Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Escape from Huntsville 50K Race Report

Also known as : 50K, the sequel ... or

50K - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Background - I properly trained for and utlimately raced the Rocky Raccoon 50K on November 5, 2011 - you can see that race report here. I was very happy with that race - both my time and the overall race experience. Only two things were missing: a better looking race shirt and my hubby (who was being a wonderful dad during the race). Well, guess what? There was ANOTHER 50K, less than a month away, on December 3, 2011 that had historically awesome looking shirts and my hubby could come. Those are two good reasons to run 31 miles, right? Plus, I figured I had logged the miles, I might as well take advantage of being trained for the distance.

The Good
- Long sleeved technical shirt, medal and hoodie
- Good on course support - boiled potatoes are yummy!
- Small (but not too small), friendly field
- Not nervous or stressed about the race (should be a piece of cake because I just did one, right?) - Rain in the forecast, but it did not rain
- Followed a "between marathons" plan, respected the recovery and let my ankle heal
- I did not twist my ankle during this race
- Other than aid station stops, we ran the entire race (albeit slower than ideal) - even when I really wanted to walk (mental victory!)
- Despite what is listed below, my running partner Mark still made me laugh so hard I almost fell over
-Finishing the race!

The Bad
- Unseasonably warm weather (I didn't take off my arm sleeves or headsweats skull cap a month ago and I started this race in a tank and running skirt and was soaked with sweat by the end of the first 10K loop)
- Poor nutrition and hydration race week
- Going out too fast the first 10K loop
- Course was .7 miles long, which feels more like 17 miles when you are ready to stop running
- Not being my chipper self during the race - Mark was calling my Negative Nancy
- Thinking I could easily PR the distance by taking shorter stops at the aid stations, and actually finishing 25 minutes slower
-How quickly I forgot about how hilly and rooty the course was!

The Ugly
- Hamstrings so tight you could play them like an instrument starting at mile 12 of a 31 mile race - Getting something similar to exericse induced asthma with 2 miles to go

Overall, it was a good race and good experience I just had a bad day. Who knows why ... maybe I ran long again too soon, maybe it was the weather, or maybe it was just a bad day. We are entitled to those every once in a while, right?

Results
6:16:05
13/44 women
35/107 overall

The good news, no the GREAT news, is that my recovery runs in the last 2 weeks have been awesome and even my calf, which has been plaguing me for months, hasn't been bothering me. Here is to starting 2012 healthy and ready to train and race smart!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Family Affair

The day I have been waiting for has finally come ... Andrew, my 7 year old, came with me on his bike for my 11 mile run and he did great! I love the quality time it created for us and he even told me during the run that he really liked being out there with me. The best part? He keeps asking when he can go out again!

Tyler, my 4 year old, joined us for the last 2 miles or so (he peters out after that) and then insisted or running the last .25 miles with me because he just loves to run, and even more so, he loves to run with me!

I love sharing my passion with them and I love that they too are enjoying the exercise and developing good habits now --- plus, it removes some of the mommy guilt of training when you can use training time as quality time!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Injury Update and What's Next

It has been two weeks since the 50K and things are starting to look up. I have learned over seasons of endurance training that if I don't let my body recover properly, I pay for it.

I am (loosely) following Hal Higdon's 4 weeks between marathons plan, which essentially has a reverse taper, two weeks of 30-ish mile weeks and then a taper the week of next marathon. He even encourages cross training in the two 30-ish mile weeks in place of running workouts, if that is what your body needs.

I have been spending some quality time on the elliptical to let my ankle recover properly and I think it is nearly 100% now. I did a 6 mile run today and felt great! My calf, which was bothering me for weeks before the 50K, still flares up, but it is manageable and I am doing calf stretches to improve the range of motion in my calf and ankle. Tomorrow is my first longish run (2 hours) since the race, so I will see how those deep muscles are feeling.

I am really looking forward to a bit of R & R this week beginning on Wednesday. I think it will be just what the doctor ordered for both my body and my sanity! It may even give me some time to reflect on what my goals (and ultimately) races will be for 2012.

Happy Training, Safe Travels and Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rocky Raccoon 50K Race Report

Background

I have wanted to do an ultra marathon since having to back out of the Rocky Raccoon 50 miler in February 2010 due to a hip injury. So, when searching for a goal for this fall, I was thrilled to find a race near my 32nd birthday as I love to celebrate another year by doing something physically challenging (as an example, I did IMFL 6 days after my 30th birthday as my 30th birthday present to myself). So, what better way to celebrate 32 years than to run 32 miles (50K plus 1 mile)?

Goals
Primary - Stay vertical (don't eat it on the trails) and have FUN!


Secondary - Break 6 hours (for no other reason than it seemed attainable and it was a round number)


Race Morning
My old running partner, Mark, graciously volunteered to run the 50K with me, despite the fact that he is running the San Antonio marathon next weekend since Doug was not going to be able to be at the race. Thank you, Mark!

Since the race had a 6:00 AM start time, Mark's family let me crash in their guest room - giving me a precious extra 30 minutes of sleep Saturday morning. We woke up around 3:45 AM and left Mark's house around 4:10 AM to make the drive to Huntsville to pick our packets and prep for the race. It was a nippy 40 degrees out so after picking up our packets and timing chips we huddled in the Jeep to stay warm and finish getting organized.

Since we didn't fall back until Saturday night, it was still very dark at the 6:00 AM start, so that meant wearing head lamps until the sun came up. Of course, my head lamp died 3 minutes before the race start! Thankfully, I brought a light for my visor as well, so I took off the headlamp and clipped on the visor light and it was show time. Note to anyone doing a race that requires a headlamp – change the batteries for new batteries before the race, regardless of how old or new the batteries are!

Pre-race Photo
Race Start
The pack of 100 or so started off fairly slow in the dark – everyone seemed to be being cautious, which was a great way to loosen my legs and get used to the trails. My light was not at a great angle, so I relied heavily on Mark’s light, and ever the gentleman, he made sure I could see and pointed out anything he thought I might miss.

This is also probably a good time to mention that I rarely, if ever, run off road. I am a pavement queen. The main reason comes down to time – driving somewhere to run adds yet another time requirement to my already over scheduled day. I am also a flat-lander and as most Houstonians will attest, unless you are going over an overpass or running in a parking garage, there are not many hills to be found. All of this to say, I did exactly zero trail runs in preparation for this race. I give serious kudos to those that run almost exclusively on trails – a mile on the trails and a mile on the pavement are not created equally (as evidenced by how much longer it takes me to run off road!). Sure, pavement pounds your body more – but the uneven terrain and hills more than make up for it!

Ok, back to the race report.

The good thing about running in the dark is that you only worry about the 10 feet in front of you and that’s it. You aren’t looking at the big hill you have to climb because you can’t see it and by the time the sun wakes up you are warmed up (well, maybe not temperature wise) and well into the run.

Lap 1 - 15.5 Miles - 2:50:11
Mark and I make good running partners because we both like to talk while we run, so we keep each other relatively entertained for hours on end and without fail he always make me laugh so hard at least once on a long run that I almost fall over, and this race was no exception.


So, with the sun up and about 10 miles into our run, we chatted our way through the rest of the first lap (15.5 miles). Religion - check. Kardashians - check. Politics - check. We took our time at the aid stations eating bagels with peanut butter, cookies, etc. and hitting the porta-potties often. I can’t say for sure, but I would guess that we could shave nearly 20 minutes off our time just by being more efficient with our stops- but like I said, this race was about having fun and not worrying so much about the clock (such a refreshing change!). If there was a prize for who had the most fun, we definitely would have received it!

The first lap passed in a blur. After the sun came up the hills felt hillier because I could see them, but I was still glad for the light amongst all of the roots. The trail itself is fairly technical in sections, but there are sections where the course takes you down jeep roads that are far more forgiving and you can push the pace a bit more in those sections. When we reached the turnaround and the end of our first lap, we both shed our jackets, but the temps were still cool, so I opted to keep on my skull cap, bolero (arm sleeves) and gloves.

Half Way Photo-Op

We took off for lap two, laughing at the photographer who told us to “hurry back now” …

Lap 2 - 3:03:47
The next 5 miles passed in a blur because the next time I looked down we were at an aid station and 20 miles into the run. It seemed like time was flying by ... and then it stopped ... well, time didn’t stop, but it stopped flying.

I felt pretty good up until about mile 25 or so and then my legs started to feel heavy and I started to get hungry (cue more nutrition!). My darkest miles were probably from 24 – 28. We kept running though, even though our conversation died down a bit during this stretch. Unlike road races, there are not aid stations every mile, so you just run and run and run and run until the next aid station. They are usually only 3ish miles apart, but when you are getting tired on the trails, it can seem like a long way. With only 100 or so racing the 50K, there were long stretches where we didn't see anyone else. Thankfully, the trail was very well marked so there was no question as to whether we were going the right way.

When we finally hit the last aid station all of the volunteers cheered for us as we ran in – I felt like a rock star. They celebrated that this was my first ultra and my first trail race and everyone was great. I told them that my goals were to have fun and stay vertical and so far, I was meeting and exceeding those goals. One of the volunteers (all ultra runners) quipped that you have to give something back to the course (blood, for example), that is just part of the trail running experience. I told him I was happy to have kept myself vertical and not paid homage to the trail and he reminded me that I had three miles left …

So, up until this point Mark and I both had had a couple of close calls but nothing serious. Mark said he stumbled a bit in the dark and over the course of the day we both stubbed toes and had a couple of shaky steps that reminded us to pick up our feet - pretty much the best you can hope for on a trail run.

As we departed the last aid station, I lamented to Mark that I didn't think we were going to break 6 hours based on our average pace and the time on the race clock. In his typical Mark manner, he replied, "huh, if only that was in your control". Enough said. I was there to have fun, but my competitive spirit wanted to break 6 hours so we started hauling it.

Amazingly, my legs felt great and it felt so good to be running fast. Running fast on trails it a bit nerve racking because you have less time to think about where to put your feet, but everything was falling into place perfectly. We finally caught someone on the trail - the happiest guy I have ever seen - and he gave us both fist bumps as we passed. It felt like we were flying and I knew we had 6 hours in the bag ... and just as I had that thought, I rolled my ankle.

Insert expletive here.

It hurt. I didn't stop running, but I had to slow my pace because it immediately affected my stride. I was so mad at myself for tripping but most of all, I was mad about the fact that I was so close to breaking 6 hours and my misstep would likely squash that goal.

The very smiley guy we passed saw what happened and heard my reaction and in the happiest voice he said very reassuringly to keep running and that the pain would work itself out. I have no idea if he had experience in these matters, but I knew I had to get back to the trail head and I was able to put weight on it, so I took his advice to heart. We were probably 2+ miles from the trail head at this point. After a couple of minutes at the slower pace, I started to feel sure-footed again and I told Mark to open it back up. He asked if I was sure and I replied that I was, and then he took off.

To use a Twilight reference, I felt like we were either Vampires or Werewolves (depending on whether you are Team Edward or Team Jacob) speeding through the woods. Not much talking - I was running too hard and breathing too heavy for that! We really opened it up in the last half mile and finished strong with a total time of 5:53:58 - well under my 6 hour goal! My Garmin read 31.2 at the end of the race.

Race Results
7/17 Women
50/87 Overall
Lap 1 - 2:50:11
Lap 2 - 3:03:47
50K Total - 5:53:58

Post Race
With less than 100 people racing the 50K (there was also a 25K and 10K that day, but those folks were long since finished), there was not much of a party at the finish line. I was happy to see my Trarkkers Teammate, Jeff Irvin though. He ROCKED his race, as expected! the last time I saw Jeff we were running the last lap of IMTX together!



Trakkers Teamie Jeff Irvin

View Near Finish Line
So, there was only one thing left to do -- run .8 miles to hit 32 miles in celebration of my 32nd birthday. After collecting my finisher plaque and saying hi to Jeff, I quickly decided there was no time like the present and I took off to complete my goal. Surprisingly, it didn't feel bad at all, and with a quick .4 miles out and .4 miles back I was done!



I did it!Mark and I hung out a bit before making the trek back to town. When we got back to his house, I noticed that my ankle was starting to swell - which it continued to do for the rest of the day.

Thankfully, I am still able to walk on it just fine and I have been resting, icing, and wiggling my foot as much as possible to get as much range of motion back as quickly possible. It is getting progressively better every day but I am not sure when I will attempt my first run. I am contemplating another 50K on December 3, but that will depend entirely on my ankle recovery. For this week at least, I will be sticking to the spin bike and the elliptical.

Summary
I loved this race. Running in the woods is so cathartic and the ultra community is so welcoming and nice. The race was well organized and the course was well marked, with great volunteers. The food at the end could have been better, but that is not a deal breaker for me. I would definitely recommend this race. One of the reasons I am considering the Escape from Huntsville 50K (the old Sunmart race) is that I had such a blast at this race, plus Doug HATED to miss a big race, so why not run it again just for him? :)



Big thanks again to Mark England for doing this race with me!

Post Race Photo-op

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Terrific Taper Timing

Awww, how I love thee, taper!

This week begins week two of the taper and culiminates with 32 for 32! I have put in all of the miles and feel ready for the race. Having never run the distance or a trail race before, I have zero time goals - mostly, I just want to stay vertical and avoid roots, rocks, holes, etc. that will send my flying (and not in a good way). I am really excited to be doing something new and different and tackling a new challenge. With that said, AFTER the race, I need to do some soul searching ... what will my race calendar look like in 2012? There are a lot of decisions to be made.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Kitchen Sink

I often will have random thoughts pop up and I will think, “I should post that in the blog”, but I either forget about it by the time I have a chance to sit down and blog or the singular thought itself doesn’t seem to warrant its own post, so I am starting a “Kitchen Sink” post, where I will share my random, disjointed thoughts about triathlon, and well, just about anything, except maybe the kitchen sink!

-Did you watch any Kona coverage this weekend? One word – inspiring! I can’t wait to see it on TV. I get that it is a long day, but damn, it is frustrating not to get to watch it live! I have decided that I have to do this race once. Since taking 2 hours off my 140.6 PR is unlikely given my full time job, full time wife and mother status, I think I will be playing the lottery.

-I have to admit, I was torn on whether I wanted Chrissie or Rinny to win (after Dibens was out) … who were you rooting for? I annoyed my husband for at least an hour trying to follow the race on my phone at an outdoor, very low-key wedding reception.

-After reading interviews from the pros, it is clear that I do not let myself get into the pain locker. I must work on this - test the water, a toe at a time?

-Rev3 is going to Florida in 2012 – and it is a great weekend for us to boot, October 27 – 28, 2012. I am so excited about this race. For my fellow Texans, I am still suggesting a Texas race. Good things come to those who wait!

-I ran 22 miles in the rain on Sunday and it felt awesome. I am feeling ready for this 50K, although I am seriously lacking on actual trail miles. The great thing about a new race distance, especially one off road, is that I am not worried about my time. I am just enjoying being outdoors in this beautiful weather and celebrating the fact that I can run!

-Yesterday, 11 miles into my 22 miler, my amazing hubby took the boys to a birthday party. He drove through the neighborhood to find me to tell me he was leaving and didn’t even look at my funny, while I was drenched, running in the rain. I am so lucky to have him – he just gets me!

-I am seriously considering going back on my previous commitment to not race long in 2012 … I really want to race IMTX again. Something about missing a race in my backyard just kills me, plus I really like the idea of an early season full. My family supports it, now I just need to make a decision. More to come on this topic soon …

-Tyler, my 4 year old, was wearing his “Ironmanne” shirt - the support shirt that my family wore for IMTX this year. I asked him if he picked it or if Daddy did. He said he picked it (and he is a bit picky on what shirts he wears). So, I asked him if he remembered what that shirt was for. Andrew, my 7 year old, replied, that is the Ironman shirt. So, I asked, do you know what Ironman is? Without hesitation – yea, where everyone runs and gets a medal. This just made me smile.

-I have not ridden my bike in months. I miss her. I have even given up on spin class and indoor cycling since I am now running about 8 hours a week.

-Did you see the new Garmin 910 xt? This is at the top of my Christmas list from a triathlon perspective. What is on yours? The new Garmin power pedals look pretty sweet too – but at $1500, someone needs to give me a sales job on why I need these.

-Speaking of Christmas lists, I decided not to wait and bought two super cute running skirts from Lululemon. I wore one in the rain yesterday and it was so light despite the rain. Perfect! Now, I just need to find 2 or 3 more fun colored running tanks with built-in bras and pockets in the back. Suggestions?

-One month post LASIK eye appointment was today. I love it! Sign me up, I will do a commercial. I love, love, love, love, love not having to mess with contacts anymore!

-I ran 10 for Texas this weekend in the Woodlands – what a fun 10 miler! I love the Woodlands – too bad it is so far away from work or I would consider moving there. So athlete friendly. Race report to follow soon.

Have a great training week!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Support your Local Bike Shop

It is the day before a race and you need extra CO2, a new tire, spare tubes, extra nutrition or someone to look at that sound your fine tuned machine (yes, your bike) just started making … where do you go?...

Well, if you traveled to the race, you might be at the expo, where you hope and pray that the vendors have what you need (good luck with that!). Unfortunately for me, one disadvantage of riding 650c wheels is that race vendors often don’t carry enough spare tubes or tires in the 650 size, so I am often out of luck when I am looking for last minute items (let’s ignore the fact that I should have planned better) or nutrition that I left at home. So, back to the question – where do you go?

The Local Bike Shop (commonly referred to as the LBS), of course!

My local shop, Bicycle World and Fitness, is like Cheers. I walk in and everyone knows my name. I have only been a customer there for 3 years, but I have purchased two bikes there and watched them grow from two small shops, into three, including one large, beautiful shop (lots of eye candy!), without losing their amazing customer service. They have nailed my bike fit twice and the bike enthusiasts that work there share great information with everyone they meet.

Chris Holmes, the owner, is usually around at one of the three stores, as are his wife and adorable son. There is definitely a family feel to the shop – and they treat their customers as family too. In the last two years, BW&F has really embraced the sport of triathlon and now carries essentials for all three legs of triathlon – something I love and am so incredibly appreciative of as a customer (one stop shopping!).

As a thrifty shopper, I understand wanting to get the best value and being tempted to buy almost everything online to save a few bucks. Except … I need my LBS and so do you. When you want to touch and feel a new product, zip around on different bikes or try a bike in different sizes, try on apparel, put 10 pairs of goggles on to see what fits your face or get a perfect bike fit – where do you go?

You certainly can’t get those things online. I am not suggesting not to shop online – I love All3Sports and I have happily given them plenty of cash and I will continue to, but I am just reminding folks to spread the wealth. As I mentioned above, the LBS is there when you need them, so don’t be afraid to return the favor.

Maybe I am just lucky, but my LBS, BW&F, will order anything I need and offers extremely competitive pricing. Plus, they support their customers – everything from shop rides to tents at local races. In fact, they have also been stepping up in the community by sponsoring races and they have also just recently started a local team. I am excited to be a part of this new team along with many of their other customers. Yes, CUSTOMERS. They didn’t go out into the community to find just the fastest racers, they put together a team of their best customers – which includes athletes of all ages, from long time triathlete age group winners to newbies!

I am excited to be a part of this local team and to meet more local athletes. I have loved being a part of Trakkers and Rev3, and hope to continue that relationship – the Rev3 people and team are amazing! Despite the fact that we are spread out over the country the Trakkers/Rev3 team is very supportive of one another on all fronts, from personal issues to racing. Since I do a lot of training solo and often travel to race, I have not met as many local triathletes -- so I am thrilled to have the opportunity to have a local team to bond with as well! This will also encourage me to race more locally – in addition to the great races I do with Rev3!

Now, go thank your local bike mechanic … :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chamber of Commerce

Weather in Houston in October is what I like to call "Chamber of Commerce" weather. If you want someone to move to Houston - bring them down in October or March, especially if said someone is already getting frosty nights in the great white North.

Well, today is October 1, and the weather came just in time. There is not a cloud in the sky. Morning and evening temps in the 70s with the high topping out around 85. Given that temps hit 100 degrees a week ago, this is much appreciated relief!

Besides making my runs feel slightly easier, I am thrilled to be able to run with my best girl, my chocolate lab, Indy, again ... and the feeling is mutual! She loved every moment of our 8 miles this morning - as did I!

Happy October!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Layers of Motivation

I have been pretty vocal about needing a goal in order to keep me motivated. Working out JUST for the sake of fitting into my jeans, seeing a certain number on the scale or the very important but broad idea of "being healthy" gets me to hit the gym, but I lack the passion, determination, excitement and frankly, the commitment that I have when I am training for a specific race.

Training and racing gives me a sense of accomplishment and purpose that I just don't get while "working out" and it gives me extra motivation to log the miles. Heck even with this motivation, sometimes, it takes every ounce of willpower that I have to get out of bed to go for a long run before work. I just LOVE to sleep!

So, this is where I have learned that having what I will call "Layers of Motivation" help. For example, here are my current "Layers" ... with the one on the bottom carrying the most weight, or put another way, it is getting me out of bed in the mornings!

Layers of Motivation
1. Be Healthy for myself
2. Be Healthy for my family - set a good example for my children
3. Me time - decompress, try not to think of the many things on my "to do" list
4. Ensure I continue to fit into my favorite David Khan jeans
5. Stay within my "happy range" on the scale
6. Have the fitness and endurance to finish the race
7. Have the fitness and endurance to RACE the race and hit my goals
8. Find out what happens next in my audio book!

Ok, I am sure there are other layers I am missing, but as you can see, #8 is tangible, which is so helpful when you are having a tired and not motivated kind of day.

On a day when all of the bigger goals in my layer of motivation can wait, I go for my run because I want to see what is going to happen next to the characters in my audio book! I ONLY listen to my audio book while I run (or when tri training, cycle) and when the workout stops, the book stops. So, essentially there is a mini-cliff hanger encouraging me to get back into my running shoes every morning. I am actually headed out shortly for a lunch run and I can't wait to find out what happens to Katniss and Peeta in the Hunger Games (no spoilers, please)!

So, what are your layers of motivation? Any book recommendations?

... and seriously, if you have never tried running with an audio book or podcast, try it! And no, I am not sponsored by Audible! :)

Safe Training!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I'm In Love

You know that feeling?

You feel light as air. Every step feels effortless. You glow. You can't wait to go out again. You tell everyone in your inner circle about this new development.

Well, consider yourself my inner circle.

I am in love with running skirts. My last few long runs (16, 18 and 20 milers) training for the Rocky Raccoon 50K in this still stifling Texas heat have been glorious in my running skirt. I love the way it breathes. I love that despite the fact I am soaked, my running skirt does not cling to me like wet shorts. I find myself always looking for it in my workout drawer, so I am putting two more skirts on my wish list for my upcoming Birthday and Christmas. If you have one you love, please leave a comment recommending it!

Sorry, guys, you are totally missing out on this one - unless you are brave enough to try one! I hear they make running kilts for men ...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

16 miles and LASIK

My long run this week in preparation for the 50K was 16 miles. Normally, I would do this run on Saturday or Sunday morning, but I had LASIK planned for Friday morning, which means 3 days of no workouts.

This meant running Friday morning before LASIK - which ended up being the perfect distraction! One of my favorite things to do on long runs is to listen to a captivating audio book. I vary the topics from fiction to business (and everything in between) and recent favorites include The Help and Outliers and I just finished Ken Follet's The Fall of Giants.

I am always sad when a good audio book ends, especially long ones that I have been listening to for weeks. The characters almost become friends and I miss them when the story is over. I finished The Fall of Giants earlier this week so I was at a loss as to what to listen to for my long run this week, but knew I needed something other than music to distract me for 2.5 hours or I would stress about the surgery.

I ended up choosing Tina Fey's Bossypants and it was the absolute perfect distraction. The book made me laugh out loud on my run and I didn't spend a second of that 2.5 hours thinking about lasers in my eyes.

The other benefit of doing my long run before LASIK is that I was pretty worn out (more on that in a minute) and being tired made less stressed. The good news is that my tired state coupled with the valium they gave me right before surgery made me totally relaxed during the procedure. It has only been 36 hours since surgery, but so far so good!

The not great news is that my 16 mile run was exactly half the distance I will running in less than 2 months and I was totally spent after 16 miles. This is when I have to remember that I have not tapered, I am still fighting cough / cold / congestion crap and that I didn't follow my race day nutrition. I am looking forward to my 18 mile run next week to see how I feel and hopefully I will finally be rid of this cough!

Good luck to all those racing long tomorrow ... yes, I am a wee bit jealous.

I couldn't end this post without mentioning 9/11. Ten years later ... may we never forget.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cold Front

For the first time in weeks, temps in Houston were below 100 degrees, coming in at a cool 93 degrees today. It is amazing what a difference of 10 degrees makes! I did my long run of the week, 14 miles, and despite not feeling well because I am coming down with a sore throat and cough, I made it through the miles without as much trouble as expected thanks to the lower temps.

Now that I have had a taste of the "cooler" temps, I am ready for Fall! For those of you in the Northeast, I am not envious of your winters, but I am sure envious of the cooler temps you are experiencing now.

Hope you all are enjoying the long holiday weekend!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

You know what they say about assumptions ...

About a week ago the doorbell rang in the evening, sending my chocolate lab into a barking frenzy and two curious little boys to the door. Standing outside the door was a young guy, early 20s perhaps, wearing khaki pants and a 3 button polo shirt with a pest control company name embroidered on the front. He gave a very short spiel about how his company was doing some work in the neighborhood and wanted to know if we were interested.

I quickly explained to him that Terminix has been doing our quarterly pest control for years so we would not be requiring his service. I was about to turn around to go inside and shut the door when he stopped to ask me one more question ...

"What is the sticker on the back of your Jeep - the number - mean? Is it a race?" I explained that the number was 140.6, the distance of an Ironman.

His reply ...

"That's really cool, did your husband do that?"

I just smiled and pointed at myself.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Technique, technique, technique?

I have been told I have a "pretty" freestyle ... well, it is definitely pretty ...

Pretty slow that is.

I know that if I swim every single day and put all of my effort into being a "swimmer", I will get faster, although I honestly question how much faster I am capable of being without a fundamental change in how I swim.

