Friday, July 30, 2010

celebrate others

after an emotionally challenged day yesterday, i wanted to go celebrate an amazing accomplishment of a friend, artist, blogger, and photographer, Blayne Beacham of thisphotographerslife and blaynesonething. Blayne is now debuting her sensational, award-winning photography series called "wonderland". breathtaking. and even more amazing, is that it was debuted at Artist Trifecta gallery which also features art by Salvidor Dali. this, my friend, is what you call success! the success was shared by fellow design bloggers Niki McNeil of Single Bubble Pop, Cristi Holcombe of Charm Home, Terry Kearns of Architecture Tourist, Claire Watkins of High Gloss Blue. ( to name a few)

what a wonderful celebration seeing an amazing artist celebrated, and accomplishing a goal.

raise a glass. cheers to you, blayne.  as my grandmother would say, mazal tov!

i (not so) gracefully resign; temporarily

 it was yesterday that a huge realization ensued that i actually needed a break. i have never desired a vacation more than i do now. i have never detested training as much as i do right now. i have never felt as demotivated  as i do right now. i don't remember the last time i had a strong run, bike or swim. i chose to ignore all the signs that were popping up many, many weeks ago announcing over training. i pushed my mind to push my body as hard as it could, and approached every day of training regardless of my clear signs of fatigue.

i raced chattanooga completely overtrained, then the next weekend raced again, took a week off to simply move around, and now this week was slowing moving back into training for the age group nationals 9/25. moving back into training had not gone well to say the least, which opened my eyes to what had actually occurred. my runs have become brutal, feeling like i had not run a day in my life. legs feel heavy, swollen, and lethargic. heart rate soaring. and the most interesting part, my mind is raring to go. ready. willing. able. later that evening after seeing a clear pattern over a few days, i noticed an article in triathlon magazine outlining overtraining, and all the symptoms i am feeling. no- that is not me. i cannot imagine...and then began looking back at my training over the last 2-3 months.

after speaking to a few coaches i was looking to work with for nationals, i had to send a note and say i was not sure what was happening, but i needed to wait on coaching until later in the season to prepare for 2011, instead. what really opened my eyes that soon became tearful was words from a coach, an extremely successful triathlete and ironman who said i was struggling with over training syndrome, and only rest and recovery can help at this point. any exercise i do at this point should be for fun, no watches, no heart rate monitor. easy, short and sweet. now as a triathlete, fun and training don't really go hand in hand, but instead what we love is pushing our limits and enjoying the results. that is why we do what we do.

needless to say, there is a struggle here of sheer disappointment.  frustrated in myself that i caused this. that i cannot just be normal, but have to shoot for 110% instead of 100%. at the end of the day, you have yourself to look at in the mirror, and if my all was not given, i will not like that reflection. it is simply just never enough, there is always another goal.

this was a tearful, emotional day. a race i worked hard to qualify for, now has to be treated as a 'fun' race, instead of a 'race' race. i need to just enjoy the reality that i qualified for a high-caliber event, and take it all in. based on what i am experiencing currently, i have been instructed that i will not have any degree of success in this race if i exert myself between now and then. 110% is not always the best way.

the article i read in triathlon magazine about over training offered an amazing analogy. if your body is a sponge, it can continue to take and take and take, until it is absorbed fully. once the body (sponge) is absorbed fully, it cannot absorb anything else until it dries out. that is an amazing analogy to explain the training cycle that should be.

now this (not so) graceful resignation is only temporary, but is a key learning experience to make me even stronger and ramp up for 2011. i'll need lot's of energy and mental focus when i take on a coach! there is an element of relief, that i am not indeed weakening, but experiencing what alot of triathletes have experienced - and i will recover and become physically strong again. fingers crossed, in two weeks time, i will be up and at 'em again!

