Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2009 Chicago Marathon

OK, ok, here is my “race report” in short form!!!

So, all week before the marathon, I had an ear infection, so that totally freaked me out. I was on antibiotics immediately, so by Sunday, I actually felt pretty good, but could feel a cold coming on, one that any antibiotic wasn’t going to help. LUCKILY, it held out on Sunday, because I woke up (did I really sleep Saturday night?!?!?! – I don’t think so….) and felt OK. We drove downtown, got to the condo, and watched them set-up the last parts of the finish from the balcony. That’s when I had a full-blown panic attack and just lost it. I have NO idea why, I think feelings from the Chicago Tri just finally came out, but I seriously just started crying and hyperventilating and was a complete nervous wreck!!! That lasted until we left the condo, I got outside, started walking toward the Balbo Hospitality tent, and when I got there, I was fine. **THANK GOODNESS** So, I gear checked my dry, warm clothes for after the race, the announcer stated 20 minutes until the starting corrals closed, and I so I headed right out to get in line for the start. (It takes about 15 minutes to get into the corrals). There was definitely a bite in the air, so I was chilly, but I dressed appropriately for the weather, and wore a lovely garbage bag to the start line. I was definitely “white trash” the morning of the race!

OK, into the starting corral, waited about 5 minutes, did NOT see anyone I knew, which was really good for me because I wanted to run alone. Gun went off, and I crossed the start line and just started running! I felt awesome! The first mile didn’t even feel like I needed to slow down, everything just worked! My legs felt awesome, my chest didn’t hurt at all, actually, nothing hurt, I just felt awesome. So, I just ran. I had a 3:45 pace tattoo on my arm so I could watch my times, but because I was feeling so good, I actually had a 6-8 minute cushion on my time going into the second half of the run. I still felt great, so I just kept running to give myself enough cushion for when my legs started to slow. It was perfect! I kept telling myself to save my legs at mile 20 so that I could get through the last 6 miles, so I slowed my pace a little bit, given the extra time I had. I got caught up at only one water stop by people who were really slowing, and walking all over, so that was my slowest 5K, and it wasn’t even because I felt bad, it was those around me whom I had to navigate through. Before I knew it, I was at mile 24, and I couldn’t believe it was almost over. I swear I had a smile plastered on my face the entire run. When I turned the corner off Michigan Ave. to Roosevelt at 26 miles, I spotted Joe, and he just told me “Let’s Go!” to keep me motivated, but I really didn’t need it! The 3:40 pace group, who was behind me the ENTIRE time, had caught up with me at that bad water stop, and I just stayed right with them the rest of the time. So……to make a long run short, I crossed the finish line at 3:40:29, chip time, and I was only 3 minutes off the gun time. I needed a 3:45 to BQ, and I did that with time to spare! It was an AWESOME moment for me, I was elated!

Then, I had to make the LONG walk from the finish line, through the finish corral. As soon as I stopped moving for them to get my chip off, my legs immediately cramped up and I was hurting, but happy! So, now, Tuesday, my quads are tight, my hamstrings feel like someone took a baseball bat to them, and I now have a full-blown cold, but I am still on cloud nine! I finally had my race this season, and I am really, really happy!!! Thank goodness I learned a TON from MJ on that 20-miler. You’ll be proud to know, I did not walk once, except to take my few sips of water, but that’s all! I ran like someone gave me wings!!

And that, my friends, is my “race report” for the 2009 Chicago Marathon!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It's Not Always About the Numbers

Today I find myself in a very different role than I am usually in. Usually, I get up on race day, lace up my shoes, hit the bathroom a million times, then find my place in line at the start and try to calm my nerves. Today was not that day. Last night, I hardly slept (not unusual before a race), but it was more due to ice cream and a full moon than nerves.

Race morning came, I had everything laid out the night before, coffee set on a timer, and I was up and ready to go, only thing missing this morning, my nerves. Today I was asked by a very dear friend to pace her through her first half marathon. I arrived at the Oak Brook Half Marathon in beautiful Oak Brook, IL with plenty of time to spare. The race was supposed to start at 7:00 am, but as usual with this race, the start was going to be delayed due to pre-race disorganization. (Let me just say that packet pick up should be mandatory before race day, not day of). I received my first text message at 6:18 am "Where are you". This message brought a huge smile to my face and made me realize that today, I would have to help calm someone else's nerves, not my own. "I just pulled in". "I'm sitting on the Starting Line". Yep, she was literally sitting pretty much as close to the starting line as one could get on race morning.

