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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Racing for Recovery Half-Ironman

Last Sunday was my A race for the year, the Racing for Recovery Half-Ironman in Monroe, MI. I haven't done a half-ironman distance race since 2007 and the last one I finished was this very same race where I set my PR at just shy of 6:03. I signed up for it again, because I knew there was a possibility I could go sub-6 on this course and because it is just too hard for both of us to be seriously training during the summer now that we have the little guy.

Unfortunately, my training was plagued from the get-go. First, I had to get over a hip flexor injury which had my run training ramping up more slowly than what was on the schedule. Second, I got two bad sinus infections that required antibiotics. The first infection was so bad I lost two weeks of training. And, I was still getting over the second on race morning. Crazily enough though, I still thought around 6 hours was achievable. My bike training had been solid and that is where you can gain a lot of time.

I talked two of my girlfriends, Paula and Bridget, into doing it with me. Paula and I had trained for Ironman Lake Placid together, so it was nice to get back out there with her both for training and racing. Bridget is new to triathlon, but she is always up for fun albeit crazy adventures. She never trained more than 1 hour a week on the bike, but figured she could gut her way through it. Her run and swim training were rock solid though. In fact, she is a fabulous runner who did a marathon just 2 weeks prior to the half!

Bridget's family and our family shared a suite at the local hotel. I think the kids enjoyed spending time together. Her daughter is just 1 hour younger than my son! The night before the race we went to a great Italian restaurant that Paula had found. The service was kind of slow, so Bridget and I took the kids to a playground across the street where we saw a momma duck sitting on a nest. But, I digress.

On race morning, I was still hacking up a lung but otherwise ready to get to racing. The water was nowhere as cold as I worried it would be, but was still a little shocking when we got wet pre-race. Bridget hadn't worn her wetsuit in a couple years and neither of us had practiced open water swimming prior to that morning. That didn't worry me so much, because I have swam in open water a bunch of times but I was worried about her. She must have been worried about it too, because she suddenly looked panicked, started crying and said she couldn't do it. I didn't want to put her through a miserable experience so told her that it was perfectly fine if she wanted to drop out. She impressed me though by saying that she hadn't trained in the pool so hard with me just to drop out now.

Before we knew it, we were off. The course has you go out to a far buoy, turn left to the next buoy, turn left again and head back towards shore where you make a right turn, swim parallel to the beach, take another left and then head back 500 meters to the exit. When we started swimming, my chest felt tight and it made me feel panicky, so I stuck to just breathing on my right side every stroke. I eventually was able to settle down and start alternate breathing. The sighting wasn't too bad for me and I did really well hitting every buoy dead on until the last 500 meters. Those buoys were the size of basketballs and I'm sure I added some distance to my race because I couldn't see them at all. As usual when I got to the end of the swim, I thought "thank god I didn't drown and now it is all downhill from here". I saw my friend Danielle and told her that I was never racing in Lake Erie again. I also told myself I didn't have to rush through transition if my 1.2 mile swim time was greater than 50 minutes which unfortunately it was. One of these days I'd like to swim well enough for there to still be bikes left on the racks.

Usually, the bike is where I can gain some ground back from my deplorable swim. I knew almost immediately that I didn't have the giddyup I needed to bike the way I usually can though. The road surface was deplorable also. The bike course has you go out 13 miles with lots of turns and then you do 3 10+-mile loops before heading back. I managed to catch Bridget who was about 5 minutes ahead of me after about 10 miles. I wasn't passing a ton of people like normal though. Not sure if it was because of the way I felt or just that the field of participants was also good on the bike. While Matt, Steve and the kids weren't at the swim exit, they were at the end of the 1st loop on the bike. By the time I saw them the next time, I had to stop at the porto potty. All the bumps on the road were not kind to my bladder or my lady bits. I told Matt as much and he told me to ignore that pain and get back to business. When I asked him how Bridget was doing, he told me Bridget was fine and not to worry about her (I thought it was code for she had dropped out which wasn't the case). He told me he'd see me next at the finish, so I hopped back on my bike for more bumpy riding. The last 6 or so miles were just plain hell and I couldn't wait to get off my bike. I did the math and figured I rode the 56-mile course at about 18 mph (exactly 18 mph according to race results) which was 1-2 mph slower than I hoped for. It was definitely not going to be a PR day.

