Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tattoo #2

After Challenge Wanaka, I still wasn't fully healed from the crash and had already planned to take a week off post-race. The boy and I headed up to Nelson to meet up with a particularly gifted tattooist so that he could add to one of his tattoos and so that I could get my second tattoo. I had been thinking of getting another tattoo for the last year or so, but I was never confident in my ideas, and by the time I was, several attempts to get in touch, plan, and sketch my ideas with tattooists didn't pan out. I wasn't stressed, it would happen when it would happen. And I stumbled upon the most perfect person to do it; someone whose work I greatly admire. 

So this isn't the best picture, but it is an inner forearm tattoo that combines three different places in Wanaka:

The submerged tree in Lake Wanaka, but with its leaves. 

The poplars on one side of the lake
Black Peak as the mountain in the center of the tattoo.

Other mountains that can be viewed from Wanaka on either
In the end, obviously the tattoo is not a strictly accurate representation of Wanaka from any one viewpoint, but it definitely encapsulates my love of the place. It feels like it has belonged on my arm forever, it "fits". 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Challenge Wanaka half-iron race report

So after 1 week of hobbling around post-bike crash, I decided to give the Challenge Wanaka half-iron a go. "I have to at least try to race" was my thought. I spoke with my doctor about minimizing the risk of infection, I did nothing but rest and recover for that week, and... I showed up on the start line ready to go. 

Last year at Challenge Wanaka, we had epic gale force winds that had me complete my first iron-distance race in a slow, but incredibly proud race. This year, we had rather light winds in spring and summer, and all of us were rather hopeful that we wouldn't have to battle the conditions as we did previously. Well, in the days leading up to Saturday's race, it just got windier and windier. The previous day, Friday, had a gale warning and Saturday didn't look too pretty either.

Indeed, when I woke up, I was surprised by how windy it already was. It would end up being a gusty day, with winds revving up the water, creating massive waves, and on the bike and run pushing us all over the place. The Wanaka airport clocked the winds at 70km/hr, and that's not even the windiest part of the course!!

Swim: Lake Wanaka half-iron females started at 7:38am, 3' behind the Lake Wanaka half male racers (7:35am). We'd quickly catch up with the slower swimmers and at times this was frustrating but everyone stayed pretty civil. We were swimming into the wind and waves on the way out, across them for one leg, with the wind for a section, and then across the waves and into the sun for that last leg. My time was 34:34. One, that's slow. That is a sloooooow swim for what I am capable of. Yes, it was windy, yes I hadn't trained properly for 2ish weeks, and yes I'd strained my arm and back muscles in the crash... but I should have had a 29:xx swim and I'm frustrated that I didn't. Fuel for the fire, eh?

Women in white caps start at 7:38am, 3 minutes behind the
men in blue caps. 

Coming out of the water. 

Bike: I had not been on my bike since the crash and at first I thought I'd be nervous to be on it, but nope, there was no post-bike crash fear. I know this course like the back of my hand, and I got on the bike, pulled up the bike shorts to expose the road rash to the air, and started to ride. I had adjusted my power goals because of the forced down-time from training due to the anemia and the bike crash, and I hit those goals right on the dot for the first 1h30, but it was hard. The effort wasn't hard, not really, very sustainable for a 90k bike course... but everything hurt. I was using some muscles more than I normally would because I just could not, for the life of me, use my glutes or quads properly. The road rash itself didn't hurt too much, but the deeper tissue trauma was really forcing me to rethink "hard efforts". Then, in the last 1h30, shit hit the fan. I was on top of my nutrition and hydration, I had stayed within my abilities, but my body totally revolted. My ankles ached, my shins ached, my knees were screaming, my quads and glutes were powerless. No joke, I was kiiiiiilling myself in a massive headwind only to push out 100-110W. That is EMBARRASSING. That is my "easy spin, kind of coasting, doing nothing" wattage. That is less than zone 1 wattage. What the fuck!!! So I ended the bike unhappy (3:16:04, 941m or 3087 ft elevation gain). I was already considering the possibility of dropping out; it was very unlikely that my body would suddenly magically improve on the run, what with all the extra pounding on my legs. That would cause even further damage to my injury. I got off the bike, whizzed through transition, and onto the run course.

