Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 9

My marathon training plan is 19 weeks long, so I'm just about halfway through! Where has the time gone?

This week of training was actually very successful despite the sad loss of my granddad on Wednesday morning. Don't ask me how, but I was able to channel my grief into some really nice runs.

I've written before about how running helps clear my head and notice my feelings, whether they're good or bad. And looking back on that post, I realize that I wrote it following the unexpected passing of my granddad's life partner of 40+ years, Michael. There's just something about spending quality time with a quiet stretch of pavement that soothes me, I guess.

I'll be in California for the rest of this week to attend my granddad's memorial service and spend time with my extended family, but I still plan to stick to my training plan as much as I can. My running shoes, clothes, fuel belt, Garmin and Clif Shots are packed and ready to hit the sunny SoCal roads. And if all goes well, I'll be running my farthest distance ever — 15 miles — the day after I get back to Seattle.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves! Here's a look back on Week 9 of marathon training.

Psssst — at the end of this post, I've also included links to some of my favorite race recaps from this past weekend. They're epic!


Monday: 3-mile run + Nuun pong

The week kicked off on a high note with a fun event at Green Lake. Carly and I met up with a running group at Super Jock 'n' Jill for a quick three-miler around the lake (8:50 pace), and then we competed in a fierce Nuun pong tournament! The game was just like beer pong, except the cups were filled with Nuun (an electrolyte-enhanced sports drink) instead of beer. The grand prize was a year's supply of Nuun!

Unfortunately, Carly and I are much better at running than Nuun pong, and we lost our first game. We still enjoyed plenty of Nuun and free hot dogs, though, and we had a ton of fun.

Tuesday: Rest

I had planned to hit the gym for my first strength-training session in a few weeks, but on my way home from work, I got the news that my granddad wasn't doing well. I said my last goodbye to him over the phone as he slept peacefully, and then spent the evening catching up with a good friend to take my mind off of things.

Wednesday: 6-mile run for Granddad Mills

My granddad passed away early Wednesday morning and I was bummed all day. I managed to get out for my scheduled 6-miler and had a great run in celebration of his wonderful 92 years of life.

He was a drapery designer and World War II combat veteran who loved opera, art, architecture and nature. He was a fantastic storyteller and the classiest man I've ever known. He also knew how to use an iPad, as you can see above.

Thursday: 3-mile run + strength

I ran a speedy three miles (8:18 pace) and starting thinking about running the Fremont Oktoberfest 5K on Sunday. I had a blast running it as my first race last year (pictured), and I thought it'd be fun to see how far I've come.

I was so happy to get back into the gym for strength-training. I completely skipped it for two weeks and was starting to worry that I'd lose the strength I had built up in the first six weeks. I think it's made a big difference in my overall fitness and I really need to make it a priority, along with running, during marathon training. I won't be able to strength-train while I'm out of town this week, but I'll recommit in Week 11 with at least two iron-pumpin', sweat-drippin' sessions per week.

Friday: Rest

The 5K is a fun event, but the real draw of Fremont Oktoberfest is the beer, of course! On Friday night, I hit the massive tasting garden with a big group of friends and had a great time sampling beers in funny little 5-oz. tasting mugs.

Saturday: Rest

I spent Saturday at my mom's house in Woodinville simultaneously watering and raiding her garden. It wasn't a great year to grow food in the Northwest — that's a nice way of saying we had a crappy summer — but I managed to collect a nice bag full of zucchini, green beans, tomatoes and gorgeous plums. The raspberries went straight into my belly. Yum!

Oh, and then it rained all Saturday night and into Sunday morning. So much for my watering job.

Sunday: Fremont Oktoberfest 5K (3.1 miles) + 10 miles

On Sunday morning, I pushed hard for a new 5K PR (25:04) and would have loooved to cash in my ticket for a free beer at the Oktoberfest beer garden afterward. But since my training plan called for a 13-mile long run, I traded that beer for some Nuun and headed out for 10 miles around Lake Union.

It wasn't my most enthusiastic 10-mile run, but it was a gorgeous afternoon in Seattle and I managed to maintain my typical long-run pace (9:38). I was really happy with this run. I was also really happy with, you know, stopping.

My knees weren't super-thrilled with the day's activities, so I later spent quality time with a few baggies of ice and some cupcakes. Cupcakes are scientifically proven to relieve knee stress, right? Right.


Miles run: 25.1
Miles biked: 0
Swims: 0
Yoga sessions: 0
Strength-training sessions: 1
Rest days: 3
Ratio of beer to Nuun consumption: 3:1
Ratio of sweat to tears: 10:1


Miles run: 159.3
Miles biked: 67.5
Swims: 7
Yoga sessions: 1
Strength-training sessions: 11 + 1 shower scrubbing


Weeks 1-4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8


Ali's recap of the Hamptons Marathon
Rach's recap of the Redman 140.6 triathlon (so beautifully written)
Meghann's recap of the Ironman Augusta 70.3 triathlon

See y'all next week!


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Monday, September 26, 2011

Fremont Oktoberfest 5K Recap

Yesterday, to celebrate my one-year running anniversary, I ran the race that started it all — the Fremont Oktoberfest 5K.

My goals were to see just how far I've come since I ran this race one year ago, and to update my 5K PR of 26:25 (set in February). Oh, and I also aimed to have fun!


Missions accomplished!

Official time: 25:04
Average pace: 8:04

This race began about 1.5 miles away from my front door, so I ran to the starting area as a warmup. I had never run to a race before, and I think I went a little too fast since I was running (ha) late. I was worried I'd wear out my legs, so I walked for the last little bit.

Packet pickup was exciting, as usual.

This doesn't look exciting at all.

I looked around for Courtney, who had informed me via The Twitter that she'd be there, but I couldn't spot her in the sea of people. This was the first time I had gone to and started a race 100% alone!

This 5K is billed as "a race to the beer garden," so of course we all clapped and cheered as the announcer counted down to the start. There were no pace groups, so I just positioned myself near the front and away from any runners with dogs — it's no fun to get tangled in a leash. Then we were off!

I started off a bit too fast as I made my way around slower runners and tried to find a good pace. My plan was to run the first mile at about an 8:00/mile pace, but I kept seeing numbers in the 7:-- range flashing on my watch and attempted to slow down.

We is runnin'.

I remembered that this is why I'm not a huge fan of the 5K distance. It's so short of a race that you pretty much have to run fast the whole time! The trick is to do it without burning out halfway through.

According to my Garmin, I ran the first mile in 7:56. ("According to my Garmin" is the key phrase here.)

I'm really not used to running sub-8:00 miles, so I felt tired early on. I was excited to get to the turnaround point and start heading back toward the finish line. At this point, I really wished I was this guy.

Yes, you are faster than me and I'm taking your picture.

I was determined to keep up a good pace and not walk, although I really wanted to walk at least every minute or so. The difference between this year and last year is that I didn't. At all.

I tried to focus on the interesting costumes around me to take my mind off of how far I had left to go.

Cute! Relevant!

My legs felt fine, but my lungs had trouble keeping up with my pace. I've been training for a marathon, not a 5K, so my body was kind of pissed off that this was happening.

According to my Garmin, I ran the second mile in 7:53.

Here's what I looked like around mile 2.5.

I like to call this one "Dying.jpg."

This is what happens when I decide to run with my phone.

It was at this point that I really wanted to walk, or at least slow down and chill for a bit. I'm used to running "comfortably" (9:15-ish) or "comfortably fast" (8:45-ish), but not "holy hell, this is fast-fast" (7:50-ish).

According to my Garmin, I ran the third mile in 7:50.

I finally just thought, "You know what? Running is hard. If this didn't really suck sometimes, everyone would do it. Finish the damn race."

It was glorious to complete mile three and know that there was only 0.1 mile left.

Or was there?

Either I ran the course a bit long (by weaving, although I tried to keep that to a minimum) or the course was genuinely long, but the last 0.1 seemed to take forever. And according to my Garmin, it was actually  0.19 mile. So that's fun.

There's some wrist sweat going on here. I'm sorry.

I thought I'd surely finish with a sub-8:00 average pace, but thanks to that extra little bit of distance, my overall pace ended up being slower because my time was based on a 3.1-mile course, not 3.19. That doesn't seem like it would make a big difference, but my average pace according to the Garmin was 7:51, while the official race results clocked it at 8:04.

