Ironwoman Dreams

If I can do this, anyone can.


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Forgive Me While I “GRRR!”: A Cycling Story

Folks, I’m seriously frustrated with the bike. As I’ve said before, last Tuesday, I took Shadow Comet, my road bike, out to the parking lot, stopped it, started it, I even wove around posts with great control. I felt fine, smooth, confident. Then, I hit the bike path in Monterey on Saturday, and freaked out a bit, got wobbly, but managed to stay upright the whole time. This morning, on the somewhat scary and narrow Ballona Creek bike path, I straddled the bike, pushed off, and almost wobbled into a gate. What the heck?

Clearly, given the fact that I had nailed the bike in the parking lot, this wobbling is mostly due to confidence. I think that I have put so much pressure on myself to be successful and to catch up to all of those folks who have been riding for years, that it undermines my efforts. While I did feel more confident while rolling along the path (a lot less wobbling), I think I psyched myself out when starting off. And, of course, the more I psych myself out and think I’ll wobble or fall, the more I create a situation where I could wobble and fall before picking up speed.

I know that there’s nothing that I can do to get better but to spend more time in the saddle, but it seems like, the more pressure I put on myself to get better, the more I freak out. How do I get myself into the right head space to be confident and calm? My first group ride is this weekend and I am terrified (mostly of embarrassing myself in front of my teammates). I would have thought that, by now, the confidence thing would be going in the right direction, but it seems to be going backward inexplicably. I’m incredibly frustrated and scared I’ll be left behind in training.

Has anyone been in a similar situation and found a technique to help calm the fear and boost confidence? Please share! Thanks 🙂


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Going Great Lengths: A Swimming Story

I started swimming long course on Monday nights last week. It was time for me to expand my endurance capabilities and to get more of a feel for what it was going to be like once I hit the open water.  Last week, I was amazed at how different it felt, how the water felt more dense, and I felt overwhelmed and small looking down at the bottom of the deepest part of the pool.  It took a while to get my breath adjusted to going further without that little split second of stealing extra breath at the end of a lap (I don’t do flip turns yet). By the end of the first session, I was exhausted, but I felt accomplished.

Last night, I amazingly took to the distance like it was no big deal. I no longer felt overwhelmed looking way down at the bottom of the pool. My body seemed to take it all in stride (or stroke?).

We focused mainly on “staying long.” Mikey said that we still weren’t fully using our length and strength. We did some drills holding the kickboard, a few building pull drills, but mostly worked on lengthening and taking as few strokes as possible to get across the pool. Of course, no drillset is complete without a few sprints, so Mikey made us do a 50m.

I hate sprints. I hate struggling through the water, out of breath, and feeling like I’m fighting myself. My first 50m time was just over 58 seconds. We followed that up with 100m easy, and then we sprinted again. My time was 1:01. Bummer. After that, we did a 100m kick, then she told me to rest for a second.

“I want you to break 58 seconds,” she told me.

Great. I had this feeling like I was going to let her down.

After about 30 seconds, she asked, “Are you ready?”

“Sure,” I said.

“That’s not the answer I want to hear,” Mikey said.

“Yayy, I’m ready,” I replied, weakly.

I pushed off and began the struggle, remembering to follow through and force my arms backward, feeling the pressure and the weight of the water. I reached forward, feeling my back muscles and lats stretch out with every stroke. I tore air from above the surface of the water for a split moment before I plunged myself back into the oxygen-less abyss. Still, I felt slow, sluggish. There is no way that I beat 58 seconds, I thought to myself.

“Fifty-four seconds!” Mikey beamed at me.

Given that your 50m time is about 8 seconds slower than your 50 yd time, that means I even beat my 50 yd time! Yeah, sure, the elite swimmers are usually sub-40 on these 50m times, but, still, for a relatively new swimmer, not bad!

Lessons Learned:

1) It really pays off when you focus more attention on your stroke and less on the speed of your arms.

2) Keep doing things that intimidate you in your training. They will pay off!

 


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Destination Training: A Training Story

Who needs training? We’re on holiday!

The holidays seem to throw a lot of dynamics into a training season. Sometimes you’re holed up in a hotel in the middle of a busy concrete jungle, other times you’re inundated with family time, cooking and shopping. Squidging in your workouts can be a challenge.

