Saturday, December 31, 2016

Out with the old, in with the new

It's become a tradition for me to write a blog on New Year's Eve (or thereabouts), in which I muse about the previous year, as well as set goals for the upcoming year.  As I've mentioned in the past, goal-setting has been a part of my life for decades.  I have always loved to make New Year's Resolutions, and the desire to improve myself has not ebbed as I've aged.

First, though, I must think in retrospect.  2016... wow.  It was quite a year!  The goals that I set including training smart, qualify for the Boston Marathon, compete in my first half-Ironman, and find gratitude in every run.  If this were a report card, I would have earned a 75%.  And if you know me at all, you are fully aware which of my goals were not met.  Boston continues to elude me, and once again this year, it was due to a last-minute injury that occurred tragically right before I was to compete in my third marathon.  A hip stress fracture left me on crutches and once again cheering from the sidelines for my friends in Toledo.  It was a definitely deja vu experience, one that I truly hope to never experience again.

But the other three goals--check, check, and check!  I'm super proud of my first half-Ironman race, especially as I had to come back from the stress fracture.  I honestly didn't know if I'd be able to compete in the race up until a few weeks beforehand.  The cherry on top was breaking six hours, which is a time that was beyond my wildest expectations when I started the race.  The gratitude, well, that came easily this past year.  Especially after being on crutches for six weeks... I still breathe in the air of thankfulness each time I lace up.  As far as training smart goes, I had high hopes of escaping injury in 2016.  Unfortunately, my title of oft-injured runner was difficult to avoid yet again.  But... there's always 2017!

Well, it's out with the old, and in with the new!  Here are my aspirations for the upcoming year:

1) Race in a marathon.  I've downgraded my hopes of qualifying for Boston (which has been a goal of mine for the past two years) to simply competing in a marathon again.  I have trained for four marathons and only raced in two, due to injuries in 2015 and 2016.  More than anything, I just want to race in a marathon again.  The time that it takes me to do so at this point is inconsequential.  Finishing 26.2 miles again in and of itself is my dream.

2) PR in the half-Ironman.  I took the plunge once again and registered for Ohio 70.3.  This year's race will take place on July 30, promising hotter, more difficult conditions than 2016.  Yay... not.  I waffled between registering for this race or another 70.3 when it would be a bit cooler, but I loved having the support of friends and family, as well as not having to worry about lodging, travel, etc.  This year, I want to go into the race fully prepared to give it my all!

3) Become a scholar of the heart.  Heart-rate training, that is.  I was introduced to using a heart rate monitor by my triathlon coach Betsy during the final 6 weeks of training for the half-Ironman, and quickly found a place for myself within the data and numbers.  I have recently hired a running coach, George Roulett.  He is a local, well-known runner who embraces training by heart-rate like no other.  I am ready to allow my heart to be my guide, and let George guide me in this school of thought.  So far, this means to run slower than I ever have before.  I admit, it's not been easy.  ("What do you mean, run a 10:30/mile?  I can't run in the 10's... I just can't!")  I figure, though, that at this point I have nothing to lose.  If heart-rate training will allow me to move forward as a runner, then I am all for it.  I have nothing to lose!

...and if I could have abs like hers, that'd be an added bonus LOL!
4) Compete in a swim meet.  This last one was something that literally just popped into my head.  I have been training a couple of days a week with a local Master's team for the past few months.  I seriously LOVE being a part of a team again. One day, we did a set where we had to go off the blocks.  I haven't dove off the blocks in about two DECADES.  Yikes!  But wow, was it ever fun!  I want to go to a Master's competition and actually suit up and race.  It'll be crazy to compete in a pool again, but my heart is pulling me back to the chlorine again.

This picture gives me HUGE butterflies!!!
And there you have it... my 2017.  More than anything, I would love to have a year where I do not have any true injuries.  Little niggles are fine... but please, running gods, no fractures, tears, or anything else that keeps me from what I love to do for more than a few days!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Race Recaps: Hot Chocolate 15K + Rudolph 5K

I've realllllly procrastinated on writing my race recaps for my two most recent races, the Hot Chocolate 15K and the Westerville Sertoma Rudolph 5K.  I am going to go ahead and wrap both races into one semi-quick recap.  I have to say, I feel bad doing this, as both races were pretty epic in their own ways.  However, I need to get this blog moving a bit, and I can't move on without reflecting on what I've accomplished.

First up, the Hot Chocolate 15K, which was on 11/20/16.  I ran this race with my friend Amy last year and had a great time running a "comfortable" 8:00/mile pace.  We both agreed that we would definitely run it again.  When the opportunity to pace the race with the national pace group Beast Pacing arose, I immediately jumped at the opportunity!  Pacing is something that I have done for friends in training hundreds of times, and in a few races as well.  But to be a "real" pacer... that would be a dream come true!  Originally I was assigned to the 9:00/mile, but when I got to the race, the lead pacer asked if I would take the 9:30 slot, as that runner had to cancel at the last minute.  I had no issues at all moving to the slower time, as in all fairness, 9:30 was a more appropriate "easy pace" for me.

Picture of me pacing taken by my friend!

With pacing, your primary goal is to finish at the time projected based on your assigned mile split.  For me, 9:30/mile would be approximately 1:28:32.  I was super-thrilled to finish in a 1:27:56.  It is best to be less than a minute faster than your goal when pacing, and even better to be within 30 seconds.... never, ever slower, though.  I think I should be pleased with being just 36 seconds away!

