Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

'TIS THE SEASON...


...for challenges:


Holiday challenges: getting the shopping, wrapping, and baking done; trying not to consume too many goodies; dealing with crowded malls and online shopping pitfalls; not drinking copious amounts of wine to escape from all of this.


Seasonal challenges: bad weather; snowy and icy roads; cold temperatures that make your hands and nails crack; flu and colds at every function you attend it seems; no sunshine for days on end; grumpy moods (from a lack of sunshine no doubt); weeks and weeks of staying indoors too much.


Workout challenges: Combining all of the above and trying to get workouts in or trying to get quality workouts in, despite the challenges of the weather.


So today, that's what I did with my run. All week it has been extremely cold and this morning everything was coated in ice, a payback it seems for one brief sunny afternoon. I am trying to run outside as much as possible as long as possible, and have pretty much worn my Yak Trax every time since we've gotten snow a couple of weeks ago. Today, with the early morning temp actually hitting around 30 degrees, the dreadmill was not an option. I know there will be enough of those days, but also didn't realize it was as icy as it was.


I was forced to run mostly on the main street, where it is mostly clear, but traffic started picking up after a few blocks so I turned off onto a side street by a school, figuring it would be more cleared. It was, but there were still patches of ice, and I found myself going gingerly over these to avoid any falling. Once I was away from the school, however, you could see the glare ice on the streets and I actually felt like I was skating, even with the Yak Trax. With the extreme cold temperatures, road salt does not work.


For the next couple of blocks I was forced onto the sidewalk, which while treacherous enough, at least there was some old snow cover on most of it giving better footing. Then it was back into the street again for several blocks. So it seemed like an on-again off-again type of running but that got me thinking of just looking at this kind of running as interval running: pick up the pace when its clear, slow down when its not. I guess that was a good way to make the best of a not so good situation.
Hope you're all getting your workouts and your shopping, baking, wrapping or whatever done!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

WORDLESS WEATHER WEDNESDAY

Monday, December 07, 2009

MAINTAINING THE IMAGE
One thing I hadn't thought about in the whole scheme of doing an Ironman was what seems to be happening lately. Putting that 140.6 sticker on my car advertises the fact (to the knowing) that I have now done an iron distance race. It certainly makes it easier to spot my car in the work parking garage among all the other black SUVs. And having my accomplishments and picture put in the health club newsletter also brought attention to my recent achievement. And a recent e-mail from a fellow triathlete welcomed me to the "club." Meaning of course the local club that is Ironman.
So now I hear about it constantly (not that I mind that much). "When is your next event?" "What will you do next?" And last week, after a particularly stressful and trying work week, one of the guys said, "It can't be worse than a triathlon? Or the last 10 miles of a marathon, can it?" Want to bet?? I really think working sometimes is harder.
But having that sticker on my car makes me wonder if someone who sees me actually thinks I am the one who did that distance? I'm not sure I have "the look" of an Ironman. So it makes me walk a little taller, keeps me on my toes as far as workouts go, to maintain that image if nothing more. Its no big deal to my family. I'm still the same person. They don't see IM written on my forehead. The only effect it had on them were my frequent weekend absences over the past few months especially. The accomplishment is mine and mine alone.
And I can't help but think often that really only a small percentage of people, women particularly, do these things. Not that I think anyone who really wants to can't do one, or that I am somehow special because I have. I have proven the theory that if you really want to do something like this, you can. You don't have to be a certain age or weight or have a special ability. And I'm not saying anyone who doesn't want to really do this is less. It has to be a goal, and you have to have a burning desire to make the commitment to do what it takes to meet that goal. That is the hardest part of doing one of these races. And making the commitment is going to carry you through the hard parts of the training and the race. If the will and commitment is there, that's half the battle. Of course, there is also my other theory on this: sign up for something like this and it will scare you enough so you don't dare not do the training!
To me now, maintaining the Ironman "image" means setting an example that others can follow if they so desire.

Saturday, December 05, 2009



WINTER HAS ARRIVED

An aerial photo from the GVSU downtown campus, right along my downtown running route. Looks almost magical.


The usual horrible drive.


We got a record early snowfall yesterday--some areas up to 15 inches! Probably about 5 only by my house thankfully.

November had been one of the best weather months of the year, taking into account the time of the year. It was mild and actually sunny many days, while October had been unusually cold and rainy. So many bike rides in the freezing or rainy weather in October, and then November turns out to be perfect training weather, when I was in recovery mode. Naturally, just as I get back to training, we get this stuff!

This week has really been my first week back to training. I did a few swims last week but nothing serious until now. It seemed like a long time to basically be doing nothing, but it also took a couple of weeks to get over some extreme fatigue that hit. So this week is was 3 spin classes, 3 runs, 3 weight training sessions. Again, nothing serious, just trying to re-establish fitness.

It also has been extremely busy at work (which is where I am now and will be on Sunday), and with my home computer out of order for now, I haven't had much, if any, time while at work to blog or even get on Facebook! I feel shut out!

Starting to look at winter race options, and hoping to find a couple of indoor tris. And then there's the New Year's Eve run (4 miles), and I am slowly rebuilding my running miles so that I'm at 6 miles by the end of the year again. I'm not hurrying it because winter mileage is so unpredictable. I don't want to get any high expectations just yet of getting back to high mileage, because a good majority would end up being on a treadmill, which, while I can't totally avoid it, I would prefer to try to get outside more this winter.

So despite the icy, snowy, and fairly cold (24 degrees) conditions today, I managed to get out there for 4 miles. I used my Yak Trax (they were actually right where I put them at the end of last winter), bundled up in 2-3 layers (2 tights, 3 shirts, facemask, gloves, headband) but ended up taking the facemask off after about a mile. For some reason I can't breathe in that thing and it really didn't feel that bad out anyway until the last 5 minutes or so.

Its always interesting to note all the slackers who don't clear their sidewalks--ever. Yes, there's a "path" if that's what you want to call it on the sidewalk, but its mainly a narrow foot path beaten down by kids walking to and from school. I ran as much as possible in the street, and it never ceases to amaze me that while it is full daylight and I am wearing bright red, how people driving don't manage to see you! I am hugging the curb or parked cars, so its not like I'm out in the middle of the street, but they veer right in my direction like I'm not there. I honestly don't know how these people manage to keep a car on the road the way some of them drive.

And the Yak Trax worked well. Most of the snow on the streets had actually refrozen, so it would have been difficult to maneuver without them.

It continues to snow--huge, fluffy flakes falling. I don't know if this is a sign of what winter will be like, but I guess I'd better get used to it. After all, its almost like winter lasts until May around here anyway.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Here are my top 10 reasons why I want to do another Ironman distance triathlon:

  1. I'm crazy?
  2. I like to swim, bike, and run.
  3. I find my running goes better after a bike ride.
  4. I find I'm really starting to like the endurance events because there's no (not as much) pressure to go fast.
  5. I like having a structured training plan, even if it takes most of the year.
  6. I like connecting with other people doing the same race and maybe even giving you training buddies.
  7. I like the fact that I can do an Olympic distance triathlon without batting an eye and no taper and improve from past years' performance.
  8. I like the fact that I can ride 95 miles one day and run a 1/2 marathon (and then some) the next.
  9. I like the sense of accomplishment.
  10. I like the 3 week recovery program that follows.

All that being said, once I started thinking of the races I want to do next year and in the future, I realized I probably am hooked on these long distance events. I have seen it happen to almost everyone I know who has done an IM event. I'm not so sure I was ready to sign up the next day after (or even the day before) the event like some, but the plan has definitely taken shape in my mind.

Tracking IMAZ peeps yesterday made me ALMOST ready to sign up for that race for next year. The practical side of me took over and it was a good thing to sleep on it. While I really would like to do that race, I am not ready financially to commit to spending that kind of money so quickly, and I realize there are other races closer by that I can do if I choose.

