Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable

January 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Run Bike Swim 

I’m taking a new approach to training this year. Instead of avoiding the things that scare me, make me uneasy, are hard, or I think that I’m not good at, I’m jumping in. I’ve signed up for the same long triathlon race this year. I still can’t believe I did; I’m not sure it’s a good idea; but I was compelled to do it again. I also have my eyes on qualifying for Age Group Nationals again this year. Both of these will be tough tasks.

But I don’t plan to just do triathlon this year. I’ve started some night trail running, scary but so much fun. This fall, I’ll be jumping into cyclocross. I’ve been watching Liam doing CX for a few years, and it just looks so darn fun. I also plan to continue going to fusion and yoga classes at Dane’s.

This was my official first week of training for April’s HITS triathlon. I didn’t quite get all the training done I had planned, but definitely a step up from the last two months. This week’s training overview:

Monday – No training as we were driving back from our Marfa vacation.
Tuesday – Easy ride on my trainer, plus my second night trail run ever. Such fun.
Wednesday – Bill out of town, I just didn’t fit it my workouts.
Thursday – Crappy run (still sore from Tues trail run), first fusion class in over a year, followed by the toughest yoga class I’ve done. Not sure back-to-back fusion/yoga classes is going to work out.
Friday – Started the day with a doctor appt. I finally have allergy medication again! Evening, first swim since my last triathlon in Sept. Tried out the new North Branch Y since Town Lake pool is closed this month.
Saturday – Rangers Resolution Run 10k, 1st masters female! Can’t believe it. I’m not sure I’ve looked behind me this much in a race before. I was working hard to keep my second place female spot the whole time.
Sunday – Dug out one of my Sufferfest videos for an inside ride. Squeezed in a swim before the pool closed for the night.

Big thing next week is the 3M Half Marathon, one of my A races of the season. Weather should be perfect. Hope I’ve done enough training lately to do well. We’ll see. Should be fun anyway.

My 2013 Year of Film

December 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Movies, TV & Music 

I’m doing something new this year. Not my usual top movies seen in theaters and top movies seen at home. The reality is that with so many movies are being released on DVD or streaming so soon after a theatrical release, the lines between my at home list and theater list are blurring a lot. So I’m merging the lists to be a top 10 recent movies I’ve seen this year.

And instead of my at home list, I’ll start periodically compiling best of lists from the years before I started my lists (1997). I’ll start with 1996 next month, and work my way back in time. It’ll be a fun exercise, and a chance to fill in some gaps I have with older movies, and rewatch some favorites I may have only seen once. I’m curious which ones will stand the test of time.

This year I managed to see 97 new films, 93 of them were from the past 3 years. Not many older movies, but I did rewatch a bunch of older films with Ella. Probably one of my favorites was Lawrence of Arabia at the Paramount. She had the same reaction to that film that I did the first time.

My 10 favorite recent films I saw this year…

12 Years a Slave
20 Feet from Stardom
American Hustle
Amour
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Side Effects
Stories We Tell
The Invisible War
Zero Dark Thirty

Honorable mention to Intouchables and Searching for Sugar Man, two movies that just missed my top 10.

But it wasn’t all enjoyable viewing. The five movies that made the bottom of my list…

Computer Chess
Jack Reacher
Mirror Mirror
The Paperboy
Zero Charisma

Equally bad, but just so darn bad it was fun to watch goes to Sharknado.

What were some of your favorite films you saw this past year?

A Master Shopping List That Works

October 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Organize It 

I was listening to a recent episode of Back to Work where Dan went into great detail about his master shopping list. He got me thinking about our master shopping list we’ve been using for groceries for years. We eat differently now than we did 8 years ago. No more chicken nuggets or Goldfish crackers. And with our recent move to Austin, our grocery store is laid out differently too.

So I made it my mission to revamp the list with items we buy most frequently, and organized by our path in the store. I’ve shopped from the new list once now and can tell it’s going to make grocery shopping faster, and less annoying. No more searching for an item like tahini or back tracking because I missed something on the list.

If you’ve been looking for a way to simplify your grocery shopping, download our Master Shopping List 2013 Word doc and make it your own. We print out several copies and post them in the kitchen. As we find items we need to buy we highlight them on the list. Add other items for meals at the end of the week, and there’s your list, ready to shop from.

New York Marathon Plan

October 30, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Run Bike Swim 

Only four more sleeps until I’ll be running the New York Marathon. And it’s really sinking in now. I’m feeling an uneasy combination of fear and excitement. And that’s probably a good thing. Just the size of this race is hard for me to wrap my head around. There will be more than double the number of runners than there were at the Walt Disney Half, my largest race to date.

My last marathon was quite the disaster. I had high expectations of getting a big PR. And it couldn’t have been farther from that. I wanted to quit at 8 miles, but managed to finish, eventually. Now I know how it really feels to fall apart during a race. Not such a big deal when it’s just a 10K. But a marathon feels like it will go on forever when you hit the wall at 8 miles.

Sure, when I look back on my training log leading up to that race, I see all the evidence why I would have a bad race. Dealing with multiple injuries, too many long and hard runs too close to the marathon, and just not that much weekly running volume.

It’s been almost a year since that race. And I’ve been determined this time around to learn from my mistakes. I’m doing the same higher volume training plan that I used when training for The Goofy Challenge. (My last marathon PR happened that weekend). But when things didn’t feel right during a run, I would slow it down or cut it short. I skipped workouts when life got too crazy, and didn’t beat myself up about it.

And this new way for me of following a plan has been working. I’m not injured. Things are feeling good. And I’m getting faster, with new PRs for the 5K and 10K this fall. This is really encouraging.

But I’m still anxious about the race. Anything could happen. I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get a new PR, previously 4:22:09 at the Walt Disney Marathon in 2012. Four more days and I’ll know more.

HITS Triathlon Series – Half Race Report

April 30, 2013 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Run Bike Swim 

Oh blog, how I have neglected you. My crazy, busy life has kept me from you. But my latest race report seems to be too much for a Facebook update or even my regular race report log.

The Decision

I had been doing triathlon for 3 years and competed at Age Group National Championships my last triathlon season in 2011, which was a humbling experience. My last race of that season qualified me to compete again at Nationals in 2012. I was so excited to come back to Burlington and do the race again. I also had plans to do my first half distance triathlon race (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run = 70.3 miles) that summer. I had three things I wanted to accomplish before I would sign up for my first half, and I had accomplished all of them. I felt like I was ready and had my eye on doing the Patriot Half in June.

But things didn’t work out as I had planned and our family had to move to Austin, TX that summer. I just didn’t think I could train for a big race and deal with a move at the same time. Looking back on it, it was the right decision, but I was disappointed. Shortly after arriving in Austin, I scoped out the half distance triathlons near Austin in the spring and decided on the HITS Triathlon Series since it was so close to home and timing was right. I wanted a race that was low key and close enough that I could practice the course at least once. I probably should have considered the difficulty of the course when choosing my first at this distance, but having a challenging course has never stopped me from signing up before.

The Training

I wasn’t sure if this was going to be my one and only race at this distance. I knew it was going to be a challenge and a step up in training. It seemed like the right time to get a coach. Being already comfortable with Martha Grinnell and familiar with her coaching style, she seemed like she would be a good fit for me. So two weeks after my second fall marathon, I started working with Martha in December.

It was a tough start to training. I was still getting over some issues with my knee and hip that had developed after the October marathon. And I hadn’t fully recovered yet from my November marathon either. Plus getting used to juggling more workouts with my already busy schedule was hard. But by the time I was about the halfway point in my training, I really noticed things starting to fall in place. I was looking forward to my workouts, especially all of the long bike and runs on weekends. I was starting to find my happy place again.

Lady Bird on Old Spicewood Road in a bluebonnet patch

But on March 24th I hit the lowest point in my training. I had a long ride scheduled and decided to head out to Marble Falls and ride the bike course while Bill and the kids went strawberry picking and hung out nearby for the day. I was already nervous about the ride since winds were 20-30mph. But it turned out that wasn’t the only difficult thing about the ride. Biking alone on 70mph roads by myself, sometimes with no shoulder, was a little terrifying. Some drivers were nice enough to give me plenty of space, some less so. And the roads were not so smooth. I finally learned what Texas chipseal was. I was not a fan, and neither was my bum.

Finally I turned onto a quiet road with little traffic, but quickly wished I was back on the previous roads. Old Spicewood Rd was too ridiculous to have in a triathlon. It was so much more rough that the chipseal. My whole body shook while riding on this surface which resembled fixed gravel. But the worst part were all the cattle guards I came across. I had never seen a cattle guard before and didn’t have a clue what to do with them. Some of them were even at the bottom of steep descents with turns. All I could picture were triathletes being flung into the air when they hit one of those cattle guards at the bottom of a hill.

I continued as long as I could but gave up shortly after crossing the 17th cattle guard. I only had 6 more miles to go to finish the course. But by that point I was physically and mentally exhausted and it just didn’t seem to make sense to continue. I called Bill to come pick me up and bring me home. By the time I got home, I was pretty convinced I wasn’t going to do the HITS race and was quickly looking for a substitute race. But the next morning I talked to my coach. She seemed confident that I would be able to do the race. She wasn’t going to let me back out. So I just needed to adjust my expectations, dig in, and do it.

Two weeks later I was back in Marble Falls for the HITS Tri Camp. I was scared, but excited to complete the bike course this time. As soon as I met the race director who was running the camp I found out the bike course had been changed for the better, MUCH better. Old Spicewood Rd was no longer part of the course, nor were the cattle guards. And the busiest road was going to have a lane blocked off for the racers. I was so relieved. Apparently the city came up with the course for this year. But as soon as the race director got into town and drove the course, he knew the bike course had to be changed. They were able to come up a new, safer course.

I did a lot of swimming and biking and running the next 3 days at camp. It was great to be training with people again. I didn’t realize how lonely I had been. I worked hard, but everything was feeling great. And having the opportunity to train on the course that weekend was huge. I felt even more prepared and was so ready for race day to be here.

The Pre-Race Prep

HITS Triathlon TransitionBy the time the kids were out of school on Friday, there was a lot of traffic already heading out of Austin. I knew I would be missing the athlete meeting which was moved from 4pm to 3pm a week before the race. But the race director didn’t think it would be necessary for me to attend it since I was at tri camp a few weeks ago. We got into Marble Falls shortly before 5, plenty of time to pick up my race packet and check into the hotel before our dinner reservations. Packet pickup was super fast. I was disappointed to not see the aid stations marked on the course maps in my packet. But I did see the note that they would be every 1-1.5 miles on the run course. That seemed like that would work out great.

We had a good dinner at Double Horn Brewing though it took forever to get our food. Once back to the hotel and got all my gear and stuff organized for the next morning. I’m pretty sure my eyes were shut by 9 and I fell asleep easily. I was wide awake by 3 and couldn’t get back to sleep. By 4am I got up and started getting dressed and all greased up while eating breakfast. Everything was packed and we were out the door by 5:15.

Getting my transition space readyOur transition area was spacious and included a stool. I was a little confused where I was supposed to place all my stuff. I had missed the transition instructions at Friday’s athlete meeting. But the folks around me explained everything I needed to know. Actually everyone was so friendly. I even discovered the person across from me was someone from the trail running group I ran with last fall. Transition had a relaxed feeling. What a great way to start a race.

It was sprinkling a bit while waiting for the race to start. But I wasn’t worried. I figured any rain would stop by the time I was on my bike. I headed down to the water to listen to the pre-race instructions. The water was 65° which felt way too cold 5 weeks ago, but felt just right today. Thankfully there wasn’t much wind, so the water was calm. It was a mass start, all men and women racing the half and full distances together. There were 442 half and full racers signed up. I’m not sure how many actually started. With such a large group, 2/3 of them being men, my first instinct was to start all of the way in the back. I’m not a strong or confident swimmer, so I wanted to steer clear of any chance of getting knocked around. But my coach convinced me to start in the middle of the pack. So I floated my way over to the right of the buoy and just relaxed and until it was time to go.

The Swim

It was a little chaotic at the start. Some were swimming over me, and I was bumping into others. But mostly I was trying to find that small patch of open water and avoid all the big guys around me. Despite the chaos, I was feeling ok. 485523_532286786812977_1358979554_nBy the time I reached the first buoy, things had thinned out a bit and I could start relaxing into the swim. I didn’t feel like I was pushing hard. I was right where I wanted to be. Taking a left turn around the second buoy felt great. I wasn’t halfway yet, but I was well into the swim and still feeling good.

After turning around the 3rd buoy we were headed back on a long straightaway. I was starting to get convinced I was on the wrong path because I was seeing other swimmers really far to my right. But I was sighting well and on a fairly straight path. Turning around the last buoy was great, just a short straight line back to shore. In no time at all I was out of the water and running up the path to transition.

This is the first race where I had the option of using a wetsuit stripper. I’m not sure why, but I stopped and had them help me pull off my wetsuit. I don’t think it actually saved any time. I’ll rethink this option in future races. Running through transition I was reminded of my sensitive feet. I tried to find patches of grass to run on, but mostly it was a parking lot.

My transition spot was the third row from the end so it was super easy to find. The stool was nice to sit on to put on my shoes and socks. But I’m sure it also slowed me down. And with the earlier rain, all of my stuff was wet. So I took a moment to also wipe off my glasses. I was not chanting my usual “GET OUT” and my slow T1 time reflected my leisurely attitude.

The Bike

My transition spot was so close to the bike exit, there was very little running in my bike shoes. Perfect! There weren’t a lot of other people leaving transition at that time, so it was actually not so stressful. The swim, the hardest part was over (so I thought), and I was thrilled to be on my bike. Sure this was a hilly bike course. But I was familiar with the course and knew what to expect. Plus there wasn’t much wind today. It was going to be a mighty nice ride.

Elevation of the bike course

The first 5 miles up 281 went pretty well. It was mostly all uphill, but even though I started off riding with my heart rate too high, I managed to get it back down while still climbing. The stretch on 71 was pretty uneventful for me, especially considering how many people I saw on the side of the road with flats in the first 10 miles. I had never seen that many before in a race.

Turning onto 962, I knew this was going to be the most challenging part of the bike course. 7 miles of climbing and then 3 miles down to the final bike turnaround. This is where my family was waiting to cheer me on. It was nice to see them. Next time was supposed to be back in transition. 7 miles of climbing also meant 7 miles of a sweet downhill with a beautiful view. I did a lot of smiling during the bike leg, and maybe even a little singing. I was having a great time. If it was getting a little hard, all I had to do was look around at the gorgeous wildflowers and take it all in.

Approaching the last bike turnaround.

Turning onto 71 again and heading back into Marble Falls, I knew I still had a couple of steep hills to climb, but nothing long. I just needed to keep my heart rate in check. Soon I’d be on my feet running, and though normally 13.1 miles of running doesn’t feel like a lot to me, I had never tried it after swimming 1.2 miles and then biking 56 miles. I wasn’t sure how it would go.

I did have two hiccups on the bike. The first came around 48 miles. A bug had managed to get caught in my helmet and I could feel it crawling around my head. I tried to ignore it but was so distracted I finally had to stop and let it out. I didn’t know what it was and would have really hated if it was the stinging kind.

The next problem was more embarrassing. And I probably didn’t do the right thing, but I panicked. I had just made the turn onto the road in front of transition and my chain fell off my bike. It never happened before on my tri bike and really surprised me. I was able to coast for a bit before I had to stop. I probably only had another 600-700 ft to the dismount line. I wasn’t sure if it would be faster to fix my chain or run the short distance in my bike shoes. I went with the running, but a couple hundred feet of that and I was so frustrated with trying to run in my shoes that I stopped, pulled them off, and chucked them over the fence into the transition area. Wish I had done that sooner since running in my socks was a lot easier and faster.

