Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turkey Trot in Pouring Rain

I am thankful for running the Dana Point 10k Turkey Trot in the rain. No, not just rain... torrential downpours (at least in SoCal terms). But the enthusiasm of the racers and volunteers was amazing, and we all earned our Thanksgiving meals.............

It's been raining here lately, but I optimistically shunned off the idea that it would affect our race (subconsiously I chose not to bring an umbrella, pancho or any rain gear). Got to the race super early (typical me) and it started raining. No big deal. Rain got harder. Hm. So I just stood under a tent with my Catalina tri friend, Bill, who was also racing as part of his marathon training. There was no warm-up run like I'd planned; didn't want to get wet, stop and get cold.

By the time we lined up at the start line, the rain had subsided. Sweet, we were in the clear, I thought. However, I made a major mistake here: My mom (who also ran), Bill and I placed ourselves way too far back in the sea of 3,000+ runners. (My race results show I went off 5 minutes after the starting gun, shows how many people there were in front of me!) I would later realize that this would hold me back from running at MY pace because I spent too much time maneuvering around people and getting stuck behind runners who were slower than me. Not to mention, the course was also waaaayyy too narrow for the hords of people trekking though making passing that much harder.

But, back to the start. It was crazy: The race gun went off, and as if it were planned the skies let unleashed... It started raining hhhaaarrrddd. Then harder. I was sopping in less than 5 minutes. And despite my frustration of being stuck behind slower runners, I was stoked, soaked and loving the rain! At that point, I realized this race would not be about setting a PR or even getting sub-45 minute run like I wanted, too many factors would obviously prevent that. But I didn't care, running through the puddles and hearing everyone's laughter at our situation was so cool!

The rain worked to my advantage in one way: The sole of my left foot has been hurting ever since a did a 12-mile street run Nov. 14 (possibly plantar fasciitis; feels like I'm running on a giant bruise), so running in giants puddles and soaking wet shoes eased the pain... I had lots of extra cushioning!

After about 2 or so miles, the crowd thinned out a bit and I was able to get a good pace going; not enough to make up for the time I lost dodging crowds, but whatever. My pace got faster
with each mile, and all the while I was running though huge puddles, sometimes ankle deep. I felt pretty good the whole race and ended up finishing at 48 minutes. Not the greatest, but nevertheless an amazing experience!

Check out me and the crew post-race (drowned rats), and see some race photos here to get an idea of the weather!

What a Week Leading Up to the Trot...

I haven't really posted much lately because my personal life has seen some major changes, and I've been quite busy as a result. I resigned from my job to go back to college and get a master's in kinesiology and become a personal trainer on the side. My last day was Nov. 13, and the very next day I went into a three-day personal trainer workshop through the American College of Sports Medicine, the organization I've chosen to get my certification (e-mail if you want to know why).

The class was refreshing and definitely verified to me that I'm making the right decision with a career/life change. Not only was the material so rad to learn, but I met some people who were like me -- one being a triathlete who did IMCA 70.3 and is doing it again on April 4; check out her blog here; she's an awesome chick. She was taking the PT class with her boyfriend and his brother, who are pro-mountain bikers. Now, these are the type of people I want to be around in my life!! We "whined" that our typical weekend workouts were being screwed by the all-day workshops. I swear, it's harder on me to be told to sit in a chair for hours than to make me go do a 50-mile bike ride. Sick, twisted... I know :) But I did fit in some workouts at odd hours and am now ready and looking forward to getting my ACSM certification!

After that workshop, I decided to leave the OC for a week. First, I packed my bags and headed to San Luis Obispo to visit my sister, who goes to Cal Poly, and to see a good friend of mine, who's also a triathlete. I used Cal Poly's pool and gym, ate college cafe food, did sushi (which included a crazy quail egg shot?!?!) and had a great time.

The highlight at SLO was my Wednesday-morning bike ride. I was alone and headed out with no plan... that initially led me around campus and onto Hwy 1 going north up to the prison. Sketchy. Turned around and eventually found heaven: a one-lane highway through SLO wine country. oh. my. god. b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. I could have ridden that road (Orcutt Road for those interested) all day and have never gotten tired or bored. It was blissful and perfect weather. No one around; I just smiled and took in the beauty. Then, my sis took me to an awesome restaurant -- The Natural Cafe -- to grub. I Highly reccommend it; everything on the menu is healthy, fresh and delicious!

