Thursday, April 28, 2011

This Is How It's Done

Here are some of my thoughts and opinions about running training and race day strategy.  I recognize that these are not original ideas.  With all the information out there, we all pick and choose what we think works best for us.  This is what I've adapted to over the last six years.

My first endurance event was the Salt Lake City Marathon in 2005.  My time was 3:17, missing qualifying for Boston by 2 minutes.  After getting advice from many friends who were experienced runners and training hard, I feel like I had alot of room for improvement.  My next race was 6 months later in St. George.  I finished in 2:58.

I feel like my two best individual performances were at St. George in 2009 (2:37) and last week at the Boston Marathon (2:48).  Boston was my 18th marathon.  These are the factors that, for me, made for great experiences at these races:


This is the most important element.  No matter how great a race strategy you can come up with, it has to be based on the reality of how fast you can physically go.  A good training program will help you become faster and have greater endurance.  It will also reveal to you the reality of how fast you should try to go during the race.  It will help you make a realistic goal.

For recent races, I haven't followed anyone's specific training program.  I've made up my own, following a few principles, and then adapting to my schedule (family vacation, work and church meetings, scout campouts, etc..)

Going into training, I'm usually coming off a previous race 1-2 months earlier.  The training time is usually 2-3 months and I typically start with a good base and am running 30-40 miles a week.  So I may have a 6 week build up and a 3 week taper.  Here are the elements of my training:

A.  Long Run
Once per week, 20+ miles.  I'll do six of these over the building phase.  I believe the single most important thing I can do in training is build up to do a 28-30 miles run 3 weeks before the race.  This has to be much slower than race pace with several walk breaks.  For Boston, I did a 29 miler three weeks before the race and averaged 9min/mile (this included walking and stopping breaks, I probably averaged 8-8:30min/mile when running)

B.  Speed Work
The last couple of years I've gotten away from running around the track.  For Boston I did three 10 miles runs (once a week during the last month of training) where every other mile was hard (5:45-6min/mile)and the other miles slower (7:30).  About two weeks before the race, I do a 10K "race" from Recker/Thomas to the top of Las Sendas and back (6:10min/mile).  *This route is an out-and-back route with a gradual uphill in the first half. 

C.  Tempo Runs
The mid week 8-12 miles runs get progressively closer to marathon pace through the training period.  The most important time to really lock in on this is during the first two weeks of the taper (from three weeks to one week before the race).  For Boston, every run during those two weeks was at 6:30-7min/mile pace.  Most people will be able to go faster during the race than they can seem to go during this taper period.  For example, in a training run two weeks before the race, I struggled to average 6:50 pace for a 10 miles run (not fully tapered) but then averaged 6:24 for the actual race.  In summary, don't get discouraged.  You can probably go 20-30 sec/mile faster in the race compared to these tempo runs.

D.  Total Weekly Mileage
For most of training I'll run Mon, Tues, Thurs, Sat.  4 days/week.  The first 4 of six week build phase I'll do 8-12 miles Mon, Tues, Thurs and 20-24 on Sat.  During weeks 5 and 6 (peak) the schedule looks more like: Mon (10), Tues (15), Thurs (15), Sat (26-30) for a total weekly mileage of 65-70 miles.

E.  Train For The Terrain Of The Race
If it's going to be hilly, at least one run/week needs to be on hills.  For St. George, we spent alot of time in Las Sendas doing repeats up and down.  We'd drop water at the top and bottom during the summer.  For Boston training in cooler weather, long runs would start from our neighborhood up canal to Granite Reef Dam, up King Kong, through Hawes trails (great hills on trails), come out at top of Las Sendas, back to home.

F.  Rest Before The Race
If race is on Saturday, I'll run 5 miles on Monday (mile 1,3, and 5 at race pace), 3 miles on Tuesday (easy) and then rest my legs for three days (wed, thurs, fri).  I'll swim on wed and maybe thursday to get some exercise and prevent from going crazy.

G.  Weight/Diet
I believe some research I saw once that says for a marathon, every pound body weight is worth a minute.  Loose 5 pounds, go 5 min faster.  obviously there is a point where this becomes counter productive.  I know for me, my ideal race weight is 172-174.  After Ironman St. George last year I got up to 186.  So for two months before Boston this year I got really disciplined about eating healthy and slowly dropped down to 174 by race day.  

