Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Planning Ahead

Though it's not quite the end of the 2007 season for me, I'm already thinking ahead. I have to. Starting next year, I'll only have 4 more years and 17 marathons remaining in my "50 in 50 by 50" marathon quest. Of those races in the states I have left to do, there are certain ones I want try to avoid (trail races and really hilly ones). OTOH, there are 1/2 iron distance tris I'd like to do in addition. Oh, and I want my 50th state marathon to be part of a full iron distance tri to make it extra special.

I need a plan to make it all happen!

So I've drawn up a tentative events schedule for the next four years. Like this year, 2008 through 2010 will call for 5 marathons and 2 or 3 half iron distance tris. In 2011, the year I turn 50, I will do just 2 marathons, the last one being part of the Redman Iron distance triathlon (2.4 mi swim, 112 bike, 26.2 mi run) so I'm giving myself plenty of extra time during the year to train for it. There'll be other cycling and shorter events too but these races are the biggies.

Future Events Schedule
KY Derby Marathon 4/26/08
DE Delaware Marathon 5/18/08
Hawaii 70.3 5/31/08
Patriot's 1/2-I Tri early Sep
NH C. Demar Marathon end Sep
ME Sportshoe Marathon early Oct
NM Rio Grande Marathon late Oct
Miami Man 1/2-I Tri mid Nov
MN Z.Y.Y. Marathon mid Jan
NJ Ocean Dr Marathon end Mar
ND Fargo Marathon mid May
Eagle Man 70.3 early Jun
Patriot's 1/2-I Tri early Sep
CT Hartford Marathon mid Oct
RI Breakers Marathon mid Oct
Miami Man 1/2-I Tri mid Nov
PlayTri 1/2-I Tri mid Apr
WI Green Bay Marathon mid May
WY Casper Marathon early Jun
Utah 1/2-I Tri early Aug
Patriot's 1/2-I Tri early Sep
MT Montana Marathon mid Sep
IN Indianapolis Marathon mid Oct
WV Huntington Marathon early Nov
PlayTri 1/2-I Tri mid Apr
VT Vt City Marathon late May
Barb's Race 1/2-I Tri early Aug
OK Redman Iron Tri mid Sep

Why Redman and not some Ironman race like IM Louisville or IM Wisconsin, which are also in the Aug-Sep time frame?

Three reasons:

1. I have family in the TX and OK area (none in KY or WI)
2. The Redman course is relatively flat, much like FL
3. I can save becoming a first-time Ironman for another milestone birthday (I'll be eligible for a Big Island resident IM Kona slot starting in 2015 :-)

So there it is. All that remains is to do it.

If anyone will be at one of these races, please let me know!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Other Marathon

Began on Monday, just a couple hours after I dropped off Dave at the airport.

Day 1: Fever, body aches.

Day 2: Stomach cramps, diarrhea.

Day 3: Same, but not as bad.

Fortunately, I'm an endurance athlete.

I gathered all my medicines, water bottles and other necessities (cell phone, laptop) around me, laid down in bed and hung on. Dave asked if he should come home to take care of me but I told him there was nothing he could do. Even seeing a doc would not really help, just had to let the bug run its course, which it did.

So today, the 4th day, I am finally feeling a whole lot better. I'm up out of bed and able to eat normal solid food again -- YAY!!!

Was this perhaps my body's way of forcing me to rest???

Having felt so good after my race last Saturday, I was (quietly) considering doing a sprint tri this Saturday to get in one last open water swim before Miami Man. But now that I'm in a weakened state, I've decided against it. My focus will be to get 100% healthy by Nov. 11.

Maybe I just needed a good kick in the gut to remind me ...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lewis & Clark Siouxland Marathon

What a perfect race!

Great weather, beautiful course, wonderful volunteers. Very few but very friendly runners and spectators (this was a very small race). No altitude issues, ankle injuries or GI problems.

Man, what is there left to write about?

Well, thanks to all the photos that Dave took, I got over my initial writer's block quickly. Plus, the faster half of this race was going to count as my Phedippidations Worldwide Half Marathon, which I was running as part of Team Elijah, hence the yellow reminder band I'm wearing in the photos, and so I owed the team a report.

