Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winds of Change

This is the last week of playing and training on my own for a while. I'm happy to report that I survived last week's "cold" weather spell and my shoulder and elbow are now barely bothering me. I worked a 5.2K race last Saturday with 5 layers on, a new clothing record for me, I think. And just for showing up to swim when it was like 30-40 degs outside, the YMCA manager gave me a new t-shirt:

It's actually from a contest they had last year during the Olympics but it's the thought that counts, right? Little did she know that the 66-67 deg pool was considerably warmer than inside than my house (which got down to 52 degs!) so I was working out to warm up some. Also to train myself mentally for similar race day temps to be expected in North Carolina later this year.

Next week I begin a 10-month blogging-for-coaching gig with Team Hendryx and my journey to complete two iron distance tris two weeks apart, the Great Floridian (10/24) and Beach to Battleship (11/7). Though they are both 140.6 miles long (for anyone unfamiliar with iron distance tris: 2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike, 26.2 mi run), they are two completely different races. GF is usually pretty hot and humid with a freshwater lake swim, a relatively hilly bike course but a flat run while B2B will probably be fairly cold with a saltwater intercoastal waterway swim and a flat bike/run course.

As you might guess, this coaching thing is a HUGE opportunity for me. I mean, who would have thought that a middle-aged, former non-athlete and non-swimmer, now a front-of-the-back-of-the-pack swimmer, a decent cyclist and a crazy marathon runner, would be triathlon sponsorship material?

OK, perhaps some of you, but let's face facts. I'm not be going to be winning any races (unless they're really small and all the fast woman don't show up, which has happened twice but let's not let that go to my head, shall we?). I won't be setting any speed records. And it's doubtful I will be appearing on any covers or back covers of magazines, except perhaps Triathlete Magazine for People Named Shirley. Some local headlines are a possibility, though ........ if a gator nibbles on me during the swim, I get hit by a car while riding a bike, or collapse and die during the run. But no ordinary or even outstanding race performance is likely to make a blip on the local media radar, unfortunately. Heck, even the largest endurance event in town, the Disney Marathon, barely gets any attention.

But I do have a big dream and a blog as my bullhorn :-)

I've been somewhat reluctant to spell it out beyond what's in my blog header because it's so long term and is still a few years away (Ha, and you thought it took a long time to get my fresh squeezed lemonade?), but it's a dream that perhaps many others may have too, at least in part, so I'll share it with you now to set the stage for the significance of the training starting next week and perhaps inspire some of you to do things to get the ball rolling on your long term dreams, if you haven't already.

My dream is to retire at age 50, move and live full-time in Kona (vs. part-time), and do the Kona Ironman someday. Note the order. Namely, I've wanted to do the first two things for much longer than the last one (15 vs. 3 yrs so far) and that is my priority.

Now, I know some of you know that qualifying for the Kona IM as a Big Island resident may be easier than qualifying otherwise (depending who shows up at the local Hawaii 70.3 qualifier), but it's really not so easy considering the high cost of living in Hawaii and the stinky economy right now. In fact, due to the 3-year Big Island residency requirement, it's become apparent to me that buying one of the Kona slots that are auctioned on Ebay each year to raise funds for the local community would probably be a much less costly route. A couple years ago, I read about a guy who bought his girlfriend a slot for $60K, a nice tax deductible contribution as well, no doubt.

But, to me, buying a Kona slot would be pointless (plus, I'm extremely frugal and would never spend that kind of money on a race!). Similarly, winning a lottery slot or even qualifying the usual way would not satisfy me (although the latter would certainly be something to be very proud of, for sure!). Bottom line, I don't want to do the race and then go home elsewhere. I want to do it because I fell in love with the area during my first visit back in the early 90's, then running and swimming there, and also biking too more recently, since then and that's where I want to enjoy doing these hobbies, among others, for the rest of my life. The fact that the Kona IM happens to be the IM World Championship just gives me more incentive to get/stay in better shape as I get older. I would want to do the local race, or at least train on the course and be a part of the event, even if it were not.

So what does this all have to do with the coaching deal?

