Impending Doom?

I am currently 20 days away from my second Ironman 70.3 and that familiar pre-race feeling of impending doom is started to set in.

There’s no way I can swim that far, especially if the race isn’t wetsuit legal.  I’m definitely going to get eaten by a shark.  I will be forever lost at sea.  I don’t even know if the mermaids will save me.

If I somehow survive swimming the high seas, then the bike portion will definitely do me in.  Our ride takes us out towards Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, which is Cajun for Bayou Savage- Training Center for Animals that Want to Kill Triathletes.   There are alligators and snakes and bears and bobcats.  And bears that throw snakes like spears while riding alligators.   And bandana-clad bobcats that leap out from behind bushes, mug you, and steal your bike.   It’s basically Jumangi- Triathlon Edition.

If I emerge from the wilds of the Louisiana Swamp alive, I then have tackle a 13.1 mile run through Suburbia.  This will likely be the most challenging portion of the race by far, as the route is littered with spectators, creatures of judgment and distraction.  Oh, you think you’re so cute don’t you Miss Middle-Class Housewife with your perfectly put together outfit and matching 2.5 children.  Sorry that I look like a half-drowned moose lumbering down you street, but I just fought a snake-wielding bear!  And what’s that to my left?  A PUPPY!?!  No, Heather, no, don’t look directly into its soft brown eyes, that’s how they suck you in.  And just when I think I’m safe, the finish line is a mere two miles away, I round the final bend and there they are- shirtless college boys handing out beer!  Oh the humanity!

Basically, there is no way for me to survive this race.  I should probably give up now, and spend my Sunday on the couch watching football like sensible people.  But, alas, I have already paid the money, so I might as well give it a go.  Plus, I’ve never seen a snake-spear in real life before!

August’s Training Schedule (on my wall)

I’m a visual person.  I like lists, I like calendars, I like being able to cross-off items,  and I love when things are color-coded.  I’ve made a few training schedules in the past, both on paper and electronically, and I’ve never really stuck to them.  So, I decided I needed to do something different while training for my upcoming 70.3 in October. 

I decided to go big! Literally…

I decided to paint a chalkboard on one of the walls by my side door, the door I use on a day-to-day basis, and put a massive training calendar on it.  It’s color-coded, it’s organized, I can check things off, it’s a Type A Triathlete’s dream!

So far I love it, and I feel like it’s large and central presence will be a big motivator for me.  And I guess if it doesn’t work, I’ll have room to make a very long grocery list 🤣

Bring It To The Bay race report

I did it, and it was painful, but I did it.  And it was fun!

As you may have noticed, triathlons have taken a serious backseat recently to pretty much everything else in my life.  My new goal for myself is to stop making excuses about/for/regarding all kind of things, including myself.  Give reasons, yes, but not excuses.

So as part of my effort to get my shit together grow and progress personally, I’m getting back into triathlons.  I signed up for the New Orleans 70.3 this coming October, so I thought it best to ease back into triathlons with some smaller races over the next few months before the main event.

The Bring It To The Bay triathlon is a sprint triathlon held in Bay St. Louis, MS.  It is an 800 meter swim, 14.5 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.  It seemed like a good race to get my feet wet again, both literally and figuratively.  I wavered back and forth on whether to sign up and finally decided to stop making excuses, and the day before the race and signed up.  I’m glad I did!

At 4:30 am I loaded up Scarlet (the bike), my gear, and Mr. Big (my cheering squad) into the truck and off we went.  The race was at a great location.  Bay St. Louis is a cute town, an easy commute from New Orleans for me, and boasts a nice beach backdrop to race along.

Pre-race stuff was pretty usual.  Found my spot, set up my stuff, realized my bike tire was flat (oopps!), realized I forgot my pump (double ooooppps!), borrowed a pump off a handsome man with a nice accent, inflated my tire, and prayed that it wouldn’t immediately deflate again (it was fine).  I made some friends at the swim start while we were waiting our turn to start and got some good info on local tri clubs that I want to look into.  Then it was go time!

Swim:

The swim was an 800 m open water swim in the gulf, which was the first time I’d done an open water swim since Lake Ponchatrain in my last 70.3 two and a half years ago. The water was very shallow so it ended up being a 300-ish meter walk/run out through the water before it was really possible to start swimming.  This shallow-water-ocean-jog looks super slick on Baywatch, but turns out it’s actually quite hard on the legs, so much so that I was relieved to actually start swimming.  I passed a ton of people on the swim, and had a respectable swim time of 14 mins (my watch had me at 12 mins, but I’m not sure where the transition cut off was), so I’m happy with that performance overall.

