Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Columbus Half Marathon

I have struggled with this particular race report as I feel that the race was just part of a very cosmic whole. So, where to start?

First, I think it's important to note that I did not register for this race. After Akron, I had wanted to do it, but by the time I made that decision, it had sold out. Then, acting as an opportunist, when a friend sounded like she needed to back out of the half, I offered to take her registration, and I did. She was suppose to run for a charity, Graced Haven, that works to free girls from child prostitution. I agreed it sounded like a noble cause so I agreed to run for Grace Haven, hoping that "my ironman training" would get me through, which it did, but not well.

As mentioned in my blog last week, I gave blood on Monday. I have heard others talk about the impact it has on their training, but I had never experienced it...until this time. On Tuesday, I went out for a six mile run on Sand Run and at a minute/mile slower pace than the last time I had run this trail, I was struggling. I then ran again on Friday and still felt the same strain of trying to push a pace that I could run a week ago. With these two runs, I knew that the blood donation was causing my heart to work a lot harder to get oxygen to the muscles, and I just couldn't keep a pace that was even close to acceptable, even for me.

I also wrongly assumed that SO and I would be doing this race together. His mother is in town, and he hadn't seen her, except in Madison, in about three months. He decided that he needed a weekend with his mom and while he would make sure to find me at the start and at the finish, the weekend was one to spend time with his mom.

I was kind of left scrambling and found a friend from CTC (Cleveland Tri Club) who let me crash in her hotel room, along with two of her friends, and she even went to the Panera to pick up the shirt I was suppose to wear for the race. Seriously, TH was an absolute lifesaver!

Oh, and SO and I went and had a few drinks on Friday night, why not, right?

So the race itself:

I got to the race very early, leaving the hotel around 5:30 and getting parked a little after 6, which was good as I got primo parking near the finish line. I stayed in the car for a little bit, but then I made my way to the start of the race. I got to the spot where I was suppose to meet SO and his mom and popped a squat. I sat there and played games on my phone until about 6:50. I then started to look around and realized that there was just no way I was going to find him in this crowd so I called him...no answer. I then called his mom's phone, and he picked up. I asked him if he was there, and he said, "kind of."

SO's mother was walking with him to the start of the race and tripped over a nasty raise in the sidewalk, and she did a header into the cement. He told me that they were in an ambulance a couple of blocks away from the race start. I jogged down there, and man, she had a nasty bump on her forehead. He was resigned not to do the race so he could take his mom home. But, out of nowhere, his mom chimed in that he should do the race and that the ambulance could take her to the hospital to get checked out. He agreed with that plan, so we stripped our pre-race clothes and put them in the ambulance. I was kind of grateful because even if it was going with her to the hospital, she would be able to carry our pre-race clothes. SO had nowhere to put the car keys, so I ended up taking his mom's keys with me, and we made our way to the race start.

As we walked, we saw the ridiculous line for the porto-pots, and we decided to find ourselves a nice private alley. We did just that then made our way to the race start. Now, we were both to start in carrel B, his based on pace, mine based on either my friend's projected time or the fact that I was running for a charity.

Oh, I kind of left out something. When I got to the hotel on Saturday, TH gave me the race shirt, and it was worst fear - a medium female's white shirt. First of all, I try to avoid women's race shirts whenever possible. My torso is just too long and all of my "Fat Girl Skin" hangs or the bottom. It's not an attractive look. Then, it's also white, which means that if it were to rain or if I were to happen to sweat, a strong possibility in a half marathon, all of my fat girl skin would be put on display. Consequently, I decided to wear a long sleeve black tech shirt under the shirt to give me some protection.

As we tried to make our way into our carrel, we quickly gave up and settled into carrel B. As they announced the start of the race, SO gave me a kiss and we started the walk to the start line. I think we were about four minutes behind the gun so he spent a great deal of time weaving through people, and I was probably seeded where I should have been.

When I did the half at Columbus in 2009, it was easily my most memorable race. I PRed at the half with a 1:58. According to SO, he has never seen me look as bad as when I crossed the line in that race. Why did I feel so bad? Well, I made many classic running mistakes, the main one being going out WAY too fast. Now, I finished that race at a 9 min/mile pace. I started the first two miles at a 7:30 pace. That is the definition of too fast. I remember that race being all about pace, I kept trying to keep a strong pace, but around mile 10, the wheels came off, and I was struggling even with a 10 min mile pace.