The Run

I didn’t take too long switching from my bike to run. But since I wasn’t able to pee on the bike (I tried many times, it just wasn’t happening) I knew I should before heading out on the run. So I quickly ran into the bathroom in transition, adding some time to T2.

281 TrafficMy family was nowhere to be seen in transition so I assumed they were stuck somewhere in the crazy traffic on 281. Ooo, there were a lot of grumpy drivers on the road. I didn’t experience anything bad, but heard from other racers of some drivers yelling at the racers. Two of the four lanes were closed to the race on 281. But I think the real problem was that they had to stop traffic anytime another cyclist had to turn left after crossing the bridge. Wonder if there’s a better solution if this race will happen again next year?

Starting the hot run.The run course follows the bike course and turns around halfway. So that’s 6.55 miles uphill (mostly) and then back down. And by the time I started the run, it was already around 80° (84° by my finish time) and full-on sun with zero shade. Yep, it was going to be brutal. (In the words of the Optimal Triathlete, “Man that sucked!”) Just a half mile into the run I did see my family stuck in traffic on the bridge. I was a little annoyed Bill wanted me to stop for photos and to chat. But I’m glad I did.

Once I said goodbye to them, it was up, up, up 281. I had to do a lot of walking up the hills. My heart rate would immediately jump up to zone 4 anytime I started running. So I alternated running/walking trying to keep my heart rate as low as I could. I was carrying my small, 12-oz handheld bottle and planned to refill it on the course. By the time I got to the second water stop, I already needed to fill my bottle. And I took advantage of the ice-water sponges and started putting them in my tri top. They felt great, but it was still so hot on the course.

Looking around at others coming back and still heading up the run course with me, I wasn’t the only one that looked like they were having a hard time with the run. When I got to the 3rd aid station I was really surprised that they were already out of water. The volunteer there was very apologetic. They did have HEED, but I hate the flavor and it doesn’t sit well with me, so I skipped it. I planned to fill up my bottle at the next station. At this point, any hopes I had of some sort of time goal were out the window. My only goal at this point was to stay cool, keep drinking, and finish with a smile. No med tent for me.

When I came to the last station I was not only surprised but worried this time that they were also out of water and HEED. They was only three cups of Sprite left. The volunteer here was also very apologetic. At this time an ambulance rushed past us back into town and one of the racers commented that it was probably going to be the first of many if they didn’t start getting water to the stations. Traffic was backed up all of the way to 71 on 281. I’m sure that made it harder to get water to the stations.

Thank goodness it was time to turnaround and head back downhill into town. I knew I was going to finish, as long as I didn’t push myself too much. This time when I got to the 4.5-mile aid station they had water again. I filled up my bottle, resoaked my sponges and kept on running at a comfortable pace, though my heart rate was still higher than it should have been.

It was shortly after I passed the 3-mile aid station I was trying to figure out why my Garmin distance seemed to be off. Not the usual off it is in longer races, but off by about a mile. And then it dawned on me that I probably turned around too early on the run course. I had assumed the last aid station on the course was also the turnaround. But as I got closer to the finish, I was more sure it couldn’t have been. By the time I saw the finish line I was really not happy. I tried to muster a smile, but it was tough. I didn’t know what to do. Should I run an extra mile in the neighborhood before crossing the finish line? Should I not even cross the finish line? It was way too late to go back 6.5 miles and do the mile I missed, that was for sure.

Approaching the finish line.I saw my family right before crossing. It was nice to see them. Bill noticed though that I did not look happy and asked what was wrong. I just shook my head. I was so disappointed. It was such a good day, until the last couple of miles when I realized what had happened.

The Post-Race Letdown

As soon as I crossed the finish line someone put a medal around my neck. But it didn’t feel right. And apparently someone must have also taken off my timing chip, but I have no memory of this happening. I was so focused on finding someone to verify if I did turn around too early. I asked one official looking person and she didn’t know where the run turnaround was. Once I saw my posted time I went to the time keeper and told her that my time needed to be changed to a DNF since I thought I probably turned around too early. She said ok and wrote down a note.

From there I worked on drinking and eating a little since I knew I probably should even though I didn’t feel like it. Then I just wanted to head home. I stopped in the building where they were giving out the awards and asked another person at packet pickup if they had a map of the run course with the aid stations marked. She didn’t and also didn’t know where the turnaround was. I gave up trying to figure it out, packed up my stuff in transition and headed home.

I was so excited to find my bike shoes I had chucked earlier. They were right where they had landed. And really, there were SO many positive things about the day. I loved the low-key vibe of this smaller race, never crowded. All the staff and racers were great. The weather was nice (no wind!), though too hot on the run. The transition area was the best I’ve seen. And because of being so prepared, I was able to have a really fun race and enjoy it.

Back home and looking at my data, my average HR for the bike was upper zone 2. And it was no surprise that my average HR for the run was upper zone 3.

1/2 mile to go to the turnaround on the run

Comparing my Garmin map now to the online course map, I see that I did turn around a half mile too early. I get upset all over again when I think about it. I also see that they haven’t changed my time to a DNF on the posted results. So I need to contact them again to tell them to fix it. I hate that one mistake is overshadowing what was ultimately a great day. I want to put the blame on the race organizers, wishing they had provided a map with where the aid stations were, or had more volunteers at the last aid station reminding people that the turnaround was coming up soon. But ultimately I know it’s my responsibility, and my fault.

