Friday, October 26, 2012

Beaches, Battleships and Blondes

Beach 2 Battleship

While sitting around the fire at a triathlon training camp, Peggy, Kim and I decided to do the Beach to Battleship Iron relay. I was to be the swimmer, Kim the cyclist and Peggy was the runner. We came up with the name 3 non-blondes and 6 months later we were hitting the road for Wilmington, NC. The girls piled into Peggy's car and the boys took the Weeks' truck and we caravaned to Augusta for dinner.

We continued on to Columbia, SC where we stopped for the night. Up early the next morning we headed to Cracker Barrel for some breakfast and then back on the road to Wilmington. Once there we met up with Harry who was doing the full Iron distance along with Tripp - both 7 weeks post Ironman Louisville. We arrived just in time to catch the end of the mandatory athlete meeting which gave very little instruction in regards to the relay. We checked in, got our arm bands and swim cap, bike stickers and run numbers and everyone got their gear situated.

Next stop was to check in the hotel, drop off bikes in transition and head to the beach. While at transition we asked about the relay and got passed along to two more people before finding that we would just switch the timing chip at the bike rack. We checked out the swim exit which was pretty far across the road (booties would be worn for sure so I could run across the pavement). We then headed over to the swim start and got the layout of the swim course. Buoys were not in place yet so I checked out the online map to be absolutely sure of the course.

Blondes at the Beach

I originally planned to take a quick dip in the water but it was already late in the day and we needed to get some dinner. Back downtown and dinner with the group. Since I was just swimming I didn't worry too much about my pre-race dinner. I had crabcakes and fries and they were quite good. After dinner we headed back to the hotel to get ready for bed. 

Up the next morning at 4:30 for a 5:30 departure. I slept great. No pre-race nervousness since I just had to swim. I found I had lots of leftover time and could have slept a bit longer. I had all my gear ready to go and a portable pre-race breakfast.

Early morning Blondes
 The logistics of this race are very complicated and without a support crew it could be extremely difficult. The swim start, T1, T2 and finish were all in different locations. This is not typical but not completely abnormal. It was further complicated by the relay so here was the plan: John drove Harry, Tripp, Kim and I to transition. Everyone checked in their bikes and got body marked. I stayed in the car and waited for their return and Peggy stayed at the hotel to rest up. With that task completed, Harry, Tripp and I headed to the swim start while Kim waited for us at T1.

Coach Angry Bird is on the case

Harry, Tripp and I met up with Mike Delang at the trolley to take us to the swim start. We passed the time chatting with some Coast Guard guys that Tripp befriended on the trolley ride. Soon it was time to get the wetsuit on and swim!

There's Tripp adjusting my google strap - swim buddy!!

The plan for the swim was to hang toward the back and then Tripp and I would swim together like we did in Louisville. There was no gun or canon. Eminem's "Lose Yourself" came on the speakers and it was time to go. We made our way to the water where I spotted my coach cheering people on and I gave him a high five but I know he did not realize it was me with cap, goggles and full wetsuit on. 

Tripp and I walked about 3 steps into the water and the it got deep quick and it was swim time. None of the usual butterflies, just a nice swim toward the first buoy. It came up quick as expected since the race is timed for the best current. I heard the left side was the fastest but all the buoys were right so we stayed more toward the middle. 

It was very difficult to see the next buoy since it was very far away but again it came up quick. I knew we were moving well since I didn't have to keep stopping to slow my breathing into a normal rhythm. I guess the fact that this was all I had to do made it seems less daunting. I was frustrated by the lack of buoys to site off of so I chose the hotel at the finish as my target. This worked well until the zig zag turns started. 

The race briefing was unclear as to turn buoys and nothing was said pre-race. Typically, courses are marked by yellow distance buoys and orange turn buoys. The only buoys you have to have on your left are turn buoys. With no instructions and 3 different colored buoys some parts were not clear. The volunteers in the water told Tripp and I to stay to the right of one green buoy on the zig zag so we had to correct a bit before making the turn. At this point the swim was sideways to the current and I was struggling a little to stay on course and not get pushed under the docks near shore. We eventually made it to the next right turn where we stopped to sight for the next left turn. The current here was strong and we could see ourselves being pushed ahead so we swam on and headed toward the next "turn" buoy. This time the volunteers told us to keep it to our right and just keep going so we headed toward the hotel on a direct line. 

