Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hurts so good

Another week. Another mile increase. 18 miles doesn't seem so hard when you've already done 17 the week before. After I finished my run the week before I threw some ice bags together and stuffed them under my sports pants and on my knees. A few weeks earlier I had gone to the doctor for a physical and had her give me a prescription for some anti-inflams and had decided only to use them after my long runs. And for extra precaution I also ran with my knee brace ont he left knee (which is the one I had problems with last year) for the extra support.

I made sure during the week to hydrate extra well, I even used the electrolyte tabs (Nuun brand, you can find them at Fleet Feet), dropped them in my first water bottle on the way to work and watched it fizz away. Consistency is also a huge part of training. I decided to take a more proactive approach to my diet, which up until now had been a lot of thrown-together meals at odd hours of the day. With my training notebook I started writing down what I was eating, when I was eating it and how many calories I was taking in. This helped A LOT! And actually I am continuing to see more results in my figure and my health. It has allowed me to also find a regiment since I found that for my body if I took in 100-200 calories every 2 hours I would be comfortable enough that I wasn't full but I wasn't hungry either. But some days were just different and I would be more hungry than usual. Pay attention to this. If you're hungry eat, but don't over-indulge and be sure it's not just a hydration issue.

With all of these factors coming into play I was sure that my 18 miler would be great. It wasn't. Not gonna lie, it hurt a lot more than the week before. I started off strong with a 2 mile run south on LSD and 2 miles back up to where I started. I did this to break up my path so it wouldn't be the same as the week before. The 7 mile run up north went well. I always say that if I have a good run going in I will most likely have problems coming back. I started to cramp at mile 14 and hit the wall by 15. I did have to stop a few times to stretch and one time, probably with about 5 miles left I sat down and stretch. Gotta make it home. I purposely didn't take my phone and I was at a point on the path where I would have to go back up north to catch a bus. I had no choice. Suck it up, pick yourself up, and move on.

I eventually made it back to the start and it felt AMAZING to have completed 18 miles. But I didn't stop, I made a B-line off the path and onto my apartment. When I got home I attended to my knees and took in protein, etc. I laid on my floor thinking about the run. Yeah it sucked but I overcame it, I had climbed over the wall. And it just goes to show, even though I did all of this great prep during the week I still need to take into account that this doesn't prevent me from still having a rough run.

Transition Time

I have to admit transitioning from IM training to marathon training was not something I was crazy enthusiastic about. Let me be clear, I love everything about training for endurance sports, the build up and break down of the workouts and my body...but after having such a mixed experience with the marathon last year I was a little stand-offish. Not to mention my charity group, PAWs, had already been training for over a month now while I was doing IM training. So I had kind of missed that window of opportunity (in my mind) to meet everyone and mesh with the group. I probably could have met up with them at 6am mid-training season but I opted not to. I wanted to train more on my own anyways but I love everything about raising money for an amazing organization....and I was not about to switch up my long run days from Sunday to Saturday....maybe that makes me something of a brat :P

So I waited two-ish weeks before actually hitting the running full on. My coach told me to do some active recovery in the pool, and I did some upper body weights as well. But the time had come for me to eventually drag out my training notebook and start breaking down the remainder of my training months and how I was going to appraoch it. I'm following the Hal Higdon Intermediate I schedule ( I thought I would be jumping in on a recovery week when I started....NOPE! I was picking up on the week when I was scheduled for 17 miles. GREAT! As much as I was trying to come up with an excuse to wait another week I quickly realized that the next week would only up another mile.

Sunday morning arrives and I had prepared myself mentally for this run for the past two days. I hadn't done 17 miles in a while and the trick to them is that it's all mental. Granted I had just gotten off work at the bar at 3am but I hydrated well and didn't join in on the fried food fest with my co-workers and slept in until about 10:30. I had my ipod playlist, my honey stingers and a little caffeine kick to get me going. All I had to do was step out the door.

I have to say, the run itself took me up to Chicago Avenue, downtown. I loved everything about the run up there, because it had been a while since I'd run that far north on the path. And I made sure to run next to the lake, watching the swimmers in Oak Street beach and occasionally catching a wave splash up on the cement.

The run back was a little challenging, I had to stop once to do a quick stretch out but I have learned from past long runs not to sit down! A quick quad and ham stretch and move on. Only 4 more miles to go, push through it!

