Saturday, November 29, 2008

Afton Photos

Starting out... wondering which parts of the riddle would hold true...
OJ, fruit and bagels in the woods... can you believe John & Pierre hauled this food out along the deer trails for us?! Thank you!

Girls... joined by some boys

And then some more girls and boys...
Yes, those are bottles of bubbly... we were truly spoiled!

Watching Maynard cross with caution. In case he got wet. Time enough for that later.

Ha ha. Seriously? No. Surely he doesn't mean we have to get in the water?

Oh yes. He did. And a few of us idiots actually thought it was worth a few race entries... resulting in frozen fingers. So, no more photos...

BUT, there are lots more from along the trail at this link. Enjoy!
More photos on Julie's blog!

Thanksgiving at Afton

I'll post photos from today a little later.

As I sat in the Central Lutheran Church Thursday morning at the annual downtown inter-faith Thanksgiving service I naturally thought about what I was thankful for. The words came easy: family, friends, good health (despite a few post-IM aches and pains!), a job I love, and one that affords me the opportunity to travel, and above all, a sense of place. I don't think I'll ever be content just being content. I'll always want something more. That's just who I am. But, sitting beside my Mum, a few hours before sharing dinner with a good friend and her welcoming and generous family, and looking forward to Saturday morning at Afton, I felt content. Happy to just be.

And this morning, running the ridiculously gnarly deer trails at Afton with as good a group of people as you could ask to share a few hours with, I knew this Thanksgiving weekend was a holiday to remember. There's a lot of crap in this world and I won't pretend to understand the half of it. But I figure you do what you can each day to make your tiny space within it a better place. Maybe it's making one person smile, maybe it's letting someone know you're thinking of them, reminding someone they are needed. Or maybe it's something as simple as recycling your trash (imagine, you don't even have to be nice to someone but still be a good person). Whatever it is, it's time well spent. You might not get an appearance on CNN Heroes of the Year (tuned to channel 3 as I write), but you'll have made a difference in someone's life.

Trail running and more specifically the people I've met on the trails, have made a difference in my life. So having the chance to celebrate that today was pretty special. To remember a great year of training, racing and simply hanging out. I am honored to be a part of this wonderful community. And I was thrilled to have the chance to share it with my Mum.

I know I sound like I'm smoking something. Perhaps it's the Bangladesh stew (just finished it off with a nice cold beer - though not quite as tasty as Matt's homebrew), or the insane swim earlier... or just too much fresh air. No matter. Life continues to be good and I continue to appreciate it and the people who make it so.

Happy Thanksgiving.

p.s. anyone know how I can edit the HTML to replace the time on the link below with 'comment'?

Friday, November 28, 2008


"To love at all is to be vunerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable".
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 1960

Hobbies: trail running. Not so little luxuries: designer purses. Avoiding all entanglements: check. Selfish: Who, me? Me? Me?
Me, the self absorbed, LV clad, trail runner.

Went to see this play at the Guthrie this evening. A visit from my Mum would not be complete without a trip to this fabulous venue. Started off with a scrumptious dinner at Cue, which involved the best grilled shrimp I've ever tasted. The accompanying veg could have been a little warmer, however. But the pomengranate mojito to start with was spot on! Not exactly carbo-loading for tomorrow's fun at Afton but it went down well.

Unfortunately, the play was a little on the boring side. The acting was good, particularly James A. Stephens who played C.S Lewis' bother Warnie. But I thought for someone who wrote the Narnia stories that awakened every facet of my childhood imagination there was surely more interesting twists to his life. Maybe not. Maybe the interesting twists were all in his work. The playwright, William Nicholson, "used parts of their [real] story, didn't use other parts, and imagined the rest." I guess I was a little disappointed with his imagination.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ironman Arizona. The Story.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm leading up to this event, it was of course a very enjoyable race! I can say that now it's over. And having come through it relatively unscathed. Though my feet might argue with that.

The Commitment

After Madison last September (07) I knew for sure I wanted to do another Ironman. Given that all of the 'official' IM events in the US and Canada (i.e. those run by North American Sports) fill up immediately after the current year's race - sometimes you even need to be onsite to get registered - we kicked around the idea of going to Brazil in May. Fun holiday and we knew a few locals who'd been down there for the race and had good things to say about it. The only problem was May would be very early to get enough outdoor bike training in. Florida in early November was another option but none of us were very excited about the extremely flat course and sea swim. So we let that one pass. Then as luck would have it announced a new race for 2009! IM Arizona has always been held in April but in 2009 there would be another race in November and then going forward it would be held in November every year. We just heard about it the day before registration opened and I was actually back in Ireland at the time. Through a flurry of emails and text messages one by one we all decided it was a good idea and duly went online that Monday morning... $550 later and Pam, Tanya, Susan, Kami (with a little gentle persuasion that she has not let me forget!) and myself were headed for Tempe, AZ.

The Training

Or lack thereof. I did pretty well early in the year. In fact I started swimming as soon as I got back from my NZ trip in mid-January and went 2-3 times a week for several months. Similarly with biking, I was going to Johnny J's 2hr spin classes 1-2 times a week for a couple months until it was decent enough weather to be outside. Given that the bike had been my worst part of Madison I knew I wanted to concentrate more on that this year. So without needing any further justification off I went to Grand Performance in St. Paul and purchased a very lovely Orbea Ora tri bike. All set. I'd put hundreds of miles on this baby over the summer. Oh and I would run lots too. That was a given considering my trail race schedule! Everything was going well up until and including the Liberty Half IM in mid-June. Thereafter, the swimming and biking got less and less as I focused more on running. And races. Lots of races. And so by October things weren't looking so good. Earlier in the summer I set a goal for myself of 11:22 (S:1:20, T1: 0:10, B: 6:00, T2: 0:10, R: 3:42). I was being a little generous with the transition times but I knew the run time was a bit ambitious for an IM. I think I was planning to feel soooo much better on the bike that my legs would not be as fatigued as last year so I could improve on my 3:48 at Madison. Well, I can safety say that plan went out the window as the race grew nearer, knowing I hadn't put in enough swim or bike time. Especially the biking. One century ride on the Madison course back in August and maybe four 70-90 miles rides over the course of a few months. Not exactly textbook stuff. I knew the course in Arizona should be a little easier than Madison but it could also be windy so I decided a more realistic goal would be sub-6:30. As for swimming... after a break of about 3 months I did get back into it in Oct/Nov and some days felt ok and some days not so much. I'd swam 1:20 last year which had surprised me no end. I thought 1:30 was a safe assumption this time around. Which all meant I needed to go under 3:50 on the run if I wanted to improve on last year's time of 11:59:43!

The Build

Mum and I arrived in Phoenix Friday around noon. Picked up the rental car and headed straight to registration. Got that all sorted pretty quickly, met up with the girls, and after a brief negotiation with TriBikeTransport (who I'll complain about on a later post once my bike is safely returned), we made our way over to the hotel which was only a short distance from the start/finish area. Most of the us were at the same hotel so it worked out pretty good. I decided to skip the 'mandatory' athlete's meeting that evening and went for dinner with Mum instead and then back to the hotel for an early night. Got a decent sleep which I needed after a busy few days. Next morning Tanya and I went for a quick swim in the lake. The lake which is really a river that runs through the center of Phoenix. Which, as you might guess, is really not a place you would ever want to fully submerge yourself in. Though I think I was prepared for something so awful that the reality ended up not being so bad! Dropped off the transition gear bags and that was all the logistics taken care of. Mum and I drove out of town that afternoon. No real plan in mind but we ended up on the road north toward Flagstaff. I knew it was too far to go all the way there but Mum had never been to the Southwest before so I wanted to show her a bit of 'countryside'. We drove for about an hour and next thing what do we see but a sign for an outlet shopping mall - so much for countryside! And obviously a few hours walking around shops is exactly what one should do the day before IM. Got back into town around 5pm and chilled out in a bookstore for an hour. Then grabbed a few snacks for dinner. I didn't feel like eating too much that night as I wanted to be ready for a decent breakfast at 4:30am which is oh about 5 hours before I normally eat breakfast...

The Day

No nerves. No real excitement. More like amusement that I was actually here, about to do this race that I felt so utterly untrained for. Sure, I had the endurance down. I'd run 100 miles 10 weeks prior. This had to be easier, right?? But 112 miles on the bike is a long ride no matter what way you look at it. And strong running legs do not translate into strong biking legs without adequate training. I was less worried about the swim simply because it was less time. Plus, I knew I'd be so busy getting to know a few of the 8800 limbs around me that I wouldn't have time to think about what I was actually doing. But, at 6am as we milled around in transition area, all of these thoughts had to be pushed to one side. There were things to do! Final check through gear bags, drop off our 'special needs' bags, get body-marked... and before I knew it I was pasting myself into my wetsuit. Really, that's what it felt like. With an extra 10lbs since my last triathlon in June (and none of it muscle), it was a rather snug fit! The air was still cool but we knew it would be a hot day ahead with temperatures expected to go above 80 at midday. The pros were in the water before us as they started at 6:50am. I jumped in just before they took off. The water felt pretty good.

The Swim

By the time I swam the 200 yards or so up to the start area under the bridge I had just enough time to find what seemed like an okay position - not too close to the front, kind of in the middle, with actual space around me... and BOOM. We're off. My heart rate never got as high as it sometimes does on the swim. I think this was helped by having a relatively fight-free time out there. I am not sure how but I managed to escape the crowds for most of the 2.4 mile loop. The course went straight for about 1 mile, left across the lake 0.2 mile, back and left again into the finish. I liked the course better than the 2 loops at Madison. My swim technique, such as it is, goes out the window when I get in the open water. But I seemed to keep finding people that I could swim along side for several hundred meters at a time. Either they or I would pull ahead but before long I'd find someone else. This helped me immensely. I was careful not to push the pace too soon, especially when my arms started to feel fatigued after only a few minutes! Though I knew this was just a matter of getting warmed up. I managed to stay close to the buoys almost all of the time and apart from one diagonal foray I'd say I kept on course pretty well. I was reluctant to look at my watch until half way. Took a quick peek just as I turned the first left. 33 minutes. Wow - I was expecting closer to 40. A few hundred meters, another left. And on the home stretch. Well, sort of. The bridge was still a long way off in the distance! But I kept finding people to swim with and slowly the buildings on the left side of the lake came more into view. Once I felt close enough to the bridge I looked at my watch again. 58 minutes. Not quite believing it, but knowing that the finish was a little way down from the start, and having to cross back to the south bank, I figured if I got to the bridge in ten minutes I'd make it home in another 10. To do the same time as last year was beyond what I could have hoped for starting out an hour earlier. Getting to the bridge seemed to take longer than ten minutes but I was in a groove and didn't look at my watch. And then the final turn came quicker than expected. And then I had other things to deal with. Guys - and really, it was just the guys that did this - one after another in this final stretch they would come barreling along beside me, and occasionally over me, and next thing they would STOP right in front of me and breaststroke for a bit to sight! It was maddening to say the least. But I was nearly done. And before I knew it I was done. There was the stairs out of the water to negotiate but a kind volunteer pretty much hauled me up! Quick peek at the watch. 1:15 something - my first thought - there's no way that was 2.4 miles! My next thought - screw 12 hours - I can do waaaaay better than that...

The Bike

10 miles later facing into a headwind I wasn't so sure! Not to mention that my butt was already beginning to hurt. Oddly enough, for someone who has enjoyed several long days (and nights) on the trails this year, one of my first thoughts setting out on the bike was "What am I going to think about for the next 6+ hours?!" One thing for sure - despite the dismal feeling as I hit the wind on the first loop, I knew it was too early to start complaining! And since it was a straight out and back (3 loops) I knew that as hard as it was going out, it would be that much nicer on the return journey. And so it was. After a long, but not very steep, climb to the turnaround, it was as easy 27mph for a bit and then settled into around 22mph pace for quite a few miles, finishing the first loop just over 18mph average speed. As I headed out for loop two I was delighted to hear my Mum calling my name. It was a real boost at that point where you know the hard slog is starting again, and there's still another loop after this one! Loop 2 was hard for me as my stomach started to play up. I'd made an effort not to eat anything out of the ordinary in the lead up to the race but maybe it was the heat starting to bother me. I wanted to stop for a bio break but knew there was no point in stopping until I really had to, if you know what I mean. So I pushed on until halfway and made a pit stop just after the turnaround. As it turned out it was a good mental break as well as the physical rejuvenation. It's amazing what a few words exchanged with other weary competitors in the line for a porta potty can do for the mind! Back on the bike and a speedy return to town. Though with the toilet break, and then a stop at my special needs bag at mile 62 to replace my water bottles, I averaged just under 18mph for the loop. Heading back out for number 3 was so much nicer! 19 miles to get through but then it would be turning for home for the last time... I picked up the pace and tried to keep it above 18mph for as long as I could on the way out. The final stretch of climbing was tough but knowing it was the last time was sweet - and the guy who was behind me at the turn singing "Turnaround bright eyes... every now and then I fall apart... turnaround, bright eyes..." It was hilarious. I asked him to bike behind me the whole way back and sing. Anything to break the monotony! Another thing that kept me going on parts of the bike was watching out for the girls. I spotted Pam and Susan every time. It was fun (ok, not quite fun, more like, WTF - how fast are they biking?) figuring out how far they were ahead of me each time. More and more each loop as it turned out :)

Once on the downhill I hammered hard, and tried to keep it up all the way back. I knew it wasn't helping my legs any but I wanted to off the bike and onto two feet. For a fleeting moment as I enjoyed those final few miles on the bike knowing I'd soon be done and figuring I'd make it in under 6:10 I wondered if maybe I would do another IM someday. That feeling didn't last too long once I got running and figured out just how badly biking can screw up your feet!