Well, besides helping me save more money for retirement, it should put me in a much better position to be able to compete for one of those Big Island resident slots when the time comes. Last year, a 7-hour finish at Hawaii 70.3 would have been good enough for a female 50-54-year-old Big Island resident to qualify. Five to six years from now, who knows? My guess is that the qualifying times will go down and the tough course is not going to get any easier.

Things I expect I'll need to work on this year:

  • Becoming a faster/stronger swimmer (shooting for a 1:30 or better iron swim)
  • No more marathon running on a whim (only one other standalone marathon this year *sniff*)
  • Better nutrition (not a big fan of meat and dairy products -- moo!)
  • Learning to love hills, heat & humidity (don't hate them but we're far from being friends)
  • Tolerating the cold better while swimming & biking (no more whining, just get out there!)
  • Getting out of that long and slow comfort zone (gulp)
  • Using some training gadgets (not a fan of them either)
  • Following a formal training schedule and reporting back to a coach (yikes!)
  • Learning what it takes to compete vs. just finish races (we're not in Kansas any more, Toto)

    And so it begins ... What do you hope to be doing 10-20 years from now?
  • Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    I Wanna Be ...

    Like my lemon tree.

    About 10 years ago for my birthday, I got a little lemon tree from Home Depot and planted it in my backyard. I had one in my backyard growing up and have always loved fresh squeezed lemonade.

    The tree came with a couple green sticks to help support its skinny branches. I watered and fertilized it but it didn't look look happy. It lost some of its leaves and other leaves were curling. A year or so later, our area had a citrus canker threat and I thought my tree might be destroyed when inspectors were going door to door but the leaves problem turned out not to be canker. In 2004, some hurricanes flooded my backyard and part of my tree was underwater for weeks. I worried again that I might lose it.

    But my little lemon tree survived.

    A couple years ago, it really started growing, flowering and is now a good sized lemon tree. Some green fruit appeared that slowly became bigger and bigger. This year, finally, I have some ripe lemons!

    So now as I'm enjoying my long-awaited fresh squeezed lemonade, I realize I need to be tough like my little lemon tree. We have had some "cold" weather here lately in Central FL that is making working out more difficult, particularly swimming since my local (outdoor) pool is not being heated during the winter.

    The lifeguards say I've been the only person coming to swim the past week. With a wetsuit on, the hardest part is really just getting there.

    57 degs *inside* our house is also calling for some toughening up, but Dave is loving it. Revenge for me getting to keep the thermostat set at 82 degs when it's hot, which is most of the year.

    But perhaps most of all, I need to be careful and patient. I have some new right shoulder and elbow pains (rotator cuff and elbow tendonitis?) that have cropped up recently. UGHH! In my zeal to get back to doing push-ups, dips & pull-ups during the holidays, I think I overdid things. Just started taking ibuprofen twice daily and modifying my swim stroke some. It seems to be getting better, or at least not getting worse. I know I will get through this ...

    In other news, Dave was recently published in Road Bike Action Magazine (page 29). His answer to Why He Rides:

    Because I can. How lucky are we to live in a place that all we have to worry about are inattentive drivers and not check points, roadblocks, land mines, and bored armed militias? To us, town lines are sprint goals, not borders of warring clan's turf or boundaries that limit our safety. The simple freedom of getting on a bike and not worrying about where, how long, etc. you are going is a luxury many people don't have.

    Enjoy your workouts, everyone!!

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009

    Zoom Yah Yah Marathon (Loooooong Version!)

    WOWEEE!! Who would have thought running 150 laps could be so much fun?

    In fact, I think it's the most fun I've ever had during a marathon. Really! My apologies in advance for the lengthy report but this experience was truly like no other.

    The Zoom Yah Yah Indoor Marathon was held at St. Olaf College's Tostrud Field House. 150 laps around a rectangular 282 meter track (5.7 laps = 1 mile) that was curved and slightly banked at each of the four corners. Due to limited space on the track, only ~40 runners were allowed to participate making this the smallest race I've ever done (there's a lottery to get in).

    We started behind a line of tape placed on the track. There was a race clock at the start/finish as well as a row of dedicated St. Olaf women's track team members who were there to record your laps and splits so you didn't have to keep track yourself (they're on the opposite side of the track in the photo above). One counter per runner and all of the counters were young and good looking!

    Mine was named Allison and before the race she told me to say something to her each time I passed to make sure she counted me. I asked her what I should say thinking maybe we'd have a code word or something. She suggested that I say something different each time. Oh My! I told her I'd do the best I can.

    We self-seeded ourselves and were off and running in the counter-clockwise direction soon after Race Director (RD) Dick Daymont gave us some final instructions: Unless you have a dire emergency, please let your counter know if you leave the track to use the restroom so she won't think she missed counting a lap. Every 30 minutes we'll switch directions. The procedure is to finish the lap you are on running on the inside track, go around a traffic cone that will be placed where the race started (so another very tight turn every half hour!) and then run on the outside track until you've passed the last person running the opposite direction.

    I had no idea how easy or hard it would be to run on the track. In training, I only ran some loops once to get a feel for the monotony of running laps but the loops were not so small. I ran the first three laps of the race in 1:30-1:35 (a 1:36 avg was needed for a 4-hour marathon) and could tell that was too fast for me with all those turns (I begin iron tri training next month and can't afford any injuries!). So I slowed down some and then put my body into cruise control. My mind, however, was racing with excitement!

    Am I really doing this? This is CRAZY! People are cheering every lap! WOOHOO, GO SHIRLEY! Hey, thanks for coming out! You guys ROCK! Hi Allison, it's ME!


    I raised my arms and cheered too whenever people cheered for me and soon became known as the happiest runner on the track. The RD had asked us to submit our favorite songs so they could compile a tape to play during the event and the music was a real treat (I don't usually listen to music when running). I also think the RD must have handed out a sheet with people's race numbers and names on it because some of the spectators knew my name and it wasn't printed on my bib.

    Along the track, there was one spectator wearing a gorilla suit (with the face on backwards) who would make me laugh often (see above photo). Friends of runners were stationed in 2 or 3 different places and a couple of them were handing out snacks. There were also some funny signs to read that changed periodically. There was a big window on one side of the gym so you could see what it looked like outside and be glad you were inside (view from the window in the photo below). Many runners were giving each other encouragement as they passed. And every time you passed the lovely lap counters, they would cheer as well. There just never seemed to be a dull moment!

    Look at all that snow outside! Ooh, theme from Rocky, a Meatloaf song, Queen! Keep it up, Shirley! Thanks, you too! Allison, help me, I can't stop smiling!

    Initially, I tried several times to count up to six laps to get an idea of my marathon pace (6 laps in 10 minutes would give me a 4:10 marathon) but it was no use. There were so many distractions that I kept losing count. We'd change directions and I'd lose count. But, really, did I care about my pace? Nah. I just asked Allison occasionally if I was coming up on a milestone (25, 50, 75, etc.) to get an idea of my progress in the race.

    The first time we changed directions, though, running the other way (clockwise) felt very strange. I got an ominous ache in my left foot and left hip. OH NO!! I slowed down my pace a bit more and soon it disappeared. By the time I finally got used to running in the clockwise direction, it was time to change directions again. The direction changes were good, however, as there was a new leader every time (at least for a while) and they helped break up the monotony of running laps (not that I was ever bored ;-) and give one side of your body a little break (your right side works harder going CCW while your left side does so when going CW).

    Then about an hour and a half into the race I heard the RD call out "ShirleyPerly? ShirleyPerly?" I yelled out from the other side of the track and Dick said that Sunshine was here. COOL! She, Don and Sweet Pea had done the race before and were kind enough to come down to cheer for me and watch me finish (they live about an hour away). But, oh my, they were so early!

    As I continued running around and around, I told them that I was not even half way done yet. Not to worry, they were planning to do some running of their own on the 200m oval track downstairs. So now I had folks cheering for me from down below as well and since the downstairs track was smaller and Don was running separate from Sunshine and Sweet Pea, I was sometimes yelling and waving to them twice a lap. No wonder my vocal cords and shoulders got such a workout!

    GO SHIRLEY! Hi Don! YAY SHIRLEY! Hey Sunshine & Sweet Pea! Still going strong! Yep, I feel like the Energizer Bunny! Allison, are YOU dizzy yet?

