Monday, January 31, 2011

Tri-ing it indoors…

Despite the warm, springlike weather we had in Atlanta this weekend, I chose to take my workout indoors. Earlier in the week, I received an email about an indoor triathlon at Lifetime Fitness. The race was limited to 25 people because of logistics with the pool and equipment but the price was right (this one was FREE). I had done a couple of indoor tris at Lifetime before so I threw my name in the hat.

From what I can tell, the club is trying to build up its triathlon training presence and this was a way to sort of get everyone together to meet, assess training needs and get the triathlon experience. The race is essentially a super sprint. Instead of having set distances (i.e. 500y swim, 18 mi bike, 5k run), the race is time based and the winner is decided by who goes the furthest distance in the allotted time period. For this race, it was a 10 minute swim, 30 minute bike and 20 minute run. I knew I wasn't really in triathlon condition but went into it thinking of it as a group fitness class. It is only an hour, right?

The nice thing about an indoor tri is you don’t need to schlep all your bike equipment with you. Toss together your swim and run gear and you are good to go! Love that. All the participants were asked to be poolside at 6:50 for last minute instructions. I got to the gym around 6:30 as they were setting up the pool area with music and chairs for the lap counters. There were no participants to be found. Since the race was announced on Monday and took place the following Saturday, I had my doubts about how many people would get the word and actually show up. In my head, I pictured me and one other person fighting it out for the win. As I went into the locker room, I saw two other ladies who were racing so knew that it would at least be me and two other people. LOL. I set out my transition area inside a spare locker, put on my swim cap, obsessed about the hole in the cap that looked like it might tear any moment and headed back out to the pool. To my delight there were quite a few other people at this point. The race turned out to be mostly men, the other two ladies and I were the only females which was great because I automatically get top 3 out of the females, right?

The swim went off in waves of five people. I was in wave two so I sat and watched the first wave do their thing before I got in the pool. In the triathlon community I have heard that somewhere around 65% of participants consider swimming to be their weakest leg of the race. That was pretty evident in watching the other competitors. The nice thing about this race is that it is so low-key and great for beginners. I saw a couple of people who obviously just learned to swim, others who were just taking it slow and steady and others who were in it for the practice. I was a little nervous about the swim, I think have dipped my toes in the pool twice in the last month and before that it was quite a while. It wasn’t that I was nervous about finishing, I was nervous about being able to hold my own. I assessed the competition around me and decided that this was going to be a fast wave. The whistle went off and I went out to an early lead. Initially, I was counting the laps in my head to sort of keep up with how much time was left. I knew I could do 500 meters in about 10 minutes so thought if I kept up with where I was that would help me know when to start pushing towards a strong finish. Around lap 10, I realized I had gone out to fast and was just trying to keep the pace at that point. There was no more counting; I was just waiting to hear the end whistle. When I got out of the pool, I knew I had given it all I had. I was worried I might have given it too much as there were still two legs to go.

Did I mention, the transition times are pretty generous in an indoor tri? You are given TEN MINUTES to get to the bike. Granted there is a little bit of a walk from the pool to the bike area but it allows plenty of time to towel off a bit before hopping on the bike. We were supposed to use the spin bikes but the bike computers to measure distance did not arrive so we were on the stationary bikes on the gym floor. (If you do the indoor tri as part of the tri series at Lifetime, you will be on the spin bikes so you could use your bike shoes). Everyone had to set their resistance level to 4 and we were off. You don’t really know where you stand against the other competitors because you can only see the people next to you. My strategy for this leg was to keep it above 110 RPM for the 30 minutes and hope that was good enough. 9.54 miles later I was headed to the run.

For the run, I was on a treadmill next to one of the two other ladies. She was someone who looked like a runner - lean and speedy. Once I realized she was running my speed, my plan was to keep up with her for as long as I could and then sprint the last few minutes (depending on if I even had anything left when I got to that point). I think she might have had the same plan as I did because we ran the same speed pretty much the entire time. I would bum it up a tenth; she would bump it up a tenth. It was pretty funny actually. The last 5 minutes, we both continued with that process until I glanced over and realized she was .01 miles ahead of me. Even in a low key race, the competitive nature takes over… The last minute or so, I went into all out sprint until that glorious moment when we were allowed to hit the “stop” button. Pictures were taken, water bottles distributed and fist bumps were given. At that point, I knew I was neck and neck with my treadmill partner for 1st place but didn’t really know how I finished. I did know that definitely gave it 100% and it felt awesome.

