IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dark, icy and sub-zero windchill...LET'S RUN!

Every week, the Luna Chix host a run at Runners Grove. For the last several Mondays, the weather has been less than ideal. As the days get shorter, it gets darker earlier and the sinking temperatures are not enjoyed by many. Sunday night's ice storm did not help conditions. The streets were covered with a very thin, very slippery layer of ice all day that wreaked havoc with commuters, whether they were in their cars or walking to the train.

I had hoped that things would get better before Monday night. However, as I drove to the store, it took me significantly longer than usual and as I rushed from car to doorfront, the temperature down to the single digits, I shivered to think about running this evening. A quick check of and it predicted the temperature to drop a few degrees and, with the windchill, it would be feeling about -8 for our run.

But runners are some of the most loyal, dedicated, don't-interrupt-my-schedule type of people. A little darkness, icy surfaces and below freezing windchills are not enough to stop us. We are prepared with our double and triple layers of technical clothing, reflective vests and headlamps all designed to keep us moving during the most treacherous conditions. So off we went!

Surprising even myself, I found myself overheating in the first mile of the run. I had to unzip my jacket to let the bitter cold come just a little closer to me. Unfortunately, the damage had been done - I was already sweating! And once you sweat in these obnoxiously cold temperatures, it's pretty difficult to keep warm because your clothes are now wet. So now we picked up the pace just a little bit. Believe it or not, the rest of the run was rather comfortable. I'm sure we got plenty of stares from people in their cars with huge, warm jackets on and heaters a blazing, but it didn't matter. Another wintry run is in the books!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ironman Arizona Race Report

Some of you asked for it - this is the long version....

I didn't need the alarm to wake up this morning. In true Type A fashion, I was awake just about every hour looking at the clock. I quietly got dressed and headed down to the hotel-sponsored breakfast. I wasn't the least bit hungry, but I know I need to pack in my food now for the long day ahead. I went to drop off breakfast for the Saint (whohad a late night the evening before) and tell him he needed to get up soon. I picked up my bags and pump and headed down for the hotel shuttle to the race start. There were 7 athletes on this shuttle and I was the only female. We had some nervous chatter as we rode to the race start in the dark.

It was cold out. I had forgotten to bring warm up pants so I threw on the only pair of jeans I brought to AZ. I didn't realize how cold it got at night there! I pumped up my tires, was asked about 9 times to borrow my pump, to which I quickly replied "someone's already got it next." It got really irritating. Sally and I had talked about pumping up her tires in the morning - and besides, I didn't have time to wait around for all these people to use my pump and return it to me! I put my bottle of Perpetuem on the bike and filled the aerobottle with water.

Next stop was the transition bags, which were very close together. I had some last-minute things to place in each of them. Back to my bike - I forgot to attach my power meter. On to a potty break - holy cow, the line was long! I ended up putting my wetsuit half way on while in line because at 6:40, I was still in line and the race started at 7:00!I wished good luck to all my Ironman friends and scooted out to try and get a good spot in the water.
The water temperature was a crisp 63 degrees and I was happy to have survived Racine (54 degrees) earlier this year because that made this 63 not so bad. I jumped in off the pier and quickly came up for air from the shock of the cold. Idon't care if you know how cold it is, it's always a shock when you first get in! I swam tarzan-style over towards the front and close to the water's edge. Despite being a strong swimmer, I get a little freaked out in the washing machine of arms and legs that is the Ironman swim. I asked a girl up front what she expected to swim and she replied ":58". I asked another guy and he said "1:30". Me and “:58” quickly told him he may want to reconsider his positioning.
We treaded water for close to 15 minutes. I don't know how, but I managed to spot the Saint along the sidelines where he snapped a quick picture. One of the coolest sights was when I turned around to look and saw both bridges lined with spectators. I defogged my goggles for the last time and the cannon sounded - AW CRAP!
Almost immediately I was clocked in the head. I fought for my position as best I could, but I also know when to let an adrenaline-rushed swimmer with arms-a-flailin' to go on past me. Those are always the guys that run out of gas about 600-800 yards in, anyway. I think I was caught up in traffic for about 7-10 minutes and then I was able to get clear water. I did hug the side and know I was adding yardage to my swim, but I prefer that to the alternative, which is to get beat up. One negative: no draft - no one was out there with me.
Unbelievable, I have to pee! At the turn around (which felt like an eternity), I decided to cut in and find some feet. Unfortunately, people are now losing steam so just when I thought I found a nice spot, it would be too slow and I'd start clipping the feet in front. I then found a nice guy swimming to the outside - I had to kick it up a notch to catch him, but once I did, the pace was good! Didn't last long, guy couldn't swim a straight line if you paid him. I ended up swimming alone for the remainder of the 2.4 miles. I tried to pee while swimming - can't do it.

Coming to the finish, they have aluminum stairs dropped in the water. You cannot see the bottom stair and if you try to grab the rail and pull yourself out, it's very likely you'll slam your shin on the bottom stair. This is why it always looks like everyone coming out of the water at IMAZ is crawling out - they are. The advice we were given was to grab the stairs with your hands and pull yourself up until your feet hit the bottom stair. Looks funny, but it was effective.

Got to the top of the stairs, checked the time, business as usual. Headed to the wetsuit strippers and the woman who helped me really was not good. I think I could've gotten the stupid wetsuit off faster myself! It was clear she hadn't done this before. Ah well. Wetsuit in hand, I started the long jaunt to my transition bag. Between the chilly water and the cold ground, my feet were completely numb before I picked up my bag. I ran right over to my bag, picked it up and headed into the changing tent. There were a few other women in there, but relatively quiet.

Should I pee? No, I'll get on the bike, maybe the urge will go away. The volunteer helping me dumped my bag - which I wasn't happy about. All my stuff came flying out of my bike jersey pockets. I bit my tongue remembering how one lady yelled at me when I volunteered - I know she wasonly trying to help. I crammed all my stuff back in the jersey, just the way I had it before. It was difficult to get my socks and shoes on. My feet were just so cold. Volunteer loses one of my bike gloves so I was scrambling to pick it up. Then she couldn't figure out how to put the race belt on me while I was snapping on my helmet. I just grabbed it and ran.
Not sure if it was planned this way or not, but I was simply directed to my bike. No volunteer handing it to me like has been done at previous races. The unfortunate part about this was that I was the furthest away on the rack that you could be - last bike on the row. I grab the bike and run out wondering if I'll ever feel my toes again. Get to the mount line, not very many people, and I easily get on and take off. I don't remember anything being cold at all - except my feet.
Out onto the course, I smile at the familiar streets and sights. I was fortunate enough to have ridden this course (or close to the exact course) twice this year. I knew when the turns were AND - I actually knew which WAY we were turning! Pretty exciting for this directionally-challenged triathlete!! I felt great. Holding my power exactly where I wanted it and it felt easy. My right contact now was bothering me. I kept blinking to see if I could get it to go back into place, but that wasn't happening.
For the first 10-15 miles, I did have to purposely slow myself down. My legs just wanted to go. I was uncomfortable now - but only because I really had to pee!! I make it to the Beeline Highway, which is a long, gradual uphill. It felt like the wind was coming straight at us, but looking at the bushes (or tumbleweeds or whatever it is they have there in the desert), they were not moving. I don't think there was ANY wind. Yet, I was riding on what looked to be flat, at my designated power, andsaw my miles per hour at 13. OUCH! "This is going to take me forever," I thought. Saw my first HUGE pack of drafters and wonder why people do that.
Now I really have to pee. I decided to hit the aid station at the turn around which was at the top of Beeline. I figure, do the work, use the bathroom, then haul it on the downhill back in to do the loop again. BONUS - going to the bathroom this early in the race is good - no waiting for a porta potty! While in the porta potty, I hear an athlete who just came out of another porta potty start swearing. Apparently, he broke his cleat. He’s screaming at the poor volunteer, who really has no idea what to do, nor is it his job, and I am happy I just don’t take myself that seriously.
Back on the bike, the ride back into town was SO MUCH FUN! I was flying down, in my biggest gear, having a hard time keeping the watts up. WOO HOO - I get to do this 2 more times! The spectators on the bike course were non-existent. About a mile before the turn around back into town, the people were lined up, cheering, ringing those beloved cow bells. I make the turn and I'm off on loop 2. Still can’t see out of my right eye. Gotta get that damn Lasik.

I was very comfortable temperature-wise and my legs felt great. On up the Beeline, I just told myself how great the return trip would be. It felt like it took me a long time on this second trip up the long, steady hill, but I just stuck to my plan. I was being passed by many men, sometimes riding way too close or cutting over before they should have - again, I wonder why people do that? I mean, it's a pretty big road! And with my right contact still not in the right place, it wasn't a good situation.

