21 May 2014

Mallorca 2014 - by Niina

Now my second half-triathlon is done. It was a good experience, teaching me a lot. After we both managed to pass Joroinen so well, better than expected, I got an inspiration again for keeping up training.

All my life I have been addicted to physical activity, so for me triathlon just made me plan my trainings better, though adding maybe a bit of an extra stress to my fast life. That’s why I decided not to get a personal trainer, since I knew that it will be hard to properly fulfill the program and it will make me feel bad. Due to my shifts and science work, I don’t have as much time as I want to train. Also normal work sometimes is so stressful that when I get home, I am so tired physically and mentally that I can’t make a hard training. And as a mother and a woman I do have much things to do at home.

Well, I took it easy in September-October, trying a lot of Pilates, yoga, stretching, BodyPump etc. additionally to normal cycling and swimming. And I didn’t run at all. My knees recovered and little by little I started running 15 minutes at a time before or after BodyPump trainings. My knees approved it and I continued adding running time, but never run more than 2 times a week. And only once during all preparation season I run for 2 hours at once.

Three months before the race I managed to get 6 weeks with proper rhythm of 9 hours trainings per week. 2 weeks hard and an easy week with only half of the exercise time, and then a new 3 weeks cycle again. And then I got the flu. Ignoring common sense I started to practice far to early and got an even worse flu, with a need for antibiotics. I finished to consume antibiotics just 10 days before the race. Due to this, my training hours during the last month before the race dropped to 4-5 per week. I didn’t swim for over one month. I didn’t swim in wetsuit at all this year. But I had nothing to loose anymore. I got completely well a week before the race, and arrived to Mallorca healthy and excited about the race to come.

It was very useful to have a previous experience of half-distance. I knew exactly what is waiting for me. Swimming was to be better than in Joroinen. Nothing can beat sunny beach with yellow sand and blue clear water! I knew that running would be slow and hard mentally. But I didn’t know what to expect from cycling in the mountains. I have always managed to get up the hills with no problems when doing it at my own pace. But how much time will I loose going up? And how will I manage to go down, with my really bad habit to be scared and use brakes too much due to it! As funny as it sounds, I discovered this winter that using a scooter to cruise from one department to another at work, I improved my balance and ability to do cornering on the bicycle too. But anyway I didn’t have a clue what time it would take me to ride 90 km in “slightly uneven” environment.

I have to thank Susanna for planning our arrival time, and booking really good accommodation!  We had good time to assemble the bikes, try them out, go to swim with wetsuits and run a bit. Preparations went perfectly and in time. Due to warm weather conditions actually all you had to put into the T1 and T2 bags were shoes, gels and sunglasses. Next time I will also put sun cream ;-)
In the morning we had a nice 2 km walk to the race area. For the first time I went before the race to warm up into the water and swam a bit. The beach was full of people and the day promised to be hot. We were lucky to start early.

The Swim:
When I took my place on the start area, at first I thought that I am among the last ones, but surprisingly later discovered being somewhere just past the middle. When I started my Polar  1 minute before the start, my heart rate was 134, though I felt very good. I felt excited but not nervous at all. I walked peacefully some steps before getting into the water. And then I just concentrated on the swimming. There were a lot of swimmers around me, some coming on, and across and being in front. But I just got into some meditative state, concentrating on breathing and gliding, and doing peaceful strokes. I felt that my hands are not strong enough to do proper strokes yet, and thought that I should get more power in them in future. I didn’t make a single mistake with breathing, always on the 3rd or 5th stroke, breathing always on different side in turns. Since there were a lot of swimmers and vision was perfect, I didn’t have to navigate too much and the line I went seemed to be very straight. Only problem was that for the very first time the suit started to do abrasions to my neck before even half of the distance was done. So it was pretty painful and kept me awake. I rushed out of the water, not in a crowd surprisingly. It was very good to see Jyrki on the side looking at me and shouting that I am doing well.

