Last Training Update!!!
Aug 23, 2012
Oh. My. Gosh.
I cannot believe that this crazy 10-month journey is less than a week from being over!
When I signed up for the race a year ago, it seemed so far off. And now it's here. Fear, anxiety, excitement, nervousness, relief, pride...these emotions are varied and intense. I know intellectually that I am ready. My coaches and friends keep reminding me of that when I am on the verge of a freakout. But it's hard to calm those nagging little voices that constantly harp on the things I didn't do or could have done better. All the workouts I missed...all the times I made poor nutrition choices, or skipped a swim, or didn't quite go the distance. I haven't run a marathon since September. I have NEVER done a 100-mile bike ride (let alone one of 112 miles!)
At this point, though, there is not a lot I can do about it except to trust in the process, in my coaches, and my training - the hundreds of hours of bloody, sweaty, tearful work I have put in towards this goal of reaching the finish line. After 16 or 17 hours of hard work and extraordinary determination this Sunday in Penticton, the best words to hear will be, "Zara Harding, You are an IRONMAN!" I can't wait!
As I sit in my room, fretting over shoulder taping, bike cutoff times, where my Championchip is, and what to pack, I am reminded of the real reason for doing this - THE CAUSE. Regardless of what happens Sunday in Canada, the bottom line is that I helped to bring awareness to blood cancers and the effect they can have on people and families. And I also raised nearly $7,000 to help in the search for new treatments and cures.
My dear friends Amanda, Sandy, and Carol gave me a very thoughtful private send-off dinner last night. It was a really calm, chill evening, which was just what I needed in the midst of my anxious preparations for the trip. They made signs and banners for me, cooked me dinner, gave me presents, and advice, and just surrounded me with their love and best wishes. It was awesome! And the best thing of all: they reassured me that in the event that I don't finish my race in less than 17 hours (they are sure that I will, but just in case something unforseen happens), I am still a rockstar to them. That was very comforting to hear!
Here are some pictures from the last several weeks of training. The next pics will be from the air or from Canada!! Woo!!
Triple brick workout with Stephanie, July (30-mile bike ride + 50-minute run X3)
Triple brick recovery (pizza and beer...thank you, coaches and Eddie!):
Swimming over a mile at Del Valle...getting the wetsuit on:
Helping Eliana (who got attacked by a duck later, hahaha) with HER wetsuit:
smile if you are peeing in your wetsuit:
whattttttt? how many yards was that???
thumbs up after a great swim!!
Barb's Race/Vineman, July 28, 2012 (I did a 1/2 Ironman; most of my teammates did a full Ironman):
It's 6:00AM and I've been up since 3:00. But I'm still smiling with Dana!
Here, I am getting some last words of advice from Coach Kristy:
Finishing the swim! (That's not my time....there were lots and lots of different waves and the clock started more than 90 minutes before my wave went):
Here I am on the run, running, walking, and getting some needed hugs from teammates:
And here I am, happy to be done, Posing with my buddy Stephanie:
And standing on a corner cheering for everyone for 6 hours after my race! That part was harder than doing the 1/2 Ironman. At least I wasn't sore the next day! :) Progress!
"Icing" our legs after a 40-minute swim at Aquatic Park and a 10-mile run across the Golden Gate Bridge (with my friends from the Silicon Valley Ironteam!):
Last workout of the season - a nice, "flat-ish" ride up Dublin Canyon and Palomares. We're ready for Canada!!
Nothing's Gonna Keep Me Down!
Jul 11, 2012
Being sidelined with this injury has been really tough mentally and emotionally. But my coaches and my doctor keep assuring me that there is plenty of time to rehab and get ready for my race, so I'm gonna trust them. Last Monday, I had my last weights class in a 6-week series at Crossfit. We did a Crossfit Total (series of three attempts on back squat, overhead press, and deadlift, add your best weight from each). It was the culmination of the class, time to assess our progress and see what strength gains we had made. I wasn't really supposed to do it because of my back, but I discussed it with the chiropractor, told him I wanted to do it, promised I'd be really careful with my back, and did it. I put up pretty impressive numbers, smashing all my old records at all three lifts! I got a total score of 620 (which is pretty decent for a woman) - 205 on squat, 115 on press, and 300 for deadlift. I could have done more on the deadlift, but my coach didn't want me to make my back injury worse, so I only did 2 attempts of it. I was happy with the numbers.
