Sunday, May 31, 2009

25 days of randomness

25 days since i last wrote! way too much life gets lived and forgotten in 25 days to be able to report on it all, so i picked 25 random things to mention ... in no particular order of occurrence, importance or interest:

1. since i last wrote i have swum in the ocean something like 4 or 5 times. each one has been phenomenal. ocean swimming has always been a challenge for me so getting out there this often and having a blast with it each time really makes my year!

2. i picked the wrong time of year to read "swimming to antarctica". on the one hand it inspired the heck out of me, on the other ... it plants thoughts of sharks i never had before! that being said, if you get a chance to pick it up, do it ... lynne cox is amazing!

3. i was so excited to hear, in an interview with frank mccourt (owner of the dodgers and now owner of the l.a. marathon) that they are working on making the l.a. marathon a point-to-point race starting at dodger stadium and ending at the beach. i've always thought that the l.a. marathon ought to be a point-to-point passing through all the iconic los angeles sights. i don't really have a strong desire to run l.a. again, but that certainly would increase the chances.

4. over the past 25 days i've become well skilled at administering sub-cutaneous fluid treatments to a cat. this is not a skill i ever knew existed and really wish i didn't need to learn. fraidycat was diagnosed with kidney disease just before we went up to napa and it's been a heartbreaking few weeks getting used to what that means and how to manage it. the upshot is, there is no cure. we can do things (like the fluid treatment) to prolong his life and to help him feel better and that's a blessing. he's taking it like a champ and i've got to say, it's clear that it's very, very helpful. send him a kitty prayer.

here we are watching the giro d'italia

5. i was tagged with the blogger "8 things" that was going around. i thought that would be an easy way to bang out a blog post, but i found myself not wanting to do it. bottom line was that i judged myself for some of my answers and didn't want to post it for fear of judgement by others. interesting blogging phenomenon.

6. ivan basso has gotten LOTS of nice face-time during the giro this year. color me a happy shade of pink. : )

7. a few times recently i've used my run workout as transportation. i LOVE doing that. there is something, for me, that feels really cool about it. it feels like i am running somewhere other than home. i see my city in a new and different way and i experience a freedom in going from point to point that i usually don't get on a regular route from home.

8. i spent 5 hours of yesterday hitting the refresh button on my computer so i could keep up on how michelle was doing at the hawaii 70.3. despite the fact that is anything but live (hello, could you please use those inflated race entry fees to improve your technology!!??) i sat here with fraidy being her biggest virtual spectathlete. she won the swim and the bike for her age group and was up in the top six women mixing it up with the pro women. this woman had a baby 7 short months ago and despite a tough run plagued with leg cramps she tore it up. she's one of my heroes, not just because she's smokin' fast but because she's a beautiful, strong, dedicated woman who is finding her way as a new mother and an athlete and she shares her journey honestly.

9. yesterday my brother and his girlfriend ran the brooklyn half marathon. unfortunately my brother had to pull out at mile 3 due to his back going into full spasm. i feel for him and wish i could have been there to support him like he did me during both ironman lake placid and the new york marathon. his girlfriend finished and said that she felt "super good the whole way". after napa i have to say that all time goals aside, really, isn't that the best and the most we can ask for!?!

10. i love roasted artichokes.

11. i've been having intermittent tingling/numbness in my feet and hands. it freaks me out. i've suspected for a while that i've had some nerve impingement issues. i've been to umpteen dr's., chiropractors, massage therapists, woo-woo voo-doo healers, but me thinks it's time to suck it up and get myself into one of them there claustrophobic MRI machines.

12. yesterday i had something like 5 or 6 friends (that i know of) climbing up mt. palomar in san diego. i have yet to do this epic ride, but it is definitely on my list of things to do soon!!

13. why does the whole foods i shop at seem to always be out of the items i use most? seriously, whose buying up all the low fat vanilla almond milk, clover honey, buckwheat cereal and chicken andouille sausages??!! and why won't the whole foods buyer increase their inventory??

14. i watched danilo di luca and denis menchov's entire time trials on the last stage of the giro through parted fingers over my face. palms sweating, stomach tight. you'd think i was watching "texas chainsaw massacre".

15. i need to get back into the habit of using my foam roller everyday, it makes such a huge difference.

16. i cannot wait for july 4th this year.
a) it's one of my most favorite holidays and just makes me want to eat strawberry shortcake
b) it's the day of one of my most favorite 10k's
c) it's the first day of the tour this year
can. not. wait.

17. my friends amy and angel are getting married at the end of june. i am so excited for them!

18. have you tried cinnamon roll larabars? ohmyyummygoodness!! it's a gluten free treat not to be believed!

19. the state of california is so completely eff'ed! same sex couple's cannot marry in our state and our finances are a complete shambles. yesterday i read this article and it just killed me. i know there is nowhere "good" to cut from, but my god ...

20. we went to see the movie "earth". i loved it, because i love all that national geographic, animal planet stuff BUT turns out it's footage from "planet earth" which, as the lover of all things animal, i had already seen. i didn't mind seeing it, but i felt kinda ripped off that they repackaged it and did say so ahead of time. it's like they just swapped out sigourney weaver's voice for james earl jones'.

21. it seems like a whole 'nother wave of friends are suddenly having babies. i'm so excited for all of them.

22. not to go all cycling heavy on my list of 25 random things, BUT it broke my heart hearing people (giro spoiler stop reading if you haven't watched it yet) boo denis menchov. i understand patriotism and all, but come on ... the man was rock solid. he earned that pink jersey and deserves the utmost respect.

23. i collect pig tchotchkes. i luv 'em and if they have angel wings on them i love them even more! over the years a lot of people have given me winged pigs and as i look around my apartment it warms my heart to see them and to think of the people who thought of me when they found them.

24. i'm excited to start mixing and matching workouts in order to train for s.o.s. it's a funky format bike/run/swim/run/swim/run/swim/run. all told it will be 30 miles of biking, almost 19 miles of trail running and 2 miles of swimming. shoes go with you on the swim, goggles and swim cap on the run. i generally fuel my races on all liquid calories, but that's not really an option for this race. i won't be carrying nutrition with me, so that's going to make for some interesting summertime experiments.

25. i thought writing in list format would make writing a blog post faster and more efficient. i was wrong, but it was fun.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

still the same gal

yup, that's right. i re-posted my napa valley race report. i may have been all at peace and in the flow while racing, but i'm still the same anal gal i've always been and all those typos, bad phrasings and tiny little pictures were just setting me nuts!

good to know i've still got the perfectionist in me!


Saturday, May 2, 2009

napa valley half iron race report

wow. i don't even know where to start. for those of you on facebook and twitter you know from my most awesome sherpas, j. and molly, that it was a cold, wet, rainy day today in napa. here's the low-down from my end ...

i'll start right off with t.m.i. and tell you that i have a long and painful history of not being able to "do my business" before racing. it's led to more gastric distress and blown races than i care to remember. not because i do a "jen harrison" (sorry, jen i couldn't resist) ... i don't get the runs like a lot of folks, but my stomach stops processing calories and i wind up with a stomach the size of a pregnant woman ... carrying twins! and, like at lake placid, i keep ducking into port o' potties certain that THIS time it will happen because it sure feels like it, but always "no dice".

as some of you also know, i've been on a no wheat, gluten, soy or dairy diet for a month or so . this diet was done partly in an effort to figure out some of my racing digestive issues.

so this morning you can imagine my disappointment when we left the hotel without anything being "different". but, hopefully you can also imagine my elation when we got to transition and suddenly "doh! i gotta go" and i did. : ) my season opener was already being kicked off with a p.r.

so, to the race ... well, actually ... to the day before the race. j. and i came up late thursday night so i could preview the course on friday. holy hilliness!! my friend who had done the race had said that it was hilly, but i never got a good sense for just HOW hilly. the race had posted an elevation map, but it was all pulled and squeezed and i knew it wasn't quite accurate. basically what i saw yesterday was that the first 30 miles of the bike were HILLY, then about 10 miles of some super nice straightaways and a couple of rollers and then 10 miles of HILLY and then 6 miles of rollers. ouch!