Now fast forward to Sunday, and I was very focused on not repeating that same mistake. When I got to the mile 1 marker, I looked down at my watch and realized that going too fast today wasn't going to be a problem. Getting through this race was going to be the problem. I tried and did a pretty good job of consoling myself with the fact that my bib was under my friend's name so no need to kill myself, just keep going!

I got to mile 3, and I was hot. I had my long sleeves under my race shirt so I had a decision to make and decided that this neighborhood looked as good a spot as any and stripped down to my sports bra so I could take off the long sleeves. I tied the long sleeve shirt around my waist and got back to running. Now, it took a bit effort as I had a hand water bottle, my iphone on my arm, and my visor. So, I had to juggle those things while trying to strip and put back on my shirt.

After that, I was really just counting down the miles. I had made a new playlist for this race, and I told myself that once I got to the end of it, I could just walk the rest of the race. Now, a few times, I felt I needed to walk because I was working too hard and still feeling the effects of the blood donation. Others were just signs of mental weakness.

It was pretty windy, and when we turned to head west to go back towards the city, I started to regret taking off the long sleeve shirt. I then opted to put the shirt back on, at least over my arms because I was cold, but still enough off the white shirt to show my race number.

Around mile 10, I had to take a potty break, and it took some time, even had to wait in line. Oh well. My plan to walk when my playlist started to repeat failed as I was already in the finisher's chute when that happened.

So, I finished, and I am not about to publish the time. It's in the bottom three of half times for me. I had a faster half split in my first marathon if that tells you anything about my lack of speed.

Now, SO was doing the full marathon so I had some waiting to do. After getting my medal and some water, I kind of stood there wondering what to do. I then looked over, and I saw a lady doing everything she could to get someone's attention. I ran over there, and there was a girl who had passed out, face had turned blue. I asked if the lady wanted me to call 911, and she said yes. Since I had put the black shirt back on, it was now over my iphone case holder so I started to strip to call 911 when I saw a girl looking at the whole incident while texting. I then said to her, "ahh, do you think you could call 911?" She looked at me and said, "oh, yeah, I guess so." Thanks. By the time I left, they had some race medical staff with her. I did what I could do, but my CPR training in 8th grade is probably not sufficient to provide much more help.

I got some food and found a little place to huddle under 2 Mylar sheets as I waited for SO. I sat there and called my friend to tell her how her race went. We both kind of laughed, but she appreciated it. My friend BW sent me a few texts asking how I was feeling. I then used him to keep looking up how SO was doing so I would have an idea of when he finished. SO's mom then called me from the hospital to give me a status update and to ask if he had finished. When BW told me he had finished about 10 minutes prior to that text, I got nervous and started looking around frantically. I was so cold and got told I wasn't allowed back in the athletes area, I decided to go to the car and get clothes. SO's mom had all of our pre-race clothes so I went to the car and got sweatpants, sweatshirt and a fleece jacket. I was cold!

I made my way back to the finish and just like that found SO sitting my the letter signs they had posted (obviously for a meeting area). I was a little annoyed, I had walked by those letters 10 times before starting to panic and opted to go get clothes. I gave him my fleece, and we walked to his car to pick up his mom. His mom was waiting by the time we got there, and she didn't look bad when she had on her sunglasses. But, when she got in the car and took off the sunglasses....her eye was swollen shut. She looked pretty beat up. I felt pretty bad, but I am not that best at conveying sympathy. I suggested that she is probably just too graceful most of the time. I told her that I am really clumsy so when I trip over something, my body has had enough practice to catch itself before I actually do damage. (Granted, there are a few exceptions to this rule) They then dropped me off where I parked. We said goodbye and I made my way to my car to get out of there.

