Sunday, May 19, 2019

OMG, I Did an Actual Triathlon -- Dunedin Rotary Triathlon Race Report

It was a beautiful, perfect morning for my first actual triathlon since 2011 -- the Dunedin Rotary Triathlon at Honeymoon Island State Park. I mean business this training cycle. I am going to finish that stupid Ironman in September or die trying, and therefore I am going to have to do some actual shorter triathlons in the name of getting ready. This was one I could drive to and looked really pretty in the pictures on the race website, so I signed up. It's a sprint distance -- 1/4 mile swim, 12-mile bike, 5K run, so nothing challenging distance-wise, but still a good opportunity to practice transitions.

Everything about the start line was well-organized. I picked up my packet, got body marked, put race number stickers on my bike and helmet, racked my bike in the transition area, and laid out my stuff on a towel for post-swim and post-bike. The day started with the realization that I had forgotten my bike shoes. Seriously? I have NEVER forgotten my bike shoes when taking my bike somewhere for a ride. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I didn't pack stuff up until 10:00 the night before. And did I make a list? No, of course not, because I was cocky, and the thought that I might forget something never crossed my mind. Lesson learned. For today I would be doing the 12-mile ride in running shoes.

I don't have a tri suit yet, and the water is way too warm for a wetsuit, so I was swimming in a regular swimsuit. I spent a lot of time debating whether I would need to change into a sports bra before the run. I decided I would not. One advantage of having a chest like mine is that I can run with hardly any support at all. I'm pretty sure I have actually run completely braless at least once, and I didn't die. I decided to try it again today. Just the swim suit, plus bike shorts for the ride. The shorts are necessary. That cursed bike seat and I are not on speaking terms. Oh, how I wish a new bike seat would descend from the sky and install itself on my bike!

I watched the swim waves before my wave go off, every 3 minutes. Each wave had a different color swim cap; we were purple. The swim was very simple -- swim straight out to a giant buoy, turn left, swim to another buoy, turn left, and swim straight in to shore. As the purple cap wave was standing in the water waiting to take off, we saw a silver cap from the wave before us coming back in from the ocean. The guy had a big grin on his face, and also a really muscular body. He did not look like someone who should have turned around so quickly. I still don't know what the story was with him. Scared of a first ocean swim? I guess that's a possibility. But the siren went off before I could see what happened with him, and I started swimming.

For being as lousy a swimmer as I am, I have remarkably little fear of open-water swimming or of mass-swim starts, of which this was my first one. I did get feet in my face, and I also swam on top of people accidentally. I swallowed a little bit of ocean water during the chaos, but that didn't bother me either. It took less than a minute for the swim to start feeling good. Water temp was perfect, the buoy was so huge it was easy to see so sighting wasn't even an issue, and best of all, I wasn't the last person in my wave. Every time I looked behind me, I saw plenty of people back there, and some were clearly less prepared than me because they were dog-paddling or even going inside the buoys to rest. As I always say, nothing makes me feel better in a race than seeing other people doing worse than I am. If that makes me a jerk, oh well. I finished the swim in just under 10 minutes and ran up the mat back to the transition area.

In transition, I found my bike, pulled on my bike shorts over my swimsuit, put on socks and shoes, buckled my helmet, and thought one more time that it would have been nice to have my bike shoes. Oh well. I decided I did not need my gloves for just 12 miles, and left them in transition. Then I ran with my bike to the mount line, with a T1 (first transition) time of 2:55. ("Mount line" sounds dirty, but it just refers to the designated line you have to reach coming out of transition area before you can get on your bike. If everyone got on their bikes at the places where they were racked, there would be collisions right and left, so it's mount line for safety.)

This would be a good place to say that my second big error of the day -- forgetting bike shoes being the first -- was that I never reviewed the "Triathlon" function of my Garmin. I assumed I would remember how to do it. I thought you just start it when you enter the swim, pause it when you leave the swim, start it again when you start the bike, et cetera. First of all, I forgot to pause it when I came out of the water. I remembered when I was running with the bike out of transition. I started it again when I got on the bike, but for some reason it was making the lap sound every 15 seconds. I had no idea why. I stopped it completely just because the lap sound was so annoying. Homework: learn how to use the Triathlon function.

The bike course was two loops of an out-and-back down the causeway, with gorgeous sparkling ocean on both sides. Although I was doing better on the bike than I usually do, I was still sucking compared to most people. I was being passed right and left -- sometimes by people with much nicer bikes than mine, but not always. There were two bridges on each out-and-back, so four bridges total on each loop, and even though they were very small, I was still sucking wind climbing them. Most people slowed on them, even the fast people. I have decided that Floridians just are not good at hills of any type. I have no complaints about the bike course. It was easy and beautiful. My only complaint is myself ON the bike. It took me 42 minutes to go 12 miles, not terrible but I definitely need to improve before September. The lack of bike shoes was annoying but I can't blame my slow speed on that, much as I would like to.

