Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Playlist

A few weeks ago, I asked for running playlist suggestions.  I needed 4.5 hours, which would include a warmup.  Here's the list I used for CIM, with some notes

Fire - Jimi Hendrix
Uprising - Muse
   One of my top five favorite running songs. In an odd coincidence, in the week leading to CIM, I heard each of my top five favorites in various places that I did not control. This makes me crank up my car radio every time.

Goody Two Shoes - Adam Ant
I Disappear - Metallica
   from Mission: Impossible II, I think

Sex on Fire - Kings of Leon
Smooth Criminal - Alien Ant Farm
4 Minutes - Glee Cast
   yes, I like Glee.  It's not plausible and the plots and characterizations are wildly inconsistent. But I am at heart a singer and would have loved to be in this type of group growing up.

I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
A Little Less Conversation - Elvis Presley
This is How a Heart Breaks - Rob Thomas
  this was the NBA's theme during the playoffs in 2005, when San Antonio, my favorite team, beat Detroit. Through an amazing stroke of luck, I was at the game where Robert Horry sank the three-pointer in the final minute to beat Detroit. So now this song is on almost every running or exercise playlist I have.

How Far We've Come - Matchbox Twenty
Give Up the Funk - Glee Cast
The Club - In the Heights Company
   buy this cast album, please

You Can't Stop the Beat - movie cast of Hairspray
   I love the movie Hairspray.  How do you not?

Gonna Fly Now - theme from Rocky
Jai Ho - from Slumdog Millionaire
Keeps Gettin' Better - Christina Aguilera
Stronger - Kanye West
   No jokes, please. It's a good song.

Harder to Breathe - Maroon 5
The Devil Went Down to Georgia - Charlie Daniels Band
Let it Rock - Kevin Rudolf
Here I Come - The Roots
   I need to listen to The Roots more often. This song kicks.

Raise Your Glass - P!nk
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' - Michael Jackson
Valerie - Glee Cast
   This is a cover of an Amy Winehouse song, and I didn't really know any of her music except Rehab. So sad she cannot share more of this with us.

Something to Believe In - Parachute
   One of the aforementioned top five favorites. Some of the lyrics:
   "Keep my head from going down. Just for a little. Just for a little.  Watch my feet float off the ground. Just for a little. Just for a little."

Sing - My Chemical Romance
   Third of the five favorites. Great anthem.
   "Sing it for the boys, sing it for the girls
     every time you that you lose it sing it for the world
     Sing it from the heart
     Sing it till you're nuts
     Sing it out for the words that'll hate your guts
     Sing it for the death
     Sing it for the blind
     Sing about everyone that you left behind
     Sing it for the world"

Show Me How You Burlesque - Christina Aguilera
   Movie was hokey. Soundtrack was fantastic.

River Deep, Mountain High - Glee Cast
   One more reason to love Glee - they pull out some gems. This song was first recorded by Ike and Tina Turner.

Lubbock or Leave It - Dixie Chicks
Got to Get You Into My Life - Earth Wind & Fire
   Disco in the middle of the race, when I'm just looking to distract my head a bit

Forget You - Cee Lo Green
Crazy in Love - Beyonce
Closer to the Edge - 30 Seconds to Mars
   Fourth of the five favorite songs.

Born This Way - Lady Gaga
The Anthem - Good Charlotte
Evacuate the Dancefloor - Cascada
I Don't Dance - from HSM 2
Boogie Wonderland - Earth Wind & Fire
Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera
Ring of Fire - Social Distortion
   Thanks to Brad for introducing me to this version during spin class

Where Them Girls At - David Guetta, Nicki Minaj
Not Ready to Make Nice - Dixie Chicks
   the only slow-paced song on my playlist. It doesn't need to be fast - the song and the reason they wrote it still makes me mad six years later.

The Power Is On - The Go! Team
   You've seen the NFL Play 60 commercials with the Carolina Panthers and the kids on the bus?  This is the song.

I Would Die 4 U - Prince and the Revolution
The Way I Are - Timbaland
Here It Goes Again - Ok Go
   the video for this song is four guys on eight treadmills. Great video, great song for running.

Pull Me Under - Dream Theater
   I have loved this song since it came out in 1993. However, it was the one song that made me want to skip over it during the race, because it hit right at the time when my quads and calves were screaming and I really struggled. Hearing a song that repeats the phrase "Pull Me Under" for 8 minutes wasn't helpful.

I Need a Doctor - Dr. Dre and Eminem
   So when Pull Me Under was over and this came on, I did laugh.

Paris (Ooh La La) - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
The Love You Save - Jackson 5
Empire State of Mind - Jay Z and Alicia Keys
SexyBack - Justin Timberlake
You Make the Rain Fall - Kevin Rudolf and Flo Rida
Bleed It Out - Linkin Park
Cooler Than Me - Mike Posner
I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) - Pitbull
Lose Yourself - Eminem
  the fifth of the five favorite songs. I have a lot of issues with his music, but this song is fantastic.

Take Your Mama - Scissor Sisters
Finale - In The Heights company
  I had a silly fantasy during my training runs that I would hear this song at the finish. The first two minutes are slow and dialogue-heavy, but the last part makes me so happy every time I hear it. The show is about community, friends who become family and about our hero's decision to go back to what he has always considered home. But he realizes that his home and his people are right there. My father loves this song and says it reminds him of growing up in New York in the 40s. So it's my song for my dad.
   During CIM, it came on with 0.3 mile to go :-)

Vertigo - U2
I Sing the Body Electric - movie cast of Fame
   The song and movie that I saw at age 11 that made me want to sing. Based on the Walt Whitman poem.

Training Training Training

A couple of people asked about my training plan and what may have contributed to being a stronger runner. There are a lot of components, but there are two key simple things I'll write about here:
1. Pacing.  I learned about and incorporated warmup, speed, tempo, long/slow, and recovery/easy paces


2. I didn't run that much at all.

In case you are skeptical about the second point, here's a breakdown of run mileage per week in the 28 weeks leading up to the marathon.  These mileage totals include race mileage.

10 - 14 miles:  2 weeks
15 - 19 miles:  13 weeks
20 - 25 miles:  6 weeks
26 - 30 miles:  5 weeks
30 - 42 miles:  2 weeks

I ran three times a week, and sometimes four times a week when I was traveling for work and couldn't do anything else. I always ran a long, slow run on Saturday, starting from around 3 miles in May and building up to the one long run of 20 miles in November. I tried to do speed work every week (thanks Dave!) and a tempo run, but sometimes the runs were just 30 or 45 minutes easy because that was all I had time or energy for.

There is a great book called Run Less, Run Faster that I highly recommend.  I bought it last fall and read it in less than a day.  It also espouses a "three times a week" approach for running.  But the runs and workouts each have a purpose, and that's part of what I was missing before. I would run, but I didn't really have a plan or an intent for my runs.  So they were not focused and I wasn't really getting the most out of the time that I was putting in. 

