Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Florida Challenge Triathlon

First of all, thank you for all the comments on my last two posts!! Dave is definitely feeling the love but still says he doesn't want his own blog. But, he has done his best to get some "bad" photos of me so ya'll can see I don't always smile during a race. Here's what he got at the Florida Challenge Tri last Saturday.

Well, even though I might not show it, I was very happy that the race organizers had declared that the swim was wetsuit-legal. Earlier in the week, we'd received an email saying the water temp was 80-81 degs, which didn't look good. But a storm the day before the race dumped some rain which probably helped. YAY! Above I'm applying some Body Glide to make my wetsuit easier to put on and take off. After much wriggling and pulling, I was all zipped in but having to stand real tall to breathe. I swear that thing seems to get tighter every time I put it on!

No, actually, I was scanning the crowds looking for fellow blogger Sarah, who was there too doing her first half iron race. I found her near the water's edge along with her husband and some other folks from her tri club. We chatted for a while and she seemed to be as cool as a cucumber.

I was also probably the most calm I'd ever been before a tri seeing no waves breaking, no white caps, no alligator warning signs and buoys that didn't look so far. I told Dave I hoped to finish the swim in ~45 minutes. Honestly, though, I have no clue of my swim pace when I'm swimming in open water. It all depends on the currents, waves, how well I sight, others around me (one time I drafted someone and ended up swimming slower!) and, of course, whether the course distance is accurate.

So I started in the back as I usually do but found myself swimming past people early on. There did seem to be a current making it harder to stay on course on the first two legs of the triangle but what bothered me most was not seeing many purple caps in my wave around me on the last leg. Instead, I saw quite a few green caps from the wave behind me and I thought for sure I was in for another slow swim again. Then I stood up and looked at my watch. 45-something!!!

My tri club coach was right behind me coming out of the water (his wave started 10 minutes later). He yelled at me to keep moving as the guy in front of me started walking. Thanks, Coach!

1.2 mile swim time: 45:27 (2:09/100 yds), nearly a 3 minute PR for me!

To my surprise, there were wetsuit strippers at this race. Had I known that, I would have gotten the arms of my wetsuit off before reaching them. Instead, these two poor young girls spent a minute or so struggling to get the sleeves around my watch and race wristband. Then they spent another minute or so trying to pull off the wetsuit over my big butt. I might have been quicker doing it myself!

But, finally, I got to T1 and saw a most magnificent sight ... lots of bicycles still there around mine :-)

T1 time: 4:15

So now it was onto the hilly 58-mile bike course. Dave and I rode it the weekend before and I figured I'd be in for close to a four hour ride, that is, if I wanted to have any legs left to run on afterward. I didn't even bother wearing my aero helmet. I did get a lot of looks, however, because I was riding my little travel bike. No doubt if there'd been a cute bike division, it would definitely have won that from all the comments I heard the day before the race and during the race.

But this little bike can keep up with its bigger cousins quite well, especially with no bike computer on it. Yes, the bike crash earlier this year still haunts me so I purposefully rode without a computer hoping I'd stop freaking out and hitting the brakes every time I saw 30+ mph on the downhills. The strategy worked well.

However, midway up the biggest hill on the course, Sugarloaf, somehow my chain went off the cassette towards the wheel and got stuck. Uh-oh! Fortunately, I clipped out before falling over. It was easy to fix and I managed to get clipped back into my pedals on the hill and going up again pretty fast. Woo hoo!

But then shortly after making it to the top of Sugarloaf, I felt the water bottle on my down tube resting against my right calf. WTF? I pulled over again and discovered that the top bolt to my bottle cage had gotten loose so that the cage was only being held by the bottom screw. Crap!

Luckily, the bolt was still there as it was being held in place by the water bottle. I couldn't get it back on using my fingers and had to pull out my multi-tool to screw it back in. It took longer than I would have liked but being a low key race, I didn't get too frazzled. I halfway expected to get a flat too since I had one at the end of the ride last week. Nothing else would slow me down, though, except more hills and some wind.

