Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Panama 70.3

What an amazing week! I'm a very lucky girl to have had the chance to put Panama 70.3 on my race calendar this year.

When the race was announced, Brendan posted to FB and I knew I wanted this race to be my endurance tri comeback. I raced a bit last year but with no real focus or structured training plan. With Kyle deployed, it was the logical decision to train all winter to keep my mind and body occupied. So here I am on my last day in Panama, reflecting back.

First off thanks to my coach, Brian, with Triathlon Lifestyle Coaching. He yet again got me through injury free on a new plan, with much less volume than IMSG [obviously.] Also thanks to Matt at Crac San Diego for his amazing ART [active release techniques] work on my body and keeping me moving.

Thanks to my many training partners, but especially Noko and Erin, for giving me the motivation to get out of bed each day through the cold, dark winter to help me prepare for this hot, humid summer race. :)

And thanks to Kyle for supporting me, even from afar!

So. Race morning. Set up transition and walk to the swim start which was a bit up the amador. Walked onto the pier and waited. Luckily there was a dj playing some awesome girly pump up songs. Race was delayed 23 minutes. No swim warmup as we were only allowed to jump in the water as the wave in front of us left. We had to hold on to the rope line that the buoys were attached to so we didn't get moved past the start line from the current.

The Current. Seriously, I've swam in rivers with less current. In Panama, on the Pacific side, there are huge tidal swings. From 9 to 18 ft. The Atlantic side has 1-3 ft of change.

Bang. And we were off. I could not believe how ridiculous it was. Soooo fast. If anyone tells you they PR'd their swim in Panama, remember to put a very large asterisk by the time. Really, what was the point of having a swim? It was basically a duathlon where you had the option to start out wet.

The canal was great. Crazy enough, I didn't smell gas or diesel fuel or crap at any point during the swim. I saw a really large orange container ship heading into the canal. I passed a bunch of women and then men from the waves prior. And I floated my way towards the stairs. They had a guy with a fire hose and I ran through that quickly to wash off the salt.

Swim: 20:53 1st AG, 1st Amateur

Then began the ridiculous run through transition. It was over 1/3 mile long. It was on a sidewalk and bikes were racked the length of the transition. Put it this way, it was long enough that the race directors made a special exception for the pros, who got to ride their bikes through transition!! So, yes, T1 and T2 were slow, but that's because I had additional ground to cover by foot.

Bike in 3 words. Hilly. Hot. Windy.

Oh and unique and beautiful, but those words get lost in the pain. The course profile is incorrect. It was listed as feet and I'm pretty sure it should have been meters. After exiting the craziness of the boardwalk area, we were on the highway and turning onto the on ramp of the Bridge of the Americas. Wow. What an experience. And crazy cross winds almost ruined it. After the 200ft climb to the top, the descent was met with an insane cross wind that was present all stinking day. Went around and then bam. Hills. Funny sign with car on a 70 degree incline. Really? I literally laughed out loud and thanked the sign for advising me on what was to come.

Up and down. Up. Wind. Down. Cross wind. Where the hell are the "flat" parts of this course?! And where's the tail wind?!

I felt okay on the bike until the turn around at the end of the Pan-American Hwy. Aid stations had cold water which was great; I think I took 3 showers on the bike. I let the girl I was going back and fourth with get away and then I went into a mental struggle about the physical struggle I was encountering. I took a motivator but it didn't help. I'd been taking in salt consistently. Drinking water and calories. Ate 3 Gu's and 1pk Chomps. Couldn't keep my power or cadence up.

Back over the bridge and at this point I was just happy to be upright and pedaling. Had to pass the start and going into the downtown area via Cinta Costera. Windy and hot and I really just wanted to be off my bike which is very unlike me. Made it back [had a little potty "stop" that wasn't a stop because I was riding] and into transition.

Bike: way too long. 3:01

Run. FML. Seriously? I'm now thinking it's going to take me YEARS to get this run thing figured out. I didn't push the bike that hard. Time wasn't where I wanted it to be. And then I start running. Mile 1 and 2 are okay. Right around 8:15 pace. And my legs are starting to struggle. Inner quads are rejecting each push. Feet won't turnover. Heels won't raise up. And I'm shuffling. Argh! I was so incredibly frustrated and suffering for the rest of the run. I started walking aid stations. Drinking coke. Getting ice chunks for the sports bra. water. Salt tabs. Anything please just start working! I started making deals with myself. I've never experienced anything quite like this. And sadly I've never had to walk in a triathlon before. It broke my heart having to stop running. My HR was too high. I was too hot. And I needed calories. So I walked 11 of the 15 aid stations. My legs were on the verge of cramps but I managed to ration the salt tabs correctly and had just enough to keep the cramps away.

I watched as 2 girls in my ag passed me and I tried hard to hang on. The 2nd girl was running just above my pace. I really had no idea where I was at place-wise as I had been pretty delusional. I just told myself that this was 5th and you are not letting her go. This is the podium and you must hang on.

So that was the game plan. I shuffled behind her heels from mile 10 - 11.5. At that point we hit an aid station. At the end a man was holding a hose. She stops. And it was decision time. I charge past and go balls out and don't look back till the next corner.

Everything hurts. Legs are charging, heart is pumping and the grimace on my face must have been an awesome [ugly] site. We are weaving around the paths and parking lot and I hit the entrance of the convention area. I look back and I don't see her. Still I put my shoulders back and run. I cross the line. Look up. And collapse into the finish line catchers.

Off to the med tent.

Run: A horrific 2:06, which funny enough, is a half ironman run PR. Told you I wasn't a runner.

5:36. Slowest 70.3, even with a swim
and run PR? Yeah, it was that hard.

Race recap to follow. More pictures. And the rest of my Panamanian experience.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


My husband was just named his divisional sailor of the quarter. Pretty awesomesauce. He has a write up posted in the hallway of his workspace. Who does he list as his inspiration? Me. What?

I'm so happy for him. He really makes the best of every situation. Kyle hasn't had the easiest life. But he has has the best attitude and has taught me a lot and has given me even more to be thankful for.

My inspiration throughout my training has obviously been him. He's stuck on a big grey boat in the middle of the Persian Gulf. For 8 months. Every time I thought about complaining about my run sessions in freezing MN, or my early almost freezing bike rides on Fiesta Island, I'd think of him. Stuck on a boat and unable to get out and do the things he loves. So I ran and rode for him. Although my once weekly noon masters was enjoyed for me. :)

So here I am, in Panama, "embracing" the heat that I came fully knowing, yet fully unprepared for. I suppose setting up a treadmill and trainer in the sauna at the Y is probably beyond frowned upon. So I am looking for inspiration. And I found it back where I started.

In Kyle. Who is embracing the spin bike lately in their non-air conditioned gym in the middle of the ocean, middle-eastern location. Imagine the sweatiness. Okay don't. Yuck.

The race is a day away. I couldn't be more excited. My Panamanian host, Brendan has been awesome. We've also taken our new friend Haley around with us. She is coached by Brian too, but she's actually a pro. :)

Fun times at the Panama Canal and an interesting taxi ride home. Ready to toe the line at 7:06am tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Becoming a "runner"

I've been thinking a bunch lately. [thats what happens when you're on taper.] What does the word "runner" mean to me? What do I have to accomplish in my running adventures to be a self proclaimed runner? How does my body feel before, during, and after a run? What is my daily attitude towards the sport?

I think all of those questions help me personally define the notion of really "being" a runner. I know from an outsiders perspective, I would be considered a runner. Heck, [yes, "heck"] I ran 12 miles in 18 degree weather. I race triathlons [which happen to have a running leg]. I "ran" an entire marathon. I own a Garmin. But none of those things have made me truly believe I am a runner.

I AM a swimmer. I AM a cyclist. I AM a wife. {i am an ironman} But am I really a runner? Of course I know these sports are not who I am; they are a very big part of my life and help define who I am but they are not definite.

[wifeage = sporting? I suppose; there is usually offense and defense. There are rules. There is a love of sport. There is practice. There is perfection, technique, and a lifetime of being teammate.] I digress.

So why do I have to BE a runner?

Because to me, being a runner is something I never have been. It has always been a road block to me fully becoming a triathlete. And unfortunately, running is more than 1/3 of the triathlon.

I have to stop dreading the run. I want to embrace it. I want to love it. I want to be fast.


So Carlsbad half marathon was on the race schedule as a warmup and test before Panama. I had registered for this race 2 years ago for preparation before St. George, but had surgery less than a month before which set me back in the training. I had heard good things about this course and was actually pretty amped to race it.

I have only toed the line to 1 other running race which was also a half marathon. Most people sign up for 5ks. I'd rather do a 70.3 triathlon than a half marathon. "Just" running races have NEVER appealed to me. Yes I realize there is a half marathon after the biking and swimming. But it's different. Your legs are ready and warm.

Listening to the national anthem waiting patiently for wave 2 to start. Running buddy Erin has graciously offered to run the entire race with me. [She is WAY faster than me. She is a runner. She ran a BQ. And was also a collegiate swimmer. Which makes her rare, and an amazing athlete.] Ate 1 orange shot block. And just like that, we were off.

I've never ran in such a crowd! We were dodging people the first 3 miles! People complain about IM swim starts, but this was madness. Remember my IM swim? It was perfect. This was chaos. It helped those miles pass by quickly.

Then time started to slow down. I was just trying to get one foot in front of the other and use as little energy as possible, and keep up the pace. I felt like I was in this crazy person zone the entire race. Saw people we knew but I was very delusional; my responses were mostly grunts of "Hi!"

Ate 2 vanilla gu's the entire race and had water at every aid station. The rollers were nice in the sense that it broke up the race, but man, that is not really a flat course. I look down at the garmin. 9.7 miles. F*ck. I am dying. Legs are already feeling too heavy. Legs are on the verge of cramping all the way through. Quads, hamstrings, hips. Omg, damage control. My mind is trying desperately to do math. Can't I just walk the rest and still get a PR? Internal battles ensue.

I think my eyes were only half open for the rest of the race. 2 miles left I ask Erin to go right in front of me. She's pushing the pace hard. She drops me, but I keep pushing. Downhill comes and my legs are fighting me. Fighting my will. Catch back on. 1 mile. Stride begins to lengthen, even at the request of my hips to not let that happen. Visual on the last turn. 13.1 miles and I "lapped" the Garmin to get my official split (1:43). Finish with the mini-est "kick" ever. It was pathetic. 13.22 miles according to the Garmin. 1:44.

I ran my PR. By 15 minutes. I feel like I'm 9 yrs old where every swim meet is a PR because you've just learned something new. I learned how to be a runner. I broke that 8:00 min/mile mark. for 13.1 miles. YAHOOOOOO!


So here I sit. Less than 2 weeks away from my A race. All those early frozen mornings preparing for a 95 degree race day. I have to stop dreading the run. I want to embrace it. I want to love it. I want to be fast. So, cheers to the power of positive thinking:

I AM a runner. {You've got to say it to really believe it, right?}