Thursday, August 28, 2008


1. On bike somewhere. 2. Transition (probably going out). 3. On the bike again, no clue where. 4. Near the finish on the dunes. The guy behind me passed me because I couldn't get any footing (and was pretty tired out).

Not in reality, but virtually. That's how this virtual race is starting to feel. Like I can't go any farther or faster or at all! Like I am bogged down in sand. I can hardly stand to pedal one more mile on the trainer, so hopefully tonight the weather will cooperate and I can get outside. This morning I actually looked forward to running, just for something different.

I know Jan has already won, simply for the fact that she did not do a 70.3 race this month or go on an extended family vacation. So there! But I would rather she won with her "for real" "actual" miles than some jacked up version of steps equalling miles.

Both of us are frustrated with the way this program converts your exercise. Basically, you are rewarded for doing less by getting more "steps" that you then convert over to miles. While its pretty close to actual miles, there are some things like mopping your floor or cutting wood that give you a higher proportion of steps per minute that then are converted into miles. Confusing? To us too. Needless to say, we both have worked very hard to complete the almost unrealistic goal (for us anyway) of reaching 370 miles in 4 weeks or less. I really want to do another triathlon next weekend, but right now I'm so tired I'm not sure I even care! I am getting very close to the goal and am desperately trying to come up with a way to get this done without having to bike all weekend, so its been every morning and every night, pedal, pedal, pedal. Last night I just closed my eyes and pedaled!

From the conversion chart, I might be better off just cleaning my house or cutting some logs for the fireplace this winter!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Yep, that's what I saw--mile after mile, I saw a pile.
I actually road 120 bike miles this week because I decided I would go for the gold and try to win the 3rd annual virtual race put on at work. I really don't know if anyone else is in contention but Jan, and since she is doing races for the next 3 weekends, I don't think she is going to make the cutoff, which is 370 miles by August 31. After this weekend, I'm at 235 miles, leaving 135 to go.
And when you're out there for 50 miles at a time, you have plenty of time to think of silly rhymes and stupid questions, like what are Bambi and his pals doing out there on the path to make that kind of mess? Or where is the lady who drives the poop scooper truck I see every Sunday? Clearly, she has neglected her duties this week. Even the heavy rain we had last night didn't wash it away, so I was dodging piles like an obstacle course for the 50 miles today and the 31 yesterday. No way do I want that all over my bike!
I struggled with both rides this weekend. I'm tired and sore and have more to do than just ride my bike, although it would't appear to be that way. And of course this week my bike computer decided to crap out, so I made an impulsive purchase of a new one. The 31 miles Saturday seemed like an eternity since I couldn't actually see how fast I was riding, but fortunately know the distances well enough that I didn't have to guess. It just bugs me to not have all that data when riding.
So I took it to the bike shop to see if it was fixable and wouldn't you know it, they don't carry that brand any more! Having decided I would try to win the race, I really needed that computer to verify in my mind what I am doing, how fast, how far, how long. So I bought a new one rather than keep messing with the old. I ended up getting a wireless computer this time, foregong the cadence I had on my other one to save $20. Only to realize at the turnaround at 25 miles today that now the magnet is on the front wheel, meaning when I put it on the trainer (wheel comes off with this trainer) I still won't have a reading! Aaagh! Now I have to figure something else out or get another one or something. Not sure if the magnet can be moved to the back wheel and still register on the computer in the front. Dang! Another problem to solve. And the LBS guy mounted the computer itself down on the stem (easier to reach there, according to him), except? I have to keep tilting my head down to see it instead of just glancing down, so that won't work either. And when I'm aero, I can't see it at all. But what can I expect from a guy who rides his bike with flip flops and no helmet??
Well I hope everyone had a good weekend, got some good races or training miles in and now I'm off to relax and try to rest up for my next big week ahead!

Friday, August 22, 2008


Last night while out on a bike ride on the river path, I noticed a couple of things that were unusual: there were hardly any other riders out except a couple of kids and the occasional bums on bikes that wander through there frequently, shirtless, long stragly hair, and cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, and ANT HILLS. Dozens and dozens of ant hills. All over the path, all over the cracks in the road, everywhere.

Just like my reliable wind chime, which only tinkles when it will rain sometime within 24 hours, ant hills are another reliable indicator of imminent rain. And guess what we had this morning? A huge thunder shower.

Makes you wonder what those meteorologists actually look at when predicting the weather?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I was pretty surprised to see how dark out it was still this morning at 6 am before my run. Its only the middle of August, and already mornings are staying darker longer. I don't want to think of all the darkness facing us in the months ahead. And while there was a full moon, it was obscured by all the clouds, so it seemed darker than usual.