The secondary goal for pacing is to support and motivate those around you.  I was excited that Amy and Tamara (and eventually Allison, who started in a different corral than we did) wanted to run with me!  They didn't need motivating, though--9:30/mile is a really easy pace for all of us.  I wasn't sure if anyone around me was really "using" me as a pacer, but when I proclaimed that fact out loud at about 6 miles into the race, a man nearby said that he indeed was trying to stick with us!  I had to remind myself that while we were incessantly chatting, others around us had to truly conserve energy in order to maintain the pace we were at.

As a pacer, I got a free entry into the race, and of course got the delicious post-race snacks (chocolate fondue dipping sauce, marshmallows and other yummy treats to dip in it, and--duh--hot chocolate), as well as the race medal.  It was incredibly cold that day, and while I felt fine before and during the race, as soon as we finished I immediately got cold from my sweat.  By the time I grabbed my bag from gear check, I was feeling like I might get hypothermia!  The quarter-mile walk back to my card didn't help either.

Oh, the funniest thing about this race: my medal!  Can you spot the issue?!

On to the other race that I recently ran, the Westerville Sertoma Rudolph 5K (12/4/16).  I blame Tamara for this one.  She recently had surgery and was bugging me to try a 5K. I think she was projecting her own feelings about missing running/racing onto me LOL!  I honestly haven't raced a 5K in over 2.5 years.  I just plain don't enjoy them. No clue why... well, maybe a clue.  They are HARD.  Like freaky hard.  You have to go basically all-out for 3 miles.  How fun is THAT?!  You can't even talk or really breathe.  Yeah.  Not fun.  I asked my triathlon coach Betsy what she thought of the idea, thinking she might say that it wasn't smart, given that I'd done zero speed work since before my injury in April.  To my chagrin, she was all for it--as long as I promised to go all out.  What the what?!  Before I could back down, I texted my speedy-as-hell friend Amanda to see if she'd pace me.  She immediately agreed, and registered for the race a day or two later.  Then she texted me and asked me why I hadn't registered yet (my name wasn't on the list of those who had registered)!  Oops.. I "forgot" LOL!  I registered and started to prepare myself for the big day.

The main thing I knew I needed to do: a speed workout. Amanda asked me my goal time, and I honestly had no idea what I could do in the way of speed.  My 5K PR from July 2014 (the last time I raced a 5K) was a 23:02.  I didn't know if I was even in shape to run that time. let alone faster.  So, I asked another super-speedy pal, Jen (my tri training buddy) if she would do a speed workout with me to gauge where I was at.  She, of course, agreed as well--Jen loves to run fast, and also loves to run with friends, so my request was a no-brainer for her.  We set out the day after Thanksgiving to do a 2 mile warm-up, 2 miles at a sub-8 pace (just to prove to myself I could do it), and a 1 mile cool-down.  One thing about Jen... she's not the greatest at pacing.  She's just too darn fast!  Our two miles were 7:31 and 7:29!  So much for a sub-8... we crushed that!  I will say, while this run was HARD, it did wonders for my confidence. I was pretty sure I could at least PR my 5K based on how this run went.  

Moving ahead to race day.  It was a relatively good day, weather-wise.  Temps were in the low 40's, and only a slight wind.  We ended up feeling the wind on our way out (where there was an ever-so-slight downhill), so it was nice to have it at our backs on the way home.  Oh, I didn't mention... this course was an out-and-back.  1.55 miles, turn around, run back.  I love courses like this!  It was especially awesome that it was literally in my backyard.  Well, close enough... the race started at St. Paul, where I attended school for 8 years, and ran through uptown Westerville, my hometown.  The turn-around was maybe 1.5 miles from my house.  So, yeah, it was close!  

Amanda and I met up with our friend Jess for a short warm-up of about 1.5 miles.  I was pretty nervous!  I hadn't ran a running race (except ones for fun) in a year, and I really had no clue how this was going to go.  The race start time was pretty odd... 2 PM!  Who runs a race at 2 PM??  It was scheduled that way because State Street (the road that the race was taking place on) was already closed for the city's holiday parade. The parade started immediately after we finished the race. Therefore, we actually had people to cheer us on for the entire time--another cool perk of this race!  

On to the race!  I had decided to cover up my watch for the race, as I tend to "get in my head" when I see the numbers.  I felt pretty good the first mile, but also pretty nervous.  I knew it was only going to get harder.  My first mile split ended up being a 7:02.  When I told Amanda after the race that it had been my fastest mile ever, and I'd never been under 7 minutes, she yelled at me for talking to her during that mile (admittedly, it was only a few yes's and no's!), and told me if she'd known that, we'd have gone a 6:59, LOL!

Mile two was out to the turn-around and back.  I was hating life by this point, which is typical for me during a 5K.  Jess pulled away from us--this I knew would happen.  Amanda stuck close, about 10 yards ahead of me.  I loved listening to her banter with the spectators, encourage other runners, etc.  I tried super hard to just GO, but my legs weren't really responding.  Mile two's split was a 7:25, although if you had asked me during the race, I'd have guess at least 8:00. I felt slooooooow.  

Mile three was all about mentally staying in the game.  Jess was way ahead by this time.  I just wanted to be done.  Amanda was busy high-fiving the kiddos who were cheering us on.  I did enjoy seeing friends who were cheering, but otherwise I just couldn't wait to see that finish arch.   The final mile was a 7:28.  It also felt extremely slow.  When I commented to Betsy that I just couldn't get my legs to move any faster, she replied, "Well, you haven't trained them to."  Touche!  But she was right.

