Monday, June 29, 2009

Kona Half Marathon

One word: Magical.

This is where it all began for me 7 years ago. I toed the start line of my first-ever race and made a startling discovery: I was no longer one of the slowest girls in PE!

I'm going to let my pics do most of the talking about my 2009 Kona Half Marathon experience but here's the nitty gritty for those who are fond of numbers:

1:40:26 (7:40 avg pace)
1/57 F40-49, 5th Overall Female.

What a coincidence! The day before the race at packet pickup, I saw Robyn and Art, fellow Floridians and 50 State Marathoners. Robyn used to work with me at Track Shack but recently moved. Miss you, Robyn!

Also met Olympian running legend Frank Shorter there and I told him it was all his fault. He handed me my first race medal back in 2002 and I haven't been able to stop racing since.

I got to the start line just 5 minutes before the race was to begin. No big deal, no nervousness, just another training run ... HA! By mile 4, I was well under my intended 8 min/mile pace for the first half. Good thing Dave was out on our lanai early to see me go by (and one of these days he going to take a pole saw and cut those ugly power lines).

He was actually expecting to see me with a white visor, though, not a red one. I told him RED. Whatever, there were only about 500 half marathoners and the field had spread out considerably by then.

Nearing the turnaround, I gave a big cheer for Bree Wee, my favorite tri pro and friend who was headed the other way already with a huge smile on her face. She was in second place overall and the lead female. So happy to see her having fun!

But who wouldn't have fun in paradise and with wonderful volunteers like this?

Before I knew it, I'd gabbed my way to the turnaround with Rob (just behind me), who was also a triathlete and from the S.F. Bay Area, where I'm originally from. If I could talk fairly easily, that means I wasn't going too fast, right? 6.45 miles in 49:54 (7:44 pace).

So unless I totally bonk, I'm going to make my sub-1:45 time goal easily. Why not shoot for a negative split anyway? This is the best part of the course, IMO, mile 7, heading back along Alii Drive and Kailua Bay. Just to the right is where the Kona Ironman swim starts.

But now it's well over 80 degrees and getting hot. Aid stations were only a mile apart but I prefer carrying my own fluids as I drink better from a bottle, plus the extra weight usually helps keep me from running the first half of a race too fast. Usually.

At mile 9, I chatted briefly with this guy from Colorado who told me he has no probs running in heat or at altitude but the humidity here was killing him. Dude, don't ever come to Florida in the summer.

Mile 13, nearly done. Caught 3 women in the second half. Enough to place? Who knows ...

Just make sure not to trip over the speed bump and do a face plant in front of everyone.

Hawaiian shave ice, a very welcome treat after a hot race!

Early on pacer Rob finished a couple minutes behind me. He'd not run for 3 weeks before the race because of the flu yet did well.

Yes, a new coffee mug award! The small black one in my hand, not the big one, silly.

Hanging out with greatness after the race (R to L after moi): Olympian Frank Shorter, pro triathlete Bree Wee (with son on her lap), race sponsor and founder, 70-year-old running phenom Jon Kunitake.

Total race time: 1:40:26 (7:40 pace). Last 6.65 miles run in 50:32 (7:36 pace) -- Woohoo!

Top 5 differences between 2002 and 2009:
5. Results
2002: 1:43:59, 2nd F40-49. 2009: 1:40:26, 1st F40-49.
4. Hydration & nutrition
2002: 6 oz water. 2009: 22-24 oz Nuun plus 2 gels.
3. Pacing
2002: No watch, no idea what pacing meant, really. 2009: Sports watch, a pretty good feel for what I'm capable of and a Coach to answer to.
2. The big question on my mind the last few miles
2002: Will I die of a heart attack? 2009: How many women are ahead of me?
1. Post-race recovery
2002: Food and a nap; quads hammered for days. 2009: Food, ice bath, nap and a 35 mi bike ride in the afternoon. Did I just run a half marathon?

