Thursday, October 31, 2013

Close but no PR

I really wasn't intending to be a sandbagger when I wrote about how little mileage I've done "preparing" for my half marathon. The race pace efforts must have done the trick, even though I was only squeaking out a few miles at a time slightly slower than I ended up averaging for the race. 

Sister Jenny (makes her sound patient and saintly, doesn't it? She is :)) is very familiar with Conway, a city she lived and worked in for many years, so I didn't worry much about directions to the race. I picked her up for the 30ish mile drive a little after 6:30am Saturday. Plenty of time to find the race, park, use porta potties, pick up packets, and warm up. Pulling off the interstate and into town, Jenny may have realized that the Conway she was so familiar with was circa 1999. It has grown and changed, and despite having lots of opportunities to stop and pull out my phone's GPS, I still let her take us in concentric circles around the race site, until finally I pulled over in a closed pharmacy parking lot to use the bushes (hope that wasn't caught on camera!). At least I could check the potty off my prerace list.

With less than 30 minutes until race time, we made it to a parking spot and found the packet pick up, except we weren't on the list anywhere. Seems we weren't the only relay team with this problem. But after a little more stressing, I finally just wrote the race off as a long training run, and calmed down a bit. We jogged to and from the car for a warm up and finalized our plans of how the chip hand off was going to take place. It occurred to me at the last minute that we could possibly be the first team to hand off in the parking lot just off the race course, and it could be obvious that our plan of me not taking off the timing chip and only faking a hand off could be noticeable. Oh well. I figured I really didn't care too much; as I'd said before, I did pay a hefty registration fee, and I can't understand how the race could be full yet open to VIPs at the same time. The rule book never said I couldn't do the whole race.

I decided last minute, literally, that I didn't want to go in the first corral, since it consisted of approximately 15 men and 2 women. It said 7:00 pace and under, which I was hoping to run, but I wanted more people nearby, and I knew more than that small number would run under 1:32. Plus I fit in slightly better with the slower group, since I wasn't dressed like a real runner. I went for the comfort of short sleeves and knicker tights over the apparently more appropriate clothing of some combination of a tank, arm warmers, gloves, shorts, and maybe compression socks. Thankfully, I think I chose my corral well, but that still didn't keep people from going out way too fast, cutting in front of me on downhills, and me ending up running mostly alone for many miles.

The first 6 miles before the relay "handoff" had a few hills at approximately every 2 miles. I tried not to look at the Garmin, especially the instantaneous (or more appropriately, erroneous) pace, and I managed to only look at it once, in the first mile, which was mostly downhill. Then I looked at every mile beep, and no more. It seemed the odd miles were downhill, and evens were uphill. Especially according to my pace, 1-6: 6:51, 7:10, 6:49, 7:07, 6:41, 7:04. There was no even pacing for me. But I'd rather have an even effort, which it appears I did a little better than pacing.

Right after mile 6 was the relay transition. I was getting a little nervous about it and hoped they wouldn't notice my colored bib which signified my relay status, and I could skip the whole thing and holler to Jenny to go on. In retrospect, that probably wouldn't have worked because they may not have released her from the transition! So I ran up the hill toward her, as she stood waiting, having been given specific instructions on how this would all go down. They volunteers were to help us change the ankle strap so we didn't have to bend down, I learned later. Instead, I went plowing through, and gave her a kind of high five/pull by the hand and said, "come on." One guy called after us something like, "you have to change the band!" and I called back something about keeping on going. With all that commotion, I had plenty of adrenaline, and despite the uphill, ran a 6:46.

Soon after the intersection was a Gu station, which I planned to partake in. I grabbed one, pulled the tab off with my teeth and squirted a large glob into my mouth. Then I realized that despite the instructions from the Gu-giver "water next," there was no water in sight. Or within the next mile. I spit most of the blob out but changed my mind and swallowed more since I had already stickied up my mouth anyway.

I knew larger hills were coming at miles 8, maybe 10, and 12, and 8 was my last over-7, which was 7:05. I never ran with anyone for very long, but I tried to keep my eyes ahead. One younger guy passed me around 9 or 10 with quite a bit of speed, but I kept him in sight. I think he was the relay that beat us. Many times I felt like I must be plodding along at around 8:30 pace, but at each mile beep I was surprised to see a sub 7. Miles 9-11 were 6:44, 6:55, 6:54. By this time I figured I should be averaging under 7 mins/mi, but I didn't think of looking at the data field that showed average pace. Of course!

