Needing a “win”

I’ll be honest, I’ve had a really tough year, training-wise.  I’ve had to defer two big races and wound  up pulling out of my last triathlon mid-swim.  I’ve been getting my ass handed to me weekly in roller derby training.  I have been battling a lot of nagging injuries. It’s just been a tough season to swallow.

After the Montclair Tri breakdown, I cried and pouted and then decided to fix what I could.  I have spent almost every weekend since then driving way the heck out to the Chesapeake Bay so I could do open water training with a group.  I have been working hard and seeing progress but I was still worried about my upcoming experience at Nation’s Triathlon.  When I learned about the HarborFest event, I knew I had to do it!  750 m, with support, in the Potomac. Perfect training opportunity.

It was originally schedule for last weekend but was rescheduled due to the potential of bad weather.  Of course, the weather didn’t happen and that just left me feeling nervous for another week!

I arrived around 7:20, signed in, picked up my shirt, and proceeded to try to figure out the course.  They were offering a 5K (!), 2.4 mile, 1.2 mile, and 750 meter option.  Unfortunately, the buoys were not quite set so none of it made sense until just before we started. 

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Can’t get any calmer than this!

We began in waves, with the longest distances going first.  There was about 10 minutes between waves so I had quite a bit of time before my wave began.  It was a water start but we had to enter from a pier.  I was worried about jumping in so I took the weenie route and climbed down the ladder.  I was not alone and I am not sorry I did it!  The water was 82 degrees but it still took a minute for me to acclimate.  I did some bobs with deep exhales under water, per my swim instructor’s advice and that helped.  Before I knew it, we were off! 

The course was a right angle triangle with the pier and the shore making two sides.  I did okay sighting on the shore going out and even across the hypotenuse but was way, way off along the pier. I have no idea why it was so hard!  Oh, maybe it’s because that is where the weeds were the thickest and I was constantly stopping to scrape them off!  Seriously, that was some junky water!  I saw two snails floating on the water that were the size of a peach and I somehow managed to cut my thumb on something!  Gross!

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Maybe I was too distracted, sighting off the Ferris wheel.

I had absolutely no freak-outs during the swim.  I had to cough once because I felt like I was getting choked up like last time but I didn’t stop.  Honestly, this wasn’t as heavily supported as I thought it would be.  There were just a few kayaks and they were for rescue only, no breaks.  If I had known that going in, I might have canceled.  As it was, I’m thankful I didn’t need to use them.  I just focused on moving from buoy to buoy and then it was over!

When I exited, I saw that the elapsed time since the first wave start was 48 minutes. I don’t know what time I entered but, if the scheduled ten minute waves were accurate, then I swam it in 18 minutes.  I am more than happy with that!  Heck, even if it turns out to be 28 minutes, I’m still happy because my main focus was just completing the swim. 

At the end, I did not feel overly tired or queasy.  If someone said, “okay, now go and ride for 16 miles”, I would have been okay with it!

I desperately needed a “win” on my books – something where I trained hard and then performed as expected – and this definitely fit that need!  There is still more work to do before next month but I am not positive that I can finish my race!

BFF: Badass Fitness Friend

When Thick2Thin put out a call for their new ambassador program, I jumped right on it!  I really love the message they promote – the tag line on the webpage says it all “Because where you start doesn’t matter, it’s where you’re going that does” – and the fit of the clothes.

I was first introduced to T2T via my own Badass Fitness Friend who bought me a couple of tanks for my runniversary.  I then had to add to my collection :)

They saw me through a tough 17.75K race with a bad hip

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Cat not included

And through a mental block of roller derby practice

Suck It Up Buttercup!

Suck It Up Buttercup!

And the capris stay up, even when bogged down with Spartan mud!

Saggy pants would have been a problem!

Saggy pants would have been a problem!

Yes, I am definitely a fan and now I am part of the BFF (Badass Fitness Friend) program!  I can offer my friends and readers a sweet 10% discount on all of the T2T merchandise!  Just use code VAJP14 when you check out.  I am in no way being reimbursed for my opinions or for purchases made with the code.  I’m just sharing a product that I love and helping you save a little coin in the process (race entries are expensive! Save where you can!)

