Monday, October 27, 2014

Marathon Monday

I ran the Miami Halloween half marathon on Saturday with some friends which was a good time.
I'm in the tutu.

We have been suffering through a tropical depression for about a week. A tropical depression translates to rain ... constant insufferable rain and sometimes wind. Friday was a mess. What I wanted to do was nap all day but halfway through the afternoon I headed to South Beach to get my packet. Pickup took all of 30 seconds but the drive there and back was almost endless.

I also picked up a new handheld bottle for my hydration since I tossed mine in the Rome marathon and I likewise tossed my amphipod fuel belt in the marathon of Ironman Chattanooga. It's a bad habit I seem to have made tossing things that annoy me at the end of a marathon. But it feels awesome at the time. Very cathartic. This thing "insert offending item" annoys me and fliiing it's gone.

Some people always run in costume. Not me. Not ever. But this is obviously a costume theme run. Some people are better at costumes than others. I'm not very good at it but I did pick up a tutu and a bow tie for the occasion. That was enough. Some costumes were very clever and it was definitely entertaining. I was passed by a runner in a full bacon suit. That was humiliating. I thought to myself, you can't be passed by the bacon ... and yet he was much faster than me so there it was.
proof of my one and possibly only tutu run. The bow tie as you can see was almost immediately flung sideways.

We started at Parrot Jungle and finished at Nikki Beach on South Beach. The course was fine. A good chunk of it was over the wood boardwalk and at one point we had to descend a few steps which was pretty dumb but I made it through then at the end we climbed the hill in Lummus Park and that was painful but overall a good course. It was a tad shy of the ful 13.1 miles at least .1 or .2. But that was okay with me. I was happy with my new PR of 1:52:36. I'll take it. That was good enough to put me 12th in my age group. And there were well over 100 in my age group.

But the thing I'm happiest about is that my average pace was 8:47 overall. Initially I was excited because I thought that my coveted BQ pace is 8:45. However after a teeny tiny bit of research my bq pace is more like 8:35. Not quite as close. Admittedly that's over a marathon not a half marathon and I didn't quite hit that pace but it feels close ... it feels very close.

Back to my bad habit. It was a cool day 75 at the start 82 at the finish probably. I didn't look it up that's a guess. A little warm for me to run fast. I was wearing a hat and my head was really warm I was tempted to toss my hat but a cooler head prevailed. Pun intended. I thought to myself that I had to be able to hold onto all the things I started with for a half marathon otherwise I was being ridiculous.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Catching up ... the ridiculously mundane side of Ironman recovery

Piles and overstuffed drawers.
I'm a piler my husband is a stuffer. So after any big project our counters are covered with piles of things that need to be addressed and the drawers are all full of just general garbage.

Training for an Ironman takes time. Time that otherwise might be used to do stuff like sort piles and complete paperwork.

In my house - housekeeping means keeping the house up and running not cleaning. I'm not a good cleaner when it gets much past loading the dishwasher.

In order to make time for training a lot of little things don't get done. You do the most pressing things and then the others just get a bit delayed. Just like any big project in life. Some you hear about all the time when you read about Ironman training like dinners out with friends, date night with your spouse, mowing the grass is a common one and so on. But as I was going through all the things I'm catching up on I thought I'd share with you if only so that if it's also happening to you you don't feel alone.

Non-workout clothes - This one is in better shape than it was after I did IM France because I've signed up for Stitchfix. But while I do a great job of buying new workout clothes during training my other clothes are all in sad shape. Sad sad shape.

Heart of Darkness - Nope not the Conrad book. It really is dark in here. We have at least one light bulb out in every room. Not to mention all of the outdoor bulbs were completely out and also we had two fixtures that need an electricians attention. My husband actually changes the light bulbs so what I fell behind on here was actually just nagging him to do it, buying the bulbs and calling the electrician.

Underwear -- hee hee don't be offended by the intimacy here. I spend practically all my time in workout apparel while I'm training and built in undies are always there. While I did update my sports bras as needed during training I realized that it was way overdue to update all my delicates in my drawer. When I mentioned it to my daughter I discovered that so were my kids. So new undies, bras and socks all around.

Dry cleaning - While I live in workout wear my husband does not. So who knows when the last time I took the dry cleaning in. It was a huge amount of shirts. He's going to feel like he's got a new wardrobe when it all comes back tomorrow.

School paperwork - I just finished the beginning of the year school paperwork. I hate paperwork. I'll blame the Ironman training but seriously how can there be so many stupid little things to complete for school?

New glasses and cookie sheets and pans
I cook almost all that we eat in my house. We have well water and it's hard on our glassware and stuff. So we had one nonstick pan that was basically destroyed - the cookie sheets had gotten so rusted in the corners that it was ridiculous and the glassware was white and opaque with mineral deposits. These I finally just replaced.

