Monday, June 30, 2008

Training progress/update

This past week was a challenging week of training. My week included:

  • 2 open water swims (each about 3/4 of a mile),
  • 3 outdoor pool swims,
  • 3 bike rides,
  • 1 track workout (repeat 800's),
  • 1 easy recovery run, and
  • 1 tough 11-mile long run.

    And I managed to balance that with a weekend filled with family activities. Our son Brent and his girlfriend Callie came home on Friday evening and left late afternoon Sunday. So my "cross training" family activities consisted of going to the Farmer's Market on Saturday, getting coffee at our favorite downtown coffee place, driving to Springfield for our daughter Lisa's birthday, playing with granddaughters, playing bocce ball, lots of eating, driving home Saturday night, more coffee on Sunday morning, washing cars (I was the window cleaner), and generally hanging out.

    This week is even more challenging in terms of training and balancing the family activities with the 4th of July. The schedule includes:
  • 4 bike rides (including the 3-hour ride I did today which I moved from Sunday, and a 4-hour ride scheduled for this coming Sunday, and 2 shorter mid-week rides),
  • 5 swims including one 3350 yd pool swim and one 3600 pool swim, 2 open water swims, and 1 recovery swim,
  • 5 run workouts including 1 track workout (repeat 800's again), 1 race (Park to Park 5 mile on the 4th of July), 1 long run (2-hour run on Saturday, following the race on Friday), and 1 brick (30-minute run immediately following the 4-hour ride on Sunday).

    Our daughter Lisa, her husband Gary and our 2-year old granddaughter Ella will be arriving Thursday night. My sister will be arriving around lunch time on the 4th. We'll also be spending time with our daughter Lauren, her husband Kirk and our 3-year old granddaughter Madison.

    As I was riding my long ride this afternoon, I was getting tired, I was riding back into a fairly strong headwind (as usual). I started to think about the female triathlete at the Naperville Triathlon who crashed on her bike. I had hoped to have some news about her condition. I have not been able to find any information on her, although most people who witnessed the crash and have some medical background seem to believe at the very least she suffered a significant brain injury. The last time she was on a bike, it took her away from her family - hopefully only for a short period of time while she recovers, but possibly forever.

    This reminds me of just how important it is to balance training and family - to find the appropriate amount of time spent training that will allow me to be trained well enough to race safely, and yet to keep my priorities in the proper order.

    Thinking of that young woman also reminded me of what a gift it is to be able to ride along on the open road, on a beautiful day, and to most importantly arrive safely back home to my family.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Appreciate Smooth Road When You Have It ~ be grateful for the bumps as well - that's where the learning is

This afternoon I headed out for what was supposed to be an hour long ride. I was looking forward to the ride because there was very little wind (unusual for central Illinois afternoons), low humidity, and pleasant temperatures. For my weekday rides, I usually head east on a country road. There isn't a lot of traffic, although it does tend to pick up during the after work hour.

It didn't take long to realize this ride was not going as I had expected. There was a nice layer of fresh chip rock on the pavement. For those of you who have not attempted to ride a bike on that, it is a bit like riding on marbles. I was tempted to scrap the ride altogether. I had been looking forward to a nice quick little ride - not much wind, plenty of opportunity to ride fast.

I decided to stick with the ride and turn it into an hour long bike handling skills ride. I rode 30 minutes out. I knew it wouldn't be any faster riding back into town because of the chip rock. It certainly couldn't be any worse, could it? After all, I was getting accustomed to handling the bike in the deep gravel.

Well, the answer is that it could get worse. Hello, headwind. Not a strong wind, but when added with the already difficult to navigate road conditions, I found my legs getting quite tired. It couldn't get worse than this, could it?

Of course, you know the answer. Yes, it could. The post-work traffic had begun to pick up since it was now 4:30 PM. That meant that cars were headed home. They, in fact, were in a hurry to get home and not at all concerned about flying by me going the opposite direction. This meant rocks were flying right at me. I got pelted on my shoulders and took a couple of good zingers to the chest. Quite a few of the rocks bounced off my helmet and sunglasses, so I was glad to have those areas protected. And I was soon covered with dust from head to toe. It couldn't get worse than this, could it?

