princeton 70.3 – it’s race week!

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It’s HALF IRONMAN week!!  I can’t believe that the time is actually here, and to be honest, I’m definitely freaking out a little bit.  I spent some time yesterday going through some half Ironman race reports from people of varying abilities – apparently lots of elite/amateur elite triathletes keep blogs, which really makes your confidence take a hit.  Then I would see people winning age group award and overall awards and I’d be brought back to reality.  But the reality is…I’m still nervous.

Yesterday, I also read the official athlete guide, which I probably haven’t done for an even since my first few marathons.  (Once you run a few, the rules are all about the same, right?)  I read that it’s okay to hold onto objects in the water as long as they don’t provide forward motion, so that’s good to know in case I freak out in the water.  I don’t plan on getting nervous in the water because I’m pretty comfortable in open water (although I haven’t really raced in it before), but it’s good to keep that in mind.  The bike section was full of drafting rules – I’m assuming most people will be passing me on the bike, so I guess my job is to not hang on their tail once they pass.  And running?  Well, the handbook said that crawling is an acceptable form of locomotion in the run event – I hope it doesn’t come down to that!

To say that I prepared for this triathlon would certainly not be accurate.  I have little to complain about since the only person I have to take care of is myself, but between working nights (and not working nights…), traveling, and trying to learn how to fit three sports into a training schedule, I didn’t exactly rock it.  I have come a long way since I started training – especially on the bike.  Clipping in doesn’t scare me anymore, especially  once I get out of the traffic zone that is the city.  (So being on the roads in the triathlon will be great, right?)  I successfully went the distance (and beyond!) in my last long long ride – hitting 60 miles and still felt pretty good when I got home.  Speed isn’t really my thing on the bike, but I know I can hang and go the distance.  I know that getting in nutrition will be the most important thing for me in order to set myself up for a good run. 

From what I can gather, the triathlon is mostly a cyclist’s event – most people just get through the swim (unless they have a background in swimming, in which case they blow everyone out of the water), rock the bike, then handle the run.  While I don’t expect to throw down PR pace in the half marathon portion of the race, I like to think my post-swim/bike running pace will be solid compared to the crowd.  Although, I probably shouldn’t be comparing myself to the crowd.

I will admit that the swim makes me nervous, mainly because you hear about all the craziness of swims where you get kicked, punched, and swam over.  However, Princeton is using a wave start, so each group basically goes out with their age group.  With about 80 people registered in my age group, that won’t be that bad, right?  In general, I think people say to stick to the back if you’re not the best, so I’ll probably do something like that because lining up in the middle sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Also, my wave is the second to last wave to go out, so I suppose we’ll be bringing up the rear.  The first wave goes off at 7am, and I don’t start until 8:18am – those first waves will be well out of the water before I even get in the water!  Lots of people to chase, I guess.

Before my first marathon, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into – those last few miles were painful, but at least I didn’t know they were coming.  I don’t know what to expect from this race since I haven’t put all three sports together before (okay, I did a sprint triathlon four years ago…but that hardly counts).  I’ve done brick runs – my legs felt like bricks, per the name, and I know that mental toughness will be needed to help keep me going.  Luckily, I’ve been through a distance event (or two…or fourteen) so I know that sometimes you just have to keep pushing. 

I’m excited to see what race day is like – the excitement of actually being out there really can carry you a long way.  I do have goals in the back of my head, but they’re second to wanting to have fun and enjoy the experience.  You only get one first race, and this will be my first half Ironman.  I don’t know if more will be in my future, but much of that will be based on my race day experience.  The logistics have me a bit worried, but I hope to have fun and roll with the punches.  And not freak out too much between now and Sunday…

I know I have a few triathletes reading this blog – any final tips to share?  Let’s hear them!

15

09 2014

the last long ride

Lots of bike talk around here these days.  Oddly enough, I should be spending more time on the bike, but it is taper time so at least I have that on my side.  I switched over from night shift to day shift a few weeks ago, and it’s a huge life adjustment.  Waking up at 6:15am is against my nature, so I’m (unsuccessfully so far) trying to become a morning person.  While I can’t imagine ever waking up even earlier to workout, I manage to be exhausted after work and the idea of working out after work sounds laughable.  (Am I getting old?  Is this what’s happening?)  Either way, it’s a good thing it’s taper time because this life adjustment is getting the best of my training.

But we move on.  My last few rides have been pretty solid lately, and even if they’re not that fastest, at least I have confidence and don’t feel like I can’t make it through the ride (and a half marathon after).

On Sunday morning (around 10:30am, which is early for me considering I don’t generally leave until more like noon-ish – working on it), I headed out for a taper-ific 40 miles.  I don’t know if it’s because I rode 60 miles last week or because I’ve been riding enough, but I actually thought to myself, “Only 40 miles this week!”  It’s kind of like when I’d done enough marathon training that I started barely batting an eye an 14 mile runs.  Meh, I tell you, I can do that in my sleep.  Of course, 40 miles on the bike still takes me nearly three hours, so it’s a big chunk of time, but I wasn’t worried at all.

