Monday, September 5, 2011

Great Illini 70.3

It’s been a long time since I last wrote a blog post, but I know I’d be upset with myself if I didn’t write down some (a lot) of thoughts about the Great Illini 70.3.
To back up, at the beginning of this year, I decided that doing a Half Ironman triathlon was going to be a big goal for the year. Before I decided to do it, I didn’t really think it through, it just seemed like a natural progression with what I was trying to accomplish with my physical goals for the year. While I didn’t follow a formal training plan, all I could think of after completing an awesomemarathon in February was focusing on my triathlon training and completing the 70.3 distance.
The week leading up to the race I went through many of the emotions that I normally do before the race. I was feeling anxiety with a little excitement and a lot of stress, and this time a big fear that was not ready for what I had gotten myself into. Since I had developed my own training schedule which was more catered to my life, I had some big fears I undertrained and wouldn’t make it through the event. In addition, Summer had decided to stick around with extra force and the high of 98 on race day was not exactly exciting me.
Upon arriving in Effingham, myself, my husband Nathan, Sarah (who was racing the Olympic distance) and Tim all went to the race site to pick up our “packets”. I say this loosely because the packet contained nothing more than gels and our t shirt. No pre race instructions or race map. Normally this would concern me but at this point I had adopted the attitude that whatever happens, happens. I was almost over the whole thing, and not 20 minutes prior I had lost my sh*t on everyone in the car because we were lost in the midst of the corn fields and no one else seemed concerned. My attitude at this point was poor and I made the statement at dinner that I wasn’t having any fun. Sad, but true.
I woke up the next morning feeling pretty good. I always feel rushed race morning, no matter how organized I am, but I was relatively calm and getting in a good mindset. We arrived about 40 minutes before the start of my race, which is cutting it a little close, but I was very organized and knew exactly how I wanted transition set up.
After that I was happy. I knew it was going to be a tough day, but I quickly decided that if I didn’t start out with a good attitude now, while it wasn’t 100 degrees out, I wasn’t going to have one the entire day. So I talked to some fellow racers and made some new friends. Let me just tell you, if there had been a “Miss Congeniality” award at this triathlon, I would have won. Plus, I was wearing the most obnoxious vintage pink and green flowered swim cap so that it would be easier for me to be spotted, so you kinda have to embrace that and go with it.
After some instructions, the “gun” went off and my long day started. I went into the swim knowing I could be going faster, but I was nervous to push too hard on the swim. Swimming is my strongest event, but the last couple of months I had backed off on swimming to focus more on the bike and running so I thought pushing too hard was a gamble. I still was surprised at how strong the other swimmers were in the field. Even on a bad day, I still consider myself a strong distance and open water swimmer, but the other racers were seriously blowing me out of the water. I finished the swim in around 53 minutes. (side note: at the time of this post my official times are still not posted)
I got out of the water and calmly went up the beach to transition. I had the plan to take time on transitions to stay calm. Again, it was going to be a long day, and I doubted my abilities in the heat, so for me, pacing smart and not over doing any part of the event was my safest bet.
The bike ride was pretty uneventful. I was the only one on a hybrid, and that certainly showed. I kept my average pace around 14 mph (which was my plan) and stopped for a couple minutes every hour to eat sport beans and drink Gatorade. Stopping for a couple minutes was also a good way to break up the race mentally, as I could count down to being able to stop every hour. Again it wasn’t a fast strategy but mentally the best thing for me to do on the ride. The ride was flat and fairly boring 2x loop but I made friends with a few of the volunteers that were very encouraging when I saw them. As I approached the bike finish I saw Nathan ahead and was so happy to almost be off of the bike. It took me around 4:05 with my hourly stops, which was about what I expected.
Nathan asked me while I was in transition how I was feeling and I responded with, “I feel like I just rode 56 miles but I’m good…..HOT…… this run could take awhile.” He told me it didn’t matter how long it took, just that I did it. This transition didn’t seem to go so smooth and calm. I tried to eat a little, took my inhaler, put on sunblock and my visor, changed my shoes, and worried about getting enough fluids to carry with me. I left transition and realized not only did I not grab my iPhone, I didn’t even have my Garmin. I saw Sarah about a mile in and asked her to grab them for me so that when I completed the second half, I’d have them.
I ran for a few minutes, but walked the majority of the time just like 9 out of the 10 racers on the course. It was just SOOOO hot. I found out later that the temperature had hit 102 degrees and that really showed. Everyone just looked miserable. I honestly think a lot of what saved me was wearing a visor, which I had never done before and had decided the day before to go out and buy. I dumped water on my head every mile, put ice in my bra, and drank more fluids than I can even comprehend.
The run was a 3.25ish mile out and back twice, which was super boring, but I’m glad I was able to see Nathan, Sarah, and Tim before starting the second half. It was a little push and I was able to run a little more the second half. I felt good when I hit the last turn around, knowing I only had about 3 miles left, so I started running a little bit harder than before. It didn’t last long though, as I started feeling really overheated. With two miles left to go and no volunteers left on the course I started to get scared. All of the sudden I just felt AWFUL. I was getting dizzy and all my movements were taking a huge effort. I just tried to keep calm, and told myself it would all be over in less than 30 minutes. Longest 30 minutes of my life.
With a half a mile to go my pace slowed from a swift walk to feeling like a 17 minute mile was a HUGE effort. The last few minutes are a blur, but I don’t think I even had enough energy to jog across the finish line. As soon as I crossed, I went to the nearest shade, grabbed some water, and asked for a soda. I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out, but I was just dead on my feet.
I finished somewhere around 8:32. My goal was under 8, but honestly I was just so excited to finish in that heat, that the extra 32 minutes doesn’t bother me. Clearly, I lost those minutes on the run, but I know myself and had I started running a normal pace in that heat, I wouldn’t have made it. I may have raced conservatively, but racing conservatively was what got me to the finish line.
Saturday was truly one of the greatest days of my life. I’m still in shock that I was able to finish in that heat and I will take pride in my accomplishment for a long time. I can’t thank my husband and Sarah and Tim enough for being such an amazing support that day and putting up with my not so always fabulous pre race attitude. And of course all the family and friends that have cheered me on during and after. I am always so overwhelmed by the messages and calls, it makes the accomplishment that much better.
The two biggest questions I have gotten the last few days are: “what’s next?” and “why did you do it?”. Well, what’s next still remains to be figured out. I still have a big goal to run a 5k in under 30 minutes this year, but I’m still debating on the rest of my fall race schedule.
And the always “why did you do it?”. This always comes up but it’s actually a pretty simple answer. And I know so many of you have heard this story before and get sick of me telling it but you can just skip this part. ;) When I started Couch to 5k in February of 2009, I couldn’t run for more than 3 minutes and felt so defeated, but I kept at it, completed my first 5k a few months later in around 43 minutes and decided I just wanted to see how much more my body could handle. Two and a half years and around 45 lbs of weight loss later, I still haven’t found my limit but have enjoyed the challenge.
With that said, I have no doubt in my mind that a Full Ironman is in my future. I was thinking about shooting for one next fall, but now I’m thinking it may be more like two years out for me so I can improve in all areas of triathlon and purchase a road bike. But I have no doubt I can do it.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tough decisions