Tell that to the bird. I heard a squawking overhead - quite loud, in fact. And then I felt a hard blow to the top of my helmet. It took a minute for me to realize what was happening. The bird was actually dive-bombing me. Now I had to handle the bike on the chip rock, into the wind, pelted by rocks from passing cars and try to stay upright while the angry bird tried to take me out. He took 3 more dive-bomb attempts before moving onto more exciting prey.

I eventually made it back to my car. I came away with a renewed appreciation for smooth road to ride on and an equal appreciation for the bumps. The learning happens as a result of the bumps. The times when the ride, or life, isn't going as smoothly as expected, may well be the time when you learn the most about riding, or about life.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Don't look back. We ain't going that direction." ~ John Wayne

Today is Wednesday. Wednesday mornings are my track workout days. This morning I felt less than motivated to face those repeat 800's. I felt very tired yesterday from my long swim in the morning and the evening run. Added to the fatigue was the lingering headache caused perhaps by my swim goggles being too tight during my swim. So basically, you could say I was internally whining to myself about the speed workout.

And then I saw her - a young college girl was running on the track in front of me. As I passed her (yes, I did pass her), I read the quote on the back of her shirt. "Don't look back. We ain't going that direction." At first it made me laugh and as I thought about it, I realized John Wayne's words are very wise.

It really doesn't serve me that well to dwell on yesterday's training. last year's training and level of conditioning, or past races. The direction to be looking is forward. A quick glance back is useful to gain information, but after that it is time to get on the horse and ride forward. I don't think cowboys looked back very often- perhaps a quick look over the shoulder to be certain no one was chasing after them. Too much looking back could prove to be a very costly move. Looking back slows down the forward momentum.

I completed my workout and am noticing significant improvements in my times. This was only my fifth speed workout, so I can expect to see continued improvement over the next several weeks. I plan to continue the track workouts through the third week of September in preparation for the St. George, Utah Marathon on Oct. 4th. Perhaps the way to approach these future track workouts is like John Wayne - look in the direction of the goal.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back on the Open Road

This past Saturday was the Red Cross Ride & Stride. Cyclists could choose routes of 35 miles, 65 miles or 100 miles. Given the spring weather we have experienced, I knew I was not ready for the 100 mile ride. I also knew 35 miles was too short. This left the 65-mile route which I knew might be a stretch. My long rides have been on the trainer, with the longest ride of about 2 1/2 hours in length. I have done about 5-6 outdoor rides, but they have only been about 20 miles in length. What a difference a year can make! Last year I did the 100-mile route and I noted in my training log that the weather was very, very hot.

The good news? It was a beautiful day to ride. Low humidity, only a light breeze and temperatures in the mid-70's to low-80's during the ride. The 65-mile route went from the Tipton Trail area to Morraine View Park (Dawson Lake), to LeRoy, to Downs and back to Tipton Trail.

The bad news? My right quad started cramping up after about 35 miles. I've been having issues with my right knee (medial side), especially on hills - whether riding or running. After riding some of the hills in the Morraine View Park area, I could tell things are still not right with that right knee. Since only my right quad was cramping up, I'm sure it is related to the knee. My left quad felt fine.

More good news? I continued on for a total of 55 miles (Downs), before having my own personal sag wagon pick me up. Thanks Howard. At least I was able to get in a 50+ mile ride for the first time this season. I've already gone the distance that I need to ride for the 1/2 Ironman in August.

I have to admit that ride took a lot out of me. I felt pretty tired the remainder of the day on Saturday and was still feeling the fatigue on Sunday. It is discouraging to know that last year I did my first 100-mile ride at this point in the season.

Today I have an appointment at the Sports Enhancement Center to get my knee checked out. I am hopeful that some physical therapy will solve the problem.

One positive side benefit of the knee problem is that I've been doing a lot more swimming over the past couple of weeks. I've had some wonderful outdoor swims early in the morning at State Farm Park. Generally there have only been one or two other swimmers in the pool while I'm swimming. It is so peaceful in the early morning with the sun just rising higher in the sky and reflecting off the water. The water temperature has been perfect and the chlorine is very tolerable, unlike the 4-Seasons lap pool. I hope to do all of my swimming outdoors from now on.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Safe to Go Back in the Water

Last night I attended my first open water swim practice (held in a small lake at a local park). Last year at this time I had probably done at least ten open water swims.

