Thursday, June 26, 2008

Few Other Things I'd Like to Change About Myself

- I'd like to be less judgmental
- I'd like to read more
- I'd like to take a stand politically

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Apology to Myself

I'd like to make a public apology to myself about some of the mean things I said on this blog.

"My 400 free sucked." Nori, you were tired. You didn't feel like racing. Big deal. You should congratulate yourself for all the hard work you did in Hawaii. Next time race harder, because you'll have a better experience, but don't be so hard on yourself.

"Right now, I kinda feel like I suck at triathlon." Nori, you don't suck at triathlon! You're a beginner at triathlon. You kick beginner ass!

"This is some kind of benchmark that makes me feel a little more like an athlete." You ARE an athlete. You are an athlete in terms of your focus, determination, and drive. You swam across Lake Tahoe and did a Half Ironman, no small feats. You've earned the right to consider yourself more than a wannabe.

"My main hobby is something I don't have any particular talent for." This isn't true. The effort you put into your swimming that has developed your talent. Lots of people would say that you have talent in this area. Don't knock yourself by comparing yourself to other people.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why I Shouldn't Miss Saturday Practice

I skipped my workout yesterday. Normally, I swim and then ride my bike on Saturdays. I was ambivalent about riding my bike in the heat (especially since I'd likely end up riding by myself), my house was a mess, I have a cold, and there was laundry to be done. But when I went to bed last night, I was actually kind of sorry that it was Saturday night and not Sunday night. I was pining for my pool, and wished it was Monday the next day. I realize now that I've only swam 7 Masters practices in the last month, and only 3 in the lat 3 weeks. It seems a little sick to want to forgo a weekend day just so I can get in the pool, but I really wished I could wake up at 5 am in the morning and go workout, even if it meant that I'd have to work that day.

I confessed this to Oxy, and she got upset about my selfish wish. She said "What if it came true? Then everyone else in the whole world would lose a Sunday just so that you could swim. That's just mean." Sometimes when I wish things they do oddly come true, but I don't think my wishes are so powerful that I could disrupt space and time, or convince the powers that be to change the calendars world wide just for me. But you never know. I could be more powerful than I think. Maybe the safe thing would be not skip my Saturday workouts.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Someone I Forgot To Thank

Thanks, Jac, for being my original cycling partner, for doing my first triathlon with me, for coming to cheer for me on my second, and being a positive, supportive friend. I don't think I would have ever done Hawaii 70.3 if it wasn't for you.

I hope I didn't forget anyone else. :(. I guess that's the problem with making lists, you might forget someone important and hurt someone's feelings. There are lots of people I love who didn't make the list. You may have even wished me well, but I forgot. If you care enough about me to read this blog, you're the best. :) Andy, my brother, you're one of them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Defense of Being an Average Athlete

I told someone recently that I qualified for Long Course Nationals. He asked me "What does that mean?" I answered, "I guess it doesn't really mean anything. Just like most qualifications, it might be sort of an arbitrary benchmark." He didn't seem to understand, so I tried to drop it, but he insisted I explain what it meant. I said "What it means is that my time was within 10% of the top 10 times at the previous National Championships." (Not that it really matters, but this is not quite true. See http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=5883 for discussion.) He said to me "Oh. So that means maybe you can do better in the future, right?" I answered sort of sheepishly and let down a bit, "Well, I don't know if I'll ever do better than this. It's better than I've ever done, though, so I'm happy that I improved."

Someone who reads this blog once asked me why I do what I do. She said that I talk a lot about my results and numbers, but not a lot about why I do them. I didn't think this was true, but maybe it is. The whole point of swimming across Lake Tahoe, to my mind, was to make me a stronger person by committing to something challenging.

