Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Year Of Rediscovery

Every year I swear I'm not going to do one of these posts, but somehow I always end up feeling compelled to write one.  Looking back at 2015, I feel like it's been all about rediscovering things that I'd forgotten about/let get away from me - and other adventures followed.

There was camping - which I hadn't done since April of 2013.

On that camping trip, I also rediscovered hiking - particularly the Ice Age Trail - which led to hiking a few more segments and trail running another!

Rediscovering the Ice Age Trail

Knocking off the second half of the Lapham Peak segment
Trail Running Perfection

I also rediscovered how much I like riding my bike: I hit up the Ozaukee InterUrban Trail and the Glacial Drumlin Trail.

InterUrban Selfie

I fell so in (back in) love with my bike that I decided to get back into multi-sport racing by entering the Lake Country Duathlon - and ended up acquiring some new wheels in the process!

Bringing Home The New Baby
This led to a nail-biting morning of learning to control my new ride and ride in aero - accompanied by Mr. R&R, YadaYada, and EuroGuy.  The rest of the summer was filled with long, fun rides with the guys and Texas.

Aero: The New Way To Ride

Pretty Rides All In A Row
Then came my return to multi-sport racing at the Lake Country Duathlon - and a finish I never would have dared to dream of!

The Closing Sprint To My First Age Group Win
I also rediscovered a friendship that had fallen by the wayside.  Having my once-upon-a-time BFF back in my life has been great.  We both agreed that it's a testament to our friendship that we didn't see each other for almost 4 years and yet somehow we picked up right where we left off (with the addition of her 2 kids)!

Two Key Symbols of Our Friendship
There was also rediscovering how damn good it feels to set a new running PR.  The The Firecracker 4 was an automatic PR since I'd never raced that distance - and I freakin' earned it at the The Last Call 5k.

Finally, there's music.  Mr. R&R recently acquired a vintage stereo receiver and we've both been rediscovering our love of music - particularly on vinyl.

Somebunnies have also been enjoying the tunes:

There were so many amazing things happened in 2015. I can't wait to see what I discover/rediscover in 2016!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Last Call 5k Race Recap

3 Series Races Down. 3 To Go.

Last night I realized that I was severely under-prepared to run a half marathon and in the interest of not injuring myself to the point of not being able to finish the series/being sick for days/limping for a week in the name of being stubborn, I opted to drop down from the half marathon to the 5k distance. I wanted to run a race I could be proud of, not one that made me question why the hell I run in the first place. It turned out to be a very good decision.

It's been a fairly warm winter so far - like 50 degrees yesterday, so Mr. R&R and I were a little surprised to wake up to 30 degrees and fog!  We did the usual coffee/water/choke down a Clif Bar on the way, parked, and headed for the timing table to make the switch from the half to the 5k.

We went back outside to do a quick warm up run before retreating to the nice, warm building to stretch and keep warm while the half marathoners took off.  3 minutes before the gun went off, we made our way to the start line, fired up the watches, and listened to another little kid count us down.

Off we went.  Mr. R&R was off like a shot and I was way too close behind him - meaning I went out waaaaaay too fast!  About .17 miles in, we hopped a curb and headed out onto the Glacial Drumlin Trail - yes the same trail I rode on a bunch of times over the summer.  The course was almost pancake flat and I let my ego run away from me for the first mile.  Mile 1: 8:40 (see what I mean about the ego?)

Of course I paid for that 8:40 big time.  I did my best to tuck myself behind a dude/human windshield at the turnaround, but he managed to drop me and I was on my own.  I passed the time watching the rear of the pack still heading out and ended up doing a little walking to catch my breath. My mile split showed it.  Mile 2: 9:33.

Somewhere after Mile 2 I remembered that I wanted to run a race I could be proud of - even if it wasn't a PR - and decided I was willing to hurt for it.  I picked it up and kept telling myself, 'It's okay to be uncomfortable' over and over again.  I stopped looking at my watch, knowing that if I did, whatever I saw would get in my head and screw with me.  I just pushed as hard as I could and when I saw the finish line, I pushed a little more.

Ready to die now.

I was all thumbs afterward and couldn't get my watch to stop immediately, so I wasn't really sure how I actually did.  All I really knew was that I ran something faster than a 27:39 - which is what my watch read when I finally got it to shut off.  I grabbed a cup of water and waited for the 'I'm going to yak/pass out/die feeling to pass and Mr. R&R and I walked back to the car to pile on a few more layers before heading back to check the results.

Mr. R&R turned in another amazing performance - taking 3rd in his age group and PR-ing by 36 seconds!  I ended up 4th in my age group - with a totally unplanned 8 second PR!  I wasn't happy about missing the podium by one spot, but I was over the moon about the PR.

We hung out through awards, gulping coffee and munching on Twizzlers, and then headed home - both of us having had races we were proud of.  What a way to end the year!

Time: 27:25 (8:49/mile pace)
Overall Place: 42/92
Gender Place: 19/53
Age Group Place: 4/8 (F35-39)

Up Next: JanBoree Frosty 5k

Friday, November 27, 2015

Great Gobble Wobble 5k Race Recap

Did you know that the average American consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day?  To give you a better idea of what that is, imagine scarfing down 8 Big Macs in a single sitting.  Eek!  I wasn't planning on eating quite that much on Thanksgiving, but I still wasn't unhappy to start the day by running a 5k - and as an added bonus, I convinced my mom to do the 5k walk.

The Great Gobble Wobble was the second race in the Chilly Willy Run Series and I was actually pretty excited about it since the temperature at race time was predicted to be around 50 degrees - and maybe some light rain, but really...50 degrees in late November is nothing short of miraculous! Mr. R&R handled packet pick up for all three of us on Wednesday afternoon and once again, I was a little disappointed with the cotton t-shirt.  I was, however, amused as hell by the saying on the back of the shirt 'All About That Baste'.