Top 5 things that were the same:
5. Same beautiful course.
4. Frank Shorter was here.
3. Heat & humidity, but less than Florida.
2. I LOVE running and racing in Kona and still want to retire here.
1. Dave's still taking pictures of me. Thanks Dave!

Being the spouse of a runner is hard work.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wish You Were Here

It is freaking GORGEOUS here in Kona!!!

Surf's up and a breezy 80-85 degrees. Not as cool as San Diego last week but nice compared to the wet sauna back in Orlando and I know many of you are dealing with some horrible hot weather too :-(

But, ideal beach weather is not ideal for running PRs so my current half mary PR (1:37:07) is safe. On Sunday, I will only be shooting to run a sub-1:45 at the Kona Half Marathon, which is about as fast as I ran it in 2002, actually. But back then, that was an all-out race effort for me and I hurt for days afterwards. This time, being a C priority race, my goals are to have fun and to finish with minimal post-race soreness. (Coach had planned all of June to be a fairly easy month for me following the RnR Half Iron. My iron training resumes in full force July, which is next week - Gulp!)

Here's a few photos from our trip so far. Wish you could all be here too!

Off to do a 3-4 mile easy run. Totally screwed up: 4.1 miles @ 7:45 pace. Oops!

Taking photos of two people riding bikes is harder than you might think.

As usual, a headwind coming back into town but some nice ocean views.

Dave down in aero cursing the wind.

What happens when you curse.

A turtle (made of coral pieces) on the lava rocks along the Queen K highway.

Taking a business call. Grrr ...

One day that Blackberry is going surfing ;-)

Aloha for now and hope you all have a great weekend!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Back to Reality!

And 90 bazillion sticky degrees in Central Florida. Bleah!

But, man, San Diego was great. Here I am on Harbor Island with downtown SD in the background. Besides two blissful runs on the island (7 & 8 miler, 8:44 & 8:19 pace, respectively) and a refreshing bike interval workout on Fiesta Island, a popular time trial venue, I racked up an additional 30-40 miles without even trying. Shhhh, don't tell Coach ;-)

But slow walks and easy pedaling don't count as workouts, do they? After all, I didn't even break a sweat doing them in that nice cool weather. Let's call it sightseeing :-)

And there was lots to see ... all sorts of Navy and civilian boats moving through the harbor, fixed and rotary wing aircraft taking off at the Navy Amphib base on Coronado Island across from the hotel. Dave, the geek he is, constantly quizzed me on the various types of military vessels and aircraft. Fortunately, our marriage is not based on my knowledge of that stuff ...

This was the third trip to San Diego for my little travel bike. No more backaches riding rental bikes that are too big for me, no outrageous oversize luggage fees and no excuses for not getting bike workouts done while on travel. YAY!!

A fun bike ornament I saw atop a pole. The wind made the wheels spin like a pinwheel. Hmm, I think I could use some wheels like that ...

But do I need a yacht? Nah, I think I'll pass on this offer. Truth is I get deathly seasick and would never buy a boat, unless perhaps they offered a condo, in which case I'd keep the condo and sell the boat.

Swam at the Point Loma Y. They let me in as a guest for free since I'm a Central FL Y member and thank goodness it was an outdoor pool (I *loathe* indoor pools). But it was 25m long, not 25y. Who knew an extra 2.3 yards could make such a difference?!

And to wrap up our week, we had a wonderful dinner at Roy's Restaurant with some long-time friends who both live in the SD area (photo L to R: Suze, Dave, me and June). Great excuse to come back for more visits!

But first, back to the swamp for a few days and then off to paradise. Got the Kona half marathon on Sunday, 6/28, and some serious catching up to do on my blog reading. Really, I haven't forgotten about you all!

Good luck to everyone doing IMCDA today, especially RBR, Formulaic and TriToBeFunny!!!

This past week's workouts:
Swimming (3) 5574 yds
Cycling (2) 73.6 mi
Running (2) 16 mi
Strength training (4!)

Monday, June 15, 2009

What a Difference a Day Makes!

And 2000 miles.

Summer has definitely arrived in Orlando and my heat training has been in full force the past couple weeks. On Saturday we rode 65 miles and it was 87 degs (heat index 92) when we got done and I headed out for my 5-mile brick run. Will I wilt like I did a month ago?

NO! Much better this time. But, no faster ... 9:16 avg pace for 5 miles vs. 9:11 for 4 miles. However, my average heart rate was lower and I didn't feel like I was about to die at the end. Progress!

In fact, I even had some left over energy to mow my yard a few hours later. YAY!

Which is good because on Sunday morning we were headed to San Diego for the week. Double YAY!!

There we were greeted by a beautiful breezy, sunny day. Perfect for sailing and a 12 mile run along the San Diego harbor waterfront. 70 degs, 8:27 avg pace :-)

From our hotel balcony we've got fantastic 180 deg scenic views. Here's looking towards Point Loma and more sailboats.

A big cruise boat going past headed out to sea. Maybe one day I'll go on a cruise when I've got nothing better to do :-P

We've got a noisy neighbor down below us, though. But she has couple cute chicks that are amusing to look at so we'll forgive her.

Coincidentally, Dave and I both used to live in the SD area back in the 80's. He was a Marine 2nd Lt. stationed at MCRD and I attended UCSD for grad school a couple years later. Always fun to come back for a visit and hit some of the old places we used to both go to, like Rubios, which is no longer the hole-in-the-wall fish taco joint it used to be 20 years ago but still a favorite.

Hopefully, I won't loose too much of my heat tolerance in just a week. This cool 65-70 deg weather is spoiling me really bad!

Last week's workouts (still taking things pretty easy):
Swimming (2) 2800 yds
Cycling (3) 121 mi
Running (2) 17 mi
Strength training (2)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Keeping Things Fun

My Ego: So another good race! Maybe we should start eyeing a Kona slot, try winning some races, looking for sponsorships or somehow turning this hobby into a job someday?

My Sensible Side: WHOA! We've been down this road before. Life becomes really ugly when we focus on things too much. Keep it fun. Your best is NOT trying to be the best all the time.


Yes, it's true. I was raised to try to excel in everything I did. Until my mid-30's I worked relentlessly and my health and other aspects of life invariably suffered. My "problem" was that I was good at a lot of things (or so it seemed, for I didn't pursue things I sucked at) and was willing to do what it took to succeed. And once I got rolling on something, I didn't know the words quit, slow down or balance. I was pretty much all or nothing.

Which is why that DNF at Ironman Florida 2006 was so meaningful to me. Yes, meaningful. Until age 45, I'd never experienced a major failure before.

It would have been easy to say, well, I really hate swimming anyway and tris are just not for me, and go back to running marathons. Or, turn around and try again next year hoping the water won't be as rough (and then probably walk away from tris because I still hated swimming).

Instead, for the first time in my life, I stuck with something I was not really good at. It's taken me 3 years to become a swimmer and a real triathlete (in my eyes, someone who embraces and loves the variety and challenge of all three sports). I now have a coach telling what to do and, perhaps more importantly, what NOT to do. I've got two relatively new sports with lots of room for growth (compared to running/jogging which I've been doing off and on for over 30 years, though competitively only the last 7 yrs). Plus, I'm spending more quality time with hubby Dave who likes to ride bikes too. Life is good!

Yet, the last thing I want to do is make training and racing a job, or become obsessed with competing, setting PRs and trying to be the absolute best I can be all the time. I'm happy for every swim stroke, pedal stroke and footstep I take. And if I can get out there and want to do it again, I've won. I think that's a large part of why I signed up for two irons two weeks apart, to make sure I take my training seriously but not too seriously. There's no way in hell I'm doing another iron tri event so soon if I hated the first one :-)

Keep it fun, everyone!

Last week's recovery workouts:
Swimming (2) 4300 yds
Cycling (3) 112 mi
Running (2) 15 mi
Strength training (3)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Rock 'n Roll Man Half Iron Tri

Thanks everyone for the comments on my guitar award!

Here's the skinny for those who are short on time:

1.2 mi Swim - 44:41* (2:06/100yd), 7/12 New 1/2 iron swim PR!
*Includes run to T-area. My watch said 42:33 out of the water, a PR either way.
T1 - 2:17, 6/12
56 mi Bike - 3:10:04 (17.7 mph avg), 6/12
T2 - 1:40, 3/12
13.1 mi Run - 1:51:42 (8:32 avg pace), 2/12 New 1/2 iron run PR!

Total Race Time - 5:50:21, 3/12

Not a PR, but good enough for a 2nd place AG award because the first place F45-49 woman got a master's award.


So what were my expectations for this race?

Well, Rock 'n Roll Man was the 7th and toughest half iron course I've done to date and with high temps forecast around 88-89 degs, I figured a 6:00 finish might be possible, at best (say, with a 45-ish min swim, 3:15-ish bike, 2:00-ish run). Hopefully, I'd finish no slower than 6:15.

So what the heck happened???

For one, Mother Nature threw me another curve ball. I'd planned for the worst heat-wise and temps "only" got up into the low 80's when I was out there and the lower humidity (compared to what we've had in Orlando recently with all the rain) made it feel quite manageable. Two, I underestimated the X-factor. X-factor?

Yes, those things that could boost my performance but could also backfire, i.e., running a recent marathon and my monthly cycle.

But one thing for sure, I got the most awesome spot in the transition area, a rack right next to the bike exit *and* a spot on the end. The water temp was 73 degs and declared wetsuit legal so I was happily doing another one of my Body Glide dances :-) My period had not yet started but other signs (headaches, bloating, etc.) had been present all week and I fully expected it at any moment. Either way, though, I knew it meant my body was at its aerobic peak according to an article I read in the October 2007 issue of Triathlete magazine, a good thing although at times I felt like shooting myself. Sorry, again, if TMI.

On the walk down to the swim start, I noticed several pairs of slippers were left where the path met the sand. It was about 200 yards uphill to the transition area on a mostly carpeted paved path and then another 100 yards to my bike on asphalt. Why risk stepping on glass again on a swim-bike transition? My feet thanked me.

My new wetsuit made it easy for Dave to spot me coming out of the water (look for sleeveless blue top). I wore it once before last month for a practice open water swim but today the neck area was feeling really tight for some reason. Ugh, was my neck bloated too? Dave loosened it a bit but it still felt tight. Oh well, the women's wave, the fifth and final half iron wave, was about to take off and I didn't have time to do anything more about it. Hopefully it'd be better when I was swimming (the salesperson did say the wetsuit was meant to be comfortable when horizontal, not necessarily when vertical).

***** THE SWIM *****

The swim course was one lap around a big triangle. Basically, swim almost to the land way on the other side, make a right turn at a green buoy you can't see, another right turn at another green buoy you can't see and then head back. Water conditions were ideal but as soon as I got swimming, the tight neck felt like it was restricting my breathing. Not good! I thought for sure I'd have to stop along the way and pondered my options. I could undo the velcro at the back of my neck as I saw one woman had done to her wetsuit before the race. But that would create a lot drag and slow me down, wouldn't it? Better than feeling suffocated, no? Hmm ... Interestingly, panic never set in, which shows how far I've come in swimming. I used to be quite nervous about just swimming with others.

Speaking of others, where the hell is everyone? Oops, I'd been so concerned about breathing that I forgot to sight as often as I needed to and had veered way left (again). I began correcting gradually and was back on course by the first turn buoy. By then, I'd gotten somewhat used to the strangling feeling and figured if I'm not dead yet I could just keep going. I settled into a good rhythm and began lengthening my stroke. Lo and behold, I was at the second turn buoy when a funny thing happened: I began seeing a couple dark blue and white swim caps!

Now, of course, being a slower swimmer, I've seen different colored caps around me many times before in a race but never before have I been in the last wave. Which could only mean one thing ... Yes, I was passing folks who started before me! OMG!!!

