Ironman. It Happened. Part 1

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have had some interesting hiccups leading up to Ironman Chattanooga. (Catch up here) The jinx continued as we prepared to ship our bikes. We contacted FedEx and made arrangements to have them pick up our boxes at the house in Montauk the day before we flew to Tennesee. We used my dad’s account number for convenience. When the driver hadn’t shown up in the given time frame, I got worried. Then my dad called and said he arrived at home, IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, to find a note from FedEx on his door, telling him that they had come by for a pick up. Oh boy! Now we were left with figuring out how to get the bikes shipped, and we were supposed to head into the city that night to stay with my daughter before going to LaGuardia early the next day. SCRAMBLE!!!

At the same time, I contacted the Jitney, to make reservations for an evening ride into Manhattan. I was told that there were no seats left on ANY of the buses that day. WHAT? Are you kidding me? Another reason to send me over the edge. The short answer to how we solved this last flurry of “oops’s” was this: We rescheduled FedEx, skipped the visit to my daughter’s, and reserved seats on the 4:15 am Jitney for the next morning. Oh, yeah, and there was a car that I also had to take to the local shop for repair to deal with as well. The day turned into a blur, but we managed to make it to the airport the next morning, with several hours to spare.

 

I found these at the airport. Thought about buying it for the race.

I found these at the airport. Thought about buying it for the race.

Arriving in Chattanooga, I was struck by how small the airport is. We quickly got our bags, and walked up to the Hertz counter, where the most delightful woman set us up with an SUV, gave up a free upgrade, and threw in a few other perks. The process was quick and easy, and we were on our way to the hotel. Jeff got us a room at a Residence Inn, so we could have a full kitchen. Eating the way you are used to is VERY important before a race, and we wanted to have full control over this detail. My bike was waiting for me when we arrived, and we piled everything into the room, and headed off to the Expo.

How much crap does one need?

How much crap does one need?

Athlete check in was quick because the bulk of racers hadn’t arrived yet. We got some great swag too.

This is really going to happen!

This is really going to happen!

My coach, SheriAnn was there, working a booth for NormaTech,, and I got to try the boots out for the first time. PURE HEAVEN. After checking out the vendors, we headed to the grocery store and then back to the hotel to unpack and settle in.

If you EVER get a chance to try these out, you will love them.

If you EVER get a chance to try these out, you will love them.

Friday we went back to the expo and it was raining. It was a soggy mess. Later we brought my bike to a shop to have them put it together and make sure everything was ready for the race. Jeff picked up the bike he was borrowing from a friend there, as well. Naturally, there had to be another “Uh oh”, as we discovered that the wedge that holds the bike seat in place was missing. As I got back in the car to drive back to the hotel, I was stunned. Kind of in a daze, actually, trying not to cry. Trying not to throw up. I hoped and prayed the entire drive that the wedge was somewhere in the bike box. To my extreme relief, it was. So, BACK to the shop I went, and within minutes, we wheeled our bikes out, and headed back to the hotel.

Saturday morning, the rain was pouring down, and while we intended to try out the river before Sunday’s race, I was not interested in doing so in the cool, crappy weather. I opted for a swim in the indoor hotel pool. We then drove to the Expo and checked our bikes and transition bags in,triple bagged because it was still raining. Mid day, we went to meet with the other athletes that also had partnered with Zero, the Prostate Cancer charity. We had a yummy lunch and shared our excitement and nerves, about the next day’s adventure. The rain had started to subside as we headed back to the hotel for the final preparations, and to rest.

It was inspiring to meet other athletes that raised money for the cause.

It was inspiring to meet other athletes that raised money for the cause.

Within seconds of entering our room, Jeff said, “There’s a knock at the door.” I didn’t hear it, but went to the door anyway. I opened it, and nobody was there. I think I was about to tell him he was hearing things, when the knock came again. So I opened the door, and to my absolute and complete shock, my son Mike was standing at the door. All 6’5″, 200+ pounds of him: grinning from ear to ear. Behind him, were BOTH of my daughters, Dede and Audrey, all sporting huge smiles. I can’t tell you how surprised and completely happy that moment was for me. they had flown in from Minnesota, New York, and California! THIS was the best and most precious moment. Of course, I cried, and laughed, and hugged them tightly. WOW, they came to support me. I was over the moon. Once the shock wore off, we hung out and had fun, just being together.

THIS is how I still see them sometimes...

THIS is how I still see them sometimes…

The "Kids" done growed up!

The “Kids” done growed up!

After the kids left, (LOL, kids. All adults, over 5’10”, with careers, and their own lives, and I still call them kids) we put the rest of our race nutrition together, and talked about our hopes for the next day. Mostly, I hoped it wouldn’t rain-at least until the run. When I went to bed that night, I felt nervous, scared, excited, and vulnerable, but most of all, I felt loved. We set the alarm for 3:15 and tried to get some sleep. Let’s just say that we didn’t need the alarm. Ironman Chattanooga, Patty’s coming to get you…..

Less Than One Week Until Ironman

The past 9 months have come and gone. The work has been done. I am ready. That’s what my coach tells me. If you know me well, you won’t be surprised that I have moments where I doubt everything that I have done thus far to prepare for my first Ironman Triathlon. Every missed workout. (There haven’t been many) Every time I didn’t complete the entire planned workout as scheduled. (There HAVE been several) Every glass of wine, margarita, candy bar, bowl of ice cream, extra pat of butter…..I obsess just a bit over details. Me thinks I “overthink”.

What I AM celebrating, however, are the countless hours that I DID do the workouts. Since early this year, I have completed up to 12 workouts per week, sometimes exceeding 16 hours total. I’ve managed to  do this while still maintaining my business, my health, and my sanity, although those close to me might disagree on the sanity part. I can recall many a time where, when working, I fell asleep at my desk, and nodded off during continuing education classes.I barely make it to 8PM every night without sneaking off to bed.

I am sure some of my real estate clients wondered why I sported dark circles under my eyes( from my goggles), and reak of chlorine. None of them ever asked me why I often didn’t accompany them up or down stairs in the homes I showed them, or why I would loudly groan if I dropped keys on the ground-(after a particularly long training ride or run.) I hope they understood.

I have never eaten the mounds of food that I am currently eating.You could  not possibly fathom how much and how often I shovel food.   I am terrified that these habits will continue and I will blow up like a tick once this race is over. (There I go overthinking again.) I joke that I eat like a high school football player. The thing is, I have a son that was a high school football player, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the human vacuum cleaner that his mother has become. Oink Oink.

Case in point-today's lunch

Case in point-today’s lunch

My plan was to come to Montauk, NY for 2 weeks prior to Chattanooga, train there on the hills and in the Long Island Sound, relax on vacation, and arrive in Tennessee free of stress, and feeling well rested.

Reality went something like this: We boxed up our bikes and Fed Exed them to Montauk. They arrived on time and 2 days afterwards, we set out for a 70 mile bike ride. Jeff’s bike  had a broken shifter, so he couldn’t change into the small ring. My bike made a funny noise, and 3 miles after we started, I felt a big CLUNK, and my whole bike seized. I was just starting up a hill, and luckily I was able to unclip my feet before tipping over. Turns out, my bike frame broke, my derailleur snapped, and the bike was totaled. No long ride for us.

