Sunday, May 16, 2010

Escape from Alcatraz Race Report - The Training part

From the day I got the email “Congratulations! You have been selected in the 2010 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon Random Lottery!” to the moment I crossed the finish line, I have to start out by saying that I have never gone through a training – racing time period with more emotional turmoil than I did with this race. It has already been two weeks since I’ve finished and I haven’t even allowed myself to meditate on this experience until just now. You are all reading this because you have been a positive influence in my training, directly and indirectly, and it is my minimal duty to express proper gratitude and appreciation for being a part of my life and motivation that prevented me from completely bailing from the race (I had all the reasons!) and to ultimately finish the disastrous run course and into the finish line.

** Training, or no Training??**

Most of you have heard too much at this point about my chronic hip issue… After my half marathon in February, running opportunities were pretty much shot, starting from the time I was supposed to do the Great Race of Agoura Hills half marathon in March. I did the best I could to strengthen my weak spots and hoped for my hips to endure the two half marathons to prep me for this particular race, but no, things just didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped. But that always happens in training, things never go the way you planned, so it seems.

The alternative plan was to then focus on the swim – I mean, I need to get out of the water first to finish the race, right? I had heard so many tales of the cold and the strong current of the Alcatraz swim – and the 1.5 mile distance wasn’t the most comforting factor, either. I recalled the many times I used to hyperventilate and stiffen up in the cold waters of Malibu and Oxnard (Strawberry Fields Tri in July last year), which I was able to overcome only after warming up in the water for at least 10 minutes before the race start. Realizing that the Alcatraz race would offer me no time to warm up (you are required to jump off a boat straight into the water once the gun goes off), I knew I had to somehow overcome that cold water factor. Also, I had to just become comfortable in the ocean in all situations, period. So how would I achieve that in a mere two months’ time?

I thought of the people I knew who had no fear of the ocean whatsoever – who really think being in the ocean in all weather is the most fun thing to do (i won't name names, but there are three, and you know who you are if you're reading this). I wanted their spirit to rub off, so I asked them to take me out to the water. Thanks to them, I did end up picking up the most valuable reinforcement to my psyche – ocean swimming is so fun! I didn’t agree with them 100% and I am not sure if I ever will, but at least I forced myself to believe in it somehow by telling it myself over and over. Their comfort levels in the water, however, to witness in person, helped me feel relaxed too so that I could focus on swimming, not NOT freaking out. I also picked times when the water would be choppier than in the mornings so that I could get used to random splashes in my face and drinking salt water through my nose. Contrasting types of training methods were employed – from a very calming “let’s just tread water and feel comfortable in the ocean” approach to the Spartan-style “keep swimming, don’t stop, don’t be weak, Alcatraz is going to be a lot colder and choppier than this!” approach. In hindsight, they were both very effective training approaches.

Bike training – sooooooooooooooo, I only got on the road twice (maybe three times?) leading up to the race. I could only pray and hope that my grueling trekking experience in Peru’s high altitude would help me get through the hills. There were a few occasional hill interval training on the trainer, but overall bike training was non-existent if I compare this to the time and devotion I put in last year for my half ironman race.

Overall, my preparation for this race was challenged with terribly busy work days, big and rather untimely travel plans (what was I thinking??? But nonetheless I had the best trip ever to Peru) and quite a few changes in my personal life which required me to be more “flexible” with my training time.

But no matter what, I still had to do the race - and that is what i did! :)

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