Where has the time gone? This week has been ridiculously busy at work, and at home Rusty and I have furiously been making last minute changes to our New Zealand itinerary. We leave tomorrow for 10 glorious days of camping on the south island of New Zealand. I really couldn’t be more excited.
Also, I’m a girl who likes a plan, so I have spreadsheets on top of spreadsheets, outlining all of our plans.
That’s a snapshot of the high-level itinerary. On Friday, I printed out maps, driving directions, reservation confirmations, contact details, packing lists, etc. I cannot wait to leave tomorrow morning!
Can you believe that we fit all of our camping gear (tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, repair kit, first aid kit, headlamps, Jetboils) plus all of our clothes and shoes for 10 days (to be fair, we plan to wear the same clothes the whole time and just stink a lot) into these few bags?
We’re going to have a car the whole time, which is sweet–we won’t have to carry everything, so we can use a rolling bag.
Our current plan involves Rusty and I flying into Christchurch, driving to Oamaru, cycling part of the Alps 2 Ocean trail, meeting our friend Jessica in Queenstown, hiking part of the Routeburn Track, watching Jessica run the Kepler Challenge in Te Anau, kayaking in Wanaka, taking a full-day tour of the Fox Glacier, looking for keas in Arthur’s Pass, and getting a tour of Christchurch from a friend Chris with whom I used to teach English in South Korea. I can’t wait to get back and tell you all about it! I’ll try to update Twitter and Instagram periodically, so follow me there if you don’t already–I’m @AliMakins on Twitter and @AliMakins on Instagram.
We’ll be in Sydney for less than 24 hours because we fly out to the United States! Oh my lord. I can’t believe it. We’re going to be so exhausted!
Anyway, on to last week’s workouts.
I was a bit more tired at the beginning of this week than I thought I would be. Even though I know it takes me a longer time than most people to recover from races, I still become frustrated when my legs are still lead a few days post-race. I was able to get it together later in the week, but my weekly hours were lower than I had originally planned. Oh well! I wish I cared more, but I really don’t. It’s vacation time!
Monday = Rest.
I’m not going to lie–I was shaky on my legs on Monday. It was tough to sit down and stand up. I took it easy.
Tuesday = Rest.
I eased my way back into activity by walking the 4.3km home from work. It felt good to move, and I was significantly less sore than the day before.
Wednesday = 1-hour spin; 15-minute run.
On Wednesday evening, I went to my first spin class (Les Mills RPM) at my gym. It was fun! It was a small class with only about 6 of us in attendance, but the instructor was great. She didn’t mind that I sort of went my own way at times. I told her beforehand that I had a raced a triathlon the week before and was a bit sore, and she said, “Ah! Say no more. I have a few triathletes. Do what you need to do.” I followed along with her cues through the class, but I dropped into aero position during the race/speed parts, and I was in my own world with the gears. It was a much better workout than I usually get when I’m trying to train indoors, and I was dripping with sweat by the end of it. It was awesome!
It was so awesome, in fact, that I bounced out of the spin studio onto a treadmill. I did a quick 15-minute progression workout (easy pace for 5 minutes, and then I bumped the speed up every 1 minute for a bit and then every 30 seconds for a bit.) After 15 minutes, I decided I was hungrier than I was energetic, so I left and walked home. I texted Rusty when I was leaving the gym, and when I walked in the door 15 minutes later, he had dinner on the table. That man is a saint.
Thursday = 30-minute run.
I woke up early Thursday for a 1-hour run around the neighbourhood, but I wasn’t feeling it. My heart rate was super-low and my pace was fine, but my legs were hurting. I couldn’t turn them over. The 30 minutes that I did run felt like hours. I obviously needed more time to rest, but it was incredibly hard to admit it. I started a second loop around the neighbourhood before I forced myself to turn around and walk home. I know there’s no reason to feel bad about being tired, but showing that kind of weakness makes me uncomfortable, even when no one is watching. I’m working on getting better at that.
Friday = Thanksgiving; sushi.
I had grand plans to get to the pool for a swim Friday morning, but my family wanted to Skype in the morning (which was their Thursday at 2 PM.) It was nice to chat with everyone while they were celebrating Thanksgiving! It’s hard to be away from home on the holidays, but it helps that we’ll be there with them soon. We’re going to be home for Christmas this year, which both sets of our parents are really excited about. We’re very lucky in that our parents only live an hour or so away from each other, so it’s easy to celebrate with both families.
I thought about rescheduling my swim for Friday evening, but Rusty and I have a long-standing tradition of “fancy” dinners on Friday nights. By “fancy,” I mean that we go out to eat. It’s usually not fancy fancy, but it’s fun to eat something other than salads or curry, which are pretty much the only things we cook at home. We opted for sushi this week, and it was much more delicious than swimming. I think I made the right choice.
