Monday, October 21, 2013

Quitting

I was at the pool the other week tired from a weekend of long workouts. I will admit I was just basically going through the motions. I swam each set as it was given to me. I meandered through the warm up. I put in a mediocre attempt at getting my heartrate up during the warm up sprint set. I followed directions by just dialing it in. Oh so ho-hum. I wasn't thinking about the day of the week or of the month. I wish I had because then I would have know what was coming. 1K for time. Yep, on the first Monday of every month we do a 1K for time. And, yep, I forgot all about it. Sadly Johnny Tango gets me every time with this little test set. :30 before the set started the strap on my goggles broke so I was at least a minute behind from the git-go. I tried to get psyched up about the chance to test my fitness - and I did - but it only lasted for the first 200/300. Catching my lanemate 400 into it kept me interested but things kind of went downhill from there. I could no longer focus and I ended up losing count. I do not know about you but I find it hard to lose count when I am doing a hard effort like that. I painstakingly count every lap eager to bring an end to such a torturous moment in my day. My 1K was ok but I do not feel like it represented my current level of fitness. I brushed it off and continued with the rest of the workout. We finished up with 10x 100 pull and then 4x 200 IM. Part of me did not want to do that last set but I faked my way through it and I am happy I did. My lanemate, however, did not. He was not struggling with the interval or anything but made 3 of the 4 and just quit with one to go. One to go. How many people just quit with one to go?



Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to quit. Sometimes you have a limited block of time to squeeze in your workout. Sometimes it just gets too cold or too hot to continue to push the workout you were planning. Physical pain is a pretty good reason to cut a set short but so is mental discord. Maybe your mind is focused on something else going on in your life and you just can't be present in the moment - your attention is elsewhere but you become frustrated with your inability to hit your targets during a workout. Sometimes you just have to prioritize the problems that plague you and move on. It happens and it is OK.

But occasionally you don't quit for a legitimate reason, you quit just because. Maybe the workout presented to you just seems soooo hard. Maybe you think it is stupid and pointless. Maybe you tell yourself you're not good enough, you're not fit enough, you're not whatever enough to continue . . .  ultimately it does not matter what excuse you make when you are making excuses. Quitting should be the exception, not the rule. Habits are easy to form but so very hard to break. A lot of people think the act of cutting corners doesn't matter but it adds up. You quit once then it becomes a little easier to quit a second time and even easier a third time . . . add fatigue in there and oh man does quitting get even easier! How long before you can quit something and not feel an ounce of guilt about it? 

The funny thing about fitness is you don't make gains doing the first repeat fast. Anyone can do the first one fast but who is left standing at the end? You make strides in your training when you dig yourself in a hole and fight your way back out, physically and mentally. I grew up with the  saying "last one, fast one" and it has become the paradigm I apply to all my training. 



The other night I had to do a 50 minute run. In order to get out the door I told myself I was going to run from Point A to Point B as slow as possible and if that meant I had to cut the run short then so be it. I slogged along for the first ten minutes but then my turn over picked up and I was running my regular aerobic pace. I decided to run a little beyond point my turn around point but I was still committed to cutting the run short if I ran back faster than I ran out. I got back to my starting point with 4 minutes left and I just could not bring myself to quit. 4 minutes is a lot and at least half a mile so finished my run as it was scheduled. Why? Because I am not comfortable quitting. Are you?

Take a moment to watch this. At one point it looks as though the race between the US and France is over. The French anchor, Alain Bernard, has over half a body length on the US's Jason Lezak. In swimming, where races are won and lost by as hundreds of a second, half a body length is forever. Jason and the US team made history with this swim. If he had quit, not only would they have lost to the France but Michael Phelps would not have won 8 gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Jason Lezak didn't just become the guy who doesn't give up. He trained himself to be that guy. Who are you training to be?


