Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Journey To Redemption

Some Background:
In 2008, I went to Lake Placid to try my hand at Ironman. Without question, I had the race of my life. The day brought rain, and I mean lots of rain, but other than that, the day went perfect for me. To this day, I still think that day was a fluke and I had the triathlon Gods watching over me.

I went back to IMLP in 2009 with some lofty goals. Training went well but the moment I stepped onto the beach for the swim, I had no desire to be there. By mile 98 of the bike, I made my mind to drop out of the race. It was a decision that I still regret and that decision brought me back to IMLP in 2011.

Race Morning:
I was up at 4:00 am. I only slept 3 to 4 hours all night. I wasn’t nervous but I think lounging around all day messed with my sleeping pattern. I was well rested and didn’t feel tired, but I still wish I had been able to sleep more.

I ate a banana while getting my race day bag organized. My plan was a banana, UCAN drink and a Powerbar while drinking on the way to body marking. Mistake #1 just occurred. I always like to take a hot shower before I race or head out for a long workout. People ask why, well, it gets the blood moving, as well as my system moving, too (if you know what I mean). However, the hotel we were staying at, the shower was luke warm at best. How is that possible?

Tammy was going to walk down to transition with Kim and me. The walk was calming but Kim was on a mission. He had his game face on and was ready and focused. I remember being the exact same way back in 2008. It was actually nice being the “veteran” of this event. I know he said he was relaxed but I saw something different in his eyes.

Along the way, we saw Scott and his family. Like Kim, he had his game face on. After a few pictures, it is onto body marking. Once there, we saw Peter, Tami, Chris and J. It was really nice to see the familiar faces at such a big event. The lady marks my shoulders and for some reason, puts my race number on my shins. Who does that? Were my quads not big enough? Odd, but oh well.

Kim and I head into transition to get everything organized. I put my pills and other nutrition on the bike along with my water bottles. I catch up with Tim and Dave G. This was Tim’s first Ironman too and I believe he was going to have a great day. Like the other 2 rookies, he is a bit nervous, but who wouldn’t be?

Everything was ready and I make one more stop, the porta potty. Once finished, it’s to the water. I saw Tammy and the crew one more time before I head into the water. I saw Tom, Tim B. and Bob on the beach. Everyone was ready.

The Swim (projected time: 1:05 – 1:15)
Once my wetsuit was zipped up, I got into the water to swim a bit. Because Tammy had worked for Ironman, she, Chris, J and Jenn all got bands to be on the dock. I was able to see them and knew they were in for an amazing sight. It was really cool know how close they were to the action and knowing exactly where they were. I really wanted them to be able to see me throughout the day.

I warmed up a bit and my plan was to start to the right of the middle, away from the buoys. Well, in my efforts to see Tammy and others, I misjudged my location and was starting towards the front and close to the buoys. Mistake #2. Completely and utterly my screw up.

The cannon went off and Mirror Lake became a blender full of arms and legs flailing in the air. I was trapped. I was getting trounced and there was no where to go. I did my best to protect my face but I was kicked so hard that I was stunned. Not fun. I began to swim with a bent forearm to protect myself from the feet and arms of others.

My next goal was to swim to open water and keep doing so until the turn around. It worked here and there but I just couldn’t find enough space to be comfortable. At the turn around, it was a mess. Everything clogged up and again, feet, arms and bodies everywhere. I had a hunch once I turned the corner it would open up a bit and it did.

As I got back to shore on loop number 1, I felt that my time was going to be slow. I popped up onto the shore, waved to Tammy, J, Chris and Jenn and ran through the exit. I saw my time on the race clock and it said “44:00”. Before I could process the time, I dove back in the water, trying to get in before the mob could catch me.

My mind quickly went back to figuring out how my swim could have been so slow. I guess, or hoped I should say, that the time was 10 minutes slower because the clock was on the pro start (they started 10 minutes before us). I decided to just swim and was able to get into a solid rhythm for the majority of loop 2. I was even able to pee again in the water. All was going smoothly.

Finally, out of the water and I see my time: 1:09:32.

Transition #1:
My first thought was to get this wet suit off. Find a wetsuit stripper. Here is a tip for everyone, find the biggest guy you can. I saw him and he saw me. We made eye contact and I knew this was my boy. He had an orange headband on and looked fired up. Down on to my back and whoosh, off came the wetsuit.

For some reason, under my armpits are chaffed like no one’s business. I realize that wearing arm coolers during the swim was mistake #3. I wore them in hopes of a faster transition but never wore them in the water. My armpit area was stinging, but maybe it will go away. Not!

Down the road to the transition area I ran. I felt good and comfortable. I was able to find my bag and went into the changing tent. Well, it reeked and it was crowded. Think being locked in a porta potty with 4 other people on a hot day. I finally found a seat and got on shoes, number belt, helmet, sunglasses, and loaded my pockets with nutrition. I handed by bag to a volunteer and it was time for the bike.

The Bike (projected time: 5:45 – 6:00)
Of this Ironman, the bike, by far, was my biggest concern. I didn’t feel I had prepared enough due to so much early season running. My goal was to ride comfortably for the first 56 miles and see what I had left. I was hoping to average around 18.5 mph.

As usual, the ride began with some climbing. I was thirsty from the swim, so I took in some Powerbar drink. It tasted awful! This was not good. I had trained for months with the Powerbar powder mix but this bottled stuff was disgusting. Too sweet and acidic. Mistake #4 just popped its ugly head. There was no way I could drink this stuff on the course.

I figured I would deal with the drink fiasco later on and began to ride. The climbs out of town are a nice way to get your legs warm. I passed a lot of riders while maintaining a nice cadence and remaining comfortable in the saddle. My plan was to drink every 15 minutes, take a gel/water drink every 45 minutes and to eat/take salt every hour. I started that 15 minutes into the bike.

At the top of the hills, I was averaging just under 18 mph. This was not a concern as the next 20 miles are extremely fast and you can make up time. As I went down the long 5 mile decent, my only goal was to stay upright. People passed me but I wasn’t concerned because I knew I would catch them on the hills later.

For some reason, the course was more “packed” than before. There were groups of riders all over the place. At first, I stayed out of it to the best of my ability, but in reality, I couldn’t. I knew I was going to have to make a choice and live with it on this part of the ride. Option #1 was to try and break away from the pack but I knew this would come back to haunt me later on. Option #2 was to drop back, slow down and let them go. I didn’t like this option because I didn’t want to hinder my race and not meet my goals. Option #3 was to stay the course, knowing that the group will break up at the next hill or turn. I was right and went with option #3.

I dumped the Powerbar drink at the next aid station and switched to the Gatorade I had brought. I was ready for the group to break up on the next climb that was just ahead. It was a long, miserable climb that looks easy. However, we didn’t’ turn! The course had changed. Mistake #5, I didn’t know the course had changed and had no idea of the route. I quickly asked some people and found out later the reason for the change.

This new out and back was nice and actually faster than the old one so I adjusted and moved on. At the turnaround, I backed it down a little and lost most of the peloton. The crappy climb was still ahead but I went at it alone. Well, as the climb progressed, I realized my cleat was loose. It happened about 3 weeks ago but I thought it was fixed. There was no way I could ride like this for another 80 miles. At the next aid station, I knew they would have tools so I stopped and had a volunteer fix my cleat. I lost 3-4 minutes but better to lose it now than not to have a shoe on the bike.

The last 14 miles back to Lake Placid are the worst! False flats, up hills, little recovery and usually a head wind make up this section of the course. My plan was to work but not to over work at this point. I was averaging over 22 mph and I knew that I was in a good place so why push it. At mile 102ish, I saw Dave C., Will and Anna. I gave them a quick “hello” and it was great to see them out there.

As I pulled into town, the crowd and vibe was amazing. I felt good. As I rounded the corner by the oval, I told Tammy to be in that area. I easily found Tammy, Jenn, J and Chris. I buzzed by them, feeling strong and ready for the second loop. I looked down and saw that the first loop took around 2:42 and I was averaging about 20.6 mph. Everything was right on track.

As I got to the first hill, it hit me. My stomach, all of a sudden, was rejecting this race, my drinks, my food, everything. It was painful and I still had 54 miles to go. Maybe it was just a cramp. Maybe it will go away if I try to eat or drink. Nope! I am in trouble.

I forced down some Powerbar balls and some water. It all tasted awful. I chucked my Gatorade because it was almost empty but I couldn’t drink it anyway. Significant self doubt began to creep into my mind. There was no way I could ride another 50 miles without eating and drinking. There was no way I could tolerate this stomach pain. My mind was beginning to go to places I really didn’t want it to go. Quit. Why bother? Is this 2009 all over again?

As my mind and body began rejecting this race again, I decided to focus on getting to the big down hills and long flats and then evaluate how I feel. The energy was leaving my body. Once on the flats, I stopped at an aid station. I used the porta potty. Nothing. Ok, get some water and plug away. My plan, which was against my mind and body, was to get to the next aid station and try to eat something.

My pace on the bike slowed but I was turning the pedals. I had to sit up more often to open up my stomach and relieve some of the pain. At the next station, I grabbed a banana and water. Both tasted ok but they really didn’t do the trick. I continued on my way, hoping that things would get better. They didn’t.

The new out and back was helpful but I couldn’t wrap my head around riding back to town and then having to run. My mind continued to mess with me. Why am I doing this to my body? I am never doing another Ironman again! Who am I going to disappoint this time if I don’t finish? How can I ask the superintendent to stop calling me Ironman when I didn’t finish another race? The questions kept coming and coming. And just like last time, I started to get sleepy, I was yawning on the bike. Who does that in the middle of the race? This was becoming eerily familiar.

I decided to break the bike course down. I looked at my watch and knew I had until 5 pm to finish the bike. That gave me 4 hours or so to ride 25 miles. I knew I could do that. I decided at the next aid station I would try and reload. I knew this station was 16 miles from home and if I could get there, I would be able to make it. This particular aid station scared me because this was the same one I quit at in 2009. I mentally had to prepare myself to do what I needed to do without stopping for good.

At the aid station, I tried to use the porta potty again. Still no luck. I ate 2 bananas and took my time getting back on the bike. The volunteers were outstanding. I remained there for about 15 minutes as they tried to cater to my needs. Even though I asked, none of them were willing to ride my bike back to town for me. I loaded up with water and reluctantly got back on the bike.

I knew in 3 miles would be the KOA and I would hopefully see Dave and his kids again. For some reason, all I wanted was a ginger ale. I think I rationalized that it would settle my stomach and all would be great. If I saw Dave, I would have him call Tammy and she get it ready for me for the run. As I got to the KOA access road, no Dave, no kids, no ginger ale. No worries.

My next check point was River Road. It was 5 miles from the KOA and 5 miles from T2. I continued to pedal the bike and cool my body with water. God I hate this section of the course. I was being passed more than I would like to have been passed but it was about survival at this point.

Finally, the last hill and back towards town. I began to process trying to run 26.2 miles after struggling on the bike for over 6 hours. I saw Tami and Peter and they were cheering like crazy. All I can do is shake my head. I then saw Tammy, Chris, J and Jenn. Again, I shook my head out of frustration. My hunch was they knew things had gone bad but I had no way to let them know.

Finally off the bike: 6:15:38

Transition #2:
I head into T2 knowing I have 9+ hours to make it through the marathon. I grabbed my bag and headed into the tent. I changed up sunglasses and got everything on pretty easily and quickly. My thoughts were positive only because running had become stronger for me since 2009. I figured if I could get “it” back then I could run a solid marathon and finish the day in a positive way.

The Run: (projected time 3:30 – 3:45)
I took off out of transition and actually felt like I was getting my body back. The first quarter mile is completely downhill and I was able to run easy and fast. I actually looked down and saw I was running at a 6:30 pace and was a bit shocked. That lasted all of 3 minutes. As soon as I got to the first little incline, it felt like I ran into a brick wall. I tried to power through it but my body was having nothing to do with it. How can this be, at ¾ of a mile into a marathon I had to walk?

The only way I can explain this is like this: I was out of energy, completely tapped out. At the first aid station I ate 2 orange wedges and half of a banana. I drank some water, hoping this was going to bring me back. Well, it didn’t. I had nothing. My stomach wasn’t in pain, rather, it felt like I did 1000 sit ups the day before. It was sore to the touch.

Frustration set in as I had 26 miles to go and I was already walking. I was embarrassed that I was walking already and that so many people were running by me. I knew I was going to walk at some point but never did I think it would happen so early.

On the next downhill, I saw David G. He was there watching us and supporting many friends at IMLP. I stopped him and asked if he could call Tammy. I knew this was going to worry her, but I asked Dave to tell her to get me some ginger ale. I was still craving it. I also asked him to tell her it was going to be a long day.

By around 2 miles, Scott passed me. We checked in with each other. He looked good and I knew he was having a solid race. Myles passes me a few minutes later. He looked strong and comfortable. A little later, Tim passed by me. Again, he looked strong and is moving right along. Mentally, I had calculated if I walk 15 minutes/mile, then I will be done between 9 and 10 pm. Not the result I wanted, but done nevertheless.

At each aid station, I filled up on ice and water. Pretzels and cookies were not appetizing. I made the decision that I somehow needed to get moving faster. I decided to run from one telephone pole to the next, and then walk to the next. I was hoping this will bring some energy and motivation back to me. It actually does. After doing this for 15 minutes or so, I decided to run .25 and then walk .25 miles. I would walk the aid stations and load up on ice and water to stay cool.

At the turn around, I begin the run/walk. My running was actually strong; I could run between 7:30 and 8:30 during that quarter mile. Of course, I was walking too so it really wasn’t all that impressive. On the way back to town, I saw Tim B., Tom and Bob. They all looked good. I didn’t seem Kim so I was a bit nervous about what might have happened. At each aid station I cooled my body with sponges and ice. I tried to drink what I could and carried cups of ice until they melted or I ate them.

When I finally got back into town, I walked up the big hill. As I turned the corner, I found Tammy, J, Chris and Jenn. Tammy had the ginger ale I was craving. And, I must say, it tasted delicious. She also had some watermelon. It to was good but my stomach wasn’t as big a fan as I had hoped. I shared with them my issues but I knew I still had 15 miles to go. About 5 minutes later, I saw Tami and Peter, who were now working on the course. Again, more words of encouragement.

On the way out of town, I got some more ginger ale and ran down the hill. I was still tired and feeling the effects of not eating all that much but I knew I was going to make it. I caught up to Scott around mile 15. I shared with him my walk/run plan and he joined the fun. Without question, his body was hurting. We connected with another gentleman a mile later and he joined us as well.

Scott hung tough for a couple of miles as did the other gentlemen. All of us were hurting, albeit, in different ways. My walk/run strategy remained in tact until mile 22. I was holding an 11:05 pace and was ok with my time at this point. I just wanted this Ironman experience to be over. My mind was also figuring out when I was going to get back. J told all of us we had to be finished by 8 pm because they had to leave. A week ago, I thought this wasn’t an issue. But today, I didn’t want to disappoint them by not making that cutoff. Again, weird things go through your mind during Ironman.

It wasn’t until mile 18 that I realized I hadn’t pee’d since the swim. I was drinking what I could tolerate from station to station but still nothing. I tried to “focus” on peeing, but nothing seemed to work. I knew I was dehydrated to a certain extent but not so much that I felt sick or clammy or tired. Or so I thought. More on that later.

The walk/run back to town was very challenging. Knowing I was going to finish really kept me going. The last hill and finally getting to the turnaround by Mirror Lake was a great feeling. I wanted to “conserve” my last little bit of energy so that I could run the last half mile and enter the oval in style. As I got closer to the oval, I made sure to look behind me to insure there was a gap between be and the next person. The last thing I needed was a sprint to the finish line and someone else in my picture. Sounds selfish, but too bad…I’d been out here for over 12 freakin’ hours.

When I got to the oval, everything looked clear. I really wanted to do something crazy and exciting to get the crowd fired up, but instead, I tried to look around and savor the moment. With my hands above the head and happy to be home, I heard Mike Reilly say “David Levesque, you are an Ironman!”

Marathon Time: 4:54:44

Final Time: 12:27:38

Post Race:
After crossing the finish line, Tammy, Chris, Jenn and J were right there. I must say, it was cool having my own “posse” in the finish line area. It was a little blurry at this point. I am not really sure how I acted or what was going through my mind but I remember telling Tammy that I think I should go to the medical tent to get checked out. I hadn’t pee’d in 12 hours and the way the last 8 hours went, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Upon entering the med tent, I explained my dilemma, no food and no pee for a long time. They weighed me in and I had lost over 6 pounds. They found me a cot and I began to talk with the EMT and the nurse about my concerns. They had me answer some questions. What have you eaten? What have you drank? Any pills or salt? I explained to them about the bananas, water, drinks, no pee, breakfast, the pills, etc. I could tell they were not impressed.

The EMT took my blood pressure, my pulse and listened to my lungs, heart, and any other organ I may have. Lastly, he listened to my stomach. The BP was a bit low, heart rate a bit high and my stomach was empty. The doctor came over and got the information. After all of us going through the information again, he heard the word ADVIL come out of my mouth. He asked how many. I told him 3 at 5 am and 3 more around 2 pm. He shook his head, again, unimpressed. He had them take some blood to be tested. This would determine my fate and length of time in the tent.

After a little lecture, he told the EMT to hook me up to an IV. I was severely dehydrated. He had a volunteer get me water and then a cup of chicken broth. The doctor told them to start with 2 bags of IV and see how it goes. They wrapped me up in a blanket to keep me warm.

The blood test came back and my sodium and potassium levels were a bit low. The look I got when he saw the test as it relates to my kidneys and dehydration was one I will never forget. He looked at me. Then the results. Back at me. Then the results again. Basically, he told me my kidneys were on the verge of failing due to dehydration and that I was to remain in the tent until I could pee. He actually brought over a kidney specialist to show him the results. If I can’t pee, I am going to the hospital.

I asked a volunteer to go out and see Tammy. Ben and another volunteer came in to check on me on her behalf. I felt ok, but I guess I really wasn’t. I hate putting her through this and I knew I screwed this one up big time.

They allowed Tammy into the med tent, which they never do. We both listened to the EMT explain that my blood basically had no fluid in it and that was all that was running through me. He shared that your blood begins to get thicker which can lead to some bad stuff. A few days later, my brother-in-law confirmed how bad it could have been.

The doctor and EMT were simply outstanding. They were there doing and saying what I needed to hear. After a little bit, the doctor said I needed to take in six (yes 6) bags of IV. That was 3 liters in all. To wrap my head around how much I was taking in, I thought of a 2 liter of Coke and ½ of another one. I guess I was on empty. For good measure, they made me finish 2 cups of broth and a 20 ounce of water.

Then, it happened, I had to go pee. The EMT walked me out to the porta potty and while he held the IV out the door, I was able to pee. A lot. I think they topped me off. After removing the IV, I was able to leave. I actually felt great. Yes I was sore, but I felt ready to eat and drink more. So I did!

Final Thoughts:
This Ironman was the most challenging thing I have ever done mentally and physically. I say this due to what I put my mind and body through during the day. I had no idea how close I was to being in the hospital but I do know how close I was to quitting. Luckily, neither happened. I learned a lot about myself and in retrospect, I know where and when I made all of those mistakes. Even better, I think I know how to fix each and every one of them.

The support of Tammy, Peter, Tami, Dave C., Will, Anna, J, Chris, Jenn and all of the other people out there was unmatched. Every time I felt like I wanted to quit, someone was there to yell my name and push me forward. Whether it was Kim, Tom, Tim, Bob, Tim B., Myles, Sean, Lisa or Scott on the course, I knew they were behind me 100%. Getting the text messages, phone calls and emails was amazing as well. It still shocks me at how many people go out of their way to support me and my fellow triathletes.

During the race, I told myself “never again can I put myself or my family through something this”. I verbalized this to both Tammy and my parents. They were all relieved, excited and readily agreed with my decision. I want to say I will never do an Ironman again….

But, like Justin Bieber says…“Never Say Never!”

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Chance at Redemption

Back in 2009, I attempted Ironman Lake Placid for the second time. I had lofty goals and aspirations after a solid first time performance in 2008. Training, I believe, went very well and I was ready.

Then something happened. Plain and simple, I did not make it to the finish line at Ironman Lake Placid. I failed.

About 2 months ago, I finally was able to tell Tammy that this has been haunting me for the last 12 months. It literally has been on my mind and bothering me for months and months.

I have failed at things before. Missing the game winning shot. Losing a State Championship game. Not getting a job I felt I deserved. But for some reason, this really, really aggravated me.

From the moment I was on the beach, I knew I had no desire to be racing IMLP. The swim was fine, but the moment I got onto my bike, I wanted nothing to do with this race. The miserable feeling grew and grew until mile 56 when I stopped and saw my family. With their encouragement, I continued, albeit, reluctantly.

In my mind, I was looking for any excuse not to continue. At mile 90, I found it, dehydration. I hadn't pee'd even after drinking enough liquids to make a fish jealous. My mind was telling my body that I was unable and willing to finish. Finally, at mile 100, I called it quits.

To this day, I am thoroughly pissed off at myself for making that call.

In hindsight, I should have just sat at the medical tent, rested, got my bearings and continued on. There was no reason for me NOT to continue. For the first time that I can can remember, I just gave up. I cracked.

Eighteen months later, it still eats away at me. I can't explain my frustration and disappointment I feel from that day, but I now have a chance at redemption.

You see, I was able to get into Lake Placid for 2011. In 7 months, if all goes well, I will be back on the beach in Lake Placid, New York with 2600 of my closest friends. I have nothing to prove to anyone, but a lot to prove to myself.

A lot has changed in 2 years, that's for sure. I raced only 2 times in 2010 while focusing on my running. I have a new job with more responsibilities. Summers are now longer "free" and I seem to be busier than ever. However, this may be exactly what I need to re-focus and get stronger.

I am unsure whether finishing IMLP in 2011 will exorcise my demons of 2009, but time will tell.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I Think I Am Getting Older

I honestly believe age is just a number. I think I stated this in a past entry. However, think my body is beginning to tell me something different. I remember listening to a comedian talking about getting older but if you are an "athlete", I think it hits you a little bit differently.

In some way, we are all egocentric because we exercise to improve how we look and how we feel. We are also competitive in some manner or we wouldn't be doing what we are doing day in and day out. Having tunred 40 this year, I don't believe I am slowing down. In fact, I just set a PR for a half marathon last week. But, things are a-changin'.

Creams. Have you ever noticed how many different creams or gels you are using as you have gotten older? It hit me the other day when I was getting ready for work AFTER a workout. Dry skin, skin cream. Achy calf, Arnica Cream. Dry, crusty feet, Bag Balm Cream. Gotta shave, shaving cream. Again, this is AFTER a workout. If you add the Body Glide before a workout, you have another. Ten years ago, I just showered, put on deodarant the went. Now, not so much.

Hair. I don't care if I have grey hair as long as it keeps growing back. But, it seems hair in my ears and in my nose are growing at a much faster rate than those on my head. Why is that? You already know my aversion to body hair but having it grow and grow out of my nose and ears is ridiculous. I don't get it AND don't like it. Thank goodness for tweezers and hair trimmers!

Naps. I know I am up early and my jobs' stress level has increased, but if I lay down on the couch, I fall asleep. I mean, I don't even remember falling asleep and nothing wakes me for that 30 minutes or so. I am out, cold. This never used to happen. I know it happens to my mom and dad, but me too?

Car Rides. For some reason, music in the car doesn't do it for me anymore. I now find myself listening to "talk radio" more often than ever. Why is that? Has the music gotten worse or have have my tastes changed? I seem to get bored listening to music but hearing to some person talk about cars stimulates my mind. Have I gotten more mature? I just don't get it.

I know there are changes that are happening to me physically, but mentally too? How does one fight the ear and nose hair? Or the need for use of a plethora of creams? Or even the urge to listen to stupid talk radio?

I know how to fight the battle physically and will keep fighting the good fight. Anyone with suggestions for the other battle??

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Problem Solved...Boston Bound

Preface: Three months ago I was trying to figure out was was next for me. I had done one triathlon all summer and that was in June. I had planned to take some time off but never this much. I was getting the racing bug.

I had been running quite a bit, just out of "enjoyment" when the discussion of running a marathon popped up. Kim, Peter and Tami had all signed up for the new Hampton Rockfest Marathon. Another running partner, James (J for short) had never done a marathon and we had talked about the potential of doing this race. After some banter back and forth, we were both in.

Problem #1: Eight weeks to train for a marathon

I found a running program online and having trained for one in the past, I had a pretty good idea what to do. Basically, it was 4-5 runs per week, increasing mileage each week with long runs on the weekend. Again, learning from past experiences, I felt pretty confident I could get the mileage in. Problem solved!

Problem #2: Nutrition on Race Day

I didn't do anything during the summer that was long enough to worry about nutrition. I know that I sweat a lot more salt than I originally thought and dehydration was still an issue with me. Ok, I bought some EFS drink mix to help. Second, bought endorolytes to help with this issue. Third, bought some Anti-Fatigue Caps to help even more. On race day, we worked it out that Tammy and Chris would hand us our second drinks about half way through the event. I also increased my frequency of drinking each and every run. Problem solved!

Problem #3: Try to Qualify for Boston

J planted the seed in my mind that maybe we could both qualify for Boston. This now become a secondary goal to finishing. My finishing time would have to be 3:20:59 or 7:40/mile. J's time would have to be 3:30:59 or 8:00/mile. I felt if everything went perfect, I would have an outside shot at meeting this time goal. So, I developed a race plan to try and meet this goal. Problem Solved!

Problem #4: Hampton is Flat, Meredith is Not

When running in Meredith, it is hilly. No matter where you go, there are hills. I felt to be a better flat course runner, I needed to train on a flat course. Tami came up with the idea of running in Laconia. Although only 5 miles away, we could make our way through most of the city on flat roads. So, all of our longs runs were in Laconia. We weaved in and out of the city and kept the runs as flat as possible. Problem solved!

Problem #5: Long Run Breakthrough

When training for my last marathon, my longest run was 18 miles. At that point, I was sick of running and called Tammy to come and pick me up. J and I did an 18 mile run and it sucked. Maybe it was too fast but I didn't enjoy it. The following week, I went out with Tami and Kim for a 20 mile run. I was able to run some loops and used this to "run them down". My fastest miles were the last 3 and I felt incredibly strong. I was breathing easy and singing loudly with my Ipod (just ask them). A breakthough! Problem solved.

Final Problem: Signing Up for Boston

Well, J and I both made it!!! But, signing up for Boston, I thought, was going to be easy. It wasn't. I had secretaries and friends trying to get me in. Finally after 3:07:58 of trying to get in, I finally did. Today, I got my confirmation! Problem solved...Boston Bound.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"One" of Those Workouts

You ever have “one” of those workouts. No, not the bad kind, but actually a good one. Well, I had one the other day.

I was on my last long run of the week and was hoping just to get through the 10 miles I had planned. I figured my legs would be tired after running just over 11 miles the day before.

I went into the run with a few things on my mind. First, I wanted to drink every 10 minutes to begin training my body for this type of distance. Second, I wanted to eat some Jelly Belly Beans every 30 minutes to keep my system “full” of "nutrients". Lastly, I wanted to maintain a comfortable 8:00/mile pace as I ran the Timberman 70.3 course.

My run started out innocently enough. Everything was going well and I was feeling very comfortable without heavy legs. Early on, I was maintaining a sub-8:00/mile pace and not overly worrying about the time. I drank and ate as I continued on my little journey.

At mile 4, I realized that I was about 2 minutes ahead of schedule. I figured a 7:30 pace was fast for a training run but I didn’t feel tired or fatigued. As the miles clicked off, my times got faster each mile. By mile 7, I was 5 minutes ahead.

At this point, like anyone who loves to compete, I started to push myself. I never, for a minute, felt out of control or out of breath. Every time I looked down, I was shocked to see my pace UNDER 7:00. I was seeing crazy numbers like 6:15, 6:28, 6:40, as the miles just kept disappearing.

Of course, at this point I am excited that I have been able to push myself to run 10 miles. When I get back to the car I take my final look…10 miles in 1:12:28. That’s a 7:14 pace! Was this a fluke? Break through? I don’t know and I don’t care. I did it and I felt great.

Now, I know this is just one run, but it was the last 10 miles of a 40 mile week for me. Anyone who has struggled with logging a lot of miles in one week understands the dread of having one last long run to do. Fun, it is not.

With all of the workouts we do, we always seem to remember the bad ones. The workouts that we suffered through. The next time you have a great workout, cherish it. You never know when it will happen again!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Do You Need a Coach?

The other day I was looking through Facebook when a topic popped up about coaching. There was discussion about whether you should hire a coach if you are a triathlete. I was curious about the topic and began thinking about it while snow blowing my driveway. I am not an expert on this topic, but I do have some thoughts.

First, because someone can swim, bike or run really fast, it does NOT make them a coach. Because someone can post a fast time in a race, it does NOT make them a coach, either.

Second, everyone THINKS he/she can coach. Trust me, they can't. I have been asked to coach or help coach a variety of athletes. Although I feel I could do an adequate job, I always say "no". I actually know a person who has done one sprint and one 70.3 and is advertising herself as a triathlon coach. And, because someone holds a USAT Coaching Certification, this does not make them qualified to coach YOU.

Third, why do you want a coach? To get faster? To win? To learn more? Or are you just willing to give your money away to anyone who has an opinion on what YOU should be doing to be a better triathlete?

Now that I have that out of the way, I will start be explaining why I hired a coach. About 5 years ago, I felt I was doing everything I could to be the best triathlete. I read a lot. I asked questions. I went to clinics. Started a triathlon club. In reality, I had peaked. I wanted more. I wanted to be an "All American" triathlete and the only way this would happen would be to hire someone.

So, what was I looking for? I wanted someone who I could call or see at almost any time. I wanted someone who wanted to know "me", not just my goals. I wanted to be able to ask questions, seek support and get through the challenges that I knew I was going to have.

When I finally hired a coach, things went very well and I improved. Although much of the training early on did not makes sense to me at the time, I was beginning to get faster and faster. I was able to ask questions, meet with her and figure out what was best for ME. Was I winning races? No, but I was getting better day to day and year to year. It worked out really well and we clicked as a team.

Back to the bigger question...do you need a coach? In my opinion, it really comes down to your personal goals. Do you want to finish? Podium? Survive? Win? Those are the real questions. What do YOU want from your season? What will make you feel safe, comfortable and satisfied? Do you need a set program or can you just wing it?

Here is what really scares me about coaches and coaching. In our age of technology, there are so many options. You can go online and find anything you want about triathlons. There are free programs, expensive programs and crazy programs. My advice, buyer beware.

If you are going to hire a coach, here is what I would suggest:

*Personal Touch: Any coach who is worth their credentials will want to really get to know YOU. When I say "know you", I mean, they will take the time to talk with you either in person or on the phone (I prefer in person). They won't have you fill out a survey form, rather, ask you specific questions. This includes pre and post-season meetings.
*Availability: Your coach needs to be available to you, no matter how many clients they have. You are paying for a service and if they can't respond to phone calls or emails in a timely fashion, they are not worth it.
*Cost: What are you willing to pay and what will you get? I am not a fan of sliding scales but I do understand the reasoning. However, coaches are now charging upwards of $600/month for their services. Is it worth it?
*Time: You time...how much time do you have to dedicate to your training. If you can only commit 5 hours a week, why bother?
*Ability to Adjust: Like everything mentioned previously, can this coach adjust your schedule on short notice to fit your needs? What if something happens, are they willing to work with you to make it work for you?
*Experience: Have the every raced before? What is their background in the field. I think having a coach that has experienced what you may have to go through will always be more beneficial than someone who has just studied it.

I think there are some really good coaching service out there. Can you get stuff online, sure. Will it help most people, yes. However, I still think YOU have to decide your personal goals before spending the money.

I am taking a year away from being coached and am going to "coach" myself this year. I have no expectations but I want try some things that I feel may help me later on in racing. I will be my very own guineau pig in the hopes of helping others in the future. I expect this year will be full of unexpected highs and lows.

I'll keep you posted. Until then, good luck in your training.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Racing For Fun

When is a race not really a race? Well, I guess that depends on who you are, what you consider racing and what your goals are for that event.

Today, I did something I never did before. I raced without really racing. What I mean is this; I participated in the Hampton 1/2 Marathon with my mind set on running "easy". I know when some people read this, they will interpret my "easy" as fast. However, it's all relative.

Like many triathletes, I use many running races to gauge fitness level and current ability. It is an easy way to see how the body will respond to race-like conditions before, during and after an event.

However, today I decided to run comfortably for 13.1 miles. The challenges were going to be a bit different. First, I had to mentally make sure I stayed at a comfortable pace. Second, I had to control my competitive instincts. This means that I would have to run against myself and not worry about who was passing me or finishing ahead of me. Finally, I wanted to finish this race without getting hurt. Training has been very limited and I haven't run more than 20 miles in a week so I was a bit worried.

With a time goal of 1:44:00 or 8:00/mile pace, I felt I could accomplish my above mentioned concerns. This is usually my training pace so I had a good idea on how to pace myself. The weather was perfect for a February day in New Hampshire, although a bit windy at times.

On to the race. I must say, it went perfectly. I felt so at ease and so comfortable on the course that it was scary. No mental stress. No physical stress. No worries. The miles just clicked away. Never have I felt so at ease running 13.1 miles, let alone any race.

Here are the miles and pace:

*Mile 1: 7:42
*Mile 2: 7:36
*Mile 3: 7:39
*Mile 4: 7:43
*Mile 5: 7:44
*Mile 6: 7:36
*Mile 7: 6:58 (I think this mile was short)
*Mile 8: 7:53 (I think this mile was long)
*Mile 9: 7:40
*Mile 10: 7:31
*Mile 11: 7:47
*Mile 12: 7:49
*Mile 13.1: 7:52

As you can see, with a flat course, I stayed pretty consistent. I was amazed at how good I felt from mile to mile. I was amazed how easy each mile felt. I was happy with how everything fell into place.

Having never really run a race for fun, the most difficult thing for me was feeling really good and NOT pushing myself out of my comfort level. My heart rate felt great. My legs stayed with me. And I enjoyed the run. Hmmm, maybe I have something here.

Anyway, I can't say I am going to keep "racing" this way but it was a positive change for me. I ate like a horse after the race and began to work on my nutrition for the upcoming season. All in all, a very good day.

In closing, I figured that sometimes it is better to go a bit slower and to take it all in. Enjoy the day, the scenery, the people around you. I still got my medal and race shirt, so who really cares. RIGHT???