Saturday = 1-hour spin; 2-hour run.
I had a quick hour in the morning to train before we Skyped with Rusty’s parents (have I mentioned before that we Skype a lot?), so I hopped on the trainer. To avoid my usual slow and steady slog-fest, I put on a running playlist with some upbeat songs, and I created my own spin workout as I went. For most songs, I did speed intervals through the choruses, recovery intervals during the verses, and out-of-the-saddle climbing during the bridges. For some songs, I just pedalled with the beat. It was fun, and it got the job done. I felt like I was productive on the trainer, which is the most important thing.
Cute face on the trainer, amiright?
Later on Saturday, just before dinner, I set out for a run, thinking that I’d be gone for about an hour and a half. Since I had spun in the morning, I didn’t have terribly high expectations. But, it was pretty much the most successful, fulfilling, magical run that I have had in quite awhile. I ended up being out for over 2 hours, and I would have stayed out longer if the sun wasn’t going down. I left home with a Garmin and an iPod, but I left the HRM at home and largely ignored my Garmin screen. One of my goals with the run was to reconnect the physical act of running with the emotional act of running, and technology sometimes impairs that bond for me.
I am happiest as a runner when I strike the perfect balance between performance and peace. Since I’ve transitioned from trail running to road running over the past few months, I’ve felt myself losing a bit of my love for the sport and a bit of the peace I find in running. I don’t crave running like I used to because it’s always a test now. I’m always focusing on time, distance, pace, cadence, hydration rates, and nutrition timing. Numbers, numbers, numbers. While I very much do love numbers and stats, it becomes hard to enjoy the run when that’s all I have swirling in my brain. I need a break from that sometimes. When the balance is tipped too far towards performance, I find running increasingly exhausting, and I lose the motivation to lace up.
For me, part of the value in running is in its ability to pull me down to Earth and make me feel like I’m a part of something larger. When I’m running on trails, mostly alone, save for a person or two every now and then, I never feel alone. I feel connected to everything. When I do see people, I smile at them and nod, and I feel like I know them. The emotional act of running for me is in that connection, that bond to the environment and to the other runners, but most importantly to my thoughts. When I don’t have to focus on anything in particular but just soak everything in, I find running peaceful, and it settles my mind. Even if all I do is listen to my music and think about new hairstyles, I come home feeling like I found the cure for cancer or solved the world hunger problem. I feel at ease. The difference isn’t really in the environment–I’ve had performance-focused runs on trails and peaceful runs on roads–but in my objective when I start running. It just so happens that most of my trail runs are less performance-focused, so I tend to associate that kind of peace with trails. I’m afraid I’m not putting this very clearly, but I’m hoping that other runners know what I’m talking about.
On Saturday evening, I headed out to the trails around Centennial Park. I struggled through the first mile or so between my apartment and the park, but as soon as my feet hit the trails, I felt my body relax into them. I gave myself permission to run at whatever pace felt good, and it turns out that that was a pretty good clip for me. I felt good running up and down the hills, and I felt like I flew over the technical parts, barely looking at my feet. About half-way through, I had one of those gorgeous runner’s high moments where I felt unbelievably powerful and was so thankful for everything–I was thankful for the run and thankful for my body and thankful for Rusty and thankful for my family. I felt like my iPod had a direct connection to my brain; each song that came up felt like a perfect complement to whatever I was thinking about at that moment, and it kept powering me through the miles. The weather was perfect, and the sun was setting behind the trees. I loved every minute of it.
I feel ready to rock my 50km in 2 weeks. I haven’t really trained for it at all, but I think that might be a good thing. Sometimes by the end of a training cycle I’m nearly resentful of the sport because I’m so tired of doing it. Now, I’m passionate about it beyond all reason. Bring me your trails, California. I want them all.
Sunday = Packing.
Again, I had plans to go to the pool, but they fell through when I realised that the apartment was still a mess and that we hadn’t packed a thing. Oops! Housekeeping and packing count as cardio, right?
Total hours: 4.75
Swim hours: 0!
Bike hours: 2
Run hours: 2.75
Better late than never, right? Work has been particularly stressful so far this week, so I haven’t had much of a chance to write. Last week was pretty slow in the way of workouts anyway, except for that 70.3 thing on Saturday… :)
Monday = 30-minute run.
Ran around the block a couple times in the rain. Felt amazing.
Excuse my crazy eyebrows. I’ve had to go longer than usual between appointments with my eyebrow stylist (yeah, yeah, judge away–I’d have a serious unibrow without Ilona’s help, though!).