My Swim

Just ahead was the swim exit. We had to wait in line (?!) to climb up ladders and once we were out I hauled ass to T1.  Garmin said 1:08 as I began my run. I ran by the wetsuit strippers, ran by the glasses pick up table (to be revisited later), through the showers to rinse off the salt water around the corner through the parking lot across the road then past the transition bags and straight to Kim. It was no short trek but I made the most of my time. We exchanged the timing chip and off she went. 

I am gaining on you

Eat my dust

There was a little friendly competition going on between friends and I was quite pleased to see Harry exiting T1 after Kim. Now that Kim was gone I was supposed to wait for Tripp to get changed and get his glasses so we could later get them to him on the run. Tripp came out of the changing tent and he said he never saw the glasses pick up after them swim. I assured him I would get them and he took off on the bike. I was able to retrieve Tripp's glasses and then John and I started our journey back to the hotel. I kind of wanted to take a nap before showering and delivering Peggy to T2 but we ended up getting trapped in traffic getting off the island. One of the lanes on the bridge was closed because of the race so it took quite a while to get back to the hotel. No nap for me.

I showered and got my stuff together for the evening. We figured Kim's bike leg would be about 6 hours if everything went well. We got to T1 just in time to see Holly and Sandy head out on the run for the Half Ironman. We relaxed and waited for Peggy to run.

Looks a lot like 666 - Runnin' with the Devil

Soon we saw Mike Delang come in from the bike and Kim was right behind him! Kim ran out just behind Mike and exchanged the timing chip and off goes Peggy. 

Kim coming in from the Bike

Peggy is on the Run

We waited for Peggy to come back around for a quick photo op

Kim headed back to the hotel to shower and John and I grabbed some dinner. We met back up with Kim and headed out to the run turn around. Judging by the time we missed Mike and Peggy but soon Sarah, Dale, Harry and Tripp came by. Everyone was looking good with the exception of Tripp. He was nauseous and had been getting sick the last mile or so. John kept walking with him and tried to get Tripp to continue but eventually it got to the point where Tripp decided to stop. John took him to the medical tent while we continued to wait for Peggy. 

At one point we had asked a volunteer if we could cross the finish line together and we were told no but we had just seen a woman cross the finish line with her child so we decided to ask someone else. I found the Setup events tent at the finish line and I asked if we could run across the finish line together. The response I got was "We are not Ironman. We don't care. Just as long as you don't interfere with another finisher then you can do whatever you want." 
So, we ran to the end of the finishers chute and waited for Peggy. Soon we saw her running out of the darkness and we ran across the finish line - 12:57. Woo Hoo!!

Later, Peggy said she didn't realize it was us at first and thought we were 2 nice ladies who want to run with her. She was a little delirious I guess :)
We went to collect our finishers medals and we were told that Kim and I had to wait until midnight or the next day in order to be sure all the individuals got medals. Um, really? Here's a thought. Order enough medals for all the participants and there won't be an issue. Not cool! I later learned they ran out of Half Ironman finishers medals. Really not cool!!

More important things than arguing with volunteers so we headed back to the medical tent to check on Tripp. Tripp was doing much better and was soon to be discharged. A Spartan just checked in because he was peeing blood - all in a days work at the Ironman medical tent. While waiting for Tripp we took some more pictures

Purple, Pink and Blue

Tripp was feeling much better after 2 IVs and some anti-nausea medicine so we headed out to the finish line and just as we arrived Harry crossed the finish line!! Sub 14 Harry - 7 weeks after Louisville!! Yay Harry!!

Coach Vader and his young Jedi

For the most part it was a successful weekend. Tripp was in good spirits and everyone had a fun weekend so it was time to celebrate!!

Race Impressions: A great race for anyone who wants to do a non corporate Ironman or half. You can't beat the fast swim! The relay was a nice way to participate and spectate. Let's just hope they get that medal issue resolved before next year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What's the Big Mystery?

Mystery Mountain Weekend

Mystery Mountain Marathon 12 miler - I have wanted to do this race for a while but there is usually a conflict and I cant do it. This year it was Stump Jump 50K that was the problem. This race is the weekend afterwards and despite the Redneck Goofy experience last spring, I decided a 12 mile trail race the weekend after a 50K seemed a bit nuts. However, when I dropped back to the 11(.5) miler at Stump Jump this seemed like it was doable. John was on board to volunteer and Coach said it was all good so I signed up. 

The plan was to camp at Ft Mountain the night before. Here we go with the camping again. The Stump Jump experience wasn't so bad so I figured why not? I had to work that Saturday so I was up early after a long week being the late PA. I got a little ambushed with unexpected work but muddled through and was home by around 2:00. We packed up the car and hit the road. 