I am a middle of the pack swimmer who enjoys the swim, but I am a realist as well. Where we spend our time is an investment and it is also an opportunity cost. An hour in the pool might mean saving a few precious minutes on the swim, but that same time spent in the saddle on a weekly basis can create huge dividends in terms of time saved on the bike in a race.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I am disenchanted with the swim. I have been swimming for three years and I worked pretty hard leading up to Florida and Cedar Point to get faster and logged tons of hours and yards in the pool. Circumstances changed (primarily how much I travel for my job) and I did less swiming leading up to IMTX and guess what, my swim time was nearly exactly the same WITHOUT a wetsuit in washing machine conditions! So, go figure, less training = similar results. I am sure if I had been swimming more I would have been a couple of minutes faster, but not the 15 minutes faster I would love to be (sub 1:15 on an IM swim vs my actual time of sub 1:30).

So, what I really want to know is ... what's the secret to getting faster in the pool? Is there some change to my form that is going to yield huge dividends? I don't have the time (or frankly the desire) to invest in becoming a "swimmer". If the answer is that the way to get faster in the pool is to swim faster in the pool, then I will have to deal with that, but I just can't help but think that I am missing out on some secret that is slowing me down in the water.

I have heard from many swimmers that you can log endless hours in the pool and if your technique is not right, it is going to yield marginal returns. I was regularly attending Masters and learned to swim from a coach, but I have definitely hit a plateau. Any advice?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

32 miles for my 32nd Birthday

I need a goal to get my out of bed in the morning, otherwise the snooze button it too tempting. Working out for the sake of working out and being healthy turns my good intentions (say an hour run) into checking the box kind of workouts (well, I still managed 30 minutes)!

My "A" race at the beginning of 2012 is the Rocky Racoon 50 mile trail race. I have wanted to do this race for years, but have never been able to priortize it over my tri training, so 2012 is going to be the year! Since I don't have much (ok, any) trail running experience, I figured I better do a couple of 50K races before attempting the 50 miler.

There just so happens to be a different Rocky Raccoon trail race (same location as the 50 miler) on November 5, a mere 4 days after my 32nd birthday. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you may recall that Ironman Florida was my 30th birthday present to myself. So, in this spirit, I decided to run 32 miles for my 32nd bithday. The race is 31 miles, so I am going to have to either run a mile before it starts, or finish the race and add an extra mile, but either way, my Garmin will say 32 miles when I am finished!

So, what would you do? Do the extra mile as a warm up or cool down?

Oh, and so far, I have resisted the urge to sign up for IMTX again, although I still check the website on occassion. The race is still open, just in case you were wondering...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bridgeland Sprint Race Report

As I mentioned in my last post, I clearly identify myself as an endurance triathlete, but in an effort to be more balanced in the family / work / training triangle this upcoming year, I am going to focus on short course racing as well as endurance trail running races.

What better way to determine my short course base than to do a test race? So, on a whim I entered the Bridgeland Sprint triathlon on August 7. I entered the race less than a month out, so I didn't have much time to train for it.

Most people think that sounds stupid ... Of course, I can do a Sprint if I can do an Ironman ... but racing a sprint and finishing a sprint are two very different things. My body is trained to go moderately hard for a very long time - which means pushing hard and staying in the red for nearly an hour and a half is a different animal.

My plan for the race was to survive the swim, err, swim to my best ability on my limited swim training, push as hard as possible on the bike and run sub 8:00 average on the run ... so here is how it all turned out:

Swim - 500 Meters (550 yards)
My wave started last - ugh. Starting 30 minutes behind the first wave means a hotter run and lots of passing on the bike. The race leaders actually passed the swim start on their run while I was waiting for my wave to start.

The swim was point to point and the lake was pefect. Not a wetsuit legal race by any stretch, but the water was not overly warm like I have experienced in other races. I started towards the front of my wave and stayed on the buoy line. My sighting was good and I felt pretty good in the water, depsite the fact that I have been avoiding the pool.

Given my lack of swimming, I was happy with my time, but I seriously am going to need some help on my swim if I am ever going to be competitive in this sport (more on that in a future post).

Time: 10:57
Rank: 26/70

T1
I ran hard out of the water in order to have a fast transition time, but my heart was pounding when I got to the rack. The only advantage of starting in the last wave is that transition was nearly empty so at least I didn't have to contend with a lot of other people. Since I registered late, I was not racked with my AG, but with other people who registered late (I found this to be odd) so I didn't even have other women in my AG next to me.

My T1 is always longer than my T2 as I do a couple of things in T1 that save me time in T2, but this T1 was considerbly slower than it should have been. I think my pounding heart overwhelmed me a bit...

Time: 1:49
Rank: 23/70

Bike - 13.5 Miles
My goal was to go as hard as possible on the bike without blowing up. It took me about 5 miles to really find my legs and for my heart rate to settle down a bit at the harder effort. I was pretty much passing people the entire race, but not many people in my AG. I had no clue where I was relative to the rest of my AG at that point. I finally started catching up and passing women in my AG in the second half of the bike. There were several women in my AG that I played leap frog with as well. At the last turn around heading back into transition (with a couple of miles to go) I saw a bunch of fast women approaching so I did my best to just pedal hard. The look on my face in my race photos from the bike show how hard I was working.

Overall, I am happy with my effort and the results relative to my AG, but I can't help but think I should be able to go significantly faster. If I can average 18.7 mph for 6 hours in an Ironman, I should be able to go significantly faster for 40 minutes. That is where the speed training comes in, I guess!

My bike time and T2 time are approximate because I am guessing at my T2 time as was lumped into my bike time. I hate inaccurate timing!

Time: 0:37:36 - 21.5 mph
Rank: 8/70

T2
T2 was quick and easy. Change shoes, drop sunglasses, grab visor and hand water bottle and exit.

Time: 0:01:00 (estimate)
Rank: ??/70

Run - 3.6 miles
My goal for the run was to run 8:30s for the first 1.5 miles and then really kick it for the last 2 miles. My heart rate was still pretty high as I started the run and I was barely holding pace. It was pretty hot and I was not sure I had it in me to run 7:30s for the last 2 miles. Fellow blogger Christy Blain ran by me in the fist mile and introduced herself and she gave me the boost I needed to pick up the pace (thanks, Christy!).

Unfortunately, shortly after this I got stopped by a volunteer to let traffic past. I have to be honest, I was pretty pissed off. I was running closely behind two other women in my AG, pacing off of them and I lost about 30 seconds because of that stop. I assume the volunteer figured that late in the race it wouldn't matter, but given that my AG started last, it did make a difference to us. I was pretty disheartened after that and my pace slowed in the heat instead of speeding up as planned. I managed a nice kick for the last half mile, but not enough to make a big difference. Given that I averaged 8:33 for my last HIM run (although with cooler temps), I know I can manage a sub 8:00 average for a sprint distance, if not a 7:30 average pace.

Time: 0:32:57 - 8:54 pace
Rank: 13/70

Overall Time: 1:24:21
Overall AG Rank: 14/70 (80th percentile)
Overall Rank: 329/1133 (70th percentile)

Overall, it was a fun, well run race and I recommend it if you are in the area. The race has grown significantly (40 people in my AG in 2010 vs 70 in 2011 - and the top race times were a lot faster too!) and OnUrMark does a great job putting on athlete friendly races. I would like to see them add touches to make their races more family friendly like Rev3 does.

I know that I have a lot of work to do, but it is nice to have a recent short course race under my belt as a baseline. I just purchased The Time Crunched Triathlete - Race Winning Fitness on 8 Hours a Week and I am going to use it as my guide to get faster. I am still reading the book and I will do a review of it when I am finished.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Identity Crisis

What words do you use to describe yourself?

I am a Catholic wife, mother, daughter and friend. I am an endurance triathlete and hobbyist photographer. I am passionate in all aspects of life - family and friends, work and hobbies.

And now, I am having a bit of an identity crisis.

For the first time since April 2008 I do not have a big, fat hairy goal to chase or a big race on the calendar .... and I am lost.

I promised myself during peak IMTX training that I would take a year away from the IM distance, focusing on shorter races with at least a 70.3 next year to keep me honest. This would also allow me to pursue other goals, like an ultra trail race and/or bucket list races like Escape from Alcatraz, Goofy's Challenge or the Nike Women's Marathon, to name a few.

Sounds reasonable, right?

Let me take a step back though …

You may be wondering why I would want to take a year away from the distance in the first place. This is easy to answer.

Training for an Ironman is selfish. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I do think that we should all do things for ourselves that are inherently selfish – but we also need to recognize it. Selfish is not a “bad” word but it is an opportunity cost.

No matter how time efficient you are, if you respect the iron distance, you have to train long on the bike and that means a long ride (or really a long brick) every weekend leading up to the race.

I trained for IMTX from January to May – so let’s call it 5 months training. During that time, there were at least 2 months where my long brick took me until well into the afternoon.

With two boys ages 4.5 and 7, I feel like the opportunity cost is too great to give up that much of my weekend to training. I am lucky in that my family 100% supports this passion of mine and has encouraged me to sign up for another iron distance race, but my own guilt is holding me back.

I think that my struggle, well part of it anyway, is that all of races I am considering are in 2012 and I need a goal NOW (any ideas on getting into the San Francisco Nike Women’s marathon this year?). Another issue I am facing is that I have come to identify myself as an endurance triathlete, so how do I see myself if I am not currently training for an Ironman?

I also know that next May when everyone locally is gearing up for IMTX again, I am going to be jealous instead of relieved that it is not me out there training and racing.

This is the crux of my struggle – what I want to do versus what I think it best for this period of my life for my family. I don’t want to look back and regret that I missed this time with my boys.

Yet another problem with taking a year off the IM distance is that the necessity of signing up for most races a year in advance means that I may be looking at taking two years away from the distance. Thank God for races like Rev3 Cedar Point and Red Man that allow you to sign up much closer to the race, but I digress.

On a whim, I signed up for a local Sprint Triathlon on August 7 and I have been trying to add speed to my workouts as a new type of challenge, but that still leaves 5 months on the 2011 calendar.

I am not sure what I am asking necessarily, but I needed to share my struggle.
Any suggestions on making the transition from long course to short course? Any races I should be considering? What should I focus on this Summer and Fall before picking a goal for 2012?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ironman Texas 2011 - The Run

The run course was set up with a short run from transition onto the main loop, followed by a 3 lap run. The 3 loop course made it easier for spectators to maneuver around which made for great crowd support, although running by the finish line twice and seeing mile markers that you are not going to hit for two more laps can be a bit depressing.

Happy to be running ... I started the first lap strong, trying to control my pace. I didn’t want a repeat of Cedar Point where I went out too fast. Around the 3 mile marker, I realized that I had messed up my Garmin buttons so my average pace and total time and distance were not right on my watch (so I couldn’t use it as a crutch to help me figure out how fast I needed to be running without doing a bunch of math in my tired head).
The first lap was hot – really hot, with no real shade for the majority of the run. I carried my hand held water bottle and used EFS liquid shot for calories. I put ice down my top at every aid station and took cold sponges as well – all in the name of attempting to not over heat. The heat was hitting me hard and I too quickly mentally gave up on attempting to break 12 hours.

I was struggling to hold my pace and I told myself that I had left it on the bike course. I saw Doug and Ryan at the end of the first lap and was feeling pretty down. You can see how I feel in the picture progression throughout the run – it is so obvious by the look on my face. I gave Doug a kiss and then I gave Ryan a kiss too (what can I say, I was tired and confused) and I told them that I left it on the bike course and I didn’t have it in me to break 12 hours.

Not feeling as good - end of lap 1 Another spectator commented to Doug after I ran off, “Did he (Ryan) just kiss your girlfriend?” and Ryan responded, “Even better, I just kissed his wife!”

I took my first walk break around the aid station about 10 miles in and used the reduced speed to refill my hand held water bottle and take in some extra calories. I extended the walk break just a bit past the end of the aid station and then started running again. I immediately felt like much better – like a different person almost. Unfortunately, this told my mind that the occasional walk break is good for me rather than “you feel better, get back to only running and you can still break 12 hours”.

Looking back now, my only disappointment in the race is that I didn’t have a stronger mental fortitude to come back from that dark place and run at the pace that I know that I can run. I do believe that I was physically fit enough to run a 4:20 Ironman marathon, which was roughly what I needed to break 12 hours. I took the “easy” way out by slowing my pace and taking walk breaks. In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with walking, but for me, I know that I could have pushed harder to hit my dream goal and I mentally gave up. That mental block is something that I need to work on before Ironman #4 (which is still TBD at this point – more on that later).

Despite feeling much better, the second lap was still very hot, so I continued the ice / sponge routine and walked the occasional aid station and then some when needed. As I approached the end of the second loop, the crowd support in the mile or so leading up to the finish line (and the turn to start the next lap) really picked me up and as I made the turn, I was so happy to be starting the third and final lap! I also knew that I was about to see my support crew, which had grown to include my children, parents and in-laws.

As I made the turn to the stretch of road where my crew was waiting, the first person I saw was my 4 year old son, Tyler. He immediately ran to the side of the road, put his hands in the air and started jumping up and down. The feeling of pure joy that came over me when I saw Tyler and then immediately the rest of my crew can be seen on the huge smile on my face in these photos. I gave everyone a sweaty hug and a kiss and then took off, it was single digits to the finish line! Andrew, my 6 year old son, ran alongside me for a couple of seconds to send me off, which was so sweet.

Pure joy ...





Every step after seeing my family reminded me that I was that much closer to the finish line and seeing them again (and keeping them from waiting!). I was feeling good and my pace picked up – adrenaline does that for you. I saw a few familiar faces on the course too, which is always a nice surprise. I ran with my Trakkers teammate off and on during the second half of the third lap and we encouraged each other. I took a couple of quick walk breaks at aid stations, but kept them very brief. I was READY to be finished!

When I hit the two mile to go mark I found my inner Forest Gump and picked up my pace again, running well sub 9s. The crowd was great and the faster I ran the more crowd support I got with random people cheering me on. It felt so good to be finishing strong. With about a quarter mile to go, as I entered Market Square, both sides of the street were lined with people. The crowd was great, but a bit subdued, so I raised my hands like a football player does when trying to get the crowd to make noise … and make noise they did!

I continued this while running my heart out towards the finish line. As I entered the finisher’s chute, I high fived lots of people on the left side and ran with my arms up. I saw my mom but missed my hubby and kids because they were on the right side. Mike Reilly, rather than saying, “Anne Moore you are an Ironman”, said, “Annie, get your gun!” and that was alright by me. I’ll take a personalized announcement any day!

Run Time: 04:42:44
Average Pace: 10:47
Overall Place: 474 / 2156
Gender Place: 104 / 537
Division Place: 18 / 78

Overall Race: 12:20:02 – a PR by 3 minutes and 55 seconds!

Overall Place: 586 / 2156
Gender Place: 109 / 537
Division Place: 17 / 78

I loved this race – I had so much fun and despite the hot run conditions, I felt relatively good because of my nutrition plan (thanks First Endurance!). I would do this race again in a heartbeat (local race, great crowd support, nice course, good aid station support).

A huge thank you to my amazing family who rarely complain when I am gone for long training days weekend after weekend and who offer endless amounts of love, support and encouragement. I couldn’t do it without you!


Check out those super cool support shirts ;)
I have also been very fortunate to be a part of Team Trakkers for three incredible seasons, and have been blessed to have fantastic sponsors -- First Endurance, Avia, Tri Swim, TYR, Kestrel, All 3 Sports, Recovery Pump and Canari -- who give me what I need to train long and race hard.

Now, the big question … what’s next? Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ironman Texas 2011 - The Bike

The start of the bike leg of an Ironman always feels a bit like organized chaos to me – like a stadium emptying after a big concert or football game and everyone finding their own way - and Ironman Texas was no exception. It usually takes the first 20-something miles of the race for things to settle down and for the shuffle of fast swimmers, slow swimmers, fast cyclists and slower cyclists to work itself out.

The crowd support heading out of town was great as well and made for a nice send off into the rolling hills of the Piney Forest area. I quickly settled into a comfortably hard pace and put it on cruise control at that effort level.

I rode the hilly portion of the IMTX course twice leading up to the race so I was really happy when we approached Montgomery and the road began to look familiar. I pushed the down
hills which helped me power up the up hills and kept the pace dialed in on the flats. I saw a couple of familiar faces on the course throughout the day which is always a great pick me up.

The wind was pretty calm and we had nice cloud coverage for a good portion of the bike segment, so I stayed cool, or rather – not hot. The volunteers, as usual, at the aid stations were incredible. I chose not to use the special needs bags for the bike or run because we were told that we would not get them back and I didn’t want to lose anything. Plus, I had everything nutrition-wise that I needed with me on the bike (from what I understand, no one got the bags back, so I was glad I didn’t use them). So, as we approached the half-way point and special needs I stayed to left while a lot of people stopped.

At the half-way mark, my total bike time was less than 3 hours and I realized that if I kept pace that I could break six hours on the bike. I made a mid-race decision to go for it. My fastest HIM bike split is about 3 hours, so hitting 6 hours in a full would be a big deal for me. I knew I was jeopardizing my run, but I felt strong and knew that a fast bike split would give me the best shot at breaking 12 hours.

My only concern at this point in the ride was that I had not seen Doug and Ryan yet. I made it a game to look for the suburban, which helped pass the time, but it was also a bit disconcerting – where were they???

