IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

I'm not one of those people that waits until the end of the year to try and do/change something about myself. The way I see it, why do we need to wait until the start of a new year to try and improve something? That being said, I also like to think back to the events over the last year and try to set some new goals for myself for the upcoming year.

In fact, I have been carrying around a piece of paper that had 5 goals on it. The date was 2.27.04 (as I said, I don't just make "resolutions" around the new year!). Up until this month, I had already accomplished 3 of the 5. Number 4 was qualifying for Boston. I still have to reach Number 5. What is it, you ask? It's to run a 21 minute 5K. And even as I type that, I cringe because I know how tough that will be for me. However, in all fairness, I haven't run a plain old 5K in...well, I think it was 2004! And I don't think 2007 will be the year for me to tackle this one, either. There are just too many other things I want to do. But that goal will stay on my "list" until I can scratch it off with all the others. And I will continue to carry the tattered piece of paper these goals are written on to remind me that I still have some things to do!

To recap 2006:

-Worked with a coach from Dec 2005 - August 2006
-Traveled out to California for 2 races, a marathon in Feb and the Wildflower Half Ironman in May
-Placed in my age group in two MERCRS races
-Dropped almost a half hour in my second Ironman
-Had a couple really poor triathlon performances
-Qualified for the Boston Marathon

Without a doubt, qualifying for Boston was the highlight of my year. What a bummer that I had to wait until DECEMBER for the accomplishment that made it feel like I really "did" something in the past year.

So now I've been thinking about what things I want to do/try/improve/accomplish in 2007:

1. Transfer my recent running improvements to my triathlon performance. I don't know how to translate my latest running times into triathlon at this point. There are so many variables, the biggest one being that I was dedicating 5-6 days a week to running to achieve these times. This isn't possible when training for triathlon, so I know the times will be slower. But how much slower? I can't tell. So I will set an A, B and C goal. The A goal is the best-case scenario and I'm running out of my mind; the B goal is something that isn't a specatular improvment, but it's noteworthy and still something to be proud of, the C goal will be the ever-so-slight improvment, so like going from a 54-minute 10K in an Olympic race to a 53.

2. Do some bike racing. I went into last year thinking I was going to do all these bike races. I did the springtime and never looked back. The thing was, it was fun and I did well! It's just that the bike training and racing never fit into my schedule when I was working with a coach. I was tied to a pretty strict workout plan and couldn't figure out how to make bike racing fit in. I thought "after my Ironman, then I'll have time." But I was so wiped out and unmotivated after the Ironman, I didn't care about bike racing. Heck, I didn't even care about racing triathlons after that.

3. Start looking into ultrarunning. This one is going to be tricky. Ultra running is anything over a marathon. I think I'll want to start with a 50K (30 miles). If I can do 26, I can do 30, right? Then maybe eventually move to a 50 mile. I don't know. I think this is something I'd like to do once just to say I did it...well, wait, that's what I said about the marathon. I also said that about adventure racing and after this year's Scallion, well, let's just say I can see another adventure race in my future. OK, back to the ultra running...this will be hard to time. There are events in the spring and I think they have one here in Chicago in late fall. I really need to get more familiar with the sport before I can target any specific races. Actually participating in one might not happen until 2008...have to talk to some people and do some research.

4. Volunteer. I've volunteered at a few races this year. We all know our sport wouldn't be successful without the help of the many volunteers. Volunteering at this year's Ironman Wisconsin was a very rewarding experience. I'm not sure I will volunteer at that particular race again, but I will pick at least one, and hopefully several, races where I can help out. For all the racing I do and all the volunteers that have helped me out, this is the least I can do.

Well, those are the ones at the forefront of my mind. I have a few other ideas floating around in my head, but I'm not quite ready to share them. But that doesn't mean I will wait another whole year to start working on them, they just need more thinking through before I commit.

Here's to a healthy, successful, and of course, speedy 2007.
Bring it!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Rest Period

Just like everyone else, I know we need to schedule times of the year where we "rest". This means no hard workouts, no long workouts and lots of extra sleep. Well, I've got the "no hard workouts" down. No problem. I'm actually enjoying my running pace right now. It makes me wonder how the heck I went so fast for 26 miles! At this point, I sometimes feel like I'm struggling at a 10:30 min/mile pace. So, I drop back and go even slower.

No long workouts? No problem, nothing over 60 minutes. (OK, so my swimming takes 75, but we do stop and talk between sets). Most of my workout sessions at this point are 30-40 minutes.

So now for the extra sleep part. Should be easy, right? Um, no. I'm not tired. This past week, I have not been working, so I've had the last 4 days to rest, relax, do whatever I want? But I've noticed that I've been more productive (as far as household chores go) than I have in the last 6 months. I can't sit still. How do you tell someone to rest when they can't? I've noticed I can't even sit through a 30 minute television show without getting up at least 3-4 different times the dishes...start a load of laundry...check my email one more time, or whatever comes to my mind.

And you'd think that I could plan to sleep in and hold to that plan. Today, I actually planned out my day and wrote "SLEEP IN" at the top of the schedule so I didn't have to feel guilty that I wasn't actually doing anything for the first couple hours of what would normally be a work day for me. Didn't work. Couldn't sleep. Must get up and do stuff. But then once I'm awake and start doing the things I thought were so important, I realize they probably could have waited a few more hours while I slept in. Why is that? Stress? From what? Well, other than the fact that I need to find a job!? The holidays are over. No stress there. I don't get it.

So now I'm looking for ways to help force me to relax. I started drinking tea. Ick. Supposed to be calming, right? Just doesn't taste good to me. I don't find myself particularly relaxed after drinking a cup of tea. Reading. Great, most of my reading material centers around what good workouts to do to work on my weaknesses. Just makes me more motivated. Maybe I need to try and read a good, fiction book. Yeah, OK, I'd need some suggestions on that. Last fiction book I read was Marley and Me last year. Finished it in less than a week...hey, it's easy reading!

I'd like to know if anyone can give me some good ideas to force me to "rest". I'm afraid that by the time I figure out what works for me, it will be time for me to start building my base all over again....

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Is It Too Early?

Today, just 6 days after the Tucson Marathon, I decided to go out for a nice, comfortable 6 mile run this morning. Nothing too strenuous, didn't even wear my watch. My breathing was completely comfortable for the entire run (well, except maybe the hills!).

Unfortunately, the run felt like an eternity. I mean, when I saw the 1 mile mark, I couldn't believe we were only 1 mile in to this 6 mile run. I said to K2, "I can't believe I just ran 26 miles the week before, this feels brutal!" I started to feel it in my right quad less than 2 miles into the run and I seriously thought about turning around. On all the downhills, both of my quads were screaming at me to take it easy. So I did.

But this poses a good question. How early is too early to return to running after a marathon? After my first marathon , I remember going out for a short, slow 2 mile run to "get out the lactic acid" the very NEXT DAY AFTER THE RACE! Now I know I need to take some time off, but for us type A personalities, this can be a challenge. I have felt like a complete slug this week and I was dying to put on my running shoes for this nice, short, social run.

I don't know. And the problem with not knowing is that if going out to run today was the wrong thing to do, it's too late for me. It has already been done. And if it sets back my recovery, again, I can't take it back. I seriously didn't feel like it was going to be as hard as it was. I've read article after article discussing the right recovery strategy, and the problem is, they all have conflicting information. I tend to think recovery is something very personal for each and everyone of us, so you are the only one who knows whether you are ready to get back to training or not.

So what do you do in the week(s) following a marathon? Do you think I just set my recovery back by running too soon?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Had to Share This!

While standing in my kitchen tonight, preparing dinner, I received a knock at the door. The knock then turned to POUNDING which continued until I was able to clean my hands and get to the door.

It was none other than my Wild Scallion partners, CJB and K2. They came by to give me a little gift. They were in Vegas over the weekend, so I figured it was something to do with gambling or the glitz of Las Vegas.

I couldn't be more wrong. It was one of the coolest, most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. Guys - you went above and beyond on this one and I couldn't be more moved. This will always be very special to me and I can't thank either of you enough.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tucson Race Report

The Tucson course is, according to the elevation chart, almost all downhill and point-to-point. We stayed at the host hotel, which was at the finish. Unfortunately, this meant we needed to be at the front of the hotel lobby ready to go at 5am to catch a bus that would shuttle us up to the start line. Luckily, we were able to board a luxury bus vs. your regular old school bus. As I sat on the bus and waited for it to fill, I noticed the flags were blowing enough for them to be a perfect rectangle. I met Peter, from Virginia, who was doing this race for the fifth time.

The forecast called for a low of 38 degrees and a high of 68 degrees. I stepped outside my hotel room onto the patio before we left the room and it sure didn't feel like 38 degreees does in Chicago! Peter then informed me that this 50 minute ride to the start was all uphill and it would be significantly colder at the top. Ah! I hadn't thought of that! I put sweatpants on over my shorts and a heavy flanned on over my throw-away t-shirt. Yep, I was now nice and toasty!

We arrived at the start and it was pitch black outside. The only light came from the headlights of the dozens of buses carting the runners to the start. After using the porta-potties, we jumped back on our bus to keep warm until the start. I tried keeping my mind off what we were about to attempt.

Time lapsed very quickly and before I had too much time to get nervous, it was less than 30 minutes to go before the start. I peeled off my wonderfully warm fleece and sweatpants and stuffed them into my gear check bag. I pulled on my throw-away gloves and positioned my wind-stopper headband to make sure my ears were completely covered. One more stop in the porta-potty line and it was time for a quick warm up. No, I've never "warmed up" before a marathon before, but one of the other women I went with wanted to do it. So we did. I stopped quickly to re-adjust my right sock. A few steps and I stopped again to re-adjust my timing chip that seemed to be making an annoying "click" sound with every footfall.

The participants in the marathon was only around 1500 so we lined up what seemed to be very close to the start line. It felt like we were in the middle of the desert (wait, we WERE in the middle of the desert!). It was beginning to get light outside and you could see just how desolate the area was. The Star Spangled Banner was played and within the blink of an eye, we were off!

