Monday, June 30, 2014

90 Days #imchoo ...

90 days.  It feels like plenty of time and not enough all at once.  90 days until I plunge into the Tennessee River to start a journey to my fourth iron distance finish line.  It all sounds so dramatic, doesn't it?  I feel more nervous this time around.  Not sure why.  Or maybe I do.  It probably has to do with Louisville not going the way I had hoped last year.  I sort of feel like I did when I was training for B2B the first time.  Not sure I can go the full distance (which seems crazy because I have done it three times before).  So many doubts in my head right now.

This past weekend, I raced in the Chattanooga Olympic Tri.  I did this race in 2011 leading into B2B.  It is a nice race but have not worked it into the schedule again until this year.  I mean, I am doing the IM in Chattanooga so it seemed like a good time to revisit this race course.  Just like I am nervous for the race in September, I was oddly nervous leading into the race yesterday.  I had no real time goals other than a hope and a prayer that I would be faster than my time in 2011.  (I would like to think I have improved somewhat in the last three years!).

By the time the race start rolled around, I was feeling better about things.  I saw more than a few people I knew.  I chatted with a new friend on the bus to the swim start, hung out with a group from Atlanta Tri Club while waiting for the start and chatted with another racer while we waited our turn in line to get in the water.

The race is a time trial start meaning you go off one at a time a few seconds apart.  You might bump into a person here or there but in general it is just like a big open water swim practice.  Only faster.  The swim course was point to point which makes it even easier.  Get in, swim a straight line and get out.  My goggles fogged up to the point where I could not see buoys about halfway through so I had to clear them super quick and get back after it.  I probably wouldn't have bothered to try to clear them except that I could not see anything and, well, sighting is kind of important.  :)  

Swim - 1500 meters  28:23  - This was actually 2 minutes slower than 2011.  Oh well.  Not too worried about it.

The stairs from the swim exit to transition.  Stairs seem to be a theme of this race as they are also on the run!

On to the bike...   The course is decently hilly and this was the part of the race where I was most anxious to see if my training has paid off.  I recently added a power meter which I think has helped me tremendously.  As compared to others, I am still not leading the pack BUT it has helped me recognize when I am not giving enough effort as opposed to going by feel.  It is definitely a game changer.  People passed me as per usual but it felt like not quite as many were flying by me this time around.  I ended up spending what felt like 10 miles going back and forth with this other girl.  I am sure it was getting on her nerves.  She would pass me on the climbs and I would pass her back on the flats and downhills.  I guess our strengths were perfectly opposite of one another...

Bike - 26 miles - 1:29 - TEN minutes faster than 2011! 

...  and we are running.  I felt good on the run.  I think this was where all the long distance training pays off - you get this warped sense of distances.  A 10k starts feeling like a short run.  In this case, I was thinking all I had to do was run 3 miles out, 3 miles back and I was done.  I walked a couple of short steep hills at the end (which I regret now), but other than that was happy with the run mostly from a nutrition perspective.  I felt like I must have done OK with nutrition on the bike based on how the run felt.  I think I might have started to get the nutrition dialed in which is a big relief!

Run - 6.2 miles - 56:13 - eight minutes faster than 2011!

Overall time 3:00:31  (you see why I am cursing the hill walks now - JUST missed a sub 3:00.  Darn!)   In 2011, I had a 3:17 so even though I lost 2 minutes on this swim this year, I still came out 17 minutes ahead.  I am making progress!

All in all a good way to head into the last 90 days before IM Choo.  Still nervous but am going to focus on the good things from the race this past weekend to get me through until my next race in August!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Keeping a journal, or not...

I was doing a much needed purging of the home office this week and came across no less than 7 journals.  Brand new journals.  Not one entry in any of them.  I have never actually kept a journal but clearly am obsessed with little notebooks that have fun covers.  I am forever making myself notes to buy this or remember to do that, I suppose I thought that the journals would be perfect for that purpose.  Maybe my first entry in one of the newly found journals should be to start a journal.

As I was neatly stacking my unused journals on the shelf, it occurred to me that I could use them to document my training.  ...and then I remember I had a blog.  One which I started to document my training.  Oh yeah.

Hi, its me Margaret.  I mean Karen.  I guess it has been three months.  Here is a little sampling of what I have been doing...   A little swimming, a little biking, a little running...  

Waiting for SAG with Debbie and Stephanie

Robin and I are twinsies!

Love friends who remember to take pictures!

Annie chillin' at a rest stop

At the state line during the Gulf Coast Relay!

Ironman Chattanooga is still top of my mind.  I think we are 17 weeks out as of now and I am knee deep in training.  Two a days, three a days.  I am a hamster on the training wheel!  Some days 17 weeks doesn't seem that far off and then others it feels like I have all the time in the world.

I rode the Chattanooga course two weeks ago.  There was a large group up there for a training weekend.  I had originally thought I would do a little train-cation and then decided just to go up there for ride.  (I tend to over schedule myself so have been trying to keep it simple and low key lately.  There is a lot of 'fear of missing out' that happens but it is just mentally better this way).  Anyhow.  Back to the ride.

I met up in the bi-lo parking lot with the group.  It was raining and the radar didn't look too good.  Lots of people decided against the ride.  Several brave souls (myself included) forged ahead thinking we came all the way here, we might as well ride.  It might rain on race day so, why not?  We ended up doing one loop of the course - it is an out and back with a double loop in the middle - and it rained the whole time.  Not torrential downpours but a steady rain.  I was questioning my sanity for riding in the weather in the beginning but in the end, I am glad I stuck it out.  The route turned out to be not as hilly as I had expected.  Obviously, depending on where you are from, hilly means different things.  In my mind, the ride had great potential to be one hill right after the other.  I had envisioned a little repeat of what I had seen for IM Louisville.  To me, this seemed much tamer than Louisville with a nice mix of some flat sections and climbing.  A really lovely ride!  I don't know how fast I will be able to do it on race day but at least I will have good scenery along the way.  :)
On the race nutrition front, I am trying out a new product this week.  I just purchased a sample from Tailwind Nutrition.  It is an 'all in one' product meaning you shouldn't have to supplement with food.  Tried it out on a run today and really like it.  It has a very light taste and mixes up easy which is a plus (no weird residue at the bottom of the bottle).  I am testing out on my first hundred miler of the year tomorrow - will let you know how that goes!

Have a good weekend, friends!

Focus on the positive!


Monday, March 10, 2014

IM Chattanooga - and so it begins...

When we last left off, I was sitting on the couch catching up on my reading and trying not to cough up my lungs...

Since then, CR and I have been doing a little of this and a little of that...   We took a 3-gun class with Jerry, Kay and Lena Miculek last weekend.  Pretty cool as they are superstars in the world of shooting.

I am in the midst of organizing a women's shooting club at our range.  A huge deal for me as I am not exactly a social butterfly.  I was so nervous leading up to the event but as usual found there was nothing to be nervous about.  We had a great turnout, everyone had a great time and we are looking forward to the next one at the end of the month.

A Girl & A Gun Club - we had 33 people show up!
Went to a cool class on power meters.  Had high hopes to win one in a raffle but sadly did not. (insert sad trombone).  One of my friends did and I am so happy for her!  Checking into getting one for the bike, can see where it would be a huge help to me.

And in the world of training...

I have gradually ramped up my workouts back to more of a normal schedule (normal for me anyhow)  :)   I have run a couple of 10ks and managed close to a PR in both of them which left me feeling A LOT better about my level of fitness.  You know how it goes, you sit on the couch and you can almost feel the fitness leaving your body because you feel like you haven't been doing anything for weeks.  While the speed I had gained over the winter seems to still be there, I do think I lost some endurance which is normal.  Right now, a 10k feels like a long run.  I ran a 10k this past weekend and was told to do a 2 mile warm up beforehand to which I thought 'that will be 8+ miles, I am not sure about this...'.  Says the girl who just finished 48 miles over 4 days 6 weeks ago.  How quickly our mental state changes.  ha ha.

2nd place AG in this week's 10k!