I ended up finishing with a nice PR of 22:15.  I was as exhausted as I usually am when I finish a race, but was excited to celebrate with Jess (who scored her own PR!) and Ellen (who finished about a minute after me with HER own PR!).  Tamara was there to cheer me on into the finish as well, which was super sweet. I would like to see what I could do in a 5K with some actual speed work under my belt... but not anytime soon LOL!

Post-race with Amanda and Jess!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Long time, no blog...

Has it really been almost 2 months since my last blog?  I'm surprised, but I'm not.  The past two months have been crazy-busy in all aspects of my life EXCEPT for running/training, and since this blog is about my life as an athlete, it makes sense that I haven't had anything to really talk about.

My plan after my first half-Ironman was to take off a couple of weeks entirely, and then ease my way back into working out.  I lasted 13 days.  Not too bad, LOL!  I ended my race recap blog with this: "I have a vision of my fall/winter/spring training going something like this:  swimming a few days a week (maybe with a Master’s team), cycling a couple of days a week and getting some great intervals in on the trainer, running a few days a week with my friends just for fun (nothing longer than 4-5 miles on weekdays and 8-9 miles on weekends)."

And, for the most part, this has been what I've been doing. I actually did join a Master's team.  The Columbus Sharks swims on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 5:45 AM, and on Saturdays at 7 AM.  What is ideal about this team is that they train at St. Charles High School, which is located 5 minutes away from the school where I teach!  Talk about perfect!  I wish the practices started a bit earlier.  I am able to swim for 45 minutes before I have to get out, shower in the very nice locker rooms, and head over to work by 6:50.  I have been a bit bad about going there twice a week--it seems like a run always sneaks its way into my schedule instead (e.g. birthday run, donut run, etc.).  The practices are hard but fun, and not at all boring.  I honestly like the challenge of swimming with a team again and pushing myself to keep up with others.  

I haven't been biking much at all... every couple of Saturdays I am able to fit in 15-20 miles with friends, but that's about it.  I miss it a ton, but the time that it takes to actually go on a good ride, plus the fact that I refuse to bike before the sun is up, makes it very difficult to bike at all during the week... and the weekends have been packed with kids' activities.  I still have my friend Mike's trainer, and I am contemplating setting it up to get some miles in.  

Running-wise, I try to run Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays or Sundays.  As I mentioned, an occasional Thursday slips in (in which case I run on Sunday--never more than two days in a row!).  My pace ranges from 8:40-9:30, and miles range from 3-5 on weekdays, depending on who I'm running with, and right now I'm good with that. I like not having to follow anything specific, especially after training so hard this past summer.  I've built up to 8 miles for my long run, and I don't plan on going much higher than that for now.  I have the Hot Chocolate 15K (which is 9.3 miles) next month, where I am pacing the 9:00/mile group, so that is my goal right now--to be comfortable running 9 miles at that pace.  I will have to carry a pacing sign as well as motivate my group.  

This past weekend was the Columbus Marathon.  One of my favorite training partners, Tamara, ran in her 4th marathon in the past 12 months.  She had attempted to BQ at Glass City in April (she did, but not by enough to actually get in to Boston), Erie in September (she blew up at mile 19ish and ended up not PR-ing), so this would be her 3rd try.  When she decided after Erie that she would give it another try at Columbus, I offered to join her at mile 19-20 and run with her for the final 10K of the race (when things typically go south for her).  She agreed that this sounded like a fantastic plan, so I got a bib from a friend's sister who wasn't able to do the race, and after volunteering at the start of the race from 5-8 AM, I drove out to mile 20 to wait for her.  The race has great runner tracking and I knew that she was absolutely flying and probably wouldn't even need me, but I planned on 5 miles that day and figured I'd jump in regardless.  

Tamara's comment as I hopped in next to her was "I hope you ate your Wheaties this morning!"  She really was going at a fantastic pace, and just needed to keep it steady for the next 6 miles.  Our first two miles together were my fastest since my injury back in April (8:10 and 8;12).  I have to admit, I was a bit worried--my heart rate was pretty high, it was unseasonably warm out, and I wondered how long I could keep this pace AND keep up a happy chatter in order to keep Tamara's mind off of the race (my #1 job).  Fortunately for me (but not so much for her), the proverbial "wall" came along at around mile 22, and she had to walk a few times.  My job became especially important at this point--to get her going again!  Our splits were still in the 8:30-8:40 range, even with those few short walking stints.  I stayed with her for 5.2 miles, and then hopped out and started to walk towards the finish. I didn't want to wait til the end, as it technically isn't legal to use another person's bib in a race, and I didn't want to be accused of cheating or anything.  I figured it'd be best to drop out well before the finish line.

Probably my new favorite running picture of all time

I broke into happy tears when I got the notification that Tamara had crossed the finish line in a 3:35:21, which was exactly what her goal was (five minutes under her qualifying time--more than enough to get into Boston for 2018!).  Having trained with her for her April race, and knowing how hard she'd trained for Erie... and how DONE she was after another 5 weeks of training for Columbus... I knew how much this meant to her. I was also proud that I had at least a small role in helping her obtain her dream. The tears happened again when I found her in the finishers' area.  One of the first things she said to me was, "Now it's your turn."  

