"I like you. I'll gladly sit down and have dinner with you after the race. But when the gun goes off, I pretty much hate you, and I want to stomp your guts out. That's racing." -J Rapp

"the best night of my life.....
...in the most beautiful place on earth"

"It's just one, long, tedious conversation with yourself" -Paula Newby Fraser

"Have faith- trust in the plan - the breakthrough will come. I promise. " Woo

"You can keep going and your legs might hurt for a week or you can quit and your mind will hurt for a lifetime.” -Mark Allen

“The only time you can be brave is when you’re afraid.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Fence...

It's been a while (again)...while My Tri Life has been full of adventures this year, I haven't found anything really worth wasting your time to read about, or maybe I just haven't been inspired enough to write some "stuff"about the 2012 season as the excitements of 2010 and 2011 are pretty tough to beat   ;-)

After racing Mountain Man 70.3 mid summer, I took some time "off."  Coaches orders, and I was not going to disagree at all.  A complete week off, then a week of just swimming: 25,000 yards in one week.  By the end of it, I had a new appreciation for swimming.  I started to slip/slide through the water---less effort, fast pace, comfortable breathing...for the first time ever I felt like I belonged in the water versus entering this foreign environment for about an hour at a time to get a workout in.  The coolest feeling came during the warmup: that feeling of losing your breath while warming up was gone, completely...I had become a swimmer!   200's felt like 100's, and 400's felt like 200's.  So I think it is fair to say my swim fitness is doing pretty well.

Chris has always been my sports psychologist when I've needed it, and I've needed it a lot this year.  The one belief that has carried me through this year:  If you are not failing in "some" workouts, you are not getting the desired effect of the training load.  Another way to put it:  those feelings of wanting to quit the sport mid ride or run are normal and part of the "brick walls" you have to overcome to move ahead of your competition, improve a PR, or for those trying to get to Kona, get YOU to Kona.  Another Chris classic (luckily never referring to me...) "you can train today, or you can 'workout' tomorrow."  To state the obvious:  you train to excel in a sport, you workout to stay in shape.  I have come to thrive on the training versus the racing...the dedication, the hard work; for me, the challenge makes the difficult times in life seem petty no matter how big of a lemon you are dealt.

After the week off, and then the "swim week," the hunger to train came back, and was probably driven more by the 5 pounds I added.  You can take the IM'er from his training, but you can't take him from his appetite ;-)  I put in a couple of decent weeks while the training load was light---maybe 11-14 hours a week, and I started asking myself why I was training without a race in mind.  Yeah, Nathan's Olympic was coming up, but I don't consider an Olympic-length race a goal race.  I had a tentative, unlikely plan though....I had contacted Endurance Sports Travel (who took great care of me for IM Texas) back in June regarding a slot for IMAZ, and I've trained all summer with IMAZ 2012 in the back of my mind.  They were sold out of slots for the race, but I put myself on the wait list anyways (people takes slots, but then back out later...).  Who knows what would develop, but I wanted to have the option of a "next" race.

I've known all along that my window of opportunity for IM racing would close; Sophia is already half way to 5, Andrew's walking and now trying to talk, and Jenny has just been an Angel putting up with my selfish hobby that consumes A LOT of family time that could be spent exploring with the kids versus papa SBR'ing all over town.  I knew that IMAZ was going to be a stretch and push the envelope that I have already stuffed full of reasons/excuses to race another IM.  It's one thing to race an IM once in a while, but this thing of doing 5 inside of 2 years is a different, huge beast.  But I wouldn't have wanted to do it any other way.   Being the "all-in" type, as Chris has stated, "either the switch is on, or the switch is off." Chris' IM Louisville RR here. 

So as Nathan's approached, this end-of-season-defining crossroads was in front of me; I use races like Nathan's to test where I am at, and without a need for a test, I doubted my desire to race at all.  Emails that week started to sound promising for the IMAZ slot, so I registered for Nathan's saturday at 3:00pm, which was about an hour after I decided to race.  The test race was on, and more importantly, the idea of IMAZ was becoming a possibility.   I was actually a bit nervous pre-race for the first time in a while---I had to convince myself I was ready for this race without any speed work heading into it...none!  It was a surreal day as raceday was my 40th, Jenny and the kids were there, along with my mom who completely surprised me by flying in for my birthday.  We are our own worst critics, and having raced this course ~5 times, it is a litmus test for sure...and my last time out I went 2:05...PR, and 3rd overall.  I knew I wouldn't hit that (non-wetsuit, and considering my fitness/training), but how far would I fall?

So, here's the quick RR:

She hated every second of this, but I loved it and love racing with the family there, no matter how boring it is for them ;-)  BTW, I cut my knee open in the same place every time I get out of the water at TTL!!!  Knee pad is in order.  Mom is in the white capris watching..I wish Jenny and Andrew made the crop ;-(

Nathans:  2:11:14  14th Overall,  2nd out of 84 in 40-44 AG...lots of young speed out there!

Top 4 in the 40-44...dunno why it lists me as the 3rd fastest swim in the AG...I was first ;-)  Those swim courses have to be long.   Bike:  nice ride Coffen!  Must be that Kona prep paying a dividend.  Run:  RUSS!!  
Normal race workup (well, except for the wonderful Surpirse Birthday dinner the night before at Vito's that included a Fat Tire---first-time surprise for me, and I hate being the one in the spotlight).  Took in a 5 Hour Energy 20 minutes prior to start, completed a triple-deuce, and a Gu right before jumping in.  Being a test, I wanted to get an accurate baseline for my fitness versus ruining the day (that ended up being decently hot) by blowing up---just wanted steady pace all the way through but pushing the limit enough to get a good indication on where my limits are.  At the same time, I know that the swim is where I can leave my mark and make almost everyone else play catchup, and with Russ and Jonathan in the 40-44 today, I needed every advantage I could get.  I took the swim start out with a very steady pace---no sprint, just steady.  After the first ~300 I was surprised to be alone in front after some guys who sprinted off the line on the buoy line fell off.  I kept waiting for Chris McClurg to pull up on me on the outside (we started next to each other), and luckily Russ didn't get a hold of my TYR speedsuit zipper pull, so I was free...until the weave started as I came in contact with the prior wave.  I think they all got the memo that it was my birthday, as I cut through without being touched, hit both turns grazing the buoy without a touch again, and just continued to push steady.  Passing under the bridge, I didn't see any caps for 50+ yards in front of me.  I felt like I had the perfect swim, comfortable still, and that Russ and Jonathan had their work cut out for them.  Out of the water, I stopped quickly to give my cap to Sophia (I scared her I think!), then it was off onto the bike.  The bike was what I figured it would be without the speed work, and I kept with the "this is a test" mentality while pushing to my limit.  Chris McClurg is a damn strong biker, and I knew he would put time into me, but he usually can beat me out of the water, so I took his pass as a tolerable situation coming out of T1.  I promptly dropped my only water bottle at mile 3, stopped to pick it up on the second loop as I was completely dry mouthed by then.  I also dropped my only Gu---ugh!   Into T2, I could see Chris about 1 minute ahead after a super quick transition that was "shoes on, grab hat, glasses and belt and go!"  Again with no speed work, I pushed, yet played it somewhat safe by settling in to a pace that was very slowly closing that gap.  I knew Russ was about 60-90 seconds behind with Jonathan another ~20 seconds behind him, so I had to keep the pace high if I was going to also hold them off (they are super-runners ;-).  It took a lot out of me to finally catch Chris at mile 5, but I knew holding Russ off was going to take an effort I didn't have with me on the day after he hunted me down.  Sure enough, he blew by me on the bridge with 1/4 mile to go...damn you Russ!  I had no "gear," ended up grabbing Sophia much to her dissatisfaction for the finish line, and finished 2nd in 40-44.  6 minutes slower than Rio Salado Olympic in May, but that was 2 weeks prior to IM Texas...this result was great considering, and even Chris sent me a "good job," so I know it was a good effort (a typical Chris comment: post IMAZ 2010 with a 9:28 and a Kona slot, Chris says "we can get your swim better") ;-)

My 40th passed, Nathan's gave me some encouragement, I heard back from Endurance Sports Travel the next day and I was in!!!  I've been fired up ever since...which included a serious begging of Jenny to agree with 7 weeks of IM training.  In that begging, we both decided that IMAZ 2012 would be my last IM "for a while" at the very least.  Since the decision, "The Fence" has existed...friends and family have fallen into 2 specific categories:  those that are saying "about time" and those that are saying "seriously, your last???"  What's important, is that myself, Jenny, Sophia if she understood, and Andrew if he could talk, are on the "about time" side of this Fence....my body and mind are there and I think they have been there since Texas, but I just want a good effort, a good result, to go out on.  10 years down the road, if IM Texas 2012 was my last race, I would still have the feeling that I left IM racing unfinished.  There isn't anything I need to prove to myself or anyone else, I just want to go out "on top" rather than the memory that is permanently marked on my left elbow, hip, knee, and ankle because of a stupid bike crash at the mile 10 aid station there.

Moving forward, I'm excited to see what I can pull off in less than adequate preparation time, surrounded by friends and family, on a course that I have become attached to because of my 2010 race and the challenge it gave me in 2011 six weeks after Kona.  I've learned a lot about myself over those 19 hours 10 minutes of racing...and I have a feeling IMAZ 2012 will be right up there with those experiences.  While Kona is a definite NO for 2013, it will be fun to race without regard for "the slot" for the first time--no fear of missing the mark or protecting a position, but just finding more about myself that will carry me though the rest of my life.  This past 2 years has been a life changing event for me; I went into it a bit lost and misguided, but come out a stronger, appreciative, dedicated, and hopefully inspiring person.  To steal a quote from Chris:

Become fully engaged In whatever it is you’re doing, whenever you’re doing it. You will find value in this experience…CH

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