Wednesday, January 27, 2010

InStep Icebreaker Indoor Marathon

Do you enjoy running a marathon ...

In ideal, cool dry conditions?
On a flat, windless course?
While listening to music?
With other friendly runners?
With frequent cheering spectators?
Where you can see the top runners competing?
Having your favorite drinks/foods served on the course?
Not having to look for or wait long to use a porta-potty?
Even if it may not be a PR?

If you're like me and answered "yes" to all or most of the above, the InStep Icebreaker Indoor Marathon should be on your To Run list!

I know, I know, running a hundred (really, 95.4) laps around an indoor track sounds so BORING, but I have yet to find anyone who's run an indoor marathon who thinks it is, including me. And it's not because we're crazy! It's totally different than speed work you might do on a track or running laps on your own. The closest thing I can think of to describe my race experience would be to say it was like a Go Cart ride!

Don't believe me?

Well, here I am waiting at the start. Some of the kids have been on this ride before, which is often the case with any good fun-rides, right? Me, I've run 52 marathons, including one merry-go-round (150 laps at the Zoom Yah Yah Indoor Marathon last year). But this ride is bigger, both in number of runners as well as the track size, and the building which houses the track is quite special, as you'll see. Pardon my giddy look!

The gun went off at 8am and about a hundred of us jumped on and spread out along the track (which was a thin sheet of rubber over concrete so not very forgiving but better than nothing). The inside lane was for fasties or those wanting to pass. The outside lane was for those going a slower pace. After that, all similarities with track running as most folks know it ended.

For one thing, this track was inside the Pettit National Ice Center, which is an official U.S. Olympic training site for speed skating. It was actually 442.8767m long, not your traditional running track length because there was a 400m speed skating oval INSIDE of it. And inside of that ice oval, there were two international-sized (100' x 200') ice rinks for hockey, figure skating and short track speed skating. For moi, who had been ice skating maybe only 2 or 3 times as a kid and had only seen ice in the form of ice cubes in her ice baths recently, this was an AMAZING facility!

The first lap, I just admired the gigantic uber slick and shiny ice surface. Ooh, near zero coefficient of friction, I bet could slide my butt around even without skates! I looked at the big banners and colorful flags that were hung all throughout the building. With the Winter Olympics coming up, there was also talk that some world-class speed skaters might be on the ice later, which made being there even more exciting.

And the indoor temps? OMG, a blissful 55 degs F, which actually felt closer to 50 because of the dry air, just perfect for running, but I had to be very careful about going too fast early on (first race since my calf injury last month!). Without a Garmin -- we're indoors, remember? -- I figured I'd just capture splits every 4 laps (1.1 miles). Completing them in 10-10:30 minutes would be about a 9-9:30 min/mi pace, which is what I wanted. Simple, no?

Actually, NO, it wasn't, because the laps were going by too fast! I kept getting distracted so that I'd miss looking at my watch when I was supposed to. The best I could do was capture splits every 8 laps instead:

1st 8 in 20:00 - OK, but no faster.
2nd 8 in 19:51 - I said NO faster!!
3rd 8 in 20:34 - Good.

And poof, 24 laps gone in 1:00:25, 6.6 mi @ 9:09 pace.

Here's a YouTube video created by Fit Milwaukee that will give you an idea what was going on. It's really of the marathon relay event held the day before (they had 2 teams in it) but the marathon was similar with the exception that everyone was running at the same time so no runners on the sidelines for the most part (fast forward to 1:05 to see people running):

So while you could be Speedy Gonzales churning out lightening fast laps on the inside lane, you could also be like me who was cruising on the outside lane, occasionally playing bumper runners and switching to the inside lane, chatting with folks, checking out what was written on their shirts, reading banners & signs, high five-ing little kids' hands hanging out from the bleachers, singing/humming along with good songs they were playing (but why did they play Theme from Rocky so early???), thanking wonderful volunteers, the list goes on and on ...

But boredom or dizziness? Nonsense! Unless perhaps you were a SPECTATOR :-)

But let's go back to those wonderful volunteers, shall we? IMO, they had the toughest job. Not only did they have to stay warm in the cool conditions, they had to pay attention to what runners were saying they wanted and then hand them that as they went past. I chose to ask for things I wanted a lap ahead to avoid slowing down:

Me: 1060, orange bottle next lap (translation: please give bib #1060 her sports bottle with the orange drink on the next lap)

Volunteer: Got it!

And next time around, a volunteer would be looking for me and ready to hand me my bottle. Next lap around I gave it back. Awesome service!!

And how did all those bottles, gels and whatever get on the tables, you ask? Well, before the race, we runners marked and staged our stuff on tables with specific bib number ranges. That way, during the race we knew to ask volunteers near our table as we went by. They also had extra sports drink, water and gels on hand to make sure we never ran out fluids or fuel. Thank you!!!!

Now back to the ride.

0.4 laps from where we started was where the finish line was located and also a large projection screen which turned out to be showing everyone's name, number of laps completed and the last lap split. From a photo I saw of last year's race, I thought it was a count-down screen showing how many laps the top runners had left. With all else going on, I didn't bother reading it until about halfway through my race. So after 2 hours, I glanced up to see how the fasties were doing and holy moly! MY name was listed there with 48 laps done. Quick, hit the lap button NOW!

24.4* laps in 1:04:13, 6.7 mi @ 9:35 pace (incl. porta potty stop).
*fractional lap to account for the distance from the start line to where the screen was

So, obviously, I'd failed miserably at keeping track of any more 8-lap splits the last hour. Hey, have you tried tracking laps around a Go Cart course? But now that I knew lap counts and lap splits were on the screen, things should be easy, right?

Well, not always. The names were constantly scrolling downwards as people were crossing a mat behind you so if you happened to be running in front of others nearby, your name would get pushed down from the top and you had to be quick to find it as you ran by. There actually was a guy standing there holding a sign that said "Ask me for your lap count," but I never did. I just found it more fun to keep playing Find Shirley's Line :-)

Photo of the female winner from a Journal Sentinel article about the race.

In the second half, I noticed a few skaters were on the ice and added watching them to my list of many things to do. There was one guy who looked pretty fast but my guess is that he was not headed to Vancouver. No matter, the real excitement was unfolding on the running track. The leader for 21 miles had to drop out due to a previous ankle injury that began bothering him. Julie Spencer, a tiny woman who made me look big, was the leader by more than a lap for a while. Then Matt Sveum, who'd lost the lead pack earlier, closed the gap and ran past her in the final laps to win the race in 2:51:07. Julie finished second in 2:52:38, a new women's course record. Frickin' incredible to see these folks fly by again and again averaging a 6:30-ish pace!!!

Thereafter, other fasties would periodically jump off the track as they finished their race. After 3 1/2 hours, the ride began taking on a different character. The mid-packers became the new "fast" runners and with fewer people on the track, it got easier to pass people and to run on the inside track (which we all know is a little shorter than the outside track) when no one faster was around. By now, folks have also been running together for a while so friends had been made and we were encouraging and helping each other. Announcements of those who had reached 90 laps, were on their last lap, or had just completed 96 (meaning they were done), were becoming more frequent and they pumped you up too, finishing or not. This party was still getting started!

Meanwhile, I was closing in fast on lap number 80, where I'd decided I would pick up my pace to an 8:30 (2:20 lap time) if I'd not heard any complaints from my calfs earlier. Not a peep! For a short while, I enjoyed passing some who had passed me earlier in the race, even though I knew they were going to be done before me. Before long I was at lap 92, where with 4 laps to go I figured it was safe to let go of the brakes. For the first time during the race, I made sure to FOCUS and COUNT my remaining laps:

1 down - WEEEE, I'm flying!
2 down - Look Ma, no hands -- I mean, sweat!!
3 down - WOOHOO, let's floor this motha!!!
4 down - Wha -- it's time to get off the track?

Announcer: Shirley Pratt from Florida, 96 laps completed!

Final race time: 3:58:42 (9:06 pace), 3/8 F40-49, 7/27 Females.
13.3 mi (48.4 laps) @ 9:22 pace.
12.9 mi (47 laps) @ 8:51 pace. Last 1.1 mi (4 laps) @ 8:09 pace.

Token bib and medal photo.

Me and a couple faster friends from the race, Marathon Maniacs #1083 & 1084.

Nice race schwag (socks and pink fluid bottle given as the AG award).

Thanks for coming along with me on my ride!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hello from Wisconsin!

Ran the InStep Icebreaker Indoor Marathon in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, today in 3:58:42. I'd hoped for a sub-4 but my top priority was to finish without reinjuring my calfs or anything else. Mission accomplished!

Seeing much snow, however, not so much. It's been rainy here with highs around 40 degs F. Go figure, they're supposed to get more pretty white stuff this week after I leave. You win some, you lose some.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Most Memorable Marathons

Since I "only" ran 4 marathons last year (2 standalone, 2 in iron tris), I've felt the need to get myself back into marathon mood. To jog my memory, here are some of my most memorable ones, many of which were run before I began blogging end of 2006.

Top 5 Most Speedy Marathons
1. B&A Trail Marathon, MD - 3:27:59, 3/2006 (even split)
2. Marine Corps Marathon, VA - 3:29:07, 10/2005 (neg split)
3. Rocket City Marathon, AL - 3:29:41, 3/2003 (neg split)
4. Museum of Aviation Marathon, GA - 3:30:58, 1/2004 (neg split)
5. Camp Lejeune Marathon, NC - 3:33:18, 2/2004 (neg split)

Top 5 Most Scenic Marathons
1. Big Island Intl Marathon, HI - 3:40:24, 3/2004 (rain forests & beaches)
2. Colorado Marathon, CO - 4:32:05, 5/2007 (beautiful canyon & river, but my PW)
3. Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon, AK - 3:38:18, 6/2004 (mtns, forest, wildlife)
4. Marine Corps Marathon, VA - 3:29:07, 10/2005 (natl monuments & famous bldgs)
5. Tri-State Marathon, UT-NV-AZ - 3:58:52, 3/2006 (snow capped mtns, high desert & sand carved canyons)

Top 5 Most Fun Marathons
1. Zoom Yah Yah Indoor Marathon, MN - 4:18:49, 1/2009 (150 laps of smiles!)
2. Marine Corps Marathon, VA - 3:29:07, 10/2005 (awesome camaraderie & spirit!)
3. Disney Goofy Marathon, FL - 3:35:22, 1/2006 (so fun to be goofy!)
4. Bayshore Marathon, MI - 3:45:28, 5/2005 (last of my 21 marathons in 9 months!)
5. Fargo Marathon, ND - 3:38:05, 5/2009 (wonderful spectator support & signs!)

Top 5 Most Surprising Marathons
1. Disney Marathon, FL - 3:33:32, 1/2003 (my first marathon and a BQ?)
2. Boston Marathon, MA - 3:36:34, 4/2003 (I have to run a second marathon?)
3. Rocket City Marathon, AL - 3:29:41, 3/2003 (first sub-3:30 & first neg split -- hmm)
4. Big Island Intl Marathon, HI - 3:40:24, 3/2004 (me first overall female?!)
5. Zoom Yah Yah Indoor Marathon, MN - 4:18:49, 1/2009 (who knew 150 laps could be so fun?)

Top 5 Most Screwed Up Marathons (my fault)
1. Olathe Marathon, KS - 4:27:58, 3/2007 (drank unfamiliar sports drink - poop!)
2. Air Force Marathon, OH - 3:45:55, 9/2003 (started WAY too fast - crash & burn!)
3. Carlsbad Marathon, CA - 3:54:19, 1/2005 (wore new shoes from the expo - owie!)
4. Little Rock Marathon, AR - 4:05:50, 3/2007 (sprained ankle at mi 8 - yikes!)
5. Nike 26.2, CA - 4:04:24, 10/2004 (ran early downhills too hard - oh my!)

Top 5 Most Screwed Up Marathons (NOT my fault)
1. Valley of the Sun Marathon, AZ - 3:59:15, 3/2005 (Not enough buses to the start)
2. aka Valley of the Suck Marathon, AZ - (no driving to and parking at the start)
3. aka Valley of the Yuck Marathon, AZ - (20 min race start delay due to #1)
4. aka Valley of the Outta Luck Marathon, AZ - (no volunteers at some aid stations)
5. aka Valley of the $@?&#!! Marathon, AZ - (not enough fluids or cups & a hot race!)
Luckily for everyone, this marathon is no longer in existence.

With the exception of the last two Screwed Up categories, I'm hoping some of my marathons this year will make one of my Top 5 lists. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ouch, That Hurt

First of all, thank you for the comments on my previous post. For sure, Dave & I are a team and will be working together on his new diet. Right now, I'm getting a kick out of receiving emails from him (he's in DC now) telling me how "good" he's been. Traveling for work so often is where his biggest challenges lie, I think. I'll keep you posted on his progress, if for no other reason than to keep him accountable. I keep telling him he needs to start a blog!

Anyway, now on to my pain ...

Fortunately, it's not my calf again or some other injury, but it hurt nonetheless. What, you say?

A hard 5-miler yesterday.

With a marathon on tap for this weekend, I had to be super duper careful not to overdo things, yet I had to be honest about working hard. Since my calf fiasco last month, I've done mostly long & slow runs. That is, after I could even run again (there was no running to speak of as I hobbled around for 2 weeks). But, of course, I'm working with Coach Bill again and, well, I did not hire him to let me do what I want, did I???


So "5 miles Hard" was what he wrote and that's what had to be done. Wah, I'd rather run 20 miles easy!

I started out with a mile warm-up. Then I stretched my legs. Then I stretched my arms. Then I checked my Garmin to make sure it was going to record what I was going to do (you'd be surprised how many times I've accidently stopped it instead of started it -- doh!). Then I took some deep breathes. Then I checked my Garmin again. Jeez, get on with it already!!

OK, here we go. Beep!

1st mile, 7:31 - Well, I didn't want to start out too fast anyway.

2nd mile, 7:22 - Better, and no word from Mr. or Mrs. Calf. Doubly good.

3rd mile, 7:15 - Ran past a group of Navy guys chatting & stretching. Had to look strong.

4th mile, 7:20 - Darn. Starting to feel the burn.

5th mile, 7:14 - OMG, how much further, how much further, how much further?!?!?!!!

Beep! Thank god!!

5 miles in 36:42, a 7:20 avg pace.

TBH, I was a little disappointed. But not bad for a solo effort and so early in the season and coming off an injury. There's definitely some work to do to meet some TBA goals I also have this year, though.

Mind: HA, you thought we were just going to do 8 marathons, 2 half
         marathons, a 10K, a 5K and a couple half irons and leave it at that?

Body: Gulp, yeah.
Mind: Silly body! Mwhahahahaha.

Anyway, it's all systems go. My first marathon of the year is in Wisconsin on Sunday. It's another crazy indoor one :-)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Clean(er) Eating

Above is one of my favorite pics of Dave taken on our honeymoon in Jamaica back in 1994. He went kneeboarding, swam a mile roundtrip to a nearby island and got resort certified to go diving while I, who could barely swim to save my life, spent most of my time on the beach sunbathing and fighting off babes eyeing him (note the 2 in back -- grrr).

In 2004, he was at his heaviest (270#) and full of self-loathing. He kept this second picture on his iPod to motivate himself to lose weight.

Getting back on his bike and riding with me the last few years has helped him get back down to 220-230#, but he's still NOT where he wants to be weight-wise or fitness-wise. This year he's decided to bite the bullet and tackle the last frontier: his diet. He got a book from a work-sponsored life balance class he attended last year:

Now I'm all for Dave eating better, but this book advocates a RADICAL diet change. No dairy products, no meat (only fish, which he hates and won't eat), no sugar, no added salt. Processed foods are to be avoided and only very limited amounts of whole grains are allowed. So pretty much everything Dave loves and used to eat regularly before is out. His diet will now largely consist of fresh veggies, fruit and legumes (uncanned). Man, it puts my so-called healthy eating habits to shame!

Some positives I see are:

- No food logging or calorie counting (Dave has a really hard time doing them)
- We're going to save a lot some not buying dairy products and meat.
- Our stove & microwave will stay much cleaner.
- There'll be lots of "junk" to donate to the next food drive.
- What we saved can be used to buy fruits and veggies from Costco, which only come in HUGE quantities.
- I'm burning extra calories washing and cutting up lots fruits & veggies.
- Dave was beaming when he told me he'd lost 8# last week.*
*According to the book, not unusual as it's mostly water weight from not eating so much salt.

But, unfortunately, he also felt like crap on the bike last week. Not sure whether it's the new diet, the 95+% humidity we had on Saturday, the 22mph winds (30mph gusts) on Sunday, or possibly all of the above.

Anyone have any advice or experiences with a clean eating diet like this? What do you eat/drink to be able to go long and perform well on your workouts? How does one get away from the notion of rewarding yourself with food? Is it possible to succeed with one spouse on the diet and not the other? Will he become so lean & sexy that I'll have to brush up on my martial arts to fend off ogling women?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou!

Which in Hawaiian means Happy New Year!

But, unfortunately, as of last night, I am back in Florida freezing my patootie. I know sub-30 deg F temps are no biggie for many of you but for me, who starts shivering when the thermometer drops below 70F, some DRASTIC measures are needed.

Like a new warmer look to my blog :-)

So what's been going on the past couple months???

Not a whole heck of a lot. Which is how it's supposed to be after an iron tri (or two), right?

Well, not quite ...

Without Coach Bill looking, I ran a half marathon early December, pulled a calf muscle midway and hobbled/walked to a near PW (1:48:41). That forced me take a couple weeks off from running so I woman-upped to meet my local Y's 100-mile swim challenge (counting miles I swam in that pool only). Then I was back in Hawaii for the holidays burning up some rubber on the roads riding with Dave (he wanted to bike 7000 miles in 2009). Oh, and I also ran a bit to see if I could still muddle through a marathon end of January.

My 2009 workout totals:

Swimming: 162 mi (116 swims, avg 2458 yd)
Biking: 4628 mi (109 rides, avg 42.5 mi)
Running: 1008 mi (116 runs, avg 8.7 mi)
Other: 35.4 hrs (62 strength/stretching sessions)

It's actually the first time I've ever tracked my workouts for an entire year so I have nothing to compare them to. The last few weeks, however, I felt like I was doing this most of the time:

Compared to what I was doing before when really training.

But it's back to business and blogging. In 2010, I plan to run 8 marathons to wrap up my 50 states marathon quest, two half marathons, my first-ever 10K and my third 5K (eek, short races). I'll also be doing a couple half iron tris to stay in tri shape for who-knows-what in 2011. And, I am back working with Coach Bill as it's obvious that I should NOT be left on my own ;-)

Look forward to catching up with all of you this week!

PS - Does anyone know an easy way to get a list of blogs I follow in Google Reader into a sidebar widget?