Typical breakfast:  protein shake (with rice milk, bannana, blueberries, large scoop of fage yogurt) a couple of scrambled eggs and a whole wheat bagle.  Lunch is leftovers from whatever we had the night before.  Dinner: Emily is awesome about cooking healthy foods.  I think the main way I really lean up for race day is eliminating restaurant food, sweets, carbonated beverages, late night cereal binges, and try to stop eating when I feel full.  It's also hard to stay disciplined all the way to the race, even when you are on "vacation" sometimes the day or two before the race.

H.  Shoes
Another study showed every ounce in your shoes is worth a minute in a marathon.  I'm a believer.  I've gone from 12-14 ounce shoes that I use to train and race to now using a 5.5 ounce race shoe (Nike Lunaracer) just for races (and during the last couple of weeks of training for tempo runs).

I.  Cross/Core training
I'm not great at this but I try to do a little.  For Boston, I did a 10 min workout 4-5 days/week right after running which included one set each of push ups, curls, military press, triceps press, and sit ups.  I did this for about 3-4 weeks.  I do try to do some basic stretches on my own before I run (hamstring, quad, calf) and in the evening before bed.  In a perfect world with more time, I'd swim 3-4 days/week.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How To Run A Perfect Boston Marathon

I asked my friend Ben to contribute to the ole' blog when his wife told me he felt he ran his perfect race last week in Boston.  Ben is a 2:37 marathoner, an ultra marathoner, a doctor, and father to five kids.  Here are his thoughts on Boston, along with his training plans and tips for successful racing -- but you'll have to stay tuned for those tomorrow.  For now, read on about how to finish Boston with pep in your step!

*  Side Note:  a 2:48 marathon = 6:25 mile pace.  

At Boston, I really tried to discipline myself to follow the recommendations you always hear for all races, but that everyone says especially apply to Boston.  That is, to not go out too fast and to back off until after the Newton Hills.  The "racing" doesn't start until mile 21.  

For me, I knew I could run the first half at 6min/mile pace.  I'd done it before at other races that are more forgiving at the end (St. George).  But I knew that when I ran Boston before, four years earlier (3:02), I totally faded at the end and didn't want that to happen again.  So my plan was to run 6:25 average pace over the first half which would put me at 1:25.  Then, I'd keep the same effort through the next 8 miles, which included 4-5 miles of the famed Newton Hills, culminating in Heartbreak Hill.  Finally, I'd see how I felt for the last 5 miles of downhill-flat, potentially fast terrain.  If I could come in under 2:50, that would be an awesome day.

Weather on race day was about as perfect as you could get.  Temps in the high 40s at the start, high 50s at the finish.  Nice consistent tailwind the entire way.  For this race, I decided to go without an MP3 player because I really wanted to get the full Boston experience, including all the sounds.  

It was interesting that over the first 6 miles, probably 500 runners slowly passed me.  My splits for those miles were: 6:20, 6:19, 6:19, 6:20, 6:30, and 6:24.  I felt I was right on pace and totally relaxed (maybe 80% of maximum effort).  During the next 10 miles, I felt like I kept a constant effort, but I noticed no one was passing me anymore.  Still feeling pretty good.  My splits for those miles were: 6:21, 6:31, 6:31, 6:31, 6:34, 6:28, 6:31, 6:30, 6:33, and 6:22.  

I think by the time we got to the hills I still had enough energy that I could move up them pretty quickly while still remaining pretty relaxed.  Splits for miles 17-21: 6:44, 6:46, 6:33, 6:44, and 6:51.  Then, the payoff for being disciplined in my pacing earlier in the race began.  As soon as we started going downhill and as soon as I allowed myself to start "racing" I realized I'd finish strong.  There was more in the tank than I realized.  I'm sure I passed 500 runners in the last 5 miles.  Splits for those miles were:  6:06, 5:52, 5:52, 5:59, 6:01, and 5:55 (last .2 miles).

The morning of the race I ate a waffle, oatmeal, banana, and chocolate milk (?700cal) 4 hours before the race.  I had more chocolate milk and a cliff bar and another banana 1 hour before the race.  I ate one powergel 10 minutes before the race.  I ate one powergel every 30 min for the first 1:30 of the race and then no other carbs until the finish.  I drank water at all aid stations.  No gatorade.  I didn't walk through any aid stations.  Kept my head wet and cool with water at each aid station.