The Bike:
Off to the bike I rushed. I calmed down at T1, checked the bike and equipment and run with the bike forward. One woman in front of me was trying to mount the bike too early, and people shouting to her. I remembered how nervous and confused I was at my first race in Kuopio in 2012, when I tried to do the same mistake.  And I was happy that now I managed to keep well concentrated.
As usually jumping on the bike felt tremendous!
There were a lot of people riding, and I was afraid to race to fast or to get penalty for drafting. So I rode carefully and a bit slowly. Soon I heard and saw Virva passing by. It was good to see her and she inspired me to add the pace and start passing others more actively. I kept her in my vision field. When the mountain started, I went careful at first, speeding up little by little. Well it felt long and hard, but not too bad. On the top of the mountain I closed in on Virva, to hearing distance, we changed couple of words and she disappeared behind the corner on the descent. I never managed to catch her anymore, and saw her next time while running. I managed to go downhill better than I expected. I remembered how two years ago in the same mountains Ilkka Järvimäki taught me to ride downhill, riding in front and “drawing the lines”. So I imagined that he is there riding in front of me, with me, helping me to fight my fear. This way I managed to keep calm and peaceful to ride down the hill without breaking too much. I remember thinking that the descent is too long, my legs are waiting for the battle!
And then under the hill I pushed all I could out of my legs and enjoyed riding to the end of the distance. When a strong wind came in the middle of the potato fields, I laugh that it’s just like at home on the Tyrnävä fields!
At T2 one kind British woman offered me her sun lotion, and I put it on the neck and shoulders, forgetting about the fresh abrasions on the neck. Well, some more adrenalin came to my blood with the sharp pain that it caused.

The Run:
Now I was running. My legs were not bad, small cramping feeling in femoral muscles just above the knees, but it was for good – more sure that my patella will follow the correct path. My feet were numb and some strain pain was in the left toes, but I didn’t want to stop to look and it finished after a while. I wanted to walk a bit in beginning like I did in Joroinen, but it appeared to be impossible – everywhere there were crowds of people cheering, I would have felt ashamed to walk! Running was a pain! More mental, I think, since my legs worked perfectly, my technic was good and there was no ache anywhere. I had to force myself to make every step! When I looked at the Polar to my astonishment I discovered that I am doing very well, and that I have a chance to do the race under 6 hours. So I just pushed. I started to feel that gels don’t suit me anymore and went on drinking water and Cola, to keep the stomach contents inside me. And I even managed to squeeze some acceleration out of myself while running to the finish line! During cycling I shouted cheering greetings to competitors that were passing me and whom I passed. I also tried to chat with someone while running to get my attention away from run itself, like I did in Joroinen. But… On the first round everyone was running faster than me, on the second round nobody wanted to chat, and on the second round I passed others and also were not in the mood for chatting anymore.
After the finish line I stayed there close to it waiting for Jyrki, whom I assumed to arrive within 10 minutes.  Petteri came to the finish, hugged me and told that Jyrki is coming soon. But Tiina and Susanna arrived, and there were still no sign of my beloved husband. I already started to think that he is now in an ambulance, when he arrived, tired but alive J Some posing to official photographer, a bit of food at the after-party and we left to pick up the bikes.
We stayed for some more days for cycling vacation, and in spite of feeling like getting sick, I did cycle and caused myself again a new antibiotic with temporary asthma medication and one week sick leave.

Well, I learned a lot from this travel:
1. Put Vaseline everywhere where it is possible to avoid abrasions, even if you have never had one there yet.
2. Do more triceps exercise, you can swim faster!
3. Use better sun lotion, and leave it waiting for you in the T2 bag.
4. Do the same (look point 3.) to your husband.
5. Practice more running, longer time running to catch up the routine of it.
6. Exercises for muscle and mobility like “Markon prässi” are very useful.
7. Separate race-vacations from cycling-vacations. Plan no more than two days cycling and walking peacefully in flat landscapes after the race before going home.
8. Medical kit should always include remedies for sunburns (Aerius 5 mg x2 p.o.,  Bepanthen lotion and some cortisone lotion locally in case of burns), some needles and wound care stuff for hematomas around the toes and of course Burana and salt tablets.
9. And never train when you feel like getting sick!!!!

About my husbands decision 
I think Jyrki has lived already in accordance with this decision during one year at least. Now it got a form and became “official”. I am happy that Jyrki got Lasse as a coach. In spite of all previous experience and books, articles etc, it is still a big difference when a professional looks after how you train. Especially when you have to train 10 - 15 hours a week! Without supervision you can more easily damage your health without significant positive results. 
It is always good when one has an target in his life. Especially such targets that are rather like signs on the road one walks. A sign that shows where the next one is, and next one etc. Thus requiring constant movement. Roads are for walking, not destinations! Reaching the target makes you happy just for a short moment, but walking towards it keeps you happy and satisfied with your life during all the travel.
Then last but not the least: when a woman can choose to have either a husband siting on the sofa in front of TV gathering overweight, or devoted active triathlete, do you think she will hesitate even for a second what to choose?
As for me, I think since I am not planning to do full distance, but do plan to defend PhD thesis,  I am not in a need of a personal coach at a moment. Maybe later. But now I am happy, as I am. I have my training routine, I learn to feel my body and adjust my trainings little by little. And I don’t have any pressure about results of my races. I just want to have fun participating in them with my husband and friends. 

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