Wednesday, November 18, 2015

2015 RRS End

 My very favorite picture of the year.  This is a big part of what I am about.  Just two moms jogging a half marathon and talking about their kids and parenthood.  My friend, Rebecca, easily could have nabbed the 3rd place spot for the whole series in our age group.  It was the best weather we have had for racing with low winds, and she always crushes this course.  But, we hadn't caught up in a while and decided to keep the tradition of running the last half marathon together and catching up.  What a friend. 

The road race series has come to an end, and really it marks the end of a 2 year+ training journey that included adjusting to motherhood, a new body, and new goals.  This fall also marks the end of my 2+year breastfeeding journey, which seems weird in a blog, but has been a significant part of motherhood for me.  I keep intending to write a breastfeeding post for other interested women.  What is it like to breastfeed for longer than a year?  Why? How did I decide to wean?  How did it affect my training and racing?  Perhaps I will get that post rolling at some point, but I better get it down on paper soon, because I have to admit, the memories sure do fade quickly.

The Road Race Series for me has been a progression of:
Year 1:  3 week old to 4 month old nursing baby and new mom with C-section.  Survival.
Year 2:  1 year old breastfeeding child and struggling mom trying to be competitive again. 
Year 3:  2 year old weaning toddler and content mom enjoying the process of training and friendships, with some successes along the way.
Year 4:  ?????  I can't wait!

As my event schedule has ended for the year, I can look back so fondly on almost everything.  There were plenty of challenges, but some goals were met athletically.  Balance with family and racing was by no means perfect, but it improved.  As winter approaches, I am back in MAF training.  It is a great time of year to focus on the holidays and just swim/bike/run for the pure enjoyment of it.  I have some ideas of how I am going to structure my next block of work...when it is time to work again.  But for now, I am content to let the year to start shutting down naturally.   

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Spartan Up!

I am a triathlete.  I try many other things, but at the end of the day, I love to SBR.  But, I was a soccer player.  Was.  I keep trying to play again, but Dave talks me out of it every time, as he seriously thinks it would be a mistake to get back on the field and risk blowing out my knee again and not being able to run.

But I really miss it.  I MISS the teamwork.  I miss the sport.  And, as I met my husband at the age of 18 on the soccer field, I certainly miss playing with him.  Our early years together revolved around soccer. 

At the tender age of 37, we still play sports, but not together.  He still plays soccer and does crossfit.  He loves his communities and teammates.  He does, though, know that soccer is rapidly coming to a close, and he is trying to find some things to replace that hole that will be there when he no longer plays.

I still mostly swim/bike/run, and I have found myself being more and more isolated with solo training the past few years.  And lately, I have not liked it. I have not liked the isolation I feel now with training and racing.  I have definitely been on the search for the past year, but I don't know what I am searching for.  Friends?  Adventure?  A team?  A new goal?  Awakening old goals?  All of the above?  I need some sort of athletic renewal, but I can't quite put my finger on it.  I haven't been coached for a while now.  I have not had much success with triathlon the past few years.  I haven't had any injuries, per se, but I have certainly noticed physical changes since I had Isla that aren't to my athletic benefit.  Or is it that I am slowly approaching 40?  I still love what I do at its core, but it is obvious that I have been a bit off in my training and racing.

Dave signed up for a Spartan Race Sprint to try something new.  I have never had a interest in Spartan racing, and I was going to go and cheer him on.  A few months passed, and Dave couldn't find anyone to run the race with him, and I thought, why not?  I'll already be there.  I can be one and done if I hate it. 

So, we went to our first Spartan Race as a couple.  We made a date out of it, and Isla stayed at Papaw's house for the night while Dave and I stayed at the Lylewood Inn Bed and Breakfast near the race.  (It is in the middle of NOWHERE- but totally worth it.  It was the best date we have been on in years!  Thanks Papaw!)
This was exactly what I needed.  I want more adventure.  I don't care about things.  Now that our car is totaled, we don't even own a car!  But, I love doing things, seeing places, and meeting people.  We have never stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, and I am definitely going to start using them more.  It was such a great experience!