this will be an interesting time, where i will be learning the art of balance to perfect my strategy further in the future, not only in triathlon but with life. endurance sports are amazing in that you are learning more about yourself everyday, and with every race. and from that you learn how to improve. it is vulnerable, but strong.

let's offer some support to my husband who is living with me during this somewhat challenging time with a bit of crazy, and lent his big shoulder yesterday to this currently frustrated sense of self.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tri 2 Remember Sprint Triathon Race Report - goals accomplished (finally).

this was my first sprint, having only raced olympic distances so far. i did not qualify for age group nationals at chattanooga, so my friend both had the same goal. qualify. both of us had challenges with heat in chattanooga, or whatever the cause may have been, and at chattanooga, he learned of a sprint triathlon that was taking place one week after our race, and was usat regulated, which means if we placed in the top 10 percent we would qualify for nationals..those are some tough odds. competitive and crazy as we are, i signed up kicking and screaming inside feeling like i had just had enough and was defeated. i do discourage ending anything in life on a low, and knew i had to get back in the saddle with a new goal. i am so grateful my friend michael (pictured above)sent me this link, (and that he is as crazy as i am and  an awesome triathlete). this race was exactly what i needed.

i did not know what would happen from such a quick turn around from one race to the next, but another friend and amazing, successful triathlete recently raced through training with no taper, and her coach told her it will only effect her if she uses that as an excuse, and she ended taking first place. i kept that in the back of my mind as i raced, as well as her valuable advice after my struggles with  chattanooga  - saying don't ever give up. those both kept ringing in my ears during my sprint. knowing my friend michael was out there racing with me, out for the same goal kept me strong and focused. for me, accountability is everything - i hold myself accountable, but if others are aware as well  - that pushes me even harder.

i stayed with my michael and his wife the night before the race, and arrived promptly at 5:30 am.  in the parking lot i saw a girl who looked around my age and while she was sizing me up and i her. something told she was going to be one to watch on this race. after entering transition, i noticed quite a few serious looking girls in my age group and i began to think this may be quite a race. when it is a small race, and sizing up is happening that early, you never know what to expect.

average temperature at the start were in the 70's so not too hot, thank goodness.

i had to really think about my nutrition on this race with it being a different distance than what i was used to. while it was shorter, i still need calories to keep my body moving with strength. after getting some advice and doing some research, i devised a plan: the usual race regimen pre-race, oatmeal, and a cliff bar 2 hours before race start, and then 200 calories per bottle comprised of cytomax (electrolytes and energy) and carbopro pre race(begin sipping the bottle about 45 minutes before swim start) and for the ride. the cytomax has some energy added to it,and it worked out nicely. i sipped gatorade at every water stop, which was a first but going forward will become a habit as i usually only do water.

so this is my first sprint, and the distance was 500 m swim, 15 mile bike, and 3.45 run (but they only time it as a 3.1). i had a time in my mind, and that was 1:30. i did not know what to expect and after my key learnings from chattanooga, i set my timer on my watch, but switched the face only to show me the time, i did not want to deter my mental state by watching if i was going to make my goal or not, i just wanted to race as hard as i could.

the lake was slimy and murky, and i was lined up right next to the 'girl' who i first saw in the parking lot. i figured well, maybe i can draft off of her, there we so many girls in the wave start that went beyond my age group, the last thing i wanted was to be in the back and have to swim over people to get out, i would rather be swam over. the horn blew, and the girls were off, and my 'girl' was out of sight in an instant. it was an in-water start which was a new one for me, so that was a bit odd to get acclimated to (and it needs some practice). needless to say, my plan to draft off of the 'girl' went out the window. i have to say, i struggled a bit on the swim. i went anaerobic very quickly and had trouble getting a rhythm needing to breath every stroke. i lost my focus a bit with all the flailing about, grabbing and kicking of the other swimmers. i was sure i would end up with a black eye, but came out only with some scrapes.

thankfully i made it through the swim, on my estimated time, and quickly realized the concept of a sprint was to sprint, and go as hard as you could  without stopping. interesting in the water, not so easy.