Here are some posts that relate to my reasons I like to do challenging athletic events:

What I Got Out of Swimming Tahoe
Battling Uncertainty
Jesus is My Lane Line
Let's try this again

I'm tired at the moment, and feel like my main hobby deserves a better defense than I might give. Usually when someone asks me why I do what I do, I brush it off by answering "Everyone needs to do something to pass the time, right?" I feel like my real reasons might come off as pretentious and annoying. Maybe I should stop doing that. Maybe people might learn something or be inspired (although I still think it's more likely they will be annoyed.)

The reason I first started swimming is the reason most people start exercising: everyone knows exercise is good for you. I've always had this in the back of my mind, but was never committed to it until about 5 years ago. I had graduated from college, gotten married, had a decent paying job, and bought a house. The above things, in that order, were the focuses of my adult life up until 5 years ago. They took up a lot of time and energy, and were a higher priority in my life than being healthy. But at the age of 27 and having my life somewhat settled, I felt like I had to ask myself what my life should look like. I started taking art classes and joined Masters swimming, because art and exercise were two of the things that were part of what I wanted my life to look like.

Completely unexpectedly, I fell in love with swimming. I felt so good after my morning workouts; I became addicted without knowing it. I realized it the first couple times I was forced to take a break, once because I injured my toe taking the pool covers off, and once when Raybon's family came to stay and I felt like I needed to spend time with them (and make them breakfast.) Each time I got back in the pool I felt joy. It was not just the pleasure of activity (a big part of it), but it also fed my soul to know that I was doing something just for me, that I loved myself enough to make my well being a priority.

I did a one-mile practice open water swim, and fell even harder in love with swimming. I loved the freedom of the open water, and the feeling of accomplishment or doing something I thought only people amazing, brave, athletic, and disciplined could do. At this first open water swim I did, I heard people talking about a 10K open water swim and thought at once "That's crazy. That's awesome. That's something I want to do." I signed up for a 10K run as well, wanting Raybon, a former runner, to catch some of the excitement I got from swimming. I told people that I needed to sign up for races in order to motivate myself to train hard. I may have believed this, but that wasn't all there was to it. I was excited by the goals themselves, and wanted more of that feeling of accomplishment I felt after my first swim around the Pier by setting harder and harder goals for myself.

I firmly believe that anyone of any background and ability can get as much out of competing as the people who win. All the good reasons for competing are available to everyone: e.g. pushing your limits, getting over your fears, the camaraderie felt with you fellow athletes, motivation to be in good physical shape, learning about commitment and discipline, building your confidence, feeling the joy of completing your hard earned goals. Really, it's only the bad reason for competing that is available only to the best of the best: wanting to feel superior to everyone around them. This is not to say that the best of the best compete for bad reasons, and not to say that slower athletes like myself aren't susceptible to bad motivations like petty jealousy. We definitely are. Working through those human foibles is just one more challenge in athletics, maybe the most important one. Patience with ourselves and others when confronted with pettiness is another.

So, I'm proud of myself for qualifying for Nationals. It might seem like an arbitrary cutoff, but it still means something to me. It shows how much I've improved, because I used to read the time standards and think they were way out of my reach. Honestly, I suppose part of the reason it is satisfying is it would give some legitimacy to my passion for swimming. I've spent the past few years being slightly embarrassed that my main hobby is something I don't have any particular talent for. Ideally, I could look into myself and tell myself honestly that I gave it my best, and the shiny medals and numbers and web results wouldn't matter. I know it seems contradictory, but I hope those arbitrary things will build my confidence that someday I won't care as much about them.

Things I'd like to change about myself

Just a few things that come to mind:

- I'd like to be more confident
- I'd like to be more deliberate
- I'd like to be less whiny

The whiny thing is actually number one on my list. My life is pretty great, when I think about it, but I spend way too much time wishing it was different. It saps my energy and my enjoyment of life, and probably distracts other people from their enjoyment as well. Maybe the antidote to whinyness is a sense of gratitude. To God, to life, and to others.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What's Harder, Open Water Swimming or Triathlon?

