Thursday, May 29, 2008
The "training run" went really well. The rolling hills of Madison were even fun. At least for the first 9 miles. Then my lower back started to hurt and my iPod died. Rolling hills were not as well received at that point.
I was really cheesed about the iPod until I started running without it. Most races don't allow them, but Madison does so I thought since it's a training run for me I might as well bring my training music. When it abruptly left me hanging in deafening silence with 30 minutes to go in the race, I remembered that I actually like the sounds of runners all around me. I like to hear the spectators. I like to hear the music played along the route by people cheering. I don't much care to hear the guy with the strange wheezing whistle exhale running next to me, but that's another story.
My lower back...well...that continued to hurt for 3 days. I clearly need a bit more core & a lot more stretching in my regimen. Add it to the ever-growing list.
My pace according to Garmin - which is very akin to "the world according to Garp" and the "Gospel according to (insert your favorite disciple here)" - reported a 10:03 pace on the day. That's actually my usual time so I guess this truly was a training run. Seems like my training runs and races end up in the same place though...
All in all - good race. Too few porta-potties but apparently I've learned a little more self-control over the course of my training, so I managed just fine. At the aid stations I typically had to wait for someone to finish pouring my Gatorade or water, but since I wasn't in a huge hurry it wasn't that big of a deal for me.
Then on Monday, the day after the 2:13 training run, I rode a loop of the IM bike course and actually improved my time by 15 whole minutes and increased my pace to over 14 mph. A new PR - I came in at 2:46!
Miracles apparently do happen.
Monday, May 26, 2008
If you're an IronMin reader, you may recognize this chick with him...
Of course you are forgiven if you don't recognize me in my glasses. I don't often wear them or get pictures taken in them...but this was an exception!
I was in LA last week for a 3-day seminar for work and got to attend the American Idol Finale Performance Show on Tuesday 5/22! Then on Wednesday night, a few of us from the Madison office huddled in a hotel room to watch the Finale - when David Cook was voted the winner.
After the show ended I casually mentioned that the press junket for the winner starts super early in the morning in front of the theater...and oh, by the way, our hotel was only 1 mile from the Nokia Theather where the show was held. My friend Suzanne was totally game and we hatched our plan to head down there at 3am to try to meet David Cook before he started doing the East Coast interviews at 4am.
A little background: the American Idol winner and runner-up literally go from the show to quick post-show interviews, then to the after party (or parties), then back to interviews that are picked up across the country on morning TV and radio shows. Since the East Coast is 3 hours later than the West Coast, this means the live feeds start happening in LA at 4am for a 7am NYC show. It would be hard to explain how I know all this, but trust me - this was OTJ training for me this year. And although I couldn't be 100% sure they would run it the same way as they did last year, I was optimistic.
Huge sigh of relief, because obviously our little plan worked! We arrived at the theater around 3:20am and hung out watching the various news stations/newscasters get setup and do their teaser clips for the upcoming interview. About an hour later, David showed up! He signed autographs for us, took pictures with us...and he was the nicest guy. Very humble and very friendly. My friend Suzanne told him we knew that he was going to win and he said, "Really? I had absolutely no idea I was going to win!"
And since not a lot of people know about the press schedule, there were a total of 4 fans waiting for him - the two of us and two other women. It might also have something to do with the fact that we were there at that hour but hey - like my title says - the early bird gets the autograph.
We hung around and watched a few interviews before getting back to the hotel for an 8am start to our seminar. Oh yes - we were tired ALL DAY, but it was SOOOO worth it. How often do you get to do something crazy like this? It made us feel 13 again!
Here are a few additional photos to help tell the story...
Suzanne & I waiting for David Cook to come over
The Nokia Theater at 4am
The press area, prepping for the interviews...
David Cook being interviewed
David Archuleta being interviewed
Back-to-back, both Davids being interviewed by different stations
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I had been looking forward to this tri all winter. It was my first tri EVAH when I did it last year, and it was the day I became hooked on the sport. I recall with unveiled nostalgia, going through my race goodie bag last year after the race, pawing at the other triathlon race pamphlets and mentally registering for the rest of my season. Before going into Galena, I didn't even have a season.
This year I wasn't expecting the setbacks I had in the previous 10 days before Galena - the sudden illness & subsequent surgery - so I really had no idea if I could start this race...but I am so glad I did. Mr. IronMin really helped me frame it in my mind Friday night after we picked up our packets. I was telling him that I just wasn't sure if my body was up to it, and mentally my mind was not ready because I doubted my body. I said, "I haven't done anything in the last week and a half."