2008 Beijing Olympics Swimming Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final
from Meazza on Vimeo.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Carolina Half: A few thoughts



Since this was the first year for the Carolina Half I thought I might jot down some of my thoughts regarding the race for those of you thinking about it next year. As usual Hope, Benji, and Set Up Events did a great job of putting it together. I loved the race and I loved the course. Here are a few of my thoughts in bullets:
  • A half ironman this close to home is a sweet deal. 
  • I am still torn as to whether I prefer this race (and any race) on Sunday. Going into the races I wished it was Saturday. Coming out of the race I was glad it was Sunday. Getting off from work Friday, I usually feel a bit crunched trying to get ready for the race, eat a sensible dinner, and get to bed early. While I wanted a little more of a weekend, it was very nice to lay around Saturday with plenty of time to get in the zone. 
  • In general, I am not a fan of point-to-point races but this one was super easy to navigate. A lot of information was posted pre-race which was a huge help in working out the logistics.
  • The shuttles were very well organized. I have never seen this happen before but as we got closer to the start of the race, priority was given to the athletes over the spectators so we would get to T1 in time to make our wave start. I thought this was super cool and I very much appreciated it. The spectators made it there in time but it helped alleviate a lot of stress for the athletes.
  • I think Ryan Werner makes the best race announcer. He says whatever comes to mind and is always good for a laugh. 

  • The swim was straight forward and marked fairly well. I would again suggest the turn buoys should be a different color than the sighting buoys but I am really just being picky. 
  • The beach start was a bit awkward just because of the angle where the beach meets the swim course. The beach was facing 6 o'clock but we had to swim towards 12. We all had to stay to tight to the left to enter the water. If the waves had been bigger I could see this being a problem.
The best swim start picture of all time
  • Since the the run to T1 was so long it would have been nice to have wet suit strippers at the swim exit but hopefully this race will not be wetsuit legal EVER AGAIN :) Yes, and part of my rationale is based entirely on my inability to quickly remove my own wetsuit.
  • I like the bike course. In the weeks prior to the race there were several FB posts about the course, how hard it is, and the number of turns. I admit the course was not as fast as White Lake but it is a good course. A course where you must pace yourself appropriately through the ups and downs. It is an "honest" course where you can maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. 
  • The bike course was incredibly well marked. There were indicators preceding each and every turn. Each turn was well equipped with volunteers and/or the police. 
A random pic of my legs
  • The only part of the bike course I did not particularly care for was at the end where it twists and turns through the neighborhood. I got a chance to preview the course once before the race and I am glad I did. The turns were tight and came at you quickly. There was a protruding manhole cover in one turn, easy to miss by yourself but maybe not so much in a crowd. 
  • I love the run course. The best part of the course is the four mile trail run right smack in the middle of it. I know most people don't like to run trails and trails are not particularly fast but this loop gave this race character. It was fun to run and very shaded. If it had been hotter it would definitely be a welcome reprieve from heat. 

  • I liked running through the Davidson campus. I did get cat called so maaaaaaaybe I am biased.
  • The Davidson community was super supportive and seemed excited to have us there. Unfortunately this was not the case when I went to watch Ironman Louisville so yeah my heart melted a bit when a little old lady stood on her brick doorstep and cheered me on with her fists in the air. 
  • The finish at Bailey Park was really nice. There was a lot of space to spread out and yet still commingle with the spectators. The playgound was perfect to distract kids waiting for parents to finish and whatnot. The amphitheater was a nice touch for the awards presentation. And most importantly, the walk back the car was short and sweet!
  • The finisher's loot is pretty sweet. The medal is big, bold, and beautiful. The shirt is well designed, soft with its "vintage-type feel", and actually fits well.

  • I do not eat meat so I was not too stoked about the BBQ. Luckily there were plenty of drinks, orange slices, bananas, and nilla wafers to keep this girl happy. 
  • 30 minutes after the awards presentation I was at home, laying on my bed, and petting a kitty. Win-Win-Win!