Mile 1: Pretty much UP hill (what!!?!?). Passed more people than we expected, I mean, we
did line up really close to the start! The first mile is always hard to pace. Split was right on.

Mile 2: Enjoying the scenery. Headband comes off...ALREADY! Still don't think it was 38 degrees out. Split faster than mile 1.

Mile 3: Some downhill, passed a house or two. Felt like we were "out at the ranch". This split was MUCH TOO FAST! Must slow down!!

Mile 4: Feeling comfortable. No one talking. Had a gel and did enough talking for all the runners around me. Feeling very good. Split right on.

Mile 5: Seems to be gradual downhill now. Split a little too fast.

Mile 6: Stomach cramping a little. Have to pee. Afraid to stop because it would put me behind schedule. Split a bit slow.

Mile 7: Met up with Theresa - local who has run this marathon several times. Brags on how many times she has done Boston. Split a little fast (blame this on Theresa).

Mile 8: Cramping went away. Still have to pee. Theresa said you should plan to run the first half of this race faster because the first half of the course is decidedly easier than the second half. Curse Theresa. Split a little slow.
Mile 9: Noticing the scenery. Pace feels very good and comfortable. Aware that it SHOULD feel good at this point and make mental note to draw on this positive feeling when it starts to get tough. Split a bit too fast. STOP doing this or it will bite you later!!

Mile 10: Still feeling the continual, gradual downhill. Perfect running temperature! Very windy the last few miles, but it wasn't a cold wind. Wished it was a tailwind. Split was right on.

Mile 11: Losing one of my running partners. This was not the plan. Doesn't feel good to push on without her, but the goal still awaits. Split much too slow. Another few of these will kill any chance I have of making it.

Mile 12: Theresa re-joins us after her potty stop. She's loud with her big pack of energy sources (Jolly Ranchers, Gummy Bears, Peppermints, Gels and whatever else she packed in her Ziploc baggie). Split a little fast, nothing to get excited about.

Mile 13: Felt like it took too long to get to this, the halfway point. Lost my other running partner. I never imagined we'd all break off so early on. My plan was that we would run together as long as we could, but it would at least be until 20. Mentally tough to know I would be doing the rest alone. Theresa still kept pace. Quads starting to hurt already. Split just a few seconds fast.

Mile 14: Valerie joins Theresa and I. She tells me she dis IMAZ earlier this year, her first IM, in 12:13. DAMN! Split too fast. Blame Valerie for this one.

Mile 15: Quads continue to talk to me. "REFOCUS, " I thought. That pain isn't going to go away. Focus on the postive. Breathing is easy and relaxed. Split almost right on.

Mile 16: Valerie is gone. Theresa breathing too heavy at this stage. Lose Theresa at next water stop. Split too fast.

Mile 17: My legs really feeling heavy. Breathing still relaxed. This MUST be the difficulty they talk about when you run this much downhill! Split almost right on.

Mile 18: Meet Chris from Seattle when he kept tailgating too close. Said he was shooting for a 3:30. "Dude, you're not even withing striking distance," I thought. Split too fast. Had to get away from Chris.

Mile 19: Just 7 more miles. My quads are aching. I try to keep my mind off the pain. Scenery continues to be beautiful. Split too slow.

Mile 20: Sweet. Only a 10K left. This is where the race starts. I've got this. Split too fast - dangerously too fast. DON'T SCREW IT UP NOW I screamed to myself silently.

Mile 21: Jockeyed with a skinny chick. Skinny chick drops me at next water station. Split a little fast.

Mile 22: Got hit twice by same girl at water station. She didn't like when I stopped in front of her, yet she stops in front of me without warning and I ran right into her. Vow to beat her. Split too fast.

Mile 23: Quads are now KILLING ME. Calves are hurting. Both legs feel like they're cramping. Forgot salt tablets. Split too slow.

Mile 24: Thought I was at Mile 25. HUGE crushing mental blow. Legs very, very heavy.
Split even slower.

Mile 25: Feet starting to turn funny as I ran. Both legs cramping. More pain in both legs than I've ever had. 'm too close, I can't let it go now. Cannot stop at water station - too painful to start running again. Start hard uphill. Split almost a full minute slower.

Mile 26: I beg Steve from Albequerque to help me finish. I'm starting to feel like I can't go on and at the same time, I'm choking up at the thought of reaching my goal. Split close to a minute and a half too slow.

Last .2: Course flattens out. Legs are in intense pain. I can see the finish line. Steve cheers me on. His dreams of qualifying for Boston today would not be fulfulled. The spectators line both sides of the finish. I'm not fighting with my legs not to collapse on me. I was falling apart. Split - ah, who the heck knows what the last .2 should have been???

I did it. I qualified for the Boston Marathon.

Day Before Tucson

I'm writing this as I sit on the plane on my way to the Tucson Marathon. In the days before any marathon, it's normal for me to feel nervous. Have I logged enough miles? Did I bring the right clothes? What will my strategy be as the miles become tough?

This race is different. For the first time, I truly have a time goal for this marathon. Sure, I had an idea of what I wanted to run my first marathon in. But I also tried to listen to the experienced marathoners who told me that your only goal for your first marathon should be to simply finish. For my second marathon, I just wanted to beat my time from my first marathon. But a nasty cold the week before the race pushed that goal to the background. In all other marathons, the object of the race was to just finish and have fun. It is true that the most fun I've had during a marathon was when I started out with friends and had no time goal in mind. So what am I doing?

I'm chasing that ever-coveted dream by all competitive runners: Boston. The reason I signed up for Tucson was to take a crack at Boston. The steadily-downhill course coupled with the timing of the race (well after triathlon season has ended) seemed to make sense to me as I completed my entry form back in July.

In the weeks and months since entering this race, not a day has gone by when I haven't thought about this ultra-challenging goal for myself. Most of my fellow triathletes know about the struggles I have on the run. It is not unusual for me to be passed on a regular basis on the run section of any triathlon. I am done with this.

To prepare for this marathon, I picked up the Intermediate Marathon Training plan by Hal Higdon just after completing my last triathlon of the season in August. This plan called for 5 days of running per week, something I haven't done since my pre-triathlon days. Back then, my longest runs were a mere 3 miles.

The schedule, though daunting on paper, really didn't seem too difficult. I put away my bike and focused on running. I signed up for the Chicago Half Marathon determined to beat my half marathon PR (also set on this same course 4 years ago). I did it. This fueled my fire into believing I was quite capable of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

For some people, running comes easy. They go out there and tick off miles with what seems to be the least of effort at a pace in which I could only wish for in my races. They talk about how they "will do Boston again next year" the same way I talk about how I have to work the next day. Like it's expected. Like it's just an every-day occurrence. Like it's no big deal.

No, Boston doesn't mean to them what it means to me. One can only have deep appreciation for an accomplishment that they have put their heart and soul into. It's different to work for it. To pick yourself up again after missing the mark several or dozens of times. To get up enough courage, focus and determination and go after it like you've never gone after anything before. To know that to achieve this goal, you have to lay it all on the line with very little (if any) room for error.

I've calculated and re-calculated where I need to be. I entered a couple other shorter races in the last few months to throw it all out there - to see what happens and try to become familiar with those signs that tell me I'm pushing too hard. I've improved my eating habits and have dropped a few pounds. I worked on strength training exercises specifically geared to prepare my hamstrings and quads for the long, downhill course. I've told myself that I can achieve this if I work hard enough for it. I've received encouragement and support from everyone who knows I'm doing this race and knows what I'm after. They believe in me. Now it's time to believe in myself.

There's not much I can do to make things go any better at this point. I am arriving to this race healthy, injury-free, well-tapered and mentally prepared to tackle this challenge. I know this will be one of the hardest physical goals I've ever set out to accomplish. But I'm ready. I didn't run all those long runs to get down to Tucson to "have fun". I didn't do it to log another marathon in another state. And I didn't do it to turn in another MJ-the-mediocre-runner performance.

I did it to qualify for the Boston Marathon. And I will do it.

Bring it!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Burn off the Bird Recap

Yeah, OK, so I'm a little late in writing this review. But, better late than never, I guess. And I already promised a couple fellow swimmers that I'd give them the details on how this went.

I arrived at the desolate school parking lot at 7:15am. I knew this was a bit earlier than anyone else would be there, but I wanted to be sure to get in there with enough time to set up all my Luna products for the participants and leave myself plenty of time to "psyche up" for this event. After just about 10 minutes, a couple other people showed up. Thankfully, one of them had the key!

I quickly carried all my things onto the pool deck, dragged out a table and began arranging the various Clif and Luna products I brought. I also carried in the doughnuts, bagels and bananas that the Lincoln Way SeaDragons were supplying to all participants. This took nearly no time at all, so I went in to the locker room to change.

When I returned to the deck, there were already at least a half dozen people milling around. There was a little chatter, but it seemed everyone was very aware of the daunting task that lay ahead of us. I saw a few people I knew, but saw many more people whom I'd never met. Several people scoured through the snack table, stocking up on items they'd need to keep them going for the entire 100 repetitions. Some people chose to do the 50s, some the 75s and there was just a small group of people swimming the 100s. One of the best parts of this event is that it doesn't matter what yardage you choose, we all go on the same interval and all start and finish at the same time.

As I jumped into my lane (where I was to draft off one of the LW swimmers), I tried to remember to take it easy. All too often, we feel so good and energized at the beginning of something like this only to take it out too hard which causes us to suffer toward the last quarter of the distance. THIS IS NOT A RACE, I had to keep telling myself. Just do the yards. Try not to race the girl in the next lane (yes, it's a habit). Focus. Pay attention to your form. Be smooth and steady.

But, as usual, the first 2-3 100s were too fast. I knew this because I was a little winded after them. For those of you that have done a marathon, you know what I'm talking about. If you can't have a conversation, you're going too fast. Well, you can't really have a conversation when you swim, but if I hit the wall and I'm breathing deeply this early on, it's too fast. So I slow down. I try to get in a zone. I'm no where near drafting off the guy in front of me. He's too fast. Sure, if I work at it, I can keep up, but this isn't that kind of swim.

