Cowtown Ready?

This post is going to be a little hard to write, but since my first race of the year is Sunday, here goes…

I don’t know if I every really recovered from the 21 miler that was such a struggle. Running has been…difficult. My pace is barely below 10:00 for every run and last Friday I didn’t even get up for my easy run. Missing motivation, mood swings, and general apathy in other areas. I first thought it was hormonal, but after three days of unexplainable shifts in my mood (and the tears that followed), I wasn’t sure what was going on. My poor husband.

I hoped the extra day of not running (Friday) would give me some energy for the long run on Saturday. My friend and I planned to do 12-13 as our taper for Cowtown. It’s no secret that we like to get our long runs started earlier, because our group usually meets at 7:00. Another runner messaged me on Friday and asked if she could join us. To my delight, when I got to our meeting place, there were five of us. It was nice to have the different conversations going, and it helped with my funk a little. We did five miles and then met up with the rest of the group.

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We all headed back out with the others getting a total of 10 done.

It was the last couple of miles that the lack of energy reared its ugly head. My friend, who has been dealing with injury and low weekly mileage, was having some of the same issues – like I’m hitting a wall during every run. We slowed down and even walked a little.

We have decided Cowtown is not going to be a fast marathon for us.

On Sunday, I got out to run another few miles and see how I felt. Also, since I missed Friday’s run, my weekly mileage was a little low. (I know, I know.) It was a little warm out, but I managed 4 miles just under 10:00 average pace.

A few hours later I still was a little out of breath. I looked up the symptoms of overtraining, and I start to wonder if that’s what I’ve got going on.

Mood swings, depression, inability to focus, elevated heart rate, inability to sleep, weight loss. But I didn’t have the weight loss. I’ve actually gained about 5 pounds in the past two months.

But all the other symptoms point to overtraining. Looking back, I don’t really think it was as much overtraining, as it was the toll of everything else going on in my life. I just didn’t realize how it was affecting my body. The week before the 21 miler, I had a great week with some swimming added in. My nutrition was on track. Then I guess everything went haywire the following week and did me in.

So my goal for this week, as I get ready to run a marathon on Sunday, is to get extra sleep and eat right. The Cowtown Marathon will be my 15th marathon, and I want to finish with a smile.

Today a coworker asked me about the weather for Sunday and I said, “Oh, it doesn’t matter.” He said, “Come on now. Be positive.” My response, “I’m positive it doesn’t matter.” 🙂

I’ve come to terms that it will not be my sub four hour marathon. There will be other races for that. It’s disappointing, but not the end of the world.

My question for you: How do you motivate yourself to get excited about a race when you don’t expect to run well?

Still Learning

No matter how many times I train for a marathon, or how much it can feel same-ole, same-ole – I find that I am still learning new things. This was especially true last week.

I’m still trying to adjust to different schedules, and basically have decided I just need to roll with the flow. My son’s work schedule is interfering with my sleep. It’s just not easy to get up at 4:30 when I get in bed at 11 pm. As much as I like to plan, sometimes life gets in the way of training. But I’m a wife and mom first, so I just have to give myself some grace and work it however I can. I did that last Tuesday when I tried to get through my workout, and 20 minutes in I tossed the plan and scratched the workout. I was tired and overdressed and it just felt too hard that morning. I decided not to let a bad run define my training. I got up Wednesday morning and started with the same workout plan. That day I was able to get the workout done in the planned paces. I learned that it’s okay to let myself slide once in a while.

Saturday was my planned 22 miler, and I wasn’t looking forward to getting it done on my own. But I set out to do it anyway.

It was poor planning on my part when I realized I didn’t have enough gels or chews for the long run. I did have some fig newtons though and those are a good source of carbs, so I decided to try that for my fueling strategy.

And that’s why we practice fueling during training and nothing new on race day. That wasn’t a good plan.

I never felt like the carbs worked their way into my system and by mile 16, it started to show in my pace. I also couldn’t figure out why my legs were so heavy after mile 10. I know I’m better prepared with endurance than that! Around mile 18, I wondered if sitting on the balance ball at work had something to do with it. Over the past two weeks I’ve gone from alternating between the ball and my desk chair to sitting almost exclusively on the ball. I spent more time moving last week, and where my legs were aching during the run sure seemed related to the ball. I’m going to back off of it some for now.

Because I had so much trouble in the last five miles, I stopped my long run at mile 21. I didn’t see how I would benefit trudging through another mile. I was pushing 3 1/2 hours by that point, and had quit marathons at least six times.

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Truth.

When I went in the house, defeated from my run, my daughter was dressed and ready for me to take her to swim. She is going to try out for the high school swim team next year, and I told her I would take her over the weekend. She took it upon herself to pick the time. As much as I wanted to eat and shower and go have a good cry, I put my mom attitude up front, and got ready to go swim. I did leave my Garmin at home so I could move slowly through the water. I’d say that counted as another mile. It probably helped work out some of the soreness I would have had in my legs from the run.

Sunday, my husband and I went to the gym. I’m still working on my upper body. That’s three times in 8 days that I worked on my arms. I think that’s a record! I will get stronger.

 

And here’s a picture of Chloe just because it makes me smile.

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BMW Dallas Marathon

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, Christmas, but it’s also that time of year for the Dallas Marathon. While my Facebook feed is full of people sharing Christmas memories, mine pops up with marathon memories.

I’ve been running the Dallas Marathon every year since 2010 (minus the ice storm of 2013) when I ran my first half. My first full marathon was Dallas in 2011 and I’ve registered for the full every year after. The race experience continues to improve, and this year was the best so far.

As I started my taper week, I had all kinds of stuff going on. Let’s just say it wasn’t the most relaxing race week. I didn’t really have the time I wanted to focus on rest, recovery, and preparing my mind for Sunday. But in a way, I wondered if it was beneficial that I didn’t have time to over-think and wonder if I was prepared. Basically I didn’t have a chance to worry.

We planned our trip to the expo on Saturday when the elite ambassadors would be on the speaker stage. I enjoyed this last year, and carried their advice through the race with me. I wanted that again.

I got my bib signed by Desi, Deena, and Ryan Hall. I met Deena and Desi last year, but this was the first time I’ve met Ryan Hall.

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To me, that made the 16 weeks of early mornings and long runs totally worth it. I also knew they would be handing out medals at the finish line, and that became one of my race goals since I was oblivious the last two years. I love that they are so willing to give of their time to the running community!

I snapped a picture of my Dallas Marathon history.

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I ended up missing lunch, but I made an early dinner when we got home. I never really felt bloated from too many carbs, but I felt like I was loaded and ready to run 26.2.

Race day weather was perfect for me. Temps in the 50s with a little wind. My husband and I got there early with time to chill in the convention center, then I met up with my friend in the start corral.

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We ran the first five miles together, and then I moved into race pace. My plan was to run the first 5 miles in the 9:20 range, then bump up to race pace (9:05-9:10). She’s been battling foot pain, so her plan was to finish. I felt good. It was overcast and there was a little bit of a mist to keep us cool.

I felt like I was holding back in the first five miles (which was a good thing) but at mile 10 all of a sudden my legs felt heavy. I took in my fuel about half a mile earlier than planned, and it seemed to help some. Then I was doing okay holding onto my pace, but it felt harder than it should’ve. My hydration was fine, my nutrition was fine, but my legs felt like I had on ankle weights.

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My pace started to fall off when I was running by the lake (miles 16-17). There was a crosswind and I got a little chilled, but it didn’t last long.  At mile 19, I made a quick porta-potty stop. I lost my sub 4:00 goal, and was losing my 2nd goal – to PR. I negotiated a third goal in my head, and then a fourth. I walked, I ran, I walked, and I ran. In the last four miles – straight into the wind – the goal became to finish the best I could and still be proud of my race. My legs were shuffling and so very heavy. The distance on my Garmin was almost a half a mile off from the mile markers. I finally stopped looking at the watch. I ran the entire last mile, and I felt like I was barely moving.

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Positive Splits (you’re doing it wrong)

When I was coming down to finish, I saw one of my Team Chocolate Milk members waving to me. That was encouraging, and so was seeing the announcer at the finish line.

This is my blazing fast finish (10:45 pace) captured by my husband.