Lining up for the swim start.

The running out of the water

Bike:
The bike route was a flat out-and-back 14.5 miles along the shoreline.  My bike portion was basically just “Ok”.  Nothing great, nothing bad.  I was averaging about 18 mph on the way out, and then hit a bit of a head wind on the way back and dropped to a 16 mph average.  Overall, I finished with a 16.9 mph average speed for the 14.5 mile split, which is obviously like to improve upon, but I consider it a decent baseline to build on.  Plus, I even spent some time down on the aerobars, which I still find terrifying, so I’ll consider that a personal win!

Off I go!

Approaching transition


Run:
By this point, it was HOT.  I mean, to be fair, it was the middle of July on the Gulf Coast, I didn’t expect it to cool, but after that bike ride I was feeling particularly toasty.  My legs were completely busted when I took off on the run so I walked for a couple of minutes at first.  Mr. Big was waiting for me about a quarter-mile into the run and after hearing such as encouraging words from him as, “Hurry up, I’m getting hungry, I’m ready to go get breakfast,” I decided to pick up the pace a bit and broke into a trot.  The run ended up being not that bad. I intervalled it, but ended up with a 12 minute mile pace, which I decided was acceptable for this event.

Toasty ginger

Overall, I felt satisfied with the race.  My times weren’t great, but I had done so little training approaching this race, that I actually performed better than I expected to.  It definitely lit a fire under me and has me feeling very motivated to get my training schedule organized and get to work.  October will be here before I know it!

Fatigue Frustrations

Do you ever have those days where you are just tired?  Like, really tired?  As in “I have to skip my workout today because I seriously can’t wake up” tired.  Or, “five minutes into a run you realize it’s just going to be a 5 K walk instead because running isn’t happening today” tired. We all get that from time to time, and I’ve always taken it as my body’s way of telling me to rest for a day.  No big deal, I’ll get back at it tomorrow.  

Except for when tomorrow comes around, I’m tired again.  And the next day.  And the next day.  Gah!!  What is happening?!  This is the girl that worked three jobs, trained for a half Ironman and went to nursing school full time with no problems and now I’ve been exhausted for a month and a half straight.  Something is up. 

Well, turns out I have a flare up of Epstein-Barre virus, which is the virus that causes mono in teenagers and young adults.   It’s kind of like how a person is substepible to shingles if they’ve had chicken pox as a kid, if a person has had mono as a kid (like me), then they are substepible to Epstein-Barre flare-ups as adults.  The virus manifests as a sore throat, often Strep (I had strep twice in two weeks), swollen lymph nodes, headache, and fatigue. The throat and lymph nodes usually feel better in a couple of weeks, but the fatigue lasts for a couple of months.  

To make matters worse, everytime I start to feel better, I seem to do way too much and then end up feeling awful again for the next three days.  Blah.  Consequently, I haven’t exercised for well over a month and it’s making me grumpy.  Exercise is my stress relief and I feel like I’m crazy without it.  So what to do?! 

Mr. Big has pointed out a few times that for an ER nurse I’m terrible at following medical advice (he’s right, but don’t tell him that!), but I’ve decided to put myself on health lockdown for the next few weeks.  That means actually eating decent food for all of my meals (not grabbing cheese sticks and egg rolls from the cafeteria for a five minute shift lunch), not attending every single social event I’m invited to (apparently sometimes it’s ok to stay home), and laying off the booze for a bit (because even a couple of beers are dehydrating to the body and slows down the healing process).  

Lastly, I have be ok with the fact that fall race season isn’t going to happen the way I want it to.  The 70.3 I had my sights on in November is going to get skipped, and even though I’m signed up for a half marathon at the end of November, it’s ok if I don’t do it.  

My Type A personality gets frustrated when things don’t go according to plan, but I’ll just have to look for some good spring races to keep myself motivated and looking forward.  But don’t worry, I’m still making sure Pepper has plenty of walks, she just gets a reprieve on the running training for a while 😉 

Sunday morning walk on the levee.

Agility Class- Part 1

Now that Ironman training is over and I have a break from school, it’s time for Pepper to try out some hobbies.  I am making an effort to explore some nature walks and hikes this summer with her, but we have also started our first agility class.

Today was our second class and I have to say, I think we may be on to something!  She mastered the tunnel with ease last week and started on the teeter – totter  today as well as jumping through a tire.  I’m actually impressed that she’s focused (because there are good rewards involved!) and even though I may be biased, she does seem like a natural. 

I’ll keep updating as we go along, but here is a shot of her not-so – patiently waiting her turn on the teeter today.

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New Orleans Triathlon Race Recap (More of a Race Fail!)

How does the phrase go?  “Piss poor planning produces piss poor results?”  I think that might be the tag line for my race this past weekend.  It was the New Orleans Olympic Distance Triathlon– 1500 m open water swim, 40 K bike ride, 10 K run.  The swim location and part of the bike and run routes are the same as the upcoming New Orleans Ironman 70.3, so this was the perfect warm-up race before my first 70.3 in three weeks.

Except it wasn’t the perfect warm-up, it was pretty horrible.  Here is the nitty-gritty race breakdown:

Pre-race:

The problem with living in New Orleans is that there is always something going on.  This weekend was the big Hogs for the Cause BBQ competition and my friends’ team was participating this year (Peace. Love. Pig.- you should check them out) so I volunteered to help them out on competition day.  We all had such a great day hanging out, cooking, selling pork sandwiches and piggy pudding, listening to the bands, and checking out what all the other teams were cooking.  Unfortunately, I was having so much fun that I neglected to ever eat a proper meal that day, so my pre-race fueling was half a bag of pork cracklins, a few bites of piggy pudding, and a few pieces of the whole hog that had been smoking for 14 or so hours.  Not really the kind of nutrition that provides good race day energy. Poor planning. Not only did I neglect to eat, I also neglected to hydrate properly.  I drank water throughout the day, but the beer was steadily flowing also, so I probably caused a net hydration loss for the day. Poor planning.

I drank fluids when I got home that evening and figured I’d have plenty of time to hydrate and eat in the morning as well.  My friend Diane was picking me up at 5:20 am, so I packed my race bucket, set my alarm for 4:20 am, and settled down at 9 pm for a good night’s sleep.  Then, around 2 am, the pre-race nerves kicked in and I found myself wide awake.  I stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep for about 2 hours, and then I woke up to Diane calling me to let me know she was at my house ready to pick me up.  What!??!  I checked my phone and was indeed 5:20 and my alarm had failed me.  Thank goodness I’d packed the night before so I was able to brush my teeth, throw on my clothes, fill water bottles, and dash out the door in about 7 minutes.  In my haste, I did not have time to eat breakfast or get more fluids in me before I left the house.   Again, very poor planning.

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Proof the alarm was originally set!

Swim:

I’ll spare you the details of my set-up once we arrived at the course, as everything went smoothly.  The swim was 1500 meters through the Southshore Habor and would be my first open water swim.  Eeekk!  I’ve always been a strong swimmer, so the swim portion usually never bothers me, but this was a little more intimidating than the pool swims I’m used to.  Diane walked over with me and showed me where to go (she was doing the Sprint so her swim started in a different spot) and once she left, I made friends with another girl who looked equally as nervous as me.  This was her first open water swim as well and she was also doing this race as a warm-up for the Ironman 70.3 in a few weeks.  It was comforting that someone else was in the same boat as me.  We discussed the path through the harbor- “So, wait, do we zig-zag-zig through those buoys or is it zag-zig-zag?” and reassured each other with the “yeah, we got this” line.

Then we were off.   I jumped in, popped my head above water, and started swimming Baywatch- style (head above water) so I could catch my bearings.  After about 10 seconds I felt myself starting to freak out.  I don’t know if it was my adrenaline or the cold water temperature, but I couldn’t seem to catch my breath.  I also couldn’t see.  The water was the iced- tea colored and I really couldn’t see more than an arm’s length in any direction, which was also a little disconcerting.

