Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Still two weeks until my next marathon....

So this weekend I raced my bicycle. Not one of those insane, 8,000 bikes in one tiny little cluster, crashy-type bike races, but a time trial (TT). For those not into cycling, a TT is a fixed distance course where they start riders off every 30 seconds. Drafting is not allowed. I did my first one in June and my second one this past Saturday (same course). These two races are put on by ABRT (Annapolis Bicycle Racing Team), which is Mike's team, so at least I knew a few people and it was a tiny bit less intimidating. The distance was 40k, which is just under 25 miles.

Mike decided not to do this one, so he put his fancy expensive wheels on my bike. I think his secret plan was that I'd really like them and want to keep them, and then he would get to go out and buy even more fancy and more expensive new wheels. I rode the bike around the block the night before to make sure everything shifted okay, etc., and of course we took pictures.

This looks way too cool to be something I should be riding.
Since there is no drafting allowed, TTs are all about being aero. Conveniently, I have an abnormally large head for my body, so even though I'm a foot shorter and 60-70 pounds lighter than Mike, I was able to use his old TT helmet. It was a little big, but it worked.
The picture on the left shows my weirdly large head. That is a picture of me and my sister after running the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon. We are approximately the same size. Note my giant head compared to her normal head. And on the right, me trying on Mike's old helmet. Yes, I wore that in public. Twice.

Anyway, for me, the race is all against myself. I raced in Category 4, which is the beginning women's racing category. To get out of Cat 4 you have to do a bunch of races, and TTs don't count. So all the super-fast triathletes are in there, along with people that have been riding a lot but not racing, or racing but haven't gotten the results yet, or just racing TTs. And then there are people like me. My goal in June was to finish upright and to be not last. I literally didn't get comfortable in the aero bars until the week before the race. I accomplished both goals, and finished in 1:15:17. That's a 19.8 mph average. I'd have liked to have averaged 20, but still, that's pretty darn fast. For me. The winner of Cat 4 finished in 1:01:something. So yeah, in the bike racing world, I'm slow. I'm racing against myself.

This time I wanted to average over 20 mph. It was a pretty cool day for August, but unlike the calm June day of the first race, this time there was wind. In fact, the last 7 miles of the course were into the wind. And they were hurty.

Halfway through I was averaging 22 mph and I was feeling great. Okay, not great, it hurt like all get out, but I was feeling like I could keep it up for another 35 minutes or so. I made it through the bumpy section without getting nervous, slowing down and getting up out of the aero position, so that was an improvement over last time. I didn't get passed until the first corner, so that was an improvement. I slowed some as the wind picked up but I was still averaging over 21 when I made the last turn. Directly into the wind. I struggled to stay above 18. I got passed by at least 5 people. It was awful. The conversations in my head were not pretty.
It hurts.
Shut up and keep pedaling.
It really hurts and I'm slowing down.
The only way home is through the finish line so the harder you pedal the sooner you're done.
Still 5K to go - crap!
Only 5K to go, keep pedaling!!
And so on.

I finished in 1:12:30, 11th out of 15 in Category 4. But the way I felt, it was like I won a marathon. 20.5 mph average, and I know I can go even faster. Despite my best intentions, I only rode my bike 3 times in the month of July, and twice in August before the race (both times the week of the race - can you cram for a bike race?). Still, I rode better and faster. My cadence was higher, my confidence and bike handling were way better.

Mike was taking pictures at the finish line since he didn't race and got some good ones of me. But looking at them, I am definitely going to have to get my own helmet. Even with my giant head, this one is still a little big on me.

I have always liked the idea of cycling. I've ridden some with Mike, and I did a few group rides when we went to Spain, and I've gone out by myself a few times, but I've always been a little nervous and couldn't really enjoy it as much as I should. Afraid of falling, or being unable to clip out of my pedals when I stop, or crashing. But the last couple times I've been on the bike, I really really liked it. And I want to do it more and I want to get better at it. So even though I'm running 70 miles a week right now, I'm going to ride my bike at least once a week. And after my goal marathon (Mohawk Hudson), I'm going to ride even more. And I'm going to finally figure out this swimming thing. 2014 is going to be the year I run Boston, and it's also going to be the year I start doing triathlons.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Blister in the Sun Marathon RR

This past weekend I drove to the middle of nowhere in Tennessee to run a marathon. Because when it's August, what better thing to do than drive to the south and run a marathon? It's not like Maryland isn't hot and humid enough in August.

Over the winter, when I decided I want to run a marathon in all 50 states by the time I turned 50, I spent a lot of quality time with marathonguide.com coming up with a plan. At the time I'd only run in 10 states. I noticed the Blister in the Sun marathon and thought about it since there aren't a lot of marathon choices in July and August, and I had a lot of states to cover. But then I decided that running a marathon in the south in August, especially one that seems so very proud of how uncomfortable you will be if you run it, would be a stupid idea.

