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