The sport of triathlon had to take the back burner while I started preparing for my Expedition in 2014. In fact, the last triathlon I raced was the half Ironman 70.3 in Napa Valley by HITS back in 2014. Competing in the same HITS triathlon this year (2018), I could not believe that 4 years had gone by without doing my favorite sport. I'd been racing in triathlons since the age of 16. I ran cross country, track and was on swim team in high school, but never felt that I excelled in any one sport. I was what you'd call a "wall hugger" on swim team and was always second to last to cross the finish line at cross country meets. Triathlon was a sport where I always felt I manage each one equally, but over time, swimming has been my strongest and most comfortable event.
Tri had to be pushed off aside while I focused on Krav Maga self defense training in preparation for traveling alone to 196 countries. I'd always been interested in pursuing kickboxing as a hobby, but it wasn't until I attended a Krav Maga class in Connecticut back in 2014 with my brother and his friends. I instantly felt high as I punched the shit out of the pads and learned of chokeholds. It was as though all of the weakness that people expected of women went right out the door, and I had an actual chance to not only learn how to defend myself, but to kill, should I have to. Personally speaking, if I'm being attacked at gun/knife point or raped, I should have the OK to kill the man who is attacking me, should I feel that if I don't, I myself will die. Every woman should have that right. Women are physically built to be defenseless by man purely based off of their makeup, and surely not one of us can defend ourselves against rape, it's physically impossible. That is, unless we are taught proper combatives and techniques to do so, it has to come natural. Krav Maga is a practical yet powerful self defense that can't be compared with any other women's self defense class I'd taken before, who essentially taught me to kick it to the groin, then run and scream. Anyways, I took up Krav Maga for a year and a half before the departure of my Expedition, and obtained my Level II belt (better than nothing!).
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When it comes to balancing triathlon and Krav Maga, it wasn't something I could manage. I practiced Krav 6 days a week for 2-3 hours a day on average in order to prepare myself for the trip in the quickest time possible, and triathlon requires the same amount of time each day as well. I was babysitting working 8-16 hour days, so I had to choose one or the other. Flash forward to now, I could probably manage both, but I've let my heart decide which one needs to take center stage, and triathlon it is. Taking 4 years off of tri was a major bummer, not to mention that my goal was to compete in Kona, but if not Kona, then my first full Ironman race, by 30. I'm 28 now, and competing next year would mean they would put me in the age group with 30 year olds. So this is my last year to b din the 29th age group. Racing a full Ironman requires a years worth of training, upping endurance, correcting form, combating injuries, and becoming mentally strong. My schedule has had me training minimum of 10 hour weeks (averaging 1-1.5 hour training days) to 21 hour training weeks (averaging 3 hours a day) for the past year. I've put a lot of time and money into this and when 70.3 Napa came-a-callin' April 14th, 2018, I felt that I was mentally ready to compete in an Ironman.
The worst part of competing for me is the day before and the morning of where I am so nervous, I'm actually asking myself if I should back out. But when the gun goes off at 7am, I am thrilled to be jumping into that 54 degree water along with hundreds of other people, in a race against myself.
My mental thoughts for this race were this.
Swim: Chill out for the first 3-5 minutes (I tend to get a lot of anxiety in the initial rush and coldness of the water, so it's important for me to stay calm and not think of competing in this initial go). 4 strokes, 2 breaths, steady. Begin upping speed and pulling strong.
T1: Less than 2 minutes (I lay out everything to be prepared for a quick T1, but I've never made it in under 2 minutes).
Bike: Most altitude gain in the first 20 miles, warm up with a steady increase in cadence. Look at your shadow while in aero, and notice how stellar you look. Looking as stellar as you do, don't slow down. 25 miles on, maintain 16-18mph with one stop at the last aid station to refill.
T2: Less than 1.5 minutes (Many people, including myself, tend to break for awhile in T2 after coming off a 56 mile ride, but it's a personal goal to make this one quicker than the last to get this run over with). All of my he last nutrition and water was consumed 1 hour before the run, so I won't cramp initially.
Run: 13 miles is 1:45 based on training. A one hour and 45 minute run through the beautiful rolling hills of Napa is nothing. Take it 6 miles at a time, and fire off the bike. (I don't experience jelly legs off the bike, if anything, it's easier for me to run faster with an easier heart rate right off the bike, so I take advantage of this).
Things took a turn for the worst 25-30 miles in though. I was feeling great, maintaining 18mph speeds up until now, but what I'd feared would happen, did. My right IT band near my knee started off with a dull pain, steadily increasing to excruciating pain within a matter of minutes, and then my left knee came on. Each pedal was a challenge to push through with the pain. I was barely breathing, 90bpm, but yet I was fighting this immensely painful battle with my knees that was hard to combat. For the first time in my life (or since falling off my bike when I was 10), I was crying in agony, but kept peddling through. I finished the 56 miles and got off my bike only to find that I could barely walk. I threw on my running shoes and began walking toward the Exit to the run, tears of pain continuing to stream down my face. I was limping with my legs straight, unable to walk two feet in front of me without feeling as though they were going to buckle. One of the race coordinators said to me, "You don't look fit to run this, why don't you take 5-10 minutes and put your knees in the icy lake and see if you feel better, if you do, I've got your chip and you can continue, but I want you to take care of yourself.". Since this wasn't an Ironman branded race, things could be a little more lenient. I really appreciated this gesture, but at that point, I handed my chip in for good and proceeded to the lake. I winced in pain with every step (I sound like a child, but I tell you, I'd never experienced pain in my life as bad as that day). I placed half my body back into the ice cold water, and waded there for 10 minutes, stretching against the dock. As I limped out of the water, I noticed an incredibly fit man probably around my age, limping around too, looking like he was also in excruciating pain and disappointed in himself. Since I was still tearing up at that point, I couldn't even bring myself to spark conversation and see if he was experiencing the same issues. I was so depressed with myself. Looking back, I kind of wish I went over. In those situations it helps to helps to have someone else on the same level.
I PR'd my swim by 7 minutes and was on my way to PRing my bike by 1.5 hours. Ironman Boulder is less than 2 months away, and based on my first 70.3 since the Expedition, it's not looking so good.
Update: April 17th, 2018. Coming back to LA immediately after the race, I booked an appointment with a chiropractor and orthopedic. Both confirmed ITB Syndrome and Patellar Tendonitis and prescribed 4 weeks of physical therapy 2-3 days a week, and no training. I'll talk about my road to recovery in the next blog.