Monday, September 27, 2010

Santa Cruz Triathlon Race Report - 2010

The Santa Cruz Triathlon is one of my favorite races. Because it is local, I am familiar with the course which means I can build up the race in my mind, visualize it, and get more excited about it. And as you all know, I love the ocean. I get to swim in it, then enjoy the view while riding and running along it. I also just really like seeing familiar faces of teammates, past and present. My team, T.S., had a good showing for this race. I got a rush every time I saw someone in a team jersey, even if it usually meant they were passing me after leaving 10+ minutes back. I spent a bit of energy pumping my fist and cheering for people, just because I figured the energy I got back was more than worth it.

I did this race last year, 4 months after Rory was born. I was not in good shape to do the race. I was running once a week, and had gotten up to 5 miles. I wasn't riding at all. It was only my 3rd time on my bike in a year. I hadn't gotten to swim much either. I was nervous about doing the race, but really wanted to do it. I was nervous because I was afraid of being exhausted after the race, and having to take care of Rory afterward. The other thing I was nervous about was being apart from Rory. I figured I'd be away from him about 4 hours, the longest we'd ever been apart. He wasn't that crazy about taking a bottle, and not accustomed to being apart from me.

But I thought I deserved to do it. If I wasn't the perfect attentive mother after because I was tired, overall I'd be a happier, better mom if I was allowed to feel like a person in her own right. I promised myself I wouldn't race too hard. My goal was to keep moving for 3 or 4 hours, enjoy myself, and never race so hard I wanted to stop. I finished in about 3.5 hours. I was indeed very tired in the days following the race, but I was still glad I did it. And Rory survived my less than perfect motherhood. As he always does.

I'm in a much better place this year than last. I've gotten some of my edge back. While I raced in a postpartum haze last year, afraid of pushing too hard, afraid of crashing, afraid of getting kicked in the face in the swim, afraid of exhaustion, I decided to enjoy myself this year, but also enjoy pushing myself.

The swim was fun. Swimming in the wetsuit felt easy, and I felt like the swim went fast. The water didn't feel too, too rough, although there were some waves to look out for on entry and exit. I enjoyed swimming in a pack again, despite getting kicked and pushed. I relaxed and let my wetsuit float me through it. I was surprised when I got out that I was a minute slower than last year. So maybe I do swim better without a wetsuit. I don't think I was in better swimming shape last year. It did keep me warm, I guess, so maybe it helped me from starting the bike with cold muscles. I'm not sure whether the wetsuit vs. no wetsuit debate is as relevant as the fact that I'm not in as good swimming shape as I'd like. My fastest time around the pier is 23 minutes, and 24 minutes used to be typical. The fastest swim time for my age group this year was 25:20. Raybon says that is just how triathlon is, running and biking are more important, so if I focus on tri's, my swimming will slip. But that isn't it. I just don't live near a pool with lap swimming or workouts at times that I can get to them. I'm afraid I'll never get in good swimming shape. (I do have a plan that might work, maybe I'll blog about it later.)

Anyhoo... I had a slowish transition, having trouble getting my wetsuit off. I got on my bike. I'd been thinking about my bike all week. It's a course that isn't too hard, but has a lot of rolling hills. I read in one of the emails sent out by the race that one thing to do is to "Pretend the hill is actually 50 yards longer than it is so you’re accelerating over the top of them and not losing momentum." To my mind, this meant to bike the whole thing pretty hard, to not give it up on the hills, and since I'd naturally recover on the downhill, to not give it up then, too. I decided to push the bike for once. Every other tri I've done, I've been afraid to bike hard, wanting to save something for the run. I've run up to 15 miles at a time, sometimes in the heat, sometimes with a jogging stroller, so I figured I'd be OK with the run. And even if I wasn't, I've done runs and will do more this year, so I'd still be confident in my running ability if I had one bad run. This is my only race involving cycling this year, so I figured I'd risk blowing up on the bike. I pushed pretty hard, but I think I could have gone even harder. The times I picked people to catch and pushed a little harder, I was able to do so, without feeling exhausted afterward. Maybe I could have done a little more of that.

