Monday, March 30, 2015

Music City Half Marathon Race Recap

   I've been gearing up for the Oak Barrel Half Marathon, which is this weekend. As part of my training, I had a 12-mile run on my schedule recently (March 22). Since running 12 miles solo can be pretty boring, I signed up for the Music City Half Marathon. What's one more mile, right?

   The race was on Sunday, so advance packet pickup was Saturday. Rather than being in a running store or someplace like that, the pickup was held at the offices of the Cumberland River Compact, which was the charity partner of the race. The offices are located in the Bridge Building, which has, what you would expect, an amazing view of the Cumberland River. Though I've past by this building a lot, I'd never been inside. It was pretty cool and had a GREAT view.

Not bad, eh?

   The race started at 8:00 am, so I got up around 6:00 am. I wasn't nervous about the race, since I was really determined to use it as a training run. Coach Andrew gets on me for running races as training runs because I always go faster than scheduled. And while running fast is good, it can also take longer to recover from and then my training for the upcoming week goes go out the window. With Chattanooga 70.3 coming up soon, I didn't want mess up my training. I had to take it easy.
   I arrived at the race start around 7:00 am. (Yes, I like to get to races early. It lowers my stress level immensely.) The race started and ended downtown on Public Square. It's a great place for a race because there's a courtyard with a lot of room for runners to hang out before and after the race. The parking situation is iffy though, and I'll get to that in bit. 
   I don't really have much to say about the race itself.  We were fortunate to have a beautiful day and Team Magic always does a great job with their races. It was well-organized, had ample water stops and lots of food at the end. Other than the half-mile getting in and out of town, the course was FLAT. If you want to PR - do this race. The Tom King course might be a little flatter, but it's pretty close. You're on a greenway for 99% of the time. Not the most interesting route, but other than passing through the water treatment center, not too bad. The run by the river was nice, though the headwind on the way back was awful. Apparently, Nashville has turned into Chicago over the past few years as the wind in the Spring has just gotten crazy.  
   I finished the race in 2:06. A little faster than I was supposed to go (shocking), but not too far off. And I got a fancy medal at the finish! 

   I'm glad I decided to sign up for this race. Even though I ran solo for the entire race, I never felt alone and I was way more motivated to run than I would have been if I was just out for a training run. If you're looking for a good first half marathon, or a course to PR, this would be a good one.
   The only negative - the parking. While I'm sure there's street parking somewhere, I decided to park in a lot since I'm not that familiar with downtown. Y'all - I got charged $20 for parking!! $20! On a Sunday morning!! I know that's not the race director's fault, but it's definitely something that I'm going to think about the next time there is a downtown race. There was supposed to be a parking lot available for racers for $3, but I guess it wasn't open when I got there because this was the only open lot I saw. It kind of bummed me out after having such a good day. Whomp Whomp.
   Next up - Oak Barrel and Whiskey Hill!!  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bike Camp

   A few months ago, I joined an all-female cycling club - The Tennessee Women's Cycling Project.  They are a group of women who love riding and racing bikes and want to promote the sport in any positive way possible. My friend Kathy M. is one of the Board Members of TWCP and thought I might be interested in joining them. They have both a race team and a club team, and since the thought of racing anything other than an individual time trial (like we do in triathlon) scares the bejeezes out of me, I joined the club team. This past weekend, TWCP had their training camp in Chattanooga. And even though I'm just a club member, I went along for the fun.

   I met up with race team member Katelyn on Friday afternoon and we carpooled to Chattanooga together. Chattanooga is only two hours away, but we ended up rolling in around 8:00 pm due to the time change to the Eastern time zone. We were a little concerned about dinner since we had a seminar starting about that time, but Kathy happened to be picking up Mexican food, and she brought us both burritos. Thanks, Kathy!
   The seminar that night was on goal-setting: short-term, long-term, realistic goals and crazy goals that get you into doing things like an Ironman. I little out of place because I don't have a huge goal for this season. IMCHOO kind of took a lot out of me. But I was assured by everyone that NOT having a huge goal and riding / running for fun is OK too. Weird to think I have to be assured about something like that, but as a habitual goal-setter, I do.
   After the seminar, we just hung out for a bit and headed for bed. In theory, we were going to get up early and start riding, however, the forecast called for rain in the morning. Sure enough, when we got up - it was raining. Womp. Womp. So we hung out a bit more and waited for the worst to pass. We also took some team pictures. I know it doesn't look like it, but it was COLD out there.

Love these kits! (Photo courtesy of Angela Lee and TWCP)

SQUIRREL! (Photo courtesy of Angela Lee and TWCP)

    There were two routes available for us on Saturday. The first went up Signal Mountain and was about 60 miles. The second course was 30 miles and tooled around the hills near Signal Mountain, but didn't actually climb it. I made the decision earlier in the week that if it was raining, I was going to ride the shorter course. This was actually for two reasons. The first was because I know my skill set in cycling, and speeding down switchbacks on wet, mountain roads isn't part of my toolbox. Also, I also wanted to get a run in. I've had to miss so many runs due to the weather recently and I didn't want to go yet another weekend without a run. So, I bailed on the 60 and went for the 30 miler.
   I don't recall what time we started out on Saturday. It was later than planned, and part of that was due to me. You know that annoying person who shows up at events and don't have their act together? Yep - that was me. First off, I arrived at camp with a flat back tire. Dudley pumped up both of my tires before I left, but by the time I got to camp, the back was flat. So Neil (one of our coaches for the weekend), used the opportunity to hold a tire-changing clinic. While I know how to change a tire, he's MUCH better at it than I am, and I was happy to have him change it for me. THEN, my cleat on my shoes got hooked on something and I had to get those tightened (Thanks, Bill!). Finally, I got on my bike and remembered that I changed my seat for the trainer, and it was all wacky. Neil AND Bill helped me with that. Seriously - I was a mess. Fortunately, I got most of it taken care of before we were ready to leave, but still - I hated being "that rider."
   After we got all of my issues settled, we headed out. It was cold and drizzling, but the weather didn't look like it would be getting any better for a few hours, so we left. We got about a mile out before we ran smack-dab into the Chattanooga St. Patrick's parade. Oops. After a little detour, we were back on our way. The group rode together for the first six miles, and then split up between the long and short courses.

All smiles at the beginning of the ride! 

   There were four of us who rode the short course, plus Bill, a local friend who led the ride.  It was a bit of urban riding, but mostly we were on suburban or rural roads. Even though we didn't climb Signal Mountain, we did get hit some serious hills. According to Wendy's bike computer, we had 2,100 feet of ascending over 30 miles. As a comparison for locals - a round trip on the Trace for the first 13 miles (26 miles total) has about 1,000 feet of ascending. 
   After the ride, we were soaked and grimy, but I still had six miles to run, so I quickly changed and got running. We were staying about a mile and a half from downtown (at the Crash Pad - which was awesome), so I headed that direction and headed towards the greenway. The rain had finally stopped, but it was humid. The run HURT after all of that climbing, but I got it done. The best part of the run was on the way back when I ran into a fellow East Nasty, Daniel, who was visiting Chattanooga for the weekend. East Nasty is everywhere, y'all.
   The team had dinner reservations next door at the Flying Squirrel. It's mainly a bar, so the menu was limited, but what they had was GOOD. Lobster risotto anyone? Seriously tasty. After dinner, we headed back to the Crash Pad and devoured the biggest cherry pie I have ever seen. It was Pi day, after all (3/14) and it only seemed appropriate. 
   The next morning, most of us headed out for a ride to Raccoon Mountain (another group rode the greenway). We were going to follow the race course of one of the popular local races - River Gorge (I think that's the name of it). Fortunately, it was a beautiful day - sunny and in the upper 60's. Katelyn (my ride home) and I both needed to get back to Nashville, so we tried to adapt the route to about 40 miles, rather than 55-60. We originally thought we'd ride about 20 miles and turn around, but we were able to find a route that allowed us to ride with everyone for most of the ride, with the exception of the very top of Raccoon Mountain. This worked out great. Granted, it hurt, but it was fun and I'm glad I got to ride for the team a bit more than I did the day before. Well, I say "I got to ride" with them, but for the most part I was chasing people up hills. These ladies can climb!  

Taking a break before the big climbs.

Didn't make it all the way up - but most of the way!

   Our group split after taking the photo above. I had thought it was another 14 miles to the top. Turns out - it was only three. Had I known that, maybe I would have tried it. Granted, it was another 1,000 feet of elevation over that three miles. That would have been pretty painful...maybe next time.
   The main thing I learned while on this ride - triathlon race courses are WAY easier than cycling race courses. Yes, I know, we have to run after the ride so there is a reason for it, but WOW - I can't believe this was a race course. I am SO thankful the organizers of Ironman Chattanooga took pity on us and designed the route they did. It could have been SO much worse. 
   We had to check out of the Crash Pad before we left for the ride, but they were kind enough to let us shower when we got back. Seriously, the Crash Pad rocks. I was really happy I wasn't going to have to drive home with bike grit on me. 
   Overall, bike camp was really fun. Yes, the climbs hurt and I got dropped on almost every hill, but I couldn't really expect otherwise considering triathletes don't generally train on mountains. I also got to meet and ride with some fantastic and interesting women, which I loved. I'm looking forward to riding with them again soon. A huge thanks to the Board of TWCP for putting together an awesome weekend! FYI - the Tennessee Women's Cycling Project is still accepting club members, so if you're interested, let me know!  