On Thursday morning, I woke up feeling a little iffy after 2 beers the night before, but figured it wasn't a big deal.  We picked my mom up around 8am and headed for the race site while doing the usual coffee/water/Clif Bar (getting harder to choke these things down) on the way.  We parked and my stomach got ugly - really ugly. Ugh. Not how I really wanted to start the day - and not a good omen for things to come. After that unplanned adventure, I went back to the car, put on my race belt, gloves, etc., and got on with the business of a short warm up run and lots of stretching since every muscle in my body felt tight.

I haven't really run at all since the day after the 'Stache Dash  and since my stomach was a hot mess, I wasn't really expecting much from myself.  My mom asked Mr. R&R and I how we thought we'd do and he said: 25-ish minutes. I said I expected around 29 minutes (because I really hate running over 30 minutes in a standalone 5k).  She figured it would take her just under an hour to walk the 5k course, so I said that as soon as I finished, I'd take off my number, turn around, and start walking back to find her.

I really suck at taking selfies
They called us to the line and since this was another net gun-timed race, Mr. R&R and I pushed our way near the front.  He worked his way up farther and I hung back by a dude dressed in a full turkey costume (spoiler alert: the dude in a bird suit out ran me by a lot)!  A small child counted us down, the race director blew a whistle, and we were off!

I had no idea what was coming on the course since I've never run in that part of town before.  The first third of a mile was downhill, so I found myself running in the mid-7 to mid-8 minute range. Far too fast, but at least I wasn't dodging people.  Naturally, what goes down, must go up and the course headed up a steep hill, so my pace leveled off quickly.  I was comfortably uncomfortable - if that makes any sense.  I tried not to look at my watch too much and focused on making sure I was breathing well.  Mile 1 clicked by in a very speedy (for me) 9:03.

I fell in next to a guy and used him as a pace rabbit for a little while before he fell off my shoulder.  I pressed on up and down the hills.  Each uphill started feeling harder and each downhill started feeling shorter. And my stomach was starting to get iffy again.  I walked through the water station about half way through and then picked it up again.   Mile 2 was considerably slower at 9:38. Just past the Mile 2 marker, my stomach started cramping.  I started taking short walk breaks through the worst of them and then did my best to come back up to a reasonable pace.  My Garmin data shows that when I was actually running, my pace was in the low to mid 9-minute range, so if I'd felt decent, I think I would have been really pleased with my splits.  Those damn walking breaks messed it up!

Finally, around the 2.5 mile mark, there was a monstrous looking hill.  I was tired and feeling like crap, so that thing friggin' looked like Mt. Everest.  In the picture below, it's where the course separates from the straight line.  I could see walkers still streaming down the hill leading to the "tail" and heard an ear-splitting whistle that I know very well - it was my mom.  I jogged over to make sure she was okay before walking up part of Mt. Everest with my evil stomach cramps.

About half way up the hill, I'd had enough of my stupid stomach and the bullshit voice telling me I couldn't run, so I gritted my teeth and decided that there would be no more walking.  I was running this damn thing to the end. I brought it back down to the mid-9's and kept telling myself that as long as I kept running, it'd be over sooner.  The course leveled out and the assistant race director was standing at the top of the hill directing people around a corner.  Imagine my surprise when the finish line was right in front of me!  The course was short!  I did my best to haul ass to the line and be done.

Borrowed from the race's Facebook page
That last ass-hauling was not a good idea.  I didn't even stop for water as I pushed my way through the finish area looking for a trash can or a place devoid of people.  I. Felt. Horrible.  The only thing I hate more than actually puking is dry heaving.  I guess I should be happy that I didn't actually puke, but when Mr. R&R (who turned in an awesome performance) found me, I was still in dry-heave mode.  He pointed me toward the water table and after a few more minutes, I was able to drink it, rip off my numbers, and go in search of my mom while Mr. R&R waited for results to post.

As I walked back along the course, I started getting really cold and then it started raining.  I felt bad for everyone still on the course (and a little bummed that I wasn't in a dry, toasty warm building waiting for results).  I spotted my mom at the base of the Mt. Everest hill and decided to just wait for her about half way up it since I wasn't really feeling the idea of having to drag my ass up that thing twice!  She was red, sweaty, and tired.  I tried to motivate her by telling her that the course was short and all she had to do was make it just past the top of the hill and it would all be over.  This seemed to cheer her up a little and when we made the final turn together, I scurried ahead to get a picture of her finishing before heading inside to find Mr. R&R and the official results.

There was a pretty fierce crowd around the results table, so I squeezed in between some dudes and made my way back to Mr. R&R to let him know that I had finished 7/18 in my age group - and that we had to stay for awards because he was 2nd in his age group! I think the only thing better than winning an age group award of my own was watching him get one.

We collected my mom, jumped in the car, and headed home - with a stop at Starbucks!  Once we got home, it was 'all about that baste'.  I tossed the turkey in the oven, took a shower, and spent the rest of the time before dinner feeling far more worn out than I should have.  I also got to deliver some good news to my mom when she arrived for dinner later in the day: she was 3rd in her age group!  I'm not sure if they'll give her an age group award since she entered the 'Walk Division', but still, in an age group of 5, she was still 3rd!  Her results didn't post until after we were already home, otherwise we would have stayed for the female age group awards.

I will definitely do the Gobble Wobble again next Thanksgiving.  The course was really challenging. The race was well managed. And I really want to see how I do on that course when when I'm not battling stomach issues.

Time: 28:09 (9:04/mile pace)*
Overall Place: 79/206
Gender Place: 34/128
Age Group Place: 7/18 (F35-39)

*Average pace was actually more like 9:23/mile since the course was short
**I'm currently in 3rd place in the F35-39 age group for the Chilly Willy Series. 

