Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Pumpkin 5K race report

Last week I decided to jump into this little 5K in Yarmouth. The 3rd Annual Pumpkin 5K. Why not? It's kind of fun to bust out a 5K now and then. Besides, my last few 5Ks have been slower than I'd like, 21:30ish. Oh, remember the days of always clocking a 20 something, and then the few 19 somethings I have to my credit. Anyway, races have a way of motivating me. If I do poorly, then I want to train harder to get better. If I do well, then I want to train harder to get better ... yeah, funny how that works. I also believe that I shouldn't go too long between races because I need to be reminded how it feels to be outside my comfort zone.

5K start. There were a lot of people dressed up but I didn't. I did wear an orange shirt trying to be in the spirit of Halloween. Runners ready ... go. We're off. I tried not to go out too hard. I counted the women in front of me, 3. Two of them I know I cannot beat so kept my eye on the third, which wasn't hard since she was wearing these black tights with bright orange bats on them! I settled into my pace and felt good. I don't know what that was because I decided not to look at my watch and just run by feel. I kept getting closer and closer to the black tight lady and finally passed her about a mile in. Then I passed a guy on the next uphill. He passed me back once we were back on the flat. I kept my eye on him and I caught him again around two miles in. We ran side be side for awhile, but I didn't like it. I surged just a little and he came with me. Ugh. Why do men hate being passed by women? I decided right then that this guy wasn't going to beat me. I took the inside on the next turn and we had another uphill. I kept pushing up the hill and pretty soon he fell off. Yup. We turned into the school and had to run around to the back and onto the track for one lap. I was actually feeling good, pushing hard, but feeling good. I hit the track and picked it up as best I could. Then, the one thing you hope never happens happened ... about 150 m from the finish some chick comes flying past me. Seriously?? I tried to go with her but she was really moving! I give her credit, that was a hell of a kick. She beat me by 2 seconds for the third place spot, putting me in forth.

Final results:
21:10, 4th female, first in age group, 17th overall.

I'll take that. I smiled at the time and thought yup, I'll be posting 20 somethings again soon!

Did a cool down, collected a freshly baked pumpkin pie for winning my age group, and headed home. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning. The pie is still sitting on my counter. I'm wondering how long before I cave and dig in ...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Winter Training

Yes, winter training is upon us. The season is over and next year’s season seems very far off. The days of summer are gone. The days when I head out for an early morning run and the sun has already risen; the days of standing on the dock and looking out across the lake at 5:30am and can't wait to swim across; the days of being able to bike until 9pm; yes all those days are over.

In winter training I get to roll out of bed every morning in the dark and know that it is cold outside! Oh how easy it would be to hit the snooze or to just turn off the alarm completely and stay in my nice warm comfy bed! But no, I have all this to look forward to …

Leaving my house at 5:45 am to drive to the pool in the cold and in the dark.

Spending long hours on a trainer pedaling away but never going anywhere.

Running on the ice and snow.

Winter running … that is whole separate topic in itself. Now, I love running in the first snow. It’s awesome. Making new tracks. Hitting the roads early in the morning when there are no cars out yet, just plow trucks. Unfortunately that only happens a few times all winter.

Mostly what you get is sidewalks covered in ice and snow and roads that get narrower and narrower with each storm. You run for an hour and you never feel like your muscles ever warm up. Surviving winter running in Maine is quite a task. I’ve taken many falls on the ice, had close encounters with many vehicles where I though I was going to have to dive into a snowbank, and come in from long runs frozen to bone! My option … taking it to the gym to run on what I like to call the dreadmill. I do believe the dreadmill has its time and place, but it’s just something I hate! But what has to be done has to be done and it’s a great place to do your speed workouts or hill repeats when the weather conditions just don’t suit. I remember training for the Hyannis Marathon in 2006 and it seemed like every time I needed to run long I would wake up to freezing rain and stiff winds. I somehow made it through one 17 and two 20 milers on the treadmill that winter. Yes, I said I ran 20 miles on a treadmill… twice … wow, maybe I am crazy! Actually, that is right up there with the day I decided to run 19 miles on the track because I thought it would help condition my mental toughness for my upcoming marathon. Yeah.

Anyway, my point is winter training is when I have to remind my self constantly why I’m doing this ... and that would be because I love it and it will be worth it in the spring!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Internal Drive

Before almost every race, I get nervous. I get anxious. I know what is about to happen. I’m going to hurt. It doesn’t matter if I am lining up at a 5K or a Half Ironman, it’s going to hurt. The level of pain and the length of pain will vary, but believe me at some point during the race it will hurt. If it doesn’t, then I haven’t given it my all. One of my friends asked me once, “Why do you do it? Why would you want to go through the nervousness, the anxiety, the pain?” My answer, “Because I love it.” I remember telling my parents after my first half ironman that if ever spoke of signing up for another one to take a shovel and hit me upside the head. Since then I’ve completed two more and have now signed up for an ironman.

Where my desire came from and when it started is unknown. I grew up watching sports. All kinds of sports. I loved it. I remember watching Julie Moss crawl across the finish line of the Hawaii Ironman in 1982 and thinking, I want to do that. Not the crawling part of course, but finishing an ironman. I was only 11. During the Olympics I am always glued to the television. I love watching athletes achieve their goals, live their dreams. Admittedly, I cry almost every time I see an athlete stand on the podium and receive their medal.

More recently, I remember watching the finish of the 2009 Boston Marathon’s women’s race. The drive that Kara Goucher had coming to the finish was amazing, but what choked me up and what I will always remember was the look on her face when she came across the finish line. After turning herself inside out for 26.2 miles, she came across in 3rd. She made it no secret that she wanted to win and the look of disappointment and tears that followed told you everything. I understood. Although I’m nowhere near the caliber of athlete that Kara Goucher is, the drive to reach your goal is still the same. The joy of crossing the line knowing you reached your goal and the disappointment when you don’t is the same within all athletes. I’ve experienced both many times.

Those moments of joy stick with you …
• Finishing my first marathon and running every step of the way
• Getting my Boston Qualifying time
• Breaking 20 min for a 5K for the first time. After missing the mark on this twice, I spent 4 weeks of intense speed workouts and hill repeats to ensure I wouldn’t miss again. Result, 19:45.
• Crossing the finish of my second Half Ironman knowing that I finished 30 minutes faster than my first one

And those of disappointment do as well …
• Crossing the finish line of both my Boston Marathons in severe pain, way off my goal, and failing to re-qualify
• DNFing my first race … not even making it to the finish line because I quit
• That feeling you get at the moment you know you are going to have to walk, because that’s when you know it’s all over
• Multiple races that the outcome was not at all what I had planned

What prompted this post is my recent decision to finally do an ironman. I have had “ironman fever” for awhile; however, after I signed up this turned to what I’m going call “ironman fear.” All of a sudden I doubted whether or not I could do this. Whether I could handle the sacrifice it would take to do the training. Whether I could handle the pain I would have to endure to reach the finish line. Is this me? I couldn’t believe I doubted myself. I couldn’t believe that I was shying away from hard work. I couldn’t believe that I thought I couldn’t handle the pain. Then, I reminded myself how bad I’ve wanted to do this. I thought back about how many times I have watched ironman races on television. I’ve been watching them for over 25 years. As a child, I had no idea I would actually become a triathlete but I always knew I wanted to try. I want to know the feeling of crossing the finish line after 140.6 miles. I want to hear the announcer say, “Robin Carlson, you are an ironman.” My “ironman fear” is dissipating and is now being replaced with “ironman drive.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Balancing Act

Food, it is an essential part of our life. Without it, we could not live. Some people live to eat and others eat to live. I’m not sure I was ever a person who lived to eat; however, over the years the phrase eating to live took on new meaning to me.

Almost ten years ago, I decided to revisit this idea of being an athlete. I had not participated in anything that remotely resembled exercise since High School. In April of 2000 I started running. Actually, let’s call it jogging. Somewhere it turned into running but it definitely was not that when I started! In August of the same year, I entered my first road race since high school. That was it; I was completely hooked and have been racing consistently since that day. Soon fueling my body became an important part of my training. I started becoming very conscious of everything that I put into my body. I read many books, including Eat Smart, Play Hard by Liz Applegate, which I would recommend to anyone. I started to learn which foods were the best for me as a female and as an athlete. During my beginning years of running I also developed a chronic iron deficiency, although common among runners, sometimes difficult to resolve. Another round of research of all the foods rich in iron and a search to find an iron supplement that did not make me sick. Luckily, after a year of trying at least a half dozen different iron supplements I found one that worked. Another year of taking the supplement and I was finally able to maintain my iron levels. Anyone who has experienced low iron knows that it can wreak havoc on your energy levels.

In 2005 I decided to throw my hat into the triathlon ring and give the sport a shot. This brought me to a whole new level of balancing my caloric intake against caloric burn. For example, when you start your day with a 4 hour brick workout that results in a 3000 calorie deficit, it’s hard to intake enough food to replenish the body; however, if you don’t, your future workouts suffer. Throw in a strong desire to be the ideal race weight and you have added another component to already difficult balancing act.

I have lost my balance several times. They say that for every pound you take off, you can save 1-3 seconds per mile. Wow, when I learned that I won’t even tell you the calculations going on in my head! But, there is a point of diminishing return and you know when you get there. Your body cannot take the stress that you are putting it through. I have learned the hard way about not eating enough and being married to your scale.

I recently became very focused on my nutrition and weight again after losing my balance, which is what prompted this post. I am very in tune with my body, as most athletes are. I know when I’m on and I know when I’m off. I have all the tools and the knowledge to stay balanced; I just have to make that conscious decision every day to stay that way.

You will hear many triathletes say that proper nutrition is the fourth discipline, because without it we could never swim, bike, and run.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Peak Performance Maine Marathon Relay Race Report

Maine Marathon weekend!!!! This is my favorite road racing weekend ever! Cool fall temps, everyone comes out to join in for the full marathon, the half marathon, or the relay. And if you aren't running you are volunteering. All the athletes show up on this day ... it's such a great day! Looking back, I've participated in the following:

2001 - Half Marathon (my first)
2002 - Half Marathon (ran with my dad)
2003 - Marathon (my first marathon)
2004 - Marathon (my second marathon and first Boston qualifying time)
2005 - Marathon Relay (set the course record for the female relay, which still stands today)
2006 - Injured ... ugh!
2007 - Half Marathon (turned myself inside out for an 11th place finish and PR of 1:31)
2008 - A volunteer

And that leads me to 2009. I debated for awhile on this. I originally was going to run the half, but after a long season I didn't feel the need to tackle the distance so decided to put together a relay instead. Besides, relays are so much fun. I sent out an email to my Nor'Easter teammates and instantly had a team put together. Erin - leg one - 6 miles, Nicole - leg 2 - 8.8 miles, Kiely - leg 3 6.2 miles, and Me - leg 4 - 5.2 miles. We're a go ... the Nor'Easter Girls!

Weather forecast predicted rain. It poured the night before, including wind, thunder, and lightning; however, I woke up on race morning to a calm, overcast, dry day. Perfect! I made it to the start early and slowly rounded up my teammates. We reviewed logistics of getting everyone to and from the relay exchange points. Erin was out lead leg so Kiely, Nicole, and I watched her start then headed out. We all piled in my car and headed to exchange point one. We dropped Nicole off and wished her luck. Kiely and I headed to Yarmouth to drop her at exchange point two. I then headed back to Falmouth to park and get ready at exchange point three. Off with my warm-up clothes, on with a throw away shirt, a quick change into my running flats and I was off. I arrived at my exchange point with an hour to go.

Okay, time to warm-up. After a good warm-up and stretch, I started to look around at the competition. Now, we all said we were doing this for fun, but c'mon ... we're triathetes!!!! I sized everyone one up and decided I only saw one other lady who might be my competition so I approached and asked ... sure enough, I was right. More warm-up, waiting, waiting... the other women's team took off and I started clocking the time between hand offs. 10 minutes later Kiely came over the hill and tagged me ... I'm off. First mile was fast but it's hard when you take off all psyched up and it's all downhill. I settled in and was feeling really good. I tried to keep relaxed and in rhythm. I could here my best friend echoing in my head about over striding and keeping my arms relaxed. I kept checking my form. The miles were clicking off fast. I heard a lot of cheers for the Nor'Easter team. As I turned onto Baxter Blvd I had just under 2 miles to go. I knew my teammates were waiting for me near the finish and couldn't wait to see them. As I approached about a half mile to go they joined me and we all ran in together. That was such a boost to me! Crossing the finish all four of us side by side was great. There is a great dynamic to a team effort!

I took a minute out of the other team and we finished in second place. I was very happy with my run and felt that I had nothing left. That is the way you're suppose to feel... tired, hurting, out of breathe, and happy knowing you left it all on the course.

Another great day on Maine Marathon weekend!!