Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Awesome Change of Plans

I've done 12 races since last November--that's a bunch for me!--and every one has given me an experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. The one thing I haven't done a lot of lately is sit back, relax and play sherpa. I love to be in the game, not on the sidelines. But a special opportunity has come my way, and I couldn't been happier to say that I'm backing out of the Mission Bay Sprint. I'm doing it to give my slot to a cool little dude named Calvin. It will be his first triathlon.

Hi Calvin!

I met Calvin, 10, the night before Vineman 70.3. My dad works with his mom, and our families went out to dinner for my pre-race meal. Turns out Calvin's dad, Mike, was a major STUD triathlete back in the day and is still a stud in the endurance world. I took some pictures off his Facebook from his triathlon "glory days" to prove my point:
To this day, he's still killing it out there (you wouldn't believe some of this guy's stories!)...

Mike, who's worked at Marin Bikes for years, is now lucky enough to have a son who he can bring along for early-morning runs, bike rides and swims. And it sounds like Calvin got the good genes for endurance sports--the day I met him he had just placed 2nd in his first-ever bike race. I hear he's also quite the runner, giving the older guys a run for their money. Already, Calvin's done some running races with his dad...
And he rocks on the bike just like Dad...
Well, after meeting Mike that night before Vineman, he apparently got the urge to do a triathlon again (hope I'm responsible for that!), but this time with the twist of having Calvin do one right alongside him! And you know how I feel about a family of triathletes--nothin' better! We talked, and Mission Bay seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Unfortunately, they waited a little too long to sign up and it sold out. Bummer.

Then I got to thinking... I don't need to do the race; I'd be a million times happier and satisfied watching someone enjoying the thrill of a triathlon for the first time. It was a no-brainer: I offered my spot to Calvin. That way, at least Mike could see his stud-in-training son do his first tri on a great course. At first they were hesitant to accept because they know how much I love to race, but I convinced them that I didn't want it any other way. Thankfully, Koz Enterprises allows you to transfer bib numbers and Calvin's just old enough by their rules to participate. Sweet!

The only problem: We still didn't have a spot for Mike. The search was on. And wouldn't you know--I found a spot from my SD girl, Giselle.

Giselle and I worked together at The Daily Aztec at SDSU and have since stayed in touch. She's been bitten by the endurance bug--I'm thinking her killer job at helped with that--but unfortunately a calf over-use injury is preventing her from racing at Mission Bay. She's wisely backing out of what would have been her first triathlon to get better enough to run in her second marathon in Las Vegas this December. Let's just say Giselle is the angel in this equation. When she gave me the good news that we could have her spot, I immediately contacted Mike and he was stoked to say the least.

So now the father-son duo are busy training their hearts out for the big day October 4. Here they are along with wife/mom Robyn, who's as sweet as they come:
As for me, I don't know if I've ever been more excited for a race! Seriously. I get to be the cheerleader/sherpa/photographer for my dad (his first triathlon ever), my mom, Mike, Calvin, as well as our good family friends, Larry, who recently won his battle with throat cancer and is celebrating by doing his first triathlon, and Larry's sons, Scott and Keith, who are in their 20s and new to triathlon too.
Larry's story deserves its own blog post, partly because of his amazing cancer survival story and partly because he and my dad are best friends from their college days and are currently training together for MB, making for some great (funny) stories.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

SB Long Course Report: Ouch

It was bound to happen at some point this season: A race to truly kick my @$$ and leave me in tears. Santa Barbara Long Course did just that. Although it was a great race venue and I got through it without completely blowing up--even podiumed in my age group and got within my predicted goal time--the race was definitely a "low" point for me this season.

But I'm so glad I had this experience. It taught me a lot about myself, racing, preparing for races and the power of mind over matter. It's the bad race days that make the good ones that much better, and I'm thankful for everything that SB did for me as a triathlete.

I think my problems mainly stemmed from not tapering enough given the big volume I've been putting in. I had the hardest three weeks of training that I've ever done then only sort of tapered for five days... that simply wasn't enough for me. A couple other issues I was battling during the week had me out of sorts, but nevermind that. I buried all the baggage as best as I could--I refuse to be "that person" with an excuse. Unfortunately, you can only pretend so much, and physically I was beat up... amongst other things. In short: My mojo didn't show up for the weekend.

