Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fresh Cranberry and Walnut Scones

When I tinker with recipes to make them my own, my main goal revolves around making a palatablefinal product that I feel excited--not guilty--about eating. During this time of year, I find myself succumbing to the temptation to indulge in the myriad of treats that make their way into my workplace, parties, and social gatherings. Did I mention my house?

Also about this time of year, I find the scale to be incredibly unkind, though honest, about my weight. Since September, when my rigorous training schedule concluded, I've had to pay very close attention to my portion sizes and the types of foods I choose for meals. 

Recently, I used some PhD Nutrition (recently rebranded to F2C Nutrition) Pharma Whey protein powder in a recipe for scones I created so I could use fresh cranberries I'd found on sale at the grocery store. Generally when baking, I use dried cranberries. Yet I wanted to experiment with the fresh ones since it is the season, after all. 

Bryan often chides me for neglecting to write down my ingredients and in what proportions I use them, especially when I've finally "done it right." Imagine his disappointment when he remembers how his last (insert home made food item) tasted, only to discover the next one tastes different. So, before I forget this recipe, I'll write it down and share it with you if you'd like to try it. Thanks to F2C Nutrition for the important ingredient of added protein to these babies!

Fresh Cranberry and Walnut Scones

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Mix together dry ingredients below:
2 cups almond flour
1 cup coconut flour
1/2 coconut sugar
1 cup flax meal, golden
1 cup F2C Protein powder
1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups fresh cranberries, pulsed (I used my food processor) 
2 cups walnuts, pulsed

In a separate bowl, combine:
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup olive oil
1 quart applesauce
2 tablespoons, vinegar, distilled 
2 cups almond milk, unsweetened

Combine the wet and dry ingredients, and then, let the batter sit for approximately 5-10 minutes to allow the coconut flour to absorb the contents of the wet ingredients. Then, spoon and form "blobs" on the parchment paper, forming approximately 18 later-to-be-called scones :-) 

Bake for 30 minutes and scones are golden brown, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

XC Supercamp

If I'm not mistaken, I remember Bryan and I sitting on the coach a couple days after the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, in Australia, entertaining the idea of snow. At the time, I struggled with post race doldrums and considered signing up for one of the full races in Cabo and Cozumel when I learned the Foundation slots for Arizona had disappeared. In the end, however, Bryan and I determined it probably suited us better financially if I squelched my cravings to race an Ironman with a late season marathon instead. That way, we could then commit ourselves to learning and exploring a different offseason endeavor: nordic skiing.

More specifically, Bryan and I wanted to better understand the techniques associated with improved skate skiing, as we had both found ourselves in seasons past floundering a bit on the immaculately groomed trails on Mt. Spokane. Bryan claims he felt better than that, yet I always came away saturated in sweat, feeling as though I'd just finished fighting with the snow rather than gliding over it. As a child, my father, brother, and I skied classic nearly every weekend. We always thought to ourselves, and out loud, how smooth and so much faster they moved compared to us. Therefore, I knew when I finally attempted to skate, that what I demonstrated contrasted to, rather than resembled, what legitimate skate skiing should look like.

Back to Australia in August, a fellow triathlete, nearly professional skier, and good friend of ours, Jay McEntire, suggested we sign up for XC Supercamp held up in Vernon, BC at SilverStar Mountain Resort. Fast forward to today, and Bryan and I can say we survived our three-day stint of lessons on skis. What's more? Today marks the end of our extended XC Supercamp for seriously SuperSquirts, where we've made the trek up to nearby Sovereign Lake Nordic Center for even more trails and opportunities to practice our skills and transitions through the different gears of skating.

Silver Star Mountain Resort
In addition to practing the sport itself, Jay took it upon himself to educate us on all the tips related to waxing. Hey now, I meant waxing our SKIS. What I knew from my younger years skiing with my dad, of applying a bit of something oily to the base of our classic skis in the parking lot and promptly heading out to the trails, hardly compares to the rigors of preparing skate skis for a day out on the snow. I watched, intrigued, by the steps of ironing in the wax, scraping off the excess, and then buffing them with roto brushes made of nylon and horsehair. Afterward, I reveled at how quickly the price tag escalated when Bryan and I added one item after another to our shopping cart, the necessities for a proper wax job. Six hundred dollars later, I dare say our skis will look and feel more prepared for snow than their skiers do.

At the end of the day, though, I remind myself that like any sport or hobby, there exists a significant cost at the beginning just to get started. In the long run, I tell myself that once again, I'm investing in my health. My goal for this winter of skate skiing primarily revolves around developing bigger lungs and stronger legs in my efforts to stave off my tendency to develop injuries as a result of muscle imbalances. I also hope that as this season progresses, I can better enjoy winter when generally, I loathe the cold and the way it chases me indoors. Finally, I look forward to time spent with Bryan, relishing the accomplishment of finishing XC Supercamp together in our efforts to exemplify what SuperGooders look like. Feel free to holler at us on the trails of Mt. Spokane. We will likely appreciate your tips and insights, and most definitely, we will need those quick quips to remind us how much fun we're having.

We made it to Alder Point Lookout and felt much more satisfied
by the view here than what we observed at the After me After you Lookout.  
After a good week of skiing, we found ourselves especially
vulnerable the last two days. Someone knew what they were thinking
by putting a liquor store at the base of the mountain.
We found a good red blend pairs quite well with sore ass.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Tri Cities Marathon

Photo by Javier Pita
This marathon has left me perplexed, surprised, elated, and feeling slightly ridiculous. I never thought success would come in the wake of such intense uncertainty. When I found myself consciously trying to ignore the way I limped across the park the night prior to the race, I couldn't ignore the thought of trying to run (race) the Tri Cities marathon the next day. I hoped that by attributing my pain to the way many of us feel before a big event when everything hurts, everything would be okay.

I even posted to Facebook to put forth my disclaimer of a poor race performance that I envisioned would actually transpire. Perhaps to some, it looked more like a "woe is me" attempt. In some ways, I wondered exactly what I hoped to read from the responses of friends and family. That night, Javier Pita responded to my Facebook post in ways I never imagined anyone might. Also in the Tri Cities preparing to race the next day, he offered me endless words of encouragement and advice that I appreciated. Having found himself in similar circumstances in the past, he suggested methods of holistic pain control. Finally, before heading off to bed, he quoted Prefontaine: "The best pace is suicide pace, and today [tomorrow] looks like a good day to die." By the way I felt at that moment, it seemed quite plausible I'd find myself face down next to the 7 mile marker tomorrow. Dead.