Tuesday = 30-minute swim.
Rusty and I went to the pool in the morning for a quick 1500m together. Cute, huh? We usually don’t train together, but I thought it might be fun. He was not amused that my lazy taper pace was his tough training pace!
Locker room selfie.
Wednesday = 30-minute spin.
Quick morning spin with some sprints in the middle. Legs felt good.
Thursday = Rest.
I like taking two full days off before a race.
Friday = Travel day.
Rusty and I drove up to Forster and racked my bike for Challenge Forster.
Saturday = Challenge Forster.
I raced my first 70.3 of the season, Challenge Forster, in 6:51:01 through some terrible, horrible, disgusting weather.
Rocked it down the finishing chute with crazy hair. Got some awesome bling.
Slammed a full beer after that pic was snapped.
Sunday = Travel day.
On Sunday, Rusty and I slept in nice and late, and then we drove back to Sydney from Forster. We got lost, as we alway do, despite the fact that we have traveled up and down the coast multiple times and should take the same roads each time. Oops! We get to chatting, and I forget to navigate.
We eventually got home though, and the rest of the day was spent napping.
Swim hours: 0.5
Bike hours: 0.5
Run hours: 0.5
Race hours: 6.85
I loved and hated this race. It was both awesome and terrible. I can’t even attempt to describe it in a single word–it was (and still is) much more complicated than that. I’m incredibly happy that I did it, though, and I can’t wait for the next one.
I’m going to spoil the ending of this story to tell you that I didn’t meet any of my time goals; but, I finished (in 6:51:01,) and I’m proud of that. Really, I am. It was a tough day.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Forster (pronounced Foster [or Fostah, if you have a thick Australian accent]) is about 3 hours north of Sydney by car. Rusty picked up our rental car Friday afternoon while I furiously packed everything I thought I could possibly need. I packed everything in separate bags so that I could locate things quickly, and then we threw it all in the trunk.
I’m usually much more organised, but this race snuck up on me–all of a sudden it was Friday, and I wasn’t ready! It wasn’t really an issue, though. Challenge Forster was actually a “twilight” race, meaning it started at 1 PM, so I had plenty of time on Saturday morning to get my ish together.
The weather was terrible here on Friday. Terrible! It was terrible up and down the east coast of New South Wales. Thunderstorms and buckets of rain. When we arrived at the race expo and registration in Forster, the rain was dying down, but it was still going. I was a bit nervous to rack my bike and leave it there in the rain, but I did it anyway. I put a plastic bag over the seat and kissed her goodbye.
The expo was tiny, but registration was quick and efficient. I picked up my packet outside in the rain, and then Rusty and I hung out in the expo for a bit, crossing our fingers and hoping for the rain to pass. When confined in a sports retail situation for more than 5 minutes, I have to buy something. I escaped the expo with just two throw-away water bottles for the bike course. Score. And, I only ended up tossing one of them. Double score!
After registration and bike-racking, Rusty and I went to get Thai food and ice cream for dinner. Fried tofu with veggies and white rice is my favourite go-to meal. I wasn’t too concerned about getting the perfect pre-race food because of the later race start on Saturday–I had a lot of leeway with a lot of things because of that–but the tofu, veggies, and rice were perfect.
I was a bit concerned about what to eat on race day with the late start, but I think I played it right. I woke up at my regular time and went through my regular morning routine (full glass of water, breakfast 30 minutes later, then coffee.) I then had a second breakfast around 10:30 AM, which was all simple carbs and easily digestible foods. About 45 minutes before the start, I plowed through a pack of Jelly Belly sports beans. I felt amazing going into the swim, so I think I ate appropriately.
Between my second breakfast and my sports beans, Rusty and I walked from the hotel to T1/swim start, and I set up my T1 gear in transition.
As you can see, the weather wasn’t too bad around race start. There was a little cloud cover, but it was warm enough, and it looked like the rain was blowing away.
I made the bold choice to swim without a wetsuit. We wetsuit-less folks were definitely in the minority, but there were a couple of us. The water was about 21°C (about 70°F,) so it was not unreasonable to swim without a wetsuit. I did want to warm up in the water before the swim started, though.
Honestly, I thought the water felt amazing. I pulled on my cap and goggles and waited until it was time to go.
Check out my sweet cap with my number printed on it.
When they started calling the later waves, I kissed Rusty goodbye and waded out to line.
The swim was pretty amazing. Honestly, I felt fantastic in the water. I started in wave 7 with all of the under-40 women, and it was a cool crowd. We chit-chatted a bit while we were waiting for the cannon sound (not an actual cannon, of course,) and then it was time to swim like hell.