A couple of people have asked me this. Actually, one person didn't exactly ask. She declared Hawaii 70.3 to be the hardest thing I'd ever done (as I crossed the finish line.) Questions I've heard that are similar:

What's harder, childbirth or an Ironman?
What's harder, an Ironman or the English Channel?
What's harder, childbirth or the English Channel?
What's harder swimming across Lake Tahoe or a Half Ironman?

I've never swam the English Channel, done an Ironman, or given birth to a child. So maybe I have no business answering these questions. But I think the questions are silly, because they are all probably hard in completely different ways, and therefore harder for different people. Someone who doesn't know how to swim would find it much harder to swim the English Channel than to give birth to a child. Someone who is a beginning swimmer or has no cold tolerance would find an Ironman easier than the English Channel, and a Half Ironman easier than swimming across Lake Tahoe. Someone who has only swam and never biked or run would find any kind of triathlon more difficult than a swimming race. People are born with different talents and abilities, and they also have different backgrounds they bring to athletic events.

You could say that I trained for 4 years to swim across Lake Tahoe. I didn't know this is what I was doing, but all the swimming training I'd done previous to the race prepared me for it. I trained for maybe 6 months for the Half Ironman. So if the 8 hours I spent in the heat were harder for me than the 6 hours I spent in the lake, that doesn't make swimming Lake Tahoe less of an accomplishment. (And I can't say my time spent in the Lake was easier. A comparison deserves another post.) I dislike the idea that suffering is what makes an athletic accomplishment great. This would mean that someone who isn't disciplined in their training is a better athlete, because a less trained athlete would suffer more. I think the mental strength to endure discomfort during an event is just one of many things I admire about endurance athletes. Discipline and commitment in training are at least equally important.

I don't think I'll ever be able to answer any of these question, even if I did all the above things. I felt more fully recovered from Hawaii 70.3 in a shorter amount of time than it took me to recover from swimming Tahoe solo, but maybe that's because I'd already done a big endurance event and am simply in better shape, and also know more about nutrition and recovery than I did before.

What's the real point of these questions anyways? I'd think they were legitimate if it might give someone confidence in trying another challenge, knowing that they'd already done something equally difficult, but sometimes I think the point is to rank ourselves and others in some kind of pecking order. What's the point of that? How can you possibly take someone's entire life and compare one to another? In life, we've all had different starting lines (even siblings), different obstacles, and different goals. Some of these are mental, some are physiological, some are internal, some are external. Take your challenges as they come or as you choose them, give it your best and enjoy the rewards.

Meet Report

I dragged my heels to the meet yesterday. I made excuses for how slow I was, even before I raced. Waah, waah, waah. I'm jet lagged. I've only swam for an hour and 20 minutes in the last two weeks. I haven't been swimming as much as last year in general.

(For the uninitiated, most pool meets are swum in a 50 meter pool [Long Course Meters (LCM)] or a 25 yard pool [Short Course Yards (SCY)]. Since a meter is longer than a yard, and flip turns make you faster, you have to do a little math to figure out how times convert from one course to the other.)

My 400 free sucked. I got like a 6:10, not a fast time for me. Based on the time conversion utility from Swimming World Magazine, I should have gone a 5:56, based on my 500 time from last year. 14 seconds difference. What's past is past. Next time I'll bring a better attitude to the race, even if I don't feel prepared.

I scratched my 100 free. I figured I'd come to support my team, and done my part by swimming the 400 free, and would just help time.

After sitting around and timing for a while, I decided I'd swim the 200 Back. I started making the excuses again while talking to M.A. Then like mid sentence, I told myself "Shut up. You're a swimmer. You're a backstroker. You may have just done a triathlon, but today you're here to swim. You're going to swim that 200 back hard." I did my normal race ritual of talking to my coach first. So I gave it a go, and remembered what it felt like to race a 200. When my arms and legs started to burn to the last 50 meters I told myself "Burn, baby, burn." I got a 3:10, I ended up beating my previous best time for a 200 M Back by 7 seconds. I also beat my converted SCY P.R. (2:45.70 short course yards converts to 3:13.35 long course meters) by 3 seconds. OK, I did wear the Fastskin.

