Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The 2010 Champions Duathlon (a.k.a. The Wake Up Call)

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a stunning revelation for you. In fact, have a seat because this is life changing information.
If you take more than two weeks off your steady training, your race will suffer.
Shocking, I know.

Having an active lifestyle requires a commitment to that lifestyle. When you are a person like myself who is struggling to make fitness a priority but has a life full of distractions, it is easy to fall off the wagon. And you cannot rely on the training you did a month ago to get you across the finish line successfully.

Which excuse do you want? Had to stay late at work? Had to go home let the dog out? Didn’t eat a good lunch so don’t feel like working out? I got a million of ‘em and not one of them is insurmountable. So why am I in this predicament? Why am I sabotaging myself?

So here’s what happened:
I’ve run a few times since my half marathon in February- including the most awesome Texas Independence Relay at the beginning of the month, but I’ve done nothing longer than 5-6 miles and only a few runs at a pace faster than 11 minute miles. Cycling? Just a little since getting my new pedals. Swimming? Don’t get me started on the list of excuses there.

I signed up for the Red Licorice Events Champions duathlon (run-bike-run) because I didn’t want to rent a wetsuit and I haven’t so much as dipped my toes in a pool since September. I knew something was off at packet pick up. I didn’t have the same pre-race “high” that I normally get. In fact, it felt a little more like dread. Like I knew I wasn’t really ready but the roller coaster ride had started and there was no stopping it now.

When the alarm went off, I snoozed for 45 minutes- resulting in a harried exit from the house and complete lack of parking once I arrived at the race site at Lake Pflugerville. I was able to greet my friends and set up my transition with plenty of time, however. I was excited to try my first timed transition with bike shoes!

The Sprint distance duathletes waiting in the chilly air at the top of the dam trail until 9:30 for our mass start. When the horn sounded we all took off- except me. My legs would not move. Each step I took felt like I was trying to drag anchors across the sand with my feet. My breath wouldn’t settle in. Everyone was leaving me behind.

Before I go any further I need to tell you about the kind of person who attempts to race this early in the season. The Champions Sprint/Olympic Du and Tri was limited to 325 participants (I think). Most of these athletes train year round and have goals of Irons and half Irons. I think about 6 people including myself carried extra body fat. So I expected to be towards the back of the pack versus somewhere in the middle. But I didn’t expect to be THE back.

Okay- so by now I’ve gone maybe 200 meters and nothing feels right. I try to distract myself by watching the swimmers. They were struggling, too. The wind was causing the normally serene Lake Pflugerville to be alive with small choppy waves. My situation is clearly better on land. All I had to do was run .75 miles out and .75 miles back. But my body was not having it.
I could see the runners ahead of me turning around and coming back my way. This feeling is a little like the walk of shame. The first few runners who cruise by are so focused on their run that they don’t look up. A few may give a curt nod, but that’s about all. Several gave a word of encouragement- which was pretty cool- but they can all see you as “the last person.”

I finally rounded the turnaround cone to the cheers of the volunteers and trudged back toward transition. I really looked forward to not running anymore and the bike is my strongest event. I reached transition and reached down to swap my running shoes for my new biking shoes. My next big test was coming up. How would I do with my clipless pedals.

Well, my first three miles were outstanding. I clipped in pretty easily and zipped off. I glanced down at my speedometer and saw that I was cruising at 24 MPH. And I was hardly working! Wow! Maybe things would be okay! Then I took a right turn and slammed into the wind that had been helping me out. Crap. The rest of the bike was tough. The wind always seemed to be at my chest, as if I needed more resistance. The course was nice- come country roads with some nice hills- all were manageable but there were lots of them. I did a good job of getting my much needed water, thanks to nuun and I tried out the vanilla Hammer gel (great flavor- tastes like pudding!)

I passed a few cyclists and that made me feel better. After just over 12 miles, it was time for the second run. I wheeled towards the dismount line and easily clipped out. I passed my first test with clipless pedals, woo! I ambled back to my transition spot, swapped out my shoes and stiffly trotted to the run out.

The second run wasn’t much better than the first. I felt like I couldn’t get any extension in my legs but I vowed that I would finish and that I would not walk. Seriously- six weeks before I ran 13.1 miles and I was struggling with a mile and a half.

As I ran toward the finish line, I knew my friends and teammates would be keeping an eye out for me so I tried to pick it up. Lindsay H. saw me and directed me to take a hard left turn and into the finish chute I went- over the timing mat and under the arch. I accepted my medal and a Jack & Adams water bottle but all the while my wake up call was ringing off the hook.

So I’ve answered. If I am to have a better season than last year, I’ve got to make training more of a priority. Add in morning workouts. Get to work early so I can leave in time to make my workouts. Eat better. Reach out to friends and teammates for motivation.

It’s time to do this.

Author’s note: So far this week I’m 2 for 2: I’ve made my run workout with Rogue and my spin workout with P.A.C. 
I wasn't actually last either. But I wasn't far from it.

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