58 mile bike time: 3:27:27 (16.8 mph)

Back in T2, however, I saw there weren't that many bikes back on the racks yet, which made me feel a whole lot better. I made a quick stop into a porta potty and headed out for the run.

T2 time: 3:39

The first couple miles were tough. My glutes and hamstrings were very tight (definitely not used to riding hills!) and it was getting kind of warm, maybe close to 80 degs. I slogged through to where Dave was located at around mile 2 and gave him "the look."

About 2 hours?, he asked. At least, I replied.

But in Hawaii after a 50+ mile bike ride, my legs felt similarly and they got better after a few miles. On the other hand, things could stay a slogfest the whole time as it did at Gulf Coast Tri back in May. Only time will tell ...

At least we had some nice shade along parts of this run course, which made a huge difference, along with 10 degree cooler temps and much lower humidity than at Gulf Coast. The biggest hill was located where there was no shade, however, and, of course, we had to run up it, down it, turnaround and go back up and down it again. Bastards.

But after that (~mile 4) is when my legs got their groove back! I began humming along at probably close to 9-minute miles and passing a fair amount of folks. Later, around miles 9 and 10, a couple guys and one woman passed me but they didn't bother me much since I'd already decided I didn't want to overdo things at this race. They were going way faster than me anyway.

Near the finish, there was a cruel turn in the run course that added another half mile to what I thought I had left. I finally got to the final straightaway and picked up my pace a bit although there was no one in front to catch. Dave was nowhere in sight but I would find out later that he was actually there wearing a pink shirt rather than the orange one he'd had on earlier. Sneaky!

So he caught me smiling at the finish after all. Even though the clock over the finish line was broken, I knew I'd finished in under 6:30 and had had a great race!

Final Race time:
6:23:28, 2/9 F45-49

Swim: 45:27 (2:09/100yd), 5/9
T1: 4:15, 6/9
Bike: 3:27:27 (16.8 mph), 3/9
T2: 3:39, 3/9
Run: 2:02:43 (9:22 pace), 3/9

Maybe I should treat all my races as training races?!

Oh, and Sarah rocked her first half iron tri. Read about her race here!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Quick Update: Great Training Race!

I stuck to my plan to use the Florida Challenge half iron tri as a training race but nearly everything went better than I expected so I ended up finishing in 6:23:28 instead of the 7 or so hours I thought I would. I also got second place in my age group, unbelievably.

There were only 9 of us, though, and the really fast ones that were there last year decided to do something else today. Am I the only one who looks up previous year's race results?

More details to follow soon. Need to get some sleep before a flight tomorrow morning!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dr. Humble Triathlete

Many of you know me as a crazy woman who travels about the country training and racing incessantly. Even on my lazy days I can make the Energizer Bunny look like a sloth.

Who in their right mind would put up with me and why?

Well, here's a bit about my better half, or rather better two-thirds. I was nearly flabbergasted when Dave asked to write a post on my blog. He keeps saying he doesn't want to blog! It didn't have a title so I gave it one (he has a PhD in Computer Science) and I added a little of my own too. After all, it is still MY blog. But you'll see that he is at least partially to blame for my madness.

Hi, this is Dave (Shirley’s husband) with a guest post.

As some of you know, I’m very supportive of Shirley and her pursuit of running all of these races all over the country. It’s not because I’m such a nice guy, it’s because I have a vested interest in having her travel around the country with a goal that is gonna take a couple of years.

For those of you who don’t know, I travel a lot for work. Like nearly every week except on weekends, usually. So much so that more than half of Shirley’s trips are at least partially covered by hotel, car, or airline points. Having her travel solves two problems: 1. it helps to use up the points so people don’t ask me for them and 2. it exposes her to some of the “fun” I have when I travel. So, her flying around the country sets up a common bond between us. She can curse TSA rules too, collect her own little shampoo bottles and laugh at my travel jokes. I grew up in the military, so I’ve been all over the country and no real desire to visit most of it again anyway. My idea of a vacation is staying home for a change.

