Race Recap – Pioneer Power Sprint Tri

Today I raced my first triathlon and the universe, again, is giggling because I said many, many times that I would NEVER, under any circumstances, do a triathlon.  When will I learn??

Taylor and I spent the night with one of her college volleyball buddies (THANK YOU, Erica!!) so that we wouldn’t have to leave our house at 4:15 AM to get to the race site.  I didn’t sleep well – not because I was in a different environment, but because I ended up with a lot of race jitters last night.  We got ready in record time and headed out to the transition area.  On the way, I stopped to get coffee but it was so close to TWU that I was able to take a total 2 sips before we were there and unloading all our gear.  Carrying it with me wasn’t an option – my hands were full.  I decided it wasn’t anything I could change so just move on and not waste any energy fretting about it. Little did I know this would become the Theme of the Day.  #keepmovingforward

Swimming Sucks

Let’s just get to the point.  The swim didn’t go the way I hoped it would.  I jumped in the water and realized near the end of the first lap that I FORGOT TO TURN MY WATCH ON!!!  Next, I started feeling out of breath because I hadn’t had a chance to warm-up.  Then, I went into minor panic because I knew the guy behind me would be much faster than me which, of course, made the breathing harder.  I got to then end of 50 yards and he was right behind me so I waved him to go in front of me.  I almost went into full panic mode during the 3rd lap and decided to start swimming backstroke at that point.  What happened next?  MY HEART RATE MONITOR FELL OFF IN THE POOL.  I use MioLink, which is worn on the wrist.  It’s great, except when it comes off in the pool during competition.  I didn’t even consider trying to retrieve it.  I knew that there were a ton of people in the pool; I was in the deep end; it might take me more than one attempt to get it and I didn’t want to waste any more time.  So, I backstroked.  My mind was completely and totally in the zone of making a plan for how to deal with the rest of the race without a heart rate monitor and….BUMP….I ran into the end of the lane.  (Go ahead and laugh…I can barely type right now.  Hilarious!!)  By this point I was 150 yards into the 200 yard swim and I was calm and collected, but I also was not trying to break any swim records.  I had decided to go easy at this point because swimming was such a minute portion of the race.  Two minutes probably wouldn’t help me or hurt me in the end.  I considered moving back to freestyle to finish it up, but that caused anxiety so I decided to finish it out and leave that swim in the pool.  I’m really proud to say that I did actually leave it there.  I didn’t carry any of that stress with me in the next phases of the race. #keepmovingforward

Swim time came in at an embarrassing 5:38.

Surprising Myself on the Bike

Transition went well.  I’m sure that I can cut some time here or there but most of the time spent was travelling to and from transition.  I hopped on the bike and was off for the 16 mile ride, having honestly put the swim in my rear view mirror.  I had spent quite a lot of time fretting over this bike during the past couple of weeks.  I mapped the route on Garmin and realized that it was more hilly (on the PC, at least) than I had anticipated.  OK….no, I hadn’t really even thought about it until it occurred to me that Denton is rather hilly.  Regardless, I had wasted time fretting because I was afraid I wouldn’t be strong enough on the bike.  I just hoped that I could get the ride done in an hour’s time.

The bike started out well.  I felt surprisingly strong and the terrain was in my favor to get some good rhythm and speed going before hitting the first serious hill.  It wasn’t too difficult at this point, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t use ALL my energy on the first half of the bike to be left with misery for the rest of the race.  However, I continued to feel strong – not as strong with a killer headwind on the way back, but still strong.  I passed a ton of people.  Two guys passed me not far out of transition, but I am almost 100% certain that I overtook one of them before the bike leg was done.

The problem on the bike was fueling.  I took rocket fuel and water with me on the bike.  I had the rocket fuel in the bottle cage between my aero bars, but it kept spitting and the OCD took over.  I couldn’t handle it!  So I tried to switch the bottles (yes, I even realized how dumb it was at the time but continued on course) but since I don’t have three hands ended up dropping the bottle with water.  Again, decided that I was NOT going to dwell on it as there was nothing that I could do now except manage the situation.  I moved the rocket fuel to my other bottle cage and kept rolling.  My intention was to drink every ten minutes.  I *may* have managed every 20-25.  #FAIL #keepmovingforward

All in all, though, I was happy.  I averaged 17.4 on the bike with a time of 55:35.

