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!


Saturday, October 26, 2013

The unexpected PR...

Nothing like a PR to make you want to dust off the blog and tell the world.  :)

PRs are a funny thing.  Sometimes when you really, REALLY want one they are nowhere to be found.  Other times, there you are minding your own business and BOOM, there it is - an effortless PR.  I mean, I am sure there are things that helped out the situation but today wasn't one of those days where I had thoughts of a PR in my head.  ...and isn't that the best way to PR?  No expectations or pressure, you just get it done.

Here is how it went down:

This weekend I have a couple of races on the schedule.  Technically, the events are "races" but I penciled them in more as a way to get in training runs with other people and at locations other than my usual spot, Stone Mountain.  The mileage for both basically lined up with my training plan so there you have it - a supported run with a little SWAG and running buddies.

In the last 24 hours, the weather in Atlanta has gotten a little chilly.  Like 33 degrees at race time chilly.  Luckily the race was small so I could hang out in the car and stay warm until a few minutes before the start.  Even with that, by the time the race started I was sufficiently chilled to the bone.  My hands were ice (it didn't even occur to me to bring gloves) and my legs didn't feel like they were moving at all.  Within the first mile I remember thinking that my legs felt like they were going nowhere and I was convinced I was going slower than my normal pace (which is typically anywhere from 9:15 to 10:00 most days).  I glanced at my pace and it read 8:15.  Weird.  I didn't feel like I was going fast, it just felt comfortable.   A little later, I glanced down again and the lap pace kept going down.  At that point it was surreal but I was going with it.  

In my head I was thinking that I really needed to slow down because this was supposed to be an easy run according to the training plan.  I mentioned the race was small, right?  The thing is as I was going along, I was passing people and no one was passing me (crazy, right?).  Fit people.  Runner types.  This never happens.  I finally passed the last guy in my little cluster and I could see one other guy off in the distance.  From the beginning, I never really saw anyone ahead of him so I was thinking I must be near the front of this thing.  (A place I have NEVER been before and probably never will be again, trust me on this one).  I really couldn't convince myself to slow down to the "easy" run pace on the schedule.  This was too good of a chance for a PR!  (...and that my friends is why using races for training runs can be a bad idea - it is too hard to reel it in if you happen to be having a stellar day...)

At that point, my lap pace was around 8:03 and we were at mile 4.  I really couldn't believe I was hanging onto the pace - it was a decently hilly course too.  Around mile 5, we merged in with the people doing the 5k and I just thought I would try to hang on for 2 more miles.  I kept thinking this train was bound to shut down any minute.

The pace kept going down and I eventually got somewhere around 7:52 min miles which is crazy for me!  We rounded the corner into the last 1/2 mile and I was closing in on the guy in front of me.  We had a couple of hills to go up leading to the finish and that was the first time I really felt like I was ready to stop running.  My Garmin had 50:04 for 6.35 miles - I kept looking at the pace but never glanced at the overall time.  Had I realized I was that close to sub-50 I would have tried to kick it in gear a little more at the end.  Oh well, I am pretty happy with the result today!  My last PR was from 2009 and 52:10 so today was a solid improvement.

After it was over, one of the men I had passed came over and thanked me for pacing him, he said he was just using my pace to help pull him along.  Love that.  I ended up 3rd Overall Female which NEVER happens.  Even in the small races, I do good to grab a 3rd place age group after they pull out the 3 women who won the masters.  Needless to say that was pretty exciting!  The winner received free Chick-fil-a for a year so I clearly need to work on my skills for next year - ha ha!  

Seriously though, today was one of those days where it just felt good from beginning to end and makes me think maybe I haven't been pushing myself enough to get out of that comfort zone and just go for it.  The cold weather definitely helped the pace but am sure a lot of it was me just giving a little more than usual.  Hmmm.   Things to ponder for next time!


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ending my triathlon season with a fizzle...