There was a pretty stiff wind blowing out of the northeast, making it feel cooler than it was as well. And while I can't say I've been slacking these last couple of weeks, my workout numbers have been down because of my vacation and other crazy schedule. I've been gone 3 weekends in a row and had to make the hard decision to not do another race this coming weekend and being gone again.

This past weekend was a trip to the Allen County Fair in Lima, Ohio to see Lynrd Skynrd. It was a great venue for an outdoor concert, but it also meant 3 hours of driving one way. I'm guessing I've driven about 2500 miles or more in the last 2 weeks!

So I've been tired, dragging in fact. Today was only a 3 mile run, but I'll be riding my bike tonight as well. I will be making a decision this week about whether and which half IM I will do next. I feel like I have been cheated out of the opportunity to do an actual half IM triathlon, but at the same time my race plans had purposely included a vacation immediately following Steelhead, with the plan to not have to do any training for at least a couple of weeks. Instead? I felt obligated to keep up some semblance of training while gone, not only to keep up on the training if I wanted to do another race, but also because the first day of my vacation was the start of our annual work Virtual Race, where to win the race I would have to complete 370 miles in 4 weeks.

Every year the "race" organizers have upped the distance because apparently some think either those of us who have won have cheated or because its "too easy" for those of us who actually do exercise on a regular basis. The first year, it was 175 miles, which I pulled off in one week. Last year it was 250 miles, which I managed in 2.5 weeks and came in second, mainly because I was not as motivated to win again and because of my ankle sprain. This year, because of complainers, the organizers felt it was appropriate to divide the "race" into two categories: one for low impact and one for high. Low impact included things like housework, walking, swimming, etc. High impact included things like running, biking, soccer, tennis, etc. The low impact people only have 175 miles to cover; the high impact people have 370.

So what do you think of this? The person with the highest totals for low impact is already at 120 after 2 weeks. The person with the highest totals for high impact is at 208. Jan is in the lead of the high impact, and rightly so. But the person with the 120 miles? She's a walker. How do you walk that much in two weeks?? Even if you add up every single step you take in a day (and most of them do just to get their totals up), that would mean walking at least 8.5 miles per day. Jan and I are busting our butts to get the totals we have (I currently have 111 miles since Aug. 4). Each week they also have a winner for each category with the highest weekly total. At least 3 of the 4 winners leave me wondering whether they even walked around the block, let alone had the highest totals. It doesn't add up to either of us.

Regardless of how I do this year, I will push hard until the end of the month and see what happens. Either way, I can use the training for any upcoming events I end up doing.

And then there's the matter of spiders. I have noticed quite a few more signs of spiders trying to get a foothold in and around the house before winter, and today, even without my contacts in, there was no mistaking the quarter-sized brown fuzzy blob on the floor I saw in the dimness of the hallway:

Eeek! I'm just glad I had shoes on! My kitchen window has also become encased in the gauzy webbing of another huge spider. It comes and goes each time I am washing dishes or making meals. Creepy! I'm sure these creatures have a place in nature, but if they find their way into my home, a war will start to protect my territory!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Vacation is over all too quickly. Here's a recap of the last day and drive from hell home:

OBX Sandbar 5k. Like its name suggests, it is run on the sand on the beach in Kitty Hawk, NC. To be exact, it starts at "MP 4.5." I found out the first day that MP stands for mile post, which is the general way you get directions to somewhere down there. I arrived early to sign up and get a parking spot and was able to park right near a bathhouse and right across from where the race started. It was actually cool standing around waiting at the early hour of 6:30 am, with a steady breeze blowing off the ocean. Waves were a little rough again that day, and I could see that they had actually come through with some sort of equipment to flatten out the sand some that had not already been flattened from the tides.

The race numbers were something different. I didn't know what to expect for timing in a small race--bibs? chips? popsicle sticks? But this was something new. It was an electronic device that fit into a pouch on the back of the race bib that registered at the finish line and then they scanned it as well. And it wasn't disposable, as I had been led to expect from the timing people in Michigan. The electronic device was attached to another piece of paper or something so it was removable and was returned after the race like a regular chip.

It was a long wait to 8 am, and I was actually very sleepy yet, having stayed up later than planned to get the condo cleaned and ready to leave later that day, so I went back to the car and put the seat back and dozed for a while. I had fortunately used the bathroom just before the long lines formed, but also made the mistake of not going one last time before the race started.

