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!