Thursday, September 13, 2012

post race thoughts and lessons.

Immediately after returning home from the race, I picked up my kids.  I was riding pretty high still, but it turns out that Skyler and Reed were more interested in telling me about building a tree fort and going roller skating than basking in Mommy's glory.  Understood.

Nevertheless, we'll call Sunday night "T3,"  my third and final transition, back into role as mother.

I do a lot of post-race processing and (if it goes well) glowing or (if it goes badly) stewing.  That is why I stayed up late writing my race report after the kids were in bed.  I didn't want it to all be over.  And I hardly slept at all that night.

I was pretty sore the day after, but some advil, compression sleeves, and a soak in the UMaine hot tub while my kids went swimming on Monday night fixed me right up.  I wasn't sore at all on Tuesday, just hungry.

 I had a wonderful 4 days with my babies. 

Some thoughts and lessons after my 70.3 mile journey:

1.  How hard was it?  Triathlon vs. Marathon:
I've been asked many times how exhausted I felt at the end, or how it compared to running a full marathon.  Here is what I think.  I would say that I needed to be (and was) in better overall shape to complete the half ironman than I ever was for a marathon.  I needed to come out of the water feeling strong, and I'm proud of how strong I did feel.  I know that swimming with the masters 3 times a week all summer helped me immensely, because in the past when I've trained in the pool on my own, I get very bored quickly and tend to think:  "That was about 1000 yards... enough."  Instead, I swam further and pushed myself harder thanks to swimming with a team.

I also felt prepared and well trained for the bike distance, but I think I could go faster.  I want to work on that (see #5 below).  When I got to the run, I wasn't totally exhausted overall, but rather just had specific places that hurt.  The best I can describe it is that on the run, while I was in pain, I had energy to thank volunteers, cheer on passers-by, chat with Susan once she got to me, and I never ever once thought I would die or not finish.  That is not my experience in a marathon.  I never had one of my typical low-moment super freak outs; I was very calm mentally throughout the race.  In a 26.2 mile run, I have moments of almost near panic that I can't go on.  Thanks to the 3 distinct stages of this race, I felt focused just on what I was doing at each part, but was thankful for the transitions to let my body do something different. 

I guess I'm saying that I think triathlon is a healthier sport than marathoning.  The training felt better, I never got bored or thought the training was tedious, and in the race itself, I had more fun and felt less beat-up at the end of it.

I never thought I'd have to buy one of these stickers for my car.  And yes, they sold them at the expo.  Yikes:

2.  What's Next? 
Many people have also already asked me what is next.  I tend to ask this too of people whom I know are race-obsessed goal-oriented.  But I'm not quite ready to decide yet.  Kind of like when you have a baby, and people ask you about plans for your next baby before you've even left the hospital.

First, I just want to enjoy this baby that I birthed:
And wear this a few times:

But of course, there will be a next goal.  I want to keep swimming (I went this morning and it felt great) and biking and running, and try to maintain my fitness levels over the winter so that I can train anew, because I do believe I'll do Pumpkinman again next year. I am also looking at all the different possibilities for Ironman 70.3 Races.  This website makes me drool a little.

Other events on my radar for the upcoming year:

Century ride (100 mile bike ride).  Maybe this one. 
200-mile Ragnar Relay in Cape Cod with my friend Kristina
Trek Across Maine (3- day, 180-mile bike ride from the west of Maine to the east)
Various half marathons around the state.

Marathon?  Not anytime soon.  Not feeling it right now, anyway.  

3.  YOU could do this.

There were men and women of all shapes and sizes doing this race.  If you think you have to fit into some crazy athletic category and have zero body fat, then you are wrong.  Anyone can triathlon.  One of my favorite blogs is Swim Bike Mom, written by a smart and hilarious and totally inspiring mom who also just wrote a book called:  Triathlon for the Every Woman and encourages readers to start as you are, and not wait for your body to be "perfect."  She is now training for a full Ironman.  Don't think it hasn't crossed my mind.

In terms of training, it really was not that challenging to get ready for the half-ironman, probably not as hard as you might think.  Granted, I had a good running base after coming off of a spring marathon, but still.  I never made all of the volume recommended by my training plan, but was fairly consistent in getting in equal amounts of swimming, biking, and running each week.  If you can find a good place to swim that works with your schedule, then the rest you can totally get in. 

Before I started, I thought 2 workouts a day sounded insane and impossible.  It really isn't.  If I swam or biked early in the morning, I actually would feel like doing something else by the afternoon.  I had a lot of energy, and felt healthy and strong throughout the training because I was always using different muscles.

Looking back over my 3 months of training, it wasn't too bad.  July was a typical training month, and you can see below that I still had days off, or sometimes only did a 45-minute workout.  Of course I could have trained harder, but my point is that it's doable (and fun) to train for this kind of race.  I know:  being a teacher and having the summer mostly off does help.

So here's my point:  You can do it.  Whatever race or event or distance seems crazy to you right at this moment?  Whatever scares you but also sort of calls your name, even if it's just a whisper?  You can do that.  You seriously can. 

4.  Triathlons and hot women

If you are my age and have even the slightest fear of getting older, entering your 40s or 50s, you should go watch a triathlon.  The women, particularly in the 40-50 age group are some of the most athletically beautiful, toned, and confident women you'll ever see.  Period. 

The elite men aren't too shabby either.

5.  I want a new bike.

It won't happen for a while, but I would like a lighter and faster tri bike.  Sponsors?

 6.  It's in my blood now.

Training and completing endurance events is such an important part of my life now.  I don't know what I would do without it.  Like, I literally don't know what I'd do with myself.  Would I knit?

And getting medals still does not get old.

7.  Last but not least:  SMILE.

When I imagine myself crossing a finish line, I always imagine I'll be bursting with joy, hands up in the air.  In this photo, I was incredibly happy, I swear.  I guess I was also just focused on getting the job done, as when this was snapped, I had about 10 steps to go. 

You can't really tell how much joy I get out of this whole process in this photo, but I do.  I love it, and I walked away from this race as I always do:  medal around my neck and thinking:  more, more, more.


SNW said...

OH, look at that, 70.3 in Boulder. Why not add MILE-HIGH iron-half to your resume? :) P.S. Boulder specializes in the hot athletic women of all ages thing, too. Must be those mountains.

Zoe Kreitzer said...

I love the idea of a triathalon. Switching tasks and not having to focus on one activity for too long works well for me. But I'm not a strong swimmer. How would you suggest I go about learning? Sure, I can doggie-paddle and frog-kick for a while, but my arms crap out before my legs do with laps. Where do I even begin??

Emilie said...

Steph... don't think I didn't check that website out! That would be an amazing (but hard) place to race.

Zoe: getting a few pointers from someone (a swim lesson) would go a very long way to helping you be more efficient. After that, it is seriously just building up endurance, which will happen faster than you think. Start with 8 laps, then start adding 2 at a time. If you can breathe comfortably and keep moving forward, then just go slow but try to keep going. I have seen friends who couldn't swim 1 lap without getting super winded, but then with persistence, they very quickly could keep going.

Swim Bike Mom said...

What a great report! I really enjoyed reading it... and thanks for the shoutout. :) You rock, lady!

Willow said...

It sounds like you had a fabulous time! I have been thinking of training for a tri next year. I'm geting bored with just training for running events. I think it's time to mix it up a bit. I still have a marathon on my schedule for next year since I have never done one. But, I'm really trying to branch out. I'm also looking at doing a centruy next year, and I'm running Ragnar: Adirondacks in two weeks (eek!)...I'll let you know how that goes so you can make an informed decision about Cape Cod :)

Emilie said...

Willow. I think you and I should meet somewhere and do an event together. Just sayin.

Joanne said...

I'm so happy for you in your pursuit and enjoyment of this part of your life! I did a mini (or sprint?) triathlon long time back and that was 0.4 mi swim, 12 mile bike and about 5K run. This is a great little distance to train for if people are just starting out. And I agree with most who say the swim is the toughest hurdle to get over - whether fear or ability - yet is works out (focus and breathing! like you say).
I also have a question about injury (hate to bring this negative in), but have you known of friends who got stress injuries from too quick increases in running distance or just overuse? And how to get back in? Uugh, I am off of running by a stress fracture in my foot. I am happy for you in this clear area - your consistent training and good condition are key! Thanks for sharing - always an inspiration!

Kristin said...

Just outstanding, Emilie. But how's a girl supposed to finish any work after reading this cool-ass post?

Emilie said...

Joanne: I have been so lucky on this one, as literally everyone else that I've ever trained with has been injured at some point. I don't want to even pretend to know what I'm talking about here, but I do think that if it's truly an injury or stress fracture (as opposed to just being sore) then you need to rest it and do something else for a while. That's why swimming is such a handy sport to have in the mix. That and physical therapy. That's what I would do. So yes, injuries are very common and there are things you can do to carry on.

Kristin: Thank you, girl!

Willow said...

Yes...I absolutely agree! We should do an event together! I'm up for anything! We're not actually that far from each other, and I think our paths may have crossed a few times. We have been at a few events close to each other. Actually, my family is currently planning our summer vacation for next year (because that's what we do when the school year starts), and we are almost positive that we will be renting a house in Bar Harbor/Acadia for a week (since we actually live in Maine in our hearts), so we might be able to arrange something :) I'll definitely be hitting you up for some "inside info" on where to visit, where to avoid, etc. But, regardless, I'm definitely up for meeting up at an event! Vermont has a lot of good events. But, Portland has Trader Joe's...