Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pacific Crest 1/2 Ironman-Take Two

Pacific Crest has been my nemesis race since 2004. In 2004, IT band problems forced me to run the Sunday 10K instead of participate in my first Olympic distance race. In 2005, my back derailleur broke during the first miles of the bike and only with the miracle work of Seth was I able to get back on the bike and finish the race. In 2006, the central Oregon heat and the physical stress of climbing Mt. Bachelor contributed to a nosebleed/face hemorrhage that slowed me to a walk for the entire last third of the race.

June 23, 2007. Time to face the beast again. But this time I was armed with the rockin' pink Kuota, many more running miles logged, some skull armwarmers and a healthy respect for racing at 4500 feet (manifested by the dissected tampons in my fuel belt-a perfect solution to bloody noses).

The weather report was looking favorable, as was the change in the bike course, which due to paving, was bypassing Mt. Bachelor (otherwise know as the 6th level of hell) and instead taking a route that turned out to be time-trial specialist's dream. So it was with a searing sense of vengeance that I approached this year's race.

The days leading up to the race were mostly without incident. We had again taken up residence in Bobcat #4...the original post-half ironman party palace. Eat, drink beer, talk bikes, make fun of Carver, rinse, repeat.

This year I also had the pure pleasure of watching my Team in Training mentees tackle their first half. I had a serious bunch of studs on my hands and was looking forward to seeing what they could do. Got so distracted that I forgot to pick up my bus pass and had to scramble to convince Sue to get up at 6am and drive me up to the lake.

Race day dawned clear and cool, but I didn't mind having to put on gloves and extra socks before heading over to set up T2. Frost on the ground meant probably no heat exhaustion in the afternoon. I could deal with that. What I could not deal with was the fact that Carver mentioned that he had the song "I'm All Out of Love, I'm So Lost Without You" stuck in his head. Which means that it immediately became stuck in mine. Which is better than having Jack Johnson or Paris Hilton stuck in my head, but not that much better.

I was trying out a few new things for this race, including the debut of my new tri-tard, purchased after deciding that I could no longer handle (1) my belly pooch hanging out in all of my race photos and (2) the distraction of pulling my singlet down every 30 seconds during the run. The decision to compete looking like a Bulgarian wrestler was not an easy one, but a girl can only handle so many bad race photos.

Spent an hour or so milling about at the lake before the race started. I like this time because the more chaos around me, the more intense the zone I can get into by race time. This year I did a pretty substantial warmup in the water, mostly because I had to pee every 1.3 minutes and the bathroom lines quickly became unbearable. I am Lindsay, human faucet.

Because I recently turned 30, I got to start the race with the big boys and girls. I've discovered that this has advantages and disadvantages. Advantage: not having to swim over people from the earlier waves. Disadvantage: being caught in the wake created by the 20 year old pros as they blew past me. Advantage: less butterflies because no 20 minute wait after the first gun goes off. Disadvantage: less people to chase on the ride.

Swim was great. Jessica H. and I had planned on drafting off of each other, but I thought I had lost her in the start. Little did I realize she was the person tapping my foot at each bouy, our predetermined passing signal. Which I chalked up to some other annoying person drafting. Doh. The last 400 or so I got a little off course, but still came out of the water feeling fast and read to rock.

Newbie lesson: ride your bike after you mount your water bottles. Because if you don't and your front mounted water bottle is loose when you ride on chip seal, you will spend the entire day covered in Gleukos. Which is not cool at hour four of the race when you discover that you hand is sticking to your face everytime you adjust your sunglasses.

Jen caught me about 6 miles into the race and we agreed to set a pace and stay legally together for the remainder of the bike course. I dropped off once at an aid station to throw out the offending water bottle, but we pretty much maintained a steady ass-kicking, blue-jersey rocking pace the rest of the ride. We kept looking at each other, trying to gauge if we were going to fast. The ride just felt too good. Peed twice on the bike. (People ask me how I do this- the keys are a complete lack of modesty, practice and some killer Kegel muscles. And a water bottle to rinse off afterwards.) The last 400 meters of the ride were the most frustrating as we had been funneled into the transition chute behind a duathlete going about 3 miles an hour. We made fun of her until she blasted by us at mile 2 of the run. Ha Ha Ha!?!?

This year I took another step forward in gross triathlete-dom. I was able to pee while tying my shoes. I figured it was this or a 10 minute tri-tard contortionist act in a 100 degree porta potty.

Then we ran. The first two miles were slow as Jen needed to stretch and I mistook the numbness in my feet for rocks in my socks and emptied my shoes at least ten times. The next nine miles were not bad. We walked the water stops and maintained a pretty good pace between stops. I was really excited to actually be running and at the possibility that we would break 6 hours if things went well.