Status Quo Run

**Disclaimer** My brain knows that I am still building my endurance speed from when I was out with my psoas.  It’s hard to get my heart to understand.

I wanted 8:30 miles on the run.  I’m not sure if that was ambitious or in line with what I could do in an event like this.  Doesn’t really matter because that’s what my heart wanted.  But then came the hiccup of the lost heart rate monitor.  I am so dependent on running by heart rate.  Yes, I can tell when it gets high, but I generally don’t realize it soon enough.  Especially in a race situation.  So this was definitely something I had to overcome.

I came into transition and drank too much rocket fuel – I knew better but wanted to get some fluids in me and did I have an extra bottle of water handy? NO.  I quickly threw my run shoes and visor on and ran out to the run.  There was a skinny red-head that came out of transition right ahead of me and without even noticing, I just kept the distance between us.  I looked down and was running a sub-8 pace and realized that my current level of fitness wouldn’t hold up to that.  I could also tell that my heart rate was probably going through the roof.  So I slowed down, but the first mile came in at 8:20.  The next mile was tough.  I was getting tired.  I was getting hot.  My stomach was mildly upset from the rocket fuel.  I stopped worrying about the red-head and decided to run what I needed to run.  Mile 2 came in at 9:18.  Mile 2 was tough but mile 3 was torture.  So much uphill. In the heat.  EVIL.  But I was close so I kept chipping away and ended up with 9:16 on that mile.

Run time came in at an OK 27:59.  Not what I wanted, but I may have been a little unrealistic on that front.

Total Time: (200 yd swim, 16.1 bike, 3.1 run): 1:34:25

Making the Podium

When I finished the race, I went back to get my phone from transition and immediately went to Pioneer Hall to see if anyone was left at the pool.  A race volunteer found one of the pool employees and had him come over so that we could look.  Sure enough, my HRM was at the bottom of the pool AND the pool guy just jumped in and retrieved it for me!

The HRM retrieval took some time and by the time I left Pioneer Hall, I ran into Taylor who had finished and had been looking for me.  She did really well and came in exactly 10 minutes after I did!  I am really proud of her and it was such fun having her company for this race!

We went to check our times and realized that: Houston – we have a problem.  I was listed in the 20-24 age group and Taylor was listed in 55-59.  Apparently the race import completely changed many people’s ages.  We hung around just to see if either of us placed and the next list showed me 2nd in my age group.  I was still a little hesitant, though, because I knew that they were still trying to get it all fixed.  Finally, the awards were announced and I did actually take 2nd place in my age group!!  Knowing that I actually placed in my first try at triathlon lifted my spirits and helped me let go of the run over which I was still somewhat upset.img_0666

No worries, because I’m pleased as punch with my performance as I sit here this evening.  I am celebrating today, but tomorrow it is back to work!!img_0672

Next Time…

I definitely went into this race with the mindset that it would be a learning experience and it was just that.

I learned that I handled transitions better than I expected and I felt like I was prepared with most of what I needed for the day.

Things that need improvement:

  • Heart Rate Monitor:  I’ve already been wondering if my HRM will have the battery life to last at Galveston 70.3.  After losing it in the pool today, I’m almost completely convinced I need to go back to the chest strap in these types of race situations.
  • EXTRA WATER at transition.
  • No icky, sticky drinks in aero bottle cage
  • Manage run more efficiently – hold back a little more in the beginning (which will be easier with HRM).
  • Hire a swim psychologist (joking…kind of)
  • COFFEE

I need to shout-out to all my friends that took the time out of their busy schedules to send me well wishes.  There are simply too many to name – and that means I AM BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE!

Love you guys!!

Jen

Dallas Marathon Race Recap…Drink the Beer at Mile 20!!!

