Tag Archives: AG Nationals

My Last Race of the 2012 Triathlon Season

Burlington, VT is beautiful.  It’s so green and lush and far from commercial.  I made a point to enjoy all of this as I rode and ran the USAT 2012 Age Group Olympic  National Championship course on Saturday.  Lake Champlain was really choppy so I wasn’t able to enjoy this part of the race at all.  Also I encountered a lot of physical body contact in the water; the most I’ve ever experienced in a triathlon.

I naturally talked to Noah (both silently and out-loud) while I raced.  I’ll instantly connect with him as I’m pushing myself and digging deep.  I’ll automatically think of him as I grasp for oxygen and endure pain.  I found myself exclaiming, “we can do this!”  several times during the race.  Or, just like the bike leg in Hawaii,  I’ll look to the side and take in the scenery with Noah.  It’s actually a bit amusing:  I had cyclists aggressively passing me while I looked at all of the acres and acres of green meeting the mountains which in turn reached up to meet the few clouds and blue sky.  The run started off with a very steep incline and all I did was smile as I climbed it.  Throughout the run I felt like the harder I pushed myself the bigger my smile got.  I think Noah and I make an awesome team.  I am grateful for this.

I did not come in last place but I was close.  I overheard fellow athletes talking about the pressure they put on themselves, especially during the bike, to qualify for the World Championship in London.  I kept thinking I’m just happy to be here.  Although I admit I was slightly disappointed in my swim; I wanted to shave off a decent amount of time.  But even if I had I still would have found myself towards the bottom.  As expected athletes at this race are super fast.  I did improve my bike and run.  I didn’t set specific goals for this race so I am fine with how everything went and appreciate having the opportunity to compete at a National Championship.

My results:

  • Swim – 33:39.4 (place – 1589) / Bike – 1:21.38.3 (place – 1685) / Run – 47:24.0 (place – 1192) / Overall – 2:47:50
  • Division place: 103/142 / Gender place: 543/851 / Overall place: 1558/1989

Crossing the finish line on Saturday officially ends my 2012 triathlon racing season.  However I’m not taking a complete break during the off-season; I simply can’t.

I’ve got a training weekend planned for September and I’m running a half marathon with MLH in November.  I’m working with my coach to maintain a strong base as well as improve  in specific areas.

Also, I already have a triathlon on next year’s calendar.  I’ll race my first Ironman on September 22, 2013!  With Noah’s help I’ll swim 2.4 miles, bike another 112 and finally run 26.2.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

My Competitive Side(s) or From Finisher to Competitor?

As a triathlete I compete of course.  However I don’t compete with others; I compete with myself.  I always have.

When I started competing in triathlons I was just trying to get into the sport.  My goal was to earn that “Finisher’s” medal which is given to each athlete who crosses the finish line.  That’s it.  If I do this then I win.  And with every race so far, I’ve done this.  I have a successful track record of finishing sprint, olympic and half Ironman distance races.

After losing Noah another competitive side emerged.  I’m competing against my old self.  I’m competing against the confusion, emptiness and sadness I have from losing my son.  Yes I’m competing against the bitterness and anger I still have as well.  I’m competing against the mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed.  I’m competing against the pain and challenges Noah experienced during his way-too-short-of-a-life.  I’m competing against all of those cardiac arrests.  I’m competing against the screaming-in-your-face-reality that life is not fair.

And now I’m sensing a third competitive side developing.  As I’ve focused on improving speed during my training for Nationals, I’ve been thinking a lot about what this actually means to me.  How much more can I improve?  How much faster can I go?  How much deeper can I dig?  How much more can I take on?  

What is this?

I’ve been reviewing my past race results.  Hoping to PR is a great goal but it’s rather ambiguous.  Am I trying to shave 10 seconds, one minute or even more off my time?  Also, each race is different, even if the distance is the same.  The terrain is different.  The climate is different.  Even the logistics can be different.  Then what sort of PR should I aim for?

Before my last race, California Sprint Triathlon, (which I raced two weekends ago as a warm up for Nationals), I looked up the 2011 results.  Over the past month or so I’ve also been studying the top 10 age grouperssplits from last year’s National Championship.

I’m beginning to think the real questions to ask AND answer are along the lines of:  How can I improve my rankings with each race?  How much time do I need to shave off to finish in the top 10, 5 or even 3 within my age group?  Am I no longer competing with just myself?

Tagged , , , , , ,

I’m a Triathlete. I’m a Bereaved Mother. I’m Both.

This is Susan.  She’s joining us for the first time; she’s training for Nationals.

Welcome to our first Women’s Triathlon Summit.

Yep, this past weekend was very much a social one for me.  And yes, it involved interacting with other endurance athletes.  On Saturday I joined my coach’s Saturday group workout for the very first time.  And thanks to a good friend I attended a women’s only triathlon panel discussion on Sunday.

