Tag Archives: USAT

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?

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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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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.
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December: My Most Intense Roller Coaster Ride Yet

About two weeks ago I began firming up my 2012 triathlon season.  My key races will be Ironman 70.3 Hawaii in June and USA Triathlon (USAT) Age Group (AG) Nationals in August.  (As a warm up for Hawaii I’ll compete in at least one other race earlier in the season.)  I’m really excited about both races.  Hawaii will be my first Half Ironman, and for the first time I qualified for AG Nationals.

I now have two concrete goals.  To achieve my goals I have to create a plan.  I’m so much more productive when I map out how I’ll achieve a goal.  For December I’m focused on building a strong base so I can really push myself when I officially begin my Half Ironman training.  (I’m also focused on creating the Half Ironman training program, itself.)  I’m now running 16 miles a week and spending 45 minutes in the spin studio a couple times a week.  I’m also doing strength training 3 times a week.  I’m feeling stronger every day.  That is until this past Sunday, December 25th, when I twisted my ankle.

A few weeks ago, MLH and I decided not to celebrate Christmas.  We spent our previous Christmas with Noah in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU).  We actually have relatively fond memories of that time because Noah was doing well then.  However, dealing with Noah’s first birthday, knowing we’d celebrate Christmas without him and feeling the date of his death quickly approaching, I became increasingly anxious, upset and sad as Christmas grew closer and closer.  So after obtaining advice from a grief support group, we made the decision to skip Christmas this year.  On December 25th, we went for a long run outside instead. Well right when MLH and I hit our turnaround point a couple cyclists caught me off guard by passing us and I fell and twisted my ankle.

Now I’m trying to stay off my feet so the ankle can heal.  I haven’t worked out in 3 days and probably won’t be able to do any training for the rest of the week.

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