Friday, July 16, 2010

66 Days - Aquathon and a new PR!

Yesterday was another race: the Fleet Feet Aquathon series in Madison. The aquathon consists of a 1000m open water swim and a 5k run. Fleet Feet holds 5 races during the summer, and you receive points based on your finishing time. The person with the most points at the end of the series is the winner. I haven't done any open water this summer and really wanted to get a lake swim in, so I just signed up for this one. It was really fun and a perfect night to be swimming and running.

The lake

Surveying the depths

At the starting line

I completed the swim in 15:16. I wish I had gone a little faster, but the water was pretty choppy. The swim out to the first bouy was the longest stage, and the waves were against us the entire time. I tried to stroke strong, ride the waves, and focus on getting there without getting pushed off course. This was also an issue as we swam parallel to the beach towards the second bouy. The waves were trying to push us towards the beach, and sighting the second bouy was difficult at times. Once I made the turn and was headed straight into shore, though, I gave it all I had and tried to use the waves to my advantage.

The run was interesting. I didn't bring my Garmin with me (water and sand and $450 technology don't mix) and so I was more unplugged than I've been in awhile. I had my Polar watch timing me, but I didn't have that up-to-the-second data telling me my pace, so I had to go back to feeling it out. As my coach and I discuss over and over, the key for me is to not go out too fast. As I ran out of the transition area and started tackling the three miles ahead of me, I focused on feeling good and getting my legs acclaimated to the run. I was feeling better and better until I reached the "Mile 1" marker and realized, I still had more than half of the race ahead of me.

I looked at my watch and calculated that I'd done the first mile in about 8 minutes. This was good: I didn't go out too fast, but the adrenaline from the swim was wearing off, and I was starting to feel fatigue setting in. I always seem to go through this when I run a race. I call it the "settling in" period. It's the time where my initial excitement at the starting line wears off completely and I realize that:

1. I'm running alone, now, without my cheering section
2. I'm going to be running for longer than I really want to be
3. There will be significant pain involved.

The trick, for me, is to accept it all without too much struggle. To say to my mind, "Yes, yes, and yes. You're absolutely right. I know you got dragged into this by a domineering body, but we're in this together and I really need to you get on board." I can't get angry or afraid because it jams me up. It wastes my energy. My mind, like all of our minds, is ultimately looking out for my best interests. If I'm about to do something that will cause me pain (touch a hot stove, for instance) it's going to shriek out a warning at me: "Stop! Pain, bad! Don't do that!" But during a race, you can't let your mind's instinctive "panic mode" take over - and there's always a moment when it will try to.

Don't be afraid. Pain is part of the process. Let it happen. A quote I go to time and again when I'm settling in is from Haruki Murakami's book* What I Talk About When I Talk About Running:

"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." 

So, I got my mind on board with my body. I accepted pain. I settled in, and I banged it out. The course was an out and back with a water stop at the turnaround point. I didn't bother to get water, knowing it would be over soon. And when I turned around and started heading back, I worked on increasing my speed. At mile two, I was starting to hit my stride. The last quarter mile was a long straightaway to the finish and I just let it go. I tried to remember those speed drills from Monday and those 100 yd dashes from Tuesday. I knew I wouldn't come close to finishing first, but I didn't want anyone catching me at the end. It was a hard, fast finish, and I was happy with that. When I saw the official run time, I was even more excited: 23:24 - a new PR!!!

Final results:
57 out of 130 total participants
16 out of 66 female participants (top 20!)
Swim - 15:16
Run - 23:24
Transition - 1:13
Total time - 39:52 (just squeaked under 40 minutes)

The best part, by far, for me was the swim. Even over the PR. I'll always be a swimmer and I'll always love those open water swims. It's a shame there aren't more straight-up open water swims in Wisconsin. I just love swimming out into the middle of a large body of water. It will always be a rush.

Sorry for the long post. We'll have you guys back to short and boring and no pictures in no time! :)

*Runners! Get this book! I can't recommend it enough. And while you're at it, start reading some of Murakami's fiction. He's my favorite modern author.

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  1. Sounds like you had an awesome, well-focused race. Loved the detailed recap since it lets me live vicariously through you and your fast legs. :) This post makes me miss the adrenaline rush before a race!

  2. Thanks, girl! It was definitely a nice night for it. I was thinking about you and James and wishing y'all were there. You: for the companionship and James: because they had free chicken wings there! They even had a contest where you could eat up to five wings in transition and each one would shave like 10 seconds off of your final time. Needless to say, none of us did that. But Eric and Devon were "mowwing" on those wings at the end...