Sunday, December 30, 2007
This was just a 5K. Though there was really no pressure to perform, I wanted to try and run a good race. "Good" for me, at this time, is an unknown. I haven't been training, just getting in a few workouts here and there. I thought it would be interesting to see what I could do.
It was cold - I think the temperature read 20 degrees when I woke up this morning. The good thing was that there was no wind and it became sunny out (I forgot sunglasses). The biggest obstacle was all the ice on the trail. I'm a bit nervous about ice because I have a horrible sense of balance, so most of my run was on the side just along the path.
I was pretty much out of breath right at the start and my heart rate was much too high. I was getting tired and losing steam fast...then I hit mile 1! OUCH! I had to slow down. The air was cold enough and I was breathing hard enough that it hurt. I spent the next mile jumping off and on the trail because it did feel easier when I could run on dry pavement vs. the somewhat packed snow on the sides of the trail. The last mile was pitiful. I felt like I was reduced to a jog, but I kept trying to remind myself this was just a baseline. On a positive note, I felt no pain in the shin!
I think this was my 2nd slowest ever 5K. (The slowest 5K I've ever done was over 30 minutes...my first one, with no training at all). I knew not to expect much, however, I did expect to go faster than the close 28 minutes I put on the board today. Seeing as it was called the "Resolution Run" I thought about what Resolutions I would make before the new year. Then I decided I was working too hard to think about such things! Besides, I already have my resolutions all written out.
Today's time disappointed me, but in looking at my lack of run training for the last 6 months, I'm not really sure what I expected. But I am coming away with 2 positive things from today: 1 - no shin pain! WOO HOO! 2 - it will be fun to watch as I make improvements on today's race time.
Monday, December 24, 2007
I remember when I was picking out my bike, I showed a picture of it to a co-worker. He laughed and said, "You're going to spend all that money on a bike and it doesn't even come with pedals?" Right. Now my brother is buying a new, top of the line bike which should be arriving any day! This is his first road bike and he still hasn't picked out pedals yet. I helped a friend of his pick out some things to get him for Christmas (all for the new bike, of course). Basically, it's a lot of stuff he needs but doesn't know he needs it yet! These things are bottle cages, a bag for the bike, spare tubes, patch kit, levers, etc. He has no idea what the levers are for. I cannot wait to go out riding and show him what all this stuff is for and why he needs to carry all this stuff. The rides he's been going out on - on a mountain bike - have been 20+ miles. He's been doing this WITHOUT a spare! Yikes!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Don't know why, but the Asics socks are my favorite, even for cycling. Even after 6 months, the socks hold their shape and still offer enough cushioning to make the run comfortable. They might not have cool colors or designs, but they work. Gotta stick with what works!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
As with any volunteer program, 2 things ring true: 1)you can't force a volunteer to contribute and 2)you only get out of the program what you put in. For a few of us, the rewards are priceless. For others, I seem to think they felt the responsibility was a burden. I thought bringing in more women would help lessen the workload. It did not. I read in some business book that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. How true!
I have been soliciting applicants for the 2008 team and I am excited by the number of people interested and by the enthusiasm they will bring to the team. Women who want to join the team for the right reasons! Women who want to help and want to make a difference! Is being a part of the team easy? Sometimes, no. However, I truly love helping newbies get acquainted to the sport, no matter what their level. It's so exciting to watch someone go through their first triathlon. I remember all the questions and worries I had as I prepared for my first triathlon and I had wished I had such a supportive group to work through those with me.
As I look back on the 2007 Luna Chix, I think we had a good team. It had all the makings and potential for a group to make a huge impact. Our first meeting was excellent and the energy in that room was phenomenal. Somewhere along the line, though, that energy fizzled and as the year moved on, many women did not fulfill even the minimal requirements of being a team member.
In 2008, I plan to have a better, stronger, more dedicated Luna Chix team. Again, as volunteers, no one can be forced to participate. However, by making sure the right people are in place, I think the Luna Chix team can make a big difference in the lives of many women. I'm looking forward to what the new year will bring!
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Most of my time has been spent sleeping lately. Work, sleep, maybe head on over to the pool. Not much. Researching a couple of races to do next year, not really ready to make any decisions, I'm just in a funk right now. I've never taken this much down time between seasons. Last year at this time, I had just finished running a marathon. I took a few weeks off and went right into training in January for the Boston Marathon in April. I kept myself busy.
I'm hoping all this "rest and recovery" will do me good. I've read that one of the biggest mistakes us age groupers make is not taking enough recovery time. But how much is enough? If I stop training for much longer, I might never go back. I'm starting to get used to plopping myself on the couch where my ass has now made a permanent indentation in the cushions. What am I watching on television? Mostly crap - you've got all those goofy reality shows (except Survivor, still love that one), a slew of crime-police investigation shows, and then some funny ones and I guess there's some drama. I don't know, I don't care. Unfortunately, I tend to stick with what I know, Seinfeld and King of Queens reruns.
OK, back to the workouts. I've run a couple of times since IMFL. I'm up to 30 minutes. 30 very slow minutes. In fact, after about 11-12 minutes, I'm wondering if it would be OK to stop. The good news is that there has been no pain. The bad news is that I'm so uninspired these days, I feel like a different person. Even knowing I have a brand new pair of Asics sitting in the closet waiting to be worn, I just don't feel like getting out there to run. Any time before my injury, I would've been up before dawn running out the door to try out the new shoes. I question whether or not I'll be able to get back to where I was before I got hurt. I wonder if I'll want to be putting in all the hard work I was putting in when I was able to run.
I always said I'd quit the sport of triathlon when it stopped being fun. It's not fun right now. The swimming is still fun...especially with friends...but the rest, eh, guess I need more down time.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
But all of that seems like an eternity ago. For the last few weeks as I prepared for IMFL, I remember thinking I couldn't wait for it to be over so I could take some much needed time off. And here we are, just 10 days later and I'm trying to think of what I can do next. All that work that lasted for months and months doesn't seem so bad (now that it's over).
The Saint and I have been sick ever since we came back from FL. It has been over 5 years since I had a cold, but this one struck hard. The last several days, I haven't even been able to talk. I started to believe I had strep throat and I was very close to heading into one of those walk-in care centers to get some antibiotics or something. Finally today, it's starting to turn around for me and for the first time since IMFL, I was able to get into the pool and swim for a while. I've been advised to do nothing strenuous, nothing long, just get in and swim while remaining very relaxed. It felt good. Actually, it felt great.
I know my body is still recovering from the strain of Ironman and know not to push it. But I have to be thankful of the cold because THAT is what has forced me to stick to the plan. It's tough to take the prescribed time off, but everyone will tell you it's all for the best in the long run. And maybe that has been part of my problem. In the last 4 years, I don't think I've EVER taken this much time off from training. It's part of that type A, addictive personality that just pushes me out the door for each workout, whether it's in my best interest or not.
In fact, I went to a 10K this weekend - just as a spectator - and it was just plain weird. I saw so many familiar faces and they were all in shock when I said I wasn't racing, I was just there to watch. It was UNHEARD OF! "What do you mean, you're NOT racing??!?!?" It was kinda funny. It did make me wish I was racing....well, sort of. Guess it's just not like me to stand on the sidelines and just cheer everyone on. But, it was great! I saw so many friends run by, it was fun to cheer them on and the time flew by! I tell ya, being a spectator can be hard work!
