Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cheers to new PRs

Four new PRs set by trigirls!

Today was the Shamrock 1/2 Marathon that I ran in my friend Fave's stead. I was a little worried about the race (and had weird "showing up for the race naked" dreams last night) considering that I wasn't feeling too great after yesterday's 3 hour spin class. I had called Jen almost in tears, griping about this that and the other--nothing specifically that I could put my finger on--and didn't know at the time if I could race today. But this morning, the diabetes gods took pity on me and we felt comfortable leaving Joey at 6am without the fear of any hypoglycemic episodes. I felt pretty good this morning, despite the strange dreams, and Joe and I made it to the start line with 5 mins to spare before the Star Spangled Banner. Time to run!

I have never run this course, but if anyone wants to PR, this is the course to do it on. FLAT!!! After all those damn hills in Tucson, it was sheer bliss. The first 6 miles lead north out of the resort area of Virginia Beach, winding west through the pine forest to the far side of Fort Story. The weather was quite cool (about 37 degrees at the 7am start), and everyone's breath hovered like fog above their heads. It warmed up just enough to shed one layer of clothes and at the light houses in the Fort you turn into the direct sun and head back to the hotels. Joe ran the entire way with me and was nice enough to wait for me at mile 8 while I took care of some unfinished business at the porta potties. At mile 10 he said I had a good chance of running a 2:05 (neither of us had a watch on though), so I cranked up my tunes to drown out the pain and tried to turn my legs over just that much faster. Miles 11 and 12 were tough but Marit had given me some good mantras on which to concentrate. Et voila, a new half marathon PR by 10 minutes! 2:07:34! Next time I've got to figure out how to eliminate that bathroom break that cost me about 3 mins...

It was a fun too for the post race party on the beach with fellow racers Jill, Sharon, Bethany, Bart, sherpa Lynn, and long lost high school friend Bob, wife Katie, and sister Lynn. Beer and Irish stew were consumed, then it was time to high tail it home to spell the kids and nap. Someone please tell me I have a rest day tomorrow...

Monday, March 16, 2009


The Confessions/Adventures of a Member of the Pink Sock Brigade (thanks, Kari!)

the pink sock brigade at Sabino Canyon

I just went back and reread my post from the Florida camp. Did that camp really kick my ass? No, that was just a friendly butt slap for the true ass kicking that happened in Tucson!

I arrived into Tucson on Wednesday evening and cabbed out to the hotel, getting to the "meet and greet" just in time to grab a little dinner and meet most of the other campers. Too soon it was time to put the bike together before hitting the hay in anticipation of the Mt Lemmon climb in the morning. Roomie Julia was a dear for not complaining too much about my recently-acquired snoring habit. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal, bananas, bagels, and peanut butter we mounted up and headed out of town. We rode an easy 13 miles to the base of the mountain, where we stripped down (it was warming up) and loaded up (time to eat).

Spencer and John climbing Lemmon!

Mt Lemmon boasts a 7000+ foot elevation gain over 28 miles. That's if you go all the way up to the top. I only made it to mile 14, for a total of about 4000 feet of climbing. That 14 miles took me 2 hours. I can't say how long it took everyone else because I was the token slow poke. (I figured the other athletes were fast, but not like ALL "World AG Champion" Renne fast. Duh...stupid me.) The climb started well, and I averaged about 8mph for the first 6 miles. Jerome rode the first few miles with me, encouraging me to "find my tempo." Then he took off, and it got a little depressing. My speed kept decreasing--to a low at one point of a whopping 5.5mph! I felt good though, and was able to keep my cadence at a decent clip in my lowest gear for pretty much the entire time. Mantras helped me focus on the task at hand and not get too discouraged. My favorites were "push and pull," "follow follow follow follow follow the thick white line (sung to the tune of Yellow Brick Road from the Wizard of Oz)," and of course "just keep pedalling just keep pedalling just keep pedalling pedalling pedalling." Coach Spencer was a dear to keep me company for most of the second 7 miles. The last 1.5 miles before Windy Point at mile marker 14 were by far the hardest--with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. Ouch. I was able to make it up the entire way without standing out of the saddle, which I guess is good?

It was interesting to see how the vegetation changed on the way up. What started out as desert, with cactus and scrub, becomes pine forest at about 4-5000 feet. The views were incredible with a few whispy clouds overhead and warm, glorious sunshine. I had taken off arm and leg warmers at the bottom of the mountain, but Spencer wisely cautioned me to dress back up around mile 10. Up at Windy Point, the temperature was noticably COLD and I was glad for the extra gear I had packed for the ride down--wind breaker, ear cover, and full gloves. I didn't debate long about continuing up the mountain. It would've taken me at the very least another hour to make it the last 10-12 miles, and the altitude headache I was developing would've only gotten worse. Fellow camper John and I started the bomb down the mountain. No 40+ mph for me since the roads were unfamiliar and the turns less gradual than those on the Blue Ridge. The total time down was under 20 minutes! We had a nice lunch at a coffee shop while we waited for the rest of group, but the 13 miles back to the hotel were still tough--especially that last climb home. We had that afternoon off and were able to relax by the pool, after dips in first the hot tub and then the cold tub. That Corona was, in my opinion, well earned, and the mexican food and margarita at dinner were excellent!

Julia and me, sporting our signature pre-swim look: hotel robes and compression socks.

Friday was swim/run day. Ah, to swim outside. Glorious. I shared a lane with John, his wife Allie, and Ben. Ben is an amazing athlete so I was stoked to be able to keep up with him in at least one discipline. We banged out 2600 yards and then had fun racing/sprinting 25's as if it was an open water start. I think Mary kicked everyone's butt in the pool!

Jen and I hamming it up underwater

After a stop at Starbucks for fuel and a quick change at the hotel, Jen and I started our run together up the Sabino Canyon road while the others hit the trails, but she quickly left me behind as it wound gradually uphill. I'm convinced that everything in Tucson is uphill. I thought I had been doing ok with running hills on tired legs here at home. Apparently not. I managed to run for an hour, then met back up with Kelley, Julia, Jen, and Kari for a "cool down" walk for another 20 mins. Our wildlife sightings involved bunnies, quail, and nesting birds but Marit's group got to see a very large snake! We got back to the hotel and blissfully jumped in the cold pool. Molly, a friend from the Florida camp, had driven down to Tucson for the evening. It was great to see her and introduce her to the AZ campers. We all went to a casual sushi place for dinner. Molly had to leave too early--I was sorry she couldn't stay for the rest of the weekend!

Molly and I catching up over Mojitos

On tap for friday was another bike ride. John and I rode with Jen, but picked up a few extra girls for an "easy" warm up. Not 4 miles out, I lost my first water bottle. We followed the same course out to the base of Mt Lemmon, but then turned just before the start of the climb. Traffic was still light, and I was working hard to stay on anyone's wheel. Jerome and Spencer followed with the faster groups, and I wished I could be the one to jump on their train. At the designated turn around, we picked Renne and John back up for the ride home, after a detour to the convenience store for more fluids. Wouldn't you know, I lost another FULL bottle just after that. At this point, Jen was pulling me along at a 21mph pace and I didn't dare get dropped. The whole group rode reconvened at some point for about 5-6 miles, and the pace picked up. Ack! I could've used the calories in those two dropped bottles. I made the mistake of asking Jen if we could stop for a gu. Nope. Luckily she turned around to look for Renne and the great group of girls that pulled my sorry ass home took mercy on me and slowed enough for me to take in my nutrition. I thought the hill up to the hotel hurt after the Lemmon was harder on Saturday!

The girls that pulled this sorry ass home: Jenny, Julia, and Kelley

A quick t run off the bike--down and back up that damn hill. By the time I hit the turn into the hotel, I was done. Pool, cold tub, lunch, hot tub and a quick swim stroke session were all that were left to do before dinner. I think Jen had prepped Spencer on what to say about my swimming since his first comment was how much better I'd be in the water if I swam more than once a week.... And I never thought having a "nice stroke" could sound like a criticism. I need to work on grabbing the water more aggressively.

Our last dinner was bitter sweet. Lots of joking about the torture, pain, and fun of our workouts together. But I couldn't help thinking "I'm going to miss this!" As much as I missed my family (that includes you, Lynn!), Joe's reports about dreary weather and going back to riding on a trainer made me want to stay in sunny Tucson. I always feel so much stronger after riding outside--hopefully it'll be just a couple more weeks and we'll be outside. Hopefully the gains I've made in my training will stick around (and pounds I've lost will stay away!)

Sunday morning was rushed with packing and group picture taking. I used my solo run to take in and enjoy the scenery of Sabino Canyon--this time I brought my ipod which helped me tune out thoughts of how tired I was of running uphill. Too soon it was time to say goodbye (Marit almost made me cry), and drive to the airport. The three K's (Kelley, Kari, and I) shared a crazy ride to the airport, and bade farewell. I read the entire Sunday NYT while waiting, and was able to sleep sleep sleep on both flights home.

A friend here in Richmond asked what I learned from the Florida camp, and while I didn't have any new "we've been doing xyz all wrong!" type of lessons to impart from either my Florida or Tucson experiences, I have gained a new appreciation for our sport and fellow athletes. To the person, each camper and coach was encouraging, supportive, sharing, and genuinely very NICE. Even though I was not as fast as most everyone else, I was never made to feel like I didn't belong. I am reminded of those master card commercials:

Tri Camp fees: $1300
Bike shipping: $ 600
Hotels: $1000
Getting your ass kicked while making new friends:


Thursday, March 5, 2009

My new favorite thing... running! I am having a hard time believing it too, but even in crappy weather, or when I'm tired, I can still find the joy in it. I surprise myself because until this year, the run was the worst of three disciplines for me, a necessary evil. Some of my angst with running is probably due to the fact that I was plagued by injuries last year (ITB syndrome, Baker's cyst) and poor running form! But since Ironman Florida, something has clicked. Even during the hardest parts of that Ironman run, it didn't suck nearly as much as I thought it would! (And man, did I think it was going to suck!)

Don't get me wrong, I'm not all of a sudden running 6 minute miles (FAR from it) or banging out 30+ miles a week. I leave that to rr. My speed is what it is right now, which is a very consistent 10 minute/mile pace. My tempo on long runs is perfect for me--I can pick it up to get across streets quickly, and I have just enough gas in the tank to sprint out the last 1/2 mile. My form has improved dramatically from 2004, when I first started running tris. I used to run rather haunched over and remember very specifically at mile 22 of my first marathon how much my abs hurt. (I know that my core strength has improved significantly since then.) I now can run my half mile repeats in about 3:46, and my timed mile (which usually for coach Marco Diablo came after repeats or a long run) were just over 8 minutes. I'm fine with that. I know when we start our tempo workouts later this month I'll be pushing my pace and heartrate.

My normal running route takes me down towards the James River, through a very quiet neighborhood where I can let Sophie off the lead to traipse through the woods. While I run that same road at least once a week, the scenery never gets boring. Earlier this week when there was still snow on the ground, you noticed what lay farther back in the woods--woods that are hidden most of the summer by lush greenery. During peak foliage time, it is quite magical too, raining leaves and glittering gold and red. My 6 and 8 mile routes take me along that part twice, with the way home a one mile climb back up the hill. I have started leaving the ipod at home more, and nothing beats running in the rain, listening to the water hit the leaves, pavement, and brim of my visor. There are days when I'm tired and need the music to motivate me (like today), and sometimes it's nice to find a catchy tune that pushes me up the hills or through the last painful mile. Today's song was

what i like about you
you keep me warm at night
never wanna let you go
you know you make me feel alright
keep on whispering in my ear
tell me all the things that i wanna hear
cuz its true thats what i like about you
thats what i like about you

I am looking forward to the second half of this year, when I start training earnestly for a fall marathon. Nothing like a morning run in the crisp fall air, with leaves cascading around you and crunching underfoot. Bliss.

On an unrelated note, I want to bitch about something....people who chat chat chat away during spin sessions or who obviously don't have enough tension on their trainers. Hello?! It's a workout. If you're still chatting through the intervals, your trainer needs to be tightened up. I can barely put 3 words together and am gasping for air. Social hour comes during the warm up or afterwards, not during the "hardest gear! stand!" part of the session. Hardest gear to me means it better be damn hard to maintain even 60rpm standing. I'm talking sweat dripping down, being focused on form to pull and push HARD. Still doing 80rpms in your hardest gear does not do you any favors once you get outside. And seriously, isn't that the point of coming to the workout? Thanks for listening, I'll step off my soap box now.