But it definitely wasn't all bad. I was in good company (and fast racers) so that made everything more enjoyable, especially the spectacular meals we shared together. Food was a big part of the weekend, and WOW I ate well--thanks Sean, Trish & Ian. Eating with triathlete friends is always a blast.
Eagerly awaiting our pre-race dinner at Natural Cafe:

An example of the great food... Post-race Mexi meal y Corona con lima. Muy bien.

The Race
We headed to SB at late Friday afternoon from LA, just in the thick of traffic. We weren't trying to torture ourselves, but work duties call (for some, not me) so we had to make due. It wasn't so bad--made packet pickup in time, had a great dinner on State Street and were in bed at a decent hour.

Before I knew it, the 4 o'clock hour arrived and given that we had an elite-division triathlete in our group, we had to get out there early... my wave, on the other hand, was the last of the day. Crap. I hate still racing when I know everyone else I'm with is done.

I ran into Tatiana before the race, we shared the same bitterness toward our last-wave luck, and then we headed out for a warmup swim... if you can call it that. Glad she was with me because I wasn't the only one who thought the ocean felt abnormally freakin cold. Ice cream headache style! We took a little beach run after to stay warm. Plus, the weather was already very gloomy, overcast and on the verge of rain.
THE Swim
Finally, Wave 10 went off and from the get-go I knew this day was going to be a battle--with myself. As always, it took me a while to find my groove in the swim, and once I did, I struggled to hold a straight line. Then each calf conveniently cramped up about 3/4 way through (cold water symptom?). My only saving grace (aka excuse) to my ridiculous time was that we apparently swam the majority of the mile going against the current. Regardless of the circumstances, however, the reality is: I need to work harder on my swim. Period.

THE Bike
Right away my legs were not responding to the speed I wanted. The course was very hilly, with many long climbs (which means fast downhills too), and it's constantly changing directions and swerving with bumpy roads so you have to be cautious. It was an extremely beautiful ride though, and anything but boring. By far the high point of the race. The scenery and challenging route served to help distract me from the burn in my legs. Plus, being in the last wave meant that the course was nearly empty by then. Pretty cool. Another curve ball: Due to a last-minute Aerodrink purchase, I was sans-Cateye so didn't know mileage or speed at all--God forbid! That did teach me me a good lesson in not relying on the numbers but rather "the feel." I managed to average over 19 mph overall for 34 miles, and I'm ok with that, but I'm not ok with the fact that I felt like death through it all.

10 miles to go in the Zoots. By this point I was shooting for sub-8 min miles, and thankfully I did that. But within the first 5k, all I wanted to do was sit down, curl up in a ball and cry. It was raining by then and windy, but not terribly cold. Still, I was on the verge of a breakdown. The out-and-back course goes from some coastal flat to pretty much all uphill out then all downhill and back to flat. I think my recent long training runs & 70.3 races are the only reason I got through this without succumbing to the "ouch" factor... I was mentally prepared for 10 miles and just took it one at a time, I even mustered up a sprint finish. Avg'd abt a 7:45 pace overall.

My total time was 3:42:02, putting me 2nd in my AG to the speedy 1st-place Tatiana (I hope to see her go pro, she's got it.) And, I would have been 8th 25-29... yea I'm looking at that. My goal was to finish in 3:30 to 3:59, so mission accomplished.

Crossing the finish line, Ian's dad, Larry, was right there waiting--I cannot even describe how happy I was to see a familiar face, it literally kept me from falling apart right there in the crowd.
After some food and chatting, I went over to my transition alone, sat down and the tears just came. I had a good 5-10 minute cry. My body was just drained. Not in a bonk, nutritionally-deprived way, but in a "every ounce of me begged to stop for nearly 4 hours but I said go hard" way. It was a mental/physical battle that I'm glad I won, but it had clearly gotten to me emotionally. I needed that cry to let out some of that @#%$* I was feeling. It worked. Post-sob fest, I got my act together, hid any signs of tears and found my friends for awards.
Speaking of awards, once again, I was the only 20-24er to show up. Ahhh!
Soon after, we packed up to go eat and then hit the road back LA. Meanwhile, the rain was coming down... random!
The rest of the weekend was a combo of more great food (I pretty much over-indulged), good people, a few drinks, an easy Sunday morning spin in Manhattan Beach with to-die-for pumpkin pancakes after and a little couch time before heading home. All the while, my mind was caught up in thoughts of my race performance, why I hurt, how to taper better, blah blah. I do not let myself off the hook easily. This race was a wake-up call, and I won't forget it.

Meanwhile, I'm gearing up for the start of a new semester: Grad school starts Monday! Life, as I know it, is going to be even more hectic. As if I weren't already a hermit thanks to triathlon, my social life is about to get a lot more NOT interesting. But I don't mind. It's all part of the plan.
And there are only two more big races on my agenda for the year. Ahhhhh

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Battle of the Devil & Angel

So, sometime in July I was seriously considering making August a super easy month to not burn out on training/racing. But at the same time I was stoked on the idea of training hard to get better for Clearwater and also wanted to keep my streak going of averaging one or more races per month in 2009. The only Aug race that appealed to me was Santa Barbara, but that'd still require all the travel, etc., so I was on the fence.

Meanwhile, the devil on one shoulder said to kick back and take some time off--head to San Diego not to train but to stay with my best friends from my SDSU days and enjoy that scene for a while (they live in PB, I know I know). Well, no offense to my college friends--I love them to death--but thankfully my angel on the other shoulder was more convincing and I decided to push hard with training in August and go forth with doing the SB Long Course. Great decision! It also helped that a group of friends were doing SB, so I could team up with them for the weekend, definitely a no-brainer!

So, yet again, I'm heading out of town tomorrow for what should be a memorable race & weekend. The SB Long Course doesn't fit into a traditional triathlon distance--it's a 1-mile swim, 34-mile bike and 10-mile run--practically a half-Ironman. Hopefully I tapered enough because my legs were still screaming on my bike ride this morning. ugh.

And, to not completely blow off my college friends this year (yea, I've been pretty MIA with them), I'll be heading down to SD for my best friend/old roomie Courtney's birthday on Sept. 4. Looks like I have some other fun activities on tap just a couple days after that on Labor Day(Palomar ride?!) so I'll leave the drinking to Court and the crew. Maybe for the first time I'll be DD for the girls because I sure wasn't ever DD back in the day!

I was looking for a few pictures to give you guys a glimpse of the old me with my two favorite SDSU partners in crime... I came across so many old, funny and crazy memories but I decided to keep it PG:
Courtney & me in Pacific Beach on some holiday weekend...

Me, Goldie and Courtney getting ready for a night out at, I'm assuming, at our old apartment.

Jen, Court, Goldie and me riding the mechanical bull in TJ. Wow. This is an old one. And that was quite a night.

And growing up... Court, me and Goldie sometime last year, more civilized. Sort of.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Venti Americano Please!

Those lovely caffeine-rich drinks a la Starbucks got me through the busy weekend. Unlike my last adventure up at Ian's, where when the workout ended so did my need to be anything but a food-consuming-couch-potato, this weekend had non-training social stuff and chores on the agenda in addition to big mileage. And that's pretty much how life is going to be from here on out--busy. I start school next Monday (already?!) and my calendar seems to be fattening up heading into 2010. These guys can make life that much easier:
This weekend was the last hurrah of one of my biggest 3-week training blocks to date. I've recovered and responded well to the increased loads, but I was still ready to get the weekend done with and start tapering for the Santa Barbara Long Course Triathlon this Saturday. (For once, Mom and Dad won't be making the journey to this race; I have both of them busy training for their upcoming triathlons, so I dare not tear them away from that. I'll be heading up to SB with friends instead, which should be a blast.)

And while I'm in SB, fav training partner Sara is going to Alabama to compete in the USAT Age Group Nationals! Lately, a lot of my days begin like the pic below: Sara & I looking fresh before we get to work (this day we did a 5k run - 30k bike - 5k run, with crazy intervals on the bike led by gnarly dudes, in San Onofre/Pendleton area):

Sara joined me for a portion of my weekend training--the big ol' run part. I can't speak for her, but I think halfway through our 10-miler on Saturday the freshness was fading. Coming off a 30+ mile Santiago Canyon ride that morning, we ran fairly well (about a 7:45 avg), but I think it's because we just wanted to be done asap!

