June 22, 2015

Spring Classic 3k Swim Race Recap

A few weeks ago I participated in the inaugural Spring Classic 3k Swim.  I say "partcipated" rather than "raced" because...well, you'll see in my recap. 

It was, hands-down, the one of the hardest events I've ever participated in.  Not so much physically, but much more mentally. It's taken me all this time to process it.

I signed up for two reasons.  First, it was put on by the same people who do the Tiki Swim, a 2.4 mile that I've done the last two years.  While the Tiki Swim is always challenging for me, I'm always proud of myself for finishing.  This year the group added this Spring Classic Swim, and, along with their Labor Day 1 Mile Swim (something I've never done but am now signed up for) the three events add up to their new Trident Swim Series. If you finish all three swims, you get an extra medal at the end or something. I've done similar challenges with running, and thought a swim challenge would be different.  Secondly, I have a half-Ironman coming up, and I thought an open water race would be good a month beforehand.

And the race looked fun!  They bought rubber duck swim buoys and were using these as course markers. I pre-purchased a hoodie with said rubber duck on it (I wear my Tiki hoodie all the time).  How bad could it be?  Rubber ducks!  And 3k was totally doable.  In miles, that's about 1.9 miles----I'm doing 1.2 for my half-Ironman, and have done 2.4 a few times for Tiki, so I knew I could do the distance.

how bad could a race with rubber ducky buoys be?  Source


After my last triathlon, I was really worried about shoulder pain in my full wetsuit. I ended up buying a sleeveless, which I plan on using at Vineman 70.3.  I had only swam in it once before the Spring Classic, and was hoping that I wouldn't have any issues---that it would keep me warm enough and that I wouldn't have any chafing!

The day was to be big training day, too. After the swim, I had orders to bike 40 miles, and then do a 20 minute transition run. I had my car loaded up with everything I needed for such a big day.

Race day logistic were pretty easy.  I got to the Oceanside Harbor early, found parking (and my friend Marianne happened to park next to me!) and easily got my packet (a timing chip and swim cap, plus a cute bag with the duck logo) and also picked up my hoodie.  The organizers were doing some sort of aerial shot for promotional purposes, so they had us go out to sand and sit in certain places while a drone overhead took pictures.  I also got to meet Lisa, another local triathlete, for the first time.  After that, it was time to suit up. I went back to slip on my wetsuit, swim socks, and timing chip----and realized I had left my new Garmin 910xt in the car!  Oops!  By this point there was only 10 minutes to start time, so I literally sprinted to my car, which wasn't very close (but not super far). I didn't have time to put my shoes on, so I sprinted in just my swim socks.  I made it back to the beach with just a minute to spare...found Marianne for a last hug, put on my cap and goggles, and was ready.

The horn blew and we ran into the ocean.  At least, I walked in. Those that read my blog know that big waves scare me, but luckily the waves were not big at all.  Small as they were, I kept getting knocked back, but was finally able to get through. The water didn't feel cold at all, and I was happy to be in a sleeveless. My goggles kept leaking, though, so once through the waves I had to keep stopping to adjust.  I finally got out, with a lot of effort to the first buoy (ahem, rubber duck). It's always hard for me to swim out in the ocean, with the waves and current pushing me back.

Once out at the first buoy, I turned south. As you can see from the course map, it's a clear shot down, turning right before the Oceanside Pier, then turning again to come north and end the race.

source

It seemed to take forever for me to reach the turnaround buoy, even though according to my Garmin (with my new waterproof watch it was the first time I was able to see time and distance in the water!) I was making good time, at least for me. I was in the back of the pack, but there were still other swimmers behind me. I am not a fast swimmer, ever, but the pace I was keeping here was consistent with my usual pace. I was in an ok place. I  started to get cold, though---especially my hands. They started to feel like frozen blocks.

I finally made the turn around and started to swim north.  I was getting tired, and just wanted this to be over. The buoys looked so far away, and I started to feel hopeless.  A lifeguard on a surfboard was by me, and told me I had to move east.  If you look at the picture above, you can see the line of duck buoys I had to swim. I was swimming in the right direction (north) but the buoys were so far too my left, I wasn't by them. He told me I was heading in the surfers' zone, and would be in danger, so to keep swimming north but to head northeast (to my left).  I tried, but kept going straight.

I stopped for a break to orient myself when something happened to me that has never happened before--I got a cramp.  Two, actually---first my right calf seized up and immediately after, my left calf.  I've heard of other people getting cramps in their legs and feet while swimming, but I had never experienced it before. It was, to say the least, excruciating. I was in so much pain that I literally started screaming and had to hold onto the lifeguard's surfboard.  The pain is hard to describe, but if you've ever had a muscle seize (like a charley horse) you know what I mean.  Now imagine both calfs at once. In the middle of the ocean. During a race. 

Yes, I was scared.

My lifeguard called another lifeguard, who came in on a jetski. It had a boogie board attached to the back, and he ordered me to get on it and hold on tight. He wanted to move me, as I was in the line of surfers (due to my poor sighting).  He took off on his jetski, and moved me to the buoy line. He didn't move me north, he just put me back on course. I'd estimate he moved me about 1/10 mile or so. He told me to use this opportunity to stretch out my calfs, which were still screaming. I did what I could (flexing and extending them) but I was limited, as I was hanging on to the back of a jetski! I was crying, sobbing loudly. I was so embarrassed. I couldn't believe I had to get rescued by not one, but two, lifeguards. I am not a fast swimmer, but I am a strong swimmer----and I was humiliated. I knew no one else cared, but I cared. 

When we got to the buoy, the lifeguard asked me if I wanted to finish the swim or for him to take me back. Of course I wanted to finish! I don't quit.  He warned me to make the right decision, as he was worried about me swimming in the ocean with cramps.  But the cramps had subsided a bit, and I knew I could finish the race.  My original lifeguard (whose name I found out was Ryan) stayed with me the whole way on his surfboard, talking me through it and encouraging me.  I finally made it to the last buoy, body surfed a few wave in, and trudged in to the finish line.  My friends were at the finish line and yelled at me to run it in, but I just walked across.  I was done.    I got my "medal" (a cute rubber ducky on a ribbon) and burst into tears.

My Garmin read 2.3 miles (4100 yards).  This was way further than the 3k advertised.  Yes, I had extra mileage because I was off-course (and then minus some mileage with the jet ski ride) but another girl there, who swam on course, said her Garmin read 2.2 miles. So I'm pretty accurate there.  I can do an Ironman distance swim (2.4 miles) but I wasn't planning on it that day!

My swim. You can see how off-course I was--and where the jetski set me right

What were the tears about? I think it was a mixture:  humiliation that I needed rescuing, frustration that I cramped up, exhaustion from the efforts I put forth, and fear that I wouldn't be ready for my upcoming half-Ironman. But also some pride.  Yes, I had rescues by TWO lifeguards.  Yes, I was freezing and exhausted toward the end.  Yes, I almost came in last place. But I did almost an Ironman-distance swim.  More importantly, I didn't give up. I finished the race. 

post-race, feeling every emotion imaginable


After drying off, crying on both Marianne's and Lisa's shoulders, and taking a few pictures, I felt better. I did end up going on a strong 40 mile bike ride (rode from Oceanside to Del Mar and back, along the beautiful coast) and did my 20 minute transition run. 

On my bike ride, I decided I really don't like ocean races, and don't want to do them anymore. I will do the Labor Day 1 Mile Swim, and the Tiki Swim again (mainly because I'm doing it for my friend Leo, who registered but then got deployed to Afghanistan, and he asked me to take his place. If he can serve our country, I can do a freaking 2.4 mile ocean swim for him).  I will finish the Trident Swim Series. I will finish what I started. And, of course, never say never. But at this point, I think I will stick to open-water swims triathlons only in bays----and save ocean swimming for fun with friends.

Final thoughts on the race---my wetsuit was great!  Even though I ended up being cold toward the end, I had no chafing and it fit great.  And I'm wondering if my leg cramps were due to the sprinting I did before the race to get my Garmin.  Running in just socks couldn't have been good for me---and I wonder if I messed myself up.  I ended up with calf cramps for a few days after!

Personally, I will not do this race again. But I have to say the organizers did a great job, just like they always do for Tiki.  Great course support, lots of lifeguards, etc. The only issue I have it the measurement of the course, as I don't believe it is only 3k.






June 16, 2015

Growing Up Too Quickly

Last week my son, D, promoted from elementary school.  From 5th grade to 6th grade.

I now have a middle schooler.

Wow.

I can't believe how fast time is flying.  I have always been keenly aware of how fast it goes. I remember still being in the hospital with him after he was born, and he was 3 days old---and being upset that he was already 3 days old.  THREE DAYS! I wanted to capture every moment, every memory. 

And now he's 11. And going off to middle school.

He is growing up to be, in one word, phenomenal.  I'm so proud of the person he's becoming.  He's kind and empathic and fun and so interesting to talk to. I mean, really interesting.  He is now a junior black belt in karate, and plays guitar, and now plays sax in the school band, and runs 5ks (and has even done a 10k) and does triathlon. He reads books way beyond his grade level, and asks me the most interesting, thought-provoking questions.

I'm so proud of the relationship I've fostered with him.  When A was born, and was in the hospital for several months, D was only 2.  Before she was born, he was my world.  Wherever I went, he went, and vice versa.  I was so in love!  I made a conscious decision when A was born that I didn't want him to feel second best---he needed me too!  So even when she was in the hospital, and I'd spend all morning in the NICU (he would either be at preschool camp or a friend's house or home if a relative was visiting) but I was with him all afternoon, through bedtime, and then I'd go back to the hospital.  All through his childhood, I used any nursing hours I received to spend time with him.  And though our nursing days are long over (thank goodness!) we still spend lots of time together.  We see plays and musicals, we go to museums, we run, and I still read to him every night (we recently finished the Hunger Game series, and have now started on the Divergent trilogy).  We have plans in a few years to run his first half marathon together (a destination trip, I promised him!) 

Recently I asked him if he ever felt left out because of A's medical needs. He said no---and when I told him I had strived to make him feel that way, he said mission accomplished.  Ah, I love that boy!

Now he goes to middle school. He's becoming a man.  Yes, he's still a little boy, but not really...he's growing up right before my eyes.  He's still a cuddle and loves to snuggle with me at night----just not in public!  I'm dreading the day that he doesn't want to cuddle with me anymore, but for now, I savor each one.

I'm excited for him, and a bit worried too.  Three of his six classes next year will be accelerated (GATE for English and Social Studies, and a compacted math class [a year and a half of math in one year]).  Plus Science, PE and band.  It'll be culture shock to him, but I guess it was for me too, back in the day, going into middle school.  He'll be ok.  He'll navigate it all---academically, socially, and emotionally.

Ah, D.  I love that boy.  I just cherish him so much.....and although he's growing up too quickly, I am also loving watching him develop into the man he is becoming.

June 5, 2015

Rock 'n Roll San Diego Half Marathon 2015

This is a part 2, of 2, posts. To read about the San Diego Rock 'n Roll 5k I did the day before as part of their Remix Challenge, please click here.

I signed up for this half marathon as part of my training for my next half-Ironman, which is Vineman 70.3 on July 12.  I thought a half marathon 6 weeks before would be good in my schedule. It would be my third time running this half marathon (see recaps for 2011 and 2012) and I actually did the full in 2003 as my first (and apparently not last) marathon. (No recap for that, that was done in the dark ages, before blogging).
 
To be frank, I wasn't excited about this race.  I never thought I'd do another Rock 'n Roll race. I am not a fan of the Rock 'n Roll series anymore. I have done several of their races---in addition to now three half marathons and a full in San Diego, I also did the Las Vegas half marathon in 2011, the first year they had it at night. I have not raced in any other cities, so I can't speak about them, but to me, the series has gone downhill.  I remember back in 2003...San Diego was the ONLY city they had, and they only had the full. They had a great headliner---Chris Isaac---and lots of great bands.  They said there was a band every mile, and while that wasn't quite true (there were several bands clustered together downtown, with a few miles of desolate stretches) there probably WERE 26 bands.  Even a few years ago, there were more bands.  But now? It's overdone. I just don't see the "Rock 'n Roll" in the event.  Yes, there are bands on the course, but very few.  And the price is very expensive (which is why I signed up for next year when it was only $50).  It's so commercialized now, like Disney. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I know there are lots of people who LOVE the Rock 'n Roll series, and the Disney series, but for me, I prefer a small-town race.

I also wasn't excited about this race because of the course.  In 2013 they changed the half course so that it goes more through neighborhoods like North Park and Normal Heights---not the greatest of neighborhoods and I was worried about that. (Spoiler: it was amazing! The course is great!)