the run is an out-and-back-out-and-back. and ooooh, it looked tough. no one hill was THAT big, but it was basically a series of three hills, with somewhat corresponding downhills that you did 4 times. it looked like tough work. not un-doable and probably somewhat fun as a stand alone, but i knew each one would get exponentially harder.

the swim is a self-seeded start of about 100 swimmers per wave. fastest swimmers going first. this also meant co-ed. i had initially thought i'd start in the second wave, but when liz and i discussed it we actually decided that the back of the first wave would be better for me. i don't like a lot of people around me when i swim and this was probably my best shot at "clean" water. also, i get super duper nervous before races and waiting to get in the water would probably just make that worse. best i just get to the shore, get in and go without a lot of thinking about it.

the swim was my best swim ever!!! i don't know if it is my best half IM swim time because it was super short, but i felt super. i had NO problems breathing, i felt long and strong, my sighting was seamless. i came out of the water in 27:20, but i can pretty much guarantee you that, barring any other short swims, that will be the fastest swim time i will ever see at a half ironman race. i don't care, i'll take it. and most of all i'll take the fantastic experience of a good swim. i would have been happy to have had the swim distance it was supposed to be because i felt that good!

when i got out of the water it was already raining. i was going to throw on arm warmers, but i ran by a guy struggling to get his on and i thought 'i'd rather spend the time putting on gloves (damn that's hard to do when you are wet) since my hands get super cold and numb'.

i settled in for the first 20 minutes on the bike, just like i had planned. i started to pick it up around 25 min. in and about 8 min. later was thinking 'wow, i feel so super bouncy and like there is no resistance'. oh shoot, i suddenly remembered what that feeling was. it had been a looong time since i had felt it. a flat. yup.

my rear tire was totally flat. i pulled off the road and did what i needed to do and like a good girl was sure to run my hand along the inside of the tire to see if anything was stuck in it. i found the eensyest, teensyest piece of wire stuck in it. the thing was so fine i couldn't pull it out with my fingers. i pressed it enough from the other side to be able to pull it out with my teeth! finally the tire was fixed, but the wheel didn't seem to want to go back on. i fiddled with this and that and finally got it back on and started back up.

i rode past j. and molly about 200 meters later. i was at total peace with the fact that i had just lost about 15 minutes. it's funny, those are the things that i worry about ahead of time, but when it actually does happen i seem to be calm and collected about it. a few hilly miles later i knew something was wrong with my bike. i just wasn't getting the kind of speed i should have been. i got off the bike again and apparently the back brake had shifted to one side and was rubbing. i pushed and pulled on it. spun my wheel around and got back on. a mile or so later, same thing. this time i pushed and pulled harder and finally decided to open up the doohickey that brings the brake pads out to the side and left it that way. i was nervous to make that call because of the intense rain and tricky road i knew i had ahead, but i was also sick of doinking around with the thing.

at miles 13 i felt a little hamstring twinge and decided i would rather hold up a little on my efforts on the bike in order to make it through the run. i've had some nerve stuff in my back and it seems to effect my hamstrings and calves so i was sure to keep lifting my tuchus off the saddle and made sure i was engaging my core so that i wasn't pulling on my low back.

finally at around mile 30 i was able to pick it up and was riding more like the rider that i know i am. i felt strong and powerful and was yee-haaaing as i went. it was piss pouring rain and the wind was so dang cold, but i was happy. i think i was the happiest i've ever been during a race. funny, considering the fact that for the first 30 miles i had technical issues and was scared out of my mind on the descents. it was so wet, the roads were all messed up and it was kind of hard to see with all the water on my sunglasses, yet i was still happy. at mile 40 the fear of something bad happening had completely lifted. i knew i was going to make it unscathed.

i was racing napa to qualify for SOS in sept. i had to do a 50 min. swim, a 4 hour bike and a 2:10 run. the swim i knew wouldn't be a problem, the bike i also was 99% sure wouldn't be an issue (though i did have a slight doubt after previewing it yesterday!). the run, well i knew my run ability was definitely able to get me in under 2:10, but it was a matter of what would happen with my nutrition this time around.

so back to the bike ... funny thing is, that after my flat i never looked at my watch again until mile 50. at first i wasn't conscious of it and then when i realized i hadn't looked at it, i decided not to. i was having such a great time and i didn't want to take that away if it turned out i was unhappy with the time i saw. i knew i was giving it my best for what i had and how the conditions were so there wasn't anything more that i could really do. at mile 50 i looked at it and was so happy to see that i was at 3:17:00. i knew i'd make the bike qualifying time i needed and i was also pleased that that meant if i subtracted the time for flat and mechanicals that i was actually riding a pretty strong ride on a tough course! final bike time was 3:40:18.

those last 6 miles seemed sorta endless. it was another challenging section of rollers. but finally i was back in. i was s-o-a-k-e-d. i don't think i'll warm up and dry out for months! i had my race debut of taking my feet out of my shoes while still on the bike. j. has been wanting me to learn and i practiced a couple of times on the sly and i was psyched to give him a little show. : )

out on the run ... the run out is a long, steep, little road that serve as the car entry into the park and it HURT off of the bike. the plan was for me to "settle in" for the first three miles and much like the settling in i did on the bike, i was grateful for it. i couldn't have pushed that section and it was mentally great for me to not attach to the pain i felt being how it would be for the whole run because i was able to keep telling myself "you're just settling in here".

i won't lie, the run hurt. my heart rate was never very high ... it wasn't the huffing and puffing kind of hurt that i am used to ... it was just a grindy, ouch kind of hurt deep in my legs and feet. i just hung in there. i thought of all the tough runs i did during training, that really helped. i kept telling myself "turn over, turn over, turn over", "you're strong", "cruise, cruise, cruise". i shortened my stride on the uphills, i looked at the downhills as "free speed", i never got outside of myself. i came in to the halfway turn around in 58 minutes. i was thrilled with that. i knew i would have to fall off A LOT to miss my qualifying time, but i also knew that things can and do sometimes unravel very quickly. so i stayed in myself. i stayed in control. i did what i needed to do to get it done and that meant thinking positively, keeping my form, not thinking about the time (i stopped looking at my watch after the turn around) focusing on each little task at hand ... this uphill, that downhill, this tangent, that sip of water, this hit of gu.

there were times i slowed down and times where i picked it up. i'm not sure how much i actually modulated the pace, but it didn't matter. i came into that last mile and half feeling strong, but also feeling ready to be done. i hit the finish line in 1:59:27, more than enough time to qualify for SOS and actually a PR on the run for the half ironman distance. this is only my third half IM, so i think i have faster in me and it gives me something to work for ... but on this day at this race ... i couldn't be happier with it.

oh and that pesky digestion problem? it did not rear it's ugly head today!!! woo hoo!!! no big pregnant belly for me, leaving me walking with nothing but side stitches and belches. i think it's probably a combination of the new diet as well as the temperature. hot weather kills both my pace and digestion and to date, most of the races where i have had stomach problems have been hot ones.

without a doubt this was my best race, mentally. i feel like i did everything to help myself along. i made some judgment calls both mechanically and nutritionally. i stuck with my plan. i didn't beat up on myself, but i never slacked off. all of that, for me, is success. i've gone faster at the overall distance, but i've never been as satisfied with the outcome. that, for me, is HUGE progress.

at the end of the race a man who i had kept pace with for my first 6 miles and his last 6 came up to me and said "i just want to say, you had the best attitude out there today. you were so positive and encouraging to everyone you passed and you definitely helped me when i was having a hard time (man, he didn't LOOK like he was having a hard time, but i guess it's all relative). it was so gratifying to hear him say what he did. if i can be the athlete i want to be (though of course we all want to go faster, but you know what i mean) at the same time as i am being the human being i want to be ... heck, i've lived a good day, raced a good race and am proud.

i have to thank molly and j. for standing out in some of the most miserable conditions today. i don't know how they did it. their constant twitter and facebook updates were a treat to read post-race and seeing everyone's comments made me feel great.

we had a scrumptious dinner with molly and soon we'll be hitting the hay in order to get up tomorrow and do it all over again for her while she races. i can't wait to cheer her on and see her rock her race!!