2008 Was Great
I felt more nervous than usual going into the half ironman, primarily because at my last long race I had lost consciousness and didn't finish. Surprisingly enough, the water was cold enough (just barely) to make it wetsuit legal, which made me happy because I love swimming in my wetsuit. Its like my safety blanket for the water. :) The swim went pretty well, although at one of the two turns I didn't turn sharply enough and ended up swimming pretty far off course. The bike was fast and furious for the first 15 miles or so. There were many good cyclists out there pushing hard and they brought me along with them. What I was worried about, and rightly so, for the bike stage were the aid stations. I had never practiced grabbing water or food while on the bike before and my coordination/balance on a bike is pretty bad to begin with. Sure enough, at the first of four aid stations I didn't slow down enough and missed my initial grab for a water bottle. The next 3 water bottles were all lined up like ducks in a row, and I couldn't avoid them so I just smashed into them one at a time with my helmet and water sprayed everywhere. It was pretty funny. I did manage to grab one successfully towards the end of that station thanks to a spirited aid worker who ran alongside my bike to make it easier for me.
But the race went downhill from here. For some reason, my back started to fail on me. Its happened to me before, both in training and in races. I think it happens when I just push myself too hard. At about mile 20 the pain was so strong that I knew there was no way I could keep even my average pace for another 36 miles. At that point I just decided to let it all go, not worry about trying to place high in my age group, and just relax and enjoy the ride. So I did. Although it still really sucked to see so many people pass me on the bike that I knew I could destroy on a good day. It was a slow ride, but still painful. But because I was taking it so easy, I felt very, very energized for the run.
But the run wasn't too great either. Apparently my nutrition intake on the bike wasn't the best (not enough electrolytes or something). I had the worst leg cramps that I have ever felt in my entire life. After about a mile and a half into the half marathon I thought "maybe I'll stop and stretch it out and it will get better". WRONG! When I pulled my leg back to stretch my quardracept it felt like all the muscles in my leg just exploded. Forget running, for a brief moment I could barely walk or stand on that leg. It was awful. So through trial and error I found that I could generally run for about a quarter to a half a mile before the cramps came got so bad that I couldn't run anymore. So I'd run, then walk and recover. And then run, and then walk and recover. And I repeated that process. But when I ran (especially towards the end of the race) I was flying. I'm talking like low 6-minute pace. I had so much energy from taking it easy on the bike and having plenty of recovery from walking and through the aid stations. It was really frustrating for me to feel so energetic in the middle of a competition, and yet my body was unable to respond to me.
But I finished. I didn't pass out, I didn't die, and I finished. And you know what, that was good enough for me. There will be other races for me to be all about guts and glory. It felt nice to release myself of that for once. I was planning to do a 10K race a couple weeks after the half iron, but I backed out of that because my body was just too destroyed to keep going. Not from the half iron really, but from the entire season. I started my training in October 2007 (without really even intending to do a half ironman, or even do a triathlon at that point) and I finished with my first half iron in October 2008. It felt good to accomplish something personal. Something outside of academia and outside of work. Something for me.
So lets see, in November I of course was very, very happy when Obama won the presidency. Its only been a couple weeks into his administration so far so its too early to judge, but I believe that good things will come in the future. November and December of last year were kind of lazy months for me. I was going to take only 2-4 weeks off from training, but I ended up taking more like 8-9 weeks off. It took my body longer to recover than I thought it would, but thankfully I'm back to 100% now after running for several weeks. No shin splints or other injuries, it feels awesome. Because I took off so much time, I backed out of doing the Austin marathon again (I feel so guilty about this...its the third time now that I said I was going to do it and then ended up not doing it). Right now I'm focusing mostly on my running since triathlon season is still a few months away. I'm looking forward to seeing how much I improve this year in my competitions. All in all, 2008 was a great year for me in both racing and in life.
Work hasn't been so great lately though. I've been getting more frustrated and annoyed with my job. And for a variety of good, valid reasons. Its unchallenging because I hardly do any design or coding. I mostly investigate whether X API provided by Y company is capable of implementing Z feature. Its unmotivating because I work pretty much by myself as the only fulltime VXI software engineer in the entire company. Its unfulfilling because even though the driver software sucks, I can do little to change it because rather than fix the core of our problems, the company is content to patch little problems one by one. I could go on and on, but I won't. One day a couple months ago I got so frustrated that I actually left work early because I couldn't take it anymore, then went on a long "rage run" to decompress. It was that event which made me say "I can't do this anymore" and I have since started looking for a new position. I've found plenty to be sure and have recruiters contacting me quite a bit (although not so much recently), but I am being very picky about my next job, and not just settling for whatever. After all, what purpose is there in leaving one crappy job for another? I may talk more about this situation in a later post.
I worked on Allacrost quite a bit toward the end of the year but then I got side tracked with something unexpected. Its difficult to explain fully the situation because it is rather complex. What I will say is that it deals with some fundamental questions about life and about learning from others who have different perspectives than your own. Without even realizing it, my emotional attachment to someone has led me to a sort of new awakening. In the past six weeks I have studied and learned so much about so many things. History, science, psychology, sociology, and religion. I've gained or reaffirmed so many views about various matters, and unfortunately I've recently been left with no one else to express them to. I've been nearly possesed by this and I need to get these ideas out of my head, so I'll be using this blog as a means of expressing and recording those views. I plan for this to pretty much take over my blog for at least the near future, but the good news is that I'll definitely be more motivated to blog often. Maybe even daily depending on how things go. So stay tuned. There is much for me to say.