Now What?

The good news is even though training for this race was a challenge, I really liked doing this race distance. If you asked me a couple of months ago if I would be doing another half ironman, I would have said probably not. But I’m already planning to do another one when the timing is right. But this time around, I’m going to plan to do more of my training with people. I really miss it.

I’m not sure what triathlons I might do the rest of this year. I probably can’t fit many in with my summer travel plans. I do know that I’ll be running the Hood to Coast Relay in Portland this August with a team from Austin. And I’ll finally get to do the NY City Marathon in November. It’s good to have some races already planned for later in the year. I’ve built up a nice base and I’m excited to see what I can still do this year. Whatever I do, I’m going to keep on moving because it feels good and makes me happy.

Best & Worst Films of 2011

January 2, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Movies, TV & Music 

I finished up the year with seeing a few more movies than last year. A lot of movies came and went before I got the chance to see them. But I did get to attend the SXSW Film Festival this year and saw a lot of good (and bad) movies there. Here’s my list of the best and worst movies I saw this year.

Best 10 Movies of the 54 I saw in the theater
The Artist (2011)
Beginners (2011)
Drive (2011)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Hugo (2011)
Margin Call (2011)
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Moneyball (2011)
Tabloid (2011)
Take Shelter (2011)

Worst 5 Movies of the 54 I saw in the theater
Another Earth (2011)
The Future (2011)
Hesher (2011)
Robot Monster (1953)
Separado (2011)

Best 5 DVDs of the 29 I saw
Easy A (2010)
Hanna (2011)
The Lady Eve (1941)
Peeping Tom (1960)
This Is England (2006)

2011 Austin Marathon Race Report

February 26, 2011 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Run Bike Swim 

Just 10 days after finishing my first marathon last year I signed up for the 2011 Austin Marathon. The next day I got a text from Bill wondering if he it would be crazy to sign up for the Austin Half Marathon. No way I said. Neither of us can resist Austin, TX.

I hadn’t been this nervous before a race since my first 5K back in September 2008. The days leading up to this race, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run, let alone finish due to the injury that popped up three weeks ago.

This time around for my second marathon I chose to use a higher mileage training plan, the up to 55-miles/week 18-week plan from Advanced Marathoning. I had read enough about this plan to know going into it, it would be a big step up in my training. The mid-week medium long runs were my biggest challenge. Trying to fit in a 2-hour run before or after work was tough. But I was able to mostly stick to the plan pretty closely, even through the holidays. I’m now a big fan of Uncle Pfitzy!

I noticed as the plan went along, my running felt stronger. And the 20-mile runs didn’t feel as exhausting this time compared to training for my first marathon last year. Things were looking great. I did my last 20-mile run on a Saturday three weeks out from the race, and it was a really solid run. I felt ready. But I had missed a 10-mile run that week, and tried to make up the mileage the next day on Sunday on top of my already scheduled run. Looking back, bad idea. I knew it. The following Tuesday’s run I was still incredibly sore. And by Thursday I knew I had hurt myself.

My left leg, mid-shin, had constant pain with every step I would run, beginning to end. By the end of the weekend, even brisk walking caused pain. The next Tuesday run was cut short and I was terribly sad. Less than two weeks before the marathon and I wasn’t getting better. All that work and I may not make it to the starting line. I wouldn’t get to run with Bill (his first half marathon). I cried, a lot. And the next day I went to get an x-ray. I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was injured.

Work had been getting increasingly crazy and I had been working overtime for a couple of weeks now. My stress level was close to maximum and I wasn’t even able to run to help relieve any of it. I felt like I was going to burst. It was Thursday and I was looking forward to the weekend, catching up on some work, getting some extra rest, and trying to get my stress level back down. Then something happened that shifted my focus completely.

I got a call from the mother of a good friend asking for my help. My friend’s health had deteriorated to the point where her husband could not care for her and their 1-month old daughter. They needed help with the baby. This was probably just about the worst time for me to be gone from work. But their situation sounded desperate. A few hours later my friend called asking for help. From the sound of her voice I knew I had to go. 24-hours later I was on a plane to Tulsa.

These were some of the toughest three days of my life both emotionally and physically. It was hard to see my friend in so much pain. I was already sleep deprived when I got there, and the first night I only got 90 minutes of sleep. Their daughter is wonderful, but it was a big change to suddenly be caring for a baby 24 hr/day. And my back was telling me that I really wasn’t used to carrying a baby so much. By the time I had left Monday afternoon, my friend was in worst shape than when I had left.

My x-rays had come back normal, and my doctor said to take it easy for a few days. Tulsa wasn’t easy, but I didn’t run at all and only got to go on two short walks, still feeling pain in my leg with walking. Back home I only had three days to squeeze in as much work as I could before leaving for Austin. Still no running or even time to get on my bike for some easy riding.

Friday we arrived in Austin, sunny and beautiful. But the one piece of luggage we checked (which included all of our toiletries, my gels for the race, and most of my clothes) somehow made its way to San Francisco instead. I had made sure there were a couple of key things not in the checked bag such as my running shoes and Garmin. It turned out that we didn’t get our bag until late the night before the race. So we spent some of Saturday buying a few things that I wanted for the race. I would have rather been sitting somewhere with my feet up, relaxing and knitting. Next time, I will make sure I have everything I need/want for the race plus a change of clothes not in a checked bag, lesson learned. This was more stress that I wasn’t looking for.

Friday before dinner I was ready to test my legs to see if it was going to be possible for me to at least start the race. I did an easy 4.5 miles around the neighborhood at dusk. My leg pain was still there, but it never got worse or better as I ran. And it felt better than my last run which had been 10 days before, by far my longest not running since I started running. It felt so good to be able to run again, despite the pain, good to sweat and good to move. That night I finally slept really well. It had been awhile.

Saturday afternoon we dropped off the kids at a friend’s house. That evening Bill and I ate at an Italian restaurant with our friend Katherine and some of her friends that were doing the half marathon. It was a nice, relaxing evening. Before bed I set out what I was going to wear for the race: Mizuno Wave Elixir 6 shoes, Injinji socks, Zensah Calf Sleeves, Atalanta Commitment Skirt, Moving Comfort Alexis bra, Asics Ecoline Sleevless top, Brooks Mesh Cap, and of course my new Garmin 310XT. I got to bed by 9:30, but didn’t sleep well. I knew I was going to start the race, but I didn’t know if I was going to turn right at 10.8 miles and follow the half marathon course to the finish or turn left and follow the full course, hopefully to the finish.

The next morning I was up by 4:30, eating and drinking my usual cereal and chai tea. But I forgot my banana. Bill couldn’t find coffee filters and had to find a 24-hour place to get his coffee. I knew drinking his coffee this close to the start time meant he’d be stopping at a porta potty on the course. Once we parked and got out of the car I noticed how windy it was. I grabbed my throw-away shirt to keep warm. Dropped off our gear bags, stopped at the porta potties, and made our way to the start area. I was nervous and excited. It was probably around 63° at the start, a little on the humid side, but cloudy.


We were in the middle of the 4:30 pace group, and it took us over 18 minutes to get to the starting line. And then we were off. I love the excitement of the beginning of the race. My leg hurt some, but nothing I couldn’t manage for now. Bill immediately was looking for a place to pee. I told him that when he stopped I would continue to walk until he caught up again. I had noticed from my run the other night that my leg hurt more if I started up running from standing still compared to starting from a walk. Half a mile in he found some porta potties with lines that didn’t look too bad. He caught up to me shortly after his 5-minute pit stop. We made our way through downtown and across the Congress Avenue bridge. The first 3 miles had some hills up and down, but mostly down. (Miles 1-3 splits: 12:42, 11:23, 10:15)

Now we began our 3-mile ascent up S. Congress to Ben White Blvd. This race had many water stops, and my plan was to alternate with water/Gu Chomps and Gatorade. Plus I would take a Mint Chocolate Gu about every hour. With 6,000 marathoners and 13,000 half marathoners, the water stops were really crowded. Bill and I didn’t have much of a plan as to how to stay together as we moved through the water stops. We lost track of each other at the 3.5-mile water stop and definitely lost some time trying to meet up again. The plan after that was to assume that I would keep moving through each water stop staying by the side of the road until we were together again. This worked out well for the remainder of the water stops. I was surprised how easy the hills were and how good I was feeling. When Bill asked what my plans were about how far I was going, I was still not ready to commit to the full or half. The next 3 miles felt like they went by quickly too. Making the turn from Ben White onto S. 1st meant we were almost done with our first big incline. Things were going well. (Miles 4-6 splits: 11:38, 10:17, 10:20)

The next three miles were down, down, down S. 1st Street, across Lady Bird Lake, and making our way down Cesar Chavez. I let gravity do its work and move my legs comfortably down the descent. I knew our pace had increased, but it still felt really easy, and Bill reminded me when we needed to slow down. Around mile 8 the sun started to come out. I was hoping it would go away. But it was out for a lot of the rest of the race, warming things up more than I wanted. Once we crossed the bridge, I knew I would continue onto the marathon course. So very happy. (Miles 7-9 splits: 9:43, 9:44, 10:06)

Between miles 9 and 10 was the Livestrong cheering section. They were so enthusiastic. It was awesome. Maybe it was a combination of them and that I knew I would probably be reaching the finish line today, but I started to get weepy. This never happens to me during races, so it caught me by surprise. I needed to calm down since I still had a lot of work to do, especially since I was approaching the hilliest portion of the course. After Cesar Chavez, we worked our way up Winsted Ln and started seeing the signs for the courses to split. At 10.8 miles I kissed Bill goodbye wishing him luck. I’m so proud of him and loved all the runs we got to do together during our training. I’ve got a great partner. The next couple of miles were going to be the hilliest so my plan was to just keep the pace nice and easy. (Miles 10-13 splits: 10:29, 10:26, 10:19)

Now I had gotten through the hilliest portions of the course. The next 6 miles were a steady incline heading north. I really got into a nice rhythm here, picking up the pace and feeling great. I also noticed my leg wasn’t really hurting much at this point. I knew I was going to finish now. The wind started to pick up at this point too. As I crossed over Mopac, a gust came up and blew my hat off. Amazingly I reached behind me as it came off my head and was able to save my hat. I liked this stretch of the run, winding through the quieter neighborhoods along the east of Mopac. Even the straight stretch on Great Northern Blvd that runs next to the train tracks was good. I was really happy with my pace going up this steady incline, feeling relaxed and not pushing it. (Miles 13-18 splits: 9:50, 9:51, 9:36, 9:49, 9:54, 9:37)

Shortly after the 18-mile mark we reached our most northern portion and turned right onto Foster Ln. After the next two miles, I would start the descent. Shortly after that I would reach the water stop where my kids were waiting with our friends. I knew they had some special items for me too. I was getting really excited now. (Miles 19-20 splits: 10:10, 9:40)

Turning the corner onto Woodrow was so exciting. I knew we would be heading south the rest of the way to downtown. But that is also when I turned into a terrible head wind. It felt good cooling me off a bit, but really felt as if it was pushing me back. I kept my head low and pushed through, trying not to let the wind whip my hat off again. As I reached the water stop on Arroyo Seco, I could see Ella and Liam enthusiastically passing out water to runners. I reached Liam first where he said “Good job!” and gave me water to drink. I walked through most of the water stops instead of running, but here I took even more time, hugging my kids, saying hi to my friends. They had some animal crackers and bagel chips in baggies; I chose the chips, something not sweet with crunch is what I thought I wanted. But even better was the cold, wet washcloth. I wiped my face and arms and it felt amazing. I even took the time for a picture with Liam. And then I was off again.

This is about the time last year at the Vermont marathon where I started to slow down and was losing steam. But this time I still felt good. And I had just passed the 4:30 pace group. Was it actually possible to get a PR? But looking at my watch, I think the 4:30 pace group was a little behind. (Miles 21-23: 10:05, 9:50, 9:49)

Turning the corner from North Loop onto Duval I was running through my old neighborhood. It was great to see the street numbers getting smaller and smaller, 45th, 38th… But the wind, humidity, and miles were starting to take their toll. I no longer felt I was running at a comfortable pace. I was pushing it now. But I was also so close to the end. The final half-mile was really tough. The two short hills here that I did easily at the beginning of the race now felt nearly impossible. Midway up the first I started walking. But behind me I could hear a guy yelling to his partner “Go. Go. Go.”, helping them get up the hill. I listened and picked up my feet again, back to a run. The next hill I focused on his voice and got up that hill too. Then we turned left onto Congress and I was crossing the finish line. I did it! I knew it wasn’t a PR, but close. I never felt so good about not getting a PR. Extra bonus, I didn’t end up in the med tent this time. What a great race with incredible crowd support, a challenging course, and so well organized. The water stops were frequent, full, and friendly. There were lots of bands and music along the way, my favorite was the church choir on Exposition. Favorite high-five was from a baby on Woodrow. (Miles 24-26.2: 10:12, 9:56, 10:02, 9:56)

Now comes the geeky number talk. My final Garmin distance was 26.48, a little off of 26.2 miles. Final marathon time was 4:30:33, just 43 seconds slower than my first marathon. Here are my mat splits and rankings. I love a negative split race.

Chip Time 4:30:33   Gun Time 4:48:21
Overall 2215/4796  Top 46%
Division Place 83/271  Top 31%
5K Rank 3618, 35:50
10M Rank 3665, 1:47:51
Half Rank 3303, 2:19:32
20M Rank 2577, 3:27:41
Final 10K Rank 2215, 4:30:33
Total Pace 10:20

For the Vermont marathon, my overall rank was the top 61% and age group rank was top 50%. No PR for me, but definite progress.

So what’s next for me? I’m not actually sure. I’ve signed up for a half marathon in July that I got a free entry to. Otherwise nothing is on the schedule. I know I would like to do another marathon in the fall. I’ve entered the lottery for New York, but assume I won’t get in this year. There are lots of more local marathons I can choose from too. I’m also toying with the idea of doing the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship in Burlington in August. It may be a stretch to qualify, and if I do I would be at the back of the pack. But it would be a lot of fun and an opportunity like this may not happen again. So until I get back from SXSW next month, I’ll take it easy and get my leg to heal fully.

I’d like to do a Half Ironman (70.3) someday. But I’d really like to do it under 6 hours. I have a few things I want to accomplish before I would sign up. I’ve already gotten my half marathon time under 2 hours, twice now, last time on a hilly course. I feel good about my run. For the bike I want to work on my overall speed. How I’m going to do that I’m not sure: cadence work, longer rides, and a lot more time on my bike? Betty still feels so new to me; I know there’s room for improvement. Attempting NCC B rides last year didn’t work out great. They were usually a bit faster than I was and I would always get dropped. So I need to try to do more this year. The swim is my weakest part of triathlon. I still don’t feel comfortable in the water. My endurance in the water is not good either. I think some swim lessons this year and a lot more time in open water will help a ton. I was actually really happy with my swim times last year, but I would love to feel a lot better getter out of the water. I would also like to do more Olympic distance races before attempting a 70.3.

I’m looking forward to spring, more time in the pool and on my bike. And I want to work strength training back into my schedule. I dropped it completely with my marathon training. With the higher mileage, I didn’t have the energy or time. But now that I belong to a gym again, it would be fun to work more of my body than just my legs. Once my leg feels good enough to start speed work again, I’ll enter a few local races. But for now I’m going to enjoy a little down, finish up some lingering knitting projects and relax. Then I’ll be able to jump into my next training schedule full of enthusiasm.

You can view photos and video (good and bad) of Bill and me on the Action Sports site.

Adding More Hexagons

January 5, 2011 by · Comments Off
Filed under: Crochet 

So I’ve decided I want the hexagon blanket to be at least as big as our Pooh blanket.

So that means I have at least 50 more hexagons to make. I have plenty of yarn, so I might as well keep going. I just wish joining the hexagons didn’t take so long.

Fat Ass 50K “Race” Report

January 2, 2011 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Run Bike Swim 

I had a 20 mile run planned for today so I decided to run The Fat Ass 50K in North Adams as my training run. I knew I was committed to running 20 miles. I cut off 6 miles from one of my runs this week in case I felt like doing another loop today, running 25.5 miles at the race. And hoped I wasn’t so crazy as to attempt to run all 50K.

Their website gave very little information. The start was across the street from the State Street “T” which I had no idea what that was. Turns out it’s a tavern, kind of a dive. But it did have a bathroom. You signed up by adding your name to a poster board where everyone’s loops and times were noted. As you finished a loop of the course, you checked off that loop on the board. When you finished running, you wrote down your time on the board. Some people ran one loop, some ran all of them. 33 people ran this race, by far the smallest race I’ve participated in.

They didn’t have a course map on their website, but said it was six 5-mile loops around the Curran Highway. The course was a little different than that. It started with an out-and-back to the first turn. Then you did five 5.5-mile loops, adding up to 31 miles. While waiting for the race to start, I tried to get more specific directions for the course. But it was a lot of directions like turn at this landmark, then turn at that landmark…not the kind of directions I’m good at remembering. So my plan was to keep up with everyone through the first full loop so I knew where I was going. But this meant that I ran the first few miles way faster than I should have been.

Once we did the first out-and-back I felt way overdressed. I stopped by my car and switched my jacket for my vest and felt much more comfortable. By that point though, most everyone was much farther ahead of me. But I remembered the key was to keep turning left, and with the help of my iPhone, I managed to figure out the course loop.

Their promised “primitive” water stations did not disappoint. There was one at the start and one half way around the loop. They consisted of some jugs of water and cups if you needed them. The water stop at the start also had some cookies. Nobody was ever at a water station. It was a free race so this seemed to be what I expected.

After about 5 miles, I rarely saw anyone else on the course. I passed one person, and got passed once. That’s it. And zero spectators. Well there were two fellows in the bar that said hello when I went in to use the toilet after the second loop. Otherwise this was a mighty lonely race. When I go out to run 20 miles by myself, I expect to be by myself. But in a race, it feels different. I did get to give a couple directions to the Wallmart. And someone in a car asked me what the race was. He said it wasn’t in the paper. I told him a little about the race and he gave me a nice “Girl, go for it. Good for you.”

I actually felt pretty good running until that last loop. The temperature was starting to drop and the wind was picking up. I was getting cold. My legs started to feel tired and my feet felt sore. I stopped remembering to eat and drink as often as I should have. By mile 18, I had stepped in a few puddles and had wet feet. And my Garmin just gave me a low battery signal. Stupid watch isn’t taking a charge like it used to. I decided this would be my last loop. 20 miles was going to have to be enough for the day and my mileage would be short for the week. My time for 20.16 miles was 3:25:56, a 10:12 pace. I turned off my auto pause on the Garmin, so the time included all of my stops: bathroom, water, changing clothes, waiting for stop lights.

Next week isn’t an easy week so it’s probably good that I didn’t push it today. Actually I don’t have another recovery week in this plan—4 weeks of race preparation, then 3 weeks of taper. 7 weeks to go until the marathon.

Austin Marathon Training – Weeks 4 & 5

November 21, 2010 by · Comments Off
Filed under: Run Bike Swim 

It’s been a solid 2 weeks of marathon training. Week 4 I ran 41.22 miles, finishing with a new half marathon PR of 1:57:02 at the Monson Memorial Classic Half Marathon. I was just planning to have this as part of my 15-mile training run, but I couldn’t help myself and really pushed it. This was a mighty hilly course and I finished feeling like I couldn’t have gone any faster. This was also the first half marathon where I broke the 9:00 min/mile pace which feels like a huge milestone for me.

Week 5 I ran my first 46+ mile week and I turned 40! I loved my party last night and I even got to blow out candles.

I’m continuing to run with Ella 3 times a week as she gets ready for the Hot Chocolate Run. She’s doing great and ran the first time for 20 minutes straight. I joined Bill today for his 9-mile long run which was the end of my 17-miler. It was nice to have the company and easier to keep going when I was getting cold and wanted to be home eating birthday party leftovers. I passed a house today on the run that I’m now lusting after. This is the problem with covering all the roads in town. I’m seeing houses and streets that I’d love to live.

It’s getting colder now and I’m wondering how I’m going to get through this winter running again. Last night I ordered my first running jacket. I was waffling between a soft shell or a lightweight jacket. I decided on the Brooks Infiniti Jacket and got it for a great price at Running Warehouse. Love my Active.com discount.

I figure I can wear my thermal hoody under the jacket when it gets really cold. But the Infiniti Jacket is water/wind proof yet breathable and should be a great addition to my winter wardrobe.

Next week is a recovery week of only 37 miles. I’ll be doing a turkey trot on Thanksgiving with my friend and her family like we did last year. Should be a lot of fun.

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