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I spotted volunteers handing out medals, and then saw Ryan Hall. I waited behind two people to get my medal from him. Then I saw Leo Manzano handing out medals too. That experience was worth the pain of the race, and gave me a positive outlook for my finish. That was also my final race goal – to get my medal from an elite runner. 🙂

I am so grateful for all the volunteers, police officers, and spectators – and especially seeing those who cheered specifically for me. Thank you Jennifer and your pool noodle! 🙂 It made an unpleasant run much better.

 

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Team Chocolate Milk!

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I am so thankful to Dallas Marathon for a great race experience! It truly was a great weekend. There will be another race, and I’ll get that sub 4!

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The Showdown Half Marathon (2016)

I recently ran my 2nd half marathon of the year, and it was the first race I was able to push myself and see how my running time has improved. Aside from the half Ironman, my last half marathon was Rock N Roll Dallas in March. So I was a little excited to run the Showdown half and check the reality of my four hour marathon goal.

As much as I hated the hills on this race last year, I decided to go ahead and do it again this year for several reasons:

  1. The race is well done. There are pacers, plenty of course support, and best of all – chocolate milk at the finish.
  2. I need the hills to prepare for the Dallas Marathon. It’s not a flat course, and the toughest hills fall after mile 13.
  3. My training partner was running it as well, so we rode to the race together. Races are more fun with friends.

The morning of the race, the weather was perfect. A cool front had moved in and it was around 51 degrees at the start. My perfect running weather falls in the range of 45 to 50 degrees. I couldn’t believe after all the heat and humidity, that we were actually getting a break on race day.

My friend and I talked about where to start the race. Do we start in front of the 2:00 pace group or with 1:55? I really had no idea what to expect out of myself, so she decided on 1:55 and we lined up behind the pacers. I hoped to be under 1:55, and secretly was hoping to be in the 1:53 range. After looking at my Garmin at the end of the first mile (8:37!) I wondered if I was screwing up my race too early. But the pace felt comfortable, great even, and I felt so light on my feet! We stayed with the pacers at least through mile 6. At times I felt like I was holding back. I had more. Close to mile 7, my friend pulled off to make a quick stop and told me to go on ahead. She’s been battling foot problems (most likely plantar fasciitis) for the last few weeks, and after stopping it would take her a bit to get warmed up again. I know that feeling all too well.

Being in the second half of the race, I decided to pull ahead of the pace group. I think it’s possibly the most miles I’ve stayed with a pace group. I tend to stay away from packs in races. I ran an 8:07 for mile 8 and still felt good for that point of the race. Spoiler alert: that was my fastest mile of the race. For the next few miles I kept my focus on staying ahead of the pace group and even effort through the hills.  Mile 10 was a little tough, and my slowest mile, but I made up for it in the last 5k. I crossed the finish with an official time of 1:53:04. It was my fastest half since November 2013 (when I was five seconds from my PR). Now that feels good!

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There weren’t as many hills as I remembered, but I think my training is paying off as well. The course seemed a little different in the last few miles, but it was still a challenge. I was so excited that I was so close to running under 1:53. I feel like the four hour marathon is still a realistic goal, so I’ll keep pushing. It was a good race, and I’m so glad I went. It totally energized my training.

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Oh, and then there are these race perks:

Free race photos

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and a Texas sized medal!

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Hustle for Health Reprise

Just over a week ago, I ran the United Way Hustle for Health 10k, and two of my kids did the 5k. This was my first standalone 10k since this race last year, but the outcome was much different this time around. I do this race every year, because it was my first 5k (2010) and that was the first time they held the race. I love that it’s local, and have fun racing with others from my running group and community. I did the 5k for a few years, then moved up to the 10k.

On race morning, we headed downtown and got ready to run. I have been running separately with my oldest daughter and my youngest son to prepare them for the race. They each had their own race goal. My daughter had been preparing for the physical fitness part of the Navy ROTC program, and my son wanted to run a faster 5k. I had to let him know the heat would slow him down some and not to get discouraged.

Photo Credit: Hustle for Health & Campaing Kickoff United Way of Grayson County (Facebook page)

Photo Credit: Hustle for Health & Campaign Kickoff United Way of Grayson County (Facebook page)

We started the race and went our separate ways.

What’s interesting about the 10k, is that it is basically two separate parts. A hilly, challenging first half, and the second half follows the 5k course which is flat. You can’t run it like a typical 10k, because you may blow all your energy in the hills on the first half and have nothing left to finish with. That was my mistake last year since I had not done much speed work with distance. This year I was prepared. I even ran some of the hills a few times in the weeks before to make sure I could handle the pace (which was easy because it’s in my neighborhood).

My friend and I were running together for most of the first half. I looked at the first two splits and tried not to get concerned (8:28, 8:16) but I had been running around 9 minute miles for training, and I felt good. There was cloud cover, it was humid, and low 80s, but no sun baking us. Coming into the 5k course (which is out and back), I started looking for my kids. I spotted my daughter first at a water stop where she doused me with the contents of her cup. I was starting to heat up, and that felt great. Not long after that, I saw my son. My husband was out on his bike, riding along the course encouraging him. He was smiling and I got a high five. Miles 4 and 5 were my slowest, but I picked up the pace to finish. The final mile was my second fastest.

I finished with an official time of 53:07, and though it wasn’t my fastest, I feel like I’m in a good place going into marathon training. I was surprised to see that I was the second female finisher and the master’s winner. Small race perks. My friend won the female grandmaster’s.

I posted this picture to our running group page, with tips about finding a good running partner.

1. Find someone who pushes and challenges you to be a better runner.

2. Make sure they’re in another age group.

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The kids did well too. I had to talk to my son about how his place in the age group does not matter. He was two minutes off of what he ran in March. In his age group, there are 14 yr old cross country runners. I put the focus on him working to improve his race times, and not on what others are doing. My goal is to instill in him a joy of running and pushing himself to improve. One of my favorite things about running is that the responsibility is on the runner.

My daughter came away from the race better prepared for the Navy fitness requirements. She may have not liked running with me much, but I hope she’ll find an appreciation of me pushing her in training. I am proud of both of them.

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The little one wanted a week off from running after the race, which worked out well because we moved his sister into the dorm last week.

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Now our house is emptier, so I’m going to pour myself into my training to keep from emotional eating.

School started Monday as did my marathon training. My son and I went out for a mile run on Tuesday evening. He was energized and ready to run. The new running clothes helped too. It’s a reminder of how little breaks and rewards can recharge us when we need it.

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Buffalo Springs 70.3 (Part 2 Bike and Run)

If you missed my last post about the start of my Half Ironman at Buffalo Springs, you can catch up on it here. The next part of the race was the longest and required some mental effort. I apologize in advance for being long-winded. I love to write and I love to give details. Double whammy here.

To sum up where I left off, I had completed the swim not knowing how long it took me, and made it to the bike with people still behind me. I was feeling pretty good.

THE BIKE:

I had a nice mental boost from seeing my husband and brother right off the bat, then I passed where we parked and the downhill was followed immediately by another climb. This one got to me. I was breathing heavy, focusing on my turnover when a guy passed me and said “Easier gear.” The guy right behind him said “You have two more.” I acknowledged with “Thanks” and shifted – twice. I was calm and ready to tackle the ride. Once I completed that hill, I knew I had a while before the next one.

The weather was cooperating so far with a cloudy sky and low winds. It was a nice day for a bike ride.

As I moved forward into the second major climb, I saw the athletes coming down and it didn’t seem as scary as it had in the car. This was the one that curved around with a guardrail that bordered a cliff. The downhill that kept me awake half the night. The one I was most worried about. But focusing on my climb, I noticed some riders walking their bikes up the hill. I focused my legs on a steady cadence and stayed in my seat all the way up. I honestly could’ve run a flat road faster than my speed climbing, but I got it done. My motto all throughout the ride became “the tortoise always wins.” I repeated it out loud as needed. I focused on my race, my speed, and my skills. After the turnaround when I began descending, I kept my confidence in place and braked all the way down. “That wasn’t so bad.” I knew that if I made it through that one, I’d be okay for the others. The next big climb had a sign “Spiral Staircase.” This one was steeper but there were no big drop-offs. I saw people walking their bikes up again. It definitely hurt going up, but again I focused on a steady climb. A straightway for several miles, and then a turn around right into the wind. Coming back down the Spiral Staircase was a little faster than the other hill, and scary in a roller coaster thrill way. Oh thank goodness it was a low wind day, because the rest of the ride I fought the wind one direction or another. I couldn’t get my average pace above 14.0. Even with the downhills.

By mile 50, the wind had taken its toll on my legs. They were done and I wanted to be off the bike. The sun had come out about 2 hours into the ride, and I was on my last bottle of Nuun. I was getting thirsty so I tried to ration the rest of my drink. I didn’t want to stop before I finished the bike. My bike was moving slower than I estimated, and since I didn’t know my swim time, I hated to push the time limits. Looking back, I should have had more chews on the bike instead of the extra Clif bar I never ate. At mile 55, I audibly groaned “Oh no!” as I began to climb the final hill in the park before the downhill to transition. It was a straight up hill.

I crested the top, rode past our car and began the descent. Then I saw my oldest daughter right as she turned around and saw me. She began to cheer, and I saw all the other kids, my brother, and my husband. They all began cheering so loud, people were turning to see who was coming. I felt like a superstar! I made the final turn and when I hit the dismount line, the volunteer said “Coming in smiling. That’s a good sign.”

“Yes, because I’m done,” I said.

The tortoise always wins.

Here’s some of the data from my Garmin. Ignore the elevation gain, because it’s not correct. It’s actually just over 1000′ of gain, but I wanted to show the hills on the graph!

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Side note: I can’t say enough about how wonderful it was having my family cheer coming in off of the bike. I needed that lift going into the next part of the race.

THE RUN:

Coming off the bike, I was surprised my legs didn’t feel more wobbly. My first mile I stayed busy trying to make sure I was headed in the right direction, and I didn’t pay attention to my pacing. I knew the run was two loops so when I saw the first mile marker I relaxed a bit. Not paying attention to my pace was a mistake. The first mile averaged 9:30. In the second mile, I slowed to grab a cold towel at the aid station. My second mile pace was in the 10:30s. Then I guess you could say my wheels fell off. (Good thing this wasn’t on the bike. Ha!) The third mile started the walk breaks and I had an 11:30 average pace for that mile. Oops!

My legs were fine. It was my breathing I was struggling with. I was getting hot, and somewhat nauseated at the thought of taking in my chews. I tried a couple of them after the third mile, and kind of gagged a little while chewing. I took in some more around mile 5 and had the same problem. This is the same stuff I trained with, but my body wasn’t handling it at this point. Ever since before the swim, I had felt like my food was sitting at the back of my throat. I handled it ok on the bike, but the jostling from the run made it worse.

With this kind of trouble on the run with the heat, I quickly shifted my plan to run/walk/smile. I walked through almost every aid station. Wet cold towels, ice in my visor, and taking in Gatorade to get the carbs. My stomach did okay with that and I still had my Nuun in my bottle along with some Nuun Plus. As I came across the bridge to finish my first loop, I saw my husband. I called out, “You know that 2 1/2 hour half marathon I planned? Not gonna happen.” But I was okay with it. I was the tortoise. As he ran alongside me for a minute, I told him about being too hot, and my nutrition problems. My legs were still okay, but my effort felt hard even staying around a 12 minute pace.

The second lap was even tougher. The crowd had thinned out as most people were done by now, and I still had well over an hour to go. I talked to other runners, and fell into a run/walk pattern with another athlete for a while. We chatted about goals. Mine was to finish. She added, “finish with a smile.” I thanked all the volunteers. They were so uplifting at that point in the race. The ice was wonderful and I would grab handfuls at the aid stations and put it in my hat and down the front of my tri top to stay cool. I walked up the monster hill along with everyone else and noticed one of the hand cyclists rolling up the hill backward to get up. That was a game changer for me. There I was, walking to get through the tough parts of the course with all my limbs functioning, while those guys didn’t have that option. They did the swim, the bike, and the run all with their arms and upper body. It was so inspiring to see him working up that hill, and I know he was tired but he kept going!

