Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Race report and training updates

A few Saturday nights ago, I ran the Midsummer Night 5k run in Lexington. That morning, I ran 6 miles and swam for about 20 minutes. I wasn't sure how this would affect my performance in the race, so I went into the race with the goal of just having a good time. It was pretty weird running a race at 8:30pm - I am definitely more used to running 8:30am races. I tried to rest my legs that afternoon, and ate a light dinner at 5:00pm. My friends picked me up about an hour before the race start and we made the quick drive into Lexington. The sun was still out and blazing, so I knew we would be in for a pretty hot run.

The gun sounded at 8:30 and off we went down Main St. It was extremely crowded - tons of walkers and people with strollers - so I did my best to dodge and weave around them for the first mile. As we ran the sun began to go down, and by the 2.5 mile mark it was totally dark outside. This was my first time to run this race, and it was kind of nice not being familiar with the route. I never knew when we were going to turn next, or at what mile we were at. I just kept surging along with the crowd - trusting that everyone around me knew what the heck they were doing!

I felt great the entire race, and when we turned back on Main St., I knew that I was relatively close to the finish. I was able to pick up my pace and give a pretty good final surge, finishing in 26:48. My watch said 27:03 - but I later realized I started my watch when I crossed the starting line sign, not the starting mat. So I was pretty happy to see that my time was a little better - even if only by a few seconds!

After crossing the finish line, the first thing I saw was people puking. It was absolutely disgusting! I guess the heat combined with dinner combined with a 3.1 mile race wasn't a good mix. After finishing, I walked over to the water station and ran into one of my co-workers, whose son was running the race with his high school cross country team. She was taking pictures, and snapped a picture of me. It is a little frightening, but it is quite an indication of how hot it was that night - I was pouring sweat! (Gotta love the sports bra outline.)

As far as triathlon training goes, things are going well! This week I have started to incorporate "push running" into my training. Brett from the Zen and the Art of Triathlon podcast
invented this workout as a way to incorporate both anaerobic and aerobic activity in one workout session. The basic premise of a push run is that you run for 10 minutes, then do a set of push-ups, pull-ups or squats. Then you run for another 10 minutes, and then do another set of push-ups, pull-ups, or squats.

On my 4 mile run on Monday morning, I ran for 10 minutes and then did a set of 5 squats. I ran for another 20 minutes (forgot to stop after 10) and did another set of 5 squats. Then when I got home I did 5 more squats. The idea behind push running is that incorporating squats into your runs will help with your cycling, and incorporating push-ups and/or pull-ups will help with your swimming. I am going to try to make at least two of my weekday runs "push runs" (incorporating both squats and push-ups) to see if it helps with my swimming and cycling.

Speaking of cycling, I went on my longest ride to date last night - 26.6 miles. We were aiming for 18-20 miles, but a semi-wrong turn added on a little more than we had planned. I also experienced what can only be described as a successful flying dismount. I was coming down a fairly steep hill, when I realized that I was quickly approaching a very sharp U-turn in the road. I knew there was no way I could slow down enough to make the turn and survive with any skin, so I made the executive decision to unclip my shoes and unseat myself. I pretty much just jumped back off the seat and watched as my bike slammed into a cattle fence. Luckily, there was no damage to the bike, but I was definitely a little shaken up! My friend Cody took a look at my brakes and realized that they were way too loose, so helped me tighten them up. I could immediately feel a huge difference with the tighter brakes, which really helped me get some confidence back.

We finished the ride in 1:56:50, and I was dog tired and very hungry. I ate a peanut butter, jelly and Frito sandwich (so good!) and some watermelon, and then immediately fell into a deep sleep.

I have a 5k coming up Labor Day weekend, and then my tri at the end of September. After that, I have a 10k and some 5ks on the schedule in October. It is shaping up to be a pretty fun, race-filled fall!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More pictures from vacation

Here are a few more pictures from our recent vacation to Louisiana:

Megan, Brittany and myself

Chad, me, Mr. David and Mrs. Suzy
...I love how Emma's sweet little yawn was captured!

My family: my dad, my mom, sister Michelle, Chad, sister Megan, niece Brittany, and me
...not sure what the dogs are looking at here!

I'll have a post soon about my recent 5k race, and my preparations for the Help Make a Difference triathlon in Danville, KY at the end of September!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lame Duck Triathlon race report

Well - I did it, I finished my first triathlon!! I had so much fun - I am definitely hooked! I remember thinking during the swim, "wow, I am doing a triathlon - this is awesome!" and then during the bike, "wow, I am doing a triathlon - this is awesome!" and then during the run, "wow, I am doing a triathlon - this is awesome!!"

Here is how it all went down (I will warn you, this is long!):

On Friday afternoon I got all of my gear laid out and then packed. Chad and I put the Yakima Super Joe bike rack on the car for the first time. We put the bike on and got it secured, so that I would know how to do it on Saturday morning at 5:30am! We then took the bike off, and brought it back inside for safe keeping through the night.

At about 4:30pm, I headed to Georgetown (about 45 minutes away) to pick up my packet and preview the course. The race is held in a neighborhood, and immediately upon entering the neighborhood there is a long, winding, fairly steep hill. I've heard that this course is really hilly, and this was a pretty good introduction. The more I drove through the neighborhood the more I began to think that the neighborhood had actually been cut out of a small mountain range in central Kentucky - the hills were insane!!

There were only a handful of other participants picking up their packets, so I was able to get in and get out. They were offering free recovery drinks, but I chose to decline. The packaging on the bottle was so garish that it was really unappealing. I imagined the dragons on the label doing unspeakable things to my small intestines.

