Triathlon Training on Hawaii Island

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Last month I joined my Boca Hawaii teammates on a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii to train for the Ironman 70.3 Honu triathlon, scheduled for May 31. We all stayed at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, a sprawling, multiple-towered beachfront resort that could accommodate more than 60 of us with family members, support crews and bicycles — while making sure the rest of their guests had a great time and didn’t have to dodge too many bikes in the elevators. The group rate made this trip reasonably affordable, and Boca Hawaii owner Raul Torres had us all pack and ship our bikes via Aloha Air Cargo. He picked them up at the airport and brought them to the hotel. When we were done, he and the coaches loaded them back into the truck, shipped them in reverse, and we paid the ransom the next morning to spring our bikes. Easy, peasy.

My husband and I had a fabulous ocean-view room with a king-sized bed and a giant flat-screen TV to match. I put snacks, coconut water and wine in the fridge. The bathroom was bigger than our bedroom! I could get used to resort living! He always tells me: “Get that novel published!” I didn’t get much of a chance to relax in the fancy robe and hang out on the lanai and take in the view because we were so busy!

Fortunately, we were able to enjoy dinner at Cafe Pesto, where a lot of us decided to eat on Friday. After our Saturday seminar and swim, we also had a nice dinner together on one of the lawns, and it was fun to get to know the other teammates better. We pried and found out how some couples met, including Raul and Hina. There are still some stories that need to be told!

This May 31 will be my second Honu. I am seeking to improve on my first effort of finishing in 08:12 last year. No, that’s not eight minutes and twelve seconds. It’s eight hours and twelve minutes! Thanks to my training with Boca Hawaii, I’m optimistic that I’ll be a bit faster despite being a year older.

My husband and I arrived Friday afternoon in time for me to join the scheduled run. That morning, those who had arrived on Thursday rode their bikes north to Hawi, as per the bicycle route of this event, and encountered winds that gusted beyond 50 mph. In fact, one of our stronger triathletes fell, busted up his bike and separated his shoulder (for the third time in his triathlon career). My teammates were humbled by the conditions, worried about our teammate, and were very tired from the effort, the first of eight or nine workouts schedule for the weekend. I wasn’t disappointed that I had missed the ride!

The wind on Saturday morning at Hapuna Beach. Training in windy conditions pays off. We all went in for the swim.

The wind on Saturday morning at Hapuna Beach. Training in windy conditions pays off. We all went in for the swim.

The winds didn’t die down, so Raul and the rest of our coaches decided to shelve Saturday’s ride up to Hawi and beyond. They swapped the Sunday and Saturday workouts, so we started Saturday morning, which was still quite windy, with a swim in Hapuna Bay. This bay is my absolute favorite to swim in. It is crystal clear, you can watch sand swish in the currents below, and there are lots of fish and turtles to watch. We had several swims scheduled, and I wish I could have just jumped in one more time on Sunday after our big bike ride and run.

Getting briefed by Raul Torres before our morning swim in Hapuna Bay.

Getting briefed by Raul Torres before our morning swim in Hapuna Bay.

Following the swim we had our long run. Hills and heat, beach sand and coral, through the woods and along the resorts, the conditions were varied and tested us. I nearly fell a few times, the toe of my running shoes got caught on a tree root or I’d misstep on coral or lava rocks. It was all an education on how to cope, how to overcome, how to do our best. I got to use my new Nathan hydration belt and I have to admit it was flawless. Snug enough not to slosh on me, I could forget I was wearing it. That’s a ringing endorsement!

The long run, still fresh during the first half.  Rick Keen photo.

The long run, still fresh during the first half. Rick Keen photo.

Running is my weakest triathlon leg, so I really need to get better at it. Last night we were running the hills at Kakaako Waterfront Park, and it’s such a test for me. But I know that each day I get better and stronger. During Honu, the run is at the hottest time of the day. I’ll need to hydrate and eat while on the bike to deter bonking during the run. I’ve got a month of practice to improve on this part, and my coaches have really been helpful about my form and pace.

Ready to ride to Hawi and beyond on Sunday morning. Wind wasn't as strong, thank goodness.

Ready to ride to Hawi and beyond on Sunday morning. Wind wasn’t as strong, thank goodness.

