Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Can't Believe I'm Even Considering This

   Recently, I've been trying to figure out my future race schedule now that I'm running again. I have one race on my calendar definitely - NashVegas Olympic in September. I'm pondering a few others - The Buckhead Border Challenge (Olympic) or Music City (Olympic) in July and Fall Creek Falls (Olympic) or Bowling Green (Sprint) in August. And, though I haven't signed up yet, I'm 99% in for Goosepond Island Half Iron Distance in October.
   Considering I haven't officially finalized my 2013 calendar yet, you can imagine my surprise when I walked in to swim practice this morning, and Coach Andrew says "Want to see what you're doing next season?" and shows me a text on his phone. I braced myself, because I had an inkling of what it was going to say before he showed it to me. And I was right. The text was from my friend and FTP training partner Kathy - and it said "IMCDA." Also known as Ironman Coeur d'Alene.

   An Ironman? Seriously? Just writing the words makes me a little nauseous. For those who don't know about triathlon - that's a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run. That's 140.6 miles! That's freakin' FAR!! My mind can't even comprehend it.
   This insanity all started because the 2013 IMCDA was last weekend, and there was a pretty good crew from Nashville out there for it. Ironman has a live feed of the finish line so you can watch your friends cross it no matter where you are. Want to see something amazing? Watch the finish of an Ironman. The finishing chute is packed with people screaming and ringing cowbells. The athletes come running down the chute to this cacophony of sounds. Some are running - or at least trying to. Some are high-fiving every spectator along the way, some are only focused on the finish line. Many have tears in their eyes. I saw one guy stand about 10 feet from the finish line and just stare up at himself at the Jumbotron, as if he couldn't really believe he was there. Then you hear Mike Reilly - the "voice of Ironman" say "Bob Smith - YOU are an IRONMAN." Crazy. I can't even imagine what that must feel like.
   So yesterday, Kathy sent me a text asking me if I knew how quickly IMCDA sells out (some Ironman races sell out in less than a minute after registration opens), because she was thinking about signing up. I told her she was crazy for even considering this idea, because that's the kind of supportive friend I am. End of story, right?
   Noooo - then I walk into swim practice get hit with Andrew saying "Want to see what you're doing next season?" And you know what? I thought about it the whole damn time I was swimming. Could I actually finish an Ironman? I mean, for me, it wouldn't really be a "race." It'd be a long day of doing various athletic activities. I do that on a fairly regular basis now. Granted, not for 12-14 hours, but you can train for that. I've already done two Half-Ironmans and will have one more by year's end. Those didn't kill me. I also like that this particular race has a lake swim, rather than the ocean. I can practice swimming in a lake - I don't have an ocean nearby.
   And, since the race is in Idaho, it'd cross off another obscure state off my quest to race a half marathon (or further) in all 50 states. Yes, that is actually a factor in my decision-making process. Would I rather do an Ironman in flat, flat Florida rather than hilly Idaho? Yes. Yes, I would. But I've already raced in Florida. If I'm going to spend the money, I'd like to go somewhere new.
   As you can see, I have some thinking to do (and some serious discussion with Dudley). Suddenly, signing up for Goosepond Island Half sounds like a no-brainer. I'll let you know what I decide.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It's Potato to Tomato Time!

   This week kicked off one of my favorite times of the year - Potato to Tomato. What is that, you ask? Well, it's the eight weeks of free Couch to 5K training that my beloved running group, East Nasty, hosts every Summer for people interested in getting into shape.  From June to August, we run around East Nashville preparing for the Tomato 5k on August 10, which benefits the local YMCA.

Artwork courtesy Duane Stephenson.

   I get funny looks when I mention the program to outsiders of the EN running community. Most Couch to 5k programs are called exactly that - "Couch to 5k" or "C25K" for short. We call ours "Potato to Tomato" because we're training couch potatoes to run the Tomato 5k. Most awesome name for a training program ever? I think so.
   The program is HUGE - it is free after all. There are 200-250 participants and 40 coaches this year. And for the third time in its four-year existence, I'm a Coach.  I even have the shirt and everything.

I'm all official and what not.

