Sunday, March 31, 2013

Galveston 70.3 is days away!

It's hard to believe but Galveston 70.3 is a week away.  This time next Sunday I will hopefully back at home, sitting in the tub congratulating myself on a race well executed.  I am praying that's what I'll be doing. 

Those of you who read this blog, know my history in G-Town so I won't recap it again.  All I will say is that I'm ready for this race and I'm looking forward to finishing it.  Annie will be heading down there with me the day before as I kind of consider her my good luck charm for Galveston.  She stayed with me the night before the Oly I finished there.  No pressure Annie!  

My goal for next week is pretty simple...execute and finish.  Galveston is a short 6 weeks before IMTX and I'm ready to see how I do.  This isn't an easy race (at least not for me) but I'm so ready to tackle it!!!

Training has been going well.  Swimming has been just ok.  I've decided that after Galveston, I'm going to focus more on bringing the same attitude to swimming that I've been bringing to the bike & the run.  I know I can't put enough time in the pool to see the big gains I'd love to see but that doesn't mean I can't improve.  Again, it gets to the mental side. If you tell yourself you're a bad swimmer, you'll be a bad swimmer.  

My 110 miler a few weekends ago was beyond challenging.  I can't tell you that I definitely got in the full 110 miles as I started the ride outside (in 20-30mph winds) and finished on the trainer. In total, I rode the amount of time that I thought 110 miles would've taken me.  I based this on the pace I had maintained the weekend before.  Not the most scientific but whatever.  The winds that day were the toughest I ever encountered.  Moving the ride indoors is not mentally easy either.  But I sucked it up and did it.  I'm happy to report that my "little" 70 miler this weekend went much better.  I finished the ride with a whole lot of gas in the tank.  I'm cautiously optimistic about Galveston.  :)

Ice, Ice Baby.
Running has been going pretty well with the exception of some nagging pain in my hips which I'm confident is my IT band.  I've felt it on & off ever since The Woodlands Half Marathon but it hasn't been annoying enough for me to worry. After my 14 miler the weekend of my 110 mile bike ride, I was concerned though.  The first few miles were tough. I could feel the discomfort in my hip but chose to ignore it.  It went away for about 8 miles but then came back with big time.  There were a few times at the end of the run that it literally stopped me in my tracks.  I was worried. I fought tears back at Market Street where I was meeting Keith.  I wasn't in pain....I was just really concerned that I was facing an injury way too close to my big races.  I let my coach know what was going on and made an appointment for a massage ASAP.  Holy crap...that dude worked my legs like you wouldn't believe.  It hurt but in a good way.  My next run felt ok.  I could tell I was holding back a little only b/c I was nervous.  I was also feeling like I was running on two bruised legs as I was still feeling the impact from the massage.  My long run this weekend was only an hour but had a lot of intensity.  It went very well with just a little nagging at the end.  I have another massage tomorrow and am keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be 100% for Saturday.  

I hope you all have a great week!  Send positive vibes my way for Galveston. Oh, and if it's not too much to ask, pray that a shark doesn't get me.  

Happy training!!!

Balancing Act

In less than two months, I’m going to be participating in and finishing my 2nd Ironman. There are no guarantees of course but I choose to believe I will finish. 

One thing I’ve really tried to balance is my expectation for the day.  What is that perfect balance of wanting and striving to do better than you did the time before while still keeping in mind that this is a long, long day and anything can happen?

I’ve been crunching numbers (of course) and have started narrowing in on about an hour range I think I’ll finish in.  I’ve taken into consideration different scenarios and I’m very pleased with this range I’m looking at because it has me finishing in times I never imagined I would or could finish in.  It’s exciting because this range is one I feel is very realistic…assuming the day goes my way.   I also like that it still leaves me room to improve.  I keep saying this will likely be my last Ironman but I can’t say that with any level of certainty.  The truth is, I love training.  I love pushing myself.  I love seeing improvements.  But whether or not this is my last Ironman…I don’t know.  That’s a post for another day.

