Friday, July 27, 2012

When the body needs a good rubbin'

Coming off a week of recovery, I’m having trouble getting the motor running again. The 5:30am rides and runs that once came easy taste bitter now. Something must be said for motivation and what it can do for the athlete’s palate. My Lake Stevens 70.3 experience seemed so sweet when I crossed the finish line (don’t ask me how I felt halfway through the run). My post-race aches and pains have subsided, but laziness of “recovery” still lingers.

I started working for the Smiths at Smith’s Hilltop Orchard the day after returning from the west side. Selling cherries was easier than walking out to pick them, as I ambled along, unable to completely extend my knees. To say my quads were sore would be an understatement, and two days of inactivity felt like a blessing. Wednesday arrived, and I felt like I needed to start getting the body moving again. My bike ride didn’t last much longer than 45 minutes, and my speed hardly topped 15mph. That’s ok, I thought. You’re still recovering. Thursday’s run didn’t feel much better, as I don’t think I had quite enough pep for more than 2 miles. Maci looked pretty disappointed.

Friday? I figured this would be the day things would start moving a little better. I moved better, but felt like I weighed about 15 extra pounds. Nothing could be quite as demoralizing as feeling as though you’re kicking out a 90% effort to see you’re not moving any faster than 16mph. I felt my heart rate climb fast, while the ground beneath my pedals hardly moved. Some serious self-assessment was in order.

My schedule for the next 6 weeks of training came in the form of an email Friday night. James had done a remarkable job of working to put together a rigorous training schedule, tailored to preparing me for Worlds in September. This pretty much translated to hill repeats on the run and hilly rides on the bike. Suddenly, I realized the time had come for my body to get ready…quick. It became quite clear that with a training schedule as the one James had prepared, I would need some assistance keeping everything injury-free. And so, I’ve decided to incorporate regular massage into my schedule. I’m not looking for the “oh-it-feels-so-good” types of massage, but the, “holy hell I’m crying!” kind that work out all the adhesions and tight muscles that result from rigorous training.

I’m about ready to embark on week 2 post-recovery week, and you can now regularly find me at Elements Therapeutic Massage. I can’t say enough about what these ladies (and gentlemen) do for you. Three different therapists at the Wandermere location have worked on me, and each of them have done a great job of addressing the spots causing me the most trouble. After my bike crash, it was my neck and upper back. After Boise, it was my legs.

So, if you’re feeling a little rundown or sore, and stretching and ice haven’t alleviated the symptoms, I’d recommend giving Elements a call. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. You can find them online at, or call them (Wandermere location) at (509) 340-3303. Let me know if you need any suggestions or recommendations! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Blurry Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3

They say a perfect race is hard to come by. The longer the race, the greater the probability something is bound to go wrong. I’d be lying if I said this was my perfect race, yet it’s hard to feel anything but excitement when you’ve just completed something you’ve never done before. I just finished my first legitimate 70.3, and I got a whole heck of a lot more than what I asked for—both good and bad (but not so bad).

The only weather-related issue threatening to delay our swim start was fog. Yet, upon arriving, I knew that wouldn’t be an issue. A smooth Lake Stevens greeted us, and dark clouds had parked right on the horizon. I had a feeling this was going to be Roger Thompson’s kind of race: a rainy one. Quite frankly, I’ve come home soaking wet after so many of my rides, runs, and races this spring, that—like Roger—I couldn’t help but feel a little excited about it. I would take advantage of everyone else’s disappointment, and use it to propel me through the course. Kathi Best—the night before—told me to laugh if I rode into a downpour. Besti, I laughed, and it didn’t even compare to the downpour we rode through up to Mt. Spokane. 