Now for that pacing thing.  First, I had to see where I was at, so I did the Magic Mile as described by Jeff Galloway.  There are a lot of different ways to measure, but because I was a member of the Galloway program, I went with this format and prediction. 

Long slow runs were 90-120 seconds slower than desired marathon pace (at least, in the beginning. More on that in a later post). The Galloway method is about run/walk intervals on the long/slow runs. Our intervals were 3:00 run / 1:00 walk, and we stuck to that on our Galloway runs.
Warmup on midweek runs was around 10:00 - 10:30 pace for 10-20 minutes, as was the cool down. 
Easy runs were always between 9:30 and 10:00 after the warmup. 
Tempo runs were about 30-45 seconds faster than desired marathon pace.

I joined One Step Beyond (OSB), led by Marty and Bri Gaal, in June. Get on to find OSB workouts (come join us for a $5 drop in) and you'll find all sorts of groups around the RDU area.  From Bri, I gained a better appreciation for a recovery workout, or just having an easy run, or finally understanding that when my flight is delayed and I get home at midnight, it's okay to not get up at 4:45a for practice and just sleep in. I'm willing to work hard and long to get better, but I'm new at this and not exactly a spring chicken. My body takes longer to recover.

A typical week of running when I didn't travel:
Monday - OSB run at Bond Metro Park in Cary with strength stations
    I didn't know about Metro Park before this year, and now I hate to miss this workout. We run through the trails to the various strength stations and do whatever is listed or incorporate typical strength moves - pull-ups, lateral jumps, planks, jumping jacks, sprint drills and all sorts of things. The run itself is about 2.5 miles long and we don't go fast on the run. When there are 6-8 of us running, the strength stations give everyone a chance to rest a bit before we start running again.  And stretch when we're done!
    If I was traveling instead, this would be a 5-6 mile run at a tempo pace.

Wednesday - speed work at Duke Track
    A friend, Dave Campbell, led me through my first speed workout.  He told me to go run around the track for ten minutes easy. I protested, because I didn't want to get tired. And that's when I learned about proper warmups.  I run a lot faster when I've warmed up for a 10-20 minute period.  Hee.
    Here's a sample workout. You can find these online at resources like
               10 min warmup = 1 mile
               6 x 800 with 200 walk in between
               8 min cooldown

Saturday - long, slow run with 3:00 / 1:00 run / walk intervals with the Galloway Incredibles (10:00 mile)
    Build the mileage throughout the season, although we would do "build/build/short" in a three week cycle and repeat.  So we might do 8, 10, 6 and then 10, 12, 6 and then 12, 14, 6.  We always came back to 6 miles.  The temptation is to keep building, but it's okay to let your body recover and enjoy the surprise of "only" running 6 miles.  These were usually at a 11:30 - 12:00 pace.

On weeks I traveled, I would run one more time, usually a 30 or 45 minute run and most likely on a hotel treadmill if I couldn't get outside (I don't like to run in unfamiliar places and definitely not in the dark by myself).  I ran this "extra" run workout because I typically couldn't swim or ride during the travel periods. That also meant that the speed work was on a treadmill, which is harder.  Treadmills are notoriously unreliable for speed, and they are harder on my body. 

But until the last 4-6 weeks of the buildup, this was it for running.  A session of speed work, a session of tempo or the Metro Park run, and a long, slow run on Saturday.  The occasional fourth workout during the week on the road. 

In the last 4-6 weeks, I joined Galloway for 6-10 miles on Saturday, then ran again on Sunday by myself, which meant my legs were tired for Sunday, but not too tired. These runs would be 25% warmup, 50% marathon pace, 25% cooldown, and with 5:00 run / 0:35 walk intervals.  That comprised the fourth workout in that last month or so, and these were the most intense of the training. 
I'm not kidding when I say I really didn't run that much.

That doesn't mean I didn't train.  I just didn't run that much for my training. 

A friend convinced me last year to try a triathlon with her in June 2011.  That meant riding a bike and swimming. I met my swim coach, Marty, in late January and started attending his Cary Masters swim workouts.  Have you checked yet?  Because this is the second time I've mentioned it :-)  I attended the OSB beginning swim clinic (which is for people who do know how to do a freestyle stroke but need to learn drills and technique).  And lo and behold, Marty and Bri stated that you cannot get better at swimming unless you swim at least three times a week, and you should try for at least four to really see some results.  The focus of the three swim practices - distance, sprints and speed, and a hybrid of the two.  Sound familiar?

Now I had to learn how to ride my shiny new bike, and since I had heard this "distance, speed, tempo" idea in two of the three disciplines of triathlons, I decided to follow the same principles for riding. I found some local groups with whom I could learn to ride.  Whether it was a spin class at a gym, a trainer ride at Cycling Spoken Here, or Inside Out's no drop C group ride on Tuesdays, I was finding the tempo and the speed work.  The long, slow ride was with the aforementioned triathlon enabler friend or with Thorns and Roses or Girls in Gear or the local bike shops on the weekends.  Riding was and is still my hardest event and will be the focus of a lot of hours this winter. 

Dude.  This is your last reminder.  Go to  You will find running buddies, riding groups and swim practices galore.  We in the greater Triangle area are sitting on a gold mine of training riches.  Take advantage of it.

Here was the key to how I got faster - I got fitter.  I cross-trained, just like they said to do in Run Less, Run Faster.  You don't have to join a gym or buy a bike or be a triathlete or invest a lot of money to cross-train.  I was in a hurry for all this to happen, so I invested the money and time, a LOT of time.  But pick something other than running and do that 2-3 times a week as well.  I'm convinced that the weekly spin class and three swim sessions completely changed my body and my athletic capability.  The swimming did wonders for my respiratory system and really changed my body.  The early Saturday Galloway runs of 4-8 miles were followed by a one hour spin class. I'm a lot leaner now than I was in January, my arms, back and core are stronger, and I have more stamina.  I did some hot yoga classes in the late winter and early spring that I'm looking forward to bringing back into my routine this winter. The spin class just made me work hard and sweat a lot.  But the best part was that all of this kept running as something that was always fresh.  I never burned out on any of it, because just when one part started to get a little stale, I would have a different workout the next day. I had days where I was very tired, mostly due to combining a lot of training with a lot of flights and a lot of work. Soon, however, I started seeing some results.

In late March, I had run a mile and timed it at 9:20.  I didn't really warm up well, if at all, and was just starting the ramp up of fitness.  In June I ran a mile and it was 7:45.  That was a result of getting more fit, learning how to prepare and warmup and having a really good day that day.  In late July, that mile was 7:16.  That was shocking. And fun!  Based on my two Magic Miles and my only running race of the season in late August, I hoped for an 8:35 marathon pace and trained at an 8:20 pace on my later runs on Sundays.

