Friday, December 1, 2017

Space Coast Half Marathon

November 26, 2017
Half Marathon #78
5th and final year of the Big Bang Series - Intergalatic Challange

While I love this race, and the course, I am happy this is my last year for a while. The race was not what I wanted. I knew it wasn't going to be fast (I just wasn't in the shape I needed to be for that), but I was hoping to run it in around 2 hours. That wasn't to be. I think with my back issues, it's time to adjust my thinking on how I go about training and racing.

Beautiful sunrise.

Race morning: I left the hotel at 4:15 am. Last year, my normal parking lot had been close to full when I left the hotel at 4:30. I knew there were more runners this year, so I didn't want to take any chances. I am so glad I did leave early, since I discovered as I was about to turn into the parking area, that it was closed off! OMG! I later discovered they were using it for parking for all the buses. I have always parked there and had no idea of where else to go. So, I drove down a couple of streets, followed some other cars into parking lots. On my third lot, I found the last spot! It happened to be a block from the starting line, opposite side from were I usually park. Instead of heading over to bag drop off, I just hung out in my car, walking over to the start line 15 minutes before the start. I got in with the 1:50 group, mostly because it was super crowded behind them and I didn't think I could squeeze in there. National anthem and the shuttle launch on the giant screen. We were off!

Right away I could tell my body wasn't up for "racing". My heart seemed to be working extra hard. So, after the first half mile, I pulled it back a bit. Based on my first mile time, I must have been running way to fast! I was still hoping for a time close to 2 hours, I just figured a sub 2 would probably not be in the cards for the day, if I was feeling this bad at the start of the race. The first few miles were very dark. I had to keep my eye on the ground in front of me. I really didn't want to fall! The sunrise was beautiful! The weather was pretty nice, too. I had a feeling it would warm up fast though and be hot for those marathoners. I ate some Honey Stinger chews at mile 5, stopping to walk briefly. Miles 1 to 5 - 8:54, 8:58, 8:51, 9:00, 9:15

At the turn around, I stepped off the road to stretch my legs. They were feeling really tight and heavy, like I had done a day of  "legs" at the gym the day before. My hips were getting really tight. Over the next few miles, I felt myself slowing down, even when I would try to push the pace. My legs did not want to lift! My hips were so out of wack that my gait was thrown off. The last miles were pretty painful. The only bright spots were seeing friends out on the course. After the turn, I kept my eye out for everyone that I new was running and called out to them when I saw them. I've never stopped at the lawn were the homeowners make mimosas, bloody marys and other drinks. I almost did on this day! But it was on the other side of the road and there were a bunch of runners between me and the drinks, so, I kept going. I did a lot of walk/running during those last few miles. Super happy to have crossed that finish line, completing another half marathon! Miles 6 to 13.1 - 9:44, 10:03, 10:22, 10:45, 12:21, 10:55, 11:00, 10:59, 1:59 (for.2)

Finish - 2:13:13

All the medals from the race series. (note: I didn't take this. :)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Myakka River Half Marathon

November 11, 2017
Half Marathon #77

I've wanted to run this half marathon, since it started 3 years ago, but something else was always happening that weekend. Even this weekend, I was signed up to run the Red Ribbon Half in Lakeland. But, I wasn't going to try and "race" it, so, the day before the race, I found out there was a pacer spot open for Myakka, so I took it! I've been wanting to try pacing again. I was set up to co-lead the 2:15 group, which would put my overall pace at 10:14 mins per mile. A bit faster then I had been running my long runs lately, but the weather forecast was looking cooler, so I knew I could do it.

Race morning, I headed out east, to park, then take the shuttle over to the State Park. I arrived just before 6am, checked in, got my bib and pacer pole, then hung out, waiting for the rest of the group to show up. Quite a few pacers where coming up from Cape Coral. They arrived around 20 minutes before race start! We got a group photo, then headed over to the starting area. The guy I was pacing with suggested I hold it the first half, then he would hold the sign the second half. hmm. We met some of the runners who wanted to keep our pace. At 6:45, we were off!

The first mile, it was hard to keep the pace, since we were all getting caught up in the excitement of running the race. Our pace was a little fast. I kept trying to slow us down. My other worry was that the many trees would block the GPS signal on my watch, so I kept asking my co-pacer, what his watch was showing. Just after mile 1, I asked him if we could switch up every mile, instead of the way he suggested doing it. I'll admit, I was a little put off by him for a bit. He was talking about himself a lot and telling everyone around us that this was his easy pace. As this was probably a struggle for some of them and a goal pace, I didn't think it was cool of him to keep saying that. We had a boy, 14, who was running with us. It was his first half. He was very excited. He kept saying how this was "the best day!" and then counting off the time and letting us know how much time we had left to run. I talked to him many times, to make sure he was fine, specially as we started to add on the miles. He didn't take water at the fist stop, concerned that it would make him go to the bathroom. He didn't have any nutrition or take any of the Honey Stinger gels, that were being handed out on the course. I was a little concerned for him. He said he had trained that way, so I had to just have faith that he knew what he was doing. He had a couch at school, so I hoped he had gotten some good training advice from that couch. He did fall back around mile 7.

The course is beautiful. Large lakes, with gators and many birds. Large oak trees, with branches out over the road, providing shade. There was one big grassy area, off to the left, were we saw a family of deer. My co-pacer handed me the pole and said he would meet us at the water table up ahead. He needed the porta-potty. As we watched him sprint away, we also saw a deer off to the left, start a sprint across the grassy area, curving towards the road and right towards the co-pacer! We yelled out to him to "watch out" We saw him stop short, raising his arms in the air, as the deer cut across the road right in front of him! It was crazy!

By mile 11, we were down to just a couple of runners with us. We would pass others, encouraging them to join us. Some of them would, or they would try to stay ahead of us, to keep to their goal. As we hit mile 13, we had no one with us! We slowed down, since we were about 30 seconds ahead of the 2:15 pace. As we ran toward the finish line, a woman who had been trying to keep with us, caught up, so we both encouraged he to push through, she could still finish in under 2:15. She did! And we came in just after her, with a time of 2:14:58. Pretty darn perfect!

I had a great time out there. I loved talking to the other runners and providing encouragement to them. I look forward to pacing again next year. :)

With Gina and Wendy after the race.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Augusta Half Ironman

September 24, 2017
Half Ironman #3

As race weekend approached, my desire to run or bike, was pretty low. Since it was taper week, I wasn't very worried about it. I did my last brick Wednesday night. I had a great ride, even though it got cut a little short due to heavy rain. On my 2 mile run, I fell, after my foot hit a bit of raised concrete on the sidewalk. Really!?!?! I can't believe this was happening a few days before the race! Even though I fell on my left side, skinned knee pretty bad, and hit my bad arm, I didn't hurt the area that was fractured. I figured that this was it for the week, besides my short swim in the Savannah River on Friday.
Wendy, Gina and I headed up to Augusta on Thursday morning. We arrived in the early evening, got checked in and unpacked then headed to dinner. The next morning, we met up with Sean, then headed to the expo, after a quick stop at Target. The expo was even smaller then last year. I was pretty good, only bought a Women for Tri visor, a race pin for my backpack and a race logo'd cotton tank top. That would get more use then the zoot one I bought last year. We hung out for the race info meeting, then headed to lunch at the Boll Weevil. The lunch was ok, but the desert was wonderful! I got the Mint Chocolate Cheese Cake. I saved most of it for after the race. It started pouring while we were eating lunch, and was still raining, with lightning, when we left, so we headed back to the hotel. After an hour, we got our swim outfits on, then headed down to the river for a swim. We all swam down to the bridge then got out. I was happy it was looking like we wouldn't be wearing wetsuits race day. The suit was really tight on my back, which was uncomfortable. Saturday, we relaxed a lot, dropped off our bikes, drove the bike course, went back to the expo for a quick walk through, then headed to dinner and then bed. It was going to be an early morning!

Bikes are checked in!

Transition crazyness on race morning.

On the bus, headed to the swim start!

Race Morning: We headed out the door at 5:15 am. We got downtown, parked, then headed to the bus transport. As we figured, the race was going to be non wetsuit legal. Worked for me! I knew I could do it and I'm a more confident swimmer now. We got all our gear set up in transition, then took the bus to the race start area. We hung out in the church, next to the swim start, then headed over as the national anthem was playing. It was about another hour before my wave went. I was so ready to get going! Finally, it was time for me to get in my group. We made the walk down the plank and onto the dock. I jumped in the water and held on to the dock, waiting for the blow horn telling us to go.

Wave 16 on our way to the dock.

The Swim: I had a great swim! I felt pretty comfortable out there. I tried to stay near the right buoy line, as that is were the current was said to be faster. I did zig zag a bit, but for the most part, I took the swim at an easy pace. The cold water was bothering my arm a bit, but it wasn't painful. I ended up with a faster swim over last year! Swim time: 34:58

A PR for me in the swim!
Bike course and elevation

The Bike: I felt great heading out on the bike. I was cruising at a pretty quick pace as we headed over the bridge into South Carolina. (I had one of my fastest 5 mile splits! 14:42, 20.3mph!) About 10 miles in, either the wind picked up, or we turned into a head wind. My pace started to slow. Plus, the hills really started. I had a little weird thing happen with my heart (beating crazy fast), so I pulled back on my effort. With that, and the headwind, I kinda gave up on trying to crush the bike portion of the race. Since I was so happy to even be doing this race, my main goal was just to finish. And not to crash!! I got up some fast speeds going down hill, which was fun. One of the best things about the bike course, was seeing some of my friends out there! I got to see Gina, Michelle, Jackie, Wendy and Roxy. I managed to toss a water bottle and grab a new one, while rolling through the second transition. I really needed a porta pottie break, but this station was on a slight incline. I really didn't want to get back on my bike on an uphill! So, I waited until I got to the last aid stop, at mile 47ish. This was a very emotional spot. The side of the road was lined with photos of men and women killed in combat. As I rolled past the volunteers, I grabbed half a banana, ate most of it before racking my bike and making a quick pit stop in the porta pottie. Just after this, Roxy passed me for the last time (we had been passing each other a few times). She was looking strong. The last 9 miles took forever! I was ready to be off my bike. Plus, I had a couple of little dizzy moments. I didn't need that while riding 16-17 mph! So happy to roll into transition. I racked my bike, took off bike shoes, helmet and gloves. Put on visor, shoes and race belt. I took off my velcro arm brace and grabbed a fresh wrap for my arm. I asked one of the volunteers, who were working the sunscreen booth, to wrap my arm for me. Then I was off on the run! Bike time: 3:16:02 ( a few seconds slower then last year. If I had put some extra effort in, I would have beat last year's time!)

Smiling, even though I wasn't having fun.
The Run: It sucked! It was hot. I got very light headed around 3 miles in. Since I really didn't want to pass out, I just walked. Anytime I thought I might start to run again, I felt dizzy. I was also very thirsty. The water stop between the second one and the third one is around 1.5 miles apart. I needed it about a mile before I got to it. After I got there, and walked through, I was feeling thirsty again pretty quick. It was probably the heat, but I started to mentally check out. I just wanted to finish and I really didn't care anymore what time I finished in. I was prepared to continue to walk the rest of the race! Roxy caught up to me at around mile 6. I ran with her for a few minutes, then needed to walk again. I kept up this walk and little bit of running routine for the entire rest of the race. Around mile 12, I actually started to feel a bit better, so I started to run more. I came up on Kimmi and another woman, so I ran/walked with them for a couple of minutes before I continued on. I was ready to be done! I was so happy to make that final turn on to Broad St! I enjoyed running down the red carpet and across the finish line! Run Time: 2:48:54

Early on in the run. When I was still feeling good. :)

I did it! My 3rd 70.3!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Hurricane and a Bike Crash

Wednesday afternoon, I found out the Sheriff was letting all non essential employees off on Friday, Sept 8th, to prepare for the Hurricane, that was forecast to hit us over the weekend. I decided to use Friday morning as a chance to get in my last long bike ride before the heavy wind and rain came in. Augusta 70.3 in 2 weeks!

