IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Half Iron Intimidation: Playtri Race Report

It is with dehydration and very tired legs that I write this report. I now know how very naive of me it was to think I could do this half ironman race just 6 days after the Boston Marathon. But for those of you that know me, I need instant gratification...I had already signed up for this half ironman before I qualified for Boston. I knew I couldn't wait until 2008 to run Boston. I just don't have that kind of patience.

We flew into Dallas on Saturday morning and headed immediately to the Expo (if you could call it an Expo). I knew this race was what I like to call "rinky dink," meaning small. I don't mean to put the race down, I kinda like rinky dink races. It's a nice change of pace from the mass chaos of an Ironman or Accenture with their thousands of participants. The Expo took less than 5 minutes to walk around the room to see what the vendors had to offer. The actual packet pick up was in another room. We met up with BC, Chuck and Lori and went into the packet pick up room. It was then I learned that I had been placed in the Elite wave. Um, what?

See, a few weeks ago, the organizers sent out an email offering an Elite Wave start. I asked what the qualifications were and the Elite Wave was for those athletes who had finished in the top 3 of their Age Group in a race of 400 or more participants (or some number like that). Since I didn't qualify for that, I never responded back, but apparently, they moved me into this wave anyway. I tried not to think about it.

We checked out the water - it was a man-made pond/lake sort of thing that wound around the commercial properties. It looked much further than 1.2 miles when I scoped it out. We then went back to the hotel to put on our bike gear and get out for a quick ride to make sure the bikes were working properly. The wind was unbelievable. I only hoped it wasn't going to be so bad for the race tomorrow. Everything seemed to be working just fine with Gus and even after a short run, my legs felt OK. Not terribly great, but I wasn't dying, either.

We were then joined by Pat and had a fabulous dinner at a pretty posh Italian place. The manager/owner or someone came up to us several times to make sure everything was OK with the meal. The first time he came up to us, I thought he was going to ask us to leave because of the way we were dressed! (for those of you that were at Terre Haute with me last year, I did NOT wear a hat to this dinner!!!)

Back to the hotel, I arranged the rest of my things for tomorrow's race. I put everything down on the table in the order I'd need it. We planned to ride over on our bikes in the morning, since we were only about a mile away from the race site. I set the alarm clock and also set the alarm on my phone. Never know when one of them is going to be screwed up! Although I knew I wasn't going to have a stellar performance the next day, nor did I expect one, I still was a bit nervous and got up every hour to look at the clock.

I was already awake when the alarm went off. I quietly made my Perpetuem/Hammer drink for the bike while I ate breakfast. Chuck came by one last time with the pump and very quickly, we made our way down to the hotel lobby. It was still a little dark out when we made our way to the race site. The air was cool, but the weather forecast said it was going to get up to 78 today. Normally, that's not so bad, but when you're from Chicago where the weather is about mid-40s this time of year, it can wreak havoc with your body's temperature gauge. I thought about all the clothes I had taken to Boston just 6 days before: winter hat, heavy windproof jacket, 3 pairs of gloves, wool socks, etc., and thought I might be setting myself up for pneumonia!

For this race, my bib was lucky number 13! I went to put my bike on the rack and I almost walked away. All the rest of the athletes on my rack were these really fit-looking male triathletes. I felt so out of my league. I had absolutely no business in this wave. I'm sure they were snickering behind my back like, hey, what's this chick doing here? I felt like such a poser! Oh well, nothing I can do about it now. Besides, I could probably give them a run for their money in the swim, or so I hoped.

I collected my timing chip and went through body marking. After a quick stop at the porta potty, I went back to transition to get some sunscreen. I knew I was probably going to bake in the Texas sun today. We moved over to hear the course talk and I saw Lauren Jensen...and she's in my wave! Aw, man! I thought Elite Wave meant "Elite Age Group Wave" not "Elite/Pro, I'm faster than God Wave." Crap. I really AM a poser! I have never felt more out-of-place. The announcer reminded us of how windy it was and that we should throw all time predictions out the window. Good. I didn't have one anyway. I was just going to ride how I felt and just hang on for dear life during the run.

The official called for all the Elite athletes to get in the water. Again, I felt a little stupid being in this wave, but what can I do now? I jumped in at the back of the pack and just stayed back. The water was cool and cleaner than I expected. We had about 2 minutes to go when the Saint took this shot. I'm 4th from the left. 5-4-3-2-1 and the race had started. (no National Anthem, bummer)

Within seconds, I was on top of the woman in front of me (a.k.a. a 50 year old Bo Derek). OK, I need to move around her...I swim a little bit and lose any sort of draft. I worked at my bilateral breathing and was thankful the sun was still hidden behind the clouds. I found myself sighting a lot. This was a narrow channel-like body of water and I was a little scared to get too close to the edges. That's where all the "icky" water is, at least that's where it is in my mind! We made the first turn and I saw a pack of swimmers that weren't making any ground on me. I knew that if I could get up and catch that draft, I'd be in a much better position, so I worked a little harder. Nothing too strenuous, but I could see I was getting closer. I reached the feet of the back of this pack before the half way point. I hung back there a while. The swimming felt very, very easy. Have I ever mentioned I'm a "draft-master?" I hit the feet of the person in front of me a few too many times. I was getting tired of picking my head up to make sure he was going the right way. (I think it was a he...if it was a she, her feet were way rough!) Then I got a little claustrophobic when someone on my left kept swimming off course and running into me. WTF, dude, why don't you take a look at the buoys and see that you're headed off course?

We make another turn and we're about 75% through with the swim. That's it, I need to get away from these people. Besides, I just knew all the really FAST swimmers were way up ahead! So I moved to the outside and used the energy I was saving from the draft to pull ahead of the pack....all of them. Uh oh, now I'm in front. I see no one ahead of me. Where was I supposed to get out of the water from? Shoot, I wish I would've paid attention during the course talk! I just kept pulling smoothly with each stroke and headed for the stairs...I think that was where we get out. I get to the stairs and start feeling around with my hands, but there is no stair in the water! The volunteers grab my arms and literally pull me out of the water. I run up the rest of the stairs, take off my cap and goggles and start running toward transition. Then guess who passes me...Lauren Jensen! Holy crap, I just beat her out of the water! Suh-WEEET!!!! The Saint yells out to me "Hey, nice swim!" and snaps this shot. I take advantage of the wetsuit strippers (they're usually only at Ironman distance races) and move on over to transition beside myself...that swim didn't even feel hard! The course must've been short.

I run into transition and toward my bike and spend much too much time in transition. I hear the announcer talk about Lauren being "2nd out on the bike", then another woman "3rd out on the bike"...I was finally ready and moved on out to the bike course..."4th out on the bike." That will stay in my mind forever as that may never happen again in my lifetime. I try to grab a drink and catch my breath and settle into a rhythym. I have NOT put in enough bike miles yet this year. Unless you spent a ton of time on the trainer, I don't think anyone in Chicago has gotten in a lot of miles. The weather hasn't exactly been cooperative.