Race report: DC Spartan Sprint

After the Ragnar Trail Relay, I thought I really knew my mud.  I was so very wrong!

My team of my favorite crazy people (trust me, it takes one to know one!) is taking on the Spartan Trifecta this year. The plan is DC Sprint, VA Super, Carolinas Beast.

Before the mayhem!

Before the mayhem!

They did the Spartan Super in Virginia last year and two did a Sprint in the Carolinas earlier this year but I was a Spartan virgin.  I was also still a bit “rope shy” after my incident at my last obstacle race**.  My plantar fasciitis was causing major heel and ankle problems and one of our team mates was still recovering from the affects of Whooping Cough. A third had just moved cross-county and came back just for the race, and the fourth – was okay! In other words, we were in our typical racing form :)

Taping can't hurt, right?

Taping can’t hurt, right?

The drive to southern Maryland was very easy and the parking and shuttle process was very smooth.  We went through the waiver signing, packet pick up, body marking, going back to find the strap I dropped for the timing chip, bag drop, etc. in fairly record time.  Before we knew it, we were waiting for our 10:45 start!  Oh, but first — we had to climb a wall! Oh, Spartan, I hate/love you already!

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First of many!

I honestly don’t remember the order or number of the obstacles and the course was in a clover leaf so I felt like we were going in circles all morning.  There were a lot of technical trails – and I managed to have my first major trail fall there, complete with bruised butt – with a river from the shower stations adding to the fun for the last half mile or so. There were many huge, sticky mud pits to crawl through.  And just when you thought that part was done, you’d exit to find another one!  By the end of the last one, I was pretty done with the mud. 

Don't let the smile fool you!

Don’t let the smile fool you!

Okay, maybe I liked it...

Okay, maybe I liked it…

One of the toughest obstacle for me, mentally, were the four pits with very steep, muddy sides.  You had to slide down into waist-deep water and then climb out the other side.  You cannot do it on your own, you need someone to help pull you up.  As someone who is constantly concerned with being “too heavy”, I despise anything where someone has to help bear my weight but it was that or be stuck in the pits forever (and we know how well that worked for the dinosaurs!)

I failed four obstacles – a reverse incline wall (I fell from the top because I could not swing myself over the top), the spear throw, the rope climb, and the traverse wall.  Technically, I also failed the Herc pull but I helped my team mates with theirs (the ropes were crazy muddy) so I don’t count that.

Pull!

Pull!

I loved the sandbag carry (down and up a hill with a sandbell on your shoulder), the “hunk of concrete” pull where we pulled a concrete donut up and down a couple of hills on a chain, and the tire carry/pull (huh, notice a theme?)

I did okay on the walls but needed quite a bit of help on the incline wall. I seriously had flash backs to last time but two of my team mates helped pull me up and I knew I was okay once I got my boobs over the top :)

I apparently tried to break down the walls rather than go over them!

I apparently tried to break down the walls rather than go over them! Both arms are like this, plus my left calf – and my butt!

It took us about 2 1/2 hours for an almost 5 mile course.  Granted, we stopped to help quite a few people, especially at the 4 “pits of despair”, but that is still slow.  Thank goodness is was overcast for most of the day! 

I had a Huma gel right before I started and drank two glasses of water at every station but I was feeling very rough by the time we finished.  One of the ladies in the food line looked at me and said “oh, you need TWO bananas!”.  I quickly ate one, drank a Muscle Milk, and ate a protein bar of some sort.  The pictures look like I’m about ready to faint/hurl but I was just worried about having black teeth from the chocolate mint power bar :)

Okay, maybe I do feel pukey

Okay, maybe I do feel pukey

After quickly cleaning up, I hot footed it out so I could get back home in a timely manner.  It looked like there was a decent finish festival but I didn’t check it out. 

Overall, this was a great experience!  Very organized and a lot of “fun”.  I am simultaneously looking forward to and dreading the Super next month!

My first fire jump!

My first fire jump!

I'm a Spartan!

I’m a Spartan!

Pros

Very organized finish area

Spartan people at most of the obstacles

3 water stations

Plenty of shuttle buses to and from the start area

Plenty of portapotties

Cons

I can’t think of any!

