Sunday, August 26, 2012

Steelhead 70.3 Race report, part III

My legs are shaky and unsteady on bike dismount. I wonder if my lack of water/nutrition stops will bite me in the buttuski. My butt-uski certainly aches as I make the long trek to my bike rack spot. I'm finding it hard to focus, but manage the transition routine:
  • I cover myself with towel and wiggle out of bike shorts into running shorts.
  • Manage to avoid disqualification for nudity.
  • Change from bike jersey to sleeveless running shirt.
  • Glide, Gu, water, running belt.
  • Let volunteer apply sunscreen.
Commercial interruption about sunscreen: USE IT! Back to our scheduled programming:

The first three miles were tough. I got a side ache and in general felt cruddy. A guy running by me said, "Try the coke. You'll feel better right away." He was not referring to the drug, but rather to flat coca cola available at each water station. I took his advice (why not? He seemed friendly enough!) and I did feel stronger and less queasy.

The day was mild, mid-70's, and sunny, so while it felt warm in the sun, it was not overwhelming. I stuck with my plan to stay as wet as possible. I put ice in my bra and in a pocket formed by my race belt and shorts top, dumped water on my neck and pony tail. I am soaked in my finish line photo. I found one flaw in this plan - my electrolyte tablets dissolved in my race belt.


The course begins with a pretty difficult hill - most people were walking. The middle portion is two loops around the Whirlpool campus. For a couple miles we were on a walking trail - paved - shady - nice!!!! I loved the run - plenty of people to chat with - many encouraging each other. At the end of the Whirpool loop is a very steep hill - you do this twice. Each time I connected with another athlete and we chatted our way up. Great distraction.

Before the second loop, I saw a young male finisher lounging on his bicycle. "A little part of me hates you!" I yelled. He laughed and said "You are doing great. Keep going!"

My quads start protesting by mile 10, but I know I am going to finish.

Spectators frequented the route, applauding and exhorting. This was one of the best surprises of the day. Pockets of spectators on difficult bike and run hills enthusiastically called participants to persevere. I tried to thank every group I saw. I have been at the tail end of smaller triathlons and it is a discouraging and lonely experience. This was anything but. My spirits soared throughout.

The volunteers amazed me. Every drink stop was well manned with adults and children. These kids were sweet! I cannot believe they stayed out, cheerful and helpful, for so many hours. The race started at 7 a.m. - pro bikers were on the course by 7:30 a.m., then running a couple hours after that. I was running through 12 - 2:30 p.m. Others did not finish until after 5 p.m. That's a long day for a huge number of helpers and spectators. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Down the long starter hill, around a corner, across a beach bridge, down the chute (again, lined with spectators), and the announcers voice congratulating each finisher by name. "Congratulations to Ann Baker!" YAY! Arms extended overhead, I must have been yelling as I crossed the line, because the pictures are pretty funny - massive face contortions. Nice smile once I was across - I'll have to remember that for Ironman Florida.

7:13, and I couldn't be happier!

Found Mom, who had left the finish line area about five minutes earlier. She was disappointed.

I started to worry about Barry. I thought maybe he had passed me on the bike and I missed identifying him. Mom had not seen him, so I knew he hadn't quit the race. Barry finished in 7:17 - struggled with nutrition so pooped out on the run, his strong leg.

Great after party, like everything else at the Steelhead 70.3. The only difficulty emerged after we had eaten, cleaned most of the grime off at the beach bath house outdoor showers, and started the walk to parking.

When you are tired and accompanied by an 87 year old woman, the parking is WAY far from the start. I envied the participants who rode their bikes out - we had a cooler and chair and Mom. Barry could not carry his pack due to back pain, so I balanced his on my handlebars and backpacked mine. Mom was carrying her bag and cooler. Finally, we found an open VIP parking space and dumped it all and Barry walked to the car.

Recovery wasn't too bad, though I pulled some intercostal muscles and they fired up late in the post-event week. Barry pulled a calf muscle, but is back to running now, training for the Marine Corp Marathon.

All in all, a FABULOUS experience. I am blessed. And since Barry and I are each 1/2 an Ironman, together we make a full Ironman! Good mojo for November!

Get out there and swim, bike or run - or simply walk. But get out there. It's a beautiful world with a lot of great people.

Click to read Part I
Click to read Part II

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Steelhead 70.3 2012 race report, Part II

Lake Michigan is shallower this year, due to the drought.

Caught up in race start fever, I leap along the waves...leap...leap...leap...sand bar...leap...finally the water is over two feet deep and I dive in to swim and...

Ah, ah, choke, can't breathe, can't breathe.

I have nicely spiked my middle-aged heart rate.

This also happened to me in my first race.

My husband was plagued by this several times.

Rationally, I am well prepared for this.

I should now remember
a) what is happening
b) how to deal with it.

Instead, I flounder and scream inside my head, "What's wrong? Why can't I swim? Why can't I catch my breath?"

Silly old mom athlete.

I DO switch to breast stroke around the turn buoy and then flip on my back (comforted by other back swimmers at this same juncture).

Calmer, I start over. I have lost ground to the faster age-groupers whom I hoped to draft off a little.


Ten minutes later, faster swimmers of the next waves overtake me. It is not horrible - I occasionally need to stop, breast stroke, clear my space and start again.

By the half way point (buoys were yellow first half, orange second, nice), I was strong and focused on my stroke technique and went MUCH faster.

I was disappointed in my swim time (my watch said 51 min from water enter to exit, official time 52, so maybe they included the 100 meter beach stumble to transition?). This WAS an improvement, but not as big as I thought based on my practices. I plan a lot more open water practice before IM Florida; we will see if that helps. BEST MOMENT: in the second half, often I get tired or frustrated and think negative thoughts. This time I thought, "I feel amazing!"

Out of the water, stumbled around a bit, then jogged down beach chute. I see Mom and she blows me a kiss, "I love you Ann! I'm proud of you!" First time I've had a spectator at any running/triathlon event. Joy!

The bikes were lined up in only two double-sided rows - 1500 entrants - and I was ALL THE WAY at the end. Glass half full - shorter jog on the bike shoe clip.

I manage to change the shorts without being Disqualified for public nudity, but it was a close thing.

I am warm, no shivers, so skip through my safari supplies opting only for my bike jersey, socks and shoes. Lubricant - CHECK! A GU energy gel and water and I'm on my way (nine minutes later, laugh if you must).

The bike is my weak event. I have long ridden a commuter bike, but it was late August, 2011 when I started on my road bike with clip-in pedals. This race I'm riding a Tri-bike. I have been practicing in the aero position, but see Midwestern Again for an example of how well THAT went.

I am anxious and that's never good.

The younger age groupers are speeding up from behind. Seriously flying.

And that's not good.

The course winds around and under Route 63 so triathletes get on the road without having to stop the traffic. I take this cautiously, annoying those who do not care how narrow or windy this route is - they want to GO GO GO.

The route is lovely - through fruit and berry fields.

I'm glad Barry and I came three weeks ago, because...

I did not see any of it.

Between managing my own bike, handling snafus (only one terrible mistake in shifting for a hill that nearly unseated me on correction), trying to drink from the bottle in my aero bars (do NOT hassle me about my difficulty!), and the the Speedy McSpeedies who for the most part were courteous and encouraging, but were still speeding speedily and WAY TOO CLOSE to me for comfort - I was mentally freaking.

Fatigue wears down all emotions, and for the second half of the ride I stayed mostly in the aero position and improved my speed.

BEST MOMENT: three weeks ago, I thought the hills were hard. This time, I kept wondering where the overwhelming, big hills were. If you are a newbie, the "rolling hills" description is a little misleading. There are several challenging hills - work on strength,practice on local hills, and down shift. All my passes were on the hills. People make it too hard for themselves.

Eventually, I was exchanging places with the same bikers. They would catch me on the flats, I would pass them on the hills. One man was a relay biker. He probably could kick my wazoo, but was struggling because he was massively overdressed. Leggings, gloves, jacket, camelpak. has a "what to wear" tool. I found it handy in my final choices.

Because of my freak, I did not refill my water bottle. Frankly, I was afraid I would mow down the volunteer line. I came into the race well-hydrated, but that was a risky choice. I need to practice the grab, fill, and toss.

