Monday, September 26, 2011

Triple Down weekend

What a crazy weekend. I did a half marathon AND back to back 5Ks. Mother Nature did not make it easy with another triple H weekend - Hazy, Hot, and Humid. Extra heavy on the HUMID part. Not nice for the first weekend of autumn. It's suppose to be cool, brisk, with a little bite of frost in the air in the morning, not steamy.

Anyway, the Wicked Half marathon in Salem, MA is a really nice course. Challenging rolling hills, but really pretty along the coast and through some nice neighborhoods. Only thing that sucks about it is that it's in Salem, MA. I forget how much I hate Salem until I return there for a race. I ALWAYS get lost because there are not street signs and all one way streets going the wrong way. Thank God I left sort of early for the race. I had enough time when I got there to get my stuff and walk back to my car and hit up the bathroom lines a few times before the gun went off.

It was about 70 degrees and 100% humidity and I was totally soaked within the first three miles and then I heard the girl next to me say to her friend, "We're doing 10:00 miles, this is great!" to which I thought "F*^*&*(!!!!! I'm going way too SLOW!!!!" Oh well, blame it on the humidity and heat. I tried to pick up the pace and eventually found a more comfortable rhythm, but then I got goosebumps around mile nine and started shivering. Damn it, why can't my body just learn to deal with the heat like a friggin kenyan? Instead it shuts down and freaks out.

I managed to finish the race in 2:10 not the pace I was hoping for two weeks out from Chicago, but really hoping for better weather at the marathon. I felt sort of sick and really dizzy so I made my way into the school at the finish area to sit down and put my legs up. I found a nice spot in the gymnasium with a tumbling mat already laid out against a wall. I scooted my bum right up to the wall and hoisted my legs up to stretch out my hamstrings and drain the blood from my legs and get it to my head. Unfortunately, I forgot that my keys were still in my back pocket and they stabbed me in the spine. My legs felt better and I wasn't dizzy anymore, but now my back hurt.

I got home from the race and hopped on the scale before I took a shower and I had lost 5lbs. in sweat. I kind of expect that for a full marathon or even an 18 mile run, but not a half marathon. So, rehydration and rest became the main focus for the rest of the day. Especially because I had a busy day planned for Sunday.

I spent Saturday night watching 'Bridesmaids' with my friend Kim. It was not nearly as funny as everyone said. "The Hangover" was way better. I mean Kristen Wigg and Maya Rudolph were pretty funny, but the movie was more sad and depressing than funny. Maybe I just thought so because I'm not married and a lot of my friends are, but I'm not miserable and crazy like Kristen Wigg's character. Besides single massage therapist/athletic trainer/sports medicine doctor/volunteer firefighters that are not gay are really hard to find.

Sunday was Double Down Day - back to back 5Ks with Racemenu. First the Legacy 5K in Dedham, MA followed immediately by the Flutie 5K in Natick, MA. And again Mother Nature brought the triple H weather. About 70 degrees and 100% humidity for both races. I felt ok in the first race, slower than my typical 5K but not bad considering I ran a half marathon the day before. I finished in 28:55 soaking wet and sore then ran straight to my car and headed for the next race. Got there just in time to line up and go......much slower. The course was really hilly and my legs were really angry. I tried every mantra I could think of, Dean Karnazes "Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just keep moving forward and never ever give up." Jens Voight "shut up legs!" Unknown source "don't think about how far you've come or how far you have to go just run the mile you're in". I managed to finish in 32:14 and had nothing left in the tank and my legs were screaming (especially my hamstrings). Another first accomplished - back to back 5Ks.

Here's the Racemenu crew after the double down races:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Suck it Beaches!

One of the many awesome team names we encountered during Reach the Beach Relay 2011 - "Suck it Beaches". It's always an adventure. The same but a little different each time. This year I ran with Team Viagra. Same team name as last year, but slightly different line up. A few returning vets including myself and mostly first timers. It was a bit of a struggle right from the very start. We lost a few runners in the weeks leading up to the race and got some last minute substitutes and had a team of 12, then on the morning of the race as we were getting ready to head up to Cannon Mountain one more runner bailed so our team was down to 11 runners.

No problem for me, I wanted the extra miles, but logistically a nightmare because there was road damage on the course due to Hurricane Irene and the race had created a "Plan B" course that threw a wrench in the works. So, Van 1 wasn't handing off to Van 2 at the first Van transition as planned. Which meant in Van 1 we decided to divide up the extra miles of our missing runner amongst ourselves instead of shifting the rotation and totally messing up the flow of the whole race. Three of us ran 4 legs instead of the regular 3.

We met up at Cannon Mountain and checked in and got all our bib#s and shirts and stuff. Then we decorated the vans. I had a list of sayings to write and we had a pretty good supply of jokes to go with the team name. Here are a few of the highlights: "We don't stretch, we prefer to run STIFF", "We run hard with our heads up", "Hills? No Problem, We go up and down all night", "It's funner with a runner", "Distance Runners do it longer", "The faster you go the harder it gets". It went on and on. And of course I brought back the one that got us in trouble last year, "If Reach the Beach was easy it would be called 'Your Mom'".

At 12:40 we were off and running. I took the first double and ran leg #2 and leg#4. Both were pretty short 3 milers, but the second one was into a wicked strong head wind. I got to run right past the Mount Washington hotel though and my team snapped some perfect photos of me.

After we finished the first 6 legs we met up with Van 2 and because of "Plan B" they had an assigned started time of 5:40pm. So we continued on the course and went to North Conway for dinner at Flatbreads. After dinner, Jason had the key to a friend's lake house so we could shower and get a little rest. We wouldn't start running again until later in the evening so we took advantage and headed to the house. We got there and settled in with another team taking a break. I took a very quick shower and tried not to wet my hair because my next run was going to be a 9 miler at 2am and it was near freezing outside.

We all sprawled out on the floor for a little rest and someone was kind enough to turn off the lights. THEN, one of our team members decided to search through his bags for something. Apparently his wife had packed his bag and packed every item of clothing in an individual plastic bag. AND on top of that he had 2 mylar blankets in his bag too!!!! So, imagine trying to get a few precious hours of sleep in a 24+ hour relay race and having that one perfect opportunity RUINED by the sound of crinkling plastic bags. OMG!!! I wanted to kill him. Thankfully I wasn't the only person annoyed. We all yelled at him! But by then 20-30 minutes had gone by and we lost precious minutes of sleep that would haunt us later.

Around 10:30pm we got moving and headed to the Van transition to meet Van 2 and start running again. This time Gene had the double leg and he ran #1 and #3. I ran #5, the 9 miler. I started running around 1:30am and felt awesome for the first 5-6 miles then the coffee I had after dinner hit my bladder and the caffeine worked some magic, not in a good way, on my intestines. I struggled through the last 3 miles in pain and as soon as I handed off the baton I kept running right to the port o potty. I've never had to pee so bad in my entire life. I might actually have a kidney infection as a result of holding it for the last 3 miles of the run. I felt wicked sick after too because I didn't want to drink water or electrolytes on the run because I had to pee so bad and then I think the coffee just dehydrated me more. When I got back in the van and layed down I felt like I was on a boat even when we weren't moving!

We made it to Bear Brook State park around 3:30am for the Van transition and had a few more hours to sleep before running again. I woke up at 6am and had to pee again even though I hadn't had anything to drink since about 2am. I wandered to the port o potties and made it there just before the morning rush because when we walked past again 5 minutes later on our way to get breakfast there was a HUGE line. Bear Brook State Park is my favorite transition. Eggs, pancakes, and coffee prepared by the Allenstown Fire Dept. It's awesome.

After breakfast we were off and running again. Jason took the double leg this time and ran #2 and #4. My last leg was a nice 4 miler. I felt really good and finished strong. I tried to catch up to this guy that passed me in the last mile because he was kinda cute, but then just as we crossed the line at the transition I noticed he had a ring on. Damn it! Oh well. I still congratulated him on a strong finish.