Hey, I qualified for Nationals in 200 back!!! This is pretty exciting for me, because I think it is the first time. Apparently, LCM qualifying times are a little more generous than SCY, but I'm still pleased. This is some kind of benchmark that makes me feel a little more like an athlete. I told Raybon this morning, and he asked me if I was going. I told him no, because it was all the way in Oregon, and he mocked me, "Wow, that's soooo far away. You even know people you could stay with." Meh.... Maybe qualifying is enough for now.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hooray for Me!

Here is a link to the cute PowerPoint my Dad made about my Hawaii 70.3 race:



Comments on the slides:

Slide 1:

I had wonderwoman underoos as a 5 year old, would make bracelets out of tin foil, and would pretend my tricycle was my invisible jet.

Slide 3:

Boy, I was a cutie back then, wasn't I?

Slide 4:
The frowny picture of me with my family is from when I was 11 and had a humongous overbite that I was trying to cover up in the picture. I wasn't being sulky, I just didn't want to smile and show my teeth. I got teased a lot about them, a source of trauma that explains a lot about my feelings about my looks today.


Slide 12:
That's my Mommy hugging me, before the race actually.

Slide 13:

Just got off the plane. Tired, but happy to be in Hawaii and greeted by Auntie Shirley (enough that I didn't balk at the camera.) Actually, thanks Shirley for all the great pictures you took of us. You've got talent if you can take a picture of me that I could be happy with.

Slide 14:

My Daddy and my niece Anjali.

Slide 15:

Mom, Shirley, Raybon, Bob, and me at Auntie Shirley and Uncle Bob's lovely home in Kona.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's Next

Everyone keeps asking me what's next. What's literally next in terms of athletic events is a swim meet this weekend that my team is putting on. I was going to shine it on, but my team is putting it on, and I get enough out of the team that I figure I should offer my support if the team needs it. I haven't been focused on swimming all that much, and have only swam twice in the last two weeks (unless you count snorkeling and boogie boarding), so I'm not likely to get great results, unless I'm lucky or that Fastskin (should I decide to wear it) does wonders.

But is there something next on the horizon, some challenging endurance event similar to Tahoe Solo or Hawaii 70.3? Am I on track for a marathon? A marathon swim? An Ironman?

When I was relaxing in Hawaii after the race, I thought I might be done, that I had gotten this all out of my system, and maybe I should focus on other things in life that are scary and challenging, and more practical. Like looking into moving out of the Flip Flop Mountains. Like listening to that ticking biological clock. (No, this is not an opening to ask nosey questions, not that anyone waits for an opening.) Yes, these are things to think about. But can't I think about these things and a race at the same time?

There are two things that pop into my mind as potential goals:

1. Catalina Channel Solo
2. Big Kahuna Half Ironman

I'm not sure a marathon is in my future, at least not immediately. I think if I were to do one, it'd after open water and triathlon season is over. Ironman? I probably couldn't get into one, even I felt up to one. (I don't.) Now that I've done a longish solo swim, and a Half Ironman, I have at least some sense of what I'd be getting into.

Catalina Channel Big Kahuna
Would probably be the most challenging athletic event I've ever done. Would be in familiar territory, literally, since it is close to home, and I've done at least part of every of the course in all 3 disciplines.
I know people doing it solo this year, so I could potentially have people to train with. I wouldn't necessarily have that opportunity again. Would be flatter and cooler, hence easier than Hawaii 70.3.
I'm a more talented long distance open water swimmer than a triathlete. How much of this is nature and how much of it is just what I'm experienced in, I'm not sure about. But why shouldn't I try for something I might excel in? Part of the race is in what I consider to be my home turf, that is around the Flip Flop Wharf.
I'm afraid if I switch to triathlon, I'll lose some of the cold tolerance I've built up over the past few years. This probably isn't a legitimate fear. My cold tolerance wasn't too hard to build up before. After the heat in Hawaii 70.3 kicked my ass, I'd like to see what I could do in a race where the temperature is more to my liking.
I'd stand out more amongst the triathletes on my team by doing something not many people have done. (Only 140 people from around the world have ever swum the Catalina Channel.) Honestly, this sounds like a Pro, but maybe actually be a Con. Would be a lot cheaper than swimming the Catalina Channel.
Right now, I kinda feel like I suck at triathlon, and triathlon is a highly competitive sport. Open water swimming is competitive, too, but honestly, not as much. It is more about getting across a body of water than it is about speed. Wouldn't need a support crew. I actually find it very hard to be so dependent on people, and to feel like I owe them a favor in return.
I'd prove I could do it to someone who suggested I wasn't ready. While Hawaii 70.3 was hot and miserable, I recovered from it much more quickly than my Tahoe solo swim. It was hard, but I wasn't drained to my core like I felt after swimming across Tahoe solo. There could be lots of reasons for this, a lot of it mental, but there it is. I don't think Big Kahuna would take a big old chunk out of my life like swimming Catalina solo would.
  Swimming is still my favorite thing, but I do like the biking and running, too. And they make swimming better, too, because I don't burn out as easily. I went on a ride with the team this week, and it made me very happy. I'd been debating with myself whether or not I should continue with the Tri Team, and I think the relief and happiness I felt getting back on my bike proves that it is something I'd miss a lot.
  I like the social aspect of triathlons, especially training and doing them with a team. I was sad after finishing Tahoe solo, not having anyone who had also done it to talk about my experience with.


This isn't really a Pro vs. Con list, because I think it is just in the nature of challenges that it's hard to tell what counts as Pro and what counts as a Con. It all depends on how big of a challenge I'm up for. I don't know that I'll do either, but at least it gives me something to think about.

Fastskin

Even people who aren't swimmers know something about the new, expensive swimsuits that people breaking world records are wearing. I bought myself a Speedo Fastskin II in Hawaii to wear for the race. It was only $60, marked down from $200. (The Fastskin II was their fast suit way back in 2004.) My other choice was to swim in my team jersey and shorts, or bra and shorts. I figured this would slow me down a bit. Since my swim split was really my only time I had any hope of being proud of, I figured it was worth the $60. It would just be too annoying if after working hard at my swimming for 5 years, someone who paid $300 for a suit but didn't work as hard as me whipped my butt.

I'd never been tempted to buy one of these suits for a number of reasons:

- Too expensive. I'm too cheap.

- My goal swimming is generally to P.R., not to beat anyone else. Could I feel like my P.R. is meaningful if I'm faster just because of my suit?

-Generally, people in my league don't wear these suits anyway. I've seen people slower than me wear them, but generally they aren't in my age group (they are older.)

- I'd feel dumb, for the reasons above.

- As a matter of principal, I'd rather swimming races were won by skill instead of expensive suits. Triathlons, since they involve bikes, can't have such principles, so I didn't worry about this for Hawaii 70.3

But now I have a Fastskin, and I have a meet in 2 days. It may be yesterday's second best, but it is probably faster than my skimpier Illusions tank suit. Since it wasn't much more expensive than a regular suit (cheaper than some actually), it throws some of the above reasons out the window.