I mildly panicked when I noticed after the first minute that I was at the back of pack. I thought, “Damnit, you’ve got to be kidding! Not this again!”. Being at the back of the pack at the beginning of a race is rough on my race psyche. If I start feeling defeated at minute 1, I have a tough time bouncing back. I definitely felt those feelings creeping up at the beginning of the swim.
I decided before the race that my mantra would be “Be calm. Be Brave.” So, with each stroke, I quietly told myself to be calm and to be brave. I was swimming straight as an arrow, and my sighting was on point, so I put my head down and dug in. Another minute later, I passed someone on my left. A few seconds after that, I passed someone on my right. Then I passed a handful more. All told, I passed 13 of the girls in my wave. I felt much better when I rounded the first buoy and noticed I was with the bunch instead of behind the bunch.
I held back a bit, knowing I had to bike and run afterwards, but I never felt uncomfortably fast or slow in the water. Despite the fact that I still finished at the slow end of my age group (12/18,) I’m happy with my performance, and I think I played it smart.
32:26, I ain’t mad at’cha.
Rusty said that most people came out of the water looking defeated, but I came out looking like a woman on a mother-effing mission. I definitely had a game face on.
I ran into transition and took a couple minutes to catch my breath and give myself a pep talk as wiped down my feet and put on my socks and shoes. When I’m getting myself together in transition, I count in threes while I check off clothing/accessories from my feet up. My first 1-2-3 is shoes, socks, shorts; my second 1-2-3 is HRM, bra, shirt; and my last 1-2-3 is helmet, sunglasses, Garmin. 3 3′s, and I run out with the bike. 4:17 was too long in T1, but I wasn’t in a hurry.
The bike course was a 2-lap out and back from Forster Main Beach to Charlotte Bay on Lakes Way. It’s a mild uphill going south to Charlotte Bay with a couple climbs at the south end, and then it’s a pretty smooth ride coming back to town. The road quality is hit or miss, but mostly miss. It’s primarily chip seal, which blows, and there are a couple of smooth patches. The race officials tried to control traffic on the road as best they could, but they couldn’t do a whole lot. There were a lot of cars on the road. I didn’t always feel safe on the course, but I didn’t realise how dangerous it actually was until after the race when I heard that pro racer Tim Berkel got hit by a car on the bike course. The car was waived onto the road by a traffic director who didn’t see Berkel coming. The car hit him when he was going about 45 kph (28 mph,) and he flew over the top of of the car. He ended up needing five stitches. Unbelievable.
I felt good on the course through the first lap, despite not feeling entirely safe with all of the cars.
My goal pace was 27.4 kph, and I rounded the corner at the top of Forster Main Beach at roughly the half-way point averaging 27.5 kph. I felt so good, I couldn’t believe it. I was ready to kill that second lap.
Then, it started. The sky opened up, and it started pouring rain. I don’t mind rain on the bike, but it does slow me down a bit. Worse than the rain was the wind. It started gusting at 25 kph SSE, which was pretty much directly in my face while I was trying to ride uphill out of town. It was miserable, and I didn’t know what to do. Maintain speed and compromise heart rate? Maintain heart rate and compromise speed? I chose the former, hoping that it would pass before I was in too much trouble. It did not. I made the wrong choice. Before I reached the south end of the course, I realised that my legs were blown out beyond hope. I was losing more speed by the minute, and I didn’t know how to drag myself out of the hole I had dug.
I made the turn to head back north, and I quietly but unabashedly wished with great urgency that there were people behind me, struggling like I was. I’m not evil, but misery loves company. I mean, is there anything worse than being last when you’re already pissed about your performance? I didn’t see anyone for awhile, but then there was one person. And another. And another. I counted fifteen people behind me, and I was satisfied. I focused on making it to the run course. I could handle the run course.
I rolled into T2 after a whopping 3:25:39 on the bike, feeling a little defeated, but not out of the game yet.
I had to pee so badly, so I sat down in the grass and peed right there in T2 while I changed my cycling shoes for run shoes and traded my helmet for a visor. Multi-tasking, right? Again, I was not in hurry, and I spent 4:03 in T2. Most of that time was spent trading my soaking wet socks for dry socks from my T2 bag. I regret nothing.
Oh, lawd. The run. It was a repeat of the bike course all over again. It was a 3-loop, mostly flat course with a big hill at the south end. The rain had stopped by the time I got to T2, so I headed out onto what I was hoping to be a warm, dry run. I started out at a great clip, and I was sticking to a solid run-walk plan. I was maintaining a pace a shade faster than my goal pace, and I was regaining hope that I’d be able to pull out a decent race after all.