Ben crossed the finish line at Boston in 2:48.  Nice work, compadre!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Love Firsts

It's always fun for me to read about an athlete's first race.  Here's Spencer's first Half Ironman report.  Spencer's busy with his first year of law school, but managed to gut out a respectable finish at the daunting Oceanside 70.3 course.  

I woke up at 4:00 AM to eat one thousand calories. I had some gross almond soy milk drink to bank 400 calories, and made up the rest with bananas, bagels, and a power bar. John was adding 5 scoops of some mystery powder to my water bottle. I didn’t know what it was. I might have been doping during the race. It kind of reminded me of when Devin would slip some white powder (creatine?) into my protein shakes.
We threw our bikes on the back of the car and hit the road to the beach. We parked at America’s best hotel (the best one!) and pedaled down to the race. I had a few hours to set up my transition area, get my body marked, and use the port-o-potties. I learned that triathlete men love to strategize and discuss the frequency and timing of going to the bathroom leading up to a race.
Body marking satisfies my inner child’s desire to draw on myself with permanent marker. I don’t know if marking serves any real purpose other than to look cool, because the numbers are either obscured or redundant. Your wetsuit covers your body-marked numbers during the swim, and you wear a giant paper number around your waist for the rest of your race. You also plaster your bike and helmet with stickers showing your number. I did find it beneficial to refer to people’s left calves to see how old they were as they blew past me on the bike. It let me know how embarrassed I should feel. Plenty of men and women over 50 and 60 took me down during the race.
I set up my transition area. Bike, helmet, glasses, race number, socks, bike shoes, running shoes. I got my wetsuit on and chatted nervously with the guys in my age group. I said goodbye to John, and I hurried down the chute to find my group. I felt like a kid on the first day of school looking for his bus number. I found my group wearing the same purple swim cap as me and walked with them to the start. I was surrounded by people but felt very alone. I get nervous before swimming races. Every time I've swum in a competition I've had some sort of panic attack. The only other time I swam fast in salt water I swallowed some water and vomited a few times. I didn't know if my wetsuit would keep me warm enough. I didn’t know if my old goggles would hold up or if they would leak. I didn’t want to be swimming through the ocean for an hour without being able to see.
I stepped into the water and noticed it was warmer than Saguaro Lake I’d done the week before. Greg was volunteering and was helping people down into the water. It was great to see him. We swam over to the start buoy, most of swimming like water polo players to avoid sticking our faces into the cold water before we had to. A buzzer sounded, and we were off.
My goal was to finish the race and stay alive. Aly didn’t care about the race, she just wanted me to stay alive. I really don’t remember swimming faster or slower than normal. I don’t think I cared. I just took it easy and made my way through the harbor. The race started in waves, based on age groups, and not all at once. This meant that every so often a fresh wave of fast swimmers would come up behind me. I was off to the side, so most swimmers would go right past me. Some would actually swim directly over the top of my body. Others I kicked squarely and cleanly in the face. I apologized, but there was nothing I could do differently. They ran into my feet.
Anyway, as you swim out of the harbor and towards the open ocean, you start to feel it. Your body rocks up and down in the small waves. It became harder to get a clean breath without getting a salty taste in my mouth. I eventually reached the turn-around and headed back to flatter waters, but the salt water and undulating sea had gotten to me. I stopped and threw up. Then I threw up again. I kept swimming, but I had a gag reflex triggered every time I had the taste of salt on my lips. I threw up a third time, then stopped and bobbed for a while to catch my breath and compose myself. If I blew out carefully before breathing, and turned far to my side, I could keep swimming. Soon enough, I saw the boats in the harbor, and after swimming for a few more minutes I made it back. A volunteer tough old man with a chiseled hairy forearm pulled me out of the water.
Take that Aly--I didn’t die in the ocean.
It was great to see the Lesueurs on my way to my bike. It was warm enough that I didn’t need the extra jersey or the sleeves I brought. I hit the road. John passed me about 2 minutes into the bike. He had already closed the 15 minute head start I had on him. Greg Davis came up behind me a little while later. It was nice to start in one of the earlier waves, because all day long I was passed by people I knew. The aid stations on the bike were fun. The marines from Camp Pendleton manned all the stations. They were energetic and excited to be there. I took a few packs of gel from one guy and stuck them in my back pocket, wanting to save them for later. We biked along the coast for a while, then turned inland. There was a steep old hill, but I made it up.
Then I noticed something funny was happening to my knee. It felt like the back of my knee was sticky. I touched my hamstring, and my hand was covered in brown sticky gel. The stuff is like honey. The guys at the aid stations had opened the gels for me before I grabbed them, so I had three packets of this stuff all down the back of my shirt, saddle, race number, and legs. I saw later than my back was plastered with this red-brown stain. Ryan came up behind me and thought I was bleeding profusely. Aside from a sticky bike, the leaky gels didn’t prove to be a problem. There were more hills and it was windy but I made it back in.