We did get to ride up to Hawi on Sunday. Some of the more seasoned and fit triathletes rode their bikes to the end of the road, which included a lot of hills and the reward of a gorgeous view. Knowing that I’d have to run, I turned around at Hawi after having a mocha and a hard boiled egg at the cafe. The wind did die down, but not completely. There are embankments into which the road is carved, and when we first exit their shelter the wind whipped us sideways. My new bike, a 2014 Cervelo P2, caught the wind more than my old Scattanti did. I was glad for the exercise in maintaining balance as the wind toyed with me on both my climb and descent. I was also glad I didn’t refamiliarize myself with the wind and hills on the new bike on wind-swept Friday!

Despite the busy Sunday schedule, we managed to check out on time and got to do a little bit more sightseeing. I am crazy about the Big Island. I’d love to live there if I could swim at Hapuna Beach everyday! I guess I should really finish that novel!

We had a little bit time before our flight back to go exploring.

We had a little bit time before our flight back to go exploring.

 

What 2013 has taught me


I knew a year ago, back in December, my birthday month and the month of holiday cheer, that those I found so very uninspiring were plotting to end my corporate-within-the-cube-writing career. It was OK as I had already left in my mind at least more than 1,735 times. In April of 2013 the footprint was on my ass and it was the first time I left an employer without feeling sad. It was more a wave of relief. I had been dismantling my personality from the cube over the months until it looked like a sterile, cold and gray space without personality, exactly what it was supposed to be.

I am grateful that finally I was free to be me. 

I applied for at least three jobs a week — sometimes three jobs a day — until my unemployment ran out in November. I completed the substitute teaching course for the DOE in October. I started my seasonal position at Costco Hawaii Kai in November, too, so I have been able to step off the ice floe. 

I am supposed to be grateful for the more than 80 jobs I applied for and didn’t get, but it’s hard. I got a few interviews and I am sure those humiliating experiences have made me a better person. Radio silence gives you a lot to think about. It was hard not to think about rejection, it was hard to see the silver lining. I know I’m a survivor and I’ve got the most amazing support person at my side. He gets the most gratitude of all. 

What good was there from 2013? I got to spend a lot of time with my husband and we really enjoyed it. There are new gardens in the yard. While things like tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant don’t do so well, our kale, Swiss chard, chili peppers and herbs are bountiful. We have a beautiful area in the backyard where I can write or where we can sit even when it’s raining, with our Kitty Girl. The avocados drop before me, a compost bin settles without stinking, and there’s always gas in the grill. 

In 2013 I trained for triathlons and did alright. I went to the Big Island and participated in my first half Ironman in Kona. I rode my bike, ran and swam several times a week. I did the Honolulu Tinman, the Na Wahine Festival’s swim and spin, the North Shore Swim Series and the Waikiki Roughwater Swim. I love doing all those things. This year I was able to participate without the mental and emotional cave in I had the year before just as the swims were starting. I’m pleased that I can remain calm during those first crazy minutes of an ocean swim with hundreds of arms and legs flailing at me and around me. 

In 2013 I found an editor who gave me a shot at writing for his magazine and I have been writing for him steadily since the summer. I hope to continue. 

During 2013 I applied at Costco four times and finally got a call for this seasonal job that is quite demanding. As a shopper I always thought how fun it must be to work there. Yes, it is fun, but it’s the hardest job I ever had. There’s a chance that I may get picked up as a permanent part-time worker after January 7 when the gig is up, and I’m hopeful that I do. How can that happen? Go. Spend. Your. Money. Thank you!

I am optimistic about 2014. I’d like to weave a work life of substitute teaching, freelancing and customer service at Costco. Once 2014 kicks in and I’m no longer working 48 hours a week at the big box, I’ll start focusing on my triathlon training again, focusing on the May 31, 2014, Kona Half Ironman with a few other triathlons to help me gauge my progress.

I am grateful for my husband and my daughters for their confidence and love. I can’t imagine having a better family. 

One of my strong suits has always been empathy. For that reason I often wondered why I had to have this year of humility to reflect on other intangible qualities generated by my heart and soul. I’m still not sure why, but I am confident that I will put it all to good use. 

Please keep me in your thoughts so that my 2014 is much better. Mahalo. 

 

Riding with a seasoned triathlete and Kona IM finisher.


I had the opportunity to ride with Lori McCarney yesterday. Here are our stats and the map of our cycling voyage.

A few weeks ago the words “Lori McCarney, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN,” were recited as she crossed the finish line in Kona. So, yeah, you could say she’s one of the superhero moms in my world. Thanks to a lot of hard work to QUALIFY  — because lottery entries had not yet begun — Lori was in Ironman Kona in 2009, but fell short of her goal when the clock ran out and the finish line was in sight. Heartbreaking. This video really wrenches your gut.

