Saturday, September 28, 2013

It Just Got Real, Y'all...

   Ironman Chattanooga is one year from today (take a look at my fancy countdown clock in the upper right-hand corner!). That might seem really far off, but having a year until the race makes it real for me. It's no longer just some event off in the distance. It's a year away. Tomorrow, it will be less than a year away.  Soon, it will be 10 months away, then 6 months... I know how quickly time can sneak by - and I want to be ready.
   So, though I don't "officially" start training for this race until January, I'll still be out there over the next few months biking on the Trace or running over in Shelby Park. Training for the training, if you will. If you see me, feel free to come say hi, offer some kind words of encouragement and maybe give me a cookie. I'm going to need all of the support I can get.  :-)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Riverbluff Triathlon Race Report

   A week ago Saturday was the Riverbluff Triathlon. Yes, I'm a little delayed in posting this. I've been a little busy...and lazy. But mostly busy.

   And unlike the past two triathlons I've tried to do, I actually got to race Riverbluff! No hurt ankles...No E.Coli in the river... The race was ALMOST changed to a Duathlon, but I'll get to that in a minute.
   Race day started at around 4:00 am. Kathy, my FTP training buddy and neighbor, picked me up at 5:20. Yes, 5-freaking-20 AM! So early. So, so early. (Sidebar:  I swear, at some point I'm taking up a sport where I can sleep in, like bowling.)  Riverbluff actually has three races, a Half-Iron distance, an Olympic and a Sprint. Our race (Olympic) didn't start until 8:15, but we were supposed to be there around 6:30, which is why we left so early. Fortunately, the crew from FTP was there, so we had a place to hang out while we were waiting for our race to start.

This was only about half of us.  FTP was everywhere!

   Unfortunately, though the day was supposed to eventually clear up, it was EXTREMELY foggy down the river. It was so bad that the Coast Guard wouldn't left the Half-Iron distance start at 7:15, as scheduled. It was too dangerous. That race kept getting postponed and postponed... I thought for sure they were going to change the Half AND the Olympic to a Duathlon because the fog just wasn't lifting.  Finally, at about 8:10, the Coast Guard gave the go-ahead and the Half was finally allowed to start.
   My race started about 15 minutes after the Half. The Olympic races were broken up into two groups of men and one of women, with the women starting last. It was still really, really foggy when the first group of men started. It was kind of surreal to watch these guys just swim off into the fog. I couldn't believe I was about to do the same thing! I was seriously thinking that I was about to do something really stupid by racing. I mean, who gets into a river to swim when they can't see where they are going?
   But sure enough, a few minutes later, I found myself in the water with 100 other crazy women. We were all just nervously laughing and saying things like "I can't believe we're racing in this!" I tried to look across the river to see the green buoy, which was our first turning point, but couldn't. I figured I'd just follow the lead swimmers and hope the fog would lift soon.

I'm somewhere in that mess...just blindly swimming off into the unknown.

   The horn sounded, and we were off. I did exactly what I had planned - I followed the leaders and hoped I'd end up at the green buoy, which I did. And by the time we hit the second buoy, I could feel the sun on my back. The fog had lifted! HAZZAH! I actually felt pretty good out there. I hadn't swam 1,500 meters continuously in a while, so I was a little concerned about my endurance, but I was fine. In fact, the worst part about the swim was getting out of the water. The boat ramp was slimy and kind of steep. Fortunately, there were several volunteers who helped us out. I wouldn't have been able to get out on my own.
    After a short run (on gravel - ouch) to transition, I easily found my bike because, as I mentioned, we were the last Olympic group to start. Most of the men (I did catch some) and some of the women were already gone. It's a little discouraging to get to transition and see a bunch of empty racks, even if you know it's because they started before you did. But what can you do? So, I got on the bike and was off.
   Now one reason I had wanted to do this race was that I was told it was a flat ride and perfect for a PR. I can't remember who told me that, but if they considered this course flat, I'd hate to see what their version of hilly is. This was NOT a flat course. FTP actually did hill repeats on one of the worst hills out here a few weeks ago. At the time, I was thinking "I'm SO glad this hill isn't on the race course!" Of course, it was.
   The only real complaint I have about the bike course was that it was WAY TOO CONGESTED for a race of this size and not have the roads closed. Remember- there were three races going one at this point and at about 10 miles left on the course, we all met up. At one point, a truck had stopped in the middle of the street, so I had to literally stop in the middle of my bike leg and wait for him to get moving again. By the time he did, about 15 riders had joined up with me, so we all started riding in a pack, which is a big race no-no. We all had to follow the truck down the biggest hill. He was going nice and slow, which was a good and bad thing. Good, because by going slow he wouldn't hit any cyclists. Thank you for being considerate, Mr. Truck Driver. The bad part was that because he was slow - I was slow. Rather than flying down the hill at 30 MPH, I was probably going 15. Sigh. But, I'd rather have all of us be safe than have a fast bike split.
   We rode in a pack most of the way back to the transition area. I really can't believe I didn't get a penalty for drafting, but I think the race organizers understood what the deal was - there were just too many people out there.
   By the time I got to the run, the sun had REALLY started shining and it was HOT. I don't really have any witty commentary about the run because I was miserable the entire time and walked way more than I should have. After being slowed on the bike leg, I kind of figured any chance I had to podium was shot. As everyone knows, the run is my nemesis in triathlon. I pretty much need conditions to be perfect for me to have a good run and today, I was already mentally defeated. I really need to work on this. I should have been all "forget you guys, I'm going to crush you on the run!" But I was really more, "Ugh, it's hot and my bike leg sucked. Let me just get through this." The last mile had no shade and just seemed to take FOREVER! My friend Maureen caught me and we ran it in to the finish together. Afterwards, we went directly to the river and sat in it for about 20 minutes. I was so hot, and that water felt really, really good.

