swim very quickly and negative split each lap. Fantastic speed workout! Overall, I finished in ~38 minutes, about 15 for the swim and 23 for the run, putting me at about 7:30 min/miles (similar to my 5K pace). I'll take it!

On Saturday, Brent and I slapped on our FuelBelts and took off for our 20 mile run. This was to be my final long run before the marathon. Unfortunately, my stomach had acted up pretty violently the night before, requiring 3 Immodium before I could go back to sleep. I suffer from IBS and sometimes, I am a prisoner to my stomach. I was in pretty bad shape Sat. am. I popped 1 more Immodium and some Tums. My stomach was still bothering me. I had a hard time getting breakfast down; I simply couldn't get the calories in. I was starting off in a hole--tired, dehydrated and calorie-depleted. Oh, and did I mention my stomach was still bothering me? I came this close (index finger and thumb almost touching) to bailing before we even left the house.

We set off. Instantly, I was in pain. My stomach lurched with each stride. I wouldn't allow myself to think about 20 miles. I couldn't fathom it. I decided to give it a few miles to see if my stomach would settle. It didn't. Plus, I was sluggish and tired. I slowed my pace. At mile 3, I almost quit. I came so close. But 3 miles seemed a long way to walk back. Ridiculous thought, actually, because 10 miles back is even longer. But I kept going. For some reason, I kept going. At some point, my stomach downgraded from a stabbing, level 8 to a persist ant but duller level 5. I could tolerate it. I was forcing down the liquid and calories too, much to my stomach's dismay. However, after 30 seconds, the nutrients actually seemed to placate the beast. Around mile 6 I felt as good as I was going to feel...numb.

At mile 10, we turned around. At first, I was jubilant because we were headed back. Then, I became worried. We still had a long way to go. And I was tired. So tired. But my stomach had fallen silent. At mile 16, my stomach woke up from it's nap and started back with a vengeance. It was a level 7, stabbing combined with nausea. This time, it was harder to tolerate. I was so tired. But there was only one way back to the car. I focused on keeping my legs moving. I put my head down and ran at a blazing 11 min/mile.

Somehow, we made it back. It was over. I had done it. I've never had a run go so badly for so long. Normally, I enjoy much more of my runs. This time had been different. The entire 20 miles had been agonizing. Each footstep had brought pain. I figured that if I could run for 20 miles while suffering like that, race day will be cake. At least I hope so...

My short runs this week have been wonderful. My stomach has calmed down, and I recovered very quickly from my 20-miler (thanks to my ice bath, massage, and stretching). I ran a 5 mile tempo on Tuesday that was nothing short of orgasmic. Wednesday was a hard track workout (800, 1200, 800, 1200, 800) but I gutted through it. I can't wait for my trail run today! I have a 16-miler this weekend in Sacramento (I'm visiting my sister--yippee!), and then I will be in official taper mode. Only 3 weeks until race day. Ack! I feel oddly refreshed and excited, not at all what I'm used to when beginning a taper (compared to the completely overtrained, dead Ironman training). Is there something wrong? Am I really fit enough for this?

--finishing the half-marathon at Heartbreak Ridge 2 weeks ago

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Olympic Brick--My Favorite Workout

I got to do my favorite all-time workout yesterday. I hadn't done it for awhile. Fantastic! Check it!

The Olympic Brick:
Bike 15-30 miles
followed by 3-6 mile run
To be done at tempo, or better yet, race pace (high intensity)

My favorite place to do this workout is Fiesta Island for the bike, then run south along the east side of Mission Bay for the run. I do 1 warm-up lap around Fiesta (4.2 miles each), followed by 3-4 higher intensity, steady-state (time trial-ish) laps at race pace (or negative split each lap). Fiesta is great because you are guranteed a head wind for half of the island, giving you great torture into the wind. However, the torture only lasts 2 miles. Then you get 2 miles recovery. I can handle any sort of headwind for 2 miles! I like this brick because it's longer than most (especially the run). When I'm all done, I can record a full bike AND run into my training log so I feel like I'm getting the most bang for my buck. It does take a lot out of me though so I don't recommend it more than once or twice a month (unless, of course, you're a superstar).

Happy Training!

What's YOUR favorite workout?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Heartbreak Ridge Half Marathon Race Report

I felt rested. The morning was calm, cool and overcast. I was ready to race. Since I had run 20 the weekend before, my goal was to go fast and hard--do tempo for 13.1 miles. Plus, I had heard this half-marathon was hilly, hard and off-road. Perfect training for my upcoming hilly marathon in San Fran.
We started off conservatively towards the back. I weaved in and out of runners, gaining confidence. We quickly turned off the main road and onto a packed dirt path. Fun! I had never raced "off-road" before. The first mile was relatively flat and slightly downhill. I fell into a comfortable rhythm. Suddenly, a hill appeared before us, looming ominously. Ahh, this is why they call it the Heartbreak Ridge, I thought. Feeling a burst of energy, I hit it hard. I leaped up the hill, gasping for breath at the top. You're going too hard! It's 13.1 miles! I ignored the voice of reason in my head and kept on pushing. Reaching the downhill on the other side, I let my feet fly on the descent. Wicked fun. Mile 2 flew by almost unnoticed. Except for a few bumps in the path, most of the way out was slightly downhill to very downhill. This will be hard on the return, I warned myself. My turnover was very rapid, and I was concerned I wouldn't be able to hold the pace. But it was just a half. Just a half? Did I just say that?
I reached the turn-around, grabbing water at the aid station. I had already downed my 2 FuelBelt bottles. Wow! I've really increased the amount I eat and drink when I run! That's good. Very good. Bonk repellent. I had prepared myself mentally for the return trip--all uphill. I refused to back down. I would not slow my pace. No slowing allowed! I focused on maintaining a quick turnover, working diligently at eating away at the false flat. Mile 7 came and went. Is my watch lying? Was it my imagination or was I actually picking up the pace? I bounded up hill after hill. After hill. Each one was fairly short but steep. My legs were burning now. Hips aching. I ignored the pain and focused on good running form. Use the glutes, Luke. I eagerly zipped down the descents. However, not as quickly now. The downhills were beginning to hurt. Worse than the ascents.
At mile 10.5 the final big hill stood between me and the finish line. I ran up it as hard as I could, using everything I had. I was gasping at the top. I grabbed a cup of water at the aid station and tried in vain to down it, pouring half of it on my shoes. Doh! Quickly recovering, I excitedly began the steep descent. I love downhill running, right? But it was now mile 11. And my legs were burning. And the downhill was steep. Very steep. As I descended, all I felt was pain. Searing pain in my hips and fatiguing quads. Then my knees. I am going to hurt myself, I thought. I tried to slow but this only resulted in more pain. Instinctively, I began zig-zagging down the hill, minimizing the steep incline. I tried to stay light on my feet, landing on my toes, quick, rapid turnover. The zig-zagging and intense focus on my running form helped immensely, and the pain subsided. I found my rhythm again.
I reached the road and began picking up speed for the final mile. I was exuberant at how much I had left in the tank. I felt like I could go forever! I zoomed across the finish line with a big grin on my face. That was tough! I was covered from my head to toe in dirt, grime, sweat, and dust. My eyelashes were coated in a fine layer of amber-colored silt. My legs were burning, and I felt wonderful. I got a great workout and had a ton of fun in the process. Trail running rocks! This race was a good test of my fitness. I was excited that I felt fresh enough to use it as a tempo run and go as hard as I could muster. A perfect milestone in my marathon training. Next week is my final long run before I start to taper down. I think I will be ready....
Time: 1:54 (8:46 min/mi)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Thoughts on My Long Run

