Monday, December 28, 2009

Would you look at the time....

I realize I've been a little distracted lately what with all the crazy life-dreams I've been trying to make happen around here, but could someone please tell me what happened to 2009?  It seems to have vanished.

And you know what that means?  Resolution time, kids.  And all the glorious life evaluation that goes with it.  I'm feeling a little under the gun this year since I just realized we are FOUR DAYS away from 2010, but you can count me in for resolutions.  I'm all about list-making, and new year's resolutions are the ultimate list, really.  And I have to say, that since I've started actually writing down some of these crazy goals of mine.....they have started actually happening.

So heck ya I'll be making some resolutions this year.  I might even post 'em right here on the interweb for all the world to see.  Because crazy things happen when you put dreams down on paper.  They become real.  They become items on lists just itching to be checked off.  And the next thing you know you're 365 days into the future looking back at a list with a whole lotta boxes checked wondering how it all happened.

So I'll be making resolutions.  I'll be dreaming big.  Again.  And you should too.  You've got four days.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A not-so-quiet day after Christmas

Because laundry no longer qualifies as a workout now that I'm acclimated, today I made up for yesterday's lazy day of lounging and laundering by putting in some multi-sport time at my new "gym."

First up, 90 minutes of skate-skiing.  Enough to make me feel proud of the fact that I ever managed to learn to walk because I was clearly not swimming on the gifted-in-coordination-and-athleticism side of the gene pool.  But being uncoordinated is apparently quite a workout.  And my reward for looking like an ostrich on ice was burning what had to have been mass quantities of calories.

I was also rewarded with spectacular views and friendly people to chat with along the trail.  Although at one point a woman asked me "are you skate skiing?"  Ya, if she had to ask what I was doing I was probably not looking like a pro.  Oh well, did I mention the amazing views?

Next up, well....lunch at a fun new place in town.  Soup and veggie wrap in a warm, sunny window seat.

But then, a few runs on the mountain.  It was chilly (high of 10, I think) so a couple good sunny runs was plenty for my jello legs and cold toes.

And lets not forget the workout that everyone forgets about....just getting into your ski gear and getting to the mountain.  I'm improving at this one, but I'm still new enough at this mountain lifestyle to consider it part of the workout.  Its like the yoga of my new gym....balance, balance, balance.  Balance to get your feet into your boots.  Balance trying to stay upright in your ski boots maneuvering stairs.  Balance your skis on your shoulders.  There is a zen to it, for sure.

And so goes my multi-sport life these days.  One of these days I'll get my bike cleaned up from the drive and settled into its reserved spot in my living room.  But for now, I'd say my new "gym" is a fine replacement to swim, bike, run.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Quiet Christmas

I did laundry.  I reheated Chicken Spaghetti.  I watched two movies.  Pretty quiet Christmas.  But that's OK.  Its a choice.  I made the choice to be here in this crazy little isolated mountain town and this is exactly where I want to be.  But today, if someone could have magically transported me home for a couple hours I would've been all over it.

There were no homemade sticky rolls for breakfast this year.  No Swedish overnight cookies to snack on (which must be some sort of family secret because I couldn't find a link to a recipe on the internet).  No Tom and Jerry's.  No brandy, period.  (What?!  'Sconnie girl celebrates Christmas without brandy?)

But even miles from family, and the creature comforts of my family's nordic Christmas traditions, I still somehow feel spoiled, and loved, and so very lucky.  What more could a girl ask for?  I must have been a very good girl this year because Santa clearly brought me the best stuff on earth; the love of friends and family, a healthy and able (if somewhat slow) body, endless opportunity, and mountains.

I hope santa was as good to all of you.  Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Just another Saturday in the life...

What to do?

Sleep late, hit the mountain around noon, ski just enough runs for your quads to get a little cranky?  Check.

Watch olympic qualifying snowboard event?  Check.

And finish off the day on a patio in the sun contributing to the cup tower with a few Fat Tire's?  Check.

Now that's a well-played Saturday.  My new favorite, spectate, socialize.

Ugh, really?

I can't believe I get to live here.  This place is infinitely beautiful.  Every day I feel nothing but lucky to have such amazing scenery out my front door.  But it can be frustrating when you are trapped in the gondola watching an amazing sunset with only your point-and-shoot, don't-care-if-you-lose-it-in-a-snowbank camera.  Sometimes I need to remind myself that that being there to enjoy it is enough.  Life's moments can still be beautiful without perfect photographic evidence.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Imposter Redeemed

For a mountain girl, I certainly didn't seem to be in any big rush to get up there on the mountain.  I had been here a week before I actually put on skis.  And it was short-lived adventure, at that.  The lift ride was pleasant enough....until I popped up over the valley wall and a blast of arctic air tried to freeze my face off.  Everything was white, snow was blowing sideways, and I promptly took the most direct route to the gondola and shuttled myself back home.

Tough little mountain girl I am not, apparently.

But today I got a second chance at a first run, and it was glorious.

Fresh snow, bluebird skies, and a new friend with enough knowledge of the mountain to keep me from accidentally getting in over my head.  What more could a girl ask for? Well, a little stop at the crepe cart for a snack didn't damper my spirits any, that's for sure.  But numb toes did.

"You take yourself with you wherever you go."  You also take your faulty, ill-fitting equipment.  My boots and I have never had a good relationship, so today was the day I saw fit to rectify the situation with some boot therapy.  After roughly two hours, and $200 I am measurably more content with my boots.  We may need a few more follow-up sessions, but I think we are on the path to a long and happy relationship....or at least a season of tolerance.

It feels so good to finally be taking advantage of the beautiful outdoor gym in my new backyard (though my quads may disagree).  I could have been out there sooner, but I don't think it could have been any better than today.  Its going to be a great season.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sure beats cube-life

Yesterday's "workout" was fossil-fuel consuming, but the views were pretty nice.  It would have taken me all day to get to this spot on snowshoes.