  So what exactly does Potato to Tomato do? We meet three times a week - Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays. We break up into groups (depending on speed) and then the groups run through the scheduled workout for the day. It's always a 5-minute walking warm up, then a series of run/walk intervals, and then a 5-minute walking cool down. What is so fantastic about this program is that it is truly for people who have never exercised before. Example: last night's workout consisted of running for 60 seconds, and then walking for 90 seconds. We did this eight times. While the thought of running for eight minutes straight might seem intimidating for non-runners, ANYONE can run for 60 seconds at a time. A-N-Y-O-N-E. The time of running increases as the weeks go on, so by the time the race comes along, our runners are more than prepared for the Tomato 5k.
   I'm not exaggerating when I say I've seen lives changed by this program. People lose weight. And make friends. And realize that running with friends is A LOT more fun than running alone. Next, they try a little bit longer distance. And sign up for another race, maybe a 10k this time. Before you know it, these "non-runners" are traveling to Florida with a group of their friends to run a half-marathon (true story) or signing up for an Ironman (another true story). And they got started with this Couch to 5k program*. 
   And my life has changed by coaching. Watching people evolve week to week is so inspiring. And race day? Forget about it. To witness people achieve a goal that some NEVER thought was possible - well, words can't describe it.  

One of my favorite moments ever. Roy, J'Nae and me crossing the finish line. 
Tomato 5k 2010

Big, sweaty hugs at the end.
   Can't wait until August 10!  Tomato 5k 2013!  ENFL! 
(FYI - today is the LAST DAY for early registration for the Tomato 5k  Sign up today!!

*Technically, the examples used here both trained for the Tom King 5k, not the Tomato 5k. However, East Nasty trained both programs and the same training schedule was used. Not that anyone cares, but I'm kind of a stickler for details. And I knew someone would probably correct me - I know how you guys are...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

   Today's post is dedicated to the man most responsible for any interest in athletics that I might possess - my Dad. Many of you know, my father has been a cyclist for his entire life. He started racing up in Kenosha, Wisconsin when he was in his teens. He was really good, too. He raced and beat guys who made it to the Olympics, I think. This story kind of changes depending on who is telling it, but my dad was supposed to race at the Olympic team qualifier and got the mumps / flu / some sort of crazy illness and couldn't race.
   He continued racing into his late 30's. I've never asked why he stopped, but I'm assuming that it's for the normal reasons - job, kids, life. Probably more kids than anything. Even though he wasn't racing, my Dad did everything he could to encourage my brother and me to love bicycles. I remember watching ABC's "Wide World of Sports" with Dad on Sundays in July to get a five-minute update on the Tour de France. I followed the careers of US cyclists Greg LeMond, Andy Hampsten and Davis Phinney long before Lance Armstrong became a household name in the US.
   But Dad didn't want us just to follow cycling - he wanted us to ride. My brother raced BMX when we lived in Tucson, but Northern Virginia didn't have a track when we moved there. Rather than throwing up his hands and enrolling my brother in soccer (which was huge in NOVA), my Dad started a BMX track - the mighty Starlit - and ran it for a couple of years. Only as an adult, can I truly appreciate what a huge undertaking that was. Every Sunday from April to September, my dad was out at Starlit managing the races. He was there several days throughout the week as well, maintaining the track. If you lived in Northern Virginia and raced BMX as a kid - thank my Dad. He's the one who brought it there. (Sidebar: If you raced at Starlit, there is also a very good chance you stole a hot dog or candy bar from me, since I'm the one who ran the concession stand.)

I don't know any of these people, but this was at Starlit.

   I started my "racing career" on that track. I had never really shown any interest in racing BMX, and girls my age never showed up to race anyway...until one did. I don't recall her name, but she was my age (10 or 11) and she wanted to race. Before I knew it, my dad slapped a helmet on me and loaded me up on the starting gate. I heard "Racers ready! Pedals set!" and BAM! The gate was down and I was racing! And I won! I raced almost every weekend for the next five years after that - holidays included; most Christmases were spent in a hotel room in Indianapolis getting ready for the JAG BMX World Championships.

Seriously. How cool was I?

I'm thinking I was 13 here and I'm pretty sure I'm racing boys.

   As I moved out of my BMX phase and on to more important things for a high school girl (like cheerleading, singing and shopping), Dad did the best he could to feign interest in my activities. I'm sure he as like many Dads of teenage girls in this regard. He was proud, but couldn't really relate because seriously - what does he know about cheerleading? It wasn't until I was in my 20's and mentioned that I was interested in mountain biking that we really started to bond. NOW I was speaking his language. The next time I saw him, we went to a bike shop and picked out a Klein mountain bike. I gotta tell ya - the best thing as a daughter who has an interest in riding, is to have a father who has an interest in riding.
  Over the years, even though we live in different states, Dad and I have been able to ride together at times. One of my favorite rides was when my dad, brother and husband all rode the MS 150 Jack & Back ride together. Dad had so much fun, he even came back the next year and rode it again.

