and other thoughts...

and other thoughts...

Monday, November 7, 2016

IM Maryland Race Report

It's been five weeks since I raced in Maryland.

Consequently I don't remember the experience as clearly as I once did. I find doing an Ironman is a bit like having a baby. After awhile you forget how unbelievably, horrifically, overwhelmingly difficult it was, and you start to fantasize about the glory of doing another one. Ironman amnesia!

Anyway, five weeks out from the race what I primarily remember about IM Maryland is this:

and I didn't even qualify on roll down! I just QUALIFIED!
Qualifying outright has always been a goal. It just hasn't been a goal I thought I actually might achieve.  I finished 2nd in my age group. I'm still pretty giddy about it! Here I am signing up for Kona the morning after the race.

So, IM Maryland.
The days leading it up to it sucked.
Because the days leading up to any IM suck! (In my opinion...)

Feel free to skip this whole prologue.
The next few paragraph are me blathering about gratitude, or lack of it, and feeling grouchy and anxious the days before a big race.
I know I should be all smiley and like, I felt grateful, and confident, and ready to race. But I didn't, and in truth I never feel that way as I get near to a big race. What I feel is tremendous anxiety that morphs, as the day nears, into a powerful dread. I do believe there is worth in telling yourself you feel good, full of gratitude and confident before a race. If you are good at tricking yourself, you might even believe it. But that isn't easy. In fact, I find it impossible. The only gratitude I could muster was for Andy, who spent the punishing pre-race week with me. God bless that man. The week before IM Maryland I was an anxious, overwrought, brooding wreck.

So here is some truth:
(still blathering, fyi)

Leading up to a race I think a lot about how I want to do well in order to honor the inordinate amount of time and energy I spent simply getting to the starting line.
I don't pretend that I'm racing for some greater good or to make my family proud or to prove that anything is possible or whatever. I race because I need a home for my drive. I race because I like to feel accomplished and strong. I race because I love to work really hard at something and then get the prize of feeling self worth when I achieve more than I thought I could.
None of my effort is altruistic, and so in the days leading up to the race I feel the heavy weight of that fact. I've enslaved myself to the demon of self improvement, I've blown off friends in service to my training, I've gone to bed early instead of hanging with my husband,  I've made my father-in-law drive the kids to school so that I can go to Masters swim practice and I've shirked taking the dogs for long walks so I can get in an extra mile when running. etc etc etc... The list goes on and on.  I choose to spend a lot of time on triathlon, and that time is time taken away from other things I like to do and from the people I love. The reward for all this is the satisfaction of having a race in which I kick ass.

And so the dread and pressure.
 Make it worth it. Don't disappoint yourself. Do. not. suck. Kick ass.

Thinking about executing a KICK ASS race--anticipating it--is torture. You desperately want it to be race morning--to be in that water and have the gun go off--and yet you also want time to just stop because it's coming so fast! I hate the days before the race so much that sometimes I contemplate giving up racing just so I don't have to experience them.

Okay, I'm finally done.

*race report starts here*

The days leading up tot he race were damp, gray and really, really windy. They made my dread even more visceral. I remember biking in the gray, windy mist the day before the race and thinking God, it feels like the end of the world is coming. Cue creepy music. Seriously ominous.

Then it was race morning. Andy, who had been so patient with me all week, dropped me off at transition. The weather was dark, windy and cold. Rain sputtered. I was lonely, wet and my teeth were chattering. There were deep, unavoidable puddles everywhere and a lot of ankle deep mud. My sneakers were soaking wet. If none of this sounds very fun, that's because it wasn't! I kept trying to think, BE HAPPY. BE GRATEFUL. BE KICK ASS.
But inside my brain the voices were more like... BE HAPPY. this sucks. BE GRATEFUL. fuck you. BE KICK ASS. this sucks. fuck you. this sucks. fuck you.

While my voices fought with one another I did all that stuff you do in the morning before a big race: nervously chatted with others, went to the bathroom a million times, pumped my tires. I put on my wetsuit early so I could get warm. I peed a bunch in my wetsuit. Then I went to the swim start. Where I waited. and waited and waited. They delayed the swim. They delayed it more. Then more.

I  met some new friends as I waited. There were some guys from Florida sitting in the grassy patch of mud, and I sat down with them. We sat there in the spitting rain, curling our toes into the mud and we joked about how the swim would be canceled, not really believing it would be canceled.
And then they canceled it.
There would be a time trial bike start by number.

I learned later they canceled the swim because the wind was blowing hard in one direction, and the current was going in the other. They thought swimmers would get stuck and make no forward progress. Probably this was right... but I was extremely bummed anyway. First, I thought about the hours and hours I had spent swimming leading up to the race, preparing for it. Damn! Then I thought about how I was gunning for a Kona slot, and how without the swim my chances of earning one were much smaller. Double Damn! I am not an incredible swimmer, but I am a very solid swimmer. I finish at the top of my age group in most triathlons in the swim, and this gives me a head start on the bike, which is my weakest leg. Without that head start I knew my chances of getting Kona were slim.

