Monday, September 24, 2012

I remember how to swim!

Tonight, it was back in the pool!  It's been almost 2 months since I've swam seriously, so it's about time.  No gentle introduction back in either.  Today was the day my town's pool reopened, and today was the first day of coached swim.

A bit rusty?  Yes, absolutely.  But, by the end of the evening, my water feel was already creeping back.  And something incredibly cool happened.

I felt my core.

Those of you that are seasoned, skilled swimmers may think that's no big deal, but while I've intellectually known for a long time that I should be activating my core while swimming, it's never something that has clicked for me.  Never something that I've been able to put into practice.

It was during a new drill, the corkscrew, where we were rotating in the water.  After a few lengths of near drowning, I started to get it.  And, I started feeling my core.

I truly think this is one of the missing puzzle pieces when it comes to my swim.

Now, I need to swim more.  Lots more.  Enough to make up for the last couple months.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Racing for fun, finding the fire - Melissa's 10K race report

Yesterday, I did a 10K race, Melissa's Road Race.  It was my first race since my half ironman late August.  It's also the first time I've ran 10km since then.

Going into the race, I assessed things, and decided, since I hadn't really trained, I was clearly not in PB shape.  This was also not a PB course, as I set that on a mostly flat course.   This one included serious elevation and was probably the most challenging 10K I've done.

So, I made the decision to race this one for fun.  No pressure.  No serious goals.  I was hoping to meet up with some friends before the race and maybe run together with one of them.  The meetup didn't happen though.  I got in a porta potty line up about 40 minutes before the race, and wasn't out of it until there was only 5 minutes left.  There were thousands of people gathered at that point, and there was no finding anybody.

So, I was on my own, which I'm okay with.  I've done the majority of my races on my own, and I'm happy to just leach energy from those surrounding me.

I seeded myself about a third of the way back from the 6km/minute pace marker.  I figured I could probably maintain a pace of about 6:20, at least until we hit the hills.  Those didn't start until about 2km in though, so by then the field would be spread out a bit.

The shuffle began towards the start and a few steps before crossing the timing mats, I was able to start running.  My legs didn't love it right away.  This is the first race I've skipped the warm up for in a long time, and I could feel it.  There is almost always a hump I have to get over before I hit my running rhythm, and it's about 10 minutes in.  By skipping the warm up, I got to have that sluggish feeling for the first 10 minutes of the race.

I'd checked out the elevation chart prior to the race, and it was no joke.  After 2 km, we started going up.  When we turned the corner and I saw the hill, I was almost relieved though.  It wasn't so bad.  Sure, it would slow my pace, but it wasn't so steep I'd need to walk.  By now, I'd hit my rhythm, so I powered on up.  And up.  And up...

It went up until about 3.5 km.  Then we went down (some).  I let the hill carry me.  I focus on even effort rather then even pacing, something that is essential in a race like this.

Then, back up.  I'd studied the course map, so I knew it was coming, but there were plenty of groans around me when we approached the next hill.  This one was shorter then the first, but part of it was steeper.  I kept running until my pace started plummeting and my effort was spiking.  Then, I moved to the side and walked the last bit of the hill - at about the same pace I'd been running...

Then, it was down.  Fast.  Turn the corner, see mountains.  Trees open up, see mountains.  It was amazing and spectacular.

I knew that the fast downhill would probably leave me sore the next day, but there was no help for it.  I just concentrated on keeping my legs turning over and letting the hill take me down.  Weeeeeeee!

It was at about 7km that we were back on relatively flat ground.  A quick mental check and I was doing okay.  My legs, tired.  But, capable.  And, I asked myself, what did I have left?  The answer surprised me.

I picked up the pace.  I was at almost exactly 44 minutes at 7 km.  16 minutes left to an hour, 3 km.  Could I run 5:20/km for the last three?

I didn't know.  That would be a faster pace then I ran for my 5k personal best.  I did know, however, that I could push it.

I picked up the pace a bit.  Just enough that it hurt a bit, but I still knew I could hold it.  Run.  My legs moved and found their happy pace, which is usually faster then I let them go.  And, I ran.

8 km.  For some reason the last couple kilometers, I frequently struggle in races.  It doesn't matter what the race distance is, but when I reach the point of having about 2 left, it's a mental challenge.  I kept running.  I kept pushing.  Surrounded by mountains.

At about 9 km, we passed a couple of signs I loved.  First one: "keep running, I'll take care of the zombies".  The second one was the one that gave me that extra push though: "The future: "It was worth it." Isn't time travel awesome?"

Yes.  It would be worth it.  Especially if I could keep pushing to the finish line.  Turn those legs over.  Sure, it hurt, but only for a few more minutes.  Half a kilometer left, that's what?  2, 2.5 more minutes of letting it hurt?

And I kept going.  I was passing people all over the place.  I had a way stronger finish left in me then I would have expected.  Then, as I turned the corner, I heard a friend call out my name.  And, I picked it up and sprinted to the finish.  One of the strongest finishing kicks I've ever found.

Final time 1:00:25

So, what happened?  I was going to run this for fun?

In the end I did.  It was great fun.  It was midway through the race that I realized why my running groove has been missing for the last month and a half.  It's because, for me, part of the fun is pushing myself as hard as I can.  That's why I can always muster up a smile even when I'm suffering.  That's why I love the coached swims that push me to the edge of my ability.  Because, for me, that's fun.  The slow easy runs are a break, but they only work that way when I've got the hard fast ones in there as well.

I might not have gone into this race expecting much of myself, but I learned two things.  The first, is a piece of the puzzle in how I tick.  My competitive side is not going away and is part of what pushes me.  I need to feed that side of me regularly.

