Racing

Great Expectations vs. No Expectations

I did an Olympic Triathlon last month and had a great time.  I even did pretty well! One of the reasons I think I did well and had fun was because I had zero expectations for myslef.  All I wanted to do was put forth my best effort and not walk!  I think because there was no expectation for a specific finish time or placing it really took the pressure off of me and I just enjoyed the day.

My 2011 year of racing was awesome! I did 2 70.3’s (both under 6:00), I qualified for the Boston Marathon with a marathon PR of 3:34, and I completed a trail 50K.  I felt invincible after that.  I thought I could only keep getting faster.  But my body disagreed with me.  Specifically my IT band.  Then I crashed my bike.  Then I barely finished my first Ironman.  Then I did a 70.3 in over an hour slower than the year before.  It was not a great year for me racing wise.

I got very discouraged and just tried to maintain some level of fitness.  Almost all the hard work that I had been doing for the 3-4 years preceding just disappeared.  This became very evident when I tried to train for the Boston Marathon and my body couldn’t handle it.

So I took a step back. I have been trying to train  around 6 hours a week and hit all three disciplines if possible.  And within the disciplines I have been mixing it up quite a bit.  I am hoping that this and the fact that I have NO expectations will help me get back to where I was.

I am racing this weekend.  I have no expectations except that I will finish strong and have fun.

Portland Marathon 2011 Race Report

About 10 months ago joined Twitter after listening to the Geeks in Running Shoes podcast.  They used to do this thing called the “Twitter Search and Follow” and my interest was peaked to finally looked into Twitter.  One of the first people I met was a Teri (@runnerteri).  After a few exchanges it turned out that Teri would have been my pacer at the 2010 Portland Marathon had I stayed with the group.  After the warm reception from her and a couple other Portland Runners (@julierje, @Sarah430, just to mention a couple), I decided that I needed to come back to Portland to run this marathon again.

It wasn’t until that last 6-8 weeks before Portland did I realize that I might be in a position to qualify for Boston.  I had said a long time ago that I wanted to do Boston before I was 40, but I had lost sight of it because I just never thought I could run the needed pace for 26.2 miles.  But since I picked up triathlon I had made some huge gains in speed and endurance.  I ran Portland last year in 4:21 and I had to run sub 3:40 this year to qualify.   That was over 1:30 faster per mile!  After a couple confidence boosting races (Vineman and the Half Marathon of the Harbors), as well as some very strong support from my running community I finally started thinking this might be possible!

So with the hay in the barn, I flew off to Portland to “get it done”.  Pre-race was awesome.  I met up with Teri, Julie, and Courtney; three of my Twitter/Dailymile Friends.  It was great to meet them finally!  We even got a quick little run in down by  the river on Saturday.

Race morning went very smooth.  No problems getting up, getting ready, getting fed, and getting to the start.  We managed to park right behind my corral which was perfect!  Met some really nice people while waiting for the start; two men who were doing all 50 states, and someone else with whom I had a shared friend (small world).  Courtney found me in the corral and we waited for the start.

As usual I went out a little bit fast but I was feeling great!  I needed to run 8:20 minute miles to come in under 3:40 but I really wanted go for 8:15 minute miles to give myself some cushion.  I kept looking at my watch and I was running well under 8 minute miles.  I had to keep slowing myself down so I would have something left at the end.  All was going great until the train.  You have to cross several train tracks during the race and I knew that with the pace I was going for I had a very good chance of getting stopped at one.  Sure enough, I did.  I was stuck there for a good 1:30-2 minutes.  I knew that if I bonked later in the run this could be the difference between qualifying or not.  Since there was nothing I could do but run the rest of the race I tried not to dwell on it.

I felt great for the out and back portion (running 5 miles in row under 8:00 minutes each), but once I made the turn back into NW Portland my quads started hurting.  I just kept running, very aware of my pace; trying to run fast but smart.  I was also very aware of my nutrition and hydration.  I didn’t want to get behind on either of them because that could end my race for me very quickly.  I made it up the hill at 16-18 and over the St. John ’s Bridge; quads still hurting but very happy to only have 8 miles left.  These next four miles were much harder than they were for me last year.  I had really pushed the pace in the beginning and was feeling it now.  My legs were heavy and I kept feeling my pace slow.  I was not a happy camper at this point.  But I was so close to Boston that I decided I was going to push it until I exploded.

At 21-22 you start a descent that I thought  was going to hurt more than it did.  The pain in my quads was going away or the adrenaline/endorphins were taking over.  I really didn’t care; I just wanted to be done.  I made it over the Broadway bridge that is just under two miles from the finish and started looking for Salmon St.  Last year Salmon was much closer (I am sure of it); it felt like an eternity before I got to it and turned up for the finish.  I finally got to it, made the last two turns and ran with tears in my eyes across the finish line.

Because I had been stopped by the train I had no idea what my time actually was (I hadn’t turned off the auto pause because I didn’t expect to get stopped).  Luckily Tara (@frenchiegirl) had been tracking my race and had been tweeting me the time (bless her heart).  I tweeted her and asked her to check my finishing time, 3:36:18!  I had just Boston qualified!  More tears of joy started flowing!  I couldn’t believe I had just done it!

I proceeded to eat everything in sight and give my body some time to get back together while I waited for Julie and Teri.  Once I got home I showered and promptly went into post race coma where I didn’t move for about 2 hours!  Once I downloaded my Garmin time I realized that my time might have been as fast at 3:34:43 if I hadn’t been stopped by the train.  I have sent a request to have time adjusted but I l kind of doubt they can help me.  It is worth asking!(** See update below)

I couldn’t have done this without the support of my family and friends.  There was a lot of training that went into this race, and my family has been patient and understanding with all the time I spend training.  I have found a TON of support through my Dailymile/Twitter friends and my Teammates.  Honestly, without their support, encouragement and don’t think I would have even tried to do this!  They believed in me and encouraged me in ways that have propelled me to believe I can do more than I ever thought possible.

Now I get to go into PMS (post marathon syndrome) for a couple weeks, but I have another marathon in 4 weeks to do (it was my back up in case I didn’t qualify in Portland).  The only thing to work out is if I am just going to run the race and enjoy the 26 miles, or can I better my time… Give me about 10 days to decide (although, sub 3:35 for real sounds mighty good!)

**So I asked and they listened and they corrected my time to 3:34:43!  The reason it is significant is it gets me more than 5 minutes under my qualifying time which allows me to register for Boston on day earlier than before.  I have been having a very bad case of PMS (post marathon syndrome) since the marathon.  I need to take a step back and realize that I ran the best race I have ever run and I should be REALLY proud of my accomplishment! I ended up 27/730 for my age group which to me is amazing! Here is the Garmin data from the race as well.  And I will NOT be racing that marathon in four weeks.  My body is beat! I will run it in preparation for the 50K, but I am shooting for around 4:00 hours instead!

I actually bought the race pictures!

I generally never buy the pictures from a race.  I just think they are overpriced.  If they would lower the cost of the download of all the pictures to $40 I would probably buy them every time (as would many others).  Well Vineman went way too well and I had to get the pictures to remember the best race I have had so far! Enjoy a few of them!

Hard to pull off cool with a green swim cap on. but 13th out of the water helps!

This picture doesn't do the course justice. It was so beautiful!

Starting out on the run. 13.1 to go!

Just out of the La Crema vineyard. I had that silly grin the whole run.

Coming into the finish!

Woo Hoo!! Crossing the finish! 5:32:25

Just a little bit pleased with things (and really sweaty!)

Castaic Lake Triathlon 2011 Race Report

Bike ready to go and me looking dashing in a swim cap!

So a friend of mine, Bob, who is also training for the Vineman 70.3 (OMG, it is only a week away!), told us about a little triathlon held at  a local lake and said we should come do it.  My husband is just getting into triathlon so this seemed like a perfect chance for him to get his feet wet and for me to have one last run through before Vineman.  So we went up this morning to give it a shot!

For a triathlon run by a High School Cross Country Team it was very well organized.  We paid for our registration and got checked in very efficiently.  My favorite part was the hand drawn course map that showed the route for all three legs.  I meant to take a picture (I have to get better about that) because the board actually showed how we would ride our bikes around the local prison!  This was gonna be fun!

Once we figured out the swim course and the lifeguards were in the water, we went down to get a warm up swim in.  The water was so warm and clean.  No need for a wet suit at all!  My husband was still a little nervous about the swim (only two swimming lessons to date) but at least the water conditions couldn’t have been any better!  After the warm up we finished getting our transition area set up and then headed down to the water for the start.

There were only 4 waves; each 5 minutes apart.  My husband’s wave was first and mine was last.  I watched as he essentially swam his whole swim with his head up, but he made it out!!!  Once it was our waves turn to line up I went right up front.  The swim started and by half way thru I realized I was in the lead of the swim!!  I was pretty psyched!  The swim had to be short (4:48 for 4oo m) but who cares, I was first out of the water!

I ran up the hill to transition and got my shoes on as fast as I could, grabbed my bike and got on….only to find my chain had slipped off!!!  Now, I made a point to ride my bike before I racked it to make sure I was in the right gear, but some how my chain slipped.  This would come back to get me in the end but I was able to correct it pretty quickly and get on the road.  The ride went well.  I passed many riders and was only passed by one.  And how scenic to ride by the local prison!

I got into transition and got out pretty fast to the run.  I thought I was in first at this point because I didn’t see anyone form my age group pass me.  I came off the bike and was running pretty quick, 7:30 ish.  But after a mile I slowed down to closer to 8:00 min miles.  Not to long before I hit the turn around I saw a girl coming the other direction in my age group!  I wasn’t in first, I was in second!  I just kept running as fast as I could.  A mile before the end I was passed by one more girl in my age group.  I tried to keep up but I just didn’t have it.   I kept her in my sights but just couldn’t catch her.  She beat me by less than a minute (about how much time the slipped chain cost me!).

So I ended up with third in my age group, something I am very proud of!  My my husband took 3rd in the Clydesdale division! Pretty cool for his first triathlon ever!

After the race. (notice the upside down Daily Mile Bondi Band; I need to work on my transitions)

Hubby and I sporting our third place bling.

Competing, Not Just Completing—My Attempt to Get on the Podium

Holding my 2nd place medal from the Love Run 10K, July 5, 2011

Up until now I have always maintained that I just want to “complete not compete” when I race.  Up until recently, that was all I was really capable of.  I was usually somewhere in the middle of the pack when it came to the results of a marathon or a triathlon.  But lately, things have changed.  It started in February when I ran the Lost Dutchman Half Marathon in Apache Junction Arizona.  I had been noticing that my running was get faster.  I went into that race hoping for a 1:52 and after all was said and done (or ran) I finished with a 1:46:26!  But what was most amazing was I was 4th out of over 120 females in my age group.  This race was a turning point for me in which I finally felt like I could compete with those around me.

My next race that showed me that I was still making progress was the Orange County Triathlon.  In this race I placed 4th out of 35 (good enough to qualify for nationals).  I was so close to the podium that I was actually disappointed with my finish until I realized that I had qualified for nationals and realized what a strong run and swim I had had.

See, I got 4th!

So in early June I entered a 10K.  I never run 10Ks.  This may sound snobby but the distance is too short for me.  I am much better at longer races.  But I wanted to place so bad that I was nervous about the race.  Anyway, I gave it all I got.  I did the best I could.  I ran as fast as I could.  I ran so fast at the end that I maxed my HR at 205 bpm!  I got 2nd in my age group, 10th overall female.  You can see the Garmin data from the race here.

Now I have my second 70.3 triathlon, Vineman,  coming up in just under 4 weeks (OMG!!).  I am starting to look at the results from last year to see how I think I might do.  I doubt I will podium there (I have way too much work on the bike to do).  But if I can just keep making progress and make it into the top 20% I would be thrilled.  (You know there will be a race report to follow, so keep a look out.)

Selfish – take 2

This week has been bittersweet.  I did the Orange County Triathlon this weekend.  I had a good race.  I finished really strong.  I had an awesome run.  I finished 4th in my age group out of 35.  I was kind of bummed at first because I was one place from getting on the podium.  But the next day I was more appreciative of how well I did and I was a little bit prouder of my results.  I am new to triathlon and as it turns out I qualified for Nationals in August.  I found out Tuesday night and confirmed it Wednesday morning.

Yipee!!! But here is where the problem lies.  If I want to go it is going to cost a fair amount of money.  And I (and others) feel it is only for my benefit.  It is selfish… or is it?  Who benefits from me going or doing any of this? I know I benefit because I feel good about my accomplishments.  I have fun. I meet and interact with interesting people.  But what do the others in my life get out of it?

They do get a happier more balanced mother/wife.  And hopefully I am serving as some type of role model to my children.  But I am absent a lot on the weekend mornings while I train.  I do my best to workout at times that don’t effect the rest of the family but at this level it is unavoidable.  It will only get worse once I start to train for a full Ironman.  And there is the sheer monetary component of all this.  It is expensive.  And I want to compete as much as possible.  Racing/competing keeps me focused.

So I wonder how selfish I am being and how selfish I can be before I cross the line… I REALLY want to go to Nationals.  I will do everything I can to make it happen.  I just hope that isn’t too selfish.

Orange County Triathlon Race Report

Originally we (my husband and I) were going to drive down the morning of the race but once we found out that we had separate transition zones and that the hotel was only $80 we decided to go the afternoon before so the morning wouldn’t be too crazy.  It was kind of hectic getting out of the house since we had two of us packing to race (my husband was doing the duathlon), and we had to get the kids packed up for a sleepover at Nanny’s.  But once we got on the road we had no problems getting down and getting settled.  We took a look at the course map and figure out where my husband had to be but I just figured I would have no problems figuring out where I needed to go.  (this would come back to haunt me)

We woke up at 4:20 AM and started getting ready.  Having another person trying to get ready at the same time was interesting… My husband hasn’t raced much so he had a lot of questions.  Every time I was asked a question I got distracted from what I was doing.  As a result I ended up forgetting my directions for getting to the race!

Bag is packed, I'm ready to go!

I got my husband dropped off very early at his transition zone and then started off to mine.  Problem was I had no idea where to go.  I drove around for a good 10-15 minutes until I finally spotted a teammate’s car and followed her.  All the while the coffee and food are kicking in and I needed to find a potty soon!

So got to the start, got set up (kept loosing my bike on the rack; note to self, bring chalk next time), hit the potty, got on my wetsuit and connected with a friend, Shiela K.,  from Twitter and the Dailymile.  Very cool to meet someone at the race that you  have been corresponding with for awhile.  The coolest part was that we passed on the course a couple of time! Always good to see a familiar face!

T1 set up, mostly...

Made it down to the start and got in the water to scope out the entry and feel the water temp.  Super nice entry and the temp was perfect!  Chatted with a few more people then waited for my wave (# 3 this time!) I went to the front of the pack because I am a strong swimmer and waited for the start.  The swim was great.  A little crowded at first but as we thinned out, I just set my sights on catching as many people as I could.  I felt great! I really concentrated on my stroke trying to get the most out of each one.  I did the 1500 meter swim in 26:25.  I heard I was 13th out of the water (not sure out of how many).  Had a slow transition, I thought, because I was really wet after the swim.  I know that sounds silly but I think my wetsuit is too big so it is holding a lot of water when I get out.

Anyway, I got out of transition and onto the bike course.  The course was relatively hilly.  Nothing really steep, just some longish gradual climbs.  I am not  a strong cyclist so I got passed…a lot!  Still, when I wasn’t climbing I did my best to keep the pace up.  I am really happy with the fact that my average cadence was 84 for the ride! (see Garmin data here) The 40K took me 1:24:26. (definite room for improvement).

T2 was funny because it was at a different location than T1. So we showed up to just our shoes essentially.  I found my bag dumped everything out, sat down and got my shoes and hat on, grabbed a Gu and my Garmin and took off.  I felt strong on my feet!  I knew there were some hills to contend with but I wasn’t nervous for them due to all my recent trail running experience.  It was a challenging run but since the  terrain changed constantly the six miles flew by!  Except for the two miles in the middle which were mostly up, I did a sub 8 pace. (see Garmin data here) So overall I ran 49:58 for 10K and I finished feeling strong!

Overall I was 4th out of 35 for my age group, and 44 out of 202 for my gender.  I feel that with a little (more likely a lot) work on my bike I could maybe land on a podium at some point.  A girl can dream can’t she?

For race results click here.

For race photos click here.

**Turns out my results were good enough to qualify for Nationals.  Anyone want  to sponsor me?

Ironman St. George Race Report – Guest Post

Mary, the Ironman, with her wetsuit strippers.

LOVED THIS RACE!!!  With the exception of a flat tire, it was a great day.  I knew half way through the swim I wanted to do another one.  I felt so well prepared for this race and this course.  Last year was the inaugural race for Ironman St. George and it immediately took the title of hardest Ironman course.  It has a hilly, tough bike course with over 6800’ of climbing followed by the most difficult run course in all of Ironman.   There are no flat areas on this marathon, you’re either running up or down the whole time and some of the hills are quite steep.  Everyone asked me why would I want to do the hardest Ironman as my first one?  I figured what does it really matter?  I’ve never done an Ironman so any Ironman is going to be hard and if I do the hardest one first the others will all be easier.

My swim wasn’t as fast as I would have liked, but I’m completely happy with it because it felt good other than some leg cramps.  I was SO stressed about the swim.  About the lake conditions, the mass start and of course the length of the swim.  Fortunately the lake was flat and the water temp fine.  Got off to a good start, didn’t have too much struggling with the other 1500 athletes and quickly settled into a good rhythm.  I felt calm and strong until my leg started to cramp which freaked me out a bit.  My left calf & hamstring started cramping and I had to stop.  I panicked a bit and called out for help to one of the swim support.  As the guy was coming out to help me all I could think was that there was no way I was going to let my race end in the swim.  I just needed to keep going and hopefully it would go away.  I managed to keep the cramps at bay for the most part and did OK with the rest of the swim up until the very end when a guy whacked me in the eye and my goggles filled with water making it difficult to see the swim out.  I didn’t know until the race was over that I had a broken blood vessel in my eye.  It doesn’t hurt it just looks painful.

Had a quick swim to bike transition and headed out on the bike feeling really good until about mile 20 when I felt my tire go flat.  As soon as I flatted I knew my dream of qualifying for Kona was over.  Everything had to go right to finish in the top 2 in my age group, there was no room for error in my race.  I got off my bike, took of f the tire and tube (back tire of course), felt around the inside of the tire but couldn’t find what caused the flat, so I put in a new tube, blew it up after the 2nd try with the CO2 cartridge and put it back on the bike. I was so proud of myself for changing my own flat and then the new tube immediately blew a hole.  And that’s when everything could have gone incredibly downhill.  I didn’t have another tube and for a few minutes I mentally started to shut down because all I could think was “there goes the dream”.  A very sweet guy threw me another tube and cartridge from his bike but I couldn’t get the CO2 pump to work so I was stuck waiting for bike support to come.   The bike support guy found a tiny shard of glass on the outside of my tire that was the cause of my flat.  In the 20 plus minutes that I was on the side of the road with my flat a lot of things went through my head, most importantly what my friend Bryan Ogle told me.  He said you can’t control everything that happens but you can control how you react.  At that point I switched from Goal A to Goal B.  I decided that even if I couldn’t qualify for Kona I was going to have the best race I could have and I was going to set myself up for a great run.  Pressure off to qualify for Kona, just go out and do my best.   And most of all I was going to really enjoy the day, it was after all my first Ironman.

I knew that it wouldn’t be smart to go out and try to make up for lost time by pushing too hard on the bike, so I did as I was trained to do, followed my Heart Rate for the next 9 hours and raced my race.  The bike was great and the run indescribable.   We had a high of 92 in a very dry, windy climate.  There were hydration/nutrition stops at every mile of the run as well as cold sponges and ice to help keep you cool, but it was almost impossible to stay hydrated and keep up with electrolyte losses.  To see the amount of suffering among the athletes on the run course was unbelievable.  I have never seen anything like it.  There were far more people walking than running, even some of the pros were walking at times.  People were throwing up and cramping and many had to be pulled off the run course due to heat exhaustion/dehydration.  It was one giant suffer fest up on the big hill that you had to do 2 loops on.  Fortunately my problems were minimal.  My adductors were really tight from the bike and at about mile 13 my left foot and calf started cramping on and off.  I was really worried that pretty soon my leg was going to seize with cramps and I would have to start walking.  I took a couple of salt tablets and a lot of water and just hoped that they would take effect in time.  I kept going and eventually the cramping subsided. As I have never run more than 18 miles I wasn’t sure how the last 8 miles of the marathon would play out.  Everyone told me that it would start to get ugly at about miles 18-20 and then you just have to make it through as best you can.  So when mile 18 came I was braced for the pain to come, and at mile 20 I thought for sure this is it, but incredibly it never came and I had the best run I could have hoped for.  I ran a 3:54 marathon in the most difficult conditions on the toughest course.  I was elated!  Only one other woman in my age group was faster at 3:49:51 and she won.

I finished 8th in my age group at a time of 12:09, without my flat I could have finished 3rd, but there were only 2 qualifying spots for Kona so that gives me some relief.  I am incredibly happy with my race on many levels.  I didn’t know going into this if Ironman would end up being a race that I would want to do again, I thought maybe the half Ironman distance would be more my race.  I am completely hooked!  I loved this race and I can’t wait to do another one!

Per coach's instructions they stayed off thier feet prior to the race.

Pre-Race ride checking out the bike course with two teammates.

It’s hard to believe how fast 12 hours can go by.  I made such a point to really enjoy the day and the entire experience.  The volunteers and spectators were absolutely amazing and the scenery is breathtaking.  It was such a fantastic day!  Thank you all for your emails, texts, facebook posts and calls.  I so appreciate every bit of support and encouragement!  Thank you for sharing in the most incredible day of my life.

*Mary’s performance was amazing! I hope that when I finally do my first full Ironman I will be as well prepared as Mary was and have such an amazing mind set during the race!

April 2011 Training Report

Training Summary

  • Running – 101 miles
  • Swimming – 19 miles
  • Biking – 251 miles
  • Total Distance – 371 miles
  • Total Time : 41:34

Races

I completed my first Half Ironman distance triathlon in Oceanside, CA on 4/2/2011.  It was awesome! My goal ultimate goal was to go under 6 hours but I thought that I would most likely be  closer to 6:30.  I was thrilled to finish in 5:59:41!  Full race report can be found here.

Notes on Month

Kind of a strange month because I had a big race in the beginning so there were a couple of light weeks dues to recovery.  I did 30 less total miles than the month before but 4 more hours or training.  This is probably due to the fact that I swam a lot! (twice as much as the previous month).  I also upped the running and had a light month of riding.  Another notable thing that happened in April is that I started this blog.  I am really enjoying it and I hope that people continue to read it.  And lastly, late in the month I tried trail running.  I liked it so much there is a 50K penciled on my calendar for November 2011!

March 2011 Training Report

Training Summary

  • Running – 88 miles
  • Swimming – 10 miles
  • Biking – 304 miles
  • Total Distance – 402 miles
  • Total Time : 37:17

Races

Desert Triathlon in La Quinta, CA International Distance:  really happy with first triathlon of the season.  I think I could have swam harder, but I was thrilled with my bike and run.  Raced with a lot of my P5 teammates which was great! (race results)

Notes on Month

This was my last push towards training for my first 70.3 coming up in April.  I got a little derailed one weekend by an overzealous birthday celebration.  Then the next weekend had terrible weather (LA Marathon weekend) so I ended up up doing a lot of indoor bike training.  I really wanted to get one more long outdoor ride in before going to Oceanside.