Tuesday, November 27, 2012

You put your gloves WHERE?

Have you ever noticed the things you can only talk about to another athlete?

This came to mind the other day when I met the dad of one of my son's friends at a basketball game.  He and I see each other at boyscouts and say "Hi" at drop off.  I can't really say that we are "friends" but I knew he was a runner and we'd discussed some local races. In fact, I'd suggested that I was going to run a race that he was racing that very day [but somehow my plans changed and I didn't make it].  After chastising me for not making that day's Tougher Ten Miler . . . our talk quickly turned to running in the cold weather. The conversation started like this. . .

Steve:  "Don't you hate it when you get all these layers on and then 10 minutes later you want to strip them all off again?"  [Short answer Yes]
Paula:  "Completely, then I find myself trying to find places to stuff them"

This lead to a discussion of the most interesting things we've stuffed in the most interesting places on our runs. . . from gloves stuffed in the waistband of your tights. . . to hats dropped off on the side of the road in the hopes they would be there on the return lap. . . to chapstick conveniently placed in the, ehm, interior section of your sports bra. . .

From there our conversation turned to another subject. . . The need to GO.  Have you ever noticed how athletes have no compunction whatsoever discussing completely inappropriate physical needs with other runner?  Our discussion ranged from the local public bathrooms. . . most not open during the winter months and not particularly unscary when they are open. . . to the best stores for sneaking and and using the loo. 

"If the CVS has a Minute Clinic, it will have a restroom. . . You've spend enough money at McDonalds over your lifetime. . . go ahead, use the bathroom." 

How bad do you really have to have to go before you actually will use a bush, tree, or side of the road. . .

"Given that the last time I used the side of the trail in the Marin Headlands I ended up with a case of cellulitis on my derriere. . . the answer to that question is pretty darned bad. . . Although one of my dear, dear Ironteam friends blew my mind when she pulled her bike over to the side of the road and dropped her bike shorts without even hiding behind a bush.  The port-a-potty out at the Nicasio ball field is another classic example and speaking of biking, I've yet to figure out how the pros (and people who think they are pros) can figure out how to go while they are on their bikes-- not saying I haven't tried.  Just that I can't figure it out."

Amongst IronFolk, apparently no topic is taboo. . .
"Sure I can ride 112 miles in nothing but a tri-short with a minimal chamois, I've got an Iron who-ha. . . Hey, can someone please come over here and help me pull this sportsbra over my dripping wet body. . . How do you apply your chamois butter. . . "

There is just something run training though. Sure swimmers can talk ABOUT swimming, but can they talk WHILE swimming?  Not easily.  Bikers can talk ABOUT biking, and can talk DURING biking but its dangerous and reqires yelling.

Running on the other hand?  We can hear not only the person running next to us, but the people running around us.  How many times during TNT training or during a race have you heard someone discussing some topic and either a) chuckled to yourself and obsessed about it as you ran on by or b) felt the need to comment on the conversation?  During my last race-- day 1 of the Chowder Challenge's 1/2 marathon, I ran by 3 women discussing the pleasure of breastfeeding while training.  Since I'm so glad to be removed from those days, I, of course, had to jump right in on the conversation.  It lead to a (at the time) hilarious discussion. . . and, I must say, kept the men moving right on by us.  I couldn't tell you any of these women's names, but I could tell you her breastfeeding secrets.

Maybe it has to do with the general insanity of what we do as athletes. . . miles upon miles in the early morning, freezing cold; 3 am wake up calls for 6 am races;  trying to get into races that sell out in less than a minute; riding bike intervals on our stand trainers in front of the TV during the morning so we can spend the evening in front of the TV on a big foam roller; day in and day out but there is something that bonds your training "acquaintances" together. . . even if you may only see them during training. . .

Here's the question?  I'd love to see comments on the strangest conversation you've had while running or the strangest place you've stashed something on the run.

AND its never to late to help me raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Without my TNT friends and family, I would never have gotten as far as I have.  Without the money that we raise, so many would not be doing as well as they are. 
Please help by making your donation at
Any amount helps.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

An Ironmom's Thanksgiving


My less than perfect, slow body for answering every challenge that I force upon it-- from an Ironman to the PTA. . .
The silence of a full house when I get home from my morning run and everyone is still asleep. . .
Pony tail ports and thumb holes. . .
Unspeakably loud, obnoxious music that I would not admit is on my playlist, especially about mile 10. . .
My two boys who, I hope, will grow up proud that their mom is an Ironman. . .
The ability to age . . .
Pasta, refined sugar, and beer.  In no particular order. . .
The stretch of Park Ave between Highland and Salisbury. . .
Title 9. . . for good or for ill, it helped make me who I am today. . .
My dad for showing me how to run races and. . .
My mom for teaching me how to cheer for each and every person on the course. . .
Ironman for designing races that sell out in less than a minute. . .
Compression socks and arm warmers. . .
My TNT family for cheering me on every stroke, pedal, and step of the way. . .
10:30 recovery runs and 8:30 intervals. . .
My God who gives me the strength in my mind to keep my legs moving. . .
My husband, who, although less than enthusiastic about all of this, still supports me in these endeavors. . .
My health. . and the fact that they make replacement hips and knees just in case. . .

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


WOW.  Its been a long time since I've run in the cold.  And when I say cold, I mean, 27 degrees (or less) cold.  I've already started upgrading my wardrobe to include full tights with windstopper panels and hooded shirts with ponytail ports and thumb holes! 
As recovery from the Cape Cod Chowder Challenge (39.3 miles over 2 days) and training for the Walt Disney Marathon converge, I'm relearning some lessons that I'd forgotten I'd ever known. . .

First:  Its really hard to get started when its cold.  I mean hard to want to get started, hard to get out the door AND hard on the legs when you actually start moving.  This last weekend (starting temperature 25F) found me staring outside at 6 am hoping that the sun was going to warm things up before I started.   Forty minutes later. . . I made it out the door. . . Temperature 26.  Not a giant difference. 

Second: It doesn't matter how many layers you have on. . . its still cold when you start.  And, for some reason, the pavement feels terrible on the legs.  They jar into the pavement and feel like icicles breaking apart on the ground. -- This may also be that I was headed out for a 16 miler less than a month after my 39.3 mile race. . . or it may be the cold. 
Second "b":  It doesn't matter how many layers you have on when you start, you still need to take some off at least 1/2 way through the run.  So you find yourself burdened with excess hats, gloves, and perhaps even a jacket-- I wish they made running shirts with as many pockets are bike jerseys. . . because I think I need them up here.
Second "c":  It doesn't matter how many layers you have taken off, you will it a cold patch and have to put at least 2 of them back on during the run.  Don't think the sun is doing much on a cold day?  Try running from the "sunny" side of the street to the "shady" side of the street and see if you need to add your mittens. . . I'm serious.

Third:  If it looks like water, it may not be water.  I learned THIS one the hard way. . . As you may remember, a few weeks ago, we were surprised with an early November snowstorm that dumped about 4 inches of snow on Worcester and gave the kids a completely undeserved snow day.  Training must go on right?  This marathon down at Disney is coming regardless of the weather here in Massachusetts, right?  So, I found myself outside running down the plowed streets and shoveled sidewalks.  The temperature was in the 40's, so it wasn't that cold, and things were fresh and wet.
Well, as you can imagine, as a headed into the downhill portion of Highland street by one of the high schools, I noticed some nice wet looking spots that I couldn't avoid. My feet hit the pavement gingerly, as I hate getting my shoes wet early into a run if I don't have to.  Much was my surprise when I started to slide.  And slide I did.  Down about 25 feet to the bottom of the road on my backside, sideside, and narrowly missing my frontside too.  Landing, spectacularly I suppose, in a snow bank at the bottom of the hill.
Yeah-- it must have been a spectacular fall-- how do I know, because the EMS guys who happened to witness it waiting in traffic pulled over to make sure I was OK.   I was fine, except for the pretty wounded ego, and kept on with my run. . .

New challenges. . . New running routes. . . New friends to run. . . all to cure an OLD problem.

You can help me swim, bike, run, and slide out cancer by making your donation at http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/wdw13/ironmom

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Taking 39.3 . . . the Cape Cod Marathon Chowdah Challenge

39.3 miles over 2 days?  Was This My Idea?
Of course it was.  It is, as my husband would be quick to tell you, ALWAYS my idea to do these things.  How many times have I thought, said, or written these words. . . "it sounded like a good idea at the time!" ?  [As an aside, how many times have you thought or said those words in any context?]
Seriously, I must say it 10 times a week.  In some athletic endeavour, for some self created volunteer obligation, for some parenting task gone wild, or some combination of the above.

Back in July, when I was sitting around my parent's house looking for a good fall marathon, feeling invincible in advance of my 1/2 ironman and listening to all of my UltraTeam friends talk about ULTRA training, it was a great idea. . . training for it. . . working my way through double run Wednesdays (am and pm), medium run Thursdays (6-10 miles), and long run Friday's (15-20 miles) wasn't terrible-- it was a little lonely but it was also a great way to explore the new neighborhood-- there really aren't many streets in Worcester and Holden you DON'T run on while out on a 20 miler.

Of course, as usual in my world,   the week before the event descended into chaos. 

IronMom Strikes Again
Tuesday involved a 4 hour stint at the book fair . . . Wednesday baking 50 cookies for the bake sale. . . Thursday? A 6 hour daytime book fair shift, a play date, and a 4 hour nighttime shift at the book fair.  Friday arrived with the need to pack for my own adventure, get the kids football, soccer and boy scout gear together, cook for my family for the weekend, play date, a playoff football game for Will,  Jack coming down with hives, and get up and get ready for Saturday's race.

Fortunately, Saturday's race was in a place that I know well.  For the past 20 years (or so), I've done the Falmouth Road Race and race headquarters for the Cape Cod Marathon was the same school where we pick up the buses.  So, although exhausted, I knew I wasn't getting lost on the way.

Even better-- there could not have been better race organization!  Seriously.  This race was everything you love about the Falmouth Road Race without all the hassle (and minus about 8K runners and 50K spectators). Pulling into the school found ample parking, an open school--with real pottys and heat-- tables, coffee, and a friendly group of volunteers all willing to say, "oh, the Chowder Challenge-- yeah, good luck with that!" or "Oh, the Chowdah Challenge, you're crazy."

My parking mate, Lacey, was a first time 1/2 marathoner and it was her first time in Falmouth.  If she was 23, I would be amazed.  She was so nervous.  We talked about racing, made fun of the other participants-- the super dedicated looking ones-- and chatted until race day.  At one point, she looked over at me and said, "I'm laughing too hard to be nervous-- this is great!"

The Best Laid Plans
Day One:  The 1/2 Marathon
I really did have a plan coming into the weekend. I promise that I did.  This is something I always need to work on in my racing.  Sticking to the brilliant plans that my amazing coach and I come up with. . .  So, Saturday's plan was to GO REALLY REALLY SLOW.  Despite how fast (for me) I'd been getting in training, I was supposed to throw away the desire for a PR in the half marathon and SLOW DOWN. Forget that I'd been running 10:12's in practice and run 11:49's for the entire 1/2 marathon.  Really.  I can do this.  I can go slower.

The first time I knew I was in trouble was about 1/2 mile in.  I was headed down the road and felt like I was standing still. Seriously, I felt like I was standing still.  People were passing me on both sides.  One girl was chatting to some guy about how she was running the Chowder Challenge and was "running really really slow today".  I looked over and said I was doing it as well and asked her what she planned on running. . . the answer?  10:15-10:30's.  Oh well, there goes my really really slow.  Off she ran. . . and I hit mile 1.  My watch beeped and I looked down.  10:43.  SERIOUSLY?  10:43.  I FEEL LIKE I"M STANDING STILL AND REALLY ANNOYING PEOPLE ARE PASSING ME TALKING ABOUT HOW SLOW THEY PLAN ON GOING AND I"M SUPPOSED TO RUN A MINUTE PER MILE SLOWER THAN THIS??????

Didn't happen.  As we headed down to the shore road, my pace stayed about the same.  Heading left we stayed on the Falmouth Road Race Course for a bit before heading off into a neighborhood that, although my family has lived in Falmouth for the past 35 years, I'd had no idea existed.  It was around this time. . . mile 2 1/2, that the lead runner passed us heading back around the turn into Woods Hole. 

After a stint back on Surf Drive, we were on the Shining Sea Bike Path-- i.e. the less hilly way into Woods Hole.  I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the amazing people I met running this race.  One lady, who I played leapfrog with was 69 years old, and running her first 1/2 marathon AFTER HIP REPLACEMENT SURGERY-- she was also running a leg in the marathon relay the next day.  The mom and two daughters who were running together and having an unbelievable discussion about breast feeding as they headed down the road.  The gentleman from Waco, Texas who I leapfrogged or ran with for about 4 miles.  A friend of his had this on his bucket list and he said, "sure, I'm in."   Runners are incredible people. 

By the end of the bike path, we were back on the Falmouth Road Race course, heading up the hill at Nobska Lighthouse.   For those of you that have never seen this. . . there really aren't words for how beautiful it is.  You run down by the water and head up a winding hill.  As you get to the top. you see the lighthouse. . and hear the strains of the theme song from Rocky --which I truly believe has been continuously running since about 1972 when they started the Falmouth Road Race.


(for all of you bubble bursting, movie buff historians out there, you don't need to tell me that the original Rocky did not come out in 1972.  leave me to my own motivational daydreams)

How was I doing?  I was feeling good. Legs were getting a little fatigued but then again, I was ripping (for me) up the course.  I came down and found my way to the finish line in 2:24 minutes or  a PR for the the half marathon distance. 
Had I followed my plan?  Not at all, I was 10 minutes ahead of where I was supposed to be. My heart rate had gone a good 10 beats per minute than it was supposed to. . . I was probably more tired than I was supposed to be.  But I had about 22 hours to recover.

I walked to my car, both happy about my good race and angry with myself for not following my plan.  When I got there, I saw a paper under my windshield and leaned over to pull it off. . . what did I find?
Runners Rock

I'm not kidding.  I was headed to my parents house, and bless his heart, my husband was staying home with the kids in Worcester taking them to soccer and boy scouts.  I HAD THE WHOLE DAY OFF!  My mom did the cooking, we watched the Ironman World Championship Show (and got to see my amazing friend Heather Wajer who lost 157 pounds on HER Iron Journey). We spent much of the day watching storm coverage and with me getting nervous that I wasn't home to help my family prepare for the gathering stormagedden.

I stayed up too late watching storm coverage but still managed a good night sleep due to the Marathon's late (8:30 am) start.

Following the Plan-- Maybe
Was today the day?  I'd been running SO well in training; I'd run really well-- too well actually-- yesterday.  Was today going to be the day that I finally got my marathon time back down under 5 hours?  Part of me was afraid to hope that it would be.  I've been so frustrated lately with the slower times, and I've been running better than I'd run since I had kids. . . maybe today would be the day.  But then again.  I ran a 1/2 yesterday. . . and I'd run it pretty fast. . . for me.  I was feeling a little tight in the calves and Achilles tendons were snapping a bit.  What to do.  My coach and I had devised the plan. . . I was going to stay between 11:30 and 12:00 minute miles for the first 13.1; then, if I was feeling good, I'd speed it up to 11:-11:30's between miles 13.1 to 20.  At that point, I could run as fast as I wanted to. 

Let me tell you how that worked.  I came through the 7 mile mark running 11:30's.  The streets were not closed to traffic-- although the runners  had pretty much taken over the streets.  After so many years of bike training, I would call out ahead of me "Car Back" as I was approached from the rear-- now that I think about it-- runners don't really seem to understand that. . . That being said, I'd like to say that people appreciated the warnings, especially when some of the "cars" that were back there were trucks pulling boats that were being evacuated from the Marina's in advance of Stormagedden. While certainly NOT the first time I've ever been almost hit by a car running, its fair to say that it IS the first time I've been almost hit by a BOAT!

Mum and Dad had come down to the corner at Davisville and Rt 28 to see me, and I took a minute to say thank you for coming to both of them.  As loyal readers know, usually my TNT family is the only family I have out at races, so to see biological family out there is always special.

Speaking of my TNT family, I was sporting my IronTeam duds for the full, hoping for a few hearty Go Team's out there on the course.  I think I chose poorly, since I don't think I got one GO TEAM the whole time I was out there.  Need to work on that. . . the whole getting Iron Team recognition out here.

NEWSFLASH:  26.2 miles is a long way.
About mile 11, we started into the hilly part of the course.  I was feeling good.  Ran for a while with an amazing lady who was running her 100th marathon or ultra!  Ran with one of the 3 guys from Texas, who said he'd gone out WAY too fast yesterday as well and was taking it really easy today.  He also spent about 20 minutes quizzing me on triathlon.  As did many people.  Not the least of which was the state trooper manning an intersection around mile 16 who stopped me-- seriously, I turned around to continue the conversation because I didn't feel I could be rude to a state trooper-- to tell me he'd done 23 and 11 in Hawaii. . .   Someone else felt the need to ask me how Lance Armstrong had done at Kona. . . but I digress.

Around the 1/2 marathon mark, I felt pretty good.  I was a little nervous anticipating the hills, and a little nervous knowing that I had now finished the broken "marathon" part of the 2 day race. . . and needed to get myself through ANOTHER 1/2 marathon before I was done.  I decided that I was going to WAIT and not start to pick up my pace for a few more miles.  I set my sights on picking up that pace when we get to mile 16. 

Mile 16  came. . . and went.  I was hitting the hills, I knew I needed to get to mile 21-- or the top of the Nobska lighthouse.  Then I'd be home free.  I set my sights on picking up that pace when I got to mile 20. 

While I wasn't picking up the pace, I wasn't slowing either.  I actually was feeling good.  If you'd've told me that 30, 31, 32 miles into this 39 mile adventure I'd be feeling as good as I was I'd NEVER would have believed you.  NEVER.  But I did.  My quads were smarting with every step, but other than that, I felt pretty good.  And then, we took the turn out of  Woods Hole and we were back on the Falmouth Course.

After about 16 Falmouth Road Races, finding myself on the course that I know and LOVE so well was a REAL lift.  Knowing that I wasn't even going to have to run the whole Falmouth Road Race. . . even better. 

As I came up the hill to the tune of Rocky, I laughed out loud remembering Will, my 7 year old son, who'd run the race with me in August, "Mommy, what is everyone complaining about?  This isn't a hill? Those things in California were hills."

Up and down and through the rollers.  I still felt good.  I was going to pick it up right?  Yeah, NO I wasn't going to pick it up.  Maybe I was more tired than I thought?  Maybe I was just in an 11:30 groove.  Not sure which it was, but I found myself saying, "I'll pick it up when I get done with the rollers that I knew existed in the 2 miles after coming down from the lighthouse. 

I still had a shot at that sub 5 hour marathon.  It was close.  I can do it in those last 2 miles.  Its that close.  I can taste it-- no wait, that is my orange cream cycle nutrition from my back pack making me crazy-- I can feel it. 

No wait-- that is the 20 mile an hour headwind that hit me in the head like a brick as we emerged onto Surf Drive.  Those last 2 miles. . . seriously, Sandy's Stormageddon was on its way.  The wind was whipping, the light rain was dripping, it was like a Tennessee Valley Run pretty much 300 days of the year with cooler scenery.

I was setting my sights on Road Kill-- people I knew I could pass.  My head was up, my form felt good.  I flashed back to the Ironman Championship show I'd seen the day before-- when people with energy were passing people without energy.  I FELT like I looked like on of the folks doing the passing.  My head felt high-- my posture felt good-- although the quads were barking I never felt that  leg dragging feeling that you can experience at the end.  I felt confident and comfortable.   I realized that, outside of planned walk breaks, I hadn't had a single moment of this marathon where I'd felt like walking (which may be a first). 

Coach, and other coach type people, would say that this is what happens when you work your plan in training and in the race. . . who would have known that they were right????  I felt great as I took the last left onto Main Street. . . and in the din of the lead up to the finish line. . . heard my mom saying, Go. Runners. . . Go Runners. . GO PAULA!!! GO PAULA.   Mom had come back to the finish line and was parking the car as I ran right by her!!!! HOW AWESOME IS MY MOM!!!!

I cruised to the finish line in 5 hours and  2 minutes.  Would I have broken the 5 hour mark if I'd not run so fast on Saturday (or not run Saturday at all?)  Maybe.  Would I have paced myself and felt so strong on Sunday if I'd not raced on Saturday?  Maybe-- or probably (based upon umpteen marathons, halfs and triathlons) not.  I probably would have done what I always do and gone out too fast and fizzled in the end. . .  So, to make a long story short, I feel like I learned a TON from this race.  First, pacing is key--yes, I knew this, but this may have been the first time I actually executed it.  Second, I can do a 50K.  Really, I can.  And that may be next. . .

HARD EARNED SWAG.  Seriously, how much do I love that the shirt says NOT A WIMP??
All in all, this race rocks.  AMAZING people, FABULOUS organization, BEAUTIFYL COURSE, TERRIFIC course support, COOL and UNUSUAL swag, and, of course, A CHALLENGE.
As most of you know, I race for a cure.  All that I put myself though is nothing compared to those who race for the cure to Cancer.  If you've been inspired or enjoyed the ride, please take a minute to check out my website

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Does an Iron Mom Look Like?

So, I've been thinking a lot a lately about this concept of being an IronMom.  In all honesty, since the kids are back in school and I'm living in a new city where people don't know all the volunteering I do yet and have some time on my hands. . . SO, I've been thinking about writing that book everyone always tells me I should write.

Anyway, Back to this concept of an Iron Mom.  I read a post the other day that started out "Hey Fat Girl."  of course, not being the smallest person on the track, I felt that momentary thrill of terror and excitement thinking they were talking to me.
post.  The whole post offers encouragment to a presumably new, heavier runner.

But what if she wasn't new?

Think about it-- how often do you go out to the track (or the pool, or to ride your bike) and have someone pass you,  look better than you do out there, go faster than you are.  How does this make you feel?

For me, it is always hard.  I'm not the smallest one out there by any stretch of the imagination, often I feel like I'm the biggest.  I'm usually one of the slowest.  But I'm there.  When I see others out there smaller than I, I do always wonder what they think of me.  If I'm wearing some article of Ironman Finisher's gear, then I'm able to tell myself (true or not), "well, hell, I've finished 2 Ironmans"  and, as I hope they notice that my shirt says finisher, move slowly on.  

I see those larger than me.  And I generally offer some word of encouragement as I go by. Do they appreciate this?  Would I appreciate it or would I internalize it and feel like they didn't think I was enough of an athlete.

And does it matter that I've 2 kids, a cat, a dog, a snake, and a husband at home-- none of whom offer enthusiastic support of my obsession hobby?  In my head it does, but is that just an excuse?

Anyway, what does and Iron Mom look like?  I hope it just comes down to what I attempt to teach my sons every day: there is no time where a woman is more beautiful than when she is sweaty and disgusting after finishing a 10 mile run.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Capping off a completely uneventful summer. . .we bring you Ironman 70.3 Timberman!

I realize just how long its been since I posted anything to this website. . . and I ask for your forgiveness gentle reader.

What a four month period it has been since I last wrote.  We packed up; drove across county (which, as I think about it is probably worthy of a post all its own); spent 5 weeks living with my parents in Massachusetts; ran Falmouth with my 7 year old son (definitely worth of its own post) and finally closed on our house on August 8th. 

All that leads me to the realization that it was now 11 days before my half iron.  What?  Why was I doing a 1/2?  Well, I'd planned to do a full.  Really, I Had.  I was signed up for Vineman 2012. I was training for Vineman 2012.  Then life happened.  My husband had a traumatic job change.  We told our landlord we were moving. .  not quite knowing where we were going.  I found myself simply not able to handle the rigors of Iron-distance workouts and the stress of life, and, the physical demands of packing up a family of 4 (plus cat, dog, and snake) and moving them across country. So. in a moment of panic, I confided in my dear coach who gave me the much needed permission to "drop down" and "only" do a 1/2 instead.  This was the first time I've ever signed up for a race and not made it to the start line.  I'm still not sure how I feel about it-- except that I can't imagine how my body would have felt hopping on a plane back to California in July-- less than 3 weeks after we made the trip across country. 

So, instead of becoming a Vineman, I was getting ready to become a Timberman up in New Hampshire on the shores of Lake Winnepsaukee.

Looking at the Timberman Website I saw a lot of things I liked.  A clear lake swim in water temperatures between 72-77 degrees (NO WETSUIT!); an elevation gain on the bike of only 2029 feet and a double out and back course on the run with 300 feet of elevation gain.  Sitting in my kitchen in Mill Valley, where every bike ride has at least 3000 feet of climbing-- this looked great!

Coming into the race, I thought I'd done a good job with my run training and my bike rides had been easy 55 mile rides around the Cape with no elevation gain.  What I hadn't been doing was swimming.  As in, during our drive across country, I left my lap suit in the very first hotel room on the trip.  Then, when we got to the Cape, I could find a lot of bathing suits-- but no lap suits.  After a week of looking, I gave in and ordered a suit online.   Three days later, when it came, I finally found a pool and was in the water for the first time in almost a month.  I think I maybe swam 5 times over the course of the summer-- so, I was a little nervous coming up on the swim. When you couple that with spending my taper week moving furniture and boxes around my new house, I was getting a little worried about this race. 

I can definately say that the Timberman website and the drive into the Timberman Course ARE NOT THE SAME!  As I drove into Gunstock Mountain Ski Resort my car went UPhill-- my car went DOWN hill-- and these looked like hills.  Grabbing my packet and heading down to the lake to drop my bike in transition I could not believe how many times I went up and down.  OMG-- what happened to the 2029 feet in elevation change?

By the time I got to the beach, I was pretty nervous.  This didn't look flat and I know I hadn't been riding hills AND I was supposed to hit a 3:45 for the ride.  Yeah-- looks like another disappointment is in my future.  Then I started talking to folks.   The word on the street amongst the residents of transition was, " this course is really hilly" and "the water is really cold."  So now, I'd entered the great wetsuit should I or shouldn't I debate.  LOVELY. 

Leaving my bike in transition and heading to my hotel room I still hadn't made any decisions about the wetsuit-- but I had managed to work myself into a tizzy over the bike course.

"Baby, Its 3 am, I Must Be Crazy"
I awoke a 230 to grab my stuff and head down to the start/finish line to get a parking place.  The parking area opened at 4, and there was extremely limited parking.  Since I didn't want to pump my tires on Saturday (learned that lesson the hard way in Louisville) and wouldn't be allowed to leave my pump in transition, I wanted to be close enough to get my pump back to my car Sunday morning before the race. . . not to mention avoid having to shuttle myself and my bike back to the overflow parking 10 miles away after the race on Sunday afternoon. 

Starting up the car, I was greeted by Matchbox 20. .. "Its 3 am I must be crazy" (uh-- lonely I believe the song says, but that was NOT what I was hearing. . . as I drove off to the race.  Scoring a prime parking spot, I lay down in the back of the car to try to grab another hour sleep.

Yeah-- like that worked.  Instead, I found myself googling elevation changes on the Wildflower course-- my only other 1/2 distance experience.  While the stated elevation change at WF is somewhat of a moving target (I believe they try to keep that a secret), I found a good approximation of over 5000 feet.  I began to calm down just a bit. . . although I did not get any sleep.

About 530 I wandered into transition, pumped my tires, shared my bike pump with about 10 people, and filled my water bottles.

I Succumb to Peer Pressure-- Again
A quick poll of about 400 people in transition revealed that I was "crazy" to even think about not wearing my wetsuit.  So, giving in, and somewhat afraid of my lack of swim training, I began the wetsuit wiggle at 6:45 and headed down to the beach to find my swim wave.   Timberman uses a wave start-- any my wave, Womed 20-25 and 35-39 (????) had a 7:20 start time. 
At 7 sharp, the first wave of men went off. . . WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY DOING?  There was a wall of people doing the butterfly after the starting gun.  SERIOUSLY??? BUTTERFLY??? No-- not butterfly,  the water was so shallow that they were standing up and dolphin diving repeatedly to try to get some swimming room. . .
Off went the pro women-- with the same interesting stroke and before I knew it-- our wave was entering the water. 

Knowing I wasn't feeling as confident in my swim as I had in the past, I seeded myself towards the middle of the pack.  There was a 5 minute wait for the gun to go off and, making chit chat, the woman next to me looked over and said, "God, I just hope I make it home to my 3 kids.  So many people having been dying during the swim lately, I just hope I don't die."  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? I shit you not.  The woman seriously said that she hoped we didn't die in the water not 3 minutes before the gun went off.  Way to find a way into my head lady.

So off we went.  The water was super shallow and I walked about 150 yards before I got to the point where I felt I could swim (no energy wasting dolphin dives here).  I took off into the water and into some pretty heavy traffic.  Lots of bumping and pulling as I swam over and around people.    The water was clear, and you could see the people you were swimming over as you swam over them.  You could even see your hands at the extension of your stroke.  

The water was warm-- too warm actually for my full sleeve wetsuit.   I was sweltering-- and, of course, worrying about dying as I turned into the first turn.  That turn, by the way, is right into the sun-- wear your tinted goggles next time friends, because I could not see a damned thing-- especially not the buoys that I was looking for.   There was plenty of swimming room on the way in and, even knowing I took it easy and had to walk the last 100 yards due to shallow waters, I was pretty happy with my 39 minute swim as the high school age stripper pulled off my wetsuit.

An uneventful T1 brought me onto the bike course.

This Ain't No Hill
Throughout the morning, people had been discussing the "hill" as you left the park.  The California triathletes out there are now all thinking one of two things:  Lynch or Beach.  So was I-- even though I knew that couldn't be it.   There was no hill-- there was an incline followed by a long down slope which left plenty of time to recover my heart rate before the "climbs" that occurred between miles 4 and 12.
The road was newly paved and the course was beautiful.  We made a left turn onto the "hilly" part of the course and cruised along.  I was getting passed left and right as usual, but was also passing a few people too.  I knew that by the time I got to the first water stop, the "hilly" part would be done and just waiting for me on the return so I kept waiting, hoping it wouldn't be terrible.
There were some inclines, but for the most part, I kept waiting for the real hills to show up and they never did.  I found myself at the water stop and out into the flat part of the course before I even started to get tired.  I was passing New Hampshire Motor Speedway and at the turnaround before I knew it.  It was time to start the false flat back to the hills and home.

I missed seeing my Ironteamies out there -- but managed to find some TNT folk willing to call out a "Go Team" as they read the back of my flames. 
The entire bike course I kept waiting for fatigue to set in the way it usually does on the bike.  I kept waiting to be uncomfortable or be unhappy of find my ugly place but I never got there.  The course was great-- the numerous spectators were great-- the weather was great-- the hills were there but non-entities-- the only "complaint" I could come up with was that every time you got some speed going on a down hill, you had to make a sharp turn onto an incline, which caused me to lose my momentum.  A quick potty break at mile 40 and I was done.  Back in transition.  Feeling pretty good.

Time to Run
I'd been a while since I racked my own bike in T2, but I managed to get it back on there without knocking the rest of the bikes over. I was feeling pretty confident.  I knew that I had had a good bike ride and, by my watch, I figured I would still need to have a solid run to get myself to the finish by our 7 hour goal.  I was hoping that I could pull it off.  My failures on the run a notorious.  For some reason, well trained, not well trained, having strong runs before hand or not, I find myself folding on this part of the course. 

My trusty Garmin clicked off the miles for me. .  10:30; 10:28, 10:43.  SLOW DOWN!! Are you trying to run 16 minute miles at the end of this thing?? Are you trying to burn out your legs?   The first 3 miles went by pretty quickly.  The fan support was amazing and the water stops were fabulous.  (although whoever decided to pair tangerine poweraid with blueberry pomegranate rocktane Gu should be beaten with a wet noodle-- or forced to combine that sexy combination while running).  Big props to the hockey theme station that had brought in a  mountain of snow (shavings from the ice rink) and were offering to snow shovel it onto weary runners.  Second place to the folks that set up a shower head on the course. 

What bothered me the most?  Knowing I was shooting for a time goal, I forewent my usual change in transition and left my Iron Team singlet on and simply turned my race belt around.  They both rode up the entire run-- driving me crazy when my HR monitor and my race belt met up around my middle. (probably not my most flattering look either).

Being a double out and back, it was easy to game myself.  I figured that the second time out would be the hardest-- and no surprise, it was.  Garmin clicked off 12:00, 13:00, 11:45 I felt like I was in danger of not making it under the 7 hours.

Somewhere I found my second wind.  The last three miles clicked by quickly with times running in the low 11's.  My legs were tired, but not miserable.  I had reached the turn to the finish.   I slowed into the chute to enjoy the ride (and not to trip on the grass) and found myself staring up at the clock.  7:09. . . BUT WAIT-- remember, we started late 20 minutes into the race clock.  Could it be.
Garmin confirmed it-- 6:49:41.  Or 1 hour and 26 minutes faster than my Wildflower time.

I realize that the two courses aren't equatable-- but dropping an hour and half off of my time was a big shot in the arm.  I'd been so discouraged lately-- having stress and bad races and life confusion and all of the above to get a positive finish was what I needed. 

Overall this was a great course and a great race.  The support was fabulous, the organization was great and the people were wonderful.  I would love to do this race again next year. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spinning Philosophic for an hour.

So, I had a moment today.  I finished the Oakland Marathon a week ago on an injured leg then promptly managed to get sick for 3 days.  So, needless to say, my training has been a little.. . well. .. lame for the past 8 days.  So today, to try to just get out there and do something, I went out for an "easy spin" ride. 

Well, my easy spin ride was boring as hell.  A simple little out and back.  No real hills. I probably didn't sweat.  I know I didn't my heart rate up into the higher regions of zone 1, much less zone 2.  I was out there for an hour reminding myself to "lift lift lift" on my pedal stroke. 

Then I got home and realized that my Garmin had recorded a pace of 11.7 mph on the ride (that includes stop light time).  This got me to thinking about my older races so I looked back at some times.
My first Alcatraz? 11.4 mph; my second? 12.6 mph.  My first Wildflower? 11.3 mph. My second?  11.9 mph. (different WF courses). 

Now I know, that those of you in the know are thinking. . . Yeah-- those two courses are really hilly and that slowed you down.  True.  Totally, completely and undeniably true. But what was so amazing was remembering how hard I'd worked to post those comparable times.  I remember being EXHAUSTED at all of those races. Feeling liked I'd busted my ass to get there just being wasted before ever starting out on the run.   Today I felt I hadn't really worked out at all. 

Just some thoughts. .. but it is amazing what a few years of practice can do.

Now get out there and do something.

BAD ATHLETE: The Oakland Race Report

Let's start with the following:

I LOVE OAKLAND CALIFORNIA.  There.  I said it.  Living in the San Francisco Bay Area in that toniest of suburbs, Mill Valley, this is not a popular sentiment but it is one that I mention often. The diversity, the neighborhoods, the vibe on the street, the grit, everything about Oakland feels good to me.  Now, I know, its got some serious problems, but overall, the city is AMAZING and gets a bad rap.

The Oakland Running Festival was started 3 years ago to help work on Oakland's image and bring a world class running event to Oakland. Due to other commitments, this was the first year that I was able to participate and I am so glad that I was!  Oakland throws an amazing race.  The course is pretty-- for an urban marathon-- challenging--with the run up through the Oakland Hills-- offers stunning view of BOTH Oakland and San Francisco.  Like the city it promotes, the course has its challenges-- hills, tough pavements, tough neighborhoods; but it does an amazing job of showcasing the City of Oak.

The Devil Within
I should not have run this race.  There.  I said that too. 
I was injured going into the race.  I'm managed to do "something" to my right leg such that I was unable to walk or run a step without mild pain. Nothing screaming STOP RUNNING NOW, mind you.  But a general Ow, that hurts.  Gee that doesn't feel right.

So, I've finally met you, the devil within.  You all know him.  He's that guy who says, "oh just run the race." when you say, "there are other races and I'm injured and should save myself for those races."
He's that guy who says, "if you don't run you are fat and ugly and pathetic and a loser and not an athlete" when you say, "gee, I probably should concentrate on my A race later on."  He says, "you can't just do the 1/2. that would be lame" when you say, "I could drop and do the 1/2; that would be better for me than nothing."

Who did I listen to?

Coach Jeremy. For those of you who have read earlier posts (Wildflower 2010 for example); you know that one of my old TNT coaches has just some way of motivating me.  Maybe its his sarcastic sense of humor, maybe its the fact that he is young and fast and amazing and I sometimes feel like he looks at me with this "this old, slow, fat lady can't conceivably run on the same course as me" set of 30 year old eyeballs.  But something about his taunt that I was "just looking for an excuse to sleep a few more hours" got my fat, slow, old ass to the marathon starting line.  Or maybe he just gives a face to my devil within. . .

Anyway, I found myself on the starting line standing to another old Ironteam Alum, Belinda.  When we finally do move from the Bay area, I can only begin to describe how I am going to miss my TNT family.  Every race I go to.  Every time. There are TNT alums on the course.  Every race I go to.  Every Time. There are TNT family posts on Facebook wishing us on.  For those of you who scoff at the "charity runners" (like I used to in my pre-enlightened state) YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE MISSING.  My TNT family ROCKS.

Off goes the gun. ..
and were off. 
Prior to my injury, I'd been hoping to run a 4:45.  (post injury I was hoping for sub 5:15) So I'd put myself just behind the 4:45 pace group thinking I'd try to stick with them for the first 1/2 of the marathon and then let them go in the second half if I needed to.  A 4:45 marathon is just under 11 minute miles.
At mile 1 I looked down at my Garmin.  They were posting a 10:09.  Or, about 50 seconds faster than they needed to.  I slowed myself down and let them roll into the distance. 
About mile 6; the 5 hour pace team passed me averaging 10:30 miles.  Or about a minute faster than you need to for a 5 hour marathon. 
A little demoralized, but knowing I was doing the right thing, I headed out into the Oakland hills. 

Miles 5-11 are a hill.  Not even really a series of hills.  Pretty much one, long, continuous hill.  Never all that hard. Never all that easy. . . just pretty constant.   When you get to the top, there is an amazing view of both cities and you start the down hill.   What that constant hill does, at least for me, however, is tire you out.  Granted I had the injury issue, but I found that on the way down hill from miles 11-13, my legs felt tired and out of sorts.  The injury was screaming all the way down hill (more so than on the flats) and I was thinking OMG another 13 miles of this???  NO WAY.  
Interesting enough, I got to the 1/2 marathon mark in PR time. . .

The second half of the marathon was flat.  Here is where the supports really started to make a difference. Residents of Oakland dressed in their Sunday best.  Residents of Oakland in their jammies. Kids. Old Folk.  Fabulous support from Oakland Police Department and Oakland Fire Department and wait. . . who is that under that overpass.  IT IS!!!!
OMG it is Mr. P. The original Oaktown Pirate who sits next to us at Raider's Games!!! HOW COOL IS THAT!!!! Represent Raider Nation!  Just a shout out to Mr. P. but having you recognize me as the lady who sits next to you with the Patriot's cap put a spring in my step for about 3 miles!

Coming onto the finish line, I log my only complaint.  ONE SHOULD NEVER HAVE TO RUN UP HILL TO GET TO A FINISH LINE.  ENOUGH SAID.  A hill at mile 26.1 is adding insult to injury.

I finished.  Got my named called out.  Got waived in by the Raiderettes and grabbed my HUGE finisher's medal.  That was when the endorphins ran out and the injury kicked in and when I must give thanks to the absolutely amazing bag of ice that Kaiser handed out.  I think there were 3 pounds of ice in there. . enough to ice my entire right leg from hip to knee.  PERFECT. 

I tied it on with my space blanket and kicked back to watch some finishers.  One thing about Oakland. .. It throws a hell of a diverse marathon.  Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian.  Tiny to Great Big. There they were doing the damn thing and coming across the finish line. It was awesome to watch and awesome to be a part of.