JLA ShamRock N Roll 5k/10K Atlantic Station

I’m a tad behind on blog posts, so I plan to get caught up over the next few days.  I’ve put off writing this post because I was waiting to see if I ever got my t-shirt….

I’ve ran this race 2 of the last 3 years.  The first year I ran it, there were issues with the 10K course.  It was said to be certified, but it actually wasn’t, and it ended up being about 1/2 a mile short due to confusion on the course.  Almost the entire field missed a turn.  I’m happy to report that they have fixed this issue.

Race morning, I showed up to pick up my packet rather than driving up to Atlanta the day before the race.  Packet pick up went smooth other than them trying to give me a different size shirt than I had registered for.  Several others in the line had issues with shirt sizes as well that morning.  It seems that they didn’t hold the shirts for those who had preregistered and gave out shirts to people who registered late, so they said they would make another order of shirts and get them to us….ok, no problem.

I returned all my extra stuff to my car, took off my warm layers, put on my bib, and did a short warm up before heading to the start line.  As I approached the start line, I noticed people had lined up on the front row with their dogs.  I knew this was a dog friendly race, but I hadn’t expected people to line up in the front with their dogs.  Since I was trying to PR and it is only gun timed, I decided to line up close to the front as well.  As we waited for the start, the two dogs on the front row were getting tangled up.  I made sure I was lined up off to the side, so I could avoid what looked to be a disaster waiting to happen.

The race started and I took off faster than I had planned to get out ahead of the crowd, then quickly settled into my pace.  My goal was to run this race in under 26 minutes even though my year end goal for a 5K is under 25.  The race started off with a downhill before a short climb up Fowler St. followed by a small longer incline up 14th St. before it levels a bit.  I knew the course going into the race from running it two years earlier, so I knew the only real significant hill was up behind Ikea, and after topping it, the race would finish downhill.  I just needed to get to the top of that hill!  As I topped it, I was on target to definitely make under 26, but there was a chance that I could go sub-25.  With the downhill to the finish, I was able to hang on to finish in 24:46, so I met goal #7 on my list.  Does that mean I need a new 5K goal since this was done in March?

I did finally get my t-shirt.  About a month after the race, I received an email letting us know that the t-shirts were ready, and we could come pick them up at the JLA office.  What?  I specifically didn’t do early packet pick up to avoid driving to downtown Atl twice, and now, you want me to drive in to pick up a $6 t-shirt?  I don’t think so.  I’d spend more in gas and my time with the 45 minute drive, so I sent an email letting them know that I was disappointed, and they did offer to mail it me, so I finally got my t-shirt a little over a month after the race.

The big question…..would I recommend the race?  Hmmm….that’s a hard one.  If you want to PR a course, then it’s a good one provided you start at the front and get ahead of the dogs, but after running it twice and having a major hiccup the first year, and a minor one the next time, I’m inclined to not race it again…..but I will need another PR, so who knows.  😉

shamrock

3rd place in my age group and a PR!

 

 

Peak’s Gaps Camp…..(part 2 of 2)

Saturday:

Heading back to the cabin in the truck, we passed the rest of the campers as they headed up Wolfpen on the way back.  Tony drove Chuck and me back to the cabin while Kat stayed back behind the riders.  As we passed them, yes, it crossed my mind that I should have kept going and attempted Wolfpen, but very shortly, my legs were both cramping again as I rode in the back seat of the truck, so I unbuckled and tried extending them the best I could.  Tony was probably wondering why I was squirming around in the back seat so much, but the bent knees were not my friend.  Wolfpen was another 1700′ climb, and it was the 5th Gap that day for the others.  From the sound of it, it was a struggle for some of them to make it up it, so I’m pretty sure I made the right call for me.  Besides, I’d get to make that climb the next day, so it wasn’t a climb I’d totally miss.

