Monday, September 19, 2011

Surftown Half Marathon!

Yesterday, I participated in the Surftown Half Marathon in Rhode Island- my first race as an East-coaster! I signed up for the race because I wanted to do another half marathon before the half ironman, and to redeem myself from the Wisconsin Half I did in May, right after recovering from my Achilles' Tendinitis. My new friend at work, Heidi, found this race, and the timing was right, so we both signed up and gave it a go! I had no idea really what to expect for this race. I haven't gone out and done a run in a while, as every run has either been some form of speed work or after a bike. In addition, all of my runs have a healthy dose of hills, and this half was supposed to be flat. My coach said to aim for 1:55, but secretly, I was thinking that that had to be too slow, and made a silent goal of 1:50. However, what I really wanted was to just go out there and be strong and have a good time.

I met Heidi at 5 AM at her place for the trek down to RI. We got there fairly quickly, as it was very very early on a Sunday morning. I ate a protein bar in the car to fuel up. I had "carboloaded" for real the previous night at my "Flatbreads" cooking class, where we made and ate tons of Naan, pita, breadsticks, and matzoh. When we got to the race, it was COLD. I knew that this weather would be great while we were running, but we were so chilly while getting our race bibs and getting port-o-potty stops in before the gun went off. There were pace groups but they were only 1:45 and 2:00. Since I wanted to be right in the middle of those ranges, I elected to just do my own thing. Heidi said her race strategy was to just go out there fast and get past the crowd and slow down later. I know myself better than that, so I just wanted to take it easy and run at what I felt was a comfortable speed, and just stay consistent.

The gun went off and we were off! I ended up starting out a little faster than I had anticipated, and people were passing me left and right. At the first mile, my Garmin beeped and displayed a lap time of 8:08. Holy cow, I thought. People are whizzing by me and I'm at a low 8 min/mile? This is either going to be a race of super fast runners or I'm going to pass them all later when they get tired! The sun and the running had warmed me up by this point, and as I was no longer cold, but running into the wind, I was feeling really comfortable and strong. I was happily settled into this pace, and did the next 2 miles at a similar pace, even up the first hill. I was marveling to myself at how fast and comfortable I felt, and wondering when it was going to catch up to me!

Between mile 3-4 I caught up to Heidi and ran with her for a short amount of time. Just as I was pulling away, a giant deer jumped out of the brush right behind me right near her and the other runners nearby! Quite a scare, and quite amusing! I continued on, and paced right behind a couple until the next water station. After mile 6, I kept moving a bit ahead, and thought, man, this right here is my 10k PR, I wonder if I can keep this up. I felt strong so I kept chugging along. Just after mile 6, we could see the finish line ahead, but took a right to do some loops off the main road.

The next stretch of the course had two separate steel drum players (the surftown half, beachy theme) and that was a nice bit of entertainment. As I was running along, I kept thinking about how wonderful this race was: Lovely scenery, fun music, perfect weather, and I just felt confident and strong. After mile 10, there was a surprise hill. We could see the runners up ahead scaling what seemed to be a mountain compared to how flat the rest of the course was. I turned to the guy next to me and said 'I thought this was supposed to be flat!' He replied 'Just power up it' and we began the climb. He passed me on the climb but I just stayed even, knowing that the many hills in my last months training runs had come in handy here. When I got to the top, I resumed a more comfortable pace and breathing pattern, and caught back up to this guy. We kept trading places for the next couple of miles. I walked through a water break and then caught back up to him just before mile 12. "you know we may be able to do this in 8s even" he said to me. I said, "oh yeah? I was aiming for 1:55". He said, "I was aiming for 1:50". I looked at my Garmin as we passed the mile 12 marker and saw 1:38. I knew at this point that even if I did the last mile in 10 min, I would be under 1:50. That was motivation enough to pick it up a little bit for the last bit!

For the last mile or so, folks were sitting out on their balconies and porches clapping for us as we went by. It was so great to have these fans cheering us in. As I rounded the final corner, a lady said, go for it, you can see the finish line once you turn! There it was, not far away! I kept chugging along and I couldn't wait to hit the finish line. I knew that breaking 1:50 was in my reach, and I was so elated. I crossed the finish line with the biggest smile on my face, and saw 1:46:50! I almost cried of happiness as I got my medal. This was a new PR by almost 10 minutes, and I couldn't have been happier!