Doing the prep work

In the weeks leading up to the race, I slowly began to realize that I might be able run the race strong and injury-free, thanks to my awesome coach, Brent.  Runners always say, “Trust your training”, but I stand by my assertion that if your training is crap then you are smart to question it.  Well, folks, my solo training was crap, which is why I didn’t trust it.  But when I started working with my coach, I was finally completing workouts that were appropriate for me.  Several things happened as a result: my body was allowed to heal and gain strength, my fitness improved and, maybe the most important, I gained confidence again.  Having that confidence in my coach, my workouts and my body put me into a good place to mentally begin the work of the race.  One of the most beautiful things to come from this was that…..I finally, truly trusted my training.

Generally speaking, I fret over all things racing (OK….I fret over EVERYTHING) – especially things I can’t control.  SIT DOWN NOW.  I decided I wasn’t going to fret over those things.  I had no control over the weather, so I didn’t fret over it.  I had no control over what the course would throw at me on race day, so I didn’t fret over it.  I really didn’t have much control over the end result of the day – there are SO MANY factors in 26.2 miles.  I resolved that I would simply have to work around any challenges that race day had to offer and accept the results.

I could have easily shot myself in the foot obsessing over my goal time.  But I didn’t.  Somehow, I was able to push that to the back of my mind each and every time it popped into my thoughts.  I wanted more than anything to run a smart race and keep my ego out of it.  I may not seem egotistical on the surface (I really don’t know if I come across as egotistical or not), but my ego gets in the way of my running A LOT (another reason having a coach is a plus).  Again, I think the confidence gained during training was a big help tackling the mental game.

The actual race

I know all you runners are chomping at the bit, yelling at me to get to the recap already!  Here it goes…

I woke up with a headache, which was likely due to sleeping on an unfamiliar pillow.  I DID NOT PANIC.  (Last year, Jen would have totally panicked.)  Of course, I didn’t bring any Ibuprofen with me, because I rarely take it and I don’t believe in taking pain meds before any workout. Headaches tend to change one’s mind about these things, so I asked my teammate, Aubrun, if she had any…she did and was willing to share!!  (Aubrun to the rescue!!)

Several of the Renegade Endurance team members running Dallas were able to meet in the lobby of our hotel for take a team pic before heading out to the corrals.  Then we were off to the start!

My RE team members are the BEST! +
My RE team members are the BEST!

Race day weather was misty with scattered light rain early on.  Temps were in the 50s and cloudy for the time I was on the course….pretty much perfect!

Then….after what seemed like forever, my corral was off and I had finally started the race!

The challenge for every runner is not to start out too fast.  I was to stay in zone 2 for the first 4 miles, then kick it up to zone 3 as long as things were feeling OK.  I was so afraid I started out too fast, but I kept my heart rate in the prescribed zone, around 150, for those first 4 miles.  I tried to maintain focus on my heart rate without regard to pace.  The first miles came in at: 10:38, 10:15, 10:16, 10:04.  After 4 miles, I kicked it up a notch, staying at the high-end of zone 2 and keeping my HR steady at around 160.  My pace was much faster, though, and I wondered how long I would be able to maintain it.  I quickly diverted my attention back to my HR.  I HAD to maintain my focus, stay in my zone, not allow doubts to creep in and definitely not get caught up in the pace!

I kept my heart rate around 160 for the next several miles, and up to the half my pace per mile varied from 9:22 to 10:04.  Most of the difference came from whether or not the mile was mostly uphill or downhill.  I adjusted my effort on the uphills just to keep it from spiking.  I balanced the downhills by speeding up and using gravity to my advantage, but holding back just enough that my heart rate could come down a few beats.

My time when I crossed the mat at the half was 2:09:51, which was a PR….by about 4 minutes!  I was excited and terrified at the same time!  I grouched at myself for a moment, thinking that I had just DOOMED the second half of the race.  Instead of letting Negative Nelly take over, I tried something new.  I decided to stay the course, run the mile I was in and manage my fuel and heart rate as best as I could.  I did become a little concerned, because I started feeling some fatigue around White Rock Lake (miles 14-17) which caused me to wonder if I might be about to hit the wall.  But mile 18 came and went, and I was still maintaining my pace and heart rate and although I wasn’t feeling as feisty as I had in the first miles….I was hanging in there and there was NO suffering going on.  LOL

It was at mile 18 that I started doing the math in my head and realized that if I could maintain my pace through the end of the race, then I had a shot at 4:15.  I quickly dismissed those thoughts, reminded myself that there was still A LOT of race to run and that the dreaded mile 20 would be coming up soon.  I had to prepare myself mentally for when I hit the wall, and I couldn’t allow myself to get caught up in lofty time goals.  I had to remind myself that running the marathon this well up to this point was a victory in itself.  Miles 14-20 ranged in pace from 9:18-9:51 – again largely dictated by the terrain on the course.

Mile 20 came and I drank the beer.  IT TASTED SO GOOD.  Aaaaaand I got an instant boost from it.  It was almost like a runner’s high – I felt like I could fly.  But I had to keep my heart rate under control!  I knew that after 22, the course was basically a downhill slope to the finish, so making it to 22 still running strong was now my new goal.  At mile 22, I was still feeling incredibly strong.  I toyed with the idea of kicking it up a notch at 5k to go.  However, when I got to 23, my heart rate had been inching up to 165-170s and, 5k is still A LOT of race to go.  I decided to hold steady and made it to mile 24.  At 24.5, when I actually decided that I would kick it up, I could tell that my legs were starting to get tired.  I’m pretty sure my quads might have been screaming at me but I told them to shut up.  At this point, I decided that I would attempt to maintain my pace and attempt a boost after 25, however, looking back at the splits it seems that was all in my head and I had upped the intensity at mile 23.  I missed the 26 mile marker sign then felt a little ticked that I wasn’t exactly sure how far I had to go.  At that point, I was fairly certain that my watch was .30 off from the course, so I knew within .10. (I DID NOT run the tangents well!)  As soon as I saw the finish, I put all I had into it, and thank goodness it was all downhill!  My last 6 mile splits were: 9:46, 9:12, 9:05, 9:07, 9:21 & 9:16.  I took advantage of that downhill and ran as hard as I could.  And I am so proud to say that I had something to give that late in the race!

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I stopped my watch and realized that I had actually run a 4:15 marathon!  Official time: 4:15:12.  BEST.  RACE.  EVER.  Epic shit.  Oh, and I PR’d the half AGAIN in the second half with a 2:05:21!  HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!?!?!

All I can say for this race is that the stars aligned for me.  My coach obviously played a HUGE part in planning the right workouts for me….don’t forget that I was still hobbling around, recovering from injury less than 3 months ago.  I fueled early and often. The combination and timing of my fuel apparently worked, because I did not experience any nausea or other stomach issues.  I used EVERY water stop.  Every. Single. One.  The beer at mile 20 was better than a gel, by a long shot!  Mentally, I brought my “A” game and never let myself loose focus (not for long, anyway).  I wanted to stay in the moment instead of looking too far ahead.  I squashed negative thoughts.  And…..I NEVER HIT THE WALL!!!  I still can’t believe it.

Something else happened.  I finally felt like a marathoner.  A REAL marathoner.  Some people will be upset that I said that.  And I DO NOT discount anyone else’s marathon finish….goodness knows that is the last thing I want to do.  It’s just that intellectually I know that I finished the race last year and that act does, in fact make me a marathoner, but I personally never truly felt worthy of the title of marathoner.  I finally earned it!IMG_6487

Support systems mean so much on race day

This was the first race that I was able to run with teammates from Renegade Endurance.  Seeing them on the course and their family members cheering you on is such a mental boost!  I also had a good friend stand and wait for me for goodness knows how long and the energy I got from that was amazing!

Nothing beats seeing your family, though.  Last year, they struggled to find me.  Not knowing the ins and outs of maneuvering the course, either missing me or not realizing they were ahead of me because they hadn’t gotten a tracking update in quite some time made things difficult.  Bobby wore boots last year and said that he was worn out by walking by the time they found me at mile 22!  LOL

This year, I had the idea to send them an e-crumb via my RoadID app.  The app sends a link which allows the recipient to track your movements on a map.  Taylor said that resource was invaluable to them finding me (and this year, keeping up with me).  (Taylor also said that they couldn’t believe how fast I was moving on the course. 🙂  Instead of catching me at mile 22, I was able to see them at mile 8, 14, 22 and the finish this year!  It was WONDERFUL!  I am one lucky girl!IMG_6461

All the well wishes from friends and family on Facebook and Twitter absolutely blew me away after the race.  I wish I could thank every person in this setting, but there are far too many!!  I also have a very special online group of friends.  We all ran RnR St. Louis together and we keep up with each other via a group chat.  I had so much fun reading all the comments that were made during my race…about my race!

When I had just BARELY had time to get my phone out after crossing the finish line, my sole sister, Jenn, was calling me!  I answered the phone and could barely understand what she was saying because she was SO EXCITED!  Of course, I was on cloud 9 right there with her!  I cherished that phone call and appreciate her so much!  Yup, that phone in my hand?  Jenn was waiting for me the family to take my pic!IMG_6462

Honestly, I wonder if I will ever be able to run another race as well as I ran this one.  Some days the stars align, and some days things just don’t work out.  But even if things never work out that well again, I have this experience to cherish for a lifetime!

For now, it’s time for rest and recovery and a trip to Omaha this weekend with my girls to experience the NCAA DI Volleyball Championships!

Keep moving forward,

Jen

Keep moving forward: A tattoo story

Something happened this weekend.  Almost 2 years of searching, debating, contemplating and discussing culminated in finally settling on a tattoo, then losing my tattoo virginity.

Wayyyyy back when I was training for my first marathon, I decided that I wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate my accomplishment.  I spent a lot of time during training trying to decide what I wanted and where it would go.  Of course, the race was cancelled due to a freakish ice storm, aka Icepocalypse, which bought me time to decide.

I looked off and on throughout the year, finding things from time to time that spoke to me, yet never finding something that I felt confident I could put on my body and be happy to see there 20 years down the road.  I wanted a tattoo that spoke about running, but, then again, deep down inside, I wanted something more meaningful.  I didn’t take lightly putting something PERMANENTLY on my body.  So the marathon that I actually ran came and went, and I was no closer to finding “THE tattoo” than I ever had been.

I finally decided a few weeks ago that it was time.  I just knew it in my gut….and I always trust my gut.  You see, a couple months ago, around MLK day, I started thinking that “Keep Moving Forward” might be the tattoo for me.  Still, I wanted to wait and let the idea simmer and percolate for a while.  And recently, the idea had matured and blossomed into something that I was comfortable living the rest of my life with.

I LOVE Martin Luther King, Jr. and all of his quotes.  But I especially love the one (that I chose) that runners often quote, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  So it does have a connection to runners and running.  And it had a connection to my marathon.  First, I trained for this marathon TWICE.  Then, with my ITB injury, finishing was a mental and physical challenge, but throughout the race, I kept moving forward.  During the last 8 miles when every single step was so painful, quitting was never an option.  So the quote gave me a real, emotional tie to my marathon, which totally commemorates the race!

This quote speaks to me on so many other levels, though.  Most of you who know me or who have read my blog much know that I lost my dearest friend 11 years ago.  That was the biggest and most monumental life test I have ever experienced.  To say moving forward was a challenge would be a gross understatement.  I didn’t want to move forward….I didn’t even understand how I could go on; how I could live.  I was so devastated.  My heart was smashed into a thousand pieces.  But I did go on.  And I did live….even if at first I just went through the motions, but I was doing.  Little by little, moving forward took a bit less effort.  The sparkle slowly returned to my eyes (but not completely until I found running).  In all honesty, this tattoo is as much (in reality, MORE) about Allison as it will ever be about my marathon.  Every time I look at it, I will be reminded that I am NOT a quitter and I CAN overcome whatever life throws my way.  It isn’t lost on me that Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of Allison’s favorite people of all time.  In fact, Kaitlynn recited MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech for the Princess contest one year.  Every time I look at this work of art on my body, I’ll know she is with me.

Of course, it is also a reminder that there are injustices in this world that still must be remedied.  Our society STILL discriminates against anyone and everyone who doesn’t quite look like the majority or think like the majority.  And for a liberal hippy-trippy like me, this tattoo will be a constant reminder that we must fight back against the ignorance and hatred to keep moving forward.  We must put aside our differences and treat each other like human beings, regardless of the color of one’s skin, one’s religion, or sexual orientation.  People are people.  Period. (And while I’m at it….why am I considered a “liberal” person just because I feel people should be treated equally?  I don’t understand why that is such a far-fetched thought.)

Finally, this tattoo speaks to my faith.  It’s no secret that I identify myself with the progressive faith community.  I hope that my actions speak to the fact that my main concern is acting justly, loving kindness and walking humbly with my God.  (By the way, Micah 6:8 is my favorite Bible verse 🙂 ) I (we) can’t rest until everyone is treated justly and with kindness and dignity.  Until then, I will keep moving forward and doing what I can, where I can, when I can.

As for the placement of the tattoo, that has a significance as well.  I had it placed on my left forearm.  I wanted it on my arm so that I could see it everyday.  When this idea originally came to mind, I imagined it somewhere on my foot.  As my ideas evolved, I realized that I needed to be able to see it.  But my left side….my left side is my weak side – the side prone to injury.  I needed it to be on the weaker side because I need to focus on that side in order to be whole…as a runner specifically.

Last weekend, Alli accompanied me (I TRIED to get her to stay home) when I went in to make the appointment and put the deposit down.  On the way, Alli said, “What if you have surgery on the spot where you get this tattoo?  Will they be able to put it back right?”  Only Alli would see that angle!  I had to admit, it was something to think about!

So the date had been set and a good friend accompanied me so that she could lose her tattoo virginity as well.  Of course, having never had a tattoo, we had NO CLUE what to expect!  Luckily, Taylor came with us so she could get a second tat (and keep us straight).

We have friends that own Homestead Winery (in the metropolis of Ivanhoe, Texas) who have a tasting room in Denison.  We decided to make a stop there since Taylor had never been.  Of course, Taylor is taking full advantage of being 21 and looks for these “opportunities” whenever and wherever they arise.  We tasted just enough wine to take the edge off, then were on our way.

May I say that Orange Muscat was pretty yummy.  I came home with a bottle of that!
May I say that Orange Muscat was pretty yummy. I came home with a bottle of that!

We talked to our artist about what we wanted and he set off to draw them up.  Aaaaaand the first draft didn’t work for me.  If you know me, you know that I try to be tactful (most of the time) because I don’t want to unnecessarily hurt someone’s feelings.  Well, I HATED that first sketch.  As I was trying to formulate in my mind how to break it to the guy, Taylor said, “MOM, just tell him you don’t like that one! Don’t get one you don’t like!!”  (OK, for the record, I was NOT going to get something I didn’t like….I was just trying to let him down gently!)  So we discussed again what I wanted and when he came back the second time, I was ready to marry it!

Surprisingly, I was not nervous at all before, during or after.  (I’m sure it had NOTHING to do with the wine tasting prior!)  I was a bit anxious, but I think that was just me, ready to git’er done!

The actual inking took no time at all and wasn’t THAT painful.  However, it was a little painful and my friend was ready and waiting to capture the moment!

I am not smiling.  I am gritting my teeth.
I am not smiling. I am gritting my teeth.
This was in no way as painful as running on shot ITBs.  "#justsaying
This was in no way as painful as running a mara on shot ITBs. “#justsaying

And before I knew it, I was done!

Keep Moving Forward
Keep Moving Forward

It’s no secret that I usually eat as healthy as I possibly can, but after this experience, we went for some comfort food!heart attack on a plate

Yes, I ate most of this.  I also had a strawberry daiquiri that I had been looking SO forward to, but it was a terrible disappointment.  It wasn’t sweet at all and mostly rum! (OK….I love rum! So not going to complain about that!!)

And here I sit, roughly 24 hours later, happier with it than I could ever have imagined.  I am SO glad that I finally bit the bullet and had it done!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Jen