Category Archives: Races

Chicago Marathon 2016

And just like that, marathon weekend was here. Steve, Kai and I managed to be up and on the road Saturday morning before 8:30am, which is huge and highly impressive for us. We made the drive down to my brother’s condo, and didn’t hit traffic until the last few miles where there is always a back up. My mom and Joe had arrived about an hour before us, and Mike and his wife Omoleye retuned home from the store a few minutes after we got there. We decided to walk to a new to them (and us) restaurant for brunch called G & O.

I was boring and ordered eggs, toast and potatoes because I am always worried about how my system is going to handle race day. Steve had a burger and Kai had a waffle. The food was delicious, and I would love to eat here again and order something a little more adventurous. After brunch, we headed back to the condo and put Kai down for his nap. Steve and I then took the train to the race expo to pick up our stuff. We had to walk about a mile from the train to McCormick Place, then what seemed like another mile inside the massive building. We got our packets and glanced at a few things in the expo, but it was very crowded and we opted to be in and out rather quickly.

We walked back to the train and I texted by brother asking him to pick us up at the stop near his house (which we were apparently made fun of for since it is only 1/2 mile, but we already felt like we had walked a ton and I wanted to get off my feet as much as possible). Kai woke up just as we got back and after he had a snack, we walked a couple blocks to a park for him to run around for a while.

We went back to the condo around 5pm so Mike and Omoleye could start making dinner. They made a delicious looking baked pasta dish (which sadly I did not try because pasta does not agree with me before running). I baked a sweet potato and had that with half a chicken breast, sautéed kale and marinara sauce. Omoleye also made a carrot cake for my mom’s birthday which was the day before, which I had to pass on but I did take a piece home after the race. We put Kai to bed shortly after 8pm, and he took forever and a day to fall asleep in his pack n play. We were all sleeping in the same room, so I couldn’t go in and go to bed until he fell asleep, which was well after 9pm.

I had probably the worst night of sleep I have ever had before a race. Between hearing Kai throughout the night, sharing a small futon with Steve, and pre-race excitement there was little sleep to be had. I was already wide awake at 4:30am, 10 mins before my alarm was set to go off. I got up and tip toed out (Kai woke up and said “I cheer mama daddy,” and I had to tell him it was still dark outside and not quite time to cheer yet :))

I drank my coffee, got dressed, made sure I had everything I needed in my drop bag, and around 5:40 I woke up my brother to drive us to the train (thanks Mike!). I ate a banana in the car, and had two more with me to eat at some point before the race. We rode the train with some other racers, and then we were deposited just a block or two from Grant Park. It took us a while to get through the security check and into the park, I think it was about 6:40 by the time we got through. I ate another banana while we were waiting. We went straight to the gear check and dropped off our bags, and then lined up for the port o potties. I got two bites in on my last banana, but I just couldn’t do it. The lines are crazy, and after a while I became nervous about even making it into the starting corrals before they closed at 7:20. Luckily, we got to the front of the line around 7:15. I said bye and good luck to Steve (we were in different starting corrals), emptied my bladder, and made it into corral B just in time, as the national anthem was playing.

Next thing I knew, everyone was moving forward and it was time to start! I didn’t feel very nervous, just excited to run my favorite course on a perfect day. Seriously, it was highs in the low 60’s and clear. The first few miles wind through downtown, and between the tall buildings and running under some bridges, GPS watches don’t really work so it was hard to know what pace I was running. My watch told me I was ticking off miles in the low 7’s, but I knew I wasn’t running that fast. In actuality, my average for the first 5k ended up being 8:07, which was slower than I planned but I was happy with myself for not going out to0 fast.

After the first 5k, my pace dropped into the 7:30’s and stayed in that range through the half way point. I knew that I would see my family sometime just after mile 14, so that was my only focus. The miles were ticking by fast and when I hit mile 14 I got a little choked up knowing I would see them any second. I saw Joe first, as he was a little bit ahead of everyone else, then I saw my mom, Kai, Mike and Omoleye.

I was so excited to see them! I veered off the course so I could give Kai a kiss. He was so cute sitting in his stroller just looking at all of the runners. I am positive he wouldn’t have actually seen me if I hadn’t stopped, and it was totally worth the 5 seconds.

I headed back out with a little pep in my step, but I also knew I wouldn’t see them again until mile 25 (if they could even make it there).

They waited for Steve to pass through mile 14 and saw him a short while after me.

Best cheer squad:

The next couple miles flew by and I remember hitting mile 16 and thinking holy cow, I only have 10 miles to go! (Ha. The foreshadowing. Hint: there is no such thing as ONLY 10 miles to go in a marathon). At mile 18 my legs did not feel great. My pace slowed into the low 8’s, then the mid 8’s. I was struggling, but I knew I could still finish in a pretty good time if I just kept running. Looking back now, I think I was crazy dehydrated from taking in too many salt tablets, despite drinking water at every aid station. I took 5 of them over the course of the race, which is about what I would do if it was 85 degrees outside and I was sweating like crazy. When my legs started to cramp, I took more to try to alleviate that issue (which usually helps), but I think it actually made things worse. I wasn’t lacking in nutrition, having taken in 4.5 gels as well, so I really think it had to do with the salt.

