Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I don't expect to be posting much in the next few days so I want to wish you all a VERY HAPPY HANUKKAH and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Life is Good! LiveSTRONG!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Race Report: 12Ks of Christmas - Wetumpka, AL

12Ks of Christmas (and 5K too) - Wetumpka, AL
Saturday, Dec 10, 2011
Overall Time: 1:47:00 - Average Pace: 15:20 min/mile
(course was short by .5 miles)

For another perspective on this race, you'll nee to go to my friend Amanda's Blog Start.Run.Finish - I promise you it is worth it to read her report too! LOL

To begin, I was really happy to know that there was a local event, close to my new home, that I could make my Holiday Run tradition since I am missing the Jingle All The Way 10K in Washington, D.C. this weekend.  And this 12K event did not disappoint - it was a challenging, somewhat hilly course that ran though the downtown/main street area of Wetumpka, AL - over the Coosada River  - through local neighborhoods and then back over the Coosada River again and along the river though a pretty park to the Finish Line.

My role on this day was to be the Race SHERPA for my friend Amanda and support her as she ran her longest run to date. Prior to this, her longest run was 10K (6.2 miles) a fact that I had conveniently forgotten. (making for funny moments later in the race) So my job for this race: to stay with Amanda, at her pace, for the full 12K; to be keeper of the Mile splits while she was keeper of the 2/1 Run/Walk Intervals; and to keep her moving and motivated to the very end.

The race was small, only about 100 runners and started with a run down Main Street and up a large hill (out and back) and then across the main Bridge over the Coosada River. Amanda started out a little fast, pressured internally to keep up with the group of runners. I kept my eye on the first Mile split and gently told her we covered the first mile and not to worry about the pace ahead of us. I don't think she heard me, at all, because she was busy saying "OMG, would you look at that hill?" My immediate response was "It looks worse than it is - don't you think about it - 'short and quick' at your own pace and we will get to the top." (short steps / quick turnover) I sang/chattered our way up the hill "Come on Ride the Train, Ride it - I think I can, I think I can" and we made up and over the top to the turn around and then WHHHEEEE, downhill we went.

That climb in the first 2 miles of the race took it's toll on Amanda - she was already sneaking peaks at her watch - looking to see when her "2-minute" run would be over.  I wrote it off as a hard beginning effort (which it was) and just kept the chatter up, reminding her that she's not usually feeling good until about Mile 3 so just hang in there.

After crossing the Bridge with a beautiful view and telling Amanda we could do our Photo Op on the way back toward the finish line - the time had come for us to split off from the 5K runners.  The 5K folks went straight and we went right. That is when we dropped the rest of the "Back of the Pack-ers" who were all doing 5K and became the official "Back of the Pack" and picked up our Golf Cart escorts for the remaining 9K of the course. I had told Amanda not to worry about the "Golf Cart" - that I had talked to the race director prior to the race to ask about a cuttoff and they said not to worry because they would keep the finish line up until everybody who started finished - and she really didn't seem pressured by the escort at all. In fact it was great! We had somebody watching out for us at every intersections and plenty of warning for every turn. (of which there were many!)

Mile 3 passed and we took in our first nutrition - some GU Chomps for me and a GU for Amanda. Amanda was eating this GU like it was some dainty little treat - while I was thinking "Um, you have to eat this and get water in a minute before our next run interval" - and out of my mouth came the following:  "Hey, GU is not a SNACK! We got a run interval coming up, eat it and get some water." The startled look on Amanda's face made me giggle and made me realize I sounded like a Drill Sargent. We both got a good laugh out of that.

Mile 4 came and I was encouraging and cheerful, "Half Way Done!" but Amanda was starting to feel the miles and was not saying much nor looking like she was having much fun. Her pace while running was staying steady but she was slowing down on her walk intervals. I kept up my chatter, asking her if she wanted to me to talk more or be quiet for a while.  Her response was "I don't know" so I continued to chatter away - finding songs to sing and stories to tell to make the miles pass.

Mile 5 was a hard mile for Amanda, she was pretty much silent except when I would ask her direct questions. I was trying to gauge her effort and I was getting quiet, one word answers and she mentioned she felt "a little sick." I told her that she might want to go easier on the water, that I noticed that she was taking drinks of water at every walk break. She looked up at me in a bit of a daze and said "Oh, yeah, I guess I am - that explains why my tummy feels sloshy" and from that point on, she only drank a bit at Mile 6 when I ordered her to "eat 4 GU chomps." I was hoping that this would perk her up for the final 1.5 mile effort. Amanda did as I advised and only later told me that she really didn't want to eat 4 GU Chomps, only 2 but she didn't feel like complaining and just ate all 4 as she had been told.

Mile 6, it seemed to me that Amanda really rallied back - she did have one goofy moment when mentioned she was worried that we would hold up the Christmas Parade - which I reminded her was not until 3PM (It was only 10:30AM, LOL) but her spirits lifted as we rounded a corner and saw the Bridge over the Coosada River just ahead. The Bridge meant less than 1-mile to go and the promised Photo Op - she seemed in wonderful spirits to me and I was excited that we were close to being done!

We stopped for our picture mid-way across the Bridge and then we exited the Bridge and the course turned Right down an back ally and Amanda stopped in her tracks, in complete disbelief and dismay  and said:


Turns out that she had it in her head that we were headed back to the finish line via Main Street. She was thinking "Three or Four Blocks and I am Done" and that right turn away from Main Street and the Finish Line was not at all in her mind. At this point, I watched as my friend and running partner's virtual "wheels fell off" and her motivation just flew right out the window. She was tired (rightfully so) and kind of queasy and here we were taking another detour / another turn away from the Finish Line. I rallied around her as much as I could, "Amanda - you are doing great!  Your OK, we have got this in the bag, You have DONE this distance before, you can do it again!

Okay, so I forgot, she had not done this distance yet, we were supposed to do it the week before but a bout of dizziness cut the long run short and I ordered her to go home and rest up. So while in my head, 7-miles had come and gone on the running schedule, I HAD COMPLETELY FORGOT THAT WE DIDN'T ACTUALLY RUN IT.  D'OH!!

Bless Amanda's heart because she never said a word about that while we were running, she just kept trying to put on foot in front of the other down the shaded park trail. (it really was a beautiful spot to run - reminded me of running along the Potomac in DC)  Sadly, Amanda was seeing nothing beautiful about the park, just so much further to go - and she said the words that I do not abide...Amanda looked at me, when our Run interval started and said loudly "Holly, I Can't."

Oh my, did this get me all riled up - here we are less than 1-mile from the finish line - I can see the parking lot that leads uphill to the finish line from where we are on the trail - and my friend who has been working hard since August, slowly adding miles to her running, just told me "I Can't."

"Don't you dare tell me that you "CANT", because you CAN and you ARE!" and I took Amanda's hand in mine and said "Come on, Amanda, just keep walking, keep moving forward...look ahead, see we just have a little more trail and then we run passed your car through the parking lot and at the top of the hill is our Finish Line"

The beep when off, telling us to run and, still holding her hand, I said "Come On Amanda, try - I know you can do this, I wont let you quit" again, I heard "Holly...."

but this time is was followed by a soft voice "....Thank You."

Nothing more was said for about 4 minutes, Amanda just picked up her feet and did her best to run those intervals and recovered on her walk and then there we were, on last hill and she said it again, "I don't think I can, really Holly, I don't" and I roared (at least I felt like I roared) "Come ON, I can see the Finish Line, YOU CAN DO THIS, I PROMISE" and I'll be damned if she didn't just pick her head up and say "OK" and run up that hill. As we topped the hill, the Volunteers and many racers who were still around let up a rousing cheer and I grabbed Amanda's hand and we crossed that finish line!

And then she wrenched her hand out of mine and put it over her mouth - I thought she was going to cry - but she turn a full 180 degree circle and stuck her head in the nearest trash can and threw up all that extra water and the GU Chomps that had been sitting in her stomach for the last mile. TWICE.

And immediately, felt 100% better...

So many people came up to us, after she was done, congratulating her on her race - telling her how she is not alone, that they have all had races where they threw up after the finish line - congratulating her on pushing that hard at the end of her race - leaving it all out there. (literally!) I could not have been more thankful that fellow runners approached Amanda and congratulated and commiserated with her. That act alone did more to let her know that she was one of the tribe - a runner - than anything I could ever say or do.

I have no regrets that I was so hard on Amanda in what would be the last half mile - I know her long terms running goals and I know that the "Voices in our Heads" are powerful and hard to ignore. In that moment she did not need a friend who would say "OK, let's just walk", she needed a friend to say "You are stronger than you know, now MOVE!"

Of course, I have promised her that the next time she says she feels like she might have to throw up, I will believe her...but hopefully we can get her nutrition right so that won't happen again.


Life is Good! LiveSTRONG!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Oh where has the time gone?

Time is flying by and I have kept busy since my last few posts and am doing much better! Building new friendships and getting back into running and helping new friends get into running! My outdoor cycling will have to wait until I am off the blood thinners but Jim and I are making plans for some great rides in the coming year!

