I want to start off by saying, I'm bummed that I couldn't end 2015 with a bang, but at least I ran my fastest half marathon in a long time. 1:19:21. That's 6:03 pace folks! Crazy
I got a flat tire at Austin 70.3, sat on the side of the road for 20min before a fellow competitor, Jean-Philipe gave me his front wheel so I can continue. He had to wait on the side of the road for 3 hours before someone handed him a flat kit so he can repair MY flat and ride back to the transition. I went on to run my best half marathon of the year.
And not sure if I'm more mature in dealing with disappointments and flat tires, or just getting used to having a lot of average/bad races, I feel super upbeat and just happy about this year. If I was 21 years old I might be pissed off that I got a flat tire, and couldn't pull off the race that I have been hoping for the whole year.
But let's back up. Silverman 70.3, the good and bad
Silverman 70.3 was a pretty good race for me, but not the best race. I did my "Best" through out the race but after the race, I just didn't feel happy or satisfied. I felt like though I tried my best, and collapsed at the finish, there was something in my head that just wasn't right.
I felt like I ran scared. I biked scared, and I swam scared. The swim was the choppiest swim I've ever been in, and talking to fellow pros, it was pretty hard. I was in survival mode. So I had a fairly good reason to say I swam scared lol.
The bike, was super windy, and I almost got knocked off the bike several times. After being knocked out of my mind in the swim by the chops, the bike was a similar affair. It was quite hard just to ride in a straight line at times, and entering into some of the gullies, the the gusts of wind were just insane. But I soldiered on like usual. I know this is TMI, but I peed on the bike for the first time!!
Now the run. I have no excuse. During the run, I just didn't feel like myself. And frankly, it felt like all the half marathon runs I've done in the past 6-7 races. I didn't run with guts like I used to. I was looking at my GPS watch half the time. I was looking up the road at turn-arounds counting my placing. I was thinking about how I can't catch the front group. I was thinking about how all these guys are better runners than me. And I wasn't thinking about the one thing that mattered the most, just run.
My coach and I had a talk after the race. And Nick mentioned a treadmill test that he'd done where they didn't allow him to monitor his pace, distance, or effort. He had to run blind on a treadmill. He ended up running 5:30(or something absurd) for 50 minutes. Something that he probably didn't think he could do. It was proof that when you don't put limitations on your run, and run pure, you will run really freaking fast. I realized that I haven't been able to get into my "suffer zen" state during my half marathon runs. I was thinking about all these things that didn't really matter, and only made me slower.
I always thought that people talked about it's all mental. I thought that was a bunch of crap. If you physically can't do something, you just can't do it. But I was wrong. I found a research article on competitor.com saying if you don't embrace the pain of an effort, the effort will feel much harder than it actually is. That's exactly what I was doing at all my races. Every race I would go into it thinking that I've tapered, and I'm fit, so the effort should feel "easy". That mind set led my body to self-preservation mode and it would make my efforts feel much harder then they really are. 6:11 feels like 5:55. And that's why I've only been running 1:21s.
I spent the lead up to Austin 70.3 not looking at my watch and just tuning in to my zen state so I can just run. And the results were pretty astounding. Most my training runs just went up a level. Finally getting to the point where I felt comfortable with my run. I had a long run in Los Gatos Creek Trail where I averaged 6:18 over 14+ miles. It was probably my fastest long run ever.
Flying into Austin, I felt very confident. Everything felt great. I had dialed in my travel routine, wearing sweat pants instead of jeans. Wearing tennis shoes instead of flip flops. Overall just trying to relax as much as possible, not spending any extra mental energy. Staying calm to conserve energy. I was very fortunate to have a homestay in Austin at Elizabeth's place. She was a triathlete herself so it was fun to hear about her experiences and her aspirations to complete an ironman. I settled in nicely at her place and also got to know Austin bit by bit the days leading up to the race. BTW, Wholefoods at austin is absolutely amazing. I wonder why? maybe it started in Austin?
Swim: I really need to work on my top end speed. I just don't have the explosiveness in the very beginning to go with these guys and get in a pack. Usually the pack slows down. But by the time it slows down, im long gone.
Bike: Flat city. Coming into Austin, I kept hearing how rough the roads are. I reconned part of the course but not the whole course (big mistake). At mile 33 maybe, there was a section that was completely washed out. I took it slow out of my aerobars and the next thing I knew I heard, psst, psst, psst, psst.
