Sunday, April 25, 2010

I know, I'll just go out an run a 1/2 marathon on Sunday for fun

Somedays I think that there needs to be a 12 step program for endurance race addiction. Today is one of them. Last weekend, my running partner (who didn't get into the Dipsea race while I did) suggested that we run the Marin County Half Marathon together this weekend. With nothing better to do, I said yes. Registered for Sunday's event on Thursday without previewing the course or, frankly, having a clue what I was getting myself into.

Fast forward to Saturday-- the day started out with a brisk 50 minute open water swim at Aquatic Park. Water was warmer than I thought it was going to be-- at least once I got over the initial shock of getting my face in the water and I had a nice, easy swim. I came out of the water; helped both of my kids change their wet, sandy clothes (they had played in the sand while I swam), and headed home.

My running partner (and neighbor) Michele was going to pick up my race packet for me. Or at least we thought. She got to McNear's beach and found that the race organizers would not let her pick up my number without my picture ID. So, after a brief lunch, the kids and I headed up to McNear's to pick up my number. Interestingly enough, no one asked for my ID at all when they gave me my number. . . . HMMMM. . .. Fortunately it was a nice day and the kids and I walked the fishing pier (Jack now wants to be a fisherman) and played down at the beach for a few hours before heading home.

Disaster struck early-- WHERE IS MY TANK TOP? For those of you that know my running (and racing) history. I have worn the same Worcester Academy (my high school) tank top in every race I've done since 1991. Seriously. . . over 20 marathons, countless 1/2 marathons, and more 10K's than I can remember. . . WHERE IS MY TANK TOP? I can't find it anywhere. . .

Sunday morning dawned early-- Grandpa Russell had spent the night to watch the kids in the morning (since Daddy is in Los Vegas playing poker) and I got myself dressed. . . Unhappily might I say since I STILL CAN'T FIND MY TANK TOP. I wore one of my Falmouth Road Race Tanks, but it just isn't the same as my 20 year old, turned grey from repeated washings, seams fraying tank top from 1990. Michele and I met up and we headed out to the beach. Arriving early, we debated what to wear for about 30 minutes before we finally left the car, and our cover-ups.

We were lead to the start line by a Scottish Bag Piper-- bringing back memories of both my college graduation and our early morning wake up call at 1/2 way to iron wildflower weekend. At the start line we waited and waited until finally the race could start-- what were we waiting for? The race organizers needed to plant a tree. Tree planted, we started at 8-- about 20 minutes later than we were supposed to start.

Michele took off like a start-- she doesn't participate in races often, and this was the longest distance she has done in a few years. . . I let her go. There was no way I was starting out 2 minutes faster than our usual pace--I've been around the rodeo a few times and know what happens to people who start out too fast to early. Out and back for a few miles on the road and then to some new territory.

Heading up the hill into China Camp Park it was getting hot. . . we had a few miles of rolling hills before we were to transition onto trails. I was watching my Garmin pretty closely. I wanted to make sure I was on pace for the first 10K and then would see what happened. Well, at what my Garmin called the 6.2 mile split, I was right on track. Then we passed a volunteer who called out,
"Mile 5 right ahead--Looking Good." HUH? Mile 5? My GPS says 6.2 miles. OK.
Same thing happens at the 6 mile marker-- my watch reads 7 miles. Which one is right? Basically, I started to get stressed. . . OK, I got pretty stressed. How long is this race? Did I miss a turn? Why is my watch so far ahead? Are we going to run over 14 miles (instead of 13)? What is going on? I'd better slow down because I have no idea how long this race is going to be.

This panic stayed with me for the rest of the race. At the bottom of Hammer Hill (which was advertised to be at mile 11), the sign said mile 9. I hit the switchbacks on the trail, enjoyed the shade, and found myself enjoying the run. That being said, I had no idea how much longer I was going to be running. At the top of Hammer, we headed back out onto the roads. The volunteer standing there said that we had less than a 1/2 mile to go. At this point, however, I was afraid to believe her.

Turns out she was right. I was almost done. There probably wasn't more than a 1/2 mile to go. I made the turn into the beach and could see the finish line. At the end I saw my friend Michele-- she had finished 6 minutes ahead of me. . . and had hated every minute of it-- she was miserable-- hard run . . . wanted to stop at mile 6. I on the other hand had enjoyed my run. I hadn't gone very fast but I had finished and finished strong. I felt ready to take on the rest of the day and felt like I could probably have run another 10 miles easily (or at least run another 10 miles and still felt OK.)

So as stops on the road to Iron go, this run was good. I felt strong. I took my time and paced it out appropriately. I ran the entire run as a nice training run (even running the trail hills where there were long muddy stretches). My time wasn't stellar and since I can always find an excuse for that I mention the fact that I had no idea where in the race I was; we were on trails and going uphill through mud, oh, and I want to have enough energy to complete this week's workouts and my next race. That being said-- my time could have been a lot worse, and my first 10K was wonderful.

Next stop-- The Rock. Next Sunday is Escape From Alcatraz-- a race I did last year (and was terrified of before I did it). It is funny that I'm not scared of this race at all this year. . . At least I'm not scared of it yet-- maybe by next Sunday I will be afraid to jump off the boat, but right now I'm looking forward to it.

Thanks for reading, for donating, and for passing on your words of encouragement.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

8 Transitions and 3 flats? You've got to be kidding me!

Boot Camp weekend #2. As usual, I can't go both days; John is in Miami and I can't justify a babysitter for both days. So, after asking my coach which day would be better; I got a sitter and planned for Saturday. The weather was supposed to be great and the workout looked like fun. . . repeated sprint distance triathlons for 5 hours. I was pretty excited about this one-- Sprint distance triathlons are not too challenging at this point; I'd raced at this park before so was familiar with the course and area; and I had such a good bike ride at Wildflower that I was feeling invincible. I even convinced a few people to pledge 5 or 10 bucks per sprint triathlon I completed to the cause (

Found myself in Pleasanton, at Shadow Cliffs Regional Park at 7:45-- not leaving myself very much time to get my transition area set up and wiggle into my wetsuit before our alleged 8am start. I set up my transition stall-- taking extra care to make sure that I'd put my back brake on properly after having to replace my back tire on Thursday (See the 1/2 way to Iron report). Lathering up with my $1 Suave Coconut Conditioner, I pulled on the wetsuit and got zipped in. Along the way, Coach Mike even agreed to donate 10 dollars each as well. I was pumped and ready to go.

At the athletes meeting we learned of the first snafu: Our use permit had fallen through-- we had no lifeguards and couldn't go open water swimming. (were we not going to be swimming-- that would be terrible-- no cold water swim? Shucks. I would so miss the 55 degree water). But no, swimming we would be: There was a single-- 6 foot wide, 300 yard lane marked off in the water. Since there were 60 of us hitting the water-- we would go in starts-- 10 at a time. Swim the 40 yards out the the lane, duck under the rope, swim the 300 yard lane, swim back to shore, then RUN back to where we started and go again and again, and again-- for a total of 4 "laps". I hit the water with the second group. Not surprisingly, it was cold but out I went.

Before I had time to pee in my wetsuit, it was time to get out of the water and do the sand run back to the starting point. IN again. Cold again. No time to pee in the wetsuit again. And out again. Yes, I'll spare you the other two times, but I did this a total of 4 times. Although I probably could, I'm not counting these run breaks in my transition counts.

Transition #1: Meet the Flat Fairy
After climbing out of the water for the 4th time, I ran into transition where the 5 or so swimmers out ahead of me were moaning.
"You've got a flat" said Mentor Margaret.
"WHAT! Which tire?"
"Your rear one." says Margaret.
"You mean the one I changed YESTERDAY? Are you fucking kidding me?"
"NOPE-- the coaches went around and let the air out of all of our back tires-- you have to take out the tube, show it to the coach and put it back in."

Did I mention that I wasn't out of my wetsuit yet?
Pulling off the wetsuit and getting into my bike shirt and arm warmers, I mentally rehearsed the fun of changing a rear tire. I was really glad that I had done it the day before (for the first time) instead of paying the guys at the bike shop to do it for me-- (very temping). Get the wheel out; Move the derailleur and the chain; use your tire irons to get off the tire; pull out the tube, show to coach; put tube back in; put tire back on, pump up tire-- OK. I can do this.

And do it I did. While others struggled with getting the wheel off or getting their tire off-- I cruised. Jumped on the bike and took off. Oops-- helps if you put your chain back on after changing the tire. OK-- now up the hill and out on the course.

Click. Click. Click. Click. What the hell is that noise?? I have no idea; Margaret has no idea. No one has an idea. Oh well, its only 9 miles. click, click, click. Oh well, its only 8 miles. Wait a minute-- why does it feel like my legs don't want to work today. Oh well, its only 7 miles. Good Grief-- why am I so slow today. Oh well, its only 6 miles. Holy Moly, that 15 mile per hour headwind sucks. Oh well, its only 5 miles. ARE WE THERE YET? Eventually, I got there. This was not a good bike ride. Still not sure why? I need to check my bike cadence computer and see if this ride was as slow as it felt but part of me doesn't want to know. I thought I'd conquered the bike monster last month. Had Coach Dave taken the rocket boosters off my bike when he'd let the air out of my tires. Ahhhh.

Transition #2
Eventually I got myself back to transition. Yipee. Off on the run. Its a beautiful 3.5 mile run on trails around lakes and wildflowers. Some little rises. Most not. I passed a few teammates on the way out and pushed over the first rise. This felt wonderful-- nothing at all like my horrid run at Wildflower. Before I knew it I was back to transition and ready for

Transition #3
In between tri's, we were doing core: While not really a surprise, what was a surprise was I had to wait for about 5 people to finish and people to catch up so that we could have a group start together. Core exercises finished, it was time to move into

Transition #4
This was the biggie: Pulling on a wet, cold wetsuit. Anyone who has ever put on a wetsuit knows that it is difficult. Add to it the wetsuit being wet and you are in for a real treat. We used plastic grocery bags to cover our feet as we pushed them into the neoprene that had been hanging on a hanger (the better to get the full effect of the wind and, now, cold wet rain drops that had begun to fall from the sky). Wet neoprene is COLD. Cold and clammy. And basically, just yucky. off to the water.

At least this time we didn't have to swim, run, swim, run, swim, run, swim. We could just SWIM. 6 laps of the 300 yard line (1800 yards or so) plus the swim out to the land and back in. Pretty uneventful except for 2 things: my head to head meeting with our swim coach Sedonia (sight Paula-- Sight) and my very tactless smacking of one of my teammates from the South Bay in the back of her head ("wow, what a powerful stroke you have" "eh-- sorry about that"). I've got no defense for the smacking; but in my defense-- the lane line was inconsistent in that lane-- other swimmers agreed with me-- that is why I couldn't swim in a straight line.

Transition #5-- out of the wetsuit-- into the bike shoes-- and by now, the sun is COMPLETELY GONE. while I'd started my first bike loop in short sleeves and arm warmers, this time it was short sleeves with my full coat. The wind had picked up as well-- the headwind was expected to be stronger than the 15 miles per hour we'd experienced on the way out.
The clicking sound was gone-- turned out it was only the magnet from my cadence meter hitting my gear but my legs weren't any happier to be on the bike. Maybe they were cold? Nice excuse-- I may run with that one. . . oh wait-- speaking of running, if it was cold legs? Why did the run feel so strong? I don't get it.

Coming back in I saw one of my south bay teammates on the side of the road trying to change her flat. Aware of the great cosmic Karma rule of biking, I stopped to see if she needed anything. Turned out she was unable to get her tire off the rim. I borrowed one of her tire irons and couldn't get it off either. After trying for about 10 minutes to get her darned tire off-- I gave up-- transition was about 600 yards away-- I'd go get a coach and send him back. Attempted Tire Change #2-- incomplete.

Transition #6-- off the bike-- grabbed coach mike and sent him back to help the failed tire change (by the time he got there-- another good Samaritan (non TNT) had come by and gotten the tire off for her). Pulled on the running shoes. Heading out on the path I heard Coach Dave say: ONE HOUR AND 15 minutes left.

Is he kidding? Having raced on this course before, I know that it generally takes me about 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete the full sprint distance triathlon. That would mean that I should have been able to complete TWO full triathlons in 3 hours. Where did the time go? I still had at least a half hour before I could even say I finished 2? I was NEVER going to make my goal of 3. I was hoping to make at least 100 bucks for the cause-- I wasn't even going to come close. CRAP. Oh well, I was off on the run. Gonna at least finish 2 triathlons really, really strong. And, at least from a mental training philosophy, I was able to have another really strong run.

Transition #7-- Back into the wet wetsuit. Didn't get any warmer-- didn't get any easier. The swim didn't get any shorter or any longer. Out of the water. Trying to go as fast as I can-- want to finish another sprint distance triathlon before the coach won't let me race any more. . . gonna do it. . .

Transition #8-- Hey, no one said not to stop-- I'm heading out on this bike. Not sure how much time is left-- wind has picked up again. Its cold. I hate the freaking bike--- I'm going. Oh no-- there is one of my teammates on the side of the road. When I asked if she needed any help she asked if I knew how to use a CO2 gun. (I do actually). SO-- over I pulled for

Flat Tire #3
I'd never seen a CO2 dispenser like hers before so I pulled mine out and grabbed my cylinder. I put it down on her tube and pulled the trigger-- out came the CO2, but her tire didn't inflate. . . OK. . . I thought I knew how to use this thing. Let's try cylinder number 2. Same result. OK-- plan B. Maybe there is something wrong with the tube. Maybe we should start over.

Off with the wheel-- off with the tire-- out with the tube--Guess what-- the valve was broken and the tube had a big hole in it. Well, glad we figured that out-- wish we'd found that out before we'd wasted 2 CO2 containers on that faulty tube. New tube, replace the tire and now lets figure out how to use the other CO2 system. Oh SHOOT-- here comes Captain Tony. Time is UP. It is time to head home. I didn't finish my 3rd triathlon today.

Some stretching; putting my gear in the car. Admitting to Coach Mike that he only owes me 20 bucks was disappointing. Generally, I'm really frustrated by this day of training. I'm not sure why I could only do 2. Did we start late? Was the swim thing that much longer (most swims there are 400 yards)? Was my biking that much slower? I can't imagine that my run was bad but was it? How much time did I lose doing core? Was it unreasonable to assume I could do 3?

On the upside I felt as strong during the second triathlon as I did during the first. I felt as strong during the 3rd swim as I did during the first. I felt as crappy during the 3rd bike as I did during the first. So I figure I can take some good from that at least.

For those of you that pledged an amount of money per triathlon completed-- you owe me 2X what ever you pledged. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I appreciate your donation: