29 March 2011

The Dallas Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon

I have definitely been infected by the race bug. I constantly think about which race I can do next, how I’m going to fund the race and hope that when I do the race I continue to improve on my time. This time last year I couldn’t fathom doing a 5k. Now I think of those as “jaunts” and almost beneath me. I am not a competitive half marathon runner, in ANY stretch of the imagination, but I thoroughly enjoy the battle that wages internally and I am constantly looking for opportunities to bring out the complacent fat-girl and pit her against the determined, but still fluffy, “fit” girl. I am seeing changes – not nearly as fast as I would want but they’re changes all the same. And I know that if I were to ever be dedicated to monitoring the food I put in to my pie hole as I am to finding races to go to, I would see changes much more quickly.

2 weeks ago I attempted a half marathon here in my own area. The fact that no travel was involved (other than the 1.5 hour drive to get to Gateway) should not be as surprising as the fact that I didn’t finish it should be. I don’t know why I didn’t finish it. I kept trying to rationalize it away – I was dead last; my knee was hurting (it wasn’t); I just got over being really sick (which was true); the wind was blowing me all over the route; I had no one at the finish line for me; and, my favorite, The sag wagon was on my tail. I cannot discount the psychological reasons for not finishing – it is VERY discouraging to know you’re the only one still out on the course and it is VERY discouraging to have the Sag wagon 30 feet behind you – but I should’ve finished it. There was no reason other than I wussed out for quitting. In this instance, the complacent fat girl won and it did some damage to my confidence. Not only did I quit, but I was sorer than I had been at my very first half marathon and it took me longer to recover. Knowing that I did not finish this half marathon had me worried about the next one coming up – the Dallas Rock-n-Roll ½ Marathon exactly a week later.

I had first signed up to do the ½ with my friend, Cheri. She and I both started on the “race circuit” (as I like to call it) at about the same time. The difference between her and I is that she actually TRAINS for her races, whereas I just, um, well, I’m not sure what I do but I know it can’t be classified as training. Cheri has actually been building up to the half marathon while I didn’t do anything of the kind, I just signed up for them and hoped I would at least finish.

Cheri and I belong to a rather unique group of friends. When the internet first started out, there were these things called “chat rooms”. The chat rooms were formed around common interests or situations and our chat room was formed around single moms online, aka MOL, aka “Loopies”. Our group has 22 in it (the number has increased and decreased over the years) and we’ve been friends since before cell phones, facebook, myspace and texting. I’ve not met all of these incredible women face-to-face but I count each of them amongst my closest of friends. We’ve weathered divorces, children in trouble, health scares and severe sadness. We lost our dear friend Margo to breast cancer in 2008 and Cheri is a 12 year survivor of that disease herself. We’ve watched the Loop kids grow up, join the military, get married and have their own children. And through it all, the majority has not met face-to-face. I’ve been lucky in the fact that I’ve met about half of them but the fact that I’ve not physically given each of them a hug has not diminished the place they hold in my heart. In any case, when it got out to the Loop (that’s what we refer to ourselves collectively) that Cheri and I were going to do a race in Dallas, 2 others decided they would join us for the weekend – Terrie and Sheryl. A full-blown Loopie weekend – I couldn’t wait.

Because I want this to be a race report, I am going to spare all the wonderful details of our weekend together. Just know that if you were an outside observer, you would have remarked on how close we all were and how much history we must have together and you wouldn’t be wrong.

Race morning arrives and our alarm clocks go off disgustingly early. Cheri and I get ready and my nerves are starting to kick in. What if I can’t finish like I couldn’t finish last weekend? What if I hold Cheri back? What would Terrie and Sheryl think if I don’t finish? What if I have to get picked up by the Sag wagon? I had all of these “what ifs” just flying around in my head, making it hard to feel confident about at least finishing within the required time limit. Throughout all of my internal distress, Cheri and I were chatting and laughing and I kept wondering how she could be so calm on a morning when disaster was just a second or two away. I envied her calm demeanor and wished I could be so confident. Finally it came time for us to head out. Sheryl was just going to drop us off and then come back for Terrie and they would meet us at the finish line. Taking one last look around to make sure I had everything, we head out.