My goal for 2012: "Play Hard, Eat Smart" starts today! You can follow along here, if you want to support me. I'm going to spend some time getting back to basics and getting my body back into excellent shape for my next Ironman. This new blog will deal primarily with my ongoing struggle to lose some extra weight I have gained and find some balance in how it relates to my training so it will be a little different from TRI and BE HAPPY, which I plan to keep up with as well. I am continuing to work closely with the Ulman Cancer Fund and keep the CANCER to 5K program going strong! 2013 will be a return to Ironman Lake Placid to take my revenge (if WTC and Lake Placid are still having an Ironman, of course) otherwise I will choose another Ironman-distance event to race.

Quick Summary:

• Oct 1 - Ran the Montgomery 5K with my friend Amanda - her first 5K and part of the Montgomery Half Marathon Festival: 46:28

• Nov 1: Accepted a job as the Volunteer Coordinator for The Joy to Life Foundation! (Yahoo, I have a new job!!!)

• Nov 4 - Ran part of the Battleship Half Marathon as a BRIDESMAID! Yep, a Bridesmaid for my wonderful friend Ron and Shawn who got married at the 3-mile point on the race course!  So proud and honored to be included in their special day!

• Nov 19: Turkey Burner 5K with my friend Amanda: 47:53

Looking Ahead:

• 12K of Christmas Run - Dec 12th

• MS Blues Half Marathon - Jan 7, 2012
• Mercedes - Birmingham Half Marathon - Feb 12, 2012
• Myrtle Beach Half Marathon - Feb 17, 2012
• Centerpoint Half Marathon - Mar 17, 2012
• 3 Gap Fifty (Bike Ride) - Georgia - Sept 26, 2012
• NYC Marathon (**very tentative**) - Nov 2012
• GOOFY Challenge - Disney World - Jan 2013
• Ironman 2013 - IM Lake Placid!

Have no fear, I'll am returning to my regularly schedule Race Reports and Blogging because I miss it!

Life is GOOD! LiveSTRONG!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wish Upon A Star...

"When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you"

We sat on the outside deck of our own personal Disney Treehouse when my 5-year old Nephew said to me "Look Aunt Holly, the Stars..." and I thought "Make a Wish..." As cool as the stars were, they were no match for the Glow Stick Swords that he and I were using to play Pirate so the "Pirate Games" resumed.

Dashing around the darkened bedroom, just the two of us, fighting crocodiles under the bed and being jedi knights on top of the bed...this is what I will remember the most about our recent trip to Disney World.

There is decades of life experience between 5-years old and 41-years old but all it takes is some imagination (Thank you Figment!) and a few advil (can't move as quickly now as I did at 5-years old) and you can be a swash-buckling pirate, a jedi knight - and if your memory is good enough - you can even play "Dudly Do-Right" and introduce your two Nephews and two younger Sisters to the reasons why "You Must Pay the Rent / I Can't Pay the Rent" with a glow in the dark mustache/hair bow. (obscure Bullwinkle reference for the other "old" kids out there...)

"If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do"

There have been some big changes in my both my Nephews and Sister's life since this trip to Disney World - changes that happened almost immediately upon returning. I am proud of my family for rallying around them, in their time of need. For all the ups and downs that come from being in a big family, my Parents instilled in us the love and compassion for one another that allows us all (Parents and Sisters alike) to do whatever it takes to help the people we love. My husband, too, showed me once again, what a compassionate, smart, amazing man I have married.

I am proud of my Sister, for having the courage to make some tough decisions under the most heart-breaking of circumstances. The timing was incredibly unfair but she put aside her own needs to protect herself and her boys and her friends have rallied, sprinkling her with love and pixie dust and support. The path she finds herself on now has a few extra twists and turns, a few more challenges to overcome, on the road to her dreams but my Sister is one tough momma!  I know she will come out on top...

"Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true"

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind and it is a good reminder to me that the Family you build around you (not necessarily always biological family) needs to be strong, flexible and full of love and compassion  - because we never know when we might need "a safe place to land" when life throws us a curve...and it never hurts to "Wish upon a star..." because we can all use some pixie dust to lift us up and help us remember how wonderful it feels to be able to fly.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth...

First off, THANK YOU to everybody who has reached out to me both on-line and off-line with words of support and comfort or to share your own experiences dealing with depression to let me know that I am not alone.  I appreciate it very much.

Just the act of acknowledging and writing about my feelings took away some of the pain and released some of the anxiety. I know that it is going to take some time and effort to break the cycle of comfort eating and find ways to manage my emotions and work through them. I'm feeling like it is not such an "impossible task" right now and that is a welcome feeling.

But first, I have the pleasure of being able to spend the next week with my immediate family in "the happiest place on earth" aka Walt Disney World.  I get to enjoy the wonder of the Magic Kingdom through the eyes of my nephews for their first time...I get to spend time with my parents, sisters, husband and brother-in-law...I get to celebrate my Mom's 60th Birthday (belated) and one of my Nephew's 5th Birthday...and there is no place that I would rather be right now than with my family that loves me, unconditionally.

I'm going to Disney World to relax, to laugh, to get sprinkled in Pixie Dust and find a little wont be hard to find, especially with my family by my side.

Today, Life is GOOD. LiveSTRONG!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Silence is NOT Golden...

One of the first things I ever told my boyfriend (now husband) Jim was that the biggest indicator of "trouble" brewing in my life would be "Silence."

I am, by nature, an extrovert - I thrive on being around other people, I can (and will) talk until it is time to sleep and I am a loud talker, especially when happy or excited or telling you something important. I've heard "take it down a decibel" since I was 4-years old but it still doesn't really impact my enthusiasm - just the volume. My idea of recharging is being with people...listening, talking, sharing. I don't stop talking, ever. Some might think I am crazy, but I talk to myself a bit. (but not usually out loud) I think if I ever stopped talking, I'd probably run faster than I ever have in my life...LOL...but what fun would that be? I'd rather SING to my Teammates while running than have a PR, most days.

Silence is the first indicator that Depression is lurking by my side and as Depression sinks in and makes itself at home, my conversations become basics "I'm fine, everything is good, nothing much going on here...Tell me about you..." Redirect the conversation, because "Nobody wants to hear that your not doing great." at least that is what Depression whispers in my ear.

So I don't Blog and I barely Email and I only post "updates" on good days or for times when I know that I can't completely Drop Out, times when I know that I need to rise above and be present and accounted for.

It is ironic - that the people/things that will distance me from the influence of Depression -  my Friends, Family, Teammates, CANCER to 5K - are exactly the people/things that I feel compelled to avoid because I don't want to burden the people I care about with my problems. So I keep Silent and Depression puts its arms around my shoulder and whispers in my ear...and tell me that I can sooth myself with my other old friend, Food.

Food and Depression, they are best friends and they will work together to lift you up with "comfort" and then drop you on your ass as you gain back the weight you worked so hard to lose - no matter how many miles you put in on the bike, on the road, in the pool. Doesn't matter that you were an Ironman just 24 months ago...your body can only do so much with the extra weight it carries.  So your workouts suffer, you injure easier than before so you have to exercise less but your eating more - staying Silent by keeping your mouth Full.

I've had years of therapy for eating disorder, that I am proud of. I needed help and I asked for it, sought it out. I know the signs and signals and have been taught how to catch myself before it get's too bad - at least I thought I knew - but this time - well even I have to admit to my surprise at just how sneaky Depression can be. I have been staying Silent while keeping my mouth full for 5 months now and I need to break that silence - as much as it pains me to reach out and admit that.  So here I am blogging - not to seek sympathy but to express freely, my struggles at the moment.

• We moved - an exciting time, for sure! But I was not prepared to be out of work this long and therefor not meeting new people as quickly as you normally do in a new work environment. And truthfully, Facebook and Email are no substitute for real people. I have been very slowly making friends - quality, not quantity - and I am thankful for that but I'm still trying to figure out how to mange my days during the week when Jim is at work and I am home alone. (and everybody else, here and away, are at work) I'm lonely when my husband is not home and then feel guilty that I need so much of his time and attention when he does finally get home but he is often the only person that I will "see" all day.

• I got injured (plantars fasciitis) while training for my Summer races - which changed my workout focus slightly - my volume has had to come way down from what I usually do and with that has come a hesitancy to seek out TRI people to work out with, "since they are all too fast for me anyways.."

• I'm the heaviest weight that I have been in 5 years - and I honestly never thought I would let myself get this heavy again - and while I know it is "just a number on the scale and does not define my self-worth" the extra weight has had a physical impact on my swimming, biking, running and overall health and self-esteem. I feel much better 50-pounds lighter than I am today but I get emotionally exhausted thinking about how hard it is going to be to lose this weight and I think that is Depression whispering more lies in my ear...

• By a completely unexpected series of events (birth control/hormones and a cross-country flight), I ended up in the hospital for 5 days with multiple pulmonary emboli in both lungs. I just thought I was suffering some anemia - having trouble breathing while running - and it turns out that I was in danger of losing my life if I threw a blood clot.  I felt that way for 10-days before I went to a DR.  I ran for 10-days with blood clots building in my lungs - so I know in my "heart" that somebody was watching over me but it scared me and Jim.

• I am now on blood thinners (Coumadin) for the next 9-months, seem to be suffering the rare side effect of "hair loss" and am subsequently "banned" from riding my bike outside for the next 9-months. (The risk of falling is too high) - It's OK, I can run, I can swim, I can do other activities - I can even buy a wig if the hair thinning doesn't stop (as the DR seems convinced it will) but I'm still wrapping my head around this latest medical drama. I am so done with Medical Drama in general, in case any higher powers are listening...

