Sunday, November 22, 2015

Off-Season Volunteering, Training, & Racing

I haven't blogged since IMCHOO, partly since I've been really busy with my new job as Health Promotion Dietitian at Tyndall Air Force Base and partly because I've been doing nothing.  Nothing, as in I took a month off of training after the race.  I really think it's important to take an "off season" because it lets your body recover and it also refreshes you mentally.  I did stay in the tri scene though by volunteering at Beach2Battleship and IM Florida.  Here's a brief recap of those experiences.

Beach2Battleship 2015

I flew back up to NC for B2B since I've been on the run course committee all year and wasn't about to check out for the main event.  Under the strict eye of run course committee chairman Brian Bohrer (aka Brian#1), Brian Moxey (aka Brian #2), Robert P. Cristman (aka Ricky Bobby), and I executed all directives to the best of our abilities, though sometimes our best wasn't good enough.

Brian #1
Brian #2
Ricky Bobby
When Ricky Bobby & I got there at 5 am on race morning our first task was to set up all the arrows for the run course.  We marked every turn with black arrow signs and every straightaway with neon green duct tape.  After about 2 hours we were done and reported back to Brian #1.  He was moving a million miles a minute and was 7 cups of coffee and 1 granola bar deep (little did we know that he wouldn't consume a single additional calorie for the rest day).  "What do you think this is?" he barked, "A YARD SALE!?!?"  Apparently he thought the arrows we put up looked like sh*t and we had to go back and remove every single one, velcro them to bigger signs that had the B2B logo on them, and place them back in the all right spots.  He was also displeased that I had put double sided duct tape arrows on the pavement instead of taping down 2 directional arrows in opposite directions.  I tried Brian #1!  I tried!  And honestly, I will say that once we had the arrows with B2B logos on them, it looked 1000% better.

We spent the rest of the day (and by that I mean until 1 am the next day) doing odd jobs and filling in wherever was needed, including but not limited to:
*directing runners on course, including the finish cute (i.e. stay left to finish, stay right for the turnaround, no you're not done you still have another 13 miles to go)
*working crowd control to keep spectators off of the most crucial part of the run course
*shuttling high school volunteers to and from aid stations, which was like herding cats & quite possibly the most difficult task of the day
*watching Brian #2 show off on his fat tire bike (don't worry we didn't tell anyone you went over the handlebars ;)
*cheering on participants
*picking up injured participants in the sag wagon
*cleaning up the course after all the fun was over

Heading out to the lake
Overall it was an awesome day and a super fun experience to be on the other side of a race!  I was very impressed with how well the B2B committee communicated with each other.  They had the walkie talkie system down pat.  They squashed any and all fires that came up and I want to say a huge GOOD JOB to everyone involved.  I've raced the B2B full once before and the B2B half a few times and have always had nothing but good things to say about the race and now I can say that I know why!  I also have to say that it was amazing to see all my Wilmington buddies again and I miss you al!!!!

IM Florida 2015

When I moved to Panama City Beach, FL one of the things I was super excited about was of course IM Florida!  I immediately signed up to be a volunteer chip collector from 9 pm to 12 am.  Once I moved down and started hanging out with my former Rev3 teammate Chloe and her posse, I was invited to be a draft marshall with them for the race and I accepted.  First of all it was pretty cool during race week to run along Thomas Dr. and see all the hype starting for the race!  I went to a draft marshall meeting the night before the race where we reviewed all the penalties and got our blue and yellow cards, as well as some pretty official sweet gear.

Race morning they had a nice breakfast for us and the motorcycle drivers at the host hotel.   After marshals were paired with drivers I went out to the swim start and met up with the Wilmington crew.

It was so great to hang out with the Wheeler's, Davis's, Wellersdick's, and Miss Christensen again!  I was pumped for Doug & Phillip's first IM (congrats guys!!!) and Shawn's enthusiasm for spectating and getting the perfect picture was unrivaled!  The surf looked rough to me that morning and the red tide was burning my eyes, but the racers didn't seem to mind and I'll admit I was a little bit jealous that I wasn't out there racing myself!

Once swimmers started making it to T2 I met up w/ the draft marshall crew and we got out on the bikes.  I've never been a big fan of motorcycles but it was pretty fun to cruise the whole course on the back of a Harley :)  It was like I was right in the thick of the race, but without all the suffering!  I don't think I'm cut out to be a draft marshall because I just don't like handing out penalties!  I didn't mind carding people for blatant offenses like passing on the right, but I did not like dealing with people arguing about whether or not they were drafting.  For the record, I let anything go that I thought was even slightly questionable.  All the drafting penalties I gave out (~10) were extremely blatant.  Later on in the race people stopped arguing the penalties - I think that they were so tired that they just grunted at me to acknowledge that they knew they needed to stop in the next tent.  It was a cool experience and I'm thankful I got to be a part of it.

After we got back to transition I went home and crashed for a quick nap.  I got back up and headed back out to the finish line for my second volunteer gig.  They had enough chip collectors and "catchers" so I ended up calling out every number that came across the line to another volunteer who wrote down the numbers, as a back up to the timing system.  This was actually quite difficult at times when people came in together in bunches.  I really enjoyed watching the end of the race!  It was so inspiring to see everyone finish, especially those who weren't sure if they could or would make it! More than a few people hobbled across the finish line and there were a couple collapses.  There were lots of triumphant fist pumps, impressive muscle flexes, and epic hugs.  Some people started crying because they were so happy and overwhelmed.  This made me feel like I was going to start crying too b/c I was so excited for them!  It was an emotional 3 hours :)  Needless to say, by the time 12 am rolled around I was ready to sign up for another IM!  My initial plan was to sign up for IMFL 2016, however I'm 99% sure I'm going to do IM Cozumel instead!