I headed back to the beach at 7:45 and saw that people were still arriving and signing up to run. And I thought the cutoff was 7:30?? Standing around gave me a chance to size up the other participants. I figured it was likely more than half were people vacationing in the area. And it also looked like the women were equally divided age wise: half under the age of 25, the other over 50. Quite a few boys/men were not wearing shoes, but it looked like the majority expected to wear what they usually wore to run: shoes and socks. The problem with this though was just walking around in the sand before, my shoes were filling up with sand, so that was going to be uncomfortable running. But I wasn't going to risk going barefoot for that long.

A couple of final instructions--watch out for big holes that people like to dig and leave and fishing lines--and we were off. It had started heating up once the sun came up, and I could feel it immediately when we started running. It was going to be HOT! I started thinking it had been a long time since I had run a beach run, what like 10 years? How about a week since Steelhead? Yeah, that was more like it.

Within less than 3 minutes, someone's number fell off and was blowing along the beach. Nice. Within less than 5 minutes, people were already walking, giving me a chance to pass people right away. I just kept up a steady pace and didn't push it at all. I didn't want to end up being a walker at some point.

Along with maneuvering through the sand, I also was dodging the waves. Wet shoes filled with sand was not an appealing thought. But some people just ran on through. It wasn't that hard to run on the sand, but it wasn't fast either. I decided not to worry about my time since everyone would face the same handicap. Still, I did have a goal, but wasn't sure where the turnaround was so it was hard to judge what kind of time to expect. The turnaround finally came, I guess anyway. There wasn't any cone or anyone standing there that I could see, just a barrel filled with water bottles if you wanted something to drink and it looked like people were turning back then. I had my own so just turned and headed back. I had noticed that returning runners didn't start passing us until after 9 minutes, so even the winning times would be slow. My time at the turnaround was also slower than I had hoped, over 18 minutes.

The return seemed longer and harder and hotter. I just kept plugging along, passing people occasionally, mainly those who were walking. And as usually happens in these smaller races, a cheater. A guy I had passed way back at the start (I remembered his shirt) was now somehow ahead of me?? Not likely. Well I didn't care that much. It was his conscience. But it did make me wonder how many others were doing the same thing.

One woman I came upon walking would walk a bit and then sprint ahead and end up walking again. I just plugged along, wanting to walk too but not letting myself stop. I really had to go to the bathroom badly and knew that walking would only prolong the opportunity to go sooner. I could not see the finish line but started counting down the minutes on my watch: Only 8 more minutes; only 5 more minutes; only 4...I couldn't wait to get done! And then I could finally see the finish line up ahead and made a tactical error and ran up the sand away from the flat beach sand and then it was a struggle the last 200 yards or so, just like running through quicksand or in slow motion. People I had passed earlier were smart and stayed at the beach level until right at the finish and were able to sprint ahead of me. Oh well, too late to change course now, so I just waded through the sand and finally I heard my chip beep. I was SO glad to be done with that! I heard my name called, but there was no one there who knew me so it didn't really matter. They scanned my chip and then removed it from the pouch and then I was finally able to get to the bathroom, only to have to stand around and wait for people to finish changing clothes or whatever. Hurry up people!

Then I headed to my car to take off my shoes and socks, which were full of sand and did get wet once when I miscalculated on a wave. Some guy parked near me asked if I knew how many people were still running. I looked at him like are you kidding me? Instead, I just said, I wasn't counting. Jeez, some people!

I made my way back to the beach, waded out to cool off, then went to get something to eat and drink. My stomach was growling! I remembered then that I had to pick up my race packet, which they gave out after the race. We got quite a bit of schwag for a 5k: a nice t-shirt of course; an OBX sunglasses case (I thought it was a cell phone holder but the kids convinced me it was for sunglasses based on the size!); an OBX keychain; an OBX sticker,magnet, and cup (and to think I had actually bought these as souveniers) and a frisbee type thing in a little pouch that unfolded (I do not know how else to explain this). In addition, they had a beach party going with a beer tent that seemed pretty popular even at 8:45 am. While I'm one who likes a post-race beer party, not that early in the morning and maybe if I wasn't driving home in a few hours!

A radio station that was there also were throwing out t-shirts and other goodies and I actually managed to catch one shirt. After that, I just waited around for the results. I wished I had something to sit on and totally forgot I had a beach chair in the car. It was getting very hot also, but I could see dark clouds off to the west and hoped we wouldn't be driving home in that later.