Race morning arrived in a way the Weather Channel app hadn't predicted it would, as the 80% chance of showers appeared to have surrendered to the other 20% chance of no showers. Skies looked cloudy; temperatures felt comfortable. I have toed this particular start line two times prior to this one. Therefore, it felt odd to feel so terrible for my third attempt when I thought my experience here should make me confident. The countdown began, and with one last look of irresolution toward Bryan, I shrugged and started running the way I had prepared to for the past 6 weeks. I ran to reach mile 3.

Photo by Bryan. My view for a good part of the race, the
Columbia River and its scenery didn't disappoint. 
I did, and Bryan greeted me with my first round of nutrition. Taking inventory, I realized my wheels had not yet started to wobble as I figured they might. By mile 8, I dared to think I could find mile 13. At mile 10, blisters started growing on both feet. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I had never planned on blisters slowing my pace. Not on this day. My hip, calves, and right hamstring had already signed up for that preferential pleasure to end my day prematurely.

Running faster than goal pace, I sat myself down just before the 13th mile marker and attended to my feet. Bryan swears it cost me 40 seconds, but it only slowed my overall pace by 3 seconds per mile. Even then, I still ran far faster than my original goal pace. Henceforth, I ran with a little more nerve as I approached the third bridge.

Miles 15 and 16 made me realize my attempt to quell those developing blisters failed. Ironically, I enjoyed the pain they caused because it seemed like nothing compared to the pain I had envisioned I'd struggle with yesterday. Pangs of hunger started to bother me, but Bryan always stayed just ahead of me on the course, prepared with bottles of PhD Glyco Durance to sustain me. He also managed to entice me with updates on the shrinking gap between me and the first place woman. Up until mile 17, I'd brushed off his persuasions, reminding him that I felt happy just to run on pace. By mile 20, though, I saw her. My perspective changed.

In all three marathons prior to this one, I'd found myself in the last 10 kilometers feeling no better than complete shit. Imagine my utter disbelief when my pace alerts coming to me for miles 20, 21, and 22 suggested I had found a pace faster than goal pace by approximately 20 to 30 seconds. Perplexed, I thought this felt odd. I surely hadn't planned on feeling this good this late into the race. I certainly hadn't envisioned myself catching the first place woman, let alone passing her at mile 22. Yet when I met Bryan for my second to last replenishment of nutrition just prior to mile marker 23, I had done just that.

I ran surprised, with such severe astonishment that something might snap, my blisters would burst, my competition would catch me. Prior to crossing the final bridge with just over a mile to the finish line, I greeted Bryan with one last question, "How far back is she?"

When Bryan responded, "I can't see her," I grew wings. For no other reason than perhaps pure excitement, my pace accelerated to that of something I had used in training runs for 10 kilometer intervals. (It occurred to me that as much as those damn intervals hurt at the time, my coach had prepared me well for this last celebratory mile.)

Photo by Javier Pita
Taking the final turn into the parking lot, heading for the finish line, Javier urged me to "kick it" to the finish line. At first I wondered what made him think I had anything left, and then I saw the clock. Up until this moment, I had not kept track of time. Only mile markers and pace alerts had kept me in the present. It turns out that when just 15 seconds remain until the clock reads 3:11:00, you push with everything that remains to keep the clock from encroaching upon that next minute.

I crossed the line with a time of 3:10:48 and promptly sat on the ground to find the exuberant congratulations proffered by my two devoted training partners, Ryder and Maci. Of course, Bryan grinned from ear to ear, elated by my nearly 14 minute PR. It took just a few minutes for him to admit his new dilemma as to how he'd have to come out of retirement to defend his now shattered marathon PR. (Perhaps now you all understand my strategy to keep my husband active and racing with me well into his old man years.) Marital competition has no boundaries.

So then, why not feel slightly ridiculous by the dramatics of it all? I had every intention of starting this race with confidence, but I had none. I felt convinced Bryan would find me on the side of the course asking for a trip back to the hotel, deflated and hobbled. Instead, I shake my head with mixed emotions when I think about how the entire experience allowed me to respect the distance and have faith that what I set out to do, I will accomplish.

Mettle. Determination. Fortitude. Here ends 2016; here begins a new outlook for 2017.

My cheer squad and confidants.
Photo by Bryan. Congratulations to Javier for
accomplishing his goal of a sub 2:50 marathon.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Worlds 70.3 Sunshine Coast, Australia: Race recap

Memories from yesterday's race completely overwhelm my train of thought, making it difficult to know where to begin my review. Overall, though, I feel event organizers successfully made athletes feel welcome and special on a weekend designed to showcase some of the best age group athletes of the sport. 

My Sunday morning started with me sitting on the beach, waiting for my turn as part of the last of 19 waves to begin the race. I looked out onto the calm waters and felt grateful it still looked as calm as it did when the professionals took off on their journeys. I watched Bryan exit the water and had the pleasure of cheering him onward before I headed over to join my wave. With what sounded like relief, the announcer encouraged us females 18-29 to swim out to the start line, approximately 100m from the shore. As we moved out from under the arch and into the water, the amount of shoving and jostling hardly surprised me. Just as like every other Worlds 70.3 event I've raced, we women seem to do a pretty good job of establishing ourselves among the competition. 

When the gun went off to signal the start of our race, I fought for the first 200m to stay above water. I kicked to keep girls from grasping my ankles, I swam with wide arms to protect my face, I breathed by rolling onto my side to ensure someone else's stroke didn't push water down my throat. After one gulp of sea water, I managed to find clean water and make the first turn buoy. In an effort to avoid someone in front of me who kicked at such a profound rate as to make me think she didn't have arms, I ended up swimming slightly off course and had to make up ground before finding the second turn buoy. 

I knew I swam with women far faster than me here, so it didn't surprise me to later find out I exited the water in 33rd place. My time, however, did discourage me, as I thought with an ocean swim, combined with my efforts to strengthen my upper body more this past year, I had the power to swim under 30 minutes. Not today, however. 

Transition took a long time to negotiate. We ran up some stairs, found our bike bag hanging on racks, doffed our wetsuits, put on our helmets, and put all of our swim gear in the bag. Then, we had to run the approximate quarter mile of transition to get our bikes onto the course. If I had not yet felt behind as result of my slow swim time, I certainly did when I saw the male professionals coming in off the bike, about ready to start their runs. 

Photo by Bryan Cox.
The bike ride felt harder than I imagined it would. Heading out onto Motorway 70 toward Noosa (north) felt easy because we had a tailwind. Yet my power numbers did not seem to reflect what effort I thought I pushed through the pedals. Again, my head felt slightly rattled, especially when I turned back to make the trek south to battle the headwind. I winced and swore when girls in my age group passed me in packs, looking over their shoulders as if to dare me to cheat, too. I hated the thought of losing ground to them simply because I wanted to follow the rules instead. It didn't take long for me to witness motorcycle officials handing out cards, and some group of cheaters found themselves reaping the results of their own bad decisions when apparently, they'd crashed and sat, scattered, along the shoulder. 