I went back to the finish line to cheer in Heidi who finished in about 1:51! A great race for both of us! It was a beautiful day, and a perfect race. All of this half ironman training in the hills has really paid off, and I am so proud of what I have accomplished with all of this hard work. This gave me confidence to go into the last month or so of training before the big race...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bike in the shop!

Sunday I had probably one of my longest workouts to date- 2:15 bike, 1:15 run. Luckily, as I mentioned in the previous post, a coworker invited me to a firefighter's memorial ride that he and his friends were participating in. We met up at the fire station, and headed out for the first loop of the course. It was hilly, of course, and I was nervous about keeping up with them, so I told them, go on ahead if you want. My coworker, Paul, said they had done a long hard ride the previous day, so they were looking to take it easy, so that was comforting to me. I got behind on some of the hills, but on others I was right with the slower of them. The group spread out and came back together a bunch of times, but it didn't really feel like I was too far off of their pace.

After the first loop, I took a bathroom break, then we chatted about what to do. A couple of the guys wanted to head back, so we ended up ditching the firefighters ride and rode to their houses. It was a nice change of scenery, and a little flatter (after battling some pretty terrible uphills). When we got to one guy's house, they lubed up my chain, because it was producing a rather annoying high pitched ring. From there, we headed back to the firestation, and ended at almost exactly 2:15, with about 33 ish miles. Sweet!

At this point it was around noon, and it was sunny but not terribly hot. I fueled up and got ready for the run, and off I went. I wasn't sure exactly how to go, being in an unfamiliar area, and much to my chagrin, the firestation was perhaps the highest elevation in this town, so no matter which direction I went, I'd be starting with a downhill and ending up hill. Oh well, not much I could do. So, I started to go on a nearby main road, figuring that would be a safe bet to not get lost. I took a few side streets hoping they would be more rolling, and even ran into a little campground. I passed by the aid station from the bike route, and promised myself I'd stop for a top off of my water on the way back. The run was actually going really well, and I still felt great at the turnaround. When I got back to the water station, they had closed up shop- seems like the last bikers had gone through already. So, I kept on going, back up the hills I had run down previously.

On one of the side streets, I encountered 2 friendly doggies. I stopped to pet them, hoped they wouldn't chase me, and continued on my way. When I passed by them again, I was about done with my 1:15 but realized I was so close to 9 miles that I just wanted to keep going a little more. Then the doggies started chasing me, up the hill, on the main road! (actually not going to lie, they totally passed me!). As I watched the doggies ahead of me running on the shoulder and saw cars passing by, I really hoped the dogs would be alright! They took a break on the side of the road, but I kept going and didn't see them after. I hope they got home safely! I finished my 9 miles, and walked the rest of the way up the hill back to the firestation, where they too had closed up shop and my car was one of the only ones left in the lot.

I headed home and ate lunch on my porch, determined to soak up as much of this lovely day as possible. At night, I went to a meeting of my new local tri club, and had a good time meeting a few new people and chatting about all things triathlon. The guy in charge is basically a male version of my coach from chicago, so that was kind of cool. I loved my old group, so I sincerely hope this will be just as rewarding for me, and that I can help out with the organization and get heavily involved!

Monday was a much needed rest day, and today I did a trainer ride...

And now to the title of the post- bike in the shop! On the ride on Sunday, I noticed that the gears were skipping as I was shifting around going up and down the hills. I figured, I have a race next Sunday, and of course the HIM in less than 6 weeks, so it may be good to check it out. Turns out, I need a new chain, and my brake cord may need some help and my back deraullier needs to be adjusted! At first I was surprised that I needed a new chain- my bike is only a little over a year old...but the bike guy said that they usually have a 1000 mile lifetime, and now I am not so surprised. Between last summer, computrainer all winter, and the many many miles I've been logging doing the HIM training, I feel fairly certain I've hit 1000. So, I'm glad I brought it in, and I should have it back, all fixed up in just a few days!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Getting closer...

I have now been in MA for almost a month (!) and the continued amping up of workouts towards the HIM has forced me to not skip a beat in my training/exercising regimen. I have had to be extremely proactive in finding training buddies and I am really thankful for that. This pressure of "I have to hit every workout or I may not finish this race" has forced me to do just that- hit every workout the best I can.