I quickly tried to fix my front wheel with vittoria pitstop. It didn't work. I lost count, but probably 10-20 athletes passed me, and I decided to just keep on running with my bike. I kept looking at the sky and just said there's nothing I can do. After 5-10 or so minutes. I didnt even want to look at my garmin anymore. I bumped into another pro Jean whose aerobar had broken off. We chatted a bit. I asked him, when the tech guys come, will they give me a front wheel, or are they going to change my flat? And he just said, you have a flat? you want my front wheel?
So I took it, thanked him and just rode. I got off bike feeling really tired but somewhat excited to run. I told myself "let's just see what we can do". So I just ran. I had a watch but I didn't start it so I wouldn't know my splits or pace. It was demoralizing seeing how far ahead the leaders were. Also the fact that I had to pass all the lead women one by one. But I just ignored all that negativity. And just ran as hard as I could. Things began to sting a lot by the start of the second lap (total of 3 laps). And I kind of just said screw it, and I ran at the same pace. I didn't back down. There were moments were I was sure I would fall over if I went any faster. I just kept myself on that limit and kept going. Drank coke at every aid station (thankfully there were many). It was so painful but I just got into the zone and got comfortable with the discomfort.
I crossed the line. Everyone congratulating me. I didn't feel there was anything to celebrate or be congratulated. I was pretty pissed. They had beer at the refreshments and I drank them. You know, end of the season. I somehow made it back to T2 and checked some text. My dad was in Asia, and had been staying up all night tracking me online. He wrote "1:19:21! great run!" another text from a dear friend, Yau, said the same thing. I was pretty happy about that. I finally broke 1:20 after 2 years of trying!
I had quite a lot of time to visit Austin. It's definitely a very hip and cool city. Right after the race, my off season started. So first thing I got was a hamburger with sweet potato fries. Then ice cream. I thoroughly enjoyed myself before heading home.
I learned a lot this year, I usually like sharing what I learned so here's a list
1. Drive the bike course. And bring flat kits. ALWAYS. Traveling and training for races, and signing up for races cost a lot of money. Don't let a flat ruin your day. Oh, and VITTORIA PITSTOP DOESN'T WORK!
2. Travel in comfortable clothes and shoes. Wear super lose clothing and relax as much as possible. If you can sit, sit. If you can lay down lay down. If you have to stand up, make sure you're not carrying any weight.
3. Always expect something to go wrong. Be mellow about things. Such as delays, and rental car company taking forever. Don't let any of that waste your mental and physical energy.
4. All liquid nutrition is the way to go if you race at a high intensity. My heart rate basically averages out at my threshold heart rate throughout the race, (or just below) and there ain't that much blood volume for your gut. Solid food and no blood don't go together. So I've switched to purely liquid fuel, with a ton more hydration. I drink twice as much h2o as I do now compared to last year.
5. Laying down for 8 hours, even if you're not asleep, helps the day before a race.
6. As a pro, if I can't swim 60 second 100s, then I basically can't make the packs that form in swimming and I basically can't get a draft. Something that I have to work on in the off season.
7. Running without a watch for me, makes me faster. Suffering takes a lot of mental energy to focus. Watching the pace, distance, and duration, is just extra distraction for me.
8. Daily nutrition makes a huge difference in the long run. Having proper vitamins, immune support, and protein intake (100g for 150 lb athlete a day) are vital.
9. Investing in massage, and physical therapy is absolutely worth it.
10. Never give up hope. If I hadn't kept running with my bike after my failed flat fix attempt. I would have been stuck on the road for 3 hours and never been able to even finish or find out about my run fitness. I was lucky to bump into Jean-Philipe and he gave me his front wheel, which was a total act of kindness and class. Thank you Jean!
That's about it. This post took about 3 weeks to write. Thanks for reading. Thanks to my sponsors Bizlink Tech and Accell. And P-fits. Tribike transport for hassle free bike transportation. Thanks to my homestay hosts, Doug and Stephanie, and Elizabeth. Learned so much from each one of you. Wish you guys the best next season. Thanks to my mom, and dad, and sister for putting up with me. Lastly I would like to thank my coach Nick Thompson for his guidance throughout the last 5 months and helping me grow during this process. I've learned and grown a lot and looking forward to us tackling next year together. Cheers!
Compared to 12 months ago I feel really happy with where I'm at. I'm not injured. I feel pretty healthy and I'm happy with my season. And I look forward to next season. It's a good sign. I'm extremely thankful, which is appropriate because tomorrow is Thanksgiving.
Happy offseason, see you in 2016.