Friday, April 26, 2013

The Hitchhiker's Guide to....Cycling??

If that book exists, I need it. Perhaps I should explain.

I had a simple hour aerobic ride on the schedule and took the bike out with the race wheels for the first time this year. Weeeeeee! I drove the bike to my kid's school and figured I could just squeeze the ride in from there and finish to coincide with dismissal. No time wasted! Perfect plan! Yes, until 3/4 of the way into the ride when I spotted a crouched white kitty alongside a sharp bend in the road, then saw the gravel and oncoming traffic, made some cat-and-vehicle evading maneuver and blew a tube.

Dang it! And no repair stuff with me (yeah, yeah...dumb). Then I remembered the small split in the tire left over from last season. Could that have been it?

I was just a few miles from the car so I figured surely some good Samaritan would offer me a ride into town.

I took off my helmet, hung it from the aerobars, then....oh so stupid....took my bike shoes off (to spare the cleats I could replace for $10 was my thinking) and walked barefoot on the asphalt shoulder. After a while I began to wonder if rolling my beloved race wheel on a flat tire was doing damage to the wheel so I then carried the bike -- complete with the dangling shoes and helmet.

Barefoot woman, walking, carrying a bike adorned with shoes and helmet. Nothing strange about that.

People waved. "Hi!!" Trucks went by, a school bus, big roomy mini vans. I faced traffic. I looked the drivers in the eye. I telepathically communicated that my bike would fit very nicely in the back of their truck and that as a grateful passenger I would make enjoyable small talk!

I've rescued riders before. Hellloooo, karma, where are you?

Despite the cool day, my feet apparently started to burn. I walked about a mile thinking I was just being wimpy. Then they really started to hurt. I thought back to the barefoot runner I saw at Boston.

Argh! Come on, people! I know about 42! I don't even need a ride through the galaxy, just into town!

Then I called my friend Bryan for a rescue.

I am left with sizable blisters on both heels. The upside is they keep me from noticing the blisters on my insteps from my failed attempt at the sock-less run yesterday.

The bike is getting new tubes and tires. Too bad the shop did not also have new skin for my feet.

So what was I missing? Some secret sign? An expression? Was I so scary looking? Why was I so incapable of hitchhiking back to town? Where is the Hitchhiker's Guide to Cycling?

Lessons learned: don't train without the bike bag and repair kit and don't worry about the stupid cleats.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

10 days till first tri of the season. Things to do:

(Photo shows the Smith Mountain Lake race venue from my kayak trip the following day!)
  • Get race wheels trued and put on bike because without a third arm I can't seem to do it
  • Ask if they need new tubes/tires?
  • Decide what shoes to race in
  • Put Xtenex laces in chosen running shoes
  • Decide. Socks? No socks? Socks? No socks? (every year the same debate)
  • Swim in open water
  • Brace self for cold lake (repeat often: "It's not as cold as Auckland")
  • Wear wetsuit and hope small rip does not get bigger
  • Check supply of Body Glide
  • See if I can get wetsuit off over new gigantic Garmin watch
  • Figure out how that "multisport" mode works on the Garmin
  • Mental rehearsal of triathlon to reduce odds of doing something really dumb
  • Remember how to go fast
  • Invite the pain
  • Practice mounting and dismounting bike
  • Find packing list from last year. it worked.
  • Break out the new goggles
  • Figure out food/entertainment/packing for family triathlon "weekend" away
  • Ignore brain that asks, "i forget, why do you do this?"
Remember that feeling of racing. Of chasing. Of passing. Of hurting. Of questioning. Of wanting. Of finishing.

Feel the smile grow on your face.

