Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Escaping The Rock '16

Gear Ready to Roll
Escape from Alcatraz is the race I say each and every year that I will never do again (sorry Mom). Especially after 2013 when it was moved to March due to the America's Cup and the water was about 53* and had (what I thought) were the biggest waves I've ever swum in and I thought I would have to call a rescue kayak.  Somehow, I end up getting roped into doing it again and this year at least, I had friends joining in the madness so I HAD to do race after I roped them in!

The best thing about this year's Escape for me was that I FINALLY WON an amateur title!  I have won my age groups and been a bride's maid overall at many a race over the past few years, but the overall win has been elusive...last year at Texas, I held the lead until about mile 24, and similarly at Ironman Cabo in 2013.  And this past Sunday, at a race distance that is not my specialty, and a week after racing Honu 70.3, I managed to be the passER and not the passEE and took the lead at around mile 7.5 of the 8 mile run and had to HAUL into the finish.  Need more details?  Keep reading...got enough?  Hope to see you here again soon!

Mark prepping the kayak
I got back from the clear blue waters of Hawaii on Thursday of race week and had to mentally turn it around to start thinking the murk and lurk of the Bay versus the clear water and tropical fish of Kona.  Can you see my sad face?  The one good thing about cold water was that I got to try out my new speedy ROKA Maverick X.  First impression was awesome, SO easy to get on and off and so soft and even easier (if that's possible) to move my shoulders and feel natural in the water.  I get nervous every year about jumping off of that boat and into the frigid waters of the SF Bay.  Sightings of sharks in the bay this year did not help to ease my anxiety!  It was great to have Mark in a kayak in the Bay and friends Kayla and Mark to jump off with.

Waving to the Muscle Milk Crew
The swim was really rough this year and I had to adjust on the fly.  The sighting is normally straight forward (pun intended) and you look to Fort Mason and the strong current of the bay flowing out to sea will normally take you "across the river" and into the swim finish without dong anything other than thinking you are swimming straight.  This year, the tide was going out as usual but the wind was whipping from the West (against the current), creating major chop and no assist "across" the river.  After getting so frustrated with the waves in the bay that I stopped, started breaststroking, and yelled STOP! to the waves (seriously...I was at that point), I realized I wasn't moving across and was going to need to start sighting to the right.  I kept looking for swim patrol kayaks and if I had seen one would have grabbed on.  Mark and a friend were out on a kayak and after we jumped in, I never saw them again.  This swim is always like that...you think, oh there's so many of us, we'll just stay together...and then you realize how wide the swim is and you feel like you're all alone...with sharks!  I just kept swimming and finally hit the exit.  I ended up taking a great line and got really lucky, lots of people ended up under or over-shooting the swim exit and once you overshoot the exit, you have to get out and walk to the finish as the current is just too strong. I saw a time of 39 minutes for the 1.5 mile swim and knew it was rough and was hoping that I had an OK for me swim and that everyone was similarly effected and thus I would still be close to the front pack for the women...but it's always hard to tell .

Pic from Jordan Blanco
I ran the half mile to transition and after getting on my bike kept telling myself that I wasn't going hard enough, it's only an hour ride, and that I had to keep going harder if I wanted to do well and make up any time lost in the swim.  I have always wanted to bike under an hour on this hilly course and finally did it this year!   I always ride my road bike at this race and think for how technical it is, this is the best choice...you barely have time to get in aero and for those moments, I had clip on bars that were perfect!

My "i need a minute face...priceless!
This race also gets tough to tell where you are due to the fact that there are relays.  I ended up going by the assumption of dry hair=relay participant.  Just to confirm though I was absolutely that girl that when I passed or got passed by said dry hair ladies, I asked them...relay?! I hit the turn around on Ocean Beach...ahh sand running, so lovely!  I saw that there was one wet hair girl up ahead...oh man, she is NOT in a relay...up the sand ladder I went as fast as possible and then thankfully, it's time to start running downhill towards the finish.  This is where I can jam and I started to push the pace.  I saw Mark in his normal place along the run where he spectates and he told me there was a girl up ahead.  I didn't see her until we hit the gravel path along the marina and i was catching her, but also was running at a 6:30 pace, which, um, is not my normal race pace ;)  I made the pass with about half a mile to go.  Immediately this gal jumped on my heels and then literally stepped on my heel she was so close to me.  I gave her a LOUD "off!" but she kept quite close.  She wouldn't pass me, so I decided that if she wasn't going to pass, I was going to slow down a bit, collect my self and prep for a sprint to the finish.  I recovered for a minute, she still didn't come around, and then as soon as we hit the turn to the pavement along Chrissy Field, I pulled away and had to run a 6:15 last mile in order to pull out the W.  2nd place crossed the line just 7 seconds back.  I had the fastest amateur run of the day which has NEVER happened before!  I was so excited that I treated myself to a grilled cheese sandwich!
mmmm, grilled cheese with my honey!