Lori and I in our TryFitness kits.

Lori and I in our TryFitness kits at Makapu’u Lookout. What a beautiful day and ride!

When I first met Lori about two years ago, I couldn’t tell what she was about. But as I go to know her, I became a believer in her positive spirit and personal drive. Lori doesn’t keep secrets and willingly shares training tips. Yesterday we discovered that we were riding with the same tires, Continental Grand Prix 4000s. Her Cervelo is such a little Maserati. I have bike envy, that’s for sure.

Sometimes Lori and I share age groups, sometimes we don’t. But that never matters to her. Lori gets it. Her training and goals are different from mine and everyone elses, but she believes there are plenty of wins to go around when she shares ideas and tips that help people like me cross their finish lines.

For yesterday’s ride I promised clear roads along the Ka Iwi Coast because of the road construction. Wrong! Construction makes progress and the one-lane closures weren’t there, so neither were our opportunities to ride without vehicles along this narrow and precarious curvy stretch of road with minimal shoulders. But we did it. Plan B was to go back along Heartbreak Hill and to ride through the Hawaii Kai farm lands out to Hawaii Kai Drive to avoid the road construction on Lunalilo Home Road. Success! It was a smart choice.

Mahalo, Lori! Great ride. Let’s do it again!

Duke’s Ocean Mile 2013


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Waikiki Roughwater Swim 2012 commemorative swimsuit fits in 2013. Yay.

Three times a charm. Deep breath. Pleasantly surprised that among the hits to the blog were a handful of people looking to read about the Duke Kahanamoku Ocean Mile. They probably hit on the last two years’ entries. Here is the entry for 2013.

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WHAT?

Beach starts are my husband’s favorite to photograph. The bodies, the swimsuits, the waves, the sand, the sky, the clouds, Hawaii. It is truly beautiful. Swimmers in all shapes and sizes and ages come out for these open-ocean swims to test their mettle against each other and against themselves. I’d like to report that I improved on last year’s time, but I didn’t by nearly two minutes, which I think I lost when I had to dodge here and there to get around the thrashing arms and legs in the bottlenecks at the start and around the buoys. My time was 00:38:03, and I’m actually quite pleased with that. I came in 26th in my age group of 50-59, of 35 women. This should tell you how kick-ass women over 50 are. OMG. Competitive much?

Men first, women second. It always feels good to pass a few guys on my way in.

Men first, women second. It always feels good to pass a few guys on my way in.

I am certainly in better shape than last year for having trained in the spring for the Ironman 70.3 that occurred in early June. I continued my training with TryFitness for the Hawaii Tinman, I now train with my masters team at The Oahu Club, and I’m also getting coached by Rachel Ross through Runspo. I’m now back on an aquajog regimen to get that plantar fasciitis healed once and for all. That’s on the left foot. My right knee is a pain in the ass and it keeps me from having a good night’s sleep. Cortisone and SynVisc-One injections alternate throughout the year. Might be time to see Dr. Chun at the Kaiser sports clinic pretty soon. I was going to do the Marathon Readiness Series, but it’s time to respect the healing process. Next up? Waikiki Roughwater Swim and the Na Wahine Festival. I’m doing the Swim and Spin event because those are the things I love the most. Swim, bike, SUP, fun.

No matter how big a buoy is, I have a hard time spotting them while swimming.

No matter how big a buoy is, I have a hard time spotting them while swimming.

Did I say SUP?  Last week when the winds were scarce and Maunalua Bay was glassy, I took out my million-pound SUP three times and got back into the groove. Wobbled a bit at first, but it wasn’t a disaster. Enjoyed it even. Maybe I will dust off the surfboard one of these days.

Waves wash away our footprints.

Waves wash away our footprints.

Gaining traction with my freelance writing assignments. My life is changing. You’ll probably want a garden update soon. And we have Comet’s ashes in a beautiful koa box. There’s a lot to appreciate.

 

Photos by John Bender. 

My Honu half Ironman Triathlon.


The day before the race John shot a photo of me with the Ironman rocks at the entrance of the Fairmont Orchid Hotel. Eager and anxious.

The day before the race John shot a photo of me with the Ironman rocks at the entrance of the Fairmont Orchid Hotel. Eager and anxious.

I was reminded the day before this race that a year ago I blogged about having Honu Envy while I watched online as my TryFitness teammates complete the Honu half Ironman triathlon on the Big Island. I was thrilled for them as I watched their times update, and I was sad for those who didn’t make the cutoff as each leg of the event concluded.

