Monday, April 24, 2017

Race Report: The Rage


Normally, I don't like to talk about the week leading up to the race. It's important for other's to realize that shit is going to happen. It all comes down to your attitude.

The week before the race, I was exhausted. I hadn't slept in over a week. This is all cycle related. Normally, the insomnia lasts a couple of days. This time, it just wouldn't end. I tried to take naps to no avail. I thought that once I got to Henderson, NV, I'd get to sleep. I didn't realize that many people who stay in Henderson are there to party in Vegas. The 2 nights leading up to the race were worthless in regards to sleep. Drunk people running around above me. Others banging on doors trying to find their rooms.

In the past, I stayed at the Wynn on the Vegas strip (for those of you outside the US). The Wynn is the quietest hotel I have ever stayed at. I have never had any problems. I just assumed that being in Henderson wouldn't be different. It was closer to the race site. The hotel is a nice hotel. But the Wynn? You'll pay for the luxury, but it is worth it.

Besides the sleep issue, I have to say that Henderson is beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, Mr. Tea and I are thinking of buying a winter home there. It is THAT amazing.

The morning of race, I was able to sleep from about 10pm to 2pm when the drunks starting arriving back at their rooms. Was I mad? No. It's Vegas. Those people are there to have a good time. I didn't really plan it very well.

I brought breakfast with me and turned on the coffee maker. My head is foggy. I went back to read emails between Liz and I from the week. I gave it a lot of thought. I said, "Your body is ready for this. Your head might not be ready. Your head can't think straight. Let your body take over today. RULE YOURSELF."

I'm sensitive to caffeine. I started drinking more coffee than any person should be able to (3 cups....a whole lot for me). I needed all the help I could get.

Because I was up, I head to transition (which opens at 5:30). My wave didn't start until 7:40. I was the last wave (except for the beginner wave).

Have I mentioned that I was nervous AF?!?

When I arrived, I realized that my transition area was going to be near the top of the hill. THIS IS PERFECT. I won't have to run far with my bike either UP or DOWN the hill.

From the second you step out of the water, to about a half a mile into the bike, you are on a steep hill.  The run from the water is on rough, rocky terrain. Last year, I struggled in flip flops. I was slipping and sliding and could barely make it up the hill.

This year, I was ready with my new/old shoes.

This was my first race of the year. Being from CO, I hadn't had any opportunity to swim in open water. I hadn't even tried on my wetsuit. No practice of getting into and out of it. I hadn't ridden my bike outside.

Needless to say, this was going to be a practice run.

I went to the water's edge, praying that I'd be able to fit in my wetsuit after a winter of.....um....well....WINTER.

I got to the water's edge, and people were talking about how cold the water was. I looked out and could see the swells of water and waves coming into shore. Lake Mead is a LAKE, but it is known for it's swells and unpredictable conditions. The previous day, there were wind warnings telling boaters to stay close to shore.

It's cold water and rough conditions.
I've got to get into the water to see what I'm dealing with.

Once I got into the water, I immediately realized that I couldn't see the first turn buoy with the swells. 

One of my coaches at masters is a world champion swimmer in the 1 mile open water event. She has been coaching me on pacing. One of the exercises she has me do (Coach Liz also has me do this), is head out of the water swimming. Different coaches call it different things. This is not a doggie paddle (that's a different drill). This is regular swimming with your head up, looking straight ahead. Some coaches refer to it as water polo swimming (click here if you want to see the drill).

I realized that I can't sight because sighting is a split second, and I couldn't get a visual on the buoys in that split second. I thought, "head out of the water swimming." This would allow me to keep up my speed and look for the buoy. As I was swimming into the swells, I had my head out of the water, staring straight ahead until I got a good visual on the buoy.

PERFECT. I put my head down and started swimming and then turned to swim back to shore.

My wave was already lining up. I wiggled my way to the front.  My wave is all women over 40, relays and athenas over 40.

THE SWIM

I know what you're thinking.

 I'm getting there.

Not a lot of people know this, but I LOVE swimming in rough conditions. I love swimming in cold water. I love swimming in less than optimal conditions. It ignites the fight in me. When I'm faced with a challenge, I bear down and go for it.

When the horn went off, everyone took off. I see the crowd ahead of me. Of course, I can't see the buoys. I start swimming "head out of the water". I catch a sight of the buoy, put my head down and go for it. I see on my right the crowd is veering off to the right.

I'm right on course for the buoy.

