What’s Ahead for 2015

Just wanted to do a quick post to write down my 2015 plans and a few goals, so here they are in no particular order….

1.  Complete a marathon (not in misery) – done 1/25/2015 Time: 4:30:17

2.  Complete an Olympic distance triathlon – yep, that little oversleeping incident last year means that I haven’t actually finished an Oly.  I will be racing the Lake Logan Oly August 9th, 2015.

3. Finish NOLA 70.3 April 19th, 2015 in the same time or better than I did Augusta 70.3 2014 – the swim isn’t downstream, so I have some time to make up on the swim, so I’m not looking to necessarily beat it, just want to at least meet it.

4. Complete at least 1 century ride – need to figure out which one to do or do my own 😉

5.  I will be attending Peak Racing Team’s IMFL camp this year in September ( http://peakracingteam.com/pcb_camp/ ) – I have some work to do before then to prepare for the camp since it is a 140.6 camp

6.  Attend the Peak Racing Team’s Gaps camp ( http://peakracingteam.com/gaps_camp/ ) and complete the rides.  I am honestly more concerned about completing the rides at this camp than I am about anything else on this list.  I don’t know that I’ll be quite ready to do this in March, but we’ll see.

7.  Run a 5K in under 25 minutes – yeah, that’s going to be a challenge.  I originally thought 26, but I’ve come pretty close to that in the middle of a half marathon, so if it doesn’t scare you, you’re not setting your goals high enough, right?  I have a 5K in March which will be my first in almost 2 years, so it’s time to set a new PR.  I’m hoping to be under 26 minutes at it.

8.  Register for an Ironman for 2016 – the idea of this no longer scares me, which makes me question my sanity.

9. Finish Augusta 70.3 in under 6:05 – um, yeah, not sure if that’s crazy or what.  That’s taking just over 20 minutes off my time of 6:25:39 from last year. I’m hoping to take off about 13-15 on the bike, 5-7 on the run, and maybe 1-2 on the swim, so we shall see.

10. Finish Raleigh 70.3 in under 6:30 in May 2015.  Since this one is only a month after NOLA, no big plans here….just looking to finish.

11. Finish the Marine Corp Marathon in under 4:15 – This could be hard considering it’s only a month after Augusta, but we’ll see.

12. Finish 2015 injury free!

 

 

 

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Take That Marathon! You Didn’t Defeat Me! (Part 3)

THE RACE AND MENTAL BATTLE

As our corral reached the starting line, Angela and I told each other good luck one last time, and we were off.  I was immediately having to slow myself down, so I eased to the right hand side of the road to get out of the middle of the crowd.  This is typically where I find myself anyway in longer races because I don’t like to get caught up in the pace of the crowd since I prefer to start slower and pick up the pace later.  The middle also always seems to be faster than what the corral seeding would suggest unless you move to the edge, so off to the right side of the road is where I usually settle in for the first few miles.

Mile 1 wound through the Warehouse District of NOLA and the road had a camber to it that seemed to be aggravating my IT band immediately, so I started questioning within that first mile what I was planning on doing, and if I should make the decision then to ditch the full and just go ahead and try for a PR in the half (yes, this actually ran through my head).  Then, I wondered if it was just my mind trying to convince me that my IT band was bugging me, and maybe I was just having flashbacks to Albany and was SCARED of a repeat of that misery (I really think this was my problem).  Soon, the crowd thinned out enough that I could move back towards the center of the road where the road leveled slightly.  My attempt to keep my run around a 10 minute mile wasn’t working.  It seemed to be creeping closer to a 9:30 mm, so I finally just went with it because that was where my pace felt comfortable (not really a recommended method for marathons, but then again, neither is any of this) and my heart rate was where I thought it needed to be for the first part of the race (z1/low z2).

Around the end of mile 1, we came out on St. Charles Ave for what would be the next 6 1/2 miles of an out and back portion.  St. Charles Ave is a street divided by trolley tracks and grass in the middle island.  The road is at a camber from the center island to the right edge of the road.  Now, I couldn’t get to a level section.  For about the next mile, this messed with my head, until I noticed people running on the hard packed, level dirt in the middle of the trolley tracks.  Maybe it was all mental, but as soon as I moved to the trolley tracks, my IT band started feeling better.  I kept an eye out for the 5K and 10K timing mats and made sure I moved to the road as I approached them, and I finally took my first water cup and added an ounce of Osmo at the 3 mile mark even though I didn’t really want to since I’d already stopped in the first 2 miles at a gas station to use the bathroom (gas stations and stores are quicker than porta potty lines, just sayin’).  I essentially ran on the trolley tracks’ packed dirt for the next 6 miles until we moved off St Charles Ave.  I realized at that point (mile 8ish) I hadn’t drank anything other than that 1 cup of water.  Time to start thinking!

As soon as we were off St. Charles, I started noticing the IT band again, and I started hearing Coach Chuck ( http://www.peakracingteam.com ) in my head telling me to run smart.  That was the last advice he’d PM’d me at 5:55AM that morning.  Over the next 4 miles, Coach Chuck and I had a really long (surprisingly not one sided) conversation.  I was getting lectured a lot about my lack of hydration, but it didn’t seem to help.  It wasn’t hot, and I already felt the need to pee again, so I didn’t want to hydrate (not the best logic).  I did grab one more cup and added Osmo around mile 9 or 10, so I was up to maybe 6 ounces.  That’s better than I usually do for a half Chuck, so you should be happy!  He was also reminding me that I had a big season ahead, and I didn’t need to get my training derailed at the beginning of tri season.  That one kept playing over and over in my head.  Risk injury for a marathon, or go into this tri season healthy?  Listen to your body.  Around mile 10 just after we passed Cafe Du Monde (YUMMY!), we passed the open air market, and I caught a glimpse of a bathroom sign, so I ducked in the restroom there (score #2, no porta potty & no line!).  The next couple of miles seemed like some of the longest in my mind.  I was still debating what I should do.  If I did go for it and hurt myself, then what was going to be Chuck’s response?  How ticked off was I going to be at myself?  Was I going to end up walking 10 miles again?  If I’m going to run the full, I want it to be a good run, not that I just finished.  I want to finish feeling good, not miserable.  I still don’t even count Albany, and I’m still ticked at myself for doing it.

ARRGGHHHH!!!!! There’s the split!  Just after mile 12, the cones and signs appeared.  I could go straight and be done, or I could turn left and commit.

Nola split

Point of no return? Maybe?

I stopped to dig out my phone, snap a photo, and post to Facebook since I knew I had friends stalking tracking me.  I simply posted the photo with the comment “choices?”  With a deep breath, I turned left and headed for the full, and literally, as soon as the course completely split, I started considering turning around and going back.  Two ladies did turn back.  I’m not sure if they misunderstood the split or why, but they were turning around.  I briefly though about joining them, but I continued.

This was another little out and back section, and it was starting to heat up a tad.  This is when Chuck really started reminding me about hydration.  You’ve pretty much sucked at it the first half, and now you’ve committed to the full, it’s time to HYDRATE!  I grabbed another cup of water somewhere along this portion, and I caught a glimpse of Angela as she was coming back in on the other side of the road around mile 14.  She gave me a quick shout out and said something to the effect of “you went for it!”  I think I just shrugged and threw my arms out to the side saying, “we’ll see.”  I was around mile 13 and still unsure of how intelligent my decision was.  As I approached the 14 mile marker, I decided to stop at this point, take another photo and update my stalkers trackers.

