Wednesday, November 17, 2010

San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon Race Report

The classic Alamo shot: Adam, me, and Shelly. How cool are those socks?!

This race was a big deal, but for a different reason than usual. My brother and sister-in-law had trained for their first half marathon all summer and traveled here from Louisiana to run the Rock n Roll half. The weekend was really about them and their first half marathon experience. Our family booked hotel rooms downtown, and Mom, Dad, Adam, Jen, Robert, and my little nephews Will and Henry enjoyed the marathon weekend together.

For Shelly and I, the Austin 70.3 was just a month ago. Still recovering from that race, Shelly and I didn't have any goals for this half marathon except to practice using the water stops (thereby leaving those "stupid belts," as my Dad so lovingly refers to our fuel belts, at home). Adam decided early last week that he'd run with Shelly and me. He had done all his long training runs at about a 10 minute mile, so that sounded like it would work. I was really excited about running with my brother!

The weather on race day was overcast and 55 degrees - perfect for running. Robert, Adam, Jen and I walked down to the start line together. After saying goodbye to Jen and wishing her luck (she was starting further back in the corrals), we met some friends from work in Corral 15. We had gone through some trouble to get everyone into that corral, but I'm not sure if any of us actually had plans to run together except for Shelly, Adam, and I. It ended up not being an issue. Shelly, Adam, and I took off to use the restroom about half an hour before the race started. The race started without us, and we never saw the others again that day.

We ended up starting with Corral 18. The race had a new course this year, which had its glitches. You can read in the news about the train that barreled through, forcing 2 corrals of runners to stop dead for 3+ minutes. We weren't affected by the train, but the new course has way more turns in the first mile than the old course. It was really hard to weave through all the slower runners and find a happy pace, and we ended up running the first mile in about 11 minutes. For the entire race, the course seemed even more crowded than usual. Perhaps it's because 3 of us were trying to stay together, instead of the usual 2.

Robert and his family were cheering for us at the Alamo at mile 3 (Jessica was running too, so Robert's mom and sister came to spectate - awesome!). The miles flowed quickly by, and soon we were running past my family at mile 8. Then we ran into King William and I started to realize that the race was going to be over soon, and that I wasn't tired. Usually, around mile 10, I start to fade and Shelly has to drag me to the finish line. Not this time! We kept picking up the pace, checking with each other to make sure that was okay. And it was!

As we moved closer to the end of the race, Shelly and I realized that we were going to get a new PR. After mile 11, we kept doing math, and we calculated that if we hustled, we could get 2:10. We crossed the finish line in 2:10:45. Not bad for a race that wasn't an "A" race.

We brought our own 11 oz. water bottles so that we could avoid the first few water stops, and that worked well. After that, we knew generally when the water stops were coming, and when Adam spotted one in the distance, we consumed our Gu and then walked through the water stop, drinking 3 cups each. It worked perfectly. We each consumed 3 Gu packs during this race.

Jen did well too for her first half marathon. She finished the race in 2:32, which is exactly the time it took me for my first half 5 years ago! I'm really proud of her and Adam, and I could tell that they were thrilled too. They're already signed up for the Rock n Roll New Orleans half, and I know they're going to enjoy it.

Before the race.

Dad and Will spectating at mile 8.

Mom and Henry

Monday, October 18, 2010

Austin 70.3 Race Report

This half Ironman race was the coolest race I've ever done. Maybe it's because it was a perfect, beautiful day outside with fabulous racing conditions. Maybe it's because I was on my own out there, which meant the results of the day were all up to me. Or maybe it's because I really trained my behind off for this race, so I appreciate the results more. Whatever the reason, it was an amazing day, and I still can't stop smiling.

Short Version:

Swim: 39:32 (2:04/100m)
T1: 5:46
Bike: 3:09:18 (17.75 mph)
T2: 3:34
Run: 2:30:59 (11:31 min/mi)
Total Time: 6:29:09
Age Group Stats: 58/132 (38 swim/51 bike/58 run)

Long Version:

Robert and I got stuck in traffic on the way to the race due to an accident. Even though all the other cars in the 30+ minute traffic jam were also triathletes who were desperate to get to the lake before the transition closed, I was certain that I'd miss it, that the race would start without me, and that my day would end right there in the car. But, they got traffic moving; we got the car parked and I ran to drop off my Run bag in T2, hopped on the shuttle to go to the lake, and sped to T1 to drop my Bike bag and fill my tires with air.

That's when I hit the first snag of the day - our pump broke. As I pumped up the front tire, the pump let all the air out of it. Brian and Orissa came to my aid and helped me find another pump, and to confirm that it was a pump problem and not a tube problem (thank goodness). Transition closed minutes after we finished with my bike, and we walked out in time for the national anthem to play (that was cool; a guy parachuted down to the lake with a giant American flag waving in the rising sun as the anthem was performed. Awesome.)

