Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My First Marathon

Oh, geez. So, it's been a month and a half since I posted last. Yikes. Guess that's what being in your last year of your PhD, looking for a job, holidays, and training for a marathon will do to you!

Anyway....about that marathon...

I successfully completed my very first full marathon last Sunday night and I am very proud of my accomplishment. I'm a marathoner!

Post-Race: Half delirious, in pain, and really freaking cold. But happy.

Pre-Race: The nerves are written all over my face.

So, here's how it all went down. Awhile back I chose the Las Vegas RnR marathon to be my first full. Originally this race was chosen because Travis's birthday was the next day and my friend and I thought it would be fun to go to Vegas, do the race, then hang out and celebrate his birthday. Somewhere along the way my friend got pregnant (she had her baby this past week, so the timing certainly would not have worked out!) so it was just me. I was fine with that. My friend Shala ended up signing up for the half, and we had some other friends come out. It ended up being a fun weekend.

With my cardio base and my fantastic coach, Lindsay, the training went pretty well and I was prepared for this race. Mentally I had a tough time with the fact that my longest run had been just shy of 20 miles, but it ended up being OK. My long runs were all done at an 8:30ish pace, so I felt that I would be able to run at an 8:30-8:45 pace for the entire marathon. I didn't quite make it at that pace, but there were several factors at play:

1) I hadn't run more than 20 miles at that pace, so I was going into no man's land for that last 10K. I really didn't know what to expect.
2) Crowds! Crowds! Crowds! RnR is seriously going to have to change this race for next year. The second half of the marathon course was the half marathon course, and the half marathoners (38,000 of them) started an hour and a half later than the marathoners (4,000 of us). You do the math. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that it was a giant Charlie Foxtrot. The half marathoners were supposed to stay to the right, but of course they didn't. Oh well! It was fun anyway. (See picture below to get an idea of the crowds)
3) I was sick. I came down with a nasty cold the night before the marathon, and woke up with all sorts of congestion and an extremely sore throat. I medicated myself appropriately and tried to put it out of my head. I didn't feel so bad once I started running, but it did start to catch up with me around mile 22. I am still getting over it.

Crowds at the start of the second half.

With all of that being said, I still was very proud of myself and my time. I finished in 3:58:02, which was faster than about 2700 other runners (four and a half hour time limit my arse). It was an hour faster than Kate Gosselin :-). Me, competitive?? No....

I did a good job of keeping my speed in check for about 15 miles, then I tried to speed up. I even made a friend on that first half and ran with him for a good 12 miles or so. He checked up on me at the end when I was HURTING and then went on to finish a few minutes before me. He's incredible; he's trying to do a marathon in each state and had done one in Baton Rouge the day before. He also did one this past weekend with a 3:48 finish time. Incredible! I also did a good job of taking in gels every 35 minutes or so, but it depended on the location of the semi-scarce water stations. My stomach did start cramping at the end, which is sort of normal for me (or maybe it was the water contaminated with parasites?), but it did slow me down a bit. Let's face it, though, everything hurts at mile 24 of a marathon. According to my Garmin I had run an extra half a mile, too, which is mentally and physically painful. I only thought that the strip was HUGE when wearing heels; it seems even longer at the end of a marathon.

Honestly, though, the worst part was right after passing the finish line. CROWDS!! All I wanted was some water, my husband and friends, and a warm place to sit. Oh, it was tortuous. I was happy though when I reunited with my supporters. They were all so proud and it felt really nice!

The marathon finishers were over to the right, and that big huge cluster is the half marathon finish line.

Me and my supportive hubby :-). I had to sit down while we were waiting for our friends to get in on the next tram! It was heavenly to sit.

My friend Shala. She was awesome for coming out to support me!!

Afterwards we celebrated at the Sugar Factory (no, getting to the Paris was not particularly fun or fast) where I got a S'more martini and a cheeseburger :-). The next day we walked around the Strip. We even ran into a few notable people!

Ha. Not really. We just took advantage of the wax museum discount for marathoners!

All in all, it was a great experience! I'm so happy I did it. Thank you to everyone for all the support!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Running Progress

I'm a numbers gal - clearly - or I would not be getting a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, right? Anyway, my point is that I like data. I think it's one of the things I really enjoy about triathlon and running. By looking at the data, it is easy to see progress. Everybody likes to see progress, right?

That's why the charts my Carmichael Training Systems coach, Lindsay, make me happy. The other day she sent me a chart showing my average mileage and average pace on the same graph. This told me that as my mileage has been increasing, my pace has been, too. That makes me happy. I'm working hard, and it's paying off. Today she sent me this beauty:

Chart of pace, mileage, and time per run.

I know it's hard to make out, but see the ride line for the last few weeks? That's my average pace per run. Very consistent. Clearly, it's way more consistent than I have been over the past five months. I really think it's due to the great runs that Lindsay has been throwing my way. The speed workout flavor for the past few weeks has been 5 minute tempo intervals. My body is learning the pace, and I'm pushing it. This is helping me get stronger pretty fast! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I need this training...

Sorry for the long absence. Things have been crazy over here, but then again, I'm thinking that's just my normal. This is a quick one, too, while I'm waiting for a computational model to finish running so I can go home for the day.

I'd say that most people think that marathon training takes an inordinate amount of time. In fact, I was one of those a few years ago (before I got into triathlons - it's all about perspective, people). Today, however, I realized something. I realized that, despite being completely underwater with school and a job search, I actually need the training time. This morning I was going crazy because my model wasn't working and I felt that I could do nothing right. Then, I stepped out the door for my tempo run and something magical happened - I completely forgot about school and my job search frustrations for a whole hour. I just let my mind get totally lost and absorbed in focusing on my run. It was fantastic.

I suppose even on days that I feel I am getting nowhere with my work, I can go for a run and feel like I have accomplished something. It's fantastic to be at a level of fitness where running is an enjoyable escape. I used to think people were crazy for saying that, but now I know.

Keep on running out there...here's to accomplishing something.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall in Colorado

This past weekend (well, earlier this week because the hubby has a weird work schedule and mine is pretty darn flexible) the hubby, dog, and I went to Estes Park for a couple of days for an anniversary trip. Although it was a month after our actual anniversary (cue the weird schedule again) we chose this date because we knew it'd be prime Aspen-changing time. If you're familiar with Aspen trees, you know that every Fall they paint a brilliant landscape in the mountains with their bright gold leaves. We had never seen the mountains in their full Fall glory, so we decided it'd be a good thing to go and do. Also, it's elk bugling time in Estes Park and the surrounding areas. Apparently the male elks "bugle" to gather more females into their harem. I guess the best bugler wins the most girls?

Aspen grove from above.

We drove out of our way to get the best views of the leaves as possible on our way up to Estes Park, did a great hike the next day, and drove through Rocky Mountain National Park all the way to Grand Lake on Trail Ridge Road on the way home. It was a fantastic trip, and the views did not disappoint. The elk sightings and bugling didn't disappoint, either. I had no clue what the bugling sounded like, so when it woke me up at 12:30 AM the first night I was positive that a pack of wild animals was coming to attack us. It wasn't until the next day that I realized what the sound had been. Seriously, I actually told Travis that a pack of hyenas was coming to attack. He promised me that they weren't hyenas and that we were safe.

The giant elk hanging out in our front yard. Travis snapped this one while I was hanging out scared in the cabin keeping our dog Wyatt company.

Back to the hike....since dogs are not allowed on the trails in RMNP, we went and did the Crosier Mountain hike. We chose the Rainbow trailhead because the trail description mentioned a "mature grove of Aspen trees". The hike climbed about 3,000 ft in a little less than 4 miles and it was beautiful, plus we only saw one other person! There were many different types of scenery. The rocks on the trail were even pretty! They were quartz maybe - with some mica or other mineral - very shimmery. We had a nice picnic sitting on a huge rock at the top, looking out across the surrounding areas. It was peaceful, and so beautiful.

Not a bad place for a picnic. I must say, the company was pretty good, too.

Friday, September 23, 2011

GU: A multi-purpose tool

During the Harvest Moon half-ironman distance triathlon this year, my last tri of the season, I was clipping along nicely. I was very happy with how I had been riding and it was looking as though I'd be able to drop about 15 minutes from my previous year's bike split, despite having crashed pretty badly two weeks prior. Then, at about mile 40, (one) of my worst fears happened: I got a flat tire during a race. I say this is one of my worst fears; it used to be my worst, but seeing as how I've crashed during two races this year, I think it's been replaced by the fear of crashing.

Anyway, I reacted rather calmly. I pulled over, dismounted the bike, and bent down to see a huge nail sticking through both sides of my back tire. I ride pretty tough tires (Gatorskins) even during a race (probably not the fastest choice), but nothing would be able to protect itself from a nail that size, at that angle. I naturally said a couple of curse words and then thought, "What the heck do I do? Do I wait for the Sag Wagon? Is my race over? Again??!!" Then, my mind flashed back to a maintenance clinic I had taken a couple years ago. I needed to put something in my tire to protect the tube a little bit. I had an empty GU wrapper on me. Perfect. I reached back and grabbed it out of my pocket, lined it up, put the tube in, applied the CO2 cartridge (my first time for this!), and got the tire back on. There was a nice athlete there who had stopped to put more air in his tire and he talked me through using the CO2 and putting the back tire back on. I had never changed a flat in a high-pressure situation, so I think I did pretty well. Adrenaline definitely makes us focus more! I had to stop a couple more times to fix the tire that I put on crooked, adjust, the brakes, etc., but I did make it back to T2, albeit slower than I thought I would be. My race wasn't really what I had hoped for because I later died on the run, but I was proud of myself for being able to react to a problem under pressure.

Post-race. The leftover GU was oozing through the tire. Blueberry Pomegranate Roctane, anyone??

Hopefully this situation never happens to you, but if it does, remember: keep calm and do what you know how to do (practice first, of course). Also remember that GU has more than one use!

The GU packet did the trick!

Post-race Team Trainright picture. I had too many blisters on my feet to go change clothes, clearly.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Last Tri of the Season

So, tomorrow morning I will be lining up to race the Harvest Moon half-iron distance triathlon. I'm really not sure what tomorrow will hold since my tailbone bruise is still making itself known. It has gotten much better, even since a couple of days ago. I think the massage I got on Tuesday and the quick chiro adjustment I got really helped to loosen up the tight muscles in that area, which were probably bothering me more than I knew. I'm hoping for the best and am just making it my goal to try to enjoy the day as much as possible.

Sometimes we get wrapped up in all of the pressure of wanting to do well in this sport, and I think we forget that it is really supposed to be something enjoyable. We were attracted to this sport for a number of reasons, but we keep doing it because we fall in love with it. I'm going to try to keep that in mind tomorrow, especially at about mile 40 of the bike, and miles 7 through 11 of the run (basically the mentally tough parts). I am also going to try not to crash.

It seems like yesterday that I was preparing for the real start of my tri season here in Denver. Time flies! It's been a good season, complete with a lot of ups and downs.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Crash Landing - Again

So, the Steamboat Tri did not turn out how I had hoped. I new that there was a chance I could podium at this event, so I was going for it. I felt like my swim was great. The time was 22:15, and that was good for 8th overall and 2nd for the women. I was only beat out by about 10 seconds by that woman because we were swimming side by side from the last buoy. In fact, she had apparently been drafting off of me until we hit that last buoy, when she decided she'd try to pass me. I refused to let her. Bam.

T1 was good (1:24), probably because I wanted to keep my good position and because my new coach had me actually spend 10 minutes practicing my transitions! I need to do this more often. That way I won't forget things like leaving my shoes untied....anyways, I was off to a good start on the bike. It felt good, aside from the awful chip seal they had put on a good portion of the road 5 days prior to the race which made it incredibly bumpy. Then, right at about mile 9, I hit a huge manhole and crashed. Hard. I didn't see it at all due to the nice concrete lip covering it, and there was probably a 3 inch drop onto the actual cover. I had no chance. I was so mad. It really should have been marked as an obstacle. Fortunately, the sheriff who came to help me after he had helped another woman who fell on a similar obstacle right before this one completely agreed. He said he couldn't believe they weren't marked and then went to his car to grab some cones to place on them.

I was so, so upset. How could this happen again?? At least I wasn't the only one. There was a guy ahead of me who crashed, broke HIS COLLARBONE, and still completed the race. Another guy after the race told me that his arm rest had snapped in half after taking on that manhole. Crazy! It really was the race organizer's responsibility to mark those things, and they had failed. I took about 10 minutes to get over the nausea and decide that I would still be finishing the race. I had been in a great position - only one girl in my age group had passed me, so I was in second place prior to the crash as far as I knew. After the crash I was pretty far back, but I was determined to not have another DNF by crash again this season.

The aftermath. Not really sure how I landed so that I bruised my tailbone AND have a huge raspberry on my shoulder...

The rest of the race was just a blur of trying to block out the pain I was feeling in my tailbone area. The run did not feel great, and was significantly slower than my other runs this season. I was being pretty hard on myself during the remainder of the race, but I shouldn't have been. I was hurting. I also had a nice rip in my shorts - it wasn't attractive, but it made me look bada**, especially with my brand new road rash and blood dripping down my leg. I finished. I toughed it out, mentally. I suppose I can be proud of that.

Now, time to heal up before Harvest Moon on September 11. Fingers crossed!!