Eventually, they posted results, in finish order, and after a check of women in my age group, I could see there were more than 3 ahead of me so decided to leave. I still needed to shower and pack, since we would be leaving around noon.

The Drive From Hell, Chapter 10.

I had planned to leave for home on Monday, when I knew traffic would be lighter, but didn't realize Ed and Renee would be leaving Sunday and of all things that his aunt would want her condo back Sunday. I mean, what's with that?? LOL! So we planned to leave around noon. I was dripping with sweat packing the car, since packing the car is my job only, and the temperature was mid-80s. And as usual, we had more stuff going back than we came with, making for a tighter fit overall. Everyone would have more stuff around them for sure.

The plan was to follow Ed and Renee until they split for their route to NJ and we would continue northward to home. I should have gotten a clue of what the drive would be like as soon as we got in the long line of cars departing the Outer Banks, looking like an evacuation route or something. According to Ed, Saturday would have been much worse with traffic, but considering we were in it on Sunday, that was worse to me. I should have gotten a hotel right then and there, stayed on the beach for the day, and then left on Monday as planned, considering we spent THE ENTIRE DAY in traffic. And didn't even get home.

Before we even got out of NC, it started raining on and off, and was so windy it was unbelievable. And not even a hurricane or tropical storm. So this slowed the drive some. And since there is only one road in and out of the area, everyone coming or going had to take this route.

But the real "fun" started once we got to the Virginia Beach area. As soon as Ed and Renee turned off on their route, we immediately hit a traffic jam. Our lane did not move one inch for 20 minutes, yet the other lane never even slowed much. How does that happen?? I do not do traffic jams, if you remember this from any time before, so I immediately start trying to figure a way out of the mess. I could see an exit ahead but could not get over, so I just waited for someone to not be on the ball and when they didn't move ahead, I quickly cut over and made my way to the exit. Once we got off, I could actually see we were on a road parallel with the highway and I could see traffic was moving, so we continued on for about a mile and as luck would have it, another ramp to get back on, so we were able to bypass whatever was holding things up behind us (an accident we found out).

And then the fun continued because we probably didn't go even 2 miles when we again hit another backup! And we found out soon enough that no one was moving now. We would move ahead one car length and then sit and sit and sit. We eventually called the number they post for traffic info and got a recording that said there was a 7 mile backup and to "expect delays." Ya think?? Frustratingly, this took 45 minutes to get across a bridge (Chessapeake Bay?) and then the tunnel, where I still don't know how we managed to either not rear end someone or get rear ended. As soon as people got in that tunnel and could see traffic was moving, they thought it was necessary to immediately drive 75 mph and change lanes as it suited them. It was crazy!

By now it was around 3:30 and I hadn't had anything to eat but orange slices and a banana all day, so we planned to stop somewhere to eat, but that plan went out the window when we spent the next 3 hours in another mess. 64 north is 2 lanes, and we crept along that forever it seemed. And then once you get off 64 north and go to 95 its like 8 lanes of traffic that have to narrow down to 3 so you can imagine what happened then. It was pretty obvious every person in the state of Virginia was coming home from somewhere. It took us 3 hours to go 100 miles. And the most irritating part? We didn't even need to go that way! We could have continued on 64 north until we got to 81, but I was using the directions we took to go south and meet up with Renee and Ed on the way to NC and didn't know we didn't need to go through DC to get home!

Eventually, I was getting so frustrated with this and we were all hungry so I had my daughter start looking at the map and trying to find a different way to go. I just couldn't face another 100 miles of this, and that's what it would be to get us through DC and onto the PA turnpike. We finally figured out a different route and got out of that mess and were on our way. Oddly enough, I realized the route we were now on was exactly where we stayed overnight the week before, so what should have been 4 hours to that spot had turned out to be 6.

I hadn't made a hotel reservation ahead of time for that night and it was just as well. At least we didn't have the added pressure of having to get to a predetermined destination that night because we never would have made it. I had hoped to get almost to Pittsburgh that day and here it was 7 pm and we weren't even out of Virgnia yet!

We finally stopped at Winchester, VA that night and got a hotel, with a pool for the kids, and right by the highway for the next day. I found out talking to Don that night that we could take 81 to 70 to the turnpike, and a check of the mileage was only going to be about 45 miles. That was a relief!

We didn't necessarily hurry to leave the next day, but were on the road by about 10 am, after breakfast and gassing up the car. Highway 81 was right there where we stayed, but Mapquest and Google both said to take another route first and bypass 81. So we decided to try that since I knew the rest of the day would be turnpike driving, and I wanted to avoid the semis as long as possible.

