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Archive for September, 2012

The oddsmakers keep revising the betting odds for whether or not I will run the marathon on November 10, a mere six weeks away. I had pretty much resigned myself to bowing out of the race due to plantar fasciitis, but then a devilish little birdie whispered in my ear. “Come on. Just take a look at your training plan. Let’s think about how you could juggle the long runs and get back on track. See how you do and then decide.”  I listened to that little devil and ran 12 miles last Sunday, a three-mile aqua jog on Monday, followed by another six on the trails on Wednesday. Those runs felt okay, not great. Good enough to continue. So this Saturday morning I watched the sun rise as I started out for what I hoped would be 15 miles, a new personal distance record. I jogged along the dirt path, shunning the asphalt trail, all the better to pamper my delicate feet.

An internal debate started. Should I just go out a mile and then turn around, so I could easily bail at any point 2 or 4 or 6 miles into the run, or should I commit to the full 15 and go out 7.5 miles?  I committed. I know, I know, you’re thinking I should be committed for this crazy push to continue the training. I too questioned my sanity at several points along the run. One of the first things I asked myself was why I hadn’t gone out to buy some KT Tape yet, or some Superfeet Insoles. Then I answered myself, well Self, probably because in the 45 minutes before school on Thursday morning alone, you did the following:

  • Made breakfast for three girls and myself
  • Ate said breakfast
  • Dressed a preschooler and made sure the other two were appropriately dressed (even at this stage it’s necessary to check that my free spirit 7-year-old isn’t going commando under her dress)
  • Hair brushed? Teeth brushed? Sunscreen? Shoes? Remind remind remind children eleventy-billion times until the answer is yes. Remind 7-year-old to get out the laminated “Good Morning Checklist” we made last year so I can stop reminding them!
  • Packed three lunches (usually the older girls do this themselves but sometimes I surprise them and myself by doing it)
  • Made sure three girls had their school bags with all the necessary papers
  • Ensured that all the necessary papers were signed in all the necessary places. That sounds easy enough but for two elementary school children, that meant no less than FIVE signatures. (1) Homework for 7-year-old, (2)-(5) agenda, practice spelling test, reading log and pass-back folder for the 10-year-old. RIDICULOUS.
  • Helped 7-year-old practice her poem recitation one last time.
  • Remembered it was picture day and remembered to (finally) log on the computer to choose portrait styles and pay for them and print the receipts for the girls to take to school.

My point to myself being, I have some things on my plate that shove “extraneous running gear shopping” to number 95 on my to do list. So I stopped berating myself and got on with the run, which actually felt great.

At one point I saw a sign from the universe. You all know how I feel about signs, given the one before I ran my first half marathon, and the one that inspired me in my training for my first Olympic distance triathlon. This time, the sign looked like this:

Mile Marker

Just add .2

Well, oddsmakers, what do you think now?

I continued on the run and hit 7.75 miles before I turned around. I was more than happy to turn back at that point, given that the view from the trail looked like this:

view of 91

Worst trail view ever. Might as well be running ON the 91 freeway.

I started to get tired toward the end of the run. I’m pretty sure no one saw me give the finger to the hill I faced 13.5 miles into my run. As my preschooler would say, “I remember not doing it.”

It was all downhill after that, and I finished the last two miles strong. 15 miles in 2 hours 20 minutes, for a pace of 9:22, ahead of my training goal pace of 9:26. I stretched, ate a PB&H sandwich on whole wheat, hurried home, became intimate with my foam roller, soaked in an Epsom salt ice bath, showered, put some arnica gel on my feet and iced them for a bit. Whew! 15 miles in the bag!

What’s the longest distance you’ve ever run?

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I just finished reading A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey and I could hardly wait to tell you about it. I thoroughly enjoyed this autobiography by four-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington and I recommend it not only to triathletes but anyone who enjoys a compelling story.

The book is honest, interesting, funny and exciting. It touches on an unexpected variety of topics that includes eating disorders, philanthropy, travel and world development (social and economic change). Chrissie does triathlon a favor by sharing her enthusiasm and insight into the sport. Even when you already know how a particular race will turn out, she takes you on the journey and makes it thrilling.