35-39 podium and Uggs in June! SF for the WIN!
After the race, I kept thinking about the "what-if's"...what if I hadn't pushed as hard on the bike and run, I certainly wouldn't have won, and what if I would have just put my head down and swim...could I have then put myself in an even better position?  My mental state during the swim was abysmal...I wanted to quit, I was a bit freaked out by the big waves and I swore to myself that I would NEVER do this race again.  I tried a few times to think positively and try to enjoy it, but there was just no enjoyment of that swim.  I think the good thing about the "bad" swim, was that I came out of the water hungry to do what I could to make up for any lost time and that made me push harder than I usually feel capable of.

Next up is Vineman 70.3 for the 11th year in a row...and I'm excited to toe the line with so many friends and Coeur team mates!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Hui Hou, Kona

Morning Kohala view
how to keep gear dry
What started almost a year ago, as a trip with a dear gal pal, ended up as a solo racecation to my fave place, Kona to race Honu 70.3 and then recharge for a few days.  I've never traveled to a major race by myself, and I wasn't nervous, but I also wasn't terribly thrilled (initially) at the idea of 6 days in Kona flying solo.  I knew that I had friends racing and would see people, so wouldn't really be lonely, but the more I thought about going to this race, the more I realized something about my (racing) self: I tend to stay with nurturers, or my husband...he's not a nurturer in the traditional sense, but he makes sure shit is in order when we go to races and I don't normally have to think too hard about logistics as that is his arena, so he nurtures in his own way.  On the other hand, when I travel to Texas to race IM, I stay with friends...both of whom are nurturers...they make me coffee, tune my bike, you name it, to ensure my race goes well...all while they are also racing.  Kona is the same thing...a house full of people and I am typically the only one racing...and everyone ensures I have a great lead up into the race...food, feet up, etc.  I like to think I bring something to the table too, but if tuning your bike is a need, don't look this way.  Cheery disposition and great pre race pep talks? I'm your huckleberry. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered why this was, as in day to day life, I am a leader, very independent and (I think) a nurturer, albeit a no bullshit nurturer, to others. I don't think I have the answer, but I mention this as in a recent blog, I talked about how triathlon helps us discover things about ourselves...there you go, I discovered something new!

Phew...anyone still there after my deep thought session? 

Landing in Kona is always awesome, big lung fulls of "full fat air", the lava fields, Kona coffee...  Over the years, Kona has become such a special place to me.  The memories I've made here and the friendships I've formed here are so special.  I hopped in my rental van, that I affectionately named Bertha, and headed to Puako. Bertha was so big, I could barely rest my arm on the door/window. We've stayed in Puako before and it is just gorgeous.  Views of the Kohala's and so many Honu sightings, you just can't keep track.  So it was awesome that the race started just a few miles from here and I had the opportunity to stay here.  I headed into town to get groceries (Kona), have a coffee along Alii and then headed to my rental.  I got totally spoiled as the owners of the property were there as well in a different house and they became fast friends who offered to feed me and tell me stories.  So much for flying solo!  I met up with awesome teammie, Michelle on Friday and swam along the course with her as well as the eventual winner, Lectie!!  The swim course was gorgeous and I got the low down from the ladies that if the sun was shining, we would be going directly into it as we headed into the swim finish.  Thankfully, I had brought a few pair of my ROKA's and ended up going with the new white/super dark mirrored version.  Race morning was a bit overcast, but these were still the perfect choice.  I also registered Friday and had to drop off both my run gear and bike...in two different locations.  Two transition races are tough, but it made the day fly by and before I knew it, it was time to eat and get to bed!  

Having just done Ironman Texas 3 weeks ago, I was cognizant that things were likely to go one of two ways...AWESOME, or AWFUL! I feel like after an Ironman, that 2nd weekend post can leave you feeling like, "YEAH, who just raced? Not this girl, she feels AWESOME"...week two is quickly followed by week three where my body is typically like, "yeah...you got a bit ahead of yourself...we're still recovering, so take it down a notch, OK?!!"  I continued to do some training, and rode 106 miles the week before the race (Jess was doing her biggest ride post bébé, and I couldn't not be there) and eventually (thank you Sonja and Mark) decided to shut it down after Tuesday's workouts.  Like really shut it down.  I didn't end up doing anything Thursday after I arrived in Kona and Friday was just a practice swim with the girls.  But it left me feeling good and confident, I just love racing her so much that I was excited to just be on the island and race, regardless of the outcome.  

Pre race dinner: chicken, potato, avocado and bell pepper mash.  Keep the fiber low and get some good protein, carbs and fat.  

Pre race breakkie:  two corn tortillas, two eggs, can of coffee, bottle of pre-load, and 3 (tiny) apple bananas and PB.  Total kcal intake was about 800.  Seemed about right for a half, but I do hit a bit more pre-IM.  

I ended up getting to the race SUPER early...being a newbie to getting myself to the race and having to take a shuttle from the finish where I parked to the start, left me a bit anxious.  Plenty of time to set up, talk to Michelle (and meet her fam!) and relax...almost too much relaxing, I was thinking, ok chica, you are too calm...time to rev it up a bit...also where I drank the coffee!

The swim ended up being a bit overcast, but just beautiful...and choppy!  Anybody?  The water looked like glass that morning, but once we were in it, it felt like anything but.  I tried to think about short, choppy strokes to match the choppy water, and thought about how we might get to be pushed into shore based on how the chop was.  We did end up almost body surfing to shore, and once you find a rhythm with the current, it's awesome!  I was thankful the swim was coming to an end and was happy to end up 3rd out of the water.  

just keep drinking...
Onto the bike. I didn't know what position I was in, but I just wanted to ride HARD and try to keep my HR up.  I didn't feel like I had gotten passed too by many women in the swim, but I knew Lecite would be up the road already...girl leads everyone out of the water...even the dudes.  The course heads south a bit before turning around and heading up to Hawi.  I remember thinking, man, I still feel so FRESH for this point in the course...yeah, cause you started in Hapuna, not Kona!  There was no wind and I was jamming on that climb.  One of our friends died this past week from cancer (fuck cancer), and Mark had sent me the details of his memorial before the race and told me to race for DY.  DY was a bike racer, with a young family, a friend to everybody and this week has been tough for our local community.  I swear he was with me the entire course, telling me to push, and was sitting on my shoulder pushing me on when it got tough.  I kept thinking of all of the pain his family is going through, and thought of the wings I had temp tattooed on myself...time to fly for DY.  I could see a pink Smith helmet in the distance and knew I was catching (soon to be friend) Steph.  Steph and I have only been friends over the interwebs, but as I passed her, I gave her a good yell and she replied back, just like I hoped she would.  We went back and forth a bit with our position, and exchanged a few words about the doodes on course who make it regally tough for us gals to race legal.  We headed back into T2 which is a no-passing zone...I was later told, I was a good "chirpper" by Steph...nicely encouraging, but vocal to the guys in front of us to keep the pressure on...we are RACING!! 
LOVED the new Coeur aero jersey

Bike food: I was a champ here...2.5 salted carmel Bonk Breakers and 4 bottles of osmo.  At a 2.5hr ride that gave me 950kcals or 380/ hour.  I think I can oush this to 400 and will try for that over my next few races leading into Kona.  I think the more you can front load the run, the better off you will be.  

charging when i could
Steph and I entered into transition together and as I was hollaring for my bag, she actually gave it to me.  How cool is that, we were 3rd and 4th woman heading into the run and she took time to give me by run bag.  I hit the run first and immediately was like, oh Nelly...3 weeks post IM may be too close...which morphed into my mantra for the day, "just slow down LESS than the women behind you!".  No wind on the bike, means NO wind on the run (pick your poison)...over lava and a moist, steaming, fairway.  Just let your mind do some wandering on that and you'll know what it felt like. I love the Kona heat, but this run may have taken a bit of my soul. Thankfully, it was collecting souls all over the place and I did my best at heat management.  I yelled as I went into each aid station for water and coke and then filled my hat, bra and shorts with ice...that was all melted within moments, it was that hot.  It's a two loop run and I was in 4th and saw that 2nd place was walking.  I moved up into third, but could see that one gal was moving well and my overall position was at stake.  I didn't know how old she was, but also saw an ex-pro in my AG coming and just tried to charge when I could on the sections where it was possible get a bit of rhythm and manage the other parts.  My grandpa has been dead since college, but he loved to golf.  I kept thinking of him as I ran on the fairway and had him pushing me over the run.  Have I mentioned Kona is an emo place for me?! It gets me, every single time.

Run nutrition: bottle of pre-load/Osmo on my way out of transition, half a pack of Muscle Milk energy chews, water coke at every aid station.  Estimating about 230kcal/hour.  

I crossed the line, knowing I was 4th female, but not knowing if I had won or was 2nd in my AG.  Once I got to my morning bag, I had texts from my family congratulating me on winning my AG.  Yes!!! I was so stoked.  Honu are my fave animal (tied with elephants) and I remember seeing last year, that the trophies were Honu...I wanted a Honu!! Turns out, they made the trophies, umeke bowls.  If you don't know the definition of the umeke, it is basically a bowl that each Hawaiian family has and that is filled with important items, those items in life, that fill you to your brim.  Triathlon is one of the things that fills me to my brim.  

my go-to face at the finish ;)
me and my umeke
The awards at Honu were about 4 hours after my finish...plenty of time to get to hang with teammies, make new friends and hang with old friends.  Steph and I got to hang out, and I always love it when someone who you think you're going to like, ends up being such a rad person.  Social media for the WIN. I was able to borrow a friends hotel room for a shower and cooled off with he and his fam at the beach before awards.  We were treated to hula dancing, which I just love, and then post awards, I went to dinner with friends and didn't end up getting home until about 9, where my new friends who owned the place were hanging and asked me how I did and invited me in for ice cream.  What a day.  

I've spent the past few days relaxing, doing tourist things and just staring at the ocean. I hopped over to Kauai to be with my sister and her girls for about 30 hours and we had such a blast.  I completely unplugged from all things work (thank you work teammies!!), and by the end of this vacation, wanted to look at the ocean more than I wanted to look at my phone.  I'm trying to be more present, and this was certainly a trip where I was present. 

Kona, as always, mahalo.  You mean so much to me.

A hui hou.