Monday, June 14, 2021

Just Like Riding a Bike

There's a reason the saying goes "it's just like riding a bike". That expression implies that you already know everything there is about an activity and can pick up right where you left off even after a long time away from doing it.

I have been teaching Spin a long time (except for a short time I had to take off due to brain disease). When I trained for my 70.3 and 140.6 races, teaching Spin didn't count toward my bike training at all. It was more of a recovery effort. I would teach 5:30am Spin and then go do my long ride (up to about 112 miles or about 6 hours).

When I first signed up for IMChoo70.3 (like in September 2019) I had plans to actually TRAIN for the race. But then I didn't really ever get into training when COVID hit and I threw in the towel. Then in January-ish of this year when it seemed as though the race would happen, I was REALLY struggling to get started training.

I had an appointment with my neurologist where we actually discussed me doing a round of IV steroids again. I was having a flare of symptoms that really concerned me and steroids seemed to be the best answer. I decided to wait because I had changed my thyroid meds about a month before and the neurologist said it was a possibility that change sparked the apparent "flare". Just after that I got VERY serious with "clearing the muddy waters" of my diet. I did a Whole 30, and then partway through that 30 days I started eating Juice Plus+

To say I started feeling drastically better doesn't fully capture the transformation. I went from believing I might need another round of steroids to believing I might actually be able to finish the 70.3 (maybe not in the 8.5 hour time cutoff, but if I started early enough in the day I might at least not get pulled off the course-even if I ended up as an official DNF on the results). 

I felt confident leading up to race day I would have a decent swim because the current is so fast at that race. Having a decent swim would set me up to have "extra" time on the bike. I was confident if I made it off the bike within the time limit I could gut my way through 13.1 miles (again, even if it wasn't actually in the time allowed I believed I could finish it).

But, in my mind, the bike portion of the race was the make it or break it for my day. Spin class is about an hour long. I did the math before the race...if I rode at an average of about 14mph it would take me about 4 hours to finish the bike. Right at three hours longer than I was used to riding (because I'm sometimes on my bike for 75 minutes including pre-class ride time). FOUR times longer than my behind and legs were used to (and after swimming 1.4 miles*). 

I kept telling myself leading up to the race, "it's quite literally just like riding a bike".

I did not expect the swim to be quite so challenging. But when I got out of the water and got through T1 I was feeling SPUNKY! Dwayne, Cedric (husband and brother-in-law) and I all got to transition within seconds of each other but I was about 90-120 seconds faster getting out of transition. I was IN THE LEAD!!!! 🤣

I knew I wouldn't hold it for long, but it was glorious while it lasted! More importantly, I felt FANTASTIC. Except...there's always an "except" isn't there? I had a little annoying rub on the inside of my right thigh. My mind started racing "this is so stupid for you to be out here doing this...you are SO UNTRAINED...that rub is going to be a TERRIBLE chaffed spot, it's probably going to bleed...you are not going to be able to walk for a week-is this worth it". The barrage of thoughts were ENDLESS and UNRELENTING.

Until...I got to the first cemetary.

I remember when I did IMChoo '15. In training I passed that first cemetery and thought "I'm glad I'm on this side of the fence...keep riding". When Dwayne and I drove the course before his race the next year I told him that little mindset switch. When we drove the course the day before the race we talked about it again. When I saw that cemetery, the switch flipped and I was able to refocus on the spunk I was feeling.

The thing I LOVE about the IMChoo bike courses is the rolling hills (the 144.6* and the 70.5* courses are slightly different but mostly the same)! The ups aren't SO steep to be demoralizing and the downs aren't white-knuckle fast. It's a near-perfect mix. If you gear correctly you can really have a fast bike time. 

Hold on...I didn't talk about an important thing that happened!

Two weeks before the race we took our bikes to the shop to have them checked out, get our chains waxed, and just general pre-race tune-ups. (My good friend also let me borrow her -super fast-race wheels!) When we picked them up the day before we were leaving, the guy who worked on my bike told me he had fixed a little issue with the shifting.