So, this is where I am at...and this is why many of you have not heard much from me.  I am not proud of the lack of communication but I know that before I can shake Depression off my back, before I can quiet its voice in my ear, in order to stop the cycle of comfort eating...I have to start TALKING and let my own voice, thoughts, feelings and emotions fill my head, my heart and my mouth and slowly, one day at a time...Life will be GOOD everyday.

Now to hit PUBLISH before I chicken out...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

RR: 2011 Vineman 70.3 Half Ironman

July 17, 2011
Vineman 70.3 Half Ironman

S:1.2 m - B: 56m - R:13.1m

Swim: 58:16
T1: 8:08
Bike: 4:49:91
T2/Run: DNF due to injury

DNF: Acronym used in racing terms to indicate "Did Not Finish" sometimes also defined as "Do Nothing Foolish" by athletes dependent on the situation/opinion of those invoking the phrase/acronym at hand.

On the anniversary of my most personally devastating DNF (IM USA - July 2009), I find it ironic that I am writing another race report for a race where I willinging started the Race Day knowing that I would DNF "on purpose." You can ask my BFF on TFF (Team Fishy Fish), Keri H. and she'll tell you, I went back and forth about 15 times in less than 1-week debating the merits of "DNFing Vineman after the Bike" or "Going ahead and trying the Run" and in the end, on race morning I decided that I would stick to my original decision and "DNF after the Bike."

What would make anybody choose to "QUIT" on Race Day? Oh there is any number of things, it can be physical, emotional, mechanical...for me it was a injury 4 weeks ago, Plantars Fascitis in my right foot.  Instead of training for the last 3 weeks leading up to Vineman, I was in an air boot to keep pressure off my right foot and taking NSAIDS and Rx steroids to counter swelling and encourage healing. One week after my injury - at 80% healed, my DR gave me a shot of cortisone in my right foot and told me that if the healing continued, I was cleared to train and race with running to be done "as pain allowed."  Two weeks post-injury, I was able to stop wearing the air cast and switch to a night splint (to wear while sleeping) and cleared to start swimming and stationary biking. Three weeks post-injury, we were on our way to California for the race and two easy walk/run workouts earlier in the week had told me all I needed to know...while I could walk with very little pain, running was still too much and running 13.1 miles might leave me on the injured list again.  For me, DNF would mean "Do Nothing Foolish" and be I should be thankful that I could even start the Race.

So Jim and I packed up and headed out on our first trip to the West Coast to spend 10 days on a TRI-vacation.  The first 7 days we would spend in Guerneville, CA with good friends (from VA) Keri and Greg - vacationing and Vineman-ing and the last 3 days we would spend in Encondido, CA with my college roommate Sandy and her husband Steve. We arrived in Sonoma Valley on Wednesday and spent Thursday and Friday sightseeing and wine tasting with Keri & Greg.  Keri and I got in a quick 30-minute swim at Johnson's Beach on Friday morning, put our bike together and on Saturday morning took a long drive to scout the Bike Course on our way to Vineman packet pick-up.  We all agreed, husbands and wives alike, that the Vineman 70.3 Bike Course was "character building" (aka. HILLY).  Since Vineman 70.3 is a "point-to-point" race with two separate Transition areas - on Saturday we were required to drop off any transition items for T2 at Windsor High School (location of the Bike End / Run / Finish Line).  I dropped off my most comfortable pair of running shoes - certain that I would not be running on race day but that I would want a change of shoes post-bike. (because NOBODY chooses to walk around in Bike Shoe off the bike...) I also put my visor, and 3 GUs in my shoes - "just in case I had the most incredible day ever" and decided at the last minute that I wanted to try and run. afterall..."

Pre-Race: Saturday Quick Brick - 10-20-10
Saturday morning, Keri and I got in our final mini-brick workout - a chance to make sure that everything was OK with our bikes and to get the butterflies under control.  We did a 10-minute wetsuit swim, which helped me determine that I would not wear a wetsuit on race morning. We followed that up with a lovely 20-minute bike ride from Johnson's Beach on Armstrong Rd and back and then a short 10-minute run.  This was the "final test" for me.  If there was "No Pain" in my right foot on the short Run brick (1/1- Run/Walk Intervals) than I promised myself I would try to start the run on Race Day.  Sadly it only took about 6 minutes for the subtle pain to start in my heel. It was manageable pain  and went away almost immediately within an hour of the workout but I tried to imagine that pain times 13.1 miles, after a hilly 56-mile bike, and realized that I wanted to be able to "walk" on my right foot for the remainder of our vacation (another week after race day...) more than I wanted a Finisher Medal.

 Keri & Holly - Johnson's Beach Pre-Race BRICK

Sunday Morning came quickly and Keri and I rode our bike the quick 2-miles to Johnson's Beach at 7AM.  Since the race director kept transition open during all waves, we didn't have to be at the beach at O'Dark-Thrity so we were happy to sleep in but sad to miss the PRO start but as luck would have it, the PROs were just getting on their bikes at 7AM so we were able cheer them on as we rode to transition.  We got to Transition, got marked, set up our bikes - gave each other hugs - I made Keri promise me she would say "Hi!" to me when she passed me on the bike (Keri's wave would start 24-minutes after mine) and we waited for my Wave Start.  As we stood watching the Wave starts, I turned around to notice a short handsome guy behind us in a yellow "MGD 64" shirt and realized - "That's Gabe from TRI-DRS!" and immediately walked up to Gabe, introduced myself, gave him a hug and wished him luck on his race day! It was time to start the day!

Vineman SWIM: 1.2m  - 58:16

I chose to do the Vineman swim without a wetsuit, despite the fact that wetsuits were allowed.  This was my first 1.2m swim without a wetsuit and my time reflects that. The truth is that because I have gained about 40 pounds, since 2009, my wetsuit didn't fit properly and was too tight, limiting my stroke considerably. Since Keri and I had done a non-wetsuit swim in the Russian River on Friday, I knew that the water temperature (74F) was fine for non-wetsuit swim - not too cold - and I figured what I lost in time I could make up for in overall energy. It was the right call for me. 

I started in Wave 9 - Women 40-45 and at the start I got caught up in the classic "wave start washing machine" of hands and feet. It took about 200 yards to get clear of all the extra hands and feet and then I found some clear water and was able to settle into my slow but steady pace.

My swim felt effortless all the way up the to turn buoy, which is a first in a half ironman swim. The course follows the Russian River so you could never "see" the turn buoy - it was always just around the next corner.  I knew I was getting close when I looked up to sight and saw other athletes around me WALKING in the water to the turn buoy. The Russian River got pretty shallow in some places (and was never any deeper than 6 ft according to the race information) and soon enough I was scraping my hands and knees on the pebbley bottom of the river when I would look up to sight.  Resigned, I stood up and walked around the turn buoy with the masses (mostly the white cap men's wave that started 8 minute after me) and went back to swimming as soon as I the water was knee deep even though there were still a few people walking around me.

The second half of the swim didn't seem to take any more energy but I was restless and bored with being in the water and I was sighting more often than I had before. I guess that extra 8 minutes was enough to make me feel like I had been in the water too long "and where the heck was the exit?" Just past the two bridges, I looked up to sight and there was the swim exit...YAY!  I was nearly done for the swim, next up - T1 and the BIKE.

T1: 08:08
It took a ridiculous amount of time for me to put on my beautiful "Team Fishy Fish" jersey while being wet from the swim - I had to try it twice before I got it on right... and then I had to make sure that everything that I brought with me to T1 was either on my person or in my transition bag. Even my IRONMAN transitions were not this long - for IM USA or B2B - but since I was not worried about the clock - I guess I was lolly-gagging a bit more than usual!

 Holly - Starting the Bike

   Keri  - Starting the Bike

Vineman 70.3 Bike: 56m - 4:49:91

Now here is the irony of a "Pre-planned DNF" for a long-distance triathlon.  It will worm it's way into your head and suck away every last little bit of excitement and motivation that you have! It seeps deep into your head and starts in before you even start the day...
"Wow this Bike course looks hard, why not just go for a little swim and be done with it?"

"You pass the rental house at Mile 2 of the Bike, you could just roll right back to the house and spend the day cheering on Keri."

The truth is that as I got onto my bike I was already thinking that I should just QUIT and call it a day.  It took every trick that I had in my "mental toolbox" along with some extra nutrition to keep myself on the bike.  I spent the first 5 miles just focusing on getting to the first "challenging climb" figuring that if I focused on that, I could make it past the rental house and my husband and that would give me the encouragement I needed to "Get Going" - HA!

So just past Mile 5, after a short "S" curve descent, we turned right and headed up a quick steep climb.  I put my bike in it's lowest gear and stand up to power over the climb and WHAM - my bike stops short.  I recover enough to get out of my pedals and put my feet down - dumbfounded that I didn't have the power to climb up this hill.  I walk the bike up - resigned and humiliated - thinking "I know I am a big girl right now but I can't believe I couldn't even handle this climb..." - just at this moment, among what feels like the "masses of triathletes" passing by me on this hill - come my BFF and Teammate Keri, who looks at me and says "Hi, Are you OK? Did you drop your chain?'  I said nothing, just shook my head at her and waved her on.  It was at that moment, in shame and frustration that I looked down at my Bike, thinking "Why Me?" and realized that I could not even move my rear wheel, at all. 

