Race Report: Memphis in May Sprint Triathlon

Name:
Date: Saturday, May 17th, 2014
Location: Robinsonville, MS

Ah, my first sprint. So many thoughts running through my head leading up to this. Would I finish? Would I drown? Would I come from nowhere and win the whole damn thing? Did I remember to bring everything I need? Am I just embarrassing myself?

MIM Banner

First, some background on the event. Memphis in May is an annual festival filled with food, music and culture. Each year, a different host country is selected. For 2014, the host country was Panama. During BBQ Fest, or the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Competition, team booths were designed with an ode to Panama; the winning team created a booth that resembled a bus that if you’ve ever been to Central America, you know what it looks like. As part of the month-long celebration, a triathlon takes place. Friday night is the 10k, Saturday morning is the sprint, and Sunday is the Olympic distance. Back in the day, the Olympic distance was a Kona qualifier.

Normally, Memphis in May is hot. There is very little shade along the course (and by little, I mean a small underpass…that’s it), the temps are usually in the 80s or 90s, and if the wind stays down the course can be very fast. Because it’s in the Mississippi Delta, it is flat as a pancake. The only “hills” are entrances to the casinos. Everyone told me that if you can keep yourself hydrated, you will fly on this course. Even better, the swim is in a very shallow, spring-fed pond. You can practically walk the entire thing if you so choose. The swim start is also beginner-friendly, with a time trial start by age group. Guy in front of you goes down the ramp, they count to three, then wave you through. No mass start to worry about, no getting kicked or punched in the face.

But my race? I would not be so lucky. The Weather Gods did not see fit to grant us good weather. Instead it was cold and pouring rain. It was in the 50s Saturday morning and had been raining since Friday afternoon. The water was disgusting, though warmer than the air so it felt sort of good. The transition area was a massive mud pit. This should be fun, I thought, shivering.

Don't I look happy?

Don’t I look happy?

My wave was one of the first to go. I did manage to get in the water and swim/float around a bit. The water felt better than being in the rain, and my swimming felt ok. Once the race actually began, though, it was totally different. I made it maybe 50 yards before I started to panic. I couldn’t breathe so I reached my toes to the bottom and started shuffling along. I was not the only one, but it still made me feel pretty bad. As you swim, you go through a very narrow channel, which then opens up into the bottom portion of the hour-glass pond. Here’s where I really got in trouble. With all the rain, the depths reached too far from where I could stand. I swam the last 200 yards on my back at a very, very slow pace. It was miserable. I have never felt so happy to get out of the water in my life.

See! I'm happy!

See! I’m happy!

I walked to the transition area trying to get my bearings, feeling like I had been in the water for over an hour (note: it was 15 minutes). I found my bike, put on my helmet, socks and shoes, picked up my bike and carried it to the mount line. I should have carried my socks and shoes and put them on when I got to pavement, as many people did. I did a slow mount and started riding. Honestly, the thing that scared me most of the triathlon was the bike. I was nervous I would crash in embarrassing fashion. No crashes, thankfully! I was plugging along at an excellent pace for the first half, but then I hit a wall. I slowed down to a veritable crawl and got passed by nearly the entire field. Seriously, I finished the bike 41st out of 42 in my age group. Horrible. Granted, I’ve done the least amount of work on the bike. Definitely need to improve there. Best part of the bike was getting to the dismount area, I actually had a smile on my face!
MIM Bike Speed
Finally it was time to run. Here’s where I felt I could make up some ground, and I certainly did. From 41st in my AG after the bike to 36th. Not a huge improvement, but I felt strong the whole time. The course starts straight up a little hill, then down a dirt path, before hitting a service road that winds back to the main casino, past the swim start and ultimately to the finish. At one point I’m running alongside a lady and this 15 year old girl comes screaming up on us. We both looked at each other and just laughed. I pushed as hard as I could at the end, but had to take it easy in the chute because it was so muddy I didn’t want to slip. But I crossed the finish line and officially became a triathlete!

Finished!

Finished!

For my first sprint, I definitely learned a lot. Namely, work harder on the bike and get some open water swimming in before the race! But I had an absolute blast, despite the weather and tough conditions. I had a smile on my face for most of the day and loved telling all my friends about the race. R even got my finish on video! I’ll definitely do more, though my triathlon season is over for the year. With both of us getting into the NYC Marathon, I won’t have enough time to dedicate to training for another. Plus the remaining races in the area just aren’t feasible for me. Next year I’ll definitely be back, hopefully for the Olympic. I’ve got a year to train and get better at swimming and cycling.

The Wisdom Tooth Experience

“How are you not in excruciating pain?” asked the nurse at the oral surgeon’s office. I just shrugged my shoulders; my wisdom teeth had never bothered me before. My dentist had long been asking me to get them out, but if they didn’t hurt I didn’t see the point. Back in February, though, while on vacation in Puerto Rico, I felt one of my wisdom teeth split in half, leaving a sort of volcanic crater in my mouth. Perfect spot for lots of food to get stuck in and fester.

Most people get their wisdom teeth taken care of when they are younger, usually high school or early in their college career. Me? I waited until I was 32 before I did it. Too long, said my oral surgeon. But again, it never hurt so I never worried about it. The problem with waiting until later in your life is that it causes more complications. You don’t have a bunch of days to lay around to recover. You don’t have a built-in caretaker (i.e. a mom). And, you kind of have to pay for it all yourself; I don’t know too many 18 year olds whose parents made them pay for it.

So Friday morning, R drove me to the oral surgeon to get this taken care of. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight, so by 10AM I was starving but it was go time. I was nervous, as I’ve never been put under before, just local anesthetics for different things. The nurse took me to the operating room, put on the nitrous to calm me down, then started asking some medical questions. Shouldn’t you ask those BEFORE you start doping me up? The doctor comes in, says he’s going to put the IV in and that I’ll feel a bit of a pinch. I feel the pinch, say I’m ok, and he says he’ll give me something in a minute. Swear to God, next thing I know, I’m laying on a couch in the recovery room with R and our friend Nikki, the head assistant in the office. I remember nothing else.

As soon as we got home, Ro went to fill my prescriptions and get me a milkshake. She’s been an excellent care-taker since then, making sure I’m on top of the three different pills I have to take (all at different intervals, too), giving me food and drinks and keeping me on top of my salt water rinsing. I actually don’t feel much pain at all, though yesterday the swelling was getting bothersome. I was icing my face every hour or so, 20 minutes on each side. This morning I finally had some soft scrambled eggs. I am absolutely paranoid about getting dry sockets, so I’m avoiding most solid foods, refuse to use straws or anything else that might lead to them. I’ve heard they are a pain in the ass, so that’s my number one priority.

From a finance perspective, my insurance covered 40% of the procedure, so I was on the hook for $800. Thankfully, my budget had more than enough room in my health services category to cover it. Obviously my dental insurance isn’t awesome; my sister had her wisdom teeth out a few months ago, and she spent less than $200. I budget $100/month into my health services category, which covers most things (I don’t have medical problems that would require more). I’ll probably use some of my extra money in July to restock that, as having only $100 left in that category makes me nervous.

I’m supposed to go back to work tomorrow, but I’ll probably work from home instead. I don’t think I should be at the office if I’m taking Oxycontin or having to rinse my mouth out with salt water every hour or so. I certainly enjoy three-day weekends, but not when I’m doped up, sleeping and drooling throughout the day.

The Guilt of Missing a Workout

Monday morning, my alarm goes off at 5:45AM. I had just flown back into town from a family reunion, watched the World Cup games, then went to bed. I was supposed to walk to the Y and swim a mile. But I just couldn’t get out of bed. I ended up turning my alarm off, letting it go to the default 7AM alarm instead. I slept soundly for the next 75 minutes, woke up and went about my day. However, every time I read an article on exercise, or saw a blog post, or even saw people running outside, I was overcome with guilt. How could I have been so lazy to miss that workout? Why wasn’t I strong enough to get out of bed? Should I make up my workout in the afternoon? Work out twice as long next time? Quit it all together because I am a lazy POS who doesn’t deserve to be an athlete?

