Monday, September 28, 2009

Miracle Miles 15k - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Worth It

Note: The Miracle Miles 15k and 5k are organized each year to benefit The Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies; specifically the babies in NICU. Great cause.

I was not supposed to run this race. I had no plans to run this race. In fact, I should have been in Augusta, Georgia for the inaugural Augusta 70.3. But I wasn't. The past week has not been the best one I've ever logged in the books. So when a friend said

"Come on. Just do it with us."

I decided I would run. The "us" was three of my Nation's Triathlon teammates. And they were planning to run this race in style. How could I resist showing up with this crew... purple capes, purple glasses, and the stockings!!

It's been since February that I had run more than 6.2 miles in one shot, but I figured a little physical discomfort might do me some good. So less than 24 hours before the starting gun, I signed up and became bib #1446. The starting gun sounded at 7:00 A.M. and thus began ...

... The Good (aka miles 1-3)

The start was great. Even though it was muggy, the sun wasn't quite up yet so it wasn't hot. I positioned myself in the perfect spot at the start so I didn't have to zig-zag around too many people running slower than me. I thought

"This isn't going to be so bad"

and ran on. I wanted to get as far as I could before the sun came up too much - I was already drenched by the first half-mile. A glance at my watch as I passed each mile mark told me I was starting out too fast but I didn't pay attention. I was feeling great! But right around the corner was ...

... The Bad (aka miles 4-7)

Somewhere between miles four and five, I quit sweating and got goosebumps. This is bad as it's an indicator of starting to become dehydrated. I know I don't drink enough water. You'd think I'd learn. How many times do I have to repeat the same mistake? I thought

"This isn't going to be so good"

But I ran on. I have to say this is a pretty boring course. I think we made all of three or four turns and running down Michigan and then Orange Ave is the worst. I got more than just little cranky with myself every now and again.

I didn't have my iPod and since there was NOTHING to look at, the only entertainment I had was me. Sooooo, I started thinking. (yes, feel free to insert here a joke at my expense) Which lead to ...

... The Ugly (aka miles 8-9)

I started crying. There's no other way to say it. I'm not sure exactly what triggered it. Events of the last year? Events of the last week? Uncertainties of the future? All of the above? I don't know. What I do know is that it's darn near impossible to run and cry at the same time because the whole breathing thing tends to not work so well. I thought

"This most definitely is not good"

I ended up walking for a couple minutes until I pulled myself back together. Then I ran on, which brought me to ...

... The Worth It (aka the finish)

Surprisingly, the last 0.3 was easy. I picked up the pace and finished strongly. I crossed the finish in 1:27:07, which was less than my goal time, and was handed my medal. Looking at it I had the "you are so lucky. this was totally worth it." moment. On the medal are a set of baby footprints. Not just any prints; but prints in the actual size of a 14 ounce baby.

I met a number of children that day who were born weighing less that two pounds. Some were even closer to one pound. So tiny, and yet they are now big and thriving thanks to the care received at Winnie (previously Arnold) Palmer Hospital. I also met more than one parent whose baby didn't make it.

Once again I am reminded of my fortune. I have two wonderful, healthy boys that I (most times) love and adore. And (most times) they love and adore me back. My problems and concerns are very real and very valid. But they are miniscule compared to the moms and dads who worry that their little one will be gone far too soon.

I will keep slogging forward one day at a time. I know there are good, bad, and ugly days ahead. But I also know, at some point, that I will look back and say

It was worth it.

Thanks LK for suggesting I run. I owe you.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Nation's Triathlon - September 13, 2009

Note from me: Grab a drink. This one is kind of long.

Let me start off by saying that I love The Nation's Triathlon. It is truly a first rate event, well organized, well run. If I didn't know it, I would not have guessed that the field doubled in size from 3,000 last year to 6,000 this year. Last year was my first time at this race and this year won't be my last .... look for me in 2010. The Nation's Triathlon - Registration 2010

I can't talk about the weekend without talking about Team In Training (TNT). What a wonderful, fulfilling adventure it has been to be associated with such a great organization. There were almost 600 TNT athletes there, and together we raised over $2.4 million for cancer research and patient services.

If ever you are interested in training for a marathon, triathlon or century bike ride (100 miles), please consider Team In Training. Beginners and advanced athletes both reap the rewards and the ultimate winners are those helped by our efforts.

Find a local chapter of TNT today!

On to race weekend:

We arrived Friday morning to cold and rain. We all looked at each other and said, "Ummm. Its supposed to be sunny and in the 80's." No matter - you can't control the weather. Acknowledge and move on. Friday we had to attend our race briefing and pick up our race packets. The race packets had our race numbers and race bibs and important information. When I picked mine up, the volunteer put on my athlete's wristband. I looked at it and said

Is it okay that my race number and this number are completely different?

The answer is no. He had accidentally given me the wrong packet and number, which would have been very, very bad. Nothing like racing under someone else's number and not having the race count! I told myself that I would always double-triple check my number from now on.

That night, as a team, we went to dinner at Clyde's in Georgetown. Good food, good service, good atmosphere. I highly suggest it if you are in the area. Not to mention, it's across the street from Nine West (shoes!)

Saturday was a big day: Racking our bikes and the practice swim.

Our bikes were shipped from Orlando, so we had to pick them up and put our pedals back on before we could rack them in the transition area. The bikes would sit there, guarded, overnight. The transition area for this race was CRAZY with a capital HOLY COW! With 6,000 entrants, this race is one of the largest in the country and transition was over 240,000 square surface feet. To put it in perspective, that's about 1.5 times your average Super WalMart. I found my spot in Row 48, racked my bike, said goodbye and went off to the practice swim.

Swimming in the Potomac. It really isn't bad like people think. In fact, it's cleaner than some lakes I've swam in lately. But brrrr! It was cold! I guessed it to be about 74 degrees. Yes, I had a wetsuit on ... but still! Earlier in the week, I had been swimming in 86 degree water so it's a bit of a shock to the system. People from places like Michigan and New Jersey said we were wimps. I give that a big eyeroll! It's all relative I suppose.

Before the our practice swim, we took a team picture in our wetsuits. I have to say, it turned out to be a pretty cool picture. We all look like toughies!

That night was our inspirational dinner. At this meal, a young man spoke to us about his battle with Leukemia. He was travelling abroad with family and ended up being diagnosed in Rome with a fast growing type of Leukemia. It was so aggressive he was only weeks away from Stage 4, and hadn't even known he was sick.  He told us when things got tough during his treatment, his mantra was

You can do this. Just keep going!

I knew more than a few people in that room would be thinking about him and his inspiring words the next day. Myself included.

Then it was off to bed because we had to get up on Sunday at 3:15. In the morning. I am not a morning person. I'm just saying. The alarm went off, I said a few choice words, and dragged myself from bed. We met down in the lobby at 4:00 and were on the transportation bus by 4:30-ish. I was definitely awake and getting excited by then.

When we got there, we got body marked with our race number and picked up our timing chip. Each person is assigned a specific chip with their number, and it starts timing when your swim wave starts. We then set up our transition area under out bikes. Then we waited, and waited, and waited.

The race began at 7:00 with swim waves starting every three minutes. My start time was 8:03. As I was waiting in the swim pen with the other women in my age group (35-39), I realized that the wave behind us was Men 25-29. Great, I thought. I'm going to get bumped and swam over by a bunch of young pups. Still don't understand why they did that.

And here is how the race went:

My wave jumped in the water at 8:00 for an 8:03 swim start. Official race day water temperature was 72.3 degrees. I could've lived without knowing that. At 8:03, the horn sounded and we were off! We swam parallel to the shore and underneath the Memorial Bridge. Just before the first left turn, I could see the Lincoln Memorial every time I took a breath. Swimming cross river to the second left turn, where I could see Mount Vernon. It was here that some of the young bucks caught up to me. I got bumped and pushed a bit, but held my own. Back under the Memorial Bridge and to the finish line was a little difficult because the sun was coming up. This made it hard to sight the course markers.

But I swam my heart out, and as I hit the exit ramp my watch said 32:36. WHAT? Impossible. I've never swam one kilometer that fast! I was super excited, but knew there would be additional time added to my swim for how long it took me to run to transition.

  • 2009 one kilometer swim + run to transition: 33:42
  • 2008 one kilometer swim + run to transition: 36:08
  • Time gained: 2:26

Coming out of the water, I ran up the river bank, across the street and through the chute into transition. Peeling my wetsuit off the whole way, I began thinking about what needed to be done once I made it to my bike. When I got there, I noticed none of the other bikes were gone from my rack yet. That meant I was first of that group of women out of the water. Kind of neat. Took a fuel gel, put on my bike shoes, and tried to put on my helmet. My ponytail and my helmet decided to fight and it took a bit to set them both straight. But then I was running with my bike out of transition to the bike mount line.

  • 2009 Transition 1 time: 4:06
  • 2008 Transition 1 time: 3:54
  • Time gained: -0:12  I am not upset by the 12 second loss because transition was so much bigger

The bike course was, how do you say, interesting. There were a lot of potholes and patched parts of the road, which means lots of bumping and rattling of bikes. As such, tons of water bottles bounced out of their cages and were all over the road. I saw one guy walking back to the start carrying his bike in one hand and the entire crank (pedals and all) in the other. A TNT member from another chapter hit a bottle, crashed, and broke her leg. And another guy I met hit a bottle, crashed, and got back on his bike. But when he did, the frame completely snapped in half. Race over. :(

The bike course changed this year. I knew that but didn't really pay attention to the actual route because the volunteers direct you when you need to turn. Last year the bike portion was relatively flat. Flat enough that even someone from Florida says

Yeah. It's pretty flat.

Famous last words. There were hills on this course. Now you Northerners would probably call them "slight rises", but when you live at sea level the hills might as well have been mountains! Fortunately we train in an area that is hilly (yes, its true. there's even a mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain. See it here.) So it wasn't hard on me physically, I just wasn't mentally prepared for it.

I have an aerobottle on my handle bars for water, and there's a duck pouf that helps keep the water in. The duck and I; we talked on those hills. Our conversation went like this

Me: Duck, this hill wasn't here last year.
Duck: (smiley stare)
Me: Duck, why does there have to be a headwind going up the hill?
Duck: (smiley stare)
Me: You know what, Duck? I'm passing a lot of people. I feel pretty good about that.
Duck: (smiley stare)
Me: Duck, you aren't very talkative. Are you trying to keep from bouncing out on these horribly patched roads?
Duck: (smiley stare)

Duck is the strong silent type. Before I knew it, I was approaching transition and the dismount line. With a quick check of my watch, I realized I was doing great on time!

  • 2009 40 kilometer bike: 1:18:31 (19.0 mph)
  • 2008 40 kilometer bike: 1:22:10 (18.1 mph)
  • Time gained: 3:39

Into transition to rack my bike, fuel up, change shoes and get running!

  • 2009 Transition 2: 3:38
  • 2008 Transition 2: 5:02
  • Time gained: 1:24

The run course was different this year two. Last year ended with the Capitol building as the backdrop. But it was also miles from transition - yuck! I was glad that we ended close to transition this year. The run was great. The temperature was good, I felt strong, my legs quickly lost the jello feeling from being on the bike. The support from Team In Training fans was really strong. I couldn't go more than 100 feet without someone yelling encouragement. GO TEAM is the rally cry. 

I was super proud of myself because I did not walk through a single water stop. I just grabbed my cup and drank on the run. This is a big deal for me because in my first marathon I slipped, fell, and twisted my ankle when I slid on a cup. At mile nine I thought all my training had been for nothing. I finished, but not without pain. I swore after that to never run through a water stop again. Never say never!

I was focused on the run, and don't really remember the sites along the way. But I do remember coming around a bend and seeing the finish line. Part of me wanted to sprint and finish fast, and part of me wanted to take it slow and savor the moment. Of course, I kicked it up a notch and finised with a nice kick!

  • 2009 10 kilometer run: 56:49 (9:10 per mile)
  • 2008 10 kilomter run: 1:10:00 (11:18 per mile)
  • Time gained: 13:11

As you can see, I gained a lot of time at each stage of this race. In fact, I completed it 21:16 faster than last year. I beat my personal best by 9:31. A successful race, I would say! Which is why I was so excited to get the print out of my times. Imagine my surprise when I told the timing folks my race number and they told me I never started the race! Ummm ... pretty sure I did, folks! Long story short, I was given a timing chip with THE WRONG NUMBER! That whole checking my number thing came back to bite me again! But they figured out the problem and fixed it right away. Class act!
  • 2009 Total time: 2:56:44
  • 2008 Total time: 3:17:11
  • Time gained: 21:05
Again, I can't rave enough about this race. So much fun. And the best part isI got to improve on my "Tri Tan"

Thanks again to all those that made this race possible; to all those who supported me in training .. emotionally and financially. This was a great experience and I wouldn't have traded it for they world!

See you next year!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Just When You Least Expect It

I didn't think I was going to blog again before leaving for D.C. and The Nation's Tri. But then I received the swift kick of "get over yourself" that I needed. And it came from out of the blue.

I had a friend in high school that, until about three years ago, I hadn't spoken to in years; literally since graduation. I'll call him Running P. I'm not sure how we got back in touch but, when we did, Running P and I discovered we both enjoyed training and competing in marathons, triathlons, what-have-you. This was of great surprise to Running P because, in high school, I smoked (yes mom & dad, the full admission you've been waiting for all these years) and was the farthest thing from an "athlete" you could imagine.

Running P and I touch base every now and again. But it can be months between e-mails. And wouldn't you know I heard from him today. We FB messaged back and forth and I invited him to read my blog. I got a message back from him about my feelings of not being ready to race. His message reminded me why I started doing all this endurance stuff to begin with. He said:

I just read your blog and yes I have felt that way many times prior to many races. I often think to myself why do I do this? And one day the answer came to me that I do these races because I can. It's a blessing to have one's health. I've taken my health for granted until my wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It just kind of put everything in perspective. Here I am complaining about (or feeling stressed about) race results when there are people all over the world who either aren't physically able to race or live in areas too dangerous to race. We should be grateful for the opportunity/responsiblity we have to physically perform to the best of our abilities.

WHAM! There it is.   

Three years ago I started this endeavor to raise money for cancer research and patient services. Every morning I get up and can make a choice of what I'm going to do that day (Ha! See? Choice. Decision. Outcome.) I have the option, the luxury, of testing and strengthening my body to do something I love. I can choose to workout. Or not. I can choose to quit when it gets hard. Or not.

I am lucky. Others are not so fortunate. They wake up in the morning and the only choice they have is have their body pumped full of chemo in hopes of killing the cancer that's eating them from the inside. Or to watch as doctor's poke and prod and stick needles in their child, all the while praying it's worth it, that they'll get more time with their little one.

So no more complaining. No more feeling sorry for myself. No more worrying about whether I'll set a personal record. Instead I will wake up on Sunday grateful that I can be there. Thankful my body is well enough and strong enough to swim a mile, bike 26 miles, and run 6.2 miles. It may suck. It may not be my best. But I'm going to give it everything I have. I owe it to those that can't.

The world works in mysterious ways. It brings you answers to questions you didn't even know you had. Keep your ears alert and your mind open. Because you never know what can happen just when you least expect it.

Choice. Decision. Outcome.

A lot of things, in fact most things, come down to those three words. We have choices presented to us, we make a decision, and we have to live with the outcome. Good or bad.

  • Choice
  • Decision
  • Outcome

I'm sure there's even some mathematical or probability equation that defines the order of the events. Something like:

(this is actually the equation for something that I don't know & is for illustration purposes only!)

As I am getting ready to go to Washington D.C. for The Nation's Triathlon, I am not feeling ready. Not one bit. Not even close. This is not a good feeling to have five days before a race. And so I've tried to figure out why I don't feel ready. I had a good base and I've done the training. Right??

Yeahhhh. About that. Maybe not so much. Something happened to me this season that drained all the Oomph! from me. The fire in my belly to train more, train harder, died somewhere along the way. Was it the personal issues I've had? Was it selling my house and moving? Was it the never-ending fundraising? Was it the stress of an increased work load when my coordinator was out for two months? Maybe it was all of that plus stuff in my sub-psyche that I don't even know about yet.

What I do know is that I slacked off on my cycling and tapered off on my running. About the only thing I did regularly was swim; and I'm certainly not gaining any race time there. When I jump in the Potomac River on September 13, I have no idea what to expect from body. I might do great or I might slug my through it praying for the end. Hell I might bonk.

I look back and I'm a little disappointed in myself. Maybe I could've carved out more time. Maybe I could've made less excuses. But I chose not to. I made a decision to put training off. And now the outcome just might be a poor race performance.

At this point, there's nothing I can do to make up for it. I'm at a certain fitness level and that's what I'll have to work with during the race. I don't know if I'll beat my personal best of 3:05 and I'm not even sure I'll beat my time of 3:17:11 from Nation's Triathlon last year. So now I have a new choice presented to me:

  • Choice - Play it safe? Or push it to the limit?
  • Decision - Balls out the whole way
  • Outcome - Time will tell

Stay tuned ......

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Buyer's Remorse

We've all felt it. That kind of sick feeling you get in your stomach after you've made a big purchase. Whether you bought something and now have to find a way to pay for it, or you saved up and wonder if you bought the right thing .... it's all the same result.

Buyer's Remorse: A feeling of guilt associated with doubts about the advisability of a purchase decision that one experiences after making an expensive purchase. (

I haven't bought anything, per se. But I did make a commitment and will have to pay the piper. I have signed up for the ING Miami Marathon racing on January 31, 2010.

As soon as I clicked "register" I thought:
What have I done??
I have started and finished three full marathons and after the last one swore I'd never do another. I haven't been very fast - my best to date is a 5:45. That's a long time to be out there slogging through the miles. It's tough mentally and physically. And don't even get me started on the Saturday morning ice baths.
I should know better than to use the word "never".

I have a friend who has been very inspirational to me. She is a wonderful, dedicated, funny, determined.... a truly great person from the inside out. It also happens that her full marathon time was slower than mine. Until she ran NYC Marathon last year. She trained in a different manner, lost a considerable amount of weight, and absolutely CRUSHED her previous fastest time. She also killed mine. Which got my competitive side thinking ...... I can't let that happen .... maybe I have another marathon in me.

Since then, I have lost 45 pounds, competed in two Oly-distance triathlons (#3 is Sept 13), and run three half marathons. I've cut 30 minutes off my half marathon time so that now I can complete one in about two hours. Which means an under five hour marathon is possible. Because of this, a little tiny voice in the back of my head has been chanting, "do it. do it. do it. do it."

And it's that little devil that made me click on the Register! radio button. Even knowing what lies ahead (the training, the sore muscles, the blisters, the early Saturday mornings), my buyer's remorse lasted only a few moments.

But the satisfaction of running, completing and obtaining a PR at the ING Miami Marathon? Ahhh, yes. The satisfaction will last a lifetime.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How's the Weather?

I don't like to run when it's hot. I mean I reallyyyyy don't like to run when it's hot. This presents a problem from me since I live in Florida and it's almost always hot. And humid. I would rather run when it's 55 and overcast than when it's 80+ and sunny. I have lots of friends that think I'm crazy, but then that's nothing new.
A couple days ago, I was out on a short three mile run. It was 94 degrees, sunny, and I was sweating my ass off.

It's a good kind of sweat!
my friends say. I agree because it makes me feel good. When I'm done. But if I'm running farther than five miles, I start to complain.
I'm hot. Dude, it's hot. Holy cow it's hot!

So while out on my three mile jaunt I started to think about why I so detest running in the heat. I mean, I'm going to have to live with it unless I plan to move someplace like New York. Or Montana. Does anyone live there? (note: 2008 census says 967,440 wackos live in Montana)

I gave this much thought; at least as much thought as one can give during a 25 minute run. The following conclusions have been made:

1. I don't drink enough water. Anyone who knows me probably could've guessed that one. Therefore, I start every hot run already partially dehydrated. Throw in a good sweat and sun beating down, and it becomes a suck-fest.

2. Sports bras make me hot. The tight band around my rib cage bothers me and makes me feel like I'm over-heating. Honestly, I probably don't even need one anymore but modesty dictates I should wear it. Which is funny in itself because anyone who's ever trained for an endurance race knows all about peeing in the woods.

3. I've convinced myself I hate running in the heat. I am my own worst enemy. It's a mental thing that I need to get over. I know the power of thinking when it comes to this sport. If I tell myself I am uncomfortable, then of course I will be. If I tell myself it's not a big deal, then it won't be. End of story.

So if you see some chick running down the street with bouncing boobies, carrying water, and muttering, "It's not hot. It's not hot", that would be me. Give me a wave and shout of encouragement. Let me know it's a good kind of sweat.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

To Blog or Not to Blog

That is the question. Often I've been asked if I blog my workouts. It usually goes like this:

Person: Do you blog your workouts?
Me: No.
Person: Really? You should!
Me: Why?
Person: I don't know. Just because that's what you do!

 Huh. Okay. Although I read a few other blogs, I've never entered into the arena myself. What's the point? After all, I will be the only one who reads it. I mean, why would anyone else care to read about my workouts? Or about "what's going on with me"? Do I really want to let the world know my deep dark personal business?

Plus there's the whole actual writing business. I've read some pretty eloquent, thought provoking, interesting blogs. Mine will probably end up more like:

Haven't blogged in forever. Nothing new. Ran a little. It's hot in Florida. The End.

Thrilling. I think I could win some awards with that. Actually, the more I think about it ... I've never told a short story in my life. So the blog will be more like this:

Haven't blogged in forever. I've been caught up doing ..... blah blah blah

And the blah blah blah will go on for five paragraphs when I could've said it in one sentence.

Then I decided, you know what? Screw it. I'm going to do it. I control what I say, when I say it, and who can read it. It will be interesting to read down the road to see my challenges, foibles, and state of mind. And to see how much (or even if!) I've grown as a person and an athlete.

So welcome to my very pink page! I may change that .... it's kind of annoying. Enjoy!