And then, it happened again. The sky opened up, and it started pouring. Wet shoes and wet socks do not a happy Ali make, but I didn’t fall apart right away. At first, I laughed. “This?”, I thought, “This is what I have chosen to love?”. Of all of the hobbies I could have chosen back in 2010 when I decided for no clear reason that I had an excess of free time and moxie and that I needed an outlet, I chose the physical abuse of long-course triathlon racing. Here I was, running a half marathon after biking 90km after swimming 1.9km. In the rain. What is wrong with me that I find this enjoyable? And, I did. I found it quite enjoyable at first. I splashed in puddles, and I tipped my visor as I passed others. I amused myself by amusing others.
The run had us crossing the historic Forster-Tuncurry Bridge 3 times. Each time I crossed it, I remembered that I was on hallowed ground in the world of Australian triathlon racing, and that helped distract from the rain as well. Forster is the original site of Ironman Australia and the location of the first Ironman race on the continent. It is respected and revered amongst the older triathlete crowd in Australia, and many coaches and older athletes remember when Forster was the only game in town. I felt privileged to be there, every time.
However, no matter how much I laugh at myself and no matter how hallowed the course, at some point, running in the rain gets old, especially when you spent almost 3.5 hours on the bike beforehand. The wheels fell off for me about 12 km into the run. I was cold and wet, and I was exhausted from fighting the wind and rain. I knew I had missed all of my time goals, and I thought, “What’s 5 more minutes at this point? Hell, what’s 10 more minutes?”. I knew it was destructive thinking, but I couldn’t turn it off. Over and over I told myself, “Be calm. Be brave.” I’d decide to be brave and run for a couple minutes, but then I’d start walking again. It was brutal.
On the last loop, I saw Rusty outside the entrance to the finishing chute. I still had to go up the big hill, down the other side, out 200m, back 200m, up the big hill, and down the big hill before I could enter the chute. The thought of it exhausted me. “GO!”, he yelled. “You’re doing great! You’ll be under 7 hours!”. To be honest, I had no idea what time was on the race clock. I didn’t wear my Garmin on the swim, so I only had a general idea of how I was doing. I did want to finish as soon as possible though, so I got to moving.
I walked up the big hill, and I jogged down the other side. When I got to the out-and-back part at the bottom of the hill, a volunteer met me and ran the out-and-back with me. He told me, “There’s a huge crowd of people at the finish line now, waiting for you and others to come in because they want to celebrate with you. Eat. It. Up. High-five the kids. Throw your fists in the air. Race day atmosphere is a two-way street. If you enjoy the moment, we’ll enjoy it with you. Take a minute and really eat it up–you’ll be happy you did. Also, there’s beer waiting for you.” By the time he was done, we were back at the bottom of the hill, and I was on my way to the finish line. Dear Mr Volunteer: You are the JAM.
I ran up the hill and down the hill, and then I ran into the finishing chute, high-fived the kids, threw my fists in the air, and crossed the finish line in 6:51:01.
I don’t even care how ridiculous I look in this picture. Any day you finish a 70.3 is a good day, and you’ve gotta be proud of your crazy-ass hair.
So, it’s true that on Saturday I found my confidence on the bike for my race this coming Saturday, but it appears now that I’ve lost motivation to do any real training on the bike, especially when it’s on the trainer. Aaaaaaand, I have 6 months of Ironman training ahead of me… Cue the sad trombones.
My bike room is full of bikes. They’re even on the walls.
Anyway, I used to be able to spin forever on the trainer, keeping my heart rate up and my power steady. Now, I just can’t get motivated to keep going. I’m not interested in turning up the intensity, and I’m just waiting for the minutes to pass. Ugh. Has this ever happened to you? Am I in a trainer slump?
Regardless of the whys or hows, I have to get out of it. I’ve come up with 3 ways to avoid mindless spinning on the trainer during the week.
1. Train with the team.
My tri club has group rides on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. My partner Rusty went to one last week, and he really enjoyed it. They have slower groups and faster groups, and he said that everyone was really friendly. I definitely need to join in when I can. It’s not only a great way to get in a fun training session, but it will be a great way to get to know the team, too!
2. Spin with a video.
The other day, Jason over at Cook Train Eat Race posted about trainer workouts, which is how I became acquainted with TheSufferfest.com. Spinning while watching Project Runway? I love Tim Gunn, but it’s not doing it for me anymore. Spinning while watching a Sufferfest video? Keeps my head in the game! They’re not free, but they’re worth the price if you’ve got to spin at home.