Friday, December 11, 2009


I'm snuggled in my bed right now listening to the hum of the humidifier and waiting for the heat in the living room to kick on so I don't freeze to death making a latte.

Life is good.  There is a mountain in my front yard, and snow on the ground.  I am living the crazy dream.  My crazy dream.  Its been a long time coming.  So much so that those who know me were getting quite tired of hearing about it.  But the wait only makes the payoff that much sweeter, as now I am truly appreciative for this opportunity, and so thankful for every wonderful snow-filled minute of this crazy adventure.

That is not to say that implementing this crazy dream was easy.  Transitions are hard, in triathlon and in life.  No matter how happy you are to be done with the swim, there is still a little time before you're totally dialed in on the bike.  So I'm working out the kinks.  I know with a little time I'll be sailing along on the freshly paved back country road of this new life, but first there were details to attend to.  Unpacking, getting a P.O. box, navigating new public transit, and finding the grocery store.  Things that used to be second nature.

And then the hardest part of any transition, leaving the comfort of friends who know you (and for me, family, too) with the hope that you'll make new connections.  This first week has been exciting, but also a little lonely.  No Tuesday night run group to meet up with.  No Wednesday night happy hours.  I know that in time these things will be replaced by new regular events, and the new people that go along with that, but for now there is still a noticeable void.  Though in the overall scheme of things, the drawbacks are utterly inconsequential.  Because being here.  Living the dream.  Waking up to sun on snowy peaks and neighbors biking to the gondola with skis resting on a shoulder just makes me smile.  And that warm-you-from-the-inside, can't-hold-it-back-if-you-wanted-to smile is worth every ounce of sacrifice.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The new 'hood

I haven't had much time to take pictures, but this should give you a little taste of my new neighborhood.  Its even more adorable in real life!  And you can see the mountains behind when its not dumping snow like it has been since I got here.

And apparently they bike all year round gotta love a place like that.

More blogging to come.  Its chilly and windy today so I'm staying in and trying to catch up on some things now that I'm mostly settled in.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Movin' on up....literally.

This blog is moving to a higher elevation.  Somewhere around 8500' to be exact.  Somewhere around Sunday.  And let me tell you that the process of making that happen is nothing but chaos.  But in two will be SO WORTH IT.

Workouts are going to be a little different for the next couple months.  And by different I mean ass-kicking AWESOME!

Now, just to somehow get my whole life to fit in the back of my car....and survive a little 22 hour drive.  Just those few little things, and I'll be a mountain girl.  :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The big easy was a little hard on me

Let's just say there was a lot more of this (above)

....than this (below).

But it was a great week....and I'm now waaay behind on blogging.  NYC race report yet to come, as is my bike tour of New Orleans experience.  But first....recovery.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Race report pending....

Its coming...I swear.  There is much to say about my New York City Marathon....just not enough time to say it right now.  Soon though....

The good (?) news is that in the meantime, the lack of writing does not mean missing opportunities to write about workouts, as there have been none since the marathon....unless recreational drinking counts as a workout (and I might argue that it should -- at least here in New Orleans)!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New York City -- in pictures

Brooklyn Bridge....where I walked waaaay too much the day before the race (I walked there from the south ferries subway station....past wall street, ground zero, etc....then another mile over the bridge....waaay too much walking for the day before a marathon and I was wearing "cute" shoes.  Bad decision all around.)

View from the ferry to the race start.

Times square, where I hobbled around the day after the race.

Chrysler building, hobbled there too, after times square and a stop at Jamba Juice.

Central Park finish chute.

Rockefeller Center.

St. Patrick's cathedral (I really just wanted to sit down, so I went in.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

And you thought gels were hard to stomach....

This is how you know you're not in Manhattan anymore.....turkey gizzard anyone?

Small-town Wisconsin novelties aside, I had a fantastic weekend in the country.  I even managed to steer clear of the little green devils floating around (sometimes being the photographer has its perks!).

I'm not sure if it was my clever evasive technique or my marathon metabolism still hard at work but I managed to emerge from the weekend relatively hangover free -- a rarity for me, as I am the one who can drink half as much and feel twice as bad the next day under normal circumstances.

But then I was able to truly appreciate the the company of great friends, and the beautiful weather and amazing views that we were so lucky to have all weekend.

I'm looking forward to running again very soon, but I am also very much enjoying not being a slave to a training schedule for the time being.  

(more stories from New York to come.....eventually)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stairs, chairs, and other brutal torture devices...

I can totally relate to this, but I'm happy to report that a mere five days after the marathon I am feeling remarkably good. No soreness left in my legs, however I still get an instant side-ache just walking across the street. Not sure what's up with that but I'm guessing it has something to do with why I felt like I was going to upchuck all my stomach contents (you know, all four packets of Gu) from about mile 15 on during the race.

In fact, I'm feeling so great that I almost feel like running?! Really. I do. I worked this hard to get to this fitness level and I don't want to lose it. Because those "off the couch" first workouts were HARD. Its one thing to have a hard 10k workout, but a hard 2-3 miles? No thank you. I'll do everything in my power not to go back to that again.

And speaking of hard, I've been reading some race reports and it seems I wasn't the only one out there on Sunday having an unexpectedly challenging day. I knew I would hit the wall. I did not think it would be at mile 14. Yet it seems that's where a lot of people struggled in NY this year. So while having company in misery (or mistakes) doesn't change things, it does make me feel less self-critical about my race and shifts the focus back toward the accomplishment and away from the "if only" list.

And so with that I'm off to spend some well-deserved downtime with some of my favorite (and longest-standing) partners in crime. The four of us togther again means trouble in the best possible way, and I couldn't be more excited. Happy weekend!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Not so fast...

Before I had even exited the finish chute at the marathon I responded to a text message from my father with this:

"I hereby retire from the sport of marathon.  Effective immediately."

His response:

"You're ready for Ironman!"

