Friday, January 31, 2014

Being bold

January has been a funny month, not quite rounding out like I envisioned it would, mainly because I think that I should be doing MORE, now, already, but I'm also cautious of going too hard, too much too soon.  At times, June 29th feels like the months away that is is, but at other moments, it seems to be right around the corner.

Ever since signing up for IMCA in August, I've mentally thought about the "why" and how to answer that question.  Ultimately, I cannot come up with a great reason - or maybe not a simple one.  As a friend said in an email, "Ironman is nothing if not inherently irrational", so I'll chalk up my empty response to that element of irrationality.  I can say that once I dipped my toe into the triathlon world a few years back with Wildflower, the experience hooked me and perhaps it is inevitable to want to go longer and to know how that feels.  I also think that I took the right approach for myself, to not sign up immediately for an IM distance but to build up my endurance and my experience and to try to improve and grow and learn, little by little, in different ways.  Perhaps one is never truly 'ready' to take on a bigger goal, and you just have to go for it, but I think that I am more prepared than I would have been a year ago.  When I finally registered, I'd been sitting with the idea for well over a year, which was plenty of time to mull it over, consider the pros and cons and also contemplate the different races (full Vineman? Whistler? what else is out there?), and to finally pull the trigger.   Even after registering, I was filled with doubts - and I still am.  I'm excited about this particular race and course - I had no desire for a super flat and fast course and I also did not relish the idea of training all summer long for IM (too much free time to dedicate to training and thinking about the race would probably do a number on my mental state).  I'm certainly looking forward to the race and chose CdA in part because of the beauty of the area, and I'm also excited about the roadtrip that will be a part of the experience.  

My two greatest fears are injuring myself and that I'll get a big fat DNF.  I'm currently dealing a bit with fear #1, and that second fear, well, it certainly is a possibility.  But I also decided that fear of a DNF shouldn't prevent me from attempting to realize a bold, audacious goal.  There is always risk involved when you do something that you care about.  Recently, I've felt fairly safe in a lot of ways, and it's good for me to get out of my comfort zone and learn a bit more - about going longer and about myself.  

Finally, when I read the email from my friend (who finished her 9th IM in November), her parting words really clicked.  She says "If you have ever even considered an Ironman—DO IT.  It’s painful, silly, ugly, and insane, but you’ll never be the same again.  And chances are, when it defies all logic, you might even find yourself standing at the start line again."

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fast times in the Southland

I kind of love it when a trip that you loosely "planned" months ago sneaks up on you and suddenly you're off!  We (or maybe I) had planned a trip to the Carlsbad/Encinitas area back in October, but after the initial planning, which consisted of registering for a half-marathon and reserving a hotel room, I sort of forgot to think about the details of the trip.  But Saturday morning rolled around and we managed to pack up our bags and the dogs, head out the door and direct ourselves south!

The original purpose of the trip was, for me, to chase a PR at the Carlsbad Half-Marathon, about which I'd heard great things.  The idea of a half-marathon PR became a distant memory once I started to run using heart rate and rarely saw anything below a 10:-- mile, so I readjusted my expectations and decided that it would just be a fun way to spend the weekend.  It also turned out that my parents had made separate plans that included a trip to Southern CA this past weekend, so our plans morphed again to include time with them.   At any rate, my half-marathon hopes/goals quickly diminished as the "main event" of the weekend, which took the pressure off me on Saturday.  While I still hoped to run a solid race that would be a good training run, I did not expect a particularly speedy-for-me 13.1 miles on Sunday.  I did meet up with my triathlon coach on Saturday afternoon - which was a really nice bonus for the weekend - and she urged me to really *race* on Sunday and instructed me to start and stick with the 1:45 pace group.  Considering that my recent race pace intervals (during slow runs) felt impossible to hold on to for more than the interval, I seriously questioned this plan.

