Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chisago Lakes Sprint

            This was my first sprint triathlon since 2012!  I was so excited for this and SUPER happy not to be doing the half-iron distance.  Plus, I got to race with Katherine again!  The bike was 22 miles, and I hoped for under an hour, but the main goal was to have the 5K run be under 22 minutes.  I needed some confidence going into Nationals, and I’ve been focusing on run speed for the past 2 weeks.  I hoped my overall time would be just under 1:30.
            We debated over wearing wetsuits.  The water temperature was HOT (77 degrees – just one degree shy of being wetsuit illegal).  The distance was only a quarter mile (time saved versus time lost stripping), the lake was SUPER weedy, and we had BIG waves of 100 people.  I wore the wetsuit, which was great while in the water and being clobbered by a mob of people, and it was a barrier between me and the weeds at least a little bit, but the stripping added a lot of time to my swim (I exited the water under 7 minutes, stripped and ran up the hill to T1, which tacked on another minute).  As a result, I did have a fast T1 time though.  I’ve come to like the Olympic distance swim more, as this was almost too short!
            The bike course was fast with just a few rolling hills.  My only complaint was that there was TON of blatantly obvious drafting!  While there were officials on the course, they didn’t seem to be penalizing anyone.  The pack that caught up to me, rode near me for a long stretch before pulling ahead, actually had an official ride next to them for a while, and they still didn’t break formation.  Frustrating.  I averaged around 22.5mph.  It was a good bike split and typical of last year, but my watts were way lower.  I tried to remind myself that today was more about the run and less about the bike.  But how’d I get a fast split?  Well, it was a fast course, but I also have to give my super fast TREK and a more efficient fit a lot of credit here!  It’s been saving me this year!  Drives me a bit nuts though to think about how much faster I SHOULD be going if I could get back to where I was pre-season or even last year.  It was a fun ride and a good distance though (way better than 56 miles at this point!).  I rode in at 57:34 – yessss.
            I ran out of T2 at approximately 1:07:30 of the race.  If I ran under 22 minutes, I would also be under 1:30.  “Drive, drive, drive,” I told myself.  I didn’t have a GPS watch, and I missed Mile Marker 1 to check my pace.  I recognized several faces of the women ahead of me as they ran back.  It was a wicked fast field of competition, with a pro in the lead, and the next 5 being some of Minnesota’s most successful elite amateurs.  I was definitely in good company.  Katherine was only 2 women back from me and was killing it at this race!  I finished in 9th with a time of 1:30:03, just missing being under 1:30, and my run was 22:29 – drats!  There weren’t very fast 5K times overall though, so I’m hopeful the course was a tad long ;) 
I may not be where I need to be yet, but at least I’m getting closer!  I have two weeks until Nationals to put things together.  Why is Nationals so important?  That’s the qualifying race for Team USA that will compete at the World Championships in Cozumel, Mexico in 2016.  The top 18 in each age group qualifies, and I was 17th last year with a good race.  World’s is World’s – that’s the be-all and end-all, and I’ll have 6 weeks to focus on that after Nationals.  While World’s is the BIG one, Nationals is the important one to focus on right now.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Stepping Back

            I considered the Half-Iron distance (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run) to be my best distance.  I could out-train people, and I did very well in the past.  My debut half was a mere 5 months after Baya was born.  I was stupid fast that summer.  Who has a baby and then 2 months later PR in the 5K by 30 seconds?  I was on fire.  I kicked off the triathlon season with an 8-minute margin victory in Green Bay (my first overall triathlon win).  I won a duathlon.  Then at my half debut, I was conservative on the swim and bike.  I got to the run feeling ridiculously good and just let my body lead the way.  I had a goal pace of 8 minutes/mile.  I ran it at a 7:17/mile pace (a half marathon PR) and placed 4th overall.  I went on to win the Wausau triathlon, and then PR’d at a half-iron in Iowa.  Seriously…who does that?!  At the end of the triathlon season, I decided to run my first marathon.  I had 5 weeks of marathon-focused training, then went on to finish 4th female overall and qualified for Boston by almost a 15-minute margin.  Did I say I was stupid fast?
Even last year I was doing ridiculously well.  I won Green Bay and Wausau again.  I competed at bigger races and still made podium.  I finished 2nd behind a female pro at my half-iron.  I competed at Nationals and made Team USA.  Anything was possible.  Then this season happened. A struggle would be an understatement. While there are definitely new dynamics and challenges to training with 2 kids versus 1, it’s not coming off of a pregnancy that is killing me.  It is the unbelievable sleep deprivation this time around.  Being short on sleep is one thing, but when averaging getting up 3 times per night for a month now, it also results in a lack of quality sleep.  Every pregnancy is different, and so every kid.
            I set myself up well in the spring with training, and was really excited for the season.  I was doing well with swimming, and biking better than I ever have before.  The run has been a work in progress, but I was moving in the right direction.  I was putting in a ton of hard work to try to get it back.  You don’t realize how much difference sleep really makes.  Elkhart Lake fell apart before my eyes.  Graniteman was an improvement overall, but my watts were still not where they had been pre-season, and my run was in serious decline.  I’m tired, unmotivated, and hating the run portion in races.
Recovery drink: Check. Recovery sleep: Pending
I had signed up for the Chisago Lakes half-iron for this season.  I was putting in the mileage.  I rode the bike course with Katherine and we followed it with a short run on the run course as well.  I biked over 60 miles in training, and ran 10 miles.  My power output was in decline though, and I struggled in training.  I DREADED training.  I was not having fun.  I also knew that this half would not be a good performance on my part.  It would also be my first half that I wouldn’t break 5 hours.  I thought I could out-train, but I’m not.  The lack of sleep has affected not only my training, but also my patience with my kids, and so has the stress of training for the half.  Finally, this past week it got the best of me and I broke down.  It was time to reassess.  I pulled out of my half and switched to the sprint distance.  I cried.
While the half has been important to me, Nationals is even more so, and that will require a lot more speed out of me then all the long, slow stuff I’ve been doing.  I regret the time I wasted.  It will be super tough to qualify for Team USA again, and I know that I won’t stand a chance with where my run has been at.  I have 3 more weeks to focus on speed instead of distance.  I also never thought I’d be so excited (and relieved) to race a sprint distance again!  While it was a tough decision, it was definitely one for the best.  Next weekend’s sprint will be painful, but it’s the best shot I have at getting ready for Nationals.  I may be a long shot for this year, but I’m not giving up.  A HUGE thank you to my husband (and rock), family, friends, and sponsors who have supported me along the way in this journey.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Graniteman Clearwater

            I adjusted my goals and expectations for this triathlon due to the fact that I am severely sleep deprived and it has been affecting my training immensely.  Myles has continued to get up several times a night every night for the past month now.  So not only am I short on sleep, but it is broken, poor-quality sleep as well.  The fun thing about this race was that I got to do it with one of my best friends, Katherine, and another friend, Maria, did the sprint (we did the Olympic distance). 
            It was a hot day and above 70 degrees when we started with humidity thick in the air.  It was a fast swim start, and I was able to draft for a bit early on.  Unfortunately, I didn’t stay with them when the lead group pulled away.  I cut my time from my Elkhart Lake swim.  My watch read 24:33 when I stood up on the ramp to exit the water, putting me under 25 minutes by time I got out, which is a good swim time for me.  I was also the 3rd female out of the water.
            I was conservative with my watts for the first loop of the 2-loop bike course, hoping to be able to pick it up for the 2nd half if I could.  I had to keep reminding myself that my expectations needed to be adjusted and that I was doing okay with where I was at.  The first 6 miles was FAST (averaging at least 23.5mph), so I knew I would run into a head wind on the second half.  I was right.  It was a nice, fast course, but wind was definitely came into play.  I looked forward to the first half of the second loop, maintained my watts, and averaged around 22mph, which was also good enough to give me the top bike split for females (something I always want).
            The first mile of the run was trail – dirt and grass.  It also had a short, steep hill.  Once we got out onto the road, we encountered long hills to tackle.  At the turn-around for the 10K, I was in the lead, but my pace was incredibly slow.  A woman was gaining ground fast and soon passed me.  I counted 2 others who looked better than I felt and then saw Katherine in fifth!  I somehow managed to hold my position, only to later find out that the 2 women directly behind me had a later wave start and their times beat me.  I ended up 4th overall, and Katherine was 5th.  Just how slow was that 10K?  Last year I considered a slow 10K to be anything over 44 minutes.  At Graniteman, my 10K was over 49 minutes!  That’s FIVE minutes slower!  I also lost to the 1st place woman by 5 minutes.  Instead of duking it out with her at the finish, I was struggling to survive the run.  I’ve got a lot of work to do, but first, let me take a nap.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Valleys

