Season Ender

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So there has been a whole lotta crickets coming from this neck of the woods. On my last report, I had just finished my 13th TCM and was SO looking forward to conquering my second ever 50K trail race on Oct 27. I was registered. I was confident. I FELT it during TCM - my training was good, and I could definitely run another few miles.  When I did the 50K in 2009, I finished marathon training and then hit the trails to get my trail ankles, legs, and pacing. Since there is only a couple of weeks between the two, I can get away with not doing any really long runs and just focusing on a few decent trail runs (12-17 miles or so). Adding in a few bike rides to keep up my endurance and a few more mid-distance runs, I knew I would be good to go. Since I was already signed up, I really should have been doing a bit more trail running during marathon training, but most of my mid-week marathon runs were in the dark. I was so happy to get back to trails. It requires so much more balance and focus, but trail running reminds me that I am out there because I love running. That's it. Plus, fall in MN is beautiful.

This beautiful trail run reminded me that I just plain love running
Running along the Mississippi not far from my house

Ten days before Surf the Murph, I had a comp day for working the weekend, so I headed down to the park to do a loop on the trail. I was planning on a 17 miler - one full loop. I had plenty of food, my water bottle, and the new Mumford and Sons album downloaded onto my phone. It's really rocky and rooty, and as usual, I was super paranoid that I would roll an ankle, but despite a couple of close calls, I was doing fine. Five miles in, I stopped to peek at one of the park signs. When I side-stepped to start back up, I let my guard down and stepped into a huge rut (I would estimate that it was around 10 inches deep). I heard two giant pops in my left ankle and fell to the ground in pain.  I knew it was bad. Since I was out in the middle of a park reserve, I'd have to make it back myself. Thankfully, there is a road that traverses the park, and I was able to meet up with that in order to make it back to my car. The ankle hurt like heck and swelled up to insane proportions to complement the myriad of colors it had become, but I was hoping for a miracle and prayed that 10 days would offer enough time to heal. It wasn't. Race week, I realized I wouldn't be ready to run long distances on it, much less on trails. I decided on my first DNS.

Over 4 weeks later, my ankle is still a bit swollen. I tried to run on it two weeks ago and felt heavy and slow. Today, I ran 6 miles with my coworker Laura. I have definitely lost a lot of fitness, and though it was taped, it still felt achy. I have sprained my ankles in the past, but it was so long ago that I can't seem to remember what it felt like when I started up again. I imagine some stiffness is pretty normal and I just need to keep working at it and make sure I'm not making it worse. Incidentally, YouTube is lifesaver when it comes to "how-to" videos like ankle taping, though the guy in the video didn't tell me how to deal with two excited cats while I was laying out the tape.

I know it will just take time to heal, and I'm glad it happened at the time of the year when I would normally be winding down anyway. In the meantime, I found myself going stir crazy and not sleeping well. I needed to get moving again. After the swelling had subsided enough for my cankle to fit into my bike shoes, I starting spending a lot of time with my QR and my Cyclops Fluid 2. I haven't been doing anything too crazy, just plenty of time in the saddle. Normally the time drags on, even with a good Spinnervals or TV show, but I found a new way to pass the time. My iPad fits perfectly into my aerobars, and I just discovered that the St. Paul Public Library has an extensive E Book collection. I am LOVING this arrangement and have managed two rides greater than 2.5 hours in the last 2 weeks. There will be plenty of time for more technical trainer riding in the upcoming winter months, but just keeping my heart rate up and burning off some excess stress while this thing heals up is good enough for me right now.

We are going to do a 10K as a family on Thanksgiving, and Steve and I are having our first date night in 18 months this week. Our sitter graciously offered to keep H for his first over night visit. Lots to be thankful for!

Henry saying goodbye to his pumpkin. He had to give it a hug first!

Lucky Thirteen!

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Sunday was the running of the 31st Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. It also happened to be my 32nd birthday and the 13th year in a row that I've shown up at the start line of this race. As I mentioned in my last post, I was excited to be able to run this race with my coworkers Laura and Tzivia.

My coworker Jared asked me the Friday before the race if I was nervous or if this was "old hat" by now. I answered honestly that the distance doesn't really scare me anymore. At this point in my life, I'm not going for marathon PRs. My goal out there was going to be to have fun, and I was hoping to see Laura to her first marathon finish.

