So many Things to report! I love writing, but several weeks ago I lost interest in completing my Boise 57.2 (an unofficial aquabike) race report –I mean I didn’t finish the race, so why bother? I’ll pick it up again here, though, because a few …um …Teachable Moments happened that weekend waybackinJune, and also because it leads into what I’m up to now. And if it isn’t clear, I treat this little blog as a public-but-personal journal. The excruciating detail is mostly for my own memory, but hopefully anyone reading or referring to it can glean whatever information they need. But first….
My Injury Report
My hip flexors have come back online since Wildflower in May and, while a far FAR cry from the athlete I was a year ago, I’ve made good progress toward cycling fairly strongly and “running” again. Aside from all the extra “woe is me, this brownie will be my friend” weight I’m hauling around this year, my biggest obstacle has been what I’ll characterize as peg legs: my feet, the right one in particular, don’t function properly in plantar flexion, and it turns out I have very little strength in dorsiflexion either. So basically over the last two years I’ve been jamming away on these stumps and letting my other bodyparts compensate for their stupid lack of functionality. The result is an overworked and/or underperforming cluster of muscles in my calves, some of which attach near the Achilles tendon, so occasionally my lower leg feels like it might explode. Whee!
The great news is that Blair “My Hipster Hero” Ferguson of Ventura Training & Athletics went away to a Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) conference in Denver a few weeks ago and came out a Foot Whisperer. We’re thinking I’ll be all sewn up in two more sessions, before I start the next chapter of training.
Anyhoo, back before I realized I was running on a pirate leg, I added Boise 70.3 to my race schedule: I would join Dusty and a significant portion of the Wattie Ink. crew (a ton of whom either live in Boise or in close-enough Bend-or-other-parts, Oregon) for my first trip to Idaho (state #40… though if you count airport layovers, waving at the border of Oklahoma, and driving through that little quill on West Virginia I’d be at 44).
Boise 70.3 (June 8)
Boise is a pretty small place, like a teeny version of Austin amid semi-arid rolling hills: the capitol building dominates downtown, and is surrounded by cute commercial corridors and totally gorgeous neighborhoods, all with a touch of the university vibe. We stayed downtown at the host hotel, which was a block from the expo, a block from the finish line, and two blocks from T2. Sue “Honeybadger” Marston was kind enough to offer up her house to serve as Wattie Ground Zero: we shipped our bikes directly to her, assembled them in her garage, and shot the shit with Heather Jackson and Sean “Wattie” Watkins over good wine and a fun potluck through most of Thursday.
Friday… we had some small dial-in workouts to do just to shake out the travel cobwebs. That morning we swung around to pick up Heather, then Erin Green (local gal and neo-pro) for a dip in the swimmin’ hole. I basically dogpaddled and watched the girls jostle for position on Dusty’s feet. Later, we had a 30-60 minute ride to make sure our bikes were working, so spun around town with Heather and Wattie. This was technically the first time using my Reynolds Element disc. I’ve never used a solid disc before: only a Wheelbuilder Aerojacket on my old powertap training wheel. The disc, plus my Reynolds 72 front (which I train with), behaved beautifully, so I wasn’t concerned about using it for the “first” time on race day. Later we went out to dinner with some of the crew (Sue and Jay Marson, Sarah Beth Barkley and family, Heather and Wattie, and Ben Hoffman…no big deal).
Although I was feeling low-key and lackadaisical, with absolutely NO pressure for my unofficial aquabike race, it had become abundantly clear race day would be HOT. Our group dinner was a sweatfest and we downed ice water by the pitcher. I overheard conversations about the bike course, but didn’t even look at the route on a map or check out the profile. No matter what, it was going to be my longest ride since Kona last October, and it was going to hurt. I didn’t need additional information about exactly how sucky it could get. But here’s the key information about this race for reference:
- Start time: for reasons unknown to me, the race starts at noon instead of the traditional 7am. At first this sounds fabulous, as you figure you can sleep in and you’ve got all race morning to have a good breakfast and let it settle. Well sure, but unless you’re pretty diligent about keeping a schedule and figuring out your nutrition timing, it ends up throwing you off a little bit. I read that an early normal breakfast followed by a pre-race top-off was the way to go. Just don’t forget to hydrate, too.
- Reservoir swim: that means a large body of deep, cold water, the surface of which is subject to the wind so can be choppy. Yes indeedy.
