Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sunburst Marathon

Course: From Hall of Fame to Notre Dame

Weather: Icky and sticky

Overall: Fun but glad to be done!

I'm no longer nervous about running marathons. To run several a year and do half iron tris, I've made the conscious decision to run them all like long training runs. So why the hell did I wake up with a stomach ache race morning?

Who knows ... But I've learned to get up at least 2+ hours before I leave for a race to give myself time to "work" things out. By start time, 6am, it wasn't much of an issue, just a lingering feeling that I might have to make a pit stop during the race.


Hall of Fame football statue and helmets. The left helmet was an old soft-shelled one worn by Johnny Lattner of Notre Dame in 1953.

It was a warm morning. I'd heard the race announcer say it was 70 degrees and with 90% humidity, I could have closed my eyes, clicked my heels 3 times and sworn I was back in Orlando, not northern Indiana. So much for training hot and racing cold.

So my plan was to run a little slower than my last 2 marathons. Besides weather being a challenge, the course itself was mentally challenging with 2 long out and back stretches (~miles 2-9 and 12.5-24.5). Did I mention that I hate out and backs? If I could run strong the entire way, however, I probably wouldn't hate them as much.

A mile into the race, I saw a course clock and checked my watch to see how long it took for me to cross the start line mat. I discover then that I'd been running for exactly 00:00:00. Damn, I should have replaced the watch battery after all. (It'd only been acting up for a month.) I try again to start the timer and the face goes blank. Oh well ...

But, I've run enough of these things to know what's too fast given the conditions. I settle into what feels to be comfortable pace and relax. It's going to be looooong run with or without a watch.



Running a new route is always fun for me, though, and this one followed the scenic St. Joseph River for much of the way. For a short while I ran alongside Steve Boone, head honcho of the 50 States Marathon Club, and a couple other 50-Staters. By the mile 6 turnaround, however, most people were running by themselves and the heat and humidity appeared to already be taking its toll on some.

But not me, not yet at least. I'm enjoying the river views and taking pictures. One good thing I realize about out-and-back courses is that if I missed any photo ops I could try again on the way back. Another good thing was that runners going in the opposite direction could cheer for each other, which was nice because there were very few spectators at this race. One guy made a comment about how appropriate it was that my race bib said #20 and that I was wearing orange. Say what?



Near mile 13 we went down a nice hill but I reminded myself that whatever goes down must come back up from here on out. I was still enjoying the river views when I thought I saw a big gator near the shore. As I got closer, I saw that it was just a dark tree trunk that had fallen into the water so that parts of it were still visible making it appear like a gator head and body. Silly me, there are no gators this far north!



But, there are definitely geese. I ran alongside a couple of them near mile 14 and then saw a big group of geese and gosling crossing the street. Honk!



Approaching mile 17, the run along the river changed character. Instead of running along green riverside parks, we were running behind a large development that overlooked the river. I noticed a path on the other side that had a few runners on it. Nice to see other runners out this morning, I thought to myself.



Well, it didn't hit me until later that those runners on the other side were in the race. Duh, didn't I study the course map? We crossed over on a small foot bridge and I became one of them. On the way back, I saw the same guy who'd made the orange #20 comment to me earlier. This time he said something about NASCAR and Tony Stewart (and I would find out later that Tony drove an orange car with #20). Sorry dude, not a race car fan!

About a 1/4 mile from mile 20, I heard a bell tower ringing and got the first indication of my race time. Assuming it meant 9:00am, that put me a couple minutes over 3 hours, which meant there was still a chance I might finish under 4 hours. But, the sun was now out and I knew there were still some hills to come. I tried to find some motivation to pick up my pace but no watch and passing folks who were obviously slowing or walking didn't seem to do anything for me. I needed to find some folks who were still running strong!

Just before mile 24, I finally did. A young couple passed me and I threw an imaginary rope around them so they could pull me up the final hill. At mile 25, we passed the only other clock I saw on the course and that one said 3:50:53. I didn't know how long it took me to get across the start line but knew if I could run the next 1.2 miles in 9 flat I'd finish in under 4 hours. I gave it my best shot, and so did they.