I have read several sports-related books lately (you can see the list at the Store page) and this is one of my favorites. I’d go so far as to say that if you’re interested in the ironman distance race and you had to choose one book between the recent releases A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey and You Are an Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing the World’s Toughest Triathlon, I’d choose A Life Without Limits as the clear first choice. Not only is Chrissie Wellington an accomplished endurance athlete, she’s an accomplished writer as well.

One last note about Chrissie Wellington. You might recall how I raced the Nautica Malibu Triathlon recently. I did Saturday’s Olympic distance race and enjoyed it very much, but had a tiny pang of regret when I heard the next day that Chrissie participated in a relay for Sunday’s Classic distance race. As you will read in the book, she so generously stays at the finish line after each of the races she participates in and she hands out medals to the remaining finishers. How cool would that have been to receive my hard-earned medal from Chrissie?!

Have you read A Life Without Limits? Have you met Chrissie Wellington or seen her race? What book have you read lately that you recommend?

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In retrospect, it appears that several things contributed to my development of plantar fasciitis, the pain in my . . . feet. 😉 In my marathon training, I made the mistake(s) of adding on too much speed work and hill work at the same time I built up the running mileage. With my new gym membership, I started running more often on the treadmill rather than running on the softer surfaces at the track or on trails. I also made errors of omission. I should have strengthened and stretched my plantar fasciae and calves. Any of those things alone could have done my feet in, but I think there’s one more new thing I introduced that really is the main culprit:

(That’s an Amazon affiliate image, just so I could show you The Culprit. It’s cheaper to buy a spin bike direct through spinning.com, although feel free to buy through my link because the commission would be more than I would normally make in a year from Amazon Associates. 🙂 But I digress.)

Yes, it’s my beloved Star Trac NXT Spin Bike that I ride in my favorite Cycle Sculpt class at the gym. Because my road bike shoes do not fit the cleats on the indoor spin bike, and I do not (yet) have the right indoor spinning bike shoes, I have been wearing my regular running shoes in the pedal toe clips. That means that when I add resistance and stand up on the bike, all my weight rests on the balls of my feet and strains the plantar fasciae. (This is my non-medical, my-own-experience your-mileage-may-vary opinion of what’s happening). How do I know this? My feet were feeling surprisingly great a few days after racing in the triathlon a week ago. I got back on the spin bike for a 40-minute workout and I ended up with a major flare-up of the plantar fasciitis. The spin bike hadn’t bothered me when I remained seated for an entire Cycle Sculpt class, and my hour-plus outdoor bike ride for the triathlon didn’t bother me, but just 40-minutes and a few intervals of standing up on the spinning bike strained my feet. I’m not saying it’s the sole culprit, but it’s definitely a big contributor. I’m not going to give up spinning, but I will certainly stay seated on the bike until I can buy some proper indoor cycling shoes.

The good news in all this is that I do not think running is doing as much damage to my feet as I thought. I got out yesterday for a 12-mile run (if you could call it that — I’d be more inclined to call it a slogging 2 hour 15 minute jog). While my feet weren’t exactly thanking me, they feel pretty good today. Better than my aching thighs and hips! Clearly I’ve lost some fitness in the last few weeks of dealing with the plantar fasciitis, but I’m determined to get back on track, so to speak.

I leave you with a little unrelated laugh, compliments of my bill-paying efforts this morning. When I paid my garbage hauler (trash) bill, I noticed this awesome promise on the bottom of the bill:

IF NOT SATISFIED WITH OUR SERVICE,

WE GUARANTEE “DOUBLE YOUR TRASH BACK”

What are your thoughts on my theories as to what has contributed to the plantar fasciitis? If you’ve dealt with PF, what do you think caused it? Do you have a recommendation for good indoor cycling shoes?

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Today I’m flashing back to May 2012 to report on my first half marathon, the OC Half Marathon that runs from Newport Beach, California to the OC Fair grounds in Costa Mesa.

Night before the race: I was so nervous! More nervous than my two triathlons. I’d trained so hard for this race and put so many hours in. I wanted it all to pay off, and to have a good race, and not get injured, and meet my goal of a sub-2 time. My training runs the last few weeks of training had been slow. I felt rickety and sore and could hardly keep up a 5 to 5.5 mph pace even for the 3 mile runs. How could I run 6.5+ mph for 13.1 miles? I slept horribly and was grateful when it was time to get up at 3:45 a.m.