Go have fun. Knock off the rust! Enjoy the lake and your friends.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Freedom, Support for Boston, What I shared

photo by Matt Gentry
Last night the local runners gathered to run/walk together in support of Boston - the rescue workers, law enforcement, medical personnel, race officials, government, citizens, runners, and of course the victims. We wore our Boston colors, shared a moment of silence, and myself and a fellow local Boston runner, Kirsten Mosby, were asked to say a few words.  

photo by Matt Gentry
This was organized by Runabout Sports and the owner, James DeMarco, who is truly, undeniably, the beloved hub of our running community. Runners for Boston shirts were sold and donations taken with 100% of proceeds going to One Fund Boston.  

We live in a community that knows first-hand about tragedy with the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. Fortunately, I've seen the strength and resilience that can result. That gives me great hope.

I used my few moments last night to talk about the freedom that running affords us -- the ability to go out the door under our own power, to move about, to chose our route, to explore the world, to run. We have freedom in our bodies and freedom within our country. I shared how I felt that the bombers threatened both with life- and limb-destroying weapons and an assault to freedom through fear, and a locked down city.

It's hard to know what to do, how to respond. I suggested that maybe the best thing we can do as runners is to try to bring more people into "the fold" to share the freedom that we know. Get more people out walking and running (or hiking, cycling, swimming, whatever) in the world and understanding responsibility for the environment and appreciating the sweetness of life.

I continue to be haunted by images of the victims, fresh from the destruction. It's been a tough week for everyone, but last night helped to move things forward for me. And true to form (sigh), even in the midst of a "community run", I took off for a few cobweb-clearing, freedom-loving, reflective solo miles in the middle, but looped back around to finish up running with James and one of his high school track alums. Listening to their conversation and James' excitement for the first annual Blacksburg Half Marathon this fall lifted my fog and left me feeling pretty good.

Maybe runners and running can't fix everything, but we can fix a lot ;-)

photo by Matt Gentry

More info about the event:

Blacksburg’s running community rallies for Boston by Zach Crizer, Roanoke Times, April 22, 2013
Community shows up to run in honor of Boston victims by Melissa Draudt, Collegiate Times, April 22, 2013.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Boston Recovery

We all know the things that need to be done in the days following a marathon - good nutrition, hydration, sleep, easy movement, gentle stretching, and a return to normalcy. Mentally, you have to catch yourself from the fall, from the months-long focus that carried you to the top of the mountain, where the only direction left is down. This time around, the way down has been extra rocky.

I don't need to rehash the events following the 117th Boston Marathon that shut down a city. I am just so relieved to know (pending due legal process) that the perpetrators have been caught. I am amazed by the work of law enforcement and the citizens of Boston. It's one for the good guys, one that we simply could not lose. We needed this one.

Immediately after the race, the papers and local media tried to contact me but I did not engage. I felt that the attention needed to remain on the victims and those directly affected. I had finished, I had survived, and my friends had too. Where is the story in that?

As it turns out, there was a story, but a different story. It is the story shared by probably everyone who was in Boston -- that from such a terrifying and publicized incident such as the Boston Marathon bombings, you find out you matter more to people than you knew, and you are reminded how much they mean to you. How often in a lifetime do we get that opportunity?

The young, stupid, short-sighted, deranged minds of the bombers could not have predicted that their actions would also steel our resolve and bind us to one another more firmly. Ha, take that!

My 2013 Boston Marathon chapter closes, and the triathlon chapter begins. The body feels good, the spirit is healing, and the energy is returning, but I've got a ways to go. I think it's going to take some time for all of us.

A few more pics from the Boston Marathon before the focus returns to triathlon and my first race in two weeks.

This looks like a finish line shot but was somewhere midway when I was still fresh and had the energy to ham it up. (not the case at the finish!!)