Nola 14

“Must have missed my turn” was my only comment with the post

At this point, I was committed, no turning back, and now my running buddies were definitely watching.  They’d seen what I went through at Albany.  They knew I wanted this, and now I’d made the decision to go for it.  It could all fall apart with the lack of road miles I’d put in, or the lack of road miles and lack of pounding the pavement could actually work for me.  They know I like to run negative splits, and I felt pretty good at this point.  The IT band was noticeable, but I had decided it wasn’t any worse than normal, and it wasn’t getting worse as the race went on.  I almost felt a little too good at this point.  It actually crossed my mind to ditch the run/walk, and to see if I could get close to a sub-2 on the second half of the marathon.  That’d be a HUGE negative split, and it was actually very enticing to try it, BUT there was that little thing about running smart and wanting to stay injury free and the lack of miles that quickly squashed that thought, so I decided to just pick up the pace some, but keep it comfortable, and keep the run/walk.  A negative split marathon was definitely in my mind and sights though.  I’d ran the first half in 2:20ish which was very conservative.  I felt good, and I wanted to finish strong.  I started thinking about the numbers, and figured I might be able to swing under 4:40, maybe 4:35.

The next several miles went around the city park and out by Lake Pontchatrain.  Around mile 19, a lady looking at her watch weaved over to her right and cut me off.  I had to take an odd step, and my knee felt like it almost buckled under me.  I had a couple of off steps immediately after it, refocused on my form, pulled it together, and I was fine, but it made me acutely aware of my IT band again though.  As I approached mile 20, I realized I had already made it 4 miles farther running than at Albany, and I was still feeling really good.  “Just a 10K left! That’s a short run for us, right?”  I probably should have kept my upbeat thoughts to myself because I’m pretty sure the people around me were not as excited about having only 6 miles left as I was.  No one responded, but I got a little more pep in my step knowing it was that close.  Now, I needed to take in some fuel since I hadn’t the entire race, and I was approaching 3 1/2 hours, but my stomach had started gurgling a little bit, so I decided to forgo the Gu and Ucan, and I decided on the Justin’s Maple Almond Nut Butter since it was real food, and I thought it had the best chance of settling on my stomach well.  Almost immediately after taking it, my stomach seemed to settle some, and I grabbed some more water and used the last of my Osmo. Between mile 20 & 21 was the final turn around!  I just had to run back over the 2 small hills I’d just came over, then it should be a straight shot into the park.

Mile marker 23, and we were at the park.  A marathon maniac that had been running next to me on and off for the last few miles said, “3 miles left, we run that everyday.”  I had to giggle after the lack of response I got earlier from the 10k remark.  We chatted for a second, then I had a walk break.  This was about the time that I finally realized that I might actually be able to come in under 4:30, but my IT band was also starting to bug me more, and this WASN’T my mind playing tricks on me.  I decided I’d maintain the pace, and in the last mile, I’d skip my walk breaks if the IT band was holding up.  Mile 24, I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and water and mixed the two, and that was the last time I took any fluids.

As I approached mile marker 25, I checked my watch, and I knew I was on target that if I skipped the walk break, I could break 4:30, but if I did walk, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it or not because I had paused my watch earlier for a potty stop, so I wasn’t sure of how off it was.  Either way, it had been a great marathon, I had a PR of much better than I had anticipated, I had overall negative splits, and I felt really good going into the last mile as far as endurance.  I decided to take the walk break since my IT band was hurting and I was starting to favor that leg as I approached the end of the 5 minutes.  As soon as I walked a bit, the pain would ease, and I started back at the :45 second mark instead of 1 minute.

The finish line was just around the corner, so I picked my pace up some and finished strong like I wanted.  It was a good day, and my official time was 4:30:17, not under 4:30, but no disappointments here.  I have an exciting season of tri racing ahead, and I’m glad to get this monkey off my back.

nola finish

After the race L-R Diane, Dani, Angela, Me

anything less

Once your mind is made up……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take That Marathon! You Didn’t Defeat Me! (part 2)

January 23rd arrived, and Dani, Diane, Angela, and I were meeting at my house at 3:30 PM to head to New Orleans (NOLA) for the Rock N Roll Marathon and Half Marathon.  We all piled into Dani’s Prius with our luggage, snapped a picture of our awesome packing job(4 girls and their luggage for a weekend in a Prius was an achievement in and of itself), and we were off.

L-R Angela, Dani, Diane, Me

L-R Angela, Dani, Diane, Me

With a quick overnight stop in Mobile, AL, we arrived in NOLA around 11AM on Jan. 24th.  We headed straight to the expo to pick up our bibs.  The Rock N Roll branded races always have a big expo with tons of Brooks gear, and packet pickup has always gone smooth at every one I’ve been to.  This one was no different.  We grabbed our packets and headed into the expo.  I passed on the logo stuff, but I did want to look at the vendor booths for a new belt since the belt I had wouldn’t stay up with my phone in it, and I wanted to carry my phone since I was totally unsure as to what was going to happen in this race.  I found a belt by Fitletic ( http://www.fitletic.com/?gclid=CI3qi7yDuMMCFUpp7AodTFkA7A ) that looked promising, so I decided to buy it to try.  After walking away, I started thinking about what my plan was for fuel and hydration if I did decide to run the marathon.  I quickly realized that I didn’t really have one, and I started trying to think through what I needed.  I wasn’t really sure about how I was going to fuel and hydrate for the marathon if that was what I decided to do.  For the half, I could simply take Ucan prior to the race and carry my handheld with Osmo, but this whole possible marathon thing meant I might be out there for 5-6 hours, so how the heck do I fuel for that?!?!  I had my handheld that I could concentrate Osmo in, and I had a gel flask that I could put Ucan in, but I’ve never taken Ucan in the middle of a run….that could be bad.  Never try anything new on race day, right?  Well, considering none of my runs have been long enough to need any fuel mid-run, I had no choice but to try something new.  I didn’t really want to have a flask in one hand and a handheld in the other though.  I’d be sure to throw them both down by mile 15.  What to do, what to do?  I headed back to the Fitletic booth to buy two small 6 oz bottles that you could add to your belt, so I didn’t have to carry anything in my hands.  All the doubters who know me and are reading this should be starting to believe me by now that I REALLY didn’t have my mind made up about whether I was doing the marathon or half at this point.  I ALWAYS  have this stuff planned out ahead of time!

expo

Off we went to check in at our hotel.  We stayed in an older hotel called Hotel St. Marie that was close to Bourbon St. (maybe a little too close).  The hotel was nice and had been renovated, and it was significantly cheaper than the ones closer to the race start.  Our room wasn’t ready, but the valet took the car, and we stored our luggage with the front desk while we headed out for lunch.  The rest of the day was spent walking and eating which is not typically the way I like to spend the day before a big race, but Angela and I realized that we didn’t bring any throw away clothes, and all I had were tank tops.  The wind and temperature was colder than I had really expected or even thought about, so we both needed a sweatshirt to wear at the start.  Luckily, there was an H&M store that carries inexpensive clothing.  We both found sweatshirts that were fitting for this race.

NOLA1

My sweatshirt was reflective of my inner struggle with deciding on the half or full, and Angela’s reflected her desire for me to just shut up & run it so she wasn’t the only one of the four of us doing the full.

After a day of eating and shopping, we finally settled into our room for the night.  I gathered my stuff for the next morning, and I remembered I needed to set my watch for run:walk, so I decided to set it for 2 1/2 minutes run and 30 seconds walk.