For the rest of last week, I mostly sat on my butt at home, (but not for more than a half hour at a time), did my stretches, and iced my back every two hours or so. I felt stiff, sluggish, and annoyed.
Saturday, we had a planned 7-hour or 100-mile bike ride, whichever came first. I was excited to get on my bike for the first time in a week and see if it was any better. We rode on the beautiful Silverado Trail from Yountville to Calistoga - it's mostly flat, with views of vineyards all along the way. Here are a couple of pictures:
There was still some pain, but getting off my bike every 30 minutes to stretch helped. And it wasn't as painful as riding was the previous week. There were a lot of delays - my mentor had a flat that she had trouble changing, I got a flat, my chain dropped twice, my mentor had an asthma attack and had to be picked up, there was headwind, and it was really hot. So I only got 85 miles done...but that was still my longest ride in a while, and my pain was manageable, so I considered it a win.
Monday at my chiropractor appointment, the doctor was surprised that most of my pain was gone and my range of motion was much better. He praised me for taking good care of my back and doing the rehab exercises right, and said that most of the inflammation is gone! Good news!! I still am not allowed to do anything that involves bending forward, but I can start being less restrictive with my activity. I can try to run as long as it doesn't cause too much pain. I still have to stretch, ice, and do my exercises, though. But there is definite progress there! It's such a relief to be on the mend!
This week, I went back to Crossfit, and we worked our legs Monday and Tuesday with a bunch of squats and lunges. Add to that the fact that I had my first deep tissue massage at the chiro on Monday, and I am one sore girl. It's a good sore, though, that I have missed! Having to sit around and take it easy was tough, as I've been in "workout as much as possible" mode since November.
I made my fundraising minimum of $6,650 a couple of weeks ago, which is very excititing! Now, any money I raise from here on out is just bonus. Thank you to everyone who has donated and who has followed along on this journey with me. It's been quite an experience!
7 and 1/2 weeks until the big day...
Jul 03, 2012
The past few weeks have been stressful and frustrating. My back pain had been getting worse and worse. 2 weekends ago, I tried to do a 110-mile bike ride up on the Vineman course with my teammates David and Stephanie (and Stephanie's friend Missy), and could only finish half of the distance due to the pain. I FINALLY went to see a sports chiropractor last Friday and found out that my pain was NOT due to just simple muscle spasms as I had thought, but I actually have an inflamed disc in my back. Everything I had been doing for it up until then - stretching and applying heat - was making it worse. So was biking, running, and weightlifting. At least I know now and have a plan to help it heal...but I am really nervous about it being 100% in time for me to be ready for my race.
This past weekend, I attempted to swim at Shadow Cliffs. At first, being in my wetsuit with my back arched felt good and took some of the compression and pressure off my poor spine. But after about 15 minutes or so, it got to be too much, and I was in a lot of pain. I was only able to swim for about 30 minutes (the swim was supposed to be 75!). I begrudgingly got out and showered off, changed my clothes, and waited for my teammates to finish their swim. I accidentally left my iPhone in the bathroom. I realized my mistake about 1 minute later, but by the time I got back to the bathroom (couldn't have been more than 2 minutes, total, from the time I left until I got back in there), someone had already stolen my phone! Jerks!!
So now, I was hurting, grumpy about my phone, stressed out, and nervous, thinking about bike cutoff times and lying awake most of Saturday night. But I still made my way to Yountville with teammates Diana and Stephanie on Sunday for our planned brick workout. I was supposed to ride 30 miles and run 5 miles twice. The first ride went well. I was maintaining a decent speed despite moderate pain and having to (doctor's orders!) get off my bike every 30 minutes to stretch my back. For the run, I decided to take it nice and SLOWLY, only running 1 minute and then walking 1 for the duration of the 5 miles. It took me 90 minutes to complete those 5 miles...that's 30 more minutes than it took me last time we did this workout 7 weeks ago! But I didn't want to make my back worse from all that pounding.
The second bike ride of 30 miles was tougher. There was more wind, and my back was hurting a lot more this time. It took me about 15 minutes longer to finish the ride than the first loop did, but I made it....and then decided I was done. I was in a good amount of pain, and I figured (along with my coaches) that resting and icing while I waited for the team to finish would do me more good than going out and suffering through 5 more miles of jogging or walking. It sucked to be sidelined. I'm not used to sitting out! I kept thinking that maybe I should put my big girl panties on and just go do those 5 more miles, even if it took me 2 hours...but I didn't. I sat there. I iced. I stretched. I drank a beer. And I hated every minute of it. Failure and weakness are bitter pills to swallow. But I need my back to be healthy on race day...and beyond. Herniating a disc (or worse) is not going to make my life more awesome than it already is...
There were 2 highlights to that day that helped me feel better. The first was that my coaches assure me that I have put in sufficient work up until now to get me across that finish line on August 26th, and that 8 weeks is enough time to rehab this injury and get back out there in full force. The other thing is that I was awarded the team's spirit award at the workout! It is a green and purple Nike jacket that I am now tasked with adding my own little flare to. Usually this late in the season, it is tough to come up with something original to put on the spirit award...let alone find room! But our team has experienced logistical challenges this season that have made it difficult to get the award handed out regularly and so it hasn't been given to that many people. I heard through the Grapevine that my name was actually suggested as a recipient two to three months ago...and it has just taken a while for the staff to get organized and get it to me. Haha!
I will post a picture once I add my own personal touch to the jacket...not sure what that will be yet...but I will come up with something.
One sad thing that happened at Sunday's workout, however, is that one of our teammates and team honorees (cancer survivor Mark), crashed on his bike and broke his collar bone so badly that it requires surgery. I saw the x-ray and it is gruesome. His season is now over...he can't do his race, and he also had to cancel a planned vacation to Spain that he had been looking forward to. Please keep him in your thoughts as he undergoes his surgery and wish him a speedy recovery. It's not fair that he has gone through Leukemia and all that goes along with treatment, and now this. Stupid pavement!
Anyways, a big "thank you" to everyone who has continued to cheer me on, encourage me, donate (more than once this season from some of you!! So awesome!)), and read all this crazy, rambling stuff. There are just about 2 more months that you will have to endure my Ironteam obsession, haha. Even though I have met my fundraising minimum, I will still continue to try and scrounge up every cent I can for this cause, because it's one in which I truly believe.
10 weeks to go?!!
Jun 20, 2012
Okay, so I have been decidedly horrible about updating my page! Sorry! In the past month and a half, we have done crazy amounts of biking (up a lot of hills!), swimming, running, and core workouts! Our 3/4 of the way to Ironman weekend in LOVELY Clearlake, CA was the first weekend in June. I managed the 2-mile swim despite ocean-like swells, and didn't even throw up!! :) The bike was challenging but I finished in decent time, despite horrible lower back spasms through all of it. The run, on the other hand, was a different story. Every time I tried to run, my back hurt. I only did 6 miles and then called it a day. I wanted to live to run another day. Here are some pictures:
5:00 AM arrival, lugging our gear to the transition area. My pants are falling off. Hawt, eh? :P
Getting some help from Coach Les to get my wetsuit on. I was in a hurry and running late (me! can you imagine?!) and trying not to panic about my longest-ever open water swim. Look at those tan lines...
Here is our first wave, hitting the water...you can barely see my head in a forest green cap, between the pink/red one and the guy standing up in a yellow cap...
Posin' with my homies Alicia and Jasmine at the water stop at the top of a huge hill dubbed "The Wall". Why are there so many 'walls' in NorCal? And WHY do we keep biking up them?!
Here are Bonnie and I, happy to be done (and happy to have had a shower at the finish).
The whole team, with our honoree banner...
And Team Ironteam Canada 2012...Eliana, Mike, Shannon, Me, and Jeannie. We're gonna rock Penticton in August! (Note to self: buy compression socks).
