Why I Think I Might Sort of Be Done with Triathlon for a Little Bit

I was going to call this post “F*&% You All, Your Lives Are Not That Cool,” but I’ve been informed I’m “negative” and “intense” online, so instead we’ll go with this.

Last weekend my phone committed suicide on Friday afternoon after trying to upgrade its Enterprise server via the directions from work. I swear I followed the directions, but it wouldn’t even let me make a call without freezing. I got it back to phone-call-making capabilities by wiping it clean, but had no contacts and no internets. And, no possibility of a new phone until Monday. So, I ended up spending my weekend going to the high school cross-country regional/sectional/whatever championships, riding Tamarancho with some friends (terrifying mountain biking, by the way, just completely maybe-I’ll-throw-up-I’m-so-scared kind of terrifying), spending more time at the brewery than the ride took – even with me walking my bike a significant amount, and then racing the cross-country Pacific Association championships where I fell twice in the mud and slid and placed 94th or something — all WITHOUT INTERNET ON MY PHONE.

This was mind-boggling in its absurdity going into the weekend. A whole weekend, full of stuff, without email or twitter or facebook??

But, by the end of the weekend, when I sat down at my computer I felt better and more fun than I had in awhile. And not because of the negative influence of technology or all that shit people are always going on about. But, simply because I hadn’t been inundated with the forced positivity of the internet all weekend. I hadn’t felt compelled to see how everyone was doing at IM Arizona or how wonderful a time they were all having. And I didn’t care.

It may be just triathlon, but I don’t think it is. There is a need, particularly online, to always be soooo excited about riding my bike and sooo grateful for my friends and my life is just so amazing and so wonderful and so filled with positivity all the time — by inference it is so much better than yours.

Maybe other people don’t feel this way – obviously, they don’t. But, for me, this kind of relentless cheeriness eats away at my confidence day after day after day. If I’m not as completely totally all the time happy as everyone on my twitter feed or as amazed at the wonder that is the sun as all my facebook friends, something must be wrong with me, right?

No one online (or largely, in popular society) ever seems to have any problems that can’t be overcome by just looking at them with the right attitude. Or, at least they don’t admit it.

I’m well aware of the documented positive effects of being positive, but there’s a decent amount of writing on the negative impacts its having not just on society, but on us individually. Implying, or stating outright, that you just need to be relentlessly positive to overcome even the direst of problems is only two steps away from arguing that people who succumb to illness just aren’t fighters and those that remain impoverished do so because they just don’t want it enough.

And on a personal level, we are undermining our long-term mental strength and capability to solve problems by refusing to acknowledge them. It’s not that I’m negative or unhappy or down on my life; it’s just that sometimes I am. And, I’m betting you are sometimes too.

Which brings us to the draft title for this post and back to last weekend. For a whole weekend, I didn’t read about everyone’s super amazing days and how every chance is a dream and what a blessing this race was. And, I felt better than usual I think, because my weekend, which along with lots of fun also included a little bit of dry-heaving on my terrifying mountain bike and little bit of crying in the rainy cold at my XC race and plenty of doing nothing interesting at all, seemed just fine.

All of that isn’t the only reason why I don’t really think I want to do triathlon a ton next year, but it’s certainly related. It’s become the athletic embodiment of an attitude I just don’t know that I can deal with. (I’m also tired and really busy and sick of competing against girls who have so many more hours to train than I do and just not super excited about doing the circuit again. Mostly, I’m just not feeling it.)

I’m sure I’ll still do TriCal’s Alcatraz because I love that race and I’ve been thinking about other stuff, like ultras and Xterra – if I ever get up the courage to get back on my mountain bike. But, mostly I think I might just stick with running, of the non-Oprah variety, which has a whole different kind of attitude that includes kegs at the finish line, $20 entry fees, usually no med tent, and a lot of sarcasm.

Austin

Oh, yeah, in case you hadn’t figured it out, I’m not doing Austin 70.3 next weekend. As much fun as it was going to be fly all the way there, completely exhausted, after no training for three weeks, all stressed and tired from Steve having a broken leg and stuff, and have a terrible race, the weekend before the wedding — I decided it wouldn’t be as much fun as not going.

Kinda sad, since both Kristen and Kristin are doing it and it would have been fun.

I decided this around mile 4 of the San Jose Half-Marathon, which was not a great time to decide I just wanted to be done. (And, really early in a half-marathon to start having the “I want to quit”/”No, don’t quit yet” debate.) After I stopped about 10 feet before the 10K mat, I sat down on the sidewalk for a little while. When I got up, I was covered in sweat and tears and snot (ok, that’s a lie, I didn’t cry until I got back to the car), and started walking the 1.75 miles back along the race course to my car.