Bike took 3:30.

The end of the course was single lane on an asphalt walking path, sidewalk and boardwalk. Careful, careful, careful - dismount - BLISS!

Shaky and relieved, I had survived the bike. BONUS - I had not taken out any other athlete. SUCCESS.

Click to read Part III

Click to read Part I

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Steelhead 70.3 Race Report 2012, Part I

If you are an experienced triathlete, this entry is NOT for you.

I mean, feel free, but I am NOT an experienced triathlete, unless one loosely defines "experienced" as having done, oh, let's sprint and three olympic length events.

Ah, the other clue: I do not call them races.

When I read race reports, frequently the authors scoff at those who walked up steep hills on the run course.

I and my pals walk up those hills with pride.

We are finishers.

Hear us roar...with a few whimpers and whines thrown in purely as audio accents.

I am a 50 year old woman who is having the best time ever as a Finisher of these fun and fabulous events.

Last Saturday, 8/18/2012, I traveled with my husband and mother to Benton Harbor Michigan to participate in our first Half Ironman - part of my training for Ironman Florida in November.

The Half Ironman is 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike, 13.1 mile run.

I have been following the Don Fink Ironfit book training plan, sticking mostly to the "Competitive" level, not because I think I'll be competitive, but because I want to do all I can to make sure I'll successfully finish IM Florida.

I have also joined a local triathlon coaching group. Because of their activities, I am a stronger swimmer and cyclist than I hoped.

SO, arriving at the Steelhead registration, I was not as anxious as at the shorter triathlons of past year.

The volunteers were amazing, from the boy scout parking police to the registration tents and bike area monitors. It went smoothly and quickly. The athlete meeting was succinct and informational.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express which is near I-94. The hotel put out early-bird fruit and food at 4:30 a.m. for the participants. We brought our own dinner (I am always afraid of setting off my GI upset with "foreign" food). Each room had a microwave and fridge, so no problem. For a fee, the hotel allowed triathletes to keep room until 4 p.m. Since we had NO idea how long we would take (my goal was under 8 hours)(if you are choking and sputtering right now, please close this window!), we didn't take this option. The race transitions areas and finish line are in Jean Klock park, and the park has two outdoor, public shower areas, so a post-race rinse is possible.

I am a Catholic Christian, so we attended a nice Mass at St. Bernard's Church - 5 p.m. Perfect. The music was very cool - I think one musician was playing a zither! We ate about 3 p.m., and light snack later.

Early to bed, along with most of the hotel guests.

3:30 a.m. - rise and shine!

I've been burping up my usual pre-marathon meal during the swim, so switched to rice cakes with peanut butter and honey and an FRS energy drink.

I ate a banana in the car. I am feeling stuffed. Blech. No more food.

We dropped off our bikes the night before, so took the shuttle from the parking lot to race central.

Nerves nerves nerves.

Set up Momma under a shade tree scouted yesterday afternoon: chair, cooler, book. Oriented her to the general set up for swim return, bike in and out, finish line.

Into bike transition to lay out clothes.

I've gotten a little far without mentioning the outstanding weather.


At 5 a.m., it's 55 degrees, little wind, clear skies. The water is 67 degrees and calm. It should get up to the mid-70's.

I was worried about being cold on the bike, so my transition pile is a little crazy. I see veterans' stacks: socks and shoes. I have:
  • A regular size towel which I will use to hide my bottom half while I change from swim shorts into my padded bike pants. I get too sore on the bike to wear my thin-chamoised tri-shorts.

  • Saddle lubricant for my precious parts.

  • Glide (a protective solid lubricant) for other moving areas.

  • Bike shirt.

  • Sleeveless running shirt which I plan to wear as a base layer if I am cold.

  • Compression calf sleeves.

  • Arm warmers.

  • Socks

  • Shoes

  • Water bottle and small towel to get sand off my feet.