The roads were smooth and flat, for the most part. The only hills to speak of were when we were on the overpasses, which didn't seem to be all that many. However, I became frustrated by the flow of traffic. The first sign would say "Bikes left, cars right." You'd make a turn, then it was "Cars left, bikes right." Very confusing. There were many turns. It was weird to be so far in the front of the race...many times, I could not see anyone in front of me and I'd wonder if I was going the wrong way. This was a 3 loop course and each way back, the wind was brutal. The sound of the wind in my ears was sometimes deafening. It was also a bit difficult to control the front wheel while in the aero position. Almost as bad as the Time Trial I did a few weeks least it was WARMER out here!

On the second loop, I had to actually stop and unclip to let some traffic go by. I don't think the volunteer saw me there until I yelled to her...she then stopped the traffic to let me cross. I had read on Slowtwitch to be careful of drivers as they weren't very cyclist-friendly. This was true. More than once, I had a driver turn out in front of me when I would've expected them to stop. At the intersections where officers were controlling traffic, I heard drivers beeping and officers yelling at them to stop. It was quite bizzare. Pat and Lori cheering me on for the 2nd and 3rd loop was a much needed boost! By the end of the second loop, BC had passed me, which I expected, and I really wanted to get off this bike. I was uncomfortable and my neck and shoulders were getting really tight. My time was much slower than I thought it would be, but the loop times were pretty consistent, so I didn't slow down much.

Myself and another female competitor nearly crashed as we were getting ready to dismount. There was a guy in front of us all over the street. She called "on your left" and the guy turned to the left! Come on, man! She and I laughed about it as we ran into transition. Of course, I came back to find ALL the bikes back on my rack, except mine. I'm not used to that and I didn't like it very much. Sorta depressing. I grabbed my Clif Shots, race number and visor and I was out of transition as fast as I could go.

Wow, my legs felt heavy. But, as any experience triathlete knows, that is usually just in your head and within a couple of miles, that feeling should go away and I'll be OK. Within the first mile, I could feel the tri top chafing me. Shoot, I forgot to bring Aquaphor! I got the first mile split, but then missed the next few. This really threw me off and I think it took me until mile 5 to really start to know what my run splits were. I asked for Vaseline/Body Glide at each aid station and came up empty. I kept adjusting the zipper on the tri top to prevent further chafing, but it wasn't working. My quads were hurting in a way they've never hurt before. It was a sharp, consistent pain that worsened as my foot hit the ground. That would last for about a quarter of a mile, then go away. It would come in one leg, then go away. Then it would be in both legs, then go away. The run was 2 loops and as I made my way in around the 6.5 mile mark, there were Pat and Lori again, cheering me on, telling me I look great...isn't that what people say to you when you look like crap but they're trying to encourage you? Come on Pat, tell the truth!

I headed back out for the second loop and hoped that pain in my legs would subside. One of the aid stations came up with some Neosporin which I slathered on my chest to stop the chafing. The sweat was stinging the chafed areas and the Neosporin gave me little relief. The wind would gust up to about 25 mph and it cooled me off each time. OK, it was a little stronger than I'd like, you just have to deal with the conditions. My legs were aching more now, but I refused to stop. I knew that if I stopped, I'd have to walk the rest of the course. I kept telling myself, "Come on, you ran an entire marathon, you shouldn't have to stop and walk in just 13 miles!" I accidentally dropped my last dose of salt tablets and tried to shrug that off. I had just 5 miles left, that shouldn't affect me much. I saw Chuck coming around when I had about 4 miles to go. In his first Half Ironman, he was looking spectacular! Now I started focusing on not letting him pass me!

But I couldn't go any faster. Each time my foot hit the pavement, a sharp pain went though my quad on the inside, just above the knee. I wondered if I was doing myself damage and if I should jus stop running. No, no...if the pain stays constant, then stop. Although the pain wasn't constant, it was there more than it was absent! But I stayed focused on the race and reminded myself that I was only 6 days off a marathon, OF COURSE my legs are going to hurt. There isn't a running expert in the world that would recommend doing a half ironman just 6 days after a marathon! DEAL WITH IT!

I neared the last mile and I could hear the announcer and the crowds cheering as people finished. As I got closer, I saw Pat, BC, Lori and the Saint, all on their feet, cheering me in. I tried to smile, but I wasn't feeling very smiley at that point. I crossed the finish line...THEN smiled. Quickly after that, I collapsed from cramping in my quads. Though I finished 2nd to last in the Elite Group, I'd say given the time of the year and being less than a week after a marathon, I'm quite happy with my results!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Swimming the Mile

The Masters swim "season" is generally January through March. A variety of swim meets can be found in the area every other weekend. The end of the season is capped by the Illinois State Masters Swim Championship meet. This is where the best in the state come to compete over a 4 day period.

The mile (1650 FREE) is always the first event to kick of the Championship meet, usually on Thu and Fri night. I haven't swam one other swim meet in two years! Very few meets have the 1650 as an event because of the time it takes and the unpopularity of the distance. However, the 1650 is the most attractive event to me because it's the closest distance to an Olympic or Half Ironman swim.

Karen and I carpooled to the meet. We planned to count for one another. In swimming, any distance 500 yards or more, each swimmer has a counter on the opposite end of the pool to keep track of your laps. This person dunks a placard with the number of laps you've completed each time you reach the opposite end of the pool. Our heats were situated so that we'd be able to count for one another.

We arrived to the meet plenty early for our heats. The warm, humid, chlorine-filled air greeted us the instant we opened the door. Unfortunately, we'd missed our opportunity to warm up in the "event" pool. This meant our warm up would have to be in the shallow pool. Not ideal, but not a tragedy, either.

One of the best things about the 1650 being on a week night before the full days of events is that everything is very low-key. Swimming the 1650 is one of the most stress-free events one can do. All the swimmers are relaxed and, given the length of time each heat takes (approximately 20-30 minutes), it gives us plenty of time to chat, catch up with ohter swimmers and meet new ones.

Surprisingly, I met Larry, another swimmer who had run Boston just a few days before the meet. And I thought I was the only one psycho enough to try these events so close together! We talked a bit about the marathon, the weather in Boston and how both our legs felt like lead.

Before I knew it, Karen's heat was up. I made my way to the deep end of the pool and arranged the lap counter to read "1". I was making this space my home for a while as the 1650 is 66 lengths of the pool. The race started with a beep instead of a gun. I like the beep better. It's much less startling!

Karen's stroke was smooth and clean. Lap after lap, I watched her bilateral breathe and wondered how tired she was. As all good athletes do, she made it look effortless. The guy in the lane next door efficiently and thoroughly soaked me with every flip turn he made. I started wishing Karen would splash his counter with her turns, but no such luck. Karen's turns weren't splashing anyone! Inevitably, the last lap was here and I noticed Karen kick it in a bit. She finished well under 2 minutes of her predicted time! I went over to congratulate her and she had a huge smile plastered on her face. Clearly, this was a good swim for her.

We had one heat in between, so I jumped in the small pool for quick warm up. The water was crisp and cool, not like the pool at the YMCA I'm accustomed to swimming in. I had not swam in a week and my legs were still pretty sore. I cut a couple of flip turns too tight (i.e., too close to the wall), and the pain in my quads during the push off was strong enough for me to yelp under water. Note to self: Do not get too close to the wall!