Miles 0-1: This will be fun. I haven't seen my running buds in awhile. Plus, we get to run through the Lagoon (San Elijo)! And it's overcast and dewy and cool. Whoo-hoo!
Miles 1-2: Look at that great blue heron! Wow!
Miles 2-3: Quick feet, quick feet. Across, across, zig, zag. Gosh, this is a steep descent! Sure is fun though... Deep sand, ugh. Flat feet, light, quick, short steps. Is this deep sand stuff ever going to end?
Miles 3-4: So green. Like a jungle. Is this still San Diego? Ah, must be getting close to Rancho Santa Fe, land of lush gardens. Watch out for that log!
Miles 4-5: I remember running up this road at the end of the San Dieguito Half Marathon. Ah, the park. Quick rest stop and regroup.
Miles 5-6: Back in the Lagoon again. I have my rhythm. I'm quieter now, chatting less, and listening more. Very peaceful.
Miles 6-7: The sand seems less deep now for some reason. Ugh, but those descents on the way out are now very steep ascents. Okay, okay. Just keep running. Keep running. Whoo! That was a good one!
Miles 7-8: Climbing over rocks now. Is this an obstacle course? Is that girl going the other way really not going to stop? Hey! It's single-track! She's going to push me off the cliff! Jeez, that was close.
Miles 8-9: Up one last steep hill. Ugh, that was the worst one yet! We're back at the Cove already? Okay, say goodbye. Everyone is stretching. My run has just begun.
Miles 9-10: Time to head south along the coast. Trail part over with. Road should be easier now. I feel great. Like I really have just begun. Can't believe I've run 10 miles already.
Miles 10-11: What's with all the people just south of Solana Beach? God, Dog Beach is crowded! A dog festival? It's bedlam. In-and-out, in-and-out. Look at all the dogs!
Miles 11-12: Is Del Mar really all uphill? I guess this should be pretty with the nice houses and scenic ocean but my hips and knees really don't like the slope of the road. Maybe if I run in the middle of the road...ack! Car! Doomed to the sidewalk.
Miles 12-13: Ah, downhill. Look at the ocean! So pretty. Those waves look huge. Much-needed brief water stop at Torrey Pines State Beach.
Miles 13-14: Will this hill ever end? At least I'm headed back. No problem; I'll just slow down. Did that old guy just pass me? Are you kidding me? He's limping! How embarrassing!
Miles 14-15: Thank God that hill is over with. That stupid old guy stopped at the top. Is he really cheering? Don't be so jubilant, old man. I'm still going. Ah, now for a long, gentle downhill in Del Mar.
Miles 15-16: This downhill doesn't feel as good as I thought it would. Hips ache, knees ache. Maybe they will go numb. Maybe I can pretend they're numb.
Miles 16-17: That's better. Stomach acting up a little. Too many Cliff Bloks and too much InfinIT. I feel....gassy. Okay, that's better. Dammit! Was that cyclist really right behind me? Whatever, dude. I've been out here running all day. I just don't care anymore.
Miles 17-18: Another hill? You have to be kidding me! And another old person passing me. I have no ego left at all. So many dogs! Look at all the dogs catching frisbees in the water! They look so happy. Very cool.
Miles 18-19: I'm almost done. I think I'm going to make it. My feet are shuffling. Focus on picking them up from the hips. Use the glutes. It's all in the glutes. Hey, my pace actually increased! It worked!
Miles 19-20: Where's the Solana Vista intersection? Wait, why am I passing B&L already? I've already passed Solana Vista? Where am I? Jeez, I'm kind of out of it. Okay, almost done, almost done. I'm going to make it. I'm going to make it!
The finale: I did it! That was tough! Time for chocolate milk, ice bath, and nap. How the hell am I going to run 6.2 more miles on race day?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My Support Network

I spend so many miles out on the road alone but I'm never lonely. In fact, I think I'm pretty lucky. I have a wonderful support network. I spent Labor Day weekend with my parents in Los Gatos (norCal). Upon getting home, my dad shows me his latest gift for me (my parents are always showering me with gifts)--a personalized license plate. I'm normally not the personalized license plate kind of gal but this time, it was different. #1--It was from my mom and dad. #2--It read: FEGRRL (you may need a periodic table for those of you who haven't thought about chemistry since high school). Needless to say, was pretty touched. I can't wait to show you guys pics when I pick up the plates!
Iron - Periodic Table
Then my dad asked if I had replaced the bike I had stolen. I mentioned that I wanted to get one to keep at their place for my visits to norCal. He wanted to take me bike shopping and go 50-50! I ended up running out of time on this trip so we're saving the bike shopping for next time. Visiting my parents is so awful!
I proceeded to tell my folks about getting into Ironman Canada. Next thing I know, they've booked a room at the hotel where I'm staying (yes, I already have my hotel--Penticton is selling out of lodging FAST!). They're going to cheer me on next year! My dad also cheered me on at IMAZ in April. I cannot describe how much that meant to me. Knowing my dad and Brent were there waiting for me really pushed me forward in my darkest moments like a beacon of light leading me out of the tunnel.
When I woke up Saturday morning for my 18-mile run on the Los Gatos Creek Trail , my dad dragged himself from his deep slumber to make us coffee. He rode his bike alongside me for the first few miles, stopping at Vasona Park where he read the paper and waited over two-and-a-half hours for me to return. "I was just starting to get worried," he said when I returned. I was floating on an awesome runner's high so I motioned him to follow me home. His company bolstered me through the many miles on that run. Afterwards, he took me to 7-11 and got 2 bags of ice for my ice bath.
Sunday, he took me to the pool at his gym and read the paper by the pool while I swam laps. Then, he made coffee and pancakes for me before whisking me to the airport to catch my flight. My mom left a little note for me in my bag: "I heart Fe girl". (Now hanging in my office). Reluctantly, I flew back home. It's hard to leave when your parents are smothering you with attention!
I am very lucky. Having a good support crew helps pick me up when I'm down and encourages me to push myself beyond what I thought was capable. Both of my parents support me in everything I do. I also happen to have a fantastic boyfriend who is one of my biggest cheerleaders (second only to my mom). He also has a spot reserved in the cheering section for Ironman Canada (and my upcoming marathon). You know you have an awesome boyfriend when he diligently goes on poop patrol duty after your 4 dirty little bunnies while you're out of town!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

TCSD Ironman Interview

Not to toot my own horn (okay, maybe a little) but I'm in this month's newsletter (http://www.triclubsandiego.org/)! Check it!

I had the pleasure recently of talking triathlon with TCSD member
Rachel Richards. Rachel completed her first Ironman this April in
Arizona with a time of 14:40:47. Please join me as we get to know
a very special lady.
Craig: What was your sports background before triathlon?

Rachel: I was heavily involved in equestrian sports from the age of 9 through graduate school. Sounds completely unrelated to triathlon, I know, but I have stumbled upon other pros that also ride/rode horses
(Michellie Jones and Sam McGlone, anyone?) so I guess it’s not that uncommon. There are some transferable skills, for instance, overcoming your fears and having confidence on a large, potentially dangerous animal (not unlike riding a bike). Also, horses require getting really dirty, not unlike being covered in sweat, dirt, muddy water, and God knows what else by the end of a triathlon. Ironically, I used to go running with my horse on dirt trails by the barn before I rode. This always generated several strange stares from other hikers but I would just joke that I didn’t have a dog to run with. It was a great workout for me (riding competitively actually requires some fitness) and a good warm-up for the horse. I actually competed in a “tetrathlon” for Pony Club when I was little; we had to shoot (air pistol), swim, run, and jump over a course of fences on the horse. I could ride well and run okay but the swim was a joke. Everyone else must have been on a swim team or something. I came in dead last. My arms were like spaghetti
noodles flopping out of the water. My dad caught the whole thing on tape.

Spring Sprint 2008

Craig: How did you get started with triathlon?

Rachel: When my third horse retired in 2004, I was in graduate school and couldn’t afford the time and money required to support a new horse (believe it or not, there are things out there more expensive and time-consuming than triathlon). I began running but was plagued with injuries. I was already cross training by swimming and doing weights when my physical therapist pointed out that if I had a bike, I could do a triathlon. I bought my first road bike and signed up for my first sprint triathlon, the St. Peters Rec Plex Triathlon, just north of St. Louis. I was terrified because the bike was 20 miles and that seemed like a really long way at the time. I trained for months. When I crossed the finish line, I had two thoughts: Where is the food? I’ve never been so hungry! And, why did I wait so long to do this?