With that, I am feeling like I am good to go and actually just started training towards IM Chattanooga this week.  I started working with a coach one on one for the first time which is kind of exciting.  After having done this distance three times on my own, it is kind of nice not to have to worry about scheduling all the workouts.  I am a little Type A so this might be a good lesson in letting go, right?  :)    The Daily Mile weekly report proclaimed my training last week to be "gnarly" so I would say things are looking up!

Week one is in the books - 29 more to go!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Up in the gym working on my fitness... (or not)

Funny how quickly your mind can take you from feeling on top of your training game to feeling like you are starting over.  A little over a month ago I had just finished a weekend of back to back races at the Dopey Challenge and here I sit today trying to make it through a five mile run.  

 My plan when I got done with Disney was to take a few days off then parlay the running fitness into the Mercedes marathon which took place this past weekend.  That didn't happen.  As recently as two weeks ago I was looking at training trying to make it work but the reality is, it would have been a miserable run.  Cancelling out on it was a good call.

After Disney, I took a few days off as planned.  CR and I went out of town for work and once I got home I almost immediately came down with bronchitis.  At first I thought it would just be a day or two and I would wait it out.  (I can't remember the last time I have ever been sick for any length of time so was sure this would pass quickly).  I couldn't talk, couldn't string together a sentence without coughing up a lung.  It was crazy.  A couple of times I thought I was getting better and would head out to run only to cough every step of the way.  The never ending illness.

After three weeks of living the life of a slug (*), I headed back to the pool last Tuesday.  I knew it was going to be a long road back when I was gasping for breath after the first 1000 meters.  It snowed the next two days and we were stuck at home but I did manage to get in a three mile walk in the snow Thursday and then a five mile run on Saturday.  I am registered for a 10k this Saturday and after that five mile run, I am not so sure I can even make 6.2 miles.  Seriously.  How quickly it goes....

I went back to the pool today.  It wasn't as hard as Tuesday so there is hope.  Or there was hope ...  right up until the coach decided that we needed to practice feet first sculling on our back.  It was pretty pitiful.  I am certain the coach was dazzled by our lack of talent in this area.  I think it is supposed to help improve your catch phase somehow.  Anyhow.

Still debating the 10k this weekend.  It is actually a toss up between a 10k and a 15k, I can't decide.  Not that I am ready for a 15k but it is with some of my friends so it might be fun.  What to do, what to do...  The downside of having so many friends who are into endurance events is that you feel like you are falling so far behind when you see their posts about all their great workouts.  So hard to tune that out and not let it get in your head!  Climbing back on training wagon as we speak...

Hope you all have a nice week!  Following our freak snowstorm last week, we had two earthquakes so I am expecting a swarm of locusts in the next day or two.  :)

(*)  I will say it wasn't entirely awful having to sit on the couch in my spare time for three weeks - I did get caught up on some books and enjoyed cooking up some recipes from Well Fed.  On the book front, I finally read Gone Girl, Divergent and the latest Bridget Jones.  Enjoyed them all!  Divergent was probably my favorite.  I liked Gone Girl but felt like the ending was odd.  I didn't expect him to make that choice.  Of course Bridget Jones is just fun.  It wasn't nearly as good as the first book (or even the 2nd) in the series so not sure I would recommend it.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Kicking off 2014, is it too late for a New Year's Post?...

What is the statute of limitations on a Year in Review and/or Goals post in the blog world? We have until the end of January to put it out there for the world to see, right? RIGHT?

 I have started to post three different times now. The first was deleted by my laptop mid-post. Still not sure how that happened but clearly the laptop did not deem it worthy of internet. Since all my other posts are prize winning works of literary genius, I guess it wasn't up to standards. *ahem* The second post just was a weird story about a 5k PR that really wasn't. (The person running with me at the time - who was the race directors daughter - convinced me that we were off course and that we needed to turn even though there was not a mark on the road and the course was very clearly marked up to that point. Turns out, we cut the course by a tenth of a mile or so. The daughter ended up winning 1st OA female and I had a 30 second PR. It didn't feel right. A result that needed an asterisk for explanation. I think I am going to go with my next best time in which I ran the full course.) So the guilt from unintentionally cutting the course carried over to my blog post and I decided not to hit "publish" on that one either. And now I realize given the build-up you will be expecting this post to be GREAT. ha ha.