Finally, I was running on tired legs.  Not only did I run a 5k the day before and bike almost 18 miles, but I never got a taper. For most half marathons, I do my long runs (I try to do a few 10-11 mile runs during my training cycle) but always do a taper run of 6.6 miles the weekend before. Why 6.6?  It's half the half.  But my friend and coach didn't let me taper, since this isn't an a race.  A few weeks ago I ran 9 miles, then the following weekend I ran 10, and last weekend, instead of tapering, I ran 11 miles.  And that was the day after biking 65 miles and then running 2 miles.  So, needless to say my legs were exhausted. And I'd been sick all week, even with another migraine the day before.

Now that I've set up all the reasons why I didn't want to run this race, and how I wasn't fresh for it, let me recap!

I was set to carpool with my friend T, who was doing the full (his first full since shattering his foot in a cycling accident a few years ago).  I bought a parking pass (another reason I'm unhappy with Rock 'n Roll---shuttles used to be free, now they're $5 to get on---and $15 if you want a guaranteed parking space in the garage as well. I paid the $15 and T paid $5 for himself).  They said the garage opened at 3:30, and to be there between 4 and 5, as the last shuttle would leave at 5:30.  Both T and I are obsessive about being early, so he was supposed to be at my house at 3:15. I set my alarm for 2:30, and of course, slept fitfully. I woke on my own at 2:25. I was thrilled to be headache-free! T was outside my house at 3 (he's even crazier than I am) and I happened to have been ready.  So early!   We easily got to downtown but then got a bit lost as the directions on the parking pass weren't quite right.  Luckily we were PLENTY early.  We finally got to the parking garage at 3:30---and waited in line forever, as even though it was supposed to open at 3:30, it wasn't.  Finally we got in, parked, walked over the bridge by Petco Park, and got on a shuttle.

early morning on the shuttle

We got to Balboa Park EARLY. Like 4:15 a.m.early.  Hardly anyone was there. We wandered around a bit then decided to sit, as we'd have plenty of time on our feet later.  We found a curb by the empty corrals and dozed.

what corrals look like before anyone gets there


selfie in the dark before I took a nap


And we waited.  Between dozing and using the port-o-potties a few times (the advantage of getting there early is there are no lines and they're clean) the time finally passed.   As the full started at 6:15 (an hour before I did) T had less time, so around 5:30 we walked to gear check, shed our outer clothes, and said goodbye.

before separating. See you in 26.2 miles, T!

ready to run!

Meanwhile, I circulated and found friends. I found my friend Smitha and the local chapter of the Moms Run This Town San Diego, and posed for a picture. I then ran into my friend Nichell, who is a rock star with 38 half marathons under her belt, and is the owner of Full Medal Runs (check them out for cool virtual races!).

me and Nichell


the MRTT ladies
Finally, after waiting in a LONG line to use the facilities again, it was time to head to my corral.  I was in 17.  We waited quite a while to move up, and I was happy once it was go time for my group.

fooling around with selfies while waiting in my corral


last picture before the race started


The run was good!  I started immediately with my run/walk ratio of run two minutes, walk 30 seconds. This ratio has proven great in helping with any sciatic pain from my herniated disc.  During the first mile I was feeling GREAT and looking at my Garmin I saw I was clocking paces in the 9's. NOT GOOD! I can't sustain that pace, and knew I needed to slow down if I was not going to bonk later in the race.  I finally settled into a good rhythm.  Ran through Hillcrest, by where I used to live.  Down past the crowds of people cheering, past the men-dressed-as-cheerleaders.  This part is the same as always--the race always goes down University. But in past years, we used to turn right on Park Blvd, and this time we were turning left. This was unknown territory to me. I mean, I know the area well, but I've never run there. I was excited to be running someplace new!

The weather was perfect. It was cool and overcast the entire time. I never saw the sun, not once, which is unusual for this race, which can get quite hot.  It did get a bit muggy  though, and since I overheat easily I got really warm by mile 3.  I had brought a Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad with me, something I've never run with but will be using at Vineman (I've tried it biking and it's heaven) and used that for a mile or so until I cooled off.

When we turned into the Normal Heights neighborhoods, we were in for a treat!  The people there were out in force. Tons of people out on their lawns cheering, high-fiving, giving out fruit, candy, even alcohol (yes, I saw someone in front of me take an alcoholic drink!) It was amazing. I have rarely seen that kind of support during a race.  I high-fived all the kids, laughed at all the great signs (like "running: it's not just from the cops anymore" and "run like someone just called you a jogger").  At mile 6 my best friend in the whole world was out there with his dog, and it was such a high point for me to give him a hug and get encouragement.  By that point, I was getting tired.  Really tired.  But the crowds were amazing.  It was fun to run through lines of cheerleaders, see the little kids, and realize that the neighborhoods were making a party of it.

After running back into Hillcrest, we turned and went down by another part of Balboa Park that I'm not familiar with. We merged for a bit with the marathoners, and it was impressive to see their pace---I saw the 3:30 pacer, and they are FAST! Here is where I came across something horrific, though.. Right before mile 9, I noticed a group huddled to the side, with a police car and lots of people.  Two volunteers were holding up a sheet to block the view of whatever was happening, but as I passed I was able to see.  There was a man down, and someone was doing chest compressions on him. I mean, full-on compressions, practically jumping on top of the man to do them.  It was awful. I only saw a glimpse, but I spent the next several miles in tears and praying.  I did see an ambulance about a quarter mile later, but have no clue if he survived. I know that by the time someone's getting CPR done it's usually too late, but I'm holding out hope that the man was ok. Just awful. It really made me reflect more on not only how lucky I am to do this, but that we never know when it's our time.  I'm sure the man just thought he'd run a race, and had hopefully trained, and was looking forward to it,  then this happened.

Toward the end of the race I started to pick up the pace just a tad. There were some hills, and I may have walked a bit more than I should have, but overall I just felt better.  I got a Jolly Rancher from a spectator. I got a hug from a woman holding a sign that said "free hugs". I ran into Smitha toward the end, and then ran through a tunnel they had decorated like a rave, complete with club music and neon lighting.  The last turn down toward the finish was amazing.  There were cheerleaders on a corner screaming "8 more blocks!" and I knew the end was in sight!  The finish--all downhill--was a blur. I ran the whole way, with no more walk breaks.  There were people lined on both sides of the finishing chutes (there were separate chutes for marathoners and half marathoners.  The people were several deep---there were tons!  The cheering was deafening.  It was probably the best finish line I've ever been through, in any race of any type or distance. 

I crossed the finish line. I had no real time goal for this race, as it was a training run, not an A race. I certainly wasn't trying to PR.  My ultimate goal was under 2:45 (on tired legs) and my hopeful goal was 2:35. I crossed in 2:36, so I was really happy! I know that Vineman will be different, and even though most half marathon I do are between 2:30 and 2:40, I've yet to do a half-Ironman run in under 3:00 (Superfrog was 3:12 and Oceanside was 3:03).  The exhaustion after doing a 1.2 mile swim, then biking 56 hilly miles, then running 13.1 in the heat (it should be in the 90s) will do  me in. But for this race, running on tired, not-fresh legs, I am happy with my time.



at the finish line

Excuse my language, but post-race was a clusterf*ck. Right after I crossed I got my medal and there was food and chocolate milk, etc, but after that area it was chaos. The plan T and I had was, since I would finish first, for me to get the gear check bag (we shared one), then get my Remix medal, and then meet him at the Family Reunion.  Well, gear check was easy to find, but the Remix medals were not!  I was told to go to Petco Park, which didn't make sense, but I made my way halfway over there and then turned back, and asked again, and was once again told to go there. So I followed the throng of people over there---it was so crowded. Finally I got to Petco Park and had to go up to the second level.  I found an escalator, but lots of people were doing the stairs---after doing a half or full marathon!  Once up there, I had to ask several people where the medals were. They halfway around the stadium, pretty hidden.  I was glad when I finally found it, and got my extra Remix medal.

Then I tried to find Family Reunion.  I asked several volunteers and everyone pointed me in different direction. I tried to text T but he never responded, so I (rightly) assumed that his phone was dead.  Miraculously, another racer that I asked pointed right across the street (at Petco Park) and there was the Family Reunion area---and there was T!  He had done the full in just under 4 hours. I was so proud of him!  And happy to see him, as I was scared we wouldn't find each other in this mess.  We got to the car and easily got out of the garage. 

in the parking garage; Petco Park behind me
All in all, I was very happy with this race.  As I'd had nothing but poor expectations, this was great!  I have one more swim race to do (tomorrow, actually) and then the next one is the big one---my A race, Vineman!