boston…

Ask anyone why they run and you’ll get a lot of different answers. To relieve stress and maintain their sanity, lose weight, achieve new goals, have new experiences. But for many of us, one of the benefits of running is an unanticipated one – the camaraderie and community of runners you quickly find yourself in.

Thus, today I find myself absolutely sick to my stomach with a lump in my throat as I watch in absolute horror what is unfolding at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two virtually simultaneous explosions. A third device nearby. At the finish line of the marathon? Yes, a marathon. All I can think is “Please say everyone is ok, please say this was unintentional. Please. Please say everyone is ok, please say this was unintentional. Please.”

And yet, so far at least 2 3 are dead and 9 17 of the 23 (and counting) more than 140 who are injured are in critical condition.

I didn’t know anyone who was running today. I didn’t need to. What I know is that they are runners. Just like you and me.

I can’t imagine – at one moment, joyful. Gleeful. Triumphant and victorious. Relieved to be crossing the finish line. And at the next?  Terrified, confused, panicked.

On so many levels, I simply cannot fathom…

Running is a journey. There are obstacles, challenges, bumps in the road. But training for a marathon is not supposed to end this way. No one should ever have to go through something like this. Ever. Anywhere. And yet I know this kind of thing happens around the world, nearly every day. It is a sad, sick world we live in.

There are no words.

My thoughts are with those in Boston and my heart goes out to everyone involved – the runners, first responders, the spectators, friends and family of the runners, the race organizers, the race volunteers and medical personnel.

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adventures in winter running…

The reality is, if you live in the Inland Northwest (or anywhere that has 4 seasons) AND you sign up for Ironman Coeur d’Alene, you are going to be doing some cold weather training. For some folks this means treadmill time. But for me it means bundling up and running outside. I’m like the postal worker of Ironman training when it comes to winter weather – Neither snow nor rain will keep me indoors if I can help it (so long as I can take a nice warm shower when it’s all over!).  As one of our local running gurus always quips, there is no such thing as weather that’s too cold, just people who are too soft!

Winter trail

As you can imagine, this means running in snow. On icy roads. In the dark. And the cold. You would be correct in all of these. The other night was no exception and all of the above was true. Fresh snow. On top of old snow which had melted into ice. And it was dark but not the coldest run of the year. Naturally, running in the winter can be hazardous so hubby and I and the rest of the members of the local wintertime running group (organized by the local Fleet Feet) were cruising along much slower than normal due to the ice below the snow. Outdoor wintertime runs are no time for speedwork, you know. And sure enough, just 10 minutes out from the “finish line”, my spidey-senses detected extra super-duper iciness, so I started to slow to a walk. Yet practically the instant I decided to walk I found myself a-slip slidin’ away, landing squarely on my tush (with some impact absorbed by my wrist since I have somehow still not taught myself in all my years of snowboarding and falling NOT to put my hands down).

Luckily, in this case I merely sustained a bruise on my behind and a ‘tweaked’ wrist. Today we had 3 or 4 inches of fresh snow out and a high of 20 degrees and I went out again at lunchtime for a sanity break. (Ironically, everyone looked at me like I was insane…). The cold air is downright invigorating but there is an intense quiet and utter peacefulness that comes with winter running. This is why we run in the winter.

 

Peace on the trail

If you can bring yourself to brave the cold, here are a couple of articles that have great winter running safety tips, from dressing in layers to making sure you’re visible in the darkness to keeping your feet underneath you (and your butt off the ground). Take it all in and hopefully you can avoid a bruised badonkadonk like me:

http://www.active.com/running/Articles/Winter-Running-Tips
http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/10-tips-running-cold?page=single

Happy running!

 

 

confessions from an olympic tri…

Today was the first Olympic distance triathlon of the season for me (.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike and a 10k run) – it’s a little late in the training program (I think technically it was supposed to be last week or the week before to fit ‘perfectly’, but c’est la vie!) I’ve covered the distances in training, obviously, but today was truth time. So, confession time. What did we learn? How did it go?

1) First and foremost, I must confess that I was not really excited about this race. My hubby was also supposed to do the race and he had to work so I was on my own and I was really tempted to bail on the race also. It was a 3+hour drive away and an overnight stay because there was no packet pickup this morning. In some sense of the word, it was a victory for me that I even showed up!

the calm before the storm…

2) The swim was pretty rough, choppy and at times almost violent, which is NOT something I remember from this race last time. I puzzled over this throughout the rest of the race – I think it may have something to do with the fact that I’ve aged up to the next age group. Last time I did the race, I was 29 – in the first wave of the Olympic distance with only the half ironman-ers in front by about 15 minutes. This year, at the ripe old age of 31, I had to wait for everyone in the half-iron group (still well ahead of us, but I did pass a few struggling stragglers towards the end of the .93 miles) AND I had all of my wave PLUS the first wave to fight through. The water was choppy. People were all over the place and there was seemingly no end to watching out for feet, elbows and fists. This is not something that I snobby ex-pool-only swimmer likes to see. Whether being in a different age group made the different or not, I added a couple – 2 or 3- minutes to my swim time from 2010, which I was bummed about because, ironically, I’ve been swimming a heck of a lot more this year than back then. Confession: I was/am(?) a little concerned that I’ve been swimming and somehow gotten s-l-o-w-e-r.

(trying to) swim in the crowd

3) As you may have gathered from #2, I’m a front of the middle pack or maybe back to middle of of the front pack swimmer, depending on the crowd. What’s the confession here? It’s this: the benefit of being good in the water is not really not a benefit at all – you get to hop on your bike early and be passed by people who say well-intentioned but ultimately funny and demoralizing things like “Good swim…” and leave the “too bad you’re not a better biker” hanging in the air. I know, I think so too. I even heard a guy in the water before the start talking about how he never worked on his swim because he just didn’t see it as an advantage. Now now. You may blow by me in a few minutes, but I’ll put money on the fact that I’m probably less frazzled and winded from the first leg. But I digress.

C’mon climbers!

4) Ok, this is maybe the confession that concerns me the most with a 70.3 looming: Sadly, my climbers are not what they should be on the bike. Biking is definitely my weakest link and while I’m slowlybecoming a better biker with time and practice, I find I don’t push myself as hard as I do when I’m running or swimming. I think it has to do with the fact that I associate biking with casual rides around the neighborhood as a kid. You know, relaxed. Carefree. Not grimacing, sweating, legs and lungs burning kind of biking. Nothing quite like race day to make you put the pedal to the metal, really push yourself to try to compete with the fools that are flying past you like you’re standing still (even though your bike computer insists you’re moving at what you feel is a respectable clip). Fortunately for me, today’s course was rolly, but not hilly. Twenty-five miles of really pushing it and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little concerned about how well I’d hold up and how much gas I’d have when I hit the run. Plus, my knees have been hurting on higher cadence rides and I definitely noticed it today when I climbed off. But fortunately once I was on the ground it went away. (Note to self – probably oughta get that straightened out, wouldn’t you say?)

5) I forced myself to eat and fuel all day. Forced is the operative word here. I hate eating in the morning, but I had a banana and a bar and a bunch of water before I swam, three gels on the bike and one on the run. Lots and lots and lots of water. Other than the gross queasy feeling I had before the swim (which could definitely be attributed to the fact that my stomach deemed it too early to be accepting food and also to the fact that I was ready to just get this thing going already), and a brief moment around mile 18 on the bike where my stomach reminded me how hard it is to digest folded over bike handlebars (I spent a few minutes sitting upright), I felt good. Hm. No confession here, I suppose.

6) Last time I did this race, I thought I was going to die of heat exhaustion. I’m not gonna lie – this was really a big concern of mine for this year as well. To combat this, even though I really didn’t want to, I carried a water bottle with me and every water stop (there were 4 or 5, I believe), a cup of water went on my head and neck and I drank or filled my bottle with the other. In between stops, I made sure I was keeping my head cool and drinking a lot. I felt a lot better about the run this year than I did last time, that’s for sure. And I think I was able to shave a few seconds off of my last run time for the course as well.

7) Lastly, triathlons continually remind me to be humble. I try to be supportive, talk it up on the race course and encourage people. But in every race there is someone, maybe a few someones who (in a moment of judgy-ness or jealousy or poor sportsmanship or whatever you want to call it) “have no business being in front of me”. I’m not proud of it. Yet, there they are. And they’re there, in front of you for a reason. Maybe they’ve put in more work. Maybe they’re more determined because they’ve seen more adversity and overcome more so they’re stronger. Maybe this is their life’s dream and for you its simply a training run. Maybe they are there to motivate you to stick with it or kick it in at the end. Still others may be there to remind you to be gracious and thankful for the skills and abilities you have. Or maybe they’re there to remind you to be inspired by the people around you.

Today, around mile 5, maybe closer to 5 1/2, a gentleman who I knew had been with me for a while finally picked up his pace, ran up beside me and said “Hello, how are you doing?” I said “I”m great, beautiful day” or something to that extent. He smiled, commented on what a nice pace I have (he should know, he’d been hanging out in it for a while), and then sped off, beating me to the finish line by more than a handful of seconds. And as he ran off, I noticed the numbers on his calf read: 6-8. Man. Sixty-eight years old and still rockin’. I just smiled and shook my head, I picked up my pace but I wasn’t going to catch him. Mr. 68, you are my hero for the day. You reminded me to smile and be happy with the day and to be inspired by the journey that others are on. I can only hope that 37 years from now I’m still able to do this with a smile on my face.

on heat and hydration…

I have such a love-hate relationship with July. And mid to late summer events, for that matter. There’s no doubt that the start of actual summer-like weather makes training and triathlons easier in a lot of ways. It’s a pretty safe bet that from now until October, I will probably not have to worry about planning a training workout around rain or otherwise foul weather (I did say probably…).

Here in the Inland Northwest, we generally have 2-4 weeks of really, truly HOT weather. The number of times we break 100 degrees can usually be counted on one hand. But our hot weather has come early this year – a week ago, we jumped straight from 70 to 95 in a matter of two days and haven’t dipped below the mid 90s since. Not that I should complain. I’ve been more than ready for sunshine and blue skies for MONTHS. But I digress.

Most reasonable people spend these scorching days submerged in water – floating lazily in an inner tube down one of our rivers or on one of the many lakes. Me, I have the distinct (mis?)fortune of being in the midst of training for a summertime 70.3 Those of you doing the same or something similar know that when these hot days come, we must spend the time acclimating ourselves. Because lord knows, come race day, it’ll be 95 degrees out and we’ll have no choice but to deal with it. Better to give our bodies the chance to get used to it.

Saturday was a scorcher and that is an understatement. Seriously. And from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. I was out in it. During the nearly 3 hours I spent on the bike, I was thankful that I had remembered to apply sunscreen on my arms and face. But I still got a mild sunburn on the side of my thighs, adding to my rockin’ bike shorts tan lines. Note to self: remember to apply sunscreen before the race and stash at transition area for “just in case”.

I’m working on fine tuning my on-the-bike nutrition and always have to make a conscious effort to eat, eat, eat when I’m on the bike. Note to self: make sure that whatever you bring to refuel is tolerable when it’s warmed up! Some gels are really pretty gross when they’re warmed to 90 degrees… but some are ok – apple cinnamon flavored Hammer Gels taste like warm apple pie! And espresso flavored GUs also seem pretty normal at 90 degrees… I guess because coffee is often served warm so the temperature matches the flavor. Or something.

Bicycle water bottle

Bicycle water bottle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And then of course there’s the issue of hydration. As you all know, the hotter it is, the more you sweat, the more you need to replenish – both fluids and electrolytes. On hot training days, I really have to make sure I’m carrying enough water. Or that I have a plan for refilling often enough. I drink quite a bit cause I’m a big sweater… so I need to have quite a bit of water on hand or a lot of planned water stops. The problem with carrying it all is, of course, making sure you have enough water bottle holders on your bike (or you could carry a Camelbak or some sort of hydration pack) and also that the water will heat up the longer that you’re out. The other day when I was out, I was definitely drinking really warm water, which makes me not really want to drink it. Race day is generally a different story with water stations, but it’s definitely something to think about. Note to self – try this: freeze some water bottles the night before the race. Stash them at transition and pull them out at T1 and T2 (depending on how hot and how long the race is).  And also, find some better insulated water bottles. Pronto.

photo from: guysandgoodhealth.com

Post bike/post run, basically as soon as I stopped moving, sweat just poured off of me. How the heck was I going to cool down? The last late July race I did, I jumped back into the lake following the run and sat until I could get my core temperature back to normal. Fortunately, there was a river alongside the trail I was riding and running on, so immediately after I finished running, off came the shoes, the tunes and the sunglasses and into the river I went. I sat and I floated and I cooled off. No better way in the world to do it. Note to self: pack a cooler with a post workout water bottle! And only work out near cool rivers and lakes!

Just a few things to think about…after this weekend and also after today’s toasty midday run, I’m reminded that hydration issues can definitely derail my race day. So as much as I’d prefer to skip the midday 90+ degree workouts, practicing and adjusting my race day strategies and hydration has to be part of the training plan. For a few more weeks, anyway.Do you have any special tricks for dealing with the summer heat?

on eating and training and eating and racing

Today’s workout was a 3:30 bike ride. I was starting to get just a smidge hungry and I knew that it was going to be a long ride, so  I packed up some energy gels, some bars and a whole bunch of water and hit the road. Everything was good, munched on a few bars, sucked down a couple of gels en route and cruised.

Until mile 36.

I thought I was keeping up on staying hydrated and refueling electrolytes, carbs, etc. And then I totally, totally bonked. It was a good reminder to practice more – that is, practice eating and hydrating while on the move to replace what I’m burning and sweating out. You, too, should incorporate refueling into your training program. And here’s why:

  • The cardinal rule of race day? Don’t try anything new. This goes for food and drink. If you’re planning to take advantage of the food and drinks provided on the course, and especially if you’re planning on relying solely on them, you should try them out  in advance.
  • How does it taste? Do you like the flavor? For gels and chews: What’s the consistency like? Do you like it? If you don’t like it, this is good to know ahead of time. Race day, you’ll need to consume the gel and obviously this is easier to do if it doesn’t prompt a gag reflex. If you plan on And how do you manage when the gel or fluid is warm?
  • Then there is actually practicing the act of opening and eating – for example, if you’re on your bike – can you open the package it comes in without falling or crashing? Can you eat on the run (or bike)? If not, pre-open the packages. If you’re eating chomps or chews or bars, are they too big for you to chew and keep moving? Cut them in advance so they’re more manageable on race day.
  • How does your stomach feel? It can be a delicate balance. You don’t want to eat too much because your body can only digest so much while you’re on the move. And while biking, hunched over, this can be a challenge. But you also need make sure you get enough to keep fueled.
  • How are you planning on carrying everything? Do you have the right gear? A bento box for your bike? Some kind of race belt for the run? Are you used to carrying it?

If you’re looking for more:

Competitor Magazine has an article on race day fueling here: http://running.competitor.com/2012/03/nutrition/race-fueling-made-simple_8633/1

Active.com also has a useful article here: http://www.active.com/running/Articles/Fueling_for_peak_marathon_performance.htm

And of course, Runners’ World has a whole slew of articles on hydration and refueling here: http://www.runnersworld.com/topic/0,7122,s6-242-302-0-0,00.html

 

Happy training and here’s to no more bonking!

rain, rain go away…

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before (though I’m sure I probably have…), but every single race I had back in 2010, with 1 single exception, was in the cold and the rain. It was absurd. I mean, to the point where you couldn’t help but wonder if the big guy upstairs was trying to tell me something. Like maybe I shouldn’t be doing triathlons or something. Since we’re here, 2 years later, you can assume (correctly) that 1) I am stubborn and 2) I don’t listen very well.

The night before my first-ever 70.3, we camped in a supposedly racers-only campground (that’s a whole ‘nother story…) and there was a seriously epic thunderstorm. Complete with booming, holy crap, right-on-top-of-you claps of thunder, brilliant flashes of lightning and some serious driving rain. Big ol’ rain drops, pounding heavy on the tent. Not that I was sleeping so very soundly to begin with what with the pre-race nerves and such, but I remember waking up around 2 a.m. and saying out loud to my also awake hubby, “Seriously?!” And then thinking something along the lines of “Not again,” “Why me?” followed by “Un-freakin’-believable.” Which was then followed by a series of words that are not appropriate to list here and a list of potential accident scenarios that could happen between 2 a.m. and the 7 a.m. start that would be ‘ok’ reasons to NOT do the race (should it decide to keep on storming, that is). You know, along the lines of somehow slipping on something and breaking my ankle getting out of the tent in the a.m. Or maybe I would get attacked by the mythical grand Elk-asaurous Rex and his partner in crime, Big foot.

The chilly swim during the “calm between the storms” – Ghost Reservoir, AB, CAN. Calgary 70.3, August 2010

In the end, it ended up ok. At least in hindsight I can say it did. The water was freezing, thanks to downpour. It stopped raining in time for bodymarking and the swim (where it wouldn’t have mattered seeing as we were already cold and wet).

And then started again while I was on the bike (where it definitely DID matter). But the weather was perfect (by my standards) on the run – overcast and cool. 60-something. ­I guess there was a silver lining. It just took ¾ of the race day for me to find it.I was reminiscing about this earlier this evening as I was being drenched by a sudden downpour that consumed the last 18 miles of my 40 mile bike ride tonight. (According to weather.com, there was only supposed to be a 30% chance of rain until 9 p.m. tonight, so while I figured I might get some sprinkles, I didn’t think I was taking THAT big of a chance… though clearly I was wrong.) The deluge brought back memories – Ironman is in town this weekend, and I can only imagine the thoughts that are going through the athletes’ minds tonight as they all hope and pray for better weather on Sunday. Because you know, it’s not like there aren’t enough battles in a 70.3 or 140.6 mile long day. Clicking mile after mile under your own power present plenty of challenges without rain in the equation.

Tonight there was nothing to do but laugh and shake my head at the downpour. I had to get back to my car; I had no choice but to deal with the rain. Race day weather is just like that. You’re ready for the event. You’re trained up. Hopefully you did some training in the elements because let’s face it – the weather gods are not always nice come race day. There’s not a thing you can do about the weather but curse it or just grin and bear it. And if you’re unfortunate enough to be signed up for a race that I’m doing, you can bet that you’re gonna get rained on at some point in the day.

But I sure do hope that it clears up for the racers by Sunday…

My view of the storm I was stuck in… glad I only had it for 20 miles and not 100 miles! Since you can’t see the actual raindrops in this photo, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Race recap: sprint tri #1

6:30 a.m., hubby’s alarm goes off.

6:39ish – hubby’s alarm goes off again. SNOOZE. C’mon!

6:48ish – hubby’s alarm goes off and he rolls out of bed to start getting ready. I roll over and doze off again.

7:00ish – my alarm goes off, and I finally get up. Swimsuit under sweats and a beanie. Sandals, no socks. Old swim team habit.

7:20ish – start loading up all of the gear we’d packed up the night before (so as not to forget anything as I’m wont to do early in the a.m.)

7:27ish – eat a PB&J I had prepared the night before. Force feeding myself is always part of race day. I need to fuel, my stomach, full of nerves and not much of a first thing in the a.m. eater anyways, never agrees with me and my brain’s awareness of the fact that I will need my energy before too long. Thus, the force feeding.

7:35ish – jump in the car…and take off. Surprisingly, no “turn around, I forgot ________!”

7:55ish – arrive at event parking. Hubby glances at temperature gauge (clearly a mistake). It reads 47. Push hubby out of the car into the cold. Quickly close the door as to keep all of the cold air out there. Hunker down in the passenger seat as he makes faces at me… just kidding, I didn’t lock him out of the car in the cold.

8:05ish – bikes off of the car, pump up the tires, port gear to transition area. Wish for a sherpa or a horse or a wagon or something. (Ok, ok, I’m being dramatic. It’s not that far, but still…)

8:12ish – arrive at transition area at the same time as all other athletes. 33 minutes till pre-race meeting, announcements and instructions. Wander through transition looking for the “just right” bike rack to suit our needs. Begin unloading all the gear with fingers crossed that we didn’t forget anything crucial.

8:25ish – Gear’s unpacked, bike’s on the rack. Off to find volunteers with ginormous permanent markers who will write race numbers on your left bicep and your age on your left calf. (More on that later)

8:25ish – On the hunt for a portapotty… preferably a clean one, without any significant lines. Success, relatively quickly. Good news. It’s a quick stop. Bump into someone else I know, she sporting booties. Man, in hindsight that seems like SUCH a good idea… too late now. We exchange well wishes and head back to the transition area.

8:35ish – People are beginning to squirm into their wetsuits. Some people are even in the water. Hmmmm. Maybe time to start thinking about that… then someone stops by to say hi. We chat for a few minutes about – what else – the water temperature and we swap suggestions on how to brace for the cold. Oh heck, there’s no big secret. Ya just gotta get in. Lots of whispering of numbers – all seem to be in the low 50s. Are they talking temperature?! Someone mentions peeing. Sure. A nice temporary warmth.

8:40ish – ok, wetsuit time. I hope it still fits… squirm squirm squirm… there’s no good way to do this. Zip and stretch. No body glide used this time… I don’t remember if I should have used it or not so here’s hoping not!

8:45ish – time for a Gu. Espresso flavored. Wash it down with water. Race director (or maybe it’s just the announcer guy) is talking constantly now. Who knows what he’s saying. I think he’s calling the white caps to the beach to start – hubby’s in the first wave.

8:52ish – walk with hubby down to the water’s edge. He puts on a brave smile, gives me a kiss and jumps in, prepared to meet his maker, from the looks of his face.

9:00 – white caps are off to the races, including hubby. I don’t see him bailing for shore right away so I take that as a good sign. So far so good.

9:09ish, or maybe 9:12ish – Lots of folks in full wetsuits. Plenty of people with booties and neoprene swim caps. And a couple in straight up speedos and nothing else. I see two girls in bikini tops and briefs – certifiably crazy, all of them. I jump into the lake to get ready for my own wave start… Holy $@%#!*$^! New personal goal  for today – break world record for ½ mile swim. Get out as quickly as possible! I already can’t feel my feet and my hands. My chest is constricted and I’m trying so hard not to hyperventilate.

The Swim (.5 miles):
Too soon, I hear “GO!” and we’re off. I quickly find my way towards the outside of the group, desperately trying to control and calm my breathing while avoiding a foot, fist or elbow to the face. The downside to swedish goggles is that if I take a hit to the goggles, I’ll probably need stitches. At least it’ll give me a good excuse to get out of the water early…

Soon I find myself with just 2 pink caps in sight – one right next to me and one just in front of me. We’re quickly catching the silver caps, then the red, and a few hundred yards out from pulling into the beach, some of the white cap stragglers.

