Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fresh Start

Well it's been a nice little vacation away from training, I have to admit. I spent last week in NJ, where it was brutally cold, and I had no interest in trying to go running on the ice, and then our friends from Jax came out for the weekend, so I indulged in far too many desserts - Grand Lux cookies, Sprinkles cupcakes, Paradise Bakery cookies, and the delicious pizza cookie from Oregano's... twice! Still, our bodies need some rest, and after about 10 days, and 10 extra lbs, I'm officially ready to start my 2009 Tri Season.

I'll be starting tomorrow with... (drum roll please!) a swim! That's right, it's time to get back into the pool. I am going to start by focusing on the Terry Laughlin drills - mainly to get my feel and lungs back, and then I'm going to start incorporating some of the drills from Lady Tiara's fabulous Swimming bible - which by the way, I will return eventually! This season, I'm going to be focusing on distance, rather than speed - though I plan on maintaining a more well-rounded swim approach this season, and incorporating more drills into my regular workouts. If I'm going to do Nathan's, I'm going to need to be able to swim 1500 straight like it's cake. I'll get there, I'm sure.

I'm excited about focusing on the bike again. Towards the end of last season, I was really peaking - at least for me. Every single ride (stationary or actual) was a personal best. I'd really like to work on my overall speed this season. I'm going to incorporate some fast sprints into my longer workouts (30 seconds every 5 minutes) and mix up both fast spins and heavy heavy gears. I'm positive I can take 30 seconds per mile off my time. I know it. I also want to ride more on my actual bike.

I'm fairly excited to run some shorter distances and see how it feels. I'm going to drop down to 3 miles, and start to re-build from there, but I think my stride is in a much better place. I've said it before, but the key to my success this summer is 1. Train outside at least once a week, and 2. Hills, hills, hills.

I can just feel that it's going to be a good season, and I'm looking forward to it! Next Stop - Tri for the Cure.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Race Report: PF Chang’s Rock n’ Roll ½ Marathon

Pre-Race: As we all know, I’ve been solely focused on the this race since the November timeframe. That kind of focus can be very good, and it can also be very bad. I believe though, that I had the right amount of focus for this race, I arrived at race weekend prepared and healthy. I couldn’t have asked more of myself than that. I felt ready.

The day before the race: Packet pick-up was on Saturday. Lady Tiara and I decided to take a test ride on the light rail to the Convention Center. I’m starting to realize that I’ve done a lot of “tests” for this race. Oh well, it keeps me sane.

We arrived at the Convention Center at about 9:30am, and I have to say that it was incredibly well organized and well signed. It was also heaven/hell for an impulse shopper like me. However, Coach Jenny had alluded to he need to shop during taper in her book, so I had pre-allocated $100 for shopping purposes. Having that freedom definitely made the expo fun!

We picked up our numbers (42738 – bad luck start, good lucky early on, so so towards the end, and a lucky finish) then got our race t-shirts (loved the design) and headed into the madness. I wound up purchasing a white dri-wick t-shirt for the race (which I elected not to wear at the last second, but I’m going to get tons of use out of it) a great pair of pink racing sunglasses, and finally got my subscription to Women’s Running locked on. With the subscription came a pink “Run Girl” t-shirt that I had wanted all along.

Once we walked around the expo, we went to the panel/speaker section, where we got to hear John “The Penguin” Bingham talk to us about race day and what it really should mean. Everything that he says resonates with me as common sense that I somehow can’t see until he states the fact. The two statements he made that stayed with me on race day were “The race is the celebration of your hard work and training” and “Get your money’s worth – stay on the course for as long as possible and enjoy every moment.”

After I returned from the expo I became temporarily insane as I started prepping for the race. I clearly switched into a nesting-like primal preparation mode. I got dressed as I was planning to the next morning to ensure that I hadn’t missed anything. Then I laid the clothes out carefully in the exact order that I planned to put them on in the morning (compression sock must go on before tights, that must go on before the skirt). I applied my bib to Team Tiara singlet, put my chip on my shoe. I methodically reviewed every item in my gear bag. I re-read every instruction, map, and spectator guide. I reiterated the spectator plan to J and Lilac until they were begging for me to stop. I cleaned out my car.

