Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ironman 70.3 Ohio

As some of you may know, it has been a bucket list thing of mine to complete a Half Ironman.  I wanted to do it when I turned 50, but with my daughter graduating high school and us relocating to Cleveland, it just didn’t pan out.  Then I got hurt that summer, and my goals changed.

Fast forward to January of this past year, my running friend, Karyn, found out about the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Ohio, and the next thing I knew, we were signed up and ready to compete in August, 2016.  What were we thinking?  Well, I sounded like a good idea in January – but you know how that is.  The good thing was that I was going to get this bucket list item done before my 55th birthday – so score. First, I had to train for Boston.  As most of you know, I consider Boston to be my hometown race and after my very successful Columbus Marathon, I was looking forward to it.  Training was ok and I ran a very fast *for me (1:39) half in March in NYC, and Boston turned out to be just ok.  I felt that I had let down Coach Bob (but that is another story), but it was time to transition to triathlon training.  With the early assistance of Bob and my good friend, Mary Pat, I figured out an early race plan for the summer.  I got started by accomplishing my first ride a week after Boston in 40F temperatures in Cleveland, and it was the first time I had ridden my bike since the one ride I took in July of the previous summer.  That 10 miles was accomplished in just slightly under an hour – and it was hard.

Then life took over – my daughter graduated college, she and I went to Alaska, Coach Bob unexpectedly left us – and I was still signed up to finish this Half Ironman in August.  I enlisted the help of Coach Lesley from AJBaucco Coaching (as recommended by my extremely awesome Cleveland Triathlon Club (virtual) friends) and the game was on.  Still reeling and trying to cope with the loss of my good friend, I took on that training plan and did all I could to stick with it  It was hard – a lot harder than training for a marathon and this 54 yr old was tired – so TIRED that I aborted and walked a run (with a few awesome friends – you know who you are – so thanks), who worried about me.  I swam a lot of miles in the pool at Turner working on my stroke technique with Coach Tom (and realizing that I still a really good breaststroker) and Lake Erie, I rode a lot of miles with the awesome cyclists at my summer home at Chautauqua (Special thanks to Chris, Jen, Kent, Bill, Stuart, Carol and Mary Pat – you have no idea how much you helped me feel like I can actually cycle!), and I ran a few miles including a slowish half marathon at Presque Isle where I unexpectedly won my AG! After all that, I knew I was ready.

My hubby, John and I, headed down to Delaware on Friday late afternoon and we got there before dinner.  I was accompanied by my vote of confidence from Coach Lesley and my fuel plan (where I had taken the required number of carb calories and sodium from my sweat test and created a plan using UCan, Gatorade Endurance and Gels) and all that stuff that is required for a triathlon.  Believe me as a marathoner, the STUFF you need for a tri and the logistics are incredible!  John and I had a fun dinner at a craft brewery in downtown Delaware and then settled in for the night. 

We got up on Saturday morning and headed to the Ironman Village to check-in and listen to the Athlete’s briefing.  Logistics still seemed complicated, but easier than expected.  John decided to sign up to volunteer and we met my SIL, her husband, and my nephew for lunch in town (my other nephew is a new freshman at Ohio Wesleyan – so they were there moving him in.  John and I then drove out to the Swim site, checked it out, and then drove the bike course.  I got in a short ride and a quick run, and then we went to dinner in Westerville (which turned out to be on the house which is another story completely).  We went back to the hotel, watched Matthew Centrowitz kick butt and went to bed.

So the day started by getting up at 3:30am. John and I got to the stadium about 4:45am then shuttled up to the lake by 5:30am. Waiting for the swim start was nerve wrecking.  John took off for his volunteer assignment and I “set up” my bike transition area.  I saw Beth and other CTC folks at the beginning and wished them luck, pumped my bike tires like ten times, and used the porta potty probably 20 times more.  And then, it was time to line up.  I saw Karyn in the wave, we gave each other a hug, and then we were in the water.  I figured that it would take me about 45 min to complete the swim and all seemed well for the first 500 yds – or to the first turn, and then all hell broke loose.  My stomach started feeling nauseous, all that anxiety rose to the surface, and I panicked.  Determined not to latch onto one of those kayaks, I resorted to breaststroke, and I thank all of you women in the F50-54 wave for putting up with that.  I looked ahead and didn’t see too many light pink caps, but I did see a lot of blue and green from the earlier wave, and I went into the mode of swimming 23 strokes freestyle, 20 breast, then 23 free, 15 breast, then 23 free and 10 breast and so on and then I was at the 2nd return (why 23 free – well that is how many strokes it takes me to complete a length in the 25 yd pool).  By then had regrouped, and I was able to swim freestyle to the exit of the swim.  Strangely enough, the swim took me 45 min and 28 sec.

The bike part was actually good.  I’m not a fast cyclist and I figured it might take me 3 and a half hours to complete the 56 miles.  I was so very happy when I realized that I was going to be actually quicker than that.  I took a gel every 30 min as planned and managed to drink all but about 8 oz of the Gatorade during the ride.  The chip and seal road was of no real consequence since it is what I rode on all summer during training and the final hills and rollers were welcome as they play more to my strengths.  Wow, I was so very surprised to get to the end of the bike leg in 3:15 – averaging 17.2 mph.  That for me was a major accomplishment especially since I tried to keep my HR low in the first half and not blow out my legs so I could use my strength on the run.

And then, it was time for the run and for me the “middle distance” long distance runner, a half marathon is my wheel house.  I knew that I didn’t want to go out too fast, but once I hit that road, it felt good and it felt right.  I kept trying to slow it down, but I got into the groove, and I just let it go. The run course was fair and maybe even a bit harder than I thought it would be.  There was a nice small climb in the 2nd mile and the back half of the loop was pretty much up a gradual hill from about mile 4.5 to 9 and again from mile 10.5 to 12.  But I felt good, and I passed so many people on the run – all those who flew by me on the bike, and I just cruised by (jumped from 45th in my AG to 19th).  I guess I just will never understand (and I’ve seen it in all 5 triathlons that I’ve ever done – so definitely an expert am I) why competitors seem to drop into a walk mode almost immediately during the run leg.  Now granted, I am a runner, but I’m not a cyclist – so you probably think my 17.2 mph is ridiculously slow – but you didn’t even try to run????  But I digress, I am a runner and I used it as my strength.  It was somewhat hilly, the sun came out and it was warm but once I got down the hill at mile 12 – I was going to get to that finish line even if I had to walk (lol).

As I came into the stadium, I started to get emotional as all those spectators and volunteers were just not letting you quit.  I knew that Coach Bob was watching me from above, and damn if I wasn’t going to finish that Ironman 70.3 Ohio race and finish it a lot closer to 6 hrs than I could have imagined. So when I crossed the finish line in 6 hours and 8 minutes it was such an amazing feeling and an experience I will always remember. I pushed my body and it did not fail me. 

Thanks so much to John (and he loved volunteering), to Karyn for getting me to finally sign up, to Coach Lesley for the awesome plan and unrelenting encouragement, to Chris, Jen, MP, Carol, Ironman Bob, Kent, Bill, Karin, Stuart, and others for putting up with my slow cycling butt and helping me get better and better – I still bike like a runner – but I’m closer, to Coach Tom for helping with swim technique, to Beth and Aimee for the mentoring and answering all my questions in the final weeks and for not letting trade in that bib, and to Coach Bob for watching over me on Sunday (I miss you).  If I ever do another Half IM (and I’m already looking at courses with fast, easy swims – lol), I know what to work on to improve and I also know that I can.

Here are my final stats:

Bay Village OH

SWIM DETAILS | Division Rank: 21
1.2 mi
BIKE DETAILS | Division Rank: 45
32.3 mi
32.3 mi
16.75 mi/h
56 mi
23.7 mi
17.81 mi/h
56 mi
17.18 mi/h
RUN DETAILS | Division Rank: 19
2.3 mi
2.3 mi
5.2 mi
2.9 mi
7.5 mi
2.3 mi
10.4 mi
2.9 mi
13.1 mi
2.7 mi
13.1 mi
Transition Details
T1: Swim-to-bike
T2: Bike-to-run

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Boston here I come!

It finally here or at least a few days away - the 120th running of the Boston Marathon!  This will be my 5th Boston in a row and my 16th official running.  I never actually planned to run 5 in a row, but with the events of 2013, my good friend qualifying in 2015 - it just happened that way.  The original plan was to run Shannon's freshman year, 2013 and then go back her senior year, 2016 - but events unfolded that changed that plan.

I know I feel very blessed that I can be there and I continue to hope to make it to the finish line in one piece.  I've put in the work - heck, I even ran the fastest half that I have run since 2012, but I've been dealing with some little niggles since then - ankle is better, but now the back of my right knee and my right quad have been annoying me.  It is probably nothing, but I still hope that they don't raise their ugliness over those hills.  I had a tough "speedwork" run at Memorial Field last week, and it did shake my confidence a bit.  This week had a couple of tough runs too, but that is often what is expected in "taper".  Not sure when I'm going to get out today as I have to wait on a plumber for my kitchen sink so I might be headed to a dreadmill or evening run, but we will see.

As I stated above, this will be my 5th Boston in a row and I know that I'm lucky to be able to qualify and run that many times in a row.  I also have a time for 2017, so I'll probably be back.  I never decided to run 5 in a row on purpose, but with Shannon at BU and the events of 2013, it just worked out that way.  The plan was to run her freshman year - 2013 and her senior year - 2016 and I managed to run everyone of them in between.  As my friend Tim says, "run them until you can't qualify", and while I have certainly had years where I didn't or couldn't qualify (due to injury or other life events or running multiple marathons), I know that it is a little bit of a gift to be able to qualify still.  I hope that I can keep running it at least for another 5 yrs until the 125th running.

Of course, the weather is shaping up to be warm (for running) on Monday as the luck of the draw always seems to be.  Spectators will love it, but those of us runners probably won't be that happy.  I keep reminding myself that it was 70F in 2014 and I handled that well.  I just need to run even splits - or as even as possible and take in plenty of water and Gatorade along the way.  Heck, I made it quite successfully in 2012 when the temps soared to near 90F.  C'est la vie - I can't change the weather, I can only prepare for it as best as I can.

Boston will always be a special race for me.  It was my very first marathon (as a bandit) in 1980 and I ran a very nice then PR there in 1986 placing 50th overall for women (it was a down year before shoe contracts, etc - long history there).  I will always think of it as my home city no matter what and I will miss my yearly trips in September and May to get Bug from school, but I do hope to continue running the Boston Marathon.  

I wish much luck to all my Sole Train friends and hope that they enjoy every step of my home town race.  I thank them for putting in those miles with especially Chris, Karyn, Dianne and Tim.  I wouldn't be here without you guys.  Special thanks to Chris for the long runs, to Dianne for that especially tough Pace Run back in early March, and to Karyn for forcing (hehehe) me to run those Hinckley hills.  And of course to Bob and Coach Emily for believing in me.

Monday will be here soon enough even with its warm temps and as I turn onto Boylston street, I will once again remember those tragic events that I witnessed in 2013.   I will remember to say a prayer as I pass in front of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (where I was that day on the course).  And forever it will be Boston Strong.

Friday, March 25, 2016

2016 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon - an Unexpected Result!

Last year, I ventured back to NYC to run my first United Airlines NYC Half Marathon and it was more of a success than I could have imagined.  I had a good fall of racing (in 2014) but I really over did it a bit and by the beginning of February, I was tired and suffering from a sinus infection.  I took a few days off and figured that I'd enjoy myself in NYC in March and have fun running with Mary Pat and Nick at Boston.  I ended up going out conservatively and surprised myself with a 1:41:51.  I ran the race smartly going out slow in the park and picking it up when I entered Times Square.  The race was electric and I decided that I wanted to go back.
Fast forward to last weekend.  I convinced my friend, Chris, to go to NYC with me since she loves the city as much as I do.  We had run the last two NYC marathons and will be running Boston this year.  Chris is an awesome person and friend who supports me in my crazy endeavors.  She is also a bit older than me, looks younger, and makes me strive to stay in shape and be everything I can be.  Chris is a great runner and even better cyclist, so I will be calling on her a lot this coming summer when I begin to train for that crazy Half IM I signed up for.  Chris and I went to the "experience" on Saturday to pick up our bibs and gear and then to the Ground Zero Memorial. 
 Wow does that take your breathe away. I am fortunate enough not to have known anyone who was killed that fateful day, but that doesn't make the impact any less.  We spent most of the rest of Saturday debating what to wear the next morning since the weather forecast was all over the place from the threat of snow and 20s to low 40s.

Race Morning
Lucky for us, we were staying in midtown very close to the park, so we didn't have to get up at a ridiculous hour like for many races.  Chris kindly got up earlier than I and went downstairs in the hotel to get us some coffee (there she actually met up with one of the elite women runners, but we still have not figured out which one).  We drank coffee and I had a banana and we still debated what to wear.  The snow was not going to materialize until Sunday evening, but it was still cold with a temperature of 32F.  I decided on tights, a short sleeve shirt with arm warmers and my typical ball cap.  Of course, I threw on a throw away shirt over that short sleeve one and a clear garbage bag that Chris had brought.  
We left the hotel at 6:15 and walked quickly to the park where we dropped off our gear bags.  We were in different corrals, so it is here where we hugged and wished each other a good race and went our separate ways into the park.  It was chilly, well, actually cold, but the garbage bag kept me quite warm.  After going through security, which was fast moving probably because runners are so cooperative especially after Boston, and I walked/jogged up to the corral area.  I did make a pit stop on the way and I must commend the NYRR organization when it comes to start areas (and this applies to the NYC marathon as well) - HOW DO YOU KNOW JUST HOW MANY PORT-O-POTTIES TO HAVE SO THERE ARE NO LINES!!!!!  Around 6:50 am, I did a short shakeout run just to warm up those muscles and I hit the potty once again. I then entered my corral and spent the next few minutes chatting with others around me, clapping for the wheelchair start and waiting until it was our time to go.
I was in corral 5 this year (8 last year), and I felt like I was with runners too fast for me.  I really had no idea how fast I could run especially since I had a bit of a set back with a twisted ankle two weeks prior.  The ankle seemed ok that morning, so I just tried to forget about it.  I stayed in the back of the corral especially since the 1:35 pacer was at the front of my corral and the 1:40 pacer at the back.  I had not broken 1:40 since January, 2012 in Houston and that was 4 yrs ago (right after I turned 50) and on a flat course.  I hoped to break the 1:41:51 timed that I had run in 2015 and my goal was to get under that time.  I knew I was in decent shape, but you never know.  I decided to try to keep the 1:40 pacer in my sights if I could.
After running this race last year, I knew that I had to be smart in the park and I broke the race down into two different parts: Central Park and the rest of the course.  The park is "hilly" with a good climb just past 5k.  And the rollers do not stop after that.  The first mile has a gradual uphill, the second has a nice downhill, and the course finally flattens out when you enter Times Square.
What is referred to as "cat hill" is immediately at the start.  I knew from last year to just stay comfortable here and not jack rabbit out of the start.  I just wanted to find a good steady rhythm. Nothing too fast or hard. Mile 1: 8:04
Mile two is mostly flat to start with some big downhills towards the end. When I saw my Garmin beep with a 7:24, I panicked a bit. I was annoyed with myself for speeding up as it didn't feel that way and I  worried a bit that this mile could cost me in the end. Mile 2: 7:24
Mile three is odd in that you exit the park and make a cover a little out and back section around a traffic circle.  Last year, my friend Sara Jane was volunteering along this mile so I thought about her smiling face (she is back in MN) and it carried me along.  It is along this portion that you can see the runners in front and in back of you and where the first water stop is located.  I actually grabbed a quick cup of water here as it is easier than at other parts of the course.  It was pretty crowded along this stretch, but I also knew that the "hill" was coming so I tried to stay in control.  was a new mile for me. Mile 3: 7:36.
Once you re-enter the park, it is time to tackle Harlem Hill. It’s one long gradual climb – I think it’s about .5 miles in length with a double clutch at the top. I tried to keep the effort constant but was definitely huffing and puffing by the time we reached the top. I knew my pace would drop here but my goal was to stay comfortable.  Lots of runners slowed down here (even in the beginning corrals and I was already noticing that most of the runners around me started in corrals ahead of me.  I panicked just a bit, but then I caught a glimpse of the 1:40 pacer and I settled down. Mile 4: 7:49.
Knowing that the toughest two hills were done, but also knowing that they were still a few more climbs before exiting the park, I just tried to keep my rhythm and comfortable breathing while climbing and looking intently for Tavern on the Green.  I felt better here and was looking forward to exiting the park. Mile 5-6: 7:33, 7:22.
Exiting the park is awesome as you head towards Times Square.  I had forgotten that it is a bit uphill as you exit the park, but I got energized as we passed the Kids race on the side of 7th Avenue.  It seemed more crowded with runners along this portion than last year and this golf cart with a "blogger" talking about her race experience went by us causing runners to move over a bit.  (I found it odd that she had a number on - did she jump back into the race?).  I also noticed that I was still passing quite a few runners and many who were already walking  - what??? If you are walking, why are you in a corral a head of me?  But I digress.  I felt good, I felt comfortable, and I thought here that I would break that 1:41:51 time. 
We exited Times Square and turned onto 42nd St and the wind picked up a bit.  It seemed to swirl around us and I reminded myself that this happened last year too.  I grabbed a quick Gatorade along this stretch and looked forward to the West Side Highway.  I could still see the 1:40 pacer and I realized that I was not losing anytime in following him.  I also realized that it felt comfortable and FUN. Miles 7-8: 7:24,7:19.
I hit the West Side highway just before mile 8 and knew I still had a long way to go before I could celebrate, but also was pumped for the challenge that was ahead of me.  I started to focus on each mile trying to keep my breathing under control, maintain a comfortable stride and rhythm. I kept repeating, "push, push,push" to myself as I used this flat stretch to get to lower Manhattan. The wind swirled  a bit as we approached the tunnel with it being sometimes behind us, but mostly it seemed to come from the east and was at our side.  At one point, I remember a spectator yelling that we were catching the 1:40 pacer and I wanted to believe.  With each mile, I knew that I was gaining ground on the sub-1:41, and maybe even approaching 1:40. I wasn't sure, but it still felt good even though I knew that I had lost a little ground with pace. I lost pace around the same point last year.  I didn't feel any different, I was just at mile 9, 10, 11 of a half marathon and I was racing.  Miles 9-11: 7:21, 7:27, 7:27
I entered the tunnel knowing that I wanted to keep a steady pace since there was that hill at the exit.  I also knew that the wind was most likely in our faces when we exited the tunnel especially since it seemed to pick up before we entered the tunnel and it is usually strong between those buildings near Wall St (and it had been strong the day before at Ground Zero).   Entering the tunnel was brutal because of a headwind but once we were in, it was calm. I was cautious to push too hard here because I knew that one final hill awaited. I kept steady and hoped to get some back on the hill, but once again, that hill sucked the life out of me and I felt like I was going backwards. But I pushed on looking towards the Brooklyn Bridge and the first turn to the finish area. Miles 12: 7:28
Made the left, then the right and could see the 400m sign. I didn't look at my watch and just tried to keep my head down and push forward (I also thought I'd lose my cap -lol).  I reminded myself that I could fight the wind as I did it everyday along Lake Erie.  As I approached the clock, I saw that it said 1:44 and I knew I was off maybe 4-5 min from the start clock.  I just tried to enjoy this last stretch before the finish knowing that I might actually be sub 1:41.  When I crossed the line and hit my watch, I looked down to see 1:39:54 and I burst into tears.  I had done it - not only had I beat last year's time, but I had broken 1:40 - something I didn't think I could do (yet - it was supposed to be my fall goal), and I was ecstatic.  I also quickly took a mental inventory, and nothing hurt - not my ankle, not my hamstring, not anything - wow! Miles 13-13.1: 7:28, 7:30
Official Overall Finish Time: 1:39:49
15th AG F50-54/641
501th female / 10,556
2367th overall / 20,149
Official Splits:5k: 24:14– 7:49
10k: 47:52 (23:38) – 7:37
15k: 1:10:51 (22:59) – 7:24
20k: 1:34:19 (23:28) – 7:34
Overall Average Pace per Mile: 7:37
Post Race
I crossed the line and got my heat sheet and gear bag.  I then went to the United Airlines Mileage Plus VIP area which was awesome and picked up my medal and got it engraved.  I waited for Chris who ran a 1:55!! We changed and ate breakfast (thanks to United and to my hubby who flies too much). 
Thanks to all the volunteers on the course, the NYRR Club, the NYC crowds and the NYC Police for the secure entry areas.  Sunday was a good day with an unexpected (time) result but it definitely gave me the confidence I need to get to Boston and through Boston in great shape.  I plan to come back - hopefully next year as I once again have a guaranteed time.
I highly recommend this race especially if you love NYC as much as I do.  

Sunday, February 7, 2016

February (2016) Musings.......

Yes blog, I’m training again.  Getting ready for the 2016 Boston Marathon.  It will be my 5th Boston in a row and I’ve never had a streak like that at Boston.  Trying to live the dream of running it every year until I can’t qualify anymore.  Many of you would probably be surprised to realize that there were several years (in my 40s) when I couldn’t run a sub-4 hr marathon consistently.  Why?  Too much of life going on and too many marathons run.  It was fun while it lasted though.

So blog, here are some February musings………

-        It was very cool to see so many runners on the track two weeks ago.  Who would believe we could run a track workout in the winter in the north?  And who would believe so many runners would show up to support each other so magically leaving egos checked at home. 

-     It was especially nice for me to see as I absolutely love the track and I'm happy to share it (well with just about everyone). 

-     Is it weird that I'm going to see Bruce for the first time in numerous years and I have no idea what to wear?  And why do I think about that when I'm running?

-     The indoor bike trainer really sucks.  I guess I am that bad a cyclist that it feels hard to just ride for 30 min.  I'm in trouble as 56 miles is a long way....

-        It sure is nice to run in February in northeast Ohio without snow on the ground.  The occasional flurry is fine and even a light dusting, but I’m good without any accumulation.

-        I’m been running a long time and made lots and lots of mistakes – shoot I ran my PR race as a complete crash and burn – after all that’s what the champions did in that day – run until you drop.  But I have learned so much in recent years, so how do I tell a running friend politely that he/she is training too damn fast?

-        And on that note – don’t shame me for only running 18 miles next weekend instead of the full 26.2.  Finally after all these years, I know my training limits.  It took lots and lots and lots of years.

-        Kind of hoping that I’m more fit than I believe (in that I didn’t lose too much with my low mileage in November and December and my brief hiatus in January for laser eye surgery).  I’d sure love to run sub 3:45 at Boston again.  Shoot, I’d love to run sub 3:50 again.  Wouldn’t that be cool?

-        Wouldn’t it also be cool if I could keep those first three miles to Ashland in check?  Yeah, wouldn’t it be.

-        Yes, blog I am training again and I’ve put together a couple of good weeks.  Just trying not to jinx myself and hold on through March.  Haven’t run longer than 16 yet.

And with that – back to your regularly scheduled program.