Friday, July 31, 2009

Pre-race Prep

Just had a pre-race prep session - practice swim (see photo), bike warm up, and then packet pickup and full registration (see other photo, I'm officially on the list).

There was a pre-race meeting to go over the key points of the race, I am not sure if that was a wise move or not because it made me extra nervous. But my friend Detra was with me and she encouraged me the entire time that I would have no problem finishing this race... Thank you Detra!

Rest of the day will be eat, relax and meditate...and give thanks for this amazing opportunity.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

All the hard work is done, Race Day is 5 days away

As of yesterday, I closed the books on all the hard training required for the half ironman. One week left...and this Saturday I will be on the Barb's Race course in Sonoma, California.

Saturday I did a 3 hour ride along the Pacific Coast Highway, doing about 38 miles in total. There were several tough hills, but all in all it was pretty manageable. Then I met a colleague of mine, as she was starting out with her new pair of clip-ons (those pedals that you attach your bike shoes to in order to enhance speed and control, kind of tricky to get used to in the beginning) and rode with her for about 45 minutes to help her get used to stopping and starting on the road with those annoying clips. I remember how tough of a time I had when I was starting out on my new road bike and those trecherous clip-on pedals, I couldn't help but lend a hand to someone who was just starting out and feared going out on the streets because of them. It was fun and hopefully she feels better on the street now.

On Sunday I met up with the LA Tri Club members to do an ocean swim in the Marina. Detra and I had a great swim for 40 minutes in the ocean, getting ourselves more comfortable swimming in open water. The water was a bit choppier than last time, but it was nothing compared to Strawberry Fields. It was a pleasant challenge, a bit of a drag getting out of the water because of the opposite current, but I felt great.

Pretty much the Sunday swim was the last real training before the race. I had a good wrap-up weekend that made me feel quite ready for the race. I'm nervous as heck, have no idea how I'm going to run 13 miles after the 56 mile bike ride, but I guess I will have to manage when i get there! :) I have done as much as I could, I have really stretched my previous limits and done more than I could ever think of. There is of course so much more i could have done, but I can't think about that right now. I've made a lot of progress, and most importantly, I'm not injured and i am not too fatigued.

I also slept 9 hours Sunday night! Sleep is sooooooooo important especially when you're training a lot, i'm sure i've said this over 30 times by now. Did I also say that solving the sleep problem solves at least 50% of fibromyalgia pain issues? Sleep people, sleep! take some Total Sleep and sleep!

This week is going to be all very short sessions - tomorrow I will swim for 40 minutes and then run 30 minutes. Wednesday I will swim 30 minutes. Thursday is Rest, and Friday is going to be 10 minute run, 10 minute bike and 10 minute swim. SATURDAY - RACE DAY. As simple as that.

I am constantly meditating, praying and centering my thoughts to stay positive and optimistic. There is nothing to fear, really, I just have to pace myself and do what i can to finish, even if it takes me a long walk for hours to get through the run course. I know that my friends will be there with me to cheer me on, and I will pray the entire time I'm on the course. I know that this is not my doing, and at the end it is a higher power that will get me through the finish line. I have always felt it in every tough race, when I was about to give up, when I thought I had no more to push forth with, there was always that something extra that carried me through the final obstacles. I will think of all of the people in my life that have touched me and motivated me to take on this journey. I can do this, thanks to the great people i have had the honor to get to know, albeit just simple comments on my blog or emails back and forth.

Thank you everyone for giving me the energy and strength and the motivation to keep on. It is in my times of weakness that I have seen my strength come through, and that comes from a place outside of me. I know it, and I learn it over and over....

God bless!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Strawberry Fields Sprint Triathlon and the Ride back from Oxnard...on bike

7/19 - Strawberry Fields Sprint Triathlon.

Up at 345am, get dressed, have breakfast (or something like that), make sure everything is packed (i packed up pretty much everything into the car the night before - u NEVER want to pack for a race on the morning of!), mentally prep for myself for the day and pray for a quick moment.

Pick up Detra at 435am, load up her bike and stuff.

Pick up Shirley and Jon at 5am.

Arrive at Oxnard Beach Park at 6am.

Race start - first wave at 700am. My wave starts at 730am, Shirley's wave started at 708am so we went out to the ocean early on to send her off.

I spent about 15 minutes in the water while waiting for my wave to start - the water was freezing cold, the water was pretty choppy. I was so glad that Shirley and I went for a practice swim the day before, when it was even choppier. Very nerve-wracking, but I knew I could do it as long as I kept my heart rate down and just went slowly at my pace.

Finally, time for my wave to start. I didn't even use my legs. I just pulled with my arms, which saved me a lot of energy and oxygen (hence keeping the heartrate down). I felt a lot of people passing me (kicking, punching, swimming over me, you name it), but I didn't get shaken up by that. I just kept going, pretending I was in the ocean by myself. I had moments of panic, but they were temporary. I knew I could do this, it was only 400 meters. The water was cold and the waves came and hit me several times, but i just kept going, not thinking too much about anything, just telling myself that this was totally doable. I swam really really slow, as I knew that was the only way I could get through this very cold water swim. I got out finally, i looked at my watch, it took me 18 minutes. I was ok with that, just happy to get out of the water without a panic attack. Yeah, i'm on land!!!!

Bike and Run - short 12 mile bike, mostly flat. Uneventful, except that my inner thighs and hip flexors felt so awfully tight. I did my best. Then the Run (3 miles) - forget it, my legs and hips were so tightened up that I could barely lift my legs. I felt quite scared when I saw this happening, because the first thing that went through my mind was "geez, how am I going to do a half ironman if i can't even do a sprint???" Oh well, what do you do, you just do what you can. I finish, 1 hour and 48 minutes total time. that was a sloooooooow race, but I was glad I got some practice racing in.

The race was not even the big event (except for surviving the ocean swim, yey, pat on my back) - Detra and I planned on riding back to Santa Monica from Oxnard on our bikes after the race. That is about a 58 mile ride. I figured, might as well try. By the time we left the race site, it was 1035 am. Already starting to get hot.

A couple of tricky turns on to the Pacific Coast Highway from Oxnard, but after that it was just a straight up ride for EVER... several rolling climbs that sucked the energy out of me, but the challenge was not even those hills, really. First, it started getting super hot around noon. Second, Detra got a flat tire that took forever to fix (45 minutes?) it got even hotter as our ride got delayed. I was hungry, we never stopped for real food (just kept eating trail mix bars and gels...don't want to see them for another year). I think there was sand left in my tri shorts so i was very VERY uncomfortable sitting for hours....ouchhhhh, and my legs and feet started swelling up (i think it was from the cold water (bad circulation) and then getting really hot???) and it was making my bike shoes feel like torture contraptions...totally feeling miserable. To top it off, because of the hot weather, the PCH was so crowded with cars (PCH goes along the beach) and there was also some accident at some point, where cars were mean and deadly to cyclists... then my front tire got gum on it which collected debris every 20 seconds which i had to scrap off... ha ha i usually don't get so dramatic but mang this ride was one thing after another. I was so tired both physically and mentally.

At mile 42 (Big Rock/PCH) I was done. Sooooooo done. At that point i had stopped like 5 times in 10 minutes to scrap off the debris that stupid gum kept collecting (it just wouldn't go away or dry up!) I called Shirley to come get me (they had my car, already back in Santa Monica all showered up and full from REAL food), which she so kindly did in the crazy traffic. I felt bad but I was also so tired. I also held Detra back a little bit but i think she was done riding too. so all in all I did a pretty brave and tiring ride attempting to ride back from Oxnard, partially failed. I was still happy with it though, because I did the ride after racing, which not many people think of doing. I guess i've become one of those crazy people that think racing is not enough activity for the day. Well, I needed a long and challenging ride, and I definitely got one. One thing to note though, was that I did finish all the main rollers along the PCH...the point i stopped was basically all flat afterwards.

This morning, I was on the bike at a higher (more difficult) gear but I was doing pretty well, and my run wasn't so bad! Maybe the struggles from that day made me stronger. :) At least it was a relief that I could run 2 hours decently well after a 30 minute spin on the bike. If it were like last Sunday, there was no way I could have done what i did this morning. I think the cold water really stiffened me up that day, i don't think I will have that problem on race day (8/1) in Sonoma, as it is over 90 degrees out there right now. I do have to worry about hydration, on the other hand.

Anyway, I had to document this very interesting experience of racing then having a miserable bike ride back - i have never done such a thing, I don't regret it, I just need to be better prepped next time (i.e., stop to eat real food, leave early from race site instead of hanging around afterwards).

But regardless of what happened - thanks Detra, Shirley and Jon for a great, memorable day of fun (yes, it was still fun I suppose)!

Up at 415am

Up early to do a 2.5 hour brick (30 min bike + 2 hour run) before going into work.