Off-Season Training
So now I'm back to light training and base building.  I've done a LOT of yoga, which has been awesome for mind and body.  I found a spectacular 90-day yoga challenge on YouTube by Lesley Fightmaster that I highly recommend!  I've only been on the trainer a few times for 45-60 minutes each time and have only swam twice since IM CHOO.  I have started running consistently again, but only about 20 miles per week (if that).  I plan to slowly build back up in each of the sports and then start focused training again probably in January.

Draggin' Tail 18-Mile Challenge
My friend Ron invited me to do the Draggin' Tail 18-miler as part of a 3-person relay team.  I thought he said "Dragon Trail" and so I agreed b/c I thought a trail race sounded like fun.  I've almost sworn off all 10ks & 5ks b/c I think they are too dang painful, but this would be 6 miles on trails and I knew that would be more enjoyable.

We showed up on race morning and I'm like, "So where are the trails."  Chloe and Ron were like, "Uh, what trails?"  "Isn't this a trail run...?"  Turns out, there were no trails to be ran.  The entire race was on paved roads through a neighborhood.  I was signed up for the 2nd leg of the race which I was told was the hilliest part, and they were NOT joking about that.  You think there's no way it can be hilly in Florida, but in Sunny Hills Florida there are indeed real hills!

I felt good for the first two miles and clocked in at 6:17 for the first mile and 6:20 for the second.  Then the hills hit and I had a hard time keeping it under 7:00 pace.  I passed a couple people who were running the whole race solo, but couldn't make up much time on the relay team ahead of us.  I was just hoping that I could run faster than my former marathon pace ;)  I finished the 6 miles with an average of 6:34/mile and am pretty happy with that.  It gives me a good starting point as I start increasing training again.  It was really fun to race as a relay & congrats to Chloe & Ron on our awesome 2nd place finish!

Next Up
I plan to keep increasing consistency and mileage.  Not going to worry too much about speed.  I'd like to force myself to get back in the pool, but we'll see if that happens...

I may run the PCB half marathon in December and I'd like to target another half marathon in January as a time trial.

The only other two races that are on my to-do list at the moment are NOLA 70.3 and IM Cozumel, but I'd be willing to bet that more will be added as 2016 gets closer...

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Race Report: Ironman Chattanooga 2015

I've had a week to reflect on and recover from one of the most amazing experiences of my life:  Ironman Chattanooga 2015!  This race was a true test of intestinal fortitude and made me dig deeper than I had ever expected or knew I could go.

I am so thankful that I got to experience this race with so many of my NC training buddies and friends!  It was SO awesome hanging out with you guys and seeing everyone out on the course :)  I have to give a HUGE shout out and thanks to Misty Brown and Erin Green.  Misty is a 16-time Ironman finisher and Erin is a 10-time Ironman finisher!!!  That's 26 IMs between then two of them!!!  I stayed with these ladies and they know the ropes so well that I didn't even have to think.  I just did what they told me when they told me to do it - I'm smart enough not to question people with that depth of experience :)  Seriously, you two are amazing athletes and I can't thank you enough for all the great tips you gave me for the race and keeping me calm and unstressed the days before the race!  One of the best things we did was get a hotel a block away from the transition area.  This was SO convenient because once I got to Chattanooga there was no more driving to mess with.  It was walk to the expo, walk back, turn in the bikes no biggie, drop off special needs bags the morning of the race then pop back to hotel for breakfast & bathrooms, post-race head up take a shower and come back down & watch everyone finish :)

The Swim (2.4 miles) - 55:33 (1:26/100m)
The swim was one of the best parts of the race!  We all met in transition and took a shuttle to swim start where we got in a big long line and just chilled until it was time to go.  This was awesome b/c since there were no age-group or time corrals, you just got to hang out with your buddies and all jump off the dock together at the same time!  Erin & I are about the same swim speed so we decided we'd stay together on the swim and take turns drafting off of each other.  This worked out extremely well!  We switched about every 500 or so and I noticed a big energy savings when I was on her feet. I was hoping it would be wetsuit legal, but it was 77 degrees on race morning, so I chose to wear my speedsuit w/ a sports bra under it.  The current made up for the lack of wetsuit buoyancy; it was pretty strong, though I heard a lot of people comment that it wasn't as strong as last year.  I also thought the water was pretty clean - no where near the visibility of the Gulf, but when my watch beeped I was able to see my 500 yd splits on my watch.  At one point the swim got a bit choppy and then at the end near the finish of course it was crazy crowded.  I set my sights on the stairs and made a beeline for the exit.  Overall the swim was very enjoyable and by far the easiest part of the race.

T1 - 5:22
Getting out of the water was super exciting!!  The announcer's voice was booming and there were people everywhere cheering you on as you ran from the water up to the changing tents.  I couldn't help but smile and be thankful that I was there to take in the whole scene.  Plus, when I saw that I finished the swim under an hour I felt like the race was off to a fantastic start!  Even though I did a full change into cycling shorts & jersey my time was still decently quick and I was out on the bike in no time!

The Bike (116 miles) - 5:52:13 (19.76 mph)

The start of the bike was CROWDED.  It was a little scary actually b/c there were people of varying speeds and you had people passing in full aero position going as fast as they could go while others were getting their shoes on or putting on arm warmers; all the while we were going over railroad tracks and a few large bumps.  I decided to play this part safe - no point in crashing in the first 5 miles of the race to save a minute.  Not too long into the bike, Erin & Misty blew by me like a steam train.  I was tempted to try to keep up with them, but I knew that they are both stronger than me on the bike and I'd be better off in the long run (pun intended) if I raced at my own pace.

The course was beautiful!  The mountains were very scenic and the entire course was rolling/hilly.  I remember going 9 mph at one point up a hill and I think my max was around 36 mph.  I really enjoyed seeing so many people out on the course, checking out the bikes, thanking the volunteers, and being in the moment.  I was feeling great!  However, things took a turn for the worse about 75 miles into it.  I started the second loop of the bike course and there was a large headwind.  The hills felt bigger this time around and my body was hurting.  I was tired and it wasn't even close to being over with.  I thought that maybe it was a bad idea after all to try to race my first IM.  I told myself to just keep making forward progress and rested a little bit on the downhills.  I got into a really dark place of pain and all I wanted to do was get off of the bike and walk, though thankfully I convinced myself this would be a bad idea.  Somehow even though I was hurting badly, my 5-mi splits weren't too far off where I wanted the to be, so I was able to keep pushing through it.  At one point I was exhausted and I calculated that I had about 2 hours to go - 2 HOURS!!!  I thought, "I am never ever doing this again."  Ugh, just don't stop.  Once I hit 100 miles I felt a little excitement b/c for a second I thought that I was almost there....but then again there was another 16 miles least another 45 minutes.  The course had thinned out at this point and all I could do was try to keep up with each person that passed me.  I wasn't doing much passing at this point.  My shoulders, neck, & back were SO sore that I didn't want to be in the aero position any more.   I rode out of aero on the climbs and tried to stretch out as best I could.  When I got to 106 miles, a switch flipped.  All of a sudden 10 miles to go didn't sound that far - I knew I could hammer that home and get off the bike within 30 minutes.  Thankfully there was a bit of a tailwind taking us back to town.  I took advantage of this, put my head down, and let my legs churn out the rest of the bike course.  I've never been so excited about the prospect of starting a marathon!  I couldn't wait to get off the Adamo and onto my own 2 legs!  I never stopped on the bike - I missed the special needs bag and then towards the end I really had to pee, but didn't want to get off the bike b/c I was afraid if I stopped it'd be really hard to get going again.

T2 - 4:41
Ahhh, sheer joy to be done with the bike!  Rolling into T2 was exciting and when I hopped off the bike a volunteer told me to run towards the transition bags.  I was am I supposed to run!?!?  My legs were stiff and didn't want to move.  But, by the end of the little jog to the changing tent I think they loosened up a little.  I gotta say I was disgusted by the changing tent.  It smelled like piss and I later learned that people sit down on the chairs and pee in there!  EW that is so disgusting.  There are porta potties right outside of the tent and you can't take an extra 5 steps and pee in there?  Disgusting.  Anyhow, the volunteers inside the tent were AMAZING!  Thank you so much for your help and getting me situated after doing another full change into running clothes.  I ran out of the tent, peed in the porta potty, and then headed down the chute to start the run.

The Run (26.2 miles) - 3:40:29 (8:24/mi)

I was so thankful to be out on the run course and when I started my legs felt amazing!  I ended up going with the Saucony Zealot as my running shoe and they were wonderful - nice & light & just the right amount of cush!  The first 7 miles of the run course are relatively flat and I was flying along at 7:30-8:00 pace, passing tons of people.  This was really fun and I felt good.  I didn't know if I'd be able to maintain that pace since a marathon is a LONG way, but I thought might as well take advantage of feeling good now.  The run is 2 loops and the last 6 miles of each loop is a b*tch.  That's the only way to describe it.  There are no flats - it's all up or down hill; and not the type of gradual up or downhills that I like.  These were STEEP mother chuckers.  Running uphill wasn't so bad, but it was the downhills that really got me.  I could tell that this part of the course was just blowing people up.  It looked like the walking dead and it wast even dark yet.  Not to mention that right about this time the sun decided to come out and it was getting hot.  I didn't mind that so much b/c I like the heat, but by the end of those 6 miles my quads were DEAD.  I thought holy shit how in the world am I going to run another 13 miles right now.  And my pace was slowing big time.  I decided to take the next 7 miles of flats to try to recover and just cover the ground as efficiently as possible.  I'm used to running on flat ground, training in Wilmington & FL, so I knew I could get through that.  I got through it, and was encouraged b/c I passed a few more women in my age group.  I had no idea where I was in the field and I was at the point where I didn't really care.  In your mind you go from having a certain goal time to just wanting to make it to the finish.