This other route, however, took us through the entire town with stop and go traffic, through the seedier parts of the town, out to the industrial area, and then the signs disappeared and we ended up back at 81 anyway. So there was a half hour wasted!

Once we got on 81, I didn't realize we would soon be in WV, then MD, and then PA, all within about an hour! And then? Another error. I missed the turnoff to 70 which would have taken us directly to the turnpike (why can't they put that on the sign??) and instead continued on 81, oblivious of what I was getting myself into. Something started nagging at me though and I decided to stop in Carlisle and check the map again. Looking at the map, I could see Carlisle was actually the opposite direction we needed to be going! But it also looked like one of the roads in Carlisle would lead us to the turnpike, so we decided to follow that instead of turning back. Our other option was to continue to Harrisburg, about 100 miles out of our way!

Soon we were on a wild goose chase, looking for the turnpike route and instead getting a close up and personal tour of central Pennsylvania. Lovely scenery to be sure, but roads that were taking us nowhere fast. First we were going north, then northeast, eventually I figured we were going too far east and went west only to end up having to decide where to go from there. Eventually I decided to go back to where we started in Carlisle and get back on 81 and just go the distance to Harrisburg, since we now had been driving around for over an hour. And oddly enough, once we got back on 81, the next exit up would have taken us to the turnpike exit! The map indicated we should have been able to get to this exit from Carlisle, but with 3 exits to choose from, I chose the wrong one of course! So more time wasted, and still about 100 miles farther east than we needed to be!

We finally got on the PA turnpike around 2:30 that afternoon and thankfully we had a smooth ride through there. Where we were and the end of the pike was about 3 more hours of driving, and then on the Ohio turnpike for another 2.5 hours, and then home another 2.5 hours. If you've been adding this up, that meant another 8 hours of driving, when our whole trip from the hotel that morning shouldn't have been more than 10!

If I thought the drive to NC on the PA turnpike was bad, I soon found out that riding through Virginia on a Sunday afternoon, likely the last weekend before school started, was to be one of the worst road trips that would burn itself in my memory forever!

Needless to say, we finally arrived home about 10:45 that night, and after unpacking my car with all of the kids' stuff and heading home, it was about midnight when I got there. It had been a very, very long day! Do you know how many times in all those hours we heard Kid Rock sing "All Summer Long"?? We lost track after about a dozen. I think that song is burned into my brain too. I had done most of the driving because I had more room in the driver's seat than anywhere else in the car. The couple of hours riding in the front passenger seat left me wondering whether I would need braces on my feet to straighten them out after being angled and wedged between bags and coolers we had crammed into the front seat! I could barely walk when I got out of the car!

So soon, it will be back to the old grind at work and training resumes again!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Sunrise at the beach pre-race
Surfs up today again
Getting set up
Race report to follow.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Sunset on the sound.

More vacation pics, in no particular order.

Beach houses, Cape Hattaras.

Sharks at the NC Aquarium.

Austin and the sea creatures, NC Aquarium.

Austin, hamming it up with the fake aligator at the NC Aquarium.

Steps looking down or maybe up? at the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, 514 in all.

A view from the top.
A view from the bottom.

Blue crabs in a blue bucket.

Wright Brothers museum.
Wright Brothers Monument.

More Cape Hatteras lighthouse.

I don't know what happened to my beach pics from today, but eventually they will show up? I don't understand how downloading everything into a file somehow becomes a selective process, but there you have it.
Continuation of the North Carolina/Outer Banks shore vacation.
Needless to say, it was lovely! Hot weather and all. I have found this to be some of the most beautiful Atlantic shoreline I have experienced so far--starting all the way from Point Pleasant, NJ, to Miama, FL. This has been my favorite.
There is quite a bit of history in the Outer Banks, something I get geeked out on, from the Wright Brothers' first flight to the moving of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse to the 2003 Hurricane Isobella.
Of course, we experienced quite a bit, to the point where I was exhausted by the end of the week! And I have to say, I LOVED the beaches we visited. All that emerald green water and the water itself in the 80s. Such a treat! We bobbed around on inner tubes for hours!
And of course the seafood! To die for. Crab legs; crab cakes; oysters; shrimp; mahi mahi. I love it all! We ate at Mulligans; Dirty Dicks; and Awful Arthurs.
We have been very fortunate to stay at a condo about 1.5 miles from the ocean, and probably less than 1/2 mile from the sound--for free! Can you say that's the kind of vacation I can love??
Sadly, tonight is our last night. I skipped going out to eat with the family to clean up the place; I want it as clean or cleaner than when we started. When you get to stay for free, it would be so easy for some to take advantage of that, but I want the place spic n' span when we leave so we don't give any bad impression. I appreciate it immensely that we have been given this opportunity.
Tomorrow morning, I am running a local 5k--on the beach--on the sand. I'll let you know how that goes!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Pictures, in no particular order:

Getting a personalized tour of the Field Research Facility in Duck, NC. This facility conducts coastal and estuarine research for the US Army Corps of Engineers. This pier is 1/3 mile long.