The trickiest parts of the course for me were the sharp (to me) turns around the turnaround in Davenport, and the little add on near the end at Long Marine Lab. I had passed a woman on a hill coming into Santa Cruz, and got passed back by her (and by lots of other people) at Long Marine Lab, because I slowed down so much because of the bumpier road and the sharp (to me) turns. I'm the opposite of a technical cyclist, doing most of my rides on my trainer.

I even used my aerobars this time! I've had them on my bike since Hawaii 70.3 in May 2008, but haven't ever really used them. Hawaii 70.3 was too windy, and I felt too unstable. I also was afraid I'd hurt my neck. The one time I used them in training, I crashed my bike by going over diagonal railroad tracks in an accident unrelated to the bars. My neck hurt so bad, and I wasn't sure if it was the aerobars or the crash, so I've always been afraid to use them. But when I brought my bike in to get checked at a shop the day before the race, another woman was having aerobars put on hers to race with the next day, her first time using them. It made me think I should try them, even if I haven't practiced with them. I did, and my neck feels fine today, and can probably credit them in part for my P.R. bike split, 16 minutes lopped off my time from last year.

I felt some stomach cramping during the race. I was trying hard to fuel well so I wouldn't bonk, but I think my Cytomax made my stomach bloat. I couldn't drink much of it in the second half of the bike. I drank only water during the run because of it. I don't know how much it slowed me down, because I felt like I had a good race nonetheless, but maybe it did a little. I'm going to try yet another sport drink. Any suggestions? I'm thinking of trying HEED.

The run was fun. I saw lots of teammates out there, and cheered for them. It was a little hot, but not too bad. Around 77, according to Raybon. I poured water on myself at the aid stations, and even once poured ice water down my bra. This was kind of funny, because I expected the water to drain out and the ice to settle in, but instead, the water and ice sloshed around in my bra, making lots of noise. I wonder if anyone knew what the sound was? I averaged 9 minute 8 second miles, which is faster than any of the many races along West Cliff I've done this year, so not too bad considering the heat and my push on the bike. Still, it was slower than my pace for Alcatraz Challenge. According to my "Magic Mile" calculator based on my time running one mile, I'm supposed to run more like 8 minute 12 second miles for a 10K, but I should add on 30 seconds for every 5 degrees of temperature above 60. That would put me at 9 minute 42 second miles at 75 degrees, so maybe I did pretty well with my 9 minute 8 second miles?

I'm stoked about the P.R., but really wanted to break 3 hours. Unfortunately, my watch broke sometime on the bike, and I had no idea where I was at time-wise on the run. Maybe I would have pushed harder if I knew how close I was, but maybe I couldn't have. Maybe I would have just made myself sick and gone slower? It's hard to say. I'm sure if I did this race again, I could figure out where I could shave 3.5 minutes off somewhere.

Apart from my swim, I've finally done an Olympic distance tri close to what I figured I would before I ever tried one. Before becoming a triathlete, I'd run a 10K at 9 minute mile pace. Though I hadn't cycled, people who had 9 minute mile run splits and swam like me pulled off bike legs 17 mph or faster, so I figured I should be able to do that. But when I tried to bike the course one day a few years ago, and then run it the next, my legs were so tired, I could barely move during the run. I got close to those stats in this race, so I'm pretty happy about that. It's been a lot of hard work to get there, raising my respect for anyone who has ever completed a Tri. Becoming a triathlete is at once humbling and confidence building. I've met so many amazing, interesting people along my journey, it makes me realize how much strength each of us has within us. Giving it my all and improving so much makes me feel like I should be on the front page of the paper, but I realize that most people in the race on Sunday have a story of starting slowly and improving, and balancing work, family and triathlon like I do.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Flip Flop Triathlon, 2010

I did the Flip Flop Triathlon today. Yay me!


Overall Rank (including men): 465 out of 735
Overall Time: 3:03:24 (Previous Olympic P.R. 3:23:49, Wildflower 2008)

Gender Rank: 116 out of 275
Class Rank (Women 35-39): 28 out of 62

Swim time: 30:58 (P.R. at Wildflower 2008, 24:02)
T1: 5:49
Bike time: 01:28:04 (16.8 MPH)(P.R. at Flip Flop Tri 2009, 1:44:51)
T2: 1:56
Run Time: 00:56:37 (9 minute 8 second miles)(P.R. at Wildflower 2008, 1:04:02)

I'm working on a race report. I'm too tired to finish it or proofread it, so I'll leave you with the raw numbers. Not sure anyone other than my Mom will bother to read this, but I'm pretty happy with them, so thought I'd put them up on my blog for me to look at, at least.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wetsuit Experiment

I tested out a wetsuit given to me by the Wongstar in the pool on Sunday. (The high school pool, not the tiny one described below.) I swam 100 yards with it, and then without it. With it, I was 3 seconds faster than without it, and that is with screwing up a flip turn with the wetsuit. I also swam a 400, and was 20 seconds faster with the wetsuit.

I swam in the ocean two weeks ago without a wetsuit, and was really cold after. My muscles in my legs cramped up as I walked. I guess that is what losing some pounds and not getting in the ocean to train will do to you. It made me wonder if my legs would be too cold to move after the swim leg of the tri I have in two weeks, hampering my ability to ride my bike.

So I will likely wear a wetsuit for the Flip Flop Tri I'm doing in a couple weeks. I'm slightly embarrassed about this... I still think of them as "cheat suits", but since they don't break the rules of the race, and everyone else will be wearing them, they aren't really. I think if it were up to me, they wouldn't be allowed, but if it were up to me, triathlons would also have much longer swims.

Where I'm Swimming

My little Rory is growing up. He's almost 16 months old now. He is very social and loves being around other kids, and doesn't have much of any separation anxiety. So I've been dropping him off at childcare occasionally for an hour and a half or so, so I can exercise.

There's some overlap between lap swimming at a nearby pool and the childcare at the Rec Center that I drop him off at. It allows me to get in 45 minutes of swimming, once a week. I also try to fit in swimming in the ocean or at the high school pool on a weekend afternoon.

The pool is, um, cute. It's small. 2 lanes only. Wider than normal lanes, but only 50 feet long. There is a gutter on only one end. A small pool with only one gutter means that there is more turbulence generated from water splashing up against the walls. It also means only so many strokes between flip turns. For me, only 11, if I don't push off too hard. 13 if I flip before I get close enough to the wall to push off, which is what I do, just to make for a harder workout.

The people are super friendly. It is a really small group of regulars, all women. They all love swimming, though none are super fast. I'm feeling pretty slow lately, and I'm the fastest. One of them is the lady who sells me my organic chicken hot dogs at the stand close to the pool. The other nice thing is they use minimal chlorine, unlike the local high school pool where I used to swim Masters, where I would have a headache all day if I swam early in the morning. Ionly was given the lowdown on why the chlorine is so high at the high school by the person who runs the lap swimming. She says they just dump tons of chlorine at the high school pool, because that means they only have to check the chlorine levels once a day.

I wonder if I'll ever have the luxury of swimming seriously again. I'd like to train for the hour postal (swim as many laps as you can in a hour) once my marathon training is done. The main challenge will be getting to the pool 3 times a week. We'll see if I can figure it out.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Golden Rule and Frenemies

The word "frenemy" was popularized by the show Sex and the City. I'm not sure how to define it exactly. A friend who sometimes acts as your enemy? An enemy who disguises herself as your friend? Both, sometimes in the same person?

I get confused by people who hurt me, and then are surprised when I don't want to hang out with them. When people hurt my feelings, particularly on purpose, I wonder why they would do that to someone they want to be friends with. Hurt people hurt other people. Maybe it's that simple? But apart from understanding why people act that way, I'm left with trying to decide how to react.

I've been spending a little time reading up on this. Mostly articles on "Psychology Today", and some other sites on the web. You can Google it yourself, I guess. One article I sort of liked was: How to Spot a Frenemy

I had (I use the past tense optimistically) what might be an unfortunate tendency to not trust my instincts about people who habitually hurt me. The take-away from the above article that I found most helpful is: "You do yourself a disservice (not to mention set yourself up for more abuse) by analyzing interactions, questioning whether or not you are being too sensitive or making excuses for why a person behaves the way they do. If you feel like you've just received an emotional kick in the gut, then you have just received an emotional kick in the gut. No analysis needed!"

The question is, what to do, once you've identified these people?

I'm seemingly lucky in that, being a housewife, I don't have to deal with coworkers. That cuts my obligatory relationships down quite a bit. But I still have friends of friends, friends of Raybon's, and soon enough, the friends of Rory to deal with. I wish I could insulate myself only with people who are true friends, but I can't. And even amongst my dearest, oldest friends and family, I'm sometimes dealt emotional blows that make me wonder whether my friendship is worth while. I'm an introvert, but still a social creature, who seeks support and hopes to grow as a person through my relationships with others.

I don't want to give a definitive answer, but the one I'd like to consider is the Christian perspective.

As you can see from the above, I initially sought out the internet for an answer to these questions, rather than the Bible, my pastor, or my prayer group. Honestly, I don't go to church anymore, so I don't even have the last two to turn to. I've started to distrust Christianity for a number of reasons. But to begin with, for some reason, some of the religious part of Christianity has lost a little bit of its resonance with me.

Before I start with what I've lost touch with, let me begin with what it is about Christianity that I still believe in. I believe in God. I believe that God answers prayers. I believe that God loves us more than we can understand, despite the fact that we are sinners, and that we are all infinitely precious to him.

By the religious part of Christianity, I mean the part the deals with the belief that Jesus, the man who lived 2000 years ago, is God, the son of the Father, who died to save us all from sin and death. The question simply occurred to me, why should I believe this? How does this resonate with my soul or personal experience? I knew that at one time it did. I voluntarily converted to Christianity at the age of 9, along with the rest of my family. I was old enough to know what I was doing and embrace the choice. The part that does resonate with me is that God loves us enough to suffer for us and our sins, but I'm not sure why he would have to.

On top of that, I started to question whether or not Christianity's philosophy was helpful in my life. I believed and tried to live out forgiving my enemies, and treating everyone as I would like to be treated. But despite my best efforts to be a good Christian, there are some people who took my good will and decided instead of reciprocating friendship, to think of me as a sap and continuously abuse me. In particular, I have one relationship with a loved one who hurts me over and over again, sometimes causing me pain on occasions that should have been joyous. Someone I trust and confide in more than almost anyone insists I must maintain that relationship despite the pain, because that is the Christian, forgiving thing to do. This only served to convince that that I am not a Christian if I need to maintain a relationship with someone who hurts me.

I've rejected Christianity as my guide in life, and instead often sought internet articles on psychology to help me figure out what to do. (Sometimes, when feeling like I need a bit more depth, I do crack open a book, too.) But it was an article in Psychology Today that I read yesterday, that made me think I should reconsider the Christian perspective. The True Meaning of the Golden Rule: Love Your Bullie It talks about the Golden Rule, which is central to Christian morality, and other religions. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Jesus takes it a step further and says "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."

The article says that we can achieve a better world by living by the Golden Rule. The thing that I find hard, is despite my best efforts to be kind to my enemies, some people continue to be my enemies nonetheless. Sometimes it just makes people think you are a sap. As an example, whenever I went out to get takeout for lunch, I would ask people if they wanted me to pick something up for them, despite the fact that they never did the same for me. I didn't mind doing going to an extra effort for them, until I realized that some of them were laughing behind my back about taking advantage of me. By trying to be kinder to them than they were to me, I did nothing but reinforce their feeling of superiority to me. It's hard to see how this makes for a better world, when by treating people more kindly than they treat you only makes them into jerks. I have lots of other examples of this, where I have willingly gone out of my way to be nicer to people than they are to me, and this only reinforces their selfishness and makes them look down on me.

Maybe I'm simply missing something. Maybe treating people as I would want to be treated means that I love them enough to not let them be jerks to me. As the article states:

"Treating people like friends does not mean that we must give them everything they want. We can be hurting people by giving them everything they want. We can be spoiling them, enabling them or helping them become bad people. The GR requires us to say "no" to people sometimes, but we are to do it nicely, without anger. Nor does the GR mean that we must let people abuse us, injure us or kill us. We are required to protect ourselves and to stop others from hurting us. The GR even requires us to kill people if there is no other way to stop them from being murderous. But it is not because we hate them. It is because we love them and they give us no choice."

The thing is, I'm not sure what this means when I extended into action, apart from the my attitude and intention. I'm not sure how I would act differently by calling someone "a friend" rather than an enemy. If I avoid someone who abuses me, can I really call that person my friend? If I say no to people who ask more of me than than I give back, how am I treating them any differently than I would treat an enemy or non-friend? I might be doing it out of concern rather than revenge, but I'm not sure how my actions are all that different than someone who might call that person their enemy. Is it an abuse of language to call someone we avoid, or even kill "a friend"?

What occurs to me, is that we don't follow the Golden Rule because it will make our enemy a better person. It may or may not. Suppose you were faced with that situation, where everyone around you disobeyed the Golden Rule, regardless of what you did? Would you join the crowd and forget about ethics altogether? Or should you continue to try to follow it, simply because it is right and makes you a better person?

Even if following the Golden Rule wouldn't make the people around you better, it still is, as far as I can see, humanities only hope for peace and happiness. A world where everyone took offense at any perceived slight and retaliated would be a horrible place. A world where everyone considered that their enemies are people who are hurting and need love would be a better one. Any ethical system would have to be one that would make a better world if everyone followed it. Still, I'm not sure it would always make a better world just because one person did.

This brings me back to thinking about Jesus. God came to earth and preached forgiveness and love of your enemies. By his example, we should follow what is right, not because it gives us more friends or makes us happier or more powerful, but because it is the right thing to do. In a sinful world, God came to earth and lead a sinless life perfect, and died friendless, and by the world's measure, powerless. I don't think, at least in the short run, he made his enemies better people by allowing them to kill him. There is some poetry there for me now at least, if not logic, in God coming to earth as a perfect person who showed us what it meant to love and forgive, and having to die the death of a sinner. In a sinful world, a perfect person would suffer because of his love for those who sinned against him.

I hate to end it there, because the message of Christianity isn't about death and sin, it's about God's love and redemption. I don't think I've even solved my problem with Christianity as a religion, but at least I'm not inclined to reject the idea that I once was inclined to, that of God on a cross.

And I'm still not sure exactly how to live my life or deal with people who hurt me. I'm only human, and being a mom of a precious, innocent little boy, I only have so much love and energy to go around. I know I can't expose myself to hurt and humiliation continuously from bullies, because the grief it caused me does in the end affect him. I'm not strong enough to not be hurt by others, and that hurt would end up hurting him. I can't be a good mom while nursing wounds. The best I feel I can do for them and myself is to acknowledge that their own pain and struggles, and pray that God and other people will care for them when I can't. Hatred certainly isn't the solution, I've always known that. I know from past experience that God answers prayers, and that praying for my "enemies" helps me heal my own wounds.

I keep reading and re-reading this, and keep thinking of more questions and tangents to go on. I'm going to hit publish anyways. This post is a little all over the place, and pretty long, so kudos to you if you've gotten this far in it. I'd welcome any feedback from any or my readers, Christian or not.