When I get to the buoy, there are 3-4 other blue caps with me. I know they can't hold on. This isn't being cocky. You can tell when you're out there swimming, who is the confident swimmer. You can tell.  I turned the corner and took off. At this point, the swells are coming at me from the right, so I have to only breath on the left.

NOTE to you triathletes: You MUST MUST MUST learn to breath bilaterally. 

I turned on the gas and noticed I had left all the other blue caps behind. I turn at the next buoy. My arms and back are really quite uncomfortable at this point from forcing myself through swells and staying on course.

I turn at the next buoy. (The course is rectangle).

And....I see a blue cap in front of me.


Where did she come from?

I had already passed several other waves. I thought, "Make a go at it. Catch her".

As we were coming into shore, I realized that SHE was a HE and was a relay swimmer.  He had either slowed down or I had sped up or a combination of both. 

SWIM: 1st out of the water

I get to shore, shove my feet into my shoes and run full speed up the hill, passing many people along the way.

I get to my bike. As I mentioned, this race starts on an uphill. I have my bike set in smaller gears. I jump on the bike and go.

I stay in aero and pass people like they are standing still, heading out to the main road. I know that once I get to the main road, it's all hills all day. My absolute favorite bike course. 

Here we go.

Slingshot ENGAGED.
I was flying. All I kept thinking about was how much I love going fast. I love climbing. I love descending. I love going fast.

As I was about 3 miles from the finish, A guy in a Team Venezuela kit passed me. 

He was a BEAST. I was watching him ride. I could keep up with him on the uphills, but he was killing me on the downhills. Now, the guy easily had 40lbs on me. Still, I started watching him descend. 

I noticed that his "tuck" was extremely tight and low on the downhills. I decided to copy him. As soon as I tucked more, I was going even faster.

 We turned to head into transition. Curves, downhill and an abrupt stop.

My bike was racked very close to the top. 

Got my run gear, and I took off.

THE BIKE: 1st on the bike

THE RUN

I wear my garmin for my races. However, for the sprint, I don't look at it. 

When I started the run, I had no idea what my time was. I had no idea where I was. This strategy works best for me.

It's one of the ways Liz has coached me over the years. Effort and attitude. Period. I give my best effort.  

Case in point: On the swim, I ended up being 1st. Had I looked at my garmin, I would have seen that it was slower than last year's swim. This year, the conditions were such that a PR or even being a little faster weren't realistic. The next closest person to me was 2 minutes behind me. 

I took off running. This course is basically 1 mile up hill, 1 mile flat, 1 mile downhill.

One mile into the run, I decide to check my garmin (to keep me honest). I'm not really running my best. Then, I remembered something that Liz said to me when I first started working with her (over 3 years ago). At the time, it made sense, but I wasn't at the point where I could implement it.

One mile into the run, I was ready to implement it. From here on out, my goal was to negative split. Now....look....one mile downhill....I get it....pretty easy to neg split. But, I added a challenge. My heart rate had to start increasing as well.

Mile 1: 10:15
Mile 2: 9:28
Mile 3: 8:40

Toward the finish, I was running all out. 

I crossed the finish line and stopped my garmin. 

Still having no idea what my finish time was. I knew that I felt really good about my race. It was my first race of the year, a first for many things, and I felt great about it.

I knew that this is a highly competitive race. Out here, in the west, the Rage is the first real race of the year. People travel to this race in hoards to gauge their early Spring fitness. 

I never think about getting a podium. I don't think of the other women in my age group. I go out there and give the best that I can give that day. The time will be what it will be.

I decided to look at my garmin to see where I came in.

I blinked. I stared at it. I did a double check. That can't be right. a 1:27 finish time would give me a podium. 

I went over to the results table.

Sure enough. I came in first.
I went back to transition to text Mr. Tea and Liz before the award ceremony.

Once again, I had messages from people telling me congratulations! (You freaky ass stalkers).

I head over to the awards ceremony, in shock. I never expected to have a HUGE PR. I never expected to podium.

I am confident in my abilities, but every time I step up on the podium, I'm beyond excited. I'm humbled. I'm honored. Mostly, I'm in shock.

I ran into Sarah. Sarah is a MSM Coach and athlete. She was racing the Olympic distance and came in 1st overall. We saw each other on the run course. She runs like a freaking gazelle. This was a "comeback" race for her as she had to take all of last year off.

 One race, two winners.

I don't think I stopped smiling all day. This was so unexpected. On my drive home, I kept thinking about my BIG race in May.  

