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I accomplished my goals — I placed within my division, I finished with a time I was (mostly) happy with, and I was not eaten or even nibbled by an alligator. Overall, I’m calling it a success.

Kristen and Patrick at Moss Park tri

With Patrick, sweaty, dirty and smiling big.

One of the biggest challenges of this race, for me, was the fact that it was a 7:15 start in a location more than two hours away, and I had to drive down the morning of the race. Honestly, I never would have done that myself — that 3:30 wake up was pretty unkind, and, while a single (albeit very large) cup of coffee was just fine, I know that drinking too much coffee does Very Bad Things to my tummy, and when you pair that with nerves and then biking and running and no bathrooms nearby, it’s, uhhh, problematic. So a single cup of coffee it is!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it alone. In fact, the main reason I signed up for the race is because my good friend (and coach, and inspiration, really), Patrick, had signed up for it and was moving to New York a few days later, so although we’ve done plenty of workouts together and talked extensively about races, we’d never actually done one together.

Of course, by “together” I mean he did it in half the time. He did win the damn thing last year, after all, and despite doing basically no tri training at all in recent months, he still placed 3rd in his age group and 12th overall. See? Inspiration.

As for me, I honestly did just fine. We ran a little late, so I had to rush through setting up my transition area in order to have time to hit the bathroom before the pre-race meeting. (Tangent — who else believes that a pre-race bathroom break is a non-negotiable? I mean, I would actually start the race a minute or two late rather than stop during the race.)

Unlike other tris I’ve done, this swim took place in a lake (hence my alligatorly concerns), and although the water was, like, black, and I couldn’t sight the buoys for the life of me (which turned out to be a common problem) it was a nice swim. Pretty smooth, and I love that half-mile distance. I was 12th out of the water in the women’s wave, which was a bit of a disappointment, but, hey, that’s what you get for not training, I suppose.

The bike took a challenging but interesting route, through neighborhoods and with lots of twists and turns. My bike computer broke during St. Anthony’s, so I had no idea how far I’d gone, which, honestly, was kind of fun. I just pushed hard without totally blowing my legs for the run and finished the bike right around the middle of the pack.

And the run. Oh, the run. I was actually really excited because it’s just a 2.8 mile run, but I hadn’t taken into account the fact that some of it was on trail, and all of it was on packed dirt, which is great for the knees (it’s softer), but tough on weak ankles. I might’ve aroused a bird or two with my near-constant shrieks of, “Oooh! Woooo!” as I nearly fell over from stepping on a rock or in a shallow hole. I kept something around a 11 minute mile pace — far from great, but nothing I’m going to be embarrassed about.

About 10 minutes after I finished, as Patrick and I were loading up the bikes, I got the best surprise. Jared (who was working in Orlando that day) called, which he said he would do around 9. Here’s the conversation:

J: “Hey, where are you?”

Me: “Still at the race, packing up.”

J: “No, where are you?”

Me: “Ummm, Moss Park? You know, at the race?”

J: “NO. Where in the park are you?”

Me: “Shut up. Shut up shut up! Are you here? No way, you’re not here. Wait, are you here?”

Spoiler alert — he was there. It had been a few days since I’d seen him anyway since he’d been traveling, and then, having him surprise me by showing up at the end of the race was just … well, if you ever hear me complain about him, just remind me of this, okay? It was really freaking cool.

Also, just a note about the race itself — definitely a good one to do. Swimming in a lake is a bit of a novelty when you’re used to swimming in the ocean, and the park itself is lovely, if a bit buggy, so pack bug spray with your sunscreen. It’s not a huge race, but there were multiple events (aqua bike, etc.) which really lent to a bigger feel. And it’s a great one for first timers — they even have a My First Triathlon division with shorter distances (or a shorter swim, anyway, not sure about the rest). I definitely see myself coming back to do this one next year!

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End of the bike leg, hitting the horribly bumpy cobblestone. Not fair after 90 minutes in the saddle.

After four solid months of training, it’s over — I participated in the St. Anthony’s triathlon on Sunday, and I finished. Final, official time: 3:04:12. Take that, #50 on my Life List!

(I posted a full race report over at Fit Bottomed Girls and you should definitely go read that, but, well, this was kind of a big deal for me, so I thought it was worth sharing here as well.) Read the rest of this entry »

This is getting serious. My Big Race is in three days. THREE. And while I mostly feel excited rather than nervous, well, there are still some nerves (as evidenced by my super weird nightmare about getting lost on the bike leg and riding through gravel and then ending up in an office building, which appeared to be where Chrysler’s executive offices are, and while there, I ran into the Dyson guy who tried to sell me a vacuum and when I explained I was in the middle of a triathlon, he started showing me pictures of himself doing that exact race).