a bit of a run with the bike out of transition and then was off. from the start of the bike i was realizing a lot of burning in my hamstrings but continued to brush it off and not focus on it, instead focusing on pressing as hard as i could on the bike. gradual hills, up and up and up with a bit of downs.  i saw the 'girl' on the way back as i was still on my way out, and realized she was a fast one, and was ahead of me. we were told the bike was up on the way out and alot off fast downs on the way back. the only fast downs i found were the last 3 miles. had to reassess my nutrition, and take my last sips of calories and electrolytes about 5 miles out from t2. i did manage to take an extra sip or two 3 miles out which came back to haunt slightly on the run.

off the bike and onto the run. the run was supposed to be non-technical trail running, all flat except for one hill.  i struggled out of transition for about a half of a mile. i still needed a couple of breaks in the first mile, but refocused and kept hearing the words don't give up replaying in my mind and knowing my friend was out here battling as well, kept me going. i wanted to know i gave it everything i had and knowing i was upset i took a few second breaks on the first mile frustrated me, so i raced onward instead of letting it defeat me. the run was two technical trail loops and then a third loop that took another route. 70 percent of this run was on grass and dirt trails in the  hilly woods. whomever said this run wasn't technical, and flat as a pancake needs to relearn what flat means. at the start of the second mile, i felt the extra sips of my drink coming to repeat on me and thought they were about to escape. fortunately that went away leaving the second mile as the strongest for me, and was completed fairly quickly. the third was a route i thought i had figured out,and then it took us off to an area i did not for see coming. my mind started to wander in confusion, but had to shake it off . at mile 2.8 was a hill and i was really getting tired at this point and ready to finish.  on that hill just about 20 feet ahead of me, i saw a girl with the age 33 on the back on her leg. she was in my age group, and as much as i wanted to stop and take a break on this hill, i couldn't knowing i have an age-grouper just in front of me. and to my surprise, she ended up stopping to walk half-way up the hill, and i knew she was pacing slower than me on the run, but this would be the only chance to truly pass her and get distance while she walked. it took everything i had and i barreled up the hill and kept going, looked behind and she was no where in sight. i finally saw the 3 mile marker, but realized i had no idea where the finish line was. i heard a man say as i passed him that it was a 3.45, not 3.1(brilliant), and as i came out of the trail, i finally saw the finish line across the lake, with probably .4 miles to go. it felt like it took forever, and i wanted to stop but kept going, and going. i heard my friends screaming at me as i approached the finish line but did not lose my focus. i finished. the volunteers bent down to take off my timing chip. my heart rate was so high my head was spinning and i could not wait to walk it off.  they were taking so long to get that chip off my ankle. finally walking and able to regain my composure and breathing and i felt great. i looked down at my time, and realized i hit my 1:30 mark and did not even know it.

what is amazing, is after 5minutes i felt great, unlike olympic distance that i cannot eat for hours after the race and feel completely spent. this was great - i could eat, talk, walk - nothing like it. what further amazes me, is that on the run, it still felt like an olympic distance from the level of fatigue that ensues from pushing yourself to your anaerobic threshold.

unofficial results were posted. at that time, i was 5th, and 18 seconds away from making it to nationals. defeated, but still feeling good about my performance today and staying out of the medical tent.  i knew i pushed, but regretted the few seconds of rest i took on mile 1. i need to stop that. i was told that once you start taking breaks, you keep taking them. don't allow it. you can keep going.

we knew the results posted were unofficial, so stayed for the award ceremony. my feet and legs were beginning to swell from standing still and they start the announcing from oldest down. i was not really paying attention until all of a sudden i heard my name called up to the podium for an award. i did not know, but had placed 3rd place in my age group. i was elated, but had to wait until the next day to email usat to see if i had qualified for nationals, and to my excitement i did. i qualified for the age group nationals race in tuscaloosa in september. but the bitter sweetness was that my friend did not. the person who pushed me to race this race. his age group is unbelievably competitive, and mine will be equally as bad next season. the 'girl' ended up coming in first in our age group.

so i am off to race age group olympic distance nationals race september 25th in tuscaloosa, alabama and will be signing up for another sprint in october. for now, i will be enjoying weight training, and maintaining my swim , and improving my bike, and run.

i am so grateful for all the amazing friends i have that have helped to share their knowledge with me, share crazy with me, and continue to challenge me. you know who you are.

Chattanooga Race Report

i had very high hopes for chattanooga waterfront triathlon, after missing my nationals qualification by 33 seconds in april at st. anthony's triathlon. being new to the sport, and st anthony's being my second triathlon, i had heard of the age group national races, but thought they were something very far beyond reach. never thought of them again, other than thinking that would be a great goal. after racing st anthony's and being told i was 33 seconds away from qualifiying for nationals, i realized maybe it was something to strive for; a new goal. i like goals.

with large races, when usat sanctioned, you qualify as the top 10% of your age group, but in certain regional championship races, such as st. anthony's or chattanooga, you can qualify in the top 33%. needless to say, placing in the top 10% of a large, olympic distance triathlon takes alot of talent, so once i did not make it at st. anthony's in the top 33 percent,  i wanted to give chattanooga a shot.

with the races i had done so far, which would not be 2 before chattanooga (st. anthony's and peachtree city), i had been in one of the first waves of the swim, so with the race starting at 7:30 am, i would be in the water no later than 7:45. this worked perfectly with planning pre-race nutrition. chattanooga was different. roughly 1500 participants, and my wave was one of the last, and they had racers get in the water individually, not as a wave. so, arriving at the race site at 5:30 am, it was slightly more of a challenge planning nutrition to avoid cramping in the swim, but keep enough nourishment to hold you until the bike.

the sun began beaming high in the sky on what was expected to be 98 degrees by mid day. my swim personally took off at about 9:10 am - sun high in the sky.

the swim was not a point to point as i was used to, but instead was a straight line. it is nice because there are no turns, but at the same time, it is tough to get an idea of how far you are from the finish line, so that part was a challenge for me on pacing my speed. i took it pretty fast on the offset, and then had to slow a bit in the middle to catch my breath.

out of the water, made it up the stairs to get to the other large amount of stairs to then cross the road, and barrel into transition, situate, and get on the bike. pretty smooth here (i don't always remember this part) and off i was on the bike. the bike was pretty enjoyable -highway riding, no shade, out and back on rolling hills. i tend to like the out and back breaking the race into half.  it was hot, but was tough to realize the heat due to the breeze that you receive on the bike. i felt good, legs were not burning too much, kept up the carbopro and electrolytes. i felt stronger on the bike than i had in a while, while my speed is still not there yet it will come with practice, and the base is better to build upon now. i took my last sip of fluid calories at mile 21.

i made it to t2, and once i got off my bike and ran my bike into transition, i felt my legs really getting heavy. i could not help but laugh while running through the sand with cletes on and managing a bike. not the most smooth running feeling. i turned down the wrong transition pathway, and had to duck under some racks to get to my rack. next time i need to walk both entry points of the transition area.

off to the run, and within the first minute my legs were heavy, tired and burning and already feeling anaerobic. the heat was cooking. the course was slightly distorted the first mile or so and it was tough to steady your heart-rate and cadence. there were a lot of turns, a down hill, and 2 flights of stairs until we actually got on the course. once on the course, i have to say i don't remember it too well. my memory is spotty. i was struggling both physically and mentally. i entered this race with a time goal in addition to a goal of qualifying. after a couple of miles i realized i was not going to make my time goal, but decided that i still could perhaps qualify so kept pushing. my legs were getting heavier and heavier and my left leg was getting a cramp that felt like a gremlin trying to crawl out from under my skin, one stab at a time. i have never wanted to stop racing more than this moment. i wanted everything over. i felt terrible, and while my physical state was weakening, my mental was getting worse. if you keep your mental together, your physical will stay in line. i kept pushing, but was needing a lot of walk breaks. i kept saying, ok - no more walking  - only 3 miles to go, but with that i just kept stopping. i was wishing this gremlin under my quad would just take me out and flatten me so i could stop racing. i had to decide after feeling slightly dizzy that i either had to continue to race the race, or just finish the race. i chose to finished the race.