**I thought I had blogged about it but, apparently, I didn’t! At the last obstacle race that I did last year, the first obstacle was a very, very high incline wall with a rope.  I was all the way at the top and my foot slipped. I knew if I let go, I would break something (it was that high!) so I held onto the rope to slow my descent and tore up my hands in the worst way.  Seriously, it was horrific.  I finished the race but I was in a world of hurt for quite a while after that.

Many thanks to one of my team mate’s awesome husband who always takes the best race pictures!  Seriously, my only good pictures have come from him!

Back to Work!

So, after my major funk following my DNF,  decided to put on my big girl panties and get back to work.  I am now signed up for an open water swim session every weekend until Nation’s!

My first session was two weeks ago, in a somewhat secluded river off from the Chesapeake Bay.

swim1 A coach was there with a paddle board and a helper in a kayak.  I attended with two of my runner/tri friends and another gentleman was present – a nice small group with good support.  We did some warm-ups to the various boat pilings and I was fine.  Then the coach said “let’s go out to that buoy and back” and I fell apart.  I made it maybe 75 yds before I started choking and coughing again.  Couldn’t get my breath at.all. and thought I was officially a non-swimmer.  The coach was right there and had me kick while hanging on to the paddle board (after I calmed down) for quite a bit and then I finished going to the buoy and headed back to the group.  On the way back, I had the same freak outs so I rolled to my back and did elementary back strokes until I could get it under control.  I just watched the clouds and focused on calming the F down.  I made it back but I was beat.  We did a few other little drills, some sighting practice, etc. in the shallow water but I was wiped.

On Saturday, I attended an OWS clinic with the same coach.  This time we were right in the shadow of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at Sandy Point State Park.  We did some straight swimming but we working on sighting, cornering around buoys, and various stroke issues.  I felt much better after this session and didn’t have any “issues”.

On Sunday, I was back with the same coach AGAIN (she is going to get so sick of seeing me!) – but this time we were at another, wider creek that had much more chop due to increasing winds.

At the start. Things picked up as the session progressed.

At the start. Things picked up as the session progressed.

This was a larger group and it was pretty much straight swimming.  The coach set up a triangle course with the long side running parallel to the shore and completely stand-able with the point of the triangle further out (but I guess still stand-able in some spots due to the sand bars).  I decided to just stick to the shallow side and just keep looping it.  Each length was a bit over 100 yds and I was able to successfully go out and come back without standing or losing my mind.  I did not have to recover even once and that is with some decent movement in the water – there were times when I lost sight of the buoys due to the waves. I was slow as molasses but I just focused on my own swim and keeping it together.  I was able to successfully complete 5 loops.  I count Sunday as a huge success!

I know I still have a lot of work to do but I am not quite as anxious about September now.  I am also trying to remember how far I’ve come this year.  I have to remember that I have only been swimming freestyle, with my head below water, since January!  It’s not fair to my body to expect it to suddenly become some world-class swimmer overnight.  It’s working hard and I need to respect the process!

progress

 

Burn to ashes and salt the earth

I can take a lot.  I can keep my head down and plod on.  I can keep pushing and pushing and pushing until I finally get to my goal.  Unless I can’t and I don’t and I’m broken.  That’s how I feel right now.  I feel broken.  I feel like I will never make any progress again.  I feel like I hate everything.  I feel like taking all of my gear to the yard, burning it down to ashes, and salting the ground so nothing ever grows there – as a lasting testament to my shortcomings. Holy drama mama!

I know I am just in a bad spot right now and things will improve and I will finally have a good swim in a race and I’ll finally understand transitions in roller derby and I’ll find joy in my training again.  But right now?  Not so much.  I spent most of Sunday crying over one thing or another – even simple skating at the rink left me in tears – and all of yesterday biting everyone’s heads off.  I’m trying to ease back and give myself some space but just bout every other minute I think about pulling out of another event (hey, did I tell you that I have a Spartan Sprint in just a few weeks??).  I know I will regret any decision that I make right now so I’m trying to hang on and ride this out but it is so, so difficult.