Hard to imagine I missed seeing this big yellow divider!
So, I headed out from the Publix on Honore. My favorite place to ride. Beautiful morning. I was keeping up a pace of 18ish mph. The problem: my brain was focused on hurricane prep and worried about the damage we might have. I was riding on the left side of the bike lane, with my eyes looking just in front of my front wheel. I KNOW better! I wasn't paying attention at all. And in a split second, I saw the barrier, dividing the road and bike lane. My front wheel slammed into it (no chance to grab the brakes). I flipped over the center of the divider and landed in the bike lane. My bike flew into the middle of the road. Water bottles flew out. Thankfully, there were no cars behind me. It took me a few seconds to get up and then walk over to my bike and drag it over to the side. I leaned it against the guard rail, then picked up my water bottles and the end caps to my aero bars, which had both popped out, even though they had been glued in. A woman, who had been driving towards me, pulled over and walked over to check me out. I sat down, to the right of the guard rail, in the shade to try and cool off. I was sweating big time. And shaking. I told her I felt okay and that I had my phone and would call someone. She took off. Then, a guy rode up on his bike. He helped me to bring my bike over out of the road way, then put the chain back on and looked it over. That's when I noticed the handle bar was very bent. I had it in my head that I was going to continue my ride!

Left handle bar and areo bars are noticeably bent.
The guy told me I should call someone. That I was in no condition to even ride the 9.5 miles home. I got my phone out of the bike pouch, then sat back down in the shade. My head started spinning. I was very dizzy for a good minute. I tried to think of who could pick me up besides my husband, how had taken his motorcycle to work. I called Carolyn, since I knew she had the day off of work. She didn't answer, so I left a message. I thought of calling Gina, but I knew she would be heading into work at any minute. Then I called Wendy, who told me she was at work, but would come and get me. While I was talking to her, Carolyn called me back. I got on the line with her. She said she was leaving her house and heading my way. The guy on the bike hung out with me for a bit, before I told him he could go, that someone was on their way. While I waited, a few more riders came up on me, each asking how I was. I really appreciate all the concern from everyone! I took a few photo of my injuries. My shoulder was really hurting, but I couldn't see what was going on back there. So I snapped a photo.

Yikes! I had some road rash! My knuckles took a hit also. Blood on both middle finger knuckles. I looked over my helmet and didn't see any cracks, so I figured I didn't really hit my head, but, my left cheek bone was a bit sore.

Carolyn picked me up, loaded my bike, then drove me back to my car. Since there was a bike shop in the parking lot, we walked my bike over, for them to check out. The guy put the bike up on the rack and pointed out that the front forks were bent back, from the impact. Since I was kind of out of it and they were closing soon, I left it there, with a claim tag and said I would call after the storm moved through. Carolyn followed me home. I felt okay to drive and I really didn't want to leave my car there.

When I got home, I told Aidan about my crash and told him to check on me every so often. I was worried about a possible head injury. My head didn't hurt, so I didn't want to go to the hospital, but I still wasn't sure. Getting that tight tri top off and the bra under, was super hard! I didn't realize how sore my elbow was. Lifting my arm up really hurt. It took me a couple of minutes to get those off. I cleaned my scrapes, then grabbed some ice packs for my shoulder, elbow and right knee. As the day continued, I would get up and walk around a bit, checking on my injuries.

I didn't sleep very well Friday night. I kept seeing that divider and the crash, over and over in my mind. The top of my hands and middle and index fingers were very painful. So much so, that I got up around 1 am to take some advil. Didn't help much. I got up at 5 am, with the plan to run or walk, with my running friends. Even if I walked a mile or two, I wanted to get some movement, as I know that helps keep my back issues at bay. I arrived a few minutes late. Everyone had left already. I headed out on my own. When I got to the bridge, I walked up, as I felt my Heart rate was pretty high. I had to walk a few more times during the rest of my run, as my right knee was feeling a bit wonky every once in a while. I ended up getting in my entire planned long run of 14 miles! Slow, but not really any slower then my normal pace lately.

No that it's Sunday, with the storm about to really hit us in a few hours, I have that to worry about. But, I still worry about getting that bike fixed and if it's even worth it. I was told it wasn't. So that means, looking for a new bike, getting it fitted and hopefully riding on it a couple of times. All before I head out of town in a week and a half! And, I have to hope that my shoulder and elbow (which is still swollen) are healed in time. So stressful! Just very happy that I didn't break anything. And that my A.S. hasn't flaired up. Very surprised about that!

Injury photos 2 days later:
Bruises are really showing up!

Lots of rash, but isn't super painful.