 Some numbers from last year...

  Swim: 119 miles. (210,113 yards but doesn't it sound so much further when you say it in miles?) I swam most of that on my own leading into IM LOU in August but definitely credit masters swimming for keeping my yardage up towards the end of the year. Some mornings there are just two of us so the guilt of being a no show helps get me out of bed. I would probably benefit from being around more (faster) swimmers but this program is very convenient in time and location so I just hope that they don't decide to do away with it. I assume the low swimmer to coach ratio can't be a money maker for them.

  Bike: 2830 miles. Up from 2130 the previous year. I credit all the century rides I did with one Swim Bike Mom leading up to IM CDA. I am a little sad she isn't doing another IM this year so we can recreate some of those crazy rides. I think my personal favorite was one in Athens that had about 10 participants. The SAG wagon took their job very seriously. We managed to bring up the back of the pack for several miles until we agreed to sprint ahead to catch and pass the people in front of us thus leaving them with the SAG wagon. It was pretty funny as it was not as easy as it seemed and we felt like we had to stay just a little bit ahead for the rest of the day. You would think after all that riding my split at IM LOU would have been better. Sigh. I am sure it helped on some level. Sadly you can't really compare one race course to another so I will never know

  Run: 959 miles! I had no idea I was so close to 1000 miles for the year until I looked it all up on December 29th. I told Rick I was 40 miles short of 1000 to which he said )in all seriousness) "well, you have 2 more days". Right. Maybe this year I can break 1000. All that running must have done some good as 2013 seemed to be the year of new PRs. I have new PRs in the 5k, 10k and half marathon. Not sure how it all came about but it gave me a lot of confidence in my running potential. This may sound simplistic but really I think I *thought* I was pushing myself before but I really wasn't pushing myself to run as hard as I could. I think I was leaving too much in the tank so to speak. That 10k a month or so ago where I was up in front for the first time ever helped me realize that I can push harder and not require oxygen at the end.

 Looking ahead at 2014... I went back and read my post from this time last year. I was burnt out and needed some time off. I had been training all winter, had just run the Disney Marathon and was ready to not do anything for a while. The funny thing is training-wise I pretty much replicated last winter's training and even added in MORE swim/bike/run but this time around I am feeling ready to go! I have a few races and events early this year and then IM Chattanooga in the fall. I have been riding a lot at an indoor facility here in Atlanta, Energy Lab. They have a mix of Cycleops and computrainer options and I can already see an improvement. I am looking forward to working with them to get me to the finish line in Chattanooga! Last weekend I did the Dopey Challenge at Disney with Runner's World. I will have to give you a separate post on that one. It was so much fun and so exhausting all in one! Have a good weekend friends!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Turkey Trotting...

I have a general rule for races that I borrowed from a friend a while ago.  It made sense when I heard it so have since adopted it as a rule to follow.  If I am considering a race, I never drive farther to get to a  race than it would take me to run it.  There are exceptions to the rule, of course - marathons would be one and races that friends talk me into because they are fun would be another.  Due to this exception, I found myself making a 65 mile drive to Cartersville GA for a 5k.

It would seem that someone is trying to keep me away from Cartersville as two times now on the way to a race there I have had some sort of car issue.  Two years ago, at 5 AM I had a flat tire which ended up with me spending the day at Goodyear getting four new tires.  Yesterday wasn't quite as dramatic.  As I am driving, my 'check engine light' came on.  Normally I wouldn't worry all that much but my car is getting up there in mileage (117,000 miles) and was already overdue for an oil change as indicated by the blinking lights on the dash telling me I had 5% left.  There is also the tire pressure light that is permanently lit no matter the actual tire pressure.  The car had a lot going on and it was lit up like a Christmas tree on my dash trying to get my attention.  Anyhow, just prayed a little prayer that the light was just some kind of reminder as opposed to a pending disaster and decided I would go deal with all the lights after the race.

Not my actual dash but you get the idea...