I was happy with my times for the 3/4-ish Ironman but not thrilled...calculations suggested that if I kept at the average pace for my bike, swim, and run, extrapolated out to a full Ironman, it would take me approximately 17:50 to finish. Not good....I need to finish in under 17 hours to get an official finisher's medal. I figure that I won't spend 20 minutes in each transition chit-chatting and eating/drinking, and I most likely won't spend 5-10 minutes at each water stop having social time. Race day adrenaline will help speed me up a little bit, too, I am hoping...so I SHOULD be able to shave some time off of that.
I won't lie. The idea that I have to be faster for a longer period of time is stressing me out. I am actually losing sleep over it. And then I don't feel rested and I'm not getting all of my workouts in. Confession: I haven't biked or swam since that weekend. That's two weeks ago. And I feel super guilty!
<SIGH> But I am trying not to beat myself up over it. I have been training for basically a year and a half without much of a break and I am a bit burnt out on the whole bike, swim, run "thing". So I give myself extra "rest" days. I am hoping that now at the 10-week mark, it's not too late to really get super serious about it and start hitting all of the workouts. I'm going to steal from my teammate Lori here...she is on a plane right now traveling to her race, her 1st Ironman in Coer D'Alene this weekend. Like me, she said she would never do an Ironman/Marathon/whatever, and yet she has been an awesome example for me this season. This is what she said as part of her reflections on this crazy journey:
"When I started this journey, I had high hopes of starting a blog, tracking my progress, doing every workout, getting ridiculously ripped, etc... As often happens in life, it was a great plan but didn't come to fruition....
To say I don't feel ready is an understatement. I know I am in many ways but you never feel ready enough. I will be the first to admit that I did not follow the training schedule as...umm.. diligently as I should have (sorry coaches)....
I don't know what will happen after that gun goes off on June 24th (ok, well I DO know there will be 3000 people crawling over each other and a possible panic attack!) But I need to remember that, whatever happens that day, I stepped up to that start line. I can berate myself for any missed workouts, not being disciplined enough, not prepping myself enough in the Bay (who would've guessed CDA is colder than the Bay?!), etc. but I need to remind myself that I'm doing something most people would never even fathom doing. I constantly tell others to be self-forgiving yet I have a hard time doing that myself (I guess triathlons can be a metaphor for many things). The reality is that, despite injuries and setbacks, I am blessed to be able to even attempt this feat. There are so many who can't and those who are no longer with us. As long as I can, I will... I won't ever podium or break any records but my own, but that's not the point. I've realized that life really is too short to not cross that start line (again, definite metaphor...). We all hold ourselves back from things due to fear--myself very much included. I'll admit I'm anxious... maybe I'll even spring for 'terrified' in terms of the swim... However, fear isn't a good enough excuse for me anymore."
Lori, along with being a superstar athlete, is also a GENIUS! She has summed up my feelings better than I can, and stated them very eloquently. I understand 100% what she is talking about. Luckily, I am making an effort, starting today, 10 weeks out from race day, to do everything in my power to be ready to rock on August 26th.
I look forward to a decent swim workout tomorrow, a nice easy run on Friday, a nice, long run on Saturday, a super long bike ride this Sunday, and a well-deserved rest day on Monday. I will update to make sure I stayed on track!
Not to change subjects or anything, but the most important reason why we are doing this thing called Ironteam is to raise money to help make a difference in the lives and futures of people dealing with blood cancers. Everywhere I go, it seems like I run into someone else with a personal story about how the life of someone they know has been affected by one of these horrible diseases. It makes me feel better that even if something terrible happens during my race and I don't finish, or I don't finish as fast as I wanted to, or whatever...I can still hold my head up high and be proud of the fact that I raised over $6,000 that will be put to good use by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
I am now less than $200 away from my fundraising minimum of $6,650, and just $531 away from my personal goal of $7,000. That is really exciting! Thank you to all who have donated aready, or supported my fundraisers, or helped out!
Thanks for following along!
Moving Right Along!
Apr 26, 2012
Wow, it’s been a while since I updated this site! We are almost done with week 25 and it is really starting to get crazy. This weekend, we will be teaming up with the Southbay/Silicon Valley Team to complete our second Bootcamp weekend! Saturday, we start with a nice bracing swim at Aquatic Park and then finish the day at Sports Basement Presidio (can you say bike trainer, running, and core for 6 hours?) I also have the Pleasanton Half Marathon on Sunday morning…as soon as it’s over, I’ll have to book it down to San Jose to find my team and finish the rest of the 2nd day of bootcamp with them. That should be interesting!