 And then it was time to go to our first Spartan Race.

We decided to run it separately and not wait on each other, because Dave is super strong, but honestly I knew I would be doing a ton of burpees for not completing obstacles (you do 30 for every obstacle you fail).  Before Isla, I worked super, duper hard to get a strong upper body and I could do real pullups.  But now, I can't even do one.  I was worried about doing this race.  I hate to fail at things...well, more to the point, I hate to set myself up for failure, and entering an event like this felt like setting myself up to fail.  But, I can run and I have a lot of endurance.  And, I am in control of my attitude.  So, I just went out there and decided to run strong and commit to doing a ton of burpees till I got to the finish line. 

So, for anyone looking to do a Spartan Race.  Go do it.  There are thousands of people there just trying to have fun and challenge themselves.  And yes, it is challenging.  I don't care who you are, you will be challenged, you will fail, and you will do burpees.  The strongest men and women fail at the obstacles.  The obstacles are legit.  They are not easy.  They don't give you shortcuts.  You are either strong/athletic/nimble enough to do them or not.  You will ask someone for help, and they will help you.  You will face obstacles where you could break your leg, but you will do it anyway.  You will probably bloody something.

Dave and I started in an afternoon wave.  (tip #1- start in as early of a wave as possible.  The course will be in better condition and there will be less bottle necking).  He immediately put a gap on me, and I was left to do my own race.   I got over my first obstacle.  And then my second.  And then my third.  I was doing it!  Then we hit the walls, and I couldn't get over them.  But guys would help me.  (tip #2- be able to scale at least an 8-10 foot wall.  There are NO places on the wall to use your feet.  You must be able to jump the wall and get over with your upper body.  It is not easy for us short women). 

I was really doing well, with the help of guys on the walls.  I did my first set of 30 burpees after an obstacle where I got 2/3 across and then fell off.  (Dave also did burpees here too!)  I actually had a really fast first half according to the timing mats when compared to the fastest girls.  I was up there!  It was clear that my strength in the race was endurance, running ability, and agility.  My weakness was pure, raw upper body strength and jumping.  (Sadly enough, I can't jump at all since my soccer days and knee surgery.  It hurts to do even a small box jump; therefor, I don't ever practice jumping anymore.)

When I got to this sandbag carry/creek climb midway through, there was a huge bottle neck just due to the condition of the course.  Dave looked back and saw me, and like the awesome man that he is, he helped probably 20 people get up the ravine (it was impossible to do solo with the condition of the course), and waited for me.  What an awesome husband.  We completed the rest of the course together, just laughing and having a great time.  We realized that the course had become super congested and we weren't going to be able to be competitive with our time anymore.  So, we relaxed and had fun.  He helped me get up some tough climbs, and I pushed him on other obstacles.  (tip #3- wear some turf/cleat type running shoes.  I didn't, but definitely will next time!)

I failed my last 3 obstacles:  rope climb, weighted pull down (I actually did teamwork on this so did not have to do burpees, but I can't complete it solo), spear throw.  I don't know if I can climb a rope (no knots, wet and raining) as I couldn't even try I was so nauseous from the previous obstacle.  I definitely cannot pull the weight down- I didn't ask how much it was, but it weighed more than I do for sure.  And the spear throw is a crap shoot.

But, I am good at burpees!  Dave couldn't believe how fast I knocked them out.  I did a total of 90 on the day.  Yikes! 

And last tip #4- wear tight clothes.  My Wattie Ink tri shorts and Enell bra were perfect.  You don't want anything bouncing around or loose.  You will be swimming through mud, so keep it tight and to a minimum.  
But here we are, Spartan Race finishers.  We had an amazing time together, and it reminded us of all of the teamwork we have put in together over the years.  I was so proud of my husband and all he has accomplished with his hard work at crossfit.  He is strong!

And I am going to start working on my pull ups again.  I am determined to scale the walls by myself next time.  I am going to answer the challenge!

But the main things I got out of the day were a renewed sense of love for my husband and our journey together...
and the desire to keep racing.  I sure do love it.  We all go through peaks and valleys, but I LOVE being out there and facing any sort of challenge.   

