Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Marathon Cheerleader

I went to cheer on a good friend at the Bellingham Marathon this past weekend, and had such a blast.  It was a small marathon, with 281 finishers (compared to 5647 finishers at the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon I did earlier this year.)  The course was beautiful, and included some trail running alongside Chuckanut Mountain, which is way better than the streets and buildings of a city.  If I do a marathon next year, this one will certainly be under consideration.

Anyway, I was a little worried that it would make me sad to watch other people running, since I can't run very far right now due to an IT-band injury, but I got over it and was able to cheer wholeheartedly for Andrea.  I cheered for her in a few spots, but it was at mile 23.5 that my eyes started to well up as she passed by.  There's just something poignant about watching someone fight so hard to reach the finish line, after they've worked so hard to get there.  She finished in just under four hours, achieving her goal.  Way to go, Andrea!  You are awesome.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Park

I went for a 24-mile recovery ride today and felt great.  I rode from home to Marymoor Park via the Sammamish River Trail, smiling and nodding to people as I passed them along the way.  I even saw a few teammates out enjoying the nice weather, too.  After I returned home, I cleaned my bike up and put everything away.  It wasn't until then that I noticed I still had my race number from the Black Hills triathlon on my helmet.  Oops!  I wonder if anyone noticed?  :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Black Hills Triathlon

When choosing which races I was going to do this season, Black Hills was not even under consideration.  But things did not go quite as planned, and after taking myself out of my A-race in August, I needed another one to look forward to; my body was craving a race.  My coach suggested Black Hills--with a longer bike ride (which I've been working hard at) and a shorter run on trails (good for an injured knee), it seemed like a perfect fit for me.  So I signed up, and I'm so thankful I was able to run this race.

It was a very small race, with a total of less than 200 participants in the triathlon and duathlon combined.  There were 58 women, eight of which were in my age group.  I seem to enjoy the smaller races because they feel more like a community and less like a crowd, and I tend to get lost in a crowd (and no, it's not because I have a greater chance of placing, though that may also be true).

With the exception of my wonderfully supportive husband, I went to the race alone, not expecting to see any familiar faces, but as it turned out I ran into a few people I recognized.  There was a family there--a mom, dad, and two daughters--who belongs to the same gym I belong to.  The dad and two daughters were all racing (congrats on finishing your first olympic triathlon, Lindsey!).  There was also a Team FASTT teammate who decided last minute to run in a relay.  Their relay team was called Kick-Ass Moms, and they really kicked ass by taking first place in the relay division.

Aside from my very first triathlon, I've always worn a heart rate monitor (HRM) to gauge my pace.  It's a really helpful tool, especially when training.  This race, however, I did not wear one because mine had stopped working and I never got one to replace it.  Furthermore, my bike does not yet have a spedometer, and I don't even own a watch.  So I ran this race without any gadgets or gizmos, and it was kind of freeing.  I know that there are many benefits to using such gadgets--they can encourage us to go faster, but sometimes they can also become a good excuse to go slower.  Either way, I was able to focus more on having fun and doing my best without the distraction of numbers.  Besides, after training so long with a HRM, I had a good sense of my zones by perceived exertion.

During the swim, I felt great.  In the beginning, one swimmer unintentionally zig-zagged her way across my path (she even apologized).  I eventually swam around her, and caught up to the white-cap swimmers in the group ahead of me that had started five minutes before my group.  I even felt that gliding feeling you're suppose to feel when swimming in the water, thanks to a master's swim class I went to where I was the only one who showed up--the swim instructor worked with me for an entire hour just on my swim technique.  It was just what I needed, and seems to have paid off already.  I finished the 3/4-mile swim in 19:15.

This was my first race with my new tri bike, and with the carbon wheels I borrowed from my coach, I was ready to soar.  I passed several people, all of them in the group ahead of mine.  I kept my eye out for anyone in my age group (our ages were marked on the back of our right calf), but didn't see any.  And it's always a good sign when the only people around me are men--only one girl passed me on the bike.  It made me think of growing up with four very athletically-inclined brothers--they taught me how to keep up with "the guys" (though now they're trying to keep up with me :)  I finished the 30-mile bike ride in 1:25:16.

At the end of the bike course, I got to test out my new transition technique, where I take my feet out of my shoes while on the bike and dismount bare-footed without stopping to get off.  My husband caught it on video using our camera, and maybe I'll put it up on this blog if I can figure out how....

My stomach felt a little uneasy as I began the run course, which is often where people feel sick.  There's something abrupt about running right after being in the aero position on the bike for so long.  But I finally adjusted, and then my knee started to hurt, as expected (it started hurting after a marathon in June).  I had decided that I would push through the pain for this race and then let it heal during the off-season.  It was a little frustrating because I knew I could have run faster if it wasn't hurting.  But I went as fast as I could, sprinting especially hard at the end.  I had a lot of energy left because the run was actually a bit shorter than advertised (I highly doubt I ran five miles in 32 minutes on trails with a hurting knee).  I'm assuming it was closer to four miles.