Race morning

I woke up at 5AM, and I had my cup of coffee and a protein bar.  While getting everything together, I had a bottle of water, then about an hour before race start, I drank 3 scoops of Ucan vanilla cream with protein.  I decided I’d put 2 scoops of Osmo ( http://osmonutrition.com/ ) in one of my 6 ounce bottles which is a little more than 2X the normal ratio, so it’s the equivalent amount for 16 ounces of Osmo.  Since I was mixing it concentrated, I figured I’d just squirt about an ounce in each water cup I grabbed along the course since there’s only an ounce or two of water in the cups that are never filled.  I knew that 3 scoops of Ucan would last me about 4 hours, so I would need to take something around 3 1/2 hours if I ran the full, so it could get in my system before I hit the wall, so I filled my other 6 ounce bottle with 1 1/2 scoops of Ucan mixed with water.  I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to try that though, so I also stuffed two Gu’s and two Justin’s Maple Almond Nut Butter packets into my belt.  Better to have choices than not was my thought at this point.  I figured I’d be walking a lot, so I might want real food and I had used the almond butter on bike rides, but I used Gu last year before switching to Ucan, and I knew it can get me past the wall if I was hitting it, so I just carried them all, so I could decide in the moment.

With everything gathered and bibs on, we headed out the door for the start.  We stopped by the front desk to ask the best route, and thankfully, the desk clerk instructed us to walk down to the street AFTER Bourbon St. (we were planning to walk down it) hang a right and head to the start.  Off we went and unbeknownst to me, we were apparently getting in a mile speed walk for a warm up.  😉  On the way to the start, I started thinking about the 2 1/2 to 30 that I had set up on my watch, and I realized that for 26.2 miles that might really get annoying.  Diane and I discussed it, and I decided to switch my watch to a 5:1.  So, 5:1 was the plan at a 10 minute mile pace during the run part.  This was decided on the walk to the START line, not the best planning strategy.

Arriving at the start, we stopped by the porta potties, then headed to our corrals.  Angela and I went to the corral where the 4:15 pacer was.  Angela’s goal was 4:15, and I went along just to have company until start time.  I think Angela asked me again if I had made up my mind while we were standing there waiting for the start, to which I still replied….”we’ll see how the knee feels at mile 12.”  The Star Spangled Banner played, and the corrals started moving forward.

To be continued…..

 

 

 

 

Take That Marathon! You Didn’t Defeat Me! (part 1)

Just a quick background on my marathon experience…..

In March, I attempted my first marathon in Albany, GA.  I got injured during training, took 2 1/2 weeks off leading up to the marathon because I couldn’t make it through a 5 mile run, ran the marathon anyway, and made it through the first 15 or so miles and then it all fell apart.  I pretty much walked the last 10 miles and finished in 6+ hours.  For a more detailed recount of the suck, you can read the race recap here:  https://channelyourinnerspartan.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/albany/.

Fast forward to November 2014, my last post covered my half PR which took off over 15 minutes from my previous half in less than a year, but after that race, I’ve had some knee pain again.  With a marathon scheduled for January 25th, 2015, I started having flashbacks to Albany.  The pain I was feeling I was pretty sure was my IT band.  I ignored it for about 2 weeks, but it was finally noticeable enough on runs that I told my coach about it, and I told him I was taking 2 weeks off.  I decided to take the time off early, hoping that it would subside quickly since I only had 2 months until my marathon.

Most plans would have had me really starting to build my long distance at this time, but instead, I was hitting the pool and bike for my training.  After the two weeks off, I tried to run again, and it felt a bit better, but it still wasn’t great, so at the beginning of December, I had mentally thrown in the towel for the marathon because I really didn’t want to have a repeat of Albany.  I even told my coach that I was dropping down to the half for New Orleans Rock N Roll, and I probably wasn’t doing the Red Nose Half Marathon at the beginning of January.

Throughout December, Coach Chuck gave me some crazy workouts in the pool and walking on the treadmill with a weight vest at a 15% incline along with my usual bike stuff and some short runs.  He was very cautious on the running he gave me.  On December 28th, I had an hour and 15 minute run scheduled.  That should have been about 8 miles for me, but Angela had came, and I had promised her that someone would run  the 12 miles that she had scheduled with her, but everyone for the longer distances backed out, so I got sucked into it.  The 8 miles was supposed to be my longest since my half marathon in November, so running 12 wasn’t a great idea, but I did it anyway.  I’m sure Chuck wasn’t too happy when he saw my Training Peaks(TP) file.  My knee felt that run a bit, and I was sore from it, but the knee wasn’t any worse.

Chuck asked me Sunday afternoon if I was running the Red Nose Half on that next Saturday (he needed to put it in TP’s).  At that point, I wasn’t sure, so I told him I wasn’t planning on it.  As the week went on, I knew most of my running friends would be there, so I changed my mind, and registered for the free half marathon to use as a training run.  Without a taper or proper preparation, I figured it was free, so why not just use it as my long run for the week.  The half went well, and I actually ran a sub-2 hour half again at a pretty comfortable pace.  It was 4 minutes and something slower than my PR from November, but I actually felt like my endurance was better than it was in the November race.  The first 6-7 miles of this half, I goofed off with friends, and then decided I had a chance to get sub-2 again, so I picked up the pace around mile 7.  I finished at 1:59 and change.

Now my mind started turning…..

“I know I told Chuck I was going to do the half at RnR in 3 weeks, but could I do the full?”  Then, I’d just want to slap myself for letting it even cross my mind.  “Don’t you remember the disaster in Albany?  Running a full with an injury is a BAD idea.  Yeah, but my injury is better.  I just haven’t put in the long distance.  Ummmmm…. yeah, that’s a recipe for a new injury.  Just stick with the half, but I really want to get this monkey off my back.  Oh, forget it!  A full is out of the question, and Chuck will tell you how dumb it is if you even mention it.  You haven’t ran over a half marathon since March, and you think you can run 26.2 miles?”

That was the internal dialogue over the next week that I was having with myself, and I spoke to a few friends about the thoughts as well.  Some of them said do the half, others said go for the full.  I debated not even mentioning the thoughts to my coach before the race and just making the decision on my own based on how I felt during the race.  I also know relying on myself and friends for these types of decisions is probably not the best idea, but I felt like I knew what he’d say, and I really didn’t want to hear how crazy of a thought it was, so I just needed to suck it up and do the half.  Save the full for Marine Corp Marathon in October is what I kept repeating to myself even though it wasn’t sitting well.

Chuck and I were talking that next week, and NOLA RnR came up.  He asked, “is NOLA going to be a 13.1?”  This is how that conversation went…..

Me- “I’m guessing that’d be the smart thing even though 26.2 has crossed my mind.”

Chuck- “how is the knee?”

Me-“Good.”

Chuck- “hmmm… I could see it as 1) going for it on another 13.1 PR, or 2) doing 26.2 with a lot of walk breaks.”