Later that evening, with one mega nap squeezed in, I switched into "going out" mode, got my caffeine fix and met up with Brynn & company for her birthday dinner in Huntington Beach. The night was well worth losing some precious sleep hours; I even randomly ran into some familiar faces, including Christine, who I had a sprint-to-the-finish battle with (which I won) back at the Newport Sprint in April. Small world! Couple pics from the night:

As expected, it was hard to wake up to Sunday's alarm, but getting an early start was necessary in order not to be incredibly late to the afternoon Baby Shower I was invited to. I needed a change of scenery from LF, so I parked in San Juan Capistrano and rode south through Camp Pendleton and back for a total of 65+ miles. Surprisingly, my legs felt good and I was done with the whole outing in 3 1/2 hours, with breaks.

Then, despite the miles taking their toll--and my parents telling my how tired my eyes looked--I put on my best girly face to prep for all the "ohh-ing & ahh-ing" and estrogen overload and headed to my good friend Holly's baby shower. Holly was often my DD back in the day, and now she's probably the proudest mom-to-be around; she's the one on the left:

Now, I love my group of girlfriends who were at the shower, but when it comes to babies and being married (or wanting those things)--which summarizes most of their lives--I just feel like an alien around them. I have zero desire to have kids anytime soon, and tying the knot isn't exactly a high priority either. Needless to say, I get confused looks when I say that I'd rather do Ironmans for the next X amount of years rather than change diapers. And even after (or if) I finally get to those diaper days, you can bet I'll still race as long as this body allows it.

Still, it's always precious to meet a new little dude, especially when he came from one of my former party partners--my how we've changed! This is Noah, who's 3 weeks old:

Noah's parents, Marcai and Randy, live close to Santa Barbara, and for a second they wanted to come to my race Saturday, but the idea of bringing a newborn? Not gonna to happen. See, just another reason why kids should not be on my to-do list... I'll just stick to admiring them from afar. I have too much I want to accomplish first.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Broken Record

I know I keep repeating the same thing, but yet again, it was another stellar weekend. Definitely one that I won't soon forget--escaping the OC to be part of a houseful of triathletes with a solid agenda: train, eat, lay around, sleep, repeat. I often hear about such weekends that go on down in San Diego at Charisa's, so I was stoked to get in on one for the first time, except this weekend we were up in the South Bay area at Ian's Casa. Of course, I didn't actually train with the guys--are you kidding me--keep up with Ian and Brian Scott, both Kona bound, and Kevin, who's doing IM Canada soon? Ha. But I planned my workouts to fit in with their schedule, so I got some quality time with them during the most vital moments of the weekend--eating and laying around all compressioned up.

A common sight at Casa de Mikelson: I got into town Friday to kick off the weekend with a long swim. We went to a very luxurious, spa-resort-like pool in the beautiful city of Hawthorne... well, not exactly... but there was a pool with three lanes for lap swimming open for two hours, which was good enough for us. It was a great way to get the big weekend rolling, and once the group was all settled in Friday night with enough gear to start our own triathlon store, it was off to bed.

On the schedule for Saturday: morning bike, break, then afternoon long run. After Ian, Brian and Kevin headed out for their 5-hr ride, I fueled up (with Delicious Strawberry oatmeal) and was just about to go when my front tire decided to flat. I took that as an omen to change my back tire completely, which was super old and worn down, not wanting to risk any problems while out in a new area all alone. So I changed everything--not to brag, but I did so flawlessly in PR time--and took off. I owe you some tubes, Ian!

The PV Loop was a gorgeous and fun ride with some good climbs. I was planning to ride for a couple hours, factoring in the potential of getting lost or stopping to enjoy the views--I didn't get lost, but there definitely was some breathtaking sights to stop and take in:

I kept riding even after completing one loop, and about 30+ miles later, I felt like I had lots more left in my legs, but knew that a gnarly run and huge ride awaited me, so I cut myself off and went back to Ian's to shower, eat lunch and get the relaxation started before the dudes got back.

I can't even express how entertaining it was for me to watch the guys come in from their rides and run over the weekend. They were filthy, smelly, sweaty and food-and-beverage-consumption machines, expressing a combination of exercise highs and exhaustion always with huge smiles and lots to talk about, but I also caught the occasional stare of delirium. It was classic.