After some tasty pasta on Saturday night, our alarm went off at 6 AM on Sunday. One of the things I love about doing a close race is that my race morning alarm clock was actually set later than my normal work week alarm. Steve, my brother Matt, his girlfriend Angela (who was running her FIRST marathon), my cousin Ben, my Aunt Nancy, and Steve's parents all caravanned to the start. We stopped to snap a pic of the racers before heading our separate ways:

Angela, me, and Ben trying to stay warm!
Tzivia, Laura, and I had planned to meet at a specific gate at the Metrodome. It was one that Tzivia's friends were also meeting at. Unfortunately, it also happened to be THE MAIN GATE THAT 11,999 OTHER MARATHONERS WERE ENTERING AND EXITING. It was a terrible place to meet, and after 25 minutes of searching for Tzivia and/or Laura, I realized that there was a good chance I wouldn't find either of them. I made my way out to the starting line. A little bit of dread started to set in. I realized that the race I was planning to run with a couple of really fun girls was maybe going to be a solo race. I really don't mind running alone, especially since I have a gift for making race friends, but that wasn't what I'd been mentally preparing for. At the back of my corral, I spotted Tzivia! She told me that she had been with Laura but Laura had gone back to look for me one more time. The corral was filling up fast, and Tzivia decided that she needed to get in line. "I can't be behind the 5 hour runners," she said. "You don't want to see how big of a mess I'll be if I have to start back there."

I waited. I waited some more. Dread was setting deeper and deeper in the pit of my stomach, and then I spotted Laura! I was so relieved that I nearly cried. This was going to be a great race after all. Laura and I got in line. We positioned ourselves off to the side. I had been so busy looking for my ladies that I never got to make one last trip to the porta potties, and I hoped this wouldn't come back to haunt me (it didn't).

Laura and me just after the start

We were pretty excited to get started!
 The start of the race FLEW by. I pointed out some of my favorite traditions - whooping under a tunnel in downtown, running by the Basilica while its bells were ringing for all of the runners, and seeing the lakes. We laughed and shared fun signs were reading, we talked, and we ran. Literally before I knew it, we were closing on mile 6, then mile 8. I was feeling good. The weather was still chilly at just over 30 degrees, but I was glad I'd decided on shorts, mittens, an ear band, a sleeveless top, and my Evotri bike jersey. We saw Laura's husband Jared at mile 11. He was biking bits of the course, and we'd see him countless more times before we crossed the finish line. I knew to look for my family at mile 15. When I saw them, my jaw dropped. My mom was there with the rest of our cheering section! She was able to take a few hours off of work to come watch the race.  What a fun surprise!

My mom holding up some extra Gu. Let it be known that
Mint Chocolate Gu is nectar of the Gods

She gave me a big birthday hug, I shot a smile to the rest of my family, and we were off again. I was so excited to see them all that I forgot that I was going to leave my mittens with them!

Mile 16 is always the hardest mile for me at a marathon. The pain has started to set in at that point, and 10 miles to go seems like an awfully long way.  This year was no exception. The crowd was AMAZING out there, just like it is every year. People have huge speaker systems to blast fun music, bands come out to play, families make fun signs to come and cheer, and neighbors have fun block parties. I tried to focus on all of the fun and a little less on any pain that was creeping up on me. I was wearing my SI brace, and though my sacrum was starting to ache, I found that tightening the brace every once in a while brought it back to manageable.

Soon we were at mile 20. "Only a 10K left!" I chirped to Laura. She smiled and agreed that we were going to do this. We weren't talking much any more. We were just focusing on the hills coming up, soaking in the sunshine, and pushing forward.

By the time we hit Summit Avenue, I was feeling good. Laura was starting to suggest that I go on ahead, but I didn't want to hear it. We were going to finish this together. We spotted a few supportive coworkers who had come out to cheer along with other friends as we made our way toward the Capitol. Though our time started slipping, I was thankful that my training was good. That 22 miler a couple of weeks ago made a HUGE difference in my physical and mental endurance. I focused on keeping my stride smooth and even. My legs were starting to ache, so I told myself to put them on autopilot and focus outside myself. I offered Laura encouragement, high-fived the little kids, and thanked the spectators for coming out.  I laughed at the signs and one guy's T-shirt that said, "Free kittens at the finish." The race was flying by, and I was soaking it in.

I looked for my family at mile 25.5. Henry and my sister Annie had joined them:

Henry sporting his new "old man" sweater

I was still smiling like a lunatic after all of those miles!
We crested the hill and ran down to the finish line. It's always such a beautiful sight with a huge American flag waving over our heads and the Capitol in the background. We crossed the finish line, high-fived, and hugged. We finished in 4:23:52 - a pretty average time for me, and one that I'm proud of since I felt great and have been trying so hard to find balance between work, being a wife and mom, and endurance sport.