"OMG, it's not ME, it's a mechanical..." I quickly release the brake and still the rear wheel seems stuck so I reach down to release the quick release on the tire and that is when I realized that my wheel had slipped out of it's rear stays when I stood up out of the saddle.  It took me about 2 minutes to remove the wheel and reset in correctly, close the brake, spin the tire to make sure nothing was rubbing, get on the bike and be on my way.  The sense of relief that I was able to fix my problem and get back on the bike was like hitting the REFRESH button. Maybe I should do this ride after all...

Truthfully, even after that incident, it still took me until Mile 20 to really get motivated on the Bike. It was a challenging and BEAUTIFUL course of rolling hills through the Sonoma Valley vineyards. Even though I had some small victory in fixing my back wheel - I'm not ashamed to admit that I spent miles 5-20 debating pulling over to the side of the road and having my husband come and pick me up.  So what changed at Mile 20?  Two things: 1.) I realized that I was 1/3 finished and 2.) I took an GU earlier than planned.  I honestly think that most of my lack of motivation was "nutritionally related' and once I got enough calories in to "catch up" - my mood improved - which can change EVERYTHING!

The next 36 miles were FUN, BEAUTIFUL and CHALLENGING.  I decided that even though I was not going to do the Run, I still needed to finish the Bike Course within the official cutoff time. I wanted the personal satisfaction of know that had I been 100% with my foot, I would have had time to run the half marathon and officially finish and that would only happen by finishing the Bike under the 2PM course closure.  So I broke the rest of the Bike course into the remaing challenges that I could remember from driving the course.

• Challenge #1 - Canyon Rd - a long (but gentle) uphill and a fun descent

• Challenge #2 - Rte 128 - Long Stretch of rolling Vineyards with some rough pavement that I remembered thinking "This is a good place to be aero and push the pace"

• Challenge #3 - Chalk Hill Rd. - Beast of a Climb

Challenges #1 & 2 came and went without incident and it was nice to be able to stay focused on the "here and now" and not let Chalk Hill Rd get into my head too much.  The last rest stop came at the start of Chalk Hill Rd  at Mile 41 and I skipped it - having stopped at the previous Aid Station at Mile 28.  I just wanted to get this BAD BOY over with and it was just 12:15 PM.  I had just under hours to go 15 miles and I just wanted to get up that last climb - however I could and then get into T2.  I was sure that I was going to do just fine - but I wanted TIME on my side.

Chalk Hill Rd leading up to the final climb at Mile 45 was a series of rolling hills.  We had one short quick climb that I just eased up "one pedal stroke at a time" - during this time - I was playing leap frog with the same two triathletes - a thin brown-haired woman and Brad.  Brad and I exchanged encouragement on the first little climb - and he came flying passed me on the downhills.  I caught up with him at the bottom of the climb at Mile 45 - as he was cramping up - and we leap frogged each other the entire climb.  I am proud to say that I *almost* made it all the way up Chalk Hill Rd - I had to walk the last 200 feet and Brad, who was in the throws of another round of cramps, walked those 200 feet with me.  It was nice to have company - Brad was doing his first Half Ironman - and I enjoyed his enthusiasm and it reminded me instantly how lucky I was to be out on the course - even if I was not going to cross the finish line - and how much I loved riding my bike, even when a hill was steep enough to force me to walk it.  Once we got to the top, Brad *flew* into the descent - too fast for me so I enjoyed the downhill at my own pace and caught Brad again at the bottom of the last "tiny climb" - fighting off more cramps -just before the 6-mile rolling downhill push into the town of Widsor.

I called out to Brad "Are you OK?  And he yelled back "Cramps - Drinking - OK" so I continued on.  I remembered thinking: "Time is of the essence...we have to MOVE if we are going to make the Bike cuttoff and looked back a few times to see if I could see Brad - he wasn't far behind - so I put my head down, got into my aerobars and focused on getting myself into T2 with "time to spare."

It was 1:50PM when I pulled my bike in to T2 and stepped over the transition mat.  I walked over to my transition spot, racked my bike, put on my running shoes and turned in my timing chip.  My reward for my "Short Day/DNF" was a kiss and hug from my husband, reassurance that "this DNF was the right decision for this day" and the pleasure of being able to cheer my friend and teammate Keri into an 8-minute PR for her Half Ironman finish.  A finish that I would have missed, had I been out on the course myself.

   Keri coming into T2

   Holly coming into T2
    Keri finishing strong with an 8-minute PR!
    Team Fishy Fish
   Vineman 70.3 in the books!
The upsides of a DNF on this day?  A full week later, I can tell you that the rest of our vacation was full of FUN and very little Plantar's Fascitis related pain in my right foot.  Tomorrow I am going to start Running again - nice low easy milage as though I am a beginner - with the intention of minding my Plantar Fascia.  I think choosing not to Race in favor of Recovery is the smartest thing I have done in a LONG LONG TIME.  They'll be other Races once my foot is 100%.

Life is Good!

Monday, June 27, 2011

On the Injured List...

So just two-days after the Dragonfly TRI, The plantar fascia in my right foot declared "ENOUGH!" And I didn't even get any real warning signs...

Let that be a lesson to ME and to YOU, Please make sure you are getting in your stretching post-workouts.  I'm pretty sure that my tight calves and my increase in volume this last week are the major contributors to this injury along with some weight gain over the season (which takes longer to take off than it takes you to put on - but that is topic for a separate post...)

The GOOD NEWS is that it's not a tear of the Plantar Fascia nor a Stress Fracture - just good old Plantars Fasciitis - which most fellow runners will tell you take a long time to heal properly.

So I'm in a lovely BOOT, finishing up a 6-day round of Steroids and going back to the Podiatrist on Wednesday morning to see how the first week of healing has gone.

As for my "A" Race at Vineman 70.3 - If I am *lucky* and I do as I am told in terms of recovery the next 2 weeks, the Podiatrist has said  I *may* be able to do lovely "Swim and Bike" on race day but there will be no running (nor likely even walking) 13.1 miles.

(Oh the BLING, I am ashamed to admit how much I will miss earning some Finsher BLING...)

I won't pretend I wasn't upset last week - I won't even pretend that I didn't have my moments this weekend when I wanted to lay on the floor like a 5-year old yelling "It's Not FAIR!" but when it all comes down to it - it's just a race. In my triathlon race experience, I have been lucky enough to race over 5 Half Ironmans in the last 10 years, not to mention every distance intbetween (Sprint to Ironman and back again).  I have been very blessed to be able to afford to train and race as much as I have.

MORE IMPORTANTLY,  I can still enjoy what I "can" do, cheer my friend and "tri partner in crime" Keri H. into a 70.3 PR (we hope) in her own home town back yard (HOW COOL IS THAT?) and enjoy a fantastic 2-week vacation in California - regardless of whether or not I go 70.3 miles on Sunday, July 17.

I'm on the mend...Life is (as it always is...) GOOD!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

RR: Dragonfly Triathlon - Sardis, MS

Dragonfly Triathlon
Sardis. MS - June 18, 2011
0.5m SWIM - 18m BIKE - 4m RUN
Overall: 2:43:10 - 7/8 Athena Division

Executive Summary:  This race was a whole lot of FUN with a challenging RUN course that I was not very well prepared for.  But when I look at the week as a whole, I feel like I did pretty well considering I had a root canal 2 days prior and was racing on sore/tired muscles.  I still feel like I WON (see Prelude to a Race post)

The Rest of the Story:  It was a easy (longish) drive from Millbrook, AL to Sardis, MS on Friday afternoon.  I got into town around 4PM, picked up my race packet and headed to the Super 8 Sardis to check in for the night.  Dinner at Crackerbarrel (Breakfast for Dinner, my GO-TO race meal - 2 eggs, 2 pancakes, glass of milk) and then I spent the night watching TV and relaxing.

Up at 515AM and at the Sardis Damn/National Park by 6:10AM, Transition was "self-selection" so I got a spot second row from BIKE OUT on the end.  Set up my transition space, got my numbers marked (#33) and put on a lot of extra sunscreen.  That took me about 30 minutes and then I still had about 2 hours until my race start so I found a shaded spot and sat and people watched until about 7:30AM.  Then I headed down to the SWIM start and got a nice 10-minute swim warm-up.  The water was perfect - not wetsuit legal - but cooler than the outdoor pool at Maxwell AFB has been lately.  I was looking forward to a nice open-water swim.  Spend some time talking to another woman who asked me some questions about the water and the swim course (bouys on your right - Green Triangles are Turn Bouys) and then admitted that this was her First Triathlon.  I wished her Good Luck and told her to "Just have Fun" and she left to check her bike one more time and I sat on the grass, watching folks getting worked up and excited as the race start grew nearer.  No nervousness for me, these are distances I can handle, just ready to start the day and see how it all pans out!

SWIM: .5 miles - 22:58  Swim started in Waves and, as usual, I was in the last Wave.  The race started at 8:00AM and my wave started at 8:14AM - I was prepared to not see many people and feel "last" for most of the race already.  Even with that in mind, I was pretty confident about what to expect from myself on this swim, around 23:00 is what it has been taking me to do 800yd in the pool and I was hoping, with cooler water and descent siting skills, I would come out in around 20:00.  I had a new experience in this open water swim and that was that it took me a good 400yds to find some "clear water" to swim in.  I spent the entire swim to the first turn bouy in the masses, getting kicked and slapped and generally pushed around - I guess that means that I am hanging with the main group longer than ever but it was pretty annoying.  At one point, just past the first turn bouy, I swam right over a woman - who had stopped to sight (I presume) - I immediately stopped and we both apologized and from that point, I think I slowed down a bit and looked for clear water.  I was less concerned with 20 minutes and more concerned with not getting pummeled and swimming on people at that point. 

T1: 2:15  Happy with transition, I didn't waste much time, just ran up the beach and across the grass to Transition and then quickly rinsed my feet, put on my sock and shoes, helmet and bib number and grabbed Sunshine and we were off on the BIKE course.

BIKE: 18 miles - 1:14:47  Holy Headwind BATMAN!  We started the bike heading into a serious head wind/cross wind and I just got into gear, tucked into my aerobars and focused on spinning.  I was hoping that when we got back, we'd have a nice tail wind all the way back to the park but it was too soon to tell.  The course was nice - FLAT for the first 5.5 miles and then about 1.5 of gradual uphill that included a half mile stair step climb and then about 2 miles of rolling to the turn around.  I knew from reading about the course that after the turn around, we would be riding mostly downhill back to the final 5.5 mile turn so I really focused on spinning effortlessly on the stairstep climbs up - telling myself that I could push hard the entire trip back if I "saved something now."

I passed about 3 people on the way to the turn-around - including one women who stopped at the top of the first half of the stair-step climb, exclaiming, "Oh God, there's another climb!"  which made me giggle a little and yell out "But what goes up, MUST COME DOWN!"  I don't think she appreciated my hill humor much!  Then we got to the turn around and I just put my "hammer" down.  I knew what was coming, I just climbed it and as far as descents go, there was nothing technical or dangerous so I just put the bike in a big gear and kept my promise to myself to PUSH.  I passed 4 people on the return trip and when we turned at Mile 12.5 there is was....TAIL WIND!  It was the perfect gift for all the nasty headwinds on the way out - and I just dropped into my aerobars and hammered my way home - seeing 20mph on the speedometer for most of the last 5 miles...

T2: 2:09  Got back into Transition and there were plenty of people milling around already done with there race but I also knew there were still plenty of people out of the run - so I racked my bike, changed my shoes, grabbed my hat and got going. This T2 should have been faster, considering how little I had to do...

RUN: 4 miles 1:01:01  Truthfully, if it were not for the fact that I passed people on the bike, so I *knew* that I was not going to be the absolutely last person on the course, I might have really not been able to enjoy this run.  I always prefer races where I get to start in a middle wave because then, at least on the RUN, I still feel like there are people around racing with me.  But today I *knew* that nearly everybody that I passed on the bike would - eventually - pass me on the run. 

With that in mind, I did everything that I could to find a nice pace and get my heart rate and breathing settled, early in that first mile.  It was hard, because that first mile is also the last mile, so I had to watch a lot of athletes coming the other direction, who were walking.  Not to mention the woman just ahead of me (about 100 yds) who left transition just in front of me, who was also walking.  Nothing sucks my motivation away more in Triathlons than seeing other people walk because I often think "Well if they are walking, I can walk for a bit, what will it hurt?"

But I fought the urge because I knew this RUN course was different from anything I had done before.  Only 2 miles were on regular paved roads.  The middle two miles were actually a running trail through the woods - with some considerable climbs and descents - so I didn't want to walk in that first mile and loose time.  The Woods were AWESOME FUN and VERY CHALLENGING.

Here is the RUN COURSE description as borrowed from "Can't Stop Endurance" BLOG:

When you exit T2 you follow the same one mile stretch of Cypress Point Drive that you used on the bike.  The first aid station is near the one mile mark just before Hwy 35.

Cross Hwy 35 and veer to the left you will be in the grass headed for the woods.

One of the unique features of DragonFly is that half of the run is on trails.   After a few hundred yards on the grass you reach the trail head for Sandstone Trail.  It is a beautiful, well-maintained trail... but it is not flat.  Not even close.  

As soon as you hit the trail it begins a half mile climb that will get the attention of your heart rate.  Aid station #2 awaits at the top where the trail splits.  Take the right split at the aid station and begin a long gradual downhill counter-clockwise loop. 

When the trail takes a sharp left over this wooden bridge you will be headed back towards the finish. 

The trail flattens for a half mile and crosses a series of wooden bridges.  (Caution: If the bridges are damp they can be slick!)

The end of the loop leads you up another steep climb back to the aid station at the trail split.  Turn right at the aid station and now, depending on your heart-rate and aggressiveness, you can bomb back down to the trail head.

(Caution: there will be two-way traffic on this narrow stretch of trail.  Do your best to yield enough room for others to pass in both directions.)  
Once you reach the trail parking lot you run back across the grass, cross Hwy 35, pass aid station #4 and begin the one mile stretch of Cypress Point Rd that you have already seen three times.  
If it is sunny this will be the hottest stretch of the race due to the lack of shade.  
AND here are my RUN COURSE splits, this was by and far the LONGEST I have ever taken to "run" 4-miles in any race so far.

Mile 1: 13:24
Mile 2: 16:15 (there was inevitably some walking on the steeper parts of this trail)
Mile 3: 14:48 (more running than walking, than gosh)
Mile 4: 14:16 (this last mile I did run/walk intervals for the last 1/2 mile, I was HOT and TIRED)

On this particular course, once you pass the 4-mile flag, its about a 500yd run around transition and to the Finish Line and I refused to walk any of that, no matter how beat down I was from the heat and the "little mountain goat climb" on the run. So I put my head down and got it done - running the last 500 yards at a 13:00 pace (according to Garmin) and there was the Finish Line!

Final Finish Time: 2:43:10 was about 13 minutes slower than I was hoping to do for this course (I was hoping for 2:30 or so) but honestly, I had so much FUN that I really didn't care and in looking at the finish times, overall, while I was very much in the Back of the Pack, there were plenty of other athletes that finished in my time range.

Bottom Line: It was a great race, lots of FUN and while I didn't come anywhere near my goal of finishing Top 3 Athena (Top Place Finished in 2:02 ...I couldn't have come close at this race no matter how hard I tried...LMAO) it was still a WIN in my book!

Take THAT Melanoma!  It might have taken me 6 years but damnit, I DID come back and race Dragonfly Triathlon!

Life is Good! Live STRONG!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Prelude to a Race

I'm currently in Sardis, MS. Tomorrow morning around 8:05AM, I'll be heading into the water to start the Dragonfly SPRINT Triathlon. It's not a long race - 0.5 mile SWIM - 18 mile BIKE - 4 mile RUN - just a SPRINT triathlon but it is an important race, if only to me.

You see, I signed up for this race once June 2005. This was just another in a long list of races that made up my "two years to Ironman plan" and it was a race in Mississippi so it could be included in a vacation that Jim and I had planned...

and then along came Melanoma...and all my plans changed...

So this time, in June 2005, Jim and I made the trip to Sardis, MS by way of Memphis, TN and Oxford, MS. I got to see Jim's Alma-mater (Ole Miss) and picked up my race packet. But on Saturday morning, Jim and I stood by the sidelines and cheered everybody on. There would be no 2005 Dragonfly SPRINT Triathlon for me. I had just finished 4-weeks of high-dose Interferon Chemotherapy just a week before and I was not just on Vacation with my bouyfriend but on a "CHEMO vacation" as well - getting ready to start 48-weeks of low-dose Interferon shots 3x a week when we came back home, post-vacation.

So here I am, 6 years later, and I am finally doing the Dragonfly SPRINT Triathlon and I realized something on my drive over from my new home in Alabama...

Before I have even crossed the finish line of this particular race, no matter what kind of race day I end up having...I HAVE ALREADY WON!

Life is GOOD! LiveSTRONG!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Race Report: Maxwell AFB Triathlon 2011

Maxwell Airforce Base Triathlon - Montgomery, AL - 8AM
400yd SWIM - 6.5m BIKE - 4m RUN

Executive Summary:  For a "First Time event" Maxwell AFB did an excellent job!  A pool Swim, really short Bike course and a long Run (in proportion for a Sprint Distance TRI) but a great time and everybody was awesome about encouraging and cheering people on - especially *all* the athletes that inevitably passed me on the RUN course. LOL It was a great way to start my very short TRI racing season this year.

The Rest of the Story: Due in large part to our recent move to Alabama, this SPRINT TRI was the first race of my triathlon season, so I was very much looking forward to it as a chance to guage where I am at before I race the Dragon Fly Triathlon next week in Sardis, MS and follow-up with Vineman 70.3 in Windsor, CA in July. 

When you add that this low-key triathlon is just a 15-minute drive from our house and FREE - well that was just *icing on the cupcake*!  I expected, based on my recent training, that the race would take me about 1:30 to complete, including Transitions and I was pretty close to that time but I will never truly know my splits because my Garmin 310XT chose today - mid-race - to FREEZE so I spent the Bike and Run racing "blind to pace." I'll bring a back up (my timex) next week to Dragon Fly Tri.

PRE-RACE:  The transition area for this race was very LOW KEY.  Everbody just picked a spot in Airforce Park to put their bikes, as there were no bike racks.  I chose to bring a milk crate to carry my gear and use that as an impromp-to Bike Stand.  Worked out pretty well and since I got to Maxwell around 6:40am, I got a nice spot near the entrance/exit of transition. 

After setting up transition, I headed to the Cadet Pool to get body marked and wait for the race start.  I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me as we walked to the pool and it turned out that he was a fellow Team Z teammate, Jon, whom my friend Keri has been telling me about for a few weeks now.  She knew that we were both moving down to Maxwell AFB and had been telling me that I should look Jon up - and there he was!  We probably would not have met as quickly if I had not worn my Team Z race kit (all green - all Z!) so it worked out great to finally meet Jon and to have another person to cheer on and look for out on the course.

SWIM: 400yds - 10:02 (garmin) The swim was 400 yds / 8 laps of the 50 yd outdoor pool.  The water temp was already over 90 and they had the athletes in two heats. I was in heat #1 and Lane 4 and there were 3 athletes per lane.  The guys I shared the lane with were doing their first TRI and had no idea what their swim time would be so they had me start first.  I worried that I would be in the way, but as it turned out - I was the first one out of the pool, in our lane (though not the first one of the pool by any stretch of the imagination! LOL) The swim went exactly as I expected - 10 minutes was what the last four "test" 400s had been in this pool the two days before - and that is exactly what I did.

T1: .25 miles (no time) There was a pretty long run from the deck of the pool, across the street and to the bikes on the other side of Airforce Park - so it was a GREAT SURPRISE - when I got out of the pool and there was my husband Jim, taking a quick office break, to cheer me on.  He jogged with me over to transition - noting that this was a "long run to T1" and it was awesome to have him there to see me off on the Bike.  Got to transition, grabbed socks, shoes and helmet and I was on my way to the Bike - felt like I made good use of the time and was not yet aware that my Garmin had stopped doing it's job.
BIKE: 6.5 miles (estimate 18 minutes): Got on my bike and knew that it was going to be quick and easy.  The course was flat and really 6.5 miles isn't even enough time to warm-up on a bike so I just went for broke and pushed the pace the entire time.  I passed quite a few people leading up to the turn-around and then held them off, knowing already that I was going to get passed on the run but enjoying a little "lead" time anyways.  If they could run this TRI again and extend the bike course to two loops of 6.5 miles (13 mile) or even 3 loops - this would be a great competitive Bike course for a sprint-distance event.

About 1 mile into the Bike is when I realized that my Garmin was stuck at 10:02, I tried pushing the lap button a few times and even tried stopping the timer all together but it was FROZEN in time.  I was a little frustrated because I was banking on my GARMIN to help keep me steady and strong on the RUN but with no choice, I just turned the Garmin off and monitored my effort by how I felt and my breathing.

T2: No Time / 8:35AM: Quickly back from the bike, I know I had a strong bike because I did know that it was 8:35AM, just 30 minutes after the race start when I left T2.  Wasted some time in T2 trying to get my Garmin to start up in regular mode so I could at least time my run - nothing doing - the damn thing wouldn't even come on now - so I had no choice but to do this 4 mile RUN "by feel" only and hope that I could motivate myself to stick to 50 minutes max.

RUN: 4 miles (estimate 55 minutes): "OMG, why does it have to be so HOT in Alabama?"  The run started off SLOW with me working hard to get my heart rate down to something manageable.  I already new that the RUN was going to be disproportionately LONG in terms of time for me, I just have not been jogging very fast these days but I resolved last night, pre-race, that no matter how long it took me - I was running the entire 4-miles, even if the pace was damn slow. The only walk breaks would be at water stops and limited to 30-60 seconds.  AND I STUCK TO MY PLAN!  It took me through the Mile 1 to get my heart rate down to a good place and feel like I have a solid steady pace that I could hold onto for the full 4 miles.  At about Mile 1.5, I saw Jon (Team Z) looking strong and on a solid steady pace and we gave each other a "Go Z" cheer!  Mile 2 was the turn around and I high-fived the Volunteers and drank some water and splashed the rest on my head to cool off (and my heart rate shot back up for a second!) and then I settled into knocking out the last two miles - very slowly. 

Honestly, the heat, even at 9AM (90F) really just wipes me out on these runs and the run course was open and exposed with only a little shade.  The saving grace on this race course were all the fellow athletes! Everybody was cheering each other on and encouraging each other - EVERYBODY!  And I gave as much as I got - getting lots of "Way to go Ma'am's" and "Nice Work - Keep it Steady" which really help me a lot and I did my best to cheer every athlete that passed me - and it was pretty much almost everybody! LOL  Mile 3 came and went and I found myself wishing that this was a 5K run course because I would have been done already but I just told myself "You can do anything for 13 more minutes" and put one foot in front of the other.  Soon enough I was turning the corner and joining the "Team" athletes who only had to run 1-mile for their RUN leg and the finish line was in sight.

FINISH: Quick Look at the Race Clock as I passed through the finish line: 1:38 - about 8 minutes slower than my goal (1:30) but in light of the longish RUN portion of this race and running in the heat of the morning, I have no complaints and I have plenty of room for improvement over the next 5 weeks with Vineman 70.3 on the horizon.

All in all, it was the BEST WAY to spend a Friday Morning!  A Free TRI in my new home town followed by a great Base-Wide Picnic Lunch that Jim was able to come and join me for AND I got a chance to meet fellow Team Z teammate Jon and we have plans to stay in touch to do some bike riding/tri training together this summer.

Next Race:  Dragon Fly Triathlon - Sardis, MS - Saturday, June 18 - Goal is TOP 3 ATHENA FINISH

Life is Good! LiveSTRONG!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

RR: Capital Crescent 5K: SPRING 2011 CANCER to 5K Event!

Capital Crescent 5K - Bethesda, MD
Sunday, June 5, 2011 - 7AM

Up and on the road at 5:45AM, I was excited and "Ready to GO!" for the Capital Crescent 5K.  This was going to be my first time actually getting to "RUN" this race as a Race Day SHERPA for my CANCER to 5K team Erica. In the last 4 years and 8 seasons of the CANCER to 5K Training Program, I have only had the opportunity to actually "RUN" the Races twice before. Coach Bob and I learned early on that the logistics of race day required somebody to "man" the finish line - to watch gear, to cheer people on and to be there for friends and family coming out to support the runners.

But this year was different! After having moved to Alabama, and pretty much missing more than half the training season, I wanted to be in town for RACE DAY for the majority of the team.  So at 5:45am, Keri and I were out of the house and on the road to Bethesda, MD.

Usually, I am the "Queen of the Weather Report," but for some reason, I never once looked at the weather....assumed "Sunny & Hot" - so I was dumbfounded when the giant rain drops began to hit the windshield of the car.  Keri and I both looked at each other and laughed that neither of us thought to check the weather. Looks like we might be in for a rainy 5K...after 4 years of crazy weather for races and training, NOTHING SURPRISES ME MUCH ANY MORE!

We arrived just in time for brief rain shower #2, picked up our bibs and met up with the group.  Erika seemed in good spirits to me, despite the rain drops and everybody else was doing OK. Lots of nervous energy around - which made me SMILE - because in my heart, based on weeks of emails and reports from Coach Bob, Andrea, Colleen and Jennifer - I *KNEW* Carmen, Phyllis, Jennifer, Erika, Cyndi, and Esther were READY! But I also knew that no amount of words would have them believe - that is how your first 5K always is...

We have done this race several years in a row, the Montgomery Country Road Runners do a great job with this event and this year they went over and above!  They had two groups running to support CANCER causes and the race director acknowledged and welcomed both groups ("Bladder Cancer Pisses Us Off" and CANCER to 5K)  and gave us each our own wave starts!  It was a wonderful surprise and a nice way to make the race day even more special for our runners who worked so hard this season!  We waited about 1 minute from the last wave and then we were OFF!

Running with Erika and Jess Datta, is always a fun time for me.  When Coach Bob told Jess and I that Erika's goal was a new PR at the 5K distance of 43:00 - I was super gung-ho and motivated to help her make that happen.  We settled into the "1:00 Run / 1:00 Walk " interval plan that Coach Bob recommended and quickly picked off a few walkers in the first mile.  Near Mile 1, Erika was initially "discouraged" to start to see the Front Runners coming back to the finish already - but Jess and I were quick to remind her that we were racing "HER RACE PLAN" - I'm not sure that made her feel any better but she seem to let go of some frustration at that point but it was uniquely timed with the first of 2 climbs up and over a bridge, so it might have been the bridges that distracted.  We rolled over the bridge and down the to the turn around - getting a chance to see the rest of the CT5K team looking fantastic, full of smiles and high-fived them!

Just past the turn-around, the pace really started to settle in and Erika admitted that the time for "distraction" on the RUN intervals had come. We were READY!  First we worked on tackeling the hill and getting to the water stop.  We were on a RUN leg for the water stop and Erika left Jess and I in the dust by running through the water stop while drinking her water!  I barely had time to get a drink and it was awesome to realize that Erika might have been tired but she was determined and focused and not wasting any time.  RUN INTERVAL was time for RUNNING - it was a great reminder to me on how to effectively PLAN YOUR RACE and RACE YOUR PLAN!

We got through Mile 2 - Jess encouraging Erika to share her Las Vegas birthday plans and found ourselves going strong, into the 3rd and final mile - for Erika to meet her PR goal - now we needed her to stay steady and consistent while running - even if her walk breaks were a little slower to recover - the time to push a little harder had arrived.

After 2 years of friendship and running, I've gotten pretty good at gauging how to distract Erika and/or encourage her when she is struggling with a workout. I had my "Theme Song" list ready to go!  For ONE MINUTE, I did my best to sing whatever lyrics I could remember to many songs - Lavern & Shirley - Happy Days - Paul McCartney's "Love Song" (we had been talking "GLEE" episodes) and then Erika through me a loop...She requested DANCE MUSIC/HIP HOP.

"Now what the heck am I going to do?" I thought to myself - desperately trying to think of something - looking down at the Garmin...30 seconds to remember a DANCE/HIP HOP SONG....I ran though my internal "iPOD" playlist and there it was....

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch - Good Vibrations!

So when that interval started - I launced into it - "Whooohhhh" "Whooohoooo" "Vibratations Good Like Sunkist, make me wanna know who done this? I'm Holly G and I'm here to Groove with you...we Gonna PR and I'm gonna Prove to you..."

OMG, it was hysterical and off the cuff and personalize as much as I could to Erika and her PR and even her nephews breakin' it down with "Wii / Dance Dance" at the end.  It was the most creative 1- minute RUN JAM, I have ever come up with! And it got us through that interval and onto the next - counting down intervals - knowing we were soooo close to being done and that Erika was ON TARGET for her PR.

Pretty quickly we crossed the last intersection, just as the Garmin indicated to me that we were in our last interval and Jess and I both looked at Erika and said - this is your last walk break - your done - Look ahead - see all the Yellow? Finish Line ahead - ONLY RUNNING!  And away she went! 

FINISH: 41.59.99

Now *that* is how you LiveSTRONG

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama

Rather than try to follow-up on what has been an insane last 6-weeks, let's just call this a "fresh new start" to TRI and Be Happy...So what has cause me to completely lose sight of blogging, even on a irregular basis?

We've MOVED from Northern VA to Montgomery, Alabama (AL)

While I have not gotten much done, in terms of triathlon - you can't say that I have not been busy and working hard. In the last three weeks I have:

• taken a leave of absence from my job

• packed up our entire household
(with help from Jim and a Moving Company of course...)

• managed to get in 3 great workouts with Team Z's Belle Haven Babes and CANCER to 5K friends while prepping the move (Week One)

• went to 3 different and wonderful dinner parties given by local friends and teammates - One a COMPLETE surprise! (Thank you again CANCER to 5K NOVA Teammates!)

• sacrificed 1 pair of running shoes, 1 pair of leather gloves & 1 baseball cap
(to an angry confused female bengal cat who decided to pee on said items to convey her displeasure at the strangers who kept coming into our house and touching stuff aka packing)

• taken a two-day road trip with 2 cars, 1 motorcycle, 2 bengal cats and my husband

• been amazed at how well the 2 bengal cats behaved on a 2-day road trip
(relaxed into a travel routine, used the litter at rest stops, used the litter in the hotel room and thankfully never pee'd anyplace else!)

arrived safely to our new home just outside Montgomery, AL

• applied for a new job at Maxwell AFB that just happens to be in my career field AND already made the list for said job (hoping on a phone interview! - Fingers Crossed)

heard my first TORNADO Sirens and a survived a devastating storm that has been declared a "Category 1 Natural Disaster" for the entire state of Alabama - on my first night in my new home.

• accepted delivery of our house hold goods - all 300+ boxes and furniture accounted for...

• unpacked about 100 boxes (so far...)

• found a great deal on a Washer/Dryer set on Craigslist and installed them both!
(only 9 months old and two for the price we would have spent on just a new washer alone!)

• eaten out for 3 weeks straight
(Refrigerator being delivered today, thanks goodness!)

• managed to get in 2 workouts so far this week (Week Three)

The list above is just general highlights but it seems like the bulk of my days are spent emptying boxes. I have not even had the chance to get on my bike, even though Jim put both our bikes together the day after they were delivered last Thursday.

Tomorrow morning, very early, I am leaving Jim and the bengal cats to make a 9-hour road trip to Myrtle Beach, SC to meet up with my family and celebrate my sister Heather's Graduation from Coastal Carolina University! I'm packing my sunscreen, my bathingsuit, my bike and my camera and looking forward to my mini-vacation from all the boxes! Jim has to work (first full week at the new job) so I am going to have to give my nephews twice as many hugs and kisses.  My life is so hard! NOT!

Not lost on me, is the fact that I will drive 500 miles away from my new home to get a bike ride on my bike.  But Sunshine and Ferdinand need to get to know one another and I know that my sister Heather could use a low-key bike ride to get her "tri-confidence" soaring again and I am just the girl who can provide that. Again, my life is so hard! NOT!

So, to wrap up - we moved 900 miles to the deep South - I'm up to my eyeballs in boxes of stuff (that we still can believe is really all ours...) - my sister is Graduating from College this Weekend (GO HEATHER!) - Vineman Half Ironman (70.3) is just 10 weeks away! (GULP!!)

Life is GOOD!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

RR: Yuengling Shamrock Dolphin Challenge: Part 2: Anthem Half Marathon

Yuengling Shamrock Dolphin Challenge
March 19-20, 2011 - Virginia Beach, VA

Saturday: Towne Bank 8K - 1:04:54
Sunday: Anthem Half Marathon: 03:08:03

Race Summary:  Ran "nearly naked" all weekend long (no watch to keep track of race pace) and had a fantastic time enjoying the Race, my Friends, the Beach and, of course, the Beer!

Also picked up my HALF FANATICS membership by finishing 3 Half Marathons within 72 days!  I am already looking at the list, trying to figure out how to move up to the next level of membership since "3 Half Marathons in 90 days" is only Level One. 

THE LONG VERSION - PART 2: (grab some coffee or a pint...this was a long weekend!)

Sunday: Anthem Half Marathon

I woke up Sunday morning, earlier, in an attempt to get Breakfast in early enough to feel like it made a difference.  Up at 5AM (race start at 7AM) and had my Bagel and Peanut butter and a large bottle of water and then puttered around, feeling anxious and nervous.  I had not brought enough "cold weather" running clothes with me and was very concerned that the high winds (15-20 mph) and the cooler temps ( 45F at start, high of 50F for the day) were going to make for a pretty miserable race experience.  I was much moodier than my typical "race-morning self" but the Ladies (Leanne, Judy, Alexis and Keri) just rolled with it. Good Friends on Race Mornings are a Blessing!

By 615am we were out the door and headed to the Half Marathon Start, a little 10 very windy blocks up from the hotel.  Did I mention it was COLD & WINDY? That didn't help my nerves much but I tried to relax and enjoy walking to the start - since everybody was starting in the same COLD & WIND b*tching about it wasn't going to make much difference - so I did my best to let it go.

After a fun Pre-Race photo op, we all split up to head to our Start Waves and I went to Wave 5 and stood with the huddle masses - there were lots of smiles and  pretty quickly after the National Anthem, we were off and on our way.

At the start: Judy, Keri, Holly (me) & Leanne

I really didn't see this coming - after having a rough day out on the 8K course - I honestly expected to have nothing for the Half Marathon and was really just planning to "move forward with purpose and try to have as much fun on the course as I could - no matter what my pace."  For this race, I ran "Half-Naked" - I had my Timex watch set for Run/Walk intervals of 3/1 - "to be started only if I ran out of motivation to keep running continuously" but I was not allowed to start the stop watch function that would tell me overall time elapsed, nor was I allowed to check on the actual time of day.

So here I am, feeling good, settling into a nice easy pace (at least it felt nice and easy - don't know, no watch to check!) and having fun, watching the people around me, checking out the neighborhoods and looking forward to the next 12 miles.

Miles 1-3 went by effortlessly - just moving along, settling in the pace. Just before Mile 3 we passed the local HASH HARRIERS Rest Stop and while I didn't stop and indulge in a little bit of beer - I did yell "ON ON" nice and loud and got "ON ON" and a few toasts from the folks on the side of the road!

I did break one "Golden Rule" of running that says "Do Nothing NEW on Race Day" but I was curious to try the nutrition plan that my own sister Heather has been using on her long runs since I have always been hit or miss on my stomach behaving on long runs.  Lately Heather has been using the "Running Buffet Method", as she likes to jokingly refer to it.  She eats one honey stinger chew per mile and keeps her hydration at regular intervals - as she needs it.  So I thought I'd give it a try.

My Result?  STEADY ENERGY and NO STOMACH ISSUES the ENTIRE RACE! (Also NO STOMACH ISSUES AFTER THE RACE - which has been a problem sometimes too!) I ate one Margarita Cliff Block every mile and drank water only when I felt like I wanted a little (which for me was Miles 3, 6, 8 & 11) and it worked out perfectly.  I am SOLD on the "Running Buffet Method" for any run longer than 6 miles from this point forward!

Miles 4-6 were spent on River Road - enjoying the bad Shamrock Jokes signs as well as some other Funny/Silly signs.  The one that I remember?

"I used to keep an open mind but it kept falling out of my head on my long runs; so I don't keep an open mind anymore"

Just before Mile 5, I stopped for my only Port-o-Potty break and while waiting in a long line, had a cool chat with a fellow in front of me who was running his first Half Marathon. As I left the Port-o-Potty, along came Priscilla & Debbie!  It was awesome to run with some Team Z teammates for a little bit but I honestly felt like the pace was a little faster than I wanted to go - so I backed off after about a mile of running with Debbie - reminding myself that "Today is for FUN, don't worry about TIME."

Just about half a mile from separating, I passed Debbie again - as she stopped at a Port-o-Potty and I waved "Hi!" and continued on.  Mile 7 came and went and I found myself thinking "I'm bored, this is getting harder, where is that darn lighthouse Ron told me about?"

The time had clearly come to "shake things up a bit" so I turned on my Interval Timer and started it.  I decided that from this point on, I would run 3:00 / walk 1:00 until the final turn onto the boardwalk and then run to the Finish Line.  It helped to have something "new" to focus on and I actually felt like my pace picked up ever so slightly, overall.

Miles 8-9 were fine - just working my way through Fort Storey - finally saw the Lighthouse and some beautiful Oceanviews, just in time to head straight into the WIND!  UGH!  But in perfect timing, right about Mile 9 - Debbie finally caught up to me and after discovering my Interval Plan - suggested that we stay together.  I was game and ready for the company so we divived the Intervals - My job was to keep us moving steady for the 3:00 Run and Debbie's job was to keep us "Walking quickly with purpse" for the 1:00 Walk.

We talked and ran and walked and talked.  It was really wonderful to spend some time with Debbie - hearing about her season plans, sharing my season plans - talking about swimming and running and everything in between. Debbie made the miles fly by and really I don't remember the headwinds - although I know we ran through them.

While I was not at all concerned with time, Debbie was focused on her time. She had done this race in 2010 as her first Half Marathon and she was steady and focused on a strong finish and setting a new PR (Personal Record).  We talked "Half Marathon Finish Times" in general, as I told her about my two Half Fanatic's races from this season (MS Blues & Myrtle Beach) and she shared with me that if we finished in/around my average pace for this season: 3:05-3:10 - She would come away with a nearly 20 minute PR.  This got my attention, because while I was not trying to race for time, I understood how much focus and effort Debbie was putting into her Race day and I was honored to be running with her and helping her make her personal time goal.

Before I knew it, we were looking at Mile 12 and just two more Run/Walk interval left. We agreed that "We only got two more Run/Walk Intervals and then we'd RUN it into the Finish Line - no matter how far we might be from the actual last turn onto the Boardwalk."  As it turns out our timing was perfect - our last 1:00 Walk was about 2 blocks before the final turn.

As we ran down the Boardwalk, Debbie asked me how I was going to finish - was I going to speed up? And I said "No, Sorry - this is all I have" and she responded "That is OK, this is all I have too but I am still going to have a big PR!" And with big smiles on our face, we ran together in to the Finish Line!

The rest of the day was spent enjoying Beer, Cheering on Team Z teammates and friends Ron and Shawn to their Marathon Finishes and a large tasty Philly Cheesesteak and Cheesecake at the Jewish Mother's Deli in Norfolk, VA with Shawn, Ron and Keri on our way home.

Ron, Shawn, Holly (me) & Keri - FINISHERS!
I couldn't have PLANNED a better Half Marathon Race Day if I tried - and maybe that is because this time, I didn't try. I just went out and took what my body had to give and focused on having fun and enjoying every mile. 

I would recommend running at least "One Race Naked Every Year" to those of you who run and for those of you who are not running - What are you waiting for?  Come on along - the finisher's BLING is worth every mile!
Just a little bit of the Race Swag & Bling - Half Marathon Medal, Finisher's Hat, Finishers Shirt (not in photo) and the 8K Finisher Medal plus an 8K Long Sleeve Tshirt and Half Marathon Tech Shirt - just for picking up your race packet!

Life is GOOD!  Live STRONG!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

RR: Yuengling Shamrock Dolphin Challenge: Part 1: Towne Bank 8K

Yuengling Shamrock Dolphin Challenge
March 19-20, 2011 - Virginia Beach, VA

Saturday: Towne Bank 8K - 1:04:54
Sunday: Shamrock Half Marathon: 03:08:03

Race Summary:  Ran "nearly naked" all weekend long (no watch to keep track of race pace) and had a fantastic time enjoying the Race, my Friends, the Beach and, of course, the Beer!

Also picked up my HALF FANATICS membership by finishing 3 Half Marathons within 72 days!  I am already looking at the list, trying to figure out how to move up to the next level of membership since "3 Half Marathons in 90 days" is only Level One. 

THE LONG VERSION: (grab some coffee or a pint...this was a long weekend!)

Friday: Race Expo Fun

Headed down to Virginia Beach with my wonderful friends and Team Z teammates, Leanne and Judy and we timed it perfectly! 3.5 hours from my front door to the Race Expo in Virginia Beach. We had fun picking up our race packet and shopping the Expo. It always nice to be at a Race Expo with friends who like to check out every vendor. I bought an official Shamrock Race pint glass for Jim and a commemorative race pin for me and managed to leave the expo with only the two race shirts that were part of my registration! That is a real accomplishment for me! LOL

We headed to our hotel. Judy reserved a room in the Hampton Inn Oceanside  - PERFECT LOCATION! It was right on the Finish Line chute for all the races for the weekend as well as the START for the 8K race and the 12-mile point of the Marathon. We were within walking distance of the Finish Line and Beer Tent! It doesn't get much better than that.

We headed out to dinner at "Rudee's on the Inlet" and had a great meal and then went back to the Hampton Inn to chill, get ready to race the 8K and wait for the arrival of our friend/teammate Keri - who rolled in about 10PM. Let the MEGA SLEEPOVER / RACE WEEKEND Begin!

Saturday: Dolphin Challenge - Race #1: Towne Bank 8K (4.9 miles)

Got up at 6:30am for an 8am race start, got dressed and headed down to Continental Breakfast at the hotel. Bagel with Peanut butter (standard training/racing breakfast) and glass of Skim Milk and I was ready to go. In retrospect, I realized that I did not eat my breakfast early enough, compared to normal training days - I really felt that during the race.

We walked out the front door of the hotel and were immediately standing in front of Corral 3. We walked over to Corral 4 as a group and Leanne, Judy and I eased into the crowd to wait for the start.
The weather was descent; breezy but temps in the low 50s already - perfect for a nice "almost 5-mile run."

Wave Starts had us crossing the start line about 5 minutes after the Elite Wave and we headed South towards 2nd Ave (start line was 31st Ave) with the wind at our back. I decided that this weekend I was running "Naked" - No Watch or Garmin to keep track of my time or pace - This entire weekend would be about Running for Fun and having a wonderful time with my Friends and Teammates.  This would be my last big Team Z Race Weekend, as Jim and I are getting ready to move in the end of April.  FUN was the ONLY GOAL!

First 2 miles were OK - I was having some odd lower shin pain and felt really low on energy. It frustrated me a little, since this was the "short run of the weekend." I really had no clue how long we had been on the course because I never saw the Mile 1 marker but we passed a water stop at 1.5 miles (which I know from looking at the race map the day before).  Skipped that water stop and just enjoyed being well in the middle of the pack and really tried to let go of how frustrated I was at feeling "kinda empty of energy".  With 9,000 people racing the 8K, even my slower pace is still the middle of the pack - no chance to feel like you were alone on this race course.

We hit 2nd Ave and turned onto the Boardwalk and INTO THE WIND for the next mile.  The wind gusts were 15-20mph and all around, people were joking and/or moaning about the wind.  My shins had finally stopped bugging me, so I was just happy to feel like I finally warmed up a bit.  Took a cup of water at Mile 3 / water stop and enjoyed all the "Go Holly!" from fellow Team Z peeps as they passed me.  No worries on being passed, I was out to have FUN!

We turned left of the boardwalk sometime around 25th or 27th Ave and back onto Atlantic Ave and ran past the hotel and got a bit of a break from the wind - thanks to all the big hotels for the last mile.  Passed the Hampton Inn, passed the Start location for the Half Marathon on Sunday and turned Right for the last quarter mile down the boardwalk to the Finish Line.  Treated to a TAIL WIND all the way into the Finish Line and had the pleasure of running with Teammates AJ & Nicolas for a "Three Z Finish."

I expected that I would finish right around 1:00:00 and did not actually look at the Race Clock at the Finish Line because I was busy having fun finishing with my Teammates. Crossed the Finish, got a nice Finisher Medal, met up with Leanne and Judy and we headed straight to the Beer Tent for a Yuengling - By 9:15am - after running 8K - I was standing on the Beach enjoying a beer with good friends!

CHIP TIME: 1:04:54 - This definitely reflects that I was low on energy and could have done a better job of eating breakfast earlier.

Rest of Saturday: Race Expo, Cake Adventures & Team Z Dinner:

Met up with Keri after the 8K, rinsed off and changed and then went back out to the Race Expo so that Keri could pick up her packet for the Half Marathon too.  Then Keri and I went on a little COSTCO adventure.  Since this would be my last TEAM Z Race Weekend before our move to Alabama, I wanted to do something to say "Goodbye" to my Teammates, so Keri helped me coordinate with Coach Ed and Coach Alexis to bring "dessert" to the Team Z Pasta Dinner on Saturday night.

Keri and I bought 3 huge sheet cakes for the 130+ folks that were going to be at the Team Z Pasta Dinner and then we headed back to the Hamton Inn to chill out with Leanne, Judy and Alexis until it was time to go to Dinner.

Had a wonderful time at the Team Z Pasta Dinner and Coach Alexis helped me tell the Team "Goodbye" and we all enjoyed some tasty cake - then we headed back to the hotel for an early night before the Half Marathon in the AM.

That's it for PART 1....

Yuengling Half Marathon to follow in Part II (Damn this is long! LOL)