Mommy Wants a Timeout

In which I contemplate absurd moments in parenthood, occasionally attempt to refer to myself as a “triathlete” while keeping a straight face, and maybe post some random pictures of stuff I’m knitting

Archive for the tag “race report”

Whew…Thank Goodness THAT’S Over!

I did it! I finished my first Oly tri! With a smile on my face, no less…and in spite of yucky weather and a major crisis of confidence the week before.

If you want to read my detailed race report with times and everything, look here.

Here’s a more emotional, long-winded summary:

After a night of fitful sleep, I got up, got dressed, and forced some breakfast and coffee down. I packed up my bike and headed to Cathedral Park, which is less than 20 minutes from my house. (Finally! A race I don’t have to drive an hour for!)

I'll be swimming under this, then running over it!

I’ll be swimming under this, then running over it!

Since we weren’t supposed to park IN the park, I found street parking approximately 17 miles away, unloaded my stuff, pumped up my tires, and plodded to the transition area. On the way I ran into a couple ladies I’d done a training swim with, and we swapped hellos and well-wishes for the race before parting ways at the body-marking area. Since it was chilly and windy out, this race required our arms to be marked, instead of just the legs like I’m used to. I held up the line for a minute while I struggled out of multiple layers of clothes, got marked, then headed over to transition to set up.

The weather forecast had called for rain, so I had brought along a couple large plastic bags to place my socks, shoes, and jacket in to keep them dry while I was swimming. As it turned out, it didn’t rain much during the race, but it was a good thing that my shoes were pinning down my bags, because the wind was blowing…hard!

After pretending to listen to the pre-race briefing while putting on my wetsuit, I headed down to the boat ramp. I had a pair of throw-away flip-flops on, which meant I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the dagger-like texture of the pavement underfoot. I debated whether or not to even warm up in the water, since my wave wasn’t scheduled to start for 18 minutes after the race started. I did the smart thing and got in, got used to the water temp, then got out and shivered for what felt like forever until they announced my wave. I kicked my sandals off to the side near the boat ramp and tried to find a promising-looking area to start. It was a big wave, though…At least 60 people, and we were all sort of crowded together like cattle.

Needless to say, when the swim started, it was a madhouse. It took forever to make any forward progress, and I was struggling to find any place where I wasn’t swimming over or into another body for at least a hundred yards. After we rounded the first buoy, it started to thin out, and I found a rhythm of sorts. It was pretty windy, and the water was choppy, but I concentrated on keeping my breathing and my stroke as even as possible. It seemed to take forever to get to the turnaround, but it seemed a little easier on the way back. (The race directors had said to expect the opposite, due to an incoming tide, but maybe the wind direction had something to do with it.) I eventually made it back to the boat ramp, and climbed out of the water feeling like I’d done pretty well. I glanced at my watch and was surprised and a little disappointed to be about 3 minutes slower than what I’d expected, but I was soon distracted by the tiny knives of pavement that were trying to shred my feet on my way up the hill. Running wasn’t an option; I just sort of tiptoed, saying “Ow, ow, ow,” until we were on soft grass again.

When I got back to my bike I did a pretty good job of shedding my wetsuit, but could not for the life of me figure out why my helmet wouldn’t go on my head right. I took it off, looked at it, put it back on, took it off again, and finally realized my ponytail was too high and the helmet wouldn’t fit over it. Obviously the cold water had slowed my thought processes. I adjusted my hair, jammed my helmet on, and headed out for the ride.

The bike is by far my weakest event. I rode as fast as I could comfortably, and as usual was passed by a multitude of people of all shapes and sizes. I was able to pass a few myself, but they were almost exclusively on mountain bikes wearing running shoes. On the positive side, I was able to eat a few energy chews and drink lots of Gatorade, so I felt well-prepared for the run. Besides that, I was able to tolerate the ride pretty well, without too much “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” running through my head (though there was some, to be sure!) There was a mean headwind for most of the ride, which seems impossible, but I swear, the wind shifted about halfway through, and I was riding into it all the way out, and most of the way back.

My second transition went smooth enough, then I steeled myself for the run. It should be my strongest leg, but I wasn’t sure how my legs would hold up after a long ride. Also, the run course had a long, steep uphill climb pretty near the beginning, which is just not fair. (Seriously, it was about a quarter of a mile of around 18% grade. Cruel.) This is the only place I walked during the run leg, and it was only about 15 steps, to keep me from crying. But when I hit mile marker 1, my pace was near 9 minutes/mile, which was way faster than I’d expected! I contemplated slowing down to conserve energy, but my legs felt okay, and I wasn’t huffing and puffing, so I decided to roll with it for a while. I started noticing the spectators along the course, and had enough breath to compliment them on their signs. (My favorite one said, “Hey! Where’s everybody going?”) I also chatted a little with some of the runners I passed and who passed me. The course stayed flat for the next couple of miles, and my pace stayed strong. Then it was time to climb over the St. John’s bridge. I was demoralized for a little while at how tired the climb made me, and I almost lost my hat in the wind. I thought about taking a walk break before telling myself I didn’t need it, I wasn’t that tired, I was strong, etc. etc. The positive self-talk worked, and pretty soon I was crossing back over the bridge and heading downhill again.

Remember that 18% uphill? Well, the course came back down that same hill. A runner I’d been exchanging leads and jokes with since mile 2 finally blew by me for good at that time, and I told her to go crush it. But my quads (and my nerves) can’t handle a downhill sprint, so I took it a little slower. Good thing, because I still had almost a mile of trail along the river and through the grass of the park before I was in the finishing chute. I passed a young woman who looked like she was struggling a bit, told her to push hard and finish strong, and then ran hard the last 50 yards to the finish. I’d run the best 10K time of my short career, and I knew it! I also couldn’t bend over to take off my timing chip without falling down; thank goodness for kind race volunteers. I traded my chip for a medal and a slice of watermelon, and wandered aimlessly in a post-race stupor…”Must text husband…Need water…Call mom…Where’s phone?…Hey, chocolate-chip cookies!” I ate some of the post-race food and eventually packed up my stuff and headed out as the gusts of wind started lifting up tents and knocking over fences. I walked the 17 miles UPHILL to my car (Seriously, not cool…) on tired legs, and headed back over the bridge just as a torrential downpour opened up. Whew…Thank goodness THAT waited until after the race!

Notice how that tree is blowing sideways? It was seriously windy!

Notice how that tree is blowing sideways? It was seriously windy!

So now it’s time for some rest and recovery. I know this was no Ironman race, but it did require a significant amount of training time, especially in the last couple months, and I’m a little burned out. I’ve got a few body parts (hip, back) that are begging for some time to heal, and frankly, some long-neglected housework to attend to. In time, I’ll set some race goals for the winter and next year, but right now I’m just going to enjoy having nothing to train for!


Panic Counts as Cardio, Right?

Here we go with a very belated race report on the Blue Lake Aqua-Bike from June 9th. I didn’t advertise that I was considering doing this race(ish thing) beforehand, mostly because I wanted to give myself a chance to back out at the last minute. This might be the first time I’ve ever not gotten a discounted race fee for registering early…I signed up Thursday for the Saturday race.

My real motivation for doing the Aqua-Bike was my husband…He decided to tackle the Blue Lake Sprint Triathlon, his first full-length sprint tri. (He did a novice tri last summer, with a quarter-mile swim instead of the half-mile one.) He finds open-water swimming very intimidating, so it was pretty huge for him to decide to go for this. I was going to be there anyway to cheer him on, so why not try the two events my foot would allow me to do? (Common sense provides a few reasons: a $85 race fee, for one; icy-cold early June lake water, for another.) We decided to go for it, together, so that cold Saturday morning found us unloading our bikes in the muddy field of Blue Lake Park.

“Honey, show me your excited face!” This was the best he could do.

After we set up our transition areas, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. My normal triathlon warmup would involve jogging for a few minutes, but since jogging was out, I settled for warming up by putting on my wetsuit, which got my blood moving a little (Have I mentioned it was really cold out?) Hubby and I then headed down to the water, where he did the responsible thing and got in the water, to get used to the water temperature and practice his stroke. I, however, got distracted by the confusion of several racers about where the bouys were located for the half-mile swim. (No one ever listens to the pre-race briefing, do they?) In my usual do-gooder (know-it-all) style, I explained the course to them, and to the next people who came up after that, and the next, and the next…Until my husband came up and told me I better get in the water, because they were about to line up my wave.

I jumped in the (freezing) water as fast as I could, did a few breathing exercises to try to get used to putting my face in the water, and barely had time for 5 or 6 strokes of freestyle before I had to get out and run over to the starting line.

I was totally out of my element in the mixed group of my wave, which was comprised of aqua-bikers, relay team members, and, in an odd juxtaposition, kids 11 (and under) through 19 and Clydesdales. None of them seemed to be interested in any prerace banter (30-something females, my usual peers, excel at it), so I was alone with my thoughts until the horn sounded.

Blame it on the lack of a warmup, or the decline in my fitness level due to injury, or the cold I was coming down with but didn’t know about yet, but that was the most miserable swim I’ve ever had. As soon as I dove in, I was panicky and short of breath. My arms felt like they were flailing, and I couldn’t stand to put my face in the water. Getting into any kind of a rhythm was out of the question. Switching to breaststroke didn’t seem to help, and I was seriously considering bailing out of the whole thing by the time I got to the first bouy. Then I saw the row of rescue kayaks on the inside of the course, and realized that any time I wanted to, I could just swim to the side and they would save me. At that point, I decided to head for the next bouy and see what happened. I tried to force myself into an even stroke, breathe regularly, and use the legs I’d forgotten I owned (they were dragging along behind me like a half-dead horse.) It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fast, but eventually I got to the next bouy, and the next after that, switching to breaststroke every time the panic started up again. Eventually I was at the finish and heading back through the super-muddy transition area.

After slipping in the mud and stubbing my left big toe, I was back at my bike and struggling to get out of my wetsuit with numb fingers. (I have a sleeveless wetsuit, so I was essentially numb from the shoulders down. And my feet…I couldn’t feel my feet at all.) Once I fumbled my helmet and gloves into place, I was off for the slippery 0.22 hike to the bike mounting line. (Seriously…It took forever, so I checked my bike computer.)

The best thing I can say about my ride is…It wasn’t my swim. I think there was a headwind both ways, if that’s possible, and I barely dodged the giant dead possum in the roadway. I was thrilled to see my husband’s smiling face in the oncoming riders after I passed the turnaround. Thrilled because A) He obviously survived the swim, and B) He almost looked like he was having fun!

Then I was at the bike dismount line, and crossing the timing pad, and…I was finished. The most anticlimactic race finish ever. As I walked my bike back, I was passed left and right by triathletes running back to get ready for the last leg. A kindly old lady looked at me walking along and said sympathetically, “You’re doing fine, honey…Save your legs for that run!” I appreciated the good will, but had to explain that my race was over. Really, it was a strange feeling…I felt like I’d forgotten something I was supposed to do.

I racked my bike, threw on some sweats, and got over to my husband’s bike rack in time to cheer him on as he headed off for his run. Then I beelined for the coffee cart, and ordered my self a nice hot mocha. I strolled back along the course and cheered a few runners on, then saw my husband, still smiling, running along WAY ahead of when I’d anticipated. Totally awesome to see him finish so strong!

Still smiling!

So, it wasn’t the Olympic-distance triathlon I’d hoped for to start my summer, but it was better than nothing, and it certainly taught me a couple things about warming up properly before an open-water swim. The highlight of the day was definitely seeing my husband finish something that I’m sure, a year ago, he never would have thought possible. Funny, I think I probably felt the same way just a couple years ago!

I am an ATHLETE!!! (Just don’t ask me to climb a flight of stairs.)

Ouch…That’s about all I have to say right now.

Ha, ha…Just kidding. This is my blog, and my race report, so I definitely have a few things to say. But now that I am a half-marathon finisher survivor, the biggest thing on my mind is, “Wow. I hurt a lot more the day after than I thought I would.”