Fort Mountain is near Carter's Lake and was an integral part of the Mountain Madness half Ironman I did last spring. Thankfully, I didn't have to bike up the mountain. Instead I had to run all around it. Our GPS sent us through Elijay which was celebrating an apple festival or something that day. Anyway, lots of people, scarecrows and activities going on in the main square. 

Here is a nice example but there were also some really creepy ones. In particular outside a funeral home they had a scarecrow funeral complete with dirt plot and flowers. Weird. 

We made it to race check in and the pre-race dinner. We got our tent setup and enjoyed a nice time around the fire with some fellow campers and runners

I did not sleep great. I was up a bunch of times to go to the bathroom. A few beers were had around the fire. Also, it was very cold that night so I slept bundled up in the sleeping bag and kept waking up when my shoulder and arm would fall asleep. Finally, it was time to get up. Unlike last week I had my full allotment of running clothes and was ready to start the day. John had to meet up with the volunteers earlier than the race start so we headed to the race start in our PJs. John continued to wear his PJs all day but I changed in the bathrooms. Bunny slippers don't make great trail shoes.

Once dressed and ready to go I met up with some friends and we got ready to start the race. The cannon went off and we were on our way. The race started winding around the lake and then soon we were climbing and then there was more climbing. The trails were similar to Stump Jump but there were not a lot of places to really run. Whenever possible I ran as hard as I could but mostly it was maneuvering around roots, rocks and trees. I ran through all the aid stations and said a quick hello to John as I passed by. I did not stop to admire the scenery just kept moving. I did not feel quit as peppy as last week and did not pass as many people this time around. We could see the finish line from across the lake but I still had 1.5 miles to go according to my garmin. I started to feel a bit tired having pushed the last mile or two. I slowed to grab a gu and turned the corner and there was the finish. What? I felt pretty stupid but picked up the pace and ran across the finish at 3:03. Having no idea what the course was like I figure 3:00 was a good bet given my time last weekend at the 11.5 miler. Had I not slowed down for the Gu I would have made 3:00 easily. Oh well, not sure if the Garmin was off because of the trees and switchbacks or the race itself was a little off in distance. In the end it didn't really matter since I had a good time and enjoyed the trails that day. 

Post race I "iced" my legs in the lake and then changed into warmer clothes and enjoyed some chili, beer and got to hang out with the GUTS crew. A good time was had by all. Even if the park ranger made me throw out my beer :)

Even though I didn't feel quite as sassy as the previous week I did pretty darn good considering this race had 1100 more feet of climbing. I would definitely do this race again. Maybe even do the marathon. It's always a good time at a GUTS race. Next up Beach 2 Battleship Iron Relay! 

Mystery Mountain

Stump Jump

Ice bath

View from the tent

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Homecoming, Bones, Blood and Bees

2012 Stump Jump 11miler Race Report

Finish Line
One week prior to this race I had a trail run on my schedule where I was instructed to attack the hills and run hard for 1:15. Actually, it was on my schedule for Saturday after an open water swim but I wasn't feeling up to a hard run that day so I pushed it to Sunday. We headed out to Kennesaw to do the Kolb Farm/Cheatham Hill loop when I saw on facebook they were going to be doing cannon firings at the Illinois monument. John had Betty along for his "recovery" run so we decided to cut the 5.6 mile loop short and just do 5 while avoiding the monument. Who knows how crazy Betty would react to the cannons? Turns out Betty could not have cared less. Elevator dings freak her the f' out but she is all good with cannons. 

The run went well, I pushed hard up all the hills and finished in 55 minutes. Probably the fastest I have ever run that trail. John actually remarked I was running fast that day. 
The rest of the week consisted of 3 more runs and a swim that didn't happen (the reasons why were many but in the end lack of motivation sealed the deal). I took it easy for 5 miles at the GUTS Tuesday night run and enjoyed chatting with Kim, one my fellow Lou-natics. Wednesday was supposed to be a quick run with a few short bursts of speed. I took Betty with me on the Comet and it was not a good run for either of us. Usually Betty gets in run mode and nothing gets in her way. That day Betty had to pee and poop about every 50 feet. Now this would have been a real pain if I was in training mode but turns out my left hip was starting to hurt a LOT. Every time I tried to really run it acted up. So, we did a 45 minute walk/run of sorts and that workout was a wash.

