Coast Ride: Day 2, Burning Daylight

Day 2: Marina to Morro Bay, CA

For day 2, this was going to be the hardest day of the whole tour. We would be riding through the Big Sur National Park. We started at 7:00 am and were in for a pretty big surprise. I was still pretty tired and had not slept very much at all the night before. I was with a really fast group and was struggling to stay with them. We went through Monterey and through part of a ride I had previously gone on the day before the Big Sur half marathon where my friend had hit a root, rolled over the front end of his bike and fractured his collar bone. We went up the backside of the exact spot where the incident had happened.

We hit the 101 briefly before finally reaching one of the most beautiful stretches of ocean I have ever seen (Not even pictures justify the views). I had driven this way before when I had taken a January off in college to teach myself Gaelic. (Which was really just an excuse to go explore California with my roomie Colleen from when I studied abroad in Ireland).

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The group was pacing pretty hard and I managed to keep up with them for a while. Then we stopped for a bathroom break and I mistimed getting back on the end of the pace line and was immediately dropped. I took it easy knowing we would be stopping for breakfast soon.

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However, along the way, Highway 1 had been closed. I learned later that a car had lost control and driven off the cliff. They were going so fast the car split in half. Not really a sight you want to see while riding on a little bike along a two lane highway with switch backs left and right and a couple thousand foot drop to your immediate right. But no big deal. It wasn’t long before the cops let the bikers through. Apparently, Highway 1 was closed from 10am to 4pm.

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The stop for breakfast was probably my favorite meal of the whole ride. I’m not sure if it was just because I was starving or the food was actually that good. This leisurely stop came back to bite us later in the day. Afterwards, my energy level felt much better than before and the next part of the ride was my favorite part of the entire tour. I do not think I can accurately describe what it was like cruising along the coast. It was such a rush. I am usually a pretty nervous descender but I was flying down the hills: it was my own personal roller coaster. Chad and I were sticking together through most of this stretch. I just looked over at him and screamed “This is awesome!”

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We approached the last water stop at mile 80. At this point, my feet were cramping from all of the climbing. That little voice in the back of my mind whispered that I should stop. Three of the guys I was with encouraged me to stop, that I had Ironman New Zealand coming up and that I should not risk injuring myself. This only fueled my fire to continue. I am the type of person that if you tell me I can’t do something, I will do it just to prove you wrong. I am that stubborn. So I did it. We still had 50 miles to go.

The plan for the last stretch was to do a pace line with BP, Troy, Sam and I taking turns pulling. I was the slowest person in the group and worried about slowing them down. About 20 miles in, I was desperate to pee but didn’t say anything. I was contemplating peeing on my bike when my prayers were answered and we stopped to take a bathroom break. There were so many times on this tour that I wished I was a guy so I could just go wherever I wanted to.

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With 7 miles to go, the sun was setting in a fiery masterpiece splashed across the sky. Nick, the driver of the SAG van (support and gear) attempted to pull us off the road. However, collectively as a group of the 4 of us, we were going to finish this damn thing no matter what it took. It was a complete tease seeing exactly where we were going, yet not feeling like we were getting any closer. Nick trailed us all the way to our hotel, leading us along until the sun set completely, then he shined his lights on the highway for us so we could see where we were going.

With less than a mile to go, Troy dropped his chain. We all stopped. We were all in this together. Then up the last tinsy, tiny little hill, my chain got stuck in the big ring and refused to go into the smaller one for climbing. I had to wrench my legs in circles and grit my teeth as I propelled myself up that hill in order to not fall over.

The day was done. 133 miles, 11,800 feet of climbing and 10 hours from beginning to end with all the stops in-between. This is the longest ride of my life. It was such a feat to finish it and I will never forget it.

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Coast Ride: Day 1

Coast Ride went completely beyond all of my expectations. It was unreal and spectacular and tremendously hard. In an attempt to break things up, I am going to spread out the 3 days of Coast Ride into 3 separate posts over the next 3 days.