Corey, me, and Renee on the sound in Kill Devil Hills.

Renee and me on the beach first night. And no, I'm not drunk!

Corey and Renee on the beach, first night. Note: it is not dark yet, I just hadn't figured out where the flash on the camera was!

Corey and me.

Another view of the FRF pier.

A view from the FRF pier, part of the Duck, NC coastline.

Austin and me in the pool where we are staying in a condo in Kill Devil Hills, NC. The pool is more than 25 yards long, so I'm able to get decent swimming in there.

Beach condos, about 1 mile from where we are staying.

Austin, getting ready to swim.

Renee, deciding not to swim.

Austin, jogging along the beach.

We arrived here on Monday early afternoon, after driving 12 hours on Sunday and another 4 on Monday. The first thing we experienced was how hot it was! Hot isn't the word! It was 95 degrees with humidity in the upper 80% range. I was glad to be done driving, and after a quick swim, we had an early dinner and then headed to the beach before the sun set.

The next morning, Tuesday, I planned to swim in the pool early to avoid all the kids and others. The minute I walked out of the air conditioned condo and onto the deck, the heat and humidity hit me like a brick wall! It was just like walking into a sauna. At 6:30 am, it was already 85 degrees with 89% humidity. I was glad I wasn't running that day. The pool was refreshing for about 10 minutes, and then it was like swimming in tepid bathwater. The pool water temp was probably close to 90 degrees.

I had to quickly get dressed and eat breakfast after that because we were headed to the Field Research Facility for a public and later private tour of the facilities and information about the research they conduct there. I won't go into all the details, but it was very interesting, and getting a private tour of the pier was also special.

Then we did some quick souvenier shopping, ate lunch, and headed to the beach. The water was crystal clear and a light emerald green, due, I found out, to the warm water temperature (79 degrees) and little wave action. This was a big treat for us to swim in such warm water, when it is rare for our lakes or Lake Michigan to be anywhere near 79 degrees. We bobbed around in the water for a couple of hours, since getting out it was so horribly hot, 95 degrees.

That evening, we were invited for dinner at Ed's parents house, about 5 miles away on the sound. They live in a private community, and it is just a short walk to the water, where the one picture was taken.

This morning, Wednesday (already??), it was MUCH cooler when I got up and a north breeze was blowing, so I decided to head out for a run. While it was quite warm and somewhat humid, it was very do-able compared to yesterday, and I managed 45 minutes. My legs felt really good. After, I did another half mile swim in the bathwater pool, and then treated myself to half an hour of lounging in the pool chairs and dozing in the sun, enjoying the silence and solitude.

Now we are back to the beach and who knows what else today!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Coming into the finish--you can see the sand we run on.

Yes, I made it!
Karen and me after the race.
Our friend George coming out of the surf in the predawn. Waves don't look too bad here, but once the sun started coming up, the wind picked up and the water got choppier yet with whitecaps--"the seas were angry that day." Had they just been rolling waves, it would have been difficult but fun.

Somehow (all I'm saying is, it wasn't me!) the bike pics, transition pics, and beach pics got deleted, so this is all I have until the official photos become available.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Pre-race day: temps in the high 80s, water 77 degrees and calm. Race day: temps in the 70s with a northwest wind blowing probably 20 mph, water still in the 70s but with at least 3 foot waves. I started thinking immediately that we might not have a swim, and by 6:45, they called it. I'm familiar enough and experienced enough with Lake Michigan and know you can't mess with it on a day like that. Its not so much the waves--by ocean standards they are barely rollers--but the likelihood of rip currents is the more serious threat, and even an experienced swimmer would be at risk. I think the majority consensus was relief not to have to do battle with the water. The alternative? A short run. None of us were too thrilled with the idea of running more than 25k that day but the alternative was to pack up and go home.

I ran into Karen once back at transition and we decided then and there that this would be a training day only, and we immediately made plans to do another half in the near future. We had to have that under our belts for the year.