Pretty cool medal.

East Nasty represent! Maureen, Me, Lana, Kim and Marne.

   Overall, the race was fun, even though the heat just killed me. I actually ended up with a PR, which was surprising. The post-race food was amazing, which is always a bonus. It turns out that I was only 3 minutes from 3rd place AG, which I absolutely could have made up if I had been more focused on racing rather than how hot it was. Lesson learned - no matter how bad you think you're doing, you have no idea what everyone is doing so keep pushing until the finish.
   The congestion on the ride is an issue. I found out a few days after the race that one of the racers was hit by a car. Fortunately, it looks like she's going to be Ok (though the driver isn't being charged with anything...don't get me started on this). I think the only way to fix this is to close the roads completely. I'm not sure if that's going to happen. I guess we'll see next year.
   On a totally different note, Kathy, Dudley and I all raced the Heroes in Recovery 6k yesterday. Yes, a 6k! This was an awesome race in Leipers Fork. The course took us by an alpaca farm! So cute! And Kathy and I actually went 1st and 2nd in our AG, plus Belinda from FTP also got 1st AG. We all got running hats as an award. Love it! :-)

 I loved the shirts.

FTP: Belinda, Becky, Kathy, me and Dudley.

   Next up: the Hustle for the House 5k benefitting the Ronald McDonald House. I'm on the board for this race, so I'm not sure if I'm going to race or not. It's a great race for a great cause, so I'm really looking forward to it - even if I have to get up at 4:00 to help set up!  :-)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I May or May Not Have Done Something Really Stupid

   Yeah - that's right.  I kind of signed up for an Ironman.  Ok - well, not "kind of," I DID sign up for an Ironman.  For you non-triathletes, that's 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of riding and 26.2 miles of running for a grand total of 140.6 miles.
   Have I ever swam/biked/run ANY of those distances previously? Nope. Am I crazy?  Possibly. Am I scared? Terrified, actually. But I never want "being afraid" to be the reason for me to not do something.  (Well, except skydiving. THOSE people are crazy.)
   The good news is that I probably know 20-40 people in the Nashville area who will also be doing this race. I'll have training buddies galore. Plus, with Chattanooga being only 2-hours away, I expect several trips there to ride and run the race course.  And I know that Andrew and Jessica at FTP Coaching will whip my butt into shape. Barring any injuries, I should be more than prepared physically to finish an Ironman (i.e. no time goal. Just get me across the line under 17 hours). Being prepared mentally is a totally different thing. I'm sure I'll have my ups and downs over the next year, but I'm excited to take the journey.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Blueberry Cove 13.1 Race Recap

   I've been a little slack on writing recently - mainly because I haven't been doing anything that interesting. But that changed this past week when I went up to Maine for a little vacation (FYI - a recap on our vacation will be posted later). And, of course, since I want to hit a half-marathon in every state, I found a race to run while I was up there - the Blueberry Cove 13.1.  Sounds charming, does it not?
   Dudley and I flew into Portland on Saturday and headed up to Tenant's Harbor that afternoon to check-in for the race.  The Blueberry Cove 13.1 is a fund-raiser for the Blueberry Cove 4-H Camp, and all of the race activities were based at the camp.  The race organizers made things really easy for us in that for a small donation to the camp, you could stay overnight there and also have a home-cooked dinner.  Being that I had no clue as to where to stay, I booked a cabin at the camp.  That's right - me. Camping. Dudley was kind of surprised by that, as well. But hey - it's way less expensive than a B&B, you get fed (well) AND you wake up at the race start. That's kind of a no-brainer from my perspective.

Use an oar for a sign?  Why not?

    So we roll into camp, and it's just as rustic as you would think for a 4-H camp based in Maine. And, it is based on a cove - because everything in Maine is based on a cove, or a river, or the ocean. It's like living in a freakin' postcard up here...but I digress.

Sorry for the horrible photo, but it's the only one I have.  This is from the dining hall at the camp.

   Anyway, we get to camp and look for the race check-in table. Guess what? There wasn't one. The race is capped at 200 racers and the race organizers prefer to go over the details of the race the day of the race. Works for me. We then found Steve, who was the RD and who had also assigned the cabin assignments.  Now, contrary to what Dudley might say, I was fully expecting to sleep in a very basic cabin.  We were told ahead of time to bring a bed roll and pillow, which we did.  So I wasn't at all surprised when Steve lead us to this:

Don't worry - we had sheets AND sleeping bags for the bunks.

   I think Dudley thought I was going to play the Princess card and high-tail it to the nearest B&B. But I thought the cabin was great. Granted, electricity would have been nice (that part, I didn't know about), but the cabin itself was fine.
   We asked Steve about dinner, and he said it'd be ready in a few minutes, and to listen for the conch shell. What? A Conch shell?  Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, you heard the low bellow of a conch shell and dinner was served - Fish chowder, salad, bread, fresh corn and homemade blueberry pie (of course) for dinner. It was great. We met a lot of fun people, too. Many of them were interested in running in Tennessee, because they, like me, want to hit races in all 50 states.  
   Now some of you might be wondering why the heck I was planning on running a half-marathon when I've pulled out of my past two races due to my ankle. Well, it was something I signed up for a few months ago. And I had planned our lodging around the race - we HAD to go. Was I concerned about injuring my ankle again? Yes. Was I concerned because the longest I'd run since April was eight miles? Yes. Was it a reckless and potentially dangerous idea for me to run? Yes. But I'm very hard-headed and, truthfully, I wanted to cross Maine off of my 50 state list.
   However, because I'm not totally stupid, I did have my doubts as to whether or not I should run. So before heading to bed that night, I said a little prayer and asked for a sign that I shouldn't run in the morning. After sleeping hard for a few hours (sleeping in a dark, quiet cabin was awesome), I was suddenly awoken by what sounded like gunshots. Turns out, some of the locals decided to shoot off fireworks at 2:00 AM. Scared to crap out of me at first and it took me a long time for me to fall back asleep. I woke back up at 6:00 and thought about my little prayer. Were the fireworks my sign that I shouldn't run? It's hard to run that far when you're tired. As I debated about this, I stretched my legs and moved to get out of bed...and my right calf cramped up so bad I couldn't move for about five minutes. I'm not kidding. It was so painful that once I was able to straighten out my leg again, and could get out of bed, I couldn't walk on it. It was almost as if God said "Yes, the fireworks were the sign for you to not race, but since you're too stupid to realize it, I'm going to make it so you physically can't walk for the next few hours."
   So...I didn't race. I was bummed, but it was the smart thing to do. Dudley and I decided to hang out for the race and cheer on our new friends. Plus, there was supposed to be an amazing blueberry-themed brunch after the race. Can't miss that, right?  We walked/limped down to the staging area, where I (again) thought I'd see a check-in table for the racers. Nope. Turns out, there wasn't any official check-in. No bibs either. This race is really different in that 1) they wanted all of the money raised to go to the camp, so no race shirts and no bibs. Everything from the medals to the brunch was donated from local vendors. And 2) they're really trying to be green. No bib - no extra paper. 
   You might ask, "but Kristine, if there were no bibs, how do you know who won?" You will not believe what they do. The racers actually shout their name as they cross the finish line. Seriously. Is that fantastic, or what? Remember - there are only 200 racers. This is a very manageable system for 200 racers.
   Ten minutes before the race officially started, everyone headed down to the starting line, which was about a half-mile away. Once everyone got there, Steve made a few announcements, then the conch shell was blown again and the race was off!  

No big, blow-up arch for this race.

 No, that's not a random cord going across the street. It's the starting line!!

   This was the first time I actually had to hang out and wait for a half-marathon to finish. Fortunately, we were in paradise, so Dudley and I went down to the water and walked around a bit. It was low tide, so we actually got to walk in Blueberry Cove, which was cool.

   Unfortunately, I can't tell you a whole lot about the course. I was told it was pretty hilly and very scenic. I do know that they used lobster buoys for mile markers...

   And that you had to run around this buoy at Marshall Point Lighthouse.  Why is Marshall Point Lighthouse significant to runners? Because it's where Forrest Gump turned around when he was out for his run.

"I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going."  Forrest Gump

   After about an hour and a half, the runners started coming in. Many of the runners forgot to say their name as they crossed the line, but the organizers had people who would chase after them to find out who they were. Again, with only 200 people, this is very doable.  They also had small children who were handing out the medals. Very cute.
The buoys strung across the road was the finish line.

Hand-made "medals" donated by a local artist.

   The winners also received pottery, again, donated by a different local artist.

Very cool and unique.

   Brunch had already started, so Dudley and I went in to enjoy some of that blueberry goodness.

Blueberry cobbler, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes...Heaven.

   This was, by far, the most unique and quirky race I've ever seen. I loved it and highly recommend it if anyone is looking for a race in Maine. Everyone was really nice and laid back. There were some serious racers there, as well as a good number of walkers. The race organizer welcomed and encouraged them all. It was great to be at a race that wasn't overly-commercialized. Not something you see often at a half-marathon. I'm very bummed that I didn't actually get to race, even though I do think dropping out was the right thing to do. The only thing good about NOT being about to do the race is that it means that I still need to race in Maine - so I get to go back. YAY!  

For info on the race, click here:  Blueberry Cove 13.1  They also have a Facebook page.  If you are interested in this race, sign up early. It caps at 200 and it will sell out.  Click here to learn more about Blueberry Cove 4-H Camp.