Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Banishing Sea Monsters

Two weeks ago after my first practice open water swim I knew I needed new goggles. My current goggles are tinted green and fog horribly. When we swam the triangle at Lake Windermere, I knew I was in trouble. I couldn't site the buoys let alone any landmarks behind them. After asking some of the other T3 members, they agreed some wider vision goggles might be helpful.

Aqua Sphere Seal XP
I came home right away and started googling OWS goggles. I found Aqua Sphere Seal XP goggles on and ordered them right away. Initially the order information said the goggles would be here on Friday right before the Gateway Triathlon. Unfortunately, they came Saturday after I had already left for the weekend. Grrrrrrr

So on Sunday, I met the T3 gang out at Lake Windermere for an open water swim. I felt a little bit nervous about how the dark, murky water was going to affect me, but I did have my mile swim in the pool to help bolster my confidence. 

The Aqua Sphere goggles have a wide lens which enables the swimmer to have a larger view of the water. The seal around the nose is critical for these goggles. I spent the first few minutes checking the seal and adjusting the goggles around my face making sure they were nice and tight.

Slowly, I decided to face my fears. I set my Garmin 910XT and set off for my first lap. Amazingly, I felt completely at ease. The water was not nearly as dark and murky as I remembered. I counted strokes and relaxed in the water. I loved turning my head to the side and being able to completely see a wide view of everything going on around me without fog! My first lap was took me 13 minutes probably because I swam extremely crooked, but I made it through. 

Back at the beach, my Inner Triathlete goddess did a little happy dance. I felt relieved to know that I could swim in the open water. I took off for another lap and my time came down by a full two minutes! I could properly site the landmarks and buoys and felt completely relaxed. Two more laps - time reduced each time and I felt awesome.

Believe it or not, I banished the sea monsters to the bottom of the lake. I only wish I had the goggles a little bit earlier and maybe it would have made a difference. Of course, when I mentioned my goggles came after I had left for the weekend, someone mentioned I could have bought some at Dick's Sporting Goods in town. Say what??? Grrrrrrr.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Holiday Week

The week after my disastrous Gateway Triathlon has not been a stellar one. I've struggled adjusting my workout schedule to meet my kids' summer activity schedule. 

MONDAY: Because I spent the morning was spent picking up report cards, I didn't teach a morning class. I tried to go for a bike ride in the afternoon, but I just wasn't feeling the love. I did a little less than 8 miles, but I did have my speed up to 26.6 mph on a straight away which made me feel decent. I did teach ZUMBA that evening and then had to watch my youngest daughter pitch some painful innings in softball. 

TUESDAY: I taught FLOW twice on Tuesday, but didn't get motivated enough to do much else.

WEDNESDAY: I decided it was time for the pity party to be over. I jumped on my bike and rode 32 miles. I finally felt rejuvenated. The endorphins were flowing and making me feel alive again. I finally felt my spirits begin to lift. I decided I needed to get back in the pool. Because all of my recent swims have been sets, I wanted to prove to myself that I could go out and swim one consecutive mile. I started out with a 400 yard warm up. Issue #1) Get my heart rate up so I don't feel panicked when I start my mile. I took a minute's rest and then pushed off. My goal was to swim at least 1700 yards, but in my mind I broke it down to 4 sets of 400 and then I was going to add in a few extra laps just for the fun of it. I also wanted to focus on not taking an extra breath/pause when I turned around at the  wall. I wanted to simulate a true open water swim as much as possible. According to my Garmin, I did 1650 yards (even though I thought I counted 1700 but we'll just go with it) in 35:28.5. My average 100 yard pace was 2:09. I was hoping it would be closer to 2 minutes, but I felt great. I could have swam even more if I wasn't anxious to see my time. I cooled down with a 100 yard relaxed freestyle and then texted my husband and Awesome Cheryl as I left the pool "I feel slightly vindicated". I had proved what my mind KNEW but wouldn't let happen. I swam a mile. 

THURSDAY: Don't ask me what I was thinking but I decided to go for a bike ride on 28 mile an hour winds. I knew I was in trouble immediately. The cross winds were horrible. With a tight grip on my aero bars, my bike leaned hard into the wind. With the wind at my back, I got my speed up to 33.2 miles an hour!!! But that didn't last long. I turned south back home and struggled to keep my speed around 10 miles an hour. Several times I thought about stopping and calling my daughter to come pick me and my Dolce up, but I thought I was the idiot who started this now I have to finish it. I spent the afternoon at the pool during a dust storm. Yes, I've always considered my self somewhat intelligent, but today I totally failed. I went to re-apply suntan lotion, but all I did was streak mud up my arms. I had dirt in crevice and crease of my body. 

FRIDAY: Plan for the day? Swim 2200 yards consecutively according to my Endurance Nation Half Ironman training schedule. After taking my daughter swim suit shopping for our upcoming vacation, we went to the pool to get a swim workout in. Swim team starts next week for her and I thought this was a perfect opportunity for us to help each other out. When we got to the pool, we discovered the Riverplex was hosting Senior Games for Senior Wellness week. The lap pool was closed. Argghhhh!!! I went home to work on my ZUMBA choreography instead and taught class that evening. 

SATURDAY: Plan for the day? Get up early and ride 60 miles. Reality? A late night after more ball games Friday night resulted in me sleeping in. We went to watch the Tremont High School softball team win the Sectional Championships and then went to a friends house for a cookout. Wow. Two rest days in a row? Pretty much four rest days in the week? Yah, you might as well say recovery week. 

SUNDAY: Plan for the day? Get up early and ride 60 miles. Reality? A late night and a few drinks meant this Iron Wannaba was struggling. I do have a lake swim planned for tonight which helped justify my sleeping in. I mean how many articles have I read about the importance of a good's night sleep to good nutrition and training. 

Plan for Monday? Should I say 60 mile ride? The high school girls softball team is playing in Athens which is about 52 miles away. Do you think I can get in bed early enough to ride to Athens in time for an 11 am game? Yah, we'll see. 

A light week this week means I have to hit it doubly hard for the next two because we leave on vacation again soon. I'll be able to run and swim, but I won't be flying my bike to FL. I guess Big Bike Week will have to be this week instead. 


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Race Report: Gateway Triathlon

Last Sunday Awesome Cheryl and I participated in the Gateway Triathlon in Carlyle, IL. We arrived in Carlyle on Saturday afternoon in order to pick up our packets and get a lay of the land. OK, so it really wasn't a packet..."Here's your bib number. Here's your cap. Here's your shirt. See you tomorrow." Not that I ever use them, but usually everything comes in a bag and you get lots of junk coupons. Not today. Just the basics. 

We looked out at the lake where the buoys were already set up and I thought that doesn't look bad at all. It's completely doable! I was trusting my training. I know I can swim a mile. I felt relaxed and at ease. 

Because we signed up so late, we couldn't get a hotel in Carlyle. We had a room reserved in Greenville which was 20 minutes away. We checked into our hotel and went to Mario's Pizza for some dinner. I had a Mediterranean Pizza with pepperoni, feta cheese and olives which was actually quite good. 

Globe Theatre
Over the past year, I have struggled with leg cramps. As a result, it's become a running joke with Awesome Cheryl and I that we should always see a movie the night before a race because the sodium on the popcorn is good for me! Carb loading and balancing my electrolytes all at once. Makes sense, right? We went to the Globe Theatre in Greenville to see Battleship. Because it was opening weekend, Awesome Cheryl thought we should arrive at the theater early....40 minutes early. Needless to say, Cheryl was shell shocked by the small theater. The cinema was showing three different movies and we were two of a total seven people there, two of whom were theater employees. When we arrived, there weren't massive lines at the ticket counter and then again at the concession stand. Instead we had one stop shopping where we purchased the movie tickets and snacks at the concession stand. The viewing rooms (I dare not call them theaters.) had 8 rows of seats. It was a definite adjustment from AMC Theaters we are used to in Central Illinois where stadium seating is the norm. The screen was more or less an extra large television screen. And the popcorn??? To quote Awesome Cheryl, "It's concession popcorn." Bahaha, yes, we are movie snobs. 

Before the movie began, we discussed the benefits of a wet suit. Cheryl was a little nervous about overheating since the air temperature was so warm.  I sent a text to one of the Intimidators, Chris, who Awesome Cheryl dubbed as Mr. Encyclopedia. Below is his response:

78 and lower is wetsuit legal. 78-84 can wear wetsuit but not be eligible for awards. 84+ no wetsuits.If you are faster swimming in your wetsuit than the time it takes you to get it off in T1, then wear it.
If you want the security and flotation, then wear it.
At 73 for an oly, I'd wear my wetsuit.
Key here: If you want the security and flotation, then wear it. Yep, I'm wearing it. 

