A lot has been happening in the Yax household since my last blog post, and I’ll try to capture most of it here. To summarize, my race season is officially underway with a few local events to help me get into a competitive groove, I have been in the pool more times in the last month than I was in the previous five months combined, and my work/life balance has seen some positive and much needed improvements.
As of early March, Axel is now attending a Montessori school four days a week. Coincidentally, I now have a much greater sense of balance and joy back in my life. This change in lifestyle has given me the time I need to work without distraction, train without guilt, and be the happy-go-lucky mom and wife I want to be. As a result, my training has significantly intensified the past few weeks. I have felt energized and excited about the steps I am taking toward meeting my goals for 2017, the biggest of which is earning a slot in the Ironman World Championships.
As noted above, I finally started swimming consistently again and am making some big gains in the water. I try to swim with a masters group catered to triathletes on Mondays, and usually join my coach or a couple other athletes on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It varies week to week. Swimming with others definitely pushes me and helps me stay focused (and warm) in the water. Technique is still my biggest challenge, but I’ve been working hard to make subtle changes here and there. My friend Jaime, who is also the tri masters coach, has been drilling technique into my head – and it seems to be working. Slowly but surely I am feeling more comfortable and confident in the water, and optimistic about improving my swim times in CdA and Canada.
The bike has always been my strongest sport in triathlon, and so far this season all indications are that it will be again this year. A few weeks ago my coach and I took advantage of a nice day (which seem few and far between this year) and did a 20-minute FTP test to get a baseline for the upcoming season. Surprisingly, I was able to maintain 260 watts for the full duration, finishing strong. Of course, my coach was there next to me riding at his conversational pace, providing a ton of encouragement nonetheless. Last year my best test was 252 watts at the peak of my season, so I’m already ahead of where I was. I’m guessing all the miles and time spent chasing Kristin Armstrong and others on Zwift over the winter had something to do with it.
My goal is to continue working hard on the bike, grinding, pushing myself, and ultimately exceed expectations at Canada. If I have a chance at Kona it’s going to be because of my bike split. Plus, it’s my happy place – though I haven’t been outside too much this year due to the unreasonable winter and spring we are having here in Central Oregon. The trainer in a virtual world, while still better than riding outside in winter, is no longer my happy place. On the road with friends, is…
Tomorrow I am heading to Maupin, Oregon to take my beautiful tt-bike for a spin and partake in my first bike race of the season, a 2-day, 3-stage time trial series. This will be my first ever time trial race, so I’m a little nervous but mostly excited to get out there and hammer it for miles. The three courses are all very different, but the general theme is climbing, and the forecast calls for windy conditions, so I will have my work cut out for me. It seems like a really mellow, low-key event, which is perfect for my newbie jitters. My goal is to use each stage as practice for pacing and to further my skills dealing with various technicalities (wind, descents, turns, etc.). Wish me luck!
And then there is running. For the longest time throughout the winter months my running felt off. Way off. Perhaps it was because I spent half the winter running in studded shoes on a foot of snow and ice, and found it difficult to find my speed without risking a fall. Or, maybe my body just wasn’t ready to perform the way it has in the past. Every body needs rest. Whatever the reason is, it wasn’t until I did my first race of the season three weeks ago, the Salmon Run 10K, that I felt like my legs had returned and made a comeback. I had very little expectation going into this race – because once again I was mentally off – but as soon as the race started I felt like a snake shedding it’s skin. My legs immediately picked up the cadence, my lungs filled with air, and my mind was focused on getting to the finish line. I raced my way to an overall female win, all the while feeling really good and fresh. It only took 42 minutes for my mindset to completely reshape itself and to feel like a true competitor again.
This past weekend I also competed in the Bend Half Marathon, a local race that has been growing in size since the inaugural event in 2015. This was the second time I have done this race, as I participated when I was 5 months pregnant with Axel a couple years back, and it was just as I remembered – sunny, windy, and hilly. The course was actually a little different this year, but similar terrain nonetheless. My coach wanted me to train through the race and run on tired legs, which I agreed to do, though my competitive side was a little unenthusiastic. The goal was to negative split, which I did on a very hilly course, and run a fast but comfortable pace.
Although my legs were a little clunky and tired from the get go, they hung in there and fared well through the 13.5 miles. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently a volunteer misdirected runners and added a little extra fun to our “half” marathon. At least it was a flat detour and regardless, I made it to the finish line averaging a 7:25min/mile pace and finished 9th woman overall. It wasn’t a PR but it was an effort that I am proud of. My running is right where I want to be as I enter triathlon season.
It was quite fun doing a long distance race around my hometown, particularly because I never push the pace that hard when I’m out running on the same roads and trails. And because I run them so frequently, I have a tendency to take some of their beauty for granted so it was a refreshing reminder to hear other runners commenting about how beautiful the course was, and how scenic Bend is. My family was able to see me on multiple occasions (a very spectator friendly course) and my coach was on his bike checking in on me at various locations throughout the race. He definitely kept my head in the game and made me feel better about the fact that my legs weren’t performing at 100%. “Beautiful day for a training run,” he kept saying. That alone reminded me of the big picture – getting stronger for Ironman Canada.
This is definitely an unconventional year for me because instead of packing my schedule full of races, as I notoriously like to do, I am being very particular about what I do and how it will benefit my performance at Ironman Canada. I want all of the events and races leading up to Canada to prepare me and help me get mentally and physically stronger. While I will compete at some of the events (it’s hard for me to do otherwise), my priority will be to use them as practice for pacing and training under fatigue. One of my weaknesses as an athlete has always been pacing, particularly when running, as I tend to get excited and go out too hard. This year I really want to learn how to control impulses and urges until the time is right. I am using the tt races to help me pace on the bike (particularly on hilly terrain, which is similar to IM Canada) and the road races to help me get stronger and more confident. I want to start my race in Whistler knowing I did everything I could to prepare me for any and all conditions.