He replied, "Then you're well rested."
And that changed my perspective completely.
We stayed in Dubuque, IA this time, about 15 miles from Galena. The alarm went off at 5:30, and by 6am we were in the car, munching on bananas, bagels w/peanut butter, and maple & brown sugar pop tarts. The pop tarts are not the on the pre-race nutrition strategy - but maybe they should be from now on. Oh yes - and coffee. Without coffee, there would be no day.
This is where the disgusting chapstick incident occurred. My lips will never be the same.
At 6:30 we dropped off our T2 bags, parked the car, then got on the shuttle to Apple Canyon Lake. The shuttle is a school bus with all the comfort that implies. By 8am, we were in T1 setting up our bike stuff. I felt pretty relaxed, which was a huge departure from last year when I was a nervous wreck...sure I was forgetting something very important that would ruin my day. Not this time - I got everything ready then prepared to wait.
The race started at 9am, and my wave went off at 9:54. I had lots of time. Mr. IronMin was doing the duathlon, and his start was at 9:49. We hung out together watching the start of the triathlon. Some of the elite racers were coming out of the water shivering, but I figure they hardly had time to get used to the temperature when they are in there for like 7 minutes.
After a moment of panic when I saw women coming out of the water wearing my same swim cap color, I realized they had doubled up the colors and they were in the 25-29 age group. I thought for sure I missed my wave, but still had 20 minutes to go.
My first pre-race dip in the water was absolutely brutal. Even with the mental prep that it would be cold, those first 5 minutes in the water made my hands & feet hurt. Basically anything not covered by the wetsuit. And the first bit of water that started getting inside the wetsuit...well, that is a whole new level of cold.
I got out for a few minutes then went in again and put my face in the water. When my breathing was finally calm I got out & was ready to go. Although cold, it was totally doable. And I was ready.
I was very relaxed in the water. I had hoped to actually get some contact in the swim, so I could start getting past my fear of it. It didn't happen. I did manage to screw up my sighting a few times which got me off course. I really thought I was right on the feet of the swimmers before me, but when I sighted I realized I had veered off. In some cases, they had veered too - but most of the time I was just swimming further outside of the buoy markers than I really needed to.
In T1, I somehow managed to spend over 8 minutes getting ready for the bike. I have no idea what took so long.
16.8 miles over the rolling hills of Galena. My heart rate was through the roof for the first 20 minutes. I couldn't get it down, even though I felt ok.
Overall, the bike was pretty uneventful. I didn't suffer as much as I did last year. Galena is interesting in that a lot of people do it on mountain bikes. More than I have witnessed in other sprint triathlons. Maybe because it is hilly people assume a mountain bike is the wise choice. I think more likely, this is a triathlon that attracts a lot of novices (like me) who are trying to decide if a road bike is worth the spend. I can only guess the local bike shops are jam-packed at the end of the race with road bike purchasers. I cannot imagine attempting those hills with a mountain bike.
The mountain bikers often dismount on the steep hills because they can't finish the climb. On the really good climbs, there is mass carnage off to the right where people start walking their bikes. I feel really bad for those folks because in my opinion - walking your bike to the top is worse than riding it. Even if your cadence is 30 rpms and you're going 4 mph - I'd still rather be on the bike.
At the top of the hills, when the mountain bikers get back on, they proceed to blow down the descent at like 90 miles per hour. The first couple of times, this is annoying. By hill 5, I chuckle to myself and under my breath mutter "See you at the top of the next one tough guy."
Also fun for me - passing dudes who are going slower than slow...but then realize a chick just passed them, so they speed up to pass me back. This never fails to crack me up. I'm glad I can be the inspiration for them to pick up the pace. Whatever it takes I guess.
On the last 1/4 mile I dropped my water bottle. I went back for it. It is a race, I know that, but seriously - this was one of my good thermo water bottles (the ones that keep things cool or warm, depending on your preference) and since I was fairly confident I was not on the podium I figured I had time to grab the water bottle.
Having checked off the other 2 events without any sort of medical or physical crisis, I was worried the wheels were going to come off on the run. There's no escaping the jarring impact there, so if something was going to derail the plan that's where it would go down.
After walking up the first big hill in to the out-and-back, I eased into a comfortable pace. When I realized my comfortable pace was 11:17, I decided it was time to crank it up a notch. A quick check of all systems indicated I was good to go, so I started ticking off the pace seconds. By mile 3 I was at 10:16 and feeling surprisingly good. I started chatting with a guy on the last mile who was doing the duathlon for the 3rd year in a row with a paralyzed arm. I saw him on the bike course and he looked really strong. He was clipping away at a pace better than mine on the run, so I pushed it to keep up with him while we talked about the course, the weather, our families.
By the end of the run I was at a 10:05 pace. Not bad at all for me.
I did better overall this year than last, shaving almost 9 minutes off my first attempt time. WOOHOO!
Mr. IronMin and I hit the post race food which is very well done at Galena. It's a buffet of choices including a cookie for dessert. We grabbed a spot on the grass in the sun and just enjoyed it. The day went so well - much better than I expected. Mr. IronMin had a good race too. The run hurt for him because he hasn't had much time lately to train, and there was some speculation that the first 2 miles was closer to 2.5. Other than that wrinkle, his race went off without a hitch too. Let the season begin!
Sunday, May 18, 2008
OK, that was an exaggeration.
In the meantime, here is a glimpse into how the day started. The day could only get better from this point.
The Scene: In the car, on the way to Galena from our hotel in Dubuque. Mr. IronMin is driving. I just liberally applied some chapstick, then threw the tube in the console.
Mr IronMin: "Is that your chapstick?"
Me: "No, it's yours."
Mr. IronMin: "That's not mine."
Me: "Yes it is." (I hadn't had coffee yet, so this argument made sense to me)
Mr. IronMin: "No, it's really not. Where did you get it?"
Me: "From the floor in the hotel room. I thought you dropped it."
Mr. IronMin: "Nope, not mine. I don't have that kind."
Moment of silence while this information sinks in.
Me: "My lips! My lips! It's all over my lips! Someone else's chapstick is all over my lips! THIS IS SO GROSS!"
Friday, May 16, 2008
Under the temperature, a rosy little message for those registered:
"The swim is on!!"
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
My mom, sister, and niece drove from Michigan to Madison to be here for me during the surgery, and although I spent a fair amount of time laying low and just chilling out (which probably didn't make the trip very exciting for them), it was really nice for me to have them here. I went back to work today and it was very strange to come home to an empty house. Well - the dogs & cats were still here, but it was devoid of other humans. And that was a little depressing.
For my first adventure on my own in awhile, I had a return to make at the Apple Store in the mall (oh how I lurve the Apple Store). While in the mall, I wandered into The Limited to check out some clothes. If you have surgery - no matter what kind - I think you get to have the following things: 1) ice cream, 2) unlimited cookies, and 3) new clothes.
I had conquered #1 and #2. I was ready to tackle #3.
In the dressing room at The Limited, I got into a wrestling match with one of those crazy plastic sensor devices that made it nearly impossible to try on one of the shirts that I carefully selected on this mission. I very politely asked the sales associate if she could remove it so I could try the top on properly.
At this point, I had already decided on a candle for a friend, 2 tank tops for myself, and I was aiming for 2 new work shirts.
I waited patiently for the sales clerk to come back with the shirt, sensor-free...and imagine my surprise when she comes around the corner with sensor still intact.
"I can't remove it. It's store policy."
I was a little dumbfounded. I tried reasoning with her. "But I can't try it on to see if I want to buy it with the sensor in that spot."
Her reply - "Sorry, there's nothing I can do."
I removed my purse and coat from the dressing room and told her I wouldn't be purchasing anything then. And in a bit of a show of my unhappiness (it may have been more of a huff), I left all of the items I had selected behind in the dressing room.
Her reply? "It's just store policy."
I was offended. Did they honestly think I would try to steal the $34 shirt in the dressing room AFTER asking the sales associate to remove the tag? How dumb could I be? Why would I announce my plan to the store?
"HEY EVERYONE - SEE THIS PINK SHIRT? I PLAN TO STEAL IT. YEP, I JUST NEED YOU TO REMOVE THE SENSOR SO I CAN STUFF IT UNDER MY COAT AND MAKE A RUN FOR IT. I'M FAR TOO LAZY TO ACTUALLY TRY TO REMOVE IT MYSELF."
Well, I guess it's back to #1 and #2. More ice cream. More cookies. Forget the clothes. They won't fit anyway, after the ice cream and the cookies.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I still had a great time. At least until the tipping point - that subtle change in the evening where you realize that laughing and joking with the folks who are having a cocktail or two is about to turn into jokes that are only funny if you are also having a cocktail as well. The karaoke gets louder. The dancing gets a little crazy. That's when it was time for me to call it a night.
In an occasion such as this when everyone is together, which doesn't come along too often, I'm usually the stoker. If the night is right, I'm ordering a round or two of shots. And handing them out to everyone within reach. I check on people to make sure they are having fun. I mingle. I investigate the jukebox for the right tunes. So it was different this time when I was the observer, but my friends were hilarious entertainment. Even better - the next morning, I was also the one without the hangover.
Overall though, not the best week. Especially for training. On Wednesday, I started the day with stomach pains that eventually sidelined me for 3 days - hence the forced sobriety. There was speculation among the medical community that I may have appendicitis, but fortunately - that doesn't seem to be the case. Unfortunately, the root cause is still unknown. I'm just crossing my fingers, hoping it never comes back. It was scary and painful, and I just want to put it behind me.
I'm back on the wagon now and on the mend. Next week will be a little light - then I have my first tri of the season in Galena on Saturday. Wow...the season is upon us! I never thought the snow would melt.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
On the training front, today did not go well. I had an hour run on the schedule, with pick-ups. I did a little walk-run routine for 16 minutes then quit. I followed the standard rule of thumb when starting a workout that you can already feel you are not up to...I said I'd give it the old college try for 10 minutes and if I still felt like crap, I'd stop.
I think 16 minutes totally gives me credit for trying to stick it out.
My legs are so sore from Sunday, I think they just need a little more time to recover. My swim Monday, while slow, went well - and I have another swim on the schedule for tomorrow morning.
And finally, a mini-PSA. I discovered a new oh-so-yummy ride treat. Smuckers Uncrustables Peanut Butter Sandwich. They come frozen, but if you throw them in your jersey pocket, by the time you are ready for it...they're thawed out & ready to eat. I am loving these!
Sunday, May 4, 2008
1 - Research, study, then actually go through the motions as if it were the big event
2 - Research, study, then just apply all of that to your event (aka, go in blind)
For example, let's say, hypothetically, that you are preparing for an Ironman race. You could either 1) practice on the actual course itself (if possible) or 2) follow your training and let that prepare you for whatever race day brings.
Prior to today, I was fully in the camp of #1. After riding one of the loops for IMWI today, I'm pretty sure I'm now in camp #2. Ignorance is bliss. Or at least, it WAS bliss. Now, ignorance is flying at me in the form of "What in the world did you sign up for?!"
It didn't help that I got lost twice along the way and packed on a few more miles than necessary. And sure, there was wind. But it seems like there is always wind in Madison and there probably will be wind on race day. So wind, notsomuch of an excuse.
There were hills. I did expect hills. I didn't expect to feel like I was climbing the Pyrenees. Oh yes, I exaggerate. I guess more honestly, I was a little put off by the neverending-ness of the hills. Another, then another. And all this before I even got to the "big 4" - the ones actually labeled "hills" on my map of the course. Those suckers - they definitely qualified as hills, no doubt. The rest of the fun was...well, relentless.
It was my first foray into a lot of self-talk on the bike. I had to work pretty hard to reverse the "I just can't do this. I will never be fast enough to make the cut-off" and turn it into thoughts like "I can still feel my legs, that's a good sign. Ooohh...another descent, maybe I can pick up some speed here." You get the idea...
I know I'm lucky I get to ride the course as much as I can before the race. I'm just not sure which is better though - the element of surprise on race day, or the opposite - a form of frustration and anxiety.
After I actually got off the bike - 73 miles & almost 6 hours later - I was exhausted. As much as I wanted to forget today's ride, my thoughts started going back to the course immediately. How I could get out there again and work that Old Sauk Pass hill harder next time. How I may be able to rock that cool descent outside of Verona. It's amazing - no matter how much it hurts, you forget the pain. Well, at least at this point I can block out the pain...
So, in retrospect, I probably made a solid deposit into the Ironman bank today. No complaints there. Do I wish that I had annihilated that course today? Heck yes. Do I wish I arrived home thinking "Wow - stop the training now, I am totally ready for this race"? A small part of me does. The rest of me is thinking - "Ok, if that's what you've got..then watch out because I have 4 months to show you what I've got.