Start of the bike. 
TrainingPeaks' .tcx file of the bike course. Note the slow
deterioration in both HR and wattage. You can look at the
TP workout of my 90k bike here. Would love to hear what
you think!! My goal was 140-145 watts, I was lapping every
15k, winds seriously picked up in the last 1h30 and I was
anemic and recovering from a crash on race day.
Hydration was 1 bottle/hr of nuun, and nutrition was
180cal/hr. Thoughts???

Run: I did not start running. I started jogging. Well, more like limp-running. My upper body was incredibly tight from trying to swim hard on strained muscles, and my lower body was totally not having a good time. I was using my right leg minimally, I still couldn't run from my quads or glutes, and by the 5k mark my left leg (the now-favoured leg) went numb. Full-out, lack-of-control numb. I must have been pinching a nerve with the awkward gait I'd been using to compensate for all the pain I was experience in my right leg. I was a wreck, and for the first time I willingly pulled myself out of a race. I'm glad I tried, I rocked up to race and tried my best, but when I knew all I was doing was damaging my body, I stopped, re-assessed, and knew it was time to focus on something else other than covering 21.1km as stupidly as I was doing at that very moment. 

There are other races I am going to focus on in the next few months, obviously with the biggie being IM 70.3 Hawaii, and I'm excited for them. I'm excited to heal myself in the next week or two and get back to proper, full-on training. I miss it. I can only fake being an athlete for so much longer!!!! Eating lots of steak and venison, now, so hopefully my iron levels are on the rise. Anemia's no fun!! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jack's Point Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Alrighty, here's the ugly race report from the 2nd race in the Ultimate Tri Series. The race is an early afternoon start, at 1pm, so after a late breakfast back home, we made the drive to Jack's Point, 10k south of Queenstown. It was a cooler day, with the winds blowing 50-60km/hr. Not gale force, but definitely not fun.

I warmed up a wee bit with some sprints, some good form swimming, some flopping around and some smack-talking with friends also doing the race. There were maybe 100 of us doing the sprint triathlon? Good fun. The course was supposed to be a 500m out-and-back in the very small Lake Tewa but the race director decided to change it to approximately a 750m swim out and around a small island and back in. I swam. In the last few minutes of the swim I realized myself and one other guy were the only ones right behind the front pack of approximately 10. We tried to catch them but exited the water maybe 4-5" back. Turns out I was first woman out of the water, in about 11:35 (1:32/100m, or 1:24/100yds). Not sure where all the fast girls went, as there are usually some 10:xx swimmers out there, but cool enough, I'll take 1st chick!!

T1: I do not have short-course transition efficiency, but I also don't dawdle. Got the wetsuit off, got everything else on, and I was off. Right out of transition we ride over about 200m of grass to get onto the road. No, I don't know how to slip into shoes already clipped in.

Onto the bike course and it is a 2x10km loop on meandering roads all within the Jack's Point community, on the golf course estate. Read: you're either going up, or down, on poorly chip-sealed roads with gravel everywhere. That wouldn't be so bad, but we had strong winds and it started to rain/hail. I was warm enough, I just needed to focus. Despite leap frogging back and forth with the girls for first, second and third place (I think), I got my dose of bad luck. Going into a downhill curve, my back tire got completely shredded, the back wheel locked and I skid and slipped all over the gravelly road until I finally had the luxury of scraping the entire right side of my body against the ground to slow me down as I slammed into a rock wall. Not. Fun. A lady kindly stopped her entire race for me, helped me stay calm and held her own clothing against my oozing wound until a golf cart came to rescue me. I was taken back to transition, then to a nearby home where a nurse helped me out. She did what she could, and then we had to go to the medical centre because it needed a thorough scrubbing out. After waiting a long while, a nurse scrubbed out my wounds for what felt like absolute FOREVER. I was near passing out, vomiting from the pain. I don't exaggerate pain, when I've had 2 broken legs, a knee surgery, many stitches, and of course gone through the pain of racing Ironman, which can at times get really, really ugly. But this was brutal. Sheer agony. And it seemed to never end. Just when I thought she was done, the doctor would return and point out another area that needed even further cleaning. I'm not good with laughing gas as I don't respond well to it, nor does my stomach take codeine well, so all I had was a local anesthetic and paracetamol/ibuprofen from 4 hours prior.