Time flew and the next thing I remember is asking the Official when I could get in the water. I planned to start the race from a push-off vs. off the blocks. BC told me I'd look like one of those "old ladies," but I didn't care. I didn't want to tighten my googles so much they'd make my eyes bug out and I haven't dove in from off the blocks in 2 years! After the long whistle, I jumped in (as did 2 other women in my heat - my age- so I guess we ARE the "old ladies!").

There was the beep and off I went. By half of the first length, I could see I was ahead of the other 2 women next to me. I could also see other swimmer sho had already jumped out in front. I tried to calm down and catch my breath. I'm not a very fast swimmer, but I am steady. I can almost never win in a sprint, but the longer distances are where I excel. It seems I need the first 200 yards or so to settle into a rhythym, then I put it in cruise control. This event was no exception. I felt very comfortable and my breathing was controlled. I nearly missed a couple of turns since I was consciously working not to jam them, but everything seemed to be flowing nicely.

WIth about 200 yards left, I noticed a woman 2 lanes away, almost even with me. I knew I hadn't lapped her, so the race was ON! As I said earlier, I'm not sprinter, so I couldn't wait and then "kick it in" as Karen had done. Oh no, I must push and I must push now. I knew that if this woman had any sprinting ability, she'd get me easily - we were so close. Each time I came to the deep end, Karen pumped the number card up and down more quickly telling me, "HURRY, she's right there!!" Oh, I knew she was there and the burning sensation in my arms and legs deepened with each stroke and each kick. "Keep your head down" I told myself. Which, when you're breathing as hard as you can, is quite challenging! But I couldn't let her out kick me so late in the game. I cannot give up!

With 5 yards to go, I put my head down and drove as hard as I could toward the wall. I slammed into the timing mat with the same wrist I hurt up in Solvang. OOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWCH!!! I turned to look and the other woman was also finished. I whipped my head around quickly to the timing scoreboard. I got one second. This was close to a 23 minute race for the both of us and I out-touched her by one second. Karen was smiling, shaking her head and telling me our finish made for great spectatorship. I didn't find out until later that, in fact, she was in my age group.

More importantly than the exciting finish was that my time improved significantly from the last time I did this event. I do think Brett's swim clinic played a huge part in this improvement. He videotaped my stroke, pointed out the inefficiencies, showed me how to work on them, and it has definitely helped. Now it's time to take it to the open water.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Boston Baptism

At the airport, we knew we were at the right gate when we saw all the people wearing running shoes and jackets with the Chicago Marathon and Boston Marathon logos. I even noticed a woman with the same new 2007 Boston Marathon jacket I had in my closet for the last 6 weeks. "Hey!" I thought, "She shouldn't be wearing that yet!" There were also numerous people with CARA bags. We hadn't even picked out a seat before the first woman said to us, "We're going to have lovely weather for the race tomorrow." And so the conversations started. Almost immediately, I wanted to get away from these people. It wasn't the "first Boston" for any of them and when they asked if I had packed extra shoes for in the morning before the race (I hadn't!), they just started stressing me out. I put my iPod headphones on to avoid further interaction with them.

After an uneventful flight, we got a rental car. It was raining some of the biggest, fattest raindrops I've ever seen and as I opened the car door, the wind whipped it right out of my hand. We headed over to the Expo to pick up my packet. Within less than 10 minutes from leaving the airport, we made a wrong turn and were lost. After stopping to get directions at a gas station, we headed toward the Expo. It took us about 15 more minutes to realize we were off track and were, once again, lost. Boston's streets, I decided, are screwed up. It seemed the streets we were driving on weren't on the map and the streets I did see on the map couldn't be found by car. And I don't think there is one straight road in the whole city of Boston. They all curve and change names with each curve. I looked at my watch. It's a good thing there was still 6 hours left of the Expo.

We drove around for what felt like 200 miles (it was maybe 30-40) until we finally found the building where the Expo was. We had to drive around for another 20 minutes to find a parking space near Fenway Park, just over a mile away. It was still raining hard and pretty windy. "Boston Sucks!" I thought. We also took a wrong turn walking to the Expo. (Damn those curved streets!)

It was pretty exciting to pick up my Boston Marathon bib. They had the bib packaged with the chip in a sealed, plastic bag. We went over to pick up my race t-shirt - they were already out of L and XL. How could that be?? I got my shirt and we made our way into the Expo. Gridlock. There was actually a line to get into the Expo. We felt like cattle as we were slowly herded into the hall with all the exhibitors. Once inside, it was wall-to-wall runners. Progress from one exhibitor to another was excruciatingly slow as we tried to maneuver our way past the booths. About 5 minutes of that and...Forget it - we made our way to the nearest exit and left the Expo. I never even got to see the Boston Marathon poster I saw so many other athletes carrying around. I saw plenty of people wearing my jacket. The one I bought 6 weeks ago but vowed not to wear because you don't wear an article of clothing to a race that you haven't completed. It's a rule.

We walked back to the car - still windy, still raining - sideways. My shoes and socks were already soaked through from the walk to the Expo. I was starving, but it was already too late for lunch. We got in the car, jackets soaked through. We started driving in circles again. Stopped at a gas station for more directions and got some water and Gatorade. Drove about 20 miles in the wrong direction. Stopped at another gas station for more directions - guy said he didn't know. Yeah, right. It was absolutely miserable and I hated Boston. The weather sucked and we kept getting lost!

After what seemed like another 200 miles, we found the hotel and checked in. Took a nap, a quick shower and had a fabulous dinner at Felicia's. (Thanks to Randy's sister's recommendation!) Wait, I forgot to mention we got lost on the way to Felicia's, too. We then made a quick stop at the grocery store for tomorrow's breakfast and to pick up some extra plastic bags that I figured I'd need in the morning. The kid behind the register said he'd swiped our CAHD. We looked at him like...What?? Cahd, cahd, youah credit cahd. AAAAAAAHHHH...our CARD. Got it. OK.

Unbelievably, I was able to fall asleep pretty quickly. However, it didn't last. Starting at midnight, I was up about every 45 minutes checking the clock to make sure I didn't over sleep. (I had set 2 alarms, too.) The winds were howling outside and I just hoped they would stop before it was time to wake up. The Saint was driving me to Hopkinton and they were closing the roads around 7:30, so we knew we'd need to get an early start. As soon as the first alarm went off, I jumped out of bed and went to the window. Brutal! STILL RAINING!!?!?!? Come on, we're in Boston, not Seattle, what is with this weather?? I flipped on the television to hear about the "nor' easter" and how this was a record-setting storm, blah, blah, blah. The news cameras flashed on to Athlete Village, where I was about to be dropped off. It was a massive field...of water. Flooded. You gotta be kidding me! They expect me to stand in a flooded field for 3 hours to wait to start a marathon? I wondered if I should just bag this race and jump back into bed.

I started packing everything I brought. Warm clothes, lighter clothes, waterproof clothes, double layers of everything, waterproof pants, waterproof jacket and bags...2 large heavy-duty garbage bags, 2 smaller garbage bags, about 6 plastic grocery bags and 2 dry cleaning bags. After a horrible, horrible experience at the Wild Scallion late last year, there was NO WAY I was risking getting any of my post-race clothes wet and I wanted to try and stay as dry as possible for as long as possible.

