Sunday, June 24, 2007

Chicago, Chicago....

I had to go to Chicago last week to attend a two-day training workshop. I'm going to take the content of the class, whittle it down for our team at work, repackage it, reconnoiter (is that even a real word?) and then deliver it.

I say "had" -- like 'boo hoo, poor me' very facetiously. I LOVE Chicago. Always have, always will.

I lived there for almost four years during the late '80s. It was a great time in my life for me to be there. I was in my early 30's, single, very independent. I lived very close to Wrigley Field; worked in the suburbs for a couple years (reverse commute rocks) and then in the heart of the loop.

The city is so full of energy and life and always on the go. It was great.

Now when I go back, I either am running the Chicago Marathon or visiting some of the friends I have there. I've been back on business a few times, which is also a fabulous perk.

I stayed at one of my favorite hotel groups: the Kimpton Hotels. The hotels are in many major of the major cities, are a little kitschy, have very comfortable beds, great staff and will send up a goldfish to your room to keep you company.

The training was good -- subject was interesting, fellow participants interesting. Facilitator vacillated between being great and being pompous.

I got up at 5:30 each morning and either ran or took a long walk up and down Michigan Avenue. I had a couple of really great runs along the lake shore from my hotel, down to Navy Pier, up to North Street and back, making for a loop of about five miles.

I found out that a swanky health club in the loop are has reciprocity with my health club so I got in a 1,000 yard swim. This health club is not a big be liver in the concept of "heated pool". The water was a bit brisk. The only reason I could think of was that the triathletes in the city do a lot of their practice and races in Lake Michigan, which is mighty, mighty chilly. That or the club is cheap... Hard to know.

I did see several triathlete in the lake training. All but one were wearing wetsuits. The water was very rough on Saturday morning and one woman I watched seemed to stroke forever before she'd make any forward progress.

Watching those folks reinforced my gratitude that I swim in smallish, warmish, cleanish Minnesota lakes. Makes my triathlon life just a little easier.

Outside of training (attending) and training (doing), I got a chance to spend some time with my very good friend Bev. We had dinner in Evanston on Friday night and then got together Saturday afternoon before I left.

There was an art fair in Evanston that we wandered around, had a great lunch together and lots of laughs.

I got home last night and Hubby leaves today for a business trip of his own. He is going west for several days. We were able to have a nice dinner last night, get a round of golf in today and I'll take him to the airport in about an hour.

My goal for the week is to keep getting ready for MinneMan , which is this Saturday. I feel pretty ready, but need to get in the lake a of couple times and get some good bike rides in.

That, and try to keep up with the huge, giant workload at work.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Grandma's 1/2 -- PR!

Holy cow! What a difference a little heart rate training can make!

I ran Grandma's 1/2 marathon yesterday in Duluth. It was a warm (aka HOT), sticky (aka MUGGY), bright (aka SUNNY) day. Despite all of that, I ran my best 1/2 marathon ever -- 2:19:33.

This is a PR (personal record) of 14 minutes and 4 seconds over my last best time of 2:33:38, which I ran in 2006 at a Holiday Inn 1/2 Marathon event in Rochester MN.

I felt unbelievably good the entire race. I was totally surprised.

A number of my great running pals ran the event too: Marcia and her husband Marty, Kathy T, Bea (who was running her first 1/2), Jen, Natalie, Carla, Bev, Rick, among others. We all had our own "plan" for the day. Some were going to run 9 minutes/walk 1; some would run 5, walk 1; some 6/1, etc.

I set my watch for a 7/1 routine and my goal was to keep my heart rate below my AT (171). I started running with Marty and Rick and before I knew it, my watch beeped signaling my first walk break.

I made the classic "mistake", which ultimately worked in my favor: I decided to keep running and would take my first walk break at the mile 2 -- the first water stop.

Usually, this 'change strategy at the last second' thing doesn't work very well for me. Yesterday, all the elements just seemed to align.

I ran with Marty and Rick for a while but separated just slightly after the first mile, after Rick announced we hit the marker at 10:33. Marty went on ahead; I slipped back a bit and Rick disappeared in to the crowd.

I was very mindful during the entire race of running the course tangents knowing that doing so would help me conserve some energy. I just kept putting one foot in front of another and looked ahead to figure out which side of the road to run.

I got to the first water stop -- it was very humid and I was sweaty, sweaty, sweaty. My heart rate was fine -- about 160. I wasn't tired or worried that I was going too fast.

I'm also a-typical in that I like running in the heat/humidity. My asthma bothers me less; I am happier when I'm feel warmer, so I grabbed some water, walked a bit and took off again.

The only person I knew that I saw a couple of times on the course was Marty. He and I bounced in front and behind each other until about mile 6. He was trying to do 6/1. We ran for a bit and when his walk break came, I was feeling really good, so I asked if he minded if I went ahead -- he said "go for it" and off I went.

My heart rate stayed pretty steady in the 160's, which felt very comfortable. A couple times, as I was trotting up a hill, it crept up past 171, so I just slowed down until it backed off.

I'm glad I did a lot of my long runs on my own. I love running with my friends, but really needed to have some training time when I was on my own so I could get used to the "alone" thing for the race.

I spent time concentrating on the scenery, on other runners, on spectators and poof, before I knew it, I was in the city.

The first time clock I saw was at the 10-mile mark. It read 1:50:53. I was really surprised. That is a very good 10-mile time for me. (I had set my interval watch, but not my chronological timer, so I knew how long I was out on the course, but didn't know what time I had actually crossed the mat to activate my timing chip. Turns out I was about 5 minutes behind the gun time, so my actual 10-mile time was about 1:45).

My good friend Mary B., who moved to Florida last fall, was out cheering on runners at about mile 11. She and her husband had plan to run the marathon, but she'd been sick and decided to not run. They came up for the event any way and were hanging out on the course. She ran with me for about 2 minutes and then I was off for the finish.

I came across the finish line at 1:24 something on the clock (gun time). I waited for my friends to finish -- we relaxed, drank LOTS of water, ate a little food and eventually got our gear bags to change in to some dry clothes.

My fellow coffee-crazy friends Bea and Kathy and I went to grab a cup of coffee to have with us as we watched the marathoners start to come in to finish. As we were walking to the coffee place, we found the board where the Race Officials posted the results. I scanned the paper to find my name and there it was in big, old Times New Roman font:



Thrilled, excited, amazed! And that was just about finally being able to have my first cup of coffee for the day! (Ha Ha).

I really was happy and proud of my efforts. Anyway, we went to about mile 25.75 of the marathon and watched the marathoners finish. I was very grateful that I was not running the full 26.2. The day turned out to be very warm and many of the runners looked pretty haggard. Or, rather, much more haggard then they usually do when they are less than a mile to the finish.

I drove back home yesterday afternoon. Today is Father's Day and I like to spend it with my Hubby, one of the greatest fathers ever.

My triathlon club hosts an Open Water Swim Clinic every summer and this year it was held today -- at 7:30 am -- on a Sunday-- after the 1/2 marathon -- on Father's Day.

I went anyway.

My swim coach was the instructor. There were about 30 or so people that all practiced mass starts and exits a few times; did some site-ing drills and other wise got comfortable in the water. The Clinic was held at the same place my tri will be on June 30 -- so I got a feel for the beach and the water depth, temp, etc. I'm glad I went.

I still have a lot of swim time to get in before my first tri of the summer in 12 days....I'm feel more confident about the swim portion though, mostly from having a chance to get in to the lake today.

The rest of Father's Day was planned with activities that Hubby enjoys: hanging out with his daughter and his family; eating ribs and just relaxing.

I couldn't have asked for a better way to celebrate my Grandma's PR!