I used the change in terrain of the bike course coming off the motorway to find a more confident train of thought. The hills that the hinterland section of this course introduced to us certainly crippled plenty of riders who either perform best on the flat sections or reaped the benefits of the draft line on the motorway. The advice from friends back home to stay on my nutrition (so I drank) and stay concentrated on my effort (so I watched my power meter) kept me in the moment. After recalibrating my power meter, my numbers started to more accurately reflect my effort. Relief started to transform into confidence when I passed one girl (and plenty of men) after the next. The biggest hill on Rosemount road, whose grade boosted an impressive 14%, disabled some so significantly that many had to walk. It felt good to ride myself back into Mooloolaba in 19th place. 

Photo by Bryan Cox
Again, getting through transition felt like an endeavor all on its own. By the time I'd racked my bike, found my run bag on its peg, run down some stairs to change into my shoes, and dropped my bag off, my heart had already started beating at such a rate I thought it would explode from my chest. A hill greeted us immediately, like the long, grinding hill we all know in Spokane as Cemetery hill on the Bloomsday course. Up and over I ran, keeping a decent pace up until mile four. At this point, I'd turned around and started making my way back to the finish line. Here, we all felt the force of the headwind that made the hill to the turnaround for the second lap seem more challenging. Following me closely, I could hear the footsteps and see the shadow of the winner of my age group from Coeur d'Alene. She wanted to push a slightly faster pace than what I felt comfortable with, especially turning into a headwind. I backed off the pace and let her lead, but no more than 15 yards ahead of me. 

Up and over the same hill I started the run course on, the second time felt harder. However, I prodded myself to take short steps and "fall up the hill." I don't know that my story mimics anyone else's, but my reputation at the tail end of these runs seems to be that I consistently hurt. The miles hurt so badly that my pace slowed tremendously. Where once I felt good at my race pace, I suddenly didn't anymore. Even sticking to my nutrition, taking a swallow of GU combined with PhD's Electro durance, didn't keep my body from wanting to croak. 

I reached the 17th kilometer with another woman whose quick steps and relaxed posture convinced me to stick with her. If nothing else, I needed someone to draft off of to get me through the last 4km of this race, especially up that hill. Sure enough, her presence and pace gave me someone to focus on and mirror. Before I knew it, I realized she had helped me gain time on the woman who beat me in CDA. Ten yards turned into 5, which turned into 2 upon entering the finisher chute. 

My kick didn't stand up to her's, though. One look over her shoulder, and upon spotting me, she apparently had just a little more juice, too. That means she beat me. Again. All it took this time was just two seconds. Sadly, I'll add this finish to a growing list of mine where merely seconds keep me from placing either at the top of my division or just short of a benchmark. In this instance, two seconds kept me out of the top ten.  


I've struggled today. Hoping to use this race to gauge whether or not I'm ready to go to the next level, I'm convinced I'm not. Essentially, I'm tired of making excuses for myself, and I refuse to settle for this outcome. Perhaps a fault of my own, my stubbornness may end up costing me more in the long run than either Bryan or I would care to know. I will persist. I am trying to accept that it's not the outcome of the race that matters so much as the memories I take away from the event afterward. I am blessed with a body that allows me to push and challenge myself to new levels. May I learn and grow from this one, and may I find patience with the process. 

Upon our return, our hosts welcomed us with these goodies.
Never has anyone taken such good care of us!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Countdown to Worlds 70.3: Race week

In an effort to calm my growing pre race jitters, I turn to Blogger to share my profound thanks and appreciation to everyone who has given me the motivation and encouragement to keep working for the ultimate goal I've set out before me. As Bryan and I ate our lunch this afternoon, we reminded ourselves why we sat here on the porch of an AirBnB just outside of Coolum Beach, on the shores of the Sunshine Coast, on a land further than either Bryan and I have ever traveled, in Australia. Ironically, neither of us mentioned that honeymoon we thought this trip would help us to celebrate our recent marriage in June. Rather, the memories of waking up at 4 o'clock in the morning, multiple mornings, one day after another, to finish one workout before work so our arrival might allow us enough time to complete yet another workout midday and/or upon returning home, flooded our minds.

When on the Sunshine Coast, relish the sunrise.

We have come so far. Yet I found myself smothered in waves of self doubt. When I looked out over the churning waters while walking along the Mooloolaba Esplanade this afternoon, wave upon wave crashed upon the shores, mimicking the ones rattling my brain. Perhaps I should only feel happy to be here; feel satisfied enough to toe the starting line. I find it ironic that, just after climbing into our Hertz van to make the drive home to rest the afternoon away, my phone conversation with my coach ended on what felt like an uncomfortable note. He pushed me for a finishing time and age group placing. No "I hope to," or "I think I cans" sufficed. Derek wanted an answer. He wanted confidence.

The backdrop for my Quintana Roo in transition is second to
none. With over 3000 athletes here, so is the run out of transition.

He wanted to hear me say, win. In truth, after committing myself to achieving this goal, I have to trust my efforts have been legitimate. I have to know I can do it. Therefore, I look forward to seeing this most difficult and challenging process yield a beautiful destination. I am already here in one of the prettiest places I have yet explored. It's time to embellish it. Tomorrow, I yearn to burst this brewing bubble of emotions that have welled up within me over the past 6 weeks. Where once waves of doubt overwhelmed me, let explosions of fireworks win.

Best of skill to my Big Sexy teammates, whom we shared the
company of over lunch yesterday.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Countdown to Worlds 70.3: Week 2

Coolum Beach, Queensland, Australia
Today, Bryan and I touched down in a new country, in fact, a new continent. I am happy to say that despite enduring an 18+ hour travel excursion, we both enjoyed the waters of the Coral Sea underfoot this evening. In addition, every bag of luggage made it. Regardless of the way TSA violated my bike and the contents of my bike box, my efforts to protect everything with pipe insulation and styrofoam apparently succeeded.

The first few days of this week mimicked those of the previous four. However, I remember telling my girls on Monday that indeed, this would be the last 45 minutes of hell that involved running at such a speed that no one, upon awaking on a Monday, would ever like to see before 5 o'clock in the morning. On Wednesday, I informed them that having to endure the boredom of watching their owner run up and down a hill would finally come to an end. What I don't think they had quite prepared themselves for, however, was mom leaving on Friday for a race they had no idea they helped prepare her for.

Our 14 hours on a Qantas flight from LA to Brisbane felt tight. Bryan likened our situation to what cattle must feel like when shoved into semis for slaughter. A twinge of sadness overcame me when he said that, and I reminded myself that in an hour, the powers of Ambien would guide me into what I hoped to be a deep sleep. It seemed 5mg bought me about 3 hours, so after a total of 15mg, I let myself remain awake for the remaining two hours to Brisbane. What Qantas lacked in leg room, they fairly made up for with food. My breakfast hardly compared to the pretzels and ice water I've grown accustomed to on flights these days.

A little delayed, Brisbane welcomed us with temperate weather and sunny skies. After just one wrong turn onto the motorway, we found ourselves heading to the north toward Coolum Beach, where the AirBnB we'd reserved awaited us. Driving on the left side of the road made for some serious entertainment, primarily from the passenger's point of view. Bryan, on the other hand, struggled with his turn signals so that we both understood our windshield wipers worked, one too many times. All I could think was how fortunate we were the gas and brake pedals weren't on opposite sides, too.

Friendly people awaited us in Coolum Beach. Our host welcomed us openly and even offered to assist us with our first grocery shopping excursion. We declined her hospitality so we could take showers we longed for desperately. Later in the afternoon, we did venture into the heart of town before coming home so Bryan could rest and I could go for a short run and explore the area. I marveled at how wonderful I felt running across the sand, overlooking the ocean whose waters lapped the shores of Australia! I feel blessed to visit this area, and I long for a memorable race this upcoming weekend.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Countdown to Worlds 70.3: Week 3

We observed from the sidelines our friends and fellow triathletes braving, what had evolved into, a windy afternoon in Coeur d'Alene for today's Ironman event. Even as I contemplate another full distance triathlon sometime in the future, I couldn't help but admit that I enjoyed spectating instead of racing today. For these last 4 weeks, training hard for a half Ironman has stretched me considerably. Yet this week, I seemed to have surpassed my fears of breaking down and actually experienced some of my strongest workouts, to date.

My coach has structured my training pretty consistently from week to week. This has allowed me to better (especially with each passing week) mentally prepare for the upcoming training session. Where once I felt nervous for a hard tempo run the day following a track session, I now feel ambitious and eager to nail it. I've only failed to do it once. I figure my odds have improved each week. Thankfully, my dogs have grown accustomed to ushering me through the woods, even in the dark morning hours. They have proven to serve as my greatest assets for these runs.

If anything, I've also learned more about the importance of recovery. Not just what it looks like, but how to embrace it. For me, I've benefited significantly from self massage. Ruby's Lube Antichafe balm has served me well. My feet, shins, and calves have stayed relatively healthy despite the increased miles and harder efforts.

We recently celebrated my mom's birthday. I didn't feel nearly as good
with my water pitcher as everyone else did with their margaritas. 
Finally, drinking water and eating raw, whole foods seems more the norm than the oddity. I'm
mentally succeeding at accepting what multiple trips to the bathroom feels like because my bladder now works overtime. PhD Nutrition has made drinking fluids more enjoyable, and with the added electrolytes and recovery protein I get from a daily smoothie, I'm better able to approach the next day's endeavors with a little more confidence than I remember feeling when I originally set out on this challenge.

This next week serves as the final push before we depart for Australia at the end of this week. My final pre-race massage with Jennette at Elements Massage will hurt, as her hands always take my knotted, tangled muscles and knead them into long, nimble strands. Again, I pray for continued health and strength to keep me on this path to the start line. I thank everyone who has and continues to support me. Please keep in touch, as your words of encouragement mean so very much.

Bryan, showing me what recovery should look like.
Unfortunately, mine never includes the bowl of ice cream. 
Much thanks to Grafton for tuning up our bikes.
His rig always looks better when it's sitting in our driveway.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Countdown to Worlds 70.3: Week 4

No words can possibly describe what I feel. I hope for confidence; I exude fatigue. If I thought last week felt hard, this week brought me to my knees. The Coach says it's supposed to feel that way, and I'm to, "please stay healthy." Believe me, I'm doing all I can to keep my body from breaking down. Massages with Elements at Wandermere, foam rolling that makes me wonder what hurts worst, the recovery or the workout, and praying. I do a lot of talking with God these days. Perhaps I'm not quite in denial, but there may exist a mild amount of bargaining.

Bryan sent me to bed earlier this week because I had the personality of a "wet dish rag." I never thought I'd take him up on the idea when the clock barely read 7 o'clock in the evening. Yet I did. Since my generally jovial self has taken a turn for the toilet, I suppose at least my training had better stay sharp. Derek has outlined a week that looks much like last week. What I learned this go-around, however, is that it certainly won't feel anything like last week did.

Thank goodness for the Olympics. If we didn't have such phenomenal athletes and moments to keep us motivated, Bryan would have to do a whole heck of a lot more work. Quite frankly, I can't rely on him much because he, too, finds himself cheering on our Olympians. For now, I'll rely on my God, my support crew, and my crock pot. Lord knows we'd having nothing to eat each night if it weren't for the work that puppy does while we're at work and lately, more often than not, training.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Countdown to Worlds 70.3: Week 5

I nearly choked last Saturday when I pulled up my training plan Derek had posted for the upcoming week. It seems he understood my second goal in this countdown to Worlds: focus on my run. It was with great pleasure that I've embraced what that means, as he'd scheduled a total of 6 runs for me to pursue. My Clifton 2's by Hoka One One and I have never had so much time together. After one week in this budding relationship, I have never felt so comfortable with any pair of running shoes. (Bryan feels no jealousy. Believe me.)

I hit Riverside's newly paved trail section, just a five minute run from my home, early Monday morning with my two best running partners, Maci and Ryder. (Again, Bryan doesn't loathe this at all.) Not quite light yet, I felt grateful for smooth asphalt because after just a 10 minute warm up, we embarked on a 30 minute interval at my 10k race pace. Initially, the only thoughts running through my head were that just 30 minutes ago, I remember how it felt to have just woke up. This seemed like one heck of a way to start a Monday morning.
Ryder and Maci, my pacers and protectors. 

My girls didn't seem to mind, though. In fact, they relished the opportunity to shuttle me through the
woods, each taking their turns in front and behind. They had no plans on letting me cupcake my way out of this run.

This run hurt. Each subsequent run and workout this past week has built upon the other. Yet I marvel at how I feel and hope I've found new strength. Not just physical strength, but mental confidence, also. I had several mind-numbing workouts, especially in the pool, that left me so dazed I felt I'd better find a quiet place for a nap at just 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I apologized several times to coworkers and patients alike for yawning like we'd already watched the clock eclipse upon evening hours. When concerned patients asked if I slept enough at night, I assured them I did and that it had more to do with my fitness goals. The looks on their faces, combined with the exclamations of disbelief (the Oh dear Lords and You are nuts), started to serve as interesting entertainment. In fact, I much preferred to hear patients call me crazy instead of characterize me as a physical torturer, vulture, and as one woman confidently called me on Wednesday, a Butt. 

One thousand yard intervals and 200 yard intervals, hill repeats, a two hour bike ride, and then another day like Monday, but this time, on Friday. Today, Bryan and I made the emphasis of our 4 hour ride about finding any and every hill on the north side of Spokane. Heading out on highway 291 this morning, we had scaled three large hills before 45 minutes. By the end of the ride, we'd found about 15 significant beauties that left our legs fried. After our quick transition run, I'd say the rest of the afternoon will have to serve as recovery time because tomorrow, a track workout filled with 400s and another 30 minute interval at race pace awaits us.

This 131 pound (yes, I continue to embrace raw foods and subsequently shed weight) frame looks
forward to another challenge. Sometimes I wonder if the effort is completely physical because I have picked up a psychological game that involves determining whether or not I really need more food. It turns out, water does the trick. When it doesn't, I excitedly slice a beet and eat it with almonds. My garden has started to put out summer squash, zucchini, and cucumber, too. Have caution, though. Bryan and I learned the hard way about the substance in the skins of cucumber, called cucurcamin, that causes significant havoc upon the digestion system of certain humans (ahem, taking ownership here). Thursday night, I loved Simethicone. From Friday onward, I peel cucumbers. Trust me. You'll never fall asleep when gawd awful smells trickle out from underneathe the covers.

I'm sorry, but this is highly overrated.

 Let's move on to Week 4, shall we?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Countdown to Worlds 70.3: Week 6

Recovery week. It's one of those times I realize the benefits of having a coach. After last week's race in Calgary, my body felt surprisingly good. On Monday, Bryan and I made the 8-hour drive back to Spokane (Nine Mile Falls), opting to knock it out in one day rather than take two. If we accomplished nothing else, we allowed my mother the opportunity to sleep in her own bed one day sooner than previously planned. (House-sitting at the Rowe household is not for the faint of heart.) Yet I'll proffer a second achievement. I didn't find myself trying to run an "easy" run the day after my race.

I've made the mistake of attempting an easy workout, namely a run, the day after a race. In the end, it cost me the benefits of what a recovery week is supposed to supply. This past week, however, I feel I've upheld my "coachable athlete" status, following Derek's suggested return to activity to a "T."

This morning, the hour and a half bike ride I had scheduled lacked specific details. I know Derek well enough to know this meant I was to ride by feel. Since no "easy" or "100 watts and NO MORE" suggestions filled my Comments box, I opted for 9 x 3 minute intervals at 93% of FTP (functional threshold power). Given that I'd successfully run 4 hill repeats yesterday without any subsequent pain anywhere, I likely wasn't too far off the mark. Maybe? My massage on Wednesday by Elements at Wandermere pretty much smoothed everything out and left me confident (relatively speaking) that I could muster a challenge today.

I'm glad I did it. In fact, instead of 9 intervals, I seemed to have lost my mind somewhere and finished 13 of them. When you wake up at 0400 in the morning and embark upon a challenge, past experience has told me not to discount the impossible. Just make sure you have had a cup of coffee and hopefully that PWP (pre-workout poop.)

In this first week of recovery, but also in this week of preparation for one last push toward my goal race this year, I have made a point to focus on three key elements. First, my muscle imbalances throughout my hips and core appear to have improved since CDA 70.3, but still require some significant attention. My afternoons and evenings, upon returning home from work and then again after dinner, generally involve a lot of time on the floor with hairy dogs and mewing cats. They all love to serve as my cheerleaders.

Second, I have some serious work to do on my feet. As long as my muscles all work together, my running time and form can use some focused effort. I'm fairly confident my running this year has not been nearly as consistent, nor rigorous, enough to make me a worthy contender in any of these races. Yet.

Finally, Bryan suggests (kindly and carefully) that my bike split times might significantly improve if I pay a little attention to my power-to-weight ratio. Essentially, he has told me I need to lose some weight. So it has been with great disdain that I have officially divorced the dessert. We have separated for 4 weeks now. I've had only marginal success. My new relationship with water and raw vegetables (instead of cooking them) is supposed to make me feel more full. I haven't felt full for weeks.

In the end, I've committed to finding strength to better embrace my runs. Seeing Bryan in his recliner eating ice cream by the spoonful (from the carton, no less) is something I've not yet fully wrapped my head around. Doesn't he understand the importance of portion control?

"Because I can," he reminds me. "I have, like, 6% body fat, remember?"

Sure thing, buddy. Sure. Thing. 

Excuse me while I go find myself a carrot. Oh yes, and some water. A lot of water.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Calgary 70.3

I sat in my doctor's office, eleven days out from race day, concerned about general malaise and a
nagging cough. My head told me my chance of racing Calgary 70.3 would be slim to none, but I hoped my doctor might think to prescribe me something that could cut the recovery time down significantly. I walked out with a perscription for an antibiotic and prayed to God that perhaps this would quell my acute bronchitis and keep it from manifesting into something bigger and more disabling.

Naturally, I wanted to push my luck when I felt better three days later. Again, I credit my coach for encouraging me to take the time to heal. Derek even tried to distract me with recipes for chicken soup and ginger teas. I made both. Thankfully, I recovered soon enough that I didn't have to attempt his third suggestion, which involved sitting under a sheet in my bathtub, naked, soaking in the steam from a pot of boiling water with healing herbs. Believe me, I would have done it. This time, however, western medicine sufficed.

Fast forward to today, and I no longer had a cough, nor any ill-effects from the bacterial infection I'd caught from a patient of mine at work. In fact, I came into the race feeling giddy because I'd overcome what I thought two weeks ago to be a serious buzz kill. Short of some muscle imbalances that have wrecked havoc on my hips since Coeur d'Alene 70.3 three weeks ago, I felt fresh and ready to race.