Before being cleaned.
After the scrub out. It then had to get pulled together and
steri-striped. No stitches needed. 
The wee scrapes on my arm. Triceps, lats and other upper
body muscles are quite strained, but are getting better with
each passing day. 
So that's where I'm at. I'm not doing anything this week other than continuing to ice, taking pain killers and anti-inflammatories regularly, and... hoping that on race day I'll be somewhat effective at mimicking the swim, bike, run motions.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Regular training vs. Now

I had a race yesterday. For the first time ever, I DNFed... race report to come, but let me say, it got ugly:

I've been a bit discombobulated lately. What with becoming anemic and now this rather serious bike crash, I've had an unfortunate 2-3 weeks of poor quality training, and the week leading up to Challenge Wanaka doesn't look any better. In fact, it looks like this:

My TrainingPeaks log for next week. 

When I'm used to week-in, week-out of this:
One of the last weeks I had of consistent training before
But, no, seriously, TrainingPeaks is the best way to organize
your training by sport, by intensity, by duration, whatever
you want... 
It's uncertain if I am able to race next weekend. My goal of high up there in the female rankings, perhaps 1st AG (F 18-29) is definitely out of the question. At the moment I can't walk because of the massive internal bleeding, the road rash on my leg, minor road rash on my arm, and strained muscles in my upper torso (tricep, lats, etc). Ideally I can fix my bike in time, have the swelling go down, ease the strain in my muscles so that I am able to swim, bike, and run. I'll be lucky if I can be on the start line on race day actually ABLE to complete the distance. 

Race report from yesterday's sprint tri is up next. The only good news to come out of that was that I was first female out of the water!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Decision made: Ironman 70.3 Hawaii!!!!

Yes, decision has been made. I'm opting to race and get FAST, rather than complete a full Ironman and stay slow, i.e. stay in the 11-12hr range. I am planning my entire summer around fun races, and then building up for one race, one goal:

Win AG (and both 70.3 and full World Champ slots) at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii on June 2. That's it. That's all. It's the perfect race for me...
- I do amazing in the heat. Small body dissipates heat easily, everyone else suffers far more, I love seeing others suffer, I thrive on it, and then crush them!! See Cairns half-iron race report: here. And Boulder 70.3, racing at 99F. Come to think of it, all the races where I've felt like I totally nailed it, ended strong on the run, have been in ridiculous heat.
- It's at the beginning of winter/end of autumn. No need to train through winter and moan about the cold. I end my season when I need to end it, boom done.
- No excessive traveling. I was thinking of sticking with my 2 70.3's I had already planned on doing (Eagleman 70.3 and Buffalo Springs 70.3) but that meant about 1 month of traveling, living out of my car and excessive amounts of driving, yet again, and I was antsy about that. And it was in the wintertime for me, I'd be delaying starting my off season yet again.
- No full ironman this season. Contemplating IM St George, Utah in May but I do not need to train my body to go long, it already loves doing that. I need to train my body to go fast. Training for an Ironman is easy. Training to race, really race a 70.3, holy crap is that hard. I've been experiencing some serious growing pains since I've started my "GET FAST" training. My body has NO IDEA how to cope with the higher intensities, my heart is just starting to figure out it won't explode in zone 4 and 5+ HR, and mentally I'm still learning how to deal with the suffering that comes with training, and racing, near lactate threshold.

