Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Elpheba goes to the beach

Last Thursday was a busy day starting at 4:45 when my alarm went off to get ready for spin class. Spin went well and I left my bike for maintenance while I was to be on vacation. I had time to grab some breakfast before work and then started my day. Work was relatively light and I was able to leave a little early. I headed home, changed, packed a few last minute things and we headed to the airport. 

Since we were early we decided to find a restaurant and enjoy a nice dinner before our flight. Construction at the airport made this a really difficult endeavor. The Houston's in the atrium was gone and so were many of the other restaurants listed on the maps. Seriously?! All I wanted was a beer to start my vacation. We finally stumbled on the Peach Grill which was packed. The construction and delayed flights due to bad weather made for a lot of drinkers. The bar was out of almost everything so a Michelob Ultra it was and I was happy to have it. I ordered a cheeseburger and John got some sort of omelet. One would think a cheeseburger in an airport bar was the safer bet but you would be wrong. Dinner was fine and we boarded our flight only 20 mins late which was pretty good with all the delays. We got into BWI just as a storm was moving in so we sat on the tarmac a while before getting an open gate. We had no checked baggage so we went straight to the curb and within 10 minutes we were picked up by John's Uncle and on our way to Ocean City. 

As soon as we pulled away the skies opened up and it became very difficult to drive. We pulled over twice because John's uncle was having a hard time seeing the road. Eventually the rain lessened up and we were really headed to the beach. The drive is about 3 hours and we made decent time since it was late and the roads were clear. There was light rain a good part of the way and thankfully it was nice headed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It was around midnight when I laid down on the backseat and slept for a little while. 

I woke up when I started to feel a bit nauseous. I figured it was a touch of carsickness so I sat up to see if I would feel better. No, not feeling good at all. I got really hot and clammy and my stomach started cramping. It was hard to say which was the more urgent feeling of having to throw up or visit a bathroom soon. I suffered in silence as long as I could but I finally had to pipe up and say I think we might need to pull over. I got out of the car thinking I was surely going to throw up but nothing came. The fresh air and lack of movement made me feel a little better and I got back in the car. We were less than 10 miles away and I made it through gritted teeth and relaxing breathing techniques. When I finally made it to a bathroom I was a lovely shade of green I hope to never see again. Elpheba would have been envious. No puking was involved and I was quickly rid of what ailed me. I went to bed shortly afterwards and made it through the night without incident. The only explanation is something I ate at the airport. My lunch had consisted of a PB&J and some cookies almost 7 hours prior to dinner and 12 hours prior to this. Damn you Peach Grill!!

With that bit of nastiness over it was time for some fun. My workout for the day was some strength and balance exercises. We headed out to the beach and it was quite overcast. The ocean was rough and in fact there was a boogie board accident and a girl was carted off on a backboard. We didn't make it too long before it started to rain. We quickly packed up, headed to the beer store and settled in for a movie and dinner. The pick was War Horse. This was not my first pick. The movie was OK but as I feared it was overly melodramatic and purposely tugged at every heart string it could get a hold of. I felt manipulated and used when it was over even if it was based on a true story. By the end of the evening the rest of the family had arrived to include John's 2 aunts, one uncle, 2 cousins, their spouses and 2 grandchildren between 2 houses. 

Saturday looked to be more promising although still rather overcast. My only workout was a 50 min run that I decided to do in the evening. We headed out to the beach to discover a red flag day. No swimming, no boogie boards and wading in the water was quick to be corralled by the lifeguard's whistle. Glad my Open Water Swim was not scheduled for today. I had never seen it this bad. We stayed at the beach until after lunch and then packed up for the next round of showers and feeding. I headed off for my quick run and then back for more fun. 

Card playing is big in John's family and I will play once and a while but things tend to get feisty. I typically end up reading or occupying myself in other ways. John played a card game called Munchkin with the younger group and I started watching Season one of Downton Abbey. Well, I quickly became hooked and burned through 6 episodes that evening. Damn no internet!!! We used to borrow from the neighbors unlocked wifi but I guess they finally got smart. I would have liked to start season 2! 

Sunday I had a swim and run on the schedule. It looked like a fabulous day for the beach. Sun shining, fluffy clouds and a light wind. Perfect. We got to the beach and the ocean still looked rough. Uh oh. I needed to swim 45 min and I had hoped to do a bit more. I noticed  our lifeguard heading for a swim while someone watched her post. She didn't seem to swim for very long. That's troubling. I got in and started to swim a bit and soon found myself in the air rather than in the water. A wave had picked me up and I was flying for a few seconds. Hmm. Not good. I think I will try later when things calm a bit. 

A while later things did in fact seem calmer. The beach had completely filled up and the water was packed with waders and boogie boarders. The water was still rough because the lifeguards were constantly waving and blowing that darn whistle to get people to stop doing something stupid. There is a daily talk on days like this where the lifeguard gathers everyone up and explains about undertows and what to do and how to stay safe. She mentioned that if you couldn't swim 2 laps in a pool you had no business going in farther than your waist. OK, well that's a pep talk. Let's go swim! 

I set off this time with John beside me. We started swimming parallel to the shore and headed toward the boardwalk. I had to stop from time to time to catch my breath or get myself focused again. I had a hard time trying to stay relaxed and could not get into any rhythm since I was constantly being batted around by big waves. There was a nice current pushing me in the right direction but the waves kept knocking me around. All in all, I made steady progress and basically kept up with John. I did my 45 minutes and my Garmin said .93 miles so we decided to swim a little more to make it an even mile. Wouldn't you know it I got to about .99 miles and the Ocean had had enough of me. A wave picked me up and flung me toward shore while slamming me into the sand. I felt my right calf stretch a bit unnaturally and drank a little water. I ended up with my bathing suit still attached to my body (barely) and a lot of sand in my pants but overall OK. The workout was done. I was proud of myself since 2 years ago I would have never gotten in the water and last year I might have attempted it but I am sure I would have quickly abandoned the swim the first time I gulped a little water or got tossed aside. Progress is being made!

We walked back to the group and I read some more Game of Thrones. Winter is Coming, don't you know.

After the beach, I quickly changed and did my run for the day. When I returned everyone was showered and ready to go out to dinner. Quick shower, dress, thank you sunburn on my face - no makeup required and headed out the door. We ate dinner on the water at a local place called Fagers Island. John and I ordered a beer and only I was carded out of the entire group. The waitress went so far as to ask me to remove my ID so she could feel it to be sure it was real. Yes, 19 year olds often use fake IDs claiming they are 43!

After dinner there was more card playing and John and I watched The Hangover 2 since we were sure no one else would have any interest. It was pretty bad except for a few parts. Oh well. Off to bed since I had to get up for an early run.

At 6:00 I got up for my 2 hour run and was out the door by 6:30. My task was to run a 10min pace for 9 minutes and then walk 1 minute and cover 11 miles. I set off through the neighborhoods thinking this would be relatively easy given the flat pavement and all the rest I had been getting. Surprisingly, this turned out to be no fun at all. Each progressive 9 minutes was tougher than the last and the one minute walk could not come soon enough. I did finish and I think I did achieve that pace give or take a few seconds either way. 

Now that the run was over it was time for some breakfast. My favorite thing about Ocean City is the Oreo pancakes at the Brass Balls. The rest of the family headed out for breakfast and John and I headed to the boardwalk. I got my oreo pancakes and a blueberry lemonade with a shot of something alcoholic. It looked like it was made of Smurfberries judging by the color. Breakfast was yummy and it was time for the beach again.

The last day of the beach was super nice and sunny. I loaded up on the sunscreen and settled in for more Game of Thrones. In no time I was asleep. The run obviously took a little bit of a toll on me. Even after my beach nap I was tired all day. I thought this was an easy week? Someone needed to tell my body!

That night was crab cakes for dinner. Yum! John's aunt makes the best crab cakes ever! After dinner we watched The Grey with Liam Neeson. It's about a depressed wolf hunter who works for a petroleum company. Yeah, that does sound awesome, doesn't it? Well, his plane crashes with a bunch of other oil workers and hilarity ensues. It wasn't horrible but neither was it really good. That's 3 for 3 on bad movies. Maybe War Horse is looking a bit better these days.

Tuesday morning we were up early, on the road, to the airport and back home without incident. We picked up Betty and it was time to unpack. I had noticed that my workout schedule was a bit spotty and intact had nothing scheduled for Wednesday. I emailed my coach saying something like "Sweeet! no workouts tomorrow!" knowing full well it was only a matter of time. 

Yup, I woke up to double days for the rest of the week and a hundred miler on Saturday. Awesome!! Vacation is definitely over!!

One of our homemade breakfasts at the beach 
I gained 2 lbs this weekend even with the running and swimming!

Oreo Pancakes!!!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Since my last post I had been preparing for the Cardinal Half Ironman in Louisville. The race was supposed to be a great prep for the Ironman seeing as it incorporated part of the bike course and was perfect timing for some racing experience and training. You notice I use the words "supposed to". The race was 2 Saturdays ago and the Thursday before the race we got an email stating that the race had been moved 50 miles away due to unforeseen circumstances. No more swim in the river, no more ride on the bike course etc etc. Well, F***! In fact that was Coach Vader's exact response. 

That Thursday was already shaping up to be a hectic day. I worked and then had some personal stuff scheduled for the afternoon like a long overdue haircut. I also had yet to pack a single thing. I guess that is a good thing since I would have had to completely repack due to the change in plans. 

After much debate and a flurry of emails, phone calls and tense moments the following was devised: We would head to Louisville as planned on Friday. On Saturday I would take part in the Endurance Concepts Camp already taking place and ride the bike course with them. The IM Lou-natics would preview the swim start with the help of Kim's cousin coordinating with some local rowers and then meet Coach Vader for some quality bike time on the course. Sunday we would run the IM course together and head home.

We had all done a century the previous Sunday so this was supposed to be a bit of a drop back week. So much for that plan!! In fact I had been hitting the bike hard the last couple of weeks and this does not include time on the trainer or my weekly spin class:

This chart also does not include the ramp up in swim and a little bit of running thrown in. So, let's just say I was a little tired. 

We packed up the car and hit the road on Friday. The trip was uneventful and I occupied myself working on videos and uploading them using free wifi at fast food restaurants. We met up with Adrienne and Harry at the hotel and then headed downtown. We scouted out the parking situation around the Ironman host hotel and checked out 4th street - the site of the Ironman finish line.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel and got ready for the next days ride. I was up and out the door by 6:30 and met up with the Endurance Concepts crew. John then went off to stock up for his crewing duties. My ride was to consist of an out and back on the "stick" (the hilliest section of the IM ride) and then one loop and then rinse and repeat. On race day we would only do the "stick" once but the loop twice. The "stick" turned out to be not bad at all and the first loop went by pretty fast. I observed there were lots of small climbs that could get you into trouble pretty quickly if you powered over them instead of gearing down each time. There will be a lot of gear changing on race day. Some of the roads were not in the best condition and it appeared that every pothole was located on the right third of the roads. Better to see all this in advance then on race day.

The second out and back went well and then we started the second loop with ominous skies. I was behind the group at this point - shocker - but I tried to tell myself that I had 3 big bike weekends prior to this so my legs were just plain tired. Things were fine until I hit LaGrange - the part of the loop that apparently has a huge cheering section. It goes through the center of town and right before that point I got dumped on. It was thundering and lightning but I kept moving along albeit at a slow speed. I tried not to think about the lightning and worried more about cars being able to see me in the downpour. I rode like this for a little while until I saw the EC van pull up so I slowed down and hopped in. Coach Josh said the lightning was getting really bad and he felt it was unsafe. I rode for about 10 miles to the gas station/SAG stop and by then the rain had slowed down. 