Most of the time, I sort of give in for that week and let the holiday time be the blessing of rest, but, when you’ve already done your resting post-marathon, it’s time to stop being lazy, holiday or no holiday. Plus, I still needed time on the bike to get comfortable. Luckily, I was driving up to Monterey to visit my best friend, so I could bring the whole Tri “kit n’ caboodle” in the car and squeeze in some early morning exercise while my friend was still sleeping.

I swam early Wednesday morning, with the intention to get my workout in early. It was a full group, mostly advanced swimmers. Mikey told me I had started “spinning” during my timed 100 yd swim, meaning that I hadn’t followed through with my stroke because I was trying too hard to go fast–which is actually counter-productive.  It was kind of a bummer swim day and I didn’t feel very strong.

Wednesday early afternoon, my Beagle, Sheila, and I, along with my loaded car, took off Northward to Monterey. Getting out of L.A. County was a nightmare, of course. It took me two full hours to travel the first 20 miles. Hooray for holiday weekend traffic.

My back hurt from sitting in one spot by the time we got to my friend’s place. On a positive note, my relatively cheap Hollywood Expedition bike rack actually worked to keep my bike from flying off of my trunk. I was worried because it had looked so flimsy, but it did the trick. My bike barely moved the whole way, and the straps didn’t loosen one bit.

Thursday morning, I was determined to get in a pre-Thanksgiving meal run. My friend pointed me in the direction of the running and biking trails, and I set off. Given that I had to help cook and that there was limited space in the oven, I opted to go for a shorter run. Plus, my ankle had started bugging me 30 minutes into the last run I did (my first post-marathon run of 75 minutes), so I wanted to take it easy. I set my sights on doing 45 minutes. I ran my usual 10 minute comfortable pace along a bike path that followed the dunes along the beach, and ventured into a slightly wooded area. It’s funny how, when you’re running in a new spot, time seems to fly. The first 15 minutes passed in a flash. When my watch hit 22:30, I turned myself around and headed back. enjoying the scenery and picking up my pace a bit, hitting a brisk (for me) 9:30 working pace. Oddly, when my watch hit 30 minutes on the nose, my ankle started to complain again. It’s the tendon that runs slightly over and underneath the ankle bone. It had bugged me during the marathon on some of the downhills. Given that I was only 15 minutes away from finishing, I pressed on, slowing slightly to accommodate the nagging pain.

This was my first time actually doing the cooking for Thanksgiving. I made two pies (another first), stuffing, and roasted veggies, while my friend made turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. My pie making had the potential to be disastrous, after baking the pumpkin and discovering that I’d used twice as much pureed pumpkin than the recipe called for (30 oz versus 15 oz), but, a little extra baking and it actually turned out normal (phew!). We were fairly proud of ourselves for putting everything together and timing it perfectly, sans epic failure on any count.  Surprisingly I didn’t pig out like I usually do at Thanksgiving. Maybe having to do the work makes a person less hungry?

Friday was my allotted day of rest. I explored the Monterey Aquarium all day and then, later, went out to dinner with my friend and we watched a DVD in the evening. There isn’t a lot of nightlife in Monterey, but since I have become such an early bird with the training schedule, nightlife doesn’t seem as exciting as it used to be. More often than not, it seems more like a burden, and a time when I could be getting some much-needed shut-eye (insert old lady noises here).

Saturday, I took Shadow Comet along the same trail that I’d used to run on the other day. At its entrance, the trail seemed to continue in the opposite direction along the dunes, so I took that route. The road wound around and had some steep-ish downhills, which had me, the white-knuckled newbie wonder, a little spooked at first. I rode the brakes down them, fearing that even the smallest bump would set my bike off course, and me careening into a tangled mess of metal and flesh off the path. Then, my worst nightmare, a couple walking lazily side by side across the bike path, in the middle of a steep hill, with two cyclists coming up the other side. NOOOOOOO! I muscled my brakes, trying not to go so slow that my already wobbly bike would wobble wildly out of control, yet trying to go slow enough so as not to hit these meandering, clueless lovers so that the two uphill cyclists could pedal past. My heart was beating wildly. The cyclists cleared the path just in time. I made my move into the opposite lane. “Whatever you do, don’t wobble!” I thought furiously to myself. One severe wobble could take someone out.