Here's an update on the workouts. The rest of the previous week involved a treadmill hill workout (yes there are billions of hills here, but no they are not consistent!) and another swim in the "long" pool.

Last weekend was heavy on the workouts. I guess that's part of the big build up. I had a 90 min bike/60 min run on Saturday, and decided that since my boyfriend was in town, I should try to do everything as close to home and efficiently as possible, and didn't go to the group ride I went to the previous weekend. So, I drove around trying to find a safe route from my house, mapped it out, and left as soon as I woke up in the morning. I took the roads directly behind my apartment complex, and they are HILLY. It was quite the start to the ride- no time to warm up before tackling the first uphill! On one of the roads I had planned to be on, I missed a turn off (to stay ON the road, silly massachusetts!) and ended up coasting down a long long hill, holding on for dear life. When I got to the bottom, my first thought was, uh oh, how the heck am I going to get back UP that... Luckily, I had come across a local 6 mile rail trail, so I rode that for the middle section of the ride before bracing myself for the uphill home. I finally decided, of course I can do this, and plugged away in my smallest gear till I made it to the top. Truth be told, it was not as bad as I had anticipated, and I was just so glad to be at the top! When I got back home, I said hi to the boyfriend, then quickly transitioned out for my run. My usual run route takes me up some long hills on the way out. I then get the rewards on the way home of a downhill for the last mile or so. Around minute 45, I hadn't yet gotten to the series of downhills, and I was approaching another uphill. I nearly lost it, and almost started crying. But, I told myself, you need to run for 15 more minutes, you can DO this. So I buckled down, got up the hill, and breezed the rest of the way home (mostly downhill). I was so glad when I got home, considering I had basically done an olympic tri (minus the swim) and felt ready to face the rest of the day.

Sunday I had a 2:30 ride on the schedule but I was meeting a friend from work to do a ride she got from a "massachusetts road bike route" book. The ride was a loop that started and ended in Hopkinton, right across the street from the start of the Boston Marathon. It was 42.5 miles long, which under flat circumstances wouldn't be too much over 2:30 I don't think...however, with the quite hilly terrain, and with stopping to check the map and for lights and all, it was more like 3:15. However, it felt really great to have accomplished that! Here is the elevation profile, because I think it was pretty insane (nothing like the elevation profiles from my Chicago rides!):

After that, Monday was a much needed day off!

Tuesday- Friday were fairly uneventful workouts- 2 trainer rides (to netflix streaming movies/tv) and a treadmill run (it rained all week!) and 2 swims. The most annoying was Friday's swim, however, where I knew it was going to take me longer than an hour, and instead of planning to cut the warm up short, I just got up extra early to get to the gym at 5:30 when the pool opened. However, the lifeguard was late, and didn't show up until 6:10!!! So, I was forced to cut the warm up down in order to make it to work on time. But, I did my best effort on the main section!

This morning I had a transition workout- 6x 10 min bike 5 min run, and I elected to do the biking on the trainer, just because it was easier logistically, and run through my apartment complex parking lot. I'm sure I looked ridiculous emerging from my apartment every 12 minutes or so to go for a short run! At least it wasn't too crowded. It was a lovely day though, so the run outside felt fantastic. This workout was tough though, as my legs are getting more and more tired as the training continues! Tomorrow I have a 2:15 ride and a 1:15 run. Luckily, there's a firefighters memorial bike ride that a coworker told me about nearby in the morning. It has a 16 mile loop which you can do 1, 2, or 3 times. 2 times should fit perfectly into 2:15 (or at least close enough) so I am really looking forward to doing this chunk of the workout with company, and then I'll hit up the run while people go out for a third loop.

Next week is a recovery/race week and I am really feeling like my legs can use it. I am super excited about all of the workouts I've completed over the last couple of weeks, and I can feel myself improving in speed and strength (especially battling all of these hills!) but I am looking forward to a lighter weekend next weekend of just a shorter ride and the half marathon.

I read something posted on facebook, I think, that said, pay day is either today or raceday. This thought has gone through my head a lot during the tougher workouts I had this week. It has been really motivational to keep me going, to keep me honest, and to keep me excited about my training. I am trusting that with all of this hard work I have been putting in, I WILL get through the half ironman and will be so proud of all of the work I have done! 6 more weeks!