I took the day off work on Friday since packet pickup ends at 6:00. Last year was extremely stressful trying to get out of work and then fight traffic to get there in time. They have a nice expo in the riverfront park so I wanted to get there with plenty of time to enjoy the afternoon in Chattanooga. Last year we stayed in town and made the drive up to Signal Mountain for the race start. This year they offered camping at the school for $25. Since I wasn't doing the 50K I thought sleeping on the ground would probably be OK prior to the race. I learned Thursday, via facebook, that Friday was going to be Signal Mountain Middle school's Homecoming and we were assured that the festivities would die down by 10:30. Oh joy!

 I slept in, got a few things done around the house and dropped off the dog. I did a survey on facebook to see which outfit to wear and skeleton girl won out unanimously. I scooped up my clothes, dumped them in the bag and packed the rest of my gear. This will come back to bite me on race day. We packed the car and headed out.

3 outfit choices 

The drive to Chattanooga was uneventful and we arrived in good time. We went straight to the expo and found it to be less interesting than in years past. We checked in and since not much was going on at the park despite it being a beautiful day we headed over to the nearby Brewhaus for some food and beer. Our friend Leah met us there along with Joel and his cousin Bobby. We hung out for a bit and then headed back to the park for the panel. It was comprised of a few of the top runners from Salomon and Vasque team and Max King the expected winner. I didn't know any of these people and this was again a little less exciting than the North face speaker series they had done the last 2 years. While the panel was going on I snuck over to take some pictures of the hot air balloons that were in progress next door. 

This is why I love Chattanooga. Every time I have been there it seems very outdoor oriented. The riverfront park is beautiful and there is a lot of fun things going on, neat shops and everyone just seems really fit. There are tons of trails to run and it's just very "granola-ey" for lack of a better word. Its the same vibe I get in Portland, OR. I wish Atlanta seemed more focused on creating a great place for people to vacation and enjoy the outdoors. Sigh, back to the race report....

We drove to Signal Middle School and as reported the parking lots were packed and there was a football game going on complete with marching bands. Yay! The school is on a huge campus and we wound our way around to the soccer fields. There was someone waiting there to instruct us on the camp site and we began to set up camp. The noise from Homecoming wasn't too bad so I figured things would be OK. There was a bathroom close by and we got our stuff settled and got ready for bed. I realized I forgot to pack calf sleeves despite having the matching ones laid out for the other 2 outfits. Grr! Oh well, my legs might be a little cold but I was only going 11 miles so I should be fine. (I would repeat this refrain numerous times between now and the start of the race). I read for a bit and then just as I was drifting off to sleep I realized something else I forgot. A jog bra!! Doh!!! So, not good. Hmm, well I was wearing a tank with a shelf bra to sleep in so I guess that was going to have to do. If it got really hot it was going to be uncomfortable and gross under my shirt but not much I can do about it now. Again, I am glad its only 11 miles. 

I slept well and we woke up unstressed since were only a half a mile from the race start. John dressed and went to the bathroom while I organized my stuff. When John got back I swear I heard rain drops on the tent. What????? The one thing I purposely did not pack was rain gear because the weather report said 0% chance of rain. Zero percent is pretty damn strong. Clearly, there is no honor among weatherman. Well, crap! Maybe it will stop by race time. So, not only do I not have a jog bra, I don't have calf sleeves which will keep my legs warmer and less muddy(!) and it is raining. Awesome! I was originally feeling whimpy about not doing the 50K but now I was SO glad I was only doing 11 miles. 

I changed, made a pit stop, grabbed some breakfast and then we headed up to the start line. Parking is always a premium at the start but I guess the bad weather scared some people off. We got a great spot and waited in the car until start time. 
The view on a clear day

When I did the 50K last year - my race report - I was blown away by the spectacular views of the river and the beautiful but technical trails. I really enjoyed this race and set a 50K PR that I broke at MS50 last spring. The pretty part of the race was across Suck Creek Rd and I knew the 11 miler did not go that way. I had no idea what the course was but figured we would just wind around the back of the school campus and it would be boring at best. With the rain and mud I figured the views would be less than spectacular and I wasn't missing out so it was good that I was only doing the 11 miler. 

The overcast starting line
John and I lined up and the gun went off. The 11 mile course split almost immediately from the 50K pack. I stayed with the main pack for a bit and we only got gridlocked at a couple of spots. Soon I was running hard to keep up and my watch let me know I was in zone 5. Cool! I backed off a bit and was soon in a smaller pack. At one point a few speedsters flew by us and I assumed that the 50K'ers must convene with our trails at some point yet none of these trails seemed familiar. I found out later in the day that the lead pack of the 50K got lost and had to double back and eventually dropped out. There is something to be said for going a little slower and never losing your way. 

I was running steady and my cranky hip only seemed to bother me on hills. Good thing there were none of those! I found that my inner knee also started hurting at the same time. It was not horrible and I kept moving. Soon I heard the helicopter and saw that we were approaching a clearing. We were getting to see the river and had an awesome view, too bad it was covered in fog. Oh well. I ran up to the clearing just as the helicopter swung by and waved for the camera! I continued on in pursuit of 2 girls ahead of me. We ran together for a while but soon the lead girl was out of sight. There was  pack of 6 guys who kept stopping for pictures and then catching up again. Next thing I know I see lead girl on the ground and the pack of guys phoning for help. I guess she fell but she looked OK to me. Things were covered so I ran on.

About this time I felt a sharp, focal pain in my right thigh. Damn, that hurt! I could only assume that I had been stung by a bee. This continued to burn on and off throughout the race and again made me thankful I was only running 11 miles. I soon found myself in a pack of 4 with 2 women in front of me and a man behind me. I asked him if he wanted to go ahead of me but said he was fine where he was. In a way this pushed me along since I sensed him behind me at every step. I soon overtook the women in front of me who stopped for some walk breaks. I kept running up the hills and he kept following me. I came upon 2 more girls who sped up when they realized I was behind them but they were actually more cautious than me on the slippery trails and I eventually passed them. This is when I started to keep track - 4 down. 

Around the next turn the trails started to look familiar and there was the mushroom rock aid station (pictures in last years race report). Thankful again I was only doing  the 11 miler since this was the beginning of a 2 mile downhill that you have to come back up on the return of the 50K. The volunteers complimented me on my shirt and remarked that they saw a guy wearing the same thing on the 50K trail. I said yup, that's my husband. They instructed me to stay right and I gratefully headed to the finish line.

After a long uphill climb, which I walked, the trail flattens out and is very wide and runnable. You wind around the back of the school and head towards home. There are a few more steep hills but by far this is the easiest 3 miles of the course. Here I passed 11 guys - seriously! They were all moving slow and looked slightly beaten and I relished running by them. This was quite fun! Soon I was back on the road and headed home with a finish time of 2:47. Not exactly what I had planned on but then again I had no idea of the trails or conditions. I was a little down but soon realized that there were people still finishing over an hour after me and that picked up my spirits a bit.

I quick got out of my wet clothes and into something dry and warm. The rain had stopped but it had gotten quite chilly. I grabbed some food and got a quick massage. I saw the 50K winner cross the finish line - 30 minutes slower than last years winner. The conditions and the fact that the lead pack dropped out contributed to such a slow time. Seriously, 4:15 to run a technical, muddy 50K. Geez, my grandmother could kick your ass.

Now it was time to pack up the tent. I drove back to the soccer fields to find our tent on its side - we didn't stake it down. I wish I had taken a picture. It looked ridiculous. I told John I was going to to the godzilla approach and just collapse the tent and throw it in the car but he was not a fan so I took it down and packed in nicely away and headed back to the finish line. I grabbed a beer and read my book for a bit. 

Soon it was time to wait for Leah and John to finish which they did in short order. Leah smoked the course and had also suffered a bee sting. She later developed a severe case of hives and had to visit the ER. John had a 20 minute PR despite falling 3 times. He looked pretty torn up and was again cursing all the rocks on the course. Me, I was again glad that I only did 11 miles. Turns out it was actually 11.55 according to my Garmin but who's counting?

We hung out for a bit and headed home without incident. My bee sting continued to throb and itch and I have had a nice welt for 3 days now. Not to mention a few scratches that would have been avoided with calf sleeves. No hives though. I was pretty sore until today which is a sad state of affairs. My fitness level has plummeted. I have slacked off but not entirely. Its time to kick it back into gear but I am still fighting burnout. I've got another trail race this Sunday. Hopefully, this will go a bit better. My hip feels much improved and I have been stretching it. Then it's B2B relay and then train until Mountain Mist 50K in January.

As for Stump Jump - I highly recommend this race. Chattanooga is close and the 11 mile race is just as scenic and challenging as the 50K. However, there is no medal, no free meal, no nothing for the 11 miler people so keep that in mind. It's all about the 50K which I look forward to next year.

Beautiful trails!

Mud and blood post race
The worst of John's scrapes