I had grand plans.  I was going to parlay my fitness and preparation from IM Louisville into a 70.3 at Anderson this weekend.  Anderson is actually the USAT Long Course Championships for which I had qualified at Augusta and B2B last year.  One of my goals for B2B was to come in under the qualification time standard and I managed to pull that off so was pretty stoked!  At that time, my A goal for 2013 became the 70.3 at Anderson.  That A goal last right up until IM Louisville came in and relegated Anderson to a B race.

In my mind I thought I would take a week off and ease back into a light schedule and gradually ramp it up to make sure I was ready when race day rolled around in Anderson.  The funny thing is about ten days ago I lost all motivation.  I can't really put my finger on the how or the why.  OK, maybe I can figure out the why (I was tired ...) but that hasn't really stopped me before.  I am the Queen of Powering Through and Sticking to the Plan.  That is my official title.

I had been swimming, biking and running but 10 days ago I hit the wall of de-motivation.

Two weekends ago, I had a great 45 mile charity ride with friends followed by a 10 mile run the next day.  I have been really having a great time in my masters swim group.  I found a fantastic new spin studio that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE and yet somehow shortly thereafter I smacked my head on the wall of de-motivation.

Last weekend, I had registered for a century ride on Saturday (I was going to do the 50 miler) and a half marathon on Sunday.  Would you believe I drove one hour across town, checked into the ride, readied my bike and then decided I just didn't want to ride so packed it all up and went home.  Really.  The next day for the 13.1,  I set the alarm extra early to get up and go and when the time came, I set the alarm for a more reasonable hour thinking I would go do the miles on my own and went back to sleep.  I got up later when the alarm went off at the reasonable hour, got dressed, drove to Stone Mountain, ran one mile turned around and walked back to the car.  Really.  Who does this?

I am no expert but am thinking all that added up to someone who needed to take a break.  Part of me wanted to do the Anderson race but a larger part of me could not get enthused about it.  In the end, I figured if I was having that much trouble deciding I must not really want to do the race all that much.  I cancelled my hotel reservation for Anderson and determined to take an easy week this week. My A race became my B race and then became my non-existent race.  ...and just like that I guess my triathlon season has come to an end.  I have plenty of running on tap for the Fall and Winter as I get ready for the Dopey but for now am kicking back, enjoying a little more tennis than usual and maybe baking these fabulous looking treats.  (mmmmm Mini Pumpkin Sticky Buns)  :)


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Perspire to Inspire - the one in which I talk to Bart Yasso...

A week or so ago, I got an e-mail asking me if I would be interested in interviewing Bart Yasso, Runner's World Chief Running Officer.   Exactly.  Out of all the runners in the blogosphere, I could only wonder how I got to be so lucky to talk to the man who came up with the Yasso 800s.  I didn't jump at the chance right off though.  Being the shy person that I am I wasn't sure if I would be able to do it.  I emailed a few friends and asked them if they had received a similar email thinking maybe this was some kind of dial in thing and I would be one of many people on the phone.  No, they didn't receive such an email but, like me, thought it was crazy exciting and told me they would help me come up with questions.  I pushed aside my nerves, emailed back and said I would love to chat with Bart!  A little while later, I was sent his phone number and told to call him anytime on Monday.  A one on one chat.  A shy person's nightmare!  It took me until late Monday afternoon to work up the nerve to dial his number but once I did the nervousness went away and we just had a nice chat about running and life in general.

I don't know if you were aware but September is national recovery month.  (yeah, I didn't know either...).  Bart did a short video as part of the Perspire to Inspire campaign sharing how running saved his life.  He said a lot of people tend to think that he was a runner in college but the reality is he found running as a way to turn his life around and overcome drug and alcohol problems in his 20s.  Running became his career and has afforded him the opportunity to run on every continent and an untold number of races.  He doesn't run quite as much anymore but spends 45 weekends a year on the road inspiring other runners in the sport.  If you haven't read his book, My Life on the Run, I highly recommend it.  It really is great read and will keep you fascinated from start to finish.

