Wednesday, November 18, 2009

13 hours to Make an Ironman

Soak it up, you are an iron maiden. Words written to me from another Ironman who is about to complete her second ironman. I definitely am soaking it up. What an unforgettable journey from beginning to end, culminating with the experience on race day. I'm like an endurance junkie, first marathons and now ironmans. Addicting activities and I love all of it. Ironman Florida 2009 will always be remembered for countless reasons. I'll do my best to put into words for you. The two previous posts give you an idea of how elated I was to have completed the distances and some of the stress leading up to race day. Now for an account of the actual race day...


I woke up early, 4 AM, for breakfast (oatmeal), got dressed, got my bags and headed out the door with Colin to the race site. It was only about a mile away from our hotel. I got dropped off, then proceeded to drop my special needs run and bike bags in the designated locations. Next up, body marking and pumping up my bike tires. There were volunteers all over holding permanent markers up in the air. I walked up to one, got my number marked on both arms and my age on my leg. Only it said 35 which I've been all summer long in triathlons even though my birthday was technically 3 days after race day. I know, cry me a river. It's actually like getting to be 35 for two years, delaying 36, right? Now where was I? Body marking-check. Next I flashed my cool blue ironman wrist band to get into the transition area, pumped up my bike tires and filled my bike water bottle. All this and it was still dark outside.

My friends from Arkansas were staying in the host hotel right next to the race site so I headed up to hang out at their place until the race started. They had a balcony overlooking the beach and the exact start of the race. What a great way to start the race, we were all calm and chatting a bit, looking out at the beach. Actually, we were only calm on the outside, but it helped to try to stay focused and not be in a state of panic before the start of the big day. It was Trey's third ironman and his brother-in-law Scott's second ironman. Their families were there and Colin came up too, so there we all sat for about an hour or so until the start. They all had blue t-shirts with the name "All-In" on the front signifying we are all in this together. On the back of the shirts were the athlete names for whom they were cheering. Pretty cool to have that support! The absolute best part of that pre-race time was the group prayer. Scott led a prayer about all of our training and for strength during the race, and brought perspective to the faith we all shared that would bring us to the finish line. Emotions were close to the surface and I cried quietly through every word of the prayer but knew that God would see me through the day.

View of the beach race start from the balcony...

Before we knew it, we were pulling on wetsuits and getting ready to head out to the start. But first I had to pose for a few silly number pictures. It was actually the most neatly I had ever been body marked, what can I say, I got a girl with good handwriting.

The Swim 2.4 miles

I headed out to the beach with Trey and Scott and it was a mass of 2000 plus people that would soon hit the water all at once for the start of the race. At this point I was ready, nervous, but ready to just get in and start swimming. It really helped to have two friends standing beside me who had done this whole thing before.

Scott up ahead, then me, and next Trey-heading to the start.

left to right-Trey, Scott, Me, the back of Scott's wife Ashley, all nervously awaiting the swim start.

Wetsuit-check, White swim cap-check, Goggles-check

Once the swim finally got going, it was great. The water was rough and the complete opposite of my calm water practice swim, but it was a gorgeous morning. It was impossible to swim without touching people that were shoulder to shoulder in the water. I got kicked, bumped into, and did my fair share of getting into everyone else's business myself. This aspect of triathlon swimming always sounds much worse than it actually is in reality. The truth is that none of it hurts, you're just out there in the thick of the masses swimming. I kept stroking and breathing and moving right along. Strange as it may sound, there is something comforting about having so many people around you in the water, far better then being out there by yourself. The trick is to just keep swimming, you know, like in Finding Nemo, don't stop, just stay steady on your strokes. I even got my head pushed under the water three times! First time for that experience in a triathlon but it was fine, my head just popped right back up again! Once the guy kept following through on his stroke as if my head wasn't under his hand. Kind of funny now but I thought it was rude at that moment. :) I swam straight out to the furthest buoy and turned left with the crowd of swimmers bottle-necking to make the turn. Next it was a straight shot to the other red buoy on the opposite side. However the current was strong and pulling us all off course. The swimmers started talking to each other out there in the middle of the swim, saying "Swim Right" and pointing at the red buoy we needed to swim over to and around. From that buoy I turned left again and it was a straight shot to the shoreline. I realized that I felt relaxed, calm, not breathless with nerves. I also recognized that my body felt strong and that I wasn't at all tired. I knew I could finish the first loop and the second one too. It was an exhilarating feeling that brought confidence for the rest of the swim. I came out of the water at the end of the first loop at the exact same time as Trey. We talked the whole way out of the water, crossing the timing mat and getting water at the aid station on the beach. Salt water makes you so incredibly thirsty! Colin has laughed at my use of the word "parched" to describe the state of thirst, but it's truly how you feel. Then it was back in for our second loop. What are the chances you come out of the water with a person you know in that huge number of swimmers? By this time I was pumped, ready to swim the second loop! I had used a system of counting my strokes and looking up to sight the buoy's every 30 strokes. Otherwise I felt like I was making no forward progress because the water was so rough. I swam right into the first buoy on my second loop, yep, face to face with it. I had to laugh at myself but I was right on course! Before I knew it I was at the end and ecstatic to have made it through the swim! And the clock said 1:22, better then I had expected for the swim! Next up, meet the "peelers."

The Peelers- hmmmm, maybe the best part of the race besides the finish line. Ha! Seriously, the guy looked at me and said "Get Down" then in 3 seconds my wesuit was completely ripped off. There were overhead showers to rinse all the sand off and then it was off to transition. And by the way, you do have clothes under your wetsuit, bike shorts and a tank top to be exact. :)

Transition 1

Trey and I were out of the second loop at practically the same time again, and walked up to the transition area together. I also saw Heather, a girl from Little Rock with the "All-In" group, as she was running to her bike decked out in full bike gear. We cheered each other on! Then into the tent I ran and someone handed me my gear bag along the way. I know this all took me 12 minutes but I promise I was moving! I toweled off and got my bike shoes, helmet, gloves and sunglasses on and somehow sprayed sunblock on my arms and legs. I did not want to get crispy in the sun all day and set myself up for a painful race. On my way out of the tent I stopped at the first porta-potty for the day, then ran down the row to get my bike. There was a guy standing there with my bike just waiting to hand it to me, WOW. The volunteers were amazing all day, it was like nothing I have ever experienced before.

The Bike 112 miles

Let me say it felt great to be on the bike! I saw the Chandler Clan and Colin as I was rolling out which was a boost! In the first couple miles I was acutely aware of the beautiful blue sky and sunshine surrounding me. I remember thinking "This is it. This is what I've been training for all these months, and I'm finally here doing it." Suddenly the bike ride was just like another training ride in perfect weather. I was very conscious of all the riders around me, making a point to keep 4 bike lengths between myself and the person ahead of me. I started easy, getting passed by many people, but not caring because I knew I had a long way ahead of me. I settled in and watched the minutes pass on my bike odometer so I would remember to drink my perpetuem every 20 minutes and take in food as I needed it.

At around mile 20 I needed to stop at the aid station and use the restroom aka porta-potty which was fine with me because it meant I was hydrated. A volunteer actually held my bike for me! I had been worrying that I had no sunblock on my face and so I asked if they had any at the aid station. The woman who was holding my bike said, "Yes, our paramedic right here has some." There he was dressed in his crisp white shirt and navy pants holding a container of sunblock. I took off my sunglasses and got ready for him to squirt some on my hands when he said "I'm just going to put it on for you." Suddenly this nice man was rubbing sunblock all over my face! I was in shock, I stood there for a second and he said, "Anything else?" I said "That was awesome! Thank you! Can you come to all my triathlons?" We all laughed and then I hopped on my bike and continued on my way.