My dad's funny, isn't he?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New York City Marathon 2009

I don't even know where to start talking about this day.  It was a marathon, in every way.  Inspiring, emotional, humbling, painful....absolutely and unforgettable experience.  This race is amazing.  And I feel so grateful to have been a part of it.  To have had the chance to soak up all that energy that the city and the crowds put into this day.  It has certainly reminded me that the marathon is truly a celebration of the human spirit.

I didn't have the race that I was hoping for, it started well then took a sharp nosedive right after mile 14,  but in the end it doesn't matter all that much.  I finished.  I did it.  I did what I could out there with what I had on that day.  And that's all we really can do.

More thoughts through the week.  I'm still soaking it all in.  And looking forward to seeing more of the city over the next three days.  After some sleep....and ibuprofen.  ;)

Friday, October 30, 2009

New York City Marathon Expo I am in New York City.  About to run a marathon.


In between the waves of panic, I've managed to hold it together pretty well so far -- even at the expo, where the sight of 45000 other hardbody athletes usually induces both awe and fear of being left behind in a cloud of dust at the start line.  My superstar local host strategically got me to the expo early, when there was no waiting.  As we were leaving, the line to get in was out the door.  NOT how you want to spend your time.  Scored some sweet (yet totally overpriced) gear, but still need to get nutrition -- no Hammer Fuels at the expo?!  Darn sponsorship restrictions, probably.

Is it just me or are race expos not what they used to be?  I have fond memories of race bags loaded up with swag.  Of wandering the isles and having to turn down all the free samples being offered up.  But those days are over.  My race bag came with two pens, a bottle of water, and a bad of almonds.  And there were no freebies to be found among the booths.  Total let down.

On a positive note though, the race shirts are pretty sweet.  And I somehow managed to get two of them?!

I've been chugging water since my arrival.  I'm eating healthy thanks to Amy's culinary skills.  My "cheering section" is on a bus up to NYC from DC as I write this.  So I'd say things are going pretty well.  If we could just get those showers out of the forecast for Sunday...all would pretty much be right with my world.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Madness of Taper

The taper -- the maddening calm before the storm.  I am trying to slow down and enjoy the chance to breathe, to catch up on life, catch up with friends, and pay extra attention to keeping my body happy (yes, this means happy hours and massage  -- taper rocks!).  But in between peaceful moments of accomplishment and serenity, there is the deafening cry of self-doubt.

Did I train hard enough?  Did I taper too much?  Will my hip hold out?  Was my Colorado trip at the expense of an enjoyable race?  Why does my left shin hurt so bad?  Should I have done more yoga?  Why didn't I do more core work?  Why did I bail on so many mid-week bike rides when the runs got long?  Why wasn't I born into a family of olympic athletes?....

It gets more desperate and illogical from there.  I'll spare you.

I have been wearing myself out trying to stay positive and confidant....trying to remind myself that I did what I could, with the time, energy, and resources that I had.  I went from barely completing a sprint tri to marathoner in four months.  And I made some other fairly significant things happen in non-tri related areas of my life over the same four month time-span (this major announcement coming soon).  Now is the time to enjoy and reflect on all the hard work.  I've come a long way.

So why am I having such a hard time getting excited about the actual race?! 

I think its because I don't feel like I need to do it.  Because I'm actually really content with where I am right now; able to run for hours, able to conquer hill repeats on Bascom, feeling comfy in my "skinny" jeans, ready to tackle the mountains when the snow flies.  I'm feeling good.  Who needs a marathon?!  I think I'm actually scared that I might have a miserable race and be left feeling bad about all the other positive things that came out of training.

I'm hoping that actually being in New York will get me fired up a little.  Get me excited about being part of this amazing event and the inspirational international community of runners coming together to participate.  Maybe remind me again just how lucky I am that I get to do this.  Remind me how lucky I am that I have the ability to travel to New York and run 26.2 miles through the city streets, or that I can run.  Period.

I don't need to do this race.  I get to.  I need to remember that.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Eggs Everywhere

Needless to say, I'm finding it a little hard to focus these days -- so much good stuff on the horizon, the least of which is the New York City Marathon

I didn't let myself even pack skis for the trip to Colorado.  Even though A-Basin opened while I was there I had no business being on any early-season ice runs.  That just seemed like getting up in fate's face and taunting it.  Not a good idea when you are mere weeks out from an event you have devoted the last four months of your life to training for.  But I would be lying if I said that I wasn't completely preoccupied with the upcoming winter. Ski season is pretty much the only thing on my mind right now, and maybe that's a good thing for the marathon.  Keeps those eggs happily widespread among the various baskets of life and not in one little 26.2 mile nest.  No pre-race stress nightmares.  Only daydreams of crazy adventures to come.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Race Report: Des Moines Half Marathon

Oh, Des Moines.  I am just not even sure what to say.

I rolled into town Friday night on the final stretch of my crazy-whirlwind tour of Colorado.  Mentally drained.  Physically exhausted.  Just pretty much spent.  I had worked out all of twice since my 20-miler 8 days prior and I had driven nearly 3000 miles in my car.  This is not exactly a recipe for racing success.

Saturday I went down to the expo to register.  Which really, if you think about it is a milestone itself.....rolling up to a half marathon like "um, ya, sure...I think I'll run this little race seems to fit in with my training plan."  Just a few months ago that would have been the equvalent of heading out for a liesurely walk on the moon.

First kudos go out to Des Moines for the cute race t-shirts!  I might actually wear this one.  They kept it simple, and added a nice touch of green on the sides.  Well done.

Second kudos, it took me all of 10 minutes to get through registration and packet pickup.  Sweet.  Although, this is a remarkably small race.  I guess I was expecting bigger.  I heard 2000 marathon, 3000 half.  Pretty small.

But small means no parking issues on race morning!  I left my friend's house just over an hour before the start with no idea where I was going to park, and managed to get free ramp parking two blocks from the start line.  So nice.

