Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Race Report: Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3

People, I owe you SO MANY REPORTS that I don't even know where to start.  The race reports are always the reports I refer back to the most and I know that I really need to record this stuff.  It was just an unconventional summer--we took a trip to Europe, lost a dear loved family member, and then I went to study the Constitution at Stanford University at the end of July.  In the meantime I completed three races: the Huntington Sprint Triathlon, the Vermilion Harbor Olympic Triathlon, and the Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3 Triathlon.  How can I explain everything that happened to you?  Because there's a LOT.

Here's the short answer: I set a course PR--and several actual PRs, including my best 10k--in every. single. race. and after a previous 8 months of heartaches and disappointments and near-misses in my races, finally got the joy back that got me into this sport in the first place.

Related: I am SO not a runner at heart.  I always have known this, but it's confirmed without a doubt.

The long answer:  get your popcorn and buckle up kids, because this will be a long one.

I didn't even register for Rev3 until, like, 3 weeks before the race.  Things were just so crazy this summer...we had both the most amazing and worst summer ever.  It went so fast and was such a whirlwind of emotions that Matt and I felt like we didn't even get a break, which is insane considering the break we had.  Throw a few kids in the mix, preparing for our jobs which were changing significantly, and, well, spoiler alert: I didn't train as much as I'd like to.  I'm a broken record on that, right? But I've already made it clear that I'm not training as much as you or probably anyone.  And that's just gonna have to be okay.

I knew I was fit, and I knew I had made significant run progress, as evidenced by my performance in Vermilion.  So I went ahead and pulled the (VERY EXPENSIVE, ouch) trigger.

Now, if I'm going to plunk down that kind of change for a race, you'd better believe I have some big goals.  My previous 70.3 was when Emery was 6 months old (and that, my friends, is what I call a "poor life decision") where I somehow PRd massively with a 5:44.  I knew that I was much stronger than that this time around, so my "perfect day" goal was a sub-5:30.  Here's what that would look like:

Swim: 38 and change
Bike 2:50ish
Run 1:50ish
Plus transitions to get to a little under 5:30.

This is what I know, without a doubt, that I can do.  So I decided to go hard or go home and see what happened.

I headed out to Cedar Point to spend the night in a cabin with my friends Andy and Noelle and their families.  This was super awesome as it allowed me to get settled in without having to get up at 4am and drive to the start like I did last time.  We grabbed some dinner hit the hay early on.


I didn't get to start until 8:45.  Ew. I hate late starts, but the Full Rev swimmers started at 7 and safety and blah blah blah I get it but that doesn't mean I don't get to hate it.  I was one of the final waves, and speaking of waves, holy crap, they were picking up.  The lake is rarely calm near Cedar Point, but this was starting to really look bad. I did a little warmup and got tossed around quite a bit.  I breathed in and just tried to focus on my stroke and remind myself that this is my 6th 70.3, I've been here many times before, and I know how to swim in chop.
It's impossible not to look like an idiot in a wetsuit and cap. So I embrace it.
Andy was off 10 minutes ahead of me and it was hard not to notice the waves knocking over swimmers as they were wading out to the start line.  By the time my wave waded out, waves were so big that they knocked us over.  I seemed to time my jumps exactly wrong and ended up with a face full of nasty lake waves like three times before I even started.  We had to swim directly into the waves, and all of us were officially panicking.  It was very, very rough.
This is what I call "Less Than Ideal Conditions"

I heard the horn, jumped over one more wave, and off I went.

It was, without a doubt, the worst swim of any 70.3 I've ever done.  The chop was so horrible that sighting was virtually impossible.  I had to do breastroke often just to ensure that I was not going the wrong direction--as in completely turning around wrong direction.  People were PANICKING.  A jet-ski flew by me after a swimmer who was freaking out.  I caught some of the men in the wave--or two--ahead of me before I even got out to the first buoy. My arm went up to take a stroke and, on several occasions, was smashed down by a cresting wave.

The only thing I kept thinking was, "Breathe, stroke, glide, pull. You've been a swimmer all your life, and you're fine."  And I didn't freak out.  But people all around me were, and it made me scared to see them so panicked.  That's when bad things happen.

After the last turn, I saw a guy with his eyes closed floating on his back.  I stopped, screamed "HEY!" at him and when he didn't move I got really really worried and yelled, "ARE YOU OKAY?"  He finally heard me and said, yeah, she's going to get me, and waved in the general direction of the kayakers.
I know, those waves look innocent...trust me, people. Miserable chop.
I finally made it out.  I am smiling because IT WAS OVER THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU and I was just so glad to be out of there.
I'm laughing at A) my horrible, awful split and B) the fact that IT'S OVER
Please, please people out there reading: swimming in open water is no joke.  It is WAY different than a pool.  I am just so glad disaster did not strike and everyone came out of the water alive.  They pulled 60 people out of the swim on Sunday.  Training for the swim, and for the worst case scenario in open water, is absolutely vital for your safety, not just for your race. I'll stop lecturing you now.  I just can't help it: it makes me scared to see so many people who don't feel comfortable swimming get into situations like that.  It ain't right.

My time? 42 minutes and change. Embarrassing.

I said mucho swear words under my breath and literally could not believe I was already 5 freaking minutes off my goal coming OUT OF THE WATER.  That did not just happen.  Except, yes it did, and I'd better get moving so I can pick up the pieces.

The official time: 42:13
Age Group Position 3/23

You have got to be kidding me: I swam a 42 minute leg and I was 3rd in my AG?! Either everyone else is HORRIBLE or the weather messed with everyone else even more than it messed with me.  Because I am just not that good.  So, I'm happy I remained calm and kept my wits about me.

TI: 2:33

The Bike:
Rolling out of T1!
Okay! My best part! I can regain some territory here!  I took off and tried to hold a good steady pace throughout the bike.  I was flying by people initially and felt great.  It was a clear, sunny, beautiful morning, and really, Lake Erie is pretty breathtaking like that.  I soaked in the scenery as I tried to settle into a rhythm.  I focused on nutrition and taking in enough fluids while also settling my seasick stomach.  About 10 miles in I really tried to settle into the pace.

The course is mostly flat with some rollers and a little bit of false flat/wind to deal with.  But here's the deal:

I just didn't feel it.

For some reason, right around mile 25 or so, I felt flat. Just no pep.  Not the usual "I'm going to kick so much ass today" feeling like I usually get on the bike.  Yeah, there was a little wind, but nothing that I should have been letting get to me...I don't know what the deal was.  I think that swim might have taken more out of me than I wanted to admit, despite my attempts to swim smooth and remain calm.  I dunno, but for whatever reason, I got back to T2, looked down, saw "2:57" on my PowerTap and literally made this face:
So not impressed.  That was crap.  I'm much stronger than that.

Oh, stupid mistake, too--I forgot to take off "auto lap" on my Garmin watch, so it took all 56 miles as "laps" and right around mile 54 decided to say it was out of memory.  Awesome.  Because I ONLY NEED YOU FOR THE RUN.  So I fumbled with it and tried to clear the memory while I rode.  Not good.  Very annoyed.

Bike time: 2:57.31 (literally, the same time I had in 2010)
Age Group Place:  3/23

Now, I knew my big goal was officially OUT the window.  Poop sandwich.  BUT! I can still go under 5:44.  The run was where I wanted to see the biggest gains and where I should see the biggest gains, so I vowed to myself that this craptastic effort so far was not all for nothing.  I could still have a good run, and I'd set myself up for it with good nutrition and a day that was warm but not too hot at all.

It was time to get into beast mode. Finally.

I put on my racing flats, because I thought, hey! they might make me faster! (another "poor life decision")

T2: 1:22

Off I went--Andy had a solid bike and had caught me around mile 40, so I tried to keep him in my sight.  Man, he was moving though.  My first mile was 8 flat, and I knew that was too aggressive. I tried to back off a bit but felt good at 8:15s so I figured I'd hold on as long as I could and just risk it, because at this point, I had nothing to lose.  I passed my buddy Tiffany who was running the relay, and said, "I might regret this later!" and she laughed and told me to keep going.

I held the pace pretty well for the first 5 miles or so.  Somewhere in there I passed Andy, which confused me--turns out he hit the bathroom but then I was paranoid that I missed a turn!  I asked this girl next to me, "this is the right way, right?" and she assured me that it was. As I ran away she said, "Strong pace! I want some of your energy!" so that was a nice boost.  I tried to tell every single police officer and volunteer that I could thank you, because that's just a thankless and kind of boring volunteer job.

Around mile 6 or 7, I started getting that nauseous/sick/dizzy feeling.  Oh no, I thought.  Here it comes.  So I pounded a Gu and took a few eCaps just to try and get ahead of the bonk.  It was warm, but not hot--but the sun on the asphalt was really cooking things up, and I'm definitely a salty sweater.  It worked, and I managed to keep the pace hovering around 8:30-8:35.  My Garmin had the mile markers 0.2 miles off which is pretty significant and definitely messed with me, so I just tried to at least keep the pace consistent.

After Mile 9 or so things got hard, but good.  Like, people around me were dropping like flies.  But I wasn't! I was tired, and my legs were heavy, and I knew that I didn't have too much left, but I kept thinking, "just a half hour or so, and then you can see the finish line."  I can do anything for a half hour.  Right?  Except that at this point of the course it's extremely boring with nothing but old businesses and not many spectators.  So I tried really hard to just focus on my steps and my breathing.  Every step I made was one step closer to home, and I was ready for home.

