Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bringing in the Big Guns

This about sums it up:

I feel like a pufferfish.

SJV and I had our Six Month Anniversary yesterday (wahoo!) and went to a swank little wine bar to celebrate. One and 1/2 glasses later, and I was pretty sleepy -- and pretty hungry -- and my will-power was eroded and pliable. When SJV dropped me off, I came upstairs ... and started what would become a marathon of munching. I don't think I stopped all night.

And so, here I am, The Morning After, all gross feeling and poochy. *sigh* Alas, when I have a tub of choco-cookies and peanut butter in the house, all bets are off... ;)

In any case, the next few weeks will probably be an exercise in restraint as far as food's concerned. I'm now in the midst of taper for the Chicago Marathon, so my routine is pretty easy (well, in comparison to the rest of the summer). Of course, tell that to my ITB, which still screamed at me on Saturday when I tried to log in my 10-12 mile run for marathon training. *sigh* I ran along fine for the first 3/4 mile, and then ZWING! *furrowed brow.* No amount of stretching or massaging or (as a last resort) punching that band whilst saying "Let go, gaddaammit!" would make it go away completely. I finished 5, and decided that it was better that I keep my leg attached to my body than finish out a mid-distance run. I think I made the right call, but now I've decided that rolling and stretching on my own are not cutting it... so I've decided to bring in The Big Guns: Bikram Yoga. That's right, folks, I'm headed to hot yoga tonight to see if that can loosen up these hamstrings, quads, calves, and the ITB that just doesn't want to let go...
And, at the same time, maybe I can work off some of those choco-cookies...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Post hoc race report...

Well, the summer's flown by, and although I never gave a race report for the first two triathlons that I completed, I thought that perhaps a little post hoc race report would be a fun and interesting way to spend this morning... So, monster mug/bowl of coffee in hand, Idgy the Cat in lap (where she can lounge around and swipe at the keyboard every now and again) here I go:

Post Hoc Race Report Numero Uno: Chicagoland Danskin, a.k.a. The Estrogen Triathlon.

Some backstory (please feel free to skip this if you're really just interested in a description of the event): I had always found triathlon interesting, and very Hard Core. So, when John and I met, I was intrigued when he self-identified as a triathlete. (Actually, I was more than intrigued...). So Sweet Johnny V and I ran together in a great running group that meets here in Chicago. During the course of our courting, he told me a little about what races he was planning to do this past summer, including Bigfoot Tri, and Steelhead 1/2 Iron (I remember thinking -- Oooh! A half-ironman! How sexy...). Anyhoo, fast forward a few weeks, and we started actively talking about me doing a triathlon... I was a little ... scared. But I knew that there were some female-friendly tri's around Chicago, so I looked them up, and before I knew it, SJV and I were signing me up online. It was to be Chicagoland Danskin, in July, for my very first tri. And, when they asked for a "coach or contact person" in case I biffed it on the bike, I added his name. It was a major moment in our dating relations, let me tell you... ;)

So then came the realization that I had not gone swimming in ... oooohhhh ... maybe around three years. Maybe more. I'm not a beach person, and I didn't have a pool at my gym... So I had this feeling that maybe I should "practice" -- you know -- so the likelihood of drowning was less... likely. Plus, although I had a road bike, I hadn't been on it in at least 9 months, and even before that hadn't ridden more than 7 or 8 miles at a time. When I looked at my odometer, it read 80 miles or so. Total, in the history of that bike. *sigh* I was going to have my work cut out for me -- even for a sprint distance like Danskin. (Danskin is 1/2 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.)

So, to the swimming: I started out with the pool, trying a few laps at first... couldn't get more than one out and back lap (in a 25 foot pool, mind you) without resting (this from a long distance runner -- I was very humbled). I switched up my strokes, doing one out and back lap in freestyle, the next backstroke, the next side stroke, etc. Every week or so, I'd get a little better, until I could swim 20 out and back laps in freestyle, and then more, and then ... well ... it turns out I'm not a bad swimmer. :) First open water swim in lake Michigan with a wetsuit that I ordered online after a traumatic day of "fittings" (I'm scarred by that experience). And, honestly, it was fun. Sweet Johnny V was there with me for the whole thing, and kept commenting that I was just fine -- and honestly, I pretty much was.

The biking: SJV gave me a tutorial in June that helped a great deal. I needed to "refresh" (read: learn) some standard essentials. Like stopping. (I'm not kidding.) After that weekend course, I would go out on the lakefront path a few days a week and log some miles, starting out at a 15 mph or so pace, and, to my amazement, I would sometimes get up to 17 or higher.

The running was a given -- no extra training needed, as I was already going on with marathon training.

So... the big day arrives. I had been "training" mainly to be able to finish the event, but had recently been doing so well that I was starting to think I could break 1:30. So, that became the goal. Armed with that and a fully packed bag, SJV and I packed up to go to Wisconsin on that fateful July Saturday...