I passed thousands of people on my way back to the car, all still running. Usually, when you clearly have dropped out of a race, everyone who sees you asks are you ok/what’s wrong/do you need help. But, whatever look I was giving off, not one of the thousands of spectators said a word to me while I walked back to the car.

And, then I was done.

Race Report: Oh, Right.

People always ask me ‘ohhh, how’s the Patch going?’ and I really ought to have a super awesome answer that also makes them feel appropriately annoying, because I just don’t know how many times I can say 1. there is no “the” and 2. busy.

So, yes, I finally put together an ok half-Ironman-distance race last weekend, but I haven’t really had much to say about it, because, oddly enough, life didn’t stop after that. Shock.

Big Kahuna was on Sept. 11 — side note: as we were all standing on the beach before the start, people are like pumping themselves up and jumping up and down and yelling “Go Lauren” and “Team in Training, yay!” and this girl next to me (in the exact same super peppy, cheering voice) goes: “Yeah, Sept. 11. Never forget! WOOOO!” I couldn’t (inappropriately) stop laughing.

It was a fine race. How is work? Fine. How was the race? Fine. How is wedding planning? Fine.

Turns out, I know how to swim. Who knew. Swam my ass off – just crazy hard the whole time. After the 50m of hard swimming, head down at the beginning, I realized I was pulling away from the people around me and looked up. 50m in, there was a girl already 20 feet ahead — that was the closest I was to her all day.

I swam hard, just really hard, thought my arms were burning off the whole time. Why? Because, for some reason, I had this giant fear that the girls behind me would catch me. No idea why this was such a huge fear, probably some emotional issues , but I was just terrified they would catch me. This is probably the same fear that terrifies me when I’m even close to an interval on the track – I prefer to be significantly under the interval, so I don’t have to be scared I won’t make it.

Came out of the water second. Ran up the sand, crossed the timing mat, ran up the ramp and looked at my watch. 29:15! Sweet, I must have been like 28:40-something. Nope, I officially crossed the mat in 29:00. Sigh. But, second fastest swim of the day and I felt good about it.

I got on the bike second. I came off the bike second. Not a lot happened in between. (I actually had no idea I was second. Somehow, all the spectators missed the girl in first. I missed the girl in first. So, I was convinced I was winning, no worries, until I started the run. Oops.)

I hit the turnaround on the bike in 1:13. I finished the bike in 2:36. If you can do math, you would think I blew up — and, I mean, I probably did a little — but, really, you turned around and almost got knocked backwards by the wind. The super smart and not at all annoying guys who were riding by me (ok, just one guy, who stayed behind me and then sprinted from wheel to wheel and then drifted backwards and then sprinted onto the next wheel that passed, was really annoying) kept standing up and pushing into the wind. Hmmm…

I started the run strong. I ran strong for awhile. Then, I stopped running strong. I was running along ticking off 7:15 miles – which was fine – and I was on pace to go like 4:47 and I was ecstatic. I even promised myself if I went under 4:50 I would just be done for the year. Then, in between a 7:00 mile and a 7:40 was an 11:30 mile. That didn’t seem quite right. I want my damn 3.5 minutes back!

Even if the mile 8 marker was off (it was), I stopped running anything resembling 7:15 miles shortly after that. I didn’t even really know it. The last coherent thought I remember is “And, then my legs gave out.” (Yes, most of my thoughts during races are of the narrative variety directed at an unnamed third party). Then, it’s just sort of a blur. I kept “running” and I kept “pushing” and hoping somehow another mile marker would be off in the negative direction and I’d still come in under 4:50 — it never happened, the stupid run is like 13.5 miles and slow, not that it’s any different than it’s always been every year — and eventually I made it to the beach and then eventually I made it through the sand to the finish.

Evidently, I slowed down a lot. I was like 5-6 minutes behind the girl in first at the turnaround; I ended up 13 minutes behind her. But, I had NO idea I was slowing down that much. I couldn’t really see my watch or read it. I couldn’t add. I was fine, didn’t end up in the med tent or anything, but man, I hate the last four miles of these things.

This is me at the start of the run. I don’t even remember going over this bridge. At first, I thought this must have been near the end because I have no recollection of it, but I’m still wearing my glasses, so. And, also, what the fuck is up with my run:

Apparently, along with running faster, I also need to work on not running like a gimp.

This is the only good picture of me from the race. It’s my ‘I can see the finish and I will not fall down before the finish line’ look:

I went 4:52 and came in second. Which is fine, solid, satisfying to put together an ok half after a year of trying to come to grips with a significantly longer race. (Though in all fairness to myself, I probably would have put together an ok half at Steelhead, there just wasn’t a swim.)