The Perspire to Inspire campaign is a part of Run Well which has been raising money for addiction recovery since 2008 under the leadership of Linda Quirk, an accomplished runner and triathlete in her own right.  She started this organization due to a personal connection with addiction as a way to help others.  I encourage you to check our their website to read more about this organization.  You also will want to check out the video below to learn how you can win a trip to a race of your choice along with some other pretty fabulous prizes.  Put on your best video face and tell them how you have inspired others to take steps toward a healthy life - and others can just mean yourself :)   The contest ends on 09/30/13.    

As I was talking to Bart, I could only imagine that he has been asked all of these questions at least a million times or more.  He was so nice and said even though he does get asked certain things all the time he tries to come up with something a little different in the way of response every time.  I told him this was my first interview ever (I like to start out big...) and we went from there.  

Of course we HAD to talk about the Yasso 800s.  The first thing he said was that he did not name them that, it was Amby Burfoot, the Editor at Runner's World.  He said he would never be so full of himself to do it but Amby came up with it when the issue debuting the concept of the 800s was published.  Of course now, 20 years later, he said it is pretty cool to have something like that named after you.  He said the correlation between 800 times and marathon times was something he just noticed as he was preparing for his own marathons back then and it seems to work for a lot of people.  The short explanation of the Yasso 800s is that if you can do 10 x 800s at 4:00 you should be able to pull off a 4:00 marathon.  (or 3:30 minutes for a 3:30 marathon, etc.).  Here is a great video of the man himself explaining the workout.  


I asked Bart if the 800s would also predict half marathon times thinking maybe you would do 5 x 800s.  He said you actually would do 20 x 400s with a 200m recovery jog in between for a half marathon.  He said he likes to keep the "hard stuff" to somewhere around five miles.  If you have trouble keeping up with how many you have done, he suggests putting some stones at the end of each lap and kick one to side as you complete it to help keep count.  Just make sure your friends don't try to mess with you and move your stones.  :)

Bart wasn't always all running all the time.  Did you know he has done five iron man competitions and has ridden his bike across the country unsupported (TWICE!) in addition to all of his legendary running?  Why yes, he has.  He comes across as really humble.  I mean, he has done so many races that he has lost count, he has track workouts named after him and is in the Running USA Hall of Champions yet he seems so laid back about the whole thing.  I kind of love that about him.  

He seems truly devoted to helping runners excel in the sport and is quick to tell you that he loves his job and meeting people at the running expos he attends most every weekend.  I asked him what his advice would be to someone just starting out fresh off the couch.  He said he suggests setting a time goal.  Run for five minutes then gradually work up to 10, 15, etc.  Don't start out too quickly just let the sport come too you.  Sounds like good advice to me!  I think most of us can remember when we couldn't string together more than a quarter mile, if that.  

We also talked about shoe wear which is one of those things that always seems like a mystery to me.  He doesn't recommend any particular brand of shoe but recommends that you find what works for you whether that be hokas, sauconys, mizunos, whatever.  So many of the running stores can help you find a great fit these days, that is a great place to start.  As far as wear, he says you can't tell by looking at the tread because what really wears down is the midsole or cushioning in the shoe.  It is more of a situation of feel.  You start to have runs that cause your feet or legs to hurt (more than usual) which could be a sign that it is time for new shoes.  If you want to go by mileage, he says they should last somewhere around 400 miles. 

...And lastly, we talked about the Dopey Challenge at Disney in January.  Ironically, I am following his plan for training which kicks off next week.  The Dopey is a 5k on Thursday, 10K on Friday, 13.1 on Saturday and 26.2 on Sunday.  We talked strategy for getting from Thursday to Sunday without wrecking your chances for finishing on Sunday.  He said to think of the weekend as a negative split.  All of the races leading into Sunday should be training runs, take it easy and save it for the marathon on Sunday.  He also said don't be a tourist and go walking around the parks until after the race on Sunday.  So for all you Dopey racers, Park yourselves after every race that week until the big dance is over on Sunday then you can live it up at Disney World!  