The last 2 miles or so on the causeway leading up to the park.  Last time I did this race, it was hella windy and I might have said a few F bombs because of it.  This time, it wasn't too windy, just hot and isolated and OMG I AM READY TO BE DONE NOW THANK YOU.  My legs were starting to feel heavy, I was hovering now right around 9:00/mile pace, and I knew that I was running out of steam.  Due to the watch debacle I had no clue what my overall time was, so I just tried to go as hard as my body let me and figured I'd hopefully still have a shot at a PR.  I knew that my run wasn't going to be 1:50, but hey, the best I've EVER ran at the end of a 70.3 is 2:02.  And I was going to be well under that.  Victory is mine.

Making that last turn, I just had this stupid grin on my face.  I was so happy with that run--sometimes, it's a gamble and it's a fine line and I'm still learning, but sometimes, if you ease up on the bike just a bit, you can gain huge minutes on the run.  Maybe if I had rode harder, I would have blown up and lost 10-15 minutes on the run, because lemme tell you folks, I HAVE BEEN THERE.  It is not fun.  Part of what I love about the 70.3 distance is that it's so hard to execute perfectly, and it's such a learning process.  I know I can go a bit harder on the bike and still have a decent run, but to see an 8 minute gain on the run?  Yeah, that made my rotten swim and bike a little more palatable.

Saw my friends and they snapped this video accidentally--Patty was trying to take a pic, but I like it!

And then, saw Matt and the kids, and we got to do this:

Total Run Time:  1:54.49
Age Group Place: 3/23

Overall Time: 5:38.29
Age Group: 4/23 (don't ask me how it's 4...but it is, I checked, and the 3 spot went to a girl 5 minutes faster, so I'm not sure how it happened but it's all good)
23/153 Total Females
100/447 Total Finishers

70.3 PR by 6 minutes!

So it wasn't the perfect day I had trained for, but really, when is it?  Hitting that sweet spot is so tricky, and as my friend so eloquently put it, sometimes the journey is the sweet spot.  Given my life situation now, the fact that I can't train nearly as much as I'd like to, and that I keep getting older (funny how that happens), I am absolutely thrilled with this race.  I got faster. Again.  What I thought was a limit, quite simply, never was.  My first 70.3 was in 2005, and I went 6:33--and the swim was short, so that time should be longer.  My second was 6:47.  I have gone from solidly--VERY solidly--back of the pack, to this--a top 15% female finish.  And I'll never be a pro and I'm never going to win these things, but in the competition against myself? I'm killing it.

The first part of this season--well, the better part of the last year, actually, if I'm being honest--was spent frustrated and dejected.  And I hated that.  I hated that I worked so hard and made so much progress and was upset, because that is just ridiculous.  But maybe, just maybe, all of that work paid off in the past three races I've done.  I still owe you race reports, but the short version is:  3rd overall female in my summer sprint, and the fastest 10K I have ever clocked, 6th overall, and a course PR in the Vermilion Olympic.  

My heart is with triathlon, and I know this.  I sort of always have.  It is so nice to have the joy of the finish line again, and not have it laced in a feeling of defeat.

I don't know what I want to do next.  There's a tiny pull toward another BQ attempt, but I tell you what--I had so much fun in the past 8 weeks doing triathlons, that I am honestly not sure.  We'll see.

For now, I still have a pretty big grin on my face.  But oh, dear, those racing flats?  Let's just say my toes look like something out of the Walking Dead.  Trust me--you don't want to look.

Excited to have a little "off season" now, and so, so, so happy with the way these races played out.  On to the next finish line, wherever it may be. 


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: FitBit Flex

I feel like I can talk now.

Which is good, because I have a lot to say. (Shocking)

First of all, I'd like to review the FitBit Flex, which I was given as a Women's Health Action Hero (yippee!) and I was very curious to try out!  See, I'm a *little* bit competitive (cough cough) especially against myself.  So, I was interested to see if this would change my habits, enhance my habits, or not really change much at all

The FitBit Flex is available at Target here, and has the following information:

The FitBit Flex is a slim, stylish device that is with you all the time. During the day, it tracks steps, distance, and calories burned. At night, it tracks your sleep cycle and wakes you silently in the morning. Just check out the lights to see how you stack up against your personal goal. It’s the motivation you need to get out and be more active.

Mine arrived and I tore up the box like it was Christmas morning.  I was excited to get it set up!

Good news is that for cavemen like me who are technically challenged, it was super easy to set up.  A few clicks and I was all good to go.  I also have it synced up to MyFitnessPal, although my old skool iPhone Model Negative Two doesn't automatically connect to the app.  But I hear iPhone 5 will, which is a nice feature.

The Good:

It's lightweight, can be worn in the shower, and is very easy to read.  I just tap twice to see how many lights are blinking.  Once I hit five, it vibrates and does a little laser light show for me.  High five, FitBit.  You're cute.  Since I am a morning workout person, my little game became "How Early Can I Hit My 5 Lights?" Personal best: 10:32am.  I had ran and rode that morning.  I can't wear it when swimming, so all last week at Stanford pool I was a little disappointed that I couldn't count my yardage, but so goes life.  I got over it.

The other thing I like is that it tracks your sleep. Now, there's a little bad on this and it's because I'm a side sleeper who puts an arm under a pillow...so I could sort of feel it on my left side and it was a teensy bit annoying.  Not a deal-breaker, but still.  You get these cool graphics on your dashboard that tell you some information about your sleep patterns:
Question: what on earth am I doing from 2-4 am?  A kick line?  Pushups?  The Macarena? It was really interesting to see how restless I was then.  I could use this to try and figure out how to change my sleep habits a bit...maybe a little less screen time before bed? (Not that I violate that cardinal rule.  NO, SURELY NOT ME) Or coming off jet-lag from my week-long trip to CA last week?  It's a good metric to use and I've never been a very good sleeper, so I was most curious to see how this worked.

You also get stuff like this on your dashboard:  how many steps you've taken, miles you've moved, and your "Very Active Minutes" (which, of course, I try to best myself every day)
On the left, you can see the "social" aspect of it which I haven't played around with much.  You can link up with your friends to get a little friendly competition going.  That could also be a great motivator!

The Not-As-Good:

I mentioned the no swimming thing.  Sad face. I swim a lot.

I also mentioned the slightly-annoying-sleeping-on-my-side thing.

The only other thing I'd like to see would be another option for the arm band.  The violet is super cute, don't get me wrong, but usually at work I like to just wear simple gold or silver.  If I had a spare $195 laying around (unlikely to EVER happen), I'd definitely order this Tory Burch FitBit bracelet.  I LOVE THIS IDEA. Can someone make a "public-schoolteacher-budget one" for me?  Target, I'm looking at you!

Did I move more? Honestly, yesterday was a rest day for me after a triathlon Sunday, and I know on rest days I'm supposed to legitimately rest...but I wanted to hit my goal, so I ran around and played some frisbee with my kids in the park and a little pickup soccer.  It really did get me to move more.  On days when I am moving a ton (which is really most days), it's nice to see the metrics and especially the sleep.  Better sleep is a big goal of mine so I know that metric will be really helpful.

I think this is an EXCELLENT tool for beginner athletes and seasoned athletes alike.  Check it out at Target and if you have any questions, ask away!

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Longest Ride

Well, I've been gone for quite a while.

I haven't really known what to say.  Things have been a bit of a blur since late-April, and then they got better, and then they got worse, and then they were over. And we're still adjusting.  We'll never truly adjust, as anyone who has lost a parent knows.  I don't know; I haven't lost a parent. But Matt has, and Linda was a wonderful wife of 40 years as of May 11, grandmother to 6 (about to be 7), mother to three amazing children, and mother-in-law to me.  After almost five years, Linda lost her battle to cancer on July 9.

From what I'm gathering, losing a parent leaves a hole in your heart that is so painful and never, ever able to be replaced.  You never will get over this.  You never will move on; you will simply try to adjust and wake up and know the sun will rise again.  Just without her. And it will just come in waves, at the strangest times, and you'll feel that choking feeling in your throat and your eyes well up, but you just have to keep going somehow.

I was pregnant with Emery when Linda was rushed to the hospital on our anniversary: August 7, 2009.  The diagnosis? Stage 4 uterine cancer.  They did everything they could; they took out everything they could.  But it was everywhere.  There was only so much they could do.  Everything I read said "12-36 months." We were devastated.

She anted up.

She took every single medicine they threw at her. No matter what it did to her poor body. She didn't care.  She didn't complain.  The only thing, and I mean the ONLY thing, she ever said in five years of chemotherapy, medicines, ports, and other assorted horribleness?

"I'm a little tired."

That's all she ever said. 

She wore her wig just once; for Dan's wedding a year ago yesterday in Mexico.  And after that picture was snapped, she put her hat back on. 

We decided to bury her in her hat.  She always looked so cute in her hats.

She beat every single statistic and odd out there.  The doctors and nurses were amazed.  She fought so bravely and so hard.

Not too many people can say they met their mother-in-law when they were 6, but that’s how it went for me.  My earliest memory of Linda was in first grade, when she was the room mother for my now brother-in-law, Dan, who was in my class.  Little tiny Kim was always on her hip. 

Linda was the kind of person who was absolutely selfless.  She cared first about others, all the time.  She had a dry and witty sense of humor, too.  We’d just crack up all the time.  She was always throwing in one-liners and zingers that were hilarious.  She loved Elvis. She hated squirrels and would throw potatoes at them when they tried to bust through her kitchen window screen.  She was an amazing cook.  She loved her family more than anything in the entire universe. She could remember any single historical event, what she was wearing, and what song was on the radio when it happened.

I keep remembering random things at random times, but usually when I’m running and biking and swimming.  Because it’s alone time, and it’s when I think.

I remember how she whispered in my ear at my wedding, “I’ve been waiting for this since Homecoming!” when Matt took me to Homecoming Dance in 1993.

I remember how good her stuffing is at Thanksgiving.  Oh my gosh, it’s amazing.  I didn’t get the recipe from her.  I should have.  She never wrote any recipes down; she just did everything by scratch and memory.  And then I feel the welt in my throat again.

I remember how her body was wrecked from fighting the initial chemo battle but she simply did not care: no matter what, she was going to stay up all night to see her new granddaughter born at 4:15am on February 21, 2010.  Nothing would stop her from being there.

And I remember that Matt and I are going to need to work hard to keep her memory alive for our children.  Jackson is 6 1/2.  Emery is 4.  If we don’t work at it, their memories will fade.  And that crushes me. 

Most notably, I remember her courage, grace, and strength, as I dropped off meals to her weekly and as we all rallied around her.  She was the matriarch of the family; she will be missed more than I can explain in words.  And my heart aches for my husband as he tries to move forward into this unknown with a piece of his heart, forever gone.  The lessons she showed us in her short 63 years were nothing short of amazing. 

You want endurance?  You think Ironman is tough?

I am here to tell you that it is nothing.  Linda was tougher, more persistent, more inspirational, and more courageous than any athlete I’ve ever known in my life, and her battle was longer and more difficult than any race you can imagine.

My training and racing lately has been a time for me to find peace, and think about what it is in my life.  As I stood on the beach on Sunday for my first triathlon of the season, and first race since Linda left us, I prayed, “God, let me enjoy this race and any pain I feel and just remember to feel alive and well and grateful.”  

That’s really, to me, what racing and training is.  A reminder that life is a gift, pain is a lesson, true courage is in grace, and strength comes from within.

That is what Linda taught me.  That is how I will try to move forward.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Review: LUNA Protein Bars, Two New Flavors!

Through my position as a Women's Health Action Hero, I was gifted two yummy protein bars from LUNA.  I LOVE Luna stuff, but I really haven't ever met a protein bar I can say I truly "liked."  Most of them are tolerable, but taste a little bit like a bar full of chemicals with a nasty aftertaste that is attempting to taste like chocolate.  It's usually a major letdown, and just makes me want to go eat a Reese's cup.

So, I was very excited to see what Luna had to offer. 
And Mugsy the Wonder Pug was also very curious...and hoping I dropped them so he could pounce
The first one I tried was Chocolate Coconut Almond, because, YES.  Those are three of my favorite things.  At just 180 calories and 12 grams of protein, I have to admit I was skeptical.  Was it going to be just another letdown?


This was really, really good.  I'm honestly not just saying that.  I'd be straight-up honest if there was that weird protein-bar-aftertaste because that's what I hate.  But there wasn't!  It was dangerously good.  It kept me going through that danger zone of 3:15 When The Last School Bell Rings But There Are Another Two Hours Until Dinnertime.  That is a time I have been known to stuff the nearest edible food hiding in  my schoolbag or between my car seats into my face (Old random baggie of cheerios in the carseat?  Sure. That's totally legit). 

The Lemon Vanilla was also good, but I'm definitely more of a chocolate fan, so I'd have to say I'd personally prefer the chocolate.  But still no nasty aftertaste!  If lemon is your thing, you'd probably really like it.

Overall, I was a huge fan of these bars.  I thought I had sworn off protein bars as a nasty-tasting rule, but I have been proven wrong.  Now I just have to hide them from my kids! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What's Next

Well, I can walk and sit down unassisted again, and in general you shouldn't make any decisions before you can walk or sit down.

I immediately started to research marathons in the fall.  Presque Isle sold out, which was annoying.  Then I found a few other ones through friends--one geared towards a BQ in Illinois; one in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  They were in late-August or early-September, because if I wanted to do this and register in time, then I'd need to do it then.  Which means I'd need to take a quick 4 week recovery, if possible, and then throw myself back into it.

I've been focused on marathons for about year now--right after the attacks last year was when I set my sights on it.

I'm tired.

I don't really want to do another marathon this soon.  I do but I don't.  I do because I am pissed off.  I don't because it's not a good decision for me or for my family.

Doing a marathon because you're pissed isn't a good enough reason to do it.  Then I'll be running angry all summer. That's not a good way to spend a summer.

My original plan was to qualify and then get back to triathlons, which I love.  I put Rev3 Cedar Point on hold last year so I could qualify in Columbus.  When I missed it by a minute there, I threw myself back into training to do it in the spring.  And I tried--twice.

I learned a few things:

1.  I have work to do still.
2.  It needs to NOT be hot.  That is really, really important for me.
3.  Training during the Polar Vortex Winter, even with good friends, was a bit soul-crushing.  Spring marathons are a no-go.
4. Training through summer is much easier on my life, both personally and professionally.

So if I don't try this fall, that means next fall.  And I didn't want to wait a year and a half to try again, but that's what's going to have to happen. Because see Exhibit A on "running angry."  Just not a good reason, or a good idea.

I think I can not only run a 3:40, but run solidly below 3:40.  But I need to think about what's best for my family and for me.

My plan has always been to do Rev3 Cedar Point and crush my best 70.3 time, which I did 6 months after Emery was born.  Last year I put it on hold.  The other thing is that my buddy Andy is also going to do it.  And Jackson and his little guy are BFFs from Kindergarten--we talked about our two families going in on a condo, making it a fun family weekend, etc.  I can train all summer, with friends.  It's not *just*  running, which has taken a toll on me and beat me up over the past year.  I can enjoy early morning swims in the lake, long rides in the summer with friends, and not feel as much pressure to GET IT DONE HURRY UP QUALIFY OR LIFE ENDS which is how I've felt lately, and which is just silly.

Maybe my friends will qualify again and go with me later.  Or not, and I go out there alone.  Either way, I'll get there.

So the plan will be:

Racing for Hope 5K: June 28th.  I'll be EXTREMELY tired and jet-lagged after a super fun opportunity I'm going to do, but it will be a fun time.

July 14th: Summer Triathlon in Lorain--Possible sprint tri, or I may volunteer to get me a free entry to the next one below...

Huntington Sprint Tri July 27th: Again, I'll be EXTREMELY tired and jet-lagged, but it will be fun.  I'm heading to Stanford University from the 20th-26th for a pretty cool opportunity that I got, and will be really really exhausted, but oh well!  It's fun.

Vermilion Harbor Triathlon: Olympic Distance, August 17th.  Use it as a nice tune-up for Rev3

Rev3 70.3 Triathlon: September 7th. Also the day my brother and sister-in-law are due, so we'll be close enough to hop in the car and get to the hospital to hold my new niece or nephew :)

November 23rd: Fall Classic Half Marathon. I think it's about time I obliterate my current PR of 1:47 in the half, considering I just did that and then kept going at that pace for 7 more miles.  Coach thinks I could break 1:40.  That would be fun to try for.

Then, reassess.  Figure out if I have changed my mind on the spring marathon, but I don't think so.  Then think Fall 2015 for another shot at a full.

You know what?  Typing all that makes me a LOT happier than typing: "Run a full marathon by September 14th or I am a Worthless Person."

Time to dust off my goggles and CD0.1.  It's been way too long since I've spent time with my old friends.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Race Report: Cleveland Marathon, 2014

Well, this isn't how it was supposed to go.  Any of it.

I signed up for Athens because Cleveland is usually too hot for me.  Then Athens was 80 degrees and turned into a disaster.  So I signed up for Cleveland hoping I could somehow connect the dots to get there.  The double irony is that the weather in Cleveland was absolutely perfect.

So of course, I'm thinking that if I had just signed up for Cleveland, I would have hit my Boston Qualifying time.  Easily.

I was stronger this spring than I ever have been.  I hit every single training run and then some.

Everything went wrong, and I'm still pretty crushed.  There will be no Boston in 2015; that is now apparent.  Believe me, I've researched.  Even Presque Isle sold out on freaking May 13th, and when I put my name on the waiting list on May 18th I was already #268.

I was so upset that I even texted Coach and said, "Is this even a realistic goal?"  Maybe I'm not meant to do this.  I'm honestly not that talented.  She replied that I would NEVER say that taking off a few minutes is an unrealistic goal to my own children.  That Meredith Kessler DNF'd 3 Ironmans for various reasons and now look at her.

I know, it makes sense.  I know I'd never say that to my own kids. Or any of my friends.

It just hurts a lot.  For a person like me who this does not come naturally for, I only have 2--maybe 3--shots a year.  And I poured so much of my heart and soul and time into this, and came so close, and then this spring everything just went to crap.  The winter sucked the life out of me, but I still did it.  I got stronger.

And then I was crushed. First at Athens, and now in Cleveland.

The night before the race I found an old picture of me at the finish line of my first Cleveland Marathon in 2003.  35 pounds heavier, standing there with Matt, beaming after my time of 5:14.  I was almost last, and I didn't care.  I would have rolled my eyes in disgust at Me 2014 who was crying after finishing in 3:54.

3:54.  For years, I didn't think I could break 4 hours.  This race ended in disaster, and I still finished in 3:54.

Have I become so out of touch with things that I'm one of "those runners" who is upset with a 3:54? And more importantly, how can I stop?

I think it's time to back away for a bit.  Boston 2015 is probably not happening.  It's not, and I hate to say it and type it but it's the truth.  I'm looking at my running shoes with the same animosity that I looked at my Trek after Ironman Wisconsin.  GET IT AWAY FROM ME.

When this stops being fun, it's time to back away.

My plan was to hang onto the 3:35 pace group for dear life.  I figured if I could still squeak in around 3:37-38, I'd be okay.  I lined up with my friend and training partner Amanda (who is super young so she needed a 3:35) and we started.  The first two miles were either really slow or the mile markers were off.  Then the next few miles we were sub-8, according to my Garmin.  It's so hard to tell at these things.  The pacers said the mile markers were off, so I trusted them, but my splits were all over the place.  The half split was good, though, so it worked out somehow.  We made our way out of town and hit the half in 1:47.02, which is now a new official PR for me of 8 seconds.

Hey, at least one thing went right.

We entered Rocky River--where I teach--and I still get emotional thinking about all the support I had there.  It was pretty unreal.  My parents, Matt and the kids, and a whole bunch of people had lined the streets and were cheering at my friend Tracy's house, which we ran directly by.  I was still feeling pretty good so I gave them a big wave and smile.

Tracy and her adorable family had a "watch party" on her front lawn!
Jackson is behind me, holding what I thought was a cowbell.  Later I found out it was a cinnamon bun. That's my boy.

Then I ran another 100 yards and saw this:

I looked at it, pointed, and yelled, "Hey! That's me!" to the people standing on the lawn.  They all started cheering, and a woman yelled, "Pablo made it for you!" and I realized that it was one of my APUSH students.  Turns out he was in the house when I ran by, but it seriously made me tear up seeing the big sign.  Here I am running in Rocky River, photos courtesy of Pablo's mom:

Right on pace and feeling pretty good
I saw my awesome brother, who got ALL the running talent in my family.  He was out there in two different spots, and it moved me to tears.  I didn't know he'd be out there.  I thought of the times I went to his Cross Country meets to cheer him on and how fast and talented he is despite him feeling "slow" next to his eventual-D1 college-running friends.  Maybe some of that talent will show up in me today?  Having him there gave me a little hope.

Then we turned around.  And I saw about 10 million more friends at Mile 16, including my training partner Katie, who already punched her ticket to Boston last fall.  I still felt good.  I thought, this is the day. This is the day I do this.  I headed back through downtown Rocky River and my friend Pat snapped this picture--I'm making a horrible face with the sun, but I still felt pretty good at this point.  It was almost mile 18.
I kept with the pacer over the bridge and turned into Lakewood.

And then something happened.

My right calf seized up.  Like, a pregnancy leg cramp gone wild, for those who know what I mean.  If you don't know what I mean, basically, my right calf knotted up and scared the crap out of me and made me double over and go "AGGGGGHHH!"  People around me gasped.  "Are you okay?" people said.  I shook my head yes, tried to stretch it, and kept going.  The pacer surged ahead, but I thought no biggie--I'll just keep him a little ahead of me and I'll be fine.  I hit mile 19.

Then the other calf did it.

I stopped at the aid station, grabbed 3 powerades, chugged, and quickly stretched my calf.  And swore.  Willed it to stop.  Kept going.

I hit the 30K mark right on time.  Average pace, 8:10/mile.  This was the fastest and farthest I'd ever gone.

And then All The Muscles cramped.  Both legs, seizing up.  Toes curling. I had to run flat-footed, but was still holding an 8:30 pace.  No.  This is not happening.

I saw my awesome friends, Tom and Casey and Len and Kelly.  Len gave me a water bottle, and I chugged it.  I took my last gu.  I said a little prayer.  Please.  Please, not with a 10K to go.  Come on body. Move.

Mile 20.

I surged again.  The pacer was gone, but I was still hoping I could do it. 




It was awful.  I was doubling over, and spectators were looking at me with pity.  I did everything I could to keep moving, but I was now falling way off pace and into the 9s.

Around 22, the 3:40 pacer caught me.  Amanda was there.  She had has some trouble back at 17 but caught him and held on.  He was amazing and did everything he could to keep me moving.  I was stifling screams at this point and trying so hard to run.  I saw my friends Kim and Tim and they yelled some encouragement.  It was mile 23.

And then, one more stabbing pain, and I screamed. And stopped.

And they ran away.

And that was it.  It was over, and I knew it.  And I looked at the pavement tears welling up, too much pain to even get an f-bomb out.

I was crushed.  But I had to somehow get downtown. I stared at the shoreway in front of me and knew I had to get there, but at this point, I just wanted it to be over.  I wanted to jump in the lake and swim the way home.  The emotional hurt was almost as much as the physical, and the physical hurt was second only to the delivery of my two kids.

Over the past two days, I've been replaying that moment in my head, tormenting myself.  Was there any way I could keep going?  Amanda finished in 3:38.  I could have stuck with her and done it.  Couldn't I?  Was I just weak?

I don't think so.  But I wonder.  And it hurts.  It hurts almost as much as the hurt I felt staring at a long, empty road, trying to move.

The next two miles were basically a blur of shuffling.  I looked something like this:

Photo courtesy of my friend, Beth. I actually don't look like death here too much.

Here I do. Definitely look like death here.

I somehow miraculously shuffled my way to 13-14 minute miles these two miles.  This is how I felt:

Doin' the Zombie Shuffle

It was pretty awful. I was not proud.

I kept thinking the 4 hour group would pass me any second, and was ready to be crushed yet again when that happened.  But then I hit mile 25 and looked at my watch and thought, "Are you kidding me?"  I was still going to come in--comfortably--under 4 hours.


That gave me at least a little bit of a surge to not look like a total asshat the last mile.  I vowed to make it there and smile.  This was my 7th marathon (8th if you count IM Wisconsin), and I was still going to come in under 4 hours.  There had to be some kind of a silver lining in here somewhere.

The crowds were amazing.  I shuffled my zombie walk, and I smiled.
Heading down the chute
And wow, my finish line pictures are seriously the best I've ever taken. I'm smiling and look strong in every single one, despite feeling so heartbroken and bombing my goal miserably.  I guess the worse the finish line photo, the better the performance, right?

I saw my family.  I smiled and waved. I almost stopped--I really should have--to hug them.  Matt worked so hard to get the kids where they needed to be to cheer me on, to watch me BQ.  I felt like I let them down a bit. I know I didn't, but that's what I felt at that moment.

This might be the most flattering finish line photo ever taken

All I had left was a smile. Everything else was gone.

Emmy, cheering me on

My kids loved this statue downtown!
And I smiled and crossed the line.  3:54, my 2nd fastest marathon ever.

And then the tears stung my eyes again.  

But before I could descend into a spiral of self-pity, one of my favorite yoga instructors snapped this picture of me and gave me a huge hug and told me how amazing it was that I just finished, so I smiled again:
I honestly look happy.  I'm a pretty good actress.
Amazing that I finished.  I wiped the tear away again, and thought, you know what, it kind of is.  It's amazing that I finished.

I'm tired of being disappointed with amazing performances, and that's what I feel that this quest has done to me over the past 8-9 months.  I went 3:41 in Columbus and 3:54 here, and I was--I am--disappointed.  That's wrong.  The rational person in me understands that.

Looking at that picture, I look so strong and lean.  I almost didn't recognize myself.

Compare that with these two:
Finish line of my first marathon, 5:14

It rained a lot. I didn't care.

Elated.  Not lean.  Happy.

There has to be some kind of a way to put those two people together.

I'm not exactly sure where I'm going to go from here.  I'm not making any decisions until I can walk normally again.  I'm overwhelmed with all the love and support that has been thrown my way.  Any finish line is amazing and something to be celebrated, and I think I need to somehow get in touch with that.  That might mean hanging up this goal for a while.  Or not. I'm not sure.

I do know that I am loved and supported, and that despite everything that went wrong, a lot went right.  I am still stronger than I ever was--at age 36 with two kids--and stronger than I ever thought I could be.  So that's good.
You wanna talk about strength? Meet this girl.  My former student, Blaire, who finished her first half.  She's kind of amazing. 
 I am sure I'll be replaying the what-ifs and coulda-done-this and shoulda-just-signed-up-for-CLE for a while.

Here's the thing: none of us have crystal balls.  I can't predict the future, the weather, or what my legs will do.  All I can do is try.  On Monday, I told my students (who I could tell were a little disappointed as I told them a second time that I tried and failed to reach a goal I set) that I reach high, but I fall hard.  And that's just my personality.  I'm not a play-it-safe person with this stuff, and sometimes it works, and other times it doesn't.  That is the risk you take, but that's a risk I still believe is worth taking.

My good friend Jo, who I am sad that I will not be attending Boston with, said it much better than I can.  For me, trying is the sweet spot.  I know I'll try again.  I don't know when.

But one of these days the girl who never should make it to Boston will get there.