 

I'm trying

I’m trying

Race Report: Montclair Triathlon

Lake Montclair is a private lake in northern Virginia. It is controlled by the community’s Home Owner’s Association.  It used to be the location for an annual triathlon (of varying lengths – sprint to almost international, from what I can tell) until some incidents a few years ago closed it down.  Through the hard work of the current HOA and a group of dedicated athletes, the Montclair Triathlon was back in business on Sunday!

The distance was a true sprint – 750 yds swim, 12.4 mile bike, and 5K run within the community.  The race was capped at 500 participants and I don’t think they quite hit that cap this year.  I’ll just put it out there now that I was not able to complete the race but here are some of the details for the event.

Packet Pick-Up

Packet pick-up was a low key event at VA Road Runner in Woodbridge, VA.  The race director gave a short briefing a bit after 3 where he outlined the course and explained the one tricky part of the bike course.  Everyone received a nice, light-weight cotton shirt with their numbers.  There were safety pins on the table but not in the envelopes – not a problem for me as I had a race belt but I saw several participants who were carrying their numbers on the run.

MontclairTri

The Swim

The weather was absolutely perfect for NoVA. High 60s, low humidity.  The lake was 79.5 degrees.  I saw a small number of people in sleeveless wetsuits but most went without.  The course was well marked with large yellow balloons every 100 yds, paddle boards or boats in between, and rescue personal around the perimeter. There were also residents who were spectating from their pontoon boats.

The swim, a water start, was seeded by age and gender so I was in the first wave – women under 40 – followed by men under 40.  This was my first open water swim so I swam out and back a few times, probably 50 yards each time, just to get the feel for things.  I was feeling good but decided to go to the back and outside of the wave to stay out of the main craziness.  Around 100 yds in, I was kicked pretty hard in the shoulder.  I gulped quite a bit of water and came up sputtering.  I spent the next 200 yds swimming with my head up because I couldn’t take a full breath.  I made it to a paddle board at the 300 yd turn and tried to catch my breath. Every time I tried to breathe deep, I started coughing and I know I had water in my lungs.  I told the guy on the board that I wanted to try to make it to the next buoy but I could only go about 5 strokes before I had to doggy paddle back.  I knew that even if I did managed to float my way to the finish, there is no way my lungs could handle the bike and run.

A very nice group was nearby on their pontoon boat and asked if they could take me back.  I was a crying, wet mess but the gave me a towel, calmed me down, and even offered me a Bloody Mary!  I wish I had gotten their names but I will be forever grateful for their kindness.

Back on dock, the medical personal checked me out a bit and sent me on my way.  I turned in my chip and sat in the grass for another cry while waiting to get into transition to collect my things.  I then packed out my stuff and loaded it in my car.  My car was on the dead-end side of transition so I knew I was stuck for a good 2 hours.  Instead of sitting and feeling sorry for myself, I put on some dry clothes and went to help direct athletes out to the run and hand out water.

The Bike and Run

While I didn’t do the rest of the course, I do know that the bike was a double loop with a significant hill (5-6% grade) at the start.  There were 17 police officers and 17 volunteers on the bike course.  The run was a single loop with three water stops (including the one at the start).  In other words, a very well supported course!

Overall

I only have a few qualms with this race.  First, I couldn’t find the start to save my life.  The neighborhood is very confusing with a lot of loops.  Quite a few athletes were local to the neighborhood or friends of locals and I felt like those from outside the area were at a bit of a disadvantage.  Just a couple of signs would have made the world of difference.   Second, the seeding on the swim was tough.  I do wish they had seeded by estimated times.  Third, the hill on the bike/run out of transition was very slick and I saw a lot of people slip and fall on it.  There should have been a mat on it to give a bit of traction.

Like I said, minor quibbles.  Since this was the first year, really, for this race, I give it a solid A.  I really do hope they are able to make this a yearly event again.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the cat who was hanging out and watching the bike/run exit.  He seemed quite amused by our antics.

Silly Humans!

Silly Humans!

Switching Horses Mid-Stream

After much thought and consideration, I’ve decided to defer my entry to this year’s Marine Corp Marathon.  I’ve been thinking about it for a bit (more so after listening to episode 112 of Another Mother Runner Radio about when to stop training for a race).  Yesterday, it hit home when I realized that I was already a week behind in my training schedule and this weekend’s 8 miles was really supposed to be 10 miles and I just wanted to cry.