Next up- the road race series half marathons.  I'll just do my best.
Wades Adventure 18 miler, because I have always wanted to do this race.
And the Bellringer 50k.  Time to mark the 50k goal off of my list! 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Race Analysis

I hardly analyze my races anymore.  I think it is just that I am still a bit removed from the level of competition I felt prior to having Isla.  I sometimes think of myself as a "competitive participant."  But, before Isla, I would always look at how my race actually unfolded compared to the girls above and below me.  How did my swim hold up?  Where did I win or lose the race?  Did I bleed time or get back time in transitions?

But lately, I just kind of look at my racing and feel that there is nothing to analyze.  I can just sum up everything with lack of fitness, lack of equipment maintenance, poor bike fit, or whatever.

So today, I sat down and tried to look at Redman with my old, analytical lens, and see what I could learn.  It is all part of my fake it till I make it plan, where I push myself to be a little more competitive until I actually feel competitive.

So, here is how it looked...and it was NOT what I thought it would be....

I placed 27th amongst females.  So, I looked at the 26 females ahead of me, and this is what I saw.
- 17 women swam faster (I was totally fine with this- no expectations from the swim when I don't swim)
-16 women completed T1 faster
-21 women biked faster (most women biked faster than I)
-6 women completed T2 faster (what is everyone doing in T2? I even put on socks. Grab your gear and go!)
-25 women ran faster (yup!  everyone except 1 female ahead of me ran faster.  Not hard to do when I walk, I suppose).

So, the swim was my best event.  And that has never happened.  Ever.  Until this year.  And it happened at Nola 70.3 as well.  I can assure you this is NOT from actually improving my swim.  I also had a decent T1 and an excellent T2.  If you looked just at my bike and run, I was really lucky to actually be the 27th placed woman- I could have easily been many places back.  I was at the very bottom of the results in those areas.  But, this also shows just how important the swim and transitions actually are.

So, this prompted me to look at other results.  Basically in the past, I would be in the middle back of the swim.  Then the bike would be my best event, followed by the run which would be pretty comparable to my bike and I would either gain or lose a place on the run, but basically maintain where I ended up off of the bike.

This analysis was interesting and just reminded me that my best days are the ones where my events maintain or improve position, not go backwards.  Of course none of this matters even a single bit if I can't physically run off of the bike.  But, just in general, it is a good reminder of how my best racing looks compared to my worst.  

But even as I go through all of this and try to inspire myself to keep moving forward, I feel a little helpless.  I can't figure out the nerve issue and why it is crippling my run.  So yes my run is crap off of the bike, but I can't change it.  It is not a fitness issue.  Talk about frustration and helplessness.

Yesterday I returned to swimming for the first time in 3 weeks.  My back hurt so badly, but I don't even say a word about it anymore at practice.  2+ years of swimming pain.  A friend asked me at the end of practice if my back hurt, and it honestly just made me love my friends- that they would even care to ask.  And the answer was yes.  Swimming is painful and it sucks.  It is why I hardly swim now.  I just can't bear to do it too often.  And as I woke up this morning with back pain from swimming the day before, it suddenly hit me...maybe this is part of the foot issue.  Or maybe not.  I really have NO clue.  But, maybe it is that the swim flares up my back, followed by the bike, and then I am crippled for the run.  Maybe. 

So, I keep facing that feeling of giving up.  It is hard to fight something I don't know how to fight.  Then I just tried to rethink the issue today and decided that while I have gone to 3 x physical therapists and 1 x chiropractor about my back, maybe it is time to just try to get back into someone.  Maybe I go through every avenue available to me here in Memphis until I find the person that can help me work out a solution.  For a sport that seems so simple, it sure does get complex with all of the moving parts.  Is it my back?  It is the swim?  Is it my saddle? Is it my fit? It it the shoes?  Is it the cleats or their position?

Someone reminded me yesterday that yes, while the many moving parts are hard to juggle and very frustrating with the sport, it makes the great race days so much sweeter because you have nailed much more than just being fit.

Keeping on keeping on...