But first, the swim: I started with the rest of the 18-29 year-olds in the third wave, following right on the heels (actually, not quite) of the pro women. I couldn’t catch the group ahead of me to take advantage of their bubbles, but once two ladies ahead of me swam past the buoy demarcating the turn, it felt like an easy ride all the way back to the finish. I successfully knocked off 2 minutes off my swim time from Boise, ambled out of the water, slipped out of my wetsuit (yes, it came off better than races-past), and made it out of transition without a hiccup.

All set!
Then I realized I couldn’t see. No kidding. I hopped on my bike anyway to be out of transition quickly 
(I’ve come to realize fast transition times are just as gratifying as fast splits). I prodded and squished my left eyeball around, and when mile 5 suddenly crept up, I told myself I couldn’t do anything to fix it. I had lost my contact sometime during the swim. I panicked a little. This course was hard enough when you could see clearly, but I had rain, wet roads, and a lack of depth perception to make navigating over every flipping hill in Lake Stevens that much more ridiculous. My mother’s words from the night before ran through my mind, “Meghan, just be careful. I really hope the roads aren’t wet. Don’t go fast if the roads are wet!” I laughed, because I knew I’d go fast, and to think I was going to do it with compromised vision.

The standing water on the roadway did make me take it easy on the turns, however. If the downhill was straight, and I couldn’t see any obstruction, I went for it. Amazingly, it felt as though my right eye took over as best it could, and riding soon got easier—unless the rain pelted me directly in the face. Then, I had to alternately close one eye and then the other. Let’s just say I didn’t keep my right eye closed for too long. Definitely too blurry.

Hill upon hill kept aiming to thwart me. Keats McGonigal, the race director, certainly did a fine job of 
finding every hill—both long and steady, short and steep—he could to add to our misery. Craig’s instruction to, “stay within yourself,” became my mantra, as I did everything to overcome my “power up it” mentality and felt no shame riding in my granny gear to preserve my legs. In fact, my granny gear—along with keeping my butt in the saddle—ended up carrying me over hills faster than some 20-something guys trying climb their way up by standing. I would have looked over and smiled at them if it weren’t for all the snot that covered my face.

Rosi Guerrero and I drove the bike course the
night previous. While I'd ridden it two times
before, I'd forgotten just how many hills
there really were. The scenery is amazing
I didn’t come away from the race a “hill-climbing phenomenon,” however. Just before the wild ascend that race personnel warned us we’d need to slow and gear down for (it was the steepest hill on the course, and many walked up it or fell over half way up), I dropped my chain. Figures. I had too many dork tattoos to count (so I didn’t), and I thought I’d leave that to Craig Thorsen when I saw him at the finish. I got it back on and actually beat the guy who started up ahead of me despite the unfortunate slow down. And the hills continued…

Enough about the hills: I started my run feeling quite well, until 3 minutes elapsed. My entire abdominal wall spasmed, much like it did in Boise. I decided to run it out and see how far I’d get. Much to my surprise—and relief—it actually subsided by mile 3. I started sucking on a gel at mile 2 and realized I’d need to find an alternative. After the first loop of the run, I felt my energy waning. I spotted Sam Piccici as I turned out for my second loop. I told him this hurt. His response? “That’s ok. Just keep it steady.” I don’t know what I expected him to say, but this sport shows no sympathy. So, I sucked it up.

Erica Zeimer and Craig had told me about the all-powerful greatness of Cola. By mile 7, I definitely couldn’t stand any more gel, so I decided to go for it. Holy Moses! I don’t drink soda, but MAN that was amazing! So sweet! I can’t say that it gave me quite the “kick” Erica said she’s experienced in the past, but it kept my feet moving.

By mile 9, my mental game started to collapse. Craig and Erica noticed, too, as they passed me on their loops. My legs kept churning, but not by much. My Timex kept alternating between 7:20min/mile pace and 8:30min/mile. By the last hill, it took everything I had to keep from walking. I couldn’t do that. I already relished all the time I could at the aid stations—they even had sponges…AND Cola! I relied on my last sip of Cola at the final aid station to keep me running to the finish (obviously, that’s where all the spectators were planted, and I couldn’t walk in front of them!) The Finish line never looked so blurry—but good!—and hurt so bad. Actually, I take that back. My marathon finish in 2010 was definitely worse. Yet all I could think about was, Damn. And I signed up for Ironman CDA.

As blurry, rainy, and snotty as that race was, I did it. Thankfully, I qualified for Worlds in Boise, because I wouldn’t have done it here with my fourth place finish. It felt good competing against some of the best (the woman who woman my age group finished first amateur woman overall, beat two professional woman, and placed first in my age group at World's last year). I met all my goals with my splits, and I didn’t think I’d do that with a bike course this hilly. I didn’t expect to ride a sub-3hr bike with as many hills as I had to scale and as wet of roadways as I had to slow down for. I had no idea how my run would turn out considering my legs after a long, hilly bike ride. My goal was to run around a 1:40 run split, and I only exceeded that by 20 seconds. While I felt like (insert expletive here) during the entire second loop, I ran a faster average pace than during my first loop.

And so the story continues… In preparation for Worlds, I do believe I have plenty of hilly rides and runs on my agenda. Add in some Spokane heat and I should be set. I think I’ll start with a few days of rest, though I’ve been told to prepare myself to get back at it this weekend. At least I have Bryan Rowe’s approval for a few rest days.

Photo by Rene Guerrero

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get a few pictures with the pros. Miranda took first woman (by a long shot) and Tim came in second. Such nice people, and what a couple!

Finally, a few acknowledgements:

·      A huge THANK YOU to everyone back in Spokane (teammates, friends) who followed me via Athlete Tracker and/or Facebook. I can’t tell you how cool it is to have so many people behind me. I look forward to following all of you during your upcoming races!

·      Thank you to Chuck and Jenny Hormel (and Caitlin!) for the ride and the hotel accommodations. You guys made my race experience far less stressful than it could have been, and I appreciate it considerably! Both Chuck and Caitlin also raced and were very pleased with how their races went.

·      Rosi Guerrero, I couldn’t finish this post without thinking about you. I know while driving the bike course last night you mentioned how you were just that “average” triathlete. I have to disagree. The average athlete didn’t have a serious pulmonary issue the beginning of his season and decide to race a half Ironman anyway. The average athlete doesn’t have two beautiful, talented girls who have dance and acting as part of their lives, making it apart of yours, too. The average athlete doesn’t teach piano performance full time, or take the time outside of his job to not only grade compositions, but provide suggestions, too. The average athlete doesn’t do nearly the job you do to provide for your family. Finally, the average athlete doesn’t find humor in some of the smallest things (like wearing swimsuits for a bike ride when we really should have been wearing bike shorts!)

You are one amazing, inspiring woman, Rosi. I’d like you to know that you are an inspiration and a role model. The way you care for your girls and Rene, and the way you patiently handle adversity and challenges is beyond “average.” Congratulations Ironwoman!

·      Mom and Dad, thank you for your support in all of this. I know you must think I’m a little crazy pursuing something that seems so time-consuming and expensive. You guys have put up with a stressed-out student and determined athlete for a long time. I just wanted you both to know that I love you (I don’t say it enough) and I appreciate your confidence in me. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

When sweat, spit, and snot all run together

I woke up this morning to the wind blowing my curtains through the window. The only thought that crossed my mind centered on the bike ride and track workout I had scheduled to complete today. If the wind already blew this hard, it would only get worse as the day progressed. Yet the day progressed, and my motivation to start had slowly ebbed to the wayside. Then, a text message from Kathi Best moved me into action. For those who know Kathi, you know she never stops moving. Her training mirrors her life: no shit, no giggles, just badass and a lot of miles. Her message lined out her schedule for the week ahead, she asked if I could join for any of it, and it concluded with, “see you at noon for an hour and thirty minute bike ride followed by a track workout!”

