Saturday, January 31, 2009

The best laid plans

Sometimes,in spite of our best efforts, something still goes wrong. Sound familiar? We get two flat tires on a ride, but only carry one tube. We cook a gourmet meal, but realize half way through preparation that we forgot an ingredient (or two). And my personal favorite? We run a half marathon in race flats, and our legs stop cooperating 9.5 miles in. (ahem).

So last night in preparation for my long bike ride today, I did the following:
I laid out my ride clothes, going through my drawers and closet until I had found socks, arm and leg warmers, under layer, jersey top, shorts, and gloves.

Next came ride nutrition, salt, and cash. VERY important when riding for 5.5 hours.Don't worry, I wasn't planning on only consuming three gels. What you don't see are the power bars and carbo pro. Those were stacked neatly in the kitchen, next to my pre-ride breakfast.

And finally, what long ride could be complete without one's trusty bike?Bottles were at the ready, helmet was resting over the aero bars, tires were pumped, and glasses were nestled in the helmet.

I made a filling dinner of barilla enriched pasta, a big salad, was drinking plenty of water, and was in bed before 10 pm.

And then, something totally unexpected happened.

Sometime around 3:30 I woke up, scratchy throat, sweaty, and with a racing heart rate. Super!


But it didn't seem to matter how much I changed the mantra, my body was doing one thing while my mind screamed for something else.

I tossed and turned in bed, debating about what to do. By 4 am, I knew that riding long would be stupid at best. So I texted my ride buddy (and celeb) Charisa, with the bad news.

Hi! Am bailing on ride bc high rhr, night sweats, and questionable throat. Not sore, but something is off. Will do my own thing in case i go downhill. Sorry! Am sad to miss but think this is the right call...

I started writing the text at 4, but didn't actually send it until 4:08. Either I'm really slow at texting, or was just really tired. Probably the latter.

And now it's seven hours after the text. My throat is getting worse, my nose is stuffy, and the temperature is either hot or cold. Classic case of getting ill.

The really hard part?

I'm manic about taking taking care of myself. I get enough sleep, I watch my nutrition, I listen to my body and at any sign of illness - elevated heart rate, night sweats, the whisper of a tickle in the back of my throat - I take it easy. Back off without regrets.

If its one thing I've learned: exercising (for me) with a sore throat or stuffy nose only leads to much much much WORSE illness.

So today and tomorrow I'm taking it easy, staying in bed, watching trashy TV, and reading. I'm bored already. At least I've got a Mini Monster to keep me company. Lately Anabelle has been burrowing under the covers, curling up, and falling asleep. I swear that she's half marsupial.

It just goes to show that we can't always be prepared for what's around the next bend. Life is full of surprises, unexpected turns, and the moment that you think you've got things figured out. WHAM! You wake up in the middle of the night, sweaty, with a sore throat, and high heart rate.


But I'm making the best of it, spending quality time with Nathaniel and the kitties. I'll catch up on all the blogs and enjoy the extra sleep and chicken noodle soup. And hopefully - fingers crossed, with a cherry on the top - I'll be better soon. That's the idea, anyways.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A few days later...

Well, the recovery is coming along, albeit slowly. That's what I get for doing something like wearing flats for a half marathon. My quads are still angry at me, but I'm happy to report that walking while engaging my quads is now possible. I no longer walk with my knees locked. Amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it!

I'm also walking faster than an 80-year old, so yea! for me. (But some of those folks can really move!)

In other fascinating news, it looks as though I'm about to loose my first toe of the 2009 season. Errr, toe nail. Sorry about that: loosing a toe would be pretty awful. Well, just as long as it wasn't the big one or pinky one.

Actually, this nail trend thing started after Gulf Coast Half in 2007. Just as Nathaniel took this shot of me, I was saying something like, "Holy Cow it's HOT!" and then, "I'm SO going to loose a toe nail or two."

I don't know who was more surprised: the volunteers or Nathaniel.

This time, I kept my thoughts to myself, until we were seated in the car. Then all bets were off.

In other news, I've stopped whimpering while standing up suddenly. I no longer have to use my arms to hoist myself up: thank goodness I've retained my rower-like upper body. But I'm still taking things easy.

Trust me.

But in spite of the pain and whimpering, I still wouldn't change my selection of shoe. Yeah, it hurts now, and I shuffle around slower than I did post back-surgery, but I learned a valuable lesson in the process.

It sucks to get passed by 20 people in the final mile, while your legs give out well before the cardiovascular system shuts down.

The competitor in me is ticked off, upset by watching the backside of speedy runners sprint towards the finish.

And its something I will not forget. In fact, I will carry that memory into my next race, and then the race after that. And by the time Oceanside 70.3 rolls around, I'll know exactly what I need to do to have a stellar run, minus the pain of angry quads.

Sometimes we need that. We need that boost, that little bit of extra charge, the spark that ignites a hotter, more fierce fire. Because now it's lit, and I'm ready to take back those three miles. And I can't wait.

But first I need to work on standing up minus the whimper. Yeah, that will be a good first step.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Carlsbad Half Marathon Race Report

What you can't see from the picture below, is the look of incredible pain on my face as I "sprint" across the finish line. More like hobble, as I lost my quads somewhere around mile 10. The good news? I did manage to finish, and Nathaniel's photo is proof.
What else can I say, but it's ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC to be back, racing, and having a blast. And yes, though I'm still having a hard time going from standing to sitting (14 hours after crossing the finish line), it was well worth it.

Now, something new for this season. My goal is to write my race report in LESS time than it took me to run my race. Great for me and even better for you, dear readers. Because while I love me a good race report, I do realize that I have a propensity to write. A lot.


Alarm went off bright and early. There's something so wrong about waking up at 4:30 am for a race that starts less than three miles from where we live. But pre-race breakfast of oatmeal and coffee needed to be digested and cleared from the stomach long before the starter's horn sounded.

After a bit of running around, feeding our House and Mini Monsters, and gathering my race flats, Nathaniel and I were out the door just after 6:00 am. Though the race started at 7:30, the Race Director's warned participants that parking and traffic could cause between a 30-45 minute delay.

I hate being late for races, or cutting starts close - so the earlier the better. We managed to navigate traffic pretty well and were parked by 6:25 am. Plenty of time for a long warmup, bathroom break, more warm up, bathroom break, etc etc etc. I hate to say it, but I did see lots of participants searching for parking spots as late as 7:15. I don't know how they managed to keep their cool.

Warm-up completed, I finished my strides, stripped off my layers, and then replaced my trusty training shoes with race flats.

Cue VERY scary music.

Race flats for a 5k or 10k? Great.

But it's been years since I wore them for a half marathon. I discussed my options with Jen: she warned me that my legs may be shot by mile 10, but it was my call.

I figured that because this race was just a test, just an opportunity for me to see how I felt while running the longer stuff - I would try the race flats. They had worked great for the 5k and 10k, and I figured a half marathon couldn't be that far off.

Famous last words, my friends.

But hey: live and learn, right? I would rather learn NOW, and figure things out, than before my big races later this season.

By 7:15, Nathaniel and I were headed to the start. For the first time this year, the Carlsbad Marathon directors decided to implement a wave start, meant to cut back on the crowds and packs associated with 8,000+ participants. I had seeded myself in Wave 1. Don't get too excited: it simply meant that when I registered, I projected my finishing time to be under 1:40.

But secretly I was nervous. I wanted to go faster, push myself. But I really didn't know where I would be because 1) It's been 11 months since racing my last half marathon 2) Very little speed work in my schedule to bolster speed (in fact, my heart rate zones have dropped significantly, so I'm running slower on my long runs than I ever have before, but following my assigned heart rate in the process) 3) My weight is a few pounds heavier than where I "typically" race 4) Too many unknowns to really have a good sense of what I could do.