- The swim is roughly capital-D-shaped, and you start in deep water. Swim exit is a long, steep boat ramp.
- Point-to-point bike course: one long, crazy out and back, then a leg that circles around and dumps you downtown.
- Run: ??? I dunno, I didn’t see any of it. I understand it to be two loops through the University and along the Greenbelt, nicely shaded, and pancake flat.
- Transitions are cramped: this is a small race by most 70.3 standards. T1 is on a chipseal type surface, T2 in grass.
- And the weather…. you may remember some strange images coming across the wire from 2012’s race. It was bitingly cold and windy on race day, so, this happened:
Some pros elected to wear their wetsuits on the bike route, which had been shortened to 12-or-so-miles, on the direct route from the reservoir to town.
Cold wouldn’t be a problem. You probably already heard stories from this year’s race: it was really hot AND windy. As usual, Extreme Conditions help the strongest competitors and hurts others.
Usually the swim is the least affected by Conditions, but not here: there was both a current and a sizeable chop –the wind cut perpendicular to the first section of the swim course. Between both, we were getting blown beyond the start buoys and toward the inside line. That’s usually where I start, but it got a little chaotic and crowded at the start buoy, so I moved over toward open water.
When the gun went off the woman to my right TOOK OFF (toward a 28 minute swim split) and I was basically on my own …but when I looked under my arm I had a shadow. This lady stuck to my feet like glue. I thought about slowing to let her take a pull, but didn’t want to give up my rhythm. Besides, I thought, she’d shake loose eventually. We really had to lean WAY left in order to make it to the outside of the first turn, a sharp right-hander.
The good news is this was the first Ironman race I have been to where the new swimmy safety initiative had been partially phased in. There were tons of sighting buoys along the way, which made it much easier to stay on course. I stayed to the left of most of them, but swaged to the inside when there was traffic. Despite being several hundred yards into the swim, with the initial sprint long over, my shadow ladyswimmer stayed within sight, and I started getting pissed about it.
After the hard right we were swimming perpendicular to current, and the chop blew into our faces as we sighted. I was weaving around people from previous waves and started using people and buoys tactically: if my shadow was on my left, I’d graze a dude on that side and try to scrape her off me. If she was on my hip I would basically swim under a buoy, hoping to kinda clothesline her. She fell back occasionally or would get separated from me on the other side of a pack, but 50 feet later would glom on again. GRRRR!!!
The last leg of the swim was basically breathing straight into the chop, and swimming straight against the current. I continued on with my reindeer games and sprinted for the exit, finally crushing my shadow. Unfortunately the timing mat was at the top of the hill, which I couldn’t run up effectively, so she got the better split. I told her “nice swim” about three times on the way up and got nothing but a blank stare in return. Uhmmm … you’re welcome? I mean at least I still try to smile, wave, say thanks, and pay compliments on race day, despite being a competitive misanthrope. =)
My T1 was terrible. I slapped on my helmet and unracked my bike well enough, but I totally left my bike in the wrong gear, like a rookie. My shoes were clipped in, not that I’ve learned how to do a running start or anything, and I ended up just grinding along with my shoes scuffing on the pavement and coming to a complete stop with each turn of the crank. Ugh.
The first mile of the bike is a somewhat terrifying descent from the reservoir… and mostly terrifying because stupid people like me are being stupid trying to get going, we’re riding on the left side of the road against car traffic in the gutter with a foot to spare on either side, and the crosswind was insane. Scratch what I said about being comfortable running the disc with my 72 front: it was a little too much bike for me in those conditions.
At any rate, the road started rising up and I had a headwind, so I put my head down and grunted along at about 6mph. Mile four I was staying to the far right when BONK, THUNK, small yelp, OMG… I ran headlong into one of those four-foot heavy, skinny cones. What a moron. Dusty passed me two seconds later despite starting like 16 minutes behind me. I was in for a long day with no fun finisher’s hat payoff.
I’ll cut to the chase here: I was pretty miserable the rest of the ride. The wind was too much for me to handle at my current “fitness” level, and with the exception of a brief seven minute stretch, it was all head or cross wind, and not the rare kind of cross wind that does any good. Teammate SheriAnne Nelson passed me at the half-way point looking strong and on her way to third in our age group, Sue was straddling her bike at the next aid station deciding to fight another day, I basically just wanted to die, and ended up taking my frustration out on Ironman legend Ken Glah for blocking me. Sarah Beth Barkley passed by at mile 54 despite starting like three hours behind me. Finally, 56 totally gross miles later I dumped my carcass into T2, changed my shirt, and moseyed to a meeting point to drink beer and yell at –I mean cheer for—more people.