August 24, 2017
I’m 5 weeks out from my 3rd half Ironman in Augusta, GA. It’s my 3rd in a year. I’ve been training almost nonstop for 20 months. This past weekend, I completed the Ft Desoto International distance triathlon, placing 2nd in my age group. I’m feeling pretty strong and fit, even though I’ve put on weight. Who thought you’d put on weight while logging 90 to 120 miles a week of swimming, biking and running? Not me!
I wake up Monday morning, with pain in my upper back. It hurts to take a deep breath. My neck hurts when I tilt my head to either side, and my entire back spasms in pain when I sneeze. It’s bad. And I think, “Why is this happening to me AGAIN!”
I’ve always been an active person. When I was young, I loved being in the park, running around with friends. In junior high, you could find me on the basketball court before and after school, shooting hoops with my friends. I played softball through high school. In college, I started running. As a way to keep fit and release some stress. I ran a few miles here and there, until I signed up for my first 5k, and then a 10K, as part of a relay team for a triathlon. It wasn’t until my mid 20s, having just moved to a new town and state, that I caught the racing bug. I ran the Biloxi Mayor’s Cup 5K. A week or so later, I got an age group ribbon in the mail! What was this? An award!! I was hooked. I ran many races during the 2 years I lived there, including my first half marathon and then marathon in 1998. When I moved to Florida, I kept up my running and racing. When I met my husband and then had my son, my racing was put on hold for a bit. But, I always believed, I would get the baby weight off and get back to running a bit faster.
Then, the health issues started. I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism about a year after my son was born. Then, I had several miscarraiges. Each one left me reeling and depressed. I would run, with tears streaming down my face. It helped to be out there pushing my body to do something other than fail me. I gradually lost some weight and started to feel healthier. And then, my back started hurting. At first, I just kept going. Putting off seeing the doctor for months, even though anytime I would bump into anything, my entire back would spasm in pain. The chiropractor worked on me for a few weeks, with no relief. She finally sent me off to see a Rheumatoid arthritis doctor, who diagnosed me with Ankylosing Spondylitis. I was happy to have a diagnoses, and some medication to give me some relief from the pain, but the nature of the condition had me scared. But, I was pain free again, so I put it out of my mind.
Seven years later, I’m training for my second half Ironman, the first one had been a few months previously, when my back started to spasm in pain again. I can no longer lie on the ground to stretch, as it feels like someone has placed a heavy object on my back. I can barely twist my head from side to side or ear to shoulder. Swimming has become extremely painful as well as running, my favorite activity. I can handle the bike fine, as long as I stay in position and don’t need to unclip my feet very much.
I was in terrible pain for 6 weeks before my race. I was depressed and trying to hide it from friends. I didn’t want to complain. I would lie in bed at night, trying not to cry, while wondering if I had to give up on this sport that I loved. I wondered if this was it. I wondered if the progression of this disease had finally started. Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease. The immune system causes inflammation in the joints of the spine, which causes pain and stiffness. As the condition progresses, new bone formation in the spine can happen, creating a fused spine. The pictures are horrifying. People with their spines severely curved. Thankfully, one way to naturally keep the spine flexible, is body movement.
After weeks of pain, my doctor finally found a new medication, one that gave me some relief. I had cut back on my training. Mainly on the running and swimming. I was not where I thought I would be with training. A couple of weeks before the race, I had bought some temporary tattoos. One was the word “Believe.” It had become MY word. I had to believe in myself, in the training I had done, in my determination to get past the pain I may feel. I believed I could accomplish this goal that I had set for myself.
Race day was May 13th. The night before the race, I put the temporary tattoo on my wrist, so that I could see it throughout the day. It was there to help me boost my confidence. The race was great! The swim was canceled that morning, due to unsafe swim conditions. I felt strong on the bike. The run was rough, but I kept at it, even when the heat was causing me to feel nauseous and weak. I ended up not having any pain! I did suffer from some back stiffness during the run, but that is a minor inconvenience for me now.
After the race, I took it easy for three weeks. I hoped the easy, recovery type workouts, would help ease the inflammation in my back. When I did start back in with serious training, my back was feeling normal. I would have some stiff days, but nothing super painful. I discovered Cryotherapy, which seemed to help with the stiffness. So I hoped, I believed, that the rest had been good and maybe I would be better for a while. Maybe my condition had not gotten worse.
And, here I am, dealing with the pain again. It is 5 weeks out from the race. The pain is back. Plus, I am feeling exhausted. What do I do? I’m going to continue to train on the days the pain level is bearable. I’ll put in the effort I’m able to on that day. I will get to the race and complete it to the best of my abilities. It may not be the race I wanted, but I am going to finish it! I believe in myself. I believe that this condition may curb the level of training that I have been used to up to this point, but I will not let it keep me from doing what I love.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tri Fort DeSoto International Triathon

July 8, 2017

I headed up to Ft Desoto early. Left my house at 4:15! Missed having my tri girls with me,  but most of them were doing the Englewood Tri. For me, a sprint wasn't worth the missed training day. I feel like this international distance, was a good race to do. I didn't take it easy this week. I had a brick on Wednesday and a long run of 9.3 miles (with 8 bridge repeats!) on Thursday morning, then an 1800 yard swim that evening. So, I didn't bother checking my times from last year. I was just going to go out and do my best. When I got to the venue, there was a large line to get race packets. I had never seen the line so long. I finally got my stuff, then headed into transition. There were already 5 bikes on the 2 racks in our row, but no one had taken the awesome end spot. Well, it was mine now! I got everything set up, then realized I had left my sunglasses in the car, so back to the car I went. Got my glasses and the bike pump and headed back to transition. Realized once I was back that I had forgotten something else. It's a good thing I had plenty of time! Finally, I was able to head over to the KLR tent, to check in with the group there. I then headed out to the beach. The water was perfect! Calm and flat. I ran into Nina (Storm member) and we chatted a bit before her wave took off. I then lined up with my group, which was the 40 and over women, Athena Women and clydesdale men. With a blast of the horn, we were off!
Swim (half a mile): I was right in the thick of the group this morning. I managed to not get hit or pulled on. After making the right hand turn at the first buoy, I did get off course a couple of times, swimming to the left so much that I was far from the other swimmers. But, I finally got myself corrected and back in with the group. I felt great out there. No issues with my back or being nervous. After we made the right turn around the last buoy, we had a brief spot were we could stand up. I did a few dolphin dives to push myself ahead of the other two swimmers near me. I like how I can get ahead this way, but it always gets me out of breath. Finally, I was in the shallow area near the beach. I stood up, took off my goggles, swim cap and ear plugs, then ran it up the beach and into transition. I took the time to sit on the ground to dry my feet and put on my compression socks. Since this is what I want to do in Augusta, I want to work on getting them on fast. It's not easy putting them on damp legs and feet! I had worm them to work the day before, so they were stretched out a little. Time - 15:12 T1 - 4:22