As I was making my way to the first buoy my imagination started to run wild- what exactly could be in this water?!  It’s a known fact that there are bull sharks in Lake Pontchartrain from time to time, there are also alligators occasionally, I’m sure some kind of venomous snake species, killer whales, carnivorous plants, Nessy, the list goes on and on and that’s before I even thought about the parasites and bacteria.  Clearly I was going to die on this swim.  I flipped over to kick on my back for a minute or two to catch my breath, just waiting for nature to take to my watery demise, but it never happened.  So, I decided to get my sh*t together and get on with things, because the water was cold and waiting for a shark attack wasn’t getting me out any faster.  After that, I was fine.  I found my groove, zig-zag-zigged around the orange buoys, made a bee-line to my favorite green buoy (the last buoy!) and got the hell out of that lake.  Phew, 1500 meter down in 32 minutes.  I’ll take it!

As I was left the swim exit I waved to Diane who was waiting to start her swim and trudged towards transition.  My legs were a little wobbly so I was happy to take it slow and let the blood redistribute itself in my body.  As I was nearing transition one of the volunteers caught my attention as he was yelling, “the strippers are up ahead.”  What?!  Damn, I thought, I know this is New Orleans, but that’s a little crazy even for us.  But still, I was intrigued, so onward I went looking for said strippers.

Turns out the strippers were two very nice middle aged-ladies who helped me take my wet-suit off.  I have to say, I was little relieved.  I wasn’t sure I could handle strippers after surviving what I can only assume was a very near miss with the whole shark-attack situation.

Swimming Wins:  My new wet suit was awesome, my time was faster than I expected, I swam (almost) the exact Ironman course, no shark attack.

Swimming Fails:  Having a mild panic attack, swallowing half of Lake Pontchartrain, need different goggles for buoy sighting purposes.

The Bike:

I took my time in transition, headed off on the bike, and everything was fine.  I was fairly confident that there weren’t any man-eating creatures hiding anywhere on this portion of the race, so I felt okay to eat an energy goo and drink some gatorate as I cruised along.

Then I hit “the hills”.   Now, we don’t have hills in New Orleans.  Our highest point in the city used to be Monkey Hill at the zoo, which was constructed so kids in New Orleans could learn what a hill was (no joke) and it can’t be more than 20 ft tall!  However, this bike course was riddled with overpasses and bridges, and I swear every other mile there was another damn bridge to go over.  Gah!  It wasn’t as bad when the wind was behind me, but on the way back pedaling uphill and into the strong wind got a little tiresome.

Then, to make matters worse, I got a flat tire. This wouldn’t have been that bad, except I used my last tube to change another tire last week and hadn’t replaced it yet.  Again, poor planning.  Luckily for me, after a while of walking my bike back towards the starting line, Dave the bike-tech guy pulled up in his handy van and changed my tire for me, quick as a flash!  (Thanks Dave, and I’m sorry I secretly cursed you for driving across the bike course about a half-hour earlier).

I hopped back on and finished my very underwhelming bike ride.  Average pace was around 13 mph, which is incredibly slow for me, but that did include the flat tire factor.  However, I did feel like I found my “cruising altitude” as I like to call it, where I have a comfy pace that I feel like I could maintain for hours.  This was what I really wanted to feel out on this race so I would have figured out before the Ironman.

Bike Wins:  I hydrated well, I found a comfortable “cruising altitude”, I didn’t fall off.

Bike Fails:  My pace was slow, I was not prepared for a flat tire, I handled hills (and wind) quite poorly.

Run:

The run was pretty horrific overall.  My lack nutrition (poor planning) hit me hard and I had no fuel left in my tank.  My hydration level was okay and I didn’t have any cramping, I just had no energy.  Out of the 6 miles, I probably ran half, and did find a good run-walk interval pace for myself for part of it.  We had to run the 3 mile loop twice and honestly I thought about cashing in at 3 miles, but I didn’t.  I figured it was better to complete than to cash out early, even if it meant walking a lot.  My pace ended up being 12:54 min/mile for the run, which is terrible for me, but I did it and I lived to tell the tale.

Run wins:  I did it

Run fails:  Everything else.

Here are my overall stats from the day:
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Today I actually feel okay and not as stiff as I thought, but that’s probably because I was moving slow damn slowly through the race.  I’m going to go for a short jog today with Pepper and then stretch really, really well afterwards.  Tomorrow it’s back on the bike, hopefully for a 30- 40 miler.

I don’t have any shots from the race (thank God, because I’m not sure I want to remember it), but here is a pre-race selfie of Diane and I and a few that the Marine took of me on the route.

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Ready to go!

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Heading out on the run

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Finally done (not an accurate time)