So, since I haven’t updated in a while, I have some catching up to do…bear with me! :)
March was busy with training, including San Francisco:
I love crunches:
And training weekend. Training weekend at the Wildflower course in Lake San Antonio March 24 and 25 was super hard. Whoever thought to combine camping with triathlons is a weirdo. Sleeping in tents is not conducive to being well-rested or well-hydrated…It was a tough, tough weekend. I heard a quote that Wildflower ‘long course’ (AKA ½ Iron) is the 3rd hardest triathlon in the country or the world or something like that. It’s definitely way harder than Big Kahuna and Barb’s Race. Many people did not complete the entire 1.2-mile swim distance. It was so crazy out on the water that it felt like an ocean swim. There was wind and there were swells and a current. Hello, motion sickness! Despite a triple dose of Meclazine, I threw up 3 times, but at least I did the whole distance.
Our honoree banner traveled with us:
Here I am, setting up transition at 6:00 AM
and heading down to the swim start:
It took me so long to get my equilibrium back, though, that I got a late start on the bike. There were crazy headwinds on that hilly, hilly ride and I was not keeping pace to be done on time. As a result, I was picked up by one of our team honorees (and total superwoman) Laura, and advanced by about 12 miles. Of course, I and the others who were struggling were dropped off at mile 40 because the biggest hill of all starts around mile 41. It’s so bad that it has a name – “Nasty Grade”. Well, I was really pissed off at being helped, so I rode right up that hill like it was nothing. And then had the time of my life flying DOWN the other side…I hit a personal record for speed on my bike! I was so invigorated that I made captain Jasmine take a picture of my bike’s speedometer as proof! :) See?
On the run, I was kind of over the whole thing, and my lower back was killing me (I think I need to get bike fit…or maybe just not sleep on a crappy air mattress the night before?) so I only completed about 6.5 miles of the (again, hilly!) run course.
Here are Bonnie and I, happy to be done:
The best part of the whole weekend was the drunken dance party that ensued Saturday night after we were finished torturing ourselves with that horrible course. There was wrestling and streaking and all kinds of team shenanigans. And team bonding aplenty! I can’t divulge all the details, but it almost (I said almost) made the earlier badness seem not so bad.
Since training weekend, I have to admit, I’ve gotten a little complacent. I was traumatized by that swim and haven’t spent much time in the water since. Also, a couple of weeks ago, we did a 1.5-mile swim at Shadow Cliffs. It took me a while (and I threw up once) but I did the distance. I’m still on track to finish 2.4 miles. It might be slow and it might involve a lot of Powerade-flavored vomit, but I’m going to conquer that Ironman Canada swim, dammit! Afterwards, we completed a beautiful and easy ride through Pleasanton, to Sunol, and up Calaveras Road…it was tough after that swim, but my time was good and the weather was perfect.
On April 14th, some of the members of my team organized a killer 65-mile bike ride up in the North Bay. We started in Novato, rode up this crazy hill called Wilson Hill, into Petaluma, along Tomales Bay, and up the infamous ‘Marshall Wall’. It was intense and windy the whole time. I was only going 3MPH at one point on the ‘Wall’, but I made it up and that was my longest bike ride ever! We got to ride part of it with members of the Bay Area Cycle team. I saw a face or two that I haven’t seen in a while (Hi, BP!), so that was cool. Some of their riders gave me an ego boost by commenting on what a Badass I am for doing Ironteam. :)
The following day, a couple of us trekked to Lake Merrit for a TNT fundraising 5k race. Despite needed to, um, use the facilities the whole time, which forced me to walk more than I wanted to, I still finished in a respectable time of 33:00. Not too bad!
