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Archive for August, 2009

Yesterday I once again made the trek out to Verona to have at the Ironman bike course loops. The plan was to do two loops, or 80 miles. This would be my last long ride before the race. It wasn’t even on the schedule, but I thought getting to ride the actual course again would be really helpful. Unlike last time, the day started out rather cool. Driving out of Milwaukee, it was 59 degrees and raining. Great. But by the time we got to Johnson Creek, the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared up. When we started the ride, it was about 63 degrees and sunny.

The first hill of the loop is about 5 minutes in. Nothing like getting that heart rate nice and high right off the bat. I could tell right away that my legs were not going to fully cooperate with me. My quads were already tired, probably from a combination of 9 hours of training last weekend plus 2 rather fast 7 mile runs on Tuesday and Thursday. The loop starts out with a few hills, then flattens out a bit for a while. Then you hit a literal roller coaster of steep hills, followed by a really nice downhill section. Then there is a bit of time spent on the highways with some rollers, nothing too crazy. The last 15 miles of the loop are where the hills are so big and so many that you want to die. First there is the Mother, winding her way up through a nice wooded road. I think I was averaging 7 mph up this beast. There is no huge downhill after the mother, just a slight reprieve before you hit Mr. Short and Steep. And I do mean steep. At least this one doesn’t take to long. There is a nice little downhill after this one, but some big rollers after that. Soon things flatten out a little, and you think you are in the clear. Mwahahahah.

With about five or six miles left in the loop, you will encounter the Mother Bitch. She is much like the Mother in length, as in never-ending, but she is much steeper. Good God my poor poor quads. I think I topped out around 6 mph on this one. Once you conquer the Mother Bitch, it is smooth sailing back to Verona. Back at the car, I was spent. I couldn’t believe I had to do it all again, and found myself questioning how I would possibly survive this in the race. I had to remind myself that I will be properly rested and tapered for the real deal. I was in my 12th hour of biking for the week, which takes its toll.

So off we went for loop 2. The first 20 miles, I was not in a good mental space. Literally 7 miles in, I looked at my Garmin and was ready to call it a day and turn around, back to the car. I had nothing in my legs, and my training buddy James was constantly pulling ahead. I cursed myself for not being able to keep up, I cursed my legs for being tired, I cursed the wind for blowing in my face. I told myself just make it half way around, and you will only have 20 miles to go. The half way point eventually came, and I started to lift out of the fog. I realized that this day would indeed end, and afterwards it wouldn’t seem as bad.

We completed loop 2, and though it was a tough day, I am glad I did it. I feel like I know the course so much better, which will be a huge advantage on race day. I absolutely cannot imagine going into this course blind on race day. It would be a shock to say the least, and could easily break someone mentally.

I am officially in taper, which is weird. All I have to do today is a 90 minute swim, no running, no biking. Tomorrow I am shortening the scheduled workout of a 3 hr bike 1.5 hr run to a 2 hr bike 1 hr run. There is no fitness to be gained at this point, the goal is just to stay sharp, stay focused. I haven’t fully wrapped my mind around the fact that the race is two weeks away. I am nervous but mostly excited. From here on in, I just need to play it smart, get lots of rest, and mentally prepare.

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Oh sweet victory

Last night I raced in the second annual Women’s Charities Inc. 5k in Menomonee Falls. It’s a fundraiser put on by the Women’s Soccer Club that I play with, and the clinic where I work was also a race sponsor. Thus, I had my entry fee paid for in exchange for running in our clinic t-shirt. Nice!

I knew it would be a small race, last year they only had about 30 runners, and this year they had just under 80 people signed up by the day before. I had grand visions of winning the race, but I also knew that I am not a very fast 5k runner, and that someone would most likely kick my butt.

I got to registration early and started sizing up the competition. Some of the girls looked pretty fast, and my confidence was wavering. The kids’ race went off at 6:00, a half-mile-ish run around the pond in Oakwood Park. That was cute to watch, some of those kids are definitely future runners!