As I tried different groups or events, I eventually connected with riders or runners or swimmers who were more experienced or a little faster or both.  I asked questions, listened a lot, did a lot of reading online, and learned a lot.  I also practiced on my own, and I recorded everything. I had started with but switched to, in part because it would upload a lot of data and my coaches use it.  I write a lot of things down, how I felt, what I thought, things I learned (poor Bri, who reads and comments diligently). And that record is one of my favorite things now. I can look back and see my improvement, and on the days that I wasn't feeling strong, I can remember how that felt like to push harder the next time. It's definitely not been a linear path, as I have had runs that were fantastic and runs that made me wonder if I hadn't taken a huge leap backward. 

Here's an idea of a lighter training week when travel was involved:
Monday:  Cary Masters - distance swim workout
Tuesday:  run on treadmill easy run - 30-45 minutes
Wednesday: run on treadmill with speed workout  45 minutes OR exercise bike if available
Thursday: day off
Friday:  Cary Masters speed swim workout
Saturday:  long run
Sunday:  long ride

The heavier training weeks when I was in town:
Monday a.m.:  Cary Masters - distance swim workout
Monday p.m.:  OSB strength run in Metro Park
Tuesday a.m.:  Cary Masters - beginning swim workout
Tuesday p.m.:  Inside Out C group ride
Wednesday a.m.: spin class
Wednesday p.m.: speed work at Duke Track
Thursday p.m.: longer ride (20-30 miles)
Friday:  Cary Masters speed swim workout
Saturday:  long run
Sunday:  long ride

Yup, that's a lot of training time. Not much rest on the long weeks, but rarely did I have those types of weeks consecutively. I learned to love naps, and not the kind where an alarm would go off in 30 minutes, but the kind of naps where you sleep until you wake up. Chocolate milk after every evening and weekend workout. Sunscreen, lots of sunscreen, and Body Glide everywhere.

My travel involved three trips to Nebraska, six trips to Washington, D.C., three trips to New York, a trip each to Tennessee, Kentucky, Iowa, Missouri, Texas, Baltimore and California.  Kinda crazy when I list it like that.  But it was really a prelude to 2012.

Next year I'm only running two marathons. One of them is the Marine Corps Marathon, which I am super excited about and hope to improve on my PR even more.  The second marathon is also exciting, but it won't be a PR.  It will be the third leg of Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  June 24.  Training starts in three weeks :-)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Why I Run, Why I Train, Why I Race

I'm 41 years old. I started running less than two years ago. Two of the three most important women in my life, my sisters Janet and Jayne, both died at 37 years of age, Janet of brain tumors and Jayne of leukemia. The third woman, my mother, died of lung cancer two years after she retired. After 48 years of nursing, she had five months of retirement before she became a patient. My father has had five heart attacks, two heart bypass surgeries, numerous episodes of pneumonia and other assorted hospitalizations, and lives today with three painful hernias and one quarter of normal cardiac function.

From my friend Angie, here's why I run:

Then I found triathlons. To compete in triathlons, you have to train. At odd hours, usually in the early morning or after a long day at work or both in the same day. After a flight delay gets me in late and takes away my sleep or when I've logged two weeks' worth of work in one calendar week. Plus weekends. Long hours on the weekends. In the cold, the rain, the heat, the humidity and when it's anything but convenient. And it's been the MOST fun. Seriously. From my friend Brad, here's why I train:

I'm relieved and grateful to be healthy. I'm lucky to be able to train. I try to enjoy it just as much as that little boy above - isn't his smile incredible? Such joy.

This is all a huge luxury, and this year especially has been The Year of Spoiling Michele. I'm so lucky.

But I'm not so noble or altruistic that there isn't something else in it for me.

And that? The outlet of competition. Me against the course. Me against the clock. Me against myself.

Here's why I race:

Time to Do Work.

Becoming a Runner

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a congratulations party for some friends who had just completed their first Ironman. As with most discussions that include more than one triathlete, the conversation turned to training, and someone asked me, "So are you a runner?"

And I immediately answered, "No. Not really."

Which is odd, isn't it? I've completed three marathons and four half-marathons in the last eighteen months. I run 3-4 times a week and get worried and cranky when I don't run that often.  A three mile run is "too short."  I'm less than 24 hours away from Marathon #4, and have signed up for two marathons and an Ironman in 2012, with plans to do two more in 2013.

But my immediate instinct is "I'm not really a runner."  Hmm...interesting psychology at work here. I've always wanted to be a real runner, but have always felt too . . . not like a runner. Runners are taller, lankier, fitter, faster. There's really such a thing as a runners' build. That's not me. There's also a runner vibe. I don't have that either. I do run, but I don't consider myself a runner.

And since I woke up at 4:00 a.m. local time on the morning before Marathon #4, I took some time to retrace my steps on how I got to Sacramento, California this weekend.
It started with this new townhouse in a new city

With one final piece of mail from my old house that made it's way into my new house, advertising this group

That led me to an organizational meeting, which gave me the outlet to the "OMG I'm turning 40" midlife crisis that was brewing. Which led me to my very first road race of any sort, the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon in June 2010 with this lovely new friend Tisha.

Me and Tisha, crossing the finish line hand in hand.

Newbie runners - I don't recommend that your very first road race be a full marathon.  Try a 5K first.   A little easier.

But I now had a desire to "Try that again, only train better for the next one".  So I kept running and joined the Galloway group, 400+ strong in Raleigh

Which introduced me to the run-walk method and more trails around the greater RDU area.  Trails mean roots, which are sometimes treacherous

But I met more fantastic running women, like this group that went to Virginia Beach:

Renee, Rekha, Amy, Michele

And Myrtle Beach

Amy, Tisha, Michele - and the coolest medal ever

Meanwhile, Tisha was slowly but persistently convincing me that I will love cycling and that I should buy a bike and do a triathlon with her. So on Black Friday 2010, I decided to buy this

But I didn't ride it yet.

I had my "redemption race" yet to go.  Another Rock and Roll Marathon

The tall blond on the right in red is Michelle. I hope to connect with her again someday - this was her first half.

Bonus points for those of you who recognize the location. Here was my first PR, lowering my San Diego time by 47 minutes.  Still could do better - that was a double-digit mile pace.  And oh by the way, total weight loss in 2010?  Nothing.  Not a pound.

Tisha and I sign up for the Festival of Flowers triathlon in June 2011.

In the meantime, I had been invited by a co-worker to go to Disney and do the Goofy Challenge (a half-marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday). That's where I met this group

I am not in this picture above. I was in the hotel room on six work conference calls. Because I am an idiot.

You get excellent medals and shirts for Goofy, as modeled above by Blake, Julie, Stephanie and Brad. However, I ended up walking the second half of the full, thanks to a dumb decision to wear compression socks that I had never trained in.

So I have another date with Goofy in my future, where I will take him down. The goal is to run both the half and the full in the amount of time it took me to run the full, with time to spare.

The Goofy crew and friends, hereafter known as the Brier Creek Posse, held a chili cookoff and invited this guy, Coach Marty.

Who coaches the Cary Masters swim team. Once I realized that "Masters" refers to age instead of ability (although there are a lot of swimmers there who swim two laps to my one), I was excited. Time to start swimming again, which introduced me to 4:45a wake-up calls. I learned that I loved structured swim workouts and confirmed from Coach Marty that my swim stroke did not have any "fatal flaws".  Good.  Less chance of drowning, I think.

I learned how to ride that beautiful bike above. Those who say you never forget how to ride a bike have never taken 15 years off and then bought a tri bike with clips for your first bike back. Important tip - clip out when approaching a stop.


But I kept trying to ride.  15 mph!  Woo Hoo!  I am FLYING, baby! 

Now I'm swimming and riding some. Finding that running is getting a little easier. Back to Disney for a total girlie princess weekend in February.

Tisha, Me and Princess Bella in the front

It was a really strong run. Not easy, but a lot easier than any run prior.  Hmmm . . . there is a bit of payoff brewing here.

Galloway season starts up, and I've been nominated to be a group leader. It's the largest Galloway group in the country, and we get a visit from the man himself:

Fellow group leader Cara, Jeff Galloway, Me

My first brush with an Olympian. I have his autograph on one of his books. There will be another post about that conversation and book. Stay tuned.

A lot of swimming and biking and working, it's time for the first triathlon at White Lake

If you squint really hard, you can see the start of a bicep there. Marty had incorporated TRX work into our swim workouts. Ten pounds down, 20 mph on the bike and 9 minute miles regularly. And the biggest shocker of all:

That's me on a podium. Second place in novice females. With that, my mindset changed. The more hopeful casual approach gave way to "I want to get better". Because once you've been on a podium, you want to get there again.  I ran for a year because I wanted the shiny medal and the cool t-shirt.  Now I want more than that.

Time to put that running to the test. Run for the Dream, a new race in Williamsburg, VA. I was ready. I finally understood the importance of a warm-up, slept really well the night before, and had trained well.

And it didn't really work out like I had hoped. Oh, I set a PR by 15 minutes. But it could have been more, and I didn't feel like I had run the race intelligently. I had developed lofty goals and serious expectations, but  needed the right way to get there.

I'm lucky. I have a job that rewards me for working really hard and a manager who is understanding when I'm really sleepy on swim workout days. That means that I usually have some customer trip on the same week of a race, but it also means that I can work with great coaches.

Coach Bri and Coach Marty of One Step Beyond, with Tassie in the front. That's Logan under the stripes - we'll get a better picture of him in a few days.

So on my first run with OSB, I'm introduced to "strides".  Let me just say that there is nothing more humbling than running next to someone, thinking that you're doing a pretty good job of keeping pace, and then she turns on the jets and dusts you off in a matter of seconds. While she's five months pregnant.  But it was fun. A lot of fun. And inspiring.

Within two weeks I start asking Coach Bri, "can I do this" and "can I do that", which also implied, "please don't think I'm crazy". Because this whole triathlon thing is starting to develop into an addiction.

That's me and Tisha holding our awards for second and third Masters novice at Festival of Flowers in June.  Like I said, addiction.

No more "novice" categories though. Time to sit at the big kids' table.  Which means that I have to get fitter and faster to get more hardware.  Okay, I'm game for that.

Along the way, I meet more and more wonderful people:

Brad, Jen, Steffen, Blake, Julie, Scottie, Dave, Jon

Steve, Deirdre, Tisha

Tisha, Michele, Alan, Jaime - in a photo taken by


So I was doing a lot of swimming and biking and some running. On weeks where I didn't travel, I would log 4-5 miles swimming, 80-100 miles on the bike and 15-30 miles running. I was also logging a lot of miles on my new car.

Yes, I made a major life purchase with the criteria of "it has to fit my tri bike in the back". I took my bike with me to the car dealership and was sold by the very cool storage compartment in the back that holds all my tri stuff. Is that so wrong?

Let me put those earlier numbers back up here:  On weeks where I didn't travel, I would log 4-5 miles swimming, 80-100 miles on the bike and 15-30 miles running.

That's not a lot of running. My weak area is the bike, so that's where I have to devote the majority of my training time. I would run more when I traveled for work, so those weeks might be closer to 30 miles. My friends who were training for their marathons only were easily topping 50-70 miles in a week. So it would make sense that the discipline in which I'm spending the least time is the one where I'm not seeing as much improvement, right?

I like to be contrary. I got faster at running. Go figure. I have definitely had some setbacks and have had weeks where my total run miles are less than most marathon runners log in their long run.

But six triathlons, four half-marathons, three marathons, a 10K where I won my age group, two 8K's and three 5K's later, I still have an instinctive response of "no, I'm not really a runner."

Let's see what happens tomorrow :-)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beach2Battleship - October 29, 2011

It's long race - it gets a long report :-)

New favorite words and phrases and some things NOT to say

The setting: Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington, NC, on Saturday, October 29 at about 7:30a.  The start of the Beach2Battleship (B2B) 70.3 triathlon on a foggy day where we’re expecting rain and wind for the morning, sunshine at about 12:30p and temperatures in the 50s all day long.

May I pause for a moment and say that I am a spelling and grammar purist and the fact that the word “to” is a number 2 in Beach2Battleship bothers me?  Yes, it makes a catchy abbreviation, B2B, that is very recognizable in the state and associated with this race.  But it’s a little too hip and trendy for me.  I’m rather fond of my “to”, “two”, and “too”, thank you very much.

Go north about five hours to Washington, D.C. and there is snow. On Sunday is the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., which is what I was SUPPOSED to be running today before I found out that triathlons are highly addictive. There are some uncomfortable comparisons to addictive drugs unfortunately, like “spend lots and lots of money (on gear), devote time away from work and personal life, talk about not much else, and have little energy afterward” addictive. Some wonderful people to meet along the way, though, and the types of physical risks to your body are usually recoverable.  Next October, I’ll write my Marine Corps post – hopefully with some additional family members joining me. But I digress.  Again.  Back to Wrightsville Beach and the start of B2B.

You’ll note that I try to use the phrases “70.3” or “140.6” – and not “half” or “full” and definitely not “IronMan”.  A few years ago, when the triathlon craze started spreading, companies started putting on races at those two distances and calling them “IronMan”.  IronMan is a trademark brand and that company didn’t want its brand diluted and threw up a fuss.  As a result, you may hear “Half-Iron Distance” or “Iron Distance” on a race that is not sponsored by IronMan.  Not that I really care about hurting IronMan’s feelings or getting a lawsuit, because I have a better reason.  When I say “70.3” to you, especially those of you who are not triathletes, you can immediately grasp the significance of a 70.3 mile race, right?  It’s more impressive and saves you the trouble of having to ask, “what’s that?”  A 140.6 is a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2 full marathon.  A 70.3 is a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike ride, followed by a 13.1 half-marathon.  I’d like to point out to the IronMan people that the town of Marathon in Greece, where legend has it was the destination of the very first marathon ever run, does not seem to trademark the name “Marathon” or throw lawsuits at companies who sponsor marathons.  Of course, that same legend says that the first marathoner, who ran the 26 miles to deliver a message, promptly died when he completed his task.  So maybe they don’t want to put a trademark on that.

I’m hanging with Jaime, Julie and Jaime’s husband Tim, who very graciously got up at 6a on a Saturday morning to schlep us and our stuff around and take pictures and be a calming presence at the start of our race. Having a person who is NOT racing as part of the crew is a joy – they may be fighting fatigue and will have some insanely boring parts to their day, but they are the voice of common sense and reason when competitors are feeling any combination of nerves, anxiety, stress, lack of sleep, overthinking, second-guessing and frequent needs for bathroom breaks.

As we look out over the water, we see lots and lots of stand-up paddle boards and kayaks and a Coast Guard ship.  This is an open water channel that has been closed for the morning only for this race and 1800 competitors.  The logistics of this are amazing. 

The course is advertised in this manner:  “the swim takes place in a channel that is connected to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway; so it's a salt water swim but not in the ocean. An incoming tide with participants swimming with the current will make for some very fast times. The water temperature will be in the upper 60's to low 70's - perfect for wetsuit use.”

We can easily see that the current is moving pretty fast, and this will be my very first “ocean-like” swim in salt water and with a current.  That’s fairly intimidating; I grew up in Missouri and Iowa, so we didn’t go to the beach every weekend like many of the North Carolinians I have met here.  Oceans are beautiful to look at, but I don’t think I want to swim in one, and definitely not 1.2 miles.  Too many ugly stories about getting carried away by rip currents.  The reassurance about so many paddle boards and my neon pink swim cap is that they can come over and find me if I drift too far off course and risk going out to sea.  Those of you who know my color preference know that I revere purple and hate pink, but I was grateful for the neon pink today.

My last swim practice was eight days prior, on a Thursday evening and after two back-to-back flying nights that ended after 1 a.m.  The delayed flights had eliminated one run session and more importantly about six hours of sleep.  On Thursday morning, I ran in Umstead for a speed work session, went to work for 8 long hours of back-to-back calls, and then went to swim at Jordan Lake – all on 4.5 hours of sleep.  At the swim, we did a triangle course, 10 laps total.  I felt okay the first couple of laps, and then just lagged.  No energy and couldn’t keep up with the group I usually swim with.  We’re not the “faster” group, but we’re the “faster soon” group, as Coach Marty calls us.  That’s super sweet, isn’t it?  And he says he’s not sentimental.  On the last lap, I was last by a LOT, and as I rounded the final buoy, I saw a dark shape near me that hadn’t been there before – Marty had come out to swim back with me because I was so far behind.  I had planned another swim with Cary Masters before B2B, but work travel eliminated that possibility as well.  So that dismal swim and the eight day layoff from the water was NOT the pre-B2B confidence booster I was seeking.

As we are watching, we see three swimmers from the 140.6 race that started at 7 a.m., and they are not just swimming, they are sailing.  I’ve never seen anyone take one stroke and cover so much distance.  Their lead was huge as well; just an amazing combination of effort, technique and the right conditions to look as if they were being propelled by a motor.  As the other swimmers passed by, it was reassuring to see that maybe my swim would be “passable”.  Marty had shared some tips on navigating the course and the turns, which Jaime repeated to us in the car as we looked at the swim course map so it was fresh in our minds.

Time to get dressed in my least favorite but most necessary piece of gear – the wetsuit.  There are few things more comical to witness than watching someone get into their wetsuit.  There is no way to do it gracefully and it involves putting a lot of Body Glide around every surface than can rub and then slowly working the neoprene up your legs and around your waist, with some squats to try and move the material higher.  The goal is to get the neck of the wetsuit to not pull at your neck like choking, as the last thing you want is for that sensation to plague you for 45 minutes as your putting your head in the water repeatedly.  Feeling like you cannot breathe just isn’t good. As you’re putting on the suit, if another person can grab the back of the wetsuit and lift you off the ground, it’s even better.  I’ve gotten fairly proficient at it, but it’s still humorous to watch.  I’m already in my one-piece tri suit and had decided to wear my Garmin heart rate monitor chest strap – first time I’ve worn it in a race, and I wanted to see how I handle the different phases of the race.  Jaime and Julie invested in swim booties with good soles, because at the end of this swim, we have a 1/3 mile run across sidewalks and street to get to our bikes.  Swim booties are now on the list of “things I really want to have and can justify them as a ‘need’”.  We also put on our swim sleeves, which allow us to maximize our sleeveless wetsuits (no constriction on the shoulders) but still retain some warmth.  They be awesome.  Caps and goggles and we’re ready to go.

We meet up with Meg and Jon, who drove down specifically to watch the race and cheer us on.  How cool is that?  Meg is a fellow Ironman CdA’er (Coeur d’Alene, and it’s an Ironman sponsored race, so I can say Ironman here), and Jon sold my bike to me, patiently translating my, “I want to try a triathlon but I haven’t ridden a bike in 15 years and I don’t want to spend a lot of money” into my very cool Kuota that has proven to be well worth the investment.  Especially once I learned how to shift gears.  Jaime has accidentally forgotten her water, so Meg volunteers to go get some – she and Jon are on their bikes and the store is down the street.  Again, the friends and volunteers who support this sport are simply fantastic.  We connect with Mary, Tori, Frank, Jon and Marty – fist bumps exchanged, Gu ingested, Pam sprayed on our legs (thanks Frank!) and it’s time to swim.

I have two cherished phrases that I take from this race, and the first one is “swimming with the current”. My goal at the start of a swim is just to get clear of everyone in a calm fashion so that I don’t panic and can stretch my stroke like Marty has instructed.  I was able to do that fairly quickly, fortunately, and felt like I was moving right along.  Cool!  Turn left at the buoy, head for the middle to catch the strongest current like Marty suggested and Jaime had repeated an hour before the race, and try not to swallow any of the nasty salt water.  Just keep swimming, as Dory says.  It was a dreary gray overcast day and the fog made it even more challenging, so sighting the buoys was difficult.  Fortunately, we were wearing the neon pink caps, and while it won’t make me like pink at all, I was grateful to see a lot of pink caps in front of me marking the way.  Make the next turn and get parallel with the shore.  Don’t overshoot the docks.  Stay within my ability – this is a long race and I can’t blow all my energy in the first leg.  Stretch my stroke and pull.  Watch the paddle boarders, who are using their oars to point us in the right direction.  See the flying Gumby-like inflatable.  Wait, Gumby?  We’re done?  That was quick, and that’s not a word I usually describe for my swims. 