The last 6 miles of the race was the hardest racing I've ever done.  With every step my legs were screaming out to stop and I was ignoring their pleas.  I started focusing on just making it to the next aid station, where water and coke took my mind off my agony for a few seconds.  I got to the biggest hill on course and let myself walk for about 30 seconds.  Then I thought, this is stupid because walking doesn't hurt that much less than running.  And for me it was really the downhills that were the most painful.  So I decided I couldn't let myself walk any more and needed to gut it out.  Again, I said to myself, "I am never ever doing this again."  With 3 miles to go I caught up to another lady in my age group.  She was walking and I was like, "yes!"  As soon as I passed her she started running again and passed me back :(  This continued on for the next 2 miles and I was like, "Dammit, I can barely keep it together right now and now I'm faced with the mental battle of trying to race someone in the last couple miles of a 144-mile race!"  Again, since I had no idea what place I was in, I knew I couldn't just let her run ahead of me - what if that was the difference in making it to Kona vs not!?  So, I slowly reeled her back in and as I was doing so, a 51-year old woman passed me.  I was like, "Oh hell naw!!!!"  And I fell into stride w/ that lady.  We passed the woman in my age group and I hoped that she didn't try to keep up, but I wasn't about to waste time or energy to look back.  The 51-year old & I ran the last mile stride for stride and it felt like we were running 6:00 miles as we approached the final quarter mile and finisher chute (I'm sure it was more like 7:30 pace, haha).   There were tons of people out cheering and the excitement was exhilarating!  I found an energy reserve and pulled ahead of the woman and ran down the finish chute as fast as I could for having been on my legs for 10+ hours!  The crowd was deafening as I got closer and closer to the Ironman banner and I heard the announcer boom, "Tara Martine, YOU are an IRONMAN!!!!"  I think I was smiling from ear to ear and threw my hands up in victory!  I defeated the course and it was finally over.

Total Time - 10:38:18 (3rd AG, 38th female, 159th participant) 
I felt so ill after finishing and could barely walk.  I sat down on the curb and cheered in my friends as they came in one by one.  It was so awesome to see everyone finish such a momentous task!  I ate a few potato chips and a Sprite and it brought me back to life a little bit.  I learned that I came in 3rd in my AG and was a little stunned!  I didn't think I was that far up in the ranks!  That meant there was potential for a Kona slot!!!  I started getting really excited b/c even though when I initially signed up for this race over a year ago getting to Kona was my goal, life happened, things got in the way, and I didn't think I had done enough training to legitimately have a shot at Kona.  Turns out there were only 2 slots in my AG and both 1st and 2nd place took them, so I didn't make it (missed it by 10 minutes).    BUT, I'm still super psyched with my race, finishing 3rd in AG, and also getting over a 2 hour PR on my iron-distance time (I have done one other iron-distance race before - Beach2Battleship in 2008 and I finished in 12:55:08)!!!

Thank you SO much to the best coach ever - Sharon McDowell!  You are an amazing coach, mentor, & friend.  I know if I had done 1/2 the training you had prescribed I would have made it to Kona, lol! Maybe next time.  Wait, did I just say "next time?"  Now that the pain has faded a little bit and I can walk again, I'm starting to consider the possibility of doing another one of these.  I'm volunteering for IM FL in November and there's a chance I could get caught up in the excitement of the moment and sign up for IM FL 2016....but for now it's time to rest, recover, and enjoy the off season.  Not sure what 2016 will bring but I feel amazing to have ended the 2015 season on such a high note!

Congrats to all #IMCHOO finishers!  We did it!  We are all IRON men and women!!!!  :-)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Saucony Shoe Review

I recently realized that in the last year and a half I've had 7 pairs of Saucony shoes (5 different models total) and that I should write a brief review of the brand in general and a little comparison of the models I've worn.

First off, I'm sure you want to know how the heck you pronounce the name of this brand for real.  Here you go:

Saucony was founded in 1898 in Kutztown, PA.  The word "Saucony" comes from the Lenni Lenape Native American word "saconk," meaning "where two rivers run together."  Inspired by the original location on the Saucony Creek, the logo represents a running fiver marked by three boulders.

My experience with Saucony running shoes has been fantastic!!  I think they make a very high quality shoe and I haven't found one that I don't like yet.  As you will see, I've run the gamut of their neutral line from super light racers to full cushion pillow top trainers.

The Ride (Version 7, 8.5 oz, 8 mm drop)
The Ride was the first Saucony shoe that I tried.  I had been running in Mizuno Wave Elixirs and was devastated that they stopped making them!  I tried on almost every running shoe in TrySports before deciding on the Ride.  I had just signed up for Quintiles Wrightsville Beach marathon at this time and although there was a little more to this shoe than I was used to, I thought extra cushion might be a good thing considering the mega miles I was about to start running.  Turns out I was right - The Ride is a mid-weight, mid-cushioned shoe in which you can log some serious miles!  I wore out two pairs of these between training for Quintiles & some for Savannah.

The Cortana (Version 3, 7.9 oz, 4 mm drop)
I love love love these shoes!!!  As soon as I saw them I loved them and I loved the way they ran just as much as the way they looked!  They are very similar to the Kinvaras, however I think they have just a touch more cushioning and as per the website they have the slightest hint of stability.  To me, they felt like light-weight neutral shoes with just enough cushion for racing long distances.  I bought 2 pairs of these and used the blue ones for a lot of training heading into Savannah and then I saved the orange ones for racing and they ran me all the way to my sub-3 :)  

The Triumph ISO (9 oz, 8 mm drop)
After returning to triathlon and signing up for an Ironman, I decided to try Saucony's premium cushioned shoe to help save my legs from all the running & cycling I was doing.  This is the heaviest shoe I've worn in a while and by FAR the most cushioned.  At first I wasn't sure if I'd be able to keep running in them because they are SO soft.  It's like running on a trampoline and I felt like I wasn't getting the type of road feel and energy return that I usually like in a running shoe.  I was springing along on every run like a bunny.  However, I stuck with them and I didn't get injured while Ironman training so they served their purpose!  Another interesting thing about this shoe is that is has a seamless sock-like upper, which I like and felt very comfortable on my feet. 