Third kudos, upon exiting my parking garage, I crossed the street to a row of porta-potties with NO WAITING.  Unheard of.  I was in awe.

It was a cold morning.  Frost on the car, even.  But the lobby of the office building next to the start line was open to keep warm.  I just could not believe how relaxed the whole thing was.  I barely got pre-race jitters.  It felt like I was just out for a little training run with 5000 of my friends.

The start was a little bit of mess.  I think the pacers lined up too close to one another so there was overfill off the street.  I ended up having to start way behind my pace group, but it all worked out.

What didn't Garmin.  Ugh.  I had turned it on when I was inside, which apparently disables the satellite, so about a mile in I realized I had no pace or distance.  A bit of a problem for someone trying to PR this thing.  I ended up resetting it around mile three which threw off my mileage and time, but at least I knew my pace.

And my pace.....was FAST (you know, for me).  I set a personal record (PR) for a 10k the first 6.1 miles of this half marathon.  Umm....I don't pretend to know a lot about racing but I'm guessing that is a bad strategy for a half marathon.  And, it was.  The second half was a bit of a train wreck (almost literally, but I'll get to that in a minute).

My hip started hurting around mile five.  By mile eight I was about ready to cut off my right leg.  So frustrating.  I've had lower leg issues, but haven't have any of the hip pain that has plagued me in the past....until now.  Two weeks before the marathon.  Figures.

Other than the pain, the race was pretty uneventful -- downright boring, even.  I just kept mentally telling myself "PR, PR, PR."  And I was pleasantly surprised to find I had the speed to get away from annoying race conversations, and heavy breathers.

I started slowing noticeably after mile 7.  My legs felt tight, like they never warmed up from the cold.  And I couldn't hold form for anything.  (Little too much slouchy car-time maybe?)  By the last mile, I really just wanted to be done and warm.  I had blisters on both big toes, my hip was in full-on stabbing-pain mode, and I was bummed that I wasn't going to smash my PR.

The way the last mile of this race is laid out, you don't see the finish until you turn left with about four blocks to go.  As I turned the corner, the marathon winner was coming through.  Really fun to see (if not a bit depressing, considering the dude had just run twice as far as me in the same amount of time) and the first time I can ever say I ran along side the winner of a race (albeit for about half a second).  But then I looked up ahead and saw something I had never seen before in a race......a train.  A train that was about to cross the street and block runners from the finish line a mere two blocks away.  Runners that included the marathon winner.

I don't make this stuff up.  Read about it here.

So there we all stood.  Watching the train.  Watching the marathon winner watch the train.  And eventually watching the second place marathon runner catch up, and also stand there and watch the train.

I mean, can you even imagine?

I ended up missing my PR by 29 seconds.  About the time I stood there watching that train.  Am I bummed?  Not really.  The fact that I was that close to my PR is good enough for me.  Especially considering the hip problem.  I'm more bummed about that than the stupid train.  Fitness-wise I felt great.  But I think my body was letting me know just how it felt about being trapped in a car for 3000 miles.

Oh well.  Another medal to hang on the wall.  Which seems funny, considering just 10 days ago I ran 20 miles with no fanfare at all.  But then those medals we get are about more than just the race.  They are symbolic of all the effort that it took to just get to the start line.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dress Rehearsal

Tomorrow is the last big mileage race before the marathon, and even though I've been traipsing around the mountains of Colorado for the past week, I feel ready.  Unexpectedly ready.  And I'm not sure if that's a good thing.

Part of me thinks I should be feeling tired and maxed-out heading into the taper, not feeling rested for my last long run.  So I'm starting to panic a little.  Were all those epic drives too much rest for the legs?  Should I have made more of an effort to squeeze workouts into already jam-packed days, sleep deprivation aside?

But the truth is, its a little late for "what ifs."  Now's more of a time for "let's use these red blood cells you've been making at 8000' to hammer this half!"

So that's the plan.  Smash-fest.  I'm hoping to beat my PR.  And I'm saying it out loud.  I mean business.  I'm planning to start with the pace group that's 10 minutes faster than my previous half marathon PR and see if I can hang on.  This could be a set-up for epic racing or epic failure.  Guess I'll find out tomorrow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Absolutely nothing to do with triathlon....

This week has been full of the most amazing scenery.  Even though the fall colors are fading, the views are no less spectacular.  Every day since I left Madison I think about how lucky I am to get to follow crazy dreams, and see these unbelievable vistas.  The pictures fall indescribably short of portraying the real beauty of the scenery, but I thought I would share a little of my trip anyway.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Life is beautiful!

This was the first thing I saw Tuesday morning.  A light dusting of snow, the sun peaking over the peaks.  Life doesn't get much better.

But then later in the morning there was this.....

I haven't wiped the smile off my face since.  Life is good.  Life is very, very good.

Its just unfortunate that life is not as good for my running shoes, which have been nestled away at the bottom of my suitcase for the entire trip.  Epic runs have been replace by epic drives.  But I swear just climbing a flight of stairs at 8500' maxes out my heart rate.  I'm thinking that should count for speedwork or something, right?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How not to train for a marathon

1)  Switch your long run to 4 days after a race (because dragging your cement legs along for your longest marathon training run will be so fun).
2)  Run 20 miles in a constant cold drizzle.
3)  Immediately following long, cold run, get in your car and drive half-way across the country.
4)  Repeatedly get less than 6 hours of sleep.  (further perpetuate this problem by choosing to drink beer and lounge in a hot tub with new friends rather than go to bed early.)
5)  Spend 10 days at altitude, chronically dehydrated.

But this is life....and sometimes you've just gotta get out there and live it.  Opportunities may not come your way again, but napping will always be an option.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Never Say Never: Army 10-miler Race Report

The Race
I ran this race two years ago, with very little training, in freakishly hot and humid weather (same day as the infamous Chicago marathon that got cancelled mid-way through due to heat), and they ran out of water at mile 6.  It was an absolutely miserable experience, and I am pretty sure that I said at the time that I would never do it again.

