Monthly Archives: April 2007

4/29/07 Thanks, I Needed That! (St. Anthony’s 2007)

Monday.  Well finally some good news to report.  I did well (for me) at St. Anthony’s.  I PR’d by 13 minutes 16 seconds.  Yeah, I needed that.  I really, really needed that.  Interestingly, I didn’t do it how I had planned.  I had expected to maintain my swim and bike and push the run.  Well you could knock me over with a feather when I saw that I did it on the bike and swim!  Almost 5 minutes on the swim and almost eight minutes off the bike.  I even PR’d the lame run by a minute and 30 seconds!!    I averaged 19 and change miles per hour on the bike and in fact,  I saw a couple of opportunities to even do that a little better.  I’m still having a hard time digesting this fact.

My swim was not bad at all for me.  38minutes which was also a PR (personal record).   I opted to NOT wear a wetsuit because the water was quite warm and on Saturday, Rob (one of my teammates) and I swam the entire course and we both thought the water was great.   We also both felt that we would have no problem whatsoever going out and doing it again.  That was a real confidence booster.

When I got into the water race morning I had a goal of pulling and finishing every stroke from the start (just like I finished the practice swim on Saturday).  I wanted to do what we have been doing in our workouts.  First start with establishing the right form.  I wanted to rotate on each side, reach long, fingers in first, pull and stay “in the tube” and most of all stay strong.  I feel I did this.  Then I wanted to slowly keeping putting on the gas until max effort at the end.  Mission accomplished.

I do, however, see room for improvement in not going off track so much.  I was sighting every 8-10 strokes, but every 8-10 strokes I was already off course a little so I had to make a lot of adjustments.  I was swimming too far out away from the buoys.  (I had wanted to avoid the crowds but the way they did the wave starts I had nothing but women around me  – -they are much more polite than the guys and nobody was bothering me at all.)  So next year — stick closer to the buoys – -no need to swim out so far and I bet I could knock a couple of minutes (maybe 2-3) off that time.  If I added a wetsuit it might be a smidge faster but I really enjoyed the swim without it.  I truly enjoyed every single second of that swim.

I think my  T1 was about normal.  Nothing too exciting there.  When I was in the water I kept rehearsing.  Gloves, helmet, glasses, socks shoes —  go.  It was a short course so I’ll be honest, I didn’t even care about taking any food with me.  I threw an emergency gel in my back pocket but was planning on relying on my Infinit formula in my hydration system and I felt that was going to be more than enough.  I would drink plenty of the formula to get my hydration and calories.

The bike.  I don’t even know what to say.  Right out of the gate I was passing people.  I didn’t think I was going so fast, I just thought everyone else was having a problem getting warmed up.  In the first mile or so I looked at my speed and it was only 17 mph and I thought — that’s about right and I figured my time was going to be about the same as 2005.  (My 2006 results included a broken toe so we have to kind of throw those out).  I really just concentrated on being in the right gear and pedalling at 90 rpm — whatever gear I needed to be in to do that I would stay in that.  I did notice that I had to keep clicking into a harder gear to feel resistance.  It wasn’t until about mile 3 when I looked down and saw 21 mph and thought — hmmm I must be on a downhill or something.  I was aware that I was passing a large number of people.  Frankly I didn’t think much of it because people were passing me.  At 21 mph, they must have been going 24 or better.  I will say a couple of times I thought I could throw it into a harder gear and catch someone but thought better of it and just tried to maintain the 90 rpm.  I kind of pysched myself out — I don’t ride that fast — I better stay right where I am.  (At one point my teammate Celeste passed me and shouted C’mon! And I cranked it up a bit.  She kind of snapped me out of my I’m-just-happy-to-be-nominated mode and back into hey-I-might-win-this-mode!)

I was terrible on the turns — people I had just passed on the straight away were passing me.  I felt something wobbly in my wheel but only on the turns.  I’ll get it checked out when I get the bike back.  A couple of times I thought I might stop and check my wheel but then I would start riding on the straight away and felt okay.  But taking the sharp turns I stunk.  As long as I stayed in aero (no problem) and just pedalled I was fine.   I lost some time on the turns — there were quite a few and I really had to slow down and then start back up on each one.  The good riders were sailing right through them.

When I passed the 10 mile marker and my watch read 30 minutes flat, I knew that I was going to PR the bike.  It seemed impossible that I did 10 miles in 30 minutes flat (it actually read 30:00 on my watch).  At the 20 mile marker my watch read 1:01, I knew I was going to be sub 1:20.  The last 4.8 miles had a little wind and a slight upgrade then those cobble stones in the street so that defnitely slowed me down.  I was sure my wheel would fall off or something right there, but Tina hung onto the end.  (I think my front hub might need to be tightened) but I figured I would just go until something happened and made me stop if I had to run in the last 50 yards, I’d do it.  In retrospect I’m glad I didn’t stop because that could have cost me some time that I didn’t need to lose.

When I saw 1:17 on my watch I knew I had already PR’d the course.  In a way that was a bad thing.  I knew going into the run that I simply had to maintain my previous years’ abyssmal runs and I would still have a PR.  The Hook mountain humiliation was still stinging in my memory and I was very nervous starting the run.  I was deliberately slow on the first mile (even stopped for a very quick, quick bathroom break on the course — really about 1 minute).  When I hit mile 2 I saw a second 13 minute mile and I thought — fine — that’s just fine, so far so good.  I wasn’t going fast but I wasn’t in pain and my goal for the run quickly changed.  I wanted to maintain good posture and have a pain-free run.  I’ll admit I kind of tanked on the run.  I had more in me to run harder but it was so important for me to know that I could get through 6.2 miles without my knees giving out that I just kept concentrating on form, form, form.  It was hot.  I needed a little confidence building.

I carried a bottle with some Infit solution in it for the first 3 miles.  My plan was not to stop, but by mile 3 I was really hot and I had to pause to throw water on my face and neck.  The heat wasn’t as bad as previous years — it was definitely hot with little or no shade — 85+ degrees and direct sun.  But it didn’t have the humidity that I remembered from previous years.   This time was just about the direct, unrelenting Florida heat.  It wasn’t as bad as Disney 1/2 Ironman (nothing will ever be as bad as that).  But I would say the heat was a factor.  Was it the only factor?  No.

I’m not going to get down on myself for not running the best race I could run.  I accept the fact that I made a compromise to have an enjoyable race (which I did) vs. another painful one two weeks in a row.    The bottom line is I needed to feel good again.  I needed to feel like this isn’t pain and torture and although it is not easy, this was not going to kill me either.  I just wanted to feel confident again.  And that’s what I got.  I now know that a 3:15 is in my power.  (Breaking 3:13 would be majorly cool because that would be 1 hour off my 2004 time.)  I know I can knock 3 minutes off that swim by swimming a little straighter and smarter.  I know I can knock maybe 4 minutes off that bike?  I really slowed down on all those turns and I also psyched myself out with my biking identity.  But the reality is I got off that bike and I felt like I hadn’t even tapped into my legs.  My quads weren’t even awake yet.  So I think I have some more that I can give on the bike and I’ll be honest that shocks me a little.  When did that happen?  Granted this was  flat course but I don’t remember ever seen 24 mph on the flats before — or maybe I have and I just forgot?  I saw 24 several times (when I thought to look) and had I tried harder to maintain that speed for longer periods I think I could have.   It is not often I get a flat course.

It just goes to show you how much all of this is self-perception.  I don’t think of myself as an above average cyclist but now I am going to start thinking that maybe I really can develop this.  This is the second time I’ve come in 3rd in my class on the bike (Athena women over 40).  I came in 3rd in Firmman and 3rd at St. A’s.  And I came in 19th out of 27 in my group.  That’s a big difference from last weekend when I came in last, last, last and not to mention last.  I walked away from this race feeling like, yeah, I could go longer with the right pacing (I could definitely double that  swim and quadruple that bike tomorrow — then follow begrudgingly with a run).  It was just what I needed, a little confidence regained.  After Hook I had started to feel like maybe I was just kidding myself.  I was beginning to feel like I was never going to get any better.  I’ve been concentrating so much on my running performance that I never noticed that my swimming and biking had been creeping along without much commentary.

My running gets the opportunity to get judged a lot.  Either with NYRR races or team workouts — I am constantly reminded about my running.  I’m slow, I have bad knees, I’m old.  But I don’t have the same measurements for swimming and biking.  Yes we have our time trials in the pool but those really don’t reflect an open water race.  And although I’ve seen small improvements in the pool, it’s not until you see almost 5 whole minutes knocked off your best swim that you think, “okay that’s a little better.”  But the bike really surprised me the most.  I haven’t had any measurement of bike improvement.  Keep up with the group.  Don’t die on the hill.  Stand up once in awhile.   There’s no race measurement there.  And, frankly, I thought my previous 1:25 was pretty darn good.  It didn’t occur to me that might improve.

So overall I am very happy.  Happy that finally a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe after all of this hard work that there is hope after all.

Best of all I got to enjoy a great weekend with some great friends and we all had a wonderful time.  What could be better than that?

Namaste

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4/24/07 Moving On

Tuesday.  I do want to say that I came up with a really great spin on the Hook Mountain debacle.  (My actual time was 3:07 — I finally got up the nerve to look).  I must be okay because today I’m actually laughing about it — that was just ridiculous — it wasn’t even a good t-shirt!  Sunday and Monday I was very upset.  Mo and Charlee think I had some kind of flu and reading back over my blog and stats spreadsheet as well as based on my Monday lower GI problems, I think they are right.  I think I had a bug of some kind.  Anyway that’s all behind me.  Here is how I CHOOSE to look at the Hook Mountain Half.    In the Brooklyn 1/2 marathon I came in 4,726th overall.  At Hook Mountain I came in 257th!!  That’s an amazing jump!!  In Brooklyn I came in 95th in my Age Group.  Hook Mountain, 30th!!!    That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!! (You gotta laugh people!)

Anyway back to work.  Lot’s of stuff to do and more business to attend to.  Time to regroup and refocus.  My next challenge is St. Anthony’s on Sunday.  No time for any pity party, have to start packing for my tiger balm and sunscreen.  We leave on Friday and lots to do.

I’ve received “permission” to race St. Anthony’s (instead of just doing it as a workout.)  I am really kind of excited about doing St. Anthony’s because this will be the first Triathlon (besides a sprint) where I can go in and have zero worry about pushing any one of the distances.  I am usually in survival mode and always trying to make sure I have something left in the tank.  But this is “only”   (ha, right, “only”) a .9 mile swim, 25.2 mile bike and a 6.2 mile run.  I have to worry about the heat though — it is going to be hot down there. 

St. A’s is an important bench mark race for me.  This will be the 4th year I have done the event.  In 2004 it took me 4 hours and 13 minutes to finish.  (48 minute swim/ 8:19 – T1/1:40 bike/4:31 T2/91:51 run).   The following year I knocked 33 minutes off that time (43 minute swim/ 3:32 – T1/ 1:25:12/ T2 3:04/ 83:37 run) to finish in 3:39.   I’m discarding the results from last year because I raced with a broken toe and ended up slower (it was very painful.)  But this year…..  I have a chance to let ‘er rip.

So here is what I am shooting for.  The swim.   Hmmm…. My pool swims have been 38 minute miles in the past and I can’t say I’ve seen any great improvements except for that one day in the pool with Mo.  But, Mo is coming to the race, so maybe she’ll be my good “Mo”-jo…..    Last year the waves were really bad but they didn’t bother me too much.  I will try to wear my wetsuit (and use my inhaler)…..  Let’s say 40 minutes.  That’s being optimistic and realistic I think.  I will try hard to be efficient and not waste time with wasted flailing and I promise to be more aggressive on my swim start and not do my little walk in and take my time thing.  Smooth and Strong will be my motto. Two minutes to acclimate to the water and then just slowly put on the gas.

T1 — Let’s say 3:32 again as I will be wearing the wetsuit and will want an extra second for extra sunscreen.

The bike… The bike, the bike…  Geesh, I’m just not sure.   I did the bike in 1:25 in 2005 and I’m not sure I can beat that.  That comes out to 17.5 mph.  How the heck did I ever do that?  That can’t be right but that’s what the website says…. But then again we rode from GWB to Rockland lake in 1:15 on Sunday.  Or was that just a bad watch?     So I am just sticking with 1:25.  I don’t think I ride faster than 18 mph on the flats.  (If I do manage to average 18mph that would give me 2 more mintues). My motto will be Smooth Strokes and concentrate on foot to pedal power.  High cadence. I’m bringing out the big chainring let’s see what happens. Headwinds are my enemy here. Switch to easier gear immediately upon confronting headwind.

T1 — Let’ say 3:00 even.  I’ll try to be as efficient as possible but it is going to be hot so sunscreen.

So far I am on track for the same time for 2005 minus 3 mintues.  That would make a 3:36.  I want to try to break 3:30.  So that means I have to take 6 minutes off of my run.  I know this is going to sound ridiculous to say after my Hook mountain disaster, but I think I can do it.   My 2005 run was a 13:30 minute mile.  I believe I can do a 12:15 minute mile for 6.12 or 75 minutes.  That’s actually 8 minutes better than 2005.  So if I do ALL of the above I will break 3:30.  In fact it would be 3:26…. That’s cutting it really close so I better get my butt in gear — every second counts…  How do people do these races in 2 hours?  I dunno…..   I’m going to concentrate on high cadence — leaning in but not over — posture, posture, posture….

I am ready to do this.  Ready to take back my turf.  Okay I may not be a great runner but I know how to do a triathlon.  I’m not fast but I know what to do. I’ve done 13 of them.  Now it’s about using my smarts and to be as efficient as possible.  I know this course.  I know my enemy is going to be the heat (which is why I’m about to go out for my easy recovery run now in the heat of the day.)

So that’s the story.  No more sobbing in the soup.  Wounds are licked.  Cuts are stitched.  Time to get up and

R.U.M.B.L.E.

Bring it on St. Anthony’s!!

Namaste

“Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on
Henry Rollins

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4/23/07 Hook Mountain — The Movie

Monday.  Oy, long weekend.  Let’s start with the good news.  I was down 2 pounds on Friday at my WW meeting.  So that makes a total of 9 pounds since Jan. 1.  It also officially puts me back in the black (or would that be red since it is a loss) of my overall.  So now I am at 32 pounds.   Whew.  Talk about coming off slowly….  But I’m chipping away at it one ounce at a time.  I don’t even want to put a number on how much I want to lose by Ironman, I just want to give it all I have and where it comes out, it comes out.  It’s not like I’m going to stop trying after Ironman, I have many more goals to achieve and weight-loss comes along with all of them.

I was really tired on Friday.  I went for a bike in the morning with Marisol and I felt I was less than zippy.  We did a short and easy ride in the park and I just didn’t have much in me.  I had to work at keeping up and I wasn’t even doing that.  I just felt blah.  Friday night I didn’t get to bed as early as I wanted and then I had to go do a time trial on Saturday morning in the pool.

My swim time trial was really bad.  I had no oomph and my times were all back to my old pace and I had some 10 minute 400 meters in there.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  It was the first time ever I have thought during a swim “eh, I could just get out of the pool right now.”  Usually I get stronger the longer I go.  I really was ready to just say, “not today.”  I was disappointed but kept on going.  Afterwards in the locker room, I felt my left knee (my “bad knee”)  feeling a little wonky.  I knew it was starting to slide out of joint which happens once every blue moon.  I don’t know what makes it happen, but last August I had discovered by accident that doing the rowing machine somehow puts it back in place.  I meant to go to the gym and do ten minutes on the rowing machine but as to-do lists would would have it — I ran out of time. 