The drive over to Hopkinton took about 45 minutes. The wind was pushing the car all over the road. The rain was coming down hard...even with the windshield wipers on full-blast, it was still difficult to see the streets...again with this stupid sideways rain. Did it never end? Again, I started to think maybe I just wouldn't get out of the car. I don't want to run in this. And I certainly don't want to sit around for 3 hours in it waiting to start a race I don't even want to do!

We got to the school and they said they'd be opening up the school for runners at 7am. I sat in the car and put on everything waterproof I owned. I then tied grocery bags over each shoe...I knew that if I got my feet wet and had to wait around a few hours, it would make for a miserable race. I fell in line with the crowds of runners coming from the buses headed toward Athlete Village. As it turns out, they only opened the school for the elite runners...or so that's what they told me! We walked into a large tent and it was easy to tell who the experienced Boston runners were. They were the ones that had already staked out their turf under a dry part of the tent. They had large plastic tarps laid out to keep dry. Some had chairs. Some had air mattresses. All looked calm and relaxed. I couldn't find anyone I knew (OK, so I only knew about 8 people going). I felt like the new kid in school carrying my lunch tray and looking for a friendly group to welcome me in. I noticed a friendly couple (obviously veterans) and asked if I could sit near them and they were more than happy to make room for me. I spread one of my big Hefty garbage bags and started chatting. The rain continued to pour and the winds kept blowing sections of the sides of the tent off. When that happened, a huge cold gust of wind would come through along with the misty part of the rain coming through. It was difficult to keep warm, but as more athletes piled into that tent, it started to not be so bad.

Unfortunately, the porta potties were not under the tent...the lines got long fast and the rain was relentless. I was so happy to have those grocery bags on my feet for the 2 times I had to go stand in those lines. It might have looked ridiculous, but my feet were staying dry. In fact, I gave out the rest of my small grocery bags to other runners to help them protect their feet. The time went slowly, but it seemed none of us were in a big hurry to get out into the rain. I called the Saint, who told me he was just past the 5K mark on the right-hand side.

But the time finally came and the tent started to clear out. The first wave of runners left first. The smell of Ben Gay was overwhelming. Quickly and efficiently, runners stripped down to their race apparel. It was extremely difficult to figure out what to wear. Waterproof is good if it's really cold and windy, but as soon as you warm up, it would be easy to overheat. I tried not to overthink it and put on my warm, waterproof (yet breathable) jacket that I did many cold runs in. I threw on a dry cleaners bag over that. Hey, we'd have to stand in the corrals for at least 30 minutes before the start! I wore a hat with a visor over a hat to cover my ears. I needed something that would keep the rain off my face.

I double-bagged my gear check bags and dropped my bag off on one of the marked buses. It was close to a mile walk to the start and we were just getting a taste of how chilly it really was without the protection of the tent. Pretty quickly, my hands got cold. As uncomfortable as it is, I'm used to it. I scanned the corrals where I knew my other runner friends would be. But as you can imagine, it was impossible to find anyone.

It was quieter than you'd think, waiting for the gun. I think there were many of us with second thoughts about going through with this race. It was still raining, but a lot lighter than earlier in the morning. I ripped the grocery bags off my shoes and threw them in a nearby trash can. My feet felt warm and amazing accomplishment. (hey, in conditions like this, you have to celebrate the little things) The gun went off without much fanfare. The crowds were small, which is to be expected with the weather. There wasn't the cheering you have at the beginning of the Chicago Marathon, which was a little disappointing.

But here I was, running in my first Boston Marathon! I tried to kick back a little and have fun. I missed the first mile marker, but was told we were at about an 8:30 pace. OK, good. They talk about how narrow the streets are in the beginning, but I didn't think it was a hindrance. It did feel a little crowded, but still not like the crowds I've experienced at Chicago. I was close to mile 2 and realized I was hot...too hot. I took off my second set of gloves, ripped off the dry cleaning bag and unzipped my jacket. I expected to get a quick chill from that, but it didn't happen. I knew I had to lose the jacket. I considered losing the hat...not the thin one with the visor, but the one that was covering my ears. But then, I thought, if the winds pick up and my ears get cold and I have nothing to cover them...OK, no, keep the hat. I ran just over a mile with the jacket and gloves in my hand. What if he moved? What if I missed him? What if he was too far from the street for me to just hand him this stuff? Oh no, I can't carry this jacket through the whole race, yet this jacket is NOT a throw-away!! Stop - you just have to find him. He's just past the 5K mark. Now why does he always wear the same color clothes as EVERYONE ELSE?? Jeez! Good thing he's tall..and there he, wait, that's not him. Sh*t!! OK, don't'll see him. THERE! Yep, that's him, sweet. I started yelling to him to take my stuff as I was running toward him. Like the precision of a relay team, the hand off went quite smoothly! It was almost as if we had practiced it. The course was mostly downhill at this point and I didn't feel like I was working too hard. I noticed a girl I was jockeying back and forth with and decided to start a conversation with her. We ran along together for the next several miles and the splits were too fast. I knew they were too fast for me, but I just wanted someone to talk to, so I stayed with her probably about 2 miles longer than I should have.

Right around mile 8 or 9, my quads started to ache a little. This was too early. I was running too fast and I know the second half of the course is harder, and the last 6 miles are the toughest. What am I doing?? Ah, what the heck, I decided to keep the pace to the half-way mark. I did that and clocked it about a minute faster than my last half marathon PR. That's just not smart, but it's too late to do anything about it now. It seemed just after that, we turned straight into the wind. Luckily, it wasn't raining any more, but the streets were still soaked and slippery. There were puddles placed strategically all over the streets and if you were fortunate enough to avoid the puddle, another runner would not be so fortunate and as he stepped in the puddle, he'd douse your feet. It was a no-win situation.

It was mile 16 and I already started counting the miles down. That seems to be my strategy when things get tough, "OK, only 10 more to go. That's just a half mile more than a loop at WFG. You can do this." Then I heard it. About a half mile away from Wellesley College you could hear it. The women of Wellesley are famous for cheering on the runners. And it was just the motivation I needed. I got to mile 17 and knew this was the beginning of the tough hills. Huh? You mean you didn't consider all those little rollers through the first half of the course tough? That elevation chart does NOT show the difficulty of the course. That, or maybe I just wasn't trained enough. My quads were pretty sore and I had a long, tough way to go. And the gusts of wind that would come by every so often would threaten to whip my hat off, so I'd put my head down and drive right into the wind. Is there really any other way?

I stayed on with nutrition and the water stops were consistent. But the legs felt heavier and heavier. I kept thinking about what Pat always tells me..."you gotta run lighter on your feet." Hey, maybe she can float across pavement, but I feel like I'm trying to stomp dirt of my shoes. My feet were really heavy and I felt choppy as I continued to run. Mile 18. OK. 8 more to go. Now it's time to make "deals" with yourself. No walking. That's it. I don't care how slow the splits get, I just don't want to walk. As I clicked off the splits on my watch, I noticed that I felt slower than I was actually going. This was a good thing. My miles became slower after mile 13, but they were consistent.