When you’re training for an Ironman, you have lots of time to think during your workouts (not during swim workouts though b/c during those workouts, I’m just trying to focus on having better form).   On my ride this weekend, I found myself thinking about IMTX and my goals.  I thought about what I would need to do during each leg to meet those goals.  Then I started to think about what might go wrong.  I didn’t think about this in a negative way though…more of a “how will I handle this situation” kind of way.  I like to be prepared and I do think you need to think about how you will react in a difficult situation.  I had lots of practice with situations like that during my first Ironman but now, I’ve been more fortunate.  I have had a number of races go the way I hoped and overall, my training has been awesome.  I haven’t had as many stumbling blocks this go round.  That’s how I came to the whole “balance” issue.
It’s important to have the very best expectations for a race (for anything for that matter).  If you go into a situation thinking you will fail, you certainly will.  However, if you go into a race with a specific time goal and don’t achieve it, will you be disappointed?  More importantly, will you view the race as a failure?  I mean, really?  If you finish an Ironman, it is not a failure…it’s a huge success!  To finish an Ironman means you have survived training.  It means you raced all day long and made it!  It doesn’t matter if you finished in 13 hours or 17 hours….you ARE an Ironman.  And don’t get me started on whether or not you share your goal with others?  Oh geez!  

So where does that leave me?  Up until now, I wasn’t really sure.  My goals for Saturday, May 18th are simple (drum roll please):  (1) Execute my race.  (2) Finish my race.  (3) Improve upon IMTX 2011.  (4) Be happy with my race.  I can control one thing on race day…me.  Yes, I can have a range in which I would like to finish but the truth is, that range only works if hundreds of other things go right on that day.  And of those hundreds of things, I am the boss of only ONE.  If all goes well and if I am healthy come race day, my finish time will not start with a 15. 

I do this for fun.  I do this to be healthy.  I’m not trying to win my age group.  I’m not trying to beat anyone.  I am so blessed that I’ve been given a body that has the ability to train like a crazy woman and participate in races that most have no desire to tackle.  How lucky am I to be able to get up on a Saturday morning and decide to run up to Market Street just because I can?  How lucky am I to live in a place where I can hop on my bike and inside of an hour, be enjoying the great outdoors (with car smog, honking horns and all)? 
I don’t have this balancing act mastered yet.  There will be hundreds of times between today and May 18th that I will go back & forth.  One minute I’m going to be on top of the world talking to Keith or Ana about how I’m totally going to crush this thing and have a huge PR.  The next minute I’m going to come plummeting to Earth, asking if I can really finish this race.  I will love the bike one day and will hate it the next.  I will wonder how in the world I’m going to run a marathon after riding.  I am going to have a day where I could run forever and never want to stop.  And I can promise you with just as much certainty that there will be a day where I can’t hit my groove and I wonder what pipe I was smoking when I signed up for this suffer-fest.  That’s what makes this journey so cool though!  The ups & downs you go through and then always bouncing back.  You realize how tough you are.  It’s such a cool feeling!
So there you go.  I think I just figured out my little balancing act.  Happy training!!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

First 100 miler of this training season!

After the mentally challenging ride I had last weekend, I was happy to have my first century of the current training season go well.  Sunday morning, Keith & I set off on our longest ride of the season in what would prove to be another super windy day.  On top of that, this was the first weekend we had temps that were really quite a bit warmer which has the potential to wreak havoc on your hydration plan if you aren't careful. 

Keith is not training for anything big right now and after being on Spring Break for a week with his girls, decided he would do part of the ride with me and SAG for the rest.  I was so happy to have his company for the first 58 miles of this ride!  We took a rest stop just outside my neighborhood and that's where Keith & I parted ways.  

Looking & feeling good with more than 1/2 the ride done!

I was a little worried not to have someone to take turns pulling as I set off on the final part of my ride but reminded myself that there is no drafting in Ironman and I would likely be riding by myself most of that day as well so suck it up buttercup.  I have to say, the final 43 miles (I decided to go 101 just for good measure) flew by.  Fish Creek was a pain in the butt alone but I did it and was so proud of myself.  My average for this ride is one I would be thrilled to hit at IMTX.