First of all, let me clarify that the Lewis & Clark Siouxland Marathon actually starts in South Sioux City, Nebraska, and ends in Sioux City, Iowa. According to the 50 States & DC Marathon Group and 50 States Marathon Club rules (there are two organizations that track 50-states marathoner achievements), a race that starts/ends in two different states can count for only one state, you choose. I choose Iowa, since I've already run the Lincoln Marathon as my Nebraska marathon.

So this race was my 42nd marathon in my 32nd state (I've run more than one marathon in some states, obviously). The crowd at the start, however, was one of the fittest looking group of runners I've ever seen. That's what happens when you give 4+ hour marathon finishers an hour earlier start. Yeah, well, not to be intimidated, I lined up in the middle. I was feeling good and thinking there were probably some folks who just decided to sleep in an extra hour.

As soon as we took off, I settled into a 8:30-8:45 pace. Of course, I hadn't trained to run a 3:40-3:50 marathon recently (heck, I was only running 20-30 miles per week and very little of that was under a 9 minute pace with the heat & humidity in FL and HI). But, 30-40 degree cooler weather makes a big difference, HUGE. I felt like someone had removed the shackles from my legs!

So I chose to run by feel. As long as the pace felt easy and I could comfortably talk, I knew I'd be OK. Early on, I chatted with a guy who'd run this race last year and asked him about the hills (the course elevation map showed a few hills but had no scale!). He warned me that the ones between mile 15 and 17 were really steep. Well, at least they're not really late in the race. I hate hills much more after mile 20.

Approaching mile 6, we crossed a bridge into Iowa and then ran on a quiet bike path along the Missouri River. I hardly saw anyone on this stretch but was quite preoccupied by the gorgeous riverside view and some trees with leaves that were turning (I've never lived in a place with 4 seasons).

Around mile 10, we turned off the bike path, went past a big park, and started climbing up a gradual incline. Near the top was Dave, the first time I saw him since the start (he'd gone to park the car at the finish and rode his bike backwards along the course to find me). With his hi-vis yellow bike shirt on, I could spot him from quite a distance. By then, I'd warmed up enough to not need my gloves any more and so I gave them to him rather than carry them with me tucked under a shoulder strap.

He confirmed that the hills to come were steep, like the race director didn't like us runners (gee thanks, Dave). A mile later, I crossed the halfway point mat in 1:57:08. The two pit stops I made at mile 5 & 10 cost me a couple minutes each but the little break for my legs was probably useful. It was doubtful that I'd need to make any more, though, since I'd finally started to noticeably sweat!

And more sweat was definitely in store because Stone State Park, miles 15-17, was where all the "fun" was. The first hill was a real doozy, a good 14% grade (OMIGOD!). Then we had a little downhill and uphill to recover (Ha!). But lurking around some corners were a couple more drawn-out 10-12% grade climbs. UGHH!!

Fortunately, there was a guy not far ahead me. He didn't know it but he was helping me get up the hills. As usual, I'd attached an imaginary line to him and was using it to pull myself up. I was gaining on him slowly but, still, my pace took a dive down to a 12:22 mile. I may be slow but I will not walk!

Dave, being the supportive husband-cheerleader-photographer, was at the top of the last hill to give me extra encouragement. As I crested it, I passed the guy I was behind, thanked him and then began celebrating by pulling away, fast. I knew it was pretty much all gradual downhill or flat from here on out. Dave rode his bike ahead and caught me doing what Chrissie Wellington, the recent Ironman Kona female winner, did when she knew she had the race in the bag.

Miles 18-21 were my fastest miles of the race with the nice easy downhill slope helping: 8:22, 7:48 (whoops, a bit too fast!), 8:07, 8:16. I began seeing some folks who had started an hour earlier. Here I am next to a Marathon Maniac who has probably run over 100 marathons and plans to run another one tomorrow. And you thought I was crazy?

The course then flattened out as we turned onto a bike path that followed a little creek. With no cloud cover or shade and temps now well into the 60's, I was starting to feel plenty warm, despite being from FL. There were very few people in sight along the course or on the course so I was glad Dave was at mile 23 to give me a mental boost. More of the same until the last mile of the race, he told me (thanks again, Dave).

By now, some of the celebrating had waned and I had resumed an 8:30-8:45 pace that felt manageable but was definitely not as easy as before. Mile 25 was actually the hardest mile of the race for me because most of it was straight down the same road for something like 10 blocks. Orange cones for as far as I could see ...

But finally I got to that last cone, made the turn and then one more to see the finish line. There it was, only 3 blocks away. Anyone between me and the finish? Well, let's see, one guy and one woman, but both are probably out of reach ... Oh, what the heck!

So I did the traditional sprint to the finish. To my surprise, the woman slowed to run across the finish line with her daughter, who was only like 2 or 3. She made it easy for me.

Net race time: 3:50:15, a Boston Marathon qualifying race time (BQ)!
First 1/2 split: 1:57:08
Second 1/2 split: 1:53:07, 4 minutes faster!!
3/8 F45-49
8/46 total Females
51/166 total Finishers

But since masters awards at this race went 3-deep, I ended up winning a 1st place age group (AG) award. Always nice to earn some extra hardware!!!

Post-race notes:

Dave and I flew home a few hours after the race. My legs feel very good, probably the best they've ever felt after running a marathon. I should have no problems being fully recovered in 3 weeks for Miami Man. But I need to come up with some new race goals for the Las Vegas Marathon in early December. My original goal was to run a sub 4-hour marathon.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Good Race Omens

So the Lewis & Clark Siouxland Marathon is now only 2 days away. It's been cold and rainy all this week in Omaha but Saturday's race day forecast for Sioux City, Iowa (about 1.5 hrs away) is calling for sunny skies with temps starting out in the mid-40's and getting up low 60's by noon time. Ideal for running a marathon!

This morning Dave and I went out for a bike ride in light rain. After only a few miles out, I got a flat. Then not much further I got another one!! Normally, this would piss me off royally but not today. Now, you know you're not supposed to be doing too much so close to your marathon. So after fixing the second one, I headed back while Dave went on. Thank you, bike.

Then, while relaxing back at the hotel, I did what Petra did with a photo to see which celebrity I could become using the MyHeritage website. Who would have guessed ...

He's like one of my favorite superstuds!!! Besides Dave, that is ;-)

So with good weather and extra rest, does this mean I will Rock the race???

Hopefully, but who knows for sure ... at least I didn't get morphed into Oprah :-P

FWIW, here are my race goals:

1) Run fast enough to finish in around 4 hours
2) Run slow enough to recover in 3 weeks for MiamiMan
3) Enjoy myself enough to want to run 18 more races in my 50 states marathon quest.
4) Take photos for Elijah, a little 6-year-old who's battling cancer for the second time, to let him know that I'm thinking of him.

Best of luck to Maddy, Petra, Irish Blue, Chris, Bigun and everyone else racing this weekend!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Trick or Treat?

This week has been a treat, for sure!

On Tuesday I did a group run at Disney World with fellow bloggers Maddy, Adam (The Zen Runner) and Marathon Chris. It's the first time in probably over a year that I've had the chance to run with any other people outside of a race. It was a great run, great company, great food afterwards (well, not really from a nutritious standpoint but it tasted good!) and even a chance run-in with Steve Ballmer. Click here if you want to know more.

Next Saturday is the Lewis & Clark Siouxland Marathon in Sioux City, Iowa. And Dave will be there to cheer for me because he has to be in Omaha, Nebraska, the week before the race, which is only 1.5 hours away. OK, so maybe I did plan to run the race in hopes that he'll have a business trip there, as he often does, but either way, it's worked out -- woohoo!!

And, get ready to put on a coat -- today was the first day in over 6 months that I ran in sub-80 degree weather! Yup, we have a cold front coming in this weekend so it was only in the high 60's to mid-70's during this morning's run. I saw many folks wearing jackets but all I had on extra was my Garmin Forerunner, the first time I've worn it in months, just to see how well I'd do on my 10-miler in the brisk conditions.

My warm up/down miles were nice and easy in the 9:30-10 min pace range but I ran the middle miles a little harder in 8-8:30 pace range for an average pace of 8:49 for the entire run (10.2 miles). With some luck and cool weather at Sioux City, Dave may not be waiting for much longer than 4 hours (he didn't attend the 3 slower-than-usual marathons I ran earlier this year).

And this weekend should be gorgeous weather for cycling as well. I'll post again from Omaha next week. Oh, did I forget to mention that I'll be going with him? :-)

Monday, October 08, 2007

2007 Health First Oly Tri

So race day weather turned out to be pretty much as bad as expected. 82 degrees at the start with humidity making it feel like near 90. Light rain as my swim wave went off turning into a good downpour during the second half of my bike segment but letting up during the run. Winds 14-17mph with gusts up to 23 mph, making the water quite rough for a non-wetsuit swim and the bike course more challenging. The only good thing weather-wise was that the thick rain clouds kept the sun from heating things up even more.