And, it was nice to remember that oh, right, I’m not completely, totally awful. I’m just used to racing with girls who are good enough to make me feel like I’m completely, totally awful.

But, it would have been nicer to have run 4 minutes faster.

SF Tri at Alcatraz: A Race Report

I would like to make a statement for the public record: if the three or whatever age group girls who beat me took their elite licenses, which I know they’ve all qualified for multiple times, it would have been a deeper and more interesting women’s pro field. Just for the record.

SF Tri at Alcatraz is a totally, completely, not at all the same race as Escape from Alcatraz back in June. Except that they’re basically more or less the same course with a few changes. Oh, and this one was less crowded, I’m pretty sure cheaper, and they had waffles and Ghiradelli was a sponsor — so, why it didn’t sell out is beyond me.

The race started with us diving off the boat after the longest hesitation ever. (Uh, did that loud cannon mean go? Why are they yelling go? No one else is going, should I go? Etc.) And it became clear pretty quickly that the swim was going to be rough.

I swam ok and with the other girls for a little bit. Then I got water instead of air a few too many times in a row and smacked in the face with some waves and the girls were gone. It was pretty choppy, so once someone was gone there was no seeing them. In fact, there was no real seeing anything. Instead of having the current with us like you usually do on this swim, we had no current or were actually fighting the current at some points. And then the wind moving against that on the surface was creating a lot of waves.

For some people, I think, it was just a hard, slow swim — probably those that have more experience, technique and, I dunno, substance, or that don’t know any better. But, for some of us, it was like 47 minutes of getting punched in the face. I was getting tossed around, swallowing water, going nowhere, and really thought I was just never going to make to shore. There was a boat to the right of me with a light flashing (I guess because it was so shitty out they wanted to make sure you could see it) and more or less the only thing that stopped me from waving the boat down was that I didn’t want to be the only pro that got pulled from the swim.

For reference, I swam 13 minutes faster last year and 18 minutes faster back in June.

And the people I expected to come out of the water with all finished 2-3 minutes ahead of me. So, I spent the rest of the race figuring I’d never catch back up.

I had, supposedly, the fastest T1 (go me!) but that seems sort of unlikely. The results also say I had the slowest T2 — but I’m pretty sure I was sort of dazed and slow at both, so.

Then, I got on my bike and just stayed 2-3 minutes behind the girls I expected to come out of the water with. I wasn’t biking awful, but I wasn’t biking great either. I averaged the exact same wattage for this race that I did for Steelhead last week, where the bike was almost twice as long, so oops. I was very up and down, which means mostly down. I just don’t know my Olympic distance pace anymore — I kept slipping back into Half pace. I made it almost out of Golden Gate Park before Courtenay caught me, which was farther than I think I made it last year – improvement or something!

I really thought I was biking alright and just couldn’t make up the deficit from the swim, but the results suggest I was actually biking pretty meh. Good thing I didn’t know that.

Because, somehow, I managed to stay sort of positive — like not really positive, but positive for me. I started running still completely convinced I was just never going to make up the deficit from the swim, but I was running faster and faster. I just wanted to actually fight for it, I wanted not to look stupid, I dunno. I just didn’t think about it and then I realized I was gaining on a bunch of girls ahead of me. I passed a girl and realized I was actually in the money! Usually, at this race, I just want to shoot myself on the long uphill up to the bridge and I slow down and I get passed and whatever, but I passed this girl and another age group girl at the top of that hill and I just kept thinking ‘make it stick,’ so instead of collapsing into a crying ball I pushed it so hard up the rest of the hill and caught a few more age group girls.

Then, I ran scared. Pushed it the whole way, convinced I could hear someone coming up behind me.

So, it wasn’t my best race ever (my best race ever hasn’t been in a few years), but it was a pretty big improvement internally. For how shit the race started and how bad it got at some points, I didn’t just give up and mentally walk it in. And, I finally ran fast at a race. AND, sure I was still close to the last, but my splits (you know, minus the swim) were almost in the mix. So, I felt like things are starting to come together.

And, I love TriCal. I used to think they were “the man” when I was at Cal and we did random collegiate races put on in pools. But, now I realize WTC is “The Man” and TriCal is awesome. They put on good races, they take care of the athletes. No 16-year-old Asian high school kid made me a waffle at Steelhead — I’m just saying. And this is never a problem.

Back on the Horse?

OK, this may not come as a big shock, but I’ve been a bit down this week.

(WHAT?!? Whoa.)

Grandma, mom, big breaths, it’ll be ok.