By Sunday morning, my expectations had probably sunk even lower - I don't know when I've ever slept so poorly the night before a race.  Maybe I really was nervous?!  Fortunately, the half-marathon start was at the luxurious time of 7:45, so I tried to catch a few more zzzz's.  Michael dropped me off somewhat close to the race expo around 7:15 which gave me time to get to the start, do my business (you know...), warm up, and then line up in my corral.  I have to admit that I am a huge fan of waved/corralled starts, but even with the different waves, there were tons of people to weave around and through during that first mile.  I can't say where my thoughts were during the first few miles - I think that I kept checking in with my pace and with how I felt.  The 1:45 pace group was within sight but going faster than a 1:45 pace, according to the Garmin and also according to the time elapsed.  So, I hung back at what felt like a comfortable but still fast pace, enjoying the course, especially around mile 3 or so, when we hit the coast which was just beautiful!  I also saw my coach around mile 5 and she yelled at me to catch up to the 1:45 pace group - I thought to myself "As if!".  And then, just after the course turn-around, I saw my parents, Michael and our dogs for a quick shout out and wave.  At that point, I was pushing up to the 1:45 group which I finally caught, stayed with for a while, and then I decided that I needed to move on. The second half of the course was a negative split, and it felt hard but comfortable until around mile 10 at which point I tried to push even harder.  While I still enjoyed the run and the pace felt doable, it no longer felt comfortable!  During the second half of the race, I couldn't believe that I would finish up with a nice PR, as long as I didn't bonk.  By the time, I got to the last half mile, I still couldn't quite get over my time but kept pushing, and even passed a few more people at the end, which made me very happy!  

I ended the race with a very surprising 9 minute PR!  I use that adjective because speed work has not been a major part of my training, as I said earlier, and if it hadn't been for my coach instructing me to start with the pace group, I would have held back, no doubt.  I guess she knows what she is talking about!  Also, this race did live up to its reputation of being a really great experience - it was very well organized, the course was nice and varied with plenty of rolling hills but nothing crazy, fantastic crowd support, great fluid and nutrition and plenty of portopotties scattered through the course (which was nice because I did have to make a pit stop and it was a quick in-and-out b/c there were no lines).  Needless to say, I am a fan of this race!  I'm not sure how the marathon would be - maybe too much out and back, but the half felt just right.  

After my race, we were able to get down to other, more serious business - eating, drinking and watching football!  My parents were catching an afternoon flight, so the first item up was for me to clean up, and then we headed to Union Tap House in Encinitas.  That was a lucky choice for brunch - they served really good food and excellent bloody marys!  After that, Michael and I hunted down a bar, and again we felt that we lucked out with the Encinitas Ale House where we scored good seats at the bar.  I tried to switch between water and small beer tasters to stay somewhat hydrated while we watched the game.  To make a good day even better, the Broncos beat New England and are headed to the Super Bowl!  While I was still riding high from my PR, someone else was over the moon for the rest of the day!

Finally we peeled ourselves off the barstools and headed out to enjoy the late afternoon.  We don't often to get to that area of Southern CA, usually staying along the LA/Orange County coast or going north, but this trip made me love the Encinitas area.  There is a hippie feel to it, and it also seemed that 'normal' people lived and worked there.  I realize that I have the outsider/visitor's perspective, so who knows what it is REALLY like.  One thing that you can't argue with - the long beaches that just stretch on and on.  We took a great beach walk with our dogs both yesterday and today, and I felt that I could have stayed there forever, watching the waves and the surfers.

The perfect day cannot end without a great margarita, which we found at El Callej√≥n in Encinitas.  We each had one and split another - they were excellent!   At that point, we were totally done for the day, but already plotting a return trip at some point soon!

(Sorry for the complete lack of photos - I know, I'm talking about how awesome it was but showing you nothing!)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 plans and decisions

I admit, I'm bringing in the ubiquitous New Year's post a bit late, and I totally failed on the yearly recap, which is fine because 2013 wasn't a year of monumental change.  I can't believe that I'm making that statement since buying a house did take up tons of mental energy, but really, our lives seemed only to shift into different patterns.  We frequent another farmers' market, have discovered a wonderful pizza place, but mainly we just learned new routes to get to our mainstays.  I would say the same thing about work - nothing major there even though there have been changes.  Some of these shifts have been rather difficult, I can't deny that, perhaps the result of growing pains or of a friendship that has grown distant, but with change, there seems to be both gain and loss.

