IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Physical Therapy

Well, the good news is that I do NOT have a stress fracture. The MRI shows periostitis...basically a fancy name for shin splints. I've had shin splints before (I'm guessing most runners have). They've never hurt this bad nor this long. So doc sends me to physical therapy.

I've already got a negative attitude going in. I mean, if they're just gonna do a bunch of stretches with me, what the heck do I need to keep going back for? Oh, yeah, I have to do this for 3 weeks then go back to the doc. I am so skeptical, but I have done everything I can possibly do on my own, so I guess I need the help.

Stephanie, my...consultant? Not really sure what to call her, but anyway, she sits me down and starts asking me a lot of questions. She nods her head a lot when I tell her I'm a runner and triathlete, blah, blah, blah, like she's heard all this before. I don't know if I should be upset because I think everyone's case is different or if I should be happy meaning she knows what's going on, so she'll be able to heal me quicker.

I explain to Stephanie that I really want to get this fixed in a hurry so I still might have a chance to be able to do IMFL. So she says she's going to treat me "aggressively." Great. Bring it. She massages the area a little, bends my leg and foot in all directions to see where/how it hurts. Next up is the ultrasound. I never really think that does anything. I can't feel it, so how the heck does it work?

But then Stephanie tells me she's going to go get this "tool" and try something. She then tells me it's going to hurt. Bring it. I want to get better. This tool is a small, metal piece shaped like a large nail file. It's smooth with rounded edges. Stephanie then begins to scrape this thing up and down against my shin. YEEEEOOOOOWWW!!!! I clenched my teeth and grabbed on to the table with both hands and my knuckles were immediately white. "Does that hurt?" She asks. I just said, yes, but keep going. If this is what we need to do, then just do it. I could feel the grittiness she was scraping on. I thought this was the bone, but she tells me it's scar tissue. In the process of her continuing to torture me with the scraping on my shin (I felt like I was going to bleed at any minute), she tells me it will probably bruise. Ya think? Hell, I don't care, just FIX IT! I was sweating and my whole body was tense. It wasn't until she went over to clean the tool off that I let go of the table and had to wipe the sweat off my forehead. I was so happy that was over.

Next, Stephanie hooks me up for some electrical stimulation. While I'm hooked to that machine, she lays a towel over the shin and places a bag of ice on top of that. The ice felt like heaven. The electrical shocks surged every minute, as if just to checking to see if I was awake. They don't hurt, just give a strong tingling sensation. I was almost sorry when that was over and Stephanie took that beloved bag of ice away from me.

Just like that, first session of physical therapy is over. I'm on my way to recovery.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Accenture Chicago Triathlon

So much has happened in the last week. But who has time to write (or shall I say type) about it all???!?

I'll tell you about what it's like to be in the ELITE Age Group wave at Accenture. Now, it's not all that big of a deal. If you can swim under 30 minutes and rank in the top 20% of your age group in the USAT rankings, they let you move into this wave. I've toyed with the idea of signing up for this wave for a couple of years but have been too scared and intimidated to actually sign up for it. When I signed up for this event in January, I must've been feeling pretty sure of myself!
Ultimately, I knew I'd get crushed in this wave. However, it would allow me to go off with the first wave of Olympic distance athletes...which was my motivation for moving into this wave. See, if you've never done Chicago, well, transition closes at 5:45am but you could be waiting around for your wave to start at 10:45am!! And if it's hot and sunny, you just bake out there for hours waiting for your time to go. The other advantage is that since it's the first group of Olympic distance triathletes on the course, and they wait about 15 minutes after the last wave of sprint people, you have a pretty clear swim and a clear bike course (at least for the first loop).
I got down to transition at about 4:40am on Sunday. The first 10-12 bike spots on my rack were already taken. Shoot, I forgot there would be men in this wave, too. This just adds to my nervousness. I did the safe thing and left my running shoes at home in the morning. As much as I wanted to do the whole race, a good race at Accenture (not that I'd have a good race with the shin pain) is not worth throwing away my chance at IMFL this year. Now I'm sure most of you are like, "Yeah, ok, right. Whatever." But it took a lot of strength to NOT run. The OCD-over-the-top-psycho athletes know what I'm talking about.

I quickly rack my bike, walk the swim in and bike out a couple times and I'm out of transition. I did not want to see any more elite-type athletes that would be on my rack and in my wave. I'm already intimidated, I need to just focus.

Since I didn't bring running shoes, I took my shoes off and left them in transition (for after the race) and walked barefoot over to find the Saint. There were some muddy spots in transition and mud squished between my toes as I walked. Ick. Then there was the long walk on the asphalt trail. My feet weren't too happy.

When you know you're not doing the whole race, your attitude changes. At least mine does. The pressure doesn't seem as great. In fact, as I sat along the edge of the water watching the sprint triathletes swim along, family and friends cheering for them, I wished I could be like some of them. The ones who stopped at talked to their fans. They didn't care about a time. They just wanted to finish. They were some of the slowest swimmers out there, yet they had people cheering for them, as if they were going to win. It is just such a different perspective and sometimes I wish I could kick back and do a race "just to finish." Well, I guess I've done that in running races, but not really triathlons.

Anyway the time is near, I smear Body Glide all over my legs and pull on my wetsuit. The Saint walks over to swim start with me and wishes me luck. The Challenged Athletes were also in this wave and they pushed all of us back to let the Challenged Athletes through. I thought it was strange because I know they probably weren't going to be first out of the water, but I guess someone needed to collect their prosthetic legs and they had to walk all the way to the front before taking them off...? I don't know, but I recognized that Ross guy from Coeur d'Alene when his camera crew blocked me into T2.

I wanted to get to the front, but I was scared. I knew I was quite out of my league. However, in hindsight, I should've pushed to the front. It's a bit frightening to be in with a bunch of athletes who will fight to the front as much as you will. I was about 8-9 rows back from the start of the wave. They allow us to jump in the water and my body, even with full wetsuit is shocked! The water was absolutely FREEZING! My hands and feet were already getting numb being in the water less than 30 seconds. Everyone was shocked and we were joking about how cold it was. "Are we in Alaska?" "Is this Galena??" The start couldn't come soon enough. Oh my gosh, it was some of the coldest water I've ever swam in. No one would have ever guessed the water temperature could be so cold at the end of August!

The horn sounded and we were off. I got kicked, hit, swam over, dunked, and well, you name it. It was one of the roughest swim starts ever. I was with this super aggressive group of people and I just wasn't used to it. Instead of being aggressive back, I swam with my head up and let all the fast people get away. Bad move. I ended up drafting most of the swim behind some guy who was really too slow for me. But it was easy and I was on cruise control! Once we got to the half way point, the field opened up and I was able to swim without feeling like my arms were being tied behind my back! I had no idea if I was in front or back of the back, so I just assumed I was IN the pack.

I was barely breathing hard when I got to the swim exit. I was happy to be done because my right rotator cuff was starting to act up. I got out, started running then pulled off to the side to get my wetsuit off. It came off pretty quickly and I tried to run to transition. The unfortunate combination of no shoes and hard concrete made my shin scream with every step. I slowed to a hobble as I watched many athletes run right past me. It was tough, but I refuse to make this injury any worse before I make it better. I limped on into transition and as soon as I got onto the grassy surface, the pain wasn't as bad.

The transition was sort of like a mud pit and at some points, the mud squished between my toes as I ran to my bike. Aw man, this is nasty! I got to my bike, not very winded nor shaky as I usually am, and quickly put on my socks...over my dirty, nasty, feet (it hurt to put clean socks on my disgustingly muddy feet) and had a pretty quick transition. Women on both the left and right of me came in huffing and puffing and seemed like they were taking forever to transition out.
I tried running to the bike out, but running in bike shoes through the nasty mud made it difficult. Wasn't even thinking about the shin at this point. I got on my bike after the dismount line and got a rather slow start up the ramp on to Lake Shore Drive. But then I got pumping. I was determined to have a good bike. I needed to redeem my poor bike split from Pleasant Prairie just the week before.

I was pedaling along smoothly when a VQ chick passed me. DAMMIT! I tried to keep her in close distance without drafting. I'd pass her, she'd pass me back. The first loop was unbelievable! It was empty sans a few aerobottle sponges and a couple of lost water bottles. We hammered back and forth until I finally said something to her. This sparked a good, small, friendly conversation. At this point, we helped each other along. I chased what turned out to be Lindsay Zucco, and was pretty happy that she didn't just fly away from me. It was a tough ride, but it was envigorating!

The second lap was a bit more difficult. Other Olympic distance athletes were now on the course and either they don't know the rules or choose to ignore them. I was riding with another woman, who I did not know, and we became trapped behind two men, riding on the right. Well, at Accenture, you're supposed to ride on the left, pass on the right. The two of us were yelling at these guys "ON YOUR RIGHT, ON YOUR RIGHT!" They would not move. LOSERS!!! We couldn't pass on the right, or we'd be in LSD TRAFFIC. So I moved to the left and passed, which is technically illegal, but I wouldn't have had to do it if the two egotistical guys would have MOVED when we were telling them we were on the right. Other chick followed right behind me. When she passed me back, I made a comment, she laughed and shook her head.
I just let it all go, pedaling smoothly and evenly into the finish. I felt like I could've probably pushed a bit harder, but you know, my results today weren't even going to count. I flew into transition and immediately stopped and moved to the side. I cheered for all the women who I was jockeying back and forth with on that bike who ended up behind me. It was pretty cool. But also a bit depressing. Here everyone else gets to go run and my day is done. Over. Finished. I had such big dreams of being in the elite wave, and the dream is ruined. I couldn't even go finish the course.
Guess I just have to hope I can qualify to be in the elite wave again next year. And maybe then, I can go into the event injury-free!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Massage

I haven't been a really big fan of massage. I've had exactly two, both just days before each of the Ironman races I've done. I'm not a big fan of people touching me. Just going in for my first massage was a bit of an ordeal. I've always just felt that massage was "fluff" and a luxury and never really believed in the benefits it has on athletic performance.

Since the shin has been acting up, I've been a little more open to new ideas. I've done all the things you're supposed to do: lighten up the running miles (well, I've stopped, except for my last 2 races), changes shoes, compressing it, taking ibuprofen and, of course, icing it. Not helping, not helping, not helping. So then massage was recommended to me. Ugh. Man, not what I want to do, but worth a shot, right?

I decide to listen to a fellow marathon runner, Bill, who has been going to "his guy" for 5 years. Said this guy has always "done him right" and he's running stronger and faster than ever. Well, I tend to think that happens more than just because you're getting massages, but whatever. I make an appointment and hope for the best.

I missed the place the first time I drove by. It's tucked into a somewhat run-down strip of small businesses. I walk in and a bell rings. There is no one at the desk and the air conditioning is rattling very loudly in a constant rhythym. I walk toward the desk and a guy with very big shoulders appears. "MJ?" He asks. "Yes, hello." He says he's been waiting for me. He shakes my hand and asks me to fill out some standard paperwork. We chat a little bit about how I missed the place when I drove by and he apologizes for the noisy air conditioner. I finish the paperwork, he takes the paper from my hand and places it somewhere behind the desk. He then turns around and says, "Alright. Now, did Bill tell you I'm blind?"