once i crossed the finish line i was a mess. knew i did not feel well. my mental state completely collapsed along with my physical as it took everything i had to keep it together in 98 degrees. whatever was left to keep me focused and moving through the run exploded. things were spinning, and all i could think to do was find my husband, jorge. he was a few steps away. it was all i could do to hold it together until i found him to simply say i don't feel well. he took one look and he whisked me to the medical tent.  uncontrollable shaking, unexpected tears, and complete hyperventilating. my heartrate was soaring. i don't remember much from the medical tent, but i do remember two things- first - the look of shock on a females face when she looked at me as i approached the medical tent, and  second - once i was seated, the medic looked at me with a sarcastic smile as i could not control my shaking or breathing, and said "did you overexert your self a bit?". the one thing i remember thinking was you stupid piece of s***. it is a race. everything is a complete blur after that, but remember becoming coherent again, and realizing the multiple ice packs on my body, and cup of gatorade in my hand. they should have shot that stuff into my veins. my core temperature and sugar levels had been regulated.

key learnings:
-not to give up - - and always keep your mental state strong/ if i had not been so demotivated by time, and given up on the mental i could have qualified with a time 12 minutes over my time goal.
-there will be bad races, but it is important to get back into the saddle and back up instead of feeling defeated. push with what you have, so you don't have to look back and have regrets.
-no more walking - once you start, you tend to keep stopping. don't do it. period
-goals are good, but not always accomplished. but even so, having a goal pushes you harder that if you had none, so continue to set them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

goals, the delicate balance.

alot was riding on the chattanooga triathlon this past weekend. after being only 33 seconds away from qualifying for nationals, at my second triathlon at St. Anthony's triathlon in april, it seemed a likely accomplishment at my fourth triathlon in chattanooga.

i entered this race with a time goal in mind that was feasible based on my last two race performances. goals are a wonderful thing, they are what drives us to the next level, push us to drive harder than if we did not have a goal. but on the converse, if the goal is not accomplished for whatever reason that may be out of your control, there is a sense of dissatisfaction and failure. yes, the race was finished. yes, something was accomplished a lot of people will not experience. yes, a goal was accomplished - a completed race. but when do we take the time to actually celebrate that accomplishment. instead we stop, access, look at where improvement is needed for the next one, and move on with new goals. i have been congratulated repeatedly since the race was completed sunday, and the response that keeps popping immediately in my head is what on earth are they congratulating me for....i did not accomplish my goal?

interestingly enough, on my run portion, not only did i not have much strength left in me, i looked at my watch to see my time goal was not going to be met, or even close unless i was going to run a 6.5 min mile. so in this case, my mind began to give up. give up because my goal was not going to be completed, and not only that - i had to make the choice to finish the race, or continue to race the race after experiencing dizziness, and cramping in my left thigh. i chose to finish the race, finished it, and still ended up in the medical tent after finishing due to dehydration from the brutal 95+ degree temperatures.

a key learning- revisiting the purpose of goals. working towards celebrating any accomplishment. i am so grateful for friends who are reminding me of just that with their wonderful comments celebrating the work it took to get where i have gotten to become a triathlete. making me think about this mental game called triathlon, and develop any weakness as a strength. if we are never satisfied, how will we know when we are actually happy and enjoy the world around us?

the balancing game is dealing with goals, both accomplished and failed.