As I was driving home, SO's mom called me, which I found odd as we were barely out of the Columbus. She asked me, "honey, where is that bag that had all the clothes in it?" I told her where I thought it was, and she said it wasn't there. I then looked over and sure enough, I had inadvertently taken it with me. Luckily, they had pulled off at Polaris to get some food, and I was about a mile away from the exit and was able to meet them to give SO his clothes and apparently his phone back. Oh well. No harm no foul. I almost got a free lunch out of it, but I decided to eat one of his fries and to start heading home.

I believe this report should be the last for a while. Debate tournaments start in a few weeks so my posts should take on a different flavor. Sorry if this one is boring, but it was an uneventful race.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Random Thoughts Plus Fall-n-Leaf

Last week, I found myself in a bit of an ethical dilemma. I went to the cafeteria at work to buy a random object in order to break my ten dollar bill so I could get a diet coke from the vending machine. By rule, I refuse to buy anything actually prepared there as I have left there more than once saying, "what part of 'NO tomatoes' did you need me to repeat?" Anyway, they had one of those signs that said, "Need 1's." Here comes the dilemma, do I go ahead and get the $.64 granola bar because I needed to get change? Or, do I walk out without buying anything and not deprive them of their much needed 1's. Well, despite the immense amount of Catholic guilt running through my brain, I decided to go ahead and buy the granola bar. When I paid with my ten, the lady looked at me, looked at the sign, and then short-changed me! I didn't say anything, but learned my lesson.

On Friday, after years of talking about it, my mom and I finally went to Steak on a Stone as a way to try to re-live our Greek adventure of 2008. For three weeks in Greece, my mom and I had a ritual of splitting a Greek salad for lunch. She would eat all of the olives and tomatoes, I would eat the onions and peppers, and we would split the feta. Well, Steak on the Stone came close, but they added beets? What???? Although I didn't have a Proustian moment, transporting me back to whichever oceanview restaurant we were patronizing, it was nice to be able to reminisce about the trip and the time we had spent together. While at the restaurant, I looked over at a waiter attending the table next to us and what I saw was a guy I had dated back in 2004. Now, I lovingly refer to this guy as "rock bottom." I mean seriously, my former male roommate TS saw him one time while we were out having a couple of drinks and said to me, "You won't date me but you'll date that?" To which I responded, "you have to understand, when I lived in the DR (Dominican Republic), I went out with some of the hottest guys I have ever seen. Really, I had nowhere to go but down." His response, "Yeah, but you have nowhere to go but up either."

As anyone who knows my sisters knows, she is a hot air balloon pilot. Back in March, I had asked my sister to donate a hot air balloon ride for my friend who is trying to raise funds for RAAM. Saturday evening was the night she was taking up the lady who had won the ride in that silent auction. I have to admit that I don't crew (help putting the balloon up, following it, then helping back it back up) all that often, but when she asked, I felt compelled to do so. It was a beautiful night, and my sister did her typical wonderful job as a pilot. I wish my sister could get a full time job as a pilot or with hot air ballooning as it is truly her passion in life. Anyway, it was a beautiful night and a great ride for the passenger. I took some photos (because that's what I do). Really, nothing truly funny happened, at least not on the ground. My sister's eye's might have gotten a little wide when this older lady pulled out a sandwich bag and asked if she could sprinkle some of her husband's ashes as they flew.

Then came Sunday. Every year that I have been cycling (I think), I have done this ride: Fall-n-Leaf, a hilly ride out of Bellville, just south of Mansfield, Ohio. DM, DR, and DP are three of my favorite guys to ride with because they just know how to have fun! My only concern about riding with these guys is that, one day, I will fall off my bike from laughing too hard. Before we even got on the bikes, DR made a comment, "yeah, DM is taking a while, still needs to put on his lipstick." Now, DM is often referred to as Nancy as he absolutely refuses to be cold. I mean, the temperature was in the 50's when we started, and he was wearing tights, arm warmers, toe covers, and a jacket. Other "men" were wearing shorts and a jersey. Anyway, DM had promised me a slow ride as DP is particularly slow and hasn't been riding much this year. I told them I had no problem slowing down and did a pretty good job of riding for the joy of being out on an absolutely beautiful day and not feeling the need to try to race people passing me. When I did get ahead, I would stop and take photos, trying to capture the absolute beauty Mid-Ohio was offering. I did catch myself racing a few guys as I passed a guy on a steeper climb, and then he raced ahead of me. Well, I then dropped down into aero and passed him. He stayed on my wheel...until we hit another climb and then I stood up and left him behind. But, just to show him I wasn't trying to be mean, I stopped and took some more photos.

It should be said that if you ride to lose weight, don't do this ride! They had it all: dozens of homemade cookies, pulled chicken sandwiches, bagels, gatorade, chips, I mean, it was almost too much. They also had volunteers at every even slightly dangerous intersection. Between the company, the food, and the scenery, I just couldn't ask for a better day on a bike. Sometimes, we triathletes and even endurance cyclists get caught up in speed, and this ride was for the joy of cycling, and it really was!

So, today was back to reality Monday. Because I am the "recessive" child, I get calls monthly if not weekly if it's been too long between blood donations as my O+ blood is in high demand. Back in July, they called, and I told them that I couldn't donate until after Ironman Wisconsin. They said okay and marked the end of September as my next available donation time. On Friday, I got a phone call from the Red Cross asking me to donate and quickly scheduling me an appointment. When I first started to donate, I would often go as the same time as my dad and a few times with my sister. As sad as this is to admit, yes, we did race, and I typically won. I believe my fastest time is four minutes. Those who know me know I am clumsy, and I believe that my body just knows how to bleed. Anyway, today, it took me about 5 minutes to fill my bag, and as I left, the tech suggested I use the drive-thru the next time I donate.

Then, this evening, I was at the gym, and I decided to do some ab work on the pull up bar. By the pull up bar is an adjustable step. There was a guy working in with me who is a guy who I kind of know from playing basketball. Without touching the step, the pin holding the one side up just fell out. The guy starts to laugh, "having one of those days, huh?" I just said, "With me, it's always one of those days." While distracted by the guy's comment, I looked down and noticed that, while replacing the pin back into the leg of the step, I managed to tangle my earbuds' (that were still in my ear) cord between the pin and the step. The guy starts laughing a little harder as I untangle myself from step. Oh well...why look suave when you can look like an absolute idiot!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Columbus Fall Challenge

I have heard about this ride for several years now. I heard it is hard, but didn't give it much thought. I ride in the valley, right? I did lots of climbing in Wisconsin, right? So, when SO mentioned doing this ride and how I could get over 200 of my 248 more miles to get to 3,000 for the season, I said, "Sure, why not?" The ease with which I made the decision to do this ride and the pains I went through to stay oblivous to the difficulty of it frighten me.

Now, I was really struggling with which bike to take. The decision that I still regret making is that I decided to take the tri bike, the kestrel, because it's more comfortable and is lighter. I should have taken the specialized even though it's heavier because it has a granny gear. Now, for those of you who don't know much about bikes, a granny is a very small ring that gets it's name from the saying, "with that ring, even granny can ride up the hill." Also, the tri bike has a more aggressive position for speed, not for climbing, which is the main reason why my legs were so badly annihilated.

SO and I met up after work for the drive down to Columbus. The ride started Saturday morning out of a little town southwest of Columbus called Sugar Grove. Since there was nothing in Sugar Grove, we stayed by the Columbus airport Friday night. As we drove down to Columbus, I asked the typical question: what hotel are we staying in tonight? Now, last October, he and I, along with a friend TC did a 200k brevet that started on the east side of Columbus, and SO booked the 2nd crappiest hotel I have ever stayed in near Columbus - a Motel 6. He said he made the reservation before I decided to go so when he said, "Econolodge," I nearly started crying....
Back in 2008, CS and I started our tradition of doing TOSRV together in May. I told her I would make a reservation and did so at an Econolodge on the east side of Columbus. The picture on the website looked fine, but when we got there, it was the most disgusting hotel I had ever seen in the USA in my life. I am pretty sure there were 3 or 4 prostitutes hanging out in the lobby. I am not lying about this fact, but there were pubic hairs on the sink. CS, who is known for her ability to sleep in, woke up before the alarm and nearly ran out of the hotel at 5:30. Rather than filling our water bottles in that room, we opted to ride the first 28ish miles without any water. It was that disgusting that we didn't trust the water.
I don't think I had ever told SO that story and since he has never... lied to me, I didn't question it and spent the next hour in the car absolutely pouting as I was absolutely convincd we would be spending the night in the same disgusting Econolodge.

When we got to Columbus, SO's son had called, and while he was on the phone, he was having a difficult time trying to find the hotel, talk to his son, and drive the car, so he threw his reservation papers at me and told me to find how to get there. I looked at the sheet and what the F#$@ did I see, TownPlace Marriott??? What??? I just spent the last hour depressed, and for the first time ever, he lied to me??? Was I relieved, yes, but I was uncomfortable with how easily dupped I was and what were the chances that he randomly picked an Econolodge as the crappy hotel chain?

I should note that SO's one reservation about me coming for the weekend is my tendency to get frustrated when he drops me (for non-cyclistst getting dropped is getting left behind). I promised him that I wouldn't get mad at him, and for the most part, kept that promise.

We started the ride at 8am with a slight drizzle and it being in the mid-40's, getting colder as the day continued. The first turn was onto road called Savage Hill. SO looked at me and said, "Savage Hill, not a good sign." Well, within the first hour, there were three hills with 15% plus grades. SO slowed down, but within 20 minutes, I realized 1) I had the wrong bike and 2) there is no way SO could go slow enough for me to keep up.

After 1:46, I made it to the first rest stop. I was grateful to see SO's bike, and an indoor rest stop. I had some M&M's and a cookie and got back on the road with SO after a little bit. We stayed together for about an hour, I was proud of that, but he ended up slowly but surely making his way ahead of me. The next section really foreshadowed how the ride would go, climb up to a spot where you thought the road couldn't go any higher and it was dip a little bit so it could climb back up again. It was lots and lots of climbing, but not the steep SOB's in the first section. I became like Pavlov's dog, cringing when I saw the road curve.

I got to lunch and was so happy to see SO. I was cold and wet and kind of miserable. At lunch, this nice older couple riding a tandem kind of prepped me for the rest of the ride. The woman told me that after lunch, there was a very steep climb out of the town we were in -- Malta. SO convinced me to try to ride with the group of guys he had met, but we hit the first climb, and it was a wall. It was then that I started to realize I no longer wanted to be riding. I finally made it up that hill, stopping a couple of times to give my legs a rest and going back at it. After a bit, the ride followed along the Muskingham river. At this point in the ride, it really worried me that we were next to water because that meant we had to climb back out of there. Sure enough, climbing out of the riverbed, I started to break. I hit a hill and had to stop and lots of people passed and asked if I was okay, and I would say, kind of, but my legs just felt destroyed, I honestly felt like my legs weren't strong enough to keep going.

Now, I happened to kind of go back and forth with a guy who saw me at lunch and that I was wearing my Ironman Louisville jersey, and he told me that he had done Louisville this year. He was being a really nice guy, trying to engage me in conversation, but it was pretty obvious to him I was in pain. He asked me if I wanted him to call anyone, but I said no, that my boyfriend was waiting for me at the reststop, and I needed to make it there.

I also felt pretty horrible because I knew I was going super slowly. I got there, and SO was very happy to see me, mainly because he was so cold that he was shaking. He saw me, and he agreed it was time for my ride to be over. I was absolutely sobbing, and he let me cry on his shoulder until I got myself under control. I got a ride from a man named Bob, who started telling me about the training the organization puts on for this ride and that most people who do this ride train for it starting in May. He was a very cool older guy, told me about his leather saddle, his use of cranberry concentrate for nutrition, and lots of the rides he helps organize.

It was kind of lucky that I sagged as I was able to get us a prime spot in the aerobic's room at the YMCA. We had lots of plugs and next to the heater. I also snagged a newspaper for our shoes so they would be relatively dry for the morning. I set up my air mattress and SO's pads and sleeping bag before heading for a wonderfully hot shower. When I got out, SO got there and was thrilled with the spot I had picked out and got ready to head out on the town of Marietta.

As an aside, I had contemplated calling my dad to see if he would bring me my road bike, but I decided against it, mainly because I knew he would, and I didn't think he should have to suffer for my bad decision.

