IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

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.