Anyway, it was time to readjust! this sucks.  I could do this! fucking fuck. I took off my dry wetsuit (dry except for the huge amount of peeing I had done in it since putting it on) and immediately I was freezing. It was still sputtering rain and the wind made it so cold. At one point a few nice women racked near me noticed I was blue in the lips and shaking violently. They were bigger women--or bigger than me, anyway... and they offered to sandwich me in a hug! And I said yes! That helped get me warm for real. They hugged me for like 10 minutes. No lie. I love those women. Sometimes things happen that reaffirm your love and faith in people. I finally felt the gratitude I wanted so badly to truly feel. That long, long, hug--being sandwiched between two women bigger than me who could make me warm--I was damn grateful for that.

After what seemed like hours we lined up according to number, and we were sent off at 10 second intervals. The numbers ahead of me consisted of women. All women. When I first got onto the bike and started passing people I felt as if I were in an all female race! It was a bit strange, as I have never actually competed in an all female race. Once on the bike I started to get warm again, but it did take awhile. I had put on a thin sweatshirt before the start because I was shaking so violently from the cold I thought I might not be able to balance on the bike once I got on it.

Exhibit A: The sweatshirt--not designed for racing--and certainly not something I had planned to wear racing. Note the blue lips--and this was taken a least a half hour into the bike  I'm not lying when I say I was really, really, cold.

For the first 10 miles or so I focused on nothing except getting warm. My inner voices joined together in a chant that went something like, Must get warm. Must get warm. chatter chatter. Must get warm. I don't even think I looked at my bike computer for the first 30 minutes. I was just so cold. I realize now I was mostly likely hypothermic. Actually, I realized it then. My brain was fuzzy and I was on autopilot. MUST GET WARM.

The bike course was stunningly flat. It was, however, annoying windy. I mostly spent the first part of the bike passing women and telling myself not to fight the wind. Every once in a while a woman would pace me, and I would take note of her. My age group? I had studied the entry list and I knew exactly which women I had to worry about. I also knew that most of the women who might beat me overall would slaughter me on the bike--so I counted the women who passed me and told myself I had to pass each of those women back on the run.  As I warmed up, I started to believe I could do it. I just needed to pull it together and focus.

I stopped at Special Needs because I finally felt warm enough to take off my sweatshirt. I also needed to grab some bottles and fix the center bolt on my cassette-which appeared to be unscrewing itself as I rode. I pulled up and started screaming my number. For some reason I was getting no response from the volunteers (or so it seemed to my addled brain) and I began to panic, screaming my number more and more loudly. (I'm sure those volunteers loved me! Gratitude!) Finally a volunteer handed me my bag, but by then I was in such a tizzy that I forgot to screw back in that bolt!

Still, I was no longer blue, no longer shaking, and I was ready to ride! (56 miles into the bike I was ready to ride. Awesome!) I just needed the bolt not to completely unscrew itself...

Then it started to pour.

There was enough flooding on the bike course so that it had to be re-routed. In this picture you can see the water inching close to the roadway. A few hours after this photo was taken, this part of the course became completely flooded out.

This is not me, but this is the bike course a few hours later.

It poured for a lot of the second loop, but I had warmed enough and I was working hard enough that I didn't get super cold again. Phew! I played cat and mouse with a few people on the bike,and I re-passed a few of the women who had passed me earlier in the race.  About a half hour after I had stopped at special needs I looked down at my cassette and that pesky BOLT WAS GONE. Just gone!
But my bike was still working... so maybe it was okay? I began to pray. Please don't fall apart on me little cassette! Please just hold on! 
People often ask whether I get bored being on the bike riding for such long stretches. In practice, yes. In a race? Never. Why? Because the voices in my head scream at me the whole time! On this ride the voices went something like: Damn rain, Damn woman! I'll get you back on the run! Eat. How many bottles have I had? Drink. Drink now. Keep to your watts. No! Don't fight the wind! Pass that loser! Eat. Damn rain. Your cadence is too low. Drink! and so on.

By the time I rolled into the bike finish I was so relieved. No, the ride had not been stellar. BUT IT WAS OVER! And I hadn't over-ridden it, and my cassette was still intact, and I was no longer cold. I could do this!

I saw Andy as I got off the bike. Great ride, Mary! You got this! Of course, it hadn't been a great ride and he knew that, but what else was he going to say? Shitty ride, Mar! You better find those run legs fast!!

It's okay that he didn't say that. I already knew what I had to do. I had to run--and I had to run well from beginning of that marathon to the end. It was cool, I wasn't too tired, I had trained for this, and I needed to GET IT DONE. My confidence was back.

I stormed through transition and started the run. I felt great!
And then I realized I had to take a dump.
Like immediately.
That moment.
Like if I didn't find a port-a-john in 30 seconds I was definitely going to shit myself.


At the end of mile 2 I saw a set of port-a-johns and I beelined for them.
I had made it!

And then....
I waited.
Apparently my body was like, Hey! Awesome! You found a toilet. Grab a magazine, sweetie. It's time to chill out... 
After what seemed like five minutes the urge came back. (TMI... sorry!)
How much time did I lose?