The only tough part of the bike was a stretch where we rode into a decent head wind for awhile. As soon as I turned the corner, a guy standing there said "And here is your head wind!" Okay, here we go, hold on for the ride. My eyes were watering and I just kept pedaling and thinking about nutrition, eating when I got hungry and drinking water and perpetuem. I knew eventually we would turn out of this wind and started to get tired of dealing with it. My speed definitely slowed in the wind but then we turned and it was all good, my speed picked back up again. By now I had already passed long lines of cyclists a few times and of course been passed by many of them in return. I saw a group of riders stop at a yellow penalty tent to serve their time and determined to be careful not to draft. I saw people with flats off to the side of the road. I saw the official motorcycles cruising around to enforce the rules and offer assistance. There was another stretch where we rode over a surface with a zillion cracks, literally rolling over a crack every second. I really hate that on my bike but I knew it would pass and that everyone was dealing with the same thing. Sure enough, it gave way to a brand new road surface and I was flying, at least for me, hitting 22-24 mph. My overall average for the entire ride was 16.7 mph and max speed for the day was 30.3 mph.

It felt so good to be nearing Panama City Beach again and to know the finish of the bike was close at hand. My total roll time according to my odometer was 6:38 and my official finishing bike time was 6:49. This means I had a total of 11 minutes for stop time which consisted of 3 restroom stops, a sign that I was staying hydrated, yay! I also stopped to get my water bottle filled twice, and once to get my special needs bag. While I was riding I ate about 4 granola bars, 3/4 of a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and a package of GU chomps. Wow! Plus I drank my two 3 hour bottles of perpetuem. I just really paid attention to my body, ate when I was hungry, and stayed on my plan. Before I knew it I was crossing the dismount line and handing my bike off to yet another fabulous volunteer. Time just flew on the bike, I was so ready to run!

My favorite sign on the bike course was this: "Ride It Like You Stole It!"

Transition 2

Well this was a faster stop, around 5 minutes. All I had to do was shed my bike gear, change into running shoes and shorts, grab a hat and I was off. There was the sweetest little girl who must have been around 11 helping me in transition. She pulled everything out of my gear bag and offered it to me. She even loosened the laces on my running shoes so I could put them on faster. I thanked her and told her what an amazing job she was doing. I just wanted to put her in my pocket and take her with me on the rest of the race. I wish I had asked her name and age, she was adorable.

The Run 26.2 miles

To my utter surprise I had no leg pain or feelings of muscle fatigue as I headed out on the run! This was completely unexpected for me, I kept waiting for my whole body to just shut down with exhaustion but it didn't happen. I took a GU energy gel immediately as I was leaving transition. I saw the "All-In" spectators cheering me on and Colin was out there too with the camera getting a couple of pictures before the battery died. By this time he had already been forced to watch the beloved Iowa Hawkeye's suffer their first loss of the season, bummer. The quarterback got hurt! Of course I forgot to ask about the game even though I had been thinking about it on the bike. I realized I had several questions in the first few miles of the run, "Did the Hawkeye's win? Where were my friends in the race?" I knew they were all ahead of me but just wondered how they were doing. So I determined to keep running and ask my questions at the turn-around. (which I did...)

In the first mile I had to stop 3 times, once to fill my water bottle, once to get a wet paper towel to wipe the salt and stuff off my eyes (gross, I know!), and once to use the restroom. All the while I was going easy and trying to pay attention to how I felt. I could feel a slight headache coming on so I made sure to drink water and a little gatorade. I really went out conservatively taking short walk breaks and making my way on the out and back loop. I kept waiting for my legs to get that marathon fatigue, wondering when it would hit me, and expecting it earlier then in a normal marathon. I tried a sip of coke in that first loop and it was no good for me, instead I stuck with GU chomps and energy gels and water. I had eaten enough on the bike that I could tell all I needed was gels and water for the run. Later in the run, after dark, I tried a sip of chicken broth which was also no good to me, skipping that for all of the run. Normally in a marathon I take 3 to 4 gels but for this 26.2 miles, I needed about 4 or 5 Gu gels plus a package of GU chomps, which was equal to two gels. Wow! I definitely needed more than usual!

Mentally, instead of thinking about miles, I thought about landmarks on the course. We had to run through neighborhoods and wind our way to the park which we looped through, and then back the way we came to the turn-around. There were lots of spectators out cheering us from their front lawns and along the course. One group was having a 70's costume party complete with loud music and dancing in the street cheering the runners on. I had to make one more restroom stop in the middle of the first loop, good, I was still hydrated! I saw Heather two more times on the run, she was still ahead of me, and it was fun to see someone I knew to cheer on!

Finally I reached the turn-around and felt a surge of excitement that I was starting my second and final loop for the run. At this point I realized that my body felt good and felt strong, the fatigue wasn't setting in. There wasn't speed there, which I was well aware of by all of my slow mile split times, but I really felt pretty good. I decided to run the whole second loop. It was strange, I thought that surely for parts of this ironman day I would be completely miserable and in pain, but instead I loved the race day as much I loved the training! I'm sure it was rooted in adrenalin for the whole day itself but I'll take that! I had been afraid to push myself mentally in the ironman marathon the way I normally would in a regular marathon because I wan't sure how my body would handle the distance in this race. But now that I know what it's like and how it feels, I have a better understanding of how to mentally push through the distance. I'm still happy with my approach because my number one concern was nutrition and monitoring how my body felt throughout the day.

So back to the race, it got dark in the first hour of the run but I was holding out for a glow necklace, I wanted purple! What did I end up with? Orange! Oh well, it didn't really matter. It was cool to see all of the runners with their glow necklaces dotting the route. Suddenly someone said my name and I looked back to see I had just passed Trey, it was great to see someone I knew! We chatted a little and then he told me to keep going. The second loop through the park was mostly pitch black, not well-lit. I just kept running though, passing glow necklaces along the way, talking to a few of the runners. A radio station was parked at the end of the park loop blaring music and when I passed it this time, they were blasting The Black-Eyed Peas "I Got a Feeling That Tonight's Gonna' Be A Good Night" and I was even more pumped up to keep running. It was an awesome feeling! Once I got to 21 miles or so I started counting down the miles, and that was a good feeling. I still thought about running from landmark to landmark along the course. By the time I had only a few miles left I was psyched!!!! One of the spectating groups had been playing 80's music all through the run and I was so excited to hear "Thriller" blaring from their speakers as I passed on the second loop. I said "I've been waiting for some Michael all day!!!!" It was on! I was on the home stretch and I could not wait for the finish! I could feel myself picking up speed on sheer adrenalin to be at the end of this day! When I came around the last little turn before the right turn into the finishing chute, I started screaming and acting like a crazy person! If you saw the podcast on-line of me crossing the finish line, you saw that I kept it right up until the very end. What a feeling! It was a good night! I was so excited to have reached this goal. "Kirsten Davis-You Are An Ironman!"

Immediately after the finish...

The spectacular volunteers gave me a medal, a t-shirt and a hat, put a space blanket on me, and took my timing chip-which had given me a nice little chafing spot on my ankle by this time. I stopped for a quick photo with my medal and then moved on to the food tent. To my dismay, I couldn't bare to touch the array of pizza, fruit, cookies, or pretzels that was laid out for us. Normally I can easily eat lots of pizza and food at the end of a marathon. But that night I knew one bite of anything would make me lose everything!!!!! So instead I drank a bottle of gatorade and then walked back to the food table, still no go for me to eat! Sometimes you just know you can't do it, and I could not do it! I grabbed one more gatorade and went to meet up with Colin. It was so much fun to tell him all about the day! Before long, the "All-In" gang was gathered around and we were all swapping details and elements of our Ironman day experiences. Everyone had great races and they had all managed to finish with PR's, wow! We had much to celebrate and appreciate. I really had been praying all day and thinking about my friends out there doing the same thing, also thinking about my friends and family at home cheering for me. There was so much strength to draw from in all of that. It was an unforgettable day.

Now if you made it to the end of this post, congratulations, because it probably took 13 hours to read! LOL

PS I finally managed to eat pizza at midnight that we had delivered to our hotel room, whew! After all, I burned 7,409 calories that day!

Ironman Finishing Time: 13:15:17

Monday, November 16, 2009

10 Signs It Is Your First Ironman

1. You have two major meltdowns, tears included, on the day of athlete check-in and barely notice you have arrived in beautiful sunny Florida.

2. Your husband is abused and treated slightly like a doormat by you as a result of stress, pent-up anxiety and nerves due to the looming race day. Plus you have been tapering and unable to workout enough to get rid of excess stress. Not that any of that makes it okay to mistreat others. Sorry, I love you!

3. You're not a fan of stepping on the scale in front of everyone at athlete weigh-in at the check-in tent. Never mind that you're probably in the best shape of your life after 6 months of IM training.

4. You ask a million questions of complete strangers about the water and the IM swim loop while standing on the beach before a practice swim 2 days before race day.

5. You take pictures of your gear check bags after obsessively packing them for over an hour.

6. You obsess about exactly which spot on your bike to place the adhesive race number, trying several different places and calling your veteran IM bud with questions about it, before finally deciding on the perfect place. And then you take a picture of it.

7. On race day you feel like a rock star when all the volunteers are so overly nice and helpful all day long. It starts when the "peelers" rip your wetsuit off in 3 seconds at the end of the swim.

8. You cheerily say "Nice Job!" to someone who passes you in the first mile of the bike course. I'm such a newbie, there's a long way to go, duh.

9. You realize you have had a permanent smile on your face all day long when spectators keep commenting on your smile throughout the 26.2 mile run in the last hours of race day.

10. You scream like a banshee with your arms up in the air as you cross the finish line becoming an Ironman for the first time.

BONUS #1: You wear your IM Florida hat and t-shirt to breakfast the morning after race day.

BONUS #2: Drum Roll....Definitely a First Time Ironman when you continue to wear your blue ironman wrist band for 3 days after the race is over. And then you cut it off but keep it for memories.

What a nerd. :)

Don't worry, a blog post with my race story is still coming, I promise....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Big FAT Thank You!

No, this is not the ironman race post yet, but don't you fret, it is DEFINITELY coming! :) I am still riding a huge race high from completing my first ironman this past Saturday. It only took 24 weeks of mad training, 20 hours of driving to Florida, a few hotel stays, a patient and forgiving husband-(I mean, have you ever spent hours in a car with a stressed out first time ironman wanna be???? not pretty.) Then in 13:15:17' on race day I reached the goal! YAY! I made it! I could NOT have been more excited crossing the finish line. But I'm saving all race details for my next post about the race, and none will be forgotten!

I just wanted to take a minute to thank all of my friends and family for helping me make it to the finish line. So many people gave up time to train with me along the way. Colin gave up solitary days off in a 6 day work week to spend 4 to 6 hours biking with me! Kim biked countless miles with me all summer and then into the brutal cold temperatures of October! My running buds still let me log miles with them while I spewed endless chatter about Ironman this and that and training and swimming and biking and race plans and BLAH BLAH BLAH! Thanks for helping me and putting up with me!

Never during a race have I felt more prayed for, supported, and blessed. Everyone sent me off to Florida with well wishes, encouragement, emails and cards-all of which stayed with me every step of the race. Kim even stopped by with some "happy's" for our trip and a 140.6 sticker which I almost couldn't look at in that moment of jitters! Thank you to all of my friends for believing in me, cheering me on, and for tracking me all day! Thank you to God for His presence and strength all through race day. I truly loved being out there during the race for every moment. It was the same way I felt about the training only unexpectedly so!

On our trip home we stopped at my parent's house and I got to celebrate my 35th birthday there with them. Wasn't I just 30 yesterday? That means tomorrow I will be 40! LOL It was the first birthday I'd celebrated with my parents since I was 18. My beautiful sister Lindsay made me this AMAZING birthday cake, I didn't even want to cut into it and ruin it. So we took about 20 pictures of it and then dug in! Her little 2 year old Noah loved the cake! While she was making it, he said "I love it! I love it! Want to bite it!" Then when it was time to blow the candles out he said it was his birthday and helped blow all the candles out, what a cutie!!!!!

Thank you to all of my friends and family for getting me through this! I loved it so much that I'm officially signed up for Ironman Louisville 2010 on August 29. Yes, I am a madwoman. Love to all of you!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Leaving it on the blog...

Yep, I'm leaving all of my race anxiety right here on the blog. And sending it up to Jesus. Somehow between those two things, it will have to work! I cannot believe I am 6 days away from my first Ironman. It makes me a little sick inside to think about it. Oh I'm sure the anxiety and nausea will go away once the race actually starts, tri's usually work that way for me. I remember feeling nervous about my first marathon or a marathon when I was really concerned about my finishing time, but this is way more than that for me.

Race they are!

Getting my nutrition right all day....

Wavy or rough waters for the swim.....

Starting with 2000plus other swimmers at once, GULP......

Salt water....

Getting a flat tire....

Will I be able to handle the hotter climate?????

and just the whole big long day all together!

Okay, there they are. Now that I see them, they're mostly about the swim. So get through the swim, fuel my body, stay hydrated, and I should be fine. Of course I know anything can happen. I do respect these distances. But I have trained for this more than I have ever trained for anything in my whole life. I know I'm ready, I've put in the time. Now I just have to stay calm, relaxed, focused, have confidence, and follow the plan. (The detailed plan below is for my Mom, she wants to know.) :)

The Plan....

Swim: Stay relaxed, start easy to get the feel for the water and find my own rhythm in the midst of all the swimmers. I don't want to be too wide and waste energy, but also don't want to be in the "front." I'll do a lot of looking in the beginning to watch out for everyone. Then I'll go to my normal sighting every so often, picking my head up mid-stroke to stay on track. I will try to reach ahead and glide and relax for the entire swim. It is two loops, we exit the water after the first loop and then go back in for loop number two!

T1: Get the wetsuit off, they have people who help with this. My tri shorts and tank will be under the wetsuit so I'll just have to get my helmet, socks, shoes, gloves, sunglasses and race number and I'll be ready to get on the bike. Someone supposedly brings your bike to you in the ironman. (unless it's packed out in transition, then I will get it myself.)

Bike: Hoping to be able to average around 15-16 mph for the whole ride. In my shorter tri's this summer I have been able to ride at an 18 mph average but am not expecting to be able to hold that pace for this longer distance. I'm just going to do the best I can!

For nutrition on the bike: Drinking perpetuem for nutrition which is made by Hammer. I'll also have water, gatorade, Gu energy gels and Gu chomps. I like to have options! Plus I'm putting a PB and honey sandwich in my Bike Special Needs bag which I get halfway through the 112 mile distance.

T2: Planning to change out of tri shorts into running shorts and of course get the running shoes on. And I cannot run without my trusted Garmin. We have survived many miles together!

Run: No goal but to keep moving! I'll run if I can run, walk if I need to walk. Whatever it takes to cross the line. It's a 2 loop run so I know the first loop will be tough mentally and the second loop will be the home stretch. There are aid stations every mile with all kinds of food, gatorade, water, even chicken broth. I will also have energy gels in my pockets and might carry water. Usually when I'm running, I can tell what I need or want as far as nutrition goes, so I will go with my instincts! Sometimes that means taking in a gel or some form of energy even when you don't want it. :)

Wish me luck...