At 6:30 it was the adults’ turn. There ended up being about 95 runners, and we lined up at the start line. There was one other girl that looked like she meant business. She lined up front and center with her toe on the line. Uh-oh. Van “the Man” McNeal from 99.1 was the announcer, and he yelled “go.” Like I said, small race.

We took off and the girl ran out ahead of me. I had a really weird nervous feeling in my stomach, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I caught up to her and I was breathing so hard she was probably wondering what the heck was wrong with me. After about a half-mile, I started to pull away from her. I didn’t feel like I was running that great, but there were only about 5 guys ahead of me. I passed one of them, and then I was alone. I could see the other 4 guys up ahead, but they were way in front of me. I was so tired and out of breath the whole time, but I pressed on. I kept thinking to myself “you are definitely not a 5k runner.” About 1.5 miles in I glanced behind me and she was way back. I knew I had it locked up at this point, and I slowed down a little.

I ran back into the park, and I was so happy to see the finish line. I got to break the tape as the 1st place female, and then it set in. Holy crap I friggin’ won! My goal in race was to break 22 minutes, which I have never done before. Well my official time was…wait for it…20:39!! For the record, that equates to a pace of 6:40/mile. However, to be a bit more realistic, my garmin told me I ran 3.05 miles, not the full 3.1, which drops me down to a 6:47 pace. In any case, holy crap! I was not aware that I was capable of running 1 mile in under 7 minutes, let alone 3 in a row. I have completely shocked myself. The second place girl came in just over 21, and we high-fived about the great race. The best part was, I actually won a pretty sweet prize. It’s a $50 gift certificate for Silpada jewelry, and I can pick out anything in the catalog.

In other news, my last long run (3 hours) before Ironman was this morning. I felt good during it, and directly following the run I rewarded myself with some sweet deals at the Laacke & Joy’s warehouse sale. Tomorrow is the last super-long bike, and I am going solo. I plan to ride at least 100 miles, if not the full 112. It will be a mental test for sure, but I will be alone in the race, so I want to ride alone and not depend on anyone being there to keep me company, or let’s face it, to draft off of. So that’s that. It looks like I will have the opportunity on Friday to ride the Ironman loop again in Verona, which will be a good confidence builder. Tomorrow marks the beginning of the three-week count down….

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Biking IM Moo

Last Friday I packed up my bike and headed to Verona to ride two loops on the Ironman course. I had been looking forward to it for a while, as I really wanted to see what I was up against. My friend James picked me up around 8:00 and off we went. The actual course starts in Madison, heads out to Verona for two huge hilly loops, and then returns to Madison. We cut of the beginning and end, and planned to start in Verona for the loops. We parked at a little park area that had a bathroom and drinking fountains. Here I am before the ride, blissfully naive:

Let it be noted that I left with one 24 oz bottle of water, and one 20 oz bottle of 4x concentrated Infinit (or about 920 calories worth of sweet salty thick sports drink that seems like it needs to be chewed). Let it also be noted that high temps would be in the upper 80’s. Okee-dokee.

We headed out, and after about 2 miles realized that we were going the wrong way. We turned around and got on course, and thus the ride began. Now, I knew the ride would be hilly, and that perhaps hilly would be an understatement. A few miles in, we hit the first big hill (I thought it was big). As I would learn, that hill was nothing. The entire first loop was rather frustrating, because we had to keep stopping to make sure we were still on course. It was hard to get any momentum going, but I was starting to get a feel for things.

The entire ride is very scenic. For the most part it reminded me of being out in the Holy Hill area, lots of tree-covered hills and lots of farms. A little over half way through the first loop, we missed a turn. We went probably around 5 miles down the wrong road before we stopped to consult the map. I was already running low on water, and it was getting hot. A very nice biker stopped and helped us get back on course, thank you nice biker man! I snapped a self-portrait while we were trying to get things figured out:

In my mind, we had to be almost done with the first loop. We added on a good 10 miles by missing that turn, but I still thought we didn’t have too far to go. I was mistaken. There was one point when I looked to my right and saw this in the distance:

I instantly knew that this was the hill I always hear so much about. During the race, there are people lining the sides of this hill, and they go nuts cheering people up it. I tried to picture it as we were climbing, and I can’t wait to see what it’s actually like on race day. Let’s just say this hill is a mother. It goes up, and up, and up, then it flattens out a little, then it goes up and up some more. Hello granny gear. This is the first of three brutal hills towards the end of the loop. At this point, I was completely out of water, and I would have given anything for something wet. Then, as if sent from the heavens, there was a sign at the top of the hill that said “Water.” At first I thought it must be a mirage, but upon closer inspection, I saw there was indeed a water spigot that whoever lives there was nice enough to offer up to passing bikers. The water was warm, but it pretty much saved my life at that point.

We pressed on, and after 50 some-odd miles, we were back in Verona. Even though I don’t drink it all that often, all I could think about was orange juice. I was so dehydrated, I imagined drinking an entire gallon of cold, sweet, sugary orange juice. I had to settle for some sports drink and water, as we still had another loop ahead of us. There was a woman in the parking lot that was also biking the course, and she said at one point there was a cooler full of icy bottled water up for grabs. How did we miss that? We made a note too look for it this time.

Though I was already beat and wanted nothing more that to collapse in the car and head home, I knew we had to do another loop. We filled our bottles and set off. This time things went much more smoothly. We knew where we were going, and what to expect. I was much more comfortable this time around with switching gears so often, and was having fun screaming down the hills on the other side. A bit before we hit the three hills, we spotted the cooler. Low and behold, another sign proclaiming “water” and a huge blue cooler full of bottled water. Whoever put that there, thank you thank you thank you! I immediately slammed one bottle empty and filled my bike bottle with another. This time when I saw the mother, I stopped to snap a pic:

Notice that I am glistening with sweat, even on my arms. I have never sweat so much while riding, and I have now learned not to take the heat lightly. Hopefully it will be a little cooler on race day, but if it’s hot, I am glad to be more prepared. We finished up the second loop (40 miles this time without the detour), had another chat with the woman in the parking lot who finished shortly after us, and headed home. Even after consuming massive amounts of fluids, I was still about 3-4 lbs lighter than usual. I don’t know if I’ve ever been that dehydrated in my life. For the rest of the night I kept drinking, eating, and trying to recover, but I also had to get a lot of packing done for our camping trip to Door County the next day.

Some thoughts on the course:

It was hilly, and that is probably an understatement. It beats you down, and wears on your body. I am not used to riding on hills, so it felt pretty brutal.

I am so so glad that I had a chance to go and ride the course. I feel like I have a handle on it, and I know what to expect.

My bike split is going to be slow. My average speed on these loops was about 2 mph slower than my normal training pace.

I need to take it slow on race day and try to somehow save any small shred of strength in my legs to run a marathon.  I still don’t know how it’s all going to come together, but I am confident that it will.

This weekend is my last big training weekend, with a 3 hour run on Saturday and a 6 hour bike on Sunday. After that, it’s a 3 week slow taper. Three weeks out is still pretty heavy on the training hours, but with no long bike. The two weeks after that will decrease in hours pretty dramatically, which will be weird. From now until the race, I am going to make an extra effort to eat super-healthy and get enough sleep. I can visualize the race, and I am really starting to get excited. Stay tuned…

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Six weeks

Somehow time has been flying by at warp speed, and I find myself six weeks out from Ironman. The next four of those six, starting today, will be the most important weeks of my training. I have managed to get this far without missing too many workouts (sometimes I just cannot bring myself to swim three times per week), and without injury.

In the next four weeks I will bring on the miles like never before. Most week days have 2 workouts, and the weekends are long. I have a 3 hour run on Saturday and a 5.5 hour bike on Sunday, and things just increase from there. I am also planning to get out to Verona to ride the actual bike course, which scares the crap out of me. I will pretty much eat, sleep, work, and train. Oh yeah, and spend time with the hubby, attend family functions,  go boating, and throw three nights of camping in there too. Yay summer!

There is still a lot of work ahead, but now the race is close enough that I am getting excited. I can visualize myself during the race, and I can see myself crossing the finish line. I am praying for good weather but mentally preparing for cold, hot, rain and wind. I am determined.

Bring it on.

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