I got a boost at mile 21 running though Chinatown because the crowds there are awesome and there is so much energy. By mile 23, my good old GI system decided to act up on me. I debated stopping to use the bathroom, but I just wanted to finish the dang race and never run a marathon again. I ended up walking most of mile 24. Every time I would try to run, I was moments away from pooping my pants (TMI, sorry just keeping it real), so walking it was. There was an aid station one mile from the finish, and I realized it was either use the bathroom there, or walk slowly to the finish line whilst clenching my butt cheeks. I used the port o potty, felt much better, and was able to run it in at sub 8 min pace again. Around mile 25.5, I heard my cheer squad yelling from the opposite side of the street. I waved like a maniac and couldn’t believe the race was finally just about over.

I was so happy to cross the finish line and stop running. I finished in 3:37:12, about 12 minutes over my goal time. I really thought I could finish in the 3:20-3:25 range. Here are my official splits:

The finishers area at Chicago is huge and probably about a half mile long. I got my space blanket, medal, food, etc. and made my way through to the other side. After another bathroom stop, I picked up my gear bag and walked slowly to the runners reunite area where I would be meeting Steve and my family. It was super crowded and I just plopped down on the grass by the letter C and figured someone would find me. I got my warm clothes on and tried eating a few pretzels. A short while later, Mike and Omoleye found me. I was so glad when they told me that my mom, Joe and Kai were waiting to cheer on Steve (they never saw him) versus bringing Kai into the crowds at the post race area. They took the train back to the condo while we waited for Steve.

Side note: Kai’s favorite part of the entire weekend was riding on the train. He got to do it twice, and both times he didn’t want to get off and wanted to “go fast again.”

After a while, Steve finished and made his way towards the meeting area. He had some problems with his ankle during the race and wasn’t able to run as fast as he wanted to either.

Finishers!

And a photobomb on the way out. We took the train back to the condo, and I was elated to find out that Mike parked his car at the train stop so we wouldn’t have to walk the 1/2 mile back. We called in an order of Thai food on the way back. Steve and I showered and then I devoured two bowls of pad thai. Unfortunately we had to get everything packed up and head home right after lunch. It was after 3pm by the time we hit the road and Kai had not taken a nap. We said our goodbyes and headed out, and Kai was asleep approximately 4 seconds into the drive.

This race was almost surreal for me. I was so excited for it (it had been 8 years since I last ran Chicago!), and then it went by so fast it was almost as if it didn’t happen. Later that night at home, I told Steve that while my legs could tell I ran a marathon, I couldn’t believe it was over and just like that we were home. The last 6 miles of the race were really tough, and all I could think about was how happy I was that I didn’t have to run another marathon for a very long time (or ever). Now I feel like I totally have to do this race again next year. Ha. The course, the spectators, everything about it is just awesome. Until next time Chicago…

 

 

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Marathon, Races

Lakefront Marathon 2015

I’ve waited a few days to recap my 2015 Lakefront Marathon experience because, well, it did not go as planned. In fact, it was so far off from what I had planned and trained for that I kind of wanted to just forget the whole thing ever happened.

My friend Cindy took this photo and it was the only one in which I somehow did not look like I was dying a slow death out there.

So let’s back up to the beginning. When I first started working with my coach this year, my ultimate goal was to run a 3:20 marathon. My back up goal was to run a PR (sub 3:29). Never once did I thing I would not accomplish a PR. I trained my butt off all summer. I had a couple sketchy long runs in there, but for the most part training went really well. I hit my paces in my speed workouts, remained healthy, and put in the miles. I was ready.

The only limiter I really had throughout this training was my GI system. For some reason, my stomach does not love it when I run fast or long. It was a problem on and off during my workouts, and I knew that it was the only thing that might prevent me from having an awesome race. I never really know when it’s going to feel good or bad, and I make sure not to eat anything different or weird in the days leading up to a long run or race. In the two days before the race, I started limiting my fiber intake in hopes it would help.

Race morning, I could tell my stomach felt a little off before the race even started. I just hoped against all hope that it would hold up for 26.2 miles. The race started at 7:30am, and I went off at a nice comfortable pace. It was pretty crowded which prevented me from starting out too fast. My plan was to ease into the first 4-5 miles at slightly slower than goal pace (7:37 pace is a 3:20 marathon). Then I would pick it up a little, and around mile 10 I would decide if I felt good enough to start hammering a bit faster or hold steady. I hit the first five miles in 7:57, 7:43, 7:32, 7:38, 7:40. Around mile 5.5 I saw some friends cheering that gave me a big boost, and I hit the next five in 7:24, 7:36, 7:37, 7:33, 7:32. Perfect. My stomach had been holding out until this point, but I could tell I would never make it the whole race. During mile 11 I had to stop at a porta pottie. That mile was 8:57 and I was pretty pleased with myself for still running a sub-9 min mile with a bathroom break.