Tomorrow is the Go! St. Louis Marathon and Half Marathon. Last year this race nearly consumed my life, but this year I’m not running either race.
It was a really tough decision and I’m still not sure if it was the right one. After an amazing marathon in New Orleans, it did occur to me that I could take a couple easy weeks, do a few 16 plus mile long runs with hills and have a good shot of actually making the time cutoff this year if I could just stay strong mentally. Or I could do some maintenance mileage and run a good half. But I opted not to and to start focusing on triathlons more.
Shifting my focus has been very difficult. I wrote a pretty ambitious training schedule for my May 1st triathlon and wanted to focus a lot on the bike, but the past few weeks I’ve had some major burnout and trouble following my schedule. And to say that I’ve spent the time I was going to spend on the bike would be a complete joke. I really do not enjoy the bike as much as swimming and running, and it really shows with my training.
So now I sit here wondering if I made the wrong decision. I know that next year I want to run the full at Go! so I can prove to myself that I have overcome that race. I also want to race a Half Ironman this year (September), but I know I need to get out of this funk that I am in. For the first time in a long time, I can’t decide what my goals should be now.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chew on this....

The marathon was three weeks ago, and my focus has completely switched to my triathlon training. I've been in some form of training for different races the last two years, but this time around I'm approaching some aspects of my training a little differently. The biggest change is that I’m really trying to pay attention to my nutrition.

Let me start off by saying I HATE the concept of dieting. HATE. I've easily spent over a third of my life on a diet, and it really did nothing for me mentally or physically. I know it works for some people, but anyone that has know me most of my life knows it never worked for me.

Since I started running two years ago, I have never really been too concerned about my weight. Honestly, I haven't. I still would get on the scale just out of curiosity, but I've never really run to lose weight. Even though the scale sometimes doesn't change much at all, I've been able to tell for a long time that I have gotten smaller and that is really all that mattered to me.

But with that said, I have REALLY enjoyed seeing myself in pictures being smaller/more fit with little change in my eating habits. So now I just want to see what progress I can make if I continue training and combine it with healthier eating.

My plan is to focus on eating more calories in the morning and early afternoon, and then cutting back in the evenings when my body is resting. I've been experimenting with different foods and what is practical for my schedule, and have come up with my general eating plan.

Breakfast will be a homemade protein shake that contains Muscle milk, espresso, and skim milk. I've been playing with the recipe for a few weeks now and have it almost perfected. I love iced coffee, and it tastes almost just like it. Some days the shake is enough, other days I end up eating a snack mid morning if I need it. Water is another thing I’m adding in as well, I need to get much better about drinking water all day.

I have a great advantage of getting a free lunch at work, and have the luxury of lots of choices. Generally I eat a big spring mix salad with either turkey, grilled chicken, or some tuna salad. (I actually really enjoy salad) I always eat some kind of carb like a soft pretzel or some wheat thins, because if not I'm hungry an hour afterwards. If I'm not in a salad mood I'll have some kind of sandwich and a few fries or chips if the mood strikes me.

At dinner, I was eating a fairly large meal, but now I’m going to try and eat smaller meals that are around 300-350 calories. This week my evening meals are as follows:
3 Slices of Turkey Bacon (75), 1 Egg+ 2 Egg whites (110), Sandwich Thin Toast with 1.5 tsp of Smart Balance (140), = 325 cal
Veggie Burger on Sandwich Thin (220), Carrots (50), Low Fat Ranch/Hot Sauce mix (80), = 350 cal
Grilled Salmon (140), ½ c. Cous Cous (110), big serving of Steamed Broccoli (80), = 330 cal

And when the mood strikes me I plan on adding a really simple smoothie to the mix it’s about 1 c. of mixed frozen berries (80), 4 oz fruit juice (60), Water = 140 cal

I have been seeing more and more information about the benefits of cutting back meals in the evening, so that was a bit of a factor of cutting back calories in the evenings. Also, these are foods I really enjoy and I don’t mind repetition, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I have a small concern that my energy level may drop, but I certainly want to try this plan and see what happens.

Of course, since this isn’t a diet, I give myself the right to enjoy some fries at lunch now and again, and also some Friday night pizza sessions which is why I don’t consider this a diet at all. I’m sure some of you disagree with that logic, and that’s fine, but I’ve found a good balance for myself.

Monday, March 7, 2011


I was working on a post, and accidently published it. I was in the middle of it and hadn't checked spelling, grammar, or read through my content. So, yeah, it wasn't ready to be published.

If you got it in google reader, I guess you got a nice little preview?


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rock and Roll Mardi Gras Marathon

It’s hard to believe, but the marathon is over. I made it to the start line in New Orleans, did my 26.2 miles and finished like it was just another day. It still hasn’t fully hit me that it all happened.
I don’t even know where to start. I know most of you know the story of my first marathon (Go! St. Louis) but I don’t feel like I can do this post correctly with revisiting it at least a little bit. And believe me, I tried because I don’t want to sound like a broken record (or bore anyone), but I’ve realized so much of my success this time around has to do with my rough time during Go!
10 months ago when I completed Go! I was an emotional wreck for almost the entire two months before the race. Which lead me to be miserable during the entire marathon. For those of you that are unaware of what happened at Go! at mile 10 I was told I had to complete the half marathon because I had missed the time cutoff. I argued with the official because I was minutes ahead of the 6 hour (time cutoff) pacer and the race started late, so he let me go, but after that point, I was mentally over the edge. I ended up getting passed by the sag wagon at mile 20 and had to finish the race on the sidewalks.
After Go! I didn’t feel like a marathoner. Sure, I had finished. But I had finished in 6 hours and 41 minutes. My mom and some friends had to beg to keep the finish line up and for me to get a medal. I had been miserable and didn’t enjoy one moment of the race after mile 10. The race had gone nothing like I had planned and even though I finished I still felt deep down like I had failed. At some points, I have told people that I felt like after Go! part of my heart had died. Dramatic? Yes, but absolutely how I felt.
So you can imagine my surprise when I really wasn’t that nervous leading up to the Mardi Gras marathon. In fact, I told numerous people that I was getting nervous that I was more nervous. I knew that I had to do better at this marathon, and honestly there was little to no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t. My long runs were much better this time around even though most of them ended up being on a treadmill, and even though I wasn’t running as much during the week as my schedule said, I was still doing a ton of cross training and was working out a total of 5 days a week. I had gotten much stronger and even a little faster in 10 months and I just knew deep down I could run the marathon in under 6 hours. I just knew, plain and simple.
The only thing I really worried about was having fun. I know many people run marathons to push themselves physically (myself included) but I refused to be miserable like I was during Go!. I couldn’t put myself through that again.
The race started, I crossed the mat at 7:25am and I just went. I stuck to right around my pace and enjoyed seeing the sights and the participants. During the first mile I ran with two NOLA firemen in their flame resistant suits with oxygen tanks on their backs and running with an American flag. A few miles later when the marathoners split from the half marathoners, I met a Marathon maniac, a member of the Air Force that had run more marathons than I could keep track of, and a runner from Canada that had just ran a marathon three weeks ago and was having a little trouble adjusting to the temperature. The next several miles went by quickly thanks to the conversations with these and a couple other runners. At the halfway point, I saw my husband. He gave me some more lukewarm Gatorade, told me I was doing great, and that he had been getting the text updates of how I was doing and forwarded them on.
By this time I was running by Jackson Square right by CafĂ© Du Monde and its massive line of people waiting to try the original beignet. I yelled, “Everyone eat a beignet for me!!” I was having a great time and had even thought about my pace. It was starting to heat up though, and every time I passed a water stop I dumped at least two cups on my head. It really wasn’t hot, but I swear, I could overheat if I was running a race in the arctic.
At mile 16 I could have kissed the guy handing out packets of ice. I put the bag on my neck and then quickly emptied it into my Gatorade to try and cool it down. If I hadn’t gotten that ice I think things would have gone South very quickly for me.
Mile 18 things started not getting too fun. My right foot was hurting, the course was getting boring, and I was just getting tired in general. I passed a band playing “Whiter Shade of Pale” and managed to snap myself out of it, because it’s one of my mom’s favorite songs and she would have hated to see me not having fun.
The next few miles I did ok. A nice group of college students at mile 21ish had great signs and gave me high fives. I had slowed down from my first half, but I was still making great time. Right before mile 23 I gave myself permission to walk for awhile as long as I power walked. I did this the majority of the time until the last mile when I decided that I didn’t want to finish the race above 5 hours and 50 minutes. I need to be at least at 5:49. Running hurt at that point, but I crossed the finish line at 5:49:53, just barely making it but also getting a 52 minute PR.
I was exhausted but hadn’t really processed what had happened. I was starving which was a major difference than Go! and I was so happy to down a bagel that I actually wanted to eat. I laid on the ground the in the park and updated my Facebook and Twitter wanting to really feel my accomplishment, but it just wasn’t hitting me.
The rest of the night included me eating and drinking anything I could get my hands on. I wore my medal proudly and I was waiting in line at a food stand on Bourbon street to get a celebratory pecan tart and beignets, some fellow racers congratulated me, asked me if I had a good race, and did some major cheering when I told them about my PR.
The last three days have involved me being unbelievably sore and not able to walk normal, but honestly I think that pain just shows how hard I worked.
Even though the reality hasn’t fully hit yet, I feel incredibly proud of the progress I’ve made. Physically I am so much stronger. But I’m even more proud of the accomplishments that I’ve made mentally. This marathon has made me realize that I actually love and respect the distance. While I want to focus more on triathlons this year and have a schedule packed with them this summer, I am absolutely going to come back to the marathon. In fact, I’m making the commitment right now to go back to Go! in 2012 and conquering the full, under the time cutoff, running a fun race.