I also found cheap as flights to Hawaii, scanning the prices, changing the dates of departure and arrival. Flight prices from New Zealand (Christchurch) oscillated between 1200$ and 7000$, and that's just changing the arrival and departure dates by one or two days. So, obviously, I chose the 1200$ option! Yahoo!!

I'm also honestly going there to pig out on awesome, cheap fruit from the local fruit stands. I miss living in Peru and getting 1 huge, delicious, awesome bag of mixed fruit for 3 Sols (= ~1$ USD).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New goals, new plans, new focus

I've been traveling the last 2 years of my life, never living in one place for longer than 5 months. I had not been investing in a home, in people, in relationships and friendships because I knew that, all too shortly, I'd be moving on. So when I returned to Wanaka, New Zealand on a 1 year working holiday, I had the intention of staying for their spring/summer/fall, but moving back and traveling throughout the United States yet again for their summer. Once more, I'd be settling down briefly only to leave a short while later. I didn't know that this lifestyle was wearing on me until someone suggested that

1. I stop doing back-to-back summers of training and racing and actually have an off season (3 weeks off to race every weekend, and to crew for a friend's first ultramarathon does not constitute a proper off-season!!)
2. I stop moving. I stay in New Zealand. I build a home. I attempt to get permanent residency. I lose out on some of the planned races and goals (my goal had been to race 70.3s and full IMs to qualify for Vegas again AND this time for Hawaii as well). I make another plan, I have more focus on one big race, have fun with the smaller races. Last season, I'd made every race an "A" race, just hoping that one, or all, of them would be successful in getting what I wanted.

So when staying in New Zealand was suggested to me, there was honestly an instant sigh of relief. Yes, I had been excited to race my race calendar (3 70.3's, 1 full IM) but I had been feeling a little antsy and tired of not having a home yet again (other than my car) for 5 months straight.

The new plan is this... have fun, train hard and train smart, race plenty (non-serious) races in New Zealand. Take one, and only one, BIG race as the main focus of the year. End my season in May or June, have a cozy winter, and if I qualify for the World Champs, then recommence training after a PROPER off-season recovery.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I'm on "The Best of We Noticed" on SlowTwitch!!!!!!

Heyyyyy so my photo is totally featured as one of the best photos on the SlowTwitch forums' The Best of "We Noticed", SlowTwitch's selection of favourite images submitted by its readers for the year 2011.

It is this photo:

I should say that it's obviously not taken by me but by my flatmate, Em, who I handed the camera to as she dropped back to take a photo of myself (blonde chick peace signing) and the others we were cycling with. I do love this photo!!

Check out the other photos selected (link above), they are AWESOME. If you want to submit your own photo, you do so at We Noticed.

Pretty Photos 010 - Early AM dip in the lake

The lake was calm and crystal clear this morning. Cloud cover early morning before the sun burnt it all off for another bluebird day.

Training Hiccups

Training hiccups -- we all get them. Something comes along and messes up your training. You either didn't see it coming, or you had a feeling that "niggle" wasn't really a niggle after all, or perhaps your pool shut down for 3 weeks 4 weeks out from a key race. These things happen. You just gotta rolllllll with them, do not resist, and do everything that you can do to optimize your training given your new, current situation.