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Starting off the ride at the Golden Gate Bridge (Sam, Me and Chad)

Day 1: San Francisco, CA to Marina, CA

I wasn’t 100% sure of how to get out of the San Francisco, onto Highway 1 or where the heck our final destination was. So I naturally asked my coach for directions. He sent me a 6 page google map….I didn’t even really read the directions as I folded them up and shoved them away. I was freaking out that I was going to get lost. So I asked to meet up with my friends Sam and Chad so that we could all roll together. They wanted to read the directions too because they also didn’t know exactly where we were going either. The directions my coach had sent me included taking a ferry boat from Mill Valley across the bay and then biking down the 101, a really busy freeway, which runs through California….my coach had been playing a cruel trick on me. I threw the directions away.

Sam, Chad and I rode out to the Golden Gate Bridge and then down to Ocean Beach where we met up with BP and Troy. It wasn’t long before my coach and the rest of our group rolled up and we were off on our journey. There were about 30 of us on my team who were doing the Coast Ride. We went through neighborhoods and then out to the coast, down Highway 1 through parts of routes I had been on before including Half Moon Bay and part of the Big Kahuna race course in Santa Cruz. It got pretty toasty. We were sweating buckets but I had a bunch of layers on. The only problem was I couldn’t stop to take them off because I had not applied sunscreen and didn’t really feel like turning into a boiled lobster.

I somehow ended up in a group of about 10 guys and me. My own personal sausage fest (which was basically 90% of Coast Ride). The farther we went, we started getting into some country and going along back routes. About the last 15 miles I got dropped from the group I was riding with. My energy was pretty sapped by this point. It was the longest ride I had done since Ironman in September. Luckily, one of the guys had stopped for a bathroom break along the way and came charging up to catch the group. He let me slide in behind him and draft. We finally got back up to the group and we were in the home stretch.

When we got to the hotel, pretty much every other person was done for the day. But not me, I still had a 30 minute transition run. BP is training for Ironman Los Cabos on March 30, so he was the only other person who had to do a transition run. The sun was already behind the mountains and it was getting pretty chilly. We went out for a nice little run along a trail by our hotel. We planned to do a 15 minute out and 15 minute back. It seemed to take forever. We were chatting away and convinced that we had run way over the 15 minute mark but it had barely been 10 minutes. Finally we turned around and headed back.

By this point I was starving and exhausted as I am sure you can all imagine. There was almost nothing in the little town we were staying in except a Denny’s, a 7 Eleven, and a steakhouse. Random options. We made the long trek to another hotel where the steakhouse was. By this point I was hangry and just needed some food. I sat in a dazed and confused stupor at the table. After massive amounts of water, salmon, some steak, sticky rice and vegetables I was doing much better. We even hit the 7 Eleven on the way back to the hotel and got some ice cream (Sam’s kryptonite). Then it was time for a stretching session and off to bed for the next day.

Coast Ride or Bust

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So this weekend, I will be riding my bicycle from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Yes, you read that right, I will be riding over 100 miles a day from the Bay Area to Santa Barbara. And yes, that makes me more than a little insane but I hope you’ve all figured that out by now. Doesn’t mean my bootie is going to hurt any less (sorry this is sort of becoming a reoccurring theme). I’m not going at it alone. I will be riding with my coach and about 30 other people down the coast. The ride is going to be supported by SagMonkey. This company will be providing us with breakfast, water, electrolytes, food and emergency maintenance along the way.

Here are the profiles for what I will be riding over the weekend:

Until the past couple of days, I hadn’t fully wrapped my head around what this actually meant and now I’m sort of freaking out a little bit. The longest ride I have ever done was Death Ride, which was 125 miles and 18,000 feet of climbing. Which is a big day and huge feat, but I’ve never done more than 100 miles more than a day in a row, or consecutively over 2, or even 3 days. I should be fine. I just don’t want to get lost or fall off the side of a cliff into the ocean and be dinner for some wild life in the rocky abyss below.

And it’s going to be absolutely breathtaking. I have driven down part of the 1 to Southern California, but when you’re on a bike you have so much more opportunity to look around and take everything in. It’s going to be a once in a lifetime experience. I’m going to try and set up my GoPro in time so I can film the whole thing. And you can all be envious and then remember what it entails to get those views.

In other news, if you hadn’t already seen, I am officially signed up for the 2014 Olympic Distance National Championships! This year, I qualified at Ironman Lake Tahoe by finishing in the top 10% of my age group. I really want to see the difference in time just from the simple fact that I will be riding on a triathlon bike versus my road bike and that I also have another solid year of training under my belt. My goal is to get as close to a 2:20 Olympic split as possible. Mostly, I want to shave time off the bike split, because that is where I am mainly focusing on right now in my training. It’s not until August 9th, so I still have the whole summer to prepare. This year, my mom will be coming with me to Milwaukee to carry all my supplies and cheer for me. I’m so excited that she gets to come. There are also plans underway for a Lallison/McTones/Babbers Pedal Pub afternoon in the works. After I got finished with the race last year, 2 of my friends who I studied abroad with in Ireland met up with me and we went on a Pedal Pub Tour. We actually got on this contraption with bar that a group of people sit at and everyone has bike pedals and you ride between one bar and another. It was extremely silly and ridiculously fun. And I’m excited to do it again.

Also, lately I’ve been contemplating whether I want to do Lavaman this year. It’s March 30, a mere 29 days after Ironman New Zealand. As much as I love the race, and am dying to do it again, I think it is time to back off my training and have a little breathing room. It also might not be enough time to recover and have the kind of race that I would want. I just want to go to Pilates if I feel like it, run 3 miles and be done, go drinking with my friends and not have to worry about getting up for a 100 mile bike ride the next day. Most importantly, I want to fall in love again with training for triathlons. Even though I’m in an extremely better place that I was over the past couple of weeks, my “A” race this year is going to be Ironman Lake Tahoe in late September where the ultimate goal is to qualify for Kona. If I don’t take this time off now, or at least cut back for a few weeks post Ironman New Zealand, I am going to be jumping right back into the main triathlon season with no real break. If I were to qualify in Tahoe, I would really want to be pushing my nose to the grindstone until the following October 2015. That is so far away. Just a thought for now, no decisions have been made yet.

But things seem to be taking quite a turn for the better very recently. It is funny how sometimes just one thing can make everything else in life seem more exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing how things turn out. So cheers to 2014!

Why I love Triathlons

Well, after my whiny post the other day, my friend Carolyn gave me a tip to write down why I’m doing this. Also, today Carolyn sent me a very well timed article by Meredith Kessler. Meredith talks about overcoming that “hump” of motivation. You can read her article here. (Btw, Meredith was totally the Ironman Champion at Ironman New Zealand 2013, nbd.)

And so…I started writing down all the reasons I LOVE doing triathlons. So here is the list I compiled:

  • Each day, each work out, each race is a new challenge in itself. Even if it is the same work out that I’ve done before, it is never the same. Each day is unique.  There are always different circumstances be it the weather, how much you ate or how much you have prepared. I’m going to feel different on certain days. Sometimes I kill it, sometimes it’s a complete sufferfest. But what you do to get through it and how you persevere is what makes it the challenge.
  • Pushing my body to the limit and seeing how far beyond that I can go into what I now call the “pain cave”. Doing these races or work outs is mostly a mental game. You can go as hard as you are willing to push yourself mentally. When I crossed the finish line at Ironman Lake Tahoe, it felt like I was floating outside my body. I think I was in so much pain, that as a defense mechanism, I wasn’t completely inside myself. One of the volunteers at the race asked where I was from and I couldn’t answer. That’s how much pain I was in. That’s how deep into myself I had dug in. This has always come natural to me coming from a swimming background. I can be so deep inside myself and just go to that next level of pain or potential. It’s actually sort of scary how much pain I am willing to make myself go through.
  • Accomplishing goals I set for myself. Even though other aspects of my life are not really where I want them to be (i.e. having my dream job or Mr. Right), I can always accomplish the physical goals I set for myself. Even though I still don’t know “what I want to be when I grow up”, I know that I can PR on that 5k or take minutes off my bike split of an Olympic Distance Tri. This is the one thing in my life that I know I am excelling at.
  • One of the things I love about triathlons is that I am in control of my own destiny! Nobody is going to do the work for me. I am solely responsible for my own results. There is no one to blame but myself. But when I accomplish something I have set my mind to, there is nothing more rewarding.
  • Being successful at something I love doing. Like I’ve said before, I’ve never been this good at something in my life before. I made it to the Junior Olympics and Far Westerns in swimming, but that was on the cusp of where I am performing at now in triathlons. Over the past year, I have been consistently placing in the top 5 of most of my races. This is kind of a big deal and sometimes I don’t even realize it. Racing in the National Championships is a qualifier for the OLYMPIC TRIALS. Not that I will probably ever be that fast, but seriously guys. Wtf? And almost qualifying for the Ironman World Championships my first walk in the park. That’s unreal. Even to me.
  • Beating boys! (And girls for that matter) But it’s so much sweeter when I pass boys. Sorry guys, there is nothing more exhilarating to me than charging past boys and picking them off one by one. Especially lately in the run. I get passed by soooo many people on the bike that it is completely awesome to reel people in. #yougotchicked
  • Not always being the best, always striving to do more, always striving to be better. In no way shape or form am I the best. But I can try to be the best me. There is always room for growth and improvement which is proven to me each and every day. No, I’m not the fastest swimmer in the pool. I’m actually kind of shit on the bike but I’m working on it. My run has been steadily improving and it’s actually my favorite of the three sports right now. However, there’s always room for me to tweak something, work harder or push myself further. 