Saturday afternoon, after getting in some quality couch time, we all headed down to the beach for the long run. I, B & K were running for 2:15; I was running for 1:30. I started off with them, and as soon as their pace got into the sub-7 range I backed off knowing I could never hold that pace for my planned 11-ish miles, let alone 4 miles.

From Redonodo to Manhattan, it was a zoo of drunken partiers, beach cruisers and the AVP Volleyball Tourney mayhem... Then us: Runners geeked out in tri attire head to toe (glad I'm not the only one who wears two watches, Brian!) weaving through the traffic.

I took a breather at my 5.5-mile turnaround at Manhattan Pier, and made it back in the planned 1:30, although the last few miles were pure torture. I recently made a switch to Zoot running shoes, which I totally love, but unfortunately the back tab thing rubbed my Achilles/heel area raw, leaving me all bloody and cringing in pain. I had no way of covering it (socks were too short) so I just endured the pain rather than giving up and walking.

I like that I'm only training for half-Ironman with a group of IM-training freaks because I got to enjoy a lot more of these types of moments while waiting for the boys (they ran 19+ miles!):

Saturday night was simply awesome. We cooked something like 7 pounds of chicken, 3 pounds of salmon, several Trader Joe's pizzas, corn on the cob, fruit, etc... and it all was effortlessly consumed. We had two others joined in on the fun, Ryan and Brynn, and we all sat around too late talking, eating and enjoying the company. Bed at 11 p.m. was way too late, but it was worth it hanging out with a fun group like this:

Sunday came to early, but one by one everyone geared up for the big day ahead. Boys: 7-hour ride. Girls: 70 miles (time? who knew). This was Brynn's first ride of that volume, and since we were both in unfamiliar territory it was just about getting it done.

We were originally going to just ride north for an out-and-back, a mini version of the boys who made it up to freakin Oxnard, but we weren't liking that route and turned around just before Venice to go do the PV Loop. I felt surprisingly great the whole ride, pushed hard when the terrain allowed and was loving the fact that 70 miles isn't such a daunting task for me anymore, even on top of a hard training week leading up to it. Yea, I cursed any hill we came across toward the end, but I didn't feel completely wiped out. Plus, it was great having a partner along, too--nothing like some good girl talk when you're out on the road for hours. I wonder if boys talk about similar things as the girls? Hmmmm.

The boys rolled in with after riding nearly 140 miles, all raccoon-eyed and covered in LA nastiness. Those guys truly inspiried me this weekend--all their hard effort and still having enough left in the tank to be cheery and smiling and not just crawl into bed and go into a coma. Not to mention, they all said without question they'd be working out Monday too.

Being around these high-mileage triathletes clearly had a good effect on me too: This was the first weekend I've ever ridden 100+ miles and ran more than 10 miles within two days. And I felt pretty darn good through it all. Slowly but surely, making progress and enjoying the ride...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Whatta Weekend!!!

Since I've been living on my own with house-sitting gigs, I've noticed two things: 1) I spend a lot of money on food--and it's not like I'm buying filet mignon and lobster every day, I'm pretty price conscious; and 2) I travel with a huge assortment of (necessary) crap--foam roller, massage stick, supplements, multiple bikes, a gagillion workout outfits, etc. But I guess that's really no shocker: A triathlete who eats a lot and has a lot of stuff. Big deal. Onto the good stuff...

I had an EPIC weekend of training, with the pre-epicness starting Friday when I decided that my only exercise would be delivering newspapers on my single-speed in Capo Beach/Dana Point. I still wasn't feeling 100% from all the recent racing and wanted to charge hard Sat & Sun, so the hour-plus delivery job was just enough. Sounds crazy, but I had a blast doing it! Maybe because this was my view:
Can you believe that water? Insane! That little taste of outdoor bliss got me amped for the weekend of training I had planned with Sara.

And after a hearty Friday-night dinner with a fellow triathlete who also had a hefty weekend of training ahead (his made mine look weak), Saturday finally came and the real epicness began. It started with me trying to kill myself--yes, I OD'd on salt tablets thinking they were my L-Glutamine & BCAA pills. Too many little baggies with white pills lying around! I had at least double the recommended dosage of salt on top of a few Endurolytes. Oopps! I was a little shaken up, but thankfully, I ended up being totally fine the whole day--my sweat seemed extra salty though. I'm curious: What happens if you OD on salt? I'm still too afraid to Google and find out.