Unfortunately, this year they were unable to get the clock with the buzzer that shows what number you're on. Within the first 4 100s, I realized I had to use the bathroom. But the 100s stop for NO ONE, so I knew I had to wait until the break at 50. Unfortunately, I lost count of what number we were on before we even hit 10. I tried to think of things to pass the time, so I thought about the great race I had the day before. All the people I saw there who I haven't seen in a while, how cold it was, how hilly it was and the awesome raffle prizes afterwards. Then I thought about the rest of the day with the family. The food, conversation, teasing, relaxing and just being happy that I didn't have to work for the next few days!

Then my head started to hurt. My goggles are on too tight. This sucks. At every 100, I took them off and repositioned them on my face. It didn't seem to be helping. I didn't have time to loosen them. I wondered what number we were on. I remembered I had to pee. I thought about how monotonous this was. I tried not to race the girl next to me (who was only doing 75s anyway). I sang some songs. I wondered what number we were on. My head still hurts. When is the break? What are these guys doing? Come on, this has to be well past 50. That's it, the next 100 I'm getting out. Again? That's it, someone needs to come over and stop these guys. If I have to do one more 100 with these goggles on my head, I'm going to scream! The next rep, I swam a bit faster so I had a chance to talk to the guy in front of me. "What number are we on, aren't we supposed to stop at 50?" I asked. He said we were on 48. You've got to be kidding. UGH! Fine, only 2 more before the break, I can make it. And I did.

Everyone hopped out of the pool for a quick bathroom break and to replenish their energy stores. Just enough time to grab a bite to eat and refill your water bottle if you needed to. You really don't want to wait too long. The muscles start to stiffen up and it's always much harder to start at #51 than when you started at the beginning. Some people left after 50. (Slackers - you know who you are!) Then there were us diehards that just couldn't wait for another 50 more.

Very quickly, everyone headed back to their respective lanes to finish the last half of the workout. This time, I took one of the charts someone had printed up. It showed you what the number on the clock would be at each repetition. Cool, now I'll know EXACTLY where we are!

Almost immediately, I noticed I was swimming slower. My muscles had tightened up and my arms felt heavy. From doing this event in years passed though, I knew I could work through that. As BC has told me before my ironman races, no matter how bad you feel, the day is so long, you will get past it and it will get better. And he was right. That always happens. The problem is, it isn't always this boring waiting for that "bad time" to pass!

At number 70, my mind started to play games with me and I thought I had 50 more to go. Then I thought, wait, we already did 50 before we stopped, so there's no way we have 50 more. Yes, it sounds ridiculous now, but sometimes when you're involved in something this long, things stop making sense. At about #75, I wondered why I had signed up to do this again. You've got to be kidding me, we're only on #75? That's it, this chart must be wrong. Goggles hurt again. Stop racing girl next to you. She kicks a lot. Gotta find something to think about. The race yesterday, nope, already thought about that. What am I going to do the rest of the day? NOT SHOP, that's for sure. The stores are madhouses the day after Thanksgiving. I'm hungry. Wonder what we're going to do for lunch. WHAT? I'm only on #78? Someone is counting wrong. This is going too slow. My fingers are pruny. Look at that huge hairball at the bottom of the pool. Disgusting. Wonder how many people pee in this pool. Wonder how crappy that water we swim in Lake Michigan is. STOP. I'm freaking myself out. These goggles are popping my eyes out of my sockets. Come on, we can't have that many more to go.

With about 10 left to go, I once again tried to focus hard on maintaining good form. At the end of every 100, I shouted out the number we had left to do. (quiet group, no one even joined me). 4-3-2-1 and...we're done. WOO HOO! Not that bad! I think I had permanent goggle marks around my eyes for the rest of the day, but I felt a sense of accomplishment. This is definitely more mentally punishing than physically. This makes an Ironman swim seem short. But it was over. Everyone smiled, gave each other some hi-fives and quickly scrambled to the locker rooms. After a swim like this, the nice, long, hot shower is something to look forward to.

Burn off the Bird is something I'll keep on the calendar every year!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Turkey Trot

For the first time in over 12 years, I only had one place to go for Thanksgiving dinner. This meant I had a little bit of free time in the morning, so I signed up for the local Turkey Trot. This little 4 mile run has become quite popular in the short time it has been in existence.

Although the weather reports bragged of the beautiful, unseasonably warm weather we would have this Thanksgiving Day, the temperature was a mere 32 degrees when I left my house. You know, I am really getting tired of this cold weather and we really haven't even hit the cold stuff yet here in Chicago! I have a serious problem of trying to keep my fingers and toes warm, so I need to wear 2 pairs of socks and 2 sets of gloves on a day like today.

Seeing as I had already picked up my packet earlier in the week, we arrived with less than 30 minutes before the race's start. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of friends who had also shown up to race. Every time I turned around, I ran into someone else I knew. We gathered quickly to try and get a photo taken, only my digital camera was dead. What a bummer! Just after that, it was suggested that we get in a short warm-up. Well, I ususally don't do any type of warm up, however, I was extremely chilly and I thought the warm up may do me well.

We weaved our way around the crowd and headed out for a quick jaunt. Almost immediately, my face was frozen. It wasn't very windy, but the cold, brisk air was biting at every piece of exposed skin on my body (just really my face and wrists). I pulled my sleeves lower and yanked my gloves on up as far as I could. Unfortunately, I had nothing to cover my face with, so I just hoped that I'd warm up quickly. My toes, double layer of socks and all, were numb. With every step, I felt like I was going to trip over my own feet because I couldn't tell where they ended and the pavement began.

The warm up ended abruptly as we really didn't know which way was best to go, so we all headed back to the starting line so we wouldn't be late. I asked around where the starting line was. There was a white line painted on the street, but there were so many people standing in front of it, I figured that couldn't be right. I tried to maneuver my way to the front of the crowd and found someone I knew. I asked what pace he planned to run and I immediately knew I had gone too far. I now had to move my way back further into the pack of runners.

Just as I found a spot that looked like I wouldn't be in anyone's way, I turned around to face the direction the race was to start. Before I could even look for anyone I knew, the gun went off. WAIT, I'm not ready! I fumbled for my watch (stuffed deeply underneath one of my gloves that I had pulled up as far as I could on my wrist) and hit the start button. Off we went!

That arctic air was once again stinging my face and making my lungs hurt just a little. I did a little weaving around some slower runners, but given the small size of the crowd, it was quite easy to find a space to run in that was comfortable. Several young guys weaved around me (oops) and I tried to find a comfortable pace. These days, I don't even know what that pace is, other than by feel. I haven't worn a heart rate monitor in months and my times seem to jump all over the place. The main thing I was worried about was the hamstring I pulled earlier in the week.

We rounded the first corner and were faced with a pretty steep hill. It looked deceivingly easy and as I panted up that hill, I felt my heart rate rise very quickly. My breath was labored and I felt out of control and figured I'd better slow down. Almost immediately, I felt that pull in my hamstring again. It's not a drop-down-on-the-ground-and-writh-in-pain injury. It's nagging, letting you know it's there. I'm less than one mile into this race and I have no idea how many more hills there are like this on this course! And I'm not about to ruin my upcoming marathon by trashing my hamstring on a Turkey Trot! Other men were regularly passing me and I tried to stick with each one as they went by. It wasn't working.

I saw the mile 2 marker coming up ahead and I still wasn't ready to take off my headband. I was no longer cold, however, I wasn't hot enough to remove the headband NOR the second set of gloves I was wearing. The one thing I FORGOT to take off before the race started was the windbreaker I was wearing. Oops. And it wasn't a throw-away. I hoped I would see a familiar face along the course somewhere that I could just rip off the jacket and throw it and ask they give it to me at the end of the race, but that never happened. Everyone I knew was running!

Ah well, who cares how hot I get, it's only 4 miles, right? Mile 3 came up very quickly and by the split time on my watch, it was my fastest mile of the race. Home stretch, I thought. I was still very aware of the pain eminating from my left hamstring, but I really didn't want to stop. It wasn't getting worse. Let's just see if I could keep it going. Unfortunately, those nasty hills from the first mile were the same nasty hills that the race ended with. I was breathing so hard, I thought everyone around me was wondering if I was going to pass out or not. I felt like my heart was going to explode right out of my chest. But I kept pounding up the hill knowing that I would recover very quickly once I hit the downhill portion.

With just about 200 meters to go, Mel, the race director, was out there cheering for all the runners, telling us we looked great and the finish was just ahead. It was a special little touch and I smiled at him as I ran by. I definitely had no breath available to talk at this time! As I neared the finish line, several men sprinted past me. I had no sprint. I was done. Step by step, the music was getting louder and I could see the finish clock more clearly. I knew I was getting slower and tried my best to hold it together until I crossed that finishline. I saw several people I knew already finished and cheering others on. I couldn't even smile to them at this point.

And just as quickly as the race started for me, it was over as I heaved myself over the finish line and heaved a big sigh of relief. It was over. I was still standing. My hamstring was throbbing a bit, and I hoped I hadn't done any serious damage. I reunited with my friends, shared race stories, stuck around for the raffle (I didn't win anything) and awards, we wished each other Happy Thanksgiving and left. Another race for the books.

It's happiness to run on Thanksgiving morning!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Swimming workouts

Just a week from tomorrow, I will be trying to complete 100x100x100. In "normal people terms", this means 100 times 100 yards every 100 seconds (1:40). A few years ago, when I first got started in masters swimming, I did this workout with a few of my former masters swim teammates. These people are no longer on my team, yet I continue to do this workout every year. The first time I did this, I was so nervous about how my body was going to respond to swimming 10,000 without a break. And 100 yards every 100 seconds isn't exactly an "easy" pace for me.

The thing about this workout is that it sounds so crazy. It will take over 3 hours to get this done. And why do we do it? Because we can, I guess. I mean, what better way to spend the day after Thanksgiving? I could go shopping...or I could go swim over 5 miles.

I do actually have a strategy when I do this. The first 60-70 100s need to be easy. Just smooth, steady pace. If you're feeling good arounfd 70-75 and want to try and kick up your pace a bit, go ahead. It's something like when you're running a marathon. The first 20 miles are just a warm-up to what they call the "real" race, the last 6.2 miles.

