Monday, May 29, 2006

Celebrity Ride

Having lived in the Los Angeles area for ten years, I have had my fair share of celebrity encounters. I mentored one famous actress as a pace leader for a running group and I see celebrities on many visits to the beach. Heck, my kids were even on a soap opera for a few months! After all this time, it is hard to be impressed by celebrities. Yet, even a jaded person such as myself, could not help but be excited about the invitation I received last week from Robo-Stu inviting me to go riding with him and The Kahuna.

A little background: since I live very close to Robo-Stu (1.02 miles to be exact), the Kahuna had actually mentioned us all riding together a few months ago. I pretty much declined that offer because, well, I was so slow I didn't want to embarrass myself on the bike. I knew it wouldn't be fair to ride with them and make them go a snail's pace. However, post Wildflower I have been feeling more confident and thought it would be fun to ride with them. So, last week I posted a message to the Kahuna saying we should all ride together and that very next day I received the invite from Robo-Stu. Word of advice: don't suggest a workout involving Robo-Stu unless you are very serious about it. He will take you up on it!

Robo-Stu suggested a ride that I have done many, many times so I felt ready. If nothing else, I figured if I was dropped, I at least knew how to get home. When I arrived at Robo-Stu's house, he was politely waiting out front enjoying the Southern California sunshine. He mentioned that the Kahuna would be there shortly. Except he didn't say "Kahuna," he actually used his real name. Who knew his parents didn't name him "Kahuna?"

After the Kahuna arrived we checked out his wounds from last week's xterra debacle. Honestly, his pics don't do it justice. It looked pretty bad! Then we set out on our ride which was really fun. Our route took us around Palos Verdes which means we had some killer hills, but also beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. For the first thirty minutes of the ride my legs were sore and I was breathing harder than I should have. -I am guessing that is due to last week's marathon. However, after a bit I got into a groove and really enjoyed it. Since I have been working on cadence, I tried to continue to make that a focus on the ride. On the steep switch-backs I was able to keep my rpm above 80. That's a first for me so I was really proud.

Kahuna said that he was having a tough time, but I honestly thought he did really well. I would have opted for an easier ride if my body was so bruised. As expected, Robo-Stu was very good. As the strongest rider for the day, I am pretty sure I held him back some, but he was really nice about it. Both these guys are going to do great in Florida!

Play-doh artwork compliments of my husband. He said it was me... Hmm... Notice how nicely my saddle bag coordinates with my body color.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Flatman is Back!

I just read this morning that Flatman's blog is back up and running. He has a new domain name, so be sure to check it out. If you already read his blog, then you know just how entertaining and helpful he is. If you have not read it before, please check it out. He was one of the first people to read my blog and is always very supportive and kind. It is a bummer someone literally stole his old blog from him, so let's all rally to the new one!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Palos Verdes Marathon: Race Report

I did it! I finished the Palos Verdes Marathon on Saturday and I am so glad I did. From the very start the experience was a good one. I registered for the race on Friday by going to a local running store for packet pick-up/late registration. Unlike large marathons that give away huge goodie bags, at this one I received: my number, four safety pins, a discount coupon for a sporting goods store and a course map. I found that charming and tried not to worry about whether or not I would need this map to get around the course. Of course there was no need to worry because the course was not only easy to follow, but it was well marked and well supported.

***Quick Fact: The Palos Verdes marathon is the second longest continuously running U.S. marathon behind Boston.***

On race morning, I drove myself to the start. My family was still sleeping, although they had promised to come see me along the course. Parking was easy, which was good because I did not leave myself much time. Before the start of the race I ran into a number of people I knew. Although they were all doing the half, it gave me comfort just to see them. I love that I live in a well populated area, and yet by staying active it can actually feel like a small community.

Anyway, for this race there were no timing chips, but that wasn't a concern. Knowing I would be slow, I seeded myself towards the back of the crowd. However, I think I passed the starting line 2 whole seconds after the gun went off. As you can see from the elevation chart, the first mile is a slight downhill, and then there is a pretty gruelling uphill. My plan was to walk if the hills were too steep, but otherwise to just run the whole thing, until mile 20 when I would probably walk a lot. Unlike other races, I did not take scheduled walk breaks. I had intended to keep my heart rate very low, but with the hills that just wasn't working out so well. However, I did lots of "perceived effort checks," and throughout most of the race I felt very good.

I passed my friend Caroline about five minutes into the marathon. She and a friend of hers were taking walk-breaks every five minutes. Although there were a few miles where we lost each other, for most of the day we played leap frog. They ran faster but I would catch them on their walk breaks. I debated walking with them, but I was more comfortable with my slow running pace.

Around mile 6 I passed a man and we exchanged plesantries about the beautiful day. He then commented that he was checking out the pipes that were running along the road. I made some joke about how they really added to the beautiful scenery, since the rest of the view was of the stunning coastline. He shot back that he was an engineer and designed pipes like these and that "marathons really do have something for everyone." I thought that was pretty funny.

I first saw my family around mile 11 and that was really fun. This course did not have a lot of fans along the way, so it was easy to spot my tall (and handsome) husband and two great sons. I think I will have to keep doing races just because I cannot get enough of hearing them cheer "Go Mommy Go! You're looking great! Good job!" Big Bub refilled my water bottle with gatorade and even ran for about 100 yards with me. Little Bub was nice enough to give me a kiss, but requested no hugs because I was so sweaty. I was able to see them again around mile 13 and then again at 16. They were not able to see me later on the course because their preschool was having a special Saturday class for "Special Misters."

Somewhere around mile 18 I started having a gut-check time. I realized that if I kept my pace steady I could probably break five hours. Although my goal had been to finish between 5:15 and 5:30, I have to admit that I was encouraged by this realization. Part of this was because thus far the marathon had been pretty easy for me. Although the hills were doing a number on my legs, aerobically I felt fine. I was able to chat easily with people around me, and I even made a few phone calls to my family. Although I don't know that running that many miles on this terrain will ever be truly "easy," this was pretty close.

During the big hill past mile 20, I really had to work to keep going. For the first time during the race, I began to question my race day tactics. I worried that I was hurting myself for the RNR Marathon and I hoped that I would be able to recover in time. I specifically thought about Fe-Lady and her warning about too many marathons. Having just talked to my mom around mile 19 (gotta love cell phones), I also kept replaying her last words to me "Don't hurt yourself." Still I trudged on, knowing that I just didn't want to quit running. Something had taken a hold of me. I think that my recent triathlon experience had taught me that I can do a lot and that I just needed to hold steady because things would eventually look up again.

Thankfully, the course turned downhill from mile 23 and I was able to keep going. At mile 25, I calculated that I could actually be under 4:50 if I just pushed it. I have no idea where I got the strength, but I did and I was able to finish in 4:48:17.

As expected, my legs have been pretty sore. I am fairly certain this was due to the hills and not the miles themselves. Although considering my longest run had been 16 miles, maybe it was a combination. I have to say, the swimming and biking must have help me immensely. I know that pre-triathlon, I could have never run this course in that time, especially given my effort level.

For the really anal sorts out there (and if you have read this far, that's probably you!), here are my splits:
1. 10:36
2. 11:02
3. 11:48
4. 11:01
5. 9:37
6. 10:59
7: 33:26 (obviously I missed the signs for the next few miles)
8. see above
9. see above
10. 11:05
11. 10:18
12. 11:01
13. 10:52
14. 11.27
15. 10:53
16. 11:51
17. 10:51
18. 15:32 (um, bad course marking?)
19. 8:41 (see bad course marking above)
20. 11:14
21. 10:55
22. 11:58
24. 11:11
25. 10:20
26. 8:21 (okay, maybe I pushed a little hard here. Who knew I could run so fast?)

Final: 4:48:17
Place Overall: 219/316 (only 316 runners!)
Gender Place: 43/69 (not a lot of females, but the ones there sure were fast)
Division: 7/9

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Moments of Insanity

This afternoon I was riding in Palos Verdes. Knowing cadence is my weak cycling link, I have pledged to work hard on it for the next few months. So, I am happily biking along, proud of myself for keeping the cadence above 50 (just kidding...sort of), when I see the sign. You know those "signs" you see that can change your life, or even just your day? Well this was one of those signs. It was a sign warning residents to expect long delays on Saturday due to an event. I had been planning to do my 20 mile run in Palos Verdes so this sign concerned me because the "event" would make it hard for my husband and sons to be my support crew. Then a realized the advertised event was the Palos Verdes Marathon! It's an omen, don't you think? I am seriously considering doing it. I had already been planning to run super slowly, and now maybe I will still run slowly and just walk the last few miles. This way I have support crews, a small crowd (probably about 20 residents complaining about not having access to their mansions), a medal and a t-shirt! I seriously have no qualms about walking the last 6 miles, or even more if needed, since this isn't exactly an event that I have been training for. My only concern is to not get injured since I promised my sister I would run her first marathon with her and that is in two weeks. -Yes, I know two weeks is way too close for multiple marathons, but I mentioned I would walk a lot this Saturday, right?

** As an added bonus, this would be marathon #9 for me, and the San Diego marathon would be #10. San Diego would be my Dad's ninth, so um, I would have one more than him. Not that anyone is keeping track...

Getting out of Slacker Mode

Last Friday my husband rode to work for the first time. He had talked about doing it forever, and bought a bike specifically for that purpose a number of months ago. After doing some weekend rides and making bike adjustments, he was finally ready to go last week. His route is 17.5 miles, which means his daily total will end up being 35 miles. I think that's a respectable total for a work commute. When he set off last week it felt strange to me that he was leaving the house early with his bike while I was tucked in bed. I didn't feel guilty because I was still recovering from Wildflower. At that point, I still couldn't get enough sleep and my workouts were pretty minimal.

When he left for work with his bike Monday, I wasn't too concerned because I had a spinning class and weight lifting time scheduled for the day. -That workout got cut short when Little Bub fell at childwatch and got a banged up lip, thus earning him some quality time with mommy and an ice pack. On Wednesday, when my husband left for work with his bike, I started to panic a bit. I am supposed to be the early morning warrior! What was making him so dedicated all of a sudden? By the time he crept out the front door this morning, bike shoes on, work clothes in his backpack, and bike hoisted on his shoulder, I had enough. Recovery time is over and I need to get back to the training world. I feel rested and ready.

I have decided to use the next few months to concentrate on some of my weaker areas. I will be re-introducing my weight lifting routine that was cut when my half-ironman schedule got a little too hectic. I will also be working on my cadence since it is terrible slooooooooow. Thanks to the recommendation by Fe-Lady, I think I am going to use the Tri-Fuel training plan as my base plan. It is a 36 week plan which means that I will be starting it in August. Has anyone else used this plan?

Tonight I am going to a "Looking to Ironman" meeting through the LA Tri Club. It should have some good info for Ironman Newbies.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Looking Ahead

Thank you everyone who stopped by my blog last week to read about Wildflower and to offer congratulations. I am still very happy, and proud of my accomplishments, but it already feels like a dream. Could it really have been just over a week ago? It feels like so much longer!

Last week I really took recovering seriously. I indulged in enough chocolate to ensure I was constantly on a sugar high, and I did very little exercising. I made it to the pool a couple of times and did one run. I ran with my sister in law Saturday and it was so hard! We only ran about 7.5 miles at a 10 minute pace, but my HR was very, very high. I guess that is a sign I have not fully recovered! This week I plan to add a few more activities including some spinning classes. I also have to do a long run this weekend since I promised my sister I would run the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon with her in a few weeks. It will be her first marathon and I think we are aiming for a 12 minute pace which I should be able to maintain. I am really looking forward to running that with her!

I also recently signed up for another half-ironman. I am planning to do the Soma Half-Ironman in Tempe on October 29th. My Dad has also signed up for this event! It will be his first half-ironman, and possible even his first triathlon if I cannot convince him to sign up for something else before then. He will be training with TNT in Tucson. I am sort of confused about what to do with my training at this point. When I trained for Wildflower, I followed an online training guide. Should I follow that again for this race? Do I start over at the base or do I just go from where I am and do more speed work? Advice is appreciated!

And finally, my biggest news of all is that I registered for Ironman Arizona!!! Of course I am nuts for doing this, but then again, aren't we all? I have been looking into coaches for this event since that seems to be the way a lot of people go. However, I just don't think I can afford one. Does anyone have any inexpensive (or even free) IM training programs they would recommend?

I will be updating the margins of my blog soon, so check for updates. Clearly my workout schedule isn't correct right now!

p.s. why isn't my clock working???

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wildflower Triathlon

I know I have been a horrible blogger, but the last month has just been crazy. Normally the kids and school are enough for me, but the added bonus of training for my first half-ironman made it too much for me to handle blogging as well. So, this post will probably be fairly long, since I want to include a bit of training detail.

About five weeks before Wildflower, my husband and I decided to preview the bike course. Since babysitters can be hard to come by, we decided to do a one day trip. We woke up at 3:30 in the morning and drove the four hours up to the race site. The whole way I was honestly questioning our decision to see the course. It had been a rough week and I was very tired and I just wasn't sure I needed the practice more than the sleep. However, once we pulled into the campgrounds all my feelings of doubt went away. There were signs everywhere for the upcoming event as well as huge posters of athletes. When we pulled into the parking lot I got even more excited because we were surrounded by other athletes there checking out the course. Considering the race was five weeks away, the vibe was amazing. After checking out course maps, Greg and I unloaded our bikes and set out on our adventure. Since he was on a mountain bike, and we just wanted to practice, we agreed to keep the pace slow and stop periodically to enjoy our surroundings. We were blessed to see at least fifty deer that morning which made everything all the more special. Beach Hill was very daunting, and honestly after that my confidence was pretty low. I was doubting how I would make it through the whole course that day much less during the race. I would say it took me about forty five minutes to really get into my groove. We stopped around mile 12 so we could get something to eat and enjoy the scenery.

Greg reminded me of a little kid talking about how much fun he was having and how glad he was we decided to come out and do this. After a brief break we started up again with me in the lead. I had just peddled away when I heard a loud cracking sounded that was quickly followed by a loud cussing sound. I looked back to see Greg still straddling his bike immobile. His chain had completely broken! After about twenty minutes of training in vain to fix it we realized out adventure was over and I headed back to get the car. The neat part was that after I left a woman working for the race drove by and picked him up! Apparently the race had sag support out for people practicing. That really impressed us.

Although the broken chain effectively ended the day for my husband and I, we still enjoyed our time together. The next weekend I ended up going up with friends for my second attempt to preview the course. I rode the bike course one day and the next did the swim and run. By the end of this second weekend I was scared but prepared. The bike course almost seemed manageable but the run scared me a lot.

Race Weekend:
For the race, my mom flew out from Tucson to stay with our sons. Greg and I drove up early Friday morning and established camp near the LA Tri Club. There we met a very nice man named Marsh who we ended up hanging out with a lot of the weekend. Although I was very nervous the day before the race, I was also very excited. I had done all I could in training and now was the fun part. I realized the race had three components: nutrition, emotional and physical. For the physical part, my training was in the bank and now I just needed to concentrate on pace and stay relaxed. For months I had pushed myself to train because I was incredibly worried about making the cut-off times. Now, I was fairly confident I would make the times but also wanted to have a good overall race. For the emotional side, I pledged to enjoy the moment. I considered myself lucky to be taking part in this legendary race and I decided to remind myself of that frequently on race day. I also made the decision to live in the moment as much as possible. I promised myself that I would only think about the event I was on. For example, I wasn't allowed to worry about the grueling bike leg while I was gutting through the swim. For the nutrition side, I used Power Bar's Race Day Calculator to give me an idea of what I needed. Based on this, I decided to have one gel with a swig of gatorade thirty minutes before the start of the swim. Then on the bike, I would had a gel (or three gel blocks) roughly every thirty minutes starting from when we exited the park. I had my aero-bottle mounted so I could drink comfortably from the aero position. On the run I had one gel at miles 2, 6 and 9 and gatorade or water at each aid station. I spent a lot of time thinking about and reviewing my race day strategy and by the start of the race, I felt good-to-go.

The Swim:

From the start of the swim I was having a blast! Yes, I got a few kicks, my legs were grabbed and more than a few zippy swimmers swam over me. However, I was surprised at how relaxed and comfortable I felt. My swim strokes felt pretty easy and at no point did I feel anxious to have the swim be over. I did make a rookie mistake on the swim though, and that was not getting a better defogger for my goggles. I used a new kind on race day that did not work well at all. By the turn-around I couldn't see out of them so I largely relied on the people around me. I also used a large balloon to site off of. Unfortunately, this balloon ended up leading me pretty far off course. When I realized no one was around me, I finally had to stop, completely lift off my goggles and resite. Oh well, lesson learned! The whole time I was swimming I kept wondering what my pace was. However, I refused to look at my watch because I didn't want to make myself nervous if I was going too slowly. Before the race, my husband had asked me how fast I thought I could complete the swim. I told him I expected to finish around fifty minutes. However, if I was having an awesome day then I could do it in forty five. I was absolutely shocked when I got out of the water and saw that my time was forty one minutes!

The Bike

I took my time transitioning to the bike and then set off. As I left I saw many of my training buddies who were doing the Olympic course the next day. It was fun seeing them along the course. Greg also waited for me so he could get some pictures of me as I headed out.

As expected, Beach Hill was tough. However, since this was now the third time in five weeks that I had done it, I wasn't scared by it. I knew what I had to do to get through it and I stayed relaxed. Around mile five, the course goes by campsites and I saw Greg there again. It surprised me to see him because he must have had to run pretty hard to get to that spot on the course before me. -It was a straight shot for him from the swim location but he had to run up a very steep hill. It made me feel good that he was so into supporting me along the way and I knew he would be nearby when I made it back to the transition area in fifty one miles.

When I left the park I started putting my nutrition plan into play and bent down to drink gatorade. Unfortunately all I got was air. After adjusting the straw and still getting just air I realized I had forgotten to fill my aero bottle. This was such a rookie mistake that I found it funny at the time. I had one regular bottle on my bike so I dumped the contents into my aero bottle (and onto my hand) and continued on.

The Wildflower Bike course is legendary for good reason. It is a very difficult course that really doesn't have rest opportunities. I tried to stay at a good pace and worked the flats and remained comfortable on the hills. As expected, "Nasty Grade" was the worst and I was really gutting through it. However, just before Nasty Grade I passed Sarah Reinertsen, and knew that I had nothing to complain about. I considered myself lucky to see her when I did. She definitely provided inspirational to all of us at that point.

After Nasty Grade everyone around me was pretty wiped out. Many people complained about the subsequent hills and how miserable they were. Although I was tired, I really wasn't all that miserable. I knew I was doing everything I could and I also knew what to expect from each hill. No matter what time I got, I knew everything would be okay.

As expected, when I finished the bike portion I saw Greg waiting for me. He was cheering for me and telling me how good I looked. I later heard a message he left for my mom telling her that I had just left for the run and that I was really suffering. At least he had the decency to lie to me at the time!

The Run

From the start of the run, I was miserable. I kept telling my body to move but it was responding very slowly. My pre-race plan was to walk up all the hard hills. However, once I was out there I found myself walking up even tiny hills that shouldn't have been so hard. I don't think it was an energy problem, I just think my body was doing all it could. I tried to accept this and dredged along at my snail's pace. Greg continued his super support crew duties and managed to meet me on the steepest hill of the course and again around mile nine. We figured out later that he ran about ten miles that day in order to see me in so many places.

Around mile 10.5 I was feeling miserable and a little down. I had set a seven hour time goal for myself as the ultimate goal and at that point I knew it was slipping away. Then my friend Monica ran up behind me. Monica is older and started a few waves back, but she is a far better runner than myself. At this point she looked so comfortable that I was very envious. She encouraged me to run with her and keep going. I must have looked so pitiful because she started giving me the best encouragement. She said she was so impressed with me out there doing this event as one of my first triathlons, and that she couldn't believe I found any time to train with young twin boys. I was so grateful for her encouragement that I actually started to cry! She quickly told me not to waste my energy crying and to "Get a move on." I stayed with her as long as I could but eventually I had to let her go. She was willing to stay with me because she is a wonderful person, but I didn't want to slow her down. I promised I would keep going and ran when I could. I finally made it to Lynch Hill, the steep one mile down hill that concludes the race. Although the downhill hurt my knees, I felt really good just to be finishing. Running through the finish line chute was an amazing experience. I was so proud of myself for finishing such a hard race and of course I was physically worn out. Monica waited for me at the end and I thanked her for her support. Then I fell into my waiting husband's arms were I proceeded to cry for about ten minutes. Don't worry they were happy/relieved tears. This was an amazing experience that I would do again in a heart beat. Now I really feel like a triathlete!

Final Times:
Swim: 41:30
T1: 4:08
Bike: 3:36:53
T2: 3:00
Run: 2:30:43
Overall: 6:56:14