Like I said, I have no idea how I was chosen to talk to Bart but am so appreciative of the opportunity.  He was so nice to talk to and now I am feeling inspired and ready to take on my Dopey training!  I think I will just store his number in my contacts in case I need a consult on running in the future ;)     Please make sure you check out the RunWell page and contest I mentioned above.  Your short video could win you a BIG prize!  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Medals and Memories...

The thing about taking CR with me to races is that he is super competitive.  He may not know about triathlon as such but he knows a thing or two about competing.  He is all about the competitive advantage.  At the IM expo, he was trying to get me to buy all sorts of gadgets from a bright pink aero helmet (not my style and thankfully not large enough for my head...) to a QR Illicito (yes, that was pretty tempting but I am also pretty sure CR had no idea how much that one would have cost).  It is actually kind of sweet, him shopping for me in this way.  In the end we settled on one thing that wasn't competitive in nature but would display the spoils of competition.  I had hoped to win one when one of you bloggers had another giveaway but after entering the giveaways for five years and not having one show up on my door, it felt like time to get a hangar for my medals.

The hangers available had anywhere from 5 to 10 pegs.  I opted for the large one not really knowing how many medals I had but figured I could double up.  I got home and pulled the medals out of the nightstand drawer.  (You see why I needed a hangar.  Finish the race, receive the medal, deposit it in the nightstand.  Sad really.)  Turns out there were a lot of them...   42 in all.  Clearly I have done a lot more racing over the last five-ish years than I remembered!

I think that is 15 half marathons, 8 full marathons, three 70.3s, three 140.6s and a handful of other races.  

As I pulled the medals out and looked at them, the memories of each one instantly came back.  As if I were looking at a photo album.  Some of the highlights:

The half marathon I ran in the snow.  Yes, it was in Georgia where we get snow one day out of the year. 

My first marathon on my 40th birthday.  Took longer than expected but loved almost every minute of it :)

The Iron distance medals.  

The hardest half iron evah.  Truly earned this one.

My first half marathon.  Can still remembering going through the finish line maze hyperventilating from excitement.  

As the medal says, my first tri.  I remember pulling in from the bike leg SO VERY EXCITED that I got it done.  The bike, that is...  considering I spent almost no time riding before the race.  CR also ever the competitive one was yelling at me to pass people as I was 100 feet from the finish.  LOL.  I did get 2nd in my AG for that one.  Maybe I needed the push :)

The unofficial Dopey!  AKA the Goofy Challenge + a 5k.  Truly exhausting simply because you have to get up so very early each morning to be at the start.  Mostly I just remember standing at the start on the final day barely able to keep my eyes open.  So proud to finish!

My Marathon PR!

Races run with friends!  The eleven with Summer was also memorable because all of the bike racks collapsed with the bikes on them causing some pre-race excitement!  I did the relay with Colleen.  Soooo very cold but loved having that experience!

The marathon in which I learned about Jeff Galloway.  After falling apart around mile 14, I came home and discovered a little thing called the run/walk which has been oh so very helpful to me ever since :)  Really great marathon if you are looking for a low key but well run event.

My second tri and the one which caused me to take a break from tris from 2008 until 2010.  It also showed me that I really needed to work on my bike skillz.   Was so happy to see CR at the finish!

My first half!  Did this with my friend, Wendy.  So very proud to finish.  Five weeks later I did my first iron distance.

...  and those are just a few of the medals that will be going on the new medal hanger.  Aren't you glad I didn't go through all 42 of them with you?  Now, we'll just have to see how long it takes me to actually hang it on the wall!  

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Post-IM Report...

So here we are four days post-IM, it seems like I just crossed the line 12 hours ago.  Where did the last four days go?  The main questions I have been asked over the course of the last four days are 'how do you feel' and 'how did the Ironman brand compare to B2B'.

How do I feel....  Hmmm.  Muscle wise, I feel great!  I had a little soreness the first day or two but just like a hard workout, nothing too crazy at all.  It is actually kind of odd because you would expect to feel pain in every square inch of your body.  To be honest, I feel more sore after a hard crossfit workout.  

That is not to say that I feel 100%...