Back in transition for T2, all I had to do was rack my bike again and swap helmet for cap. Oh, and suck down a gel. I shouldn't really have needed any fuel for this short of a workout, especially considering I had McDonalds on the drive up, and a Clif bar at the start line, but for some reason I was hungry. I drank half my water and then ran out of transition and onto the run course with a T2 time of 1:26, not too bad. I did think one more time that I hoped I wasn't making a mistake by not putting on the sports bra.

Most of the run course was on trails, but the first part was on a section of beach. I HATE running in sand. It is my least favorite run surface. I was already out of breath, and the sand just made that worse. Still, everyone else was suffering equally. The sun was out, and it was, of course, hot, although not too bad for May. Everyone seemed to be gasping for breath. While breathing never got easier during the three miles, I was in better shape than most people around me. I tried to relax and enjoy what I knew to be one of the best parts of the race for me -- picking off people in front of me. I am a slow swimmer and a slow-to-mediocre cyclist, but I am a relatively good runner. I started counting the number of people I passed -- 41 total, in a race with 316 people. Not too bad! (Full disclosure, I was also passed by ONE person. Well, really two because one of the women I passed in the first mile kicked past me in the finish chute, darn it! And she was in my age group too -- double darn.) The lack of a bra was never an issue. My suit worked just fine. I was too busy watching out for roots and rocks to ever think about what I was wearing. I finished the run in 25 minutes. I think I would have been a tiny bit faster on pavement, but I'm OK with 25 minutes.

I finished with an official time of 1:20:55, 10th in my age group out of 22, 190th overall out of 316. I am overall pretty happy about the whole thing. I mean, that is not a great result but it could have been so, so much worse.

Things I'm happy about:
*I have no fear of the mass swim start, even when someone else kicks me or swims on top of me.
*It was easy to see the buoys.
*I was pretty fast in transitions.
*I still have my superpower of being able to run well off the bike.
*My friend Nick took awesome pictures that make me look more or less like an athlete. I know my mom will appreciate those!

Things I need to improve: BIKE, BIKE, BIKE
*I need to replace that seat. NEED to, cost/inconvenience notwithstanding.
*Aerobars don't do me any good if I'm too nervous to use them in a race setting. Just because I can creep along in them when nothing else is on the road doesn't mean I actually know how to use them.
*I might want to clean my bike some time. It has mud on there from a dirty ride a couple months ago. I've never cleaned the chain.
*I need to do strength training for my legs. Chattanooga has HILLS -- not just causeway bridges.
*Will someone just tell me to buy a new bike?
*A tri suit is going on my to-buy list, sooner rather than later.

Overall, this was an excellent day and I enjoyed every moment of it. I am so lucky to live in such a beautiful place! Just look at the blue skies, palm trees, and ocean in the pictures! I don't think I would ever have been in such a good mood at any triathlon in Michigan. I'm happy to be excited about triathlon. That's sort of a novel feeling. I just assumed I would always hate it. Oh, and one more thing. When I first looked at the race shirt, I thought, "Meh." But then when I put it on when I got home, I realized that it has one very important, very rare, very valuable quality that ensures I will keep it and wear it often. This quality is very hard to find in race shirts. Because of the design... I DON'T HAVE TO WEAR A BRA UNDER IT. Yessssssssssssss.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Ironman Training Journal, Second Month

This morning I got the first half of my long ride done before the sun came up. My reward for that was that the rest of my ride was filled with sunrise over the Manatee River, song birds in the trees, pelicans soaring over the water, and, yes, even a dolphin. Lesson to me: get up early and get the long ride done, and do it somewhere pretty. It was so much better than my last long ride, which was 40-something miles of full midday sun on Highway 41 and a jersey splattered with dead love bugs, just like my car windshield.

I'm 10 weeks into the 30-week training schedule for Ironman Chattanooga. The thing I'm the most happy about is that I still haven't skipped or cut short a single workout. In fact, I'm actually ahead on my schedule and have put a few extra workouts in the bank. I did this because I assumed I would skip some workout days on vacation in Arizona and on my work trip to Savannah. Actually I ran every single day in both of those places, so I still have workouts in the bank! It's a great feeling to know that I'm at 100%, although I do worry a little about the psychological impact when life causes me to miss a workout. Oh well, cross that bridge when I come to it.

Overall, things are going... well. I'm afraid to be too optimistic. I've had this feeling before, where I was like, Ironman training is awesome and I never have trouble motivating myself to do workouts and I'm in perfect shape, et cetera, and then had it all tank to the point where I hated life, spent most of my time dreading workouts, and was miserable to live with. So that could happen again. At the moment, though, everything is good and I'm not complaining. Could it be better? Yes, and there are still some things I could do to make it better, which maybe I will do before the Third Month Update and maybe I will not.

SWIM -- There is one good thing about swimming and one crappy thing. The good thing is that, mentally, I don't really hate it. Partly I'm sure that's because the pool is back to feeling like a giant warm bathtub, just how I like it. I don't spend my whole workout dreading the next part of the workout and wanting to get out. All my swim workouts for the first stage of training have been 2500 yards; next week they go up to 3000 yards. The actual Ironman swim is 4200 yards, so I know I will be able to do the distance, and I SHOULD be able to do it in the time limit. The crappy thing is that I'm still a lousy swimmer. Not only am I not improving, I'm actually getting worse, despite religiously following the intervals and drills in the training program I'm using, and actually watching lots of swim videos on YouTube for the first time in my life. I have slid from 67 minutes for 2500 yards to 70 or 71 minutes, and it has been a very steady and consistent slide, where I literally watched my time going from 67 to 68 to 69 to 70 minutes over the weeks. I do not know the reason for this. I watch the swim videos and I swear I am focusing on every single element of the stroke and doing my best to make it look like it's supposed to. Full extension of arms, check. Rotate body, check. Keep head down, check. Keep one goggle in the water when breathing, check. Make sure angle of hand entry is correct, check. Bend wrist and arm the right way to pull, check. Pull all the way through, check. I mean, I know I have no kick, but lots of fast swimmers have hardly any kick. I'm not getting tired; my endurance feels limitless right now. So what the heck?

Somehow, my catch is bad. I know that's where the problem is, but I don't know why. You know how swimmers always say, "Feel the water"? I don't feel the water. I don't feel like I'm moving myself forward through the water at all. Is this because my upper body strength in general is so bad? Maybe. I mean, I can't even do a push up without using my knees, and I can't do a pull-up at all. Supposedly we use lats in swimming, but I am pretty sure I don't have those muscles. At least I have no awareness of them working, when I'm swimming or at any other time. I'm not really sure how to fix that, except... noooooooo... strength training. Which I SO do not want to do, and don't know where I would find time to do anyway. Maybe the answer is to reconsider my hard NO to 5:30 masters swimming classes? I'm now starting my swims at 6:45 a.m.; can't I just get up a little earlier? I don't know. Maybe.

One other good thing is that it's warm enough to get back to ocean swimming, even though I'm still wearing a wetsuit and will probably continue to until water temperature gets to 80, even if I'm the only person out there wearing one in those temps. Who cares? Comfort first!

BIKE -- As always, my biking is mediocre. But I do have a system that's working for me. I have three rides a week -- one long, one short (a little over an hour) following a swim, one brick (bike followed by run). I do my long one on the road, my short one in spin class, and my brick on the trainer in the garage. My mph on the road is never that great because there's really nowhere I can ride here without lots of stop signs and traffic lights, but I figure time in the saddle is most important. Some people think you should not train for an Ironman on a spin bike, but I disagree. One thing spin class is GREAT for is strength training for my legs. With loud pumping music, black lights, and an instructor going around the room checking your watts and yelling to ADD MORE LOAD if she thinks we're not working hard enough, my legs get a very good workout in spin class. They are usually shaking when I'm done, but boy are the big leg muscles getting BIG. On the road I listen to audiobooks and have a tendency to cruise along in Zone 1 heart rate; in spin class that is impossible. The trainer in my garage sounds depressing, considering the high heat and humidity with the door closed and the love bugs with the door open, but when I crank up the music I find I am able to enjoy the punishment. Plus it is rewarding to see the giant slippery puddles of sweat accumulating on the floor, and to watch the looks on my neighbors' faces when they walk by and look in.

There are two things that must be addressed with the bike in this next month. The first one is going to shock anyone who's been reading my blog for a while: I'm going to learn how to change a flat tire. I know, I know, I have always sworn I would not do this. But I truly believe I am going to be in shape to do this Ironman in September. And I do not ever want to do this training schedule again -- this will be my ONLY Ironman. And I just can't have my race end because I can't change a flat. I don't know exactly how I'm going to go about learning -- having guys at the bike shop show me once doesn't work (I go home and can't remember what they said); YouTube videos don't work (I need feedback if I have a question). Anyone who thinks they can teach me how to change a flat -- I'll take you out to dinner anywhere you want if I can actually change the flat after you teach me. Multiple times, if you also nag me to practice it afterwards.

The other thing is that damn bike seat. While it is tolerable in that it doesn't quite create open sores, it is a nagging discomfort that is definitely stopping me from getting anything like my best effort on the bike. As 50-mile+ rides start to become an every-weekend thing, I know I need to address this problem, no matter how expensive or inconvenient. In fact, wouldn't TODAY be a good day to look for a new bike seat? Why yes, it would.

RUN -- I am happy to say that I'm the fastest I've been since moving to Florida. I'm still not fast like I used to be. I remember when my marathons were always under four hours, and my pace on regular runs was always under 8:00/mile. Not anymore, but I am happy to say that unless I'm running in midday sun, I'm reliably under 9:00 pace. And the other day, on brick day, I ran my first sub-8:00 mile in Florida. It was on a very hot, humid afternoon AND right after 45 minutes of pounding my legs on the trainer. I am happiest of all with my running right now, and especially that I can run well off the bike, which has always been something I was relatively good at.

My last update for this month is that I finally registered for an actual triathlon -- a sprint next Sunday. I can hardly believe it myself, but I did. I am simultaneously looking forward to it, and dreading the inconvenience of packing up all that gear for a race that (hopefully) won't last more than an hour and a half. Stay tuned for a race report next weekend!