Hmmm... If I get a stellar time (stellar being relative to my past times, and not fast swimmers), it'll make it that much harder to P.R. again if I don't ever buy another fast suit. But who knows? Maybe this will be the last time I ever swim in a long course meet. It's only my second in my Masters swimming career anyway. Maybe I'll never be in as good shape as I am now. Maybe the suits will get so cheap, everyone will be wearing them next year.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hawaii 70.3 Recap

In November, Coach sent out a newsletter to M.M., in which he presented the opportunity to interested Masters participants of training with the Tri Team (T.S.) for a Half Ironman on the Big Island of Hawaii. At first, I was adamantly not interested, but after riding around with Mojojoey and Tanja, and being encouraged by Big L, I realized it was something I really wanted to do. The idea of training for and participating in an event with such great people (28 people from our team ended up going) was very appealing to me. The thought was more than a little scary, but they all seemed to think I could do it. I emailed Coach, telling him I was interested, but these were my concerns:

- Bike handling skills are almost zilch. I rode down 84 Saturday, and stopped 2 or 3 times because my hands were fatigued and I was generally feeling a little freaked out. I've only ridden my road bike a dozen times off the trainer. I was terrified just riding down my block as early as August, so I'm hopeful I'll continue to get over my biking fears.
- Have never run more than 10K, and now only run 3 miles at a time, at a snails pace.
- Don't do well in hot weather. Even the little 5K Splash and Dash's at Stevens Canyon in the summer were uncomfortable.

Coach emailed me back to tell me that if I was doing it for the right reasons, he was certain I’d be able to finish the race. After a week or so of obsessing nervously over it, I signed up for the race. I immediately felt happy and relieved.

Training for the event was hard in ways I hadn’t expected it to be. I got dropped on rides more than a few times, and was certain I was the slowest person on my triathlon team, (at least for biking and running.) I’ve been lectured a couple of times about how I shouldn’t care about this sort of thing. I’ve also had kind responses from Coach and Mojojoey that my frustration is understandable. Feelings are what they are; they occasionally surface sometimes no matter how much we try to counteract them with positive beliefs. But after completing Wildflower Olympic in the top 40% of my age group, I was grateful for the toughness of the training I’d gone through with the team.

I was nervous going into this event, but not nearly as much as I have been for some past ones, even some pool meets. The training I’ve done leading up to this has changed my personality in positive ways that has helped me deal with my nervousness. Climbing up Old La Honda, and being the last person up the hill, but still feeling triumphant (in part because of my supportive team) may have helped with my confidence in doing something hard, not matter how I place. Calming myself while being terrified descending 84 has given me a steadiness that has translated into my entire life, including preparing for races. I’ve also learned to be happy enough with myself that I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. If I didn’t finish the race or go as fast as I liked, it isn’t absolute proof that I have weakness of character.

Still, while my anxiety was less than it was swimming across Lake Tahoe solo, it was still pretty high. The day before the race, I considered just doing the swim and bike and pulling out before the run. My foot and shins were bothering me even while treading water and walking on the beach. I was afraid of doing irreparable damage to myself. I talked it over with Coach, and decided to take a stab at the race, but just be very cautious, and to walk if it hurt to run, and to pull out if it was too painful to walk. I suspected that my pain was to some degree psychosomatic. I did have physical symptoms, such as swelling, and not just mental pain, but this is something I’ve experienced before other races, and they’ve cleared up as soon as I relax after being done with a race. Having a body that tries to sabotage me is not a great trait to have as an aspiring athlete, but I’ll have to look at it as yet another challenge that faces me. While saddened by the thought that I might not finish the race due to injury, I was also relieved to the point that my body already started to feel better after my talk with Coach. It relieved some of the pressure of feeling like I had to finish the race no matter what.

I was both nervous and happy as I started my race. I set up my transition area, and made my way down to the beach. I try not to be negative or rant on this blog, but I feel like it is part of the story that someone tried to psych me out before I started the race, which considering I am a beginner at this, was sort of appalling. Luckily it didn't work, and I did my best to focus on positive thoughts, rather than the negative ones she fed me. The positive energy of most of the athletes around made her attempt to psych me out innocuous. The hugs and best wishes from my family (Mom and Aunt, who volunteered for the race, and my husband, who was also there) helped as well. As they played the National Anthem while I treaded water at the start line with 1300 other people (this is how many people signed up for the race, but a good percentage of these people either didn't show up or didn't finish even the swim), I sang along loudly and out of key. The cannon went off suddenly without a countdown, and the frantic mass of bodies began the race.