After SLO, I took off to Vegas. Very random, I know. But, I had the time and means to pull it off, so what the heck! And I went into it planning to workout. I did get in one 12-mile run on the strip that was really fun -- my idea of sightseeing -- and I used the spa/gym facilites at Planet Hollywood (where we stayed). That 12-mile run, however, has had lasting repercussions with the aching foot problem (uh-oh). And, being a Vegas virgin, I let the city get the best of me and had some late nights with lots of cocktails, but I recovered just fine -- got home Monday and did the fasted 50-mile bike ride I've done to date.

Life's too short just to stay in the status quo if your dreams are bigger. I'm in a place where I want to experience it all and build a life for myself that makes me happy and satisfied. Right now, that means hard work and self-discipline to achieve my triathlon and career dreams, but it also means taking off a day or two to let loose and relax... it's all about balance!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

RACE REPORT: Catalina Triathlon

Words cannot describe how amazing this past weekend was. I'm still in shock! I did the Catalina Island Triathlon on Saturday -- 1/2-mile swim, 15k bike and 5k run -- and pulled off 1:14:38, good enough to get me 3rd and podium in my age group, 6th female and 49th overall out of about 500. It was a very hilly course, ideal weather and extremely cool people. One of the highlights was the winds got so bad the day after the race that they shut down ferry service and no one could leave the island until Monday, so we all got an extended vacation. Let's just say the celebrating was very memorable.

Here's my mom and I before the race. If it's not obvious, I'm very happy here...

So here's how it went down: We got to Catalina Thursday so we could take our sweet time and not be rushed (mom's idea). Being that it's November, the weather could have been cold and wintery. Last weekend, for example, I got rained on 15 miles into my bike ride (still went my intended 40 miles). Not the case at Catalina, though. It felt like mid-July! Luckily it stayed like that through race day and changed all worked out perfectly in a odd, surreal sort of way, actually.

Out hotel room was super small, but cheap and right in town -- on the street that the race finished in fact -- so no problem. The beachfront part of the island reminded me of Cozumel, but there were major hills, and that reminded me of the Mediterranean.

Here's one thing I love so much about tri...everyone's like family even if you don't know each other: We met a guy on the ferry who was doing the race solo (his tri-travel friend had a last-minute emergency and couldn't go), so we became friends and all ended up having dinner together, and even hanging out over the weekend. As I always say, the more the merrier.
On Friday morning we did a bike ride on the course route, and it totally calmed my nerves. I was expecting some major hillage, and though it definitely was not flat, it wasn't anywhere as gnarly as I thought. Met some interesting people that day, including a man fishing with pizza dough. That night we did the traditional pre-race pasta fest (and chicken and dessert) at a legit Italian restaurant -- Villa Portofino, a must if you're ever out there. Some restaurants even advertised "Runner's Special" meals. Got to bed around 9:30 or 10 and slept like crap. It was loud outside -- lots of drunks out it seemed -- every hour I thought it was time to wake up and I was sharing a bed the size of nothing with my mom.

But on race morning I was ready to go. When I first signed up for this race, I was stoked it didn't start till 9 a.m.; however, I of course woke up super early and had way too much time to kill. Had my oatmeal made from water heated in the coffee pot (which happened to be in the bathroom), as well as coffee, bread (not toast) and a banana. Oh yea, an FRS drink too. I was one of the first out on the transition area, which was on the sand, but I got a good spot on a brick wall. Then my friend and I went running about 2 miles, I took pics, talked to people I knew, etc. Did a short swim before the race, and, oh man, how amazing! The water was clear to the bottom, a nice 65 degrees, lots of fish and I forgot how much wetsuits make you float -- love it!

I was in Wave 3 and pretty calm even down to the 10-second countdown to start. I knew I had to pace myself on the swim given it's my weakness, but I was feeling confident. We ran into the water and got going. I found my rhythym pretty soon into it, but that got screwed by run-ins with chicks and whatnot. Also, my spotting was really poor, and I know I veered off course several times, which inevitably made my swim longer. That's definitely something I need to work on. Did it all in about 15 minutes, wish I had done better.