The lingering effects of dehydration stayed with me for at least 48 hours.  I had a headache for at least two days which was compounded by the head cold or sinus issue I seemed to have picked up at some point during the weekend.  Today, I finally feel like that is working its way out.  Hooray!    

The other weird after-effect is that my skin is simultaneously broken out like a teenager and dry as the Sahara desert.  Dry as in peeling to the point at which only Aquaphor on your face seems to help.  I am a sight to behold.  Trust me on that one.  ICK.

 So let's talk about the ironman brand versus the "non" ironman brand 140.6...

In the end, which type of race you choose is more about personal preference than anything else.  What I like and the things that I think are important in a race probably aren't the same as anyone else.  Obviously, if you are about getting to Kona, the only way to do that is through Ironman.  If you are more about a smaller race size, you might look to one of the off brands.  (IM LOU had 3000 athletes compared to 835 at B2B - I think Rev3 has around 400 at Cedar Point).  The short answer is that I preferred B2B over IM LOU.  I really just prefer a smaller race with fewer athletes.  It just feels a little more personal.  Keep in mind, I am not about Kona.  I like to have a solid finish time but am more about finishing the race and enjoying it than anything else.  

With that said...   here are some of the ins and outs of each if you are interested.  

Ironman Lou just felt big to me.  Lots of athletes, lots of walking to get from one place to the other, and lots of volunteers.  For whatever reason, the main difference that sticks out in my head about IM LOU is how organized the volunteers seemed to be.  They were well trained somehow even though you know they just showed up for their shift without training like any other volunteer gig.  They seemed to know what you wanted (i.e. they took my bike at special needs and set it up against a random pole then pointed me to a bit of shade under a tent).     

I don't remember B2B feeling like they had a lack of volunteers but they weren't as hands on as IM LOU.  Not to say that they weren't fantastic and helpful - they were - but the ones at IM are just a little more hands on.  While the volunteers at B2B might not have been helping people change in the transition tent, I passed plenty of stretches of road where the volunteers were cheering us on as though we were winning the race which in my book is better than helping me tie my shoes in transition :)    

Expo and Swag:
Let's face it, we all know Ironman is a marketing machine.  Tons of gear to choose buy.  Not a whole lot of swag included as part of the race entry considering the entry fee.  We received a backpack, finishers hat, shirt and medal.  The expo is surprisingly small (as compared to the kind of expos you see at a marathon - not a huge deal for me but interesting that there aren't more vendors).

B2B had an equally small (and maybe slightly smaller) expo as IM.  The race gear available for sale the first year was a little disappointing.  Last year, they had a MUCH better selection although the variety was nothing quite like IM.  Swag that came with the race the first year was a beach towel, socks, 2 shirts and a medal.  Last year was 2 shirts, drawstring bag, medal and a cap.

Aid Stations:
On the bike, I would say that IM might have had more stations.  I can't remember the exact mileage numbers but they seemed to be slightly closer together than those of B2B.  Plenty of water, perform, bananas, ice, etc.  On the run, they had aid stations about every mile and similar offerings as the bike (with the addition of coke, oranges/grapes and chicken broth).  

The thing that I liked about the B2B aid stations was that they weren't quite as frenzied (going along with the theme of preferring a smaller race).  I didn't feel like I was going to get knocked over on the bike getting in and out of there.  If I needed salt tabs, sunscreen, whatever, I could stop and it was there.  On the run, the aid stations are stocked almost like a century ride.  A little bit of everything,  I think they must have aid station awards because the aid stations are always decked out and enthusiastic!  Just felt like more of a celebration on the run with B2B.

More people in a race equals more fans at the finish.  It is that simple.  IM LOU was pretty much rocking from one end of the chute to the other.  It was pretty awesome.  

B2B made a HUGE improvement last year by moving the finish line downtown as opposed to out by the battleship.  When I was running towards the finish there were tons of people cheering at the various bars lining that road and down the finishers chute.  Not quite as many as in Louisville but enough to make it pretty special and exciting.  