Time sped by and it was time to swim. As I stood in the pack of blue caps, I couldn't help but think of cows entering the slaughterhouse. We are all just willingly lined up to do this. We don't know what's ahead, but we're all about to walk in. I threw that thought aside as the announcer introduced us as his favorite age group, and 132 ladies waded into the water, found our positions, and got ready to swim.

The swim felt good; the water was fresh and cold. It was a counterclockwise triangle swim marked with nice big buoys. I took a really wide arc around the buoys just to stay out of any scrapping. I think it added time and distance to my swim, but I feel like the time sacrifice was worth it for the peaceful swim I had. I got back into the fray on the way back in, swam all the way over the top of one guy, got pushed aside by another, and swallowed some water and started coughing. I actually stopped swimming to cough and get my bearings, then looked behind me and saw another pack of swimmers coming along. I took a look at my watch and saw that it read 37 minutes. Realizing I could make my "A" goal for the swim (40 mins), I hauled butt to the shore.

I have never felt so strong running out of the water before. I got a glimpse of Robert, which provided a huge boost. This course has you running up a good hill to T1, but I hustled up it without even noticing. Stopped halfway up to have my wetsuit stripped off. One of the wetsuit strippers unzipped my suit and told me to lie on the mat. Another pulled my suit off from the waist and it popped right off my feet. Then another hauled me to my feet, handed me my wetsuit, and I was on my way.

Running through transition, someone told me I looked strong. I felt so much energy as I approached my bike, transitioned as I had practiced (in the dark, in the hotel room the previous morning, while Robert was sleeping). I slammed a gu, noted that my water bottle was still half frozen, and ran my bike out of transition. Running out of transition, I saw Robert again and shouted "I love you!" at him. He said later that everyone turned their heads to look at him after that. I stopped once I got to the pavement to check for sticker burrs (which had been present the day before after rolling through the grassy transition). I found none. Jumped on my bike and headed out!

It took probably the first 20 minutes to settle in. My heart rate was around 150, and it stayed in that range for most of the bike portion of the race. Since Shelly and I had ridden the course about a month and a half ago, it was all familiar. Having tons of cyclists passing me was NOT familiar. Some of these guys were going so fast with their aero helmets and their disc wheels, I just had to look on in awe. But my pace was pretty good too. I'll attribute that partly to the fabulous race wheels that I borrowed from Matt at Bicycle Heaven, and partly to adrenaline. I passed my share of people in the first few miles, which was the hillier portion of the course.

Things I had never experienced in previous races were mile markers on the bike course, aid stations that included water and gatorade hand-ups and porta-potties, and race officials on motorcycles looking for misbehaving cyclists to penalize. I saw two guys taking a "natural break" next to two very embarrassed female volunteers. I rolled up on the aftermath of a crash in which one cyclist was lying motionless in the road, her head supported by another cyclist. I went through a part of the course where all the traffic was backed up because of the race, and cyclists were weaving through the cars (myself included - it was either that or stand still waiting in traffic). I saw a training buddy, Rocky, race by, only to see him minutes later on the side of the road with a blown tire (he repaired it with a $10 bill and finished the race smiling). Luis passed me and shouted encouragement (it was his first half Ironman too; he finished in 5:30 - amazing).

I felt strong for the entire bike portion of the race. I passed tons of people, and it felt so cool. I stayed on my nutrition plan as well as I could (I carried 3 bottles of Infinit). Unfortunately, one of the bottles was still half-frozen, so I switched it out early for a less-frozen one. I drank every 10 minutes, but not as much as I had in training. The end result was one full bottle of Infinit left unconsumed at the end of the bike. I was worried the entire time about flatting, which never happened (thank goodness). As I approached the mile 53, I thought, OK, I can flat now. I can push my bike 3 miles if I need to. Mile 56 came up before I knew it, and I was flying into transition. I saw my Dad cheering for me, came around the corner and saw Robert and Mom. This pumped me up even more as I ran my bike into transition. I finished the bike 21 minutes faster than I'd hoped. Wow!

T2 felt long but I didn't spend the entire 5 minutes that I'd planned in there. Some might say that a 3+ minute transition is long, but for me, it was better than expected! I ran out of T2 carrying a bike bottle of water and a bag of gu which I stuffed into my race belt. I started eating and drinking immediately, but stayed away from the endurolytes that I'd brought because I thought they'd be too much of a pain to get to. Instead, I decided to drink Gatorade at every other aid station.

The 2-loop run course was pretty hilly. Nothing outrageous, but there was hardly any flat on the whole course. I usually prefer rolling hills to running on flat, so this was OK with me. The part that wasn't OK was the off-road part. Probably 5 of the 13.1 miles were on grass and mulch. I was much slower running through those parts. But on the first loop, I was feeling so strong! I looped back to the arena, where I passed the tents of cheering spectators, including the Trisition Area tent. I slapped high fives with a bunch of people, and ran off for my second loop.

As I approached mile 8, I thought, wow, this is amazing. I feel great. I didn't think I could feel so great! Maybe I jinxed myself because immediately after that thought passed my mind, both Achilles started twitching. Then my calves began cramping, enough that I was scared that I'd get full on cramps that would make me stop. I slowed to a walk and started eating all the endurolytes that I had ignored earlier. Tried to get more salt in to stop the cramping. But from mile 8 to the finish, I ran as much as I could until I couldn't bear the cramping, and then I walked. It was incredibly frustrating feeling so full of energy and ready to run, but not being able to because of the cramping. I wasn't tired. But I couldn't keep running. The walk breaks saved me and I ticked away the miles. I checked my watch and realized that I could make it to the end in under 6:30 if I hustled. Having a general goal of "anything under 7 hours will make me happy," the thought of 6:30 moved me along.

As I approached the Trisition tent for the second time, I saw that Jessica and Angel had made it out to watch me finish. Jessica even made a cool sign with my name on it, using the letters of my name to spell out "Kris, Run, bIke, Swim." That was so awesome to see. I had to start running then, even if it made my legs cramp worse. By that time, my hamstrings were cramping too. I ran past them, ran past my parents, ran past the tent of cheering Trisition folks, and took the turn into the arena, where the finish line was.

Running into that arena to the finish line was hands-down the coolest race experience I have ever had. Ever. The chute was packed with spectators on both sides. The announcer shouted my name "KRISTINA SWANN CORDOVA!" and the crowd cheered so loud for me. I wanted to cry and I slowed down to experience the feeling; I made myself listen to the crowd and feel the energy and remember the feeling.

And then it was over. I walked through the end of the chute, saw Robert and my family, and got a big hug from Robert. I was incredibly emotional. And then we headed out into the sunshine to hang out in the Trisition tent and cheer for the finishers there. I saw Dawn, Lorena, and Marco and got big hugs from them. Saw Luis and exclaimed together over how we are both now half Ironman finishers. Waited for a while for Orissa to come in, but missed her while I was getting my bike. Went out for pizza with Robert, Mom and Dad, and came home sunburned and smiling.

Everyone told me that I was smiling the whole race, and I'm glad, because that's certainly how I was feeling. Robert and I looked through his photos when we got home, and sure enough, I was smiling in each one. What a day!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Gator Bait Tri 2010 Race Report

Well, it's almost a month later and I haven't posted a race report for Gator Bait! It was a fantastic race - I placed first in my age group and overall had a fabulous, close-to-perfect race.

500 meter swim: 9:26 (almost a minute of that was the run to the mat!)
T1: 1:13
13 mile bike: 45:57 (17.0 mph)
T2: 1:06
4 mile run: 39:24 (9:51 min/mile)
1/14 AG
87/222 Overall

I came into this race feeling nervous because of the sad, slow running I did at CapTex and Small Texan. Even though I'd had a couple of good brick workouts with strong, solid runs, I didn't know what would happen on race day.

The swim was great, no issues there. It was a time trial start. My actual swim time was 8:32 based on my watch, which I was very pleased with. I think the course may have been short, but I'm not going to argue about it.

In Transition 1, I tried to put my helmet on backwards, which freaked me out. Then my Garmin strap wouldn't fasten. I was frustrated and felt slow coming out of the transition area, but I settled into the bike ride and went for it. On the way out on this out-and-back course, I kept watching the people coming back. I was almost to Gator Bait hill (the turnaround point), and I still hadn't seen any women returning. I knew Shelly was up there somewhere, but I started to realize that I was at the front of the women's field. Finally, the women's leader passed and then a few more ladies, and then Shelly, and I was on my way up the hill.

It felt great to ride up this hill that I was afraid of last year and only attempted this year two weeks before the race. I passed people all the way up - people who were cycling slowly and people who were walking. Coming back to the lake was a blur. I felt so fast racing back downhill almost all the way back to the lake.

As I entered T2, I looked around and saw how few bikes were in the transition area. I thought, Oh my God, I'm at the front of this race. Well, I definitely wasn't going to slow down to put on socks. I threw my bike on the rack, pulled on my Zoots, and took off for the run.

The first half mile of the run was hard. I was battling mental demons that were telling me I was going to stink at the run and that I'd inevitably slow down. I ran out of the park and passed Robert and friends, who were cheering for me. I still didn't feel good.

About a mile and a half into the run, I caught up with Rosemarie, who was dressed in the new Trisition Area Alamo Tri Club kit like me. As I passed her, another Trisition runner came up beside me and said, "Hey, I want to run with these Trisition friends!" He and I took off together, and had a conversation all the way to the finish line. His name was John, and he told me several times that I was pacing him. I've never been in a situation where I'm the pacer in a race, and it felt great! I felt strong and light and fast. Shelly gave me a high five on the way back from the turnaround. I think she could tell how relieved I was to be feeling good on a run.

John and I ran in towards the finish line, and I let out a big cheer when we crossed. I was so proud of myself! I had the same finishing time as last year, but last year the bike was a mile shorter.

After the race, we were happy to stay around for the awards. Shelly got second in her age group, missing first by only 30ish seconds. We took a Trisiton Area Club photo, and that was the end of a great race morning!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week 5 Training

Shelly and I are settling into training for the Austin 70.3. We just finished Week 5 of training (how embarrassing that I can't tell you how many weeks are left). We just follow the plan. I expected to feel some sort of fanfare every time we train, since we're training for a huge distance that we've never trained for before. But it's not like that. It's just plugging away at one day of training after another: get out there, put in the miles. Practice the nutrition.

We moved our schedule all around so that our long ride/run are in the middle of the week, and we have a swim/bike/run brick every Saturday. That has worked well for us for the past 2 weeks -- although after riding long on Wednesday and running long on Thursday, by Friday I'm totally pooped and cranky.

The last couple of Saturdays, we've had awesome, fantastic, fabulous bricks out at Boerne Lake. Two weeks ago, we went out and rode the Gator Bait route with the group and Robert and Patrick, and afterwards decided to do the Gator Bait race (how could we not?). The race is next weekend. The running part of the bricks the last two weeks has been especially motivating for me. We've run the last two weekends (4 miles last week, 3 miles yesterday) at a strong, fast pace, which leaves me hopeful for the Gator Bait race. I'd love to have a good run in a race at least once this summer.

We've picked up the pace on the bike after a good showing at Small Texan. The thought is if we can race at 16+ mph in Boerne, why can't we ride our normal rides faster? So we're aiming for 15+ mph on each training ride, and we've met that goal each time. On Wednesday, we rode out to Castroville for our long ride. What a weird, awesome ride. Shelly and I have never, ever ridden on flat roads like that before. I mean, pancake flat for 33 miles. We kept our heart rates low and finished with a 15.5 mph average pace. Not bad! I'm looking forward to doing it again this week. I feel myself getting stronger on the bike. Today, on the group ride from Trisition Area, there were places on the route that I used to need to drop into the small ring for, and today I was fine in the big ring. Woo hoo! On our way.

With the new schedule that Shelly and I are following, Sunday nights are my favorite. Our rest day is Monday, so I get to eat something delicious and maybe drink a beer on Sunday night. That is, unless I fall asleep first.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Small Texan Tri Race Report

The Small Texan is an Olympic distance race at Boerne Lake (our home turf!). It's a 1500 meter swim/28 mile bike/6.2 mile run. Even though the official race results aren't out yet, and due to technical difficulties (i.e., pressing the wrong button on my watch), I don't really know my time, I feel great about the race.

When we started, the weather was cool and I felt calm. The water was clear and flat. The swim felt amazing, and I'm sure that I felt strong and calm because this is the lake we always swim in. It was over in a flash, and then I waddled tentatively out of the water, trying not to slip on the green algae growing on the boat dock, and headed to transition. I pressed the wrong button on my watch and stopped the time at 32:41. I'd been hoping for under 30 minutes, but this is my best swim time in an Olympic distance race so far, so I'll take it! Shelly was already in the transition when I arrived. I was surprised to see that she was almost ready to run out with her bike. She must have really hustled on the swim.

I took my Gu with water (still frozen! Remember this for next time!) and put on my shoes, Garmin, gloves, helmet, and sunglasses. Remembered to start the Garmin on the way out of transition, and started the ride. It felt great. The plan had been to take it slow but that was hard to do. People in front of me kept slowing down on the hills, and I knew I could pass them. Sadly, I pulled not one, but TWO Andy Schlecks (dropped my chain on a hill, one time while "attacking"). It didn't take too long to put the chain back on either time, but the first time it happened, it really shook my confidence. But I did eventually pass the one guy I wanted to pass!

Having never seen a bike water hand-up before, I was curious to see how it would go. Turns out a volunteer just hands each rider who wants one a full bottle of water. I didn't grab one because I didn't have anywhere to put it. On the bike, I drank almost a full bottle of Infinit Run, and ate 6 Stingers with water. However, I finished only 3/4 of my fluids.

Coming into T2 was great because I got to see Robert, Andre, and Julia who were cheering me on. I walked up the hill onto the reservoir and began the run. I felt ridiculously great at the beginning of the run. I had to keep checking my Garmin and slowing myself to the 11 minute/mile that I'd been planning on. After mile 1, I didn't feel so buoyant. In fact, I got tired, started feeling the heat, and started walking up the hills. I should have taken a Gu like I planned. But I just couldn't. The thought of it made me feel sick and afraid that I would get that weird stomach cramp I've been getting lately. So I went on with only water, running all the downhills and flats, and walking up the hills.

My calves started to feel crampy around mile 3, so I drank some Gatorade at the aid station. That made me feel better for a moment, but then my stomach cramp started coming on. Interestingly, it disappeared after I burped a couple of times! I took more Gatorade at mile 5 (same thing with the sickness and burping) and refilled my water bottle with ice. The aid station volunteers were incredible.

The last 2.5 miles of the run were downhill, so I picked up some time there. I think I finished the run in 1:13, which isn't great, but I didn't feel like dying at the end like I did at Cap Tex. I got to see my family at the finish and gave Andre a high five on the way in. Awesome!

My nutrition is on its way to improving. I need to drink everything and eat everything I plan to consume on the bike next time. I also need to force myself to take Gu during the run, even if I don't want to. Shelly and Orissa both took Gu during the run and said it made them feel better - Shelly is a crazy-strong runner regardless of how she fuels, so I'm not listening to her - but Orissa struggles like I do, and I'm going to believe her and try it next time even when I feel terrible out there and don't want to consume anything.

It sounds very weird to me to say that I feel great after a race that still ended with what should have been a disappointing run. But I feel so much better about the nutrition during the bike, and feel like if I can control my nutrition during the run, I'll really be able to get a handle on this. I've got the Texas Tri ahead of me in October to try this strategy.

I felt elated all day yesterday for being able to get this done in the heat of the day in July. The swim and ride felt amazing (even when I dropped my chain). Both events felt like they ended so quickly. I feel calm and secure training for the half Ironman in October, knowing that with the proper training and nutrition, I can get to the end of that race with a smile on my face, too.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Figuring It All Out

This week was a week of experimentation. Shelly and I are trying to figure out how to work the Longhorn training plan into our week. Our two experiments this week were swimming in the morning at the Medical Center gym, and adding weights to our schedule.

Swimming in the morning was that we were able to get to the gym at 5:30 a.m. and get a lane each to swim in. We did find out that shaded goggles don't work so well in the dark (duh) and that crickets love to hang out in the pool in the early morning (gross). We only swam 500 meters because that's what the first week of the plan calls for. After that, both of us agree that we'll bump the swimming up to at least 1000 meters each time, which is still cutting our swim time in half from what we've been doing. We'll follow the an extent! But we can't be swimming only 500 meters at a time. After we swam, we ran around the loop at the Med Center for 2.5 miles and then drove to work with enough time to spare to get tacos at the cafe on the way to our desks!

Adding weights to our schedule was easy. Walking around after doing them wasn't so easy. We did squats, walking lunges, step-ups, crunches, pushups, and plank on Tuesday morning, and we both felt it on Wednesday and Thursday! I have never had such a sore behind. And we only did one set of each! Today's weights were more for the upper body - I guess I'll find out tomorrow if they made me sore. A sore upper body will make for a weird swim tomorrow at the lake.

So I think we've figured out the schedule, for the most part. We've even worked in a rest day on Mondays (which means doubling up a swim and a run somewhere else during the week). Now we just have to wait until July 5 to actually start training.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

We Can't Back Out Now!

It's official - Shelly and I have registered for the Longhorn Ironman 70.3. We attended the training group meeting on Wednesday evening and bought our training plan from Dawn. Price tag so far: $291 for the race entry, $75 for the training plan/coaching, $70 for new purple swimsuit/goggles/matching cap (the last set of purchases wasn't necessary at all, but the suit is just so cute).

For the last few days, I've talked about nothing but Half Ironman to anyone who will listen. Robert seems reluctantly supportive (he's worried that I'm going to get hurt and not get to the start line, or hurt during the race and not be able to finish...and he doesn't want me to be disappointed. I understand his concerns because I have the same ones flapping around in my own head.). Terri (my manager at work) asked an innocent question in our weekly one-on-one meeting (I think it was, "What are you doing this weekend?") and I responded with way more than she wanted to hear about training and racing in general, and the Longhorn in particular. I'm just really, really excited about taking on this goal, and I can't wait to get started.