Now, let me say...this "little issue" had been a THORN IN MY SIDE from when I first bought the bike. In middle gears it would shift on its own-either up or down! I had to actually hold pressure on the shifter in order to keep it from happening. Keep in mind, it's a TRI bike so to hold the shifters I have to be in aero. I had been on a hill a couple of times and had the chain pop off--not because of my own shifting but because the stupid bike would shift on it's own! I had taken it in no less than three times to have them FIX IT! Each time I was told it was fixed but it never was. I finally just told myself that's just the way it was going to be. Well, when we picked up the bikes, we didn't really have time for anything more than a little 20 minute ride to make sure everything was good to go. I was VERY nervous about this shifting issue because I had figured out how to cope with it the way it was. This "repair" might have made things worse! In that little ride it shifted VERY well, but I was still leary about it...until I realized partway through this race that it had not happened even one time!!

I can NOT describe the elation I felt!!! It was as if the angels in Heaven were singing the Hallalueigha chorus! ((For locals I'm talking about Tom at Bicycle Cove! He's a bike repair savant!!))

It wasn't long before Cedric passed me as if I were standing still...then not long after that my honey pot passed me. I figured I wouldn't see them the rest of the day.

But I was wrong. On one of the little hills I saw someone on the side of the road. Thanks to our very bright and unique kits I recognized it was Dwayne very quickly. As I rode by asking if he was okay he told me he popped a chain. A few minutes later, he passed me again. But not long after that I saw him a second time-same issue.

Not long after I passed him I realized we were not far from where our cheering squad would see us!! I could hear them before I could see them. I have to admit-I was feeling on top of the world knowing I was in front of Dwayne-even if it was a result of a mechanical issue, and even if I knew it was very short-lived.

Something happens inside of me when I hear friends and family cheering. It's like gasoline on a fire and wind at my back!

I actually don't remember if that was before or after the "hill". The half iron course turns left before the full course, cutting off two miles compared to the full course (the full bike course is actually 116 miles long instead of 112, making the race 144.6 instead of 140.6). Just before that left hand turn on both courses, there's a nice downhill section. When you make that left turn on the half course it IMMEDIATELY goes up a short but fairly steep hill. That combination makes for a TOUGH climb. I had read A LOT about that climb before the race. Because of how I was feeling on other climbs I decided before I got there I would just get off my bike and walk up rather than fighting to climb it on the bike. 

That would have been fine, but instead of executing my plan, I shifted as if I was going to climb it and tried (not for very long) to grind my way up. When I got off I was in good company. Most of the people with me did the same thing. Except this one KID. He looked like he might have been 16; he was riding a mountain bike and was not clipped in, and was wearing a MOHAWK helmet! Everyone cheered for him as he climbed that hill like it was nothing at all!

The cool thing about this climb is that it culminates at yet another cemetary!

"I'm glad I'm STILL on this side of the fence." ...and HALF WAY done!!

In my mind, right after the turn, I was going to be in Chickamauga. I was really looking forward to getting there because in the full that town is HOPPING! That's where special needs bags are and they bus spectators out to that spot and I think there's an aid station. In the full it feels like what I imagine the Tour de France must feel like! Not to mention my good friends (AKA Thunder and Lighting) live there. I knew it would be different for the half (no special needs bags and no buses of spectators) but I wasn't quite prepared for two things. 

First, it took FOREVER to get there after the turn. FOREVER. Second, it was pretty dead there compared to the full. And then I heard Thunder and Lighting yelling!! And then I saw my father, and step-mother-in-laws there holding my very own FAT HEAD!!

Gasoline on my fire and wind at my back.

Except the wind wasn't at my back and my tank was running on fumes at that point. And I REALLY had to use the bathroom!!