How quick was it?  Here are my approximate times for my three Olympic-distance triathlons of 1500 meters this summer:  36 minutes, 32 minutes and 36 minutes.  A 1.2 mile swim is 1931 meters.  I swam it in 31:01.  “Swimming with the current” – every swimmer should get to do that at least once.  Glorious.

My new favorite volunteers?  Wetsuit strippers.  Sit on a bench and they pull that thing off in 15 seconds.  I have spent minutes in other races trying to get the wetsuit off.  My wetsuit stripper woman was cold and very wet and smiling the whole time.  Volunteers Make. The. Race.  Thank you to every one of you.

Run through the sprinklers to try and wash some of the salt off, especially my head and face.  Later in the race, I will be sweating and while I don’t want the sweat to get in my eyes in any situation, having extra ocean salt in it would be bad.  But don’t spend too long – because This Is Transition.  Hurry!  Run up the sidewalk in my bare feet and run across the street in my bare feet.  I don’t like moving in bare feet, and concrete hurts my tootsies.  Why didn’t I buy the swim booties when Jaime suggested it?  This is why I can almost justify it as a need, perhaps a little lower in Maslow’s hierarchy than food and shelter. 

During the run, I see Coach Bri and Alysia and Jen and Meg and Jon and Heather and everyone is cheering.  The best part of this year by far has been meeting these wonderfully talented and extra supportive people.  I had read that the triathlete community is special – they prove it.
Get to the bike, towel off and grab the bag with clothes.  My packing for this race involved two complete sets of bike clothes, because we didn’t know if the forecast of wind, rain and 50* temps was going to hold.  You don’t want to overheat on the bike, but you can’t be miserable.  I’m going to be on that bike for 3 ½ hours.  Jacket for warmth?  Or my sleeveless jersey and lycra arm sleeves for some warmth but some coolness – I don’t like to be too warm when I exercise.  The arm sleeves are great, but not terribly warm.  Julie and I have between us five pairs of arm warmers, and I had loaned a pair to Jaime.  Hat or no hat; jacket on or off?  The night before the race, Marty and Bri invited us to their rental for pasta, and several of us are talking through our clothing dilemma.  We were also engaged in an animated and slightly disturbing conversation about peeing during a race, and if it’s ok to pee in your wetsuit or on your bike.  (My answers for me are No and No, in case you were wondering).  Then Marty walks up to me, Julie and Frank and gives us fleece One Step Beyond arm warmers.  And suddenly my clothing strategy is clear.  FLEECE arm warmers, plus my jersey and my capri bike pants and warm socks.  Done and Done.  Dry off, get dressed, get the bike and go.

One of my essentials is my aero bottle that fits between my handlebars, so that I can just lean forward, bite the straw and drink my G2.  It’s super convenient and helps me stay hydrated without fumbling with a bottle down by my feet.  I see at least five dropped bottles in every race, which means that person has to now rely on what’s provided at the race – not good if they like and train with G2 and the race is distributing Heed or just water.  You don’t want to be introducing something in a race that you have not trained for, especially nutrition and in a salt water race.  It’s just not a wise idea.  So my aero bottle might be in my top three gear items of the year, and I’ve invested in a LOT of gear. 

In the first mile of the race, we have to navigate several quick turns and hit three speed bumps.  This causes the Velcro holding my aero bottle to come undone, and almost fall off the bracket.  The rubber bands that I also use to secure it are not enough, so I’ve grabbed my very precious aero bottle with my hand and now have to figure out what to do.  I could stop and secure it, but that Velcro is a pain – I have to get off my bike and work on it from the front.  That’s a lot of lost time.  I’m thinking that I can wrap my left hand around my aero bar and support the front ridge of the aero bottle with three fingers.  It means I cannot take my hand off to do anything else, like brake, switch between big ring (which I really didn’t think I would do much of anyway) or hold the bike steady.  It means my left arm is a little extended, which is causing my shoulder and neck to hurt more than it should.  But I can keep riding and not stop.  And if I made it through the Flying Jacket experience of the Pinehurst sprint, I can deal with this. 

Along the way, I’m thinking that people will read this and think, “you’re an idiot.  Throw the bottle down and race”.  It’s thirty dollars, but I’ve spent so much money already, and I don’t want to lose the G2 even though I had two more bottles on my bike. 

I held that #*$@&! Bottle for 55 miles.

I thought THAT would be my story of the race.  Pretty benign.

The wind was brutal in the first two thirds of the race.  I stayed in aero position, kept my legs moving and my cadence at a pretty good rate, and watched my borrowed power meter to see where I might have been expending too much energy for little return.  Getting to 17 mph was exciting.  And rare.  I ate three packs of energy gels and managed two Gu’s – with one hand.  I was calculating in my head how long this ride would take and just tried to not mentally get down on myself for not being a stronger rider.  I’m already executing the plan to take care of that by June’s IM.

A word about triathlons and one of the key points of the sport.  You rely on yourself.  This is not a team sport, although there are relay categories where an athlete takes each leg and they hand off a chip to their next competitor.  I would not be able to enjoy this nearly as much without my coaches and friends and fellow triathletes, so there is indeed a team environment.  I really appreciate how people tell me “Good job” or “Hang in there” as we pass each other on the bike or run.  But to get from the start to the finish in the race – it’s just you.  No one is to help you except the all-important designated volunteers who strip off your wetsuit or hand you water or point you in the right direction.  On the bike in a triathlon, everyone knows the “no drafting” rule.  This is not the Tour de France, and there should not be any pelotons or people riding within inches of each other.  You get penalized for that.  When someone passes you, you have to defer to them and drop back so that you don’t benefit from their extra speed – that’s just one of the breaks of being a slower rider.  Deal with it or get faster. 

When the group of six passed me, perfectly structured in their two triangles to create a much easier ride for four of the six members, I found that aggravating.  Evidently so did the triathlon gods, since shortly after they passed me, the woman in the back, enjoying the maximum effect of the draft, dropped her bottle.  Karma.  Heh.

On today’s ride, I tried to appreciate the pretty colors of the trees despite the fog and the misty rain that  was cold.  The fleece arm warmers were outstanding – thank you so much Coach Marty.  I had OSB arm warmers and my OSB jersey – OSB rules!  Next up is OSB socks and a hat J  I stayed in aero position for all 3 ½ hours with the exception of maybe five minutes total.   Never stopped and barely had to slow down for turns or intersections – the great volunteers and police force had stopped or redirected traffic for this race, even along the highways.  Just ride ride ride.  Don’t worry about the time, just make it through the ride and then I can run.  My run at Pinehurst was by far the best running experience so far, so I was looking forward to the run even though it seemed like it would be hours before I could get to it.  I make a right turn, and my second favorite volunteer says what must be the most exciting words in cycling.

