Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Humble Pie

"Achievement is largely the product of steadily raising one's level of aspiration and expectation."
After a couple of fantastic weeks of training, and feeling really strong and ready for my Ironman race (which happens to be in less than 7 weeks), I was served a giant slice of humble pie.  The humble pie tasted really good, and I've had a second slice.  And a third.  Humble pie is good for you, if you don't eat it all at once.  Sometimes if you consume the whole pie, it can derail you.  But if you eat it one bite at a time, and taste everything the pie has to offer, you might learn something about yourself. 

Humble Pie, Slice #1:  The Open Water Swim
My first slice of pie was consumed on Saturday morning.  I had signed up for a 3000 meter open water swim with some friends.  The swim was in Tempe Town Lake and we thought it would be a great warm up for Ironman.  We planned to swim and then go for a leisurely bike ride. 

A few days before the swim, it was announced that the water temperature was 84 degrees, and therefore, due to safety reasons, wetsuits would not be allowed.  Now, I consider myself a pretty strong swimmer, but I was not super excited about the non-wetsuit swim because I wanted to really practice for race day.  (Please, God, let it get colder in the lake before November!!!)

Just before the start of the 3k swim.
The course was 750 meters.  Do the math... we had to circle the course 4 times to equal 3k.  The first two loops I felt pretty decent.  There were very few of us in the lake- maybe 30?- so really, we were quite alone after the mass start.  I passed a few people.  A few people passed me.  The third loop I started to get really tired of the non-wetsuit aspect of the swim.  The sun was out in full force, and every time I looked up to sight not only was I blinded, but without my wetsuit on, my non-buoyant body did not return to the surface as I would have liked.  With my feet and rear end sinking, my shoulders were taking a beating fighting to drag myself through the water. 

*Sigh*  Finally, half way through the third loop, when the negative thoughts were battling full force in my brain, I made the decision that I would use this opportunity to practice my focusing strategies, and positive self-talk.  I repeated my mantra IAm-A-Strong-Swimmer in 4 stroke cadence over and over in my head until the negative thoughts were drowned out.  When I was certain that my thoughts were lying dead at the bottom of Tempe Town Lake, I took a break to assess where I was at.  Really.  Honestly. 

I reminded myself that there were no guarantees that IM is a wetsuit legal swim.  I reminded myself that everyone is in the same boat, wetsuits give all of us the same advantage and without them- we all are at the same disadvantage, save a select few.  I reminded myself that I am still a strong swimmer even if today is not my best day.  I reminded myself that I still have 7 weeks to go before Ironman and several more opportunities to practice in open water.  And before I knew it, my 4 laps were up.  My time was not great, 56 minutes, but I felt like I had learned a few things and more importantly, I got to practice a real-live in-race refocusing strategy.  And it worked! 

After my friends got out of the water, we hopped on our bikes for a leisurely 20 miler around the lake.  We stopped for breakfast (pancakes!) and then I went home to put my feet up in preparation for my second slice of humble pie.

Humble Pie, Slice #2:  The Javalina Night Run 
A few short hours later, I was heading up to McDowell Mountain Park for the annual Javalina Night Run, put on by Aravaipa Running.  Runners have the option to run 1,2, 3 or 4 loops of the Pemberton Trail for a total of 25- 100k.  Being in IM training, I chose the 25k.  But I had to be at the airport at 8 pm to pick up my husband, so I elected to start at 5 pm with the 100k folks rather than 6:30 pm with my appropriate group.  So while I had the benefit of daylight for approximately 8 miles, I had the punishment of 100 degree heat at the start of my loop. 

Me, getting ready for the start of the Javalina Night Run.

I hadn't run Pemberton in several months, sadly, but I had secretly hoped for 2:25 finish time.  I tried to hydrate, and prepare for the heat as best as I could.  But my muscles were plenty fatigued at the start and I felt it.  I sort of thought that since I was starting with the 100k group, they'd be pacing themselves for the longer distance.  Since I only had one loop to run, I figured I could just run my pace and I wouldn't have anyone pushing me.  Wrong.  For 8 miles I ran with a guy just off my heels. 

For about 4 miles I stayed far to one side, thinking he'd eventually want to pass me.  But when I slowed, he slowed.  At one point I tried to strike up a conversation, only to realize he was listening to his ipod.  So I was just his pacer.  I don't have any real issue with that, except that one of the things I love most about trail running is the solitude.  I'm breathing heavily.  But when I have to listen to 2 people breathing heavily it makes me feel like I'm working way harder than I need to.  I knew that an aid station was coming up, and began to think of how I could either go through really fast or really slow as to separate myself from this runner. 

Then, as fate would have it, about a half mile before the aid station, I dropped one of my bottles as I tried to snap it back into my Amphipod belt.  I stopped to retrieve it, forcing him to go around me.  I took my time snapping it into place, giving him about a 90 second lead on me.  Plenty of space for this girl.  I happily settled into a slower pace and listened to the sounds of crickets chirping when I wasn't sucking wind.  

I cruised through the aid station, refilled all my bottles, and then started for the final 7 miles.  Finally!  The downhill.  It was beginning to get dark, but I refrained from using my headlamp until I had about 4 or 5 miles to go.  I'd prefer to run without one, but it helps to outline the various changes in terrain that can easily trip one up in the darkness.  Eventually I passed my running-buddy from earlier in the downhill.  He was looking strong, but appeared to be without a headlamp which may have slowed him down.  Or he was just taking his time as he still had quite a long ways to go that evening. 