If I were doing this for myself, I don't think I could get up this early! Thankful for a purpose greater than myself.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ocean Swimming Tips - things to remember when you're about to freak out

Feel fast and efficient in the pool? Feel confident in your swimming, in the pool? Have limited open water swim experience? That's me. When I was about 9 years old, my oldest brother and I nearly drowned in the Hawaiian ocean to death. All I remember is the part where both struggled as we drowned...and then waking up to the sight of many heads looking at me asking "are you ok???" As odd as it sounds, I didn't even have that memory until I started practicing open water swim in the ocean about 4 years ago. Nowadays, i have to tell myself not to think about that day whenever I'm going ocean swimming. I want to overcome this fear so badly.

So, although I've done several ocean swim races, as you read from yesterday's blog I totally lost control and freaked out in the water, tempting me to quit the swim and get rescued out by someone. It was embarrassing. I recovered my dignity by swimming again and doing another loop out in the ocean, but I was shocked myself as to how I ended up getting so paranoid.

I've put together some key ocean swimming tips, not just for the readers but as a reminder to myself as well.

1. Warm up before you go in the water and spend as much time in the water before swim start - important for your body to be warmed up for the main swim. It usually takes longer for me to warm up and get acclimated to the water temperature. Start early.

2. One stroke at a time - the scope of the ocean can be overwhelming, causing the thought of finishing a full mile undoable, even if you've done 3 miles during training. Always remember - it is each stroke after stroke that will get you closer. don't look too far ahead. Just keep going, focus on your stroke.

3. Every 5-8 strokes, lift your head and to make sure you stay in line with where you're going. When I get nervous, I will swim while sticking my head out constantly to see where i'm going. That makes me super nervous because all I'm doing is reminding myself how far the swim is. Swim as usual, except periodically checking to see if you're still heading towards the mark. When you're not lifting your head to see, just swim as normal. Pretend you're in the pool with less visibility and no black line on the bottom.

4. Breathe deep, Exhale loooooong - especially in the beginning, even if it slows you down. It will stabilize your heart rate and prevent you from hyperventilating.

5. Think about happy/comforting things while swimming. Distract yourself from the constant push and pull from other swimmers and the daunting task of finishing the swim. Keep the rhythm of your strokes consistent, think about your friends, what you're going to do after the race, chant something, sing, pray, whatever you can to keep you distracted yet calm.

6. Minimize kicking. Until you're about to finish the swim (at which point you start kicking to get the blood flowing in your legs in prep for the run out of the swim and then bike), minimize kicking. This will save your legs and also help you exert less energy and help ease the heartrate as your body will need less oxygen the less kicking you do. It may slow you down just a tad bit, but if you're priority is to finish a race vs. winning and you will need a lot more energy for later, try to manage that during the swim by minimizing leg usage. This definitely helped me stay calmer in the water.

7. You can do this! You're not going to drown, nothing is wrong, you can totally do this!!! if you're too scared and you start overly hyperventilating, flip over and lie on your will float as long as you're in your wetsuit. catch your breath, and then repeat 1-6. I can do this! You can do this - stop worrying, keep going.

and lastly - practice makes perfect. Keep doing these ocean swims, don't sporadically show up to ocean swim sessions right before a race. This is definitely one of the biggest mistakes I made. I am going to be a regular at the Wednesday Ocean Swim Speed Circuit with the LA Tri Club! Yeah!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Triathlon is a Team Sport!

** I dedicate this blog post to my dear friend Shirley**

Today I benefited from amazing kindness and generosity from a dear friend of mine. She has been for many years my triathlon race mate and everything beyond.

I went to a LA Tri Club group ocean swim session this morning. My dear friend was there, when I least expected her! She said that she had to get a new wetsuit because of a tear so she wanted to test it out. We started together, and we swam through the first 50 yards or so...until I started hyperventilating. At some point I thought I was going to have a heart attack as my chest tightened up, and it completely discouraged me from going forward. She realized that I was falling behind, so she came back to check up on me. She helped me regain my breathing, relax and waited until I could continue swimming again. Thanks to her, I was able to stop myself from doubting. She stopped every time i stopped, she kept encouraging me and making me feel at ease. I realized that I may have started way too fast, gave myself too little time to get used to the cold water (which revvs up my heart rate). I wanted to get out of the water and quit altogether, but i knew that was not an option, because in order to get out of the water i would have to keep swimming anyway.

Finally, on the first loop back to the shore, I didn't have to stop as I was able to breathe long and steady, and I kept my strokes more under control (i.e., not flying arms). My friend never stopped checking up on me. I was so grateful. I got so psyched up that we managed to do another loop out and back!

I realized, triathlons, despite having its very individual nature, can be a team sport when it comes to training. So far I have had the help of so many people cycling with me and swimming with me, keeping me motivated and strong. Without my friend today who stood by me the entire time, I would have never finished my ocean swim. And because of today's successful swim I will be able to keep going forward. Had I quit today, I would have lost the courage to go back to the ocean because of this single incident.