Other factors:

  • I would have to run 17 miles the day after a very, very hilly Spartan Super.
  • I would have to work in 14 miles around a sprint triathlon.
  • I would have to work in 19 miles around a (difficult) 30 mile Olympic distance triathlon.
  • I am in a “fresh meat” roller derby training program that runs until 11:15 pm once a week but will soon bump up to twice in August so that means at least 2 fewer run days (likely more because I’m always dead the day after derby practice).
  • I won’t have time to work with my personal trainer because any free cross-training has to be used on the bike or in the pool.
  • I would definitely need to stop taking family taekwondo classes with Little Runner. We’ve been doing it for the past month and he absolutely loves it but that’s another hour of my evening to schedule around.
  • I am already the “walking wounded” with plantar fasciitis now in both feet.  Ramping up the miles now will not help that – at all.
  • I have not really enjoyed a race or done overly well in one since Rock n Roll in March.

So, what does this mean?  It means that I can stay in derby, stay in taekwondo, get back to PT, and really focus on my triathlons.  It will also give me time to work on my running pace.  I plan to stay “half marathon ready” and would like to work to get to a two hour time.  I also plan to do a spring marathon so I can train over the winter when I will have fewer commitments.  I think the benefits greatly outweigh the cost of this decision.  Am I sad to be deferring and do I feel a bit like I’m not trying hard enough?  Yes, of course but I would rather cut back and do well in all of my events than do it all but just very poorly.

I do plan to volunteer at the race and cheer on all of my runner friends who will be out there.  That’s (almost) the next best thing.

 

So, you want to run a Ragnar Trail Relay

I have heard from several people who are interested in running a Ragnar Trail Relay. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart!   Here are a few tips that may make things a bit easier:

Consider bringing at least one canopy with sides. Otherwise, bring enough tarps to wrap around the sides.  We could only cover 1 side and a bit around the corner to act as a wind break and even that little bit helped but more would have been better.

Remember to bring duct tape.

Bring at least one change of clothes for weather 20 degrees warmer and 20 degrees colder than predicted, especially if it’s in the mountains.

Bring disposable hand warmers.

Bring an extra pair of dry shoes for your last leg.

Schedule the strongest runners to run the red loop last. By the time you get to that last run, your legs are toast.

Have at 1-2 very strong runners who would be willing to pace during the night legs.  Having the extra set of lights really does help!

You can’t have too many gallon size ziploc bags. Ditto garbage bags, especially when you are breaking down your camp.

An old-fashioned percolator can save your life! Coffee in the camp doesn’t start until 10 PM on the first day.

Baby wipes are great.

Use a big plastic bin to bring your gear. No worries if it rains/snows/etc. and it’s an extra flat space.

Consider bringing a hunk of outdoor carpet to put in the common area.

Make one of your smaller tents the “changing” tent.

If your shoes are wet, immediately pull out the sock liner/insoles and stuff with newspaper. They won’t be completely dry but they will be less soggy for your next leg.

Make sure you bring enough calories.  Focus on nutrient dense food – your body will definitely need it.

Try to sleep whenever the opportunity presents itself. I foolishly wasted a good nap time and wound up with only 1 hour of sleep.

Have a team that is flexible and can adjust easily to varied weather conditions, running schedules, delays, etc.

Remember that this is FUN! :)

Have you run a Ragnar Trail Relay (or other overnight event)? What would you add to the list?

 

 

Race Report: Ragnar Trail Relay Appalachians, WV

AKA: the One With All of the Mud

For over 28 hours, I and 7 other lunatics hearty souls who comprised my team joined 349 other teams and ran.

We ran through cloudy skies, we ran through torrential rain.

We need a boat!

We need a boat!

We ran through heavy mist, we ran through the dark with faulty headlights.

Ragnar.mud

We ran through mud.  So much mud.  Big mud puddles, slippery mud slides, sticky mud holes that threatened to take our shoes.

All three loops joined for the last 3/4 mile or so.  This picture was after it drained enough so we could run on the sides of the trail.

All three loops joined for the last 3/4 mile or so. This picture was after it drained enough so we could run on the sides of the trail (an improvement, believe it or not!).