Coming up to the 53rd street entrance I was growing more and more excited. I was about to finish the longest run I'd done in a while....I picked up my pace and raced to the water fountain....where I collapsed next to as soon as I reached it. I grabbed a quick drink and threw myself down on the ground for a quick stretch. I laid there long enough to realize there were tiny bugs crawling on me before I jumped up and began my walk back. Normally I jog home to get back faster, it's only a few blocks but I would be lying if I said I wasn't in pain a bit and decided not to be a hero on this one.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Half of an Ironman

Crossing the finish line was one of those moments I'll remember forever. I'll remember how I felt, the voice of the announcer and the lady chasing me down to grab my chip....and me telling her to hold on because I didn't want to stop and vom on her! It was a hell of an experience! But even more satisfying was walking down to the beach to find Alivia and Brian. I had my medal and hat in one hand and some water in the other. Every part of my body hurt and I just wanted to sit down but I knew that if I did I wouldn't get back up. I looked for the balloons, because I forgot to grab them for transition but B and Liv said they would bring them to the beach so I could find them. There ahead of me was my sparkly purple balloon. I saw Alivia get up and run towards me. It took everything in me to yell out, "No no! Don't touch me, I'm disgusting!" She looked confused but smiled none the less and I made a B-Line for the lake...where I promptly sat my sweaty self down in and just basked in all of the glory of being half of an ironman. Brian came and sat by me, and I started to take them through my 70.3 miles. It felt really good to have them there with me, knowing that they had spent the whole weekend there with me, for me, meant the world to me.

I went for a quick swim in the lake just to rinse off completely before we made our way back to the car. Actually, Brian being the gentleman he was walked to go get the car, while Alivia and I went to go retrieve my stuff out of transition. It was funny seeing everyone clearing out there stuff. With nearly nothing left, I looked at the faces of all the proud finishers, it was a great day.

Alivia and I made our way up and out of the race area, waiting for Brian to pack everything. Did I mention how amazing my friends were? I mean on top of everything else they also managed to pack up all of my stuff out of the hotel room and even put together a recovery drink for me...I was so spoiled! So we began the drive back to Chicago, I was curled up in my spandex and a hoody returning all of the calls/texts I had gotten. 

We probably hadn't made it even 15 miles before my bladder was about to explode. So we pulled off into a gas station. As I got out of the car half of the beach we were on fell out. Whoops! Two hours later I found myself back at my dads house, showering, ordering pizza and throwing all of my reeking clothes in the laundry before passing out for a long nights rest. And the thought of how I can't wait to do it again next year!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Run, Run as Fast as you Can!!!

Hot damn did it feel good to get off that bike!!!! I ran back over to my transition spot and mounted that bad boy. Time for the run! I threw off my jersey and kicked off my shoes. "What do I need", I thought. Well my race belt for one and maybe some more body glide...chafing is probably worse than body fatigue when it comes to pain. As I was lacing up my gym shoes I looked down and noticed the little 5 hour energy bottle I added in with my stuff. I hadn't really raced with caffeine before, and I wasn't completely toasted but a nice little caffeine kick wouldn't hurt. I threw back half of the bottle and was on my way. On the way out toward the transition I came across a guy who already had his medal and finished. I congratulated him and he offered me some ice. I took it gladly because at this point the temps had risen a lot and I needed to cool off my core I threw it down my sport bra.

Running out on the course I told myself, "This is the last part of the race and it's only 13've done 13 miles over and over again, this will be nothing!" It's a good thing I had that motivation and mindset because within the first mile of the run I was going down a steep hill only to go back up on the other side. Shit, and I have to do this twice!? No matter, I kept on going. Seeing the photographers at the top of the hill made me hustle...had to look "pretty for the camera"....right! Pretty after 60ish miles, good one Sam! Either way I kept a good pace for the first six miles and developed a pretty good system where I would run every mile and then walk at the aid station to throw back water, eat a few pretzels (even though at this point the last thing I wanted to do was eat) followed by another cup of water and come ice down the front and back of my sports bra.

I got to the half way point, which ironically enough is also where the finish line is. The sucky part? You had to do two laps before you could cross you literally have to run past the finish line and mentally overcome the fact that you have another 6 miles until you will get to see it again. Womp, womp, WOMP! But I ran past it, and I ran hard! Some of the people watching along the way held hands out for high fives and I just yell back, "Hell yea! Six more miles!!" Their faces dropped and one of them goes, "You're nuts!" I had a good laugh and mid-laugh I ran past Liv and Brian! What luck! I didn't stop though, just slowed down fast enough to yell, "See you guys soon, six more!" I was ready to go!

That damn hill. The second time around my hips were crying and I decided to not be a hero and I walked up it. I walked next to this guy and we shared a few words. He and I would play tag for the remainder of the race....but I would beat him out....significantly :P The hardest mile for me was between 9 and 10. I'm still not sure why this happens but when I was on the bike I started to feel the need to burp. From there on I was burping every few minutes and every time felt AMAZING! But for some reason I couldn't burp! I'm sure you're all enjoying reading about this right now and are thoroughly grossed out but I was miserable. This was the first time I walked since the hill and as I walked I tried "burping" myself....pats on the back. Let me tell you, when I got it, I was THRILLED and just took off!

Miles 10-13 were great! Besides the fact that it was hotter than hell and I felt the need to pee on myself (which means I guess I was doing a decent job hydrating) I ran well. Despite all that I had gone through I tried to pass as many people as possible on my way in and when that finish line was in site you bet I was upping my the distance on the beach I heard the LMFAO song 'Sexi and I know it' and I rocked out all the way to the narrow strip that was the finish line.....

I want to ride my Biiiiicycle....Biiiiicylce!!

Running into transition I was feeling great! One third of the race out of the way! I looked down at my watch and it said 27 minutes. I was on cloud 9 because I thought I had done the swim in that time....I would realize later that I must have stopped and started my watch on accident while swimming. Either way it gave me a boost to push harder. I ran past a few people as I entered into transition and immediately started stripping off the wet suit. My coach told me to take my time, but not too much, in between the swim and the bike since I'd probably take in a fair amount of water. But I was fixated on getting out and on my bike. So I grabbed the section I made for the bike, threw on my spandex, a sports bra over my swim top and zipped my jersey over that. 'Don't forget your helmet', I thought to myself. Honestly that would be one thing that any biker probably wouldn't forget but in that moment my mind wasn't really in transition, it had already beaten me out onto the road. Shoes on, helmet on, grabbed the sun glasses and started running my bike to the 'out' end of transition.

You aren't allowed to mount the bike until you get passed a certain part, and go figure when you can mount it, the first thing you're doing is going up hill. No matter, I had my fuel and was ready to take on 56 miles. As I got maybe 3 miles out people were whizzing by me with their fancy bikes and airo helmets. I'd be lying if I said this didn't bother me but I did my best to remind myself of the last bit of advice my coach gave me at coffee a few days earlier, "Race your race." Simple yet so true! My bike was definitely not up to these people's standards but it was going to get me through 56 miles if I put my mind to it. Six miles in and I was fumbling in my jersey. Should of left well enough alone because I dropped my pack of gummy chews, and once those bad boys fell there was no going back for them. As I looked down at my loss I realized something else, "Mother fu.....I forgot my race belt with my number!!" I spent the rest of my ride freaking out about getting a penalty for this, and every time the officials road past me on the motorcycle to look for drafting I would repeat over and over in my head, "Please don't penalize me, please don't penalize me!!!!" I didn't get a penalty :)

I'd say the hardest part of this bike was knowing when to fuel. I started putting in some of my honey stinger waffles, since I didn't have the chews, early in on the ride. I was nervous by how warm it was getting and having not taken anything in since 30 minutes before my swim. This was not a good idea. At about 20 miles my stomach was hurting so badly that there were a few times I had strongly considered pulling off and stopping. And having people pass me didn't help my ego. But there were a few kind strangers that would say things to me, while passing me of course, like "I see a lot of character on that bike, keep it up girl!" or "I love the color of your bike, so awesome!" (Yes, thank you for the compliment but I am well aware that I look like I am struggling and that my bike is just a plane-jane road bike). Despite my negativity, these moments were enough to keep me pushing. I told myself that I needed to go until at least mile 28, there's no way I couldn't do at least half!

Before I got there though I witnessed a wicked wipe out! This guy, who was honestly riding a little too cocky for his own good, tried to cut in between this lady, and despite passing her correctly, he still took her out! He was able to catch himself to the point where he didn't go down.....but she did! She was laying in the fetal position yelling out in pain. This is definitely one of those situations where you have no idea what to do. It's kind of like when the smoke detector goes off in your work know/your instinct should be to get out yet you don't really move because you're not sure if it's a real fire or not....Ok maybe not the best idea but I thought to myself, 'Do I stop and help? And if I do, what could I do?' I ended up riding past her but at every corner after a long straight, there were cops/meds. I heard the sirens going off which means someone in front of me had already notified them that there was a rider down.

I made it to mile 28. I could have quit, but something in my mind was like, "Are you kidding?" I don't think I could have lived with myself had I just stopped so I pressed on. the next 28 miles were butt was killing me, and there were quite a few "hills" I had to take on. They call Racine a "flat ride"....right. Note to self, do more hill rides! By the time I got to the last aid station, around mile 46 I had grabbed for an Ironman Perform. I never drink gaterade on a course because it's too unpredictable. But at this point my stomach was starting to get angry again and I knew I needed some kind of electrolytes.

Coming into the final 5 miles you begin biking past the run course. I flipped out seeing how many people were already running. Thinking I was going to be kicked off the course I kicked it into high gear and actually started chasing after a guy on a tri bike with an aero helmet!

Side note!: At dinner the night before we talked about the game guys play while on the bike: If you pass a person with aero tires: 15 points, aero helmet: 15 points, If they have an ironman tatto: 50 points....if you get "chicked" minus 25! So in my ride, I chicked 4 guys, I was proud of that :P

Ok the transition is in site and down hill!!!! But actually I was going too fast to enter into transition so the officials were hollering at me to slow down. I unclipped and hopped off the bike.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wash it down with some lake water

"Next up we have our 18-24 year old wave. How many of you this is your first time? Good! You will remember this day for the rest of your life! We'll go at the sound of the air horn." Those were the last words I heard before running into Lake Michigan. My heart was pounding and I was starting to regret ever thinking I could do this. I positioned myself on the outer left side, near the back. My lovely coach gave me the helpful hint to assume this position because it would give me the best chance of not getting kicked in the face. It would have me swim an extra quarter of a mile but it was worth not getting a face lift. I glanced over at the clock. About a minute left until I was about to take on 70.3 miles. In my head I knew that I could do it but at this moment every doubt in the world crossed my mind. Probably because there was no backing out now, now I wait.

"Everyone have a good race!" One of the guys at the front of the pack yells back at everyone. This theme of empathy would follow suit through the rest of the race.....because triathletes are amazing people :) A few seconds left, I saw the official raise the horn. My goggles are on my face and instantly the surroundings become a dark shade of blue. I was ready. But waiting for that horn was kind of like that game you would play in grade school, we called it brownies and elves, where you had to sneak up on the elves while they're backs are turned and you're waiting anxiously for the gym teach to say "GO!" so you can run like hell to the other side of the gym before that person in front of you whips around and grabs you. Ok that sounded really dramatic for a game that a 3rd grader would play but I was pretty anxious. And just as I tapped into that anxiety it was turned into adrenaline because the horn had come off.

Because I don't half-ass much of anything, my crazy self, along with everyone else, did high knees into the water. There wasn't really a point where it became "too deep" where you'd NEED to start swimming but as soon as I saw the people in front of me go in I decided to follow. The course for this swim went about straight out for a short while (maybe 0.1) and then hooked a left. I was more nervous in the 0.1 part of the mile than I was for the duration of the race. For someone who has swam most of her life I was instantly struck by both the person ahead of me's foot and the thought of "what if I drown!?" Well that wasn't going to be the case because I actually did a pretty good job on the swim. As I hooked my left around the bouy I found a comfortable spot and went at it. The only real problem that began to develop was my ability to stay within the bouys. I kept going outside of them so I would occasionally take my face out of the water to see where I was and then end up having to swim a sharp right to put myself back within them. Before long I had worked myself into the wave before me. This made me feel really good, except that it was comprised of older women, something like 50-56 haha. I can say that I never got hit in the face but that I may or may not have kicked someone behind bad yo!

Seeing the bouy color go from white to red was a good sign, half way done!!! Soon enough I could even see the beach, YES! As it became too shallow to swim I stood up and started to unzip my wet suit as I half walked/ran towards the beach. I will admit that I was pretty proud of myself at this point and was even more motivated to hustle my ass out of the water because the outrageously handsome guy in my age group that I saw before the take off was right in front of me :P I didn't see him any more for the race but you bet I chased him out of that water! Anyways, I ran from the beach into transition, passing a few people on the way and hoping in-and-out of a kiddie pool to get some of the sand off. I did a little self check in, I was feeling pretty good and ready to ride for 56 miles!

Just Keep Swimmin'

Transition is kind of like your locker in high school; you have this tiny space to put your stuff and the person next to you is all up on you and really your bubble of personal space is invaded. You have the little room underneath where your bike is racked to put everything you need for the bike and run. I like to think that I'm low maintenance but hot damn if the person next to me would have showed up I'm not fully convinced all of my stuff would have fit! It wasn't even that much but with that many people racing there really is no personal space.

So as I set up I had air put in my tires and laid out everything I would need. My coach told me "Don't spend any more than 5 minutes in there" Apparently there are people that will spend 30 minutes in their transition place setting things up. So as I'm placing my running shoes next to my clip ins I couldn't help but hear her voice in my head "Really though, there are people who bring buckets of water into transition to wipe off their feet, what is this a spa?!" haha I chuckled to myself and it eased the anxiety. Once I had emptied my gym bag of the necessities I decided to leave and not look back. I needed to get into my swim suit/wet suit anyways.

It was still early, the sun was just coming up, but nearly everyone had arrived. The line for the porta-johns was ridiculous but I wanted to make sure I peed one more time before putting the wet suit on. Before I could do that though there was a woman who demanded I give her my arms and left calf...she was writing my number on my arm and my age on the back of my leg. I was officially branded. Wow that's exciting.

Alivia and Brian were so unbelievably patient. Besides the fact that neither of them was really that awake they were really helpful carrying things for me and easing my tension. We began the mile walk out to the beach where I would be starting. It was probably only 6:15 or 6:30 at the latest, yet the beach was packed with people. We found a nice spot to sit and veg out, waiting to watch the pros take off. It really was an amazing experience being able to sit on the beach early in the morning with so many people who were all going to attempt to take on 170.3 miles. A little before 7am they did the national anthem and lined up the pros. This was the part I was waiting for, the start of the Ironman. My wave start wasn't until 7:44am but once that gun went off there was no going back, it would only be a short time before I would be next.

I loved watching the racers run, high knees out in the water...and boy did they fly! Wave by wave the racers took off. At about 7:15 I was getting ready--Putting on my age group white cap and doing a walk into the water. As I went to put my goggles on I felt a sharp snap on my wrist. SHIT. My goggles broke in half at the center piece. I do a quick freak out, followed by a mental note, not to freak out and walk over to the aid station. I asked the volunteers if they had any tape because my goggles had just snapped and I had a 7:44am wave start. They felt badly for me and took out some of their med tape. The problem quickly became known that the little plastic piece that would connect the center to the eye piece had completely fallen off. The two did their best to tape it together but when I put it over my head the goggles broke again. They both looked at me apologetically and said there wasn't anything else they could do. In the heat of a panic I crazily asked them if they would consider taping them to my face. One of them laughed, but then tried to pull it back and told me she couldn't do that because it might rip my skin off.

Ok now would be the time to panic! I ran over to Alivia and Brian, take a deep breathe and just say, "Now what?!" Brian takes a moment to think and goes, "I'll run to Walgreens and try to get another pair." I look at my watch, it's 7:21 "There's no way you'll make it" I tell him. He didn't really hear me because he had already taken off to the car. (He never actually made it out of the race area anyways, everything was blocked off). Meanwhile, Alivia was running around asking people if they had extra goggles, god I love that girl! So then there was me arguing with myself in my head, could I swim the 1.2 without goggles? Well yea, but it would suck and I could potentially lose a contact in the process. So I walked up to the last resort and asked one of the volunteers if they knew if anyone had an extra pair of goggles. She told me to go over to the announcer and ask him to ask over the mic.

Things have a funny way of working out. As luck would have it, the announcer saved me, and had an extra pair sitting on the side. I could have squealed! I thanked him, told him I owed him my race and went to go line up with my wave start. It was 7:37.