Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Half Ironman

About six months ago - Jen suggested that we do the racing for recovery half iron man in early June.  So of course without really thinking about it too much I agreed.  The way I saw it, the half iron man would give me a reason to keep getting up early in the morning to swim and since i was training for a marathon the run wouldn't be a problem - I'd put in some time once a week on the bike on the trainer and I would be able to get through it.  I didn't realize how how hard it would be to follow a marathon training program that was more aggressive than anything I'd done in the past - plus get the bike and swim in.  I quickly found I could only do so many two a days - and since I didn't want to drown the bike got put to the back burner.  Jen was really worried about me getting through the bike - i was more worried about drowning.

Flash forward to race morning - i have never gone from complete panic to complete calm so quickly and so many times.  When i was calm it was because i really didn't know what to expect and I didn't really have any expectations.  Sure - i had done the math - i was hoping to be sub 45 on the swim, around 3:15 on the bike and around 2 hours on the run - but i knew that would be on a good day and that it didn't matter because my goal was to finish.  I kept myself in control until we got into the water before the race - the cold water hit my chest and I pretty much had a panic attack.  I started crying and told Jen i couldn't and didn't want to do this - i felt like my wet suit was choking me and i could not get my breathing or my heart beat under control.  I looked pretty bad because Jen told me there was no shame in not doing it.  I knew if i didn't try I would always regret it and probably would never start another triathlon again.  So I went for it.

Part I - The swim

Ever wonder how long it takes to swim 1.2 miles while breast stroking at least half of it and hyperventilating?  Well for me it was approximately 48 minutes.  The course was an out and back into the lake and then another out and back along the shore.  When i got to the part along the shore i knew i was close to being able to touch the ground which helped - and I also realized that if I kept up with my hyperventilating breast stroke I was going to be too exhausted to finish the rest of the race - so i actually did get into a pretty good rhythm - resorting to breast stroking for spotting.  The whole thing was pretty ugly - my swimming has really improved over the last  year - and what i did in that lake did not reflect that at all.  But I was so proud of myself - i was deathly afraid of that swim - i had never swam that far with out stopping, i had only swam in a wet suit maybe one other time and had only swam in the lake a handful of times last summer.   That was a huge accomplishment.  I could have stopped there and been happy with the day.  I figured I would get on the bike and see what i could do.

Part II - the ugly ugly  bike

I hopped on my bike and quickly realized that I wasn't going to be able to hold 18mph like i had hopped - i was toast from the swim.  I unhappily settled into around 15-16mph and tried to see how far I could get before Jen came blasting by me.  It took about 10 miles til Jen came blowing past me I think I  yelled "that was the hardest thing I've ever done" and she yelled "I'm never swimming in lake Erie again."  The bike route was a mess - potholes and rough roads and it made it really hard to get into a rhythm and by mile 20 I was ready to be done with the bike.  My goal was to make it around the 3 loops with out getting lapped by Jen and her friend Paula.  I figured if they didn't lap me then at least i wasn't dropping the pace too much.  I think the first water stop was around mile 22 - i stopped and poured some water over my head and saw Steve and Matt and the babies cheering for us under a tree.  I yelled something about this not being fun and headed out for the second loop - i just kept telling myself to get through this loop.  The second time through the aid station - i skipped the aid station but stopped to talk to Steve and Addy.  This was around mile 34 - i was feeling pretty bad and it was getting pretty lonely out on the course.  I told Steve i was going to head out for the final loop - but i didn't know if i would finish this race today.  Somewhere on the third loop i decided i was going to stop after the bike.  I had to get through the bike to prove that I could - but it was so hot and i was burning so badly I decided it wasn't worth the sun exposure and that i would call it a day when i got back to transition.  Well then it got worse.  With 8 miles to go I stopped on the side of the road, sat down and I called my husband crying and asked him to come pick me up.  So logical Steve said "where are you" and i said "i don't know - on a very hot road somewhere - and I hate biking and triathlons are stupid and I'm not finishing this"  to which Steve replied.  "i have no doubt that you can finish this bike and the whole race if you want to - if you don't want to that is OK - and if you want me to come get you I will, but you need to at least give me a street name"  So I decided I would make it back.  And i did.  3 hours and 40 minutes later.  3 hours and 40 minutes!!!  I was one of the last people to finish the bike - the people on the run course were cheering for me - but you know they were thinking that no matter how bad they were feeling - at least they weren't that poor girl just finishing the bike up!