On the triathlon front, in the mid 1980’s I ran quite a few of what are now called the Olympic distances races. I've also done the Wildflower Triathlon long course and still have one of the original Scott aerobars used in the sport, which Shirley once thought was a lawn mower part in the garage. During that time, I got hooked on road bike riding. So, a couple of years ago when I was fitted with some knee braces by the VA, I decided to try riding again. This coincided with Shirley’s desire to try triathlons. So, now road biking is a shared hobby we can do together. As an aside, I also managed to lose 40 lbs.

Ok, there is one restriction I did put on her. I told her that we would not move to Hawaii until she has finished the 50 states quest. Her desire to complete the quest by the time she is 50 (November 2011) coincides with my desire to keep working in my present capability until May 2011. Not sure what I’m going to do after that, but it’s going to involve less travel and allow me to follow a training plan. So, supporting her goal is also supporting mine of continued working or at least postponing me having to come up with “what's next”. The other thing is I’m too cheap to want her flying back and forth from Hawaii to run races all the country. Shirley has made it clear, though, that she's willing and able to knock out the remaining 11 marathons to finish her 50 States quest in a year if I figure out what to do next sooner.

Finally, I’m supportive of her because I love her with all my heart, she means the world to me and I would do anything I could to help make her happy. Well, almost anything.

Thanks for reading …

Now please give him some nice comment love so he might do this again in the future :-)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Caution: Wicked Fun Ahead!

OK, I'm well again and raring to go!

But my 2008 race schedule last week showed only one more race, Miami Man, a half iron tri on Nov. 9 :-(

Well, I've fixed that. There's still lots more pain fun in store for this year -- MWAHAHAHAHA!

For starters, I need to get back into tri training. It's been nearly a month since I last did any open water swimming, a 50+ mile bike ride or a brick workout. That's no way to gear up for a PR at Miami Man!

So with three weeks still left, why not do the Florida Challenge Tri, a local half iron tri held this weekend as a training race? It's got a much tougher bike course, as in way more hilly, especially for those of us who haven't ridden much hills lately. Take a look-see (elevation profile courtesy of Bigun, who did the race last year; click to enlarge):

But I'm not really as dumb as I may seem. I did ride the course first.

It actually took two tries. On Saturday we got about 21 miles into the ride when Dave broke his bike chain while climbing up a hill. Luckily, he was able to clip out before falling over but without a spare chain or chain tool, he was stuck out in the middle of freaking nowhere. I rode back to the car as fast as I could and by the time I'd returned, my legs were toast so we just drove the rest of the course. We returned on Sunday, however, and rode all but a few of the miles at the beginning of the 58 mile (yes, 58, not 56) bike course on a windy day. Let's just say that I am really glad my travel tri bike has a granny gear ...

So that FL Challenge race, even with a slow 7+ hour finish, will make Miami Man seem relatively easy. Best of all, I'll get a chance to meet up with Sarah, who'll be there doing her first half iron tri!

The day after, Dave and I head to Tucson for a day to get fit for our new road bikes at TriSports -- Yipee! Then we head to San Diego for the rest of the week where I'll be able to cram in a bit more open water swimming and hill training. Before the hammy pull late July, I'd hoped to go sub-5:45 in Miami (finished in 5:46 last year). Not sure I can still do so but a big 1.2 mile swim PR would certainly help and make my day either way.

Then I'm off to run the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, OK, the following weekend. It'll be my 50th overall marathon and leave me with only 10 more marathons left in my 50 states quest. Have I mentioned that completing my 50 states quest is a requirement before we can move to Hawaii?

So fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a fun four weeks!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Maine Marathon

Sorry for the delay! I was hoping that some of the official race photos (bib #550) would show me looking miserable but it appears that the photographers chose to position themselves close to the end of the race when I was oh-so-happy to be finishing. Darn it!

So I'll go with the pictures that hubby Dave took and add some narrative to better describe the Maine Marathon, which was not an easy race for me and resulted in my third slowest marathon race time to date. First off, it was a fairly hilly course, hilly to me at least.

But, as I've mentioned before, I trained for the hills in Hawaii so that wasn't a big deal. The main performance limiter was illness. For a couple days I'd been on decongestants trying minimize the symptoms, which started out as goop in my right eye (it was swollen shut on Wednesday!), became a wicked sore throat, followed by nasty sinus congestion and then relentless coughing. If I didn't have to run a marathon, I would have surely stayed indoors in bed or just played with Dave's friend's cats. They were so cute!

Thankfully, race day was about as good as it gets. Sunny skies, low wind, temps in the low 40's at the start and forecast to get up only in to high 50s by noon. Yes, it was the kind of day that makes runners, even sick ones, think they will run well. Before the race, we were fortunate to be able to hang out in a warm student union (race started adjacent to the University of Southern Maine). There I realized all the medicines I'd been taking might cause me some problems. I'd hardly drank anything that morning, just my usual one cup of coffee, and yet I was peeing like I'd drank a gallon!

But better that than feeling like your head is going to explode, right? You betcha.

So I use the restroom like 3 times in 45 minutes and then move my butt to the start line just before the race is supposed to begin. We start a few minutes late for some reason but are soon off and running along the beautiful Portland Back Cove area. It was such a perfect day that I'm thinking maybe, just MAYBE, a sub-4 hour marathon might be possible.

By mile 2, though, I've already shed my thin windbreaker, which is very odd (usually I'm like a popsicle in 40-degree weather for at least 3-4 miles). My legs are also feeling a bit sluggish but I'm thinking they'll probably loosen up a bit further into the race. Meanwhile, I distract myself with the gorgeous waterfront scenery and beautiful homes. Around mile 5, I see Dave on his bike. So far, doing OK!

But shortly thereafter, things begin going south. I've hardly drank anything while running but the meds are continuing to dehydrate me causing frequent pit stops. Fortunately, there are no porta potty lines but stopping every few miles is very annoying and I know my body must be going into a major fluid deficit.

Later, I find myself in back of the Mullet Marathon Men (not the real Mullet Marathoners, I found out later, but impersonators). This is actually a good thing, though, because they are a silly bunch who are clearly having fun and people are cheering for them. They take my mind off my troubles for bit.

But then Chatty Cathy relay runner comes up alongside me. She's never run in a full marathon event before and is amazed to see 50-Staters and Mullet Marathon Men who are out here having fun running 26 miles while she's hoping to just finish her 8-mile leg. And she doesn't seem to catch on that I barely have a voice to talk to her and would much rather conserve energy. After a mile or so next to her, I purposefully slow down a bit to try to encourage her to go on without me, which she does, thankfully. So then I'm left on my own again for a while to run in peace.

Well, not exactly. My kidneys are still working overtime and so when I see Dave again around mile 10, my first question is whether he's seen any more porta potties ahead. He pulls out the course map and tells me there's some at mile 12. This time there's a wait and the area is way too open to go find a place to hide, unfortunately. Thanks Dave for capturing this memorable race moment!

Finally, I get to mile 13 in 2:10-something and realize this is just not going to be the race I was hoping for. The legs still feel sluggish, I'm dehydrated and cranky, and I'm sick of peeing. Dave senses it's best if he goes on to the finish line and takes a few more pictures of the out-and-back course rather than follow me back. Yes, he knows me well. Anybody who tries to make me better when I feel like sh*t is liable to get bitten so better to leave me alone -- GRRR!

So we head back the way we came along the pretty tree-lined streets (click photo to enlarge). I try to force myself to feel better by picking up my pace a bit, which works for a while, but soon my hip flexors and glutes are aching while going up the hills. I thought I'd end up having to walk at some point but kept shortening my stride and trying to maintain my turnover rate. I'm sure I must have looked ridiculous taking such little itty bitty steps but at least I was moving forward and, believe it or not, I was actually passing some people.