Thankfully, J took it all in stride and allowed me to be crazy without comment. He made pasta for lunch, knowing that my sensitive stomach would have trouble if I ate it for dinner. He made sure I went to bed at a reasonable hour. On race day morning he was up before I was to make sure that he wasn’t a cause of anxiety for me as I prepared, and panicked. He was incredibly supportive, and reminded me that even with all the hooplah, all I was doing was going for a run, and there was nothing to be afraid of. That stuck with me throughout the race.

Race Day: I woke up 30 minutes before my alarm went off and took it as a sign. I’d slept remarkably well – considering that I had trouble sleeping the night before my 10 mile training run. I was feeling unusually calm. I had breakfast, prepared second breakfast, and grabbed something for Lilac. I got dressed slowly. I finished my book. Lilac arrived, and J drove us to the lightrail, where we were meeting with Lady Tiara. It was fairly brisk – about 38 degrees. Everyone was bundled up. Lady Tiara met us at the station and then we were off!

I was still unusually calm. Everything was running smoothly, we were on time, and I had nothing to freak out about. Lady Tiara on the other hand broke everything she touched. Literally. She broke the zipper on her fanny pack, then broke her hand held water bottle, then the clasp to the fanny pack – and this all happened in a span of about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, the train was full of participants, and the mood was one of quiet anticipation. It was the calm before the storm. The train ride was only 20 minutes, and it was apparent that I was the only one who had researched WHEN we should get off the train, because I was the only one to get up for the stop. However, when everyone else saw my gear bag, they all got up and got out of the train as well.

We had to walk from the train to the starting area – and let the record show that it was just over a mile, so you’ve already got to start adding mileage to my legs. We found the portapotties, and good thig too, because the lines were pretty extensive. They were also already in very rough shape, even though we were very early to the race. There were clearly lots of nervous people, if you get my drift. Poor Lady Tiara was heaving. It took her about 10 minutes to recover from the experience. We dropped my gear bag off at Lucky UPS truck #8 and had a look around.

There was a band playing in the warm-up area singing “Sweet Home Arizona”. For some reason, that was the first tear-up moment for me. I have no idea why. I just went with it. We danced around as we walked around, and found coffee, ate a little something, and then walked over to the corral area.

We got into our corral (#22 – repetitive digits are lucky) with about 5 minutes before the start of the race. Lilac stood with us along the side of the corral until the start – after which she had to walk back to the train station, and took it to the mile 10/11 area, where she would meet us when we arrived about 2 ½ hours later. The race gun went off and….we waited. We waited, and waited and waited. Shockingly I was still incredibly calm. I was getting excited, but it was a mellow excited. We slowly walked (another mile) to the starting line, and after 42 additional minutes of waiting – we were off!

My goal for this race was to run strongly for the first six miles, get through the next four, and survive the last 3. We had been training a 6/4 run/walk segment, and I felt fairly comfortable with the length of running. Rather than looking at our watches the whole race (which for me spells disaster in the form of the Goon getting to me) we decided to start with a run two streetlights, walk one streetlight pattern. That went well, and we were both feeling good. I have to say that having people around us that were close to our level was very cool. For the entire race, I felt included and as capable as the people around me. There were also lost of people around and behind us throughout the entire race – something I rarely experience. I didn’t even worry about being last.

Mile 1 went by and we were excited. Mile 2 came and we were finally warmed up. I took off my jacket. Mile 3, and then 5K, where we saw the first set of portapotties. Since they weren’t as frequent as we had expected (and since it had been over 2 hours since the last stop) we decided to pause the race and wait in line. It was also a good time for me to try to get the first half of a granola bar down while we were waiting. Nine minutes later, we were on our way, and glad that we had stopped.

We got back on the race course with the intent of just doing 3 more 5k’s. Piece of cake, when you think about it like that, right?. Mile 4 came quickly, and before we knew it we were at mile 5 and had made up most of our potty stop. Mile 6 seemed a little further away, but part of that was due to the fact that the lights were spreading out as we left the downtown area. At some point between miles 6 and 7, there was an aid station with a woman who was handing out salt packets, and I “did the salt”- which was a very good move since we had been out in steadily increasing temperatures for over 1 ½ hours at this point. I also ate the rest of that first granola bar. I tried to take my water in slowly, to prevent stomach sloshing, but for some reason I was experiencing some high stomach cramps. They actually felt like muscle cramps. It was weird, but more mildly annoying than incapacitating. We walked more of mile 7, most of 8 – because my right foot had now gone Morton’s Nueroma Numb, and all of 9. The record should also show that miles 7- 10 were basically straight up hill and into the Papagos. The incline really started to tax our hips, so I was really glad that I had a short visit with Lilac to look forward to after the 10 mile mark. It kept me moving forward and feeling positive. I also didn’t want to hang back and worry her with the time, so we kept up a good walking pace. We hit mile 10, and from that point on, I was in unchartered waters – and I didn’t feel too scared. I slipped on a cup and fell at the aid station after mile 10, but nothing was hurt except my pride.

When I saw Lilac, she had a strangely familiar man by her side. J had decided to cut his own workout short, and met up with her to surprise me at mile 10 – rather than just at the finish line like I had planned. I was so excited to see them both that I was grinning wildly and waving like a fool. It was awesome. We spent maybe 5 minutes talking to them while I tried to down another ½ of a granola bar, and tried to get some feeling in my foot. For the record, this was a very bad idea. With some blood in my toes, the right foot burned like it was on fire through mile 11 and up to the mile 12 marker. It felt like someone was taking a blowtorch to my toe – similar to pins and needles, but really more like hammers and stakes being driven through. Still, our spirits were high, and we knew we had just a little bit longer to go. We walked all of mile 11, and decided in advance to run the second half (downhill portion) of the Mill Ave bridge, and then run from the beginning of the spectator area to the finish.

My second bout of tears came right at the mile 12 marker, as we were getting onto the Mill Ave bridge. I knew that I was going to finish, and it felt great. We survived the bridge, and walked to Sun Devil Stadium. Once we saw the photographers, we started to run, we hit mile 13, and kept on going to the finish line. I didn’t see J and Lilac, but I felt great!

Success! A dream day come true!

Lady Tiara and I had done it!! We went and collected our medals (which are totally cool, and very heavy) and went to get our post-race pictures. As I looked for J and Lilac, I picked up my gear bag, got out of my sneakers, and went to the family reunion area. Lady Tiara’s brother let me use his phone, and J and Lilac were still at the finish line waiting for me to come through – so we definitely missed each other. They came to the reunion area, where I was sprawled out and stretching on the grass, and we made the long and painful walk back to the train station. It really wasn’t that long, but it sure felt like it was. I hobbled along as best I could, and they waited patiently for me. We packed into the train like sardines, and made our way home.

Once home, I walked to the shower John Wayne style, freshened up, and went for my well-earned hot rock massage. The massage worked out most of the kinks, and most importantly removed a lot of the soreness, since I had to fly cross-country the next morning.

All in all, it was a fabulous race, and I’m so glad that I did it. 26. 2 sounds even more ridiculous, now that I’ve done half of it, but somehow I see long distance running in my future. J

Results: 2268 out of 2458 F 25 – 29 (there were 190 women in my AGE GROUP after me – WOO HOO!) 12240 out of 14046 Female (1,806 women AFTER me), and 19,797 out of 21,953 overall. I’m thrilled.

Chip Time: 3:31:34 – I couldn’t be happier, since that was everything that I had to give.
Splits: 43:26 5K, 1:35:15 10K, and 2:36:18 10.2 Mile

Friday, January 9, 2009

Double Digits, Single Digits…

My taper has begun. I successfully ran 10.16 miles on Tuesday! I’m sure at some point in the future I’ll look back at this column, and laugh that I think 10 miles is a big deal, but I have to tell you – it really was. To be honest, I actually couldn’t sleep on Monday night, I was so afraid that I wasn’t going to succeed. Even the little sleeping that I was able to do was full of dreams of falling off treadmills, breaking my leg, not being able to find the finish line at the race. I was actually kind of surprised at what a barrier it seemed to be.

In my rational thoughts, I thought I felt fairly confident – it was only .75 miles longer than I had done the previous week, and that previous run was almost a spiritual experience it was so positive. I knew that I had given my body adequate rest, in fact I’ve been treating myself with kid gloves in an effort to stay healthy, and injury free. But somehow I just didn’t feel really confident about it.

The goon wasn’t blasting me like normal, although I did consciously decide to run even though I had gotten no sleep because I figure I won’t sleep before the race either, so it was good practice. But he was being extra conniving… I was just hearing whispers of concerns, no real actual threats of failure, but quiet questioning. The thing that kept cropping up in my head was that I had rarely done 10 miles of running in a week. In fact, in the last year, only 16 weeks were over 10 miles, and 9 of those were barely 10. There were 5 during this training cycle. I’ve only hit 14 miles twice, and I’ve never reached 16. So doing 10 miles in a day was a bigger mental hurdle than I had anticipated.

This is where I would like to thank Dave Matthews Band for Live at the Red Rocks. This disc is about 2 ½ hours long (funny, so was my run), and has a patient, but underlying driving movement to it. It’s absolutely perfect for a long run. There are four separate chill moments, and one of them lasts almost 5 minutes. Every song is between 5 and 15 minutes, and they all make you feel good.

The run itself was not the spiritual cloud-9 experience that I had encountered with my 9 miler, but it was not nearly as bad as I expected. I hit double digits baby! You should have seen my grin. Random people were returning my smile as they walked by and I was finishing up. It was an accomplishment on it’s own.

I’m so glad that I made the decision to attempt a ½ marathon. I feel like my feelings on running have been changed forever. I will never be fast, but for the first time I feel like it’s a natural movement (at least for the first hour). I feel like I have strong legs, a strong core, that my arms are relaxed. It’s just absolutely not how I felt when I was “only” running 3 – 4 miles at a time. I never felt like I had my wind, never felt the “high”, and certainly never experienced such comfortable and easy running. Maybe distance will be my thing? Who knows. I only know that I’m grateful for the gifts that have come with this training. Who knew it could feel so good??!

And so now the countdown continues. As of right now we are 008:22:41:38 from race start. That’s single digits away from the most challenging thing I have ever asked my body to do. I am prepared, I will be well rested, I have the courage to start it, and the desire to finish. I hope that I can celebrate the success as much as I have enjoyed the training.

It is in the translation between intent and action where excellence resides. – Kristin Armstrong

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Years Plans

OK, by this point, if you’ve actually been reading my blogs, you’ll have learned that I’m a planner. I cannot help it. I’m always on time (10 minutes early). I have to think ahead. If I have no plan, I sleep for 15 hours, get up, read and take in breakfast, and then take an immediate 3 hour nap. I’m not lazy. I just need a reason to get up!

However, with the looming economic crisis, J’s obsession with saving (not complaining at all, but I do feel like I need to be responsible with my discretionary spending), the fact that I feel like I’m pushing Lilac’s very frugal luck every time I say we should do a race, and the fact that race fees have gone up substantially this year (maybe because they assume less people will participate?) I’ve decided to focus on training, and a couple of important races, rather than the *cough*15 races that I completed last year (11 road races, and 4 sprint triathlons). Overkill.

So, without further ado… my plans for 2009. It will be interesting to see how this all looks at the end of the year.

Goal 1: Stay Healthy
This supersedes all other goals listed here. If I do nothing but Goal #1, it will be a successful year. Stay Healthy means no injuries. It means no oreo/ruffle binges, and it means never doing anything today that will keep me from running tomorrow.

Goal 2: Complete a ½ Marathon – January 18th
I’m getting pretty excited about this! We’re less than 2 weeks away, I have one long run left (the 10 miler tomorrow), and after a short test run with Tiara (she is so sparkly, fun, and gosh, she runs Team Tiara) I’m sure we’re well matched, and that the race is going to be a great time!

My reason that my MAIN goal for this is to “complete” the ½, is because, as Tiara knows, race day can surely throw you a curve ball.
Sub goals:
- Ideal: complete race in 3:30
- Super: complete race in 3:20
- Amazing super secret it’s not really even here you haven’t seen this – complete race in anything under 3:20

Goal 3: Push hard at Tri for the Cure – April 19th
I’ve been here before, and I know what this race is about. Of the 30ish races I’ve done, this one was my favorite, so it definitely made the cut. Besides the fact that I practically cried through the whole run portion last year – not because I was exhausted, but because I couldn’t believe I was actually FINISHING A TRIATHLON – I’m ready to make the most of this race. It happens before the temperatures get out of control, the swim is ideal in a 50 meter pool, one at a time. It’s super positive, and the women cheer each other on. I want to feel great when I finish this race and have it be well within my abilities. So beginning on January 24th, this will be my main training focus.
Sub goals:
- Swim in under 10 mins – and finish smooth and strong
- Bike in under 35 mins – riding my mtn bike
- Run in under 25 mins – and feel strong doing it!
- Amazing super secret it’s not really even here you haven’t seen this – finish in under 60 minutes

Goal 4: Take One for the Team – May 17th
This one is interesting because it’s scheduled for the day after Lilac’s wedding in Sedona. I’ll be wearing flats, thank you. Take One for the Team has many meanings for me. I want to race FOR Landis. I’m a member of the club, but have never raced for them. Tempe International is the Club Championships, and we’re going to need every point.

If I race, I get ONE point (I’m not deluding myself into thinking that I could earn more than a point here) that counts towards the team total. So my “one” is for the team, get it?

TAKE ONE… now that’s getting into Tempe Town Lake. The reality is if I want to complete Goal #6 I need some more experience with mass swim starts, and I need to get into that damn lake.
Sub goals:
- Survive the swim
- Enjoy the bike
- Finish the run
- Amazing super secret it’s not really even here you haven’t seen this – To not be the last finisher for the club

Goal 5: Complete all 5 Summer Series Races – May through August, 2009
These races made the cut because there’s a lot of bang for your buck. Five races for $25 is a steal. Plus you get five summer weekends planned out, and Lilac and I promised each other we’d do the 4th of July race forever, so why not go the whole hog? Plus I have unfinished business here. I want to make top 10 in my age group overall. All it’s going to take is a little bit better planning. The things I learned from last year were necessary. I didn’t know the courses, so I didn’t know how to prepare. Now I do. Most important? Don’t be a sissy, and get out and train outside at least once a week in the summer. I think this is necessary for Summer Series success. Number 2, hill work, hill work, hill work. Part C, pick up the speed work. I plan on focusing on these items after Tri for the Cure. Put those together, and I think this summer, it will be what I dreamed for last year.
Sub goals:
- Run under 45 minutes for all races
- Make top 10 in my age group for the overall series
- Amazing super secret it’s not really even here you haven’t seen this – PR at one race. I don’t care which one. Sub - 39:36.

Goal 6: Complete an Olympic Distance Triathlon – September 27th
Yup, you heard it here first. This is on my to-do list for my long term goal (Port Macquarie Australia, 2012), so training for the Olympic distance is going to be my main goal over the course of the summer. The summer series stuff will help, but really this what is going to get me out of bed. Olympic means 1500 meters of swimming (in the dreaded Tempe Town Lake), 24.2 miles of biking, which seems reasonable, and tack on a 10K at the end for giggles.

Initially I wanted to do SOMA, but they aren’t supporting the Quarterman this year – totally upsetting. So the only other option is Nathan’s on September 27th. For some reason Nathan’s doesn’t seem as cool as SOMA… but I guess it will work.
Sub goals:
- Train strong, and be prepared
- Amazing super secret it’s not really even here you haven’t seen this – 40 min swim, 110 min bike, 90 min run.

We’ll see how it goes!

Quote of the week - Don’t pursue happiness – create it!