I saw Paula running as I was coming in on the bike. Her husband told me that she was about 10 minutes ahead of me. I was hopeful I could catch up with her, so we could run the rest of the race together. Well, I did catch her around mile 4, but she was having severe asthma issues. I walked a couple minutes with her, but she shooed me on. At this point, we witnessed a participant passed out on the side of the path. Luckily, it was near an aid station so they were able to quickly get him help. After I saw that, I wondered if I was being an idiot running in this heat just "for fun" when I had a 14-month-old to take care of. My mantra became "I'm slow, but I'm fine." The heat was starting to take its toll as was the cold I was fighting. I told myself to keep running, but stopped to walk at almost every mile marker and aid station. At the halfway point, I told Danielle I wasn't sure I could run another loop. She quipped "Do you want me to run with you?" She just had hip surgery, so I knew I was being a ninny. It didn't stop me from sobbing when I saw Paula's husband though. I filled him in that she'd have to drop at the halfway point and complained again about the heat, but I kept on.

Now, remember I was convinced that Bridget had dropped and I knew Paula was dropping, so I kept on just so one of us would finish. My pace was slower than molasses. Most miles were around 11-11.5 minute pace, but I definitely saw some 13-14 minute miles. With about 2 miles to go, I saw Bridget on the out and back section. She looked darn good and was only about a mile behind me. I knew I needed to put on some speed or she could catch me. Eventually, I crossed the finish line with my slowest half-marathon ever and my second slowest half-Ironman ever at 6:40. Bridget crossed just 3 minutes later. Turns out that she tried to quit on the bike with about 8 miles to go, but her husband didn't know where she was to come get her, so she had to finish. Paula's husband told her to do what she does best and boy did she ever. She mowed down that run field on a day that had even the fiercest competitors suffering and almost caught me even though I had a 30 minute lead on her off the bike. Incredible! Can you imagine what she could have done had she actually trained for the race and not have done a marathon 2 weeks prior?!

Am I disappointed in my performance? No. Despite several setbacks in training, I still finished it. It wasn't pretty, but I didn't quit. Who cares what my time was? I can proudly tell my boy someday that his mom persevered even though she wanted to quit several times throughout the race.

I think I'm done with long course for now. I scratched an itch, but the training is just too much with the little guy. I want to be energetic for him not wiped out from riding my bike for 4 hours. I think I'll stick to short course for awhile. It'll be nice to be done with a race in less than 1.5 hours!

I'll leave you with a couple of pictures from the weekend.

The momma duck was just under the stairs he was climbing.

It was so nice to have my family there to support me!

Bridget and me with the kids

We both got sunburns (we are the whitest of white chicks!) despite reapplying sunscreen prior to the start of the run

Monday, May 16, 2011


Seriously, a post finally! My blogger ethic has gone somewhere apparently.

Where to start? Well, I'm still training for the Racing for Recovery half-Ironman which is in (gulp) less than 3 weeks. I had a minor setback in training where I was off working out for nearly 2 weeks due to illness right in the middle of my training plan. I decided to just roll with it, get back on track and see where I could get to in the time I had left.

The last two weekends were big for me. Last weekend, I rode almost 51 miles in 3 hours with my pal Paula (also doing the half-IM) and then got up the next day and did a huge negative split 10.6 mile run (first half was 10:30 pace and second half was 9:30 pace). When I started out that morning, my legs seriously felt like lead, but they perked up eventually.

Then, this past weekend, I rode 72 miles on Friday with my pal Nicole (she is training for the Lake Tahoe century ride with Team in Training) and did the Cleveland half-marathon on Sunday. The ride had its ups and downs (sometimes literally as we climbed in and out of the valley), but we both were able to finish strong. It is the longest ride I've been on in almost 3 years.

For the Cleveland half, I had no intention of racing it. I just had a 2-hour run on the training plan and figured it would fit the bill. Paula and I started out together chatting and running easy. I even stopped to use the loo along the way, which added a couple minutes to my time. I don't think I'd have been too happy with the race had I wanted to go for a goal time, because it was so crowded almost the entire way. I had opted for short sleeves and shorts, which seemed like a good idea until about the halfway point. The wind and rain drops picked up then and I started to get cold. I couldn't believe so many people were out in shorts and had kids out with no hats. I mean I was cold and I was running!

Between miles 8 and 9, Paula started to slow down and I just really wanted to be done so we parted ways. I sucked down a gel before mile 10, saw my friend Suz handing out free high 5's at the bottom of the Carnegie bridge and found a new gear. The last three miles were by far the fastest of the day. I finished in 2:15:07, which is nowhere near a PR, but worked well for a solid training day on tired legs.

I don't know what to expect for the half-IM. Oh, I guess I can expect to be very cold in the swim (water temperature still hasn't gotten above 50 yet). But, once that is over, I guess I have a good shot of doing well on the bike and run if these past two weekends are any indication. Goal time is sub-6 (my half-IM PR is on this course and is just under 6:03), but I'll be a happy camper with a finish also. Heck, I'm a mom to a 1 year old, so training for and completing a half-IM feels like an accomplishment!

Speaking of that delightful child, here are a couple of relatively recent pictures:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Not gone, just busy

My blogging ethic has been deplorable! I do think about posts all the time and read all of my buddy's posts.

Work madness is starting to settle. That is good from a personal life standpoint, but not sure how I feel about the direction my particular niche of the business is going long-term. It is too bad defined benefit plans are going the way of the dodo. They really are the most efficient delivery of retirement benefits and allow employees to afford to retire. I realize that 401(k) plans make more sense to the average employee, but I could shake each and every one that chooses that plan over the defined benefit plan. Good luck guaranteeing you'll make enough money through your own savings (even with the company match) to last you through retirement. Not that I don't think that these plans have their place alongside DB plans. I suppose eventually I'll need to find a different way to make money with my mad problem-solving skillz. Enough soap box and debbie downer attitude!

Right now, I am not doing much triathlon specific training. I'm fighting a hip flexor injury. I thought I'd work at stretching and strengthening it (two things sorely lacking in my post-baby workout plan), but I think I need a doc's help to fully rehab. I've got my appointment on Friday. Wish me luck, because I have a half-Ironman coming up in June and I need to be running again!!

In the meantime, I'm doing some P90X - bringing it in fact. Mostly, I'm doing just the strength and yoga videos and using biking/swimming as my cardio. I can already tell I'm getting stronger and more flexible. Hopefully, it will pay off once the half-IM training plan ramps up.

I'm also of course raising my sweet little boy. I swear he is the happiest kid and I'm so grateful that he is the way he is! He spends most of his time pulling himself up on things and I'm sure walking won't be too far away. Fun times!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Lessons learned

Yesterday, I experienced the worst traffic ever in my over 20 years of driving experience. Many mistakes were made and lessons were learned.

But, let me back up. We had set up a play date at Parsley's house on my day off because she was the only one of us without 4WD and she was snowed in. Parsley and HHH just did amazing marathons, so they weren't up for running and sweetly volunteered to watch Salty's, Bridget's and my kiddos while the three of us went for a run. Yesterday morning, Bridget texted me and asked if we should be getting together given how bad the weather was by her house. I posted a message to FB to find out the conditions by Parsley's house, because it was clear by mine. She said the weather seemed fine, so we all decided to give it a go.

On the way there, it was kind of bad near downtown, but drivable. I figured I was closer to Parsley's house than mine and could let the bad weather pass before heading back home. Lesson One: Check weather conditions before you head out or head home to make sure you won't have to deal with horrible weather at some point while you are out.

