Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Last Call Half Marathon--12/6/14

I signed up for this race a day or two after barely missing my PR at Tyranena. I wasn't ready to leave the season without it. The course boasted "flat and fast" and the starting line was a couple miles from home, so there you have it.

It was high 20s and I was in my new tri shorts, well-worn but lucky long sleeved tech top, hat and gloves. It was chilly but I had a good feeling about this one. I hydrated the heck out of myself all morning to prevent the god-awful Cramp of Tyranena. I even scaled back on the morning coffee and pre-race caffeinated gel.

Mile 1: 8:30 pace. What the? I'm not that fast.

Miles 2-6: 8:30-8:45 pace. Something isn't right. I'm seriously not that fast. Did they measure wrong?

Miles 7-10: 8:45ish pace. Not only am I going to PR, I'm going to CRUSH the 2-hour mark. But whoa. Mile 11 is where I got into trouble at Tyranena. Is that a cramp coming on? Take it easy, girl. Don't push it here.

Miles 11-13: 9:00ish pace. Moderate soreness and such slowed me down, plus the aforementioned fear of hitting some proverbial wall.

Done. PR by over 8 minutes, sub 2 hours by over 5 minutes. I won't bother signing up for another half for awhile, this new PR ain't going nowhere.

Tyranena Beer Run (Half Marathon)--11/8/14

I love this race. The people are friendly, the course is varied and interesting, the post-race food and drink highly motivating, the weather I've done Tyranena in bitter cold and bitter colder. I've shed and re-applied and shed layers again. You just never know.

This one was mid-high 30s and partly sunny, which is darn close to my optimal running weather. And the elusive PR was the only thing on my mind. Nutrition dialed in, save a bonus cup of coffee on the drive there. How much damage can it do?

Mile One: 8:45 pace. A little fast, but it'll be fine.

Miles 2-6: Comfortable 9:00-9:15 miles. I'll get this PR if it kills me.

Miles 7-11: Hanging around 9:15--not enough for the Golden sub-2 hours, but plenty of PR cushion.

Mile 11: Cramp. Not a run-through-it cramp. Not a Start-to-limp-a-little cramp. Not even a Stop-to-stretch-it-out-for-a-few-seconds cramp. This was a You're-not-running-anymore-for-awhile cramp. Stretching didn't help. Walking didn't help. The PR was slipping away.

An angel of a spectator offered me her water bottle when she saw my pain. I slammed it and it was just enough to hobble through the final two miles.

I missed the PR by a minute and a half. Bitch.

The spaghetti wasn't even as good as I remember.

On my car was a flyer for Last Call Half Marathon in Waukesha a month later. You better believe I signed up for it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Striderland Half Marathon--8/23/14

I like half marathons. The distance is short enough to not be painstaking yet long enough to provide a bit of a challenge. This wasn't an "A" race this season, more like a chance to get out and do a long quick workout with friends. My longest run (since the last half marathon) was 12 miles, but after a full race season what's another mile?

Weather was nearly perfect--cloudy, low 70s…nearly perfect. The weather forecast said 98% humidity which I didn't realize was a thing until I was standing around pre-race feeling weighed down by air. Then and there I was pretty sure I wouldn't break the evasive 2-hour mark and a PR (< 2:03) was doubtful too. But that's okay for a long quick workout with friends.

The course winds through wooded areas and remains fairly flat. Water stations and sprays from hoses were welcomed and needed more than my GUs and trusty Payday. Everyone looked like they'd just showered and their expressions were labored, even pained. I kept an even pace somewhere between PR and slowest-I'll-allow-myself.

Around mile nine the hamstring tightness reappeared, this time in the left knee. Great. I guess after a full race season I wasn't quite strong enough to maintain a good pace for that long. But at this point I only had a 5K to go and darn it if I wasn't going to get as close to that PR as I could.

I missed it by a little over a minute. I'll take it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

AG Nationals (Sprint)--8/10/14

The recurring lesson of the summer came to a head at this race--my feelings of competency in the sport are currently based on the company I keep. During the school year (off-season) I'm with my friends and colleagues at work, where I can claim best triathlete, second-best cyclist and top-3 runner status. I don't mind this status one bit.

My ego started its beating this season with the Aquathon series, where I repeatedly exited the water in the bottom third of the pack. It continued at the Masters swim classes where four lanes of swimmers do 100s on 1:50 or better. And it culminated at AG Nationals, where the hard-core and the gifted converge to remind me that I have plenty of work to do.

I kept expectations low. While many participants were aiming for a spot at the World Championships I would be satisfied to finish in the top half. I set up transition as always and wandered like a fish out of water waiting for my wave to warm up.

I had a few acquaintances racing as well but didn't feel close enough to them to "hang out" pre-race. There are many benefits to having a strong support system in the tri community and passing time together before a race is one of them. For whatever reason I've stayed on the fringes of tri communities. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Finally it came time to warm up. I had heard the Lake Michigan water temp was in the 60s and we all know my dislike for cold water. It turned out to be quite pleasant (thank you wetsuit).

The horn was off and I gave it what I had. At one point I felt a bit flooded but eventually settled into a groove. I checked my watch upon exit and it was still at zero so I'd have to wait to see how it went but it felt strong and somewhat fast.

Wetsuit removal was just okay. I think I want a new wetsuit. My old one doesn't fit well and has some tears in it. Or maybe all wetsuits are hard to get off. The real frustration was buckling the helmet. For some reason I couldn't line it up and I lost at least 30 seconds on it. Boo.

Mount was uneventful and I was off on the bike. It was now cloudy and breezy but I was already feeling fatigue. After all, it was the first time I biked after swimming all season. I kept up a race pace throughout the mostly flat course but my 18.4 MPH final average was disappointing.

T2 went well thank goodness, and the run began. Wow, do my legs feel heavy. And plodding. Cumbersome. Slow. I was doing 9-minute miles and not feeling like I had anything left. These were not the times I was putting out last year--further evidence of plateaued fitness.

Disappointment rose when I checked online results a few hours later. Swim time was acceptable, but the other times (not to mention the soreness the rest of the day) wasn't what I had hoped, and the top half of my division didn't happen.

But I have a plan. I'll consult with a coach to get a strength training regimen started in the off-season. I'll read up on Ironman training and nutrition. I'll scale back on bike-run workouts to give my body a break.

As for my sense of competency, I figure I have three choices:

-Compare myself only to the people in my life who don't do what I do

-Compare myself only to the people in my life who do what I do

-Compare myself only to myself

I'm working on Option #3.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Aquathon Series #3--7/17/14

I know I have reasons (excuses?) why this one didn't go as well as I'd like, but here I am nearly two weeks later and I can't remember what they are.

I had taken a much-needed vacation with my lobster the week prior to #3 so it had been a while since I'd been in a pool. Slow Swim Excuse--check.

(The swim did clock in at over a minute slower, but the route had been changed to avoid algae so I'm going to claim it's longer and stick with that.)

Transition without a wetsuit went without a hitch. No Excuse Needed.

Run was nearly a minute slower--No Excuse to Think Of.

It's mid-July and I'm pretty sure I've peaked for the summer.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Aquathon Series #2--6/19/14

My little Bean's umbilical hernia surgery was that morning (arrival time: 6 AM) and Master's swim class with Tri-Faster was the previous morning (arrival time: 5:45 AM) so sleep was scarce. My lobster would have preferred I skip this one to take care of our kids at the crucial bedtime and if I was a better mom I would have. But I was thinking about things like rankings and wetsuit experiments so I fixed dinner for the family and then took off.

I didn't wear a wetsuit this time and was surprised that nearly everyone else still did. The water temp certainly didn't warrant one. I figured my swim time was so abysmal last time that I didn't have much to lose. Turns out I shaved off nearly two minutes from the swim (and more from transition) without one. I still had that "swallowed everything under the sun and now my lungs are closing up" issue but I'll work on my swim breathing and hopefully fix that.

The run was a little slower--8:40 average pace--but the aforementioned lack of sleep probably caused that. I finished lower in the standings at #2 but remained part of a small group that had done both of them so far and therefore I sit at #4 in my AG. We'll see how long that lasts.

Horribly Hilly Hundreds--6/14/14

This is the only race (or in this case "ride") I've registered for where a lottery system determines if you're in. And I really wanted this one. I grew up in Mt. Horeb and the area is heavily used by Ironman Madison. If I can do HHH, I'm well on my way to Moo.

On February 10th the lottery took place and I was in. Registration transfer requests began on the 11th from desperate non-selected riders but come hell or high water I wasn't giving up this one. I began planning training rides I never would've dreamed of even last year, including a day of biking to work and back and a 3-hour Saturday morning ride. I consulted with friends about things like nutrition (thanks Amy for the Payday tip!) and neck pain (time to get a new fitting). I began to think of little else (sorry wife and kids).

As it would turn out, our brutal winter translated into extra days of school. The new Last Day was the day before HHH. I never thought this would happen, but I cut my stay at Champ's to one beverage so I could hightail it to Mt. Horeb for packet pickup.

After a relaxing evening at Marc and Peg's house, I awoke at the crack of dawn and drove the short distance to Blue Mounds State Park and the start of the ride. (I always referred to it as a race even though it's not timed and there was no set start anyway but I've never done a ride before so it's all new here.) I'd studied the route map the night before to get an idea of the hills (frequency and intensity). I noticed the rest stops but didn't plan on utilizing them much (back to the "race" mentality). I was alone with no one to make small talk, and since it's a ride most people knew some others so they stuck to their own crowd. I got ready and headed to the start. It was casual, so when I learned we could take off whenever we liked I just did.

At 6 1/2 miles I thought I remembered the first hill beginning, but this was nothing much at all. I figured if this is what they're like then today shouldn't be so bad.

At 7-ish miles the hill really started and then I started to wonder if I was screwed. All this time I thought I knew hills but I didn't know hills like these. Over a dozen times on this ride I encountered "get your bike in the lowest gear possible and then get out of the saddle and then maybe you'll make it up or maybe you'll stop and walk it like so many around you".

Never once did I stop and walk on a hill.

But I did stop at Rest Stops. I took a gel, packed some pretzels, checked out the map, and chatted a little about (what else?) hills. I didn't stay long, but after all it was only a ride.

The last two and a half miles of the ride were the most awful and grueling incline on the planet. I knew it was coming and had fully accepted the very real possibility that I would need to dismount and walk. I still don't know how I managed to stay on my bike up that thing.

After the ride I racked my bike next to a couple making cracks about how idiotic it is to do this. I ended up sitting with them for lunch and a beer (or two). One of them had done Ironman and said HHH is much worse.

That makes it all worth it.