Friday, January 27, 2012

Embrace Me, My Sweet Embraceable You

This isn't me, but look how
natural that hug is.
For many, many years I have been signing up for races and crossing finish lines. And after every race, I have one tradition: THE FINISH LINE HUG. I believe it started when I was a cross country skier in high school and my mom or a friend’s mom was always nearby to congratulate me on a good ski. Those Midwest mothers know how to pump you full of confidence or shoulder tears depending on the outcome of the race.

It might have been more appropriate to get hugs after high school ski races because 1) I was cute, cold, and under 18, and 2) I knew who I was hugging. Fast forward several years and I now finish races sweaty, looking like death, in front of a bunch of strangers. But I’m sticking with what works and keeping with tradition. I will always look for the first volunteer and ask for a hug after every race I finish.
But ever since Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2011, I’ve become a little more conscious of how LONG these finish line hugs should be. Last summer my friend John told me he found a YouTube clip of me finishing at CDA. Sweet – I wanted to see it after such a wonderful race. “It looked like you were hugging someone you knew,” he told me. Nope, I didn’t know the guy, but explained that is what I do after every race. “Really? Because you were hugging him for a long time, like you knew him.” I found out John was right when he sent me the link. Go 9:12 into the video to see me finish and 9:16 to see the world’s longest hug.

Pretty long, huh? It’s probably even longer, but the camera fades out. (They probably ran out of film and had to cut to a new video.)

John later told me he found some guidelines on finish line hugs and how long you can hug before it turns into restraining order. He was joking about the restraining order; here are the guidelines he found on how to give an Appropriate Post Race Hug:

My hug: start at 3 seconds –1 because we are strangers +1 because I am female and the huggee is male = a 3 second hug. Since I more than doubled that, it was beyond appropriate and a really good reason for my friends and teammates to tease and make fun of me.
Big, sweaty finish line hugs to you all!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 RNR Arizona Marathon Race Report

More like heaven and back;
I freaking love the marathon.
I must admit I have mixed emotions from Sunday’s marathon. Rock & Roll Arizona has been the first race of the year for the past 3 years and in 2010 and 2011 I had smashing PR’s. But I had huge PR’s those years for two reasons: 1) my fitness had improved, and 2) my run training had changed. This year, between recovering from one Ironman season and gearing up for the next, there wasn’t time to focus on very many tempo runs and speed workouts. My coach had me put the amount of run miles that I’ve become accustomed to training for my most recent PR’s, but the past couple months have also focused on increased bike power and volume. And although my fitness improved over last year, the month of December also focused on some pretty fatty, delicious, holiday eating and Christmas parties (that I’m glad I did not sacrifice).
So going into this year’s race, I was relying on improved fitness and experience running a ~7 minute pace. But I also went into it with tired legs and missing the “race ready” I normally feel going into any type of “A” performance. And honestly, you can’t expect a PR EVERY race, which has very fortunately been the trend over the past couple years. I had told people that I’d be happy with anything under 3:10, so my 3:06:57 (58 seconds from my current PR – so no whining and good enough for 12th place overall) was very satisfying. But, it also led me to evaluate a few questions about where marathons currently fit into my life.  
Don't be fooled by his white guy
dance moves. Metler ran a 1:10 half.
First a quick RR: Sydnie and I flew out Friday and were picked up at the airport by my cousin and her adorable little family (kids Owen – 7 and Ella – 5). We stay with them in Cave Creek every year and are extremely grateful. Saturday we did our little 2.5 mile shake out run and then headed to Phoenix to meet up with our Puke & Rally teammates from Hood to Coast. Our group of friends laughed and laughed over lunch before heading to the expo; it is such a great group of runners. Saturday night was pretty chill with a pasta dinner and a movie. Sunday we were up at 5 and headed to the start line at 5:45, which put us there by 6:30, ample time for a warm-up and plenty of bathroom stops. There was a 30 minute delay for the start, but everything else was completely seamless.
My crazy friends ran the 1/2 and still
had plenty of energy for headstands
I took off at a decent clip, but kept things under control. I came through the half at 1:31 and felt like it was a little fast, but nothing crazy. The second half worked me over, but my pacing didn’t let up too much. The last 10k wasn’t pretty (46 minutes), but nothing disastrous. I had a cramp in my right calf for the last 5 miles, which prevented any kick and maybe cost me a minute or two. Post-race I met up with friends to rock out to the B-52’s followed by some homemade pizza on the grill, naps, and Mexican food for dinner. We flew home Monday after a relaxing day in Cave Creek. Overall, it was a great trip and a really good race.
Now back to my current running philosophy. First off, I love and always will love being a runner. It warms my heart to see a 20 mile run with race pace on my workout schedule and I will likely run marathons for the rest of my life. But for now, I need to be patient and work on run fitness in a way that compliments my Ironman training. I began doing more journaling this year with the help from the Believe I am training journal. I jotted down these questions and answers to myself:
Was it fun? Yes
Am I proud of my performance? Yes
Do I think I have faster marathons in me? Definitely. And would I someday like to prove that? Yes.
Was it the best thing for Ironman training? Probably not. Did it sabotage Ironman training? Of course not.
Do you still like running marathons? Yes. I love it and wish I could do it more often and go into a race feeling like I gave it the type of training and focus it deserves.
There is a space in this journal for Race Reviews to include what you learned, what you would’ve changed and how you were brilliant. One thing that stuck out as I was reflecting on my race was what I learned: I don’t like going into races not feeling 100%.
So now I’m looking forward to shifting focus and going back to putting 100% into Ironman training, so that I’m ready for my “A” races this year, meanwhile wondering if I can put in better training for Grandma’s Marathon in June or perhaps a late fall marathon. I realize I’m in a funny spot of making decisions to race based on either what sounds fun or what is best for my “triathlon career.” But for now, I’m not going to worry about it and just enjoy the run workouts that are fit in between swimming and biking.
Thank you to my dear friends who tore it up this weekend and my wonderful team for all the support during this race. Marathon #49 was a success and I’m looking forward to many more (including the ones that come after swimming and biking), this year and beyond.
4 of the 6 Puke & Rally girls from my Hood to Coast team - we all started
with strong races. Next stop: Oceanside 70.3!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Banana Bread and Perfect Winter Biking