Fast-forward to early June. Since my 50 states decision, I had added Arizona, North Carolina, New Jersey, Vermont and West Virginia to the completed list. I was having an innocent lunch with some coworkers, and one asked if I'd done Tennessee yet. I said no, and she went on to tell me about the marathon her friend Josh puts on in August. I figured out a way to work it into a business trip and signed up. Then I lost my job, so the business trip wasn't happening. I was ready to write this one off, when I realized it was only a 8-9 hour drive. I had a hotel booked with Marriott points, I was already registered, so all it would cost me was gas and time. State #16 was back on!

The race takes place in Cookeville, TN. You run a nice loop through a park, come back through the start/finish area, then run an out and back section on a bike path, divert into a school parking lot, then back through the start/finish area. That whole distance is 5.24 miles. Run it 5 times and you have yourself a marathon.

Saturday morning I loaded up the car and headed to Tennessee. The drive was long but uneventful. About 1/2 hour from Cookeville, I passed a sign that told me I was entering the Central Time Zone. I knew this at one point, but I'd forgotten, so I got to my hotel an hour sooner than I thought I would. I was antsy from sitting in the car all day, and had some time on my hands, so I scoured the internet and found a state park about 15 minutes away. Drove over to Burgess Falls State Park, did a little hiking, saw a few waterfalls, and noticed that it was awfully humid and I was getting all sweaty even though I wasn't really moving that fast. So I went back to the hotel to clean up and then head into downtown Cookeville to pick up my packet and then have dinner with some other Marathon Maniacs.

Gorgeous. Part of the reason I want to run all  50 states is to
see cool stuff I wouldn't otherwise see. So I'm glad I had time
to check out this state park.
The race director for this race signs his emails "The Sadist", and sends out updates that mock you for doing such a stupid thing, make you laugh, and question your sanity. A few excerpts:

"You have plenty of time to back out still. The humidity and temperature is just starting to pick up. I think that it supposed to be 95 tomorrow with the typical 95% humidity. No worries, it should be hotter in three weeks. If you want to get acclimated, submerge yourself in boiling water. Oh, and do laps for however long you do a marathon."

"You have a week and a half - ten days to make your final arrangements. I hope you have everything in order. Last wills are sold online just in case you were wondering. I think that they cost around $99. Maybe you should put that money in the coffers of some charlatan rainmaker. Or you can take them to the alter and pray for a cold front for late Saturday night. Either way, you better act fast and plan for the future."

 "We have had a few people already find enlightenment and for one reason or another decide that this race is not for them. It is not for you either by the way. You will be quite uncomfortable. For a very long time. Do not worry though, every half lap you will have the opportunity to stop at your own car, hop in, and drive away. You will be able to park near the finish line, but you may also want to park near the route at the softball fields. That puts the bumper of your car against the curb that marks the course. I may keep my car running there and aim the exhaust to the course. I guess rolling down the windows and turning on the heat may help too.

Of course if any of this seems like a bit too much, just let me know and we will offer your spot to someone else. On a side note, I can't believe how many of you have convinced your "friends" to participate. Maybe you think you will enjoy a beer later - cute."

Anyway, I headed out to packet pickup. The Sadist's wife is quite the artist, and hand draws each bib. No generic bib with a number here. She's very creative too. I picked up my bib and the race premium, which was not another t-shirt, but a Brooks running skirt (shorts for the boys).

I headed off to dinner with a bunch of Marathon Maniacs in town for the race. Meeting a bunch of people I don't know for dinner is something so totally out of my comfort zone (I'm shy!), but when I make myself do it, I'm always glad I did. This was no exception, as I got a chance to meet a bunch of TN/IN/KY/IL/GA runners and had a great time.

Sunday morning was race time. Or long training run time. My goal race is Mohawk Hudson in October, and then I'm doing JFK 50 in November, so this (and all marathons other than Mohawk Hudson) are just long runs for JFK. At least that's what I tell myself when I pretend I'm completely sane. We took off at 7 a.m. for 5 loops of this:

If you look closely, you will not that even though half of the course is in a park, there is hardly any shade. In fact, about the only shade is the big hill about a mile in, which after the first time around, I was walking anyway. The rest is all in the sun. In fact, the RD told me the night before that the flat sections were raised up just a little so they were even closer to the sun. It was a hot one.

I made it through the park part, went through the start finish area, and headed out the out and back section. There was an older gentleman not far in front of me that seemed to know everyone on the course, and was always running and talking to someone. We went past the school parking lot. I looked over and saw runners going every which way. I just started laughing. Past the parking lot to the turnaround (a big rock) and the other aid station. I didn't stop there - it was still early and I didn't need anything. The older guy stopped and chatted with the volunteers. I headed back and realized why people seemed to be going in every direction in the parking lot. This is what we had to do, every single time:
Every time it made me laugh. Coming out of the parking lot, the older guy caught up to me and we started talking. We ran together for about a mile, back along the out and back portion. As we did, we passed others on the way out, all of whom he knew. "That's my daughter. This is her first marathon. I don't think she trained very well, but she looks okay." "That's Diane, we both did the Vol State 500K two weeks ago. I'm really only out here today to support Josh - he and I are running partners:". Me: "Wait. What?!? Vol State 500K?"

Turns out I was running with Dallas Smith, who is a pretty accomplished runner. He ran a 314 mile race, unaided, in just over 8 days. Oh, and just for fun, a week later he ran a 4-mile race and took two minutes off his state record time. That's right, 314 mile race, set a state record, run Blister in the Sun just chatting away, no big deal. And did I mention he is in his seventies? Holy crap!

The day got hotter, the hills got bigger, the loop got longer. Or so it seemed. The day definitely got hotter, and while I don't know how it was physically possible, the other two things felt real at the time too. And I just kept running. I noticed on my Garmin that I ran the first half in 2:05, so a decent pace for me, although I was definitely walking more hills and slowing some. I finally crossed the finish line in 4:13:40. 20th overall (out of 92) and 8th female (out of 44), and state number 16 (out of 50) complete. I would have loved to stick around for awhile, but I had a long drive ahead, most of it along the awful I-81. So I grabbed my finisher award (previous year's awards were frying pans, zippo lighters, and hot sauce on a  lanyard like a medal), cleaned up a little and headed home.

I'm reading over this and realizing that this is a really long race report that doesn't actually talk much about the race. Oops. I can't really explain why I liked this race so much, I just did. I'll have to work on that for my next one, the American Discovery Trail Marathon in Colorado Springs on Labor Day, state #17.

Friday, August 2, 2013

ES6 Update and The Next Race

Well, after my whining politely pointing out that I finished Saturday's Endless Summer 6-hour race ahead of the woman they gave the overall masters award and the 40-49 age group award to, a fellow racer contacted me and asked if I had Garmin info for my run because he remembered going back and forth with me during the race. I did, and I emailed him the link. He confirmed that I finished in front of him and his wife, and sent the info on to the race director.

Today the results were finally posted. My mileage in the results matches my Garmin data, which says 35.51 miles. But, as we all know, Garmin data isn't always the most accurate. The actual distance measured for the winner was 35.76. The actual distance for Perry and Crystal (the couple I was going back and forth with, also in my age group) was 35.7. So the results show Un (the girl that won overall, that finished behind me if I haven't mentioned that lately), then Perry and Crystal, and then me. But, the awards show me winning the 40-49 age group now (I guess because Perry and Crystal told them I was ahead of them), and the RD emailed me asking to confirm my address to send me my plaque. I'm just happy I got credit for that last 27 minutes of running!

Still with me? At this point I'm just hoping the plaque I get doesn't look like this:

Anyway, next up on my agenda is the Blister in the Sun Marathon this coming Sunday in Cookeville, TN. I originally had a work trip scheduled for Sunday through Tuesday and was going to work this in on my travel down. Then I lost my job, and kind of wrote off this race, even though I don't yet have a marathon in Tennessee and this would be state #16 for me. These states aren't going to run themselves. And the RD for this race is hilarious. And I still have a hotel booked using Marriott points. The race is billed as a really stupid thing to do because it's August. In Tennessee. And it will be hot and miserable. Which reminds me of this hilarious video "It's hot as hell" (do not watch if you are easily offended by bad language, or have kids in the room. Or if you're my mom and dad):
"I did not say Lord, please, bring the devil from hell and have him sit his ass crack on earth. That's not what I asked for. That is not what I requested."

Once I realized it's only about an eight hour drive, I decided I'm driving down Saturday, having dinner with some Marathon Maniacs, running Sunday morning and then driving home. If I can run mindless loops in a park for six hours and not lose it, an eight hour drive should be a piece of cake. After this I'm not racing again until the American Discovery Trail Marathon in Colorado Springs on Labor Day. Unless I come across something that looks too fun to pass up.

One more thing - the best 5K in the entire MD/DC/VA area is coming up at the end of September and registration is open. I'm talking, of course, about the Cody's Crew 5K on September 29 in Manassas. Cody's Crew Foundation was started by my friend Mickey Johnson. Mickey lost his son Cody to neuroblastoma, and has since set up this foundation to help fund the brightest and best doctors and scientists who are working towards new treatments and a possible cure for neuroblastoma. At last year's 5K they presented their first check for $100,000 for research.

Mickey is a runner, so he knows how to put on a great race. Very kid friendly, so bring the entire family. There are even finisher medals:
Registration is here: https://register.bazumedia.com/reg/form?eventID=4836.
Sign up, you'll have a great time, support an important cause, and we can hang out. If you're coming from Maryland and want to carpool, let me know.

Now I'm off to buy trail mix, peanut butter M&Ms and diet Mountain Dew for my road trip tomorrow. Don't judge me.