Friday, April 18, 2014

I've been here before

I figure I should update everyone since my last post was "depressing" to say the least (a little dry bipolar humor for you all). Since my last post, things have been getting better. I still have days where I cycle badly and have been very sensitive to criticism, be it at work or from myself, which leads me into a recap from my first race of the season, Leadman 125k.

The Leadman 125k is slightly long than a half-ironman, but with a longer swim (2500m), longer bike (68 miles), and a shorter run (~8.1 miles on a hellacious trail). My friend Liz convinced me to do this one as a warmup to Ironman Texas and of course succumbing to peer pressure, I said yes. Thanks Liz :)! I tend to isolate more and pour myself into training when I have bipolar symptoms, so I was expecting a better race than I had.

In the days leading up to the race, I was not excited. I simply didn't want to do it anymore. Like I said, I am super critical of myself and when training doesn't go right I get slightly schizo. Anyway, I actually did not feel like I was in "race mode" until the morning of the race. We were actually lucky because the weather was slightly cooler in Tempe that morning than it had been the day before. I had actually forgot my wetsuit at home, so I bought a new one at a steep discount the day before because I figured I need every advantage I could get. Prior to race start, they only gave us about 5 min of warmup time in the water. This just made my already grumpy self, grumpier. Regardless, I guess we were lucky that we could get in and acclimate at all. The swim started in the water, but since the waterway was man-made, you had to jump out away from the wall because there is a concrete ledge. I managed to smash my right foot right on that ledge. It was friggin painful and I almost wanted to quit before we started. Eventually, I gathered the shattered bits of my psyche back together and off we went. Water conditions were ok, just a bit choppier because it was in a shallow canal, so it was a relatively slow swim. I immediately swam out to the front and latched on to another girl and drafted off her the whole swim portion. I know she had to be a former swimmer because she was wearing Swedish goggles. I normally can get going much faster than the pace I was swimming at, but I really was feeling some of the training fatigue set in. Hence, I was happy to just draft. It was a relatively uneventful swim and I passed the time picking off the men who started before us.

Once I got into T1, I was feeling a bit more disoriented than normal. I am not sure how long I was in there since my splits didn't show up on the results, but it felt like forever. Once I got on the bike though, things started to clear up. The bike course was a mostly flat, 4-loop course. While I felt ok for it and not like I was tiring out, I knew I was having an off day and slower than normal when I saw my 24 mile split. I had another moment of self doubt, but manage to push myself through and just started to focus on my 30 min feedings. I know it sounds strange, but a three and a half hour bike goes by much faster when you break it down. After a fourth loop, I was finally back to transition.

T2 was much better than T1. My mind was finally cleared up. I basically threw my bike back on the rack (ok, I might have been a little frustrated) and sprayed on some sunscreen (by the don't spray on you wetsuit burns - that hurts!!) and made my way out to the run. My goal for the run was to hit my goal IM pace on the pavement portions of the race. Unfortunately, pavement only accounted for about 2-2.5 miles of the run and the rest was on trail. When I started the trail it wasn't too bad. But holy crap, it got worse. It was very rocky with lots of steep portions and after the first two times I almost took out my ankles, I slowed it down a bit so I didn't hurt myself before Texas. Definitely a more technical course than I thought it would be. I am pretty sure the only thing that got me through this run was knowing that Texas is a flat course. I was annoyed at the lack of aid stations and no people with sunscreen. By this point in the race, it was HOT and the sun was brutal. Finally, the sweet site of pavement came back and before I knew I was coming through the longest finishing chute ever.

Once I finished, I couldn't decide if I was disappointed or happy with my race. The positives: I hit IM pace on my run at the start and the finish, so I know the fitness is there and my fuel plan worked out. The negatives: I was slower and was not as fast as I wanted to be. I know I am carrying a lot of fatigue from IM training, but I always want to be fast. My mood has been terrible all week. And yesterday, I realized - I've been here before. I basically had a flashback to a summer championship swim meet that where I was disappointed with my performance because I had been training faster all summer. I was so frustrated because I knew I was faster and it didn't show. My coach at the time compared it chipping away at a wall and one day it will crumble (which it did the following college season). For some reason that analogy has stuck. Whether I like to admit it or not, my body is adjusting to training and racing long course races and I need to be patient. I hope that wall crumbles soon and every piece falls into place, but for now I will enjoy the journey.