Well, yeah, he told me that, but it's kinda hard to believe. Sure, Larry has one eye that sort of drifts off, but the other one, I could swear was looking directly at me. He moved around the office as if he had perfect vision. Even when I was on the table, at one point, he said, "move your arm up to the front." Huh? How did he know where my arm was? Not once did he stumble, drop anything or even reach around for know, like when it's really dark and you fumble around to find something you know is there, you just move your hand around, slapping it down on the desk, dresser, or counter, until you feel it? None of that. He didn't walk with one hand out in front to stop him from running into anything (which could be why he said he's broken his nose so many times). But if he hadn't told me, I'm not sure I'd pick up on the whole blind thing.

I decided it's pretty cool. Because he can't see, doesn't that make his other senses more tuned? It seems to me that Larry might notice things that others would not because he HAS to do it all by feel. I have to say, the massage was good. There were parts that hurt - the good kind of hurt - though most of it was focused on the problem shin. I'll admit, it was a little weird to have a guy touching me....I almost felt like Costanza (I think it moved), but I don't really have an "it."

Unfortunately, the shin still hurt. Though he explained to me that the problem probably would not be solved with just one visit. So I've been back another time. Feels better, but still hurts. Next step: appt. with an orthopaedic doctor this week.

Injuries suck.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pleasant Prairie 2007

This year's Pleasant Prairie was almost "the race that never was." The day before the race, the weather forecast was calling for an 80% chance of thunderstorms for the Pleasant Prairie/Kenosha area. I got an email from another friend who had entered asking if they would do the race. To my knowledge, they will run the race in rain. Lightening, no.

The alarm didn't actually wake me up. It had been storming for a while and I just laid there and listened to it until it was time to get up and get ready. I flipped on the TV for the weather forecast and it still indicated thunderstorms and flash flood warnings in the area. But I still got dressed, ate and packed all my things as if this race was going to happen. We opted to park in a lot near the actual parking area. They usually have everyone park in a big, grassy field. No way was my little car going to make it through that field, so we just parked in a nearby lot and prepared to walk to the transition area.

We weren't the only ones with this idea and the lot quickly filled. It was raining pretty hard and there was the occassional lightening flash. I wrapped grocery bags around both feet and threw on my raincoat. I had flashbacks of the Boston Marathon where we had to sit for hours in the cold wind and rain, so I did my best to keep myself dry. On a positive note, it wasn't nearly as cold as Boston was this past April! On the way to the transition, we saw a guy bringing his bike back. He said they were delaying the start of the race and would make the call at 6:30 whether or not the race was going to happen. I thought "no way are we going to's raining hard, there is a lot of water on the roads and it's lightening out."

Thankfully, they opened the Rec Plex and let us all wait in there for a while. It was great to see so many familiar faces and have a few moments to catch up with each of them. I was already mentally checked out and just waiting to go get my bike so we could head back to the hotel to shower and get moving on home. I mean, I can't really run with the shin injury anyway. This race wasn't going to be good for me either way. Wouldn't break my heart if it was cancelled. The announcer was giving us frequent updates. Each time he got on the microphone, there was dead silence. You could hear a pin drop. He ran down a list of what they could do....delay the start, make it a duathlon, change the course, shorten the course, and possibly cancel the race. Now I'm being remembered of Galena, when we pouring rain for about 2.5 hours before they decided to call that race. Within 30 minutes of calling it, the weather was beautiful.

I chatted on with my triathlete friends, all the while fully believing this race was going to be cancelled. I was in the line for body marking when I saw Angie who was like, "What're you doing, we aren't going to race, why are you getting marked?" I agreed and walked out of the line to chat with her some more.

Right about 6:15, the announcer came back on. The race was on. Full course. Instructions were: if at any time you see lightening, get off the course. Get back to transition immediately. I was like, gee, if that happens while I'm on the bike, I guess I'll have to ride the whole course because I'll have no idea how to get back here without following the arrows!!!

I was in shock. Race? Come on. No way. Shoot. Crap. Now I'm scared. The pavement was really, really wet. This course has some very sharp turns. Aw man. Then it hit me...I have less than 25 minutes to prepare transition and get my wetsuit on before my wave start! AAAAGH! I ran to get in line for the bathroom. That took almost 10 minutes. I rushed over to transition and began to figure out how to arrange my things all while protecting them from getting soaked should the rain start coming down. I tried to arrange it so I could be fast, but who was I kidding? Everything was in bags I couldn't see through, so I just did the best I could and began squeezing into the wetsuit. I popped a Clif Shot. Because the race was delayed, I had eaten too early and forgotten my usual banana, so this was all I had.

If they did the national anthem, I missed it. I really love swimming in Lake Andrea and I knew former professional triathlete, Lauren Jensen, was in my wave. Our wave was next up and I scooted into the starting chute. I saw Laura (aka Whizzzz) and moved over to talk to her and wish her luck and before I could move back, my spot was taken. I was now in the THIRD row of the swim start! Now how did that happen? I was bummed and I saw Lauren but knew I'd need to draft off her immediately if I was to keep up and now I was sort of boxed out of that position. Oh well, not like this is going to be a PR for me, so I'll just do the best I can.