Craig: What was your Ironman Arizona experience like?

Rachel: It is difficult to capture how much this race meant for me in words. Even though I did absolutely everything I could possibly do to train for this race (and I mean everything), I was still completely petrified wen I lined up in the lake on race morning. I had done all the training, and all of a sudden, in the lake, it just hit me: What am I doing? This is absolutely insane! Then, the cannon went off, and my mind was instantly cleared of thought, and a great sense of calm and peace swept over me. I just started swimming.

It was a really tough day; the weather conditions
were the most extreme they had ever been for that race: 97-degree temps and 30 mph headwinds. It felt like the 5th ring of Dante’s Inferno on Beeline Highway that day. I saw very, very fit athletes dropping like flies all around me. Later, I learned that the DNF rate was the third highest in Ironman history. Of course, looking back, I wouldn’t change a
thing. It just made crossing the finish line that much more special. I learned a lot about how to endure pain and overcome negativity that day. I just wanted to cross that finish line; that was it. I focused on that one goal all day long. I forced down calories, salt pills, and tons of water religiously. Relinquishing all pride and ego, I slowed my pace down to a
crawl to allow my poor heart rate to slow and just kept thinking about the marathon I still had to run. The aid stations were serving hot water. Then, they started to run out of water. At one aid station, I had to stop, get off the bike, and dig through tossed water bottles to
ind enough to drink. I knew if I didn’t, I wasn’t going to make it to the next aid station. It was no longer a race; it had become a matter of survival.

I reached the end of the bike and was just so happy to be done with the bike that I was actually relieved to start the marathon. I headed out of T2 and felt great. I guess all fueling and hydrating worked. I noticed I was
one of the few with a smile still on my face. The afternoon shadows grew long, and the sun began to go down, and as the temps cooled off, I felt better and better. My legs and feet were deliciously numb, and I felt like I was floating over the ground. It was like having a runner’s high for 26.2 miles. Around mile 19, I looked up at the night sky and was overwhelmed
by the millions of twinkling stars continued page 11 against the hazy backdrop of the Milky Way. I
was completely unprepared for something so
brilliantly beautiful that late into an Ironman. I had never run a marathon before and had been warned about hitting the wall at mile 20. Maybe it was the delicious chicken broth, or the magical elixir that they call Coca Cola but I never hit the wall. Instead, I had a resurgence of energy at mile 20 and began picking up speed.

The final mile of the Ironman was bittersweet; I was shaking in anticipation of crossing the finish line but also overcome with a deep sadness that my first Ironman was coming
to an end. I turned to go down the chute and actually started sprinting; I was so excited. Crossing the finish line was a blur of crackling
loudspeakers, bright lights, and cheers but I will always remember the intense mixture of emotions that surged through me as I crossed: the exquisite, overwhelming feelings of accomplishment, victory,
euphoria, and relief. Seconds later, I looked around: Now what?

Craig: I know you were really looking forward to you IM. Once it was over, did you experience any post race hangover?

Rachel: Most definitely. I had focused on that one goal for so long that all of a sudden, afterwards, it hit me: Oh, I have to deal with my life now. Plus, my body was tired so it was really easy to be overcome with post-Ironman blues during my recovery month since I wasn’t allowing myself
to work out as much. I kept having this recurring dream that I was still out there running the 3rd lap by Tempe Towne Lake; that I was still doing the Ironman. I was overcome with great sadness upon awakening to realize that I wasn’t. My Ironman was over. It was as if I had left a part of myself out there on the course in Tempe. Once I started working out again and seeing all my tri-buddies, I started feeling better. I had heard the best way to recover from a big race like that is to have another race in the future to look forward to but it was hard. I just couldn’t get pumped for Spring Sprint and San Diego International after Ironman Arizona. However, I showed up at the start completely relaxed with a “Let’s have fun,” attitude, something I’ve never been able to do before. I don’t get nearly as nervous before sprints and Olympics now. I had a major PR at Spring Sprint, which injected me with renewed confidence and motivation. It was a great race to dust off the cobwebs and get me
out of my funk.