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tom King 5k Race Recap

   Saturday was one of my favorite races - the Tom King Classic. It's put on by the Nashville Striders (one of the local running clubs), and is very popular with local runners. It's flat, so it's great for half marathoners who are looking for a PR, and it's also the perfect first 5k. It also holds a special place in my heart because this was the race where I officially became an East Nasty.

Tom King, Baby! 

   I had a 12 mile run on tap for Saturday, but only registered for the 5k because one of my co-workers was running his first 5k, and I wanted to join in on the fun. So, I made the plan to get up a little early to run three miles, meet up with my co-workers for the 5k, and then run the remaining six after the race. This plan worked out great. Due to the horrendous weather Nashville had recently, the race start was delayed until 9:00 (and also cancelled the half-marathon), so I didn't have to get up too crazy early. That's always nice.

Michael, me and first-time racer Jim - Team J's!  

   The race started and finished at LP Field - the home of the Tennessee Titans. I worked for the Titans for 15 seasons, and I love LP Field. So many great memories. Generally, the race actually finishes ON the field, but the weather again messed with this plan and we weren't allowed on the field because it would ruin the turf. Kind of a bummer, but LP Field is still a great place to host a race, even if you're not allowed on the field.
   About five of 9:00, I headed down to the starting area. Dudley was also racing, but drove separately because of my early miles. Unfortunately, he was running late. So late that I didn't think he'd make the race start, so I told him I'd leave his race packet on my windshield and meet him at the finish. I somehow found my co-workers in the mass of humanity that was the start line, took my position and waited for the sound of bagpipes, which are heard at the start of every Tom King Classic. Then, we were off!
What? Your 5k doesn't have a bagpiper?

   As I mentioned, the race course is flat. Knowing that I had six more miles to run after the race, I didn't want to kill it, but I wanted to push it a little to see if I could PR. My most recent PR was last Thanksgiving on a hilly course - who knew what I could do on a flat one?
   A PR is what! 25:00 even with an 8:05 pace. That's a good pace for me, and I feel even better about it since I wasn't completely spent at the end. YAY me!  
   What was funny about the finish was that I got a medal (given to me by a Titans Cheerleader). Usually, the 5k doesn't get a medal, however due to the half being cancelled, they gave all of the medals to the 5k racers. I guess this kind of makes up for the Frostbite Half from a few weeks ago where I didn't get a medal! 

I totally didn't deserve this.

   After finding Dudley (he made the race start and wasn't that far behind me), Michael and Jim (who kicked butt with a 24:29 finish!), we all headed up for the post-race food. Unlike most races that just have bananas or pizza post-race, Tom King has a catered breakfast - eggs, potatoes, muffins.  It was yummy and totally made me NOT want to go run another six miles. I really wanted to text Coach Andrew and ask him if I could blow off the remaining six miles since I PRed in the 5k. Then I decided that wasn't very hard core, so I got out and ran. You know what? It's wasn't THAT bad. Well, the first mile and the last half mile were horrible, but the ones in between weren't that bad and I'm really glad I knocked them out.
   Next up - Bike Camp with the Tennessee Women's Cycling Project!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Training During the Icepocalypse

    The past few weeks have been horrible weather-wise in Nashville. We got an ice storm the day after the expo (Thank You 8 pound, 6 ounce newborn Baby Jesus for sparing the expo from that ice storm. I would have lost my mind if it had hit Sunday!), and Nashville basically shut down for a week. Seriously. The schools all closed, stores ran out of food - it was chaos. My office actually closed for three days in one week, and then had shortened days the remaining days because of the weather. I have worked for my company for 18 years and that has never happened before. And to make it worse - I live in a very hilly and shady part of town. I think we were one of the last areas of town to finally melt (and no, our roads we never plowed or deiced). So, while parts of Nashville were able to get around, we were still iced in.
   Fortunately, my house didn't have get a roof leak from ice dams (it's a thing), and my car didn't end up in a ditch from hitting ice, so I could focus on worrying about important things, like how many workouts I was missing. Answer - a lot. I don't have a treadmill and driving to the Y to run / swim would have just been stupid. With the exception of my husband driving me to work on Wednesday and Thursday, I was stuck in the house all week with only my bike trainer for exercise. And you know what? The trainer gets OLD really fast. My coach told all of us to use this week as a recovery week - which would have been fine except I was sick the week prior and used THAT week as a recovery week. One week of recovery is great. Two weeks makes me feel like a slacker. It was if I could actually feel the fitness leave my body. (Granted, the week of eating comfort food didn't exactly help either.)
   So, you can imagine how happy I was when the weather finally broke and I was able to get a week of good workouts in. Training Peaks was finally green! Hazzah! But my euphoria was short-lived because guess what we're getting this week? More snow and ice! FANTASTIC! I'm SO looking forward to being trapped in my house for the remainder of the week!
   I'm totally buying a treadmill.