Part III - the run

When i got into transition i asked the race official if their was a cutoff time - I was so slow I didn't want to start the run if I wasn't going to be able to finish in time.  He said - there is but you are not there yet - you are fine.  Now Paula's husband was waiting for me by the transition.  He told me how far ahead of me Paula and Jen were which did nothing for my morale.  But he did say - come on this is the run - this is your thing - go do your thing.  So I slathered some more sunblock on (not enough) and headed out.  The run was two loops around a "shaded" lagoon.  It was so hot and sunny that I made myself a deal - if I threw up I could stop.  So I started running and then I would walk and I stopped at every water stop to throw several cups of water over my head and then I would continue on.  Well I started to notice that no one was passing me (that would be because there was no one left on the bike course - but even the faster people who were on their second loop weren't passing me)  - and  i was passing people - not just people who were on their second loop and nearing the end but people that i recognized passing me on the bike.  (Especially this one woman who passed me with about 10 miles left and then decided to weave back and forth to block me - seriously?  There are two of us left out here and you are worried that i might pass you!  ugh - i crushed her on the run btw)   So my attitude changed - i thought well if i can at least get around this loop once - I'll walk the second loop if i have to - but at this point I'm not going to have come this far without finishing.  So I started the second loop - running and walking and throwing water over my head.  Around mile 10 I saw Jen going the opposite way - it was nice to see a friendly face.  I also knew that I was going to finish - so i continued cheering other people on and continued to pass people - and i actually had fun.  I finished the run in 2:07 - not too shabby for wanting to  quit with 8 miles left on the bike, extreme heat and sunburn.   I was also really happy with that time considering how many times i stopped for water, to go to the bathroom, etc... it means that when i was running it was at a decent pace. 

The result: 

I finished in 6:43 - i was hoping for around 6 hours - but considering how close I was to quitting I'll take it!  I wasn't last in my age group so that's good too.  And I learned a valuable lesson - you can fake your way through a sprint triathlon - but a half iron man will find your weaknesses and make you pay for your lack of training.  In hindsight i probably should have dropped to the sprint given my lack of bike time and open water swim practice.... but I'm glad i didn't.  I always talk about how i don't have enough confidence in myself or my abilities and how weak i am mentally.  Well I tell you what: panic attack and crying cell phone call to my husband aside - that was the toughest thing I have mentally ever done.  When you are toast less than 2 hours into a race and you know you are in over your head - to mentally get yourself through 4 hours and 43 minutes more in the heat and sun - that to me is some mental toughness - and that is something  I will always take with me.  I told myself i had to finish because i was never going to do this again...

that was Sunday - today is Tuesday and I'm already wondering... what if i actually trained properly... or at least rode my bike further than 20 miles.... I'm not sure what mental illness I have but i'm pretty sure endurance events are the symptom...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

i need to find a race

i would like to find a marathon in September or October that is drivable and not in Ohio, Michigan, new york, or Pennsylvania.  I like small low key off the wall races... but so far i'm not having any luck in finding a good match!  I would appreciate any suggestions!

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Summer of Whatever

Steve and I decided to run the eagle 5 mile run on Saturday.  The original plan was for me to pace steve to a p.r. - problem was we worked out with the trainer on Friday - so our legs were pretty sore and steve hadn't been running much in the past few weeks so he didn't think a p.r. was in the cards for this race.  So I decided to just run it and see what happened.  The plan was that if we hit a mile and Steve was right with me - we would run together.  So I ran with out a care - kept it comfortable - hit mile one at 7:15 - thought to myself - well i guess i'll just try to keep the others under 8 minute pace - got to mile two around a 7:30 - mile 3 around 7:30 again - mile 4 7:26 or something like that.   I thought to myself - 5 miles is a lot shorter than a marathon - this is fun - and went into the 5th mile.  The race finished in the minor league baseball stadium in Avon. As I rounded the warning track and crossed the finish line on the first base side - I ended up finishing in 37:01 - which was my 2nd best time ever and I got 3rd in my age group ...AND... I had fun. .. AND i wasn't running all out  - I definately had a lot left in the tank... AND Afterwards my legs felt better than they had all week.  So a week after I ran a marathon and a week before i'm doing a half ironman that i'm not properly trained for I ran and race and I did pretty ok.   This made me think - I'm not a professional athlete - and it's ok if i do things that don't quite make sense.  (no serious or professional athlete would run a marthon, race a 5 mile run and follow it up with a half ironman)  This summer my goal is to run races and have fun and collect some age group hardware in the process.  I think I'll find a fall marathon to do - just to keep me honest - but it might be a trail run and I might not tell anyone i'm doing it - i'll do it just to do it - and enjoy the run and lay off the time goals for awhile.  After all this is suppose to be fun - and I think that I will in fact have fun during my "Summer of Whatever"  ... stay tuned.. oh and keep your fingers crossed on this half ironman-  i think if I can complete the swim I'll able to finish... but we shall see!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

post marathon - pre half ironman limbo

There comes a time in a lot of races when you’ve reached to low point – when you question why you do this and tell yourself that you are not going to do this anymore. It takes a few days, the pain fades and the accomplishment – even if it wasn’t quite what you wanted remains – and you go for that first recovery run and you remember why you do this.

I am currently caught in a recovery/taper sandwich right now that I have no plan for. So how have I dealt with it? I swam yesterday and had some potato chips and beer almost every other night this week. Result: I’m crabby and I feel like a million pound slug! The truth is I think I’m addicted to a running schedule. I’m not right without it. I don’t know how to just get some miles in anymore. I need a plan to tell me what to do! How nuts is that? I like to have a goal and to check off the things that get me to that next goal. I don’t know how to go with the flow. Maybe if I did – I wouldn’t get so worked up about things and would actually become a better runner.

So what should I shoot for? A fall marathon? A trail marathon in the fall – that would take the pressure off – no p.r. goals there… or maybe I should train to run a really great half marathon. Maybe I won’t drown at this triathlon on the 5th and I’ll decide to do more… decisions, decisions I need a plan. I’m lost without a plan. I’ve asked some of you – but what are your goal races coming up?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What went wrong?

I promised myself I wouldn’t over analyze this race. I would take it for what it was and move on. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t analyze it just a bit. So here I go – I’ll say my peace and hopefully move on. I must warn you it will be long as I am on a 2.5 hour flight from Denver to Cleveland – so I’ll probably type until my battery on my laptop dies!

Phoenix –January 2011 – the worst marathon experience I have ever had. Was it my worst time ever? Hardly – I have walked / run several marathons that were at the 5 hour mark – because I ran them for fun – I ran them for the experience, companionship and to reach one of my goals of crossing off the 50 states. So the fact that Phoenix was a 4:19 – wasn’t the issue. It was how I felt during the race. I felt like I hadn’t trained at all. I knew I was in trouble as early as mile 8 – and I didn’t go out all that fast. I crashed and burned and didn’t deal with it well. I cried when I finished. I decided then and there I was either never going to run another marathon – or I was going to step it up. I knew I was capable of more and I was pretty sure most of my issues were in my head.

So I found a new training program recommend by someone who had great success with it – I found a marathon that was 16 weeks out and in other state (hence Fargo) and I went to work. It was a more aggressive training program than I had done in the past – but I quickly found that I could do it – that I could hit the paces and I could do the mileage. I started getting p.r.’s every time I ran a different distance race from 5ks to 30ks to marathons. Amie and I would do our long runs and I would have to slow us down when we crept too close to an 8 minute pace. I know it’s not smart to do your long runs too fast – but the pace felt comfortable – we talked the whole way and I was recovering well after each run. At the same time I was and am training for my first half ironman – swimming two mornings a week and spinning once a week. I was seeing great improvement in the water as well. In March we started working out with a personal trainer one day a week – and I was hoping this would be the missing piece that I needed. Strengthen my core etc – and making me stronger over all.

March 20th – I went to visit my friend cris in Atlanta , which coincided with the Atlanta marathon which coincided with a 20 miler on my training plan. The week before my knee went wonky – so I took a week off – and almost didn’t run the race. It was hot which I knew I wasn’t ready for and it was a hilly course – which I definitely was not ready for. I decided I may as well give a go – take it easy enjoy myself and check off another state. I have never enjoyed a race like I enjoyed that one. I went out at an easy pace – talked with people along the way – and told myself I could walk it in after mile 20. Funny thing is - when I got to mile 20 I felt awesome – so I said I’ll just hold this pace til I see cris at mile 23. At that point I realized that unless I fell down and didn’t get back up I was going to have a huge p.r. – so I kept running. At the end of the race I could have kept going – I felt that good. Final time 3:48 – an 11.5 minute p.r. from Wineglass in October (which incidentally was 6 months after I had addy and the first time I had broken four hours)

Coming off of a high like that in Atlanta I knew I was on my way to big things. If I could run a 3:48 taking it easy – what could I do if I pushed it? Maybe I really could get closer to 3:30. After Atlanta I got sick a couple of times which veered my training off track a bit – but I still had 2 twenty milers to do – and because of my schedule – they both ended up being solo 20 milers. 1st one – 8:40 pace – mostly in the pouring rain. I couldn’t go any faster. I chalked it up to running in terrible conditions – doubled up with the huge mental obstacle of covering 20 miles on the towpath with nothing but my crazy thoughts to entertain me. Then I got sick again - ran a couple of 5ks and found I couldn’t get back to the p.r. I had hit in February. I thought maybe it was because I was working out with the trainer on Fridays – how can you expect great performances on sore ,sore legs and muscles. So here we go to the last 20 miler 2 weeks out from the race. By mile 8 – I was toast. I was so tired and my back and shoulders hurt so bad from the trainer –that I didn’t think I was going to finish. Actually it was supposed to be 23 miles – I cut it short. Somewhere during that run I was able to snap out of it for a bit and pick up my pace- but by the end of things I was lucky if I could keep it at a 9:30-10:00 pace. Overall pace was still under 9 – but it wasn’t good. I got in the car and almost cried because my arms were so sore from the trainer I could hardly turn the steering wheel.

So I took two weeks off from the trainer – and took 2 really easy taper weeks. Fast forward to Fargo marathon. The morning of the race I told Amie – I am so tired- the thought of running 26 miles today is killing me – it’s not that I’m nervous about the pace so much as that’s a really long way to go and I really would rather go back to bed. I tried to shake off negative thoughts – I freaked out a bit – but not as bad as normal. As Amie had said to me - I had already had a great year – and a huge p.r. who cared if this didn’t go as well as I hoped? She was pretty confident that it would go well. (Can I just take a minute to say Amie rocks – who runs a 2:02 ½ marathon pregnant?)

I started off at an 8:15 pace because it felt good and it felt easy and I thought to myself ”maybe today IS my day.” I Stayed at 8:15 – 8:25 pace pretty easily for the first 8 miles – and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was exhausted. My back and hamstrings were extremely tight and aching. It wasn’t a feeling of “oh I went out to fast – I can’t keep up this pace” – it was more like I don’t know how I can keep moving and not lay down on the ground… i.e. had I not flown half way across the country to do this race – I would have quit. I tried to keep my head in check – I said get to mile 13 strong – drop the pace down – do some damage control but stay strong – don’t get all crazy and doomsdayish and start walking. Well I stopped to walk for the first time at mile 10. The 3:50 pace team got me at the half – and I told myself that I could still salvage this race- it wasn’t going to be a 3:38 – it wasn’t going to be p.r. – but stick it out and maybe break 4 for the third time. Well my back had other ideas. Oh I kept moving – I stopped a lot to stretch my back to try to alleviate some of the pain – but I kept moving – I didn’t get all crazy and keep walking like I did at phoenix – but I was lucky if I could get my pace per mile down to a 9:30 – it was like I hadn’t trained at all. At one point I was running so slowly my Garmin shut off. I didn’t cry I just kept going.

I was hoping that if I could keep it together and get in around a 4:10 that I would be really proud of myself – and I am. But this was marathon #10 – this was going to be my best one yet. What happened? Did I subconsciously psych myself out when the 3:40 pace group passed me? I really feel like I mentally kept myself in check. Did I just do too much? Are flat and fast marathons just not for me? Do I need to separate my two goals – if I’m running in another state – just do it for fun – not time – and if I want to go for a time goal pick a hometown race? Am I burned out? Do I have unrealistic expectations? Did I just go crazy and try to cram in too much too soon after having Addy? Knowing that I am going to have a second child sooner than later – did I put too much pressure on myself to try to reach all sorts of crazy goals in between babies? And what do I do next? Do I take a break from marathons? Do I work towards a fall marathon and cut out all the other crazy tri stuff? Do I follow a 5k training program and spend the summer working on my speed? Do I only do marathons as training runs and don’t actually do the race I’m training for? Do I stay the heck away from flat courses?

So I’ve analyzed and basically written a book here and I still don’t know:

What went wrong?

Where do I go from here?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blogging Again

I stopped blogging after I realized that i was talking more about being pregnant than i was about my running/swimming/biking.  I probably should have kept blogging - even if know one else wanted to read it - because I think getting your thoughts out there sometimes helps keep things sane.

So what's new?  Well since i've had Addy - i have completed 3 marathons and my first sprint triathlon.  2 marathons were p.r.s and one was -well we won't go there.  I am a few days away from completing my 10th marathon - my 9th state - i really wish i hadn't done two in ohio - so i could be on my 10th state right now!  and two weeks after that i'll be attempting my first 1/2 ironman distance.

i've been debating in my head what my plan will be for Fargo.  For awhile there I was easily running long runs at an 8:15 pace.  I plug my recent 5k and 10 mile runs in to various extrapalators and they tell me i can do a 3:35.... but my training towards to end went a little off - my last two longs runs were solo runs were rather than distracting myself with chit chat I worried myself into rough runs that were more of an 8:40 to 8:50 pace.  And i know myself - had I taken off the garmin and thought postively those runs would have been better.  You would think that by the time a person was about to line up on a marathon start line for the 10th time they would have a plan in place.  I ran Atlanta marathon as a training run on March 20th.   The weather was hot - and I came to the conclusion that if i am going to run all 50 states sometimes I'm going to have to just run and enjoy the people and the sceneray - i'm not going to be able to race all 50 states at top performance (i'm not sure why this was such a big revelation -b/c i've completed several states where i ran really slowly just to check off the state)  Well for whatever reason that was a huge revelation and it took the pressure off.  I ran one of the most even paced races ever - and when I got to mile 25 i picked it up - i felt great the whole race - i didn't really look at my watch - because it didn't matter - i was running to finish.  I ended up running over an  11 minute p.r.  finishing in 3:48.  it was hot and it was one of the hilliest courses i've ever run - and i've been training for a flat marathon - yet it was almost effortless (as effortless as running 26.2 miles can be)
This brings me back to Fargo - I hesitate to put a goal out there - qualifying for boston.. getting a p.r. etc because when i put expectations on myself I crack under pressure.  If i put it out there that i want to run a 3:40 - the minute the 3:40 pace group paces me i will be defeated.  I will think of all my friends and family who will be tracking me and watching me slip off pace and how they'll be disappointed for me - proud of me still - but disappointed.  And that's when i lose it - that's when a 3:40 days that should have turned into a 3:43 day turns into a 4:19 day.  So my plan was to try and approach fargo like atlanta - pushing the pace a little more - but backing off if it's not my day.  I've blown up by mile 10 in a race and i don't ever want to do that again.  But then i read trisaratops blog today - and I think maybe i need to put it out there - maybe i need to stop playing it safe.  maybe i need to trust that my training - although it wasn't 100% exactly what the training program said - trust that it is sufficient - that i can run between an 8:10 and an 8:20 pace... and trust that i will be strong enough mentally to not crack when things get tough. 
As sara was saying in her blog - i often have to remind myself that i choose to do this.  Not only do i choose to do this - but i GET to do this.  I have a body that may not be that of an elite athlete - but it does allow me to do some pretty tough things.  I have a wonderfully supportive husband that not only helps make sure i get my runs in - but sometimes forces me to get them in.  I think that whatever pace i decide - i need to remember that Fargo is going to be a celebration - my 10th marathon.  I never thought I would run one - let alone 10.  I also need to celebrate the fact that I have a daughter that is 1 year and 1 month old - and this is my 4th marathon since she was born - that is an amazing feat that I sometimes lose perspective of when I look at what all of my speedy companions keep accomplishing.
We'll get to that half ironman later - let's just say that lake looks mighty cold out my window!