Sunday, April 8, 2018

Review/Recap/Review--the great trifecta!

My poor blog, I've been so neglectful!  Life, as always, is crazy, and gets in the way of blogging.  Someday I am sure I will find the time to fit it in on a regular basis.  Until then, you'll have to be happy with the combination entries such as this one.  I'm going to review (this training cycle), recap (today's race) and preview (my race in two weeks)!  No pictures this time--I have limited time to get this blog done and want to enjoy the final hours of my spring break!

After the Indianapolis Monumental marathon in November, I blogged that I had decided on my spring goal: A BQ marathon.  So, this winter has been all about building up my mileage while attempting to stay injury-free.  And I ALMOST did it.  Training has been going pretty darn well!  I have been able to up my miles, continue to bike a couple of times a week and swim once a week, and do strength (Body Pump class) a couple of times a week.  I had one tiny blip a couple of weeks ago, when I had some soreness in my left foot.  Fortunately, I was able to will it away with ice, compression, and an extra day of rest.  The one thing that didn't happen this training cycle that I'd hoped would was the addition of speed work.  My coach had me doing intervals once a week (where I would run short bursts of speed, 60-90 seconds, within a run), but that ended after my tweaky foot thing.  And if I'm being honest with myself, it wasn't enough speed to warrant an attempt at a BQ.  I have confidence in myself, but I also know that in order for me to be able to run a marathon at an 8:25-ish pace, I need to have some faster miles in my training.  I'm not giving any excuses... just stating the obvious, and despite a pretty solid season of training, I am obviously not ready to run a sub-3:45 marathon right now.  

A few months ago, my friend Emily mentioned that she'd like to run a sub-2 half marathon this spring. I offered to pace her at the Xenia half, the same race I helped my friend Jamie PR at four years ago!  Unfortunately, Emily has been injured, so the pacing gig was cancelled.  I had registered for the race when it was super-cheap back in December, though, so I still wanted to do it.  My friend Katie was running the full, so I figured, why not tag along with her for the first 7 miles, til the marathoners split off?  We both loved the idea, and even better, our friend Amy decided to sign up at the last minute and join us.

Katie wanted to run the first several miles at around an 8:50-9:00/mile pace.  My coach agreed that this was a good, solid pace for me to try.  I was a little nervous, as I really don't ever run this pace.  My runs all pretty much stay in the 9:10-9:30 range.  Occasionally I dip into the high 8's, but it's rare.  Turns out I had nothing at all to worry about :)  

Amy and I rode together to the race.  Xenia is about 1 hr 15 min from my house, so we left Westerville right before 6 AM with plenty of time to get there.  The race is small, but well-organized.  It's based at the Xenia YMCA. We grabbed our bibs, and I stood in the uber-long bathroom line.   It was super cold out (the real-feel was sub-20!), so it was nice to have the indoor facility!  I met Amy back at the car where we stayed toasty warm until it was time to race.  The race started right on time without a hitch!  We were unable to find Katie, but she found us about 3 miles into the race.  That gave us a nice little 4 mile stretch to chat.  It felt like a normal training run!   The first 5ish miles of the race are the most hilly, at least compared to our usual running routes, but they're not TOO awful.  I fueled once, at mile 7, just as Katie was leaving us.  Amy and I spent the rest of the race talking about whatever random stuff we usually talk about during our runs.  I had to keep her in check a few times, as the goal was to NOT go faster than 8:45.  I accomplished this until the final mile, when she decided we should just go with the downhill that the course was giving us LOL!  My final time was a 1:55:51.  My pre-race goal was 1:55-1:58, with an average heart rate in the low 150's.  It ended up being a 151--woo hoo!  More than anything, I needed some confidence for my marathon in two weeks, and this race gave that to me.  The best part about Xenia: the post-race food!  Pizza, salad, cans of pop, and delicious cookies.  YAY!  Amy and I left after our meal, as we both had busy days back at home ahead of us.  

Quick wardrobe notes for the future:  a real-feel in the high-teens/low-20's warrants a lot of calculation!  I ended up with: tights (not fleece lined), a short-sleeve shirt under a long-sleeved half-zip (thin tech material), gloves and an ear warmer.  I was cold at the start, but ended up very happy with my decisions!

So... in two weeks, I have a marathon.  Back to Glass City I go!  I actually just registered for it a few days ago!  I swear, I have PTSD over registering for races and not getting to run in them, especially with this race (Glass City).  I talked to my coach last week about the plans for this race.  I wondered if I was even ready for a marathon, given the amount of training that I'd done, but he said he felt I was.  The big question: how fast would I want to go?  I proposed starting out at around an 8:50-9:00 pace, and then, at the half, seeing how I felt... going faster if I was feeling it, maintaining my pace if not.  He thought it was a great idea, and said using Xenia as a barometer would be a good plan.  

Well, if Xenia was my barometer, I am feeling pretty good about the race plan we've laid out.  Still very nervous... it's one thing to run 13 miles at an 8:50 pace.  It's a completely different thing to run 26 miles at that pace!  If I can hold it, though, I will end up with a very respectable 3:51ish.  I would be happy with that!  It's not the 3:41 that I am dreaming of, but it's still a solid time.  And... it sets me up for another marathon in the near future. (Just a little bit of foreshadowing there LOL!)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

How to train through the Ohio winter

The subtitle for this blog ought to be, "You are doing HOW MANY WORKOUTS?!!", because that's the response I get from fellow runners when I tell them my weekly schedule.  

Ohio has been slammed so far this winter with severe weather.  From extremely low temperatures (wind chill bringing the temps down to -15 and colder) to ice and snow storms, we are definitely experiencing Mother Nature's wrath after two relatively mild winters.  As a teacher, I am totally loving it (we've already had two snow days and one early release!).  As an athlete, I admit that it can be less than ideal for training purposes.

Note: this is NOT how our local running paths have looked!
Thus, the inspiration for this blog.  I figured I'd outline exactly what I've been doing so that others can see that it's possible to a) train for a triathlon despite the cold weather, and b) fit in multiple workouts while still being a working mom.  You just have to be a bit creative at times!  

Here is what last week's training week looked like:

Monday--rest day.  Mondays are ALWAYS rest days.  I honor them 100%.  No lifting, no exercising, no nothing. (Although yesterday I did shovel twice... sometimes life gets in the way even of resting!)  Last Monday was a "cold day", meaning we had no school due to insanely frigid temperatures.  So I spent the day hanging out with my kiddos.  

Tuesday--AM workout: 60 minute run at 5 AM.  It was still pretty cold out, but not cold enough for another snow day, so my friends and I opted for the treadmills at the gym.  I love treadmill dates with friends.  Katie had speed work to do, and had we been outside, I never would've been able to keep up with her (currently my coach has me doing all of my runs at an easy pace).  However, the treadmill makes it totally possible.  PM workout: 40 minutes on the bike trainer.  Tuesday nights are busy ones in our house (my 12 year old has basketball practice, and his dad is one of the coaches, and my 10 year old has swim team practice--and both practices are at the same time).  I am lucky that I have a trainer for my tri bike, and can fit in a ride between swim team drop-off and pick-up.

Wednesday--AM workout: 45 minute Body Pump class.  I love that my gym offers a 5:15 AM Body Pump class.  I love that typically the people who come on Wednesdays are the "regulars".  I know the teacher and I am comfortable with her.  She pushes me to do better, and I like that!  It's an "express" class, so only 45 minutes long, but we still are able to fit in all of the body parts with the combination tracks for biceps/triceps and shoulders/lunges.  It's such a fast class that it really gets my heart rate up as well--bonus!  The gym has nice showers so I am able to get ready there and go straight to work after class.  PM workout: 40 minute run.  Occasionally Rarely, I can find someone to join me before Body Pump to fit in a short run.  As my minutes of running have increased over the past several weeks, though, it's been harder to fit in running before class, so I've had to do it in the evening on the treadmill at the gym.  When I looked at the weather forecast earlier in the week, though, I realized that Wednesday afternoon would be an amazingly warm afternoon (45 degrees in January!), and asked my mom if she could do the after-school pickup for me so that I could fit in my 40 minutes outside right after work (3:15 PM).  It was SOOOOO beautiful!  I saw four other runners, all who were exuding the same aura of excitement/happiness/gratitude that I knew I myself had going on.  

These are NOT the people I saw... just a random stock photo of happy runners :)

Thursday--AM workout: swim practice.  I swim every Thursday morning at 5:45 AM--as long as school is in session, at least. I workout with a Master's swim team that practices only a few minutes away from the school where I work.  It's super convenient as I can shower after practice and head straight to work.  There are others who practice with the team multiple times per week, which I have done in the past, but right now once a week works well for me.  I am able to fit in 45 minutes of swimming time before I have to get ready for work, which typically amounts to 1800-2200 yards, depending on what we're doing that day.  PM workout: This was supposed to be a spin class, but after two days of double workouts, I was just not feeling it.  I knew that I had my long run scheduled for the next day, and I knew that I could fit in a spin class on Saturday. So, I listened to my body, canceled my reservations for class, and spent the evening chilling with my family.

Friday--AM workout: 90 minute run.  With a snowstorm predicted for Friday afternoon into Saturday, my friends and I all decided it would be best to do our long runs before work on Friday.  For me, this meant starting at 4 AM.  Yep, 4 AM.  It's not super fun, but sometimes it's necessary.  Plus, we were greeted with tank-top-and-shorts weather-- it was over 50 degrees out!  (No PM workout... Friday nights are for pizza!)

Saturday--AM workouts: 40 minute spin class + 60 minute Body Pump class.  I love sleeping in until after 8 AM on Saturdays, and then fitting in two tough classes at the gym.  The spin class backs right up to the Body Pump class, so I sneak out 5 minutes early to get my weights set for Body Pump.  I have been able to go to Body Pump twice a week 90% of the time for the past two months, and I truly feel it is helping with my overall conditioning and strength.  

Sunday--AM workout: 50 minute run.  Today was supposed to be Friday's long run, but things were flip-flopped due to weather.  It was pretty cold out (with the wind chill, it was -1 for the real-feel temperature), but my BRF and I decided to brave the chill as it was a sunny Sunday morning.  Honestly, we dressed perfectly and the temperatures were just fine!  The roads weren't bad, either--at least once we got out of my subdivision. (No PM workout... Sunday afternoons and evenings are for grading, lesson planning, and laundry!)

And there you have it!  Nine workouts in six days (three days of "doubles").  Four runs (240 minutes total--this was just over 26 miles if you're curious), one swim, two Body Pump classes, one spin class, and one bike trainer ride.  I work full time as a teacher, and I have four kids who are pretty active themselves in sports and other activities.  Sometimes I have to be creative (e.g. fit in a workout at the gym while my daughter is at her girl scout meeting down the street), but I find that as long as I write it down, I feel committed to it.  Knowing friends will be there motivates me as well, but I've done more than my fair share of solo treadmill runs lately, so I've had to draw more motivation from within.

A few take-away key points:

1) Look at the weather forecast early in the week.  Be prepared to move workouts around based on what you see predicted.

2) It's okay to cancel/skip a workout.  It's not great to get into this habit, but listening to your body is super important.

3) It's MUCH easier to convince yourself to do workouts if you have friends who are doing them with you.  This goes for running, lifting, anything!

4) If you are super busy and have kids who are active themselves, you might need to get creative with your scheduling.  It's taken me time to figure out when to fit in things like swimming and spin class.  Knowing how important they are to my training, I persevered until I found times that worked with my life.  

5) Rest days need to happen!  Plan them and keep them in the schedule.  I used to skip my rest days when fun runs would pop up.  This definitely is a contributing factor to my injuries, so while I am willing to move my rest day with advance notice, I will continue to honor their importance in my training schedule.

I hope this blog helps others realize that it truly is possible to train through the long, cold Ohio winters!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dear Future, I am ready.

I was searching for a good title for my traditional New Year's blog, and I came across this quote:

I love it.  New Year's reflections have always been a part of my life, and ever since I became a runner, I have incorporated them into my goal-setting routine.  

Before I set new goals, though, I always check out my progress on the previous year's resolutions.  I am super happy to report that I met every single goal I set for 2017!  

2017 Goals:

1) Race in a marathon again--accomplished on 11/4/17.  I didn't care about my time... just that I competed in another marathon.  I was so thrilled to cross that finish line!

2) PR in the half Ironman
--accomplished on 7/31/17.  This was a difficult race.  I struggled with injuries (as usual) leading up to the race.  I knew that I would kill the bike, but wasn't sure what would happen on the run.  I had built up enough of a cushion with a sub-3 bike leg that even though my run was slower, I still had a 5 minute PR!  Woo hoo!

3) Become a scholar of the heart-
-I definitely embraced heart-rate training this year.  I stopped wearing my monitor after my half-marathon, as my heart rate was being super wonky.  However, I am planning on getting back to it as 2018 begins.  It truly is a great measure of how hard I am pushing things, and how well I am recovering.  I loved having a Fit Bit to chart my resting heart rate, but it sadly died in September.  I want to get another fitness tracker simply for this reason!

4) Compete in a swim meet
--I actually raced in TWO meets (3/4/17 and 4/1/17)! I had a fantastic time, and did relatively well, winning my age group in all but one race at both meets.  

Time for some new goals, I suppose!

2018 goals:

1) PR in the marathon--I wanted this goal to be to qualify for Boston... then I realized, if I PR, I WILL qualify for Boston!  I am turning 40 in September 2018, and thus would be 40 when I competed in Boston in 2019.  My new qualifying standard is a 3:44:59.  Since my PR is 3:44:29, I will basically qualify with a PR.  For whatever reason, saying that I want to qualify for Boston hasn't worked for me in the past... so I will just go for that PR!  **NOTE: I fully realize that it will take faster than a 3:44:29 to qualify for Boston... but right now I am not focusing on that :)  

2)  Qualify for Age Group Nationals for the triathlon
--This year's AG Nationals (held every August) happen to be in Cleveland!  If I have a good race in June at the Central Ohio Triathlon, I should be able to make this goal happen.  Basically, I need to win my age group, or place in the top 10%.  If that race doesn't work out... I don't have any other triathlons currently on my race schedule.  I can't do Mingoman as I'll be out of town.  I may sign up for an HFP event instead.  I haven't even signed up for Ohio 70.3 for 2018 yet.  I am not even sure I WANT to... and $300+ is a lot to pay for something that I am currently ambivalent about.  

3) Keep up with Body Pump and spinning classes at least once a week (for both)--I love going to my gym for Body Pump, and have recently started going to spin classes more as well.  Right now my coach is having me go twice a week to pump, and cycling twice a week.  As much as I hate spinning classes, I prefer it to sitting on my bike on the trainer in my (now super cold) sun room.  I also know that spinning is good for triathletes!  I need to make sure that I am making strength and cross training a priority for 2018.

4) Incorporate my PT exercises back into my life--I know how important these are, and I need to start doing them again. I get so upset when I am doing them and then still get injured... but I am sure they do me more good than harm!  I will set a small goal of 20 minutes once a week, and hopefully can up that to twice a week in the summer once school's out!  I did the best with PT when I actually put it on my calendar, so that's my plan this time around as well.

As always, I will add the caveat that the best thing in the world would be to stay injury-free.  Not a likely thing to have happen... but you never know!

The interim: a super-brief recap (AKA the injury blog)

Even I had to laugh when I typed the title for this blog.  Super-brief?  When has this blog ever been "super-brief"... or even just a little brief?  I'm going to try to make this a shorter-than-usual entry, though.  I need to fill in a few gaps from after my half marathon in April to my half-Ironman in July... and then from the half Ironman to my recent marathon in November.  Honestly, this just basically an update of the injuries that I've had, and the treatments that I've used for them.  I like to have all of this documented both for myself as well as for friends/fellow runners who might need the info!

In early-July, I blogged about my acute case of plantar fasciitis, and mentioned taking a week off. In addition to that week off, I took the advice of my former coach Betsy and visited a new doctor.  Dr. Brittani Young is a DO in Upper Arlington.  She practices a method called Airrosti.  When Betsy first recommended I see Dr. Young, I checked out the Airrosti website and was immediately skeptical.  They talked of "curing" people of their pain in an average of three visits.  Ummm... whatever.  But curiosity got the best of me, and when I found out that the visits would be covered by my insurance, I figured I'd give it a try.  I would describe Airrosti as a combination of deep tissue massage, chiropractor-type manipulations, and physical therapy exercises.  My first visit was pretty uneventful.  Airrosti doctors spend a full 60 minutes with their patients at each visit, and I really liked Dr. Young.  After my appointment, she said that she thought one more visit would be enough.  Still skeptical, I came back 5 days later.  I wasn't pain-free, but I felt a bit better.  I'd been resting, though, so I wasn't surprised.  However, within 48 hours of my second appointment, I realized that the pain was gone.  Like, totally gone.  Yes, I know that I had also taken a week off from running, so I wasn't going to shout my praises of Airrosti from the rooftops or anything. I was soooo happy to be able to run my half Ironman without pain (well, without the pain of PF at least!).  A couple of weeks after the half Ironman, I had some soreness in my hip flexor. I was immediately concerned, and called Dr. Young.  She fit me right in, and what do you know... after just one appointment, the pain was gone.  I lovingly call Dr. Young my "voo-doo medicine doctor".  I have no clue why what she does works, but she's amazing. I have referred several friends to her.  I wanted to go before my marathon, as I just knew she could fix my injured calf (more on that in a minute), and made an appointment.  Unfortunately I was out of visits per my insurance.  Self-pay would be $250/visit, and that wasn't going to happen, so I had to cancel.  Dr. Young is so sweet, though; she e-mailed me after my race to check in on me!

As I mentioned, after my half Ironman I had a little hip flexor soreness, but it went away quickly.  I told my coach George after the race that I reallllly wanted to do a marathon in the fall.  He agreed when I told him that I wasn't interested in speed, but merely wanted to finish it respectfully.  My goal: "start healthy and finish happy!"  So we slowly started to ramp up the time I was spending running.  Things were going really well.  I was a bit worried that I wouldn't have enough time on my feet, but I have learned to trust my coach, and I knew he'd have me ready to go on race day.  On September 29, I finally pulled the trigger and registered for the Indy Monumental Marathon, taking place on November 4.  It had taken me awhile to figure out which race I wanted to do... lots of debating with Tamara on this one!  Should I do Erie (only six weeks after my half Ironman)?  The Columbus Marathon in October?  Indy?  The Philadelphia Marathon, which wasn't till November 19?  I obviously decided on Indy, as I felt the timing was better than the others... and, of course, I ended up having a group to travel and race with, which tipped the scales greatly in the favor of this race! 

The day after I registered for the race, I felt a twinge in my left outer calf.  What the... I couldn't believe it.  Seriously.  I had waited and waited to register, and when I finally commit and pay the $108 entry fee, this happens.  At first I just figured it was a twinge and nothing more.  After a couple of weeks, though, I realized it was definitely not just a twinge.  I saw my doctor (Dr. Natalie Dick at MaxSports Delaware) on October 10.  Her advice was to take off a week or so.  This happened to coincide with my family's annual trip to Hocking Hills, so it worked out for the best.  My calf wasn't 100% upon my return, but I was able to get some runs in, and by the time the marathon arrived, it was feeling about 80-90%.  The funny thing is that it never hurt at all during or after my race... and hasn't hurt since!

After my race, both of my ankles were very tight.  I attributed it to post-race soreness, but after a week, my left ankle felt fine... and my right was still sore.  Dr. Google said it was posterior tibial tendonitis.  The pain was in my inner right ankle area, around the bone and radiating a bit up into my lower leg.   I consulted with my doctor, and she recommended I see a foot and ankle specialist.  I saw my chiropractor who said that he agreed with the posterior tib diagnosis, and suggested I have his nurse practitioner give me a couple of steroid shots (rather than see the foot and ankle doctor).  I took him up on it.  I did have to take a few days off after the shots, but they seemed to do the trick!  No pain ever since.  

I wish I could figure out why I have all of these different injuries all of the time.  My chiropractor said it comes with running.  I just don't get why my friends aren't in the same boat as me.  I don't even run that much, especially compared to them.  *sigh*  I am an enigma, that's for sure.

Up next... my traditional New Year's blog :) 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Race recap: Indianapolis Monumental MARATHON (11/4/17)

Just look at it... that title.  It says MARATHON!!!!!!!!  There honestly are not enough exclamation points for the end of that word.  It has been three looooooong years since my last 26.2, and just, wow!  I finished another marathon!

No caption needed... MARATHON!!!
Okay, taking a quick step back... I have neglected this blog tremendously for the past 4.5 months.  I never explained the pre-stuff leading up to my 70.3 in July, and I haven't given any other updates since the race. I really need to write a nice long "interim" blog entry, explaining all of the things that went on in the summer as well as following the half Ironman.  Maybe over winter break... as this blog entry was started right after my race and took a few weeks just to finish!  As I have mentioned before, my ever-so-long recaps are honestly more for me.  I love to reread them and remember all of the nitty gritty details about each race.  So, here I go, in typical Marcie fashion!

I signed up for the Monumental Marathon in early October, about four weeks before the race.  One of the driving factors in selecting this race in particular for my third marathon was the fact that I had two good friends making the trek to Indianapolis as well.  They, along with another friend of theirs, had offered me a spot in their hotel room.  The fact that we'd all be driving to Indy together, as well as spending about 30 hours together, was a definite selling point!  One of the three women was none other than Elisa, who I met in Toledo during my first-ever marathon in 2014!  My blog readers (all three of them LOL) will recall that I became fast friends with Carolyn, Steph and Elisa during that first full.  Their good friend Kim and I met after the race on an early-morning run, and these women became some of my favorite running pals.  I don't get to see them nearly as much as I used to for a variety of reasons, but I knew it would be a fun weekend with Elisa and Kim by my side!

Elisa, Lisa (the fourth person joining on our little trip) and I met up at Kim's apartment at around 12:15 on Friday afternoon.  We'd decided that my new (to me) van would be our chariot, and by 12:30 we were off!  Lisa sat up front with me and we became super-fast friends.  Lisa is a fellow triathlete, so we had enough to talk about to easily fill up the 2.5-hour trip!  We had to make one bathroom stop, but otherwise made great time and arrived at our hotel at around 3:30 PM.  The Alexander is a gorgeous hotel that doubles as an art gallery, and is located about a half-mile from the start of the marathon.  After we checked in and brought our bags to our room, we headed off for the expo and to get our bibs.  I realized when we were about a block from the expo that I had left my purse (and ID) at the hotel.  Oops!  Fortunately, it wasn't an issue; I was still able to get my bib, as well as my friend Megan's (she'd asked me to pick it up for her).  At the expo, I was happy to run into a few local friends and exchange hugs and good-lucks.  Not having my purse was probably a good thing, as I wasn't tempted to buy a single item!   After taking pictures and getting a few freebies, we headed back to the hotel.

Us looking all cute at the expo!
I was in charge of dinner reservations, which I'd made at a well-reviewed Italian restaurant called Maggiano's that I'd found online... which ended up being a bit further from our hotel than I'd thought.  It took us a good 45 minutes to get there, but the food was delicious!  Megan met us for dinner, and we had fun chatting and stuffing our faces.  After dinner, we headed back to our hotel, where we got everything laid out for the next day.  We had all brought almost our entire running wardrobes for the race, as the weather forecast had been changing daily.  The rain that had been predicted for race-day morning was no longer in the forecast, thankfully.  It was going to be a cold, cloudy morning... just about the best weather that a runner can hope for!  I didn't have any trouble falling asleep a little after 10:00 PM, thanks to my Melatonin, and the fact that I wasn't really all that nervous about the race.  I didn't have any huge goals.  In fact, I wasn't even sure what I was going to do.  Not having a race plan is not my typical way of doing things, but I honestly didn't know how I wanted to run this race.  I had a few options.  My friend Julie was going for a BQ (she wanted a 4:06).  I could try to join her, but that would be a bit of a stretch, given my recent calf injury as well as lack of training due to the injury.  Lisa wanted to run a PR of a 4:20.  This sounded fun as well... to join my new friend and continue getting to know her over 26.2 miles.  Given the fact that I was nursing a recent calf strain, I knew that it would be best to not push myself too hard.  I decided to sleep on it.

The night passed uneventfully, and I got enough sleep to feel rested upon waking at 6 AM.  The race was scheduled for an 8:00 AM start, and we planned on leaving the hotel shortly after 7:00.  Despite my calm demeanor the day before, I started to get fidgety as soon as I was dressed and had eaten my bagel and banana.  I had decided on my tank top, arm sleeves, my best friend Tamara's shorts (guaranteed by her to not chafe), and compression socks, with throw-aways to wear before the race to keep me warm.  It ended up being the best outfit I could've chosen!  The temperature at race start was in the mid-40's, and it rose to the mid-50's by the time I finished.  I would've been warm had I worn much else!

Ready to hop in our corral!
We left our room at around 7:10, arriving at the race by 7:30.  It was on the way to the race that I ended up finally deciding on a race plan: I would stick with Lisa and follow her race plan of run/walk intervals.  I felt super happy and comfortable with this choice, and couldn't want to get started!  The Monumental is a pretty popular race; the full marathon had actually sold out a couple weeks prior.  We were able to wade through the sea of runners and find gear check, and then make our way to the corrals.  All four of us were in Wave 3, which was supposed to start at 8:10 AM. We waited until 8:05 to slip into our starting area, and before we knew it, we were off!  It was surreal for me, starting this marathon.  So many miles... so many tears... I couldn't believe that I was finally HERE.

Lisa's plan for the first three miles was to run at around a 10:00-10:30 pace.  The rest of us had convinced her to stick closer to 10:00/mile, and our splits were actually more in the mid-9's.  After 3 miles, the plan was to start run/walk intervals (4 min run/30 second walk), keeping our run pace in the 9:30's.  At around the half-marathon mark, we'd switch to 4 min run/40 second walk, running a bit faster.  And then we'd move to 4 min run/1 min walk, dipping down in the low 9's for our run pace.  The first 8ish miles went swimmingly!  The four of us ran together, and it was so much fun!  I love doing intervals, and while Elisa wasn't sure if she'd stick with us, she ended up deciding that she liked them as well.  We had fun reading signs made by spectators, sharing stories, and looking forward to our short walk breaks.  We met a woman on the course who was originally from Central Ohio, and it just so happens that she graduated from Hilliard (another Columbus suburb) in 1996, just like me, and was a swimmer in high school!  Sarah and I chatted a bit and I learned she was also a triathlete (National Champ in the Athena division!).  I just love meeting friends on race courses!  I promised to look her up after the race, and we are now Facebook friends as well :) 

Kim had decided before the race to drop to the half marathon, and we were all pretty sad when she left us just past mile 7 at the turn-off.  We were having so much fun together!  Around a mile later, Lisa started to have some breathing issues. Due to a recently diagnosed heart issue, she became concerned immediately.  We began peppering our runs with more walk breaks, hoping that her heart rate would come down.  At around mile 9, Lisa decided to send Elisa and me on.  She was going to keep walking and run when she could.  We were all bummed that the race plans hadn't panned out, and it was difficult to leave Lisa.  She promised she'd stop at the next medical tent to get checked out, so we felt that we were okay to go on.
Kim snapped this picture at the split when she left us, around mile 7.5.
I am the one on the right... Lisa in the middle, Elisa wearing yellow on the left.

At that point, Elisa and I weren't sure what to do.  She admitted she was enjoying the intervals, so I suggested we go ahead and keep running, but walk the water stops, which were every 1-1.5 miles.  Elisa liked that plan, and it definitely worked for us!  We enjoyed our walk breaks, but were able to keep a steady 9:20-9:30 pace for the running parts of the race.  I made sure to hydrate at every water stop, even if it was just a half-cup of water, and I took more time to drink at the water stops when I would take a gel (pre-planned by me to coincide with water stops at miles 6, 10.5, 15.5 and 20.3).  Speaking of fueling, I think I was pretty spot-on for this.  I carried my current fuel of choice, Carb Boom energy gels.  I had five in my FlipBelt, and used four of them, as I'd planned.  I never bonked, but I did have some slight GI issues beginning at around mile 17.  As my friend Christine would say, I was not "farting with confidence"... and I was super happy at the finish to see the row of porta-potties LOL!  But overall, I was happy with how things went in this area. 

Back to the race... miles 10-20 went really well!  The course was pretty well-populated with spectators.  Elisa and I chatted some, but were quiet at times as well.  We crossed under the half-marathon arch at 2:09:28, and at that point realized that we could very well negative split the race.  That became a mutual goal of ours, and kept us both going when things got rough later in the race. The very few "hills" (if you can even call them that... really just slight inclines!) on the course were between miles 16-19, and we both couldn't wait to see the "cliff" that was awaiting us at mile 19.  This was a running joke during the entire race, as we'd noticed on the course elevation map that there would be a sharp descent.  Elisa decided that we were going to either rappel or sky dive off the "cliff".  There was definitely a nice little downhill part right around mile 19!  It was actually a really cool part of the course, where the road spiraled down and around a neat-looking park.  Elisa's pace dropped down sub-9 at this part, and I had to work a bit to keep up with her!  She apologized, saying she just needed so badly to embrace the downhill while we were on it.  The road quickly flattened out, and we were back to our steady mid-9's.

It was around mile 22 or 23 that we both were feeling "over" the whole race.  We were still running steadily, but the water stops seemed further and further apart.  Elisa's stomach was starting to bother her as well.  At around this time, I started asking fellow runners who were hobbling along if they needed any BioFreeze.  I had a few packets in my belt, and was trying to be nice... as well as hoping that I could maybe get an extra walk break if someone said yes!  I was pretty stoked when one woman immediately said yes to my offer.  As I helped her to open the package, Elisa slowed to a walk behind us.  When I began to run again, I realized she no longer was with me.  I called back to her, but I could see in her face that she wasn't feeling good at all.  I contemplated sticking with her and walking, but to be honest I just wanted to be finished at that point!

I slogged through those final few miles of the race, counting down the amount of time I'd still be running.  I was still passing people who were worse off than I was, but more than anything I just wanted to be finished!  At mile 25, I decided to see what I had left in me.  Maybe I could do my last mile sub-9! I willed my body to push a bit harder, but not surprisingly, there wasn't anything more to give.  I trudged through another 9:20ish mile, giving my best fake grin to the race photographer stationed at the final turn.  I got choked up during the final straightaway.  This was it... a marathon.  FINALLY.  I was so happy to finish, to get my space blanket, to feel the weight of the medal around my neck... to NOT HAVE TO RUN ANYMORE!  I stood around in the finish chute for a couple of minutes, hoping that Elisa would be finishing shortly thereafter, and was super excited to see her less than two minutes after I had crossed.  We did the usual post-race stuff (huge embrace, pictures together, gathering food, finding porta-potties), and eventually got in touch with Kim, who had gone back to our hotel after her half marathon.  We all agreed that Kim would wait at the finish for Lisa, while Elisa and I would make our way back to the hotel to shower and pack up.  The walk back to the hotel was interminable.  We contemplated getting an Uber or taking a pedal wagon, but ended up trudging at a snail's pace... Elisa due to her still-upset stomach, and me due to, well, having just ran a freaking marathon.  

Post-race... I love the hat they gave us at the finish!
My splits and paces according to the race website are as follows.  I used the lap button on my watch whenever we'd walk, just to have an accurate time and pace for the running part, so I don't have a nice pretty list of my mile splits like usual.
10K: 1:00:41 (9:48/mile)
13.1: 2:09:28 (9:53/mile)
30K: 3:30:40 (9:52/mile)
26.2: 4:17:08 (9:45/mile)

Overall pace: 9:49/mile

My mid-race goal of negative-splitting the race was accomplished (2:09:28/2:07:40).  My pre-race goal of going 4:20 or faster was accomplished (sadly, not with Lisa, who did end up finishing the race; she was cleared by medical to go on and still was under five hours even with her breathing problems... rockstar!).  My #1 goal of starting healthy and finishing happy--check (despite the stupid calf strain) and double check (as evidenced by my happy tears)!  

Lookie, I am a marathoner (again)!
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful.  We stopped at a small restaurant outside of Indy, where I demolished a cheeseburger and two large Cokes.  Funny, as I am never hungry after a marathon... but this time, I couldn't get enough food in me!  My recovery following the race was better than in past years as well.  I had the typical soreness for the first couple of days, but nothing at all like I had experienced with my first two fulls.  I attribute that to a couple of things... one, I did walk.  A lot.  Less pounding = less pain.  And two, my coach had me on the bike the day after my race, and doing easy workouts later on that week.  Active recovery for the win!

Coke + medal = winning
So... now what?  Prior to my race, I felt at a crossroads.  Part of me wanted to spend the winter swimming 3-4 times a week, and be in top swim shape for spring nationals.  How fun it would be to try to place in my age group!  Another part of me felt drawn back to the road.  I would miss running so much if I were only doing it a couple of times a week... plus, I wouldn't be with my friends.  Within ten minutes of finishing the marathon, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  My heart and my mind were at last on the same page: I want to run another marathon in the spring. And I want it to be a fast.  A PR.  A BQ.  Now that I am "old", I get an extra five minutes added to my qualifying standard.  I need to run under a 3:45... which, based on recent years, means I really need around a 3:41 to qualify.  It's only 3.5 minutes faster than my best time.  I know I can do it, but the key will be to a) gain back my speed and b) stay injury-free.  Neither of those is going to be easy.  It would be way easier to go the route of hammering out my swims for the winter and get back to running in the spring.  But I cannot ignore this call.  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Race Recap: 2017 Ironman 70.3 Ohio

I have had a few what I like to think of as "defining" races in my relatively short running/triathlon career.  My first 5K, of course, is one of them.  My 9-minute PR at the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach was another.  The Half Ironman that I competed in on July 30, 2017 might very well fall in the category of defining.  I wouldn't call it epic, like the other two races.  But I feel that it represents so much more than just "my second 70.3".

The weeks preceding the race were difficult, to say the least.  An acute bout of plantar fasciitis led to less running and even a full week off.  I was grateful to be able to swim and bike through it, but was so worried about making it through the race.  The end of the story is that I was pain-free on race day... the story of how I got to that point is another blog entry that I will write as soon as possible!

Ohio 70.3 is a point-to-point triathlon.  This means that there are two transitions, which can throw some people for a loop. I don't mind it at all, though.  It means less stuff to go through at each transition!  We had to set up T2 (bike-to-run) the day before, as well as rack our bikes at T1.  On race day, we were allowed to access T2 before we went to the lake, but it didn't work out logistically for me so I decided to skip that part.  I made the choice to park and shuttle to the beach site, as I was going to have to get myself home this year (Joe's late night fishing tournament--he wasn't home till 2 AM--meant that I was flying solo today and wouldn't have a ride home).  I slept pretty well the night before, woke up to my alarm at 3:56 AM, and had my relatively large breakfast of two scrambled eggs and two pieces of peanut butter toast (and a banana in the car on the way).  I was out the door before 4:30 and at the shuttle location by 5:00.  I love the fact that this race is so close to my home!  It makes everything easier.

Race day morning dawned about as perfectly as one could've scripted it.  Weather-stalking had been occurring for two weeks, and we were all thrilled to see the lower-than-average temperature projection of 80 degrees, along with light winds and no rain.  You never know what a July day is going to be like in Ohio... we've had tons of rain this summer... or the temperature could have been in the 90's easily.  My biggest fear was that the lake would be under an e coli warning, as it had been a few weeks prior, and they would cancel the swim portion of the race.  Thankfully, this didn't happen and the only question on race day morning about the water was the water temperature--would it be wet suit legal?  I knew that regardless, I wouldn't be wearing my wet suit at the race.  My friend Melanie and I swam in the lake twice the week of the race, and the temperature was perfect--mid 70's, no wet suit needed.  I truly don't like wearing mine, as it constricts my chest and makes me more anxious.  I've found that most of my friends who grew up in competitive swimming feel the same about wet suits.

The temperature of the lake on race day morning was indeed low enough to warrant the wearing of wet suits (a "chilly" 75.9 degrees--0.2 degrees cooler than the allowable temperature LOL!), which put smiles on the faces of at least half of the athletes competing that day.  The majority of triathletes will tell you that the swim is the most difficult part for them, and a wet suit is a saving grace for many.  I figured that if it made them feel better, then it was a good thing, even though it didn't matter to me.

The shuttle ride was uneventful; I struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me, whose daughter was competing that day.  It made the ride go by quickly, and soon we were pulling up to Delaware Reservoir, the site of the swim and T1.  Our shuttle was there before 5:30.  I immediately started seeing friends--another thing I love about this race!  I knew so many people either doing the full 70.3 or participating in the relay this year.  It makes it fun and relaxing to have so many familiar faces around, especially when you're a bundle of nerves as I usually am!  I felt pretty calm, though.  Part of that was that my wave wasn't set to start until 8:08 AM.  I had plenty of time to get nervous!  

After getting body marked and setting up T1,  I had a good time finding and chatting with friends, spending much of it in the porta-potty lines.  I munched on a Honey Stinger Waffle (I swear, these are cookies in disguise!) and drank water as I waited... and waited.  
Melissa and me pre-race!
We watched the first wave start at 7:00, and then every four minutes thereafter heard another wave being started.  I considered a warm-up swim, but with the air temperature being under 60 degrees at race start, I was worried I'd get cold waiting to get back in.

