Blogs tagged with "mistakes"

Enjoying the third day of the off-season surfing in Maui

It's been a while since I had a real off-season, but the planets have aligned this year to provide me with a little post-season, holiday, do-nothing block of time. Even though I ran the New York City Marathon two weeks ago, my post season off-time began the day after Ironman Kona. It started with a trip to Maui and ends right about now, in my kitchen, in front of my computer.

Why now, you ask? Because six weeks is enough! I've realized that there is still nothing interesting to watch on TV. I've fallen victim to the Halloween-candy-at-the-office five-pound weight gain (which, at my advanced age's metabolic slowdown, will no doubt take the next six months to eradicate). And I'm ready to stop looking at the past and now look at the future - a.k.a., my 2012 triathlon season.

To go forward, though, I feel the need to contemplate the past so that I can learn from it. The first mistake I ALWAYS make in reviewing the past is the one I'm going to try to avoid this time: remembering only the failures. In looking at years past, I usually only remember the things I want to change, like my poor performances. That's all well and good if I logically analyze what caused the poor performances. But I always forget to review what went right.

Why do we do that? Maybe the question should be: am I the only one who does that? Why does the negative emotional impact of my bad races outweigh the positive impact of my good ones? In other words: why do we dwell?

I don't have the answer to that. (All the psychologists of the world just breathed a collective sigh of relief.)

So, to focus on a positive review of last season, I will not mention the disasters that were two of my biggest races of the year: the USAT National Championship and Ironman Hawaii. Instead, I will review what went right:

