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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Update-Muskoka race report, and IMCHOO thoughts too!

   Well!  I'm a delinquent blogger yet again, but I figured I'd get up a bit of a Muskoka race report, as well as a few thoughts as I head into IM Chattanooga this weekend!  First up, Muskoka.  It was a few weeks ago now, but luckily, I remember the misery fairly clearly ;)  Two weeks before the race, I put in some of my highest volumes and intensities outside of camps ever, I had some really good sessions, I was feeling pretty good about everything.  Then race week...BAM.  I was still supposed to be putting in some good sessions in order to prep for Chattanooga, but my body had other plans.  I basically just slept.  And ate.  And retained fluid and felt like a miserable, bloated, fatass.  I spent time on google, convincing myself that I was clearly iron deficient, had hypothyroidism, was probably getting a mystery virus like before Cabo again, had some sort of autoimmune disease, and had contracted ebola.  I basically didn't want to move, a theme that continued until race day, really.  Needless to say, I wasn't in the most positive frame of mind of my life.  Luckily, Dave and I arrived up in Huntsville for the race in beautiful weather to our welcoming hosts Lowell and Katherine, who fed us well and graciously allowed us to dump all of our triathlon crap all over their spare bedroom.  When race day rolled around, I finally begrudgingly had to admit that I did feel slightly better.  Just slightly.  Getting out of the car that morning at least wasn't too much of an effort.

  The women's pro field at the race was on the smaller side, but talented and supportive.  We lined up several minutes after the men on a clear, calm morning.  Luckily, unlike the last time that I had done the race, fog wasn't an issue.  My swim start, though, was...well, less than inspired.  To be honest, I've been struggling mightily in the pool lately, and I can't really put my finger on it-allergies, ulnar nerve/thoracic outlet issues, fatigue, apathy-I don't have the answer, but I've been working nonetheless, hoping that it will pay off eventually.  Anyways, back to the race.  I put in the normal sprint at the start, but found myself dropped pretty quickly.  I was under instructions to push it regardless and sight often (I remember getting lost on the swim last time I race here...), so that I did.  And, lo and behold, I stayed on course, and by the time I got to the first turn buoy, I could see some women up ahead, not too far away.  I turned carefully, as there's always a high probability that I'll get off somehow at turns on swims, and pushed a bit more to catch up to one of the women.  I didn't stay behind her, though, as I was actually feeling...decent? swimming for once, and I saw a larger group just ahead of her.  By the time I had made it to the next turn buoy, I was within a couple of yards of them-the moment of truth!  I again managed to execute a sort of coordinated turn without drifting off course, and joined the group shortly afterwards.  After that, the rest of the swim was uneventful.  I basically just tried to stay within the group without obnoxiously smashing into Erin 9000 times because I can't control my body while swimming.  I think I only rammed into others three or four times, so this was progress for me.  The final stretch seemed to drag on forever, but eventually we emerged from the water.  A quick glance at the garmin revealed a time around 30:30.  Good enough, for where I've been in the pool lately!

Have to stop the watch!  That'll do, pig.  That'll do.
   After making the loooong uphill run and executing my normal hideous transition and bike mount, I was off.  I was slightly intimidated by the wattage target I'd been given heading into the race, given how I'd felt all week, and given that I'm just generally sort of bad at keeping my power up on turning, rolling courses.  Turns out, this was a fully justified fear.  It all started out ok.  I didn't feel horrible, the power was where it should be, the HR was up, I was sort of managing to stay in aero on descents and wasn't slowing to a near stop around turns, for the most part.  I did get caught up a few times behind a pro guy who was hammering the climbs and then coasting the descents (which...seriously, I'm a horrible descender, there's no way I should be passing a pro dude downhill, but that's another story), but I also moved up a spot.  Well...this did NOT last long.  I had my garmin set up to lap every ten miles, and I had average lap power displayed on there to motivate me.  I watched it gradually drop throughout the first ten miles, and tried to justify it by reassuring myself that this was only happening because some of the steeper descents, that it would get better once I got through the more technical early portion of the ride.  NOPE.  After ten miles, the lap power restarted...this time ~5W below the lower end of my target.  I'd hammer to bring it up, it wouldn't move, my legs would entirely just bitch at me, I'd ease up for a second, the power would drop, and I'd end up hating life.  Well...this was just NOT going to work for the next 40+ miles.  I've done this enough by now to recognize that A. I wasn't going to hit the power goal for the day, B. having this displayed in front of me was just going to lead to unnecessary frustration, and C. I just needed to get in a hard effort for the day, whatever that meant.  So, I did what any self-respecting triathlete who wasn't meeting her goals on the day would do: remove the evidence of this.  I slowed down for a few minutes to screw around with the garmin settings, and just removed average power from the screen.  There.  Solved.
My best "I'm annoyed, stop taking pictures of me, this sucks" face.
   Or, maybe not really solved.  My legs still just did NOT want to be pedaling a bike.  Not in the least.  I began to probably get a little lazier than I should have down the descents.  I found myself getting physically angry at the rolling-ness of the course, even though I knew the course heading into the race.  And my HR just kept dropping to ridiculously low levels for a race.  I spent most of the race well below where I've raced every IM in my life, and actually below the average of most of my long rides.  The cool weather certainly played a role in this, but still.  Well, at least cardiovascular fitness was there, even if my legs absolutely hated me on the day.  My only consolation at that point was past experience.  When I'd raced Mooseman on a harder week a few years ago, I remember similar misery on the bike, yet I still was able to get off and string together a decent run that day.  I kept this in the back of my mind, and just kept sort of trying, as much as I wanted to just curl up on the side of the road and call it a day.  Occasionally, I'd get passed, which I actually welcomed, because playing "try to keep him/her in your sights" at least gave me momentary motivation.  I did try to pick it up again around mile 40, to limited avail.  Dave came past at some point after that ("see how long you can hold him off" was the only other motivation out there).  I said something to him about my feebly low HR.  He apparently "wanted to know what was wrong with me", and then slowed down because he was "hoping that I would pass him back to find out".  Newsflash: having to burn matches to pass him back because he was soft pedaling was just annoying, especially because that was the one point in the entire ride when I actually saw an official.  Eventually, he passed me back again, and I made a halfhearted attempt to keep him in my sights.  By that point, though, my overactive bladder issues (when I'm tired on the bike, my natural tendency is to just drink, because in my mind, that somehow makes sense) had kicked in, and...I was doing a lot of coasting.  Within the last few miles, Erin passed me back with some encouraging words, and I just kind of dropped back from her and finally rolled into T2, feeling somewhat defeated.  The only consolation was that I'd managed to shave ~5min off the bike split I'd posted a few years ago (on basically the same wattage), so maybe I'm getting better at bike skills.  Oh, and as post-race pictures revealed, my aerobars were angled downwards.  I'd thought they looked a little funny before the race, but had been too lazy to fix them-bad choice.  Who knows if that actually did anything, but I can pretend that it did to make myself feel better, at least.  (Post-race feedback from Jesse: "I thought you had a flat the second half of that ride.  Nope.  Or that you tried to hit the target, it was too high, and then you entirely blew up. Ding ding ding!  Winner!)

Hey genius, your aerobars are angled ~20 degrees down was time to run.  I was still holding out hope that my run legs would show up, as I'd been seeing some of my best run numbers, well, ever in training heading in.  I took my sweet time in transition (all while thinking, every time I do this, I end up losing to someone by a few seconds), and headed out onto the run course.  The first mile of that was ROUGH.  Everything was annoying and uncomfortable-my right shoe felt loose, I had to pee AGAIN, and I felt all weak still.  So I stopped and tightened my shoe.  But I still had to pee.  So I again just stopped, stood there, and peed myself yet again.  So pleasant, but I was beyond the point of caring by then.  The first mile came through in 6:50, with all the stops.  I calmed myself, and just tried to continue to ease into things.  Mile 2 then clicked by in 6:20.  Well, I still felt what can only be described as "blah", but that was better.  I focused on trying to hold things around 6:20 for the next few miles, still tired and discouraged, but coming around gradually.  I passed Dave back somewhere around mile 5, asking him if he'd "shove me over so I could just lay there and be done".  He didn't oblige, shockingly.  Shortly after that, though, the course started to go through town.  Lowell and Katherine gave me encouragement and splits, and something about the crowd support and the course at that point began to perk me up a bit...or maybe it was just that the end of the misery was now within an hour.  My pace was holding steady, and honestly I began to feel the strongest that I had all day.  I gradually reeled in sixth place somewhere in that time, kind of laughing a bit to myself, great, this is where I'm going to end up, one spot out of awards again-story of my 70.3 life.  At that point, I didn't think I had a shot at any of the women ahead of me-third seemed to be way up the road, and Erin and Sue in the next two spots were absolutely hauling.  At that point, my mindset was still that I could get a good workout out of it, though, so I kept going.
My best, "whatever, I'm running" face
   Then, shortly before mile 10, fifth place came into my view...huh?  Maybe Lowell and Kat had been right about me making up ground.  For the first time all day (maybe it was the 2x gel and the copious amounts of coke consumed on that run), I truly woke up and just went hard.  By "hard", I still mean "I've seen higher HRs on long runs", but relatively speaking, it was hard-there actually was a definitive little bump in the HR graph at that time, at least.  I moved into fifth, and just started to run for my life in order to hold the spot.  Somewhere around mile 12, Sue came back into my sights.  I gave it what I had until the finish, but couldn't quite catch up.  All good, though-I was still happy with the payday, as those don't happen all too often in 70.3s for me, and I was glad to have salvaged, well, anything on that run.  For the heart rates, the bike powers and run paces had actually been quite good, I just had been too tired to really fire anything up...and unfortunately, places in races aren't decided by who has the best numbers for the heart rates, anyways.