MRTT Mamas rock!
At around 7:40, my friend Melanie and I noticed that they were starting to corral our waves (she was in 17, I was in 18), so we headed over to the beach.  I had a gel and downed the rest of my water.  I felt relatively calm at this point.  I positioned myself at the front of the corral, as swimming is my strong suite.  I chatted with a couple other women as we slowly moved forward in the line of triathletes awaiting to start their races.  At last, it was our turn, and the starter told us to wade out to the starting buoys.  I had remembered that this race had an in-water start.  What I'd forgotten was that the start occurred in a spot that was too deep for me to touch the bottom.  This shouldn't matter, as I wouldn't be able to touch for any of the swimming leg of the race, but it immediately caused my throat to constrict as I reached my toes down and felt nothing.  It's all good, I told myself... just tread water for 3 minutes and wait for the race to start, right?  Easier said than done when you're already feeling anxious.  My cool demeanor immediately escaped me.  I needed the race to start, stat.  Thankfully, it did, and with a blow of the horn we were off.

I was reminded immediately how much I hate mass starts.  This really isn't a "mass start", as we start with our age groups, but with 108 women in your age group, it was crazy-crowded.  Lots of kicking, arms flailing, etc.  I just prayed I'd escape the first 200 yards unharmed, and tried to breathe and relax.  The swim course is a large triangle, where you swim out for about 600 yards, then turn and swim parallel to the beach for about 900 yards, and then back to the shore for 600 yards (those distances are my best estimates).  I felt good for the first leg, and the buoy turn was uneventful. My watch had me at a 1:33-1:34/100 pace for the first 500 yards.  Definitely strong!  Then, we turned, and there it was... the sun.  Oh my goodness, I had such deja vu from the previous year.  I couldn't see a damn thing, and that includes the buoys as well as the swimmers around me. I knew they were there, from their splashing, other than that it was like I was blind.  I started using another swimmer who was going the same pace as me to sight off of... never a good idea.  Even worse, by that point I had caught up to most of the wave in front of me.  They had on orange caps (Ironman assigns cap colors based on your wave/age group), and the buoys were... you guessed it... orange.  So I couldn't tell if I was seeing a cap or a buoy when I would sight.  The second 500 yards was actually at a faster pace according to my watch (around 1:28/100), which shocks me.

At some point, I went off course, veering in towards the shore and almost hitting one of the kayaks (they were there to keep us safe and on course).  According to my Garmin, this added a good 300 yards or so to my race--only 5 minutes, blah!  I was frustrated and trying not to get too upset by the situation, but dammit, I wanted to do well, and the sun was making it near impossible.  It was during this part of the race that I got kicked pretty hard in the eye.  Of course I was wearing goggles, and while I saw stars for a second, it wasn't too big of a deterrent.  The third 500 yards was slower, around a 1:48-1:49/100.  I think this was when I was in my most confused state.  The final leg of the swim couldn't come quickly enough.  I happily made the turn and headed for the finish.  The water opened up quite a bit and I was able to actually sight and swim and get into my rhythm.  The fourth 500 yards was a bit better, back to a 1:46/100 pace, but still not as strong as I should be.  I was definitely getting tired of the swim!  I did a double-take when I started my run out of the water--my friend Jenni was right next to me!  So funny, we'd started the swim side-by-side and after all that, we finished side-by-side.  Apparently she'd been using me to sight off of, so she'd gone hilariously off-course as well.

My final swim split was 38:05, which I think includes a little bit of running into T1.  Last year's swim was 37:25.  I am not sure what my distance was last year, but this year my watch read 1.3 miles when I exited the water.  I need to figure out how to not let the sun bother me like it did, as I'm a stronger swimmer than my time indicates. 

Jenni and I discussing the awful swim
I was able to find my bike super-fast (I had a great spot, at the end of of the second rack of bikes in T1), and transition was pretty uneventful.  My time in T1 was 3:41, which was 15 seconds faster than last year (3:56).  I was on my bike before I knew it and heading out of the park and onto the road.  I spent the first few miles reminding myself to not dwell on the crappy swim that I'd had, and also holding tight on my bike.  The first four miles or so are on the test pavement of route 23.  Lots of bumps and rough road.  NOT FUN.  
Super worried face due to the rough road on 23
I saw water bottles, fuel, seat packs, etc.  I hate this part of the race!  I didn't let myself settle into aero position until we were off 23 and on 96, a much smoother road.  The first 20 miles or so were into a headwind of 5-7 mph, with a few little rolling hills.  Nothing terrible, but it did make it hard for me to go much faster than 17-18 mph.  I anticipated this, though, and knew I'd do better on the second half of the course.  It was glorious when we road on 42 south for a good stretch--that's where those 19-20 mph splits are from!  Such a flat, fast road.  
Happy me! I love how I look in aero!
The course starts turning after mile 40, and then we had to deal with wind as well as more rolling hills.  Most of the hills weren't hard--I think there was really only one "big" one, but it's still nothing terrible.  I was able to keep up a decent pace, even though I am the slowest turner in the world (I am overly cautious, but I don't care!).

Fueling on the bike went pretty well.  I had my bottle of Tailwind, which for some reason caused some burping that I wasn't used to.  I had 2 stinger waffles, as well as a gel.  I used my new front tube bag and was happy with how I was able to access my fuel quickly.  I refilled my water bottle on my aero bars on the fly (without stopping) at the second aide station and was pretty darn proud of myself!  I do think I should've drank more water on the bike... I came off the bike thirsty, and that shouldn't be the case.

Below are my splits for the race; I had my watch set to take them every 5 miles.  Next to the splits are my pace in mph, and my heart rate for that 5 mile interval.