Morning of the race: I always feel a bit better the morning of a race. The time has arrived and now I just need to get to the starting line on time. It was dawn as I went to get in my car in the driveway. Suddenly a large white bird flapped its wings and lifted off of the top of my garage roof! It was an egret, one of the birds I had seen many times along the Santa Ana River Trail as I trained. I took it as a good omen.

I was still quite nervous but I’d planned well for the logistics. It was a pain trying to find the right parking lot, and then find the porta-potties, but I’d left enough time that it all worked out. I had a bit of a scare when the horn sounded for the marathon start time, but that was for the full marathon which was starting about 20 minutes late. In the line for the porta-potty, I chatted with a young guy ahead of me. He was there with his sister. I mentioned that it was my first half marathon, and the sister gave me the ultimate compliment right before a race. She looked surprised and said I looked like a pro! I glowed. The line moved quickly and I was glad to meet up with my training group and pass off my sweatshirt, phone and key, and then hurry to the start line for the national anthem.

Start of the race: I felt superb. No aches or pains, no lingering injuries. I had excess energy due to the pre-race jitters, and I felt fantastic going out. I should have slowed down in fact. I went out too fast and there was no way I was going to “negative split” and run the second half of the race faster than the first. At the time I figured I should burn off those excess energies and gain as much time as I could. I know that wasn’t exactly the best strategy and it certainly won’t serve me well for a marathon.

People placed themselves appropriately in the corrals so I was starting with a fast crowd in corral A. It was amazing to run with that many people. It was overcast and cool, and all I could hear was the pounding of running shoes and the huffing breaths of fellow runners. I took a moment to appreciate the camaraderie of 8,708 people running the same race. I didn’t have to dodge too many people but I felt like I was passing more people than were passing me, and I never like that feeling. You want to run 13.1 miles, not 13.2 because you had to run right and left to get around other people.

Mile 1: Already I regretted wearing my lightweight long-sleeved shirt and wished I’d opted for a short-sleeved shirt. I could have even run in shorts. It was overcast but warm enough at 60-some degrees that I felt hot running at my pace. My sunglasses even fogged up at one point. I worried about what I’d do with them if that continued. Wear them on top of my head of course, but even that seemed like a chore. I left them on and plowed ahead and they cleared. I was grateful I wasn’t one of the people who felt a need to stop at the mile 1 porta-potties. My pre-race nerves had taken care of that!

Mile 3.1: I checked my watch at 3.1 miles and my time was close to my 5K time from the Turkey Trot back in November. Oops. That’s a clear indication I was running too fast. Still I didn’t care. In the moment I was happy to be running sub-9-minute miles and figured I was banking time for later. I sipped Gatorade about every mile.

Mile 4-ish: Some cute little girls were handing out water bottles for free. They weren’t race volunteers, they’d just decided to cheer on the racers and offer free bottled water. I didn’t see anyone taking them up on it but I thought it was nice.

Mile 5: I took a cup of water from a volunteer at the aid station. I figured I’d need it to go with the gel I planned to take at mile 6. I chucked my empty cup toward a trash can and nearly hit a guy who was coming up on my left. I apologized and he told me I hadn’t hit him. 🙂 I was glad about that.

Mile 5.5: I totally started to drag around mile 5.5. I was questioning why I was running that race, why I thought I could do a half marathon, what was fun about that, why I was putting myself through that, how was I going to complete another 7.6 miles, and how would I feel if I didn’t meet my time goal of under 2 hours? I could hardly focus on the beauty of the course. It was all I could do to breathe and think about my form and try not to trip on the small, round yellow and white reflectors that marked the lane lines on the road. We ran along some streets that had gorgeous, multimillion-dollar homes on the right and the Corona del Mar State Beach on the left. At one point I passed a woman who was pushing a tweenager girl in a wheelchair. The girl was ringing a cow bell and smiling and clearly enjoying the race. It was quite inspirational. I told myself to suck it up and be grateful that I could run.

Somewhere just before mile 6, a woman runner called out, “Does anyone have the time? Anyone?!” I answered her with the number on my Garmin — not the time of day but the time since I started the race. I’m not sure how helpful that was to her, given that we likely had not crossed the start line at the same time and thus “her” time was not the same as “my” time, but I felt glad to be able to help her, especially since no one else answered. I don’t blame them — it was all I could do to focus on my race.

