Monday, August 8, 2022

Challenge Accepted...

Several weeks ago a couple of the kids I'm coaching challenged me to a duel...okay what actually happened is this...

One of them was training for the Huntsville Sprint Tri, the other one was training for that race as well as the Kids Fly Tri (a local kids triathlon I direct). They asked me if I was going to do the Sprint. I explained that I wasn't going to do it because my personal opinion is that race should be "reserved" for beginner/novice triathletes. It sells out pretty much every year so if "seasoned" triathletes flock to it, that doesn't leave spots open for first-timers who are maybe on the fence about signing up. I also prefer long SLOW races over short (pedal-to-the-floor) sprint races. At each training session they kept saying "Coach Dana, you should 'slow down' and do that race with us." I explained that I wouldn't be "slowing down" to race "with them"...I would have to speed WAY up to be "with them". Along the way it seemed they were spending more time fishing than training so I agreed to race them. I told them they should easily beat me so I made a deal with them-if I beat them they had to wash their mom's car! For the record they didn't accept those terms, but I did sign up.

I started training harder for all things sprint-snake swimming in the pool, fast transitions (including putting speed laces in my shoes), and I even practiced faster turns on my bike (I usually slow down quite a bit in turns). I coach these things but it's been a LONG TIME since I've raced a sprint, and I've only ever done one pool triathlon (my very first).

I was NERVOUS leading up to the race. I can't remember a time when I RACED an actual person (two people in this case). I have mentally set my sites on people in races trying to pass them, or I used to find out who was racing in my age group and I would have a goal of doing better than someone who was about my speed but they never knew that was my goal! I figured I would do the swim in about 9:15-9:30 based on paces I had been swimming (I predicted 10:00 when I registered). I figured I'd ride about 17mph with little/no wind. The run was truly a toss up. Some days I can run well, some days I can't. I was thinking I'd end up with about a 10:45ish pace. 

I was certain the boys would beat me on the swim-although they didn't seem to be swimming very well in terms of endurance. I was certain they would beat me in transitions because I was going to be riding with bike shoes whereas they would be in tennis shoes. They should have EASILY been able to beat me in the run, but they had not been running any distance so I wasn't sure what their endurance was going to look like. I was HIGHLY confident I would beat them on the bike because I have a fast bike, but I knew it wouldn't be enough to really make up for time I would lose on the swim and run --IF they put in time training, even just a little bit.

I picked up my packet on Friday and found out I was number 135 out of 400 (that seemed like a LOW number given my estimated time of 10:00 for a 400m swim). One of the boys was number 77 the other was like 153 or something like that. Interesting side note-the boy who was behind me put down 10:00 for his predicted swim finish time--that means A LOT of people predicted (guessed) 10:00. 

RACE MORNING

I woke up super early race morning and debated back and forth about eating breakfast. I typically workout fasted and don't eat until about 11ish. I was estimating a finish time of about 1:10-1:15. I usually workout longer than that so I decided not to eat breakfast (I think that was a mistake). I had packed my bag the night before so I just puttered around the house until it was time to go. I got to the race and set up my stuff and talked to friends until the boys got there. They got set up and we walked through all the transitions (swim in, bike out, bike in, run out). Last minute potty break, and I got in the shower to get my hair wet (so it wouldn't soak up as much chlorine). We listened to the pre-race announcements and then got in line. As we got in line my stomach started to GROWL! I had brought a pre-race Gu so I choked it down without water and told myself I would be fine.

This race sends swimmers in two at a time about every 6 seconds. The line moved really fast. There was a little girl of about 9 behind me with a man I learned was her coach. She is a fast swimmer and had a very low number but held herself back so she could be on the road with him for the bike. We ended up going in the water together so I moved her closer to the lane rope to give her a better line.