The deal with this race is age group winners not only get the thrill of winning but also receive a frozen turkey to commemorate their win.  My friend, Sarah, won her age group last year so I came along this year in hopes that we both would bring home frozen birds.  The race director apparently had not only been advertising the race this year but also got it certified which meant that it would attract more people hoping to get a good qualifying time for the Peachtree Road Race.  Curses!  Sarah and I both were hoping for a low participation race as that is where we tend to excel...  The only thing we could hope now was that it would rain and keep all the fair weather turkey lovers away.  No such luck.  To be fair, there weren't thousands of people there but just enough to make us concerned about whether or not we would need to come up with Plan B for acquiring our Thanksgiving bird.

I told Sarah we should have dressed up.  Am thinking I might adopt this look I found online for next year.

Since there were more people than we hoped our goal became simply having a good 5k and winning a turkey would be a happy surprise.  We did about a mile on the track as a warm up and were discussing how funny it was that we were being sized up as competition (and sizing up others as well).  Triathlons are so much easier, your age is there on your calf for the world to see!).  We decided with the exception of a few ladies, most seemed to be either under 12 or in their 30s.  We also decided we were a bad judge of age.  I was more nervous about trying to win this turkey than I was about doing an Ironman!

The race was "old school".  There were no timing chips (how spoiled we have become...) so you had to be near the front if you were worried about time.  Apparently all the 8 and under kids had gotten the memo and loaded up the front.  As I was standing there at the start I figured this would either be good or bad.  They would either take off like they were shot from a cannon or we would all be tripping over the children on our way to turkey glory.  Turns out it was a combination of both.

The first tenth of a mile was a bit of weaving around people and then it opened up.  I didn't have a real strategy for the race other than run fast.  I knew I wanted to try and get a new 5k PR and felt like this would be a good place to do it.  I had sort of a super stretch goal of going sub 23 because that would move me up a corral for the Peachtree Road Race.  I will say I had no real reason to think this was possible but was going to give it a go. I managed to hold on to a 7:20ish pace for about 2.5 miles then slowed a bit in that last section.  In looking back at it, I slowed more than I should have - I was thinking I had a little more cushion in meeting that sub-23 goal.  (I tend to glance at my watch only enough to see the pace and don't look at the overall time - might need to remember to look at time in these instances.  Note to self.).  I ended up with a finish time of 23:40. The time is an improvement over my previous 5k PR of 40 seconds but still left me disappointed.  GAH.  I hate that I can't be happy with what is a seriously great time for me but it left me feeling like I could do better.  I have mental issues.  :)

Sarah came in shortly after me and we waited around for the results.  It was a little chilly out and very windy.

Sarah ended up 2nd in her AG and I came in 1st for my AG as well as 1st Masters -  winning the coveted turkey prize!  We also managed to score some lovely eggs that were given to us by one of Sarah's friends.  So sweet.

As I knew I had a date with my local Honda dealership and already had reservations for Thanksgiving, I donated my bird to Sarah's family feast and headed out.

I would tell you that the United Way of Bartow County puts on a good 5k but then you all would show up next year and further diminish our chances of taking home a Thanksgiving Turkey so I'll just keep it as my little race secret!

Hope you have a good Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Esprit de She...

I don't know what is going on but I have managed to find some running speed here lately.  Last night was the Esprit de She 10k (fancy name, huh?... ha ha).  The race was held in Piedmont Park which is downtown Atlanta.  On a Thursday night, you can rest assured that meant there was some traffic on the way there.  I was meeting friends, one of which was running the 5k which started at 6:30 pm.  I left my house at 4:15 for what should have been a 30 minute drive.  I figured I would just hang out.  I would rather get there way too early than at the last minute.  At 6:00 I inch my way closer to Piedmont Park and am frantically trying to find a place to park.

Downtown driving does not agree with me.  Give me a nice open parking lot with lots of spaces and I am a happy camper.  Ask me to find a spot on a side street in an area where I am not familiar and I may just turn around head back home.  Parallel parking and I are not friends. If Parallel Parking tried to friend me on Facebook I would click "ignore".

