... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Friday, November 29, 2013

Tri-ing Lavaman Keauhou: My First Olympic-Length

Eleven months ago, I sat down and wrote the following:

"No more excuses, no more convincing myself that I could do it if I really wanted to but just don't have the time, and no more fear of the unknown. That bronzed fitness goddess is in there somewhere and it's way past time that I find her. And so, my goal is as follows:

1. I will complete a sprint length triathlon no later than the beginning of June, 2013, consisting of a half mile swim, a twelve mile bike ride, and a three mile run.
2. I will complete an olympic length triathlon by the end of 2013- .93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike ride, and 6.2 mile run."

I hadn't taken a swim lesson or attempted to do a crawl stroke since I was in kindergarten. I'd never worn a swim cap. I didn't own a bike helmet, I'd never ridden a road bike, and I didn't know that tri bikes or aero bars existed. I hated running with a fiery passion and could barely run a mile. Still, something in me (perhaps a blissful ignorance of how difficult this sport really is) told me that I should do a triathlon. 

"There are so many what-ifs floating around in the back of my mind ... What if after all of this time, I try to do this and fail? What if I can't figure out the logistics of a multi-sport race? What if I struggle through this whole thing only to find that no matter what I do, I will never be like the bronzed badasses on the pages of the sports magazines? The biggest what-if, however, is what keeps urging me forward. What if I think about this year after year and never make it happen? How pathetic am I then?"

After the last week of training, I was so excited for the race that I could hardly think of anything else. At work, at home, at ballet, all I wanted was for it to be 7:09AM on Sunday November 24th so that I could be in the water, waiting for the gun to go off and my goal to be in progress. I gathered my gear, obsessively checking and re-checking each bag before we took off for Keauhou. We checked in at the Sheraton, picked up our packets and race numbers, attended the pre-race meeting, and then relaxed in our hotel room. We even hit the hot tub for about 7 minutes. (Bad, I know, before a race, but I had made the mistake of going to ballet the day before and damn the hot water felt good on my tight, sore legs!) After trying on our swim gear (stylish new swim caps courtesy of Lavaman) we ate smoothies made of milk, protein powder, banana, and granola, and we went to bed at the grandma-like hour of about 8:30pm.
Race morning, like every race morning I remember, was exciting with a side of hectic. No matter how many times I checked my transition bag I was certain that I was missing something, which ended up being true when we closed the hotel room door and realized that we had neglected to fill the bike water bottles and put them on the bikes. Close call. The transition area, in its near-dawn light, was like every transition area I've seen so far: full of anticipation, nerves, and incredibly beautiful bikes. This time, however, my bike fit right in! I discovered that the perk to registering early was that my transition area was perfectly positioned just steps from the bike exit/entrance. Unlike my first triathlon, I wouldn't have to run through the entire transition area with my bike, dodging gear and trying not to trip. In addition, it made my decision to put my bike shoes on in the transition area and run in them to the mount line much easier. I arranged my gear underneath my bike, in order of when I would need it: bottle of warm water to rinse my feet, socks, bike shoes, shirt, helmet, sunglasses, Clif Shot Bloks and Bonk Breaker Bites, running shoes, running race number, plus some hairspray just in case things got really out of hand. (There are very few things more annoying than having a stray strand of hair poking you in the eye or tickling your nose while you're trying to run!) Then we went to pick up our timing chips, which, unlike the last race I did, were attached to a flimsy plastic anklet and clipped on with an even flimsier plastic snap. The Velcro straps used at my first triathlon seemed like a wiser choice ... I had the sinking feeling that there was no way this clasp was going to last through the race.

Bikes, bikes everywhere!
Just like that, it was time to go down to the water. No matter how early I get to the transition area, it always seems to come as a surprise when we're told it's time to head down to the water although I have to say, it was nice to have Sean there with me this time so that we could share the walk, (or hobble, since we were walking on gravel-y pavement with bare feet), the excitement, and last words of encouragement. Since this race had start waves, Sean in the Male 14-44 wave and me in the Female 14-44 wave, we started 10 minutes apart. We wished each other good luck and I watched him wade out into the water. I put in my earplugs and stretched my light blue color-coded swim cap over my head. Once again it was just me and my thoughts.

I focused on controlling my breathing. I eased into the water, dipped my head under, and got my arms moving a little. I floated and relaxed and reminded myself how far I've come. Then, as a group, the light blue caps -- aka the Female 14-44's -- began their slow swim out to the start line.

Courtesy of HawaiiPhotoMan
As far as start experiences go, this one was truly great for me. The water was clear enough to see the dozens of bright yellow tang beneath us and there was a lot of camaraderie among the competitors, with many laughs and a feeling of support as we gathered near the paddler who would lead us out. We were lucky to have the paddler, too, because this race had no start gun and the announcer was far away with a pathetically insufficient microphone. We got a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown from the paddler and I was on my way.

I went out fast. Foolishly fast, to be honest, because I was arrogant and my fast swim times at Hapuna set me up to think that I should be right toward the front of my group in the swim. Well, either the swim was longer than 1500 meters or Hapuna is shorter than a half mile, because the swim was much longer than what we'd been doing in training. In addition, my swim group included Leahi Camacho, who just swim from Molokai to Oahu (26 miles in open ocean) and other elite-but-non-pro swimmers, so I quickly realized it would be wise to settle for upper-middle of the pack. On the upside, my swim felt strong and starting myself nearer to the front was a much wiser decision than how I had placed myself for my first race at Lanikai, during which I spent a lot of time trying to awkwardly maneuver my way past slower swimmers in churned up, poor-visibility water. I got passed a couple of times (but not many) and I passed people a couple of times (but not many), which makes me feel like my placement for the start was good. For the majority of the swim I ended up in a lovely little solo spot between the two packs -- behind the really fast group but ahead of the slower mass. The water was clear and blue, with yellow reef and brightly colored fish darting underneath me.

The turnaround point was a boat anchored about a half-mile out, and as we made the turn back toward shore the bottom dropped out from under us. The bright blue and reefs gave way to a deep, deep cerulean with depths of over 100 feet. It is the first time I've had the privilege of swimming and such deep water and oh my, was it beautiful. My stroke, like last time, alternated between really good and smooth and a little short and choppy. As always, ignoring my kick and focusing on my arms seemed to kick me into high gear so as long as I remembered that I was in good shape. Luckily for me I feel comfortable with the swim, so even though it was longer than I had anticipated I still felt strong when I reached the boat ramp that served as our exit. The run from the swim exit to the transition area felt a little rough, just like last time. Something about coming out of the water and having to run just makes me get breathless. Something to work on...

The bike transition went smoothly (running awkwardly in my bike shoes, mounting without tipping over...) but the breathlessness post-swim lingered well into the first portion of the ride. Immediately out of the transition area was a hill -- a short hill, but a very steep one, which slowed me to a crawl and definitely didn't give me any assistance in catching my breath. The next six miles or so were on mercifully flat ground along Ali'i Drive, which was lined with spectators out to cheer us along. It was needed at that point, because my legs felt like cement and I was still unable to really control my breathing. I've read that you aren't supposed to eat at the transition area because it is better to let your body adjust to the new activity before making it worry about digesting anything, so I tried to wait until I felt more settled on the bike, so at about the six mile point I choked down my Shot Bloks (gummy fuel squares that are usually delicious but were not going down well post-swim), knowing I I'd need them for the upcoming hills.