I've been training for IM70.3 Memphis since April, but my swim has been SLOW. Like SUPER SLOW. And I've had a VERY hard time swimming without fins. I actually went last week to have my iron checked because I really seem to get very short of breath swimming more than biking or running. Last week I practiced 400s in the tri kit I intended to wear and shockingly my times were faster than they had been, but still very slow. 400y (swimming short course) is the longest continuous swim I've done without rests in probably a few years! (I only did that because of this race). All that to say I fully expected to be one of those people hanging on the end of the pool to catch my breath. Instead, I actually swam the whole thing with two tiny little stops (only because of congestion in the water), and I passed A LOT of people. I did get passed by several people...including the boy who started after me that I was racing!! As he passed, on the last like 25m, he said "hey Coach Dana!!".

I was JUST behind him coming out of the water. I ran to my spot, put my sunglasses on, helmet on-snap, and bike shoes on...grabbed by bike and ran to the mount line. I wish I could do a flying mount, but I've never even tried to learn how. I used to start with my shoes on my bike already but I decided not to try that this time-since it's been so long I figured I'd lose time fiddling with my shoes vs just climbing on. I didn't realize it at the time, but saw it in the boys' dad's video-153 FLEW out of transition and did the most beautiful flying mount to get ahead of me on the bike!! So I was a little shocked to see him about 1/2 mile in when I passed him. He was on a slower bike so I told him to catch me on the run as I raced to try to see if I could catch his brother.

The course kind of makes a big square of right hand turns, but there's one little section where you make a left, right, left, right then left again to go down the wrong side of the road...then you turn around, come back up on the wrong side of the road...then move over to the correct side again. As I was headed to the U turn I saw 77... I yelled out "I'm coming for you!!" and I cranked it even harder!!

Coming into that turn around I made sure there wasn't anyone behind me (some people will try to pass in turns even though it can be dangerous, but I also knew I was going to slow down to make that U turn)...it was clear. I started slowing about the time I heard the volunteer say "watch the hole"...about that time my tire apparently hit that hole and I was going down-pretty much directly onto my hip (good thing that's the most padded part of my body!)! A police officer ran over to make sure I was okay. I was up and checking my bike-it was fine...I quickly checked to see if I was bleeding-I was not, and then after a few people I had passed earlier passed me I got back on and took off knowing that was probably going to hurt later. I passed several people and played leap-frog with a few people...I kept telling people I was passing "I'll see you later when you pass me on the run!" 

I came to the mount line and got stopped without incident, ran my bike in, racked my bike, helmet off, bike shoe off, bike shoe off...and proceeded to put my bike shoe BACK ON MY FOOT! LOL. This is why I preach "THINK about what you are going to do in transition before you get there!" My fastest transitions are always the ones I'm thinking about every move. I do NOT like my current running shoes. They are HARD to get on my feet. I bought new ones but since I had not been running in them I didn't want to start on race day. I got them on, grabbed my bib, my hat and a second Gu I had left in my hat and I took off. 

The run is where the rubber really meets the road. Did I push too hard on the swim and bike? How will I hold up on the run with only 2 Gus worth of nutrition? (It had only been about 35 minutes at that point so I didn't feel like lack of fuel was going to be a factor.) I realized that if I could hold about a 10:00 pace I would come in a little over an hour...but almost immediately I "had to" walk.

I truly don't think lack of fuel was the issue. I found out today my iron is actually looking good. I discussed with my hematologist how I feel when I try to push (like I just can not get enough air and like I'm just gassed)...she really believes it's related to my low T4/high TSH (thyroid). If she is right the increase my thyroid doctor just made SHOULD have a good impact on my performance. πŸ™πŸΌπŸ€žπŸΌ 

I had talked to a guy earlier about the run...he LIED TO ME saying the greenway part would be in the shade...it was definitely NOT in the shade! But it was super nice to know I wasn't going to have to do two loops like the course used to be. It was also SUPER nice to be able to see 77 on his way back as I was on my way out...but he was looking STRONG. I "knew" there was no way I would catch him-I didn't. I saw 153 as I was on my way back (he was on the way out)...he looked like he was hurting (stomach/side cramps). I told him he was strong and he could catch me-he didn't.

