114 days: Races that keep me up at night

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. A shade over 16 weeks away! Raised so far: $5,947! Want to increase this total? Chip in a few bucks to one of our causes here, or participate in one of our upcoming fundraising events.

Suzanne and Tawnya are on the march! Follow along as they trek the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, “The Way of St James” – a 500 mile pilgrimage starting in southern France and across northern Spain. They’re almost three weeks into their journey and have posted several interesting updates to their blog.

Please sign up for the Kyle’s Special Heart 5K/10K! June 8 in Rainier, WA! Details and registration information are here – please help out my cousin and his wife as their newborn son Kyle fights with the fury of a thousand ninja babies to heal from his congenital heart issues. More information about Kyle and his fight can be found on their blog. I won’t be able to make it – I have the Redondo Beach Triathlon that same weekend – but I will be there in spirit!

Races That Keep Me Up At Night

It happens to all of us. There are those lingering things that we just can’t escape… that tumble around in our brains incessantly in the middle of the night… the little worries that refuse to let us sleep.

What keeps me up at night?

Frankly, I am normally a ridiculously sound sleeper. Very little keeps me up at night. Heck, I’ve been known to sleep through earthquakes, loud parties, rock concerts, you name it. Concerns with family/friends/work sometimes keep me staring at the ceiling until the wee hours… but it is rare.

Add to that list: a race looming on the immediate horizon. Training, preparation, packing, supplies, transition process, course layout… the list is endless and tiring. The stress of most races gives me some sleeping issues, but some are far worse than others.

The following is a partial list of races on my race calendar for this year:

  • Pasadena Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon – my first race of the year
  • Napa Valley Marathon – a full marathon for which I was underprepared
  • Ironman 70.3 St George – a notoriously difficult course with unpredictable conditions and a tough, tough field
  • Redondo Beach Triathlon – a little, local sprint triathlon with very short distances
  • Ironman Lake Tahoe – the big, nasty full Ironman looming on the horizon, raced at 6,000+ feet of altitude

Of this list of races, which one is more inclined to keep me up at night?

Yep, you guessed it… the Redondo Beach Triathlon.


Allow me to explain.

  1. The Pasadena R’n’R 13.1 didn’t trouble my mind much. I hadn’t trained for it, but 13.1 miles isn’t all that bad… and it is only about 90 minutes of suffering, with ample opportunities to ease off on hills. Plus, there were no expectations. Do great: fantastic. Do poorly: oh, well, I wasn’t expected to do well, anyway. Low stress
  2. The Napa Valley Marathon did cause some stress, as I was not at all properly trained to run a full 26.2. I can rely on a solid core level of endurance to gut out a 13.1… but you can’t fake your way through 26.2. But it wasn’t too stressful as I had a bailout plan at miles 10 and 19, with a low set of expectations for race results (this changed as the race took place, but leading up to it expectations were low). Also, this race is in Napa! How can anything there be stressful? Moderate stress
  3. Ironman 70.3 St George. OK, this one was stressful, I will admit. Way undertrained, very difficult course, very long distance, PLUS I was sick for 10 days leading up to the event (and the morning of the race). Yeah… all of that stressed me out something fierce. On the other hand, my expectations were low. Finishing this race would be a victory. High stress
  4. Ironman Lake Tahoe. You’d think I’d be bouncing off the walls about this race tied up into a complete ball of stress, right? My first full-length Ironman! Though there is stress involved, I have a concrete plan to get me there – 16 weeks left on my training plan, 2 successful weeks of this plan are under my belt – and I am confident that this plan will have me ready for race day. Moderate stress… right now.

So, why does this little, short, itty-bitty race have me seriously stressed out? The Redondo Beach Triathlon:

  • Is near the front of my super-focused training cycle (at the end of week 3 of my 18 week cycle). I will certainly be in shape to be competitive in this race, but far from peak performance readiness.
  • Is super short and fast (0.5 mile swim, 6 mile bike, 2 mile run). In a long course race you can take a moment to compose yourself and take mini-breaks where you back off a bit to recover. A sprint race is GO! GO! GO! the entire time.
  • I have a history of performing well in this race. Anything short of a podium placement is deemed a failure.
  • The swim is a beach start – I hate beach starts. It is in the ocean – I hate racing in the ocean – waves, salt, nasty critters (they’ve been catching great white sharks off the piers in the area… seriously… SCARY! SHARKS!!!!!).
  • This race places an emphasis on good swimming. The 70.3 and 140.6 races, based on the distance and my planned pacing, have a 12%/55%/33% emphasis on swim/bike/run, respectively. The Redondo Beach race has a 39%/31%/30% emphasis. The swim is proportionately 3 times more important in this race than in the longer format races!
  • Have I mentioned that in most races I am usually a top 2% cyclist, a top 2% runner… and only a top 40% swimmer?

Yep. High expectations are a concern, but it is this race’s focus on the SWIM that keeps me up at night. In the longer format races I have plenty of time/miles to catch up to and pass the fast swimmers; not so much time/distance in this race to reel them in.

And though my swimming isn’t horrible right now… it isn’t really very good. And I am terrified of sharks. SHARKS!!!!! I have 9 days to work on that before this scary race takes place… and many sleepless nights until then to contemplate this!

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