The Swim, er, 1st Run:

The first run was scheduled to start in waves again at 8 am, an hour after the swim was to have begun. Fortunately, the old slow people were in wave 2, so we got to start right away. The first part then was the first of a few hills we would encounter that day, back to the start, and on to the race finish line, which is a run through the dunes on the beach. Most of that had some sort of flat surface underneath, either bricks or a cement walk, but almost completely covered over from drifting sand, making it easier to run on than the parts that were just sand, making it a little tricky. From there we ran up the beach through the chute in place for the swim transition, again on sand but with carpet pieces laid down, making it easier to run. Here, I was constantly told, on your left, on your left. I was waiting for someone to push me out of the way. I mean, I'm not that wide! Sorry, but on my right is sand. If you want to get through YOU can run through the sand, just like in a trail run. I was a little annoyed. I only glanced at my watch and can't remember exactly what I did, but somewhere around 22-23 min. I was taking it completely easy.

T1: I thought I did pretty well here, not necessarily with time, but with keeping calm and organized. But that actually didn't happen. I TOTALLY forgot to take in my nutritional drink I had planned for transition. I had it in my hand, set it down, and that was the end of that. Not only that, I had failed to pack anything to eat on the bike! Fortunately, I had stuffed one gel packet in my tri top pocket for the run and still had that. I realized that as soon as I got out on the road, but it was too late then. Exiting transition and getting to the bike mount line was probably a quarter mile from my bike rack, so that was a brisk walk at best.

The Bike: I managed to exit transition with Karen, but once we were on our bikes, she was completely gone and out of site within 30 seconds. She is a strong biker! I am not worthy! The very first part of the bike is pretty much upgrade and north, directly into the wind. I was struggling almost immediately and decided to keep it an easy spin until I got settled in. People from the next waves were passing, passing, passing, just like on the run. Immediately, one woman dropped a water bottle in front of me. That was to be just the beginning of the hundreds of bottles I would see dropped along the course.

I'm not sure of the total number of athletes, but well over 2000. That meant the bike course was crowded the whole time. We were fortunate to have no traffic with us until the last 20 miles. They did a great job manning the intersections and managing the traffic. Unfortunately, there were 3 accidents, none of which I saw, but did see the ambulances.

I was a little frustrated with the course. I had been under the impression it was pretty flat with some rollers, and for the most part it was, but there were also a few surprsing steep downhills with sharp climbs following. Normally, this wouldn't be too bad, but with all the bikes, I was a little fearful going downhill that fast, so I found myself braking slightly, making the uphill climbs harder than they needed to be. And of course, no matter which way we went there was the wind. It wasn't a huge factor, but it did keep me from reaching my goal pace per mile sooner than I might have otherwise. I kept reminding myself to not worry and not push too hard since it would be a longer distance than I had done this year.

And I did get tired of hearing "on your left" about 1800 times. All I could think was, yeah, you and everyone else in the race each time I heard it. I stayed on the far right the whole time, trying to stay out of everyone's way as well as trying not to get in any crashes. Even though I passed very few people, I do know what a nuisance it is to have to pass with so many others coming alongside you. But I did get down for a while, thinking I had no business out there with all those fast people. In fact, I told myself ,if I didn't reach my goal pace by the end I would not do the run. I didn't want to be out there all day by myself. I did got a lot of encouragement from strangers, however, and one guy I made friends with in particular who was parked near us. He was very nice and very encouraging the 2 or 3 times I saw him throughout the day. I got a sense that people could see this was not totally easy for me, maybe thought I was struggling, and wanted to give encouragement. I was surprised by this generous spirit!

I also have to say the aid stations were well stocked and manned. I was fortunate they had things to eat, or I would have been in big trouble that day. I even successfully got handed 2 gels and skillfully managed to eat them while moving along, barely slowing. So a complete learning experience, and nothing I had practiced during training.

The last 20 miles was with traffic, and again, I got a little nervous about this, but also finally started seeing my pace come up, and I was completely surprised by this too! The last 10 miles was pretty much without a shoulder on the road, yet I found myself passing people, trying not to be freaked out by traffic right next to me. By 50 miles I found myself feeling the best in the whole race and COMPLETELY forgot about my vow to not do the 13.1 mile run. Bike pace: 15.1! A total milestone for me! No official time yet, but I think about 3:37 or 3:43--I can't remember.