Doctors appointments Before Ironman France I had to have a medical certificate so I got a physical. I learned that actually 3 weeks before a big race you might have irregular lab results. So I was happy to not do that again. But it's time for the whole run of appointments, eye doctor, dermatologist, ob, and regular physical. Ugh. I am generally of the opinion that the only way to stop bad news from doctors is to not visit doctors. But it should be done, right?

My kids have outgrown a ton of stuff. Toys, books, clothes you name it. Some of it has made it into bags that just need to be delivered to the goodwill. But their rooms are crammed full of crap. Going through it and sorting it for what they use now and what is ready to go is seriously behind.

Crap in the garage
I swear that the stuff in the garage mates and multiplies if you don't keep up with it. Seriously where does all this stuff come from? I filled up a giant garbage can earlier this week with just stuff I could reach while I was looking for my bike pedals. Crazy.

Houseware staples
I have a cleaning lady. She never tells me when we're out of anything except laundry detergent and garbage bags. She will just make due. She makes due by watering down all the cleaning supplies. Which means my house is basically being cleaned with water.

I learned last training cycle to stock up early with cleaning staples and kitchen staples. But I realized last week that we were out of everything. Windex, counter spray, bleach, rice, flour, salt. Those ridiculous towels that the maids in Miami use - totally worn out. Seriously, everything. I wonder what the clerk thought when I was checking out of target with my supplies. Maybe that I had just moved or something. My cleaning lady was super excited to find all the replacement stuff. I'm not sure why I can't get her to tell me when things are empty. It's a little strange.

Quick training notes
I did my first bike ride yesterday since the race. I had to find my pedals which I can conveniently stored in a ziploc on the floor in the garage. This is when I noticed the abundance of crap that had accumulated.

It was a short brisk ride. Fun and not too hard. I wasn't sure I was looking forward to being on the bike but it was great fun. My training friend Nicole did a century yesterday. This is why she's faster than me. I can't think of anything I wanted to do less than go do a century. Yuck. And I ran. Lots of running right now on the schedule.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The week my life became an episode of 60 minutes

First things first I have not ever nor do I want to ever be on 60 minutes. I'm happy with my boring anonymous life.

Middle School
My daughter is in 5th grade. We live in Miami, Florida (an area not known for it's educational excellence). Her elementary school only goes through 5th grade.
So, Wednesday I toured 3 middle schools.

One is our home school a public school that is open to all the kids in our district. One is a highly-ranked magnet public school. The last was an extremely expensive competitive admission private school.

The three could not be more different. That is perhaps the most obvious statement ever made. Until this week I thought I understood our options. I thought we had a good plan which was if we got the magnet great - if not our suburban home school for middle school would be okay.

At the end of the day. I had a headache. I was confused. My husband and I were a little cross with each other and my poor kid ... well who knows what she thought about the whole thing.

I didn't sleep well last night with the pressure of the situation weighing on me mightily.

Change is hard. Change when you don't fully understand the options is harder still. Change when you aren't in control of any or all of the situation is especially hard.

I'm not sure why but this feels like a super complicated and really important decision.

Also, there is no perfect solution and that's just a giant pain in my tooshie.

People say, "you have to know your kid."

Well I do know my kid. She's 10 years old. She'll be 11 this month. She's not a fully-formed person yet. That's what I know.

Here's what else - She's very independent. She wants to post on Instagram but I won't give her an account yet. She plays Minecraft, she can do Sudoku puzzles that her father and I can't complete - she loves math and wants to be a cheerleader and she still travels with her American Girl doll. She does not like to brush her teeth and she hates Brussels sprouts.

How in the world does any of that relate to helping her choose a middle school? It doesn't so to all those people who keep saying that I say, "please shut up." Don't be offended - I said please :-)

I want her to have the least traumatic middle-school experience possible and if she didn't come out of middle-school hating learning that would be pretty great. Is that even possible? What was your middle school experience like?

So wait, what's the problem?
Lets take a look at the schools and what we saw.

The Community School
First lets look at our home school. I called to find out about tours and the phone rang 11 times. Seriously, not an exaggeration. When it answered I was transferred to the voice mail of a counselor (one of 4 I know because her message was 90 percent explaining which group she was responsible for) It was a very long message because it was in English and Spanish. We are a bilingual city - it's complicated. I left a message and I didn't hear back. Ever. I still haven't heard back.

So, I just went over in person. I parked and I walked around the campus. It's fine. Not amazing but big fields outside and outdoor gym stuff. Some portable classrooms - not a ton. Then I went inside. I saw the security table but nobody was there. I then actually ran into somebody I knew a daughter of a friend who is happy there. She is happy and her parents are happy. There are plenty of people who are happy with this school option. She took me to the office because she does an hour of her day in the office instead of taking an elective course because as she told me, they're really bad. The office on first glance seemed unstaffed. Weird. I thought.

Finally somebody came to their desk and when I asked for how I would see the school she said she didn't know, the principal wasn't in because they were teaching and the vice principals were busy dealing with a "violence issue" but I could see if one of the counselors was in if I wanted to.

She waived me back toward the back of the office to talk to a secretary. She had this entire conversation with me without even looking at me. Pretty rude actually. But we're in public school now so I know people are overworked and underpaid.

Let's take a minute and digress. While I tell you this story please understand I live in a suburb called Pinecrest. Look it up. It's not inner city at all. But we are a part of the Miami-dade school district which is the third largest in the country. It serves over 300,000 students. I have lived in at least two cities smaller than that.

At this point I was getting a bad vibe. But I took a deep breath and walked into the office to find the secretary and counselors. I walked in to the only other occupied desk and found a very busy secretary. Who was helpful but clearly very busy. On my way to the counselors office (also on my own) I found the assistant principals and part of the security team. They were talking to the child I know about the "violence issue" and this child was being given the responsibility of calling the parents and finding other kids to give written statements. Um, what? So I asked this child whose 13th birthday party is this week how often this happens in the school and she grinned and said, "oh every day."

I did meet with the guidance counselor who was nice. Harried and overwhelmed and busy but nice. Who told me that in a few weeks there is a curriculum fair where we can come and meet teachers and stuff. I should find out about it from my school.

And then I left. Not impressive. Actually not even acceptable. The words I would use are actually shocking and upsetting. In all honesty while she would probably be happy here there is not much chance that we'll send her here. Of course there are some kids who can excel in this school but I think the odds are against it.

Magnet School
At the start of this process this is our first choice. My daughter actually heard about the school from a friend. It's her choice which makes it a pretty great thing.

The school was old, but well maintained. We saw the kids change classes and they were well behaved and sweet. We saw a presentation from the lead teacher and then we got a tour from two- eighth grade students. They were normal and sweet.

If she gets in here she'll be happy.

The middle-school magnets are all random select. If you meet the basic criteria you throw your name in a hat and if you get picked - yippee. If not too bad so sad. For example the school we visited gets 1600 applicants for 150 spots. 1/10 get picked.

So the pressure of this randomness is kindof annoying.

Going Private
I'm hugely blessed that we can actually consider private school as a potential option. It's massively expensive and it comes with it's own set of problems but it's an option. We would have to make huge changes in our life but it can be done. So we went to the open house for the only true selective addmission preperatory school here. This was the only school I took my daughter to. The others were just my husband and myself.

So one other short digression. I have adult step-kids. They both were in a local private school for their entire education until college. So in one sense we've done this and we're a little jaded. We do feel that the high-school tuition was money well spent but kindergarten through eighth grade we feel was just the best of bad options. If we don't have to pay for middle school we don't want to. There are lots of reasons why private school can be the best option but being a good value isn't usually one of them if anybody is being honest in my opinion.

There were at least 1000 people there. Parents and children all hoping for the chance to pay more than a years worth of minimum wages for the privalege of attending.

The sales presentation was spectacular. Some very talented kids sang and danced and performed and extolled the joys of the school. There was a disco ball and confetti. It's a great campus. We knew lots of the kids and parents who were there. After there was a reception with punch and cookies and mini hot dogs and the kids could ask questions from teachers. My daughter loved the cookies and had fun with her friends who were there. I made her go to the math table and she did actually enjoy playing math games with the teacher.

This school is application only. She takes a test, is interviewed, we fill out an application that in all honesty is as much about us the parents as it is about her and if she is accepted she can go.

It's a great school. She would probably be happy there. But is it worth the money? Nope. How could it be? How could any school ever be worth that much money? It can't. But it might be the best option out there.

We are also considering 2 other private schools if she doesn't get into this the most competitive. The reality is that it's totally possible that she might not get in. That's life. 

Must have COFFEE
The next morning in my bleary-eyed state of sleep-deprivation as my coffee brewed. I was so desperate for the caffeine that I was standing at the brewing machine waiting for the coffee to drip into the pitcher (in case you're curious). I took a second to reflect on my own middle school experiences. My parents were divorced and lived in two separate states. My mother when I was young was of the belief that a full life included moving states or cities on close to an annual basis potentially even more often. But she lived in the mid-west where to be honest the schools were fine. There were no huge safety issues - there was no magnet program - I don't think there was a gifted program. My father lived in NYC which has got to be the biggest school district in the country. It had lots of safety issues but hidden in among the just bigness was a system that sometimes worked to get smart kids where they needed to be for the best chance. It was there that I was tested in 4th grade and determined to be a smart cookie.

So I think I attended at least 3 middle schools for a variety of time in 3 separate states. That being said I'd be shocked if combined my parents spent a total of 5 whole minutes even thinking about where I would go to school.

It just was a totally different situation. The total of their research probably included one question: what is the school for this address.

My husband and I had a brief chuckle over that. His parents were middle school teachers - they probably thought about it a lot but he went where they taught and that was that. He had no choice. If I was on site where my kid would go to school I would make that choice too. Nevertheless what they did worked he went from new york public schools to the Ivy league. Something that's always impressive. He's a smart guy.

Its a big problem
Somewhere during my sleepless night or my run the next day I made the connection that I was now neck deep in a problem that has been the basis of documentaries and news programs. It was a bit of a releif but doesn't make it any more fun.

I don't think public schools were ever amazing. I think that's a myth just because people want to believe it. They weren't great when I went through them but I think in Miami it's gotten more complicated.

By creating magnet and charter schools they have succeeded in pulling the most motivated parents/kids out of the community schools and into the magnet/charter schools which does have a good effect if you can get into one of those schools. But there is also I think a rebound effect in the community schools.  What I see is basically a brain drain of good teachers, parents and students. So then the community school (the one in your neighborhood) is not really a good option. I mean it's a good option if your other choice is no school but otherwise not really.

Here's why I think that. The standardized test scores for the 3 elementary schools that feed into our community middle school all average in the 90th percentile. But the standardized scores for the middle school fall to 60th percentile. Yikes. The only way I see that happening is to add poor students and to lose high achieving students. The magnet schools we're looking at all maintain the 90th percentile scoring. 

So what's a parent to do? Drink beer and hope for the best apparently.

I'm kidding - just kidding. Wait am I kidding?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ying to the Yang - a story of a happy family where mommy races Ironman

This picture reminds me of high school. The whole idea of ying and yang and balance in the world was majorly appealing to me as an adolescent.

Training is intense - surprisingly so is recovery
The last several weeks or months or so of Ironman Training is very intense. My family definitely makes some sacrifices to be sure in the form of lost time with me.

So once the race is over there has to be a shift. The ying to the yang. For an entire week I do nothing and it feels great. The first week is heaven. I sleep like a newborn, deep and intense and I have no desire to do anything except eat, rest and enjoy being a newly minted Ironman.

The Itch 
Then I start back slowly but continuing to keep my first focus on my family and my friends. They deserve it. I make my kids brownies, I let my husband serve me wine with dinner, I go to lunch with my husband and even my friends. I take the dry cleaning in, I answer the phone when my mother-in-law calls, I catch up on birthday presents that are overdue. I spend an entire weekend with my daughter at a swim meet. This is how I work to bring the family back to balance - see that's the ying to the yang idea ... get it?
note the homemade brownie in the lunch.

I love my family but I also love my hobby. So believe it or not I want to stop this whole stay up late and sleep in business before my family is quite caught up with their Amy-deficit. I begin looking forward to races I sign up for events. I am envious of those racing and doing long training rides while simultaneously loving my shorter training runs. This is where we are now.

My husband is loving the non-exercising me. He gets up and goes for a bike or a run without any concern that I'll be off doing my thing. My kids love that I'm all about them. It's a needed thing this family recovery. It works for my family this ying and yang.

I've made a lot of pancakes these 2 weeks. Also I got a new pancake pan. Isn't it pretty? Of course, my husband immediately used a metal spoon on it making me want to thrash him but with my post-Ironman blissful state he has lived.
This period of post-Ironman recovery was well timed because my son came down with a weird virus that we went back and forth to the doctor a few times and then yesterday my daughter was sent home with lice. Lice - or in spanish los piojolos is the giant parenting time suck of the universe. So, it's well timed that it happened during this period of recovery.

I did see a little peek of Ironman blues this past week. Mentally, I feel better when I have the focus of the training. That's one of the reasons I do it. I went to bed one night and found my self awash in feelings of why... why...why. Luckily after a few minutes of wondering if I'd lost my mind I thought this my bit of blues colored with the wine that was with dinner...probably and I drifted off to sleep.

The mind is willing - the body a little less so
Also I have to admit that my body is not yet fully recovered. I have a little twinge in my right leg that started with the Ironman marathon. So I'm stretching and rolling and not rushing the intense exercise. All at the same time that I'm restarting the training for my fall marathon. I'm following the Pfitzinger 8 week between marathons schedule and glory be the first 2 weeks are full of recovery runs. It's lovely.

I have a friend who does ultra events all the time. She'll do Iron-distance events week after week. I think she's a little crazy. Also I wonder how in the world her body does it. For me even though I'm not the fastest improvement motivates me. In fact I'm firmly locked into my middle of the pack status. I was almost exactly in the middle of my age-group in Chatty. I'm average ... painfully average.  Some day of course, age will make improvement impossible. But I hope today is not that day. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Final Installment - Race Report Ironman Chattanooga the run and finish

This has been the longest and most boring Ironman Chattanooga race report ever. Yes, I know. But it's almost over.

Probably nobody is reading it and that's okay with me. Probably not even my most dedicated reader (my sister-in-law) But I can't help myself I 've just got to finish this thing.

The run.
I knew that I was going into this run underprepared for the course. I felt that while I was trained to run a marathon that my run volume was very low and about 2 months before the race I discovered that the run was about twice as hilly as was posted on the website.
Coming from the flat lands of Miami this is a nightmare. What I should have done was just do all my long runs as bridge repeats. Oh well hindsight is always 20/20.

Unfortunately that's not enough time to change my training to be hill oriented. So I knew this was going to be tough. My only goal was to have a better marathon than I ran in France. In France I ran 5:30 which I was happy about at the time because I had heard that you take your marathon time and add an hour and that's your Ironman marathon time. But since then I've known several people who are just folks like me who have run solid marathons in their Ironman events so I am working on trying to run a solid marathon as the last leg of an Ironman Race. But that goal had to be modified when I learned that the course was not what I was trained for.

The course.
This was the hardest marathon course I've ever run.  It's 2 loops and it feels like every inch is either up hill or downhill. There is a big chunk of the course that was along the river which while pretty is isolated. There is a terrible stretch along a highway which is horrible. And there are 2 steep hills that you have to do twice up and down. There are also a few wooden bridges which are tricky when wet and when you're legs are as tired as they are.
This is the start of the run. See smiling. I certainly think I feel better at this point than the guy behind me. This 20 meter section is flat and then there is immediately a hill. Embrace the suck.

The crowd support in parts (including the 2 steep hills) was great. You have to love a town that basically throws tailgating parties to cheer on the runners. Also the volunteers were fantastic. Several stops had people dressed up and it was really great.

We got rain on the run which wasn't bad but I was happy when it stopped.

Oh my stomach
Other than being undertrained for the hills of this run I had nutrition/digestion issues. I put tums in my transition bag and my special needs bag. I'm not sure if it's drinking from a straw or just the Infinit but I get gassy after 6 hours of slurping on my sugary mix.  Since I had a stomach ache that I figured was from a giant gas ball in my belly during the bike I immediatley started chomping on tums in transition.

I would like to appologize to all those jogging near me on the run in the first lap because I was a burping fool. Not very lady like but I felt much better with each belch.

I had a fuel belt with infinit powder in each of the bottles. I stopped at the first rest stop and filled up my first bottle. My timer beeps every 6 minutes and I take 2 sips of infinit. This worked very well in training. However, it didn't work well in the race unfortunately. I'm not quite sure how it ran off course but it did.
This is how I run when I'm not exhausted. Notice I'm on my toes and my knees are bent. Not at all like the shuffle fest later in the event.

I don't drink or eat for the first mile letting my stomach settle from the bike and figure out how I feel. Then by about 45 minutes I had already finished my first bottle. So I was way ahead of schedule even though I didn't have anything for the first 10 minutes. So I backed off. But because my head wasn't working right I ate a few chomps during this time. I say my head wasn't working right because I probably could have skipped those and may have felt better if I did. I was afraid to go very long without calories.

Then at about an hour my stomach was super sloshy. Sloshier than it has ever been before. I figured that this was related to me drinking too fast and also maybe the tums but I wasn't sure. So I filled my next bottle but wasn't drinking it. I was afraid to go too long without calories but the sloshy stomach was impossible.

There's Hills in them thar places!
I made my way running up the first set of hills and had the glorious company of my training partner Doug. That makes such a difference to run together. Then at the start of the second loop I had to go potty so I stopped and did my thing feeling much better after. This was about 2:20 into the run. I picked up my special needs - more tums and wipes and headed out to the second loop solo. I was still very sloshy in my stomach and fairly nauseated and my pace slowed to show it. I walked the hills up this time around but ran down the hills which by this point was extremely painful.
This photo is out of sequence but I think I look pretty great here. This is on the second loop (I can tell because of which bottles are on the back) and I'm still happily in aero flying along.

I took some chicken broth at aid stations - just a sip or two. The salty feels really good. And right or wrong I took a potato chip a few times because my belly was so sloshy and I really craved solid foods.

Another Couer ad
I was carrying a half-empty bag of gu chomps for about 5 miles in my hand. It was super annoying. Finally I remembered that these shorts have pockets in them. I tucked the chomps into my shorts and promptly stopped eating the chomps. That was probably step one in my feeling better to be honest.

The dark part - as close as I get anyway
I'll be honest about half way through the second loop I was firmly entertaining just spectating at Ironman Lake Placid next summer. But even in my haze I knew that wouldn't stick. 

When I walked I tried to power walk. While I can be a fairly quick runner I am one of the slowest walkers ever so I tried to go as quickly as possible when I walked. Also every time I started walking I tried to ask myself, "Can you push a little more" the answer was always yes so I would run more. I tried to run the last whole mile but I did walk some over the pedestrian bridge because the surface is uneven and it would have stunk to fall.

Goodbye Fuel Belt
About 45 minutes from the finish I filled my last bottle and gleefully tossed my entire fuel belt into the garbage :-) It was driving me nuts. It was also worn out and ready for replacement. That felt great. Then I just carried that one bottle to the finish.

Strength work
The only thing I did correctly to get ready for this run was to increase my strength work. I'm much stronger than I've ever been. On the second half of the second loop I could feel my shoulders start to slouch and I was actually able to feel it and correct it which made a huge difference.
This is me slouching. This is the riverwalk section of the second loop. I can tell because it's stopped raining and the sun is setting. Once I remembered to straighten up and engage my core I felt much better. Look how straight my legs are... shuffling but I didn't know it.

My right leg which is where I can get IT band syndrome was on fire descending the steep hills at the end. But I just pushed through it working on engaging my core and focusing on lifting my knees.  I trained with my friend Janine Failla for strength work and it really helped. So if you're in Miami and looking for a trainer I recommend her, FBB personal training is her brand.

The Finish
My result was 5:20 and I'll take it. I did improve slightly on the France time and holy cow this was 1000 times harder of a marathon.

The Ironman Finish line is amazing. Until you've run down that chute it's hard to describe. You're exhausted, your mind is super foggy and it's just loud and bright and all for you. I love it. This one did not disappoint.

Mike Riley the voice of Ironman did say my name. Amy Stone from Pinecrest, Florida and I heard it but I love the roar of the crowd more to be honest.

I was emotional but this second time around I was able to smile more than cry.

I found my coach just after the finish line. He took me to my family. It was all good. My son was super helpful finding me a chair and helping me sit and stand. But my kids did steal my water because they were thirsty (seriously, I know ... right). They had been downtown all day so as soon as I could I got my bags and we went back to the hotel.

I showered and was thrilled that I didn't have even a drop of chaffing. Somehow even though it was braided my hair was one solid knot. I ate leftovers and put the kids to bed. Then I took my friend Doug to the City Diner down the block and we ate again. It was full of racers which was fun.

And then I went to bed. The next morning I was up at 6 and ate breakfast and then went with Nicole to get finisher gear. That was fun. Then I packed up and we met my inlaws for lunch where I had my first beer in about 45 days. That was delicious. We flew home and I've been resting since.

Yesterday I volunteered at the Key Biscayne Half marathon. That was fun. These sports take a lot of volunteers so I started this tradition of mine after Ironman France. While I'm recovering and can't race I volunteer.

Today I did my first run back. 4 miles slow. The weather here is finally changing and it's run season. Next up. Space Coast Marathon.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report - 3/4 The Bike

I'm going to try to keep this slightly more brief. After all even though it's 116 miles there isn't that much interesting to say about the bike ride.

Just as a note - I'm using proofs for this post but I have purchased my photo package I just haven't gotten my link to download the images yet.

The Course
The course is a lot of fun. It's a lollipop where you head out for 11 miles and then do 2 loops through rural Georgia.

The course is changing for the future so if you stumble onto this post in the future it won't be relevant. But the climbing is rolling. So you are up and down for the duration of the course.

It's a lot of fun to ride actually. The scenery is pretty and the rollers are fun while a lot of work.

My goal for the course was to average 17mph. The first loop my average was over 18mph so I pulled back for the second loop.

My Experience on the Course
At the start of the course I thought perhaps I had swallowed about half the river because my bladder was full. I'm one of those lucky girls who can actually manage to pee on the bike so I spent the first third of the course pedaling and dealing with that. It's gross but the reality is that there aren't many porta potties on the course and those that are there have long lines. We all have our own ways of dealing with it.

About 30 miles in I got a stitch in my side which is something that has actually never happened to me on the bike. At times it was super painful but I just kept going and trying to figure out what was going on.

I stopped at special needs and got my stuff. Which included some minty gum. Seriously the greatest thing ever halfway through more than 6 hours of sweet nutrition. But there were no porta potties there. My working theory was that I would feel better if I completely emptied my bladder. My secondary theory was and is that it was revenge of the pasta bolognese. About 10 miles later there was a water stop with 2 porta potties and of course a line. Girls were just going behind and that is what I did. I did feel much better after that but the side stitch came back a while later and I just pedaled through it.

I backed off the speed on the second loop some on purpose and some just because I was getting tired.

So, this is old news but there were folks with flat tires everywhere. Literally every 100 yards was another person changing a flat. There were people asking for tubes and cartridges. It was mind blowing. I found out later that there had been tacks spread on the course. I like many folks spent a good portion of the bike ride trying to will myself to not get a flat. I was for sure happy that I had new sturdy tires.

Somewhere in the second lap it started raining. Not too hard and not hard enough to make me edgy. So I just kept going.  Just before the turn off I had to stop unscheduled to put a water bottle back in the cage. This was my one unscheduled stop but I just couldn't find that cage behind me. It was at this point that my friend Doug finally passed me. Bummer but that's the way it goes.

One down side to having been at the front of the swim is that I literally felt like thousands of people passed me on the bike. It was mentally taxing.

I have never ever been so happy to make the right hand turn heading back into town. I knew that it would be a long 11 miles but I was just thrilled to be almost finished. By this point the last thing I wanted was more Infinit but I stuck to the plan and kept drinking on schedule. My stomach hurt a lot and so I wanted to skip some but I kept on schedule.

The 11 miles in and out of town is the worst section of the roads. A lot of potholes and uneven surfaces and many sets of railroad tracks. I stayed upright and kept telling myself to pay attention to what I was doing.  Sadly at the last set of tracks I saw my one and only wreck. It's terrible to think that somebody made it 112/116 miles and then crashed but that is what happened. I hope that they are okay.

Finally the ride was over. When I handed off my bike my legs were toast. Luckily the volunteer reminded me to take my computer. Thank you! I walked up into transition and then took my shoes off and started jogging into transition. That's where I saw my family before the tent. This transition I was better than the first one. I took advantage of sitting and just did my thing.

My targets for the ride were to keep my cadence around 80 but my average was 70 for the ride. Also I wore my heart rate monitor and wanted to stay in zone 2. My average was 145 which is in the right spot. So I was on target there.

A quick advertisement for Coeur shorts.
I wore my Coeur shorts for the entire race. These shorts have been a game changer for me. They have a thin chamois pad that extends the entire length of the inseam which protects my skin from abraiding on the seat. I used Morgan Blue solid chamois creme which I swear is overpriced diaper creme.  I did not have any chaffing over the 116 miles and I didn't even need to reapply chamois creme half way. I have a good fit on my bike and I love my saddle but changing shorts made a huge difference. So all I can say is that if you are chaffing on your bike on long rides it's worth giving them a try.
Back to the race!
After taking off my sun cover, putting on my run stuff I headed out for the run. I rinsed my mouth with mouthwash and felt like a whole new woman. I put a tums in my mouth and I hit the porta potty and was able to relieve some of the pressure in my stomach. I had a giant gas bubble in my belly. I felt much better.

I saw my family again after that and headed out for the run.
So I started the bike split in 48th and ended in 73 so it wasn't my imagination that I was passed a lot.

This is a much improved bike split from my time in France. But that course was much tougher. I am proud of this bike split. I exceeded my goals so that's great. Looking forward I do think I have more room for improvement on the bike which makes sense because it's the newest skill for me.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report - Race Morning and Swim 2/4

My son is having some trouble recovering from the Ironman Chattanooga
My poor little munchkin came back from Tennessee with a severely sore throat. One side of his neck is so inflamed I can see the swollen glands from across our kitchen table. He hasn't been really able to eat for days and while I sent him to school the past two days he came home pretty early. Today we're back to the doctor to try and figure out what's wrong.

Back it up ... Back it up to the pre-race dinner
We ate at a local Italian restaurant the night before. My pre-race meal is pasta with meat sauce. So I ordered penne bolognese. But when it arrived it had a lot of cheese and milk in the meat sauce. It was much heavier than I expected. I considered sending it back for plain red sauce and I didn't do that. I scraped as much cheese as I could off the top. I think I paid a small price for this the next day.
This is Alleia where we at dinner. It is a beautiful restaurant but I think I want to make my own pre-Ironman dinners from now on.

The racing boys at dinner. Notice we're a bring your own water bottle crowd.

I have learned over the years that my stomach doesn't handle cheese and milk well before or during exercise. Not to be gross but I get gassy. And that night (much to the delight of my 8-year old son who loves all things fart related) I already was feeling the effects but I hoped it would pass during the night and be out of my system the next day.
A dinner selfie.
I didn't sleep all that much. Some to be sure but not a ton. I didn't worry though since I had gotten a good nights sleep (courtesy of Unisom) the 2-nights before. I actually was up before the 4:00 am alarm and quickly went through the paces of the morning. Pretty simple actually. Grab the bottles and snickers from the fridge. Get dressed. Shove food in my mouth. Go to the bathroom and head downstairs. I kissed my sleeping crew goodbye and asked my husband if I would see him after the swim. He sleepily grumbled, "yes."

This is a photo from our practice swim the day before.
Off to the start of Ironman Chattanooga
At breakfast we heard the non-wetsuit news. Some folks were agitated by this but I wasn't surprised. The pool I swim in is always 78. When I had done the practice swim I thought it was clearly warmer than the 78 I swim in several times a week so I didn't even practice in my wetsuit. I would have worn it if it was allowed but I wasn't surprised or worried by the decision. Different from in the past I was comfortable that I could do 2.4 miles in the water.

We took the Endurance Sports Travel shuttle to the race start. Once we got there we went to body marking. Immediately  after body marking Nicole realized that she had left her bottles for the bike in the fridge. AAACK! Luckily another team mate's wife had driven down and so we sent her back to get them. One pretty great thing about Chattanooga is everything is really close together. It's still only about 5:00 a.m.

Why were we there so early? To get into the swim start line.

This year the race was first come, first start at the swim start. I personally think this is the dumbest way to organize a race start. That's my opinion and plenty of others don't agree. But I just think that it's a race and there shouldn't be a "benefit" to just getting to the start early. I just don't get it. For this race the "benefit" was more potential time on the course and also a less congested t1 and bike course at the start.

We quickly made our way to the shuttles and got ourselves in line. The shuttles ran very smoothly. They were school busses and it's only about a 5 minute drive.

Once there we got in line. Then I walked up to the front and I asked somebody who was under a blanket and had a pillow what time they got there. They said 3:00 am. Which means among other things they didn't go to t1 at all to set up. I think that's a little crazy myself. So we rested as much as possible, ate our snacks and peed in the bushes while we waited. The staff periodically consolidated the line by removing spectators and having us group up.

The Start of Ironman Chattanooga
The swim line is in a park I think by the riverfront. You can't see anything while you are in the line except the trees around you. We could hear the announcements. We listened/sang to the national anthem and finally we heard the canon fire to send of the male pros, and then female pros.  

I was a ball of nerves. First it's an Ironman I knew I had a long hard day in front of me. Also, there was no way to warm up for this swim and I really like to swim a tiny bit before I start. Even though I'm cold I like to get in and get my face wet and I couldn't do that. So after the pros went off I intentionally did about 15 jumping jacks to get my heart rate up. Then I let it settle down. The only thing in my mind was to keep my pace slow at the start for warm up. Slow, very slow.

Then the line moved very quickly. We saw the coordinator from Endurance sports travel and then we were on the dock and splash into the water. In our group we had bunched by pace. First Frank, Nicole and Benji. Then me and Jim and then Doug and Alberto. I jumped in and saw Jim speed off. I thought well that's good he's feeling good but I'm doing my own thing. I took about 10 strokes saying slow, slow, slow to myself. Then I realized I had no idea where I was going. So I sighted until I saw the buoy and then kept going.
Alberto swimming in the practice swim.

I had clear water the whole swim. No contact at all. I was also able to do something I'd never done before successfully which was to find feet and follow them a few times. I was pretty proud of myself.

Once I was sure I had my rhythm and breathing I went ahead and started swimming harder. One of my goals was to improve my swim. So I was swimming not hard but a sustained effort.

The water was clear and sort of choppy. That might have just been from other swimmers. I have no idea. The only part of the current that I felt was that I had to work to keep in line with the buoys. I was being pushed to the right. 

It was a cloudy morning but I saw the sunrise over my shoulder as I was breathing. As we approached the island in the river it occurred to me that I should have paid more attention to the swim map because I had no idea where the island was in relation to the swim finish. I'm very bad at telling whether there is a current while I swim but I did feel that we had resistance right at the edge of the island. Makes sense because that's a pretty big shifting point in the river. So I zigged and then zagged and got through it. I jumped ahead of a few people here so I felt like I handled that right. Then I just kept swimming. It was cool to go under the three bridges. And then I saw the final bridge with the blue section. Then I turned at the buoy and swam into the steps.

If you breathe to the left this fountain is your signal that you are at the finish.
The steps were pretty small for a group this big and they had people to help lift us out. I reached for the steps and felt somebody yank my arm. I pulled back because they were pulling me into the steps instead of up. So then I just grabbed the bar and stepped up. I've heard of several boo-boos from this race where volunteers pulled the swimmers into the steps and one person whose knee was so hurt they couldn't continue. It's hard to fault the volunteers who are just trying to help but I'm thankful that I was aware enough to pull my hand back and just do it myself.

Tip for volunteer training: lift up and only from a shoulder - do not yank on a participants hand. 

I didn't see the swim clock so I didn't know my time until after the race. I think without a current I would have swum about 1:20 for 2.4 miles in open water. 57:12 was my time Sunday so that's quite an assist with the river.

All in all a good swim.

If you're interested in seeing more photos/videos of the swim visit  he has some videos of mostly the finish.

If you're interested in statistics about the swim visit he calculates that the current was actually about one minute faster than the IMNYC current a few years ago. Worth 15-20 minutes of swim time which is exactly what I feel too. I would have swam probably 1:20 and I came out at 57 minutes.

Questions I have about current assisted swims:
I do have a question for swimmers in the know. I suspect based on the results of our little group that a current actually benefits slower swimmers a little more than faster swimmers. I also suspect that larger swimmers (those who displace more water) would see more benefit. What do you think, am I crazy here?