Friday, October 11, 2013

Carolina Half

Forgive me for being behind. I now have 38 drafts in my blog account. Thoughts I have had but have been unable to complete for various reasons. Now, two weeks after a race that weighed so heavy on my mind I find it is time to "git 'er dun" if you will. 

Pre-Race
Two weeks prior to the race I had a string of racing nightmares. You know you are living the good life when your "nightmares" consist of racing in a triathlon but you know what I am talking about - those dreams where you wake up overwhelmed with panic and dread because your head fills with images of yourself lost and alone on the run course or stuck in transition for 15+ minutes looking for your nutrition which suddenly went missing. After several nights of this I decided it was time to assemble the game face and go through a couple of pre-race rituals. I have only started collecting race rituals but they help prepare me mentally and physically for the race. 
  • I paint my toenails a fun color. I have never been a big nail painter but once I started doing it I kinda liked it. It is a little silly but whenever I look at my toes I am reminded it is game time. 
  • I buy a bottle of beet juice and consume a shot each morning 5-7 days before the race. A lot of research has been published about the benefits of beet juice. I just wanted to try it but it turns out I really like it. I view it as a treat, so much so I get excited about race week because I get to get my juice on. 


  • I go see Dr. Greenapple who makes sure my knee is up to par but most importantly he uses acupuncture to align my meridians so my Qi is free flowing.  Say what? Remind me to explore this further on another blog post. 
  • Finally, I shave my legs. A throw back to my swimming days, I make it a ritual to shave my legs the night before or day of a race. This one action does more for my psyche than anything else.
mikemikemikemikemikewhatdayisitmike?
RACE DAY!

James and I decided to stay up in Davidson the night before the race thanks in part to the generosity of the Ackermans. It saved us about 30 mins of race day travel time so we had a little more time to gather our wits prior to departing. We succeed in dropping our loads in all the right places and boarded the charter bus for the swim start. Exiting the interstate, I caught a glimpse of a banana, gorilla, clown, and beautiful redhead all riding bikes down the highway. My day was made and I had not even started racing yet.

A clown, banana, and gorilla walk into a bar . . . 

Swim (1.2 miles - 25:04)
I was a little nervous about the beach start to this swim. I cannot remember the last time I had to do a beach start, Ironman Florida 2009? Opting to do less running and more swimming, I started pretty close to the water line. The race did not quite have the sprint start I was anticipating so very quickly James, Derek, and I had a hold on the lead. I passed Derek before the first turn buoy but I saw him trailing close behind me as I made the turn. I settled in for the long straightaway but tried to pick up towards the second turn buoy. In the final straightway I struggled a little bit. The angle we were approaching the shore was a lot steeper than I anticipated and I fought hard to hold my line. I cut hard towards the buoy line but they weren't getting any closer. I felt like I swam a really wide arch but there was nothing I could do about it. I focused in on the orange man and just hoped no one caught up to me. When I got to the dock I had to stop for directions. Dock or ramp? I knew I should know this . . . but I didn't. 

T1 (3:21)
The run from the swim to T1 was long and all up hill. I made the executive decision to take my wetsuit off immediately upon exiting the swim. Nothing could convince me running up that hill in my wetsuit was a good idea. So when I exited the swim I plopped my butt on the ground and preceeded to take off my wetsuit. After the previous day's wetsuit debacle I was not going to take any chances trying to take the suit off standing up. My strategy worked as I was not out of breath getting on the bike and I ended up having the fastest transition out of all the women, a first for me. 

Yep, that's what it looked like. Oozing awesomeness.