So, I'd like to say I'm back to training, but it's not really training. I'm doing stuff, but nothing "structured." And as much as I'd like to hit a tough workout, I know that's just not the right thing to do. I also know that if I wait long enough, it will be time to hit the hard workouts again soon. And I thought I'd never say this, but I miss running. I can't wait to run again, even if it's really, really slow....
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
I set the alarm for 4am, though I was up before then. I got out of bed and quietly went to the kitchen in the condo to start eating. As usual, I'm never hungry when I immediately wake up, so forcing down the necessary calories wasn't easy. Ironman NA is different from most races in that you MUST check in your bike, T1 and T2 things the day before. It does make it easier to pack up on race morning because most of your stuff is already where it needs to be. All I had to bring was my 2 Special Needs bags (these are bags that you can put whatever you want or think you might need half way through the bike and run sections of the course). I put some things in each, not really expecting to use anything except the long-sleeved shirt for the run. Once the sun goes down, it can get pretty chilly.
The walk down to the transition area was quick. We were able to drop off the Special Needs bags on the way down to transition. Then it was just a matter of putting all our nutrition on the bikes, adding last-minute items to the transition bags, pumping up the tires on the bikes, get body marked, then we were off to the beach! Even though we left the condo around 5:10am, time passed very quickly and before I knew it, we would be starting in just 15 minutes.
I stood with BC while we listened to the National Anthem and we moved closer to the water. I thanked him for his support, wished him good luck and I had to walk away. I'm not sure why, but my eyes welled up with tears then and I wondered why I was about to do this again. My plan was to start very, very wide. I just did not want to be in the mix of the washing machine of arms, elbows, legs and bodies of all those other swimmers. I walked down the beach, away from the buoys and the groups of swimmers seemed endless. But I had been thinking about this plan ever since I did my last Ironman swim 16 months ago, I would not put myself in the center of this mess. I got to a place where there were about 8-10 swimmers on my right. We needed to swim out (and considerably left) to get to the buoys. I didn't care that I would be swimming a bit longer, the energy and frustration I save would be well worth it in my eyes. I also decided the people I lined up with were much less aggressive and serious about this race. We were cracking jokes up until 30 seconds before the start.
The cannon went off and I did a couple of dolphin dives to get started. Those are so exhausting! I swam about 100 yards and started smiling. I was not hit at all. I made the right decision. This was awesome! I started veering left to try and catch a little draft. But I didn't want to get too close in there. I found what I thought to be a woman who was about my speed. I backed off and swam a little bit out, toward the right, to get on her feet. Aaaaahhhhh. Nice. She swam crooked every now and then, but when I tried to break away from her, I noticed I wasn't gaining ground. She sighted enough that she never went off course very far. We only had 2 turns before we had to get out to start the second loop, and I followed her through both turns very easily. It was a bit strange....I know I'm toward the front of the pack, but where IS everyone?? Oh well, who cares, I'm swimming effortlessly and breathing as normal as I would just sitting in front of the television.
I got out of the water and looked at the clock...then realized I needed to take off 10 minutes (because the clock showed the professionals' time and they started 10 minutes before us). I was happy to see 29 minutes and some change. This was great! (In the pic above, I'm the one running past the lady with the blonde hair holding a cup of water). I hopped back in, but unfortunately lost the woman I was drafting off of. I saw tons of people swimming INSIDE the buoys and wondered what they were doing. If you swim a course counter clockwise, the buoys should be on your left side. I kept on my way and found another set of feet to draft off of. I was bummed when I thought about the fact that the swim was nearing the end...I was having fun! We made the first of the 2 turns on the second loop and there was only one other swimmer actually going around the right side of the furthest buoy. Unbelievable. I think a few fast swimmers cut the course and majority of the pack followed suit. It made my swim really easy, I felt like there were only about 6 of us out there.
I got out of the water and saw 1:00 on the clock. Sweet...right as expected..maybe even a couple minutes faster! The wetsuit strippers I went to struggled a bit to get my wetsuit off. I grabbed the wetsuit and started running toward the showers they had set up for us to rinse the salt water off a little. To my surprise, I ran into BC headed toward the showers!! It was a nice surprise and I was glad to see he had a very strong swim also. Unfortunately, no one was there to hand me my transition bag, so I went to get it myself. Once inside the transition tent, I was a little out of breath, but calm as I quickly changed into biking clothes. I felt quick as I ran out of the tent only to find that no one was there to hand me my bike. I ran over to my rack to get my own bike and headed out toward the bike course. One of the greatest things about being a strong female swimmer is that I was in the transition tent with just a couple of women and there weren't even many men heading out on the course yet. I got to the Mount Line, got on the bike and pedaled away.
Immediately, I thought something wasn't right. My back wheel, with the disc, didn't sound right. It didn't feel right. Is this all in my head? At that moment, I was riding over some brick paver, so I figured it would sound normal as soon as I got on some smooth pavement. Unfortunately, no...I got on the blacktop and something still wasn't right. I looked down at my back tire and it was flat. NO!!!!! I pulled over and stopped my watch. I didn't want to know how much time this was going to cost me because I knew it would make me push harder to make up the time...NOT a smart thing to do. I ran back a few steps, pulling the bike, to lean it up against a trailer that was lined up on the side of the road. There was a nice older woman there who said, "I know I'm not supposed to help you, but is there anything I can do?" Oddly enough, I smiled and said, if you could just hold my bike for a second, that would be great! I think she was excited about getting the chance to help an athlete in distress. I asked some young boy to go to transition and ask them to send support. For a brief moment, I considered calling it a day. This is not supposed to happen!
I took some deep breaths and tried to calm down. I moved the chain to the smallest gears and took the wheel off. I then took the spare off the back of my seat where it was taped on. I unwrapped the razor blade BC had luckily given to me just yesterday. I then cringed as I sliced the tire off the wheel. This was a tire that only had a couple hundred miles on it at most, but I couldn't risk taking the time to pump it up only to realize that there was a hole in it. I ripped the tire off, unwrapped the spare and I think I surprised myself when I was able to get the tire on pretty quickly. One of the spectators asked, "Have you done this before?" I said, "Ironman, yes...change a tubular flat...no!" I tried using my CO2, but for some reason, I couldn't get it to engage. The bikers were flying by me out of transition and it was stressful. I yanked off the hand pump I always keep on the bike and tried pumping it up that way. It was taking air, but I knew I couldn't get enough pressure in there with this little pump. I kept looking for the support crew, but no one was coming. Just then, the boy I sent to get help came back to me and said if I wanted help, I had to go back to transition. WHAT??!?!? Crap. Well, I thought...I could just ride on, tire not completely full, or I could take the extra couple of minutes to go back into transition to make sure the tire was on right and get the right amount of air in it. Had this been a shorter race, I might've made a different decision, but I chose to run back into transition.