I've decided that the results in any given race should read something like this:

Mary Holt-Wilson. Run. 3:40:27***

What does an asterisk mean here you ask?
You look to the bottom of the results and see:

* denotes a person who had to stop on the run to take a shit.
** denotes a person who had to stop on the run to take a shit and it took more than a minute.
*** denotes a person who had to stop on the run to take a shit and it took like FIVE FUCKING MINUTES.

Don't you think they should include such info?
Because... really. I ran faster than that damn 3:40.

Anyway, onward.

I felt much better after my stop.
I began clipping off 8:10 miles, which was my target pace. I felt strong and I was passing people. I could do this.

The run had been re-routed because of flooding, but unfortunately, the re-routing still had us running in flooded areas. There were, I believe, 5 stretches of knee deep water that lasted from a tenth of a mile to a quarter mile. The course wove back and forth over these stretches 5 different times. So yes, we spent miles and miles of this race trying to get through water that was at best ankle deep, and at worst knee deep.

 Side Note: This is a picture of John Young trying to run through a stretch of water. Many New England triathletes might recognize him.  He has dwarfism. He is the first person with dwarfism to finish an Ironman! It was really cool to be on the course while he was.

Once I hit the first stretch of water I knew my run would be a bit slower than I had projected. On the plus side, though, I noted that most people were walking through the water. If I could just try to run through all of it, would I have an advantage?

The parts of the course that weren't flooded were awesome, of course. For one thing, I felt good not being slowed down by water! But also, the course was flat and the weather was cool. I divided the run into 6 mile sections in my brain, and tried to focus on keeping each mile below 8:10 pace.

The road was great when it was not flooded!

I thought it possible that at one point I would crumble and start to slow. But I didn't. I kept thinking, NOT THIS MILE. This mile I am still strong. And I stayed that way! I passed three women who I knew were contenders--women I had cyber-stalked before the race and who I knew would be women I'd have to really race. I could do this. How many women were still ahead of me?

The last mile seemed to last forever. I had slowed a bit, but not much, and I just wanted to see that finish line so so so badly! I could hear the announcer--I knew I was close, and I knew that I was very close to hitting my goal time--a 3:45.

And I did it! Over course, I'm not looking particularly glamorous in this photo, but it does show my triumph! The fastest IM marathon I had run to that point had been 4:01. This was a 3:40--and it had included taking a shit and the flooding! I couldn't believe it!

Two steps after this picture was taken I suddenly felt violently ill and dry heaved on the spot. The I dry heaved again. Then a volunteer led me to a trash can and I booted big time.
Still, I was smiling as I booted.

After throwing up I hobbled over to have my picture taken:

I found Andy and he was happy for me. The thing is--I know that my IM racing is mine. People are happy for me when I do well, but it's sort of an abstraction for most people I think. Oh good ! You did well! Then they move on. (I'm not resentful about this! Really! It's the way we are as humans. You know? This is MY thing--etc). Anyway, Andy hugged me and you know? I KNEW he was genuinely, truly, bottom of  his heart so happy for me. Do you know how good that feels? He knew how much it meant to me, and he felt happiness for me. It was pretty cool. He's a very good egg. Gratitude.

I knew I had finished pretty high up in my age group given the number of women I had passed. But I didn't know if I had finished top two. When I finished the results read I was first, but because of the time trial start, it was impossible to know whether I was actually first or not.  Later on, I learned I was second. I had finished ahead of all of the women I had deemed a threat, but another woman had entered the race at the last minute--and so she wasn't on my radar. Because she entered so late they gave her a number in the 2000s, even though our age group was in the 800s. Because of the TT start, she finished well after me, but her overall time was much faster than mine. Still, I beat her in the marathon. :) I still can't believe it. I really can't. No more dread. That hard work really did result in a great performance for me. I did kick ass!

This is not a great picture, but you can see here my competitors, all of whom, except for the winner, Hilary, I had identified and cyber-stalked before the race. From the left, Merle, me, Hilary (the winner) and Florence. Missing is Kim Ashworth, a FB friend, fellow New Englander and killer runner who was also most definitely a woman I knew would be a contender! Kim kicked ass, too, obviously! 

The end.
Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Recap of Rev3 OOB Half. I know... I'm 2 months behind.

So, I may be a little behind in my race recap reporting. Sorry about that. I know you all get on Facebook every day and just hope that this is FINALLY the day that I, Mary, will have updated my blog. Well, that day has come! The waiting is over.
Unless you stop waiting a few years ago when I stopped writing at all consistently. In that case, well, SURPRISE! Here I am! Remember me?

I have three truly exciting things on which to report: Rev3 OOB, IM Maryland, and my trip to Kona to sherpa Ange in the IMWC. Today I will only get to the first of these three. I had ambition to write about all three in one post, but then I got real.

In late August I completed my third half IM of the season--the REV 3 Old Orchard Beach Half. The race takes place in OOB, Maine, about 1 mile from where I live in the summer--so it's a bit of a necessity that I do either the Oly or the half distance every year.

Here's how the race went:

I had a great swim, a super lame bike in which I missed a turn and rode into a ditch, and a very solid run.