We drove up to Wisconsin, attended the expo, got me bodymarked (my first bodymarking!) got my event shirt,
and attended the course talk. Now, this was my first course talk, but let me tell you how lady-friendly it was... Lots of "you CAN do this" and cheers for the first timers, and high-fives, and... it was basically a Chick Pep Rally, and it really rocked for that reason. I was pretty confident that I could do this thing, but attending that talk made me even more certain. And I was pretty impressed about the variety and diversity of women that were going to compete. Pretty sweet!

We also took the opportunity to check out the course (I was most interested in this, actually). Here's the lake -- the swim goes directly across, and pops out on the other side by the transition. (Actually, the first photo in this post was taken by the swim exit...)

I was a little freaked out, frankly, by how far the swim looked. It's not far, but it looks it. It really does.

A word about the transition area: it's HUGE. Really quite large. Now, it's a bunch of ladies that are really quite polite, but there's still not much room for gear, and there are plenty of first timers that don't quite know whether to put their gear here, or there, or... well, suffice to say that stuff is everywhere, and since there are 4,000 or so ladies doing the race, logistics are rough.

(Because it's logistics-related, I've included the above photo of a line of people for the port-a-potties. Really, really huge lines for these both in and out of transition.)
So SJV and I check out the bike course next (the run goes around the lake, and appears to be Flat As A Pancake -- which is good, as I train in Chicago, where there is no incline to be found). We're driving along, my little map in hand, and we go to the first two big inclines -- and I'm thinking "Okay, that'll be a good push, but then you get the benefit of the downhill, and since you just learned how to shift you'll know what to do..." -- but there's a hard right at the end of the second of those inclines, so there goes that positive thinking... We keep going, and there's a nice long downhill that I was pretty excited about, and then we turn left... and it goes uphill. For a while. I gulp. SJV says (in his softest and most supportive voice) "There are some hills here, sugar. It's going to be a great, challenging ride for you...".
Indeed. There were hills like that throughout, and I was super nervous. I revised my goal from finishing in under 1:30 to finishing without walking my bike, and from finishing the bike with an average of 17 to finishing the bike (again) without walking my bike. *sigh* It took some pressure off.

Off we go to dinner, to check into the hotel, and to a good night's sleep. SJV let me use his tri mat and transition bag (thanks, sugar!) and I laid them out like I would the next morning.

(Note the supportive card that my co-workers gave me during our staff meeting on the Friday before the race. Such great folks...) I packed and re-packed, and tried not to rub the numbers off of my arms. Before I knew it, it was Belly's First Race Day!

Ate a cliff bar, drank some coffee, and SJV and I drove to the Dairyland parking lot. Again -- logistics. You had a choice: either park 1 mile away at an outlet mall and walk or ride into the race, or go to Dairyland and catch a bus.

The Swim: Here's what the lake looked like the morning of the swim...

Much different from the day before. There were big floating pallets on either side of the alley that the swimmers were (supposed) to swim. There were also kayaks. So, if you got tired, you could just swim over to one of the pallets or to the kayaks and hold on for a minute, and then go on. But there were A LOT of ladies in that lake.

When it was time to go down to the shore, all of us chatty ladies shuffled down to the start. And that's when we got our last pep talk before we started. (See photo of us during said pep talk)

Note, too, the "noodles" that they have on the beach there. Those are for the "swim angels" -- ladies that swim along with you with a noodle that you can hold and rest if you want. It's a very sweet idea that makes the race accessible and less stressful for new swimmers. Great concept, very female friendly. If you wanted an angel, you could ask -- or they would find you if you were crying, or hyperventilating... ;)

Then they counted us down, and off we went. I started out pretty strong, and then, suddenly, I panicked. About 50 feet into the thing, I lost it a little. So I flipped over to rest on my back, and all I could see was what seemed like hundreds of yellow caps coming at me. Whaaaaa! I took a few deep breaths, flipped back over, and started swimming for broke. I couldn't see well - the sun was coming up on the same side that I like to breath, and I didn't have mirrored goggles at the time. So, I just went like crazy -- and I totally zig-zagged. (If you go too far off course, they come and get you... so it wasn't that bad, really...) But once I had hit my groove, I really hit my groove, and I felt good and relaxed. I noticed that I was passing folks in other colored swim-caps, and I thought that was good... there was a bit of a bottleneck at the end, but I fared well, even though the sand at the end was deep, and your feet sunk pretty far down after so many other waves had loosened up the ground:

See dramatic photo of me ripping off my swimcap like a pro (above), and then running through transition (thanks, as always to SJV for being such an amazing photographer and man):

I had finished the swim in 15:13. NOT BAD! I had hardly any problems ripping off my wetsuit, but it was a bit of a mess getting from A to B in that transition. I'm happy with my transition time of 3:04.

On to the bike! I started out feeling pretty good -- getting up those hills wasn't so bad, and I wanted to get done as fast as I could... I knew there would be a wind coming and it would get stronger as the day went on, so I wanted to get going. I blazed down that nice long downhill, and hit 25mph at one point, which got me a little scared. :) It seemed like another woman and I were just trading places -- so we started chatting, and encouraging one another. I was passing ladies left and right, and trying to keep up with my new friend. Once we hit the part of the course that was pretty bad road and some gravel, the wind hit straight on, and everyone got quiet. The wind was probably around 15mph, and when a gust hit, everyone slowed considerably. But the most amazing thing about this race was the support from other competitors -- lots of "you go, chica," and "looking really strong" -- both from folks you passed and from those passing. Finally, I was coming around to the last two inclines back into transition, and let me tell you how hard those were -- the wind coming straight on, and going up those inclines with no real training on hills... Everyone was having a hard time, and I was no exception. I just ground it out...

I was happy to get into transition -- my heart rate was through the roof, so even though I knew I could just run off, I dawdled a little to get it down.

The great news? I averaged 18.3 for the bike! Nice-- total time, 42:31. Transition: 2:03. Also not bad, considering.

Next, the run. This, I figured, was my "easy" event. Ummm... I hadn't ever run that hard after cycling that hard (I'd done a few bricks, but nothing like that...). So, a few minutes after starting, I had to pull over to the side to get my breath again... I was unbelievably thirsty (because I can't drink on the bike well, and hadn't taken my water bottle from transition) and then I got a side-stitch around mile 2.5, and had to walk for a bit. In any event, it's a good run course -- just all the way around the little lake, with a bit extra, and then you come in by the recplex. There's not much shade, and I was annoyed that there was only one water stop, but that's plenty for someone who hydrates well on the bike. Also, there's lots of room for spectators to cheer you on, and it's darn accessible to them.

Back to the run: after my crudilicious performance on the running path, and what I could tell was NOT going to be a PR on the run, I figured I'd miss my goal by a lot. I also couldn't really go any faster than I was going -- my side-stitch was pretty bad, and, well... the hard efforts were catching up. So I was really happy to see the finish line, and to see My Sugar at the finish line, and to get some water at the finish line.

Then, I checked my watch: I had run the run in 28:43.

I then started adding things up, and realized that I had missed by goal by only 1:36. That's right! (And that's using the official time) I had finished my first sprint tri in 1:31:36. I was very happy. Very happy! (Followed, of course, by kicking myself for not running faster... blah blah blah)

Final results: Overall rank: 417/3655, 63/370 (age group); Swim 599/3655; Bike 543/3655; Run 756/3655.

And that's when my favorite photo of SJV and I was taken:

SJV and I hung around for a while, enjoying the day -- it was gorgeous, and then we had to figure out logistics for how to get home. That's really the only down-side to this race. We had to get on a bus, to go get the car, to get the car as close as possible to the race, so that I could ride my bike to the car... Doing all of that took longer than the race itself! Still, it was very well organized -- with that much of a logistical challenge, it would have been far worse if it wasn't well organized.

Sheesh, I'm long winded. :) So there's my first post-hoc race report about Danskin Chicago. I highly recommend it for first-timers, and for other ladies that want an easy-going race. Very supportive, very fun. But it's probably not a place to get a PR -- there are a lot of ladies that don't really understand the rules yet, so sometimes you just can't go that fast. Still, I did pretty well with my time, and I liked the course.

Thanks for listening, and have a great weekend everyone!


Friday, September 26, 2008

Catching up...

So, about a week ago, Sweet Johnny V and I decided to play around on Facebook and look for folks from highschool. He saw a friend of his, and wanted to shoot him a message to tease him; I had created a quick profile for searching purposes... Well, creating that profile meant that I got tagged by some folks from highschool, and then more, and then I started looking for folks, and it snowballed... And now, a week later, I've heard from and seen photos of folks that I've not heard from or seen in more than ten years.

Crazy. *head shake, sigh*

It really is -- seeing photos of kids, pets, husbands and wives -- trips and achievements and accomplishments that in some cases don't surprise me -- and definately do in others. And they've been generally surprised about my triathlons (I think) and general path in life (which, as I said in my initial post and which I'll describe at some point, has changed significantly in the last six months...) In any event, it's taken a lot of my time this week -- which, with marathon taper, isn't such a bad thing. (Not that I ever really ran all of the weekly runs that I was supposed to -- but now that I'm not swimming and cycling as much, I have a little more guilt -- and fear -- about that...). I have slightly more time on my hands, but I've certainly filled it. (When don't I?)

So, marathon taper -- let me just tell you how nice that is. Just to know that there's only one more (massively) long run - the 26.2 miler, and that then my Season Has Ended. And, of course, I've already started mapping out next year's tri season, and my winter training schedule... A girl has to be prepared, you know...