Next Up: Last Call Half Marathon.  This is likely to be a disaster because I haven't run a step over 7.5 miles in months!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

'Stache Dash 5k Race Recap

The first race in the Chilly Willy Series started with packet pick up on Friday night - at a bar!  I rarely drink on the night before a race, but since one of my coworkers mentioned happy hour, I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone.  Two Sierra Nevadas later, I was on my way home.

I was a little disappointed with the t-shirt.  Cotton? Really?  Have race directors learned nothing in the last 10 years? I really prefer technical shirts that I can use while training - not things I end up turning into dust rags.  

Mr. R&R and I decided to go out for dinner and were in bed by 10:30pm and I enjoyed 9 1/2 glorious hours of sleep before the alarm went off.  Did I mention that this race didn't start until 10am?  No Stupid O'Clock wake up!  

It was the usual pre-race coffee, water, and Clif Bar in the car on the way to the race - which was so close to home, I almost didn't finish munching the Clif Bar before we arrived!  We parked about a quarter mile away and took a chilly walk to the start. As we were walking, Mr. R&R realized that he'd left his watch at home, so he'd be running blind.

Race Morning Trinity: Coffee, Water, Clif Bar
We found the Start, stretched a little, did a short warm up run, stretched some more, and tried to stay warm until athletes were called to the line. While we were waiting, I figured out that this race wasn't going to be based on chip time, but rather on net gun time.  In a regular chip timed race, there's a timing mat at the start and another at the finish.  When you cross the start mat, your time starts and when you cross the finish mat, your time stops.  In this case, when the gun went off, everyone's time started and didn't stop until you crossed the finish line chip mat.  Knowing that, Mr. R&R pushed his way to the front and I wasn't too far behind him.  The gun went off and it was go time. 

Since I"m still working my way back after Hell Month, I had no real plans for this race other than to do my damnedest to run a sub-30, which kind of felt like it might be a stretch. The course started along the same parkway I ran last weekend (the one that I always find really tough).  I went out a little fast, but quickly found a pace that felt challenging yet manageable. After the first quarter mile, I stopped getting passed as people settled into their paces. The course followed the parkway for about a mile before looping back on itself.  As I was headed to the turnaround, the speedsters were already coming back at me, so I started counting guys until I saw Mr. R&R, who was about the 24th guy overall at that point. I felt pretty good as I hit the turnaround and was trying not to look at my watch too much because I was afraid I'd either be really frustrated by what I saw (too slow) or start freaking out (too fast).  Mile 1: 9:19

About a half mile after the turn around, we took a right and headed up a very long hill.  I ran up 99% of it and used the last few feet of the hill to slow down for about 10 seconds to catch my breath before picking up the pace again.  We wound through a residential neighborhood and back to the hill - to run down it! Mile 2: 9:19

I love long, gentle downhills because they're basically free speed.  I flew down the hill, marveling a the number of people still heading for the uphill portion of the course - and noting that I hadn't been passed at all since the initial surge of people in the beginning, but I was actually passing people. The final part of the race was back along the parkway.  I found myself actually enjoying that stretch!  I looked at the total time on my watch and my current lap pace and realized how close I was to my 5k PR time (27:33).  There was no way I was going to beat my PR, but it became my mission to see how close I could get.  I was getting tired and starting to hurt, but I kept pushing the pace.  I took the final turn and the finish line was in front of me.  I pushed a little harder, but not an all out sprint because it was a pretty short stretch.  Mile 3: 8:53

I hit the line, reached down to stop my watch, and finally looked down and immediately had a 'holy $#!% moment'  My watch was reading 28:03, but it always takes a couple of seconds to hit stop, so it was possible that I ran a sub-28.  I located Mr. R&R (who had run his ass off and missed his PR by 27 seconds) and we waited for results to be posted.  When they were, I was really happy. Final Time: 27:59!  To go into a race hoping for a sub-30 and ending up only 27 seconds off of my PR was awesome! 

Time: 27:59:  (9:01/mile)
Overall Place:87/212
Gender Place:33/119
Age Group: 3/15 (F35-39)

There was a bit of a mix up during the awards ceremony, so I didn't receive my age group award (a sweet looking medal) on site, but a quick email to the race director resolved the situation and my award should show up in the mail this week.

Up next: Gobble Wobble 5k.  First we run. Then we feast!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Chilly Willy Run Series

After a month of crazy, I'm slowly working my way back into a semi-decent fitness routine.  I ended up sleeping right through the Discovery Run 15k - and I'm pretty okay with that after hearing from friends about running in the rain and 50mph wind gusts!  Maybe I'll try again next year.

Part of my plan to get back into racing shape and keep running over the winter was to enter the Wisconsin Chilly Willy Run Series! 

Chilly Willy is a series of 6 races between November 2015 - April 2016 including:

* 'Stache Dash 5k (November 7th)
* The Great Gobble Wobble 5k (November 26th)
*Last Call 5k/Half Marathon (December 6th)
*Janboree Frosty 5k (January 16th)
*Pi Day 5k (March 12th)
*First Call 5k/Half Marathon (April 10th)

Mr. R&R and I are both signed up for the series and we've both elected to do the half marathon at Last Call and First Call.  I've run a couple of cold weather 10k races circa 2011/2012, but a half marathon in December and another in early April will definitely be a whole new challenge.

For my registration fee (I got to knock $25 off for being a TriWi member), I get:

* entry into all 6 events
* a sweet Chilly Willy Series hoodie (see above)
* professional chip timing for all the races
* a shirt from each race
* bling for the 'Stache Dash and both Half Marathons

I'm really excited for the series - and can't wait to see how it all turns out.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Running Is My Therapy

Have you ever had one of those months where you're like 'What else could possibly happen to make my life more challenging?' and then the universe throws you yet another curveball?  That's pretty much been the story around here for the last month.  

It's my annual Hell Month at work, so 10+ hour days and at least half a day on the weekend is the norm.  When I get home, my priorities are food and sleep (and I keep waking up in the middle of the night).  I've been eating far too much takeout and regular workouts have not been happening.

Then, one Thursday night my throat started to hurt a little.  By the time I got home on Friday night, it was a full fledged cold.  That was the start of two weeks where all I wanted to do was take a NyQuil and sleep - and calling in sick is not an option during Hell Month. 

I finally felt like I was on the road to recovery (except for a barking cough that will. not. quit.) and Mr. R&R and I noticed that Walter seemed a little off, so a trip to Dr. Beast was required.  After a thorough exam, x-rays, and blood work, we're all hopeful that 2 weeks of 2x/day antibiotics will fix the problem.

So to summarize:
  • Working too much
  • Eating like crap
  • Not working out
  • Evil cold
  • Sick bunny
And now, with a whopping 6 days left until the Discovery Run 15k, I'm extremely undertrained. I've barely run at all in the last month and most of those runs have been about 3 miles long.  I tried to run while I was sick, but only made it about 4 miles before I was to exhausted to keep going.  I tried running 5 miles (in 20mph wind gusts) on Monday night, but let's just say I did a lot of walking to keep the barking cough at bay.  Originally I was hoping to have a good run, but I think I'm going to have to settle for having fun at this race.  After today's attempt at a somewhat-long run, I'm almost okay with that.

Mr. R&R had a 75 minute bike trainer workout on tap and it was one of those perfect fall days, so I decided it was time to attempt to run more than 3-4 miles; and I did something I never do - I took my phone along so I could share it with you.

I started out in my neighborhood and then followed a path through a nearby office park, across an insanely busy street, followed by a hill into one of my favorite parks.  At the top of the hill, I paused to take my first photo:

It's not a run through the park unless I cross paths with geese

We're a little past peak color season here, but the trees are still pretty:

As I continued along the road through the park, I could feel the stress leaving my body.  I cruised down the monster hill that I always complain about, stopped at the golf shack for a quick drink from the bubbler (water fountain for those outside of Wisconsin), and continued on.  When I saw this:

and it made me think of an old Nike ad about how 'the roads are always open'.  I wasn't running fast at all, but I was feeling amazing.  I took a quick turn, crossed another road, and turned into a very popular parkway.  There were lots of people running, walking, walking their dogs, and riding bikes.

I grew up near this area, and when I was a little girl I always thought this bridge was actually a drawbridge - and that there was a troll living under it!  As an adult, I just think it looks cool!

Fatigue was starting to set in as I ran through The Village and under a bridge into another park.  I was really excited to discover that the bubbler near the baseball diamond was still on because I was starting to get warm.  After a quick water stop I ran through the park and over a bridge to a parkway I always struggle on - I think it's a mental thing.

I love how the river looks from the bridge
After about a mile, I turned off the parkway and into a residential area.  There were lots of halloween decorations to look at, so that kept my mind off of how tired I was getting.  I think my favorite house was the one that put costumes on their lawn decorations!

Finally, I hit 6 miles and decided that that was enough for the day and walked the remaining mile or so home feeling better than I have in weeks.  I was tired (in a good way), my head was clear (stopped thinking about work after the first mile), and I was really, really happy.  I'm pretty sure that that run was just the therapy/stress relief I needed. I'm really hoping I can sneak in at least one more 3-4 miler before the Discovery Run this coming Saturday, but whatever happens, I really hope that I can run it in the same mental state I was in today.  

What's your favorite way to relieve stress?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dousman Duathlon Race Recap

2 race recaps in a row?  Have I lost my mind? Probably, but after last week's duathlon, Mr. R&R and I were both itching to do another one before the season ended. Enter: The Dousman Duathlon.  I didn't do a whole lot in the training department in the days leading up to the race since I was still recovering from Lake Country, but we decided to show up and see what happened.

I managed to escape from the office at 5pm on Friday, rushed home, threw on my bike clothes, and Mr. R&R and I hightailed it to the New Berlin trail to get in a decent, but not killing it ride per the Brent's pre-race ritual - hey, it worked last weekend, so obviously this is the new procedure going forward.  I wasn't really in the mood to ride at all.  I had been so insane at work that I'd barely eaten all day, thus I was starving. I was exhausted from not sleeping well all week.  In short, I was on the edge of becoming a raging hosebeast.  I felt a little better after spinning my legs out for a bit, but when the chamois pad in my shorts began causing issues 6 miles out, we turned back - and not a moment to soon.  By the time we made it back to the car (after dodging a pair of deer that were running across the trail) it was almost completely dark out.   We hustled home, dragged all of our stuff into the house, and got down to the serious business of stuffing down dinner and gathering all the required stuff for the next day.

The alarm went off at 4:30am and we were out the door by 5:30 and on our way to Dousman.  We had a little trouble finding the parking area thanks to some ambiguous directions from a volunteer, but we quickly unloaded the bikes, pumped our tires, and walked the three or four blocks to transition.

We stopped to pick up our race numbers and timing chips and I discovered that while I was bib #73, they gave me chip #33.  Not cool.  I didn't want to be racing for someone else!  I asked the guy in charge of chips to look into it and he pretty much waved me off like I was a nuisance and said it was fine - that the chip was just mislabeled.  Ummm...not really encouraging.  I got all my stuff set up in transition and after thinking about it some more, I went back to the timing guy, because I was not confident that my efforts weren't going to be recorded for the wrong bib number.  After some serious persistence on my part, I was finally taken to the director of timing and sure enough - the chip was wrong!!!!  I knew it!  The timing director recoded my chip to match my bib and I was back in business.  Unfortunately the whole debacle had eaten up all the time I'd allotted for my pre-race shake out ride and transition was closing in 10 minutes.  Grrrr.  I tried to shake it off as I made one last check of my transition area and headed out for a quick jog to wake up my legs and hopefully clear my head.

Locked. Loaded. Ready to Race.
When I got back, I discovered Yada Yada chatting with Mr. R&R - he had come to 'pay it forward' for our support at his half ironman in July - and he was putting off his 13 mile run!  It was great having him there because 1) When you know someone might see you, you're less likely to slow down/walk/give up. and 2) He played the role of paparazzi for us since there were no official photographers at this race.

Photo Credit: YadaYada
Athletes were called to the start line in waves of 50.  The first five waves were release a minute apart and the remaining waves were released two minutes apart.  Mr. R&R and I were in Wave 2.  The airhorn blew and we were off.  Mr. R&R took off like a shot and after about 30 seconds, I lost sight of him.  The first bit was a cross country run across a park before turning onto a sidewalk.

 I definitely went out too fast (7:42/mile pace). I looked at my Garmin as I turned onto the sidewalk and pulled it waaaaay back.  Mile 1 clicked by in 8:56.  Mile 2 felt a little tougher as we wound through a neighborhood, up a curb, and out onto the Glacial Drumlin Trail.  I found it a little ironic that every time I ride this section, I end up thinking what a nice place it would be to run - and now that I was running on it, I wanted off of it!  The trail spit the runners out onto a road crossing, through a parking lot, and then it was another cross country run across the park to T1.  I was feeling okay, but got a little annoyed by the fact that the last 15-20 feet into T1 was through sand!

Run 1: 2 Miles (1.93 miles according to Garmin)
Official Time: 17:25 (9:02/mile)
Garmin Time: 17:24 (9:01/mile)

I was really fortunate that my bike rack was right by the Run In/Out, so I didn't have far to go.  Off came the sand covered running shoes, on went the helmet and bike shoes and I ran my bike out to the mount line.

Official Time: 1:29
Garmin Time: 1:32

Almost immediately, I dropped into aero and started cranking since the road was relatively smooth and flat.  I was feeling pretty decent after my somewhat lackluster first run.

Photo Credit: YadaYada
This bike leg was 20 miles long (3 miles longer than last weekend), and I was surprised at how fast the first few miles went by.  Then the hills started.  I would slowly chug my way up and then fly down, only to repeat the process again.  I tried to take my mind off of it by looking at the scenery since we were deep in bumble%*@! nowhere farm country.  There were a couple of Turtle Crossing signs painted on the road and a farm advertising 'Show Quality and Companion Llamas For Sale'!  I couldn't help but wonder what leads someone to want to keep a llama as a pet - and how much space one would require.  As an upside, all the roads on the course were actually paved and in really good shape - unlike last weekend's soul sucking chip seal/crush 'n run.

Somewhere around Mile 12, the giant hills became rolling hills and my speed picked back up.  I was in the midst of climbing one of these hills when a draft marshal came by and told me I was 'getting a little close' so I needed to speed up.  Uhhh....what?  There was no one in front of me, which meant I wasn't drafting off of anyone.  The same cannot be said for the chick who was practically on my back wheel!  Whatever.  I tucked myself deeper into aero and sped up some more to drop the chick.  I wasn't about to end up with a bullshit drafting penalty when I wasn't the one drafting!

After that, life was a series of rolling hills until around Mile 14, when the top of the box where my flat kit lives popped open!  WTF!?!?! I thought I'd solved this problem on the long ride with YadaYada and Texas a few weeks ago.  I wasn't about to have my stuff scattered all over the road, so I pulled over to fix it - losing about 60 seconds in the process - and then it was right back on the bike, into aero, and powering on.  I was pretty damn happy when Mile 20 clicked off on my Garmin, but there was still a bit to go since the bike course was apparently 20.59 miles long.  There was a pretty strong head wind and I was starting to chafe really badly despite a very liberal application of Chamois Butt'r, but I stayed in aero and cruised to the dismount line.

Photo Credit: YadaYada

Bike: 20 Miles (20.59 miles according to Garmin)
Official Time: 1:13:08 (16.9mph)
Garmin Time: 1:14:29 (16.8mph)*

I felt pretty good off the bike this week and actually managed to sort of jog back to my rack.  After nearly knocking some relay runners, who were standing right by my rack, out of the way, I racked my bike dropped my helmet, and switched back to running shoes and headed for Run Out.

Official Time: 1:17
Garmin Time: 25.3 seconds*

The second run was almost a mirror image of the first.  Through the sand, across the field, out onto the sidewalk.  I was absolutely exhausted by the time I made it to the sidewalk portion - and my pace showed it.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't work up anything that resembled speed.  I. Was. Toast.  I did my best to keep plodding along, took a quick drink at the water station half way through, and was more than happy to make the last cross country run to the finish.  This week there was no sprinting, just a slight pick up in pace to the finish.

Photo Credit: YadaYada
Run 2: 2 Miles (1.91 miles according to Garmin)
Official Time: 19:11 (9:57/mile)
Garmin Time:  18:51 (9:53/mile)*

As soon as I finished, Mr. R&R (who killed it again this weekend) and YadaYada were directing me to the bottled water (which was in a trash can) and excitedly telling me that there were pancakes in the food area. I collected my water and a couple of rather spongy pancakes and met up with them.  We hung out, pretty much had a postmortem on the race, and waited for results to be posted.

Apparently all the fast people showed up this week.  I ended up 7th out of 12 in my age group.  I have no idea how I placed overall because the online results aren't broken down that way, but here's what I do know:

Official Finish Time: 1:52:30
Garmin Time: 1:51:08*

We hung around to watch the awards ceremony, said goodbye to YadaYada, collected our stuff from transition and headed for home.  Once home, there was a quick wardrobe change and a walk up the street for brunch and a beer/consolation prize.