The rain poured outside my window at 11:30, right as I hopped in the car for Besti’s workout regime. Yet when I arrived, the sun broke through. So it’s going to be one of THOSE days, huh?

I had no idea what to wear. In fact, Kathi asked me twice if she thought we needed a light rain jacket for our ride. I declined knowing that if we encountered rain, it’d be a downpour, and a jacket wouldn’t do anything. Our ride toward Mt. Spokane started on a tailwind, and our first 15-minute tempo felt like a breeze. At one point, the wind caught me from the side, and a trail of spit escaped my mouth to then cling to my face. Apparently I’d forgotten to swallow in awhile? My nose had already been running like a fountain, so any snot rocket either flew 6 feet to my left or right back into my face. It didn’t take long, however, to ride right into the downpour of all downpours. In fact, I had entered into Mother Nature’s idea of a carwash for the two-wheeled variety. Rain and all other body fluids became indistinguishable before turning around at the cafĂ©.

Kathi joined me as we started on our long, flat climb into the headwind. We laughed, absolutely drenched, and she asked, “Do you think we need a rain coat?” Nope! I’m quite comfortable, thank you. I’ve never felt better… and we made our way home.

In the first 15-minute tempo out I covered about 6.5 miles. The second tempo home I only ate up 4 miles of pavement, yet I did come home dry! Car after car passed me, and I could only imagine what they might have thought. It took all I had to keep myself upright, and even then I swerved all over the right side of the lane. Who knows what covered my face. It had all run together by the time I hopped in Kathi’s bathroom to change into my running clothes for this track workout that was to come next.

I asked Kathi, “So what is this track workout anyway? How many mile repeats are we doing?”
She looked at me, “…that we’re doing? Well, let me see. Ok. So. Well. Ok.” I soon realized this much delay could only mean I had clearly underestimated what Kathi’s idea of “mile repeats” meant.

“…So. Ok. We’ll start from here (yes, I gathered) and run to Mead’s track. Then…(Lord spare me) we start with 2 miles, then 5 minutes of jogging, another 2 miles, then 5 minutes of jogging, then (then?!?!) 1 mile, then 3 minutes of jogging, and finally (oh, sure…) 1 mile, then cool down. Ever heard of the term thunder thighs? Do you have a clear image in your mind? That’s how heavy my legs felt after that explanation of Kathi’s track workout…times two.

We made it to the track, and I realized I never asked what pace we were running these. Her reply, “Olympic race pace,” nearly made me turn back for home, but I couldn’t, because she asked, “What pace is that for you?” Oh, probably a 7-minute mile. Well, let’s just say there’s no getting away with anything when you’re running with the Besti. I slowly began to curse my speed and those 6:40-minute miles I’d ran at the Priest Lake Triathlon last year. Yet there wasn’t time to curse because Kathi had positioned herself on my tail and wouldn’t let me run anything slower than 6:45s. Perfect.

Thirty mile-per-hour winds make for a great time on the track. One minute you feel like you’re flying, and the next minute you’ve run right into a wall of air taking that turn toward the southwest. 

Apparently, snot flies just as well on my feet as it does on my bike, and when I’m breathing that hard, it takes everything I have just to blow it out and hope it doesn’t fly right back into my face. And so the circles continued, one right after the other. What Kathi considered just another workout, I envisioned a mountain. She is, quite possibly, the strongest woman I've met in this sport, both physically and mentally. To have the opportunity to train with and learn from her is like finding a pot of gold at the base of a rainbow. I feel truly blessed to have the opportunity to train with someone so strong, so knowledgable, and so experienced, even if it does mean a little pain and discomfort while doing so. 

I will admit, by the time that last mile repeat rolled around, I couldn't help but think back to this morning and my track workout I had originally planned on: 4 x 800s. How I ended up with this alternative I don’t know, but I will say having Kathi on my heels certainly made everything fly by: time, miles, and snot included.

Thank you, Besti!