I enjoyed the remaining miles solo.  The moon was full, and with about a mile to go, I began to hear the singing of the coyotes which I love.  Such a beautiful sound.  Wild.  Free.  Gives you enough of a chill to realize you're not alone in the park after dark.  I cruised into the finish in just under 2 hours 27 minutes.  So not quite the 2:25 I had hoped for, but well under my requisite 10 minute per mile pace. 

I refilled my water bottle and changed quickly before jumping into my car en route to the airport.  I mixed my recovery shake, knowing I was going to be on the bike in a few short hours for my long ride.  But I couldn't force anything down.  I sipped it slowly, but my stomach was not happy.  I really didn't want to eat anything.  My husband was waiting for me when I arrived and he presented me with a delicious, frosted sugar cookie from a famous bakery in Springfield, Ohio.  I did manage to get it down, so at least there were a few hundred calories in my system but not quite the recovery meal I wanted.  We fell into bed shortly after 9 pm.

Humble Pie, Slice #3:  The LONG Ride
Way too few hours later (aka:  5:15 AM) the alarm rang.  Ugh.  I was so not looking forward to this 100 mile bike ride.  I crawled out of bed and my legs were screaming at me.  GO BACK TO BED!  They urged me.  I stumbled into the bathroom to get ready for the ride.  At this point, I hadn't eaten a proper meal since 2 pm on Saturday afternoon.  I was out of my usual breakfast staples and had to settle for a glass of OJ to start the day.  I just knew this was not going to be a good day.

We left our house and headed through town toward the beeline.  The plan:  3 x beeline loops with 5 x 20 minute intervals at half IM pace.  Intervals?  So didn't happen.  We hit the beeline, my husband yells 'Go' and promptly leaves me in the dust.  I fought the headwind up the beeline.  I fought my fatigue down the beeline.  My stomach fought me the whole way- intermittently nauseated from lack of food, and then from being fed more sugary gels.  I was ready to call it quits at 40 miles.  Round and round and round we went until finally, after 3 loops of the beeline we hit 84 miles and headed back through town toward home. 

"There is no way I'm doing a transition run," I announce as we get closer to home.  My husband kindly informs me that I have to run at least 20 minutes.  I can do 20 minutes, I think, but not a second more.  I change my shoes.  Deliriously, I head out the door to tackle my 20 minutes.  My usual 9 minute per mile pace was no where to be found.  I averaged 10:15 for the two miles. 

Happily back home, I showered and laid down for a second in the darkness of my bedroom.  I swear I had no intention of falling asleep.  But in a matter of seconds I was no longer conscious.  I woke with a gasp at 1:35 PM, realizing that my husband should have been home from his run at least 5 minutes ago.  I ran down the stairs to see him bent over in the yard, apparently trying to keep his nutrition down as well.  Guess all the travel and not-the-best-nutrition over the last 24 hours got to him too. 

Humble Pie, Slice #4:  The ATI Swim and Tempo Run
The rest of our Sunday was uneventful.  We ate a little, or a lot actually.  We watched some football.  We hit the racks early.  On Monday morning we had an easy recovery ride followed by our anaerobic interval swim workout.  This week's workout called for a mainset of 6 x 500 yds ATI.  A few weeks ago we were hitting these at about a 1:25/ 100 pace.  Today, we were lucky to cruise in right at 1:30/ 100 pace.  Oh. So. Slow.  And painful.  There was nothing fun about this swim, and I couldn't understand why in just a few weeks I was swimming so slowly.  (Hello, fatigue?  Moron.)  I had to quiet my brain down again and move on with my day.  

And then it all came to a head on Tuesday.  I got up early to run my tempo run with my husband, using him to pace me through the 3 mile middle section of my run.  I was able to hit my pace with a bit of effort.  But then, I was done.  I could barely keep my eyes open when I got home.  In return for his pacing duties, I offered to pace him through the remainder of his long run.  So instead of falling asleep, I got the mountain bike out and returned to the roads to track him down.  I found him pretty quickly and rode next to him for the final 5 or 6 miles of his run.  I think he was hoping for lively distraction, but what he got was exhausted me, yawning every few minutes. 

After we finished his long run, we headed to Endurance Rehab for our weekly session.  I cruised through all my exercises and stretches in about an hour and then fell asleep while enjoying the Normatek Recovery Boots.  After my manual session, being pulled, stretched and manipulated, I returned home to my bed and fell asleep for an hour.  I think I could have slept all day, but I had another torture session scheduled with Solid Foundations Massage that afternoon.            

So after 4 days of back-to-back-to-back hard workouts, my body is tired and reminded me today to take a break.  I'm not worried about race day.  7 weeks away, or actually 6 1/2 weeks now.  Next week is recovery week.  Then there's taper.  My body will be rested and recovered come race day.  But boy, I really got used to those fast workouts where everything felt easy and I felt strong.  It's good to have a slice of humble pie every once in a while to remind myself of why I am training, and why I need to keep training.  It's not race day yet.  There's more work to be done.  There's more hay to be harvested.  But for today, I'm just going to burrow myself a little spot in that hay and take a nap.  Cause sometimes that's the best way to digest that humble pie. 

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