And there it is. I'm hoping I don't drive Colin nuts with my obsessions over this while we drive to Florida. I know he is afraid I will be crazy and make this trip the furthest thing from vacation. So I'm going to try very hard to "leave it on the blog." :) I am excited and promise to write all about it when it's over! Presently, the countdown to race day on this page is completely freaking me out! I can't wait to see friends once we get to Florida, there are a couple other people who I know that are also racing and they are bringing their families. It's sure to be a huge cheering section! I know it will be FUN! and painful. :) But mostly fun.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Summer Trainin' Had Me a Blast...

Summer trainin'....had me a blast,
Summer trainin'....went by too fast.
Rode my bike, thousands of miles!
Ran and swam, changed up my style!
Summer Dreams, ripped at the seams,
'cause now-ow, the cold fall is HERE!

(to the tune of Olivia Newton John and John Travolta's "Summer Lovin'" from Grease of course!)

I have absolutely LOVED training for the Ironman all summer. In fact, I'm finishing week 22 of my training and at long last entering the 2 week taper period before race day. For years I contemplated attempting the Ironman distance but could hardly stand the thought of giving up my 6 days of running every week. I would miss that so much, there's just no way I could cut my running days. I was so wrong! Now I don't know how I can go back to "just running." Well, actually, with the cold weather here, I cannot wait to wrap my bike in bubble plastic for the winter-more on that topic in a moment!

the training...

Honestly, it has been tremendous fun to be swimming, biking and running. I've been so invested in all of my training I didn't have time to miss my running! Besides, I still ran 3-4 days a week, including a weekly long run. Additionally, I biked 3-4 times a week and swam 3 times a week. Yes, that's a lot of time! Two to four plus hours a day in fact! I know people with full time jobs who put in the training and complete Ironman triathlons and I am truly amazed by them! As a result of the time spent training and following my plan diligently, I do feel confident in reaching the finish line of my first Ironman. It will likely be my biggest challenge, but if I can get my nutrition right and stay focused, I believe I am ready. I'm working on my mental race plan and will blog about that sometime before race day.

biking blurbs...

Since week number 1 of IM training, I have biked 2500 miles which is insane for me! My first road bike doesn't even have 2000 miles on the odometer and I've had that bike since 2002! I trained exclusively on my tri bike all summer, a great find on eBay, and it is a much better fit for me then my road bike. (turns out I've been riding a bike that doesn't fit me until this summer...)

A few experiences on the bike to remember: Getting whacked in the face and helmut by bugs on almost every ride all summer until the temps cooled down. Having bugs, flies or bees end up down my shirt while riding, stung once! The beautiful scenery and wind on your face while cruising down open road. Max speed of 39 mph on a scary downhill. (Lots of people have gone much faster then that!) Most rides my top speed is in the low 30's from a downhill. Riding in rain, thunder (once), sunshine, warmth, and cold! Mastering the aero-bars and new shifters on my bike. Lots of solo rides, but also rides with Colin, and my tri buddy, Kim.


This will always be my true passion! I'm not giving up marathons even though I do possibly see more Ironmans in my future simply because I loved the training so much. My plantar fasciitus is officially gone after two years, turns out less days of pounding the pavement was good for treating injury, hmmmm. I still got to meet my friends most Tuesdays and Saturdays for group runs which is a huge highlight in training.

swimming saga...

I managed to get one open water swim in almost every week during the summer months which was great training. Kim swam with me too for quite a few workouts! I followed specific pool workouts from my training plan and got help on technique from coaches at the Master Swim practice I went to last spring and again this fall. Swimming is my most challenging event since I have never been on a swim team, but I am so thankful for those kiddie swim lessons! Thanks Mom and Dad! Since last winter, my stroke number is down from 27 strokes in 25 yards, to 18 strokes in 25 yards. Now I have to work really hard to get it there, but I can do it. I still have tons to work on in my swimming and am very average if not less. However, it feels good to see improvement.

whiney weeks....

Yes! I had some serious whining issues in weeks 19-21 when it got colder here! I was biking in 40's and rain and hating life on two wheels. My last long bike ride was on a very wet, rainy day in 37 degrees with Colin for 5 and a half hours. Definitely our most miserable ride ever, but comical now. Kim came out with me too on the bike in some cold temps complete with endless layers of clothing. In fact, Kim came to my rescue with some reminder words to bring me back to reality and out of my selfish pity party! They helped so much that I typed them up and they became my mantra! Here are Kim's words sent to me via email:

"Just think of everyone who doesn't have the ability to exercise. (I'm not talking about the people making excuses.) Maybe that will help you wrap your mind around these last grueling weeks of training.

This is a choice, no one is holding a gun to my head.

Being able to participate in an event of this magnitude (the IM) is a privilege:

1. Because you could afford it.
2. Because you have the physical ability to do it.
3. You have the discipline to do it (which is a gift).
4. Your husband and your friends are willing to be dragged along with you for parts of it!!"

Those words made my day and are so true! I am blessed to have friends and family that donated to the charity so I could gain entry into the race after it was full. I have loved the training and easily completed the workouts all summer. I have amazing friends who came with me when it was easy and when it got tough in the bad weather! After this email, I quit whining and got serious again! This week has miraculously warmed up to the 50's and 60's, making biking fun again! And I used to think biking in the 50's was cold, hmmmmph! Not anymore!

life's metaphor...

Endurance training and racing always turns out to be a metaphor for life in my mind. Life is never a guaranteed picnic with only good times and smooth sailing. It's an up and down, ever changing road with unexpected challenges mixed in with the easy times. Training and races can be that way, one moment it's easy and you're full of energy, the next you think you might just end up in a pile on the concrete. Circumstances in training, workouts, and in life will always change. What is your motivation to keep going? What inspires you? What makes it worth it? Where does your strength come from? Sadly, just this week a dear friend of mine lost her husband at the young age of 33. She is only 30 herself and has a beautiful 3 year old little girl and a baby on the way. I know all too well the road ahead for her will be a surreal and painful one to travel. But I know she has a strong faith in the Lord and the hope to see her husband again in a perfect place. God will be her constant source for strength and will faithfully see her to the end. I know this because of my own experience. That is how I know I can make it through Ironman too, with spiritual strength that comes from only one place. So if you're in a hard spot in life, or maybe in a race, or a physical challenge-hang on to hope and know that in just a short while, things may be the exact opposite that they are now. Just like in a marathon, sometimes you run 17 miles and suddenly feel miserable and then you're strong again for that last 4 miles. How does that happen??? it just does... Life, my friend, is like marathon.

Isaiah 40:31 They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Finger Lakes Olympic Triathlon: Sep. 20

Pre-Race Morning

This triathlon began with a 4 AM wake up alarm! We had to get there early to be completely set up and out of the transition area by 7:15 AM. My friend Kim picked me up bright and early, we stopped and grabbed Kathy who was doing her very first sprint tri that day. Before we knew it we were walking our bikes while lugging all of our gear the long half mile walk from the parking lot to transition. Did I mention it was pitch dark outside and the temps were extremely chilly in the mid 40's? Brrrrr!