This frame is toast

This frame is toast

So there I was, 16 days from Ironman, and I was without a bike. Since the carbon frame in all one piece, there was no way to fix this problem. We immediately took to social media and looked for a solution. To my amazement, team mates and friends from all over the country and in Canada offered to ship me their bikes! I was astounded! I had offers from people I had never even met. The triathlon community blew me away. We started communicated with the bike manufacturer too, to see about a warranty. Over the course of the next week, we exhausted every option, weighing the pro’s and con’s until we decided to buy a new Cervelo P2 at Sunrise Tri Shop, in West Babylon.

Getting a custom fit

Getting a custom fit

I can’t say enough about the service Frank gave me at the tri shop. No wonder people fly from all over the world to buy and get fit on specialty bikes from him.

The running in Montauk is scenic and offers a mix of rolling hill roads and an abundance of trails, through woodsy forests and along ocean view cliffs. There are miles and miles of them! In all the years I’ve been coming to town, I had never explored the trails, and now I can’t wait to come back to them.IMG_4471

 

Got a little lost on this trail. Found the mosquitoes though.

Got a little lost on this trail. Found the mosquitoes though.

My last long run of my training was a 3:15 on a Sunday morning. It was HOT and 82% humidity. I managed to get 17.29 miles in, and let me tell you, the last 4 miles were CRANKY! Run, shuffle, walk, curse, limp, whine about my blisters, my knees, and my sunburn, bla, bla, bla….typical long run for me. I imagine Chattanooga will have some moments like this, so in the end, who cares? I’ll get it done.

When I went to pick up my new bike, we decided to stay in Centerport at my friend Kathy’s house because it was much closer to the bike shop. The other bonus was that the Cow Harbor 10K Race was taking place. This nationally ranked race is in my home town of Northport and I have run it the past 2 years. Jeff and I signed up and ran the race, in CRAZY hot and humid temperatures, and had a blast. I ended up not only with a personal best but a course PR of over 10 minutes. I couldn’t have done it without his help pacing me along the difficult course.

 

Official time 52:24

Official time 52:24

We had many visitors during the trip, too. My parents, daughter Dede and her husband Evan, cousin Jill, sister Terie, nephew Richie, and his dad Rich, plus we spent time with a local Montauk friend, Kathy. What a whirlwind.

 

Best parents in the world

Best parents in the world

There's ALWAYS time for Dom Perignon

There’s ALWAYS time for Dom Perignon

I got to ride my new bike for a few hours and it felt better than any other bike I’ve ridden. We got a good swim in at the YMCA of Easthampton, and today we are getting pampered with massage at Gurney’s Inn.

The “hay is in the barn”, so to speak. The pit in my stomach isn’t as big as it was several months ago, but make no mistake; it’s still there. I suppose that’s a good thing. I’m a few days away from completing the most difficult physical race/challenge of my life. Send me some good vibes, will you?

One last thing. I’m doing Ironman Chattanooga for a charity, to raise money and awareness for Prostate Cancer. Would you consider making a donation? The men in your life will appreciate it.

Donate here

See you on the other side of Chat!

First 70.3 at 56

On August 9, 2015, I turned 56. One week later, I competed in my first Ironman 70.3 race. In case you had any doubts, let me tell you. EVERYTHING is possible.

I was excited and nervous  for my Ironman Lake Steven’s 70.3 race. My training, with all it’s high’s and low’s got me here, and there was nothing left to do but get it done. Jeff bought me a Cervelo P2 bike two weeks before the race, but I didn’t have time to get a professional bike fit. I rode it for several days and I started feeling comfortable using the aero bars, and felt completely confident.

I call her Sylvie

I call her Sylvie

We stayed in Mukelteo, Washington, about thirty minutes from Lake Stevens. The alarm went off at 4:30 am and we planned on leaving my hotel at 5.  I had already checked my bike in the day before, so I just had my transition bag full of crap to carry. Jeff was an absolute doll. He did everything for me! (I’m still getting used to being with a man that insists on carrying my bags for me.) I tried not to go over my list for the millionth time, but I couldn’t help myself. All my liquid nutrition was mixed the night before, and set in the cooler.

It was a chilly morning, with a lazy mist on the lake.

lake

The air temperature was in the 50’s but the water was 69 degrees, and I couldn’t wait to get in so I’d stop shivering. My wave-the old gals, was the last to enter the water. In the final moments before all my races, I  shut out the surrounding noise, go deep inside my head, and meditate quietly on what is about to happen. In those moments, just before the swim, I undoubtedly ponder the same thing EVERY time: “Oh God, now that water is full of pee.”

I jumped in and waited for the gun to blow. As soon as it did, the churning began. It was quite civil, however, and only lasted a few minutes. I immediately saw the buoy line, and rejoiced. I’d never done an Ironman event before and had only heard about this line. WOW, did it make a difference. Especially on a morning like this, with the line of bouys being hidden in the fog, it was amazing to just keep my head down and follow the underwater line.  I had to maneuver around a few other people several times but never lost sight of the line. When I exited the water, I felt GREAT, like I could have swam forever! 1.2 miles done.

those are "goggle eyes", not bags!

those are “goggle eyes”, not bags!

My transition to the bike was quick and uneventful. I remembered to down a bottle of GenUcan, ran to the exit, and mounted my bike. Off I went, feeling like a rock star. It was only minutes into the ride that I realized  I was cold. No big deal, I’ll warm up shortly. The weather report called the upper 70’s, so I was not at all concerned. What I hadn’t thought of was the fact that it was only now 8:00 am, and the first 48+ miles of this bike ride was on winding mountain roads, in the forest, so there were little to no sun breaks. Within the first half hour, I was so cold that my feet started to cramp. Then the shaking started. “How is this even possible?” I asked myself. I’ve done this for (only) three years and am NEVER cold on the bike! Try as I may, I could not stop  shivering, and a few times shook so badly, I nearly tipped the bike over. The second thing that happened was  stomach cramps. I was dutifully drinking my GenUcan, but nothing was able to leave my stomach, because my body was tensed up, fighting to get warm. All my muscles clenched tightly the entire ride. I tried sitting up and changing body position, but nothing helped.

I always smile for the cameras

I always smile for the cameras

Beside the cold, I experienced pain in my knees and IT Band at mile 15. This was completely unexpected, but I now know that it was due to the fact that I hadn’t had a custom bike fit. The ride became horrendously painful and nothing would stop it. The hills only made it worse. I can handle a lot of pain, but this just about dropped me. My ONLY thought on that ride was “GET THIS OVER WITH!” Not a very pleasurable way to spend 56 miles.

The elevation was a bit of a challenge to me. I’ve trained on hills in Portland, but nothing like the one’s around Lake Stevens. I saw people walking bikes up hills, stopped, hunched over  heaving, and one or two just standing on the side of the road with the saddest looks on their faces, defeated by the climbs. I was NOT going to be one of those people.