Right after our swim we were to do a two hour easy bike.  Thank God Michelle was willing to go right after the swim because if I had to wait and go later in the day it wouldn’t have happened.  We did an easy spin to Nyack where I forced Michelle to stop for “refuelling” at a certain biker pit stop (what happens in Nyack stays in Nyack).   Then we rode home, nice and easy but even then I didn’t feel like I had much pip in my zip.  I think the distance was 40 miles total.  Maybe I shouldn’t have ridden on Friday morning?  But that was only 20 miles on Friday and we didn’t push that hard.  I shouldn’t have been that tired.  But I had to get my bike shipped off for St. A’s and I had no real time for a nap.  I was pretty much a walking zombie on Saturday night when I had an early dinner with Charlee and Mo.  I knew I was tired because I was having difficulty recalling words and names which is a clear sign of sleep deprivation.  I was also worried about the Hook Mountain extravaganza the following morning so I didn’t even bother to get everything set up the night before, I took one Tylenol p.m. (too afraid to take two) and was in bed at 8:15 and I think I was out at 8:20 not to resurface until 4 a.m.

Sunday, the Hook Mountain Extravaganza, or should I say Hook Mountain 1/2 Marathon Disaster of 2007 (I think that’s how they’ll title the movie.)  Can I start this story backwards?  I finished dead last.  Not close to last, not with anybody else, it was at least 10 minutes after the next to last person.  I finished 3:05 I think.  Disaster.  I haven’t looked but I believe that is my worst half marathon to date.  I have to look up my time for my very first 1/2 marathon in Alaska for which I wasn’t even trained back in 2005  — I may have done even better on that one.  Oh my God, what a freakin’ disaster….  Did I say that already?

Back to the beginning.  (Scrolling banner across bottom of the screen — George Washington Bridge 6:15 a.m., April 22nd, 2007).

I picked up my friend AnneChris and drove over the George Washington Bridge.  AnneChris had offered to come along for moral support.  She’s a really great athlete and can out swim/bike/run me with both feet tied together and she did a spectacular job at Ironman LP 2006.  We’ve know each other since April of 2004 when we talked non-stop on a plane ride to St. Anthony’s (she’s a fellow book-lover) and along with a couple others (including my current teammate Michelle) we belong to a group we call the South Harlem Bike Club (founded by another great supporter Donald — who appears later in this movie).  AnneChris knew I was nervous about the upcoming expedition and came along for moral support (how nice is that?!?!?)  Charlee too was going to be at the race and I knew no matter what I would have two people still waiting there no matter how long it took me.  Of course in my heart of hearts I didn’t want them to have to be waiting long at all.  I had visions of doing even better than Brooklyn — afterall, I usually feel best after biking….  Yeah well…..  That’s what makes a good movie — the twist of fate.

Our assigment was to ride to Rockland reservoir (about 25 miles) carrying our shoes and nutrition supplies in our backpacks.  Once there, lock up our bikes and run the Hook Mountain 1/2 marathon (13.1 miles).  Then we were to get on our bikes and ride back.  I can’t say exactly why I was so nervous about this.  It wasn’t as if I couldn’t ride 50 miles on my bike — I can definitely do that.  It wasn’t as if I couldn’t do a half marathon — I can defintiely do that.  I even felt confident that I could do the two distances together.  But for some reason the logistics freaked me out a little.  I had to make sure that I got to the start on time and my mode of transportation was me!  It is different when you are using your car or a subway to get to the race start.  But so many things could happen on the way…. 

We actually made pretty good time getting to the race start. 1:15 which is not bad considering I had estimated 1:30 minutes.  Considering I was riding Sylvia (my old bike) as Tina (my race bike was sitting cosily on a truck on her way to Florida) even better.  Even that was faster than Michelle and I had anticipated, it didn’t feel like we were pushing it.  (We got a lot of downhills on the way there — which we also got to “enjoy” their opposite on the way back.)  But for some reason I was still nervous.  I just didn’t feel ready to run a 1/2 marathon.  I couldn’t put my finger on it but I just wanted to say “you all go ahead and I’ll just stay right here and take a nap.”  But there was  a lot of fluster and flurry with the team and everyone was buzzing around so I just tried to stay in the flow.  I got my race number, chip and t-shirt.  I filled up my camelbak with water (I had put my powdered Infit in it before I left).  I had my hat/sunglasses/tiger balm/enervitene.  I was all set.  Hmmm, something missing, something missing.  Couldn’t think what it was.

Just as the race was about to start I suddenly realized, Tylenol!! I had not taken my Tylenol 8 hour before I left this morning.  I don’t know if it is a crutch or what but I’ve been taking 2 Tylenol and putting Tiger Balm on my knees before every long run and so far the combo has been keeping me relatively pain free.  (Knock on wood).  I tried to find Jaime’s bike where she had some Tylenol stored but there were too many bikes and I couldn’t find hers and the race was starting.  I took my usual position in the back of the pack and before I knew it, we were off!  Okay, just start runing and we’ll sort it out on the road.  I have to admit I was really nervous to not have any painkillers in my body.  This is going to be run on raw nerves — oy.

I had suspicions that this was not going to be my day as I quickly saw the entire race pack leave me behind.  I saw Jaime and Michelle ahead and I knew their plan was to do an 11:30.  The fact that I wasn’t keeping up with them made me realize right away that my cadence was off.  Okay, just concentrate on your form.  Get your posture right, your legs will kick in.  Just keep it even and steady.  When I saw that I ran the first mile in a 12:34 I knew I was in trouble.  I was struggling to maintain that.  I was struggling at mile 1.  My legs felt like lead.  Think little bicycle rotations (from the chirunning book), think 90 rpm (one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four).  I was fairly sure it wasn’t working.  I was at mile two grinding out a half marathon.  I was pretty sure I was in trouble.  I wasn’t in pain though.  So I just kept concentrating on that.  You are not in pain, just keep going, it’ll kick, it’ll kick in.  You’ll be passing people at mile 8. 

Let’s just say miles 1-5 were a blur of blahness.  I was not connected to the race, I was not connected to my body.  I had to walk up the very first hill.  My legs had nothing, zip, zero, nada.  I thought back to my race strategy with the coaches.  Optimization.  If you need to walk do it where you will optimize your run, not based on time.  Well I knew I could walk up the first hill faster than I could run it, so I walked up the hill at mile 3 or 4.  This was not good.

Plot thickens.  Right after Mile 5, I saw the race frontrunners coming back toward the finish.  Oh yeah, I’m screwed, I thought — I wouldn’t want to seen them until mile 7.  The third or fourth person I saw was Earl and right behind him was Lauren from our team.  They were booking.  Well even if I was stinking up the course, good on them.  I was getting ready for the infamous “Suicide Hill” that I knew was coming up at about mile 6.  As I left the road and entered the  park trail, I hit the Hill going down to the river.  It was such a sharp degree descent I didn’t know how to control my cadence.  I was trying so hard to not jam my legs into the hill.  “Use your glutes and hamstrings as your breaks” (something I heard someone say to me).  I have absolutely no idea what the heck that means.  How do you use your glutes and hamstrings to be your breaks on the downhill?   It makes no sense, your feet have to hit the ground and I just went back to what Coach Ramone told me in San Francisco on the steepest down hill, little steps and make your feet hit under your hips.  I think that’s what he said, but to be honest I can’t really remember (that might have been what he said about going uphill).

Then it happened.  I felt a click in my left hip and then I felt my left knee go out.  Oh yeah, it went totally out of joint.  Crap.  It was totally out.  My quads jumped in to try to protect as they always do and they grabbed onto my knee and that was pretty much the end of that hill.  I think I descended at a 40 minute mile.  I saw a bunch of people walking back up it.  I noted that these were the fast runners and they were walking it so I figured I would most definitely be hiking up this hill.  (Downhills are much more of a threat to me than uphills.)

As I was just coming off the hill I saw one of my coaches who asked what my heart rate was (we had determined that we would shoot for 140 as my heartrate for this run).  I told him it was 135.  He told me to try to get it back up to 140 when I hit the flat.  Okay, I had a goal, I would try for that.  Once I hit the river trail (flat as a board and softer surface), I just tried to concentrate on lifting my feet and not pushing off (chirunning).  I tried to straighten my posture  and pick up my cadence.  It was definitely hotter out than it had been but if I have to be honest, I wasn’t feeling the heat was a problem.  It was probably about 70 something but that was was down on my list of discomforts.  First was my knee, second was my fatigue and why was my breathing so labored?  I was huffing and puffing like I was sprinting.  I couldn’t understand why and my heartrate was only at 136.

Then I saw Coach Ross.  He seemed all chipper and happy, I just wanted to be left alone in my misery.  I was definitely sinking into what I call my Greta Garbor mode — I Vant to be alone….  I didn’t want to have to talk, I didn’t want to have to be nice I didn’t want to have to even pretend that I was doing okay.  Let me just suffer in silence.  I told him I just wanted to run alone.  He said okay, to straighten up my posture.  I said okay.  He turned around to run the other way.  I took about two steps.  I tried to take an inhale and my lungs collapsed.  It was like they contracted and just stuck together.   I couldn’t breath.  My entire chest shut down.  I had never felt anything like this.  I started honking trying to get air.  I started to bend over.  I fought to not fall to my knees.  I was looking for something to hold onto to break my fall.  Then Coach Ross was there holding my hand telling me to try to breath but I couldn’t.  I was scared.  I felt tears start stream down my face.  About 4 attempts to breath and then whoosh my lungs let go of their contraction.  I had air again.  It was the scariest and strangest thing that had ever happened to me. 

I know what breathing difficulties usually feel like for me  – it usually feels like someone is grabbing the bottom of my lungs and squeezing so I can only breath from the top of my lungs — then they usually open up and I can breath all the way.  But this was different — it felt the walls of my lungs were glued together.  There was no air getting in anywhere.  It was definitely a spasm — some kind of contraction.  Caused by stress?  Anxiety?  Heavy Breathing?  Overall Fatigue?  I don’t know but I do know I wish it didn’t happen in front of the coach.  So I’m figuring it had to have an emotional aspect as well.  I was upset that I was not doing so well and I know that sometimes when I get upset I hold my breath (not on purpose).  So maybe it was some kind of weird contradiction of my holding my breath and fighting myself to suck in air at the same time.  I honestly don’t know.  All I can say it was very scary and embarassing and it left as quickly as it came.  Coach Ross was begging me to stop and walk and take it easy but I was in my stubborn mule mode, just let me go, I am fine, let me finish this.  So I have to think adrenaline was also somehow in play here.

After I left Coach Ross I continued on my way now adding guilt to my mental burden.  Why did you have to be so snappy?  Why couldn’t you just nod your head and keep your cool?  I was busy, that’s why.  It was everything I had in my to keep it all together and I didn’t have one ounce of anything extra to be the “good athlete.”  No coaching right now.  Memories of the New York City Marathon when I totally dissed Coach Christine (who was my favorite coach) came back to haunt me.  I can’t talk to you right now.  Everyone just get out of my way, I have work to do and the longer we talk about it the longer it is going to take to get this done.    

As I ran along the river I tried to give cheery hellos to everyone so nobody would worry.  But every fiber of my being was yelling “this sucks!” I told Marisol I had an asthmas attack and not to worry.  I saw Michelle and she let me take two puffs off of her inhaler (I will carry my inhaler forever). 

Of all things to jump into my mind was a beer.  All I wanted was a beer.  Why a beer I have no idea.  But I wanted a beer.  I don’t even drink beer but that’s what I wanted.  I was convinced if I had a beer I could keep going.  Isn’t that ridiculous?  I must look up what vitamins or minerals are in a beer to figure out what was lacking in my system.  But then again if someone had heroin handy I might have taken that too. 

Of course I wanted it to be over but the idea of just stopping and turning around was just not an option.  I think if I have any regret it might be that.  Maybe the smarter thing to do would have been to just quit?  This wasn’t supposed to be a race, it was supposed to be a workout.  Why was I compelled to finish this?  There was nothing anybody could have said or done to get me to stop and quit.  I’m not sure that is an admirable quality.  I’m not sure that was being a smart athlete.  I could understand if it had been my “A” race or something.  But why did I feel this compulsion to finish?  All I could hear inside my brain was “you started this, you are going to finish this.”  Right there is the part I feel bad about.  Why I couldn’t just say “today is not the day” and turn around and go home?  Same thing on that awful 9 miler when I was sick.  Why couldn’t I just turn in my race number at the 72nd street turnoff and say I’m not well enough to run this?  There is perserverence and then there is stupdity, I’m not so proud of my perserverence yesterday because I think in fact it may have been plain stupidity.  That in a nutshell is why I am upset about yesterday.  I am not sure I made a smart choice.  I let pride get in the way of my bigger plan and that is just stupid.  In the end I felt more humiliated about a bad race than I felt pride in perserverence.

But here is something that I will take away from the day.  When I was running (can I call that running?) along the river in my agony I tried to control my mind.  First I tried to use the mantras that usually help “healthy and strong, healthy and strong.”  That only lasted for a few minutes.  The one that seemed to work the best was “gentle, gentle.”  I was trying to take smaller more gentler steps just keeping a little shuffle going — minimize the pain in my knee.  Then I had a moment where I shook hands with the pain.  I realized — this is the moment you were seeking.  You want to know who you are when you are out on the edge.  When you are stretched to your limit.  Here it is.  This is what it feels like.  Here is it, so who are you? What are you made of?  This is what you are going to feel on race day in Lake Placid.  You are going to be in pain, you are going to snap at everyone.  You are not going to feel happy.  You are going to see these demons again.  I guess I found out that I can fight them and keep going.  I found that I can be stronger than the struggle.  I will not be defeated no matter how bad I look or feel and the demons will not win.  So in the end it really wasn’t about crossing the finish line it was about telling the demons of insecurity, laziness, old age, overweight, has-beendom — you will not defeat me.  I guess that in a nutshell is why I couldn’t quit the race.  I couldn’t let pain win.  It wasn’t about the finish line.  It was about beating those demons saying “quit, quit, quit.”   I couldn’t let agony and suffering tell me that I had a limit.  Because if I stopped now, what would it mean on race day?  Would I stop then too?  And then ultimately what would that say about who I am?

So the last 40 kazillion miles back to the finish were just pure hell.  I was totally running on my right leg.  My left leg was shot.  But, I will say this, kudos to my right leg because Man o Man is it strong!!  It totally took all the burden of the 13.1 miles.  I was pretty much limp/wogging all the way in.  Somewhere between mile 11 and 12 I saw a familiar jersey coming towards me on a bike.  It was my friend Donald.  It was nice to see him particularly so he could send a message back to the home front that I was alive and not to worry.  That was an additional stress on me, I was so worried that everyone was worried about me.  This way he could go back and tell them I was in fact alive and not lying on the side of the road or in a ditch or in the river.  It was so great to see Donald — like a scout coming out to find the wounded soldiers.

The last two miles might have been the longest two miles of my life.  Usually when I only have two miles to go I can find a little something to get me through.  I was in physical, mental and spirtual pain.  My  biggest goal became to overtake the dog walker lady.  I said if nothing else, I will pass that woman walking her two huge dogs.  I cracked some joke about letting me take the dogs so they could pull me for awhile.  We laughed for a minute about how we could use the dogs to get me home.  I had to make the final turnaround and saw her loading the dogs into the car and quipped “a car?  all this time you had a car?!?!?”  She laughed and said “you’re fine.”  I knew I wasn’t really fine but I just had to finish and get this all over.  I knew the team was waiting for me, I was hobbling at best.  A couple of the cheerleader gals came out to get me and they were very sweet saying I was their favorite runner of the day.  They ran to the grass with me where the finish line was.  I saw AnneChris and Donald and Julia and Charlee.  They were right there, God Bless them.  The thing I like about my SHBC pals is they didn’t patronize me.  They didn’t make it out like “you did great.”    I also liked the fact that my TriLife team were not all standing around waiting for me to come in.  They were getting on their bikes and ready to leave.  I didn’t want a heroes welcome for that performance.   I just wanted to get on my bike and get the heck out of there.

Dennis came up to me (he’s one of my fav supporters) and asked if I was okay and gave me a hug.  Then Nathan (my other fav) didn’t say anything and just gave me a hug (probably the best thing to say was nothing).  We gathered my stuff and Charlee took my bag so I wouldn’t have to ride back with that on my back (thank God!)  I felt bad that I didn’t give a great performance for Charlee.   Scott gave us some parting words and Michelle (who waited for me to ride back), Donald, Julia and AnneChris lead me out of Rockland State Helldom and up the hill towards home.

But, wait, there’s more….  (This is the little epilogue part of the movie).   We are going up Rockland Hill which is a pretty steep hill but not undoable and I had my triple chain wheel and wasn’t afraid to use it.  But I’m feeling a drag, drag, drag on my wheel.  Dang, my brakes are rubbing and I didn’t want to stop.  Donald is riding behind me and says “your wheel is out of tru, you should get that fixed when you get back.”  I’m definitely feeling it and I know I don’t want to keep riding so we stop and look at it.  Yep, I broke another spoke.  The wheel was totally warped.  I sent everyone else ahead because I couldn’t deal with holding everyone up further.  The guys at Toga were pretty nice and after some confusion about wheel prices, they replaced my wheel (this was the 4th spoke to go so it was time for a new wheel).  But the good news is after the new wheel was put on I felt great on the bike and I had no knee pain while pedalling (my knees like biking) and though I went slowly up the hills I found I was riding just fine on the way back.  As if Hook Mountain didn’t happen and it was all just a bad dream…  (Don’t you hate those dramas when in the end you find out the main character is not really dead?  it was just a dream and nothing really ever happened at all?)

So that’s my Hook Mountain Saga.  I still processing what I learned from the event.  I wish I was faster, stronger, better. I wish my knee didn’t give out.  I wish there were more slow people doing the race.  I wish I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb which is humiliating in itself.   But I am not deterred from my greater mission which is to complete the Ironman.  Like Hook Mountain, I will not quit.  I will keep going.  No matter what, no matter how ugly, no matter how hard.  Because that’s what a hero does.   I’m the hero of my own life movie and I have to just remember that what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.

End scene. Roll Credits.

Namaste

Cast in Order of Appearance:

  • Greta Garbo  — Rumble Girl
  • Cheering Squad — Charlee, AnneChris, Donald, Julia
  • Faithful Teammates — Michell, Marisol, Rob, Jaime, Nathan and Dennis
  • Coaches — Scott, Ross, Kim, Earl
“An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why”William Faulkner

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4/19/07 Recovery Week

brooklyhalf2006a.jpg

Pix from the Brooklyn Half.  They didn’t come out anywhere near as fun as I thought they would, but hey they are something anyway.  This is me in Prospect Park.  Approximately mile 9.  Shortly after this I begin to crumble.

Thursday.  I’m taking my recovery week very seriously so I’ve not been doing very much that merits documenting.  Tuesday I did a slow jog with Charlee and Mary — three lower loops very low intensity.  I was definitely sore and the three loops did not really did not do much to help loosen me up.  (Last time we did a recovery run I felt better at the end of the run, this time I was still creaky.)

Yesterday I had blah swim.  Must make mental note to NOT go at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays.  Every whacko is in the pool and it was almost impossible to get my workout done.  Basically I just spent the time trying to get out of the way of one whacko after another.  I got all the laps in but I couldn’t get accurate splits or do the speed at the right time.    Frustrating.  Hmmm, how am I going to feel when there are 2,000 whackos in my way instead of a dozen?  I can see me indignantly shouting during the Ironamn “I cahn’t SWIM like this!!! Now let’s all get organized and in our appropriate lanes!”

This morning I got to 5:30 a.m. bike practice 5 minutes late so I ended up doing the bike workout on my own.  I did 4 loops of the park, progressively slower (not on purpose — they just ended up that way).  The first loop I went out really fast trying to catch my group (never caught them.)  The second loop I tried to increase my speed from Loeb Boat house to Tavern on the Green.  It really doesn’t work as well without Marisol barking at my heels.  I need somebody to chase or chase me to get me into that extra gear.  The third loop I knew I was going slow because EVERYBODY was passing me and they didn’t even look like they were going very fast.  On my third loop the fastest riders on my team passed me going down the westside.  I didn’t even try to keep up which is not like me.  Usually I eat up those opportunities to hang on with the fastie fasts for a minute or two.  This morning I thought ‘eh’ another time.  I guess I need to eat my Wheaties instead of the new protein shake I’ve been doing for pre-workout breakfasts.

 Oh well, I was giving it my best effort for this morning and I am just considering it an investment ride.  My fourth loop I did just like the 3rd loop.  Only good thing is I did force myself to stand a couple of times.  (The stands were not that impressive either….)  Sometimes you just have to give yourself points for the effort and ditch the results.  I’m giving myself some brownie points for going out in the drizzle (it really wasn’t that bad, but I’m desperate for points). 

Then I went to my Pilates session this morning.  I frustrate poor Elly I’m sure.  Last time I wanted to work on my hamstrings this time I wanted to work on my upper core.  I don’t think I have any.  (Do you feel that?  nope.  That?  nope.  That?  nope.)  I think I have my lower core muscles in a good place — they are not fantastic, but I can call them to task.  But my upper core is sadly lacking.

I have discovered that when I’m not looking my posture drops and I seem to slouch which is not good, particularly when running.   Here is the little experiment I tried and failed.  Stand up and do a slight pelvic tilt so it feels like your pelvis is a bowl holding water and you don’t want any water to spill out.  Then put one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest right below your collar bone. Push down on your stomach and up on your chest.  Did you feel yourself straighten?  I do.  That’s my slouch.  I want to get rid of it.

This is all coming from my latest obsession (it’s Thursday I must have a new obsession….) which is Chirunning.  I’m very excited about learning this method.  I bought the book and DVD from www.chirunning.com.  I like it very much.  The end results of the techniques are the same as the running form our coaches teach us but I really like the methods he demonstrates on HOW to get there.   Right now I’m working on the correct posture but I’m already seeing a lot of things that I do wrong.  He talks about the difference between swinging your legs (which I do) vs. rotating your feet in a small circle.  Verrryy interesting.  Of course I’m cramming through all of this in an attempt to learn it all by Sunday.  He says it takes months but I figure can’t hurt to try to put some of it into action on Sunday.

The other cool toy I got with it is a metronome.  Yep the same little annoying ‘click, click, click’ thing I used to have to put on to play the piano.  I can now annoy everybody around me by having a little electronic beat help me to memorize 90+ cadence.  Won’t I be popular at races?  (Has anyone else ever noticed that old Chinese Man who wears the cymbols on his fingers at all the NYRR races?  He’s so annoying — I always end up next to him for about 5 minutes.  But now I’ll be like him now and people will try to stay far, far away….  There’s that whacko with the metronome….)

That’s the news — tomorrow I want to get in one more bike but I won’t kill myself since I have two bike sessions over the weekend.  I also have to get in a 1.5 mile time trial swim either tomorrow or Saturday morning.  A 2 hour easy bike on Saturday and then Sunday the Hook Mountain half marathon and bike extravaganza….. 

Here’s the good news.  I have decided I am no longer nervous about Hook Mountain.  I was really nervous about it.   Now I’m just going to do whatever it takes (I’m also not nervous because Michelle says she’ll wait for me and ACK and Charlee are coming so I’ll have some company).  I am going to get a nice early start and just do a nice easy spin out to the race start.  I’m going to do my new Chirunning warmup routine (he believes in warming up the joints not the muscles… interesting…. eh?) I’m going to align my posture, concentrate on my breathing and lean and let it go.  This will be a practice run and I’m not going to worry about my time — just focus.  I absolutely know I can do these distances now it is time to focus on technique. 

Tomorrow is yet another WW meeting.  Gosh don’t these weeks seem to be just flying by?!?!!? Hopefully that pesky .4 pounds will be gone….

Namaste

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”
Helen Keller

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4/15/07 Avec la Dignité

Sunday.  Ironman Arizona day.  I’m writing this while watching Ironman live as my friend Colleen is about to take off in her second Ironman start.   Nothing more inspiring than an Ironman start.  It’s so great that they have it broadcast live on the Internet.  (They have them treading in the water for 15 minutes while waiting for the start, that doesn’t seem fair….).  I figured I would watch until she is out of the water and then get on my bike in virtual support (hope my pace doesn’t slow her down).