Today's swim felt fast, as I'd raced off the beach in an effort to beat the majority of my wave of  women to the first buoy, which involved a 90 degree turn within the first 200 yards. From then onward, I stayed with a group of about four women, primarily tasting their bubbles and keeping tabs on their toes. I came out in just under 29 minutes, which, for a true 1.2 mile swim, would have made my day right there. Yet today's swim was posted as just 1750m. (Meh)

Wetsuit stripped and folded into my swim bag, I ran into T1 and donned my shoes and helmet before heading out of the tennis courts. Once on my Quintana Roo, I embarked on a bike ride where highway conditions, once again, left me completely nervous. The race director stated at the athlete briefing that street sweepers would be out Saturday afternoon, and then again on Sunday morning. Either he flat out lied or he sent them to the wrong roads. Gravel, a dead rabbit, dog poop, sticks, firewood, metal, and trash littered the shoulder that we were confined to use. The cones they'd placed to keep cars and bikes separate actually made for a more treacherous experience, especially when trying to pass people. Combined with the rumble strips, I once again question the sanity of race directors that don't provide a lane for athletes to use. I felt confident in my logic when I happened upon an athlete 5 miles from T2, sprawled out on the asphalt with his bike 5 yards away. He'd been clipped by a car. Not 5 minutes later as I rode away, an ambulance drove toward the scene to assist him.

This bike ride felt hard going out on Highway 22X. The course map denotes a general elevation gain until about half way through, and I felt every foot of it. We also fought a headwind today. Not until turning onto Highway 22X North and passing Bragg Creek did I feel like a legitimate cyclist. Like, a fast cyclist. Just over 2 and a half hours had elapsed before I rolled into T2. The race director stated volunteers would help to get our bags and rack our bikes; I didn't have the luxury of either kind of assistance. Though I found my bag without any issues and took my time donning my Hokas and sunglasses because I wanted to run out onto the course and feel composed, not rushed. Seeing the other women around me, though, and knowing that at least one other girl in my age group had run herself onto the course before me, I couldn't help but do my best to zip out of there quickly.

Danielle Evans cheered me out onto the run, and I can remember the first 2 kilometers thinking how great my legs felt and how light on my feet my Hokas made me feel. Like I mentioned previously, my running this year has been compromised significantly by muscle imbalances, particularly in my glutes, which has caused a number of niggles and pains down into my knees and shins. As a physical therapist, I kick myself to have let my strength deficits get so out of control. It appears this year I'm paying the price. So to come out of transition and feel somewhat decent made me think that all I needed to do was stick to my game plan: start conservative. By conservative, I didn't mean looking down at my Garmin to see I'd run my first mile in 6:43 minutes. On the bright side, I had overtaken one female competitor that had beat me into T2.

By mile 3, I felt I'd found my groove at what I'd hoped to be 7min/mile pace. It wasn't until I made the turn around at just over 10k and embarked upon mile 8 that I needed a swift kick in the butt. My pace was slowing significantly. I took in a gel and made sure I drank some water, but I seemed to be melting into the asphalt. In among the beautiful trees and shade that they created, I kept thinking this should feel more enjoyable. Such beautiful scenery enticed us as we ran through the woods and had the water to look out upon with sailboats dotting the horizon. I prayed to God for some kind of boost to get me going and that it didn't involve another woman passing me. I already had enough to contend with today.

At mile 9, I looked up to see what I thought to be a woman in front of me. Because of my competitive nature, I sped up (barely) in an effort to get a better look. Sure enough, my prayer had been answered. There, just 20 yards away, ran the girl I'd remembered passing me on the bike whose left calf showed the number 26. My opportunity to move up a ranking in my age group ran just ahead of me. I'll be damned if my pace didn't improve, even by a few seconds.

Calgary's run course proved to be a challenge. Not only does it boast some pretty significant hills, but it is also relatively exposed. Today's clear skies made for a warm run that even the scenery couldn't hide. In addition, you find yourself totally baffled that after climbing that last hill and thinking you're approaching the finish line, you really have only run about 18k. That means another 3k remain. That's about 2 miles for my American brain. In these last two miles, I felt thankful I'd run (hobbled, but not walked) up that hill because once at the top, I had nothing left. My goal pace suddenly deserted me and a remarkably slower pace set the tone for my final death march to the finish line. My mantra? Finish looking like a winner.  Then, I did what I'd been trying to hold back until I could find a porta potty after the race. I peed my pants. Nicely done, Meghan, a true winner you look right here.

Looking upward and onward to Worlds 70.3
Regardless, I chided to the 20km marker how much I enjoyed seeing it, and then I hobbled that last, painful stretch into the finisher chute, thinking to myself just how long that 1km felt. Once across the line, I learned I'd run myself into 3rd place in my division. All three of us took the overall amateur placings from second to fourth. Make this the third race this year where the top female amateurs come from my age group. It serves as a reminder that such great competition should not discourage me, but motivate me to keep working hard in an effort to make gains and tackle goals. I'd feel race bored if the results were easily obtained and predictable.

And so, I am thankful for another race completed, some significant lessons learned, and some more fuel for my fire to push myself to train and race as a legitimate competitor. First, I look forward to tomorrow's rest day and Wednesday's massage at Elements at Wandermere.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Ironman Coeur d'Alene 70.3

After the last two years of weather disasters for athletes attempting to compete in the Ironman CDA event, I remember thinking to myself as I'm registering for the inaugural 70.3, It will only be half as far to endure twice the normal amount of heat and wind. Perfect.

Imagine what my thoughts primarily revolved around about 10 days out from race day? Just how accurate is this Weather App anyway? It seemed with each passing day, the weather only improved. Where once the temperatures hovered in the 90s, they suddenly started to plummet into the 80s. As a result, coming off a relatively good race for me in Victoria just two weeks prior, I felt relieved that I'd have the chance to use my fitness to my best abilities. Not having to contend with Mother Nature made my job slightly less unpredictable.

Race morning had arrived, and walking from our parking spot at NIC toward the Bandshell, I gazed I ntently upon the water. Just last weekend we had come over for a training day to run the new course and hop into the water, but the choppy and rambunctious conditions dissuaded us from starting with our swim. Today, however, the water looked calm and enticing. Perfect. 

Compared to the horrendous swim start at Victoria 70.3 just two weeks prior, CDA race staff had it figured out. Volunteers used the entire beach to organize athletes into their desired start position. Each start position was accessible from all sides so as not to cram athletes into some chute designed for cattle. Bryan and I started toward the front of the group so as to allow us the chance to better know our position relative to our competitors once out of the water. Volunteers ushered us over the timing mat in a single file, which I thought made for a stellar and seamless entrance to an already perfect lake surface. No flailing arms, no kicking feet to knock off my goggles, and no jostling for position when plenty of water awaited us in whichever direction we opted to swim.

I exited the water feeling confident I'd swam my fastest 1.2 miles yet. Sure enough, I ran out of the water with a time of 29:51, checking a goal off my list that I've not yet seemed to achieve for the past 3 years, until today. Once on land, I embarked upon a significant transition run toward the transition area itself. I'm confident this run wasn't nearly as long as the one I'd encountered in Mont Tremblant two years ago, nor the one in Henderson for the World Championships in 2012 and 2013, but it left my legs numb and my lungs burning before I'd even mounted my bike.