Following the movie, we made our way back to our hotel to crash...or not. Cheryl fell fast asleep while I tossed and turned. I'm not sure why, but sleep was elusive. Was it the Diet Pepsi with the popcorn keeping me awake? Who knows, but I finally fell asleep shortly before midnight. 

Our alarm went off five few short hours later. Time to rise and shine. We had a nice continental breakfast at the hotel and then drove over to Carlyle. We set up our bikes in transition and walked down to the water. Most everyone was wearing wet suits and as soon as I stepped into the water I was glad I had it on. 

My Nemesis
The Olympic Men took off at 8. The Olympic Women at 8:05. I felt calm and confident as we waited for the race to start. I looked at Awesome Cheryl and I could see the nervousness in her face. She has only swam once in the open water and the suddenly reality of it hit her. The start gun went off. I let most of the women dive in while I took a few steps forward, adjusted my goggles and then started stroking. No big deal...first few strokes I kept my head out of the water watching the buoys and lining myself up, but as time went on I couldn't find the nerve to put my face in the water. I flipped over on my back and tried to relax, but the relaxation wouldn't come. 

I listen to the Endurance Nation podcasts and they talk constantly about putting yourself "in the box", focus on what you can control. Count your strokes. Focus on your technique. Relax. However, none of these thoughts even entered my head as I struggled with the swim. I flipped over on my belly, freestyled about 10 strokes, sighted the buoys, and flipped on my back.  For some reason, I could not relax enough to stay in a freestyle position. 

Instead every negative thought possible went flying through my head. 
  • You are insane.
  • If you can't do a mile, how are you going to do an Ironman? 
  • Look at everyone else swimming without any issue. They are leaving you behind.
  • You know you can get a partial refund on IMLOU if you withdraw before July 11th. 
  • Why can't you do this? You are an IDIOT!!!

I wanted to bail about 10 times. I was feet away from the shore. (Seriously, because I swim crooked, I even walked a few feet since my path had wandered toward the shore.) I could have just dropped out and waited for Awesome Cheryl to finish, but for some reason I kept floating, backstroking through the swim. I REALLY WANTED TO QUIT. No joke. I was ready to admit defeat. I think the only thing that kept me going was the two other swimmers who seemed to have the same struggles. Later there was only one other swimmer with me, but I found out when I got home that swim support convinced the other swimmer to keep going and complete the sprint triathlon instead of the olympic distance. 

At the halfway mark, the buoys ran parallel to the beach for about 100 yards. I made myself promise to swim freestyle for that 100 yards buoy to buoy. By sheer willpower, I did it with several stops for sighting, but I did it even though I felt slightly light-headed. I'm not sure why I felt light headed. Was I not breathing right? Was the restricted vision affecting my balance? Was it the feeling of constriction of the wet suit? Who knows. I went from cursing and swearing at my idiocy for thinking I could do this to the verge of tears and throwing my hand up in the air asking for help. But after rounding the halfway mark I knew I had to complete the swim even if I hated every second of it. After 51 minutes and 3 seconds, virtually 100% on my back, I came out of the water. I thought I would have a huge smile on my face, but instead I felt sad and defeated. I was THE LAST person out of the water by eight seconds. 

I walked up the hill to T1 grabbed my bike and took off. I left T1 before the other co-panicked swimmer so I knew I had at least one person behind me. SCORE!!! My first 5 miles averaged 18.2 miles per hour and I felt my confidence beginning to grow again as I looked for a cyclist in front of me to catch. The bike route was not my favorite....coming down big hills into a 90 degree turn. Overall my average bike pace was 15.8. I passed two more cyclists....ok, so one was on the side of the road getting bike assistance, but I passed her. Hell with it! I'm taking credit. I needed anything and everything to bolster myself at this point. Heading back to transition was tougher as the wind was coming at you at different spots, but I was determined to have a decent bike leg and overall I'm satisfied with it. 

I transitioned into the run leg and within the first mile I started feeling paranoid about leg cramps. I stopped immediately and stretched my calves. I took one endurolyte caplet before each leg of the triathlon. If I wound up with cramps today after doing everything I thought possible to eliminate the cramps ON TOP OF MY FAILURE IN THE OWS, yep, I'd take the Ironman refund. As a result, I was determined to keep a nice steady pace and not tempt fate with cramps. As luck would have it, I was able to complete the 6.2 miles without any issues. I walked the aid stations to take in plenty of water. There was absolutely no shade on the run course and with the weather in the upper 80s I didn't want to take any chances. I finished the Olympic triathlon in 3:49.09. Nothing to brag about.

At that point, I was pissed. I came right off the course and started packing up my gear. I was ready to leave and get the hell out of there. Poor Cheryl was just beside herself trying to console me, but as I told her I felt like I just needed to sit down and throw myself a great big old pity party. 

It's taken a couple of days to work my way through it all. Dear friends called and offered their support, but I was/am still filled with doubt. I know the solution is just to get in the open water and swim, swim swim. I will work on it, but I still have the Ironman refund deadline in the my back pocket. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mozzy, Wet Suit & Cancer? Say What?

A lot has changed in our household. On May 6th, we welcomed a new member of our family. He's a 9 week old French Brittany Spaniel who we named Mozzy. I am not a dog person. I am not an indoor animal person. Please pray for me to have patience and understanding with this tiny little being who has joined our family. However, I have to say the little stinker is incredibly cute. I think he's going to be a great addition to our family. Annelise is very excited to have him in our family so that she can train Mozzy for agility competitions. 

Also on May 6th, I signed up for an Olympic Triathlon in Carlyle, IL called the Gateway Triathlon. Awesome Cheryl & I decided we needed an early triathlon to work our way through the pitfalls of an open water swim. The Gateway Triathlon is a 1.5 km (0.93 mile) swim in Carlyle Lake, 20 km (24.85 mile) bike and 10 km (6.2 mile) run.  An almost mile long swim in a lake in early May? Guess who received a Xterra wet suit for Mother's Day? ME. 

On Sunday, I went out for my first open water swim in my brand spanking new wet suit at Lake Windermere. Knowing my reaction to previous open water swims I decided to take my first lap along the shoreline to get comfortable in the wet suit. What is it about the open water that turns a confident swimmer into a big old ninny?  Right away Diablo started re-surfacing. 

"Why the hell are you doing this? What makes your think you can swim 1 mile let alone 2.4 miles? You were stupid for wasting $700 on an Ironman registration." 

Yep, Diablo had a lot to say and I listened...for a while. During my first lap around Lake Windermere, I discovered that I am a horrible swimmer. No, I don't necessarily mean technique. I mean I veer to the right constantly. I can't swim in a straight line. Add in the foggy goggles through which I can't see the dock on the shore let alone the buoy in front of me. Oh my gosh, it goes on and on and on!!!! And, oh yah, ewwww MOSS. 

Here is my Facebook post from that night: 
Things I learned at tonight's open water swim: 
1) I do not swim straight. AT ALL. 
Road crew changing my tires
2) I need to practice sighting. 
3) I need new goggles. 
4) MOSS - It's a great fashion accessory. 
5) I need to trust my training.

Finally, by the 3rd lap around Lake Windermere I started to relax and felt more comfortable in my wet suit and in the lake. Did it build my confidence in preparing for this weekend's triathlon? Hell no, but I am glad I was in the open water at least once before the triathlon. 

The other improvement over the weekend was my the new tires my Road Crew put on my bike. Continental 4000s. I road my bike to Havana to watch my daughter play softball. A 40 mile ride averaging 17.2 mph. Total time: 2 hrs 23 minutes. Am I fast? No. Am I improving? BOOYAH. 

Monday night I got back in the pool and swam 2900 yards. Not continuous, but breaks were no more than 20 seconds. 400 yard warm up. 2x500 (20"), 2x400 (15"), 2x300 (10"), 100 yard cool down. It was a night to remember! I felt like I could swim all night long, but was in a pool. Not in a lake. Yes, I am still mental. 
Punch Biopsy on my cheek

Last thing to report: I went to a plastic surgeon today. No, I'm not getting a boob job or getting a tummy tuck regardless of my wildest wishes! Instead I had to go to the doctor to see about a having a spot removed from my left cheek which may be a potential squamous cell carcinoma. Yah, skin cancer. Lovely. The plastic surgeon did a punch biopsy on my cheek and told me no exercise for the rest of the day. SAY WHAT???? DO YOU KNOW WHAT I AM TRAINING FOR? The best part of my visit was watching the doctor's reaction when he found out that I'm a Type II Diabetic. Based on my vitals, he said he would have guessed I was a Type I Diabetic. Yah, genetics suck. So I guess on top of bad diabetes genes from my mom. I also get to inherit the bad skin cancer genes from my dad. Oh well, no sense in worrying today about what I can't control. I'll find out the scoop next week.