Fast forward to today… One of the trainers passed me downstairs and says “we owe you something, don’t we”? I wasn’t sure what he meant and then he said, “yeah, you got third overall (men and women) in the triathlon”. WOW. I was shocked. A little bit later, we got the email results. I got 3rd overall and 1st female. I think I have found my niche - races with low participation :)

If you have never done a tri or just want a good workout, you should definitely check out this event. There are so many beginners, it is an excellent chance to "get your feet wet" in the sport.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It only takes a spark...

"Forget the crash diets, the fad eating trends and endless hours on a treadmill. We're skipping the resolution to lose weight. We're going to improve our game, crush our opponents and still have time for a fun weekend. We want to gain power this year." That is the mantra for a company called, 4all by jofit this year. Ironically, after months of following training plans for the Chickamauga Marathon and the Goofy Challenge, that mantra is EXACTLY what I had in mind for 2011.

Before I stepped across the finish line at the Goofy Challenge earlier this month, I had already set my thoughts in motion for the next challenge. Doing the Goofy proved to me once again that I am capable of so much more than I am willing to admit. Part of me thrives on the structure of a training plan and a goal that is etched on the calendar in the not too distant future. More recently, the side of me that seems to have been suppressed is crying out for a life with no real plans. Time to get back to things I enjoy without the pressure of a training schedule that demands I bike 40 miles Saturday or run 17 miles on Sunday. In 2011, I not only want to gain power for myself by taking the freedom to step away from the structure of a training regimen but also give power to others by volunteering more and encouraging new runners as they strive to reach their goals.

For those of you who might not have followed me from the beginning, I started running three years ago. In fact, the anniversary of the first of what would become many races is in a couple of weeks. I dabbled in running prior to 2008 by entering a handful of races but don’t really count that as a legitimate attempt at running. Back then, my running consisted of signing up for a race, running it with no training or preparation whatsoever and then feeling miserable the entire time (and usually for days afterward). In 2008, I was part of a Team Fitness group at Lifetime Fitness. The trainer talked all of us into running a 5k. The winner of the 5k out of our group would receive a $100 gift certificate to the spa at Lifetime. I was determined to do well in this race. I knew I had a good chance to win but had some stiff competition. I started to actually train for the race (*gasp*). Like a lot of new runners, I started out a tenth of a mile at a time. I would run to a light pole, walk a bit and run again. Before I knew it I was up to 3 miles. The day before the race, I remember having a group discussion with the trainer about what to eat the night before the race, how much water to drink and whether or not we needed GU gels immediately before or during the race. All of the nerves and questions we had leading up to the race seem funny now as it all seems second nature.

The gun went off that day at the start and I passed quite a few people in my Team Fitness group as we headed down the road on the 5k. It was an out and back on a highway so I did my best to scan the passing runners for my competition. To my surprise, everyone in my group was behind me. I just kept the pace and trucked my way to the finish, winning that gift certificate and placing 3rd in my age group. Just a month later, I pushed myself a bit further and found myself finishing my first half marathon. If it weren’t for that trainer at Lifetime, I would never have thought I would be here three years later having completed 10 half marathons, 4 marathons and 3 triathlons. Back then, I remember seeing the ladies in my masters swim group and thinking how fit they were and feeling inadequate in comparision. We are all capable of so much more. Sometimes you just need someone to light the torch within by encouraging you to try.

This year, my power is going to be gained by doing things I enjoy. In all my running over the past years, my love for tennis was pushed to the side. One of the casualties of trying to fit it all in. Like the motto, I want to improve my game and crush my opponents but at the same time still have time for a fun weekend. Less running because the schedule says I have to and more running just because it makes me feel good. More tennis. It is time to ramp my game back up and play for fun (and maybe a division win or two...). I have signed up for a couple of leagues that start in February and can't wait to get back on the court! Oh, I still have have races on my schedule. I can think of at least 4 half marathons, a 10k and 2 marathons with my name on them. The power is in running to finish, to prove to myself that I can do it and to have fun in the process.

I have gained so much by that one act of encouragement, how can I not try to give that same power to others? For now, I plan to do more volunteering this year at local races. Ideally at least one a month. Volunteering is such a great way to give back. If you have not done it, you should do it at least once. I also want to be more involved in helping new runners get started whether that be through my run club or other opportunities. Many of my friends are working towards their first half marathon. It is truly exciting to see their progress. So much can be gained by a little encouragement. It only takes a spark and before you know it you are leaping over flames.

So, how are you going to gain power this year?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Goofy Challenge Recap...

In a word, it was AMAZING! If you missed previous posts about the weekend, here is the 5k, half marathon and marathon.

