Grizzly 5K Race Report: Recovery weeks are hard

So a mere week after the Ironman, I had the bright idea to race a 5K–not the smartest idea I’ve ever had. One of our friends signed up on a whim and I really like to support folks who haven’t run before, so I signed up too!

Bright and not-quite-early-enough, my husband, another friend, and I all arrived and began warming up. Shortly before the warm-up, we got word that our other friend had texted saying he wasn’t showing up after all. I was disappointed for him, but we’ll get him toeing the line yet!

My warm-up went extremely well–I was feeling good and feeling recovered, so I decided, what the heck, race effort it is! The start was called and off I went–waaaaay too fast. I have no idea what I was thinking! I know better! I chased after the front pack for faaaar too long and by mile 1.5, the heat was pouring it on, and I was toast. I checked my heart-rate to see dreaded 197 and backed off.

Guess what, guys? I wasn’t recovered.  Oops. By that point, there was nothing to do but finish the race and lick my wounds. I couldn’t keep my heart-rate down for the next 1.5 miles. It hovered in the 180s due to the combination of lack of recovery and heat. I finished in what I consider a respectable time–particularly in light of the absolutely awful heat!

Lesson learned. I’ve backed off for at least another week to make sure I’ve fully recovered before I try a hard effort again, but it is so hard to take time off. Working out has become part of the landscape and routine of my life. It helps me manage my anxiety, my weight, and my free time! Now that I truly need the rest, I feel like a caged animal. I’m hoping to get things right this next week, so that I can get back to my regularly scheduled program soon.

grizzly 5k
Live and learn!  

We choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard: Ironman Gulf Coast 2018 Race Report

I’m right in the middle setting up my transition area bright and early!

Yes, I did paraphrase JFK above, but it fit perfectly for the beginning of this race report.  Just a warning: this is going to be long!

We set out on this epic adventure on Thursday afternoon and I had a surprise waiting for me just around the corner from my house. Three of my wonderful friends were setup with signs and were shouting as we made our way down the road. It was so nice and thoughtful and supportive that I promptly started to cry–a trend that continued pretty much all weekend!

The morning of the event, I was a nervous wreck. I felt overwhelmed and sick, but I choked down my English muffin with PB and choked down some coffee as best I could. I wouldn’t be eating anymore solid food until I finished the event, so the calories were necessary. I got up at 3:00 am and we made our way down to transition at 4:30. The photo above shows me contemplating my escape route!

We didn’t learn that the race was wetsuit-legal until after we were all good and setup in

That look of sheer terror

transition, so upon hearing this news, I made my way out of transition to struggle into my wetsuit.  Now, if you’ve never struggled to get into a wetsuit, it is a uniquely awkward experience. Wetsuits, by design, are pretty tight and rubbery…pretty much struggling into one is like ripping off the first layer of skin, BUT there’s TriSlide to save the day! I TriSlide-ed my legs to kingdom come and got my wetsuit on pretty quickly. Then all that was left was to do the thing.

I made my way to the beach to get into the starting chute and tried to chat with folks to calm my nerves. It did NOT work.  Just looking out into the ocean, I couldn’t see the red turning buoy. It was WAAAAAY far away. I was scared. That is an understatement.

Trying to calm my nerves

Then, in the blink of an eye, it was time for me to go, and I ran into the water like everyone else, trying to fake the enthusiasm I clearly didn’t feel. I’d never been further out in the ocean than just past the sandbar and I was TERRIFIED. I closed my eyes for the first 100 meters and swam and hard as I could.  When I lifted my head for the first time to sight, my head swam from the waves and I felt sea sick and disoriented. It was here that I flat panicked.  There is no better word for it–I full on panic-attack panicked. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I choked on water, and I felt like the whole world of swimmers was passing me, leaving me out there alone. I couldn’t swim–I could barely tread water. I felt like I was drowning. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t even do that. I frantically looked around for a kayak or something, but I was in the middle of the pack of swimmers.

I had a choice: quit or keep going.  My internal monologue went something like this:

“I can’t do this! I have to get out of this water!”

“I can’t swim! I’m going to drown!”

“Wait… calm down. Let water in your wetsuit.  Now, that’s better.”

