... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

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...

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