Sunday, July 20, 2008

A dip in the Bay

We were apprehensive. Scared. Butterflies in our bellies and lightning in our brains. I was not looking forward to this swim for many reasons, not the least of which was my dismal performance at the Tri For Fun when I totally freaked out in the water. So of course I didn't sleep Friday night and my stomach was in more turmoil than it's been. Funny how easy it turned out to be.

Saturday morning Phil and I met up with Claudia and we carpooled into the City for our Team workout at Aquatic Park. It was to be our first swim in the Bay, the first true swim in our wetsuits and our introduction to what we could expect from our tri's. Although I've lived in the Bay Area for -- uh, longer than Claudia has been alive (heh!), I've never had the inclination or will to jump into the Bay, for any reason whatsoever. Sure, I've been on boats on the Bay, but I haven't been IN the Bay. Because, for the most part, ew.

The team gathered, we all chattered and talked and then sat and listened to a talk on nutrition. Sure, it's important stuff, but we were waiting to jump in the water and hurry up! Then we got hints on sighting in the water ("swim completely differently than you've been practicing for the past 2 months"), swimming in cold water, and so on. Then it was into our wetsuits.

Good thing we weren't in a hurry. Since it was only the second time most of us had suited up, we were plenty slow. Body glide, booties, wetsuit, squid lid, cap, goggles. Sheesh, we looked like a bunch of aliens. Then we were split into a group of people who knew they'd have no problems and a group of scaredy cats. Guess which group we went with? Rightio, the weenies. Coach Paul led us across the sand and toward the water and told us to just dive in! Get it over with! Like ripping off a bandage!

One by one we flung ourselves in. Aye-yi-yi! A huge shock to the system, but I was determined to do it and do it well. Determined wasn't quite enough. I managed to start swimming, with my head up, then with my face in the water but breathing after every left stroke, then finally I relaxed enough to get on with it. I actually started swimming as if I knew what I was doing. Stroke-stroke-stroke-breathe, stroke-stroke-stroke-breatheandlook. I fell into a rhythm, and started regaining my confidence.

Then I swam into a buoy. Oh, not hard or anything, no clunk, but I realized that I was focusing on the distance and didn't even see what was in front of my face. I had problems with that the whole swim, not seeing people in front of me, not seeing the buoys, only seeing the distance. Something to work on.

The water, while cold, wasn't absofreakinglutely freezing. My head was warm with the extra squid lid (although water would just sit inside my ear), my feet were warm with the booties (although water pooled there too) and the wetsuit kept the rest of me warm enough. Except my hands, which rapidly became numb. My arms felt (and were) much heavier than normal because of the restrictive suit and the water inside. But it was great having my legs float up and rotating my hips with each stroke was simple.

We only swam for about 35 minutes, enough for me to go around the markers about 1-1/2 times. Slow as can be, but at least I was comfortable enough to actually swim. Getting more speed will probably take some time. Or maybe I'll just stay this slow, which is ok by me too.

After we got out of the water it was time to run. Holy rubber legs, Batman! Our transition was less of an actual transition and more of a leisurely change, but I was still wobbly when we started running. Especially since there was a short, steep hill about 200 yards into our run. I walked it, feeling I didn't need to leave it all out there in the first few minutes.

I planned to run for 50 minutes, with a 9:1 run:walk. As I ran on I felt better and better, and when I turned around I was a little disappointed that the run was so short. My quads felt worn out, but the rest of me enjoyed that run entirely. I lucked out on the return when my scheduled walk came right at the uphill. I finished with just over 4 miles, pretty darn speedy for me. And I felt great, mentally and physically. Again, my knee didn't hurt at all and my back wasn't hurting either. A good swim and a great run.

The good vibes continued this morning, despite a very sore back. No, not from the run or the swim, it was from lifting my gazillion pound tri pack loaded down with wetsuit, swimming and running accoutrement. How stupid is that, to hurt my back just shlepping around my gear. But anyway, I was ready to ride for however long was scheduled, no whining involved.

Bree had decided to join me for the bike ride, and blended in fine with the team. I really don't think anyone knows who's on the team, so it was pretty funny that people thought she belonged there. In fact, once out on the road Coach Paul gave her a few riding tips. Heh. Bree wasn't expecting a lesson when she joined us. And just for the record, I know it isn't approved to have people join our training, for liability reasons. But first, Bree is alumni. Second, she's an experienced cyclist. Third, it's a public road. Last, she drank my glass of water at the water stop and ate my gel, so it's not like she was taking extra team resources. Finally, I was tired of doing all my rides alone so I'm very happy she came, so there. (And I have no idea why I feel I have to justify this, or to whom I'm explaining it. Sheesh, defensive much?)

We were riding from Walnut Creek, through Alamo and Danville, then out Tassajara. The half-ers were scheduled for 140 minutes, the Olympic'ers scheduled for 100, so I arbitrarily decided we'd ride for 120. Well, not so very arbitrary, I wanted to ride for 2 hours to see how it went and see how much I could get done in that time. Bree, Claudia and I stuck together for a while, got separated, rejoined, then lost Claudia for good on the return.

My very favorite place to ride is a stretch of Camino Tassajara between Crow Canyon and Sycamore, going west (north?). It's a couple of miles of downgrade all the way, wide shoulders, widely placed signal lights and you can absolutely bomb it. I popped it into my big gear, the one I hardly ever have occasion to use, bent into the drops and pedaled my heart out. I love riding there because it makes me feel fast and competent and cool as hell. I was going, oh, I dunno, about 20+ mph and felt great.

After we turned off and finally got to Danville Blvd. I was tired but still feeling good. We had a tail wind there, it's still somewhat downgrade, and I powered merrily along. When we finished and pulled into the parking lot it was just under 2 hours and just under 25 miles. I felt great, exhilarated. Tired, sore, worn out, but great.

This was probably the best training weekend since I started the whole tri thing. Although I still think I'm going to take close to 4-1/2 hours to complete the real race, I think I'll finish feeling good instead of at death's door. I know that I'll have setbacks, but know I know I'll have good training days too.

That has to be worth something.

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