T1 went smooth, and I knew my bike had to be strong to make up for the swim, as usual. The bike course involved three loops: going up a hill, then back down, around town and repeat. My heart rate was ridiculously high going up the first hill right off the swim, but I pushed through and tried to suck down Cytomax in between heavy breathing. Got a break coming down -- while getting up to 43 mph on the downhill. That whole hill scene was sort of sketchy cause there was one narrow road with people trucking up on one side and others hauling ass on the other side. Mix in people passing -- lots of "ON YOUR LEFT" -- and geez... There were some crashes that day! At one point during the bike, I heard my boss shout out my name and cheer me on (he happened to be on the island for a different event, ironic).

T2 was so-so, I couldn't get my socks on cause my feet were numb and I also got a stomach cramp unlike any I ever had; it was a twisting knot and it scared me. But drinking and breathing eased it, and my legs felt great going into the run. I knew to expect a big hill so I went fast on the flats to balance my pace. Notice: I thought there was one hill -- so coming down that I thought I was in the clear to finish on flats. (All the while, I noticed there weren't too many girls around, so I was stoked!!) But then reality hit: Coming back into town, I turned right to see the mother of hills in my immediate future. CRAP. But I got up -- my friends were walking by at the time and later told me I was looking strong still (yay). Then turning the corner to the finish line was awesome, I "sprinted" to the end and felt great. I knew I had to be one of the top female finishers. Turned out, I was only 3 minutes behind the 1st-place overall female. Not too shabby.

My mom also did amazing: 2nd in her division (50-54 F) with a 1:23 finish!! Not too bad for a 51-year-old riding a mountain bike! Dang.

We both medaled, so that was very special and unexpected, to be honest. I went into this race not putting pressure on myself to podium. I guess that stress-free attitude paid off.

After we got our medals, we grubbed and drank some celebratory beers. The rest of the day was so fun, talking to fellow racers and hearing their stories and later that night going to the bars where a lot of the 21-and-older crowd got pretty crazy at El Galleon. Goes to show: triathletes work hard and sacrifice a lot to perform well, but they also love to let loose when the racing is over!! I'm definitely in the right sport :)

And to top it off, the weather made a 180-degree turn Sunday. It was so incredibly windy they canceled all the ferry shuttles, which meant we all got an extra vacation day!! We found out that only happens maybe two or three times a year; the swells were up to 15 feet in the channel. Quite crazy. One: I'm so glad we didn't have that weather race day; two: I was forced to stay on vacation... amazing! Talk about lucky...

To see more of my pictures click here; for race results click here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Leaving for Catalina Today

It's finally here. After a year of wondering when I'd race again (my last tri was SOMA in 10/07) and after months of agonizing over a knee injury, I'm finally going to race on Saturday! Yea, it's only a sprint, and, yea, I'm not putting extreme expectations on my performance, but I'm damn excited nevertheless. Especially because the tri is on Catalina Island and I'll be out there for about four days... a mini vacation!

My mom and I are leaving on the ferry out of Long Beach in a little while -- my mom is racing, too! It's pretty cool to have someone so close to me who's interested in the crazy tri life. It's funny cause she's more nervous than me, so it helps my own nerves in convincing her not to stress/worry.

Still, we're both highly anticipating what this course holds, particularly the bike... From my research, portions of the bike course are a 7% to 9% uphill grade, and we go from sea level up to almost 400 feet three times (three loops), that's not too bad. But I've also read numerous accounts of people crashing from sharp turns, slippery roads, tight space, etc. Should be interesting!!

As for the weather, there's definitely a chill in the air (I have the chills right now sitting by an open door). However, I'm outdoors swimming pre-6 a.m. these days, so I'm not too worried, it's all about keeping the body in motion. Plus, the race starts at 9 a.m. -- legit! More than enough time to enjoy my typical pre-race meal: oatmeal, toast, coffee, a little bit of protein and Cytomax.

After the race, we're going to hang out in Catalina until Sunday afternoon; and, yes, I plan on enjoying a post-race drink to celebrate! We'll be at the Atwater Hotel, which is right in the heart of Avalon... so good times!

Expect a race report and pictures when I get back...........

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Off-Day Fun

When I take a day off from training I often don't know what to do with myself and all that extra time. Thankfully, yesterday was here's what I did:

The Puking Pumpkin