Every year, I do the first 5-10 and wonder why the heck I'm doing it. I try to find someone just a little quicker than me and draft off them for as long as I can. Hey, it's not cheating! Then when I get to about 30-35 it feels like I'm in a groove. You don't really have enough time to have full conversations in between these 100s. It's more like half-sentences or just a couple words before the buzzer goes off and you're off to complete another 4 lengths of the pool. Sometimes, if your lane mate tells you something funny just as the buzzer goes off, you push off the wall and get a mouth full of water as you're laughing and end up choking for the first 25 yards.

At 50, we take a bathroom break, try to get in a little nutrition and psych ourselves up to get back in that pool and finish up the last half of this obnoxious workout. Long before this point, our fingers became pruny, but we don't have time to think about this. If the break in the middle ends up being too long, your muscles start to tighten up, so the break ends up being maybe 10 minutes or less.

I always think I'll be able to kick it up a little at 70-75, but then I second guess myself and wonder just how many more 100s I can do on the interval. As we continue to pound out the yardage, people tend to get a little silly as we realize we're on the brink of finishing THE longest workout we'll do all year in the pool. As we finish up the last 100, there are lots of smiles and everyone feels a strong sense of accomplishment. There are high 5s across all lanes and we share our thoughts of the confidence each of us lacked at some point during the workout. Many people will quickly shower, get dressed and head out to lunch to share stories from the day.

And now we get one full year to recover until we get to do this fabulous workout again!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Veterun Race Report

Well, I can't remember the last time I ran a 10K that wasn't part of a triathlon. It's not that I haven't run 10Ks before, but it has been a few years. That being said, I decided it was a little rough for me to determine exactly what pace I should have been running.

We arrived about an hour before the race start. It was a chilly morning, but there was little or no wind. The sky was overcast and I wondered if I had dressed properly for this race. See, for the last few years, my runs of 6 miles or less have either been much slower or in much warmer weather. Now, I know how to dress for an 18 or 20 miler, but with just 6 miles, I wasn't sure how quickly I was going to start sweating.

I saw many familiar faces before the race and tried to keep my mind occupied on catching up with friends rather than focus on the race we were about to run. I don't know why, but I was nervous. That familiar feeling of nausea and thoughts of "why did I sign up for this again?" wouldn't go away easily. Of course, I wanted to have a good race, but I try not to pressure myself. After all, it's difficult to do well at both the shorter distances (5 and 10K) and longer distances (half and full marathon). And right now, my focus is my upcoming marathon, not this little ol' 10K. Right?

The mayor of Westchester was lifted up over the crowd in a bucket truck at the starting line. He said a few words and without much hesitation, he pulled the trigger to the gun that started the race. Within the first 200 yards, we were already passing people. Now, for me, this is unfamiliar territory! Although there were many people I needed to move around to get passed, I was enjoying being the passer instead of the passee. For a split second, I wondered why I lined up that far back. At the time, it didn't seem like I was lined up all that far from the starting line...

The race started just in front of a park, wound through the neighborhood and before the first mile marker, we were already on the trails in the forest preserve. I was a bit shocked when I realized my first split was much quicker than I had anticipated. Was I taking this out too fast? I've never held this quick of a pace in a 10K before. But I tried to focus on my breathing and heart rate and decided that I felt pretty good, there should be no reason why I should slow down at this point.

The next mile, split was just a few seconds slower. OK, good. I was still passing people. Now we're back on residential streets and passing the first water stop. I decided that in this weather, I didn't need to stop for a drink in a race of this length, so I moved to the other side of the street, away from the volunteers. I was gaining some ground on the woman with the blue fleece on. At mile 3, I had the same split as mile 2. Sweet! Can I really keep up this pace?

Soon, I would realize I could not. As I checked my split for mile 4, I wasn't surprised as I saw this mile was almost 20 seconds slower than the last two. My blue fleece rabbit was slowly gaining ground on me. I passed a few guys here and there and just before mile 5, I overtook what looked to be a kid in his early 20s with a race singlet on. As soon as I passed him, I heard his footsteps quicken. I'm sure he didn't like being passed by an old lady!! And, of course, my competitive spirit would not give up so easily and I increased my leg turnover to get away from him. I just needed to get away from the sound of his footsteps.

Here we are now at mile 5, just a little quicker than the last mile. Blue fleece is still within my vision, but I was now very tired. I knew the end was near and I tried to stay focused and steady to finish up this race. Singlet-wearing 20 year old passed me with about a half mile to go. Punk. Another couple guys I had passed near mile 4 were now passing me. This was the scenario I was used to...being passed. And I sure don't like it. But I was now paying the price for taking this race out too quickly.

One last right turn and you could see the finish chutes up in the distance. I was busy calculating my projected finish time in my head and I kept getting confused. It's funny how your mind plays tricks on you when you're in the middle of a race. Now I knew I was going to PR, but I couldn't figure out by how much. "Forget it, just focus on finishing!" I thought. The closer I got to the finish line, the more tired I became. I heard some people yelling for me to finish strong, but there was honestly nothing "strong" left! I just hoped I wouldn't trip over my own two feet at this point. I just needed to get across that line.

Before I knew it, I was done with the best 10K race I've ever had. Then again, when you don't really run 10K races, I guess it's a little easier to break your own record!! The course was flat and fast. It was well marked with mile splits at every mile. What a great race! There was an awards ceremony and several raffle items. Winners needed to be present to win, which sometimes can take forever, but they did a good job of keeping things moving along. There were plenty of bananas, apples, oranges, yogurt parfaits and hot dogs for all participants. The best part was the hot chocolate! This race is definitely worth going back to.

Friday, November 10, 2006

New Shoes!

Like a little kid anticipating playing with all the new toys he will get at Christmas, I look forward to putting on a brand new pair of running shoes. Even though there was no run on my schedule for today, the clean, bright new pair of Mizunos were sitting in my closet...calling me, pleading me to take them out of the box and out on the pavement.

Similarly to the child who rips open his presents, I tore the laces out of those shoes to put in the Yankz speed laces that I've come to love. Ever since I discovered these elastic-type laces that NEVER come untied while you run, I've never run with a regular pair of laces in my shoes. I could never remember to double knot my laces before a run, so I was always that running partner that would have to ask you to stop in orter to re-tie my laces while you sit there and roll your eyes wondering why I just didn't tie them properly before we started.

I went to the door to get a "weather report". Earlier in the week, I thought today was going to be a great day for a run as the experts were calling for a high of 70 degrees! As I opened the door, the blast of the crisp autumn breeze hit me in the face and I immediately slammed the door shut cursing those weathermen for being wrong again! It was probably around mid-40s. Not terrible for a run, but I much prefer something in the 60s.

I have had countless pairs of new running shoes, but the feeling I get when I get to take new shoes out for that first run never gets old. It's something similar to taking your new car for that first ride or wearing some new outfit that you know you look great in. They always feel so "fresh", cushy and comfortable. With the right combination of socks (don't get me started on SOCKS!), your feet feel like they could run forever.

So my first run in these new Mizunos wasn't quite as comfortable as I had planned. I carefully put my orthotics in before the run, yet I seemed to feel little lumps on the bottoms of my feet near the base of the toes. This must be the socks. New shoes never feel this way. But it's to cold for me to stop, straighten out the socks and continue on, so I just kept running and trying to focus on the feeling of the rest of the shoe. Nice. The pair I've been running in recently have been a little roomy in the toe box and these Mizunos just fit me like a glove. Ever since I've had to start wearing orthotics, Mizunos have been the shoe for me. No matter how badly I want to buy a different brand, and I've tried them all on in the store, the Mizunos always seem to fit the best.

Overcast and windy isn't my favorite weather for a run. Even less of a favorite when I plan the route to run INTO the wind on the way back! However, outside is just more fun than a treadmill and I'm trying to break these new shoes in so I can wear them for my upcoming marathon. Now there are no more new pairs of shoes beckoning me from the closet...this only means I see a trip to the running store in the near future.

Running For Kicks has been my shop for a few years now. Mel Diab, the owner (and super nice guy), is very customer-focused and he and everyone that works there runs. The entire staff is knowledgeable about gait, what to look for and will make you run a few times in 3-4 different shoes so you can decide what feels best for you. And I've never felt rushed or pressured to buy anything there.

I love new running shoes.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Long runs

NOTE: RAYOR results are now posted on Chicago Athlete.

Since the end of June, most of my Saturdays have been designated as "Long Run" Saturdays. CARA started their training for the Chicago Marathon in late June. This meant that every Saturday that I wasn't either racing or preparing for a big race the following day, I was out there with the group, helping pace other runners in preparation for the Chicago Marathon.

Now the Chicago Marathon has come and gone, yet I need to continue to get out on Saturdays for those long runs to train for my upcoming marathon which is a mere 5 weeks away. The weather here in Chicago has been less than optimal for the last few weeks. It has been unseasonably cold and windy which makes these longs runs something I haven't been looking forward to. I have worn shorts for every marathon I've ever run, yet I'm not wearing them in training right now. And we all know how you're supposed to train in what you plan on wearing. I feel like if I would have worn shorts yesterday, my legs would have been numb within the first 3 miles!

One of the things I continue to struggle with is the pace at which these long runs are supposed to be done. Some experts say your long run should be 1-1:30 minutes/mile slower than your planned race pace. Others believe you should run these long runs within a certain heart rate. Yet there is even another opinion that you should do these runs at the pace you expect to do in the race. So which is correct?

Well, I've tried running at the pace I plan to race at. Still came in slower than expected. I've run a minute slower than race pace and came in almost at the same time as when I did the long runs faster. And I've run it according to a heart rate monitor and did about 10 minutes slower than running it according to the other plans. At this point, I can't tell which works best. I know there is a chance of injury when you try to do your long runs at race pace and they say it breaks your body down too much. However, I've run my fastest marathon time when I've trained the long runs at race pace. But how many more times would I be able to do that before I sustained an injury? Who knows? I think it's a very fine line and one that is very individual to each person.

As I volunteered at the Chicago Marathon just a couple of weeks ago, I found myself wishing I had signed up for Chicago instead of Tucson. I knew many people running Chicago and I'm envious of the fact that they are now done with their marathon and are now enjoying a bit of rest and relaxation.