Mile 19. Alright, just 7 more. There were some hills in here, I'd say maybe along the lines of Cary, maybe a little tougher, I was trying to block out the pain in my legs. I tried looking at the faces of the spectators. There were a lot of spectators. And they were LOUD! I would learn later that they considered the crowds sparse due to weather, but just like Chicago, I felt there was great fan support along the whole course. The only thing that was blatanly missing was MUSIC! There was bands, no radios (well, one guy had the Red Sox game on the radio), a couple kids banging on some drums, and a bunch of people yelling. There was an occasional kazoo or some funky noise maker. Mile 20. Starting to see some people fade, but mostly, I was the one doing the fading. People were passing me left and right. I got passed by a girl whose knees rubbed together with each step she took and you could see the chafing on both knees. I couldn't look anymore, I knew that had to be painful. Then I got passed by a woman who looked like she was jumping in mud and it was splashed all up and down the backs of her legs. Mud? We didn't run through any mud...wait...I looked up and saw it wasn't mud at all. She had a BM (yeah, Pat, you can laugh now) and just kept running. Aw man, I don't want to see that! I moved to the other side of the road so I couldn't see her any more.

Now I was heading up Heartbreak Hill. The hill they say throws everyone off because people think it's the last one, but it's not. And, actually, it wasn't so bad. It hurt me worse to run down than it did to run up. What's strange is that in the last couple months of training runs at WFG, I'm usually the first one down the hills...trying to use that to my advantage. Well, it just wasn't working on this day. I saw the Citgo sign, but they say not to focus on it because it feels like it takes forever to get to. I guess it's all perception because I really didn't feel like I saw it "forever." Maybe because I stopped looking at it. My legs felt like 100 pound logs I was just dragging, one in front of the other.

The last several miles were painful. I quit stopping at the aid stations for fear I would not start back up again. In my head, I was slowing down to a crawl. But the splits remained consistent and each one gave me a little more strength to push it to keep that pace. When I hit mile 23, I realized that if I didn't just crash, I could break 4 hours. Well, that's pretty cool! There were more turns in the last mile of the race than the whole rest of the race, it seemed! Right, left, right, left, oh come ON, where is the finish???

There it is! A huge banner over the finish reading "111th BOSTON MARATHON." Despite all the pain I was in, I couldn't help but smile. It was almost over. Other runners were dashing by me left and right, sprinting to the finish. But I had no sprint left. In fact, I didn't even have the energy to lift my arms as I crossed the line. I thought to myself, "Gee, I forgot how PAINFUL marathon is!" Crossing the line was a beautiful thing. The smile could not be wiped from my face.

I earned my jacket.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sent from the BAA at 10pm last night

April 13, 2007

Weather Advisory - 2007 Boston Marathon

The Boston Athletic Association's medical team recommends the following precautions and advice for participants in Monday's Boston Marathon:

The most up-to-date weather forecast calls for a predicted Spring storm on Monday, including heavy rains (potentially 3 to 5 inches), with the start temperatures in the mid to upper 30's. Wind will likely be East (in the face of the participants for most of the race) in the 20 to 25 mile per hour range, with gusts to as much as 50 miles per hour. This will produce a wind chill index of 25 to 30-degrees Fahrenheit.

Combined with the rain, we are concerned that predicted weather conditions will increase the runners' risks for a condition called hypothermia. As with any athletic competition, as a runner you are assuming the risks inherent with participation. It is your responsibility to be informed about the risks associated with running in the aforementioned conditions, and the risks of injury or illness will increase with these predicted conditions.

While exercising in cold weather, our bodies attempt to maintain core temperature by shunting blood away from the periphery, thus minimizing heat loss. Hypothermia sets in when the body's temperature drops below normal, starting when the body loses heat faster than heat can be generated. Heat is produced by muscle action and shivering. Very low body temperatures can be life threatening.

Mild hypothermia is heralded by goose pimples and shivering as our bodies attempt to raise our metabolic rates to increase our core temperature.
Moderate hypothermia will result in muscular fatigue, poor coordination, numbness and disorientation.
Severe hypothermia can result ultimately in cardiovascular failure. Treatment of hypothermia requires prompt recognition and treatment as mild hypothermia can progress to a more severe situation if not addressed early.

Runners should be removed from cold, wet, or windy conditions. Wet clothing should be removed, and rewarming commenced with warm blankets and ingestion of warm fluids. If the athlete's condition does not improve, transportation to a medical facility should be arranged. Hypothermia can occur at temperatures at, or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, or even in higher temperatures when the weather is also wet and windy. Cold temperatures, dampness, and wind increase the risk of hypothermia for runners. Sweat cools the body quickly during cold weather running. Wind evaporates it faster.

As with so many other conditions in sports medicine, our best offense (treatment) is a good defense (preparation). Following the guidelines below will help minimize risk for cold related illness and will maximize your enjoyment and performance during the race:

1. Be prepared prior to the race. Have extra clothing which will enable you to stay dry even before the race begins.
2. For the race itself, dress in layers of loose, lightweight clothing. The first layer of clothing (closest to the body) should be made of polyester or polypropylene which will "wick" sweat away from the body. Subsequent layers should be loose and breathable-fleece is a good choice. Cotton should be minimized as it can allow sweat buildup. The outer layer should be wind and water resistant, thus protecting from wind, rain, and snow. When in doubt, add the extra layer. You can always remove a layer if you warm up, but you will regret not having it if you start freezing with several miles to go.
3. Protect your head and extremities. Wearing a hat is essential as up to 50% of body heat can be lost though the head. Gloves are important to prevent exposure to the hands. These, too, can be removed if you get warm, but you'll regret not having them if needed. Mittens are better on colder days as they will keep the hands even warmer. Shield the face with a scarf or high collar. Wear socks that retain heat and wick moisture away.
4. Runners with exercise-induced bronchospasm should attempt to warm air such as through a scarf or mask. A prolonged warm-up prior to hard running can help minimize symptoms. Carry your inhaler if you use one, and use it should it become necessary.
5. Stay with your normal hydration regime, remembering not to over drink. Do not drink alcohol the night before the race. Alcohol will make the body lose heat faster.
6. Run with a partner. It is sometimes difficult to recognize if you are becoming hypothermic. A running partner can help if you get into trouble. Shivering is a sign of hypothermia. The cessation of shivering may indicate more severe hypothermia and the runner should seek evaluation at a shelter.
7. Consider canceling your run or seek shelter if the weather conditions are too severe or you are too tired. Running on ice or over snow-covered terrain can lead to tripping, falling, or injury.
8. Medical stations and American Red Cross locations - located every mile along the route - along the course will have buses to handle your medical needs. Rewarming will be difficult given the weather and normal field size, so if you are not feeling well, do not wait to seek medical attention.
9. Help each other. Be aware of yourself but also make medical team members aware if you see someone on the route who you believe may be starting to suffer from the onset of hypothermia.