When I first heard that everyone would start at once, I was shocked. I'd never done a start like that, and even small triathlon starts are spastic swarms of flying arms and legs. I ended up enjoying the swim anyways. A lot of people don’t like the claustrophobic feeling of swimming in a pack, but it makes me feel like a badass. We were told to take the turn around the first buoy wide, but I wasn’t sighting so much as following the people in front of me, and the people in front of me turned right at the buoy. I almost never do this even for small open water swims, but I took sharp turns around the buoys. Everyone’s swim times (including mine) were slow due to rough conditions, but I hardly noticed, enjoying the draft of the huge pack of people in front of me. I ended up with at time of 35 minutes and some seconds, and finished 7th out of 81 in my age group, and 213th overall.

I took my time in the transition area. I took a long rinse in the shower, wanting to avoid uncomfortable chafing, and reapplied body glide and sunscreen. A lot of the time advantage I’d earned in the swim was lost in transition. One more thing to practice. My bike chain was off my bike, which I noticed, when I first tried to mount. I pulled off to the side and fixed it, while a woman behind me in an Aero helmet yelled at me angrily for slowing her down. Pbbbt… Wonder if she was racing for prize money or ego…

I got on my bike and started my ride finally. There was a strong cross wind throughout my ride. This was only my second time riding with a strong wind, and also only my second experience with aerobars, and I’d never done both at the same time. The ride was harder than I expected. The heat got to me, and I felt nauseous for the last third of my ride from the Perpetuem slurry and heat. I also had problems with the water I had mounted on my water bottle cage mounted behind my seat. I'd never used it before. If I was smart, I would have had one bottle of Perpetuem and one bottle of water mounted on the frame, and the extra bottle of Perpetuem mounted behind my seat, but I didn't think this through enough. I had no problems getting it out of the cage, but couldn't get it back in. I actually stopped and got off my bike to put it back 2 or 3 times. I guess the even smarter think to do would be to have practiced this in training.

I finished the ride in 4 hours and 10 minutes; about 10 minutes longer than what I had guestimated. I was slightly slower than my pace at Wildflower. This was the longest ride I’d ever done, save one training ride along the coast, but I maintained a faster speed than any of my long training rides by about 1.5 MPH. I was still slower than almost anyone racing that day. I got 976th place on the bike, so considering I got 213th on the swim, I got passed over and over and over again. I might have passed a couple people, but they also may have eventually passed me back, after I got freaked out by being nearly knocked over by cross winds and slowing down due to heat and nausea. This race was much more competitive than Wildflower, where I actually was able to pass some people who started in heats before me, and performed about average for my age group on the bike.

I started my "run." I walked a good part of the first mile, trying to get a feel for how my ankles and calves were doing. They felt stiff, but not unbearably painful, and I hoped they’d loosen up eventually. I did my first mile in 15 minutes. My brain was a little too fuzzy to do math, but I was figuring I might not make it if I didn’t pick up my pace a little bit. I walked through the aid stations in kind of a haze, stopping and thinking for a moment when offered sponges, water, ice and Gatorade. I stopped to force down a Clif Shot block gulped down water and poured some over my head, and squeezed the cold sponges over my head, too.

I decided to try to shuffle through the rest of the race, walking the aid stations and hills, and ended up doing a 14 minute mile my second mile. This frustrated me quite a bit. I think in my mind I hoped for a 10 minute mile pace best case scenario, but a 12 minute mile pace was my cutoff for acceptable. I tried to pick it up a little bit for the 3rd mile, but nausea and disorientation making it through the aid stations held me back a bit. Again, another 14 minute mile. I decided to turn off my watch and slow down my pace until the nausea subsided. I wasn’t sure whether this was good strategizing or wimpiness, but I figured if I ended up retching on the side of the road, I could get pulled from the race and wouldn’t be able to finish anyways.