San Diego International Triathlon 2008

Craig: What is your favorite part of being a member of TCSD?

Rachel: In a nutshell—the Aquathlons. They represent all my favorite things about TCSD. I get to see all my friends, get in a tough, competitive
speed workout and eat a ton of good food afterwards while watching the sunset in one of the most coveted spots in the U.S. (the Shores). The Aquathlons always remind me of how lucky I am to be doing what I love alongside
great people in one of my favorite places in the world. Plus, you never know who you’re going to bump into—Emilio DeSoto, Kate Major, Normann Stadler; it’s a celebrity hotspot!

Craig: You have a regular ride that you lead and organize. I was really impressed that you took that on as a fairly new member of the club. What do you suggest for other new members to get involved?

Rachel: I was really tired of riding by myself, but the Saturday rides up the coast had become monotonous. In addition, since I was training for a half-ironman, I wanted to ride a bit longer but it seemed like everyone who was riding long was really fast and way more experienced than me so I kept getting dropped. I reasoned I might not be the only one with this
problem and sent out an email to the club to see if others were interested. The response I got back was overwhelming. I started organizing the alternative Saturday bike rides, and it’s been such a rewarding experience, I’ve never looked back. I guess the planning involved is a bit of a time-suck (mapping out the route, typing out the directions, sending out the email, and making maps and route slips) but
honestly, I have so much fun planning the rides, it doesn’t feel like work. I love learning new routes and meeting new people. I’ve made so many friends through the rides and had so many fantastic experiences. There is absolutely no better way to spend a Saturday morning than getting a good workout, socializing with friends, and viewing the most scenic parts of
San Diego atop a bicycle—all done simultaneously (and of course, the great food at a local eatery afterwards)!
My advice to new members is: get involved. When I first joined TCSD, I was very intimidated. I started showing up to workouts and social events and was amazed at how friendly and down-to-earth everyone was. I realized there was no reason for me to be afraid; I was way harder on myself than anyone else! Plus, the learning curve is steep. By training with more experienced triathletes, I learned invaluable tips and was always motivated to work out because I wanted to see my friends. I’ve
found the most difficult decision I have is picking which workout(s) to do because there are so many! There is no better way to become familiar with other club members than to participate in club workouts or races, or better still, volunteer for an event.

The group on an Alternative Saturday Bike Ride

Craig: If you could wave a magic wand over the sport of triathlon, what would you like to change?

Rachel: I would make the sport less intimidating and more inviting for the average American. Obesity has become such an epidemic in our country, and most people think they could never do a triathlon. They don’t
realize that to finish a sprint triathlon, it’s easier than it seems. Plus, it’s more than just going to the gym and running on a treadmill. It’s a lot of fun too, which means people are more likely to stick with it. Triathlon is very popular in San Diego but the rest of the country is not so fortunate. I would love to see the sport grow and have more racing opportunities
around the country, especially at the Ironman distance.

Craig: How has triathlon changed your perspective of your body?

Rachel: When I first started exercising, I was trying to get toned and shed a few pounds. My motivation lay heavily in changing my physical
appearance. After I started doing triathlon, my goals started shifting to performance. I began to eat better (i.e. more) because I realized
I needed to fuel my body properly in order to go faster and not break down. Now, I appreciate what my body can do and am less concerned
with how it looks. Who cares if I don’t have a six-pack? I can do an Ironman! I am constantly amazed at the limitless boundaries of how far I can push myself and have gained a lot of respect and appreciation for my body. Because of this, I think triathlon can be a great way to build confidence, especially for women.

Craig: Why do you race and train triathlons?