Meeting notes.  Was up .4 pounds this week at WW but I’m not worried about it all.  I was definitely retaining water when I went in and I’m sure I sweated that out yesterday in the Brooklyn Marathon.  To be fair, I did not do 100% on tracking my food this week — maybe 45% — not too good.  On Tuesday I worked so hard in my run workout I thought “eh, I’m working it off.”  Then on Wednesday I did a bike and a swim and thought “eh, I’m working it off.”  On Thursday I only did a Pilates session so I should have know that wasn’t working anything off, and Friday’s bike session was not hard enough to merit NOT writing anything down.  I have to be really careful to not fall into the trap of “oh, I worked so hard I can eat a little extra this a little extra that.”  Must maintain as much dignity in journalling as in working out.

So yesterday was the Brooklyn Half Marathon and I did reach my goal of sub 12:30.  I did it in a 12:24.  So it was a 6 minute PR off of my best half marathon which was last year’s Brooklyn.  Additional Shout outs — Wes and Ro — PR’d on their last PR which is great!

The Brooklyn Half is definitely the fastest Half out there.  There are no hills until mile 10 and even those shrunk quite a bit since last year.  There was a little headwind but nothing compared to Staten Island.  So yes it was a PR but I have to say in my heart of hearts I wanted a 12:15 but that will have to wait until another day.  I started out so well that I thought it was going to be a phenomenal day but then it started to slip away.  Dignity definitley ran the bell curve for this race.

My first shocker came in the first five miles.  I honestly didn’t even feel them.  It was like five miles didn’t even exist.  I mean I did not feel a thing — almost surreal.  Typically I always do my five mile races in the park in 1:02 which is a 12:15 or so.  I did the first 5 miles in 58:56 — definitely better than my normal 5 milers.  I was very pleased with that.  I was concentrating on good running chi.  I was trying to hold my core steady, lean in from my ankles (still don’t think I do that right), keep everything outside of my core loose and relaxed.  I really thought I was doing very well.   I felt so proud at mile 5 I couldn’t believe it.  I felt strong and had tons of dignity.  So when I got to mile 5 I had to make a conscious decision to maintain my effort (okay Charlee, this is for you!) but now looking at my splits I realize that starting at mile 5 I started to slip away.  (No Heart Rate Monitor — it wasn’t working… ;(

Splits:

  • 1&2  23:06 (I missed the mile 1 marker — may have happened when I tripped and fell on the boardwalk!)
  • 3 – 12:05
  • 4 – 11:41
  • 5 – 12:02
  • 6 – 12:11
  • 7 – 12:18
  • 8 – 12:28
  • 9 – 12:44 (entering Prospect Park — Where Adam says “Own this Park!”)
  • 10 – 12:45 (first hill, not really a problem this year was okay — didn’t do it fast but didn’t walk — “C’mon Trilife only a 5k and I KNOW you’ve done that before!”)
  • 11 – 13:31 (more rolling hills, still hanging in there but my legs are shot beginning of loss of dignity)
  • 12 – 12:33 (thank god for a little downhill)
  • 13 – 13:47 (miserable, I had to walk up the smallest hill, quads were cramping big time — kneecaps scraping bone against bone — dignity had already took the F train home to Manhattan)

Total time for 13.1 —  2:42:32.  I’ll take it.  Sub 2:40 would have been really, really great but that will come (probably next year when I get a chance to do Brooklyn again, lol)  Of course it still begs the question “how am I ever going to get to a 10 minute mile?  Is that even feasible in this lifetime?”  I know, lighter, lighter, lighter.  Can’t do it at this weight but I’ll keep trying.

It really is kind of hard for me to get all hepped up about a 12:24.  All of my teammates are 10 minute milers or better.  That just seems so far away and physically impossible.  But I will say the support I received from my team was just so touching.  I came home and had a couple of apologetic emails from teammates saying they wanted to stay but their rides made them leave.  When I got to the team party Nathan (my swim-pull rider guy and tire-pull ringer partner) came up and said he waited until 2:30 but he had to go and then looked up my time and was sorry he couldn’t have waited but his ride was calling.  Then my buddy Dennis said he wanted so much to wait but his ride was calling too so he had to go.  I told him it was okay becuase he didn’t LAP me!!  I always check Dennis’s time — he did a 6:19 so I was good.  I had all the way to a 12:38 before he would have lapped me. 10 seconds per mile to spare!!! ROFL!!! (I just don’t understand how it is humanly possible for someone to run that fast and for 13 miles?  How?!?!?)

I didn’t expect any of my teammates to wait for me and none of my regular riding partners because I knew they were all going for a long ride and I told them to go, but they all waited for me which was so very nice. Michelle, Marisol, Jaime, (Thelma & Louise), Annette (Nacho), Rob and Princess Dan were all on one side with our coach Ross (that was a honor to have him at the finish line!)  On the other side were all my TNT buddies Martha, Wes, Ro and a bunch of other friendly faces.  (TNT group is too big to name everyone that was there.)  I guess the photographers liked my finishing (blowing kisses to my friends) because when I came over the finish line they yelled “Wait, wait, smile again!” and I totally hammed it up for them.  (Okay Donald, let’s see how this set of pictures comes out!!! ROFL)  They should really have photographers hidden in the bushes back at mile 13 to see how miserable people really are or at least I was!

During this race I had a pack of people I ran with just about the entire race.  One gal ran right next to me from mile 2 (that’s when I noticed her) all the way to mile 8 where she proceeded to leave me in the dust.  Two guys running alternating carrying an American Flag were running in my vicinity (the only reason I kept up with them is because they stopped for the water stops and I did not.)  When I was running in Prospect Park all of a sudden a huge American Flag appeared on my right and they were right behind it.  I huffed “Wow, if that is not inspiration, I don’t know what is!”  We all laughed.

Usually I’m with the end of the pack and they are pulling down the street blocades but 6 minutes makes a big difference as there were quite a few people around me and they were not budging the blockades at all.  That was all very different.    There were not tons of pedestrians crossing the street (Like in Staten Island) the police were keeping everyone off the course and I made note that this was very different from last year.  And I was NOT running alone, I defnitely had people around me.  I felt some dignity there. Entering Prospect Park I saw Adam a TriLife Alumni and now a TNT coach-in-training standing at the entrance to the park.  It was so nice to see him out there.  He said to me “Now Own This PARK!”  I yelled “Okay! I will” and as I entered the park I thought “how the heck do I do that?”  I’m tired, I could use a cappuccino and a smoke.

The biggest difference in this race versus other races is that I was not surrounded by very many walkers (one speed walker at the end was really ticking me off because she huffing and puffing and making so much noise I felt like saying “okay, already, we know you are here you don’t have to make such a big deal about it.)  She would pass me on the uphills (I was determined to not walk yet) but then I passed her easily on the downhills.  I have to say she had a good cadence going and a very wide stride but she seemed to using sooo much energy I was exhausted watching her and I made mental note that sometimes running can be a more efficient use of energy than speed-walking — she’s not smooth like Barbara the TNT walking coach.  I was not showing much dignity at this point.  My stride length was negative distance and I was slipping into backwards running mode.

Nutrition was good.  I love my new camelbak.  LOVE it.  Don’t even feel it when I’m running.   It held enough for my 2:45 but if it had been any hotter out I would have needed more, so I think for the next 1/2 marathon race I will actually bring a small bottle with me to start the first two miles or so and then chuck that bottle.  I need a lot of hydration I guess because I had salt on my face after the race and I was drinking my Infit formula.  So I guess I better up the salt in the formula (and protein for longer races).

Next weekend is the Hook Half.  I don’t feel I have enough to give it the same mental intensity that I gave Brooklyn.  I may do just as well but I need to mentally give myself a break.  So I am planning doing the Hook Half by running 9 walking 1 for pretty much the whole thing.  I want to do it also as an experiment to see if my legs stay fresh longer.  I don’t know if yesterday’s strain on my legs was for pushing harder or from just general fatigue and I had to think that had I walked a little earlier on that perhaps at the end I might have had a little more zip.  Next weekend will be a great opportunity to try it out. 

The best part of the weekend was the support of all of my friends and coaches.  Would it have meant as much to me if I didn’t have all of these people to share my success with?  Would I really care if I did a 12:24 vs. a 12:54?  I honestly don’t know.  I do know that having people out there cheering and supporting you makes a huge difference.   I do know that I ran harder miles 5-8 because I wanted to show Charlee that I appreciate all the hard work she is putting into training me.   I do know that when I wanted to walk at mile 10 I kept going because I was wearing a TriLife shirt (and some guy yelled “Go TriLife, it’s only a 5k and I KNOW you’ve done that before! — To which I gave the two thumbs up and kept going).   I can’t count how many people came up to me in the park in the morning and said “I can’t wait to come cheer for you at the Ironman” and I could tell that they really meant it. 

Okay, time to focus on the next big task.  One task at at time.  Hook Mountain.  Next Sunday.  Ride my bike to Rockland Lake (25 miles), do the Hook Mountain Half marathon (13.1) and ride my bike home (25 miles).  Oh boy,  I know I can do this, it’s just a matter of with how much dignity?  Is dignity actually required?  Is there such a thing as a Get-Out-Of-Dignity-Free card?  Is there such a thing as I’m-just-happy-to-finish anymore?  I guess those times are over — ah the good old days.

Okay, Colleen is out of the water now, 1:33 minutes, 5 minutes transition time and she is on the bike with dignity I am sure.  I will now get on my bike to attempt to find some dignity in support of her efforts.

Namaste

I’m actually reusing last year’s Brooklyn Marathon Blog Entry quote because I it is really beautiful and sums up the courage I want to find:

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.”
August Wilson

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4/12/07 Competition

Thursday.  Eh. Being rained out from our morning ride.  It’s okay though because I had a great little ride in the park yesterday.  I did one, six-mile loop (only to discover that the portion being repaved was unridable) and then three, five-mile loops.  Not bad 21 miles outdoors as my third ride.

There was a fun little bike race in central park yesterday afternoon.  It wasn’t sanctioned or anything, it was just one I made up on my own.   I’m not even sure if all the participants knew they were in a race, but for the record, I won (or came in second, ’cause I’m not sure one of the participants was in the race or not).

The first loop I was kind of bored, just warming up.  Some gal passed me and I noted that she had the most awful bike fit I have ever seen.  I wanted to stop her and tell her to ride straight over to Toga or something because it wasn’t fit anywhere near right.  She was so stretched out she could barely reach her handle bars and her knees were all over the place.  Something told me she was training for something — it was probably the intensity with which she was riding. But since she was passing me, I thought who am I to comment?  LOL  I kept her in front of me for quite awhile.

On the second loop I got my riding legs and started to pick up the pace a little.  I was really trying to get into my aerobars and concentrate on high cadence (every time I looked down I was at 91 instead of my infamous 82, yessss!)  I still want it to get up to 95 but I’ll take 91 over 82 anyday.  (I told Charlee if I broke through my bike cadence of 82 maybe there is hope for breaking through my running cadence barrier.)  Soon I overtook Ms. Wobbly knees, but I have to give her credit, she was doing a nice 16 mph around the carousel despite her bad bike fit.  I think it might have annoyed her a bit because although I made it all the way around the second loop when I crossed the 102nd transverse  she passed me.  Okay, I thought, it’s going to be like that?  It’s on, girlie.  LOL.  I took extreme pleasure in passing her on the uphill on the westside.  She was grinding away and I just spun right up the hill. 

As I was patting myself on the back for my nice little spin up the hill,  some guy with a “Go Vegan” biking outfit spun right past me like I was standing still.  Dang, I don’t have enough gears on Tina to spin that fast uphill.  I looked at my cadence it was only 80.  That was as fast as I could spin but he was definitely spinning faster.  He was skinny too though. Skinny-fasty-fast-vegan-guy.

As I approached Columbus Circle, I passed a guy in a bright red jacket as I closed in on Skinny Vegan Man.  I was this close to asking skinny vegan-man him what he ate for protein and if he tried the most awful Vegan energy bar called “Vegn” (oh my God, they are just awful!) But then I thought, wobbly-knee girl was probably right on my wheel so I better keep moving.  The next thing I know red-jacket guy passed me, feverishly pumping past me.  Hey, too big of a gear, I thought, you can’t maintain that — I caught you once, I’ll catch you again.  Right now I was just trying to stay ahead of wobbly-knee girl.  She was the wiley one, just waiting for me to falter on a down-shift to pass me.

On Cat Hill Vegan-man passed me and then red-jacket guy.  Wobbly-knee girl made a short, valient appearance (she did a standing-run up Cat Hill and then pooped out) but then we all passed her.  I could tell she was getting tired.  (If she had a good bike fit, that gal would be mean!)  Now I was in really good cadence by the museum and I overtook both Vegan-man and red-jacket guy.  I think red-jacket guy was slightly annoyed.  Vegan-man had no clue he was in my little fantasy race (I kind of suspect he was doing cool-down loops or something).  Right now the name of the game was leave wobbly-knee gal and red-jacket guy behind.  I think Vegan-man was just playing with me and could leave me in the dust at a moment’s notice.  Spin, spin, spin.  I was doing 18 on the flats and when I hit my little magic downhill past Engineers gate I was doing 24 which was really good for me considering I wasn’t overgearing, just spinning in a good gear without leaving my 91 rpm.

We started the fourth loop like that, back and forth.  I was having so much fun, I almost stopped to ask wobbly-knee gal and red-jacket guy if they wanted to do one more loop — I knew they were absolutely in the game with me.  But I knew I had to get back to work.  I finished my 4th loop and headed out of the park.  I was totally awake now.  All my tiredness was gone and I felt great.  I wish I could bottle the feeling I get after riding my bike.  I just feel so good.  I did my little check in with myself, could you do another loop, heck yeah, I could have done 6 more loops, I wasn’t close to tired.  But the key was, without wobbly-knee gal and red-jacket man I couldn’t just ride in circles in the park.  I need a little competition.  I need someone to chase, otherwise it’s just a roll in the park and how many times can I say “ohh, nice daffodils?” 

I don’t get a chance to experience it very often during triathlons (as I am usually trying to literally stay alive), but I love a little competition.  I didn’t care if wobbly-gal or red-guy passed me, it was just fun trying to pass them and stay ahead.  I just like the fact that I could hang with them and take a little inspiration from them (as I knew they were taking from me).  It’s just more fun to have someone to chase down.  It’s also fun to try to just stay ahead.  (I think back to the Disney Half riding, riding, riding trying to stay ahead of Missy and on each out and back seeing her get closer and closer until she over took me.  It was fun just trying to see how long I can hang in front.  I knew she would catch me, but it was just a matter of how long I could make her dig for it.)  I think competition is fun — it breaks up the boredom.  It eliminates the feeling of being a gerbil just running or riding around in circles for exercise.  

I also managed to get my swim in yesterday. (Who is the good little irongal in training?).  I did my 2,800 meter swim and I think I did it right.  In our main set we had to do five sets of 400 meters.  Within the 400 meters we were to do 100 slow, 100 medium, 100 fast and 100 recovery, then a short rest.  I was really pleased to find that I had some different speeds and it appears that there is about 3 second difference between each and that I could replicate it.  So my fastest was 1:06 which is about right (just for reference, that is not very fast).  Then the mediums were coming in at 1:10 which was about right and the slows were 1:13’s which was about right.  On my recovery ones I went all the way to 1:20 I just concentrated on perfect form.  

I like this format because I really learned something.  Starting out slow I was able to really concentrate on my touch points (rotating more to my right and getting my right arm up and out far enough to enter the water, finger-tips first).  Once I got that going, I concentrated on focussing on my fingers in front of me and not looking down and behind me (why do I do that?  What am I looking at behind me?!?!?!)  Then when I got the medium speed, I focussed on maintaining that form and also on my pull.   For my fastest speed I tried to keep it all together and pull harder and recover faster.

All in all a good workout except once again I forgot to bring my drag shorts.  This time I remembered when I got to the elevator but I said, “hey, I’m doing the workout, that should be enough, I don’t want to fight the drag shorts today.”  Yeah, I know, I’m a wimp.  But c’mon I did 1:30 minutes on the bike outdoors and this workout was going to take 1:15 that should be enough….  (Okay, I know weak rationalization and I would feel much better if I had done the drag shorts so I’ll put the shorts in my bag now so they will be there for next time.)

The strangest thing about yesterday is I started the day so tired and by the end of the day I was more energized. The bike and the swim actually made me feel better.   Today I’m a little tired, but less than yeserday.  I have a pilates session and then I will wait to see if the rain goes away, if not I will do an indoor trainer session, otherwise so I will go seek out wobbly-knee-gal or some other unwitting nemesis in the park.

Tomorrow, my WW weigh-in and my Brooklyn Half Marathon plan….  Ooh, the suspense…. 

Namaste

“Friendships born on the field of athletic strife are the real gold of competition. Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust.”
Jesse Owens

So true, the friends I have gathered over the years whether on the tennis court, in the pool, on the bike or during the run mean so much more than any of the awards or money I have won. (Yeah, yeah, I know I haven’t won any awards or money, that was just for illustrative purposes, lol).

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4/11/07 Mind Games

Wednesday.  Sorry I’ve been lax in my documentation of the last couple of days.  Quite frankly, I have been a little overworked and tired.  Too much to do in too little time and I feel like I could take a nap at a moment’s notice.  Ironically it feels like I have been going to bed earlier and earlier and yet I am more tired.  Time to break out the vitamins.

On Saturday we did time trials out on 9W in New Jersey, timing our out and backs from the golf course to the State Line.  We were supposed to do 3 but it was so cold we cut it short and although it was only a 2:15 minute ride for us, the day flew by and still I was tired.

On Easter Sunday, Stephanie, Mo and I headed up to the park where we met up with Charlee and Mary.  We all did a little warmup together and then went our separate paces.  Stephanie ran the entire 2:15 run with me.  (We ended up running only 2:04 but I figure with our brisk walk to and from the park we covered the right amount of territory). 

We all reconvened for a nice brunch at my place later in the day.  I didn’t even try to track my points — it would have blown up the computer! Food has been okay but not perfect this week.  Everyday is a new challege.  Tonight, Wednesday, 9 p.m. on PBS there is going to be a special program called “Fat” it looks very interesting and will be discussing some of the little know scientific problems with trying to lose weight.  Like the mind has a set percentage of fat it thinks it needs to maintain and no matter what you do, the mind will win. 

I’m very aware of how the mind is so controlling….  and limiting…..  Again I’m sure this has to do with the entering preservation mode but the challenge is how to get your mind to overrule your mind.  How do you reprogram?  When you repeat positive affirmations to your mind, is it not your mind doing the repeating?  I mean, isn’t your mind smart enough to figure out that your mind is trying to trick itself?

Meanwhile, back in training mode, I had read a review of the new camelbak in the New York Times so of course I had to go out and get it.  (If you want to see the review of all the hydration packs, click here  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/05/fashion/05Physical.html?_r=1&oref=sloginAfter).  After froogling it turns out the cheapest place to get it was actually at REI downtown.  For $30 I got a new hydration system and I really like it a lot!  I will give it two thumbs up.  It holds 48 ounces (more than two water bottles) and has room for your gels, money, keys, etc.  I will say when you first put it on fully loaded it feels a little heavy.  But very quickly it settles in around your hips and honestly, I don’t even notice it is there.   There is nothing jutting into your back or jostling around when you run.  It has a nice valve that opens and closes for easy drinking.  By the end of the run, I didn’t even notice it was there.  Perfect for long runs.

  camelbak.jpg

And of course once I saw it came in pink I had to have it!!      A very good purchase for people like me who carry their hydration with them.

Monday I had a little scare.  I went to go get a massage and on the way home I tripped on a ditch in the sidewalk.  I went sailing through the air about to land flat on my face and somehow managed to land on one leg in a kind of squat on my left knee.  My knee has been buckling ever since and my right ankle (the ankle that fell into the ditch) was slightly twisted.  I couldn’t believe that happened.  I was very nervous that I wouldn’t be able to run on Tuesday but I gave it a lot of massage and tiger balm.

Yesterday was another great workout with Charlee.  There is just no way I would get that much of an intense workout on my own.  We did speed intervals (you know I loved that! [not]).  I had to run up Cat Hill at max effort all the way to the corner of the reservoir.  I thought I might die.  I couldn’t breath, I got dizzy and my stomach flipped over.  But I gave it 150%.  I wasn’t moving very fast which frustrated me.  We recovered back down to the Loeb Boat House.

I had to repeat that two more times.  The second time was just as painful as the first time.  I didn’t get dizzy but I got the flip flop stomach and I was frustrated that I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs.  So I felt like I couldn’t maximize my leg effort because I couldn’t get enough lung effort.

But on the third (option was for 3-4 times, we picked 3!) ascent up Cat Hill, I didn’t get dizzy, my stomach didn’t flip flop and I was able to breath a little better.  So for that effort I was able to actually talk to my legs and tell them to run a little faster.  Although all of my “sprints” were slow, (my second sprint was actually slower than my first one), I felt really good that I managed to take 10 seconds off my best time on the third time up.  It’s amazing what can happen when you actually get some air in your lungs.   I joked with Charlee that I totally forgot about my buckling knee and tender ankle (which didn’t really hurt) — all I could think about was not dying!!

We recovered for a bit and then picked it up to steady state across the 102nd street transverse to the Westside and we had a chat about what my race pace should be on Saturday.  In some ways Charlee is getting to know me better than I know myself.  We are still trying to find the pace that I can maintain for races.  Charlee thinks most of my hold back is in my head and I’m using an old paradigm (my words) for determining what I can maintain.  She also thinks I have a 4 mile mental block which is pretty interesting and I’ll try to play with that info on Saturday.

The theory goes that I have a mental block of what I can maintain past 4 miles so I run slower than I have to because I am always in preservation mode.  Charlee seems to think that I can run for much longer at my “faster” pace than I think I can.  So I think on Saturday I’ll try to trick myself into thinking “Just 4 more miles” and see what I can do.  I guess my problem boils down to my discomfort with discomfort. 

I’m also very interested in looking into the book Chi Running — Mary has been reading it and it sounds very interesting.  He’s very big on running faster, pain free and that sounds good to me!

We finished the run on the Westside with more speed intervals.  As fast as I could go.  I thought I did okay.  I was to sprint for two lampposts and recover for four.  The strange part is I would build up and start the sprint before the first lampost but by the time I got right before the second lamppost I wanted to pass out.  How does the body know how much to press for a certain distance?  How did it know how hard my maximum for two lampposts is?  I mean why didn’t I want to pass out at lamppost 1?  It’s amazing to me that the body always seems to know exactly what it can do for any distance.  I think that’s Charlee’s point.  My mind thinks my body can only go so far at my new pace but my body is actually capable of doing it. (Not sprinting, just my “little better” pace).  An interesting psychology.

I was pretty tired the rest of the day.  Not sure I have caught up on enough sleep.  Today I have to do a bike and a swim, tomorrow another bike and a pilates, Friday will be yoga and a short swim.  Saturday is the Broooklyn 1/2 marathon.  I am not nervous about the distance, but I want to do a good job, if not for me, to show Charlee that I appreciate all of her coaching.  She is really doing a great job and I want to do it for her.  Sometimes if the motivation is not there for yourself you can find it in someone else.  I’m kind of happy just finishing, but I think it’s time to step it up and try to finish not so comfortably.  Ugh… that sounds so hard…..  2:50 minutes of discomfort running?  I’ll try… (I think my last Brooklyn time was 2:48 so maybe I can knock it down to 2:45 or better….)  Yeah that sounds much better, just suffer for 2:45 instead of 2:50.

I guess for me I think is all that extra pain WORTH five minutes?  I honestly don’t know.  It would certainly be worth a 1/2 hour or 45 minutes but is it really worth it for a 5 minute decrease in my time?  I don’t know.  The differential between my paces is so minimal that I’m just not sure it is worth it.  But I guess I just have to let that go for right now.  Just run as fast as I can and let the number come out where it will.

I may take Friday off in total if I don’t feel more rested.  I still feel I need a good amount of sleep, guess it’s time to start convincing my mind that it needs more than it thinks it does.  You are feeling sleepy, very, very, sleepy.

Namaste

“Mind moves matter”
Virgil

Yeah, yeah, so I’ve heard….

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