Sorry, I get a little too concerned about pace sometimes.

Anyway! I finished the race strong and really gave it my all. I know that because I almost fell over as a volunteer cut the timing chip off my shoe. I feel like it's asking a lot of runners to do this balancing act immediately after finishing a race.

I'm surprised that more people don't take a plunge.
Oh, hey, that's Courtney!

Courtney ran with her roommate as he completed his first race. Woo-hoo!

I'd like to say I was able to relax and enjoy my free beer after this race, but instead I gave my beer ticket to Courtney. And then I went and ran 10 more miles.

But that's a story for my Week 9 marathon training recap, which will be up tomorrow.


I've now been running for a full year. In that time, I've run seven 5Ks, one 10K, one 15K, two half-marathons, a mud run and a triathlon. I've run nearly 500 miles so far in 2011. I've shaved 8:28 off my very first 5K time. It's crazy to recall that this time last year, I wasn't even sure of my ability to run three miles in a row!

If there's anything I've learned from running, it's that we are all much stronger than we think. You'll never know how far you can go until you have the courage to push yourself.

And anything is possible.


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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Running for Granddad Mills

My sweet granddad passed away very early Wednesday morning.

I woke up to a text message that relayed the news. I had known that message would be coming at any moment. Luckily, my uncle alerted my family on Tuesday that his time was near, and I was able to say my goodbyes to him over the phone as he slept peacefully at his home in California.

I told him that I loved him. That I would take care of our family. That I would travel and see the world, like I told him I would. That I hoped, as his only granddaughter, that I had made him proud.

Who knows if he actually heard me, but I like to believe that he did.

So yesterday morning, I cried in my bed. I cried in the shower. I even cried a little at my desk, when no one at work could see my crumpled face. I was a very sad girl all day.

The six-mile run on my marathon training plan was just about the last thing I wanted to do last night. I intended, instead, on crawling into bed and attempting to sleep for about three days straight.

But when I got off the bus and walked the few blocks back to my house, I realized what a beautiful evening it was, and thought that maybe a good run would make me feel better. A few minutes later, I quickly changed into my running clothes, grabbed my fuel belt and slammed a chocolate Clif Shot before I could change my mind.

It turned out to be one of the best runs I’ve had in a long time.

Although I started out feeling sluggish, my pace picked up… and up… and up… and I achieved negative splits for each mile. It was one of those super-sweaty, soul-cleansing runs.

When I returned home, I thought about the choice I had made. One of my options was to mourn my granddad’s death by crawling into bed and crying, which would have made me feel very sad and small. The other option was to throw down six miles in celebration of his life, which made me feel strong and happy.

I’m very glad I chose to be strong and happy.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s perfectly fine to mourn, and I’ve spent my fair share of time feeling sick with sadness as I watched my granddad’s health decline over the past few years. I’m sad as I write this, and I’ll be sad about his passing for a long time.

But while his life ended yesterday morning, mine goes on. He would want me to enjoy living it.

My granddad rocked his one wild and precious life for 92 years. I intend to keep on rocking mine in honor of him.


Originally posted on Dev on Running.


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Monday, September 19, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 8

Since this week of training was pretty uneventful (eh-hem, four rest days and no races to serve as good excuses), I'll start off by linking to some of my favorite running blogs. I looove reading about others' training and races! These blogs inspire me to keep up with my training and help get me excited to run my first marathon.

  • Ali on the Run: Ali lives in NYC and is preparing for her first marathon — the Hamptons Marathon next weekend. She's spunky, hilarious and totally going to rock the race despite the challenges her Crohn's disease can give her. I always look forward to her posts each morning!
  • Sweat Once a Day: Emily is a total badass. She is fast (has qualified for and run Boston a bunch of times) and just became an Ironman. She's also hilarious and makes no secret of her love for bagels, beer and sweat.
  • MegaNerd Runs: Megan is my age and I really identify with her. She had some challenges finding a job after college, but she finally did and I cheered her along as she moved to a new state and settled into her new "grown-up" life. She's currently training for her second marathon.
  • Healthy Tipping Point: Caitlin typically posts three times a day, so there's always something new to read! She has run 40 races, including everything from 5Ks to marathons to triathlons. I always check out her race recaps before I tackle a new distance. She now focuses more on triathlons, and I've gotten tons of helpful tips from her, like all the advice she provides in her essential sprint triathlon packing list.
  • Meals and Miles: Meghann is another very experienced racer with a wealth of race recaps that I like to peruse. She's currently training for her first half Ironman, which is in just a few weeks! Is it weird how excited I get to follow along with these training cycles? Hmm, don't answer that.
  • Losing Weight in the City: Theodora is another NYC runner, and she originally started her blog to chronicle her weight loss. She lost 50 pounds and became a runner in the process, and now she's training for her second marathon — the New York City Marathon.
  • Daily Garnish: Emily doesn't write about running so much right now, but for good reason — she's 9 months pregnant! She has completed several marathons and other races, and I'll be interested to see how her running journey evolves as she becomes a new mom. Fun fact: She actually lives right near me, and I ride the same bus as her husband. I was that creepy person who went up to him and said, "Hey, you don't know me, but I read your wife's blog!" Not weird at all.

Now for Week 8 of marathon training! Get excited.


Monday: Rest

I believe I came home from work and crawled into bed on Monday, and that was that.

Tuesday: Rest

See: Monday.

I spent the evening putting together my Week 7 recap and I wrote that I was feeling exhausted and scrambling for motivation to train for a race that is still months away. However, I vowed to jump back in and start kicking some training butt!

Wednesday: 6 miles

This was a good, solid run (9:17 average pace). As always, it felt great to be running again after a few days off, and I was delighted to find tons of fallen leaves on my path — a sure sign that autumn is almost here!

Fall is my favorite season, and I'm excited to be able to run in cooler temperatures and not have to worry about getting up so early for weekend long runs to beat the heat. Also, I need to start thinking about what I'm going to be for Halloween (my favorite holiday). Is there any way for me to top the lobster costume??

Thursday: 3 miles + power flow yoga

My friend and running buddy Carly just joined my gym, and she's loving all the classes it offers. She invited me to a power flow yoga class on Thursday, so I snuck in a three-miler that ended at the gym just in time for the class.

Some types of yoga leave me feeling like I didn't get a workout, but that was not the case with this class! Since I was already warmed up (read: sweaty) from my run, the 75-minute class was extra-intense. My quads burned throughout, and my face literally dripped sweat. And that's how yoga is done, my friends.

Friday: Rest

Friday was actually a scheduled rest day, so I felt no guilt for this one. My quads continued to burn, and my arms started feeling sore from the yoga class because we did a lot of this. Chaturanga is no joke!

My back and neck tend to get pretty tight throughout the week, and on Friday, I just couldn't take it anymore. I headed straight to Brookstone after work and picked up this iNeed Lumbar Massage Cushion. So far, I've used it on my upper and lower back, shoulders, quads and feet. It was a very good purchase!

I planned to spend Friday night relaxing, but my roommate felt like going out dancing and I got into the spirit, too. Let's see how this decision affected my Saturday-morning 12-miler, shall we?

Saturday: 12 miles

This run wasn't pretty, but I did it. I had to do a bit of walking in the beginning due to some stomach/side pain, but after a few rough miles, Carly and I fell into a great long-run pace. She ran one loop of Lake Union with me (about 6 miles), and then I continued on by myself to complete the rest of the 12 miles. I was hurting by the end, but I figured that's about how I'll feel when I try to run 26.2 miles, so maybe it's good practice? : D

I spent the rest of the day hydrating, foam-rolling, icing my knees and napping. Then four of my best friends and I did a delicious make-your-own-pizza night, during which we gossiped and watched the movie Country Strong. I ate my entire pizza, plus a salad, and was still kind of hungry afterward. Ohhh, marathon training.

Sunday: Rest

I had planned to go for a bike ride with a friend, but we were rained out by the first of what will be many (...many, many) gray Seattle days this fall and winter. To be honest, I was perfectly fine with that outcome, since I actually got to sleep in. I often have trouble sleeping in past 8 a.m. on the weekends even if I want to, but on Sunday, I had no problem. It was glorious.


Miles run: 21
Miles biked: 0
Swims: 0
Yoga sessions: 1
Strength-training sessions: 0
Rest days: 4
Pairs of shoes retired: 1 — you've done me right, Ghost 3
Pairs of shoes to continue breaking in before the marathon: 1 — let's do this, Ghost 4


Miles run: 134.2
Miles biked: 67.5
Swims: 7
Yoga sessions: 1
Strength-training sessions: 10 + 1 shower scrubbing


Weeks 1-4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7


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Friday, September 16, 2011

You're Allowed a U-turn

I forgot to include one of the best moments in my Cottage Lake Triathlon recap.

As we waited for the age-group award ceremony to start, I chatted with my mom's partner, Don, about the race. Don has been a part of my life since I was about 16, so he's watched me grow up, go off to college, get my first big-girl job and all that fun stuff.

Here's roughly what he said to me:

"You should be really, really proud of yourself. I remember when, not too long ago, your favorite things to do were shopping, watching TV and drinking. Now, you do this stuff. You've changed the course of your whole life."

Don and I have not had the easiest relationship over the years, so it meant a lot for him to say this and let me know he was proud of me.

But on top of that, I got to thinking about what he said about the course of my life. My goals now are incredibly different from what they were during the shopping, TV-watching, drinking-my-face-off period he referred to (also known as college). My entire future is different.

At 22, my only real goal was to get a good job. Once I got that job, I was at a loss for what to do next. I lived at my mom's house (because I was deep in debt) and spent all my time working, commuting (an hour each way), watching TV and sleeping. My weekends were spent drinking with friends. Oh, and my weeknights were spent drinking alone.

I followed the "fill your plate with carbs" eating plan and paired my dinner with a bottomless glass of wine each night. (When your wine comes from a box, it's easy to lose track of how many glasses you've had.)

One night, I had trouble sleeping and woke up the next day feeling like a zombie. I realized that I hadn't had any wine that night. My body wasn't used to falling asleep sober and couldn't relax on its own — a sign of dependence.

This scared the hell out of me.

At the time, I did nothing that gave me personal fulfillment outside of work, so I filled that emptiness with food, TV and booze. I suspect many people do this for years and years. I only did it for a few months.

Then I made a U-turn.

This is actually a sign that I pass on my way to work each day. It got me thinking about what it takes to change your course, whether on the road or in your life. It requires you to admit to yourself that you're headed the wrong way. And oftentimes, your turning around will attract others' attention to that fact.

It's tough to admit that you're not going the direction you'd like to be going. People are ashamed to admit that they're overweight or in debt. They'd rather pretend that everything is just fine than acknowledge that they're unhappy with their job. And many rationalize the path they're on because they've already invested lots of time and/or money into that course and they feel like they have to see it through.

Guess what? You're allowed to make a U-turn.

Think about what you want for your life. Where would you like to be in a few years? Will you get there by continuing to do what you do now?

I made conscious decisions to pay off my debt, get off the couch and quit hitting the box o' wine so hard. To do that, I had to admit to myself that I had screwed up a bit and that my life was headed in a bad direction.

I decided I wanted more for myself than what I was headed toward, which was lifelong debt, misery, poor health and alcoholism. The idea of that tragic future was far worse than the bitter taste of swallowing my pride and starting over in a new direction.

Maybe you've already spent $80,000 earning a degree in X, but now you realize you really want to do Y. Maybe you've spent several years earning promotions and raises at a good job, but you'd really like to leave it all behind to travel. It seems like a shame to give up those money and time investments — to backtrack, in a way — but is it really worth staying on a certain path only to be miserable, wishing you'd done something different?

You can't go back and change what you've done up to this point, but you do have a say in everything from right now on. The course of your life isn't something that's already laid out; you're the one who gets to direct it... and redirect it... and redirect it again, as much as you need to.

Don't be like I was a few years ago, sitting around waiting for something to happen that will change your life. If you are headed in the wrong direction, you're allowed a U-turn.

All you need is the guts to take it.


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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 7

After the excitement of two races during Week 7 of marathon training, I'm feeling exhausted! Oh, and a bit lazy.

It's tough to maintain my motivation to train for a race that's still several months away. I had a strong first six weeks of training because I needed to be prepared for the half-marathon and triathlon, but now I keep thinking, "Eh, an extra rest day won't matter since I have so much time to make up for it."

That rationalization only works for so long, and December 4 will be here before I know it. Time to get out of this funk and jump back into training with gusto! But first, let's look back on the last week of racing and resting... and racing again.


Monday: Labor Day Half-Marathon (13.1-mile run)

I met my goal of a sub-two-hour finish — barely! But the "barely" part doesn't matter to me. What matters is that I set a goal, worked my tail off for six weeks and achieved it. It wasn't that easy, but it was that simple.

Side note: I'm done with half-marathons for a while. I'm really happy with my PR, and it's just a tad too far of a race distance for me to find truly enjoyable. I think my favorite distance is 15K (9.3 miles) — the race I did on my 24th birthday was so much fun.

Tuesday: Rest

I took Tuesday off of work, which was officially The Greatest Idea Ever. I kicked off the day with a serious stack of dark-chocolate-chip pancakes, which are my current addiction. I'm not sure why I ever eat anything else for breakfast. Then I soaked up some sun in the hammock with a copy of The Hunger Games.

After that stressful morning, I unwound with an hour-and-a-half deep-tissue massage. I've had a Massage Envy gift card in my wallet for THREE YEARS and I finally decided to use it (thanks, Mom!). Quick, someone put a personal masseuse on the payroll!

As if that weren't enough, I then headed over to Caleb Wojcik's place, where he and his wife fed me delicious tacos and beer while telling me all about their upcoming road trip across the country. Definitely check out Caleb's story about why he recently quit his job to pursue his passions.

It was a solid rest day. : D

Wednesday: Rest

Let's see, what happened to the 9-mile bike ride and 2-mile run I had planned to prepare for the triathlon distances? Ah, yes! Work was a complete nightmare when I returned from my day off, and I spent the whole day (and early evening) catching up. Throw in a little emotional turmoil and you've got a great recipe for a rest day.

Thursday: Pool swim

I met Vicki at the community pool for one last swim before the tri. She hadn't seen me swim for a few weeks and was really impressed by how much I had improved!

A lifeguard was less than impressed and gave me a few helpful pointers:

  • Reeeeeach for the wall so that when I pull back, my stroke pushes as much water as possible (thus propelling me forward).
  • Lift my legs higher so that my kick isn't buried completely underwater.

I love me some pointers.

Friday: Rest

On Friday evening, I used Caitlin Boyle's excellent essential sprint triathlon packing list to gather all my gear for the tri. I was nervous to pack all my stuff and head to my mom's house in Woodinville because if I forgot something, it would mean a 30-minute drive back to my place! Thanks to the helpful list, I didn't have have that problem.

I stopped by Cottage Lake to pick up my race packet, get body-marked and collect my swag. Just like the actual triathlon, this process was extremely well-organized. Mary Meyer runs a tight ship! She also puts together excellent swag bags. Some of us race just for the swag, you know.

Saturday: Cottage Lake Super Sprint Triathlon (.25-mile swim, 9-mile bike, 1.6-mile run)

I met all of my goals for my first triathlon and had an absolute blast! I didn't panic or get kicked in the face during the swim, I didn't hurt myself or others on the bike, and I kicked the crap out of the run. As an unexpected bonus, I placed third in my age group! OK, so it was out of four people, but still...

There are many more triathlons in my future.

Sunday: Rest

I cleaned the bathroom, which almost counts as strength training when you consider the amount of grime I scrubbed from the shower floor. I put together my triathlon recap, which required vigorous typing and photo-editing. I went grocery shopping, which included some walking and heavy lifting. I watched The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, which exercised my brain.

I'll call it an active rest day, OK?


Miles run: 14.7
Miles biked: 9
Swims: 2
Strength-training sessions: 0 (or 1, if you include the shower)
Rest days: 4
Races: 2
Carbs: All of them, ever


Miles run: 113.2
Miles biked: 67.5
Swims: 7
Strength-training sessions: 10 + 1 shower

Spoiler alert for Week 8:


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Monday, September 12, 2011

My First Triathlon: Cottage Lake Super Sprint Tri

I survived the Super Cool tri, and I had an amazingly fun time! If there were extra points awarded for enthusiasm, I would have won the whole darn thing.

My mom lives really close to the race site, so I brought all my gear over and spent Friday night at her house. I had a fitful night of sleep and woke up kind of dreading the race on Saturday. All my nervousness about the swim came flooding in at once!

My stomach reflected that feeling and didn't help me out too much with breakfast. I choked down an apple and a slice of toast with almond butter, but it was a struggle.

I pawed through my bag of gear at least three times before I was assured I had everything, and then we were off! I think we left the house at 7:00 and pulled into our parking spot across the street from the lake at 7:03. Excellent race location.

I had already picked up my race packet and gotten body-marked the previous night, so I just headed straight to the transition area to get set up.

Once I had all my stuff laid out for each transition, I felt much more calm. I put my bike stuff near the front and running stuff near the back, according to the order of the transitions.

Transition 1 gear (swim to bike): Towel for drying my feet, socks, bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, water bottle full of Nuun, Garmin watch (already turned on so I wouldn't have to wait for it to find satellites). Oh, and the bike.

Transition 2 gear (bike to run): Running shoes, chocolate Clif Shot, race belt with number attached, hat.

I also brought a bucket to sit on while I changed my shoes during each transition.

I grabbed my lovely gold-colored cap (provided in my packet) and goggles and headed down to the water to confront my enemy scope out the course.

The orange buoys marked the triangular swim course. We were to swim counterclockwise from the shore, out to the buoy on the right, over to the buoy on the left and then back to shore. It didn't look so far or scary in real life!

I started to get excited.

You may notice that I wore the tri top that I thought wouldn't work because it annoyingly rode up as I ran. I ended up just safety-pinning the top to my shorts to keep it in place, and it worked perfectly! The bright pink also helped my support crew/cheering squad (my mom, Don and my dad) keep track of me so they could yell the appropriate encouragements in my direction. Very important stuff.

The race began at 8:00 with the start of the elite wave, which consisted of a bunch of crazy people who did this triathlon twice — as in swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run. Let's not talk about how some of them did the whole thing back-to-back almost before I finished it once.

The wave starts moved quickly, and just minutes later, my group — women under 40 — was up! There was no time to be nervous, and I heard a lot of women chatting about how they, too, were going to use my awesome swim strategy: Stay near the back. Don't get kicked in the face.

I'd say 90% of participants wore a wetsuit for the swim, but I said, "No, thank you," to the $200 price of a new suit and the $50 cost of a rental. The lake turned out to be practically as warm as bathwater! Whew.

I began the swim with a little tried-and-true doggy paddle action. Do you see me at the far right, doing absolutely nothing?

I started with the doggy paddle to let the stronger swimmers pull ahead and to get used to being in the open water without freaking out. Once I decided that I could put my face in the water without being kicked, I began swimming freestyle... for about two minutes.

The murky water really threw me off and I began to veer toward the right, away from the buoy that everyone else was swimming toward. I kept having to pull my head up to find where I wanted to go, and I just felt like I was swimming incredibly slowly and inefficiently. I rolled over onto my back and found that I could go much faster that way, so that's what I ended up doing for most of the swim!

I was not nearly the only one who did this, and I was in no way ashamed to give up on freestyle. Survival was my goal!

Even though I struggled with the swim, I honestly had fun the whole time. I never panicked or gave up. I just kept alternating between swimming on my back, doggy paddling and attempting freestyle.

Don (who was also the fab photographer) yelled at me near the end to do some actual swimming, so I busted some moves for the final stretch back to shore. Do I look like I know what I'm doing? (Don't answer that.)

Swim (0.25 mile): 11:02

I was incredibly pleased to emerge from the lake still alive. I had quite a jolly time running to the transition area to get into bike mode. My weakest leg was done, and I was excited to get some work done on the bike and in the run!

The toughest part of T1 was trying to put socks on my wet feet. Even the towel didn't help much, so that struggle slowed me down. Otherwise, I put on my bike shoes, sunglasses, helmet and Garmin, and then took a big swig of Nuun before sticking the water bottle into its holder.

Transition 1: 2:33

The bike leg was fun. Have I mentioned how cycling is so much better than swimming?

I passed a lot of people, which felt really good after my slowww swim. The course was two 4.5-mile loops, and it seemed to fly by as I picked people off one by one.

There was one moderate hill that left my quads aching after each pass, but there was a nice downhill afterward that allowed me to coast and recover.

The course was entirely on streets surrounding the park, which meant I had to watch out for traffic. The cars weren't a danger so much as they were a nuisance when I wanted to pass people but couldn't. I often wound up stuck behind people going at a maddeningly slow pace because I couldn't exactly veer out into the busy street to pass. I'm very happy with my bike time, but I'm even happier knowing that I could have gone much faster if it weren't for the cars!

Bike (9 miles): 32:53 (16.8 mph)

As I rode into the bike dismount area, I passed a few ambulances — apparently someone had gotten confused about where he was supposed to go for the dismount and changed his direction suddenly, crashing into someone else and causing a pretty bad accident. Yikes!

By the time I got there, volunteers had jumped in to make it very clear where we were supposed to go, so I dismounted and ran to the transition area without incident.

And the following photo is the best one from the whole event, thanks to this dude's bold fashion choice.

My bucket really came in handy for changing my shoes, although it doesn't exactly make for a flattering photo...

I exchanged my helmet for a hat, changed into my running shoes, put on my race belt, grabbed the Clif Shot and took another big swig of Nuun. Oh, and I switched my Garmin setting from cycling to running, which took me some precious time to figure out in my hurry.

Transition 2: 1:47

Now for the thing that I really know how to do!

My legs felt a bit heavy, but other than that, I was thrilled with how the race was going and felt so excited to finally be doing my strongest leg.

I was also really happy whenever I spotted my family, as you can see here. HEY, GUYS!!!

As with the bike ride, I passed a lot of people on the run. Since it was only a 1.6-mile stretch, I was surprised that there weren't more people busting it out on the last leg. I was starting to feel tired, but my legs were on auto-pilot and couldn't have slowed down even if I wanted them to.

I have to say here that during this entire race — but especially during this leg — the volunteers who directed us along the course were excellent. There was enthusiastic cheering, clapping, dancing, etc. going on for all the participants, and I busted out more than a few fist pumps and cheers in appreciation. Yay for awesome volunteers!

I ate about one-third of my Clif Shot for a little boost during the run, and it helped power me through to a strong finish.

Run (1.6 miles): 12:13 (7:38 pace <---- word!)

Why yes, I did fist-pump across the finish line! Check out the little girl to the right — her face!

Official time: 1:00:30

I had such a blast with this race, and on top of that, I actually placed third in my age group!

OK, so it turns out that there were only four people in my age group anyway. But I'm not going to let that put a damper on the accomplishment, and here's why:

You'll see that I was the slowest of the four girls in the swim (by far), but I was the fastest on the bike and in the run! So yes, I'll proudly take third place out of four people, complete with domination of two out of three events.

Of 200 overall participants, I came in 71st place. It's funny to see how my placement in each of the three legs shows how I go from weakest to strongest across the sports:

Swim rank: 140
Bike rank: 75
Run rank: 21

I know my swimming will only improve as I practice, and I look forward to the challenge! 

I really, really loved doing this triathlon — it was the perfect first tri because it was short, well-organized and low-pressure. Mary Meyer Life Fitness did a fantastic job of running the event, and especially succeeded with making it fun and inclusive of anyone who wanted to "get out there and tri" (as the t-shirt says).

My focus now shifts back to marathon training, but I've officially been bitten by the tri bug! I feel like my post-marathon goals will revolve around completing longer tris and flirting with the idea of those races that have "Iron" in the name.

I recently came across this very applicable statement:

“Triathlon is addictive. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ll just do one to get it off the bucket list, because it will just change from one triathlon to one 70.3 to one Ironman to 10 Ironmen and so on. Triathlon is athletic heroin and if you wanna be inducted into the club, you gotta be ready to pay up for the high.”


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