But, here’s the thing. At this point, I’m just going to have to rely on the training I’ve done over the last four months. There’s nothing I’m going to do in the next couple of days that will make me faster or stronger, other than eating and drinking properly and getting plenty of rest. At this point, I’m just trying to make sure I find a way to relax and enjoy the event I’ve worked really, really hard for.

Still, I have some goals, and while more often than not, I keep those to myself, I’ve been so open about other parts of the training for this that I feel like keeping my goals from you all would be a little unfair. So, here we go.

  1. I want to finish in under 3 hours. This is going to be a real challenge for me, I know, but I also know that, if everything goes right, I can totally do that. And yes, 2:59:59 is still totally under 3 hours.
  2. If I go over 3 hours, I want to still keep it close to that time — no giving up and walking* because it’s looking more like a 3:10 finish!
  3. I want to be one of the first people out of the water in my wave. If I’m being totally honest, what I really want is to be the first woman out, but I’m certainly not going to be brokenhearted if that’s not the case — because I’m competing in the novice division, it’s really hard to have an idea of what I’ll be up against.
  4. I want to finish strong. The run is probably where I’m weakest, and, as it turns out, I’ll be starting that 10k run around 11 a.m., which means I should finish right around noon. And it will be in the mid to high 80s at that point. But I’ve prepared for this. I’ve run in the midday sun, I have Gu, sodium tabs, and plans to drop ice down my pants to cool down (what?). I know I won’t run my fastest 10k ever, but I want that final mile to be just as fast as the first. Ideally, faster.
  5. I want to enjoy it. I know that sounds a bit crazy, because there’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to hurt like hell. But, you guys, this is such a big deal to me. I kind of can’t believe that I’ve trained this hard for so long and that I’m SO READY. Once upon a time, I interviewed Lucy Danziger, the editor for Self Magazine, and she gave me the best advice ever: Always remember when you’re out running (or biking, or whatever) that you’re doing this because you can. There are so many people who can’t, for whatever reason, and what an amazing privilege it is that I’m able to be a part of this. If you happen to be at the race and you see me going by and I have anything but a smile on my face, please remind me of that fact. I might throw something at you, but I won’t have anything heavy on you, so you’re safe.

Those of you who’ve done challenging races — what kind of goals did you have? Did I leave anything out? Well, other than get a cute picture, but I feel like that’s almost a given, right?

*The one caveat to the finishing strong — if I have a flat or something else that puts me way, way, waaaay behind my goal time, I’m just going to have fun with it. I hear that the homeowners come out during the run, and some of them offer beer. If I’m already going to be 30-45 minutes behind what I aimed for, you can expect me to be a bit tipsy by the time I cross the finish line. Hooray beer!

I’ve probably used this analogy here before, but sometimes I feel like blogging is a lot like keeping in touch with a friend who lives far away. When you make a point to talk on the phone frequently, it’s really easy to just dial her up and tell her about the latest, stupid little thing that’s happened. But, when you haven’t talked to her in a while, you can’t just call her up and be all, “Oh my god you would not believe the size of the ball of ear wax that just came out of my ear!” because first you have to catch up on all the big things that are going on and by the time you’ve heard about how she’s selling her house and they’ve adopted a Romanian orphan, the news of your ear wax ball, impressive though it surely is, seems to pale a little in comparison.

But! Since I get to talk first, you get to hear all about my metaphorical (and maybe literal) ear wax balls before you get to tell me about your new orphan. God I love blogging.

I quit my job. You know, the job writing and editing for Paw Nation (and also writing for other AOL properties) which I’ve done for the last few years and  LOVED. I don’t really want to go into details right here, right now — it just doesn’t seem cool — but let me just say that I’m a big believer in signs, and this time, the universe made it really clear that it was time for me to move on, and so I have. I’m still figuring out exactly what I’m going to do, but I’m planning to use the opportunity (yes, I’m totally considering it an opportunity) to follow my heart and get some exciting new experiences under my belt. It’s all good, I promise.

I did a (practice) tri. My big race, the Olympic length St. Anthony’s tri, is Sunday (as in, like, a few days away), but a little over a week ago I did a sprint distance tri (about half the length) in Jacksonville to warm up, along with my friend Jodi (who took first place in our age group — I took third). Overall, it left me feeling pretty excited for the race, and only somewhat nervous. Maybe a little more than somewhat, but I’m definitely not freaking out. Well, not much, anyway. Most of the time.

I threw a killer party. The animal rescue I volunteer with, Puppy Hill Farm, had its biggest fundraiser of the year on Friday night, and I sort of headed up the committee for the event. It was pretty major and incredibly stressful but, overall, I think it was a pretty big success, and I’m already brimming with ideas for next year. Because clearly I’m insane. (Although one of the main ideas is GET MORE HELP. I think that’ll make a huge difference.) Still, it’s a huge weight off my shoulders to have this over — I’ve been working on it in some way for the last five months, and when I woke up Saturday and knew there was nothing I needed to do, well, I almost wept with relief.

I had an emotional surprise. After the Puppy Hill gala, we had loads of flower centerpieces left over, and one of the women there suggested taking some to a nursing home. I was planning on doing a bike/run brick out in Trenton (you remember this trail, right?), which is where the nursing home where my grandma lived for several years is located. I figured since I’d be in the area, I’d stop in, drop flowers off, thank the nurses for all they did, and be on my way. Well, I got no further than saying, “My grandmother lived here for quite a while,” before the nurses all said, “Oh, you’re Sara’s granddaughter! We just loved her so much.” And then I sobbed. This was not at all expected. I mean, Grandma Sara died over a year ago, and I was pretty prepared for it even then. Why this hit me so hard, I couldn’t tell you, but I’m extremely touched that these nurses cared enough about Grandma to not only remember her, but even remember her granddaughter.

Okay, you’re all caught up on me, I think. (I’ll save the ear wax ball story for another time.) Now what’s new with you all? Anybody moving, having babies, getting a new hair cut?

When I was in high school, I had to run two miles for basketball tryouts. I want to say that we were supposed to do it in under 20 minutes, and let me tell you, it was not easy for me. I was not a runner — I was scrappy, and I was strong, and I was tough and a little mean, but I was not much for running. I worked at it and made it, although I sometimes wonder if the coach would’ve actually cut me my senior year if I hadn’t.

The first race I ever ran (7 years ago or so, I think), was a half marathon. I trained hard, but not properly, really — I mean, I just kind of went running and kept adding miles on, you know? I finished with just over an 11-minute pace and was proud … and determined to never do any sort of long distance again.

Since then, I’ve done lots of short distances — 5ks, 4-milers, and sprint tris (which include a 5k). But the triathlon in May has a 10k run, so I’ve been building my mileage. And, when I got the notice for a 10k right down the road from me, I signed up in a flash with a goal to finish in under 60 minutes, which would put me at just under a 10 minute mile pace.

What I didn’t realize until a couple of nights before was that just over half the race was through the woods. On sort of a trail. You know, in the woods. And hell, I hadn’t even been running on uneven sidewalks or streets with potholes, so, I was nervous to say the least.

The first mile and change felt amazing. It was a beautiful day, my legs were fresh, and I had to really work to keep myself from starting out too fast, and even so, I caught myself running at a 8:45 and 9:00 pace. That adrenaline will really get you, you know? Once I got in the woods, though, it was a different story. Although they did a great job of clearing debris, it was still tough.

There were basically three types of terrain — soft, sandy ground, like running on the beach; layers of slippery leaves, leaving me with no traction; and gopher holes, both seen and unseen. And since this wasn’t my big race — I really saw it as a training run — I decided to really slow it down and be cautious to avoid injury. Don’t get me wrong, I was still pushing myself, just keeping it where I felt comfortable. And I still almost fell about five times.

By the time I got out of the woods, I was feeling pretty beat but have never been happier to see a level stretch of asphalt. I gave it all I had, and finished in 1:01:30 — just 90 seconds over my real goal. And you know what? I’m totally okay with that. It’s a huge improvement over what I could’ve done a few months ago, and my confidence was lifted enormously. I mean, if I was able to come that close to my goal with over three miles of trail running thrown in there, I honestly think that I could knock that goal out on a regular 10k. And the next 5k is going to be great — it’s a PR or nothing, baby.

I still really don’t know if I’ll be able to hold that kind of pace in the tri, because, well, my legs certainly won’t feel so fresh coming off a 40k bike ride. But I’m glad I did it, am really glad I didn’t get hurt, and am excited for my next race (a sprint tri in Jacksonville next month, unless I sign up for a 5k in the meantime).

Hey, remember when I told you about that swim test I was a little hand-wringy over? And then for the last month and a half you’ve been dying — DYING — to know how it went?

(Oh, what’s that you say? You neither remember it nor do you give two shits? Eh, to each his own, I suppose. I mean, if I can’t be bothered to post regularly, I probably can’t really expect you to wait with bated breath, can I?)

Anyway, it happened and … well, it was good. I kind of set two goals, as I usually do for a race, the first being what I’d be perfectly happy with, but not elated over, and the second being my true, shoot-for-the-stars goal. And I kind of blew them both out of the water (get it? swimming and water? har, har, har)

I’m still really, really enjoying my swim classes, and honestly miss hitting the pool when I’m unable to go. But the fact that my swim test went well got me thinking that, if I can improve rapidly and do that well in the pool, maybe I should look into getting some coaching in the other individual sport I spend a lot of time on — running. Since the guy teaching swim class had just won a triathlon (like, as in, won the whole damn thing. Yeah, I know.), I thought I’d ask him if he’d be interested in helping me out with some running. So, for the last three weeks, I’ve been getting lessons on how to run.

Oh, you guys. You think running is just something that, like, you go out and do, right? I assure you it is not. The first lesson, we completely changed my form. The way I land, the way I kick back, the way I hold my arms … all changed. I have to think about all this stuff, all the time. Since then, he’s been doing drills with me in an attempt to make running a little more interesting and — dare I say it? — fun.

(Except for last week, when we did hills, and the first thing he said was, “You know, it’s okay if you puke.” Umm, okay with him, maybe …)

((There was no puking, but I might’ve said a few words that probably would’ve made the fellas hanging around my dad’s bait shop blush.))

(((Sorry, Mom. And yes Dad, I’ll teach you those words next time I see you.)))

Here’s the thing with me and running. I’ve done a lot of it. I’ve run for basketball and I’ve run fairly long distances and I’ve run lots and lots of short distances. And, for the most part, you can just about set a watch by the time it takes me to run a mile. (You know, if you don’t mind your watch being off by 30 seconds or so.) I’m a 10-minute miler, and while I don’t think that’s anything to feel bad about, I definitely feel like, for the amount of time I’ve put into running, I should probably be able to pick up the pace, you know?

I don’t have any delusions of winning a half marathon or anything; I truly don’t. But, when I run 5ks, especially the little local ones, I want to be closer to the front than to the back. I don’t want to come in behind the middle of the pack. I want to finish with a time that I’m not only not embarrassed by, but a time that I want to shout from the rooftops. I want to go out to brunch afterward and have to hold myself back from telling the server how I did.

I just signed up for a four-mile race on October 1. It’s an evening race (I’m far better in the evenings than in the early mornings) with a beer festival afterward, which seems like a nice thing to run toward. My coach will be running, and since he’ll probably finish in about half the time it’ll take me (seriously, I’m probably only exaggerating the tiniest amount) as well as another pal who runs at a good clip (hi, Kevin), I’ll have at least a couple of people cheering for me at the finish line, hopefully with a nice Belgian wheat beer ready for me.

So, the goal — I feel very … naked putting this out in public, but I think I need the accountability — the first goal is to keep a 9:30 pace, which would bring me in at 38 minutes. The shoot-for-the-stars goal is to keep it at 9 minutes, meaning a finish at 36 minutes. It’s absolutely NUTS to me that it’s going to mean pushing myself so much harder just to win those two or four minutes, but those of you who’ve shot for a time in a race will understand. And those of you who haven’t, well, I hope you’ll at least have a beer with me that night, in spirit!

I just can’t seem to commit. No, not to my marriage (Mom and Mom-in-Law — put the phone down). The thing I’m wishy-washy about is sure to bring me far more pain than Jared ever will. Or at least I sure hope so.

I went to the gym with my neighbor the other day, and she mentioned that she and her husband were planning to do a half-marathon at the end of February. February, 2010. That seems like a nice, long way off. And so, of course, doing the race sounds like a great idea.

The problem is, I’ve done one of these before.

That smile has nothing to do with the fact that I'd run 13.1 miles. It was only there because I knew I'D NEVER HAVE TO DO THAT AGAIN.

That smile has nothing to do with the fact that I'd run 13.1 miles. It was only there because I knew I'D NEVER HAVE TO DO THAT AGAIN. My friend, Jami, though -- she was ACTUALLY smiling.

It was hard. Like, really, really hard. The training was tough, but not all that bad because, well, I didn’t really do it. I think I ran 10 miles at one point, but until race day, I’d never done 13.1. Thirteen point one freaking miles, people.

(And hey, you — the one who runs marathons with the kind of speed I reserve for running after a child who stole my ice cream? You can kindly keep your pie hole shut, thanks. For regular, human people, 13.1 miles is a long goddamn distance to run.)

Anyway, for many months after the race (which was in December 2006, I believe), I swore I’d never do anything like that again. And then, a funny thing happened. I started to want to run one again. I guess I just wanted to prove I could do it again, or something equally insane. I’m pretty sure it’s the lame ass runner’s equivalent to women forgetting how awful labor was when they decide to have another baby.

So, when my neighbor, who just had a baby, as a matter of fact, mentioned training for this, I said something like, “Holy hell that’s a terrible idea! Don’t you know how hard that is?” Only it came out more like, “You know, that sounds like fun. I’d love to train with you.”

(It should be noted that I initially called her to see if she’d like to come over for happy hour and instead asked if she wanted to go to the gym. Days like that, I should just keep my pie hole shut.)

So. End of February. Running 13.1 miles. But at least there should be pirates and beer. Lots and lots of beer.

As you might have astutely discerned from my previous post, I had a bit of difficulty in last weekend’s triathlon — the Crystal River Sprint Tri #1. I finished, and aside from actually showing up, I truly believe that’s the most important thing. In fact, I’m not even going to pretend that I’m too upset about my time, because I wasn’t expecting anything too spectacular.

(See, kids? See how that works? When you set your sights low, you can’t lose! Whee!)

But still, things could have gone better.

The swim was far more difficult than I remembered. Everyone is always telling me how hard they find the swim, and I just never have. For the first half, I was right in the mix, up at the front, and then … I died. I kept breathing in water, and I went waaay off course … and consequently, I came in a couple minutes later than I should have. Not the best start.

Additionally, remember how I was saying I didn’t really train? That included cycling. In fact, I hadn’t been on my bike (which was Jared’s dad’s, and is made for a man about 5″ taller than me) for over a year and a half until the night before, when I rode it around my parents’ cul de sac. You know, to make sure I could. I’m not so good on the bike to begin with. Anyway, I wasn’t fast by any means, but I stayed on. The only problem was trying to get water — I just couldn’t pedal and reach for the bottle (or hold it, or put it back) at the same time, so I ended up only getting one quick drink. Over the course of 15 miles. After swallowing at least my own weight in salt water. Awesome.

Which brings us to the run — the only part I think I probably was prepared for. However, it turns out that, if you sweat a lot and don’t drink anything, your muscles get a little fussy. Both my calves were completely rock solid. My ankles felt arthritic, I was getting chills, and my quads … well, they just had nothing to give. I’ll be honest — I actually considered quitting. And anyone who knows me at all knows that I just don’t do that.

And I didn’t. I stopped numerous times to walk, stretch, and pound on my calves, and when I got to the first water station at Mile 1, I stopped and drank two large cups of water before moving on. Luckily for me, there was another water station at Mile 1 1/2, I drank some more, and, voila! My legs worked again! It’s a miracle, the way that works. Another thing that helped — there was a girl with a big chocolate lab around Mile 2, so I stopped and got some cuddles. That definitely gave me  a boost.

Jared, Mom and Dad were stationed near the finish line (cameras in hand, but I haven’t gotten the pics from anyone yet) — they were total troopers, leaving at 6:15 with me and hanging out for the whole race. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see them, even though none of them wanted to hug my sweaty mess of a body once I finished. Still, as I said before, I finished. My time was 1:45 — I had hoped for something closer to 1:30, but I’ll get it next time. Because I will train and I will hydrate. Lessons learned.

  1. You know that hydration thing that fitness experts are always jawing about? Yeah, turns out it actually is really important.
  2. Familiar faces at a finish line can give you a real boost. Cameras have a similar effect
  3. Often, the restaurants that look the WORST have the very best food. Even if they look like a crack house on the outside.
  4. Getting away from the computer once in a while is not only a good thing — it’s completely necessary.

Oh my god, get your mind out of the gutter. This isn’t one of those posts.

I just joined the 2009 Shave Your 5k Challenge over at Half-Fast, which means I not only will be running in some 5k races this year, but I’ll be trying really hard to improve my time. I might not stand a chance at taking first place in a race (trust me, I don’t, unless it’s for Looking Cute or Most Wheezy or Best Shoes), but I think I have room to improve (good god, do I ever), so this might be something I CAN win. And boy, do I like winning.

Anyway, I know a few of you out there are runners, and who knows, maybe this will be the motivation you need to kick your workouts up a bit. Let me know if you’re joining, too! I like to know who’s ass I’m kicking.