One thing is for sure, I've pushed just a little harder for this marathon than the past couple marathons I've done. I am also feeling little nagging pains here and there which are warning signals to me that if I continue to try and push harder, I may be setting myself up for injury. So why do I continue to push? To see improvement. I am not running nearly as fast as I was hoping I would be at this point in my training, but I do know that I haven't ever trained as hard for a marathon before. I'm trying to find what my limit is. I may be expecting too much too soon.

Yesterday's run was brutal. I think I took the first half too fast which made me miserable and very slow for the second half. But it's all about time on your feet, right? I have a hard time buying that. I don't see how running for a long period of time at a slow pace will make you run fast during the race. Sure, there are speed workouts you can add, but I still haven't been able to make that work and starting now won't help.

We shall see.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Well, I tried to get our results listed on Chicago Athlete, but not only have they not published these results for us, they didn't even respond to my request to have them posted.

So, here they are for those of you curious about your ranking:


Co-Ed Division Total Points
1. Norway Cycle Adventure Team 119
2. Vision Quest Fitness 110
3. Happy Endings 109
4. Because We Can 107
5. Masakit 105
6. Van Damage 99
7. Take a Bearing on This 97
8. Hardcore II 96
9. Team Kona 89
10. It’s not all GO GO GO 88
11. Team Quirk 87
12. Rumpus Punkus 83
13. Captn’ & Tennille 81
14. Hobbs Heroes 73
15. Santorini 73
16. Double Trouble 67
- Seguns 69 (did not make time limit)
- Typhoon III 65 (did not make time limit)

Male Division Total Points
1. Aqua Nuts 115
2. OP Playas 113
3. Double D 112

Female Division Total Points
1. Hardcore I 98
2. Boo-tilicious 97
3. Team Toppers 96
4. SCTC Chicks 86
5. X Factor 84
6. Sawil Chix 76
7. Punna 75
8. Sole Sisters 75
9. Two Pearls 66
10. Team 1243 45
-Lost and Found 61 (did not make time limit)


Team Name Total Points

1. Norway Cycle Adventure Team 119
2. Aqua Nuts 115
3. OP Playas 113
4. Double D 112
5. Vision Quest Fitness 110
6. Happy Endings 109
7. Because We Can 107
8. Masakit 105
9. Van Damage 99
10. Hardcore I 98
11. Boo-tilicious 97
12. Take a Bearing on This 97
13. Team Toppers 96
14. Hardcore II 96
15. Team Kona 89
16. It’s not all GO GO GO 88
17. Team Quirk 87
18. SCTC Chicks 86
19. X Factor 84
20. Rumpus Punkus 83
21. Captn’ & Tennille 81
22. Sawil Chix 76
23. Punna 75
24. Sole Sisters 75
25. Hobbs Heroes 73
26. Santorini 73
27. Double Trouble 67
28. Two Pearls 66
29. Team 1243 45
- Seguns 69 (did not make time limit)
- Typhoon III 65 (did not make time limit)
- Lost and Found 61 (did not make time limit)

Monday, October 30, 2006


Well, I had a good few pages typed up on this last night, but somehow I lost it all. Unfortunately, I don't have a whole lot of time to recap the day's events, but it's been a while since I posted so I needed to get something new for all of you to read!

RAYOR III was held this year as a benefit in conjunction with the Chicago Triathlon Team Luna Chix to raise money for breast cancer. Within a couple of weeks of getting the word out, the race filled with 35 teams of 2 and we had a waiting list of 5 teams. RAYOR (Race At Your Own Risk) is a local area adventure race where teams manuevered their way through a variety of courses (bike, orienteering, metrotrek and bonus) collecting points and/or clues throughout the day.

Peppered in throughout the courses, there were a variety of "mystery events" in which the racers were faced with different challenges that were designed to give everyone an opportunity to collect points. Fortunately for me, I was able to travel around throughout the course to take some good pictures and get a first-hand view of how the athletes were enjoying themselves. Everywhere I looked, it seemed people were having a good time. There were smiles and laughter and people truly looked like they were having fun. It seems this event was a huge success.

Once the points were tallied, evaluation forms were turned in and awards were presented followed by a raffle. The evaluations indicated everyone would do the race again (well, at least all the people who turned in the evaluations said they'd race again!!) It took a large amount of time, creativity and attention to detail by three very dedicated people to pull off a race of such magnitude. We are encouraged by the response and comments and hope to be able to have an even better event next year.

Thanks to all who participated and even MORE thanks to all our volunteers. Each and every one of you played some important part in making this event a success. We hope to see you all again next year.

Results will be forthcoming...

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Just over two years ago, I had never heard the term "orienteering". My first experience in orienteering was in the Wild Scallion. Basically, I just ran around following my teammates in what seemed like circles in order to get to certain checkpoints. They kept consulting a sheet of clues and using a compass. It felt a little ridiculous and I couldn't help but to feel helpless as I was practically dragged from point to point with no clue how they were figuring out where we were supposed to be going.

It was that feeling of helplessness and being a burden to my teammates that made me agree to go to some orienteering training this morning. I was assured there would be no running. We were there to learn so that if I was ever in a situation where I needed to find certain points on my own, I could do it. No sir, this was not going to be a competition, but more of an educational experience.

I was instructed to wear clothing that wouldn't allow the sticky parts of the brush stick to me. To me, this means "swishy pants." I don't know how to describe them but I know that normal clothes (i.e., jeans, running tights, sweats, etc.) would all allow those sticker thingys to cling on to me. So I put on a pair of pants I didn't think would attract these pesky little things as well as a jacket with the same qualities. I was also told to wear the "gaiters" we received when we signed up for the Wild Scallion. Until that day, I had no idea what a gaiter was. These nifty little articles of clothing wrap around your ankles with a string going under your shoes to keep them down, a hook to attach them to your shoelaces and velcro and a snap at the end to keep them secured. This would keep any dirt, rocks, and, oh yeah, those sticker things from getting on my socks. I still needed help in putting them on correctly, though. Those things should come with instructions!

It was a little chilly this morning and I was pretty much double-layered on all counts: socks, pants, shirt and gloves. I did only wear one wool hat, though. With this unseasonably chilly weather and knowing we would be walking around in the forest, I didn't want to be cold!

I met up with my teammates, neither of them new to the sport, so they could show me the ropes. I had no idea these little orienteering events existed before. More than 75% of the participants were boy scouts or something. I felt a little old and geeky to be there, but hey, if I'm going to do another adventure race, I need to be able to pull my weight in this particular area, so I tried to forget about how silly I felt being here and tried to focus on the task at hand.

We decided to do the "White" course first. This is the easy one. Now, anyone who knows me knows I am directionally challenged. I typically cannot tell you which direction I am headed. I also have trouble going somewhere I am not familiar with, even though I may have just been there a few days ago. In fact, I took a wrong turn in getting to this orienteering course even though I have been there at least 10 times in the past 2 years. Guess that's the reason why they invented

We received our maps and I needed to be told to copy the checkpoints down on the map. Easy enough. I drew the little circles with the numbers beside them and was ready to go. But then I didn't know where to start! See, typically you can just follow everyone else. Today, however, there were several courses and some people chose to do the courses in reverse order. And, can you really be sure the guy ahead of you knows where he is going? I think not. This is where the compass comes in. You need to line up the compass pointing north and make sure the map has the north side aligned up with the compass. This is called "getting your bearings" or something like that. With that, and the markings on the map, you should be able to tell what direction you should go to get started.

We need to give the guy at the start line our card where he writes down the time. Wait, they're TIMING us?? I thought this wasn't a race, this was supposed to be for educational purposes only!! While I understand they need to check everyone in and out just to ensure everyone makes it out of the woods OK, do we really need to be timed? I heaved a big sigh, reminded myself I was out here to learn and figure out what topographical lines mean on a map and waited for our beep to get started.

BEEP - and we were off. Not running, not jogging, not even walking briskly. We started off just walking in the direction of the first checkpoint and noting different things along the way. Different colors meant different densities of forest. There were lines and dashes that indicated "main" trail, smaller trail and even streams or creeks. At some points, even when we knew we were going the right way, we backtracked to see how something looked on the map versus how it looked in real life.

Slowly but surely, we made our way along each of the 9 checkpoints. At each point, there was a little punch tool that you needed to put on your card in the corresponding box. There were also a lot of "extra" checkpoints out there, those were the ones that belonged to the other courses, so it was important to make sure the point you were at had the number you were looking for. Each checkpoint had some small little clue like "path junction." This seemed easy enough. Almost every point we collected was directly on the path. And if it wasn't, it could be seen from the path. We finished up in about an hour and twenty minutes or so (I think). I'm not really sure on the time because I didn't pay attention to it.

We decided to move on to the "Orange" course, which was more difficult. It had 13 checkpoints I counted as I plotted them onto my map. They were spread out a little more than the ones on the first course and they seemed to go deeper into the "forest" part of the forest preserve. Our third teammate decided to go sit it out in the car and as she collected our camelbacks from us, I didn't realize this meant we would be trying to push the pace on this course.

We checked in, waited for our beep and as soon as it sounded, we were off. This time, it started as an all-out sprint until I decided I could not hold this pace for long. It can be brutal being the slower of two runners who really want to finish the event quickly. This was no longer about educational purposes. This had turned into a competition. But not a competition with other teams, this was us against the clock. It is easy to lose time as you try to navigate quickly off a map to a checkpoint and find you later missed some important clue on the map because of your hastiness. The competition then becomes about accuracy and attention to detail.

Before we even reached the first checkpoint, I was sweating and cursing myself for wearing so many clothes. Then again, I didn't know we'd be turning on the speed for a second course...heck, I didn't even know we'd be DOING a second course! I tore off my hat and second set of gloves and stuffed them into my pockets. As we made our way through the checkpoints, I quickly realized my gloves weren't made of the same sticker-bush-repellant fabric that my pants and jacket were made of. I had small little burr things all over both gloves almost instantly. It's like they come from out of nowhere and jump onto whatever article of clothing they can manage to stick to.

