Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Yin and Yang that was 2012

December 29th, 2012

Another year draws quickly to a close. 

Thank heavens.

I, like many, many of my friends, am plenty happy to see 2012 end.    It was an "interesting" year for many of us.

While I have to say that the good stuff outweighed the not-so-good stuff, I am glad to be closing the books on the year, and I'm nothing that hopeful and excited about 2013.

The great things that happened this year:
  • I finally, finally, FINALLY became an Ironman.  The third time was definitely the charm and I got to finally cross that finish line in Madison at 11:06 pm last September 9th.  I had a great year of training and participated in a number of new and fun events to help me prep for the big race.   These included the five-hour Y rides, Hillfest, the Nature Valley Grand Prix spectator crit, Tour De Tonka, Timberman Oly tri, the Madison mini marathon and many, many, many visits to Madison to ride that bike course.  
  • I had the support of some great people, including my Hubby, who ran a lot of late night long runs with me.  My friends Marcia and Gary, who also joined me for a lot of runs.   My best bud, Natalie, cheered me on from afar (aka Lisbon, North Dakota), and I had a lot of other friends from my old running club and from work that encouraged me along the way.  That made the journey (and the long hours of training) a lot of fun.
  • I went back to work with my first 1/2 iron coach, Greg Rhodes, which was a very, very smart decision.  He knows and understands me and my abilities; he sets up workouts that challenge me and encourages me. I can't recommend him enough and I'm looking forward to working with him in 2013 as he helps me become faster and stronger with Olys and 1/2 iron distance tris.
  • I was very lucky to have been able to take some great trips with my Hubby.  We were lucky to take not one, but two cruises (January and December).   We both just R E L A X when we are at sea.   We were able to do some fun stuff on those journeys:  golfing in Cozumel; biking in St. Maarten; snorkeling in St. Thomas.   We hit New York for the Marathon that wasn't; we celebrated our anniversary in Las Vegas; we spent Thanksgiving with my family in California.   We are very, very, very fortunate to be able to travel and we've stored up lots of memories from these trips.
  • Hubby and I have both been blessed with health.  The biggest gift of all.   Without it, all the rest is bupkis.
  • Hubby had a great golf season this year.  He won a number of his tournaments and moved up in his rankings.  He played in the Golf Channel Amateur Channel's national tournament again and had a blast.
  • Our kitten Oscar, who was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and given two months to live back in November 2011, is still here and purring loud and proud every day.  He has to take medicine twice each day, but we are so thrilled that he is doing so well.   We are thankful every day that he, and the other three furry friends we live with, are all doing well and are happy cats.
  • We got to attend some happy events in the lives of our friends:  weddings, graduations, birthdays and more.   We are lucky to be able to take part in celebrations and to give lots and lots of hugs.

I did make some dumb decisions, though.  One in particular was very short-sighted.  I made a move that, in retrospect, I'd make differently if I had the chance to do it again.  It may not have made the best decision, but it is one I've learned from. 

Dumb decisions aside, here is the thing about time and life: unlike golf, we don't get mulligans.  

We do, though, get to make other decisions. Make next moves.   Turn another corner.   Change direction.  And that remains the beauty of January 1st.   The proverbial "new leaf". 

I enter 2013 with a lot of resolutions and goals, including work with an nutritionist specializing with endurance athletes.  I already have lots of fun triathlons and other events on the calendar and paid for, including some new ones for me:  SuperiorMan (what fun it will be to jump off a boat in to Lake Superior!) -- Ironman Racine 70.3 -- the Point to LaPoint swim -- just to name a few.  

While I'm really looking forward to my 2013 race calendar, I'm more importantly looking forward to my LIFE calendar and to finding ways to REALLY take the road(s) less traveled.

I also have high hopes and wishes for all of you:  That 2013 will be better than 2012 (even if 2012 was your best year ever).  That we won't fall off the fiscal cliff; that the economy will continue to rebound;  that you and yours will find health and happiness and love and PRs (if that is your thing). 

In short, happy new year everyone.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why I am Delusional...

One word:  Triathlon.

Let me explain.   I am coming up on (yet another) birthday.  The odometer, as they say, is turning over – again.   While this birthday isn’t a milestone per se, it does represent an increasing digit that seems to happen faster and faster every year.

A funny quirk about the governing body that oversees all things triathlon is that participants must race as the age they will be on December 31st.   My birthday falls in November, so for most of any giving racing season , I race under the age category  I’ll only actually be for 42 days of the year.  
On the one hand, this makes it very easy for me to adapt to the increasing number.   For example, I’ll be 54 soon.   I’ve been used to saying I’m that age and having the world see it (in the form of the age group identifier number that gets temporarily inked on my calf when body marked at triathlons).   So, 54 doesn’t bug me so much.
What bothers me a little bit more than I have cared to admit until now is that on January 1st, 2013, I’ll have to race as a 55 year old (the age I’ll be on December 31st, 2013).  Fifty-five is one thing.  The other – and more frightening thing – is that I also move up Age Group categories next year.  
Sayonara, Age Group 50 –  54.  Welcome(?) to Age Group 55 to 59.
So why is this such a frightening proposition?  It comes back to my being delusional. 
You see, triathlon tricks me in to thinking that I am much, much younger than I really am.  All that swimming, biking and running, along with some yoga and strength training thrown in, provides for me a little “cover” of agelessness.
When I’m in the pool or on my bike or trotting down some path, I believe that I’m just as capable – make that more than capable – than my 15, 20 or even 30 year old self.

My best and most treasured friend and triathlon partner – Natalie --  is 20 years younger than me.  I never, ever feel a difference in our age when we are training.  (I do usually feel a pang of envy when she kicks my butt by running , pedaling or swimming faster).   
How can it possibly be that I’m going to be 54?  How can it possibly be that I’ll be racing against other women between 55 and 59?  (And, how, how ,HOW can it be that I’ll still be finishing mid-to-back-of-the pack thanks to some incredibly strong and fierce athletic machines with names like Jan and Helen, among others?)
Thanks to triathlon (and eating well, not drinking (anymore) and trying to get enough rest), I feel totally ageless, fully strong and luckily healthy.   Unlike many of my non-athletic friends, I’m not on medication (except for occasional use of an inhaler used to address some very minor asthma issues); I’m not winded when I have to walk up a flight of stairs and I’m not wearing mom jeans or appliqué shirts.   (Not that there is anything wrong with that….). 
What triathlon can’t help though, is some of the wonders of nature wrapped in the aging process like sagging skin; more jiggle than not; and the need to see my hairdresser every six weeks to wisk away the grey.   The external changes – and the rapid pace of them -- are the things that shock me the most.
I sometimes ponder the fact that, when Natalie is my age, I’ll be 74 – going on 75.   And that these next 20 years will undoubtedly wiz by faster than the last twenty.
Nat will undoubtedly still be racing in 2032.   If I’m lucky, I might be able to squeak out some sprints or may be an Oly or two. 
I sure hope so. 
Triathlon has given me so much.  Besides physical strength, it has given me a huge sense of accomplishment and self confidence.  I’ve made great friends.  I’ve had the luck to train and work with a couple of wonderful Coaches; I’ve raced some great venues;  I’ve experienced the beauty and wonder of seeing the world from the middle of a lake, out in the middle of farmland, and in the heart of a big city – sometimes all in the same day!
I know myself better though.   In twenty years, the likelihood of me looking okay in a wetsuit (or not getting slowed down by my non-aero batwings flapping in the breeze), is pretty slim.  I may just have to watch my friend race, while I just stand on the sidelines ringing a cowbell.
That is when I hope my delusion keeps up its pace with me.  I hope I can “trick” myself in to believing that what I look like out on the course matters less than how I FEEL out on the course. 
I’m just not a “sidelines-bell-ringing” kinda girl.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The New York Marathon that wasn't....

In case you were wondering how the weekend went….

As many of you know, Warren (my husband) and I were on deck to run the New York Marathon last weekend.   I got in via the lottery and Warren was running via the charity runner program running for UNICEF.