Mile 12 had the last of the hills, and it was a long but gradual one. I squeaked it out in 6:59, and knew the rest was mostly downhill. You could practically see the finish line from the top of the hill, and it looked a long way away, but I ended with the fastest mile of the day for 13: 6:38. If only it hadn't been .09 miles too long according to my garmin, even given my excellent tangent running :), I may have had a small PR, but instead ran 1:30:52. At least I broke the curse of the 1:35s.

I'm pretty sure my name wasn't called out as I crossed the finish line, but I was a little dizzy from the chilly air, so maybe I just didn't hear it. Jenny nor I were anywhere to be found in the results. Jenny's bib number pulls up some man named Charles in the photos. He actually is wearing the same bib number that she did. My pictures are of me (probably unfortunately), but it congratulates Caliene.

As scenic as the course actually was, the pictures are most definitely not doing it justice

After a cool down run a mile and a half to the car, some trick-or-treating grabbing of candy at the food table, and forcing my unconfiscated chip onto a timing guy who really didn't know what to do with it, we headed back down south with renewed motivation to do more "track" workouts. Right Jenny?

Happy Halloween! He's a nice dragon.

Pant less dragon: "But Daddy, I'm marking my territory."

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Littlest Runner

Hunter got some new running shoes recently. He refused to wear them for a few days, just like he refused to wear any clothes at all outside in the 50 degree weather this morning. But we finally convinced him that his running shoes were just like Ma's and Dad's, and they would make him run fast. He tried them out, they fit, and off he ran. The next time we were headed outside, he signed "running" and "shoes." :)

Jenny and I took him and Ethan to my favorite in-town running trail to run, obviously, and pick moss, find rocks and acorns, and throw them in the creek.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I learned that I'm a pretty good procrastinator in college when I'd have a paper due and leave most of it until the night before, when I would scramble home after a mini track party to type. I always have wanted to be a person who gets things done early so that I can relax and enjoy myself, and not have things hanging over my head. But anyway, I did it again. I kept putting off registering for the half marathon until last week, I guess so I could back out any time. I'm not registering a year in advance for ironmans these days, and I suppose by comparison you can get into other races relatively close to race date. I pulled up the website and saw a huge (month-old) post that said SOLD OUT. Nice one Joy. But the VIP race, for just $250, was open. No thanks. The two person relay was also open. Ok... Let me just think about this one... Yeah that works! I have come up with a plan for Jenny and me which involves her running the second leg and me running the whole thing. Technically, I could possibly be called a partial bandit runner, but I'm paying and racing and I just want to do the full course! Plus this way if I really bomb, there will be no record :) It seems I put off doing a lot of real training too, and lo and behold, it's too late. I know there's a lot of sand bagging and avoidance of training details put out on the internet in blogs and whatnot, and I understand that. Unfortunately I'm not doing that. I had my high mileage weeks break into the low 30s twice. I've been running 3-4 times a week, and usually taking a day or two completely off. It just hasn't fit into the schedule lately since it has been getting dark early. And now it's cold and dark! The trainer will be coming into the playroom for me tonight. The pool donned its bubble this week. I guess it's really fall, sadly. I even broke out the knicker tights for running Sunday when I went out for a few tempo miles. I'm hoping for race day magic since those 3 at 7:00 pace sure seemed too hard to keep up for over an hour and a half. I'm going into this race knowing I really didn't give my best effort in training, but also remembering that I never have trained specifically for a half marathon, so why can't I PR?

Enough about running, let me not procrastinate any more in posting some toddler pictures, and the events of the last few weeks. 

We had a crew of Harwoods come last weekend-- Hunter's Mammo and great aunt Nanny as well as his great grandmother GG and great grandfather LaLa!

We and the local cousins spent a beautiful fall day at a pumpkin patch with pigs and goats, a donkey and a tractor, lots of corn, hay, and pumpkins. 

No hesitation, they all climbed right up to the top

I make funny toddler jokes. I got Ethan to laugh at me.

Em is a good baby chaser.
It's harder to get my own baby to laugh when I'm behind him.
While pigs do grunt, as Hunter will demonstrate for us, they also squeal very loudly when picked up! Very loudly.

Matching is our game lately. We match colors, animals, similar objects. I can tell him to go pick the crayon that matches the green chair, and he picks it out of 20 colors perfectly. He laughs when he finds 2 horses and holds them up together. He shows mini Mickey the blanket with his face on it. So funny. He even laughs at my attempt at jokes. Like one night he started sitting on a balloon and I said, "Hunter is laying an egg!" And he died laughing and wanted me to keep repeating it. I'm quite the comic, you should know.

He loves to be surrounded by his animals. And check out Tigger's adoring look.