17:31 (17.1)--162
16:06 (18.6)--159
17:20 (17.3)--154
17:21 (17.3)--150
15:39 (19.2)--149
14:54 (20.1)--148
15:25 (19.5)--148
14:38 (20.5)--145
16:04 (18.7)--149
15:53 (18.9)--150
15:31 (19.3)--152
3:42 for the final mile (16.3)--151
Overall time: 2:59:52--Average pace 18.67 mph 

Once my heart rate came down from the swim, I hovered in the high 140's and low 150's for the remainder, which is at the upper end of zone 3/lower end of zone 4 for me.  Within reason of where I should be in a race, so that's good!   I was super happy to meet my goal on this portion of the race--a sub-3 bike split!  Last year's split was 3:11:46, so I will take my 2:59!  I ended up 

The final mile of the course is on a small bike path, so it's required to slow down, but it makes for an easy transition into T2.  I was happy to see my best friend Tamara as I rode into the dismount area for T2!  Thus far the race had been pretty lonely.  A few friends were cheering at the swim/T1 area, and my friend Melissa had passed me on the bike.  I had passed my friend Jenni about 45 minutes into the bike.  But other than that, there hadn't been a lot of familiar faces.  T2 was uneventful... I got my bike racked, slipped my bike shoes off and my run shoes on, and was off again.  T2 split was 3:01 (compared to 2:44 last year).

Running through T2... I think I am already wondering how I will get through the next 13.1 miles.
As I exited T2, I was excited that I had crushed last year's bike split, and had dreams of a 5:45 overall time in my head.  I was at a 3:45 on the overall clock, and I really felt I was in good enough shape to run a 2:00-half marathon.  I grinned at my friends Chris and Carolyn (they were volunteering as sunscreen-sprayers), and started my 13.1 miles.  

Tamara took this in the first several hundred yards of the run.  Hence my smile LOL
Within a half-mile, though, I realized that this final leg would be by far the toughest of the day.  My legs never feel good off the bike, but today was even worse.  I was hot and tired and I hadn't even ran a mile yet.  I was also thirsty... SO thirsty.  Perhaps not enough hydration on the bike?  I filed that thought away and told myself that the first couple of miles off the bike are always crappy.  I kept hoping that I'd feel better. I walked the first two water stops, drinking water and Gatorade and pouring cups on my head.  It did little to help.  I finally decided at mile 4 to take a gel, and that definitely gave me a little more of a boost... but I still had to start peppering more of run with walk breaks.  Last year I was able to run the course with walk breaks only at water stops.  This year I was hoping to skip the walk breaks entirely.  Instead, by mile 6, I was walking for every uphill (and this course isn't flat).  I didn't know how I was going to finish the race, given how awful I was feeling so early in the race.  I knew my friend Tamara would be cheering for me at the end of the first loop (around mile 6ish), and she could see by my appearance as well as my slowing splits that I was on the struggle bus in a big way. 

First half of the race splits:
Mile 1--8:46

Mile 2--9:00
Mile 3--9:45
Mile 4--9:44
Mile 5--8:58 (that gel helped!) 
Mile 6--10:48 (and then the walking started)

I was still so thirsty, despite making sure I was drinking as much as possible at each water stop.  I grabbed ice whenever I saw it, shoving it down my top and pants.  It offered a brief respite... the course is more sunny than shady, and other racers mentioned seeing the tar actually melting in spots.  The best part about the second loop was that I knew where I'd see my friends who were out there cheering me on, and I knew which water stops would have the much-needed ice!  At one point, I remember looking around me and thinking how it appeared that I was in an episode of "The Walking Dead" (a TV show about the zombie apocalypse).  Everyone was either walking slowly or trudging along, heads down, seemingly "dead".  I could tell I wasn't faring any better.  I just could not get my legs to GO.  I started to wonder if a PR was possible.  The first loop, I didn't think it was.  So much walking... but with 5 miles to go, I realized that if I could average 11 minutes per mile, I'd have a PR.  I continued to run when I could, and walk when I couldn't.  I talked to a couple of runners en route, but most of us were focused on survival and had nothing left for conversation.  

Second half of the race splits:
Mile 7--10:13
Mile 8--10:19
Mile 9--9:55 
Mile 10--9:18 (the gel at mile 9 helped here!)
Mile 11--10:17
Mile 12--10:31
Mile 13--9:38
Final 0.25--2:12 (8:55 pace)
Overall: 2:09:29--avg pace 9:46/mile (2016 time--2:03:41)

Posing for the camera as we entered the stadium!

I honestly wasn't sure I would finish the race up until I entered the stadium for the final short run around the track at Ohio Wesleyan.  I wanted to kneel down and praise God for letting me finish the race!  Instead I continued to trudge (maybe a teeny bit quicker) toward the finish arch.  I noticed the man ahead of me flexing for the finish line photographer, so I decided to do my own arms-out pose.  

Finishing pose

The relief is all too apparent on my face

I barely had the strength for even that!  I was so very happy to cross the line and have that coveted medal around my neck.  

Me and Erin (she rocked her first HIM!)

Never have I wanted to quit a race so badly.  I found Tamara immediately and spent the next hour eating, sitting (ahhhh...), and chatting with friends.  

So grateful for this girl's support!

The heaven of finally not having to be upright!

Me and Melanie post-race

My trek back to my car is a super-duper-long story that I will only tell people if they ask me about it on a run... it almost took me longer to get to my car than it did to run the half-marathon in the race.  UGH. It was for sure the worst part of the race... and that is saying a lot, considering how bad the run was. I was so happy to drive home and eat pizza and drink Coke and SIT.  I tried to bask in the glow of the 5-minute PR (overall time: 5:54:04--last year was 5:59:32) I had achieved, despite the fact that I knew I could've gone faster.  I've spoken to many who didn't run that day that commented that it "wasn't that bad out".  The high temp during my run was 81.  It was sunny.  Remember, the tar was melting!  Yes, it could've been much worse; after all, we are talking a July afternoon in Ohio.  But every single person I know who ran the race (including the relay runners) commented on how difficult of a run it was.  STRONG runners who can power through anything!  I spoke to my coach at length after the race, and a few days later as well, and he mentioned more than once how impressive my run was, given the conditions.  So I will take it... but I'm my own worst critic, and I know I have a faster race in me.  1/3 of the race went as planned (the bike)... and while immediately after the race I proclaimed that it was my final half Ironman, I know that I will be back next year!  After all, I've done the first two Ohio 70.3's... I can't miss #3 now, can I?  

You may wonder why, at the start of this blog, I called this race "defining".  It is because I truly didn't think I was going to make it.  I didn't think I had it in me.  I had to summon up so much from within to finish the run.  So much negative self-talk that I had to answer to.  But at the end of the day, I did it.  It sure wasn't pretty, but it happened anyway!

Final stats: 
26/108 AG

119/608 females
606/1798 overall