Sometimes we panic. Sometimes we feel helpless. In those times, we have our loved ones around us - don't be afraid to reach out, as they are kind and loving enough to help you through when you are struggling. I am so grateful for what happened today - it really put in perspective how my efforts are really not just my own - i have become who i am because of the people in my life who have been there for me. Even some of the readers have given me amazing advice and encouragement to keep going when I thought I had to stop because of my prolonged injuries. Thank you all. I cannot boast about what i can do - because it does not just come from me. Without the people around me, I would be nowhere right now.

I am thankful for the team (friends, training buddies and my blog readers) in my triathlon life! You are all a part of Minnie's team! Thank you!!!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Details of the Encinal Canyon Climb

Just checked -

9 miles of climing, gained 2000 ft of elevation. Mostly 4-6% inclines, while some reaching 8%!

Total ride that day was 22 miles. Definitely wayyyy short of the 60 I targeted, but my unplanned early climb up to the canyon sucked the wind out of me and I knew i had to cut back. Had i done a longer warm up/flat ride, I could have done 40-45 miles. With climbs like this, it's hard to sustain a long ride especially without a good warm up.

Doing a long flat ride this weekend, from Oxnard back to Playa, after doing a sprint triathlon to practice my ocean swim and transition.


I achieved two milestones this weekend -

1 - first long climb up Encinal Canyon. I have to check the actual mileage, but I managed to climb up a long incline up one of the canyon roads in Malibu. It was challenging to say the least and there were times I wanted to just call for a cab. But my riding buddies helped me through. Felt very fatigued for the rest of the day but I didn't experience any flareups. I just drank a lot of water and ate a lot of protein and healthy carbs to recovery better. It was hard, painful, grueling...but I think if I repeated the climb every other week I will be a stronger rider.

2 - first ocean swim of the year. Finally! I tackled my biggest fear yet again...managed to muster up the courage to jump into the ocean and spend some time there. Nothing strenuous, an easy 900 - 1000 meter in the ocean, going back and forth from shore to buoy. Having friends to accompany you helps! My friend Detra swam with me the entire time, we stopped in the middle if we had to, just hanging out and encouraging each other. Felt great.

This whole process of training for a big race is really overcoming my own doubts and obstacles. Nothing is ever easy, especially if it is something new and challenging. We tend to freak out and react strongly to the things we are not familiar with. And we easily give up as we hit a wall - but the true test comes when we hit that wall - are we going to go over it, or are we going to turn back and never look forward again? Who do we have around us that can support us? I am so grateful for the people I have come across in my life lately. They are all amazingly positive, kind and encouraging people. I wouldn't gotten through certain periods of my training without these people. Carol, Karen, Shirley, Detra, Jef, Susan, Lilian, Jon....thank you friends!!!!

Race is really coming up! 8/1!!!!!!!!!! 2 weeks of build and then peak, then complete taper as we go into race week.... shivers :)

Friday, July 10, 2009

As I prepare my body and my mind for tomorrow...

I have a rather challenging 60 mile ride waiting for me tomorrow. A severe allergy attack today outdoors, tired now yet recovering tonight and thinking about the ride tomorrow. There will be some long climbs as well as rolling hills to keep me working hard. I'm a little nervous, but also excited about a new route. Pretty much tomorrow will be one of my last long rides before the race. I am not going to like the climbs but I will do it, slowly and steadily.

I'm mentally prepping myself as well - telling myself tomorrow will be fun, that I will do fine on the hills, that I will not give up. I will feel ready tomorrow when I get up.

I am so blessed to be able to do what I do. I am slow and I am weak at times but my strength shines thru in my weakest times. I know this. I need to keep going with a humble attitude, and let God carry me thru...wherever he will take me to, I will go.

3 weeks to race day. Blessings all around...I feel it.

I'm devoting my ride to all my fellow fibromyalgia fighters!!! Let's keep going, for a better tomorrow...
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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Another decent week of training

Thursday - 6 hour hike
Saturday - 3000 meter swim
Sunday - strength and conditioning.

Was supposed to have a long ride today but I had to delay to tomorrow due to the 4th holiday and a rather tired body after Thursday's long hike and Saturday's long swim. After tomorrow's ride, the rest of the week will be taper workouts.

4 weeks left. Nervous as heck. Just doing the best I can while preventing injuries and flareups.

A thank you to my dear friends who have offered their time to join me on the hike and the rides, which I couldn't have done alone. You know who you are.


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