Tag Archives: Half Ironman

Friendly Reminder: It’s All About the Journey

I thought I had my 2013 triathlon season all set:

  • Successfully register for two Half Ironman races (which is not always easy given how some of them, especially the two I wanted to race are hugely popular and sell out within days and in the case of one, minutes).  Check: I registered for Oceanside 70.3 and Vineman 70.3.
  • Albeit somewhat last-minute, sign up for my first Ironman.  Check: Registered for Ironman Lake Tahoe.
  • Begin base building in January.  Check: Changed workout focus and drafted training plan.

But then as with everyone life happened, and my plans changed.  Because of some scheduling issues I had to back out of Oceanside at the beginning of the year.  A couple of months later I learned about a new 70.3 race that fits my schedule better.  So I signed up for it, the Silicon Valley Long Course.

Then with just over three weeks until my first 70.3, my training was interrupted with a nasty cold that put me out for five days.

This past Tuesday I worked out for the first time since getting the cold and it was hard.  It was hard for lots of reasons:

  • Knowing that I can’t truly make up my lost training days, I struggled with what I should do on my first day back to training.
  • A new serving of angst emerged since I now have less than two weeks of training before I begin tapering.  A week ago I was pretty confident I’d finish the race with a decent time; now – not so much.
  • I decided to ride 47 miles for my first workout and boy did I struggle on many fronts: cardio, strength and mentally.  Especially knowing that I was much stronger and fitter just a week ago, I couldn’t help but be frustrated.

But as with everything else in life, I learned a lot over the past challenging week.  To help get me through each day I was sick I thought more and more about what’s important this season, this year, in my life.  I should be thankful I have just a cold and nothing more.  While triathlons are extremely important to me, they are just races.  I train to help me with my grief.  And while I race to help honor Noah, I need to maintain a healthier perspective.  By getting stressed and all worked up over the possibility of  not racing, I realized I’m probably taking something away from this special time with my son.  Moreover I need to focus on the bigger picture.  And the picture is pretty big with my son in a completely different world than me.

Noah’s presence on my ride provided a constant reminder that my cold, my struggle with my breathing, climbing and even at times pedaling (which should have not been the case) are really all petty issues.  As mentioned before, digging down some to get through a hard training segment is becoming more and more natural and Tuesday’s ride and yesterday’s workout were no exception.

Seeing wildlife during my training sessions isn’t new. I rode past a deer who was leisurely snacking on the side of the road. I also witnessed two squirrels attempt to cross a relatively busy road.  After an intense 3-5 seconds of questioning if a car would truly stop for it, one of them actually crossed.  (The other one appeared to not want to play Frogger at all and stayed on the other side of the road.)  Slowing down to observe these creatures as well as take in some of Mother Nature’s beautiful lushness was part of my journey on Tuesday.  I had several moments when I appreciated this.

Who knows how I’ll do at my first tri of the season.  But this week has already been a huge reminder that this is all about the process – the journey, if you will.  I’m sure I’ll feel some disappointment if I don’t do well at my first race.  I’ll wonder if I could have dug even deeper, pushed harder, listened to my body better and so on and so on.  Even if I’m fortunate to perform well, I’ll probably wonder about the same things as well as whether I trained too much and I pushed too hard given that this race is a B race (a warm up race) and I have two more to go.  Lots of questions.   I need to remind myself of days like this past week and this time, that time, another time and others and to be open to experiencing what they offer.

I’m on a journey, (and dare I say, just like you).  Since Noah my journey will always have a travel companion.  We’re on this journey together and while I think I know what my destination is for this tri season, Ironman Lake Tahoe, it may not be.  I don’t know what next year’s destination will be or the year after or my life’s ultimate destination.  I guess it doesn’t matter.  After all I thought MLH’s and my destination with Noah was to have him down here on earth with us but go figure.  As the cliché goes, it’s not about the destination.  I need to remind myself it’s all about the journey…

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Training Weekend in Tahoe

Thanks to a good friend, I trained in Lake Tahoe this past weekend.  Nineteen of us checked out the Ironman Lake Tahoe race course.  (This race is the Ironman I signed up for.)   It’s a great time to start getting the lay of the land since the race is one year from now.   I was able to get a good idea of what to expect on race day as well as a good sense of the altitude and potential issues I may encounter racing that high above sea level.   I now know what the terrain will be like and can start preparing for it.  Yes I’m still in my off-season so I didn’t push myself too hard nor go the full Ironman distance.

I had an awesome time!

I met some more amazing triathletes.  Most of them are Ironmen already, and all of them are racing Lake Tahoe.  I enjoyed training and hanging out with them.  There were a couple of times when it was challenging.  At one point a discussion about heart related deaths came up and folks got into the finer points of heart issues.  I tried to zone out and busy myself as best I could.  Also I was asked about my silver bracelet which I wear all of the time except when I’m training and racing.  It has Noah’s name, birth date and death date engraved on it.  I guess I can’t expect to go an entire weekend with the same people without encountering a couple of uncomfortable moments.

My favorite aspect of the weekend was feeling Noah’s presence; we had our special time together as I swam, biked and ran.  Climbing the hardest of the two hills — there are two significant hills with one having athletes climb 1000 feet over just three miles — on the bike course, I found myself struggling a lot.  It was so hard I thought about stopping several times, and I wasn’t sure if I could reach the top.  But as I’ve done in the past, I dug in deep.  And with Noah right there with me, I reached the summit without stopping.  In fact I was the 4th person in our group to reach it!  A few folks commented on how fast I climbed it.  I was flattered, especially given the caliber of this group of athletes.  I told them as much as it hurts, I really like climbing hills; there’s something about digging in.  Several of them commented that having less weight helps.  (I’m on the lighter end of the spectrum.)  And passing people provides positive reinforcement.  I just smiled as these comments were made.  While both of these points are true, I know the main reason why I was able to climb that hill as fast as I did.  I didn’t tell them because I don’t know them that well and I didn’t want to risk being a downer.  As I get to know this group better at some point I’ll tell them about Noah and the fact that I’m not climbing alone.

While my official training for the 2013 season doesn’t start until late January, I’m already super excited about it.  And as hard — actually I don’t know how hard because I’ve never trained for an Ironman before but I know it’s going to be really hard — as training for and racing Ironman Lake Tahoe will be I’m very much looking forward to all of it!

What a great weekend!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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