We wove around a few half marathoners who were now on the course and were thankful to see some spectators cheering for us as we approached the Notre Dame stadium. I kept looking for mile marker 26 to release my final kick but then saw mile 13 for the half marathoners and knew I had to make my move NOW. I took off past the couple I'd been following and ran through a narrow tunnel to get to the football field.

Once on the turf, I heard the Notre Dame Victory March blaring and continued my sprint towards the finish at the 50 yard line. The clock was ticking 4:01:27 ... 28 ... 29 as I approached and crossed the finish line. Did I make it? Did I make it?

Well, it'd be hours until I'd find out later that night but, unfortunately, the answer was no.

Chip time: 4:01:32
Net race time: 4:01:10 (9:12 min/mile), 6/13 F45-49

But not bad considering the warm, humid conditions and running with no watch. I ran the last 1.2 miles at an 8:34 pace.

Another state bites the dust!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dirty Little Secrets

OK, so maybe they're really not that dirty, but I have been holding back a few things ...

1. On Monday, I did a second lactate threshold (LT) test on a treadmill to determine my run training zones. This LT test is different from other LT tests I've read about but it's the same one as I did before and the only one my local tri club coach does. It involved warming up for 10 min at 5mph at an incline level of 2.5 and then increasing speed by 0.5 mph every 1.5 minutes until effort was "very hard" (RPE=17), but not all-out (that would be RPE=20). The test confirmed what the first one showed, namely, that I'm a hummingbird, someone who has a high heart rate when working out. The upper limits for my run training zones 1-3 are 145, 168 and 187, 3 beats lower than last time, which is good, but the coach says I still need to be working on my base fitness level :-(

At the end of the test, ~22 minutes of running, the HRM read 194 and the treadmill was at 9mph (6:40 pace). I was one of the last to get off :-)

2. On Tuesday, I did my third 7-mile bike time trial. Winds were ~14mph, mostly crosswinds. I finished in 18:28 (22.695 mph avg), my fastest time to date -- WOOHOO!

But, only 5 women of the 12 women (any age) who were there last time showed up and, of course, most of them were the fast ones. My PR was the second slowest female race time :-(

3. I'm enjoying blogging about others at the Endurance Sports Bar more than blogging about myself here. There are so many interesting people and stories, much more interesting than mine. Stef has kindly offered to help me out with tending the bar. Say bye-bye to free time, Stef!

4. I leave tomorrow to run the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday. I wasn't satisfied with how my Gulf Coast Tri went and think that knocking out another state in my 50 states marathon quest might cheer me up. My heel seems healed up enough.

5. I'm also still considering doing Steelhead 70.3 (a half iron tri). I have no races in August and my next tri (another half iron) is not until November, which seems so far off. I need to make a decision this weekend as reg fees go up on June 1st.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Bar is now OPEN!




Just a quick post to let you all know that my new Endurance Sports Bar (www.EnduranceSportsBar.com) is now open. And I'm giving away six (6) $25 gift certificates to various online sporting goods retailers via three types of challenges!!

These challenges are open to EVERYONE and I encourage you to participate and tell all your friends. You do not need to have a blog or website.

If you'd like to add the above image as a link to to the Bar your blog/website sidebar, just copy and paste the following HTML code:
<a href="http://www.endurancesportsbar.com/" target="_blank">
<img src="http://lh6.google.com/prattshirley/R_pSSdnODaI/AAAAAAAAAF8/w8bcqqeV6cQ/s288/esb_logo.jpg">
</a>

Hope to see you at the Bar!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Biggest Fear???

I had a pretty sheltered upbringing. As a young kid, most of my time was spent studying, playing piano, playing with a few girlfriends, doing various art projects, helping around the house or fishing, which my dad enjoyed. I was discouraged from doing much sports or anything that might be considered dangerous or physically uncomfortable, especially since I started wearing glasses in 4th grade. We were constantly battling bugs and germs by washing things, cleaning things, closing things, spraying things and wrapping things. On family vacations or outings, we never drove more than a couple hours, never went on an airplane, never went camping and never saw snow. One time we stayed in some rustic cabins that had no electricity after a certain time at night, my mom couldn't stand it and so we soon went to another place that was more "civilized."

It's no wonder I grew up with a lot of fears. And I know my sister, Jade Lady, has a lot of them too.

On my own in college, however, I lucked out to meet friends and boyfriends who were very different from me. I got to do a lot of things my parents would never have condoned (so I didn't tell them :-): skiing, hiking, camping, backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, windsurfing and skydiving. Looking at that list alone, you might have thought I was quite the adventurous type -- HA!

The truth is I didn't want to miss out on activities my friends were doing and would be talking about so I went along to be part of the group. And I was always glad I did, even though I wasn't very good at doing most of that stuff. In the case of boyfriends, well, I also didn't want them to find someone else to go with since I'm the jealous type >:)

Now, so many years later, though, I have very fond memories of all of those adventures. I don't have an inner passion to go off and do those things on my own, but I am willing to do them with others if the opportunity arises. What I do have from those experiences, however, is a drive to not to let my many fears stop me from doing "risky" or uncomfortable things, something that I definitely did not get from my parents.

1. Running outdoors, even though I've been nearly attacked twice and know that a serial rapist who preys on joggers/walkers in my area has never been caught. What worked/works for me: 6 years of martial arts training, always carry pepper spray and a cell phone, wear a rear view mirror on sunglasses (most attacks have been from behind), constant awareness of my surroundings, various running routes and times, running with others.

2. Swimming, despite lots of struggles with form, frequent headaches & nauseousness, boredom swimming laps, no masters group to train with, and a huge fear of gators & sharks in open water. What worked/works for me: Swim lessons from 3 different instructors until I found a stroke that worked for me (took me about 2 years but I now finally like swimming!), silicon swim cap, better fitting and tinted goggles, SwiMP3 player (thanks to SimplyStu!), book of swim workouts, and swimming at least 2-3 times a week. In open water, I close my eyes most of the time except to sight (better I not see any creatures if they happen to be there). If the water is rough, I use ear plugs and take ginger pills and motion sickness medicine (Bonine).

3. Riding a bike on roads, though initially terrified of cars hitting me, getting yelled at by drivers and having had a beer bottle thrown at me once while out riding. What worked/works for me: Wearing a rear view mirror on sunglasses (seeing vehicles coming up from behind and not having to turn my head as much when going across traffic is a big comfort to me!), wearing BRIGHT colored jerseys, riding with a more experienced rider (my husband) and occasionally in a group. As far as rude drivers, I usually don't let them get to me and, in fact, I often smile and wave at them instead to make them think I mistook their nastiness for friendliness.

Because my biggest fear now is missing out on things that might make my life more enjoyable or give me an opportunity to better myself. And more rewarding to me than crossing a finish line, achieving a certain goal race time, getting a medal or a label is just the fact that I'm out there, still. I haven't let myself get in the way of becoming a triathlete.

What are some things you've done to manage or overcome your fears and struggles? What drives you to do things that may be against your better judgment or unnatural for you?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Kids House Fundraiser

Last night MarathonChris and I swapped out our running shoes for dress shoes to attend a fundraiser for Kids House of Seminole, a local charity that provides services to help abused children. It was a triathlon of sorts: a formal dinner, an auction and then a concert. During the transitions, there was socializing.

I wore a dress, which I rarely do, and had the opportunity to experience a few new things:

1. Eat beets (what the heck, they were on the plate)
2. Find out how a silent auction worked
3. Hear people bid nearly $10K for a weekend getaway to the Bahamas (note to self: do NOT lift arm to itch head or give toasts during live auctions!)
4. See folks wearing tuxes, suits and nice dresses along with sneakers, ball caps, ballgame jerseys, and other things usually seen at sports games.

Yes, the invitation had said "creative black tie" and folks were encouraged to show team spirit, but Dave and I had no idea what that meant.

Team Spirit? You mean company team? We were to be sitting at a table bought by his company, after all.

So we went traditional, just to be safe. And thanks to a friend, I didn't have to go out and buy another dress that I'd only wear once, maybe twice. She knows I don't like shopping and kindly offered to loan it to me. Thanks Kelly!

Funny thing, though, it's actually a black dress with a red liner. But since the black fabric is really sheer, the camera flash made the black nearly disappear. Good thing the dress was fully lined!

After dinner and the auction, we were entertained by Three Dog Night. Whoa, what a blast from the past ...

We decided to finish strong and took to the dance floor. I wasn't a big fan of the band when I was younger but recognized many of their songs. They were the ones who sang this?

The band came back for one encore song, Joy to the World, and then the pain set in. Four and a half hours in high heels had not bothered the cut on my heel much but the balls of my feet now felt the size of melons. I walked back to our car as slow as after running a marathon. No medal earned but the event looked to have been a huge success.

Hooray for the kids!!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gulf Coast Tri

6:25:04 ... Not quite the race I was hoping for but I got bit after the swim!

The day started out great. We'd found a good parking spot close to the race start/finish. The person next to me on the bike rack had not shown up, which meant extra space for me and the woman on the other side. The new Aqua Cell aero bottle I'd bought at the expo fit in my aero bars and would provide me with nearly double the fluid capacity as my old one. (This was a training race for me so I was trying a few new things.)

And as I was wiggling into my wetsuit, I heard someone calling my name. Shirley? Shirley? Well, talk about lucky. It was TriCajun along with his wife who was also doing the race! I was so happy to see them having missed meeting up with them the day before. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet Ryan at the race.

We chatted briefly, mostly about the water conditions, then wished each other luck. Damn Gulf ... Every time I come to do a race here, it's pretty rough ...



But not as rough as a year and a half ago. And this time I was better prepared.

The worst part was getting to the first buoy a little ways beyond the breakers. Of course, a set of waves decided to come in just as we were heading out. I dove underneath several times to avoid getting clobbered by them. I swear it didn't seem like I was making any forward progress at all for a while.

But finally I was past the breakers and able to focus on the task of swimming rather than ducking. Like last time I was here, the buoy markers were only really visible on the crests of swells and I had to time my sighting, but this time I could breathe on both sides (bilaterally), which was good. There was no fear, no feeling of being in over my head, no worries about Jaws. I just kept swimming.



57:56 later I was done and quite happy. I'd made it under my 1-hour goal time and I'd even managed to pee before coming ashore, something I'd never been able to do in a race before. Hopefully, it'll mean less time in the transition area!

On my way there, I pulled off my wetsuit (no wetsuit strippers). I was a mere 50 feet or so from my bike when I felt a sharp pain in my left heel.

At first I thought it was just a rock or something and tried to knock it off with my hand. I stepped down again and OUCH! I looked down and saw a piece of dark-colored glass stuck in my left heel. CRAP!!!

I picked it out and it was promptly replaced by blood. I made it to my bike walking only on the ball of that foot. Luckily, I always bring water with me to rinse off my feet in the transition area. The cut was about a half-inch long and bleeding pretty good. Figures ... As a kid, I always seemed to be stepping on nails or other sharp objects, and having to get tetanus shots. One of the reasons why I rarely ever walk around barefoot ...

The thought of visiting the medical tent briefly crossed my mind. Instead, I put a sock on it. I wasn't sure I'd be able to run on the heel later but I should be able to bike just fine since most of the downward pressure is through the ball of the foot when pedaling.

As expected, we had 10-15 mph winds with us for most of the outbound leg and against us for most of the inbound leg. Because of the glass incident, I'd decided to make my bike segment the strongest of the three sports and walk the 13.1 miles if I had to in order to finish. The course was flat except for one bridge and parts of it had been repaved since I last rode it during an IMFL Training Camp, which was good. But it made it hard to break up riders and I saw a couple pelotons roll past me. Where the hell are the course marshals when you need one?

Anyway, I rolled back to the transition zone in 2:48:37 (19.9 mph), well below my original 3 hour bike goal time. Now for the real test: Can I run?

Well, I didn't even look at my foot in the transition area. I just put my running shoes on and headed out. To my surprise, I hardly felt any heel pain at all when I stepped, just a little sting. Don't know if it was the adrenaline killing the pain or what ...

BUT, it was soon evident that I'd ridden too hard and had not fueled up enough (judging by how much food I had leftover, I was able to eat only about half of what I had planned to - doh!). I started out at around a 9:30 pace that soon became a very slow shuffle. I probably could have pushed a little harder but it was very hot (with the humidity factored in, probably close to 90) and I kept worrying that my heel might swell up at some point and really start bothering me. I settled for slow and steady with walk breaks through the aid stations to hydrate and cool off as much as possible.



By mile 12, however, I knew I was going to make it and I wanted to salvage some pride. You see, for the last couple miles, there was this one woman in my age group who'd kept passing me and slowing down until I caught up to her, passing me and slowing down, etc. The kind of stuff that drives a fairly competitive person like me batty.

So on the final turn to the finish, I pulled out all the sponges tucked into my shirt and let loose everything I had left. If I could just beat her to the finish, I'd feel better.

On that last half mile, there were a lot of spectators and I must have passed like 20 or so people. I saw Dave waiting for me up in the bleachers. Poor guy, it took me a half hour longer than I thought to do the run (2:30:00) but I put nearly a minute (51 seconds) between me and the other woman on that last stretch. Hooray for small victories!

1.2 mi Swim: 57:56 (2:44/100 yd)
T1: 6:07
56 mi Bike: 2:48:37 (19.9 mph)
T2: 2:25
13.1 mi Run: 2:30:00 (11:28 min/mi)
Total race time: 6:25:04, 24/43 F45-49



And heel injury looks to be nothing major, no infection. In fact, all the water I was dumping on myself during the run segment to stay cool got into my shoes and seems to have kept the wound quite clean.

Unfortunately, though, I found out the next day that another triathlete had died during the swim segment of a race here at the gulf ... that makes 3 in less than 2 years :-(

Friday, May 02, 2008

Revenge at the Gulf

GRRRRR! By now most of you have probably heard about the recent shark attack in the San Diego area. And as some of you may recall, there were also a couple attacks back in 2005 in the Panama City Beach, FL, area too, where I'm headed next weekend for the Gulf Coast Tri (GCT), a half iron distance tri (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run).

But sharks, beware: Stay Out Of My Way. Because I'm out for REVENGE. Revenge on a swim course that marked my first-ever DNF. GRRRRR!

That was back in Nov 2006 when I'd been seriously swimming for only a year. I'd never used a pull buoy before and had no idea how to use the added buoyancy of a wetsuit to my advantage. I'd also never swam in 4-5 foot swells or heavy chop. I know I was lucky to have made it back to shore safely being the novice swimmer I was, but 6 minutes faster and I would have been able to go on. 6 lousy minutes!!

Now a year and half later I'm ready to face that damn Gulf again. The swim course is basically the same as IMFL's but just one lap instead of two. I'll bring the ginger pills, motion sickness medicine and earplugs again in case it's as rough as it was before. One thing I did do right last time was take precautions against getting seasick, which I'm very prone to. I'd heard many folks got seasick out there but fortunately not me!

So, what are my goals for GCT?

Well, of course, make the swim cut-off but since I actually have 2 hours to do so because of my early wave start, let's just say finish it in less than an hour. In addition, I want to finish the race in around 6 hours. I'll be very happy to finish sub-6 but know my training has not been very consistent since my bike crash back in February. I haven't swam as much as I wanted. I've done only one ride over 50 miles and only one real bike-run workout this year. What a slacker!

But, I have recovered well from my injuries, both physical and mental, and I have a lot of running endurance from my two recent marathons. So a sub-1 hr swim, sub-3 hr bike and a 2-hour-ish half marathon should do the trick. We'll see ...

I look forward to meeting up with TriCajun, who's also doing GCT. Anyone else going to be there?

Oh, I also just saw that Team Evotri has announced the third contest in the June issue of Inside Triathlon. The article can be found here. Hope many of you will consider applying too. Looks like just a straight essay thing, no public voting!