“If you quit now, how will you feel?  You’ll feel better immediately, but you trained to get here. You’ve sacrificed and worked, and you’re just going to give it up here?”

“You paid to be here! You have all these people cheering for you!  YOU ARE NOT GIVING UP NOW, SO SWIM!”

And to my surprise, I did. I put my head down and swam for my life! I caught back up to my pack and, even though I was still afraid, I kept swimming. I was still sea-sick and disoriented. I kept swimming. I started to feel weird…

Up until this point, I hadn’t opened my eyes in the water at all. When I did finally open them, I noticed small spots that I took for spots on my goggles.  Then, I noticed my arms hurting. I figured my wetsuit had chafed them. Then, I noticed my arms weren’t hurting, they were stinging.  Then, I brushed past something squishy in the water. JELLYFISH. HUNDREDS UPON THOUSANDS OF JELLYFISH–and I was swimming right through them.

They were everywhere– below me, at my level, all around me. I couldn’t swim out of them. I couldn’t escape them. My arms were burning and crackling like electricity was running through them. I was stung up and down my arms, under my arms, pretty much everywhere exposed by the wetsuit. There was nothing to do but keep going.

By this point, I had calmed down enough to actually swim and I turned the first buoy, then the second, and I was on my way back to shore! I kicked it into high gear and started passing folks, finally landing back on solid ground! I had never loved the feel of sand in my toes more than when I hit the shore running and started struggling out of my wetsuit.

I survived! I survived! Jellyfish and all!

I ran into transition and stripped off the wetsuit to change into bike gear.  The first scary part down, the next to go:  the bike!! I grabbed my bike and ran out the bike chute.  Time for the 56 mile ride through the city! The first half of the bike went pretty smoothly. Once I stopped fearing a mechanical issue, I put my head down and just pedaled.

Shifting into high gear…

At the turn around, I realized why my speed wasn’t what I wanted–I’d forgotten to shift into my big chain ring! I shifted and took off!  Suddenly, I was blazing my way back to the city. I was actually passing people! My nutrition plan was working and I was still feeling strong as I blazed my way back into the city. About four miles out from transition, I ran out of water. It motivated me to pick it up a little more, and some nice folks cheered me on from their car (thanks, nice car folks!!). Before I knew it, I was back at the dismount line and ran my way back into transition to get ready for the run. I guzzled some Nuun in transition, threw on my shoes, hat, and race belt and off I went.

I’ll preface this part by saying, I thought once I got to the run, it would be smooth sailing.  I’ve run half marathons numerous times before, so I had no idea what was in store for me.

Soooo hot

At the start of the run, the temperature hit 90 degrees. 90. Degrees. I hadn’t had any chance to acclimate to heat at home because it had been unusually cool back home, so 90 felt like the surface of the sun. I took off on the first mile in the sweltering heat. There was no shade; the sun was relentless. I checked my watch and saw that my heart rate hit 202. I pulled to a walk and trudged on to get my heart rate down. At the first aid station, I saw my savior–ice! I grabbed the ice and dumped it down my sports bra to cool my core temp. My heart rate fell in response and I was able to run again, if more slowly than I would have liked.

The run course was three loops total. Once I’d finished the first loop, I was in a low place. I wanted to give up. The sun’s relenting heat coupled with the heat of the water in my bottles made for absolute misery. I took advantage of every aid station, guzzling Gatorade and dumping ice to keep myself hydrated.  All around me folks were getting ill, throwing up, just generally being in some bad places.

It was awesome to see folks jump into action to help their fellow runners, offering salt, assistance, whatever the folks needed to keep going.  Everyone wanted everyone else to make it to that elusive finish line and make it there safely.

I circled and circled around and around the loops, chatting with folks as I met up with them. (This aspect is one of my favorite aspects of running. You always have a friend to talk to if you want!!) As I ran through misery, I was feeling the love. I loved the beautiful lady hosing us down as we came by. I loved the beautiful volunteers giving us Gatorade, water (COLD!!), Coke, snacks, and words of encouragement. As I passed the final aid station, one of the volunteers recognized me and yelled out, “Last lap, girl! You did it!” and high-fived me. I choked up. I was going to make it! I was a mere two miles from victory!

So close to the finish!!