Today was a good reminder that I live in the right part of the country (for me). It was high 40s, overcast, a little bit windy, and in my opinion, perfect winter biking weather. This is about as good as it gets for January riding in Seattle. Although it's nice to have warmer temps that don't require layers of clothing and toe warmers, sometimes it's the cold, overcast days that make the fresh air smell differently and the sun reflecting on the lake shine a little brighter. Sure it'd be nice to have sunshine and warm weather all year. And it'd also be nice to have snow and cross-country ski trails at my doorstep, but for now Seattle is the best mix of mild temperatures and miles and miles of great riding.

Today's workout - 4 hour bike, 30 minute T-run. Not a super hard workout, but enough volume to remind me why I like going long. I rode out to Snoqualmie Falls, through Fall City, Carnation, and the Snoqualmie Valley, and then back to Lake Sammamish. I couldn't talk anyone else into joining me, but thoroughly enjoyed the time on my own. My ride was followed up with a 30 minute run along the lake trail, and a lazy Sunday evening making soup and baking banana bread.

Snoqualmie Falls ~ Some IMOO (Ironman WI) training with some cows in the Snoqualmie Valley ~ Lake Sammamish
I've whipped up my favorite banana bread recipe to bring to Masters swimming this week. Here's the recipe (taken from Runner's World about 4 years ago): 

Cathleen's Banana Bread
1 2/3 c. all-purpose Flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 c. plus 2T sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c vegetable oil (I usually skimp on this)
3 1/2 bananas, very ripe and mashed
2 T low-fat sour cream
1 t vanilla
2/3 walnuts, chopped (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sift together first four ingredients.
3. Beat sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Drizzle in oil.
4. Add bananas, sour cream, and vanilla.
5. Fold in flour mixture and nuts.
6. Pour batter into 9x9 in pan(or 9x4 in) and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
7. Share with friends and hungry swimmers.
8. Accept compliments graciously.

I also recently attended a "Back to Basics" cooking class with Annabelle where we learned how to do some basic things from scratch. To compliment the banana bread, I also made some homemade butter this evening - basically all you do is mix cream until it forms globules of yellow butterfat. It's super easy and also delicious. :) Enjoy!