Would I have enough endurance? Could I hold a specific pace or would I blow up spectacularly? How would my body handle going fast for 13.1 miles vs 5k?

Minor disaster was averted by Nathaniel, when I made a rookie mistake. In my excitement to get to the starting line, I forgot my powergel. I knew exactly where it was: a 10 minute walk back to the car, tucked safely inside my transition back pack. So Nathaniel did what any loving, supporting, and incredible husband would do, he RAN back to the car and RAN back to me - corralled and waiting anxiously in Wave 1.

He made it, and I was grateful! What a Man! (Round of applause!!)

Shortly thereafter, we were off!

I positioned myself towards the back of our corral; it was really congested towards the front and I had no desire to trample or be trampled. Instead I started about :10 behind the 1:35 pace group. My goal was to take the first 5k EASY, and I knew if I stuck with a 7:15 or 7:05 pace, I was guaranteed to not blow myself out (like I did with my Resolution 10k).

First mile wasn't so bad, until I saw my time. 7:20. Oops - perhaps I was a little too relaxed. So I picked up the pace slightly, got into a comfortable rhythm, and nearly dropped my gel when I crossed mile 2 in 13:15.

No, I am not that fast and yes, I think the mile markers were incorrect.

But by mile 3 the pace had settled, and I started clicking off each subsequent mile at or just under a 7:00 pace.

I felt strong, I felt good, and I was confident that I could hold this pace.

Somewhere before mile 4, I shot a few snot rockets after inhaling half a cup of water up my nose. Unfortunately, another woman took it square in the face. I was mortified, but she was really sweet, really nice about it. She even commented that it was her fault because she was drafting off of me. I still apologized - what else could I do?

The winds weren't too bad, and I felt stronger as the course rolled along Highway 101. The slight rollers didn't bother me: I ran this course nearly every week, turning off Tamarack and making my way South towards Encinitas and back. The hills became my friends, the ocean waves music to my ears.

Every time I hit an incline, I leaned forward, pumped my arms and shortened my sride. As soon as I hit the hill crest and flats, I pushed the pace, pleased with my perceived effort and pace.

Even though there were 8000+ people running, I really didn't pay too much attention to the runners around me. I passed a few girls right around miles 5-6, and was passed by a few others. A few times I was able to latch on to guys running past, ducking behind them for a legal draft. But mostly I remained in tune to my body, focused on my effort, and enjoying the fact that I was racing.

I hit the turn around point at 45:45, faster than I thought I would. But I was feeling great. Heart rate felt low, the effort was sustainable, and I believed that I would be able to negative split the second half and possibly run 1:30 or under.

I was this close. Until mile 9.5.

That's when my quads began to ache. At first it was a dull ache, something I thought was triggered by the slight downhill near the Power Plant. But once I hit the flat section along Carlsbad Beach before the Tamarack Hill, I knew I was in trouble. Big trouble.

For 25 agonizing minutes, with each and every step I took, my quads felt as though they were being stabbed with a dull knife. I tried to alleviate the pain by shortening my stride and increasing my run cadence from 93 steps per minute to 100+ steps per minute. And while it may have made some difference, I knew my flats were to blame.

I did what I could to keep the pace up, but by mile 11, my legs were shot. I seriously thought about pulling over and walking, but I knew it would only prolong my pain. Nope: the faster I ran, the sooner I would finish. Besides, hope is never lost, and I would bound to succeed even by finishing.

And I learned that race flats for anything longer than a 10k, just doesn't work so well. I have a feeling that for my half IM and IM runs, tempo trainers will be my new best friend.

The final mile was tough: a lot of the people that I had passed from miles 5-8 blew by me, enjoying the downhill sprint towards the line. It was all I could do to keep my quads from seizing up. I'm sure I looked funny, but you do what you can, right?

Rounding the final corner towards the end, it was all I could do to keep from falling over. Quads were long gone, but because I really wasn't running all that fast - my breathing was pretty normal. For the first time in my life during a race, I didn't sound like a caboose or Darth Vader. So there's my silver lining.

Final time was 1:33:04. So in all reality, I only lost 1:30 over the second half of the course - but it felt like it was MUCH worse.

What I DID learn, is that I'm not far off from where I want to be. My fitness is coming along really well, and I'll only get stronger and faster as my season progresses. Never again will I wear flats for a half marathon - but better to learn that now than during Oceanside 70.3 when it really counts.

Overall it's great start to my season. I'm happy with my effort, happy with where I'm at, and really pleased with the mental aspect of this race. The final few miles were some of the most painful I've ever run. For the first time it wasn't a lack of fitness or a blown race strategy: it was a wardrobe malfunction. Next time I'll be sure to make the right shoe choice.

Afterwords, Nathaniel and I went out to breakfast in Del Mar. It was a great date, filled with pancakes, eggs, fruit, ham, and lots of coffee. Oh yes, and sheet cake. On the way home we stopped and picked up a slice. It was well earned and tasted delicious!

Today was a great start to my 2009 season. I can't wait to see what else is in store! Next up: Desert Olympic Triathlon on March 6th. Cheers!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Night Before

Well, hello there! Tomorrow morning I’m running the Carlsbad Half Marathon. And I couldn’t be more excited.

But the plethora of pre-race emotions that I’ve experienced this week has been enough to make even the most experienced of racers slightly neurotic. After all, it’s not like this is my first race ever. Far from it; I started running competitively for my high school team in eighth grade.

No – the math isn’t wrong. I just jumped the gun early. I was that excited to run. Heck, even before that I would eagerly anticipate my grade school’s track and field day. Well, that and the Presidential Fitness Test. Hooray! The mile was my favorite event. So much so that one year I ran an extra lap around the field. Who needs to count laps when you’re running fast!

The pinnacle of my (pre cross country) elementary school running career came in 4th grade, where I raced mano e mano against my ex boy friend (Ben S.) from third grade. I know, I know. Full of drama. Even the sixth graders came out to watch our one mile race. It was actually pretty exciting: we exchanged leads until the final backstretch when – spurred on by the scandal of our break up – I passed him in the final 50 meters. 7:20 to 7:22. Yeah, I still remember the time.

Suffice to say, I’ve got plenty of experience racing.

The pre-race emotions have been different.

For the first time since April 2007, I’m excited to race. I’m really looking forward to going out, having a great run, and simply seeing what I can do. It’s not about hitting x:xx time or y:y pace, or even beating z amount of competitors. It’s a celebration of my journey, my life, and my happiness.

I’m simply looking forward to putting myself out there, and pushing myself in ways that I do only through the excruciating effort of race day.

A good friend once asked me why I race?

I paused for a moment, and then tried to explain. I learn the most about myself when I race, discover new things when I push beyond what I thought possible. Racing is comparable to life: it’s a journey through many twists and turns. We don’t always like the road we’re on – but what we choose to do (or not do) has a direct impact on the overall result. Racing breaks you down and strips you bare: it forces you to deal with the demons within. You are naked, exposed, and vulnerable. And it’s not always pretty.

But – I continued – the greatest rewards occur when we do something we thought impossible. When we go after a goal, aspire high, and make our dreams a reality. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there, but the feelings, the emotions, the growth, the rewards are well worth the effort.

What will I find tomorrow?

I’m not sure.

But I’m ready and excited to find out.

Earlier this week, I perused through old blog entries and past Training Peaks logs. I came across this post from the evening before I ran the Pensacola Half Marathon (February 2008). Okay – so I was super excited before that race. I stand corrected. Switch out the words “Pensacola” with “Carlsbad”, and you’ve got the general idea.

(published February 17, 2008)

‘Twas the night before the Pensacola Half Marathon,
And all through our place,
Marit was excited,
Thinking about Race Pace.

Her shoes were all packed
By the door ready to go,
In hopes that tomorrow,
Her running speed would show

Tabbitha was curled up, on the couch she lay,
With visions of a Fast Mom, never running astray.
And Nate in the recliner, and I seated on the floor
Were listening to the radio, NPR’s Saturday night in store.

When suddenly out in the forest,
There was a great SHOUT
I jumped to my feet
To see what it was all about.

And to the French doors,
I flew as fast as I might,
Threw open the blinds,
And stared in delight

The bright stars they all twinkled,
Cast a late night glow
On the forest and palms,
And green grass below

When what before
My pre-race eyes would appear?
It was Elizabeth’s wizard,
Giving me the “all-clear”!

With robes of deep purple
And a cap full of stars
His eyes twinkled merrily,
Even from afar.

He opened his mouth
And his words rang loud:
“Go forth Speedy Marit
And make me proud!

“Tomorrow is your race,
The first of 2008,
I simply can’t wait,
We have a date.”

And then he smiled,
Crooked teeth and all
I felt my knees go week,
Fearful of hitting the wall

He gazed down at me,
Smile beaming bright,
Confident that I,
Would give up the fight.

“Dumbledore,” said I,
“I know you’ll be there,
Jumping on my back,
But alas I won’t care.

“I’ll put down my head
And I’ll grit my teeth,
As fast as I can,
I’ll unleash my beast.

“And run I will
Over bridges and hills
You won’t get me
I have an iron will.

“I’m been training so hard
Every day, every week
Waiting for you,
It is you whom I seek.

“So jump on my back
I’ll give you a ride
Heavy as you are
You can’t break my stride.

“I know the race is hard:
I have prepared,
I’m looking forward to this,
And I’m not scared.

“Let’s give it a go,
Try running with me,
Why don’t you tag along,
We’ll have fun – you’ll see.”

He gave me a look
A skeptical stare,
“You’re not worried at all-
You don’t even care?

“But I’ve traveled so far,
In Florida here I am!
You’re not afraid of me
I say you can’t, you know you can.”

“Don’t feel bad,”
I smiled and replied.
“You’ll still find me
I won’t hide.

“Together we’ll go
Running as fast as we might,
Dumbledore and Marit
That’ll give ‘em a fright!”

We shook hands
And he prepared to depart
Tomorrow morning we’ll meet,
About 8 miles after the start.

Into the evening he flew
The hour was late,
I closed the French Doors,
And couldn’t wait for our date.

For tomorrow I’ll run
Doing all that I can do…
How? You so pleasantly ask….
Because I epitomize HTFU!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


For the most part, I'm pretty set with my routine when it comes to swimming. It's really quite simple.

A) Masters

or (cue scary music)

B) Jen Harrison workout

Not that Jennifer's workouts are bad. Quite the contrary. But I have been known to pee in the pool from lack of oxygen. Breath sets. Yes, I was warned, but nope, the warning did not make one bit of difference.
Trust me.

Once I arrive at the pool, it's a quick stop in the locker room to change and/or empty the bladder (be prepared!), and then out to the pool deck.

When I've decided which lane I'm going to swim in, it's a matter of tossing my swim toys at the end of the lane and diving in. Well - I don't really dive. I've found out that my goggles whip off my face when I do that. I jump. Feet first. And then I swim.

But back to the end of my lane (with all the gear).

Nathaniel once told a mutual friend that he could, "find Marit at the pool because she's the one with all the crap at the end."

Thanks Sweetheart. I love you too!

Yes my friends, that is sarcasm.

So what if I've got a pull buoy, paddles, kick board, zoomers, extra cap, spare goggles, water bottle, and workout sheet? Don't we all?

Regardless, I'm pretty set in my ways.

Until today. This morning before my swim, I was browsing various blogs, skimming information and trying to absorb anything news worthy that I could. It was early, and in my defense I had only consumed one cup of coffee. Okay - two cups.

Clearly not enough.

But then I happened upon this article by Excel Aquatics. It discussed paddles, and in particular, the use of wrist bands for securing the paddles onto your person while swimming.

I recalled the first time I had ever used swim paddles. My friend Deanna (who also taught me to flip turn), mentioned that the really good swimmers only needed the finger bands to keep the paddles in place.

Forget just the finger bands. I was still trying to figure out how the heck to flip turn (with paddles), let alone abandon the wrist bands. For me, they were essential if I wanted the paddles to stay in place. On my hands.

Fast forward a few years (to yesterday) and I noticed during Wednesday's master's swim, that one of my lane mates had the same paddles as me. Minus the wrist bands.

Then I read the Excel Aquatics article.

I'm no dummy, but... It would seem as though all the signs were pointing for paddles minus the wrist bands. Kind of like when you're watching a horror movie, and the token blond goes down the creepy hallway where you just know the axe murderer is about to jump out behind one of the many closed doors. She should have paid attention to the signs; instead she'll meet a less than desirable demise.

Yes. So no wrist bands for me, thank-you-very-much. Lest I be eaten by the pool shark or something (because you know they live on the other side of the grates at the bottom, waiting to burst through and attack an unsuspecting swimmer).

Enough about the pool sharks.

Paddles! Yes, wrist bands and paddles, that's what we were discussing!

Towards the end of my swim today, I was given a 300 pull with paddles to complete. And therein was the challenge: do I try something new that may benefit me in the long run, or do I stick with something that through past experience, I know works?

It took about two seconds before I was wrestling the wrist bands free from the tiny holes in the paddles.

FYI: rubber paddle bands + 6 years of intermittent chlorine splashing = not a good combination. If I tugged too hard, the band would break. Excellent! And then I would have no hope of using the wrist bands in case the bandless thing didn't work out. A few breathless moments later, and I had freed the wrist bands from their slots.

All systems were go. And wrist bands were safely intact.

They looked like al dente raviolli on the pool deck. Great visual, I know.

I stuck my middle fingers through the finger bands on each paddle (yes, the middle finger. That is not a typo), and quickly pushed off form the wall.

One stroke. Two strokes. Three strokes. Four, five, eight, and then ten. And...nothing. The paddles stayed in place, where they were supposed to.

I can't be sure, but there may have been some loud shouts of joy underwater. At least I was inwardly cheering. Yeah! My stroke is actually okay! Confirmed because my wrist bandless pull buoy is staying in place!

I guess sometimes we just need to go out on a limb. Put ourselves out there and try something new. Cast aside parts of the old routine and choose a different path. Who knows what we'll discover along the way. If anything, we'll learn and grow in the process. Or hopefully, at least have a good time trying. But the key is to try - because if you never do, you'll never know. And it's those unanswered questions that always leave us wondering.

That's gotta be one of the worst things, in my opinion.

Well, that or getting eaten by the pool shark.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pre-race stuff. Already?

It's official. I'm nervous!

Actually, I think its more of an excited anticipation, nervous energy - what have you.

Whatever it is, this week already looks to be L-O-N-G, training wise. And not because I've got a lot on my plate. Nope - actually, I'm in recovery mode. So all the hard work I've done gets to be absorbed, processed, and then BAM! Comes out Sunday morning at the Carlsbad Half Marathon.

My training hours have been cut in half, and its all I can do to prevent myself from adding a short run here, or a ride up and down the coast. The weather has been beautiful, the surf high, and winds (mostly) calm.

I've been given permission to add a session of Hot Yoga. But that's about it.

And really, that's all I would ask for.

Because I know that what I do now, the little things like following my schedule, eating good foods at the right times, getting enough sleep, stretching, and listening to my body will pay dividends in the end.

So why is it so difficult?

Rationally, I KNOW that in order to succeed, I should do my darnedest to stick to my plan. But the irrational part of me - the part that whispers doubts in my ears and focuses on the negatives rather than what really IS - will do what she can to wreck havoc with my psyche.

Am I really fast enough to run my goal pace?

Have I done enough tempo work??

I'm X pounds heavier than my goal race weight...there's no way I can run that fast!

Its these thoughts, these ideas that have no rational argument to them, that cause the most disruption. Why? Because instead of disproving them by hitting a target pace or heart rate (through the physical exertion of working out), instead I have to fight them from their source itself. The mind. And that takes constant work.

Whenever a negative thought enters, I fight it back.

Cue funky music.

Okay, enough of that.

It has nothing to do with the physical. And everything to do with the mental. If it were physical - it would be easy. If it was a matter of hitting a certain pace or specific heart rate, then I could put my demons to rest.

Hell - I could run circles around the block at max pace and be satisfied with what I could do. But in the end that effort would hurt me for The Bigger Picture this weekend.

As I've said before: the physical part is easy. It's the mental battles that we really have to push through.

To combat one's thoughts - that's a completely different mindset. Ahem. Because its all in the mind. So I continue to use the power of positive mental thinking.

With every negative thought, idea, bit of self-doubt, I try to think of three positives.

I've hit my goal pace and target heart rate for nearly every run. And for the most part, I've felt really great about how it went. There is no reason I can't do in a race what I've done in practice!

Every week, Jen has given me some sort of tempo or speed work. Additionally, I've completed two races! I have not missed a run since...since... I don't remember the last time I missed a run. Ergo, I HAVE done enough tempo per coach's orders.

A few pounds isn't the end of the world. I'm eating healthier than I have in a long time, and enjoying life. The number on the scale does not represent who I am or what I can do.

And so on and so forth...

As I get closer to my race, I'm sure the nerves will increase as well. But there's also a lot of excitement mixed in as well. I'm looking forward to the challenge, relishing the fact that I GET to run a half marathon. And I'm excited to see what I can do. Yes I'm a different athlete with a much more varied outlook on life/sports/fill-in-the-blank-with-your-choice-of-word.

But when push comes to shove, a race is a race. And the competitor in me hasn't changed. The instinct to push, to hurt, to go beyond what's possible and into that next dimension - that's all still there.

I'm just waiting to unleash that side of me. And Sunday can't come soon enough!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lime Juiced

Have you ever wondered how many limes it takes to create 3/4 cup of lime juice?

Now that we live in California, I figured I would do as other Californian's did (or how we think other Californian's do it): juice citrus fruits. Among other things, of course.

After my run last December with Eileen, Meredith, and Reid at Reid's father's house, I watched as a smattering of young whipper snappers gathered up limes from the backyard lime tree (don't all Californian's have back yard lime trees?). After loading up with as many as they could carry, the kiddies plopped said limes on the counter, where they were promptly juiced. The scent was wonderful, and I could only imagine what kind of yummy, delicious meal (or dessert!) would be created with these limes.

Key Lime Pie?

(cue mouth watering). Yes my friends, that would be one sort of Pavlovian response.

The thought of fresh lime juice seemed appealing, though Nathaniel and I lack our own special back yard citrus grove. And a juicer (key later on). Instead, I picked up a bag of 3 pound limes at the grocery store last week.

Then came the juicing part.

The recipe I was following called for 3/4 cup of lime juice.

Simple enough...

I pulled out the measuring cup, grabbed a knife and cutting board, and a few limes from my bag.

I knew I was in trouble when only a few drops came from my halved lime. I squeezed harder; producing only a tiny flow. With as much strength as I could muster, I tried to press every single last drop of juice from the lime. I repeated the process with another 5 halves (grand total of 3 limes), and was met with the happy sight of barely 1/8 cup.


Nathaniel - either cued by the grunting noise coming from yours truly or the scent of lime juice - entered the kitchen. While he may have smelled dinner being prepared, I scented opportunity.

Now there were two of us, juicing limes.

"Sweetheart?" He questioned, face red from the effort of squeezing yet another stubborn lime half. "Don't they have machines for this?"

I didn't comment.

He, on the other hand - pressed on. (Literally)

"I feel like I'm trying to pee in a cup, but nothing's coming out!" He grinned, fingers full of pulp.

We had been working a solid 15 minutes, and there was barely 1/2 cup.

Not wanting to admit defeat, I carried on, aiming carefully and trying to get every last drop out of one particularly large lime.

And that's exactly when disaster struck.

I swear - the though crossed my mind even before it happened. You know I thought inwardly I should probably not squeeze this lime in a half balanced stance. The last thing I would want when we're only 1/4 c. away from juice completion is for the measuring cup to tip-

And then it did.

I swear it was slow motion. I could see the lime juice rushing out of the measuring cup before it happened, before the clattering of measuring cup on the floor. And based on his shocked expression, Nathaniel could too.

I may have even shouted, but I'm not positive.

"Uh..." stammered Nathaniel.

I couldn't believe it. At least the kitchen smelled limey.

Then our eyes returned to the dwindling 3 pound bag. There were still another pound or two of limes left.


"Are you sure we don't have any lime juice? Or even lemon?" questioned my helpful Other Half.

"No - because I wanted the taste of freshly squeezed lime juice!" I cried.

The alternative was to simply make our meal sans juice. We looked down at our hands, full of pulverized pulp and stinging from the acid of the damned limes. And then we looked at the bag of limes. I would have give just about anything to own a juicer. Or already squeezed lime juice.

But we didn't. And I hadn't prepared for a failure contingency.

So we continued juicing. Another ten minutes. Good times!

In the end, we got our lime juice and weren't too much worse for the wear. Our hands stung and the kitchen smelled potently of lime juice. But the salad tasted great and we survived the 25 minute juicing endeavor.

Just in case you're wondering: It takes 3 pounds of limes (minus the two we had left over) to make about 1 and 1/4 cup of lime juice. By hand. All bets are off if you own a juicer, though. But you'll get a great workout and good bonding time with your loved ones if you do it by hand. Just make sure to be careful when you squeeze the limes into your designated holding container.

That - or have a spare bottle of lime juice on hand.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Leggo the Eg(g)o

Hey there Sportsfans! Er... Trifans. And my parents. Can't forget about them.

The past week or two, I've been thinking a lot about speed, pace, and going slow. Yes, I realized there are different levels of slow. And that your slow is not the same as my slow. And my slow is nothing compared to really fast people's slow. And I'm fine with that, really I am.

But one day - if I work hard enough and smart enough - my fast will be the speed of their slow. Yes Timmy, there IS a Santa Claus!

Okay. Enough about that.

Sort of.

The longer that I've lived in this triathlon mecca of North County San Diego, the more I've noticed the phenomenon of "ego" (with certain individuals).

Ego (Ee-goh) is defined as: 1. the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought. 2. the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment. 3. egotism; conceit; self-importance.

Let's be honest: it's not fun going really really slow. Not cool getting passed by joggers wearing knee supports or fanny packs (really - it did happen to me!). And the last thing I want is to slow down when Mr. Super Competitive Biker blows past me on the Coastal Highway.

But I do, it did, and I slowed.


Because I don't define my self-worth based on what other people do (or don't do). And I realize that in order to achieve my 2009 season goals, there are some things - like ego and pride (at times) that I'll have to forsake. Check it at the door, leave it behind. Be prepared to stay in my zones, watt range, and most importantly - listen to my body.