I finished strong at 2:21:41, which placed me first in my age group, and third overall.  I was very inspired by the woman who placed first overall--she went up to claim her award holding a 3 1/2 month old baby in her arms.  So it is possible to do triathlons while raising young kids...not that I've been thinking about that or anything.

So, the Black Hills triathlon was a great way to end the racing season.  And as autumn approaches and the leaves begin to change, I am looking forward to the off-season training and what lies ahead.  If there is anything I learned this year (besides triathlon technique), it is that "in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).  God will guide our steps and enable us to run the race marked out for us, which may be a different course than the one we had originally planned.  It isn't always easy, but it is always worth it in the end.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Tomorrow I have an olympic distance triathlon, and it is gearing up to be a perfect race day!  Today, however, was less than perfect (though the weather was beautiful).  I had a really light workout to do, an easy spin on my bike just to prep my body for the race tomorrow.  I rode with my friend Louise on the Sammamish River Trail to the Velodrome at Marymoor Park where I planned to practice a few transitions.  Before arriving at the Velodrome, however, an unfortunate incident occurred--I fell!  We were about to pass some other bike riders, making sure to say the obligatory "On your left" to let them know we were passing, when they decided to turn off of the trail right in front of our path.  Louise came to a quick stop in front of me, and I wasn't paying close enough attention to follow suit:  I crashed into her and then fell to the side, partly on pavement and, thankfully, partly on grass.  It was the worst fall I've had so far on my bike, which is quite the feat considering this was a really easy ride.  Nonetheless, I survived with just a few scrapes and bruises, both on me and my bike.  Everything else seemed to be in good working order.  I got up and brushed the grass off of myself, and we continued onward to the Velodrome.  Later, after I got back home, I looked my bike over in more detail and discovered that one of the chain links was chipped.  I grunted in frustration and then drove it to the local bike shop where they put a new chain on my bike.

Why is it that bad things seem to crop up at the most inconvenient of times, often right before some important event or something you've been looking forward to for some time?  Another example of this happened the day before my husband and I were to leave on vacation--the battery to our only car died.  In the end it worked out, but it definitely caused a lot of stress.  In some ways, it's similar to spiritual battles.  When there is something that God wants us to do--perhaps read the Bible, or call a friend just because, or invite someone out for lunch--sin and Satan are right there to tempt us to turn away, causing our downfall.  Perhaps the phone rings just before sitting down to read, or we can't think of a good reason to call that friend (even though we don't really need one), or life is just too busy to ask someone to lunch.  It's not that any of these circumstances are inherently wrong, but we must be prepared to battle that which gets in the way of doing what is right, to put on the armor of God.  We could silence our phone, tell that friend we were just thinking about them, and make room in our schedule for lunch.  One of my current downfalls is checking my email before going to bed, making it next to impossible to fall asleep.  Equipped with the armor of God, I would be able to resist checking my email, knowing I will be better off if I don't.  Yet we all will fall at some point in our lives, and when we do, we just need to get back up, brush off the grass, and keep going.  Afterwards, we'll have scar stories to share and encourage others with!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Rainy Day Swim

I awoke today to the sound of rain, a sign that fall is not too far away, though I was hoping summer might linger just a little bit longer.  But not to worry, for I would be jumping into a lake to swim 1.2 miles anyway--what's a few more drops of rain?  And since this was only a swim race, I needn't worry about biking or running on wet pavement, so bring on the rain!

I arrived at Martha Lake in Lynnwood for the inaugural Team FASTT swim race.  There were three distances to choose from:  1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, and 1.2 miles (half-Iron distance).  I opted for the half-Iron distance--as did the majority of the other swimmers--because I wanted to compare my time to last year's swim at the Lake Stevens Half-Ironman (40:47).  Would all of this year's training really pay off?  I was a little nervous that it wouldn't, and all of my hard work would have been wasted.

Anyway, despite the gray skies and rainy weather, everyone was in good spirits about the race--who wouldn't be stoked about putting on a wetsuit at 8:00am and jumping into a lake with a bunch of other crazy-like-minded people?  I didn't get a count of all the swimmers but I would estimate there were about 50 total.

The countdown began, and we were off as heart rates and adrenaline levels soared.  There wasn't as much kicking and shoving as usual, which was nice, and we all spread out after the first buoy.  I ended up swimming the majority of the race by myself, a few minutes behind the fast cluster of swimmers ahead.  I was very pleased with my sighting--I didn't veer off-course much at all this time.  I also felt strong most of the way, even though I had stayed up late swing dancing with my husband the night before (the race didn't start until 8:00am, which is practically sleeping in when it comes to racing).  However, after looking at the pictures on the website, I realized that I really need to work on my swim stroke.  Here is a picture of how NOT to swim:

Yikes!  Hopefully this was only because it was the end of the race, and I was tired.  I can't say I'm proud of this, but at least I know that there is room for improvement.

I finally emerged from the water and crossed the finish mat with a time of 36:25, over four minutes faster than last year (though this was a different lake and a different race).  Even so, I was pretty happy with it.  I was even more thrilled when my friend Louise told me there were Erin Baker cookies for post-race food.  If I had known that beforehand, perhaps I would have swum even faster! :)