Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kerrville Tri Race Report 2016: Choosing the Right Goals

Goals can be a dangerous thing. A quote that I read years ago from motivational speaker Harvey MacKay has stayed with me: “A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.” At the time, it was the call to action that I needed. What’s the point in just sitting around dreaming about something you want? Get out there and work towards it!

The problem is that there are some things you can’t set goals for. Like black t-shirts. Six weeks ago, after I realized that I wouldn’t reach the goal of a mountaintop finish in Norway, I stopped smiling. I gave up. This resulted in a slow, miserable marathon experience on one of the most beautiful courses in the world.

At Norseman, I had set a goal that I wasn't in control of. Other factors were at play, like the weather conditions and the talent of the other athletes who showed up that day. It took me a while to understand what Emily was talking about when she told me to focus on process rather than results. She asked me my goals for Louisville, and I gave her numbers. Emily said instead to focus on process - what can I work on that didn't go well at previous races? She was asking me to set attainable goals and not random numbers.

I figured out last week what the goal would be for Louisville. Smile no matter what. Always find a way to enjoy the experience. After all, this is supposed to be fun! That can be easier said than done, and it takes practice. The Kerrville tri this weekend would be my chance to practice smiling all day before being tested again at Ironman Louisville.

I had two goals for the Olympic-ish distance race (1000 meter swim, 29 mile bike, 6.4 mile run). I wanted to gain some confidence by having a good swim in a wetsuit at a race, and I wanted to keep smiling and pushing forward no matter what.

But...for the first time in 5 years, the race in Kerrville was not wetsuit legal. Goal number one went out the window. Luckily, goal number two was to keep smiling and pushing forward no matter what. Take what the day throws at you: today would not be my day to build confidence in a wetsuit, but it could still be a day to have a great swim.

When the race started, I was in such a hurry to get in the water and begin swimming that I forgot to start my watch. Whoops! This mistake turned out to be a blessing. I swam strong and felt powerful in the water. When I ran out of the river, I didn’t have to analyze my swim time: I had only my feelings to go by. And it felt like a great swim. There's some built-in swim amnesia for you: just don’t start your watch! This is a technique I’ll take with me to Kentucky.

That's the smile of someone who forgot to start her watch.
At this race, my age group was in the unique position of starting in the first wave with a time trial start: athletes started one at a time with 3-5 seconds between them. I started maybe 6th in my age group. Being a strong swimmer and a reasonably strong cyclist, I spent the first 55 minutes of the bike race riding alone. I was passing competitors from the half-ironman race that had started earlier in the morning, but nobody was passing me. It was surreal. I made a game of it: how far could I get before people from the Olympic distance race caught and passed me?

It started to rain 20 minutes into the bike. At one point it rained so hard I thought it was hailing.
Trent’s wave started 12 minutes behind mine. When races start this way, I love to see how far I can get on the bike before he catches me. This time, we discussed beforehand that due to the short distance of the race, he might not catch me until the run. I wanted to see if I could make that happen. Approaching T2, I still hadn't seen him.

I flew into T2 and found an open field full of run bags: only a couple of bikes were there ahead of me. I took off running and vowed to hold a smile and a strong pace. The course was out and back – 3 miles out, 3 miles back, then another little out-and-back in the opposite direction before the finish. I started the run by myself, and as the miles went by, people started to pass me. And - at every aid station I passed, the volunteers complimented my smile. After I turned around and headed back, around mile 4, I saw Trent for the first time; we high-fived and he warned me not to let him catch me. This put extra pep in my step and although I was fading, I ran as fast as I could, still smiling. Having fun. Yippee!

I reached the finish line a couple of minutes before Trent. As our friends started to pour across the line, we all celebrated, taking photos and telling stories about the day. Mom and Dad were there, along with several Big Sexy teammates who were racing the half, and nearly all of our triathlete friends from San Antonio. It was so much fun to be surrounded by friends after the race. It made me remember what fun it is to race locally, and I think there will be more shorter local races on my calendar next year.

