Monday, June 16, 2014

Take It To The Bridge (Rock 'n Sole Half Marathon Recap)


My little bout with the plague left me unable to run for a week prior to the Rock 'n Sole half marathon.  I did everything I could to try to go to the start line healthy.  I slept 8+ hours a night, tried to eat well (even though nothing really appealed to me), I drank more tea than the Queen of England. It wasn't enough.  I felt a lot better by the end of the week, but I still had a horrible cough and couldn't really breathe through my nose, but there was no way I was throwing all that training (and all that money!) away by not starting.  I knew that there was no way I would reach my original goal of setting a new PR, so I needed a new plan - but let's back up a little before I get into the race itself.

Mr. R&R and I opted to pick up our race packets on Thursday night in hopes of avoiding huge crowds and long waits.  We easily found parking (in an area of the city with a notoriously bad parking situation) and were directed to the expo by a friendly, well placed volunteer.  The expo was large, full of interesting vendors, and very well organized.  It's probably one of the better race expos I've ever been to.  We stopped off on the way home for dinner, and I did something I rarely do in the days leading up to a race - I had some wine.  Let me tell you, it was the best my throat and head have felt in a while!

Friday morning brought a new challenge: a mandatory company breakfast.  I was not happy about that.  I'm a complete nut about controlling everything I eat the day before a race to minimize the risk of food poisoning or stomach problems during the race.  It's not like I could exactly skip it, so I spent most of the day feeling like I'd eaten a vat of grease.  After work I headed home, laid out all my race stuff, ate dinner, checked the weather obsessively, and called it a night by about 10pm.

4:30am came very quickly - especially since a coughing fit woke me up around 2:30 and it took an hour to get back to sleep.  Once the alarm went off and I was up for good, it was the usual routine: shower, get dressed, stuff a baggie of cough drops in the back pocket of my top,  grab small amount of coffee and a Clif bar to consume in the car, and get going.

We arrived at the starting village about 40 minutes before the gun went off which left us just enough time to drop our gear at bag and tag, stretch a little, and work our way into the starting corrals.  I was in Corral J based on the estimated finishing time I submitted at registration and Mr. R&R was in Corral I, so we confirmed our post-race meeting spot, wished each other luck, and went our separate ways.  The race was huge and the corrals were really crowded.  I did my best to tune out everything around me and try to get in a racing mind frame even though I wasn't really sure how it was going to go.  I had revised my goals from: run a PR to a few more manageable goals: a) finish the race b) don't wind up in the med tent and c) do not let the 2:15 pace group get in front of me. I even amused myself by assigning the c-goal the hashtag: #YouHadOneJob.  At 7 A.M. sharp the gun went off and the crowd began to move forward.  It took about 4 minutes for my corral to reach the starting line and as soon as my foot hit the chip mat, I hit start on my Garmin and started running.  The first 2 miles were a little uncomfortable since they were punctuated by coughing fits, but somewhere just after the Mile 2 water station, something incredible happened: all the congestion in my head and chest cleared and the coughing died down a lot!

Right around that point is where we began the climb onto the race's big landmark: The Hoan Bridge. And I definitely took it to the bridge.  I slowed a little, but never stopped running during the long climb to the top.  The view from the top was magnificent.  The sun was sparkling on Lake Michigan, there was a light breeze (which really helped dispel the reek of the sewage treatment plant under the bridge!), and I was feeling really good as I knocked back a GU at the water station and started back down the other side of the bridge.  I ran down the bridge and onto Lincoln Memorial Drive, riding a downhill and GU Roctane high through Miles 6 & 7 - two of my fastest miles of the race!.  Even the climb up Lafayette Hill, which I've never voluntarily run up before, wasn't too bad. I still prefer running down it, but there was a small sense of satisfaction knowing that I didn't walk a single step of that hill.

There's a saying in distance running: If you feel good during a race, don't worry, it'll go away. The high I had been riding bottomed out.  Mile 8 was a death march. I thing I spent a little too much energy climbing Lafayette Hill and I had to walk about a tenth of a mile to get my breathing back under control.  The only thing it made that mile even remotely tolerable was that I was running through an area where I trained for most of my first marathon, so it gave me something to think about other than how crappy I was feeling.  The water station in Lake Park was a welcome sight as I slammed another Roctane and turned back out onto Lincoln Memorial Drive.  This little section of road will always hold a special place in my heart because it will always remind me of the final few miles of my first marathon - it was the final stretch to "home".  The Roctane kicked in and I rode it, another downhill, and a bunch of  happy memories all the way to the 10 mile marker.  This was my fastest mile of the race at 9:37.