I knew exactly what she meant.  We have always wanted to go to Boston together.  When Tamara didn't make it in for the 2017 race (her time was about a minute slower than the cut-off), we both immediately entertained the thought that maybe, just maybe, her racing in Boston just wasn't meant to be... YET.  Even though she'd BQ'ed at Glass City, perhaps not actually getting in meant that 2017 wasn't supposed to be her year to run in Boston.  Her Columbus time of 3:35 will allow her to run in Boston in 2018.  The qualifying period is from now until mid-September 2017.  That's a good 11 months from now.  I'm not going to say anything else about this right now... other than... things that make you go hmmmm.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Race Recap: Ironman 70.3 Ohio (8/21/16)

Triathlon is a funny sport.  It is a lot like math (which is probably why I, a math teacher, love it so much).  In math, 1 + 1 + 1 = 3 of course.  But 1 lb. + 1 oz. + 1 ton doesn’t equal 3 of anything.  Neither do 1 minute + 1 second + 1 hour.  It’s all about the units… or, in the case of triathlons, the three sports.  What I am trying to get at here is that being a strong swimmer, a great cyclist, and an awesome runner does not equal up to being an excellent triathlete.  Sure, the ground has been laid.  But as I learned during my first sprint triathlon last year, triathlon is simply not the sum of its parts.

This past weekend I competed in the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Ohio.  Way back in summer 2015, it was announced that Ironman was bringing a race here to central Ohio.  The buzz was huge; everyone who could swim, bike and run (and even those who couldn’t do all of these things) was psyched for the chance to compete in an Ironman race in our own backyard.  I was very quickly swept up into the excitement, and not shockingly was one of the first to register for the race during the early registration period.

After my injury was diagnosed back in April, I did some Google-ing to determine how long I would be laid up.  The situation definitely appeared to be mostly doom and gloom… most of what I read said that I’d be lucky to running again in 3-4 months.  I never, ever gave up hope, though.  Once I was given permission to walk without crutches, I started to envision myself completing the race by walking the half-marathon portion.  Then, as I started to do run/walk intervals, I thought that maybe I could do intervals at the race.  I signed up for a sprint triathlon in July to test out how this would go, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I loved the intervals, and didn’t feel embarrassed at all because so many others were intervalling as well! 

I wasn’t super happy with how the swim and the bike went at the race, though, and knew that I needed some guidance in my training if I was going to be successful at finishing my first half-Ironman.  I went to a 4-part triathlon clinic offered through Fleet Feet, and ended up hiring one of the coaches leading the clinic to get me to the starting line of my race.  Betsy of Excel at All Three is a super-strong age group triathlete, and I had faith in the workouts that she gave me.  Thus, after 6 weeks of following the plans that she laid out, I arrived ready to actually give it my all at Ironman 70.3 Ohio.

The weather-stalking was in full force prior to the race.  Central Ohio has been hit lately by tons of storms, and riding in the rain was the one thing that I was very fearful of doing... not to mention that the race could possibly be shortened or canceled if there were thunderstorms.  As the day approached, though, the forecast improved to the point of being almost perfect!  High of 74 degrees, partly sunny… YES PLEASE!  You don’t get days like this in central Ohio in August.  Crazy enough, there was an actual tornado that touched down in Delaware (the site of the race) the evening before the race happened!  It was maybe 200 yards away from where the 2000+ bikes were racked.  We are talking $6 million in bike porn here… so yeah, let’s just call it LUCK that nothing was touched.

On to the actual recap, though!  I woke up at 3:40 AM to eat (2 eggs, 2 pieces of toast with peanut butter and a banana), get my bottles of nutrition and water packed and head out the door.  My training partner Megan’s husband Kyle was dropping her off at the race, and I decided that bumming a ride with them would be much more fun than trying to find a place to park myself.  We arrived in Delaware shortly after 5 AM at T2 (Transition 2) so that we could set up our things for the run.   This was a split-transition race, so after we laid out our race belts and shoes, we had to head over to the beach where T1 (Transition 1) was located—along with our unscathed bikes.  Megan and I ran into my friend Christine, whose husband was going to drive her to T1.  She offered us a ride, so instead of hopping on a shuttle bus, we accepted and were at Delaware State Park in 10 minutes.  Then came the fun part—setting up T1.  Checking our bikes, adding air to the tires (thankful for the borrowed pump from an athlete racked a few spots down from me!), lubing up the chain (Jen Peck was the one who helped me here!), and getting everything all set for when we would exit the water for the bike portion of the race.  I had a great time finding friends and taking selfies!

In between selfies I ate a Clif bar and drank a bottle of water.  I saw my coach Betsy at around 6:45 AM and she suggested that I get my warm-up swim in, just in case the swimming area was closed early for warm-ups.  The water was a warm 79 degrees—definitely NOT wetsuit-legal, and it felt great upon entry.  I felt really good during my warm-up. It was my first time in the open water in about 4 weeks, due to the bout of crypto that I contracted from either a pool or Buck Creek.  I love the open water and was happy to be back in again! 

I warmed up for about 20 minutes, watching the first few waves of swimmers start their races, and then got out and tried to keep warm before my own wave started at 8 AM (the air temperature was a good 10+ degrees cooler than the water!).   

Megan and I decided on one last trip to the port-o-potties, and we saw a few more friends while in line.  

Seeing friends at races always makes me feel more at ease!  The lines took forever, and I got a bit antsy while waiting.  I finally made it to the front at around 7:45, and then I ran my morning gear bag over to the drop area.  I headed down to the beach, as, it was almost go time!  I saw my friend Melissa again as we waited in line (we were in the same wave) and chatted about nothing important as we waited for our turn.  In no time at all, wave 16 was told to head out to the water (it was an in-water start), and in just 4 minutes, the airhorn blew to signal us to GO!

It still unnerves me at the start of a race when others swim as well as me, or even faster than me.  I am so used to training with friends who are not as strong of a swimmer as I am, that it just surprises me when others begin their races by flying by me.  I was able to tell myself to relax, that it was all good. I quickly found some still water in front of me and got going on my race.  I planned on taking the first 500 yards or so out relatively easily, but I was not surprised when I quickly caught the wave in front of me.  I knew that for most of the swim, I’d be passing people, so I was mentally prepare to not let this bother me… at least not too much.  I won’t lie; I did spend a lot of energy trying to get around people who were treading water or swimming breaststroke.  As we headed around the first buoy, we were greeted by an unwelcome friend: Mr. Sun.  He’d decided to make an appearance, and we were swimming head-on into the glare.  NOT FUN.  I had a lot of trouble sighting.  It was then that I noticed that a fellow blue-cap swimmer was keeping pace with me.  She had rainbow-mirrored goggles, and I decided that I would try to stick with her, as the pace was comfortably hard.  I dubbed her “Rainbow Fish” and saw her several times during the remainder of the race.  It comforted me to see her having to swim around other weaker swimmers as well.  I would think in my head, “She’s not bothered by them. I won’t be either.  Just find a way around or through.” 

It was during this longer stretch of the race (from turn 1 to turn 2 it was around 800 yards) that my right eye started to burn really badly.  It was quite painful and I quickly realized what was wrong: I must have not rinsed out all of the lens defogger that I had used the night before.  OW!  My eye teared up over and over again.  It took all of my will power to not stop and take off my goggles to rub it.  I tried to keep my mind off of it by focusing on “Rainbow Fish” and the swimmers we were passing.  This seemed to work, and thankfully once I got out of the water, the burning sensation stopped.

I was super happy to round the 2nd and final buoy (about 1400 yards into the race) and head into the home stretch.  A) Because I no longer had to sight into the sun, and B) because that meant the swim was almost over!  I love to swim, but I was tired of using my arms and ready to move on to the bike.  “Rainbow Fish” turned on her jets in the final 100 yards, which was a bummer as I wanted to run out of the water next to her and tell her how great it was to swim “together”… even though she probably didn’t even notice me during the swim.  My split according to the IM website was a 37:25. I was hoping for anything sub-40, so I was pretty happy with this, especially after my eye issue and all of the passing that I had to do.  I have no idea how many women were in my age group (35-39), but I was 10th overall in my division on the swim part and 62nd overall female.  Pretty cool!  I ran up the beach and headed towards T1, trying to jog but not hurt myself on the uneven ground as I did so.  

I was able to find my bike easily (yay!) and my transition time was pretty strong (3:56).  I exited transition and headed out on the roads of Delaware to begin my 56 mile trek through 3 counties.

I felt very relaxed at the start of the bike, even though my heart rate said otherwise.  Betsy said to hold off on eating for the first 5 minutes or so, and I decided to wait until my heartrate went down a bit more.  Around mile 3, I decided I needed a drink of water, however.  I reached down to pull out my throw-away bottle, and heard a crack.  OMG… my water bottle cage had broken!  I looked down and realized that it was NOT a good thing.  One side of the cage was completely broken off. I would never be able to put a bottle back in there, as it would fall out immediately. My mind went into overdrive.  I needed water, not only for hydration, but to wash down my gels.  I needed my other bottle (which was in my second cage), as it contained 400 calories of liquid nutrition that I was also counting on.  Meanwhile, I was riding holding onto my throw-away bottle.  I knew I couldn’t do that for long; I wasn’t able to shift or break while holding it.  What to do???

I made a decision after about 30 seconds to dump the bottle of water with the next group of supporters who I saw.  I prayed that a course referee wouldn’t see me, as it would likely be a penalty for littering outside of the aid station areas.  I knew that I couldn’t ride another 9 miles to the first aid station holding my bottle, so I really had no other choice.  I then began contemplating how I would get through the remainder of the race with one 24-oz bottle of Tailwind and 4 gels… but no water.  I had planned on stopping once for water, at the second aid station (around mile 32), where I would throw my first bottle of water and get a new one.  That plan needed to change, of course.  I decided that I would ride slowly through aid station #1 at around mile 12-13, grabbing a bottle of water and chasing down my first gel that I would take right before got the aid station.  Then, I would rely on my bottle of Tailwind to get me through the next 20 miles, drinking it for both hydration as well as nutrition.  At aid station 2 (around mile 32), I would throw my beloved green Glass City Marathon water bottle (received at the finish of my first marathon in 2014), exchanging it for a bottle of water.  I would do one more exchange at the final aid station (around mile 49), getting a final bottle of water. 

I had to come to terms with the fact that I would be throwing my special bottle away, never to see it again.   Luckily, I had a good long time to get used to this idea!  The first 20 miles of the race sped by as they do on every ride.  The roads were pretty awful… tons of potholes, very very shaky. I passed many many water bottles, as well as saddle bags and other bike paraphenelia that likely had fallen from fellow cyclists’ bikes during the bumpy ride we were all on.  I heard “on your left” at least 50 times, and was passed at least 50 times without hearing a word (why can’t people follow the rules???).  I told every single person who passed me during the first half of the race how great they were doing.  I said the same thing to everyone who I passed—all 10 of them LOL.  Seriously, I was not doing a lot of passing, but I reminded myself that I had probably passed about 100 people during the swim, and to just stay within myself on the ride.  I felt so good and I wanted to push the pace a bit, but I knew that wouldn’t be wise, so I concentrated on keeping my heart rate low and riding comfortably. 

Fueling went well (gel at mile 12, mile 32, and then one more at around mile 45).  I was getting thirsty, though, but had to conserve water between aid stations.  It was around mile 30 or so I believe that the headwinds started.  It didn’t seem to matter which way we turned… the wind was there.  Sometimes it felt like it would push me over, it was so strong!  I commiserated with everyone who I rode by, or who passed me, including my physical therapist Kathy (loved seeing her on the course!) and my friend Macy.  They are badass triathletes who had started 24 minutes after me.  It actually inspires me to see such fast females, as it gives me something to aspire to in the future.

As if the wind wasn’t bad enough, the hills started with about 10-12 miles left in the race.  There were some rollers, which I don’t mind.  A couple of steeper hills as well, but I felt super-strong on them.  In fact, I passed people… and even two cars who were on the course (they were SLOWLY tailing the cyclists and I didn’t want to slow down for them!).  The wind and the hills made for a difficult final section, and I was more than ready for the bike portion of the race to end.  I was also very apprehensive about the run.  My legs felt pretty good, but running after biking was always so hard for me.  The sun was shining, and despite the relatively cool August day, I was hot.  I knew that the run course was hilly as well, but I had no choice but to dismount after my ride and head into T2.  My bike split ended up being a 3:11:46 (average speed 17.5 mph).  The first 32 miles were 17.0 mph and the final 24 miles were 18.1 mph.  I was thrilled with this, as my “A” goal on the bike was 3:15.  46th in my division, 249th female.  Yes, the bike is where I need to put in the most work for sure, but this split was definitely a good one for me.  My average heart rate on the bike was 150, which was a good 10 bpm above where Betsy wanted it to be… but most of that was due to the initial 15 minutes of the ride, as well as the final hilly part.  I tried to not stress about it during the ride, riding more based on how I felt (which was very relaxed).

T2 is a fast transition, as you just have to slip your bike shoes off and your run shoes on.  What made it slow was how far my bike was from the transition entrance—I am awful at running in my bike shoes, so I basically just walked it.  I didn’t want to wipe out in front of everyone!  Other than that, my transition was quick (2:44) and I was soon heading out onto the run course. I bypassed the sunscreen station, knowing that I might later regret that decision, but not wanting to spend any extra time in transition.

The first couple of miles of the run were as awful as they always are.  Legs are heavy and leaden, but body just goes automatically.  It’s actually funny that most triathletes run their fastest in the first 10 minutes off the bike, even though these miles feel the slowest.  I saw my friend Stuart about 2 miles into the race—poor guy was all locked up and not feeling great.  My goal was to run the race and walk the aid stations, so I kept on going after a few encouraging words.  I was living aid station to aid station. I was so happy to walk when I would encounter one!  The course was a 1 mile trek out, then two 5.5 mile loops, then a 1 mile trek back to the stadium for the finish.  The first half of the loop was in the sun and had some small hills. The second half was more shaded, but had one or two huge hills to climb.  It was at around mile 5 that I started to chat with a fellow triathlete, Mike.  He was just what the doctor ordered, and made the next 1.5 miles zoom by.  I was bummed when I lost him at an aid station, but soon found my sweet friends cheering me on!  Amy and Teagan, and then Tamara and Allison with their kiddos.  SO MUCH HAPPINESS!  I felt good and was running strong.  Every aid station, I would pour two cups of water over my head and drink two.  Then I would shove a handful of ice down my top and another down my pants.  This was how I made it.  The ice and walking at each aid station would lower my heart rate down to 145-150.  It would slowly go up as I ran to the next station (up to 155-160), where I’d repeat the process. 

The second loop was disheartening.  The sun… the hills… I was so over the race.  By the time I saw my friends again cheering on the second loop (Beth, Marion and Dani, and then Amanda at aid station #4), I was ready to be done. 

I was never so happy to see the arrow directing me to the left towards the stadium as I finished loop #2.  It was shortly thereafter that I heard my name yelled by an all-too-familiar voice—my husband!  I had just ran by him and our four children!  It was the first time any of them had ever seen me race. I knew he was going to try to make it for my finish, but I wasn’t sure where I’d see him.  I was overjoyed and considered running backwards to give them kisses… but by that time, I had realized that I was going to be incredibly close to going under 6 hours.  What the what???  My pie-in-the-sky goal had been sub-6:15.  I trucked on, and with about 0.5 miles left, a female runner passed me and I told myself to not let her go.  But then I told myself I really didn’t care, that I wanted to be done and didn’t even care about my time.  I finally saw the stadium, entered the track (stupid UPHILL to get there), and thought it was finally over.  

Nope!  I had to run a half-lap around the track to the finish!  I looked at my watch and checked the official race clock hanging over the finisher’s arch.  They both aligned… 5:59… I decided I’d better book it to make this happen!  I found a gear I didn’t know that I had (sub-7 min mile for the final minute of the race!) and sprinted past the woman who had passed me.  I heard my friends screaming my name from the stands, and as I crossed the finish line, I fell into my friend Tracey’s arms.  No cool finisher’s pose for me… I was exhausted and so very much DONE!  Official time: 5:59:32.  Insane. Just insane.

I knew my training partner Megan would be right behind me. She’d started 24 minutes behind me, but is a much faster cyclist and runner than I am.  She ended up coming through about 7 minutes later, blowing her own goal of sub-6 hours out of the water as well with a 5:41.  I embraced her and we had our picture taken together.  So much awesomeness!  

I finally found Joe, the kids, and all of my sweet friends.  Lot of sweaty hugs, big smiles, and pictures! 

I grabbed a hamburger (I was sooooo hungry) and picked up my bike.  The trek to Joe’s car was never-ending. I think it was maybe a mile, but it took us at least 30 minutes.   I was incredibly tired, and the kids were not happy about the walk either.  Heaven was finally sitting down in the car and taking my shoes off. 

Many people have post-race blues after a big race.  They want to immediately sign up for another race.  Me… I am so freaking happy that I did this.  I am riding the wave of accomplishment and not willing to give it up!  I haven’t been able to compete in a race that I have trained for in over TWO YEARS.  Being able to not only finish the half Ironman, but to demolish every goal I had for myself… I can’t put into words what that means to me.  So no, I’ve got no blues. I am loving every single second of “not training” going on right now.  I started back to work the day after the race, and DOMS set in hard on Monday and Tuesday.  It’s Thursday now and I finally feel pretty good again.   I am starting to think a bit more about when I *might* want to actually go for a ride again, or meet some friends for a run.  This fall brings the OSU 4-miler with Joey again, as well as pacing the Hot Chocolate 15K for Beast Pacing (my first race as an official pacer!).  I have zero plans to run any races this winter/spring.  Part of me wants to run in my beloved 15-miler in Granville in February, but part of me has no interest in the training involved for that.

I have a vision of my fall/winter/spring training going something like this:  swimming a few days a week (maybe with a Master’s team), cycling a couple of days a week and getting some great intervals in on the trainer, running a few days a week with my friends just for fun (nothing longer than 4-5 miles on weekdays and 8-9 miles on weekends).  This sounds just perfect to me. I want to set myself up for a super-strong summer in 2017, and I want to be ready for Ironman 70.3 Ohio round two next year!!!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Race Recap: Ross Tri Fit Challenge Relay (7/24/16)

My indoctrination into the world of triathlon came two summers ago, when I joined my friend Jen and her husband at Challenge New Albany.  I was enthralled by every single thing that I saw, and knew that triathlons would be in my future.  

Last summer I won my first race as an adult (given that I won many races as a swimmer in my youth), at the Buckeye OWS 1-mile race.  It was held at Antrim, which was a huge factor in my decision to swim in the race.  After running around the lake for a few years, I figured it was time to swim in it!

The two above events meshed a couple of weeks ago for my second-ever tri relay!  I knew that the Ross Tri Fit Challenge would be taking place at Antrim Lake, but I didn't want to do another triathlon before my big race in August.  However, that allure of Antrim couldn't escape me.  One night in June I was looking at the website and realized that there was a relay option. A lightbulb went off in my head.  My super-speedy running friend Amanda was always so interested in the world of triathlons, and I just knew she'd love to be on a relay team with me.  I just needed to find a cyclist, which wouldn't be too hard.  I wanted someone fast, though, as I knew we had a legitimate shot to win the relay (given my swimming abilities and Amanda's running speed).  My friend Tracey definitely fit the bill, as she's been cycling competitively since she was 12 and is one of my mentors in the worlds of cycling and triathlons.  Both of them agreed that it sounded like a blast, so we were registered for the Olympic distance and good to go!  I would be swimming 0.9 miles, Tracey would bike 21, and Amanda would run a 10K.

Our team: Power of SHE
We have had a hot July here in central Ohio, which isn't anything new.  But wow, the heat and the humidity seem worse this year than in the past!  The morning of the race didn't prove to be any different, and that was the hot topic among everyone who was participating.  They even talked of changing the 10K run to a 5K, but that didn't happen. The swim definitely wasn't wetsuit-legal, with a lake temperature of 84 degrees--that's HOT!

I woke up bright and early on Sunday morning and drove to Thomas Worthington High School to park my car, and then walk along the Olentangy Trail about a mile to Antrim Lake.  Amanda and Tracey parked at the stadium (where Tracey would end her ride, and Amanda would start and finish her run) and shuttled over to meet me at T1.  I felt very at-ease all morning, as I was "just" swimming a mile in the lake.  No pressure!  I saw several friends who were also racing (some in the relay, some doing a full tri), and in general just had fun chatting it up.  I love pre-race time, but it always goes by fast and before I knew it, we were ready to start.

Pre-race with some of my favorite mamas from MRTT!
LOVE this pre-race pic that the race photographer took of us!
Relays for the Olympic distance started in corral C.  There were two corrals in front of me in the first two corrals, and they let five people at a time start the race, with a group starting every 10-15 seconds or so.  It took a good 15 minutes before my corral was at the front and ready to go.  No anxiety today--I just ran in the water and started stroking!

Amanda took this one of me right before the race.  I think I look really silly LOL!
My coach said to build up the first loop, and really work the second one.  I had decided to set my watch to alert me at 400-meter intervals.  The race was 0.9 miles but I knew that it would be a bit long (they always are), so I figured every time the watch went off, I'd up my effort a notch.  This seemed to work pretty well, and I felt great the entire time.

The biggest problems in the race: the other swimmers.  After my first loop, the sprint triathletes started to filter into the lake.  So many swimmers, and so many differing abilities.  It was hard to get around people.  At the dock after one loop, one swimmer literally stopped dead in his tracks to wave and pose for a few pictures.... right in front of me.  Yeah, that was super-annoying.  I tried my best to just keep in my own sight lines and stay focused on what I was doing.  I was very happy to see the swim exit at the end of my second loop!

Super happy me exiting the water!
 The path up to the transition was pretty long--a good 0.2 miles maybe?!  I hate running barefoot, but I forced myself to jog up there and try not to get hurt.  Amanda was waiting just outside of transition cheering wildly!  

Courtesy of Amanda :)

I found Tracey pretty quickly and she took our relay chip off of my ankle and put it on her own.  She was off quickly, and I found Amanda.  We high-tailed it back to the high school, and then drove the stadium where we waited for Tracey to finish her leg.  By then it was getting super hot.  Amanda knew she was going to have a rough race, and we were both worried about Tracey, who had been sick with a stomach bug for a few days before the race. However, they both did fantastic at the race, and we were happy to get the finishers' medals placed around our necks!

Post-race medals selfie!
The results weren't posted until much later in the day.  We found out that while we were the fastest all-female team, one team of two men and one woman did beat us by about 7 minutes.  My split was a 27:30 on my watch, for 0.97 miles (27:44 on the race clock).  That's about a 1:36 pace.  I am starting to think that my 1:31 pace at the open water race in June was grossly incorrect... but I digress. In any respect, our first-place finish didn't happen, but we still had an awesome time and I am pretty sure will be back for revenge next year!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A new direction

At the beginning of the year, I had two goals for 2016.  One was to race in the Glass City marathon in April and (hopefully) BQ.  The second was to complete in the half-Ironman in Delaware on August 21.  My injury back in April should have effectively ended both of those goals, given what I had read about femoral neck stress fractures and the amount of time it took for them to heal.  When I realized I was recovering more quickly than was typical for my injury, I started to ask myself... what if?  What if I could actually do the half-Ironman?  Maybe I could just swim and bike.  Or maybe I could swim, bike and then walk the run.  I started to study the cut-off times for the race, and realized it was possible.  That I could POSSIBLY do 70.3 miles in August!

But after my race at MingoMan, I started to seriously think about what I was doing.  What WAS I doing?  Swimming a couple of times a week... biking a couple of times a week... returning to running with a very specific program.  This was all well and good, but was I really preparing myself for competing in 70.3 miles?  I especially was concerned with the bike, after feeling pretty awful on the bike at MingoMan.  I also was wondering if I was really getting enough swimming time in. I attended a 4-session triathlon clinic this month and the recommendation was to swim 3200-3600 yards, twice a week. I was swimming nowhere near that kind of yardage.  I spoke after one of the clinics to Betsy, who was the "swim expert" at the clinic (who is also an amazing triathlete, and who I actually met almost two years ago at the distance swim challenge!).  I offhandedly mentioned to her that I was thinking I might need some coaching.  She messaged me the next day and asked if I would like for her to coach me.  I should mention, Betsy runs her own coaching business, Excel At All Three.  I decided to take her up on it, figuring that it could not hurt having an experienced triathlete in my corner, telling me what to do each day.

So I started to work with Betsy about 2 weeks ago.  She gives me the workouts via an app called Training Peaks, and I do them.  It's a pretty simple arrangement!  The biggest changes from when I was self-coaching:

1) One of my swim workouts is in the pool, doing interval work.  Ugh. I hate being "married to the clock" (as Betsy calls it), but I have no doubt it will help me capitalize on my swimming abilities.

2) I am swimming longer... as I said, 3200-3600 yards per workout.  The open water swims are also more prescriptive--I'm not just going out and swimming at Alum anymore.  Rather, I am focusing on certain things each length (form, sighting, speed intervals, etc.).

3) I am biking further.  Betsy has me doing 20-25 miles on each of my two weekday long runs, and progressing up to 60+ miles on my long ride on the weekend.  She's also having me push more of my rides, based on heart rate monitoring... which brings me to #4.

4) I am wearing my friend Steph's heart rate monitor.  It connects with my Garmin and gives me (and Betsy) feedback as to how hard I'm working on each ride and run.  It's also a good way for her to make sure I am not pushing myself too hard when I am supposed to be going easy.  I am finding the data that it provides pretty fascinating!

5) I am running off the bike more ("bricks").  This is a big thing in triathlon training that I haven't been able to do as much as I'd like, due to recovering from my injury.  There is a fine line between pushing myself too quickly, and learning how to run after riding on jello-legs.

I still am finding it hard to believe that I am actually going to be able to do the 70.3 in 25 days.  I am fully prepared to walk as much as I need to during the half-marathon portion of the race, based on how I am feeling. I know that I will be dead-tired after the swim and bike.  Right now I am up to 40 minutes of running (I am pool-jogging as well to help supplement my runs).  I am not sure how many  minutes of running I will work up to by the race... I know it won't be 2 hours.  So walk-run intervals are very likely.  Of course, given that it's likely to be 90+ degrees and sunny out while I am running (at around 1 PM!), many people will be doing the same thing, which will make it easier to stomach not actually "racing" in a race. 

Me after a very hot run!
 I am beyond on my blogging... I need to write a review of a product, as well as a race recap for a triathlon relay that I competed in over the weekend.  So I will end this blog with a quote from one of my favorite movies that really speaks to me...