The Zealot ISO (7.4 oz, 4 mm drop)
I like to say that the Zealot is the Kinvara on steroids.  What I mean is that like the Kinvara, it has a low drop and is very light!  But with a little bit more added stack height made from a super compressed foam it gives you maximum cushion.  This shoe is made to compete with the Hoka Clifton and it is indeed very comfortable and very cushioned (not quite as cushioned as The Triumph).  I honestly haven't run that much in it (for no particular reason) but I have worn it a lot around town and while traveling.  This shoe has the same comfortable, seamless sock-like upper as The Triumph. 

The Type A (Version 6, 5.2 oz, 4 mm drop)
The Type A is a true racing flat.  There is not, as intended, much to it.  I ordered these because I have been contemplating what shoes to wear at Chattanooga and I read a lot of glowing reviews about them online.  When I received this box of shoes in the mail I lifted it up and my first thought was, "Holy cow, it feels like there's nothing in here!!"  They are that light.  They are the least cushioned Saucony's that I've run in with the least amount of stack.  They do not want for ground feel.  When you put them on you just feel fast.  These shoes are narrower than other Saucony's that I've worn, which I like b/c I have a narrow foot.  It feels like the shoe is perfectly form fitted to my foot and the first day that I wore them I got 3 compliments on them.  I can't help but increase my turnover in these shoes; they make you want to go from jogging to running to racing.  I ran 10 miles today and felt good, but I'm not 100% sure if I should wear them in Chattanooga or not.  They are so minimalistic and such a departure from the Triumphs....are my legs going to want more cushion after 116 miles of biking?  How are they going to feel 18 miles into the run?  I'm leaning towards wearing them and stashing a more cushioned pair of shoes in my special needs bag just in case, but the jury's still out.  Lastly, to be clear, I wouldn't recommend these to anyone that pronates, is carrying a lot of extra weight, or has poor running form.

So I guess that about sums it up.  If you've never worn Sauconys before, I encourage you to give them a try!  Who knows, you just might #findyourstrong...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tour De Moore 100-Miler

Yesterday I rode the Tour de Moore with 18 of my closest Wilmington training buddies!  It felt a little bit bitter sweet b/c I knew it was the last ride I'd be doing with this awesome group of people.  But, thanks to Mike for reminding me that it's not my last ride with everyone, just my last ride before I move :)  For sure I will be back in Wilmington to visit family & friends and will be joining in on the good ol' Poplar Grove & 421 routes!

So the Tour de Moore started off with a bang ... literally.  We were all lined up at the start and it was very congested.  I was next to Erin when someone rode in front of her and she had to unclip unexpectedly.  She got one foot out, but unfortunately fell to the side that was still clipped in towards me and bless her heart she made sure not to fall into me - thank you!!  The crazy thing was that when she fell, her hip bone landed right on her aero pad and the entire thing broke off - like not just the pad, but also the piece attached to the aero bar!  Not the ideal way to start the race.  She & Misty had a delayed start due to this but they were able to eventually jerry-rig the pad back on and they caught back up with us later in the ride.

Back to the start of the ride ... it was rainy/misting out and the roads were damp.  It had been over a week since I'd been on my tri bike and there were a lot of people out there on course.  All of this made me a bit nervous to begin with.  I rode at the back of the paceline of my usual group.  They started off at 20+ mph and there was no way around it, the effort felt hard.  Too hard.  After 10-15 min of this, I decided that I couldn't maintain that pace for the entire century so I backed off and just did my own thing.  I rode at my own pace for the first 30 miles and over the course of that time I started feeling a lot more comfortable and confident on the bike.  And my legs were warming up nicely.  I caught up with my group again at the first aid station.

We got going again and this time I didn't have a problem staying with the pacemakers.  I even did a little pacemaking myself :)  I started really enjoying the terrain and the change of scenery!  The sun came out and the roads dried up.  It was a perfect day!  At 50 miles in I think we were all feeling good!

Once we hit the Pinehurst section of the course there were some pretty tough hills!  As opposed to Doug's big chain ring 40 rpm cadence, I used all of my easy gears and mostly spun up the hills!  This worked pretty well and I felt like I was climbing decently.  I was going up one of the hills and remembered that my horoscope for the day read "Any exertion you make today is effortless." I laughed to myself and thought "I wish!"  I will say though that Doug singing "Jesus take the wheel" on the climbs did in fact make things a tiny bit more effortless.  We rolled into the last aid station and Sami had made a new friend, surprise surprise, haha.  She said she'd been interviewing him for the last 10 miles and we were all like, "We know!  We can hear your voice a mile away!!!"  :)  Brian said that sometimes she builds up lactic acid in her vocal cords rather than her legs, haha!  Actually I'm super thankful for all the encouragement you yelled out Coach Sami!  And the smiling Yoda nestled in between the two water bottles on your rear hydration system was a nice touch!

Before we got rolling on the final stretch, we thought about texting Mark & Lindsey but we were all too tired to actually do it!  Erin warned us that the worst was yet to come and omg she was right!  The last 8 miles or so of this course was entirely uphill - nothing super steep, but just a long enough and insidiously graduated enough to make you want to cry.   In fact the last 2 miles were just brutal.  You hit 100 and then you have 2 more miles of pure pain to get through before the finish!  I wanted it to be over but I didn't want it to be over.  It was such a great day out there and riding with all of you who I've trained with this entire summer for IMCHOO was really cool!

After the ride, Mike & I threw on our running shoes and headed out for a short t-run.  We ran a mile out (all downhill) and a mile back (all uphill) and my legs felt surprisingly springy.  At the end of it all, I felt like my confidence was boosted for IMCHOO.  Erin says that TDM is more difficult than IMCHOO and I really hope she's right!  I also hope that my elbow finally fully heals before the race.  I rode on it today without any additional padding for the first time since the accident and it was uncomfortable.  By the end of the ride it had turned into a disgusting blood blister - sick.

I gotta give a huge shout and and thank you to the organizers and volunteers of this ride!   It was so nice to have support, rest stops, porta potties, and food out there on the course!  The course was marked so well I didn't look at my cue sheet once.  And at the end of the ride there was a lot of food and it was vegan!!!  Salad, rolls, veggie pasta marinara, & FRUIT!  Yum!  Cheers to a great day and to great friends and training partners.  I will surely miss all of you when I go to FL, so please make a point to sign up for IMFL 2016 ;)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Race Report: Lake Logan Half

Wow I can't believe a week has already gone by since racing at Lake Logan!  I gotta do a quick race recap before I forget how it all went down...

I made the excellent decision to drive to Asheville with Jack & Erica and they were a constant source of entertainment on the trip!  THANK YOU guys SO much for being such awesome and fun travel buddies!  It was a super quick trip - we drove down on Friday, raced Saturday, and then drove straight home.  Exhausting really.  But still tons of fun.  A big non-race-related highlight for me was eating at The Laughing Seed in downtown Asheville.  It is an awesome vegetarian/vegan restaurant and 100% delicious.  I highly recommend the Harmony Bowl (brown rice, black beans, tons of veggies, & an Asian peanut sauce).  We ate outside and an added bonus was that right across the street was a climbing wall.  There was a girl climbing it with only one leg; Erica and I made a mental note to remember that if when we started getting tired in the race.

Race morning came early.  We thought we were ahead of the game cause there were very few cars going up the mountain to T1.  Unfortunately when we got to the top, we realized why - everyone else was already there!

We were probably the farthest car parked from the transition area.  This resulted in a slight rush to get everything situated and use the porta potties.  I had to choose between doing a swim warm up or using the bathroom a 3rd time; I chose the latter.  Here's a quick porta potty side story for ya:

Poor Erica had been waiting in line forever to use the lone porta john that was located in the parking lot.  When she finally got to the front of the line a guy came out and said to her, "Be careful in there; a lady who was in there earlier had an accident."
Erica was like, "WTF do you mean an accident?!  What's going on in there?!"
He said, "Let's just say she missed the hole."
"Oh pee on the seat, I'm a PA, that's NBD."
"It's worse than that."
"Ummmm, how the hell does that happen!?!?"
"Apparently it was dark and she didn't have a head lamp or phone light."
"Yeah, but who the f*ck hovers to do a #2?!?!"
She was then faced with doing some risky business or walking all the way to the transition area and getting in the very back of that porta potty line.  And if you've ever raced before, then you know that when one gets to the the front of the porta potty line, one cannot simply go to the back of the porta potty line ... it's not physiologically possible.  Haha, so poor Erica gets in there, rolls her sleeves up, and a lot of toilet paper, hand sanitizer , & f-bombs later, finally gets to build her own nest and do what she went in there to do.
Erica - I still don't know how these things happen to you, but I'm sorry that was the first thing you had to deal with before starting a half iron!  Not ideal, haha!  And, for the record, I'm a little insulted that you almost didn't tell me this story cause you were worried that the woman who had the accident was me!!!!

OK, so on to the race....

The Swim - 1.2 miles - 30:01 (1:25/100 yds)
I hadn't been in the pool once since my accident, so basically for 2 weeks prior to this race.  My elbow was still not fully healed and so I decided to wear a sleeveless wetsuit to prevent having something super tight around my arm.  This worked out perfectly cause the water temp was 74.  I stayed to the back right of the open field because the last thing I wanted was someone to kick my elbow.  I found a good pair of feet to draft off of and essentially did that the entire time.  It was a pretty pleasant swim & was over quickly.

T1 - 2:52
There was a decent run on grass from the swim exit to T1.  I was moving slowly and took my time putting on a cycling jersey for the ride.  In hindsight, I wish I had tried to go faster here.

The Bike - 56 mi - 2:56:31 (19 mph)
The start of the bike scared me to death.  It's about a 5 mile descent down a windy hill and the roads were still damp.  It was the second time I had been out on the road since my accident and the first time riding my road bike in 6 months.  (I took the road bike b/c I didn't want to put pressure on my hurt elbow in the aero pads of my tri bike).  People were flying by me and I was worried that I'd take a wide turn and someone would crash into me while in an aerodynamic blaze of glory.  Thankfully that didn't happen and I made it down without wiping out.  I was pretty tentative at the beginning of the race, but my legs felt good going up the hills.  Both of those things changed as the race went on.  I felt more and more comfortable bombing down some hills on the bike (and actually I could have used another gear cause everyone was passing me on the down hills - my road bike came with an 11-23 and prior to this race TrySports Charlie let me borrow his 12-28 so I could have some climbing ability).  At the same time, I got more and more tired as the race went on.  I saw some drafting which really pissed me off, but I couldn't catch up to say anything to her (pink Wattie Ink).  There was a very large incline around mile 40 or 45 that felt like it went on FOREVER.  I was definitely doing about 6 mph up that thing!  I was successful in doing a water bottle handoff, but that bottle was unsuccessful in staying put in my cages.  It came halfway out at one point and I had to toss it with 10 miles to go cause I didn't want it to get stuck under my wheel or someone else's.  By the end of the bike I was so tired that my brain started telling myself that I felt bad due to residual effects of the crash.  But I had to be realistic and tell myself that that wasn't the case and I was just tired and being a baby.  Remember the one legged wall climbing woman!?