9-minute-snooze

We have all been there. We’re supposed to run, or hit the gym to do some strength training. But whether you didn’t get out of work on time, were too hungry, fell on the couch and couldn’t get up, or it looked like it might possibly rain (“I think I see a cloud in the distance, better stay in bed!”), we end up missing it. I think everyone misses a workout here and there, but people devoted to their health routines tend to feel guilty about it. There is no need for this! Missing a workout is natural, and sometimes even healthy!

Why you shouldn’t feel guilty
First off, guilt is a silly emotion. According to Wikipedia, guilt is “an affective state in which one experiences conflict at having done something that one believes one should not have done (or conversely, having not done something one believes one should have done).” If you’re feeling guilty, that means exercise has become a part of your standards, which is a good thing. At the same time, guilt is an empty emotion; it begins a vicious cycle that can be difficult to escape from.

You shouldn’t feel guilty because dwelling on the past leads to a dangerous road. If you watch sports, you’ve likely heard a player or coach talking about forgetting the last game and moving on to the next one. If they keep thinking about that loss, it will impact their performance in the next game. Missing a workout is like a loss, one that you didn’t show up for. Forget about it and move on.

Why missing a workout can be a good thing
If you’re not exercising, what are you doing? Catching up on some errands? Cleaning the house? Reading a book and mentally recharging? Laying on your butt and doing absolutely nothing (my favorite)? This is not time wasted. This is time spent focusing on other things. The human mind and body is not meant to focus on one thing 100% of the time. I like this article from The Daily Burn. Sleep is VERY important. If you can’t find the motivation to get out of bed in the morning, this is likely your body’s way of telling you it’s exhausted. You need to recharge your batteries every once in awhile, otherwise you will burn out and possibly injure yourself. And that’s not good.

That Monday morning, my body had had enough. I was working out extremely hard the first few weeks of the month, then flew home which is almost NEVER a relaxing time (“We have to go here, then see this person, then go do this, then this…” for the entire trip), coupled with the stress of traveling. My body and mind said to sleep in and recharge. And you know what? My workouts this week have been better than they would have been had I woke up on time. I’ve pushed my runs, I’ve done my post-run routine more diligently, and I just feel better in general. Missing a workout shouldn’t cause guilt, and it won’t if you don’t let it. Have a strong mind and understand why you missed it.

Just try not to miss too many. Prioritizing healthy living is important!

Frustration; or, Why Corporate America Sucks

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Sigh. I’ve worked in corporate America for about eight years: four for a bank in Ohio, a summer internship with Pepsi in Chicago, and now three years at my current company. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, one aspect that can bring about absolute dread, hurt feelings and anger, it’s the yearly review. Nothing is more annoying, more frustrating, and more hopeless than this process. Even if you perform well, you still walk away feeling like you got ran over by a train, or that you’re worthless to the company and far away from being where you want to be.

At the bank, I never really had reviews when I first started. It was my first job out of college, but I wondered why no one had told me how I was performing, where I needed to improve or anything. So I asked for a 90 day review….after six months on the job. That particular manager neither had a firm grasp on how a review should go, nor the capability to coach employees to perform better. After 18 months, I moved to another position within the bank. I had yearly reviews, but I didn’t seem to get a lot out of them. The process was informal, which can be good and bad. Good in that it doesn’t feel stuffy and forced; bad in that there isn’t follow up or things to take away from it.

I’ll ignore my internship, which deserves a whole other post on just how utterly worthless that experience was, save one.

Now, I work for one of the largest companies in the world, with over 300k employees. Here, the process is much more defined, with very specific questions and objectives and the like. Even though the procedure is better, the results are the same: reviews suck.

One of the worst parts of an annual review at a major corporation is the sense that the end outcome is out of your hands. No matter how well you perform, no matter what you did or how you did it, it doesn’t matter. Some level of management determined what the average score should be, that score filtered down the layers until it got to your manager, who then divided up available points until the average is met. Sitting in my review, I had rated myself a 4 on one category, while my manager rated me a 3. When I asked why, he said too many people in our organization had gotten 4s so only 3s could be handed out. It had zero to do with my actual work or performance.