I made my way back up the hill to find my family - medal around my neck, chocolate milk in hand, and a smile on my face. Running a beautiful marathon in your city is a great way to celebrate a birthday. The icing on my cake? Getting a giant birthday hug from this guy:

My splits, in case anyone is interested, were not fast, but here they are:
Mile 1: 10:01
Mile 2: 9:41
Mile 3: 10:09
Mile 4: 9:35
Mile 5: 9:36
Mile 6: 10:02
Mile 7: 10:13 (hit the split late)
Mile 8: 8:54
Mile 9 and 10: 19:30
Mile 11: 9:31
Mile 12: 9:38
Mile 13: 9:44
Mile 14: 10:21 (hit the split late)
Mile 15:  9:19
Mile 16: 10:11
Mile 17: 9:51
Mile 18: 10:14
Mile 19 and 20: 20:36
Mile 21: 10:18
Mile 22: 11:16
Mile 23: 11:11
Mile 24: 10:43
Mile 25: 10:22
Mile 26: 10:34
Mile 0.2: 2:05

Final Thoughts:

You couldn't have wiped the smile off my face at this race. It was just a great day to run.

Good thing Tzivia ditched us. On her very minimal training this year, she PR'd by several minutes even after stopping to talk to her family for a while. I think she finished in 3:50 something.

Angela ROCKED her first marathon. So proud of you, Angela!

I just love this race. I honestly don't know that I could have this much fun during another marathon. Yes, I'll likely do more more away from home in my future, but there' something so special about seeing familiar faces, running on your regular routes, sleeping in your own bed, and being able to have your family there with you. It makes me proud every year that people are coming from all over the world to see my beautiful city and the amazing people who live here.

Yes, my time leaves room for improvement - a minute/mile faster and I'll be back to my marathon PR, but considering I shaved 3 minutes/mile or so off of my 16 weeks postpartum time from last year, I'd say we're making progress.

Having a 16 month old to chase around at home does not leave time for being sore. He needs to be carried up and down the steps whether your legs protest or now. This "active recovery" meant that by day 2 post-race, I wasn't sore at all.

I should probably slow down on the post-marathon Swedish Fish, chocolate, and apple crisp. I still have a 50K in 3 weeks, and getting up and down those hills isn't going to be the least bit fun with an extra 10 pounds on my behind.

In 6 more years, I'll be able to say I've been doing this race half my life. I certainly hope to keep the streak up at least that long!

Race Week!

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Wow. I haven't written a "Race Week" post for so long. When I do, I try to keep them at the beginning of the week so I can plan and reflect.  Well, the days of planning and reflecting for races have gone the way of my pre-pregnancy boobs. On Sunday, I will toe the line at my 13th Twin Cities Marathon. It will be on my 32nd birthday. I've followed my training plan as best as I can while working more than full time and trying to be a good mama. I've put in my long runs, including a 22 miler two weeks ago, and I've been trying to get to the chiropractor whenever I feel my sacrum has shifted out of place. I've done some of my long runs well before dawn and well after dusk so that I could fit my training in with the rest of life. Thank God I live in a relatively safe area that allows for running after Henry's bedtime. I don't know when I would have fit the training in otherwise!

People kept asking me at work today whether I'm nervous. I can honestly say I haven't been. I was a little nervous early this week when our house got hit by a GI bug. Poor Henry was terribly sick on Tuesday, and though I had horrible nausea and couldn't eat, I think I lucked out and avoided most of that nastiness. I work right near the start line, so I have been seeing signs and barricades appear this week. It's fun and exciting to watch it all take shape. My usual strategy of not thinking too much about the race tends to serve me well, so that's what I've been trying to do. The weather looks to be PERFECT with a low of 40, a high of 57, some clouds, and no chance of rain. My coworkers Laura, Tzivia, and I decided to start out together. They are SO much fun, and it's Laura's first marathon. It's going to be a blast. By now, I know when to expect the pain. Given the fact that I haven't been putting in 50+ mile weeks, I know it will come, but I'm looking forward to spending a beautiful day with 2 cities I love, my family, and thousands of amazing spectators. I am excited to celebrate my health and the strong body God has given me. This won't be my fastest marathon. It won't be my slowest, but it may just be the most fun I've had over 26.2 miles.

My Summer Triathlon Bucket List Race #4 - The Race That Remains There

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The fourth and final race on my summer triathlon bucket list was the St. Paul Triathlon Olympic distance race on August 19. I've wanted to do this race for years, but it's just never worked out. I was excited to get one final tri in while ramping up the distance at the end of the summer. My body had other plans.

I have been training for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon for the last couple of months and have been really excited to see some of my pre-baby run times showing up on my watch. My coworker Laura is running her first TCM, and as luck would have it, she's right about my pace, so we've been doing a lot of our runs together. Once upon a time, I liked to run by myself. In the last few years, however, ESPECIALLY post-baby, I like having a partner. Long runs feel more like social time with an added bonus of exercise instead of something I sometimes dread doing and know it's taking time away from my family.