I met up with Mel, we met up with other Luna Chix there to run the race, and other there to support. Everyone from our team was there, except one, who was missed that day! Let me complete this portion by saying that these women have to be some of the most generous, supportive women you will ever meet. There is never competition, there is never a negative thought. They are incredibly inspiring, and I am very lucky to be a part of this team. We snapped a few pictures, finally got in line to start, and my running partner expressed her nervousness to me, and I assured her I would NOT leave her side, and that she would be fine. The race started, and as most races are, the adrenaline started, and we went out pretty fast - faster than I had planned for her so that she could reach her goal time. I told her we needed to slow down a bit, that we needed our legs for later. She willingly agreed, and we settled into a nice pace. I kept this pace for her, very steady through about the first mile.

First bathroom break. 40 seconds......but we gained our friend Karin!

OK. so, I analyzed the time we lost, and picked up the pace to gain it back. I don't think Mel even noticed. Mission accomplished. So the three of us ran together an a really nice tempo. We swapped stories, then, about the Ironman Louisville race she had just spectated, where many of our friends competed. Then I told her about my horrible race at Chicago, and before we knew it, we came up on mile 5. We gelled, and got some fluids, and kept on going! Just then, we see our spectating Luna's - Mel holding up her Ironman Sign for the other Mel "Mel Your Butt Looks Great In Those Shorts", MJ with her huge, encouraging smile and cheers, Mel's husband, and her adorable two kids, who, by the way, were handing out LUNA Moons along the course! LOVE IT!!!!! This was just the boost that Mel needed to keep pushing ahead! A little emotion, no tears, close, but not gonna happen, and on we ran!

Into the wooded trail we went, and onto the hills. This is where things become a little more difficult on this course, and hill training definitely helps. Mel's determination, though, would not falter on this course. She was working hard, but having a great time.

2nd Bathroom Break.........40 seconds.

OK, now, we are on a more difficult trail, and 40 seconds to make up. So, we pushed on. Water stop........We lost Karin. Shoot. I couldn't let this impact Mel, though, so on we went. Time made up, another mission accomplished. As we came around the corner, we see the 10 mile marker. Mel is now starting to fatigue. So, I tried to come up with anything and everything I could to get her through her last 5K. Pretend we just got off the bike, Mel, this is the last leg of our Sprint Tri, we just have a 5K to go. Good. This was helping. Then, I just blabbed on.....to kill time. It was helping. But a half hour of blab.....that would annoy anyone. So, I just kept encouraging her, and would NOT let her walk. She had made it that far, and we were NOT walking. I slowed her pace down a bit to allow her to breathe more easily, and keep her comfortable.

Mile Marker 11. I see a woman I know from around town, and one we had seen at the beginning, had passed us before Mile 1, and here she was in front of us. I told Mel, "We need to beat her". Mel didn't say much, just smiled. We passed her and her friend. Nicely done!!!!

Mile Marker 12. OK. 1.1 miles left to go. More encouragement. We rounded the corner, and a woman behind us gets on her CELL PHONE!!!! Can you believe it?? "I'll be ther in 5 mintes....watch for me". 5 Minutes. I looked at Mel (can it be that the cell phone caller just helped us??) and said, "Hey, 5 minutes. Can you keep this for 5?" "Yes". "Good, "Let's finish this". We come around the corner, under the bridge, and the two women we had passed decided to kick in for the last 200 meters. Shoot. OK, "Mel, what do you have left? Can you pick it up to the end?" "Yes". We pick it up, almost a sprint, pass those two biddies, and into the finish shoot! During the run we had planned to go through the shoot hand in hand, arms up, and that's exactly what we did. Mel hugged me, she had tears in her eyes, and said "That hurt". I just laughed and said, "Yea, but you did it!" Then she says.....what was our time?........

Today reminded me of why I started running in the first place. It wasn't about the numbers. I ran because I had fun. I enjoyed just running. It wasn't about how fast I ran, or who I beat, or who beat me. It was just about running, finishing, and feeling really good. Today was that day for me. Yes, we had a goal, but we also had much more than that. It was my first experience pacing someone, and quite frankly, it will not be my last.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Chicago Triathlon 2009

It's been a REALLY looooong time since I have updated my blog, but there have not been too many significant races for me this season. Beginning with winter of 2008 through spring of 2009, I have dealth with health issues, and getting back my athletic base. This was definitely a recovery year for me, but with the best intentions of racing, and just having fun, not braking any records!

So, ahhh.....Chicago Triathlon. I spent a lot of time this summer perfecting my swim into a smooth glide, my bike to a solid, consistent ride, and my run, well, just getting some speed back. I was completely prepared for Sunday from an athletic point of view, but not so prepared for the frigid temps of both the air and the water.

I began my morning at 3:30, with the alarm buzzing through my room. I had prepared my gear and coffee the night before, so I rolled out of bed, put on my new, and totaly awesome, Tri-Smart Coaching uniform in a very cool black/red/white color scheme (with FLOWERS across the butt!), threw on some sweats, got my coffee, loaded the car and headed for downtown Chicago. We arrived at approximately 4:45 am and Joe unloaded my bike, my transition bag, and me at the corner of Monroe and LSD. I headed to transition, had a hell of a time finding my wave due to the way they number the racks, found a decent spot I felt sure I could remember, then set up my area. I walked the bike out/bike in route, the run out route, and then found my friends.

The sun was still not up, but the sky was cloudy, and the air temp was about 54 degrees. The water temp.....62. Not fun. We were all cold before we even started. As the morning progressedm, and the sprint waves began, we found a spot on the grass and literally huddled together to keep warm. Once the clouds drifted to the west, we had a little reprieve from the sun, but it was still chilly. Once in the wetsuit, it was actually much warmer. I headed for the swim start at 8:35, my wave was set to go off at 8:44. I easily found my way in, watched the swimmers already in the water, smiled and waved at Joe, who was snapping pics for me, then entered the water. Cold??? Yea....really cold. It was like jumping into a bucket of ice water. Fortunately, at Chicago, you tread water before the start. My wetsuit quickly warmed me up, and I felt acclimated to the water and ready to do the swim I had practiced so many times this summer. The horn went off, and we were off. I was trying to work my way around the clysdale men in my wave, did I mention I ended up in a co-ed wave with overweight men?????, I had just found my rhythm, when BAM, I get kicked in the sternum by one of those overweight men in a wetsuit doing the BREAST STROKE! The wind was knocked out of me, and I COULD NOT BREATHE. I flipped on my back immediately, but had already taken in a lot of water. I began to panic, looked to the side, spotted Joe watching this whole horrific event taking place, and started to attempt my way to the side of the harbor. Out of pure luck, I happened to the side at a ladder, where I hung on, trying to catch my breath. No sooner did I arrive there, than a race official came to help me out of the water. Gasping for air, I could not speak to even tell them what had happened. I got out of the water, and managed to finally breathe again after about 10 minutes of wheezing and coughing. Then I lost it. I was so mad, and frustrated that all my training was going to be wasted. I decided to finish the race. I couldn't let this stop me.

So, I got out of my wetsuit, got on my bike, lost about 15 minutes of my swim time, but I went into transistion, got lost because I was so shook up by all of the past events, changed and went on the bike course. COMPLETE CHAOS on the course. People were supposed to be riding on the left, passing on the right. Not happening. Did I mention the 20 mph winds out of the north? It was cold, it was windy, and people were riding all over the place. LSD is like a whack-a-mole game of potholes, so that game, in and of itself, makes the ride seem very stressful. With the tailwind on the way back, I found myself cruising, but saw a NASTY wreck, an ambulance, broken bike frame, and plenty of scrapes. Later found out that Andy Potts was the victim of that accident.

I couldn't get off the bike fast enough, wasn't feeling very good, but changed into my running shoes, grabbed my hat and number, some GU and headed to the race course to finish the 10K run. As soon as I started running, I knew it wasn't going to be a good run. My chest where I was kicked was very painful, and I couldn't catch my breath. I played this cat and mouse game the entire 6.2 miles. During this run, because I opted to wear my Zoots, my neuroma also flared up. Couldn't have been more of a comedy of errors for me. Seeing the finish line was the best part of my race. I did finish, and oddly only 5 minutes slower than last years race, but I finished. That was an accomlisment in and of itself.

So, what am I taking away from this race today? Simple. Next year, I am racing Pleasant Prairie Olympic, NOT CHICAGO! It has just become too big, it is not safe, and I just don't finish it thinking "I can't wait for next year".

Now, what good came of today? Well, that's simple! My friend MJ finished Ironman Louisville 1st in her age group and qualified for Kona World Championships (she is a rockstar and the biggest stud I know)! And my friend Melanie completed her first Ironman (Louisville also) with a stellar performance that just puts the biggest smile on my face! Hats off to you ladies, you are my inspiration to not hang up my bike shoes and my wetsuit, and call it a day! Next year is always around the corner!