From this picture, I'm like the 4th or 5th person you can see. Behind the woman with her elbows sticking straight idea what she's trying to do...probably BLOCK me. And it was a pretty aggressive swim start from there. I got hit more than normal and just attributed that to me not being able to being one of the first ones in the water. After about 25 yards, there was still a good group with me and I saw the leaders up ahead, so I just hammered for the next 50 yards to get away from the mess! It worked and I found myself able to draft of someone who was pretty close to my speed. It was a beautiful thing!

I followed her around the buoys, around the slower swimmers from the wave in front of me and just relaxed and tried to keep my breathing easy. The lake water was comfortable and I just enjoyed coasting on her feet. Then we got into a mess of slower swimmers and my rabbit started breast stroke kicking. I made a quick move to the right to not only avoid being kicked in the face, but to also try and maintain my rhythym. And now my draftee was trying to be the drafter. Yes, yes, you've done all the work, so hop on my feet. But I'm not going to make it easy. We had just rounded the last corner, so I hammered again, pushing the pace to the finish. I had a nice, clean space in front of me which allowed me to keep my head down and focus on strong, smooth strokes. I easily swam all the way to the beach and jumped out of my water.

I hit my watch as I crossed over the timing mat and notice it said 12:21. What? Crap, somehow I didn't turn on my watch...but wait, it wasn't 12:21, either. Whatever, I don't have time to think of this now! I ripped off my cap and goggles and began getting out of the wetsuit. I thankfully found my bike easily and tried to finish getting the wetsuit off. I had a little trouble getting if off of the shin I had put a compression wrap on. I was a little shaky as I reached into the first bag to get my socks and shoes. I put my sunglasses on, they steamed up, I threw them back down. I was still wobbly and put on the cycling jacket. I stood there for a couple of seconds before deciding it was too warm for the jacket and I threw it back down. I put on the helmet and grabbed the sunglasses. Tried putting them on again, steamed up again, I ripped them off and took my bike from the rack and began running to the bike exit. I tried starting my watch again once I passed the timing mat. At least I'd get a bike split!

Once on the bike, I put the glasses on and they stayed clear. I was very, very scared. Within the first 5 minutes of my bike leg, I watched a guy in front of me wipe out. There was an officer not very far away, so I knew help was already there. But it made me more scared and I slowed down. The pavement was really wet and the last thing I wanted was to crash. Even worse would be an injury to end my season, so I just kind of cruised along. I actually looked at some of my surroundings. It was nice. Then other women started passing me. I let them go, who knows, this could be their "A" race. Their season could be over after today. That was not the case for me. I slowed almost to a complete stop around all corners. People would pass me and get in front of me too soon and the spray from their back wheel would kick up onto my face. Oh, I was too nervous. My shin hurt a little on the bike, but I just focused on other things. I wondered how long it would take me to complete the distance at this laid back pace. Didn't matter, even if I had a great bike leg, I can't run, so this race was just for practice.

I passed what was like the half way mark and it seemed just past the overpass, the roads were a little drier. I picked up the pace. I felt a little safer, but I still crawled through the turns. I must've seen at least a half a dozen people on the sides of the roads. I was hoping they were just flats or bike problems and not people who had skidded out. But you could see road rash on some of them and I tried hard not to look. KEEP THE RUBBER SIDE DOWN! Damn, I'm such a baby! I decided to push a little harder. I began passing many of the people who had passed me on the first half of the bike course. It felt good. It felt even better when I was able to get off the bike, accident-free!

It was then a big cluster getting into transition. There were three guys, blocking the aisle and just moseying along. HELLLOOOOO....move to the side or something! Come on. Wait, what am I doing, I'm not really racing this race! I tried to calm myself down and threw my bike on the rack. I dug in the second bag to get my running shoes out. Damn, I forgot to put out a shot for the run leg. Oh well, it's only 6 miles. I put on my visor and limped to the run out.

Wow, the shin was painful. I thought about walking. Come on, it's only 6 miles! I gimped along, many runners gracefully passing me by. It made me feel better to say "good job" to those few athletes I was able to pass in that first mile. I again went to hit the watch and it read 12:02. Huh? Damn, I really wanted to know what my pace was like! I started the clock again. I hobbled thinking about just turning this 10K into a 5K. Then I started seeing other people I knew, cheering me on. I was just passing mile 2 at that point and thought, you know, I should really try to go faster. (what happened to I AM NOT RACING TODAY?) Anyway, I started to pick up the pace. The weather was quite comfortable. Except for running around some of the pretty large puddles on the course, it was a good run. And my splits began getting faster. When I realized my shin really didn't hurt any worse as I ran faster, I pushed the pace. I was now breathing heavy and the splits were getting faster. I saw more people on my way back in and it was like they gave me more energy. Yes, the shin hurt with every step, but it was tolerable. I figured it was going to take me the same amount of steps no matter what, so let's just get this over with! I was happy with my last couple of miles, but my bike time and first 2 very slow run miles added up for what was my 3rd slowest Olympic triathlon time ever. I'm not disappointed. I'm actually quite happy to have stayed safe on the bike and to have been able to finish the run. I went to say congrats to Angie, who had a phenomenal race!

I went immediately to the medical tent to have the shin wrapped in ice and it felt so good!! I cringed at the sight of a guy who had crashed on the bike being treated for his road rash. No matter how bad things can get, it can almost always be worse. I've made an appointment to see a doctor this week for the shin.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chicago Distance Classic

To run or not to run? That was the million dollar question. Though I'd stopped running almost completely, the shin wasn't really feeling so good. Just walking on it has been painful. I did lace up a new pair of shoes and go out for a short, 4 mile slow run mid-week, to test out the shoes and to see if I'd have to quit.