I came around the last corner and saw the bridge leading me to the finish line! I power-walked up the bridge hill and ran down and around the corner. Finally, I saw that wonderful red carpet! I did it! I came through the arch and choked up. I couldn’t believe it was over!

As hard as the challenge was, I’m ready to do it all over again…perhaps I’m even ready to take on 140.6!

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On the Merits of Trail Running

Don’t you just want to run here?!

Every time I go for a trail run, I’m stuck by the awesomeness that is trail running. The soft dirt underfoot, the birds tweeting above, the amazing views, the feeling of accomplishment from climbing a really tough hill–trail running has it all!

I haven’t been out on the trails much lately, because I’ve been focusing on getting my legs acclimated to the road, but Drew decided to sign up for the Grand Viduta Stage race (maybe, oh maybe he’ll write a race report?!), so I saddled up the Forester (aka the race wagon) on Sunday and trekked up to the mountain to see him finish. Since he’d be there for at least three hours, I decided to get my miles on on the trails instead of the road. It was outstanding to breathe in the fresh mountain air!

After my miles, I sauntered on over to the finish line to see the folks begin to stream in. I had some time to reflect as folks came into the finish in ones and twos. Trail races are distinctly different than road races, as folks tend to get more spread out. The finish line tends to be a little less crowded, so it gave me time to notice as the folks were finishing. I did not see one person try to pass another right at the finish line.  In fact, several folks noticed the person in front of them flagging and propped him/her up either mentally or physically to help him/her finish.

The good nature and spirit of the folks finishing made my little heart all warm and fuzzy! Even as the hours ticked by, folks didn’t leave. In fact, they cheered more for the folks in the back than they did for the front-runners! That’s just the awesome spirit of train running.

On Open Water Swimming

Note the rope Drew made me take out with me at first…

With less than a week to go, it was time. I had to try out the wetsuit and just get in some open water. I’ve never been in a wetsuit before, so I figured I needed to figure out how to swim in the thing, at least a little bit.

The day of the event, I’ll be swimming in the ocean, which is terrifying enough, but I don’t have any little stretch of ocean anywhere near me. The only body of water I have near me is a murky river. Swimming in the gulf, while terrifying in its vastness, is at least a bit clear.  Swimming in this river, as you can see, is blinding. It’s so murky and muddy, you can’t see anything. It’s like swimming through pea soup.

I eased myself into a little place with a boat storage area that was down for refurbishment because the main part of the river was super busy and I wasn’t about getting run over by a speed boat less than a week from my Ironman.

The first thing I did was panic. I flopped around like a madwoman for few moments before I sucked it up and swam a little. I didn’t want to put my face i

Whew! I didn’t insta-die!

n the water because it was scary! Instead, I squeezed my eyes shut and went for it. I did manage to swim a little while before I came back to shore to let my heart rate return to normal.

I really don’t enjoy swimming in the wetsuit. It’s somehow too buoyant and slippery?? I don’t know how to explain it–I just don’t like it! Maybe my mind will be changed when I use it for the event. Only time will tell!

Until then, fear #3450378 conquered until the day! I have been in open water and didn’t immediately die! Yay!

Only 4 more days to go!


Oh the chafing, an Ironman tale

For those of you who have never experienced chafing, you’ve lived a charmed life.  Those of us who have known the excruciating agony of a post-chafe shower know a pain usually reserved for one of those levels of Hell Dante talked about — not as far down as Satan snacking on Judas and company, but still pretty far down.

These people probably know chafing…

I, personally, had never experienced chafing until I began running longer than 20 miles.  I’ve got the first 20 down, anything more…ouch. Add to that, I’m now regularly biking longer than 50 miles. That’s a lot of friction on a very delicate area, not to put too fine a point on it.

Suffice it to say, my bathroom has officially become triage for the myriad of wounds I now find all over my body.  Can’t sit down for a few hours (err, days)? Been there!  Random bruise you have no idea how you got?  Yep, there too! Sliced open finger you vaguely remember happening, but were too tired to care about? Bingo. The bike trainer person was right…my pain tolerance is increasing!

If nothing else, this training is making me one tough mother.

Race Report: Delano 12-Hr Race (or the relay that wasn’t)

When my husband came in one day and told me he’d signed up for Delano, I’d never even heard of it, but he was so excited that I looked it up, too. When I read that it was a 12-hour race around a one-mile loop, I thought he was crazy.  But as we are often crazy in the same way, I signed up too!

I decided I’d do the relay option and talk some of our friends into joining us.  It would be a great day of picnicking in the park, running, and chatting with friends–sounded great! I chatted up four people who gave me tentative yeses and then didn’t really think about the race for the next few weeks.

But one-by-one, all my relay partners dropped out on me until there were just two of us.  “That’s OK,” I thought.  “We can have a relay of two!”  And tragedy struck.  My last relay partner got sick a couple of days before the race.  And then there was one.

We picked up packets the night before and explained the situation.  The race director graciously let me switch over to the individual event.  I didn’t even have the good sense to panic until we reached the car.  Wait, had I just signed up to run twelve hours alone?! What was I thinking?!

On our first break at 20 miles–Drew’s still looking good!

At first, I was not nervous at all for Delano–after all–I just planned on doing an easy 13, then cheering my favorite runner on to 50K – no stress!  The morning of the race, we left a bit late, which left no time to set up our tent.  We dragged the cooler and bags of supplies out, setup a chair, and then it was time to line up for the race! I still wasn’t nervous — I was all smiles and giggles as the start was called and off we went.

The first miles went exactly as I had planned.  I settled into an easy groove and rode it out. Mile after mile passed me by as I hooked up with packs of runners, chatting, as you do, about running.  They all asked me the same question, “What’s your goal for today?” And at first, I didn’t know how to answer. I just kind of smiled and shrugged my shoulders. It was somewhere around mile 13 I realized — I didn’t want to stop.

My answer to my running partners’ questions changed– I wanted to do 31 miles! As soon as I said it the first time, the nerves kicked in.  Did I actually intend to run another marathon today? And beyond that, did I intend to run farther? Was I insane? The answer to all three questions was an unequivocal yes.  That decided, I squared my shoulders and dug deep.

The first 20 miles flew by.  I couldn’t believe my watch.  And I still felt pretty good! I was running with a dopey smile on my face when I passed a couple walking the opposite direction, confusion plastered on their faces.

“How long are y’all out here?” the woman inquired.

“12 hours, ma’am!” I replied, goofy smile widening.

She shook her head in shock and disbelief and I kept smiling.  That’s right — I was going to do it!

I look so carefree—so full of promise

At mile 20 I took my first break and checked in with the hubs, who’d also finished his first 20.  We decided to eat some lunch and rest for about 30 minutes. Looking back (and forward to next year), I think later in the day would have been much better if I hadn’t stopped.  Live and learn!

My new found running buddies kept calling out to me at my station, asking if I was all right– Urging me forward–To just keep putting one foot in from of the other, so I jumped back onto the course.

I happened upon a high school buddy-turned running badass at mile 22 and ran with her for a couple of loops before I couldn’t anymore. Those couple of loops really showed me what I had left in the old tank and, truth be told, I was feeling pretty good! It was here that I made my fatal mistake.

I should have eaten at mile 24 and again at mile 27. I stopped briefly at 26 (Holy cow, did I just finish another marathon?!) and ate a handful of M&Ms and got right back out there. I did not eat at 27. I did not STICK WITH THE PLAN™ and at mile 28 I was suffering! My great steady pace declined to a shuffle, then a walk. I alternated intervals for 28 and 29, running as much as I could. I downed more food, futilely, after 29.

But by the start of mile 30, I was Out. Of. Gas. The end. That’s it. I couldn’t run–I barely felt like I could walk. I was running on sheer will and M&M fumes — only 2 miles stood between me and ultra-victory! Mile 31 was the longest of my life. I cursed everything– that lady that had lapped me 50 times — the stupid sun, the stupid wind, those stupid trees, that stupid tree in particular, that stupid cat food smell from the plant down the way, the stupid pain in my foot, my legs, my whole body. Why had they stretched the park? Why were they making so much Meow Mix? Why couldn’t I just stop and live here now?

I knew these thoughts for what they were–the dreaded WALL — BONK — DESTROYER OF WORLDS. I refused to stop. In fact, just to prove I was till running this show (ha!), I started to run again. Every step was agony, but each brought me closer and closer to that glorious finish line!

Before I knew it, I had crossed that very line! I had finished it! I was officially an ultra marathon finisher, even though it was pitifully slow! I collapsed on my blanket and pulled out my M&Ms and proceeded to eat all of them I could stand.

I will definitely be back for Delano Pt. 2, Haley’s Revenge, next year.  This race was so much fun and the community around it was just awesome. Hopefully, next year, I’ll take some of these lessons to heart and make it an even 40!

Mind over matter, man.


Race Report: Bridge Street Half Marathon and the quest for 35.1

2018 Bridgestreet Half Marathon
It’s cold, but Drew’s still rocking his shorts

I had a plan to do two back-to-back races April 7th and 8th to see how my fitness was doing before the big day: Heel and Crank Duathlon and the Bridge Street Half. Together they comprise the 35.1 challenge.  Mother Nature had other plans for me.

Heel and Crank was cancelled the day before for weather.  Now, at first I thought, “What a bunch of pansies. What’s a little rain and wind?” I now retract that statement wholeheartedly and apologize for my ignorance.

Drew and I got up anyway and got out there to do our 3 mile run, 16 mile bike, and 3 mile run. The first three miles were uneventful, but windy. I still thought I could do it. In the meantime, Drew bailed on the bike then and there. I did not.

I got out on the bike and immediately got buffeted by the wind. Let me tell you a 20mph headwind + 20mph speed = about 10mph. I just…couldn’t…go forward. The wind felt like it was slicing me in two! My cheeks and hands went numb from cold. I made it about 6.2 miles before I pulled into a parking lot and gave up, opting to finish the bike ride on the trainer before heading back out for my 3 mile run.

I write all that to say, I had actually stressed my legs as I had intended before I started Bridge Street. I didn’t have a specific goal for this half. I really just wanted to see what I could do.

Drew was running with a friend of ours who completed his very first half! Woo! So I didn’t line up with them, but lined up by myself nearer the front. It was freezing just standing there. The weather from before blew in temps in the upper 20s. For folks in the South, that’s burn it down and move farther south weather, so we were all pretty miserable. The gun went off and we all moved forward. I kind of felt like I was floundering and freezing my butt off, but then about a half-mile in I saw the 2:15 pacers.

Now, I have never run a half marathon faster than 2:30, but I was feeling, I don’t know, confident, masochistic…some kind of way, and I decided to keep up with them for as long as I could.

bs during 1
At mile 7, I was still feeling pretty good

The first six miles were the fastest of my life! They dinged by like I wasn’t even moving, and I was still with the pace group! I was cautiously optimistic. Miles seven and eight dinged by and finally mile nine. I felt like I was slowing down. The miles weren’t speeding by anymore. Each second felt like a minute, and I resolved to just push through to ten, then do my own thing.

But at mile ten, I had a little chat with myself.

Me: “You’re so close. You can push for three more miles!”

Brain: “Nah, I’m pretty tired. I might just stop…”

Me: “Brain, I own you. You have to do what I say. We’re staying with the pace group.”

Brain: “Buuuuut….”

Me: “Nope, decided. We’re staying.”

Brain: … *sigh*

Mile ten to eleven was hard, but eleven to twelve was excruciating. I hated everything. I hated everyone. Why was everyone else having an easier time than me? Why were the pacers so chipper? Why was I even doing this in the first place? I could still walk and make it in plenty of time. (Obviously, I should have eaten at mile 9, but I didn’t!)

Finally, after what seemed like a longer time combined than miles 1-10, we reached mile twelve. One of the pacers said, “OK, we’re at mile twelve. If you want to stick with us that’s great, but if you have anything left, you should push now.”

Something about that struck me and I dug down. I did have something left. So off I went, I pushed the pace down to 9:30, then to 9:00. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My response? I should go faster! And faster I went, down to 8:50, 8:45. I pushed and pushed. I passed so many people I lost count. And then…I saw the finish line.

2018 Bridgestreet Half Marathon
That’s pain, concentration, sheer disbelief? I’m not sure!

I dug down with everything I had and pushed though the pain. I finished in 2:13! If I’d stuck with the pace group, I wouldn’t have made 2:15. The last push had made the difference!

I grabbed my space blanket and walked, stunned, to watch Drew and our friend finish. I couldn’t believe what I’d just done. All this training is paying off, and I have to say, it feels great!