Rachel: Besides the obvious (competition, health, and social aspects), I consider myself an experiential triathlete. I’m not particularly fast; I’m not out there to win but I always have a fantastic time. I have a triathlon blog so sometimes I joke that I race to blog (admittedly, I have done some cockamamie workouts just for the blog). Sometimes I feel like a triathlon reporter out there, taking mental notes and pictures of everything I experience so I can go home and document it on paper. It makes each workout and race very
special because I’m always searching for spectacular moments; I’m never disappointed. In addition, it’s a great exercise for the mind; I never forget anything. I’m not just training my
muscles and heart; I’m also training my brain to remember every little detail. Because of this, I have captured every big race and workout
in writing (complete with photos) so I’ll have those memories forever. One of the reasons I love the Ironman distance so much is that it’s much more of an experience and much less of a race, at least for me. For the first time, I didn’t care about what mile I was on or my speed. I simply stayed in the moment and enjoyed myself, with each swim stroke, each
pedal stroke, and each footfall, for 140.6 miles. It was incredibly liberating. I’ve never felt so alive.

Craig: What is the funniest thing that’s happened to you in a triathlon?

Rachel: During my first half-ironman, CA 70.3 2006, I dug myself into a deep hole by not eating and drinking enough. Needless to say, I got very dehydrated and began to feel nauseous, lightheaded, and delirious. I had been using the sponges at the aid stations to cool off and wanted to throw away the used one but I didn’t want to litter, and I was in between aid stations. I saw a mailbox and mistook it for a trash can, accidentally “mailing” my used sponge. I wonder what the mailman thought the next day!

Craig: Hmmm, I hope that’s not why the USPS stopped sponsoring their cycling team. What is the most incredible thing that has happened
to you during a workout or race?

Rachel: On New Years’ Day 2006, I went for a mid-day swim at La Jolla Shores. I swam parallel to shore since I was alone, just past the breakers. I was very cold, and the water was pretty choppy. I started feeling very lonely and negative thoughts kept working their way in. All of a sudden, I heard this very loud clacking noise under the water. Confused, I looked up to see what it was. A pod of 6 or 7 dolphins had swam just a few meters away from me and were checking me out. It was as if they were saying, “Hey there! Everything okay? You look like you could use some company.” They seemed so kind and peaceful; I felt warm and protected. The current was pulling me towards them, and I was worried I would unwittingly invade their space. As soon as the thought passed through my mind, they began swimming out to sea and within seconds, they had disappeared. I realized how silly my concern had been; they are such
incredible, graceful swimmers. Ever since then, my love for swimming in the ocean has deepened.

Craig: What races would you like to do in the future?

Rachel: Right now, I’m training for my first real marathon, the Nike Women’s San Francisco Marathon, October 19th. In addition, I can’t
wait for my next Ironman. I am trying for Ironman Canada in 2009 but those slots are highly coveted so I’m trying to use some tricks up my sleeves to get in. Right now, I really want to focus on marathons and ironman-distance races since those distances feel the easiest for my body—long and slow. In the future, I would really love to do an Ultra
Marathon. I absolutely love distance running and feel a strange calling for a 50- or 100-mile run. But I realize this is not a rational desire.

Craig: What do you do for a living?

Rachel: I’m a research scientist in the cardiovascular and obesity field. Right now, I’m doing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Scripps Research Institute. I study the connection between inflammation and immunity in heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in men and women in the U.S. I wonder how many cases could be preventable
through healthy lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. Since my career requires me to be acutely aware of how the rising trend of
obesity is impacting people in our country, I have been further motivated to adopt the triathlon lifestyle.

Craig: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working, training, or racing?

Rachel: I love animals and spend my free time with my two pet bunnies, Babs and Taz. They’re great pets for recovery! I used to be more active in animal rescue and would like to get more involved again in the future. I also love to paint and write. In addition, I love anything that gets me outdoors. There’s nothing better than a mellow hike on local trails on a recovery day.

Craig: Rachel, thank you so much for sharing your story. You add a lot to the Tri Club and our local community. We are lucky to have you on our team!