Bike (20 miles): Heading out on the bike, I felt good. My speed was in the 19mph range! I pulled back a little. I still had a lot of miles to cover. This distance is hard for me to pace. In a sprint, I'll just go all out. But with 2 loops, 20 miles, I wanted to conserve a little bit of energy. The wind wasn't very strong today, which was nice. It can get pretty windy on this island. I was good with my hydration, getting down most of my one bottle of Tailwind. Not my fastest bike here, but I'm happy with it. Once in transition, I racked my bike, took off my helmet and shoes, then quickly put on my running shoes, visor and bib number, before running out. Time - 1:04:42. T2 - 1:54

Run (6.2 miles): It was hot. So very hot. The first mile or so is on a sandy trail. There must not have been much rain out here recently, as the sand was very loose. I took it easy through here, then picked up the pace a bit, once I got onto the paved trail. I grabbed a water at the first aid station. Warm, yuck! I caught up to Nina, just before mile 2. We said hi, then I continued on. I was doing pretty good, considering the heat. I was passing a lot of people. As I came into the end of the first loop, I could hear the finish line announcer say the name of the first female finisher! Geesh, I still had 3.1 miles to run! Took a walk break on the sandy section, had a gel at mile 4, then grabbed some water at that first aid station again. Thankfully, someone had dropped off ice! I poured water on my hand, grabbed a handful of ice, and shoved it down my front. Nice. I continued to pour a cup of water over my head at the water stations. The last mile seemed so long. So happy to finally finish! Time - 1:00:14
Finish - 2:26:24

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ironman Gulf Coast 70.3

May 13, 2017

Training for this race started way back in January! Cold swims and bike rides early on, which was very different from last summer's training for Augusta. I had high hopes this time around. I knew what to expect with training. I picked a slightly tougher training plan this go around, since I felt like I need longer bike rides. My swims were longer in distance, and I tried to keep in more running days. I had more events during this training cycle, also. A couple of half marathons, some 5Ks a 15K and some longer organized bike rides, which included my longest ride ever, 70 miles! What I didn't expect from this training cycle, was for my Ankylosing Spondylitis to flair up! I have had this chronic condition for over 7 years. The pain has been managed by low does of anti inflammatory medicine. Well, something happened in March to cause a flair up that left me in extreme pain. I had a hard time sleeping. Every time I tried to swim or run, I got painful spasms across my back. My rib cage just did not want to expand for me to get in a good deep breathe. My doctor put me on a new medication. After a couple of weeks of no relief, he switched me to another medication. It took a good two weeks for me to start feeling any positive benefits of the new stuff. Even then, I was adding advil on top of it to get through some workouts. So my last 2 months of training was painful, when I could do it. I did give up on some training days, and scaled back the intensity of other days. Every once in a while I would have a decent day, which helped to boost my spirits a bit. I had a lot of dark, tearful days, though. I had my last swim in May 7th, about a week before the race. It was tough conditions and I could feel the tug on my mid back during the pull phase of the swim, so I decided to not swim at all the days leading up to the race, to give that area some time to recover.

Normatec boots. These are awesome!
Wendy and I left Sarasota Thursday morning, 2 days before the race. It was a pretty long drive up north. I was surprised to find out how far we would have to drive, once we left interstate 10. It was around 2 hours to get to the coast! Most of it was on a two lane road through countryside and small towns. We arrived at the host hotel, where we were staying, in the late afternoon, just in time to check in. As we drove to our condo, we passed right by the hotel's convention center, which happened to be just a couple of buildings over from our one room condo! Perfect location. We got our bikes and luggage unloaded, cleaned up a bit, then walked over. I was surprised at how small the expo was. There were 3 vendors in the halway outside the main room. Inside the main room, there were two vendors with wheels, then only three other vendors besides the Ironman shop! Check in went smoothly. We went from table to table, getting our various race items, then into the Ironman shop. I held back on my spending this time. In part, because it wasn't my first one, so I didn't feel like I wanted everything in sight. :) The other reason, was because of the lack of actual race branded merchandise. So much less then in Augusta. They didn't have the Gulf Coast pins we wanted to buy, to add to our backpack. No coffee mugs. The cashier at checkout said the other event that weekend, in Santa Rosa, was bigger. They had more participants. After shopping, we tested out the Normatec compression boots, then went to the pre race meeting. We got good information about the course and what to expect race morning. It was then time to head out to meet team members of the Kennedy Law Racing team we both belonged to. It was great fun meeting more members of KLR, including the man the team is named after, Tom Kennedy! There were around 25 KLR athletes doing this race. I was looking forward to having their support on the course. We also got to meet Nina, another Sarasota athlete.

Wendy heads out with the KLR boys.

Friday morning, after going to the local Walmart (we thought there was no better place, we now know better!) to get some snacks and drinks, we headed to the beach, so Wendy could get in a swim. We met some other KLR peeps there, then they headed in. The surf was rough. A storm would be moving through later in the day. Wendy said it wasn't that bad. It had been worse for us at Siesta the weekend before. Word was going around that the temp had dropped. So with that, and the incoming storm, it was pretty much a given we would be wetsuit legal the next morning. I wasn't very worried about the swim. I felt pretty calm. Knowing I would wear my wetsuit, helped a lot. Later, we drove the bike course. We were happy we did, as we discovered an overpass bridge that is similar to the Ringling bridge. Otherwise, it was mostly an out and bike ride, with little to look at. We met up with Bob and Stephanie for dinner at a pizza place (yummy gluten free options), then headed back to the room to get everything sorted out and rest.

Transition on race morning.
Me, Nina and Wendy, checking out the high and dangerous surf race morning.

Race Morning: Wendy was up at 4am and I was up 10 minutes later. I had plenty of time to eat half a bagel, drink a cup of coffee and scroll through facebook. It was there, that I started seeing posts about the swim being cancelled. Transition had opened at 4:30am (race start was 6am) and people were posting about the news they were hearing once the got to transition. I kept checking out the official race page, where they had said they would post the water temp by 4:30, but nothing. So, just before 5am, we decided to leave our wetsuits in the condo, and head over the pedestrian bridge, to the transition area. As we crossed the bridge, we heard the announcer call out over the loud speaker, that the swim had been cancelled. The race would have a later start, to give the volunteers and race setup crew, time to get the bike course finished. We went to our bikes, left our gear, then walked over to the beach, to check out the condition. Yep, the water looked very rough. The rip currents were very bad. It would have been very tough to fight the waves and current, in order to swim out almost half a mile! We found Nina and some other Sarasota people, chatted with them a while, before heading back into transition. The bike ride would start with the lowest bib number, and the next cyclists would roll out every 4 seconds. I went to my bike, got my gear set up, added some lube to my bike chain, then sat around for a while. After one more porta potty stop, I was ready to get this thing started. I didn't feel nervous at all, just ready to go. I was #501, so it took a while to get to my row in the coral, but soon we were all lined up and walking over to the start. I got up to the line and then pushed off, clipping in and not falling! :)

The hill!
The Bike, 56 miles: Heading out of transition was very different then normal. What I like about this start, was that you didn't have someone right in front, or behind or to the side of you, trying to start as you started. There was an up hill right away. We had been warned at the pre race meeting, that we needed to take it slow going down on the other side, because it was steep and there was a sharp right turn at the bottom. I took the hill nice and easy. I had no problem making the turn at the bottom, I just took it wide. I'm sure if there had been other riders around me, it might have been
Just after coming down the overpass.
more stressful. We rode through the main road of the hotel/condo complex, which had a few speed bumps, then turned right onto Richard Jackson Blvd. Then, we had a quick right onto Beach Road. The wind was coming from the south/west, so we had a bit of a headwind for a few miles, heading out. We then made a right turn at the shopping center, where we had eaten the night before. We crossed over a major road, (thankfully police where there holding up traffic) before entering the detour part of the course. This was a great road as it was very new! So smooth. :) We had a mile or two on this road, before making a right onto Hwy 79, where we would stay until mile 28ish. The bridge crossing just after mile 10 wasn't so bad. The wind was at our back now! Occasionally, we would change directions a little and get a bit of headwind, but for the most part it was at our side or behind us. I kept looking at my bike garmin, seeing high 19mph to 21mph! This is where my nutrition started to fall apart. I had not had much to drink by mile 10 and by the turn around, I was just finishing up bottle #1! Not good. I had also tried a couple of my peanut butter crackers. For some reason, they were stale and super dry in my mouth. Yuck. Thankfully, I had two fig newtons. Not enough fuel, so I should have been getting my nutrition from my Tailwind, but like I said, I wasn't drinking enough. Once we made the u-turn and started heading back, we felt the wind, right away. I pushed through as best as I could. Trying to remember to drink more and trying not to get run over by all the fast guys, zooming up on me, then dropping RIGHT in front of me. It was crazy. No "on you left" for these guys! I saw the race officials a few times, more then at Augusta. I think because they had to be out there for all the fast age groupers, and for the men, who started behind me in transition, that meant they were often near me. At the mile 46 water stop, I put my 3rd bottle into my front water bottle rack, grabbed half a banana, managed to peal the thing, while still rolling through the short aid station. I didn't want to drop my peal outside of it and get a penalty! Going back over the bridge, into the wind, was rough. I looked down at my garmin, as I reached the top of the bridge. 8mph!! When we turned left, to go back down the new road, we had a bit of a break from the wind. Felt good to spin my legs easy for a bit. Then, once we made that turn back on to Beach Rd, we had the wind at our back for the last 5 miles. The course was not closed to traffic and the bike lane was pretty tight or had sand in it, so I tried to hug the line as much possible. But, at this point in the day, the traffic was much heavier. I could see the runners, on the other side of the road, already on one of their 3 loops! I was ready to join them. Thankfully, we did not have to ride back over the overpass bridge. We took a right off the main road, into the parking lot of transition. I got off my bike at the proper place, then starting walking. My quads where tight!

The bike course.

Transition: Not a great transition time! But, I needed to use the porta potty. Since my bike rack was in the middle of the huge area. I placed my bike against the porta potty as I came into transition, tried to get in and out of there fast, before heading to my spot. I guess I should have hustled a bit more, but I was feeling the lack of nutrition on the bike and I was very hot. I racked my bike, took off my helmet and gloves, then pulled on my shoes, belt (with bib) and visor, then headed out. Time: 5:16.

Heading out on my first loop of the run.
The run, 13.1 (3 loop course): I started out running, but once I hit the overpass bridge, I needed to walk. It was pretty steep. Once I got to the top, I picked up the pace going down. There were lots of people at the bottom and along the road, heading out to the main road. I saw Jackie and Park (KLR) just outside the resort. Just about a mile in, I was starting to feel super hot and tired! The water stops were every mile, so when I saw the first one just ahead, I opened the little pouch on my race belt, to grab a Gu. Everything was sticky in there! The Gu packet had a small opening, so a good 3rd of it was all over the other stuff I had inside there. :( I swallowed the rest of it as I got to the water stop. I drank a cup of water, quickly got some base salt in, then drank another cup, all while walking through the aid station. My plan was to walk through all of them, before running again. I started running, but immediately felt my stomach upset and still overheated. I walked some more, then ran to the next stop. Just before this stop, I spotted Wendy on the other side of the road, finishing her bike. She looked strong! At the second stop (and many more) I had a cup of flat Pepsi. It tasted soooo good, but was not the thing to do during a race, when I'm not used to it! Got more water and a ice cold sponge. Thankfully they had sponges at a couple of the water stops. I held on to mine, so I could get them wet again at each stop, without taking a new one. At each water stop, it got harder and harder to start running again. Some of this was a mental issue, that I just could not get past. Once I started running, I kept a decent pace. It was just getting myself to get going again in the heat. There was zero shade! I wasn't the only one walking though. Most people around me were taking walking breaks, so I wasn't alone. About a block before we make the turn back to Richard Jackson Blvd (and the start of another loop), we pass by a water park, with a long view of a wonderfully refreshing looking, lazy river. So cruel!! The 3 times I passed it where very hard. I wanted to jump the fence and get in so badly! The next two loops were a daze of some running and lots of walking. I did come across Wendy in loop 2 or 3 (I really can't remember!). We walked together for a bit before we started running again and then I pulled ahead. She had a great ride, meeting her time goal. I was very happy for her. As I came up to my final turn on Richard Jackson Blvd, I was able to pick up my pace just a bit. About a quarter of a mile or so down the road, I finally got to make the right turn back into the resort complex. When I got to the overpass bridge, I knew I wouldn't be able to run it, so I briskly walked up, then ran down the other side, We turned to the right, then ran under the bridge, along the side of the main building, around another corner (where was the finish!!), then finally the finish line! I DID do a little jump across the finish, but the photographers didn't get the shot. :) I was so happy to be done!! Time: 2:27:16
Finish time: 5:42:19

So, not the race I had really wanted, but, I did take off 6 minutes on my bike from Augusta. Added 6 minutes to the run though. :( I really enjoyed seeing the other KLR athletes on the course. All of them were supportive. I've got a lot of things to work on over the summer before Augusta in September!

My "jump" at the finish.

Wendy and I in the KLR tent. We did it! Again! :)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

River N Rapids Half Marathon

Hillsborough River State Park, April 8, 2017
Half #74

I signed up for this race as part of a 3 race series, long before I signed up for the half ironman. With a little over a month until my big race, I wasn't sure I should be running a trail half. Specially when I found out this was a technical trail, much harder then the other trail race that is held here in December. I decided to go for it. I planned on taking it easy and not "race" it. It was a solo trip for me, so I left my house early, giving myself an hour for drive time and 45 minutes to hang out. I got up there in good time, walked over to the main building for packet pickup. I ran into Brenda there. It was good to see her. We both checked out the large map of the course. There were 3 trail loops that we would run on. Going through the entire course twice. Kip, the race director, is pretty good at marking the trails, so I decided to just have faith that I wouldn't get lost! I went to my car to finish getting ready, then hit the bathroom, before walking to the start area 10 minutes before the start. As I stood there, I noticed the timing mat. I felt my bib and discovered to timing strip on there. I looked at other runners feet and ankles to see if they had timing chips or straps. Yep, timing chips on shoes. Crap! I ran back to the packet pickup building, got my chip, then ran back to the start line with about 30 seconds to spare before we were off!

We ran a little loop near the packet pickup building before heading over the bridge to the trails on the other side of the river. Right away we were on single track trails. It was hard to get around anyone. We were all single file, trying to avoid the many roots. I managed to get around a couple of people, before I got stuck behind this one guy. He would not budge. As I was meant to take it easy today, I decided just to follow behind him. The trail was beautiful! We ran along the trail, next to the river, for quite a while. Just after mile two, I was still stuck behind that guy, and was looking for a way to get around him. I wasn't paying enough attention to the ground in front of me. My left foot landed on the side of a root, twisting my ankle towards the ground. Ouch!! I hopped off to the side of the trail, limping, but letting others pass. A couple of nice people asked if I was ok. I said I would just walk it off. The big group all passed, so I was able to walk on the main trail, letting someone pass by, every once in a while. I walked for a few minutes, then stopped and rolled my foot around. It was starting to feel a bit better. I saw some teenagers heading my way, so I decided to try to run again, before I got stuck behind them. I slowly got back into running strongly. Feeling better by the time we finished this first loop. The first big loop, was just over 3 miles.

The next loop was small, only a mile. We had to run this twice in the first go around and then twice again later. There was a volunteer standing at the suspension bridge, asking each of us if we had run the loop once already. I ran that twice, then headed over the bridge. That was fun. It was bouncy!
Back on the other side of the river, the trail was less technical. We got to run on a few wooden walk ways. It was beautiful! There was a short out and back, with a water stop at the end, before we made our way back to the finish area and then off for our second time on the course. This is when the course was less crowded. as the 5K and 10K runners headed to the finish. I passed a couple of women, once the trail got wide enough. Then I ran over the bridge, back to the rooty trail. I was cruising along, taking photos with my GoPro. No runners in sight. It was very peaceful. I took my eye off of the trail for a second, to look at the river, when SLAM, my body hit the ground HARD! My GoPro flew out of my right hand, into the bushes. I got up, dusted myself off a bit, found my camera, then walked a little, assessing the damage. I didn't feel to bad. My ankle was still tender, and my wrist hurt, but otherwise, I felt fine! I decided to stop taking so many photos and concentrate on the trail. This second go around, I felt like the loop took forever! Just when I thought that I might have been lost, I would see another race flag. Finally, I made it to the junction of this trail and the next one. So happy to be done with the hardest trail! I ran the next one twice, headed over the bouncy bridge, then onto the final loop.
Heading towards the finish!

I felt a second wind coming on, as the trail got easier. I passed a few runners, which gave me a bit of a boost. Once I got to the last aid station, with a mile to go, I picked up the pace even more. Finally, I saw the finish line ahead, made the sharp left turn and ran hard to the finish!

Finish: 2:19:47
2nd in age group

Thursday, April 6, 2017

HITS Ocala Olympic Triathlon

April 2, 2017
Ocala, FL

The lake.
Gina, Wendy and I headed up to Ocala on Saturday afternoon, getting to packet pickup around 5pm. Packet pickup was a table with our packets and 2 small tents, selling some product. That was it. For an olympic and a sprint tri (which was Sunday), I get that. But on Saturday, there was a full distance (140.6) and a half! Such a small operation! We walked over to the lake, to get an idea of what our swim would look like. The lake is huge. There was a wide sandy beach. So not very much different then the beach at home. I was happy about that. We then checked out the transition area. There were bikes in the rack and some racks still empty. The guy there told us some of the full distance athletes were still on the bike course. We had seen some runners, but not many. We also noticed runners coming off of a trail, onto the road, before looping back to the trail. So we asked about this. Yep, we were going to have a 95% trail run the next day. Not what I was expecting at all! We headed out, to drive the bike course. This hills were not steep, they just seemed like a steady climb. We saw no police on the course. I wondered if there were still bikes really out there. They would have had to stop at stop signs! We then headed to the Blue Highway restaurant for a yummy pasta dinner, before heading back to the hotel.

Race morning: we got up at 5am, got ready, then headed out. Our gps had us ending up at the wrong place. After a little bit of freaking out, we found the park, let Gina get unloaded first (her race started earlier then ours), then headed to transition. I think my favorite thing about this race was the setup in transition! For one thing, they had 5 porta poties inside transition. I never see them inside. Makes it easy if you need to use the facilities after the bike to run. Each bike spot had a stool and a box that the bikes front tire set in. Plenty of space to set up transition mat. I think our space was twice the size then normal. There was a table with water and coffee.
My spot in transition. Loved this set up!

After Wendy and I got body marked, we grabbed our wetsuit and swim supplies, then headed to the beach to watch Gina go out. Her start time was 7 am. Ours was 7:45. We couldn't find her in the big group (it was a mas start swim), but we stayed to watch, so we could see how shallow the water was. Once the race got started, we saw most people walk or running for a very long time, through the water. They did this until very close to the first bouy! We then saw the leaders stand up at the second bouy, then pretty much dolphin dive all the way back in.  Once all the swimmers were out, we got to hear our race directions, which we could hardly hear the guy say. Wendy had said she heard our run was an out and back and not the two loops that we had been told on our race details. So I raised my hand to ask. Yep, it was out and back now. The guy seemed to think that was no big deal, even though most everyone around us was surprised to hear this. We all got lined up, the guy counted down, and we were off!

Swim: Most of us were doing the same thing the sprint swimmers had done, we were run or walking through the water. I noticed right away this was putting a lot of effort on my quads. I tried to swim a couple of times, but my hands kept hitting the sand! So I stood up and pushed through the water. Finally, I was able to get my face in the water and swim. I felt pretty good. The group had spread out. I did have people around me and bumping me a bit, but it was the first time that it didn't bother me. I rounded the first bouy, heading left. I was feeling good, but not pushing it, as I still had to swim another loop. As I rounded the second buoy, I stood up, then started dolphin diving in, swimming a few strokes, then dolphin diving. This helped to get me past a few people. I walked it around the bouy near the beach, then headed back out. Yep, quads starting to really feel that push on the water. I was happy to actually start swimming again. Which normally isn't something that comes out of my mouth. :) I pretty much did the same thing on the way back. I was able to pass at least 4 people on the way in, doing the dolphin dive/swim thing.  Once I hit the beach, I probably should have run a bit more then I did, but I wanted to watch my step through the grass/dirt area leading to transition. I didn't use the help of the wetsuit stripper. Didn't feel like laying down in the grass. I did realize as I was heading in, that I forgot to bring a towel or water to clean my feet! Once I got to my spot in transition, I sat on my stool, yanked off my wetsuit and found the extra tank top I had in my backpack, to wipe off my feet. I pulled on my bike jersey, socks, bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses, then headed out. Swim time - 29:22. T1 time - 3:50

Coming in from the bike ride.

Bike: I felt good heading out on the bike. Right away, there was an incline out of transition and then again, on the main road heading out of the park. I shifted gears and got onto the aerobars. For the next few miles, I had a hard time finding the right gear. I guess I just wasn't used to this type of course, with the gradual hills. My quads were sore and my right foot was starting to go numb. I was not enjoying the bike ride on my new tires. The road was very narrow and kind of busy for early on a Sunday morning. There was a police officer at the two corners we had to turn on, but cars were getting backed up, so we had to ride to the left of them to get around. It was very strange. I've never had to deal with that many cars before on a triathlon bike course. The turn around was a very sharp turn. I headed back. And now my left calf was feeling numb. I still could not get into gear that didn't feel hard or super easy. Normally I can find that sweet spot. On the second loop, I stopped at the turn around to adjust my compression sock, which was acting as a slight turniqut on my lower leg, It was bunched up next to the timing band. I just pulled the sock over the band and hoped it would still read when I went over the timing mats. About 2 miles out, I saw someones bike shoe on the side of the road. Not sure how someone lost a shoe, but they did! Heading into transition, I saw Gina. Super happy to have her there cheering us on. I racked my bike, pulled off my bike shoes, helmet and bike jersey. Pulled on my tanktop, shoes, visor, racebelt and washcloth, then headed to the porta pottie for a much needed stop. I was pretty quick in there, then ran out. (**bike should have been 24 miles. My watch showed 24.75) Bike time - 1:26:37. T2 time - 2:39

Heading out on the run.

Run: The run out, is up an incline. We turn to the left, out of the parking area, pass near the finish, then head onto the trail. The tail was nicely shaded and beautiful. The trail itself, not a fan. It was really just a dirt service road. Some hard pack road, but a lot of deeper, loose sand. Pretty much like running on the beach. I grabbed a water at the first stop, just under a mile in. I actually felt really good on the run. I was passing quite a few people. I tried to take the tangents as much as possible and run on the grass, on the side of the trail, when the sand got to be to much. There was a great set up at the turnaround, a mother and her two kids. I got a water there, before heading back. I was still passing many people, which helped boost my moral, after a bummer bike ride. I got to see Wendy on my way back, and just after passing her, I saw a snake cross just a few feet in front of me! Yikes!! I'm glad Wendy didn't see that. :) I grabbed another water and an orange slice at the next stop, then started to pick up the pace again. I would feel wonderful, then I would hit a large section of sandy road, that would slow me down and frustrate the crap out of me! I passed a college kid about half a mile in, then another guy, as I emerged from the trail. I saw Gina off to the side, cheering me on. Made a sharp right turn, then picked it up to cross the finish line! Yes! So happy to be done with my first Olympic distance triathlon! Run time - 56:04

On my way to the finish!

Finish time - 2:58:34
3rd in age group and 14th women finisher