But peer-pressure is an apparently unstoppable force.  And so, another girls' weekend was planned, and another Army 10-miler was registered for.

No great scenery pics from the race this year -- unlike two years ago when there were dozens (hey, I knew I'd be walking so I figured I'd make the most of my time out there).  This year I decided I had better actually run.  I had actually trained, after all.  And apparently that training thing works -- doesn't work miracles -- but it works.  I managed to knock 30 minutes off my time.  Yes, you read that right -- THIRTY MINUTES.  Though I think that speaks to how horribly undertrained I was and how miserable the conditions were two years ago more than it reflects any sort of actual increase of speed.  Because sitting around at brunch after the race listening to my friends recap races with time averages that started with sevens and eights was a humbling reminder of my genetic aversion to speed, seeing how my average still started with a double digit, even after a 30 minute overall time improvement.

But, I have to remember that the only person you really need to compare yourself to is YOU.  Everyone is ultimately running their own race.  And I had a great race, by my standards.  I felt great the entire race, even though I was completely under-fueled thanks to forgetting to pack Gu.  The miles flew by thanks to the scenery, the amazing weather, and the anticipation of seeing my cheer squad out on the course.  And I now know that I can maintain what is my conservative marathon goal pace for at least 10-miles.  I'm even hopeful that with a few more long runs (20 miler comin' up on Thursday!) and a nice taper I can bump that pace up by 20-30 seconds per mile and be right where I want to be.

So even though I still ran what some would consider to be a painfully slow 10-mile race, I am considering it a success.  When your sister sees you at mile 7.5 and tells you after the race "you looked great....definitely not like you'd already run 7 miles," you must have had a good race.

The Spectators
And speaking of my awesome sherpa/ sister and her husband got a little warm-up for spectating the marathon.  It was a good first effort, but wasn't without a few hiccups.

We plotted out a spectating plan for them the night that even included a Starbucks stop (how cushy is that?!).  They figured they'd skip watching the start, which is hard to see anyway because of the set up, and Metro to the Smithsonian stop, where they'd get to see me twice (miles 5ish and 7ish), then Metro back to the Pentagon to catch the finish.

Well, even the best laid plans......needless to say they only saw me once on the course, even with me texting my progress to them and then actually calling them from the course (yes, I was that girl....running down the road, talking on the phone). 

The first miss was due to a number of factors, 1) thinking my outfit was more pink than black, when it was in fact much more black than pink, 2) standing next to "bad spectator dude" who was way out in the road watching for his runner and blocking their view of me and my view of them.  Both easy-to-make rookie spectating mistakes.  But to me, it didn't matter so much that I saw them, the idea that they were out there really helped keep me going and gave me a welcome distraction out on the course.

They were able to see me at mile 7.5, but then didn't quite have enough time to Metro back and make it to the finish before I got there.  No doubt, because I was so speedy in those last few miles!  ;)  Actually, I felt pretty great at the end.  People around me were starting to fade, and I was enjoying picking the weak ones out of the herd and passing them. 

All in all, I think my sherpa/fans got an appreciation for the challenges of spectating and will be well-prepared for their marathon spectating in a month.

The Rest of the Weekend
I enjoyed the entire weekend in DC.  My only complaint was that it was too short.

Friday started with sushi at Murasaki.  Fabulous.  But sushi with the sis and her hubby is always fabulous.  Then we were joined by another friend for some wine and catching up, then the friend and I went to meet up with her hubby and friends for more drinks and an impromptu dance party....good times all around.  Perhaps too good, as Saturday morning had a bit of a rough start. 

Saturday ramped up to be another fabulous day though with lunch at Lia's, a little shopping, a trip to the bookstore, and the most fantastic homemade dinner ever (including fresh, made-from-scratch tortillas!).

And Sunday started with a great race, a yummy brunch at Liberty Tavern with all my favorite speedster friends, and then concluded with dinner at Haandi (my DC fave!).  Really, does it get much better?  Good running, great food, excellent company, and a chance to catch up with friends.....thanks for a perfect weekend DC!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Scenes from the Army 10-miler

The race report is coming....really, it is....but in the meantime here's a little Good Morning America piece that will give you a look at a few of the people out there running with ahead of me Sunday.

Soldiers' Amazing Race

(Sorry, the ABC site won't let me embed the video.)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bikes Belong: The Boulder Bike Story

Boulder Bike Story from Bikes Belong on Vimeo.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ---Margaret Mead

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Training through flu season

I have been in an absolute panic about flu season.  It seems like every year at this time the kiddos go back to school and stir up the germ pot.  Shortly thereafter the domino effect starts...and one by one everyone you know comes down with some sort of ailment.  And this year we get to add the H1N1 paranoia to the mix, just for fun.

Getting the flu or a cold sucks anytime, but I'm even more stressed about it this year because nowhere on my training schedule does it say "be out of commission for 5-7 days."  And these next four weeks are huge for me: big training volume, and big life stuff going on, all at once.

So I have been trying to take every precaution I can to avoid getting sick. 

First line of defense -- SLEEP
I have given myself permission to blow-off a whole slew of things in place of sleep.  First and foremost being laundry.  Until Monday night, however, when I was forced to skip a swim workout to get control of the piles again.  Whether or not this is the right thing to do, laundry was an absolute necessity -- that night was the only night this week I had time to get it done, I am leaving town on Friday -- and I still wanted to be in bed at a decent hour.

Secondary troops -- VITAMINS
I don't know if it really helps all that much, but I figure it can't hurt.  I've started taking a daily multi-vitamin, along with additional calcium (a must for a stress-fx prone runner), and fish oil (supposed to be a natural anti-inflammatory).  As a side-note, I just realized I've gotten this far into training without hitting the Ibuprofen.  I'm suprised and somewhat impressed by this.