Mile 6: I took the green apple gel and some Gatorade and was grateful for them. Another half mile later they kicked in and I got a second wind. Thank goodness! I felt a lot better and told myself that I’d need to make some changes next time (what next time?!) — either eat more before the race, or take a gel earlier in the race.

Mile 6.5: I passed a male runner who was carrying the American flag. There I was, nearly regretting the extra weight from wearing a race belt with my water bottle, and there he was carrying a huge American flag on an 8-foot pole! He had to lower it down to go under the bridge and onto the cliff path. The mile markers along the course all had banners: “I run…” “for myself and no one else” “because I can!” “to stay fit… look good… feel good!” (that’s me!) “in honor of our US armed forces for protecting my freedom to do so!” etc. It was cool to see that flag.

Mile 7: We ran along a narrower cliff path instead of a two-lane road and while it was gorgeous, it highlighted the fact that there were still a tremendous number of runners crowding the course. People were running on the left to pass on the grass and the dirt/sand. When I went by the photographer at mile 7 and ran over the timing mat (which I assume was there to check that people weren’t cheating on the course, because the race results didn’t show the split time I hoped to see from that mat), there were people surrounding me all around. When I watched the video later on, I could see that people were lined up 8 across, even when they weren’t in a group running together. The course was just that crowded. I never felt slowed down exactly, but I felt annoyed at having to expend the energy to pass other runners.

Miles 8-11 are a total blur. I have no idea what happened on those miles. I know I got water at one point. Anytime I didn’t want water at an aid station I moved to the other side of the road to avoid runners who were slowing down. I got into a zone. I found another runner who was going at my pace. She wore a neon yellow tank top with pink puffy paint in the shape of a heart. I focused on keeping up with her. At mile 9 or so she paused to hug her mom and shout, “I’m keeping under 9!” That’s how I knew I was on target for my goal. My Garmin told me so, but it was fun to hear another runner confirm it. It was getting harder to stay under 9, and anytime we hit a hill my pace would creep above 9, sometimes even 10. Just before mile 11 my training class friend Kevin passed me and said, “Good job, Angela!” I was pleased to see him because it meant that I was doing well (he was always faster than I was at the long training runs) and his neon yellow-green shirt gave me something else to focus on ahead.

Mile 11: At mile 11 we hit a huge hill. For a training run it would have been no big deal, nothing I don’t do on the hills near my house. At mile 11 on a 13.1-mile race? It was a big deal. I kept running though and used my training to my advantage. I tried to stay on pace and didn’t beat myself up when I didn’t. I started telling myself to “leave it all out on the course! You won’t regret it! Two more miles! Push yourself! Speed up!”

Mile 12: I was so glad to see the turn off for the marathoners to go right and the half-marathoners to go left. It didn’t even occur to me that I’d never run more than 12 miles before. Nor did it occur to me how crazy it would be to continue to the right and run another 14.2 miles. 🙂 I was totally focused on running a super-fast last 1.1 miles. I kept telling myself that I had less than 10 minutes to go, and I wouldn’t regret pushing myself. My form was terrible but I was running faster (so my Garmin said) and I just concentrated on running as fast as I could. A band was playing at mile 12 and I was grateful to the drum beat cheering me on.

The last two turns were discouraging. I couldn’t see the finish line yet! When would I see the finish line?! I started to feel a tiny bit of relief at the same time because I knew I was going to finish, and likely would be under the 2-hour mark. I wasn’t injured. I could feel my left hamstring yelling at me a bit, but it wasn’t injured, just sore. I pushed myself harder and harder. Keep up with neon tank top girl! You can do it!

Mile 13: Finally I saw the finish line. I pushed myself as hard as I could. I couldn’t look left or right to see if I could see Mike and the girls, but I heard my preschooler say, “There’s Mama. Go Mama!” I waved in her direction but focused on the finish line. I drove hard to the finish, put two thumbs up, and smiled. When I crossed the timing mat, I slowed to a walk and wobbled a bit. Not that anyone else would notice, but I noticed! I hardly wanted to stop walking to have the volunteer put the medal around my neck. I was afraid if I stopped I’d crumple to the ground!