I'm signing off to get back on Facebook, to try to respond to messages and such... Hope you all have a most fantastic day!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I didn't need that toenail anyway...

I'm not being dramatic -- really, I'm not. And I haven't yet lost the toenail. It's a fighter -- still hanging on. I won't gross you out with the gory details. But now I'm all appreciative of what that toenail's done for me -- how many long runs it's been on, how many peep-toed shoes it's seen, how many applications of red toenail polish it's worn... It's been a good nail, and I'll be sorry to see it go, if it goes...

Not to get all nostalgic about a nail... but you can see how it could be a little distressing to realize that the fact that your toenail is actually attached to your toe is no longer a foregone conclusion.

And thus, is the 20 mile run report redux. So, it seems, you can feel the effects of a major run like that days (days!) after you've finished the running. Well, I suppose I didn't really heed the advice of wiser-and-more-sinewy-runners than I, who said to nix the hiking trip on Sunday. (But seriously, could anyone NOT go hiking for a birthday party? I mean, really!) See? How FUN!

Connie (birthday girl!) and I getting ready to head off to Starved Rock

Connie giving a bear a bear-hug...

We went over the river...

And through the woods...

And we had a wonderful time. And so, come Sunday evening, as I was all snuggled up on the couch in Sweet Johnny V's arm, I realized that Maybe I Had Done Too Much, and that the additional pang in my left leg was no longer alone -- having been met by a strain and a twinge and a whang in my right ankle (at least I'm no longer lopsided). And so, I suppose, I have Learned My Lesson. *sigh*

In any event, I'm on the mend, although I most surely will be skipping some of the weekly runs this week. So, here's to Connie's wonderful birthday hiking extravaganza, and to the hope that my toenail will hang on for one last and final long run...

Be well, train smart, and ensure that you have sufficient room in your toe-box.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

You must run in your feet, not on them. -- Dr. Lee (acupuncturist, sports massage therapist, and general jack of all trades).

Well, I did it. The Longest Run In The History Of Belly (20 miles) was yesterday, and it went about as well as I could expect. I was incredibly nervous. Seriously. Totally nervous. I tried to explain why I was so nervous last night to Johnny V, and the best I could come up with is that I knew it was going to hurt, I just didn't know how much, or how long it (the run and the hurt) would last. So, I imagine the marathon -- or any massively long run -- is like childbirth for that very reason [note that I speculate here, because I don't have kiddlings just yet (Idgy the cat doesn't count for purposes of this discussion)]. So, at 6:35, as I was starting to run, I didn't know if I would finish by 10:00, 10:30, or 12:30. (I was glad that it ended at 10:30.)

And, of course, there was the drama of realizing that the bodyglide was at Johnny V's (which I realized at 6:00 a.m., 1/2 hour before I was supposed to meet the group) and then the scamble to figure out what to slather on myself so that I didn't come back a scraped up raw mess. (And chamois butter works for that, folks, believe it or not. Good to know, eh?) And then there was the realization that I wasn't going to be able to meet the group on time -- but I still saw them coming south as I was going north to meet them, so that was cool... Ran about a mile with Bob and Carrie and the IT Bandits, then turned back north to run my own northern more scenic loops (up to the beach and lighthouse, back down around the peewee soccer fields, along the lakefront, the harbor, and back up). It was hard to break off from Bob et al, but I needed to go slower than they were going, lest my left leg fall off around mile 18... A little forced separation helps me do that. :) But still, it was great to catch up with Carrie for a bit (well, for 9:30 -- one mile...)

(Photo of Carrie saying howdy as she waited to get going on her leg of the Madison-Chicago 200 mile relay, which I have not reported on just yet -- but will someday. Yes, we had a team that ran 200 miles. Yes, it went all night. Yes, it was a little insane...)

And, you know, it went pretty well. The weather was perfect; the lake was a sheet of glass, there were geese all over the place, lots of soccer games and such to pay attention to while running by, and the path was not all that busy for a Saturday. I averaged around a 10:30-10:45 pace while I was running, which isn't bad for someone who's injured (and not trying to run fast), and this morning I feel great -- with the exception of that leg. Zero muscle soreness, zero aches everywhere but that pesky IT Band... And my leg felt generally fine during the run, except that around mile 11 I started to feel a "ping" every once in a while. But it seems like stretching every 1.5 miles or so (more like every mile from mile 15-20) really works for me. Good practice....

And through it all I thought of a quote that a friend of mine shared with me the other day -- she's been going to this amazing massage therapist/acupunturist named Dr. Lee. He actually used to work with the Korean soccer team. I think he knows what he's doing... Anyhoo -- he was telling her that she was walking all funny. So he said "Miss Irene -- you must walk in your feet. Not on them."

I love Dr. Lee...

Such simple advice, but when you think about it while you're running, it honestly changes how you run (for the better, I think). Give it a try...