But what frustrated me most was not the weather or the water conditions. It was the lack of buoys to mark the swim course. There were four, the same number as the previous year, but the second one was only ~50 yards from the first one (just for the sprint tri swimmers to go around) so we were swimming nearly 1/2 a mile in heavy chop and waves to get to the third outermost one which was only 2-3 feet high lying on its side. It was ridiculous. Swimmers were spread out as far as I could see to the right and left of me. Who should I follow?

So I spent much time looking for the third buoy myself. After a while, I noticed a flashing beacon in the distance to my right. I searched my mind to figure out what it might mean. There was no mention of a beacon during the swim course briefing and it wasn't there when I was looking at the swim course earlier. Maybe it's some boat out in the water warning us of its presence and to stay clear? Maybe it's the replacement for the swim buoy that has floated away? Is anyone swimming towards it?

Well, unfortunately, there weren't any course support personnel near me to ask and swimmers in front of me did not appear to be changing course so I continued to swim in a direction that would take me 75-100 yards to the left of it. But as I got closer to it, I saw that the beacon was on a small boat and bobbing nearby it was the elusive third orange buoy (so maybe it had gotten loose or the race folks had sent the boat out because people were missing the buoy). Well, whatever, it was going to be a hard fight to get to it, against the wind and waves.

Once I finally managed to get around it, sighting on the way back turned out to be nearly as difficult. We were told to use the end of a pier near the swim start/exit which was, again, something like 700 yards away. There was supposed to another orange buoy near the pier's end to help guide us -- yeah, right. Even the tall palm trees that I'd planned to use as a landmark to get back were not visible from that distance (I should have chosen a big fat tall building instead of skinny palm trees!). So I just kept swimming as parallel to shore as possible until I could finally make out the right pier and the fourth buoy. There were actually a couple piers out there and I saw a jet ski go by to tell one swimmer she was headed to the wrong one. My final swim time was a disappointing 54:01.

But there were guys wearing green caps from the previous wave running alongside me to T1 and other bikes, including one next to mine, were still there!! So my disappointment turned into a big smile as I donned my new aero bike helmet and took off like a rocket. Yeah, it was windy and pouring rain during parts of it but I'd ridden in both before. Besides, it was mostly a crosswind, only a full-on headwind going up and over the causeways heading east. Rain was not much of a concern to me unless cornering or going over slippery surfaces.

Like the steel grating on a bridge around mile 15. Unfortunately, a couple of cyclists ahead of me had slipped and fallen there (OUCH!!!) but were now kindly warning folks to ride on the other side of the bridge against traffic, which was paved. Dave was riding around the course taking photos of me and later told me they were taken off the course in an ambulance :-(

The last causeway heading west back over to the transition area was probably the steepest one on the course but the wind was helping. I slowed way down coming down and into the final turn because folks were warning us that it was very slippery. I managed to stay upright through it but fell over at the dismount point just as I'd unclipped and swung my leg over my bike -- Oops, my legs were a little wobbly after that hard ride but no harm done. Bike time 1:23:25 and the mileage turned out to be about 27 miles, not 40K (24.9 mi) as originally thought.

OK, so maybe I did push a little too hard on the bike, but how could I expect my legs to run fast if I'd not done any hard brick (bike-run) workouts? So I plodded along trying to get the lead out and finally loosened up around mile three, just in time for the big climb up and over the causeway I'd just biked over, but this time straight into the wind. It was tough and a lot of folks were walking up it, but in a few minutes it was over and I was headed downhill (wee!). I rounded the turn at the end of the causeway, went back up and over it at a much faster pace and came home strong. Run time: 52:52, an 8:31 min/mile avg pace, not as bad as I thought considering how slow I thought I was going initially.

At the finish I got a medal (don't think I got one last year, maybe they ran out?). All participants also received a nice embroidered running cap at packet p/u, which I will gladly wear, unlike most cotton t-shirts.

Thoughts on the swim:

Last year, I was the very last oly triathlete to finish the swim, which was in calm conditions. This year, 19 people (~9% of the field) swam slower than me, and half of them had swim times over an hour. Two other women in my AG did the race last year also and they swam 12 and 19 minutes slower this year. I swam only 7 minutes slower, which could be interpreted as saying that I swam better (5-12 minutes faster) this year, relatively speaking.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Where's the #$&?%!! Buoy?

Just as the first swim wave was about to go off, one of the four orange buoys marking the swim course got loose and floated away. They delayed the start a few minutes to get it back out there but what they should have done is put more out there to begin with, a lot more. Because in rough water conditions, 4 buoys are simply not enough. Not when the furthest one out is nearly 1/2 a mile away from the last one. Not when they're lying on their side only a couple feet high, easily obscured in HEAVY chop and waves.

Which is why I totally missed my swim goal ...

0.9 mi Swim (AG rank)54:01 (10/11)47:16 (12/12)
27.2 mi Bike (AG rank)1:23:35 (2/11)1:35:55 (10/12)
6.2 mi Run (AG rank)52:52 (3/11)1:00:29 (5/12)
Total Race Time (AG rank)3:15:23 (6/11)3:30:59 (9/12)

But so did many others. In fact, I actually did much better on the swim this time relative to the field. More details to follow.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Oly Tri Preview

This Sunday is the Health First Tri in Melbourne, FL, my second official tri this year and sixth overall tri. I'm doing the olympic distance event, meaning a 1.5K (0.9 mi) swim, 40K (24.9 mi) bike and 10K (6.2 mi) run. It's not my favorite tri distance because the swim is about 3/4 that of a 1/2 iron tri swim while the bike and run segments are only about half, so more time spent proportionally on my weakest sport.

But I did this race last year and am familiar with the course. There'll be ~500 total participants including the sprint tri folks, so probably about half doing the oly tri. That's considerably smaller than the ~2000 who were at my last race back in May, Florida 70.3. It'll be a great opportunity to see where I'm at with my swimming and get more tri experience under my belt for my A race next month, Miami Man, which is a 1/2 iron distance tri.

So what's my goal for this race? Well, the swim is in the Indian River, which is brackish water (no amoebas!) and usually 83+ degrees this time of year, so no wetsuits allowed. Last year, I think there was a slight current because it took me a bit longer than I expected to finish (47 vs. 45 minutes) and I swam the entire way on my own. This year, I hope to finish the swim in under 40 minutes.

My bike and run times should be better as well because I used this race last year to practice my pacing strategies for Ironman Florida. I really only had one swim pace back then so my IM swim pace was my oly tri swim pace. However, that's definitely not the case with my biking and running. I'll be using my new aero bike helmet for the first time in a race and pushing much harder so unless I flat out, I shouldn't have a motorcycle following me ;-) And together with a strong run, if all goes right, perhaps I'll have a chance to finish in the middle of my age-group standings or better (last year I finished 9/12).

But weather could be more of a factor this year once on land. We've got a tropical front coming in this weekend, bringing with it higher than usual winds and possibly some rain. With the humidity factored in, the temperature at the start is supposed to feel like a whopping 89 degrees!

I just may be happiest in the water :-)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Time for a Drastic Change?

Oh dear!!! Another woman was sexually attacked near my house Friday morning, the same day I went out for a long run. That makes 3 within about a mile of my house the past year or so, always early in the mornings when it was still dark out (5-6am). And the same guy may be involved in 3 other similar attacks in the general area, making it a total of 6. No mention of a weapon used this time but other times, yes.

On Friday, I ran right past where the latest incident occured about 2 hours later, when it was plenty light out. In fact, I often have to run past that spot and the very same wall where one of the previous attacks had occured. Both are on my way to/from the local bike path. I've been told by someone who used to work for Orlando PD that this guy is probably relying on the cover of darkness to commit his crimes but likely lives nearby and knows the area well. He may become bolder if he sees an opportunity to get away with it.

Is it time to make a drastic change in my running? Maybe running alone, even when it's light out, is just plain dumb given what's going on?

Besides running on super high alert all the frickin' time, other options I can think of include running on a treadmill, running some place else hopefully safer (say, along busy roads where there's much more traffic and people around; no more quiet neighborhoods or bike paths), or running with other people. I've done all three in the past and can say for sure that the first two are much easier for me than changing my schedule and going to meet people for a run (esp. since my husband is often only home on weekends so I try to do things with him rather than run). However, none of these other options are ideal. I like to run outdoors, alone and where it's quiet.

What would you do? Or, if you're a guy, what would you recommend a woman do?