I’m happy too say that no accident occurred, but, after following the bike path under an overpass, I realized that the bike lane ended abruptly, and it spit me out onto a road with active traffic. I wheeled myself over to the nearest sidewalk, stopped, and looked around. There HAD to be a bike lane somewhere. My eyes scanned behind me. I saw a cyclist turn down a smaller backroad. Aha–there it was! I backtracked about 25 yards and found those white lines off of the other side of the street. When it was safe, I crossed and continued on. Of course, all this bike path did was loop me back around to the trailhead–which was actually fine because I decided to take the other route, the route I’d taken yesterday.

Shadow Comet and I rolled along the dunes and through the thickening forest. We climbed some semi-steep hills, then hit some rough, bumpy parts of the path (which also freaked me out). I still rode the brakes midway down the steeper downhills, but, mid-ride, I started to gain a tinge more confidence, and the wobbling lessened. I even encountered another group of walkers and wove more easily around them. I found that, as long as I didn’t look at whatever I was afraid of hitting, I would stay put, in one straight line.  At the end of the ride, although I wasn’t 100 percent confident  on the bike still, I felt proud that I had accomplished riding in an unfamiliar place all by myself, and that I hadn’t injured anyone or myself.

Sunday, the last day of vacation, I decided to get a good run in before hitting the road. I strapped on the Garmin and hit a different trail that wove through a wooded area into the Monterey Bay Coast Guard Pier area. It was gorgeous out there, and a crisp and sunny day, perfect for running. The trails provided gentle shade until I hit the pier area, and then I delighted in watching the boats skim the water and the mountains in the distance. At 8 a.m. on a Sunday, it was amazing to see how many people were out and about and being active, particularly older people. I was dusted by a couple that had to be at least 10 years older than me.

On the way out, I felt okay. Running a 10 minute mile felt easy, and I felt like I would be able to pick up the pace later. However, forty minutes in, I started to tire a bit. This did not bode well because I had set my run goal at 75 minutes. Normally, when I run more than 60 minutes, I run intervals, but, because my team kind of expects a certain base level of fitness, I told myself that I needed to work back up to doing a 10 min nonstop pace for over 75 minutes, instead of doing a 9:00-10:00 (depending on distance) with walk breaks every seven minutes. Looking at my watch, I was still keeping up the pace, but it was becoming harder. Then, at 45 minutes, my ankle started sounding its alarm. Grr. I slowed down a bit and revised my time goal to 60 minutes. I ended at 5.90 miles in the end, not quite six, which was annoying and rounded out to about a 10:15 pace overall. Still, I got “leg time” which is a good thing, and I got a wonderful scenic tour of Monterey to boot!

My ankle’s a bit sore today, but nothing bad. I’ll probably wait a few days to attempt another run. Besides, I could probably use more bike time anyway. I finally ordered my clipless pedals and shoes. They should be arriving today. Yet another hurdle to overcome, I guess. Any advice for the newb clipper would be appreciated!

How was your holiday? Did you find time to train?

 

 

 


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Stuff I’ve Just Discovered And Liked Enough To Write About: A Shopping Story

There are tons of review blogs out there, so, let it be known now that I am not a review blog. However, I will tell people about my discoveries from time to time, just because, well, I think they are awesome and who am I to hoard the info?

First stop: Food (of course)!

Noah’s Bagels Coffee: I often wondered why in the heck there was a Noah’s Bagels in Culver City that was directly adjacent to a Starbucks. It seemed to me that such a move was a nail in the proverbial coffee coffin. I’d always headed to the “bucks” because of their flavorful, winter-y concoctions for my bi-weekly budgeted coffee treat, but today I decided to grab a bagel and a coffee quaff at Noah’s.  Aribica beans are used for Noah’s blends, and, with the first sip of my dark roast, I knew it was no ordinary brew. Multi-tonal, rich and amazing, this coffee takes the (coffee) cake!

Source: Noah’s Bagels

Nature Valley Protein Granola Bar (in Peanut, Almond and Dark Chocolate): Peanuts and chocolate are the best things on the planet, but a lot of granola bars or health bars have so many additives that you can’t really taste the true marriage of the flavors. Not this bar. As soon as I bit into it, I wanted to sing its praises. Plus, there are 10g of protein per bar and only 190 cals. Oh, and I got a box on sale yesterday at CVS for only $2.99. Yep, you’re welcome.

Source: Nature Valley

Trader Joe’s Cranberry Chevre: Cranberry-covered goat cheese is just the thing to pair with a glass of Cab for an evening snack, or as a last-minute party appetizer. Seriously, this stuff is addictive, and only $3.99 for an 8oz log. TJ’s also says to spread it on that leftover turkey sandwich you’ll be bound to be making for the next week after. Sounds like a plan, Stan!

Bolthouse Farms Holiday Nog: If you’re an eggnog fan, but not a fat and calories fan, I have your answer. I am already a Bolthouse fangirl, but I was awesomely surprised by their limited edition healthy eggnog-like drink. I was even further surprised to learn that it only has 80 calories and contains carrot juice, and it’s also incredibly delicious. What’s “nog” to love?

Second Stop: Apparel & Gear

Gore Cycling Apparel (Winter): I didn’t want to spend my money. I’m unemployed still. However, when the salesguy at Cynergy Cycles in Santa Monica pointed me to a brand new rack of Gore Winter apparel and I saw my dream jacket, The Phantom 2.0 SO Lady Windstopper, my wallet opened. Not only is it an attractive, warm jacket that can be layered over other active gear, or, heck, worn with street clothing, the sleeves zip off and it becomes a warm, functional cycling jersey. So, basically, you’re getting a jacket and a jersey for the price of one item. At least that’s what I tell myself after shelling out $180 for one item.

Source: Gore Apparel

Old Navy Athletic Clothing: Runners, run yourselves over to Old Navy! Their compression and dri-fit gear is great. The cuts are flattering and the material is functional. I wore a pair of their crops in the Catalina Eco Marathon–no chafing! I wear their long sleeve dri-fit shirts (with thumbholes–luv!) under my running tees or cycling jersey. or by themselves. They fit fantastically and are a cost-effective alternative to costly brand name base layers. Sure, they’re not merino, but they work to block the wind and keep you relatively dry (which, coming from a sweat-er like me, means a lot).

Gymboss Interval Timer: New to running or using the Jeff Galloway walk/run method and don’t want to break the bank on an expensive watch just yet? Grab one of these! Sure, it kind of looks like an old school pager, but it clips easily onto your running belt and can go forever on one AAA battery! Plus, it beeps AND vibrates, which can be a great thing to have when you’re running in a noisy space. It’s easy to change and is a handy little tool if you just want to go for a stress-busting run and not fuss about pace, turnover or distance. At only $19.95, it’ll be your budget-friendly running buddy until you can splurge on one of those fancy Garmins.

P.S. If anyone can recommend a good, cost-effective winter cycling legging, I would be eternally grateful!

Third Stop: Other Stuff

Anti-Stress Technique: We all know that working out can help relieve some stress and lift a person’s mood, but, if that doesn’t cut it, I learned a great technique that has really helped me to quiet my mind and alleviate some of the pain of worry. First, focus on your breath. Breath deeply, but not forced. Focus on the air moving in and out of your lungs, rushing in and out of your nostrils. After focusing 100% on your breath, become aware of your heart beating. Feel your heart and your breath. After you feel focused on those two things, add another subtle touch sensation, such as the air moving across your skin, or the softness of your mattress if you’re lying in bed. It only takes a few moments, but it really, really helps. Plus, it’s free!

Inspirational Stories: I live for inspirational stories of people who decided to get fit and give up the couch once and for all, and do so with a great combination of humility, determination and, at times, humor. One of the books I read and couldn’t put down was Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir by Jeanette Fulda, which depicts a young woman’s autobiographical journey out of morbid obesity in a way that is both light-hearted and real. Even if you’re not struggling with your weight, it’s a wonderfully motivational, uplifting read. Also, next Spring, look out for a new season of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition with professional trainer, Chris Powell. I’m not a big reality TV fan, or a big crier, but, somehow, every episode has me fixated and welling up with emotion. What I like about Chris is that he truly cares about his clients in an overall sense, and puts their mental and physical health first. Yes, he demands a lot of them in order to make a drastic change in one year’s time, but he never shames them, yells, or forces them to do anything. It’s about each individual’s personal journey to overcome the source of their poor eating and exercise habits, which is what is essential to anyone’s sustainable healthy lifestyle. In fact, one of the things that inspired me to do an Ironman was watching a 300-lb guy complete an Olympic distance triathlon, and a 250-lb woman complete a half marathon. If they can do it, so can I.