3. Spin with a class.
Controversial, certainly, but I’m definitely going to include the option of a spin class in my bag of cycling tricks. While more “serious” cyclists and triathletes might eschew the lowly spin class because the classes aren’t done on proper bikes and/or because the skills practiced are not race specific, the fact of the matter is that spin classes are appropriate cardiovascular training in a form similar enough to cycling to be beneficial. Also, the music keeps me motivated, and I actually try hard because other people might be watching.
My new cycling plan is going to start…next week. I’m tapering and stuff.
My afternoon workout today was walking down the street to get Starbucks with a group of guys from the office. Working in data analytics, most of my coworkers are male, so you perhaps can imagine my surprise when an email, not originally written by me, brimming with delight and excitement, circulated through my department about gingerbread lattes.
Hi there, friends. I hope everyone had a great week of training last week! I’m enjoying the junk out of my taper. I have a bit of the crazy nerves, but I’ve had a couple of solid workouts in the last couple of days that have set me straight and have let me know that I’m ready for Challenge Forster on Saturday.
Monday = Return of Monday of Rest.
Ah. Bliss. Sweet, sweet rest.
Tuesday = 30-minute spin; hot power yoga.
I tried to keep my workouts last week short and effective, so this was a 10-minute warm-up, a 10-minute sprint session, and a 10-minute cool-down.
Tuesday was the day last week that I felt a bit on edge. Taking a full rest day on Monday (even though it was my first rest day after thirteen days with no rest day!) triggered the traditional taper panic of “it’s not enough,” “I’m losing fitness,” and “I need more training hours.” The short morning spin only made it worse, somehow. I couldn’t shake the negative thoughts throughout the day, so I compromised with myself and went to an hour of hot power yoga in the evening. It satisfied my urge for movement, didn’t put too much stress on the body, and helped me sort out the crazy. Kind of. I did feel better, though.
Wednesday = 30-minute run.
On Wednesday morning I didn’t feel up for much, so I took a quick spin around our neighbourhood. I have a favourite route that involves only turning in one direction and only crossing a minimum of roads, so it’s easy to zone out and keep moving.
Thursday = 30-minute swim.
I meant this to be a longer swim on Thursday morning, but I needed a week of semi-rest, and I refuse to beat myself up about. This was a nice, smooth, even swim, and it was exactly what I needed.
Friday = Rest.
Sweeeeeet. Rusty and I got Indian take-away for dinner. It was amazing.
Saturday = 3-hour ride.
My ride Saturday was awesome and necessary. I powered through 1.5 hours on the hills from Kensington to La Perouse, and then I spun around Centennial Park for another 1.5 hours to give my legs a little workout. I walked away feeling ready for this race next weekend.
Sunday = Napping.
Total hours: 4.5
Swim hours: 0.5
Bike hours: 3.5
Run hours: 0.5
Inadequate? Probably, but I do better on totally fresh legs, even if I do lose a little fitness on the way. I had a run scheduled for Sunday, but I scrapped it in the end.
OMG I JUST WANT TO RACE CAN IT BE SATURDAY NOW?
Haha! Super ready. Let’s go.
Going into my race next week, I really only have one goal, and that’s to do better than I did in my last 70.3. It’s a bit of a tall order because my last 70.3 (2010 Ironman 70.3 Augusta) had a fast swim, and I know I’ll be a bit slower on this one.
It’s also a tall order because I was strong on the bike and about 15 pounds lighter at Augusta. Somehow, I did the bike in my running shoes with platform pedals in a torrential downpour, and I still managed to hold down a 17 mph average. I was a machine. The run? Well, that’s another story for another day. I don’t know what’s going to happen there. I sucked at Augusta, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to suck at Forster. We’ll have to wait and see with that one.
Let’s talk more about the bike. To beat my time at Augusta, I’m going to need to hold down a 27.4 kph (17 mph) average on the bike. In training I’ve been mostly sticking to something closer to 25 kph on my long rides, but I know that 27+ kph isn’t out of the question–I’ve been doing my 25 kph long rides while maintaining a heart rate around 145-150, and I plan on racing slightly higher. Also, the bike course is a bit hillier than my training route, and I typically average better times on hiller courses than flats. I don’t know why that happens, but the numbers don’t lie. I could climb all day!
I may sound confident now, but prior to this weekend I had nerves like you wouldn’t believe. I knew that all of the above facts were true (that I’d been training at a lower HR than I’d race at and that I’d been training on a flatter course than I’d race on,) but my theories were mostly untested, since my ride last Sunday had been rained out. I spent this past week cutting back and tapering, all the while holding onto this doubt in the back of my head that my training wasn’t good enough, that I wouldn’t be able to pull it together on race day.
So, I decided to forgo the typical taper schedule and shove a nice long ride into my taper weekend. The weather tried to foil my plans, yet again, but I persevered, took a risk, and set out yesterday (yes, that was Saturday,) for a 4-hour ride. Did I make it all four hours? Nope. But I didn’t need to.
Rusty and I left the apartment in the early afternoon after a mid-morning Skype date with my best friend Jessica. There was a break in the thunderstorms, and we could see some blue sky through the clouds. At first we were going to head straight to the park for loops (so that we’d be close to home if the thunderstorms started again,) but we changed our minds when we saw that it was even clearer than we thought. I told Rusty that I was going to start heading down to La Perouse but that he needed to ride his own ride and not worry about me–I was working on race prep, both physical and mental. I was going to be in the mother-effing zone.
I had a pretty singular goal. I needed to know what it felt like to hold down 27.4 mph on a hilly course. I knew that I could do it and feel good, but I needed to know that I could do it and feel good. Sounds bizarre, right, to say that I didn’t know what it felt like to ride at my race pace on a simulated race course? Yeah. My race prep was really focused on generic base-building and aerobic ability, and I didn’t incorporate as much race-specific training as I usually would. I knew that I needed base-building and aerobic ability physically and thought I could handle the lack of race-specific prep mentally, but, honestly, this past week it was making me nervous that I hadn’t trained more on a hillier course. Cue this weekend’s ride.
So, Rusty and I headed down to La Perouse. La Perouse is a nearly a straight shot south for us.
Both last weekend and this weekend, we fought a massive headwind (SSE at 23 kph/14.3 mph) heading to La Perouse. It takes about 20 minutes to get down there from Kensington, and those first 20 minutes were a fight. I (surprisingly) stayed positive, reminding myself that the first 20 minutes of anything are a warm-up (I’m clearly an endurance athlete!), that a headwind one way means a tailwind the other, and that every hill I climbed meant another hill to descend later. True to my internal dialogue, I rounded the turn at La Perouse and enjoyed a delicious tailwind pushing me back up to Kensington. I cruised back at a smooth 30 kph/18.6 mph, and I started to feel good. Good about my ride, good about my race, and good about myself, generally.
Rusty caught up with me on the flat part of Anzac Parade near the University of New South Wales and asked if I was heading to the park or if I was going to brave another lap to La Perouse. I looked at the sky and worried about the rain for a minute–we only experienced about 3 minutes of rain on our lap, but I could tell more was coming–but then I looked at my Garmin and saw that my average speed was clocking in at 26.4. I knew that was partially because of the city riding with all of the stopping and starting (I’m sure y’all know that puts a major damper on average speed,) but I knew I could get it higher. I was in the mother-effing zone, and I wanted more. I told Rusty that I was heading down for another lap, and he happily followed.
Back into the headwind. Back down to the water. Around the turn at La Perouse, and back up to Kensington. I cruised into the flats around Kingsford with my Garmin showing 27.1 kph, and I could not stop smiling. I felt good, and my legs felt fresh. I had only gone about 40 km (the bike leg of Challenge Forster is 90 km,) but I had accomplished my goal. I needed to know what it felt like to hold down race pace on a hilly course, and I found out–it felt daaaaaaamn good! I knew I could stretch it to 90 km when I needed to. Mission accomplished.
Rusty caught up again and asked me where I was going next, and I told him that I was heading to the park. As much as I wanted to prove to myself at that point that I could hold down race pace on a simulated race course for the whole 90 km, I knew that that test had to happen next weekend. This weekend was only a taste–next weekend is the big show! We headed to the park, and I spun some slow, easy loops around the park until my watch hit 75 km and 3 hours on the road.
3 hours isn’t 4 hours, of course, but I didn’t need the whole 4 hours to find my confidence and accomplish my goal. I pulled into the driveway feeling mighty pleased with myself. Race prep for me is all in my head. If I don’t feel ready, I can psyche myself out of anything, but I’m ready for this bugger next weekend. Bring on Challenge Forster!
So, am I aware of ridiculous it is that I rode on Saturday this week after my last post about how inflexible I am when it comes to weekend workouts? Yes, yes, I am. Call it a blogging miracle. Writing about how inflexible and rigid my scheduling is made me realise that I’m inflexible and rigid. Go figure! I’ve been working on that since I wrote it.
Also, on an entirely unrelated note, Rusty and I are swiftly destroying a bag of pistachios that we bought at the grocery store earlier this afternoon. Cashews and pistachios stand absolutely no chance in this house of athletes. Same goes for avocados. Is there a food that’s absolutely unsafe from destruction in your house?
Let’s talk again tomorrow. Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!