  • I won my age group in Ironman St. George by more than an hour, came in tenth overall and fifth amateur. (Who cares if it was with an embarrassingly-slow marathon?)
  • I won my age group and set the age group course record in Ironman Lake Placid.
  • I won my age group in Ironman 70.3 Muncie.
  • I became the 2011 world champ in my age group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas.
  • I ran two marathons - Walt Disney World and New York City - just for fun, both with respectable times (and won my age group at Disney).
Punks, me and Ron in Vegas
Unlike last year, I am able to make that list this year because one of the other great things that happened in 2011 was to develop a great friendship with Ron, aka Punk Rock Tri Guy and @PunkRockRunner, who felt compelled to write me a motivational list before Kona - to remind me of the things I should remember about myself. He has been on a mission to turn my thinking around from dwelling on the disasters. Between Ron and my husband Jim (who has been on that same mission since I began running marathons in 1991), it might finally be setting in.
In addition to athletic endeavors, there were other positives in my life this year. I was able to get out of a dead-end job where I lived daily with fear and stress - and started a new job at a world-class institution, The Cleveland Museum of Art, doing something I love (web application development). It's amazing to me that a simple change has done so much for my attitude. I am now surrounded by positive and hard-working people who understand my training (many of whom have athletic lifestyles - and even run marathons). Several of the technical gurus I work for and with are women that I have developed a deep admiration for. Most importantly, people's eyes no longer glaze over when I go all technical (i.e., "geeky"). My favorite conversation of the last week was with our designers who were trying to create a model of our floor based on the terminology from Star Trek. Yep. Geeks. My people.
Elking around in up-state New York
Working at the museum also re-exposed me to the art world, something I didn't realize I missed until I was back in it. I was even bold enough to enter one of my prints in the staff art show. (This is huge if you know that every time in the past I had "chickened out" at the last minute - even after I had framed my art and had it all ready to go.) It appears I am letting go of some of my insecurities. I hope to be working more on my art in the near future because of the daily inspiration I get at work.
Thus, with a new mental foundation, and some successes in 2011, I am inspired to work hard(er) next year to build on the positive attitude and be able to capitalize in big races. If I'm fortunate enough to get another Kona slot, I will take what I have learned this year and apply it throughout training to eliminate more chances of something going wrong again.
Here are the things I've learned from my 2011 season, in no particular order: 
  • Training with power is what works for my biking (thanks to the CompuTrainer). I don't think I can afford a power meter on the bike, so I will stick with the trainer for power workouts, and work hard during the winter months when I can't ride outside.
  • I still need to figure out what is going on with my nutrition in the heat. Apparently, more sodium isn't enough and maybe it should be "lots more, even more than you think after you've taken more" sodium. I will be consulting a trusted nutritionist. I will also look into having these things (like sweat rate and sweat composition) tested. This is where I think my money will be best spent.
  • My swim training this year reached a sort of plateau, but I'm confident I can get through this one because I managed to do the same time in my three Ironman races this year no matter how hard or how easy I trained for the swim. I broke a rib and lost two weeks leading up to Lake Placid and still did a 1:02. I trained mostly two days a week, sometimes three - so, if I consistently get that third day in, I have high hopes to break that one-hour barrier again. I know I'm capable of going well under it, but so much depends on what happens in the race (i.e., if I get clobbered).
  • If I want to race well in short distances, I should not train for Ironman. ('nuff said.)
  • Sleeping the night before a race fully depends on how confident I am that I can sleep before a race. It has nothing to do with how confident I am in my training. (I am NOT making this up.)
  • More on nutrition: the paleo diet works (and I don't even follow it religiously)
  • Even more on nutrition: despite what the guy from Infinit Nutrition told me in Kona, I do believe that protein is detrimental for me during a race. Once I switched to products without a complete protein ( Closing the book on 2011, in Kona
    I'm sure there are many more lessons I will dig up in the next few months as I review my training from last year to revamp my training for this year. I still have not been able to justify getting a coach because of the expense and also because I feel like I know myself very well and I've been able to coach myself pretty well. I am considering it now because my one issue is knowing when enough is enough and learning to take it easy to let the hard work pay off. I read a great article about self coaching in Lava Magazine recently: The Self Coaching Conundrum featuring recommendations from pro triathletes Amanda Lovato and James Cunnama.
    Thus, there is a lot to consider. But first things first. Get back into training. Build that base. Avoid the pitfalls of eating too much at Thanksgiving. Yikes, that's THIS WEEK! Y'all have a great one!
The black cloud appears to be lifting. I say this not because I just celebrated my second triathlon win this year, but because I won despite everything I did to sabotage my own race. And as the Disaster Magnet, I always pay for my mistakes, no matter how small they are.
The race was the Great Buckeye Challenge Half-Iron in Springfield, Ohio, and I decided to race it just six days ago. And oh, did I make mistakes. I made easy mistakes that other people also made. I made stupid mistakes that were all mine. And I made those "you-should-never-show-your-face-on-the-triathlon-circuit-again" mistakes. But despite all of them, for the first time ever, I led the women's race out of the water to the finish line. The only explanation I have for it is that something must be amiss in the galaxy.
The mistakes began the day before the race with "the list." "The list" is my pre-race equipment checklist. Every race trip begins with printing out "the list." I learned the value of keeping such a checklist when I was a little girl. My father put me in charge of the checklist for our family camping trips, and I would proudly read it off once the car was packed -- checking off the "essentials" (tents, stakes, fishing poles, sleeping bags, flashlights, propane tanks, etc.) and the "non-essentials" (my teddy bear). One year, after I announced "everything is CHECKED!" we drove about a half-mile down the road only to realize we had left my mother in the driveway. The next year, as expected, "mom" was placed on the checklist. We never forgot her again. Because we used the checklist. Properly.
This weekend, I failed to use "the list" properly -- you could say I failed to use "the list" at all. It started when we pulled out of the driveway Saturday afternoon without my bike helmet (I noticed it was not attached to my transition bag). The first thing out of my husband Jim's mouth: "Isn't it on the list??" My reply: "Yes! But.. but.. I assumed we HAD all the bike stuff" (this was me trying unfairly to displace blame). We turned around, not without Jim's eye-roll, and went back to get it.
  • Listmaking for dummies, tip 1: make a list to eliminate "assumptions"
I soon paid the price for trying to blame Jim for the helmet. After arriving at the race site, Buck Creek State Park, checking in and seeing the [sandy] beach, I realized I also forgot my water bin for washing off my feet in transition. Jim: "Isn't it on the list???" Me: "Yes, but I meant to grab it on the way out."
  • Listmaking for dummies, tip 2: check things off the list only AFTER they are accounted for
We would have to find a store and get another water bin. We went to the hotel. After checking in and getting settled, I uncovered my third "list failure." This one was perhaps the most devastating of all. I had packed all my nutrition requirements except one: my electrolyte capsules. I made this mistake after four weeks of analysis concluding that not enough electrolytes was one of the major causes of my dropout at Ironman Lake Placid. Unbelievable.
  • Listmaking for dummies, tip 3: highlight the most important things to make sure you don't forget them (also known as the "common sense corollary")
Forward to race morning. I should have known something was seriously wrong when I got more than five hours of sleep and woke up refreshed. This "something" is what my husband later described as my "lackadaisical attitude" about the race. We drove to the race site, I picked up my timing chip, got body-marked and then set up my transition. Meanwhile, Jim bought two small packs of electrolytes capsules and everything was good to go. One odd thing about this particular race was we had no bibb numbers, and in setting up my equipment, it was weird to not lay out my race belt.

