Thursday, May 21, 2009

Recovery & Riding...

Much to my delight the past 1.5wks have been a shining recovery. Being that the marathon was so difficult I had mentally prepared myself for the recovery to be the same, but it hasn't.  The ice baths, walks, swims & hammer balm in addition to allowing myself a few more hours of shut-eye each night did my body wonders. 

The muscle memory came back into my legs about 4days after the race. I wasn't able to run with the comfort and what is considered finesse (for me) that I usually do, however, it was running and I was thrilled! I have logged three runs since then, with today being the best so far. I finally feel fast again. :) Woohoo!

Knowing that I have a full marathon base to go off of for the 1/2 Ironman next month my focus has now shifted to cycling. I love to ride & it gives those running muscles some more time to repair.  

So, yesterday morning I set out on an adventure to tackle 50miles of very hilly country roads w/ Tangerine.  Since I am relatively new to this type of cycling it was the longest distance I had set out to cover. Just the idea of it was exciting. 

Leaving Fargo the weather was perfect, the temps were sitting comfortably in the 60's and the wind was a gentle 8mph.  It is a 35mile car ride to the site I park & unload the bike so for those 35miles I had my usual moments of zoning out, going through my mental checklist of what gear to put on & what to put into my jersey pockets followed by checking the speedometer. It wasn't until I was just about to take my exit off of interstate that I realize the wind had started to pull the car. 

Unless you are one of those beautifully ambitious people that desire to train in harsh winds, this is not a good sign.  In order for my car to get tugged at as it was I knew the wind had to be a steady 25-30mph with a few 35ish mph gusts. Joy.  

While this inevitably put a damper on my desire to meet a time goal, it did not snuff out the drive to embrace this adventure. Yes, the wind might kick my arse, but I was still going to try it.  

Fueling for a HIM is very much uncharted territory. I had ideas of how I thought I would fuel on the bike, but such ideals had not been tested as my cycling mileage up until this point was split between commutes to the gym, time on the trainer w/ a swim in between & the commuting home again. Not exactly optimal testing grounds, but I had managed to grow quite fond of HEED.  Yesterday was my chance to test these ideals out.

Perhaps it's the fact that I'm polish, left-handed and somewhat dyslexic that I have difficulties with two bottle cages being mounted on my bicycle or perhaps it's my noob status as a cyclist. Either way, I had a plan. One bottle of HEED on the bike, one bottle of Perpetuem in the jersey pocket. Also in the jersey pockets were a Hammer bar, Gel flask, Cellphone & $5 in case I needed more water at the only gas station along the loop. 

Fargo tends to be fairly windy, but the amount of wind blocked by office buildings & homes is notable when you realize the lack of it on country roads lined with empty fields and endowed with a tumultuous crosswind. I had many conversations with My God yesterday, this section of road was just the start, "Lord, please help me stay upright."

With a watch mounted on my bicycle I kept a mental note not of the total time, but of each 15min lapsed. The plan was to fuel every 15-20 minutes. And I'm stoked to say the plan was spot on & worked wonderfully. 

There are times when the weather conditions I train in seem so obnoxious it's funny. As I turned into the one portion of the route that was directly into the wind it was one of those. If I didn't know any better I would have thought I could have been blown backward had I stopped pedaling at any point. It was so tiring, but the idea of how fast I would be going on the way back kept me going. 

Eventually I got myself out of the headwind & onto the part of the route I love/hate. A slight downhill before Everest. Trying to savor every once of momentum of that slight downhill & getting into the proper gear for the climb ahead is always a huge challenge. Everything was going great until *tink, clunk, ching* and zero resistance in my pedals.  These are sounds I do not long to hear. What do they mean? Your chain has just derailed. 

I heard this sound twice yesterday, both at the most inopportune times. But each time I was able to flip the bike over, put the chain back on & continue riding.  And each time, even with the kerfuffles I was able to climb Everest. 

The rest of the ride was a blast, well fueled, well geared.  There were sections of downhill I was going so fast it actually made me a little nervous, the first loop I tapped the brake a little bit & the second I just enjoyed it for all it was worth.  

We as people live so much of our lives driven by fear.  Yes, there is always that tipping point where a lack of fear becomes reckless, but for me half of an adventure is the fear of what lies ahead, what could happen & what you feel when you have concurred. 

I concurred those 50mi. yesterday.  Moments of it were beautiful & moments of it were ugly, but I made it and have an itch to push myself further and faster. Just hopefully with less wind and no chain derailments next time! :) 

T-minus 23days now until 70.3 I bounce back and forth between feeling prepared or not. Now I know what I'll need for gear & fuel on the bike. It's just a matter of testing my legs to see how the swim/bike/run all fit together. I see more bricks in the near future. It should be good. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fargo Marathon- Full 26.2- Race Report

When training for a race I often visualize in my mind how the events of the day may transpire. Partially to get myself psyched for the day & also to prepare myself for what may go array so that I am ready to encounter the obstacles ahead.

Since January I had been compiling pieces of this vision only to have it beautifully dissolved this Saturday. Very few things were as I had envisioned, but I still consider it a great race. 

The alarm was set to go off at 5a.m. allowing me enough time to eat & debate my choice of hat or beanie for the 100th time in a 24hr period before heading to the Fargo Dome. After a night of tossing, sleeping & turning the alarm was not needed. I was awake early, not the least bit nervous, but excited to embrace the challenge I had trained over 5months for.

Arriving at the Dome I met up with my running buddy Maggy who I planned to run most of the race with.  She was calm, collected & excited. We chatted for about an hour until finally the Announcer motioned all of the runners to start lining up. We quickly found our 4:30 pacer "Bill" who gave us an enthusiastic debriefing on how he paces a group & what to expect. The man has obviously done this before & loves to. It only added to our "Lets do this!" attitude. 

The starting line was packed with 13,000 shivering runners. The national anthem was sung, a prayer lifted up to the Lord (one of the day's highlights for me), then the crowd jolted as the gun went off. That jolt was followed by a 6minute walk for our group to actually reach the first timing pad. 

The weather other than being a bit on the cool side was nice. By mile 6 I was warm enough to exchange my beanie for the cap & ditch my gloves (thanks Sweetie). We continued onward into my favorite portion of the race course. Hearing the sounds of thousands of runners echoing between the buildings in Historic Downtown joined w/ the trumpeting pep-band was momentous.

I was blessed with an ambitious pacing group primarily composed of 1st time marathoners with a few seasoned athletes mixed in. Chatting with them, listening to the crowds & bands who came out to support us even in the literally freezing temps made the first 10 miles pass with ease.

For a while there I thought a sub 4:30 marathon was in store for me & Maggy. 

Then I reached mile 11, a brick wall. Having run several 1/2 marathons I knew hitting the wall was normal so I kept to my pace, despite quads that were starting to growl.  Around mile 16 it felt as though I was starting to break my way through it. This was an illusion.  If the brick wall wasn't going to come down, I was going to push it. And push it I did. I fought all the way to mile 18 before I was unable to keep up with my pace group after slowing through a water station. 

From miles 18-22ish I was still consistently running, just at a slower pace. My pace group was still within view 1/2 mile ahead. At this point I was between pace groups, the 1/2 marathoners had finished thinning the amount of runners on course & most of the spectators were cold and kind of weary of cheering. Since I choose to split my training between group runs & longer runs alone, this didn't effect me poorly, but it did make me wish I had my ipod. 

Jesus was my companion & conversation. I requested strength to keep pushing/moving the wall and that my family would still be there cheering me on at the spot I had chosen even though it was taking me a while to get there. The struggle kept me focused & in prayer which I remain thankful for. 

My prayers were answered at mile 24 as I rounded the corner to see my parents cheering, Loudly. There is no way to express how much I needed that. To have the incentive of them being there & the encouragement they provided once I reached them. 

Not long prior to reaching them I had started a run/walk approach. Only allowing myself to walk 20 quick seconds before running again until I could no longer run. Rinse, wash, repeat.  

Every water station from then on I topped off my water bottle & used it as a reminder to drink! When it's cold I have a hard time hydrating.  Race-day was no exception. Feeling light headed also reminded me to gel. Unfortunately the cool weather had turned my gel into paste which would not squeeze through the nozzle of my flask easily. So I started to unscrew the cap and pour it out instead. I popped a few shot-bloks in sporadically.

Miles 24-26 were crazy difficult. My quads felt as though they were trying to eat themselves or turn to stone and my back began to hurt which worried me. It felt like my kidneys. Still sort of light headed, feeling my organs & starting to get chilled by the now falling misty rain I decided to take a stop at a fire hydrant that had a sign post near it to crack my back & do a mental check to see if it was actually dangerous for me to continue on. 

Cracking my back helped take some of that pressure off & just standing for a few minutes was refreshing. Then came the realization when I tried to stretch my legs and could not lift my knees to hip-height that my muscles were running out of time and I needed to keep moving in order to finish. Passing my mental check-list I got back on the road. 

Encouraging other runners has always helped keep my mind off of a tough portion of a race, so that's what I did.  I passed a few of them, but my pace group at this point was no longer within view, let alone reach.  Not that I had the energy to rejoin them anyway. :)

Finally the Fargo Dome was within view. I attempted to pick up the pace. No idea if I actually succeeded, but I tried. Rounding the corner & entering the downhill chute the hammer finally broke through the wall I had been pushing for the last 15miles. The crowds were loud & I wanted to finish well so I used every ounce of upper body strength & energy I had left to thrust myself into a sprint and over that finish line. Yes!! I made it & I was under 5hrs!!!

Unlike what I had envisioned all my months of training there wasn't this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when the finishers medal was put around my neck. I needed to find my husband in case my legs would not carry me any more, I needed to find Maggy & I needed some chocolate milk. 

It is true what they say about not truly being able to enjoy your experience post an endurance event until about 3days afterward.  When I reached home & looked up my time. 4:38:36 I was thrilled. A 10:38min/mi pace even with the wall. But I still wasn't totally jazzed. More tired & sore than anything.

Today is day 3  and I can now say that I have all of the emotions of accomplishment & jazz I expected to have at the finish line. I pushed the hell out of that wall,mentally held it together when my legs were hashed, somehow sprinted across the finish line & also PRed my previous 1/2 marathon times. There is a lot to be proud of there!!

Since the race I have traded text messages with Maggy who did get her sub 4:30. (Yay Maggy!!!) Both incredibly sore, we can't wait to run our next race. I spent the first 10miles of the marathon "encouraging" her into the Lean Horse 50k this August. Now it is something she wants.

Yesterday I had a peaceful recovery walk. It felt great & even though getting up from a seated position, stairs and putting on my socks hurts like mad making my legs twitch in muscle spasms afterward, I attempted to run. Why? Because I absolutely love to run!!  Was I able to, no, my muscle memory hasn't come back yet. But I am hopeful it will soon.

Until then, icebaths, recovery walks & swimming. 

What do I think went wrong? I didn't get the amount of fuel in I thought I had. After unloading my race belt & setting my gel flask flat on the counter it revealed that I had only ingested maybe 2.5 gels. That is less than I typically take during a 1/2 marathon and only 40% of my goal fueling for this race. Not good. I should have started unscrewing the cap of the flask earlier, but that is a lesson learned. 

I was also still babying a bruised knee & tense legs from a fall with the bicycle Thursday. 

What's next? T-minus 32days until 70.3!!! Hoping for a quick recovery. I'll keep you posted. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Training: T-minus 4days...

Yesterday was one of those days. The kind of day that makes you wish all other days could be just like it. Knowing full well that if that were to truly happen over time such days would seem mediocre so you really shouldn't wish for that at all. 

As I left our apartment building & headed toward the garage to fetch Tangerine a strange sensation occurred, a breeze. It was oddly unpleasant. In anticipation for the day's ride I had neglected to put on bicycle shorts under my tights & being that it was three flights of stairs to climb in road shoes to go get them, I made the decision to go without. 

The Liberty HIM is only 38days away which means that I have exactly 38days to get my badonkadonk accustomed to riding with little-to-no padding. After clipping in and sitting down I realized that the saddle on my road-bike is actually reasonably comfortable. Not at all what I remembered from last year. Yes, one less piece of gear to launder on a weekly basis!

Exiting the parking lot I knew I was in tune for a stellar commute.  Sometimes equipment feels like just that, equipment. Other times it feels like an extension of my body. Ever since I was 12 Betty always felt that way, but Tangerine is new to me. A different breed of bicycle than I ever rode prior to becoming a triathlete & that intimate familiarity is still left to be earned. 

With the amount of riding I have been able to cover in training already this spring that familiarity is increasing rapidly. I am encouraged. It's like discovering the perfect degree of lean & balance for holding a heel or toe-side turn when boarding. Yesterday I found that with Tangerine. Each movement was fluid. 

There are sounds my ears long to hear, they inspire me & I seek after them. My Savior's voice, Jeremy laughing, the camera shutter, my feet as they kiss the ground as I run. The sound of beautifully shifting gears on my bicycle has become one of those sounds. It reminds me of the sound a cartridge makes as it is loaded into a gun. It is powerful & empowering.  

Upon arriving at the gym, I quickly changed into my swim gear & made my way to the pool. Still invigorated by the ride I was hoping to carry that into my swim, which I did. Doing so brought me to a PB for the 1.2mi swim. That only added to an already fantastic training day. There were points during the swim I got distracted & felt my form falling apart, but I am learning to remind myself to find my calm and get back into a comfortable flow of motion. 

It was a beautiful day.

Tapering for the marathon which is now a measly 4 days away has been a challenge in restraint. Running with my buddy Maggy today definitely helped. It is good to have a second voice of reason to encourage me to take it easy this week. I have so much excitement about this Saturday that it's difficult to just sit still. The warmer weather & clear skies hasn't helped that.

In my mind there is an almost constant ticker-tape of 26.2 thoughts. Will my layering be right for the weather come race day, will I have enough fuel, how many walls will I encounter, how long will Maggy & I be at the same pace, will I be able to spot my cheering family amongst the crowds, what should I put in my post-race bag, etc. etc. It has made work difficult, but I am managing. The Lord has also given my Beloved an added dose of patience. How the man can handle so much run/tri talk when taking most of this season off to pursue Jiu Jitsu is beyond me. 

All that said I feel ready. Ready to embrace the challenge of the race & passionate about the training that follows it in preparation for 70.3 

Do I always feel this way? No. Sometimes I feel tired, sore & more than a little crazy. But right now, I am ready. 

26.2 here I come! 

*Disclaimer: Betty is my snowboard, Tangerine is my bicycle & Maggy is a talented runner. All of which I have purely platonic relationships with.