Another frustrating part of an annual review is when your manager justifies a lower than expected score because of something they did, not you. In another category where my boss and I differed on my score, his rational was that he had agreed to take on too much work, and his performance suffered. What does HIS performance have to do with mine? I accomplished all of my objectives, even some that weren’t on my list that I did on my own. Why does your inability to prioritize your time and workload affect me? This justification was used several times, and each time made me more and more angry.

The real kicker is that at the end, you’re given your score which in no one actually represents your work over the past year. I did the work of four people (no seriously…one product manager per product, yet I had four products), but I didn’t receive any credit for that, because “it was what was expected of you.” SERIOUSLY? It’s a lose-lose situation. Either you turn the extra work down because you don’t have time or energy to do it, or you take it on but don’t get credit for it.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as angry as I was walking out of that meeting. Reviews should be honest and open discussions on an employee’s work over the past period. Their measurement should be based on reasonable stretch goals and how they achieved any progress. Performance reviews should NOT be dictated by the manager’s/reviewer’s own performance score. Justification for discrepancies should be honest and relevant; saying I lost out on a good score because only one such score can be given is a load of BS.

Anyway, that’s my daily rambling on corporate life!

My Post-Run Routine: Rest, Refuel and Recover

Some days, it’s a victory just to get out of bed to go for a run or work out. It’s hot, or raining, or you’re just tired or hungover, and staying in bed sounds so much better! One thing that helps me is the knowledge that if I leave my run to after work, I most likely won’t do it. It’s friggin’ hot in Memphis at 5PM! It’s usually pretty bad in the mornings (70s and high humidity), but better than 95-100 and post-thunderstorm humidity. I find that if I don’t hit snooze, throw the covers off, then I’m good to go.

But what do I do after running? Do I collapse onto the couch, drink some water or sports drink, stretch, fall asleep? For me, it depends on my run. If it’s just a normal weekday run (4-6 miles), I do one thing. If it’s a Saturday morning long run (anywhere from 10-20 miles), it’s something completely different. But they generally follow a formula: rest, refuel and recover.

Rest
As soon as I’m done running, I walk for a bit. Nothing too long, it’s usually the distance from wherever I stop on the street to my apartment (usually no more than 1/4 mile, but more often than not much shorter than that). This serves an important function in bringing my heart rate back down to Earth and letting me catch my breath. This phase typically lasts around 5-10 minutes. Afterwards, your heart rate should be back to Z1 or lower. If not, take some more time and breath deeply.

Refuel
Here, it again depends on what I’ve done. Short run refueling is a bit different than long run. For short runs, or runs less than an hour, water is best. You don’t really need to replace any electrolytes at this point, so drinking Gatorade is just adding sugar into your system. For longer runs, Gatorade is definitely appropriate (or whatever sports drink you have). After I have some, I’ll reach for some chocolate milk. What, you didn’t know chocolate milk was an excellent recovery drink? I always keep some handy, as it’s excellent for repairing muscles. And it tastes friggin’ awesome.

Of course, if it’s really hot and humid out, then it may be necessary to drink a sports drink after even a shorter workout. It also may be necessary to drink while on the run. If you’re coming home and you’ve sweat out everything you could, and now your face is covered in a chalky, flaky white substance, guess what: you’re dehydrated! Keep drinking!

Recover
This phase of my post-run plan is where I do any stretching, ice baths, etc. You shouldn’t really stretch before running, according to people smarter than me. You should warm up dynamically. Static stretching while your muscles are cold could lead to injury. Instead, I lay down on a mat and stretch it out. I also do a bit of a core workout, consisting of crunches, planks (both regular and side), bicycle crunches and slow push ups. If I’ve done a long run in hot temps, I may take an ice bath. These aren’t something I used to do, but R turned me on to them last summer while training for MCM. They definitely help in muscle recovery.

After that, it’s more rest. Maybe even a nap, though I’ve never been good at taking them. It’s a simple plan, but it works for me. What are some of your post-run or post-workout routines?