The cousins fostered a 3 week old kitten. Hunter was gentle and kissed her. He's a big kisser lately, to animals (real and not) and people.


The cuteness!

 Hunter's like, ummmm I thought I was an only child. Actually he really gets excited over these three, whether he looks like it or not.

He loves his little chairs that are just his size. Luckily Ma (that's me) fits in them too.

Here is my giant foot, Ma.

He's just so sweet. I love how he placed his crackers and water right near where he wanted to sit just so on the steps. Love that baby!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Allure of Kona

I've fallen for it too. When I first started watching the NBC broadcast of Ironman, it sucked me in. This was years before I ever considered myself able of completing the Ironman distance, even over multiple days. I did 5 seasons of triathlons before my first Ironman, and by then I knew all the history of the race and as well as the big names. Before I even did my first triathlon, I remember chatting with Jenny's friend David, who was eventually my triathlon role model, about Mark Allen. I was sure he would win the Olympic triathlon one day when it became a sport, because he was just that good. David said, no, he will be retired by then, and probably wouldn't win even if he wasn't. I thought he was betraying a hero of mine. Instead he was just right.

But anyway, by then I was already sucked into it all and believed that Kona was the ultimate, far-fetched and probably never achievable goal. Especially since I couldn't fathom how anybody could go those distances. Also, I was in high school and 3 miles of running was a long way. 

I seem to remember that I had a lot of confidence in myself at my first qualifier. I told a friend that I was not waiting a year for her to race with me because the 18-24 age group would be easier to qualify in. It was. There was a ridiculous number of slots for about 20 of us: two. When I found out I had gotten one of those slots I sprinted to the nearest ATM (no credit cards accepted!) and withdrew my $300 immediately. 

I had a less than stellar mediocre terrible race, but somehow forgot it all and went back for more. After improving the next two times I thought I had gotten the hang of it. The fourth time proved that I most certainly did not, and it has mostly cured me of the desire to ever race in any heat, on any island of Hawaii, around any old volcano, through any lava fields again. Until...the Thursday before race day comes again every October, and I see everyone's underpants run pictures, and morning swims at Dig Me beach, and huge mugs of Kona coffee. Then I get this tiny little urge to go back there again; it seems to get a tiny bit stronger every year. 


And then I see pictures of the lava fields and get a little queasy. I run in the 70 degree breeze at home and realize that no matter how many times they tell you it's 87F in Kona, it's actually 137F on the Queen K, and the winds WILL find you. And just before my legs seize up and I start sweating just thinking about that last 12 miles of the bike, I go lie down and prop them up and let that crazy Kona urge slip away for another year. Maybe again someday. I'll just think about it a while here on the couch. 

Oh yeah, there's this feeling.

Then there's this one too.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Every Little Detail

I am one who loves some good solid concrete numbers. I enjoy feedback on my training and racing in the form of how fast, how far, and how many vertical feet I climbed on a run. When I first started triathloning 17 years ago, there were watches and bike odometers, and cars that could measure courses after to see just how long the "4 mile" run was. But who really checked that stuff anyway? The races that actually got split times for you mailed them a few months later after you had forgotten all the details anyway. And yes, I kept them. For all I know, my fastest half marathon in a half Ironman was half a mile short (oh wait, it was half a mile short, they told us... shhhhh). But nobody had GPSs back then that beeped every mile and told you your training stress afterward. We used to measure training stress by how hungry we were the next morning and how much our quads hurt going down stairs. And that worked for me. 

But I have always enjoyed finding out more details about myself and my biology from testing. I have done many VO2max tests (which are completely useless except for that malleable lactate threshold estimate) through the years as a guinea pig for some study or another. I found DEXAs to be quite interesting, especially when they told me how much fatter my right arm is than every other part of my body (that was a calibration issue I hope). I liked seeing that printout of my miniature skeleton with the soft tissue outline. When I was hospitalized, I pored over my labs, getting that snapshot of what was going on inside. I find X-rays and even cholesterol checks to be fascinating. And now I really wish I'd had a power meter years ago while racing more (and faster). 

I We Jeremy just got a new Garmin for his birthday, and it is one that can even tell you how far you swam. But wait, there's more. It tells you your pace, plus stroke rate, efficiency and something called SWOLF, which I had to look up via a little ? icon (it is average strokes per length plus time in seconds per length). I will admit, it was very motivating to get to the pool to try it out, but I could not stop looking at my stroke rate or average pace per 100yds underwater. It was kind of like running with it, when I cannot stop checking and rechecking my pace. It is maddening, especially when trees and clouds inhibit good satellite connections (cloudless skies and no tree interference were things my Garmin took for granted in New Mexico, as well as little to no sweat accumulation). Maybe I ran faster before all the technology because I didn't have all this feedback, but just relied on feel. I know I could tick off a dozen 400s within a second of each other without having a Garmin telling me my current pace. If I see a pace that's too fast on that big screen, does it cause a psychosomatic response of extra fatigue? I think maybe so sometimes. Other times I think it helps me be less of a slacker. 

We have been talking around here about people who are blissfully ignorant. It must be pleasant, as by definition they are blissful. And if you didn't know you didn't know something, you aren't missing it. Like I said, I want to know about my physiology, and I really prefer to be informed about my food.  But who really has the time to thoroughly research every little detail of every decision and action they take? I do enjoy it when people, for example on parenting-type forums, say they have done "extensive research" on a topic. Really, you have? I'm betting that most of this population does not have the slightest clue how much real research goes into each and every published, peer reviewed study out there. A fraction of that amount of research goes into a review paper by a grad student, and I would probably not call that extensive. And no fair counting any research done outside of academic journals. 

In some areas, I do my best to be relatively informed, and many other areas that I just don't bother with quite as much, and would rather leave up to the experts. Although Jeremy would think otherwise, I do believe, for example, that doctors know more than the average person (and even myself-- really J!) about medicine, and it would take me approximately 4-10 years to catch up with just their training. But I do make some good hypotheses at times. :) I'm trying to leave pediatrics up to him and only ask questions to learn more about it. I don't need every little detail, since at my rate I will have only grown children in the time it would take to learn it all. 

So I'm a little split in my life between wanting more info and knowing when I'd rather not know things. But when it comes to racing, I'm still not sure where I fall. I'd love to know all the details after a race, but I feel like it might be information overload during it. The bottom line question is this: should I wear a Garmin in my upcoming half marathon or not?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Doing enough

I recently was reading something about making sure children get enough physical activity during the day. Hunter, some days, asks to be carried a lot (he gets it from his mom, who was nicknamed "Big Pig" during toddlerhood because of the frequency of asking to be pigged up-- amongst other reasons I'm sure). So I wondered aloud to J if he's getting enough physical activity. I mean, he wears me out chasing him, but what's plenty for an 18-month-old? J assured me that I was crazy to even ask that, and then I realized that our choice of hobbies might skew my perception of a normal -- or even excessive --amount of exercise.

Ok, so he's doing enough to reach his goals. I have to make some assumptions here, like that his goals are to grow, be healthy, and continue to learn everything about the world. I may not be doing enough running to reach my half marathon goals, though. I'm wondering if I should go ahead and sign up, given the race is in 3 weeks. Jenny and I did our "track" workout on Wednesday, accompanied by Emily this time, who, as a gymnast, uses running mostly as a tool in roundoff-backhandsprings, and not just a fun pasttime. She did 3 x 800s and then so many plyometrics we wondered how she was still bouncing. Jenny and I did the descending part of a pyramid: 1600, 2x800, 4x400, and I seemed to hold the same pace in all of them. Hrmph. At least that pace is faster than goal half marathon. Jenny keeps dropping like 10 seconds off her 800 times every week. Hrmph again. I wish I could.

So, I've established that I'm not doing enough for my running goals. Well, what else is there? Mommying goals, of course. If Hunter could be the happiest, smartest, sweetest boy there ever was, I guess my work would be successful. That's a much trickier goal, since nobody has written training plans for it.

I am on a few parenting pages on Facebook and a recent poll asked how often parents are down on the floor playing with their kids. Wait, is this as opposed to carrying him, holding his tiny (giant) hand as he leads me around, coloring with him at his table, and running after him in the yard? Because that sums up my day along with playing on the floor with him. What was the question? I'm not sure what else full time Moms do then! I guess if I need to check a box about playing on the floor with my baby, I'm doing enough of that. 

Pretending to sleep in the tent. Only pretending.

I seem to be doing enough in the eating ice cream category lately. Cannot stop the bowl full of vanilla with a peach on top daily habit. I think of Laura's excellent nutrition every time! And aunt Ethelyn, who introduced me years ago to this delicacy. 

Taking pictures wasn't my forte in the last month, but I managed to snap a few of other things we have been doing.

Mickey, you need to draw something for me. Here, like this.

 Watering can Mickey, meet plush Mickey! Y'all can be besties with mini Mickey.

He now loves the camera flash. Will even smile for me if he can get me to turn it on (ignoring all photographer no-flash rules!).

Buddies. Happy birthday Daddy!