I shifted my focus to the next person in front of me...I played leap frog with several people. One guy I passed on the bike was particularly memorable because he is a bigger guy wearing an orange tank top. As predicted, he passed me on the run (actually in transition because he was riding flat pedals and didn't have to change shoes in T2); he was just ahead of me at the turnaround. I laughed and said "see, I told you you'd pass me on the run!" He laughed as said something like "it won't stay that way" implying I would pass him eventually. I wasn't so sure, but I was trying.

I was playing leap frog with a 52 year old woman (age is on the left calf)...I couldn't see the number on her arm so I didn't know if I had started before or after her. In the last like 1/4-1/2 mile I passed her with orange shirt guy in my sites....about that time he turned around and jumped as if he had seen a bear chasing him...and he sped up accordingly!

I usually have a decent finish line kick. As hard as I pushed, I was certainly not feeling like I was really speeding up...and then I saw my honey pot at the finish line! I had seen him twice before (at the start and end of the bike course). Seeing him always gives me a boost...but it wasn't enough to pass orange shirt guy!

I finished in 1:07:32. 

Swim: 9:08
T1 1:20
Bike 24:15
T2 1:10
Run 31:38

Good enough for 2nd in my age group (out of 17), only 1:19 behind a really fast Ironman athlete...I found out later she hadn't trained at all but I was super stoked to be so close in time to her! I was 27th out of 93 females and 74th out of 272. Interestingly enough in my age group I came in 3rd for the swim, 5th for the bike, and 4th for the run. I came in 1st in T1 and 4th in T2....it's incredible that I came in 2nd in the age group. (First place came in 4th in the swim,  3rd in the bike and 2nd in the run.)

Overall I feel VERY good about how well I did. I can see a few things I could (should) have done better...

I should have eaten breakfast (although I really don't think it made a big difference)
I should have paid closer attention at the turn around to have avoided the hole (although I felt like I was paying CLOSE attention so I don't know...)
I should have maybe run in my new shoes-or my old ones (although that might have saved a few seconds on my T2 time, it might have hurt my run)
The main thing I should have done... focused harder on embracing discomfort on the run...I talked to a lot of people on the run (not conversation, but cheered). I think I could maybe have pushed harder, but who knows.

Before IM70.3 Memphis I need to move my aero bar pads-they are new and they are too close together to be comfortable. It wasn't a big deal for this race, but for a 70.3 it will be annoying. I'm REALLY looking forward to Memphis! I have FIFTY-FOUR DAYS to keep training! It will be here before I know it!

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Lucky Number 13

 Memorial Day marked my 13th running of the Cotton Row 10K (sort of...thanks to Covid there was not a race in 2020 but I ran "most of" the course...last year the race was postponed from Memorial Day to Labor Day...thankfully I ran it on Memorial Day because we were "living in" Colorado Springs on Labor Day!)

Cotton Row 10K is the only 10K race I've done, and I've done it every year since I really started running! (Well, I did run a 10K at the end of Rocket Man Olympic distance triathlon, but I don't count that!)

This year was the first year in a LONG time that I went in having been consistently running. My expectations were still very low though because I had not many hills and my endurance had not really been tested in a while. My A goal going in was 1:15 or better (about a 12min pace), my B goal was to just finish.

Dwayne was announcing the race so we drove separately that morning. I had volunteered to get the awards so I did still get there earlier than I might have if I was "just" running but not as early as Dwayne got there! Since I had several boxes to carry over to the awards tent I got to park fairly close which was very helpful since I made a few trips back and forth. It was already getting hot but it didn't seem as hot as years past.

After I worked with another volunteer to line out all the awards I went to the bathroom and lined up in about the middle of the pack. It was nice to hear Dwayne's voice booming over the speakers! 

This race is special in that, because it's on Memorial Day, they have a pre-race program that honors our fallen soldiers. This year marks the 50th "anniversary" of the Viet Nam war so the main speaker was the daughter of an MIA soldier from that war. She had a gripping story to tell. This was the very first year it seemed EVERYONE in the crowd was silent as she talked about her father. They called veterans to salut and then played taps -- that gets me every time I hear it. After "America the Beautiful" we were off.

My plan going in was to NOT run with anyone else, but to just do my own thing-ideally working to do my very best ....

I can NEVER say/think/hear that phrase without thinking of this scene from Facing the Giants...


...anyway...My plan was to give my "very best" and see what that might end up being. 

CR10K is an interesting race. The first 3 miles are basically uphill culminating in "the hill", then the last 3 are basically downhill. Because of that, it's crucial that I not go out too hard on the front half so I will have gas in the tank to really fly on the back half. So I wore one earphone and played music that I could sing to! A friend passed me and asked how on earth I was singing so I explained I was running intervals and trying to keep gas in the tank. I saw her a few times but at some point she passed me and was gone.

I saw another friend, the gal I leap-frogged with at Cookie Dash...she is older than me but she is an awesome runner. She had no idea I decided I was "racing" her but when she said she was taking her first walk break I decided that's exactly what was going down-I wanted to finish in front of her somehow.

Here's the thing-I had no idea if she was injured, tired, training for something else, running both the 10K and 5K afterward...I just knew from experience that she is faster than me on any given day so I wanted to try to "race" her to give me someone to compete with. It would have been much more meaningful if she was a willing competitor, but that wasn't the point for me...I just wanted someone to "target"...and it worked. 

Up until the first decent incline (when my friend took her first walk break and I was taking my 5h!) I was trying to maintain a 3-4 minute run and a 1 minute walk interval. After that however my intervals devolved into "by feel/by hill". But I believed once I go over the major climb I'd be able to pick up the pace so I wasn't horribly upset.

I got through the first 5K right at 35 minutes. I was on track to slay my 1:15 or less goal since I believed I would negative split the race. I felt STRONG going up Mountainwood...a little too strong if I'm being honest. But I had not done any kind of speed work or hills (other than one interval run several weeks before with a friend who is running MUCH faster than me, but I felt like that was a one-off and she was pacing/pushing me).

On the way down Bankhead I opened myself up just a little bit and it felt GLORIOUS!!! It reminded me of the good old days when I could run fast! I only got down to about an 8:17 pace but it felt wonderful the short time I ran it. I actually had a 10 minute SOLID run!! After that I started the negotiations with my interval. It wasn't as hot as it has been in the past, but it was pretty darn hot out. Other than a couple of intervals I was feeling too good to walk I pretty much ran the last 1.8 miles as 1 minute of running and :30 walking. I took my last walk break with a half mile to go and then made up my mind to run it in from there.

When I rounded the last corner I heard Dwayne cheering for me and then saw him running beside me a little bit. I immediately got worried because he still hasn't recovered from knee surgery so he should NOT have been running! He only went a few yards with me and then encouraged me to pick it up to the finish line!

I got my pace down to a whopping 6:16 for the final few yards!!! The back half was right at 5 minutes faster than the front half!! With a finish that strong I probably held a little too much in reserve, but I ended up with my FOURTH fastest Cotton Row time EVER--1:05!! Here's the thing...I've only ever broken an hour one time, and the other two times I was working HARD to break an hour so I was just seconds over an hour both times. To be THAT close to my best times was HUGE!! (My next closest time was 1:06 in 2014 and then 1:12 in 2015 (that was the year I "ran" with Dwyane who ended up SICK with the flu that night!). 

The bigger shock was after I finished the race I was able to work the awards (which is a production since there are 2 races to give awards for) and I NEVER felt tired, stiff or sore even one time!!!

I was SO PLEASED with this race!! And, I honestly felt like I was actually "racing". Unlike Cookie Dash where I was convinced every single person was leaving me in their dust, I felt STRONG in this race and I passed SEVERAL people toward the end....including passing my own expectations of myself which is the most important win of the day!

The women in my age group are FAST so I ended up 24th out of 56 (still in the top 50% - YAY)! I was 742nd out of 1284 listed finishers (so not in the top 50% overall, but close enough for me!). I have no way to know what place I was among the females...results aren't broken down that way.

Overall I am THRILLED!!! This gave me the confidence to move forward with full on training for my next big adventure-Ironman 70.3 Memphis on October 1st!! I pulled the trigger and paid my money a couple of weeks ago and laid out my training plan. I've been very consistent in execution so far and I'm feeling stronger every day!! My swim is incredibly slow, but I started strength training today to help that along. Dwayne bought some new race wheels for my bike and power pedals ((that is the pedals will tell me the watts I am generating, not that they are powered LOL)). (It sounds like he was being really nice but the truth is I let him "borrow" my race wheels with a power tap hub and he didn't want to give them back!! But he could have given them back and then bought new ones for himself so he really was being super supportive and nice! He also bought me a super awesome Garmin for my bike that allows me to have maps and data in my face instead of just on my watch!)

I am just so encouraged and hopeful about what this summer will bring!!! 

Stay tuned!!


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Negotiations

It's been a while since I have run with the intention of running "as fast as I can"....a LONG LONG while. Because I had not run the Cookie Dash 5K on the new course I decided to sign up and attempt to "race" it. My A goal was to run the whole thing, but I knew going in that was unrealistic because I haven't run more than a full mile straight since last fall. (When we came back from living in Colorado Springs for 6 weeks I ran 3.5 miles of trails without stopping!! I thought I was queen of the world!)

One fact I wasn't considering-this is now an afternoon race. I do NOT like running in the afternoon. I don't see how people do it. I feel like if I haven't gotten my workout in by 10am the day is lost! That is especially true for running! 

Dwayne volunteered to make cookies for the race-which I found amusing since he NEVER cooks/bakes. But he did this all on his own! (They were the break and bake cookies, but he made a special trip to the store to buy them and baked them all himself-like 5 dozen (maybe more!?))

We loaded up the cookies and headed to the race. On the way we saw what should have been a TERRIBLE wreck! Thankfully it happened at the exact right time for us to avoid being hit head on, and at the exact right time for it to only be a single vehicle accident where no one ended up hurt. Guard rails SAVE LIVES! But it really shook me up to say the least. We also found out there was STANDING WATER in Dwayne's back seat (but that's another story for another day).

We got to the race; Dwayne scooted off to get in place to volunteer, I visited the potty and then lined up in what I thought was about the middle of the pack. But when the race started it seemed as though I was in the back.

Almost immediately I felt like I was the last person running and every person was running off and leaving me. I looked down to check my pace about 1/3 mile in-8:45. I wasn't running slow but it honestly felt as though EVERYONE was running off and leaving me. Small children, a man with a cane, a woman pushing a stroller...what felt like EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the race was leaving me in their dust. It was mind-blowing and oh so discouraging. I kept thinking "how is everyone here so fast!?" I questioned my data but I certainly felt like I was running "fast".

I knew I couldn't keep it up, so I started negotiating with myself. I landed on "I'll run 5 minutes and walk 1 minute"...after all I had been doing a 3/1 or a 4/1 leading up to this race so 5/1 was pushing it. I was also running much faster than usual. That first 5 minutes was an average pace of 9:18. After my minute walk break I started running again-with no hope of catching the runners in front of me (but I did realize I was indeed not dead last). My second 5 minute run was an average of 9:22. I was pleased that I hadn't slowed too much, but I also didn't think I could keep up with that interval. My heart rate was 177 which was fairly high for me. 

The negotiations resumed..."Okay, I will walk until my heart rate is 155 and then run again"...that took about 75 seconds. Hmmm..."Okay,  I will run 4 minutes for the next interval"...This time my heart rate got up to 179 but my average pace dropped to 9:19.

I was about 1/2 done and I was feeling it. I was wishing at that point that I had signed up for the one mile instead of the 5K. I kept playing "leap frog" with several people. One pair was a woman I know who is a little older than me (and a lot faster than me) running with a young gal. They were running solid so when I walked they passed me but when I ran I passed them. But they were talking NON STOP and I was doing good just to BREATHE.

After the 3rd "long" interval I started to walk but realized the aid station was just up ahead so I forced myself to "run" to it. That's when I saw my sweet husband! He and one other guy were the only 2 working the aid station. 

I SERIOUSLY considered stopping to help them but I quickly realized they didn't need help because I was so close to the back of the pack we were spread far enough out that two people could easily cover it! At that point my overall average was 9:47. I just couldn't understand how everyone was SO FAST in this race. Dwayne told me later that I was NOWHERE near the back. I think it was just a case of it being a very small race so everyone was very spread out along the course.

I grabbed water from Dwayne and he asked my how I was doing. I really couldn't talk at that point but shook my head and kept going.

Dwayne "gets on to me" when we run together because I talk A LOT. He says "if you wouldn't talk so much you could run faster". But 1) when I'm running with him talking IS the point, 2) I like talking more than running and 3) I haven't really thought about running "fast" in a VERY VERY long time. Well, on this day, in this race, I couldn't talk. I could barely tell the volunteers thank you.

After I left the aid station I renegotiated my interval to 1/1. My HR dropped to 154 and went up to 172 then back down to 153 for the next walk break.

I had a chat to remind myself my goal was to "race"...to "push". My HR was recovering quickly so I renegotiated again to 1 minute of running and :30 of walking. I only had a mile to go. Ideally I would just run it. I briefly considered slowing down to try to run the whole last mile, but I truly felt I would have a lower average pace if I did the interval so that's what I landed on, for the next 3 intervals.

At some point I passed a friend of mine who passed me back just after the aid station. We might have played leapfrog just a bit but at some point he left me behind. He was close enough that I thought I might be able to catch him so I set my sights on him. About that time a woman and her daughter who looked to be about 8 or 9 passed me chatting about my hat...I was wearing my Flying Pig hat (not from the Flying Pig race, just a hat with flying pigs on it). I felt so very discouraged that I was running as hard as I possibly could and this little girl was passing me, chatting it up with her mother.

I don't remember a time I felt so utterly discouraged in a race. It was the strangest feeling. I honestly couldn't figure out how EVERYONE was passing me so easily. It wasn't as if I was running super slow, my overall average at that point was about 10:11 which "should be" about middle ground for a 5K. (It WAS about middle ground, but at the time it didn't FEEL like it!)

When I got to where I could see the finish I had about 1/3 mile to go. I kept telling myself to just RUN the whole thing but my HR was telling me to take the :30 walk breaks. Even though the breaks weren't enough to bring it down more than a beat or two it was preventing it from climbing higher.

When I hit 3 miles I ran in the last .1 in 90 seconds at an 8:26 pace (peak HR of 182) to finish in 31:57. I finished 174th place out of 324. Solidly in the middle of the bell curve, a bit slower than 1/2 way, and certainly NOT in the very back like it felt. I was 8th out of 16 in my age group (17 really but the last one was the sweeper so I'm not counting her). Interesting side note, the female masters winner was 63 years old and she ran a 21:42!!

When I take a big step back and examine my performance against the backdrop of my "training" I did phenomenally well! That's the fastest 5K I've run in 7 years!! The closest I've come to that time was a 5K I ran with Dwayne in 2019 at John Hunt Park. We ran it in 33:34 with him pushing me the whole time. Before that I ran a 5K training run in 31:15 (9:54 pace) (surely with Dwayne) in October 2015, and a 5K run in 30:01 (9:09 pace) that was much of the Cookie Dash course (but backwards) on a random Tuesday morning. 


I completely believe I still have speed in me...I just have to train it back out!

Since Cookie Dash I've made the decision, and signed up for, Memphis 70.3 (October 1st). I've been swimming 3 times a week for a few weeks now, and I've been running fairly consistently on Tuesday and Thursday. I have ridden my bike twice...I've already "trained" more than I did for my last 70.3!! But the plan is to ACTUALLY train, with an actual plan that I will write up today that will include not only running, biking and swimming but yoga and strength training!! 

Here goes something!