Hawaii Winds are Serious Business

I never thought the World Championships were easy, but after having spent the past few days training on the Big Island, I have a whole new appreciation for the athletes who race in Kona every October. This course is no joke. In fact, it kind of sucks. Okay, it doesn’t kind of suck. It really sucks. Parts of it are scenic (I am in Hawaii, after all), but most of the bike course is along a desolate stretch of highway surrounded by taint-scorching lava rock that makes me feel like I’m cycling on Mars. The heat isn’t bad (I raced in 96-degree temps in Costa Rica) but the humidity is demoralizing. Oh, and have I mentioned the wind? Yeah, let’s focus on that for now. I’ve heard plenty about the famous winds here–how they’re absolutely brutal, how they can change direction without warning, how they can blow people across the road and even knock them down–but hearing about them and experiencing them firsthand are two different beasts entirely. My only previous experience with strong winds was the demoralizing Boise 70.3 in 2010, in which I got manhandled for 56 miles and only managed to bust out a 3:27 bike split because the gusts were so bad. Those winds, as bad as I remember them being, are nothing compared to the winds here. Good grief. For our first ride, Jas and I headed out onto the highway and couldn’t help but laugh at how absurd it was to ride at an angle along the shoulder as we leaned against the wind that was hell-bent on shoving us into the road. I managed to stay calm and kept reminding myself to keep a clear head and remain focused and that freaking out or panicking would just make the situation worse. We got to the turnaround point in our ride and I clipped out my right foot. Teresa was in the middle of explaining the race bike course to us when a giant gust of wind blew at us from the right and knocked me down like a domino. Since my left foot was still clipped in, all I could do was get slammed to the pavement and pinned by my bike. I emerged with no scrapes but a few lovely bruises, although I’m happy that I got blown down while at a standstill vs. cruising along at 20-30 mph. On our way back, the crosswinds went from trying to push me into the road to attempting to shove me into the guardrail and onto the lava rocks, which actually made me more nervous than being shoved onto the highway (at least I could hope that a car would see me and swerve around me–crashing into a guardrail, on the other hand, seems like a profoundly no bueno situation). I felt a sense of accomplishment for having survived a gnarly bike ride against the famous winds, but the idea of riding an additional two hours in this mess wasn’t exactly thrilling. The next time we tackled the Queen K highway, the winds weren’t as unpredictable but were still as strong as ever. I hit a steady headwind on the way out and was flying along the highway on the way back. I couldn’t really take advantage of the free speed because I was paranoid about a sudden crosswind coming along to take me out, so I struggled a bit as I tried in vain to anticipate how the winds would be blowing (an impossible feat).┬áMy bike splits have become the strongest of the three disciplines for me, so I’m hoping I can stay strong and steady among the field since they’ll have...
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Seattle Half Marathon 2011 Recap: Gone with the Wind

Before yesterday I had never actually run the Seattle marathon or the half marathon. I had tried to convince Jas that we should sign up in previous years, but he never wanted to because it sounded terribly unappealing to him. I don’t blame the guy; the race is three days after Thanksgiving during a supremely shitty time of the year to be running outside in Seattle. Despite his yearly disinterest, however, this time he finally agreed to sign up for the marathon since he cut his triathlon season short and wanted something to train for before diving into Ironman training. Meanwhile, since I was finally healed of my running ailments and was once again able to run relatively well, I wanted to do the half marathon. I hadn’t run a standalone half marathon since Eugene in May 2010, and since I had only been running strong for 2 1/2 months, I didn’t really have many expectations going into the Seattle half. It’s a tough, hilly course that isn’t typically PR-friendly, so although I was hoping to run 1:45 or better (my previous best was a 1:46:46), I figured I’d be satisfied with a sub-1:50. Jason, meanwhile, was hoping to finally have a “good” marathon (his words), as he usually ends up cramping towards the end and has to compromise speed for the last few miles due to his size. This time he’d be racing 40 lbs lighter and with a ton of mileage under his belt, plus he figured the cooler temperatures would mean he’d be less likely to cramp, so he was excited and nervous for Sunday to roll around. On Saturday we did our customary “Ugh, I’m feeling so tired ahhhh why does my foot hurt oh god I’m getting sick aren’t I man this race is not going to go well” freak outs and lazed around the house hydrating and acting like hypochondriacs. We also agonized over what to wear for the race. Naturally, since the weather had been relatively mild for the past few years, weather forecasts called for supremely shitty weather on race day because we were unlucky enough to sign up for the race this year (no joke, I was watching the news and the meteorologist actually said Sunday was going to be “sucky”). It was projected to be warmer than usual temperature-wise, but it looked like we’d have to battle rain and wind, so Jason and I were scratching our heads and putting way too much effort into what to wear: Underarmour shirt and a long-sleeved shirt with tights and gloves! Wait, no, just an underarmour shirt and a t-shirt with a pair of shorts Well hold on a second, what about a long-sleeved shirt and shorts No, tights and a t-shirt! Or I could do tights, pants, underarmour, long-sleeved, gloves, a hat, a parka, a hazmat suit, ski pants… This went on for about an hour before I ultimately muttered “Fuck it, I’ll just figure it out tomorrow when I’m half-awake” and we went to bed. The next morning we woke up at 5:45 and ate breakfast (I got my “race day” coffee, something I haven’t ingested since July’s Rev 3 triathlon). I went with the uber-dweeb getup of tights, run shorts, an underarmour shirt, and a TN Multisports t-shirt and also packed a cheap pair of gloves to wear. I grabbed my fuel and some dry clothes to put on after I was done because the genius organizers decided to start the half marathoners at 7:30 and the marathoners at 8:15, so I’d have to wait around for 2+ hours after my race for Jason to be done and didn’t...
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The First Open Water Swim of the Season is Always Gloriously Awful