Ten days before the tri, I went on a long run with Laura. We only went 16 miles, but my sacrum, which has been a little achy lately, REALLY started to act up. It was one of those things where I had been feeling the need to go to the chiropractor for weeks, but I just hadn't found the time. This pain was unlike anything I had felt before. My entire sacrum hurt so bad that I couldn't sit down without pain. It hurt to lay on my back, walk, or bend over. Even the thought of running turned my stomach. Watching track races during the Olympics made me feel worse. I started to freak out that I had a stress fracture, and I went to a very dark place. Sacral stress fractures are relatively uncommon, but I had to eliminate most dairy this past year while I was breastfeeding secondary to Henry's sensitivity issues, and I sometimes take my ability to ramp up my mileage for granted. "Great," I thought, "I won't be able to run for weeks, even months, and we're going to have to be done breastfeeding."

I called my friend Sarah, a PT who specializes in Women's medicine to ask if she thought I should be wearing my SI belt again given the pain. That's when she informed me that she usually recommends that women wear the brace for 6-12 months after they're done nursing. Oops. I think that part was lost in translation. I haven't worn it since the marathon last fall.

I got in to see a sports med doctor 5 days after my run, still unable to sit comfortably. He confirmed that things were definitely out of whack in there and that it could be a stress fracture. He sent me for a bone scan. Radioactivity aside, it was actually quite a pleasant experience. Put a working mom on a small table covered in warm blankets in a dark room for 30-40 minutes, and it's no surprise that I fell asleep. They called me 2 days later to say that the test results were negative. Hallelujah! At that point, I had been without a run for a full week, and I knew things wouldn't truly get better till I could in with the chiropractor. Though I was starting to feel a little better, I knew the tri was out of the question.

The chiropractor confirmed that my right sacrum was really locked out of place and with a couple of maneuvers and a gloriously loud crack, he got it back. He and my PT friend both recommended that I continue to wear the brace since I'm at risk for it going out again, so that's what I'm doing. It isn't pretty, but I can tell when I need to tighten it in the middle of a run. It really is helping. It got me through my 18 miler last weekend and my twenty miler Saturday.  It's looking like TCM #13 will be happening after all!

My 20 miler Saturday felt great! Well, "great" is a relative term. It felt like I ran 20 miles. I did the first 6 solo in beautiful weather along the Mississippi. They had the inaugural Women Rock marathon and Half Marathon, and I ran right past the start as they were lining up. I felt so excited for them. I'm curious to hear what people thought of it. I'd definitely consider doing it sometime. I finished those 6 miles with a ton of energy knowing the rest of my run was going to be good. Laura met up with me for my last 14, and the miles just flew by. I didn't really feel sore afterward, and I took this as a sign that my body is tolerating the mileage.

I've been strongly considering doing Surf the Murph 50 K at the end of October. I did it in 2009 and had a blast, and I've been wanting to get back since.  Feeling OK after my 20 miler and the threat of increased prices after Sept 15 gave me the final push I needed. I signed up.  I'm really making a point to to get some biking in on my non-run days, and I think keeping this up along with incorporating trail running in the next 6 weeks will get me there. My time won't be spectacular. It wasn't 3 years ago, either, but I still think fondly of that race, and I'd like to give it another go. I'd still like to do a 50 miler someday... maybe next spring? Is it too early to start thinking about next year's races?

Summer Triathlon Bucket List Race #3 - Waseca Sprint Triathlon

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Sunday I checked off Waseca Sprint Triathlon off of my list of "I've always wanted to do that one" races. The race itself was beautiful. It was a gorgeous course, and Final Stretch, one of our local race companies, always puts on well-run, fun races. I was extra extra escited to be doing this race with my brother Matt and his girlfriend, Angela. Steve and I got Matt to the start line of his first tri 3 seasons ago, and now he was passing what he'd learned onto her.

Steve and I managed to peel ourselves away from Olympic coverage by 10 PM. Henry was up for a quick snack at 11:45, and our alarm went off at 4 AM. We finished packing the car, woke Henry, gave him a quick snack, and loaded him into his carseat still wearing his jammies. We were off by 5. Parking near the race site was plentiful; we found a  spot only 2 blocks away and were in transition by 6:30.

Steve was my sherpa and baby wrangler. He had help. His parents also came to cheer, and my mom came, too. After 9 seasons, she was finally going to be able to see me race! We found Matt and Angela,  and I set up my transition, I gave Henry a little Mama time.

I also got to chat with Mark Bongers, the race director, and Kevin O'Connor, owner of local tri store awesomeness Gear West.

Matt, Angela, Me, and Henry the Future Triathlete

The Swim: We watched the 1/3 iron racers begin their swim. Then Angela and I hopped in the water for a quick pep talk and to warm up a little. Then we were off!

 I found clear water pretty quickly. The women's waves were small, and we spread out easily. I finished the 1/4 mile swim in 10:32, which included a lengthy run up to T1.

Out of the water. I LOVE the quick release on my wetsuit!

T1: I spent a few extra seconds getting out of my wetsuit before I was able to step my way out of it. I need to remember not to even bother to sit to take it off. I had a great spot by the bike out. I was out in 1:16.