After taking a look at the training plan, I'm a little concerned about the high number of workouts per week. It's more than what we're used to. But, the swim workouts are tiny compared to what we usually do, and the running miles per week don't add up the way ours usually do. I see immediately that it's going to be the Summer of the Bike. Four bike workouts a week is going to be difficult to schedule around work and the summer heat. I do see a need to get stronger on the bike because that is where the majority of the race takes place, but I'm afraid of slacking off on the run training and then getting injured later in the summer because we start building miles without a good base.

I think I'm just going to have to trust the plan. Two more weeks til we actually start!

Friday, June 11, 2010

This Week in Training

Well, the first noteworthy thing about this week is that we didn't take a rest day, and we're not going to. The Half Ironman training plan we're getting from Dawn doesn't always have rest days (she says that an easy swim on Mondays is just as good as a rest day). I don't think we purposely didn't take a rest day, though; I think we just didn't manage to find a good time for one.

We ran Monday and Tuesday mornings because we were expecting to meet with Dawn on Monday evening, and we weren't sure what she'd tell us to do. But, we got rescheduled to meet on Tuesday evening, so we ran Tuesday morning, too.

Wednesday is always our swim/bike day because we take a half day from work especially for that workout. It worked all winter long while we were training for the marathon. This week, the swim was fabulous (in my new two-piece plaid swimsuit that I got from the Cap Tex expo - fabulous!). For the bike, we practiced in the neighborhood in our aerobars and got a little more comfortable with them. By the end of the ride, we were flying down the streets at our usual pace. However, the weather got way too hot and we were worried that we'd get too sore from the new positioning on the bike, so we cut the ride short.

On Thursday, we rode with the Tri-Sition group. Well, actually we started out with the Tri-Sition group and ended up by ourselves on Kyle Seale Pkwy. It was windy and humid, but the ride was awesome. For most of the ride back to the store along 1604, we rode in our aerobars. I think we had the fastest training ride of our lives, clocking ~21 miles at 16 mph.

And this morning we ran...faster than expected. Both of us have sore backs from the aero position. I really hope that feels better soon.

We even got in 2 small post-run yoga sessions this week as well.

I'm looking forward to Boerne Lake tomorrow morning - it will be the first swim of the season without a wetsuit. Then we'll ride the 28 mile Waring loop and practice more in the aerobars. We have a long run of 6 miles planned for Sunday.

I'm tired just typing all this, and now I'm going to bed!


Shelly and I have three more weeks until we officially start training on July 5 for the Longhorn. We're going to a seminar next Wednesday to hear more tips and tricks for training from Dawn. At that time, we'll pick up our copies of our training plan. If there's one thing Shelly and I both love, it's following a training plan.

When we met with Dawn earlier this week, we got an idea of what the plan would look like: three swims a week, three bike rides, and four runs. I started trying to work that into the schedule that we already follow, and it immediately became pretty difficult to do. Right now we only swim twice a week, and we have a short day on Wednesdays that works perfectly for a swim/bike brick. Unfortunately, the weather is becoming too hot to ride in the middle of the afternoon, which worked so nicely all winter/spring. So now we need to move a ride to early morning or late evening. And schedule swimming for times that are convenient for us but when the gym isn't too crowded to get a lane in the pool. And figure out how to fit in four runs a week without having bike/run bricks (Dawn says that bike/run bricks just beat your body up and hasten injury - your body will run if you want it to run - no need to practice it every week). Do we change our work schedule and lose the half day? We've got to talk through some solutions and find one that will work.

Being someone with a full-time job, family obligations, and the desire to every-so-often have some fun that doesn't involve exercise, I'm starting to realize that this goal has the capacity to overtake my life. Best case scenario would be to go part-time at work...I wish!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Status Update

Shelly and I are going to start training for the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 on July 5, 2010.

Now that I've put it in writing, it makes it real! This is our next big challenge. When we first started triathlons just over a year ago, I remember that the first big goal was to just finish a mini Sprint. Then a Sprint. Then the big goal was an Olympic distance tri. Now we've completed 2 Olympics (TX Tri and Cap Tex), and the next logical step is the Half Ironman. (Some might argue that that isn't logical at all.)

Even though Half Ironman has the word "half" in front of it, it feels like a huge undertaking. In my mind, it's as big a goal as a marathon. It's a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike ride followed by a 13.1 mile run.

We've chosen a race (Longhorn, October 17). We have a coach (Dawn Elder). We have the determination and energy to get to the start line. My plan is to document our training here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Random Photo from Austin Marathon 2010

I love this picture that Robert took as Shelly and I walked towards the start line.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Austin Marathon 2010 Race Report

Just a few steps from the finish line.

Short version:

We did it! 4:46:21 was my time. I'm proud of us!

Long version:

Ever since our first attempt at the Austin marathon (any marathon) last year, Shelly and I have been haunted by the results (or lack thereof). That might sound dramatic, but it's true; failing to meet our goal last year has been in the back of my mind for a year. On Sunday, Shelly and I were able to put the past away and celebrate a new triumph. We finished the marathon running, smiling, and (most importantly) in a respectable amount of time.

We came into the race after following the same training plan as last year (Hal Higdon's Novice program). The difference was that at the start of our training this winter, Shelly and I had just wrapped up an amazing first triathlon season and lost 15 pounds. We entered winter marathon training with mental toughness and determination that we didn't have last year. We had something to prove.

Throughout our winter marathon training, Shelly and I kept up our bike and swim skills as much as we could. We tried to bike twice a week and swim once a week. I think that the extra cross training helped maintain our core strength as we transitioned into the higher-mileage running weeks.

On our long runs, we did our best to simulate the Austin marathon course: up 3 miles of hill, down 3 miles of hill. Hills in the middle. Downhill to the end. We ran in all kinds of weather: warm, humid, cold, really cold, sleet, rain, fog, wind, bright hot sun. When race day came, we were sure that we had done everything to prepare. But I was still unsure about the mental stamina that it would take to finish the last 6 miles.

Race Report
Race morning came and the weather was perfect: 42 degrees. Because we were in line for porta potties when the race started, we ended up starting the race 10 minutes after the gun went off. We took off at an 11 minute/mile, and vowed to follow our strict race plan to the end (don't go out too fast, be conservative, don't change anything until after mile 20).

The first 10 miles felt really, really good. We laughed and joked with each other, chatted with other runners, high-fived spectators, and generally had a jolly time. We saw Shelly's family at mile 2 and Robert and Angel at mile 6. We ran past a guy holding a sign that said, "Dear running, thank you for giving my fiancee a great ass. Love, me." We passed a group of college students who were beyond drunk and singing karaoke ("Wake Me Up Before You Go Go") in their driveway. We saw a woman in a cow costume who said, "Keep on mooooovin'!" as we ran by. We saw a guy in a gorilla suit. We heard "Eye of the Tiger" 3 times.

Dad had given us a strategy that paid off: start late, and you'll get to pass a bunch of other runners, which will give you a mental boost. I don't know how many people we passed, but the results show that in the first 10 miles, we passed 500 marathoners.

After the course split at mile 10.5, Shelly had an emotional moment as we moved into "Marathon only" territory. It was the same feeling I had last year, but this year she was passing the course split and feeling good instead of sick. We celebrated as we ran up the hill at mile 11 and saw my parents for the first time, which provided another boost.

Up the hill at mile 11. Still smiling.

We were on track with our pace and our fueling. We both felt good as we passed the half-marathon mark. I knew we'd have to stop to use the bathroom at some point, and we started to look for a porta potty with a short line. We found one at mile 15. As we ran on after the bathroom, we both were feeling tired, but okay.

Around mile 16, my left foot started to hurt. I found out later that I had 3 big blisters, but at the time I didn't know what the problem was. I just knew that I wanted the race to be over, and we still had 10 miles left. We carried on to mile 20, passing my parents again at 18. At this point, I started to notice that a lot of people were walking. I thought, "That was us last year!" Throughout the race, people had been on the sides of the road stretching, walking, and even throwing up, but around mile 20, the majority of people were walking, not running. We stopped twice to fill our water bottles, but each time we stepped back on the course and continued running.

Mile 18. At this point, most people around us were walking.

I knew the last 6 miles would be tough, but I didn't know how tough. Shelly and I had been checking our Garmins to make sure we were on pace. At mile 20, we were supposed to reevaluate, and we'd be allowed to run 10:15 if we wanted to. After mile 21, I called out our pace, "10:19, it's okay to run that now" to Shelly. She replied, "I don't want to." She told me that she was starting to feel sick. I was happy to back off the pace and settle back in around 10:30-10:45.

The things that go through your mind in the last 6 miles of a marathon are not good. What if I hit the wall? What does that feel like? What if I fail again? What if I have to walk the last 2 miles? What if I get hurt? What if they have to carry me off the course? What if my quad muscles pop out and I'm in excruciating pain on the side of the road? What if I have a stress fracture and running these next few miles breaks my leg? My shin hurts. Why does my shin hurt? What does that mean? What if I get hurt and can't run for 2 months? What if I'm supposed to stop now and if I don't it will ruin my whole tri season ahead?

I started chanting in my head, "Pain for an hour, pride for a year. Pain for an hour, pride is forever." I thought, if I am going to have to think about this race for a year, it better be with no regrets. Even with that kind of thought process going on, it was impossible to stop myself from walking 3 times, for a total of about 2 minutes.

The other thing that happened in the last 6 miles is that Shelly and I stopped talking to each other. We ran side by side in silence for an hour. We were both just too exhausted to speak. At one point, another runner came up behind us and asked to join us. She said she'd been latching onto runners just to help her complete the race. Just having her next to me was exhausting. It was hard enough to carry myself to the finish line. We eventually left her behind. At some point, it seemed that everyone around us was walking. The race results show that to be correct - we passed another 500 people in the last 10 miles of the race.

On the last hill of the race, I stopped to walk and Shelly kept running. I started running again, but we ran the last half mile separately. She was just ahead of me, and I tried to catch up with her, but we ended up finishing 3 seconds apart. She said that she didn't know I was right behind her, and that she wishes she had waited so we could cross the line together, but I think it's better the way that it happened. This way, both of us know that we did our very best on race day.

Seeing the crowds at the finish was a boost. People were yelling my name and telling me to go, and and I kicked it in to the finish. Passing the Capitol was cool. Seeing Shelly in the chute was emotional. We hugged and had our picture taken and felt the greatest overwhelming pride.

My chip time was 4:46:21. The Garmin says that we had spent 5 of those minutes in the bathroom or refilling water bottles. Finishing this marathon strong was amazing and one of the best feelings of my life. I'm still high from it 3 days later. And I can't wait to go back next year and do it again! Always learning, always striving to do better. I love running.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Shelly and I were scheduled to run 18 miles yesterday, and we didn't let the cold weather stop us. Even though the forecast called for the temperature to be in the teens, we headed out to the Scenic Loop at 8 a.m. It was 14 degrees outside! I took a picture of my car thermometer for posterity.

We dressed properly for the temperature - I wore a short sleeve shirt, a long sleeve shirt, long pants; 2 pairs of socks (one pair was Robert's wool cycling socks), a beanie, gloves, and a jacket that had built-in mittens. Shelly was outfitted similarly and we took off in style.

The cold was like a punch in the face, and breathing was difficult at times. Otherwise, the run was normal. We remarked at the frozen creeks that we passed, and giggled about how hard core we are for being out there (nobody else was). Then, at mile 3ish, I went to take a sip of water from my fuel belt...and it was frozen! This would be a problem because we needed to drink every 5 miles or so while taking gu.

Our next step was to take our small water bottles and put them down our shirts to warm them before we had to drink. It took about 3 miles to thaw each bottle, but it worked! I felt the cold weather sapping my energy early in the run, though.

In a roundabout way, we got to the Scenic Loop Cafe at mile 11. We decided to go inside and take off our middle layer of shirts in the restroom. As we walked in, the manager asked, "Did your water bottles freeze?" Maybe we weren't their first runner patrons of the day. Shelly texted Robert to tell him we were OK, and he texted back, "We're at the Taqueria. We're OK too." Ha.

We didn't realize it, but we'd had a nice tailwind the whole time we were running out. As we began to head back to our cars, the wind picked up and we struggled against it. Most of the way back was hard, hard, hard. I got a little boost with 3 miles left when Robert and the kids drove up to say hi, but I begged them to just keep driving or else I'd jump in the car.

When we arrived back at the cars, we found that it was 40 degrees outside, much warmer than when we'd started at 8. The higher temperature explained why we had seen runners in shorts and T-shirts heading out while we were on our way back. It was a tough run, but we did it in 3:15, and I'm becoming more confident on the hills and able to visualize finishing the marathon strong. The race is only 5 weeks away.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hello 2010!

Happy new year!

I'm entering the new year and a new age group - I'll have a "35" written on the back of my left calf for triathlons this year. Gotta love how triathlons determine your age by how old you'll be at the end of the year. My birthday was only a week ago, for goodness' sake.

You may have noticed that I stopped writing here in early fall last year. What happened? Well, I got an iPhone and now I have no need to get on the actual computer at home. But I miss writing this blog, and I resolve to write more in the new year.

I read through this entire blog a few weeks ago - I was looking at the pictures and got sucked in to reading all the posts (not difficult when you're feeling narcissistic and you have an entire volume that you've written about yourself at your fingertips).

I was amazed to see how far I've come - how far Shelly and Robert and I have all come. Usually, the improvements made during a "season" of running aren't so obvious - a new PR here, maybe a new "most miles in a week/month" record there. The fact that I'm thinking in "seasons" at all shows how becoming a triathlete has changed my view on the exercise world. Along with learning tons about triathlon and bicycles, and improving my skill as a swimmer and a cyclist, I've improved as a runner as well. Shelly and I are both better, stronger, faster, smarter, and tougher athletes than we were this time last year. Which we'll need as we head for our first "A" race of 2010 - the Austin Marathon on February 14.