If you read my earlier angst-filled post, you already heard me whine about my injured foot, and knew that it was no sure thing I would run Sunday. But dammit, I paid the entry fee, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s the idea of paying for a race and then denying myself the pain and suffering of participating.

So before the crack of dawn Sunday morning, I strapped on my motion-control shoes, ate a bowl of oatmeal, and headed to downtown Portland for the Heartbreaker Half. It was a brisk 34 degrees outside, but luckily I had many blocks to walk from where I had to park the car to get myself warmed up. And I managed to time things just about right…Enough time to get through the porta-potty line and line up for my race without too many extra minutes to freeze and/or freak myself out.

Not that it mattered…A combination of nerves and the Gatorade I slurped down as I left my car gave me a horribly queasy stomach for the first 5 or 6 miles of the race. But I kept my breakfast down, and kept telling myself the nausea would pass eventually, and on the bright side, my foot didn’t hurt yet! But although they were flat and unchallenging, those first miles were the worst part of the race for me.

Just before mile 6, the course started climbing up hill, eventually getting pretty steep. I learned later that the course climbs about 500 feet betweeen miles 6 and 10. (Glad I didn’t know that ahead of time!) Ironically, this was when I started relaxing a little and chatting with the other runners. Misery loves company, right? Something about running hard and still only achieving an 11:30 mile just makes you comfortable striking up a conversation/complaint with a stranger. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, I know I’m not fast, so I might as well be a cheerleader for others!

After this grueling uphill section, we ended up running on a bike path bordering a beautiful wooded park…Still pretty hilly, but with enough twists and turns you couldn’t really see what was coming next. All the better, in my opinion. My legs were getting pretty tired, but I’d only felt a few twinges in my foot, (Seriously, my Brooks shoes are like a walking cast!) so I was beginning to feel like I might actually be able to finish this thing. And the nausea was gone by now, so I was able to eat an energy chew every couple miles, which kept me from burning out altogether. Interestingly, throughout this section of the race, I traded leads several times with a racewalker who was maintaining a pace that was so steady I could have set my watch by it. Yep, I’m not even ashamed to say it… I was averaging about the same speed as a walker. But hey, what normal person walks at and 11-min. mile? She really was amazing, and I told her so.

Eventually we left the park and began to head downhill, back to the city center and the finish line. With around 3 miles to go, I was now pretty sure I would be able to finish, and man, I couldn’t finish soon enough. I picked up the pace, finally said “see ya” for good to my race-walking buddy, and did my best to ignore my rubbery legs and twinging ankle.

In the last couple miles, I mentioned to another runner that this was my first half-marathon…She congratulated me, then pulled ahead…But just as we passed the 12-mile mark, she turned, jogged back towards me, and said, “Sometimes the last mile is the hardest.” “You want to keep me company?” I asked, and we ran the last mile together, sharing her stories about running all over the world, and mine about being a beginner triathlete. The last mile flew by, (at least in part because I ran it about 2 minutes faster than my average for the previous 12!) and pretty soon we were coming up on the finish. Sharon, my new friend, told me she was going to back off so I could have the finish to myself, and I made it across the line in 2:23:39…21 seconds faster than my projected time.

Finishing was awesome, the strawberry shortcake they served was awesome, I’m told that they announced my name when I crossed the finish line, which would have been awesome if I’d been paying attention…The only part that wasn’t so awesome was not seeing my husband and son cheering for me at the finish. Apparently DH got mixed up and ended up along the 10K course finish, which came in from the other direction. Poor guy had been waiting there for half an hour with camera at the ready. If he hadn’t heard my name over the loudspeaker, he might never have realized his mistake! So no finish line photos, but that’s just fine.

As for the recovery, my muscles were so sore the next day that walking down stairs was nearly impossible. Tensing my quadriceps sent waves of pain throughout me. And I was reduced to waddling around the house in the posture of a geriatric duck. Oh, and my foot hurts too. Time for a few days off from running, I guess. And maybe a trip to the podiatrist.

So I can check it off my list: half-marathon, complete. Building an endurance base to help me through an Olympic distance triathlon: complete. Plans for another half-marathon? Not anytime soon, that’s for sure!

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