Keep the runner dry and cover with blankets.
Shelter the runner from wind and water.
Provide heat to the neck, underarms, and groin. Heat only the trunk initially to avoid core temperature after-drop. After-drop occurs in this manner: Extremities cool faster than the trunk. If you re-warm the extremities, their colder blood will re-enter the circulation and actually worsen hypothermia temporarily.
Keep the runner lying down, but only in a warm dry location.
Administer warm fluids by mouth if the runner is shivering. If the shivering reflex is lost, a bear hugger should be utilized (loss of the shivering reflex signifies significant hypothermia).
Avoid moving/jarring the runner suddenly because this may trigger an abnormal heart rhythm.
If CPR is necessary, resuscitation should not be stopped until the person's body temperature is at least 95°F/35°C (never give up your efforts). All temperatures indicated are rectal measures, which give a closer indication of core temperature. If the victim is cooperative, you may take temperature by other methods.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Magic of Boston

I race. I race a lot. And usually, I'll get a "Good luck" from a training partner or the occasional colleague. But more often than not, my races come and go without much fanfare. However, in this last week, I have received more calls, emails and text messages offering well wishes than I can count. And it feels awesome. I really didn't expect so many people to remember and take the time to reach out to me.

For the past few months, as I've been training for this race, people have asked if I was getting excited as the race was approaching. Unfortunately for me, it really wasn't feeling different than any other marathon that I've done. You know, you gradually pump up your long runs until you do a 20 miler (or 2 or 3), then you begin to taper. Then two weekends ago, when I went to the seminar on the Boston Marathon, that started me thinking a litle more about the race.

However, the influx of support I've received from my friends and family in the past week has really made my accomplishment sink in. Jim from my masters swim team said something to me that I keep hearing over and over in my head, "Boston is like the Kona of Marathons!" He's right. It's the most prestigious marathon there is. And there is a little advertisement that came with the other materials for the race with some phrases and one of them said "They let anyone run Chicago or New York."

And the more and more emails and calls I got this week (some from people I've never even met!) got me more and more excited about doing this race. Sure, the weather reports are calling for miserable conditions: rain, cold and wind. But it's the BOSTON MARATHON! There is so much history associated with this race. I will get to race with some of the most elite runners in the world. Some people will never be able to participate in this race. Those are all things that make this race one of the most special races I've ever done. And I plan on soaking in every bit of this experience.

So to everyone that has wished me well or offered me support, especially in these last few days before the race, thank you. I greatly appreciate it. It took all the attention you've given me regarding this race to remind me how truly awesome it is to be able to participate in the greatest marathon in the world: Boston.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bad Day

Do you ever have one of those days where you just wish you could crawl back into bed and start the day over? I was very much wishing this earlier today. The day, fortunately, has gotten better as it moved along, but this story is so ridiculous, it's worth sharing.

A good friend of mine is helping direct a local 5K race coming up at the end of the month. Several months ago, she and I discussed if I could provide flyers for my triathlon club and Luna bars for the goody bags for the race. Back in January, I started working with my triathlon club on getting our flyer updated and getting 300 copies so I could provide them for the race. After many weeks of editing the flyer, making sure the club could afford it, I finally picked up the flyers from Griz, I forgot that each one had to be folded. It took me a few nights, but I finally got them all folded...and wouldn't you know, I only had 277. So, I contact Griz and get the rest of them last Sunday.

Additionally, I created a small little flyer to attach to each Luna bar for the race to promote our Team Luna Chix. We're still a new team and the more publicity we can get, the better! I created the little flyer, had about 400 copies made and began stapling them to each mini Luna bar. This was a much more time consuming task than I had anticipated! They sat on the family room floor for about a week where I would staple 40-50 bars each time I was able to sit down for more than 10 minutes.

FINALLY, I had everything done and I was ready to go. I let my friend Kathy know I was ready with the "goods" and I'd just drop them off at her house on my way to the pool this morning. I didn't want to drop them off after swimming because I had a run planned and was meeting people and there just wouldn't be enough time.

I left my house at 4:30am to get to her house to drop off the materials in order to get to the pool at the usual time. It was a heavy rainy/snowy mix this morning, but I found the house no problem (it was the only house with a light on as Kathy was going to be joining us at the pool this morning). I pulled into the driveway and went to the trunk to begin unloading the boxes. However, the car immediately started rolling backwards and I realized I must've forgotten to put on the parking brake (I have a manual transmission). I freaked out a little bit (not fun to be run over by your own car) and ran to the driver door to get to the brake. I swung open the door and quickly sat down so I could get my foot on the brake. In the process, my elbow hit the lock on the door...but I didn't even think about that. I yanked up on the parking brake, got out of the car, shut the door and went back to the trunk again. I think I lost all color in my face when I realized what I had just done.

I dropped the box back in the trunk and ran to the driver door. Yep, locked. And when you hit the lock on my doors, the passenger door locks, too. Car is running. Music is loud inside. Heat is running. Headlights are on. All doors are locked. SH*T! I call my husband to tell him what happened. I asked him to come out and bring the keys and he started yelling at me. I said I'd try to get in the trunk and kick down the seats (they do fold, but the release is on the inside of the car). I kicked 4-5 times as hard as I could and they didn't budge. I also knew it would cost a good amount of money to get them fixed if, in fact, I was strong enough to break them down.

I can't figure out what to do, so I take the Luna bars and the flyers out of the trunk and put them on a bench near Kathy's front door. I go back to the car and she comes out of her house asking me how I'm doing..."Not good," I tell her. "I just locked my keys in my car." Do you know, I've had this car 10 years now and this is the very first time I've ever locked the keys in it. She immediately tells me she'll get her husband out here...Oh yeah, he's a police officer. "Sweet!" I thought. He popped out his little slim jim, got a flashlight and went to work on the lock on the door.

I went inside with Kathy where we chatted a little bit and she made some tea. The whole time I'm thinking about the car, how I'm late for swimming, will there be any damage, why did I do this, and how I ticked off the Saint by waking him up with my phone call. We go back outside where Kathy's husband, not wanting to admit defeat, says the anti-theft system on my car makes it impossible to get in with a slim jim (maybe THAT'S why the car has never been stolen!). Kathy goes to call the police department, but they tell me the cops will probably damage the lock and I just think...jeez, he can just come out here with the extra key...and seeing that it's just after 5am, he can still make it to work on time.

So we decide not to call the police, but I call him again and this time he answers the phone by yelling "YEAH!!?!" And I cringe as I tell him that we can't get into the car and that he has to come out with the spare key. He starts yelling as me and asking how it happened. Does it really matter right now? Can you just hurry up before I run out of gas, too? I tell him the street name and he asks "Which house is it?" I say, "Well, it will be the one with the RED CAR RUNNING IN THE DRIVEWAY WITH THE LIGHTS ON AND NO ONE IN IT!" Jeez!

Then what? Well, I went to the pool. I mean, all my stuff was in the trunk...and the trunk was open. I figured I'd go get in the swim while I waited for him to bring out the key....maybe this was a sign that I should be tapering and not going to the pool this week. I was just doing something for a good cause and look at all the frustration it caused. Yes, I'm sure one day I'll find it funny. But I'm certainly not laughing now!