It would have been Warren's second marathon and my 11th.  We spent the summer and fall training together (Warren ran with me as I was getting ready for Ironman Wisconsin and then continued to train after Imoo was over….)   Our goal was to run the race together, not worry about our time and to just have fun.

Enter Hurricane Sandy.

After the storm hit the east coast, we debated for a long time about going to run the race.   Race and city officials assured us that the race would go on, but we weren't sure that this was the right time to run the race…. That if the race did in fact happen, there would be a cloud over it.  

We finally decided to go (everything was already paid for; we'd either run or not, but either way, we'd have a very interesting experience).

We arrived in New York on Friday afternoon.  We stayed near Times Square and, from our location, you would not have known there had been a storm.  Everything above ground from 39th Street up  was running smoothly.  There was power, food, water, cell coverage. 

The local news was very much 24/7 Sandy coverage.    The areas hardest hit were lower Manhattan, Staten Island, and parts of Queens/Long Island.   It was hard to imagine the water, the sand and the damage unless you saw the footage.

We were just leaving for a UNICEF-hosted dinner when officials announced the cancellation of the race.   Warren and I just looked at each other and shrugged.   What was there to do?   On the one hand, we were disappointed but on the other, much bigger hand, we both understood this was the right decision.

Now on to Plan B.

We went to the UNICEF dinner and met some really incredible people from all across the world that had trained and raised money.  About half of the runners were doing New York as their very first marathon.  Again, people were disappointed, but everyone understood the reasoning for cancelling the race.   The organizers let the runners know that the money raised was already being put to good use, funding projects aimed towards immunizations and providing clean water.   During dinner, NY locals filled others in on volunteer opportunities available throughout the city where we could help those that had been impacted by Sandy.

So on Saturday, Warren and I walked down to lower Manhattan and volunteered for several hours.  We helped provide food and water to people (mostly elderly) that lived in high rise apartments.  Their electricity had just been turned on that morning, so they could finally get out of their apartments.  Again, we met some really terrific people -- other volunteers and those in need -- who were kind and generous and only wanted to help. 

Sunday, the UNICEF team met in Central Park, where we joined thousands (literally) of other runners that created an impromptu run.    We ran loops of the park (which was the original marathon course, back in the day).    Runners from all across the world, along with wheelers and Achilles Runners (those who are disabled) and their guides were there.   We also had many, many spectators along the course that cheered us on and provided water (on their own dime).  It was a very special event.

While not the race we expected, Warren and I were able to accomplish what we set out to do:  we ran together, we didn't worry about time; we had fun.  It was a very interesting experience indeed. 

We also had one additional benefit we didn't plan for, but which made our weekend:   we had the chance to give back a little, providing a little time, some kind words and a little cash (in the form of donations to relief organizations).

Thanksgiving is coming up.   Personally, this is my favorite holiday.   I get to spend time with family, have a meal I love, and still usually find some time to reflect back and to be grateful for the gifts that have come my way:  health, friends and family, a warm house.    I'm thankful that I have the means to help others in need and I encourage you to give back in ways that you can to the people/places/organizations that are meaningful to you.   I'm willing to bet that you'll receive much more in karmic returns than you ever could have expected.

You will all be on my gratitude list this year….   Just so you know.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

To run, or not to run.....that is the question

Hubby and I are ready to go to New York on Friday morning so we can run the New York Marathon on Sunday....

As of right now, Marathon Officials say the race is on; that adjustments might be made, but come Sunday morning, runners should be able to get over to Staten Island to wait for the race to start.

Honestly, I have some mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, I am THRILLED to be running the marathon and ECSTATIC to be able to run this with Hubby.   It will be his second marathon ever and our first running one together.  He has trained hard, is running really well, isn't injured and is excited to run the race.

He entered as a charity runner, raising money for UNICEF.  He did a great job working to gather contributions and has been a great advocate for UNICEF and its programs.

I think it will be a blast to run this race with him and was very much looking forward to enjoying the day, the sites and the crowds with him.

Enter --   the Other Hand:   Hurricane Sandy certainly left a mess not only in the city and along the coast, but deep in to many peoples lives, homes and psyches.  I feel a little bad about running a "fun' event when others aren't feeling that life so "fun" right now.  Under normal circumstances, resources in the City get a little tapped on marathon day.   I'm imagining that, on this marathon day, police will be stretched thinner; water for runners might be better used by people that don't have any; hotel rooms might be better used by people that lost homes.

Do I feel bad enough not to go?

That is the million dollar question.  

We could defer and run next year (at least I can.  I got in via the lottery.  I'm not sure what would happen to Hubby's number or if he'd have to raise money again next year to retain his number.).  We'd both have to pay the registration fee again next year.

Honestly, we feel read to run this year.   We are also ready to pump some money in to NYC economy.   We are talking about trying to find a place to volunteer some of our time on Saturday to help the city.   We think we should go.

What would you do?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Finally: the run....

By the time I got out on to the run course, I was ecstatic to say the least.

I had hit my bike time goal getting back in to T2 by 4:30 pm, giving me plenty of time to try to finish the marathon before midnight -- 7 1/2 hours to be exact.
The very first marathon I ever did was Chicago Marathon in 2000.  I had only been running for one year.  I had started this whole "running" thing late (I was in my early 40s) and got sucked in to the marathon mystique after seeing an ad for the Chicago Marathon with a tag line that read something like "Join 40,000 of your close, personal friends".

I turned to Hubby and said "I can't be last of 40,000, can I"?  He said "No" and I signed up.

Up until then, I had really only done some 5 and 10Ks.   I was in a training class that was supposed to focus on helping improve abilities for people that ran 5Ks up to 1/2 marathons.    In reality, it was a class full of experienced and speedy runners who really wanted nothing to do with chubby, old, slow me.  

I didn't tell a soul in that class that I had signed up for Chicago.  I did one long run of 15 miles before the race.  I went in to Chicago under trained, over 
optimistic and fairly naive.  

I finished in 6:47.   

Not a great finish, but a finish and the start to my illustrious running career, which hurtled me in to my even more illustrious triathlon career.

The point behind this walk down memory lane?   That with 7 1/2 hours to complete the IM WI marathon, I was pretty confident that I'd cross the finish line, as I was much more trained, prepared, thinner and ready than I was in 2000, when it took me 6:47.  Even after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112.
My running plan was to get in to a rhythm where I'd run for 3 minutes and then walk for 1 minute. I had done all my long, slow distance runs over the summer using this model successfully.  Greg, my coach, had me do most of my long runs during the week after work.  His logic was that I'd be tired after work (he was right) and I'd be running at night.  Tired and night running were expected for race day (night) so this was perfect. 

The other prep that helped me was knowing  where the mile markers were on the marathon course this year.  While IM WI does not post mile markers on the actual run course, they finally posted them on the course map.  (I am not great at judging distances;  don't always wear my Garmin (I know.  Blasphemy.).

The course map displayed miles by two, starting with 2.  (So it was mile 2, 4, 6 (State Street) turn around:  Then 6, 8 12 (1/2 turn around), repeat).  

Mentally, I knew I could do 8 track laps (or 2 miles).  I knew that, at worse, I could just talk to myself about track laps.

The 3/1 rhythm started out okay and it did "hold" to about mile 6.  I did take a couple of extra long walk breaks, but I did keep a good pattern going. 

My good friend from work -- Mark L, who completed IM WI in 2010 and is doing IM AZ this year, came,  was waiting out near Camp Randall.  The first time I saw him, things were going well.

After mile 6, I started to have my first "real" problem of the day.  I got nauseous.  

This was nothing new, though.   Happened to me in 2010 and 2011.   I had done a good job with my nutrition on the bike and was taking in coke, chicken broth, water on the run, but about mile 7, every thing looked and tasted terrible.   I could not choke down any solids; the coke tasted bad; the chicken broth tasted worse.  

Mark started in on me about eating.  "I know, I know", I said.  But ate nothing.

The rest of the Imoo Crew were staged at various parts of the course and were texting and calling each other.  They all knew that I wasn't eating.  They all chirped in about me taking in something to eat.   It wasn't happening.

I got to the 1/2 wellllllll before the cutoff, which felt fantastic (mentally).  Physically, my stomach was still a mess.

I stopped at Special Needs and grabbed a couple sips from a Coke bottle and took a salted nut roll to carry with me as I trotted  -- okay, walked briskly -- out for the second loop.

I had so looked forward to that silly salted nut roll bar.  I love them.  They are delicious.  I reserve them only for races, so they are a very special treat.  

Now, the thought of this salted nut roll bar was nauseating.   I was hoping that, at some point, things would turn around and I'd be able to eat it.

I kept run/walking (which was now more walk, walk, walk/run/walk walk walk) along the course.  Natalie found me and was so encouraging -- I fessed up to her that I was starting to get worried about the cut offs.... She assured me that I had nothing to worry about; that there was plenty of time.

I got back to State Street for the second loop and saw Greg and his girlfriend Devon there.  Greg finished in 10:14.  Yes, 10:14.  His swim was 53 minutes.  His bike was great.  He had a little 'struggle' on the run, and finished in TEN FOURTEEN.   Then he showered, changed, ate and came out to see me on the course.  (See why I like him so much???)

He ran with me for a block or two, providing a much needed pep talk (including "eat something").  (Yes, he ran after he finished his IM in 10:14.  He is a great coach).

I got back out on to the Lakeshore Path and Gary was waiting for me.   We walked along and all of a sudden, Hubby and Mark were there too.  EVERYONE was telling me to eat something.  I just wasn't having it.

I finally tried to eat my salted nut roll.  It didn't taste good and I didn't have much saliva at the time to help chew/swallow it.  I ended up spitting out most of it and throwing the bar out for the critters along the path.

Mark and Gary peeled off about mile 21 to head back to the finish.  Hubby stayed with me and was chiding me to eat.  I finally snapped at him a bit.   "ENOUGH WITH THE EATING".   I didn't mean to snap, I was just tired of hearing people to tell me to eat, when I just wanted to throw up. Or poop.

Oh!  Maybe that would help!  So, I told Hubby to go back to the finish and I hit the portapotty.  That actually helped a bit.   Got back out on to the loneliest part of the course -- the on the Lakeshore Path from Walnut Street out to Lake Mendota Drive.

This year, there were plenty of other runners around me, and most of us were walking.   I started to do the math in my head again and the light bulb clicked on, in glorious bright, neon flashing colors:  even if I didn't run one more step, I had plenty, plenty, plenty of time to cover 4.6 miles before midnight.


I did run, though.  I ran from one light pole to the next; then walked one light pole to the next; then ran, then walked until I got back to Walnut Street.

I spotted some Cheezits on the aid table.

"CHEEZITS?"   My brain said: "They look delicious!"

One of the volunteers had brought the box to the station to share with other volunteers.  (Cheezits are not an official "ironman" snack...).  I asked if I could have some and the volunteer cheerfully poured some in to my hand.

HEAVEN.  Nutrition!  Maybe better said: Calories.   

The combination of knowing I was going to finish in time and having something to eat -- finally -- lifted my mood in a big way.

So did seeing Hubby again on Walnut Street.  He had waited for me after I told him to go back to the finish.... he tells me that the difference between when the time I left him to when I found him again was like night and day.   I was much chippier, had more bounce in my step and he knew that I would finish too.

He did have to leave me to take the short cut back to the finish.  I just kept trotting along back to the Capital.  I saw Mark one last time near the stadium.  I got to see Marcia for a  little bit on the last stretch down Dayton.   I ran in to another work friend, Jeff, as I was reaching State Street.  Jeff and a couple of his friends had come down to Madison to volunteer so they could sign up for the 2013 race.   He is a super triathlete and has always been very supportive of my slow, plodding efforts.  

I got to Capital Square and knew it was only a few turns and I'd be at the finish.  I still couldn't quite muster a run, but just walked along as quickly as I could.   

I saw Tiffany S -- another superstar athlete, who called me over to give me a big hug. 

I saw Natalie's smiling face peering around a corner.  I went to give her a great big hug.

Right before the last turn, Gary was there.  Again, another huge hug.

I took that last turn and started to run.  I saw the finish banner and I tried as hard as I could to just open myself up to the experience of running down the chute.  There were lots of people lined up on both sides;  lots of cheering;  Lots of lights. 

I listened for Mike Reilly to call out my name, but didn't hear a thing.  (I think it was too loud or I was just in a daze).

I crossed the line jumping for joy.  Literally.  There are photos of me jumping up and down.  

Mike and Jenny Wimmer, my bloggy and IM friends, who had started the morning as wet suit strippers, were there at the finish voluteering as catchers.

It was really wonderful to have them there for me at the end.  Big hugs; big smiles.  

I got my hat, my shirt, my medal.  My finisher picture and then 'poof' it was back out the finish exit to find Hubby and the Imoo Crew.

I felt GREAT.  Tired but great.  It took three years, a lot of time, sweat and dollars, but I was -- I am --  finally an IRONMAN!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dreamin' Part II

(Okay, okay. I know this is a very long race report.  Still trying to hold on to every memory of every turn of ever second from that day.  That is just how much fun I had!)

Continuing then:

Clipped in at the bike start line at the top of the helix and enjoyed the coast winding down the spiral, getting adjusted in the seat; making sure my sunglasses were where I wanted them to be; making sure my bento box was velcroed shut.

Although it was sunny, it was still cool at 9:00 am but I made sure to have my bike jersey zipped and my arm warmers pulled up.   I just settled in to a pedaling rhythm heading out on John Nolan Drive.  There were a few other bikers around me... a couple of guys and a woman.  Most were just taking their time getting in to the groove. 

There is a turn off the parkway that becomes a single lane, no pass zone that leads riders to the Alliant Energy Center (which, back in the day was known as the Dane County Coliseum.   I saw Bruce Springsteen there when I was in college.  I wonder if my down jacket is somewhere in the Lost and Found room there....  I digress....).

The race officials harp on this as a no pass zone at the pre-race meeting.  There is plenty-o-information about this section written up in Athlete materials, etc.  And yet, on race morning, some idiot trys to flex his testosterone around by passing me and the very slow man in front of me as we are riding under the tunnel.

I called him out on this, saying "Hey Dude -- no pass -- you don't want that penalty this early!'.  

He mea culpaed, but still zipped right on by.  Whaddya do?

In my last post, I talked about elements on race day feeling very routine.  This is exactly how the bike felt for me.  Routine.  Normal.  Regular.  Could have ridden that course with my eyes shut.  (Okay.  Maybe not.)

I had been to Madison every month from March on riding that bike course.   My coach had me riding it as the stick; the stick and one loop; two loops; the whole course and,every now and then,  even threw in a couple of "okay, when you are done with Midtown Road (the last of the three bitches), turn around and ride back to Old Sauk (the first bitch) and then ride them again.   Just for FUN!  (My coach has a 'funny' sense of humor).

I had also decided to break down the course in to very managable distance chunks.  In years past, I had thought of the course as the stick and the loop.  This year, the stick had five parts: 
1) Monona out to Whalen Road 
2& 3) Two stop signs on Whalen Road
4) Seeing the Verona Water Tower out the distance
5) passing across old PB to get in to the loops

The loop(s) got broken down by:
First yucky turn up followed by nice zip down and around Valley Road
Easy aero stretch along Hwy G
Mt. Horeb (big hill)
Witte Road rollar coaster
Garfoot windy wonderfulness
Easy aero stretch in to Cross Plains
Stagecoach to stage for the three big hills
Old Sauk Pass
nice long aero stretch from there
Midtown Road
Stretch back to Verona

Staring in July, there was construction on the course that diverted the route away from Mt Horeb (yet another fun hill, but not quite as bitchy.  Long, but not quite as steep).  There were two detours to choose from.  You could go one way, which included a bunch of big, nasty hills, including one on Norwegian Trail (would you expect less from a name like that???).  The other way had less, big nasty hills, so it became my detour route of choice....

The point is is that I rode those hills a billion times over the summer.  AND rode the hills of Menominee, Wisconsin, as part of the Nature Valley Family Fun weekend, where riders could ride the same routes as the professionals taking part in the Nature Valley Grand Prix.  (Great event, by the by.... hills were tough and the day was hot, humid and rainy, so it was perfect IM traning, right?).  AND rode the hills at Hillfest bike festival.   So.  This year, those three bitches (and their "scenic rolling" cousins that make up 90% of Ironman Wisconsin's bike course had nothing on me!

I only say that partly tongue in cheek.   Hills are tough.  Period.  But I've learned that even the Pros go slow up most of them.  I've learned that I just have to gear down and pedal up them.  I've learned that you DO get up them and eventually there IS a down hill where you can just enjoy.

I was in a very good mood for most the first loop.  I felt strong and comfortable.  I drank something -- usually Infinit -- about every 15 mintues and ate a little something -- either a little bit of a Bonk Breaker, or a Fig Newton or a gummi bear --  about every 17 minutes.  I chatted a little bit with other riders as I passed them.  

I got to Special Needs with an average of about 15.84 miles, which was very, very good for me (considering the hills).  

During training, when I'd be out in the middle of nowhere Minnesota, I'd stop at one of the many Casey's -- a gasoline station/convenience store combo -- located throughout the state.  The pitstops allowed me to use the bathroom, get more water/gatorade and food.  I found that plain, boring dull turkey sandwiches were morphed in to super delicious, best meal I'd had in hours, morsels of goodness.  Besides filling my belly, I discovered during those training rides that I tolerated them very well as I continued the ride.  No GI distress; no nauesa; no problems.

When packing my  IM WI  bike bag, I decided to pack half a turkey sandwich, which I DEVOURED when I got to special needs.   It was perfect.  I had gotten a little tired of the Fig Newtons/Bonk Breakers/Gummis nutrition plan.  Having something different -- and tested -- to eat was great.

Although I had a tiny nag in my head about the second loop (and I remembered all too well how lousy I felt  pulling out of special needs and riding towards the second loop in 2010), I told that nag to shut up and I pedaled off with some confidence.

I was wearning a GPS device from  This allowed people to find me all along the course.  It was great for Natalie, Warren and Lance, because they could find me on the course to see me a number of times.  It was a GREAT boost to see them and have them cheer for me.

I stopped a couple of times on the second loop. Once to get water to refill some nutrition; twice to quickly stretch my back.  But the second loop went astonishingly well.

By the time I hit the turn back on to Whalen to go back in to Madison, was smiling from ear to ear.  I had really ridden well and was confident that my bike time would be much better, which would afford me more time on the run.

The only slightly unfortunate part about the ride back was that we headed straight in to a headwind for most of the last seven miles....but again, since I had trained in wind all summer, this was less of an issue for me than I had feared.

I rode back in to transition 7 hours, 29 minutes and 53 seconds after leaving it. One hour and one minute FASTER than I rode in 2011.

My friends Gary, Marcia and Marty were volunteering in the T2 bag area, so I got big cheers from them as I came in to change for the run.

Marcia came in to the change area with me and helped me get set up (dry clothes, water belt, etc).   I started out for the run but had enough time that I stopped for a quick, three minute massage focused on my lower back.  H E A V E N.

Then out the door, porta potty break and on to the run.   I saw Warren, Natalie and Lance right out of the gate, chatted with them as I walked along and then broke in to my (hoped) 3 minute run/1 minute walk routine. 

The night was still young!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Still livin' the dream.....Part I

I'm going to have to take down that Ironman Wisconsin countdown timer pretty soon.   It is sad to see that 16 days have passed since the race -- and funny (in that "gee, isn't the passing of time such a weird, ironic, I-don't-get-it"funny kind of way) that 16 days BEFORE the race, it seemed that the race would never get here and I was unsure about the day and the results.

And, yet, the day came and went and here I am.... still looking at my medal, my shirt and my hat to make sure that I actually did cross the finish line this year.  

I did, and I'm damn proud of it!

Honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better day.  Okay.... if I was pressed, it would have been nice for less wind on the bike course, but given the fact that it was hot, humid and windy all flipping summer, I had plenty of practice riding in to the teeth of the wind.  The biggest bummer on the wind front was that I lost some mph on some nice down hills on the section of Witte Road and it also was a little bit of a grind coming back in to the city.  

But really, the temperature was perfect; it was sunny but not enough to melt you; Lake Monona was calm and extremely comfortable; the evening was a perfect night for a 26.2 mile run.

Race morning, Warren drove and he and Lance dropped me and Natalie off at the Terrace while they parked the car.   Natalie and I wandered through the crowd so I could drop off my special needs bags.... and then we reconnected with Warren and Lance.  They all waited for me while I got body marked and went in to transition to fill up my bottles with Infinit and bento box with Bonk Breakers, fig newtons and gummi bears. 

I felt pretty calm and everything was very routine.  This is key component of my entire day.  "Routine".  I had been in Madison a lot over the year and had done plenty of swimming (including 2.4 miles in Lake Monona at the Madison Open Water swim) and rode that dang bike course -- forward and backward --about a million times AND ran on the marathon course -- especially the sections that had given me trouble in the past that everything felt entirely normal, comfortable and "usual". 

Once my wetsuit was on, we all went down to the swim start.   I eventually got in the line of athletes getting ready to get in to the water.   I edged my way in to the water, but found a spot on the side where I could just stand for a while.  There was still plenty of time before the pros started (at 6:50 am), so I felt no need to get in to the water only to tread and get hyped up. 

I chatted with a woman from Colorado who had the same plan as me -- wait until we really 'had' to get in to the water.  She looked to be older than me (I always take heart in that....) and seemed to be pretty confident that her day would go well.  I wish I had gotten her name -- although I did check the results and there was at least one woman from Colorado, older than me, that finished.  I am hoping it was her.

The pros took off and I waited another little bit of time and then got in to the water.   I found a nice spot to just tread water and wait that was closer to the shore and more towards the front the group of swimmers.  Not that I'm fast:  I wanted to try to take advantage of the drag from others in front of me.

Mike Reilly, who announces at most of the Ironman events, does a lot of revving up the athletes and spectators before, during and after the race.  When he asked "Who is going to be an Ironman today?", this was the first year that I said "I am" and I actually thought it was possible.  Although I was a little worried about the run cutoffs getting to me again this year.... I was pretty confident that all would be well. 

BOOM -- the cannon went off and so did 2,400 plus swimmers.  I'm used to getting jostled for the first 5 or 10 minutes of the swim, so that was really nothing new.  I just swam, settled in to my stroke, and watched the scene on the shoreline pass by as I turned to breathe. 

The swim course was changed to just one loop this year (in years past, it was a two-loop course).  The first turn buoy -- the famous MOO buoy-- came up pretty quickly for me and I was still in a pack of people.   The turn is called the Moo buoy because, traditionally, swimmers will lift their heads out of the water and MOO as loud as they can before starting the next swim leg.   I think that is a blast, and I just mooed my little heart out. 

The second turn came and now I was on the third and longest leg of the swim.  It seemed to go on forever.  I breathe to my right side, so I swim on the inside of the buoys so it is easier for me to site.  I kept thinking "oh, there is the next turn buoy".  Nope.  Kept swimming.  "Okay, there.  I see it now".  Nope.  Kept swimming.  "Now?"  Nope.  "Jeezus.  Where is that buoy????"  Swim, swim, swim.  

Eventually it did appear on the horizon and we made a quick jog back toward shore, with one eventual turn left again to swim in the stretch.  Again, because I breathe to the right, this was a leg I liked because I could watch the shore go by. 

Got out of the water at 1:42:09 -- slightly slower than I wanted, but well within my tolerance.  (As a side note, my awesome, rocking coach, Greg Rhodes, who was also doing IM WI, got out of the water in 53 minutes.  Yes.  53 minutes

Warren, Natalie and Lance were right near the swim exit, so I got to give them a big smile as I ran to the wetsuit strippers.   On my way, I saw the rest of the Imoo Crew (Gary, Marcia and Marty).  Once in the wetsuit removal area,  I looked for my friends Mike and Jenny Wimmer, who were volunteering.  I got to them, and then pulled off my wetsuit in a jiffy and sent me on my way up the helix.

Running up the helix, I saw Cathy Yndestad and some of my friends from the place I trained last year.   Big boost to see all of them.... ran in to transition, got changed and trotted off to my bike.  Got on, got out and started my ride. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

I am an Ironman!

Short and simple today, while I still try to unwind from yesterday.

I FINALLY crossed the finish line at Ironman Wisconsin.  Finish time was 16:06 -- five minutes slower than I had thought I would BUT well within the 17:00 hour time frame.

I was 49th out of 58 women in my age group that finished.  (Yes, this means that I was not last -- even in my own age group!) 

I am thrilled and still trying to have it all settle in.

Most of the day was great (the swim and the bike).   I got nauseous on the run (which seems to happen to alot of IM competitors)..... but was never even close to worrying about a cut-off time.


I will post details soon.....

THANKS again to everyone that supported me through this wild and wiley journey!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

It takes a village....

It is 8:23 pm on Saturday, September 8th.  

I'm sitting in the living room of the 1-bedroom room at the Residence Inn that has been my home since Thursday.  Warren is here.....arrived today after competing in his Nationals tournament for the Golf Channel Amateur Tour.  

The Imoo Crew (aka friends Natalie, Lance, Marcia, Gary, Marty and Mark) shared a pot-luck dinner with us tonight in the room -- a collective of food shared, stories told and support given.

Despite the thunder and lightening now, tomorrow is supposed to be a great day for an Ironman and, at 7:00 am, I'll be starting the swim and working myself toward the finish line, where I will be sometime before midnight.

This is my 3rd attempt.....and, right now, I'm a combination of confidence and fear.  Peace and anxiety.  Prepared and wondering where in the heck the training season went and WHY the date got here as fast as it did.

I can say, though, that I trained very hard this year.   I rode through heat, humidity, wind and rain.  I ran at night, in the dark, after work when I was tired.  I swam a lot; I tried a lot of new things (races/techniques/plans).   So.............all I need to do now is work my plan; stay in the box and keep moving.

The other REAL FACT is that, although I put in the training time, I certainly did not get here all by myself.  I want to acknowledge some of the very important "villagers" who helped me more than they can possibly know:

My Coach -- Greg Rhodes.   After a two year hiatus, we worked together again this year and I could not be happier.  He is a terrific athlete, a wonderful coach that really knows and cares about his athletes, and I'm proud to be able to call him my friend.   He knew when to ratchet things up and what to say to calm me down.  I'm fit; I'm strong and I'm ready.  THANK YOU!     He is also racing tomorrow and I'll be sending good vibes his way all day.

My Hubby -- Warren:  You put up with a lot of stuff this summer. Many weekends where we saw very litte of each other --  thank heavens golf rounds take a lot of time too; a lot of meals alone.  Still, you encouraged me; you ran with me; you pushed me.   You excused me for not being able to make Couples League rounds;  You sent me merrily on my way for training weekends.   You love me (a job in itself).   And I love you!

My Long Distance Training Partner In Crime:  Natalie.  Nothing will ever replace the training seasons we had when we trained for Chicago Marathon, Pigman 1/2 iron, Ironman Wisconsin (round 1 for me) or any of the hundreds of other races we've done together.  BUT, the next best thing is email and texting and you were there for me every step of the journey.  I'm excited to see you PR your 1/2 marathon races this fall and look forward to our new adventures.... maybe Rio?

My ever-training friends:  Marcia, Gary, Cheryl, Mary; My new training friends:  Stephanie, Mark, Jeff.  It is wonderful to have friends that enjoy this sport as much as I do.  I love comparing notes, training plans, nutrition plans, tri community gossip and workouts with you all.

*Cathy Yndestad -- one of my triathlete heros:  When I was running at Minneman sprint this year, I heard someone from behind me say "Great Job, Amy" and then Cathy blazed by.   She went on to win the long course race.   She, while trying to win her on race, had the kindness of spirit, to encourage me as I plodded along.  She is -- and always has been -- one class act.
*The Gunthers --  Helen and Steve:  You open your hearts, home and pontoon boat to all of us.  You both have been nothing but supportive of me, offering friendship and encouragement
*Greta, Julia, Micha, Steve and Pharmie:  Superstars all.  I've learned from all of you.

Dave Cameron:  without your help, I'd still be swimming 100 yds as 25 free, 25 side, 25 back and 25 breast.  I appreciate your coaching and your stories.

Swim Lane friends:  Eric, Shannon, Digby, Joe, Shaun.   Glub glub and thank you!

My webfriends:  Mike and Jenny Wimmer.  What can I say about you two except:  YOU ARE BOTH AWESOME!   Your encouragement, humor and support have been unparalleled.  
Beth K:   your smile, your determination, your strength inspires me every time I see you.   Rich V.S:  it was always great to see you at races.  You always had some thing funny to say to encourage me along. WIBA friends: Rob, Tonia, Lynn and Sharon:  So nice to connect with you this year and to share a ride or two.  Race well tomorrow.

My club run friends:  Patrick, Bev, Joe, Lela, Mike, Mary, Mark, Kathy.  Always full of advice, encouragement and wisdom.    Best advice came from Joe:  Read "Iron War".  Thank you.

My siblings -- my neices -- my cousins --  my Facebook friends old and new --  thanks for listening to my boring training stroies, reading my status and giving me the old "like".

I am SURE that I've forgotten some names.....I'll remember them tomorrow about mile 75 on the bike.  Or mile 17 on the run. 

Just know, no matter what the final outcome is tomorrow, that I really appreciate you all for what you've done but most of all, I love you all for who you are.

Good night!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day Two: Conversations with Demons

After finising the stick and one loop on Saturday, I felt pretty good.   I also thought I had an "easy" workout for Sunday:  a simple six mile run along parts of the marathon course that is generally pretty quiet and where, in the past, little nagging demon voices have chattered in my ear about how nice it would be to just stop and have Starbucks.  (Which, unfortunately, I did do in 2011, right after passing mile 14.....iditot me.)

But no.  By the time I got back to my hotel from Monona Terrace, my Coach had sent me a text with a revised training plan.  Sunday now called for a two loop bike ride and a 40 minute run.

Say what?

"Two loops and a 40-minute run".

Strangely, those little demons found me at the Residence Inn!  "Hmmmmm.  But I have to check out of the hotel!  I have to drive all the way back to Minneapolis!  I only HAD a one hour long thing and now I have a several (much harder) hour long thing!"

Enter stage left:  The good demons:  "Time to nut up", they said.

So I went to the Front Desk of the hotel and extended my stay for one more night.  (I had no intention of staying on Sunday night, but knew that I would not be back to the hotel to shower and change before check-out time (even late check-out time).  A nice feature of staying at the hotels out in Middleton is that, when you check in for Ironman, you get a coupon that is good for 11-months after Ironman.  If you go back to Madsion during that time and stay at one of the participating hotels, you get a room for 50% to 65% off.  It was worth it to me to spend very little money to extend my stay past check out time so I could get in my ride and run, have a nice shower, a little nap and then head back to Minneapolis).

I started my ride from Verona on Sunday.  The first loop was pretty uneventful, which is always good.  As I was headed toward Midtown Road (that last yucky hill), SOMEONE (either me or my demons) was yacking at me about how nice it would be to just do one loop.  "Why did I have to do two?  I knew the course... I had a successful day yesterday and the loop this morning was fine.  Why not just call it a day?"

The good demons responded:  "HEY!  is the bike course just one little loop?  NO.  Think of how great it will be to complete 150 miles of biking over the weekend.  Think of how strong you'll feel!  How confident!  Nut up!"

This little tete-a-tete went on until I got back to Verona.  I got off the bike, listened to the arguments for a few more minutes while I refueled and refilled water bottles. Then I got back on the bike and started loop two.

HURRAH for good demons!

The second loop had a different set of challenges:
1) I got stung by a bee.  It flew under my helmet.  At first I didn't realize it was a bee. I thought I got clunked on the head by an acorn.  I kept peddaling and the bee kept releasing venom into my head.  I finally stopped and pulled my helmet off.   There the little bugger was...dead as a doornail.  Fortunately, I am not that allergic so nothing horrible happened that day.  (The next following days, however, my forehead swelled, then the swelling sunk in to my eyes and nose.  I eventually had to see the doctor who perscribed an antibiotic and Claritn....).
2) My pace slowed down quite a bit.  DRAT.  I am blaming some of this on heavy training on both Friday and Saturday.  But I also know that this will happen on race day.  I am just not hoping for a big drop in pace.
3)  My tush got plenty sore (again, nothing new).
4)  I did not want to run after the ride.  Uh oh.

I got back to Verona, got off the bike and my legs were not happy about having to run.   Very not happy.

Then it hit me.   I've been here before.  I remember what this is like.  This will be a challenge.

Trust me.  I've done plenty of bricks.  I've done plenty of training races.   My legs start turning over just fine (eventually). 

This was different and yet strangely familiar.   This is my Ironman challenge.  Getting to move on the marathon course.

I got my shoes on and started my trot.  Got about 100 yards and walked.  Uh oh.

Walked for a bit and then tried to run some more.  Nope.  Walked.

I finally did my body check-in.  Were my legs really tired?  (, not really).  Was I really tired?  (A little but not really).  Then what was it? 

Oh....... my brain.   My silly brain was telling me that it was time to quit. 

"Nut up, brain."

I just clunked along for the 40-mintues.  It wasn't pretty and it wasn't fast, but  -- finally -- it was done.

I loaded up the car, got back to the hotel; showered, ate, napped and got on the road about 7:00 pm. 

Over the weekend, I completed 2.4 miles of swimming; 150 miles of biking and 2 hours 10 mintues of running.   Go me.

This was probably the best dress rehearsal I've had for race day. I'm glad that I went back to that old, familiar "give up" place and didn't. I now remember what I'll be up against on race day, and I've been working on mental strategies to get past it.

Physically I'm ready.  Those nagging demons don't know what they are up against this year.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Big Weekend Review

So, here we are:  18 days away from Ironman Wisconsin. 

Training is almost over -- just a couple more and then it is taper and travel time.  

Last weekend was my last training weekend on the course.   I've trained on the course every month since April, so by now, I know it pretty much inside and out.   Last weekend marked the "biggie" for my training time there.  

I did hill repeats up and over Observatory Hill on Friday night.  I went along the Lakeshore path from Memorial Union out to Marsh Drive.  Then I turned around, hit the turn on to Babcock, up the flipping hill, back down Bascom (no Lincoln did not stand up....) and back out to Babcock. Repeat.  Several times.   At the end of the final loop, I ran up to Gilman Street and then back to Lake Street.   I felt pretty good and confident.

Saturday was the Madison Open Water Swim.  I was in the 2.4 wetsuit division along with 293 other close, personal friends.  (Actually, only two friends:  My Coach, who came in 1st place, swimming the course in just over 54 minutes, and another friend from my Masters swim group). 

I swam only okay.  Because the summer and the lakes have been so warm, I've done all of my tri events and most of my open water practice swims in my "swim skin", not my wetsuit.   I wanted to do this event in my wetsuit because by the time September 9th gets here, the water temps will be just cold enough that I'll need the warmth.  I also want/like the buoyancy that the wetsuit provides in the chaos of open water swimming with 2,499 of my close, Ironman friends. 

I forgot, though, how different it is to swim in the wetsuit.  My positioning got all befuddled and my form got squishy on the last quarter of the swim.   It took a lot of concentration to get it back together, which cost me some time.  All in all, I swam the course in just a touch over a minute slower than I did in 2011.  This was "okay", but I wasn't the happiest with my time.   I'll be doing more wetsuit swimming over the next couple of weeks to try to get back in to rhythm.

After the swim and awards, my Coach asked me to coffee, so we walked up to Starbucks on the Square, ordered, and sat outside and talked about the strategy for next couple of weeks and Ironman week.

Then he had a run planned for his day and I was supposed to do the full bike course (112 miles).  I went back to Monona Terrace, changed in to my cycling clothes and got on my bike.  I noticed that my bike computer was not registering any numbers.   I really wanted to know my speed/distance, etc. for the ride.  Especially THIS ride. 

I was close enough to the Terrace, that I turned my bike around and headed over to Machnery Row (a SUPER AWESOME bike store).   They looked at the computer, tried to fix it and nothing was registering.   I ended up buying a new one -- had them install it and then, finally, about 2 1/2 hours behind schedule, I started my bike ride.

The ride out to Verona (aka "the stick") was totally uneventful.  I actually like the route now.  I've got landmarks that I like to see (Irish Lane; the first and second stop sign; Verona's water tower in the distance). 

The loop wasn't too terrible.  I know where the big hills are; I know where the REALLY big hills are; I know the flats where I can just sit in aero and push a little. 

There is a detour on the route right now, though.  Construction along Highway 92 in to Mount Horeb pushes riders along another route.  When I was in Madison in July, I took one of the alternative routes, which was loaded with hills.  Last weekend, I rode the second alternative route, and, although it too was hill, wasn't quite as bad.

It was almost 4:00 pm when I got in to Mount Horeb.  I had only eaten breakfast (before the swim) and some of my solid bike nutrition by this point.  I was very hungry, so I stopped at the Kwik Trip and got a turkey sandwich.   Ate that, filled up water bottles and went along my way.

Again, I have visuals along the route that I like to see:  the turn off to Messerschmidt;  Mount Horeb; the beautiful high point before turning on to Garfoot Road; Cross Plains.....then the dreaded quarry.

The quarry in and of itself is not the dreaded part.  It is Old Sauk Pass -- the first of the really big three hills -- that is the dreaded part. 

I've ridden that (those) hills what feels to be a billion times this year.  Sometimes it is easier to get up them than others, but it is never easy.  Still, I know what to expect. 

After Old Sauk, comes a short burst of relatively flat and then Timber Lane -- a quarter mile of steep uphill fun.  Other hills may be longer, but this little bugger is a royal pain to get up.  I typically just get in to my granny gear and pedal up.

After that little fun fest, comes a nice stretch of flat and downhills..... ahhhhhhhhh....... recovery.......Until that last little turn and you see Midtown Road, the last of the three big hills.  This one has been a challenge for me in the past.   It isn't a straight hill.  You start going up angling towards the right, then there is sort of a sharp turn to the left.   You can't ride the tangents particularly easily because of traffic coming down the hill.... so it is a grind, grind, grind.  At the top of the hill is a section of false flats, which lull you in to thinking you can just relax and recover, but, no, you still have to gear down and pedal hard. 

FINALLY, you turn to the right and get some relief.  The final five mile stretch of the loop is down a nice, shady section and then you pop out on a flat section of the road where you can pedal comfortably while you look for Verona's watertower....

I got to the end of the 1st loop about 6:00 or so.   I knew that I would not be able to finish riding a second loop before the sun went down.  I was not willing to risk riding on country roads in the dark, wearing dark clothing. 

So, I texted my Coach and told him I was only doing the one loop, and went rode in to Madison.

I felt good after the ride -- thought it was successful.

The original plan called for me to run 6 miles of the marathon course on Sunday morning.  But, with my shorter bike ride, my ever-thinking (scheming) Coach had other plans for me......

Sunday's ride:  coming tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Final Four

No, not basketball teams.

I just got my plan from my Coach for the final four weeks of training before IM WI week.

Yippie Skippie!

The next two to two and a half weeks have some pretty heavy volumes, long distances and long hours.  For example, I'm doing a 20 mile run tonight.  Yes, tonight -- starting at 6:00 pm and ending sometime after 10:00 pm.

While some may think that this is totally crazy, there is a lot of logic to it.  For Ironman, I won't be on the run course until late, late, late afternoon.   I'll be tired and I'll be running as the sun sets and well in to the night. 

So for training, why NOT run after work (when I'm tired) and well in to the night?  Good mental and physical practice for sure.

I also have my last tri before Ironman this week on Sunday.  I'm doing the YWCA Women's sprint tri -- (500 yard swim; 15.5 mile bike; 3.1 mile run).  Super simple; super fun.  Well organized race full of women of all ages, sizes and shapes.  Incredibly welcoming to the first-timers.....

That is my morning.  I get to follow that by 70 miles of additional time in the saddle....all in a (Sun)day's work. 

Next weekend, I go back to Madison for my last training preview before Ironman.  On Saturday, I'll do the Madison Open Water swim (2.4 miles) and follow that up with 120 miles on the bike.  I'll ride the full Ironman course and then add on a few extra miles to get to 120.  Sunday will be an "easy" six miles on the part of the course where I've struggled the most mentally. 

Then I finally get to start to think about tapering.... there will still be lots of miles and effort, but there will be a hint of winding down. 

The last long effort is scheduled for Sunday, September 2nd, where I have to get in 75 mile of riding followed by a short run between 2 and 4 miles.  Hubby will be in Florida for his golf tournament and I'll be at home, mentally shoring up to leave for Madison on Thursday, September 6th.......

It really is just right around the corner.

Friday, August 3, 2012


August 3rd.  THIRD!

This summer -- okay, this year -- has been just whipping by.  

A year ago at this time, the idea that I'd be at a different job -- that Hubby would be displaced from his job -- was nowhere on our radar screens.  Not even a blip.  Today, I'm at that (very) different job and he is spending a lot of time on the golf course and watching the Olympics inbetween interviews.  (Color me JEALOUS).

Less than a year ago, I was excitedly putting together my 2012 race scheudule, which included 14 events.  Today, I have three events left before Ironman Wisconsin.


The good news is that training has been going well.   I'm putting in the time.  I continue to be injury free.  As with most of us across the country, the weather here has been unbelieveably hot and humid, so sessions are hard physically and mentally.  (Please, though, Triathlon Gods, work your magic so that September 9th is a nice, overcast, low dewpoint day with a high in the mid-70s and no wind.....)

Bib numbers were posted earlier this week.  Mine is 994, which feels like a very good number indeed. 

Those of us training for Imoo are in the midst of our peak volume/mileage weeks now.  This has meant for some very long nights for me.  For example, I had a 50 mile ride on Tuesday night and a 16 mile run on Wednesday night.    I get home from work, change, putz (and gripe) for a bit and then hit the trails. 

Because I'm a slower athlete, I'm getting back home about 10:00 pm, eating a little dinner, showering, watching the last 15 minutes of Olympics coverage and then its bedtime. 

I have a brick workout tonight (30 mile bike tonight followed with an 8 mile run) and then a 100 mile ride tomorrow (Tour d Tonka).  Sunday will be "light" -- 5 mile run and 2000 yards in the water.   (My most excellent friend and training partner-in-crime, Natalie, will be here this weekend, so we'll run together on Sunday, which will be a super treat). 

And so it goes until about August 29th, when taper kicks in.

I'm not complaining.  I asked for this.   Once I'm out the door and on the bike or trotting down the path or in the water, I actually enjoy the time and the training.  I've seen some great sunsets and other breathtaking views; even got to make "friends" with three deer that were munching on someone's lawn on Tuesday night as I rode by.  (I had to stop and watch for a while.   I really love deer.)

I will say that it is hard to fit every thing in artfully.  Sleep, friends, chores, "stuff" all have to get squeezed in around work (and my new inflexible hours -- ugh) and training. 

I can also tell it is peak time in that I'm hungry all the time and getting a little crabby. 

But I asked for this when I signed up to do the race.... and there is a finite time to go, so.... I just keep shuffling forward.

I have also been very happy with how things are working between me and my Coach.   We have a very good working relationship and the plan he has carved out for me is challenging.  He has also been great in communicating encouragement and recommendations right at the right time. 

Doing the majority of my training on my own probably will work to my advantage this year too.   Although there will be alot of others out there on the course, it really does boil down to just me, my feet, my heart and my head out there working to try to come in under 17 hours.

Which brings me to my last update: I've been working more on the mental aspects of racing.   I read "Iron War", which fictionalized account or not, is a great read.  I'm in the middle of "A Life Without Limits" and have learned through both books that  every one hurts at somepoint during Ironman -  -- even Chrissie Wellington, Mark Allen and Dave Scott.   

I found some great tips for getting though the bumps (and dark places) and have been practicing them during training and events too.   One I really like is to remember that the event will unfold in circles.  At the top of the circle, you'll feel great.  As time goes on, it may feel tougher (the bottom of the circle), but eventually, the circle completes, as you feel better and get back to the "top".  The truth is that I'll probably go through lots of circles on race day, but just being able to visualize moving through the bottom and back up to the top should help.

So..... it feels like it is all coming together -- bit by bit.  While I'm still nervous the cutoffs I know I have the endurance to do it. 

For now, I'm just going to keep shuffling foward toward race day. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

They Lie.

Or, the truth about the Ironman Wisconsin bike course, as viewed through the eyes of a real person.

First, let me just acknowledge that it has been a long, long time since I've posted.  So long ago, in fact, it was probably snowing, since it was FEBRUARY.

It is now late June.   Only eleven weeks to go until Ironman Wisconsin.  Time has been FLYING and will continue to just clip along now, faster than Chrissie Wellington in aero.

Training has been going pretty well.  I'm getting in the miles, the yards and the hills.  I'm healthy and uninjured (a big plus over last year's continual Achilles issues that plagued me all summer).  I'm working well with my Coach and I'm having some fun.   These are all good things.

I've done some new things for training, including riding in one of the routes at Hillfest and doing the Nature Valley Grand Prix Gran Fondo ride in Menominee WI.  That was 65 miles of hilly, rain-soaked fun.  (Really!  It was!).  The highlight for me (and my bike) was scrambling over to the side of a huge, steep, soaking wet hill to get out of the way of the professional racers screaming down the hill at breakneck speeds.  It was awe-inspiring and confirmation -- yet again -- that much of what I'm doing for "fun" takes a lots of chutzpah and an attitude of no fear.  This for me, translates to having really good brakes.

I also have incorporated some training tactics that I've used in the past.  For example, I just got back from a really great training weekend called Wisconsin Brick Adventure or WIBA.  The weekend is hosted by a team of EVOTRI athletes, who share their knowledge and expertise with the rest of us FOR FREE.  (Well, we have to pay for our hotel and our meals, but considering some IM weekend camps cost as much as $800.00, -- which, by the by is more than the current IM registration fee,  FREE is a bargain). 

This is my third year attending WIBA.   Natalie (IM Godess that she is) and I went in 2010 when we were both in training and I've been back every year since then. 

We spend the weekend swimming, riding and running the course.  We share stories and training trips with each other.  We brag or complain about past races.  We worry and fret about the upcoming race. I've met some very nice people at WIBA that have turned out to be good friends.  It is a great weekend.

To kick off the event, we all meet at a local Madison restaurant to share a meal and to hear a course preview talk.

I've heard this preview presentation three times now.  The guy giving the presentation is a rock star (aka Kona qualifier) triathlete.   He is young and vigorous and apparently has a Vo2 that rivals Lance's.  I admire him a great deal, but he is a liar.

Okay, maybe not a liar liar, but he tells triathlon fibs about the course.  Okay, so maybe not fibs, but his perspective, coming from a Kona qualifing, "I'm-enjoying-the-post-race-buffet-while-you-are-still-out-there-slogging-away-on-the-course" is really much different than mine.

He is not the only one to spin a few yarns about IMoo's bike course.   Granted, most course descriptions are written by folks that finish the race well before the midnight cut-off.

So, for all the rest of you regular people that will take longer than 12-hours to finish IM Wisconsin, let me tell you the truth about a couple of the lies we've been told:

Lie:  "The Stick is flat".  Ha.  The stick, which is the 15-mile portion of the bike course from Monona Terrace out to Verona is not flat.  

While it is much flat-ER than the loop (which we'll get to shortly), it is definitely not flat.   On the way out, there are some rollers that just may trigger the following thought:   "What the hell was I thinking when I swiped that credit card and signed up for this?"  After riding two loops (we are getting to that, I promise), you have to ride the stick back in, where there are at least two long, not-very-pretty hills.   So when they tell you that the stick is flat, don't you believe it.

Lie:  "The trick to riding the hills on the loop is to just relax and spin up them." (See!  I told you we'd get to the loop!).    Here is what I have to say about this: HA! 

"Just spin up" is triathlon's equivalent of "just say no".  While it may be true that some  -- maybe many -- young, gifted athletes with legs as strong as tree trunks can just make a couple of clicks down on the cassette and then merrily spin their feet around the pedals, MOST of us regular people can't get in to a gear low enough to "spin" up the four big hills on the loop.  I'm clicked all the way down in to the small ring up front and the last one on the back and it is still a grind, grind, grind up those hills.  But, grind we must and it is all okay.  Just don't be taken in by the idea that you can actually "spin" up those hills.

Now that I've burst your bubble about the bike course, let me tell you a couple of true things: the course, while challenging, has its rewards and is just beautiful.  

After every hard climb, there is an equal reward that comes from cruising down the backside of the big hill.  This gives you some time to catch your breath, lower your heart rate and helps to remind you that you are doing some thing pretty remarkable. 

The views around you all along the course are truely amazing.  The views from the vistas, the wonderful farm land, the colors, are all just breathtaking.  Take it in;  send a little note of gratitude; and enjoy, for Wisconsin really is God's country (says the woman from Milwaukee). 

Are the hills worth the ride and the effort?  Yes (says the woman that has yet to complete the race by midnight).  Each time I've ridden the course, I've learned some thing new about it and myself.  And, while I may not have perfected spinning up those hills, I am getting better at getting up them more efficiently, and I sure enjoy the views.

That ain't no lie.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quick catch up

A short post to check in.

I've had a couple of good, mostly solid training weeks. I'm in the last phase of build before "official" Ironman training starts and in some ways I feel strong and prepared.

My endurance is good (meaning I can make it though a 5 hour ride on the bike trainer) and swim distance is going well.

In other ways, I'm wondering how much progress I'm really making. My running pace has slowed back down. I'm doing strength training but don't necessarily feel any stronger. My coach is having me do long runs on Thursday evenings so I'll be a little tired from the day and will run in the dark (similar to what will happen during the Ironman). I ran 8 last Thursday and still felt like I had lead in my legs on Saturday morning when I ran 6.5.

I'm just going to keep going and logging time in the pool, saddle, shoes and gym and have a little faith in my body to do what I'm asking it to do. (It may not LIKE it, but it can get though it!)

A observation I wanted to share:

I went to a swim technique and breakfast event about a week ago. The session was set up so the the first 45 minutes was a regular workout and the second 45 minutes was a set of technique drills. I swam in the slow lane with four other women.

The folks leading the class reorganized the lanes for the drill session in order to spread the entire group out a little more evenly. The other four women I was swimming with were moved over to different lanes and a bunch of the faster folks came in to my lane. There was no rhyme or reason to how the switches were made, the movement of people was very random.

The looks of horror on the faces of the faster swimmers being told to move down to my lane was pretty interesting. Most looked as if they had been sentenced to a Hard Labor Camp in Siberia. Or that they were being asked to swim where the water was contaminated with slow germs.

Most of the faster swimmers had not done the drill sets. I had taken a class led by the same instructors where all we DID were the drill sets. When the faster swimmers had questions about what to do, they asked each (equally as clueless) other rather than asking me or the instructor.

I found this fascinating.

I'm sort of "used" to this faster versus slower hierarchy from running. It is s funny how so many faster runners act like slower runners are "different" and not in a good way. (Well, we are different. We are slower.... yet, we still run the same way (right foot, left foot; right foot, left foot).

Yet, the great debate over whether or not folks that are slower runners or run/walkers "cheapen" events rages on. (Still don't quite understand how my taking 5 plus hours to run a marathon impacts in any way any one who runs marathons in less than 5 hours....).

I may be more aware of this now because I'm considering running with a running group again to help me prep for Fargo 1/2 marathon. This is the same running group I used to run with a few years ago, but without the slower pace group. (For a variety of reasons, the slower paced folks dropped out of this club -- so the club now is pretty speedy and talented.).

I know that I need the discipline of the group to push me. I'm excited to run with some new people that can challenge me. AND I'm concerned about looking and feeling like the old, fat slow person....with the Ironman dreams.

Time to just suck it up.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hello Cheryl!

Last night, Hubby and I shared a lovely dinner at Buca with some of our closest running friends. Buca is an Italian eatery known for its huge, family style portions.... deeeeelicious food, fun atmosphere. We don't go there a lot -- usually just for special occasions.

What was the occasion you ask?

Most of us that bellied up to the table were kicking off our 2012 triathlon seasons by doing the Tri U Mah indoor triathlon today.

Tri U Mah has been around for eight years. I've done it every year. In fact, it was my first triathlon ever! It consists of 30 minutes each of swimming, biking and running with 10 minute transitions. What ever distance you cover during the segments is your distance for the race. It is held at the University of Minnesota's Aquatic Center, which has a terrific pool.

Heats are small -- limited to for each, so athletes get their own swim lane (AWESOME) and then we ride on stationary bikes and run on treadmills.

It is a very welcoming event and -- because it is held in February -- it is a perfect reminder for us in Minnesota that triathlon season will indeed be here before we know it.

More about the event in a bit. First, back to Buca:

It had been a while since I'd seen some of my running/tri friends. Work, travel and the holidays kept us all busy since about November. I'd been running a bit with Gary and Marcia, but hadn't connected with Mary, Cheryl or Derek much since the end of 2011.

Everyone at dinner would be doing the tri --except Derek, who has become a CrossFit enthusiast, and Mary, who would be spending the morning today doing a run and yoga with her beaux, Jim.

It was great to share the meal and to catch up. If you've ever been part of a running group or trained with others over a long period of time, you know how important your partners become to you. You are all out there, day in and day out, good weather and bad weather, getting ready for great events and events that don't quite go your way.

The folks at dinner have been part of my core training group for many years. We've done marathons, triathlons, bike events and lots of training events over the years. They've encouraged me to go further than I thought I could and put up with me when I was in less than a happy mood at about mile 22 of a training run or event. I love them all.

At one point during dinner, Cheryl said to me: "So when are you going to update your blog?"

"Huh? Someone actually still reads my blog? Wow".

I've been very lackadaisical about updating my blog. Mostly because the end of last year was such a topsy turvy one, not knowing the outcome of my job; feeling a bit let down because I bailed on Iornman; and other just general 'blah' stuff.

I didn't have much to report and so I didn't. And, honestly, the behavior sort of lined up with another behavior habit I've acquired since last fall. I think the technical term is "half-assed". I've been training at a half-assed level; I've been logging my training on a half-assed basis; I've been watching my nutrition on a half-assed basis. I've been mentally challenging myself on a half-assed level.

So when Cheryl asked me the question, I perked up a little bit.

"Hmmmm.... Maybe I should get back at it".

So, here I am blogging.....and realizing that it's now only a few months until Liberty 1/2 iron and then only a few months to Ironman. So, accountability on all fronts (full-assed, maybe) is important now.

So thanks, Cheryl. I appreciate you more than you know.

Back to Tri U Mah: I did okay, but did not PR (see above for half-assed training efforts comment. You get what you train for and, although I was swimming, biking and riding, it was more leisurely (half-assed) than it should have been). I swim .848 miles, biked 8.08 miles and ran 2.59 miles for a total of 11.508. Not sure yet where this puts me in my Age Group. Definitely was an eye opener that it is time to actually put in the time.....

Chery, Marcia, Gary, Angel, Rick, Jumper, and Bev also did well today.

My biggest cheers, though, go to Hubby. This was his second Tri U Mah, fourth indoor triathlon. Truth be told, he isn't a big fan of the water. Or better said, being IN the water. (He loves boating and sailing. It is the swimming that he could take or leave). Once he is done with the swim, he is fine. He is a good biker and a good runner, so today, he once again, mastered the beast known as The Pool and had a great showing at Tri U Mah.

I'm so proud of him I could just squeeze him! I think I will.