Tuesday, June 30, 2009
My biggest fear? To find out how badly my marathon spiraled out of control to end up at a pace about 1.5 minutes slower than it started out. The decay would have to be massive to destroy the first 16 miles of averaging around 7:45s.
I sat down to write. I remembered the importance of splits. You don't have to be a world-class athlete to keep splits. Looking at race splits is how you measure YOUR improvement -- the result of all the training. My college swim coach taught me to write them down no matter what. Before big meets or races, I always found myself in the pool office going through the folder containing my entire career's worth of splits -- learning what I did right and wrong and exactly where my races fell apart. Years later, my meticulously-kept running split book would help me finally conquer the Columbus Marathon course after several tries. Reviewing splits from years past illustrated where I needed to focus my effort -- a "dead zone" on the course, revealed only by my mile times. Even if you don't "race" races, learning how to pace yourself using splits can mean the difference between having a great experience or a miserable one.
I started writing. My swim and bike splits were the same as my official times. My total time, however, was about 2.5 hours slower than the clock time. Why? Because I stopped my watch on the way back to the hotel AFTER being treated for hypothermia. Had I even hit the split button upon finishing? I would know soon enough.
Reviewing my splits yielded a pleasant surprise! It actually confirmed what I still didn't know for sure: was I conscious in the last mile? did my brain and/or body actually shut down from the hypothermia? I now have answers. My brain DID begin to shut down -- and I was probably semi-UNconscious in the last mile. How do I know? Because the second-to-last split on my watch was indeed my finish time: 11:13:something. The split before it was mile 24. And my last 2.2 miles took over 24 MINUTES! (Up to mile 24, my average pace was still around 8:50 min/mi.) Part of me is relieved that I don't remember that last 2.2 miles, even though a "conscious me" would have finished faster. Still, the "unconscious me" managed to push the split button at the finish. Force of habit, perhaps?
After digesting this information, I realize how lucky I am to even have finished Ironman Coeur d'Alene. When Jim said I "looked bad" at the finish, I think he was being kind.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
- If your race is in a large body of water (such as a lake in which current or waves will be an issue), always practice swimming in open water, simulating race conditions the best you can. I did not have much opportunity to do this because my race was in June and I live in Cleveland - our Great Lake, Erie, has been too cold to swim in (or I was too much of a wimp).
- If you are a strong swimmer (and by "strong," I don't mean "fast"), start in the pack and muscle your way through the swim.
- If you are a fast swimmer, either start in the very front and sprint like hell to STAY in front, or make your way to the periphery, and angle in to the first turn.
- If you are expecting a time of 1:30 or slower, let the mass chaos begin without you, then jump in the water and enjoy your swim.
- Learn more about the course beforehand -- perhaps ask someone who's done it before.
- Be willing to push it a little harder when you know you've done the training.
- Add a second mid-to-long, slightly harder bike ride to my weekly training schedule (most people do this already, but I wasn't able to train outside much this winter/spring because of extended cold/wet weather -- and I got sick of the trainer).
- Do more long bricks, with runs of at least 1.5 hours after a long ride (again, because of the weather, I had more difficulty with my brick training this year compared to the last time I trained for Ironman)
- When the temperature is in the 50s and you are doing an endurance event that will deplete your energy stores, respect the cold.
- In Ironman, make use of your "special needs" bags to pack something dry and/or warm, even if you don't think it's necessary.
- Disorientation is not only a symptom of dehydration. Don't keep running, get a medical assessment. (Had I done that, race medics may have told me I was struggling from cold and made me take a blanket.)
My place? 6th in my age group
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Back to the demons. Everyone has them. I met the worst of mine in Hawaii in 2002. I need to have a talk with each of them before IM CDA.
- The Speed Demon: You really are my favorite of the lot, and I know we are great friends in the 5K. But there is just no place for you in an Ironman. If you attempt to jump on my back on Sunday, I will have to throw you off. If you must join me, I will gladly welcome you with open arms at mile 25 of the run.
- The Demon Heat: It's Coeur d'Alene. Northern Idaho. I don't expect to see you, but I will beware that you are always lurking.
