Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Make Up

Well, I made up with my old friend Monday. It was hard. Really hard. After our last fight I wasn't sure I would ever feel the same way about my friend again.

I woke up Monday wishing I had another hour to sleep. The riding from Satruday and Sunday made me pretty tired. Being physically tired made me wonder if I was ready to meet my friend that morning and confront the demons that were created over the last several weeks.

My tri/running buddy Caroline met me at 6:25 a.m. She was excited that we had such a beautiful morning. As we approached the race site I began to get nervous. Was I ready for this? Did I really want to do this? My stomach was in knots. The weather was perfect. Sunny but cool.
I was seeing plenty of other friends that I have made since joining the tri club. I was asked by one friend if I was going to run "fast"? I laughed and explained that I wasn't sure after the week-end I had. I was asked by another friend, "Where was my backpack - that I wore on the LSD ride the day before?" Ah, you can tease me about my kickstand and backpack, my skin is getting tougher :)

And then it was time. It was time to start the 10K run. I walked to the start with bubba and Caroline. I know bubba was wondering why I wasn't starting in the front - he finally said to stop walking, we were as far back as he wanted to be. Doug, Scott, Tom R. and Ken made their way towards us. They picked up bubba and walked closer to the front. I turned and started to walk a little further back. I told Caroline to stay were she was. I knew she felt comfortable there. We picked a spot where we would meet when the race was over and then we seperated. I stepped to the curb to stretch a little and heard MJ calling me. It was good seeing her. We were both dressed in our "Team Uniform". I think her blond hair complements her uniform much better than my brown straight locks. Ok, I'm getting off track.

The moment arrived, it was time to run. Can't remember if it was a horn or a gun but off we went. I had my music with me to give me the extra push I knew I needed. My legs were sore. I told myself to keep my steps close together and keep the turnover fast. Keep my shoulders relaxed. Keep my arms moving. I didn't start my watch. I was going by what "coach" told me - train with your watch, race with your heart. With each passing mile I would look at the clock and anyone would agree, math skills are automatic at this point. I was figuring my splits and happy with what I was coming up with. My pace was steady and consistant. I was feeling sore but it was a good sore. I was tired from pushing but it was a good tired. I saw other runners, the street, cicadas, the sky, I took it all in. When I finally saw the finish I was happy and I finished with no regrets. 47:58.

It's funny how you think one thing and then go out and do it and what actually happens is so far from what you thought it was going to be. After Boston I had it in my head I was slowing down, things were changing and running would be a little different from now on. I'm glad I tried running this race and can say I was wrong. Running is my friend again, I think I can even say the clock is too. :)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Riding, Riding, and more Riding

On Saturday the IMOO group traveled up to Wisconsin for a 2 loop ride of the Ironman course. I was anxious all week leading up to the ride. I knew there would be hills up there that I have never ridden before. My tri buddy tried to easy my fears by telling me they weren't that bad. He obviously has forgotten what it's like to ride only the flat lands of the midwest. Or, maybe he does remember and didn't want me freaking out and then backing out of the ride. Hmmm. :) Which is exactly what I almost did Saturday morning. Keri cancelled her plans on going up so I was the only girl (don't ask me why I still call us girls when we are in our 40's - just do). The 6 men (didn't call you guys boys) going were all very strong riders. The thought that I would hold them back kept nagging at me. At 4:20 a.m. Saturday morning (20 minutes after the alarm went off) I bit the bullet, got of bed and got ready as fast as I could. I was smart enough to pack my bag and bike the night before. I knew if I didn't go I would regret it later, so I kissed the kids and the husband as they slept and off I went. I was 5 minutes late and hated to keep the gang waiting but as always they were very understanding.

The drive up was quick. We made good time even with a stop. Thankfully I didn't have to pee in the car, that's another story. When we made it to Verona the weather looked a little threatening. The ground was covered with cotton weed and there were already cyclists heading out to ride the loop. We unpacked, changed and off we went. The terrain was hilly on the 1st mile! Oh no I thought. This is going to be a long day. Hold back I told myself. Take it easy. The guys can ride their ride and you ride yours. Well, the land scape leveled off and the ride was enjoyable. We did get lost and cut about 10 miles off the loop but I was ready to go back and try it all again. We ate, drank and checked the weather. It was drizzling off and on and we knew the rain was coming. It looked like we had time for a second loop so off we went. Knowing what to expect made the second loop less daunting. I was able recognize barns, tractors, and road kill, the ride was going by quickly the second time. We reached the point where we thought we made the wrong turn and fortunately there were other riders were there that helped us find our way. All I can say is I had no idea what I was in for at that point. A bunch of the guys did Galena the week before and told me this was nothing compared to that - it makes me want to try Galena! We came on the first "hill" - thankfully we went down before going up. WHEE - what a trip! I was on a roller coaster without the seat belt. I kept telling myself not to look at the speedometer and don't look ahead because the up hill would freak me out. Well, I that was a mistake. Not looking forward I mean because I was half way up the hill and thought I needed to prepare better for this, even with the push of the descent that I had just gotten. I made it to the top tho - at about 6 mph. Shortly after that another hill down, this time I looked 42mph!!! Then I prayed, then I laughed, I was doing this, life is good.