Like I said, we all prefer different things.  I am giving the tip of the scale to B2B.  I genuinely feel like they are glad I am at their race.  I think they do a good job of listening to the racers and making little tweaks each year to keep improving.  I just really love the small town feel of it.  It is one of those races that I wouldn't mind doing time and time again (obviously).  Don't get me wrong, IM LOU was great in its own right.  They put on a great race and had wonderful volunteers but if I had to choose one or the other, I would have to say I would go with the smaller race.

.... and there you have it folks.  These are my opinions based on my experience - I am sure there are plenty of people out there who will think I am insane.  :)    Hope you all have an awesome weekend!



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

IM Louisville The Race...

You know how this goes.  It was a long race.  It will be a long re-cap.  VERY long.  You have been warned....   If you just want to skim the pictures, the short version of the story is that CR and I had a good trip and I finished the race but I was pretty disappointed with my time.  The end.

For those of you who want more detail, read on...

CR and I drove up to Louisville Thursday morning.  I wanted to get checked in to the race Thursday afternoon to avoid the crowds on Friday.  We had a nice scenic drive making a few stops along the way.  One of which was the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green.  CR admired all the lovely cars and we went on our way making it to Louisville around 3:30 or so to get checked in.

As we were unloading the bike, CR noticed that the rear wheel seemed to be off kilter as is rubbing against the frame (it had apparently been off kilter since I had the new tires put on and the tune up done).  We had some discussion of whether the mechanic should look at it or not.  I knew I had ridden at least 100+ miles with it on that way so wasn't all that concerned and was really leaning towards not changing anything thinking that if the guy here made it worse somehow, then I am in the middle of the race course with an issue.  CR was pretty insistent that he wanted it to be fixed so he took it to the mechanic at the expo who not only fixed the wheel but noticed that the rear brakes were sticking and the cable needed replacing.  (I mentioned I just got this thing tuned up, right...  how they didn't notice a the cable I don't know.  I wish I could remember the word the guy used, not rotting but the cable was doing something along those lines).  Anyhow, he was so very helpful and I was glad we got it fixed.  (I was also hoping it might make me faster since I wasn't riding around with the brakes on anymore).  Ha ha.

Most locals loved us.  Some did not.

Friday morning we got in the truck and rode the bike course.  Some of the locals in Louisville have bike rides on the course throughout the summer but I never made it up for one of those rides.  I just felt it was a little too far and I was thinking that I had not pre-ridden B2B so I would just do the next best thing and read race reports as well as the Troy Jacobsen video.  I knew going in the course was hilly and honestly it seems fairly similar to the riding in and around GA except that the hills might have been just a little more frequent.  Post race, my Garmin had the ride at 3050 feet of climbing.  Riding the course in the car confirmed that it was going to be a challenging ride.  There is some flat leading into and out of the hilly sections but they are covered up with cracks in the road every 10 feet that jar your bones.  Like I said...  a challenge.  

On our way back, we stopped to check out the swim start.

After assembling all the various swim, bike and run bags we headed over to meet my friend Keith who was also racing for the athlete dinner and meeting.  CR and I had been interviewed for the video so we were quite excited to see we didn't end up on the cutting room floor :)  

Saturday morning was a quick dip in the Ohio River for swim practice and then back to the hotel for breakfast.  Everyone talked about how murky the water was - I didn't think it was any worse than some of the lakes I swim in around here.  You can't see in front of you, but that is pretty much what I am used to for an OWS.  Water temp was 81 but really didn't feel like I was overheating.  Felt pretty comfortable temperature wise.
Keith getting last minute FB updates before the swim

Post-breakfast we did some last minute transition bag packing and headed over to drop off my bike.

Me and my volunteer escort

We got lunch at Smashburger (delicious!) and then went to the finish line to practice what now has been dubbed "my signature spirit fingers pose"  :)

Went to bed so very early on Saturday night but could not sleep.  It felt a lot like a Disney race, having to get up at 3 AM to be downstairs by 4 AM...   Finally got to sleep around 9 or so and then woke up around 2:30.  Good enough....