Sadly, I don't remember the day with a crystal clear lens. The bike, especially, is a bit foggy around the edges. This is not because I was dehydrated or inebriated or- ated of any kind at at any point during the race. The race just happened a long time ago now and I'm getting older...memory ain't what it used to be, etc.

Anyway, here's what I remember:

My friend Anne was there. She is an uber awesome amazing triathlete, and she is MY FAVORITE PERSON to draft off of in the swim because she is faster than me, but not so much faster that I can't stay on her feet. This probably makes me a reprehensible person. She's my friend, and yet when I see her at a race I get all hyper excited because maybe I can find her feet and latch on! (Sorry, Anne. I'm terrible.) Anyway. We ran into the water, I splashed around a bit, and then I found her... and I followed her lovely feet from the first salty wave to the end of the swim. We stumbled out of the water together, and in the ultimate show of unfairness, I stumbled out JUST before her, by like a second. Actually, I remember now that what really happened was that I stayed on her feet the whole swim until I caught a wave at the tail end of it and rode that wave in. (It might be a slight advantage that I swim in this stretch of ocean and ride its waves every summer.) Anyway, this is why I am a bit in front of her here. So right. I know what you think of me. But I did have a great swim! I was first in our AG! (I know, I know...)

Here I am coming out of the water. Anne is right behind me in the pink cap.

Anyway. Anne was having none of this. She saw me, and (probably) disgusted, she turned on the jets, and put a minute on me just running into transition. Actually, I think she was probably out of transition and on her bike before I even got to transition. Anne is a better swimmer than me. She is also better at transitioning fast (obviously) than me. Finally, she is a better cyclist than me. Actually, she's a way way wayyyyyyyyy better  cyclist than me. So I had had my fun. I knew I wouldn't see her again until she passed me coming the other direction, finishing the run as I started it. Okay, maybe she wouldn't be that far ahead, but you get the picture.

I'm not sure, but it might be I'm not a badass like Anne (or the other trillion female badasses on the bike I know, like Carrie, Ange, Michelle S, Rebecca P, and OMG I could go on and on) because of attitude.

Exhibit A:
Anne coming out of transition on the bike:

Exhibit B:
Mary coming out of transition on the bike:

Hmmm. I don't know... Who do you think will win? It's definitely a toss up here.

So, one of my goals for next season is to get strong and get badass on the bike. Also, I plan to never smile again in any race picture ever and I plan to stay in aero every second of every ride, and also I plan to get my bike all pimped out so it's actually super aero and not a big mess like it is now.  I will never be strong on the bike like Carrie, Anne and Ange--I get that--but I would like to be MORE BADASS than I am now... which is to say, not badass at all.

Okay, I digress.

In addition to not being a badass on the bike even on a good day, I was not feeling it on this particular ride. The OOB course is also the place in which I train like every day in the summer, so it felt like I was just on a training ride with 1,000 of my best buddies as opposed to in a race. Unfortunately, my 1,000 best buddies kept leaving me in the dust.  I swear I passed no one and I got passed one trillion times. I just had no umph.  In retrospect, I think my bike problem stemmed from the fact that at that point in the season I was five weeks out from IM Maryland. My training for the weeks leading up to the race had been pretty intense, and though I did rest a good four days before the race, it wasn't enough to get my legs back. I could feel fatigue in my quads from the first pedal stroke, and my mojo was MIA. This was most apparent to me when at a sharp left-hand turn, a turn I have made on like every training ride ever, I spaced out, missed the turn, and rode into a grassy ditch. I didn't fall. I just ... rode into a ditch. Did I panic? No. I was like... hmmm. I just rode into a ditch. I pulled myself out, and then proceeded to try to pull the grass from my chain and cassette. Racers rode past me, probably chuckling, like, WTF, she just rode into a ditch! And since I didn't actually fall, I had no war wounds and I couldn't cry and be all like, I crashed! OMG! Nope. I just had grass in my shorts and bike grease on my calves. Awesome.

Later in the ride I saw Alina and Andy, who had come out to support me in the race. Andy had been taking pictures of cyclists all day so that when I got there he would be all practiced and get an AWESOME shot of me. He was down on the ground and all professional looking, so racers thought he was a race photographer and they smiled at him! For example:

The second girl is totally smiling for the camera. All I want to say is this: Lose the losers number 371! WTF--people have no shame in drafting-land. Really? Ride your own damn race you cheaters.
(My turn to be disgusted? But drafting in the swim is legal!! ;)

So, anyway.
Finally, FINALLY I turned the corner and Alina could flash her awesome sign!!

Unfortunately, I was not go-go-going fast. Sigh.

Anyway, they saw me, and then Andy got in there and got the picture!! Woot!

JK. Andy took like 100 awesome pictures. This one cracked me up.

I finished the bike in fine, but very slowwwwwww style. I finished so deep in the bike results I couldn't even find myself later on when I went to look. Argh.

One advantage of my slow bike turned out to be that it allowed me to run well. I felt AWESOME when I finally got onto the run course. It was hot and humid, but I was running people down right and left and feeling like I was all that. This lasted until about mile 8, and probably would have lasted the whole run if I had just taken a gel at mile 8 like I was supposed to do. It wasn't even that bad after mile 8. It just didn't feel as awesomely smooth as it had before mile 8.