We had a great play date. I was able to run without pain and at a decent clip especially given the road conditions. The kids all seemed to have a good time and it was great to catch up with my mommy running friends. At 2:30, we headed for home. I was almost to 490 when the roads were just stopped. I got a text from Salty who was about 5 minutes ahead of me that the lanes weren't moving at all. I noticed that traffic seemed to be moving off the E. 55 exit, so I got over and got off. That was Lesson Two: Never get off the highway particularly in a bad part of town that you are unfamiliar with.

From there, it just got worse and worse. Traffic had slowed to practically no movement at all. The whole town was totally gridlocked already and rush hour hadn't even started. I talked to Bridget who gave me some options for getting back to the highway, but unfortunately, the roads just weren't moving.

I had the bright idea to get to the Cleveland Clinic where I knew there was covered, safe parking and food/drink. It took nearly four hours to get there, but finally at 6:30, I maneuvered into the parking garage. Of course, I hadn't showered and was wearing no underwear or bra because I forgot them, so I can't even imagine what people thought as they saw me wandering around. Lesson Three: Make sure all of your post-run clothes are packed.

The baby, who normally goes weeks without crying, had been screaming at me off and on for an hour by the time I got to the garage. And, when I pulled him out of the seat, I noticed that he was very stinky. When I changed him, it was a blow-out and I completely ran out of wipes, which I knew I was low on to begin with. Lesson Four: Make sure you have plenty of wipes and don't just think "oh the other mommies will have me covered if I run out".

So, we were trapped at the Clinic for three hours. Will was so out of routine that he cried at the drop of a hat. But, I did find food/drink for me and we had a safe place to wait out the storm.

When I left at 9:30, I actually headed back towards downtown and took E. 55 to the highway. It still took an hour to get home, but due to conditions and not the other cars. After that 8-hour travel adventure, I couldn't stomach the thought of putting either of us in a car today, so I took the day off of work. We are back on routine and the little man is back to his usual, happy self.

So, I won't win the mom of the year award for my stupid decisions yesterday, but I have learned some lessons that I will remember going forward.

Here are some pictures to remember the day:

Before we left the house

Out on our playdate with one of his girlfriends, Salty's daughter

With his other girlfriend and birthday buddy, Bridget's daughter

View on our drive in the hood

Finally fell asleep at the Clinic

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

VP of Operations?

Doesn't my son look like he could be the next VP of Operations for SlobberCo? : )

Here are a couple more of his "school" pictures taken at daycare last month. He's such a joyful little guy!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Stomp the Grapes half-marathon

Yesterday, I ran the Stomp the Grapes half-marathon. While my training has been half-baked at best, I seem to be running a lot faster than I did pre-baby. So, 7 months post-baby, I attempted to best my PR of 2:02:41 set back at the Cleveland half-marathon in May 2007. Luckily for me, Bridget said she would pace me.

Yesterday's weather was cold and windy. Can't blame the race directors for that, but I do have a list of grievances (as well as some kudos):

Grievance #1: 12 PM race start (sure, it gave the weather a chance to warm up but it took the whole damn day especially because you had to be there no later than 10:45 in order to park)

Kudos #1: Race swag was pretty cool - tech shirt, tech hat and tech socks all with the race logo on them

Kudos #2: Heated porto john units

Grievance #2: Aid stations few and far between (luckily, I brought my fuel belt)

Grievance #3: Putting all the hills on the second half of the course

Grievance #4: Point to point race with no parking at the finish line (sure they were willing to bus spectators to the finish line, but I didn't want my mom freezing in the cold for two hours so she couldn't come)

Grievance #5: Nothing but water at the finish line and no direction as to where the drop bags were for those of us with fuzzy heads

Grievance #6: 3 porto-potties at the finish and nowhere private to change

Grievance #7: Only 8 busses during peak time to bus back to start, which then made Bridget and me stand in the cold for an hour before finally getting back (we didn't even bother going to finisher's party because we were so chilled to the bone)

Kudos #3: Bus drivers were really nice and worked their butts off to get to/from

But, enough bitching, lets get to the race.

My friend Salty told me to try to hold sub-9 minute pace for each mile then unleash at the end. I told Bridget the plan and she tried her hardest to hold me to that. We really rocked it for the first 7 miles with each mile between 8:48 and 8:58, but then the hills started, my tummy rebelled and the wheels fell off the cart. I don't know if it was the stomach flu earlier that week, starting way too fast, being hungry from missing lunch (did eat some beforehand and some during the race but apparently not enough), the hilly back half or what, but my tummy was not a happy camper. I also had a strange pain in my left hip that I've never experienced before. It probably was the lack of hill training. But, despite all that I finished in 2:02:08, which was a 33 second PR!

I do think I have a sub-2 performance in me, but the cards were not right for it yesterday. So, even though I am not a huge fan of the Fall Classic half-marathon, I will be trying for that sub-2 in two weeks. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Leave No Trace Half-marathon

My big race of the season, Dances with Dirt, is coming up this weekend. We've got five fabulous ladies for the team (well four plus me) and we have already assigned the legs. I'll be going first for the first time ever (this is my seventh DWD). Total mileage for the three legs is 13.85 miles.

Now, I've been running a lot (for me) lately, but it hasn't been often on trails let alone hills. My longest run this year was 12 miles and that was two weeks ago. So, when Bridget asked if I'd like to run the inaugural Leave No Trace trail half-marathon this weekend, I thought "why not?".

The race was being held on the private trails of a local boy scout camp, so I had no idea what to expect. For some reason I didn't get my normal pre-race nerves. I guess I was treating it as a training race with DWD just a week away which was probably the reason why. Plus, I had no idea what I was capable of doing.

The field for the race was pretty small with less than 80 participants. I worried (needlessly) about running alone. One guy (John) said good morning and told me he was going to run with me (after I declared that I was slow). I think he was kidding, but it turned out that we ran together the entire race. More on that later. The race director said the first loop was 4 miles and the second was 9. More on that later too.

The good thing about such a small race is it started right on time. At 7:30 AM, we took off and quickly settled into the right pace groups despite the single track trail. I fell in at the back of about 8 people. The trail was a nice mixture of hills, flat, gravel road, dirt trail, rooty trail, etc. The hills weren't easy, but they could have been much worse. By the time we ended the first loop, we had travelled 5 (not 4) miles according to my Garmin and John and I left the group we were travelling with behind.

John and I started up an easy conversation about biking and running. He loved to charge up the hills and at some point, I stopped being able to charge up them too. I told him to leave me behind, but he said he'd just wait at the top which he did. I earned that company by keeping him from going off-course twice. The course was exceptionally well-marked, but it is easy to get distracted and miss a turn. Luckily, my DWD experience kept my mind in the game.

We joked that we hoped the race director was just mistaken about the second loop being 9 miles since the first was 5. By the time we hit mile 11, I was starting to hurt especially in my feet. At mile 12, we passed a guy "with authority" and I told myself "just 1.1 more miles". At mile 13, the end was nowhere in sight. We realized that the RD was not wrong unfortunately. At 13.5 miles, we started up a switchback hill and I pleaded with John to leave me behind. I was just spent. He said "nope" and encouraged me to start running again. I already felt bad about slowing him down, so I kept running. He told me my brain was just rebelling because it had gotten me through the last mile once already.

I am very thankful for him, because when we hit the finish line, I was so proud of myself. It took me 2:34:32 to run the 14 miles, which was good for 54th out of 78 runner and 8th out of 17 females. Bridget did awesome finishing 4 minutes ahead of me, which was good for 5th female and 3rd in our age group!!

So, I guess I'm ready for DWD. I went the distance and I didn't feel too badly the next day other than a blood blister on the bottom of my foot which should heal by Saturday. Game on!