Monday, March 30, 2009

Forced Taper, Chasing Phantoms, Soccer Lessons, and a Trip to the Flower Fields

CA 70.3 is next weekend. I did this race 2 years ago. It was my first half. To say I was scared shitless is the understatement of the year (until I did my first IM). This year, I'm so focused on IM Canada, I wasn't even planning on tapering for California. Afterall, CA 70.3 is a tune-up race for me this year, a training day, an indicator of whether I'm on track or not for Canada. I really am not thinking about it as a race. I didn't want to take 2 weeks of taper and a 3rd recovery week for this race. I was stubborn. Too much time off! To compromise, the plan was to take 1 week taper (race week) and then 1/2 a week off afterwards.

Only problem is, my recovery weeks have been nil lately (see "Training Data" in sidebar). I haven't taken them because I didn't feel like I needed them. I wasn't tired. I guess the season is too early still for my body to have a lot of fatigue but I've been silly in protecting myself against late-season fatigue by skipping R&R weeks. I spent about 10 weeks at the beginning of the season in "Prep" phase, just getting my body used to consistent triathlon training after a 2-month hiatus (or "Off Season" if I don't want to feel guilty). Then, after 2 mild colds, I started feeling g-r-e-a-t and bumped the training up to 10 hours a week. After 4 weeks, I simply bumped up again to 15 hours a week. Still feeling great? Actually, yes, thank you. Tapering for CA 70.3? Of course not, don't be ridiculous.

So when Brent started tapering last week, I pooh-poohed him and went to master's swim. But, gosh, my stomach didn't feel so hot. I kept having to stop and rest in the pool because of very uncomfortable gastro-intestinal discomfort that I won't get into. Thinking it was an IBS flare-up, I started popping antacids. 2-days later, the stomach pain had gotten worse...and worse...and worse. I felt like I had swallowed a balloon and someone kept pumping air into it. I got no relief from Pepcid, Zantac, Tums, Immodium, GasX, BeanO, Tigan, Bentyl, and some heavier Rx drugs. Instead, I spent my evenings curled up in a ball with a heating pad and whimpering. Work outs? Nil. I was pretty pissed off. Thursday evening, the pain started to subside. I began to hear about friends and coworkers suffering from the same symptoms. Yup. It was a stomach bug. So, basically, my body forced me into a taper. CA 70.3 next week? It's a race, baby. It's on! I'm in full taper now.

Friday, feeling better, I tried a 4-mile run. I had a terrible side-stitch the whole way, a painful reminder of my GI bug but if I kept the pace at 9:30s, I felt okay. We finished up the evening with a delightful 1-mile Cove swim. Brent didn't have to wait for me at all like last week. Guess the swim clinic paid off! Plus, I wasn't at all sore afterwards! Could it be possible? You can swim faster without more effort? Who would've thought?

Saturday, I decided to try a new bike group training for Wildflower. I opted for the "Olympic" training ride. A short (26-mile) but hilly ride would be a perfect taper ride--short but intense and simulating race day. I rode to the start (only 3 miles away), hammering because I was running late (like always). I reached the parking lot exactly at 8, when the group was supposed to depart. I was hoping to make it since I had told the ride organizer I would be joining them. Plus, my ride to the start was the reverse of the actual ride so I figured I would see them.

Just as I arrived, I saw a group of about 15 cyclists toiling up Black Mountain Rd. Dammit! Hopeful, I pedaled into the parking lot anyway but didn't see any stragglers (the parking lot was HUGE). I noticed a parking lot in the distance towards the back but decided to turn around and catch the group I had seen. That must have been them, I figured. Besides, if it wasn't, they'll catch me. I'm not that fast. So I turned around and started hammering. It was hard, getting up Black Mountain all-out. My stomach made some nasty lurches, reminding me that it wasn't 100% yet.

I hit the 56-bike path and started really hammering. I knew this route like the back of my hand. Afterall, it was in my backyard. I reached the coast in record time. Still no sign of them. Where could they be? I can't believe they left early! I told him I was coming! How rude! I ranted internally. I guess rage riding is becoming a nasty habit. I spotted a guy with a Solvang jersey, and we started a conversation. I tried to hide how out of breath I was as I gasped out broken sentences up another hill. He wasn't out of breath at all. We rode together for about 7 miles. Later, I met his girlfriend, who joined as at Del Mar Starbucks. Funny how even when you're riding solo, you're never really alone. I began to relax a little.

I broke off at Via de la Valle and waved goodbye to my new friends. I began hammering again. When I turned onto El Camino Real, any last remnant of hope that I would catch the group dissipated out of me. This was the point where the long ride broke off from the short ride. I swallowed, resolved to finish the ride I had set out to do. It would be great training. Afterall, you have to ride alone on race day.

I hit San Dieguito and began the long climb up to El Camino del Sur. I had always wanted to climb up this hill. I had zipped down it many a time but never the reverse. Plus, riding in Rancho Santa Fe is always delightful. The street was lined with leafy green trees offering large refreshing patches of shade. Lush patches of colorful flowers dotted the landscape. The honey smell of jasmine hung so thickly in the air that I could taste the sweet aroma on my tongue. I reached the top and began pedaling north towards Rancho Bernardo. The trees disappeared, the street widened and fast-moving traffic increased. I suddenly realized I was hot. I was also cranky. Glancing down at my computer, I realized I had already gone 26 miles. The entire ride was supposed to be 26 miles and I still had a long way left to go. I was pissed. LIAR! I was lied to!

The hills kept coming at me, one after another. The bike lane disappeared, road construction began, and the traffic became more dangerous. I suddenly realized I hadn't been eating (because of my stomach). I ripped open a package of strawberry Cliff Blocks and downed 4 of them. Ahhh. That's better. I finally turned onto Bernardo Center Dr. The hills kept coming. I was worried because I had never ridden this section before, and on GMaps, it looked like the road dead-ended. Although I was climbing a lot, I was also descending a lot. I was not going to be a happy camper if I had to turn around and retreat back UP all the hills I had come DOWN, undoing all my hard work and progress. All of a sudden, I was at Black Mountain Park, where I had run the Xterra Trail Race the weekend before. I had a serious case of deja vu, or more like, I-don't-know-how-the-hell-I-got-here-and-I-don't-think-I-could-get-here-again-if-I-tried-but-I'm-sure-glad-as-hell-to-be-here-now feeling.

I zipped down Black Mountain Road back to the bike path. My entire ride ended up being 41 miles. I got great practice for race day, that's for sure! Plus, I had to battle my mental demons a bit, something that always makes me stronger. Later, I e-mailed the ride coordinator to figure out what had happened. The large group of cyclists at the beginning? Wrong group. My group hadn't even left yet. I had been chasing phantoms the entire time. I guess I'm faster than I thought because no one caught me from behind (I had pretty big lead).

Saturday's Bike Route

Alec got to learn some mental toughness this weekend too. At his soccer practice on Sunday, he was playing really well until the other team scored. He sort of fell apart after that and stopped trying. When the other team scored again, he walked off the field in tears. We convinced him to give it one more shot. "Alec, it's not about winning. You're doing a great job. Don't give up! You're team needs you!" we encouraged him. He got back onto the field, and the coach let him kick the ball in from out-of-bounds. I guess he was kind of pissed at himself because he ran at the ball and gave it a huge, powerful, angry kick. It flew through the air and miraculously landed squarely in the net, about 20 yards away, resulting in a goal for his team! We gave him a HUGE amount of praise. "See Alec? You wouldn't have gotten that goal if you had quit. When the other team scores, you just have to try harder." I was so glad we had that opportunity to teach him that believing in yourself goes a lot farther than natural ability.

Take home message?
Never give up! Because you are AMAZING! Kids teach us a lot, huh?

Alec playing soccer.

Afterwards, we went to the in Carlsbad Flower Fields, home of the Ranunculus flower (Persian Buttercup). They were gorgeous and actually pretty fun.


don said...

Hey Rachel,
The bib numbers for next weekend are now posted online. I think your number is 2026

Fizzgig said...

how funny is this. My last job where I worked for 7 years, was at Yoder brothers, who was partnered with the flower fields. We sold each others product. I'm not sure if they are still in business together, theres been a lot of changes. But I know the mums are still sold by them. It's a small world!

Renee said...

Good luck at CA 70.3! You are going to do great! The flower field pictures are AMAZING!

Grey Beard said...

There's a scene in Terminator 3 where Arnold Schwarzenegger's character says "Anger is more useful than despair" I always thought that was Arnold speaking through his character. Interesting that you and Alec both re/discovered that in your own way on this day.

I'm not a fan of raging at all, but harnessing anger for motivation is a great skill for athletes to develop. The physiological responses to anger are perfect for increasing athletic performance, and usually dissipate the anger in the process. I always figure pissing off Kobe is worth 10 points to the Lakers! :D