I finished the ride without incident but was mad I didn't get to do the whole distance. I ended up with 85 miles total and it felt a whole lot better than the 100 the previous weekend. It was still slower than I would have liked but I am hoping rested legs and taper will make all the difference (Pretty please!!!). I was extremely happy to have had a chance to see so much of the bike course. With the exception of the out and back from town (about 20 miles worth) I rode the entire bike course twice. I felt it was very doable and just hope for pleasant temps and no rain.

Here is a quick recap of the previous disastrous weekend:

This was to be the second century ride of the training season. Two times the 48+ loop at Cartersville was the plan. The day was warm and the start time was 9am to better simulate race day conditions. My instructions were to do the first loop at zone 2 and the second at zone 3. Immediately, things were not going well. I had a hard time keeping my heart rate down and staying in my zone and at the same time I was quickly losing the pack. Grumble, grumble this was not going to be a good day. 

I got through the first loop but felt tired and hot and just not happy. I hoped the bump up to zone 3 would help things but again I was quickly left behind and I was struggling. I was having a hard time staying cool and after taking a few salt pills my drink mix (Infinit) was not quenching my thirst. I wanted/needed water and all I had on my bike was the Infinit. I stopped often and drank from John's water. He quickly figured out I was having a hard time and stuck with me at the back. I wanted to quit a bunch of times but knew this was going to be hard to make up so it was do or die. Dying sounded like a better option at that point. In fact at one point I told John with tears in my eyes that I would rather be told to go run a 50K right now than to have to get on that bike and ride 40 more miles. 

I made it through but it was ugly. That 48 mile loop just seems so desolate and lonely. I was hating Cartersville, my bike, life and anyone who ever talked me into doing an Ironman. About 5 miles from the end it began to rain. I don't know if it was the cooling rain or the knowledge that I had only 5 more miles to go but I am sure that 5 miles was faster than any other 5 miles I rode that day. At least it seemed that way. The plan was also for a brick but thunder and lightning nixed that one. I was all smiles when I got off that bike. Where was that energy and those good feelings 3 hours prior? I was still concerned about my performance and over all speed. Will I ever have a long ride that does not feel hard? Will I ever have an average speed that will guarantee me a comfortable IM bike leg? I am trying to not be so hard on myself since I had ridden total of 131 miles that weekend.

It's all smiles back in the parking lot

Back to Louisville:

We relaxed a bit after the ride and then headed back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner. 

There was a pre-dinner excursion to get Terrie some running shorts which prompted a hilarious exchange on facebook:

Dinner was enjoyable and then it was time to get ready for our next adventure. Sunday morning we headed down to the riverfront for the run start. We would not be able to do the out an back on the bridge but the rest of the race course was accessible. We stopped by the host hotel to check out the bathroom facilities and were on our way. We took an easy pace doing 4 min run/1 min walk and chatted along the way. John positioned the car along the way and had a cooler full of water, ice and orange slices. The run was steamy but not too bad and it was an enjoyable 13 miles. We finished on 4th street and John took pictures of us simulating our Ironman finishes. 

While I was riding with EC Saturday morning the rest of the group was practicing the river entry and checking out the water. Since I did not get to do it on Saturday I wanted to at least see the swim start and maybe jump in swim and hop out. John drove us down and Terrie said she would swim with me. I got to jump off the dock and swim a bit and all was good. The swim felt a bit difficult but I was super tired after the run and bike and I was swimming in a run skirt so I will chalk that up to that.

All in all it was a fun weekend with lots of good training and priceless experience with the swim entry, bike course and run course. With the exception of losing out on race experience, the course change turned out to be the best thing ever. Now we can head to Louisville in August having previewed everything and just concentrate on checking in and relaxing until race day. Usually, there is the stress of finding out where everything is and driving the bike course in addition to all the race preparation. No need to do any of that this time around.

I had anticipated getting this all typed and posted before our beach trip but there was too much going on before we left. Instead we were lucky to get packed and out the door to our plane on Thursday night. The week of training post Louisville was pretty light and I was concerned that it might be too light but I am trusting my coach to know whats best. I also knew that the following weeks would be slightly hellish so I better enjoy my time at the beach!

Until then here are some fun videos: