Monday, October 31, 2011

"Always Earned, Never Given."

OOO-RAH! The 26.2 milestone has been met!  The 36th Annual Marine Corps Marathon was a success for myself and as well as the friends of mine that also ran.  This training season I focused the majority of my training on triathlon, specifically for the Ironman Augusta 70.3 while throwing in a 1x/week long run for the marathon training.  Comparatively the only part of my training plan that was lacking was more than 1 run of 20 miles or greater.  I completed my longest run of 21 miles 3 weeks pre-marathon while everyone else I know did 2-3 20+ mile runs. So here's a look at my journey to becoming part of the 1% of people that will complete a marathon.

My roommate Jesse and I headed over to the race expo on Saturday afternoon to pick up our bibs, shirts, and free samples of peanut butter, among other things.  The weather in D.C. on Saturday was absolutely horrific - 35ish degrees with a snowy rainy freezing cold wintery mix.  Not my idea of nice fall weather, nor marathon weather.  We had been watching the weather for a few days and knew that it would probably be chilly on race day but no precipitation.  At least the expo was inside and we only had to deal with the wintery mix getting to and from the Metro.  The expo was packed.  We squeezed through the crowds for a little bit of time and even stumbled upon the American Physical Therapy's booth with the Move Forward campaign.  To our surprise the 2 PT's working the booth were 2011 GWU Grads, so nice to see familiar faces!  The coolest thing about the booth was the free souvenir picture you could get, so of course Jesse and I struck a nice pose in front of our favorite neighbors house.

Saturday evening was calm.  I did a bit of carb loading at my brother's house and figured out my race day plan.  It seem so "easy" in comparison to planning for a triathlon.  No bike to rack, no transition to set up, etc. - I was out of my element.  I decided to take Metro to the Pentagon check a bag of my warm clothing about 30 min before race start and use the port-o-potty.  My other option would have been to walk from my apartment (about a 40min walk).  I was happy I chose this option as it allowed to dress warm, bring my wallet and phone, and have warm clothes at the finish line.  I decided on my clothing for the race as well.  I have always known I despise being cold so I went for the cold weather gear option.  I work my spandex shorts under my running tights, a dri-fit top under my half zip, cheapo running gloves, and my 70.3 hat.  I knew I could throw away the gloves on the course if need be and with a predicted high of only 46 and a starting temperature of 36 I wasn't worried about being too warm.  I went to bed around 9:30 with a 5:30 alarm set and on the ready.

Race morning I woke without the alarm - ate my usual breakfast of champions - Special K Red Berries with banana and Almond milk.  Got dressed and headed to the Metro.  I was crazy see hoards of marathoners at the Metro stop both near me and as we rolled through Rosslyn.  My plan went smoothly as I had plenty of time to use the port-o-potty and check my bag before race start and I didn't get to cold since I was able to keep my warm jacket on until checking the bag right before heading to the start line.  The pre-start festivities included wounded warriors parachuting down and two MV-22 Osprey's flying over as well as the National Anthem and a moment of silence before sending off the wheelchair and hand-cycle athletes.

The last 10 minutes before the starting gun seemed to last forever.  I was ready to get this thing underway.  I decided to break the race up in my mind as two 10-milers and a 10k.  It sounded like a great plan.  In my mind I wanted the first 10-miler to feel easy, the second 10-miler to require focus and the last 10k to require a hard effort.  Indeed these statements came true, just about as true as they could come.  So I give you my race report as if you were in my mind.

Miles 1-10
Runner's getting ready for the start with Maroon 5's
Moves Like Jagger!
The beginning of the course was a bit crowded but nothing too horrible.  Rubbing elbows with a few people here and there but never felt like I was being held back due to crowds or slow people.  The first 8 miles have 98% of the hills on the course.  Every hill I thought "go glutes go" and kept pace up the hill.  Mile 1 seemed like nothing - which in the course of marathon is a good thing because it is nothing.  With all the hills in the early part of the race there was some constant leap frogging with the hand-cycle participants with made it quite exciting on every downhill.  Runner's would start screaming "wheels on the left" and everyone would move over and a hand-cyclist would go flying by.  I took a few sips of water every couple miles at the aid stations.  The aid stations didn't seem to be creating a traffic jam at all so I opted for the hydration option.  I was feeling great as I crossed the 5k and 10k splits.  My 10k split came in to be 51:29 - I was holding my pace and felt absolutely comfortable continuing at that pace.  At this point I realized 3:40 would be possible it I held pace for 20 more miles.  Coming down MacArthur down towards Georgetown was awesome.  It was downhill, the runners had opened up a bit and I finally felt comfortable shedding my gloves.  My absolute favorite part of the course was running down MacArthur which was quite sparse in the fans/supporters category into jam packed Georgetown.  People lined the both side of the streets in Georgetown, there was music and cheering and the energy was incredible.  I ran on with confidence thinking this is my turf now, as my weekly long runs leading up to MCM included a large majority of the upcoming part of the course.  I crossed the 10-mile marker a little over 1:20.  A consistent pace and a 10-miler PR all while feeling great and running with a smile on my face.

Miles 11-20

So fast brother couldn't get a good pic!
The gorilla handing off performance enhancing PowerGel.
This section of the course brings you along the Potomac river towards Hains Point.  Many people have a negative attitude towards Hains Point.  Lonely, boring, what have you.  I on the other hand adore Hains Point.  I spend a significant amount of time every week running and biking there and love the escape from the city it offers.  There was a surprising large amount of spectators down at Hains Point including a huge group at the end of the point for the 13.1 mile mark.  I hit the half-way point around 1:47 - a half-marathon PR and still right on target with my pace and 3:40 still in my sights.  At this point I had taken one gel at the one-hour mark and was preparing to take another at the two-hour mark.  I knew my brother and Kara would be on Hains Point and all of sudden there they were with a rowdy bunch from UMD cheering and of course Rory was in his gorilla suit, because why not?  I accepted 2 gels from the gorilla at mile 14 and ran on still feeling great.  Around mile 15 I really began to focus on holding my pace.  I was beginning to count down the miles and quite excited to be in the single digits very soon.  At mile 17 I cruised through "The Gauntlet" as I continued to hydrate every couple of miles.  I saw a fellow DC Tri-er as we headed toward the capital and gave him a shout out - I believe this was his first marathon as well.  I came around the capital and my legs were beginning to ache, specifically my quads.  As much as my heart, lungs, and body wanted to hold pace I began to feel like my legs wouldn't move.  I knew the last 6.2 was going to be all heart but I knew my pace was slowing as the 3:45 pace group swallowed me up whole at mile 19.  I stuck with them for about a mile and knew I had to let them go as we were nearing mile 20.  My 30k pace was 8:35min/mile with an estimated finish time of 3:45:02 still on track for a much better than expected finish time.

Miles 21-26.2
Nothing prepares you for what the last 10k is going to feel like.  My quads were barely working and mentally I was beginning to wonder if this would really be possible after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike ride.  I got my head back in the game and was ticking of the final 6.2 two miles at a time.  I was aware my pace was slowing, a lot.  I could only push as hard as I could push, which with two quads barely functioning is not hard.  I didn't walk, I ran on through Crystal City.  The Dunkin' Donut Munchkin stop was at miles 22 & 24 - I did not see a single runner take a Munchkin.  The smell made me want to gag.  Crystal city packed with spectators, cowbells, and voovoozelas, but no amount of encouragement or PowerGel was making my quads feeling any better.  Around mile 25 I saw Hugh, thanks to another runner who said "Hey, Hugh".  I promptly looked up and there was Hugh, by himself on the side of the highway cheering us on.  My 40k split had dropped to a 9:06min/mile pace with an estimated finish of 3:58:35.  I knew I could push on to take the Iwo but getting there under 4:00 was seeming to be a challenge.  Finally some orange slices, mile 26, a slight down hill and a sharp turn later I was beginning the climb up to Iwo Jima.  Running up hill actually felt better, probably because I used more glutes and less quads.  My brother and Kara were right there on the hill cheering their butts off for my one last push to the finish line.  26.2 done.

Waiting in a line for the finisher's medal was difficult my legs wanted to crumble but I think it was good for them to be forced to stay slightly active.  My mind was stuck on the fact that there was no way I would be able to do that at IM Louisville.  If I had been given the option right then to drop out or stay with it I may have just dropped out.  My lower portion of my face including mouth and jaw were numb, this a new sensation.  I collected my medal and space blanket and followed the hoards toward the food table on onward.  The spectators were kept to the other side of the fence from the athletes and I was not able to link back up with Rory and Kara at the finish line festival.  I downed some water and 1/2 a Gatorade which seemed to help the numbness of the mouth and jaw.  I continued making my way toward Rosslyn for the finish line festival while making a quick pit stop at a medical table for some Tylenol, though I really wanted Ibuprofen darn it.  It was quite a walk to the baggage check but I made it there just in time as per my usual about 15 minutes post finish I started shivering uncontrollably.  I promptly pulled out my fleece jacket and re-wrapped myself in my space blanket.  I headed back up the road to get a finisher's shirt and got in touch with my brother on the phone. In Halloween fashion the first solid food I ate after the race was a small pack of Reeses Pieces :) The place was insanely crowded and I did not have much energy to do anything and seeing that my brother and  Kara were walking toward home so we could all go to brunch I decided I would head that way too.  At first I thought I would Metro but the line was crazy insane just to get into the station so I scoped out a Circulator bus that took me to Dupont Circle to meet up with the brother. 
Great photo of Rory at the finish with DC in background.
A solid morning capped off with an awesome brunch, chocolate milk, and a super comfortable Lazy Boy.  I had earned it - never again will I run my first marathon.  I'm glad I did it.  I don't think I'll do another one before IM Louisville but I will run another marathon.  Possibly Chicago, NYC, St. George?  Eventually setting my eyes on a BQ.  The drop in pace was disappointing for me but a learning moment.  For now I will work back in strength training for triathletes/endurance athletes, continue to work on technique and build my cycling legs so 26.2 doesn't seem like such a daunting task at the end of an IronMan.  

What was you first marathon? How did you feel after?
36th Annual Marine Corps 2011!  My quads are non-functioning.  In PT language a large functional limitation for me would be sit --> stand.  I'm proud of the accomplishment and 1 day later I'm ready to train for and complete IM Louisville (not physically but mentally).

What is your favorite way to recover? 
I do love an ice bath but did not partake yesterday.  I always recover with chocolate milk.  Today I am headed into clinic to treat myself with e-stim and ice after a short 0 resistance elliptical session. The more I remind the legs to work the better off they are.

Did you race this weekend?  Are you doing any turkey trots?
The DC Tri Turkey Trot is next weekend with a 5k and a 10k option.  Depending on how I feel the 5k may be in the cards.  I am also doing the Huntsville Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Marry Me...

I am knee deep in a full marathon taper.   I’ve cut my mileage by 2/3 and am remaining aware that I am running to stay fresh and remain mentally in check for the big day.  I’ve yet to cut back on the amount of swimming or cycling I’ve been doing.  I will ride a bit on the trainer tomorrow and go to master’s swim tomorrow evening.  The question remains, do I go to master’s on Friday evening, where in the awesomeness that is Master’s swimming I will probably be forced to kick anywhere from 500-1000m.

How do you taper you cycling and swimming for marathons or ½ marathons?

Over the past year I’d like to think I’ve become quite good at tapering for the triathlon.  I didn’t do any real experiments to see if perhaps I could have done a little more or less and performed better but my method lead to some solid podium finishes and PRs throughout the entire season.  Tapering for only the run seems more difficult though.  I love my “me time” to workout and especially my swimming and cycling as it is a welcome break from running.  Over the past week I’ve realized taking a break from these activities is more difficult than I’d imagined.  I don’t like feeling like I’m sitting, being sedentary, or not doing anything.  Working out, whether it is on my own or with a group is one place where my mind feels at peace.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Since my dad’s passing I’ve raced 6 times.  5 of those 6 times I have finished on the podium.  I never would have expected such results at the beginning of the season but I run and I tri with Dad at every race now.  Do I feel pressure for the marathon?  Yes, a little, but that is all pressure I have put on myself.  I keep reminding myself that running is not “my sport” it’s only 1/3 of “my sport” and a whole different experience after crushing a 25 or 56 mile bike.

On Sunday, October 30th I will run my first Marathon.  26.2 miles full of runners, fans, bands, supporters, and pure energy.  I will give everything I have and finish the marathon the best way I know how.  Thanking the heavens for the opportunity to run, for the strength to train, the guidance to stay on track, and the love and support of family and friends.   My soreness a sacrifice to my savior.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” –Pre

My main focus this year was triathlon - training and racing 70.3 as well as multiple Olympic Distance races.  I will run the Marine Corps marathon for the experience and for the confidence of knowing what 26.2 feels like.  I know 26.2 will feel completely different after a 112 mile bike but knowing I’ve been there before will help me through the training and racing of 140.6.  As daunting as the task seems I can’t wait to begin official training – that being said I still need an official training program. 

Do you have any suggestions or previous IronMan experience I should know about before I start to train?

Worrying takes away today’s strength, not tomorrow’s sorrows.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Giant Acorn International Race Recap

This was a somewhat local race to DC - allowing me to wait to the last minute to register and no need for a hotel or extensive travel plans.  The late start time even allowed for a normal amount of sleep the night before.  This race was 6 short days after Augusta 70.3.  I spent the time recovering my legs in hopes to be able to race and PR at the Giant Acorn.  The weeks training consisted of elliptical with almost no resistance and swimming.  By Wednesday I knew my legs would be able to race on Saturday so I registered online just in time before the race sold out.  I worked out a ride with some DC Tri friends and focused the last couple days on getting my legs and body as ready as it could possibly be.  I had set a goal of finishing Nation's under 2:30 but with the canceled swim my 1:56 was under 2:30 but missing the swim portion.  I am confident that I would have still finished under 2:30 but I wanted to prove it at Giant Acorn.

Race Morning
  After having the breakfast of champions, Special K Red Berries with frozen banana, my ride was soon to be here so I double checked my bag and headed outside.  I was lucky enough to have curbside pickup from the DC Tri crew.  We quickly loaded my bike on the roof rack, thank goodness because my bike is so tiny that it doesn't fit on all trunk racks, and hit the road for the Lake Anna Marina in Bumpass, VA.  It was overcast, slightly raining throughout the drive and cold.  I spent most of the drive mentally dealing with the fact that I was going to race in the cold air.  I came to the conclusion that the faster I biked and ran the sooner I could get out of the coldness and it would probably feel good during the run anyways.  Race start was at 10:00 so we planned on arriving at 9:00 to give ourselves in hour for packet pick-up, transition set-up and warm-up.

Pre Race
As planned we arrived around 9:00 with what we thought would be plenty of time to pull ourselves together.  We soon realized we were mistaken - either 90% of the athlete's arrived at 9:00am or the race was not prepared to handle packet pickup in the AM.  The line was out of control.  We waited in line for 40 minutes, transition closed at 9:45.  I had to run to the car get my bike and gear and set up transition in 5 minutes!  Yikes.  I was in go mode.  Luckliy it seems some athlete's decided not to show due to the cooler conditions so transition was not as packed as it might have been.  I created an organized mess around my bike before getting into my wetsuit.  As I got into my wetsuit I realized I had left my awesome red swim cap in the car.  No big deal I went back to packet pickup and got another red cap, much easier than heading to the car.  I got body marked, donned "DAD" (no time for black armband) on my left arm and took some deep breaths for a few minutes before the starting gun of the first wave.  As I took in the crowd and the course I noticed that there seemed to be an unusually large amount of females in my age group.  Come to find out it was the Collegiate Regional Championships.

THE SWIM - 1500m - 31:48
The water was choppy - I'm used to pretty flat water and there were a huge amount of people in my start wave.  I found myself a nice starting position toward the inside of the course in front of most of the crowd which may or may not have been a good decision.  I got pummeled the first 400m of the course - both by waves and other athletes.  Many athlete's were swimming off course and having difficulty sighting.  Definitely not a good race to draft unless you were keeping track of where you were headed.  The swim was hard, I battled waves and athlete's the entire distance.  Overall I was happy with my swim time, I expected worse given the conditions.  I will continue to get better at the swim.

T1 - 2:58
Not my fastest T1 time but I had to get the wetsuit off and deal with my organized mess when I got to my bike rack.

THE BIKE -   - 1:09:53
The air felt cold on the arms at first - now I know why people get arm warmers.  The rest of me was ok a little chilly but I warmed up quickly.  Shortly into the bike I went to take some water and realized that in my rush of the morning I had not dumped my water into my aero bottle while setting up in transition.  Luckily I had a bottle of Heed in my bottle cage and dumped that into the aero bottle.  At least I had Heed and PowerGels - I needed whatever I could get to push my legs to a PR.  The bike course was 2 loops of rolling hills.  It was fun - none of the climbs were outrageous and there were some long downhills.  The course never really felt crowded but was definitely much busier as I came around on my 2nd loop.  I took 3 gels during this bike to help prepare myself for the run.  I would have like to have a bit better bike time, my average speed was 21.34 MPH, looking for this to be about 22 MPH and above on flat courses.  My legs started to feel the previous weekend's 70.3 effort near the end of the ride.

T2 - 2:03
Nothing too exciting here, back to the organized mess.  Got into my run shoes and grabbed the race # belt before heading out to the run course.

THE RUN - 10 - 50:23
The run course was 2 loops of 3.1 miles.  I was not cold at all - the cooler air felt nice for a change.  It was on the run course that I saw the massive group of girls in my age group coming back towards me while I was heading out on loop 1.  I thought I had done well enough on the bike and positioned myself in front of those in my age group - little did I know the collegiate's were way out in front.  My legs were feeling tired so I just passed people 1 by 1 during the run to keep me mentally in the game.  I was realizing that I probably wouldn't break 2:30 but still could PR so I was pushing as much as I could.  I took advantage of water and Heed at every opportunity.  A small section of the run course was through a wooded trail and I loved it - trails always make me run faster!  The run was not close to my 10k PR but good enough considering my legs were pretty beat.

OVERALL - 2:37:02
A new International Distance PR for me.  I was happy with that but a bit disappointed about not breaking 2:30.  There will be many more chances and many more races more conducive to such a goal.  With the amount of girls who had finished in front of me I figured I probably didn't place.  I asked some of the timing people of the collegiate's were in the age group divisions or if they had their own division and was told they would be in the Age Group divisions.  I met up with the DC Tri crew, put on some warmer clothes and got back on the road.  Come to find out - I won my AG!  Wish I would have known at the race site but no big deal.

Post Race Thoughts
I don't like being rushed before the race, now I really am sure of this.  I will always be at races much too early rather than rushing around.  This seemed to be the most unorganized Set-Up events race I have done.  I was happy to finish the season with a PR - my body and mind were ready for a break.  My focus now shifts to the marathon that is only a couple of short weeks away.  I have been developing goals for next year, putting together the 2012 race schedule and seeking out Ironman Training plans.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Journey Just Begun

Less than 11 months away.
A couple of weeks ago - on August 28, 2011 to be exact, I bit the bullet and registered for the big one.  That's right I have officially registered for Ironman Louisville on August 26, 2012.  I was pumped up feeling good from my training for my 70.3 and for Nation's Tri and realized that next year may be my ideal year since I am forced to take a little time off between graduation and licensure - perfect time for peak training.

Have a minute? Read it.
I've now been registered for about a month.  I've gone through an array of feelings of excitement to Holy $#!* what did I just commit to, to I want to win and qualify for Kona and also I just want to survive.  I've since become more content with the idea and have read You Are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg.  It's very good book about 6 people's journey's to IMAZ 2009.  It helped put into perspective what I will be doing, made me think about WHY I want to do this, and helped me realize what I need to plan for - including long training days.

I am beyond glad I completed 70.3 this year and realized how important it will be to get my legs comfortable riding 112 miles and holding a pace I've trained at so that I can be successful during the run.  I will be completing a marathon on October 31, and yes this will give me confidence, but running after swimming and cycling at times feels like a different sport than running alone.

Can I make it here under 12:00:00?
So here starts my journey to 140.6.  I have began looking at different training plans and asking fellow DC Tri club members what they have used.  To this point I have self-coached and been successful.  I need to improve my swim and I know I can do this by getting help with technique.  I also need to build up to long rides at race pace - doing this with a training partner or group will push me harder and make me better.  As I age up as of January 1, 2012 I am in a much more competitive AG.  The athletes in the upper end of the 25-29 AG could have 5+ years of experience/training on me.  Along with 140.6 the journey will involve other important races including Age Group National Championships and potentially another 70.3.  Unfortunately the schedule probably won't be as packed and exciting as this year to allow proper time to build for the IM and keeping my bank account in mind ;)

Have you done an Ironman?  Did you use a training plan?

Any advice or suggestions?