Last weekend was sheer craziness…I had lots of social and family commitments, as well as participating in my first 100-mile bike ride, the PrimaVera Century. Saturday night, my dear friends Mellissa and Dave threw an awesome White Trash BBQ fundraiser for me at their house. It was incredible! There was tons of trashy food, trashy decorations, deep-fried Twinkies, cheese balls, PBR and wine coolers, mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs, you name it. The outfits were hilarious! I played flipcup for the first time (my cup had water in it because of my big bike ride the next day), watched drunks fail at trying to remember the rules to beer pong, played “Just Dance” on the Kinect, and watched the UFC fights. Without even really trying, we raised over $100 for my fundraising efforts! Yay! Thank you so much, Mellissa and Dave, for throwing such a perfect party!!! Xoxoxoxo
And now, for my race report…The PrimaVera Century: It starts in Union City, rides up the famed ‘Calaveras Wall’ (my second WALL in a week), past Sunol, through the backroads of Pleasanton and Livermore, up the Altamont, back to Pleasanton, up the Dublin Grade almost to Castro Valley, up Palomares Road (5 miles of agonizing climbing), and through Niles Canyon back to Union City. Since my longest bike ride had been 65 miles, I was a little concerned with increasing mileage so much in one day, especially with what seemed like a billion feet of climbing. I was also feeling sleep-deprived from many nights in a row of poor sleep. There were 65-mile and 85-mile options as well, so I would be thrilled with finishing the 85-mile course if I needed to. Well, it was HOT that day. I think the high reached somewhere around 92 degrees. I put on sunscreen 4 times and still got slightly burned. I probably drank 2 gallons of water and sweat out 3.
Joe and I at the first rest stop (mile 19):
At mile 50-ish, some teammates and I decided to skip the 12 or so mile loop into the Altamont and opt for the 85-mile route. That was fine with me. I was hot, sore, and it was getting late. I had a family party with out-of-town visitors to get to, so shaving off a grueling climbing section was totally acceptable. What I didn’t know was that the worst of it was still far down the road…the Palomares section was SO HARD; it made me want to slap somebody! By this time, we were well past mile 70, all alone (my teammates were mostly ahead of me), and I just wanted to be done. There were 2 big climbs to the end. The last mile seemed like it went straight up forever. I actually had to stop on this last big hill to catch my breath (and eat because I was really hungry)…but the hill was so steep that I couldn’t get clipped back into my pedals! I had to walk my bike up the hill for about 200 yards (first time I have ever walked my bike during training) to a driveway where I could get going again. I saw people being given rides to the top by support vehicles, though, so that made me feel a little better that at least I did it under my own steam. At the end, my bike computer told me I had ridden over 90 miles. It took me 6 hours and 45 minutes of riding time. Average speed was only 13.5MPH…this number is not very good…but considering the amount of climbing in there, I guess it’s not as bad as it could have been. I need to really work on getting that number to consistently be 15 or higher before my race.
There are only 4 months (eek!!) until my race and I am really trying to focus my energy so that I can stay on track to have a good day in Penticton. I’ve completed some really great runs the past couple of weeks – averaging faster pace-wise than I have in a while, and I’ve done some spinning at home due to JP’s travel schedule and the weather. It has been so weird – scorching 90-degrees on Sunday, and today it is weird and rainy/windy. The rain is irritating me a bit because I would rather run and bike outside than indoors. Hopefully in a couple of weeks we will be done with all the rain and I can continue to get my Tri tan back in action from all the hours in the sunshine. (Don’t worry, mom, I’ll wear sunscreen!)
Thank you to all of the people who have supported me, encouraged me, given me rides, made donations, supported my fundraisers, and just been awesome through this whole process. We are past the halfway point and headed into the home stretch!
A couple of weeks ago, I had a moment that made me glad that I have been fighting this fight to aid LLS. One of the kids’ teachers from their high school was a chaperone at a field trip I was on. We got to talking, and she explained to me how she was diagnosed with Leukemia a few months ago. She is currently undergoing treatment and has a very positive and hopeful outlook. 10 years ago, this would have been a very different conversation. She is a delightful person…one of those teachers who really cares about her students, and we talked at length about the kids and our lives. It was a truly special connection that did a lot to reinforce my resolve. I’m over 80% of the way to my fundraising goal, and I believe that every single dollar is going to do a lot to make a difference in the lives of people like this teacher and her family, who really and truly deserve and need the help.