My first marathon was Disney in 2009 so I knew I would not be disappointed when it came to entertainment throughout the race. I also knew that the races started insanely early and would require 2 AM wake up calls each day. The price you pay for fun I suppose...

After the half on Saturday, I pretty much relaxed the rest of the day. The thing I noticed about races that start at 5:30 AM is that they really get you off schedule in terms of meals. I found that I only ate two meals a day Friday and Saturday because by the time you get home from the race, shower, upload pictures to facebook/blog (ha) and nap it is 12 or 1:00. You really need to be thinking about bed around 6:00 so you don't want to be eating both lunch and dinner in that span of time. Oh and let's not even talk about how weird it is to try and sleep at 6 PM. Try as I might, the excitement factor made it hard to actually doze off until 9:00 both nights.

Sunday morning, I rolled out of bed at 2, still feeling pretty tired. My legs felt pretty good as I had not really pushed it to hard the day before. Mostly I was just in dire need of more sleep. I rolled into the Disney parking lot a little after 3:00 which seems way too early for a 5:30 race but actually worked out just about right. I had purchased the race retreat package since it is my birthday weekend and all. It really makes the waiting so much nicer. Basically, it is a heated tent with food, drink, chairs and other amenities to make the waiting a little easier. I hung out for about 45 minutes in the kiddie corner on a bean bag chair watching Toy Story 3.

At around 4:00, they began urging people to make their way to the start. The start line is a half mile walk from the staging area so by the time I dropped my bag off with bag check, made the walk and waited in line at the port-o-lets, I only had a 30 minute wait in the corral. It was about 45 degrees or so at the start so it was a little chilly standing there waiting but once we got going, it was perfect. I never felt hot at any time during the race. It truly was the perfect running temperature. As I was waiting, I started to lose the "I really just need to lay down and sleep" feeling and started to feel the excitement of the day. Amazing how listening to the Macarena and Country Joe and other assorted dance tunes a few too many times will do that to you.

We crossed the start line a little after 5:30. Although I brought my camera, the idea was to stick to my race plan and not make a zillion picture stops. That idea did not last very long :) I felt amazingly good throughout most of the race. There are so many water stops, bands, photo ops, and other things to look at along the way that you are constantly distracted from the task at hand. I believe there is literally something every half mile.

At mile 19, I got a little nervous because that is where I remembered bonking out my first time at Disney. I flew by it no problem. At mile 21, I passed Jeff Galloway, his wife and another person they were running with that day. It was Jeff's 18th Disney marathon. He was off on the side of the road doing his run/walk in the grass. I was kind of amused because his wife seemed to be running the program (so to speak). From what I could tell, they were running 30 seconds, walking 30 seconds. His wife was slightly behind them yelling, "run" or "walk" when the time came. The guy they were with (maybe it was someone he was coaching?) seemed to be struggling a bit as I heard Jeff giving him a little encouragement. I sort of expected Jeff to be leading a group but I guess he just kind of does his own thing and enjoys the race. I don't think anyone around me even recognized him.

My legs started to feel tight around mile 22 but even then it was not bad. I was kind of surprised at how good I felt. Somewhere after mile 24 I forgot what mile I was on. I couldn't remember if I had seen the mile 24 marker or not but was hoping I had just missed it. As we rounded the last corner in Epcot leading up to the finish, the feeling of accomplishment really hit me. At 26.1, I started to hyperventilate with excitement and had to walk for a second to get a breath. It was loud like an ashmatic gasping for breath. I was halfway expecting that to happen since I had experienced it at the finish of my first triathlon and my first half marathon. I guess I just get so excited. Who knows... anyhow, quick stop to breathe and I am on my way past the gospel choir singing rock tunes and past the bleachers full of cheering spectators to the finish. Such a fun race, such an amazing accomplishment. Who knew I had that in me? ha ha...

As soon as I got done, I took a quick shower and loaded up the car to come home. My original plan was to enjoy the Magic Kingdom today since we got a free ticket for Monday but decided to try and beat the weather home. I got home an hour before the snow started. I think I made a good call. It would have been rough going getting home later today. Most everything is closed today and might be tomorrow as well. I guess I got my birthday snow I wanted :)

In closing, more pics of the day. Are you sick of looking at my vacation photos yet? Remember how I said I wasn't going to take pics yesterday? Well... I did pass up more than a few photo ops but couldn't resist others.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I killed it...

or maybe it killed me. ha ha... This is BY FAR my favorite pic of the day. I think it was around mile 20. Clearly I am out of my mind to be lying in dirt for a photo op. I was brushing dirt off my backside for the next few miles!

More to come tomorrow, Right now, I am rushing home to avoid SNOWJAM 2011 (in Atlanta, we like to name our snow storms since they are infrequent and always shut down the city). I love it when it snows on my birthday so want to be home to see it (that and avoid getting stuck somewhere on the road since we don't deal with snow very well here in the south).

The short version of the race - SO MUCH FUN, tired legs and blisters the size of my pumpkin sized head. LOVED IT!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Halfway there....

Race number two is in the books. After arriving at the start around 3 AM for the early start time and to avoid traffic, I could definitely use a nap but still feel strong for tomorrow's race. If you missed the 5k recap, check it out here. Yes, I wore the same skirt two days in a row - don't judge. :)

As it turned out, I didn't need to be too disappointed about missing my pic with Buzz & Woody yesterday as I did one better and got a picture with them and the rest of the gang today.

I finished off yesterday by going to hear Jeff Galloway speak at the expo. He was a very interesting speaker and has a lot of experience on which to base his program. It seems counterintuitive that taking walk breaks would make you faster but he has lots of case studies in his students to back it up. He said he has gone 32 years without a running injury since he switched to a run-walk program. WOW.

Shortly after hearing Jeff speak, I made my way back to hotel to settle in for a 2:00 AM wake up call. It is so odd going to bed at 6:00 in the evening and even odder to set an alarm for 2 AM. That is the way I roll here at Disney. The race itself starts at 5:30 but you have to leave time for traffic and about a half mile or so walk to the start line from the parking/bag check area.

Today's race was jam packed with people. I believe the offical number was 27,000 or so and was wall to wall people from start to finish. It wasn't really an issue for me as I wasn't running for time but can see where it would be challenging if you came to this race with a PR in mind.

This was the first time I have run the half at Disney. It is more or less an out and back from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom. There are plenty of stretches of highway running (read no bands or cheering crowds) but nothing you shouldn't be used to from your training runs. There are plenty of spots with cheering volunteers, family members and even Disney employees. As far as water stops, they are plentiful and often with a Clif gel shot station around mile 8.

For the first 5 miles you make your way to the Magic Kingdom. NOTHING is more exciting than turning that corner onto Main Street. Tons of spectators, Disney characters and the like. Fantastic! Once you head out of the MK, you are essentially headed back to Epcot. I was suprised that the half barely goes into Epcot at all, guess the full running tour of Epcot is a bonus for doing the full. :) All in all, Disney is my favorite race of all time. Yes, it is expensive. Yes, it is crowded. Yes, it is crazy fun!

If you go bring your camera as there are tons of photo ops. One more race to go... the big dance is tomorrow!

Friday, January 7, 2011

To Infinity and Beyond...

This time yesterday I was winding my way to Florida from Atlanta. I headed straight to the expo after 7 hours of driving. Packet pick up was a breeze! I remember standing in line for quite a bit last time around so maybe I just got there at a good time. I literally walked right up, picked up my various race numbers and was done.

I think I might be a bit jaded with expos because I have seen so many of them at this point and usually see the same vendors from race to race. I did pick up a few GU gels (was hoping I could find the new cherry lime but no such luck - I had go with my other fave, pineapple roctane). I also stopped by the Ifitness booth. The guys at Ifitness ran a contest on twitter this week and I won a free race belt. Hooray! I had heard of their belts but never had really looked at them up close before.

Prior to today, I had used the spibelt which worked good for me but in all honesty does bounce around a bit by the time you load it up with gels. In trying out the Ifitness belt, I found that it did not bounce nearly as much (really doesn't seem to bounce at all) and has these cool tabs for gel storage. You put the gel in the tab and pull them out as needed. You don't need to zip and unzip a pouch to pull out your gel, you just reach down, pull it out and gel up. The belt stores up to 6 gels in the tabs. So easy. I am planning on running the half with it tomorrow. A HUGE THANK YOU to Ifitness for the belt!

On to the 5k... Disney loves to start their races early in order to get eveyrone through the parks before they open. Today started at 7:00 (all runners had to be there by 6:15), the next 2 races start at 5:40. Yikes. I got there insanely early and sat in the comfort of my car for a bit before braving the 45 degree weather. Buzz Lightyear and Woody were there for photo ops. I soooooo wanted a picture but could not stand in line. I kid you not, there were easily 200 people in line. This pic will have to do.

I loved this race. It was so relaxed. There was no timing, no results, no pressure. Considering it was only 3 miles, three were quite a few character photo ops. A few of them were D listers but whatever... My highlight was finishing right behind Jeff Galloway and family. Just like that, race number one is done. Time for some napping to get ready for the half marathon tomorrow :)