T2 - 1:43
Another stroll through the transition area.

The Run - 13.1 mi - 1:34:20 (7:12/mi)
I was not looking forward to the run, but conversely to how the bike was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, the run was a lot easier than I thought it was gonna be.  The run is essentially 3 miles up a hill, 3 miles down, 3 miles up the same hill, and 3 miles back down.  I remembered this hill being pretty steep, although this time the gradient seemed milder.  It felt like running into the wind in Wilmington and wasn't steep enough to tear up my quads on the way down.  I was in 10th place off the bike and was quite a ways back.  But I was holding around 7:30 up the hill and 6:50 downhill and could tell I was gaining on people.  I passed quite a few people and was enjoying the shadiness of the route.  I wish there had been a few more aid stations because it seemed like the volunteers got a little overwhelmed at times and I got a coke once when I asked for water - it went down easy though and made me laugh cause Erica had told me a hilarious story about a time when she was so bloated on the bike that she couldn't even take a single sip of water without getting reflux.  She was unable to see her own feet over the profile of her midsection while on the run and it was by taking one sip of coke at a time that she could visibly see her belly deflate and was able to fit comfortably into the waistband of her running shorts for the second half of a marathon in a 140.6.  If you get the chance, ask her for the details on that one - you'll laugh so hard you might pee your pants!  So I ended up passing 5 women on the run, including the drafter who stopped for water at mile 12 and I was like "see ya" like when Macca  passed Raelert FTW at Kona 2010 as described in "I'm Here To Win."

Total Time - 5:05:25 (5th woman)
Overall I'm pretty happy with how this race went.  It was a good confidence builder coming back off of injury.  It's kind of annoying that I was only 5 minutes from 1st place and you look back and think, "geeze I'm sure I could have cut 5 minutes out of somewhere over the course of 70.3 miles!" BUT I'm still happy with this and I beat my White Lake time by 30 seconds and I know that was a much easier course.  Next up ... Chattanooga 140.6!!!!!

Congrats to all racers, we had such a beautiful day and beautiful scenery to be out there!!!!

Monday, July 27, 2015

What It Feels Like To Be Hit By A Car

I didn't realize that my last blog "Training Peaks & Valleys" was perhaps a foreshadow to what happened to me yesterday...  As I wrote in that blog, we all go through ups and downs in our training and sometimes we have no control over whether we find ourselves in a peak or in a valley.  This past week my training was going awesome!  I did a swim/bike brick on Tuesday, a hard 10-mile track workout on Wednesday, swam and did a solo century on Thursday, ran 20 miles with 3 fast finish miles on Friday, took a day off on Saturday, and then yesterday headed out on the group ride for another 100-mile dose of cycling.

The ride itself went great!  There were so many smiling faces and it felt SO much better to ride 100 in a group vs. alone.  Plus, the miles ticked by a LOT faster (thanks Ren, Mike, Shay, Sami, Shay, Ken, JR, Walker, Doug, & Lawrence!)  At the end of the ride I said g'day and started riding home since I had ridden to the ride start.

I was 1.2 miles from my place when I entered a roundabout.  I'm circling around and an SUV pulls up to another entrance to the roundabout and does not stop, slow down, or yield at all to moi, who was already the "traffic" in the traffic circle.  I yelled at the car but her window was up and clearly she didn't hear me.  I didn't have any time to react and next thing I knew the left driver's side of her vehicle was colliding with the right side of my body.  The force of the impact didn't really hurt, but it knocked me down onto the ground and that hurt a lot.  My right foot came unclipped, my left foot remained clipped in, and I skidded across the ground, almost out of my intended exit from the roundabout.  I was laying there, moaning in pain, too shell shocked to move or get up.  I saw another car coming into the roundabout and I thought "please oh please don't run over me!!!"  Thankfully he stopped, as did the lady who hit me, and a few other bystanders as well.  I don't think anyone knew exactly what to do, if they should just leave me there or help me up.  The woman who hit me was freaking out and asking me if I needed anything (um yes, I needed you to look to your left before entering the traffic circle and yield to the oncoming bike).  I couldn't help but notice when she opened up the back of her van that there were about 5-6 cases of beer in there and it was approximately 12:30 in the afternoon!  One person called 911 and being that I was literally less than 100 meters from a fire station, the firefighters arrived on the scene first.  I sat up and unclipped and someone took my bike off of me; I couldn't help but worry about whether or not the frame was cracked.  At this point, pain was starting to sink in a little bit and I got up and sat down on the side of the road in the shade, feeling a little headachy and dizzy.  The firefighters performed some preliminary first aid and surveyed my road rash - I didn't like that I could hear them talking about how bad it looked.  I gave my dad a phone call that no parent wants to receive, "Dad, I got hit by a car (but I'm ok)" and he was there within a few minutes.  EMS arrived and ushered me into the ambulance.  They checked my vitals, asked how I was feeling, looked at my wounds, and recommended that I allow them to transport me to the hospital for further inspection.  At first I didn't want to go, but they said it'd be a good idea to x-ray my elbow, which had taken the brunt of the impact of the fall, to make sure it wasn't broken.  They also wanted to be sure I didn't have any head injuries, as there were a few pretty large cracks in my Giro.

