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.  ;)