The Run

Of course it wasn't the biking so much as my biking. I don't have the best form and while I did okay with staying in aero position for much of the ride I have a tendency to point my feet down which leads to bad circulation and lots of numbness. Usually I get over this within a mile of running. The heaviness in my quads begins to ease, my stride starts to loose out, and my feet start to feel again. But while my legs started to feel pretty good, my feet never felt right for the whole run. At first it was the numbness which resulted in odd shooting pains along the outside sole of my left foot every fourth or fifth step. It was maddening. I knew it wasn't anything serious, no injury waiting to happen. It was just the remnants of the bike. But it was hard to shake off and damn painful to run through. Soon that gave way to my left Achilles that I've been dealing with a bit recently. The inside of my heel had been pretty tender all week and I could feel the strain. But I knew it would warm up and wasn't too worried about it. The recent tendon issue on my right foot didn't bother me until well into the run and never got too bad. But hey, enough about aches and pains. I was running, not swimming, not biking, just running. And I'd started the run with 7:30 on the clock. If I did a 4hr marathon I would beat my 12hr goal by 30 minutes!! But wait a minute, the 12hr goal was dismissed hours ago... oh yeah, I was aiming for 11:22 once again. At halfway I calculated I was at 1:52 so I needed to run 2hrs for the second half to make it. So around a 9 min pace. Surely I can do that? No sooner had I decided that than I needed a toilet break. And not a quick 30 second in and out one. Not good. I'd taken two gels so far but knew I wouldn't be having any more. So I settled for alternating gatorade and coke at the aid stations that were (thankfully) located at every mile. After a few more miles I started eating pretzels which has been my saviour at a few trail races this year. I wouldn't look at a pretzel from one end of the year to the next but for some reason during a race if I'm not feeling good it's the only solid food I can stomach. The mile pace was a bit erratic, some below nine but mostly over. And 16 or 17 with another bio break was a lot over. I continued on for a few miles trying to keep the pace as close to 9 as I could. Soon, it was getting dark and with the heat of the day dissipating and my stomach starting to feel okay again, and knowing the finish was within reach I managed to pick it up mile by mile. I missed the mile 20 mark on our final trip accross Tempe Bridge so by the time I got to mile 21 I knew I just had to try my best to keep this pace and it would all come together. It was just along here, in the section on the south side of the water where runners pass each other that I knew if I didn't see Pam it meant she had finished in an awesome time. That totally spurred me on. And also seeing how well Susan was running when I met her on the second loop. After such fast bikes both ladies were still going strong. Now with only a few miles to go, despite both feet complaining, I was feeling pretty good. Much as I'd like to, I can't honestly say I was having fun. Not like I had during the run at Madison. I felt good about being able to run strong. And yes, it felt good to pass quite a few in my age group (though it felt even better to pass the 27 year old guys who has zipped past me on the bike hours earlier). But I never felt fully relaxed on the run and I knew that much as I wanted to make my goal each step was adding recovery time to my feet. Still, that wasn't going to stop me now... speeding up a little more, the last 2 miles were pretty sweet. Apart from a searing pain on the sole of my right foot that gave me such a fright. It only lasted a few seconds so I thought it might have been a trapped nerve or something. Turns out when I finally looked at the sole of my foot today it was a huge blister right along the ball of my foot that must have popped! It wasn't exactly a scenic run course but it was quite enjoyable when it got dark and looking across the water at mile 24 seeing the finish area all lit up, knowing it was within reach... now, that felt good! Next it was the 40km mark, then I was back by the water on the south side. Huge crowds of people along here. The music getting louder as I passed close to the transition area. I didn't see the mile 25 mark but knew I had to have passed it.

The Finish

Less than a kilometer to go. Time to start smiling! The last several hundred meters were pretty cool. Full on sprint as I turned the corner with about a hundred yards to go. 11:20 something on the clock. No one in front of me in the finish chute and no one behind me. Every finish is special, but taking the tape held up just for you, and hearing Mike Reilly call your name is pretty neat. I don't know if he said the famous words "You are an Ironman." But it didn't matter. I knew I was. And it just felt so damn good to be done!

It was awesome seeing Karen at the finish line - I knew she was volunteering until 11:30 hours on the clock so I told her I'd made it in time to have her "catch me!" And next thing I saw my Mum and she was able come in and we got a photo together at the finish line. Very cool. And then it was time to eat. After 2 hours with hardly anything and my stomach feeling good again I needed something. And salty fries were just the job.

The Support

Let me just say, ALL the supporters were amazing. It is definitely a spectator-friendly course. The run course especially but even out on the bike course there were people along the way. A big thank you to Tim who I saw a few times, and Mike and Helen who cheered for me on the run but I was in the 'zone' at the time! It is always so great to have friendly faces out there cheering for you amongst the great supporters. But there's nothing quite like having your mammy there! I got to see Mum at T2 and chatted to her for a few seconds. Then a few more times along the run course which was brilliant. It was great to be able share the whole weekend with her, having her see some of what makes up my life.

The Stories

I've written about my race but the real story of day was not mine at all. For myself, Tanya and Kami it was our second IM, for Susan her fifth (I think), and for Pam her first. And who do you think had an outstanding day? With a great swim, an incredible 5:28 on the bike (20.45 mph) and an awesome 3:47 run (with the final 6 miles at 7:48 min pace), Pam finished in 10:37!! Good for 6th in our age group. Amazing. Truly amazing given that she suffered a pulled calf muscle at Voyageur 50M in late July which meant she couldn't run for all of August and couldn't bike for a few weeks. And on top of that she's had a crazy work schedule for most of the year. She really worked hard to be ready for her first one and no question she's capable of improving on that time having gone through the experience once. As I saw her each loop on the bike course she looked so strong. Totally focused. And several times on the run as we met going in both directions each loop, the gap would be a little wider each time so I knew she was continuing to have an awesome day. I had to laugh as I saw her one time and remembered how just last weekend when we were out running in Afton with John, I'd said how I thought she should do more Olympic distance triathlons next year as I thought that distance would suit her given her power in all three disciplines. She is a great 10K runner and would be able to bike that distance above 24mph. But clearly, Pam doesn't have any problems spreading out her power over several hours!! She also possess that quality of being able to reach another level on race day. When she sets her sights on something and knows she's prepared well for it, no one is going to stop her.

Another stellar performance was Susan's who totally crushed her goal of going sub-12 with an awesome 11:08! Susan is a swimmer and also loves to bike, running not so much - but she looked so strong when I saw her on the run that I knew she was doing well - 4:14 for the marathon, after a 5:38 bike. Tanya and Kami both had issues on the bike - Tanya's were physical with bad stomach issues for most of the ride and again on the run. Kami on the other hand had to deal with a tangled chain and a dog jumping out in front of her. Not good. But both did really well. I hadn't expected to see Tanya again after she passed me at the end of the first bike loop as she was flying it. But having felt pretty crappy on the swim she started to feel nauseous again on the second bike loop, I caught her just after the final turnaround and we talked for a minute. I was intent on getting off the bike as soon as possible so was hammering it home. And fair play to Tanya, despite how she was feeling she made a point of keeping me in sight and made it into the transition tent just after me! She had to make a few more stops on the run but still managed to run solidly and finished strong. Casey and Anthony both had strong races. Despite Anthony flatting on the bike he still pulled off a 10:21! And Casey came home in a super time at 11 hours even.

The Wrap

And so a year after signing up, the race has come and gone. Ironman is a great event. And for anyone who enjoys triathlons and wants to try the endurance distance I would absolutely recommend entering one of the NAS events. No question, it's an expensive gig. But the organization is first class and the wonderful volunteers and spectators make it so special. But perhaps what gives it most meaning to me, is that despite the obvious competitiveness that surrounds the whole weekend, and triathlons in general, I witnessed and heard about so many moments of encouragement and kindness amongst the athletes throughout the day. So many people I passed on the run were clearly suffering badly but took the time to say 'good pace' or 'nice run'. I am not sure I would have the energy, much less the generosity of spirit. And there was the guy on the swim who, as the risk of getting run over himself, took the time to check that Kami was okay when a girl had whacked her on the side of the head. As with any type of endurance event, there were stories and moments of pure inspiration that rightly humble us. Take the oldest competitor in the field. A 76 year old competing in his 4th IM of the year!

The Why

The moment in this race I will never forget is coming up to a lady around mile 2 on the run and seeing a six-zero marked on the back of her left leg. On a day when I was pleasantly surprised by my swim and bike time, it was pretty awesome to realize that this 60-year old lady had gone faster than me. And she wasn't hanging about on the run either. With a 4:40 marathon she finished in 12:08. It is a testament to what can be achieved if you choose to reach, and work, for it.

The Stats

1:15:58 Swim
0:06:46 T1
6:02:51 Bike
0:04:41 T2
3:50:35 Run

And, the photos...


At some point on the last loop of the bike, as I was flying along at 22mph with the wind behind me and less than 10 miles to go I thought to myself - this ain't so bad... maybe I will do another ironman someday. By mile 13 of the run that idea had completely evaporated!

I'm done!

But I finished on a high. I guess I am pretty good with predictions after all. Back in early summer I set a goal of 11:22. That was recently revised to sub-12 given my lack of swim and bike training. And no matter how well I thought I could run I knew it wouldn't be enough to make up for it. Well, what do you know... I end up having a faster swim and bike than expected, and a slower run than I'd hoped... and finished in 11:20:51!

BUT, the story of the day is Pam's. Her first IM, and having recovered from a pulled calf muscle in July at Voyageur which left her unable to run or bike for weeks... she finished in 10:37!!! Phenomenal. She got 6th in our age group and was so close to the top times but only 3 qualify for Hawaii and everyone took their spot so no roll downs. But no question she'll get there if she decides to try to go for it someday.

All the girls did really well and we had a fun time hanging out over the past few days. Helped by the glorious sunshine and 80 degree temps! And it was awesome having my Mum there to share the experience. She saw me a few times on the bike and run and I chatted to her for a minute at T2. And we got a finish line photo which was cool.

Back to the Minnesota winter this evening. And the detailed report to come later...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Drop bag mania...

Swim-to-Bike bag (T1), Special Needs Bike bag (mile 62 of bike), Bike-to-Run bag (T2), Special Needs Run bag (mile 13 of run), Dry Clothes bag (start & finish line)... food for bento box on bike... this is worse than Sawtooth!! But I think I have it all sorted. At last. I am sure I'll have put something in the wrong bag but I'll do another run through in the morning.

It's been a fun few days so far. Seems a lot longer than yesterday morning since we landed in Phoenix. Met up with the girls after registraion - they'd been for a swim earlier and it sounded pretty rough. But thankfully it was a lot nicer this morning. Well, I did emerge after 15 minutes with a layer of slime on my face but apart from that it was just fine! Water on the cool side which is nice and refreshing. Then we biked around for a few minutes to check through the gears. No issues. Very little wind today and tomorrow should be same which is great. Downside is that it will be hot. 82 degrees predicted. Oh well, can't have it every way.

I have to say, I am kind of excited about it now. About time eh?! The bike is what scares me the most. I am pretty certain I'll want off it by around mile 50. I'll have a sore ass, both from the saddle and my glute issues... but mostly 'cos I am so not trained for another 62 miles!!

Anyway, too late now. Time to get some shuteye... though it's not even 9pm and therefore hours before my normal bedtime! But I got a good 7 hours last night so I'm doing well. We're leaving the hotel at 5am, via S'bucks... get bodymarked, water bottles on the bike, check through the drop bags one last time... and into the wetsuits...

(Tracking info below)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ironman Arizona

In short, this will be my second and final IM!

There are a bunch of locals heading down to AZ for the fun. 34 in total according to the website. I don't know most of them but I've been training with a few of my buddies all year long and am looking forward to spending the weekend together. And with my mammy who arrived tonight!

I should clarify, when I said I've been 'training with' these gals all year... I've been training for trail races while most of them have actually been training for IM :)

Except Kami, who like me is a little more inclined toward the trails. OK, a lot more inclined. Pam too except she has been more dedicated on the biking front. She has done incredibly well recovering from a pulled calf muscle at Voyaguer 50M.

Susan and Tanya on the other hand are dedicated triathletes having already signed up for Madison '09! Casey & Anthony I don't know so well but they have been training hard and if I'm not mistaken Anthony has already been to Kona. He will likely get there again and from what I know of Casey she has a great chance of qualifying. That would be neat for them both to get spots. But if not they still get to do a very cool race next year - off to Oz for a few months work in the New Year so they are signed up for IM New Zealand in March. I am SO jealous. Not so much of them doing an actual IM but if I ever had to do another one that would be my first choice. While traveling there earlier this year I got to swim in Lake Taupo where the race is held - and sky-dived over it - both very enjoyable experiences!!

Anyways, this weekend... if you are interested to see how we're holding up on the day you can 'track an athlete' at the following link:

Helen Lavin 2153 (hoping for sub-12)
Pam Nielsen 2172 (first IM - will do super!)
Susan Hilal 2175 (hoping for sub-12)
Kami Holtz 2263 (like me is happily retiring from IM after this one!)
Tanya Kroll 2149 (will have an awesome bike!)
Casey Hirschman 2133 (good chance of Hawaii Qualifying spot)
Anthony Hirschman 253 (likely to get Hawaii Qualifying spot)

Here's how I hope to make it under 12...

Swim 1:30
T1 0:08
Bike 6:30
T2 0:07
Run 3:44:59.99999999999

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Leafy Neighbourhood

It sounded good in the real estate ad but the reality of a tree lined street and a few more adorning my front and rear yard is less attractive in mid-November when all of those leaves are now on the ground. About a month ago I wrote down the number of a guy my next door neighbour recommended for yard clean-up. I'd decided that with the short evenings and crazy work schedule that was going to involve being in the office most weekends I'd cave and pay someone to 'do the dirty work' this year. But as the weeks went by the guy's number remained on a piece of paper by my phone at work. Meanwhile, the leaves fell and covered every square inch of my yard. I am not sure why but I never did get around to calling the guy. I guess subconsiously it just seemed like the lazy option...

Thankfully work has calmed down a lot this past week and the weather both afternoons this weekend turned out to be perfect for the task. So yesterday after a fun morning run at Hyland catching up with the 'Plymouth gang' I spent several hours filling 20 bags and today after a splendid morning in Afton with Pam and John, another 10. The result... a few blisters, plenty of aches and pains... but a yard that will make all the neighbours proud! Or at least be grateful I've finally cleaned up. I am sure they must wonder about me sometimes. Thirty-something girl, leaves home most mornings before light and gets home most evenings after dark, always weighed down by at least 2 gym bags, a laptop bag, and usually a few shopping bags, apparently runs an unreasonable amount of miles, living in this family friendly neighbourhood with a school or playground on every block. Their kids on the other hand, think I'm great, since I can be relied upon in winter to not clear my footpath for days on end turning it into a 30 x 3 ice rink.

The gathering of leaves yesterday was one of the reasons I was late for Tri Night last night (Midwest Events end of year celebration). The other being I took in my mail just before taking a shower and saw that my copy of Ultrarunning had arrived. Needless to day the shower got delayed as I devoured the awesome coverage of Sawtooth 100 & Superior 50! Well done to Philip and John for their excellent reporting. Way too many mentions of my name but I was delighted to see Larry's race get the spotlight. I especially like the way John describes Sawtooth in relation to the mountain 100 milers and why this one is no less challenging albeit for different reasons. And it was just great to take myself back and be reminded of so many moments throughout the race. I'll be sad not to run it next year but at the same time I am looking forward to a different kind of challenge on the AC course that will be more runnable in sections and will have longer, steeper climbs, at higher altitude. While Sawtooth is an extremely tough course I think it plays to my strenghts as a trail runner so I like the thought of having to push myself in a different way next year - more trail speedwork and more steep hiking. But, next year is a long way off...

Much closer is next weekend's race! Oh, to think I'll (hopefully) be done this time next Sunday - or at the very least be off my bike :) In a cruel twist of irony I won the top door prize at the event last night - a pair of $200 LG carbon bike shoes. Me, who won't be sorry if I don't see my bike until next summer after this race, and don't plan to ever sit on it again for more than 3 hours! Hopefully the nice folk at Grand Performance, where I bought my tri bike this spring, will allow me to exchange the voucher for some clothing instead (i.e. the kind of clothing that doubles as running gear).

