Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Escape from Alcatraz Race Report

My focus for this season is on Ironman Canada. With Escape from Alcatraz being only 7 weeks before Canada, I wasn't going to make time to train specifically for that distance. I basically just used it as an excuse to do my favorite workout, which is running up and down the stairs at Red Rocks. I also knew it would be important to mix in some cold water acclimation, which I was less excited about. I can race in the heat with no problem, especially now that I have my fluid and sodium loss down to a science, but I am not interested in being cold. Ever.

So I started taking cold showers, and getting into cold water whenever I could, which was made possible by our long terrible winter. (Thanks, Colorado.) Every time I turned my shower head to the cold setting, it made me angry. I have no idea why I have such a high tolerance for doing things to myself that I dislike. One morning after a hail storm, I got into the outdoor pool at my gym, with the ice chunks. I thought I would just jump in and start swimming but after a few strokes of not being able to catch my breath, I had to stand up to get my lungs out of the water. Then I told myself that I was going to swim for 10 minutes and I was not going to feel cold, and that's exactly what I did. I was able to relax my body, and get it done. The problem was when I got out, I was really dizzy, and numb everywhere. This made me realize 2 things: I am grateful for my ability to put mind over matter and commit to whatever mental state I set my intentions on; and, mind over matter may not always be the best approach for me.

My new goal for Alcatraz would be focusing on the "matter," aka, tuning in to the feelings instead of overriding them. The next time I jump into a body of water with ice chunks, I would focus on the cold, and feeling it on each part of my body so that I could know when it would be appropriate to get out and not get hypothermia. In the race, I would tune in to each sensation, to have a better understanding of how to get the most out of myself, based on the feedback from my body. I've spent so much time completely ignoring pain and discomfort, that it seemed a little scary at first, but I was excited for the new challenge, and it felt like an important step in my development.

The boat we jumped off of (the San Francisco Belle) through Ryan's binoculars

Come race day, here are some of the things I got to feel:

1. Arguably my favorite part of the race: the pre-race boat ride out around Alcatraz with 2000+ other psychos who thought this would be a good idea. We were on the boat for about an hour without phones or anything else to distract us, and the energy was unlike anything I've ever been a part of.

2. The 3 seconds right before it was my turn to jump, my heart was in my throat, and I felt some combination of fear, nerves, excitement, and just the pure intensity of being alive.

3. The stinging of salt water in my eyes starting the second I jumped in, and all the way to shore. I wanted to be uncomfortable, right? Having my goggles turn into mini water bowls felt like it met that standard, so I decided to just keep swimming, instead of stopping to fix them. AND, now I didn't have to see any sharks if there were any.

4. Land, sweet land.

5. The excitement of the wild ride that was the bike course! If you have ever been to San Francisco, just imagine a bike course there.

6. Not being afraid of maxing out my effort up the steep grades, and being able to do it again and again.

7. Pure gratitude for disc brakes.

8. All of my hopes and dreams for running up the sand ladder, crashing to a complete halt on stair #2 out of 400.

9. The burning in my lungs the last few miles to the finish, reminding me how relieving it would feel to slow down just a little bit.

10. The satisfaction of not slowing down, and leaving it all out there.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up for this thing, but it was truly a bucket list race, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking to get outside of their comfort zone and have an absolute blast in a triathlon. I came in 2nd place in my age group and 8th overall female. I missed out on 1st place by less than the difference of our T1 times. If I could go back, I wouldn't have stopped to put on shoes before running the half mile to transition. But I can't go back, so whatever.

Focusing on the sensations of the race allowed me to be in the moment, which I know will come in handy when I need to occupy my mind throughout the course of an ironman. Even when my mental game has been at its best, I still have moments in every ironman where I'm worried about my competition, the conditions, and how there could possibly be SO MANY MILES LEFT. It also allowed me to make conscious decisions on the fly, about how to react to each situation. And most importantly, it made me realize that even if a sensation is negative in its connotation (i.e. pain, burning lungs, etc), I don't have to react negatively to it. I don't have to slow down. I just have to be aware.

So here we go, onward to Ironman Canada. In order to be successful, I'm going to need 100% of my focus on my own task, rather than what's happening around me. And I just got a lot better at focusing my attention on my goals.

New Bio, who dis?

As I've witnessed myself shift and change, I've been experimenting with some new coaching strategies. Most of my athletes know that ...