I told myself I had to go at least 7 miles in order to feel triumphant, since I had run 6.2 at the end of my longest triathlon. When I reached mile 7, I congratulated myself and kept going. I don’t remember at what point I figured out that pouring ice down my bra would help me keep cool, but that seemed to help a lot. (Plus the small part of me that is an exhibitionist enjoyed doing this.) I tried to shuffle comfortably as I could until I reached mile 10, when I figured having only 5 Km left, a distance I’d done in uncomfortable heat before, I could push it. I didn’t time it, but I’d feel comfortable saying I at least jogged it rather than shuffling through it. At the last mile, I wished I had the choice to swim it, rather than running it, I was so tired of running. I ended up averaging 13 minute miles.

I finished the race strongly. My worried mom who had probably expected me to come in sooner, was walking towards me away from the finish line. Coach patted my back and sort of pushed me through the final stretch leading to finish line. I was greeted at the end by Big L. who gave me a huge bear hug. Despite the fact that I felt strong as I finished the race, I felt exhausted after I crossed the finish line. I wanted to lie down and not talk to anyone. As someone who is taciturn anyways, it takes a lot of energy for me to talk, so when people would ask me something, it would take a few seconds for it to sink into my brain and a few seconds to answer. Tanja suggested I go to the med tent if I felt a little funny. I decided to take her advice, wanting a quiet place to lie down and some ice for my shins. They put me on ice, and I gradually recovered, after maybe half an hour.

I recovered from this race quickly, despite how exhausted I felt when it first ended. My legs feel better than they have throughout most of my training. By the time I got to the awards banquet, my Mom said I was glowing.

Thanks to my friends and family who offered their support and congratulations:

- My Mom who came to Hawaii to support me, and volunteered for the race. My Auntie Shirley and Uncle Bob who met us at the airport, cooked for us, and opened her home up to us out first night here, and after the race. Glenn, who cheered for me and the team. He stood for 8 hours in the hot sun to wish us all well. My Dad for being proud of me, encouraging my Mom to come to Hawaii, and making a Power Point to tell my story to my family. The rest of the family for offering their congratulations and best wishes, including Monica, Toni, Barbara, Emily, Danny, Patty, Gary, Grandma, and Cathrine. My great friends Angel, Marc, and Sara. All your love and support makes me feel like a champ just for finishing the race.

Thanks also to my team:

- Tim for telling me I could do this, letting a little newbie like me train with the amazing people that make up T.S., and helping me with the confidence it took to finish it. Jocelyn, for being a great friend and source of inspiration and encouragement. The rest of the team, especially Lorraine, Tanja, Cindy, Edie, Sue, and Martin.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Today's Miracles

- I finished a Half Ironman in Hawaii
- I didn't crash
- I didn't have any flats
- I didn't chafe at all
- I didn't have any blisters, despite the fact that I ran 13.1 miles in soaked socks, and had prune feet by the end
- I finished in the top 10% of the swim
- I did something a little faster than walking the run
- I'm in only slightly more pain than I was yesterday
- My NexcareTM waterproof bandages on my feet to cover my blisters from Mondays Run-Swim-Run-Swim-Run didn't fall off during the whole event. If you ever need a waterproof bandage, forget Bandaid brand.

It was a hard, hard race. It was windy. It was hot, at least for me. I get hot running in 60 degree weather, so 80 something with some degree of humidity was brutal. I biked farther than I've ever biked, save on bike ride. I ran farther than I've ever run. I've never done close to those distances at once, and the times I've done long combo workouts, I never swam before. My time was slow, pretty close to last place in my age group. But I finished. I'm happy about that.