Timing chip issue, sand on the run course, and annoying relay people aside, this was a really good race. The course was well marked. There were a ton of very helpful and encouraging volunteers. I think I could have done better had I not been still recovering from the previous week's race, and yet I would definitely do it again in a heartbeat. The run course, while kind of blah in the scenery department, was incredibly flat.  And the bike course was challenging in some spots, merciful in others, and absolutely beautiful in terms of both road quality and scenery.  I'd definitely consider adding this race to my 2016 calendar.

*Full Disclosure: When I went to upload my Garmin data, the file was corrupted, so I'm not entirely sure how reliable it is.  For example, I only have data for 17 miles of the bike and at least 4 of those are completely hosed. I've reset the device and downloaded some updates, so hopefully this doesn't happen again.  If it does, I may have to as Santa Claus for an upgrade!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Lake Country Duathlon Race Recap

I came. I raced. I won (my age group)!  That came as a total surprise to me, but let's back up a little first.

Mr. R&R and I got up at Stupid O'Clock, went through all the usual pre-race stuff, loaded up our bikes and set out for the race site in the dark.  As we made our way West, we could see the sun rising in the rearview mirror and once we turned off onto the rural highways, watching the low fog rising off the fields as the sun broke over the horizon was absolutely stunning.

Per the Brent-recommended pre-race ritual, we were among the first people to arrive at the race site and when we got out of the car, it was absolutely frickin' freezing out!

We bumped into Dr. Beast, stood around lamenting the cold, and she informed us that the bike course was a serious hillfest.  It turns out we took a wrong turn on our course preview last night and missed the worst of it!  I already had incredibly low expectations going into this race after checking out results from 2013 and 2014.  My best case scenario going into this race was finishing around 2 hours, which would have put in me in the bottom 5-10 in previous years.  Dr. Beast's warning had me mentally preparing myself for a Dead Last Finish.  After we parted ways with Dr. Beast, we continued to follow Brent's ritual: got on our bikes and went for a quick 2-3 mile warm up/shake out ride.  It was so cold that I couldn't feel my hands after only 2 miles!

Following our warm up, we racked our bikes, set up our transition areas (pretty easy for a du), and went for a quick 2 block warm up jog and stretched out.  I usually go to a start line feeling cold and stiff, and I was actually feeling pretty good as they called the athletes to the Start Line.

The first wave was made up of elites (like Dr. Beast) and relay racers (1 person did both run legs and another did the bike).  My wave was next - everyone 35 and under, followed by athletes 36 and older (like Mr. R&R) 3 minutes later.  Usually the 35 and under crowd is pretty thick at these things and I was shocked to see maybe 20 people around me.  The gun went off and I started running.  I quickly found myself toward the back of the pack - and I was running around 8:38 pace!  I ended up passing a couple of people who had gone out too fast as the course wound uphill and I felt like maybe I had a chance at finishing better than dead last.  I was extra happy when the way back was all downhill!

Run 1: 2 Miles (1.86 miles according to Garmin)
Official Time: 16:39 (8:57/mile)
Garmin Time:  16:40 (8:57/mile)

I flew into transition, stripping off the fleece jacket I'd worn for the run since I was sufficiently warmed up at that point, jammed my helmet on, and hauled ass to the mount line.

Official Time: 1:39
Garmin Time: 1:37

No sooner had I mounted, I heard a horrible noise.  I pulled over to investigate thinking that maybe one of my wheels had gotten knocked on the rack and was rubbing against the brakes or something like that.  I wasted a valuable couple of minutes trying to figure out what was going on, but nothing was obviously wrong, so I got back on the bike, hoped for the best, and set out to tackle 17 miles of hills.  The first few miles were pretty good.  I stayed in aero as much as possible, did a little passing, and generally didn't hate life.  Then the rolling hills started.  I kind of sucked on the ups and felt awesome on the downs.  Periodically, when I found myself getting super-tired, I'd eat a Shot Blok (like a big, caffeinated, gummy bear), take a drink, and find the ability to keep going.  There were several sections of road that were just awful.  It was so bumpy that it felt like riding on top of a washing machine (and incredibly rough on any part of me that was touching the bike seat), and I ended up cutting the inside of my lip when I went to take a drink from my aero bottle.  Fortunately, the fields and farmhouses lining the roads were nice to look at, so it took my mind off some of the hills.

I got passed a lot on the bike, but I made it my personal mission to pass every mountain bike I came across and not get re-passed.  I'm pleased to say I was successful.  The last one was tough since I had to attack her on a steep uphill.  I got past her and hauled ass to T2 - so ready to be off the bike.

Bike: 17 Miles (Garmin Distance: 17.11)
Official Time: 1:03:20 (16.1mph)
Garmin Time: 1:03:28 (16.3mph)

I dismounted and attempted to jog into transition, but that was not happening.  My legs were pretty shot and wobbly, so I was reduced to shuffling back to the rack.  Just as I was hanging up my bike, Miss Mountain Bike was suddenly racking next to me!  Damn...I thought I put her further behind me.  I finished tying my shoes and attempted to start running.

Official Time: 1:31
Garmin Time: 1:28

The second run was pretty much identical to the first run and I felt like I was practically crawling as I left transition, but a quick look at my watch said I was running at 7:42/mile pace!  I guess there's something to be said for being a little numb from the waist down, but I knew there was no way I could hold it, so I dialed it back a bit.  On my way to the hill, I was able to see people still coming off the bike, so I knew I wasn't dead last.  Yes!

The uphill was rough, but I knew if I just kept plugging away, it would be downhill and flat to the finish.  I hit the turnaround and started counting the people still headed out, trying to figure out how far in front of Dead Last I was.  I counted about 24 - give or take.  I was so happy to see the volunteers waving me into the last turn toward the Finish Line.  I'd been trying to chase down a guy for the last half mile and wasn't having any luck, so I was ready to be done.

I sped up a little, but not my usual full out sprint.  Out of nowhere, I heard a grunt over my right shoulder and there was Miss Mountain Bike, sprinting like hell.  Nuh-uh. I started sprinting too. Holy hell...she gave me a run for my money. It was a really tiny race (only 115 people), but people started hooting and hollering and the announcer said, "This guy has no idea what's about to hit him!"  He wasn't kidding.  This chick was out for blood and I wasn't about to give her mine!  We blew across the line - much to the guy's surprise.  I went to to shake her hand afterward and I swear she would probably have preferred to slap me instead of shaking my hand.  Oh well.

Coming in hot...and surprising the heck out of this guy.
Run 2: 2 Miles (Garmin Distance: 1.9 miles)
Official Time: 17:15 (8:38/mile)
Garmin Time: 17:16 (9:05/mile)

Total Time:
Official Time: 1:40:21
Garmin Time: 1:40:06

I found Mr. R&R (who finished in a speedy 1:29:49) and Dr. Beast (who won her age group and took 4th place overall among the women) and we traded war stories while waiting for the results to be updated.  When they were posted, you could have knocked me over with a feather: 2/6 in my age group (which was actually one of the slowest age groups instead of the fastest like it usually is)!

Well, that sealed the deal.  We were staying for awards.  If I was shocked at being 2nd in my age group, imagine my surprise when they called me up as the winner of the 35-39 year old women.  It turns out that the overall female winner was in my age group and you're only allowed to win in one category - so obviously she took the overall win, which bumped me into 1st!  My prize for my first (and probably only) age group win: a water bottle.

I won my age group?  

We hung around to watch Dr. Beast collect her award and then headed off to collect our stuff from transition and head home - in search of coffee and a nap!

Let's go home.
To say I'm absolutely stunned by what happened today is an understatement.  I went from mentally preparing myself for possibly being dead last to winning my age group.  This was not an easy course, but it was a lot of fun and I look forward to doing it again in the future - and more importantly, it re-ignighted my love of multisport racing! I can't wait to race again.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Lake Country Du/Discovery Run - Week 3 & 4

Week 3 (September 7th - September 13th)

Question: What do you do when you want to knock off another section of the Ice Age Trail, but your training plan calls for a run?  

Answer: Find a short section and go for a trail run!  

Mr. R&R and I did an out and back on the Waterville Segment (hiking blog update coming soon).  We ran from the trailhead where it intersected the Glacial Drumlin trail and about half a mile later we were spat out onto a country road full of big rolling hills for just over a mile.  Not really trail, but the road section is a temporary connector.  We ran the flats and downhills and walked the most of the big hills.  Finally, we reconnected with the actual Ice Age Trail.  The trail run made the road section worth it.  There were only a few monster hills, I only tripped 3 or 4 times (caught myself and didn't fall), and the handful of prairie sections were short and scenic.  It was the best 6 miles of trail I've ever run and I look forward to doing it again - soon!

Trail Running Perfection
After a relaxing week off, it was back to the salt mines. Fortunately it was pouring down rain all day, so being stuck inside all day was a little traumatic.  Since I'd put over 50 miles on my body in the last 3 days, it was a rest day.  I used the down time to:
- Grocery Shop - so we won't starve or go out to dinner this week
- Iron A Few Things - so I don't have to go to work nekkid or in running clothes
- Blog - because I was 2 weeks behind and I still need to work on the hiking blog

What is it about work and sucking all the motivation out of a person?  I had every intention of parking my butt on the trainer for an hour, but only managed to put in 30 minutes before my growling stomach demanded that I go upstairs and eat - NOW!  Fortunately it was a good 30 minutes.

Neither Mr. R&R nor I wanted to do a damn thing tonight, so we compromised with a 3 mile walk while catching up on each other's day.

I took the night off to have dinner with a friend I haven't seen since her oldest child was 3 months old - and she's going to be 4 in a few months!  I guess time really does fly, but if you would have heard the two of us chatting, you'd think we'd just hung out last week.  I definitely missed hanging out with her and will NOT let 4 more years go by again.

Q: What happens when Yada Yada gets a tri bike and his road bike spends an entire season hanging in the garage?

A: He and Texas convince Mr. R&R to test ride it as a possible upgrade.

We headed up to Yada Yada and Texas' house early Saturday morning to fetch the bike before they left for a century ride a few hours further north - and ended up having the most delicious diner breakfast I've ever had.  As a bonus, I kept expecting Sam and Dean Winchester to walk through the door!

Waiting for a demon to show up an cause lots of trouble.

Once we got the bike home, we got Mr. R&R roughly fitted to it and went for a ride.  We worked our way slowly along the pothole riddled roads to my mom's house to check out her latest home improvements and then continued on to the New Berlin Trail.  That was just plain fun.  Mr. R&R took off like a bat out of hell and I used the long stretch of straight pavement to practice riding (and drinking) in aero.  The ride back was even more fun since it's a slight downhill, so free speed is the name of the game.  At one point I was flying down the trail at almost 23mph, fully in aero, and having a blast!  The ride home was at a pretty pedestrian pace due to lots of busy roads and then of course, the thing I absolutely loathe happened...the dead standstill tip over.  We were riding on the sidewalk up one of the busiest roads in the city and when I unclipped my left foot to stop, I didn't lean far enough to my left to put my foot down, so I tipped over onto my right side.  I fell about a foot off a curb into a parking lot with lots of rocks and gravel.  Ouch!  When I finally managed to unclip my right foot and lift my bike off me, the bike was fine and I was missing a bunch of skin on my right elbow and right knee.  Damn.  That's the same side that took all the abuse/damage a few years ago when I crashed at the Shoreline Duathlon.  I really need to figure out how to spread the pain better!