The final two miles felt like Round 11 of a heavyweight title bout-heavy, cranky and sweaty. There was no more dancing around. Our feet only cleared the path by an inch or two with each stride and the walk breaks were numerous. At about 11.5, some jackass runs by us and states that we should pick it up because there was beer at the finish line. No shit. It's not like we are kind of folks that aren't motivated by beer. Its just that on this day, that beer would have to wait a minute or two. Jen and I simultaneously gave him the double bird, much to the amusement of the man that had settled in behind us, apparently finding our shuffling pace to suit him as well.
After the slowest two miles ever, Jen and I finished together with our hands raised in the air. We had survived. It was a great feeling to cross the finish line together, after all of the training and trials and tribulations this spring. I couldn't have done it without her!

The stats:

Total Time: 5:36:02
Swim 0:35:23
T1 2:28
Bike 2:42:15
T2 3:06
Run 2:12:50

Good for tied for 8th in our age group, 30something overall for women.

Blue Lake Race Report 2007

I'll second a recent assessment by Seth that the smoother the race, the less entertaining the race report. I've written some classic race reports involving peanut butter in my hair, feeling like the swim start was akin to a bunch of blindfolded hamsters in a fish tank, aggressive middle age male age groupers who refuse to get beat by women, men in see through speedos and my friend jon making semi-obscene gestures at me during a race. Alas, there is nothing that funny to report from Sunday, other that the fact that, for the first time in 5 years racing, I felt that I left it all out on the race course. I couldn't have run another 100 meters. It felt AWESOME. How awesome you ask? This awesome:

To start this race report, I'm going to shatter all of your preconceived notions that TNT mentors and coaches have this whole race thing all figured out. Guess what....we don't. Personally, my achillles heel is my mental issue with the run. Several times in the last few years, I train appropriately and have gone out and rocked the swim and the bike, only to talk myself out of pushing my limits on the run. One of my goals this year was to just get the hell over that. Part of that has been the longer runs that we've been going and losing my fear of the distance and discomfort. Part of that has also been telling myself constantly that, yes, I am a runner. Which is particularly ironic because I actually have a state track title and a school record under my belt and I ran track briefly in college. Somewhere along the way, as I got older and no longer weighed 120 pounds, I forgot that I am still a runner.

I've been doing a lot of mental exercises the last two years (i've got a great book on mental training for triathletes if you are interested in the issue) and had been looking foward to putting them to use at blue lake. One of these mental exercises was to walk through my race in my head several times before the race started: once before I fell asleep, once when i woke up and once in the car on the way to the race with really loud music blaring from my car (the latter to help with the waking up process as the starbucks next to my house wasn't open yet). This involved not only visualizing the swim start and transitions and pacing, but reinforcing the key words and phrases I wanted to repeat to myself while I'm racing so that there is an appropriate balance of paying attention to what is going both on internally and externally during the race. But here is the key to my mental exercise. As soon as I parked my car, I stopped the mental walk through. At that point, its time to quit analyzing and fretting and just TCB (take care of business). At this point, I know what I need to do and I know that most of what is going on around me is irrelevant to what I need to do to get to the finish line.

(as a sidenote, i used to feel sort of ridiculous going into my zone before a race because I felt that it was silly because I am not an elite athlete. if you feel like that, get over it. we are all entitled to a game face and to get pumped up and have the opportunity to go out there and be excited to push ourselves beyond where we ever through we could go. where you ultimately finish in the pack is irrelevant)

I'll spare you the details of most of the race, because what was most important to me was the last 15 minutes before the run and the run itself. To that point I had been focusing on not thinking about the run and just concentrated on my bike. As I got closer to T2, I just start to tell myself, "you are a runner" "you are a runner", over and over again. Once I was through T2, I broke up the race in my head by each mile, with the goal of keeping a steady pace throughout. which meant starting faster than i really wanted to. when things got tough, i used a trick that someone on my college track team taught me...chanting "keep it up, keep it up, keep keep it up" in rhythm with my foot strikes. By consciously controlling the thoughts in my head, I can try to prevent ones like "this sucks" "i suck" and "i just want this to be over" from sneaking into my head. It still happens, but the key is to prevent those thoughts from going onto the repeat cycle.

(as another sidenote, i am the first to admit that controlling your mental processes is a really hard thing to do in endurance events. especially when things go awry. For those of you that don't already know, I have never raced Pac Crest without having some sort of incident. In 2005, my back derailleur broke and only through Seth's magic was i able to finish the race. Last year, my nose started bleeding during the run and I had to walk most of the 1/2 marathon to avoid bleeding to death through my face. Last year I made a choice to finish the race and took the extra time to really enjoy the race experience. But not before I spent several miles in tears walking along pissed off at my own perceived failure. Because I came off the bike near the front of the field, I was passed by an enormous number of people during the run. Many of those people took their walk breaks with me and I ended up sort of reveling in the experience for what it was.)

The moral of this race report: we all have the physical capabilities and conditioning to finish our races. But take the time to fine tune your mental game. Take notes of your positive and negative mental self talk and think about how that affects your physical performance. Come up with key words and phrases to repeat through each stage of the race. The End.

Swim 26:42
T1 2:49
Bike 1:12:45
T2 2:09
Run 49:30

8/36 in Age Group, 37/172 Women

Gratuitous Wetsuit Shot: