Sunday, May 15, 2011

Racing Update

I seem to have been neglecting my blog again. I started to update it a couple times, but everything I thought to write about seemed kind of lame, so I never finished any of those posts. In my last post, I unveiled my running race schedule, and since I've done two of those races, I guess it would be a good thing to share how they went.

The first race was the Dan Langdon Memorial 5k. It was the second annual race, started last year by Dan's family. Dan, a young man with a wife and three young kids, died on his 36th birthday in 2009 while running in the Detroit Marathon. I got involved in this race because the company I work for has sponsored the event for the past two years. Since I am in charge of administering these sponsorships, I heard about the race and decided it would be a good one to run.

I ran my first 5k in mid-June of last year, and I figured it would be a good day to go for a PR. (That "R" stands for "record," DG, not "recognizance.") Unfortunately, as it turned out, the cause was about the only thing I liked about the race. For some reason, it was at 2 in the afternoon, and happened to be on the first day we had any warm weather, after a spring full of cold temperatures and rain. The first mile went okay and I was on track to beat my best time. Shortly after I passed that mile marker, though, I began to seriously overheat. It was near 80 degrees and sunny and I was running on the cart path at a golf course. It began to be not so pretty. I became more and more frustrated, basically gave up as my pace got slower and slower, and ended up walking most of the last mile. So not only did I not beat my best time of 38:05, I ended up with a demoralizing 40:44, which was barely better than my first 5k.Ugh.

Yesterday, however, was my very first 10k, and things were a little different. The race started on Michigan Avenue in Lansing and was intended to be run primarily on the River Trail. Due to torrential rains the night before and the flooding that ensued, it had to be rerouted twice, replacing a big chunk of the course with streets and cutting off a portion of the River Trail.

It was overcast and spitting rain when I woke up and I debated whether to wear shorts or tights for a long time. I doubt if temperatures were even out of the mid 50s, but in the end I thought back to my severely overheated 5k from a couple weeks earlier and went with the shorts. While standing around waiting for the race to start, I questioned my choice, but as soon as I started running I realized I had done the right thing.

The weather was actually perfect running weather, much nicer than the previous race. I am not a very fast runner. In fact, I think you could easily say I am the opposite of fast. But I still wanted to have a goal for my first 10k, and that goal was to finish with a faster time than 1:25. I was really proud of myself. I have a Garmin watch that keeps track of my pace. I checked the watch often and whenever I started to get slower than the pace I was supposed to be keeping, I would kick it up a notch. I did this even in the last mile, when I didn't have much left. I ended up finishing with a time of 1:23:52.

Now, I'm certainly not going to win any world records with times like that, and I finished last out of 13 in my age group, but I still felt good about the race. It was an accomplishment to finish my first one and to be faster than the goal I was shooting for. I also was pleased that I didn't let myself slack off. There were times, especially near the end, when I was tempted to slow my pace and just let the fact that I finished be enough. Sometimes I use the fact that I am slow as a further excuse to be slow instead of pushing myself to be faster. Yesterday I didn't do that.

My next race is a 5k on June 5. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

For Real Race Schedule

It's time to get serious. Seriously serious. Through the past few months of angst, I have continued running fairly consistently, but I haven't really been riding, and I certainly haven't been doing anything you could actually call training. I know I've been waffling on here about whether to just concentrate on running this year and not do any MTB racing, and maybe just using the Badger to go out and have fun. But I've decided to scrap that idea, because I'm a Capricorn and I need structure (only partly joking here). I realized I need something to train for with my bike, and if I just wait until cross season, I'm going to find my summer slipping away without putting in the miles I should be.

Besides, I haven't been around any MTB people in what feels like a really long time and I'm starting to think that's a mistake. And sure, I could just go and hang around at races, but as long as I'm going to be there, I might as well be racing. So this morning, as many of my MTB friends are gathering on the west side of the state to race Yankee, I'm figuring out both my running and MTB race schedules for the year.

Since I haven't started riding yet this year and I've really enjoyed endurance racing in the past couple of years, the schedule doesn't begin until July. It is mostly endurance racing, with a couple other races I enjoy thrown in for good measure. I may also do some CPS races, but that will depend on schedule and how I feel and those will probably be last minute decisions. I also haven't included cyclocross in here, but I'm planning to do most of the Kisscross series, at least where I don't have conflicts. For now, here's what it looks like:
  • July 16, 6 Hours of Ithaca (love, love, love this race)
  • July 30, 8 Hours of Bloomer
  • August 13, 6 Hours of Pando
  • September 3, 6 Hours of Drummond Island (this one is a definite maybe, but I'm hoping it happens b/c I've wanted to do it for a few years and it's never worked out)
  • October 8, 6 Hours of Addison Oaks
  • October 15, Peak to Peak
  • November 5, Iceman
And now, for running. I've figured out I'm going to do the Capital City River Run Half-Marathon for my first half marathon. It's not until September, which is a little later than I planned, but I think it's the one that makes the most sense for my first. If I'm feeling really strong, I might move it up and do an earlier one. Other than that, I'd like to do a 5k, 10k or longer race every month or so, but these are pretty tentative, since I don't really have a huge commitment to any of these races and there are 5ks all the time. If I miss one, I can always swap it out for another one the next weekend. Here's what it looks like:
  • May 1, Dan Langdon Memorial 5k
  • May 14, Heart of Michigan 10k
  • June 5, We Can Do It Women's 5k
  • July 8, Moonlit Miles for Marrow 15k
  • August 6, Mint City Races 10 mile
  • September 18, Capital City River Run Half-Marathon
Phew! That's a pretty full schedule. Guess I'd better get moving!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Moving On

The past couple weeks of my life have mostly consisted of packing, moving and unpacking. Last Saturday, my skittish Brittany spaniel and I spent the first night in a new house. It's been somewhat of an ordeal for both of us. Besides the fact that moving is, at best, a huge pain in the ass, there is usually an emotional component to it as well. And this fact is probably never more true than when you're leaving others behind. In these instances, it might actually be easier to leave a spouse you hate or about whom you feel completely ambivalent. This is not the case with me. There's also the matter of a loud, ill-behaved, 40-pound beagle, who is the first dog I ever raised from a pup and bonded with completely. Six years of living with that beagle have taught me to be the one of the people I always made fun of previously—a person who treats her dog like a child. Needless to say, this has been anything but easy.

But with any new situation comes a new plan, a fresh start and optimism. I like my new digs, and after some initial reservations, Maddy seems to be warming to them, too. We have a new neighborhood and a new routine of running through that neighborhood together after work. Spring is (nearly) upon us and summer will inevitably follow. I'm hoping the lessons I've learned will make me a more productive individual in the months to come. May this be a run-my-legs off, pedal-my-ass-off, clear-out-my-emotional-baggage kind of summer. :-) 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Running in Place, Sort of

Yesterday, I did my fourth 5k. I started running on April 18, 2010, nearly a year ago, and since then I've been amazed at how much I've enjoyed it and that I've kept doing it.

I think I've already told the story on here of how much I hated running and how I thought I could never come to love it. But running this year has been my saving grace. Don't get me wrong—I still love to ride my bike—but my runs have done wonders for my psyche. They became my "pink shoe therapy."

That doesn't mean I don't have any goals when it comes to running, though. It isn't only my therapy. I also want to improve.

My most significant goal for running is that I want to complete a half marathon by the end of the summer. That will set me up for that pie-in-the-sky marathon goal I have next year. (Yikes!) And I am making some inroads toward that goal. Most weekends, I run eight miles, up from the mile or so I was running when I started a year ago. So that's some progress.
But I'm a little discouraged by how slow I still am. (I know. Slow on a bike, slow on foot.) My first 5k, which I ran back in June, I finished at around 42 minutes. For my second, I was significantly improved, and my finishing time was 38:05. My third, on Super Bowl Sunday, was a complete disaster. Yesterday, I was intent on beating the time of my second 5k and I missed it by 14 seconds.

What does all this mean? I can run much farther now, but I can't run any faster. I don't know if there's a way to improve both simultaneously. Maybe I should do some research. 

Today I should be racing Barry-Roubaix, but I'm not. I'm sore from running yesterday, I haven't trained, my helmet is broken, I can't really afford to spend the entry fee and I need to pack because I'm moving next weekend. There are myriad excuses for why I'm not there.

But there's also a larger issue, and that's what I want to concentrate on this year. I have to decide which goals are most important to me and what my priorities should be. Should I try to run faster? Should I try to run big miles? Should I keep the running to a minimum and concentrate on bike racing? Should I just ride for fun this summer and wait until cross season to race bikes? I guess I have some thinking to do.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Done with the DNF

This morning I had planned to go for a run, but that new pair of SIDIs, still sitting in the box from Christmas and newly equipped with a pair of cleats, made me head for the garage to get the Badger. I have been running for most of the winter and none of my bikes has really seen any action.

The sun was out and my ride was fairly enjoyable. I was out for a couple of hours and logged a pathetically low number of miles, but I was out at least. I felt a little sluggish because even though I have been running consistently, it just doesn't keep you in shape for the bike.

What was more significant about today's ride than anything else, though, was the moment I pulled the Badger out of the garage and looked at it. It was still covered with mud and sporting the number plate from Iceman. That's right, last fall's Iceman from hell. The race I so didn't want to finish. The race in which the mud caked my bike and sucked all the energy out of me. The race I made myself finish anyway.

When I looked at that bike I remembered how tough I am. In four years of bike racing I have had one DNF, and it was only because my bike was completely out of commission. I have faced races that were too hard, for which I was woefully unprepared, and races that were humiliating beyond comprehension. And even those I finished.

As some of you (presuming any of you are still out there) may already know, the last several months of my life have been pretty difficult. And as soon as all the logistics are worked out, the person labeled as my spouse on the sidebar of this blog will no longer be my spouse.

Given what's been going on, it's no wonder that I've been spending a lot of time wallowing. But I'm done with that now. That doesn't mean I'm finished with being sad or that I'm going to be happy every second. I am, however, done with my emotional DNF.

After all, I'm tough, as the Badger reminded me this morning.  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Sometimes you just have a target on your back. Literally. And when it's a big ugly block M on a maize and blue jersey, it's particularly volatile. Unfortunately for him, but really due to his own poor choice of clothing, that's exactly what happened to this guy at the Kisscross night race a couple weeks ago.

I got to the race venue in time to ride a practice lap. It was raining and chilly—that seems to be typical race weather lately—but once I started warming up I felt pretty good and was actually glad I hadn't dressed any more warmly.

As the race began my legs were a little sluggish. I started feeling a little discouraged. I was hoping this wasn't going to be another Kisscross season like the last two. Pretty soon everyone was ahead of me. But then it happened. I saw my target. His hideous jersey was like a magnet. I had to beat that guy. No matter what else happened during the race, I just had to do it.

I finished the first lap with two goals in mind—concentrate on my dismounts and remounts and beat the guy in the U of M jersey. I started to speed up and continued my quickened pace as I moved closer to my target. My dismounts and remounts weren't perfect; some were a little premature, but the were much improved from my first cyclocross race of the season. 

The dismounts and remounts are always a challenge for me. No matter how much I practice them, during a race I always panic as soon as I get to the barriers and end up just getting off the bike the regular way. During this race, however, I was almost flawless in dismounting correctly. I did get momentarily distracted during the last lap when some people I wasn't expecting started cheering for me, but other than that, I did well.

During the third lap, I finally caught up with the guy in the U of M jersey. I got a little bit ahead of him and pushed myself to stay that way for the final laps of the race. 

In the end, I only beat two people, but I was really pleased with the race. I beat that Michigan guy, but not only that, I kept up the intensity for the entire race. I don't think I've done that since my first season of Kisscross.

Between this race and my 5k experiences this year, it should now be fairly obvious to me that the thing I need to do to have a successful race is to find one or more people I want to beat and spend the entire race trying to make that happen. The competitive drive and spirit motivates me and keeps me going.

This has been kind of a pathetic race season for me. I haven't done a lot of the things I intended to do, but I've also accomplished some things I never expected. The season's not quite over yet, though. I have a few things left that I want to tackle. Next I need to figure out what those things are and determine the best way to go about training for them.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Do You Have to Be Smart to Race?

Last week, I rather belatedly made up my mind to race the Logsplitter. As you might know, I haven't done much racing this year. I thought it might be nice to redeem myself a little at the end of the season by squeezing in another mountain bike-ish race before Kisscross started. The race was in Grayling, which is reasonably close to our cabin, where we had already planned to spend the holiday weekend. Of course, part of the draw was the opportunity to once again hang out with some cool people, most notably this one. It was 26 miles, which I thought was doable, and I liked the fact that many of those miles weren't on singletrack.

On the morning of race day, I dragged myself out of bed to the repetitive sound of rain on the metal roof of our cabin, which seriously threatened to lull me back to sleep. After a brief stop at a local campground to pick up my cheering section (aka Mom), we headed to Hartwick Pines. It continued to rain.

By the time we got there, it had tapered off a bit. I hit the restroom while my personal pit crew prepared my bike for the race. When I returned, my bike was put together, my race number affixed, my tires aired and my chain lubed. Talk about service! I borrowed some arm warmers from Ali and a jacket from my mom, because although it had stopped raining, it was still quite chilly.

It seemed I had everything I needed, but I should have known better. As I lined up for the start, blue skies appeared to give me a false sense of security. I began the race amid cheers from Mom, Chris and Ali. My legs felt a little sluggish, but got better after I started to warm up a bit.

There were two other girls racing against me. They got ahead of me shortly after we hit the ski trail at Hartwick Pines, but I figured as long as I could keep them in sight I had a chance to catch them later. I just tried to stay close, but it was challenging. The ski trail, although not technical, was hellishly hilly. It had started to rain again and would continue to do, sometimes torrentially, for the remainder of the race.

Near the end of the ski trail, in my granny gear, I passed one of the girls on an uphill. I was feeling quite good at this point and stayed ahead of her through the rest of the ski trail and the next section of the race—the bike path.

But as I hit the two track section after the bike path, I start to slow down (and slow down and slow down). My legs didn't want to move any longer. It was taking everything I had in me to continue peddling. As I headed into a neighborhood, the next leg of the race, she was directly behind me. I was about to get passed.

By the time I reached Hanson Hills she was so far ahead I couldn't even see her anymore. I had no idea what was happening. I was actually shaking. Then I remembered. I had a package of pop tarts earlier that morning and nothing since. I had nothing but water in my bottles. And I had no food with me. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

To compound this ridiculous behavior, I decided to do something even more stupid. Instead of bailing into the parking lot as I reached Hanson Hills, I continued to the last leg of the race—10 miles of singletrack. I had my first DNF in four years of racing earlier this year and it felt like crap. I didn't want a repeat performance, so I slogged through those miles, walking something like half of them. I was spent—had no fuel left in the tank and couldn't climb even the slightest inclines.

Needless to say, I came in last place. As I crossed the finish line, all I could think about was food.

That being said, Glen, Ali and everyone else who helped put on a great race. I really enjoyed the first leg. I'd like to do it again next year, minus the bonk.