The lack of dramatic ups and downs and crazy changes did have one effect - it pushed me to think about making a long-term, sometime-in-the-future goal more immediate.  For a while, I had been thinking of 2015 as the year that I would try to take on the full iron distance.  But then the summer came around and the Ironman Corporation announced that there would be a full iron distance in Boulder in 2015 and I was tempted.  That announcement came right before Vineman, and I asked Michael that, if I went sub-6, could I register for a full?  Well, I came close to a sub-6 but not close enough, however the idea had certainly taken root.  And, so, in August, after many conversations and much back and forth with myself and with him, I finally registered for Ironman Coeur d'Alene!  My first reaction after receiving my "Congratulations, you've signed up for..." email was to throw up, due both to the amount of money that I had just spent with the click of that button and to the reality that holy crap, I had signed up for an full iron distance tri!

For a few months, I mainly sat with the idea of taking on such a distance and tried to maintain a decent level of fitness but I didn't do too much (great motto - "don't do too much with your life").  Finally, I recommitted to a more 'rigorous' schedule in November, and then in December I started to work with a coach.  The decision to work with someone came hand-in-hand with the decision to register for a longer distance tri.  While I've had good experiences at the shorter and slightly longer distance courses, this is a different beast.  Also, I figured that I would dump way too many anxieties, frustrations and stress on my better half if I attempted this solo.  Finally, it's a long, hard haul even to the start line, let alone the finish line, and I decided that it would be a benefit to have all the help I could.  So, last month was a base month - get back to training.

Now that January has arrived, the reality of lining up for my first ironman is still an idea that's in the future, but the more immediate one, especially after I counted the weeks between now and then (about 26) and realized that June will be here before I know it!  I'm still nervous about this process but also curious to see what the training will be like, how will I deal with it, will I stay healthy, when will I have a major melt-down, and those thoughts don't even include the actual race!

Needless to say, it should be an interesting year for me and I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Running - an extreme sport

I'm not about to recap my year in running because it's not that impressive to anyone except for me.  I will say that comparing where I was at the beginning of the year to where I was at the end denotes progress.  I literally limped into 2013 last year.  Even though I was slowly getting over my bout with plantar fasciitis, I then attempted tubing while in Keystone last year, with fairly disastrous results.  I ended up feeling pretty crappy in general about my physical abilities - or limitations.

Flash forward to this Christmas, and running has been a source of joy and frustration, especially here in Boulder.  Despite having to run at an extremely slow pace thanks to HR training plus altitude, I did strive to find the joy in being outside and in such a beautiful place.  And it really was not that hard.  Once my HR settled down by mile 2, I relaxed about the fact that I was running well over 10 minute miles and I just enjoyed the scenery.  On Sunday, a long slow run took me around the Wonderland Lake trails and I even saw people ice-fishing (seemed like a foolish endeavor since they were ON the ice, even though temps had been fairly mild in the days before). My shorter and equally slow runs took me along running paths in North Boulder - kind of boring but pretty safe.  Or so you would think.

Apparently, running, even running slowly, can be dangerous!  I discovered this fact yesterday when a dog, in an attempt to get a ball, jack-knifed me and knocked me literally off my feet.  I still can't believe that I could not manage to avoid this little mishap - talk about clumsy!  Even more embarrassing, there were plenty of people around to watch my feet flail in the air as my body then landed on my right side.  I think that I yelled out an expletive well before I even hit the ground because I was so startled and scared.  And then, I stood up, a bit shaken, apologized for dropping the F-bomb with kids around, said that I was sure that I was okay (which was a total lie but I thought that I was) and then I went on my way, plodding along slowly but still plodding.  I finished the run with frequent check-ins with my right buttock, which took the brunt of the fall.  While I am a bit sore and tender, I am mainly happy and relieved that there was no major damage that accompanied the fall.

But it does make me laugh a bit and also think that I shouldn't take it for granted that I can get out and run, or even walk.  So, yesterday, given the chance, we took our boys out for their final 2013 walk.

And, today, when I had to do five minute hill repeats, I tried to find the joy in the experience.  Until I was too exhausted or wanted to throw up or was avoiding small patches of snow and/or ice!  Fortunately, there were no snafus today, so it was a nice way to start 2014!