I once again learned a lot from this race. I know that I have the physical and mental strength to swim well in rougher conditions.

I learned how to descend even faster.

I learned how to negative split the run and be confident in my run. I learned to trust my body to do what I need to do.

Most importantly, I did WHATEVER IT FUCK IT TAKES.







 

















Monday, April 17, 2017

Taper time

I kept this on the DL.

I'm racing on Saturday.

My first race of the year was cancelled, and I got all {{sadface}}. I found out the race was cancelled around Feb.

After about a month of thinking that my first race of the year wouldn't be until MAY. MAY! And feeling like I really do need as much practice as I can get.....

I talked to Liz about a race. She sent me an email with two simple words:

DO IT!!!

That race is this weekend. My training volume for sprints/olys tends to be very similar (or more) than your average triathlete's 70.3 training. So, I can go about my training with no one really noticing when I'm training or tapering or having a step back week. 

It's actually pretty cool. 

I kept the race on the DL for no particular reason. I race sooooo much that (again) most people can't really keep up with my race schedule. My friends who do long stuff, typically do 1-2 races a year. I race 6-8 times in 6-8 months...sometimes more.

Being that it's taper time, I had to send Liz my race plan. 

It was succinct.


 
 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ask me anything

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to take part in the AMA on the Multisport Mastery Facebook page.

I was to talk about my experiences going from last to fast. When Coach Liz asked me to do this, I was so touched that she would think of me.

I was also really nervous. I kept thinking, "What am I going to say to people? I'm just me. Nothing special".

I was so afraid of having a "dud" conversation that I asked a few friends to stage questions. As it turned out, I didn't need the staged questions.

It was so much fun.

Here's the link to the conversation. You do not have to be an MSM athlete to be part of our group. You'll have access to great coaches and amazing athletes. Feel free to join the group. I don't think you have to be a member to see the conversation.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Overwhelming gratitude

The longer I do this sport, the more I appreciate some of the very special people in my life.

It's because they have such a profound impact on my life. I am so humbled by this sport. I am so honored to have these people in my life.

You may have read about a recent swim breakthrough that I had.

I had another one (a couple of days later).

I'll give you the short story. At the end of masters, my swim coach came over to me and asked if I'd want to do an 800m time trial. The pool was set up as long course meters. He was going to take my splits for me.

Of course, I said, "YES".

The plan for the time trial was to practice my race pacing. When I race in open water, my plan is to always go out as hard as possible, get to the front (or away from the pack), and then settle into a very hard/fast pace.

I've always been afraid of going too hard. Isn't that a fear we all have?

For the time trial, I decided to give it a try. Who cares if I slow down too much? It's my safe place. This is where I can take those risks, try things out before race day.

I went out like a bat out of hell. Every time, I hit the 100, Coach yelled out my paces, but I couldn't hear him.

The entire time, I kept my eye on the clock, but it didn't make any sense. The times/paces didn't make sense. I didn't judge myself on the times...I was either swimming crazy fast or crazy slow.....I left the labels behind and swam as hard as I could. When I was coming up on the 800, I thought, I think I have 100 more to go. So, I did another 100.

When I finished, Coach told me I did the 900 in 13:20. That's an average pace of 1:21 per 100 and a HUGE new PB.

And that was at the end of my masters practice. A practice, in which, I covered 3600m.

When I finished, we talked about my open water race strategy. He told me that my first 100 came in at a blazing fast 1:10, exactly what I want.

AND I MANAGED TO HOLD ON for the rest of the swim.

I had two other incidents this week. I had run intervals.

Because I do shorter races, I tend to bring my garmin but not look at it when I run intervals. It's really important to learn how to race to feel. For me, knowing my paces and heart rate can be an inhibitor. I use my Garmin selectively.

Liz and I have been talking a lot about running lately because something has been happening. We've seen gigantic jumps in my paces.

The goal for my run intervals was to get outside and run them on the track. The past few months of training have taught me more in regards to mental toughness than any months before.  So, when I got to the track, I knew I was going to run those intervals hard. (technically, they were builds. I didn't start super hard).

I blew away my previous times/paces.

I ran 1200's, 800's, and 400's paced perfectly and when I needed to go harder, I went harder.

I had the same thing happen for my 2 hour bike.

As I was pushing watts, I kept saying "Fearless". Fearless, as in I'm not giving in. Not this time. Not next time.

I was telling Liz about this change.This is a really big thing for me. I'm not afraid of pain. I'm not afraid of going too hard.

She told me that I've expanded my comfort zone.

I realized she was exactly right. I'm now most comfortable at the top edge....or as some people call it "redlining".

This is a first for me. I can get to a high level of output and hold it. It has nothing to do with physical ability.

It has everything to do with mental toughness.

This is a level of toughness that I've not had before. I wouldn't have it if it weren't for the coaches in my life who constantly work with me, teach me, push me to give my best and believe in me.

That's where the overwhelming gratitude comes in. I'm so humbled by the fact that they believe in me so much, to give me so much of their time.

The results I'm getting are because of them. They've helped me get where I am today.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

From last to fast


I've been struggling in the pool lately. I've been tired and sore and haven't been able to hit any of my normal paces.

This has been going on for weeks. It's been so tough that I surrendered my lane leader role and told the lane that I can't go by pace. I'll give the best effort (sound familiar?) I can and take whatever rest is scheduled. 

The struggle is real. It's hard, and it can really frustrating.

I knew, I KNEW, if I kept at it....kept giving everything I could even though my paces weren't there.....eventually I'd have a breakthrough swim.

Days went by. Weeks went by. I had nothing to show for it, except a growing frustration.

I showed up for masters swim yesterday and looked at the schedule. Great. USRPT (ultra short race pace training) was the training for the day. AWESOME. Another day of of struggling.

At the end of the workout, we had to do 15 x 75's.

My Coach came over to me and said, "Tea, I want these done in 1:00".

I stood there in disbelief. My PR at the 75 was 1:08. That was for ONE interval, and I haven't been able to hit that for a couple of months.

I rolled my eyes and replied, "You realize that my PB is 1:08, right"?

Coach (who is not in the least intimidated by my eye roll) says, "Trust your body. You can do this".

My mind was filled with "but this....and that....and but.....but....I'm tired.....but....I haven't been able to hit any paces in weeks".

I kept my mouth shut.

I turned to my lanemates.  They said, "You're leading. There's no way we can hit that time".

Rather than argue with Coach and my lanemates, I said, "Ok. Interval time 1:20. We'll do the best we can. If anyone misses the interval (thinking it would be me), the next in line takes the lead and the person who misses skips the next one".  (This is how the workout is structured. If you miss your goal time, you sit out an interval, swim an easy 25 to get back with the group. The extra rest is meant, so you can hit your goal for the next intervals).

Let's do this. On the top.

As soon as I took off, I felt different than I have in months. Every stroke was powerful. My kick timing was right on with my stroke.

When I'm swimming inefficiently and wrong, I can feel it, but I can't figure out how to fix it.

Yesterday, I was swimming as well as I could, and I felt it.

I hit the wall in 1:02.

That was a :06 PB at the 75. Of course, I thought, "One and done. There's no way I can do that again".

Then BAM. It happened again. BAM. Again. Over and over, I kept coming in exactly at 1:02, 1:01.....even 3 in 1:00.

The rest of the lane slowed down a chose a slower pace. My friend said, "I can't do this. I don't know what's wrong with me". I told her, "You'll get there. Come in every day and give what you can. You'll get through this".

At the end of the intervals, Coach came over and asked if I hit the intervals. I said, "Yes. I did."

A smile spread across his face as he could see my disbelief.

I have never been so excited about any race or any PR as I was about this PB in the pool yesterday.

It's because I have NO swimming background. I taught myself how to swim using videos.

At my first sprint race, I don't believe I was the last swimmer to exit the water, but I had a canoe escort bring me in (which is what they do with the last swimmers).

At the time, I was swimming about a 3:00 per 100 pace. Yesterday, my time came anywhere between 1:20 and 1:22, which was PB in the 100. My previous best was 1:25.

But, the part that really gets me excited is how this will translate to open water. Last year, I was swimming 1:35's in the pool and 1:20's in open water.

I finished the swim and practically rushed to get out of the pool. I wanted to tell Liz. When I started with her, I was swimming 1:50's. I've now shaved off about :30 per 100.

When it's comes to swimming, there are few people who really understand how much dedicated work it takes to become a better swimmer. Even Mr. Tea. He see's me come out of the water, but he doesn't really get 1:20 per 100, etc. That's because open water swimming has a number of issues: currents, water temps, sun, etc. All of those factors can dramatically change a pace.

So, I sat in my car. I'm sure I had the biggest smile I've ever had.

I'm so excited.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Shaken confidence


I wasn't going to write about this because it seems like a small issue. Then I thought, maybe it was one of those things that every person has to deal with at some time.