Some time between the Shot Bloks and the first hill, my legs loosened up. The middle gears felt like middle gears and my cadence came up to normal rate. I was infinitely thankful, because up until that point I was actually concerned whether or not I'd be able to make it without having to get off and walk. The first big hill was a moderately steep 2-miler and I quickly realized that I was better prepared for hills than I thought. I overtook person after person in slow-motion passes that for some reason struck me as funny in the same way that a slow-speed police chase is. I was feeling really good when I down-shifted, felt a loss of pressure, and suddenly found myself pedaling as fast as possible against no resistance, going nowhere. I'd lost a chain. I started to tip and, thank god, managed to clip out and catch myself before going over. I stepped out of the lane, re-threaded the chain, and hopped back on, annoyed but glad it was a chain and not a tire.

The micro-break actually seemed to work wonders, because as soon as I got back on I re-passed all the people I'd passed the first time and even overtook a couple more by the top of the hill. Then came the glorious down. Down, down, down, flying at around 40MPH and faster, beautiful wind in my face. I can deal with climbs, but oh my goodness I love high speeds! According to the elevation chart they showed us at the pre-race meeting, there were two big hills. With one down and one to go, I was feeling good. I was pumped! The course came almost back to the transition area, then headed out the other direction, where I knew the hill (the worst hill, from what everyone told us) lay in wait, and sure enough a couple of miles down the road it reared up in front of me into a nasty, long incline.

Initially I attempted to keep my cadence up, pedaling furiously, down shifting and down shifting again until oh-no-what-the-fuck-do-I-do-now I ran out of gears to down shift into. Then, I put my head down, came off my aero bars, and just focused on keeping my legs moving fast enough to keep the bike from coming to a standstill and tipping over. For what seemed like forever, I thought of nothing but "pedal, move forward, pedal, move forward." I passed a couple of people. Someone on the side of the road yelled "the turnaround is just up and over the hill!" and I allowed joy to enter my heart as I crested the hill. I saw no turnaround, just curvy road, but I kept pedaling, looking hopefully around each corner. When I came around a curve to see another hill (albeit a slightly smaller hill), I took it in stride and eased back into my "just keep moving forward" mentality. It wasn't too bad.

"This must've been the hill that that stupid lying slightly confused woman was talking about," I thought to myself. "The turnaround must be just over this hill."

I was busy imagining this when I looked up to see the Mother Of All Hills. Hideously long and terrifyingly steep, it dwarfed the others and sunk my heart to my feet. All sorts of ridiculous things went through my head. In some kind of bizarre attempt at mental bargaining, I told myself it couldn't possibly be part of the course because it wasn't on the elevation chart, despite the fact that there were no cross streets to be seen and cyclists were crawling up its face single file like a line of ants. Then I tried to think of ways that I could avoid it. As I started the climb I had to give up and resign myself to my fate. Again, and more urgently than ever, I focused every cell in my body and mind on moving forward and not coming to a stand still. Athletes who had made the turnaround at the top whizzed by me on the right so fast I could hear them cutting through the air. I envied them, I hated them, wildly jealous of their good luck. I willed myself to be them. For what seemed like an eternity, I pushed and pulled the pedals around in pained circles, but I didn't give up. Even my "you're a motherfucking warrior, you can do this" mantra seemed insufficient. "Keep going, keep going, keep going" went in rhythm with my pedaling and strained breathing, so that's what I told myself. I was still telling myself this when I reached the top of the hill and made the hairpin turn to head back down the hill and toward the transition area where -- dear God help me -- I still had to run.

Now it was me whizzing down the hill, first gloating then being overcome with a deep sense of pity for those still on the uphill. I've never gone so fast, and it has never felt so good. I had the new and not-so-pleasant sensation of getting a cramp in my butt and outer thigh muscle, but luckily since I was on the downhill I could coast as I massaged, coerced, and finally punched my muscle back to normal. I focused as I came into the transition area and managed to smoothly slow down and clip out as I watched the man in front of me fail to do so and go crashing to the ground, feet still attached to his bike. Click-click-click-click went my bike shoes as I ran to my station, racked my bike, and tried to get my head straight for the run. As I took off my bike shoes something landed in my hand. Sure enough, the flimsy snap closure on my timing chip was as lame as I'd thought -- it had broken in half. I tried to reattach it, but no dice. I grabbed it, wadded it up in my hand, and headed out of the transition area. I was already out when someone yelled "Bright Yellow, where's you number?" and I realized that shit shit shit shit I was so distracted with the stupid timing chip that I'd forgotten to grab my race belt with the number attached. A quick jog back to my transition spot, a wasted minute or two, and I was out on the run.

