Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hy-Vee Race Report

Well, I was right. It wasn’t a GREAT race. But I think I’m finally at the point I can look back and say it was at least a GOOD race. I had a goal, I didn’t reach it. And for awhile after the race, I beat up on myself a little bit. Ok I beat up on myself a lot. But I’m over it now. Cuz you know what? It doesn’t change a thing to sit here and throw a pity party for myself. It is what it is. I can only try to work harder and be better next time.

Everything about this race was a little bit odd. First it was a triathlon, then the floods hit and it became a duathlon, then four days before race day it was back to a triathlon again. I felt a little relieved when it became a duathlon because of my history with the swim, but in some ways I was disappointed too. The swim was going to be a big challenge for me and one I felt ready to finally conquer. But I came to terms with that rather quickly and began thinking about my strategy for the du. Just about the time I thought I had a strategy down for the du, they changed it back to a tri. So it was back to the original plan.


This was the first race I’ve done where I haven’t had my mental coach with me. Greyt was not racing Hy-Vee, so I was on my own. It was a weird feeling to not have her there to talk through my swim strategy or to hang out with in transition. But I really felt like I was doing ok. I felt strong on race morning. I felt prepared and ready. For once, I felt confident in the swim. I wasn’t my normal panicky, anxious self. So without Greyt there, I spent the hour or so before race time getting my bike transition all squared away, stretching and warming up, and also talking to some of the gals racked around me. It was a little intimidating to be standing there in the middle of some pretty tough competitors. I had Cathy Yndestad on my left, Tess Taintor on my right, Jana Severson about three bikes down, Jane Riessen across the aisle…man that was intimidating! And I just KNOW that the one open spot beside Tess was the spot Jen would have occupied had she raced this weekend. Now THAT would have been interesting!!! ;)

The Swim

With the flooding situation it was a bit sketchy to get into open water before the race. But, I really felt ready for the swim so I didn’t sweat this as much as I have in the past. As we all moved towards the swim start, I felt excited to start. Anxious, yes, but not nervous or panicky. I looked confidently out at the water, eyed up the buoys, and just said “You got this.” I stood in the pack of white caps and chatted with a friend of mine while we waited for the other heats to go off. Even as I carefully waded into the water to avoid falling on the concrete drop-off or nailing one of the limestone boulders that used to line the walkway (which was now under water), I still did not have that oh-my-god-what-am-I-doing feeling that I normally get right before the horn sounds. I was ready to go. Or so I thought.

The horn sounded and we all took off running into the water. I took my time with this because I had absolutely NO REASON to get myself caught up in the pack of swimmers I mentioned above. Then when I had some open space, I dove in. And then it hit. PANIC CITY! The water was so dark it was like putting your face down into a mud puddle. I immediately jerked my head up and gasped. Then put my head down again and tried to swim. Then another gasp. Then the doggie paddling started. My heart was beating out of my chest. I could not control my breathing. It was a nightmare. I struggled with this half crawl /half doggie paddle stroke for a minute or so then rolled over onto my back and tried to regain my composure, but being on my back made me feel dizzy so I turned back over and tried it again. Same thing. I just could not believe this was happening. It was worse than it was in Galveston, by far. And I think, the worst I’ve felt since my first tri last June. I was struggling. Big time. I felt so defeated. So mislead by my own over-confidence. I wanted to quit, I didn’t see how I could possibly finish the swim like this.

I got to the first turn buoy, and I grabbed onto it to rest. I was so angry with myself, so completely and totally mad that I felt this way AGAIN. And I decided it was enough. I had me a little pep talk at that buoy. I shared a few choice words with myself, said there was no way in hell I was going to quit, and finally took off again. I found some open space along the buoy line and finally got into some semblance of a rhythm. I started catching up to and passing white caps. I caught a couple purple caps too, then a couple of orange ones. It was about damn time. I got to the last turn buoy and felt pretty good. Turned and headed home. I just knew the time out of the water was going to be around 40-45 minutes. That stretch to the first turn buoy felt like it took forever. As I came closer to the swim exit, I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to reach my goal time. I felt extremely disappointed in myself. But, at least I was going to finish the swim. I wasn’t so sure of that when I started. Summary: Sucky, sucky swim. (and dirty! that is NOT a 5 o'clock shadow!!)

The Bike

When I hit the timing mat for T1, I looked down and hit the lap timer on my watch. I was very surprised to see the time on my watch was much faster than I had anticipated. This gave me a little bit of hope for salvaging a respectable race time, but I still couldn’t quite shake the disappointment. I got through transition fine, and was finally out on the bike. What a relief.

The first part of the bike was a little challenging given there was a pretty big hill in the first 2 miles. But I knew once I got up that hill and turned onto the road by the school that I would finally see some supporting faces in the crowd. And, man, did I need that. I pushed up the hill and put the hammer down. My legs felt ready to go, and I was determined to make up some time on the bike. As I passed the school I heard the best sound ever – “GO KRISTEN!!”. There was Laura and Greyt cheering me on. I gave them a little thumbs up sign and just kept hammering. A little further down the road I heard another familiar voice and my friend Deb was there cheering me on too. It was so great to have people on the course, especially at the beginning of the bike, to encourage me and get me going. I needed that so much.

The bike felt really really good. I passed a lot of people. The only people who passed me had those funky helmets and disc wheels. I was ok with that. We hit the Booneville stretch and all of a sudden I was working REALLY hard to maintain a pace that was about 4-5 mph slower than I had maintained through the first 7 or 8 miles of the bike. I was like what the hell is going on? Am I losing my legs already? Then I realized we were riding into a headwind so I didn’t feel quite so bad. I turned around and used the tailwind to my advantage and passed a ton more people on the way home. Summary: Good, hard bike.

The Run
Got through transition in good time and headed out on the run. My legs felt GREAT right away. About halfway through the first mile, I started to pace myself with this woman I had raced against last summer. She is a little faster of a runner than me, so I thought, let’s just see if you can hang with her. I stayed with her for a mile and felt pretty good doing it. Then when I looked at my split and my HR, I thought it would be wise to maybe back off a little and let her go. I didn’t want to push too hard and not be able to handle the hills that were coming up.

The run was set up in such a way that you could always see people coming back from various turn arounds. That was pretty cool. I saw a TON of TRI Racers on the course, and even though I only knew a handful of them, almost every single one of them gave me some kind of GO TRI shout or other acknowledgement. That was pretty awesome.

I felt really good on the run. My pace was right where I wanted it. My heart rate wasn’t getting too out of control. When I got to the hilly section there were a lot of people walking up the hills. Including that woman I tried to hang with at the beginning of the run. Not me. No way in hell I was going to walk ANY of this course. Even that last killer hill was not going to make me walk. Coming up the final hill there were all kinds of people around cheering us to the finish. I passed a few people coming up the hill, turned the corner and made my way through the maze of spectators to the finish line. The finish was set up with grandstands on three sides, and that sweet blue carpet lining the final 25 yards. What a cool way to finish a race. Summary: Good, solid run.

All in all, I’m happy with my race. Even though the swim did not go as I had hoped, it’s quite an accomplishment for me to even have completed a swim of that length. A year and a half ago, I couldn’t swim 25 yards in the pool. I flat out did not know how to swim. And here I was on Sunday gutting out a 1.5K open water swim. I am proud of the fact that I did it, and also proud of the fact that I didn’t allow myself to quit.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

So very cool...

I just had one of the coolest experiences EVER! Hy-Vee (the local grocery chain sponsoring this weekend's BIG triathlon) hosted a meet and greet session today with last year's triathlon winner and 2008 Olympian, Laura Bennett. I thought, well, I'll go over there and maybe get a chance to introduce myself. Even though it was corny, I thought maybe she would even sign my helment. So I get there and there is NO ONE else around her. She's just sitting at a table with Frosted Flakes boxes all around her (she's on the box with Tony!). So I walk up to her and she smiles and I introduce myself. We shake hands. I ask her if she would sign my helmet, and she was like "SURE!".

Then we proceeded to just chit chat about triathlon stuff for like 20 minutes!!! It was AWESOME! I felt really bad that there weren't others there wanting to meet her, but it was also really cool to get that much time to just talk to her one on one. She's a pretty cool chick!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I know, I know...It's about time!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I'm a bad blogger. But that's not because I'm just lazy or don't have anything to blog about. I'm just busy! Who isn't, though, right? Maybe if I made it a point to blog each and every time I sat in an airport, I'd be better at it. This post is coming to you from Newark, at 6:00am. UGH. Have I mentioned I LOVE traveling?

Ok so where do I start? How about the most obvious - Hy-Vee is 12 days away! YIKES! Just typing that made my heart start racing. I'm a bit anxious. A bit nervous. But I'm actually starting to feel ready for it. A year ago, I would have been sitting here sweating bullets, in all-out panic mode. I'm not terrified of the swim...maybe slightly nervous...ok, ok, more than slightly, but definitely not terrified. I'm feeling pretty good about my training on the bike and the run too. Do I feel like I'm completely and totally ready to have the kind of race I would like to have? No. (Don't choke on your M&Ms, Jen!) But I do feel like I have trained hard and well enough to have a good race and improve on my time/effort from Galveston. So that is good. I am progressing. Patience, Daniel-son.

Why don't you feel like you're ready to have that break-through race, you ask? Well it’s all about timing. And coincidence. And, dare I say it? Destiny? Just a little over a month ago I made a pretty big series of decisions related to my training. I had a coach, then didn't have a coach, tried to train on my own, didn't do so well with that, then IT happened. IT happened at the precise moment IT needed to happen. And IT happened in such a purely quiet and coincidental way, that if IT hadn't been at the precisely right time, I probably wouldn't have given IT a second thought. But that's the thing...IT did happen at the exact right time. Interesting how that happens sometimes. IT was just a little note. Just a comment to one of my blogs about racing. And a link. Had IT just been a nice comment in passing, without the link, I wouldn't be sitting here talking about IT and driving you all crazy with my repeated capitalization of IT. But the link was there. I had to follow it, I had to know who this person was. I mean someone, a complete stranger, had read my blog! And commented! That just didn't happen! So, I went to the site. And that's where IT finally happened. I found Jen.

To make a long story short, I read every little piece of information on her site. And, as odd as it sounds, she fired me up without ever having spoken a word to me. My first thought was, whoa, this chick is INTENSE. And I liked that. I also liked the passion she has for triathlons and for her own training and racing. Then I started thinking about coaching. I just had this feeling deep down that she would be a really good fit for me, but I honestly didn’t think it could work. First of all I figured she probably already coached a full roster of athletes and wouldn’t have capacity. Second I thought that someone with those kinds of credentials would surely not be interested in coaching a fairly new, slow triathlete like myself. And third, she lives in another state. How would that work exactly? But, despite all those questions, I couldn’t quite put the thought of working with her out of my mind. So I emailed her. She immediately emailed me back. We traded messages. I debated. She encouraged me to take my time and think about what I wanted/needed in a coach. We talked on the phone. I debated. All the while, Dam to Dam and Hy-Vee were fast approaching and my training was not going well. So, I did it. I sent her an email. “Let’s do this.” And she’s been kicking my @$$ ever since.

I’ve been working with Jen for about a month now and it’s been all I thought it would be. Intense, hard, tiring, and fun. I can already see a difference in my fitness level over the past few weeks. But it has only been a few weeks…and that is why I don’t feel like I’m going to go into Hy-Vee and have the race of my life. I’m not there yet. But I will be. She’s still trying to figure me out. I’m still trying to figure out the workouts she gives me. We’ve made progress already in one month. I can’t wait to see what happens when we figure each other out.