Well, it may have been dark and cold but the place was buzzing with activity! There was music playing over the sound system and announcements were being made through out the set up time about how to set your bike and calling for certain numbers and giving you the warning for the start time of the morning pre-race meeting. Kim and I set up almost right across from each other in transition and we chatted while we got ready-race talk, jitters and who knows what else. I ran into Tiffany, my "TWIN," who was also doing the olympic distance! We weren't wearing the same outfit today, but it was great to see her and wish each other good luck. See the blog post from Sodus Point 2008 if you want to know more about her. :)

We got all our stuff set up, got body marked, reluctantly peeled off our warm clothes and put on our wetsuits which provided some shield from the cold air but man it was COLD! I kept my socks on until the bitter end, caring less how black they got from the pavement! Finally it was time to walk out to the lake. My feet were like ice cubes and it was painful to walk on the asphalt out to the lake, then we stood and waited for our wave start. We were in the fourth wave, the green swim cap wave! The sun was finally lighting up the day, but it was still incredibly cold. The cold created a lot of mental anxiety for me over the swim and the whole race in general! I learned from this that on Ironman Day, I will not let anxiety get a hold of me like that. Mind over matter! Positive thinking and pushing the negative energy and self doubt away! :)

The SWIM .9 miles

It actually felt so much WARMER to get in the 62 degree water then the to stand out in the cold air and dread the swim! My feet started to warm up once we stood in the lake. Finally my wave of women were off and swimming. Canandaigua Lake was slightly choppier than usual, but not too bad. This is the lake that I have done all of my open water training in this summer so it felt a bit like home. But for some reason for the first half of the swim I couldn't relax and kept having anxiety about the swim and couldn't stop thinking about the fact that my next triathlon would be a swim in the Gulf for Ironman Florida! It was like I was having nervousness for both the lake I was in at the moment AND for a race that was still 2 months away! Uggggh! Not a good choice. Like I said, I'm not going to let myself get like that on November 7, I'm starting now, can you tell?? Okay, back to the race at hand.... By the time I reached the halfway point in the swim, I felt great! The sun was shining and gorgeous, the water was calmer on the way back in then it was on the way out, and I was finally in a good rhythm for my stroke and concentrating on technique. I bumped into someone during the last little stretch and said "sorry!" and it was Tiffany! We said a couple motivating words to each other and swam to the finish. Then I was out of the water and running on the painful asphalt path to transition! Ouch! I kept running on the little edge of grass to avoid the pain. Kathy and Nicole, two of my running partners, were there cheering me on! (Later Kathy said I was running like a little ballerina, yep, it hurt!)

The BIKE 23.5 miles

Let me just go ahead and put it out there that I'm slow in transition, I can't help it, guess I just don't move fast! But I got out of the wetsuit, toweled off, bike shoes, helmut, gloves, sunglasses and ready to go. I passed a few people and one was Tiffany-we cheered each other on and kept climbing the hill! I felt GREAT! It was a gorgeous sunny day, beautiful countryside and everything that I love about biking was surrounding me and staring me in the face! It makes me so thankful that God has given me the chance to be out there and loving it! The first half of the ride is a series of pretty decent rolling hills and climbs but I've trained on the course so know where all the turns are and what to expect. There was one chica who I played cat and mouse with on the bike. I would say "Nice Job!" to her when she passed me or I passed her and she never responded. After the second time of no response I looked at her leg to see her age, she was in my age group, now it was ON!!!! I memorized her number and determined to beat her. The next two times we passed each other I said nothing! It was my mission to beat her! Well, when we got to the huge downhill near the end of the ride, I left her in the dust and never saw her on the bike again, Yes!!!!! But now I had to beat her on the run too....

The RUN 10 K

Back into transition and I couldn't find my spot! I needed a bright colored towel like Kim so wisely puts at her spot. (bright pink tweetie bird beach towel!) After a couple of minutes I found my place! Ditched the bike, helmut, gloves, glasses, changed my shoes and grabbed my Garmin and water bottle. I was off! To my amazement, just a week after the marathon, my legs felt fantastic! I've not experienced this in a triathlon before but nothing hurt and I felt like I had speed and energy, crazy! I let out a "WOO HOO" and took off down the path. Kathy and Nicole were there again cheering me on! It was still that amazing beautiful sunny day and the temp had warmed up nicely. The run was two loops, not my favorite, but still okay. Worse, I had to pee! Sorry for TMI but it was an issue! There were no places along the course to go and I seriously started eyeing the trees and bushes! But then I remembered my girl to beat on the bike and determined to make it to the end of 6.1 miles without a bathroom stop. I was off and checking everyone's numbers since it was a loop and we all passed each other. I saw Tiff about three times and we high fived and cheered each other on everytime. She rocks! The volunteers at the water stations were great and cheering all of us on. The first loop was tough mentally but by the time I was starting the second loop I felt like the end was in sight! I kept up with this girl in front of me who was running a bit quicker than me but she helped me keep going. I followed her for half of the first loop and all of the second loop, we even spoke to each other a couple of times, cheering each other on. I did see the "girl to beat", you know, the "bike girl," and she was behind me. I saw her twice during the run loop and determined to hold my pace so she wouldn't catch me. Surprisingly my Garmin beeped for all the mile splits and I was running 8's! The first mile was 8:04, second 8:01, third 7:56, fourth 8:11, fifth 8:13, and sixth 8:00. I couldn't believe my splits but it helped me keep pushing! I passed Kim near the end of the run and it was great to see her looking strong in the final event of the race! The finish line was in sight and I was so happy to get there!

The FINISH 2:46:35

It was a fabulous day and such a fun triathlon! I had a blast with my friends and being outside enjoying every minute of it! I actually got 6th in my age group and could have made 4th if my transitions were faster which just makes me laugh. The important thing is I beat "bike girl." Just kidding!!! I'm not being cocky, it was just a fun aspect and challenge in the race that helped me keep going. Here were my splits for the race: Swim-30:49, T1 4:19 ( I know!!!!), Bike 1:17:45, 18.4 avg., T2 2:47 (a little better, but not compared to everyone else!), Run 50:55. If you want to see some hilarious race photos of me, go to the Brightroom Photos website, search Fingerlakes Triathlon, and punch in my bib number 274. They're slightly embarrassing but funny enough to share. :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Endurance Weekend: Running and Cycling Sep. 12-13

The Highlander: Colin's 105 Mile Mountain Ride
Saturday, September 12

Setting up bike and gear for the big day starting just before 7 AM.

Colin climbed 105 miles worth of hills and craziness on his bike while I had fun spectating and driving to meet him at the rest stops. It is an incredible ride, with 15 hills which are major climbs. The killer hill comes at mile 100 and is literally a 23 percent graded incline. I had fun putting pics on facebook and tweeting up a storm as the day went on, documenting the ride. Colin met up with a buddy, Scott, who is the husband of Kathy, who I run with regularly. The two helped each other up the climbs all day and both said that got them to the finish. Near the end at mile 91 the two guys were at the fifth rest stop and decided to skip the sixth and final rest stop and head straight to the end. Colin said "Unless they have new legs for me there I don't think there's anything that will help me to the end." Ha! That gives an impression of the fatigue that is bound to ensue with such a challenging ride.

Tiny view of Bopple Hill which is a mile long, this shot does not do it justice...

I really was in complete awe of the notorious Bopple Hill at mile 100, it is fierce! I can't imagine climbing it. I walked partially down to cheer on riders climbing to the top and to wait for Colin and Scott to come through. The view from the spectator side is a steep hill with a gorgeous lake in the distance.

Unfortunately the cyclists miss the lake view and only have the endless hill in sight as they make their way to the top. And at the top on the right is a cemetary, classic. But from there its a short easy distance to the finish. Congrats on an outstanding ride guys! Loved watching and it is truly a grueling challenge. Finishing Time - 8 hr. 45 min.

Nothing like the finish...