I was a bit anxious about Saturday’s group training session and admitted this to my coach.  Aside from knowing we’ll swim, then bike and finally run, I told him I really didn’t know exactly what else to expect:  What do I need to bring?  Will I have time to change from my swimsuit into cycling clothes or should I wear a trisuit for the swim?  Should I bring my fins?  Is there anything else I should know?

What I didn’t tell him but, of course, fed my anxiety was having to meet new people and engage in conversation with them for a few hours.  My strategy consisted of staying under the radar.  I figure I’ll most likely swim in the slowest lane and ride at the back of the pack.  As for the run, I’ll just push myself so I’m breathing really hard.  Then I won’t be in a position to talk.  Well, I did in fact swim in the slowest lane.  Interestingly though I made an attempt to swim in the next lane over because the only other person in the slowest lane was a pregnant woman.  (Great start, I know.)  However, I felt as though I slowed down the other lane so I moved over to share the lane with the pregnant woman.  (By the way, the fact that I qualified for Nationals while consistently finding myself swimming in the slowest lane bewilders me!)  I ended up being so focused on my workout I barely saw her and her belly.  And when I did I immediately looked away.  It wasn’t ideal but it wasn’t really horrible either.

We did have time to change in the locker room where I met another member of Pete’s team.  As we changed into our cycling clothes we talked about riding and Honu 70.3‘s horrendous crosswinds.  So far so good.

I grabbed my bike off the top of my car and rode it over to join the rest of the group.  My coach introduced me since it was my first time.  And he announced I have Nationals coming up.  Gulp!  So much for staying under the radar.  For the two hours we rode folks talked about racing, training and technique.  Woo hoo!

I quickly learned everyone doesn’t run off the bike during these sessions.  (Officially Saturday’s workout plan does include a run though.)  Unless I’m nursing knee issues or other injuries I make a point of running after biking.  (It’s great brick training.)  So I ended up running with only two other athletes.  We talked about how each of us found Pete and his training group, Honu 70.3 and training for Kona (aka Ironman World Championship).  One of the athletes who ran with me is training for it!

I managed to avoid the topic of children and made it through the other end of the trigger caused by swimming next to a pregnant woman; not too bad.  And the icing on the cake was I enjoyed the conversations I had with everyone.

On Sunday for the Women’s Triathlon Summit, MLH and I were running late from a previous appointment so I rushed over to where the event was being held. The organizers had a pretty nice spread of food, and I was incredibly hungry.  (I don’t think I ate enough after my long run earlier in the day.)  Everybody else was chatting in their chairs.  Nobody was eating.  (The event was running late.)  So while more polished, lady-like women would make their way gracefully over to the food, I dropped my purse on a chair and made a straight shot to the table where I filled a plate up with goodies.  I know, it wasn’t just hunger; I saw this as a way to avoid people.  But then I had to make my way back to my chair to eat.  And eating I did but then a couple of women introduced themselves to me.  Oh well.  We proceeded to talk about our upcoming races.  That’s it!  Once again, I really enjoyed the conversations.

I will say that as one can and should expect — when planning to attend I somehow didn’t think completely through this unfortunately — some of the topics at a woman’s triathlon event will touch on juggling children/family with training.  I didn’t experience very strong triggers when these topics came up.  I felt a little bit of emptiness inside but it wasn’t an overwhelming feeling.  Perhaps this is because I was in such awe of these women who have children, challenging jobs, partners (who either are endurance athletes and/or have challenging jobs as well) AND are top athletes in their divisions!

It’s kind of weird.  I’m so glad I attended both events and most importantly enjoyed talking to the people I met each day.  I still feel anxiety and automatically put up a wall because I never know when I’ll be asked about children or encounter a trigger.  I don’t know if this will ever truly go away.  However, during this past weekend, I was fortunate enough to talk to fellow triathletes about setting PRs, working with coaches, technique, swimming, bike fits, nutrition and race goals.  I got to meet some amazingly accomplished athletes who’ve qualified for Kona, turned pro, completed 26 Ironmen and earned their way onto the podium several times over!  I almost felt like another person at these events.  I was more social at both of these events than I’ve been at any other event over the past two years.  I actually hung around after the summit to chat with a couple of participants!

Aside from the handful of times children were brought up during the summit and dealing with the pregnant woman during the swim, at these events I felt like just another triathlete training for her next race.  I don’t think it’s like I live a double life:  One moment I’m a triathlete and when I’m away from the sport I’m a bereaved parent.  I think it’s more like I have a couple of layers or dimensions inside.  At both of these events, the triathlete who wants to improve, learn and share is dominant and the bereaved mother, while very much present still, takes sort of a backseat with my wall surrounding all of me.  When I’ve had to attend purely social events, my wall is a lot thicker with the bereaved mother and triathlete switching positions.  And I feel like most of the time when I train both layers are evenly present.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Speed!!!

After taking a week to recover from Honu 70.3, I’ve resumed my training.  USA Triathlon (USAT) Olympic Distance National Championship is my next race.  (I guess USAT recently modified the name from USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship to this.)  As the name implies, the race is an olympic distance consisting of a 1.5k swim, a 40k bike and a 10k run.  I’ve raced this distance before so it’s not a matter of “will” I finish but “when.”  (Of course that’s assuming I don’t have a medical emergency.)   In the past I hoped to achieve personal records and finish with respectable times. For this race I have these same goals.  However, given that it’s Nationals, I’m feeling like the bar should be significantly higher.

With the distance being shorter than Honu 70.3, my main focus for training is speed.  When I spoke to a few coaches last year about training for Honu 70.3 and then Nationals, they all said Nationals is all about speed.  At that time I thought I understood the concept.  Now that I’m actually training for this race I don’t think it sank in then.  But it’s definitely sinking in now and very, very quickly.  I’m still getting a sense of the key differences (between training for Hawaii and Nationals) with my workouts, methodology, mindset and overall a focus.  I’ve already realized that since I was focused on distance for Hawaii, I need to make a real, almost physical transition to shift my mindset to speed.  So far I’ve identified the following changes:

  • I’m not looking to dig in for the long haul.
  • Managing my energy level requires a different strategy.  I think I need to manage at higher levels of intensity for most of, if not the entire race.
  • The time I had to ramp up during my training sessions for Honu 70.3 now seems like a luxury.  I need to start my sessions at a much faster pace.

All of this may sound a little odd since I’ve already completed three olympic distance races.  It seems odd even to me in some ways.  I think these observations and realizations come from the fact that:

  • I was so focused on a much longer (and new) distance up until very recently.
  • With each race and season I complete, I’m more experienced and tons wiser about my training and racing.  My goals change as well.
  • It’s the National Championship!  The best of the best age groupers will be there, and they’ll be ready to give it their all as fast as they can.  I owe it to myself and them to be as competitive as I can.

I’m not quite sure what other goals I want to set for this race.  I’ll continue to think about this.  For now…I’ll focus on….speed.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

One Week to Go, One Week to Get Psyched!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been increasingly anxious about Hawaii.  I keep thinking, “I hope I can finish!”  This race does have cut off times for each stage:  1 hour 15 minutes after the start for the swim, 5 hours 30 minutes after the start for the bike and 8 hours 30 minutes to finish.  I’ve also begun to worry about my nutrition.  While I’ve been able to figure out what I need to consume for each stage while training, I’ve yet to put it all together.  Then reading about Lance Armstrong‘s struggle with race day nutrition reinforced my own concerns.  (Yes, I know, comparing myself to him is a little absurd.  He and I are in very different categories – actually completely different worlds!  He’s a seven time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor who this year returned to triathlons and in fact came in first place last week at Ironman 70.3 Florida, and I’m just an age grouper and bereaved mother who is hoping to simply finish her first Half Ironman.)  Oh and my left knee is still giving me issues every now and then.

Nevertheless, one week from today surrounded by 1,600 fellow triathletes (including Lance, Chris Lieto and other amazing professional athletes), I’ll be at Hapuna Beach State Park on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island in my tri-suit with goggles and swim cap on and body marked.  One week from today I’ll swim 1.2 miles, ride 56 miles and run another 13.1.  One week from today I’ll find out what 19 weeks of the most serious, structured and hard core training I’ve every gone through will do.  One week from today I’ll have another opportunity to honor Noah.

So starting with this morning’s training session I made a point to shift gears and focus on getting myself psyched.  After all, I’ve followed Pete’s training program.  And while next Saturday’s race will be my first 70.3 distance, I do have seven successful triathlons under my belt already.  And I did qualify for USAT 2012 Age Group National Championships.

As I prepared for this morning’s workout I pushed all negative/anxious thoughts out of my mind.  This worked!  During my two-hour ride I actually found myself dancing (as much as one can while on a bike – yes I’m sure I looked pretty funny) to some of the songs on my iPod.  I had to do a 10 minute 80%+ endurance effort and boy it was hard.  But I kept embracing this challenge more and more; digging deeper and deeper.  Towards the end of my ride I even found myself smiling a bit.  Believe me I did work very hard for the entire time.  With the exception of my 10 minute drill (which as mentioned before was at the 80%+ level), I stayed at the high end of my endurance level throughout the ride.  And I finished my session with a strong 20 minute run afterwards.

To continue psyching myself up this week, I’ve decided to think of all of the positives such as:

  • I’m the fittest I’ve ever been.  I recently hit a milestone.  On the bike I noticed it’s now taking me an additional 20-30 minutes to get my heart rate up to my endurance level — a sign that my body is getting into better shape.  (Also a sign that I need to increase my effort level!)
  • I’m back in CA.
  • I’m racing in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
  • I have the support of wonderful friends.
  • According to my grief counselor I’ve been making good progress.
  • I have MLH.
  • And of course there’s Noah.
Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: