Ironman Florida: The Final Chapter

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It’s hard to believe its been well over a year ago since we all stood in front of this truck, after a day of volunteering, ready and excited for the challenges lie ahead.

r600x600A year later and an easy hundred years wiser, we all gathered again to celebrate the accomplishment…..and to to pay a bit of gratitude to those who were kind enough to TOLERATE us while preparing to go the distance.

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got cake?

Folks, it is not easy being the one that has to listen to this garbage day in and day out so it’s always nice to say a little thank you. Especially if you have ANY intentions of doing this crap again! 😉 But before we celebrated all that was right in the world, I had to attend to 1 looming issue….

a meesly 5k.

Once again, Mother Nature did not fail. A cold front blew in around 2am so the temperatures dropped and the wind howled. No it was not sub-zero and snowing, but just like you northerners have issues racing down here in the deep south come April/May (which really, it is NOT hot), we have issues acclimatizing to 35-40 F in November/December. But at least the rain had stopped!

There wasn’t a lot to this race because I’d had no Zone 4 work in a year. The only Zone 3 I had under me was when I would skate the upper end of Zone 2 during a half-ironman or when I was on the brink of heat exhaustion during summer training. So I really had no idea what to expect other than to not enjoy it one single bit. I find it’s better to just be brutally honest with oneself!

Heading out, I had NO idea what my best stand alone 5k time actually was and I didn’t want to know….I didn’t want it in my head. It wasn’t going to change anything for the better and MIGHT do so for the worse.

As everyone lined up, I picked out a few  people to “follow”, one of those being my husband. The gun fired and we all head out. The advice I was given was to just ease into the 1st mile. From there, instructions shifted to more of a”gimme 2 and make it hurt” approach. For what it’s worth, I don’t know if there is any possible way to ease into the first mile of a 5k, but I certainly kept it in mind.

During the first half-mile, I kept my husband within 100-200 ft, but then he was gone. I was still cold despite a nice warm-up and even though I felt like I was “working” hard, it didn’t feel impossible. Yet! I crossed 1 mile and saw 7:45 on my Garmin. This was unchartered territory outside a sprint triathlon (always run faster off the bike) and since I “eased” into the first mile I told myself, “Carpe Diem! This thing started sub-8 and it now gets to finish sub-8!”

So while I lost my husband (because little did I know he had visions of 22 minute 5k), I did pick out a couple of people who I needed to keep within my sights. There was one person, in particular, that I was keeping closer than normal. When the 2 mile chime went off and I saw 7:51, I was relieved to be holding pace since things were becoming increasingly difficult. Only 1 mile to go! Little did I know, this last mile would be into the wind and up a slight hill…

Ok, maybe it was more of a driveway-ish incline…

The nice thing about completing 140.6 miles is that it sorta gives the feeling of empowerment. That last mile was HARD and I REALLY wanted to stop for a second to reset my stride (excuses?) and catch my breath. In the past, I just might have done it. This time, I was able to think rationally despite both being hypoxic and drowning in lactic acid. I convinced myself that, “NO…stopping is NOT necessary! Its ONE MILE, less than 8 minutes…get over it, get it done!”

And so I did.

Almost a month to the day after finishing my first Ironman, I ran my fastest 5k…..Crossing at 24:29 and surpassing my previous time by 1 minute and 1 second. That effort was rewarded with 3rd in the 40-44 AG, 9th female overall, and 38th out of 200 runners. Consistency is a marvelous thing and I give a ton of credit to my wonderful coach that stresses THAT above everything else.

So what’s a girl to do after a year like this?

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Naturally!

As of Friday, we will be spending the next 9 days at the most magical place on Earth!

Here’s wishing all of y’all a safe and festive holiday season!

And always…

Run Happy, My Friends!

happy runner

Moving Forward….

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I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, survived Black Thursday Friday, and is taking full advantage of Cyber Monday (my personal favorite)!