The same hill that opened the bike course was our greeting for the run. No one close enough to see was running it, so I followed suit and walked to the top.

"Are you doing the whole thing?" Asked a woman walking beside me.
"Yes," I repled.
"I'm just doing the relay," she told me. "Bless your heart."
I followed her for a couple of miles before my fatigue caught up and she made it out of sight.

The run was, in short, mindblowingly difficult. I ran the first two miles feeling good, legs light as air. Then something terrible happened and my feather-light legs turned to coiled, heavy springs that wouldn't release to save my life. Part of this was that at least two-thirds of the run course was on grass, which felt somewhat akin to trying to run through quicksand. The sun was already beating down, and my image of flat, comfortable cart paths over the golf course was decimated by hill after hill. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make it to the three mile mark without walking. I soon realized that no one was making it through without walking, and so I alternated walking and running while still trying to maintain a pace necessary to make the 3.5-hour mark I was aiming for. The course was truly beautiful, with a view of the ocean and the mountains at all times, and the sense of camaraderie amongst competitors swelled in direct proportion to the difficulty of the course. I lived for the aid stations, which offered a tantalizing buffet of water, electrolyte drink, and ice as well as very supportive and enthusiastic volunteers. I tried to eat my Bonk Breaker bar, but my mouth was so dry that it simply glued my mouth shut.

About two-thirds of the way through the run I realized that I was not going to make the 3.5 hour time, and suddenly I could stop worrying and just enjoy the rest of the course. I ran as much as I could, stopped for a few seconds to stretch out the angry knots shaped like my legs, and really looked at the beautiful scenery. I missed the 5-mile marker, so when I hit the 6-mile marker I was overcome with elation. I ran. I passed several of the people who had overtaken me earlier in the run, including a woman who had to have been at least 65 years old ... triathlon gives you a great sense of accomplishment and a great sense of humility.

With the finish line in sight, I put every last bit I had into my run and came across the finish line at 3:35. Not bad, all things considered. My legs were solid and inflexible blocks and my stomach was churned, but Sean was there to meet me at the finish line and my goal, set nearly a year ago, was officially accomplished! I laid down on the grass to stretch and rest and bask in completion. SUCCESS!

So how do I feel, now that it's over? Well, it's a strange combination of accomplishment and a feeling of not knowing what to do now. It's time to rest, recuperate, and pick our next race (and not fall out of any papaya trees...). Triathlon is like a drug -- once you do it once, you're always looking for your next fix.

Accomplishment: post race!
Getting to this point has meant so much to me. I started something I was afraid of, something I knew nothing about, faced it down and conquered it. It's impossible to really impart how much the mentality of triathlon seeps into your everyday life, but there's a strength you gain by forcing yourself through physical pain that is incomparable. The knowledge that you have the mental strength to accept pain, uncertainty, and keep moving forward empowers you and I have a confidence in myself, both physically and mentally, that I never knew before.

So did I become that bronzed, toned, badass athlete in the pages of the sports magazine? I am 9 pounds lighter, more muscled, more toned, and more tan than I was at this time last year, but more importantly I feel like that person. I know now that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, that I am brave and strong enough to feel my weaknesses and turn them into strengths. I have found my inner triathlete.

Thank you so much to Danielle Mueller, Kate Arvin, and Zara Nguyen for your ongoing words of encouragement throughout this year. Thank you to my mom for sharing her triathlon experiences (and those of my dad) with me and always being enthusiastically ready to listen to me talk about how it's going, to my dad for always being there in spirit when I needed him most, to Cheryle Hirst for many training books and Bonk Breaker bars that kept us going, to Dr. Marko Reumann for my beautiful, gorgeous bike and brand new awesome yellow shirt, to Hawaii Sport Magazine, Salty Coconuts, and DeSoto Sports for supplying my race and training gear, and to Sean for being by my side for most of my training. Most of all, thank you to all of you who are reading for supporting me and participating in my journey.

So let it be seen, for everyone to read ... the next goal is here: 

Before the end of 2015, I will complete a half, then a full Ironman! It's official now, so bring it on!

Saturday, November 23, 2013


I have made it to this point again. At this time tomorrow, I will have completed my second triathlon, my first Olympic length, and the goal that I set for myself just about a year ago. It is easy to wax contemplative, but I'll save most of my deep thoughts for my post after the race. :)

I finished up strong, running three times per week for the last two weeks, swimming four times this past week to make sure that I feel comfortable in the water, and tapering on the bike (where I felt most comfortable) so that my legs are fresh. All the way up to the last workout, I was learning. After training in Waimea for most of my runs, Sean and I did 6 miles on the Queen K last weekend. It is easy to forget what a huge difference temperature can make, and I was quickly reminded that the cool air of Waimea does little to prepare me for the brutality of beating sun and wind. My body temperature got so high that I actually started shivering, a sure sign that my body was failing in a big way at keeping the heat under control. I actually had to sit down and allow myself to cool before continuing. Luckily, the way back had more wind, and while it was more difficult to run against, it kept me from overheating again. We also didn't take any water during the 6 miles, which probably wasn't the wisest decision.

My Waimea runs, on the other hand, were so mind-blowingly beautiful that I hardly have words to describe them. In the early morning I got to listen to the chorus of birds welcoming the sun back to the sky and watch the colors change from purple to pink to yellow to blue. In the evening after work I ran as a mysterious mist rose from the fields, eventually covering any space that had grass with a five-foot layer of white while the sun set in beautiful colors. I tried to take photos but they don't even begin to do it justice.

Making weird faces because of the rain haha
Based off of a combination of my Waimea runs and the most recent Queen K experience, I am estimating my 10k triathlon run time somewhere around an hour and ten minutes. I have to go slowly, it's just fact. At best, I'll keep an 11-minute-mile pace while running but chances are I'll have to walk for at least a few minutes. I am happy and at peace with my slow run pace. After breaking my foot and being confined to the couch for so long I am just happy that I am able to do this triathlon and complete my goal.

Our last long-ish bike ride (tapered to 16 miles) was from Hawi to Pololu Valley and back. The hills were brutal but the colors and smell of the jungley landscape were a lovely change. This ride was one of the first ones I took when I moved to this island, and so it was a nice close to my training for this race to finish there. We rode past cows and friendly goats and when we reached the hill that beat me into submission when I did the ride before, forcing me to actually dismount my bike and walk the rest of the way up, I buckled down, summoned all of my inner warrior strength, and powered to the top in victory.  It was a perfect way to see how far I've come.

Moon still in the sky
The swims were also learning experiences. I rediscovered that if I keep my arm stroke pace up, even pushing almost to my limit, my stroke is much better and smoother. I had figured this out a long time ago back on Oahu at Ala Moana, but somehow I had gotten complacent in my pace. When I sped it up, I was amazed at how much more smoothly everything went. In addition, my mile time was fast. Really fast. (For me -- no promises on how I compare to real triathletes!)

The last early morning swim before the race we arrived just as the sun rose, with the moon still in the sky. There were fish swimming in the perfectly clear water beneath us, the ocean calm and glassy just inviting us in. I pushed for the first half of the swim, then slowed down a little to enjoy the colors, the water, and the feeling of it rushing over my body.

Perhaps most impressive, amazing, (and a little sad), I swam for the first time without my EarBandit. When I started swimming 11 months ago this little piece of genius engineering was the only thing making it possible, and now I feel like I have graduated. I am practically a real swimmer, with just my ear plugs, goggles, and swim cap. Given how I looked when I started this adventure, this is a pretty big step. In addition, after all of my goggle switching and swapping, I decided to go with my old, original goggles for the race. Sometimes classics are classics for a reason.

And so, I am ready for this race.  It won't be perfect, but it will be accomplished. I have learned so much from the whole process, but especially, in the training for this particular race, to be patient with myself, to be more flexible and to fit triathlon into my normal life, and to be determined despite distractions, other obligations, and the urge to give up. My run form has done a 180 since I began, I can swim at a pace that puts me in the upper half of my age group, and I feel comfortable on the bike in a way I didn't know I could. More importantly, it has changed who I am.

I know now that I have a strength inside me that I wasn't familiar with before. I know how to dig deep, to face things that scare me, to feel and accept pain without giving in, and to use the strength of my mind to conquer weakness in my body.

Think of me at 7:10AM tomorrow (November 24th) as I start the race with a swim. And, maybe more importantly, think of my at 10AM Hawaii time tomorrow as I'm struggling through the last part of the run. Next time I write, I'll be a two-time triathlete and my goal will be accomplished! Thank you all for reading and for being part of this wonderful adventure.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

1.5 Weeks Pre-Race: The Finishing Touches

This is the second-to-last week before the race, and I'm getting really excited.

I'm feeling confident on the bike. We've done eight 30+ mile rides including five 35-milers and one at 43-miles. I think that the 25 miles for the race should be very doable. The only part that I think will be a major issue is the 1.5-mile very large hill about three-quarters of the way through the course, but there's nothing you can do about that except trust your legs and power through. There is a 2.5-mile somewhat steep hill along the route we've been riding frequently, so I'm hoping we will be adequately prepared.

Testing a DeSoto tri suit for Hawaii Sport Mag -- stylish!
We have fine-tuned our on-bike fueling routine, so I now know that two hydration bottles, one with water and one with HEED carb/electrolyte drink seems to be the best combination, especially when taken in alternating fashion. Much to my chagrin, my grape Gatorade seems to upset my stomach a little when I take it during the bike. I guess I'll have to save it until post-race. I've also discovered that much as I want to be the cool athlete popping gels out of my fuel belt, I am not an simply not a gel person. I found a couple of flavors that I like and even managed to stopped gagging at the texture, but they feel like they sit in my stomach in a clump no matter how much water I drink with them, making me feel slightly ill.

This leaves me with Bonk Breaker bites, small nutrition bars high in carbs, potassium, and sodium and full of delicious flavor, and Clif Shot Blox, gummy energy chews with similar nutrition boosts, a couple mg's of caffeine, and super yumminess. I just do better with solid food, for whatever reason, and these options make me happy and have proven most effective in providing energy. I definitely see now why they recommend that you get your food/drink routine down ahead of time. Between almost passing out on the bike due to lack of nutrition and spending half of my ride feeling like I'm going to barf due to too many calories, it is clear to me that waiting until race day to pick out a random fuel source would be very, very stupid.

The run is where I was feeling the least confident, because although I have done a decent job of training, I had a long way to come back from the broken foot, especially give that running was never exactly my strong point. After all, this blog is called Ballerinas Don't Run for a reason ... In the last two weeks, however, I decided to make it my focus, going back to three runs per week. I know that whatever happens on the run course will happen, but I think that if I  can boost my confidence and mental comfort it will make a bigger difference than anything physical at this point. I started going running before work a couple of times per week, driving down to the town where I work, (also home to my favorite running route, one of the most beautiful roads in the world), running for 45 minutes to an hour before heading to work.