We opted for a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant. Margaritas sounded really good so we both ordered one, and I ordered another. We then went to a bar to watch Wisconsin kick the crap out of Nebraska. The three drinks we both had kind of lightened the mood so we started laughing about the insanity of the day's ride.

Day 1 had 8,800 feet of climbing.

Now, I started Sunday with this idea that I wouldn't ride the whole thing, that I would make the goal of riding to the lunch stop. We had breakfast at the Marietta college union. We sat with a woman who was good friends with a good friend of ours EO, and we decided to join forces to him EO a hard time about not doing the ride.

SO rode with me almost the whole way to the first rest stop. Now, it was dry and the sun was out, but we had a 10-20 mph headwind that just got stronger throughout the day. I made it to the first rest stop in a little over 2 hours and was thrilled...I could stop and still have spent a good amount of time on the bike. But...I just couldn't pull the trigger and kept riding. The weird thing was that I felt completely wasted, but as wasted as I felt, I was still riding past people, not many, but a few here and there, usually passing them on a hill. Mind you, this ride was nearly all uphill so it was hard to pass anyone on anything other than an uphill. It made me realize that as bad as I was feeling, that most of it was mental as everyone was in the same physical state.

When I got to Malta, I started to panic...I remembered the wall we had to ride after lunch the day before, and sure enough, we had another one for Sunday. This hill hurt. What made it even worse was that after the hill that had grades approaching 20% that lasted for a good mile or two, I turned and had short climb after short climb. I honestly felt like I climbed for 20 miles and only barely recall descending down to lunch. There was never a chance for recovery. It was in this stretch that my legs started shaking.

I made it to lunch and was frustrated. SO unintentionally ticked me off, and he kind of rushed me out of the lunch stop. There was an attempt to create a pace line, and I was in a bad mood and just quickly decided to drop off the line. After about 10 miles, and for the fourth time that day, my chain fell off. Just at that point, a ride mechanic drove by and asked if I needed help. He put my bike up and adjusted my front derailler and asked if I needed anything else, and I said, "yeah, a ride." He put my bike in the back and drove me to the final rest stop, and I am really glad I did because SO was seriously far ahead of me, and I wasn't sad that I missed one bitch of a climb and another not easy hill. The mechanic told me about his bike shop, and he gave me some recommendations if I were ever to pull the trigger on a new road bike, but he definitely agreed that the tri bike wasn't a wise decision for this particular ride.

From the last stop, there was 12.5 miles to go to Sugar Grove. The mechanic said he had no problem giving me a ride, but he wanted to hang out to see if anyone needed help. SO got there relatively soon after I arrived, which is pathetic as I easily sagged about 8 miles. At this rest stop, I soon discovered the answer to something that had confused both of us...people were taking shortcuts! I suddenly didn't feel that bad about sagging for a few miles. I got my bike out of the car and decided to ride the last part, figuring it would be faster to ride than wait for the mechanic.

I had been warned, and sure enough, one absolutely nasty climb waited for us on this section. It was easily the steepest climb of the weekend. The max grade was 25% for the day, and I am sure it was on this hill, but the kicker was that once you got to the top, the road turned and kept going up hill. It blew, but wasn't as bad as it could have been, knowing it was the last one. Getting back to the car was a site for sore eyes.

Day 2 elevation profile, 7,300 feet of climbing with 24.9% max grade.

So, I ended up riding 167 of the 210 miles of this ride. Unforunately, it means that someday, I will have to complete this ride. Also, they had showers at the gym, but apparently only the men were privy to the hot water. I had to run under cold water than try to rinse off without actually standing under the water. After riding in 40 degree weather for 2 days, a cold shower wasn't exactly what I had in mind. Now that I think about it, it makes sense...on the way home, SO was super hot, and I was nearly shivering. He kept holding my hand just to try to try to cool off.

All weekend, I kept thinking about that riddle, what is heavier: a pound of feathers or a pound of rocks? Neither, they both weigh a pound. However, if you ask the question, which would you rather be hit by, a pound of feathers or a pound of rocks, I think most people would pick the feathers. This ride was definitely a pound of rocks.