When you train for something that takes so long, like marathon or ironman, it's helpful to make small goals for yourself along the way. It helps keep you focused and motivated. I had set a time goal for this race way back in the spring when I was signing up for the marathon. I didn't want to let that time goal slip away, but there wasn't much I could do. My plan was to go, start at the planned pace, hold it as long as I could, but to stop if the pain was too intense. Basically, I had come to the realization that this was going to hurt. In the back of my mind, I know my long runs should be much further than this already, so one little accomplishment would be to cover the distance.

When I got up in the morning and was walking around to get ready to get downtown, the shin felt completely fine. This was encouraging! I got dressed, pulled on a brace over the shin, put the new shoes on and jumped in the car. We got down close to the race site pretty quickly, but then began the hunt for parking. I wished we would've left a little sooner because it seemed all the street parking was full. We pulled into a lot to park, but the credit card machine was down and we didn't have enough cash. (we rarely carry cash) I started freaking out. I was supposed to meet Bern at the CARA gear check and I had to go to the bathroom. I kept my eye on the clock as we drove around in circles, passing pay lots with excruciatingly long lines and well, the saint kicked me out of the car. Said I was making him nervous.

So I left the gear check bag and rushed to try and meet Bern at the designated meeting place. It was humid out and I was already sticky and a little sweaty just from my vigorous walk to the CARA gear check tent. But Bern wasn't there. It was just 15 minutes before the start of the race. The porta potty lines were much too long. I decided to make my way over to the race start and try to line up where I thought I might find Bern. I looked all over for her, but I had no idea what she was wearing and, well, it's hard for short people to find others in a big crowd. I was a bit disappointed that more people didn't put on deoderant before the race. People - when you are wearing a singlet and it's this hot and humid out before a race, you smell. It really is OK to slap a little deoderant on before you run. It won't hurt, I promise. And I can't just blame it on one I scooted around the people lining up to run, there were several people with the BBO problem! And we hadn't even started running! Sheesh!

Then they started the national anthem and I gave up my search for Bern. I figured I'd see her as she ran by me in the first few miles. The gun went off and the we walked/shuffled to the start. This was the first race I was doing with my new Garmin Forerunner 305 and I thought, OK, if nothing else, I'll get some good pace/heart rate info for future reference. With the very first run step, the pain shot through my shin. I grimaced and thought, "OK, should I stop now?" Seemed that would be a waste. I kept going and the pain shot through my shin with every step. I purposely didn't take any ibuprofen, if it was going to hurt, I wanted to feel it. I didn't want to make this nagging injury any worse.

I clocked the first mile at faster than the goal pace. But deep down, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up this pace. It hurt and I knew it wasn't worth it. We ran over a metal bridge and I slowed down significantly. It was a little wet out and very slippery over the bridge. I also have this fear that I'm going to get my foot all caught up in those holes, and I was bummed they didn't have any areas of carpet covering the bridge. At the marathon, they have big sections of the same bridge covered by carpet for the runners.

The next mile, still a pretty quick pace and would've kept me on my original goal. But my leg hurt. Now, it wasn't hurting any worse than when I started, but thinking about it was mentally draining. More bridges, pain still there, pace slowing...I'm losing about 10-15 seconds each mile. Now people are passing me. I tried not to let that get to me. I was not going to make my goal pace, not that I really expected to, ever since the shin problem came up. So I decided, well, if I can't make that goal time, I don't want to beat up my body for a race that doesn't really matter. The pain is there, but it's not getting any worse, and I have this thing this year - NO WALKING.

We're now at about the half way point. My clothes were absolutely soaked. I've been having this little problem where the soap that has been left in my shorts from the washing machine suds up and runs down my legs. It looks like salt. I gotta figure out how to stop that from happening! I learned long ago that the answer to this is NOT to pour a cup of water down my legs to wash it off. That only soaks my socks and shoes and sets me up for some huge blisters! I don't remember feeling very hot, I guess it was just the humidity that made things tough.

The course made you cross over some grassy section around mile 8. I didn't really care for that. I then missed the next mile marker, but I kept hitting my splits and I was now pretty consistent. (consistently slow, but still consistent!) Other people I knew were passing me, asking how I was doing. Dude, you're PASSING me, how the hell do you THINK I'm doing? I tried not to complain about it, just said I'm not doing so good, but you look strong, so just go run. See you at the end. Yeah. I have to go to the end now, because I have no idea how to get to the finish unless I follow the course. I may have mentioned before, I am directionally challenged.

We ran on what is also part of the Accenture triathlon course. I've run this many times and I knew I'd be running this part of the course again in 2 weeks. I thought to myself, "Gee, sure hope I feel better to run this in 2 weeks!!" I kept waiting for Bill (KK's husband) to pass me so I could finish up with him. But I had no idea where he had started and I just hoped that he'd see me when he passed. The next few miles got a little slower, pain still present, but not feeling any worse than the first mile. I now knew that I could finish. It didn't feel good, but it wasn't so bad that I'd have to quit. It was all about finishing now. With just 3 miles to go, I just tried to keep an even pace. My heart rate felt high, but I didn't feel like I was going fast. Was it the heat?

Now we came into this zig zag thing. Back and forth, back and forth...what the??? The course wasn't like this last year. I could hear the announcer at the finish, but we still had over a mile to go. I didn't really like all the zig zagging. I just wanted to cut across and get it over with! But, of course, that's cheating and I can't do that, so I followed everyone on the ridiculous pattern to get to the finish.

