Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Personal Best

Trying to stay in track with my previous race performace, I woke up Sunday morning determined to run my personal best half marathon distance.  Little did I know, that was a lot of pressure.

Being more the athlete I've always wanted to be, setting a new personal best after you gave it your all on the same course the previous year means you have to give it your all and some.  Also, I had just completed a half Ironman two weeks prior and my half marathon was close to what I consider perfect.  Got it!  Too much pressure.

I had pre-packed my race nutrition thinking I should stick to my half Ironman run plan since it worked so well, and from there, everything seemed to be going downhill.  We stopped for a bagel in the morning and while I ordered a "light" thin bagel with egg-whites and turkey, I got the thin bagel but with cheese, cream cheese and green salsa.  Epic fail, but I was hungry.  So I ate it.

Before the start of the race, Jolene asked if I had extra GU's since she had forgotten hers.  I gave her one of mine which should leave me with two for the race, but it was a little different from what I had planned but I was sure it would still work fine...

Also, I wanted to stop by the restroom before we started, especially since I ate all that cream cheese... and that doesn't sit so well on a lactose intolerant stomach. The lines were CRAZY so 5mins before the start I decided to wait until the finish.

OH SNAP!  We will see how this goes...

The gun went off, we started running and I looked down at my Garmin to see a steady 8:15 min/mile.  "Jo, this is a little too fast for me, I think I will slow down..." We did.  We stuck to an 8:45 min/mile pace for a few miles.  I skipped the first aid station at mile marker 2 knowing that I only need water every 4 miles, roughly.

After the aid station at mile 4, where I drank some water and ate a GU, we slowed down a bit to a 9:00 min/mile pace.  Between mile 4 and 8 I felt a little weaker than at the beginning, but tried to stick to our pace.  Once more, I skipped the aid station at mile 6 and continued on to mile 8 where I repeated what I did at mile marker 4.

Jolene was feeling weak... and the wind started to pick up, so she asked if we could slow down.  I'm not going to lie, I was feeling strong and felt as if I could stick to the 9:00 min/mile pace, but my friend has slowed down for me in the past so I figured, I should do the same for her.  Scared I wouldn't run my fastest, I slowed down to a 9:20 - 9:30 min/mile and it was around mile 10 when Jo said she was not feeling so well.  We slowed down a bit more to a 9:40 min/mile.

The 13th mile is pretty brutal, since you finish with a significant climb a quarter of a mile long, and I tried to let Jolene pace it.  Once we came down, I looked a my watch to see that I was way too close to risk it.  I told Jo, I was taking off.  And I did.  Started a LONG sprint.  I think I was still a quarter of a mile away  but I didn't care, I just kept pushing it.

I crossed the finish line at 2hr1min37sec which is 2min20secs faster than the previous year and faster than any other half marathon that I've run.  I have set a new personal best.  Now, I guess the real pressure is on for the next half marathon... I HAVE to break two hours.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Once an athlete, always an athlete

There's a fine line between aspiring to be an athlete and actually being an athlete.  In my eyes, if you've put a pair of running shoes on and have gone for a run, you are a runner.  If you've gotten on a bike and pedaled, you are a cyclist.  If you've put a pair of goggles on and swam, you are a swimmer.  If you do it more than once, you are an athlete.  

Personally, I exercise because I like it. It's that simple. And while it started when I was 5, over time, I've realized, I am an athlete.  I swim, I bike, I run, I climb, I hike, I ski... and the list goes on. Yep, I'm an athlete. In addition, I now take care of my nutrition, my weight, I follow a plan, a routine, I aspire to be faster, I celebrate my successes and learn from my mistakes.  

But there has been ONE time and one time only when as I ran, I felt like the athlete I've always wanted to be.  Here's my story: 

I woke up at 4:00am on Thursday morning and got in my car.  The car was already packed and I was sure I wasn't forgetting anything. Started driving west. By 6:00am the sun appeared on my rear view mirror, I smiled. Kept driving.  Left Colorado and drove through Utah.  Enjoyed the nice scenery in Arizona and said hello to Vegas: "I will see you Saturday" and finally crossed the state line to California. By 7:00pm, I got to see the ocean, by 7:10 the sun set and by 7:25 my car was parked and ready to be unpacked.  Success

On Friday, I walked to the race expo to finally get focused and pick up my packet. The weather was playing me games.  It was overcast but humid, so a light jacket felt good while not in motion.  Then the sun came out and it was still humid... I felt hot. Thought to self: "Gaby, stay hydrated". 

Saturday morning rolled by.  I left the condo at 5:50am and went straight to T2 where I set up my running gear.  Came back to the swim start and T1 and set up the rest of my gear as I got ready for the start.  

The first swim wave started at 6:45 and I heard one of the pro triathletes say: "Damn! This is cold!".  I thought they didn't complain.  Great, another CDA-like swim. My swim wave started at 7:27 so a few minutes before, they let us in the water... it was a water start.  The water was cold. 55 degrees, not a single degree higher! Also, I forgot about the fact that swimming in the ocean means salty water. YUCK. 