Having worked out with these women for quite a while, I knew of their strengths and weaknesses, drives and doubts, and the commitment to themselves while pursuing careers, raising families, and keeping up with meals, chores, laundry, children’s performances, and teacher and doctor appointments. Life is full, so of course we should do more.

The Red Firecracker at rest in the rack, the day before.

The Red Firecracker at rest in the rack, the day before.

Fast forward to early 2013 and I get a chance to make this desire a reality. On Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays we met for our group workouts. The schedule also had assignments on the other days of the week, too. Usually we got a break on Monday, and maybe another on Friday. We didn’t necessarily have to do those workouts on the days we weren’t with the group, but if we wanted to be our best, they were heavily advised. Hint. Hint. They would be a swim, a run, a ride, some isometrics and ab workouts, or a combination. The schedule, refined over the years by our mentor and coach, Kristin “KC” Carlberg, is designed to deliver each of us to the best we can be on the morning of our event.

We visited the bay at Hapuna Beach State Park the day after the race. What a gorgeous place.

We visited the bay at Hapuna Beach State Park the day after the race. What a gorgeous place.

So last Saturday on June 1, I finally got my turn at Honu. I had eight and a half hours to complete the 1.2-mile swim, the 56-mile bike ride, and the 13.1-mile run. My swim was about 48 minutes, my bike ride was 03:38:51, and my run, which is my weakest side of the triathlon triangle, was 03:32:07. The full event, including transition from swim to bike and transition from bike to run, took me 08:12:25. They turned out the lights at 08:30:00, so I was thrilled to make the cut.

Oh, it's just some bracelet I got for being an athlete.

Oh, it’s just some bracelet I got for being an athlete.

I was also thrilled to know that I would be worthy of wearing the logo wear I had purchased  at the event expo, LOL.

Your mileage, your experience, may vary. But here’s how this works for me. Sure, I’m competitive, but I’m realistic enough to know my limitations. I’m in my mid 50s, and let me assure you this does not mean you’ve got one foot in the grave. I do have a few maladies to contend with: Left leg plantar fasciitis. Right leg persistent knee problems thanks to the full Achilles tendon burst in 2010. And emotionally, I can be riddled with all kinds of negativity. Until this event I realized how easily I was giving bullies permission to diminish my accomplishments and to plant doubts into my psyche. For the past few years my husband has been doing his best to help me get through this emotional cesspool. During these last few months Coach KC had also taken me aside to help fortify my mental game and to help me realize that I should know in my own soul how I can achieve this and that I am worthy.

In my first triathlon, the Lanikai Triathlon in 2012, I panicked in the water. A squall had passed through and the ocean was churning. Throw several hundred triathletes in the water and it can get overwhelming. I wanted to slip under the water and never come back up. Of course, I sure as hellas do not want to miss out on what a great life is in store for me and my family. I pulled myself together and got out of the water. It was a slow race for me, but I finished and I was so proud.

For the Honu swim, I felt good. I stayed back a little bit at the start to avoid the thrashing, but then I managed to work my way through at my own pace with just a few minor punches and grabs. When I got out of the water, I was really stoked about my time. John, KC, and my teammates cheered me through to transition where I became a bicyclist.

The workouts up Pineapple Hill, Sierra Heights Drive, Kilauea Avenue, Kamiloiki, “Heartbreak Hill,” and Makapu’u, paid off in spades as I climbed the Big Island’s Kohala coast toward Hawi. The persistent winds for the last few months meant that I’d be able to withstand the headwind that resisted our efforts all the way back toward the second transition. When I saw the cones directing the bicyclists toward the Fairmont Orchid, I came to tears because I was so happy to be almost done with the ride. As I was racking my bike, a young man passed me draped in maile lei. It was the overall winner, Craig Alexander. I said, “You’re done and I’m just starting my run!” He took my hand gave it a squeeze and said, “You can do it!” And of course I could.

I slid into my running shoes, had the sense to put on my visor and change my sunglasses, put on some lip balm, forgot my belly bag and my gels, and gingerly started my run as I was  still on my rubbery bicycle legs. Our team’s support crew and my coach cheered me on as I took off. KC asked how my legs were and I told her I couldn’t even feel them. I was so charged, I was so happy, I knew I could complete the 13.1-run in less than the three and a half hours that were left on my clock. Other people can do that run in remarkable times, but it’s not easy for me. As I was running through the lava fields, over the golf course, under roads and through tunnels, I thought how it would be great if I could finish this triathlon in less time than it took me to do the Honolulu Marathon in December (08:10:25). Dang, I missed it by two minutes. As I approached the finish, I could see the clock was already at 08:22 and counting. We would deduct 10 minutes from the clock because the women’s start was that much behind the pros earlier that day when the whole shebang begun.