That's right, I go to work a couple of days a week after running, without a shower. Gross, I know, but you do what you gotta do when it's three weeks before a race. Plus, running before work leaves me energized and melting into an endorphin-induced puddle of euphoria. I swear I bring deodorant, and I change clothes before heading to the office.

And, I have to say it's working! I've been taking the runs further and further, stretching my mileage a little beyond what I'd been used to, and I'm back up to almost 5 miles running without walking or stopping at all. I even finish feeling strong, like I could keep running. I took it slow at first, taking my pace back to the 11:30/mile range. With each run the times have improved significantly, and for my most recent run I did 4 miles at a 10:15 pace, with both my fastest mile time and 5k time yet! It feels great to see progress and get back to where I was before the injury.

I keep focusing on form, checking and re-checking my form as I get tired. I have learned so much about run form just watching high level triathletes and attempting to apply what I see. My checklist goes as follows:
- How is my cadence? Especially up hills, keep the cadence up
- Are my strides too long and heavy? Short and light, short and light

How can you hate running with a view like this?
- Look at something at eye level off to one side. Am I bouncing up and down too much? Try to keep your head level as you run and only use your legs to run (I picture my upper body moving forward in a straight line with no movement whatsoever with my legs moving beneath me like a cartoon. Works like a charm)
- Are my shoulders and upper back pulled up too tight? Relax your upper back and shoulders. For me it almost feels like a slouch in order to get me in the right position
- Are my legs too close together? I tend to be almost knock-kneed. Make sure there is space between your legs and that your needs are in line with your feet.
- Am I tilting back or forward? Keep your hips in line with your feet
- Am I allowing my core to collapse? When I get tired I find that I tend to let my abs go slack and I sink into my hips. I have to pull up from my hips and engage my abs and my butt

I'm a pro at goggle fashion shots by now
With all of these things in mind, I have plenty to think about. I have found, however, that when I start to feel fatigue, one of the things on this list is to blame and if I run through it in my head I can usually fix the problem and remedy my tiredness. Valuable discoveries.

I have also been trying new goggles. My latest attempt are the Aqua Sphere "Kayenne," worked like a charm for the first swim and leaked like a motherfucker on the second swim. The third was kind of a draw, leaking a little but not really enough to be a deal breaker. Once I put it out of my mind and focused on my stroke, it was doable, handle-able... okay.

These goggles have more rubber lining around the lens than the ones I have been using, which I thought would help the seal but I'm not so sure anymore. They're definitely more comfortable from the standpoint of suction on my eyes, aka they don't make me feel like my eyeballs are going to pop out (always nice). I'll be keeping them while I continue the search for the perfect pair.

Other than goggles, I am feeling tentatively confident in the area of the swim. I haven't been able to do as many workouts as I'd like now that it is too dark in the mornings, but I know that my actual swim skills are strong enough to do well and that (somewhat like the running) mental game and confidence are the biggest issues. For this reason I've planned four swims in the next week just to increase my confidence and comfort level in the water, even if the distances are not super long.

Still on my to-do list is figuring out how on earth to attach my shoes to the bike, jump on, pedal with my feet on top of the shoes, then pull them on and adjust them while riding. I attempted to adjust the strap on one of my shoes while riding the other day and almost crashed into the lava fields, so I'm not sure how I'm going to accomplish this in the next week. I may end up just having to run carrying my shoes, put them on right before the bike mount line, and hop on from there. Slower than successfully putting them on once I'm on the bike, but still significantly faster than crashing. Choices choices...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Darkness Falls: A Comedy of Errors

I have been bad. Very bad. it's been over a week and a half since I wrote, which is completely unacceptable. The good news is, much of this was because I didn't have time before or after work because I was doing workouts. I had started this post (minus this lovely little prelude) last week so I'm going to finish it and then write a new one for this week. So here goes.

