Monday, October 11, 2010

Hood to Coast 2010: Breaking Barriers

Note: After the triathlon, I abandoned this blog. But I didn't abandon working out. In October 2009 I started a fitness program via my iPhone called, "Couch to 5K". Even though I wasn't really on the couch, I wanted to start slowly. It was a great program for me and I highly recommend it. This is what came next...


I love trying new things. Last year it was hula hoop dancing and a triathlon. I had never done Hood to Coast before this year. Friends had participated in the 12-person, 197 mile relay race over the years so it was “on my list”. Subsequently, when an invitation came to run with the Aha! team, I said yes without hesitation. I never thought of myself as a runner. I played soccer for 25 years but training via running was never a part of my routine. I could run but I wasn’t a “real” runner.

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I signed up to do Hood to Coast 2010. I thought I was going to be running 3 legs of about 3 miles each and everyone else was going to do the hard legs. I was in for a big surprise. As far as I can tell, there are no “easy” sets of legs. Everyone pays. We pay in steepness (ascending or descending). We pay in distance. We pay in dust and gravel. We pay in exhaustion. Before June 2010, I had never even run more than 5K. That is 3.1 miles for the uninitiated. For Hood to Coast, I was signed up to do legs 10, 22 and 34. The mileage total for all three legs? 17.13 miles (the third highest mileage). I was terrified.

I am a good team player. I show up. I have enthusiasm. But honestly, when it finally sunk in that I would be running 17.13 miles in less than 24 hours, I realized that I would need to train hard. So, I showed up. I had enthusiasm. I trained. I listened to our coach, Angel. I ran and I ran and I ran.

Thank god for the bottom of Pamela’s shoes.

The trail runs in Forest Park were my favorite part of the training. My neighbor Pamela and I would start out running together. She is faster than me so she set out in front and I would watch the bottom of her shoes. But eventually she would pull away and I would be left alone. I got to know my playlist. I figured out which songs I needed more of and which type I needed to delete. I kept pushing myself and eventually was able to look at the bottom of Pamela’s shoes for longer amounts of time. I don’t know what it was but through some strange hypnosis brought on by the bottom of her shoes paired with just the right music I ran farther and I ran faster.

But really I was just trying to make it through.

When I heard that headphones were not going to be allowed for Hood to Coast, I panicked. Music and running are inseparable for me. I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to run without music pushing me along. I immediately ordered some clip on speakers that were allowed. When I realized I wasn’t going to get them in time I ordered a fancy external speaker the shape and size of a racquetball. How the heck was I going to run with that? Finally, at the exchange from Van 1 to Van 2, I copied Brett and got an inexpensive little external speaker. Then I “McGuyvered” it to make a handle and, bobbing to the beat, started running my first leg of 6.19 miles.

I have to admit I whined, wheedled and pouted about my second leg: Leg 22. It was 6.81 miles and classified as “hard”. The first two miles were straight up. Oh, and I had to run it at 1:30 am. I asked everyone in my van if they would run those first two miles with me. I really didn’t think I could do it. But it was the middle of the night and I had no takers. I cranked my music and went for it. I was determined. And I did it. I ran up the two miles and ran down the other 4.81 miles. Toward the end of my run, a song my friend Eileen recommended came on called, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys. It is a crazy, fast Celtic song about sailors with peg legs and it got me going. As I finished my run the song that was playing was a remake of “Pump Up the Jam” by Bomba Estereo. Perfect.

Even though my last leg was a mere 4.13 miles and classified as “moderate,” I was nervous about it. It was hot and I was queasy. I was feeling the mental strain of running farther than I’d run in my life plus the physical strain of trying to stay healthy in awkward conditions. Becky offered to run my leg with me. This was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because she was positive and she kept me going. It was a curse because she kept trying to get me to go for some “road kill”. In Hood to Coast whenever you pass someone, you count them as your road kill. She kept urging me to go faster, pointing out all the easy road kill up ahead. Sadly, I didn’t get even one and eventually she encouraged me to finish the leg on my own.

The last part of that race was a turning point for me. I wanted to finish. I didn’t want to walk. I didn’t want to throw up. I was also curious. I wanted to know what it would be like if I did push myself. That moment was not the right moment for pushing. I did not push myself and I am still ok about that decision. But I was curious.

Cut to present day. The other day I ran 4.14 miles. Yes, I just ran it. It was really no biggie. Oh, and I ran it fast*. I can do that now; because I am a runner.


Thank you Aha! Easy Writers: Shari, Bryce, Lou, Pamela, Dan, Cory, Barbara, Angel, Becky, Britta and Brett. You provided the inspiration and reason to become a runner. I had a blast doing Hood to Coast 2010. And thank you for giving me a gift to take forward, a gift of being curious about finding my limits. Thank you also to all the volunteers – we couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you to my husband, Will, who helped me to make it happen.

Let me know if you need another runner for next year’s Hood to Coast and I promise to push myself. See you on the trail.

* Well, faster for me.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Triathalon completed!

Ok - August 1st has come and gone and...I did it!!! I completed the triathlon. I had a lot of goals when I started training. One was that I actually complete the triathlon. Another, though I didn't realize it at the time, was not to come in last. Happily - I did not. I came in 9th in my age group (out of 23) and 53 (out of 183) overall.

Breaking down the events:

The Swim:
Wow - for all the training I did, I was expecting the swim to go better than it did. Unfortunately, I had rented a triathlon wet suit and had not tried it before hand. Had I tried it, I may have realized that it was too tight in my neck and chest area. I just could not catch my breath. I spent a good portion of the time just gulping air. I did not swim freestyle like I had done for so many hours in the pool. Instead, I did some weird hybrid of a side stroke and a dog paddle. Sigh. In the middle of the swim I actually had a slight panic attack (not a good thing in water). If there had been a boat nearby at that moment, I probably would have asked for a ride (thereby getting disqualified). Thankfully, there was no boat close so I just decided to keep going. I un-velcroed my wetsuit and tucked it under and that did help. In spite of what I thought was a dismal swimming event, I came in 86 out of 183.

A point of irony - the water was very warm - 75 degrees. I could have swam without the wetsuit but I wasn't willing to give up the buoyancy.

Swim to Bike transition
The swim to bike transition was one I had been worried about. I was mostly worried that I wouldn't be able to get my wetsuit off. However, it went just fine thanks to the person at the wetsuit rental shop who showed me how to do it. (I also practiced). I just pulled on a shirt, shorts, hydration pack, socks, shoes, gloves, helmet and sunglasses. Wow! In retrospect, that was a lot! Then I had to run to the "mount line".

The Bike Portion:
Thank goodness the bike ride was awesome. I basically spent the entire time passing people. I swear I think I passed 50 people. I was just flying. It was the most fun part of the race for me. And even though I was passing people, I said, "good job" to everyone who I passed and gave a shout out to anyone who passed me. It was bliss. I am so grateful to my friends who helped me with the bike by lending me a road bike and getting it fit to me. It was really good. I came in 29th out of 183 on the bike portion.

Bike to Run transition:
This transition was also fairly quick. I just had to divest myself of all my bike stuff and start running. I wasted a few moments trying to find a handkerchief and ended up blowing my nose in my towel. (I know, over sharing). I left this transition in 28th place out of 183.

The Run:
This is where it all fell apart for me. I thought the swim was bad, but it was nothing compared to the run! I had definitely under trained in running and it showed. I just did not have the stamina to keep up a good pace especially as it was HOT with the sun just breaking as I took the running course. All those people who I passed on the bike? I think they all passed me. I even walked a few times when I could not catch my breath. It was dismal. I came in 110th out of 183 in the run which pushed my overall place to 53 out of 183.

After I ran through the finish I was handed a medal. My daughter was so excited! She asked if I came in first place and I told her I didn't. Then she asked if I came in second. I told her everyone got a medal. She was still pretty excited about the whole thing. She also got to witness the kid's triathlon which interested her. I told her that if she did it next year, I would do the triathlon again. This is just about the only way I would do it again. I think I may just be done. Don't get me wrong - I am glad I did it. But I haven't been bitten by the "bug".

I kind of lost track but I would like to go back and see if I can figure out what the total outlay of money was and how far I swam during my training.

In summary, the actual time that I raced was only about 1 hour and 35 minutes. I didn't even really feel sore afterwards. If anyone wanted to try a triathlon, I would definitely recommend it. Definitely train for it, but do it and enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dismal failure or unrealistic expectations

Ok - I am not even going to discuss the title of this post. FYI - I am referring to this blog - not to my training.

The training for this triathlon has been a bumpy road. I started really fast and furious - working out two times a day some days. I kept that pace up for around 6 weeks. And then it feels like I got a little burned out. Adding to that I started getting migraines which I believe are related to stress. All that to say that if I hadn't told so many people about doing this triathlon, I probably would have given up! ;)

Seriously though, I am still plugging away - just not with the same fervor that I started with. Working backwards, here is what I have been up to:

* Rode my bike yesterday for 50 minutes. I forgot my water! Duh'oh!
* Swam 1/3 mile on Monday. Also did a 1.5 hour hula hoop dancing class.
* Sunday I went for a hike for about an hour.
* 6/30 I tried to go for a bike ride but only rode for about 15 minutes (I had tire issues).
* 6/29 Went for an hour walk.
* 6/24 Went to my first 1.5 hour hula hoop dancing class.
* Week of June 14th - went running two times. Tried to swim in the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon Coast. (Bad idea).

So - I have a little momentum which I am trying to continue. The race is on August 1st - gulp! My friend and I are going to do a mock triathlon on July 18th. Should be interesting. It will be good to know we can do the whole thing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

It was a great idea

I think this blog was a great idea. However, I have not been keeping it up to date. Who knows? Perhaps this shows a normal journey of a first time triathlon. (OK, can I just tell myself that?).

My training has waxed and waned of the past month (which is when I last posted). My masters swim class was going really well...until work got in the way. I know now that I can swim a mile and so doing a 1/4 mile seems doable to me. I will be going to the coast next week and am hoping to get some open water swims in. I will probably need to rent a wetsuit though! (Pacific Ocean in Oregon is COLD).

I am enjoying biking when I get the time to do it. It is hard to carve out a decent amount of time to go on a good ride. But I really need to get my butt in the seat!!! I don't think I am particularly fast on a bike but I know I will finish.

Running is definitely my weakest link. I used to be an extremely fast sprinter. Time and 25 years of playing soccer has really slowed me down. My knees ache when I run. I suspect that part of my warm up for the actual race will be downing some Advil! I have intentionally minimized this in my training. I would love to get back to long walks with my neighbor but I need to actually make it happen.

I did buy "fast laces". Sadly, I bought the wrong size and have to exchange them. (They work great on my 3.5 year old son's shoes though).

There are only 7-8 weeks to go before the triathlon. The week or at least couple of days before the actual race you are supposed to take it easy. So I have 7 weeks to ramp up my training. Gulp.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Maybe this is a trend?

Interesting a week has passed since my last "catch-up post". Maybe this will just be a weekly blog? I am not sure. I think it is better if I post every day...especially since I did not write down what I did last week. Sigh.

April 6 - Did not swim, went for 50 minute fast walk.
April 7 - Walk/ran for 20 minutes.
April 8 - Pretty sure I swam 28 laps, walked 50 minutes.
April 9 - Off.
April 10 - Swam 32 laps, did not bike.
April 11 - Went for a multi-hour (2 I think) hike with my family and a friend.
April 12 - Off.
April 13 - Started master swim class. Swam 3/4 mile! Wahoo! That is a personal record. We did work to get faster which is what I need. I think it looked something like this:

200 warm up
200 kick only
100 kick only
50 swim
100 kick only
50 swim
100 kick only
50 swim
200 swim
200 cool down

It was a good work out. Can't wait until next week.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Another Catch Up Post - Sigh

I am still here - training in fits and starts. Here is my catch up post:

March 27, 28, 29, 30, 31st: Took all these days off due to an event that I had on the 28th plus a minor lack of motivation.
April 1: Swam 22 laps. Walked for 45 minutes.
April 2: My official day off and I took it.
April 3: Swam 28 laps. Biked 5 miles (and looked at bikes at a bike shop).
April 4: Short hike in the morning and then rode 7 miles along the Columbia River. Beautiful.
April 5: I was supposed to do something today but I hung out with my family. Sundays should really be my day off. (I did sand and paint two doors though!).

I signed up for a Master Swim class which starts April 13th and I am looking forward to it. According to the bike shop, I actually need a 56cm woman's frame. I am not sure how that translates to a men's bike.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Week 8; Day 4: Thursday (plus catch up)

Daily learning / random notes: As I suspected, I have not had a lot of time or energy to train this week. I have a big creative event happening on Saturday and my energy is going into preparing for that.

I got a whole bunch of books from the library and have been working my way through them. As someone who is training for her first triathlon, some books were less meaningful than others. One of these books, which is more appropriate for someone who is not on her first triathlon, is called The Triathlete's Training Bible by Joe Friel. I did find a great quote in this book that really struck me, "Swimming, cycling, and running reduce life to its most basic elements---breathing and movement." The quote is in a section called "Training to Go the Distance" and is all about why people do triathlons. What it says is that it is less about the races and more about the training. Having not actually competed in a triathlon, I cannot comments on this but it resonates with me.

I signed up for a Master Swim class at my pool. It will be only one of the 3 swimming training days each week. I do think it is exactly what I need to make sure that a) I am swimming correctly and b) I can figure out how to get faster (I am s-l-o-w). This added to the total training cost but I think it will be worth it. It doesn't start for a couple of weeks though. I will report back after it begins.

Total training cost: $198.50

Total distance swum: 11150 yards. (6.33 miles!)

Results of past few days:
Monday - Swam 32 laps, ran/walked for 15 minutes as my partner couldn't go.
Tuesday - Supposed to bike but did not because I had to watch kids for spring break.
Wednesday - Swam 22 laps, ran/walked for 60 minutes. Not motivated today but trained anyway.
Thursday - Today is supposed to be my day off but I need to change my training schedule because I am not getting to work out on Sundays. According to that, I should do a 10 mile bike ride. Ok - done. It took me 48 minutes and 40 seconds. I was in traffic for part of that. And coming home there was a huge headwind. Yuck. This is the first time I have ever timed myself. I really like riding by the river.