It was a nightmare. All these bikers were coming out and I was running all the way back in. I was almost run over several times by people who mounted their bikes and were still looking down at their feet as they rode off...they wouldn't even look up until I yelled to them. It was not only embarrassing, it was frustrating. Any lead I had built up on that fabulous swim was now gone....and then some. As I was about to run back into transition I was stopped by a volunteer. She told me I couldn't go back in. I told her I needed a pump and I was directed to come back into transition! COME ON, WOMAN, I'M TRYING TO RACE HERE!!! She asked if I had a timing chip on. Of course!!!! Then she said, well, then you can't go back over the timing mat. Are you kidding me? She then became distracted, so I headed into transition and tried to cross over a part past where the mat had ended. At this point, I don't care if my transition time is all messed up, the extra time is either going to be tacked on to my transition or my bike split. I dodged tons of athletes all in a hurry to get out on the bike course. I saw some men standing under a tent and I asked them for a pump. They pointed across one of the aisles and I saw about 6 bike technicians standing there with a bunch of pumps. I called to them, but then one of the men I was standing by chastized me and said I need to go over there if I want to use a pump. I was like, "Dude, it's much easier to carry a pump across the aisle with all these athletes going by than it is for me to wheel my bike across the aisle!" He was pretty mean about it and told me I needed to wait for it to be clear. Uh huh, I'd be standing there for another hour if I waited for that! And just like Frogger, I maneuvered my way across the streaming flow of athletes and shoved my back wheel towards the technicians. The technicians were awesome. One tried to calm me down while the other immediately pumped my tire. I asked if it would hold, due to the fact the glue on the spare was kinda old. One guy says to me, "Sure, just don't go fast." HUH??? Another one tells me to take it easy on the turns, but it should hold no problem.
I struggle to turn the bike around in the small space and try not to block other athletes. I now run out with this huge crowd of bikers. It was a zoo. I would later find out that no less than 700 athletes passed me during the time it took me to take care of this flat. Depressing. I got back to the Mount Line, got on the bike and started riding. NOW it feels right! Whew! I took more deep breaths and congratulated myself for not freaking out. Alright, now focus. Just stick to the plan and try to forget about how much time you just lost.
I settled in to my rhythym and tried to enjoy the ride. It was not a hard pace, in fact, many times, I purposely made myself ride slower. This would be a long day. Even with all the lost time with the flat, bikers whizzed by me. I tried not to think about it, just trying to ride my own ride. But it's hard. Especially when you're not working so hard and you know you can keep up with/go faster than whoever is passing you at the moment. STICK TO THE PLAN! I drank regularly and my nutrition was spot on. I took water at all but one aid station and grabbed a couple of bananas when I could. I passed by the special needs bags and decided I didn't need anything. There was no one there to hand me my bag anyway. The miles went by - 60, 70, 80...and I waited for that, "OMIGOD, is it over yet?" feeling. More miles 90, 100...hey, I still feel pretty good! Packs of bikers would go by, drafting. I did see some penalties given. I thought about drafting because it seemed like so many people were doing it, but that would make me ride the pace of the group, not my own pace. And I was really excited to see what I could do on my own. No matter how fast my bike split is, I could never place in a race like this, so I just wanted to stick to my plan and see how I could do. I was quite confident it would be better than last time!!
The wind had picked up in the later miles of the race. As people continued to pass me, I couldn't help but think that this wouldn't be happening had I not had that stupid flat!! ENOUGH! I had to stop thinking negatively about it. I was, though, still pretty cautious around the turns. I kept thinking my poorly glued spare was going to roll right off the rim. Fortunately, there weren't a whole lot of turns on this course and no real downhill to worry about! I got off the bike feeling very good, and the spare held up the entire ride!
I was lucky to have someone take my bike when I rode in, but once again, had to find my own transition bag. I ran over to the tent, slowly, as I fumbled with my Garmin to change it to run mode. I got into the transition tent and did a full wardrobe change. The volunteer helping me was kinda rude, barking at me and I wished she would go away. Just stop moving my stuff, I can do it! But she's only trying to help, so I just dealt with it. I was bummed there was no water in the tent, but I expected there would be some right outside the tent before we got on the run course. I was yelled at to turn my number to the front as I left transition, and I carried my visor as I started running.
Right out of the transition, there was the Saint, yelling to me, said he saw the flat, but that I still managed to put up a pretty good bike split. The way I calculated it, I lost about 15-20 minutes on that fiasco, but I couldn't be sure. Again, I tried not to think about it...can't change it now, anyway. What's done is done. I was running at a pretty good pace and felt great. A deer darted across the course while I was in Andrews Park. Little guy looked all confused with all these runners crowding his territory! I tried to remember to focus on nutrition and to take regular walk breaks. I got through the first 10 miles pretty easily, but then I started to slow down. A woman on the side of the road called out..."MJ...Is that MJ?? HEY - it's Jen Harrison!" And I smiled and said hi back. It was really cool that she was out there cheering people on and even cooler that she recognized me! It gave me a quick boost and I tried to keep on running. By the time I got to the half way point, the Saint was there again, standing outside our condo with the spouses of KK, JQ and sometimes BC.
He said I looked good, but I wasn't feeling good. My quads were starting to ache, no doubt due to the lack of running. Interestingly enough, I didn't feel any shin pain whatsoever.
I continued on my run/walk plan, chose to pass by the special needs bag and hoped I wouldn't freeze on the second loop of the run. I was in a good place mentally, I just hoped my quads wouldn't get worse. Not sure who did it, but someone typed in a message at the motivation checkpoint...THANK YOU to whoever put that message in there. It lifted my spirits as the sun set and I was handed a glow necklace. And though I felt like I was slowing, my pace stayed amazingly consistent until about mile 22. My legs felt heavy and the sound of my feet shuffling on the pavement irritated me. I just didn't have the strength to pick them up high enough to not make that noise any more. I counted down the miles and kept thinking what 4 miles left of Waterfall Glen feels like...then 3 miles, then 2 miles. With 1 mile left to go, I vowed to run the whole mile in. The pain in my legs was worse than any pain I've had before, but not injury pain. This is what you get when you only train up to 12 miles, then attempt to go out and run 26. I can do it...just 1 mile.
I could hear the announcer calling finisher names and saying, "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" I didn't hear them announce my name at either of my other 2 Ironman races, so I hoped I'd be able to hear it today. Down the finishing chute, the specators are lined up on both sides, cheering athletes in. As sore and tired as I was, that rush of coming in...finishing an Ironman race...feels great! There were a couple of guys close in front of me and I thought about slowing a little so I could have a good finish photo, but then I decided I just wanted it to be over. I'm not slowing down for a picture that I'm probably not going to purchase anyway. And the volunteers at the finish could barely get the finishing ribbon back across the finish fast enough as I ran in right behind another guy. I lifted my arms and tried to smile. As I crossed, I finally heard, "MJ, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Up until the end of July, my season was spectacular and I realize that. However, the shin injury set me back...way back. It's one of the most frustrating thing an athlete can go through. I've done anything and everything to try and remedy the situation, but it doesn't seem to be working. On top of that, I've put in hours upon hours of time on the bike. More time than I have in any year past. And just 8 days ago, I was feeling great! Well, the shin is still an issue, which I'm dealing with, but everything else felt awesome and ready to go.
But something happened in the last week that doesn't feel so good. It's called burn out. Or exhaustion. I don't care what the hell you call it, it sucks! I just want this damn race over with now. I am tired of training and not making any gains. I'm tired of trying to baby the shin just to have it hurt the instant I step out for a run. I'm tired of 2 workouts a day and neither of them feeling particularly good. Let's just face it, I'm tired.
At this point in the game, that's OK. I'm supposed to be tired. I've racked up tons of hours on the bike and in the pool and now it's time for all that training volume to be lowered...slowly and systematically. Boy, do I need it. I just about had a break down on the bike over the weekend. The wind was not my friend and it simply beat the energy out of me.
So with just under 2 weeks to go, I'm not feeling so great. I'm doubting everything I have and haven't done in preparation for this race. I don't want to be outside anymore, it's too cold. It's too early to try and predict weather conditions for the race, yet I find myself on weather.com every day trying to scope out the extended forecast. I wonder if my shin is going to hold up for 26 miles or if I'm going to end up being forced to quit at some point during the run. And I wonder why on earth I signed up for another Ironman (it's BC's fault).
I welcome the taper. I know I'll have pent up energy and I want that feeling. Sure, I'll be driving everyone else crazy with my inability to sit still, but at least I'll HAVE some energy. In a few days, I will start packing for the trip. It's starting to sink in. We're in the home stretch of the preparation for Ironman Florida 2007!
Sunday, October 21, 2007
I don't have time for a big ol' long post, but suffice it to say that the day was absolutely beautiful for a marathon. The start of the race was a cool 57 degrees with not a cloud in the sky. I was a bit chilly as I stood in the start corral wearing shorts, long-sleeved shirt, throw-away long-sleeved shirt (that came down past my shorts!), shorts, gloves, hat and sunglasses. I had goosebumps on my legs and I was bummed I wouldn't be starting soon. See, I was going to just hop in with him when he got to Mile 3. He was feeling good, but was really quiet as he typically is before long runs.
The entire field (marathon, relays and half-marathon) was about 4500 people. A very nice change from the ridiculous 35000+ at Chicago! Someone told me there were only 600 people signed up for the full marathon. Wow, that would be a lonely course! Fortunately, that was false and it was over 1000 full marathoners.
After a short delay and the singing of the national anthem, I jumped out of the corral and over to the start line. With such a small field, meaning a small group of spectators, it was easy for me to step right up to get a great view of the start of the race. Watching everyone head out on what was such a great day bummed me out that I wasn't able to run the full race. After all the runners passed by (about 5 minutes), I hopped over to the mile 3 mark and started chatting with another spectator.
Within several minutes, the lead runner was coming by. Huh? Mile 3 already? How can that be? But I didn't start my watch, so I wasn't really sure how much time had passed. I scanned the crowd for him so I could jump in. It was easy to find him and he told me we weren't at mile 3...it was mile 1.5. Well, now that made more sense! That Mile 3 marker must've been for the 5K they were having later on in the day! Oh well, I ran alongside him and we talked. He was keeping a very steady pace for the several miles I ran with him. I let him set the speed as my shin hurt with every step. I was very disappointed that this pain never went away throughout my entire run. It didn't get worse, but it was there enough to remind me to slow down on the downhill sections.
Finally, he tells me to go on ahead, he's going to slow down. I need to pick up the pace anyway, so I run off telling him I'll see him near where I need to split off. It's fun to start slower and pick up the pace as you run by people. My heart rate shot up quickly, so I backed off. We went onto this little bike path and I wished I had a camera with me. The colors of the trees and surrounding forest was beautiful. However, this section that circled a small lake was also kinda hilly! It didn't last long, maybe 2-2.5 miles, and we were back out on the roads. By now I was finished with the time I had scheduled for my run, so I just stepped off to the side and started walking, waiting for him to catch up to me. I was happy to be done to stop pounding on the shin.
He caught up, I started running again with him and he said he was still feeling very strong, but then the split came. Full marathoners to the right, half marathoners to the left. He said he wanted to turn left. Oh no, I reminded him. You didn't come down here to do just 13 miles. He was in good spirits and I headed out towards the half marathon finish. It was a bit humiliating, people telling me I was "almost there" and that I was "doing good!" as I walked by. I just smiled and kept walking reminding myself to stick to the plan.
The finishers turned right and I went left to walk to the car. I changed, drove over to the CVS for 2 cold Diet Cokes and some ice. One I would drink now and one for him, should he need one at the finish. I then looked at the map and drove on out to what I thought was mile 21. Within 15 minutes, here comes the Saint, doing very well, according to my watch! I snapped a few photos and got in and ran with him again. He was struggling a little, but I could tell by watching, he was still going to finish. He looked fine(well, maybe a little salty!), it was a mental struggle for him at this point.
I got back in the car, parked as close to the finish line as I could get, and headed out to find a good spot at the finish line.
I sat down close to the finish and cheered in the runners. Most looked great and finished with smiles on their faces. There were a few people walking it in, cramping up so badly, they could barely pick up their legs. The crowds were small and easy to navigate through. My legs felt a little tired and I had to move around a bit, but all in all, it was a great day for a run.
He finished, not as well as he would have liked (don't we all say that?), but he was able to get in the full 26.2...and without a trip to the medical tent! It bummed me out that I couldn't run the whole thing, but with the upcoming IM, I wouldn't have done it anyway. It just seemed like such a great race...I think I'll have to put in on the schedule in the future.
Monday, October 15, 2007
All of us were at the Chicago Marathon last weekend, so for the first several miles of the run, there were lots of stories about the marathon. Lots of thoughts, opinions, observations and speculations of what will happen with the race in the years to come. This made the first few miles just fly by as we recapped the marathon day's events. It was weird to think that just 8 days ago, those runners faced such brutal heat. And today, we were running in perfect conditions. Just shows how you can never predict what the weather will be like in Chicago!
I'm still getting lots of you asking about the shin and it's coming along. I greatly appreciate all your support! This has been a pretty hard, difficult time for me to deal with such an injury and it's so comforting to know how many of you are concerned. (then again, is there ever a good time for an injury??) Is it 100%? Hell no. It's such a frustrating experience, but you know how the story goes...these are the kind of character building experiences that makes a person. It's not the injury, but how you deal with it that determines what kind of person you are. And I...like BF, will not let this deter me in my quest for another ironman finish.
The training has been going along solid. Strong swims, strong bikes...run? Eh, not so much, but I'm doing what I can. Today was fun. Thanks, peeps, for joining me out there and keeping me company in the run. You made the time pass by quickly - and I appreciate it!
The countdown to the Ironman is on. 18 days to go!
Friday, October 12, 2007
- The water is nice and clear, why do I keep cutting these turns short?
- Why do so many old people walk "laps" in the pool?
- What the hell is that floating in my lane?
- I wonder how cold it's going to be outside for my long ride this weekend.
- I miss summer already.
- What time is it?
- Keep your head lower in the water.
- Try to remember to KICK!
- Oops, missed another turn.
- Hope this guy doesn't try hopping in my lane.
- Do those Swimp3 players work? I could use some music.
- Shoot - was that 650 or 700?
- Concentrate on the bilateral breathing - evens out the stroke.
- How many jellyfish are there going to be at IMFL?
- I think Sheila was stung in the face by a jellyfish...
- Damn, this is a long-ass set.
- Maybe I should cut it short.
- No, I can't. Keep going. Smooth.
- This is so boring. Ironman swimming isn't this boring.
- At least I'm not getting the crap beat out of me during this swim.
- I think my fingers are getting pruny.
- My goggles are too tight.
- What goggles am I going to use for the race?
- Am I done yet?
- That dude needs to stop looking at me.
And that was just the first 1000. I finished the whole thing, times staying consistent. The thing I need to think about is how much different swimming in salt water is going to be. I'd like to think it's not going to be that much different, but I don't know for sure. It's not like I've done any amount of "real" swimming in salt water. My experiences with salt water usually involve a mask, snorkel and fins along with nice, cold alcoholic beverages afterwards! Not much I can do at this point, so I'm not spending any time worrying about it. After all, the swim is just the warm up....the "introduction" to the day!
Monday, October 08, 2007
And so it continued with more and more runners coming by and taking not 1, but 2 or 3 or even more cups of water. I always laughed at the left over fluids we had at such an early aid station, but this wasn't the case this year. We gave out everything in a hurry! I think the pace was around 4:45 when we had to start scrambling to fill more cups of water.
I did as much as I could and then headed over to the 15K mark to get in a short run myself. I lost Sean Alcock, my "pacer", so I just jumped in randomly. I was smiling and happy to be able to get in a few miles. The shin hurt, but not too bad. It was really cool to be living the marathon experience without the pressure of doing all 26.2 miles. I caught up with JO and ran with him for a few miles before he said he wanted to walk and I should just go on. The pace was slow and we had to wait in line to get Gatorade/water at each and every stop. I thought that was strange...these were not even back of the packers, yet the aid stations looked trashed.
I hopped on along, a spring in my step since I was still fresh and I caught up to the Saint! He was doing so well! He said he felt good, but felt like quitting, it was so hot. Oh, you're not going to quit. (he always says that) We chatted for a bit, and walked together for a bit. He seemed to be doing well and told me to move on. I did that because I know how he hates me to "hang back" for him and I needed to get in some running today!
LOTS and LOTS of people walking and it was only because of a bunch of zig zagging that I could keep running, even though it wasn't fast. I started to see a lot of runners cramping up, pulling off to the sides. I stopped several times to help runners in distress. One girl was just bawling, but more because she knew she couldn't finish, she wasn't in that much pain. Another guy just needed me to get him some fluids, and yet another just needed some help to get over to the side of the road to sit down for a few minutes.
I tried to encourage those runners that were actually still running. I patted a lot of "1st timers" on the back and told them "good job." They appreciated it as their faces lit up and they smiled back with a big "THANKS!" I kept on, passing walker after walker, runner after runner...I actually felt "fast"!! The sound of sirens blaring was constant. At every turn, I heard an ambulance coming to help some fallen runner. Then I came up to KK who wasn't doing so good. I know she trained hard for this event, but she had serious cramps. She tried several times to run, but the pain was too much. She even tried to throw up to see if that would help, but nothing was working. We walked on, chatting, just pushing through the heat. Tony caught up to us, all smiles and sat down to wring out his socks. He actually had puddles from where he squeezed his socks out. Yuck. That's what you get for pouring water over your head!!! Well, it seemed someone actually dumped it over him, thinking it would help. Blisters, people. That only causes BLISTERS.
Around mile 22 we were being yelled at to walk. We were already walking, so it wasn't an issue, but we wondered what was going on. We were told the race was "cancelled" and it was "over." Yeah, it's over for the winners, but it isn't technically over until you finish, right? There were officers telling everyone to STOP running and that the clocks were turned off. This was for our safety and there were no more aid stations on the course. Now we were at mile 23...
I could talk about the rest, but it's irrelevant. The heat wasn't a surprise and I do feel most of these runners could handle the heat. What they could not handle, however, was the lack of fluids provided for them. At the end of the race, I learned that the first 2 aid stations were completely OUT of fluid...for people on a 4:30 pace!!! That's nuts! No wonder our aid station was hit so hard. This was the first time most of these people had access to fluid. I can say I've raced in worse (temperature) conditions. However, I don't know how I could've handled not being able to drink until mile 6 of the race. It was just too hot of a day for that and probably what caused the 350+ people to seek medical attention.
Never before have they "called" the Chicago Marathon. And I hope it never happens again. To anyone who raced - congrats. Whether you did the whole course or not, you survived some of the most brutal marathon conditions. Now take the experience and learn from it.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Within minutes of my start at Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I was panicking, out of breath and the adrenaline was shooting throughout my body. I wanted to cry. This is so not how I wanted my day to start. Sometimes I wonder if it's because I try to situate myself toward the front of the pack, with the more aggressive swimmers. But as I talk to anyone who has done an Ironman, it seems this feeling happens to just about everyone (well, maybe not the pros). The sad part about this is that the swim should be the "warm up" to what is supposed to be a great day. The swim is my strength and I really want to enjoy this part of the race. Unfortunately, I don't. If I'm really lucky, by about half way through the swim, the field opens up or I swing wide to get away from all the bodies kicking and flailing their arms (well, that's what it feels like their doing!). I wonder why the hell the guy next to me won't move over and I have to remind myself he's probably boxed in just like I am. I try very hard not to waste energy on getting angry and frustrated. See this, I'm already thinking about how dreadful the swim will be and I still have 30 days left to go through this wonderful experience!
Bike - I don't care who you are, 112 miles on a bike isn't fun. Oh yeah, it's great in the beginning...and if you're lucky, the middle is pretty good, too. But then, just like the "wall" in the marathon, I guess we have a "mountain" on the bike. It typically comes around mile 80 or 90 when nothing feels good and you just want to be off the bike. If you're reading this thinking, "well, at that point, you don't have much more to go," just stop yourself. 20 or 30 miles is a very LONG way to go when you're feeling spent and you're sore from being in the aero position not to mention your crotch (yes, I said it). It takes a very strong mental attitude to push through this time and at Couer d'Alene, I almost didn't make it. My mental will was weak. Thankfully, there was no aid station at my low point, or I would've pulled over and called it a day. I couldn't just stop in the middle of nowhere. By the time I got to the next aid station, I was feeling a little better. But it was pure happiness when I pulled into T2 and was able to get off that bike!!
The run - ah, the run. Er, um, run/walk. Or, uh, just walk. Also known as "the death march." If you're lucky, you can start off running. I think many people need to start off walking just to get their legs used to being off the bike. And if you're even luckier, you can continue to run. When I set out to do this upcoming Ironman, my goal was not to walk during the marathon portion. After the injury in July, I considered pulling out of this race. Once I decided, just a few weeks ago, that I could still do this race, my goal then changed to just being able to finish. And that's so not me. But with the lack of run training, I have no idea how this will go. It's too late to turn back now. I'm doin' this.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
The next few days passed by and I was in pain. I couldn't laugh, cough, sneeze or breathe deeply and I just thought it would go away in a few days. I went back over in my mind the details of the crash - I fell to my left and most of the impact was on my left elbow. I then hit my shoulder and helmet and then my hip. My ribs never really hit the ground, yet that's where I felt this pain any time I tried to move, stretch or twist. Then I went to swim and got in a warm up of about 600 yards. The next set started with 50 yards of butterfly. OW, OW, OW, OW, OW! Oh my gosh, that 50 yards was excruciating and as I ended that 50 yards, I decided I would not be swimming any more butterfly today. But as it turns out, I would not be swimming at ALL the rest of the day...nor the few days after. I started out the next 50 yards with some freestyle and screamed in pain. Whatever I had done had really agitated the situation and I could not pull with my left arm. I got about 10 yards out and doggie-paddled back in. My lane mates asked if everything was OK, but they knew it wasn't. I waited a couple of 50s and tried to jump back in. No, no, no....same thing, out about 10 yards, doggie paddle back in. I was upset and in pain. I got out of the pool and walked carefully and gingerly to the locker room.
It hurt to move. It hurt to lift my arm over my head to wash my hair. It was impossible to twist. If I put pressure on the place where it was painful, it seemed to go away, but as soon as I took my hand off, it hurt. It was difficult to get in the car. I couldn't turn the steering wheel with my left arm. I got home, carefully and slowly got out of the car and came over to the computer. I couldn't use the mouse (I use my left hand). I did a little research and decided it was a strained intercostal muscle. I figured it would go away soon. I popped some Advil, put some Icy Hot on it and tried to sit still for the rest of the day.
I couldn't lay down on my side. I could only lay on my back. And then, when I tried to get up, I would wince with pain. I felt so helpless and wondered how I did this to myself. More importantly, I wondered how I could get it to go away. My conversations sounded weird because if I tried to move in the middle of a sentence, you could hear an inflection in my voice. I missed several workouts that week and finally, one day, I tried getting out of bed and screamed in pain. I couldn't take it any more. It wasn't getting better. I had this clicking sound on my left side and I still couldn't breathe deeply, sneeze, cough, yell, or even laugh. (I had to stop watching my Seinfeld re-runs!).
On the advice of the all-knowing BC, I called a couple chiropractors. Within a day, I had an appointment with a sports chiropractor. I explained to him my problem as well as the crash which I think caused the problem. Very quickly, he identified the source of the problem. I laid face down on the table, held my breath and he "popped" my rib back into place. No, this did not hurt. Then we slapped some ice on there and he said I should be almost 100% within 2 days. And I was. Awesome. I never really knew what a chiropractor did or what an "adjustment" was. But now I know. It's nice to be able to breathe, cough, sneeze and laugh again. Pain free!
Monday, September 24, 2007
So I now am living vicariously through various friends who are embarking upon this year's Chicago Marathon. Though I know many marathon veterans running (and wish them well!), the people I'm most excited for are those running their first marathon. Each and everyone of them I've had a conversation with in the last week has been excited about the race. They are just dripping with anxiety and one of them could barely stand still as he reviewed his final long run with me. The energy is contagious and I described to him how they have the big monitors in front of the expo and they go through the marathon course in fast forward. I've seen that many times now, but it gives me goosebumps when I watch it, even when I'm not running the marathon! It's fun and interesting for me to listen to the various race strategies. Apparel, nutrition, pacing, mental attitude, all of these things have a place in the race and I think everyone had their own way of attacking this challenge.
There is a new film coming out. Click here for the preview for the Spirit of the Marathon. This was filmed in 2005 at the Chicago Marathon. And one of my friends, Leah, is one of the featured athletes! Even watching the little preview of this movie makes me a little sad that I won't be running in this year's race. But there will definitely be more marathons in my future.
I'm not going to put up any last-minute marathon taper advice for you newbies, because I'm sure you're probably sick of hearing it by now. But I will share with you a little something that was sent to me just before my first marathon.
A marathon is not a race; a 5K is a race.
A marathon is not a race; a 10K is a race.
A marathon is not a race; a race is run with your legs.
A marathon is not a race; a marathon is a measure of how you handle the doubt in your mind at mile 15.
A marathon is not a race; a marathon is a measure of how you handle the pain that takes over your body at mile 20.
A marathon is not a race; a marathon is a measure of your courage.
A marathon is not a race; a marathon is run with your heart.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Not much time passed, then it was announced that we would start in 10 minutes. WHAT?? I still can't see anything out there. We knew we were to go out 3 buoys, and we could barely see the second one. The volunteers in the boats assured the race director that we'd be able to see the third buoy once we got to the second one. The two people you see looking at the camera with our arms crossed are BC and myself. It was chilly, even with the wetsuit on and we were anxious to get moving. I wanted to stay close to him and see if I could catch a good draft! It was then announced that we were waiting another 10 minutes or so. I guess that was good, for visibility purposes, but none of the athletes were too happy that we'd already gotten in the water and now had to wait for an indefinite amount of time. The water was about 77, so it wasn't so bad. We were able to spot Aaron and Eileen, two other Salt Creek Tri Club members, both making their first Ironman appearance.
Then the announcement was made that we'd be starting in 6 minutes. Huh? I still can't see anything. The volunteers in a nearby boat said they have boats all around the course and they'd help direct us.
We were off, heading toward the next buoy. I was immediately drafting off someone and hoped they could see where they were going because the sun was blinding and the fog that was hovering over the top of the water was so thick, I couldn't see much in front of me...including the person I was drafting off of! We passed the second buoy and I just kept following the person in front of me. I noticed there were about 4-5 of us sticking close together. All of a sudden, we stopped. The volunteers in the boats were yelling at us that we were way off course and were pointing in the direction we needed to go. We turned, tried to sight a buoy, but still, I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me. Somehow, we got to that buoy and turned. We were swimming once again in this small, tight little pack and we managed to get to the next buoy. Then the person to my left stopped, so I stopped. She asked me "Which way?" I didn't know. Then I saw Aaron's face pop out of the water. Then I heard a familiar voice..."Bernie?" "MJ?" It was like the movie theater scene from Seinfeld where Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer all start calling out to one another when they realized they were all at the same show. It was frustrating, but I think that was my favorite moment of the race.
We were yelling to the boats now, "WHICH WAY?" They'd point and we'd just head off in that general direction. Once we'd get to the next buoy, the process started all over, we all stopped, looked around and yelled to the boats for direction. I tried not to lead at this point because it seemed like we were going way off course and the first person who could realize the right direction was the one not putting in all the extra distance!
Once we finished the first loop of the course, visibility improved tremendously. I think in this picture, I'm drafting off BC. Once I was able to see the buoys for myself, I just swam alone, headed straight for the buoy. I felt relaxed and the lake was smooth as glass. I thought about how cold I was going to be when I got out of this water, so I tried to enjoy it. I then started passing some of the half ironman swimmers. Their yellow caps made sighting pretty easy. I wasn't working too hard, but I wasn't exactly slacking out there, either. Once I could see the beach area, I tried to swim just a little faster.
I got out of the water and ran to my bike. Unfortunately, this race didn't have wetsuit strippers. I ripped off the wetsuit, grabbed my bag of bike clothes and ran into the women's changing tent. BC was at the rack right next to me, making fun of me that I was actually going to change. I got into the tent and was happy to see Sally in there laughing and smiling about how crazy it was that we were racing in such cold weather. She was in no hurry since she was going to get some pictures of Eileen. There were no chairs in the changing tent, nor was there anyone in there to help. I was thankful Sally was in there because I needed her help in pulling my bra on....that's quite a challenging feat when you're soaking wet! She graciously helped me out and I got my jersey on quickly and ran back to my bike. BC was just about ready to leave...WHAT? He was beating me out of transition! I had to let him go. I still needed to get my shoes and socks on, arm warmers, headband and 2 pairs of gloves on before I was leaving. At the last minute, I decided I did not need a jacket. I tossed it on the ground and ran out of transition.
I clipped in pretty quickly and started off. Boy, I was cold! I looked down and the wrong display was on my computer. I must've looked down for too long because by the time I looked up, I was headed off to the side of the road in some deep, loose gravel. It was too late and my reaction to turn the bike back onto the road was too late. I fell less than a quarter mile into the bike course. I hit my elbow very hard and my head lightly tapped the pavement. I was REALLY happy I was wearing arm warmers! I quickly got up, picked up my water bottle with all my nutrition for the day in it and placed it back in the bottle holder. I then scanned the bike over to make sure nothing looked like it was rubbing on the tires, got back on and rode away. I was sort of surprised that another athlete or a volunteer didn't come over to see if I was OK. I mean, I was fine, but usually people run over and hover around when you fall. Guess it was good no one came over, it was quite embarrassing! However, I expect a phone call from the race director asking if I am OK! :)
I rode for about 10-15 minutes and was still chilly. I hadn't attempted to get into the aero bars because right where I'd put my elbow is where I fell and it hurt much too much to put down on the pad. So I tried pulling my arm in a little closer so that the place where the impact was was well off the pad. It was a tad uncomfortable, but it was either that or ride up like a sail for the entire 112 miles! There was a really rough section of road where I wondered why on earth they'd put us on that road! There was a lot of loose gravel on the sides and it all blended in with the rest of the street, so it was difficult to tell where the gravel was. I rode slowly through this section. I didn't want to fall again! The rough road wasn't too long and I went to take a drink from my aero bottle. Uh oh. Empty. Guess all my water came out when I fell. Great. Now I have to ride 14 miles without any water. At this point, I'm glad it's not too hot outside!
The course was weird...several out and backs and then do the whole thing again. This was good to be able to see BC tearing up the course, putting some serious distance between me and him, Aaron riding along up ahead, smiling and enjoying the day and I could see who was gaining on me. I briefly saw Angie looking very fast and smiling. I was also able to see Eileen a couple of times and Sally. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits and was enjoying the ride. Despite being a little cool early in the ride, I decided I was quite comfortable temperature-wise.
I got to about mile 30 when my contact popped out of my eye due to the strong wind. I pulled over to put it back in when I noticed it was ripped. DAMN! I tossed it aside and hopped back on my bike. This very same thing happened to me at IMCDA last year. And almost the same mile mark! Guess it's time for me to look into some LASIK! It bothered me for a little while, but I got used to riding with just one contact pretty quickly. It only was an issue when I felt the other contact start sliding out that I started to get a bit nervous. If I lost the second one, I'd have to quit. My vision is not good enough to be able to ride without contacts!
The turn arounds on the out and back sections were tight. They caused me to slow down, unclip and slowly move around the cones. I watched one woman in front of me fall while trying to navigate around the sharp turns. She was fine, but I had to stop to let her get out of the way to pass. I felt good passing her, she rode right by me when I was messing around with my contact and never asked if I was OK. I got to the last turnaround of the first lap and the volunteer said we were at mile 51. FIFTY-ONE? That's it? I groaned as I realized I wasn't even half way through yet. I was getting uncomfortable and knew the second half of the ride was going to be tougher.
At the beginning of the second loop, I grabbed a water bottle from one of the volunteers. It was unopened. I tossed it down and grabbed another one from a second volunteer. Still unopened. OK, someone should have explained to these volunteers that we need the bottles OPENED! So I tried opening the bottle several times with my teeth. When I realized it was too difficult, I angrily tossed the bottle to my right with such force, I almost lost control of the bike. Oops. That was stupid. I was fuming for the next few miles. That cold water would have tasted really good. And this course wasn't exactly stocked with aid stations!
Tougher it was as the wind seemed to pick up and I felt the front wheel swing a little out of my control at a few points. I almost lost it just after one of the turn arounds. It felt like someone grabbed the handlebars and yanked them over to the left. I rode on and eventually caught up to Aaron. He was still smiling and very positive. I reminded him to pace himself...he still had to run, I did not. He was being smart about the race and tried conserving a little on the second half, which I was very proud of him for. BC continued to gain ground and he was leading the race! It was really cool to see him out in front of all the other competitors. I yelled out to him as we passed each other that he was leading, but he already knew and I think it spurred him on to push even faster. Just after seeing him, another competitor heading back in yelled to me that I was the first woman. Really? Oh yeah, I was first out of the water and no women had passed me. And we were at mile 80 or so. Nice!
And there she was. She came out of nowhere and didn't say a word as she pased me. The woman with the yellow bike and purple bikini bottom flew by me and I was bummed that she was now taking the lead spot. As much as I thought about chasing her, I knew I needed to stick to my plan and it didn't include surge that would enable me to stay with her. OK, so what, so you're not first, I thought. Well, I'm not even doing the whole race, so it doesn't even matter!
I kept on going steady and as the end of the bike leg neared, I still felt very strong, yet still uncomfortable. My elbow was still throbbing, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I just tried not to think about it. I'll take care of it later. I came to that last turn around, where I was at just 51 miles the first pass through. And I felt strong, so I picked up the pace a little. Well, maybe that was just in my head, but I wanted to finish strong. I saw Sally pull ahead of me in her car, freshly showered and out there cheering me on in. It was a lift to see her. I steered on up to the dismount area where the volunteers were yelling that I was the first woman in. HUH? What happened with the purple bikini chick on the yellow bike?
I uneventfully crossed the timing mat into transition and, though I felt like I could've run, I was happy I didn't have to! My race was over. I then learned that the purple bikini on the yellow bike was actually a MAN! Hee hee!! Someone needs to let the dude know he shouldn't be wearing those bottoms, but whatever. I caught up with BC in transition and he cleaned up my road rash from my fall. I'm really happy I did this event. Excellent preparation for the upcoming Ironman!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
I arrived at P2's house just a minute or two ahead of schedule. We had to swing by to get Ginga, stop by a gas station to get some Gatorade and we were headed out to Utica! We were on the road for about 20 minutes when P2 needed to pull over. FLAT TIRE! I started walking down the side of the road to see what mile marker we were at to call for assistance when a car with a bike on top pulled over. It was our 4th teammate, Kristen! She, her husband and 2 kids had gotten a little late start and didn't even realize it was our cars pulled off to the side of the road. It was me walking in the Apache gear that caught her attention! They came over to help us quickly change the flat and we were back on the road!
We had to make a quick pit stop and decided it would be best to add some air to that spare tire that was now on the right rear axle of the van. Though we thought we were moving along pretty quickly, time was slipping away from us. Back on the road once again, I kept nervously looking at the clock. It was getting really close to our start time.
By the time we got there, the place was crowded. It was difficult to maneuver vehicles on the street. There were teams of 4 cyclists, each team with matching jerseys, covering the road in both directions. We sat on the side of the road, waiting for the cyclists to move and Kristen courteously offered to take our waivers and get us checked in while her husband parked the car. We needed all the extra time we could get. We were directed into the very tiny parking lot and I was glad I had a small car! I followed a guy (I think he goes to my Y) who said he was leaving for SAG support. Cool...he was in an SUV. Plenty of room for my little cruiser to fit right in. I parked and hurriedly got out my trainer, pulled my bike out and put the front wheel on, put on my shoes, got my water bottles in place and secured my bike on the trainer. Wait...another pit stop...ok, now I'm ready to warm up.
Shoot...we have less than 20 minutes before the start! I was set up next to P2 and Ginga, got on my bike and started pedaling away, trying not to be so nervous about all the hard work that I was about to put forth. The bike seemed to be working fine and Kristen rushes over to us saying that we have 3 minutes! YIKES! We quickly started putting the trainers away, filling the water bottles just one last time and we rode on over to the start. Alright, they were a little behind, we had a few more minutes. We took a nice, short ride the opposite direction of the start. I was breathing deeply and trying to calm down. I wanted to give this team everything I had today.
We lined up, wished each other luck and were sent off in a flash. Our order was a little screwed up for a few seconds in the beginning as we had a little clipping in issue, but this was corrected swiftly and seamlessly. The race was on. I think it took me all of 30 seconds to start breathing hard and wondering what the heck I had just gotten myself into. I am sucking wheel here and I am barely able to hang on. The heart rate zoomed up way too quickly and as it was my turn to take a pull, I tried not to push any harder than I already was. In fact, I think I tried to let up just a little. We had 37.2 miles to race and there was no way I could make that distance redlining the whole time. And I was no good to my team if I had to drop off so early in the race.
We took our regularly scheduled pulls for the first 20-25 minutes and then I think my teammates noticed I was struggling. I didn't say a word, but something in my posture or lack of power on the front told them I was just trying to hang on at this point. And this was the beauty of working in a team. They forced me (and Kristen) to not take pulls for a while. They wanted us to recover. P2 and Ginga rotated the lead for at least 10 minutes, maybe more...couldn't count. All I could do was try to bring my breathing and heartrate back to normal.
We stayed amazingly close together, taking advantage of the draft and tucking in on the side away from the wind. Our turns went very smoothly and we all managed to stay close togther, reminding each other to call them out ahead of time and lay off just a little to bring the group back together. We were all back in normal rotation now and Kristen showed just how much she recovered by taking these monstrously strong, long pulls. I was at the very back of the train and I felt like I was hammering just to stick with them! SO THIS IS WHAT IT'S LIKE TO RIDE WITH EXPERIENCED CYCLISTS!!! We communicated, watched out for each other, encouraged each other and suffered with each other.
These women were amazing. Now it seemed Ginga was struggling. All those pulls she was forced to take early on had apparently caught up to her. We all took turns pulling, getting back in rotation just before Ginga to let her sit back there and hang on. We lost her for a little bit, but her determination wouldn't let her slip away...just a minute or two later, she was right back with us! Now I could tell P2 was struggling because she became quiet. The sweat was pouring off my face and I wondered how much longer we had to go. I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep up this pace. But I can't let the team down! My computer wasn't working, so I really had no idea how far we went nor how fast we were going. I just left it all out there.
Not soon enough, we could see the finish. HAMMER, HAMMER, HAMMER! Kristen easily pulled ahead of all of us and though I tried to catch on her wheel, she was much too strong for me and I had to yell to her that I lost her. But just as soon as I'd gotten back on her wheel, she'd give another burst of her powerful pedal strokes and in the blink of an eye, I'd be off her wheel again. P2, Ginga and I just put our heads down and pedaled our hearts out. We all crossed the finish line together!
I am so proud to be a part of such an amazing team of women. We all gave our best and though we didn't place, we are very proud of our accomplishment. We couldn't have communicated any better. You'd think this team had been riding together for years, it was all so smooth. It hurt. Oh boy, did it hurt! This was one of the hardest rides I've ever done, but it was also one of the most fun. Thanks, Apaches, for letting me be a part of this awesome team. Hope we're able to do it again in the future!
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Anyway, I haven't done this race for the last several years. Not because I don't think it's cool, it's actually one of the best swim events (particularly for triathletes) in the area. However, I've always had long runs to do on Saturday mornings. Well, I guess having an injury that prevents you from running is good for something! I signed up for the 5K, no wetsuit. As my friend Elaine says, "Wetsuits are for weenies!" I convinced Elaine to sign up with me. Even though she changed her entry last-minute to the 2.5K, I'm still proud of her for doing the event.
Traffic on I55 and LSD is a wonderful thing early on a Saturday morning. It's pretty much non-existent. We made it down in record time and went over to pick up our packets. The lines were small and I got my chip, got body marked and picked up my goody bag (or promotional bag) and stood around waiting for Elaine. I went back to her line, where she was standing in the front describing to me that there was a problem. Apparently, the yahoos working the check-in line gave someone else her timing chip! It took a few minutes for them to assign her another chip so we could get her through the check-in process.
I was calling BC to tell him where we were when I spotted him walking towards us. We set down our things and just talked a little bit while we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes! It was horrible. You couldn't stand still for 3 seconds without getting bitten. We went over to just put our feet in the water - a comfortable 72 degrees - and went back to prepare for the event.
There were a few familiar faces, but the event has grown so much since the last time I did this. It was really a great sight to see. And even better for me, this wasn't a mass start, we were staggered into waves based on age group, distance, and whether or not you were wearing a wetsuit. I figured this would be a much easier start than I had just a few years ago.
The water was pretty calm. The air temperature was between 75-80 degrees. The sun was shining. It was absoluely beautiful conditions for this swim. The countdown was a bit rushed - 5-4-3-2-1 and we were off. I thought I had positioned myself on the far outside as to avoid being hit. No such luck. Almost immediately, I was being pushed to the left by a crowd of swimmers on my right. I kept wondering why they were trying so hard to push left. I couldn't even stick to my line unless I wanted to be bludgeoned. So I followed the line with everyone else and tried not to let the swimmers on my right bug me so much as they kept running into me. I wasn't sure if they were going off course or it was me, so I just let them pass and tried to fight for my own line.
Once we turned the first buoy, it opened up a lot. In fact, if I didn't pick up my head to sight, I would've thought I was in the lake alone. I was quite comfortable. I swam breathing every 3 strokes and couldn't believe how smooth everything felt. I was having fun. It couldn't have been a better day. As we neared the second buoy that would head us back to shore, the waves kicked up. The crashed strongly against the back of my head every time I took a breath to the left. I was happy to be a left-side breather! This was a really long stretch that felt like it would never come to an end.
As I turned the 3rd buoy, which was also exactly where we started I thought about how I'd be almost finished if I had entered the 2.5K race. That would've been great! Ah well, I continued swimming along, all alone, and decided I really wasn't pushing hard enough. I tried to kick up the tempo of my strokes and planned to hold it for the entire second loop. I got passed by a bunch of very, very fast guys. They were too quick to even think about trying to catch a draft.
I tried to focus on my own race and my own rhythym. This is all just practice for the upcoming Ironman. And in that race, I'll most likely be wearing a wetsuit, which will make a swim of this distance all that much easier! I just hammered. The water was clear and I could see my arms in the pull of the stroke. I tried to focus on form with long, strong pulls. The water definitely was choppier on the second loop and it seemed to take FOREVER to get to the final buoy!
I was on the final stretch and I saw a woman with the same color cap ahead of me. My competitive spirit will not let go as I push as hard as I can to catch her. I trail behind for just a few short strokes and then decide to blow by her. It wasn't as easy as I had hoped. She picked up her pace and tried to draft just off my hip...wise move. But uh huh, I ain't havin' any of that, so I pushed harder and started breathing very heavily. I just wanted to get away from her. At that point, I wished I drafted off her just a little to get some rest before deciding to try and overtake her.
COME ON, where is the FINISH!!! I've been going at full-speed for much too long. I have this thing, I never look back when I pass someone. I figure, if you have the time to look back, you're not pushing hard enough. So I swam like she was on my heels for the final leg. I swam until there was no more water left to swim in. I got up and ran, hearing Elaine cheer for me as I ran to the timing mat, and still feeling pretty great.
Much better experience this year. Not that much thrilled with my time, but hey, it was such a blast. And now I know I need to work on my swimming a little bit more. Guess I can't just swing by with a swim workout every 2-3 weeks! A great event. Happy I did it.