We had a little bit of a tough time when we were to go into the woods along a creek (that was pretty much dried up). Each of us took a side and went much deeper into the woods than it looked like we needed to be, but we still couldn't find the checkpoint. But we weren't alone. There had to be at least 6 other teams out there, roaming around, looking for a checkpoint that should've been much easier to find. It gets a bit frustrating when you feel like you're wasting time and making no progress. That's when it's best to take out the map and "regain your bearings". I don't now, I guess as Fletch says, "It's all ball bearings nowadays."

Luckily, we found the point we were looking for and tried to leave the rest of those teams behind as we ran out of the forest. As I ran, I was hit in the face with tree branches, tripped up by roots, slipped on leaves and stuck with thorns in my legs and hands. One particular tree branch made it's way into my pony tail and stayed there for the rest of the course!

We seemed to gain momentum as we got closer to the finish. Counting down the last 3 checkpoints was happiness for me because it meant I could stop running so fast! Sweat was just dripping down my face by the end and as we turned in our ticket, the guy collecting all the data told us "nice job." For a second, I felt proud of myself, but then he told the next team the same thing. So then I just figured that was like his line or something. We finished this second course in about an hour and 3 minutes which was great because it was not only much faster than the first course, but this second course was also much harder.

While I can't say I was reponsible for the fantastic orienteering job we did while flying around the second course, I can say that I learned a lot about orienteering and reading maps today. I don't think I'll be giving up triathlon to pursue orienteering events, but I do think I will be able to contribute much more to my next adventure race.

Bring it!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Health Club Junkie

I realize it has been a whole week since I made my last entry. I guess I haven't had that much to write about. I still really don't, so I had to think of something!

I think I have a sickness. It's called Health Club Addiction. I currently have 3 health club memberships and can't seem to part with any of them at the moment. In fact, I was even contemplating adding yet a 4th club to the mix! The weird thing is, I don't spend much time in any of these clubs from the months of May through September. I guess the clubs really like people like me. I don't really show up all that much, yet my membership fee keeps on coming in.

Why have 3 memberships, you ask?

Well - the first one - the cheapest one - is a national chain. They have clubs everywhere. And at a whopping $8.00/month, it seems silly to let this one go. In fact one time after a swim at the lake, I was dropped off at the club so I could get in a quick shower before we headed to the Sox game. Doesn't make much sense to drive all the way back home and all the way to the ballpark. And, in those years where I've had a really long commute due to traffic, many times, I was able to get to this club early to squeeze in a short workout before heading to the office. This strategy has saved me HUNDREDS OF HOURS of commute time. To me, worth the $8.00/month.

Now the second club is only for one reason. My swim team. There are many other local teams that charge way less money. But they aren't any closer to home. And, in most cases, their workouts are so late at night that it really doesn't fit for me. I'd rather get up at my usual 4:11am to work out before I go to the office. Reason being, I tend to lose motivation throughout the day. If I just automatically get up and get my swim in, it GETS DONE. If I wait until after work, I tend to make a million excuses as to why I should skip it. OK, so it's not really a cost-effective plan, but my swimming stays steady.

The last one. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! This is the closest full-facility club to my home. It is, however, the nicest and also the most expensive. They have all the amenities you need, and then some. I went once last week, but before that...well, had to be some time in APRIL when I was still lifting weights. Go figure. I should have just cancelled my membership and then joined again. But I always kept thinking - well, but if I needed to go, this is just so darned convenient!

I know it's crazy, but I just do not get what I need with any one single club. So I continue to keep these memberships and look like an idiot when I sometimes present the wrong club card when walking in. (yes, it has happened many a time) I know I can't be the only one.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Chicago Half Marathon 2006

The familiar sound of my Treo alarm came all too quickly. The alarm on that thing sounds like the music they play on Sports Center. "Na na na na." As I got up to go across the room to turn off the alarm, I wished I wasn't doing this race. I don't get enough sleep as it is, and getting up at 5:20am is early! Almost like a work day.

When I parked, I was over a half mile from the race site. It was still very dark outside and I had pants, a throw-away shirt on, a buff to cover my ears and gloves. I hustled a bit to the race site, as I was trying to meet up with a couple of friends before the race. It definitely felt warmer than the 47 degrees it was outside.

I stopped at a bank of porta potties about a quarter mile away from the race site, as I felt the lines over there would be quite long. The grass was very wet and I tried really hard to keep my shoes dry while walking across the grass, but that didn't work well. I had participated in this race 3 years ago, my first half marathon. That race was also my FASTEST half marathon and for the past 3 years, I've struggled to try and beat that time.

Now I've been a CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) member for the past 3 years. I originally joined because I was doing a lot of 5K races and CARA offers a discount for many of them. However, the last couple of years, I join mostly because of the marathon training program, of which I am a group leader, so CARA membership is required. The nice thing about this membership is that CARA has special member tents and gear check at some of the most popular Chicago area races. So today, they had a big tent for gear check (which aves TONS of time as opposed to going to the normal gear check. They also had Clif Shots and vaseline out on tables for any member that needed those items. Most importantly, they had 2 porta potties inside their gated area. Now this was fabulous as I had to "go" 3 more times before the race started and I never had to wait in line! That right there was worth the price of membership!

I caught up with a good friend and we hung out by the CARA tent looking for one more person who was supposed to meet us there, but we never found her. As we watched the pace group leaders head on out to the course, we quickly jumped in line to follow them. It was definitely warming up and I wondered whether or not I should have packed my buff and gloves into my gear check bag.

We lined up just behind the guy with the 1:50 pace marker. For a half marathon, 1:50 pace is about 8:23/mile. Now, I didn't think I could run that fast, but I wanted to be somewhere near that pace. And who knows, if you're feeling good on a particular day, anything is possible! We chatted as we waited for the start about everything from our families, our businesses and even discussed the apparel choices of some of the other runners. As the start time approached, we wished each other good luck and said we'd meet up somewhere after the finish.

I never even heard the start, but everyone started running, so I guess that was my cue to go! I've run several marathons and half marathons, and I've never tried to align myself with a pace group. After today, I remember why I don't do that. Almost immediately, it was like work to try and keep up with my "rabbit". He was jetting in and out of the crowd and I felt like I was expending a tremendous amount of wasted energy to try and stay with him. But in the back of my mind, I knew that if I let this guy get away, I could kiss my PR (personal record) goodbye. I had no one else my pace to run with and I knew I would give up if I didn't try to stick with him.

As painful as it was, I darted around the crowd with this guy and his little entourage. None of the women in this group were particularly friendly. I tried striking up a conversation with 2 of them and they didn't seem to want to talk. Whatever! At that point, I just kept quiet and tried to stay focued. I kept hitting the splits on my watch and we were a bit slow for the first two miles. After mile 2, Mr. Jack Rabbit 1:50 Pace Group Leader turned on the steam! Almost immedately, I started breathing heavily and started to think I was out of my league. "What am I doing here?" I thought to myself. I can't do this, we're not even to mile 3 and I am struggling. I reminded myself that this kind of self-doubt would surely be detrimental to my race if I kept it up, so I tried really hard to just catch my breath while keeping the pace. I took off my throw-away shirt and threw it on the side of the road. I ripped the buff off my head and wrapped it around my wrist. I took the gloves off and carried them, wishing I had left all this stuff in my gear check bag at the beginning of the race. I could now see the mile 3 marker coming up and as we crossed that line and I saw 7:53 on my watch, I now knew why I was struggling. Mr. Jack Rabbit Pacer Guy was going WAY TOO FAST! He toned it back a bit for the next mile and I clocked our 4th mile around 8:23...just where he wanted to be. And that pace was OK for me. The group of people that started with the 1:50 pace group was certainly dwindling down. Sure, you left all those people back there when you decided to crank it up to a sub-8 minute mile!

I wondered whether this obnoxiously fast mile was going to bite me toward the end of the race, but quickly decided to let that thought go. After all, what's done is done, I can't go back and re-do the mile! As the sun was rising over Lake Michigan, the brightness made my eyes hurt. I wondered why I didn't bring sunglasses and then remembered that it was pitch black when I got to the race site. I wasn't even thinking about how sunny it was going to be today. I quietly kept pace with the Jack Rabbit and decided that he smelled. Why don't guys put on deoderant before races? And then they wear sleeveless shirts for all of us to smell their lovely arome with no sheilding! I made the conscious decision to run next to him, but not behind him.

The next mile was 8:04. OK, I thought, this is fast, we'll slow down a bit now. But no. Jack Rabbit backed up that mile with another mile at 8:03. That was it. I moved over to the other side of the street and decided to let this group go. As much as I would have loved to be able to hold an 8 minute mile pace for this race, I was not physically nor mentally prepared to keep that pace for an entire 13 miles. It was a bit depressing as I watched the bouncing 1:50 sign head off into the distance, but I felt it was for the best. I probably could have ran maybe a few more at that pace, but then what? Bonk at mile 10? No thank you. I tried to convince myself I was doing the right thing. I needed to slow down, but not too much!

At mile 7, I told myself I was more than half way done. But you know, 6 more miles is still pretty far when you are pushing yourself hard. I could do a 13 mile training run at a slower pace and it could feel great. But today, I was leaving it out there. I had already run a few miles too fast and I was tired. I reminded myself that EVERYONE is tired, keep going. Besides, it's not like I could just turn around and go back to the car. I pressed on. My legs felt heavy, but I kept cranking out the better-than-expected splits. I played games with myself and talked the miles down and tried to picture myself doing those miles on the all too familiar roads that surround my house.

The runners were pretty spread out by now and I passed time by "picking" runners off one at a time. OK, I'm going to pass the guy with the yellow shirt. Then it was the girl with the 2 long, brown braids, then it was the girl that was running like she had a potato chip up her butt. And it was working...I stayed on pace. When I got close to mile 11, I was catching up to a woman about my height with a Valpo Half Marathon shirt on. Hmmm....I thought I recognized her as another good friend that I've done triathlons and swim meets with. As I came up to her, I smiled and said, "HEY, I didn't know you were running today!" She said yep and that her boyfriend was up ahead. Our breathing was labored and we struggled to get those words out. One thing about this woman is that she is one tough chick! And even better is that our running abilities are so close, it makes us fantastic running partners, though we never have the opportunity to train together. As I ran with her, silently, I thought about how she pushed me at a half marathon last year that made me want to push her in a ditch. We had planned on doing 2 hours at that race, but she really turned it on from mile 1, so I dug deep that day to stay with her to the end...only to find out she was doing the same to keep up with me. We both had stellar performances that day, and I know that if I had not been running with her that day, I would not have pushed so hard.

I didn't run next to her for very long. We had just 2 miles to go, and I was on a mission. I wanted that PR so bad, I could taste it. Your mind starts to play tricks on you, though, as I felt I was running at a snail's pace. I hit the next split on my watch, faster than the last mile. Are you serious??? Sweet. Just one more mile. Oh, but that one mile hurt. I was trying so hard to go faster, but I didn't have it in me. People started passing me and it wasn't fun. I knew that if I could just keep my pace, I would have that half marathon PR that I have coveted for a couple years now. I didn't have to go faster, but just stay on pace. WHERE IS THE DAMN FINISH LINE???? Come on, I can't keep this up much longer! I don't even hear music or crowds yet. OK, STOP thinking that way. Just go. Run. Find someone to "pick off". Focus. Stay steady. You can do it.

And I did. I finally cracked my long-standing half marathon PR. OK, so it was only a minute or so, but WHO CARES, I did it. I ran faster than I expected and I'm elated with my performance. I wasn't able to achieve very many PRs this year, so I'll take them where I can get them. And this one meant a lot to me. It was the same exact course I did just 3 years ago and I was faster. It feels good. What a perfect day for a race!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Adventure Race Of Our Own

Well, it's day 4 and I'm STILL recovering from the climb up 103 flights of stairs. Now, I figure the pain in my legs must be from the stair climbing because I've never felt this sore this long after any marathon or Ironman.

There has been a small little adventure race put on 2 of the last 3 years by my tri-buddy, none other than CJB. After a year of haitus, it is with great pleasure that I announce we will be having the 3rd RAYOR Adventure Race right here in our back yards. This race is being put on by CJB and the
Chicago Triathlon Team Luna Chix, of which I am a member of.

This is a perfect event for beginners. These will be 2 person teams and the event will last 4 hours, so you just collect as many clues as you can in the allotted time. The sections include (in no particular order):

  • Mountain biking
  • Metro trek - 1 person on scooter or skates, 1 on foot
  • Kayak
  • Orienteering
  • Mystery events

  • The registration is $40 per team and 100% of the entry fees will go to the Breast Cancer Fund.

    So, if you're in the area and you'd like to check out what an adventure race is like, this is the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet! Registration is until we reach 30 teams or Oct. 25th, whichever comes first. Just post a note to me if you'd like more information OR if you'd like to volunteer!!

    Monday, September 25, 2006

    Recovery Day 2

    The night after the Scallion, I couldn't really sleep. Sometimes when you exert yourself so much, you're too sore to sleep...or something like that. I didn't get home until after 11pm that night, yet at 3:15 am, I was wide awake. But the following day (Sunday), wasn't too bad. Sure, my quads were a bit sore, that's to be expected. I felt like I had just run a hard half marathon.

    But today - Monday - YEEEOOOOWWWWWW! I can barely move! To think I expected to run 3 miles this evening was just ridiculous!! Every time I get up off the chair, I need to use my arms as much as I can. The worst, of course, is going down stairs. At the office, I must've looked like I was handicapped or something because I had 3 guys rush to me to ask if I was OK and if I needed help down the stairs. It's quite embarassing when everyone asks you what's wrong and if you're OK.

    Then when you tell them how you punished your body ON PURPOSE and that you ENJOYED it, people look at you like you're crazy. Unless you've ever experienced something like this, you cannot understand what keeps you coming back for more. And you can't understand the bonding that goes on during a race like this. It's not to say the whole time we laughed and got along, but we helped each other and supported each other through one tough adventure. There were jokes, slams, name calling, and the usual banter. But there was also teamwork, encouragement, and true friendship.

    I am so sore today. I think this is worse than any marathon or Ironman I've ever done. My quads are definitely the worst, but the calves ache, too. Not to mention the neck and shoulders. Just a couple more days and I plan to be back to normal. And I am so excited that I don't feel like I'm catching a cold. Spending 8.5 hours in the cold and rain isn't exactly the best thing you can do for yourself.

    So, I'm enjoying my time on the couch this evening. But with the half marathon this weekend, well, I can't relax TOO much!!

    I can't believe I think I've just been converted into an Adventure Racing enthusiast!! Sometimes, I shock myself.

    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    Wild Scallion 2006

    Our team must've exchanged over 100 emails and/or voicemails in the week before this race. Over half of these were "what do we wear"? We had one very experienced adventure racer, Captain J-B, myself with one previous A/R under my belt, and one person who was breaking her cherry into the sport. For this race, I actually did track weather reports ahead of time. The last time I did this race, it took us about 8 hours or so and I froze almost the entire time. It's a miserable way to spend the day, so I didn't want that to happen again. The forecast was calling for mid 60s and rain...oh, we were guaranteed some rain on race day.

    Captain J-B (CJB) supplied us with a list of things to bring. He and I argued about many of the items on the list, especially his request that we bring 2 bike helmets. Not to mention, CJB feels the need to be the first one in transition no matter what race he goes to. So this race starts at 11:00am, but he wants to leave at some crazy hour, but I think he knew his 2 teammates were going to argue if he gave us some obnoxious hour to meet. We agreed on 7am.

    Now, I wasn't overly crazy about doing this race last time. I was miserably cold and I felt completely useless to my team. And the only reason I agreed last time was that the female of that co-ed team sustained an injury that prevented her from participating in the race. I didn't want my other 2 friends, who could find NO OTHER FEMALE to race with, to miss out on something they looked so forward to, so I reluctantly agreed to that one. And at the finish of that race, a fellow racer, and good friend, asked me what I thought of the end of that race. I said it was crazy and I would never do this again.

    Yet here I was. I got suckered in to THIS race because of a friendly little rivalry of triathlete friends. There were 2 women and 1 man on each team, and it should have been a pretty equal race. While we were on our way to the race site, we got a phone call from one of the other team members stating they were already there. "WHAT???", I thought. That should've tipped me off on what was to come. We pulled into the parking lot and found one of the other team members quickly. After a friendly exchange, we then saw another familiar face, a guy who is not only a phenomenal triathlete, but a killer Adventure Racer! His navigation skills are second to none and I know he's been on sponsored adventure race teams before. Little did we know, he was now racing with our friends. Unfortunately, one of their team members was feeling under the weather and they called this guy last-minute to try and save their team.

    Well, this changed everything. No longer were we racing the other team, we were just out there having fun now. There was no way we could beat that team unless something went seriously wrong. My focus then went off of them and on to beating as many other teams out there as we could. I also really wanted to have fun this time. It's a long day when you're not having fun!!

    I must say that CJB spends countless hours thinking about cool little tricks that will help us in this race. If there's any way to make something lighter, easier, more comfortable or just plain cool, he's going to come up with it. Transition was in the middle of this big, grassy field which was already a little soft from all the rain we've recently had. We had one of the best tents out there...we had a waterproof tarp for the floor, and the waterproof tent had sides and a zipper front. It was, by far, the best tent out there...which caused problems for us later. It was definitely going to keep us and our things dry for the day ahead of us.

    The start of the race was at Northerly Island which is the old Meigs Field. The first section required us to run to the Sears Tower and up 103 flights of stairs. I had a short-sleeved underarmor shirt on under the matching bike jersey with the Scallion bib (where you have your number). We were team that number. I was always a big Walter Payton fan and I took it as fate that this was going to be a good day! I went back and forth on whether to wear armwarmers or not for the start. We were going to be running, so I'd probably get warm quickly. At the last minute, I balled up the armwarmers and tucked them into a slot on my fuel belt, but I kept a pair of gloves on. I have a sometimes have a problem keeping my hands and feet warm.

    All the teams were gathered at the start. We said good luck to the other team (not like they'd be needing it) and before I knew it, we were off and running across the field. There are a few things about adventure racing that make it different than other types of racing:

  • Pace yourself, it will be a long day
  • Speed doesn't always necessarily win the race
  • The fastest route isn't always a straight line
  • You're only as strong as your weakest link

  • We ran for what seemed like forever (but was really only about 3.5 miles) to the Sears Tower. In the building we go and each team got one bottle of water to split. Ick. Cooties. My teammates were so good to me and know what a germ-a-phob I am, so I got to take the first drink. Then we were off to climb to the top. I gave one of my teammates one of my other gloves. It helps to pull yourself up the railing and the railing was already soaked from all the other competitors' sweat, so the glove helpted. For the first 20 flights, I wanted to go around these slow people. CJB kept telling me to slow down and pace myself. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, towards the 40th floor, I started losing steam. I was sweating profusely and breathing heavily. My legs felt fine, but my lungs felt like they were about to explode. After about 10 more flights, I had to ask to stop. I bent over, gasping for breath. I was leaving a little sweat puddle where it was just dripping endlessly off my face. I was commanded to take my shirts off, it would keep my cooler. That stairwell was very stuffy. I didn't think it would help, but I would try anything. I didn't want to have to tell my teammates I couldn't make it. I thought to myself, "WHY does this feel so hard!???! I am an Ironman, I can DO THIS!" Almost immediately after taking off the underarmor and bike jersey, I felt better. Let's GO!

    Another 25 flights and my teammates knew I needed to stop again. We drank what was left in our fuel belts, rested a quick 30 seconds, about 7 teams passed us, and we pressed on. I could not believe how hard this was. CJB kept telling me this was the hardest thing we would do all day. He also said, "You're an f-ing Ironman, now get up those stairs!" He was right. This wasn't going to break me. We jumped back on the stairs and I felt pretty good. There were already teams on their way down, telling us "good job, you're almost there." I hate that. Twenty more floors, thought it seems like it, isn't really "almost there". It's like telling someone at mile 20 of a marathon "you're almost there!" UGH! I think we made one more quick stop just to catch our (or maybe just my) breath and we got faster the closer we got to the top. WOO HOO - there was air conditioning at the top! I immediately found a clear spot and sat down. I just needed to bring my heart rate back down before I could make that journey down the stairs. I felt so good, though, that I was done with that challenge. We were done with the most physically challenging part of the day.