The gun went off and the start of the swim, while in the harbor, was perfect. After approx 400 meters, we turned left and the waves started, the water also felt colder and I drank much more water than I would've wanted to.  As I reached the turn around point, I was expecting to have the waves on my back and have the current help me back into the harbor, but no. The waves were coming sideways, so... more "sips" of water.  Finally, made it back to T1, looked at my watch real quick and looked like I had successfully accomplished my goal of PR'ing the 1900m swim by 1 minute. Success

Moving on. As I was getting ready for the bike leg, I kept looking up to the sky, wondering what the weather had in store for me. Earlier, before my swim, there was a light rain that turned into a very very light drizzle, but felt humid. I decided to leave knee and arm warmers behind and took finger gloves. Got on my bike and started pedaling.  The first 20 miles were FAST. I kept looking down to my GPS and I was moving at a steady 22-24 mph.  Whoa! Bella truly brought her A-Game to this race.  I was focused on my nutrition and ate 250 calories/hour religiously.  Took my salt pills once an hour and stayed hydrated without over-doing it.  Mile 21-40 were hilly.  Those were some BIG hills, and I focused on sticking to a steady and manageable pace. I was passing people as if it was my job.  I felt strong, but wondered if I should slow down to save some energy for the run. I didn't, and just stayed focused.  The last 16 miles were back to flat. Lots of pedaling and no rest for the legs.  Got to T2 and glanced at my watch. I, again, had successfully PR'd the bike leg by 12 minutes. Success

I got ready for my run.  Headed out feeling strong which actually scared me.  I have never really been successful at a triathlon run, I always end up having stomach issues or aches and pains so I decided to stick to a comfortable and steady pace, keeping a PR in mind.  That said, PR'ing was not too much of an issue, considering my previous 2 half Ironman runs had been dreadful, but still, I did not want to underestimate it.  I ran through aid stations without taking water knowing that my body is not used to consuming water every 10-20 mins and stuck to my rule of: 1 gel and some water every 45 minutes or 4 miles.  

The course was surprisingly hilly, even though I had heard it was going to be as flat as it could get.  No, not at all, some long but not too steep hills and some steep but short climbs. I stuck to my pace.  As I reached mile 8, I realized I was feeling great, my stomach was content, my legs were strong and my mind was focused: "I will crush this race!". I stuck to my pace, but I smiled. The mile markers were coming fast, faster than usual. And just like that, I could see mile marker 12 in the distance when my GPS said I had been running for 2 hours. I was excited. I sped up. Just like that, I reached mile marker 13 and shortly after that, the finish line.  I had completed my run in 2h13m15s. My fastest half marathon ever is 2h3m... and that was without the swimming and the biking. WOW.  I was almost in tears and it felt good to not be in the back of the pack for a change.  I had just PR'ed my run by 51 minutes. Success

Ten minutes after I finished my race, the sun came out... it got hot. But I was done... and happy... and felt like the athlete I've always wanted to be. So there. You can aspire to be an athlete but it's not until you put your running shoes on and go for a run that you will become an athlete... and not until you do it over and over and over again, that you will become the athlete you've always wanted to be.  It just takes some patience.

To my biggest fan...
...my little brother

Friday, April 6, 2012

Halfway Point

After a rough start to the month of March, it seems like I pulled through in the end. This month started with a trip to Jackson Hole (and I will probably post about this trip separately) on March 1st. That day, I managed to wake up a little earlier than usual and go for a swim. I was adamant about not skipping workouts. After a long drive to Jackson Hole and some stressful weeks at work, everything started going downhill from there.

I had a rough night, I didn't sleep well, which prevented me from going for a run early Friday. My ski day was miserable and I think it was part because I was tired, but part because I didn't get my morning endorphins. After a good night sleep, I had already planned on not working out on Saturday since we were gonna explore the backcountry which is an intense workout on it's own. I had a bad fall and hurt my knee and ankle, which again, prevented me from working out the day after (or skiing for that matter). We got back home and I was exhausted... only to get incredibly sick on Monday. Yep, fever and all.

It was not until later, way later, that week that I was able to get back to it. I was a little nervous about having skipped 7 days of workouts in a row and having to recover from a BAD cold. Regardless, I pulled through and completed a couple very successful bike rides including one 80 miler in which I focused on pacing myself and on my nutrition. It was spotless.

The month ended with my half Ironman in Oceanside on March 30. And well... I will let the numbers speak for themselves. Here are my stats for this month's training:

Weight: Lost an additional 2lbs. I can see my weight loss slowing down, but it's normal. Once I fell below 140, it's been slower, but I feel very healthy.
Swim: I swam 10.4km (6.5 miles). The most so far.
Bike: I rode 289 miles. Whoa! Maybe April I will hit 300.
Run: I ran 57 miles. 13 miles less than last month but yes, I skipped a couple runs due to sickness and exhaustion.

Goals for this month:
Weight: Continue a steady weight loss. CHECK
Swim: DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE. Try not to skip workouts. CHECK
Bike: Do two 70 mile rides outside in preparation to Ironman Oceanside. CHECK (even did an 80)
Run: Keep up the good work. CHECK (mileage decreased but I was strong)

March's Race goals:
Boulder Spring Half: My goal was to break the course PR. Unfortunately, I didn't. I was close, but ended up walking the last mile. I forgot my water and I was literally dying at the end. I was well en route to beat it but didn't by 8 minutes (my last mile was an 18min/mile so there go my lost 8 minutes)
Oceanside: I beat my personal bests in all 3 legs: I swam in 45:19, rode in 3:09:58 and ran in 2:13:15. That's better than my 46:15 swim, 3:21:32 bike and 3:04:14 run.

Coming up in April:
I would like to keep up the weight loss (just a few more pounds), not give up on the swim... I can feel that I'm getting better. Bike longer (Coach says I should do a couple 100+) and get some strong longer runs.

Also, I have a race this month. The Platte River Half Marathon. This is the real test. This is the course that owns my PR of all times. I feel stronger and healthier. I want to beat it. The time to beat is: 2:03:57. Bring on the Spring.