13.1: How did I feel at the finish? So glad to be done. Thrilled to have met my time goal with a finish time of 1:55:10. Relieved not to be injured. I kept walking to the refreshment table. I tapped neon tank top girl on the shoulder and thanked her for being my pacer, even though she didn’t know it. 🙂 She smiled and patted me back. I gasped to a volunteer a question about where the water was. All I could see was Gatorade or some such drink and I wanted water. I went back a few tables and found an electrolyte water drink. Perfect. I kept walking to the Beer Garden where I’d arranged to meet Mike. I talked to two women who’d done the 5K, and then a half marathon guy joined us. We rejoiced in our PR’s (no matter that it was my first race and any time was a PR!)

My girls ran up to me and hugged me and congratulated me and oooh’d and aah’d over my “golden medal.” It was such a thrill to meet up with them there. My girls dived into my post-race banana and granola bars, but Mike handed me an egg sandwich they’d brought and I was happy to share. I could hardly swallow a bite at that point anyway. It all tasted like cardboard. I ate some banana and about 45 minutes later some egg sandwich. I never did eat any granola bar after the first cardboard bite. I was happy, drenched in sweat (to the point of feeling cold now that I wasn’t running anymore) and so excited to enjoy the rest of my day as I recovered from the race and rewarded myself with time with my family at the beach and good food and, later, drink.

Post-race: I hobbled around on sore legs but felt surprisingly good. I took advantage of the free Massage Envy massage. The guy worked on my legs and it both hurt and felt awesome. Hurt so good. My coach had offered me some arnica cream which I gratefully rubbed on my thighs and hamstrings. I smiled a huge smile when I saw the “13.1” Mike had written on the dust on the back window of the car. At the beach I took an “ice bath” in the ocean and then iced my thighs, hamstrings and calves with the bags of ice Mike brought. I rested, walked, and ate some chicken and apples. Back at home several hours later, I watched a movie, enjoyed a cheese omelette made by Chef Mike, and had some red wine. I felt great. The post-race high kicked in.

The day after: I was quite sore anytime I started walking, but once I got going I felt good. Going down the stairs was a challenge, as was sitting down on a chair or sitting down on the toilet LOL, but really I felt surprisingly good. I felt such a huge sense of satisfaction from the race that I was glad I’d done it. Proud of myself for sticking with the training, and grateful that it had all paid off with a great race.

Two days after: I felt so good physically and mentally that I was looking for the next challenge. I started researching the various marathon options. Could I do it? Did I want to do it? If I was even thinking about it, I should go for it! I looked at the Santa Barbara International Marathon site and the Yelp reviews of the race, and those things combined with the ideal date of November 10 (a Saturday race, with the girls having off Friday and Monday from school), I decided it was fate. I emailed Mike with the subject line: 26.2.

Three days after: I officially signed up for the marathon. I ordered books about it. I put books on hold at the library. I was in, 100%. No going back. I didn’t feel panicked. I felt good. Appropriately challenged, a little nervous, and a lot excited.

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It was bound to happen sooner or later — my first meme! Thanks to the ladies at anothermotherrunner.com for the inspiration. Feel free to play along in the comments or answer the 10 questions on your own blog. I’d love to read the answers!

Here goes:

1. Best run ever: It’s hard for me to say what I consider the “best.” The one I’d most like to repeat is a 2.7-mile trail run I did in Zion National Park. It was just one month after I’d gotten back into running about a year and a half ago, and this was one of the first runs where I felt strong, powerful, and free. I was distracted by the spectacular views and by watching my footing.

Zion National Park

The view at the start of my run in Zion National Park.

It hardly felt like I was running. I was using my leg power to travel along the Emerald Pools trails to see some of the most beautiful places in the country. I was cheered along by the comments of the few people I saw on the trail. “She’s running here!” and “Either you must be in great shape or you’re in a hurry!”

The run I’m most proud of is the OC Half Marathon last May 2012. It was my first and only half marathon. I pushed myself hard to achieve my goal of a sub-2 half, and while I didn’t exactly enjoy the effort, I was extremely happy and proud with the result.

My best run ever in terms of fitness and confidence-boosting was the 13 mile run I did with my half marathon coach and friend Stephanie last August. The first six miles went smoothly and I felt so great when I met up with Stephanie at the half way point that we ran faster than my target training pace. Not only did we run faster, but I was having so much fun chatting with her that I forgot to keep track of the mileage and we ran a bonus mile to make it 13. If I’d thought about it I would have tacked on another 0.2 for a personal distance record!

2. Three words that describe my running: Challenging, rewarding, powerful.

3. My go-to running outfit is: I just got some Under Armour 4″ compression shorts that are my new summer favorites. I do like wearing running tights in the California “winter” because it means I don’t have to shave my legs! (Truth be told I will run in shorts without shaving my legs — I care more about getting the run in than I do about pleasing others with their highfalutin leg-shavin’ standards. Call me a hippie.)

4. Quirky habit while running: I am a mouth breather, but that’s not so unusual is it? Sometimes I run while listening to an audiobook, but I typically run without a book or music.

5. Morning, midday, evening: If I have my way, I run in the morning, preferably before my husband and three girls are awake. I love coming home to find them all still sleeping. They haven’t missed me, and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment at having checked off my training for the day before my family’s day has even started. That said, I have been known to run at 8 p.m. if that’s what it takes to get my training run in.

6. I won’t run outside when it’s: Hmm. There hasn’t been a time yet when I wouldn’t run outside. Southern California is pretty weather-friendly for running and I don’t let the heat stop me. I try not to run in the dark. I’d prefer not to run in a thunderstorm or on icy roads. I do like to run in a light rain though — it’s a nice change for me!

7. Worst injury—and how I got over it: Plantar fasciitis. It’s been a few weeks and I’m still getting over it, physically and mentally. Send healing vibes! I feel like my feet are my new job — stretching, strengthening, rolling with the tennis ball, icing, massaging with arnica gel, resting, and wearing the Strassburg sock(s) at night. I just read that American Olympian Ryan Hall has dropped out of the New York City Marathon due to plantar fasciitis and other problems. If an elite runner can be sidelined at this point by plantar fasciitis for his November 4th marathon, maybe I shouldn’t feel bad about missing my November 10th one.

8. I felt most like a badass mother runner when: In the middle of my half marathon training plan, I went out for a Saturday long run on a local trail. I could hear a guy running behind me, but I kept up my pace and he did not catch up to me until we had to stop at a road crossing. He asked me what I was training for, and I practically burst at the seams with pride. I looked like a runner! A stranger knew I was training for a race! I told him about the half marathon and my sub-2 goal, and he told me exactly what I needed to hear at that point: “You can do it! You’ve got it!” Amazing how people come into our lives out of the blue and offer us such wonderful little gifts. It didn’t cost him anything and yet his words gave me so much.

9. Next race is: My next race is the SheROX San Diego sprint triathlon in October. My next running race on the calendar is the Santa Barbara International Marathon in November, but that’s looking to be my first DNS in light of the plantar fasciitis. I’m proceeding with my training by aqua jogging in the pool (and biking and swimming), and I’ll either try to downgrade my registration to the half marathon, or skip it altogether and set my sights on another marathon. I’ve been reading Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington’s new book A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey (book review spoiler: I love it!) and I found it pretty inspiring to read how she had to miss the 2003 London marathon due to a hematoma in her left thigh. Instead of running the race, she enjoyed watching it live as Paula Radcliffe broke the world record. That story reminds me to keep a positive attitude and stay in the game for the long haul. There will be another race for me.

10. Potential running goal for 2013: If I cannot start/complete the marathon in 2012, I will look forward to 2013 and the chance to try again. Perhaps the LA Marathon in March?

Answer one or more of the questions in the comments or come back and post a comment with the link to the answers on your blog!

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Long story short: I decided to do the Nautica Malibu international distance triathlon this weekend and I am very glad I did.

It all started with picking the girls up from school a half hour early. “Do they have an appointment?” Ummmm…. “They have my appointment [to pick up my race packet in Malibu by 6 p.m.].” Off we went, safely to arrive at Zuma Beach by 5 p.m. Got my race packet with timing chip, race number, t-shirt (yes I will fit a women’s small I’m-just-wearing-a-poufy-blouse-thank-you-very-much) and bright green swim cap.

Pre-race with triathlon numbers

I swear I’m not five months pregnant.

I discovered I’d be in wave number 10, the last wave, which would start at 7:45 a.m. Not ideal given the forecast for 94 degrees Fahrenheit in Malibu on race day. The guy next to me at the race info board cheered me up by saying, “You don’t look like you’re over 40!” Apparently I was supposed to reply that he didn’t look like he was over 50, but I dropped the ball on that one. I told him to chalk it up to my race nerves.