We ran up endless hills, we ran through beautiful pine forests, we ran past illuminated disco balls that the race organizers hung in lieu of the “scenic overlook” for those running that trail overnight (I don’t even know!), we ran through swamps. We ran past monster ferns that were straight out of the Cretaceous Period – but we did not run past any bears!

We ran  climbed up monster boulders and managed to not break anything as we slid down them in our muddy shoes.

Mud + huge rock = "fun". This was a tiny rock compared to others on the Red Loop.

Mud + huge rock = “fun”. This was an itsy bitsy rock compared to others on the Red Loop.

We ran back to our campsite to save it from blowing away in the wind during the storm.  We ran to the food tent, in desperate search of coffee.  We ran to the bonfire where we had to wedge our way into the circle of warmth to stave off hypothermia.

Everyone trying to warm their booties!

Everyone trying to warm their booties!

We ran, we limped, we hiked, we walked for a total of 118.4 miles.  We cursed – A LOT!

Ragnar.red

F-ing Mud!

Best. Sign. Ever.

Best. Sign. Ever.

We survived!  Ragnar.medal

Would we do it again?  Some say no but others say… maybe!

"Hey, I heard about this great race!  It's a relay and it's in the woods and there's a bonfire!  It will be great! Come, join me!"

“Hey, I heard about this great race! It’s a relay and it’s in the woods and there’s a bonfire! It will be great! Come, join me!”

My heart-felt thanks goes to the rest of my team for joining me on this insane adventure and for not throwing me off the side of a mountain (or drowning me in a mud hole).  Oh, and I also stole their pictures because I didn’t take a damn one!  Thanks, guys! :)

The Hardest Muscle to Train

On May 11, I participated in a super sprint triathlon and had an absolutely disastrous swim (400 yd).  I don’t know what happened.  Maybe it was allergies, maybe it was the hype of waiting in line on the pool deck and watching everyone else go (I was seeded at the back), maybe it was the pressure I put on myself to not be passed – I don’t know.  All I do know is that I lost my shit.  Totally and completely.  I could hardly make it one length without hyperventilating. I could not get a breath to save my life.  I had to freaking DOGGY PADDLE at least a third of the distance and was almost the last one out.  A few times, I started to tear up but I knew if I let myself cry, it would be all over.  I thought about stopping but then I saw my husband and Little Runner and kept moving as best I could.  I went on to have a good bike and a great run (9:20 avg. on the run!) and was very glad I didn’t quit.

Afterwards, we talked about what was different about this race and one of the biggies was the fact that I didn’t swim the day(s) before.  Swimming is totally not natural for me and my body likes to pretend it has forgotten what to do at regular intervals. The only way to keep it in check is to get out there and swim.  So I did what any logical baby triathlete does, I ignored the pool for three weeks. Oh, and did I mention that I have a real sprint distance, open water tri at the end of June?  Yeah….

Yesterday, I finally forced myself back into the pool.  I swam 800 yds.  It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty.  I started freaking out a couple of times on the first few laps.  Every time I thought about the impending OWS, my lungs just shut right down.  To calm myself, I tried to pretend I was swimming in a beautiful bay with colorful sea life.  It helped.  I also just counted 1-2-3 for a bit, to keep my rhythm.  That helped, too.  I saw some posts in one of my tri groups that kicking too much can cause hyperventilation so I tried to slow my kicks as much as I could and still stay afloat.  By the end of my time (I don’t even know how long I was there because I didn’t want to freak out about being slow), I was much more calm and my strokes and breathing were even.

Which just proves that it was all one big mind fuck.  My body knows what to do!  It’s my mind that the problem child (as usual)!  If I can keep it occupied with other things, then I can go on and do my thing.  I think I need to think up some good mantras and some other visualization ideas before next time.  I have 750 yds waiting for me in 4 weeks and I don’t have time for this mental nonsense!  Instead of dwelling on that bad swim, I am going to focus on picturing good swims.  I’m going to focus on staying calm and being strong and not worrying about what others are doing.  If/when they pass me, so what?  I need to worry about my race and forget the rest.

I know it’s easier said than done but, with practice, I know I can do it!