On a side note, here's something WEIRD. My number belt went under my tri top and was up around my waist, and I didn't even know this! I had some chafing when I finished, but I never freaking noticed that my scratchy, paper race number and my belt were completely up and under my shirt, by my bra. Seriously?

This is about mile 5. Note-- my face when I don't know I'm being photographed. Also note my crumply belly--paper number scratching away beneath my shirt. I'm hot!

 and, here's my face when I realize I am being photographed. All smiles, baby!

I point out the difference here, lest for a MOMENT you believe I am actually all happy when I race. I'm not. I'm in hell-- a hell in which I wonder Why TF I race and wonder if I will die if I take one more step. Really. In the second picture I look like I just LOVEEEEEE the fact that I have 8 miles to go and I'm running in pee-soaked shorts and I'm a sweaty mess with a number belt riding up by my boobs. Yep. I'm sure.

I am, however, always, truly happy at the end of a race. Why? BECAUSE IT'S OVER!  And when it's over I instantly forget how I planned to give up racing forever just five minutes earlier. Insanity.

In this race I ran myself from like 500th place to 3rd in my AG and 10th woman overall. I'm super proud of that--except maybe I shouldn't be proud because I had to run myself up from like 500th place because my bike sucked so bad. This race actually foreshadows the race I would do in five weeks--Ironman Maryland--where I had a very mediocre bike and a really solid run.
It's not a bad way to race.
I just want more.
Of course I do!

Okay, more later.
And thank you to Alina and Andy for running all over the course to cheer me on, and to Andy for taking all of these awesome pics! (I even love that one on the bike... ;)And to Ange for being my loyal, supportive, awesome, smart, friend and coach.

In closing, here is a picture of the sun setting in Ocean Park, just a mile down the road from the race site. Love that place. Miss that place.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

2016 Casco Bay Swim/Run Report

So... this happened last weekend!

I first learned of the Casco Bay Islands Swim/Run in early January. I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of it. I love the Casco Bay Islands, having grown up in nearby Cape Elizabeth, and the thought of swimming to and running across each island sounded incredibly cool.

I thought about who might be willing to be my partner in the event, and soon after I asked my friend Carrie (super triathlete and fellow Cape Eliabether) if she had any interest in applying with me to get in.  She said yes! So, we applied. We found out in March that we had be selected to compete. And then ... well, then we had to start figuring out what the race required and what kind of training we needed to do to get it done.

Carrie and me before the race

I knew we'd be doing about 4 miles of open water, ocean swimming in Casco Bay (ME), and we'd be swimming from island to island to do so. I also knew we were supposed to run across each of the seven islands to which we'd swim. What I hadn't really processed was how this might happen. Casco Bay is ... cold. We'd need wetsuits. But I couldn't imagine doing 10 miles of running in a wetsuit? Also, we couldn't run in bare feet, so we'd need sneakers. Did we carry them? Swim in them?

The answer was to get a shortie wetsuit with detachable sleeves and a pair of "swim/run" shoes. Carrie actually wore a full wetsuit, but I was worried I'd overheat when running.  I purchased an Orca Core shortie (for those reading this who are contemplating their on swim/run adventure) and I loved it.  It's very comfortable, and it did keep me warm in the ocean water of Maine--which is saying something! For shoes I chose a pair of swim/run shoes made by ASICS.  They were great in that they were comfortable and light in the water. BUT, they were not great in terms of traction--which I really needed the to be when scrambling on slippery rocks. I'm not sure I'd recommend them.

We learned that pull buoys and paddles were allowed, but that we'd have to carry them while running, if we chose to use them. I'm faster with paddles, so I wanted to use them. Carrie ended up really disliking using paddles, though. (Sorry, Carrie!) We also used pull buoys that attached to a belt around around waists, which were then attached by bungee cord elastic to our thighs. I liked the buoys because it made it easier to swim with sneakers. We also learned we needed to be tethered together for the race!

This, at first, seemed nightmarish to me, but it ended up being actually quite useful.  You can see here that we are holding paddles and that we are tethered together. You also have to carry this swim safety buoy. Carrie, because she is incredibly kind and generous and a goddess, held the thing the whole way. You can't see our pull buoys in this picture, but they are attached to our right legs.

On race morning most athletes had to take the ferry from Portland to Chebeague Island where the race began. I was lucky--and didn't have to do this. Carrie and Tom, her husband, have a little boat, and they drove us to Chebeague so we wouldn't have to crowd onto the ferry. Alina came, too.
Here's Alina on the boat:

Alina's and Carrie's friend Cheryl also came. She took a ton of awesome pictures, many of which I have used for this post. Thank you, Cheryl!

Here's a picture of the ferry coming to Chebeague, cutting through the fog.

On the way over I began to get nervous. The thing about doing a race in a team is that you really don't want to let your teammate down. Carrie is an amazing athlete, and I did worry I wouldn't keep up and she might get frustrated with me. Also, I was nervous about running in my wetsuit. The practice runs I had done with it on were HOT HOT HOT.

We pulled up to the dock at Chebeague and went to line up with the other racers. The second picture is Cheryl's. I pulled the aerial shot from New Wave Swim Buoy's FB site. They have some great pictures of the event. Also, they supplied the racers with their safety buoys--which also held the timing device.

After the fog lifted a bit, they sent us on our way. I was relieved to finally start the race. Because Carrie and I didn't warm up before the race, the first mile was ROUGH. I was breathing like I might have a heart attack, and I'm sure Carrie wondered if I wouldn't expire right in front of her. After about a mile, though, I found my rhythm and my breathing became a bit more even and less haggard and labored. I was just feeling ready to really run when we hit sand, and I could see where we were to enter the water for our first swim, from Big Chebeague to Little Chebeague.

If you clink on this link it will take you to a drone video of us starting the swim to Little Chebeague. The video was taken from New Wave Swim Buoy's FB page.

For the first swim I led and Carrie got right behind me to draft. We had planned it so we would take turns leading. It is really amazing how little work you have to do when you position yourself RIGHT behind someone.  We figured it made sense to switch back and forth as opposed to having us both do the work while swimming side by side.
Here I am leading:
Carrie sited frequently and tried to get me to go in a straight line. This didn't work so well. The current was pulling me to the left, and also I'm stronger on my left side, so we kept veering left!

The run on Little Chebeague was quite short, but Carrie and I passed quite a few teams. I was realzing that our running was our strength. There were a lot of real swimmers competing. By "real" swimmers I mean those people who swim Masters/swam in college--and otherwise consider swimming their main gig. Carrie and I are competent swimmers for sure--but we are triathletes more than anything. Anyway. This was a swimmer's race--in which said swimmers had to do some running. I'm used to competing with cyclists and runners who have to do a bit of swimming. There is a difference.

Our next swim was from Little Chebeague to Long Island. I drafted Carrie for this swim. Drafting, I realized, made me feel helpless. I just floated along and got chilly. I think if I were to do this race again I'd swim next to my partner--event though that's less efficient. I just didn't like having Carrie do the work while I flip-flopped behind her.
Here is Carrie leading the swim:

The run on Long was not really memorable. We ran fast. I was tired, but happy to be running. I wasn't too hot--which was awesome. The swimming made me cold enough so it took a mile of running to warm up--and most of the runs weren't much longer than a mile! The next swim was from Long Island, across a stretch called Shark Cove. I led this. Here is a drone video of the racers getting in the water off of Long. I also took this  from the Swim Buoy FB page.

Our next stop was Vail Island. Vail is uninhabited, small, and all rocks. This is where things got a bit nasty for me. I have really poor balance. I am terrified of going quickly across loose, slippery rock. The rock on the upper part of Vail, normally mostly dry, was wet because as soon as we got to Vail it started to pour. I slipped and cut my hand. Then I slipped and cut my knee. I became increasingly panicky and upset. Carrie was awesome with me--taking my head and pulling me along. Literally, in all of the pictures on Vail Carrie is tugging me along. I was SLOW! (Sorry, Carrie.) We lost a huge amount of time on the rocks. I couldn't wait for this part of the race to be over.

The entry back into the water off of Vail Was also a bit of nightmare. It was slippery! I took this picture from Slowtwitch:

It was also at this point that I got all tangled up in seaweed! These two women are not Carrie and me, but the picture DOES show how crazy the seaweed tangles got:

On our swim from Vail to back to Long I definitely carried several pounds of seaweed. It was everywhere and got tangled in our suits, belts, and paddles.

We had a short run on Long again before jumping into the water for the longest swim of the race, from Long Island to Peaks Island. This swim felt like it took forever, mostly because Carrie led the swim, and I just floated behind her. I got colder and colder and felt guiltier and guiltier that Carrie was doing all the work. We finally hit the beach (there was a beach!) and started the longest run of the race, on Peaks. The run starts out on road, but soon veers onto trail. This trail is TRAIL... as in very narrow path in long grass, sticks, trunks, slippery rocks, and slimy wood planks covering mud. Carrie was amazing and led us seamlessly through the thick of it. We passed several different pairs on the trail, and then when we got onto the paved road again we passed people in droves. I felt very strong on this run--and also thrilled to be passing people who had passed us on the rocks and in the swim.

After finishing the run on Peaks I had in my mind we were all but done. We had three short swims and two short runs to go.

Oh, the naivete.

The swims were against the current and they were incredibly slow and difficult. Carrie's shoulders were killing her from using the paddles, so I led the final swims. I was happy about this because it did allow me to stay warm and allowed me to feel like I was working for the team. But oh.... swimming in place! It just took forever! Additionally, the second run was not a run, but another evil rock scramble! I whimpered as we made our way slowly around House Island.

 I thought this structure must be a remnant of WWII, but Carrie says it's Fort Scrammel, built in 1808! I must admit I did not notice its coolness as I ran around it. Mostly I was cursing because I was convinced I was going to fall and break my neck on the rocks.

Once done scrambling on House Island we got back in the water and finished up. We entered the water with two other women pairs. BOY did I want to beat them! I worked so damn hard on that swim... and I kept up! But in the end they both finished just ahead of us. One pair finished a minute ahead of us, the other just two seconds. They were both much, much younger than us, of course. ;) That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

We finished 10th for women pairs and 33rd overall out of about 120 teams. Given how sucky I was crawling on those rocks, I'm pretty proud of us!

A week out from the race I can say I loved the experience. Next time, if I am able to get into the race again, I will use very grippy shoes, though, so the rock scrambling isn't so terrifying. I highly recommend this race if you love to swim in the open water. You spend more time in water than on land for sure. The running is manageable and there isn't that much of it.

I want to think Carrie, my incredible, patient partner in this race, and also Tom, her husband for the ferrying, and to Alina for coming out to support me! Love you guys!!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Patriot 70.3 Race Report

I did another race, so it's time to update the blog and brag about my garden.
or ..... :)

I inherited the Koi pond when we bought the house, but I re-did the border around it. It is my biggest source of garden pride at the moment. Our sharpei, Chica, is to the left in the picture.)

My second biggest source of pride is the vegetable garden: The rows that are full of large plants (tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, raspberries, zucs, pumpkins etc) are plants I grew from seed indoors in the basement, which is why they are large already. The front rows (lettuce, kale, carrot, corn) are not large because they have been grown from seed outdoors. Here is another picture:

Okay, I'm done bragging now. Onto the race.

This season I decided to race three 70.3's, the Casco Bay Islands Swim/Run (with my fabulous racing partner Carrie McCusker), and one Ironman. No little races for me. Just big ones that cause major psychological stress leading up to them, and major recovery following them. It's a GO BIG, slaughter your mind and body kind of year.

Yesterday I turned 46. That's why it's that kind of year. Because there is not much else super special about 46. It's like mile 15 or 16 of the run, I think. Not too too tired yet... but I can see it coming...
I'm still running! I'm not giving up yet! I'm not slowing down! That kind of thing.

As you may remember if you follow this blog that I never write in anymore, I raced IM Texas 70.3 in mid-April. I had a great swim and a solid bike there. My run was not pretty, however.  It was hot, I had taken the bike maybe a wee bit too hard, and most importantly, I had NOT TAKEN IN ENOUGH fuel or liquid on the bike. Major, major no no for a New Englander racing in southern Texas in April. I'm smart! What can I say?

For Patriot 70.3, a race that takes place a mere hour from my home in MA, I was determined not to make the same mistakes.  I was quite worried about the run, truthfully. My run training leading up to the race was adequate--but I hadn't been feeling great in my training runs. I felt slow and pokey and a bit awkward. I don't usually feel this way about the run, so again, I was a bit concerned going into the race.  My bike and swim had been going very well, however. I knew I would nail my swim and bike.

So, naturally, this is what happened during the race:

My swim was okay, but I didn't feel too perky.
I struggled on the bike.
My run went well.

Here is a summary of the race from the beginning.

My friend Melissa and I headed out at about 4:30 a.m.
Sometimes I marvel that I am even able to race after getting up so damn early. I had to get up in the three's! That's the middle of the night, basically.

Nothing at all exciting happened on the way there or getting ready in transition. Mel seemed pretty calm, I felt pretty calm, and the weather was looking to be a-okay. We saw Carrie (my race partner for the CB swim/run thing!) before the race. She was looking fit as ever and like she would crush us all. (She ended up being 5th overall in a very stacked field for a local race. Mucho impressivo.)

Anyway. When the time came (and it always comes faster than you think it's going to) we headed down to the water. I found my wave, and also found a former high school classmate, Kristie. Kristie and I swam together in high school. I find it interesting how I'm connected to people from high school I never thought I would be connected to (even if just in cyber space) because of triathlon. Amy, Cathy, Kristie, Steve, John--and of course, Ange. I feel like if you had me, in high school, name the people who would end up doing Ironman as adults, I would never have picked ME--or these other people (hmmm, except maybe Steve and Ange.) It's kind of cool.
Okay. Tangent. Onward.

We ran into the water in pairs, five seconds apart, which was a new type of start for me. Usually the gun goes off and I swim hard to get out in front, and then I have clear water for a bit until I hit the wave in front of me. Repeat until the end of the swim. This was very different. The water was just crowded... the whole swim. I didn't like it, and I think it slowed me down. Mel, however, said she liked it much better because it wasn't so crazy at the beginning of the swim.

So, I swam. The water was clean and clear. Very pleasant. Maybe it was too pleasant and hence I did not push hard enough? I couldn't find anyone off of whom to draft, so I just swam swam swam--around people and by buoys. I exited the water in about 32 minutes. Not a great time for me... but not horrible either. JUST FINE.

I did, however, fall over as I was getting out. It was a bit rocky, and I just toppled over! Very embarrassing and a bit deflating. I was the second person out of the water in my AG (2/69), even with my glamorous fall, and the 8th woman overall (8/274). The woman in my AG who beat me beat me by three seconds. Because of the bizarre start, however, I didn't even SEE her on the swim.