Transition 1:
I hear people yelling at me as I’m running out of the water towards the transition-

“Way to go!”, “Watch your step!”, and “#2!” Huh, could I have been the 2nd pink cap out of the water? I realize it may be possible. That means lots of people will be passing me now that we’re on dry land again. Being a fast swimmer isn’t all its cut out to be…

Pulling off my wetsuit  was easy enough. It was the small actions- putting on socks and shoes  – the things that required numb, frozen fingers to work that I had a hard time managing. It was a slow transition for me. Or at least it sure felt that way…

The Bike (14.4 miles):
Here’s where I realized I’ve definitely been training for an endurance distance race. 14.4 miles should be a walk in the park. I came hauling out of the gates, clipped in and quickly chugging along at 20 mph (fast for me). And I soon realize that it’s going to be a long ride if I run out of gas too quickly.

Here’s where you realize just how awful it is to have your age on your left calf… suddenly, everyone’s a target, including you. I was distinctly aware of the fact that the person in front of me for a good part of the bike was 21 – a full ten years younger than me and by gosh, I was out to prove that slightly older (more seasoned and wiser) is better (and definitely faster) than her . And on the flip side, I’m equally brutally aware of the fact that the 56 year old who just passed both me and the 21 year old like we were both standing still is older than the two of us put together. Yes, I will win my age group when I’m that old, I think to myself. You know, I’ll be retired and there won’t be anything else to worry about.

I think I held it pretty close to a 17 mph pace overall (I’m still waiting for the official results to be posted). But let me tell you, am I ever having some serious biking attitude issues. Anyway, since my bike’s been hurtin’ me for the past few weeks,I’ve been avoiding it like the plague. Not a good strategy. And it’s given me SUCH as negative attitude about biking. Yikes. So I finally went out and got a professional bike fit. Moving things around made me realize that the biking I’ve been doing has been on muscle groups ever-so-slightly different than the ones I was using during the race. Eep.

Headwinds a couple of times really made me groan to myself about how awful biking is. See what I mean? And that 21 year old was still just in front of me. I kept pace, knowing I would catch her at the end…

More headwinds, some less than fabulous pavement, but all in all relatively uneventful. I have GOT to fix my attitude! Now, buckle down and take that 21 year old! (You’ll be pleased to know I got her in the last 2 miles and improved my lead over her in the run portion as well, finishing several minutes in from of her.)

Transition 2:
Good, pretty quick. Jacket off, pull-on sleeves on. Quick swig of water and I’m off. Nothing much to say here.

The Run (5k or 3.1 miles):
I quickly realized 1) that I should have fueled more on the bike even though it was just a sprint distance. I could have used the fuel. And 2) my feet literally felt like bricks of ice. This is a strange sensation as you have no idea how your form is, how your foot is striking the pavement…plodding along.

The run is a comfortable place for me. I’ve spent a lot of time training for everything from 5Ks to a marathon, so I know what running feels like to me under all types of conditions and situations. While I’m not particularly fast, I think my experience is a strength for me come race day.

At mile marker 1, I stopped for water. I didn’t feel like I needed it, but I thought I probably hadn’t been drinking enough. I walked a few steps, drank some water, and started running again, only to have an immediate hammie cramp threat that lingered the entire run. This kept me from kicking it up a notch – not wanting to cramp and have to walk at all, I kept my pace quick, but under control.

I didn’t feel my feet until 2.5 miles into the run. They thawed slowly and strangely. But it was like magic when I finally did!

Hubby was at the finish line when I crossed, saw me come down the home stretch. I was happy to see he was smiling and that he didn’t succumb to the monsters of the deep during the swim. In fact, he was 4th in his age group without even trying.

And my final time was good enough for a 1st place age group finish.

All in all, a good race to get under our belts and a confidence booster for us both as we enter Week 13. Now all we have to do is keep training…

race day prep… warm up race #1

English: IronMan 70.3 Pucón 2009 (Start) Españ...

IronMan 70.3 Pucón 2009  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomorrow’s the 1st race of the season… a “warm up” race that, as of this moment today promises to more chilly than anything. It’s been raining all day. Heck, it’s been raining all week. A week of wet, chilly runs and spin classes. Ugh. I don’t know what I was expecting. I may or may not have already mentioned that the vast majority of my races back in 2010 were in the cold or (and often AND) rain. Those race included multiple sprint tris, a half-Ironman distance triathlon and a full marathon run in the rain. Yes, it rained the ENTIRE 26.2 miles. Every last one of them.

Tomorrow’s tri is a brick workout in week 12 of the 70.3 training plan – we managed to time this first race perfectly. Except for the rain part. So, while the race tomorrow is just a .5 mile swim, a 14.4 mile bike and a 5K run, I will spend my evening steeling myself against the idea that I will be spending yet another few hours of my life submersed in water chillier than most normal people would tolerate, and then biking and running in 50-60 degree weather and into potentially driving, pouring rain. Hooray.

But I digress.

In the meantime, it’s prep time. Time to make sure I have all of my gear. Fortunately, the internet is chock-full of sample prep lists … what, oh what did we ever do before Google? Here’s my own preliminary version:

Swim / for the morning:

  • Warm clothes for setting up your transition area
  • Towel
  • Wetsuit
  • Swimsuit / tri suit
  • Goggles (plus an extra pair just in case)
  • Swim cap (including a neoprene cap to go under the race cap in case you’re swimming in water cold enough to freeze your noggin)
  • Baby powder for your swim cap
  • Timing chip
  • Watch
  • Body Glide, vaseline or other lube of choice – apply pre-swim and leave at transition area for shorter distances (may want to also include in bike to run transition bag if there are 2 separate transition areas)

Bike:

  • Bike
  • Bike Shoes
  • Socks
  • Bike Shorts
  • Sunglasses
  • Helmet
  • Water bottle / hydration
  • Race belt with bib # pre-attached
  • Arm warmers and leg warmers or Jacket and pants
  • Bike gloves

Run:

  • Running shoes
  • Hat or visor or headband
  • Socks
  • Water bottle

Other:

  • Snacks – bars, gels, chews, whatever you use for race day fuel (remember not to try anything new…)
  • Clothes for after the race
  • Advil or pain killers (depending on the length of the race and how prepared you are of course…less prepared=more pain killers)
  • Wet wipes – I usually have some of these or use a towel at transition that I dump water on and wipe my face off after I get off the bike. You know, to get all of the bugs off my face and outta my grill and all…

I fully expect I have forgotten something here. And I fully expect that even if I didn’t forget ANYTHING on this list, I will probably  forget something tomorrow. Hopefully it will be something really unimportant (though I’m not sure that on this list I’m willing to give up… baby powder, I guess.)

Anyway, recognizing this is the 1st race of the year and I’ve probably definitely forgotten how to do this, my other race day advice for myself and any other 1st race of the year individuals?

  • Give yourself enough time on race morning to do everything you need to do. Don’t forget to get up early enough to eat and let your stomach settle. What is that your mom always said about swimming after you ate?
  • You’ll probably have to park a little ways away and cart your stuff, so be prepared for that – bring a backpack or a gym bag or something (not like me, one of the first race I did, I just threw everything in the car and had to hand-carry it all in multiple trips back and forth from the car to the transition area. Not the recommended course of action).
  • Getting there early also means you’ll have plenty of time to set everything up so you can find it when you get out of the water and are running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to minimize your transition time.
  • And of course, getting there early will also mean you’ll have time to squirm and wiggle your way into your wetsuit in a more relaxed fashion. You know, with some dignity. Like the rest of us. Ha.

Good luck, have fun, and happy racing everyone!

shoe dependency…

My shoe situation has still not quite been resolved, though not for a lack of trying. Since shoe #3 (which seemed like it would work), there have been #4, #5, #6 and #7. Different brands, different levels of support, different widths. Each of them has not quite fit the bill; actually all of them made me feel like my feet were on a slope. Like my feet were starting off square on the orthotic and as I ran, sliding off of center towards the outsides of the shoes. Every time. So I have concluded that it must be a problem with the orthotic. What’s that argument – argument ad populum? 50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong! 600 million people can’t be wrong about Facebook! I know it’s a fallacious argument, but not in this case. In this case I believe there must be an exception – half a dozen shoes can’t be wrong! It’s not the shoe(s). It simply can’t be.

So what, then? Well, to make a long story short, first, I’ve scheduled an appointment with a podiatrist who specializes in running. Unfortunately, the appointment is not until the end of the month. And even then, it’ll be a consult initially. Someone I can tell my running story to – an expert on running who also runs himself (this is important). Someone who has an education in feet (this is also important).

Second, I went back to the doc who prescribed and ordered my orthotic and he is going to order a new one for me with some slight adjustments and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that this next one is better. Ugh.

The story of how I ended up in a custom orthotic in the first place? Well, it’s a short one: I was tired of dealing with IT band pain and had tried everything from Superfeet to foam rolling to strength and flexibility exercises. To no avail. Someone suggested fixing the base (feet) and it made sense to me. But with this recent orthotic debacle, I’m wondering if maybe, just maybe, all of those years of IT band issues were caused by running in a neutral shoe with Superfeet inserts when I really should have been in a supportive shoe with Superfeet. Not necessarily a custom orthotic. Now wouldn’t that be silly. Such a small adjustment. Huh.

So my third step was based on this last hunch, the last little “maybe”. I went back to our local running store where this same poor girl has been working with me very patiently to find a shoe that works. I told her to just start from scratch and asked her to take a look at my feet, how I walk, etc., and fit me in a shoe as if I were a brand new customer coming in off the street. Because maybe I don’t need a custom orthotic after all. Off came the shoes, the socks. She measured, observed me walking barefoot, running. And the verdict? She didn’t seem to think I had particularly flat feet. Or that I necessarily needed a wide width shoe. She said I have flexible arches which flatten a bit when I run, causing me to pronate, so she would recommend a shoe with support. Ok. Bring it.

Pair number 8, maybe #9(?) accompanied me home on Monday night after work. Sauconys this time. Supportive ones. Shiny, red, super cushy ones. I was supposed to test them out yesterday, but I procrastinated – because what if it’s bad news? Yesterday I just wasn’t sure I could handle another shoe fail. But I need an answer, so at some point today, I’ll take them out for a spin and see how it goes. I’m hopeful. Or maybe I’m doomed.

I’m very anxious for some kind of resolution… hopefully a permanent one. It’s been real hard to be excited about running when there’s so much going wrong. Nine times out of ten, running is actually fun for me.But with so many issues lately, it’s been a chore. I can feel it. It’s taken the wind out of my sails. I’ve dreaded it. And let’s face it, I need to be running because, you see, I have this little 70.3 looming… in 8 weeks if we’re being specific. And I need to be able to run 13.1 miles by then (and ideally, countless 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10 mile training runs to prepare). And if I’m being honest with myself, I can’t really afford to skip too many more of them without paying for it.

Keep your fingers crossed and I’ll keep you posted…

on being cinderella…

Alright, so time to talk about running shoes. I never felt like I had to a problem finding running shoes. Before this time. How did we find ourselves here, feet?

The story goes like this:

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a girl who was learning to love to run. She ran and ran and ran. Just 5ks. Until one day, a 10k. And a half marathon. And another. And then, she thought she’d tackle a marathon. So she registered. Nashville was on the books.

But it was not to be. Not at this time. For she had some serious and persistent IT band issues that kept her from running loooooong. What a pain. Literally and figuratively. Seriously.

She could muscle through 13.1 miles. The first nine were good. The last four were always pain. (I grimace just thinking of it.) Marathons would have to wait.

Eventually, a physical therapist prescribed Superfeet inserts. Some strengthening exercises. Foam rolling (“therapy”… you may recall my feelings on this. And if not, you can find out here). Ah, relief was ahead, right? Wrong.

Years of supportive shoes and Superfeet seemed to do just enough to keep running tolerable. To keep 13.1 within reach (and within her pain tolerance).

And then one day, someone recommended custom orthotics. Well, what the heck. It made sense. Fix the base and the rest would fall into line. Funny enough, it worked. Three glorious years of pain-free running passed, a few more half marathons (faster and faster half marathons!), a 70.3 and a marathon (!) and things were seeming pretty good for our heroine.

Sigh. What a lovely story.

But wait. All good things must come to an end. Three years of near-constant training. Miles upon miles took their toll. Custom orthotics break down, need replacing. And easy fix, right? Ah. Wrong again.

Fast forward to two months ago. The 1st replacements were much too small and much too narrow for running shoes and had to be reordered. And the 2nd set (nearly a full month later) – went into a new pair of the same running shoes I’ve been running in – weren’t a good fit in the new shoes. I felt like I was running on the outsides of my feet. Like I was double-correcting by being in a custom orthotic AND supportive shoes. Possible… yes. But that was also the dynamic duo that got me through 13.1, 26.2 and 70.3. Huh.

So back went the shoes. Out came another pair. A neutral pair with a smaller drop from the heel to the toe. Good, except my fat feet, sitting on top of the inserts, were rubbing along one of the outlays along the outside of the shoe along the outside of my foot. As a side note, my sweet sweet hubby insists I do not have fat feet, just that I have “a part of my foot right under my pinkie toe that seems to be slightly wider than the average”. So sweet. Fat feet. But I digress.

So back went #2. Out came #3 (less support than #1, more than #2) for a run. But potentially too narrow. And? Well. The jury’s still out.  They’ll be running with me again.

I think deep down, the answer is: they don’t work. But at this point, I just. Want. Shoes. Shoes that work. And I’m totally totally totally willing #3 to work. You know, so my feet can have their happily ever after. I don’t want to be the fat-footed running Cinderella. When, oh when did finding shoes get to be so complicated?