“You have a tailwind now.”

I had been hitting the lap button on my Garmin every ten miles, using my chin to press the lap button because I’m still holding the aero bottle.  Here are my paces:
16.0 - 15.4 - 15.0 - 16.2 - 19.1 - 17.7

Guess where the tailwind started?

The first 36-38 miles were HARD.  The last 18 were just fantastic.  I should have switched to big ring but was getting so much speed so comfortably that I didn’t want to push it on the bike and not have anything left for the run.

We did hit a monstrous bridge on the final mile that suddenly dropped me to 12 miles an hour, but it was the final mile, so I was pretty excited to just spin easy and get ready for the run.  When I came into transition, my third favorite volunteer took my bike and paid close attention to my caution that, “this bottle is loose – please don’t lose it”.  When I picked up my bike later, the bottle was right where I had left it.  And my fingers were bright red from the red G2 that leaked onto my hand.  But I did not lose the bottle.

Hello Transition Tent with chairs to sit on to switch shoes.  Sweet!  And hey - it’s Julie Paddison, my weekend roomie and fellow FitBit soon-to-be champion and winner of an iPad2!  Julie “yes, I got hit by a car while on my bike three months ago and fractured my pelvis in two places, but I’m still doing the AquaBike at B2B” Paddison.  She is TOUGH.  We chatted for a couple of minutes while I was changing.  It was so great to see her there and to hear her encouragement.  I believe I even said “See you in a couple of hours.”  It was sunny outside too, so when I got through the transition and went outside, I was feeling great and mentally ready to go. 

Leading up to this race, Jaime, Tisha and I had practiced so many brick workouts that I was eager to get through the first ten minutes of “Ugh” of the run and then settle in.   At Pinehurst, I was so mad after my ride, I just got angry and took off.  I clearly couldn’t do that here, as a 5K just isn’t the same as a half-marathon. Plus the last 90 minutes of the bike were so great that I wasn’t upset at all.  In fact, I was really happy and looking forward to laying down a solid time.

The first ten minutes of a run after ride are just painful.  The challenge is just to suck it up and wait for your body to adjust from spinning to running.  I plan on a walk break during this time and I focus on trying to relax my shoulders and neck and just breathe easy.  Get through it and then you can increase your speed for the remaining part of the race.  I had a weird tightness around my chest that felt like a really strong guy giving me a bear hug.  I thought that would pass and just tried to gut it out.  The neuroma in my right foot that I’ve been fighting for three months also flared up.   Stick a knife in the bottom of your foot between your third and fourth toes. Then run.  Ow.

First mile, slow.  My chest is not feeling better, even when I walk.  The bear hug is constant and it hurts.   I try to keep my breathing even, since breathing with a bear hug just isn’t comfortable.  Fighting the neuroma in the foot, which is tolerable and something I’ve dealt with for a while.  But this chest tightness thing is completely new and not good.  I had asthma for a long time when I was younger, and this wasn’t an asthma attack.  I could breathe okay, although it hurt, but that’s because of my chest, not my lungs.  I had put on my heart rate monitor for the first time in a race, and the little tiny numbers were telling me 130’s – that’s good for me, especially when running.  Those of you who know my dad know about his five heart attacks and two bypass surgeries and that of the three arteries that support a normal person’s heart, all of his are either completely blocked or 80% compromised.  I know cardiac symptoms; I’ve been with him in the ER or with his cardiologist far too many times.  I don’t know how it feels personally, but I am as educated as a non-healthcare professional can be.  I had a treadmill stress test last year before I started all of this training, and it came back fine.  I had put that heart strap on at the last minute, thinking I was just curious about the data.  It turned out that was the thing that stopped me from panicking – I could see my heart rate was fine.  So either that strap wasn’t working from the swim / salt water, or it wasn’t related to my heart. 

I could run for two minutes, and then it would force me to walk.  I saw Mary, then Tori, then Jaime.  They all looked great, running so easy.  After mile two, the neuroma went away, so now I could focus on just getting over the tightness.  It wasn’t easing.  My mental routines weren’t working and I could not get any way to relax.  Finally at mile five, I decide to use a portajohn and see if that would help.  Unzip my OSB jersey, unzip my tri-suit and try not to sit on the seat.

Remember the Tom Hanks scene in “A League of Their Own”?  No, not the “There’s no crying in baseball” scene, although there probably is some of that in Texas this week after being one strike away from the Series win twice and then losing.  The other Tom Hanks scene.  You know the one.


But I felt better.  The tightness was certainly there, but I’m fairly sure that was over a pound of fluid I just got rid of.  So I was lighter and able to at least run faster, down in the 8’s where I was supposed to be all along.  I could run for five minutes, endure the tightness and then take my walk break.  That lasted about twenty minutes, during which time I saw Frank just ahead of me and was trying to catch him.  Some of the runners of the 140.6 were now passing me, looking like they were just out for a 3 mile jog and not on mile 120 of their day.

Then the pain came back.  Tighter.  Walking didn’t help any more.  It just never eased, and I’d been fighting it for 90 minutes.  I could run for two minutes and then would have to walk for two minutes.  During one of those two minute running stretches, I saw Coach Bri and Marty and was able to tell her I was miserable and heard Bri say in response, “Marty said the same thing.”  This is rather shameful to say, but hearing that he felt the same way (although hopefully he wasn’t feeling tightness in his chest like this) during his race made me feel better.  I had seen him on his 12th mile when I was on my first, while he was on his way to placing in the Open Masters category, and he was so focused I don’t think he heard me yell at him.  It’s odd to find comfort in someone else’s misery.  I was also slightly relieved that the two times I saw Bri on the run course, I was running.  Of course, I was averaging about a 12 minute pace, but at least I was running.  She had seen me earlier at the swim transition, so she knew I had been in good shape.  Julie could tell her that I was feeling great leading out to the run.  But for the last 75 minutes of the race, all I had in my head was her other advice about the week leading up to the race: “listen to your body.” 

As usual when your body hurts in one area, you try to compensate.  Maybe you stride a little differently or hold your arms in a different manner, or move your neck back and forth to stretch.  Nothing worked.  Two hours of chest pain, although I was trying not to think of it with that particular phrase.  My back is starting to hurt, my neck is already sore and I just want to be done.  I tried to get out of my head and not feel it.  It didn’t work.  Listen to your body, Michele.  So I walked.

Now I got mad at myself.  And sad.  This was the part of the race I had looked forward to and had really dedicated a lot of training to, and it blew up and I didn’t even know how.  Two really good legs, and a time goal that I was within reach of and I wasn’t even close.  I had three miles over two bridges with 20-30 mile gusts of wind to think about it.  I was cold and tired and embarrassed and sad.  I was trying to focus on something someone said to me at the beginning of the year when I confessed that I use walk breaks during my runs, “so I don’t run the entire way”.  He said in response, “do you cover the distance?  Then you run the marathon.”  But I was walking at least a third of this one.  I worried about my marathon in five weeks, which is my A+ race of the season – now I can’t even run a mile. 

A woman was walking near me and we ended up swapping stories, as us walkers sometimes do.  Nora was fighting her asthma and we able to run a couple of minutes at a time.  So we endured the bridges together, shared our respective dilemmas on our first 70.3, marveled at those on the full who just looked fresh and strong, and talked about the beautiful medal we would get.  I speculated that maybe this was indigestion or heartburn and that maybe I could get some Tums at the finish line.  Nora was ready to be warm and breathing calmly.  There is a wonderful bond that occurs during racers when you get to have a conversation; it’s a cathartic bond that we don’t find in many other situations.  It was helpful to walk with her for 15 minutes – she helped me put the day in perspective.  And when I got the most painful case of hiccups in my life (imagine having a bear hug, a lot of muscle pain because of 2 ½ hours of coping with it and then a really hard hiccup – it was impossible to stop the hiccup and the ensuing “Ow” whimper), she just helped me focus on something else for the two minutes.  Thanks Nora.

I ran the last half mile, because by that time it was downhill and almost done and I had decided I needed to find the medical tent and figure out what was going on.  Crossed the finish line, got my medal and saw Jon and Meg and Julie immediately.  How cool that they waited to look for me – I was pretty sure I was the last one of our group on the course.  And how reassuring.  Meg asked how I was and I was able to say, “not good” and “my chest is really tight” and express the need to find a medical tent.  I got my finisher shirt and Meg brought over a woman in a red shirt.  Meg also offered to stay with me, bless her.  That’s when she found out that Julie, Jaime and I had listed her as our emergency contact person on the pre-race form.  We only did that as a cursory thing – you never think you’re going to need the emergency contact person.  But we listed her and thank goodness she was here.  So she came with me.

Once again, I know the medical stuff.  I did train and work as an EMT briefly about 20 years ago.  I’ve briefed enough ER nurses and doctors about my dad to know to choose my words carefully.  I did not say, “I have chest pain.”  I said, “my chest is tight, like someone is giving me a bear hug.  It’s not my heart.  And it’s been that way for two hours.  I think it’s indigestion if I could get some antacid.”  But there are trigger phrases, and “chest is tight” is one of them, and the woman in the red shirt looked at me and marched me into the medical tent.

Well, it wasn’t a medical tent.  It was a M*A*S*H unit.  It was huge, warm and almost fully stocked.  They take my vitals and three people hear “chest pain” from the triage nurse – instead of my carefully worded “my chest is tight” and now I’m having a full cardiac workup.  They’re taking my blood pressure twice, my temperature and my heart rate – a very even 95 bpm and a 98.4 temp, thank you very much. I’m trying to be very cordial and crack some jokes and put them at ease that no, I’m not having anything remotely close to a heart attack.  Didn’t work.

They made me sit on a cot and reclined me into a 45 degree position.  And with that, the pain went away.  Immediately. 

No one would believe me.  I had to have the baby aspirin and the full EKG and two EMT’s and an RN and the ER doc come over to look at me.  My EKG would not register, so they switched leads.  It still would not register, so they strip off the first set of stickers – OWIE – and put on a second set.  “Are you wearing any metal?”  Everyone looks at my necklace and my sports bra and they’re deemed okay.  The tri-suit is still on, but I’ve pulled it down to my waist so they can get the leads on.  The EKG still looked very fuzzy, and they couldn’t get any clear signal.  Be still and don’t talk (kinda hard to do when they’re asking questions and I’m shivering).  Strips are not clear.  Now Meg and Julie have come to be with me, and Julie the critical care RN is looking at the display (not the strip) and I can tell from her that it’s okay.  Christine the medic thinks it’s okay.  Plus, oh by the way, the pain is gone.  I’m sore, because I’ve been coping with it for so long, but it’s not the acute pain it was.  Don’t know what caused it, but it’s not there anymore.  Ready to leave now, thank you so much for your help.

However, the doctor wants a clear EKG, so now I have to strip further.  Then we remember that my Garmin is still on my wrist and active.  That’s a GPS device, so that must be the problem.  Turn that off, and the strips are still very fuzzy.  Now I have to take off the sports bra – Julie and Meg hold up a sheet and I’m pulling it off around stickers – it’s not easy to get off when you can’t sit up.  EKG still doesn’t work.  I’m shivering despite two warm blankets but I’m really really feeling better.  Please let me go and be with my friends – they’ve waited for me long enough and we want to get somewhere warm.  I’ve been okay for 20 minutes, my vitals are normal – not even elevated as they should be after 6 ¾ hours of exertion – and Christine the medic decides to recommend that I be released.  Doctor Todd agrees, and I’m able to thank everyone and leave the fantastic medical tent. 

And I felt fine.  Had I been able to run then, I’d have run a two hour half, even after running the other half.  I can run today.  Because I ended up walking so much, I’m in very good shape for the marathon, even though this race ended so slowly.  Walking is good recovery. 

That night, we went to dinner.  Prickly pear margaritas are yummy.  Eating with friends celebrating a race is even better.  So is Mexican food, my favorite.  And as I finished my enchilada, the tightness came back.  Indigestion.  Good freaking grief – it was indigestion.  Really?  Are you *$(#&@ing kidding me?

Julie suggested I add one Zantac a day to my “week before race” diet.  Done.  Absolutely done.  And a roll of Tums in my fuel belts and Bento boxes.  Never again.

That's the close of the 2011 tri season.  The word for me is "transformation."  New friends, new adventures, and a great time doing something new at my age.

To my fellow B2B racers - Julie, Tori, Mary, Jaime, Missy, Frank, Steffen, Jon and everyone else - you are all rock stars to me.  Those that did the 140.6?  Michelle, Avril, Jenn?  Amazing.  I hope that I'm smiling as much as you were when it's my turn in June.

Thanks to Coach Bri and Marty - it has been such fun working with both of you.  I'm getting a little smarter and a little stronger each time, and i so appreciate your time and patience and helping me get there.

To the supporters who came just to cheer for us - cannot say thank you enough.

Volunteers Make. The. Race.  Go be a volunteer!

I had been looking forward to sleeping without an alarm, just to sleep as long as I could.   On Sunday morning at 5:21 a.m., I woke up and realized at that moment, I had my one piece trisuit on yesterday while in the medical tent.  I had pulled it down to my waist so they could put the EKG leads on.  The trisuit zips up.  Metal zipper?  Probably. 

Oops J

Next up - California International Marathon.