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.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

THE BEST PRESCRIPTION
As I sit at work today, I overhear people talking about how totally stressed out they are: about the job, their kids, their life in general. All are taking some sort of antidepressant; none of them exercise.
I just went through 6 weeks of very stressful work days, in addition to my increasing training schedule. Yet, for the most part I was able to stay calm and focused, getting done what needed to be done the best I could, in as little time as I had. Of course I had to make adjustments to my schedule, like getting up earlier, just to get the workouts in without the distraction of work.
I realize some out there who do exercise still need drug therapy for whatever reason, and I'm not criticizing. I'm talking about these people I work with who look awful, feel awful, and miss a lot of work or spend many breaks also outside smoking to relieve their stress.
For me, this is where running or triathlon have saved me. I, too, have had many stressful moments in my life, but it has always been comforting to have the sports that I love to fall back on and get me through the hard times. No drugs involved.