Met Keith downstairs at 4 AM - if that sounds early, it is!  Transition opens at 4:45 but then there is a mile walk from transition to the swim start AND the real trick is that IM LOU is a time trial start so you start in the order you get in line.  The clock starts with the first swimmer so the further back in line you are, the less time you have for your race as the cutoff is midnight for everyone.  A little different than the other IM races - if I had to guess, it seems like they might do it that way because the area where you start is a little narrow.  I can't imagine a mass start or even large waves of folks trying to get through that first section.

These are the people waiting to get into transition at 4:30 AM or so...

Keith and I were about a third of the way back by the time we got there and ended up hitting the water at 7:08 (I know this because of the picture I lifted from Mari's FB page ... thx Blue Iron Coaching!)  

The swim wasn't bad since we were all kind of spread apart to begin with.  I had the occasional kick or pull and a couple of times my goggles were knocked off but nothing too bad.  I liked that the swim went around an island and under two bridges as well as the numbered buoys.  All that helped me divide the swim up in my mind.  Instead of not really knowing how far I had to go, I just counted down the buoys (there were 9 yellow and 9 orange).  I also knew that to the end of the island and the turn around was 1/3 of the way and then another 1/3 or so to the first bridge then I was pretty much headed home from there.  I felt like I did a decent job of sighting.  I noticed some people hung closer to the shore than I did but my plan was to swim down the buoy line and that worked well for me.  I was pretty happy with my swim time.  Swam it hard enough but left plenty in the tank for the rest of the day.

Decent run from the swim out to transition.  Grabbed my transition bag and headed in to change.  I tried to move quickly but was more concerned with being comfortable than being fast.  As I got to my bike I was surprised that there were so many bikes still on the racks.  Guess I was further up in the swim line than I thought!

Took off on the bike and felt pretty good.  I was maintaining a decent speed at that point but knew I wanted to just sort of take it easy (ish) until I got to the last 30 miles.  That was the plan anyhow.  The first bit is flat and then you head into the hills and they keep coming and coming.  There is one little out and back section that was the hilliest of them all - both up and down but even with the screaming downhill, I was glad we only had to do that section once.  After the out and back we headed to the loop that passes through LaGrange where a lot of the spectators come to cheer.  It really is a great pick me up after all that climbing and sun blazing down on you.  I saw Colleen and Tom!  On the second loop I was excited to see CR!  The original plan was that he wouldn't come out there but then he was so upset that he missed seeing me at the swim he decided to try and find me on the bike course.  So sweet....  (He was at swim out and was apparently just missed seeing me, I didn't see him either.  There were so many people...).

I don't know what was going on in my head on the bike but I just was not having a good time.  I remember thinking once "this is not fun".  I was hot and I was being passed by soooooo many people which was truly discouraging.  I would see people and think 'I am going so slow' and then have to remind myself that these people riding around me basically started at the same time I did so maybe I should cut myself some slack.  I just did my best to try and keep my head in the game and keep going.  I loaded up with two bottles at every station in fear of dehydration, kept eating according to plan and watched the miles tick by.  They were ticking a little slowly for my taste but they were ticking by nonetheless ...  As I got to special needs, I took a break for a few minutes (the only time I got off the bike all day).  I stood under a tent, ate one bite of a peanut butter sandwich and couldn't choke it down.  I ate some pringles but they weren't tasting great either.  Shortly after that, even the thought of water didn't sound good even though I kept taking it in along with a salt tab every 30 minutes.  I knew something was going on either with my stomach or dehydration but wasn't sure which thing.

This will be TMI but also a funny story so ....   Somewhere after my last pass through Lagrange I was peeing on the bike (I know...  do what you got to do) and this guy comes by and passes me and says "good job".  I laughed for a minute because I wasn't sure if he was commenting on my peeing skillz or the riding.  LOL.   I will say I normally can only do that when it is raining because it is pretty gross but it was do it there or nowhere so there you have it.

And after 112 miles of riding, I was FINALLY pulling into transition and getting off the bike.  Thank the Lord!  Someone took my bike (hopefully not handling the pee seat) and I made my way to the changing tent.  I was thinking T2 would be quicker than T1 because I was only putting on my shoes and a hat but somehow it ended up being much longer.  I credit my walking from Bike In to the tent and then I taking my sweet time in the transition tent trying to cool down and assess the hydration/stomach situation.

I headed out of T2 and saw CR almost immediately (he was making all sorts of friends while cheering - I loved that he seemed to be having a good time).  I stopped to talk to him for a second and then moved on.  Immediately I knew this run was going to be different than B2B.  My legs did not feel as fresh as they had in those other two races.  This should be interesting.

I did a lot of walking that first mile, taking in a Huma gel and water.  I saw Colleen, Tom and Jennifer somewhere along in there so stopped to admire sweet little Caffrey and to meet Abigail for the first time (I can't believe she was sleeping through all the noise!).  After that I settled into my run a mile walk a minute plan.  I was running around 9:30 minute miles when I was running so was pretty much on my pace.  The only thing was I didn't feel like taking water.  I was trying to choke it down but felt like it might come right back up.  I took it in anyhow.  I was feeling slightly lightheaded but kept going.  My plan around mile 8 became run a half mile, walk a minute.  That worked until around mile 12.  The stomach/light headed weirdness was getting worse so I just kept doing a run/walk to special needs.  (at that point it was run a block, walk a block and those blocks seemed awfully long!).  Made it to special needs, reloaded my Huma gels into my pack, took a few pringles and moved on.  I went through special needs about the same time as this other woman who was power walking her way to the finish.  It was a fast clip so I just tried my best to keep up with her and keep moving.  I was feeling less lightheaded when I walked even though the feeling like I might throw up any second was still there.  We walked together for a while until I lost her at an aid station.  (I ended up seeing her later so she might have stopped for minute).

I started walking with another guy and we ended up walking the last 12 miles together.  Yes, the run / walk plan left me at special needs and  I ended up power walking for 13 miles.  We laughed as we passed the timing mats thinking "at least the people at home will know we aren't dead out here".  This was not the shining moment for either of us so it was nice to have someone to joke with for the 3+ hours it took to walk to the finish.  We even had a moment of pride when the people handing out the glow necklaces for the later finishers didn't make us take one because we were "almost done"  -  even though "almost done" at that point was easily another hour.  I was still feeling so light headed.  I assume it was dehydration but then kept thinking that I had been peeing not only on the bike but along the run course too.  Who knows.  My mouth was dry and I was taking in water, coke, and perform when I could.  I was sure I would need an IV when I got back to the finish.  Me and Brian (my walking BFF), started calculating what it would take to keep him under 15 hours so we picked up the walking pace and made that our goal.  I counted down the miles and eventually we were rounding the corner to 4th street and the finish line.  I told him I was going to start running once we got to McCrory's and I took off heading into the chute and the cheering crowd.  So much fun, even after all of that!

Me and BFF Brian

I got my medal and finisher swag and headed over to see CR's smiling face :)   I said goodbye and a big thanks to my IM LOU BFF, Brian, as it would have been torture to walk all that way without him.  I had planned on finishing between 13 and 14 hours so I was pretty disappointed that it took me so much longer but at the same time proud that I didn't quit.  I never did get that IV bag although I probably needed it.  I ended up drinking ridiculous amounts of water the next day and am just now starting to feel "normal" again.  So very strange and one of those things where you don't know what you could have done differently.  I mean, I drank two bottles of water with nuun every 15 miles on the bike along with 2 salt tabs every hour.  I would have thought that would have been enough.  Oh well....   I finished and I will just have to be proud of that and not pick it to death with the things that could have been done better or differently. I will have to save that PR performance for next time :)        

SWIM:  1:16
T1:  8:50
BIKE:  7:27
T2:  11:50
RUN:  5:58
Finish:  15:03

**  I have had a couple of people ask me how I would compare the IM branded race to a non-branded race since I have done them both now.  I will save that for another post in the next day or two.  I think I have given you enough for today (and then some...)