What a fantastic day. I had a great race and earned 3rd place in my age group. Perhaps when you focus on process, the results take care of themselves. I know it’s easy to keep smiling and moving forward when things are going well. It’s something else when you have to struggle. But, if you practice being positive when you’re feeling good, hopefully it will translate and help you through a day that isn’t going as planned. I’ll be smiling at Louisville no matter what. Less than two weeks to go!

After the race, we got caught in a ridiculous storm with flash floods. The half ironman participants were still running in this weather.
Another thing that made my day - this guy picked a flower and gave it to me before the swim. I carried it with me during the race and I swear it gave me superpowers.
The beautiful San Antonio Smash girls.
Big Sexy Racing - "We're the shit." So much fun racing with teammates!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Don't Quit

Three weeks to Ironman Louisville.

I didn't set myself up for a successful long run today. With two endurance athletes in the house and an every-other-weekend visitation schedule with Trent's boys, our Sundays have become a long-run juggling act. Today, I agreed to run later in the morning and Trent went early. This means that when I started my run at 9:45 am, it was already 85 degrees outside and the sun was beating down without a cloud in the sky. Not to mention I'm tired from a cold that keeps lingering enough to make me nervous, a long week at work, a tough bike/run yesterday, and a little too much wine last night. Ok, there's all the excuses.

I drove to one of my favorite trailheads on the Salado Creek Greenway at Tobin Park. The workout was to run easy for 30 minutes, push it up to zone 2-2.5 for an hour, and then to run easy for the last 30 minutes.

The first half hour was fine. It was shady and breezy as I ran slowly down the greenway, shaking out a tight left calf/ankle. Then I ran into the full sun up the hill on the way to McAllister Park. A cyclist came by me, "it sure is hot out here." I thought, yep, it's hot. I'm not going to make it out here in the full sun for two hours.

After 45 minutes, I decided to turn around and head back to the car. An hour and a half would be fine. I had already run some extra miles this week. No big deal. My heart rate was in zone 2 without even trying due to the heat. I felt the sweat dripping down my face, thought I'd probably run out of water before I got back. Decided that my head was likely getting sunburned. All these great reasons to just cut it short today.

As I ran back towards the start, I started thinking about a conversation that Dawn and I had yesterday. I know I haven't been training with the heart and dedication that I need to accomplish the goals that I have in mind. Cut one workout short here, relax on the efforts a little bit there...and you end up not progressing, feeling stagnant instead.

That's how I've been feeling since Norseman - stuck. I gave up on the run at Norseman because I wasn't going to reach my goal of a black shirt. I was feeling pain, but I've felt pain on the run at every ironman and I have been able to push through it with a smile. I Gave Up at Norseman, and it doesn't feel good.

Giving up during training just allows you to give up more easily on race day. I've been stronger than that before. I can do it again.

Running back into the shade, I made a decision to run up to one of the trailheads and grab some more water, just in case I didn't give up. A mile later, I took my third Gu, just in case I decided to run past my car. One mile later, I ran purposely past my car thinking, "F you car, I have a run to finish."

Every step you take after choosing not to quit is a victory.

I'm not always super stoked about how I'm feeling in my Newtons, but man, I love these shoes.
I felt so good, so proud of myself for every minute that I ran in the opposite direction from my car. A slow run, but I was so happy to be finishing what I started that it didn't matter how slow I was running. Eventually I reached my turnaround point, and then I smiled all the way back to the car. Two-hour long run complete...11 slow little miles. It felt like racing - smiling through discomfort. I've missed that feeling.

I'm not sure what's going to happen in 3 weeks at Ironman Louisville. But I know that today's workout was a mental breakthrough that will allow me to endure on the run in Kentucky. I can't wait.

Today's run may have been a struggle, but yesterday's ride with Linda was awesome!