Anyhow...  after texting my friend in my stressed out state, she told me where to go to find a spot.  I made my way there, threw the car into park and ran from the car to the race site.  Whew.  Made it just in time to pin on my bib and watch the 5k start.  The 10k started 30 minutes later so my friend Sarah and I hung out and waited for our start.  She just finished the iron distance at Beach2Battleship a little over a week ago so it was kind of impressive that she opted for the 10k - but then again that girl loves her distance running :)

My plan was just to use it as a training run.  I had 7 miles on the schedule for the day.  I figured this would be close enough.  As Sarah and I were standing around she mentioned that she had seen little to no course markings or cones earlier when she was checking out the course.  My over 40 eyes don't see that well at night and being as the course was on a path that was dimly lit and/or not lit at all we thought this should be interesting.  They had sent an email earlier to let us know it would be dark and to wear reflective clothing.  I brought my clip on light for my hat just in case.

So the race takes off and I am pretty much at the back of the pack.   Not that there was all that much of a pack - maybe 150 or so.  Anyhow.  Announcements, National Anthem, count down and we are off.  I was feeling pretty good, passing people up a little hill and into the park. Once into the park it was pretty dark but there were enough people on the first 5k loop to be able to follow and not worry about getting lost.  I was kind of amazed how dark the course was - there were several places where I would not have been able to see where I was going had I not had a light on my hat.

I knew I was doing pretty good but it is so dark I don't bother trying to look at my watch and the 10k people are mixed in with the 5k people at this point in the race.  I get to a little out and back turn around and see a motorcycle coming out.  Hmm.  That's weird there is a motorcycle on the course.  Oh wait.  That is the first place runner.  There is the second place runner.  Annnnnd then there is me.  No way.  It is dark.  I must have missed another runner or two in there.  There had been some 5k people in between.  Totally possible I missed someone.

We get to the split off where the 5k people head to the finish and the 10k people start the 2nd loop.  It wasn't all that clear where to go so I had to ask the volunteer.  At that point the motorcycle was far enough ahead that I couldn't follow anyone so I was just running and trying to remember which way the first loop went.  (There were quite a few forks in the path).  For most of the next two miles I wasn't even sure I was running the right direction.  Occasionally I would see a sign or a volunteer to help but there was no one ahead of me close enough to see.  I wanted to keep my pace the best I could just in case I was in 3rd.  I passed two volunteers and one of them says "just damn!  that girl is run-ning!"  LOL.  I finally got to the out and back again and there was the motorcycle.  One runner.  Two runners.  Me.  Holy Moly.  I am 3rd!  Cannot even believe it - I was sure the one a couple weeks ago was some weird cosmic alignment but here I was again.  So surreal.  I knew I had about a mile to go.  It was cold out and my lungs were starting to burn a little.  Just hung on and tried not to get lost in the darkness on my way to the finish :)

Me with my cheering sign my friend made for me!
After Sarah finished, we went and found a couple of our other friends and cheered for runners on their way in.  I still wasn't sure if I was 3rd but we decided to wait for the awards.  As they started announcing, we were on the other side of the field and made a mad dash so as not to miss it.  As we walked up they were announcing my name.  So exciting!  The official time is 42:20 but I think that is generous.  I kind of think the course wasn't QUITE 6.2 miles.

Podium shot with our flowers and gifts :)

I know some of you all win these things all the time so it is no big deal.  I am trying to figure out where this faster pace is coming from.  Maybe I just need to convince myself that I am running for a podium spot every time as that does seem to be able to get the legs moving a little faster!  Seriously though, I have been doing more running than anything else in the past few weeks in preparation for Disney so I would imagine that helps.  On my longer runs, I have stopped doing the run/walk this training cycle.  (I have done a run/walk for 5 out of my 8 stand alone marathons and am going to try to run Disney without the run/walk this time around).  Maybe that is building endurance too.  Who knows.  As someone who is used to being firmly planted in the middle of the pack, it is definitely a confidence booster to see that a faster pace is possible. Shocking really, as you might be able to tell from my surprise at the finishes lately... I promise to be less blown away if it happens again!  :)

On deck for this weekend is an 8 mile run on Saturday followed by a 25k race on Sunday.  Hope you all have a great weekend!