It took a little longer to get to where we needed to go due to construction and the sheer amount of people signed up for the craziness. Cheri and I were trying to make the Half Fanatic photo at 7:15 but were unable to get there in time. Sheryl kept apologizing and I kept telling her that it was ok – we just couldn’t be late for the start! We had wanted to be dropped off at the Start area but due to construction and poor instructions from the Rock-n-Roll people, the finish line was the best that could happen. Sheryl found the finish area and Cheri and I got out and we were immediately hit with something we weren’t expecting in Dallas – cold and windy AND it looked like it was going to rain. That was just great. Because of course I couldn’t be a part of a race that didn’t have crappy weather!

Cheri and I decide to jump corrals – we were assigned corral 15 but chose to go in the back of corral 14 (we’re such the rebels) – the reasoning behind this is not clear to me but it probably had something to do with the fact that I didn’t want to be dead last again and if there was a corral behind me, then dead last would take a little longer to happen. At least that’s what my head told me the reason was after the fact. In any case, we’re in our corral and we’re slowly winding our way to the start line so we can actually start our walk. When we finally cross the start line, everyone takes off and Cheri and I put on our best wogging faces and hit the trail.

I’m not sure if the pace is good for Cheri but she’s not complaining and I’m actually feeling good. We had a decent pace going and before I knew it we passed mile 1. My friend, Amber, catches up with us (she was late getting to the start and had to run to even get counted in the start) and she walks with us too. So there the three of us are – Cheri and I and Amber: Amber who’s this tall, beautiful girl, walking with me, a short oompa-loompa and Cheri. And we talk the whole way. We’re walking and talking, talking and walking and occasionally, we actually shuffle/wog a little bit. We keep this up for a good deal of time and before I know it, we’ve passed the 5k mark – and if a 5k were all I was walking, I would’ve had a personal record! That means to me it is a good pace. I check with Cheri, make sure I’m not holding her back, and she confirms that the pace is working for her. Amber’s still with us and I know she’s starting to get bored with the pace. I try to convince her to move on but she says she’ll stay with us, that the pace is good for her so we keep moving and talking, talking and walking and throwing sporadic attempts at running in for good measure.

I am thoroughly enjoying this race. I’ve not turned my iPod on and have not needed to – the conversation has been wonderful and I feel like we’re making really good time. When we hit the 5 mile mark, I consult with my GPS on my phone – yep, we’re making good time and we’re on pace for a personal record for me, SCORE! At mile 6, Cheri’s K-tape has disintegrated and we pull to the curb to apply new tape. Amber takes this time to move on and we wish her speed. We fix Cheri’s tape and hit off, down the path again, to the finish line. Through our conversation, we discover that we both generally hit “the wall” between mile 8 and 9 and we make a promise to one another to not let the wall get the better of us.

We continue walking, talking, shuffling and wogging and the miles are (slowly) melting beneath our feet. We pass the 10K marker and the 10 mile marker and we both get excited knowing that we have only a 5k left. We’re still on pace to set personal records and new energy has been infused in our legs. I’m excited – I’ve never felt this good at this point in the race before and I know I’m going to finish. The doubt the Gateway ½ put in my head has been squashed and new confidence is oozing out of the sweat dripping off my forehead. I’m increasing our shuffle/wog sessions and I’ve started chanting during them to encourage Cheri. Cheri has been my personal motivator and I wanted to return the favor to her. And in all actuality, I was pushing Cheri due to selfish reasons – I wanted to finish and I needed her to get me to the finish line.

We’re finally down to the last 1.1 miles and I can hear the headliner band at the Fair Park – we are almost there! Cheri has a moment of panic and I grab her hand and talk to her, help her calm down, tell her how proud I am of her and how wonderful she is. We finish the last 1.1 miles hand-in-hand with the exact same finish time. Cheri sheds almost 10 minutes off her best time; I shed a little over a minute. And it only sprinkled on us – the downpour held off until later that afternoon. Cheri and I collect our medals, get our photo taken together, grab some grub and go out to the parking lot to meet Terrie and Sheryl. We see them, dressed in their matching shirts and hats with their pink pom-poms and I get the biggest smile on my face. AND they brought Dunkin’ Donuts. I have the best friends in the world.

The Dallas Rock-n-Roll half marathon will be held forever in my memory. Not because I got a PR. Not because there were Dunkin’ Donuts waiting for me (and that certainly helps!) but because 3 of the best friends in the world were there for me and one of them walked with me. I just love those girls! I still don’t know what the difference between the Dallas race and the Gateway race was. I don’t know why I didn’t finish one but did really good on the other. The Boy thinks it has to do with elevation – Gateway was the first race I did at a high elevation (above 6,000 feet), all the others have been just a little above or at sea level. If it is elevation that caused my issue, I’m going to have some trouble in Denver in October unless I do some elevation training.

