Monday, April 30, 2007

Graduation 2007

Just got back from Provo, Utah, where I attended the college graduation of my step-daughter, Katherine, and her husband, Kevin. Despite the happy occasion, getting there was hell. It began the day before Dave and I left when we found out that our hotel had changed ownership and canceled our reservation without informing us, which meant we had to scramble to find someplace to stay on one of the busiest hotel weekends of the year. Then our flight to Denver was late and we had to run nearly a half mile to the next gate while carrying/towing our luggage to make the connection (and with no cartilage left in his knees, 4 minutes of running was excruciating for Dave). And to top it off, we got rear-ended while driving to the graduation ceremony.


But on the good side ... We made it there to see both of them graduate. No one was injured in the car accident or even at the hotel, though they made us pay double the original rate and switch hotels mid-trip. We got to see Dave's parents again as well as Dave's ex-wife and her new husband (and the fact that they've not aged as well as us ;-). We enjoyed some delicious sushi at K&K's favorite restaurant and I even managed to do some decent training while on the trip thanks to a nearby public pool and a hotel fitness room that was open 24 hours.

Hopefully my trip next weekend to run the Colorado Marathon will be uneventful!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Slippery Slope

A cool blog about the Ironman Florida (IMFL) race posted this photo from the swim segment of IMFL 2006. The open water conditions were very rough with a strong current pushing swimmers to the left of the yellow buoy that they were supposed to go around. With very few race support crew out there, and primarily to make sure people didn't drown as opposed to making sure they did the entire course, quite a number of folks chose to short cut the course. I've seen a similar thing happen in marathons that had really tough conditions and no timing mat was at the turn, which is typical for small marathons.

Just because many others are doing it and it appears you won't get caught, do you do it too because you can get away with it?

I don't know why cheating bothers me so much, but it always has. In fourth grade, I challenged a girl who was cheating in tether ball, got into my first fist fight and we were both "benched" during recess. In college, I caught a guy who had blatantly plagiarized my computer program and reported him to the professor who gave him an 'F', though I'd hoped he'd be thrown out of school. When the Jean's Marine team cut the 2005 Marine Corps Marathon course in order to make the 14th Street bridge cut-off, I was one of probably many who sent an email to Rick Nealis, the race director, to request that he uphold race rules and take away their race medals and disqualify them, which he eventually did.

Why can't I just look the other way and do my own thing without caring what others do? Why can't I applaud people that accomplish incredible things while breaking rules? I guess it's just the way my parents raised me that honor is everything.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Goodbye Team RaceAthlete

Below is an email I sent today to Roman Mica, one of the founders and sponsored athletes of Team RaceAthlete, after reading his and some other teammates' support for race banditing and bending/breaking race rules. I sent it with a very heavy heart knowing that I've really enjoyed being part of the RaceAthlete blog community, not to mention the team discounts and having the chance to win various cool prizes offered periodically through occasional contests including a swipe at a possible sponsorship in the future.

But to me, none of that is worth seeing more people come into endurance sports with the notion that it's OK to cheat. I'd seen some at my races but working part-time for Track Shack's Event Management & Marketing International has really opened my eyes to the extent of the problem and what could happen if individuals who do it or promote it continue to inspire others.

So goodbye team and good luck. I know everyone doesn't feel the same as I do about maintaining the integrity of endurance sports and that's OK. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.

Dear Roman,

Please remove me from Team RaceAthlete (web page side bar, forum and any other references). I'm sorry I can't be part of a team that advocates bandits or bending/breaking race rules. I'm not an elitist who thinks people shouldn't do races because they're not fit or fast enough. I just don't want countless more people to start doing races without registering, use other people's race bibs, register with wrong gender/age info, switch timing chips, wear MP3 players during races, not complete the entire race course, and all the other things that happen on a regular basis already because people think they're not hurting anyone else by doing so. There's liability and safety issues involved but, basically, it just boils down to an honor thing I have ...

Best wishes to you and everyone else in their future endeavors.

-- ShirleyPerly (aka Humble Triathlete)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Poached Fish

That's how I feel right now after swimming for just over an hour in a pool that was 91(!) degrees. Apparently someone had mistakenly covered the pool overnight and left the heaters on.