    We sat for maybe about a minute, saw the other team we knew, they looked so fresh and they were off within seconds. I jumped up and said let's go...down will be a piece of cake! Well, yes, we were moving much more quickly down than we were going up. But these stairs are a bit narrow and I'm very nervous going down because I have a hard time fitting my size 10 foot on these tiny little stairs. And the stairs were a bit slippery from all the sweat of the other racers. So, I held on the railing so if I slipped, I had a chance I'd catch myself. That, or I fall right into CJB, which would probably hurt him more than me.

    We shared another bottle of water at the bottom of the stairs and we were on our way back toward the lake. Both us women put our shirts back on as it was a bit nipply wen we exited the Sears tower. Our shirts were absolutely soaked through with sweat, which normally disgusts me, but in a racing situation, it's something you just deal with. I immediately pitched my glove, which had all the nasty hand railing sweat on it, into the nearest trash can. We ran at a nice, steady pace toward our next checkpoint.

    The next little fun thing we get to do is walk in the lake...I don't know how far, but if I could've swam it, I probably could've been faster. All 3 of us took off our shoes, but left the socks on, in order to try and keep the shoes dry. We had to read the letters on each of 4 buoys while walking through the water as a team, with arms locked or holding hands. For some reason, CJB wasn't really good at this. It was like his feet turned to lead and I kept trying to drag him through the water. We went shallower so he would have an easier time. The letters were T-E-A-M. We got to the end and put our shoes on...getting them wet in the process, go figure! Then it was on to coasteering, which is navigating your way across some large rocks. This was just a little tricky, because all of our shoes were slippery from being wet. Last time I did this, we went about a mile, and I thought it was my favorite part of that race. Unfortunately, this time, it lasted less than 10 minutes. We were just about a quarter of a mile from transition. We jumped in the tent, each ate a hamburger (thanks CJB!), I dumped my underarmor, added a camelback, put on a fresh pair of socks, changed the orthotics from one pair of shoe to the next and we were ready to go! Very quick transition!

    Now we're off to Schiller Park woods, maybe some 20+ miles on bike, to our orienteering course. We got on our bikes and it felt like a break from all the running and the stairs! We were not on our bikes for 10 minutes before it started to rain. We immediately pulled over and took out the waterproof (or so we thought) jackets we had tucked in our camelbacks. In the time it took for us to pull over and put them on...IT STOPPED RAINING!!! WTF??? We left the jackets on and continued on up the lakefront path. We cut over at Irving Park and make the very long ride on out to First Avenue. It started to rain. It was more than a drizzle, but not quite a downpour. It took away our ability to draft on the bikes because of the water shooting up from the bike in front of you. We were yelled at by a few drivers and it felt like we were stopped at every other red light. The good thing was, none of us was cold.

    We arrived to the orienteering course and the place to dump our bikes was like a big mud pit. Our shoes and socks were already soaked through, what's a little bit of mud going to hurt?? Now, I'm not good at directions. I'm not good with maps. But what I did have on this day was an endless amount of energy. We were to use the tool at each point to punch little holes in different shapes at each checkpoint. We were the only team that went the backwards route, from point 8 to point 1, and it helped to see where the other teams were coming from. We saw our friends around check point 5, which means they were still a bit ahead of us, but less than we would've expected. One point was in the middle of the woods, through a bunch of mud (I despise getting dirty), yet another was through a field of weeds and grass that were taller than I was! KK took a tumble in the forest, landing on her pinky finger, but she was a true sport about it, and just got up and kept going. We moved quickly and we jogged between checkpoints and I have to think we made up some time on those people that were able to do those stairs quicker than I was! DAMN those stairs, why did that feel so hard! I spent most of the day trying to "make up" the time we lost there because of me.

    While KK and I were making a pit stop, CJB was getting the map for the next part. We were praying they cancelled the trail portion of this race on bike because we had road bikes. There would be no way we could complete that section. Because of the downpour of rain, thankfully, it was cancelled. We rejoiced, we had made the right choice in selecting our road bikes for this race! We went on to a series of checkpoints on the bike. And the rain came down harder.

    We went to Malcom X College as one of the checkpoints and, at one time, we thought, gee, the rain could NOT get worse. We were wrong! Almost immediately after leaving the college, the wind picked up and we were being pelted in the face with rain drops. I don't ever remember being hit in the face with rain drops and feeling like it hurt before! For miles, we rode in the rain and I made most of that journey with one eye closed. I was fighting to keep my contacts in. Between the wind and the rain being blown into my face, I thought for sure I was going to lose one. It wasn't a very safe feeling, riding a bike in the pouring rain, with one eye closed. I just hoped my teammates would warn me if a car was coming.

    At some points, we had to ride through at least 6 inches of water. Luckily, CJB's knowledge of the city kept us right on track and we never really "screwed up" in our directions. We headed back to the transition area where all I could think of was putting on some dry shirts. I was amazed at how the rain didn't really get me very cold. Despite the downpour, I was having a great time! We took the trail into transition and there was a large section that was under water. CJB rode right through, but KK screamed and planted her feet when her bike must've hit a massive pothole in the trail. Thank God she didn't go down because I was right behind her. I had seen where CJB rode through, and I took that route and escaped unharmed. KK thought for sure she had gotten a flat, she hit that hole hard. But I told her, it doesn't matter, we're almost to transition and we're done with the bikes! Again, trooper that she is, we heard nothing more of that big hole she hit.

    We saw our friends were still in transition and I was shocked they weren't further ahead of us. Our day was going well. We walked into our tent and discovered people had been in there. They left huge puddles of water at the bottom of our tent. And, my mistake, my bag was on the floor of that tent. Everything in my bag was now soaked. I had no warm clothes to put on. I was ticked. Using someone else's transition area is like cheating. You don't touch another team's things...period. Our friends confirmed that they had seen at least 2 guys in our tent. I couldn't be more furious. It was one thing if mother nature had soaked my things on her own, but to have another competitor violate our space and cause my things to become waterlogged, well, I have NO TOLERANCE for cheaters.

    I choked down another hamburger, put on different clothes (they were no longer dry OR clean), put my orthotics back into the other pair of shoes, squeezed out my socks (I didn't have a 3rd pair!) and threw my raincoat on. At least THAT raincoat would keep my dry. At some point during the last section, it was decided that I was no longer scootering, I would be running. Not my favorite thing to do, but you gotta do what's best for the team. The next section needed to have one of us on roller blades, one of us on a scooter, and the other team member was the runner. Unfortunately, all 3 of us had to wear helmets. It's kinda goofy to wear a helmet while you're running! I'm not a very fast runner, but I still felt like I had a bunch of energy...that, and CJB told us I only had to run another 3 miles. (you can ask me what CJB stands for later).

    So we took off for what was to be the last section of the race. I couldn't believe the day was going so fast. I was truly enjoying myself. It helps to be with good friends...I don't think I would have survived the day had I done it alone. I yelled at those guys for being behind me. After all, they were on WHEELS, I had to run! Get up there and navigate, dammit! Within the first 15 minutes of this section. The rain stopped. The sun came out. GUESS I DON'T NEED THIS RAINCOAT! Ugh! Now I have to carry it the rest of the way! We went through various sections of the city, collecting different answers to questions, and I knew I had already run at least 5 miles. One was at Navy Pier, one was somewhere on Huron, then this other guy from another team yelled "EXCUSE ME" as he pushed by me on the sidewalk. WTF, go around, loser! And the team wasn't really following the rules as your whole team should be within 100 yards of each other. They clearly weren't following this, but whatever. He just ticked me off. As I kept going, he just STOPS in front of me, and now I have to run around him! DUDE, WTF? That did it for me, I'm not letting this team in front of me again. I yelled to my team, OK, where to next, and I just ran. I ran as hard as I could. I wanted to build up as big of a lead as I could on these guys. Yes, 3 guys, so they weren't even in our classification, but that guy had ticked me off! My teammates asked my why I was running so fast, but I think they knew.

    At the very next checkpoint, they caught up to us. Shoot. Now they gave that guy the scooter and some skinny guy started running. Damn, I can't keep up with him. Tried as hard as I could, but that guy was stronger than me. Let it go, we're almost there and we've had a great race. I ask CJB, "How much further?" I was getting tired. He said "Not very far." OK, that doesn't help! HOW MUCH FURTHER???? "Six blocks, he yells, six blocks!" "OK," I thought, "I can keep this up for another six blocks." By now it was dark and we had turned on our headlamps. Now I was THANKFUL CJB made us bring 2 helmets because we had strapped headlights on the second helmet. These came in very useful.

    We turned the corner and could see the finish line. CJB and KK flew ahead of me, but I was running as fast as I could. The events of the day had taken quite a toll on my quads and I was in pain just running to the finish. I tried SO HARD to catch those guys, and I could see they were only about 10 seconds in front of me, but that skinny dude can RUN! We crossed the finish line and were elated to be done!! We received our medals, certificate for a free Chipotle burrito (a highlight for me!) and got our picture taken.

    As a special bonus, CJB had stashed some dry sweatshirts and stocking caps for us near the finish line. Of course, we had to ask a cop to loan us a tire iron to help us open the manhole cover where the stuff was stashed (I know the guy thinks we're nuts), but it was SO WORTH it. I was shivering within minutes of finishing and without being able to put on a dry shirt, I'm sure I would have been miserable. It was yet another highlight of the day.

    We had a chance to catch up with the other team and share stories from the day. We all seemed to have a great time and I can't believe I'm going to say this, but yeah, I'd most definitely do this again! Next time, however, I gotta figure out how to climb 103 stairs without stopping AND how to prevent cheaters from busting in on our transition tent.

    Thanks to my teammates, CJB and KK, you guys were awesome people to hang with for the day. Even though I hated you both at different points throughout the day, I would definitely race with both of you again. And thanks to the other team for helping us, more than once, from screwing up our race and giving us a team to look for throughout the day. I'm already thinking of improvements for next year....