No time on this either, but I was there a LONG time. I felt pretty good, wasn't disoriented at all. Took in my energy drink. Got shoes changed, etc. Then tried to get on my water bottle holder which would not cooperate at all. Had to mess with that FOREVER it seemed, but I could not go out without it. Finally got that situated and went to run only to have the damn bottle fall out! Grrr! Then I saw Don and he was very encouraging as I ran out. I waved and smiled. I was very happy!

2nd Run: I started out very easy and it felt pretty good. I probably started too fast but also went with the 6 min run, 2 min walk until 3 miles when my walk/run intervals were all over the place. I felt okay for the most part but couldn't run too long at a time without needing water or having my heart rate go too high. I just went mile by mile by mile. I drank every time I walked, and I would guess I drank almost a gallon of water on that run! And once again, kudos to the race volunteers and ice water at EVERY water stop. Nothing I hate more than warm water. This really made my day. Even though I carried my own water, at the rate I was drinking, it wouldn't have lasted to mile 4. At every water stop then I refilled my bottle with ice and water to be used between aid stations, which were frequent.

This was a new run course, due I think to construction. Part of it was 2 loops of the Whirlpool Headquarters campus and surrounding neighborhoods. So that meant two times up a pretty steep hill at mile 6 and again at mile 10. The first time around, I made it almost all the way to the top before walking; the second, to the 3rd cone. And while I stayed steadily moving forward, I definitely starting fading by mile 10, as were many others. In fact, a few of the young guys called out congrats to me as I trudged alomg while they were walking. That's where all that old fat comes in handy boys!

One thing that went through my mind over and over throughout the whole run, and even the whole day, was what a beautiful day it was! A cloudless blue sky, a breeze almost no matter what direction you faced, and a beautiful locale--a view of the emerald green waters of Lake Michigan against the backdrop of the deep blue sky. Consequently, I got nicely fried out there! I cannot go that long without getting a major sunburn. But still, I enjoyed myself. I got a particular high when I finally reached 12 miles (I swore I would kiss the ground when I saw that mile marker--I never thought it was possible!!) and I passed this young guy who actually started running at the same time I did! I'm sure his time was faster than mine, but it certainly gave me a good feeling to be able to maintain as some of these young studs were fading.

As I came close to the finish area, I was fighting my usual stomach cramp feeling I get in long runs. I am getting better and better at managing this, and today it only started surfacing in the last mile, so while I felt good about that, I also was not able to push myself like I would have wanted to get in under 7 hours. The last 1/4 mile was on mostly sand again, and I came running in with a smile and hearing Don say how good I was doing and Libby giving me congrats and then seeing Karen and really, really being happy to have survived the day! I felt good, I felt so happy to be done, and I knew I would do this again.

I signed up for this race 2 years ago, right after my bike accident, in a way to fight back, to prove to myself I could heal, and be strong again, and that the very serious injuries would NOT defeat me or get me down. It also gave me an incentive to continue training, to get strong again, to beat down that which could have defeated me and reduced me to less than what I am.

All last season, if some of you were following along, I trained, and trained, and trained. It seemed futile. I could not progress. I had no strength. All I had was that desire to overcome. And I had that race to do. Three weeks before the race, even while I felt I was not ready for something that monumental to me but easy for some, fate intervened and I suffered a serious sprained ankle. I was disappointed in one way but relieve in another. I now now there would have been no way I could have done any part of Steelhead last year without caving in. I was not ready. In fact, until 3 weeks ago I still did not think it was possible. Then, all of a sudden? Things started turning around. I felt I could finally say I was ready, that I could do this, that maybe I could even finish in 8 hours or--dare I think it?--under 8 hours??

So to do barely over 7 hours, even though not an official half IM but close enough? I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am, how thankful I am that I have all of you to cheer me on, and how encouraged I am now to continue to succeed. I found a strength in myself that I somehow knew was there but needed this to bring it out of me.

Shelley asks how do I feel? Consindering I had to get in the car and drive 10+ hours to Virginia the very next morning, sometimes listening to two squabbling kids not mine the next morning? Pretty good actually. Nothing much sore except a chaffed spot I will not mention. And will I do this again? Of course! I already have the training in, right? Now I just need to get an actual swim in with a bike and run and I'll be all set.

Pics to follow

Saturday, August 02, 2008

STEELHEAD 70.3, August 2, 2008

Just a quick report until later: 70.3 in 7:03. What a coincidence??

Swim cancelled due to high winds and high waves. My bike mph (on my computer): 15.1--total surprise.

We had to run 2.65, bike 54.5, run 13.1, so officially not a half Ironman, just the distance.