At Mile 10, the Roctane began to wear off again and the usual aches and pains of double digits started.  My legs were tired, my knees were starting to ache, and I was getting hot spots on both of my feet. The bullshit voice started making lots of noise, begging me to walk for a while, but I ignored it.  I was moving pretty slowly, but I was still running.  At about Mile 11 I could hear the 2:15 pace group coming up behind me.  I muttered something like "Oh, hell no!" as I knocked back a regular GU and reminded myself: #YouHadOneJob.  I decided right then that there was no way in hell that I was letting them get in front of me.  The pretty views from Lakeshore State Park were lost on me as I went way down deep inside myself as I pushed through the final miles.  We exited Lakeshore State Park onto a service road behind the Marcus Amphitheater and I could hear the finish line.  That lit a fire under me and I took the final turn and began sprinting to the finish line.  I crossed the finish line in 2:14:03.  Not bad for a sick girl...and the course measured .13 miles long by my Garmin!

I collected my medal, a bottle of water, and a banana before collapsing in a coughing heap on the grass.  Once I managed to pull a very sticky cough drop out of my pocket, I was back on my aching feet and went in search of Mr. R&R who finished in a fantastic 1:59:15.  We collected our gear from bag and tag, checked in to see how Yada Yada and Texas had fared, and began the painful, but very much worth it, creep back to our car.

All in all, this was a fantastic race.  The course was truly representative of the city since it wound through so many neighborhoods (Third Ward, Fifth Ward, Bayview, Eastside) and it was very well staffed with volunteers.  The water stations were spaced about every 1.5-2 miles, which was just about perfect and they were long, which went a long way in preventing traffic jams as long as you didn't try to hit the very first table.  There were also lots of enthusiastic spectators lining most of the course - including a guy who had his golden retriever standing on its back legs high-fiving runners as they came by.  Best. Race. Spectator. Ever.  Rock 'n Sole was also a very big race.  There were almost 3600 runners in the half marathon and another almost 2000 in the quarter marathon. There was also a 5k with nearly 2000 participants that started about half an hour after the half and quarter marathons. The first 5 miles were pretty congested as almost 6000 people poured through old, narrow streets and onto the Hoan Bridge.  Once the half marathon and quarter marathon split from each other it loosened up a lot and although there were always other runners nearby, I didn't feel like I was dodging around people like I had for the opening miles. The post race food options left a little to be desired (especially considering the hefty price tag on this race) and the location of bag and tag was a little ambiguous, but the only major change I would make would be to start the quarter marathon after the half marathon to ease some of the congestion.  Overall, I would definitely run this race again - and I'm already seriously considering making room for it in my 2015 schedule!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Plague on My House (RNSHM - Week 11)

Just what I didn't need: The Plague has descended upon the Rabbits and Runs house.  

Monday was a fun day, or at least a fun night.  Mr. R&R and I attended the Food Truck Safari at The Zoo. We arrived at The Zoo around 6:30pm and did a quick cruise by the handful of food trucks before deciding where to start.  There were only about 6 trucks (all with hideously long lines) but we eventually settled on the Five Star Nachos truck.   I tried the bbq pork nachos which weren't terribly impressive, especially given the $8 price tag! 

 As neat as the concept was, I think they needed a few more trucks.  Once we finished our "dinner" we were free to roam through The Zoo.   Usually The Zoo closes at 4:30pm, so this was a unique opportunity to see the animals after hours and most of them were much more active than they are during the day, and since this was a members only event, there weren't very many people around either!

Tuesday, however, brought a text from Mr. R&R that he had suddenly been struck by chills, horrible body aches, and a stuffy head.  Uh oh...that sounds a whole lot like the flu to me.  By the time I got home from work he was curled up on the couch in a heap and pretty much didn't move for the next 48 hours.  I did my best to take care of him while trying to keep my distance as well.  