    Another very different thing about this race was that it was BYOA: Bring Your Own Aid. You could bring any food and drinks you wanted and place them on any one of four tables that were at the corners of the track (in the video above, you can see one table on the left). Rather than put stuff at every table, most folks chose just one table and everyone's setup was unique. Some people brought big bottles, others brought lots of little bottles, one guy had a box top to put everything in, another had an ice chest, some people used bags, others just left things out. I brought one big 32 oz bike bottle filled with my favorite Gatorade concoction, another 24 oz bike bottle and two 10 oz Fuel Belt bottles filled with Nuun and just set them on the end of one table. I found it pretty easy to slow down, grab a bottle, sip and carry it with me for one lap and then put it down next time but some people chose to make full stops to drink/eat and then continue. I wore my Fuel Belt to carry small things with me (gels, lip balm and a couple salt tabs) so I wouldn't have to grab them from the table, which would probably require more skill. There was a drinking fountain along the track if more water was needed and garbage cans were also at each corner to throw stuff away as well as do other important things (like spit and blow your nose).

    Restrooms, unfortunately, were not as close as I would have liked (something like 60 meters off the track) but there was no waiting at all which was good. I lost 4-5 minutes making my two pit stops but chances of finding a big rock or tree to hide behind along the track were slim ...

    As the three hour mark approached, I began to hear people chanting. "Chris! Chris! Chris!" What the heck???

    It was echoing all throughout the gym and I realized they were cheering for a guy who was on his last lap. I looked for the fastest person on the track. There he was, on the other side and nearly done. I joined in the chanting and watched him finish, 2:51:31, a new course record. Very cool to see the winner of the race finish too as usually I'm nowhere nearby when it happens!

    Well, it'd be a while before I'd be doing so as I had just over 50 laps to go but time and laps just seemed to be flying. I had no signs of dizziness. I was still feeling fresh, smiling and cheering. Periodically there'd be another person on his last lap and everyone's adrenaline levels would rise a bit when the chanting began.

    "Dar-rin! Dar-rin! Dar-rin!" "Ran-dy! Ran-dy! Ran-dy!" "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" HA, just like on the Jerry Springer TV Show!

    Many of the folks who had already finished were now walking or hanging around the track and I began congratulating them. Some were hobbling pretty bad, unfortunately. No doubt all those turns took a much bigger toll on those who ran fast.

    Another change in direction at 3:30 and soon thereafter I hit 125 laps. 25 to go (4.36 miles) and time for my countdown to begin!

    I began picking up pace a bit. Having run very conservatively and because that indoor track surface is MUCH easier on one's joints than asphalt or concrete, I had none of the usual late race aches or pains. And I was still barely sweating. Weird!

    24 - 23 - 22 - 21 - 20 ... With each lap done I felt like I was getting stronger. I'm now passing a number of folks since most of the faster people have already finished and many of those still out there were slowing down.

    15 - 14 - 13 - 12 - 11 - 10 ... Dick, the RD, asked me how many laps I had left. Less than 10, I said, and he told me I should do 15 more because everyone loved seeing me running around so happy. HA, yeah right! Sunshine, Don and Sweet Pea are now back upstairs cheering, taking photos and helping me count down. I kept losing count!

    5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 ... Allison, one more? Yes, one more! GO SHIRLEY!

    OK, this is it! I kicked it up into high gear and felt like I was flying around the track. "Shir-ley! Shir-ley! Shir-ley!"

    One last lap to thank all the wonderful spectators who had been cheering for me for hours. "Shir-ley! Shir-ley! Shir-ley!"

    One last lap to encourage everyone else who was still out there. "Shir-ley! Shir-ley! Shir-ley!"

    One last lap to soak in this crazy, wonderful marathon experience. "Shir-ley! Shir-ley! Shir-ley!"

    One last lap to ...

    And, before I knew it, my last lap was done!

    4:18:49 (9:53 avg pace)
    4/10 F, 1/2 F45-49
    Winner of the Miss Congeniality Award per the RD :-)

    Laps 1-25 40:30 (9:17 pace)
    Laps 26-50 44:11 (10:07, incl. bathroom break)
    Laps 51-75 43:28 (9:57 pace)
    Laps 76-100 46:21 (10:37, incl. bathroom break)
    Laps 101-125 43:07 (9:53 pace)
    Laps 126-150 41:12 (9:26 pace)
    Final lap: 1:21 (7:42 pace)

    Thank you Sunshine, Don and Sweet Pea for coming to cheer for me and for allowing me to use your photos and video. (Photo below, L to R: Don, me, Sweet Pea & Sunshine)

    Huge thanks to Race Director Dick Daymont for organizing this zany little race (pictured below with me). And to my counter Allison (who had to leave before I could get a picture with her -- bummer!), and to all spectators and my fellow runners for making this a very unique and awesome experience.

    Thank you Minnesota for all the snow. I don't want to live here but it sure was great visiting and now I know what my friends up North must deal with every winter!

    And thank you, dear readers, for making it all the way to the end!

    Monday, January 12, 2009

    Zoom Yah Yah Quickie Update

    (Somehow this post got deleted along with all previous comments that had been posted by others. ARGH!)

    So did I run a marathon or attend a long pep rally?

    Because when I finished this race (4:18:49) my legs/feet felt fine but my voice was strained and my shoulders were a little sore.

    Voice and shoulders? Well, that's no doubt from the countless times I yelled and lifted my arms to cheer with people who were cheering for me each lap (all 150 of them!), cheered for other runners who were passing me and who I was passing, and shouted and waved to friends who were on the track below. That is something I did NOT train for!

    The lack of post-marathon soreness is probably because the indoor track surface was very forgiving on the joints and because I ran a very conservative time. The faster you went, the harder the turns, four each lap, were on your feet, knees and hips so I choose to go slow!

    Did I get dizzy? Well, if you thought I looked like I was having too much fun before in my races, don't read my race report because it just might make you sick ;-)

    I'll post the report in a couple days when I return home and get my estimated taxes done (bleah!). Hope everyone's week is off to a good start!

    Saturday, January 10, 2009

    Hello 2009!

    Just got back from Kona and am now convinced that we are indeed crazy.

    I mean, who in their right mind would go to see snow in Hawaii? Or forget to bring their camera?!!

    Umm, that would be us on both counts and, yes, there is snow in Hawaii. And thank goodness for disposable cameras!

    The Big Island has a couple 13,000+ foot volcanoes and during the winters they get some snow on top. Here we are at about 9000 feet on our way to see it and some of the world's largest telescopes at the Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea (13,796 ft or 4205 m). Mauna Loa, the other volcano, is in the background.

    On top it was like 20 degrees with the wind making it feel like single digits. BRRRR! The Hawaii Forest & Trail summit tour folks know that most people who come to Hawaii don't bring parkas so they had some for us. Dave was delighted to find that his Blackberry could get a signal up there. Groan! I buttoned every snap on the parka and waddled about like a penguin.

    The scenery was surreal. High above the clouds, not a palm tree or beach in sight. Are we really still in Hawaii?

    Besides the telescopes and snow, many people come up to watch the sunset and then gaze at the night sky. Mauna Kea is the best place in the world to stargaze (hence why the huge telescopes are there) and despite the bitter cold (and I hate being cold), I found that part of the tour to be quite interesting. The hot chocolate and homemade cookies they gave us probably helped :-)

    The following week we kicked off the new year by riding the entire 112 mile Kona Ironman bike course. About 15 miles from the Hawi turnaround, we saw a couple of cyclists flying down the hill on the other side of the road with a support van following close behind. Was that someone we should know?

    Yup, later we found out that Lance Armstrong was training on the island. But we saw him again cruising along the Queen K Highway a couple days later and this time we recognized the yellow and black Livestrong jersey (with the white van behind again), waved and he waved back -- Cool!

    Other trip highlights: eating a Hawaiian energy bar (spam misubi) at mile 75 of our century ride, watching a bunch of movies that are now out on video, going swimming together (Dave got a lesson and is trying to work out some shoulder issues), mid-morning and mid-afternoon naps, Dave finding out he'll be going to Singapore to teach a class and in doing so, be able to fly around the world (one of those things he's always wanted to do), me just having Dave around for 3 weeks straight (he had ~60 business trips last year!).

    Tomorrow is the Zoom Yah Yah Marathon, which would mean I'm now in Minnesota. I don't know which is crazier, having to run 150 laps around an indoor track or having to catch up on 235 new blog posts, but both will be done this weekend!