My lovely running route
This past weekend we were having our house fumigated (termites be damned) and Saturday was almost completely taken up by getting all of our food and anything else we felt paranoid about packed up and out of the house. We wanted to go snorkeling afterward, but some strange weather left the ocean choppy and full of strange currents that did not look particularly inviting. This left Sunday, and we had big plans.

We drove down to Keauhou, where the triathlon is going to be held (IN UNDER THREE WEEKS!) ready to do the whole course, albeit in a slow and somewhat relaxed way. When I say relaxed, I am conveniently omitting the part about having to move our seats forward as much as possible to accommodate the two bikes in the back of my hatch back.

(Every time we go anywhere with the bikes, you see, we have a dilemma. Do we take Sean's truck, where we can put the bikes in the pickup bed and have plenty of room but if we have to do anything other than bike they are sitting out with no security? Or, do we take my Scion TC, which has plenty of room for one bike when the back seats are folded down, but fits two ony with dubious crowding, tangling gears, and both driver and passenger seat pushed as far forward as they can go?)

We chose my Scion, and thus made the entire drive to Kona with our knees by our chests and our faces practically pressed against the windshield. Comfy.

The problems began as soon as I checked the course information on the race website to see where we needed to go. The first portion (the swim), goes straight out to sea from the start point, reaching water that is 125 feet deep. In a large group of people like during the race, 125 feet depth sounds exciting but with just two people all by ourselves in the endless ocean, it sounds like the scariest thing ever. Oh well, we thought, we'll do the bike portion and the run and swim elsewhere.

Next, I looked up the run course. Clear as day, on the race website is the following sentence: "Please do not train on the golf course! We have permission to run on the course race day only! Well damn it all. Run course was out too.

I swear if these fit I would wear them for the race
Since the bike was our last option, we headed in the direction of the transition area. As we got closer, we realized that option three was not going to go our way either. At least a third of the course is shoulder-less, no space to ride off the very curvy road with cars whizzing by at 50mph--no conditions to be riding with just two people. Wow.

So, our plan to do the entire course turned into going to Sports Authority to try on goggles for me (since the mask-style ones were such a huge leaky failure), Bike Works Kona, getting my bike tweaked (yet again), getting some recommendations on tri shorts for Sean and saddles (see how I use the cool cyclist terminology?) for both of us, then getting our favorite Thai food and watching a movie. then going to Bike Works Waikoloa and getting Sean new pedals, cleats, and shoes so that he too can be "clipless" aka clipped in.  It was actually an enjoyable day, just not exactly what we had planned on.

Happy Halloween from Ballerinas Don't Run!
The other problem I ran into this week was that the seasons have finally caught up to my early morning swims. In order to be to work on time, I have to leave the house by 5:35AM, get to the beach by 6:05, be in the water by 6:15, back at my car by 6:55, and on my way to work by 7:10. Up until this point, it hasn't been a problem. After not being able to swim for a couple of weeks due to my stupid wisdom teeth, however, the days have reached that "winter" point where it doesn't get light until after 6:30AM, and no matter how brave I am I am not going in the ocean in the dark. Sean and I made it out of bed, got down to the beach, and realized that it wasn't even close to light yet, despite being 6:15. After sitting and waiting for fifteen minutes, we finally went in, but I could only do a half-mile swim before I had to go get ready for work. Even then, I was late.

The dark morning problem is one I haven't quite solved yet ... the good news is that I'm not too worried about the swim portion. Provided that my goggles don't un-seal and I don't get knocked out in the water by other flailing swimmers, I'm feeling pretty confident. If I can get three or four good swim workouts in the next week before the triathlon just to get comfortable again, I'll be fine, and since the running and cycling are tapering fairly dramatically this week, I should have plenty of time to swim.

The seasons change, and I guess my training has to change with it. It was a productive week if not quite in the way I was expecting, and the triathlon is getting close enough now that I'm starting to get excited!