I felt a little better after the stop and I knocked out a couple more sub-8’s in 7:46, 7:53 but my stomach wasn’t having any of it. My pace slowed to the 8:30’s and I hit the halfway mark around 1:42:45. It was all downhill from there. I couldn’t keep any nutrition in me, and started to feel sick and depleted. I ended up making 3 more bathroom stops along the way and almost quit the race multiple times. In fact, I had completely decided that the next time I saw my friends or a race official or anyone that could give me a ride to the finish, I would be done. Problem was, I never saw anyone to give me a ride. I just kept slogging along, jogging when I could and doing a lot of walking along the way. Once there were less than three miles to go I knew that I would just finish the race on my own two feet.

I ended up crossing the finish line in 4:07:21, a mere 47 minutes off of my goal. Ouch. I felt pissed off, disappointed, defeated, you name it. I felt like all of my training went to waste. I quit marathon running in my head and possibly out loud. I picked up my gear bag and put on warm clothes, and soon after I saw Steve. Turns out he didn’t have a great race either. When I started to tell him how horribly wrong things went, I lost it. He tried to comfort me and make me smile, reminding me that it’s just running and it’s just one race. Of course this is true, but I just needed to be sad about it for a little while.

That’s the thing about the marathon. You can train your butt off, show up to race in perfect conditions (seriously, it was in the 50’s with a tailwind), and things can go awry. Things that are out of your control. What could I have done differently to prevent this from happening? I don’t know. I ate the things I normally eat, I took in the same nutrition on race day as I did in training, so who knows why my body picked this day to revolt.

I do know that I am signed up for another marathon on November 1st. I was not planning to run this marathon. I was planning for Lakefront to go well and I was going to drop to the half marathon distance in this other race. Now I have a decision to make. Do I try again? After I finished on Sunday I thought there was no way I wanted to run another marathon. Maybe ever. But of course three days later I have already forgotten some of the hurt, and I am feeling like I may go for it. I am not going to do any more structured “training,” but I may go out there and see what happens. To be continued I suppose…

2 Comments

Filed under Races, The run

Hartfest Half Marathon

Saturday marked my official return to distance racing, with the Hartfest Half Marathon, a small local race in Wauwatosa. As my “A” race for the year will be Lakefront Marathon in October, this race would be a good “see where I’m at in training” type of situation. The week leading up to the race I was having some problems with my right calf, which really had me worried. It felt like it was just on the brink of becoming strained after my easy run on Tuesday. I took off on Wednesday and then tried a super easy 5 miles on the treadmill on Thursday. It felt ok as long as I went slow, and actually felt a little bit better by the time I was done. I decided to play it safe and rest it on Friday, and was able to have my massage partner work on it briefly in the afternoon. I also rolled and stretched the hell out of my legs and hips in the days leading up to Saturday, something I really need to be doing a lot more often.

Saturday morning my alarm went off at 5:40, and it was time for coffee. I had one cup (oh how I wanted another one, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea for my stomach). I also had a banana topped with peanut butter, corn flakes, honey and cinnamon. Weird, I know, but it is tasty and sits well in my stomach. Kai woke up around 6:30 so I got him out and gave him his bottle. I finished getting ready and just after 7am I woke up Steve to take over baby duty.

I drove the 25 mins or so to the race and was pleased to find plenty of parking available at the start. I got my packet and returned to my car to pin on my number and stay warm. I snapped a selfie before heading out to use the bathroom and do a warm up jog.

Here goes nothin’!

I jogged a little less than a mile to warm up, and I was still really worried about my calf. I could feel it even running slow, so I had no idea what would happen in the race. I knew I had to be careful and bow out if necessary, as it would not be worth getting injured right at the beginning of marathon training.

I did some stretching and ran into Julia and her husband Nate. How those two manage to train with three littles is beyond me, I find it hard enough to fit it in with one when you factor in Steve’s training as well. We chatted for a while and headed to the start, and before we knew it, it was race time.

Pic stolen from Julia’s blog.

I started the race very comfortably, which was the plan. My coach had originally planned for me to be in the 7:40ish range for pace, and I doubted that. He told me to go out at 8 min pace, then drop it every three miles or so according to how I was feeling. I think my first mile was an 8:02, right on target. I realized about a mile in that I totally forgot about my calf, which was a good thing. Miraculously, it wasn’t bothering me at all. Miles 2 and 3 were right around 7:50, and mile 4 was 7:22. Whoops! I dialed it back to the 7:45-7:50ish range for the next 3 miles. The course was fun, it had a little bit of everything. Paved path, gravel path, sidewalk with plenty of turns and a couple hills for good measure. Not a fast course by any means, but interesting enough to not get bored.

I saw a lot of friendly and familiar faces throughout the race which was great, and one of the things I love about running. Around mile 7 there was a pretty big downhill, and I started to feel a little twinge in my calf. I decided not to push it any harder and hoped that it would hold up to the finish. Though I didn’t fee like I was pushing too much, miles 8-12 were in the 7:30-7:40 range. By mile 12 I was really starting to get tired and I couldn’t wait to be done. The fronts of my ankles/shins started to cramp a little, a telltale sign that I needed salt (Gatorade), but I knew there wouldn’t be another aid station before the finish. I held on as best I could during mile 13 which was 7:44. A woman sprinted past me in the finish chute (dang it!) and I was finally done.

My official time was 1:41:33 (7:43 average), which I was really happy with for this point in the season. After the race I chatted with a bunch of different friends and enjoyed the breakfast of pancakes, eggs and fruit. I did not partake in the free beer, and was really wishing there was coffee.

I headed home, showered, and then played with my little buddy (who was so so so crabby) for the rest of the day. That night Steve picked up a good IPA, we grilled food and had Bubba’s frozen custard (it was peanut butter custard with chocolate covered pretzel pieces and a caramel swirl, omg).

And now, marathon training has officially begun!

1 Comment

Filed under Races, The run

2013 Lakefront Marathon (aka Cindy’s First Marathon)

You may recall that last year I coached Cindy to run her first trail half marathon. It was not long after that race that Cindy asked me if I would coach her and run with her in this year’s Lakefront Marathon, her first. Knowing that my big race season would be over after Ironman Wisconsin, I happily agreed. We spent the following year preparing her for the marathon, and as the day approached, I was so excited to get her to the finish line.

Those that know Cindy will tell you that she is one of the most upbeat, friendly, outgoing, kind people on this planet. Her positive attitude is infectious, and her energy knows no bounds. To say that she was excited in the days leading up to the race would be a slight understatement. She kept assuring me that she was not nervous, she trusted her training, and she was just ready and excited to get the show on the road. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little pressure as her coach to get her to that finish line. I never doubted for a moment that we would do it, I was just hoping for things to go well throughout the day.

We met at Cindy’s house at 5:30am on race morning to get a ride to the start in Grafton. The race is a point to point course from Grafton High School to Veteran’s Park on Milwaukee’s Lakefront, and I was grateful not to have to take the race shuttle (yellow school bus) to the start. We arrived at the school with plenty of time to spare before the 7:30 start. We hung out in the gym doing last minute race prep until it was showtime.

(none of these pictures are mine, so thank you in advance to my Facebook friends from whom I stole them :))

Before we knew it, it was time to head outside to the start line.

Pre-race with Cindy and Liz (Quick shout out to Liz, another one of my athletes who absolutely ROCKED this race with a 35 min marathon PR!!)

My plan for the race was simple. Because Cindy’s goal was to finish and she didn’t have a time goal in mind, I wanted to make sure we started very easy and then slowed down as little as possible. I was the only one wearing a Garmin, and I had 5 hours in the back of my head as a feasible goal. Cindy’s friend Greg also decided to run with us, as he was recovering from an injury. So we listened to the National Anthem, and then our little entourage was off.

The first few miles went by quickly. Cindy was so excited to be running, I had to reign her in a little bit. Each time we hit a mile marker she got excited all over again. I was so happy that she was feeling good, and I couldn’t help but laugh every time she yelled out to the spectators that it was her first marathon. Speaking of spectators, I know without a doubt that Cindy had more people out there cheering for her than any other racer, hands down. We never went more than a mile or two without seeing friendly faces. The course is very spectator friendly, so it was easy for people to see us, drive a little bit down the road, and see us again. Greg ran with his video camera and was able to get a ton of footage and pictures throughout the race.

Pretty sure Brian winds the spectating award for this:

It was smooth sailing until around mile 16, when we hit a little bit of a rough spot. Cindy started having some tummy issues, which she has never experienced before in training. I think the nerves and excitement leading up to the race took a toll on her digestive system, and we had to make a few potty stops. I knew she was hurting, and I did my best to talk her through it and manage the situation. As she continued to feel worse every time she would try to put any nutrition into her system, I told her no more gels, just water and salt tabs. Even gatorade was causing problems. I told her that she was going to starting feeling depleted, but it was better than the alternative.

Once we passed mile 20, I knew we were “over the hump,” and even if we had to do a lot of walking, we would finish. Somewhere around mile 21-22, there was a lady standing at the end of her driveway with a bowl of pretzels. Cindy looked at me and asked if she should try eating some, and I said yes. I had a feeling that maybe something solid would help her stomach. She ate one tiny pretzel, and it must have been made of magic, because about 60 seconds later she was back to running strong. She told me she felt better and we pushed ahead. I was so relieved at this moment, and just hoped that she would continue to feel good through the finish.

We took a few walking breaks in the final miles along the Lakefront, and with 3/4 of a mile to go, I told Cindy no more walking, let’s finish this thing!

Coming down the finishing chute was awesome. Cindy got a surge of energy and picked it up to the finish line. The next photo pretty much sums it up.

I wish I could bottle up the joy in that moment. We finished in 5:11:03, and I have no doubt that without the tummy issues, we would have come in under 5 hours. I was so proud and so happy that I played a part in helping Cindy to achieve her goal.

We did it!!

During the race when things got tough, I told Cindy that when we hit mile 22 I would tell her a story to keep her going. The thing is, Cindy tells me all the time that I inspire her, especially when she came to cheer for me at Ironman and saw me dig deep and finish even though I was feeling absolutely terrible. At mile 22, I told Cindy that while I was training for Ironman, there were times during my long runs when I wasn’t feeling the greatest and just wanted to stop, walk home and eat ice cream. During those tough moments, I would often picture Cindy and I running this marathon. I would picture her crossing the finish line, and I would get goosebumps. It never failed to put a spring in my step, and I never quit a long run. So I told her that while I may inspire her, it is also she who inspires me with her enthusiasm and determination to set big goals and live them. While this may not have been close to my fastest marathon, it was one of my favorites, and one that I will never forget. Of all of the finish lines I have crossed, I don’t think anything can top this finish line moment.

2 Comments

Filed under Friends, Marathon, Races, The run

Ironman Wisconsin 2013

Oh, what a summer. The weeks and months leading into Ironman Wisconsin this year were a bit crazy to say the least. Between going to school, working several jobs, graduating, passing my boards and becoming a licensed massage therapist, starting a new job…oh, and training…there were many times that I found myself stressed, frazzled, and wondering who’s bright idea it was to sign up for an Ironman given my current life situation. Oh, that’s right.

I cannot say that I always enjoyed the training this summer, but in a way it kept me balanced, a word I don’t usually associate with Ironman. I had a schedule. A routine. It was go, go, go, and I didn’t have a lot of time to stop and think. To make choices as to whether I was going to get my workout in that day. It was a summer of don’t think, just do. By late August I was so done. My biggest training week happened to fall during my family’s annual week-long camping trip in Door County. The change of scenery is what got me through that week, and even though I did not get all of my workouts in on vacation, I got the ones that mattered. Two long bike rides up and down and around the peninsula, 106 and 115 miles respectively. Then came the taper. I have never in my life been so happy to taper. I wanted the race to be over and done so I could move on with my life. I found myself not even excited for the race, which worried me. How was I going to get through 140.6 miles when I didn’t even want to be out there?

During my second week of taper, there was a shift. It was not subtle. I was out for an early morning run and thinking about the race. I pictured my friends and family out on the course cheering for me. I pictured myself on my bike, being carried up the hills by the massive crowds, and something inside of me burst open. I was overcome by a feeling of uncontrolled excitement for the race. I could not wait to be in Madison, soaking in the weekend, having the best race of my life. I started to tear up behind my sunglasses as much from relief as from picturing the emotion of the day. I finally felt ready. I was finally looking forward to everything that race day would bring.

Pre-race

I have never slept so well the night before a race. I went to bed early, slept through the night without waking up once, and was genuinely confused as to who was calling me when my phone alarm went off at 3:45am. I got up and did my usual routine. Coffee, bagel, peanut butter, banana, fill bottles, get dressed, etc. Before long it was time to make the walk through the sleeping streets of Madison towards transition at Menona Terrace. As usual, transition was buzzing with the energy of 2400 nervous, twitchy athletes getting ready to embark on their 140.6 mile journey. I placed my nutrition on my bike and borrowed a bike pump from another athlete. It was dark, and I couldn’t really see what I was doing. I filled my tires and then promptly freaked out because I knew I had overinflated them. I found Steve and told him through tears what had happened, so he grabbed my bike and we took it to the bike mechanics for a do-over. We deflated then re-inflated the tires to the proper pressure, and things were good to go. After a stop at the porta potty, we made our way down to the swim start. I was calm as I put on my calf sleeves, sunscreen, and wetsuit. It was windy and the lake was choppy, which was the only think making me a little bit nervous. We headed into the water around 6:50 and floated around while the national anthem was sung. Looking around me, I was worried. We were smack dab in the middle of a huge pack of almost all men. I kept trying to move away from the pack, but it was no use. I knew we were in for a rough swim.

The Swim – 1:21:59

At 7am, the canon fired, and we were off into the washing machine. I was blocked in amidst flailing arms, legs, feet, bodies. I felt like I couldn’t get anywhere. I kept thinking just relax, it will thin out soon. It never thinned out. The whole way to the first turn buoy was a mess. I was repeatedly hit and kicked in the head, but luckily my goggles stayed put. Once we reached the long back stretch of the loop, we were against the wind and therefore the chop. There were moments that I had clear water to swim in, but they were few and far between. The waves were not as much of a problem for me as I was anticipating, and I was feeling strong. After what seemed like a short eternity, I was on the final stretch on the way home. Things seemed to bottleneck here, and we were back to aggressive full body contact for the remainder of the swim. Exiting the water, I saw that my swim time was nearly identical to 2011. I had hoped to be a little faster, but given the conditions, I knew I did just fine.

T1 – 7:34

I love running up the helix into transition. The spectators lining the sides are amazing, coupled with the excitement that the swim is finally over. I smiled all the way up into the building, where I grabbed my bag and a volunteer helped me get ready for the bike. Socks, shoes, sunglasses, helmet, and I was out of there. I stopped to get sunscreened by some friends that were volunteering, and it was great to see their friendly faces. I made the long jog in bike shoes past the rows and rows of bikes, and I saw my mom and Joe just outside of the fence holding up a sign for me. I flashed them a huge smile and waved, knowing that the next time I would see them would be on the hill at Timber Lane, 45ish miles into the bike course.

The Bike – 6:18:11

My plan for the bike was to take the first 60-90 minutes very easy, ride steady after that, be smart on the hills, and nail my nutrition. Everything was on point until about 60 minutes into the ride, when I dropped my chain on a small hill. I stopped to fix it, and I could not get it back on. I kept trying and trying, and was getting utterly frustrated when I finally realized that I was trying to put the chain back onto the big ring when I was shifted into the small ring. Duh! A bike mechanic I am not. I wasted a few minutes there, but I was grateful that it was a minor problem and that I wasn’t the woman sitting 20 feet away from me waiting for the SAG vehicle with a broken derailleur. I was back on my way and things were going well. A few minutes later Steve passed me. I told him I dropped my chain, and he told me he dropped a bottle in the middle of the road and had to stop and get it. Then he was off and I knew I wouldn’t see him again until the run.

Before I knew it I was approaching the three big hills, and the crowds carried me up them with what felt like very little effort and a big smile on my face. On the second hill I saw my mom and Joe which gave me a boost, and a few miles later I saw (and heard!) professional cheer captain Cindy with her big blue clapping hand. I was riding in high spirits through Verona and onto the second loop. I was taking my nutrition on schedule and feeling great. The second loop went by almost as fast as the first. I was complemented twice by other riders on my hill climbing, and I honestly couldn’t believe how good I felt. I saw all of my people again on the second loop, and it was time to head back to Madison. Unfortunately there was quite a headwind on the way back, and parts of the last 16 miles seemed to drag on, but I was still feeling strong. I dropped my chain again on a hill, but this time it took me mere seconds to get it back on. In the last mile, a girl passed me and said “Come on, let’s get the hell off these bikes!!” My thoughts exactly. I couldn’t wait to run.

T2 – 4:33

Change socks, shoes, grab running hat and nutrition, stop to pee, and I’m off.

The Run – 3:53:48

Heading out onto the run course I felt amazing. I had grabbed my Garmin in T2 so I could keep tabs on my pace, but my plan was to only glance at it each mile to make sure I was on track. Within the first mile, I saw my sister-in-law Jamie with Brandon and little Aiva in her custom made onesie cheering me on. They took the above photo and told me that Steve was only a couple minutes ahead, which surprised me. I thought he would be further ahead of me off of the bike, but when I saw him a few minutes later he looked good and was feeling good. I told him to have a great run and went ahead. I hit the first mile in 7:17. Whoa nelly! I felt like I was jogging, but seriously?? I dialed it back for mile 2. The miles were ticking by, and I was easily holding sub-8 min pace. I walked the steepest section of Observatory Hill my first time through, and I knew I was making great time.

I saw some friends and my mom and Joe on State St, and I was feeling great. Then around mile 7, I started feeling some stomach pain. It was an odd pain, not cramping, not nauseous, just pain. I slowed down, but it kept on getting worse. By mile 10, I couldn’t choke down much in the way of nutrition. I tried a gel before the halfway point, but I could barely swallow any of it. After the halfway turnaround, I knew I was going to have to make a potty stop. I stopped just after the halfway point, but it didn’t make me feel much better. I was trying to string together a slow jog between each aid station, where I would walk. I tried sipping coke and water, whenever I could, and I kept up with my salt tabs. Things kept going from bad to worse, and I wondered if I might have to walk the rest of the race. I knew if I could at least keep jogging, I would still get a PR, but I saw my goal of a 3:40 run quickly slip out of reach. I contemplated several times if I could even finish. Of course I knew I would finish by way of walking if I had to, but I wouldn’t even let myself imagine walking the last 10 miles.

I made myself smile whenever I saw my friends on the course because I so appreciated them being there, but inside I truly felt like death. Another potty stop around mile 18-19, and after that my stomach felt a little better. I started running again, but with very little nutrition in the tank, I was barely able to pick up the pace to sub-9 min miles. I knew with 4 miles to go that I could keep running and I would still get my PR, and I just couldn’t wait for it to be over. I kept saying over and over to myself that I am never doing this again. The last few miles went by painfully slow and amazingly fast at the same time. Before I knew it, I was coming around the capitol to the finish.

I managed one victorious arm in the air and half a smile. I was just so glad it was over. I talked to my catcher for a few minutes while I waited to get my picture taken. Turns out he was a 5 time Ironman finisher and was planning to race Wisconsin again next year.

I do not know how I managed to look happy in the above photo. I felt horribly sick and all I wanted to do was lay down and die. Thankfully my mom and Cindy were there to help me after the race. Cindy is a nurse, and was amazingly helpful in escorting me to the bathroom (I think she might have pushed a child out of my way at one point :)), feeding me bites of pretzels by hand, and giving me her jacket so I could stay warm. Thanks Cindy, you’re the best! My mom and Joe stayed with me for a while too and made sure I was ok as we waited for Steve. I repeated several times to all of them – I am never doing this again. I felt sick after my previous two Ironmans (Ironmen?), but never as bad as this. Steve finished in 12:10:47, over a ONE HOUR PR!!! He did so awesome, and I am trying to get him to write a guest blog of his race report.

My overall stats:

Finish time – 11:45:55

435/2334 Overall finishers

10/105  F30-34 Age Group

I ended up with a 13 minute PR over 2011, and was 10th in my age group again. Though I am happy that I PR’d, I can’t help but be disappointed in the way things turned out. I know I had a much faster run in me, but things just didn’t go my way. In trying to figure out what went wrong, it’s hard to say. I nailed my nutrition on the bike and did not feel I was over-pacing. It could have been the stress of the rough swim or the race itself, who knows. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you work so hard and so long for something like this and then it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, but such is racing, and such is life. I am proud of myself for gutting it out to the end when I felt so so horrible, and I can look back and know that I made incredible progress this year. I had an amazing race in Door County and I feel I went into this Ironman in the best shape of my life. By the very next day, I found myself itching with the Ironman bug and the now-unfinished business I have with this race. And…right about now my mom wishes she had gotten me on video after the race, sick and saying I will never.do.this.again. As we all learned after 2011, never say never. Don’t worry mom, I did not sign up for next year 🙂

5 Comments

Filed under Races, Triathlon

Ironman Weekend

Welp, it’s official.

Now that I have the bracelet, I suppose I will be racing on Sunday. Steve and I arrived in Madison early Friday afternoon and went straight to check in for the race, which took about an hour. We headed to the hotel to check in, grabbed a snack, and made an emergency trip to the local running store for Body Glide. Seriously, there was NO Body Glide anywhere at the Ironman Expo. Next year I am going to stock up on the stuff, put up a tent just outside of the expo, and sell Body Glide on the black market. I will be rich.

After relaxing at the hotel for a little while, we walked back down to Monona Terrace for the athlete dinner. The food there is not good, but it is free. In the grand scheme of all things Ironman, a little free once in a while is a good thing.

Then, on the way back to the hotel, this happened:

Chocolate Shoppe ice cream is my favorite, and I cannot walk past and not get some. Yippee Skippee = peanut butter ice cream with salted caramel swirl, brownie pieces, and chocolate covered pretzels. Best decision of the weekend so far. Ice cream is carbs right?

The rest of the night was spent relaxing at the hotel, and waiting for this little face to arrive.

I told her she better cheer extra loud on Sunday for Auntie Laura and Uncle Steve.

Today we will check in our bikes, Big Red and Little Red. They each got a bath, tune up, and makeover last week.

We are going to take a little dip in Lake Monona for a short practice swim, I will get a smoothie from the farmers market (tradition), and then we will relax until dinner, get our stuff all laid out for the morning, and it will be lights out early.

If you would like to track us on race day, you may do so at live.ironman.com starting at 7am on Sunday morning. I am bib #439 and Steve is bib #1512. I can’t wait to be out on the course tomorrow, it’s gonna be a great day!!

3 Comments

Filed under Races, Triathlon

2013 Ice Age 50k

Ten, nine, eight, seven… that was race director Jeff’s countdown to the start of the Ice Age 50k on Saturday. Two, one…go! And we were off into the woods. I wasn’t originally planning on racing Ice Age this year, but when registration opened in December and looked like it was going to fill in less than a day I made a last minute decision to sign up. There were lots of reasons why I shouldn’t. This is an Ironman year, I should be focused on biking, yada yada. Truth is, I needed to focus on a run first. After sitting out much of 2012 due to injury, I wanted some good time on my feet before I had to start focusing on the bike. I’ve made it no secret that I have a rocky relationship with being on two wheels, pedaling and pedaling all.day.long. I would rather be on two feet any day of the week. I figured the race would be good motivation to get my butt in gear over the winter.

Only it didn’t work that way. I struggled to find the motivation I needed. I am going to blame it on the longest and crappiest winter in the history of ever. Between snow and ice and bitter cold, I had a hard time getting out there. Last year I ran the trails all winter in preparation for my 50 miler at Ice Age. Every weekend I looked forward to hitting the trails for hours and hours. This year it was not to be. I was also struggling with how much I should be running. Every time my foot would get a little sore I used it as an excuse to take a day off. I knew I also needed to be swimming and biking, but wasn’t sure how to balance it all. After all, Ironman is the big race this year, I could run 50k in my sleep if I had to…Right?

But the truth is, when you lose all of your running fitness due to injury, you cannot expect to start running again and pick up where you left off. Last spring, I would think nothing of running 70 miles a week. A 25 mile trail run seemed like no big deal, same with running twice a day several times a week. Cue the frustration when a “mere” 10-12 miles felt hard and I looked back at what I was doing last year thinking I should be able to do this, with a little bit of shit, I was crazy back then! mixed inIt’s funny how endurance sports can skew your perspective on things. Sometimes I am shocked when I look back on my training logs for Ironman and see how much I was doing. It all seems so normal when you are actually doing it, but looking back at it from the outside it is easy to see why people think you have lost your damn mind. Needless to say, my confidence was waning. If I couldn’t find the motivation to train for a 50k, how in the heck was I going to train for Ironman?

I came to the decision that the best thing for me to do was to work with a coach. Best decision ever. Though I create training plans for other people all of the time, I lost the trust and ability to do it for myself. I needed someone with an outside perspective to tell me exactly what to do and when to do it. I needed to get out of my own head and not have to think about any of it. Not to mention the accountability factor. If I am paying someone to tell me what to do I am damn well going to do what she says.

Wasn’t this supposed to be a race report? Ok, back to the race. In the 8 weeks leading up to Ice Age, I did a mix of running, biking and swimming. Definitely less running and more biking and swimming than I would have done if left to my own devices, but quite a bit of overall volume (compared to what I was doing at the beginning of the year). I had some good long runs under my belt, but certainly not as many trail miles as I would have liked. The weather just didn’t cooperate for it. I felt prepared going in, and when the first few miles felt effortless, I thought I was going to have a great day out there.

Coming up to the first turnaround at mile 6.5, I counted that I was in 5th place for women. I concentrated on running easy and keeping the effort low. The first out and back section is tough, with lots of hills and uneven single track. I just focused on my nutrition plan and walking the big hills to save energy. By the time the first out and back section was over, I had passed two more women and was running in 3rd place.

The latter part of the race is made up of two identical 9 mile loops where the trails are much wider and easier to run on. I got a little boost when I passed through the start/finish area and saw some of my friends cheering me on. I was able to pick up some speed on the flat miles that followed, and I was feeling good. That good feeling lasted until I reached the back side of the loop and it’s relentless hills. By the time I hit mile 16, my quads were hurting. By mile 18 they were toast. I started to break things into small sections. The next aid station. The start/finish area. The flat miles. I tried not to think about the fact that I still had to do this entire loop again. I didn’t know if my legs would hold up. I did know that it was going to hurt.

Coming through the start/finish again, I stripped off my arm warmers and left them at the aid station. I saw some more friends cheering for me which gave me a little boost, but in my head I was struggling. My quads were absolutely killing me. I was grateful for the next couple of flat miles before I got into the hills again. I broke the rest of the race into 30 and 40 minute increments. When I would take my next salt cap and when I would eat my next gel. Then to the final aid station, then to the finish. Somewhere in there I thought I passed another women from the 50k. It was hard to tell because now we were mixed in with the half marathon runners. Turns out I did pass one woman, but another woman (whom I had passed early in the race) passed me as well, as I would find out later.

The hills were killing me. The downhills were almost worse than the uphills because of my trashed quads. It was time to think about putting one foot in front of the other, of doing nothing besides moving forward. One thing I have learned over the years is that no matter how much it hurts during a race, no matter how slowly the miles tick by, and no matter how much your body is telling you to stop, there is always an end. And when that end comes and you are finished, no matter how good or bad the race was, it always seems that the day has flown by. I always think about this when the going gets tough, that there is indeed an end, and it will come soon enough. I will not hurt forever, so I might as well keep moving.

So that is exactly what I did for the rest of the race. And sure enough, the end came.

It is always sort of surreal when you train hard, race hard, and it is over.

I have no idea why I am smiling in this picture. I think I was so relieved that it was over, and in a bit of disbelief over how much my legs actually hurt. Mostly I was just so happy to be done. I can’t remember a race where my quads hurt that bad, except for perhaps my first or second marathon ever. Certainly not during the 50 miler last year or during any Ironman. But that’s how it goes. All you can do in any given race is give it all that you have on that particular day. You can follow your race plan and take in your fuel and do everything right, and sometimes your legs just freaking hurt. I did everything I could, I gave it all that I had, and this time it was good for 3rd place overall, 2nd in AG.

I would find out later that 2nd place was a mere 34 seconds ahead of me. My mind immediately went to thinking about all of the places in the course of 31 miles where I could have shaved off 34 seconds. A few less seconds walking on some of the hills, a little speedier on the flats. But the truth is, I gave it my best effort, and if I could have shaved off those seconds I would have. I am proud that I was able to push through the pain in my legs and finish strong.

Special thanks to my friend Cindy for bringing a cold water foot soak to the finish line. You are the best! 🙂

Ice Age 50k Official Result:

5:01:47

3rd overall

2nd female 30-39

2 Comments

Filed under Friends, Races, The run