Transition one was fine fine fine and then I was on the bike!
The minute I got on the bike I felt .... not like I usually feel when I race. My legs actually felt a bit fatigued! Why? I have no idea. I had tapered and everything. And my heart rate was very high... and I felt a bit pokey and slow. I decided my main goal needed to be to get my heart rate down. It was in like zone 5--I'm not kidding. So I spun along for a bit, people passing me left and right, until my heart rate dropped o zone 3. Then I started working. And  then my heart rate shot up to zone 5 again. So I slowed down. And speed up. And slowed down. And felt... really irritated. In addition to this, the road was open to cars. Some cars stayed behind the bikes, and wouldn't pass them, creating massive traffic jams. I found this also extremely irritating. I appreciate car drivers being careful. I was just crabby that I got stuck over and over again, especially at the beginning of the race.

I never felt super on the bike. I played cat and mouse with one other woman. I wasn't able to figure out who she was because her number was washed away from her leg and so I wasn't able to stalk her in the results. I felt as if I should be able to just dust her, but I could not shake her. I'm sure she felt the same way about me. We basically did the entire ride close to each other.

Here I am feeling not so great on the bike, and also doing something weird with my lips.

I ended up averaging 10 watts below what I thought I would average for the ride. My heart rate would not settle, and I decided I had to keep it in zone 3 or I would risk a repeat of the suckerific run I had at Texas. And so, because I was committed to zone 3 riding, I ended up with a 2:44 bike split, which is pretty slow for this particular course. I had the 8th fastest bike split in my age group, but I only had the 28th fastest bike split for women. I'm fairly certain I've never placed that deeply for the bike. Yikes.

In T2 I suddenly needed to go the bathroom incredibly badly.
So I peed right there in transition.
And can I tell you---it made my T2 wicked slow, because I think I peed for like a half hour. I kept thinking, okay, will this stop? Please stop! Guess I drank enough on the bike this time!

Onto the run.
I took the run mile by mile.  I kept waiting for the shit to hit the fan--and to feel like I couldn't keep the pace. Given, I wasn't running a screaming fast pace. I was basically trying to keep it barely sub 8. Wonderfully, however, the shit never hit the fan! I was able to keep running fairly strong, up and down the gentle hills (nothing too mortifying), and passing people as I had been passed over and over again on the bike. This was a pleasant surprise. Even though I had been disciplined on the bike, I still wasn't convinced it would make for a solid run.

At mile 11, I passed a girl in my age group. While I was happy I passed her, I also felt dread. I'd have to run the final miles scared, and I wouldn't be able to let up at all. I kept waiting for her to pick up her pace and pass me back. I held on, though! She ended up finishing 90 seconds back. There was one woman who finished just about 25 seconds behind me--but because of the weird swim start, I didn't see her at all. I actually think she (literally) finished ahead of me--(I learned this from scrolling through pictures), but it must be because she started the swim earlier than I did.  This was also a niggling fear I had about the woman who finished behind me: it could've been that even though she did finish 90 seconds back, I had started more than 90 seconds ahead of her in the swim.  Again, not a fan of the swim start. I like competing in real time against women in my age group.

Luckily for me, the woman who finished 90 seconds back really did finish 90 seconds back. I had the third fastest run split in my AG. (1:45) and the 14th fastest run split for women. (Not incredible, but I will take it!) The combined result of the disciplines was that I finished 2nd AG out of 69 and 12th woman out of 274 overall in 5:08:00. I was 88/629 including the men.  This wasn't the placing or the sub-5 race I had dreamed of, but it was solid for me--especially given that I took more than a year and half off from biking prior to this winter, and that I rode the bike so conservatively during the race.

Okay, I'm done listing all the stats. :)
Basically, I had a solid race for me. I feel good about it!

I think this was my attempt at an arm raise.

So, there you have it.
Mel was a super good friend and stayed with me so I could get my award. You just can't take these things for granted--and leave early--when you are in your mid-40s and actually place!  Right? Big pat on the back for me.... from me. Because, well, another thing I have learned over the years is that no one else cares whether I place or not. Just me. So I'm giving myself a big hug, here. You go, girl! You may be gettin' grey but you are still moving!
(I'm trying to be inspirational to all of you who know what I'm saying here... ) ;)

And, now, I leave you with pictures of from my garden.
I'm moving, and I'm growing things, and I'm moving through time.

petunia, impatiens, swan river daisy, coleus. I grew these from seed! I actually grew everything pictured from seed.

petunia and Moody Blues annual pholx

Coneflower "Julia". I had such a hard time growing coneflower from seed indoors. I also learned you cannot grow any of the new hybrids from seed; if they germinate at all they will eventually not come true from seed. You must grow the hybrids from cuttings from another plant. I'm so pleased to have "Julia" in my garden. 
Lupine. I pleased some of it is blooming this season, since I just started it from seed indoors this winter.

The yellow flower is Eremurus. It's actually a bulb. The purple is a lavender aster that bloomed much earlier than I thought it would. 

A surprise rose. I dug up this rose bush last fall and moved it, but part of the root ball must have remained in the soil, because it came up this spring. 

Our Japanese Maple and a Floribunda rose. Henry, who we just adopted out of rescue, models for you. 

Here is another picture of Henry. He is mostly Dachshund we think. He's a snuggler and looks a bit like a Scrat from Ice Age.

The end.
xo Hope you're all well that read through this to end. Thanks for reading!