Source: ABC

So, there you have it. This is what is interesting me now. How about you? Any new products, techniques or ideas that have sparked your interest? Let me know!


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Weebles Wobble (And So Do I): A Cycling Story

It was my deepest, darkest, most shameful secret. I carried it with me for almost 32 years. Before late January, 2012, I had never learned to ride a bike. Oddly enough, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one.

When I took my REI Learn How To Ride A Bike course, I discovered that there were, in fact, others like me, who just never picked it up as a kid. The reasons ran the gamut, from, “My parents were bad teachers,” to “I never owned a bike,” and beyond. The instructors told me that the class was their most popular one. Yep, there are a lot of people out there who hold onto this secret, and who never dare to try to learn because they are afraid of getting hurt and afraid of looking silly. Yet, after 32 years of longing and hiding my bicycling ineptitude with all sorts of excuses (“Oh, I just prefer to walk eight miles.”), within 30 minutes of instruction, I was pedaling around the parking lot. It was an awesome moment of miraculousness and absolute dumbfoundedness that it was that simple all along.

With run training, I didn’t get as many hours on the bike as I probably should have, and, even though I knew that it was not as hard as I originally thought it would be, I kind of avoided taking the bike out by myself at times because of the intimidation factor. By the end of the summer, I’d acquired a cycling buddy to go on weekly beach rides with, and I built up my confidence on the hybrid to where I could start hitting the more major thoroughfares with more confidence and not feeling as though me and my bike were just ingredients at the ready to make a twisted metal pancake.

I probably would have been fine, gathering confidence on the hybrid (dubbed, “Little Glory”), continuing on in that way for a while. Buuuut no. No, I had to step it up a notch. Well, a couple of notches, actually. I decided to go for this Ironman thing. Of course, now, that means that I have to leave the comfort of my hybrid and get comfortable on a sportier model, the bike I have named, “Shadow Comet”.

Shadow Comet is a gray and black Specialized Women’s Dolce Sport and she is very sensitive, especially compared to Little Glory.  This morning we went for our first REAL ride, with Coach Emily. Just starting off on Shadow Comet has taken some getting used to. Her downhill positioning, compared to the very upright position of the hybrid, made me feel a little out of control when pushing off. I felt like, if I even looked at a scary obstacle, I would feel myself veering toward it. By the end of the 50-minute ride, however, I felt a bit more confident, a bit more in control, although, if anything scary had jumped into my path, I probably would have freaked out and ended up in a ditch. I guess, just like with the hybrid, it takes time to get comfortable.

Saturday is a team bike ride. They’ll stay in the parking lot initially, and I have to pass a “safety test” in order to be able to ride with the pack, so we’ll see how things go. Here’s hoping I don’t wobble wildly out of control and end up taking out some of my teammates in the process. Oy, I certainly have gotten myself into it this time! Wish me luck!


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“Chasing The Phantom Buffalo” –The Catalina Eco-Marathon: A Racing Story

It’s been called, “The hardest race you’ll ever love,” by some. Runner’s World dubbed it, “Best Island Run” in 2011. It’s one that’s increasingly being put on those infamous lists that hardcore marathoners keep, of which destination races they want to join in the near future. Catalina Island’s Eco-Marathon, while still quite small, is gaining curiosity from CA locals and West Coasters alike.

After reading about the island’s scenic run, among buffalo herds and breathtaking vistas, I was eager to sign up. What a great way to spend a first marathon experience, I thought. I plunked my money down and started voraciously reading reviews. Then, I promptly freaked out.

Experienced marathoners were calling this, “The most difficult marathon I’ve ever run.” I read horror stories about runners breaking down into tears at mile 15, not wanting to press on. Most of the reviews called it, “challenging” or “more like an ultra.” What had I gotten myself into?

I was training on steep hills with TNT during the time that I’d signed up for the race, but my hill training was soon ending with the season’s close. I was going to be on my own soon, and I really, really needed those hills, plus some training on uneven surfaces. I began a regimen of adding weekly trail runs to my schedule, building up from a four-miler to an eight-miler on the uneven ground, throwing in some ultra steep switchbacks as practice for bigger hills.