I’m usually pretty depressed the day after a shit race – especially if that shit race ended in the med tent/room. The usual: you suck, why even do this if you suck, you could spend all that time actually being good at something, god, you suck. Etc. But, I figured that’d roll out after a day or two.

Only it didn’t.

So, on a new mission: have fun again.

Evidently, not doing any workouts with anyone else for like three months wears on your mental fortitude after awhile. So, wanna ride? Run? Hang out and call it swimming? I’m in, just let me know. I was trying to come up with things that sound fun and I have: group run workouts, rides with friends, mountain biking, CrossFit, and races. But things that don’t sound fun: sucking at races, long rides by myself, swimming by myself, mile repeats.

Steve says my problems is I haven’t hit bottom and if I woke up in a bush I would be ready to be an athlete again. That, I think, is step two.

Sand-bagger

OK, so I’m not naming names, but I wanted to do a local sprint triathlon. Totally small deal, very-much for beginners, but I just want to get my legs under me, it’s close, it’d be fun.

I have no interest in sand-bagging and I don’t want to go beat on beginners or discourage anyone or take their awards from them. So, I emailed the race and asked if (as a pro) I could just compete and not be in the results or be pulled from the results. Which, I’m pretty sure, is totally common. I know as a beginner, I did some small races and local pros would do them and then wouldn’t be in the results. They just sort of showed up, worked something out with the race directors, and then weren’t in the results.

This race said no.

Now, of course, I totally won’t win, because you never know who’s going to show up, especially around here. (I did a totally random, local 10K once that had two Olympians. Awesome.) But, still. WTF.

Yesterday, I went to Borders, since it’s closing there were bound to be great deals! There were ok deals, but there were more people there than actually read books. There was probably a reason the stationary section was cleaned out, but the bookshelves were still relatively full.

I totally contributed by buying two magazines and an e-reader. Because it was 50% off! And came with 100 books! And now I can read and look important!

Hack. Hack

I’ve been sick all week. I also rode more than I’ve ever ridden in one week. Obviously, when those two things coincide it’s pretty ugly — literally, not figuratively.

Tuesday, I was really sick (bad cold) and didn’t work (as much as one can when one works from home) and laid on the couch all day. Then, life went on. But, it seems after a couple days all the congestion settled in my chest.

So, today, I woke up, hacked up a bunch of stuff, loaded up on cold medicine, and headed out for my second four-hour ride of the weekend.

I made it 3:40. And we’re calling that success.

 

A new leaf?

I thought a lot about my race. I know there’s the whole 24-hour, then move on rule, but please, I don’t follow rules.

I realized a few things: I don’t train enough being the key one. I can pretty much guarantee that no one who went faster than me at Oceanside trains less than I do. (Steve says that means I get good bang for my buck. But, I’m pretty sure it means I have a fixable weakness that needs to be addressed.)

I also realized I’m a neurotic mess. It reminds me of the year in junior high when I made the select regional soccer team and was so paralyzed by fear that I would screw up that I just prayed no one would give me the ball.

Then, I read this guy’s blog, who was having some similar thoughts.

I used to know that if I was near anyone with 800m to go in a race, I could beat them. The competition got faster, so that’s no longer true. I also lost my speed. But, mostly, I lost my confidence.

So, I think I’m ready to turn over a new leaf. Maybe. I mean you never know until you actually do. But, I only had one dessert after the race and haven’t drowned my sorrows in brownies. So, that’s a start.

Ok, Whoa. A Race Report.

Ok, Whoa. I sit on my computer every day and type, type, type. Evidently, that typing hasn’t been on this blog. Shocking.

(I said that to one of my high school runners today, who said he was tired after running a bunch of hard intervals. “What?? That is shocking.”)

But, you don’t care about that. You want dirty details about Oceanside.

Yes, I finished. Yes, I finished last in the pro field. Yes, I kinda thought I would finish last, but no, I did not think it would be that goddamn slow. If I had done the time I thought I was going to, I wouldn’t have been last. So.

On the plus side? Eh, I spent a lot of time thinking about the positives. You can’t be a huge downer for that long in that long a race or you won’t finish, so I had a whole conversation with myself in the middle of the five hours about how it was a slow, windy day for everyone. (It was.) About how everyone has bad days sometimes and you just have to keep going forward. About how it was my first actual half with the swim, bike, and run, without being injured and deciding to do it anyway. (As with the previous two.) And, for the first real one, 5:09 isn’t totally terrible. Maybe. I guess.

I swam with Charisa – which was the plan/goal, since she’s a better swimmer than me. Actually, I was swimming right next to her, then I was swimming in front of her and Lauren and a couple other girls, then I was flailing around by myself getting sort of seasick and lost, then I finished exactly with Charisa. You’d think we’d have swam fastish then. Nope. 31 minutes.