Cheering was fun, at least! Heather and Erin were doing great and went on to get second and fourth, respectively. The Hoff ran strong, as did most of our teammates. Then Dusty passed by and muttered something about not being able to make a second loop. I watched him make the turn around a block away and come back to me, stopping briefly when he saw me again. I know exactly how this goes: you see someone sympathetic and stick your tongue out in defeat, your brain wants to quit and your body just gives up the task at hand and stops what it’s doing. I snapped into unsympathetic mode and gave him a kick in the pants when he said he was going to quit. “No way. Walk the aid stations if that’s what you need to do, but you’re NOT QUITTING.” (Here’s his account of events.) He trotted off and I felt like a bizzach, but hey, dude got a Vegas spot, so there really is something to not pulling the plug until the fat lady throws in the towel.
Speaking of being a Quitty McQuitterson…
I’m not going to Boulder for the 70.3. Coach Steve, Blair, and I are working very diligently toward getting my run together, but we’re four weeks out and I can only run comfortably for 10 minutes straight. Even three miles is a big ask, and 13.1 mediocre, off-the-bike miles sounds like torture. So. That. I’m a big hypocrite. Whomp whomp. Instead, I’m heading to Milwaukee for the USAT Age Group National Championship, which should be fun. (PS let me know if you’ll be there. Have a Thing in the Works.) As has been the plan, if I’m still kicking in October, Austin 70.3 is a possibility.
A for Effort: Breath of Life Triathlon
Meanwhile, I DID finally complete my first tri of the season: the Breath of Life Sprint in Ventura, CA (June 30). Dusty did the Olympic, and I figured I could fake my way through my first 3-mile-straight run. Sure enough! It’s a pancake flat course, with a harbor swim (complete with big scary boat traffic), a multi-loop bike, and an out-and-back run. Totally fun.
After watching Dusty complete his two-loop swim, I was in the fourth wave for the sprint (the first wave of women). For the firsttimelikeever, I comfortably swam right next to my competition, drafting off of HER, and thanks to the work we’ve been doing at Tower 26, I sighted well and had a great line around the buoys. I was first out of the water, but just like at Boise, the timing mat was waaaaay up the beach at T1 so I didn’t get the best swim split. My transition was alright, nothing to report there.
We had pre-driven and warmed up on part of the the unremarkable bike course, so I knew what to expect in terms of road conditions and course layout. There is a short out and back with the 180-degree turn around, followed by a lap around a big block (the Olympic course takes 3 laps). The only challenge was all the traffic from other competitors. I spent the entire 12 miles passing people on the left, sometimes weaving around traffic cones in order to safely –if not entirely legally—pass them.
UNFORTUNATELY I was busy passing someone when I ran headlong into a massive pothole (by California standards, that is). I sat up with my hands still on the bar extensions, and the force –coupled with not quiiiiite tightening down a few bolts after traveling with my bike— pushed my bars down a few degrees. Not terrible, but not entirely comfortable or aero either. Luckily I only had four miles to go, so just plowed ahead.
I had a messy dismount but a quick T2, and was off for my Sunday stroll. It was mildly uncomfortable; especially knowing I couldn’t run any faster if my life depended on it, or I might DIE. I knew I was ahead of everyone in my wave, but at the turn around I saw four women charging hard on my heels. I ended up finishing (JUST BARELY) ahead of all of them, and as the first female finisher of the day. When results rolled in I was SOUNDLY bested by a woman in the wave behind me, so got second overall. Not too shabby, considering.
It was fun to meet fellow Wattie Yvette Irons McGue, and to hang out with the Conejo Valley Multisport Masters crew (fine purveyors of my swim workouts) before and after the race.
AND on July 4th, Dusty and I ran some races in the Pacific Palisades; a 5k for me and a 10k for him. The first mile was awesomely downhill, the second suckily uphill, and I didn’t have much left for the finish. I ended up with a fairly crappy time but 3rd in my Age Group. I think it’s the first time I’ve been on the podium at a 5k, except for one a few years ago where about 100 people showed up.
So that’s my report card. I’m getting an F on finishing less than half of my races this season, but a solid B for being on the podium at the ones I do complete. Hopefully things will continue to improve and I can get into an Ivy League school and finally make my parents proud. Or something!