Then after running, Johnny V and I went to a diner for breakfast (I was soooo hungry...) and then took Miss Idgy for a vet's appointment -- her ears were bugging her, and she's been soooo anxious. So we met with the vet, who literally gave us a glade-plug-in-looking device that diffuses cat pheremones that are supposed to chill her out. So far, it's actually worked (much to our surprise...). Stay tuned for updates on the kitty hormone therapy.

Then we went to help two friends of ours -- Robyn and Stephanie -- both had a tough week emotionally, but Stephanie had a major physical injury this week to boot, and had to have hand surgery. Horrible. So Sweet Johnny changed her bandages on her hands for her, and I got to catch up with Robyn (from street level -- I couldn't tackle stairs at the moment...). They've had a rough one, so hopefully things will quiet for them soon...

And then we went to the grocery store, and then we went to dinner.

I think I did too much! Today's busy, too - a hiking trip organized to celebrate Miss Connie's birthday. I think I'll be enjoying from the car, but I'm going anyway. Can't miss out on it -- too special of an occasion. But in the meantime, I'm icing that leg, and trying not to hobble too much... you can call me hopalong...

Have a great one, folks...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A little more playful drama...

So, in reviewing the photos from TriAm that I posted here, I was a little ... well ... disappointed with the lack of drama for the swim photos. So, I went back to my stash, and found this one:
Voila! Now I think that captures the day, and the weather, a little better... I do like to feel hardcore...
Speaking of hardcore, as I mentioned in the last post, my Saturday 10 miler was run in the warm rain on the lakefront. Now, my intentions in leaving the house that morning were to turn right and run to the gym. When I walked out of my place, though, the air was warm, the rain was somehow refreshing, and I ended up turning left (which is the direction of the lakefront path). *Sigh, Shrug* I was drenched by the time I got to the path, and was giggling like a little kid. Huge (and I mean HUGE) puddles covered the path and the ground on either side, so every half mile or so I'd have to high step through these big river-lets, and again -- all giggles. BIG smiles. So much fun! I can't even describe why it was fun -- I was soaked head to toe, was getting pelted with raindrops, could barely see out of my glasses, and I was having the time of my life. And I wasn't the only one who was enjoying myself -- I actually saw a guy running in goggles. Hee!
(Side-note: Sweet Johnny V got me some dry-max socks, and I wore those on Saturday. If you have not tried them, you MUST. I had no blisters -- even after running that whole time in the rain. Seriously sweet socks. End side-note.)
Anyway, it was a fun hour (or two) of adult playtime -- something that we adults don't often have (or if we do have it, it ususally involves seriously destructive behavior). It got me thinking about how much more fun I have now that I take time out to run, and swim, and bike -- because it's playing. Maybe not in the same way that I played when I was 7, but it's still playing. I hope that I don't lose sight of that simplicity...
Have fun, folks!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Icing On The Cake...

What a great weekend! Sweet Johnny V's birthday was Monday (Happy Birthday sugar!), and all weekend was devoted to celebrating ... and relaxing. Much (MUCH) rain fell here in Chicago, so we didn't get to do all of the things that we wanted to. Still... we were able to make this:

Such a very fun activity! And super tasty -- bottom layer is dark chocolate, and top layer is milk chocolate, and chocolate frosting... choco-goodness. Mmmm. So the weekend was great, and, like I said -- very relaxing. NO schlepping bikes, and shoes, and no crazy long rides for John, or crazy long runs for me. Just snuggles on the couch watching good ole' fashioned t.v. What Bliss! (And, for the record, I think it will be about two more weeks before I start jonesing for a race, and looking around to find something to train for ... that's not a marathon.)

This coming weekend's a different story, with me going off on a 20 mile run (ITB band permitting, of course) and John's thinking of doing a long ride while I'm on said run. I'm (strangely) looking forward to the intensity of the run, and the fact that marathon training is almost over. So, I'll be heading out to meet the group on Saturday morning, and I think I'll start out with them. It'll be good to hang out -- it's been a while since I've been able to hang with them... Although I did run into a group of folks from the group (hey Bob!) on the running path on Saturday, when it was raining cats and dogs... Super fantastic to see them, and to log a few miles while catching up. More on that in the next post (hopefully) when I extoll the virtues of running in warm rain. (I can't extoll ANY virtues of running in cold rain, which I've done before. And which seriously sucks. Warm rain, though, feels like you're out playing. And that's a pretty cool feeling, really.)
So, I'm off to work. Happy trails, and happy training...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Slowly now...

Well, I'm injured. It's not surprising (marathon training together with a pretty overbearing, fairly obsessive triathlon training schedule in July and August) -- nor is it new. I've had a "tweak" in my ITB (that pesky band!) since the 16 mile run in marathon training -- which was now about a month ago. I've been rolling and stretching it religiously, but it still tweaks every now and again, just to remind me that it's there.

I've been focusing more on swimming (and biking) since I started feeling the tweak, but now that I'm suddenly very one-dimensional, I have a craving to run more. Plus, during the run at Triamerica, I ran consistent 9:00/9:30s without feeling a single twinge -- so I feel like I'm on the mend. And this week in marathon training I'm doing 10-12 miler for a long run (next week is the Mother Of All Long Runs -- the 20 miler) so I felt like I could be a little less ... cautious. Couple all of that with a really strong desire to work off part of a chocolate bar that I ate after lunch, and I decided to go running last night after I got home.

And what a great run it was... I strapped on the i-pod, listened to some really, really relaxing tunes, and started my 1/2 mile walk to where I start running on the lakefront path. And once I started running, I felt myself get into a nice, very very slow, groove. The lake was gorgeous - slate blue, almost matching the sky, and it was nice and overcast - about 73 degrees. Perfect running weather. Gulls were hanging out everywhere, and there were fewer people to dodge, and it was just generally perfect. Every once in a while, I'd try to pick up the speed -- and that attempt would be answered with a Zwing from my ITB. So that answered that -- no fast running for a while. And by "fast" -- I mean anything under 11:00. Yes. 11:00. So I pondered this as I was running along (running, mind you - not jogging. Jogging implies lack of effort.) and I realized that two years ago, when I started running and being more active, that I would have KILLED for an 11:00 mile. In fact, I would have killed for the ability to run four miles at once (which is what I did last night very easily, once I decided to let my body, rather than my brain and my ridiculous expectations of what I "should" be able to do control my pace). So my run last night turned into a wonderful reverie... looking back at relationships, jobs, friends that have and have not withstood my personal running boom. Looking back at how different my life was only one year ago -- and how my running changed every aspect of my life.

I think of these things often -- in fact, I tell my story to pretty much anyone who will listen (it's a long story, and I'm thinking it may require multiple installments for purposes of this page). But it's different when I go through it in my head. Little snapshots of moments float by me. Remnants of emotions that I felt at the time surface. The longing for a new friend. The annoyance that she wanted me to run with her. The fear that I couldn't excel in something. The disappointment when she didn't show up for our morning run (multiple, multiple times). The wonder at the beauty of the lakefront. The embarassment of how slow I was, and then the slowly emerging pride as I got faster and more comfortable. And the wonderful acceptance of myself, finally, even though I wasn't the fastest. And the pride at my first races... it goes on and on.

Funny that an injury made me go slowly, and that going slowly gave me the time to remember what life was like two years ago, when going that speed without hacking up a lung was a still a dream. I guess being injured isn't all that bad, as long as you keep it in perspective...

Be well, and train smart...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hey -- I'll take it.

Ta-daaaa! Here I am, accepting my very first (note that I don't say last) age group "trophy" (or, as Sweet Johnny V likes to say, my first "major award") at the Triamerica short course last weekend. Sweet! (I got fourth in my age group. More to follow.)

Not bad -- not bad at all.

And, actually, not all that good (race report to follow)...

So here is my very first Official Race Report, my first Report of the Season, about my Third Triathlon Ever In The History Of Belly, and my First Official Race-Place.

The race weekend portion of our weekend started with a trip to Michigan City, to stay at a little B&B called Tryon Farm. Adorable! We were welcomed with chocolate chip cookies (mmmm!) and iced tea. It was our first experience at a B&B together, and even though we weren't going to be able to enjoy the second "b" in the B&B the next morning, it was a lot of fun to stay somewhere that was so ... homey feeling. So we sat on the porch swing and snuggled. Awwww. :) The proprietor also gave us a bag breakfast for the next morning -- including yogurt, blueberries, orange juice and a little granola bar. Much appreciated, even if we are both lactose intolerant...

So we went out to dinner and I had my pre-race beer, and then we were off to get some shut eye. Bed was comfy, good weather for sleeping, and there were lots of country sounds for these cityfolk to comment on. And then....


A train. At, oh, say, 3:00 a.m. And then again around 4:00 a.m.

*sigh* Whatchagonnado.

Still -- got generally great sleep, and woke up on time to brush the sleep out of our eyes and get started for the day. And what a day... I was a ball of nerves when we walked out -- I had awoken during one of the aforementioned train whistles to hear rain -- Sweet Johnny said that he had heard it on and off all night -- so now I was worried that the weather was going to tank. *sigh*

But we get down there, and I set up my stuff in transition, get bodymarked, and head down to the beach, where the swim is going to start. Now, let me explain -- this was a TINY race. Teeny weeny. Less than 200 people signed up TOTAL (for the long and the short course). Wee little race.

I looked out at the lake, and rather than being the picture of serenity that it was the day before, there were some ... um ... waves. And they seemed pretty big... I contemplated (see photo of said contemplation).

So, after looking out there, and seeing that they were taking their sweet time getting the swim underway, I started to wonder whether they were going to cancel the swim. Seemed like they were getting ready to call it... But, quite a bit late, they went ahead and told the first group to get ready to go. There would be three waves -- the first of ALL the long course folks, and the second all boys under 50, and the third all the ladies and the men over 50.

I watched the first wave go off, and they seemed to be going pretty slow -- and getting bashed pretty good by the waves. John and I talked for a minute about how to play it -- maybe go out a little further where the waves weren't breaking... Then I just got quiet and started to wonder if I could swim in that much chop. Swimming is normally a strong suit for me -- but this was a little nuts.

But pretty soon it was my time to go. So, I get ready to go, give John a kiss for good luck, and off I go into the waves...

Right off the bat, I figured this was going to be a rough one. (It could have been the long course men coming off that were shaking their heads saying "ugh - rough - sucked"...) I can normally crank out a strong swim, but every time I went to take a breath, I got a swig of water. Every stroke was off a little because I was in and out of the water. And I couldn't see -- unless you timed a sighting stroke just right, you couldn't see the buoys in front of you. So, I zig-zagged a little (not too bad), but I'm sure that would have been better if I didn't have such a hard time sighting. (It was bad enough that I couldn't even really see the people around me... very interesting feeling.) What was worse about that was the fact that you could only see one buoy at a time -- so I thought at one point that I was done going parallel to shore and was getting ready to turn, when I realized there was a buoy off in the distance (that was on a diagnol from where I was at that point). *sigh* I guess you get the picture that the swim was rough, eh? ;) Later Johnny V told me that they fished some folks out, and I can attest to the coast guard going around and shouting -- asking if folks wanted to get fished out. I didn't take them up on their offer... In any event, I passed quite a few people holding on to the buoys for dear life, and there were plenty of times when I stopped and did a few breaststrokes to try to give myself some time above water. So I was suuuper happy when I finished that last buoy and turned into shore -- very fun bodysurfing to shore! Of course, I was disappointed with my time...

Johnny V took this of me coming out -- I was totally miffed. You can't see my face, but I was totally p*ss*&. My goal had been to finish the swim (.61 miles) in 20 minutes or less -- a goal that was more than do-able based upon my practice swims. I finished more than 10 minutes off that pace... *sigh*

Anyhoo -- I tried to shake that off, but transition was pretty barren and those of us that were there were all talking to one another about how hard the swim was, and about the fact that it felt long (I mean, LOOK at those waves! Of COURSE it felt long!). I still think it was probably a little longer than .61, but that's a darn hard distance to hit ... Anyway, my performance on the swim got me a little blue, and I wish I would have just powered through and not cared... Still, nothing like getting the tar beat out of you for a half hour to revise your personal expectations...

So, off I go onto the bike. The course there was ... well ... "rugged." LOTS of potholes, lots of seams, and cracks, and sand. That said, it was pretty straight for a few portions, and darn pretty. There was also a really brutal hill, at the end of which was a 90degree turn on sand. Nice for a little technical riding, I guess, but I think I took that at -- oohh -- maybe 5 miles an hour. The wind seemed to come from every direction that wasn't helpful, and I never really got my groove. Plus, I got stopped by a train (yes, another train) which again killed my groove a little. Added to that -- I don't have the clipless pedals or aerobars, so I'm about the most un-aerodynamic woman on the race course. Still -- I finished the 18 miles (longest ride ever!) with a 17.3 average speed (not bad!). I came into the parking lot where I was going to stop and saw my sugar...

And then I hopped off my bike, stumbled into transition (when in the heck am I going to start feeling like I can run with grace and ease after a ride? Sheesh...) dropped a gu and grabbed a water bottle for the run. (This was the first time I used glukos in a water bottle for myself on the run -- excellent idea because this was my best run during a tri this season...).

The run was ... well ... AWESOME. I hit a pretty good stride around the 1/2 mile mark, and kept it all the way in. The spectators were great, the race support was great (although I had my own provisions) and the view was pretty cool, too. Plus, I got the feeling that either I was coming in dead last, or there were just not that many of us ladies 30-34. We all had our ages on our calves, and I hadn't seen a woman with my age on her calf in some time. So I figured either I was so far behind that they smoked me (a few did) or I was the only one... ;)

I had a little battle of wills with a woman there near the end -- I passed her, and she caught me, and then we paced each other until we hit a hill and then she dropped off. Then I just put one foot in front of the other until the end...

Then I sprinted to the finish (see dramatic hair flying in the sprint-induced-breeze!).

And then I enjoyed my finisher's medal, a little water, and some R&R.

After a few minutes, I began to realize that I really hadn't done all that bad -- 2:27:15 was my official time, and shucks but that's not bad for a first season chick. Plus, when they started putting up the totals for everyone, it became pretty clear that I was going to be in the top five ladies in my age group... because there were only five listed! (There would ultimately be six, but when I first looked, there were only five). Now, mind you, I don't know how many DNF'd because of the swim, so the field might have been larger than six...

But, since I gave away the punch line above, you all know that I got 4th in my age group overall! Yay me! And congrats to the ladies that whomped me. I'll getcha next year. ;)

Let me say that the SWAG at Triamerica Indiana Dunes was pretty sweet. Two shirts (neither technical, but both relatively stylish and not altogether ill-fitting), a cell phone carrier, a license plate holder (yes, a license plate holder) a pretty sweet medal, and, for most, a plaque for your finishing place (mine was fourth, as I said) -- all in all, pretty great.

Sorry this was so long -- more to follow on this first season in general, and other race reports from races gone by. In the meantime, I'm enjoying a bit of a rest and some relaxation after a fun but rough weekend...

Take care, train well!

Friday, September 5, 2008

One Week And Counting... So Good To Be Bad

Whew. Holy, holy, hoooollllyyyy cow. What a summer. An amazing, wonderful, freaking-fantastic summer -- but one that has made me so darned ... tired. Wiped Out. Toast. Fried-fried-fried. Like lots of folks, I've been juggling triathlon training (which I only began in May, so it's pretty darned new, really) and a new relationship (Sweet Johnny V -- see previous post) and a new job (which will be described soon, I hope) and friends, and marathon training -- and I have to say -- it's been rough. So I've been less than great about posting. Which stinks -- I love to share what's going on with me, and this is a great forum for that...

What the heck! What a wonderful problem to have, huh? To have to complain about having too much fun in a summer!?! An embarrasment of riches, I suppose, but it's left me with very little in the tank, and with one more race to go.

That race is the Triamerica short course in Michigan City. I looked online, and apparently TriA has a history of only having a handful of ladies sign up for the short course in whatever city they're in. Coupling that with Ironman Wisconsin this weekend, and the fact that Accenture has come and gone, and I have a feeling that there will be very few of us... For the first time, I'm thinking that I might need to actually look at the bike course map (just in case I'm the only chiquita out there, you know?). It's made me appreciate what it must feel like to think that you may be a leader. Perhaps, someday, that could be me... but for now I'm happy just to do better than my goal time. (That's something I've not yet done -- I keep missing my goal by a stinking minute! Seriously! A stinking minute. *sigh*) Of course, I'm still pretty slow, but maybe if I crank it up a little bit, I'll hit the top ten in my age group... (there may only be 10 of us, but in case there are 11, I should try for that top 10 spot, don't you think?)

Race report to come, but two weeks ago I did the SuperSprint here in Chicago. Fun race, really -- but really short, and the darned bike portion was a straight one-mile line up and down simmonds drive -- with a hairpin turn on either end. (Nothing like having to come to a complete standstill to slow down your overall time.) Still, the swim portion rocked for me -- even though it was darned short, I exited the water in about 3:40 or so, and honestly sprinted the whole time. That's the first real sprint that I've done in the water - so it was great for training. The run suuuuuuccccckkkkkkeeeeedddd. And that's weird, but the same thing that's happened to me in every race -- my strength should be the run, as I'm a runner. But every time, there's just no go-power left in the tank. Zip-o, sister. And so I limp along at a 9:30 or 10:00 (two years ago that would have been a blazingly fast time, by the way) and end up missing my goal time because I can't go any faster...

And now for my personal revelation -- I have not worked out in a week.

A week! And this from a woman that follows her plan (whatever that may be) religiously. One week ago today I took a half day from work and ran my 18 miler for marathon training. I was beat even before I began, and it was hotter than blue-blazes, but I did it. John met me at mile 11, mile 15, mile 17 and 18 -- and my IT band let me know it was not happy with the day or the distance, but I still finished. Then, Saturday, I flew to St Louis, and went to my mom's in small town Missouri to help her paint her queen anne victorian home (it's literally 5 colors, and you have to use a wee little bitty paintbrush to get the detail in), which I did until Tuesday, when I came home, totally wasted by the combination of the week's activity. I thought that Wednesday I would work out, but no -- I was so tired that I could barely stand, and I honestly wasn't making much sense. Thursday came and went with me happily munching my way through the day. Today? No chance -- this morning was too snuggly to wake up, and after work I've got plans with Johnny and some friends. Tomorrow is The Day Before The Race, so maybe I'll have a little tune-up, but nothing serious -- my arms are feeling flabby already...

So I suppose that's it, huh? Maybe at this point, and after the summer of schlepping and running and generally having an amazing time, I need rest more than anything else. Perhaps I'll do the TriA and go faster at this farthest distance I've raced, simply because my body has had time to repair. Perhaps with this sleep that I've had, I will have more fun during the race itself (is that even possible?). But in any case, it feels good and delicious, and I'm surprised with myself that I'm allowing it... Oooh Baby It's good to be bad!

Have to get off to work, now -- soon I'll post stories of all the trials and tribulations, as well as my background, so that you can see why this summer was so much better than all of the summers before...

Best to you!

Idgy the Cat

Idgy the Cat