If you’ve read my blogs, you know that I get  emotional during races. I cry. I cry when I struggle badly, (especially when I get an asthma attack) and I cry at finish lines. It’s what I do, and I’m ok with it. It’s not a weakness; it’s just how my body reacts to the pressure and the relief. I live a stressful life and have a high pressure job. I balance several “balls in the air”, and maintain an even keel MOST of the time. When I race, I let it all out. This day was no exception. There is one hill at mile 38 that is legendary. First you make a ninety degree turn and then you go straight UP. (For miles and miles…no just kidding- it just seems like it) I knew it was coming and I was ready for it. I got into the small chain before the turn and tried my best not to look too far ahead, so I wouldn’t get freaked out by the length or grade of the hill. Not even half way up, I saw people dropping out. I kept going. I stood up and powered as hard as I could, but began seriously struggling with getting my feet to turn the pedals. In a sudden burst of Niagara Falls, the tears came. Loud, wailing tears. Angry tears. Fierce, from the gut, tears. I didn’t care who heard me because those tears gave me the power for another crank of the pedals. They ripped out of me and pushed my body up that God forsaken hill and along with the ever-encouraging roadside volunteers’ words of support, I mounted that hill and knew I was NOT going to fail today.

By the time I got to T2, I was pretty sure my legs were permanently damaged. (Drama queen, remember?) I dismounted and they immediately collapsed under me and I had to use the bike to hold me up.

56 miles done.

The pain didn’t go away, and this worried me, so naturally, the tears returned. My stomach still cramped severely and the pain in my knees and IT Band was acute and relentless. I managed to get my bike back to the rack and then I fell apart. A volunteer came over and tried to be helpful, and Jeff was just outside the barrier asking me what was wrong, but I didn’t have a clue what to do. “Can I walk? Can I freaking STAND? Holy Crap, can I RUN 13.1 miles? (Insert more wailing)

I finally got my shit together and decided I had to try. I have never been a quitter, and today was not going to change that. Jeff asked me if I wanted him to pull me from the race…..he asked if I was going to be able to go on…..I remember saying “I’ll try.”

So off I stumbled, shuffled, limped, what ever you’d call it, and started the double loop course. The first few minutes hurt badly, but once my legs stretched out, it wasn’t so bad. My gut still killed me but I decided to take it slow and try and relax everything. Funny how things changed. The run was mostly exposed and the sun beat down, keeping it considerably hot. I hated the first loop of this run. I was miserable, felt defeated, and mentally, there was not much to brag about. I walked A LOT. When I reached the halfway point, however, something happened. I DECIDED I was going to have a good finish, and do it with pride because, damned it, I am a BAD ASS 56 YEAR OLD! I picked up the pace a little, walked when the  nagging side stitch was too  painful, and kept going. I drank one more GenUcan at mile 5, but after that, couldn’t take anything but sips of water. The run course has a few hills, but nothing outrageous. I enjoyed the second loop despite myself and was at that point on a fierce mission!

run

Somewhere in the last mile or so, I started to smile. I was going to finish a 70.3 mile race. On my own power. Wow. Me! The girl who started running at age 50. A Half Ironman! REALLY? Oh. My. God. My smile returned for the first time in what seemed like hours.

WOOHOO, almost done!

WOOHOO, almost done!

I ran most of that last mile and took a short walk break so that I would be able to run through the finish chute. (which, by the way, seemed like a mile long) I started to run through the chute, when all of a sudden my side felt like my appendix was bursting. Seriously-the worst stitch I’ve ever had. BUT, with all the people screaming, the cameras flashing, and the finish line approaching, there was NOTHING that was going to stop me from crossing that line with a smile on my face.

1125_022169

70.3 done.

My official time was 6:41:10. I did it. I will never forget it. As soon as this photo was taken, I immediately collapsed into the fetal position, laughing, groaning with pain, and shaking with excitement. It took a volunteer about 5 full minutes (at least it seemed that long) to get me upright. She thought I needed medical attention, but I kept telling her, NO, it’s just a stitch. LOL, worst one I’ve ever had, but who cares????

Jeff greeted me with the biggest smile, hug, and “I’m so proud of you” and we laughed, and I reveled in my accomplishment. I did it. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it. I gotta tell you, having the support of my coach, SheriAnne Nelson of PrsFit, and of Jeff Kline, I believe I can do ANYTHING.finish love

Life is good with this kind of love. Rock on, people. Go after your goals. It’s never too late. Thinking of starting on your own fitness path? Would you like to do a race someday? Ask me anything you want. I’d love to help and support YOU.

 

Stair Steppin’

This month’s training is brought to you by: Oregon has the Highest Pollen Count. Lucky me! Let’s celebrate! Since the beginning of May, my eyes have started out burning in the morning, and if I’m lucky, by mid afternoon, still remain functional-albeit almost swollen shut and on fire. I submit for you, exhibit A:

alergy eyesWhile I deal with this every year, 2015 has had me questioning my choice of geography. By mid June, the allergy circus escalated to the degree that, BAM, I found myself sitting in front of Zoom Care, too sick to get out of the car. I managed to do so however, and a half hour later left with my every-few-month-dose of antibiotics, for the explosive sinus and ear infection that I seem to be fond of attracting quarterly. You see, training for my “A” race, Ironman Chattanooga, requires several hours per day running and cycling outdoors, inhaling the lovely and caustic pollen that coats my sinuses, lungs, eyes, and skin.

I spent the next three days in bed.

One week later, I was set to race the Olympic distance in the Clackamas Cove Triathlon. All week leading up to the race, I tried to take good care to ensure my nutrition, rest, and hydration were perfect. I slept a lot, took my Allegra, Flonase, and vitamins, and didn’t drink alcohol or eat anything outside of my Metabolic Efficiency Diet.

My training schedule is focused on Sept 27, 2015. THAT is the bulls eye. All of my training is geared toward that one race. I am stair stepping my racing schedule to MOSTLY include only triathlons, starting with the Sprint distance that I did in February. This Olympic is twice that distance. My next race in August will be the Lake Stevens 70.3 (a half Ironman), and then the BIG MAMMA, Chattanooga!

The day before the Clackamas Cove tri, Jeff (boyfriend and coach extraordinaire- with PRSFIT ) and I went to the site so I could run through some of the swim, run and bike transitions, and tour the course to set up my race plan. The swim was supposed to go from a cove to the spill into the river, and downstream to a boat ramp, where we were to exit into the transition area. The low river levels left part of that course without water! more cove

I practiced swimming up to the shallows, running out of the water, across the rocks, and back into the river. We decided I would bring a pair of shoes to leave on the beach, so I could run across the rocks without hurting my feet, and then kick them off as I dove back in.

We drove the run course, and part of the bike course and I felt pretty good about the plan that Jeff and my coach SheriAnne mapped out for me.

The morning of the race, I woke up at 4:15, so I could eat my normal breakfast and do my, ahem, morning “routine”. Well, I’m a nervous type, so I did my routine 4 times before I left the house. Nervous? That’s an understatement.

Have I ever told you how much fun it is to put on a wetsuit?

cove

(You have to slather the equivalent of Spray Pam all over your body, to aid in the rapid removal while you are transitioning from the swim to the bike.)

               VOILA!

VOILA!

 

Due to the ever changing river conditions, the RD decided it was too dangerous to navigate the river portion of the swim, so they kept the swim in the cove. My race was now a two loop swim of approx 1600 yards. This created an interesting situation for the athletes, since we were no longer exiting at the transition area. Now we had to get out of the water and run .4 miles to T1. CHANGE OF PLANS. No problem. I brought some water sandals to throw on, to protect my feet. Running .4 miles in a wetsuit is pretty hilarious.

The bike portion was a 24 mile out and back, with some rolling hills and the promise of a huge hill at the turn around. While I had heard about this hill, I didn’t preview it the day before. THANK GOD. As I approached it at mile 11, I looked up and thought, “Are you freaking kidding me? I have to ride up THAT?” To be honest, I wasn’t sure I COULD. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded, and I managed to tackle it will all of my dignity in place. After the turn around, I let loose and rode like a mad woman back to T2. My legs felt great, and I was hydrating as planned. The only snag was the redneck in the F350, towing an RV, that didn’t like bikes on the road, who nearly ran me into a ditch, while cursing me out. Share the road!

Having severe allergies AND asthma presents some challenges for me, particularly in the run portion of a race. I struggle to keep the asthma attacks under control, especially when I am stressed. (I also have a seriously messed up intestinal system, as a result of years of undiagnosed Celiac disease, so fueling my body for long periods of intense activity is a constant challenge) Here I am heading out for the run portion, sucking down some GenUcan, while shaking up my Albuterol Inhaler. cove tri

How’s THAT for multitasking? I had two loops of the run course to go, which included running up these stairs (100+ of the buggers) TWICE.

11202063_10202743358344699_4685113185101236491_n

That aint no Stairway to Heaven, let me tell you. The first loop went great, and as I ran back through the transition area, I didn’t get directed to the right place, and ended up going the wrong way. (oops, should have scoped that out beforehand!) At this time, I thought I was at least in the lead for my age group, and with every second counting, I got a tad bit upset. You DO know how high strung I am, don’t you? Well, this set me off on a lovely asthma attack, which had me wheezing starting to choke up and get dizzy, which escalated into me getting emotional, bla bla bla. Jeff was right there to calm me down and encourage me, which worked, and I just kept running. I managed to get it all back together, and finish well, even winning second in my age group of women 50-59.

10500439_10207166544261248_645928651766799941_n

Overall, with the changes to the swim, the hills, the maniac redneck, and the stairs, this was a fantastic race. I loved the challenges, and testing my body. I’m thrilled with how my training is proving to be spot on, and I’m looking forward to the next adventure.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me. As always, I welcome your comments, and I’d love to hear about your training.

Lastly, please consider making a donation to help fund Prostate Cancer research. We need to find a cure for this horrible disease. Thank you.

Donate here

A Day in a Ditch

The alarm was set for 4am, but after spending hours NOT sleeping, I got out of bed at 3:45. Struggling to shake off the drowsiness, I prepared my tea and small breakfast in silence. It was 19 degrees out, but it would warm up to 80 by the afternoon. I quickly dressed in layers, and Jeff and I headed down to the hotel lobby, to meet the rest of the runners. We nervously joked about the temperatures and the physical challenge we were about to undertake.

group shot

We set out to run the Grand Canyon.

Arriving at the Bright Angel trailhead, the 9 of us turned on our headlamps, donned our gloves, took a few pictures, chatted nervously in the dark, muttered something like “Holy FUCK, It’s COLD”, and off we ran- beginning our descent into the biggest hole in the USA.

head lamp

Six of the nine quickly disappeared into the abyss, as they were the elite athletes, embarking on a 50 mile “Rim to rim to rim” run. Jeff, Shane, and I had our sights on 20-23 miles. As any of my running buddies will tell you, I am a bit of a whiner on the trails. Before attempting this crazy ass adventure, I hadn’t  convinced myself that I even REMOTELY liked trail running. So, what the heck was I doing? Too late to turn back! I pushed the button on my headlamp, and started down the trail. Visibility was limited to the beam from of our  lamps  and  obstructed by the eerie swirling of the trail dust. I had no idea what lay beyond the small circle of light as we silently barreled down those first miles of switchbacks. Of course, I would find out later that most of the trails had shear cliffs and deep drop offs just outside of our sight.

The first signs of light began to glow within an hour of our start, and as morning broke, the views opened before us. The reveal of the Canyon’s layers, as the sun rose  provided a dazzling show of rainbow colors against the massive walls surrounding us. We  stopped to photograph the moment.

Sunrise in the canyon Sunrise

At the 4.5 mile mark, we came upon Indian Gardens campground, nestled in a valley, with colorful trees and a stream. It was only when we approached this area that we saw the first signs of other people. We mistakenly took a wrong turn, which turned out to be a 3 mile detour and ran the  Tonto West Trail. This lead us to a gorgeous rock platform overlooking the Colorado River. Gorgeous, but in the wrong direction.

Patty at overlook

 

We turned around and found our way back to the correct trail. What’s a few extra miles, anyway? The terrain was mostly flat for these few miles, so we ran comfortably and took in the sights. It’s indescribable.

Before long, we found ourselves navigating  steep and technical trails, with extreme switchbacks, so we slowed our pace considerably. The trails were now crowded with people hiking in both directions, but as far as I could tell, we were the only one’s actually running. I got some wonderful comments from people of all ages, showing encouragement and awe at what we were doing.

Jeff on trailPatty on trail

Shane on trailAs we rounded a corner and saw the Colorado River, I was blown away by it’s power and history. The sound was mesmerizing. We stopped  for a while, just to experience it and stare. Here was the 17 million year old river, with the power to cut a 277 mile, 6000+ feet deep canyon. The mighty Colorado River.

Colorado River

At this point, Jeff’s calf was giving him trouble, so he decided to start the trek back up the canyon, and Shane and I continued on to find Phantom Ranch. As it turns out, it was only a few more miles and one metal, grated bridge crossing. SCAREY!

bridge

By this time, we were 4 hours into our run and I felt incredible. I had energy to spare and wanted to keep running forever. Shane and I found Phantom Ranch and took a break to snack and refill our water bottles. There is a US Post Office at the ranch, and the mail is brought out on mule train, so Shane sent some post cards to his family. Post office

I was THRILLED to find that the small cafe served Tazo English Breakfast Tea-my favorite!!! I sat down outside and thoroughly enjoyed a cup with my snack of peanutbutter energy bars. At that moment, all was right in my world.Resting at Phantom Ranch

A short time later, I took this

The first 6 miles of the ascent felt great. I had energy to spare and I powered up the hills, sweating, but thoroughly enjoying the challenge. I met people from around the globe, and shared encouragement with them all. It got quite hot though, so I started dunking my head in every stream crossing, to cool off.I kept looking up at the cliffs and started feeling a bit overwhelmed with the long, steep climb still ahead.

Once back at Indian Ranch, I thought about the 4.5 mile 4600 foot climb and realized that I had to do it without stopping or I would get miserably discouraged. It was approximately 8 hours since we started, and I knew I didn’t have several more in me. I told Shane that I would meet him at the top and headed off. This excruciating climb took me 1:21. This was the most physically and mentally challenging thing I have ever done. I can’t even convey the degree of difficulty, putting one foot in front of the other, all the while looking up at the grueling switchbacks and knowing I still had miles to go. I sweat like a pig and stunk worse than one when I reached the top. I could barely walk.

Jeff met me at the car and we went back to the hotel to shower and submerse ourselves in the glorious hotel hot tub. The pain was incredible, but nothing like what we would experience in the next few days. We drove back and met Shane and the rest of the group and then gathered to have dinner and celebratory drinks. I ate almost an entire gluten free pizza by myself.

The next morning, we all stumbled down to breakfast and shared our stories. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone and sharing this epic experience with them. Late that day, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Phoenix for our last night. Getting out of the car was hilarious. Our legs didn’t work. Checking into the hotel, I was informed that the room I reserved wasn’t available, so they upgraded us to a Jacuzzi suite! YES!!! I think we stayed in that tub for an hour.

hot tub upgradeThe next day at the airport, I couldn’t resist…my poor body.

Airport massageOver the years, I’ve traveled the globe, and seen some amazing things.  There’s a reason why the Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Go see it. If you are crazy like me, go run it. You will love it. Every beautiful, sweaty, stinky, sucky part of it.

As always, thanks for reading my blog. Subscribe so you can follow along. Share it, if you’d like. Until next time….

 

 

 

A Winter Diversion

I decided to get away from the office for a week, and take a trip to Florida to visit  my parents. My folks “Winter” in the South, like all good retired New Englanders. I call it “Heaven’s waiting room”.

I’m cursed with the lack of ability to relax, so I scoured the internet to see if there were any races near my parent’s place. Luckily for me, the 25/75 Championship Triathlon was scheduled nearby, so I registered for the Sprint distance. (750 meter swim, 12.4 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) The Port St Lucie Club Med hosted the event. I found a local triathlon shop nearby and  rented a nice bike.

Florida weather is unpredictable. It was cloudy and windy most of the week, with temperatures in the 70’s and low 80’s. The humidity  kicked my butt  as I continued my daily training. I found an outdoor pool to swim laps and rode a crappy recumbent bike  while watching “The Price is Right”  with  retirees who  exercised on 30 year old equipment.

Back to the weather. All week, thunderstorms threatened the area and the weekend report was bleak.  I half expected the event to be canceled. The day before the race brought a  storm of Biblical proportions. Six to Seven inches of rain before 1 pm, and strong winds. I took this video from parents’ dining room window.

That’s not a sidewalk that you see-it’s a flood.The video doesn’t portray the intensity of the storm, but you get the idea. Flooding was widespread, roads were closed, and many neighborhoods  around Stuart and Port St Lucie were underwater. I didn’t have a great feeling about racing in these conditions.

Sunday morning, I woke at 4:30 am. It was still pouring. Yippee. I stood in the kitchen, making my tea, eggs, banana, and peanutbutter breakfast, and questioned my sanity. “No turning back now.” I thought. When I left the house at 5:45, it was still raining. I had my rental bike, pump, wet suit, goggles, cap, towel, running shoes, bike shoes,…..and a million other necessities that a triathlete needs for a race. With a pit in my stomach, I rolled along the highway, imagining the miserable day I was about to experience.

Halfway to the race location, the rain stopped. It wasn’t quite sunrise yet, but I could see some breaks in the clouds and was hopeful for  improvement. My mood lifted, I tuned the radio to a local Rock station, cranked up the volume , and started singing at the top of my lungs. Just like that,  I WAS READY! WOOHOO!

I set up my bike in the transition area, chatted with other athletes, visited the bathrooms a half a dozen times, and drank my pre race GenUcan. Time to kick ass.

 

Getting ready to race

Getting ready to race

Twenty minutes before the  swim start, I wiggled into my wet suit and made my way to the river. I was repulsed by the color. Black. Dirty black water. Gross. The starting gun went off, and into the churning mess I went. It was a rectangle course, and it took almost half of the distance before I got away from swimmers kicking me, hitting me in the face,swimming over me, across me, and under me. The wind  picked up, and the swells were so high, it was difficult to sight the buoys. I like to swim a tight course, but had a hard time navigating. Finally, I rounded the first buoy and the course opened up a bit. At the second turn, the current  tried to push us off course. One guy in front of me was “tacking” wildly, making it difficult to pass him. Every time I tried to go around him, he moved right in front of me. Desperate to do something to get out from behind him, and between his legs, I made a fist and socked him in the…ahem….sensitive area. This got his attention and he moved over. (Am I bad?) I exited the swim and started peeling off my wet suit as I ran to transition.  I heard people calling my name! It was  my sister, her family, and my parents jumping up and down, cheering for me.

I never look behind me when I race, and this day was no exception. Arriving in transition I had a momentary “unusual” experience. I stopped and looked around me. Most of the bikes were still racked. How can this be? I was in the second to last wave? Had I passed people? WAKE UP, Patty, and get going! I managed a quick transition and was off running with my bike to the exit.

The bike course was flat and technical. The storm  left behind puddles and debris on the roads. This poorly designed course had multiple traffic circles, several complete 360 degree TIGHT turns at round-abouts, at least four 90 degree turns, and a few bumpy brick stretches. Strong winds on the open course added to the difficulty.  There were plenty of course volunteers, and I thanked every one of them as I sped by. I averaged 18 mph, which was disappointing to me, but  only a handful of people passed me. Heading into transition, one of the volunteers said, “Great job-you’re in a good position. Keep going.”

I couldn’t find my asthma inhaler, and I usually need it for the run. Exiting the main area, I watched a few runners dodging puddles, but being an Oregonian, I blasted past them, running right through the water. (Those that know me at home, know that I hate having wet feet, or getting my shoes dirty. HAHA)  I ran my heart out. While I struggled with my “mental” race, I was determined not to let anyone pass me. Can I keep this pace? Can I make it? Will I stop and walk a bit? WHERE’S THE FREAKING MILE MARKERS? When I felt myself slipping,  I actually started praying. Yep. Good old Irish Catholic girl. I meditated as I ran, calming my breath and shutting out the negative thoughts. Rounding the final turn before the home stretch, I once again saw my family cheering. There was a 180 degree turn twenty or so yards before the finish line, (REALLY???) and finally, I was done! I got hugs from my family and I felt great.

finishedMom and dad

We hung around for a while and then walked to the pool for the reward ceremony. I had no idea what my results were. A long while later, I found out that I had won my age group! YES! I was ecstatic. Turns out I was 9th overall female finisher and 54th overall. I missed my  Sprint Pr by 45 seconds, BUT I PR’d the 5k run by over a minute. 1:25:40 was my official time for the Sprint. 23:54 for the run.(7:41 per mile) Not bad for a 55 year old gal.

race photo

I’m glad I had this opportunity to race in Florida and even happier I got to spend time with my sister, her family, and my parents. That made the trip special!

Thanks for reading my blog. I encourage you to get moving. Make healthy choices. Enjoy your journey. Share your story with me!

Setting Aside Limits

rainy ride (2)It’s 8 am and I am 8 months and 4 days away from competing in the mother load of races: Ironman Chattanooga. Just opening up the website creates a knot in my stomach. I’ve got time. The knot will loosen. It will tighten again, but I am not afraid  anymore. For now, I am focusing on the training-putting in my time. Eleven scheduled workouts per week. I can’t honestly say I complete them all EVERY week, but I do a pretty good job. At 55 years old, I have never put myself through this type of sustained physical effort or concentration. I’m breaking through old self imposed limits and finding where the new ones reside. They won’t live there long though, because I’m starting to relish the shattering sound of them crashing beneath me as I crush them and shove them behind me. Don’t bother looking back Patty, they no longer exist! As a self proclaimed mediocre athlete, I must confess, I struggle with training. Sometimes I train too hard. (To the chagrin of my coach) Sometimes my head gets in the way, and negative thoughts sabotage the day. Other times, I cruise through with the confidence of a champion. Most days are not glamorous. They all end in sweaty, stinky clothes, and I do laundry by the ton.

goggle eyes (2)Goggle eyes are a new fashion statement

 There are moments of agony, while I’m cycling past the ability or will to keep my legs spinning, or swimming exhausted, knowing I have another thousand yards left, while wheezing on the verge of another asthma attack. Then I break through realizing a second wind is coming,and through the pain, a smile forms on my lips, even though the tears may already be spilling. I put my head down and continue. Eye on the prize and all that.

10931339_10205192531229532_6455596911344352003_nCurrently, the phase of my training is called “Base Training”. I’m mostly putting in time and training my body aerobically, to get it used to the hours it will need to sustain. There are lessons learned along the journey and one that I am (not too) happy to be learning now, is how to sustain the work load without running myself into the ground. I am in the throws of my second sinus infection in two months, and not enjoying a single minute of it. I think it has to do with insufficient nutrition and lack of rest. Seems logical! I’m working with the best people I know, and learning more about becoming a successful endurance athlete, but I am making rookie mistakes and paying for them. My goal as I heal from this setback, is to improve my nutrition and to listen to my body. My coach turned me on to MyFitnessPal. I’ve just started playing with it, and I love how it calculates the categories of foods you should eat, based on your weight and the amount of time you exercise per week. I’m also paying better attention to the supplements I should be taking. It’s a journey!

I just finished the book Running Past Midnight by Molly Sheridan. This woman started running at age 50 and has since run in over 45 ultra marathons, including the 150 mile race through the Sahara Desert, (Marathon Des Sables), the 135 mile race through Death Valley, (Badwater Ultramarathon), and she is the first American woman to finish a 138 mile race through the Himalayas over TWO 18,000 feet peaks. (La Ultra-The High) One particular paragraph spoke to me, and echo’s my thoughts about training for my Ironman. Molly was attempting Ancient Oaks for the fourth time and an injury sidelined her 13.5 miles short of the 100 mile finish.

“…but if I’m invited back, I’ll have a new game plan. I am considering carrying my Dalai Lama prayer beads, wearing a rosary, and listening to African Women warrior drumbeats as I chant and pray my way through the Queen’s territory. Some might call me mad. Along that fine line of madness is my desire to reach past my physical and mental limitations. I want to go  beyond what I think is possible. Is there really a big Queen oak tree out there purposefully stopping my progress, or is it my own internal Queen telling me I can’t make it? Whether she is in my head or out in nature, it makes no difference. I still need to overcome her.”

(Quote used with Molly’s permission.)

 Rock on, Molly. I’m in your corner and whether you know it or not, I just put you in mine. Thanks for the inspiration.

If you would like to make a donation to help find a cure for Prostate Cancer, please click here

Semper Fi

On October 26, 2014, I, along with approximately thirty thousand other people participated in the 39th annual Marine Corps Marathon. To say that this event was an “experience” wouldn’t be enough. Words escape me, but since this is a WRITTEN blog, I’ll give it a try.

I entered this race in a charity slot with the  Zero The End of Prostate Cancer organization. My dear friend and former coach was diagnosed with Advanced Stage IV Prostate Cancer last Winter, and I wanted to do something to help in the research and awareness effort with Zero . In all, there were around twenty seven  athletes on our team from all over the US that  raised money and secured an entry into the race.

After a hectic day of travel on planes, trains, and automobiles, (in that order, I might add) a large group met up for lunch and the ultimate pre-race feast at an Italian restaurant. Holy Moly, the FOOD!!! The chef was kind enough to cater to my gluten free needs, and made me a whole plate of special pasta!

Patty's pastaAnother round of trains and automobiles, and another group of us met up for a pre race dinner. EAT ALL THE FOOD!!!!

Team dinner Oh, and yes, beer and wine are part of our training.

The morning of the run came very early. I awoke at 4am so I could have my traditional breakfast of eggs, banana, peanut butter, and tea. We  took the car to the train, to the Pentagon, and then had a brisk two mile walk to the starting line. Yes, we walked two miles BEFORE running 26.2 miles! Naturally, I visited every porta potty along the way, and several times before the race actually started. Oh, my nerves!

pre race

Pre race goof balls

It was chilly while we waited for two hours at the start, so we huddled together and gave each other encouragement. (And mostly harassed each other with dumb running jokes)

A few minutes before the start at 7:55am, we made our way to the starting line. I could see dozens of men lined up “watering” the trees and bushes one last time before the big trek. I was supremely jealous of them at that moment. The crowd was buzzing with energy.

Some of the 30,000

Some of the 30,000

Coach Jeff-the reason we now know all about Prostate Cancer.

Coach Jeff-the reason we now know all about Prostate Cancer.

The energy at the start of this race was beyond electric. The Marines put on a show with fly by’s, hovering aircraft, and parachutes. This was my favorite:

One of many paratroopers displaying the flag

One of many paratroopers displaying the flag

Right on time,  the race began, and we were off. My goal was to hang with coach Jeff and plan on a four hour and thirty minute finish. With almost thirty thousand people running shoulder to shoulder, there was a lot of bobbing and weaving, just to keep up a steady pace. (When it was all said and done, my Garmin showed 26.8 miles. That’s a lot of extra steps!) We managed to keep our group together for three miles, when I had to stop and use a rest room. FRUSTRATING!!! So I dropped off and got in a line. I tried to catch up afterwards, but never saw my team again.

Running this course was incredible. I looked at the sights, smiled at people, and generally absorbed the experience. The weather was perfect, and the crowds were abundant, loud, and very supportive. After running “alone” for two hours, things started going wrong. At one moment, I was flying along, barely feeling my feet hit the ground, and in the next, my left Achilles, calf, and both knees began to hurt. I mean HURT. like, “Uh oh, what’s going on, and am I going to be able to finish this race?” kind of hurt. I ran my first two marathons with two torn tendons and a torn muscle in my left foot and that didn’t hurt as badly as THIS! I started to crumble. Just about this time, my emotions surfaced, and the realization that I was  possibly injured and not able to complete this run became a possibility. Then everything around me became a trigger. There were  Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine soldiers everywhere. American flags float in the breeze. People proudly ran with flags.

There were several groups like this that ran the whole course carrying flags

There were several groups like this that ran the whole course carrying flags

I began to tear up at the sight of this. I watched the monuments go by, and saw the soldiers-mere babies, in uniform, and cried some more. I thought of the reason I was here. Not just to run another marathon, but to support a cause that has become near and dear to me. I’ve never run for a cause. I was now a part of a purpose. It was right about this time that I came across the Blue Mile. This is a mile long stretch of the course where people hold flags and the street is lined with photos of fallen soldiers. blue mileI had heard about this, but nothing could prepare me for it. The photo  posters are on stands, evenly spaced, and they are hauntingly beautiful. I found myself slowing down so that I could touch the top of each one, and whisper “Thank you” to each one. I sobbed for these people. I cried for their families. I didn’t care who saw me. I was not alone in my public grief at this spot of the journey.

I still had miles to go. Suck it up buttercup.

The second half of the marathon was an exercise in grit, determination, extreme cursing, and involved a lot of self talk. I  hated most of it, cursed my lack of training, my lack of mental toughness, and tried to keep it together and power through. I had a bad attitude, and horrendous pain in my legs. I put my head down and stopped looking at the other runners, and ignored the crowds of well wishers. It was the darkest race I’ve ever run. When I saw the finish line, and the row of soldiers, lined up giving “high fives”, I couldn’t even muster the strength to participate. I crossed the finish line in a daze. When I finally looked up to see the young, smiling Marine that congratulated me on my finish, and put my metal around my neck, my fog lifted. I gave him a huge teary eyed smile, thanked him for his service, and thanked God for letting me be a part of this experience. OO-RAH!

There was a lot of limping for several hours after the finish. It was my slowest marathon to date. It was the biggest, most profound one as well. I met people I had only known online, deepened friendships with them, got to see our incredible nation’s capital, and raised money for Prostate Cancer research.

I will be blogging about Prostate Cancer in the future. I am excited to share that I have partnered up with Zero  again and will be participating in  Ironman Chattanooga next September. If you would like to make a donation of any amount, please do so here: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/chattanooga.aspx#axzz3HeVD6LdT.

Thanks for reading my blog.

 

One Sunday Morning in June

Unless it’s a high profile event where a group of my friends is planning to race together, or I have a family member participating,I prefer to race alone. This might surprise some of my readers, because in reality, I love a crowd, and the bigger the party, the better.In my non athletic life, I can’t imagine not being surrounded by friends and family.

My ugly secret is that I experience high levels of stress with my training and racing. Supernova type stress! On race day, I am usually one  panic attack away from needing a couple of Valium and a whole bottle of Kaopectate. I know it makes no sense, but I can rarely avoid the pre dawn hours pacing the house, making frequent trips to the Loo, always praying I’ll settle down. It doesn’t matter how well prepared I am, or how well my training has gone. Last Sunday was no exception.

I am a beginner Triathlete. Technically I might be an intermediate, but I don’t want to set any expectations. I’ve done four Sprint Triathlons, so far. Sunday, June 22nd was my fourth, to be exact. While they have all been fun and exciting, this one ended up being very special. I have been training all Winter and Spring, but these past few months have given me a wee bit of a challenge. Running isn’t smooth like it used to be. Cycling seems to have gotten harder too. My swim workouts in the pool have gone well, but I’ve only recently had the chance to get out in the river and do open water workouts. Have I mentioned my fear of cold open water? Plus, that shit’s COLD! And murky, and filled with floaty things, and gucky stuff on the bottom!

Don't let the smile fool you

Don’t let the smile fool you

All of these things don’t matter, however, when the calendar shows you signed up for a race. So, Sunday morning, I got up early, (Did I REALLY sleep at all?) ate my customary breakfast, and waited for the nerves to die down. On this day, I was to compete in the Clackamas Cove Triathlon. A short 10 minute drive down 99E and I was there.

It's important to overdress for a triathlon. It keeps you warm and calms the nerves.

It’s important to overdress for a triathlon. It keeps you warm and calms the nerves.

I love small races of any kind. They are usually pretty well organized and people are friendly and helpful. The Portland Triathlon Club sponsored this event and they did a fantastic job. I arrived with plenty of time to spare, set up my bike and transition area, and visited the rest rooms a half a dozen times.

I like to set my bike up as close to the exit as possible.

I like to set my bike up as close to the exit as possible.

Once set up, and with about forty five minutes to go, I drank my GenUcan chocolate protein shake, made with Coconut milk and a banana.

Come on, energy! Let's do this thing.

Come on, energy! Let’s do this thing.

The call went out for the athletes to make their way to the starting point of the swim, which was a five minute walk down the street, along a paved bike path, to the beach. I donned my wetsuit, grabbed my goggles, neoprene cap, and designated green bathing cap, took a good hit off my inhaler, and headed off. At the last minute, I decided to put on my swim booties instead of shoes, knowing that it might cause me to lose time in the first transition (T1), but did I mention the yuk factor of the river bottom? I was glad I had them.

The race started with waves, every thirty seconds or so. It went very quickly, and before I knew it, they called for the Old Bags to get in the water. I’m kidding about that of course, but really, when you are in the LAST age wave, what else would I call it?

The water was cold. I knew that. I was ready for it. According to the Oregon Water Scientist Center, the temperature in  the “Cove” section was around 63 degrees, but once you exit the spill into the Clackamas River, it droped to around 57 degrees. OK, that’s cold. Before my wave started, I did a few dives underwater to acclimate myself and see if I could  breathe with a relaxed rhythm.  It worked! Before I knew it, my 800m swim (Just under a half mile) had begun. I found myself in the middle of a pack, with people bumping me, kicking me, and swimming half up my legs, before I kicked THEM in an effort to tell them to “GET THE HELL OFF ME!” At one point I had someone in front of me going back and forth like she was trying to prevent me from passing her. This ticked me off, so I veered off to he left and gunned it.

Going through the “Spill” into the actual river was a shock. I knew it would be colder, but this hit me like a brick. Several people panicked here and couldn’t go on. After two or three seconds, I took it in stride and kicked up my pace. Now as I turned left  I could see the exit point. It got very shallow suddenly, and some people crawled along on their hands and knees. I knew that would slow me down, so I altered my stroke and flew through the shallows. I got to the exit rather quickly and ran up the ramp. My body was doing a bit of a slow motion run, which was hilarious, but given the fact that it was half frozen, I didn’t complain.

It was about a forty yard run to my bike, where I quickly removed my wetsuit attire, took another hit off my inhaler, put on my socks and bike shoes, sunglasses and helmet, grabbed my bike and ran for the exit., Once I mounted my bike, I held nothing back. It’s an interesting thing what happens to me on the bike. I am not sure who that woman is that inhabits my body, but I would never want to meet her in a dark alley. The ride was an out and back, with a total distance of twelve miles. No big deal…unless you are living it moment to moment. Trust me. No matter WHAT the distance, you feel every inch of it. I was fearless. I got up to twenty five mph on that freaking bike. I yelled, “ON YOUR LEFT” more times than I remember.  The psycho woman in my head screamed (silently of course) “YOU’RE MINE, ASSHOLE”,  as I dug deep and passed people.The sound of  my loud “grunting” alone must have scared the crap out of them.  I sailed into T2 and quickly grabbed my water bottle for the run.

3.1 miles seems like NOTHING. Unless you just sheared all the muscles in your legs riding your bike harder than you’ve ever ridden before. It’s actually pretty funny to see people hobble off the bike. I was no exception. My feet were completely numb. This has never happened before. I assumed they would eventually get feeling again, so I ran. And I ran. I ran close to my fasted 5k ever. It hurt. I passed people, and didn’t let anyone pass me. (except for one 15 year old boy). I finished with a sprint, and knew I had given my all.

Once I got my breathing back under control, I went over to get my results. It turned out it was my best triathlon, and I took second in my age group. I was thrilled beyond words.

   Nice Microbrew prize!

Nice Microbrew prize!

I hung around and cheered for the last of the athletes to finish and then went home to eat volumes of food and take a long nap. It was a great day. I hope to learn from this, and not be as stressed the next time. (One can hope, can’t she?)

Do you get nervous when you train or race? How do you calm yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for stopping by.

 

Heart of Rock and Roll

Attitude is everything. Don’t I know it? I had a BAD one going into the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This was to be my third half marathon in five weeks and I was TIRED! Two weeks prior to this event was the Tacoma City Marathon. I ran that one with my daughter Dede, and had a lot of trouble on the hills. I pushed too hard early on and paid for it later in the race.

We had a tough race but finished happily, together

We had a tough race but finished happily, together

My body had some “bitch slapping” to do as payback no doubt, and I ended up getting very sick for the next two weeks. Full blown, in bed, sinus infection, aches, and exhaustion; you know the drill-pure YUK.

During this time I tried to fit in some recovery workouts. Yoga, stretching, easy spins on the bike, and a few shake out runs. Despite WANTING to feel like I was getting stronger, it was pure torture to even run 4 miles. I pretty much had a two week rest period. So, when it came time to ramp up to run another 13.1 mile race with 10,000+ other people, I was less than enthusiastic.

I was honored to have been asked to run for team Salvation Army, who sponsored my race entry. I was thrilled to be running for them, but I still was not feeling up to the task.

Salvation ArmyLat year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Portland had left a sour taste in my mouth. I paid way too much money, felt like a prisoner at the Expo, the live music along the race route was horrible, I ran injured, and had a slow, painful run. Perhaps I still harbored some resentment toward the whole RnR concept and this contributed to my bad attitude.

Going to the race Expo this year, I kept an open mind. Let me say this: it is easier to go through Customs in a foreign country than it is to get through the packet pick up at this event. Show ID. (translation: no group packet pick ups-EVERYONE has to show up in person to get their packet. AND, they don’t let you leave by the same way you enter, so you HAVE to go through the Expo to get out) I had to fill out a form telling them where I lived, how was I going to get to the race, did I own a car, how long I was staying in Portland, bla bla bla.I’m surprised they didn’t take blood samples.

The gear bag was this quazai-paper-kinda-like-a-reusable-grocery-sack kind of bag.

bagThe instructions were to use this as your gear check bag and they included a zip tie. Dear Rock ‘n’ Roll organization: this is Portland, Oregon and you are hosting this event in May. Do you know that it rains here in May? Do you know that a zip tie will not close a bag of this type? How do we ensure our checked items will stay dry and remain inside this stupid bag while it is thrown into a truck with 10,000 other bags? Oh brother!

To their credit, RnR put on a great Expo. I let go of my bad mood and fully immersed myself in the festivities, even laying down some cash for these bad boys:

glasses

Just wait until I wear these on my bike. BAD ASS!

Sunday morning arrived in typical Portland fashion; overcast, cool, and threatening to rain. I debate what to pack for weather protection and decided it was most important to pack warm dry clothes for AFTER the run, since I knew there were be a lot of standing around and socializing when we finished in all of our glory.

Thankfully, my friend, Suzanne was way more prepared than me and had some extra ponchos. This is how I looked just before the race.

Patty B's rainy startLiquid sunshine was in abundance that morning. Thank God it was warming up!

If you’ve ever run in one of these types of mega races, you know that you have to have a sense of humor and never expect to PR. You start running shoulder to shoulder with every skill type of runner and it takes a mile or two before you even have room to bob and weave around people. This day was no exception. Suzanne and I had planned to just run together until one of us decided to drop back or run ahead. There was no pressure to go fast or necessarily stay together. “Let’s just see what happens” was our motto. We stayed together for most of the race. Things went well for the first three miles or so and then this happened:

Train stop

What well run Portland race doesn’t include the obligatory train stop along Front Ave?

Train stop! You have to have a sense of humor when running in Portland! After this, I just had to laugh. We got going again rather quickly and decided to make a potty stop. I usually try not to stop during races unless it’s an emergency, but on this day, we ran for fun.

The music this year was a far cry better than last year, and my mood started to lift as I found my recently rested body feeling strong and loose. The hills on the course that wrecked my injured tendons last year were a breeze for me to conquer this year. I got into my rhythm and focused straight ahead. At one point I felt so good and checked in with my Garmin, to realize that, despite the train stop and potty stop, I was not too far off from possibly finishing close to my PR time. This set me off running at a faster pace and I was determined to finish as fast as I could. My spirits SOARED…right up until the traffic stop. Yep. Portland Police stopped us to allow traffic to cross the route. Twice. During a race. Seriously. I may or may not have cursed at a cop. I’ll never admit to anything.

After the last stop, I flew to the finish. My official time was five minutes slower than my PR, but with the FOUR stops along the route, I was thrilled with my performance. My IT band wasn’t so happy, but that’s a price I pay for negative splits.

Afterwards, I got to pose with some of my Honey Badger friends.

We are so silly. I love these women!

We are so silly. I love these women!

I also got to play with some of Portland’s Urban Goats!

Portland goat sceneThis turned out to be a fantastic race and a stellar day. I limped to the medical tent and got a massage, managed to walk the mile back to the car, and later met up with Amy, one of the girls I ran with, and had a foot soak and reflexology at Feel Good Feetfoot soak Later that evening, I rested my legs in bed with a good book and a great dog.

doggy loveSo, despite my bad attitude going into this race, I had a spectacular day. I spent it with friends, had a lot of laughs, played with goats, and ran for a wonderful organization. Now it’s time to  take a few weeks off from racing, keep training, and get ready for my first triathlon for the season in June.

Thanks for stopping by my blog again. Subscribe if you’d like to follow along.