Just so you know, Ironman recovery is a real bitch. I’m just now turning the corner and feeling like I’ll actually BE able to race again next year. Which is a good thing because:

a) while I was still high on Ironman invincibility, I got the OK to race a 5k this coming Saturday…..

but “just for fun!”

Who the hell races a 5k just for fun? Especially when the only training done, over the past 12 months, has been in the highly aerobic playground known as Zone 2???!! Just for reference, my heart rate gets higher when I vacuum my house. Ask around, there hasn’t been much of THAT happening.

and

b) my jeans are officially shrinking!

Crap! I was trying to be so careful, but it was inevitable. It’s time to seriously get moving….and more than a leisurely hour a day to support these healthy eating habits!

Yes, it’s time to move forward…

The Ironman high (and calorie burn!!) is long gone. I’m now left with tight pants and a looming 5k that’s making me MORE anxious than 140.6 miles did a month ago.

But it’s all good. I’ve actually decided a little fear isn’t such a bad thing. It keeps the senses sharp, like a knife! 😉

As I move away from longer (not long, just uber long) distances, I now have the opportunity to sprinkle some challenging events into my schedule once again. I can take the time to race and recover from events I might not normally elect to do because they’re not necessarily my favorites.

In other words, it’s time to get uncomfortable…to push the boundaries in a different way….to grab the bull by the horns and dare to hold on!

2014 is going to be about utilizing each opportunity and taking every single last second for what it’s worth. If Ironman taught me anything, it was the importance of taking full advantage of every single moment life hands out because second chances are few and far between.

So this is how I’ll be moving forward…

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Starting with a “just for fun” 5k on Saturday!

Run Happy, My Friends!

happy runner

All Guts….and Just a Little Bit of Glory

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It doesn’t get easieryou just go fasterGreg Lemond

Last Saturday was my annual test of fitness.

The Jingle Bell 5k.

I’ve been running it for the past 4 years. The route is always the same and conditions really don’t vary too terribly much so I can use it as a good indicator of where my VO2max is hovering. This allows me to gauge my running paces for training so I don’t overwork the recovery days or underwork the harder ones.

It’s one of maybe three straight 5ks I run all year (outside of sprint triathlons). I hate them. Plain and simple, no away around it.

The 5k is a fast and it hurts. I’m not a huge fan of fast pain. I prefer mine to creep up slowly and tap me on the shoulder….usually after 30-60 multisport miles.

However, I DO love testing myself and seeing how I’ve progressed year over year. I’m also I data junkie (contain your shock!) so this gives me some new numbers to look at and a more accurate way to write and evaluate training plans.

All that being said, most coaches and runners will agree, when the 5k is run at threshold pace, it ends up being one of  THE most painful distance tackled.

Saturday, I must’ve done something right.

At about 9am, just under 200 folks lined up to take part in the annual 3.1 mile jaunt.

The course is a flat, fast, and not overly crowded so it is easy to get the work done.

Although on this day, Mother Nature decided to throw a few curveballs and hit us with increased temps (68F), elevated humidity (80%), and yes…she was blowing like the mother she is…winds were out of the southwest at 16-18mph.

At first I was irritated with the temperature and humidity, but as we warmed up I quickly realized the wind was going to be more of a factor. I’ve been running in 15- 20mph+ winds for the past 2 weeks so this “breeze” was nothing new, but not exactly how I wanted to race.

Seeing how I couldn’t change things, I got the bitching out of my system and set my intentions.

AquaDoc and I found some friends to chat with as we waited for the start and for the 1st time in four years…..the race actually began ON TIME!

My original plan was to just keep up with my husband. I felt if I did that then I’d hit my goal of breaking 26 minutes and I would certainly be working to to my maximum potential. Well that plan was ditched the moment the horn blared to signal start. That man blew out like race horse and there was no way in HELL I was going to catch him.

On to plan B: keep husband’s red shirt in sight.

Situations like this one, is why it’s always important to have multiple plans!

1/2 mile 7:14/avg I could still see the red shirt and although I knew deep down I was going too fast, but I didn’t FEEL like it YET! Ahh, lactic acid is soo sneaky that way!

1 mile 7:44/avg I still felt “ok”, but at this point I started to question if I could do this another 2 miles. I blew past the aid station, knowing I could get some water on the way back if I needed it. There was this woman running next to me and she refused to commit to pass or fall behind. This kind of shit messes with my mind and I was trying desperately to ignore her, but she refused to go away.

1.5 mile  7:55/avg At first I was shocked to hold under an 8 min/mi for this long, so I consider THAT in and of itself a huge success. However, I was now in dire straights. My entire body was burning. I could not only FEEL the lactic acid, but I could taste it. You know, that familiar metallic flavor that rises up when you get to “that point”. My husband tried to hi-five me as we passed at the loop, but I couldn’t expend one extra ounce of energy to give it back to him. Apparently he wasn’t working near as hard to reach his goal as I was to make mine. My new running partner was still there and then the wind picked up.

2.0 miles/8:15 This is where I started cutting deals with myself. “Just maintain an 8:30 pace” and it’s done. I told myself the bulk of the work was over and even gave the ok for an aid station stop. Hey, I’d earned it right? Well my ‘id” may have thought so, but my “ego” certainly didn’t agree. There would be no stopping on this day. Then there was this woman. Part of the reason I was so annoyed was because she didn’t “look” like she should be challenging me. Ahh, we all know looks are deceiving in this arena, but it still plays with my mind. Finally I had to have a brief internal chat with myself. I said, “Self, I guarantee she’s not running on legs that have cranked out 85 miles this week, 30 of those miles yesterday. Let her go. Run your race. This is about a whole lot more than these 3 miles.” So I got comfortable in my pace, maintained my form in the headwind, and concentrated on finishing in under 26 minutes. She ran ahead and I was ok with that.

3.0 miles/8:44 I was really beginning to think I may die. All of those news reports of marathoners having MIs recently had me thinking that perhaps I’d be the next one on NBC Nightly News. Then I came back to reality. I had lost sight of my husband’s red shirt a few minutes prior so I knew he had finished, but I couldn’t find the freaking clock. There were droves of elves standing in front of it blocking the view. I had my Garmin, but I NEEDED to see the official time and these asshats were blocking my view. Finally I saw the seconds ticking off  :15, :16, :17…but what were the minutes?

.1 mile/8:06 That was the longest .10 mile I have ever run in my life! Definitely the longest since the last 5k in the spring!! As I inched closer I finally saw the FULL time 25:20 and knew I had what I needed. I crossed the finish line and found the closest trash can. I stood there for a minute, prepared for the worst, but it was nothing more than dry heaves and coughing.

Official Time: 25:30

My 5k time improved by 1:32 and my estimated  VO2max has improved by 2 points since April. I’ll take it.

You have to love all out effort….it just hurts so good!

I found my husband to check and see how his race went. He is finally recovered from his sports hernia, which has been a 6 month pain in the ass (more accurately a pain in his groin) for him. He finished just over 24 minutes and this puts him back to almost where he was before he got injured in July. He really wants to break into that 22 range. I don’t think it will be long now!

We both ended up taking 2nd in the 40-44 AG which is always an added bonus.

In 2 weeks we’re doing it again, this time a 10k test.

Have I mentioned how I don’t really like to hurt?

Below are a few pictures (literally, 3) from the day. I’m in the process of playing with our new MacBook so y’all are lucky enough to view my 1st ever slide show.

I hope everyone is having a great holiday running season!

Run Happy, My Friends!

Movin’ On Up

5

Last Friday was my 40th birthday and as a result it was also my official entry to the 40-44 age group. “Officially” I have been racing within this bracket for all USAT events since January, but for road races and smaller tris I was still holding on to that 35-39 division.

Not anymore!

I woke up Friday morning to yard art from hell. There is nothing quite like backing out in the morning and finding a huge sign broadcasting your birthday to the neighborhood!! Luckily a cold front was blowing through and so this billboard spent most of the weekend face down due to the 20+ mph winds we were receiving.

Later than night, AquaDoc and I ran a local Halloween 5k. It was a fundraiser for the Ms/La Team in Training group and they did an outstanding job putting on their very 1st road race EVER! I ran a comfortably hard pace and my foot seemed to hold up although I could feel it pulling on the hills or when I had to fight the headwind. I came in at 26:35 so nothing to really write home about, but I knew I wasn’t going to be setting any records and that really wasn’t the goal of the night. The best part though, was I ended up placing 1st in my NEW 40-44 age group. What a fantastic way to move up. Hopefully this is setting the tone for the rest of the season!!

A witch on a broom...How cool is THAT??

The rest of the weekend was spent looking a the calendar. Some people start their year in January, but I start mine on October 28th….my birthday.

I reviewed the past 12 months and all that happened and all that was accomplished. I set some goals for next year and began plotting the race calendar for 2012.

It’ll take me a few months to hammer this out just right. Of course we already have Galveston (70.3) on the slate in April, but between school breaks, exams, camps, the horrid heat/humidity of the deep south, and family vacations it becomes quite tedious to map out the “perfect” race schedule.

While it will take some time to plot it all out, the important thing is that process has begun. For me, knowing whats looming in the distance helps to keep me honest throughout the winter and definitely keeps my butt in the pool during these colder months.

So how about you…Have you started your 2012 race schedule yet? What’s changed and whats stayed the same?

Ohh, and…

Happy Halloween to all of you too! May your day be filled with many many treats and very few tricks!

Run Happy, My Friends!

Gimme 3 And Make ’em Hurt

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Today was race day and it was ALL about being uncomfortable.

I am 5k challenged. I am actually challenged any time I ask my body to travel quickly over short distances. So 5ks, sprint duathlons, and sprint Tris (or interval workouts of any type) are not my favorite. Hell, on average, it takes me 20-30 minutes to simply wrap my head around what I’m doing and settle into a grove. If the race is a 5k, it’s over and done before I’ve even convinced myself I want to BE there!

However, I do know that in order to improve and reach our goals we have to step outside our comfort zone from time to time. We have to force ourselves to do things that we don’t really want to do so that we may unleash our true potential.

So this morning, I put down my coffee and headed out in the rain (hey, at least it wasn’t hot) to the local MardiPardi/Eco Adventure 5k.

For those of you who are not from here, its Mardi Gras in the deep south. So naturally, there was a huge party complete with runners in costume, beer, food, a band and even a little parade for the post-race festivities. A nice touch, but I just wanted to get the race in the record books before the impending squall line hit and made an already challenging situation near impossible.

My prayers were answered and we were off at 9:01.

I ran the 1st mile like it was my last. I tend to be a slow starter, so I’ve been working on this for the past few weeks. My 1 mile split was 7:59. I was both relieved and pleased so I allowed myself to back off, breathe and actually take in a little oxygen. The 2nd mile was closer to 8:40. These first two splits exceeded my expectations so much, I granted myself the luxury of actually STOPPING (gasp!) for water at the 2 mile point and re-adjusting for the last mile. The 3rd mile was to be a comfortable one, as the work was over. I hit it at 9:15. I rounded out the final .1 at an 8:55 pace. Not bad, not bad at all.

Finish line time 26:30…a new PR and a new goal pace for training purposes.

And the best part…

At about the 2.5 mile point, I look down the road and I see what I think is AquaDoc’ s truck. It was indeed him, stopping by, on his way home from the hospital. He pulls up next to me and screams, “Run Woman, Run!”, and drives with me to end! I was so excited to see him at the same point where he would normally be coming back to me, after completing his race, to run me in and help me finish strong. It was just the extra push I needed. Man, I love that guy!

Now, the 2nd best part

The 35-39 age group award, and one I will cherish forever! It’s been a long year full of a lot of hard work.

A little validation always goes a long way in making the pain and suffering all seem worthwhile!

Run Happy, My Friends!