I’ll take 08:12:25 for my first 70.3 Ironman.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d want to do it again. When I was done, I was so happy that I danced to the music while waiting for my finisher T-shirt, hat, and medal. I wiggled while waiting for my free beer and cheeseburger. I giggled while I ate solid food for the first time in like 20 hours. My husband was so relieved and was as happy as I was. He used that long lens on his camera to spy me on my final approach and I could see from a 1/4 mile away that he was as happy as me.

So, yes, I’m going to do it again next year and bring our daughters along because we missed them so much while we were enjoying the beauty of the Big Island.

Life is Like Riding a Bicycle


My last day at HMSA is Friday. I’m thrilled and terrified and excited and anxious all at the same time. What can I say? Bring it on, LIFE!

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein, a really smart guy.

Yesterday I rode my bicycle up Sierra Drive and it was the hardest thing I had ever done on a bicycle. Here are my stats. About 85 percent up the street I started seeing stars, so I had to unclip and get off before I blacked out. I inhaled my Albuterol, sucked down a double latte Power Gel, chased it with some water, and got my lungs back. Then I got back on my bike and rode it all the way to the top. It wasn’t pretty. It was awful. And as I approached the top, Coach Sonya had me zigzag up the street to help me handle the steep grade. I don’t know what that grade is, but I had reached 1,293 feet when I rode around Maunalani Circle and caught my breath. Coach KC was waiting for me up there and I was glad she helped me hustle up that final climb. If it weren’t for TryFitness Hawaii, I never would have even tried. It took me half an hour to get from bottom to top. I was somewhat faster going back down.

One of my favorite things to do on my bike is to fly down Makapu‘u and Heartbreak Hill (Kamiloiki), sometimes going as fast as 40mph. It’s exhilarating and takes less than a minute, as you can imagine. But coming down the winding Sierra Drive had to be done carefully and without that usual sense of free falling I tend to enjoy. It was as much a workout for my hands and forearms as I feathered my brakes all the way down to Waialae Avenue.

Glad I did it? Sure. Do it again? Hellas to the NO! The experience was designed to be more challenging than the bike portion of the Honu Ironman 70.3 triathlon. If I could do this, I could do that on June 1. The swim? Check. The ride? Check. The run? The run? Well, that still needs work. I’m fairly certain that if my swim and ride are on the swift side, I’ll finish the run within the allotted time.

After the ride I went home and washed the sheets and towels, made pizza dough, started labneh (yogurt cheese), watered the garden, and did that wife and mother thing. And contemplated my future. Life is interesting.

To keep my balance, I must keep moving.

Honu Triathlon Training Update


Bento box right above the number. This baby is about to get outfitted for triathlon with new bars and new aerobars. That will be a new experience for me.

Bento box right above the number. This baby is about to get outfitted for triathlon with new bars and new aerobars. That will be a new experience for me.

Last night’s Garmin stats for my/our trainer bike ride in Hawaii Kai: The Garmin stats for my Edge500 has the speed, cadence, and distance on the trainer: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/287282286

The stats for my Garmin 910 has my heart rate during the workout: 
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/287280745

Because the Edge500 isn’t paired to the heart rate monitor, its fantastical calorie expenditure statement must be discounted. But holy crappola we worked hard last night!

Then we had an amazing spread of healthy food. Most of us brought some fresh and delicious salads to share, and one of our hosts grilled steaks and sausages. A good meal was had by all! I had never had a WholeFoods pizza before, and the whole-wheat crust was almost as wonderful as my own! KC gave us a demo on her slaw, which has a great mustard bite to its dressing, and she talked to us about nutrition. It’s important to eat right while we are training, but it’s also important to know what you’re going to eat during the triathlon, specifically on the bike. THAT’S what the bento box is for!

After Tuesday’s run around the track at McKinley High School, my plantar fasciitis hurt for about 30 hours. And I hardly did any running! Just a couple of 400s and a couple of 800s!  So in order to train for the half-marathon run in the Honu Triathlon, I will be doing a lot of aqua-jogging workouts between now and then. It’s important that I do run on terra firma, so I’m going to let my coaches guide me through that painful terrain.