The worst part of a triathlon is this transition. My biking legs are not too happy to start running. My quads and calves were killing me.I’d end up walking a bit at the first few aid stations, so my mile times were slow. It was nice to see the Lesueurs and Arnetts on the run course. Emily ran with me for a little bit. The run went down a residential street, so the neighbors blasted AC/DC and Eminem for us.The kids at the aid stations were having a great time handing out waters, gels, Gatorade, and orange slices. Jacque caught me on the run, also after eclipsing a large head start I had on her. She is intense. It was good to see friends and Tri-Mesa folks on the sidelines and racing on the course. At about mile 9 I figured that if I picked it up, I could finish in less than 7 hours. The last three miles or so was the hardest part of my day. I made it in 6:59:39.

So, I made it. I really don’t remember much about what happened afterwards. Someone gave me a hat and a medal. A long, cold shower felt good on my sunburned and worn out body. I couldn’t lift my legs to get into a car too well. Many many thanks to Kyle and John for letting me chase them on a bike on Saturday mornings, to Aly for letting me sleep on Saturday afternoons, and to everyone who came to cheer us on. Resolutions for next year: beat my old time, train on steeper hills, don’t swallow any seawater, don’t put half a jar of honey in my pocket.

Monday, April 25, 2011

High Carb Foods

Carbs has become a dirty word to most Americans.  But for active athletes with high calorie needs, Dietician Nancy Clark recommends eating three to five grams of carbs per pound of body weight per meal.

Example:  If you weight 160 pounds, this comes to 480-800 grams, or about 60 percent of a 3,200 to 5,300 calorie diet.

So what does a gram of carbohydrates look like?

Here is a list from Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook to help you navigate the mysteries of proper nutrition.

Apples     1 med               20g carbs     80 calories
Orange     1 med               15                65
Banana     1 med               25                105

Carrots               1 med               10                70
Broccoli             1/2 cup             5                  20
Zucchini             1/2 cup              2                 10

Bagel                 1 small             31                165
English Muffin  1                      25               130
Pita                    1 small             21               105
Pancake             3-4 inch           35               185
Eggo Waffle      1                   15               120

Gatorade           8 oz.             14                 50
Choc. Milk        8 oz.             25               180
Milk 2%            8 oz.              12               120

Baked Potato    1 large           50                220
Spaghetti           1 cup            40                200
Rice                   1 cup            45               200

Refried Beans    5 oz.              45              370
Mac N Cheese   1 cup             29               210

Honey                 1 T.                7               30
Oreo                    1                  13               50
Fig Newton          1                   8               50
Fruit Yogurt         1 cup             50             225
Fro Yo                  1 cup            44             240

Remember, your diet should be at least 60 percent carbohydrate for daily training, and 65-70 percent before an endurance event.  Don't forget about a small amount of fat in your diet, but eliminate greasy foods, replace muffins with bagels, granola with muesli, and pesto sauce with tomato sauce.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Tis the season for eggs in all colors, hues and sizes.  How do you like yours?

Spirit Magazine's Kathryn O'Shea-Evans helped solved the mystery regarding organic, free range and cage free eggs.  Here is some pertinent information regarding these golden breakfast treasures.

Grade AA: Larger than Grade A, but not a nutritionally superior meal.  Grade is purely used to denote size.

Cage-Free:  Hens are able to run about inside huge chicken houses, but not outdoors.

Free Roaming:  Chickens have access to the outdoors for at least 51 percent of their lives.

Organic:  Hens eat feed that is organically grown and free of pesticides, animal byproducts, and chemical fertilizers.  No cages allowed and birds must have constant access to outdoors. 

Brown vs. White:  The color of the egg is determined by the type of hen that laid it, chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs, chickens with red earlobes lay brown eggs.  Nutritional value is determined by feed, not breed, so there is no difference is the proteins and vitamins inside.  

Here's where it gets interesting:

The article then goes on to  list the nutritional value of two types of eggs, Eggland's Best Cage-Free Grade A Large Brown Eggs, versus Market Pantry Grade A Large Eggs. 

Both eggs had 70 calories and six grams of protein.  But the cage free eggs had 4 grams of fat compared to Market Pantry's 4.5 grams, and almost half the cholesterol (170mg vs. 215mg).  That may not sound like much, but if you are having a multi-egg omelet, things start to add up.  

And speaking of omletes, egg whites contain more than half of the egg's total protein, niacin, magnesium, riboflavin, sodium and potassium.   Nearly all of an egg's fat and cholesterol lie in its yolk.  But so do nearly all of its calcium, zinc and vitamins A, D, and E.  

So which type of eggs will you be buying this week at the grocery store?  I know what I'll be reaching for.  

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

News Flash

Well, I did not win the Boston Marathon.  Not even close.  In fact, the winner could've run the marathon twice and still would've beat me.  But I did enjoy the most spectacular event of running history that America has to offer.  I had the time of my life.

Boston lived up to the hype that everyone has ever told me about.  Wellesley and Boston College crowds could be heard half a mile away.  The neighborhood spectators lined the streets with fresh oranges and one of my favorites: otter pops.  And there is something about high fiving kids that gives you a mental boost in a pain-filled day.

Heartbreak Hill was not much of a heartbreak, though the timing of the hills, at miles 19 through 21, was a challenge for everyone.  The finish line made you feel like you were waving from a Presidential motorcade.  Boston, you know how to put on a race.  I hope to be back a spectator next time!

Here are some highlights:
A big hello to the runners!

Packed Expo crowds

Josh Cox, 50k US Record Holder, and a cutie patootie

Planes, taxis, subways...and school buses.
Thugs or runners?

The secret shoes that have wings on them

Port a potty lines? No, runners loading the busses

Celebrating 25 years of marriage by running Boston!  You should've heard the anniversary poem!
It's been said that it's good luck to walk under the Boston banner to get to the Athlete Village

Cold crowds getting into the zone.

Passing Dick and Rick Hoyt at Mile 16 was a highlight

Magic Capes to all finishers!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Boston Day One...And Day Two*

L. Tuck, checking in live from Bwhahston, Mass.  Scattered clouds and strong Nor'easterly winds out here.  But you can feel the excitement in the air.  This city has marathon fever.  Take a look!
Even the airport is excited about Monday
Tomorrow's day includes packet pick up and checking out the expo.  With 20 thousand other runners. 
Now I'm no fashionista, but here's where I start to question this sport.  Why is it that people feel they need to be walking billboards for running?  I understand the pride of the marathon.  I know that one acquires quite a few race tees over the years.  But seriously, don't people have any REGULAR clothes?  For travel?  Maybe a nice collared polo or a cute pair of jeans?  Don't you own another pair of shoes besides your Asics?

My flight was packed with runners.  And you didn't have to be Nancy Drew to figure that one out.  BOSTON 2008 windbreakers, sweats from Livestrong, and every where you turned, shirts enblazoned with "marathon"... Rock and Roll, Big Sur, New York!!  Every runner on that flight was silently screaming:  I did it!  I made it to Boston and I'm running this great event!  All without opening their mouths.  

I enjoy the gear just as much as the next gal, but maybe in smaller doses. Maybe not on the flight over.   How about letting your physique speak for itself?  

Subtle.  A good word and a good practice.

* Day Two Update:  Okay, I get it now.  You get to the expo, and there's all the Boston wear all bright new and shiny.  You want it.  And once you get it, there's nowhere else you can wear it besides on your training days or at the next expo.  My apologies.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Definition of A True Friend

This, is A.