So, there you have it people. I’m slightly obsessed with triathlons and I’m not going to stop doing them anytime in the foreseeable future. Why do you love doing what you do?

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Motivation…or lack thereof.

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So yesterday was Blue Monday…supposedly the most depressing day of the year.  I don’t know if I’m just exhausted from all the training or what, but I’ve been sort of in a funk since Christmas. Some days I’m up and the next it takes everything in me to drag myself to go for a run or do a spin.

Some of it is not being able to work out outside. I miss running on the trails and in the fresh air. I’ve been all cooped up in the gym at my apartment. There is this one dodgy guy who keeps coming in when I’m there late at night and paces around. Every once in a while, he’ll do a rep on a weight machine or with some free weights and grunt. He’ll take a sip of water and go weigh himself in the corner but mostly he just paces around and checks his phone. It actually makes me nervous. And he always wears the same Michigan sweater.

Another part is, I miss working out with a group of friends. During the summer, every single weekend there would be a huge group of us going out for a group ride or run. It really helped the time go by a lot faster. Don’t get me wrong, I love training with you Katiepants! But we are just doing different work outs, so I don’t always get to hang out with you. Which makes me sad. Some people are taking time off of training, doing a smaller load, have work or are part of another season of Team in Training. And again, I’m really missing my TNT family. It just didn’t make much sense for me to do this season of Lavaman because I have such a huge work out load in preparation for Ironman New Zealand. *Sigh, such severe FOMO. However, I still get to do Lavaman which makes it slightly better.

But a huge aspect of this is I have been training for soooooooo long! Between November 2012 and now, I’ve had 2 whole weeks off of training. That’s not a lot. Not even a little bit. I’m sort of feeling how I did at the end of last year’s Lavaflower season after 7 months of straight training. Feeling kind of burned out. All I want to do is eat, sleep and drink without a care in the world like a normal 25 year old.

But. That’s not who I am. Or who I have chosen to be.

On Sunday, my week had consisted of 10 hours of biking, 4 1/2 hours of running and 3 hours of swimming. I was mentally and physically exhausted. And I still had not done my planned 1 ½ long run yet. It was 8:00 at night, I was curled up in bed reading A Dance with Dragons. I pushed myself to get out of bed, promising that I would do at least an hour of running and then maybe the extra 30 or another 1 ½ run on Monday. The first 30 minutes were terrible! Awful, I tell you. My legs felt like bricks and I felt like I was slamming them down, one on top of the other on the treadmill. And by all means I should have been ecstatic to run without a set heart rate goal, any hill repeats or any guidelines whatsoever. But I was dreading every single moment of it. But somewhere around 45 minutes I hit that sweet runner’s high and I was golden. When the rent a cop came into the gym at 10 pm to tell me to kick me out all I wanted to do was keep running!

Once I’ve ever started a work out, I have never regretted it. But just getting to the point where you go make yourself do it is what I am struggling with. Even now, I have slipped back into that funk. I don’t want to go do that active recovery run I have planned after work. I just want to go pull the covers over my head and sleep for 14 hours.

So friends, family, strangers, whoever is reading this, what do you do when you’re feeling down, burning out, or need an extra kick in the pants?