My biggest thing holding me back, however, is now that I know what it takes to train for such an event, I want to improve on what I did last year, so first there are steps I want to take over the next 6 weeks to get me ready to start training in January again. While I was content with not pushing myself in the training (not much anyway) or having had to push myself in the race (not much anyway), I know there are things I can do to improve performance without making it out of reach for myself, so that's where my improvement goals come in.

In the meantime, I am enjoying the 3-4 week taper, which is giving me time to make decisions without being pressured, giving me a chance to sit back and relax for a while, and a chance to get some household things done that were put off most of the year because of training.

I hope to formulate a list soon of races I either intend to do next year or there is a high likelihood I will do them. There are just so many choices!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

LIFE AFTER IRONMAN. NOW WHAT?
While I am not a lost soul now that Ironman is over, its always a good time to reflect on what future goals, if any, I have for this sport. And how to handle the recovery process. I had come across an article about a month before the race, but somehow never got around to reading it until today when supplied to me by 21st Century Mom Pamela. It was a good reminder, and takes all the guesswork and guilt out of the recovery process. Here is a link if you care to read: http://www.active.com/triathlon/Articles/You-Finished-an-Ironman-Now-What.htm
So it helps me decide that not running right now is not going to ruin me, that nothing of any intensity probably is better. While my legs actually felt really good by Tuesday after the race, I found out the hard way trying to run on Saturday I wasn't ready. Then today, another planned run day, I forgot my shoes. So I feel some force is keeping me from rushing the recovery too soon.
But what about my future goals? Future Ironman races? Of this I am certain: I would like to do another Iron distance race. I don't think it will be in 2010, but I will definitely do half Ironman races, maybe two, and try to improve on my biking skills before another attempt. Or maybe I just need to get serious sooner in the year?
In deciding on another race, I have to be realistic also in what the course is like and the location. I will be the first to admit that without the "ease" of the B2B course, I might not have finished in time. I also would like it within closer driving distance or being able to afford to fly. I could have kicked myself on the ride back wondering what I was thinking being cooped up in a car for nearly 20 hours, counting dead deer carcases and waffle houses to keep alert, as well as risking my life with crazy drivers and semis when I could have flown home the next day. It probably didn't save all that much when you have to factor in gas and hotels while on the road. So definitely something closer to home would be more desirable.
I have come across a new group of races, a full Iron and a half Iron distance, at the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, next September. Now if by some good fortune my training starting at the first of the year seems better than last year, and I decide to spend the money on another full so soon, this might be my first choice. If I don't do the full, just the half, then I might consider doing Vineman in California the next year. Its another smaller race, which I am totally comfortable with. So many choices; so little time!
In the meantime, I'm going to kick back for a couple of more weeks and relax and try to recover from all that has been going on in my life all year so I can start fresh for next year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

THEY SAID WE HAD 17 HOURS


You could say yikes! 16:55:01--you barely made it. But I prefer to say I did exactly as I planned and enjoyed every minute of the time allowed. And I did.

I never said I would finish much under 17 hours. In fact, my secret goal time was 16:49--based on my training times and my races this year. Also in fact, I have my own theory of Ironman finishing times and I'm usually pretty close. My dream goal was 16:30.

From the start of 2009, I trained with a basic thought of completing this race. It wasn't the foremost race on my mind, because I had decided to go from race to race, phase to phase, before I decided if I would really do this or even be able to do this.

While I had a solid training base through the Muncie half Ironman in July, until then, there was only the goal to hopefully be able to do this race. It was "out there" but nothing definitive. While I wanted to do this race, I wasn't sure I actually could.

After July, I thought "why waste the training??" and the training continued. And I really had no doubt that I could. The only problem with my plan was that everyone I knew who was training for an Iron distance race was either tapering or winding down their training, while I was trying to build on my training. So I never had anyone to seriously train with. And I feel extremely bad about "forcing" Don to train with me the last couple of months. when he clearly was unable to do so a lot of the time, and thus restricting some of my last few weeks of training.

So I trained alone. Week after week after week. I slugged it out with the bad weather, the low temps, the rain, but still worried that I could not cut it. Not in the time allowed at least. I have the endurance. I have the determination. I just don't have the speed. If the race could be finished"whenever" I would do this every year, no problem! But to actually pull it off in 17 hours?? Not really sure that could happen. I love training. I will do it all year round. I am just not that great at races.

But race day came and I had to get out there and do what I signed up to do.

I am going to fast forward, since I already posted a race report. Here are my plus and minuses for the race.

The biggest plus was it was a great destination race. Any trip that includes the ocean and the beach is tops for me, and added to that was the fantastic weather. The mornings were cool, but the days were perfect weather, just like race day, perfect weather. I loved Wrightsville Beach and North Carolina in general.

The plus for the swim was it was very fast for me: 1:14. They say that was due to the current, but I hardly felt the current until trying to get out of the water. Maybe it was the buoyancy of the salt water but I was more than pleased with my swim. I love swimming in open water and I really loved this swim. I started wondering if I would ever get out after the 4 wrong turns, but I really enjoyed it. It wasn't that crowded, which was another plus for me. I was terrified of all those people in the swim, but it wasn't even a factor. The only minus was the rubbing of my arms on my wetsuit, something I never noticed before, although it has happened in the past and I didn't realize where the chafing came from--I just didn't realize it was the wetsuit that caused it until now. And of course here the salt water made it apparent right from the start. I still have quite a big patch of rash to clear up.

The plus for the bike was it was such a beautiful day I didn't mind being out there all day, and that's exactly what it was, out there all day. The course also was fairly good. There were places I could have done without, especially at the end, but for the most part I marveled at the low volume of traffic for such long stretches. The minus here was the wind--a headwind at the end, a cross wind for the middle part. It slowed me down more than the overall distance would have, even though I had no high expectations of finishing much before I did. My predicted time was 7:50. My actual was around 8:10 (looking at results, I see they added my swim transition into the bike, making it look worse than it was). I would have been surprised at anything under 7:45. Another minus was the long stretch (38 miles) on Hwy. 421. Once I turned onto that, I only saw one person the entire time other than the few stragglers at the aid stations and Don. And I didn't like all the traffic at the end either.

The plus for the run was it was not as cold as I expected it to be. The minus of course was the almost immediate darkness and the kind of crazy course. Not a minus because it was dark. I actually prefer running in the dark. It was just that not knowing the course made me a little more tentative with my footing than I might have been otherwise, and found myself walking through areas where the road was bad or I couldn't see very well. After tripping and stumbling several times, I didn't want to take a chance and fall and not be able to get going again.
Another minus was some areas that I'm sure were great to run through were so dark you could barely see them, so it seemed almost a waste for me. But then I realize probably 99% of the participants got to the first run turnaround while it was still light, and a good majority finished before darkness as well.
A big plus was having Don out there on the course since I can actually say he helped me finish on time and gave me encouragement when I wasn't feeling so encouraged.
Another plus was all in all I did not feel that bad the whole time. Yes it was a long day and yes there were times when I wasn't sure of the outcome, but physically I probably could have gone on longer if I had to (not that I wanted to!). The biggest reason for this, for me, was the weather. It was perfect. Never too cold, never hot at all. Comfortable most of the time. Yes I had to do some planning for this that I hadn't thought of a lot before arriving in Wilmington, but being there a few days ahead gave me the chance to observe the weather at various times of the day so I knew what to expect. I also have a temperature guage on my bike computer so I always knew what the temperature was the whole time I was on the bike and it was helpful knowing what it was when I got done, so I could prepare for the run. I know had it been a hot day I would have faded and it would have been much more difficult.
The biggest plus of all was finishing of course and knowing that Karen also finished. So many times I thought of stopping and waiting for her, but I was afraid if I stopped for any length of time I might not get going again. And you never know how others are dealing with things so don't want to interfere. I know from my own perspective I didn't particularly want to do much talking, even when Don showed up, and don't always want to follow someone else's plan, but you also never know what will help.
One minus was the finish line. Being one of the last finishers, there were very few people there and it was nothing like other Ironman finish lines. I don't remember anything I might have said or did finishing. I did hear my name. I don't know if they said anything else. They also didn't really have any warm food left except soup, something I could have had all night if I wanted. I probably would have eaten something if they had it, but it wasn't that big of a deal either. We sort of had our own private party however since Karen had family and friends there and Don was there of course, and the finish line volunteers, who I appreciate very much. But when I watch other IM finishes, I realize we were lacking.
So that leads me to think of a next time.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

BEACH TO BATTLESHIP IRON DISTANCE TRIATHLON

November 7, 2009


It Was a Long Day; It Was a Hard Race


So much to tell. First, and maybe foremost: finish time: 16:55:01. Its not how fast you get there, its just getting there. Its a story about endurance, determination, survival, and finally panic to finish in time.

The days leading up to the race, as I'm sure is typical for anyone doing an endurance event for the first time, was spent studying the weather reports, familiaring myself with the race course, and planning over and over what to wear. In an Iron event, there are 3 parts to planning, including nutrition and hydration for the long day ahead. For me, it came down to 3 am race day before I actually figured out what I would wear.

I had swam a couple of times prior to the race, and the race day weather report wasn't good: low 30s in the morning and a frost and freeze advisory. But the night before the race, I actually figured out that Wrightsville Beach, where the swim would take place, would actually be warmer than Wilmington, since it was inland and wasn't affected as much by the warmer ocean breezes. But the daytime temperatures for Wilmington and surrounding areas only was calling for a high of 68. That meant, for me, that most of my bike ride would be in cooler temperatures. As it turned out, the whole day was absolutely perfect other than a cool start to the day.

The Swim:

This would be an ocean swim in the Intercoastal Waterway, so we wouldn't have the surf but could benefit from the current. Transition opened at 5 am and we were there at about 5:15 to avoid the last minute rush that would likely make me forget something important for me, and to take a trolley over to the beach about 2 miles away. While we did not benefit from the strong current they had last year (because of the time change), we also were spared the 20 mph winds out of the north we had the 2 days before the race. A fairly calm morning, water 67 degrees, air a little chilly, so not that bad. Not as bad as I feared.

I was warned before the swim to "swim to the right side for the current but veer left when you see the "squiggly man." So maybe I misunderstood, or maybe I didn't follow directions, but somehow ended up to the left--way left in fact, to the point where one time I was outside of the left side buoys. This had to be the most confusing swim course I've ever encountered, since the buoys were placed far apart and staggered from left to right, so I was never sure where I was supposed to go. Especially with my limited sight vision. And I kept looking for the squiggly man, only to remember after 3 more missed turns that the squiggly man was at the finish, not at one of the turns like I was anticipating. So, due to these mistakes, I found myself off course 4 different times, likely resulting in about 5 minutes added to my time. One thing with the salt water and the little bit of current we did have, trying to get back on course took very little effort. One thing I noticed, that I wasn't aware of before but now I know, is that my arms with a sleeveless wetsuit rub on my wetsuit on every downstroke, and with the salt water I was aware of this early on since it results in a rash that stung like crazy! That's actually my worst chafing right now!

Once I saw the finish line dock, I pushed hard to get out of the water. We had to climb up a ladder and it was amazing that I had to make 3 attempts to grab the ladder. Everytime I reached for it, I was pushed back by the current, the same current I barely felt during the swim. When I attempted to get out of the water, I was so dizzy I couldn't believe it. I thought at first the dock was swaying, but it was only me. I took a quick glance at my watch and was stunned: 1:13. What?? Did I shut my watch off by mistake? But no, it was my swim time. Yes! was all I could think of. Actual swim time was 1:14 by the time I crossed the mats. I was very excited since it meant I had an extra half hour to "play" around with for the bike. As it turned out, I pretty much ate that time up on transition. We had a 400 yard run to the transition tents and of course there I ran into a couple of women I knew (Dread Pirate Rackham and Shirly Perly) and we were all chatting about what we were wearing on the bike. I changed from running shorts I used for the swim to biking shorts, lubing up appropriately, but left on my tri top and blotted as much water off it that I could. I had decided to wear that and my jacket and if necessary could take the sleeves off my jacket if I got too warm, but that never happened. I also wore socks and compression sleeves on my legs, so everything needed to be dried to accomplish getting dressed properly. Also a headband for my ears, but decided against the knit gloves and went with the bike gloves alone. It just didn't feel that cold to me. Then it was time to head out to the bikes, but first had to make a pit stop. Both porta johns were busy, and busy, and busy, for more than 5 minutes. If I hadn't had to go so badly I would have left, but I knew I wouldn't be able to last on the bike that long. One note on the swim to bike transitions, nearly everyone had longer transitions here because of the need to change from wet to dry clothes because of the temperature and then redressing for cooler weather. I know there were women who finished the race before me and actually had a longer transition here.

The Bike: I am not a strong biker, and I will be the first to admit it, but I started off really well and felt good. Wasn't cold, wasn't panicked, nothing remarkable. Just riding along comfortably and well under the cutoff limits. The course routed us around Wrightsville Beach area, then to Wilmington, and north to other areas. We rode one part of the race on an expressway with one lane closed only for bikes. I always wanted to do this. The road was smooth and fairly flat to downhill and no wind. That all changed around 30 miles, at the first aid station. Then we headed west into the wind, a cross wind actually, from the south and the west. I noticed my speed dropped some but it wasn't a huge drop. I was still maintaining more than what I had calculated to be the minimum speed I needed to maintain and finish on time, but of course I realized I had a cushion for the fast swim. I was pretty much holding my own except the wind was kicking my butt, to the point where eventually I was struggling with the pace but continued on. Oh, and the course description called the course "pancake flat." Ha! Not at all. After special needs, at 65 miles instead of 56, there were a few steep hills. And as luck would have it, just as I approached the hill, a gust of wind would come out of nowhere and beat me down every time. Wind and hills, my nemeses.

By the time we made the final turn back to Wilmington, 38 miles out, we were going south and once again into a head wind. I don't know how strong the wind was but it was constant, and I struggled to maintain a decent pace, a pace only fast enough to guarantee a finsih before the cutoff. And this section was not flat either by any means, more like a false flat, since it was a steady upgrade. Basically, not being a strong biker, it kicked my butt. And the worst part was a constant almost blinding headache through the back of my skull and into my neck. It might have had something to do with the wind because I had noticed it when we were going west also, but then it completely went away until now. I figured I would only get by on the bike portion anyway, but I was starting to worry. I hadn't seen any other bikers on the course for hours, until I finally passed a young guy around 80 miles. I figured he would repass me any time, but he actually was coming in on the bike when I was going out to run. I did see Don out there, and he was encouraging. He rode ahead and waited 3 different times before heading to the finish.

When I reached 100 miles, it was getting hard, really hard. I was struggling to maintain even a 12 mph pace at times and was starting to do the math for finishing and knew what I needed to do. I was also getting quite annoyed with all the traffic on the course, because while they closed one lane on the expresway, on the 4 lane divided highway they had nothing to indicate a race going on, and with me out there by myself, I had cars whizzing by me in both lanes at 55+ mph. The hardest part on the bike was the last 3 miles. OMG, it was through a busy section of town, onto the bridges going into Wilmington and elsewhere, and there was so much traffic and one lane dedicated to bikers, but there were cars who did not observe this. Not only that, those bridges were steep climbs, and I found myself going 5 mph on the last one, almost beside myself to get done.

Surprisingly, I was nowhere near last, even though I went over 8 hours. I was surprised also that no one ever passed me.

The Run. Finally, I was in transition. I was relieved. I just had no huge desire to push myself to get ready to run. Somehow I forgot that this was a race and once again blew away a ton of time.

This time I also had to change everything to make sure I would be warm enough on the run the whole time. I had decided no special needs was necessary as long as I got everything I needed in transition. I put on a long sleeved shirt and my jacket, gloves, and a headband and was glad I did later.

The run was hard, that's all I can say. The first mile included a huge climb on a bridge overpass, so I pretty much walked the first 3/4 mile, ran to the first aid station, and then established a run/walk pattern I was able to keep up for most of the first loop: 4 min. run, 2 walk. That's the best I could do. It also got dark by my second mile, so I had to watch my footing in many places. I tripped over a reflctor on the draw bridge and decided then I would only walk over that slippery thing. Then after 2 miles we were directed to the downtown area, which the city so conveniently decided to do road construction on Thursday and ripped up the road in that area. So not only did we have to weave ourselves through the construction cones, we had to watch our footing for the torn up areas. And we also had 3 steep hills or downhills and a half mile stretch over a brick street through old downtown Wilmington, and out to a lake development and through a park. It was so dark I couldn't see much, so have no idea how it looks. The area was lighted either with street lamps or spot lights, so it was either too bright and blinding or too dim so you didn't know where you were going. I'm sure this was a lovely part of the course in the daylight, but in the pitch dark, nothing impressive. I was more worried about turning an ankle or running off the path, which I did more than once. At the turnaround, they didn't even have a chip mat, so anyone could have turned beforehand and no one would have known otherwise. So I wasn't too crazy about the run course.

On the second loop, once I hit the bridges, I just wanted to walk. So I did. I walked and walked and walked, trying to calculate if I could still finish on time walking the whole way. I had my doubts but couldn't look at my watch anymore. I was truly at a low point, and thankfully, Don showed up right around the 3 mile mark to cheer me on again. That's just what I needed to get me running again. At this point I was counting cones. When I ran out of cones, I started counting steps and then counting street lights. At the first aid station in the park, the volunteers were a little too enthused and one of them, doing jumping jacks, smashed me in the face. I really didn't want to deal with being injured so just moved away as quickly as possible. [Note: Swollen eye on the eyebrow, but no serious injury.] I was mainly stunned and jarred.

Once you enter the park, you have about 1.75 miles before the turnaround. I was starting to feel the urge of needing a bathroom really bad so waited to get to the turnaround to see who was close before I decided to hit the bushes. It was so hard to go after all the other exertion that day, I'm sure I sounded like I was having a baby. And then the true seriousness of my chafing was very apparent. I was almost screaming with pain. So once again, decided to walk. I was findng myself mentally spent. I wanted to finish and then I didn't care. And then I got the better of myself and knew I cared, so started running again. It was painful, it wasn't pleasant, it definitely wasn't fast, but it had to get done.

At 3 miles to go, I ran into Don again and he said I had 47 minutes to finish. I was encouraged. Like I said, I hadn't looked at my watch the whole second half, so I was encouraged to know I still had a chance. I had already told myself that I hadn't busted my butt the whole day to not finish this race, and decided I would cross that finish line no matter what.

The biggest problem with the last 3 miles was it was the hardest. Up hills, the two uphill bridges, darkness, and at this point no spectators. When I got to the 24 mile mark, I pushed myself over the bridge to the drawbridge, then walked across that, ran down a steep downhill and on to the 25 milemark. I asked for my usual: coke and water and was given Heed, but at that point it didn't matter. I just said "hurry up, I'm running out ot time!" At 25 miles, you hit a steep uphill on the bridge in the pitch dark. I allowed myself a brief walk for one cone and then decided to not stop until the end. At 26 miles, I glanced at my watch: 16:51. Yikes! I have to make this. I had pushed myself the last 3 miles, I could keep on for 2/10 of a mile. All this time, I could hear behind me the closest next finisher, Waddler, and I was praying that she too would finish. I picked up the pace. It was surprising how I was such fleet of feet these last two miles especially. I don't think I have pushed myself this hard for at least 15 years.

I was so glad to see that finish line and the clock: 16:55:01. No hoopla, I was the second to last official finisher, Waddler the last one. But again, its not how long it takes, its the climb. Pretty much everyone had gone execpt those waiting for us.

Post Race: I was stiff, not cold, not hungry, but seriously chafed. I knew it would be excrutiatingly painful to deal with that, and I was right. It took me a good hour to get a shower , soak in warm water, and get things "bandaged" up. Diaper rash cream works like a charm!

Thursday, November 05, 2009











































































BEACH 2 BATTLESHIP, DAY 2



Woke up early today, around 5 am, too many thoughts going through my head: what am I going to wear to the swim start? (predicted temps in upper 30s, low 40s); what to wear on the bike to start? (predicted temps in the mid-upper 40s); what then to wear on the run when it is likely to be pleasant temperatures when I start, however, dark, and eventually go to chilly to cold temps? I didn't feel like I had enough clothes to cover all the possibilities, so fretted about that. Finally, I got up around 6:30 with a splitting headache.



I had forgotten to clear off my memory card for my camera at Walmart the night before, and also discovered I had forgotten to bring a towel for after the swim and didn't want to take a hotel towel so headed out there early today to do both errands. When I got back to the hotel, it was still only around 9:30 am and Don was still sleeping, the lazy bum! I made breakfast (we have an efficiency suite) and then decided to head down to the beach to hopefully find the transition and so I could ride my bike another time. Like many others, I was dealing with nervous energy. Not necessary nervous energy, just nothing else planned to do. I did wash the car, however.



We went to the beach where the swim is to start. While I went for a short ride (3.5 miles), Don wandered the beach. When I got done, I didn't see him anywhere and was about to walk down to the ocean beach when I ran into the Outlaw crew from New Mexico. Weird chance encounter. Ran into Debi Wess (SW Tri Girl), her husband, and a few others from the group.












After I finally found Don, we walked around the beach neighborhood, admiring the flowers still in bloom, the butterflies, and the cool beach houses. The sun was shining bright and was so wonderfully warm!









Later in the afternoon, we headed over to the packet pickup, expo, and athlete dinner.


The schwag we got was a nice race bag, a nice climate control shirt, and a few other handouts. I also picked up another Sugoi vest and bike shirt at half price along with some Hammer Gel (apple cinnamon, my favorite). I met up with some of the Outlaw group again.





After that, I met up with Waddler (Karen) and TriSharkie (Rhonda) to head to the athlete dinner, along with Brian, Karen's husband.


By regular IM dinner standards it was a little lame; the volunteer dinner the night before was way better than this! But we had a good time and I sat with Shirly Perly, Waddler, Tri-Sharkie, and their spouses. After, we had more photo sessions before heading back to the hotel to get organized for tomorrow morning's early swim. We figured we would swim the same time almost as when the race starts to get a feel for about how cold its likely to be.




So now its time for one of the last 2 sleeps.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

GREETINGS FROM NORTH CAROLINA

We finally arrived at 10:30 Tuesday evening, after a LONG day of driving. Why is it these road trips of mine always turn out taking longer than they are supposed to?? Instead of about 9 hours of driving that day, it took more like 14. A nearly 100 mile detour didn't help matters.

But we arrived, and today, Wednesday, was a glorious day. High of 73, sunny, but with a cool north wind.

Ever since my vacation at Outer Banks last summer (2008), I looked forward to a reason when I could return to the area, and I guess I found a good one.

We went to Wrightsville Beach so I could hopefully get in a swim. The public beach is about 7 miles from the public beach. It reminded me a lot of Outer Banks beaches with one main road leading to the public beach, and small narrow streets behind that lined by houses on both sides--one side the beach side, the other the road side.

We found plenty of parking, since it is obviously the off season. Yet there were fishermen here and there fishing and at least one other athlete who had completed a swim and was fixing himself a little lunch on a camp stove. We also talked to one of the water volunteers for the race Saturday who made some observations about the tide, the wind direction, and the water temp.

One side of the beach was on the Atlantic side and the other was on the channel side. There was a huge difference, just in waves alone. There were a few surfers out today since with the north wind the waves were several feet. The channel side was fairly calm.

I finally got my wetsuit on and stepped into the water, which was frigid. It reminded me a lot of Lake Michigan most any time but with one difference. The farther out I went, even though the water was seeping through the wetsuit some, it didn't have that completely icy feel Lake Michigan has. But it was still hard getting my bare arms in the water.

I finally made the plunge and put my face in and it wasn't that bad. My head had brain freeze right away but that eased up eventually. I only swam maybe 10 minutes and it wasn't as bad as I thought.

Tonight Don goes to the volunteer dinner and orientation and then we'll see what else we do. More later! Pictures tomorrow.


WORDLESS WEDNESDAY

Sunday, November 01, 2009

MAKING MY LIST AND CHECKING IT TWICE

No, not my Christmas list just yet. Just my list of things to pack/need/do/get, etc. to get ready for my trip to do Beach2Battleship, Nov. 7.

Hard to believe its finally here. Like many at this point, I have a lot of mixed emotions, but am trying to stay positive and work on my confidence building at the same time. One moment I'm nervously excited and looking forward to the race, the next I'm dreading it. I suppose its all normal.

In the meantime, my list keeps growing. I am starting to wonder if I will have enough room in the car for everything I think I need, may need, want to bring, etc.

I wish I wasn't working tomorrow, to give me a better chance to fine tune the list and the packing project, but I miscalculated on that and am now stuck going into the office to work on some last minute projects that hopefully I will have some control over.

Last weekend was the end of all the major workouts, and good thing, with all the other stuff I have had to do this week, and just catching up on sleep. I've reached the point where workouts are hard, so I definitely needed to be done and get some rest.

Yesterday was a neighborhood Halloween 5k that I did. I'm glad I did it, even though it wasn't on the agenda. It was my usual short course from home only backwards, so I knew every step of the way how far I was and how far I had left to go, but it was basically just a fun run. I was 10th out of 27 in my "age" group, even though it was 10 year age groups and I was the oldest in the age group. But I couldn't help notice that I was pretty sluggish, totally unable to push it too much. Don said this is normal at this point. Just so it goes away by next weekend!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'M NO HERO
Those are words I did not want to hear someone say about me connected to this IM training. When I think of a hero, its someone who saves someone from some catastrophe, or who puts their life on the line for others. Make no mistake, Ironman training is not about that. Its a totally selfish pursuit of a goal or dream. Amazing maybe. Remarkable possibly. But hero? No.
The day is getting close, the training winding down, and still there seems to be so much to do. Not only do I have the usual checklist of gear to assemble, the car to get checked out, and confirmations to be made on the place to stay, but I also have a hectic week and then some of work, with last minute deadlines and staying late to finish up, as well as Halloween festivities with the grandkids and a bridal showeron Sunday before I leave, all cutting into my reserves of energy I am trying to restore. And that doesn't even take into account getting ready for my son's wedding the Saturday after my race. I have errands to run every night after work and some lunch hours as well. I will get back into town late on Tuesday and will need to be back at work on Wed. and Thurs. and take Friday off again for the wedding on Saturday. Time is slipping away from me and it is not helping keep me distracted.
People are asking me daily about the event, making me feel pressured now about my performance and not letting anyone down, making me worry about finishing, or at least finishing within the deadlines. I know I have spent the better part of this year training, but I also feel some mistakes were made along the way, and I am hoping they don't come back to haunt me on race day. And yet, there are things I still have not done and am not likely to get done in the next less than a week before I leave.
Two nights of insomnia haven't helped either, again tapping into my reserve energy stores.
So no, I don't feel like a hero. I feel rather somewhat unprepared and nervous about not living up to my own expectations. But, ready or not, here I come.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009


JUST ANOTHER TRAINING DAY
Grand Rapids Half Marathon, Oct. 18, 2009
Sunday was version 3 of the Grand Rapids Half Marathon. It wasn't a PR, but I didn't expect it to be and would have been greatly surprised if it had been. I did, however, do exactly as I planned to do. My long training day the day before (6.5 hours) made me wonder if I even would be able to move, let alone run 13.1 miles. In fact, I had considered NOT running it, just so I could focus more on training, but then better judgment got ahold of my mind and made me realize I still would have to do the run, so why not have it course supported? Besides, I did not want to lose the $90 entry fee. And my training program for the day of the race actually was for a 3 hour run, so I knew I would be running more than 13.1.
This year, the weather was again cold at the start, but warmed up nicely, compared to other years. I really think this might have been the best weather yet. Even though it was only 30 degrees at the start, at least there was no wind or snow like we've had in past years.
My plan was to run to the start of the race from my gym (3/4 mile away) as a warmup, so I waited until 30 minutes before the start to head over there. Then I ran into a group of ladies I work with who had trained all summer for this as their first half marathon, so I chatted with them. I was not nervous in the least. To me, it was another training day, that's all. I was more anxious to get started.
Before we even started, I realized I didn't really know the course, since they changed it this year, but eventually realized it was a course made up of routes I pretty much train on all year, so all of it was familiar. The only thing I did "wrong" was totally forget to do my run/walk thing in the first 2 miles that I find works best in training, because regardless of whether this was a race or not, it was only training for me. I felt so good at the beginning that I just got caught up in the moment, and it wasn't until after the 2nd mile that I caught myself from continuing on with that madness. No matter how good I felt at the start, I knew it was not likely to last, and I also wanted to more closely simulate training rather than a race.
By the time I got to 5 miles, the half marathon winners (male & female) were heading back. At first I thought they might be relay people, but relays were marathoners, and it was too soon for that. This year, the female first and second place winners were 3rd and 5th overall. Pretty impressive.
The only spot I felt slowed me from my predicted pace was at 7 miles, where, even though I knew the course, I felt like someone had thrown a hill in there. Once I got past that and on to 8 miles, I felt a lot better, even though from 7 through 9.5 we had some hills. Nothing serious, but a lot of people were walking here, as I went motoring on past.
One guy at the turnaround who was walking totally bypassed the turnaround and cut that off. No race person was there, so I'd like to think he didn't see it, but he did see me and another woman do it, so I'm pretty sure he just ignored it. He was walking at a fast enough clip that once I decided he was not going to get ahead of me, it took almost 3 blocks to shake him! He passed me again between 11 and 12 miles while I was struggling to get a Gu packet open, but again, I stalked him until I passed him and I never saw him again.
I can't say this was easy in the sense that I just floated through the miles, but it was considerably easier than I expected it to be, and while I was almost 3 minutes slower than last year, my pacing was right on to what I planned to do, and I was able to pick it up some at the end without my usual "I think I'm going to throw up" feeling. In fact, once I got to the finish line, I saw Don was there handing out mylar blankets with another guy we know, and I gave him a hug and said no thanks, I've got to keep moving.
The post race food/party consists of chili and beer, the usual bagels, bananas, oranges, yogurt, and apples, and this year Culvers frozen custard. I grabbed a banana and a chocolate custard and a spoon and headed back to the gym at a slow trot to get the rest of my miles in, for a total of 14.6. That was enough. My feet were killing me actually, so I was glad to stop.
Next on the training agenda was a 1.5 hour swim. I stretched for a while, ate my frozen custard, got some more water, and then headed to the pool. I wasn't that hungry. I felt a little slower than usual, because my legs were a little stiff, but what really got to me were cramps in my feet! I now know why they do not have you bike, run, and swim in that order in triathlons. I'm sure lots of people would cramp up. I have never had feet cramps this bad ever, to the point where my feet looked deformed and one felt like it was paralyzed. It took me 3 or 4 minutes to get that worked out. After that, I made sure I stopped after every quarter mile to drink water and stretch my feet, even though I had intended to swim straight through. It was either that or I would never get done!
All in all, it was a pretty successful training weekend. And I got some nice bling besides!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

WHEN IS IT REALLY ENOUGH?


The frost was on the pumpkin, literally, when we headed out on our bikes Sunday morning. It was supposed to be my last LOOONG bike ride before the big race, four weeks out.
I had been whining all last week about the predicted weekend weather, but then suddenly things started looking better with the rain forecast clearing before Sunday. The temperature, however, got considerably colder.
Friday morning I started out on my last longest run, 18 miles, around 5 am, with the intention to run 3.5-4 hours, which I did. When I started, it was about 52 degrees with a light mist. After about 45 minutes, it started really raining, and continued on for the next 3 hours of my run, as well as through the rest of the day. Because I was determined to get this done, it didn't bother me too much, until about the last hour. I had mapped out three 1.5 mile routes around my house so I could run out and back and get water at my house, which I placed in a cooler in the driveway, along with some gu. I really hate carrying water and can't carry enough anyway. The idea of running long runs and having to carry water or circle back to the car has pretty much kept me running only around 2.5-2.75 hours max, and I really felt I needed to go farther. My planned 20 mile training run 2 weeks before didn't totally happen because I had been sick the weekend before and still wasn't up to par enough to pull off the entire distance. Same with the week before last. It seemed if it wasn't the weather, it was that ear problem and head and nasal congestion I've been suffering with. It was difficult to breathe for about 2 weeks. Friday was my last ditch effort to put that plan into action. Also, as is my usual training MO, when I reach the desperation point in the training--meaning no more time to fool around--I get the job done.
For the most part, the run in the rain wasn't bad until I got to the last hour when I had to use the bathroom. Once I stepped into the house, I was totally aware how wet I was, and the only thing that would do was change all my clothes into dry stuff. It felt so much better, I couldn't believe the difference in my disposition, along with getting 10 extra pounds of wet clothes off. Everything was soaked through and dripping.
After that, I had to go to work. I was hoping for a fairly relaxed day--meaning no running up and down the steps all day, but that didn't happen. From the minute I got there, it was high speed until after 5 pm. I can't remember how many times I climbed the flight of steps from where I work to where the attorneys I work with are located, but I'm guessing at least 10 times. And then I was on my feet for probably a total of 2 more hours. By the time I left work, my legs pretty much felt like wood. But Saturday was only going to be a swim day so I could spend time doing family things, only, of course, to free up my day Sunday to spend biking.
Saturday night the thermometer dropped into the 20s, and by the time I got up Sunday morning, a hard frost had settled over the world, leaving tender plants frozen and done for the season. And we were going to bike in this stuff.
The challenge then was to dress warmly enough to not freeze to death, yet be able to maneuver gears and brakes on the bikes. I had driven around one area where we have biked on the bike path numerous times and found several "flat" roads I thought would make Don happier than the trail did, especially when he was giving his time and comfort to go out and freeze on a long bike ride with me.
I finally ended up wearing long underwear, tights, and bike shorts over that, as well as ankle guards (wrist guards I put on my ankles) to keep any exposed area warm, shoe booties, a turtleneck wickaway shirt, a long underwear shirt over that, and a bike shirt, along with my new bike jacket and 2 pair of fleece gloves. On my head I wore a bandana scarf and an ear band under my helmet. The one thing I hadn't counted on was how cold my face would be! I almost wished I had on a face mask. My fingers were so cold the first 5 miles they hurt, but after a while either they warmed up or numbness set in and I didn't notice as much. My legs were pretty warm, and my upper body felt okay. My new jacket has longer sleeves so no part of my wrist is exposed like in my other jackets and has a higher neck so no air got down the neck.
Don on the other hand only wore one pair of tights, one pair of gloves, and only a double layer on the upper body. If I'd known this, I would have advised him to dress warmer. By 15 miles he was suffering. I talked him into going farther, because there was no way I could cut it that short. Not that I wasn't uncomfortable, but as long as the sun was out, it was tolerable. Except when we rode into the wind. And of course there was wind. No ride I've done has gone without wind this year. Or hills. We got all of it: wind, hills, and extreme cold. By 25 miles, he was really suffering, but he continued on for me, up and down the hills, turning into and out of the wind. And while I had done some scouting around the day before looking for fairly flat roads, its funny just how "flat" those flat roads aren't when you're on a bike. The worst part, unfortunately, was every good, fairly flat road always ended up at a dead end on a dirt road. Every single one. Somehow I missed that the day before too. It was getting frustrating! I really wanted to avoid getting on the bike trail, but after 3 hours of dead ends, hills, and wind, we finally headed back on the trail because Don just couldn't stand it any longer. We still had another 7 miles to go before we got to the car, so it was about 3:20 when we stopped.
The plan was for Don to sit and thaw out while I did some more mileage. The problem was, once I stopped, I realized just how miserably cold I was. My fingers would hardly function, the little bit of sweating I did from all the layers was causing me to shake uncontrollably from the cold seeping in, and I was almost unable to eat anything because my jaws were so locked up from the cold. I thought if I warmed up for a little while I could go on, but the longer I sat in the car, the harder I shook, and my fingertips were all numb to the point of tingling. After 15 minutes of this, I decided I was not going to be able to go on further.
I tried, I really tried. I was disappointed and angry at myself for getting this far into the training and still feeling I needed one more ride, only to put us at risk of hypothermia in doing so.
So the question now is: When is enough really enough? If after dozens of rides of 50-100 miles (only one 100 however, and four 75+ mile rides), dozens of rides with wind and hills, dozens of runs of 12-18 miles in duration, dozens of runs in the heat, cold, rain, and dark, along with swimming nearly 100 miles this year, with longest swim of 2.25 miles and two other 2 mile swims, if that isn't enough, or doing a half IM and 3 Olympic distance tris, along with 2 stand alone half marathons, with another this weekend, then I guess I haven't done my training. If someone can tell me without hesitation that race day will be in the 30s with high wind, that the course will be steep climbs for 80 or more miles, or that it will rain the entire way (and I realize none of this is guaranteed NOT to happen), if that's the case, then I guess I haven't done enough training. If on the other hand what I have done, along with my determination, will at least get me to the finish line in November, then I'm hoping its enough.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

(ANOTHER) WINDY WORDLESS WEDNESDAY

Just so you don't think this is my house, I have to break the silence of "Wordless Wednesday." 50 mph gusts last night. Lots of branches down around my house, leaves blowing and swirling all over, and not yet ready to fall from the trees.


It was a little less windy this morning, but it was a brisk, more than breezy run. We're definitely going to see some big changes in our weather this week and through the weekend, making IM training that much more challenging.


I am facing a dilemma for my last longest bike ride. The plan was to ride an organized ride scheduled for this weekend, but truthfully I am getting totally worn out by these windy, hilly, cold rides.


Last Sunday, Don and I started out with good intentions of doing 50+, but the farther we headed west, the darker the sky got, to the point where it was nothing but steel gray. And of course we got rained on, making things that much more fun, in addition to my bike computer always conking out from the slightest hint of moisture. (Reading reviews on line, I see now that this particular bike computer model is very sensitive to moisture, which is why it went out on my at Muncie, and continues to stop working every time the humidity is high or even a few drops of rain fall--and this is a replacement!)


Both of us were still feeling the effects of last week's windy hilly ride, and he was feeling particularly low in energy, having dropped back behind me of all things. You know if I'm ahead of you that you're in trouble.


So we took a little detour to get away from the hills for a while and to see this since we were in the area.






Apparently, the people moved out of the house the day before, disconnecting the gas appliances but failing to have the gas shut off. A Darwin Awards moment, for sure, with the house exploding. Fortunately no one was home and no one was home next door, which you can see the debris managed to blow over into their yard. The house was completely flattened.



Shortly after this, we hit a patch of showers and that pretty much finished Don off. He knows I won't ride out there by myself and didn't want to disappoint me, but he just could not continue on the hilly route we had set out on. This route is not easy on any part of it, so I really couldn't blame him for giving in for the day. I was feeling it too, especially after my long run and swim the day before. But I still had to get a ride in.



So, what to do, what to do? He suggested I go to the gym and do two hours on the spin bike. Much as I haven't been ready to move to inside workouts, I had to agree this was probably best for the day, not knowing how much more, if any, rain we were likely to get. Saturday had been an off again on again cold rain, and I wasn't looking forward to another day like that.



I was the only one at the gym when I got there. All the lights were off in fact. I quickly changed into dry inside clothes, set up the spin bike, popped in my favorite DVD ride (Ride Las Vegas) and started pedalling. I had planned to use one other DVD, but I like this one so much, once it was finished I started it up again. And then I did it again. I love the scenery, Valley of Fire State Park in Las Vegas, Nevada. Here's just a sample of the scenery.






This particular DVD also has great spinning music and NO TALKING! Something I can't stand when biking is chit chat or listening to a spin instructor yelling out instructions. So it just me, pedalling along, great scenery, and great music. It gave me a thrill watching the riders pedalling up steep climbs and then the fast downhills. I am totally envious of the smooth quality of those roads. I have put this place on my list of places to visit.
That gets me back to this weekend's dilemma. I have already decided not to do the group ride Saturday. Its supposed to once again be rainy, and this particular course is so hilly my mind just is not letting me consider doing this any more. I' m not so sure anymore that which does not kill me makes me stronger. Well, maybe stronger, just not faster. I have to come up with an alternative, however, and have considered two options:
1. Riding on the bike trail, doing two loops, total mileage of about 98-99 miles. This option, if it rains, still puts me out there all day in the wet and rain, and part of this course tends to be very windy also.
2. Doing an inside ride, at pace, for 6-7 hours. I know this is mind blowing to some people, but I have done 4 hours once and am willing to do it again if this will get me where I need to go.
Part of my discouragement on some of the longest rides is that with the wind and hills, I am not able to maintain a decent pace for the whole ride, the kind of pace I need to maintain in the race. I have done some speed rides to maintain pace, so I know I can do a certain pace, but I need to see this for a longer period of time. I need to see the numbers to give me the confidence that on race day I will also be able to do this.
I know conditions on race day are never guaranteed, but having studied the course, read the athlete forums from last year, and factoring in the potential head wind coming to the finish, I still don't anticipate it will be as bad as what I have ridden so far.
So, anyone still reading, what do you think? I have already been given a couple of different opinions, but am curious what others think?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WORDLESS WINDY WEDNESDAY


Sunday, September 27, 2009

APPLE CIDER CENTURY RIDE

This was my first century ride (100 miles). Finally! After struggling with this all summer, it finally happened. Just to keep this somewhat short, I'll first highlight the good parts about this race.

One good thing was the beauty of the course: through the orchards and vineyards of southwest Michigan, into Indiana. The race organization also was great: over 5000 riders and we got a breakfast and a lunch after the ride, as well as a lot of organizing of the 15, 37, 50, 62, 75, 80, and 100 mile rides. And minimal traffic.

The bad things? The difficulty of the course, the horrible roads, the horrendous hills, and the wind, which I realize can't be controlled, but all added together makes a first century ride one for the books. The only way to describe the difficulty of the course is to say that by 62 miles I was in the granny gear and never got out of it. My knees are still aching from those hills!

The first 26 miles were comfortably deceiving: rolling to flat, through the vineyards, where the fragrance of the Concord grapes was like riding through a tunnel of grape crush, or maybe Welch's grape juice. Mmm. But then? The honeymoon was over.

From 26 until 100 miles, the hills were unrelenting, the wind was a factor, whether riding north or west, and the roads were a lot to be desired. There were so many spots where the road was so rough, I actually lost my grip on my handlebars, and there was no way to use the aero bars, as much as I wanted to. My elbows and forearms were so sore from the tension from hanging on for dear life sometimes. If the traffic had been any worse, I would have cut this thing short, no doubt.

Part of the course was into northern Indiana, and by the last 8 miles I was STILL seeing Indiana signs. I was having fits: if we only have 8 miles to go, why are we still in Indiana???? If we don't get back into Michigan soon, I am going to have a breakdown.

But the downside of getting back into Michigan was the bad roads. BAD ROADS! At 80 miles they actually had us go on an UNPAVED road! How is it posssible with all these roads out here to take us through an unpaved one??? Its not like it was having road work. It just wasn't paved, probaby never would be. What is up with that?? I walked through there, about 1/4 mile. I was very disgusted with that. Up until then, I was willing to forgive them for the bad roads and the hard course, but this put me over the edge.

After the 80 mile sag stop, I was having extreme difficulty, both mentally and physically. The hills and wind were a major factor here, and I was seriously doubting myself to be able to do this, to be able to do an IM. I prayed, a lot, to please get me through these rough spots, to help me finish, to help me see some good in this whole thing. From 85 to 100, I pushed myself through the hills, which were far worse from 88 until 100 than the first 87 miles. But I got through it, thank God, and I feel okay, other than being tired.

Somehow, this HAS to get easier!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

