Half Marathon Milestone #1

25 Jan

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to running in the cold.  Anything down to 25 degrees is fine and I’ll even push myself to go outside for a really short run (like 5 feet) when it gets close to 20.  The concept of doing anything but sitting inside curled up under a blanket when the temperature drops into the teens, on the other hand, is completely beyond me. 

Needless to say, I did not go outside and run last Saturday.  I did, though, make it to the gym to run on the perfectly climate-controlled treadmill, complete with a personal TV and multi-speed fan.  Where’s the big achievement in that?  I ran 4 whole miles!! 

I may have run those miles at a snail’s pace and I might have still been too sore to do a full swim on Sunday or run at all yesterday, but that’s more than I have ever consecutively run in my life.  Even better, I didn’t really start getting winded, tired, or sore until more than 3 1/2 miles into the run.  Still better, I’m now starting to think of a two-mile run as “just 2 miles” instead of my long run for the week.  Kind of a new concept for me.

With today’s balmy temperatures around 40 and my muscles well-rested, I should have no excuses not to repeat my triumph outdoors.  Next step will be to add the interval training I’ve been conveniently avoiding.

PS. I’m really sorry about blog’s strange layout.  Something has gone seriously wrong and I’m still trying to figure it out.

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New Year, New Goals

20 Jan

I know its been a while, but I’m not making any official proclamation of being back in the blogging world – the last time I did that, it was embarrassingly short-lived.  Nonetheless, looking ahead to the 2011 season, I’m looking forward to putting an injury-plagued 2010 behind me and check some serious goals (or 1 goal with a couple of milestones along the way) off my list.  Hopefully, that will give me way more incentive to share my “Tri Tales” this year than I had last year.

2011 Goal: Half Ironman!  As I’ve mentioned in the past, I dream of the day when I can add the 70.3 bumper sticker to other tri-related stuff on my rear windshield.  This year, I’m setting a major goal of completing the Beach-2-Battleship 70.3 race in October.

Milestone #1: 10K.  Yes, I’ve done 2 Olympic distance races, but I’ve never run 6.2 miles consecutively.  In fact, I’ve never run the entire last leg of any tri I’ve done.  It’s always been a little running and a lot of walking.  I refuse to let it be that way forever.  Therefore, I will be running my first 10K President’s Day weekend.

Milestone #2: Half Marathon.  If I’m going to do a Half Ironman, I need to be able to run a consecutive 13.1 miles.  Walking 6.2 at the end of an Olympic distance tri might be acceptable, but walking 13.1 miles at the end of a 70.3 just sounds tedious.  If all goes well at the 10K, I’ll be running in the Buffalo 1/2 Marathon at the end of May.

Clearly the big challenge will be getting from my current 3.5 miles up to 13.1 in the next 4 1/2 months, but, if I can do that and discipline myself to train hard for during the summer and fall, this year could be way more exciting than 2010.

Ice Baths (a.k.a. My New Wonder Drug)

24 Jun

While I work hard to stick to a training schedule and eat right, it’s pretty safe to say that I don’t do most of the other things necessary to keep myself healthy and injury-free.  Excluding my attempts to get to a weekly yoga class, I hardly ever stretch.  I use the foam roller only when things get really bad.  And, until last Sunday (race report coming soon), I had never taken an ice bath post-race.  Was I ever missing out on one of the best recovery tricks!!

After the DC Tri, which I am calling a successful failure, I took a nice, long ice bath, followed by a cold shower.  Under normal conditions, I would probably run screaming from the cold, but anyone who raced last weekend knows Sunday was anything but normal conditions.  It was HOT!!! 

On Monday, I planned to stop by the DC Tri Club swim at Catholic University, but figured I’d kind of float around for a few hundred yards.  Remembering St. Anthony’s in April, I figured I’d be sore for at least a week.  Surprisingly, I not only made it through a  2,200 yard workout, but I felt great afterwards.  Yesterday brought even more success when I hardly felt tired during a 40 minute hill run. 

Could I really have avoided the post-race pain I’ve had in the past all of my friends are talking about and, if so, what can I do to replicate that experience?  All I can think of is that ice bath.  I’ll be trying it again in 2 weeks after the Philadelphia Women’s Triathlon.  Hopefully, the hotel won’t find it too strange when I’m carting bags of us up to my room!

DC = Dehydration Central

2 Jun

Is it just me or has the weather in DC been a little erratic lately?  One day its freezing cold and I’m pulling out my winter tights to put over my bike shorts.  The next, it’s so hot the thought of moving at all dehydrates me.

For the past few weeks, I’ve had an internal debate with myself about whether St. A’s in Florida in April or DC Tri in June would be hotter or more humid.  The weather this week may point towards and answer.  Only 18 days before my next race, it’s too hot to train outside between the hours of 9 AM and 7 PM.  My lunchtime runs have moved inside and I’ve come up with every excuse under the sun not to take my bike outside.

Today, after contemplating an outdoor run for about 5 seconds, I settled on spinning and yoga after work.  Clearly, I was not the only one who didn’t want to exercise outside in this humidity.  By the time I arrived at the gym (only 5 minutes late), the spin class was full.  Instead, I hopped on a treadmill for what I thought would be an easy run.  Little did I know, despite being practically inseparable from my water bottle all day, I was too dehydrated to run.  It only took a few minutes before my entire body cramped up.  Instead of the great spin class or a run, I settled for waiting out the time until yoga on an exercise bike – not exactly an ideal training ride, but at least it’s cardio?

It’s funny to think that only a few short months ago my workouts were being snowed out and it’s sad to think it’s only June 2.  We haven’t even begun to see real heat and humidity here.  Looks like I’ll be double-fisting the water for a while.

I’m An Addict

19 May

As I was driving home from spin class last night, I had a desperate urge to pull over the car and go for a run.  When I say “desperate”, I mean I had images of myself putting the car in park in the middle of the road, less than a 1/2 mile from my house, and sprinting out the driver’s side door with the keys still in the ignition.  And, for a few seconds, I actually thought I might do it.  After bringing my body nearly to its breaking point for the past hour going up and down “hills” on the spin bike, having such a strong desire to continue the pain was surprising, to say the least, especially given my not-so-pleasant relationship with running.

I know all the data on exercise becoming habitual and am one of those people who relies on a regular dose of endorphins to keep myself sane, but this was less “I need to work out today” and more “If I don’t work out in the next 5 minutes, despite the fact that I just finished an intense cardio session 5 minutes ago, the world might come to an end.”  I can only equate the feeling to that which heroin junkies feel when their last hit just wasn’t enough. 

With that in mind, I think I may have just crossed the line from habitual exerciser to full-on endorphin addict.  To quote the great Dr. House though, “I said I was an addict. I didn’t say I had a problem.”  Fortunately, unlike Dr. House, my addiction is triathlon, not vicodin.

On that note, it’s time for today’s run . . .

Psych!

6 May

Finally, after months of praying to the running gods, I went out on Tuesday evening and everything clicked.  After completely psyching myself out at St. A’s and walking a very large portion of the 10K run, I decided it was time to return to basics and do some slow intervals around Hains Point.  2 minutes running at a 10 minute mile pace, 1 minute walking – just to get back in the swing of things and give myself a workout I could actually do. 

I felt great.  My form was as good as its ever been.  No heel striking.  No hunching my shoulders.  Nothing was out of place.  Part way through my second interval, I checked my Garmin and realized I was averaging close to an 8 minute mile – far faster than I’ve ever run – without any real difficulty.  Clearly, this was finally going to be the running workout I’ve been waiting for.

Of course, 10 minutes later, as I reached the far end of Hains Point, everything fell apart.  My shins very clearly reminded me who is boss and I spent the next half hour hobbling back to the car, doing my best to pretend I wasn’t in agonizing pain.  Even worse, the damage I did required quite a bit of grastoning this morning. 

Lesson Learned: Don’t knock 2 minutes off your pace all at once, no matter how good it feels.  My underdeveloped sense of self-preservation probably would have come in handy here.

Race Report: St. Anthony’s Triathlon

30 Apr

1.5K swim in Tampa Bay, 40K bike ride through St. Petersburg, 10K run through St. Petersburg’s ritziest neighborhoods . . . sounds simple enough.  Here’s the real story –    

The Day Before:    

You never know where you're going to run into your high school swim coach . . .

 

 We woke up early in the morning to do a mini-tri: swim 10 min, bike 10 min, run 10 min.  Not bad, but I nearly had a heart attack when I passed by my high school swim coach 8 1/2 minutes into the run.  Turns out, he’s the coach for the Central Ohio chapter of Team In Training.  After that, he showed up everywhere – he (along with the DC coaches) was like Where’s Waldo on the race course.  I’m not sure how they were everywhere at once.    

After the run, we got to listen to Dave Scott, Six Time IronMan World Champion, talk about how great he is and give us a few pointers on why we’ll never be as awesome as him.  Later that evening, after some pasta, chicken, and really good cookies, Dave Scott, Six Time IronMan World Champion (yes, he really does include that every time he talks about himself) gave us a pep talk.  Highlight of the speech – telling us we’re the “slowest group of talent” on the course.  Apparently, that’s better than last year when he told a group most of them would not finish as part of his motivational wisdom.  It seems that’s about as close as he can get to complementing someone other than himself.  Fortunately, we have great coaches and mentors to remind us of what rock stars we are for doing a triathlon, training in the snowiest winter in decades, and raising over $1.8 million for cancer research while doing it.  “Slow Talent” sort of became our rallying cry after that.    

Race Day:    

All ready to go!

 

 4:45 AM, thousands of triathletes lug their transition bags down to the race, get body-market (race number on each arm and each shin and age on the calf), and begin the rituals of laying out their transition area.  For most, this tradition includes laying everything out for 15 minutes and then spending the next 90 minutes checking and re-checking every inch of their bike and transition area to make sure nothing is out of place or forgotten.  You never know when your socks, which were laid out neatly in your shoes 2 minutes ago, could suddenly wander off or your tubes, which were moments ago inflated to precisely 102 psi to account for increased heat and humidity, could suddenly deflate.    

6:50 AM, the pro wave starts the swim and the race is officially under way.  Let me tell you, these people are impressive.  Most weigh about 90 pounds and finish the entire race in well under 2 hours – that’s 15 minutes for the swim, under an hour for the bike, and about 30 minutes for the run.    

Clearly pumped to get the race underway

 

 8:15 AM, while wondering when I should warm up, we’re told there’s a safety hazard with the current swim course and they’ll be delaying the rest of the waves while they shorten the course from 1500 meters to 1000 meters.  Since most of us were already putting on our wetsuits, we decided to take the extra time to splash around in the water and do a little extra warm up while the boats moved the buoys around, making a triangle where there used to be a rectangle.    

9:40 AM, our wave, which was supposed to leave at 9:00, is finally sent off.  If you’re counting, yes, that means the pros were done 2 hours before I even started the race – and the race MC made sure we knew it.  Thanks, dude!  Perhaps that extra time to warm up was worth it.  Along the way, despite veering far off course, I passed the two waves in front of me and finished the 1000 meters (or 1200, based on the way I was swimming) in 18 minutes.  Phenomenal!!!    

Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there in terms of my pace.  I got on the bike and rapidly learned what the coaches meant when they said the course was a bit windy.  By “a bit windy”, they meant 15 miles of the 25 mile course would be directly into headwinds.  There were points where I was struggling to keep my bike upright.  Needless to say, I was barely able to average 15 mph, instead of my usual 17-18.  Urgh!!  And, of course, the coaches were everywhere taking pictures.  Rule #1 of triathlon – smile for the camera, even if you feel like you’re going to die!  On the up-side, I finally got comfortable with eating and drinking on the bike and, unlike last year when I took 2 sips the entire ride, I actually managed to keep myself hydrated.    

When I wasn’t struggling through the headwinds and the windy course, I was enjoying all of the crazy antics of other triathletes and spectators.  To start, the St. Petersburg police officers marking the course were amazing.  Thanks for cheering even us back of the pack stragglers on.  Then, there was the guy I was following around miles 11 and 12 who might need a new pair of tri-shorts.  I’m not sure about you, but I prefer not seeing what’s underneath people’s shorts, thank you.  Needless to say, that inspired me to speed up and stay in front of him for the rest of the race.  Next, it was coach Jenny (one of the Team In Training super-star coaches) who must have biked more miles than I did because she was at almost every corner cheering us on.  Thanks for the support!!!  Last, but certainly not least, was the guy who put his 1970’s-era stationary bike (complete with moveable arms) under a canopy on his front lawn and rocked out to his boom box while cheering us on.  At mile 19, that was certainly a welcome distraction!    

Thanks, Coach Ted for waiting to take the photo until after I started pretending to run again.

 

 Before I knew it, I was off the bike and into the run.  Actually, running didn’t last long before my shins and ankles started acting up and (as a result of a poor choice in socks) the bottoms of my feet started blistering.  It was more like a slow jog leading into a long walk followed by a short burst of running at the end.  The only time I ran for the first 4 miles was when a coach (who, in true Where’s Waldo style, were everywhere) was taking a picture of me.  Highlight of the run: the last 1/2 mile where I was running and high-fiving all of the Team In Training people who finished before me.  Thanks everyone for sticking around and making me feel like a rock star.  I almost forgot how bad my feet hurt at that point.    

Finally, 3 hours and 43 minutes after diving into Tampa Bay, I crossed the finish line and got a very welcome hug and kiss from my husband, who took a whirlwind trip down to St. Petersburg to stand out in the hot Florida sun and cheer me on.  It was definitely not the time I was looking for, but it confirmed that, even with a slow time, nothing feels better than crossing the finish line of a race most people think you’re crazy for entering.    

And, in case you’re wondering what we did after the race, here’s a picture (courtesy of Coach Ted) from that night.    

Dancin' in the rain