I quickly realized that riding on a weekend morning(-ish) is much more pleasant than during the weekday – Central Park was filled with runners, and the streets were a little less packed with cars.  Most certainly the biggest difference was up by Columbia’s hospital – it wasn’t a madhouse filled with cars and people.  Crossing the GW required navigating around a few more people, but no big deal.  By the time I get across the bridge, I’m already at 8 miles, which means only 12 until turnaround.  Easy peasy, my friends.  9W is much more familiar to me these days, which is both comforting in that I know what’s coming, but makes me wonder about the course on race day.  Mental note to check that out.

I ride along, note that my legs feel a little tired but go with it.  It feels like it’s windy, but I can never tell if that’s just me moving quickly and feeling a breeze or if the headwind is actually getting to me.  Not that I ride all that fast anyway.  About 15-16 miles out, a bunch of cops on motorcycles go by, all in formation riding in two straight lines.  A huge line of motorcycles follows them, which cops sometimes flying along side of them.  I initially wondered if it was some sort of funeral for a policeman, but the stream of civilians on motorcycles just kept coming.  Eventually, we got to a point where traffic comes out of the Palisades, and all cars/bikes were held at a stop.

A motorcycle benefit ride.  Ah ha.  I pondered what exactly a motorcycle benefit ride is for – you pay money to ride in a giant group?  Not sure.  But there were definitely tons of motorcycles out.  And plenty of stopped cyclists:

photo 2 (19) Does this picture make me look official?

I admittedly felt like some sort of poser in the midst of all these cyclists who obviously knew what they were doing.  (I was wearing a lululemon top – just saying.)  As we were waiting, a cyclist in front of me wheeled back to me and starting talking to me.  He and his friend had passed me only a couple miles back, and his lead question was, “So, do you do triathlons?”  I answered by saying that I was doing my first in a couple weeks – naturally he asked which one, and I said Princeton.  He gave me a look and questioned, “You know that’s a half Ironman, right?  And that’s your first?”  I mumbled something about having done a sprint many years ago (four, to be exact) and almost mentioned that I’d been running for years, but left that part out.  (Conversation isn’t my strong point.)  He told me the run is pretty flat there, but it’s a long way to bike.  Then a guy’s motorcycle fell over, so that was distracting, oops.

photo 1 (15) Motorcycles and cops and things.

After all the motorcycles got through (thank goodness – it was so loud), we all headed out again and I hoped to not get trampled by the cyclists behind me.  Luckily, they didn’t, so that was cool.  At this point, I only had a couple miles to go before turning around, so I went down up and a big hill before reaching the state line, my turnaround point.  It’s more like 19 miles out instead of 20, but you go down a gigantic hill right after, which doesn’t make for the best point to stop, turnaround, and head home.

photo 3 (11) Why hello, state line.

This was the last time I’ll see the state line before the half Ironman.  I always thought about taking a picture of it, but never bothered to before.  I remember the first time I made it out to this point and thought it was so. far. away.  Newsflash:  Things don’t get easier, you just get stronger.  Right?  Yes?  I’m not the best cyclist ever, nor will I ever be, but I’ve come a long way since a few months ago, so that’s cool. 

After this quick picture, I turned around to head back home.  As I was waiting to cross traffic, the guy I had  been talking to apparently turned around on the hill, as he was heading back home.  He yelled, “Hey!  Good luck!” and sped along.  “I’m going to need it,” I thought.  And away we went.  Heading back home, you go down a hill then up a hill, which I hit with a few other cyclists.  A guy was cranking up it and being encouraging to people as he passed – I got a, “You got this, Specialized” as he passed me – my bike is a Specialized, so hooray.  A few other riders had been saying “Good morning” and such when passing, which I thought was nice.

The time flew on the way back – I felt comfortable on the bike, ate some of my Clif bar and energy chews, remembered to drink, paid attention to my pedaling, and soon enough I was heading back across the GW.  I had to add on a few miles, so I headed further south than I usually do, down to 72nd St, and into Central Park.  I did the lower loop (disaster zone…), and exited at 72nd St on the east side to head home.  The pedestrian/car traffic here is a bit of a mess because pedestrians think they can walk, but in reality the traffic has a green turn arrow, so it all gets messed up and traffic gets stuck in the middle of the intersection.  Another cyclist and I weaved through before getting stopped at the next light.  He turned to  me and said, “It’s like a real life video game here sometimes.”  Most definitely…which is mostly what makes me so nervous riding in the city!  I don’t get three lives, ha.

Luckily, I made it back all in one piece.  Splits here:  Obviously I go super slow in the city, but once I get on the open road, I do much better.  Of course, those beginning and end miles really drag down the average, but I’m happy overall and hope I can maintain about 16-ish mph on race day.

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Just to be like a real triathlete, I dropped my bike off quick and headed out for a brick run.  Four miles – enough for my legs to get past the bike-to-run transition.  It always feels like I’m running in slow motion, but my pace is around 8-ish, so I feel like that’s pretty solid.  I’m not sure what to expect in the later miles of the run portion, but at least I’m very familiar with running so I should be able to sort it out.  What makes me the most nervous is that my back has been getting tight after about two miles on the brick run.  Not sure if I’m just hyperaware because of all the back problems I’ve had in the past, but I hope I’m not in for any trouble.  I’ll certainly be doing core work and stretching in the next two weeks – fingers crossed, everyone.

12 days until my first Half Ironman – yiiiiiiikes!

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09 2014