Bike (56 miles - 2:36:33) 
Getting on the bike I felt great. I had a steady heartrate and I was breathing normally. The calm start to my ride ended abruptly when I went over a speed bump less than 500 feet into the course and lost my flat kit and a water bottle. I was going to need both of those so I circled back to find my flat kit on one side of the road and my water bottle on the other. Derek passed me mid U-turn and I started to get miffed that James would pass me much much sooner than he should. Then at the very first intersection, the nasty one with the railroad tracks, the traffic light turned red from green and as cars were beginning to move forward I saw the police officer, who was stationed at that particular intersection, still sitting in her car. I was forced to come to a full stop since the drivers were unaware of my arrival and had started to move forward. At least this gave me time to point and yell at the officer. Luckily she seemed to remember why she was there and I took off when the coast was clear. Moments later James rolls by. He said something to me, probably about his awesomeness, and motored forward. A few minutes later Kenneth flew by and I found myself frustrated with everyone passing me so early into the bike course. I knew it was going to be quiet day out there but 2.5+ hours is a long time to spend by yourself. 15-20 minutes later a brightly dressed member of Wattie Ink passed me and it was on. I just didn't want to be alone in Celine-Dion-land and I needed some entertainment. His bright kit and yellow helmet shone like a beacon in the distance guiding me through the course.  At one point I watched a small dog chase him up a climb. The effort was so intense for the little ankle biter he didn't even give me a second look when I rolled by. Meh, sprinters. Heath Dotson flew by me just before I hit the two hour mark. I watched him catch and pass my beacon/protector and the two were gone. Now with only 5 miles to go I had a bit of a different mindset.  I had slowly let my power build over the course so I put in a last hard effort before turning into the neighborhood. My legs felt great, my nutrition was on point, I, believe it or not, was ready to run.



T2 (1:18)
I tried to get in and out as fast as I could. I jumped off the bike to find my feet were numb which made my T2 feel very awkward. With the help of socks and gravity everything quickly returned to normal.


Run (13.1 miles - 1:38:45) 
Starting the run I felt great but I tried to keep my cool. I am slowly reeling in Mr. WattieInc and I am being reeled in rather quickly by John "doing the dew" Behme. I tried to lock in a sustainable effort and check my pace at mile 1. Of course I forgot to start my watch so I decided at that point the first mile was a freebie and I made it my plan to descend each set of 3 miles there on out. I catch WattieInc and Behme catches me and takes off. Suddenly I am 4 miles into the run and about the enter the trail. Behme had maintained his distance ahead of me but I can tell I am gaining a bit of ground on the uphills. When I finally catch him he starts to walk a bit so I begged him to run with me. Lucky for me he obliges and we trot together the rest of the time we are on the trail. 1 mile after the turn around we pass the next female coming in the opposite direction. I try to act all cool and calm and not the least bit out of breath but inside I was stoked. 2 miles up! I just needed to hold it together for 4 more miles. Sounds a lot easier than it is but I have my plan. The trail slowed down my splits a bit but I was ready to give the last 3 miles everything left in the tank. We left the trail at the 10 mile mark so once on the road I picked up the pace. Unfortunately I lost my running buddy to an aid station but I push forward determined to finish the last three miles faster than my first three miles. Finally I turned the corner and can make out a banana, gorilla, clown, and beautiful redhead tittupping at the top of the last big hill of the day. Their music, antics, dance moves, high fives and loud cheers put more energy in my legs than a handful of chocolate covered espresso beans. I am elated. I push the final flat stretch with everything I have left.



Final (70.3 miles - 4:44:59)
I wanted this race. I wanted this race for several reasons. First, despite my knee, I have put in a lot of work this summer. I did not quite get to have the race schedule I was planning but I still put in the work where I was able. Second, this is my third year racing the North Carolina Triathlon Series. I needed a fifth and high scoring race to accumulate enough points to take the top spot.   Third, in those three years I have been undefeated. I just wasn't ready to lose.




Thanks to Kerf and Nick White for all the sweet action shots. Special thanks to Tim, Kait, Story, and Scott for being the best and most entertaining cheering crew. Extra special thanks to Greg Petty for his very special cheering methods. And finally I would like to send a heart filled thanks to the Charlotte SPCA for providing 60+ volunteers who tirelessly cheered, handed me food and water, and most importantly prevented me from running off course like I did so many times in my dreams.