I couldn't help but compare last night's event to the recent UMTR shindig in Hastings. Low key and humble are not really words that came to mind watching practically every award presenter and recipient take the stage and talk, and talk, and talk, one after another, mostly about themselves. I have a lot of respect for all of these athletes and no question they deserve their moment of glory but there's only so many "I'd like to just share with you..." stories I needed to hear. It was topped off by some random guy (ok, I am sure lots of people present knew him) announcing he and his wife are pregnant. I restrained myself from bursting his bubble and asking "Are you sure you're the father?"

Anyways, it was a fun evening catching up with Susan and Marta, and later Carrie and Aaron, as well as Santi and Karen. It's crazy to think it's already been 5 months since we were hanging out together in the sunshine after the Liberty Tri. I've seen them all on and off through the summer and fall but not as much as I'd like to. My New Year's wish will be for time to please slow down a little in 2009!

I almost forgot - update on the foot - the few days rest last week have definitely helped! I should be icing it every night but of course I am not. Maybe later... but it felt pretty good yesterday for about 7 miles at Hyland and this morning I'd say I had even less pain (must be the heels last night) for the 8-9 miles at Afton. Not sure how long we ran for this morning it was just a blast navigating through more deer trails... constant ducking and dodging to avoid the obstacles. I did mange to rip my track pants but they are about 3 years old so I guess it was about time. No falls for once! It was a little chilly starting out but what about that light snow... is there a better feeling than running though the woods with soft white flakes falling on your face? Great to chat with Nancy for a bit afterwards - Thanks for the coffee! - and I'm delighted to see Tom out running again. He's really coming back well from his injury.

All in all, a very productive weekend! Except I never got around to any of the work work that I was supposed to... I guess that's what Monday is for. Mum arrives Wednesday night. It will be brilliant having her over. It's a bit later than she usually comes but at least the trip to Arizona will break up the cold weather!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Extensor Tendinitis

I feel like that should be spelled 'tendonitis' but apparently the i is correct!

So that is my diagnosis. No stress fracture. Yeeaay! I took a very early flight back from Boston yesterday to see a doctor recommended by Jim (Thank you!). And it didn't take him long to rule it out.

After 2 longish runs the weekend before last my foot was really sore so I rested it all of last week. Of course I couldn't resist the BSC 6K last Friday (24:30 new female course record!)... which resulted in a very sore foot Saturday morning. By then I was in Baltimore for a conference. And that night flew up to Boston for a few days. I was so bummed to be in Boston in the Fall and not able to run! But misery loves company and Tanya happened to be there with work also - and was battling an injury - so we walked alot on Sunday! Thankfully Tanya's injury did not turn out to be a stress fracture either and she is cleared to do IM. I am very happy for her as she had trained incredibly well for this race. Hopefully her foot holds up okay for the run. Not that I wanted to be sidelined but I would have been less disappointed if I couldn't do IM :)

But with this diagnosis I won't do much harm running the marathon so tomorrow week I'll be flying down to Phoenix. If you are interested in knowing more about Extensor Tendinitis, read on...

The extensor tendons in the foot come from the relatively small muscles in the front of the leg. The two main extensor muscles are the Extensor Hallucis Longus muscle (EHL) and the Extensor Digitrorum Longus muscle (EDL). The tendons from these muscles cross the front of the ankle, pass across the top of the foot and attach into the big toe (EHL) and lesser toes (EDL). These tendons function to pull the foot upward and work with resistance from the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles (flexor muscle group) that pulls the foot downward. It's the tendon running down to my big toe that is inflamed. Right at the joint of the first metatarsal and medial cuneiform bone. And I also have a little bone spur which might get worse over time and is a prime location for eventual arthritis. But that's years off... right?!

As for the cause... in my case it's likely due to excessive tightness of the calf muscles and no doubt overuse. It probably started at Sawtooth as I had pretty severe shin pain which I'd never had before. So I guess a lot of stress on those extensor muscles. The treatment - lots of icing and stretching my calves.

Anyway, the good news is I can run. Sure, rest would help. But once I know it's not bone related I will be happy enough to run with some pain at IM. I just didn't want to risk anything that was going to cause long term damage. I will only run a little before then. Can't resist some time on the trails this weekend. But I did finally get around to pool running yesterday - 90 minutes - thankfully Tanya was there as I wouldn't have lasted 20 minutes by myself!

I am getting pretty excited about the race now. I know I haven't trained nearly as well as I had planned earlier in the year. But my swimming has come on okay in the last few weeks so I figure I'll manage 1:30. The bike is the part I am least ready for... running legs do not transfer to biking legs!! But I'm hoping I can do under 6:30. Add 15 minutes for transitions and that leaves me 3:45 for the marathon if I want to get under 12hrs again. Which I do! A long way off my original goal of 11:22 but I can't complain about the year I've had so a less than stellar IM will just have to do :)

Monday, November 3, 2008

How to get lost in Wales...

Heard a funny story on NPR the other morning... In Wales all road signs are in Welsh as well as English (same in Ireland - as in, Irish and English). But apparently the guy responsible for road signs doesn't speak his native language. Recently he sent off a sign to the translation house and got an email back in Welsh, and duly had the signs made up. The reporter didn't say what the road sign was meant to read but clearly it wasn't "I'm currently out of the office."

End of post.


After 2 moderately tough runs this weekend and 3 weeks of 50+ miles, on a not so good foot, it should have come as no surprise to wake up to a very sore foot this morning! So the week's plan was soon revised. NO running for a few days... I really want to be able to run the company 6K around Rice Lake on Friday afternoon. And then enjoy a longish run in Boston on Sunday as I'll be out there for work for a few days. So, just swimming and yoga the next few days. And planning to give pool running a try on Wednesday. I have difficulty treading water so this should be fun!

Don't forget to Vote :)

End of post.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November ain't so bad... (so far)

Nov 2nd and I get to run in a tank top and bike in shortsleeves and shorts. Sweet! This is my kind of November... though I suspect it might be a different story in a week's time.

It was a pretty busy weekend. I knew I'd likely be at work late Friday so as I was leaving the house in the morning I turned off the porch light so the kids wouldn't bother to ring the doorbell that night! I felt slightly guilty about not leaving a stash of candy on my doorstep but I'm sure there was more than enough sugar going around. It did end up being a late night at work getting home after 11pm. Because I knew I had to work a few hours again Saturday and wanted to make sure I got out to Hastings for the UMTR Awards Fest I decided to bike at 7:30am. Not my smartest idea. If Igor had not shown up to join me I would probably have only lasted 20 minutes but we suffered through the cold and wind for another while ending up with a bit under 30 miles. Pretty miserable all around. Off to work then and after battling network issues for a few hours I decided to pack it in and get out for a run. Now that was a smart idea (except of course my feet - left heel, right top of foot - are still bothering me a little). But it was a fabulous run in perfect conditions, down around Nokomis and back. Took me 2 hours so I'm guessing it's around 15 miles as I felt like I went out at just over 8's and back just under. Got home, quick shower and was getting ready to head out to Hastings when I got sidetracked by a few work issues. Bummer... I ended up not getting out there until after 6pm so I missed the slideshow. But the link will go up on the website soon so it'll be cool to check it out.

What a fun evening! It was great catching up with everyone... and putting faces to names (and blogs!). And yes, it was very nice to come home with 2 very cool awards!! A beautiful framed photograph of the St. Croix at Afton taken by Wynn (one very talented artist as well as being an awesome runner!) for age group at ATR and then a lovely wooden carving by Larry (another talented artist who himself received an awesome award made by Wynn) for the Fab 50's series. There was also the unoffical award for female with most falls/blood!! Other neat (and well deserved) awards, also made by Wynn, went to Bonnie and Donny for Trailperson(s) of the year. These guys put so much into all of the races we are blessed to have the opportunity to run. And Pierre - a.k.a. Strongest Man in The World - picked up the award for finishing every single race in the series. Another award would surely have gone to Tom if he'd lived up to his reputation and given us 50 push-ups :)

It was a pleasure to meet Kim and Andy (love the t-shirt!) Holak - superstar trailrunners from Duluth. Kim kicked ass at Hardrock this year and I was thinking about it today and would like to suggest another award for next year - Best Performance of the Year for a UMTR runner.

I was glad to have the extra hours sleep last night and it was so nice to wake up before 7am and see that it was bright outside! It won't last long so enjoy it while we can. I'd planned a long run on the Luce Line this morning but after running some yesterday and then chatting with John, Kevin and Alisha last night I knew I'd end up heading out to Afton - even though I had to be in Maple Grove for 11am! Started running a little before 8am. I knew the others were planning to get there for 9am so I decided I'd run some hills for an hour. Did the same workout Kami and I had done out here last October when I was training for Masochist (must check out the results from this year's race which was held yesterday) - up and down the 3 parallel hills starting out with the first climb on the raceourse, then the gravel hill - and then reverse it. One of my goals for Afton next year is to run ALL the hills on BOTH loops. We'll see...

Got back, refilled water bottle, and headed out with John and Kevin. Ran a little ways with them and then headed up around the Africa loop as the guys were going to work on some of the trails for the upcoming fat ass run. Finished up just after 10am for about 12.5 miles. Yeah I know "about 12.5 miles" sounds kind of precise. I like round numbers and that ends up at 55 miles for the week so 12.5 it is! A non-shower shower in the visitor's center, a few speed-limit incursions... and got to Tanya's in MG around 11:15. She had all the girls over for brunch to celebrate Carrie's recent adventure in Kona. Fun times. It was brilliant to see everyone and catch up. Lots going on between races, jobs, moving house, trips to Greece... busy women!!

After a yummy feast of pancakes and eggs, Tanya and I headed out on the bikes for a few hours. What a contrast to yesterday morning! Fab weather - sunshine and not much wind. Just as well with sort of tired legs. Surprise, surprise. Was happy to do a solid 44M. Probably the last longish ride. I am sure any IM training program would call for 5hrs this weekend and not mean it to be split between Saturday & Sunday. But not to worry. I was saying to Tanya that I am glad this weekend is over now and I no longer have to feel guilty about not biking enough. It's officially Taper Time! Finished off the day with a 3000 yard swim. An almost reverse half IM.

Congrats to Joe Z and Justin on their wins at Surf the Murph yesterday (25K/50K). And to Eric on his first 50K. Sounds like a great event. Looking forward to checking out the trail myself sometime soon.

End of post.