You know what's an absolutely horrible picture?  This.  I was hoping that my face couldn't actually make that face, but apparently it can.  At least this says, "I really did try".  Maybe I can print these for our Christmas cards this year.
   After the race, I got to look like a psycho heading out for another 50min run (ouch), and then Dave and I had a few moments of debating an Austrian vacation, as he had nabbed second in his AG and a world champs slot.  In the end, we decided that it wouldn't be all that financially feasible, and we went back to Lowell and Katherine's to hammer in a bunch of venison instead...much better.  The beauty of being kind of beat up race day meant that it didn't take too much more out of me, and I was able to hit a few more key sessions in the following weeks.

Places 2-5.  My face, luckily, did not freeze the way it was in that last run picture.

And the pro podium.  Pick out the one who didn't shower after peeing herself like 15 times!  She looks really happy about it, too!
    And now...we're on our way to Chattanooga for the big dance.  It's been a long three months since Coeur d'Alene.  I was itching to get started again afterwards; if it was up to me, I probably would have been back on a line within a few weeks, but Jesse was smart enough to hold me back.  I watched Placid, I watched Tremblant, I wanted my turn.  But, at the same time, everything started to become about so much more than the race.  Coeur d'Alene opened my eyes a bit-I was fit heading in, I was prepared, I was confident, but shit still happens.  Triathlon can be wonderful, but it also can be cruel.  Nothing is guaranteed from now until the next finish line.  And although I've received my share of gentle coach threats about making sure that my bike is in working order before this race, stuff could still go wrong.  Many things will be outside of my control.  I don't know what's going to happen on Sunday.  But I do know that along the way, throughout all of this training, there has been growth.  I've had sessions where I've turned myself inside out, body and soul, and I allowed myself to just feel them again.  Sure, they weren't the race; no one was there to hand me a t shirt and a medal because I just pr'ed my mile repeats, or dug down deep to hit higher Z3 power on my second interval than my first one even though I'd entirely doubted if I could even get through them on the day.  But who cared if it wasn't the race?  They were all personal battles, and if I wanted to be happy about them, if I wanted to let myself feel some kind of combination of anger and relief and joy about them, if I wanted to let go of the frustration of the past year, then heck, I was going to feel all that and more.  It's so easy to get caught up in the outcomes of one day, but no matter what happens out there this weekend, part of me just knows inside that it's about what's happened in these past months more than anything else.  One day can't take away the months of work and growth and small victories along the way, and I've gotten further and further into this sport, I've come to realize that I need to appreciate those, as well.

  Of course, this isn't to say that I'm not the normal combination of nervous, excited, and self-doubting about Chattanooga.  Forget all of the awesome sessions I've had, I've had a few where I've crapped out entirely.  Swimming...let's just not talk about it.  I can find 1000 things to create self-doubt, which, oddly enough, is usually a better mental state for me to be in anyways.  I've been reading FAR too much into every single little detail of everything that might not be perfect lately, or wasn't perfect in my build up, of course-and there are plenty of these little imperfections to keep my brain occupied.  Still, all I want, all I really want, regardless of time, place, Kona points, etc, is to just be able to show up to a race fit and to be able to really, truly, put my freaking heart into it, without any major issues, physical or mechanical.  And as long as that happens, so be it.

   Thanks again to QT2 systems and Jesse, Quintana Roo bikes, Reynolds wheels, Normatec, Rudy Project, and of course my family and friends for all of the support and assistance throughout it all!!  I'll be thinking of you all this weekend while doing my best to make everyone proud.  And regardless of what happens...Monday *might* be my (cough, gag) dirty 30 (GROSS), so we will hopefully have something to celebrate regardless!!