The Rochester Marathon: The Story of Going Out Too Fast :) Sunday, Septemer 13

Here I am dying at mile 18 but so glad to see Colin with Gatorade and Body Glide. :) Several "first's" for this marathon: Ran in a skirt, carried water for the entire marathon, got my first blister (on my toe) ever during a marathon, lined up with a pace group at the start line...

Call me crazy, I signed up AGAIN for the Rochester Marathon after swearing to never run it again. But they were having pace groups for the first time this year so I thought I'd give the BQ dream time another chance. I only missed it by 3 minutes in Pittsburgh last May and thought maybe I could grab it this time around if I had my "perfect" day. Those days are hard to come by! After a few weeks of consideration, I signed up a week before the race. I've been Ironman Training all summer and threw in 20 and 17 mile training runs as I approached the Rochester race date.

I lined up with the 3:45 pace group telling myself I would hang as long as a I could and if I fell of I'd just let it go and not push which could risk unnecessary injury and poor recovery time for my "A" race, the November Ironman. Well, the leader took us out SO FAST for the first 5 miles. I needed to hold an 8:35 to 8:37 pace for the whole race which maybe I could have done, I'll never know, but the weather was outstanding. High 50's at the start, cool and breezy. The breeze lasted for the entire race and the temp only topped out at 70, great weather!

Back to those first five miles...we were hitting paces almost a minute faster then goal pace-7:42,7:43, 7:58, 8:08.....I was fresh so ran well at that point. If I were running a marathon on my own, I would immediately slow the pace if I hit one mile in the 7's! But I trusted our guide and hung in there hoping I could make it. I kept thinking, maybe this is it! Maybe I'm going to make it and be "Boston Bound!" Well you guessed it, by mile 13 I was struggling and by mile 15 I was on my own! No more pace group, my worst nightmare, alone on the boring canal path! This is probably the ultimate reason I didn't want to try and run my pace on own, I would end up on the canal path alone and slow down anyway. So big deal, I started counting the miles to 18 when I would meet up with Colin and some gatorade. :)

By that point I knew I would not make the 3:45 finish and rather then kill myself and run as fast as I could for a marathon I signed up for on a whim, I let it go. I slowed down, ran easy, but still in pain, and treated it like a training run all the way to the finish line. Man, 16 marathons and it's always HARD! Even if I take it easy and don't push myself, 26.2 miles IS pushing yourself...who am I kidding??

The 4 hour pace group caught up to me around 20-21 miles and passed me in about 15 seconds! My friend Kathy was running strong with them and I knew then that she would make her first BQ-and she did! CONGRATS!

I do love the adrenalin for the final miles though! By mile 23 I was thinking a long 5K to go! Then counting down to 2 quick miles and I started talking to people around me, cheering them on when they passed me or I passed them. I came upon walkers who responded to my encouragement with "You Rock!" Well, they rocked too!!! Then a couple of first time marathoners-I love telling them they're doing great and they're going to make it! I told one guy I was running for my ice bath at the end! It was his first marathon and he was obviously hurting but getting to the end. Amazingly another woman was at mile 25 of her 123rd marathon!!!! WOW!

Just yards from the finish line, my friend Kim, who had finished running the half, was standing there cheering me to the end. I pointed at the finish line and said "I get to STOP when I get there!!!" Spectators were cheering loudly and Colin got a picture of me smiling and hitting stop on my watch. Then you can see the pain on my face in the next picture as I walk to get my time chip taken back. Thank goodness someone reaches down to your ankle and takes it off for you so you don't have to. :) Finishing Time - 4:11:25

So why is it that now every marathon I run is about qualifying for Boston? I spend miles mentally battling the self-induced pressure and praying for strength. Constantly I think to myself-"Can I make it? Just relax and run! If it happens great, if not, at least you can run 26 miles!" In the end I know that's true, I love being able to run period. Another year for Boston, my goal this year truly is the ironman. And I'll be throwing up and crying with nervousness on THAT race morning! Can't wait! I think...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Can-Am Century Bike Ride: August 16, 2009

Colin and I had a lot of fun riding our first hundred mile bike ride on this hot August day! It was actually 105 miles by the end and it was great Ironman training for me and Highlander training for Colin. (He is signed up to bike the Highlander on September 12 which is 100 miles of really tough hills in Bristol, NY. One climb is a 23 percent grade!) Our friend Dave came with us on this fun ride and he is a veteran cyclist having completed 40 to 50 hundred mile rides already!

The group ride started in Buffalo, NY and cruised over to Canada for a lovely spin past Niagara Falls and through Canadian countryside. We all had to stop and show our passports to cross the border two times. My favorite part was the Canadian side, wish the whole thing could have been in Canada! Terrain for all the miles was mostly flat so it truly was a laid-back, easy ride, our average pace was just right at 16.0 miles an hour for the entire 105 miles. We did have one HUGE hill to climb, it was so long! And it was incredibly hot! Plus it was right around 60-65 miles so we were well into the ride at that point. But we all just granny-geared it and climbed to the top! Not bad, just one tough hill for the entire ride. :) The last 15 miles or so were on a bike path which we all objected to greatly due to pedestrians and major cracks in the asphalt. That part turned out to be quite humorous. Every time I thought we were getting off the bike path and onto the road, an orange arrow would point us BACK to the path AGAIN! Seriously, at the time, I was going crazy! I'd get this huge wave of happiness to be off of it and then there we were again. I had to just laugh at it or I would SCREAM! All in all it was a great course and it was fun to push the limits on the bike for such a distance.

The aid stations were great! There were four and we actually decided to skip the last one because we were so close to the finish-we just wanted to get to the end! I had perpetuem in my bottle on my bike which is basically liquid nutrition with calories, carbs, protein and even a little fat. It's what I plan to use in the Ironman and I've been training with it on long bike rides. It keeps everything leveled out so you never really hit a big energy low on those long bike miles. So even though the aid stations had sandwiches, drinks, fruit, cheese, pretzels and more, I mostly relied on my perpetuem. I had some gatorade and re-filled my water bottles and snacked on some grapes and pretzels, but not many. (Didn't want to get an upset stomach...)

At the end of the ride there was great post-ride food! And we took great advantage of it after the long, hot day on our bikes. Temps climbed to about 90 and we were in lots of full sun all day. Completing the miles was a huge confidence booster for the Ironman, I'm so glad to have ridden it. And Colin and Dave were great riding partners, we made quite the trio and really had fun out there!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Musselman Half Iron Tri: July 19, 2009

Race Site: Seneca Lake in Geneva, New York

My friend Kim and I are the two smiling faces on the left waving at the camera. Look at the serious faces of all the other women!! :)

Our wave start group heading out to the lake to begin the swim.

...and we are swimming, 1.2 miles to go!

Me running up to transition after the swim, hard to get a good shot of this, but there is my face, right shoulder, arm and hand. Whew! Made it through the swim in 37:57 and only got kicked in the head once which didn't hurt at all. I also grabbed somebody's foot for a second and swam slightly off course....All part of the triathlon swim! Lake was calm, warm and perfect! Had to swim a small portion in the canal to the boat ramp at the end which was stinky (literally!) and felt long mentally. :)

Colin drove out on the bike course and got a quick picture just after I made a right turn, about halfway through the 56.1 mile ride.

On the home stretch back to transition, an exhilerating and FUN ride on the bike course. Lots of rolling hills, very fast course overall. Had a section at the end in the last 5 miles where I passed a bunch of people without trying and was rolling steady between 20-24 mph. Overall pace for the entire ride was 17.7 in 3:12 and felt great.