We camped for the weekend at Leo Carrillo State Beach Campground just nine miles up the road from Zuma. I felt a few adrenaline rushes over the course of the evening as I thought about the race the next day, but I calmly went about the job of sticking my race number on my helmet, twist-tying it on my bike, and pinning it on my race belt. Yes, pinning it on, because I discovered that my four-year-old had taken the race number toggles off my race belt. I’d seen them around the house the day before but made no connection that that’s what they were. Stinker. Safety pins worked fine.

We got to bed around 10:30 p.m. and I had little trouble going to sleep in spite of my race jitters. I guess that’s the advantage of no taper and my exhaustion at the end of a busy week and long drive. All too soon my alarm went off at 4:15 a.m. I chowed down a bowl of Corn Flakes and skim milk and a slice of whole grain bread. Not my usual pre-race meal because in all my effort to be less uptight about races, I forgot to pack the oatmeal. Oops.

We loaded everyone up into the car under the starry sky. I felt bad to awaken the girls at that early hour, but that was the only way they’d be able to see me at the event and they wanted to film and photograph me for a school project. My four-year-old was such a trooper. She jabbered away the whole time I put her in her car seat. “I love you. You’re the best mom in the whole wide world. Thank you for taking us camping. I love camping.” We arrived at Zuma at 5 a.m., and I quickly unloaded for the long walk to transition, while Mike and the girls went back to sleep in the car. I snagged an excellent spot in transition, second from the front end of my rack. I chatted with Jill from northern California and she helpfully gave me some tips about the course and kept me distracted from any lingering race nerves. Triathletes are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Competitive sure, but mainly against themselves. They know what it’s taken you to get there on race day, and they want you to have a great race too.

SWIM (1,500 meters, a swim mile)

After a quick race meeting at 6:30, we started the slow walk to the swim start. I downed a PowerBar Green Apple Gel around 7 a.m., just as the gun was going off for the first wave. I waited in the long line to use the women’s restroom one last time but quickly decided the ocean would suit me just fine. I dove in for a warm-up swim and had 20 minutes to spare before my wave start. I bumped into Alma, the woman I’d met at the swim clinic a few weeks before. She’d paid close attention to the earlier swim waves and gave me the advice to start off to the left of the pack because the ocean current was pushing swimmers right up the shore and past the first buoy. I’m telling you, triathletes are the most generous people (and I did try to pay back some of that generosity on the course).

Nautica Malibu swim start

Less nervous than just plain excited at this point!

As we waited for our wave to start, the ocean waves got bigger and bigger! Another disadvantage to the late start time. Thank goodness I had practiced at Zuma Beach twice before. Two people in my wave actually had to turn back and DNF. I felt so bad for them, knowing that the first time I’d tried to swim out past the waves in my practice swim, I’d had to turn back and try again later.

I started out strong and did a good job entering the ocean. I battled my usual problem of adrenaline at the start and felt I couldn’t catch my breath. I never have a problem like that in the pool, so it’s particularly frustrating to me on race day. After I rounded the first buoy of six, I flipped to my back for some backstroke to get my breathing under control. At that point, the thought crossed my mind that I never wanted to do a triathlon again. That is laughable to me now that it’s done! It took me a long time in the swim to get to where I could do more freestyle than backstroke. I hit my groove by about the fourth buoy. I was going strong as I rounded the sixth and final one, and I swam hard for shore. I managed to catch two waves and on the second one, I body surfed so far in that I landed on my knees on the sand! What a rush!

Swim time: 28:17, a PR over my prior HITS Palm Springs time of 31:11.
Swim rank: 608 of 1142. Lots of room for improvement (a nice way to put it).

T1

I walked up the beach, mindful of not running barefoot on the sand with my plantar fasciitis. I’m sure that cost me some time in T1 but I used that time to get my wetsuit down and to catch my breath. I felt great at that point, happy to be out of the water! I had no problem finding my bike rack as I’d paid careful attention at setup in the morning.

T1 time: 3:58. Again, more room for improvement.

BIKE, 24.8 miles

I felt strong heading out on the bike. That part of the race is my absolute favorite and if you asked me which is my strongest suit, I would say that, even though my times don’t bear that out, as you will see.

The course is rolling hills up and down Pacific Coast Highway. I passed a ton of people and was only passed by one person that I did not pass back later. There are a couple of no-passing zones on the course and that frustrated me. I was good about using the time to grab a drink and do some recovery breathing to power myself after the no-passing zone ended. At one point I was slowed by an ambulance pulling out on the course. It was quite sobering, much like the time a lifeguard crossed my path on the swim at HITS Palm Springs. I was so annoyed then until I realized he was saving someone from drowning. Doh!

I couldn’t tell if I was pushing too hard on the bike and would burn out on the run, or if I should push even harder. Unfortunately I had hit the wrong button on my Garmin and it was set for use indoors, only telling me the stopwatch time and not the pace! In retrospect I could have gone a bit faster.

Bike time: 1:18:53, 18.8 mph, another PR over my HITS Palm Springs time of 1:19:25.
Bike rank: 524 of 1142, top 45.9%.

T2

I goofed up racking my bike and had to flip it around but didn’t lose much time with that. I took a few extra seconds to squirt some sunscreen into my hands and I slapped that on as I ran out of transition. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, dripping in sweat and globs of white zinc oxide sunscreen, but it was totally worth it. I have a slight sunburn at the outside edges of what I could reach on my back! I’m guessing by the time I was out on the run, the air temperature had hit 80+ degrees.

T2 time: 2:06. I wish it were under 2!

RUN (10K, 6.2 miles)

My legs felt great for the run. I don’t remember feeling like I had lead legs like I often do coming off the bike. I ran by feel and effort, with no Garmin data to tell me how I was doing. In retrospect that was probably a good thing. I feel like I left everything out on the course. It was HOT and hard, not nearly as fun as the bike portion. I used the 6.2 miles to practice taking in fluids at the aid stations each mile. I missed one aid station, thinking I’d hit the opposite one as the course looped back, but I had misjudged the course and it was a long way back to that point! I was parched by the time I reached the next aid station. I grabbed water to pour on me and Gatorade to drink. The Gatorade tasted like liquid gold and I knew I needed the nutrition.

At one point on the second half of the run, I passed a guy who then uttered, in the saddest Eeyore voice, “Five.” I strongly suspect I was the fifth female to pass him that day! I had to suppress a smile. I’m not even sure he knew he said it out loud.

At mile five, I sped up as best I could, and when the finish line was in sight, I put on the kick. Now I know why I look so hunched over at every finish — I forget all about form (which I had been so good about practicing throughout the rest of the run) and I practically will my body across the finish line, leading with my head and neck! I did finish strong, if not pretty!

Run time: 52:10, a PR over my HITS Palm Springs time of 55:35, but not a PR over my stand-alone 10K time of 51:29. Pace of 8:26.
Run rank: 390 of 1142, nearly in the top third!

Finish time: 2:45:34, a 7:24 PR over my HITS Palm Springs time of 2:52:58. My husband was quite impressed, given what he said was a harder (ocean) swim, a harder (hillier) bike, and a harder (hotter) run.
Finish rank: 9th of 40 in my 40-44 age group, top 22.5%. 60th of 301 females, top 19.9%. 443 of 1142 overall, top 38.8%.

Nautica finish

One happy finisher and one awesome “TRI” husband!

Things I would do differently: (1) work even more on the open water swim and get my breathing/adrenaline under control, (2) practice T1 to get my time down, (3) push even harder on the bike, (4) practice racking the bike so it’s second nature, (5) use spray sunscreen to get those unreachable spots.

Things I’m really happy about: (1) I am super happy with my run time. The main reason I trained for a half marathon last spring was to improve my running form and speed after my last Olympic distance triathlon in December 2011. Mission accomplished! I cannot believe I was nearly in the top third of runners overall, male and female. (2) I’m amazed at my swim time as well, given how much of the swim I did with backstroke, and I know I can do even better next time. (3) Body surfing! (4) I am thrilled that I had a PR for all three disciplines and the finish time.

As much as I debated whether or not to race, I know it was a good decision to do it. My feet feel no worse from the plantar fasciitis than they did earlier in the week, although I know it will likely take me an extra week now to recover and feel as good as they did on race day.

Did you race or train over the weekend? How did it go?

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