Once on the bike, however, I focused sharply on my effort. My power meter reined me in, but having a girl pass me before reaching the turn around at Higgin's Point made me push harder than I should have. Yet my mental "refresh" button helped to keep me from going too hard, and I eventually let her have the lead as we made our way back into town.

Having my parents spectating today really meant a lot. I had to take an extra gulp of air to hold back my emotions when I spotted the two of them waving and cheering for me as I flew out of town to make my way toward Highway 95 and the grand ol' Cougar Gulch climb. By the time I'd reached this hill, I had this gut feeling that my legs weren't quite with me. I'd been burping a lot coming out of the water, which I normally do initially. Generally, though, I'd have been through with that in the first 20 minutes of the bike ride. Today, however, I'm convinced my nutrition wasn't settling, and therefore, my legs might be attempting to pedal on an emptier tank. Regardless, you pedal onward (and upward in this case). My wattage numbers held steady up the hill, and they continued to hover around 200 watts. Yet as the ride progressed, they began to fall, and any effort to keep those numbers where I wanted them to stay seemed difficult.

I hit the turnaround and distinctly remember a 27 year old woman pass me at about the 40 mile mark. She ignited a small spark that left me telling myself over and over again, Meghan, you have to push your effort. That's what it takes to win. We toggled back and forth a couple times, but in the end, she maintained her lead. By that point, she had been the 4th woman to pass me on the bike. Generally, I'm not used to that. I'm the one passing other women.

I rode into transition feeling incredibly aprehensive. On the bike alone, I knew I had slipped about 5 positions. I donned my Clifton 2's, which had been smothered in Ruby's Lube the night before, and headed out of the transition area, fully aware that I'd beat at least one of those women out of the chute. It didn't take but a mile for me to find the one lady I'd vied for position with out at Higgin's Point. Just as I'd thought, she didn't look like a runner. That left three more women to track down. One of those women had the 27 written on her calf.

Photo by Craig Thorsen
Including McEuen Park in this year's run course proved to be a great way to include spectators and to give families the opportunity to cheer us on from a great spot to sit. Despite all the sharp turns to start the run and make our way past the first aid station, I appreciated using the park as one of my goal destinations when trying to mentally break this run up into smaller portions. The hardest part of the run for me proved to be the long slog out to the turn around. It was here, however, that I caught two of the three ladies that had past me on the bike. Imagine my relief when I saw the distinctive "P" on their calves.

From then onward, I ran as though I had everything to lose. I let these two professional women dictate the pace, which seemed to match my goal pace anyway, until one of them began to slip away. She kept motioning me to follow her and try to keep up, but I couldn't. Eventually, I pulled away from the last professional also, and before I knew it, had started my second lap.

I saw the 7th mile marker before I knew what had happened to miles 5 and 6. Up until now, I don't think that has ever happened. My legs felt incredibly heavy as I started to rely more and more on the aid stations for water and coke. By mile 10, I had also eaten a couple gels, thinking that perhaps some electrolytes would calm my cramping quadriceps muscles. My heart felt excited when I ran past the 11th mile marker, because despite my failing legs, I knew I could survive those last two miles. Craig Thorsen, sitting calmly under a tree just before Sanders beach, asked me how I felt. At that point, I couldn't tell him anything verbally. I simply raised my arms as if to say, I have no idea how much further I can go.
Ahhh... Sherman Avenue!

Approaching McEuen park again, my mind had left my body. I could no longer formulate any clear thought. I could, however, decipher the sign that directed me to the finish line instead of out for another lap. The road to Sherman Avenue took an eternity to traverse. Turning onto the road itself, though, brought back the same memories I'd had when I had finally brought my 11+ hour day to a close in 2013, completing my first full Ironman. It all seemed the same. Ecstatic spectators, beautiful hanging flower baskets. Loud music. Cheers from family and friends. And yes, the announcement that Meghan Faulkenberry, from Nine Miles Falls, Washington, is our second amateur woman finisher of the day.

Definitely not my fastest day, but a day of learning and achievement, nonetheless. In the near future, I look forward to recovering and then working to gain strength in areas I find lacking. Ironman Calgary 70.3 will allow me to once again test myself in my efforts to prepare for the World Championships in September.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Victoria 70.3

For the second year in a row, Bryan and I enjoyed a great weekend up in Victoria, BC, where the skies remained clear, the winds calm, and the temperatures mild so as to prepare a beautiful race venue for us to enjoy. Despite the few changes from last year's course, namely the two-loop bike course turned into one loop and the site of the transition area and Athlete village moved to the opposite end of the lake, virtually everything else felt the same.

This race boasts an early start time. Both Bryan and I found ourselves scrambling to find a parking spot, get through transition, and then make the long walk down to the water. We must remember to bring cheap flip flops next time, as the walk on the gravel trail proved to feel a little too tough for our tender feet. Compared to last year's wave start, race organizers changed the swim to a rolling start, in which (ideally) athletes would self seed into a chute based on their predicted swim finish times. What organizers did not account for was the number of people they'd be corralling into this chute. No one could move between the two fences designating the chute in efforts to get to their desired position. Bryan and I couldn't either. So while our intentions had been to self seed ourselves in the Under 30 minutes starting position, we found ourselves in the 45-50 min position. Just something for race organizers to consider next year.

Also, this end of the lake is notoriously weedy. So much so that attempts to swim in it result in limbs being tangled and snarled and efforts to breathe pretty much futile because of what also floats at the surface. For three days leading up to the race, a lake "lawn mower" of sorts worked to cut down the weeds in the course. Volunteers took rakes to what had floated to the top. Regardless of their efforts, the weeds won. As a result, the swim course was cut about 300 meters short (my Garmin displayed my swim distance to be just under a mile), and what felt more like an Olympic distance swim ensued.

I swam through numerous athletes I should have started in front of, but I still felt happy about my final swim time of 22:09, which meant I'd swam a 1:18min/100yd pace, a significant improvement from last year. What will be telling is if I can hold this pace for a full 1.2 miles in a couple weeks at CDA.

Moving out on the bike course, I prepared myself for a flatter first half, followed by a hillier second half. My coach encouraged me to ride conservatively for the first half, which I tried to do. I warmed up quickly traversing Mt Douglas Cross Rd and continued to enjoy my ride as we made our way up into Sidney and toward the tip of the island at Lands End Rd. Ironically, my efforts to remain conservative kept me at my goal race effort of about 200 watts. Once into the hills on the west side of the island, my normalized power only slightly increased by about 3 watts.

I couldn't help but think to myself as I rode on West Saanich Rd, making my way back to transition how good my body felt for the effort I was putting forth. Generally, it is at this point in a half ironman distance event that my low back starts to ache, my hamstrings start to cramp. Yet I didn't have any of these niggles, and I credit the recent bike fit by Wade Pannell at Fleet Feet for finally getting my position correct using his Retul system. Of course, the ride itself felt smooth thanks to the tune up by his son, Grafton, of VeloFix. I'm pretty sure I've never had quite as an enjoyable race ride as I did yesterday.

Back into transition, I had no idea where I stood in relation to my fellow female competitors. I remember passing several ladies in my age group on the bike, and now I needed to start out on the run. I remembered to grab my PhD nutrition flask that I distinctly remember forgetting last year, and headed out for my first lap. My legs initially felt sluggish, but they picked up a rhythm by the 5km marker. Regardless, I still wasn't hitting my goal pace, and my quadriceps seemed to want to spasm. I tried to focus on my steps and the sounds of those athletes around me to shift my mind away from my quads. That worked pretty well for the first lap, but I remember shaking my head as I passed the finishing chute to make my way out for the second lap because my body just seemed to want to crater.

My pace had slowed significantly, even finding comfort in an 8-min mile at one point. So I started to pay attention to landmarks along the course that I wanted to "just get to." Just get yourself to the park. Or, the hill and turnaround are next. Finally, look for that 20km marker. You're almost there. 

At the turnaround, I was able to spot the ladies in front of me. At this point, I could tell I was fifth woman coming down the hill toward the finish line, but I had not the confidence to do much peering around my shoulder to look to see who was PRO and who might be in my age group. In the end, I remember veering left to make my way into the finishing chute, thankful I didn't have to go out for another lap. I finished in a time of 4:42:22, 3rd in my age group, 4th amateur woman.

Compared to last year, I raced slower this year. My bike split was about 2 1/2 minutes slower and my run split was almost 6 minutes slower. I suppose I expected a slower run this go-around, simply because of the injuries I fought through this winter didn't allow me to run those extra miles at nearly as an intense pace as last year. I don't have much explanation for the bike ride, as I felt I rode stronger this year than last year. And, we didn't have nearly the elevation gain to tackle this year (less by about 800ft.) Regardless, I'll take this race for what it was, reap the fitness benefits I hope it provided as I make my way toward Ironamn CDA 70.3 in two weeks, and I'll feel grateful to have had the opportunity to secure my Worlds 70.3 Championship slot yesterday.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Troika Olympic Triathlon

Yesterday I put my pre season training and fitness to the test in preparation for the commencement of 2016's triathlon season. I placed 1st at the Negative Split Half Marathon in April, coming off a lower leg injury I'd been struggling with all winter. My fitness wasn't quite where I wanted it, but I figured it served as a good start to the year. I raced Bloomsday in May, running it 75 seconds slower than last year, but with a respectable time (for me) of 49:04. 

Negative Split half marathon.

Leading up to Troika's Olympic distance triathlon, I felt prepared, but tentative. The forecast predicted rain and cold. Combined with Medical Lake's notorious winds, I thought my good luck with regard for race day weather conditions had finally come to an end. Yet I was happily surprised by mild temperatures, clearing skies, and relative calmness as Bryan and I made our way over from Nine Mile Falls. 

Sure enough, Medical Lake's water looked enticing. When we arrived, the long distance athletes had just begun to make their way to the water's edge. I set out my transition area, donned my wet suit, and made my way down to the water with Bryan to watch the sprint distance athletes head out into the lake. The lead men for the long distance race soon exited the water with blazing fast times, and I watched my coach, Derek, leave transition as he established a sizable lead on his competition. 

My turn to dive into the water arrived sooner than I had anticipated. For some reason, I had this overwhelming sense of calm wash over me that, in reality, freaked me out. I'm used to my nerves preparing my body for competition, for action. Today, it felt as though nothing was firing. My warm-up swim helped a little bit, but when Scott announced the start of my wave, my body seemed to respond instantly.

Photo by Craig Thorsen
After my initial race out into the water, I found my pace and relished the strength I felt in my arms and shoulders. Derek has emphasized my time in the pool, as none of my swims for the past 2-3 months have been shorter than an hour and fifteen minutes. Three to four days a week of swimming, and I could only hope I felt something for all that work I'd put in. For much of the swim, I swam alone until I caught the group of Collegiates in front of me. I exited the water with a time of 17 minutes and change, suggesting the swim was a little short. Regardless, I found myself out on the bike very quickly. 
Photo by Rene Guerrero
Once on the bike, I knew I had one Collegiate woman to chase down. I managed to do so within the first 3 miles. From then on, I worked hard to ignore the annoying ache in my legs that I couldn't seem to shake for much of the ride. I know going into Victoria 70.3, I need to mentally feel more comfortable pushing an even slightly harder effort for twice as long. Regardless, I managed to hold off my female competitors and even had the opportunity to enjoy three extra miles on the bike course (with the rest of my competitors, of course). I am thankful for the time Wade Pannell at Fleet Feet took to adjust my fit and position on the bike using his Retul technology. Combined with a new Adamo saddle, I felt very comfortable. My bike performed well thanks to a good tune up before the race by Grafton of VeloFix. It doesn't get much better having my bike mechanic show up at my door, ready and prepared to work on my bike without any distractions that often time slow the progress at a bike shop. 

Photo by Craig Thorsen
In and out of transition, I made my way out to start the first loop of the two-loop run course around Medical Lake. The first half of the loop is relatively flat through the neighborhood, but the back half has many ups and downs. I remember coming back through the park to start my second lap and wondering if I'd be able to maintain my pace. I heard the lead man approaching from behind me, confident it must be Derek starting on his second loop. Just as I predicted, he passed with one suggestion: relax my shoulders. That mantra quickly entertained me and kept my mind busy for the  second lap. I sure felt as though my pace had slowed by mile 5, but upon completing the run, which was just short of 6 miles, I had in fact managed to keep my legs turning over despite my screaming calves. 

Another successful day had just concluded. Finishing in 2:16:43, I felt confident I had tested myself enough to know what more needs to be done before Victoria 70.3. Having said that, I keep reminding myself I only have 3 weeks to accomplish so much. Perhaps much of that is a mental exercise than a physical one, but I am thankful for the continued support of Bryan and my coach, Derek, to get me to where I need race competitively. 

Photo by Bryan Rowe. Julie Lehman-Smith, a friend
and fellow Big Sexy teammate, placed second in her
age group.