Too warm out to hibernate

December 12, it was in the mid 60’s today.  I don’t know why this is happening, but I’m not asking questions.  Being able to run in a t-shirt with no gloves, no arm warmers, no winter socks…..it goes against everything I know about winters in CT and the northeast.  Usually by this time of year I have already been retired to the treadmill and the trainer for a month, with the exception of sucking up cold weekend runs outside.  The only downside is that there really isn’t any skiing going on around here.

I took quite a few months “off” – unstructured fun time and it was nice.  I didn’t set a pre-determined schedule of workouts.  I worked out later in the day, which if you know me, you know I have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than going out for a run after 3pm.  I did brick workouts.  Yup, bricks.  Only a handful of them and they were mini ones, but it was still more than I did in my entire last season of training.  I ran without music, half the time I didn’t wear a watch.  It was peaceful and refreshing.  I gave myself no real deadline of when I needed to go back on a schedule, but told myself that the day I wake up and want to get back to a more structured routine, I had to commit to it.  I’m back to a routine now and working to work off all the “enjoyment” from the past couple months.  🙂

Jay and I cancelled Thanksgiving this year and ran away to the Grand Canyon.  We hiked from the top of the North Rim to the bottom, crossed the Colorado River, then hiked back up to the top in one day.  It was beautiful and exhausting.  After 18 miles and 7000 feet of elevation, I reached the trail head parking lot.  I sat on the curb and didn’t move until the bus came to take me back to the car.  It was all worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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looking out at the road ahead

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just after sunrise in the Grand Canyon, not even 3 miles in

Besides the big Grand Canyon trip there hasn’t been much activity.  I’ve been kept busy finishing up my master’s degree which is finally completed (yay!).  I can finally say that I only have to go back to school if I want to.  Let’s be honest though, I enjoy learning and I don’t know how to live without having 674 things to do every day, so I will probably end up going back for my 6th year degree in the near future.

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We obviously didn’t ignore the sign telling us to not do the exact hike we did, otherwise how would we have a picture of it?

Not much running going on here…

Since Poconos 70.3 and my surgery, I have written half-complete blogs about three times and left them all in my draft.  I am finally getting around to taking all three of those and condensing them into one blog that I actually will post…

The day after Poconos, I went in for hernia repair surgery.  I never thought in a million years that something so tiny could be so painful.  It took me 3 days to stand up and a 9 days to be able to stand up straight.  Recovery the first two a half weeks was slow and everything hurt.  Sneezing was the worst – it sent shooting pains through my stomach and I saw stars.  I remembered someone telling me once that to stop yourself from sneezing, you have to say “pineapple” or something.  I couldn’t remember the word but I knew it was a fruit, so a few days after surgery I felt my second sneeze coming on; I held my nose and yelled out every fruit name I could think of.  It worked.

At about the week 3 mark, more noticeable improvements happened faster.  At that point, I went back to sleeping in my bed and not on the couch (it hurt to roll over so the couch kept me in one spot while sleeping).  I also got back on my bike on the trainer and rode 30-50 minutes 3 days that week.
At 2 days shy of 4 weeks post-op, I “ran” 2.3 flat miles.  It was a run-walk deal and it hurt.  The next day, I pushed to 2.6 miles, walking when my incision spot hurt because the tissue is still swollen and pushing against nerves.  Two days later, I upped it to 3 miles, then 4, and I am up to almost 6 and coming up on 6 weeks post-op.  It’s amazing that I went from 100+ miles of biking and running less than 2 months ago to now running 5 miles with a big hill and being ecstatic about that.  One day a time.  I had no reason to rush recovery and wanted to make sure I healed well.  I am just happy to be back out on the road in time to see summer fade into a New England fall.  Nothing beats fall runs in New England.

Last week Jay and I traveled to the Maryland/West Virginia area for his race, Savageman 70. They named this race appropriately.  Everything was a hill.  The transition was a hill.  The uphills went on for miles, some of them so ridiculously steep (to the point that people actually fall over on their bikes), and the downhills were fast, miles long, and dangerous at times.  Jay raced very well – he earned his brick on the famous Westernport Wall, and finished in the top 10 in his age group.  I’ve watched him cross the finish at 2 Ironman’s and a lot of half iron distance races, and I’m pretty sure he looked more beat and pained at the finish line of this race than any other.  Everyone did.
Our racing season is over and anything we do now is just a fun 5K (or half marathon, whatever…) until next year.  We haven’t planned any races yet, but I have my eye on another marathon….
For now, it’s just apple picking and football tailgate time.

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If I can’t be out running half marathons, might as well run 3 miles through corn fields and then drink chocolate peanut butter porters.

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zoom in for the face. gritting out a sprint finish after 70 miles of 8 or 9 rated climbs.

Ending the season with a bang

Can’t find a better time to update the blog than right now, since I am laying here post-surgery unable to move.  Talk about post-race recovery.  I started this season with a big race (Vermont Marathon) and ended it – unexpectedly – with a big race (Challenge Poconos 70.3).  I really wanted to throw in a couple more early fall races.  Nothing major, maybe a sprint tri and a half marathon, but those possibilities came to an abrupt end due to a bad hernia that led me to the operating room 12 hours after I crossed the finish line at Challenge Poconos.

I was ready for this race.  I put a lot of work into this season, but more importantly, I put a lot of heart into it and I enjoyed every second of it.  On my bike, I always took the longer, hillier option during training rides.  I ditched both the treadmill and the flat, boring trail and ran on the roads, adding at least one major hill into each run, but usually two or three.  I did pace work on my runs, hill repeats on my bike, and sprints in the pool.  I chose Poconos 70.3 because it *was* easier than Timberman, but the course changed slightly a couple weeks before race day and the elevation profile on both the bike and run went from less than Timberman’s to more.  Good thing I came prepared.  My hard work paid off.  I put down the fastest bike split I have had in a 70.3, and finished with a personal best at that distance.  

tune up sprint tri 3 days before Poconos

tune up sprint tri 3 days before Poconos

The race report:  I’ll keep it short.

Swim – I was calmer than normal, probably because I was the last pink cap in the water.  I treaded water for about 3 seconds and then heard the 10 second countdown to start.  Barely had time to think about where to go but managed to get up to the front lines so I got off to a fast start with no one in my way.  My breathing was calm and collected and I managed to catch some feet in front of me for a bit but that didn’t last long…never does for me.  The first part of the swim was upstream slightly against the current but I barely felt it.  

last pink cap to the party

last pink cap to the party

Bike – This is what I trained for and this was where my heart was in this race.  For all I cared, the bike was really the only thing that mattered to me.  I completely ignored the fact that I had to run a half marathon after and just took off.  Linda and QuintanaRoo vs. Pocono Mountains.  My nutrition was consistent – slightly under 300 cals/hr mostly in liquid form minus a Picky Bar and 1 Clif shot (which is basically liquid anyway).  The first 6-8 miles of the bike was a lot of climbing to get out of the valley and into the Delaware Water Gap federal land.  Rough roads with punchy hills, but no different than the ones I’ve ridden around here.  There really isn’t much to say about the bike course – it was closed to traffic and basically stayed on one road through the Delaware Water Gap National Park area….I saw trees, one turkey, and trees.  Also a couple trees hidden behind the other six million trees I saw.  Riveting.  Definitely not my ideal bike race scenery but it gave me 56.2 miles to concentrate hard on what I was doing.  I focused on keeping momentum after the punchy climbs and kept repeating to myself the MPH # that Jay gave me as a target.  “Pedal all the way around” and “Push up Pull Down” I repeated over and over.  I really enjoy descending, but even more enjoyable to me are the dangerous descents and there were a few of these on the course.  For whatever reason (the reason is 100% Jay, because his love of danger has rubbed off on me), the descents with twists and turns and rough road seem to be the most fun for me.  Maybe I need to try out mountain biking again?

Run – As soon as I re-racked my bike and took my helmet off, I felt a wave of heat slam down on me.  It was hot – low 90’s with humidity and super sunny.  Thank god most of the run was shaded.  In the few parts that went through treeless areas, the sun was brutal and I was thankful to get back into the shade.  My first few miles were faster than normal but  my legs and body felt great so I just ran with it.  I felt pretty great until about mile 8.  My race caught up to me at that time and my stomach was starting to feel the effects of 300 cals/hr.  I crammed in one more Gu, sucked up the pain, and pushed out the last few miles.  Jay rode up next to me on his bike a few times to keep me going and give me some pointers.  He bounced back and forth around the course and met me at the finish line.  Can’t say I had the energy for a sprint finish – the tank was totally on empty, and I was okay with that.  For me, that meant I raced harder than I ever have.    

2.3 miles into the run, not feeling too much pain yet

2.3 miles into the run, not feeling too much pain yet

11 miles in and too hot for shirts

11 miles in and too hot for shirts

So now I lay here, 3 days post race and 2 days post-op, barely able to move.  Laughing hurts, talking louder than a whisper hurts, everything I do hurts.  Except eating gelato.  That’s about the only thing that doesn’t hurt right now.  This is my first experience with open surgery and I seriously underestimated the pain I would be in.  Seriously underestimated it.  Recovery time is about 6 weeks, and then I have to ease back into flat, short, easy rides and runs.  QuintanaRoo is all clean (thanks bike fairy) and set up on the trainer awaiting my sad attempt for a ride in a month.  For the next few weeks all I can do is sit back and try to enjoy a forced break from working out.  Not sure how I am going to do that, but I will try.  

Tahoe, Ironcowboy, hill repeats

Lake Tahoe has been on my list of “triathlon training destinations” for a while now.  I finally had the chance to spend 7 days out there training, and it was incredible (incredibly difficult too) and extremely rewarding.  My best friend Christina came along and we put together a 140+ mile plan for 6 days which included biking the full Lake Tahoe loop, open water swims in Donner Lake (we chickened out on Lake Tahoe because of the water temp), biking the “triangle” from Kings Beach-Tahoe City-Truckee, among other hilly, hot, and stunningly beautiful runs and bikes.

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Not a bad view for a bike ride

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Sweet rental bikes.

Fortunately, we got our long run and long bike out of the way during the first 2 days we were there when the temps stayed in the high 70’s.  During the Tahoe loop bike, we stopped at a lakeside restaurant and chowed down on the best portobello veggie burger I’ve had in a long time, possibly ever.  Most of the loop had a paved bike lane, but that disappeared towards the southern part and it became quite narrow on some parts.  The uphills were steady climbs, some lasting for a few miles, and we were rewarded with super fast downhills and great photo ops.  I enjoyed each and every workout and left feeling like I accomplished everything I set out to do there in terms of my workouts.  I would absolutely go back there to train but next time, I would want my own bike there with me.

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Climbed some hills

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Took a break from working out to play a round of mini golf

I felt great upon returning home, but had a minor energy crash 2 days later.  I slept through Jay’s race on Sunday morning in the car, slept most of the way home from his race, and finally felt alive again on Tuesday.  The week following Tahoe was supposed to be a down week, but I ended up getting in over 170 miles of work.  Phew.  70 of those miles were with the Iron Cowboy (if you haven’t heard of him, look up the journey that he is completing right now).  Jay and I headed down to Wesport on Sunday to bike with him for the 30th day of his 50 Iron distances in 50 days in 50 states.  It was very inspiring seeing him in person – I felt like I was biking with a celebrity.  It was a hilly course and I was even dropped for a couple miles because I couldn’t keep up…dropped by the guy on his 30th straight full Iron distance…and that was my first workout of the day…sad for me.  I blame it on my rear brake. It was rubbing just ever so slightly and I had no problem keeping up again after adjusting it.  I spent most of the ride in awe of him and wondering how in the world he can possibly be doing what he is doing.  But he is doing it, that’s for sure.  Ironcowboy James and his team have a great attitude and sense of humor.

It has been a heck of a 2 weeks.  I started this week with a long run in weather so humid my fingers were pruney by the end of it and hill repeats on my tri bike followed by a short 4 mile sprint.  I’ve managed runs with the fastest splits I’ve had in years; I am fueled by my improvements to keep pushing harder.  Hill repeats on my bike have become a favorite form of torture for me; they are quick, painful, and make your legs scream worse than run hill repeats.

On a side note, favorite new item for workouts:  Zoot Icefil shorts.  I am considering getting rid of all the nike and under armour running shorts I have, that’s how good the Zoot shorts are.  They are super comfy and so light you can’t even feel them on runs.