Its no secret that the eating is the part of this whole workout puzzle that I struggle with the most.  But I am trying to focus on staying hydrated and eating fruits and veggies every day.  Admittedly, I do much better with the hydrating and fruit consumption than the veggies.  But I try.

Things I cannot control
Unfortunately, as much as I try to put up the best defense I can against the germs, there are still things that I have not control over:

1)  People who come to work when they know they are sick (my biggest frustration).  -- Stay home.  You are not that important.  --  But all I can do about this one is avoid contact and wash my hands a lot.  I have become a bit of a recluse, but that's just the way its going to have to be until November 1st.

2)  Travel.  The next month is jam packed with travel and there's not much I can do about that.  All I can do is try to stick with the things I've been doing -- get enough rest, take vitamins, hydrate, eat healthy -- and hope for the best.  Most important of those I think are rest and hydration.  And a little wishful thinking about seat placement on the plane....there's nothing worse than squeezing in next to that business traveler who's red-eyed and kleenex toting and looking like they can't wait to get home and crawl in bed immediately following this flight.

I know these little defense mechanisms are not rocket science, and realistically they are stuff we should be doing all the time.  But lets get real.  No one has enough hours in their day and we all let one or more of these things slide on a pretty regular basis....but for the next four weeks I'm going to do my best to be on top of it, and put myself and my health as a top priority.  I didn't come this far into marathon training to have to run 26.2 with the flu.  Or worse, have to defer to next year and do all this training again!  Remember, I don't really like running.  ;)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hey, its totally random Tuesday

First, let me just say that Bascom Hill humbled me.  Wow.  I could actually feel the last drop of oxygen being removed from my blood stream and the cold, evil infill of lactic acid start pulsing through my veins, and then I would look up to realize I was only half way to the top.  Brutal.  But it was a great workout.  Dodging students was kind-of fun.  And, as Dano pointed out, we did pass at least three people walking their bikes up the hill.  Oh sweet victory!  But in all seriousness, had that hill stood between me and class when I was in college (it is smack in the middle of campus)....I would have missed A LOT of class.  That thing takes some determination.

Once we finished our 6x1:45 repeats, it was off for a nice cool-down along the lakeshore path and through the Union Terrace to finish things off.  The cold breeze was whipping up whitecaps on the lake and most of the classic sunburst chairs were empty.  Much different than the humid summer nights filled with lingering beer drinkers, but still a beautiful scene.  Fall is definitely on the way.

On the way home me and my obnoxious spandex stopped by the 11th floor of Meriter Hospital to enjoy the view.  Unfortunately, enjoying that particular view means you are probably visiting someone who's taken up temporary residence there.  Funny how that works, Grandma's currently got the best view in Madison, but I'm sure the only view she wants to see right now is the one from her kitchen window.  But she's in good spirits, comparing her heartrate to her "marathon running" grandaughter, and rockin' some compression socks of her own (wish insurance had paid for mine!).  Aren't grandmas great?  You should all go call your grandma's right now (if you're lucky enough to have one or two you can call).  You'd probably make her day....and maybe even yours.

And making my day yesterday was my all out attack on the laundry beast.  Definite progress was made.  And somewhere between getting ferocious piles of laundry under control, and my head hitting the pillow, I've managed to read the prologue of A Race Like No Other.  Whohoo.  I know.  Pathetic.  But my point here is that in those seven. whopping. pages. I read a dangerous little statistic; OPRAH'S MARATHON TIME.  Dangerous, why?  Because now I want to beat it.  And it is just close enough to what I think is possible for this marathon that I might actually try.  And while you may be thinking that a little competitiveness is a good thing, I'm not convinced.  Based on what happened somewhere around mile 9 of Saturday's 17-miler, when I got the crrrr-azy idea that I could try to beat my half marathon PR (in a high-volume-week training run -- brilliant), I do not think having any sort of time goal in mind for this marathon would be a good idea.  Because the train wreck that was miles 14 through 17 is not something I need to see again.  Especially not when there will be photo documentation.

And isn't that why we do this crazy stuff?  For the finish photo?  Or maybe its the sexy socks?  I'm not sure anymore, all my oxygen is being used for muscle repair at the moment and my eyes are getting very heavy.  Perhaps the "why" question is better left for another day......

Now go call your grandma.  :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Research isn't going so well

I have been trying to read this book, thinking that it will make me appreciate these 26.2 miles a little more, but marathon training makes me very sleepy.  I have yet to make it past the first chapter.  And unfortunately, my library doesn't have it on CD which means no easy commute "reading."  So I'm not sure this will actually get read before the big race.  Something tells me I'll be happier on race day if I actually run, instead of read about it.

Incidentally, I have some epic drive time to put in these next few weeks.  If anyone has good book suggestions I'd love to hear them.  I've got 25+ hours of windshield time in my near future.

US Gran Prix Cyclocross: Planet Bike Cup, Sun Prairie, WI

So this cyclocross stuff is totally new to me, but what a fun way to spend an afternoon.  It might have been even more fun if I knew more about this sport.  But what's not to like about watching a bunch of super-fit athletes ride fast?  Here's a little video to give you the highlights.  (I was a camera slacker and didn't get great pics.)

Best Kept Secret: USGP - SP from Jessica Gammey on Vimeo.

From what I can tell, cyclocross falls in a category someplace between mountain and road biking.  But overall its much easier to watch than either of them, thanks to a course thats only about a mile long (riders do laps for 40-60 minutes) and has ample food and beer available for purchase (we're talking golf cart with a keg in the addition to food and beverage stands).  Triathlon could learn a little from this sport!

The course - mostly grass or dirt - winds up, down and around rolling hills....and I'm told gets EVEN BETTER when its wet and rainy.  It was pretty dry Sunday so the course was fast.

Oh ya, and there are hurdles.  Hurdles, in biking?