Team Mycom! (My dad's company)

   Though he continued to ride throughout his life, he never mentioned racing again until a few years ago, when he called me up and told me we were all going to Portugal in two years. Why? The World Masters Track Championships where being held there and he wanted to go. He was in his 70's at the time. The next two years of his life was dedicated to training. This included almost weekly trips to Trexlertown Velodrome in Pennsylvania - almost 4 hours away - because that was the closest velodrome. THAT is dedication. And sure enough, two years later, my entire family were all in Portugal, cheering Dad on.

That's Dad in the middle in the red and black. He's a total badass.

   If anyone is still wondering from where I get my dedication to training - it's my dad. Not only is there a genetic thing going on, but let me tell you, there is NOTHING that will make you feel the need to get off of your butt more than your 70+ father telling you he rode 40 miles that morning...while you're sitting on your sofa eating pancakes.
   So Happy Father's Day, Dad! Thank you for all you have done for me. You've truly been an inspiration. I hope to be cheering you on at many, many more races.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Happy National Running Day!

   Today is National Running Day. Who knew, right?  Unfortunately, I didn't get to run because my ankle is still a little jacked. As much as I hate to admit it, I probably should have listened to my husband and actually truly rested my ankle over the past six weeks rather than just not running. "Maybe riding 62-miles on your bike isn't the best thing to do with a sprained ankle." Yeah, yeah... I didn't really pay that much attention to him. Maybe I should have.
   Anyway, back to National Running Day. I've been going crazy because almost every large race is offering a discount if you sign up for their race today. The Louisiana Marathon, the Women's Running series and even the Rock & Roll race series are all offering discounts today. Do you know what this does to someone who is 1) extremely frugal, 2) trying to run a half-marathon in all 50 states and 3) totally addicted to signing up for races? Seriously. It's an addiction. I get a rush from it and everything. Sometimes I feel like I need an intervention. And, of course, I'm not signing up for anything because I CAN'T RUN!! Ugh. It's killing me.
   But, like any good addict, I'm feeling the need to force my addiction on others. I didn't want the day to end without sharing some of the discounts with you all. You still have several hours to sign up, so pick a race and get going!!

The Louisiana Marathon - 1/19/2014 - Use "STILLMAY" as the coupon code.
Women's Running Series - Various dates and locations - $20 off
Rock & Roll Series - Various dates and locations - $20 off
NFL Run Series - Various dates and locations - $5 off
Best Damn Race Safety Harbor, FL - 2/1/2014 - $5 off - Use "RUNDAY" as the coupon code.
Iron Girl Santa Rosa - 11/10/2013 - $10 off - Use "IGSRNTLRD13" as the coupon code.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Harpeth River Ride

   Today was the day if one of my favorite triathlons - the Mach Tenn Tri. Unfortunately, due to my ankle, I couldn't race it. However, since I CAN ride, I signed up for the Harpeth River Ride. The HRR is a fantastic local ride that is put on by the Harpeth Bike Club and is now in it's 18th year.  Dudley and I have participated maybe 4-5 times in the past. It's amazing to see how this ride has grown. When we first rode it years ago, it was big for a club-sponsored ride (maybe a few hundred people) and started at a local school. Fast forward a few it started and finished at Nissan HQ (title sponsor), had about 1,500 riders AND now has a music festival afterwards that Blues Traveler headlined. The past two years, when Nissan sponsored the Radio Shack cycling team, had pro riders like Lance Armstrong and Chris Horner come out and ride. Of course, the cycling drug scandal that resulted in Nissan dropping their sponsorship of the RS team put an end to the big name pros coming out, but it's still quite the event.

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike.

   I signed up for the metric century (62-miles), but had decided late this week that I'd probably switch to the 44-mile route. It kind of depended on the weather, but it's also a really hilly ride. I figured I'd ride the first 25 with the 62-mile group, which is where the 44-mile group split off. If I felt Ok, I'd go on and do the metric. If not, I'd go with the 44-milers.
   At check in, I ran into East Nasty and Fab 5 member Kevin. He was riding the 62-mile route as well. He's training for an Ironman. I am not. I told him I'd hang with him if I could, but wasn't going to kill myself (I was feeling kind of wimpy this morning, if you couldn't tell).
   We lined up with the other 62-milers. The HRR has grown so much that they have a staggered start. The first riders are VIPS, then the 100-milers, then the 62-milers and so on until the 12-mile riders start. The race organizer would let about 50 people start at a time and had gates to help stagger the start. You would think this would have helped with congestion, but it really didn't that much. We were pretty much in heavy traffic until the first rest area at mile 17. 
   Due the the congestion, we couldn't really ride fast, so staying with Kevin wasn't an issue. That is until mile 5 when I hit a rut in the road and BOTH of my water bottles popped out of their holders. Yes, I was THAT girl who had to pull over to retrieve her stuff from the middle of the road. With about 1,000 cyclists riding towards her. No - that's not dangerous. Fortunately, I was already riding on the right side of the road so I didn't have to weave through riders to pull over AND there was a very nice police officer who had picked up my water bottles for me. Thank you, kind sir.
   One thing that is nice about the HRR is that they have exceptional rest areas. The one at mile 17 pretty much had everything a rider could possibly want: sandwiches, cookies, fruit, muffins, pickles, trail mix, water, gatorade - I could go on. I didn't stay there too long, as it looked like it was about to rain. This was also when I decided to only ride the 44-mile route. The winds had picked up and I really didn't want to get rained on. If it was an important training ride or a race, I'd ride in the rain. But considering I'm just getting over an injury, I didn't see the need to risk a nasty fall by riding a hilly route in the rain.
   It was after the rest area that the ride started getting interesting. And by interesting, I mean really, stupid hilly. Check out this elevation chart.

It's not the best visual, but see those two pointy things in the middle? Those are two of the most ridiculous hills I've ever scaled. While they aren't technically straight up, they certainly felt like it. The first one was steeper, but the second one was longer. That one is called "Pulltight Hill," and it's kind of legendary in local riding circles. The ride organizers actually created a "King of the Mountain" competition up this hill. (Sidebar: next time I sign up for a ride with a KOM competition, don't bring my tri bike. Tri bikes don't like hills.) If I hadn't already decided to cut the ride short before climbing these hills, I probably would have afterwards. They were killer.
   One funny story about the hills. When climbing the first one (about half-way up), I passed a female cyclist standing on the side of the road looking at a map. She asked those of us riding if we knew where the 24-mile ride turn off was. I would have laughed out loud if I hadn't been so deep in the pain cave from climbing. Bless her heart, the turn off was around mile 6. We were now at mile 20-something. I just said "Oh - it was a while back, before the rest area." I'm sure she wasn't happy at that news. 
   The remainder of the ride was pretty uneventful. Some rolling hills, but nothing like Pulltight Hill. Fortunately, it never rained, though there were some gusts of wind that almost blew me off the road. I was very ready to get off the bike by the time the finish finally came around.

Finishers medals. Nice touch.

   Overall, it was a great ride with one or two small issues. The first being the congestion of riders. I'm not sure what else the ride organizers could have done, but those first 15 miles or so were pretty dangerous. The problem with a huge ride like this is that cyclists get a false sense of security. Some tend to forget that they're riding on open roads with other riders and cars. They'll ride four across the road and not move. There were several times when I'd yell "on your left" or even "car back" and riders wouldn't budge. I passed two ladies late in the ride who were just tooling around in the middle of the road, you know, chatting. Don't get me wrong, I get it (and have been guilty of doing the same thing). It's a long day in the saddle and it's nice to have someone to talk to. But PLEASE, be smart. Move over when cyclists and cars try to pass.
   My other issue was that the rest area after Pulltight Hill was a mile and a half off the main route and wasn't well-marked. It was actually so far off the main route that every rider I saw thought we were going the wrong direction and turned around. It wasn't a huge deal today, more of an annoyance than anything, because it wasn't that hot. If it had been warmer, people might have really needed water after all of that climbing. A few signs would have really helped. (Sidebar: Remember the girl who missed her turn off? I ran into her again after looking for the rest areas. I pulled over to talk to a police officer who was directing traffic to let him know that he might have some lost cyclists wandering about looking for the rest area. She was there and told me she specifically wanted the 24-mile route because she didn't want hills. Bless her heart (again). I'm 99% sure she called someone to come pick her up. She was DONE.)
  But as I said, it was a great ride. If you have any interest in riding, you should consider this next year. With routes ranging from 12 to 100 miles, it has something for riders of every ability. Just be ready for Pulltight Hill if you ride the 44+ mile routes. And don't bring your tri bike.