By mile 17, we started going down hill which gave my legs a much needed break. I also realized that I was no longer having to pee and began grabbing two cups at the aid stations. Usually it's not possible to undo dehydration at a hot race but today it seemed to work. By mile 20, I actually started feeling noticeably better!

Then a funny thing happened. A woman wearing a Moms on the Run jersey, who I'd passed earlier, passed me back. I got really pissed off because she did not look like a faster runner AT ALL and until then NO ONE had passed me since the first half of the race. Where did she all of a sudden get her energy?

So I gave chase and finally caught up to her just after mile 22. Then I realized she was not the same woman after all, but a relay runner wearing the same Moms on the Run jersey. HA!

But by then I was pumped and knew I had to keep going strong or else the adrenaline would wear off and I'd start hurting again. The last few miles had a lot of nice water views (click photo to enlarge), which helped, but the best thing that could have happened was that someone else passed me at mile 23. No way!

Yep, this time it was a short Asian guy with a short fast-paced stride like mine. I stalked him until the last little hill at mile 24 where he faded and then went past him decisively. After that, I just kept on running as fast as I could for the finish. I wanted this race to be over ASAP before anyone else would try to pass me or the pain would catch up to me. Luckily, neither did.

Final time:
4:13:29 (9:42 avg pace), 19/40 F40-45
49th Overall Marathon, 39th State in my 50 states quest
11 more to go!

Thank you again, Dave, for the photos and support. And thanks also to Jennifer, his friend in Maine, for letting us stay in her lovely home.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

10 Good Things About Being Sick

10. I rested much more than I probably would have otherwise between my two week-apart marathons.

9. Decongestants make going to sleep the day before a race no problem.

8. Waking up at 3:30am race morning is easy when -- cough, cough -- the meds have worn off.

7. Thanks to a mild fever, 42-degrees F at the race start did not feel that cold to me.

6. I couldn't talk to Chatty Cathy during my race because I'd lost my voice.

5. The second half of my marathon went by quick because I wasn't feeling well and wanted it to be over sooner.

4. A slower marathon race time doesn't bother me at all.

3. Maine lobster tastes better after a tough race. OK, it's the first time I've ever had it but I'm sure it couldn't have tasted better!

2. I get more room on crowded flights when I blow my nose and cough often.

1. If I must have some downtime after a race, might as well be sick too so I can kill two birds with one stone :-)

Stay tuned for the race report next!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Maine Marathon is Done!

The Maine Marathon had perfect weather conditions and a beautiful race course. But it's tough to run a marathon when you're sick. I finished in 4:13:29, not my best marathon performance but I'll take it. Race report to follow in a couple days after I get some rest!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Clarence DeMar Marathon

So who the heck is Clarence DeMar?

Well, it turns out he's a 7-time winner of the Boston Marathon, who lived and worked in the Keene, New Hampshire, area as an instructor and track/XC coach for Keene State College. No other marathoner has won 7 times at Boston. His 7th victory there came in 1930, when he became the oldest winner of the event at the age of 41, a record he still holds. To honor him, a local group of runners put on the Clarence DeMar Marathon, which finishes not far from where he used to live and train his teams on a cinder track at KSC. Cool history lesson!

The race start, however, was in a tiny town called Gilsum north of Keene. There were about 250 runners and it looked like we probably doubled the town's population that Sunday morning. Most businesses were closed but one store was open. I'll bet the owner was thrilled to have so many customers.

Race day temperatures, however, were not as I'd hoped. Thanks to Hurricane Kyle looming off the New England coast, we had temperatures in the 60's with 94% humidity. Sort of cool but definitely not crisp. At least it wasn't raining as it had been the day before when we arrived.

But a downhill course should make things easy, right? Wrong. I actually think downhill courses are harder than flat or rolling courses because of the extra pounding on the quads which can make later miles in a marathon very difficult. So my plan was to run the first half very easy, like a 10+ minute pace. If by halfway the legs still feel good, then I can pick up my pace a little, but not a lot knowing I have another marathon the following weekend. All I really want to do is finish!

So I brought along my old Garmin Forerunner 201 to help keep me from going out too fast. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a satellite signal through the thick cloud cover, though, so I ended up using it like a regular watch (newer Garmins should have no problem). Oh well, I was sure I knew what a 10 minute mile pace felt like having run a lot of them in Hawaii recently.

But 20 degrees cooler weather makes a difference! I'm reaching mile markers in less than 10 minutes easily and wondering if they might be off (it's happened before). Probably not but the pace doesn't feel too fast so I continue on. Please excuse the wild hair.

Around mile 6, I see hubby Dave on his bike riding the course in reverse. Yay! There were very few spectators so it was a treat to see him. And it was actually the first of my marathons he'd been to this year!

I pass through an aid station and demonstrate my on-the-run drinking technique, which has never before been caught on camera. Grab cup, scrunch top into a spout and pour fluid into mouth. Voila! (I still usually carry two 10oz Fuel Belt bottles with me, however, as aid stations are often further apart than I'd like.)

After he's taken way too many pictures of me, I encourage Dave to ride to the top of the hill where we started and take some pictures of the scenery along the route. He got the stream that ran alongside the road, a meadow where maybe a moose was hiding in the trees(?), and some of the many, MANY colorful trees:

Pretty area, huh? Especially for someone who's only seen leaves turning once before in her life (at the Mohawk Hudson Marathon in Albany, New York, which RunningGeezer262 will be running soon!)

The only thing that was missing were porta-potties. But I knew there'd be NONE except at the start and finish of the race. What???

Yes, at packet p/u we were told there were none on the course but that there were plenty of trees, a few gas stations and stores along the way, and some people who'd probably let us use their bathrooms if we knocked on their door. Weird!

Around mile 8, though, I feel something worse ... a little twinge in my right hammy. Oh no!

I slow down a bit and feel another little one about a mile later. Crap!!

Now I'm thinking that any moment I'm going to feel a pop again and be reduced to walking. But ... nothing ... else ... happens!!

At mile 13, we reached a small town where I see a 7-11 across the street. I completely forget about the hammy and run over there as fast as I can thinking that everyone around me has got the same thing on their mind. Unbelievably, no one followed and there was no line!!!

After the pit stop, I was fired up and ready to go. I'd finished the first half in 2:06 and hadn't heard from the hammy for several miles. So I ran back onto the course and by mile 15 had caught up to and passed all the people I was running nearby earlier before the break. We get rained on a little (note drenched shorts below). Mile marker 20 comes and goes but no Dave. Where could he be?

At mile 21 he rolls up and tells me he'd gotten a flat. I'm relieved he's OK and then ask him how bad that hill at mile 22 is (his job is to scope out the hills and report back to me :-). He tells me it's pretty bad. Bah! I'll be finishing between 4:05 and 4:10, I tell him.

So I get to mile 22 and everyone is walking up the hill. It's maybe about a 1/4 mile long and, according to Dave's Garmin Edge 305, a 10% grade. No way, I say. I've run up hills like this that were a lot longer in Hawaii.

So I shift into my granny gear and start going up slow and steady. One person has the energy to cheer for me and I cheer for him back. At the top, there's a good downhill and then I know it's pretty much flat from here on out. This race is in the bag!

Coming down the final stretch, someone called out my name on the left. It's fellow blogger Greg, aka Road Warrior, who lives about an hour away and had come out to see the race. Though we've never met before in person, I recognized him immediately. Dave was on the right cheering. Wow, two people cheering for me at a small race far from home, talk about feeling like a ROCKSTAR!

After I pigged out on some post-race food, Dave and I found Greg again and we chatted for a while about the race and his 48 miles in 48 hours running challenge. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay too long because I had to get in an ice bath soon to start recovering for my race next weekend. Great meeting you, Greg!

Final time:
4:08:25 (9:29 avg pace)
17/29 F40-49

48th overall marathon
38th state in my 50 States quest
12 more left!

Thanks, Dave, for all the photos and support!!!