Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mid Season Break

A few weeks back, I raced in MA at the Patriot Half Ironman.  This was one of two big races on my calendar for this season.  I went into the season with the goal of getting faster at 'shorter' distances.  I had a great buildup until May, then a host of small issues started eating away at me.  My power meter started acting up and it really took a toll on my confidence and training. I wasn't sure what was wrong with it, but after a trip to the bike shop and some reading up on the manual, I was able to sort it out. A few weeks before my race, I was able to get accurate training data again.

Unfortunately I rolled into my race a little under the weather.  I had some sinus issue that plagued me a few days before the race and it left me tired and fatigued which isn't ideal heading into the one race you plan your whole winter/spring around.  But I got to the starting line and gave it the best I could that day.  My training partner-in-crime Christa was also competing at the same race. My goal was to stay in her zip code during the race.  We were fortunate enough to start in the same wave. 

I highly recommend this race to anyone looking for a half iron distance. This race company knocks it out of the park.  They keep the race small (including the entry fee).  The bike course is one of the most beautiful I've ever ridden.  I will definitely go back and do this race again.

As far as my race execution goes, I met my goal time ranges for the swim and bike.  But, typical me, my run fell short.  Part of it was being under the weather, but most of it was mental.  I really need to work on this aspect of my racing.  I could tell during the run that I was losing focus and was letting my mind wander a bit. When that happens, all hell can break lose.  My mind is like a small child, you need to keep it under control, otherwise it will run amok.

I managed to hold it together and finish 2nd in my division, but I was no where near the 1st place woman.  Even on a great day, there was no way I could have come close.  I did get a PR by nearly 3 minutes, but it wasn't what I was hoping for when I was planning this race earlier in the year.  After the race I sat in my hotel room analyzing my race and figuring out what do I need to do to improve myself.  Let me tell you, that was major soul searching going on that night.

Once I returned to LI from the race, I took 2 weeks off of any structured training. I basically took myself off the grid from my coach (with her blessing) and her group just to find myself again.  My training consisted of "what do I want to do today?"  Some days it was biking, others was running and occasionally swimming. I even had days of not doing anything. And that was OK.  I really needed time away from it all to recover mentally.

One thing I did notice leading up to my race was that I missed riding my bike.  On my way to work, I would see people on their road bikes riding.  I missed my road bike.  After Patriot I put the tri bike away and only got on my road bike.  I found pure joy in just getting out and riding my bike.  I could care less about how many miles I rode or how many watts I was producing.  I just rode.  I let the road and my mood dictate my route for the day. I took some roads that I haven't been on in years. And I loved it.  Wingman dusted off his bike and we took a few rides together.  It was nice to not worry about a workout.

I took some time to catch up on some reading as well.  I stumbled upon an article about racing and pain.  Not the pain from injury that makes you stop running, but the pain you feel when you are going all out and your body is screaming to ease up.  I was thinking back to my racing and training this year and realized that I was backing off at times when the pain was creeping up.  I vowed to change that going into the 2nd half of this season.  Last weekend I competed in the Run Around the Lake in Ronkonkoma.  It's a 4 mile hilly run that I haven't done in a few years.  I was excited to get back to it.  It was my first run since the Patriot Half.  The weather was nearly perfect for the race, overcast with mild humidity.  My goal was to run this race hard and not back off at mile 3 when you begin the climb heading back to the lake.  I did slow up a bit at this point, but that was more an issue with my race fitness (lack of intensity training) and not a mental block.  I fared well (4th in my AG) despite my lack of speed work in weeks.  I missed a PR by ~20 seconds.

This past weekend I ran a 5K in Oakdale (super flat course) and my goal was to see how long I could run when it really started to hurt.  When the gun went off, I went out a little too fast (seems to be my signature move these days) but was able to settle into a hard pace.  I knew I'd be passed by people, but I wanted to pass a few as well.  The course was super flat which meant I didn't have to worry about a hill to slow me down.  I would eye someone ahead of me and try to reel them in.  When I got alongside someone, I would think "Can they possibly handle as much pain as I can?" and then I'd complete the pass.  Completing a pass doesn't mean letting up. You have to keep going and put some distance between and not give them a chance to come back.  I did this with each runner I approached.  I lost track of how many people I passed, but my thought was the same each time.  I actually felt strong with each foot strike as I ran.  It was almost effortless at times.

In the end, I missed a PR by 21 seconds.  At first I was a little upset, but then again I realized that I haven't done any specific speed work in weeks (except for the 4 mile race the prior weekend) so I really couldn't be too upset.  But I am trying to develop more mental skill for racing and this race gave me a great starting point.

My being 'off the grid' ends today.  I start training for the 2nd half of my season this week.  I'm looking forward to training again.  The next few months we are mixing things up and trying some different workouts to get me ready for Augusta 70.3 at the end of September.  I'm tired of racing near the 'back of the pack'.  I want to start moving up to the 'middle of the pack' and feel like I belong with the group .  I want to compete, not 'participate', in the next few races.  I know I won't be winning any races and that's OK.  I'm not built for that.  But I will be putting all the pieces in place to help bridge that gap to the 'middle' group. 

Let the pain & suffering begin

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