Me- “Yes, those were the two options I was thinking as well
Chuck- “we’re still quite a ways from NOLA HIM, but I don’t want you to risk injury and interfere with the tri training. I want you to have a solid race at NOLA in April as well. So I’m torn.”
Me- “Me too. I’m going to see where the split is. Honestly, I think my chances of injury pushing for a PR are about the same as going for 26.2 with walk breaks. If the split is around 11 miles like the RnR in Savannah, I could see how I feel at that point & make the call. I’d have to run/walk from the start, so the PR wouldn’t be an option.”
Chuck- “You think?”
Me- “Pushing a 8:45 average for 13.1 or a 10:30-11 for 26.2? Yes, I think, but I could be wrong.  Maybe a 12mm.”
The conversation ended with no clear answer and Chuck telling me that we’ll see how I feel closer to the race, so the internal debate continued over the next couple of weeks.  I was trying to decide if it was a dumb idea with the lack of miles on my legs even though I felt like my endurance was there.  I definitely didn’t want to re-injure myself, and I’d be really mad at myself if I did, but my leg doesn’t seem to be getting any worse, and I seem to be able to keep the IT band under control with all that I’m doing right now, so is this a fear thing?  If I backed out due to fear, then I’d be mad at myself as well.  Everyone around me thought I had already made up my mind and I was doing the full, but I really hadn’t.  26.2 miles is a huge risk when your IT band is still getting tight at times, and you haven’t ran over 13.1 miles in over 10 months.
I finally looked up the course maps, and they didn’t split until mile 12, so I told myself, Chuck, and everyone that I didn’t know which one I’d do.  I’d make the call at mile 12 based on how my leg felt.  If there was pain, then I’d call it a day.  This meant that I was doing as Chuck and I had discussed.  I would run the first half using the run:walk method.
To be continued……

From then to now….

A little over 2 1/2 years ago, I decided to train for my first half marathon.  It started in February of 2012.  I had seen a few friends do one, and for some crazy reason, after running (with lots of walking) a 5K with Christal, we decided to train for the Savannah Rock n Roll Half Marathon in November of 2012.  I honestly think it was more about the trip to Savannah at the time with our spouses and no kids than about being able to run the half marathon.

First 5k2

My First 5K – I was dying.

 

Due to school, work, and family commitments, Christal had to give up on the training after a few months, which left me to finish training on my own.  Luckily, I picked up a few friends at church to run with during that first year, but it was going to be a long tough road to get to Savannah that year, but I can’t thank those guys and girls enough because I’d have given up if I didn’t have them to make it through those runs at that point.

First 10k1

A few of the ones that got me through that first half training. This was my first 10k

 

I ran/walked the Savannah Half Marathon in 2:33:33, and it was miserable!  I started too fast and hit the wall around mile 10, and I really had no desire to ever try it again.  Thanks to several new running buddies, Atlanta Southside Runners, and Moms Run this Town, I continued to run, and I eventually started enjoying runs, even the 5 AM ones that I SWORE I’d NEVER do.

2nd half red nose

2nd Half Marathon – these ladies have been with me since just before my 1st Half marathon

Several half marathons, a disastrous marathon, a handful of short distance triathlons, 25lbs lost, and a Half Ironman later, I ran Soldier Half Marathon on Nov. 8th, 2014, almost 2 years to the day from my first.  I had just under 6 weeks after the Augusta Half Ironman to get ready for the Soldier Half Marathon.  In that 6 weeks, I also had to recover from Augusta and hopefully build some speed for the half marathon since I wanted to PR it.  My PR going into the Soldier Half was 2:11:15 at the Red Nose Half in January of 2014.  After Augusta, I was hoping for around 2:05 at Soldiers.  A quick 6 weeks of training wasn’t going to allow for a lot of speed training, so I was hoping that was doable.  Coach Chuck kept my running to 3 days a week to prevent injury, and he kept swimming and biking as part of the routine for my recovery days.  I had speed work at the track, tempo runs, and long runs.

As I started doing the speed and tempo days, my pace was faster than I had thought it’d be, so I started to question if it was possible for me to go sub-2 which is a 9:09 minute mile.  After a few tempo runs at this pace, Chuck and I talked about it.  He said he predicted I would.  I told him, “I think you’re smoking crack.”  To which he replied, “no way….I can feel it.”  We then discussed what my current PR was and that it was a big jump to go sub-2.  I told him I didn’t think I could maintain the 9:09 pace for 2 hours.  I mean if I had a full 12 weeks to train for it, then yeah, I might be able to do it, but my longest tempo was going to be 60 minutes of which only 45 would be “at tempo.”  That was a long ways from 2 hours.  Chuck never really conceded to my doubt, but after I told him my previous PR, he did admit he’s bad at math, and simply confirmed I could PR it.  Well, duh!  I knew that.  He then reminded me that I wouldn’t be swimming and biking before it, and that my HR zones might not be what they should be because we need to do a HR test, and he left it at that.  I swear Chuck knows how to get in my head, and then he just likes to let me stew over things for a bit until I bring them back up.  Over the next few weeks with my runs, I kept questioning it in my head, and I discussed it with Wayne and a couple of other running buddies, and I was still concluding that I needed more training time to do it, so I needed to shoot for 2:03-2:06.  The last week before taper, my track work and tempo went well, and based on what my track work speeds were, I guessed my current 5k pace.  Using the McMillan online pace predictor calculator, my estimation of my 5k pace put me finishing a half right at 2 hours, but I still didn’t/don’t really think my 5k pace is as fast as I guessed based on my speed work, so I was continuing to toss the idea around.  After a LOT of beating myself up and thought on why I kept saying I doubted it, I finally came to the conclusion that I was doubting myself because I was scared of failing.  Yep, I hate to set my goals higher than I’m pretty certain I can obtain.  Even my goals that I keep to myself are usually ones that I’m pretty comfortable that I can reach.

cautious

And just to add to Chuck being in my head, Coach Tony posts this at 8AM on Nov. 3rd to join the party without even knowing it.

I spoke to a running friend, Jerome, about my possible goal, and I admitted to him that I was hesitant to go for it because of fear.  I hadn’t admitted that to anyone else, so admitting it was a big step, and boom, there it was, in my face.  I wasn’t doing something because I was freaking scared!  It was a huge PR I wanted.  I wanted to cut 11 minutes.  Jerome basically said to trust myself, go for it, he only believes in big PR’s, and he doubted I’d crash.  What was the worst that could happen?  I get to mile 9 or 10 and can’t make up the time for the sub-2 and end up with 2:05 or 2:08?  No matter what, I could still pull out a PR at that point.  Finally, around 7PM Nov. 3rd, I sent Chuck my race plan telling him I was going for the sub-2 and that I hoped I wouldn’t crash and burn around miles 9-10, and I let Dani and Shannon know what my goal was, then I was quiet about it.   Coach Tony made another post on Nov. 6th:

fear

Darn you Tony!  What the heck?  Did you, Chuck, and Jerome all have a conference call?  I GET IT!  I’m going for the sub-2.  Ok, they didn’t really have a conference call, but really, they were all in my head all week, and I really do think Coach Chuck tends to not say much to me when I start thinking because he knows it gets my wheels turning more, and I think he is entertained by torturing me.

So……  Friday, Nov. 7th, Dani, Diane, and I get to Columbus.  We grab dinner at Carrabbas around 5:20PM, and I had grilled chicken with a salad and broccoli, then we head to packet pick up and the hotel.  After checking in, we meet up with about 30 of our ASR buddies in the lobby to hang out for the evening and discuss some race strategy.  Wayne shows up, and I asked him what his goal for the half is.  We discuss our goals, and figure we’ll meet up in the 4:10 corral in the morning which is the equivalent of a 2:05 half.  My plan was to start the first couple of miles slow, and then pick it up.  I was hoping starting with the 4:10 pacer would help with that since I had talked to the pacers at packet pick up, and they said they’d keep a steady pace.  The 4:10 pacer would be around a 9:32/mile pace which is where I wanted to start, so that’s was the plan.

The weather on Saturday was going to be the perfect temps.  We’d be starting at 39 degrees, no wind, and 54ish at the finish of the half.  I just needed to figure out what to wear.  Looking back at my Garmin notes from last year, I found a training run that started at 5AM in 41 degree weather, and I decided I needed arm sleeves, a short sleeve shirt, head cover, gloves, and shorts, so I laid out my clothes for the morning.

columbus I didn’t sleep well that night, and I was feeling nervous for the first time in a LONG time about a half marathon.  I had a protein bar and a cup of coffee with cream when I got up at 5AM, and around 6:45AM, I drank 3 scoops of Ucan, then we were off to the start line where we met up with friends.

columbus2

Shannon, Dani, & I – 2 years later

After a quick stop in the museum and one last potty break, because there would be no time for that during the race today, we were off to the starting corrals.  You had to enter the corrals from the start line and work your way back which was different, and I believe is what delayed the start somewhat.  I got to my corral about 10 minutes before the scheduled start time, but there were people still coming through at 8AM.  Around 7:50AM, Coach Chuck sent me a PM asking, “why are you not running yet?”  😉  Maybe he was having flashbacks to my oversleeping incident the last time I was in Columbus.  “Starts at 8,” I sent back, and he simply replied, “go get it!”

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L-R Wayne, Me, and Carl – Lots of road miles on the bike and by foot with these two guys. They help push me more than I could on my own.

Someone sang the National Anthem at 8AM, and then we were off.  We started with the 4:10 pacer, but looking at my watch in the first 2-3 minutes, he was hovering closer to 9:50-10mm.  This wasn’t my plan, and it would leave me more to make up later, so I decided I was pacing myself, and off I went.  Wayne, Carl, and I were together for about 1/2 a mile, and Carl pulled away on his own.  I was determined to stay at a 9:30 pace for the first 2 miles, so Wayne and I lagged behind.  I had thought the biggest hill on the course was just before 2 miles, so I though it’d be during my warm up, but it was actually right after the 2 mile mark, when I was supposed to start picking up my pace, so instead my pace slowed, but I wasn’t going to push it up the hill because I knew that could spell disaster for me.  Instead, I waited for the top of the hill and picked it up.  Mile 3 came in at a 9:26 pace which was slower than the 9:06 that I had planned for miles 3-10, so I started letting some doubt creep into my mind.  Wayne and I were still running together, but we weren’t talking about pace.  We both knew where we wanted to be.  For the next 3 miles, I picked up the pace to around 8:53, and about mid-way through mile 6, I came back to the downhill part of the big hill we went up earlier.  I just relaxed, picked up my cadence down the hill, and let gravity help me.  I topped out around an upper 6 min pace, but my HR wasn’t climbing any higher than it was on the flat so I felt comfortable.  I slowed back down as I reached the bottom of the hill.  However, I think the faster cadence stuck a little bit as I was having a hard time getting back to the 8:50-9mm range.  Miles 7 & 8 ended up being in the 8:20ish range which was a little too early to hit those paces, and I knew I couldn’t sustain them for 7 miles.  I was finally able to back it back off in miles 9-12 to 8:40-8:50mm.  I had originally planned to pick up the pace in mile 11, but since I had already done it for 2 miles earlier, I decided to reassess and wait until the last mile to pick it up.  Finally, the 12 mile marker!  Time to kick it up a notch.  I’d been chasing the same girl for the last couple of miles, so now was the time to see if she was going to pick it up or not.  Sure enough, she did, so I picked it up a little more.  I finally got past her, but then I began to wonder how much freaking longer it was to the finish line.  I was definitely pushing my limits, and I knew I had a freaking hill to climb to the finish!  We made the turn to climb the hill in front of the museum (granted it’s small, but really, who puts a hill just before the finish!?).  I continued to push up the hill and made the final turn to run between the flags to the finish line.  I still had a little left, picked it up a tad more and finished strong.  The clock showed the gun time under 2 hours.  My Garmin time: 1:56:03  My official time: 1:55:58.  Thanks to my running buddies, coach, and Peak Racing ( http://www.peakracingteam.com ) for always pushing me mentally and physically.  Not only did I get the sub-2 half, but I took off over 15 minutes on my half PR from less than a year ago.  I couldn’t have done it on my own.

http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/628776971

how far

It’s time to stop fearing failure and start risking it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IM Augusta 70.3 – check

6 months of training all culminated on Sunday with a phenomenal race that I couldn’t have imagined enjoying as much as I did.

Leading up to Augusta, I was more excited than I have ever been about a race, and I felt more confident and physically better than I had about any previous race. Theoretically, this was going to be the most difficult race I’d done to date, but honestly, I didn’t feel that pressure.  I know you aren’t supposed to make time goals for first races of new distances, but who really follows that rule?  On August 12th, I shared those goals with Jeneen in a text.  This was the text:

textYep, I said it.  I really didn’t have a clue as to how the run would go, so the 7 hour mark gave me almost 3 hours for the run in case I fell apart, but if all the stars aligned, then maybe, just MAYBE I might hit 6:30, but I really felt that was a stretch, and it didn’t take into consideration how long transitions would take.  The only goal I shared publicly with my running group was 7 hours, and even after actually texting those goals to Jeneen, I kind of wished I’d kept that to myself.  I don’t like sharing what my true “A” goals are.   I don’t mind sharing the “C” goal time usually, but the “A” goal time is typically my little secret.

I decided Thursday night to go ahead and go to Augusta on Friday to get away from the chaos of several weekend activities at home that I was trying to juggle. I decided I had to let go of control of those things and focus on my race. My husband, who has supported me through 6 months of training, told me to go ahead and go. I really can’t thank him enough for all that he has done and put up with for the last 6 months. He’s my best friend, cheerleader, encourager, and rock, and he picks up my slack around home when I’m training and racing. With two kids involved in their own activities, he can’t be at races often, but I always know he’s cheering me on wherever he is.

I finished packing early Friday morning, and I headed out around 11:00AM. I arrived at the hotel, checked in, unpacked, and headed to the expo by 3:00PM. Going against the typical superstitions of buying anything for a new distance before you actually do it, I bought a coffee mug, sweatshirt, and 2 t-shirts, one of which said finisher. I was confident that I was going to finish this race. Of course anything could happen to change that, but it wasn’t going to be because I wasn’t prepared or quit, so superstitions weren’t going to have anything to do with it either, besides, I’m really not a superstitious person, but I’ve gone along with the runner ones anyway, and it sure didn’t help in Albany. It was time to throw caution to the wind, and just go with what I felt from my training. The race was going to be fun, and I was going to do great as long as I stuck to the plan.

The plan….
What was the plan? What HR zones was I supposed to be in for my race? This is where great coaching comes in. Coach Chuck ( http://www.peakracingteam.com ) had sent all his athletes an email a few days before the race explaining his race strategy and what he wanted us to do. Of course, it was up to us to execute. Each section was focused on heart rate zones just like our training had been. “First, I want you to remember two rules all day long. 1) This is NOT A RACE. It’s an event and I am a participant. 2) Save it for the run!” was how Coach Chuck started the race plan. In the bike section, the overall gist from Chuck was “as bike effort, think high z2 / low z3 all day.” He knew we’d hit some upper z3 & z4 on the hills, but the idea was to just not stay there! He then went on to tell us to break the run into 3 parts and detailed each part which was how I typically run races, so his plan fit right in with mine for the run. 😉

Saturday morning, I had to do a short swim/bike/run, so I met some of my Peak Racing teammates at T1 to do a 10 minute swim, 20 minute bike, and 10 minute run before we checked our bikes in. By 11:30AM, our bikes were checked in, and I had nothing else to do until a team photo at 4PM, so I headed back to the Marriott to get off my feet and relax as I was instructed to do. My friend Dani arrived around 1:30PM while I was watching the UGA vs. UT game, so I headed down to meet her in front of the garage, then I was back in the room relaxing and watching the game for the rest of the day. Towards the end of the game, I started prepping my fuel and transition stuff that I needed for the next morning.

The Dawgs pulled off the win, and it was time to head down for the team photo. We met in the Marriott lobby at 4PM and headed up by the river for a photo.

peakracingaugusta

Peak Racing Team & Friends

After the photo, we had a quick chat with the coaches, then everyone was off in their own direction.  Dani and I headed straight out to dinner.  I hadn’t eaten lunch other than snacking on cheese and cold cuts in the room, so I was starving.  We headed to Carrabbas, and luckily, we beat the crowd by arriving at 4:45PM.  I stuck with foods that I’ve typically been eating the last few months of lean meat and veggies, no pasta for me, but I did have 2 small slices of their bread because I couldn’t resist, and I figured it was an early enough dinner with a late enough wave start that it wouldn’t be an issue.

Peak had reserved the conference room from 5:30-7:30PM at the Holiday Inn in case any of us wanted to get together and hang out or eat together, so we headed over there after dinner.  We got there around 6PM for a chance to relax and chat with team members a bit and ask any last minute questions of the coaching staff.  At 7:30, we all headed out for a good night’s rest.

Back at the hotel, I was still trying to figure out how to deal with the late start of my wave, 8:44AM.  This was my only real concern that I had going into the race. I had done 90% of my long rides within an 2 hours of waking up. I’d be awake at 4:30AM Sunday, and I wouldn’t race until 8:44AM. After a lot of debate, I decided I’d eat cheese and Greek yogurt while setting up transition which would give me plenty of time to digest it, then I’d eat a protein bar like normal about 90 minutes out and drink my Ucan with protein about 45 minutes out.  I finished  getting all my gear packed.  Checked it about 20 times I believe, and I decided I’d head to transition as soon as it opened.

After sleeping through my alarm in Columbus, I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen again, but just to make sure, I set my phone across the room, and Dani set her alarm for me as well.  Plus Coach Tony had assured me that I’d be receiving a call.  😉  My alarm was set for 4:00 AM, and I was wide awake staring at the wall by 3:00AM.  I felt like a kid on Christmas morning waiting on your parents to get up, so you could open your presents.  My excitement level was off the charts for this race for the last month, and this was the day!  About 3:50AM, I got a message from Tony to make sure I was up.  I decided it was close enough to 4 by then to start moving, so I got dressed, grabbed my stuff, and was out the door to catch one of the first buses to transition.  As we headed to transition and got off, I realized that the bus was filled with lots of volunteers, maybe more volunteers than athletes.  Yep, I was early.  About 10 minutes after I got there, Peak Racing members Kim and Joey walked up.  It was nice to see a familiar face.  They were setting up transition and heading back to their hotel for breakfast.  Hmmmm…. that sounded like a good idea, but then I’d have to walk to the swim start, so I stuck with my plan.  Kim let me borrow her bike pump, and then they were off after they had set up.  I decided to hang around in transition a bit longer to see if I saw anyone else with Peak.  I ran into another friend, Lacey, and chatted with her for a few minutes, then I slowly headed towards the shuttle to go to the swim start.  I bumped into Carl from Peak Racing while I was waiting on the shuttle there, so we rode the bus together to the swim start and found a nice grass area close to the morning bag drop to chill on for 2-3 hours.  I closed my eyes for about 10 minutes thinking maybe I could get a short nap, but it was pointless.  I wasn’t tired.  I had too much adrenaline pumping through me already.

carl

Carl relaxing, meditating, stressing? Not sure. He’s pretty quiet.

early

Daylight, but still waiting. Time for Ucan though

It wasn’t long before other Peak Team members, Coach Chuck, friends, and family all started showing up, and we had apparently picked a good spot to locate people because they all seemed to find us.  As race start neared, the flag was brought in by parachute.

augusta start Dani, my Sherpa, found us a few minutes later, and I handed her my extra bags instead of using the morning bag drop.  Soon after, it was time for Clay and Carl to head to the start.  They were lucky and had an early wave.  The rest of us, headed towards the flag pole to meet up with the other Peak group.  From there, the waves seemed to fly through, and it was time for me to get my wetsuit pulled up and head down to the wave line before I knew it.

preswim

Adam and I…… still waiting

swim start

Heading to the swim start

The line of waves moved quickly and we were quickly walking out the dock to get in the water.  This was HAPPENING!  I sat down, rinsed the spit out of my goggles, put them on, and eased myself into the water to wait for the horn.  When the announcer said we had about :45 seconds, I glanced at my watch.  Uh oh!  I hadn’t turned it on, and it takes a while to find the satellite.  I quickly turned it on, got it to multisport, and tried to let it find the satellite, but by that time, it was time to go, so I just hoped it’d find it at some point.  Honestly though, I don’t ride or run off pace.  I don’t even look at them anymore, so they aren’t even on my screen.  All I needed was HR, RPM’s, and time, so even without the GPS.  I’d be ok.  I just wouldn’t have the data that I’d want.

The swim went pretty smooth.  I’d been in the river a couple of times, so I wasn’t concerned about it.  There was some grass in the water, but I’d read about it already and seen a video of a fly over discussing it the day before, so I knew it was there in small patches until we got beyond the 2nd bridge.  Unfortunately, everyone around me hadn’t seen the same video, and people would suddenly decide they didn’t want to swim through it and try to make hard left and right turns trying to find a way out of it I guess, so the first part of the swim required a lot of dodging people, and perhaps a bit of pushing, kicking, and boxing out with elbows, but what happens in the water stays in the water, so I’m not telling who did what.  After the 2nd bridge, the crowd thinned out some, and I found my space.  The swim was very quick, and as I exited the water, I hit the wrong button on my watch as I was taking it off to head to the wetsuit strippers, then I hit lap, and my watch went to the bike, so now, I had to pause it until I got on the bike.  I got my wetsuit down to my hips, and it came off easily for the strippers.  They handed it back to me, and off I went.  I stopped by the sunscreen station and got lathered with sunscreen, then headed to my bike.  <I’ll spare you the jokes here about being stripped and lathered, but it’s quite the efficient process.>  🙂  T1 was uneventful.  I dried my feet, slipped on my shoes, helmet, and glasses, and I headed out.  My official swim time was 30:11, pretty much right on target, but I had no clue since I had already goofed up my watch and didn’t see my swim time on my watch as I came out of the water before I goofed it up.

Bike, this was the part that could make me or break me for the run according to everything our coaches have said.  Chuck warned us that our HR would be elevated from the swim and transition, so we shouldn’t panic if we saw z3.  Ummm, how about mid z4?  Yikes!   Now, my job according to Chuck was to take the first 15-20 minutes to settle in and get it lowered.  As I headed out Sands Bar Ferry for the first 5 miles that were totally flat, it was hard to resist that urge to push it.  Especially with people flying by me.  Head down and focus on YOUR race is what I kept repeating.  It took about 10 minutes, but my HR was down to upper z2 finally.  Now, the goal was to hang out in upper z2/lower z3 for the rest of the flat section, so 15-17 miles.  As I was riding that section, I knew I was at a slower pace that I was at camp.  I had time showing on my watch, and I knew I would have to pass 5 miles every 20 minutes just to average a 15mph pace, and on that section at camp, I averaged a little under 17mph.  I wasn’t even averaging 15mph this time.  I just kept repeating, don’t worry about pace, don’t panic, stick to the plan.  I knew how the hills felt at camp, and I slowed later on the course at camp, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go.  Was I going to hit the hills and slow like camp, or would starting easy make the hills easier?  Stick to the plan and see what happens.  You have to make a choice.  One will work, and one won’t.  The question was, which one would work?  I stuck with the plan.  As I got into the hills, my HR started climbing as I knew it would, but as Chuck said, just don’t let it stay there.  At this point, I started to catch a few people who I remembered flying by me earlier, but not many.  I need to work on the bike portion because it’s definitely my weakest of the 3.  My HR went up and down over the rest of the course, and the closer I got to the end, it was starting to stay slightly higher than it probably should have, but still not bad.  I knew I was getting close to 3 1/2 hours on the bike, and 3 1/2 hours was the time I was hoping for, but I also didn’t want to push too hard at the end trying to make sure I got it.  I felt good though, so I pushed a little, but still kept it in check and out of z4 for the most part.  I didn’t even think to look at my time as I got back, but I knew it was close to the 3 1/2 hours, so I was good.  My first 28 miles were at 14.96mph, and the second 28 were at 17.21mph.  My official bike time was 3:29:53.   I couldn’t have gotten much closer than that!

As I arrived back at T2, my neighbor had left a ziploc bag of candy corn on my transition mat.  She had a larger bag on hers.  I’m hoping that she didn’t need that for her fuel on the bike because it looked like she had poured some into that bag to take with her maybe, or perhaps she had just left me a snack.  Oh well, I set it back on her mat, changed my shoes, grabbed my hat and belt to head out for the run….right after I make a quick porta potty stop.  As I ran out of T2, I had overall pace showing on my watch for the run, and I knew my pace at the moment was too fast to start, so I started trying to slow down.  I was feeling kind of sluggish as I got into the run about a half a mile, so I took my first Gu of the day.  I had set my watch with a :30 run to :30 walk alert, and I had though I would probably start the first mile or two using that, then switch to a longer run.  With my watch set up as :30/:30, it’d be easy to add run time by 1 minute at a time by just running through a walk break and another run.  As soon as I started though, I felt like I could skip the :30/:30 and go with 1:30 to :30 because my legs felt really good.  This was surprising, but I’d executed my race plan pretty well so far, so maybe this theory about saving your legs for the run really works?  😉  I decided for the first loop I was going to stick with the 1:30 to :30 no matter what because I started feeling pretty froggy early on, and I was wanting to extend the run time, but I kept telling myself that lap one was too early.  I had been passed by tons of younger guys and girls, and on the run, I was starting to catch several.

10th

Running strong!

On the first loop, I averaged just under an 11 minute mile, but I finally caved  just before I reached the beginning of lap 2, and I switched my interval to running 2:30 and walking :30.  This felt good for the first 3 miles or so, then it started getting hard.  Not terribly hard, but hard.  I was also approaching that last home stretch in run, and I had about 3 miles to go.  “Suck it up Stephanie!  You can finish this race out with negative splits and close to your half marathon PR time.”  This became my mantra for the next 3 miles.  I LOVE to run races and finish with negative splits, and my running buddies who truly know me, know this about me.  I will also admit that I’m competitive, so catching and passing people who I knew flew past me on the bike just made me run that much stronger.  It becomes a bit of a game with me in a lot of races where I make a mental note of some people when they pass me, and then check the list off as I pass them later.  I have counted runners in front of me before in a smaller race, so yeah, I have a bit of an issue, and I admit it, and there are plenty who I never catch as well, but for each one I catch it’s a small victory.  Going back and reading my running buddies’ posts and knowing where I was in run portion of the race is pretty amazing and funny.  Here are some of my favorites:

2143

56I love those ladies!  Overall, the entire day was negative splits. I didn’t realize everyone was getting so many splits.  I thought they’d just get the total time for each section and the transitions, so I didn’t think Coach Chuck knew how my pacing was when I finished, but he met me right past the finish smiling and that was the first thing out of his mouth.  Chuck – You had negative splits pretty much all day.  Me – Yeah, I did.  Averaged 10:27 on the run.  He popped the bill of my hat with a laugh and walked away.  I think I may have surprised him a little.  😉  My official run time was 2:15:34 at a 10:20 pace.  My half marathon PR is 2:11:15, so I’m pretty happy with that run at the end of a Half Ironman.

finish

Heading down the finishing chute!

Official HIM time 6:25:39, yeah, I met and passed my kick ass goal that I told Jeneen on August 12th.

I can’t say enough about Coach Chuck and Peak Racing.  I can honestly say that I never reached a dark moment in the race.  I never had a moment where I thought I couldn’t finish.  The worst feeling I had the entire race was with 3 miles left in the run trying to decide if I could push harder to get negative splits, and if that’s the worse I felt over 70.3 miles, then I’d say my coach prepared me well.  I’ve been plagued with injuries until I started working with him, and I was injured when I started with him.  He was cautious with my recovery which took over 3 months.  He found ways to work around the injury, and once it was better, he kept me grounded and from pushing harder than I should, so I didn’t hurt myself again.  I honestly don’t think I’d have completed the 70.3 distance without a coach, and as much as I complain and joke about Chuck and his crazy workouts that he assigns, he’s an excellent coach! I look forward to continuing to work with Chuck and the Peak Team.

What’s your biggest fear the night before a race?

I wouldn’t say I’m one that worries, is nervous, or has a lot of concerns before most races, but I am usually pretty hyped up in the days leading up to races with a lot of excess energy, maybe that’s due to the taper or maybe that really is my nerves. Most people who race with me would tell you that I’m pretty calm on race morning, so maybe I just get all that out in days leading up to the race, or maybe it’s because I have worn myself out by race morning, and I’m usually mellowed out. Either way, my friends have told me several times that I always seem calm and help to calm them.

My latest race was the Chattahoochee Challenge Olympic Triathlon in Columbus, GA. The days leading up to this race were different for me. All that excess energy was missing. I was extremely calm leading up to this race. It was the weekend after the Augusta Camp which went well for me, and I wasn’t really planning to “race” this race. I was viewing it as a training race to practice my transitions and pacing on the bike and run. The swim was one where we were to swim down river, run back up to the starting point, and swim down river again, so I wasn’t excited about this, but I wasn’t concerned about it either. It just had to get done. The bike and run legs were each about half of what I’d just done the weekend before, so it should have been a fairly short and easy training race.

Coach Chuck sent me an email on Thursday that literally made me laugh as I read it. I don’t think our views of this race were quite the same. He gave me advice on hydration the day before the race, eating early, getting to bed early, racing in z3/z4 (higher than HIM) since it was a short course, how to approach the two down river swims, etc. Whoa, hold up there Coach. I just thought I’d stay at HIM pace consistently, and try to pick the pace up some at the end and finish strong. He responds with, “Hey, I like that plan too!” Ah, back to my lackadaisical attitude towards this race.

I arrived in Columbus Friday afternoon, checked into the Marriott, and headed straight to packet pick up. Packet pick up was quick since it was a small race, so I looked around in the local shop for a few minutes after getting my packet, then headed back to the hotel. I had about an hour before dinner, so I walked across the street and checked out transition, the swim start, and the swim exit. It looked pretty simple, so back to the hotel I went to meet friends for dinner.

After dinner and chatting with my tri friends, I headed upstairs and prepped for the next morning. I laid out all my stuff I needed, checked it several times, mixed my fuel, put it in the fridge, showered, and was ready for bed by 9:30. The only thing I needed to do in the morning was eat breakfast, grab my bags, stop by the truck to pump up my tires, and head to transition. I figured I’d try this getting to bed early thing and see how it went. Over 4 hours of sleep the night before a race would be a first for me. Over 6 hours was crazy, but I was in bed by 10PM with my alarm set and pushed out of arms length, so I’d have to roll out of bed to grab it.

stuff

So, let’s take a step back for a second. What kind of fears do you have the night before a race? Forgetting your bib? Forgetting your helmet or some other piece of important equipment or clothing? Starting too fast? Cramping? GI issues? How about oversleeping? Ah, yep that’s a good one. It’s not really something I’ve ever had an issue with because I never sleep well the night before a race, but it has been a concern since I don’t get much sleep. I usually wake up throughout the night probably 4-5 times. I think partially due to worrying about oversleeping and somewhat due to having to pee from hydrating the night before, but it never fails, I’m extremely early for races. I don’t like to feel rushed on race morning.

So, back to that 10PM bedtime, I fell asleep faster than I ever have the night before a race, and I slept through the night. I didn’t wake up a single time, even to use the bathroom…..until I suddenly woke up, felt panicked, saw a tiny sliver of light between the black out shades of the hotel room……….uh-oh, that’s not good! It’s not supposed to be daylight at 4:45AM. I grabbed my phone, and it was 7:30AM. The race started at 7AM. What to do? Get dressed, head down, and see if I can catch the ride and run? Or roll back over and go back to sleep? What would you do? I was in Columbus already. If I didn’t ride and run today, then I’d have to do it tomorrow somewhere, but I could also just disappear and head home and get razzed about it another day. Decisions, decisions. Well, all of that went MUCH faster and a lot less clearly in my groggy panicked state, but I threw my clothes on, grabbed my bike and bags, and headed down to transition without breakfast and without pumping up my bike tires.

At transition, I found one of the USAT refs, and asked if I could just do the ride and run. He said I could, but to just stay out of the way. Um, yeah, no problem there. I saw one other person with their bike still in transition, so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. 😉 I was planning to ride it like a race though, so I wasn’t going to be breaking any rules and getting in the way. At this point, it was just after 7:45. I had been awake, if you could call it that, for less than 20 minutes, so I found a spot to set my bag and took off on my bike filled with adrenaline still from the abrupt start to my day. I was thoroughly ticked off at myself, and I knew I would be in danger of starting too fast. Also, I was worried about running out of steam since I hadn’t had anything for breakfast. On my bike, I had 2 scoops of Ucan (160 calories) and 40 ounces of Osmo (140 calories). My thoughts turned to drink the Ucan as quickly as possible to get something in my system, hydrate early and often since I hadn’t drank any water that morning, try to keep your RPMs up so you don’t burn your legs out in hard gears hammering early, and see how many people you can pass by the end. This was NOT my plan for this race!

I never have pace showing on my watch since I train by heart rate, and it was still set on auto-lap for bike because I hadn’t taken it off from the weekend before, so as the lap time would go off, I knew 20 minutes for 5 miles was a 15mph pace, and anything under about 18 minutes was over 16.5mph. My first lap showed 16:33…um, yeah, that’s NOT good. Riding mad was not going to fair well for me if I kept this up. Crunching some numbers in my head, that was 5 miles every 16ish minutes, times 3 is 15 in 48 minutes and 12 minutes left which would be another 3ish miles, meant I was somewhere in the neighborhood of, oh no, 18mph. SLOW DOWN!!!! I eased back some, and I had more reasonable lap times for me over the next 2 laps where the only hills on the course were, then as I headed back and the course flattened, I picked up speed again before cruising into the last few miles to prepare for the run.

I had passed several people on the bike portion, so as I rolled into transition, I felt a little better knowing that others were still on the bike course. It had gotten hot though, and I wasn’t sure how my legs were. I started the run portion too fast as well, so I switched over to a run:walk to try and slow myself down some. As I approached the first water station, someone said there was no water. I had a electrolyte drink on me, but it was mixed double strength because I had planned to drink water from the water stops. I opened the top of the bottle and crammed some ice down my handheld hoping to cool it off some and water it down as well. This water stop would also be the second water stop on the return, so I was glad to at least have my handheld. By the time I reached mile 3, my stomach was starting to gurgle from the lack of water and the extra concentrated drink in my handheld, so I grabbed 2 cups of water at every remaining water stop, and added water each time to my handheld bottle. By about mile 5, my stomach had straightened itself back out some, and I was able to pick the pace back up some as I finished out the race.

As I crossed the finish line, the volunteers tried putting a finisher’s medal around my neck, but I refused it telling them that I didn’t do the swim portion. They said I could still have one, but that’s just not how I do things. If I’m going to get a finisher’s medal for an Olympic tri, then I’m going to complete the entire thing.

After crossing, I walked around to where I had seen the rest of our team members as I crossed the finish line. They still didn’t realize that I had missed the swim, so I had to break that news. Coach Chuck was on vacation, but he sent a text to Coach Tony asking how everyone did, and very cryptic messages were sent back to him. Chuck was quickly getting suspicious. Tony told me that it happens, even to pros, and told me of a particular race he was at where it happened to a pro. It didn’t really make me feel any better at the time, but it is what it is, and I couldn’t change it, so learn from it! Tony also said that there will be a phone tree now for Augusta. 🙂 I avoided contacting Chuck for most of the remaining day, and I finally sent him a message that evening letting him know what had happened. I had put it off all day hoping Tony would just tell him, and I apparently delayed long enough. Tony had caved and let him know, but Chuck said he just wanted to hear it from me. It happens, and at least I went and did the bike and run he said. It wasn’t my “A” race, so no harm no foul. I was still mad at myself for several days, but honestly, I got what I needed to out of the race. I practiced the run to bike transition. I practiced pacing even if it was pacing for an Oly instead of a HIM, and I had the experience of another race under my belt before Augusta. I don’t really feel like I’d have gotten much else out of doing the swim part too other than another OWS, but honestly, the swim doesn’t concern me for Augusta after the training camp.

One last laugh I had about this, I had a recovery ride Sunday morning, and since I hadn’t pumped my tires up before the race, I was interested to see just how flat they were. 42 PSI in the back tire and 60 in the front, I averaged some pretty fast speeds for me on those flat tires considering I usually average mid 15-16 mph riding on 120 PSI. It makes me wonder what I could have ridden the course in.

Here’s to hoping your worst fears don’t come true! Never give up! And get what you can out of every race no matter what!

Less than 4 weeks until Augusta, I have only done two mini-sprints, an Oly Aquabike, and the bike and run portion of an Oly, but I feel ready. I’m excited about the HIM, and I can’t wait for the day!