The second thing I learned is that I continue to be capable of more then I give myself credit for.  Even though I didn't set goals for this race, I wasn't expecting much.  65 minutes, maybe?  I certainly didn't think myself capable of going sub-60 in my current untrained state or on this course.  Now, I didn't go sub-60, but I was capable of it.  The simple act of believing in myself going in, or just doing a warmup would have easily bought me that 25 seconds.

This was a race in which I transformed from the start line to the finish line.  When I started, I was lacking my fire, my passion.  By the time I crossed that finish line, I got it back.  I remembered why I do this.  That desire to push myself and give it everything I'm capable of.

That's fun.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What next?

When it comes to "triathlon Deb", I've been kind of floundering since completing my half ironman at the end of July.  At first that was necessary; I needed the break.  Then it was okay.  I was on vacation, after all, and part of the reason I did my big race earlier was so that I could enjoy the rest of the summer without heavy training.

Now, it's almost 3 weeks into September, and I'm still unfocused.  I'm running, but mostly short runs of 6 km and under.  (Although I am doing a 10km race on Saturday!)  I'm not swimming as the local pool is still closed until next week.  I haven't been biking either.

So, it's time to start asking some serious questions of myself.

What do I want?

I want more.

Long term, sure, I want to do an Ironman, but I want more now.

I want to reach my potential.

And, so far, I'm a long ways off.  Sure, on race day, I go in with everything I've got.  But, I can do more.

The monkey on my back is the extra weight I continue to carry.  I feel like I'll never get close to my potential until I let it go.  And, I think that is part of the reason I have been afraid to let it go.  Because getting close to my potential scares me - a lot.

I have always been in a position of knowing that I can do better.  I have always finished a race, and even when I was thrilled with my results, I knew I would beat it one day.  If I really do everything I'm capable of, one day I am going to achieve results that will never be bettered.

And you know what?  I'm ready to start on that path.  One step at a time.  It will take me years to reach that, but I'm going to start with the definitely achievable steps: Lose the weight, keep up the speed work throughout my training plan (I always seem to get thrown off of it, and finish out the training plan just getting the volume in).

I have signed up for the Calgary 70.3 again. I'm going to set a personal best on that course.  In fact, I am going to blow away my time from 2012.

Friday, September 14, 2012

I need to get faster

Well, it's quite official.  I need to start doing everything I can to get faster.  Why, you might ask?  Well, it's quite simple.  This guy:

Spud, my favourite little guy
He's now in kindergarten, and is a full head taller then the next tallest in his class.  He puts those long legs to good use.  It's become a thing for us to have a race on the three days of the week I pick him up by myself (the other two days, Sweetpea doesn't have preschool, so she is along.)

When we first started doing these races (last year), I'd usually let him win.  Then, after chatting with somebody about it, I started winning some of the time.  The theory being that he has to learn that he won't always win.

Now, there is a problem developing...

I can still usually win.  Barely.  As in, I am in a full effort sprint when I pull of victories against this five year old kid.  It may only be 50-70 metres most of the time, but he's running it at a sub - 4:00/km (about 6:45/mile) pace.  Did I mention that he's five?

My goal right now is to be able to keep holding my own until he turns six.  Then, I guess we'll see...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Do you wear your medals?

When you start doing this sport, it doesn't take long to amass a drawer full of medals.    I have yet to get one for a 5K, but have got some for 10Ks and Sprint triathlons, as well as half marathons and my half ironman (oddly, I have none for Oly triathlons).  And you know what, every time I get a medal, I relish it, regardless of the race distance.  I'll wear it for the rest of the day, or until I'm willing to let the kids have a turn.  Then they usually end up in a drawer...

A couple of days ago, the kids were playing "races".  (On a side note, if I ever need an affirmation that the time I take for myself also benefits my kids, it's moments like that.)  They had all my medals and a couple of theirs, and were running around and winning them.

All my medals, except for one.  Because I refused to share my Half Ironman medal.

That one, I put around my neck and wore for the rest of the day.  A reminder of what I am capable of when I put my mind to it.  What I am able to do.

So, if you've got some medals hanging out in a drawer, go and grab one (or more) and put it on for a while.  It can be from a 5K or an Ironman, but for today, pick the one that you want to remember and wear that medal.  You earned it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

DNS - A hard pill to swallow

A few minutes ago, I should have crossed the finish line of the Banff sprint distance triathlon.  Instead, I'm sitting at home blogging about it.

So, what happened?

As recently as three days ago, I was mulling over the blog post I'd write prior to the race.  It would be the first race I hadn't really trained up to.  However, 5 weeks ago, I finished one 4 times the distance, so I was confident I could do it.  It was going to be my fun race, my celebration race.  My no pressure race.

Until I started feeling sick.  At first, just kind of unsettled, then actively nauseous.  Then, yesterday, I took my son out for a short bike ride (while I ran with him).  That brief exercise left me dizzy and nauseous.

I considered doing the race anyways.  I hate the idea of signing up for a race, paying for it, and not doing it.  I could have toughed it out as I have countless training sessions and a couple races when I didn't feel great.

But, what would I accomplish?  Certainly not my goals for this race, which was to let myself have fun, and go in with no pressure.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I made the decision to DNS (Do Not Start).  I really wanted to do this race, but going into it when I'm feeling ill is not going to benefit me.  It may be "only" a sprint distance, but as I discovered when I did Sylvan Lake, a sprint distance can  be really really long if you have an uncooperative tummy.

So, the 70.3 was my last triathlon this year, and that's okay.  It was a good one, it was a strong one, and it was a huge accomplishment.  I'm happy to end this year's triathlon with that as my final race.

Now, onto a weight loss focus and a running focus for a bit.  Watch me get stronger, and next year's triathlon season will be even more epic then this one was.  :)