I have an odd confession to make. I attach unnecessary importance to certain parts of speech and marks of punctuation. Bizarre, right?
I have actual emotional attachments to some. I will spare you my thoughts about semicolons, but I’m going to subject you to my feelings about subordinating conjunctions because these are the words that hold my life together. I suspect they might hold yours together, too.
Have you ever read the book Unless by Carol Shields? (If you’re a woman, I highly recommend it. It’s a life-changing metafictional novel about where women belong in literature, in relationships, in society, in everything. Brilliantly written. Please get yourself a copy.) I ask about Unless because it played a role in my obsession with subordinating conjunctions. Towards the end of the novel, the narrator writes:
A life is full of isolated events, but these events, if they are to form a coherent narrative, require odd pieces of language to cement them together, little chips of grammar […] that are hard to define, since they are abstractions of location or relative position, words like therefore, else, other, also, thereof, theretofore, instead, otherwise, despite, already, and not yet.
The conjunction and (sometimes) adverb unless, with its elegiac undertones, is a term used in logic, a word breathed by the hopeful or by writers of fiction waiting to prise open the crusted world and reveal another plane of being, which is similar in its geographic particulars and peopled by those who resemble ourselves.
Subordinating conjunctions show dependency, vulnerability. Sometimes they link the events in our life to what could have been. Sometimes they show the complex relationship between two events, one event requiring the other or one event enhancing the other.
While I sat waiting in the rain for Rusty to come back with a spare tube and CO2 cartridge on Sunday, I thought about all of the subordinating conjunctions that had gotten me to where I was.
If only I were more flexible, I could have rode on Saturday instead of Sunday.
I woke up Saturday morning for my long run, and I saw the forecast. I knew it was going to be bloody hot on Saturday and then going to be raining on Sunday. I knew that the smart thing to do would be to ride on Saturday and to run on Sunday. Running in the rain is much safer than riding in the rain, and, honestly, I enjoy it.
I couldn’t, though. I couldn’t not run on Saturday. I spend a lot of my waking hours in the office where I have an ever-changing schedule and an ever-shifting target for success. I don’t have much control over my day-to-day schedule in the office, so I try to balance it out in the rest of my life. Most of my waking hours outside of work are comprised of my own private, silent rituals. I drink coffee before my partner wakes up. I eat half a banana before morning workouts. I get off the bus a stop early because I like using the crosswalk there, and I drink herbal tea before bed. Also, I run on Saturdays. My rituals bring me peace. They’re part of who I am.
If only I were more flexible, I could have switched my long ride to Saturday, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I can accept that. I’m happy to glance at that alternate version of reality where I wake up on Saturday morning and decide how to spend my day as I’m drinking my morning coffee, but I’m also confident that that’s not me. Not right now, at least.
If only I had run my finger around the tire to find that tiny piece of glass sticking into it, I wouldn’t have had the second puncture.
I know how properly to change a punctured tube. You would think I would be angry that I made such a simple mistake, but, to be honest, in the end, I wasn’t. It’s true that my first instinct was to beat myself up and feel bad. I thought, “How could I possibly do something like this again?”. But then I thought about all of the mistakes I’ve made over and over again. There are many, some more amusing than others. You would not believe the number of times that I’ve lent unreliable people significant sums of money. Or that I’ve lost very important passwords. Or that I’ve let someone perm my hair as an adult. There are significantly more mistakes that I’ve only made once, though.
It’s true; if only I had run my finger around the tire, I wouldn’t have been sitting in the rain waiting on Rusty to bring me another tube because I had punctured all of mine. But, the version of reality in which I always remember to run my finger around the tire and the version of reality in which I sometimes forget are not that far apart. The abstraction is slight, but it’s an abstraction that I know will always be a part of my life. I’m simply not someone who picks up on things the first time.
Because of my support system, I was able to keep going.
I used the past tense, but I mean it generally. Rusty keeps me going through everything. He rides home in the rain to get me new tubes when I’ve punctured all of the tubes I have with me, but he does much more. I know that no one wants to read about how he keeps my world spinning in the right direction at just the right speed, but he does. I hope you have someone who is your because, too.
It’s not simply the if only’s and because’s that hold my life together. It’s all of the conjunctions. Even though I’m not a natural athlete… As much as I love cheese… Lest I forget the joy of the runner’s high… Provided that my family stays healthy… As soon as my mom starts chemo again… Now that we live on the other side of the planet… Before I drop all of my savings on my dream race… Since sweet potatoes are the food of the gods… Though I can’t yet find what it means to be “good”…
They all add a needed degree of depth and explanation to life events, and they give those events richer meaning in my book.
I’m sure you can relate. What are the words that hold your life together?