Of course, the week before the race, everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong: The top of my left foot started hurting out of nowhere, my left hip started spasming again, and I caught a chest cold. I spent the week resting up, getting in a couple of swims to keep things loose, and generally taking care of myself until race day. The day before the race, I was still slightly congested, and my hip was still stiff, but my left foot pain had completely disappeared.
I guessed that one less out of three wasn’t too bad.

The ferry ride over to the island was no picnic. The wind was throwing 5-8-foot swells at us, and the boat rollicked about like a bucking bronco on the water. They handed out throw-up bags to pale-looking passengers, and encouraged folks to go out and get some fresh air if they felt like they needed to be sick. Luckily, I’m not easily motion sick, but all of the retching going on around me was starting to make me ever so slightly queasy. By that time, we were almost at port, however, and I was eager to go grab my race packet.

Drifting into the glittering island city of Avalon!

The packets were available in a small shopping center, called, “The Landing”, in a very makeshift office area. I signed in, grabbed my race number and a tech tee, and was on my way to find the hotel in no time.

Everything in Catalina is small and charming, and so was the Hermosa Hotel. The manager on duty jovially signed me in and pointed me to the cottage area, where I found a cute, clean, cozy little room, with double beds (my friends who were coming to cheer me on were still on their way). I could have sworn that they chose the shower curtain for its buffalo motif, but maybe I was just seeing things:

Do you see buffalo heads? Look at the small flowers and picture them as eyes.

My friends, Kristie and Matthew, arrived on the last “Puke-a-lina” Express boat of the evening, and we hurried off to dinner. I scarfed down some sweet potato fries and half of a veggie burger, plus a wedge of flourless chocolate cake. Ahh, pre-race carbies!

The race didn’t start until 8:00 p.m., so I had plenty of time to get ready and piddle around before the race start. My friends came with me and saw me off. Kristie insisted on taking photos of me as I took off on my journey.

Me: Geekus Runnerus

Kristie and yours truly

Hi! I’m about to die!

The turnout was surprisingly small, smaller still than the San Luis Obispo half. It seemed like there were less than 500 racers in total. Fortunately, with less kittens to herd, the race started on time. Before I knew it, we were off and running, headed toward our long, uphill battle.

The first three miles were a steep ascent, 1500 feet. As soon as I started running, my lungs felt tight and my hip panged. “Well, body,” I thought. “Ready or not, we’re doing this.” I ran for all of mile one, but then, as most people started walking to conserve energy near mile two, when things got really steep, I joined them. I had never walked so much during a race, but, knowing that I’d have 23 more miles to go after this, I was surely not wanting to burn myself out.

In spite of the nasty hills, the view was breathtaking, and got more amazing with each higher ridge. The ocean, with bright white schooners bobbing on its surface, glittered expansively outward, and the dusty green hills folded neatly under us, elegantly framing the water.

Picturesque ocean views.

Once the climb began to ease up a bit, I forced my heavy hill-climbing legs to churn into an easy run cadence. The chilly wind began to whip across the trail, seeming to have the strength to push struggling runners off of the side with one heavy puff. My race number fluttered wildly against the pins on my shirt. My hat threatened to lift off of my head and join the gigantic black crows that were gliding sideways off of the cliff. We were really facing the elements up here.

View from the trail.

By mile five, we hit a narrow horse path that wove through pastures and almost tilted sideways in parts and made me glad for my almost-hybrid road-trail shoes. We climbed up, over and down some steep-ish and somewhat technical parts in the area, and then found our way back onto a big, open trail. By mile seven, my watch read 1:30, which, with walking up the really steep parts, was not awful. I’d expected to go at least 2 minutes/mile slower than my usual race pace while running.

Runners heading over the ridge to the aid station.

The trail continued to climb, with a few momentary downhills to break up the strain of the long uphills. With the chilled wind up there, my lungs were beginning to feel as if they were shrink-wrapped. I wondered if I might have bronchitis. I had read how a chest cold could cause strain on the heart when there’s too much exertion. I listened to my body and went easy, ensuring a steady, albeit slow, non-heart-rate-spiking pace, walking up the steepest slopes. I was going to finish this thing in one piece, pace and finish time be damned.

Around mile 10, I hit a little wooded area. Somehow I’d lost sight of other runners ahead and behind, so I was running alone, inside of my own private wooded wonderland. The ground was miraculously slightly downhill or flat, and I finally bumped my pace back up to my regular easy run 10:00 pace for a bit, and that felt really good.  At this point, I felt like I was flying, ducking under branches, jumping over logs, running through small fields. It was by far my favorite part of the race!

At the mile 11 aid station, they asked us if we’d seen any buffalo.

“None,” I said. “But lots of buffalo dung!” It was true. The stuff was unavoidable, piles everywhere. But not one big hairy beast to be found. Where were the herds hiding?

Pretty Lake! No buffalo to be seen.

By mile 15, I’d hit the 3 hour 15 min mark. Fourteen minute miles average, and I was actually quite happy with that calculation. I had figured that, with walking up hills and “going easy” I would make it well within the eight-hour posted cut-off time, which was all that I was concerned about. Things seemed to be going quite well at that point. I was getting a little tired, but the effort was well within my level of training. I still had 11 miles to go, but I could handle it.

Around mile 17, I began to come a little bit unglued, as my legs began to throb, and my mind began to falter at the prospect of going nine more miles on these bloody trails. Fortunately, I ran into some jovial characters (one of them really cute) at the mile 17.5 aid station, who made me laugh and restored my sanity for another mile and a half before I entered what is known as “The Crush”.

The Crush

Mile 19 is a bugger of a hill. With my legs already strained beyond belief, they barely pulled me up that steep, steep thing. A couple of hikers picking their way down it egged me on as I labored up. My quads screamed for mercy, so much so that I almost stopped midway up, but forced myself on instead. At the top, a small group of women high-fived me and “whoo’d.”

“I don’t have to do that again, do I?” I asked, jokingly.

“Haha, no, it’s all downhill from here!” One of them replied.

A steep downhill led into a large aid station feast, and a first aid stop, where I asked for a tissue, because my wind chilled nose had not stopped running right along with me. They looked bewildered that I would ask for such a thing. When nonesuch item could be found, a paper towel was offered–and accepted, of course. Runners can’t be “pickers,”, I guess.

And, of course, it was not “all downhill from here.” Not even close. On, I climbed up, up, up, and my body and mind began to quarrel again. As the roads got steeper, I began to think about how close I was to finishing. After mile 20, I thought about what it would feel like to cross that finish line, and found myself with a lump in my throat, almost choking back a sob. Now I understood why some people burst into tears after finishing a marathon. And that was just for a normal marathon, nothing like this.

At mile 21, the friendly aid station people offered refreshments and told us that there were, “Only two more steep uphills, a gradual decline, and then a final drop.” I felt relieved. I headed up and over a ridge, and, as I cast my eyes down toward the bottom of the hill, noticed an elderly female runner, lying on the side of the path.

“Are you okay?” I asked as I approached. She didn’t answer, but clearly she was a little shaken from the fall. Her water bottle had been flung several feet away. I grabbed it and handed it to her.
Two other female runners came from behind and gathered around.

The woman was bleeding profusely from her chin, but, otherwise, she looked okay. One of the runners ran back to the aid station to get help. The elderly woman finally decided to stand up.

“I’ll just walk the rest of the way,” She said. “It’s only five more miles.”

“Don’t you want to wait for them to get you a bandage?” I asked the woman.

“It’s just five miles,” she said, “My legs are fine.”

I pleaded with her to, at least, keep her long sleeved shirt that she’d been using to mop up her blood, tight against her chin, so as to keep pressure on the wound. She didn’t really listen to that advice either, feebly dabbing at the wound with the shirt.

Finally, after the woman indicated that she clearly didn’t want our help and was going to be stubborn, I knew that, with park rangers and firemen constantly driving up and down the roads to check on runners, she wouldn’t be able to get far, bleeding like that, without someone stopping her. I decided to press on, giving her one more concerned glance as I jogged onward.

As for my own condition, the hills really were starting to get to me.

“It’s never-ending,” I began to whine to myself. “I’m never going to stop climbing.”

I began to whimper internally. The mean wind pushed me back, bumped me sideways, and whipped the snot right out of my nose. I was reduced to an age four child at this point.

I’d read that the last three miles of the run were all down hill. When I saw the marker for mile 23, I thought, “Hallelujah! Now I just have to wait for the downhill dip!”

Nothing of the sort existed. Nope, more uphill climbs. I began to get furious.

“You have GOT to be kidding me,” I raged inside of my head. Real anger, something that is not typical of me at all, raged to the surface like Mt. Vesuvius.

“Hell,” I thought. “This is Hell on Earth.”

But then, of course, I took a breath and looked around. Okay, it wasn’t Hell, it was gorgeous. I reminded myself that, heck, *I* had signed myself up for this. I was going to finish. I dug in and kept wearily trekking on, my runs disintegrating into weak shuffles.

At the mile 24 aid station, I said, “Please tell me there are no more uphills.”

“There’s only one more hill and it’s right there,” the aid station guy said, pointing at a teeny tiny bump that led to the downhill “drop” toward the finish line.

Finally!!!!

While I was eager to get down to the bottom, jogging my way down the steep, rocky and narrow slopes, I realized that it was not going to be as easy as I’d imagined. In some spots, it was so rocky and uneven that I forced myself to slow to a walk, and the sheer grade of it, plus the incredible fatigue in my quads, forced me to stay very easy in my pace. One wrong move now could spell disaster.

The mile markers were off by about 4/10 of a mile by the time that I got down to mile 25. I hit 26.2 well before I even saw the 26 mile marker near the finish line. By the time I crossed the finish line, the race was much closer to 27 miles than it was to 26.2, but, at that point, what’s another .8 miles, right?

Running into town was great though. People driving by in golf carts cheered me on, as well as local townspeople.

“You’re doing great!”

“You can do it! You’re almost done!”

“Congrats!’

It’s like magic to hear those cheers, especially near the finish. They push you all the more. Once I’d hit regular, flat pavement, my legs began to fly. I bumped up to regular distance race pace, 9:45, and kept plowing on toward the finish. While they called my name, the big finish was kind of anti-climactic, as the crowds for the elite runners had fallen away, and only us regular people remained. I found out later that, out of the 400+ people who had signed up, only 264 of us finished. So, yeah, just to finish, was quite an accomplishment.

Mission Accomplished!

In conclusion, I did it, I chased my buffalo, and caught it, and now it’s home with me and the most prized part of my growing medal collection.

My Very Own Buffalo!

Would I do this race again? Most definitely! Am I crazy? Most definitely!

P.S. They also have a 50-miler. It’s tempting, but let me get through an Ironman first 😉


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The Marathon Mulligan: A Running Story

Murphy’s Law, Mulligan, Devil’s Luck…there are lots of ways to describe that week before your big race. You know, that week where everything that seems to possibly be able to go wrong, does go wrong, and threatens to blow all of your months of dedicated training right out the window.

Last week, my left foot started getting sore right above the arch, for no good reason. It did not hurt during the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon (which, I know I have not reviewed here, but my friend still owes me pix), it did not hurt immediately after the race. It did not hurt until two days after the race. Additionally, every morning, I wake up and it’s super sore, and then, when I put a shoe on and walk around for a while, it loosens up. I have no idea what’s going on, but, of course, on the brink of running 22 miles on uneven surfaces, I’m more than a little concerned.

This past week, an old hip spasm returned. In spite of hours of rolling, stretching and walking around, the hip has firmly decided to remain stiff. Normally, I would have just gone to my sports med doc and gotten injections, but, oh yeah, I no longer have health insurance. That’s problematic, to say the least. It’s just muscular and it’s just a spasm, so it could be worse. It’s just an annoying pain that I’d rather not have to deal with for 26.2+ miles.

To top it all off, I felt a familiar tickle creep into my lungs and the back of my throat Saturday evening. NOOOOOO! Sunday morning when the tickle worsened, I raced to the pharmacy, where the pharmacist pointed me to a $13 elderberry syrup and told me that it was the only thing proven to help the immune system. She told me to eat light, drink fluids, and get plenty of sleep, and wished me luck on my marathon. At least she seemed optimistic about my recovery.

It’s Tuesday and my cold hasn’t turned into a full-blown cold. I wake up with a bit of congestion, which gets better throughout the day. I don’t feel horrible. I think that’s a good sign that I should be okay by Saturday. If I get enough rest and stretching, maybe the rest of me will cooperate as well.

Then again, I don’t want to jinx it.