I was kind of excited to run on Tuesday night as I had new goodies from REI waiting in my mailbox when I got home.  I threw on my new tri shorts (Zoot Performance 6 inch), sports bra (Moving Comfort Vero), and sunglasses (Smith Parallel) and headed out the door.  The first 3 miles were interesting.  I took a slightly different route than usual and discovered a new-to-me long, nasty hill to run up.  I'm almost looking forward to using it for hill training in the future. 

I'd been running pretty hard for those 3 miles, so for the last mile I decided to: reset my watch, find a comfortable pace, and run the last mile without looking at my watch.  Not bad!

Wednesday was a rest day since I had a much needed appointment with The Mane Wrangler.  

I had planned on running or riding on Thursday, but I ended up falling asleep on the couch instead.  Ooops!

Friday was awesome.  It was my first week for summer hours at the office and despite having a minor crisis crop up, I managed to leave by 1:30pm and by 2:30pm my bike and I were on the Rail Trail.  I wasn't too worried about riding fast since I had plans for a brick-ish workout later in the day.  It was pretty much me and the geezer contingent on the trail and everyone seemed to be in a pretty good mood - except for one dude I can only describe as "A Raging @$$ Monkey".  I passed this guy on a beach cruiser shortly before the first road crossing.  No big deal, right? That's just riding. You pass. You get passed. You go about your business.  Apparently this guy didn't like getting chicked since he caught up to me while I was waiting for a break in traffic and proceeded to ride straight across, causing several cars to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting him!  I waited for a suitable opportunity to cross and passed the guy again.  He caught up to me at the second crossing and rode straight into traffic again!  I was was willing to chalk the first one up to inattentive riding.  The second one cemented my opinion of him as a Raging @$$ Monkey.  I was done watching him be stupid, so I upped the speed, passed him again, and made damn sure that there was no way I'd have to see him again.  I hit the turnaround point and headed home - with no Raging @$$ Monkey sightings.  I did, however, come upon an older man pulled off to the side of the trail, looking at the shrubbery with a great deal of concern.  I stopped to make sure he was okay and was informed that he'd seen a kitten dart into the bushes.  We spent a few minutes looking for the kitten (no luck) and when I took off, the guy asked if he could ride with me. Holy crap...for an older dude on a 3 speed, I had to work to keep up with him! I was running through my gears and pedaling my booty off!  We chatted for the remaining 6 or so miles until I turned off to go back to my car.  Gotta love when random people surprise you - in a good way - and I had my fastest outdoor ride of the year!

I got home, hauled my bike back downstairs, took a short nap, and then headed to the pool.  Okay, it doesn't qualify as an official brick workout since I got a nap in the middle, but still...  I planned on swimming 1000 yards and surprised myself by sticking around for an extra 200.  I'm still slower than most of the grannies at the pool, but I'm okay with that.  I've accepted that the swim will never be my strength, but hopefully I can find a way to enjoy it.

Mr. R&R and I went for a short run on Saturday to see if he was going to be able to hack his way through our planned 12 miler (last long run before Rock 'n Sole) on Sunday.  We didn't even make it a full 3 miles before he was completely toasted, so we called it a day and walked home.

I woke up on Sunday morning, prepared to slog through 12 miles on my own, only to discover that my throat felt like it was filled with rocks and dust.  Damn! Just when I thought I'd escaped Mr. R&R's plague.  I didn't have the fever and body aches, but I sure got all the respiratory symptoms.  And just like that...I knew I was going to be dealing with an unplanned taper leading up to Rock 'n Sole and likely having to revise every single plan/goal I had for this race.

I closed out week 11 with:

Swim: 1200 yards (40 minutes)
Bike: 14 miles (52 minutes)
Run: 6.76 miles (1 hour, 4 minutes)
Strength: 0
Total: 21.53 miles (2 hours, 37 minutes)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sangria, Slurpees, and the Stupid Tax (RNSHM - Week 10)

RNSHM? What?  I'm no longer training for the Hartfest Half Marathon as of this past Friday.  I'll explain more below.