And if that means that I walk up a hill to keep my heart rate down (even if a jeep full of hot 20-something guys drives by), I'll do it. Yes, I was embarrassed and I would have loved to look reallyfast! sprinting up the hill. But it wasn't in the cards, and I followed my workout plan.

Jen would be proud.

In the end, I don't think the guys even noticed. Or cared.

So why would I concern myself with what others' think?

Good point.

I think we do care, to a certain level. We all want to be fast, to look speedy, to impress. More importantly, we seek approval - oftentimes from people who could care less.

I spent a lot of last year letting these feelings, thoughts, and emotions go. Learning a lot of hard lessons in the process, but growing as a result. Realizing that I don't have to be the fastest or the best. That I simply had to do the best that I could under my own special circumstances (given the conditions that I had). If I put my best effort forth - even if it wasn't a personal record - that was good enough.

That's when I found happiness, peace, and resolve after my crash. When I learned to let go and simply accept what I could do, rather than dwelling on what I once did.

Fast forward to the present.

A few times in these past weeks, I've had bikers specifically draft off me, zoom around at an opportune moment, and then look back as if to say, "let's race!" The older guys are the worst. They can hang on to my wheel, but when I deliberately slow down (intended to signal that they should pass), they'll slow as well. My snot rocket aim has improved dramatically; helpful for races where I've got a belligerent drafter on my back.

But where I've noticed the biggest ego is at the pool. Perhaps its because we swim in close proximity to others, can see our fellow swimmers in the lane right next to us, or seek approval from the coach on deck. For whatever reason, I've noticed a 'race-like' mentality from a few swimmers.

And don't get me wrong: I love me a good race, when its appropriate. NOT, let's say - during the pull set before the main swimming set.

For some, this is the norm. Warm up is completed, and the 800-1000 meter pull set begins. Er, race set.

I noticed something was amiss during my first afternoon Master's swim. One girl - who normally leads the pull set for every practice - jumped in and declared that she was going to lead because all she can do well is pull.

Being the new gal, I kept my mouth shut and did as she did: strapped on my paddles and prepared to pull just under base pace. If I thought the tempo was fast while swimming, it was NOTHING compared to our time when we came into the wall 200 meters later. We were no less than :35 faster than our base pace. I was shocked.

We were swimming faster than the reallyfast! guys in lane 1 and 2. WTF?

Long story short: this continued on for the remainder of the pull set. All 800 meters. Yeah. Good stuff. I wanted to wring her neck, but didn't think it would be appropriate, given the fact that I was the new girl. When the main set came around, Ms. Speedy Puller went to the back of the lane, declaring that her "work was done!"

And that was it. She was done. Toasted. End of story.

I've watched this scenario repeat itself during nearly every afternoon Masters swim I've attended. Thankfully, from the safety of Lane 2. (I'm happy to say that I've moved up). Yes, she may blow by us during the pull set - glancing at us under water to gauge her effort against ours - but when it comes time for the main set, she's done.

I've watched this sad story unfold too many times to not comment. At first I was upset: angry at being "forced" to swim at her pace. When in all reality, it was me and my own ego that fought hard to stay in her draft. But for what purpose? Swimming a 1:15 first 100 meters with huge paddles and a giant pull buoy between my legs did nothing for my triathlon endurance. If anything, it destroyed me for the main set and limited my chances at improving.

When I hopped into lane 2 (and swam a "normal" pull set, ie 3-5 seconds faster per 100 meters base pace and NOT 15-20 seconds faster per 100!), the stark realization hit me. I wasn't trashed after the first set, and swam more efficiently throughout the entire rest of the workout. In addition, I didn't feel as though the guys in my lane were out to "get" me or "beat" me.

Instead, we cheered each other on, supported each other, and when I found myself barely making the send off time during some nasty 200s, the guy right behind me told me I COULD do it. It was wonderful.

And never, not once, did the thought of competing against them or impressing them by upping the tempo cross my mind. I felt like the lane was working together; united we would work our way through the workout and make our base pace.

Lane 3 was different. After the pull set, no one wanted to lead. Maybe they were too fatigued from their previous effort? Perhaps no one wanted to take the chance at getting blown? Who knows? My theory is that no one wanted the responsibility, no one wanted to take a chance at leading the lane for fear of failure. No one wanted to try leading, and then not be able to hang on for the rest of the main set. Instead, they played it safe - swimming in the draft and pacing off the one sorry soul brave enough to lead.

I did that a few times. I lead the lane - only to be told that my pace was too slow (that was the last straw for me). Sorry if I don't want to spend :20 on the wall after each moderate 100. That's not always the purpose of the workout. Granted, I was fatigued, tired from my December 5k race. But after the pull set, absolutely no one stepped up to the plate and took responsibility to lead.

So I did. Call me foolish, call me naive: when the others in Lane 3 said they were too tired, I took them at their word.

After that swim, I drove home and cried. I thought briefly about calling Jen, but squashed the thought. Instead, I wrote down my feelings and did a lot of thinking.

I was so frustrated, so upset by a few of my fellow swimmers. Sprinting the pull set, not stepping up to lead, and then criticizing the one person who does step up to the plate (because she's not going "fast" enough) seemed like a low blow. Several low blows.

So I got angry, I got upset, and then I dealt with it.

For whatever reason - for old time glory, to prove that they've "still got it", for the sake of putting down others in a way that would make high schoolers proud - these people act the way they do. They stay in their lane, race each practice, but grow little from their efforts.

It's quite sad, really.

They let their individual egos get in the way of any potential growth. They let pride in swimming faster! and stronger! for a few sets cloud the bigger picture.

And perhaps for them, their big picture is Masters Swimming. Maybe this is the one place they can excel, the one time they feel good about themselves and their swimming.

I put my Lane 3 demons to rest last Monday at Masters. That morning I completed my 30 minute power meter test, and my legs were rightfully toasted. The gas was empty and I knew that swimming would be tough. So instead of hopping into Lane 2, I joined Lane 3.

Sure enough, Ms Speedy Puller took off for the pull set. And I was swimming second. As she pushed off the wall, I reminded myself that I didn't have to swim at her pace. What would happen if she swam her usual 1:17, while I cruised in at, say, 1:32? So that's exactly what I did.

So she had a lot of extra time on the wall. Big deal. Did it look as though I couldn't keep up? You betcha! But I really didn't care less. As long as I made the 1:35 send off, I was totally fine with it.

And the guys behind me didn't seem to care - no one tapped my toes or grabbed the ankles. Instead, it was the most relaxing pull set I've yet experienced in Lane 3. And the rest of the swim went great as well. I wasn't blown out, didn't hyperventilate to keep up, and I actually enjoyed myself.

Once I got over my own ego of pace, time, and looking good for other people who could care less, life became a lot more enjoyable and less stressful. Sure, I may simply spin up a hill or jog at a snail's pace: but I'm doing so for a reason. Because what's the point of 'winning' practice, when it's just practice?

I've got bigger things in mind, much more on my radar than just Master's swimming or looking good for hot guys in Jeeps on Pacific Coast Highway.

So if you see a girl on a white Scott, sitting upright and spinning easy - don't be alarmed. It's just me following my training schedule. But be warned: come race day, I'll be ready and fired up, raring to go and secure in the knowledge that I trained not only hard when it counted, but smart. Why don't you join me?

Monday, January 12, 2009

POWER test

I thought bike time trials were the most painful physical exertions. I was wrong.

Nope - the new top of my list? The Power Meter Test.

Yes, I brought it on myself. For a while I've been meaning to have my power meter hooked up/installed on my time trial bike. It just never happened - between the move, getting ready for our move, and the holidays in a new place, the power meter was never hooked up.

Then came the new year, new goals, resolutions, and (ahem) training methods. Somewhere along the way, I casually mentioned to Jen that I was ready to start training with power.

So naturally - Jen being the coach that she is - scheduled a MAX EFFORT LT TEST for me.


30 minutes, all-out, on the trainer, as hard as you can.

A few choice adjectives could be used to maybe, possibly describe the feelings that coursed through my body during the actual test.




Not even close.

Agony endured, is more like it.

Yes, a pretty picture indeed.

And the worst part? No matter how fast I went, no matter how hard I pushed, or how much more energy I applied - the test was still 30 minutes. No amount of 'going faster' was going to help in this case. Nothing like the 40k time trial, where the faster you bike, the sooner you're finished.

Nope, not even close. My reward? A higher watt output.

As I said before: Super!

But that's the key, my friends. It doesn't have to be pretty. It hurts, its not (always) fun, and no amount of cajoling can get us out of the hard stuff. But honestly - would I have it any other way?

I hate to admit it, but the overwhelming sense of satisfaction as I watched the final few seconds click down - covered in sweat (MORE sweat than hot yoga), snot faced, quivering, smelling awful, and about to fall off the bike - made the test hands down worth it. Sure, it was hard to walk and the concrete that I flopped on outside after the test, but I did it.

And now we've got the data to work with.

Sure, for a time being I hated my bike, power meter, coach, sport, trainer (borrowed from Charisa - thank you!), the yellow power tap sensor that was cheerfully displaying my output. But that's normal - I assume - when one is performing at max effort. Right?

In the end, 30 minutes of hurt was a small price to pay for the overwhelming sense of euphoria, of accomplishment afterwards. Not often do we push ourselves to new limits, do we set our bars a tad higher. Yes, we may be a wibbly mess afterwards - but that just affirms our previous effort.

Even though it was hard, I loved it. Even though I wanted to yell at Jen, chuck the bike, throw the yellow bike computer across the room - at a deeper level, I enjoyed what I was doing. From the work, from the effort, comes the sweet satisfaction of living. This was MY choice, something I WANTED to do - and in spite of the hurt, the pain, the 'enduring agony' - it made me feel more alive than nearly any other activity could have (at the time).

Does this mean I want another test tomorrow?

Respectfully, no.

But it is a reminder for me to embrace the challenges as well as the easy stuff. To relish the good, learn from the bad, and that I can accomplish many things when I put my mind to it.

And you can too. (But you don't need a max effort, 30 minute power bike test to prove it). That, my friends, I guarantee.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Palomar Recap

Climbing mountains is always tough. No matter how long you go, no matter how hard you work, it never gets easier. You just keep going. Up, up, up - until you're at the top. Sure, the gradient may change now and then, but the bottom line remains the same: if you want to reach the top, you must keep going.

So true of life, eh?

Today Kim and I experienced an epic day on Mt. Palomar. It was my third time climbing the hill (is it disrespectful to call it a hill?), while today would be her first.

After running around my place like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to get all of our gear (bikes, helmets, shoes, running shoes, jerseys, gloves, vests, jackets, socks, bars, water, gatorade, more socks, hats, run shorts, hr monitors, leg and arm warmers...need I continue?), we made it out the door. I swear we were carrying more gear than what we would for an actual race. But it worked for us, we had what we needed, and all was well.

It seems that all the water and coffee (for me) that we've been drinking hit us hard: both of us had no shame in squatting between bushes in a casino parking lot in Rincon Valley, at the base of the Cleveland National Forest. There may be video evidence on the casino tapes, but I don't care. It was the busload of tourists that passed mid-flow that had me more concerned. But what could we do, right?

Bladder voided, we set off with more gear stuffed in our jersey (for the cold descent) than we had on the bike. I'm not kidding. We were prepared for it all - and could have survived just about anything.

Warm up was not exactly a "typical" warm up. It consisted of going up, up, and (guess what?) more up. We did ride a few "flat" sections - perhaps a half mile long stretch on the valley floor, but that was about it. I was just happy to see The Big Ring and 90+ rpm once or twice. I didn't even bother to look at the heart rate: demoralizing when you're in zone 8 (or whatever) 10 minutes into your ride.

But we knew what was ahead: an hour and a half climb up South Grade Road. Rumor is that some guy named Lance does it in under 50 minutes. I was hoping for 90 or so. The anticipation was awful, and Kim and I were determined to get going.(View from Palomar Overlook, taken on descent)

At Jilberto's Taco Stand (official beginning of the climb), we paused momentarily to peel off arm warmers and to relieve ourselves one more time. Only problem? No bush. Nothing that resembled anything that one could squat behind. So I did as any impatient athlete would do who was nervously anticipating a tough climb - I simply squatted at the side of the road, in the shade. Not that it made much difference - as the three vehicles that past could attest to.

No, actually it was a gentleman who emerged from the taco shop and yelled, "We have bathrooms inside!" that made me blush.

Kim - squatting somehow behind an 8 inch bush a few feet away - burst out laughing. All I could see was a white helmet and bright green bush. Quaking with laughter.

My reply? "Thanks! I'll keep that in mind for next time."

I guess I didn't realize the place had tinted windows. Oh well.

And then we started climbing.

As in the past, it went by incredibly fast. Looking back it's hard to believe that we were physically climbing for 92 minutes. At the time, though, it was tough.

The first 30 minutes or so - until we hit the half mile long flat section between the first 5.8 miles and the second (steeper) 6.86 mile section, went rather well. We chatted, joked, discussed the "tough stuff", and commented about how beautiful the scenery was.

And the South Grade Road decided to show us (or at least ME) who was boss.

It was hard. It was painful. And all I wanted to do was stop. There were several times where I put my body in aero (we were climbing on the TT bikes), and simply stared at the white line on the pavement below my front tire. It's not like we were going fast, right? The few times I chanced a peek ahead, the road seemed to stretch endlessly off into the distance. I didn't know how or if I could make it.

But I reminded myself that THESE moments are the ones I remember. If the climb was easy, if things went really well, if I felt great the entire time - what kind of benefit would I get. Certainly the physical. But what about the mental part?

When the going get tough (literally), can we back down? Can we simply stop, choose to quit, decide that this isn't for us?

Yes - yes we can.

But today wasn't my day.

Occasionally Kim would interrupt my thoughts with remarks about the scenery, the overlooks, the trees. But I was quiet, lost in my thoughts and contemplating every minute.

Eventually I made deals with myself: get to the next switchback, make it to THAT tree, count to 50 pedal strokes, look for the next .2 mile marker. And slowly but surely, we passed the switchback, made it to THAT tree, completed 50 pedal strokes, and reached the next .2 mile marker. It wasn't pretty. And my ragged breath made me incoherent.

But inch by inch, foot by foot, minute by minute, we grinded up the hill.

Soon the vegetation changed, pine trees dominated the landscape, and antenae from the top could be glimpsed from overlook points. I knew we were close.(View of Mt. Laguna, from one of the overlooks near the top. Taken on the descent)

Reaching the top, Kim right behind me, was like nothing else. I was THIS close to crying, saying I LOVE YOU to Kim - because for the previous 92 minutes we had suffered together, endured a climb like no other, and at last - had achieved our goal of making it to the top.

Kim was ecstatic. I was craving something non-gel, eventually settling on a Fig Newton from the General Store. Unfortunately, the cafe was closed (FYI: they're only open Thursday through Sunday...), and no hot cocoa for us. Next time, I swear.

It took us longer to pile on our layers than it did for us to get ready at the bottom. But finally we were ready for the descent: snapping pictures and making a few stops along the way. Good for unclamping our hands from the brakes, and shaking the tension out of our shoulders.

Our epic climb was followed by a fantastic run around the Rincon Valley Casino Parking Lot. No public urination for me, folks. I had had enough. Kim - being the super hydrated gal that she is, re-watered the shrubs and we were on our way.

I'm always amazed at how much I learn about myself from Mt. Palomar. It's not easy, it's not pretty, nor is it pleasant. But through the darkness, the pain, the moments of doubt, I learn how to push through, to persevere, to survive. And I always return, looking to learn and grow more.

Post ride we had hoped to go wine tasting, but we were both too exhausted. Instead a late lunch of pizza and then dinner of sushi fit the bill.

Today I was beyond happy to share this climb with Kim. She was incredible, such an inspiration. She was always there, grinding up the hill right along side of me. It was such a comfort knowing that I wasn't alone, that through this climb we were growing together, pushing and supporting one another. Thanks Kim for an incredible day!

Next time, I'm hoping for hot cocoa, though. Anyone else game?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Fun with Friends!

Things are always easier in pairs, I've found. Two peas in a pod. Bacon and eggs. Biscuits and gravy. And before you think this is ALL about food, let me assure you, it's not.

Other examples:

Running shoes, belt and purse, earrings, pancakes and syrup (oops, couldn't help it).

But you get the idea.

Yesterday Kim Schwabenbauer ( Mar-sh-mellow, Ma-rit, right?) flew into town for a few days of sunshine, fun, and training. In that order.

Well, almost.

Today began with an early session of Master's swimming. Nothing like jumping into a cold pool from a colder pool deck (temps in upper 30s this morning) under the inky black sky. But I swear the water felt warm after 10 minutes or so of desperate flailing and swimming. It was all I could do to keep myself from sprinting back into the locker room and under the tepid showers.

But we survived the workout, the cooler temps on deck, and were no worse for the wear. And by the end of the swim, Kim was cruising along with the best of them, keeping her new found lane friends in check while she pushed the pace. I think I caught a glimpse or two of her under water, but I wasn't sure. Instead I was trying my best to keep from hyperventilating during our 400s. Holy Cow and Happy New Year from the Monday coach!

But we survived, and hot coffee, tea, and all sorts of breakfast food awaited our return. It was wonderful!

The rest of the day passed in a flash. Between putting together her bike, picking up mine from Solana Beach (power tap is finally hooked up: my ability to figure the darned thing out is another matter all together), window shopping, lunch in Encinitas, functional strength and core (thank you Jen Harrison!), lots and lots of chatting over dinner and a glass of wine (no wine tasting YET, that's for after we climb Palomar tomorrow), the day is finally done.

And now it's late at night: I'm sitting in bed, Nathaniel asleep next to me, Universal Sports on in the background. I'm reflecting on everything that happened today. The laughter, the training, the good times, the discussions - even though I only met Kim for the first time yesterday, I feel a connection to her, similar to the bond that I share with my Camp HTFU girls. Like she gets me, like I get her, like we've been friends for a long time - instead of just through our blogs.

There's something so wonderful about this sport, the people in this sport. And while I enjoy my solitude, enjoy the long rides and runs on my own, there's something so special about getting through a tough workout, a hard set, a ridiculous amount of lunges with someone else by your side.

And affirmation, perhaps, that you're not alone. That you're in this together, and that if the other person can survive, can get through - then you can too.

Tomorrow I'm going to need all the help I can get.

We're climbing Palomar.

And while I love the mountain, have an incredible amount of respect for it, and grow leaps and bounds with each climb - it's so much sweeter to share the experience with someone else. To know that another person is there with you, is working towards the same goal as you are.

I feel like I found myself, discovered who I was when I first climbed the mountain with Liz, Chris, and Sherpa Tomas back in March of 2008. The experience was that profound. When we first moved to California, I told Jen that I wanted to return to Palomar, to climb it again.

And again I discovered myself, at a much deeper, more reflective level this past December when I returned on my own. It strips away your layers, forces you to face who you are and what you're made of.

But I'll save the introspective stuff for later.

After all, I don't want to give away all the surprises, if I can help it.

I DO know, that training with friends, spending time with people who just get you, understand why you are the way you are, is absolutely fantastic. And being able to share those profound places, revel in the moments that have touched your life, make it all the better.

So today was fun times in the pool, and even better times with Jen's functional strength workout. Tomorrow is Mt. Palomar. And trust me when I say that when we make it to the top, we are so getting hot cocoa.

Until tomorrow! And here's hoping that wherever YOU are, you've got a great training partner, a great friend to share those special moments with. I feel so incredibly lucky that I do!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

San Diego Resolution 10K

I knew that going out too hard would be the kiss of death. So imagine my surprise, when I saw my first mile go by in 6:18. The good news is that (at the time) I didn't feel like I was working all that hard.

It changed, very quickly. Believe me.

The bad news? I paid for it dearly in the remaining 5.2 miles.

Yes, there's nothing like starting out The New Year with a resolution race. It's been a long, long, LONG time since I ran an open (non-triathlon) 10k. The key difference (as Beth Shutt pointed out to me earlier): When you run off the bike, you really can't go out too hard, as you're just getting your legs under you (and you usually feel not-that-great). In open races, its different.

Yeah, I should have had that conversation before I jumped the gun. Oh well.

Live and learn, my friends, live and learn.

After picking up my number and availing myself of the facilities (FYI: for anyone doing this race next year - there are only 2 toilets in the bathrooms near registrations. And they run out of toilet paper real quick. Nothing says "GOOD MORNING" like used rolls of toilet paper before a foot race. Luckily I bummed a few squares off the gals ahead of me), I warmed up for 20 minutes, threw in a few strides, and then debated what to wear.

Definitely shorts, as the temps were in the low 50s. But it was windy, dark, and the drizzle was giving me chills. I figured I would warm up quickly, but still opted for the long sleeved top. Right before the start, the sleeves came up.

The 15K participants took off 30 minutes before the 10K race, and the organizers did a great job of keeping the path clear with enough room for all the races.

I said my farewells to Nathaniel, dumped my jacket, keys, and water in his arms, and took off towards the front of the crowd. I wasn't sure how fast most racers would be, and while I didn't want to place myself front and center, I certainly didn't want to jeopardize my chances from the get-go. Instead, I was front row, off to the left.

And before I knew it, we were off!

The first thing I noticed was how controlled and calm I felt; much different from the 5k a few weeks ago. This time - even though the pace was quick - I didn't feel out of control, or that I was stretching too much beyond my ability level. So I thought.

Right away one guy took off, and he was gone for the remainder of the race. A few guys jumped out early, but within the first half mile, I had passed all three of them. What? Was there something I didn't know about? Something ominous ahead??

I thought briefly about slowing my pace and running with the people behind me, but quickly squashed that thought. I was doing this race purely for myself, purely for speed work, to test my limits, and figure out what specifically I needed to work on. Slowing down would simply be unacceptable in my book, even if by staying ahead it promised to be a lonely race.

But it wasn't completely desolate: right from the beginning, I started passing runners and walkers from the 15K. The first 2 or 3K of their race had been run in the opposite direction of the 10k, and then the two courses joined back together at the start. One by one, I blew past the last half of the 15K field, narrowly missing taking out a random duck (qvak!) by the Hilton Resort.

First mile down, and I was onto the second. Immediately upon seeing my pace, I figured I should relax it, just a touch. Apparently I took myself a little too seriously, and ran the next mile 30 seconds slower. Oops.

After crossing a bridge, the course ran around Fiesta Island, with the 10K taking a short cut on the far side, while the 15K looped all the way around. I upped my pace for the 3rd mile, passing 15K participants left and right. The lack of wind was slightly alarming, but the water looked very calm. A brief thought flashed in my mind: where was the wind that was howling earlier? but I pushed it aside.

Back on pace, I charged through the 3 mile right on schedule, feeling solid and strong.

It was at the 6k mark, when the wind hit. At this point, I had crossed the island and had re-joined the faster of the 15k participants. I could see a girl about 20 seconds ahead, and I was aware of two guys right behind me. I could hear their footsteps, and practically feel their breath on the back of my neck. Some help with the wind would have been nice: I would have fit pretty well behind the taller of the two. But no one came to my side.

Just as much: this was my race, my run, my focus.

To occupy my mind away from the increasing amounts of pain felt in my legs, and divert my annoyance at the wind, I worked on dodging piles of duck poop. There was lots of it. And the overnight rain had made the road very slick; while running around the island, I never felt like I had a good "grip" on the pavement. My shoes seemed to slip just a tad with every push off. Running on hard sand helped a little, but I didn't want to push my luck.

So I focused on not slipping, not cursing the wind, and not giving my legs a pep talk aloud (lest the two guys behind think I was nuts). Besides, I was too winded to talk much anyway.

Just as I ran off the island (and out of the wind), the two guys hanging out behind me passed me.

"We worked all that way to pass you!" one cried as he bounded by.

I think my reply was cordial, PG rated. "Well, there you go!" I responded. What could I do?

Bloody hell!

With 2 miles left, I was cursing my bad math skills and my eagerness at "getting out fast!" What was I thinking?

But I didn't let it bother me; I figured there were so many things I could learn from this race - and besides, its an open 10k on January 3rd. My FIRST 10k in over a year and a half (my last 10K being at the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon back in July of 2007). Ha! I was paying my dues.

If this is what it takes to accomplish my season goals: bring it on. I'll survive, live, and learn. And be all that much better as the season progresses.

Final mile went by in a blur of pain. I know that I ran because I finished. But that's about all I can say. I never did catch the 15K girl ahead of me; but she didn't seem to move ahead by all that much.

Before I knew it, I was running through the grass to the finish chute. Someone yelled that I was the first 10K girl and second 10K person overall. I was more focused on not tripping on 1)wet grass 2) my feet 3) duck poop. Nothing says Champion! like the girl with duck poop all over her backside.

But actually, the backs of my legs, calves, and shoes were covered in muck, water, mud, sand, and (I'm sure) duck droppings. Nice! But it really wasn't that bad: I earned it.

As I was finishing my cool down jog (because let's face it, who can "run" after a foot race?), the guy who finished third in the 10K (and 8 seconds behind me) commented, "You really went out hard the beginning."

I felt like replyin Yes Sherlock! but I didn't.

Instead, I laughed and remarked, "Yeah, I know. But I would rather test my limits and see what I could do rather than play it safe and start out too slow."

He didn't really say anything. Or at least not that I can remember.

Overall - though it wasn't my fastest 10k (42:52)- it was still a great race. Most of it was run alone, with only my thoughts to keep me company. In the past, perhaps the pre-crash me, would have been dissapointed with my time, upset that I didn't set a pr.

But today, I'm nothing but happy. Did I go out to fast? Probably. But - from racing my 5k a few weeks ago - I've learned that I DO have the speed to support a faster pace. I just need to work on my speed at longer distances. And that's great to know, as it will help me prepare for races later in the season.

I'm proudest though, becuase I put myself out there. I went after it, I went hard, and I made myself suffer for this race. I don't think that I could have done this last summer or fall - even though I was running again. Back then I was too concerned with what I couldn't do.

Today was all about what I DID do. And I raced my first 10k in a LONG time. The year is looking up and up, and I'm so excited about my season ahead.

And besides, afterwards, Nathaniel and I went out to breakfast. He got pancakes, I got french toast. Top it off with steaming coffee, eggs, and fruit, and I was in heaven. Breakfast food - especially the french toast kind - taste the absolute BEST after a hard effort like today's race.

And my next hard effort will arrive on January 25 in the form of the Carlsbad Half Marathon. Hooray!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Year of SHAZAM!

Happy New Year! Happy 2009!


Are you as excited as I am?

It hit me yesterday while I was watching the final sunset of 2008 - that in 2009 (fingers crossed with a cherry on the top), I get to race triathlons! I could have sworn that someone was playing techno music in the background, but perhaps it was only my heartbeat. Not quite sure on that one.

A little Sandstorm never hurt anyone, and its great for motivation. Trust me.

So why Shazam!?

Glad you asked!

For those of you who faithfully read Captain Marvel comic books (Dad introduced them to me as a young whippersnapper), you're well aware of SHAZAM! and the meaning behind the word.

For everyone else: when Billy Batson said the magic word SHAZAM, he would transform into Super Hero and Comic Book Legend Captain Marvel! Don't worry - YOU won't transform into Captain Marvel by uttering SHAZAM. I already tried. Except I was going for Mary Marvel - the sister of Captain Marvel. It would be weird otherwise, because I am, in fact, a girl.

But SHAZAM! has specific meaning. When Billy said the word, he was granted the following powers:

S: the wisdom of Solomon
H: strength of Hercules
A: stamina of Atlas
Z: power of Zeus
A: courage of Achilles
M: speed of Mercury

Mary Marvel was similar, except her SHAZAM! was modeled after female deities (except for Zephyrus):

S: Selena, grace
H: Hippolyta, strength
A: Ariadne, skill
Z: Zephyrus, fleetness
A: Aurora, beauty
M: Minerva, wisdom

And that got me thinking: what would my SHAZAM! be? What would I model my transformation after? Would it encompass solely gods that I find fascinating (cue: really cool powers!), or would there be something else?

Only one way to find out.

I made my own SHAZAM! list. Enjoy!

S: Swift! Steady! Speedy! Safe! Strong! Toss in the occasional Shit!, and you've got it. Be it by land or by sea - I hope to go fast, stay safe, and do all the "s" things that you see listed. Except the Shit! part. Though a bit of that is inevitable, and I figured I might as well be prepared.

H: HTFU! Need I say more?

A: After Burners. The fire is burning, the blood is pumping, the power is THERE, waiting to be set free. Seriously, I've got enough energy to power afterburners on the new Joint Strike Fighter, F-35 Lightning II. Just try me, I dare you.

Z: Zvaizdikis. I'll give you bonus points if you can even pronounce that word! Z-man (as I'll call him), is the Slavic God of the Stars. You might as well aim high - and my 2009 season goals (written on note cards and taped throughout our condo) are right up there with them. Why not? I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do this season; I would rather go out with a BANG! than take the easy road and set smaller goals. Besides, I love a challenge and my after burners are going strong.

A: Astrild and Aurora. Now that I've got a guy God on my list, I might as well toss in a few females. Astrild, the Nordic goddess of Love, and Aurora, the Roman goddess of Dawn (pictured zooming around the East sky in a pink chariot). I love my sport, love the people in the sport, and have a tremendous amount of love for live. As for the pink chariot? Two things come to mind: 1) my bike seat is BRIGHT PINK. 2) Jen Harrison - pink bike zooming by during races. A top notch coach on my list of SHAZAM!? You betcha!

M: Power of the Mind! Mental focus, mental toughness, mental strength. A component that keeps getting stronger and sharper the more I age. I am a very different athlete now from where I was a few years ago - the physical ability has increased, yes. But the mental aspect - the strength of my mind (especially after my 2008 year) - has grown leaps and bounds. And I'm still learning, something that I enjoy tremendously.

Cheers to a FANTASTIC 2009!