The little toddlers on one side of the pool with their moms seemed to be enjoying the water but not us lap swimmers. I managed to do everything I had planned (2100 yards of various swim drills including 500 yards of the dreaded kickboard) but had to take longer breaks between sets. During the workout, I drank the entire contents of my 16oz sports bottle which I am so glad I brought with me and placed at the end of my lane.

If anyone knows of a positive benefit to training in really warm water, let me know. Otherwise, if it happens again, I think I'll go to the other pool located only 2 miles away.

Monday, April 16, 2007

How Time Flies ...

When I first met Katie, she was a little energetic kid who used to come up and visit once a month on weekends. A couple years later, she was my step-daughter, and Dave and I moved from California to Florida so we only got to see her about twice a year, summer and during the holidays. She did a lot of growing up without us, graduating at the top of her high school class, earning a full tuition scholarship to Brigham Young University, the college of her choice, and getting married in her junior year. Next week she's going to graduate from college with plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at BYU.

As one of her final assignments, she wrote this essay about Dave to say thanks for a lot of things he never knew made a difference. I am so very proud of both of them!

This I Believe

I believe in the values that my father taught me. While I might not always live them as fully as I would like and while I mix them with my more conservative Christian beliefs, I know that what he has taught me is true.

My father is man of honor and discipline, and those twin values extend to all that he does. He was an officer in the Marine Corps until his knees gave out running triathlons. He has remained close the military ever since, obtaining a doctorate and working in cutting edge warfare simulation and training. He tells me that he is one of the leading experts in his field, and I believe him. I know that he has money, but he lives in a small house with standard amenities, in a modest neighborhood close to his office, and only purchases new cars every eight to ten years.

Ever since I was a very small child, my father expected me to live by my word. I remember once, when I was about eight or ten, I persuaded him to buy me a small cross stitch kit. Expecting me to finish what I started, he kept asking me about it until I finally finished it and presented it to him more than a year later. At times, living by my word has seemed like a burden and prevented me from telling him things, since I like to dream about different plans and scenarios. But by the time that I am sure enough about any tentative plan to present it to him, he can feel left out. Still, this sense of honor has strengthened my respect for him, and helped me to be a better person in all aspects of my life. I know that when I commit to doing a certain task, or participating in an event, I must have a very serious reason for failing to do so. And there aren’t many very serious reasons.

His discipline is evident in how he treats himself and how he manages his money. I know that his knees still hurt him, and his shoulder has been troubling him the past few years. Doctors have offered him disabled license plates, but he refuses. He knows that health benefits outweigh the pain of exercise, so he forces himself to exercise. Of course he cannot do what he did in the Marines, but he refuses to let his knees and shoulder be an excuse. From him I have always been encouraged to lead an active lifestyle and learned to not make excuses.

My father has also taught me the value of money. He knows the difference between needs and wants, and can recognize quality. He has had the same living room furniture since 1988, but it still meets his needs. Since I was young, he has expected me to appropriately budget my allowance for the things that I wanted. I remember spending weekends rolling pennies for him when I was four or five, so that we could take the pennies to be deposited in the bank. When I left for college, he informed me of the amount he would be sending me each month, and I when I wanted more, I got a part time job. Watching my friends’ and roommates’ financial interactions with their parents, I was grateful for my father. By sending me a monthly sum, I was directly in charge of where the money went. I respected the money so much more than my friends who never saw their rent or credit card bills, even the friends that were only receiving the amount that I did. When I got my first credit card, I made sure to pay off the balance every month. When I got married, my husband and I immediately set aside an emergency fund and opened an IRA, even though we are both still students.

What has my father taught me? The values he lives by: personal accountability and self discipline. There is nothing more important than these, and this is what I believe.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cold Weather, Warm Friendships

This weekend Dave and I met my longtime friend Anita and her family at Downtown Disney for dinner. It was their first visit to sunny Central Florida and, unfortunately, Mother Nature welcomed them with a cold front that made them think they brought the San Francisco Bay Area weather with them. Don't worry, I told them, it'll be 80 again by the end of the week (I hope).

Once inside the restaurant, we warmed up and got down to the business of gossiping and giggling. You see, I've known Anita since 4th grade (37 years!) and whenever we get together, we're like kids again. Our poor husbands politely listen to us rattle on and on until their eyes roll back into their heads. Her two boys, however, were incredibly well-behaved, never whining or interrupting, just quietly playing with their toys after eating.

The waitress never came around again after the bill was paid so Dave volunteered to take a group photo before we left. One of these days he'll be in a picture ...

Friday, April 06, 2007

How to Celebrate My Big 5-0?

With 20 states left in my 50 states marathon quest, I've begun to give some serious thought as to which state I should save for last to cap my 9 year adventure and also celebrate my 50th birthday. I've already done races in Hawaii and Alaska, which many other 50-Staters do last. As of right now, I have the following left:

West (5) - Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada or Utah*, Wyoming
Midwest (5) - Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin
Northeast (7) - Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont
South (3) - Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virgina

* One race I've done counts as either Nevada or Utah, so one more in either state is needed.

I have no particular attachment to any of the remaining states so I'm trying to find a creative way to make one of them special. I once eyed the Pikes Peak Marathon thinking that completing one of the most challenging marathons would be a cool way to wrap up the quest. But my recent ankle mishaps and Do Not Try Anything New on Race Day lesson tell me to avoid trail running and "sky running" so now I've wimped out and plan to do the Colorado Marathon next month, a much easier paved course down the Poudre Canyon where I've gone river rafting in the past.

Is there another marathon in any of the above states that would somehow make for good 50-states finale?

Another possibility is doing an iron distance triathlon since the 26.2 run segment would count towards my 50-states quest. That would be actually doubly special since I've not yet completed an iron distance tri, thanks to my IMFL 2006 DNF. There's Ironman Wisconsin and the Full Redman Triathlon in Oklahoma.

Does anyone know of any other iron distance tris in the states I have remaining?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Every Finish is a Good Finish

Caution: The following contains material that might be considered offensive to some people. Proceed at your own risk.

After 39 marathons, I thought I pretty much new what to do and what not to do during a race. Either I'd made the mistake myself or had been warned by others. Yet, sometimes I really only learn the hard way. And what happened to me during my 40th marathon I will never forget.

DO NOT TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. How many times had I heard this? How many times have I told it to others? It's like one of the first and foremost rules of racing, right? So why in the world did I disobey it?!

Well, TBH, I think if I hadn't completed so many marathons successfully I would have been more careful. But I'd gained a false sense of confidence. I'd made a number of newbie mistakes at various races and still ended up finishing relatively well. I'd even finished my last race after having injured my ankle at mile 8.

So the fact that the Olathe Marathon wasn't serving a sports drink I was familiar with didn't prompt me to bring my own like it should have. (According to the race FAQ: "The Olathe Marathon uses Quik Kick from Cramer Products. They donate the mix every year. Unfortunately, it's institutional meaning they supply colleges and high schools and thus, not available retail. We know one is coached to train with the same sports drink they will use in a race and we apologize for this but the price is right if you know what we mean.") Nooooo, my plan was to just drink plain water during the race. It wasn't to be a fast race anyway with my ankle still not 100% and I'd often done long runs fueling with just water and gels.

But the wonderful volunteers at the aid stations were yelling "Gatorade! Gatorade!" so I took a cup thinking that perhaps the sports drink had been switched after all. Mistake #1. And as soon as I tasted it, I had my doubts but I drank it anyway. It'd probably be OK, I thought, since I'd had no problems with a variety of other sports drinks in the past (Powerade, Ultima and Amino Vital). The weather was kind of warm (60-ish), quite humid from thunderstorms earlier in the morning and very windy, good reason to consume extra carbs and electrolytes. At the next aid station, no adverse side effects so I continued drinking the sports drink except at mile 6 where I downed a gel with water.

Shortly after mile 10, however, grenades began going off in my intestines and my race became a war: me vs. the evil forces of Runner's Trots (RT). To suppress the enemy, I slowed and made finding a porta-potty my main objective. I remembered seeing two at the aid station just before mile 10 and assumed there'd probably be some at the next aid station 1.5 to 2 miles away.

Enhhh! Wrong. And none at the halfway point of the race either. WTF?

No one I asked seemed to know where the next one might be and the peaceful rural Kansas course turned into a nightmare. There were no gas stations, no stores, no fast food restaurants, not even any trees or bushes for cover or concealment. Unable to hold on for much longer, I began weighing two very undesirable options: (1) stop and open fire in plain view or (2) keep moving and fire away in stealth mode.

Remembering the mess and smell of a runner who passed me at the 2005 St. Louis Marathon, I decided against the second option and began gathering my courage for option one. The few spectators and runners on this course now seemed like way too many, though, so I kept hesitating and plodding on waiting for the right moment. And just when I thought the pain had gotten too unbearable, I crested a hill and saw two beautiful porta-potties at 12 o'clock, about a half a klick away (at mile marker 15). Never have I been so happy to see one in my life!

Though it was a major struggle to keep the enemy at bay much longer, I managed to get there with only a minor breach. Once inside, I let the bad guys fall to their deaths with absolutely no regrets. Afterwards, I took an extra minute at the aid station to rehydrate well since I had not drank much at all the last few miles for fear of making the situation worse. I carried on assuming my war with RT was over. Mistake #2.

Within a mile, the RT forces had regrouped and returned with a vengeance. Rather than retreat back to mile 15, I advanced forward hoping there might be something, anything I could use for cover. After the intersection at mile 17 where there was a pocket of spectators, runners turned onto a quiet road and I saw a parked car ahead with no one in it on the opposite side of the road (yes!). My hopes were dashed, however, when the owners returned and drove it away before I got there.

Thankfully though, just a little ways further was a dirt road off to the side with a very sparse row of vegetation bordering it. Though I'd be completely exposed in the opposite direction, at least oncoming runners would not probably see me unless they turned and looked (and too bad if they did). So I turned off onto the dirt road and squish-squashed through some standing water to get friendly with the plants, one in particular that had a number of very wide leaves (and not leaves of 3). As more bad guys fell, I think I heard some snickering in the distance but I didn't care. I was now just doing what I had to in order to survive!

Back on the course again and, sure enough, another RT attack within a mile. I gave the volunteers at the next aid station my dire SITREP (situation report) and begged them to tell me where the next porta-potty might be. No one had any idea, unfortunately. All they could offer me was water, "Gatorade" and oranges. I took a sip of water, just enough to wet my mouth and throat, nothing more to give the opposition more ammunition. I was now very despondent with nearly every part of my body aching due to dehydration and the constant battling with RT.

Then finally something good happened ... a church appeared in the middle of nowhere and there were a few cars parked in the back on a Saturday. I left the course and took a road up to it hoping the folks inside would let me use their restroom. They did and there I stayed for a long time (10 minutes?) while I made my final stand. The dark RT forces came in three waves and the last one left me so exhausted and weak that I didn't think I could go another 7 miles to the finish and seriously contemplated dropping out of the race. But seconds later, I came to my senses and flushed away those negative thoughts. As I stood up to leave, I noticed a can of air freshener on the back of the toilet and smiled as I dispersed the chemical agent and gave the forces of RT a final goodbye and good riddens.

From mile 19 on, the rest of my race was pretty much uneventful, which is good. I was well past being able to do anything about my chronic dehydrated state so I just kept shuffling along slowly and took walk breaks while drinking water at the aid stations, which were now at one mile intervals, fortunately. Since my finishing time was no longer a concern at all for me (in fact, I hadn't looked at my watch since the halfway point), I stopped two more times briefly to take some rocks out of my shoe, which were probably in there since I went off on that dirt road but I hadn't noticed before. During the second shoe stop (around mile 22), I met up with and ran with a guy named Jim, who was very talkative and had run this course before.

Jim was great company and kept me moving at a steady pace until we crossed the finish and got our nice double-sided medals. My net final race time was 4:27:58, a new personal worst by 22 minutes and a horrendous half hour positive split. But I'd be hard-pressed to view finishing this race as anything but a victory. So this finish, along with all the others before, is a good finish and now I have completed 30 marathons in my 50 states marathon quest.

AAR (After Action Review): I did some online research on Runner's Trots and the Cramer QuicKick and discovered that a key ingredient in the drink is fructose, a natural sugar found in honey and fruits, and it's also a common cause of GI distress. Since I felt fine at the start of the race and nothing else was different food-wise before or during it, I think my RT bouts were caused by the fructose in the drink, which would make sense knowing that I can have the same problem if I eat too many grapes, plums and other fruit. Though other sports drinks have fructose too (original Gatorade does not, but newer formulas now do), somehow the blending with other sugars or the amount is different so they don't bother me. Trial and error, live and learn ...