- The Demon of Dehydration: You may often go hand in hand with Heat, but you can be a bitch all by yourself. I am prepared to ward you off with the most effective hex -- at least one full bottle of water every hour.
- The Demon in My Digestive System: You and I are sworn enemies. We have met in Hawaii and on several training runs. I have learned to control you by following a strict eating and drinking plan that includes electrolytes. I have practiced it many times and I will never again attempt to cram down 400 calories per hour.
- The Demon Cramp: You are elusive. I know you from Utah, but we've not met since. I think you are weak -- you will always be a victim of electrolyte supplementation.
- The Insecurity Demon: familiarly known as "the Demon of Doubt": You are perhaps the worst of all because you keep creeping back into my life even after I think I've exorcized you. You make me lose faith in myself and my training, and you keep me up all night before races. I am determined to ward off your influence on me. I will only accept you in small doses because you keep me on my toes, but stay out of the water at Coeur d'Alene and let me start a little closer to the faster swimmers.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Ok. I'll bite. I don't even need Greenfield's exercise for determining how to figure out my irrational wants. I can delve that deep all by myself with the help of a long training session. It all starts with childhood (come on, did you really think it would be something different?) I was born into a family that worshipped athletes. Football players. Hockey players. You name it. Athletic achievement was valued above all else except, maybe, school grades. And I grew up in the shadow of two superstar athletes -- my brothers -- who garnered all parental attention. First irrational want: to be a superstar. I chose to do it by joining the high school swim team. I was 14.
Despite great success at swimming, then track, AND school, I continued to believe I would never be fast enough, never smart enough,... never pretty enough, never popular enough. Irrational? Yes. But I was young. When I became a "more rational" adult, would the irrational motivators still drive my athletic achievements?
I started running after college. I ran because I loved running, and I needed a break from swimming. Why did I run marathons? I suppose it could have been to address the lingering irrational desires. The pinnacle of my running "career" came when I qualified for the Womens Olympic Trials in 2000. The strangest praise came from a friend of mine who told me I had become a sort of "hero" to all the local runners who were not born with natural talent. (I am NOT making this up.) He said that my achievement was amplified by the fact I was NOT your typical "runner" (by that, I think he meant small, thin, fast, and genetically gifted). I imagined myself the running version of Salieri in the closing scene of Amadeus -- had I become the patron saint of running mediocrity?
Cue the irrational motivators.
I switched to triathlon after ten years of marathoning and several injuries including stress fractures. The rational reason? To avoid more injuries. The irrational reason? Because I was a good swimmer once and I would never be as fast as the "runners." I desperately needed to be good at SOMETHING, anything. I was 36. My fourth triathlon was an Ironman. Irrational? Absolutely.
Now that I'm 44, I find the most interesting motivator may not be irrational at all. It is the one that got me back into triathlon after 5 years off following a bike accident. I never expected to WANT to do another Ironman, because, during that time off, I landed in a job that finally lent meaning to my life -- a job I loved at an organization I believed in. After more than a year of sinking my passion into work, the unimaginable happened. I found out something I already knew from previous experience: in the workplace, hard work and dedication may not be rewarded - the simple truth is that I'm no good at playing office politics.
I responded by re-dedicating myself to Ironman. If there's one thing I WILL get out of being an endurance athlete, it's the satisfaction of knowing that all my hard work pays off. I train hard, I get faster. I race smart, I win. I answer to myself only, and I am responsible for my performance. There are no arses to kiss. And I can live with that.
About the taper: all the little aches and pains are subsiding, I'm feeling rested, taper is doing exactly what it's supposed to do. About the race: I'm getting a grip on my mental race strategy, thinking about it regularly. About nutrition: I've been practicing all my race nutrition regularly and not overindulging socially -- much to my surprise, I even declined the offer of a lifetime last night: a chocolate vodka pudding shot (it looked like heaven in a cup, *cry*).