It reminded me of something you might have thrown together in your backyard when you were a kid....a crazy little obstacle course set up to race all the neighbor kids.  I have to admit, it looked kinda fun.....

But when is riding bikes not fun, really?

Friday, September 25, 2009

I can do it!

I'm thinking about sporting some pigtails and a running skirt for my 17-miler tomorrow just like her. I can do it!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Little Victories

Just got back from a 75 minute run.  Run did not suck.  I might even go so far as to call it a good run.  So this is new, and different.  The Slowest Triathlete and running are getting along?  What sort of alternate universe is this?  But I did.  I had a good run.  I was just out there running along in the dark.  Zoning out.  Listening to my tunes.  Every now and then I'd glance down at the watch....oh, 10:20 pace....nice.  Then I'd think, hmmm, where should I run to next?  And I would just run there.  It really was that simple.  I didn't think, "ugh, how much farther?" or "can I walk?" I just. kept. running.  And at the end of it all, I was nearly home but needed to tack on a few more minutes so I thought "oh, I'll just run up this hill and around that block."  No, really.  I did.  At the END of a 75 minute run I said "oh, I'll just run UP THIS HILL."  And then....I ran up it.  Like it was no big deal.

What is going on around here?

So as not to lead you to think I'm getting a big head about all this lets talk about reality for a minute.  I am averaging a 10:30 pace.  No land-speed records are being broken around here.  And I still get noticeable lower leg pain after just a couple miles.  But when I think back to where my fitness was just five or six weeks ago, and then consider what I did tonight, I can't help but feel pretty proud of myself.

The fact that I can just go out and run over 6 miles on any old night of the week is a HUGE accomplishment in my world.  So please allow me a minute revel in my little victories.  Because I think little victories are of big importance when tackling something like the marathon.  Its a long, bumpy road to 26.2, and it can get you down at times if you let it.  So I'm going to enjoy this accomplishment for what it is just all on its own...not as part of a marathon training plan, but just for what it was....a really good 75 minute run.  On a Thursday.

What they don't put in the Ironman inspirational videos

Everyone knows bodily functions are not a taboo topic in the world of endurance sports.  I actually sometimes have to remind myself that my coworkers don't really care if I've gotten my "business" done before I get to work quite like my running buddies do before a morning workout (hey, it affects everyone if you've gotta get some "business" done in the middle of the run).

It amuses me the way that runners and triathletes talk about their potty status like its the weather.  But then (as you know), I love a good poop story.  These days though, I'm about at my quota of stories about bodily fluids.

Ironman race reports have been flying around this past week and I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that every report I read or heard talked about poop, puke, or blood.  Every. Single. One.

In fact, there's more than one report about people puking during the swim -  that's the first two hours of the race - and it goes downhill from there.  The bike seems to have had its share of blood, and a little puke (way to rally from the puke-fest to place 3rd Hilary!), and a whole lotta "I had a hard time eating," (which meant puking was on the horizon).  And apparently things just completely fall apart on the run.  I will spare you the details.

I'm completely repulsed, but its a little like the car wreck that you can't look away're totally grossed out and yet you find yourself saying things like "how bad did it get?" 

I now know why Ironman registration is the morning after the race.  You're still high off watching the glory of the finish line.  Mike Reilly's voice is whispering in your ear, "you could be an Ironman."  And all those Iron-peeps are still sleeping.  Which means they haven't had time to get their race reports out yet to taint your Ironman-finisher dreams with reality.  Otherwise, I think that registration line might be a lot shorter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thoughts on compression socks

1)  For $60 they should DO the laundry not just be laundry.

2)  Getting them on should count as part of the workout.  How do the little nursing home ladies do this?  Between the socks and the wetsuit, who needs to actually race?  We could all just show up and see who can get into their race gear the fastest.

3)  Am I really going to comparison shop for socks?

5)  Did I just fall prey to the biggest marketing scam EVER?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Devil's Challenge Race Recap

I knew this race was hilly (I've done it before -- in 30-degree weather), and I still found myself in disbelief of the topography on the bike.  Add to that the fact that all this 12-mile slog-fest running I've been doing lately has apparently left me without a lot of power on the bike, and improved but still not blazing speed on the run....and well, it was only an OK season ender today.

All in all though, a fun day with friends and a great workout.  And that's what counts.

Race recap:

Alarm went off at 4:10AM.  Painful.  Although I had to pee so bad I would've had to get out of bed anyway.  Guess I did a good job hydrating?  I had laid out all my nutrition and packed my bags the night before, so all I had to do was get up and work my way through the assembly line.  Drank some hot lemon water, hoping to help my stomach digest when it would really rather be sleeping.  Oatmeal in a coffee cup, sliced peaches in a bag, and I'm out the door.  (In hindsight, a little more nutrition about 40 min before swim would have been good.)  Bike was already on the rack waiting for me.

Foggy drive to pick up Justine.  Potty stop.  Already?  Holy hydration.  Over do it much?

Justine hops in and we manage to get our groggy morning brains to carry on a lively conversation on the hour drive to Devil's Lake.

We hit up the McDonald's just outside of Baraboo for yet another potty stop before heading to the park, not wanting to have to use porta-potties.  There is a line of triathletes in the bathroom at McDonalds, which cracks me up.

The sun is just starting to come up as we take the final turn toward the park, with shades of purple and pink streaming across the tops of the bluffs and the fog hovering below.  Beautiful morning!

The rest of the pre-race ritual went pretty much without incident.  Chips, numbers, body marking.....  Get set up in transition.  I score some rockstar end-of-rack bike parking.

 Justine is completely keeping her cool even though this is her first race.  Impressive.  I'm managing to keep calm too.  Shocking -- although, about time.  We find some other friends who are there racing and spectating, tell race stories (lots of Ironman tales), laugh, basically kill time.  So much so that we completely miss the pre-race meeting and head straight for the beach.