Saturday, my confidence was completely shaken.

My races this year have very difficult bike courses. I did this intentionally. The olympic course of Nationals has one climb that we hit twice. Now, this hill isn't substantial for someone who lives and trains on hills.

But, I have a bigger goal on my radar. 

In order to reach that goal, I chose a race schedule that is filled with hills.

In order to race well, we have been doing all new types of bike training.

I saw Saturday's workout. I set it up in Zwift. I looked it over and thought, "a 1 hour and 15 min workout. Ok. I can do that". 

A short workout means there will be some serious intensity. I had 4 intervals to get through.  This is my bread and butter. This is the stuff I love. I don't cringe when I see these workouts. I look forward to them.

When I was 2 minutes into the first interval, I started thinking, "I'm not going to make it through this workout". 

During the recovery, I thought, "WHAT IS THIS WORKOUT"?

WHY is it so hard?

The second interval hit. I check my power. I check my HR. Everything is where it needs to be, but I feel like I'm going to pass out.

There has to be something wrong with me. I can't keep going like this. I need to drop power.

Just keeping pushing. Keep pedaling.

For the last 2 intervals, I used every single mental strategy I had to get through. I was counting down intervals. I was saying, "You can do anything for 7 minutes...anything for 6 minutes. Only 5 minutes left. Chase down that guy".

I was repeating, "You've got this".

On the last interval, my legs were burning like they never burned before. With every rotation, the voice in the back of my head was there saying, "This shouldn't hurt so bad. There's something wrong with you".

At the end of the last one, I collapsed on my aerobars, unable to even spin the pedals. My legs were shaking. My arms were shaking, and I had sweat running off my face like a river.

As I recovered and started my cooldown, I started analyzing the ride. Why was it so hard? What am I going to tell Liz? "I did it, but I didn't do it well".

I stared at the treadmill. For the first time I can remember, Liz gave me an out, "OPTIONAL OFF THE BIKE RUN".

I sat there and debated skipping it.

For no reason, except that I was so tired, so very tired. I couldn't even think of attempting to run.

I sat on the edge of the treadmill.

I remembered something. Back in 2008, I was training for Ironman CDA.  There was a day that I wanted to give up. I was on the trainer for hours upon hours. JMan came down to check on me. I told him that I was thinking of quitting.

He replied, "So. Are you just going to quit? Are you going to do that in your race, too? Just get off the bike and walk back"?

That day, I kept going.

I sat on the edge of the treadmill and started getting my shoes on. I started running.

I thought of something that Liz said to me years before, "Your legs won't feel like they are there, but they are. You have to trust your body".

Step by step, I kept going. My legs never felt good; in fact, they felt about as bad as they could feel. I never felt "energized", but my pace and heart rate were right where they needed to be.

I could only think of one thing, "If you don't fight for this now, you are giving yourself permission to quit down the road".

I finished the run. I laid on the couch and thought about the workout. No sense of satisfaction. No feeling like a bad ass fighter. No sense of a job well done; just the feeling of being thankful that I was done.

A few hours later, and after I ate and recovered, I typed up my notes to Liz, telling her everything that went through my head.

The very first thing she said was, "tea, this is an extremely difficult workout". She explained how it was going to help at my races.

There was a lot going on in my head on Saturday. I pulled from every single mental strategy I had to get through the workout.

But this is what I want YOU to know, when you think you are at wit's end; when you think you have absolutely nothing left to give........You ALWAYS have more to give.

Training won't always be pretty. Some days, it will be downright ugly, but ugly counts.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The end of an era

The end of an era and a new beginning.


As I look back over my time in triathlon, I can see where (for lack of a better word) one chapter ended and another began.

It's not that all those times were monumental. They represented change or a new outlook or something like that.

I think I'm heading into my next new beginning. There are things I'd like to accomplish that I wasn't ready to tackle until now. It's simply because of growth. We all have goals. But reaching those goals takes a plan and steps along the way.

You can't be a podium finisher with the mindset of a middle of the pack athlete. You can't be a World Champion with the mindset of a podium finisher. With each level that we go for, we change. We become better.

It's a long process.

Some of the goals that I've set for myself for this year are things that weren't really on my radar even last year. That's because I wasn't ready for them.

"You aren't given a wish without also the ability to make it true".

That means, as we grow, our dreams can change.

While my big goals are out there on the horizon, I'm taking my smaller goals and making them bigger.

Liz has helped me get to a new level.

When it's my turn, I will shine.