I was pretty sore after my fall, so working out wasn't happening.  I went to work for a couple of hours  and then Mr. R&R and I headed to Madison to watch the run leg of Ironman Wisconsin.  Remember a few years ago when I went out there to watch the Iron Cheerleader finish IM #4 and he swore it was the last one?  He lied. He was going for IM #5 and another one of my tri friends was going after his first and I didn't want to miss it!  We parked at the Alliant Energy Center and watched a few bikes come down the hill (lots of pretty bikes to look at) before catching a shuttle that dropped us off about a block from the finish line.  We started walking along the run course and found an opening around Mile 12.  A quick check of showed that both my teammate and the Iron Cheerleader should be passing by our post within the next 20 minutes - they were within minutes of each other at the last checkpoint.

We passed the time cheering for the athletes as they ran by and checking out the various signs people were waving.

First came my teammate (sorry - no pictures) and a few minutes later, the Iron Cheerleader appeared. I shouted his name and he paused for a quick hug and hello before continuing on to the halfway point and his special needs bag.

Mr. R&R and I trotted a few miles down the road and waited for them to come by again.

The Iron Cheerleader came by looking much happier after retrieving a can of Pringles from his special needs bag.  We figured we had at least an hour and a half before either of the guys finished, so dinner was our next order of business.   We spotted an Indian restaurant with a 2nd story balcony overlooking the run course - perfect!

Another quick check of after dinner showed that it was time to start heading for the finish line.  Both of them had some how picked up speed and were flying!  As we hustled back up State Street, I had to stop and take a picture - this is what the athletes see as they're headed for home.

Pretty cool, huh?
We opted to stand about half a mile from the end rather than fighting the four-deep crowds at the finish and it was a good choice.  I watched my teammate fly by on his way to a 12 hour, 43 minute finish and the Iron Cheerleader thundered by on his way to a 12 hour, 58 minute finish (16 minutes faster than he did in 2013).

Mr. R&R and I worked our way to the finish line and somehow managed to find the Iron Cheerleader in the crowd to congratulate him.  He swore, once again, that this was it.  No more Ironman for him.  Somehow I have a hard time believing him, but only time will tell.

The Home Stretch

(Insert Your Name Here), You. Are. An. Ironman!
Watching Ironman never fails to inspire me. I hope that someday I can be half the athlete that these men and women are.

Week 4 (September 14th-20th)

It was a loooonnnngggg day at the office after getting home late from Madison.  I really wanted to crawl onto the couch and take a nap, but I somehow talked myself into going for a run.  Ugh.  Total mess of a run, but I guess three crappy miles are better than no miles.

I was going to ride my bike in the basement, but Mr. R&R beat me to the trainer (we need a second one) so I decided to try to redeem myself in the running department.  It was much cooler and less humid out - and the run went so much better.

Mr. R&R spent his evening at Emery's getting his new bike custom-fitted and I spent those hours glued to my desk chair.  It was super late and I didn't have enough in the tank to do anything major when I got home, so I joined Mr. R&R for a quick mile just to shake out the legs before dinner.  I also put my bike in the trainer to test whether or not my skinned elbow had healed enough to allow me to ride in aero.  It wasn't the most comfortable experience of my life (elbow is still pretty bruised), but it was manageable.  Phew!  I really didn't want to have to race my old bike this weekend.

I thought I got home late yesterday.  Hah!  I didn't get home until almost 7:30pm tonight.  The only things I was capable of doing was eating a bowl of macaroni and cheese, petting bunnies, and going to bed.  On a more fun note, I put up a few Halloween decorations in my office so I don't have to feel like I'm totally missing out on one of my favorite holidays.

Crazy day at work - so crazy that I ate a banana in the morning and then completely forgot about food until about 5pm.  Not the way I want to lead up to a race.  I came home, scarfed a Clif Bar and hustled off to see some friends at the bar.  It was fun and I managed to limit myself to one beer - and enough water to fill a swimming pool.  That was followed by lights out at 10pm.

It's amazing what 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep can do for your state of mind.  Mr. R&R and I walked a couple of miles for coffee and breakfast and then came home and changed into our bike clothes.

If you've been reading here for a while, you probably just heard the metaphorical record scratch and are now saying something like, "What?  She went for a ride the day before a race?"  Yes, I did.  Mr. R&R was telling me that Brent Emery gave him a new pre-race strategy to try out, so  I figured I'd try it too.

We hit the New Berlin Trail for about 14 miles at a reasonable, but not killing it, pace.  I was pretty pissed off when less than a quarter of a mile in I had a mechanical issue.  My chain dropped - and Mr. R&R was too far ahead of me to hear me shout that something wasn't right (he's ridiculously fast to begin with and even faster on his new wheels), so I got to work figuring out how to fix it.  My hands ended up covered in grease and gunk, but I finally got the damn thing back on, wiped my hands off on the grass and then on my jersey, and got on with the business of riding.  The whole debacle only cost me about 10 minutes, but it was a loooonnnng ride staring at my filthy hands on the aero bars in front of me.  Oh well.  Better today than on race day.  I stayed aero as much as I could, only sitting up at road crossings and a couple of times when the wind was so strong that I felt like my bike was going to fly out from under me.  I met up with Mr. R&R at the turnaround and we rode back together. The overall pace was fairly respectable and I had a couple of seriously kick ass miles in there!  Maybe Brent is on to something?

After our ride, we set up shop in the back yard to clean, degrease, and re-lube our chains.  I wasn't really planning on doing this, but after getting up close and personal with my chain, it was a necessity because that thing was foul.

Next up was a quick run to Endurance House about 30 minutes away for packet pick up and then we decided to drive out to the race site since it's totally new to us.  Once there, we attempted to drive the bike course based on a rather crummy map.  We drove at least half of it, noting where the turns are, significant hills, rail crossings, and one spot that seemed to have quite a bit of broken glass that will need to be avoided.  Good things to know.

Finally, it was time for all the usual pre-race rituals: high carb dinner, gather the race gear, hydrate, and try to get some sleep because the alarm is going to go off at Stupid O'Clock.

Lake Country Duathlon!  Check back tomorrow or early next week for a race recap!