By the time Sara showed up at 8, I just wanted to get out and go. The plan was to ride south through Camp Pendleton and eventually turn around whenever we hit 35 miles, which ended being in South Carlsbad. The ride was simply awesome. Sara and I are like long-lost best friends. It's weird how we just instantly clicked on every level--athletic ability, personality, lifestyle, etc. We were pushing each other hard the whole ride. From San Onofre through Pendleton, we met up with another group of guys Sara knew that had us hammering to keep up. Then minus the guys, we continued into O-side and Carlsbad on our own. We pit-stopped at the campgrounds then headed back north, stopping again to refuel at 7-Eleven. Then it was on. We laid down the hammer and it got silent. No words just work. The toughest part was the final stretch on Old El Camino Real to home. The whole time I was thinking IMCA 70.3 next March--yup, I signed up for round 2! Then, unfortunately (or fortunately) the house I'm living at is on a cliff, so at mile 70, we were greeted by this (burn!!):

We got in 71 miles with a few pit stops in roughly 4 hours. We were both stoked to get off the damn bikes at that point. Despite the temptation to call it a day, we threw on our running shoes and I took us on a route along PCH that would force us to get in 4+ miles, no way to cut it short and go home. Felt like the longest 30 minutes ever.

After the run we were spent but on Cloud-9 with such a quality bike/run. We made some killer tacos at my place and sat around for a bit but not too long because there was still one thing on the agenda--an ocean swim!

So we headed to Lost Winds in San Clemente to get wet...bikinis only, no wetsuits necessary. Two things: 1) I didn't think I had it in me to do more physical activity, 2) I rarely do ocean swims except in racing, so kinda freaky. But the water was so inviting and we charged. Turned out to be one of the best swims I've ever had. Not necessarily in speed or anything like that, but just the refreshing crystal-clear water, my confidence in the ocean and how good it felt on our tired muscles = amazing!

After that we just laid on the beach loving life with 5 hours of hard training done.

Saturday night was a blur, I was delirious and a bottomless pit of hunger. I tried to take a bath in the jet spa, but the bubble bath I dumped in super-activated with the jets on and I drown in bubbles nearly instantly, as you can see (and it even got worse!):

So then I curled up on the couch with more food and TV.

That didn't last long. Sleep came early. Sunday was another big day, but unfortunately, I'd be going solo.

The morning came too soon, I robotically fueled up with power oatmeal & coffee and headed out early before changing my mind and doing jack sh*t instead. The plan: 20-mile bike followed by a 10-or-more-mile run (depending on the legs)--with the bike being just a warm-up and the run being the real focus of the day.

The first few miles on the bike I questioned my ability to execute my plan but I kept pedaling and it became easier, in a painful sort of way. (The weird picture to the right was all I got in mid-workout this weekend--I totally sucked in the camera department both days!) While riding, I could tell I was still needing calories like crazy from Saturday because I had two Gels just on that short ride! I even ate a yogurt and fruit in transition before heading out on my run along the coast.

For the run, I chose a relatively flat course along the beach. (Clearwater on the brain.) I ran until the Beach Trail ended, then headed back but I approached my turn home way short of 10 miles, so I sucked it up and tacked on another 5k-ish, which put me at 11.5 miles for the day, and about an hour and half of running total. Turns out that last 5k was my fastest, too, all of it sub-7:30.


Immediately back at home, I grabbed the entire ice maker from the freezer, dumped it in the bath tub, turned on the cold water and just sat in there truly loving it. It was my first real ice bath and it's all I craved the last half of the run. The rest of the day consisted of a lot of lying around, eating nonstop and working on fixing my hideous tan lines at the beach. Ian stopped by on his way home from his insane training weekend down in San Diego, so we shared stories. Triathlon is so much more fun when you have people to share the craziness with because the general population just doesn't understand... and it's not even fun trying to explain anymore. I just get weird looks.

Maybe it's because I've been by the beach, but training has never been so delightful. Even when it hurts and I want to stop I'm still happy to be out there. I never want to leave this place. I mean, after a killer workout, this is what awaits me less than a mile away: