Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tour de Meers

I was a little bummed heading into this weekend because my initial plans were to head to Lawrence for an unofficial training camp on the Kansas 70.3 course hosted by the KU Triathlon club.  However, the triathlon fund is running a little low at the moment so I didn't have the money to make a long weekend trip.  I opted instead for the next best thing I could find and headed southwest to Meers, Oklahoma, for their annual Tour de Meers ride.  It's about an hour and half drive from OKC and is on the edge of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  I ran a half marathon down in the area a couple of years ago as part of my prep for my first marathon and had a great experience.  This event proved no different.

For starters, the area in the refuge is relatively untouched and the scenery is a nice backdrop for a bike ride.  Roaming buffaloes, longhorn cattle, turkeys, and prairie dogs are common sites along the roadways.  I took every moment I could to enjoy the natural beauty and appreciate the quiet.  Most of my rides in OKC have been on fairly well-traveled highways so the buzz of cars are always in your ear.  Out here it was different.  Traffic was very low.  The wind was relatively calm.  The sun was blazing hot.  It was just you, the road, and whatever cyclist you happened to be around at the time.  The great thing about this ride is I spent most of it alone.  The official start time for the ride was 9 AM, but they encouraged people to start whenever they could to avoid the heat of the day.  Temps were forecast to be in the low 100s so the earlier you could get off the roads, the better it would be for the volunteers and participants.  This led to a pack of riders that were spread out all over the course and no big packs trying to draft.  I spent the majority of the ride in my aero bars and only made one pitstop to refill the bottles.  The rest of the ride was me working on my nutrition, pacing, and enjoying the scenery.  The quality of the roads were excellent and the little traffic made the ride very relaxing.  I wasn't constantly worried about cars, glass, potholes, and dogs.  It was a perfect ride for my last race prep workout. 

The first half of the course was mostly rolling hills through the refuge and then you hit a stretch of flat highway with wide shoulders that allowed me to get in a groove and coast through about 10-15 miles.  The last 15 miles or so was another rolling hill section into a 15 mph headwind which is light for Oklahoma standards.  The nutrition plan seemed to work really well.  I still felt pretty decent at the end of the ride and if it hadn't been for the 100+ degree heat I think my run would have been acceptable.  The run ended up being a sufferfest.  I'm not ready for 100 degrees yet.  This is the first really hot weekend we have had all year.  I know it's the first time I've been out training in triple digit heat.  I got in some work in the 90s last weekend, but not 4 hours worth of it.  By the end of my run, I was ready to do anything but be in the heat.  I found some shade at the fire department where I was parked and waited for about 30 minutes before I made it to my car.  While I was cooling down, I met a few other triathletes from the OKC area and chatted with them for a bit.  We're all signed up to do an event at the Route 66 festivus next weekend so I'll have a few new faces to chat with while I'm waiting on my swim wave to start.  All in all, I was pretty happy with my day but definitely need some more work in the extreme heat.  I'm hoping with all hope that Louisville isn't 100 degrees, but if it is, I want to be ready.  I know I'll have ample opportunity for training in it here.  The forecast looks hot and nasty as far as the eye can see.  Time to push the excuses aside and get ready to face my demons.  Ironman Louisville I'm coming for you. 

This weekend I also signed up for Oklahoma's first official aquathon coming up on Tuesday.  It's a 500m swim/2 mile run out at the race site for the Route 66 Aquabike I'm doing next weekend.  The entry fee was only $12 so I figured it was a good way to get in some open water swim practice with a group.  The fee to get into the lake I usually swim at is $8 so the small premium was worth it for some race experience.  I'm hoping the weather holds out and the wind isn't blowing 40 mph like it is today.  I really could use some open water practice.  It's been almost a year since I've hopped in the lake.  I know it will be an adjustment after only swimming in a pool for 12 months.  Come on good weather!  Time to sign off for now.  It's a dinner and a movie kind of night since tomorrow's a holiday.  Run happy friends!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tornado Alley - May 24, 2011

Yesterday was an unbelievable day in Oklahoma.  It was deja vu of May 3, 1999, except this time I was in Oklahoma City and not at home with my parents in Amber, Oklahoma.  The storms started firing around 2:30PM out in western Oklahoma and started producing large, violent tornadoes as they marched across the state towards my hometown and the metro OKC area.  Everyone at work was huddled together in the trade room watching the madness unfold on TV as the chase teams for our local weather stations captured unbelievable videos of the monsters as they tore a path across our state.  Thankfully my family and I got out of this one OK.  Some of my brother's classmates and families in the area were not so lucky.  As I watched from Oklahoma City, all I could think of was how thankful I was that my folks were OK.  The minute I heard them say that a tornado was on the ground near my hometown my heart dropped.  It was nice to hear my Dad's voice on the phone when I called and he told me they had made it to the neighbor's shelter and were underground.  Something we've all learned the past few months is that being underground is truly the only option if you want to survive.  Too many people have been killed in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Alabama by these tornadoes as they tried to ride out the storm in their bathrooms or closets.  Please keep the Heartland in your thoughts and prayers.  I sent a donation box with a coworker to Joplin this week.  Now it's time to lend a hand to my fellow Okies.

After the tornado threat moved out, I headed to my apartment and hopped on my bike trainer so I could get in a quick ride.  I almost skipped this workout due to all the madness, but I knew it would make me feel better.  I continued watching all the news as they searched for survivors and showed more videos from the day.  It made me even more thankful that we all came out of this unscathed.

Today was a brand new day.  The weather was calm and I hopped in the pool after work to get in a swim.  I really need to get some different ear plugs I think.  Apparently my right ear hole is bigger than my left and the ear plugs don't block out all the water.  I'm constantly having issues with my right ear and today was no different.  I left the pool with a headache/earache from Hades.  I guess I should consider wearing a swim cap in the pool too.  It would probably help in some respect.

Anyway, long run on the agenda for tomorrow.  My schedule calls for 1.5 hours with most spent at zone1 and zone2 so I'll probably get in about 10 miles or so.  This weekend will be my last race prep weekend and then I'll hit taper mode for Kansas.  I'm planning on heading to Meers, Oklahoma, for a 57 mile bike tour that I'll follow up with a 6 mile run.  Only 2.5 weeks to the first half-Ironman.  I guess I better start making sure all my race gear still fits.  That tri top and wetsuit may have shrunk on me over the winter.  Off to finish watching the Thunder game and then I'm heading to bed.  Run happy friends.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Summer is here

Well, we held out as long as we could here in Oklahoma.  After a couple of really hot weeks in early April, the weather moderated in a big way, as noted by the bone-chillingly cold rain during the OKC Marathon on May 1st.  It looks like we might be making the final turn into summer now.  This weekend featured temps in the low 90s and the forecast ahead looks to be more of the same with only a day or two break here and there.  I'm OK with the change into summer because I need the prep work in the heat.  It's funny how my mindset has changed from dreading anything that resembled a run in the heat to now trying to embrace the late afternoon runs in the hottest part of the day.  I'm not going to say I enjoy it, but I do know what's necessary to succeed in Louisville.  Case in point, today I didn't have anything on my training schedule, but I laced up the sneakers at 3:30PM and went for a 5k run in the neighborhood with temps at 92 degrees and 31% humidity.  It's a great way to start the long process of becoming acclimated to the Ironman marathon.  Last year I would have never dreamed of running in the afternoon by choice.  Watching the Ironman Texas race online yesterday motivated me to get out and get my butt moving in the heat today.  It's always so cool to watch the finishline video for those races.  I never saw Jeff Irvin, but I was looking.  Judging by his finish time, he might have finished during the marriage proposal so I might have missed him during the chaos.  Congrats Jeff on your first Ironman!  I'll be picking your brain over the next couple of months if you're willing!

Sorry for the lack of posts this week.  I ended up house-sitting/dog-sitting for a friend this week so my schedule was all flipped upside down.  Sleeping in someone else's bed and trying to make another house my training base was not ideal.  My apartment is geared around my training, gear, and habits.  When you are living in someone else's normal, it's never quite as efficient/relaxing.  I love hanging out with the dogs for a week though so I'll do it whenever asked.  It's a small price to pay for some awesome bonding time with the pups.  I get to satisfy my dog fix and not ever have to own one myself!  It's perfect!  Plus, these NBA playoffs sure aren't kind to endurance athletes.  The 8PM tipoff times are not good for my sleep/training schedule.  I'll continue watching as long as our hometown OKC Thunder boys are still playing though.   I'll have at least one more week of odd scheduling due to the playoffs.  The good thing about my current schedule is that I'll be entering my taper for Ironman Kansas 70.3 soon.   Only 3 short weeks until go time!

Training was really up and down this week.  The aforementioned sleep/living issues contributed to some fatigue/lack of motivation midweek.  I ended up pushing my long run up in the week to Tuesday due to weather concerns and my brother's high school graduation.  I logged an easy 12+ mile run mostly staying in a comfortable zone1/zone2 range.  I went after work, but the temps were only in the low 80s so it wasn't unbearably hot.  The legs felt really good so I'm confident in my run at the 70.3 race.  I spent Wednesday night on the trainer because I needed to get in a quick workout so I could get to bed early for a Thursday morning swim.  I was dragging major butt on Thursday AM and my swim was pretty sucktastic.  It's easily the worst swim I've had in many weeks.  I left pretty disgusted, but glad to have finished it.  Friday was my long swim prep day again.  I tested out the pace for the full 1.2 mile swim again and landed right in the 45 minute range again.  I felt surprisingly fresh at the end of the swim which is really what I want coming out of the water on race day.  I don't want to sacrifice a ton of energy for a few minute improvement in my swim time.  In the grand scheme of the race, it's such a small piece of the puzzle.  Calm and collected in the water is my goal.  Yesterday was my long bike for the week.  I did the Okarche ride again, which is what I did last week for my race prep.  This time the wind was 20-25 mph out of the south, as opposed to the north like last week.  I'm not sure if I just was a lot better about nutrition or if the south wind is much more bearable for this route, but I left the bike feeling pretty good about my bike.  I ended up logging nearly 65 miles which is my longest ride ever.  I took in about 100-150 more calories per hour this time around and drank much more frequently which really helped me from hitting any big lows along the ride.  Hopefully practice makes perfect on race day.  I also had another flat on this ride.  It's the second flat I've gotten on this new bike.  This time I ran through a patch of glass and immediately could hear the air rushing out of my front tire.  I made a little pitstop on the side of the road, changed out the tube, aired it up, and hit the road.  It's super easy to change out the tires on the new ride.  A big plus if I flat during a race.  I'm hoping to avoid patches of glass in Kansas and Louisville though!

Hope everyone had a great weekend of fun in the sun.  I'm outta here to get some stuff done around the apartment.  This place won't clean itself unfortunately.  Run happy friends!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Aquabike? Me? Yes....

It's no secret I'm a runner first, triathlete second.  I love running.  It's also no secret that swimming is my least favorite of triathlon disciplines.   However, even I know that running takes the biggest toll on the body during training so this week I did the unthinkable.  I signed up for an Aquabike race.  GASP!  I've been tossing around the idea of trying to get in at least one triathlon before Kansas 70.3 in four weeks, but the only race locally is the weekend prior to my date with Chrissie Wellington in Lawrence.  The race is the Route 66 triathlon in El Reno, Oklahoma, which is about a 30 minute drive from OKC.  It's the first triathlon of the season for the local TRI-OKC club and is also sponsored by my employer.  I love supporting the local club and the fact the entry fee is comped by my employer is a double bonus!  The weekend features a sprint triathlon on Saturday and then an Olympic distance triathlon on Sunday.  In addition to the Sunday triathlon, they are also offering an Aquabike option this year.  Talking with my coach, we thought it would be a good idea for me to get in some more practice since I've still only been through the whole triathlon routine once.  Initially I considered doing the sprint triathlon on Saturday, but I have a really hard time convincing myself that a sprint triathlon is worth the time investment.  I know, I'm a distance snob, but for a race that's so short, it's a whole lot of work.  I considered doing the Olympic triathlon, but I really want to show up to Kansas with everything firing on all cylinders and an Olympic distance triathlon has the potential to leave me sore for a few days if I raced too hard or conditions are unfavorable.  After further consultation with my coach, we decided that the Aquabike was probably more beneficial than the sprint triathlon in the grand scheme of things.  I'll get to test out my swim in a mass start/wetsuit legal swim (hopefully) and work out the final kinks in my bike before hitting the road for Kansas.  I'll even probably add in a short run after I cross the finish, but nothing like the 10K leg that would have followed if I was actually racing.  I know myself well enough that I couldn't just go out and dog a 10K run.  I'd want to run fast and run hard if I was actually out on the course.  As a matter of self defense, I'll not allow myself that option.  So, the next race is on the calendar - June 6th, Olympic distance Aquabike, in El Reno, OK. 

I also want to share a video I pulled from Scott's blog, Enjoy the Ride.  It's a video reel about the recent Ironman St. George race in St. George, Utah.  This race has a very odd appeal to me.  I could never find enough climbing in Oklahoma to actually prepare for this race, but the true grit and determination shown by those conquering this course is inspiring.  Maybe one of these days I'll put on my big boy pants and give it a shot.  That's assuming I survive Louisville this summer.  After yesterday, I realized how daunting a task I have in front of me.  The next 15 weeks will challenge me in ways that I could never imagine.  It will take every ounce of strength, determination, and stubbornness in my body to keep moving forward when the temps hit 100 and I'm at the end of my rope.  I'll need you all to keep me going.  I know what lies ahead will forever shape me into a better person.  Never quit.  In the words of Mitch Whitaker as he left this world after losing his battle to leukemia at age 10 - "Keep fighting".  I'll pull my strength from those who were taken too soon and live on in all of us.  GoMtichGo

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Race Prep Weekend - Kansas 70.3

This weekend was officially dubbed "Race Prep Weekend" (RPW) by my coach and I.  The whole focus of this weekend was to see how ready I was for my first half-Ironman distance race and to practice my nutrition and pacing plans for the race in 4 weeks.  Overall, I left this weekend's workouts with a bit of confidence, a bit of humility, and a bit of respect for the task at hand. 

RPW started off with a 1900 meter swim Friday morning to see how I could handle the distance in the pool and give me an idea of what to expect for my swim time on race morning.  I went in thinking I'd be somewhere in the 40 to 45 minute range and ended up getting out of the pool at 44:22.  It was a comfortable, controlled swim so I'm confident I can get closer to the 40 minute mark on race morning.  I also wore board shorts and didn't utilize flip-turns or wall push-offs in the pool so this should be a conservative estimate on my swim time.  The wetsuit will definitely be my friend in the water on June 12th.  Stage 1 of RPW was a success.

RPW continued on Saturday morning with a 56 mile bike/6 mile run brick to get a feel for my bike/run estimates for Kansas.  The morning didn't quite go as planned because I got delayed by some work issues and ended up not leaving my house until 9:45am.  I really wanted to be riding by 9:30, but I ended up not getting started until 10:30 which led to gustier winds and more traffic on my route than I would have liked.  I went back to the same route I did with Team-in-Training a few weeks ago which took me NW out of OKC to the small town of Okarche.  The roads for the first and last 9 miles were incredibly rough and I fought a headwind all the way to Okarche which was my half-way point.  The great thing about this route is it's a very good comparison to use for Kansas.  It has lots of rolling hills and the elevation profiles for both rides are good matches.  The headwind definitely frustrated me the first 28 miles.  I was in a pretty sour mood and I was cursing the bad roads and winds quite often.  The turnaround in Okarche was a very welcome reprieve.  I ended up cruising at a nice clip courtesy of the tailwind on the way home.   It definitely lifted my spirits a bit and made the run to follow a little more palatable. 

After the ride, I hopped off the bike, locked it to my bike rack, and laced up the running shoes.  I was in an unfamiliar area so I just headed out from the car and popped in neighborhoods and ran until I hit a major road or a dead end and turned around and retraced my steps.  I made it a point to go back by my car about 3 miles in so I could get a drink and take a gel.  Most of the run was blocked from the wind so that part made me happy.  One thing I did notice was that I struggle slowing my pace coming off the bike.  I really had a tough time keeping myself from going out way too fast.  Towards the end of my run I could definitely tell that I was running low on energy.  I need to increase my calories on the bike evidently.  I estimate that I took in 300 to 350 calories per hour on the bike today.  I'm thinking I probably need to increase to 450 or so judging by my height and body weight.  I'll have to find something else to add to my concoction.  I'm not sure I want to add another gel in the mix every hour.  I already get sick of anything remotely sweet the longer the ride lasts.  Maybe I'll try to find something salty to help with sodium levels as well. 

Overall I felt pretty good about my results from this weekend.  I had a rough time of 6 hours in my head prior to this weekend as my estimate for my first 70.3 distance race.  Here's how this weekend's workouts stacked up:

Swim - 44:22
Bike - 3:07:23
Run (6 Miles) - 50:09

Judging by this weekend's efforts, I think 6 hours will be a pretty good benchmark for my race in 4 weeks.  After today's brick it hit me again how hard the Ironman is going to be in 15 weeks.  I'm going to have to do 2x the mileage on the bike and over 4x the amount of running I did today.  Definitely a daunting task.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Make it happen. Time to get some shut-eye now.  I'm beat.  Run happy friends.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Open Water Swim Cancelled

Today was supposed to be my first open water swim of the season, but we got some much needed rain today so I'll have to delay the open water adventure for another week.  I'm hoping next Wednesday I can hit the water with the Team and start practicing my sighting skills again.

This week has actually been pretty routine so far.  I've had a few issues with my left hamstring so I bailed on my run after my bike yesterday.  My schedule called for a short brick workout, but I'm playing it safe.  I don't want any major issues to pop up these last few weeks before Kansas.  I've been very diligent about icing my hamstring and rolling it out with "The Stick".  A little rest and some TLC seems to be doing the trick.  I'll give it a little run tomorrow and see how it reacts.  This weekend is race rehearsal weekend for me.  I'll swim the 1.2 miles on Friday as a rehearsal run.  I'll then hop on the bike and do 56 miles as a race rehearsal to practice nutrition and pacing on Saturday.  After the bike, I'll hop off and go for a quick 6 mile run to see how the nutrition plan works out.  I need to make a run to the local bike shop and grab a few more Honey Stinger waffles because those things are simply amazing and will be making it in my race-day nutrition plan.

Nothing else really going on at the moment.  I'm debating on signing up for a triathlon the weekend before Kansas.  My work is sponsoring our entry into the race.  It's a sprint triathlon on Saturday and an Olympic distance event on Sunday.  There is also an aquabike option on Sunday which may be a perfect fit in my schedule.  I'll toss it around a day or two more and get my coach's opinion.  My entry is due Friday so only a couple of days left.  Time to hop off here and get ready for bed.  Run happy friends!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Valley Rally - 62 Mile Tour

Post-OKC Memorial week has flown by and now I'm staring at Ironman Kansas 70.3 in exactly 5 weeks.  Five weeks until I get to wear that 70.3 label proudly and then hit the road to Colorado for some great bonding time with the family.  This year just keeps going by faster and faster.  Every time I look up, a new calendar month is staring me in the face and IM Louisville just keeps inching closer.  The good news is the training continues to progress and so far I've been able to keep minor aches and pains as minor aches and pains.  I have a few hot spots this week, so I'm going to take an extra rest day today and mend some of those wounds.  Besides, it's Mother's Day and I'm about to head out to go see my beloved Mom. 

On a whim, I signed up for a 62-mile bike tour being held this weekend and decided it would serve as my long ride for the weekend.  I was only scheduled to ride 3 hours, but I figured the extra mileage wouldn't kill me and having a supported ride was an extra bonus.  I registered for the Valley Rally that started in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, which is about an hour south of OKC.  The ride started in downtown Pauls Valley and proceeded south to the Arbuckle Mountains.  Yes, we do have some mountains in Oklahoma.  They are really glorified hills at this point, but geologists suggest they used to be big mountains in the early days of Earth.  The map profile of the ride looked like a good comparison for the IM Kansas 70.3 course so I thought it was a perfect opportunity to get in some rolling hills and ride in the heat.  Temperatures here in Oklahoma reached 95 degrees yesterday.  I figured getting out in the heat now will prove beneficial in the long run.  Let me tell you, 95 degrees feels HOT when it was 40s, rainy, and windy the weekend prior.  Welcome to Oklahoma weather.  As another added bonus, we fought a 15-20mph headwind the first half of the course as we headed mostly due south for the first half of the ride.  The plus-side was that we had the wind at our back for the majority of the ride home.  The highlight of the course for me was the climb to Falls Creek.  For those of you non-Okies, Falls Creek is a place in the Arbuckle's where the Southern Baptist Convention holds youth camps during the summer.  I went 3 times as a teenager and had an amazing time each year I went.  I hadn't been back in the area since I graduated high school so being able to ride into Falls Creek was a good blast from the past.  The Valley Rally actually had a cash prize for the King of the Mountain.  As part of the tour, we made a steep climb up the Falls Creek road to the highest point in the Arbuckles.  Needless to say I had no shot of getting the cash because there were several Garmin Junior Development cyclists on this ride.  I'm pretty sure they took home all the cash.  The climb did provide a good challenge and was by far the hardest I've worked on the bike in my short riding career.  My hips hurt, my legs were burning, sweat was pouring off of me, and I was cranking in my easiest gear possible.  I made it though.  It hurt, but I made it to the top to see the view of the Oklahoma landscape.  It was a fun challenge and provided a good early season test of the legs. 

Overall my ride was pretty sub-par.  I was pretty average going into the headwind and my rear-mounted water bottles popped out several times due to rough roads so I lost quite a bit of time turning around and picking up bottles along the way.  I now know not to use the rear bottle mounts unless absolutely necessary.  In one of my attempts to turn around to get my bottles I bit the dust after I hit a patch of gravel.  I walked away with a bloody knee, dropped my chain, and tore up my handlebar tape on the left side of my bike.  Luckily I wasn't going very fast when it happened.  I'll take the bike in at some point to get it re-taped, but for now I'll just ride with it as-is.

Here are some lessons learned from this weekend's ride:
- Honey Stinger Waffles are AMAZING
- Rear-mounted water bottles fly off often and lead to too many lost minutes
- Headwinds and hills are not a good mix
- Summer is going to kill me (or make me one tough dude)

I know I signed up for a hot, hilly Ironman so I'm going to complain about the heat as little as possible this summer.  I signed up for it so I just need to man up and face the facts.  I'm going to have to figure out a hydration solution.  I drank pretty much all day on the bike and still came off feeling like I needed to drink a lot more.  I do have concerns about my ability to stay hydrated in humid conditions.  I'm not a small guy.  I'm about 6'1" and 190 pounds.  I'm not one of your lean, mean triathletes that weigh 165lbs soaking wet.  I'll have to figure out a way to combat dehydration on race day.  I'll experiment as much as I can during training to hopefully avoid something disastrous on race day.  It is definitely a concern heading into summer though.  One positive note about yesterday's ride is that I really nailed my calorie intake.  I was more conscious of when and what I was putting in my body and think I may have found a mix that will work.  I felt pretty strong at the end of the ride so that was good news. 

I'm out of here for now.  I hope all of you had a good weekend of training.  It looks like I might get in my first open water swim of the year this coming week.  Hopefully the severe weather holds off and we can get in the lake.  Run happy friends!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

OKC Memorial - 2011 Race Recap

So I lied.  I said I'd have a report up on Monday, but doing laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning up around the apartment got the nod over blogging.  I'm a couple of days late, but here we go.

As I mentioned on Sunday, the OKC Memorial was my best race ever.  It's the first time I've felt that I've effectively executed a race plan and everything fell into place.  The weather wasn't ideal, but my attitude going into this race was extremely positive.  I felt strong and I felt prepared.  All it came down to was execution.  Friday night before the race I talked with my coach for 20 or 30 minutes about my strategy.  The weather forecast was calling for 20mph winds from the NNE and a chance for some light rain/drizzle.  Temps were projected to be in the 50s so we knew heat wouldn't be a factor.  Most races I've run, I've always been told to take the first few miles easy and then gradually increase into my race pace.  However, for this race Ryan told me to do something different.  The start of the race was downtown and most of the wind was blocked.  However, after mile 1 we turned north and we were running into a headwind through the first 6 or 7 miles.  He told me if I didn't push and keep a strong pace through the wind, I'd never be able to make up that time on the back side of the course when I had the wind at my back.  Our plan was for me to really push myself those first miles and make sure I was on pace when I made the turn south.  He told me that my turn south would allow me to maintain my same pace with less effort on the backside of the course since I'd have the wind at my back.  It turns out this was a perfect strategy. My first mile was easily my slowest mile at 8:01 pace and after that I found a zone in the 7:30 to 7:45 pace and never fell out of it.  The funny thing about my race is that I rarely looked at my Garmin.  Normally I would be checking it every 2 minutes making sure I was on pace, but I just felt like I was running strong and I didn't want to let doubt start creeping in if I saw how much faster my pace was than what I initially thought I was going to run.  I was feeling really strong and I wanted to just run by feel.  I knew I was in a spot where I could maintain my effort and come in with a time that far exceeded my original goal of 1:45.  As I turned the corner in the last 1/2 mile I had the biggest smile on my face.  I was in a zone.  I was starting to hurt, but I knew I had a huge PR in my pocket and no one was taking it from me.  All the hard work and training finally came together during a race and I was elated. 

After I finished, the cold really set in.  I went from just being mildly uncomfortable to shivering uncontrollably.  I was a wet mess from head to toe due to the nonstop rain during the race.  Nothing I did could make me stop shivering.  The north wind just added to the misery and I finally found shelter in the Team-in-Training tent for a bit while I tried to drink some chocolate milk and stretch out a bit.  I finally found a cup of coffee that made everything better and then I made my way to my car to change into dry clothes so I could head back out on the course to coach our Team-in-Training runners still on the course.  Needless to say, I was wet and cold within 5 minutes.  My job as coach was probably the best one of the lot.  Since I ran the half marathon, I just stuck around the finish area and met all of runners as they made the final .5 mile run into the finishing chute.  It was so amazing to see all of their faces and talk to them as they made their way to the finish.  There was a lot of pain, a lot of pride, and a lot of shared misery among the marathon runners who had to endure the rain for much longer than me.  At one point, about 3.5 hours into the race, it even started hailing.  It was small hail, about the size of peas, but it stung and you could tell it was just one of those moments where everyone threw up their hands and said, "Really?!  Hail too?!"  Ha, it was definitely a day to remember for everyone out on the course.  I can't imagine that anyone will walk away from the 2011 OKC Memorial Marathon without memories for a lifetime.  I was blessed to be a part of it and can't even begin to explain how much I love this race and everything about it.  You really should come join us sometime.

This race really instilled a new confidence in my fitness level and training.  I feel like I'm making significant strides and all those early mornings, hours on the trainer, and days lifting weights are beginning to show up on race day.  Now all I need to do is bottle up that confidence and excitement for future races and mix a little patience in for a perfect combination.  My biggest downfall is my lack of patience.  I'm not one to sit around and take small steps.  If I'm in, I'm all in.  It's the way I've always been and that will never change.  Most of you probably already came to that conclusion when I signed up for the full Ironman after only doing one triathlon.  Yep, I've still only raced one triathlon and I have my first half-Ironman coming up in 5.5 weeks.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Make it happen.

After this weekend, I really caught the marathon bug again.  My result made me realize how much better I can do at that distance.  None of my race times this year point to anything near the 4 hour mark.  They all plug me in the 3:30 to 3:45 range.  My performance in Chicago left me with a bitter taste in my mouth and I can't wait to get back out on the marathon course and see what I really have inside of me.  I know that time will come.  For now I'll have to keep working hard and shelve that marathon desire for a few more months.  I plan to shatter that marathon PR in 2012.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

OKC Memorial Half Marathon - Version 2011

Awesome.  That single word pretty much sums up my race today.  Despite weather conditions that were quite brutal - 40 degree temps, 20 mph winds, rain the entire race, and a 30-minute delayed start due to lightning, I ran my best race ever today.  I smashed my old PR by nearly 9 minutes and set a new bar with a 1:40:45 time in my 4th half marathon.  It feels great to see all my work paying off on race day.  Now it's time for me to refocus my efforts on Ironman Kansas 70.3 in 6 short weeks.  Time flies when you are having fun!

I'll report more about my race tomorrow.  I'm beat and headed to bed.  All-in-all a very successful race.  I have mad respect for all those who ran the full marathon today in tough conditions.  Run happy friends!