Now I completely forgot about the tight neck and began swimming harder remembering (finally) my coach's instructions to try to negative split each leg of the tri. I swam till I felt sand in my hand, stood up (that's me with the bun head in the middle) and ran under the arch. I hit the lap button on my watch and saw 42:33, a 3 minute swim PR!!

But, there was no timing mat there. Boo! I ran to my slippers and pulled off my wetsuit (no wetsuit strippers at this race). Somewhere I'd read/heard it's a lot easier to take a wetsuit off when it's still dripping wet so better to do it upon exiting the water rather than in the transition area. Not sure about that but it was definitely easier with no sleeves to deal with and nicer to run uphill with no wetsuit on.

The timing mat was placed at the entrance to the transition area so everyone's swim times included the ~200 yd run from the water and T1 times were shorter than usual. Fair but it doesn't mean I have to like it.

1.2 mi Swim - 44:41 (2:06/100yd pace), 7/12. Still a swim PR but only by 46 seconds.
T1 - 2:17, 6/12

***** THE BIKE *****

The bike course was a giant continuously hilly loop with about 3000' of climbing. I'd ridden the course last month with Dave on dead legs and knew there were no really steep ascents or descents, but plenty of ups and downs to drive you nuts or keep things interesting depending on how you were feeling. Today I hoped I didn't need a 50 mile warm-up and could average 17-17.5mph for a 3:15-ish bike split. I chose to ride Genie, my new road bike, because she's more comfortable to ride on hills than my tri bike and being the new bike, well, she's spoiled and gets her way a lot.

Besides shooting for a negative split bike, my strategy was to push hard on the downhills to try to keep up with those who are "blessed" with more mass and momentum than I am. On the uphills, I'd stay seated and spin rather than get out of the saddle and fry my legs. On both downhills and uphills, I'd avoid looking at my bike Garmin (no need to see how fast or how slow I'm going as it just messes with my head). Periodically, the distance and time info would be useful for fueling, though, and the average speed to see if I was on track for my bike goal (one of these days I really should fix the cadence sensor). Just for grins, I wore my HRM strap for the first time in a tri. I actually wear one often in training but somedays I've found that a zone 1 effort can feel really hard and a zone 3 effort can feel quite easy. Coach and I have decided I'm one of those who's better off racing by feel and using HR info only as a guide.

I expected to see Dave riding somewhere out on the bike course and got worried when I hadn't seen him but did see an ambulance at mile 40 take someone away. It turned out he'd broken a spoke about 10 miles into his ride and had to limp back to the race start/finish area. Poor guy! Still, he was able to get some video of me starting and finishing the bike segment (33 secs). Thanks Dave!!

Yep, so I lost some time fiddling to get my shoe into my pedal but at least I had the bike in the right gear for the uphill start. The bulge in my back pocket is my cell phone (in a plastic bag) so Dave could track me on his Blackberry using Sprint's Family Locator service and have the camera ready when I came by. I condone that Blackberry use on weekends :-)

I actually averaged 18mph on the first half of the course thanks to some help from the wind. There was a noticeable-but-not-horrible headwind on the second half but I decided not to push for a negative split since I'd already gone faster than what I'd planned on the first half. Instead, I kept a steady effort and worked on fueling and hydrating for the hot run to come (at this point, I didn't know it was going to be cooler than forecast). For the first time ever, I took a water bottle at an aid station to supplement the fluids I had with me to make sure I didn't run out (it was going to be close). I consumed about 100 oz of fluids, 900 calories and 2 salt caps and came off the bike feeling the best I ever have.

56 mi Bike - 3:10:04 (17.7 mph avg), 6/12 A bit faster than I'd planned but I felt strong the entire way.
T2 - 1:40, 3/12

***** THE RUN *****

The first order of business for me on the run was to find a porta-potty. For some reason, this race did not have any in the transition area and you had to go around in the opposite direction of the run course to get to some. No way! Fortunately, I knew there was one about a half mile on the course and someone just came out of it as I got to it. I confirmed what I suspected was the reason for some cramps on the bike and came out fired up. AEROBIC PEAK!!!

But can you spot two things amiss with the photo below?

One, I'm carrying my bike gloves in my right hand. Two, no race belt.

But no cause for worry, I've got quick fixes for both of them. As I ran past Dave, I dropped my gloves onto the ground for him to pick up (or I could have stuffed them in my back pocket like I've done before when he wasn't around). Then after passing the bubbly volunteers in the photo below, I reached under my shirt and pulled out/down my race number. Voila! Now to catch everyone I can on the run. (No, it doesn't bother me to wear the race belt/number the whole time from the start of the race. What bothers me much more is possibly forgetting it in T2, like I often do taking off my gloves!)

Anyhoo, like the bike course, the run course was hilly (to me), nothing steep but lotsa rolls to drain whatever energy was left, especially on a hot day, which it was, although not as hot as I'd thought it was going to be. As usual, I brought some Nuun dissolved in water with me and was very glad I did. A couple times early on I missed getting fluids at an aid station entirely because I didn't slow down to stop or walk through them. This run course was shaped like a tree branch with three out-and-back legs so aid stations were always serving runners going in both directions. Many runners were taking two cups so if I went by soon after some others, sometimes the only cups were those on the table. Note to the volunteer coordinator: Recruit octopuses.

By mile 6, I'd passed a lot of folks who were struggling. Initially, I tried to say something encouraging to everyone I went by but it became too frequent and I began annoying even myself so I rationed my comments for those who really looked like they needed it. According to my watch, I was running about an 8:30 pace, which meant I was on track for a sub-6 finish provided I did not crash and burn. The effort level based on breathing felt about right but I was in uncharted territory (had I done any long brick runs close to this pace before? Uh, negatory) and I knew miles 8-10 were going to be tough, contrary to the lying elevation map posted on the race website (top image from the website, bottom image from Dave's Garmin):

Thank you Coach for recommending that we ride the run course the day before!

So I did slow down going through some later aid stations to take in extra fluids (my FB bottles were close to empty) and down some gels and salt (had brought 4 gels and 2 salt caps; don't rely on aid stations for anything except water). Doing so allowed one guy who I'd passed around mile 6 to pass me back at mile 11 (GASP!), but that was really the best thing that could have happened. He gave me something more to do than just keep trying to run strong on my own, which I'd gotten kind of tired of, to be honest. Now I had someone to chase!

And at the time, I was stalking a woman wearing an Ironman Florida top who had a "48" written on her calf (so she was in my age group) and debating when to pass her. She looked sorta like she might be able to run me down if I went by her too early. Maybe I could just ask her if she will? But she slowed to walk through the final aid station near mile 12 and Bingo! I knew it was time to make my move.

I grabbed a cup, kept running and focused solely on trying to catch the guy ahead (much easier than trying to hold someone off). At the last little hill, I turned around and didn't see anyone close behind me but there was still about a 1/2 mile to go and it was all downhill after that. I could have probably slacked off then but remembered being edged out at the finish line of the Fargo Marathon 3 weeks ago and was determined not to let that happen again, not by someone in my age group and not at this race, which was also a USAT Halfmax Championship qualifier, BTW.

So I kept running hard. In the finishing chute, the guy in front was joined by a couple of his kids. He was far enough ahead that I couldn't catch him even when running with his little ones, which is good as I'm not sure whether it's poor race etiquette to do that or not. Dude was the only person to pass me during the run and I should have thanked him for bringing me home strong. A picture of him will have to do.

13.1 mi Run - 1:51:42 (8:32 pace), 2/12. A new 1/2 iron run PR by 6 minutes!

Total Race Time - 5:50:21, 3/12

The little guitar award came with a little black guitar case. So cute!

The RnR race medal is pretty cool too. The middle part spins.

Thanks for reading! I'm behind on my blog reading but will be catching up on all of you this week.