Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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

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


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


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?