Justine is off in wave three.  I get to wait around until wave eleven -- some 40 minutes later.  But I do find a friend in my wave, and even manage to get in a few swim strokes while I'm waiting.  I'm staying calm, have a great little practice swim and have high hopes for the race swim.

The lake levels are down this year so the swim is shallow.  There's a good bit of chatter about the best strategy....swim early, dolphin dive, or just run (like most do).  I decide I'm going to run until the water is waist high (about half way to the first buoy) and then dolphin dive, if I'm able to in the crowd (that's the hard part, sometimes you're just forced to do what the people around you are doing).  Seems equally as fast as running, and far less exertion.

I manage to stick to that plan and I'm feeling really good for the first quarter of the swim.  But after we round the first bouy I can see I've made a tactical error with my line-up.  Too conservative.  Should've just lined up in front and went for it.  The girls who are now in front of me are side strokin' and doing all kinds of crazy stuff....which is fine, but they are forming a big wall of slowness.  I see some open water ahead so I try to sprint through them.  Well, I think another girl had the same plan (at least from what I can tell) and we both try to hit the same small gap in the wall-of-slow.  I think she boxed me out from the left, so I end up swimming up on the girl next to me (sorry!).  Everything is chaos.  Arms, legs, water splashing everywhere.  Honestly, one of the roughest swims I've had, which I was not expecting.  Somewhere in all that mess my breathing goes whack and when I finally get some space I'm spazing and need to calm down.  Not easy because I'm pissed.  I was really feeling the swim today and now all the swim magic is just *poof* gone.

Thinking back, I wish I had not worn my wetsuit.  I know, sounds crazy right?  But the thing is so constricting.  I feel so much more relaxed in the water when I don't have it on.  I think I could've gotten my mojo back a lot quicker had I not had it on for this race.  I had debated -- it was only a 500 swim.  (Although after finding a little open water I swam way wide and probably added a few meters onto that.)  I did find my groove again....but at that point we were rounding the last bouy and heading into transition.  I needed the swim to be LONGER.  (did I just say that?)

I walk gingerly out of the water....lots of rocks....hit the steps and think, huh, I actually still feel pretty good.  So I jog it into transition -- something that's usually hard for me because my breathing wackiness really sucks up all my energy.  But not today.  I'm trotting into transition and happy to be headed out on the bike.  Loved that my bike was on the end so I didn't get caught up in all the nonsense going on mid-rack.  Because, miraculously, the place was a madhouse  --  people everywhere.  Not the ghost town I'm used to.

There's not a lot of zone-out time on this bike course.  You are either ascending or decending pretty much the entire 15 miles.  Starting with a big climb before you even hit the first mile marker.  Nothing like going anaerobic right outta the gate -- but you might as well get used to it.  You'll be getting friendly with your lactic acid threshold for pretty much all 15 miles.

Admittedly, I slacked on the bike.  I should've been faster.  But I knew it was hilly and I didn't want to totally blow up.  I also knew I had 45 minutes of running to do after the race, so I was thinking about that and was probably a little too conservative.

Did Hammer fuel in my water on the bike and managed to almost finish the bottle.  Again, probably thinking more about being able to add on the 45 minute run after than get through the 5k, but that seemed to work great for some sustained energy.  Probably got in about 200 calories.

The whole time on the bike I'm thinking, "at least the run is pretty flat."  Um, notsomuch.  I've done this course before.  How could my memory be so off?  The run was hilly too!  "Rollers" I believe they would be called.  But at times they felt a little like mountains.   No conserving here.  I only have one run pace, so I just found it and locked in.  Right at marathon pace.  In a sprint tri.  That's how I roll.  (I blame genetics.)

The Finish:
Because I was in the second to last wave all my peeps were done and there to cheer as I crossed the finish line.  Always a fun thing....though I tried to play it cool.  ;)  All in all I knocked about ten minutes off my previous time for the race.  But the race wasn't really fun for me.  The day was fun.  The race felt awful.  I think the sprints might be just a bit too short for me.  Just when I'm locking in to a rythmn and pace, the dicipline is over and its time to move on to the next one.  Which makes the whole race feel pretty uncomfortable.  But, maybe that's the point?  That's what actually "racing" feels like.  I wouldn't know.  I don't generally go into an event with a race mindset.  I'm usually thinking survive....finish.

So while my times maybe aren't improving as much as I feel like they should be, I am noticing a shift in my attitude toward race events.  I started noticing it at Door County, but got distracted by the horrible swim conditions.  This weekend I definitely noticed it -- a lack of nerves.  Which was really confusing to me -- going into a race knowing that your fitness and experience were enough to complete it, possibly even do well.  So what then.....?  That was the confusing part.  If I was prepared, did this mean I had to be competitive?

Scary!  If you're going to start setting expectations out there other than crossing the finish line, then that means there is the potential for disappointment.

I don't really like thinking about races in a competitive way.  It seems to kinda suck the fun out of it for me.  But I guess this is the natural progression.  Once you master a goal, however humble that goal might be, its time to move on to a new goal.  I think that's called progress.  And I'm cool with progress.  Progress seems to indicate more of a personal improvement goal, than a "be faster than your neighbor" kind of goal.  Which, for whatever reason, is a lot easier for me to embrace.

So in general I'd say there was a lot of "progress" made at Devil's Lake this year.  A great way to end the season.  Looking forward to next season already.

**this race also taught me not to recruit new people to the sport who are in your age-group as they have the potential to push you down a little farther in the standings.....looking at you Justine.....she managed to beat me in her first triathlon ever, although it was a small enough margin that I would argue that had we been in the same wave, I would have chased her down.**

**also, those stretchy shoe-lace things (yanks, and various other brands) = best invention EVER.  Why was I not using these three years ago?

**also, ran 45 minutes on the trail around the lake after the race.  A nice change of scenery.  Over 2 hours 30 minutes of workout time for the day.  Not bad.