But the car is all broken lock, got my swim in, got my short run in, and my friend Kathy got all the materials for her goody bags for the race, all before 7am. So he had to get up about 90 minutes earlier than he normally does...and drive about an our round trip out of his way before work...guess it could've been a whole lot worse. Sure didn't make for a good start to the day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

You Gotta Love Chicago!

You know, yesterday, it was a little chilly out, but nice, dry and sunny. I wanted to get in a bike ride in the afternoon, but I had dinner plans with some friends that I had to cancel already once, so I thought, "OK, well, I'll just do a ride outside tomorrow." The weather forecast was calling for lower temperatures and maybe some rain, but you know how weathermen can be wrong.

Well, I wake up this morning and look out the window to find this. Ridiculous! I have to remind myself not to plan any spring triathlons because this is the kind of weather I have to deal with. It is MID-APRIL! We've had only about a handful of outside-bike-riding temperatures so far. Today makes me even more sure I want to move out of the midwest. Guess I won't be riding outside today! In fact, the way it looks, I don't even want to plan a run outside this afternoon. Talk about ruining my whole day!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Ride

For the past 3 years, it has been my tradition to get out for an early morning bike ride on Easter Sunday. I figure if I can get up and go early enough, I can get my workout in and still be back in time to still make it to the family celebrations. This Easter should be no different!

However, as all of you here in Chicago already know, Mother Nature hasn't been to kind to us in terms of spring-like temperatures lately. We were "teased" a little bit a few weeks ago with some extremely warm temperatures for this time of year, but since then, we've dipped right back down to the well-below normal range. After Saturday morning's run (last long one before Boston!), I headed right back here to the computer to see what the weather predictions were going to be like for Easter Sunday morning. It was supposed to be about 10 degrees warmer than Saturday morning.
That's not saying much - it was only 22 when we ran on Saturday! BRRRR!

I was planning on riding with the Salt Creek Triathlon Club that morning. But they've always had this "unwritten" rule...we do not ride if it's below 40 or if it's raining, we don't go below 50. Or so, at least I thought that's what the rule was! I waited patiently to see messages roll in about canceling the ride due to weather. Then late afternoon, a message came out that some of the members were out on a ride that Saturday morning (in 22 degrees) and said "Oh, we were fine!" This meant the ride would go on. YIKES!

Riding in cold weather is a lot different than running in it. The wind is a much bigger factor and my extremities get colder much more quickly....and they take longer to warm up once I get going. Saturday night before I went to bed, I started tossing out all the warmest pieces of clothing I had. Also packed up my last package of toe warmers as I was quite sure I would need them for the ride in the morning. By the time I was finished, I had quite the little mountain of clothes tossed onto the middle of the closet floor. Nothing matched, but who cares? I just wanted to be warm!

In the morning, I woke up and quickly ran to the computer to check again to see if, by some miracle, they would be canceling this ride. No such luck. And, sure I could just blow it off, but then it would bother me all day that others got out there and ride and I wimped out. So I put the first 2 layers of my clothes on and stuffed the rest into a bag with my shoes, drinks, helmet and gloves and tossed the bag onto the front seat of the car. I grabbed the bike to put it in the trunk and the frame was ice cold against my bare hand. And this was IN THE GARAGE! I thought to myself, "This is absolutely ridiculous."

I pulled up to the usual meeting spot about 10 minutes early and, to my surprise, I wasn't the first one there! Gee, I'm not the only psycho that's going through with this ride! We are one sick group of people! All in all, we ended having 8 people ride this frigid Easter morning. My fingers were completely uncomfortable for the first 20 minutes of the ride and then again when we started heading back into the wind. My toe warmers, though I could feel them wearing off toward the end of the ride, did the job. Other than that, I can't really complain that it was all that cold out there.

So chalk it up as another Easter Sunday with another long bike ride! Now, on to the festivities!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Taper Time

The Boston Marathon is now only 10 days away. For the last week and a half, my running mileage has been intentionally dwindling. According to Hal Higdon and many other running experts, this is all part of the training program. You pump up your mileage gradually and do several long runs, then about 3 weeks before the race, you slowly start running less and less.

For someone like me, this is difficult to do. I know you're thinking, "What??!? You get to do LESS mileage and you have a problem with it??" But, yes! I have gotten used to spending a good portion of my time out there pounding the pavement (or treadmill, as the case may be). For months, I've just set aside every Saturday morning for a nice, long, relaxing run. On the schedule for tomorrow is just a short, sweet 8 miles. It's going to be weird to be back home on a Saturday morning so early!

Like many of you, I'm enjoying the extra time the lack of running has put back into my schedule. I'm getting some things done now that have been pushed to the back burner for the past few months. I can deal with the extra time the taper gives me. What bothers me most about the taper is the feeling that I'm "doing nothing." The running becomes such a habit that you get used to coming home exhausted and really feeling like you've worked hard. So here I am just about half way into the taper and I'm already feeling like a slug. So the next 10 days, that feeling will only become worse. And all the experts will tell you, do not add more miles or push yourself in these upcoming days (though that would make my feeling of sluggishness go away). I've done enough marathons that I knew this was how I'd feel and that I'm supposed to just "enjoy" these weeks. But every time, I struggle with the feeling that I'm not doing enough. It's like a guilty feeling. I watch the occassional runner pass by my front window and I want to go throw on my shoes and join them for a few miles!

Sure, I know, it's only 10 more days. But that can feel like so long. I attended this really cool seminar The Road To Boston by Mark Buciak. Mark has completed the Boston Marathon the last 27 consecutive years and gave us lots of tips, tricks and great stories about his Boston experiences. True, not much more I could do to prepare now, but the seminar was filled with a lot of info on the course and the Boston area. What I found to be completely awesome was that the room was filled with first-time Boston Qualifiers and the energy in the room was contagious!

So I guess I'll keep working on my long list of things to do that do not include running. Maybe once I get back from Boston, the warm weather will have returned! One can only hope!!

On another note, this blog has had 1109 hits in just the one month. I'm both shocked and thrilled at the volume of hits. Thanks and keep reading!!

Monday, April 02, 2007

John Fraser Report

Cyclists must not like to get up early. As I reviewed the information before the race, I realized that the first cyclist didn't take off until 10:00am. I had requested an early start, which turned out to be around 10:30. I've been to some triathlons where I've arrived to transition, had 90 minutes to arrange my transition area and chat with other triathletes, I then swam, biked and ran, took advantage at some of the post-race food, chatted with other triathletes, gone back to my transition area and packed up my stuff and was in the car heading home before 10:30am!!

On the drive out to the race, I must've glanced at the temperature guage in the car at least two dozen times. I watched it slowly move from 51 degrees to 56 degrees. Another difficult thing for me with cycling is that I am still not sure how to dress. For this event, I brought just about everything. I had a thin hat for under my helmet. I had a thin under armor and a thick, long-sleeved one. I had a short-sleeved jersey and arm warmers. I had half-finger gloves and full-finger gloves. I had a thick jacket and a thin windbreaker. I had shorts and long tights. Oh, and toe covers, of course. The temperature this day, however, isn't what scared me. It was the wind. Now, I know the weather forecasters said we were in for some wind, but as we drove by and saw flags standing completely out and the ends flapping uncontrollably, I knew this was going to be an uncomfortable bike ride.