Monday was Memorial Day, and a very welcome extra day of the weekend.  Mr. R&R and I got a few things done around the house and then I took to the kitchen to stock the freezer with healthy heat and eat foods.  We've been so crazy trying to fit in training, working, etc., that we found ourselves going out for dinner far too much, so we decided to give this a try.  In the course of the afternoon, I managed to make and freeze 8 black bean burgers, 32 baked falafel patties, 3 meals worth of snobby joes, and 52 individually frozen balls of chocolate chip cookie dough.  Somewhere in middle of all of this, Little Brother stopped by to drop off a whole bunch of old albums for us to peruse.  Recently, my mom gave me her old record collection and Mr. R&R and I purchased a record player online and have become totally enamored with vinyl.  Favorites so far include The Beatles Sargent Pepper and Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.  He hung around for about an hour and a half, eyeing the things being loaded into the freezer with suspicion (if it's not processed to death, he won't eat it), before heading off to a Memorial Day barbecue.

I should have run 5 miles on Tuesday, but I'd slept like crap on Monday night and couldn't keep my eyes open when I got home.  I wasn't happy about it, but I took another rest day.

On Wednesday night, Mr. R&R and I went for a speedy 3 miles together.  I guess the extra rest day was worth it because those 3 miles freakin' flew by.   The pace was tough, but I had control of my breathing the whole time and I never had an "I can't do this" moment. It was glorious - and really couldn't have come at a better time since I've been a little down on myself about my inability to run fast lately.

5 seconds/mile FASTER than my 5k PR pace!

When we got home, I threw a couple of those baked falafel patties in the oven and within 20 minutes we were chowing down on delicious salads and watching Deadliest Catch.  That's my kind of fast food!

Thursday night was another ride on the Rail Trail.  I think the traffic gods were in a good mood or something because we barely had to wait at any of the road crossings!  I also started feeling comfortable on my bike again - and my speed showed it.  I'm slowly, but surely getting my bike speed back with every ride and rides like this one make me want to do nothing more than ride my bike for hours!

Friday night was another Swim Night.  I was in no mood to swim whatsoever, but I bribed myself with the promise of only swimming for 30 minutes and dinner out when I got home.  I was 5 kinds of train wreck in the pool - at one point I stopped my watch instead of hitting the lap button, so it never recorded the most comfortable 100 yards I've ever swam!  I dragged myself through the rest of the time and was more than happy to head home and de-chlorinate.

And as promised, I was rewarded with dinner at Habanero's - and 2 sangrias that immediately transported me back to Puerto Rico when I tasted them.

Friday night was also D-Day for me - Decision Day.  I'd emailed the race director of the Hartfest Half Marathon prior to Memorial Day inquiring about a course map, race day details, etc. - basically the standard stuff that's usually available on the race website, but wasn't in this case.  I'd heard nothing for over a week and was becoming quite concerned that a) the race was going to be cancelled altogether since I hadn't heard a peep from them since I'd registered months ago and/or b) that this race was going to be a total cluster$%&#.  The way I was seeing it was that it was either going to be a complete waste of some very hard training or possibly dangerous.  I wasn't pleased, but for a $28 registration fee, maybe I was expecting too much.  Earlier in the week I'd received an email about another half marathon happening in the area on the same day - with a 7am start time!  However, the fees for this race are much more expensive.  At this stage of the game, the price tag was $85 and would be going up to $95 the next day.  After much discussion with Mr. R&R, I decided that $28 was my Stupid Tax for not pursuing answers a lot sooner and we both registered for the 4th Annual Rock 'n Sole half marathon - thus the change to RNSHM!  

For my $85 I get a tech tshirt, finisher's medal, a free Summerfest ticket (which is worth $20 anyway), free admission to Polish Fest after the race, and something even more valuable in my opinion - a chance to run over the Hoan Bridge.  This bridge is normally part of a freeway, and thus closed to pedestrians, but they're shutting down one side for the race and they're doing it again in August for the USAT Sprint Nationals.  Essentially, this is my one and only chance to preview this part of the USAT bike course without zipping over it in a car.  Two birds. One stone.  Awesome.  

Saturday was "get stuff done" day at Casa R&R.  We started out a day that was mostly full of unpleasant tasks, like running errands and shopping for tile, with a little trip to the Zoo.  Since we're annual members, it was no big deal to wander around for an hour and a half before getting on with our day.  The animals, especially the ones from Africa, were quite active!

Pretty Birdie

Mr. R&R making new friends

And on a totally random note, the flowers we planted are not only not dead - they're actually blooming! 

Sunday was long run day and we had 11 miles on tap.  We were out the door by 10:30 and that wasn't a moment too soon since it got really hot and then poured later in the day. The first half was great!  We hit 5.5 miles and I felt like I'd only been running for 3 or 4.  Inevitably, we did slow down and have some rough miles toward the end, but all in all, it was a good run day - even if we did cut it a little short since it was getting so hot.  Oh, and after last week's near religious slurpee experience, I had taken to Facebook to proclaim that all long runs will now be followed by a ginormous slurpee.  I made good on that proclamation on the cool down walk home.

I closed out Week 10 with:

Swim: 800 yards (34 minutes)
Bike: 14 miles (51 minutes)
Run: 13.61 miles (2 hours, 23 minutes)
Strength: 0
Total: 28.11 miles (2 hours, 48 minutes)

My May Totals Were:

Swim: 1.66 miles (1 hour, 38 minutes)
Bike: 42.08 miles (2 hours, 39 minutes)
Run: 57.49 miles (9 hours, 41 minutes)
Strength: 0
Total: 101.23 miles (13 hours, 58 minutes)

Less than 2 full weeks to go! 

What was the highlight of your Memorial Day weekend?  

I Like My New Toys (HFHM - Week 9)

Well...I had a whole long post written for Week 9 - and then Blogger ate it!  Needless to say, I'm not happy about having to re-write a full post, so I think for this attempt, I'm just going to go with a summary.

Monday night was my cleat fitting appointment at Emery's.  I loaded up my bike over lunch and hauled it back to the office with me so I could go straight to my appointment after work.  When I got to the shop, I ended up having to pick out different shoes since the first pair I picked out didn't accept the kind of cleats that fit my pedals.  After trying on what felt like every other shoe in the place, I settled on the Pearl Izumi Tri Fly IV and they got the cleats bolted on and had me spin on a trainer while they made some minor adjustments.  After that, I headed home looking forward to trying out all my new toys!

Tuesday night was 5 miles with Mr. R&R.  The two miles and the last two miles were decent, but the one in the middle was a beast. I got an ugly side stitch and had to walk it off, which kind of wrecked my whole average.  On a positive note, at least I was able to get rid of the darn thing!

I finally got to take all my new bike toys out to play on Wednesday night.  Mr. R&R and I drove our bikes over to the Rail Trail for 14 easy miles.  The new helmet and shoes were everything I'd hoped they'd be and more.  Lots of nice ventilation in both.  The best part of the whole ride was that Mr. R&R's knee didn't hurt afterward!  That knee kept him off the bike most of last season, so let's hope that this is a sign of things to come.

I also did something else on Wednesday night. I registered for the USAT Sprint National Championships in August.  I have no illusions of earning a spot on Team USA that day, but it will be fun to compete in a national championship race in my city!  Now I just need to get cracking on the training.

Thursday was a rest day.  My legs felt like lead after the bike ride on Wednesday and I don't want to take any chances right now.

Friday night was Swim Night.  I drove myself out to the pool, swam just over 1000 yards (including testing myself for 400 nonstop yards), and was pretty pleased with how it went.  Open water swims are starting soon and my choices there are 400 yards without stopping - or looking like a complete idiot.

Saturday was spent dividing my time between the couch and a lawn chair in the back yard.  I really needed a "do nothing" day - and I got it.  The only useful thing I did was snuggle with Walter for an hour or so after his bath.

You'd think that by now I would have learned to do my long runs early in the day, but no.  The Hartfest Half doesn't start until 1pm (still not sure what the race director's logic is on this one), so that's about the time Mr. R&R and I set out to tackle 10 miles.  I have two words to describe that run: Slow and Miserable.  It was so hot out that our pace was reduced to a "slog" (one of my tri teammate's words to describe a slow job).  The best part of that run, other than being done with it, was the near religious experience I had while consuming a cherry slurpee on our walk home!

Since we already reeked, we decided it was a good excuse to fire up the grill and cook up some spicy italian sausages for our post race feast.  While they were cooking away, I hung out in my lawn chair reading and admiring our curious little visitor.

I closed out Week 9 with:

Swim: 1050 yards (31 minutes)
Bike: 14 miles (54 minutes)
Run: 15 miles (2 hours, 49 minutes)
Strength: 0
Totals: 29.71 miles (4 hours, 9 minutes)

9 weeks down. 3 to go!