This was at approximately 76 miles.  Is that really me????  :)

So what's up for this coming week?  Well, let's just say that I'm going to be doing a LOT of training.  This week I have a few 4,000+ yard swims (O M G), followed by a 14 mile run and then 110 miles on the bike.  Yes, you heard me....110.  This will be my longest training ride ever.  And I'm not going to lie, I'm thinking about going 113 just so I can call it my longest ride ever.  :)  Keith likes to joke that he thinks Ana is trying to kill me but we both know she's trying to make me as strong as possible for IMTX.  She's got confidence in me that until recently, I'm not sure I had in myself.  I've never had the best self-esteem or the best confidence (I usually just had to fake it) but now, I'm realizing I can do a lot of things I never thought I could do.  And it's finally dawned on me that believing in yourself is absolutely critical because all the training in the world won't make a bit of difference if you don't believe in yourself.  

As I pedaled this weekend and watched the miles tick off, I was reminded that just because you've done an Ironman before doesn't guarantee you a certain outcome.  All of the stars have to align.  Your training has to be there, your nutrition has to be on point and you have to stay in it mentally.  On top of that, you need Mother Nature to cooperate and provide the best conditions possible. Just finishing an Ironman is a huge accomplishment...hell, surviving the training is huge.  Getting a PR is just gravy.  And yes, I love me some gravy!  :)

Happy training y'all!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Let's not forget the mental race.

Training for Ironman this time around has been very different than last time.  Since changing up my nutrition, I've felt better while racing & training.  I've felt better in every day life. I've also been lucky enough to rack up a few PR's and with that, have gotten the boost in confidence I so desperately needed. 

I have been feeling stronger & stronger with each long workout.  Yesterday, I hit a speed bump that helped remind me of an important lesson.  Don't forget the mental race.

45 miles into our 90 mile ride, I was on top of the world.  We were at a pace that I was super excited about and remember thinking that if I could hold that the rest of the ride, I would certainly exceed my bike time goal at Ironman.  We then headed out on the section that I consider the hardest of the Ironman course (the part out of Richards back to 2562 I believe and then back over to 2819).  The section was tough without a doubt.  The headwinds were picking up just like they were forecasted to do.  Headwinds and chip seal made for a relatively uncomfortable ride but I was good.  I felt like I had prepared for that section.  

Thankfully, we were on 1486 where there was some better road surface but also some nice little rollers headed into Dacus.  I was ok though.  I looked back to see where Keith was and didn't see him so decided I should pull off and wait a second.  I just wanted to make sure he wasn't having any mechanical issues. As I rolled to a halt, I unclipped on my right side, hit some loose gravel (I think), lost my balance and then tumbled over before being able to unclip on the left side.  Not a big deal at all. I put my wrist down to break my fall which is kind of dumb.  I mean all that weight coming down on this little wrist?  It hurt bad.  There were some tears.  I was also worried b/c I fell into the road so quickly checked to make sure I wasn't about to become road kill.  After a minute or so, Keith rode up and a nice man stopped to make sure I was ok.  I got back on the bike and got moving.  I told Keith that if this happened in the race, I sure wasn't going to sit around.  

Getting back on the bike was of course the right thing to do.  The fall wasn't bad at all.  The wrist was sore but fine.  For some reason though, I let the self doubt in.  It was so strange.  Something more had to be going on.  Then it hit me...for most of the tough section, I was thinking back to 2 years ago when I rode this route for the first time.  I was reminded of the time I fell back from the group (well, I was dropped like a bad habit).  I got to 1486 and didn't know which way to go.  I went right (which ended up being the right way) but got a ways down and thought it was wrong b/c I didn't see anyone ahead of me and I thought that SURELY someone would've stopped to wait for me.  I called my mom to see if she could help me figure out where I was.  I finally decided to turn back around and go back the way I came and head back to my car via Richards.  This would add mileage but I knew where I was going that way.  What should've been a 50 mile ride turned into nearly 80.  When I got back to my car, everyone was gone.  Nobody had waited to make sure I was ok.  The email I got from my then coach told me I was responsible for knowing the route.  Nice.  

So when I tipped over, all those thoughts I was thinking earlier crept in and where they were benign previously, they were now cancerous.  I started doubting my ability to finish the ride.  To finish Ironman.  I told myself that my goal time was a pipe dream and I could never do it.  It was shocking to me how I went from having a great ride to a disaster ride just like that.  

I did finally pull myself together but it wasn't easy.  What a wonderful lesson the ride was though.  The mental game can be lost in a heartbeat so it's important to keep your mind full of positive and encouraging thoughts.  Towards the end of the ride I just kept telling myself, "You can do this.  You are strong.  Hang in there.  This is nothing.  Just ride.".  By the time we hit 85 miles, I did tell Keith my spirit had been broken but on the bright side, my legs were there and ready to carry me wherever I needed to be.  I think my legs were trying to say, "Hey, don't forget about us.  We're super strong and we're not giving up so you can't either".  

We finished just over 90 miles and I couldn't have been happier to be off the bike.  I told Keith that when I trained for this race two years ago, there were tears on lots of rides so the fact that I made it to 90 w/o hardly a tear was a huge improvement. 

It's all good this morning.  While challenging, yesterday turned out to be one of the best rides for me and a great reminder of why I do this. 

Happy Training!!!!!

Friday, March 8, 2013

I'm in!!!! NYC Marathon 2013 Here. I. Come!

After waiting (im)patiently for months, a decision has been reached and my guaranteed entry to the 2013 NYC Marathon is official!  I am happier 
than a fat kid at a buffet right now. :)  Yes, I've been waiting for this moment and now that it's here, I'm even more excited than I thought I could be.  

This craziness started for me in 2009.  Gail Littlewood & I were at the Houston Marathon Expo, picking up our bibs for the half-marathon.  We were checking out the booths and walked over to one with an author.  Liz Robbins was signing her book "A Race Like No Other" (about the NYC Marathon).  She seemed like a nice person so we bought the book.  I read it shortly thereafter and was hooked.  I knew I wanted to run NY.

I didn't realize at that time just how popular this marathon was.  I entered the lottery for the 2010 race and crossed my fingers.  No luck.  At this point, I had heard that if you were rejected 3 times, you would get an automatic entry to the race.  I checked out the times I would need to qualify for NY and quickly realized that I didn't want to wait until I was 60-65 to run it.  I dutifully entered the lottery again in 2011 (strike 2) and 2012 (strike 3).  Even though I was rejected this time last year, I was happy because I now KNEW I would be in for 2013.  Let the planning (and saving) begin!

November 2012 came as did Frankenstorm and the marathon was cancelled.  It became clear that it would be some time before race officials would know who would/wouldn't be in for 2013.  I checked the website weekly and last month, sent an email to see when I could expect to hear something (early March was the response).  On March 7th, and email went out confirming that the reject group would be in and just like that, I've got my late 2013 A race.

Official sign up begins at the end of April and you can bet your bootie I'll be signing up, happy to fork over what will be the 2nd largest race fee I've ever paid (2nd only to Ironman).  My first stand alone marathon is finally happening and it's happening in the city I dreamed it would AND before I turn 40...heck, before I turn 39!  I honestly could not be more excited.

I'm going to have to calm this excitement now b/c if I don't, I'm going to get super annoying to everyone who knows me.  And, before I can get to NYC, I've got this little race called Ironman Texas to tackle.  

See ya in New York City!!!!!!

The race takes you through all 5 boroughs.  So cool!
You & 40,000+ of your closest friends.  Anyone know the weight limit on a bridge?

The finish line of the NYC Marathon.  See ya in November!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Couple Bonding 101: Ride Bikes

Looking pretty good 60 miles into our 80 miler.  Whoop whoop!

Keith has been a great training partner (well, except for the one Saturday he bailed on me at the last minute).  He's not training for any races right now but continues to hit the roads with me as I prepare for IMTX 2013.  He loves riding so it's not like this is a huge inconvenience for him but I know there are other things he could be doing with his time.  I mean, getting up at 6am on a Saturday is not his idea of fun but he does it so we can hit the road early and be done before the day is completely wasted.  What a great man!

This weekend we get to tackle 90 miles.  N-I-N-E-T-Y.  This is a distance we've both experienced before, just not together.  I'm so looking forward to getting out on the roads and seeing how we do (I know we'll do great).  I'm getting to a point in my training where I realize every single day that Ironman is quickly approaching.  It's actually 10 weeks from Saturday.  Which of course means that Galveston 70.3 is a mere 4 weeks away.  Ok, I'll think about that later.  

As of this 90 miler isn't enough, we'll be going to Emily's wedding this weekend.  Keith's 3rd daughter will be tying the know to Daniel Verhaalen on Sunday and we're so excited!  Keith is always so happy when he gets to see ALL his girls and I know is looking forward to spending some time with each of them and of course, his two beautiful grands.  It's going to be a great weekend!

Happy training!

Hard work continues to pay off!

The PR God’s have been good to me.  After taking 5 yrs to beat my half marathon PR, I only had to wait 7 weeks this time.    Thanks to awesome conditions and solid training, I improved upon my Houston Half time of 2:09:25 by just over 7 minutes and posted a 2:02:22 finish.  I didn’t think I would be slower than Houston but I certainly wasn’t thinking I would PR. 

Per instructions from my coach, I needed to push it and run hard.  So Saturday morning, that’s all I was thinking about…running hard.  I didn’t feel well rested for this race due to reasons out of my control but I knew I had done a good job sticking to my nutrition plan (despite the glass of red Friday night).  My training was where it needed to be despite the hours I’ve been working and the sleep I’d been getting.

Surely I'm not telling Keith to shush?
The first 5k of the race I was somewhere between 28 & 29 minutes.  For a minute I thought it was too fast but then I told myself to just push it and if I blow up, I blow up. I saw Keith and let him know I crossed the timing mat about 5-6 minutes after the start as I wanted him to be able to have an idea of what kind of pace I was holding.   I hit the 10k mark in 57 minutes and change (my stand alone 10k PR is 59:59) and knew I was still running well.  I looked down at my Garmin a few times only to see a pace that was in the 8:50 range.  Ok, that’s too fast.  I would later learn that my pace the first 6.5 miles of the race was 9:01, a pace I NEVER thought I would maintain in a half marathon.  I hit mile 8 and saw Keith and I was focused.  Like super focused.  I tossed him my long sleeve pullover b/c I was getting warm and kept on trucking. 

Heading into the finish chute!
At around 10 or 11 miles, I was starting to lose some steam and my pace was slowing…not enough to want to walk or anything.  I was trying to do the math to figure out my estimated finish time and I kept coming up with numbers between 1:58 and 2:04.  I was having the hardest time doing math (a common issue for me while racing)!  When I hit mile 12, I got a little energy boost and ran as hard as I could.  I knew I wasn’t going to go sub 2 hrs at this point and that was ok.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I WANT sub 2hrs VERY much but that will come.  So I ran my little heart out, saw Keith as I turned on to the Waterway and passed as many people as I could in the finishers chute.  I looked at my Garmin and saw 2:02 and couldn’t believe it. 

A shot of the awesome finish line!
Post race, I was sore.  More sore than I’ve been in a long time.  More sore than at Houston.  More sore than after Ironman.  My coach was beyond happy to hear this not b/c she likes to see me in pain but because she knew that I gave it everything.  It’s Monday and I’m still a little sore but nothing like yesterday. Thankfully I’m no longer moaning any time I stand up, bend over or breathe.  In this situation, sore was good...very good.

I'd say that's a pretty happy runner.  
I’m giving myself the rest of the day to be super excited about this 2:02 time and then I’m going to shift my focus to Galveston.  Ok, I’m not going to lie, I spent some time crunching possible Ironman numbers and I very much like what I see.  It’s crazy because I’m looking at times I never thought I could maintain in a long race but now, I find myself believing very much that I can.  The bike is no longer holding me back.  The run is NOT my limiter.  I can do this.  I will do this.   Holy crap, I’m going to be a 2x Ironman finisher!!!!

Once again, many thanks to my amazing coach, Ana.  It's so nice to finally see all the work we both put in pay off. And of course, thanks to Keith for being a trooper and making it out to the race course even though it was pretty chilly.  I think the 3 Starbucks helped.  :)