OKTOBERFEST HALF MARATHON
September 19, 2009
While it is far from October, and while the weather here has been anything but Octoberish lately, this was the name of the race. I've never run it before. I may never do it again. Why do I continually find the hardest races in the area to do??
People told me it was hilly. Okay, I've been training on hills. Just to prepare for this and get stronger. I didn't believe them at first. The first 4 miles were gently rollling hills. However, that was the end of easy. From 4 until 11 miles, it was one hill after another, with miles 7-8 the absolute worst: 4 hills. I kept thinking I missed the mile marker for 8 but no, I just hadn't gotten there yet.
Backing up to the start of the race, it was really chilly and windy--probably about 45 degrees. And being near the lakeshore the wind was cutting right through you. The marathon started at 8 am; the half at 8:15. Good thing, because with all this long training, I pretty much take for granted running races, meaning to me its just another training day. Meaning I barely made it to the race before the start. I don't know what I was thinking, leaving the house at 7:10 for an 8:15 race that was 35 miles away, but hey, I made it. No big deal. And luckily I found a parking spot immediately and only about 1/2 mile from packet pickup.
The half marathon started on a bridge overpass, meaning uphill. I wasn't sure if it was a chip start so decided I would not start at the bottom of the hill and walked myself up more than half way to not have to deal with a long hill at the start. It was a chip start, but I was still glad to not start at the back of the pack--I knew I would be there soon enough.
Probably 95% of this race was run on a paved trail, a paved HILLY trail. Not only was it hilly, but the cantor of the trail really made my ankles and feet start hurting by the half way point, almost like someone had stomped on my insteps, so it was painful.
I had been somewhat sick all week, so didn't know what I would do with this race--go strictly for time or try to get a PR. As it turned out, with the cold day, the head congestion, and the almost constantly dripping nose, it seemed a better idea to go for time and practice my run/walk method I would hopefully do at later races.
I decided to go with what I've been doing lately on long runs: 8:2. I know I absolutely will not be able to do better than this at IM, so am practicing on every run longer than an hour. This worked for most of the race.
At around 5 miles, I spotted a woman ahead I was sure had been behind me at mile 1, but couldn't quite figure out how she could have possibly cut the course. But I was determined to pass her then, if she had somehow cut the course.
From 5-10 miles, we played cat and mouse. At 8 miles I came close enough behind her that I knew she probably was in my age group, making me that much more determined to pass her for good.
But the hills continued, and I was getting very frustrated with all the ups and downs. Would it never end??
Nine miles ended on a downhill; 10 miles started on an uphill. I passed the 3rd place woman around 10 miles. She was doing a 2 minute run and a 3 minute walk. I should pass her. I had no excuse.
Soon after, I saw Don on his bike. He had ridden out to the race start from GR. So now I had no alternative--no walking. He wouldn't allow it. I wasn't sure if I appreciated him being there or dreaded it. By 11 miles we turned into a park, but still on the paved path, and my stomach was hurting so much I had to wonder what I could do the rest of the race. I decided to keep running and slow down if necessary to just keep going and keep ahead of 3rd place woman (I had no idea at any point in the race where others were in my AG but I suspected she might be in mine). I had to walk a few more times but kept the time minimal to keep ahead of 3rd place woman. Her husband was biking along with her, helping her with water and gels, something that would not be allowed in a triathlon, so again, I was more determined to keep ahead of her.
At about 12 miles, the first place marathoner came flying by. I was surprised that it hadn't happened earlier, but like I said, this was a hilly course, and I am more than thankful not to have had to do this thing twice.
My stomach was really hurting, like someone had kicked me in the stomach, by now. It was hard to the touch, so I knew I was in distress. There were also a few more hills thrown in there, and while I tried to keep running, I had to stop occasionally to let the cramping ease up.
The last quarter mile, however, I pushed it as much as was possible, and finished in 2:42. Good enough for 2nd place in the AG. I was happy with that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I PAID FOR THIS??
Yesterday was another huge leap of faith for me, getting out on the roads to ride. I signed up for the Maple Leaf ride, an organized ride put on by our local cycling club. They do 3 or 4 of these a year, and since yesterday's distance included 3 loops totalling 86 miles, I thought it would be good for me to do this,
I went alone, which was my first mistake. I knew no one there and as a result didn't have anyone planned to ride with. The second mistake was assuming that since the weather was to be near 80 degrees that day, it would be safe to wear shorts and a short sleeved shirt to start out with, in addition to using arm warmers. The meet up place was about 35 miles northwest of where I live, so as I drove north I could see the temperature in my car dropping from 60 degrees down to 51. Yikes! I was even a little shivery in the car, and didn't feel particularly great, so decided to stop at the Meijer (sort of like Walmart) right on the way and ended up buying women's silk long underwear to put under my shirt and shorts. No bulk but just warmth.
That was actually the right decision, because the entire ride was totally rural, out in the orchards, farms, and wooded areas. I was never too warm the entire time. I signed up, got my 3 maps for the 3 loops, and headed out around 8:15. I didn't want to be out there all day so wanted to get an early start. I did leave just after another person in a bright yellow coat, but never was able to catch up with that person. I just followed that yellow coat for quite a while, like a beacon in the night.
The first couple miles of the first loop were fairly flat, but my third mistake was not knowing just how hilly this course would be. Those first few miles also were along the shoulder of a highway, so I was a little paranoid right from the start, riding alone. Once we turned off the highway, it was country roads with no shoulder and no posted speed limit. That meant pickup trucks and cars pulling campers and boats flying by at who knows how fast. I was getting freaked out. And to make matters worse, by the time I got about 5 miles into the ride, I realized I had forgot to bring my ID, making me worry if I got killed no one would be able to identify me for a while. Unless maybe of course my car was the last left in the lot. Dumb, dumb, dumb!
I was pretty much angry at myself and the ride organizers for picking this route, country roads with no shoulder and at least 55 mph speed limits. If they had done this on Sunday, there would be only 1/3 or less traffic, I was sure. Saturdays are busy days; people have things to do and everyone is always in a hurry. Add to that the fact that we have had the best weather this past week we have had all year, and people are still going to the lake, which explained the number of campers and boats. And I didn't totally know the area, so couldn't take any shortcuts that I knew would be any better. I was also afraid if I got off the route and got hit or killed, no one would know. So I stayed the course.
After about 13 miles, I had to cross another major highway,and by now it was getting extremely foggy, to the point where cars with lights on were just pinpoints. It took me 3-4 minutes to cross the highway, without the benefit of a traffic light. Scary. And we would have to cross it again later.
After a few more miles, a group finally came past me, and fortunately I was able to stay close enough to them to know where to go without worrying about markings on the road or feeling like I was out there totally alone.
I thought last week's ride was hilly, but this had it beat by 100%. The only flat stretches were the first couple of miles and the last couple of miles. The rest, all hills. Hills that required me to stand a few times to keep moving without toppling over. A month ago, I could not have been able to do this route, so I at least can see some progress.
The last 15 or so miles, I rode with another guy who pretty much watched out for me, always tucking behind me when cars came, We stopped for about 15 minutes to help someone with a flat tire, and during that time I decided I was not going to do the other 2 loops. I was starving, shakey, and my head was starting to hurt a lot. I figured that was from the stress and terror of that ride, but actually I was coming down with something. I only ended up doing 34 miles then.
So today, I'm nursing a sore throat, congested head, sore ears, and athlete tracking those at Ironman Wisconsin that I know. It seems like a horrible waste of such a beautiful day, but I also know that I need to nip this thing in the bud early so I have no lingering issues getting in the way of the rest of my weeks of training. I guess I do need a day off from time to time.

Friday, September 11, 2009

CLOSET RUNNERS

That's what I call runners who don't tell me (a runner for over 20 years) that they run. No, they just slink around and say nothing. Its a little irritating at times, since how long have I been looking for running partners, and right under my nose practically there are at least a half dozen women I work with who have started running within the past 2 years? I suddenly find out when Jan says she is mentoring a group to do a half marathon in October. I'm not jealous of this, don't get me wrong. And of course right now I do not have time in my schedule to follow theirs, so while they all make Wednesday evenings a girl's night for running, I continue running alone.

All the women are younger than I am, and of course are doing nothing else but running, so we are fairly evenly matched with pace, considering I always have biking or swimming to do as well. Today again I overheard a woman who is running with this group that she only started running 2 years ago. I've also found out that one of the women is pretty fast and runs 5ks regularly. Who knew??

Despite this, I am really happy that FINALLY we are getting some women runners here in the office again. When I first started running years ago, we had several. We even had a women's team that competed in road races (cross country scoring) and won several events. But one by one, they either left to work elsewhere, stay home and have babies, or completely stopped running. Its been a long lonely stretch by myself so once I am done with the IM training, I look forward to joining this group for some running!

And it has been a lot of fun watching their excitement as they make progress on their mileage goals. They are learning that the body will do what the mind lets it do.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE
You've heard the phrase "white knuckle flyer"? Well today, I was a white knuckle biker. Today was a big step for me, riding on the actual road, rather than a bike trail. This weekend, the Sunday before Labor Day, in 2006, I was hit by a car while on a training ride.
I pretty much realized when the actual anniversary date arrived (9/3/06) and I couldn't remember the actual date, that I was finally able to put that behind me.
I had vowed after my accident to NEVER ride on the road again. While I did a few times in the year following the accident, I was so paranoid, I was a complete wreck. It totally held me back, and I was not able to go on any more rides because of total fear. The few races I did that following year did not go well because of this fear. Yet, there was nothing I could do about it. It was still too fresh. Not that I remembered the pain of the hit--I just remember to this day the explosion in my head when I was hit--I still remembered clearly the weeks and then months of pain and recovery. It was serious. And, while I don't consider myself a superhero, I have to wonder how many people would have recovered and fought back from serious injuries at my age.
Yet, despite this, I was determined to get back my triathlon life. I tried very hard for the next 2 years, with limited success. Then, earlier this year, I decided I was ready to try an Ironman, yet didn't know until recently that my fear was restricting me, holding me back. I knew I had to let it go but was afraid to try. And I didn't want to put my family through this all again.
I was having extreme difficulty and frustration meeting my biking goals, and I knew it was because of being unable to take to the open road and get off the bike trail. Training for Muncie, I barely squeaked by on my biking goals, and after another month, I could see that squeaking by was not going to cut in for Ironman. Not only was the out and back and out and back again on the bike path so incredibly boring I wanted to scream, I could see I was making little to no real progress on my pacing or mileage goals.
So, today, for the first time in many years for me, Don and I set out for a route that he loved and trained on for years, to Spring Lake and back. I have to admit, it was not without some anxiety and apprehension, but I knew I had to do this. This is an incredibly hilly route, and it is not without its share of traffic, yet I did not resist or complain. For one thing, I could see how happy he was to be out on the road again, mentoring me through the biking miles. I could tell when we rode on the trails that while he did it, he was pretty bored too. And he, of course, knew better, having done several Ironmans himself, that I was not going to make it if I didn't get over my fear and get out on the road.
This ride was pretty hard for me, 74 miles of hills, hills, and more hills. Fortunately, most of the roads had been recently resurfaced, making the miles fly by fairly effortlessly, despite the hills. By the end, while I was glad to see the end of hills, I still had enough left to go out and do another 10 miles. I had done what I set out to do.
We also had incredibly perfect weather today, and I know we have limited weeks to get this biking thing accomplished, so I still have some work to do, but am finally feeling more confident of making my goal.