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October 1, 2006

Lest you all think I’m crazy, let me explain myself. I’m not one to break Streaks. I ran my first Twin Cities Marathon my sophomore year in undergrad, and I’ve run it every year since, including on my 21st birthday. School didn’t allow for much travel time (or travel cash), so I just signed up for TCM every year. When the end of April came around this year and with it the opening of TCM registration, I hadn’t planned to sign up. Then I started thinking…

1. Every year when the marathon is over, I experience an element of sadness. I’m pretty sure it’s due to the fact that I have spent so many hours training for the race that once it’s over, I sort of don’t know what to do with myself. I can only imagine that feeling amplified many times over after Ironman.

2. This year is their 25th anniversary run. It is going to be quite a bash, and I want to be part of it.

3. I don't like to mess with tradition. If I can, I want to finish again this year. It may not be fast; it may not be pretty; but if there is a chance I can finish it even having done IM three weeks before, I want to do it. I’ve done it in the past with much less training. This year’s training will just be very different.

So it is. I signed up. I’ve paid the registration fee, and you see the race as part of my schedule to your right.
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Week of Running

Last week’s emphasis was on swimming. This week will focus on running, probably my favorite part of the tri (although I’m growing to like the bike). It’s not my favorite because I’m some crazy fast person. I just like how low maintenance it is. I can just throw on my running shoes and head out the door. No trip to the Y, no prepping my bike, no extra equipment to pack. It's just the road and me.

Yesterday’s 3 mile swim actually felt pretty good. I managed to get myself out of bed at a decent time. The pool started off REALLY warm, and I was afraid of how the workout would go when I felt like I was swimming in a bathtub. I prefer the water in the low 80s, but it must have been close to 90. Thankfully, the air outside was cool, and having the doors open helped it to cool off in there a little. The swim was of course a little slow, but I am getting faster. Each of my miles was within about 30 seconds of each other, so I was definitely paced! I was starving afterward, and Mr. SLS took me out for an AMAZING celebratory brunch in honor of me passing my boards.

The workouts this week look to be pretty intense, but I’m actually looking forward to them. I’m never really sore after a day of swimming, and just a little stiffness the morning after a workout always makes me feel like I actually did something the day before. Here’s the lowdown for this week:

M: 120 min bike with 1 min accelerations every 8 minutes
T: 90 min tempo run
W: 2 x 1500 M swim, 30 min run at RPE 3
Th: 75 min endurance run, 2500 M swim
F: 60 min easy run, 120 min bike ride (including a tempo ride in the middle) – I might make this ride a little longer since this is my longest bike ride of the week, and I’m a little worried about the length of my long ride next weekend doing recon in WI.
S: 1500 m swim. It’ll be open water since I’m out in WI at my friend’s cabin
Su: 2 ½ hour run with hills.

Whew! Guess I won’t have to worry about not feeling like I put in the work this week! No days off scheduled, but I’m not worried as Saturday’s swim doesn’t look to be too difficult.

On a personal note, I paid the Board of Pharmacy my $105 licensing fee today, and I am now an official licensed pharmacist. I was really worried that I’d have to retake my law exam, and all I kept thinking was, “How the heck am I going to start an Intensive Care Unit residency, train for the Ironman, and study for my exam again and still do a good job with all of them?” I can’t even believe how relieved I feel now that I know that I passed. It’s like a gigantic weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I literally danced in my living room for about 2 hours on Sat night I was so excited.

Well, better get started on that 2 hour ride. It’s starting to sprinkle here. Hopefully it doesn’t get much worse.
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Note: This message was posted on 6/24 but for some reason posted as 6/21. I can't for the life of me figure out how to change it. Please excuse my technological inadequacies.

I just opened my mail about 2 hours ago and found out that I am now officially a licensed pharmacist!! I passed my boards (both of them), and now all I have to worry about is taking care of my patients and training. What a relief!

4700 M swim tomorrow - WOW. That will take me a while...
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First Open Water Swim of the Year!

...And BOY do I have a lot of freakin' work to do! I always seem to forget just how disorienting that first open swim is each year. Seeing as how I swim in a 25 yard pool with nice fancy black lines painted on, it is so much different to hop in the lake. Fortunately, Nokomis is very swimmer friendly. They have a special area for swimmers/triathletes to swim around the buoys, and there were lot of swimmers there tonight. I felt at times that I was actually in a triathlon when the "just keep them from kicking your head" mentality kicked in.

When I first hopped in, my form went all to hell. I was swimming a lot faster than I normally do, and I know that I need to work on this. Come Sept, I cannot sustain 2.4 miles of terrible, fast form. I guess it's weekly open water swims from here on out! I am also planning on going to the local outdoor pool a few times. It is a 50 M pool. Hopefully the change of scenery and fewer walls to push off will make me a little stronger both physically and mentally. If I remember right, it doesn't have lines on the bottom.

The hilly bike workout went pretty well last night. I found a couple more hills to add in. Now if I can just make it about 20 miles longer... I tried to stay in the saddle when climbing up the hills, but there were a couple of out of the saddle 4mph ascents. Max speed was greater than 35 mph downhill. I had used up all of my high gears and was still spinning at a 110 cadence at that point.

Well, better hit the hay. Have a 4.5 mile run before work tomorrow then another swim tomorrow night.
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A Week in the Water

Back to full weeks of training. My program is now at a point where I emphasize one discipline per week for the next several weeks. This week is swimming. I have to swim 6 days this week. Since swimming is not my favorite element of the tri, I think it will actually be good for me. I retaught myself how to swim this past winter, and although my stroke has gotten better, my speed in the water is actually a little slower. I swam 3200 meters yesterday and felt great, like I could have gone a lot farther (I have gone a lot farther already this year), and maybe this is the key. If I don’t kill myself in the water and have wasted little energy by the time I climb out, the bike and the run will be that much better. I’ve got my first open water swim of the year planed for tomorrow.

I start back to the working world tomorrow. I’ve been pretty lucky the last month or so as far as training goes: plenty of sleep, my own schedule, and only the occasional 4 am alarm clock. When I signed up for IMWI, I thought that this would be the perfect time to train – right as I’m finishing school and starting my residency. I guess we’ll see in the next couple of months if I was right. I know that starting my new job will be stressful, and I’m heading right into my most intense weeks of training. I’m not sure if it will be good stress relief or if it will be added stress. Stay tuned!

I’m heading out to Madison in a couple of weeks to train on the bike course. I’ll finally get to see the hills that everybody has been talking about. I’ve been trying to incorporate some good sized hills in my rides lately, but actually seeing what I’ll be up against in September will help me design some rides to prepare me for IM. I actually have a hilly 2 hour ride planned for this afternoon.

Sorry for the random post today – a lot on my mind, and not enough time to formulate coherent thoughts!
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Luna Bars All Around!

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. SLS and I were on a long bike ride. As I ran into a gas station to get a Gatorade, he opened up a S’mores Luna Bar. As he bit down, he chomped right onto a rock! It wasn’t a huge rock, just about ¼-1/5 the size of a pea. If you ask me, chomping onto a rock of any size is too much. I called the company to complain, and they sent us a box of 15 S’mores Luna Bars. Hopefully they are sans rocks this time.
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Run Maddy, Run!

Just wanted to post a quick GOOD LUCK to my great friend Maddy who is running Grandma's Half this weekend. Kick some boo-tay on the course. Can't wait to hear about it!
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What Makes an Athlete?

So I took my second huge test for my boards today. Hopefully it was my last. Hardcore studying has basically consumed all of my time for the past few days. It actually worked out OK for this to be a recovery week. Seeing as how I’ve needed to lock myself at the library and haven’t had time for much else, not having to work out 4 hours a day has been nice. I’m actually surprised at how terrible I feel taking time off. Granted, I wasn’t supposed to take THIS much time off, and that isn’t helping. I was supposed to get Monday off and do small workouts yesterday and today. I haven’t worked out in three days. This is the most time off I’ve taken since I started my training for IM. I needed to prioritize, though, and studying had to take the priority. If this were a regular training week, I may not have been so lenient. Studying is often associated with vending machines, and that has probably added to lack of motivation and my body just not quite feeling right. I’ve been pretty good about putting high quality fuel in it lately, so the recent consumption of excessive junk food is leaving me with some extreme gut rot. Back on both wagons tomorrow…

Since I don’t have much to report workout-wise today, I thought I’d write a bit about a question that’s been nagging me for some time now, “What makes an athlete?” You see, I’ve never considered myself an athlete. I’ve never even considered myself athletic, minus a time or two. I’ve been participating in organized sports since about 4th grade, but I was never the star of the team. I would show up for every practice, work my hardest, and still sit the bench for most of my basketball and volleyball games. I was actually pretty good at softball through high school, but poor coaching made me leave. (This was probably for the better because it helped me discover running.) Although I was only in Track and Cross Country for 2 years, it was the first time that I actually felt like my hard work paid off. Numbers don’t lie. I was not the fastest one on the team, but the work I put in and the races I ran kept me at least toward the top. My one “B” in high school was in Phy. Ed. What a ridiculous place to get a B. I’ve never been the most coordinated (I, ashamedly, am still not able to ride no-handed on my bike), so the skills tests at the end of each sport we covered were not my favorite part. I look back now and laugh because most of the people who earned A’s in Phy. Ed. are now overweight and out of shape. Anyway, back to the topic at hand... The first time I ever considered myself an “athlete” was when I won an athletic scholarship at the end of high school. I had been to two state CC meets by then and had been voted “most dedicated” by my CC teammates, but “athlete” was not a word that I would have used to describe myself. Six marathons, a couple of triathlons, and numerous road races later, I still don’t think it’s a word I’d use to describe myself. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because I don’t run at the front of the pack. My fastest marathon was 3:58, and I had to work damn hard for that one. I am usually just right smack dab in the middle, but lately I’ve been wondering: Will Ironman make me an athlete? Part of me says yes, that even before I’ve started the race, the training, time, and dedication put forth up to that point prove that I am an athlete. I’m still not sure. So I pose this question: What is an athlete? Is it a person with dedication? Coordination? Speed? Drive?
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Longest Ride Ever

More to come later, but a quick report... I have to get back to studying for boards - THIS Wednesday! ARRG! Hopefully they will be over very soon, I will never have to take them again, and I can focus on work and training without them hanging over my head. The 70 miles yesterday went well (it actually came back at 70.75, but close enough. I felt pretty good the whole day but completely ran out of gas by the end. I'm pretty sure that my blood sugar got too low. Need to keep working on that aspect. The course I did was relatively flat with a few good sized hills, and I averaged 15.5 MPH. Lots of room for improvement, but I am improving. I just hope that the improvement is coming fast enough. Maybe with the new bike that's on it's way? Did a 30 minute run right afterward and actually felt OK. I'm learning to like the feeling of the bike-to-run transition. Easy run and bike today. I'm really looking forward to a recovery week this week and camping with my family next weekend. Off to the books...
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So Steve informed me that he will not be joining me on my 70 mile ride tomorrow. "I want to go on a fast ride," he informed me yesterday. That's obviously his choice, but I was really looking forward to having the company. Funny. I've never really minded training alone before. I trained for most of my marathons alone, and I trained for my triathlons alone. IM seems different somehow. I think it's just the sheer number of hours that I'm putting in that makes me really look forward to sessions I get to do with other people. I guess this will be just another deposit into the mental toughness bank.
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It Was Hot, and I Was Lost

Let me start out by saying that I really do think my sense of direction has gotten better. My plan for today said that I needed to swim 1 2/3 mile and then run 14 miles. It’s my first official tough brick of the season, and I had myself ready to do it. I packed up all of my stuff last night in preparation for an early morning. The alarm went off. I snoozed it once before peeling myself out of bed. Steve didn’t even move a little bit when I told him that I’d see him in a few hours. The swim went OK. I was the first one in the pool this morning. They were resurfacing the parking lot outside, and it was smelling pretty bad of tar in the pool area, but for some miraculous reason, it didn’t seem to bother me (that smell usually chokes me into coughing fits). I hopped out of the pool, rinsed off, threw on my running clothes, ate a Powerbar, and headed out the door.

My plan today was to find my way to a lake that’s a few miles away from my house. I wasn’t exactly sure how to get there. The only other time I’ve ever been there was when I took a wrong turn on my bike (really, I don’t get lost THAT often). I figured that I had 14 miles to play with; plenty of room to spare if I didn’t turn on the right street the first time. I call these “exploration runs,” when I can just strap on my GPS and go without knowing exactly where I am or how far I’ve gone. It’s amazing how many really great trails and new ways to get places I’ve found on these runs. Anyway, I headed several miles down the main road and turned on to a street that looked like it would take me to the lake. A couple of miles later, the street came to an end, so I turned onto another street that I thought was heading in the right direction. To make a long story short, I circled around the same 3 dead end streets for a while before finding my way out and heading back. By the time I found the street that I actually needed to be on, I only needed to go another 1 ½ miles before turning around to go home. I never made it to the lake. Maybe next time.

My usual runs are on a stretch where I can stop for water, food and a bathroom every ½ to 1 mile, so I can bring nutrition along, but I never really need to worry about water. I can stop and get it anywhere. I realized today that I take that for granted way too much. At about mile 6, I realized that I should really try to find some water. I kept my eye out, but there were no parks, no stores, and no convenience stations. At about mile 8, I was thinking how stupid I was for not being more prepared, but at mile 8½, I came across a very small gas station. I had my credit card with me, which is usually good enough in my neighborhood, but I had a sinking feeling that this store would require a $10 minimum, and I’d be stuck. I bought a water and a Gatorade, which came to $2.55. “You need another 45 cents,” said the attendant. Exasperated and thirsty beyond belief, I turned to the cooler next to me and asked how much the giant Mr. Freezes were. “I’ll give it to you for 45 cents, no tax,” he replied, so I bought one. I chugged half the Gatorade before he had even rung up my purchase. I ate about 3 bites of the Freeze before throwing it away, and I stashed my water by a bush down the street to get it when I came back. The peanut butter Powerbar and fruit punch Gatorade made for interesting burps for the rest of the run.

I know that this is something that I need to work on. When I’m just running, even during marathons, I don’t have a problem with getting in enough fluid. During the Ironman, though, I’ll have to be much more conscious of what I’m taking in, and I’m still trying to figure that part out. For now, any experimental runs I decide to try need to include bringing along water to go with the Powerbars or gels that I bring along.
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The Beginning...

I know it’s a little late in the season. Ironman Wisconsin is just over three months away, but as I’m heading deeper and deeper into training, I’m realizing that I need another outlet. Steve has been nothing but supportive over the past several months, but I’m pretty sure that he’s getting a little tired of hearing what my training involves today, how my training went today, and what my plan dictates that I do tomorrow. My friends have also been very supportive, but I am often very aware of the fact that my training comes up in every single conversation we have. Even if nobody ever reads this, at least it’s another place to share my hopes, my fears, and my struggle. My hope is that come September 11th, the day after the biggest race of my life, I will be able to look back at this account and realize that it was all worth it.

I suppose I should start with how this all came to be. I was sitting in my house in July of 2003 and just happened to turn on the TV one Sunday. They were airing the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon on TV, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I had done several marathons at this point, but I hadn’t given triathlons much thought. After watching the program, I vowed that I would be there in 2004 to race the Olympic distance race. I signed up a couple of months later and started training. It wasn’t exactly easy. I had never met anyone who had done a triathlon, so I basically learned all I could from books (I have quite the library of tri books by now). Wouldn’t you know…after all that training, my timing chip fell off my ankle during the swim. I managed to screw up my watch’s lap function during T1, so I don’t really have any idea what any of my splits were. My guess is that I finished around 3:30. After that race, I was hooked. I knew that more races were in my future, and for the first time, I thought about Ironman. The plan was to do Lifetime again in 2005, do the Square Lake half IM later that summer, and do IM WI in 2006. I started my rotations for school in late May of 2005, and my first rotation was 1½ hour drive each way. Needless to say, training suffered. A lot. I still did Lifetime’s Olympic distance race, but my times didn’t improve much from the year before. Another 3:30. It didn’t help that it was 105 degrees with humidity, and my run averaged about 12 minutes a mile. The plan to do Square Lake was thwarted by a nasty case of bronchitis that left me unable to even run ½ mile. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. You signed up for an Ironman when the farthest tri you’ve ever done was an Olympic distance?! It wasn’t the plan, but I also went straight from the 5K to the Marathon, so I guess this is typical for me. Hopefully the half IM in July will give me a little more practice before September.

Training so far has been going well. Slow, but overall OK. I’m on schedule as far as the amount of training I’m supposed to be doing at this point, but I don’t know that my speed is as fast as I would like to see it. Hopefully with a few more hours…