My wetsuit has actually been in water two times this season. The first time? The couple of hours it spent floating in our bathtub, soaking up moisture. (This is recommended prior to putting your wetsuit on for the first time in the new season. The wetsuit tends to dry out over the winter and is more likely to tear as you put in on for the first time if it hasn't been pre-soaked. It seems as though the pre-soak opens up the pores of the wetsuit and makes it more flexible.)

The second time my wetsuit got wet this season? My wetsuit did successfully make it to the transition area of last weekend's Tri-Shark Classic Sprint Triathlon. Draped over the bike rack along with my goggles, the wetsuit was ready to start the swim. I don't think I was as ready as my wetsuit. I hadn't pre-soaked. In other words, I had not yet been in the open water. I wasn't feeling particularly open to the idea of getting back in the open water. I wasn't feeling particularly flexible with my mental approach to my first open water swim taking place in a race. Just one week after running a marathon I was tired.

As it turned out, neither my wetsuit or I, had the opportunity to get in the lake. Thunder, lightning and torrential downpours of rain led to several start delays and the eventual cancellation of the swim portion altogether.

The race was changed to a duathlon - a 1.55 mile run, the planned 13-mile bike course, and another 1.55 mile run. I decided to run the first leg and then make a decision regarding whether to continue with the bike and second run portion. This was not an easy decision and one that I still question.

Reasons not to continue:

  • My right knee has been tweaky (medical term) since the Thursday evening before the Sunburst Marathon. In fact, on that very easy little recovery run, my knee was bothering me enough that I limped through the first 1/2 mile. Only after I picked up the turn-over and warmed up, was I able, eventually, to run with a normal stride.
  • The knee bothered me during the first couple of miles of the marathon, got better during the middle part, and then bothered me again during the final miles.
  • That marathon was only one week prior to Tri-Shark - not really much recovery time
  • My two goal races for the year are the Steelhead 1/2 Ironman in August and the St. George, Utah Marathon in October. I'm not willing to compromise either of those races.
  • The pavement was still quite wet from the rain which would require caution on corners and some slowing down overall.
  • The portion of the tri I most need to practice is the swim - especially to gauge my progress over the winter months of training.

Reasons to continue:

  • Everyone else is (actually about 100 people left for one reason or another once the delays started).
  • I could place in my age group (and would have since only 2 other females in my age group competed).
  • Consider it a training day, not a race day.
  • Get a sense of where I am with regards to the bike training over the winter.
  • Earn the T-shirt

Things I have to admit to myself whether I want to or not:

  • I have a knee problem that is not resolved yet and need to get it checked out (I have an appointment next Monday).
  • I am getting older so it is even more important to take care of injuries early on.
  • After watching about 12 wipe-outs on the bike (primarily in the transition area, hitting the increasingly wet and muddy timing mat), I'm aware I can't afford a spill on the bike. What might just be road rash or soreness for a few days to a younger competitor, could take me out of my goal races.
  • My bike handling skills are not up to the level they were at the end of last year's season. Our spring weather has taken a toll on the number of outdoor rides I've been able to do. I have not ridden in the rain yet this season. Doing so in a race, with a sore knee, doesn't seem like the best plan.

Take-aways for next year:

  • Pre-soak! Not just my wetsuit. Pre-soaking for myself consists of getting in the open water prior to the first race, riding the bike course several times before the first race, and mentally feeling open and ready to race.
  • "Everyone else is" has always been a poor reason to do something. At a certain point, you need to be able to hear and then listen to that inner voice that is saying something else.

Take-aways for the next race (Naperville Women's Tri):

  • I've pre-soaked! I completed two loops (600 yds each) during my open water swim last night. I managed to go straight to each buoy. Even when I picked up my head to sight the next buoy, I was amazed to see I was right where I was supposed to be. This tells me that I have evened my stroke out, I'm no longer pulling more with the right arm than the left. I felt very comfortable in the water right away.
  • The water was actually a bit choppy because of the wind and I still had no problems with sighting, swimming straight or fatigue.
  • Next week I plan to return and complete 3 loops of the course.
  • My swim time for the 600 yd course was at least 1 minute faster than last year.
  • I will have the knee checked out before the race, so I'll know exactly what I'm dealing with.
  • Already I'm noticing improvement with icing, Motrin, PT exercises that I've used in the past.
  • Pre-soaking for me consists of mental preparation so that I'm flexible enough to face whatever the race day conditions might be.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Race Report Postscript

It has occurred to me that I left out a very important piece of my race report of the Sunburst Marathon. Gratitude.

Here are a few of the things I am most grateful for before, during and after the marathon:


  • Safe travels to South Bend, Indiana
  • A very nice, quiet corner hotel room - thanks to my husband (my personal travel agent)
  • A delicious dinner which I carried out from a little jazz restaurant/bar called Trios, located just a couple of blocks from my hotel
  • After viewing (on the Weather Channel) a very large and dangerous storm cell approaching our daughter & son-in-law's home in Chatham, Illinois and calling to alert them - the storm skirted around their town
  • Listening to the thunderstorms and rain during the night


  • A 6:00 AM race start which allowed runners to finish earlier in the morning
  • The ample fluid stops - 24 stops over the course
  • The volunteers and police officers who kept the course safe for all of us
  • The three families of geese, 3 mother geese each followed by their goslings?, who crossed the road in front of us, while both cars and runners stopped to allow their safe passage
  • Having the physical capability to run in such extreme weather conditions
  • The cheering and support provided by the spectators who were very aware of the challenging race conditions and encouraged us to keep moving forward
  • Friends and family who kept me in their thoughts and prayers while I was running


  • The ice-cold towel given to each finisher
  • The Popsicle that was the perfect post-race treat
  • The fruitcup - red grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon (which required more work than the typical basket of mushy 1/2 pieces of banana often found at the finish)
  • Being able to run 26.2 miles, in tough weather conditions, and feel well enough to shower, checkout of my hotel and start driving (feeling well enough to shower, checkout of a hotel and drive a car is something that some people would love to be able to do)
  • Safe travels to my sister's house
  • Talking on the phone to my 3-year old granddaughter, Madison, as I was leaving the hotel

As I look at the list above, I feel as though it is incomplete. Those of us who run marathons regularly are so accustomed to running, that we can take much of that experience for granted. We are so lucky to be able to run, to enjoy 26.2 miles of the outdoors, to have volunteers and spectators take time out of their Saturday morning to support and encourage us, to have a group of people in a community to work all year to provide us with a venue to run a marathon.....

So, thank you!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Race Report - Sunburst Marathon

The Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, Indiana took place at 6:00 AM on Saturday, May 31st. There were numerous thunderstorms during the day on Friday which continued well into the night. This created a perfect recipe for 100% humidity at race start. The temperature at the start line was 70 degrees, so it was clear it was going to be a tough day for marathoning.


  • High humidity
  • Warm temps
  • Breezy
  • Cotton T-shirt (same shirt for those doing the 5K, 10K, half marathon and family 5k fitness walk - why did I do the full 26.2? Oh yeah, to get the state of Indiana)
  • Tacky medal (even though it was the 25th anniversary)
  • Lots of turns on the course and quite a bit of concrete
  • Tweaky knee post-race
  • Got stuck in terrible traffic going through the city (of Chicago) on the way to my sister's (my hamstrings really appreciated that).


  • Finished on the 50 yd. line of the Notre Dame football field (really cool)
  • Got the state of Indiana (state # 30 for me, marathon # 56)
  • Saw a friend who was running (I didn't know he was going to be there) collect state #50
  • Received a ride back to the start line (rather than waiting 1 1/2 hours for a shuttle bus) with a fellow marathoner and her husband (thank you Ken & Deb!)
  • The above ride was in a brand new Mustang convertible
  • Post-race Popsicles (very refreshing)
  • Post-race fruit cup (watermelon, red grapes, cantaloupe)
  • Drove from South Bend to visit my sister for the weekend
  • Went to the Arlington Heights Art Festival on Saturday (beautiful artwork)
  • Went to the Botanical Gardens on Sunday (gorgeous)
  • Had a delightful swim on Sunday morning in an outdoor lap pool