            There are those mountaintop experiences – surpassing your goals and surprising yourself with what you can do.  There are also the low points – when things don’t come together as they should, when you struggle to hit watts or paces in training or competition, or when life just keeps hitting you with one obstacle/challenge after another.  There have certainly been a lot of mountaintop experiences in the last couple seasons of triathlon.  Now I’m struggling in the valley.
            Leading into the season, I felt like I was setting myself up really well with training in order to have another strong season and to keep improving.  That should always be the goal, right?  There were of course a lot of frustrations early on too.  Missed workouts when things didn’t work out the way I hoped.  Short naps interrupting trainer rides.  Life interruptions.  But I felt like I was heading in the right direction.
Don't let that smile fool you!
            Myles started sleeping through the night around 2 months old, and then would sometimes get up once – very manageable.  The week of Elkhart Lake, he started getting up multiple times a night, and recently it became 2-4 times a night.  One night recently it was about every hour.  Not cool, Myles.  Not cool.  On top of that, I came down sick the evening of the 4th of July.  I’m not talking a cold either.  My suspicion is that it may have been E Coli that I got from open water swimming, making for even greater misery, a little time off to recover, and then looking at my next race coming up in less than a week.
            Feeling like I just can’t catch a break, I need to reassess my goals and expectations for what should have been strong performances over these next few weeks - while also trying not to feel defeated before even toeing the start line.  There has been a lot of doubt and second-guessing.  I try to remind myself that my best performances in college were when the odds were against me and expectations and pressure had dropped.  I can’t expect something like that though.  It seems that a lot of my positive voices have fallen asleep.  Either way, it’s time to have some fun and adjust my mindset for these next races.  Even if it’s not my best performance, it should still be an enjoyable adventure.  Eventually I’ve got to come upon another mountain, right?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hometown 5K

Don't kid yourself - 5K's are HARD!
            This past weekend, Andy and I participated in our hometown’s annual Fast Break 5K.  It’s a low-key, fun race.  Last year, I was the top female finisher, and Andy was a close second for men.  My training plan and the training opportunities that I had prior to the week meant that I would train through the race, so I knew not to be disappointed too much if I didn’t get the time that I would like.  It would still serve as an excellent run speed session though.
            Myles also also been a terrible sleeper lately as well.  Around 2 months, he started sleeping through the night, or he would every other night.  Then he reverted to getting up a couple times a night the week of Elkhart Lake.  Recently he has been getting up 3-4 (or more) times a night though.  And it has definitely taken a very noticeable toll on me.  I’ve always valued sleep, but it has really shown just how big of an effect that lack of sleep can have on you mentally, physically, and emotionally.  I’m REALLY hoping things improve VERY soon!
            Saturday morning was already hot and sticky with zero breeze at race time.  Andy and I both ran by feel and left the GPS watch behind – not wanting to become fixated on it, or frustrated with ourselves.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: don’t belittle the 5K.  It’s a very tough race.  Respect it.  Andy had a close second place again and I pulled off another win.  With less than a mile to go, a woman actually passed me and I didn’t know if I could do it.  I’ve got to start chasing the doubts away, dig deep, and just lay it all out there.  Then no matter what happens, I’ll at least know that I did my best with whatever I had that day.