Down the final stretch, people started to sprint. And in true MJ fashion, I have no "kick". I continue on my steady pace to carry me across the finish line. I'm not happy with how it felt, not happy with my time, but I am happy that I was able to cover the 13.1 miles without stopping. It gave me confidence that had this been Ironman day, I could've finished. OK, true, that's not the "A" goal, but until I get this shin thing under control, I'm going to have to settle for less aggressive goals.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Ride to Red Rock

So after Steelhead, we had planned a quick getaway to Las Vegas. I've been to Las Vegas many times, but I've never really ventured off the strip very much. Over to the Hard Rock once, down to the Stratosphere once, but I've really spent most of my time up and down the "main" strip. This time, however, I was given a tip about doing a bike ride to Red Rock Canyon.

It was the night before Steelhead and Chuck mentioned it at dinner. I grabbed my phone and ran out of the restaurant to call my brother. He was leaving for Vegas the next day and I wanted to be sure he packed his bike stuff. It must've been 7pm and he was getting on a 6:30am flight the next day. I was lucky enough to get a hold of him, he said it sounded great, he'd pack his stuff.

We called to make reservations the day we got to Vegas. It was me and 3 guys over 6'3" and they sounded a little concerned that they weren't going to have 3 bikes large enough! I also asked that they put on an extra water bottle cage. Vegas was pretty hot and we didn't bring camelbacks or anything to carry fluids. The woman on the phone told me that we should not be drinking alcohol today or tonight (we were already several rounds in at Harrah's Carnival Court when I made the reservation). We were to meet at the Mirage at 8am.

I came back and announced to the group that we were booked. We celebrated by ordering another round of alcoholic beverages. I was concerned about everyone going out that night and trying to get up on time.

Rob, the guy from the bike store, picked us up and drove us out to the start of the ride. We put on my pedals I had brought from home (thanks to a tip from Chuck), made some small adjustments to everyone's bike for fit and we were off! This was an unguided ride, meaning it was just us. We got dropped off and we were free to do our own thing at our own pace. I was assured we wouldn't get lost and I hoped Rob was right!

I had to make a quick pit stop before we got started so we rode up to the visitor's center. And I do mean up! The center wasn't more than maybe 1000 yards away, but I was already breathing heavy before I got there! I went to the Women's restroom....locked. Uh oh. Not exactly any forest or bushes out there that you can do your business and be unseen (not that I'd do that anyway) and for a second I thought I'd have to do the whole ride with a bladder that was about to explode. Thankfully, the one of the other guys had to go, so we rode over to another building and found some open restrooms. Whew. That would have been a very uncomfortable ride!

Everyone was fresh and ready to go, albeit a little hung over and I'd say a little dehydrated. Up, up, up the road went. By the time we reached the mile point, I was already wondering if this was going to be fun for everyone, particularly the Saint. This was more difficult than I thought. We stopped at the first few "scenic points" so I could take some pictures and we could catch our breath and recoup. It was beautiful. And so very, very quiet. There was the occassional car with tourists inside, but this was a very desolate area. We joked about how there were probably bodies buried out here in the desert, a la "Casino".

We continued to go uphill for the next, I don't know 8-9 miles? Sweat was pouring off all our faces and we wondered why we were doing this to ourselves. I kept reminding everyone to drink. Although it was hot out there, the humidity was rather low so it didn't make you very thirsty. The bottles of water they gave us were also warm, which was a bit of a bummer.

Finally, we were at the highest point, though none of us knew it yet. We only knew it when we stopped for a quick break to drink, then headed back on to the road. We started flying down the road at high speeds, high enough to make me feather the brakes a bit to slow down. There was some gravel on some of the turns. Everyone had smiles on their faces when we reached the road that would dump us back into town. We stopped again for a quick regroup, drink of water, laughed and talked about how fun the downhill was, then we were on our way home.

The next stretch was on some newly paved asphalt. It was a great, smooth ride, although now we were riding next to traffic. There was sufficient shoulder to make it rather safe. This section seemed mostly flat, with a few gradual uphills going over a bridge (I think). But the heartrates remained low and as we rode back into town, it was all downhill. In fact, I don't remember ever riding so long where I didn't have to take a pedal stroke. I only needed to pedal a few strokes to get started after we had to stop at traffic lights. Oh, and this street had a bike lane almost all the way down. As soon as the bike lane disappeared, we jumped on the sidewalks. I didn't think it would be very safe to ride on that road without a bike lane and we were pretty close to being back at the bike store.

Everyone had a great time. For me, it was the highlight of the trip. If I could have changed anything, I would've made the ride longer. I also think I'd prepare my riding partners that the first half of the ride is TOUGH. Very tough! But it's worth it. We got back to the hotel, cleaned up and met again back at Harrah's Carnival Court to celebrate with a few cocktails!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Steelhead Half Ironman Race Report

For the entire week before Steelhead, I tortured myself with thoughts about the race. With the bee sting, swimming was out. With the shin splints, running was out. It really sucks when you can't do 2 of the 3 events that made up this race. Each day, I'd wake up, throw my legs over the side of the bed and stand up. Gingerly, I'd shift all my weight to my left leg to see if I'd feel any pain. And so it went,
for the next 6 days. I tried so hard to NOT think about running and training and just tried to focus on other things. As the days went by, it was looking more and more like I'd have to forego the run portion of this race. It was mental torture. But every time I climbed up the stairs in my house, I knew that running on this injury could do me no good. Even if I pushed through, which I believe I could have done, I don't think I could've improved my last Half IM time, and...even if I did, at what cost would that be? Set me back another 3-4 weeks of run training while I stay off my feet???