I slowed WAY down. Up until the left turn where you go up hill (the one I walked) I was averaging 15.9!! From the hill (after I got back on my bike) until Chickamauga I averaged 14.9. From Chickamauga until I stopped to use the bathroom I slowed down to 14. (To be fair, you go up a gradual hill pretty much that whole way, but it was also into a headwind....I got down to like 8mph!) When I stopped I was feeling totally depleted. I had NOT taken in enough calories...what I had decided to use was NOT going down well so I switched to Gatorade. It was the worse Gatorade I'd ever had. We decided afterward it had been leftover from the year before so it wasn't "fresh". I was a bit upset with myself for stopping, but it proved to be a VERY necessary stop indeed! I averaged 14.4 the rest of the time.

When I finally got back to transition I told the two volunteers at the dismount line I was going to sell my bike and I never wanted to see it again!!

Then I heard our cheer squad!! I reached down and took off my shoes incorrectly thinking it would help me move faster. It didn't. I got to my spot and racked my bike, slathered on some sunscreen, put on my running shoes, grabbed my hat and took off. Dwayne and Cedric were LONG gone but I'm proud to say I beat them both soundly with my speedy T2 time!!

And then I headed out on the "run", shocked at how good I actually felt overall. I expected to be completely stove up, but, other than expected fatigue, I felt surprisingly good all things considered!!

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around! 

(The bike photo is from the glory day of IMChoo '15 because I can't download the FinisherPix from this race yet...)

Saturday, May 29, 2021

"Swimming"

I really love it when I connect with the song that is playing at the start or finish of my races. Sunday was no exception..."Best Day of My Life" was playing as we walked down to get into the water! When I jumped in I had to question the song choice....

That water was COLD. Cold enough it took my breath away for a second. Almost cold enough I contemplated, for a SPLIT SECOND, getting back out and just throwing in the towel. 

Thankfully that thought gave way to my mantra for the next almost hour..."I KNOW how to swim so just SWIM".

There was NO CURRENT Sunday morning. It could have been worse-we could have been going upstream. But on that day it would have been barely noticeable!

There was a gal back on shore when we were waiting in line who I formed an immediate crush on...she was tan, thin and cute and had a cute sleeveless wetsuit. She had a short sleeved tri top on that was super cute. I pegged her as a very fast triathlete just by her looks. Well, as I was "swimming" along I looked up and saw her hanging on a kayak. She didn't look in distress at all as I swam by her. A few minutes later, there she was again, hanging on another kayak just up ahead of me! I realized quickly we were leap-frogging each other...I saw her the ENTIRE SWIM, along with another guy who was just behind me who was doing a modified breast stroke the whole time.

It was funny because I've never looked around so much in a race. I get in and I SWIM. When I sight, I just sight, I don't look around. In Augusta when we did the relay I looked around some, but the relayers were the last in the water so there weren't many people around me in that swim. But Sunday I spent pretty much the whole swim looking around! It was as if I was just having a lazy day in the river instead of being at the start of a 70.3 "race". Because I spent at least 80% of my "swim" looking around I saw SO MANY people NOT swimming! It was shocking! I didn't see anyone who looked like they were in trouble but I had to wonder how many of them were like me (very comfortable in the water, just not swimming) and how many were actually fearful and struggling.

I had estimated the swim would take about 45 minutes but I knew about halfway in I would never make that time. I based my minimum bike speed and run pace on that estimation, and I really felt like those times were probably all I had to give on the bike and run. As I watched the minutes tick by I had to throw out my plans for the day. What's that saying, "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face!"?

We were almost to the end and I heard my girl crush asking a kayaker how much farther until the end. So I told her, "we turn at that red buoy!" She said her goggles were so fogged she couldn't see the red buoy. I told her it was 10 of these concrete pillar things to our left, then around a corner and out. She said that was helpful and we both started swimming to our goal line. 

I never saw her again. She was probably really fast on the bike and the run!

When I got out of the water I looked up ahead and saw DWAYNE just seconds ahead of me so I took off running as fast as I could to catch him! About a minute after we got to our transition spot Cedric showed up! I was out in a very short amount of time but I knew it would be minutes before they would both pass me and I knew I would not see either of them until I crossed the finish line. 

I was right, and I was wrong.

Swim time: 59 minutes. It was the worst and the best swim I've done. Worst clock time but it was excellent people-watching!


Funny story...I found out later when I was talking to my new best friend/girl crush Dwayne heard my voice and spotted me chatting it up...he decided he was going to beat me out of the water and zoomed up ahead of me as fast as he could! (His time 58:27.)

Someone got video of me in the water! lol


Thanks for stopping by and sticking around!


Friday, May 28, 2021

Pre-race

I want to be clear here...this is a "do as I say not as I do" kind of post. It's almost embarrassing to put this out there as a coach, but it is what it is and the truth doesn't change just because you don't say it outloud.

I did NOT train for this race. I didn't honestly think I would do it until about 4 weeks ago. When we all signed up (my husband and his brother) it was my intention to train. I did a little bit but every time I really got into a groove I would be beaten down with autoimmune fatigue. That fatigue is unlike any other fatigue. It's bone-weary soul-crushing exhaustion that is all-encompassing (mental, emotional and physical). 

Then COVID postponed our race from last May until August. I never believed it was actually going to happen, and I was right. Then it was postponed until May. At the end of last year I had some "flares" of symptoms that actually had me talking to my neurologist about going on a round of IV steroids. We decided to wait because I had just switched thyroid hormone so maybe the symptoms were from that and not actually AE related.

My daughter and I were signed up for a trail race in February, but we planned from the start to hike it so I didn't train for that. And then there was McKay Hollow in March. I thought I had PLENTY of time for that one, but then realized the day before the race that the first cutoff might be tight for me to make...I did it but it was about a 20 minute pace. I knew I wouldn't have that kind of time at the 70.3.

Then in mid April I started eating Juice Plus. I had heard all kinds of success stories from several people saying they gained all this wonderful energy from it...and that was certainly my experience. But I knew I didn't have time to train, so I just kept doing what I had been doing: running/walking sporadically, "swimming" a few yards once or twice a week, and teaching Spin classes 2-3 times a week.

My plan for the race was to start and see what happened.

I don't remember EVER being that nervous before a race. But I've never been THAT undertrained, especially not for that kind of distance. I was so glad to have friends and family there to encourage me. 

We got to Chattanooga on Friday, got checked in at the race, spent some money in Athlete Village, got checked in to our AirBnB, and went to dinner. Saturday we spent some more money at Athlete Village, got our bikes checked in and then drove the course. I truly felt sick to my stomach. I didn't remember the course being THAT hilly when I did the full in 2015 (or in any of the training rides I had done there leading up to that race). My one saving grace was that I was certain the river current would make my swim super fast which would give me more time on the bike course. If I made it off the bike course within the cutoff I had calculated I would need to have about a 15 minute pace on the run to make the final cutoff. 

I got to bed fairly early that night and then woke up bright and early race morning. We all ate and packed up our bags and headed to transition to get set up. Because they had dynamic bib assignment this year we were able to be together-that was a real treat! We laid out our stuff, pumped our tires, visited the portapotties and started the 1.75 mile walk to the start line. It was super organized leaving transition-they had pace sign holders/escorts that walked the various groups down to the start...and then at the start it was PURE CHAOS!!!! It took an hour from the actual start for us to get in the water-and there were A LOT of people behind us!

Walking out to where we jumped in the water the only thing I was anxious about was the water temperature. I wasn't wearing a wetsuit (only my "floaty pants"-wetsuit shorts) because mine doesn't fit, I didn't want to buy or borrow one and I was convinced it wouldn't make that big of a difference.

I just kept telling myself "just start, give your best effort, and see what happens"....and then I jumped in....


I'll write up more race details later but I figured I'd post my Strava data for what it's worth. When I say I didn't train...I mean I REALLY didn't train...

My swim data:



My bike data:


My run data: 



((The last time I rode my real bike on the road was September 13th of 2019! Well...I did ride for 20 minutes Thursday before the race because we had just picked up the bike from the shop and needed to make sure everything was working well!))

If you are an athlete...re-read the first sentence of my post...do as I SAY not as I DO! (And, for the record, I will NOT be doing it like THAT every again!)

Thanks for stopping by and sticking around!