Check in at bike races is also completely different than triathlon. It's quick and hassle-free. There is no Expo, there are no goody bags, you don't wear a chip for timing, etc. Pretty much, you just go in, give your name and they give you your bib. And you get out. Cool, now it's time for a warm-up.

I dressed a little cooler than I thought I'd need to be dressed, pumped up the tires on my bike and headed out for a little spin. As I headed north on the main road, I reached close to 30mph almost effortlessly. Uh oh, I thought, this only means that coming back is going to be painful! I rode up a few minutes, enjoying the beautiful tailwind and then turned heading west. Almost immediately, I had to get out of the aero position because I couldn't control the front wheel. The wind was a bit gusty, and it never really stopped. This tired me quickly so I turned around earlier than I planned. The way back, same thing, extremely difficult to control the bike. Then I turned heading south, I felt like I was stopped in my tracks. It was like hitting a brick wall. The wind was so strong, I was pumping hard, but the mph showed only 12 mph. As I watched other bikers coming out on this same stretch, enjoying the tailwind, I just thought to myself, "wait until you guys have to come back this way!"

I headed back to my car to drop off some things I wouldn't need for the race, made a pit stop and headed over to the start line. Here is where things go surprisingly fast. They send of a cyclist every 30 seconds. It's amazing how chaotic it all looks with everyone in their colored uniforms all riding around haphazardly, but as soon as they reach the cones, everyone immediately gets in line according to start time.

Before I knew it, there was a guy holding up my bike from behind so you can clip in with both feet. I was given a 10 second warning then a 5 second countdown. Before I even have time to get nervous about the race, it's go time! The guy holding the bike gives you a little push and just like that, you're on you're way. I started spinning and shifting up quickly.

Just when you get into a groove, here comes the first turn. I'm not really comfortable with turns, so I'm sure I slow down a lot more than some of these more experienced cyclists, but right after the turn, I start pushing again.

Almost immediately, I have to remind myself that I have 10 miles to go and coming back is going to be really difficult. Now is not the time to expend too much energy. The course is really smooth and flat, for the most part. I put the bike up into the big chain ring and tried to find a good, strong rhythym. I think I was only 3 miles into the course when I was passed for the first time...and then got passed again almost immediately after that. Well, that sucks! This means these guys were already 30 seconds and a minute ahead of me and I wasn't even half way through the course! (I learned later they were even further ahead of me than I thought). The wind didn't seem so bad, so I was trying to take advantage of that without blowing up. However, as I watched the cyclists coming back (this was an out and back course), I could see the grimaces on their faces and I knew the ride back was NOT going to be pleasant!

Then came the turnaround. And I'm VERY slow at this one. I know I need to practice it! It just seems like such a narrow space to turn around. The volunteer pretty much shakes his head at me for how slow I go around, but hey, I didn't unclip this year! And then the wind hits. Truth is, it was there on the whole way out, which I didn't feel so much, but on the way back, it once again tried taking control of my front wheel. As soon as I was able to get a little speed going, I had to put it back down into my small chain ring in the front.

OK, I thought, a little less than 5 miles of this. This strong wind made going up the couple of small hills on the course seem very difficult. Once again, I saw the speedometer drop to 12 mph and I couldn't believe that was as fast as I could go given the effort I was putting out. My nose was running, but I didn't dare take my hands off the handle bars. The wind was gusting almost regularly which, again, gave me trouble steering. I felt like my whole bike was leaning to the left in order to prevent being blown over by the crosswind. And toward the last 2-3 miles of the ride, it felt like the wind would slow down and it became quiet, so I'd crank up the gears on my bike to try and pick up speed. Unfortunately, the wind only subsided for a few seconds, so as soon as I'd get my bike in a higher gear, the wind started up again and I'd have to shift back down. My front wheel was all over the place and it was more than just a bit unnerving.

I was really happy when this ride was over! I think this was one of the toughest rides I've done. I can only remember one that was tougher - a century ride where we had strong winds coupled with much colder weather. And at that time, I was completely unprepared with what to wear on a ride in those conditions.

I saw lots of Apaches during the ride, but everyone is so hard to recognize when they're going by so fast! As I went back to my care, I saw some other Apaches preparing to race and wished them well. Here's Pascale warming up.

And then we have Liz and Stan warming up.

Unfortunately, I had some things to do in the afternoon, so I couldn't stay to watch the rest of my fellow Apaches race. There was a bit of concern about the wind, of course, but now it looked like it might rain. However, as I look at the results I can see they did well and I'm honored and proud to have them as friends and call them my teammates!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Changing Tubular Tires

In preparation for this mornings time trial (bike race), I decided that I needed to re-mount my tubular tires on my racing wheels. I wasn't very stressed out about it because I haven't even decided if I would be using the race wheels for this short, non-triathlon race. But, either way, I knew it was recommended to re-mount the tires every year or so just to make sure they stay on properly.

About two weeks ago, I bring the wheels (Zipps) up from the basement. They proceed to sit on my living room floor for a few days before I go back down to the basement to retrieve the tubular tire tape and levers to get the tires off. So one evening, I sit down to try to pry the tires off. For 30 minutes, I pulled, yanked, tugged, pryed and anything else you can think of! And I was still on the first tire! These things were really mounted on well! I was sweating profusely and getting more frustrated by the second. This made me think - if and when I ever get a flat with these in a race, I'm out. This is ridiculous!

I was finally able to get the first tire off (total of about 40 minutes). This tire had a big gash in it. It wasn't totally through, but a good section of the tire was just missing. Good thing I decided to take on this little project as now I need to not just re-mount the tires, but I needed to put on new ones. I moved on to removing the second tire. This was a bit easier and took me only 25 minutes. This one had been taped on vs. glued on. But by the time this was over, I had had enough. I was done with the wheels for today. Too much effort.

Several more days go by and I go back down to the basement to bring up my new tubulars I had "in stock". I planned to put them on the rims to stretch them out before I actually taped them on. With the type of race wheels I have, you need to put on a valve extender. I tried this little trick BC taught me of putting a little bit of tape on the threads of the valve before putting on the extender. And here we go again with the pulling, stretching, yanking, etc. I was cursing these tires and I swear they were the wrong size. I think it took me at least an hour to get both of them on...and this was just the stretching out part!!! Once again, I don't see how people can do this when they flat in a race. Putting the stupid tire on is harder than the doing the race itself! Once again, frustrated and thinking this whole process was taking too much time, I left the wheels, with new tires just stretching out on the rims, out in the family room floor for another day.

So when I finally go out and get the pump and try to put air in these tires, it doesn't stay. It just leaks out as fast as I can pump the air in. You've got to be kidding me! I take the tires off, mess around with the valves and extenders and here we go again with the monstrous task of getting the tires to go back on the rims. The good thing here is that it DOES get easier the more times you do this. But, after about 3 attempts, I still can't get the air to stay in the front tire. This is when my hero, BC, offers to help me get this right. And, like magic, he gets this to work in all of about 15 minutes. I tried to pay such close attention because I need to learn how to do this myself! I greatly appreciate his help, but it sure makes me question my mechanical abilities!!

So FINALLY, the tires are all mounted and ready to go. Just hope I am.