  • Small bottle of alcohol to get water out of my ears (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

    In SECOND pile:

  • Running shoes

  • Fresh socks

  • Mole skin strips for feet sore areas.
Safari or Triathlon, you decide. Back with Momma and my husband, we wait to begin the trek down the beach. The Steelhead starts the swim either a mile north or south of the finish depending on the current. On this day, we walked South. Used the porta-potty for last time - have huge panic attack inside. The usual voices, "WHY ARE YOU HERE?""THIS IS CRAZY!" But I step out, see my Mom and husband, and calm down. I sit next to them for a few minutes and pray. A feeling of protection and peace surrounds me, and I am ready to go. We say goodbye and Barry and I start the walk down the dark shoreline. I am drinking an FRS energy drink, Barry opts for nothing. The sun is rising, pink and golds. The air is cool, but not cold. We arrive at the swim start about 6:40 a.m., and get in the water to warm up. Lake Michigan feels great - warmer than standing on the beach. The announcer calls our waves in to the beach, as we start immediately after pros. We sing the Star Spangled Banner. The sun is up, just behind the American flag. I am chatting with the other 50 and up women, and I feel...great. At 7:05, we are on the edge of the beach, waiting for the starting gun, and I realize I am not scared or anxious or defeated - just eager and excited. Fabulous. Bang! And off we go... Click To read Part II Click to read Part III

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dairy dreamin'....

Took Christopher, my baby boy, to the dentist Tuesday.

The baby is 19, home for 12 days from Georgia Tech.

The baby did pretty well in summer school - Spanish: A, Physics 2: A, Computer Science....: A.

MMMMMommma pride.

While he was getting his teeth cleaned, I decided to treat myself.

The dentist is only a mile from our previous home - eight years, seeing the girls through junior high and high school and Chris K-8.

Great years. Amazing family years.

A highlight of the great life we enjoyed was a family bike trip (and many just friends trips and treats) to the local Dairy Dream.

Privately owned, just off the bike path, picnic table perfect ice cream stand.

I drove over and eagerly popped up to the counter, ordering my plain Jane favorite: Chocolate cone dipped in Dark Chocolate.



I'm not often terribly maudlin about the Empty Nest. But today, sitting in the car, watching two families bike up, park, and then chatter and share their treats, I wanted nothing more than to weep and throw my cone away.

Oh my.

I miss those days. If you have your kids at home, go for a bike ride, enjoy the laughter, and snapshot the memory for your mind. Enjoy. Laugh. Love.

The empty nest is ok. I'm working at filling it. But sometimes it is just...empty.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Team or individual athlete?

When I first started running, no way in heck I was going to work with a group.

Remember all the spitting, belly-aching, itching and gasping?

I preferred solitude at that stage - and even after the spitting, itching and most of the gasping subsided, I could not imagine that other than during beach hatching season, the "turtles" gathered to make a run for it.

Today while putting in my last long run before the half-ironman (have I mentioned I'm petrified?), I saw a woman's running group at the Old School forest preserve.

They were turtles of a certain age (mine).

It looked like fun. Well, the social aspect looked intriguing - The hot-day running looked about as fun fun.

It was not fun for the solo runner either. Yikes it was HOT!

How do you decide if you are a team or individual athlete? This decision can determine if you stick to and reach your goal, whether it is a 5K or a marathon.

Time constraints: Does the group meet when you are available? Can you make yourself available? We sabotage ourselves constantly by making excuses rather than accommodations, so think flexibly! I swim at 5:30 a.m. twice a week - most participants then shower and ride off to work. It's okay to go to bed early and miss The Kardashians. (Are they still on TV? Sorry if dated reference!)

Cost: Costs vary a lot! Miami's runner club had a minimal yearly fee and some great coaches, dedicated to improving runners of all ability levels. THEN there are elite coaching venues, with monthly fees comparable to a high-end health club. Consider your financial resources and personal goals in matching to a group. Running with a couple friends is free - be bold and ask a friend!

Intensity level: Do they have a beginner group? When I encounter better athletes (that would be all the time), I am either inspired or discouraged. Remember, the first 5K effort is a BIG DEAL to the first time 5K-er - successful, seasoned runners will most likely celebrate and encourage your efforts. BUT I think it would be easier to quit training if I was the least fit in a group - especially if that gap seemed insurmountable or embarrassing. Again, be wary of self-sabotage.

Personal social preferences: Do you like to be accountable to others? Is it easier for you to exercise with encouragement? Do you prefer someone else to design/direct each workout? Do you work harder with the "pressure" of peers?

Goal: What do you want to accomplish? I was quite content to walk/run my way through a half marathon (By the way, walk/run guru Jeff Galloway has groups! I think this is a GREAT option for all beginning runners.) I read Jeff Galloway, did web research, read (read and read and researched and...well, you know me!), and supported by this bastion of literary knowledge, put together a plan. If you want something more - if you want to improve your running or biking or swimming efficiency, you can do it from expertise books, but coaching makes a big difference.

Remember, you can not SEE yourself unless videoed. If your goals evolve, and efficiency and form become important, an outside eye is almost essential.

If I solo-train, how do I know coaching helps?

That's the subject for another me, it can make a big difference!

Friday, August 3, 2012

I want to be an Olympian!

So, you are watching the Olympics and caught up in the athletes’ drive and determination.

“Why not me?!!”

Why not?

Well, for me, and most of my peer group, the good Ship Olympic sailed, um, 30 years ago.


That doesn’t mean this is an opportunity missed. Rather, let’s channel that motivation into reaching our own “Olympic” goals.

Why not run a 5K? Swim at the Master’s level? Bike in a road race or fundraising event?

From the age of 16 – 46, I claimed I could not run. I attempted running again at 46.

Turns out, I can run.

Not fast, but at least forward.

I bet many of you have some of the same “reasons” why you believe you cannot run:

1) I have bad knees.

I DO have arthritis in both knees. My knees DID hurt when I started running. BUT they were achy – not injury painful. Turns out, my knees hurt for the same reason my thighs and glutes hurt – I was using muscles in new ways. The more I ran, the more this discomfort dissipated. Still...

as I write this, I am icing my knees after a workout.

Ice is our friend.

2) I am allergic to running.


When I started running, I itched insanely. I thought I was allergic to running.


When I was more sedentary, my capillaries stayed small and tight. Running opens the capillaries as they rush blood to the muscles. The nerves near the capillaries are confused by this sudden behavioral change and send a million text messages to the brain: “What is she doing?” “How can we make her stop?” “R u watching this?!”

The brain reads these messages as “itch, itch, itch” (silly brain).

It will stop after a few training sessions.

3) I can’t breathe. My heart is racing. I have to spit. My side hurts.

I am grouping all my physical discomfort complaints. They resolve over time. Five years after my first run, I don’t get short of breath unless I push my pace.
At the beginning, I was immediately gasping (and spitting).
When I built up to a few miles (a year’s undertaking), I would find the first couple miles were hard, then my body adjusted and I was more comfortable.

Running is never completely comfortable, especially at the beginning.

Hang in there.

With my absolute belief I could not run, why did I start?

When I moved to Miami, I complained to my daughter that I could not exercise like my husband who ran every day.

She’s a sassy thing.

“Yes you can. You don’t want to run.”

Gasp. Gurgle. What?

I itch. I spit. I ache. I can’t run.

She sent me a link to a Runner’s World beginner’s program.

For some reason, this time I followed through.

I went to the health club, and walked one minute, ran one minute.

Repeated this 10 times.

Scared the health club personnel by coughing, gasping, turning red and otherwise appearing to have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro rather than walk/run for 20 minutes.

Nearly a year after that first attempt, I decided to run more than three miles. I told my husband where to find me if I didn’t return in 90 minutes, and ran out the door. Six miles later, I was thrilled.

I coughed all day and was sore for three more.

Then I discovered Jeff Galloway. He was an Olympic runner in 1972 – so he’s just a bit older than me. He has a walk/run training program and a planned run/walk approach to the races. It is great.

It's how I completed the Disney Goofy challenge in 2011 and 2012. I am a little proud of that accomplishment but could not have attempted it without Jeff Galloway.

He recently broke his hip and to show people it can be done, he completed a half marathon doing a planned run/walk once out of rehab. I was both inspired and depressed by this act since his “walk/run” pace post-hip fracture STILL BEATS MY half marathon time.

BUT then I am simply thrilled that I HAVE a half marathon time.

You can too! Tonight, DVR or tape or SKIP (gasp) some of the Olympic broadcast and get outside and MOVE!