...and one final bike shot, almost to Transition 2 to switch to "Running Mode!" I was so happy to get out of the bike saddle! :)

Mile Number one of the 13.1 mile run. My whole body felt like the end of a marathon at this point. Amazingly, everything warms up and feels normal in about 2 miles and the run is pretty decent. I never run as fast in triathlon as in just a running race but my goal is to get to the finish line.

The woman in purple was a great athlete! Just before this picture was taken a spectator yelled "Only 13 more miles to go!" which is the LAST thing we want to hear on the race course at the beginning of a painful run. I said, "Oh did you hear that??" and the woman in purple sarcastically said "Thank you very much," then added something else not too nice which made me laugh and she sped off for the rest of her faster than me 13.1 miles. :) If you look closely, I'm barely visible in turquoise in the back left of this picture.

This is the last mile of the run and it was a long one! The girl behind me had started the run at the same time as myself. I ended up running the first 6.5 miles with a friend from Rochester, Melissa, who was doing this race as her first triathlon. We trained some together. The girl in this picture behind me also ran with us. We just chatted it up and joked around helping each other through the miles. Then we spread out and separated and suddenly there was the girl again behind me. She was great! She said "Come on, we started this race together and let's finish it together!" And we both picked up the pace and ran to the finish line, it was a great moment! One of the things I love about triathlons is the camaraderie among the athletes even though we've never met each other before. Everyone is out there together pulling for all the people around them. Total run time was 2:05.

Here I am back at home with my bike gear medal.
Official Race Time 6:02:16

Final Thoughts...

This tri marked several things worth sharing. It fell on the anniversary of my first wedding 12 years ago and it was my second half-iron tri in 7 years. I completed the first one 7 years earlier just before losing my first husband who also completed the same race. It was the last thing God enabled him to accomplish in this life. And there is so much more than that in the person he was, committed to memory, including much happiness and many good times. I wore his helmut along the bike course, which just happens to be my helmut now due to convenience. :) Throughout the 6 hour race, I reflected some on my life, that first triathlon race, and enjoyed the fabulous day and moments of the race. Emotions tend to be close to the surface in an endurance activity for me when I'm pushing physical limits. So naturally, the weight of this race day was present for all of the above reasons. And ESPECIALLY when I thought of Colin taking pictures along the course, and waiting for me at the finish of the race. He is truly a gift and I have much to be thankful for in the gifts God has given me in this life. The best part of the race was the hug I got from Colin after crossing the finish line, despite being sweaty and covered with salt.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keuka Sprint Tri: June 7, 2009

Kim and I waiting for our wave start time in the lake...

The first tri of the season was in Keuka, NY with my friend and training partner, Kim, and my Mom as a spectator. It was such a fun triathlon-we had perfect weather and a blast in all three events! As always, there was plenty of pre-race anxiety which completely melted away as soon as we started swimming. The lake's 61 degree temp was nothing to us after training in 59 degree lake water just a few days earlier. We weren't even cold! A wetsuit goes a long way, what can I say? The bike part was a bit of a rough ride but we made it with good speed and no flat tires so all was well. The run was faster then we anticipated running, it's crazy how your body kicks into gear and picks up the pace. The perception is always that I am running much slower then my actual pace. Plus another guy in the race came along beside me and started pushing me to keep my pace of in the middle of the run and really helped me keep going. So, it was a great first tri of the summer. Both Kim and I wished we had done the olympic distance that day but we were worried about the lake being too cold. Ha! Next year....we'll sign up for the longer distance.

Mom and I after the race. We had a fabulous time at Women of Faith in Rochester for two days before the race.

Just arriving, getting ready to set up our tri gear in transition.

Tansition Area...

Mom trying to get a picture of the numbers on my legs...

My Sprint Times:

Swim: 16:46 (half mile)

T1: 4:09 (uggh!!!!!!)

Bike: 13.6 miles in 44:17 with an average pace of 18.3 mph

T2: 1:42 (a little better...)

Run: 3.1 miles in 24:24 with average mile pace of 7:46 (Mile 1- 7:46, Mile 2-7:43, Mile 3-7:39)

Overall Finishing Time: 1:31:24

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pittsburgh Marathon Crew

Here is pic of the great friends that all went to Pittsburgh together for the big race May 3. (Left to Right: Mark, Me, Sandy, Steve, Kim, Kathy, Wendy)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pittsburgh Marathon May 3, 2009

After training through the cold, dark, snowy winter, spring started to peek through and I made it to the finish line of my 15th marathon on May 3 in the fabulous city of Pittsburgh. Now this was a marathon, very rolling and taking us through all parts of the city. We ran across the bridges of the city with gorgeous views of tall buildings in the skyline, water, and green trees and landscape. The weather was perfect, low 50's and completely overcast. The people of Pittsburgh came out in force on the sidelines and volunteering at aid stations to cheer the runners on. All of this made for a memorable and outstanding race that I would love to run again and again.

A whole group of us got the bulk of the toughest training in together. This consisted of Saturday long runs in snow, below 0 temps, and sometimes nice, weather. We also hit our favorite Cobbs Hill for hill repeats every Tuesday night. Those Tuesday night hill runs turned into distance runs of 11 to 14 miles with hill repeats sandwiched in the middle starting at 6 PM every week. Yes, we ran most of it in the dark! Everyone was excited for our final day to be in Pittsburgh and run our goal race. There were 9 of us running the marathon and two running the half marathon. With spouses and a couple kids we had 22 for dinner reservations the night before in a fabulous Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh. It was so much fun to hang out with the crowd all weekend and wait for each other at the finish line to celebrate our success. Everyone had great races and three people set PR's.

I needed to run an 8:35 pace to meet my finishing goal and was just shy of hitting the mark. I crossed the line in 3:48, missing my goal of a 3:45 Boston qualifying time by 3 minutes! But still, it was my best marathon of my past 5, many of which I ran with injury, so I finally feel like I am back within reach of running those 3:40 and 3:30 something marathons....Needless to say, I'm happy with this race and finishing time.

Standing at the start I realized I had to pee! Great, no porta potties in sight! So I had to wait for the race to start and I hit the first porta that I saw at about a half mile. I still managed to run an 8:37 first mile with the RR stop! Oh well, what can you do? At least I didn't have to stand in line for it. I started settling into a pace that was between 8:20 and 8:30's which was perfect. The course turned out to be very rolling with hills and I thought it would be flat with one huge hill at mile 12. Nope, I'd call this a gently rolling hilly race. It was great though, gave a nice change for your legs and didn't feel monotonous, still, I kept waiting for the "one big uphill."

The first 10-13 miles of the marathon is mentally grueling for me. I was trying to settle into a pace and in my head I was having turmoil over the whole thing. "Why do I do this again? What if I can't hold this pace? Am I going to meet my goal? Is anything going to start hurting? There's my plantar fasciitus steady in the right foot, what if it becomes excruciating?" And the mental anguish continued! I ran a couple of slower miles but knew I had time in the bank with some faster previous miles and my 3:45 goal was still within reach. Miraculously, later about halfway through the race the pain in my right foot completely disappeared and it wasn't even sore the next morning. This never happens and I've been dealing with plantar fasciitus for a year and a half, maybe it's gone!

Every hill I hit I kept thinking, "Is this the hill? The half marathoners turned off just after a nice uphill, and I thought "That can't be the hill." Well, there was no question when we finally hit the hill around mile 12, and it was fine. It was close to a mile long and decently steep but completely manageable. And it was a relief to finally run it! Whew!!! Now to continue on the rolling hills, ha!

The thing about a marathon is it's never the same race, no matter how many times you've run the distance. I'm painfully aware of the fact that anything can happen, paces can drop off, injuries can flare up. So I feel like I was running the first chunk of the race with those worries hanging over my head. Then from around miles 13-18 I hit this mental slump and slowed down, off of my goal pace, and there was nothing I could do to speed it up. Then a bright spot! The 3:50 pace group caught up to me and I heard them chatting. I asked them a question or two and they said, "Latch on to us and we'll get you through." I thought to myself, I'll try but I'm probably gonna' end up dropping back and not be able to keep up. At that point, I thought I would continue to slow down...

I was wrong! This group was incredible! They asked me my name, where I was from, if it was my first marathon and told me their names and stories. Suddenly, we were on a great downhill, it was mile 20, I had more energy then I had previously. Talk about a mental boost! I quit looking at mile markers, I quit looking at my split times. Seriously, I didn't look at a single split time from there until after I crossed the finish line. I was simply running and talking to my new friends. The pace leader was Pacer Rick and he easily chatted us all up, telling us what was next on the course and mentally prepping everyone for it. At water stops we would get water and they all looked around for each other to make sure the gang was all there. I paced off with a man in his late 40's maybe early 50's (I'm guessing...) and his name was Dan. He lived in Pittsburgh and people knew him on the course. It came out that he was a doctor, Doctor Pickle, to be exact. Great guy! We had a great chat and near the end of the marathon, Pacer Rick said "okay I'll cut any of you loose now if you've got energy and want to pick up the pace, go for it. " Surprisingly, Dan and I picked it up and brought it to the finish. He waited for me to make sure I would make it, he said "I'm not leaving you now." In the last two miles I looked at my watch and told him I was missing my BQ by a minute or two. He said "you want to lean into it? I'll help you." First I said no because I knew I wouldn't make it anyway. Then I thought well I might as well know I gave it everything I've got and we took off with a harder pace. We crossed the finish line and I high fived Dan and he gave me a hug! Our last two miles were each 8:15's, go figure! I'm happy we finished strong and have hope that a 3:45 or less is in my future.

This race is yet another great memory. I'm so thankful to be able to run and I love marathons. God is my strength and so faithful and so good to give me the joy of a simple pleasure like running. Why do I do it? The challenge, the addicition of it all, the training, the friends, the feeling of crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles. Until next time...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Crunch Crunch Crunch Crunch...

"Crunch Crunch Crunch Crunch" was the sound that filled my ears throughout our 14 mile training run in below zero temps this morning. I have often found a sort of settling comfort in the sounds of all of our feet running. There's just something about everyone's shoes pounding the pavement together that makes everything okay. Never mind if it's an ungodly dark hour like 5:30 AM, or in the middle of a seemingly endless 20 miler, that sound reminds you that you're out there with your friends, and for some reason it's FUN. Today the sound was not shoes rhythmically hitting the asphalt, but rather shoes crunching across the packed snowy and icy streets of Rochester.

Yes, today we had several conversations questioning our sanity and level of craziness, deciding ultimately that we were okay since we were all in it together. Who cares if we saw a couple of people in their cars laughing at us? Or if the cashier at the coffee shop shook her head in disbelief when we walked in to use the restroom? There's a marathon in a few months and you can't just skip a long run. Nope, today's run was not for the faint at heart. And we survived.

I wore two pairs of pants, wool socks, trail shoes, four layers on top plus a jacket, a balaclava, a hat, two pairs of gloves... I should have opted for mittens since my hands were balled into tight fists gripping handwarmers for the entire run. My water bottle was frozen solid by the end of the distance. My vanilla GU was like thick ice cream, and no, it didn't taste good.

Despite the conditions, it was actually fun to be out there with a group of people. Somehow we filled the miles with a fair amount of laughing, telling stories, and talking about random bits of nothing. We reminded each other that conditions could have been worse had the wind been blowing. But even the locals who have lived here much of their lives said today was one of their coldest runs ever, so what an accomplishment for all of us! What would I do without that favorite sound of feet hitting the roads?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

One Sprint Tri and Two Marathons...

And where did the fall of 2008 go anyway???? Sorry for not posting in five long months. Life happened with busy schedules, my new addiction to facebook, and sheer laziness in posting here. I did manage a brief summary of the end of 2008.

Sodus Sprint Tri - August

This is Kim and I after finishing the tri--she is my bike training partner, we have lots of fun training together!

Went out for a fun little sprint tri that I thought would be easy and it was the exact opposite! I still had fun and loved being out there, after surviving the ocean-like lake swim in a very rocky and rough Lake Ontario! Seriously, it was such rough waters that me and my rented wetsuit contemplated swimming back to the shore and calling it a day after only a few short minutes of being tossed and thrown around by some extremely choppy water. But alas, I sucked it up and decided to get around all those big orange bouyies and make it to the end. Next came an unexpectedly hilly bike ride, suddenly 13 miles became much more difficult then originally anticipated! Finally the run, I somehow ran a decent average in the hot temps of the day and made it to the end. The most memorable part of this tri was meeting a girl who happened to have the same exact tri attire on as me! Quickly we realized we also had similar looks and have ever since referred to each other as "TWIN!" We snapped several pictures and still laugh about that day. She is also a vocal music teacher like me, go figure! Colin and I got to ring in the new year at her house and had a great time meeting new friends and enjoying her husband's fabulous cooking!!!

A pic of my TWIN Tiff--we had a blast laughing about our similarities!!

Rochester Marathon - September

April, myself, Karen and Dave

HOT! Can I say it was incredibly hot and humid? It was sheer torture! Water stops were only every couple of miles and needed to be every mile in that heat! AND the stops ran out of gatorade by the end, okay that's an exaggeration... But at MILE 22 they really did run out of gatorade!!!!! And what the other stops tried to pass off as gatorade was so watered down and weak it tasted like water to me! No I won't be running the full in Rochester next year, I will however run the half marathon! The best thing about the race-besides crossing the finish line and ending my misery-were my three awesome friends who flew up from Little Rock to run the Rochester Half Marathon! We had the best time that weekend-lots of laughter and fun memories! Karen, April and Dave are amazing runners and friends. I truly miss our Tuesday-Thursday 5:30 AM runs when I lived in Little Rock. Of course they still are there every week to run the long standing and wonderful training course! Anyway, this was my 13th marathon and my slowest in the last 10 that I have run due to the excruciating temps!
Karen, Dave and April after finishing their awesome races--Karen even won her age group!!

Memphis Marathon - December

Me, Raquel and Bailey the morning before the big race...Raquel ran an awesome half and Bailey PR'd!!!

My fourth time to run this full marathon and I've also run the half a couple times. I love this race! It benefits St. Jude's Children's Hospital and is incredibly emotional for me every time I run it. I have both PR'd on the course and fallen on my face, but I've always finished, and each time with a renewed perspective about what in life is truly important. Seeing those beautiful children's faces and recognizing the battle they are fighting for life suddenly puts my mile pace or finishing time in a pale light. My run itself was not a complete disaster, but tough mentally and physically. I stayed the course and crossed the finish line in 4:06, better then my Rochester race, not outstanding... I got to see lots of incredible friends at the race! Shared a hotel room with my tried and true marathon training partner Raquel, and her Mom, and a new friend, Bailey. Saturday night after the race I spent the night in Little Rock at April's house and saw MANY special friends at a party she and Craig hosted that night. It was a wonderful weekend and I'm so blessed to have been able to go and run another marathon and see my friends.

Raquel and her Mom


So what's next??? Funny you should wonder.... So far on my wish list is the LR half marathon in March but I don't know if I can make the air fare for it. In May I plan to run the Pittsburgh Marathon with a group from Rochester. And I have a long list of tri's and bike rides for the summer in preparation for my next big endeavor, Ironman Florida in November 2009. Stay tuned for more details. And I'll try not to wait five months before the next post, but I make no promises!