The 1.2-mile swim was a two-loop long rectangle course parallel to the shore in a beautiful man-made reservoir. The weather started overcast and foggy, the air was cool, and athletes were staying in the water to keep warm. According to race officials, the water temperature was "wet-suit legal." During warm-up, I heard another athlete exclaim: "I don't care how warm the water is, at least my legs will be floating." I kept my wetsuit on thinking the temperature "out on the course" would be cooler. It wasn't. It was warmer. And rough. By the time I finished, my biggest surprise wasn't that I was leading the women's race, but that I hadn't vaporized from boiling in my wetsuit.

  • Listmaking Triathlon for dummies, tip 1: if the water is [too] warm, don't wear a wetsuit, even if you do need it to "float" your legs
At over 33 minutes, my swim time was much slower than anticipated. (Many athletes would later commiserate about swim times up to 10 minutes slower than expected.) The swim was followed by a long uphill run from the beach and into the transition zone. After getting my wetsuit off in record time, I made my first stupid mistake at the bike rack. I unracked my bike before putting on my helmet and sunglasses. Note: if you place your helmet and sunglasses on your aerobars and unrack your bike, you will throw your helmet and sunglasses across the transition zone. What was I THINKING? Answer: I WASN'T thinking. I tried to blame it on not having a race belt to grab, but the problem was that I was not focused on what I was doing. I stopped, took the time to curse at myself, give Jim "the look" (something I didn't realize I did until he told me afterward), then picked up my helmet and sunglasses, put them on and made like Usain Bolt for the transition exit.
The 56-mile bike course was two-loops on rolling country roads with traffic. There were two other triathlon distances using parts of the same course. Intersection traffic was controlled by state troopers, but intersections were not always marked or manned, and directions were sometimes on the road and sometimes on A-frame signs. I fell victim to one of those unmanned intersections. Following the 40K instead of the 56-mile bike course I followed the state troopers' directions when they pointed left. I was supposed to go straight. I asked a 40K biker who informed me of the mistake. I lost about two minutes for the blunder. And yes, it was MY mistake. I glanced at but didn't study the course map before the race, and I could have paid closer attention to the arrows on the road. After the race, I was relieved to learn I wasn't the only one who made that error.
  • Triathlon for dummies, tip 2: read and understand the course maps before the race

At the bike turnaround, I was surprised to see I was still leading the women's race, especially since I'm a weak biker who went off course. But the next women were less than a minute behind me. Expecting to be passed in the second loop, I started asking myself the hard questions: Should I hold back and save my legs for the run? Should I try to maintain the lead and hammer?

I held my pace (around 20 mph) and waited. After a turnaround with about 10 miles to go, I saw the gap had shortened and the women were closing in. I made a decision. This might be the only chance I ever get to lead a race from start to finish, and that's what I wanted to do. I hammered the last 10 miles and pulled into the transition zone with my second fastest half-ironman bike time ever and only about five seconds in front of the second woman.
My bike-to-run transition went better than usual, but it still wasn't fast. I gave the second woman the slip when she sat down to put on her running shoes.
My run start was the scene of yet another bizarre blunder. The sun had come out and the temperature was rapidly approaching the 80s. I popped an electrolyte capsule in my mouth assuming there would be a water stop on the way out of transition. I mean, come on, what half-ironman race doesn't provide water on the way out of transition? The answer: this one. Upon the realization, I went to spit out the capsule but it was a nano-second too late. It dissolved and my mouth instantly turned into a salt mine.
  • Triathlon for dummies, tip 3: don't put anything in your mouth that requires water unless you actually have the water-stop in sight
The 13.1-mile run was a two-loop course on a paved multi-purpose path. My run started out a little fast -- I clocked mile 2 at 6:20 but then slowed to a 6:45-7:00 pace. By the second loop, the miles were no longer marked, and I stopped caring about how fast I was running when I saw I had a substantial lead. My run time was about 1:35, my total time around 4:52, and I was seventh overall and first woman.
It was obvious that everyone was struggling with the the heat on the run. There were aid stations with water, Hammer HEED, Hammergel and fruit, but there was a severe lack of man-power. The last aid station before the 3.2-mile turn-around was completely unmanned, and therefore, self-serve. I have never seen anything like it. The supplies were there but had not been unpacked. Cups and ice were still in plastic bags and the water and HEED jugs were not marked. It was a disaster with people desperately searching for what they needed. If you, like me, had planned on running through the water-stops, it all ended there. I just hope they didn't run out of supplies before the last runner went through.
I enjoyed hanging around after the race for a bit and met some of the other athletes. I especially enjoyed talking with two of the top men, Jason from Hudson, OH and Jun from Columbus. Sometimes, being able to celebrate and/or commiserate ends up being the best part of a race. It's when you realize, as athletes, we're all pretty much the same.
The Springfield, OH, Chamber of Commerce made a little video of the race containing interviews with the men's winner and yours truly:
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