Saturday, May 30, 2009

Let's Rock 'n Roll!

Sorry, guys, if this is TMI but there seems to be some truth to a woman being at her aerobic peak during her period. Despite the discomfort and hassles during a race, I usually perform very well and the Rock 'n Roll Half Iron Triathlon today was no exception.

Final race time: 5:50:21. MUCH better than I expected.

I also got a really cool guitar! (clickable) It has 6 little strings and is painted to memorialize the flaming guitar (Fender Stratocaster) Jimi Hendrix used in 1967.

Race report to follow soon!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

15 Years of Smiles

May 1994, Monterey, CA.

This week Dave and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We met and got married at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Back then, we were both workaholics who spent more time with computers than people. In fact, it was an SGI computer rep who introduced us. I needed a CDROM drive to install some software (many workstations did not have internal ones at the time) and she knew a guy down the hall who had one.

That same guy would later roll into my lab one day with his bicycle and ask me to dinner. Who the hell does he think he is riding his bike in my lab?!? I'm busy and don't have time to go out to eat. OTOH, he's pretty good looking and I may need to borrow his CDROM drive again ...

I forget if it was a weekday or weekend but remember us both going back to work after our first date. We'd then spend much more time on computers building our relationship using email and UNIX Talk, an early form of instant messaging, as Dave traveled often (and still does) and was much easier to stalk get a hold of that way.

Our wedding was, fittingly, atop the building where we worked. There were just four of us: Dave, me, the Justice of Peace and his daughter Katherine as our witness. I selected and recorded the music. Dave baked the cake. It was perfect. Simple, cheap, us.

Thanks, Dave, for 15 wonderful years. And thank goodness we now have Skype and spell-checkers.

Last month, Dave in VA, me in HI :-)

This week I'm tapering for the Rock 'n Roll Half Iron Tri in Macon, GA, on Saturday -- WEE!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Weather SNAFU

Wouldn't you know it.

Just one to two weeks ago, we were complaining about how hot it was getting and how much we needed rain. Lawns were turning brown. Wild fires were popping up, merging and filling the air with stinky smoke. And I'd finally decided to embrace the heat and become one of those athletes who revel in it. Well, "revel" may be a bit strong ...

So what does Mother Nature do?

This week she delivered a stalled cold front. For days temps have been well below normal and we've gotten a LOT of rain. Good for yards and putting out the wildfires but parts of Central Florida are now a No Wake Zone.

Fortunately, the worst of the flooding (like pictured above) is northeast of where I am, but NO heat training for me this week. ARGH!

In fact, running indoors was warmer than outdoors (and I could get in some hill training as well). The poor lifeguards, though. Unless there's lightening in the area or the rain is coming down so hard that they can't see the bottom of the pool, the pool stays open. Fortunately, I got there on Tuesday before things got too bad and, not surprisingly, I was the only swimmer there. You are not my favorite swimmer to guard, the lifeguard told me after I'd finished my workout. (She was the same one there when I was the only one to show up back in January when we had some 40-deg days. While I swam, she did laps around the pool to stay warm.)

One ray of sunshine this week, however, was meeting up with fellow bloggers Jenny & Brent for dinner. Jenny had just completed Florida 70.3 last weekend (before the storm hit) and they have been enjoying shorter than usual lines at the Disney parks.

Dave, me, Jenny & Brent at Carrabbas.

We'll be hopefully drying out some over Memorial Day weekend. Hope you all have a great holiday, rain or shine!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

From Fargo to the Furnace

The smile frozen on my face in Fargo :-)

It's no secret. Nearly everyone races better when the weather is cooler. Even those of us who train in warm climates and begin shivering when the thermometer drops below 70.

But there are those who like it hot, who look at weather forecasts praying for race day temps to be sweltering so that others might wilt in the heat and the competition then gets interesting. No, not me!

Like my coach.

But this week I realized I need to be more like him. Saturday, Dave and I went out on a hilly 68 mile bike ride (3134 ft of climbing) and the heat index was close to 90 when we got done. I headed out for a 4 mile brick run and seemed to have the energy but could not find my legs. Tried looking on some flat sections, in the shade, on some hills, but they were nowhere to be found. Ugh, someone please stick a fork in me, I'm done!

So from now on, NO more early morning runs to escape the heat. NO more indoor runs unless absolutely necessary. NO more weight workouts in my home gym with the thermostat set below 85. NO more whining about doing yard work and spending extra time outdoors. Mother Nature show me the heat!

After all, my "A" race this year is The Great Floridian, an iron tri that is usually hot, humid and hilly (to Floridians). What was I thinking?! And the upcoming RnR half iron tri, well, that is sorta like its evil half sister.

Time to get working on wilt-proofing. Any other hot training ideas welcome!

This week's post-marathon workouts:
Swim - 3 (8000 yds, right shoulder acting up a bit*)
Bike - 2 (85.24 mi, skipped bike intervals b/c right quad sore**)
Run - 3 (20.04 mi)
Strength - 2
*Possibly tweaked it carrying my luggage or too many high-fives during the marathon.
**Most likely from lunges & squats during a weight workout, not running.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fargo Marathon

The real question, though, for me at the Fargo Marathon was:
How FAST Will You Go?

Yet, I kept my promise ...

Coach Bill's pre-race instructions: The object of the race is to get through it without putting your body through too much trauma or getting hurt. Roger that, Coach.

But the voice in my head was saying: It's been 3 years since you've run a sub-3:50 marathon and Coach thinks you're in shape to run a 3:35-3:40. Hell, let's GO FOR IT!!

Well, the only way I could do both was to run a smart race. My plan was to shoot for a 3:45 early on and play things by ear on the second half. This was the first time I'd done no runs further than 16 miles in training and a small part of me was worried that I might turn into a pumpkin at mile 20. But if I could keep the party going strong till then, I could possibly pick up the pace and race only the last few miles hard, which would not take much out of me and should allow me to race well at the RnR Half Iron Tri in 3 weeks. Basically, it all boiled down to good self-management.

To help with that, I brought along my trusty camera and one 10oz Fuel Belt bottle (also 5 gels and 2 salt caps). Carrying the extra weight would help slow me down initially and there were a couple places along the course where aid stations looked to be over 2 miles apart, which is further than I'd like being someone who doesn't usually slow down going through aid stations and drink a lot, unless it's really hot. I also figured that fumbling with a camera and taking pictures would help distract me from obsessing about my pace every mile so I could run primarily by feel and stay in better tune with my body. Sorry, Garmin, you can't come, just my sports watch.

And, well, obviously, I must have needed a LOT of distracting as I took nearly 70 pictures while running! But fortunately (for you), only 20-25% were decent. Still, I have plenty to share and so this race report will be heavy on pictures :-)

For those who didn't know, last month (April) the Fargo community was busy sandbagging and saving homes from the floodwaters of Red River. The race organizers did an extraordinary job to come up with a new double loop course in time for the fifth running of the race and they even got it certified to be a Boston qualifier too. Some people may not have been thrilled that the course was largely out and back, and out and back again, but I was just ecstatic that the race had not been canceled altogether!

And that the thoughtful organizers still staged the start and finish of the race at the nice, big warm Fargodome, a popular site for concerts and various sporting events. Thus, any wimpy tropical birds like me who are not used to 35-40 deg weather would not die of hypothermia before or after the race. I got there about an hour before the 8am race start, hit one of the many restrooms and then checked out the finish line area which was indoors. Nice!

Soon it was time to don the TWO garbage bags I brought with me for short term warmth and get my butt to the start line which was just outside. The announcer mentioned 10,000 runners being there, ~1500 full marathoners, the rest half marathoners and a whole bunch of relay folks. It was definitely one of the bigger races I'd done in a while and the extra huddling warmth was appreciated as TWO national anthems were sung, one for Canada followed by the U.S. one. Then with a 3-2-1 countdown the wheelchair racers were off and 5 minutes later so was everyone else.

At mile 2 (below), I actually still had my garbage bags on and was sneaking my arm outside to take pictures. Swish-swish, click, swish-swish, click. The course was still pretty crowded and I resisted temptations to do much surging or weaving around past slower folks who hadn't lined up properly at the start (there were pace signs but no official corrals). Surely, the crowd will thin out soon, won't it?

We got to the first of four "major" elevation changes at mile 2.5 on the course. These were where the road dipped down maybe 30' and back up to go underneath another cross road, nothing to cause much quad or hammy anguish but some caution was needed: Get out of the way, wheelchair racer coming through!

Man, these wheelchair folks really got up some speed going down those dips, a good reason not to have one's headphones turned up too loud (I don't run with them in races but a lot of people were wearing them here). Unbelievably, though, the guy above was in one of those regular wheelchairs you might see at a hospital, not one of those special racing ones. I gave him a big cheer as I went by him and many others on the upslope.

Then at mile 3 we went through what appeared to be downtown Fargo (Broadway St) and I'd finally warmed enough to ditch my bag lady garb. The road was also nice and wide so I could begin slowly making up for a little time lost running the first couple congested miles at around a 9-minute pace (not that I was paying much attention ;-).

Coming up on mile 4, I spied the 3:45 pace group ahead and ran with them for a bit but then decided against it. The pace leader was doing a great job of telling everyone what their pace was, what turns were coming up, what to look out for, etc., but I was trying to stay relaxed and NOT think much about all that. So I ran on a bit ahead to get away from them.

But there was no getting away from the FANTASTIC spectators. Like Boston, it seemed like the entire town, young and old, were either running in the race, working the race as volunteers or cheering for us from the sidelines. By mile 5, I'd given out more high-fives than I've ever given out in a race. How could I turn down kids all bundled up in that cold holding out their little gloved and mittened hands?

Nearing the mile 6, I saw a familiar figure (photo below). Unmistakably, it was the Lipstick Lady! A fellow 50-stater (and Marathon Maniac, which I am not officially, although I qualify) who I've seen at many of my races. How she runs with all that long loose hair I have no idea but she got her nickname when Runner's World did a profile on her mentioning her odd habit of stopping at mile 26 to apply a fresh coat of lipstick to make sure she looked good for her finish line photos.

But can you believe I've actually been mistaken for her??? Wait a minute ... (her vs. me at the Maine Marathon last October where I saw her last) ...

OK, I guess if you don't know us well, the only way to tell us apart for sure is to see who stops at mile 26 and who doesn't :-)

First 10K in 52:51 (8:29 avg pace).
A bit under a 3:45 finish (3:42) but the pace is feeling super easy as it should. Close enough.

So now we're heading back to the Fargodome and my only regret thus far was that I wasn't fast enough to pull out my camera and take pictures of some other interesting things I saw, but I know I'll be back again and would have a second chance. Here we are at mile 8.5 going through downtown Fargo again. This time I notice a theater sign welcoming runners, Dr. Dick (Beardsley?) and 50-state marathoners. And how about a little self portrait like last time I was here?

Yep, not much change for me the last 5 miles. Will I ever start sweating?

At mile 11, we ran past a big park which was probably the most scenic part of the course, actually, being that most of it was through residential and commercial areas. This park was where the fewest and mellowest spectators were located so we got a little break from all the cheering and high-fiving.

But not for long. Just around corner we're back in another neighborhood and there are more people outside their homes clapping and cheering, including a very friendly Buffalo Wild Wings mascot. Have I mentioned how wonderful the community support was for this race???

The halfway point was, of course, back at the Fargodome. There was a well marked course split and several volunteers yelling which way to go if you were finishing the half marathon or going for your second lap of the marathon. I went LEFT with a few others while most others went right. If anyone missed the course split, they must have been deaf and blind ... or dyslexic.

13.1 miles in 1:50:51 (8:28 cumulative pace).
Still on target for a 3:42 finish and feeling fresh as a flower.

So back out we go for a second lap. This time the miles flew by much faster with much fewer people on the course and the wind at our backs most of the way. Before I knew it I was at the southern turnaround point again, mile 19.5, but this time I remembered to pull out my camera to capture some of the unusual spectators I saw last time I was here: a dog watching us from the roof(!), a terminator robot, Batman and Robin? No, an alien!

And a couple blocks later, some other nice things that helped keep runners' spirits high, even if you had to make a pit stop, which fortunately I did not.

A little closer look at those signs on the trees and a few more shots of the wonderful spectators because, really, the amount of grassroots support at this race was I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E. (again, this was only the 5th running and the community had been dealing with all that terrible flooding just recently, plus it was freaking COLD outside!).

20 miles in 2:47:56 (8:24 cumulative pace).
Whoops, now I'm on track for a 3:40 marathon!

But before dropping the hammer, I first had to get a shot of some of these signs at mile 21 that had been on my mind since ~mile 7.5. Still can't figure out that Fish Cough one. Anyone know what that means?

OK, now it's time to put the camera away and get down to business!

Back through downtown, past the park and at mile 25, finally, I caught up to the 3:40 pace group. There were only few folks in this group and just as I ran by them I heard the pace leader say: Go ahead and leave nothing out on the course -- Oh no!!

Now I had to summon what final kick I had left too and began flying past people. OK, some were half marathon walkers but still ... We went by the course split again and I made sure to go to the RIGHT this time. Then just after we made what I thought was the final turn towards the Fargodome and finish line, I made my move past this gal in green, who was also running strong. Only it wasn't the final turn!

Nope, there were a couple more that I'd forgotten about -- Darn it!! Now I'd have to do my best hold her off. I dared not look back to see where she was. We made the remaining turns and then went down a little ramp into the stadium and saw the finish line straight ahead.

I sprinted hard imagining she was right on my heels as I heard the announcer's voice and crowds echoing. Just before crossing the timing mat, though, a different young lady buzzed past me -- Where the heck did she come from?!?

Oh well, no regrets. I'd run a race that I was very happy with and one that I knew Coach would be happy with too.

Total race time 3:38:05 (8:20 avg pace), 4/60 F45-49.
Last 10K in 50:10 (8:04 avg pace).
Last 1.21875 mi in 9:18 according to my watch (a 7:38 pace!).

So now a total of 52 marathons completed, 42 states done, 8 left in my 50 states marathon quest. And, I have renewed hope that a new marathon PR next year or the following year, when I'm 49 or 50, might be possible for me yet (Fargo is the one and only standalone marathon I'm running this year).

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Fargo ROCKS!!

Ideal marathon weather, flat double loop course, awesome volunteers and spectators ... How could I not run well at the Fargo Marathon?

3:38:05 (8:20 avg pace)
4/60 F45-49

First 10K - 52:51 (8:29 avg pace)
13.1 - 1:50:51 (8:28 cumulative avg pace)
20 mi - 2:47:56 (8:24 cumulative avg pace)
Last 10K 50:10 (8:04 avg pace)

And as with most negative split marathons I run, pretty minimal post-race soreness. Good news for the RnR Half Iron Tri in 3 weeks!

Thanks Coach Bill for the awesome marathon training plan. Never would I have guessed that I'd be seeing a 3:30-something race time with all that cycling you had me doing and no 20-milers in training (16 was the longest) but what the heck do I know???

Just one of MANY pictures I took during this race. More to come!

For now I will enjoy my post-race treat (must eat all before I leave Fargo tomorrow :-)

Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers tomorrow!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Shirley Can't Surf

True, but I totally ripped last week's monster training wave:

Tu: Swim 3000 yds (my "fast" 100 times are back!); Bike intervals.
W: Swim 3000 yds (best 300s workout to date!); Weights.
Th: Bike 40 mi negative split.
F: Run 16 mi @ 9:04 marathon pace; Easy Swim.
Sa: Run 10 mi incl 12K race (results below); Weights.
Su: Bike 60.8 mi (flat course, 18mph avg)/6 mi run @ 9:04 pace; Easy Swim.

Total hrs: 19:44. No dead legs -- W00T!!

I also got to enjoy some time with my sister who came to visit with her family this weekend before heading out on a cruise (the photo above is from their first stop in Key West; it's actually a very popular surf & skateboard store).

Sis and niece taking a dip in my backyard pool.

My niece just challenged me to a kicking contest. AGHHH!

Our pre-cruise/pre-race dinner where I made sure to fuel myself well. Read: I ate nearly everything in sight!

Before the 12K race not thinking about the 16 miles run the day before. LIAR!

Race plan: Start out conservatively and aim to finish strong. Here are my Garmin splits:

mi 1: 7:44, AHR 130;
mi 2: 7:44, AHR 169;
mi 3: 7:37, AHR 172;
mi 4: 7:30, AHR 175;
mi 5: 7:20, AHR 178;
mi 6: 7:31, AHR 178 (headwind);
mi 7: 7:15, AHR 180;
mi 7.4: 7:16 pace, AHR 181;

12K (7.4 mi) Race result: 56:20, 7:34 pace, 3rd Female (3/100, small race). Got a coffee mug and a $10 gift certificate -- Nice!!

Lisa, the woman I was chasing, is a well known sports nutritionist and former pro runner/triathlete. I don't mind her beating me. Seriously, she still looks like a freaking track star!

Next up, Fargo Marathon this Saturday, 5/9. Originally, I was hoping to run a 4-hourish marathon but based on my 12K race result, Coach Bill thinks a 3:35-3:40 marathon is doable, especially with a little more rest and 20-30 deg cooler temps. With the higher priority RnR Half Iron Tri just 3 weeks later, though, I'm going to shoot for a 3:45 and see how things go. Wish me luck.

PS - Today is hubby Dave's birthday!!