Even as I packed to go to the race and threw my running shoes in the bag, just in case, by some miracle, the shin made a spectacular recovery overnight, I had a deep gut feeling that I was going to have to chalk up this race as my very first DNF. On the way up to Benton Harbor, CJB gave me a call to see how the leg was and wish me luck. When I told him it still wasn't feeling good, he encouraged me to not run. While I'd been having the thoughts of just bailing on the run all week, the words from him were like the sign I needed to affirm my thoughts on preventing myself from doing further damage. Why was this so important? Because although CJB and I have had our differences and can bicker like brother and sister, we both share a certain passion for the sport. And neither of us likes to give up. When another over-the-top-psycho-competitive triathlete tells you it's probably best to sit it out, well, then it probably is. And though it's easy for me to tell someone it's the right thing to do, it's a very different thing to follow that same advice.

We arrived at the obnoxiously overcrowded packet pick up only to be directed to park over a mile away from the site. It looked like everyone was bringing their bikes, so I reluctantly pulled my bike out of the car, put it back together and hopped on it for a test spin. Everything seemed to be OK, so we walked over to pick up my race materials. It was utter chaos. Even though there were volunteers directing athletes where to park, it was an absolute nightmare. Vehicles were parked on both sides of the narrow entrance into the park area. There were cars trying to get in and others trying to get out while trying to maneuver around the athletes (like me) who had to walk their bikes from a much further location. I had one volunteer say to me "Hey, we have cars coming down here." Uh, yeah, I'm walking on the grass way off the side of the road. Where else would you like me to go? Completely ridiculous. Keep in mind this race was about half the size (and price) last year. I truly believe the race grew too much too fast.

I made my way slowly over to the expo area and the place was a zoo. One thing that jumped out to me immediately was that there were not near enough porta potties for a race of this size. I grabbed my packet and weaved my way through the oncoming swarm of anxious triathletes. I had to put my number on my bike before they'd let me in transition, which was a bummer, because I like to take my time and put it on the bike in just the right way. Fortunately, there were numbers for each athlete, so there was no rush to try and get a good space on the rack. I threw the bike up on the rack, let air out of the tires (it was quite hot out and would be a big bummer if a tire blew before I came back tomorrow morning!) and immediately headed back to the car. I couldn't get away from this crowd of craziness fast enough.

I called BC and Chuck who were just heading in to the expo. We made some plans to hook up for dinner later and that gave us just enough time to go check in to the hotel and shower. Dinner was at the same place as last year. The food was OK, it's the outside seating that is a big win for me. Then it was back to the hotel to try and get some sleep. I was not nervous in the least. In fact, I think I was much too relaxed. But I felt like I had no business being there. It was weird, I almost felt ashamed knowing I wasn't going to complete the race. I had no ambition about doing well because I knew it wasn't going to matter. I guess ithe feeling is hard to describe, but I really wish I had tried to defer my entry to next year. My head was not at all in the game.

Transition was opening at 4:30, but the race wasn't starting until 7:00. We decided to leave the hotel around 5:15, just to be safe. This ended up being a good call as the cars were lined up as far as the eye could see to get into the parking lot. There were cars coming from both directions and there was no one out there yet directing traffic and it was starting to look like a mess. We were then shuttled over to the transition area. It was dark and I was bummed to have not remembered my head lamp. Athletes were piling into transition and it got crowded quickly. There was very little space between bikes and I was lucky to have empty spaces on not just one but BOTH sides of my bike. I felt like I had a lot of real estate! Many of the athletes were complaining because they had no where to put their bags and they weren't letting you line them up along the fence like they do in many races. I set up all my stuff quickly, leaving my running shoes in my bag.

I went over to body marking, went over to wish BC luck and then jumped in the ever-growing line for the porta potties. I knew we had to walk 1.2 miles down the beach for the start of the race. I guess I didn't realize how long walking 1.2 miles in the sand was going to take me because I missed BC's start. Next thing you know, they're calling for wave 4 to line up. I was in wave 7 and hadn't put my wetsuit on yet!

I started freaking out that I was going to miss my start so I frantically turned the wetsuit right side out and squirmed my way in. The waves were only 2 minutes apart, and that information was no where to be found. (in fact, the race packet was one of the most skimpy, information-bare packets I've ever received) I wanted to get in for a quick warm up swim, but there was no time. Each athlete had to go all the way around the fence and go over the mat in order to activate the timing chip. I stood at the entrance of thw swim start waiting for my wave. I needed to make sure I got to the front of the 100+ people that would be in my wave. As I stood there, athlete after athlete ran through....they had already missed their wave. I saw people in all but the first wave who had missed their start. I wasn't counting, but I'm going to guess I witnessed over 30 athletes who had missed their start. I've never seen anything like it.

Then there was another weird little thing. This girl with a Purdue "P" on her face told me she was going to run down the beach. Huh? Yeah, she said she watched all the elite people in the first wave do it. People were running down the beach in the direction of the first buoy and then swimming straight out to it instead of the diagnal line we would've had to swim had we started swimming from the start. The Saint then tells me to do it because the people running down the beach to start are getting a huge head start from those who are opting to jump in the water immediately. And yes, I thought it was weird, but no one was stopping them and, technically, we're still going around the first buoy correctly, so I guess it's legit...? With the start of the horn, I start running down the beach. I was not in the front of the pack and people were running down the beach much further than I thought they would, but I just followed. I was already winded when we started running into the water. It was shallow for a LONG time and I did several dolphin dives before I got out far enough to actually start swimming. By this point, I was breathing really heavy and I could not believe the amount of energy it took me to do that short run and all those dolphin dives. It was draining! I had to slow down a bit to get my breathing back under control and I was swimming parallel with another woman from my wave. It looked like we had pulled away from the pack (later I would learn that someone got out about 2 minutes before me...I bet it was the Purdue girl). The swim reminded me of Accenture. Within 5 minutes, I was swimming among a sea of people. It seemed near impossible to get away from them. The sighting for this course was pretty easy, but it still seemed that people were veering off course between each bouy. I swam comfortably, but the swim felt long to me. I could still see the other woman from my wave, but I was able to put just a little distance between us. We made the right turn that headed us back into the beach and it felt like I picked up a huge amount of speed. I started to pull harder to take advantage of that feeling. Soon, I was greeted by athletes walking in the water across a sandbar that was pretty far out into the lake. What are they doing?? There is still quite a ways for us to swim! Some of them realized they had only hit a sand bar and started swimming again. Others just kept walking toward the beach.

I continued to swim until I was close to 4 feet away from shore. I ran out of the water and started up the long, sandy, uphill section toward transition. I quickly ripped off my goggles and cap and started trying to unzip my wetsuit. Uh oh. Stuck. Stop trying and keep running. Try to unzip again while running. Stuck. This was frustrating. I looked for a volunteer to help me unzip all while still running toward transition. No volunteers. CRAP! Finally, I step to the side to try and use 2 hands to unzip the wetsuit. After struggling with it a few times, I was able to break the zipper free. I jumped back on the little carpet path toward transition and tried to run a little faster to make up the ground I had just lost.

I find my bike and see that my helmet and shoes have all been moved around. Apparently, some other athletes figured it was OK to use the space that was empty because of the biker that did not show who was supposed to rack next to me. First of all, it's not, it's a penalty...ask the guy who shoulda won Muncie. Second, if you're going to do that, DON'T TOUCH MY STUFF!! I was ticked and I should've tossed those bags (there were 2 large backpacks) as far as I could have, but I only stopped to strip off the wetsuit, put on my socks (over very sandy, dirty feet), shoes, sunglasses, helmet and off I went. My sunglasses steamed up immediately and I had to take them back off. There were athletes practically lined up to get out of transition. The opening was a little narrow and there was nothing you could do except wait for the pack of athletes in front of you to move out of the way. This section was sandy, so it made for slow moving people.

The Mount line was also another fiasco. Athletes lined up as wide as the street struggling to get on their bikes. Remembering what CJB told me he did in another race, I ran about 10 feet past the mount line and then got on the bike. It worked. I was able to get on and get moving before a lot of people that were struggling to get clipped in. I was a little chilly as I started picking up speed, but this is pretty normal and I tried not to think about how cold my arms were.

The bike - well, I passed a lot of women, I was passed by a few women, I was passed by PACKS of men. And when I say packs, yes, they were drafting in packs. I mean, sometimes, it's hard NOT to draft when the course is so crowded, but then there's blatant drafting. Then I jockeyed back and forth with several women. I even jockeyed with this dude who kept blocking after he passed me. Very irritating. If I had the breath, I would've told him he needed new shorts. I could see his butt crack very clearly through the worn out bike shorts. I had to get in front of this guy...just don't like the scenery.

The course is a little hilly. Not much, but just rollers. Just enough for you to work your way to the top and get the heart rate up. Volunteers were very good about handing out the water and running along side you to pass it to you. Intersections were pretty well controlled. I tried to hammer. I knew where I wanted to be and at what time. Bike computer showed time, but no mileage or mph. I just had to use the mile markers on the course. It felt long. I didn't move around on the seat enough and I was uncomfortable. I wanted it to be over. And just when I thought I was going to just give up and coast in, I'd catch up to another woman and try to use her energy to keep me going. I can't tell if I slowed down or not, but I felt like I left it all out there. I mean, I wasn't running, so don't leave anything in the bank, right?

I crossed the line into T2 and started walking. Why rush? I tried to stay out of the way of other atheletes so they could have a quick T2 and make it out on to the run course. I racked the bike, changed my shoes and handed my ship to a guy in transition (I think he was the race director). As it turns out, since I didn't finish the whole race, they didn't publish any of my splits. I don't even show up as having raced. Depressing. I wasn't happy with the bike split, but after seeing the bike splits of the women pros, well, I see that I did better than I thought.

Biggest accomplishment: Skipping the run and opting to let myself heal. I've never been able to do that before. I'm still not 100%, but I'm a lot better off having skipped that 13.1 mile run.

And I think that will be the last time I ever do Steelhead.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Update on the Sting

Well, many days have passed and I've been meaning to get a few posts up, but things have been crazy.

The bee sting (which I now believe to have been a wasp sting) got much worse before it got better. In fact, on Tuesday morning, 2 days after the sting, I woke up with my eye swollen completely shut.

I did snap a few photos of it to put here on the blog, then I decided the rest of you really didn't need to see me looking like Rocky Balboa just because of a measley little wasp. Even more frustrating than the swelling was that it itched. A lot. But it hurt too much to scratch it. It was maddening. The right side of my face was still swollen four days later, so much so that I still couldn't put on a pair of goggles and swim. Finally on Friday morning, I knew I had to get in a quick swim if nothing more than to make sure I could still participate in the Steelhead Half Ironman. Still a little tender, but not unbearable...OK, I knew I'd be able to swim.

As for the shin - well, still can't run.