I'm going to assume this guy in the next two shots was getting ready to high-five someone. I'd like to point out that his number is way lower than mine, so he started ahead of me. Just saying. It IS a race ;-)


Me and my pocketed peanut butter and jelly sandwich crossing the finish line.
I only ate part of it, but I was glad to know I had it!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Race Report: Boston Marathon

Where shall I begin? I am heartbroken for the lives lost and forever shattered by the bombings on April 15, 2013 at the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. I was several blocks away in the post-finish line area when I heard what sounded like cannon fire, followed by emergency vehicles speeding toward the finish. Information began flowing by word of mouth that there were explosions, but there were no details and an eerie sense of calm and quiet as we went through the motions of retrieving belongings and meeting up with family and friends. The rest is a blur...a steady stream of sirens, tear stained faces, people standing at windows of restaurants looking in at the news reports on TV, and the long stiff walk back to the hotel. All the while, my cell phone was lighting up with calls and messages but it was all I could do to put one sore leg in front of the other and keep walking. I made a few calls, returned some texts, and posted a message on Facebook.

I deeply appreciated each expression of love and concern. I read every communication but was unable to find the words to respond.

Despite having been there, I know no more than anyone else. I have no answers and no explanations. We want to know who would do such a thing, and why? But there is no "why" that can patch up the irreversible damage that has been done. No "why" that can justify the lost lives, limbs, loved ones. I grieve for the victims.

This race was the culmination of a dream for me that began over 3-1/2 years ago at my first marathon. I had the typical worries of injury, illness, or life again keeping me from running this race (again). I often say worry is a waste because usually whatever will happen is something we never even thought to worry about. Certainly bombs were not on my list of worries...or anyones.

I was fortunate to complete the race and walk away sore but unharmed. About 25% of the runners never had the opportunity to cross that famous finish line. It became the scene of triage, heroism, and loss -- where three people lost their lives, 13 lost limbs, and over 170 were injured. Nothing will change that.

There's no sense going through the "what ifs". All I can do is use this reminder of vulnerability to strengthen my resolve to start each day with a smile, to love others, to stay positive, to have courage.

As awkward as it is, I'm going ahead with a race report. This is not in disregard of the horrible senseless violence, but in defiance of the perpetrator who seeks to disrupt.

So with a deep breath, I rewind to Saturday....

I took the train from Lynchburg, VA to Boston, which is my favorite way to travel. The drive + train + layover in NY was about 16 hours combined. I love watching the world go by and feeling the motion of the train car.

The next morning (Sunday) I took the jam-packed MTA to the gigantic Expo. I got my bib number and splurged to buy the official Boston Marathon jacket and limited edition Boston Kinvaras. Now I am extra glad I did. Did I mention the Expo was gigantic??? I got through half and was blown away only to discover there was an entire other half!

I felt really calm all weekend. I knew I was trained, ready, and healthy, and as a triathlete doing a marathon, I felt no real pressure. A marathon is a long time to be out there so getting keyed up does no good.

Monday morning I left the hotel to walk to the buses but was invited to share a cab with fellow runner, April. It was a quick trip, a brief wait for a bus, and off we went!

waiting for the buses

 April is a mom of 3 and a sub-3 hour marathoner!!

The ride seemed long and it was hard to believe we'd be running the whole way back. We arrived at the "marathoners settlement camp" (as I called it) before 8 am so we had 2+ hours to wait. One little detail the organizers don't make clear is that although we are staged at a school, unless you are an elite, you don't actually get to go INTO the school. The runners wait OUTSIDE the whole time. I was thankful I had lots of layers, a winter coat, hat, and gloves. I saw shivering runners in shorts and light top layers. Newbies scavenged for cardboard to sit on while the experienced folks had yoga mats, pillows, blankets, cots, and chairs! You are given a pretty big bag to check so you can pack a lot of stuff for the wait. During this time, I enjoyed meeting and hearing the stories of other runners.

 cannot imagine this if it was raining

sometimes happiness is a piece of cardboard from the dumpster

like moths to a flame...runners to a heater!

 with Endurance Films Racing Teammate Laura!

Soon it was time for a final pit-stop and bag check. I loaded my pockets with five gels, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a cloth handkerchief of sorts (glad I took that to wipe my face and hands) then it was off on the .7 mile walk to the start. I'd been warned to leave early for the starting coral because the narrow neighborhood road gets pretty congested. Still, I found myself running for the start with some others and having less than a minute to wait before our group set off.

In a moment of stillness, I looked up to see a building labeled "Hopkinton" and fought back the tears. I had finally, finally made it. It was a bumpy road to the start, but oh so sweet to be there! I shed my final layers in anticipation of a mid-50's day.

Then it was time to get to work! I had my instructions from Coach Jim - shoot for 8:10 miles, nothing faster than 7:50, heart rate under 158 for the first half of the race, then after mile 18, go for it. (That's the abridged version.)

What was amazing is that the race course started pretty congested and stayed that way until the final mile or two. It was a sea of people and the sound of so many footfalls was unique. With the seeding, the crowding was not too bad, but you do spend considerable mental energy picking your way around and through people. At the frequent aid stations you had to be prepared to move to the middle of the road if you were not partaking, or drift to the side to grab a cup. I drank at every other aid station and stuck to water mainly because I'm a sloppy drinker. I saw one guy who tucked a half straw into his watchband and used that to sip from the cup. Cool idea!

The people watching was fun - a Dorothy from Oz costume, kilts, some odd running styles, the barefoot runners, and the Army guys running with full packs. I was comfortable in a tank and shorts and was amazed at the number of people dressed in tights and long sleeves and multiple layers. (They must have been from Florida.) The course was lined with spectators for the full 26 miles but I think my favorite group would be the two dozen mini trampolines with bouncing kids.

I felt really really good from the get-go....except for the fact that from the start, and despite the pre-race pit stop, I had to pee :-( I spent miles debating if I should stop or if it would dissipate then decided that I had to stop. But I decided that I would only do so if I saw a bathroom or portojohn that was open with no waiting, so I could fly in and out. Then I would simply make up the time in that mile. Around mile 12, my unoccupied port-o-john prayers were answered. I had a quick pitstop, then threw in a 7:20 mile to cover it. That fast mile was not in the race plan but it was fun ;-)

About halfway through I felt fatigue kicking in but remained intent on maintaining pace. The "hills" were no problem for this Appalachian runner. As I climbed the famous Heartbreak Hill, I wasn't really sure if that was the famous hill!

I felt my focus become sharper the deeper into the race I went. Coach Jim pointed out my heart rate for the final 5+ miles averaged 169 bpm which is close to redline for me. About four miles from the finish I felt my toes begin to cramp and I could feel it working its way up. I tried to stay relaxed but noticed as my legs kicked back, they were drawing up in a not-normal way. I just hoped the legs would hold up. I was passing more and more athletes who had slowed to a walk. I would not entertain that option.

cool finish photo where I am reflected in a glass wall

The last two miles were very tough. The cheering crowds helped carry me but by now my calves, quads, and hamstrings were cramping and I was on the brink. I crossed the finish line, pulled up, bent over, and my legs collapsed under me. That earned me a nice little rolling detour to the med tent for some massage and fluids then it was up and out and off to bag claim.

I finished in 3:33:53, which was a full five minutes faster than my last marathon and a PR by four minutes. Coach Jim nailed it -- I ran precisely at his predicted 8:10 pace and that was everything I had on the day. I am proud that I ran to my potential, ran smart, dug deep, and stayed strong.

I was #163 out of 1507 in my age group who started; only 1060 finished almost certainly because of the shut down of the finish area. I do not have the official race photos and the photo company posted that Homeland Security will be determining when they can be released. Understandable.

It's hard enough to come down off of a big event like this under normal circumstances. I don't even quite know how to wrap up this report.

I'll start with -- Coach Jim, we did it!! I'm so happy to have delivered the race you trained me to run. You were foremost on my mind every time I crossed a timing mat and knew that split was headed your way! I'm pretty sure you knew exactly what you were doing when you told me it would be tough to PR at Boston ;-)

This race was the culmination of the love and support of so many people over many years - my husband, children, parents, mother-in-law, sister and extended family; good friends Krista and Bryan; teammates from One-on-One Endurance and Endurance Films Racing Team; the "bodyworkers" Dr. Tilley, Mike Casciere, Mario Travis, Chris Pohowsky, John Thacker, Beth Ashe, Dr. Lebolt; fellow runners including Shannon, Michaela, and Carla; the crew at Runabout Sports; trainers Jake Parks and Kurt Weidner; John Jones, John Murray, Mark Sortino, Eric Neilsen.

It's always a risk to name names because you never get them all. Suffice it to say that I am humbly grateful to be a part of the caring and earnest community of runners and triathletes who span the globe. This is a community that will not be deterred by threats of violence.

Peace and love to all. Prayers for those who are suffering.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dear Brain,

Brain, don't you know by now? I'm ready for your games. I know how you operate the week before a race. These things you try to tell me, I don't even listen. We've been racing together for 4-1/2 years so I know what to expect. Go on, chatter away like you did during this morning's run, because what you say only fuels my determination.

This is just 10 seconds per mile under your marathon pace....not the snoozer you thought it would be! You're having to work, aren't you! You really gonna be able to hang for 26.2, tough girl?
  • Yep, not a problem. I've done the training, got the nutrition, I'm sleeping more, and resting this week. I feel good! I got it. It won't be easy, but I'll remember that I've earned those final tough miles! I have lots to draw on for inspiration to keep going.

Just because you could do all this long run stuff two weeks ago doesn't mean you still can. 
  • Yes it does. I like the expression I once heard too: "You can run twice as far as you think you can."
Maybe you'll want to pull up half way through the race and just sit down and quit. Have you thought about that? 
  • That's not an option! I know rough patches will come but I'm ready. Experience tells me to wait them out, they are just temporary. If things are not going according to plan, I will adapt, adjust, stay positive, and never back down.

This cool down pace is pretty nice. Maybe you'd rather settle into this and add 15 or 30 minutes onto your race time? Does that sound good?
  • That would get boring fast.

A little sniffly? Hope those allergies don't go full throttle on you.
  • I've run pretty well when I've felt sick, tired, stressed, and even hung over (once). I think often about pro triathlete Timothy O'Donnell quoting his coach, "You don't have to feel good to swim fast." Same with running.
I think we are done here.

I shared this mainly just to say if you get those race week doubts too, know that it's a totally normal and expected part of the process. Let them cycle through, ponder them momentarily, and release them. Keep perspective!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My "Numbersake"

I felt it was my duty to reach out to my "numbersake" and let them know who would be wearing their zip code in the Boston Marathon. I mean, who wouldn't think to do that?

For that I was called "strange" by a friend. True, perhaps. But the little infusions of "strange" keep life a little more fun and interesting.

Training tapers, life fills in

Just a quick blog check-in. As I reported on Facebook, "Training has tapered, but life has a funny way of filling in all the available time." Days are just as full, but I am successfully getting to bed earlier (mostly).
Saturday I had the final "middling" run of just under 12 miles, including a startling encounter with a snake crossing the asphalt path in front of me. Yeehaw that woke me up! Interesting how when the brain knows the long runs are done, a 1:35 run can once again seem long. I found myself thinking am I really doing more than twice this on April 15??

Sunday was an easy hour spin on the back roads under a sunny sky and this week it's just a few short runs (with some quality of course, it's taper week, not slacker week) and one low key swim.

The long range forecast looks great! Please, no warmer!


Last Thursday we got to enjoy an unexpected April 4 snowstorm that left 5" on the ground. It melted the next day and was 70 degrees two days after that. Crazy weather!!

Work projects and kid projects have been keeping me busy.

I've been watching the cultures grow in Spencer's science fair petri dishes. He swabbed public keyboards at the local library, the Virginia Tech library, and at home. Things are growing, but we're still trying to figure out what to make of it all.

I've been enjoying quartet rehearsal and receive the benefit of listening to the at-home practice too.

And I've been helping with the start of the third year of "Grant's Plants."

So who has time to obsess about a long run in Boston? Not me...since it's just that. A long run where (1) I don't have to carry my own water (2) I don't have to plan the route and (3) I won't have the chance to get lonely or bored with 20,000+ running friends out there. Pretty cool!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday Morning Tri Coffee Reads - April 6

The reason for the water border is I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that we had 5" of snow Thursday, the fourth coldest March in 60 years, and a month from now I'll be diving into nearby Smith Mountain Lake for my first triathlon of the season. Oh my! But the first order of business is Boston, which is why there will be no edition of this next Saturday. I'll be traveling to the race!

Marathon Meb Out of the Boston Marathon - caused by an unleashed dog lunging at Meb in February causing a small injury :-( His disappointment is palpable, but he does a great job of giving it some perspective. Meb Keflezeghi has always struck me as one of the classiest, most personable, and thoughtful elite marathoners going. Meb, if you are reading, yeah, it pretty much SUCKS and I'm so very sorry. The last two months must have been incredibly frustrating.

Meet one of Glamour Magazine's Top 10 College Women of 2013: Margaret Gilroy - by Katie Sanders. "As the lone brigade training sergeant in charge of freshmen, she hops out of bed at 5:25 A.M. to oversee 1,000 sailors- and Marines-to-be in their workout and inspections. And that’s just her warm-up: The captain of the women’s marathon team, she runs up to 20 miles daily and has 10 marathons under her belt. She’s also cofounder of her local Girls on the Run program." Awesome, Katie!!

Matte Finish vs Glossy Finish Paint by Zane Schweer for Kane Bicycles, April 3, 2013. I'm not a fan of the new black matte finish bikes, but Zane makes a good case for when it might make sense. I don't mind what paint finish you choose, I'm happy to ride past you either way.

100 Reasons You Should Work Out by Nicole Nichols for Spark People, April 8, 2013. And how many reasons can you come up with to NOT work out? Not 100, that's for sure. (Spark People is the site that I used when I lost 25 lbs 5 years ago....yes me.... when I started on this whole journey. It's a great online community!)

6 Seniors Who Make You Wonder What You’ve Done With Your Life (Video) by Care2. Check out the 93 year old yoga teacher, Tao Porchon-Lynch. So happy and full of life. Ahhhh the power of movement to keep the rust off.

Best Race Signs | A collection of the signs that inspire us when we run races. by joggingjeans. Warning: you will get sucked into this and find yourself going back, back, back through posts to look at more and more. Here's a few of my favorites:

How Often Should I Replace My Running Shoes? - by Mario Fraioli, October 22, 2012. It depends somewhat on body type, size, and running style (heavy footed, soft). And if the new models/colors have come out yet....I jest, I jest.

What To Do with Old Race T-Shirts | Peanut Butter Fingers - look at the section on ideas for old race bibs - bags, coasters, jackets? I kind of like my idea - collect them on a safety pin and hang them in my closet!!

my fancy race number collection

100 Reasons You Should Work Out Today by Nicole Nichols, April, 2013. A person couldn't possibly come up with 100 reasons not to work out. Or even 10. Print out and hang up if necessary!
Reasons Not to Stretch - by Gretchen Reynolds for the Well, April 3, 2013. Static stretching is not a good warm-up. I think most of us knew that.

Are You a Quitter? When to DNF in A Triathlon - by Susan Dupont, April 27, 2012. No one goes into a race expecting to DNF but it helps to go through some scenarios and know what you would do "if" and what your priorities are for each race. Read and reflect!

Helle Frederiksen - Professional Triathlete - Check out this Danish phenom's blog and recent video below. She just handily won IM San Juan 70.3 and is definitely one to watch!



Word of advice: don't do a search on "Runner's Feet" in Google images while eating. Very bad idea. Don't ask why I was looking that up.

 love this one.


This was taken at Tri Auckland just a few days ago