The Bike: My CD.01 rides like a dream, and I felt great. I definitely need to get in a few more hills before my next race. I got passed several times on the uphills, but I always caught them back on the downhills. I hit the turn around with an 18.7 MPH average, and that was against a little wind. I jostled back and forth with several other bikers, joking with them and encouraging them each time. I was hammering, and I hoped that my marathon training would get me through the run. My Joule showed a 19 mph average just before I dismounted. After I ran up through the grass to transition, it dropped to an 18.2 mph average.

Just off the bike heading up to transition!
T2: I lost a second or two since I passed right past my spot and had to turn around. I was out in 1:08

The Run: I hit the run and was ready to GO! I've been really trying to push through my long, slow distance mentality this year, and for the first time this summer, I was hungry. I left transition with a woman right in front of me. I've been really struggling with endurance on the run this summer, and my pre-baby speed just hasn't come back. I was really hoping that the start of marathon training a month ago would help. I hit the first mile in 8:33. Perfect.  I was still feeling good heading to mile 2 and hit my watch in 8:22. I was able to stick with the woman from transition, and we were passing people left and right. I looked at my watch and saw an 8:09 at mile 3. I was still pushing to mile 4 but was finally starting to feel it. I made it in 8:19. The last of the run was supposed to be 0.4 miles, but Steve had warned me ahead of time that it was more like 0.25. I was trying to pick off a few last people before I hit the finish line in 2:04. My total run time was 35:30 for a total of 1:34:35. It was good enough to place 2nd out of 9 in my AG and 7th of 59 women.

I made my way back to my cheering section so we could cheer Angela in to her first triathlon. She did great! Of course, Henry had to help me with my post-race banana:

Then he wanted to help me with a few potato chips:

A few final thoughts:

* I saw Mark, the race director, after the race. He asked how it went, and I told him truthfully that I wondered at mile one of the run if EVERY one of his races is this beautiful. From what I've seen, it's the case. Plus, they are so beginner friendly. I really love Final Stretch races.

* My run speed is FINALLY coming back! Well, speed for me anyway. I'm seeing low 8s again, and it makes me SO happy! Intervals and distance are paying off.

* This race was on my bucket list because I'd heard great things about it, even though it's only a few years old. I would love to come back next year to do the 1/3 iron distance. It's a fun, unique distance.

* Angela had a blast! She's already signed up for her next race in two weeks. Go Angela!

More on My Triathlon Bucket List

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This weekend was WIBA (Wisconsin Iron Brick Adventure) that my Evotri team puts on. Steve and I have made it out every year since its inception in 2006. We missed last year because Henry was all of a couple of weeks old. We had really hoped to make it out this year to see everybody again, but we decided at the last minute that Henry just wouldn't tolerate the weekend. He did really well camping with my family last weekend, but the last third of the 3 hour car ride was challenging for all of us. A 4 hour car ride would really be pushing it, and none of the grandmas are anxious to take him overnight yet. Next year we'll be there with bells on. It's one of my favorite summer events. I love love love getting out to train on the course, and it is so much fun to talk triathlon for 3 days. I enjoy seeing old faces, meeting new ones, and offering my 2 cents on IM Moo when I can. If any of you are ever up for a great weekend of training (even if you're not training for Ironman), check it out!

Instead of running on State Street in Madison today, I laced up my shoes and headed down to the river by my house. Marathon training officially starts next weekend, so I'm trying to get my distance training back.  I thought something felt a little off when I started up, but I brushed it off that I hadn't been in this pair of shoes for a week. Two miles in, I felt a little rubbing on one of my feet which is weird since these shoes rarely cause chafing. At the turn around point, I took off my shoe to see if my sock was bunched funny. That's when I noticed that I forgot to put the insoles back into my shoes after last weekend's wet run. That's right. I ran 8 miles today that without insoles in my shoes. Oops. Chalk it up to being excited to check off a few miles sans stroller. It's a good thing I don't tend to get injured, and it's a good thing that my feet are toughened up. I made it home with only a tiny blister.

I raced Buffalo Sprint Triathlon 3 weeks ago, but with work and being gone nearly every weekend since, I never got to put up a race report. It was another race on my summer bucket list, and I was excited to check it out since so many people had great things to say about it. My overall impression was that it was a VERY well organized, fun race. Their website was very thorough, and it made getting there and parking super easy. The course was beautiful, and the post race food was delish. One of the highlights for me was being able to race with Abbe. Exactly a year before, Abbe and I ran the Grand Old Day 5K together:

This was the first race we'd been in together since then. We snapped this photo before the start:

Two thinner, fitter mamas!

So how did the race go? Well, it went OK. Henry had slept so much better this time around, so I was feeling better at the start. I finished the 1/4 mile swim in 8:46, had a T1 time of 2:25, and then flatted on the bike. It was the first race where I didn't come fully prepared to change a tube on the bike, and you can bet it was my last. Tech support on the course was great though, and despite it taking 8 minutes to change my 808 tube (which I actually think is pretty good), I finished the bike in 50:29 - a 15.8 mph average. I blew through T2 in 1:51, had a 25:36 3 mile run (avg of 8:32), and finished in a total time of 1:29:06.  I finished 183/422 females and 39/76 in my AG - not horrible considering the flat. One of my biggest worries since starting to race with my super awesome Zipp wheels is changing a flat during a race, and even though I had a little help, it really wasn't as bad as I'd feared. I think I could do it again pretty easily. Here's one last photo of me heading to the finish:

Next up for me is Waseca Sprint at the end of July and then St. Paul Triathlon in August. These are two more races that I've always wanted to do but was too busy training for or racing longer ones. I am excited to get in some more speed (I'm still waiting for it to come back postpartum) and to check out a few fun courses. Then of course it'll be October before I know it, and with it will come my 13th Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. Hopefully this 13 will be a lucky one, not an unlucky one.

Finally, I'll leave you with a photo from Henry's first birthday nearly 2 weeks ago. Poor little dude got his mama's sweet tooth:

Impromptu Races and My Triathlon Bucket List

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So this Parenting thing? SO much harder than I ever imagined. Henry is a MUCH happier baby than he was 8 months ago, but I've essentially been in survival mode over here. Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in life. Last week was one of those weeks. After essentially not having a day off in several weeks, I was putting the final touches on the planning for my sister's baby shower we threw her on Saturday. What possessed me to pencil in a last-minute tri into the mix? I have no idea. At the beginning of the week last week, I heard that The Land Between the Lakes Triathlon was going to be held on May 20, the day after the shower. I've always been intrigued by this race. It's a VERY early season tri for MN, it's in a town near where Steve and I grew up, and the distances are manageable for this part of the year. Since we'd be at our parents' places not far from there, I asked Steve if one or both of us should consider the race. I mentioned it to my mom, and she did her best to convince me to sign up. She wanted more Henry time Sunday morning, and she knew volunteering to keep him would buy her a few extra hours! Steve decided that racing 5 weekends in a row would be stupid, so he was just planning on cheering.

After a fun shower on Saturday followed by a few more hours of fun family time, Steve and I went to hit the hay relatively early. Henry woke up just as we were heading to bed. I fed him, and he fell back asleep. Then he woke up again 2 hours later. He still rarely sleeps through the night, but he almost always falls asleep once we feed him. I don't know if he was teething or if something else was wrong, but he wouldn't go back to sleep and wasn't consolable. It took us 2 hours to get him back to sleep. I finally did it by nursing him on the couch and rubbing his belly for 20 minutes. I hadn't registered for the race yet. My alarm clock would be going off in 4 hours, and I wondered if it was really worth it. Henry woke us up 15 minutes before our 6 AM alarm clock, and Steve convinced me that racing could be fun.

Here's my major disclaimer: I've had the best intentions for months, but I am having A LOT of trouble working some semblance of a training schedule into my life. A full time job + a baby who doesn't sleep through the night + an already early 5 AM alarm clock + a baby who doesn't reliably stay asleep once we put him to bed = not great training. The best solution I can think of is that Steve and I just need to take shifts after Henry's in bed around 8. One of us needs to stay home and get him back asleep if/when he wakes up; the other needs to get his/her butt out the door. I've been getting in a few bikes and runs during the week, but swimming just needs to take a back seat for a while. I knew that I'm not in stellar racing shape, but I told myself that if this amount of training could get me up mountains in Tennessee with my AMAZING Evotri teammates last month, I could make it through a sprint triathlon.

We arrived at the race site 80 minutes before the 9 AM start time. I was pleased to see that there was plenty of parking in the lot next to transition. The shelter was new, and there was a cute new playground next to it. We'll definitely have to bring Henry back there in a couple of years. I was signed up in no time, and as I entered transition, I realized that I was very wrong about one thing - the caliber of the racers. I had thought that a small race in a relatively small town would mean a slightly less competitive field than I'm used to. It appears that one of the first open water swim tris of the year attracts only the diehard crazies. Don't get me wrong, I very much admire having good competition, but I prefer races with a few more "green" athletes. I thrive on offering a warm smile to new racers, and I appreciate having a more "fun" rather than "fierce" atmosphere at races.

The Swim: The air was cold - around 57 degrees, and I was surprised to learn that the water was 70 degrees. I think the warm spring we've had helped. The race consisted of just over 100 athletes, so there were only 2 waves. Men were in the first wave, and the second wave was women and relays. When they sounded the starting horn, I took off for the 1/4 mile swim. Unfortunately, I was stuck behind a woman doing the side stroke and one doing the back stroke. Though I wasn't necessarily swimming faster than either of them, I was definitely sighting better, and it took some work to get past them. I was out of the water and up to T1 in 9:12 - as good as I can ask for with my current swim (non)training.

T1: I couldn't for the life of me get my wetsuit off. It was stuck on my left leg and wouldn't budge. I stood up. I sat down. I stood up again and finally managed to wiggle the leg around my chip. The rest of T1 was cake, but my time sure suffered. 2:35

The Bike: I was SO excited to be on my CD.01. I seriously love this bike. There was a 15+ mph headwind on the way out. I tucked down and got to work. The bike course was beautiful. The fields are newly planted, and there were lots of rolling hills past farms. It reminded me a lot of the Liberty course, another favorite local tri. My Joule showed my average at 15.3 mph at the halfway point. OK, time to pick this up. You're going to have a tail wind the whole way back... The tail wind was great. At one point, I ran out of gears going down a slight hill with the wind. I stopped looking down after I hit over 30 MPH. One trick that my teammate Chris taught me a couple of years ago was to increase my resistance when I feel like I'm losing a little control on the bike. It's counterintuitive when you're already going fast and feeling out of control, but it really did make a difference the times I had cross winds out there. I finished out the bike passing people left and right, and my end average was 17.4 for the 14 miles. Total time: 48:16.

T2: I knew I wouldn't be needing my arm warmers anymore. I changed shoes and was out. Total time: 1:28

The Run: I started the run feeling spent. This is usually when I start feeling great, but my (lack of) training was really starting to catch up with me. Since I'm still breastfeeding, I need so many more calories to complete a workout than I used to. I wouldn't have batted an eye doing this race without nutrition pre-baby, but I knew I'd better start sucking down some Gu if I was going to make it to the finish line. I downed a Mint Chocolate and a Mandarin. I stuck with a woman in my age group for the first 3/4 mile or so, but I could tell she had a lot more left in her tank. I hit the first mile in 9:17. Shoot. I was hoping for around 9s, and my first mile is usually one of my fastest. I ran past the band shelter in the park. It reminded me of going boating on this lake with my Grandma and Grandpa and aunts and uncles when I was young. This was the park where Steve met my extended family for the first time. The run was a mix of gravel, broken asphalt that was practically gravel again, and paved trail/road. I hit mile 2 in 9:37. I took some water at the halfway point and told myself I needed to push it. Mile 3 came in 9:33. Time to put on the squeeze. I could see the woman in my age group just up ahead, but despite finishing my last mile in 8:47, I just couldn't catch her. I booked it into the finish just as it started raining harder. I was running against that headwind again, and for a second, I wondered if I was moving at all. Total run time: 37:25 for 4 miles (an average of 9:22/mile - slower than my pre-pregnancy marathon pace).

Total race time: 1:38:53

Place: 70/97
AG: 9/11

Final thoughts:

It's really hard for me to look at all of these numbers and be OK with them. Yes there was good competition at this race, but I learned a long time ago that given my usual mid-pack status, I'm really just competing against myself out there. These numbers aren't even close to what I could have done 2 years ago. Henry's almost a year old. It's time to stop blaming the baby.

My next race is Buffalo Sprint in 2 weeks. It's a 1/4 mile swim, a 12.8 mile bike, and a 3 mile run. Let's see what I can get done before then.

This is the year for Bucket List tris. I tend to get stuck in a triathlon rut. I find races I like and stick with them. MN has a huge multisport community, though, and there are lots of races that I've thought, "That would be fun someday." Sticking with the shorter races this year will give me a chance to explore other venues. I need to post my race schedule soon. Man, I'm behind.

Would I do this race again? Absolutely. Mark Bongers and Final Stretch know how to put on a good race. The race was well run, the course is BEAUTIFUL, and the food afterward was yummy. It's a great super early season tri, and Steve and I will always have babysitting close by. As I mentioned above, though, the competition is pretty crazy.

Thanks to Steve for convincing me to get out there. Sometimes I need that lately. Sleep deprived or not, I did have fun.

Thanks to my Mom for watching Henry, especially for the last hour when he was overtired and not much fun to be around...

I'll try to make posting a more regular thing, but I can't make any promises... unless I find that there are actually 26 hours in a day :)

Securian Winter Carnival 10K Race Report

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Um, hi. Is this thing on?

So I've been MIA lately, as in VERY MIA. Typing up a big update blog post has been on my to do list for over a month, but it quickly falls to the bottom of my list when I start to prioritize. I promise to write a more robust update soon, but here's the long and short of it:
* I love being a mom. Henry is such a ham, but he is still a very high maintenance baby.
* He also hates food and has decided that at 7 1/2 months, he'd still rather just subsist on boob juice. I'm not worried yet. The dude still has some major adorable chubs.
* I'm still gluten/dairy/soy free. Sometimes I can cheat and sneak in a little cheese, but Henry's tummy will definitely let us know if I go overboard. Occasionally it wears on me, mostly I'm fine with it. I've been craving a giant piece of chocolate cake for over 4 months. Gluten free food is okay, but it's rarely good, and it's definitely not the same. I am so fortunate that this is a temporary thing.
* Breastfeeding is still going really well. Everyone told me it would take time to finally click, and honestly, it didn't start to feel effortless until he was 5 months old.
* Fitting in workouts has been hella hard. I let myself take a break after the marathon and cut back to just a few days a week. Now that I want to start working on my base again, I'm having a hard time figuring out where that time will come from.
* Despite eating my weight in sugar and chocolate (which,thank God, does not upset Henry's tummy) and working out less than I have in the past, the pregnancy weight was gone at the 6 month mark - poof! The 42 pounds fell off without any effort. I've been able to fit into my normal clothes for a long time and have been in my extra skinny clothes for a few weeks. I'm not sure if it's muscle atrophy from not working out or actual sustainable weight loss, but it has been nice that this is not a source of stress for me. I still have some stubborn love handles to work on, though.

Alright, back to the title of this post... my 10K race report.

I did my first stand alone 10K EVER last year on Jan 1 when I was 17 weeks pregnant. I did this race a few weeks later at 21 or 22 weeks in 1:09:26 - my official 10K PR. Like I said above, training has been SEVERELY lacking lately. I had initially hoped to be able to do the half, but halfway through December, I realized that I'm not in that kind of shape right now. I was just hoping that this year I'd at least be faster than last year. I thought there would be a good chance that I could finish sub-60, and sub 55 sounded like a good round number to make my "ideal" goal, though I have no real reason why that would be attainable right now. My long runs pushing the stroller have generally been at 10+ minute miles, and my "all out" 600 M intervals at the metrodome have been at a sub 7:30 pace. Beyond that, I have no idea what my pace is these days. My plan was just to go out at a comfortably fast pace and play it by ear.

My sister Steph said she'd take Henry for a few hours, so Steve and I dropped him off at her house before driving to the race start. It was a 9:00 start, and we were there by 8:20 - plenty of time. I think I was downright giddy that Steve and I were on a "date," even though we would be running separate races at very different speeds.

Steve and me shortly just after getting to the race site

Steve's half started at 9, and my 10K went out at 9:05.

I took off at a pace that I thought was sustainably comfortably fast. I heard someone say around 3/4 through the first mile that we were doing 8:26. I was a little leary given the inaccuracy of Garmin's instant pace data, and when I hit the 1 mile mark, it was a 9:15. Not bad. Right where I'd hoped I would be. We weaved all around downtown St. Paul and saw the ice sculptures in Rice Park. They also shot off a couple of fireworks while we were circling the park. Fun! I missed Mile 2, and I was hoping that I was keeping on pace. I was starting to catch up to the back of the half marathoner pack, and I made it my goal to pick off as many packs as I could before my turn around. I hit miles 2&3 in 18:29. Those are some consistent splits! Soon after, we separated from the half marathoners, and I had to start picking off people in my own race. I was feeling pretty good and thought that I may be able to pick up the pace. I chose a lady in a blue jacket to chase down. I caught her and chose my next target. I hit mile 4 in 8:58. I was passing a lot of people, but then I hit a quiet point in the race, but I tried to continue picking up the pace. Mile 5's split was 8:45. Awesome. I was chasing a guy in orange, but it took me forever to catch him. I finally passed him on a hill. Come on, you can do this, it's just like sprinting up the hill at home. Around 5:45 into my last 1.2 miles, I told myself it was time to leave it all out there. It's just like an interval at the Dome. Pick it up... The last part of that race has us weaving back through downtown, and I can never remember which turn will be our last, but I was still passing people left and right. I passed some 5K walkers and more runners in my race. One woman did pass me back with about 100 M to go, and despite a decent kick on my part, I couldn't get her. My last 1.2: 10:22. Official time: 55:50 - exactly 9 min/mile. Given my recent lack of training and my shortage of confidence going into this race, I was pretty happy with that.

I stayed out on the course for another 25 minutes or so before heading inside for a little warmth. My plan was to be back out in time to see Steve finish, but I heard them call his name right as I hit the doors to go back outside. He had set a winter half marathon PR and had a blast dueling it out with some friends!

We shared uninterrupted race stories as we made drove back to my sister's house. Henry was fast asleep there (after a little bit of fighting it per Auntie's report). He had fun with his aunt and uncle, though!

Trying to feel the baby kick!

Hamming it up with uncle Jon

Henry fell asleep on the drive home, and he even gave us a few extra minutes to eat lunch...

I warmed up by the fire. The cats warmed up by me.

It's a little late for me, but I still haven't finalized my 2012 race calender. Hopefully that'll come soon!