Back at the cabin, what remained of the day was pretty low key, laid back, and honestly just a fun time with new and old friends.  The group of campers and coaches that were at the camp were all supportive and upbeat about the day despite the suffering we had all endured.  I’d say we ate a late lunch and then dinner, but I honestly think it was just one continuous meal for the rest of the day and evening.  We had sandwiches when we first returned, and the Peak crew quickly prepared dinner for us including grilled chicken, baked potatoes, salad, apple pie, and S’mores.  My legs continued to cramp every time I moved to certain positions for most of the evening, so I drank some Osmo for the electrolytes along with my well deserved beer.  After everyone had kind of settled down and eaten their weight in food that evening, Tony had the day’s debriefing session.  Hearing everyone’s struggles and accomplishments for the day was motivating.  Everyone faces their own fears in these situations.  While I struggled with climbing the hills and my own self doubt battles, others struggled with overcoming the fear of the descents.  Both battles are just as real and challenging to overcome. Climbing up a 2000’+ elevation gain over 7 miles and believing you can do it seems insane…..until you do it.  Flying down 2000′ of curvy descent being blown around by wind and trusting your bike handling skills also seems insane…..until you do it.  But, the sense of accomplishment of overcoming that challenge is just as rewarding to each person, and unless you’ve ridden Hogpen, you just won’t understand.  I think we all headed to bed that night by 9 or 9:30 and slept pretty hard.

Sunday:

Going to bed around 9, meant that I’d be wide awake pretty early, and so at 5:30AM I was laying in my bunk reading Facebook updates thinking about the day ahead.  I knew my legs were still tired, and the day was going to be a challenge again, but I was going to give it a try and see how it went.  I wasn’t nearly as worried about this day as the day before, but I also wasn’t confident that I’d finish either since Wolfpen would be the final climb Sunday.

strength We were to start the ride at 9AM since the weather was supposed to be warmer, but when we woke up, the weatherman was wrong of course, and it was in the upper 20’s again, but at least there was no dusting of snow on the ground this morning.  It was another chilly start to the morning.

Day 2 cabin

Camp crew on the cabin porch at the start of Day 2

All bundled up, we grabbed our bikes and headed down the ?paved? road from the cabin.  The rough bumpy pavement was definitely not a nice wake up for my tush on the bike seat that morning, but I wasn’t the only one hurting.

heading outThe 3 Gaps that we would cover Sunday were Woody, Neels, and Wolfpen, so we turned left at the main road heading towards Woody Gap.  We started out with about 4 miles of basically flat riding to warm our legs up a bit before hitting the first Gap.

WOODY GAP- It was a pretty short, almost 2 mile climb to the top of Woody Gap.  Thank goodness because my legs were definitely feeling heavy.  (Lol, I just realized I called a 2 mile climb short.  Seriously, that would have NEVER happened before this past weekend.)  It seemed the group dynamics were a bit different today.  We definitely had some different paced riders at the camp, but for some reason, we were more social and packed together as we started the day.  The ride started with a different feel.  Everyone seemed more relaxed Sunday, maybe confidence, maybe a sense of relief of this being an easier day, maybe exhaustion, but I think a big part of it was that the riders more comfortable with hills decided to guide some of us who had mentioned our struggles the night before in the debriefing.  The social atmosphere made the 2 mile climb go a bit faster, and I was glad to see this one end so quick.  3 Gaps today and 1 was done.  At the top, I was still thinking about avoiding Wolfpen though at the end because my legs were tired.  As we gathered at the top, a few quick tips were given on descending Woody Gap since it was about a 7 1/2 mile descent, and we were reminded by Tony of our left turn at the Stone Pile, then Tony headed down to the turn.  Some of the ones who were comfortable with descents headed out first while others hung back to give tips to those less comfortable as they descended the Gap together.  As we approached the Stone Pile, Tony was there waiting for us all to mark the turn.

Stone Pile

At the Stone Pile turn off

We regrouped here before the turn, and as soon as the others got down, we took off.  This particular section was a really fun downhill on my tri bike.  The curves were sweeping, and I could stay in aero for most of it.

Just before Turner’s Corner there was a gas station that we stopped at for a potty break before heading towards Neels Gap.  Everyone caught up here pretty quick and seemed to be getting more comfortable with the downhills.

NEELS GAP- We would hit a short hill before Neels, get a little downhill, then start climbing Neels.  We were told it wasn’t a steep climb, but it was a continuous steady climb that we should be able to find a good cadence and rhythm on.  Well, I was searching for more gears early on again, so my cadence was slow, but I was able to at least find a fairly steady rhythm in the 60’s-70’s to push to the top of the 4 mile 1200′ climb.  With a quick bathroom stop and refueling, we were off down the backside of Neels.  Call me insane, stupid, or an adrenaline junky, but my favorite parts of these rides were flying down the backside of the Gaps and topping out at speeds just under 40 mph.  I hit 37.5mph coming down Neels(39.1 mph coming off Unicoi Sunday….just missed 40 mph).

WOLFPEN GAP- Well, here I was.  One last climb left.  The one I didn’t make yesterday.  My legs weren’t cramping today, just tired, so I had no reason to stop.  One 3 mile climb left to be done.  Wolfpen doesn’t really have any spots that allow a bit of recovery, so it was just a matter of grinding it out to the top.  It was the last one, and after Hogpen yesterday, I was going to make it to the top of this one.  I was slow, and my cadence sucked, but I was getting there.

Wolfpen Day 2 DONE

Top of Wolfpen – the last Gap!

The descent from Wolfpen was short but fun, and we regrouped at the bottom to finish the last couple of miles to the cabin as a group.

Back at the cabin, we had to shower, eat lunch, pack, and debrief before heading out, so it was a pretty busy couple of hours.

I’d recommend this camp to anyone wanting to ride the Gaps.  The Peak Team, coaches, and friends of Peak that attended were a fun group, and I learned a lot about climbing, mental toughness, and overcoming doubts and fears with their support.  Saturday, I said I’d never climb Hogpen again……but I honestly don’t know if I’d want to miss hanging with this group next year, so I might be willing to torture myself simply for the company.  Besides, the second time it’d have to be easier, right?

joycourage

 

 

 

 

Peak’s Gaps Camp…. (part 1 of 2)

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

A few months ago, I signed up for Peak Racing Team’s ( http://www.peakracingteam.com ) Gaps Camp.  Before signing up, I asked my coach, Chuck Sims, and our team’s head coach, Tony Hammett, if I was ready for the camp.  They both said yes, and that I should come, so I signed up despite my doubts after learning about what the Gaps were.

In case you aren’t familiar with the 6 Gaps bike route, the peaks range from 1400′ to 3460′ in elevation.  There are 6 named peaks: Wolfpen, Woody, Neels, Jack’s, Unicoi, and Hogpen.  Hogpen is by far the hardest at an average 7% grade for over 7 miles with sections reaching as much as 15%.  The Gaps are spread over about 80 miles and have a total elevation gain of over 10,000′, but the rides including them are often longer.

hills

Leading up to the camp, I started wondering and doubting whether I had done the right thing by signing up.  The closer the camp got, the more freaked out, nervous, doubtful, and scared I became.  2400′ of elevation over 50 miles was hard enough for me, so I didn’t see how I could complete 50 miles on two back to back days with 5000+ feet of elevation gain per day.  I’d never even ridden 100 miles in two days, and now, I decide it’d be a good decision to try it on a mountainous course 3 weeks before my upcoming 70.3 in New Orleans?  I ran about every excuse I could come up with through my head, but it’s kind of hard to come up with a valid reason to bail on your friend who signed up with you, the money you spent to go, and to admit you’re afraid you won’t make it, so you aren’t coming.  This is the first event that I have ever wanted to completely bail out of this bad, and it all went back to fear, fear of failure (this seems to be a lesson that I’m struggling to learn) and doubting my ability.  The week of camp, Chuck had lightened my training load to prepare for camp, and the extra time wasn’t my friend.  I honestly think I almost made myself sick with all the extra downtime to think and stress over it.  I had a couple of days where I slept a ridiculous amount of time, and my legs felt extremely heavy and weak.  I had joked with my coach and on Facebook about bailing out, but those jokes had a lot more truth to them that week than I shared with anyone other than a couple of people.  Facebook messages and text from Jeneen and Dani helped more than they know the week of camp and Friday night.

Friday afternoon: Angela and I met to drive up to the cabin where we were all staying for camp with Peak.  We arrived just before 6PM, unpacked our stuff, and were soon sitting down to dinner provided by Peak.  After dinner, Tony had a short meeting with all of us where he informed us that we would be riding the harder Gaps on Saturday and instead of just 3 Gaps, we’d ride 4.  The coaches gave us all some tips on climbing and descending, and Tony handed out maps, cue sheets, and samples of Foggies and TriSwim hair products from SBR Sports ( http://www.sbrsportsinc.com/triswim.html ).  After the meeting, my desire to do the ride took a hit, and I ended up in tears downstairs in my bunk bed texting Jeneen and Dani and talking to Angela as well as Tony.  I think Tony knew I was concerned about the ride, but this might have been the first time he got a true glimpse of how concerned.  After a bit, I pulled myself together and rejoined everyone upstairs, only to end up in tears again that night in my bunk as I tried to go to sleep.  I’m not one to cry unless I’m extremely mad at someone or mad at myself, so the fact that I was crying was bad.  I finally fell asleep around 1:30AM Saturday morning.

Saturday:

My alarm was set for 8AM, but I was wide awake by 6:30AM for our roll out at 10AM(late start due to 28 degree weather).  By 7:30AM, most everyone was starting to stir and eat breakfast, and at 9:30AM we snapped a photo, finished getting our warm gear on, and rolled out promptly at 10AM.  Tony headed out ahead of us in his truck where he’d ride most of the day marking out turns and regrouping spots, and Kat Hammett stayed a bit behind us periodically leap frogging us all day in case someone needed help.  The Gaps for the day were to be Wolfpen, Jack’s, Unicoi, and Hogpen….oh, did you notice that too?  Yes, they saved the hardest for the last gap of the day.

 

WOLFPEN was pretty short from the direction we hit it first, so it was tough, but it was over with pretty quick.  This short Gap was hard, but not bad, so maybe I could do this.  We regrouped at the top before the descent.  As we were descending, I realized that we hadn’t came to the stop sign on 180 yet for our left turn, and we would have to climb back up the descent we were coming down.  I quickly realized that we were really climbing 5 GAPS on Saturday!  Soooo, Tony didn’t completely lie, I guess?  We were doing 4 different Gaps.  We just happened to be doing Wolfpen twice, and he had only mentioned having to do it on the way out.

Wolfpen Day 1

Day 1, Wolfpen

 

JACK’S and UNICOI were harder since they were each longer than Wolfpen, but I was just checking each off the list of 5 that we had to do and hoping I could complete the one I was on at the time.  I don’t remember much about them other than I ran out of gears on my 11-28 cassette on both Gaps, and I usually ran out pretty close to the start, so the looming thought of Hogpen was constantly in the back of my head.  We all regrouped at the tops of Jack’s and Unicoi to see how everyone was hanging in there, and Tony and Kat met us at the tops of each Gap as well to offer nutrition, take excess clothing, or give us additional items if needed.  We had a good 10+ miles from the top of Unicoi to spin out our legs before reaching Hogpen.

HOGPEN:  The last turn before Hogpen, Tony and Kat met us.  We shed some layers for the 7 mile climb, and I made sure to look at my watch to see what my mileage was there, so I knew when 7 miles were up!  I should have eaten something at this point, but I was still okay on time with my Ucan, and I didn’t feel hungry, so I didn’t eat anything at the bottom of this climb which meant I had eaten nothing since we started the ride over 3 hours earlier.  I know I usually need nutrition with my Ucan around 3 1/2 hours, so it can kick in by 4 hours, but I wasn’t thinking ahead about not being able to stop on Hogpen to get something out and not being in my aerobars to be able to eat like I usually do.  Off we went.  The first bit from the turn wasn’t bad, so I realized that it probably wasn’t part of Hogpen quite yet, but soon, the CLIMB started.  Everyone was finding their own rhythm, so we quickly got spread out as we climbed, and I got in my easiest gear and just figured I’d chug along at my own pace.  My pace quickly began to slow….5-6mph.  About 2 miles up, we got a slight break and small, short downhill for relief before it suddenly began to climb even steeper than before, and my pace dropped to 3-4mph and 40RPM.  These 2-3 miles pretty much sucked as I was starting to feel like my stomach was burning from hunger, but I couldn’t stop because the grade was too steep to start back if I did, and I couldn’t lean on my aerobars to eat, and to top that off, my inner thighs started trying to cramp on and off along with my upper left calf.  I think this was where we saw Kat and Tony standing on the side of the road cheering.

Halfway Hogpen

Just after seeing Kat and Tony

I should know by now not to ask Tony how much farther because he will never give me the answer, but I asked anyway, and he was evasive as usual.  I might have lost Jesus at that point as I yelled something about my legs cramping and perhaps a few other words (ok, maybe this was just the first time anyone was around to witness it), but I kept chugging along as they gave me a little push to try to get my cadence up which quickly returned to less than 40.  At this point lots of quotes started running through my head, and the main one that kept resonating was “Your legs are not giving out.  Your mind is giving up.  Keep going!”  So, I did.  Around the 5 mile mark the slope lessened, but my cadence slowed so much with my legs cramping that I barely got unclipped in time to avoid falling.  My legs felt like noodles, and barely caught me even after getting unclipped.  I had just passed Kat again on the side of the road where another rider was getting out after having a flat and needing to get to a flatter area to be able to start again, so there I stood straddling my bike trying to determine if I was going to throw in the towel and tell Kat I needed in the truck, or if I was going to continue.  Jeff, the rider getting out of the truck, walked his bike up to me, asked me how I was doing, and I told him my legs were cramping, so he said, “let’s walk a minute and stretch them out.”  We walked about 1/10th a mile to a slight downhill where we climbed back on and rode about a mile before needing to walk and stretch my legs again for another 1/10th a mile.  We got back on our bikes with about 1 mile of steep climbing to go, and down the hill comes Al (from in front of us, he’d already gotten to the top) to ride the last bit back to the top with us.  By this point I was pretty well shut down and not talking at all (other than some words I shouldn’t repeat, sorry folks, I usually watch my language pretty well, but this whole weekend pushed me a bit too far), but Al and Jeff kept talking to me and encouraging me.  I have no doubt that I wouldn’t have made it to the top without the two of them staying with me.  Al guided me up the last part of Hogpen weaving side to side to ease the climb (it really does help to weave on steep areas), and we reached the top where the rest of the Peak group was waiting.  I got off my bike for a moment, stretched my legs, took in a PowerGel donated to the camp by  Power Bar ( http://www.powerbar.com/products/ ), and ate a Kind bar.  Finally, something to eat!  As I stood there, Chuck came over and told me good job or something and that he’d never done Hogpen until that day to which I replied that I’d never do it again, and I’d rather run 2 marathons on back to back days than climb that hill on a bike again.  It’d have to be easier.  I also told him he was lucky that I didn’t just punch him right there for telling me I should come to the camp!  Punching him would have made me feel better.  I told Dani before camp that I just thought Chuck was trying to find my breaking point by telling me to do the camp, and I have to say that I think he finally found it.  I told Tony that I wanted to descend and I was done!  I had done the 4 Gaps which was all that was mentioned, and I knew with my legs still cramping I wouldn’t make it up Wolfpen a SECOND time.  Then, down Hogpen we went!

Hogpen Peak

Al leading me to the top of Hogpen

The descent down Hogpen was sketchy at times as the wind had picked up and the road is kind of rough in spots, so I was getting blown left and right pretty good from the gust.  I had to brake a lot on the top steeper part, but the descents are always fun even if a tad bit scary.

We reached the turn at the bottom of Hogpen, and I put my bike in the truck and called it a day.  Chuck came rolling up as we were loading my bike, and the rim wall of his back wheel had shredded on the descent, so his bike was done as well and got loaded in Tony’s truck.  Seeing his rim, I’m just glad he made it down safely.

Back to the cabin…….. (to be continued)

 

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!

 

 

 

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……