Where am I at? I had a wee hiccup these last 2-3 weeks. A couple weeks ago, I'd gone to the doctors to get myself on the birth control pill or some other non-condom contraceptive. Nothing to do with training, right? Well, after the doctor took notes on my life history, after blood testing, I was told that I had a mild form of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, the very reason why I was getting my period a scant 5 times a year, if that. Some of the symptoms fit, many didn't... and my high level of athleticism combined with low end of normal iron levels could have explained the infrequent periods. But now we knew the real reason.  So, I started a birth control pill that also contained an anti-androgen (blocks androgens, which are in excess in my body). Sweet deal. Then my period rolled around a week before Christmas and DID. NOT. STOP. Full on period for 18 days, let me tell you I quickly grew very weak, tired, and out of breath. My muscles felt all crampy and sore even though I hadn't done much training at all. At one point, I simply gave up and for 5 days all I did was "exercise" rather than train - I just went out and ran, swam, or rode my bike whenever or however long I felt. Nothing topped 2hrs of training per day, that's for sure. My TrainingPeaks log looked very sad indeed, when it is usually filled with bright colours and completed hours.

Finally, after 2 1/2 weeks of bleeding, I ended up speaking with my doctor at run group and he told me I should come in immediately to take a medication that would stop uterine bleeding completely, and that I should take it for long enough that...
1. I don't have my period until after Challenge Wanaka.
2. I have enough rest that my body can actually produce more hemoglobin.
3. I re-evaluate my goals for race day, and I take more rest rather than lower volume, high intensity tapering.
4. I continue to take iron supplements, eat good quality red meat, stay on the birth control pill to balance out hormone levels, and continue with this new medication, Norethisterone to stop and prevent further bleeding.

Oh yes, all this is not exactly the most exciting of stuff but it is relevant to my triathlon life so I figured I'd post it. I'd say 99% of the time my triathlon life is AWESOME, I love it, I'm working hard, cruising when I need to, excited to race and crush people... and other times a hiccup or two is thrown my way and I deal with it.

I'm going into Challenge Wanaka half-iron distance in 2 weeks time with a new mindset: get well rested, lose a bit of fitness but perhaps all the rest will have me lighting fires under all engines come race day and I will willingly mentally and physically put it all out there. I'm excited. 13 days to go!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Year in Review, in pictures of course

2011, oh it's been an interesting one...

Already deeply in love with New Zealand, I completed my first iron-distance triathlon: Challenge Wanaka, in gale-force winds no less. Most memorable day of my life thus far.

Not much on the training front, the season was over, my stint in New Zealand was over. I moved back to Melbourne and returned to university.

Back to training, taking every weekend as an opportunity to explore the Australian state of Victoria, swim/bike/run style:

Skipped a couple weeks school, returned to New Zealand if only for a brief 18 days. Fell in love all over again. Ran my heart out. 

Winter creeps into Melbourne, training is best with friends. 
Yes our bikes ARE getting hailed on...
Raced the Cairns half-iron triathlon. Relished the warmth of tropical north Queensland. Was afraid I would die at any moment (stingrays, crocodiles, poisonous spiders, venomous snakes, the list goes on).

Traveled throughout the United States, lived out of my car, camped, house-sat, couchsurfed my way through much of Colorado. Capped that off with Calgary 70.3 and my slot to 70.3 World Champs. 

Bike touring set up. Not mine, but fellow couchsurfers in
Estes Park. 
Boulder 70.3, more Colorado exploring, crewing for Leadville Trail 100, racing Ironman Louisville, fucking loooooooving life.

The drive across America to Vegas, 70.3 World Champs, the drive across America back home. States visited, including but not limited to: Colorado, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Virginia, Michigan, Nevada, Utah, Missouri, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire and so on. 

October... November... December...:

After deciding to finish the remaining few credits of my bachelors as 2-3 week field courses over the next 2 or so years, I withdrew from the semester and flew back to beautiful Wanaka, New Zealand. Made myself a home yet again in the most perfect place in the world. Now that I knew I was staying in one place for an extended period of time, I let myself make close friends, found training partners and groups, fell in love, explored the Wanaka area even more... Raced a bit. Mainly trained. Worked. Began internship with Challenge Wanaka racing company. Life grew in awesomeness. Summer arrived. 
The year began in Wanaka, it ended in Wanaka. I can only hope that the decade will end with me having made my home and my family here. I can only hope that these become my permanent training grounds, because no place is better to become the best athlete you can be.