I began to feel a little energized in the last mile. Two of my kids ran alongside me for a couple of minutes. They told me they had been swimming in the lake. Then I saw my other daughter, then my husband, then my brother, then his wife and kids were near the finish line. I felt like I was flying at that point. According to my Garmin, it was my third fastest mile. I made the final turn and saw the finish line, crying and smiling at the same time. I heard the announcer call out my name, and just like that I had a medal on my neck and a finisher shirt in my hand.

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The finisher shirt was an XL, and I tried to exchange it for a smaller size. Then I found out when you’re near the back of the pack, you don’t have much to choose from. I could have XL or XXL.

My husband has a new shirt to wear.

That evening, I finally saw what my swim time was and it completely surprised me. Overall, I expected I would finish in about 7.5 hours, and I wasn’t too far off the mark. I was surprised at how the run knocked me out, but my goals were to finish. I was the tortoise, and that was quite all right with me.

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A Tale of Two Bike Rides (and a run)

I’m taking advantage of my recovery week to catch up on my blog posting and other things around the home. The training started to take a toll on me last week, and was evident when I took my son’s Spider-Man towel to the pool. The dirty laundry was overflowing a bit and paperwork threatened to cover the kitchen counter.

This is week 8 of 16, and what I thought would be my biggest challenge of half Ironman training is turning out to be different from what I expected. I thought the hardest part would be in cutting back on running.  With only three runs a week, I thought I would miss it more. Actually, I have so much to work on with my weaknesses (swim and bike), I haven’t really had time in my brain to miss those extra runs. Even on Marathon Monday (Boston Marathon day), I was excited to track the runners from my group and I was again inspired to work hard, but it was my rest day and I needed the break.

Especially after a tough bike ride two days before.

As it turns out, I’m not great at cycling and I have a lot to learn. Every Saturday for my long ride, I have been dealing with the wind. But on this day, it wore me out. The route I ride, with a few variations, is out and back. That means if the wind pushes me one direction, I will be fighting it coming back. This day was especially hard, because some of the gusts and crosswinds made me wonder if I’d end up in the ditch if I took one hand off for a drink. Needless to say, I didn’t fuel enough either. In the last five miles, I tried to be positive. I tried to be excited about the new distance, but I wanted to cry because it was hard. It reminded me of when I trained for my first marathon, and with each new distance I was proud for pushing on, past the point of doubt and pain. I could feel the tension in my neck and shoulders as I finished up my ride, just from controlling the bike. When I pulled into my driveway, I stopped and straddled my bike with my head down. Glad it was done; feeling stronger than I did before.

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40 miles done.

You can tell where the wind beat me up on my bike splits.

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The next week, my plan had a 45 mile ride followed by a 15 minute run and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I tend to get nervous before my long ride every week, and I should be over that by now. I easily expected to be out there for almost four hours (including the run). My husband worked on my bike, and I asked him if he could tilt my saddle forward just a tad. I’ve had some pain toward the end of my rides, and I know I need to go get a bike fit. But this would suffice for now. Then I headed out.

I don’t know if it was the weather (calm and sunny), the adjustments to the bike seat, or the smoother shifting that helped, but this ride was nice. My legs were sore for the first couple of miles (after a 5 mile run the night before), but then I settled into the ride and my head for the next few hours. I finished a 45 mile ride in 3:05:44 – average 14.5 mph – only 5 minutes slower than the previous week’s ride of 40 miles. What a difference! I ran inside to my makeshift transition area, and came back out for my 15 minute run. It was hot outside, and I was sweating. But I got it done! I even started some new tan lines from my cycling shorts. 🙂

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A lot of chocolate milk for recovery all weekend!

My pace was pretty good for the run. It’s such a different feeling going from the bike to the run. I don’t know if you ever get used to it. I’m trying not to think too much about the half marathon I’ll be doing after all the biking (and swimming).

Sunday morning I did my long run of 11 miles. It was so peaceful out – just me and the squirrels. It’s been a while since I’ve run that many miles solo, and it was different.

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But for the remainder of my training, I’m going to move the long run to the afternoon – in the heat. That’s what my Ironman friend told me I need to do. Train when you will race. So my days of cool early morning runs are over, and I’ll be sweating it out in the heat from now on.  Oh yeah!

Now I’m off to try to reduce this laundry pile. Have a great week!