Got on my bike and quickly watched Lauren and Charisa and another girl who’s name I don’t know ride away. In retrospect (ah, Monday night quarterbacking), I probably should have at least tried, maybe a little to go with them. But, I’d never really done this before and I didn’t want to explode and I thought I needed to ride my own race, my own speed, focus on nutrition and finishing. So, I rode by myself for a long time. Another girl passed me. She stayed in sight for a little while, then she was gone. About halfway, another girl passed me and at that point I was pretty much in last.

But, I really thought I wasn’t doing that bad. I was holding the wattage I wanted to hold. I was eating — or I was trying to after throwing up twice in my mouth and swallowing it back down. I was on pace at the halfway for like a 2:38, which would have been great. I had no idea that the second half was that much slower than the first.

The second half of the bike felt like it was entirely uphill and into the wind. The parts that weren’t uphill just felt like they were. I struggled. But, I actually held ok watts, just not awesome. I definitely slowed down. I rode by myself, until I would get passed by a group of age group guys from behind (always in a group), then by myself some more, then another group of guys. And, so it went. I just wanted to be off my stupid bike by two hours in, but there was still so much left.

At some point, I will stop thinking about how long the race is while I’m in it and how if it was an olympic-distance I would already be done. Eventually, I will stop comparing the amount of time I’ve been racing to how many shorter races I could have done in the time.

Natalie and Michelle were coming to watch me on the run, so I wanted to get out on the run course and find them — it became a goal. And the first few miles of the run I was so happy to just be off my bike. I think I ran a 6:15 in there somewhere. But, mostly, I was running 7:10 miles or so.

I saw all the girls on their way back. And, I was totally out of the race, yes. But, I wasn’t as totally, disgustingly behind as I became convinced I was during the bike. I felt ok. Considering. Of course, then I slowed down some.

Even though I told myself you’re not allowed to slow down from mile 6 to 9. Even though I made myself promise to push it. I hit the 6 mile marker and it’s not even to the turnaround for the second lap yet and you have to do the whole thing all over again and YOU’RE NOT EVEN HALFWAY. There was about two miles I thought I was going to quit and I slowed to 8:05 miles or something. Ugh.

Then, all of a sudden, I was past that point and it was only five miles left and I tried to push those last miles. I would have sworn to you my last three were as hard as I could go; yeah, they were like totally 7:50 miles.

So, I didn’t walk — that’s a rule for this year. And, I finished my first whole, for-real, not-injured half. And, there will be more. But, first, there will be more training. And volume. So, I stop thinking how goddamn long that is.

Too Many Triathletes

This weekend was sunny, hot, gorgeous and in February! Of course, I headed out for a bike ride. Of course, everyone else who ever owned a bike in the greater Bay Area did too.

It looked like this:

OK, not totally. But, still.

I spent the first two hours thinking ‘my god, there’s too many goddamn triathletes out here.’ All these beginner triathlete, team-in-training, trimore/trinow/tri-harder/tri it now/whatever training groups were out.

That wouldn’t be a problem, except these large, large groups filled the roads, without the requisite skills to do so. Cars would have to swerve wide and nearly hit bikers in the oncoming lane. When you passed these groups, you had to swing wide too and be careful. Sometimes, when you passed a person, you’d look back to find some random guy, who hadn’t said anything and clearly didn’t have the handling skills that you would want anywhere near you, on your wheel.

About 45 minutes into my ride, I hit Nicasio. (Which, fyi, is not an unbusy road. People do get hit while riding out here.) All these cars of all these stupid triathletes were all over the side of the road, half-on/half-off. People were gathering in the street on their bikes. Two women ran in front of me on a transition run.

Besides the fact that working out is my time to not have to pretend to be nice, to not have to make small talk, I was surprised at how territorial I got.

Stop driving into my backyard from San Francisco and taking up the roads. Stop pissing off local residents, who hate cyclists now, by parking in their yards and peeing in their bushes. (I could never figure out why these people had all these signs up about cyclists being quiet while riding, then I figured it out.) I’ve been out here in shit weather — where were you then? I should get a nice day out here too without having to deal with some woman with fake flowers taped to her helmet trying to challenge me when I pass her.

Sigh.

On the other hand, it’s raining again, so I’ll probably be one of like 12 people out. And it’ll be cold and miserable again. Wish granted?

(This is why the best days are really the mid-morning, mid-week, when it’s a little cold and foggy out. And, as you head out, the fog burns off or you get above it, and it’s just you and the all that space.)