On to my third lap, I realize I drank my Perpetuem much too fast. I only have a couple of sips left and I have over 30 miles to go. For a split-second, I wonder if I just screwed up my race. I am no longer comfortable in the aero position. I had to get off the saddle and re-adjust every 10 minutes or so. One of my projects for next year is to find SOME WAY to remain comfortable for the duration of one of these rides! Now I'm at mile 90 or so and out of nowhere, both legs cramped up. OWWW!!! I quickly stood up on the pedals, stretching out the calves. This happened to me briefly, once, in Ironman Wisconsin. I think - OK, what does this mean? Salt. I whip out the Endurolytes Sally so graciously gave me in the minutes before the race started. Worked like a charm - thank you Sally!!
I pushed a little bit on the last 5-6 miles, just because I could. I now started to think about my run and wondered if the legs were going to hold up. Up to the dismount line, a nice volunteer grabbed my bike and I ran over to find my other transition bag. Again, I grabbed it myself (soooo glad I memorized where my bags were) and headed to the changing tent yet again. Full wardrobe change, including throwing on my really cool compression socks and I was off and running.

Almost immediately, my legs feel heavy. Uh oh. What did I do? Bike too aggressively? Not really, I stuck to the plan. Well, let's just go with a comfortable pace. About 1 mile in, my feet start burning. I think they were first NOW thawing out!! I take a minute to take off my sunglasses to rub my eye to get the contact back in place, but something is still off. I put the sunglasses back on and just kept blinking. The Saint was there at the second water station (close to our hotel) with my brother on the scooter cooler. It was a pick-me-up to see them both. I managed a thumbs-up, but I was already bumming with the lack of pep in my step.

The run is another 3 loop course and it was really, really difficult (mentally) to see the mile markers for all the loops on your first time around. So, you'd see mile 2...and then you'd see the mile 11 sign or something right after that and you wished you were on that second loop! It especially hit in when I saw “Mile 23” and I was on mile 6. Now I was getting passed left and right, by just about everyone. I knew I was slow, but I just kept moving. I thought about all the people who said they'd be watching online (damn you, Parello!) and it kept me going. Once again, this was a spectator-less course aside from the area near transition, which was also near the finish. Even "inspiration station" wasn't very inspiring. It was just one woman with a megaphone, yelling "Go runners" every minute or so. Very weak compared to what I’ve experienced in the past.

Heading around for lap 2, I now know what is in store for me. There are more hills than I realized. There were a couple sections of gravel – one with big, loose rocks. It was a very short section, but it was on a steep downhill and because I could only see with one eye, I slowed a lot for fear of tripping over a rock. On this second loop, the Saint and my brother were joined by Sally’s crew and they were all cheering me on. It was another little boost for me, but I knew I was slowing down. My face was covered with salt. I’d take a sponge every few aid stations to wipe off my face, but then I saw them recycling sponges. That ended that little ritual. There wasn’t much music along the course and I didn’t care for much of what I heard. I played my favorite iPod playlist over and over in my head to pass the time.

Third loop – right contact is beyond irritating, so I just ripped it out. I’m almost done, anyway. The sun is setting and I wondered if I should’ve put a long-sleeved shirt in a special needs bag for this (I didn’t even do special needs bags). The last pass I see my “fan club”, I smiled and said, “Only 8 more miles to go!” I felt better on the last loop than I did on the second loop. My legs are still heavy, but my pace is staying constant. With 10K left to go, I realize I could break 11:30 if I didn’t walk. I started skipping aid stations just to make sure I didn’t run out of time!

Somehow, I missed the mile 25 marker, but I knew I was close because I was getting near the group of spectators. There is one point on the course that has 2 signs. One said “Laps 1, 2 and 3” with an arrow. The other sign said “To Finish” with an arrow. I was DELIGHTED to be on the path “To Finish”!!! The fans are cheering and I am trying to pick up my pace. My legs hurt but I am so close now. A quick little detour through a parking lot, back out on the street and then one sharp left turn to see the finish line. There it is! I cannot help but smile. I am going to break the 11:30 mark! And for the very first time, I actually heard the announcer say my name and call me an IRONMAN.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ironman Arizona 2008

Is now in the books. I wrote a full race report on the way home, and looking over it this morning, it's much too long to post. I have been accused of putting in "every excrutiating detail", so I'm going to spend some time condensing my first draft and will get something up shortly.

THANKS SO MUCH TO EVERYONE FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT. I cannot believe how many people either wished me luck, followed me online, or congratulated me afterwards. I appreciate each and every one of your kind words.

Report will be up in the next day or two...stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Compression Tights

Yes, Peeps, you've heard me rave about the compression socks I invested in a couple of months ago. Well, now that the temperature has dropped below 32 degrees here in good ol' Chicago, I've moved on to compression tights.

These are the CW-X Insulator Stabilyx Tights. You've probably seen the advertisement...some guy has a piece of sidewalk with the mailbox attached and it says something about the speed of his run....or another one has a guy holding (on one arm, mind you) a pile of people he passed during his run because of these tights. Well, I can't say I've ripped out a piece of road or passed a ton of people wearing these tights, but what I can tell you is - WOW - do my legs feel energetic while wearing these tights! The key is to get the right size - they are compression tights, so you will be squeezing into these a bit - and then you need to make sure the diamond part in the stitching is over your kneecap. This gets the compression part over the right places in your leg.

These fantastic little tights have this "wind proof panel" covering your thighs so they will be warm in the chilliest conditions. (wish they'd put a little of that over the butt cheeks!!) They seem to support your legs exactly where you need it and they are just so comfortable, you'll want to lounge around your house in them (okay, maybe not).

They're a little pricey, but I've found that with technical apparel, you get what you pay for. I had to shell out just over $100 for them, but the comfort they'll bring me in the upcoming chilly months will far outweigh the cost.

I'm still not happy about it being so cold out here. It seems every year around this time, I wonder why the heck I live here. If I wasn't able to dress warmly enough to run comfortably outside, I'm thoroughly convinced I would no longer live in the midwest.

Keep warm!

Friday, November 07, 2008

AZ Training Trip

When I say this outloud, I almost can't believe it, but I went to Arizona last weekend just to train. Sounds like I belong on the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous or something, but the cost of the trip really wasn't all that much. When I planned the trip several months ago, I figured long bike rides were going to be brutal this time of year here in Chicago and I wasn't really that far off. The weather prediction for this weekend isn't making me look forward to my last long ride in preparation for this race. Sure, there's always the trainer, but....

Of course having someone to share the experience with makes it all that much better, so another fellow IMAZ competitor (SH) flew down to AZ for the weekend also. We arrived on Friday night and, trying to keep expenses to a minimum, we opted not to rent a car and decided to walk to dinner. This was Halloween night and I am now convinced that girls in college use Halloween to get away with dressing like hoochies. We also had some drunk college student talking to us as we walked past and actually burped as he was speaking. It was impossible not to laugh.

The two hour time difference screwed with us a little, but it allowed us to get a good night's sleep before the ride on Saturday. We headed down the street to get some bagels, bananas and peanut butter to fuel for the long ride. After clearing out the couple of ice machines the hotel had, our Camelbacks and water bottles were full and we were ready to go. It was already warm by Chicago standards - a balmy 68 degrees or so.

I'm not going to give a long, detailed description of the entire ride, but know these important parts:
  • The Beeline highway has a very deceiving incline
  • You get hot even in a dry heat
  • Wind and desert can make for a nasty combination

Though the ride was not brutal, it was tough. The drastic temperature change from the 32 of Chicago to the 97 of Tempe was hard to deal with...and I love the heat. At each stop, we filled up the water bottles and Camelbacks with ice, but our fluids never really seemed to stay cold. Biggest disappointment: I don't even have any tan lines after being out there all day.

Had my brother come and pick us up for some dinner. It was great to see him and AZ seems to be treating him well. Dinner was fabulous and we ate every bite. It was our first real meal of the day. Another early bed time.

Got a little confused because now the time had changed. But it doesn't change in AZ. So weird, I walked around the rest of the day not really being sure of what time it was. We ran 1 loop of the 2 loop run course (or something close to it). No real challenging hills, but definitely some ramps that will probably not be all that fun come race day. It was fun to see so many other people out there - on what was Nov. 2 - outside enjoying the day. There was an Autism walk this day and had an amazing turnout! We thought about snatching some water from some of the sponsors, but decided to head over and grab some recovery food at the Einstein's on the way back to the hotel.

Sunday night brought us right back home. It was not as cold back home as I expected. Of course, I was hoping for freezing, sleeting conditions here while I was away!! This time, my bike and box made it back safe and sound (huge sigh of relief!) and now my hardest training weekend for IMAZ is complete.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

And The Countdown Continues

Time is just flying by as Ironman Arizona gets closer each day. I don't really have much to comment on except that training is going well. The hardest part is that the weather really hasn't been cooperating all that much. The wind gusts of up to 50mph were enough to keep me from my scheduled long ride last Sunday. It seemed the smart thing to do to cancel the ride, but the guilt that forced upon me had me questioning my decision for days. I was still laying in bed around 7:15am wondering what I was going to do with myself all day. It made me wonder what the heck I did with my weekends before I started all this triathlon business.

Training for such a late season Ironman is not fun. Most of my training buddies have long since called the season a wrap. Not many people want to do a nice 20 mile run just for fun. Can't say I blame them. If I was finished with my racing for the year, I would be doing the same thing as them! On a positive note, the time change this weekend will help with the next couple weeks of workouts. And then it's time to taper so the need to start at the crack of dawn isn't there any more.

This is normally the time of year to start thinking about the schedule for next year. And while I have my "main" races targeted, I'm sure I'll be playing around with what works and what doesn't for 2009 in terms of races. One thing for sure is that the season has, once again, begun to feel like it's never-ending for me. I tend to fall into the trap of starting early, like everyone else, because I'm anxious to take advantage of the small window it seems triathlons are locked into. But most others seem to finish around the end of August. While my training volume has been pretty large the last couple of weeks, I am hearing rumblings of people who feel they've "lost it" from the summer and are now ready to start training again!!

So just a little over 3 more weeks to go. I'm sure it will just fly by and I'll have to keep reminding myself to back it down. I'm looking forward to a little desert heat!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

20 at Chicago Marathon

Though the Chicago Marathon isn't scheduled perfectly with the 20 mile run in my training program, I decided not to waste the opportunity to get in this long run because of its convenience. How many times can you do a fully-supported long training run with plenty of company??

I arrived plenty early at the Hospitality Suite hosted by a local running group to meet up with the "gang". Little did I know this would be such a hot spot for seeing other people I knew! It was like every time I turned around, there was another familiar face! It was fun to see everyone and the room was just buzzing with energy, but I will admit that made it a bit distracting. Even though this was just a training run, I still wanted to be prepared.

Several trips to a nearby bathroom were necessary because I knew the porta potty line down near the start would be a zoo. It was very convenient and, despite my multiple trips, I never had to wait in line. Bonus! I went over and over and over all the nutrition and supplements I had brought along to get me through the race. Meticulously, I placed everything into my pockets in the opposite order I'd need them in to make for easy access while running. Donna even decked me out with one of those pace tattoo thingys.

With about 40 minutes to go, we headed out toward the start. I had already ditched my throw-away shirt because it became a little toasty in the hotel. Once outside, I didn't even miss the shirt, a sure sign of the warm day ahead of us. Of course, I had my compression socks on and wasn't even feeling self-conscious about them. This year, they had the starting chute blocked off for what seemed like FOREVER and we ended up entering in at the 13 min/mile pace. This meant we had to zig zag our way through the dense crowd to try and squeeze up into a more adequate running pace.

Once in a position where all of us agreed we should be, we joked and laughed and tried to take our minds off the upcoming run. We paused for the national anthem (GUYS - PLEASE take your hats off during this!! I was shocked at the number of men who left their hats on during the anthem!) and the crowd moved up slightly toward the start line. I don't even remember hearing the official start, but soon everyone began walking forward. Next thing I know, RT is pointing to me where the "official" start clock had been running for some 5+ minutes. Huh. Ah, it doesn't matter.

Crossing the start line is always a little chaotic. People every which way, dodging the left over water bottles athletes just placed on the ground and jumping over piles of clothes kept on to keep warm (I don't advise jumping over anything at this point). There were spectators lined across 2 bridges right away that gives you a little boost. Not much cheering this year, though, as we ran under those. Sometimes, because of the echo, people like to make a lot of noise over there. If you're lucky and a lot of people are feeling overly enthusiastic at this point, it can be deafening and motivational! Today, however, that wasn't to be.

The pace seemed to be a little quicker than I thought it should be, but I didn't want to run alone, so I stuck with BC as he dodged his way around the slower people who had lined up a little ahead of us. Within 2 miles, I was already sweating, which is very unlike me. Another telling sign of the heat to be experienced this day. NOTHING like last year, but definitely warmer than ideal marathon conditions. Another mile or 2 pass and we see JM just ahead. A couple of strategic moves and we ran up on each side of him to start up a conversation. He seems to be running well, but really just wants to listen to his tunes. We run with him for about a mile or so and press on.

The pace still seems quick, but my Garmin is malfunctioning. I keep losing the signal. I am happy I'm trying to keep splits on my good ol' Timex and note that the pace is about 15-20 seconds faster than target. I wonder how this will bite me later on, but still don't want to run alone, so I press on. A few people here and there commenting on the compression socks - then I notice they have them on too, so then I don't feel like they're making fun of me. I pass Elvis - in a very heavy blue outfit studded in gold...he's shuffling along, though!

I'm having a bit of a hard time trying to keep up my end of the conversation and wonder how much longer I'll be able to keep the pace. I think we were at mile 9 when I asked if we were coming up on mile 12. My Garmin said we had 11.23 miles frustrating! My heartrate is in zone 4 and I'm concerned, but I don't want to give up. I pass Elvis how did that happen?

At each water stop, I fall behind quite a bit and have to quicken the pace to catch up. It's at this time I believe I lengthen my stride and the hamstring starts talking to me. Once I catch up, though, the pace isn't slowing down. Now we're progressively running each mile faster. Around mile 15, I'm ready to slow down. Now the pace is about 25 seconds faster per mile than planned and I am struggling. Can I do this for 5 more miles? BC had pulled out the metronome and it was funny watching people look around trying to figure out what the heck it was. Better than that, it made me focus on smaller steps and made the run go by just a bit easier. Another bonus was that when we had to split up for a while, I could always hear if he was next to me or behind me - so I never had to look. Just focus on keeping that sound nearby.

By mile 18, I knew I had it. No, it wasn't getting easier, but I knew I was stopping in 2 miles. Just 2 miles! No problem. In fact, the last 2 miles were 2 of the fastest miles of the run! And though I seriously thought about continuing on to the finish, I knew that just wasn't smart training. We finished the 20 in what was one of my strongest runs of the season. The heat was a factor, but didn't seem to cause a problem. I was happy to stop at 20 and call it a day!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Compression Socks

Yes, the year is 2008 and I'm sporting those socks like I did back in grade school. Only those had the cool stripes in different colors at the top. I remember I had at least one pair in every color - an 2 pair of green striped ones because I liked them so much.
I did my first run in these compression socks on Saturday. Why, you ask? Well, compression socks are designed to strengthen and stabilize muscles, tendons and joints. They increase blood circulation therefore getting more oxygen through the blood and giving you more energy. I first saw these about a year ago during my last Ironman. As I go to events, I'm starting to see more and more people sporting these attractive little garments. I've been wearing compression shorts since I was diagnosed with the hamstring I decided to try the socks. What could it hurt?
The result? I found the socks quite comfortable! I was a little warm in them after a few miles, but very tolerable. I did find myself a tad itchy toward the end of the run, also. Could just be me not being used to having anything covering my shins when I run. All in all, my legs felt great and totally fresh for my ride the following day. Might just have to incorporate these socks in to my regular training wardrobe. Don't they look hot?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Runners are Crazy People

It was already raining when I went to bed on Friday night. Because I enjoy cool, fresh air, I slept with the windows open that night. Somewhere during the night, the rain became heavy and I rushed around closing some of the windows, but keeping the bedroom windows cracked so I could listen to the steady beat of the raindrops.
Hours later, it was still raining. Now I wanted the rain to stop. I was to be meeting up with some people to get in a long run on Saturday morning. This rain wasn't just a sprinkle, it was steady. I shot out a few emails to see if I could get anyone to commit to running....after all, I didn't want to drive all the way out to be the only goof ball that showed up! I ended up calling Sally, who confirmed that she was going - after all, it wasn't lightening, and I packed up my things (with a couple of extra towels and an extra pair of shoes) and jumped in the car.
Amazingly, there were already a handful of people there. Sure, everyone was just sitting in their cars, but the dedication of this group surprised me. I couldn't believe there were other people so obsessed with getting in their long run that they'd come out to run in this rain. I worried about my shoes and socks getting so wet that I'd develop blisters. Fortunately for us, the air temperature was around 70.
The group was not the regular size, but still a good, solid showing for this rainy day. Another positive, the trail drains quickly and we reached mile 3.5 (Turtle Pond), a place that's known for flooding, and it was free and clear. Excellent! We ran on, not a dry stitch of clothing on any of us. Thankfully, the air was warm enough that even I wasn't complaining of being cold. As we passed mile 4 or so, another runner coming the other way said the trail was flooded out at mile 5.7. OK, well, we could get to that point and just turn around if it's that bad, we discussed.
At mile 5.7(ish), there is a small bridge. For most of the year, there isn't even much water flowing through there. In fact, it's such a small bridge, it's easy to forget about. I'm not even sure how long it is, maybe 25 feet? Well, we get there and it's covered with water bursting from a higher section of the forest preserve. It's loud and rushing by us quickly, pushing broken branches up against what is supposed to be the railing. You can barely even see the railing at this point. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen in this forest preserve.
Being the only female in our group, everyone looked at me to see if I'd go through. OF COURSE! We took off our shoes and socks and made our way across the bridge. Slowly, to make sure we didn't lose our balance, we stepped very carefully across the bridge, one by one, to the other side. The water was cool and rather refreshing! Once across, I squeezed out my socks (I can't believe how much water was in them) and waited for everyone to cross.

We're lucky one of our runners, Jim M., had a cell phone on him and we were able to get this quick shot. The picture doesn't really do the water in the background justice, but if you've ever run at WFG, you might recognize this spot and have a better idea at how amazing this was. You can just barely see the railing of the bridge if you look to the right of the guy (Jason) in the orange shirt. I'm sort of surprised Jim's camera didn't fry out. You can't tell in the picture, but it was still raining hard when we took that.

We continued on through the rest of the trail with just minor little puddles to go around. We were again surprised there was no water collection just before mile 8 - another area known for flooding. The rain continued for the duration of this run (and for days afterwards!), but everyone made it through without incident.

Definitely a run I'll never forget. I've always known that I'm a little "too" addicted to this stuff and sometimes don't know when to quit. Well, the group of runners that ran outside in Chicago on Saturday morning - whether at WFG or anywhere else - are truly a crazy group of people.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Great Illini Half Ironman Race Report

Though I'd had this race in mind for the last couple of months, I just signed up about a week ago for this event. I was tossing around the idea of doing the Full Ironman Aquabike here (2.4 swim followed by 112 run), as I did last year. However, the thought of getting in another half ironman in this year to prepare for Ironman Arizona sounded appealing.

Unlike last year, the predicted weather was just perfect for racing. We picked up Jess and arrived in transition at about 5:15am. We pulled up right next to AJ and then Caroline pulled in rightnext to us! Not sure how many total participants in this race, but transition is tiny. I like tiny - fast transitions! I was too late to get the first spot on the rack, but second wasn't bad. Truthfully, there is not a bad spot in all of this transition area.

I helped Elizabeth with a little tire problem and was pretty distracted that when I was about to get into the water, the Saint asked, "hey, where's your chip?" I HAD FORGOTTEN TO PICK IT UP! Yikes! I ran over, pickedit up and slapped it on my ankle. I skipped body marking all together. (did I mentionI was distracted?) My feet were really cold, so I got in the water to warm them up. Swam a couple strokes and the water was a good temperature. Walked over to Caroline, got this quick photo and jumped over to line up for the start.

The first section of this swim is directly into the sun. The buoys are pretty far apart and it was a bit difficult to see them with the sunglaring in my face. After the first turn, I was already running into people from the previous wave. It was easier to see now. After the second turn, I had to stop more than once to find the next buoy...spaced too far apart. I didn't trust that the swimmers in front of me were on the right track. The swim felt good and I ran into transition and got out of there in a hurry. Nice to have small transition areas!

This was my first race on the new aerobars. I know I didn't put in as much time on them as I should have, but theyfelt pretty good. I had to rearrange the aerobottle and computer, so the whole set up was a new experience for me. Seems to have worked out! The first 10 miles of the course was turn after turn after turn. There was no time to get up to speed before having to slow down to go around a corner. Thankfully, the volunteers learned this year that we do not want unopened water bottles on the bike! They still don't realize it's easier to hand us bottles as they run in the same direction we're riding, though. My handoffs were pretty good because they had the stops right after the U turns on the course. I need to practice getting through those faster!

Once we got out further into the course, it felt windy in almost every direction we rode. Not terrible, but enough to make it loud in my ears. Lots of unleashed dogs running out onto the course. Very dangerous! I heard one run up barking after me and I freaked out a little and started riding faster to make sure he didn't take a chunk outof my leg! I yelled at several others as I rode up to them...they were just standing in the street and would begin chasing biker after biker as we rode by. Insane! I was working on keeping a steady power output. It turned out to be not quite what I was looking for, but taking into consideration all the slowing for the turns and U turns on the course, it wasn't too bad. Not a very fast bike split for me. I was getting uncomfortable in places I don't want to talk about and was happy to see transition up ahead.

Super fast transition (about 40 seconds I think) and I was off and running. My toes on both feet were numb. It's not fun to run when you can't feel your toes. I think it took until mile 3 for them to warm up. Note to self: put on toecovers when it's below 70 degrees in the morning! I've never complained of my feet being too hot during a race. The run course was rather boring. It was a "C" shape and to cover the 13.1 miles, you had to go out and back and out and back...I cannot imagine the people doing the full ironman today...they had to do that FOUR TIMES! Good God! Had some pain in one foot...something I've never felt before, but it didn't seem to slow me down. I stuck with my regular nutrition on the run and felt good until around mile 10 when the hamstring pain kicked in. I slowed, but not too much. I only ran the second "lap" 1 minute slower than the first one. I was happy to be done.

Weather conditions were perfect...aside from the little wind on the bike, the day was just beautiful. Don't get many days like that, so you have to enjoy them when you get them! I'm now suffering from a considerable amount of chafing. And now the Ironman training begins.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Accenture Expo

Even though I did not participate in the Accenture Chicago Triathlon this year (first year I've NOT done this race!), I was at the Expo on Friday night to help staff the Luna booth. Some might look as the obligation to participate in staffing the booth as "work". However, nothing could be further from the truth for me!

First - the Luna Chix are just an amazing group of energetic, positive, fun women to be around. Second - I get to give out free products and collect the hundreds of positive comments (the Luna Moons are a huge hit, so if you haven't tried them, go out and buy some!). Third - it's sort of like a high school reunion for me. Triathlete friends are all around - those I haven't seen in years, those I just saw yesterday and those I'm just meeting for the first time. The room just buzzes with excitement non-stop and it's so easy for me to get caught up in it all.

My shift went by quickly and I was able to top it off with a little Luna bonding. I'm only a little sorry I didn't sign up for the race this year. But being able to work the expo and be so close to all the action is not half bad!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pleasant Prairie Triathlon

Of all the triathlons I've been fortunate enough to participate in, Pleasant Prairie has always been among my favorites. It's close to home, very well organized, the swim is one of the best venues, the bike course is mostly flat and the run takes you around the lake. Last year, it was pouring rain for about 18 hours before and up until the original race start. I dreaded racing last year because of the wet pavement.

Talk about an absolute opposite change in conditions today! It was chilly, maybe 62 degrees at the start, but the ground was dry as a bone and there was not a cloud in the sky (the sun wasn't up yet!). I forgot that transition closed at 6am because the race started at 6:30am! I think that's the earliest race start I've ever seen.

The racks were pretty jam-packed and there were a few women nearby complaining about it. What are you gonna do? You don't like it up where it's crowded, move your bike. I tried to ignore them, but I couldn't...I knew these are the same women I'd be battling it out with on the course. I tried not to let them bother me.

Almost brainlessly, I set up transition and waited for MN to finish setting up her stuff. A quick walk over to the "secret" porta potties revealed they weren't so secret. We had about a 15 minute wait and transition was closed before we got back. I then realized I had forgotten to leave a gel in there for the run. I easily snuck into transition to leave a gel with my running shoes, then began peeling off my outer layers to squirm into my wetsuit. A little mishap with the wetsuit zipper stressed me out for about 5 minutes, but it was under control in plenty of time before the race started.

In order to get to the front of the swim start, I camped out by the rail that corraled the upcoming waves. Piece of cake, I was in the front row on the outside for the start, right where I like to be. The horn went off and some girl ran in 3 big steps and took a huge dolphin dive and immediately got a good lead. DAMN! I swam along side one woman for about 200 yards until she petered out...then I just happened to see a light purple cap (my color) in front of me. Well, we must be about the same ability if we're both out here, so I jumped on her heels. She was quick and I was working harder than I'm used to, but I knew the draft was a good thing. She was swimming a little crooked, but every time I tried to get around her, I never made up ground. I decided it best to just stay on her feet. She was doing an awesome job navigating around the other swimmers and once she cleared the way for me, I had less effort to put in.
I stayed on her heels until the finish. One of the best swims I've ever had in this distance. Thank you, whatever your name is!

I was able to get out of the water and had the wetsuit half way off before I reached my bike. My breathing was a bit labored, but I knew I'd settle in on the bike after a few minutes. I seemed to be the first bike off my rack, but I still had this feeling that first dolphin-swimmer-girl was out there somewhere.

Due to construction, the bike course was changed this year. It was 2 loops of the sprint course, which I wasn't really happy about. The first half of the ride was more scenic. All too quickly, I was making my way up the overpass and the quads started burning. I just pushed the chain down to the easiest gears and tried to spin up so I could catch my breath from the swim. I was breathing too hard. Then a nice little downhill and we're already making our first turn. This year, the wind was steady and I questioned the use of my disc wheel. The turns were plentiful and though the first loop was easy (and a little short, I noticed), the second loop was majorly crowded and I was tired of yelling "on your left!" just to have few people move. It's like they never heard it before. Many, many riders riding just to the right of the double yellow, so I'm forced to sit back, pass on the right (illegal) or cross the double yellow (also illegal). It was frustrating after a while. The entire bike leg, I felt sluggish, just never found my rhythym, I guess. I was happy to be off the bike and this was a short ride for me. Just not a bike day for me.

On to the run, I felt pretty good. No hamstring pain and my breathing was under control. I thought I could push harder, but I knew I was off the podium already. With 1 swimmer ahead, 1 passed me on the bike and then another passed me immediately on the run, I just decided to do my own race. I was comfortable all the way around. It was great to be able to see so many friends on the out-and-back-and-out-and-back course. You wanted to look strong at all times because you couldn't be sure who'd see you next!

Other than the wind getting a little gusty, this was just a beautiful day. Some thought it to be a bit warm on the run (there is absolutely not one speck of shade for you), but I found it nice. The wind actually cooled me off just enough. My last Olympic distance race was this same race last year. Hard to believe a year has gone by so fast.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Closing the Pool

Since June, I've had the opportunity to swim in an outdoor 50 meter pool on a daily basis. No, I don't go to the pool every day, but 2 or 3 times a week, you'd have been able to find me and a few other lap swimmers at this outdoor pool in Palos.

On some mornings, it was humid and sticky and the cool pool water felt refreshing. I think we were kicked out of the pool 3 times over the course of the summer because of thunder and/or lightening. Yesterday, the combination of the warm water and chilly air temperature caused a constant steam.

An outdoor pool gives you a great change of scenery from the indoor flourescent lights to the bright morning sunshine. You get to change the stale, chlorine-filled air to fresh summer breezes. The fact that this pool is 50 meters vs. the standard 25 yards just makes it better for long distance swimming.

The pool water was crystal clear throughout the summer. However, keeping the bottom of the pool clean of debris was a challenge for the lifeguards. I've seen numerous items down at the bottom: dirt, coins, the rubber gasket from a goggle, diving rings, leaves, bandaids, hairbands and something that looked like a dryer sheet. But all of that stuff stayed on the bottom so it really didn't bother me. In fact, it gave me something more to look at than the solid black line I was following down the pool.

So now it's over and we say goodbye to another season at the outdoor pool. They have threatened to close this pool down for a few years now, so I can only hope it will be open again next year. I am dreading going to my next swim indoors. Memorial Day 2009 seems so far away....

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Monday Run at Runners Grove

The weather has been all over the place here in Chicago lately. We've been having some really sticky, hot, humid weather for the past week or so. Saturday morning's swim at Ohio Street Beach was the roughest water we've seen all year and the wicked thunderstorms have been more frequent than usual. (I think all this extra rain is the reason for the influx of frogs in the yard...I think I have about 3 dead frogs floating in my pool every day now)

Our Monday run at Runners Grove was no different. The first Monday of every month, the Luna Chix have a fun run. Everyone is welcome, regardless of ability. Given the start of the day yesterday, I was worried about attendance. There were thunderstorms predicted throughout the area all day long. It was hot but very humid as we gathered for the run. There were a couple of new people, so we had some introductions, took a quick photo, and went outside to begin the run.

The sky was dark and threatening. Were we going to be able to get this run in without being poured on? Guess we'd better run fast! We had 3 different pace groups going out this night. Extreme Liz lead out front, Mel and I clipped along in the middle and Hammer rounded out the group. We were absolutely dripping at the end, but not from rain. It was so humid, we were soaking the sidewalk out front of the Runners Grove store!

Thankfully, the people at Runners Grove know how to take care of us - we had ice cold water and Gatorade waiting for us at the end of the run as well as sliced oranges. Even more fitting, one of the owners brought out wipes and paper towels! We needed these! After all, we were headed to Ballydoyle now to celebrate our run!! Almost everyone came next door with us and, despite the tornado warning that forced us to give up our spot on the outdoor patio, it was a great time! Looking forward to the next one!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Metric Melon

Last minute decision to do this ride...I'm typically not a "last minute" type of person, but a few other things fell through and even the original ride we were going to do today was changed after 7pm last night to be the MELON METRIC!

Close to home, weather predicted to be pretty good and a strong group of riders indicated today was going to be a good ride. We arrived, signed up and were ready to go BEFORE the scheduled time. The roads out here, we decided were excellent! Nice and smooth, pot-hole free. Nothing like the Spirit of Racine race that several of us did just the week before.

It was a little chilly starting out, I think the temperature was about 62 degrees. But it was supposed to warm up to 80 and I really didn't want to carry arm warmers around the whole day. Everything going well, get in and out of the first rest stop pretty quickly...on the way to the second stop (which felt like forever), we were witness to a dog running a biker off the road. We pulled up, watched as the irresponsible dog owner tended to her dog, not even caring about the cyclist, called 911 and told the guy to just sit. He seemed OK, helmet was cracked, but no road rash. Thankfully, he had ridden off the road in the ditch when the dog ran up on him. He knew his name, but not much else. The dog's owner came over to ask, "Did he bike you?" but she didn't seem to care about the fact that this guy had fallen off his bike and hit his head. It was weird. The ambulance got there and we headed back on our way, shaking our heads. Had that dog come up on us, it's likely several of us would've gone down.

We get to the next stop, quickly do what we need to do, and we're back on the road. Our pace is strong, but not overreaching for any of us. Then we realize something is wrong as we pull back into the first rest stop. Apparently, we followed the wrong arrows out of that second the heck were we supposed to know that?? They were just color-coded, but I guess there is one way to go for the century and another way for the 65 mile route...SHOOT! We decide to go back to the same place we just left in order to get the 100+ miles we were after.

A train of about 7-8 guys on road bikes pass us, I think we were slowing for railroad tracks or something. I notice a "fist bump" at the front of the line and now I'm irritated with this group. We continued to ride our pace and these guys were getting no further. It was like they just kicked up their pace to pass us, but then hung out. We didn't draft, but slowly passed them back. Once we passed, our pace picked up noticably. It was kinda like we had to put some ground between us and them to make sure they stayed back there this time. It worked. And it was a solid stretch of ride for our crew! We pass by the house with the attack dog and lo and behold, the dog is in the house...homeowner out front doing yardwork, eyeing up all the cyclists passing by.
At this rest stop, we feel like we're in the Twilight Zone - coming or going, we don't know what we're doing and everything feels like deja vu. As we're reloading our water bottles, I see some woman looking at JS's bike and commenting on how nice it is that his aerobottle is up front on his handle bars, making it easy for him to drink. She then says, and this is the quote of the day, "He even has a little sponge to wipe of his face!" She was referring to the yellow netting in the aerobottle that keeps the water from splashing out when you go over some rough road. I almost spit out my Gatorade at that comment. I had to walk away fast.

Now we were on the way home. We knew we'd be over 100 miles, but weren't sure by how much. We tried to lay off a little on this last stretch, but we really didn't slow down much. The roads on this last section were the worst of the day! I opted out of the group's transition run after the ride...I mean, my race is not for 4 more months! WHY ON EARTH am I out here doing 100 miles??!? Sheesh.

Great day. Wonder why I've never done this ride before.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's Coming Off

That's right, triathlon fans, I am about to go through the first-time experience of losing a beloved toe nail. After my very respectable run at the Spirit of Racine Half Ironman last week, I complained of severe pain in my second toe...the one right near the big toe. I have never before experienced this pain, nor could I figure out why this race had produced such pain.

It has now been 6 days after that race, and after 3-4 days of the second toe throbbing, I've noticed the coloring under the toe nail going more and more black with each passing day. Today, just about all of the surface under said toe nail is blue/black/purple. The pain seems to have gone away, but I am thinking this is what happens as a precursor to losing the toe nail. And because I'm such a nice person, I'm choosing not to post a picture of the nasty-looking sight at this point in time.

With any hope, the discoloration will go away without the toe nail falling off. I've also been told that if this toe nail falls off, it won't be for a while, but that it would fall off some time while pulling off a sock or (gasp!) while in the pool! YUCK! For now, I'm happy it no longer hurts, but I still can't figure out why this even happened in the first place!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Spirit of Racine Half Ironman

After spending all day working the Expo on Saturday standing on my feet, I wasn't quite sure what to expect for this race. I was feeling pretty relaxed about the whole thing because I haven't been able to get my run miles up where I'd like them to be. I hadn't run 13 miles since NOVEMBER! And the water temperature was said to be 56 degrees. It's one of the only times I was heard saying, "I don't want to do this swim."

Per the usual race ritual, I couldn't sleep the night before the race. Tossing, turning, looking at the clock every 15-20 minutes or so to make sure I wouldn't oversleep left me pretty tired when it came time to get out of bed. I looked out my hotel room window to see that it had rained overnight. I quickly got my things together and headed out to transition in the darkness.

I was surprised at how calm I was. Transition was set, a couple trips to the porta potty, I walked with CR to grab my wetsuit and prepare to walk the mile down the beach to the start. I had both a neoprene cap and some nifty neoprene booties. In fact, I tried the booties on in the hotel room the night before and they are quite comfortable! I am considering using these as my house slippers this winter. I put them on before the walk down the beach and my toes stayed nice and warm. (too bad they don't have gloves I can use)

It was very foggy - so foggy, they delayed the start of the race by 15 minutes...again, and again and again. Now the race was a full hour delayed. I silently hoped we weren't going to swim. The temperature was now 55 degrees and I went in for just a few second and it was shocking to the system! I was almost upset when they announced that the first wave was about to take off. Now I've spent so much time worrying about how cold the swim was going to be, I've practically forgotten about the fact that I still have to bike 56 miles and run 13 miles after that!

The fog was still thick when we started and sighting the buoys was challenging! I ran a few steps and jumped into the icy lake and kept my head out of the water the first 200 yards or so. It was a pretty smooth start, though...didn't get beat up too much. Once we turned to parallel the beach, there seemed to be plenty of space. I tried following the flow of athletes in front of me, but at points they were so spread out, it was impossible to know who was going in the right direction. A couple times, I had to stop and look around to find the next buoy before continuing on the swim. It felt long...I was tired of swimming. I just wanted out. A few people were walking and we were still no where close to the end of the swim. Finally, I spotted some trees so I knew we were getting close to the finish. Again, people stopping and walking well before they should...they made for a few obstacles for me! Once my hand hit the sand on the bottom, I stood up...still very far from shore. It's exhausting to try and run through almost knee-deep water! A quick check of the watch tells me the swim was probably 200-300 yards short.

I immediately heard MN yell for me out of the water. It was really cool...nice to have someone cheering for you. As I ran to transition while stripping off the top half of my wetsuit, I saw her running along side, talking to me. It was encouraging. She mentioned many people were off course. I don't doubt it, it was TOUGH to see anything out there!

After a surprisingly quick transition (tearing off booties and all!), I hopped on the bike. I had to go well past the mount line because there were several people just past the line trying to get on their bikes. It was already congested and we haven't even started yet! The guy in front of me was weaving as we workedour way up the incline. He almost took me out! I was a little chilled at first, but that quickly went away as I started pumping my legs on the pedals. We were forced on a very narrow strip of road and it was difficult to pass. Several "on your left" yells, and still people wouldn't move. They were riding right on the double yellow line. I even had one guy point to the right and tell me to go around him on the right. Um, no dude, you're blocking, YOU move to the right.

I was quite comfortable except for the rough patches of road. Temperature was good. It was a little windy in some sections and I could feel myself being pushed around, but it wasn't too bad. I nailed the nutrition, though I don't think I was getting enough water. The aid stations were crowded and I rode by a couple of them without grabbing a bottle because it just seemed too dangerous. I realized my computer was wrong...I hadn't erased the data from my last ride, so now I have no idea what mile I'm on. I then realized the mile markers were spray painted on the roads in 10 mile increments., just 6 more miles. I'm very uncomfortable now on my bike seat. My legs feel nice and strong, I just don't want to be on this bike any more.

It was relief to fly down the hill into transition, just a bit of a bummer that you can't really go as fast as you'd like. Another pretty smooth transition and I was off on the run. Now the sun was starting to peek out from the dissipating fog. There were two pretty challenging hills right at the start of the run that tweaked my hamstring. I shortened my stride and just went slower. Once up that second hill, it was flat and my heart rate dropped quickly. I was on a good, solid run pace. There were lots of familiar faces on the course. Sometimes, though, when someone would yell out, I wouldn't realize who it was until they were long gone. Again, very comfortable conditions...not too hot, not too cold. The shaded parts of the run were well spaced and a cool breeze kicked up every so often.

Once I reached the turn around, I realized I was still feeling pretty good, so I decided to try and pick up the pace. I slowed down again significantly on those two steep uphills at the beginning. I still stopped at every water station, trying to make up for the fluid I did not take enough of on the bike. At one aid station, I grabbed a gel. I ripped it open with my teeth and squirted it in my mouth. Eeeegads, it was HOT! Not just warm, but hot! BLECH! I gulped down two lukewarm cups of water after that. I was trying to check on my splits and it was encouraging. I came close to the 10 mile mark and I realized that if I could keep this pace, I was on target for a half ironman PR. Never mind that the swim was a little short, this is turning out to be a solid race! I picked up the pace a little more, now breathing heavily where it really started to burn a little. Throughout the rest of the run, I was able to cheer on friends coming the other I didn't have the breath. I tried to hold the pace for the last couple of miles, but I could feel myself now slowing. The hamstring has been acting up for the last 4-5 miles, but I'm almost finished!

Through the zoo, I know the end is near. Now I can hear the announcer and the crowd cheering. Do I have any "kick" left? No, not really, but I tried. I started the day hoping to just be able to not have to stop and walk during the run. I ended with a very respectable time and a new love for neoprene booties.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Valparaiso Triathlon Race Report

Whew! One race weekend after another! I found myself heading down to Valparaiso on Saturday morning to participate in a sprint triathlon. I've always wanted to do this race because it's so close to home, but then again, with a measley 400 yard swim, I've never pulled the trigger. This year, I did it.

I picked up PS at the designated meeting time - 5am. It was dark, rainy and stormy but the race was several hours away so I had hopes of it clearing up. Besides, I already PAID for this race. Once we were on the road, we noticed we were driving into lighter skies. Excellent, it was like we were driving our way out of the storm. But the rain was coming down hard and I got a phone call from the Saint saying, "You guys are nuts, there's no way you're going to race today." We pressed on.

Once at the race site (we arrived very early), we put on our rain coats in anticipation. By the time we walked all the way to registration, we decided it was too hot for the rain coats - besides, it wasn't raining. A stop in transition to drop off the bike, a trip back to the car where we dropped off the rain coats and got the rest of our gear, and we were headed back to transition. Now it seemed the skies were getting darker in every direction, but we proceeded to set up transition. We met up with BP, his girlfriend and KK and it started drizzling. I ran back into transition to place both pairs of shoes in plastic bags (lesson learned from the Naperville race that soggy socks are NOT fun to run in!). Now it started POURING. I grabbed a light jacket I had in my bag and cursed myself for leaving the raincoat in the car. Within minutes, we were drenched. Not many places for shelter at this small race, but we were standing under a tree to try and keep from getting even more wet. (I've always found this ridiculous...where should you NOT stand when there is a storm that includes lightening? UNDER A TREE!) The 5 of us stood there, shivering, just waiting for an announcement. Someone did get on the speaker and said, "THIS RACE WILL GO ON!" We were shocked. None of us wanted to race in this monsoon. We stood there, looking around, each trying to talk each other into packing up and going of those, "If you go, I'll go" back and forth.

About 10 minutes before the race start, there was a flash of lightening. 30 minute delay. Shivering, I silently hoped the race was called off. Teeth chattering, goose bumps covering my arms and legs, I wondered when it was going to stop raining. There was no way this race was going to happen...

Next thing we hear is that the first wave needs to line up. WHAT?? You mean we're going to race? I was in shock. And then I was scared. Lots of rain means lots of wet pavement means dangerous conditions on the bike. I stared at the athletes lining up in this really happening? Yes, it was. A few more times our little group talked about packing up and going home. But no, I drove all the way out here to race. So let's just do it!

Once my wave was finally called into the water, it was like a relief to have warmth on my feet and hands. It only lasted instantly, but I hoped once I started moving, I'd warm up. Ready, set go and our wave was off and thrashing about. Very quickly, superstar amateur athlete Chris Wickard shot out to the front. I couldn't even get a draft, she was just too fast. I watched as the rain drops hit the water of the lake as we went along...they finally stopped about half way into the swim. I could still see Chris' light blue cap up ahead of me, but couldn't catch her in such a small distance.

As I came out to head to transition, I was disappointed that I wasn't warm. I was pretty chilly as I ran to my bike. Once there, it was a fiasco trying to get my things from out of all the plastic bags! My fingers were waterlogged and pruny and pretty much refused to work for me. I put my sunglasses on but wondered if this was going to work...once they get so much water on them, you really can't see! The pavement out of T1 was very slippery and I almost fell 3 times as I headed to the bike course. I hopped on and promised myself to be safe.

Safe meant excruciatingly slow turns. In fact, I felt like I was practically stopping as I took each corner! However, it was better than the alternative, so I just hammered on all the straightaways. It wasn't raining any more, but there was some standing water on some of the roads and every now and then, a blast of wind would come and blow all the water from the leaves down on me. BRRRR! The wind was feisty and it tossed the disc wheel around a bit (I had forgotten my other rear wheel, so it was the disc or nothing!)

Once safely into T2, again fussing around with another plastic bag that contained my running shoes. Now I can't decide to take my sunglasses with or not. I picked them up, put them down, picked them up and put them down again. Then I had to move them just in case the guy next to me came in and might run them over, breaking them. WHAT AM I DOING, I'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE! I grabbed my hat and number and headed out. It was a bit confusing in transition and I ran into 2 guys going the wrong way (everyone was to go counter clockwise in transition to make it equal distance for all participants). It was interesting to say the least.

I started out feeling OK, but it was now getting sunny and humid. I was glad I left the sunglasses anyway because I had changed the lenses to clear, so they wouldn't have helped with the sun, anyway! Just about to the half mile mark, I could see the bikers coming in on their second to last turn of the race. Just as I looked over, a girl who was turning too fast skidded, flew off the bike and the sound of metal scraping the pavement gave me chills. Spectators all turned to look, but I didn't want to see it! I hoped she was OK.

Mile 1 and it felt like an eternity. I felt like I was slowing, but at mile 2, I see that I got just a little faster (that is, if the course was marked correctly). There were some little hills that got my heart rate up and right around mile 2 was when the hamstring started talking to me. Oh come on, I'm almost done here, though! I tried to keep the pace and as I neared the finish, I saw PS and heard him yell, "Hurry, don't let the girl behind you get you!" So I tried to push harder...not really sure if I went any faster, but when I turned around, there was no "girl" there. Was he just toying with me??

I was able to capture first in my age group, but not by much. I was surprised that my struggling run was able to hold off the second place finisher. And to think we almost turned around and did not race...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lakeside Triathlon Race Report

I can't believe I haven't had time to write up a race report on this!! I have been doing so busy and doing lots of great things, but I can't skip a race report! The race was a week ago, so the details are now fuzzy memories, so I'll just give a quick recap.

First off, I almost cancelled out of the race. I had a little scare with my beloved labrador retriever and he trumps a race any day. A quick visit to the vet in the morning assured me he wasn't in pain and that he was going to be OK. I was a bachelorette over the weekend, so I needed to bring my little angel to the race (it's like bringing a small child...OK, almost)!

Mapquest never fails me and got me to packet pick-up with plenty of time to spare. While wandering the "festival", I ran into BC, his better half and some friends of his. I was quite distracted, I was so focused on tending to my baby. They told me I missed the trailer where packet pick up was set up, so I said goodbye and headed back. I got my things and headed to the hotel. I got a little lost getting to the hotel and just decided to get a sandwich and call it a night. I didn't want to leave the dog alone for long if I didn't have to.

I think there were drug deals being done at my hotel. Throughout the night, doors were slammed, lots of voices in the halls and just a general stench in the hallways when I walked through them. (what do you expect from a place that accepts dogs?) I slept horribly, but was happy that the dog seemed to be doing OK.

I picked up Neumann at her hotel and we headed to transition before sunrise. It was quite warm and humid already and I ditched my jacket quickly. I really enjoy smaller races because they're low key and I don't feel the pressure like I do at the high-profile races. It was exciting because this was Neumann's longest triathlon to date! We were in the same wave, so we were able to rack our bikes together. Do some socializing, take the bikes for a small test ride, play around with transition set up, meet up with BC for a quick run warm up and before you know it, the race was about to start!

Just before my wave started, three young girls jumped in front of me. Great, I thought, I'll get a really nice draft! These girls looked like they were in high school (I found out later they were). Off we go and these girls hammer it out. I found a sweet pocket and just coasted, smiling to myself because I wasn't working at all at this point. I was a little cramped, but I wasn't getting hit and we seemed to be moving. About 400 yards into it, these girls slowed dramatically. Now I was in trouble. I couldn't get around them! There were women to my left and right and straight across the front. Oh come ON, where is a gap when you need one??? It seemed like minutes, but there finally became a small space and I brushed right past two of the girls. I could see other caps with my color in front of me, but they were too far for me to try and catch them for a draft. So I settled into a rhythym and made for a good, easy-paced swim.

T1 seemed so slow. I felt disoriented and scolded myself for not practicing transitions more. I was the first one off my rack though, so I had lots of space to do my thing. On the bike, I felt good. I was breathing a little heavy initially, but got it under control in the first few miles. The same woman that flew by me on the bike last year did so again this year...but much earlier! I picked up my effort and kept her in sight. She is definitely a masher...I don't think she ever takes the bike out of the big chain ring! Whatever she does, she's very effective! One of the greatest things about this race is that they have PLENTY of volunteers and IL State Police covering the course! The way back felt easier and my legs felt good. As we neared transition, it's back through the hilly section of the course and my legs started to feel heavy. I could now see the runners and the leaders of the race!

Into T2 I had a hard time spotting my rack (scolded myself again for not checking that thoroughly!). I felt my transition was quick, but the clock told otherwise. I headed out on the run that was .5 miles longer than I expected! There were a couple of opportunities to see your competition on the out and backs. Jen Harrison yelled to me on her way back in...took me a few seconds to understand what was going on. I didn't even see her before the race! She was hauling on that run! I don't expect any less. The hills on the run killed my hamstrings and I felt myself slow and take shorter steps to compensate. It's just something I have to figure out how to deal with! I'm still having fun!

Down the finish chute, the crowd was bigger than last year. The band was on stage to the right and there were bleachers on the left. I didn't feel like I left it all out there, but I put in a solid effort. I was able to watch Neumann finish with a look of determination on her face! She waved her arms at the finish that made me know she was in a good place!

Monday, July 07, 2008

4th of July Ride

This year, instead of the usual organized Metric Ride held in Joliet (I think), I opted to go for an "unorganized" ride. This was going to be closer to home, more familiar territory and give me the ability to control my own pace and distance vs. trying to hang with a group too fast for me. I didn't want to push too hard because of my upcoming race on Sunday. Technically, the day should have been a day off, but when you get a "free" day from work, just seems to make sense to get in a good quality workout!

It was nice to sleep in a little and the weather was just perfect for a ride! The group met up at 7:30am and it was about 61 degrees. It was chilly enough for me to start with arm warmers, but most of the group had short sleeves or no sleeves! We headed out on a nice, easy pace and chatted with each other for the first several miles. For the most part, the group was together for the first - almost half - of the ride.

A few of the stronger cyclists took off at one point and I wondered if this is what they always do as one by one, they just flew by me chasing each other. I started in on the chase and then held off - this was not the goal of today. I needed to save it. I slowed down to have the rest of the group catch up when I heard a loud snapping sort of pop. GH had a flat. It was a weird-sounding flat which I thought could only be made by a pinch in the tube. But how had he ridden 25+ miles without this happening already? It was his front tire and we were lucky that we weren't on a quick downhill at that moment. We found the spot where the tube looked like it had been sliced...a little over an inch long! We were just a few minutes away from the first designated stop - the Elwood gas station.

Heading out, we changed direction and realized we must've had a nice tailwind on the way out. The wind was too loud to talk to one another. We made a couple of side-by-side pacelines and were pushing at a pretty good pace. A couple of people were off the back within a couple of minutes. But we kept on...single pace line, double pace line, blah, blah, blah. Pretty uneventful.

Next thing you know, we're off the designated course a little and we have to ride back to the next designated stop - a 66 gas station - I can't remember what city this was. There are about 6-7 of us and we pull up to the gas station and no sooner did I unclip one foot and I heard some lady saying "yeah, I'm the owner here, get out." I thought maybe she knew one of the other cyclists and she was joking around, but then some of the responses made me realize she was serious! This woman came out and said "You can't hang out here!" Hang out? We weren't even off the bikes yet! So then TR said, "Well, what if I want to come in and buy something?" The woman responded, "Yeah, like you're going to buy something. What would you buy?" TR responds, "Gatorade." She says, "No you weren't, you guys get out of here." It was unbelievable. I was really thirsty, too...and I WAS going to go in and buy water. Instead of instigate her, we moved on up the street a little, just off the gas station property. We knew we were meeting the rest of our group here, so we didn't want to go far. Apparently, this wasn't good enough for gas station lady and she kept staring out the window at us. After about 5 more minutes, she came out of the gas station (no, I'm not making this up) and started waving her hands at us yelling, "I told yas to get out of here. YA CAN'T HANG OUT HERE!" Well, that did it and several of us started yelling back. I mean, she didn't even have any customers, why was she so against us just standing on the side of the road??!?! Then she said she was going to call the police. So I said, "OK, call the police, would you like to use my phone?" More yelling back and forth and she went back into the gas station. I should have asked her if she was on medication. We called the people behind and set a new meeting spot. It was maddening and hilarious at the same time.

I now couldn't wait to get to the next meeting spot because I knew I could get water there. The group sort of split some more, one turned off, a couple went home earlier, so our group was dwindling. Lots of talk about being kicked out of the gas station property. On our next stop, everyone was reminded that "YA CAN'T HANG OUT HERE!" Definitely a ride that will not be forgotten!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Naperville Women's Triathlon

Never before had I been so unprepared for a race. I was so exhausted from the time trial, I just fell asleep...only to wake up around 3:30am to quietly prepare for the Naperville Women's Triathlon. I didn't know what to expect, I pulled out my triathlon checklist and hoped I didn't forget anything as I hurriedly collected all my things and threw them into my ratty triathlon bag.

The morning seemed calm and I met Liz just as I found a spot on my transition rack. She was smiling, but seemed quite nervous as this was her first triathlon. I knew she'd do fine and I tried to reassure her of that. She chatted on about her morning, her preparation for the race, and on and on and I knew she was just talking to keep her mind from thinking about the day ahead.

On the one hand, I love the fact that I know so many people who are racing this day. On the flip side, it's a huge detriment because I can never get focused without someone coming up to say hi. I lose my concentration and catch up with whoever it is that I'm able to spend some time with this morning. I keep forgetting what I'm supposed to do.

The highlight of today is being a part of the Luna Chix. Several of us are out there today, ready to race, ready to cheer on our fellow racers, and all of us are out there to have fun. The more time I get to spend with this awesome group of women, the more I love them. They are just great people that have such passion and zest for life...and they truly represent what the Luna Chix are all about.

After about an hour rain delay, the race was started. I was chilled and shuddered to think how all my stuff in transition was now soaked. Who wants to run in soaking wet running shoes? UGH. I got up to the start in time to wish MC good luck...her first race in a very long time. She was relaxed and happy with a huge smile plastered on her face. I couldn't help but smile myself just watching her.

Soon it was my turn and I gave the Saint my shoes and jacket and headed to the beach. There was some nervous chatter, but in previous years, many of these women have really beat me up at the beginning of this swim. This year, the swim was structured a little differently, giving us a wider area to start. I heard someone yell for me and I looked over to see Liz waving. It is so great to have teammate support! The guy in front of us gives us a countdown and the picture to the left is the start. I had a great start and it really helped as I did not get too bumped around at the beginning. I did get hit several times by the woman on my right, but after about 100 yards, she dropped off.

I had a little "assistance" from the swim angels again this year. Fortunately, I took in a little less water from their "help." I hate the turns in this swim, but I tried to keep a nice, strong pace throughout the swim. Not a stellar time, but not horrible either.

It's a long run to the transition area in this race. I passed several women on the way to transition, but was also caught in a bottle neck for a few seconds where it's too narrow to pass anyone. I easily found my bike and saw only one other woman at my rack. Swim was good, then! I struggled to get my socks on because they were wet and kept bunching up. I gotta learn to do this with no socks! I put my bike shoes on and had to run ever so slowly to the bike out. The asphalt here is always very slick. Add the rain and it was super slippery! I got on my bike and immediately became chilled. I hoped the sun would get strong in a hurry to warm things up. It felt like a slow start out of the downtown area. Lots of turns, lots of newbies not quite sure where they should be on the course. I would politely say "on your left" and most would move over, but some got a little nervous and weren't sure what to do. Corners were tricky. I couldn't trust that anyone would hold their line, so I braked a lot into the turns simply for safety. Plus, I don't really trust myself on the wet pavement. Best to keep the rubber on the road! I didn't notice how long it was taking me, but the ride seemed to go fast. When I got off my bike, I realized it was the slowest bike I've ever had on that course! YIKES!

I got back to transition - first bike back in on the rack...woo hoo! A very quick transition and I was running, but the legs felt heavy. I was passed by someone in my wave within the very first mile. Such a difference from last year. I noticed my first mile split and couldn't believe how slow I was running. I tried not to be so hard on myself...I did just get back to running last month! It still didn't feel very good. I tried to encourage the other athletes on as I passed. I'd get some words back from some, others probably just too winded to reply. This event is just one of those "feel good" races for most of the participants. Luckily, I was able to pick up my pace for the last couple miles. I don't think I gave it my all, but I was still disappointed with my time.

It was still a great day and the race is just fun to do because it's so close to home and such a short distance. It's great to see so many first timers and the friends and family that come out to support them. The Luna Chix all hung around to watch AS collect her FIRST PLACE in AG award. I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this team.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Apache 40K TT

For the first year since I've ridden with the Apaches, I was finally able to help with and participate in the team's annual 40K time trial. In years prior, I was either racing or had a conflict with my Luna Chix obligations. It was great to finally be able to be a part of this race.

I arrived early with broom in hand to head out on the course to sweep all the corners to keep the riders safe. About 5 of us rode the course, following the guys putting up the signs for the race, and got out at each turn to thoroughly sweep all the gravel off the road. It was nice to be able to ride the entire course so now I knew I was in for some hills. On the flip side, it took us a while to complete this task, so by the time we were finished and back to the check-in area, we had very little time for warm up.

I headed out to the start, pinned on my number, got the bike out, put on my aero bottle, pumped up my tires and got my gear all on. By this time, I had about 15 minutes to warm up. Not good at all. I'm one of those people that needs a long warm up. I try not to let it stress me out because there's nothing I can do about it now. I just want to get out there and put in a good effort.

At the start line we were waiting for the "all clear" direction to be given. The officials handed a couple of us timers to test them out before the start of the race. Within a minute or two, the green light was given for the race to commence and I took a few deep breaths. As always, they give you a nice little countdown and it was time to go!

I very quickly got into a nice, steady rhythym. It was about 68 degrees at the start and I was a little chilled. But I sure warmed up in a hurry! Everything felt good, though I had already lost sight of my minute-man. I just tried to put forth steady effort on the pedals and downshifted to keep from making my effort too much. About 15 minutes into the race, it started to rain. Just a little sprinkle and I thought, OK, no big deal. But then I heard it before I felt it, the rain started shooting out of the sky full force. It was a cold, pelting rain, stinging my bare arms and I got very chilled. Now I was wishing I hadn't come out for this race. I was just a couple miles into a 25 mile race and I was now freezing cold. And now the pavement is soaking wet and I get squeamish about taking the corners. I wished the rain would go away. Miraculously, the rain stopped. It went away just as fast as it came! A couple miles later, I was already warm again and the sun started peeking out from the dark clouds.

My legs felt a little sluggish, which was to be expected due to the running I'd done just 2 days before this race. But I felt comfortable and strong. Then I hit the section of rolling hills....up, down, up, down. I knew this wasn't going well for me and it was confirmed as I was passed for the first time this day. I tried to stick with my fellow Apache and could do it on the down hills. But as soon as there was any incline in the road, I started to lose ground. It was very quickly after that when another Apache teammate passed by. I couldn't believe how easy they were making this look. The three of us rode together but separate for quite some time. I think having those two in my vision helped push me to work harder.

I came to the turnaround and took it ever so cautiously. Now I was halfway done and still feeling strong, but a little uncomfortable. It is clear to me that I haven't spent enough time in the aero position. Up ahead I notice a big piece of farm equipment moving slowly along our side of the road. I watch as one of my teammates goes to pass on an uphill and I cringe. Man, I hope this thing gets off the road before I have to pass it. Now I start to see other riders coming toward me, on their way to the turn around. Just a few minutes later, I watch my other teammate pass the same wide piece of farm equipment....shoot, I'm next.

I move up to make my pass and I see another rider coming toward me. As I get close to this tractor thing or whatever it was, I notice that the wheels are about twice the size of me and my bike and it makes me a bit nervous. I go to pass when I see that there is a guy making a pass around the biker headed toward me. I fear that I am going to either crash into that rider or be pushed into the big wheel of the farm vehicle, so I quickly grab the brakes. I slow down enough to let the other two riders go by and then try to get up to speed again to pass the tractor. I might have been too cautious on this one, but I'd rather keep the rubber side on the road!

Back along the stretch of rolling hills, I start to feel fatigued and wonder how it is that I sometimes do 112 miles on my bike. I'm quite uncomfortable now and I have to keep getting out of the saddle just to "adjust". One more sharp right turn and now it just feels like I am crawling. What is going on, why am I so slow? Does my computer really say 15 mph? Am I going uphill? Do I have a flat? It was a brutal last 10K of a race that felt like it was never going to end.

I could finally see the finish and I just hammered as best I could. It was at that point that I realized that I once again left a little too much in the tank. I felt very strong and was almost disappointed that I was going to be done without feeling more drained. I was really happy to be a part of Team Apache today.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Downtown Chicago

So this weekend, I was able to get down to the city for a brief lake swim followed by a lakefront run. I realized that I have not had Saturdays to myself in the summer since I started the whole endurance event thing. See, since 2003, I've always been involved with CARA. The first 2 years, I was a training participant. The last 3 years, I've been a group leader for the marathon training program. This means that every Saturday, from June to October, I've been running with this group. Though I missed the group on Saturday, I do feel a great amount of freedom to be able to do what I want to/need to do on Saturdays!

The lake was quite chilly at about 62 degrees. But most of us got in and swam about a mile. I think I swam the first 50 yards or so with my head out of the water, but after about 200 yards, I settled into a nice rhythym. No records being broken on this swim, but I felt smooth and comfortable....and couldn't feel my hands or feet.

After a quick trip to the car to drop off the wetsuit, grab the running shoes and the Garmin, I headed off to what was to be my longest run since I did Ironman Florida way back in NOVEMBER. I cannot believe I have not really run for so long. I've been away from it so long, it's like I don't even miss it anymore. Anyway, the lakefront was quite crowded, but the weather couldn't have been more perfect. It was sunny, a light breeze and the temperature was just right for a run. It's nice to get to the lakefront path for a change of pace. There are so many people there, the time seems to go by quickly. Though I struggled with the pace for the last mile and a half, the run didn't seem so bad. It wasn't fast, but it was a run...with just a couple of water stops thrown in. Looking forward to making this one of my regular rituals this summer!