For me, the first open water swim of the season is always incredibly crappy. No matter how much pool swimming I do, once my toes touch lake water for the first time in several months, what little swim ability and athleticism I had is left on the shore alongside a fresh little pile of grassy-colored duck poop. Last week was no exception; in fact, throw in some shitty weather along with the customary flailing and you’ve got what (I dearly hope) will be my worst open water swim of the year. I checked my workout schedule and saw that Teresa assigned me a 2,000 yd swim or the option of swimming with the group at Greenlake. I wasn’t thrilled with either choice, but no matter how many times I closed my eyes and opened them, expecting the workout to change to “Eat a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake — hard effort!”, the stupid swim workout never went away. Jason, being the annoying training partner that he is, was all “Herp derp let’s go to the group swim!” I wasn’t crapping myself with glee at the thought of yanking on my wetsuit and trudging into water that was marginally warmer (56 degrees) than the air temperature (54 degrees), but I figured I’d have to get in the lake eventually, and since I want to improve my swimming, it’s a necessary evil. It was raining when we arrived at Greenlake, and my teammates and I made futile attempts to shield our dry clothes from the precipitation. I pulled on my wetsuit and, anticipating how cold the water was, yanked on a thermal swimcap in addition to a regular cap. The water didn’t feel quite as cold as I thought it would be, but it was still a bit of a shock to the system. Jas and I took off with our friends Brent and Jes. I made my way to the second orange buoy from the shore, huffing and puffing the entire way and stopping a couple times to catch my breath. By the time I made it to the buoy, it felt like I had been swimming forever. I looked at my watch. Three minutes and nine seconds. Son of a bitch. Jason and Brent opted to swim across the lake and do the full mile, but since my first open water swim of the season is always spectacularly awful, I headed back to shore with Jes. It felt hard to breathe, like the chin strap from the thermal cap was restricting me. We went out to the buoy again, and when I got there I flagged down Thomas and his son, who were in a canoe keeping an eye on those of us who were foolish enough to be swimming that day. Me: “Can I give you my thermal cap?” Thomas, joking: “Man, you’re that warm?” I yanked off my goggles, then my regular swim cap, then my thermal cap and handed it over to him. His son, meanwhile, offered some tough love to Jes. Declan: “Want a swim noodle?” Jes, politely: “Uh, sure!” Declan handed her the noodle, then said in a grave tone, “You have to give it back,” as if Jes figured he was gifting it to her permanently. We all laughed and they paddled away. I felt better not having the too-tight thermal cap choking me (although, weirdly enough, I swam with it fine when I raced Boise last year; I know I’ve gained weight since last season, but I didn’t think it was all chin weight). Then I realized something: it’s pretty damn difficult to put on a swim cap when treading in deep...
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I’ve Been Swimming in Raw Sewage. I Love It.

The rain gods must have read my post about crappy Seattle weather and decided to troll the entire city by unleashing torrential downpours and strong winds for the past few days. Good thing I live on a hill; otherwise, I could be running into flooding problems that are plaguing many of the city’s residents right now. I’m also finally happy to be on coach’s and doctor’s orders not to run until the Achilles tendinitis heals, because there’s no way in hell I’d want to run in the kraken-summoning tsunamis unfurling outside. No running, unfortunately, means that Teresa has taken this opportunity to remind me that I haven’t swam (swum? Swum looks weird) since Ironman Canada, so that fast little bastard has started adding swim workouts to my training schedule. Boooooo. Just when I was starting to begrudgingly psyche myself up and promise myself that I was going to work hard on my swimming this season by hitting all my pool workouts and not skipping any open water swims, my friend Mr. Oatmeal posted a link to this charming piece of news on my Facebook wall: “More than one million gallons of raw sewage backed up into Lake Washington over the weekend. The sewer system in Medina was unable to handle all the rainfall from the storm, causing raw sewage to back up into peoples’ homes and into the lake.” Oh, great. That should really get me excited to dive into the lake for some long swim workouts this spring. There’s nothing like practicing bilateral breathing while some kid’s pet goldfish rides a turd right past...
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You Can’t Pause Crap Weather

You gotta love living and training in Seattle. I always defend the city I’ve lived in for the past 9 years whenever people go “Herp derp doesn’t it rain there all the time?” by saying that it’s more gray days and occasional rain vs. nonstop downpours. Then I feel like a jackass whenever I strap on my running shoes and look woefully out the window as the cold rain splashes against the glass. Sad trombone. Nonetheless, it’s Seattle, and you gotta put up with some shitty weather if you want to stick to your running regime and are absolutely useless on a treadmill (sentiments I’ll reserve for another post). On Friday I HTFU’d and yanked on the running tights + long-sleeved shirt to trudge through a quick 3 1/2 mile run through Capitol Hill. Not only was it raining, as usual, but the temperature had dropped to balls freezingly cold (if I had any, that is). As I was running up the shoulderless and sidewalk-challenged Interlaken hill in my black running clothes, I cursed the Pacific Northwest for turning apocalypticly dark at 4 pm in the fall and winter. The last thing a driver heading up the windy road will see is my minorly crooked white teeth as my mouth pulls back into a horrific grimace while my stubby body bounces off the windshield. With my dying breath I’d utter “Damn you…Seattle…Nirvana…is…overrated…uaghhhhh.” When I was about two blocks from home, my right foot slipped on a wet, pulpy pile of soggy decaying leaves, and my ankle promptly rolled while I windmill arm’d and jazz-handed myself back upright. Naturally, this display of grace occurred at a busy 4-way intersection that not only contained a line of cars, but happened to have a bus stop full of people who caught my America’s Got Talent live audition tape. Now I get to nurse tendinitis, Achilles tightness, and a stiff ankle. On Sunday, I was lured to the morning group run with promises of a post-workout brunch that was kind of crappy due to Surly Goth Waitress and a sub-par biscuits and gravy with an order of poached eggs that somehow translated to “hard boiled” back in the kitchen. When I woke up that morning and checked the weather to see how I was supposed to dress for my 8 mile run, I saw “37” sneering back at me from my iPhone. Since I don’t own a snowsuit or a Bubble Boy-esque insulated hamster wheel, I resorted to wearing two long-sleeved shirts, a jacket, running tights, a pair of shorts, and a cheapy pair of gloves. By the time I finished my workout and attempted to inconspicuously peel my freezing sweat-soaked sports bra off without flashing my chesticles to everyone in Leschi, it had already started to snow. Today it’s 30 degrees and still snowing, and tomorrow’s forecast calls for a low of 16, a number I previously attributed to the “and Pregnant” variety, not an actual temperature. However, most of us don’t have the pleasure of living in sunny California or humid Florida (and even if we did, we’d have to deal with training in choking heat and the chance of sunstroke/dehydration). Despite its wonky and oftentimes depressing weather, I love living in Seattle. Training here is just another one of the many mental challenges associated with preparing for endurance events. If I can put up with freezing mountain conditions, searing desert heat, slick leafy roads, multiple windstorms, and pouring rain, I’ll be a more confident, headstrong, stronger athlete…even if I do look like a sausage in running...
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