I like to call A a "fastie."  She can run.  And I mean, really run.  She's the rabbit to our group of greyhounds -- constantly being chased.  She's going for a sub three marathon in June in San Diego.  And her half at the Rock and Roll in Phoenix this year was a 1:26, putting her 184th out of almost 20 thousands runners.

Quiet, unassuming A would never tell you that.  She just doesn't like to put herself in the spotlight.  Never draws attention to herself. No way.

But I will.

When I was itchin' to qualify for Boston, A outlined a plan for me.  She would run along side me -- be my "domestique".  She would pace me, open my gels, grab water, run me to the finish line, and get me to Boston.

And that's exactly what she did.  A trained every step of my marathon with me.  Every long run.  Every trip to the track.  Every tempo run.  Then in Utah last summer, she crossed the finish line with me and got me a time that was accepted by the Boston Athletic Association for entry into the 115th Boston marathon.

The morning of registration I hopped onto my computer at 9 a.m. and had no trouble registering for the race.  A on the other hand, did not.  She was traveling home from a humanitarian Christian mission to Egypt and missed the eight hour window to enter the event.  Sorry, no, Boston said.  We're full.

Insert dagger into heart.  A was not going?  And I WAS?  Oh the humanity! We we're supposed to go to Boston together!

But sweet, kind A encouraged me to go, and even offered me her hotel reservation.  And then sent this email yesterday: "Have fun, girl.  I will be thinkin/prayin for you on Mon.  You will do great."

I don't know if you've got that kind of friend in your life.  But if you do, consider yourself lucky.  A is a true friend.  And I will always be grateful for her.  Thank you for getting me to Boston, A.  And thank you, for being such an awesome person.  I owe you one.

On Monday, I'll be running for you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Multigrain vs. Whole Grain: Which is Healthier?

I'm trying to eat a healthy diet. Is multigrain the same thing as whole grain? Which is the healthier choice?

Multigrain and whole grain are not interchangeable terms. Whole grain means that all parts of the grain kernel — the bran, germ and endosperm — are used. In contrast, multigrain means that a food contains more than one type of grain; it doesn't tell you whether they're whole or refined grains, or a mix of both.

Whole-grain foods are a healthy choice because they contain nutrients, fiber and other healthy plant compounds found naturally in the grain. Look for products that list the first ingredient as "whole grain," "whole wheat" or "whole oats." Healthy adults should eat at least three 1-ounce equivalents of whole grains a day as part of a balanced diet.

from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Swim Exit 101

I liked these tips from last month's Triathlete Magazine on the best way to exit the swim.

Step 1:  Swim toward the finish.  Know the course and find tall buildings or trees to sight that are in line with the swim exit.

Step 2:  Activate your legs.  Kick a little extra during the last 200 meters of the swim.

Step 3:  Keep swimming!  Don't stop or stand up until you have run aground in the shallow water.  When your fingers scrape the bottom, take a few more strokes by pulling right under your torso.

Step 4:  Stand and lift your goggles onto your forehead.  This action clears your vision for any potential hazards underfoot as you start to run out of the water.

Step 5:  Unzip your wetsuit on solid ground.  Running through sand and rock is hard enough.  Wait until you reach carpeting or pavement to search for that strap.

Step 6:  Take off your cap and goggles when you see your bike.  Abandonment of equipment can result in a penalty, so don't risk dropping these small items.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sweet Emotion -- Michelle's First Half Ironman

-- By Michelle 

Like any big event, I’ve been looking forward to this race for several months.  This was my first trip to Oceanside and my first 70.3 distance race.  Typically, I spend hours scouring the event website, reading reviews, and checking out the course maps and elevation charts.  This time, I decided that wasn’t a good idea because each time I sat down to process what I’d gotten myself into, my stomach reminded me that I was crazy and under prepared.  Did I mention that sharks live in the ocean? So I did the next best thing…. stuck my head in the sand, entered a huge state of denial, and followed my fabulous friends around as they trained.

The day of the race arrived and we made it through all of the pre-race jitters.  I was waiting with my age group as we watched the pros take off.  They were in and out of the water before our wave even started.  It was inspiring to watch them run into transition.  The water “appeared” calm and I felt nervous but ready as we approached the boat ramp.

We gently swam to the starting line and I knew in just a few minutes I would lose my “security blanket” (a.k.a. Jacque).  Then it would be up to me.  As the air horn rang out, I felt good and had plenty of room to swim.  But then the next wave caught me and the water felt much more crowded.  It seemed I just kept going and going and going.  It felt like I spent more time vertical trying to see the next buoy than I did horizontal swimming away.

The water was choppy and it felt like the swells were enormous; it’s all much worse when you are out there.  Was this swim ever going to end?  Finally, I spotted the turn around buoy and headed straight for it.  Somebody passed right along side me and I became a little too acquainted with their heel.  Bam!  A heal to my mouth.  Ouch!  Great, now I was in the ocean with a bleeding mouth.  If I could taste the blood in my mouth then surely the sharks could smell it! Did I mention that they can smell a drop of blood within a mile?!  I started to think about the rest of the day and the reality of it all hit me in my weakest moment out in the middle of the ocean, bleeding!  I started to question my race strategy of “denial”. By the time I got out of the water, I wanted to sit down on my transition mat and cry.  I didn’t want to quit, I just wanted to cry.   I was mentally unprepared and I knew it.  Denial is NOT a good race day strategy!

It took me until about mile 15 on the bike to realize that I did want to be out there and that I was having a good time.   I finally settled in and then around mile 23 my husband Jared caught and passed me.   We had a quick chat and he was off.  I thought I had it rough…he had just gotten stung by a bee on his head!  Then the hills and wind started.  The second half of the course was much tougher.  It felt like we climbed forever, took a quick break and then climbed some more.  Lorie’s words kept echoing in my mind.  “Don’t lose your heart rate or you’ll lose your run.”

I did a good job at keeping my heart rate in check but was feeling frustrated as I just kept getting slower.  One by one I ticked off each of the last 15 miles on the bike.   I’d done a lot of firsts—many of which should have happened before race day but didn’t:  Going uphill at 4.6 mph and not tipping over.  Did you even know that was possible?  Not me!  I actually picked up a banana and a water bottle at the same time going though an aid station…and didn’t crash!  Went 35 mph downhill.  Slow to some people but for me…. speedy.

Somewhere in those last 15 miles something great happened.  I finally gave myself permission to do my best.  It sounds cliche but really I was finally able to let go of where I was in comparison to others and just enjoy the accomplishment of being out on the course surrounded by others claiming their own personal victories.  It was an empowering feeling as I slowly headed into the wind and towards transition.   As I approached the bike dismount, I got choked up and just reveled the fact that I was done with the unknown.  I walked through transition and soaked in the atmosphere around me.

I felt relief as my legs actually worked and the run began.  Two loops, lots of familiar and friendly faces, and the BEST cheering support squad ever!!  I ran the first loop comfortable and felt great.  The second loop I tried to pick up the pace a little and then finally at the 10 mile mark focused my energy and ran hard.  I like to finish a race knowing I left it all on the course and this time I did.  Running along the beach with cool temps and cloud cover, watching challenged athletes do amazing things, being on the course with friends, surrounded by a cheering section that loves you and carries you to the finish line.  Does it get any better than that?  It’s a hard feeling to beat. 

Diary Of A Slow Chick

In reality, J is anything BUT slow.  She's run several marathons including Boston, with a PR of 3:20, I believe.  She can keep pace with the best of 'em.  But J has also been injured, and is just reappearing on the running scene.  Here's her email to me describing her run with the "fasties" in the group for our weekly 10 miler.  Leave it to J to find the humor in everything!
*ATG = At The Gate (our usual meeting spot)
photo credit

ATG 5:15:  Amy, Christy Janeen
ATG 5:20:  Amy, Christy Janeen
Departure: Amy, Christy, Janeen

5:28 McKellips and Canal:  Amy, Christy...Janeen
Adobe and Canal: Amy, Christy.....Janeen
Adobe/ Greenfield: Amy, Christy........."Can't talk Janeen"
Greenfield /McKellips: Amy shows mercy on Janeen and asks if she needs to stop
 6:15 Mountainside Fitness:  Amy, Christy, Janeen and her "Rikki" in the restroom
6:25:  Greenfield canal and McKellips Amy, Christy.......................Janeen
6:27 Backs of their heads looking like dots on the horizon
6:30 Turnoff, and canal for ATG: Just Janeen
6:45:  only a black suburban left in the parking faced, sweaty, tired as heck, Janeen

Late night, poor fueling and fast chicks don't mix.  hahaha

Thanks for making us feel NORMAL, J!  We love you!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Misty's Take on El Tour de Mesa

When I sign up for events I never anticipate anything other than racing and doing it to the best of my abilities. As Tour de Mesa approached I found that I wasn’t nearly as ready as I thought I would be, given the fact that so many things factor into training. It has been a tad on the cold side in the mornings so I hadn’t been riding as much as I probably should have been, I also found that “life” got in the way of my long Saturday rides and to top everything off I ended up getting a cold a few days before the race. 

All this aside I decided that I was just going to ride how I felt if I felt good then I would ride hard and if not then I would just enjoy the scenery. Thankfully I was able to recruit my good friend Jim to tag along to keep me motivated. It was a great day for a race, the weather was perfect and I was feeling better, as we waited at the start and watched the riders pile in my nerves started to heighten, you never know what lies ahead.

They counted down and we were off.  It’s always a little scary in the beginning as riders dash in and out trying to find the pace they want or a good draft. Things went pretty smooth as we screamed down University at 30 miles an hour, making it through all the turns and finally onto Hayden.  Then things started to get a little squirrelly when the group split a little and there was a lot of tire touching and bumping, enough to make me back off knowing that at Shea we would want to hang with the group as long as possible. 

After reaching the top of Shea I was pretty sure I had lost one of my lungs on the road, but knew that there is always a great downhill to recover. We caught on with another small group to pull us along the Beeline. I don’t what it is about that stretch but it seems like it lasts forever. One last climb up Usery Pass and we were home free, and making pretty decent time. I knew I wouldn’t hit platinum but given the circumstances I was very happy with my time, there is always next year to try again. All in all it was a great day and a great ride !!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

What A Race Looks Like From The Front Of The Pack

My younger brother, Dave, acquired all the talent in the family gene pool, while I acquired all the desire.  I asked him to recap El Tour De Mesa's 72-mile race this past Saturday.  He's a front-of-the-pack kind of guy. I wondered what that might be like.  Here's his review of the fabulously fast Web-Op Focus Team's day at the races.  All photos courtesy of Web-Op.
That's Dave on the left side of the photo
The sun was up and the weather perfect for the 1200 riders making the 6:15 start time. The pack quickly fell into a nice groove and was rolling along comfortably at 30 mph for the first half hour or so of the race. 

Being that the first 30 miles of the race is flat, it’s tough for anyone to get away off the front so the front pack usually has 300-400 riders that stick together, although it’s usually up to the top local cycling teams to drive the pace. Bicycle Haus from Scottsdale and RideClean from Phoenix are usually two of the teams with a strong presence, but this year Web-Op/Focus from east Mesa had the numbers and riders up front driving the peleton. 

Halfway into the race the climb over Shea trims the pack of those who don’t like inclines, and after the fast descent through Fountain Hills, the climb up the Beeline to Bush Highway trims it a bit more. After a very fast descent past Saguaro Lake where the pace got up to 40 mph, the riders approached the last and hardest test of the day with the 3.5 mile climb of Usery Pass. This road comes around the 60-mile mark so at this point all riders are feeling the miles, fatigue, and heat from the pavement. What was once a pack of 100 or so riders at the start of the climb, quickly turned into small groups all over the road as the elite climbers screamed away at 20 mph, while others less inclined to lose their lungs settled in to grind away at 7-8 mph. 

Once over the climb, the front pack of around eight to nine cyclist held a minute or so advantage over the chasing pack. Led by the Web-Op team which had four riders in this elite group, they were able to keep the wolves at bay and bring it in for the closing sprint. 

A perfect day for the Web-Op team was just missed when a local rider for Carlos O’Briens narrowly out-sprinted two from Web-Op to take the win by less than a wheel length. 

Great weather, great scenery, and better support from local governments this year (thank you Mayor Smith of Mesa) made this a memorable inaugural Tour de Mesa.        

Thank You, Second Sister

Inspiration Monday...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What I Believe

A little message of inspiration.  What can you do for someone else?
Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True