I arrived at the ER and it was fantastic b/c there was literally zero wait time.  As I was sitting there on the cot, I started to realize how much the right side of my body (neck, shoulder, elbow, side, & back) were hurting from getting all scraped up.  The nurses cleaned everything out, I got an x-ray on my arm, and they gave me a bunch of pain killers.  They told me that things were going to get stiffer and more sore over the next 24-48 hours and, boy, they weren't kidding about that.  Everything is so stiff, especially my neck, this morning and it kind of hurts to move.  I feel like I've been hit by a car.  Oh wait, I was hit by a car!  Damn it!

The bright side of this situation is that I am not seriously injured.  X-ray came back ok and it doesn't look like I have anything other than road rash & some seriously bruised muscles.  I know I got really lucky to come out of that with just some scrapes!  I'm so thankful that it wasn't worse.  And I'm so thankful for all the kind people who helped me on the scene, in the ambulance, and at the hospital!  Thanks for being there for me Dad!

From a preliminary inspection, my bike looks ok.  The carbon fiber base bar is chewed up on the right side and pedals are scratched, but I think my body took the brunt of the impact and actually protected the bike!  I won't know for sure though until TrySports Charlie looks over the entire thing from head to toe.  This will most likely affect my training for the next few days.  The doctor didn't give me any restrictions to working out, so I'm assuming it's to be done as tolerated by pain.  So, this accident has transported me from a training peak to a training valley, though hopefully this valley is just a small one ;)

Cyclists, as always, please be careful out there.  And to drivers, please please please be on the lookout for cyclists and other pedestrians.  It's not worth running someone over to get to your destination 30 seconds faster!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Training Peaks (and valleys)

It's hard to believe that Ironman Chattanooga is less than 10 weeks away!!!  It's scary actually cause I don't feel ready.  After Over The Mountain my training sort of took a nose dive down to around 10 or fewer hours/week.  I kept skipping workouts, was sick for a week where I basically did nothing, did some traveling for work, and couldn't string together any consistency.  There was a 2-week stretch where I didn't swim at all!  This left me feeling unfit and also bummed because prior to OTM things were starting to come together again and I was feeling especially good on my long runs.

Well, I'm happy to say I've turned the training train around and have had a few solid back to back 17-hour weeks again.  I'm feeling fit, though I know I don't have too much time left to get to the point that I had originally hoped to when I signed up for IM CHOO.  That's ok though because I've been immensely enjoying training and am so thankful to be able to be out there doing what I'm doing :)  Here's a quick SBR breakdown of where I'm at:

The Swim
As before, I am still not putting a huge emphasis on the swim since the race is supposed to have a decent current.  Now I've heard rumors that the powers at be are not going to open the dam as much as they did last year - damn it - so my strategy could ultimately backfire.  I usually swim 2-3 times per week around 3000 yds per swim.  I've been swimming in various outdoor pools, which have all been about 85+ degrees, making it more difficult than it needs to be.  I've been too scared to swim in the channel after all the shark attacks on the NC coast this summer, but most of the outdoor pools I've been swimming in don't have lane ropes so that's similar to open water swimming right?!  Thankfully, the YMCA just opened again today so I'll start going there next week :)

The Bike
I have REALLY enjoyed the weekend group rides leaving from Poplar Grove.  It's so awesome to see 20+ Wilmington triathletes showing up for these 6 am rides and it always makes me smile.  I've had the good fortune of being able to ride with some really fast ladies & sick fast dudes which I believe is making yours truly faster!  Plus, I love being able to knock out 80 miles in under 4 hours!  That being said, I know I'm not going to have all these great cyclists to draft off of in my race so today I did a solo century and it took me 5 hours 20 min.  Definitely not where I'd like to be, but it's improvement so I can't complain.  I'm feeling super duper comfortable on my IA and I can't say enough great things about that bike.  *LOVE* it!  My saddle situation is under control thank GOD.  I've also gotten very comfortable riding in the wind, which used to be my nemesis.  Hopefully I can continue to increase my endurance on the bike over the next 2 months and pick up a few mph!

The Run
The run has been rough lately.  Prior to my training hiatus, I was going out on 20-22 mile runs and feeling great.  I'd run for 3 hours and feel like I could keep going forever.  More recently I've been having trouble going the distance.  I keep getting these side cramps under my ribs, which makes it hard to take deep breaths.  Maybe this is due to the heat a little bit or maybe it's due to me running out of my PowerGels and using other gels to get by until my next shipment comes in.  At this point I've worked my long run back up to 21 miles.  I was supposed to do some pickups in my last long run, but it was a victory to just get the mileage in.  In contrast to the long runs, my track workouts are going great!  I keep hitting my paces and have had some good training partners out there which always makes it 1000 times better!  I've got a 20 miler tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes - I'm sure my legs will feel fresh after riding 100 today...

Next up for me is Lake Logan Half, which should be interesting.  There are about 20 open women & masters open women signed up for this race which is going to make it really exciting!!  I haven't raced a half since White Lake back in May.  I'd like to beat my time from then, but then again I recall Lake Logan being a really hilly course.  I'm uncertain how I"ll perform in the hills, but I'm certain that It'll be a good pretest for Chattanooga!