Well, with about 10 miles left in the ride, I was starting to tire. My right knee was sore because I started to stand to get up the hills. Some of the hills were very deceiving, they would wind a little making them look less intimidating. This ride was definitely a learning experience for me and I knew I would have to keep coming back to make it less threatening.

The most difficult portion of that ride was probably the most scenic. It was beautiful up there. Even with my sun glasses on and the color of the countryside was as vivid as could be. Purple wild flowers, green grass just floating in the wind. A red barn with some of the paint chipping off. A white farm house with a gravel drive lined with honking geese and ducks. A sign of kindness, "Riders stop and get water." The sign even cautioned riders to be careful of on coming cars. The drivers of the cars and farm machinery were great. Respectful is a better word. They would slow down and go around us. We weren't riding 2 by 2 but they still slowed and drove with caution.

It was a great day - we got back to the car and started to pack up and down came the rain! We were so lucky we missed it. I thought for sure I would fall asleep on the way home. I didn't want to tho. It was raining and I didn't want Doug to drive in the company of 2 sleeping tri mates. As luck would have it Gil and I weren't as tired as we thought and the conversation was good enough to keep all of us awake. :)

Sunday I had the opportunity to ride "Bike the Drive". I did it last year for the first time and loved it. It a chance to ride on Lake Shore Drive - an extremely busy and sometimes congested road that boarders the city of Chicago and Lake Michigan. The skyline along this stretch of road can leave you speechless even on a cloudy, rainy morning. I ended up going with my tri mate Tom F. and Rick W. followed us. Rick would have rode in with us but he was meeting his sister for breakfast after the ride.

Once we finally found parking and got set up we headed toward the lake front. I needed to pick up my packet but after looking at the time I realized it would probably be smart to just start riding. If I was asked about my number I would have to deal with that problem when I came to it. We tried calling Doug, Scott and Laura to hook up with them but they were obviously enjoying their turn on LSD, so I left a message with Doug and off we went. Right out of the gate a paceline passed us and Rick told me to hop on. "What?" I thought - and then realized he was kidding - So we rode south to the museum at 57th street. It was very relaxed pace. After making sure we had enough water we were back on the drive. The warm up was over and we decided to pick up the pace. We knew it would be really stupid to pound all out because the drive was filled with families just out to enjoy the morning. That was another cool thing about this ride. Seeing little ones on their bikes with training wheels and their bucket size helmets resting on their heads. Way to cute. Ok, so back to riding, off we went. We managed to keep about 21 mph pace. We made it from the museum to McCormick place in half the time it took us to ride out. As we passed Soldiers Field I saw a fellow rider with the same Boston Marathon jacket on that I have. I called out to him and asked what he thought of the race. He said it was great and I told him I was there too. He started to laugh and said the weather was similar. We reached Grant Park and had to be very careful because riders were getting off the drive or entering it. We had a near collision at one point but thankfully it was avoided and there was no harm done. We rode over the river and it was down hill from there! Rick took off, I could see he was enjoying every second on his bike. Tom and I stayed pretty close to each other. Some how I passed Rick because the next thing I know he's riding behind me with a huge smile on his face. Uh, there is nothing cooler than seeing someone find happiness out something as simple as riding a bike. And I was surrounded by it! We went about a mile further and my cell phone rang. It was Doug or maybe it was Scott - they had just finished the 30 mile loop and wanted to hook up. We were only about a mile and half apart so we pulled over at North ave. and waited for them. Within minutes they were with us. It was great riding with them. We did a lot of laughing. On the way back to Grant Park, Scott, Rick and Tom pulled a head. Doug and I were talking and Laura was just behind us. We suddenly hear Laura yelling something, we looked back and she was still riding so we thought she was just yelling. DUH! What were we thinking? She had a flat! We pulled over and Doug changed it. About half way thru the change a very well intentioned man stopped to help us. Instead of realizing that Doug knew what he was doing he decided to lecture Doug on the do's and don'ts of changing a tire! What?!? It was aggravating at the time but became funny after the fact.

Rick called to make sure we were all right and said he would try to get another 1/2 loop in before the drive reopened to cars. We met up with Scott and Tom F. in Grant Park. There was a moving tribute set up to the fallen U.S. soldiers of the Iraq war. A pair of boots for every soldier who had lost their life fighting in the war had been placed at the north end of the park. I learned this morning on the news that boots are put out every day because the number, unfortunately, increases. God bless the families of these men and women and the men and women still fighting for our country.

It was a good week-end. It's just the beginning to a long training season. I have a lot of work to do. :)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Do I Have What it Takes?

I started this blog to let friends and family know about my experience at the Boston marathon and have decided to continue with it to journal my training for the Wisconsin Ironman.

Yes, I have signed up for the Wisconsin Ironaman. The race is just 14 short weeks away. I always screw up time lines so it may be 15 weeks but I'm almost certain it is 14.

I've always wanted to do an Ironman. The first time I saw the race was 1983 on ABC or maybe it was NBC. I was dusting the family room and had the TV on for background noise. The Hawiian scenery caught my eye and then I was surprised to see women changing out of their swim stuff into bike stuff right in front of the camera. (have times changed) Why would they do that? What was so important that they couldn't run into a room and change in come back out and race? Well, I kept watching to the end and was moved by what I saw and wonder if I had what it took to be an Ironman.

So what makes me think I could possibly be like the athletes that I had seen? I keep asking myself that question as I train. Why do I think I have what it takes? Do I? It's question that only I can answer. Others may tell me what they think but in the end only I can answer the question.

So, as training begins to consume my life I must remind myself the only way to get the answer to the question above is to prepare and show up on September 9, 2007.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Keep Pushing On

For those living in the midwest, we are well aware of how windy a spring morning can be. Well, May 6th certainly was a reminder to any of us who had forgotten. My sis-in-law Keri and I signed on to ride in the Sudden Century - a 100, 75, 60, 42, etc. mile ride that takes cyclists to the speedway in Joliet for a lap around the track and then thru the rural roads of the southwest suburbs of Chicago.

I had done the ride in 2005. It was my first time being out on the road with other cyclists (not in a triathlon setting). For that day I signed on for the 42 miler. The day started out warm and sunny, and then clouds covered the sun and it began to drizzle, then it got cold, then a little more rain and wind. It was not a fun experience for me and I ended up riding home after just 30 miles.

Last year, the weather was picture perfect. I loved the ride. I signed up for the 42 miles again and finished them strong and happy. It was the kind of ride that causes you to want to do it over and over again.

Well, this year the riders were met with wind. Not just windy wind that dies down and then creeps back every couple of minutes. This was fierce, annoying wind.

Our ride to the registration area was deceiving. I was in a group of 22 people, mostly tri club members but others wanting to just ride, the wind was at our back and trees blocked any indication as to just how windy it was. It took about 3 minutes of riding after our group registered to realize that this was not going to be the fun ride it was in 2006. It literally felt like a broom was pushing me from the side and I was going to tilt off my bike. To make matters worse, well in my mind, I signed on for the 75 mile route. I wasn't going to quit tho, this wouldn't be like 2005. No mater what it took, I would ride 75 miles, even if I finished at 8 that night.

I had a lot of help riding with drafting and just good old encouragement as I was passed. The moments I was alone I stayed focused on efficient pedaling and staying relaxed. I tried to have a conversation with GOD, it went something like this -

me - Um GOD - what's going on with the wind? Do you think you could help here and take things down a notch?

GOD - What I can't hear you - it's to windy - ask me again when the wind dies down.

So I pedaled. And the group of 22 got smaller with each turn on the map. Keri was having some serious trouble and told me she was heading home soon. With about 20 miles left, she turned left with another tri buddy (who had to get home and mow the lawn and finish a playset for his daughter) and 3 of us turned right. (Keri still got 67 miles in!) We had a group of about 7 from the 22 in front of us. We couldn't see them but we knew they were out there so we just pushed ahead. We reached the last rest stop - I was starving. I can't remember the last time a ham and cheese sandwhich tasted so good! At this point I knew I was going to make my 75. The last stretch of the ride was one I have done 50 times. The joy I was feeling was going to get me home, well along with the tailwind and pedal power. A group of 3 different tri buddies came with me while the others moved on to complete 100 miles. The ride was smooth, the tailwind wasn't quite what we thought it would be but the conversation took over and before we knew it we were done.

Ahh, life is good. So was the hour nap I took when I got home.