Around this time I went over a rail road track and lost a bottle. I have always thought it was silly that athletes who lose nutrition don’t stop to pick it up – especially if they are going to need it, so I stopped to pick up my bottle. Unfortunately, the top broke on the fall and I lost most of my liquid concentrated nutrition in that bottle. I made two bottles with 3.5 hours worth of nutrition each, so losing that bottle would have been a game changer if I had not brought a flask of First Endurance Liquid Shot “just in case”. I did pick up my broken bottle as to not litter. Overall, the stop was only about 30 seconds, max.

After the nutrition mishap I did a quick re-evaluation of my nutrition plan and adjusted accordingly. I still had plenty of calories to get me through the bike.

Around the 75 mile marker I FINALLY saw Doug and Ryan! What a pick me up! I normally would have just waved but I decided a quick kiss was in order, so I made another 30 second stop to say hello to my support crew and managed to bruise my quad getting off my bike. Thankfully, the bruise didn’t really hurt or show up until Sunday. Doug told me to get going quickly because they had been stopping bikes for as long as 3 + minutes to let cars pass at the major intersection where they were. From what I understand, there was some drama around this because it should not have been happening, so hopefully race officials will get that squared away for 2012.


I took off after seeing Doug and Ryan with a renewed sense of purpose to get back to transition because I knew that is where I would see them again. I finally stopped for a potty break at the 90 mile marker and then the countdown was on! For reference, I stopped at least 3 times during IMFL and 2 times at Cedar Point, so I was happy to have made it 90 miles without a potty stop. With an empty bladder, I felt refreshed and the break was good for me mentally as well.

At this point in the race, I am like a horse running to the stables. I was still focused on breaking 6 hours and my pace had slowed a bit during the second half, so with my albeit brief stops, I knew it was going to be close. I kicked it up a notch as I counted the miles off one by one. With 10 miles to go, my feet hurt, a deep ache. I did my best to move my toes around and just ignore the pain. I knew it would go away as soon as I got off my bike so I was incentivized to get back to transition as quickly as possible.

As we got closer to transition, the crowd support got bigger and bigger, which just fed my adrenaline. As usual, the last several miles felt long, but as I finally approached transition and was surrounded by the excited crowd, I got a huge smile on my face. I took a deep breath and thanked God for a safe ride and no mechanicals. I saw Doug and Ryan as I dismounted my bike and ran it into transition.

It felt so good to hand my bike off to a volunteer! I immediately stopped to take off my bike shoes to alleviate my foot pain and so that I could run more easily to the transition bags and the change tent.

I was amazed when I saw the cumulative clock time as I rounded the corner to the gear bags – it was around 7:35 – I knew that I had done what I needed to do on the swim and the bike to set myself up to break 12 hours. I was not sure what my bike time was, but I knew it was close to 6 hours and I was really happy with that. I was even happier after the race when I found out that I had indeed broken 6 hours on the bike, finishing it in 5:59:56. 4 seconds to spare!

I easily found my bag and went straight into the change tent. It was pretty empty and I had two volunteers helping me. I realized at that point that I had forgotten to put my all day sunscreen on my face before the swim so I was thankful to have a spray bottle of sunscreen in my bag. I sprayed it in my hands and did my best to get it on my face. I also changed socks (now wet and dirty from running in the grass), put on my shoes, changed the nutrition I carry in the back pocket of my tri top from bike nutrition to run nutrition, put on my visor and Garmin and gave the volunteers my sunglasses and bike gear and then I was off.

Bike Time: 05:59:56 (hell yeah!)
Average Speed 18.7 MPH, or 30 KM per hr for my Canadian friends :)
Overall Place: 891 / 2156
Gender Place: 134 / 537
Division Place: 21 / 78

T2 Time: 00:04:25
Overall Place: 288 / 2156
Gender Place: 71 / 537
Division Place: 12 / 78

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ironman Texas 2011 - The Swim

The nice thing about racing my third iron distance race was knowing what to expect … and knowing that despite the fact that my training volume was much lower this training cycle, that I have the capacity to finish the race.

My number one worry going into a race is having a catastrophic mechanical issue or wreck that prevents me from continuing the race. I don’t stress too much about race times – the day will unfold how it will unfold – so I try to put the things that are out of my control (mechanicals, wind, weather) out of my mind.

Race morning is fairly simple when racing long because you have already turned in all of your gear and the only race gear that you have to remember is your bike nutrition … well that and trislide and sunscreen and breakfast and your swim stuff and timing chip… but still, far less stuff to remember than a normal race day.

We chose to stay at home, a short 45 minute easy drive from the Woodlands. We woke up around 3:45 am, got dressed, made breakfast (toast with peanut butter) and hit the road by 4:30 am. My Iron Sherpa hubby and our good friend Ryan were going to be my primary race crew for the day. My children and parents would be joining them much later in the day to watch the finish.

Transition

We arrived in the Woodlands around 5:30 am, found parking and made it to transition to drop off my bike nutrition before walking the mile or so to the swim start. It was a pretty laid back morning and I enjoyed talking to lots of different people on the walk to the swim start. Once at the swim start, I got body marked and then put on my TYR Torque. The race was not wetsuit legal for those competing for AG awards and Kona slots. I knew I had no shot at either, but chose to race without my wetsuit anyhow so that I would see how I fared against the best.

Support Crew - Check out those shirts!

My Iron Sherpa
I always get teary-eyed before saying goodbye to Douglas before big races and this race was no exception. I have no idea why, but it happens every time! After one last quick kiss, I got into the “no wetsuit” corral and started making my way into the water. I finally made it into the water with a couple of minutes to spare before the gun and was surrounded by athletes. I really had no place to go to get away from people (in Florida I started a bit further down the beach to avoid the washing machine) – and there was still a decent line of people trying to get into the water.

Swim Entry Line
At the Gun
When the gun went off it was mayhem. Bodies everywhere. It was the definition of the washing machine effect and it was by far the most difficult mass start swim I have done (Redman Full Aqua Bike, IMFL, Rev3 Cedar Point, IMTX). It took about 15 minutes to find clear water – and for the rest of the race it was a constant battle to stay in clear water. It was as if we all had magnets on that were attracted to each other and we wanted to swim in pods to beat the crap out of each other rather than swim a couple of feet in any other direction in clear water. I got slapped and kicked and had my goggles knocked off my face once, but that is not so bad considering the chaos.

I mentally broke the swim into three parts – the first segment was the “out” to the turnaround buoy, the second segment was the “back” which took us back towards the bridge where we started and the turn into the canal and the third segment was the canal itself. Once in the canal, it was really neat to see spectators on both sides – until I noticed one guy basically walking next to his swimmer. I’m not sure why this annoyed me other than every time I breathed to that side he was there and it felt like I was not going anywhere!

I really try to enjoy the swim even though it is my weakest of the three sports because it just passes so quickly and before I know it I will be spending hours and hours and hours on my bike. When I get tired or frustrated during any part of the race I will often think of people who would love to be where I am at that given moment and for health or other reasons they cannot train for or race an Ironman – and that helps get me through. So as I approach the swim exit I try to remember one last time to embrace and enjoy the day.

As soon as I hit the stairs I got a huge smile on my face – one leg down, two to go! I nearly lost my balance as I started to run for the wetsuit strippers. I opted to have them help me pull off my Torque so that I wouldn’t end up struggling with it in the change tent.

With the Torque off, I ran towards the transition bags and passed the time clock, the time showed it was less than 1:30 into the race. I was pretty happy with what I saw on the clock, especially since I had not been swimming the yardage I had for previous races leading up to IMTX – think, once a week in the pool, maybe. I ran through the sea of bags to the 200s and immediately saw my bag its neon green duct tape on it, grabbed it and was off to change for the bike. I saw Doug at this point and it is always such a relief to me to see him – for one, I am happy he knows that I am safe (I always worry he is going to miss me) and two, it is just a big mental boost to see him.

Grabbing my transition bag
There was an empty seat on the bench outside of transition and I opted to sit there rather than in the dark change tent. I only had to put on my socks, shoes, helmet, sunglasses and gloves and to grab my bike nutrition, so it was a fairly simple transition. I did panic for one moment because it took a couple of looks in my bag to find my second bike shoe, but it was just for a moment. I threw my swim gear into the bag and was off to grab my bike.

Literally, millions of dollars worth of bikes in transition



My only real complaint from a race perspective is that my bike was at the far end of the rack so I had to run to the end of the rack to get it and then back to the middle to exit, so theoretically someone in my age group racked closer to the middle had an advantage. I guess when I am ready to fight for a slot to Kona these little differences will be a much bigger deal :)

The nice thing about being on the end of the rack it that it was also close to the fence so I got to see Doug and Ryan for a moment while I grabbed my bike before running to the bike exit. I saw Doug running towards the bike mount line just as I was mounting my bike (spectating is hard work!), and then I was off.

Swim Time: 01:27:56
100M Pace: 2:18
Overall Place: 1230 / 2156
Gender Place: 256 / 537
Division Place: 46 / 78

T1 Time: 00:05:02
Overall Place: 449 / 2156
Gender Place: 129 / 537
Division Place: 23 / 78

Friday, June 17, 2011

IMTX Race Report – Quick(ish) and Dirty

Doing an IM at home town was a very different experience from traveling to race.

When I travel, it is easier to leave behind day-to-day life and just focus on my travel plans – and in the case of a race – focus on the race. When traveling for a race, my Iron Sherpa is with me every step of the way and we are usually situated close to the race site.

Racing at home means commuting back and forth (minimum 45 minutes each way) to the race site for pre-race activities, not having my Iron Sherpa with me for pre-race stuff (he was working) and multi-tasking until nearly the last hour the night before the race (unloading the dishwasher among other fun things).

However, racing at home also means that I am at HOME! I enjoy sleeping in my own bed, not having to disrupt everyone’s schedule and routine because I am racing and having my own cheering section at the race is icing on the cake.

For those of you who just want the race highlights – here is a quick(ish) and dirty race recap. I have a lot more to say about the race, the experience, my nutrition, etc, but this will give you the highlights and focuses on how I performed time wise and in comparison to the field.

To compare IMTX versus other IMs, check out RunTri’s analysis. IMTX currently ranks as one of the top 5 most difficult races on RunTri’s Toughest Ironman Index (based on finishing times).

Swim - Did not wear a wetsuit – wore TYR swim skin. First 15 minutes were brutal, tough to get into any sort of rhythm thanks to the endless slaps, hits, kicks and punches. Toughest mass swim I have done to date. That being said, I was thrilled with my time, given how little I had been swimming in the two months leading up to the race. I’ll take it!

Swim Time: 01:27:56
100M Pace: 2:18
Overall Place: 1230 / 2156
Gender Place: 256 / 537
Division Place: 46 / 78
**Overall and Gender includes Pros!**

T1 – Easily found my bag and an empty seat on the bench outside of the chaos of the change tent. The only disadvantage I saw here is that my bike was at the end of my row so I had to run down the row and back to get my bike whereas people in my AG racked on the end did not have to do this.

T1 Time: 00:05:02
Overall Place: 449 / 2156
Gender Place: 129 / 537
Division Place: 23 / 78

After T1
Overall Place: 1057 / 2156 ---- passed 173 people in transition!
Gender Place: 221 / 537 ---- passed 35 women in transition!
Division Place: 40 / 78 ---- passed 6 women in my AG in transition!

Transitions are free speed!!

Bike – The beginning of course had great spectator support. Easily found my rhythm and a good pace. I was thankful that I had ridden a good 55 miles of the hilly section of the course because I knew what to expect -- when to push hard on the down hills, when the pavement was going to change, etc. Saw many friendly faces on the course – another perk of a hometown race. At the half way point, I saw that I could break 6 hours on the bike if I kept my pace up and I decided to go for it, even it if would cost me a bit on my run later. I only had to stop twice on the bike. Once to pick up a bottle of nutrition that was ejected going over railroad tracks (unfortunately, it broke and I lost the nutrition) and once for the porta-potty. Thank God I brought a flask of First Endurance Liquid Shot in my tri top, just in case, so I was still ok on the nutrition front. My feet started to hurt during the last 10 or so miles, but adrenaline took me to the bike dismount line. I was thrilled with my bike performance.

Bike Time: 05:59:56 (hell yeah!)
Average Speed 18.7 MPH, or 30 KM per hr for my Canadian friends :)
Overall Place: 891 / 2156
Gender Place: 134 / 537
Division Place: 21 / 78

Getting off the bike, I was 07:32:54 into the race and my standings were:

Overall Place: 915 / 2156 ---- passed 142 people on the bike
Gender Place: 142 / 537 ---- passed 79 women on the bike
Division Place: 25 / 78 ---- passed 15 women in my AG on the bike

T2 – my favorite part of T2 is handing my bike to a volunteer and taking off my bike shoes before running to my T2 bag and the change tent. Again, easily found my bag and went into the shade of the change tent to change. It wasn’t very busy and I had help. Switched out my nutrition and changed socks, shoes, put on my Garmin and visor and I was out the door.

T2 Time: 00:04:25
Overall Place: 288 / 2156
Gender Place: 71 / 537
Division Place: 12 / 78

I’m not sure why I am faster than my peers in T2 than I am in T1???

After T2
Overall Place: 850 / 2156 ---- passed 65 people in transition!
Gender Place: 133 / 537 ---- passed 9 women in transition!
Division Place: 22 / 78 ---- passed 3 women in my AG in transition!

Starting the marathon, the race clock was 07:37:19 …

Run – On a “perfect” day, my goal would be to break 12 hours. All I had to do was run a 4:22:40 marathon and I would be set. I am 100% confident that my body is capable of a 4:22 Ironman marathon … it was my mind that was not capable today. 3 lap run – first lap was really tough and hot, second lap felt better but was still hot and the third lap felt even better and it was actually not as hot. Crowd support was a major boost and I rocked the last 2 miles (sub 9:00 pace). This was not the run I am capable of, however, even with the heat, I felt pretty good and I’ll take it!

I rev’d up the crowd during the last quarter mile and high-fived as many people as I could in the finisher’s chute.

Run Time: 04:42:44
Average Pace: 10:47
Overall Place: 474 / 2156
Gender Place: 104 / 537
Division Place: 18 / 78

Overall Race: 12:20:02 – a PR by 3 minutes and 55 seconds!

Overall Place: 586 / 2156 ---- passed 264 people on the run
Gender Place: 109 / 537 ---- passed 24 women on the run
Division Place: 17 / 78 ---- passed 5 women in my AG on the run

For those of you who are not keeping track, I ended up passing 644 people throughout the day after getting out of the water, including 147 women and 29 women in my AG. Clearly I need to learn to swim faster!

Overall, I am really happy with my performance and results, especially since I had to cut back on my training volume this IM training cycle. I was just outside the top 20% for women overall and in my AG. I was just outside of the top 25% of the overall field and my time was nearly an hour faster than the average finishing time of 13:19. This is a huge improvement in my comparative results from IMFL, so I feel great about the strides I have made in the last 18 months!

Stay tuned for a segment by segment detailed race report to follow soon!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Back from Paradise

You may recall from this post that directly after IMTX, I planned a 10 day second honeymoon to Belize for me and my amazing, supportive husband of 10 years.

Well, 6 short days after PRing the IMTX with a time of 12:20:02, we left for Belize and 10 days of rest, relaxation and not a minute of S/B/R! Ok, I did swim but not in a training fashion. I drank, I ate and I didn't feel a hint of guilt (ok, maybe a tinge once or twice).

The trip was amazing and I am back feeling energized and refreshed and ready to figure out what my next challenge will be.

IMTX race report to follow soon ...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Creatures of Habit

As a general rule, I think most people are creatures of habit. I know that I am. I often run the same run route, drive the exact same way to work, eat the same meals for dinner most weeks and usually eat the same thing for lunch everyday.

Why?

Because it is easy ... and familiar. No surprises. Why try something new and risk disappointment when you have a good thing going, right?

The problem with this is that it can be too much of a good thing and we are reticent to try new things that may actually help us improve (in terms of training) or that we may actually like better!

One of the best things about being on Team Trakkers (besides the camraderie of my super cool teammates) is trying new products from our sponsors. I will tell you with 100% honesty that I was very nervous to try new products. I had been wearing the same brand of shoes for close to a decade. I was using nutrition that I liked. I wore the same goggles ... the list goes on and on.

I am happy to say that this experimentation has been great for me. I have discovered new products that I swear by that I would not have otherwise known about. Not everything new I try works for me - and that's ok too - sometimes I learn more when trying something that doesn't work than finding new things that do.

Be on the look out soon for an "Anne's Triathlon Favorite Things" post that I will use to share with you well, my favorite things. Unfortunately, unlike Oprah, I won't be giving away my list of items, but I do encourage you to think outside of your routine and perhaps try something new!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Big Dance in T minus 1 Month

When life gets so busy that keeping all the balls in the air feels like a nearly an impossible task, what do you do?

Keep your head down, stay focused and work hard.

So, that is exactly what I have been doing for the last month. While I have had to make some sacrifices on the training front, my main focus has been to be active during the week in s/b/r and nailing my long workouts on the weekends.

The temps in Texas are starting to soar and I can definitely feel it on my long runs, but my pace is still holding up. My long bike rides have been strong and consistent and I got to ride two loops of the hilly section of the IMTX course last weekend. While there are some hills, there are downhills as well, with lots of opportunities to pick up some good speed.

I don't know if I am going to be a trained "ready" for this race, but I have never been more ready for a race to arrive!

Hope your training and racing has been going well - stay safe, train hard and may the wind be at your back! Hope to see a lot of you on the IMTX course one month from today!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Verdict Is In ...

Thank you so much for all of the great advice on whether I should race IMTX 70.3. I found myself being swayed back and forth as I read the various comments. Ultimately, I have decided not to race it, but after much deliberation I feel confident that I am making the decision for the right reasons.

Primarily, my reasons for not racing are: 1) save the money 2) save the time (avoiding a weekend in Galveston away from my kids, especially since I am traveling most of the following week) and 3) for $275 I want to race not be conservative.

After a month of 80+ mile bike rides, followed by good brick runs and two recent long runs of 16 and 17 miles, I am feeling more and more confident about my fitness. I even had a wonderful swim this weekend despite being out of the pool for over a week.

I am definitely finding the family / work / training balance more difficult this IM go round, but am happy that I have two finishes under my belt so that I can be more flexible with my training without losing confidence in my ability to have a good race.

Thanks again for the advice - I will miss the fun and the atmosphere in Galveston, but it is the right decision for me this year. Have a great training week!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Decisions, decsions ... help me make one!

Ok, tri friends, I need your help again.

IMTX is 10 weeks away (yikes!) and IMTX 70.3 is 6 weeks before IMTX, making it 4 weeks from now. I did this race last year and had a great day, even PRing the race in my goal time (sub 5:45)

I have not registered for the 70.3 yet and I am on the fence on whether I should race it ...

I only did two races last year, one in the Spring - IMTX 70.3 in April and one in the Fall - Rev3 Cedar Point in September. So while technically my 140.6 was not my first race of the year, I clearly did not do one as a part of my build or peak leading up to my iron distance race.

Part of me wants to do the race so IMTX won't be my first race of the year, but I also have a whole list of reasons not to do it ...

- Save the money (two big vacations this year, fall races?)
- Not necessary
- Don't feel ready to race (would a poor race affect me confidence for IMTX?)
- Closer than I would like to IMTX

If this was my first IM distance race, I think I would definitely go for it, but since IMTX will be number 3, I need help deciding if I "need" to do a tune up race.

If I am being perfectly honest with myself, it also has something to do with the fact that I don't feel like I am in as good of shape as I was last year (e.g. If given similar race conditions and I felt the same, could I beat last year's time?).

My training doesn't feel like it has been as good and consistent as last year, mainly due to my travel schedule. Although, looking back, my training volume is similar, if not higher (since I was not training for an IM at this point last year, my hours were lower).

I can easily talk myself into or out of the race - I have twice while writing this blog post. So, give it to me ... should I race the 70.3 or skip it this year?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Remember Me?

I have just wrapped up one of the busiest months in as long as I can remember. The juggling act between family, work and training hit a serious peak over the last month between wrapping up a major project for work, traveling, two birthdays and two birthday parties, our whole family fighting the flu, oh and of course, training for a little race that is just around the corner.

I had my longest brick to date this weekend - 80 miles on the bike followed by a 5 mile run. I am starting to feel at home again in the saddle, but I am not quite to where I was leading up to Cedar Point.

Starting at the end of March, I plan to spend the two months leading up to the race doing as many of my long rides on the IMTX course as possible.

I am looking forward to catching up on all of your blogs and sharing a few product reviews that I have been working on. Long rides give me lots of time to think - lots of blog fodder!

Happy Monday!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Good News, Bad News and a PSA

I will keep this short because I am cuddled up in bed, resting and getting ready to watch The Big Bang Theory with my family.

I will start with my bad news -- I have the flu! The is the first time in as long as I can remember getting sick like this. I struggle with my sinuses like the rest of Houstonians, once or twice a year, but other than the congestion, it does not affect my ability to work or train or live life in general. I have been varying levels of miserable since Sunday night. The kicker is that I get a flu shot every year without fail, but I just didn't get around to it this winter. So, my PSA -- get your flu shot!

The good news is that I feel much better about my ride last Sunday now. My misery on the bike was probably in large part due to my coming down with the flu.

In more bad news, I was supposed to get 13 hours of training this week and all I have been able to manage is 1:45 of very easy spinning on the trainer. I am going to see how I feel over the next several days, but at best will get a bit more easy trainer time in. I have never had to miss significant training volume like this in a given week, but ...

In more good news, it is just one week. With IMTX just 100 days away, I have just enough time to build and peak without letting this illness set me back.

Here is to getting healthy ... and don't forget to get your flu shot!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

On the Road Again

Today marked my first ride on the open road of the year and of the new season ... and it sucked.

I had a 4 hour ride and 45 minute run on the schedule and the temps indicated that it would be a good day for an outdoor ride. I purposely started later than usual because the morning temps were cool in the 40s, but the forecast had them climbing to 70 by Noon.

I went into the ride with low expectations. I knew I would not have the power that I had in late August leading up to Cedar Point and I didn't want to be disappointed. I also knew to expect some wind. Both expectations were met. I felt pretty flat for much of the ride and the wind, oh the wind. There were points that I just didn't want to keep pedaling, but I suffered through the wind.

My body ached during the ride, probably from gripping the aero bars so hard in the windy sections- and it still aches now. I was wiped after the 4 hours but ended up with a decent run, probably because I was just happy to be off my damn bike. I was thankful that I downloaded a new audio book for this brick because I really needed the distraction today.

My boys have been sick with coughs and fever all weekend and I have started coughing tonight. In retrospect, I have been a bit sluggish and sleepier than usual this weekend. I rarely experience aches on the bike, so I think my body was telling me something.

So, the bad news is that my ride sucked. The good news is that "skunk is off the porch" and it should only get better from here (or at least I am going to keep telling myself this so that I will keep getting on my bike!).

One thing is for certain, the next time I am stuck on the trainer I will not complain!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How far is too far to run with your dog?

I mentioned recently that my chocolate lab Indy loves to run and it seems like she can run for days without getting tired. She makes for great company on a long run but I am worried about pushing her too far.

I gradually increased her mileage and we are now up to 10 miles, which is about 1.5 hours. My gut says I am probably starting to push the limit on how far I should let her run even though she seems great at the end of our runs. Maybe 2 hours max?

I will definitely ask her vet at her next visit, but I am worried that it will be like asking a doctor that doesn't run about overcoming a running injury. Without perspective or passion for the sport, the short answer is usually very conservative and not patient specific - usually something really creative like "stop running".

Do you have a dog that loves to run? How far is too far to run with your dog?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Honeymoon Training

If you have ever planned a wedding, there probably came a time when you thought ... "after the craziness surrounding all of this planning, I get to celebrate with my loved ones at my wedding AND I get to go on the honeymoon!" ... and that thought alone was enough to get you through the stressful times.

For me, training for a big race like Ironman can get overwhelming, stressful, tiring , but usually I really enjoy it. It is probably an 85%/15% split on love/hate.

I don't enjoy endless hours indoors on the trainer and I am getting itchy for the open road, but when I start getting frustrated I remind myself that I get to celebrate all of my training by racing an Ironman (the wedding) AND this year, right after IMTX I get to go on a second honeymoon to Belize (we celebrated 10 years of wedded bliss in December)!

So, when the temps get hot and the miles get long, I will be thinking of two things to get me through - the IMTX finish line and a hammock outside of a beachfront cabana in Belize.

If you have ever been to Belize, I would love your input on what to do / where to stay /etc.

The first month of Ironman training is in the books, coming in around 44 hours. Not bad for my first month back. I got the majority of my workouts in and didn't miss any of the "important" ones. I am not nearly the slave to my plan that I once was, but I still make time to get er' done. I could probably stand a few more days a month in the pool, but as many before me have said ... it's all about the bike.

Happy February! I don't know about you, but I can already hear the sound of the waves ...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dancing in Heaven - Q-Feel

It never ceases to amaze me how different I can feel running (or swimming or biking for that matter) from one day to the next. One session makes can make me feel like an Olympic champion and the next makes me feel like the kid who got picked last in gym class (well, as a tomboy, that wasn't me, but I felt for the kids that did).

If you like bad 80s movies, it reminds me of the lyrics of the song Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-bop) by one hit wonder, Q-Feel, featured in my all time favorite movie as a child, Girls Just Want to Have Fun. I can't tell you how many times I have seen the movie, but there were plenty of nights growing up that I would watch it multiple times in one night. I *really* wanted to be a dancer.

Anyhow, back to the lyrics -- part of the chorus repeat is "Slow - slow - quick, quick slow" and that is how my workouts sometimes feel (check out the You Tube link to hear the song), although thankfully my workouts are more like "Quick, slow, quick, quick, slow" ...

The good news is that I try to remember the words of Caballo Blanco from the book Born to Run (I am paraphrasing here because I listened to it on Audio book, so I don't have the book to look up the quote), "When you feel like running fast, run fast, and when you feel like running slow, run slow."

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely times for intervals and speed work, but what I took Caballo's words to mean were simply, listen to your body.

Week 3 of IM training is behind me and my muscle memory is coming back. Getting up early is getting easier, although I do miss the extra sleep. Happy training and thanks for reading!