And I almost got away with referring to me actually doing “training” without laughing…

Official time: 3:45:15

11 March 2011

Mesa State College Indoor Triathlon

Saturday, March 5, I participated in my 4th triathlon. However, this one I was calling a “wussy mini triathlon” because it was going to be 20 minutes in each event with a 10 minute transition between the swim and bike and 5 minute transition between the bike and run. In fact, I was expecting to be so “refreshed” after the event, I didn’t even bother getting my shift at the fun job covered. That’s how cocky I’ve become recently with my events. You know what they say, “pride goeth before the fall”, right? Remember it – it comes in handy later.

My heat was scheduled to start at 8:00 am so I arrive at the college at 7:00 am – making sure I got a good parking place, a locker and my packet. The 1st Annual Mesa State College Indoor Triathlon was not well publicized and therefore was not well attended. There were probably 40 athletes all together so it had that small race feel – and I love small races. There were no racing bibs for this race and with everyone starting and stopping at the same time, there was no need for timing bands either. After instructions were given, each athlete was assigned a volunteer whose responsibility it was to annotate distance covered in each event. Jordon, my volunteer, and I shook hands and we took our lane – me at one end, Jordon at the other. With a blast of the air horn, my heat starts and I hit the water for my 20 minute swim.

Let’s talk a moment about the other 9 people in my heat. The other nine 20 and 21 year olds. The other 9 swimmers and bikers. The other 9 who were regaling everyone within earshot of their late night drunkenness the night before and how they were just “gonna go for the finish”. These 9 who started out at the bleat of the air horn like their suits were on fire. Nothing intimidating about them at all. Nothing. So while I maintained a steady pace, these folks started out all on fire but couldn’t keep their pace up. By the end of the 20 minutes, I was actually pretty close to their total laps.

Swimming for a length of time is very different than swimming for a distance. It played with my head – I kept track of distance for awhile but when I passed the normal length of a triathlon (500 meters) and I saw that I still had 10 minutes left, I grew momentarily whiney. It took everything I had to just keep going. At every 50 meters, I’d look up at the clock and mark the time left. I began a new mantra, “I can do anything for ____ minutes”. I was saying that a LOT. Until, finally, I had one minute left – enough for one lap. I finished the lap, heard the air horn and dragged my butt out of the pool. My final tally of lengths was 32 which is about 825 meters. The number one in my heat did 41 laps. Not too shabby for a 42 year-old.

Enough of the self-gloating, it was time to move on to the bike. There was a set amount of time for this transition – 10 minutes – and I found myself trying to decide if I just wanted to throw pants and a shirt on over my suit or to change all together. I decide to change all the way around and get out of the wet suit. I dry off, throw on my pants and my Half Fanatic shirt, grab a Luna bar and my iPod and head off to the bike. I’ve got 3 minutes left to set up my bike and get ready for the next leg of the race.

I like this portion of the race. I’m on a bike but I’m controlling the “incline” and the “resistance”. I’m not stopping to walk my bike up a hill; I’m not stopping because my foot is going numb. Just peddling, peddling, peddling - and trying to avoid looking in to the floor to ceiling mirrors that are placed across from me. I find myself glancing at the time on the speedometer and begin my mantra from the swim – “I can do anything for ____ minutes” and eventually I was done. Total miles biked – 7.1 miles.

On to the treadmill!! We’re directed to wait until we’re told to go (I realize that this event has mainly college students in it but I think even THEY could’ve figured out to wait until they were told to go…) and then we were off. I set it at 3.2 at first, then 3.4, then 3.5 and up and up I went until I stopped at 3.9. My iPod is blasting, my legs are moving and I’m thoroughly enjoying this race. I’m repeating my mantra over and over again and before I know it, we’re done. 20 minutes has come and gone and I’m done. Jordon comes to write down my distance (1.2 miles), we shake hands and part ways. I collect my belongings, head to the gym for a quick snack and then head home. I have to get to work in about 2.5 hours and it would be nice to just lay down for a minute or two.

The wussy mini-indoor triathlon totally kicked my butt. It was exhilarating, trying, exhausting and fulfilling. I was able to do an event in the morning and still get to work on time in the afternoon. While the set time was more challenging than a set distance, it was a fun change of pace. The “1st Annual” is indicative that it will be an annual event – I sure hope it is. I will definitely do it again. And maybe the next time, I won’t come down with the flu the next day.

02 March 2011

The Lost Dutchman Marathon & Half

Once upon a weekday dreary, while I pondered sick and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious sites of marathon lore,
While I coughed, nearly dying, pain-filled heaves while a lying,
Doubt came gently rapping, rapping at my mind’s door.
`'Tis but foul doubt,' I muttered, `tapping at my mind’s door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

And so began the week before The Lost Dutchman. On Monday, I felt as if I were coming down with a cold. So I upped the Vitamin C, ingested foul amounts of airborne, kept myself hydrated and prayed like I never had before that I wouldn’t get sick. I just COULDN’T get sick. This race was the last one I needed to join the Half Fanatic Asylum (www.halffanatics.com), I had already paid for the hotel, already paid the non-refundable race entry fee, Digs signed up to do it with me AND my friend Debi was flying all the way in from Washington state to do her first half marathon. There was absolutely no doubt – I would be at The Lost Dutchman with or without my body.

Tuesday evening came and I knew it was coming on strong. I get sick about once a year and apparently my body decided this would be the ideal time to do it. Being the stubborn Taurus that I am, however, I refused to acknowledge out loud what I knew was happening. I remembered reading somewhere that the best thing you can do for a cold or other simple illness was to sweat it out so I decided I would go to the gym and do my typical workout and then hit the Jacuzzi and steam room afterwards. Brilliant plan, wouldn’t you say? Not only medically unfounded but socially irresponsible – yup, that’s me. I’m the smart one.

I managed to make it through half of my usual workout and I did spend 15 minutes in the Jacuzzi and 5 minutes in the steam room but by the time I got done, I felt worse. My cough was awful. The little miner-dude in my head was insistently pounding to get out and every joint in my body ached. I looked in the mirror in the locker room and was amazed that my normally pale complexion was even paler. AND the lymph nodes in my throat were so swollen that if you were to just look at my face, you would’ve thought I gained about 100 pounds. This was not good, not good at all.

Wednesday found me calling in sick to work. I thought that if I just rested, my body would be able to kick it and put it to bed. That idea seemed to work – for awhile. That is, until I had to go to the fun job that night because, I of course, was pro-active in trying to giving up my shift (NOT). Fortunately for me, the crew on that night was very willing to get me out of there as soon as possible. I’m not sure if it was purely selfish on their part (they didn’t want to get sick) or out of concern for me but I honestly didn’t care - they got me out and I went home and went to bed.

Thursday I was even worse – so much so that I went to the doctor. I figured if it was bad, they could get me on some antibiotics or shoot me. I didn’t really care at that point. My diagnosis was not good – walking pneumonia – and my doctor was not thrilled with me when I asked her to just give me something so I could race on Sunday. I don’t know if you’ve ever been verbally lashed by a physician before but my experience with it was not the most pleasant. However, I got my medication, a doctor’s note excusing me from work on Thursday and Friday, one last look from the doctor expressing her intense dislike of my plan of action along with last minute advice of water intake and rest and was sent on my way.

During my illness, Tami was also sick. I didn’t give it to her, I’m sure, but we were quite the pair during our travels to Phoenix. Friday I was actually feeling better. I still had the cough and headache but the body aches were gone and as long as I kept ingesting ibuprofen, the headache was manageable. The cough, however, was a big pain in the patootie. It was non-productive and made my sides ache. Sleeping was a challenge as was almost anything else. But I was determined – I was going to get to Phoenix and get to the start line.

Poor Deb. She fought so hard to get to Phoenix on Saturday – from delayed planes, to canceled planes to routing through Buffalo (yes, New York) – she still didn’t give up. And I was still sick and Tami was just getting sicker. I think Tami had the full blown flu, whereas I just had pneumonia. Between the noise that Tami and I were making while trying to sleep, Deb couldn’t rest at all. She ended up on the bathroom floor with the door shut and earplugs in and she still couldn’t sleep. I felt so awful about that. “Hey Deb! Come do this race with me, share the hotel and I’ll let you sleep on the bathroom floor!” Some friend I turned out to be.

Sunday morning arrives way too early for people who didn’t sleep. Deb and I get ready for our race and Tami is just worse. I tell Tami to stay in the room and rest – she would be nothing but miserable out on the course and she wished us well and went back to bed. Deb and I headed out to the car to get to the shuttle point. The day was just beginning and we could tell it was going to be somewhat icky. I was actually feeling good, tho, and I enjoyed the drive with Deb – talking with her, catching up, and apologizing profusely for her lovely night on the bathroom floor.

We get to the parking area and are directed where to park. We then wait for Digs (who was also getting over being sick) and board the bus to the start line. There are dark clouds on the horizon and it’s a little chilly for Arizona. I just keep hoping that I get to the half way point before the deluge and Deb tells me of her plans to run the first 6 miles and then walk. Digs says she’ll stay with me. Break! We’ve got our plan! The Lost Dutchman is a large race; however, you wouldn’t know it by the feel. It felt like a small-town race – the volunteers were wonderful, the logistics absolutely superb and the course well thought out. Markings at every mile (no kilometer markings in this race!) and aid stations every two miles with incredibly trained water hander-off-ers and all that. AND this was the first large race I’ve done where they have not run out of the handouts at the stations by the time I got there. In my book, that’s everything.

No corral start for The Lost Dutchman – it was a free-for-all. Wherever you managed to line up was where you started for the race. I, knowing my slowness, automatically gravitate to the back of the back and Deb and Digs follow me. The race starts, Deb plugs in her iPod and she’s off. Digs walks with me and we get to moving. I know it’s going to rain, it’s just a matter of when and I’m still hoping it holds off until I hit the halfway point. Digs and I walk and talk, talk and walk for about 3 miles. She notices that we’re the absolute last and I think it hurts her incredible competitive nature. I tell her to go on – run, don’t let me hold you back! – yet, she still walks with me. So I pull over at the next porta-potty. It’s the only way she’ll go forward, is if I totally stop. She runs ahead and I use the facilities (might as well, I’m here). For the next few miles, I do a combination of shuffle, wog and walk and before I know it, I see Digs up ahead. I pass her (inside I’m exalted – I passed her! I don’t care if she’s sick, I passed her!) and keep on shuffling/wogging/walking. Then the rain comes. At first it’s a little drop every now and then, then it downpours. And I haven’t hit the halfway point yet: I’m close, just not there. I see Deb on the way back, toss her the car keys so she can stay warm while she’s waiting for me and walk on. Digs passes me, tells me it’s too cold to walk and starts her jog. Diligently, I continue with my walk (I’ve abandoned wogging/shuffling by this point) and I whittle away the miles, inch by inch. I have finally found a shoe/sock combination that doesn’t set my feet to fire and I’m loving it. I’m not whining, I’m not complaining, I’m just walking, walking, walking. I smile every now and then when I see a camera but I know it’s going to be a shitty picture. I sing to my music, I tell myself over and over again that I really need a new playlist. I wonder if the Half Fanatics will let me go by Starunner on my official registration. I see Marathon Maniacs fly by but no Half Fanatics and I see the cardboard brick wall the race crew set up at the 10 mile mark. I think to myself, “Yea! Only a 5k to go!” And then I think, “Wait, you idiot. It takes you an hour to do a 5k!”

Momentary discouragement.

Then I see a Girl Scout troop manning an aid station and their enthusiasm gets me going. I shuffle a little bit, wog even less and keep my walking pace up. I don’t feel like I’m making any better time than the Rock n Roll Phoenix but I don’t think I’m doing any worse, either. I finally hit the 1 mile left marker and I get a little pep in my step. I’m actually feeling pretty good, my feet don’t hurt and as long as I don’t breathe deeply, I’m not coughing. I first see Digs at the finish line – she’s cheering me on. Then I see Debi and she’s cheering me on. And then I cross the line, collect my medal and go to my friends. Another half marathon is in the books and I didn’t die. My official time was 3:57 but my cardio-time on my phone said 3:46 (it stopped when I stopped at the porta-lets). So while I officially increased my time on this one, I really didn’t. Not too bad for being sick, eh?

My official time was 3:57, Deb’s was 2:51 (way to go!) and Digs was around 3:31. Not bad for a bunch of sickies and a first time half marathoner, eh? And I’m officially a Half Fanatic now. I’m number 837.
And yes, they let me register as Starunner.

And Debi – if you’re reading this: I am so sorry you’re sick. You didn’t have a chance. :(