So, I've done it, I made it to Week One and I'm still relatively intact, both mentally and physically. What could I possibly be afraid of? Again, the voice of my former track coach, John Klarman, echoes in my mind: "What are the three D's that runners need to beware of?" The answer? "Dogs, drivers, and...... doctors." The punchline was: "DOCTORS."
For me, the punchline is: "DRIVERS." Although it took a while to physically recover, I don't think I ever fully recovered mentally from being hit by a truck in 2003. It was the end of my athletic motivation for five years. It happened six days before Half-Ironman Utah. I was on my last long ride before the race, feeling great, very excited, and WHAMMO! An 82-year-old man with very poor eyesight took a left turn and slammed right into me from the side. In broad daylight. I went over the hood of his truck and landed on my head. Twice. (I bounced.) The only thing I remember from impact to impact was praying that I would survive.
I learned quite a bit in the days and years that would follow. What's important in life. Who my friends are. How to appreciate all the little things. How great it is to be alive. Corny, I know, but all the cliches about a near-death experience are true. And I can't say enough about how important it is to wear a helmet while biking. (I became a great advocate of that as well.)
But, to get back to my race... and my training... I never shook that fear, that the same thing could happen every time I ride my bike. I am deathly afraid of cars and trucks and DRIVERS. It's not as bad as it was the first year back, but I certainly slow down every time I see a driver at an intersection. Even if I have the right-of-way, I do not trust the person behind the wheel, knowing that in bike vs. car, bike always loses.
But today, I have to get out on my bike and conquer the fear. On the bike that replaced the bike I lost (see photo). To end on a lighthearted note... when I bought my first bike, the Cannondale R600, one of the things I loved most about it was the color. It was a black matte finish with black glossy letters. We used to call it "run-me-over-black." All I can say about that is: live and learn.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Yesterday was a banner day for the disaster magnet. It would be my last really long ride before the Ironman, capped with a decent-length run to get the feel of the bike-run transition. My hamstring-knee-whatever injury is starting to handle longer runs and it's crunch time -- two weeks to race day. The taper doldrums are about to kick in and I'm starting to get antsy.
At this point, I need all the help I can get, so with a $100 gift-certificate (from Bert's Bikes in Buffalo, won in a race last year) burning a hole in my pocket, I decided to buy an aero bike helmet at the advice of one of the guys at Spin ("the cheapest, easiest way to shave time on the bike is to get an aero helmet"). Ok. done. The Giro Advantage 2 - the only one available in Bert's Bikes online catalog. It made the decision much easier.
So, will it work? Jim said I should ride with it at least once. Oh no! You mean I have to test this thing? Not only am I going to look like some hardcore fool riding in the valley with my ridiculous aero helmet, but, it's hot, the helmet has very little venting, and I'll have to stay in the aero position the whole ride so I don't look like a complete idiot. And anyone who's ridden in the valley knows about the hills. You can NOT ride up those hills in the aero position. Oh well. Suck it up, Jeanne, it's for a greater cause. Ironman. To quote the great Richard Feynman: "What do YOU care what other people think?" Besides, on race day, everyone will have them.
So, I load up the bike -- water, food -- and put on the helmet. Yikes! You mean these things don't fit out-of-the-box? I call in the pit crew (Jim). We tweaked. We took it off. We adjusted straps. We put it back on. We tweaked again. After about an hour of trying to realign the straps, getting my ears caught in locking mechanisms, and cutting straps, the darn thing finally seemed to fit. I was already worn out. We took a picture.
And I was off on my ride. The goals: to feel strong, relaxed, and fast(er). Within the first 15 minutes, I had to stop three times to readjust the helmet. So much for faster. But, yes, indeed, I have to say that on many downhills and flats, I was at least able to get another 1 mph out of that helmet. I hope it's not just my imagination.
Of course, then came the "disaster." As I was riding down the hill at Sand Run Metropark in Akron, I slowed down to cross the ford where the river flows over the road. I have crossed that water with my bike God knows how many times in the past. Without incident. Not THIS time. THIS time, my bike wheels came out from under me and I went down on my right side. As I was lying there in the river, I thought to myself: "how is it that these stupid things only happen to me?" But then, in a flash, I was up, remembering my iPhone was in my back pocket. In keeping with the fool-on-a-bike theme, it figures that today was the one time I decided not to put my iPhone in a sealed plastic bag first. I took my phone out, shook it off, checked if there was any bike damage, looked down at a gash in my knee, and called Jim. I had been out for 1:48. The phone still worked, the bike was good, but I wanted to pack it in. I GIVE UP! Jim wasn't home, thank God, thus forcing me to finish all 3.5 hours of my ride. The knee gash was painful, bloody, and swollen, but there were no biomechanical issues. Other bruises showed themselves too, but I could still ride. Eventually, my clothes dried. Even the helmet survived, silly as it was.
Another data point. Another live-and-learn lesson (just work through the little bumps in the road). As Julie would say: another mental callous. All I can say is, as the disaster magnet, if I have half the disasters on race day as I have had training, I'll be in pretty good shape.
Friday, June 5, 2009
To shift gears from my previous (heavy) post, I've decided to write a short review of a great comedian I saw recently.
On May 28, 2009, Jim and I drove to Detroit (actually Royal Oak) to see Demetri Martin live at the Royal Oak Theater. Although the venue and our seats were not ideal, Demetri was hilarious -- all that I expected and more. A note about the seats: the venue "seating" consists of wide flat tiers. The seats provided were folding chairs placed in rows on the tier levels. Thus, if you weren't in the front row of the section, you didn't have a good sightline. Especially if someone taller was sitting anywhere in front of you. But, on the lighter side, the seating had the benefit of giving Demetri an additional piece of material: if we didn't enjoy his comedy, we could always throw our chairs at him.
On to the review. I can say, with certainty, that Demetri Martin is the first stand-up comedian I've seen who takes requests for jokes. His jokes are so funny that people will yell out requests (at his prompting) for him to retell jokes they already know. Instead of waiting to hear his "new" material, also offered. We witnessed his ability to tell ANY of his jokes while playing a guitar -- in effect making ALL of his jokes: 'The Jokes with Guitar.' I learned I'm not the only one who thinks Demetri Martin jokes never get old, no matter how many times you hear (or see) them. I think they get even funnier upon multiple listens. This brings me to another audience favorite feature: the jokes with the 'Large Pad.' I've often described Demetri as Steven Wright with props. The Large Pad is his trademark. The new Large Pad jokes were as hilarious as ever, but the sad truth of all comedy shows is that your memory of the jokes fades with time. And no video cameras were allowed. I should have written some of the jokes down right after the show so I can fill the interim with memories while waiting for more recorded material.
Final notes: there were great surprises. One was no opener. When the lights dimmed, Demetri walked onstage. No introduction. No warm-up comedian. Just Demetri. He proceeded to get his feet wet with the audience by surveying the theater and the stage, using a green laser pointer (which made Jim very happy having gotten one as a xmas present from me). He made impromptu jokes about his surroundings like the balconies that were just decoration - great stuff! To end the night, for an encore, he came back onstage, thanked the audience for being so responsive, and let us ask him questions. This gave me a new insight into Demetri Martin, 'person' -- the guy is a great story teller. Full stop. Well, either that, or he just has great stories. I think it's the former. As a matter of fact, I think Demetri Martin is like every great comedian: he looks at life with an eye for finding irony and humor in everyday occurrences. He related how he was the last of his friends to learn to ride a bike, and counteracted that by being the first one (by choice) to learn to ride a unicycle. Duly noting that 'the guy riding the unicycle' is the dork. He told us about his early days trying to get "booked" at a laundromat in NYC. Upon disappointment that people didn't laugh at his jokes, he had to be reminded that these people were focused on getting their laundry finished rather than listening to the guy telling jokes..
The experience left me with a smile that lasted for days and a whole new appreciation for Demetri Martin. I thought he was GREAT before I ever saw him live. Now I know what a down-to-earth guy he is, and I smile knowing he's one of the people who truly deserves the success he's enjoying. Even if he says, 'I'm not famous,' in response to the audience question: 'How do you handle the fame?'