We completed our last 6 runs around 2:00 and took showers at the school before heading to the Beach for the finish. Jason left us and joined his family for some soccer games. We dropped Mike off with his family so he could spend the rest of the weekend with them in Maine and then the rest of Team Viagra went to the Beach. Our team finished in a little over 27 hours with an average pace of 8:30. It was about 5:30 when we got our medals and said goodbyes. I was ready to get the heck out of there and go home. We all went our separate ways and I went home and went to bed. I slept for 12 hours. I'm still exhausted and a little sore, but lucky for me I'm in taper mode now. 20 days to go until Chicago!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


This weekend I completed my first half ironman triathlon (1.2m swim/56m bike/13.1m run). It was AWESOME!!!! Before I talk about the race, let me tell you what I did leading up to the race. Thursday night I did a nice easy 3 mile run with the Lowell Ladies. It felt strange only doing 3 miles. I think that's the shortest run I've done in months. I knew it was what I needed to do to be prepared for the half ironman though so it had to be done.

Friday, I met up with my friend for lunch at Life Alive and we talked about training for Chicago and I tried to avoid thinking about my upcoming big challenge over the weekend. I was starting to really freak out. What had I signed up for? Was I ready? Did I train enough? What was I going to eat on race day? What if I had to pee while I was on the bike? Like I said, freaking out. I tried my hardest to be distracted and not think about it.

Saturday, I got up pretty early and REALLY wanted to run but resisted the urge and decided to go shopping instead. I got new running shoes considering Chicago in a month out and I have a bunch of big races coming up. I picked up a few other things and then went home and found the most awesome delivery in my mail; the Forks Over Knives DVD and Book, plus the Engine 2 diet book - all stuff on plant based eating (for athletes not just for vegetarians and hippies). I spent the afternoon/evening packing and trying to mentally prepare for the race and reading and watching Forks Over Knives. It's so good it's scary. I HIGHLY recommend it. Oh and I went to Life Alive for dinner. :)

Sunday morning I got up at 3:30am and loaded my car to head up to South Berwick for the race. I ate breakfast and had a cup of tea. I tried to relax and reassure myself that I would do awesome, but I always get pre-race jitters and I felt like I was going to vomit. It took me a little more than an hour to get to the race and then there was a huge line for body marking and check in and the race was going to begin in less than an hour and I still hadn't even racked my bike or set up my transition. Freaking out.

I got everything and started to set up my transition area and they were making announcements for the pre-race meeting down on the beach. I still hadn't filled my water bottles or put on my wetsuit or peed one last time. Freaking out. I scrambled to get everything set up just as I was kicked out of the transition area. Got down to the beach and there was so much fog over the water that the buoys were not visible. Not sure if this helped me freak out less or made me freak out more because I couldn't see how far we had to swim. They ended up delaying the start of the race for 45minutes due to the fog for safety. So, I had to stand there ALONE FREAKING OUT!!!! And shivering because it was cold!

Finally, the fog lifted and we could see the buoys and they started the race. Heart now pounding in my chest, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. The first wave was sent off with a cannon blast that scared the crap out of me and then each wave afterwards had 3 minutes between them and then the race director yelled, "GO! GO! GO!" into a megaphone. I was in the last wave. Before I knew it, I was swimming and I had started my very first half ironman. I tried to just think of it as another triathlon, just a little longer.

I was a little congested and had trouble breathing which made the swim even more difficult for me, but I kept moving, with the words of Dean Karnazes in my head, "Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and NEVER EVER GIVE UP!" I made it around the first lap of the double loop course and I couldn't beleive it. I felt pretty good and I was still ahead of some people and even passing people from the wave ahead of me!

I got out of the water and looked at my watch - 42 minutes! Not bad for someone that only swims in races. I thought for sure it would take me way longer. Just a giant hill to the transition and then I could get on my bike. I was a little disappointed they didn't have wetsuit strippers, but to be honest I was a little worried about a wardrobe malfunction having someone else pull my wetsuit off anyway.

I got on my bike and I was off! I LOVE the bike. I'm totally comfortable and blow past people screaming "on your left". I tried to remind myself that I was going to be out there for 56 miles though and I should save a little for the run. It was hard because I was having so much FUN! Thanks to my friends I had a new nickname and a new running/biking mantra "I AM A MACHINE! M-A-C-H-I-N-E!" So, I was singing/chanting that to myself as I powered up and over every hill past people struggling and sailed past more people on the descents with ease - watching the miles fly by on my bike computer. 10 miles, 20 miles, 28 miles, first lap done, 40 miles, only 16 to go then I get to run, 50 miles, only 6 to go. Oh and inbetween my mantra and other random thoughts I was singing Queen's 'Bicycle' to myself too. "I like to ride my bi-cycle. I like to ride my bike."

Made the turn onto the road leading to the transistion and I was WICKED excited to run! I can't remember being that happy and excited to run 13.1 miles ever, especially after biking 56 miles and swimming 1.2 miles. I saw Kim standing at the corner waiting to pace me on the run and I raced into the transition and threw on my shoes and hat and sprinted out to meet her and start the run.

I was so excited and feeling so good that I ran the first mile out of the transition at a 7:45 pace! Kim was having a hard time keeping up and I knew I couldn't maintain that pace (I can't even run a 5K that fast!). I slowed up and settled into a more reasonable pace. The miles flew by. At mile 5 Kim said she thought she was slowing me down and was going to stop and pick me back up on the second lap and run me in for the last 4 miles. I felt AMAZING and just kept going. In no time at all I was back to her and we were on our way to the finish!

We approached the turn to the finish and Kim said go get it, I'll meet you at the end. I kicked it up and sprinted in and crossed the line at 6:10! Still felt AWESOME! I DID IT! I finished my first half ironman and I could have kept going! I felt like I was on top of the world!

I still think it was a dream. I'm still riding the endorphin high 3 days later. I can't believe how far I've come in just 5 years and can't even imagine going back to the couch potato fatty mcfatterson version of myself that I don't even recognize anymore.

Here's a photo of me right when I got home, still basking in the glory of the finish:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Where did the summer go???

WOW, where is the time going???? I can’t believe how fast the days have gone by. It doesn’t seem like it has been almost 3 weeks since I last posted an update. So sorry I slacked. The good news is although I slacked on updates I have not been slacking on my training. Plus, my new job is AWESOME! I’m wicked busy and learning a ton and the people are great. What a change from the boring routine and stagnant career path I was on before. I seriously couldn’t be happier and the severance checks definitely don’t suck.

So, anyway, back to more important stuff like biking and running and races. Where I left off, I had just completed the Graniteman Triathlon and I was bummed I didn’t get a chunk of granite. I’m determined next year I WILL get a piece of that illusive stone even if I have to trip someone and take it by force (OR I’ll actually train for the swim next year). I know, I know. I said the exact same thing last year.

Well, I continued my training with after the tri with more miles on the bike and mid-week medium long runs (7+ miles) and a little strength training mixed in for fun. The weekend following the tri was supposed to be back to back Spartan Race days, but Hurricane Irene ruined that plan. I wasn’t too upset because two days before the race the organizers announced a $10 fee for parking (after already paying $50 to register for EACH day). The Sunday race got canceled and I was pretty happy about it.

Saturday my start time for Spartan was 11:30 and since there was a hurricane coming I wasn’t going to get my long run done on Sunday so I squeezed it in BEFORE I left for Spartan Race. I got up super early and ran 6 then met the Lowell Ladies for the last 10. I scrambled home and changed and my friend Scott picked me up to go to Spartan. I was in such a rush to get ready I didn’t eat or drink anything between finishing my 16 miler and leaving for Spartan Race (Epic mistake#1). The sun came out and I didn’t have sunblock on (Epic Mistake #2). We got to the race just in time for our heat to start and off we went. I did Spartan Race last year and it was a lot of fun, this year I was so angry with the organizers about the parking fee and several other changes to the race that I didn’t really enjoy myself.

The course was only about 3 miles long and last year it took me about 45-50 minutes to complete. This year it was the same distance, but the course felt a lot longer. The obstacles were kinda of lame and flimsy and there were lines at a lot of them so I skipped and opted for the 30 burpees instead. Well, after doing the first 90 burpees I was done with burpees, I did a total of somewhere between 100-150 burpees mostly because I was impatient and didn’t want to wait for a stupid obstacle that I knew I could do or because I didn’t want to risk injury falling off an 8ft wall. Last year there were ladders on the back side of the walls this year it was a straight down drop. No thanks. I walked a lot of it because the terrain was uneven and again I didn’t want to risk injury with more important races coming up. Plus, I’d be willing to bet not a single other person on the course ran 16 miles BEFORE the race. Only one water stop on the entire course, 6-7 people taken off the course injured in the time I was running it, crawling under barbed wire only 8-10 inches off the ground which was thick nasty mud on an empty stomach and severely dehydrated = not a happy camper. I finished in about 90 minutes.

When I got to the end they had gladiators with jousting poles and I just looked at the first guy and said “I have a half ironman in two weeks, if you hurt me I’ll break you.” He was nice and let me pass. I stopped at the water they had at the finish and chugged cup after cup while Scott and his son Zach waited just outside the finish area. I remembered from the previous year that water was $1.50 outside the finish area so I got my fill for “free” (cost covered by my registration fee). Oh and along the course I saw where the parking fee money went – a brand new Mercedes SUV with Spartan Race logo on it parked at the water stop. I was just glad it was over and ready for a hot shower and a nap.

The next day Hurricane Irene showed up and she was totally lame. I went for a fun run right at the peak of the storm through 40mph sustained winds and heavy rain. It wasn’t bad at all. It was wicked fun. My friend’s husband ran with me. There were a few trees down and some flooding, but no major damage.

The next week I sandwiched a nice brick workout (18m on the bike followed by a 4.5m run) on Wednesday with two 7+ mile runs on Tuesday and Thursday and rest on Monday and Friday. Then the Lowell Ladies and friends rented a house in NH for the long holiday weekend.

The house we rented was literally in the middle of nowhere, no cell service and mountains on all sides. Oh and it was on ‘Crystal Lake’. We totally should have rented some of the Friday the 13th movies for the weekend. Saturday I woke up before everyone and planned my 18 mile run. I mapped out a 9 mile loop around crystal lake that I would run twice. I left to do the first loop alone and then picked up Kim on the second lap. I should have known by the roads I picked that it would be tough. Every street ended with the word ‘hill’ or started with the word ‘mountain’. The first 5 miles were relatively flat, elevation change of about 100 feet overall. Then miles 5-7 climbed 300 feet straight up. Miles 7-9 were rolling hills back to the house and then I started the second lap with Kim. After the first mile she said “I thought you said this was the flat part”, I said “wait til you see the other side of the lake”. Although it was super hilly and challenging I felt A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Kim did great too. She kept saying I can’t believe you ran this twice!

After the run I took an ice bath and we chilled by the lake all afternoon. I was a little bored so I read the entire book ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that was on the coffee table in the cabin. Kim and her husband Bill made ribs for dinner and we played Just Dance and Wii Sports. Oh and then there were fireworks! The fireworks were so cool. I don’t usually care for them, but the sound carried across the water of the lake and echoed through the mountains for a totally different experience than your typical “oooo, aaaa, look at that one” fireworks show.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast and then we all went for a shorter 5 mile run, still very hilly, but not nearly as bad as the 9 mile loop. Again everyone spent the day at the lake. I’m not a beach person so I went kayaking with Moe and then took a nap. By 4:00 I was so bored I couldn’t take it anymore so I walked to the beach to round everyone up and see if they wanted to go into town. We piled into cars and drove to the nearest town. By the time we all got moving it was already 5:30 and I forgot it was Sunday. When we got to the town, everything was closed or closing. We went back to the house and watched a movie and had dinner. Monday we packed up after breakfast and headed home.

It was a wicked fun weekend. Lots of laughs and good times and I still squeezed in my long run. Next time we have to choose a lake house to rent that isn’t surrounded by mountains. AND we need to plan more activities and less sitting still. I can’t take just sitting on a beach doing nothing. I get bored WAY too quickly. I’d rather be doing something than sitting still.

This week I’m tapering for my half Ironman and I’m going nuts already. I did a FAST 5 miler with Kim Tuesday. We started slow and eased into it, but negative split the run and ran the last mile at an 8:30 pace. Plan for the rest of the week is one more short easy run, then rest and race.