After picking up my packet and driving a little bit more of the course, I headed home to make dinner. Once home, I cooked up some prosciutto and roasted chicken tortellini, with a spinach marina sauce, and some 9-grain bread. This is one of my favorite quick and easy meals (the tortellini is pre-made) and I knew that my stomach could handle it.

After eating, I sat on the back porch and read while Emma played in the backyard. It was a really pleasant, relaxing evening. I was fighting the urge to scrub the walls, alphabetize our DVDs, organize my socks by size, etc. - I had so much pent up energy but I didn't want to waste it on tasks around the house. Reading did the trick and lulled me to sleep - I was out like a light by 8:45pm. I woke up at 3:00 and felt totally rested and ready to go, but I knew that I shouldn't get up yet. I went back to sleep, and woke up at 4:30 on the dot.

Surprisingly, I wasn't really nervous or anxious. I knew I had a few things to do to get ready, so I set to my tasks and ate my breakfast, drank my Doubleshot, got dressed, racked my bike, loaded my bag, took Emma out, and before I knew it, it was time to go.

I headed out at 5:45 am, with hopes of arriving at the race site between 6:30 and 6:45. I made two bathroom stops along the way, checking the bike rack at each stop. I was really impressed with the Yakima rack - the bike didn't even budge! I arrived at the race site at 6:45am, glad to see plenty of space still available in the transition area.

As I set up my space, I tried to chat with those around me - my icebreaker question being "have you done this race before?" Everyone that I talked to said "no, this is my first race!" So I felt a lot better, knowing that was in the company of so many first-timers.

At about 7:30am, I hopped into a pontoon boat with 5 other people and we headed over to the swim start. It was really great to preview the swim course - I remember thinking "ok, well this doesn't seem too bad!"

Once we got to the swim start area, we picked up our timing chips and swim caps. Then we waited, for about 30 minutes or so. Once the boats had delivered all of the participants to the start, we had a brief informational meeting. We also had a moment of silence and brief prayer for John Carr, the triathlete who was killed by a drunk driver in last week's E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park triathlon in Louisville. He was a part of the central Kentucky triathlon scene and it was such an unbelievable tragedy for him to lose his life to the wreckless hands of a senseless drunk driver. I am glad that the race director, Alan Siebenthaler, took a moment to honor him before the race.

After a short prayer, the men got ready to get into the water for their swim. The swim was held in two waves: the first wave was all individual men and relay team members, and then 5 minutes later the second wave of individual women began.

We walked down to the bank of the lake and watched the men begin their race - it was pretty cool! Before I knew it, 3 minutes had passed and there I was jumping off of a dock, getting ready to start my first triathlon. For some reason, I wasn't nervous at all! I've been more nervous at local 5k races this year than I have been at the start of this tri. I pulled my goggles on and ducked under to see what I was able to see underwater. I got my answer pretty quickly...nothing!

The water was extremely green, and I began to panic a little bit. I told myself that I would just swim as long as I could with my head out the water, and then when I felt more comfortable and got into a rhythm, I could experiment with putting my head under for a few strokes. My main goal was just to keep moving forward, in the right direction. The shotgun (yep, a shotgun!) blasted, and off we went. . .I took a few big gulps of lake water in my first few strokes, but eventually I was able to get into a rhythm and I calmed down a bit. I looked behind me and saw a lot of blue caps - this suprised me, because I was sure that I was one of the last people. Seeing that I was doing better than I thought gave me a boost of confidence, and I moved to a "head down for two strokes" then "look up, turn to the right while breathing, and put your head back down" type of swim. This served me well, as soon I began to pass a few men! Granted, they were going pretty slowly, but I couldn't believe that I caught up to some of the guys, considering the 5 minute time difference between our waves. I could see the crowd gathered on the shore, at the swim exit, and I could hear them cheering, but it seemed like they were so far away. Knowing that I was pretty close to being done, I put my head down and really started swimming. Before I knew it, I was passing a big yellow inflatable duck and getting pulled up the ramp by volunteers. I saw Chad immediately and he took some pictures - the picture below of me coming out of the swim is my favorite picture from the race. I think my face tells it all in that picture - a huge smile, with some disbelief mixed in!

I ran into the transition area and found my bike (which I had marked with a balloon). I toweled off my face and my feet, pulled on socks, put on my sunglasses and helmet, grabbed a Clif Shot Blok, and ran my bike to the mount line. Once there, I hopped on and started pedaling. For the first two miles I was really pushing on the uphills and downhills. When I looked down at my computer and saw that I had gone less than two miles, I realized that I needed to back off a little bit to conserve my energy for the rest of 9 mile course, and for the 2.6 mile run. After doing some loops around the neighborhood, we left the neighborhood and got onto US 25. This provided a nice flat section where I was able to get down into my drop bars and pick up the pace. At mile 5, as we were climbing a hill up to an elementary school for the turn-around, my chain fell off. It was a stupid mistake that I made with the gears, and all of a sudden my legs were spinning freely. I veered off the course, hopped off, put the chain back on, and got going again. This maybe took 30 seconds or so, and really the worst part about it was that I got a major grease streak on my face, between my left eye and hairline. Chad later told me that it looked like I had a prison tattoo - ha ha!

Once back in the Mallard Point, there were more hills to climb before wrapping up the bike segment. I kept thinking that Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" would pop into my head, but luckily it never did. Once I reached the dismount line for the bike, I unclipped and got off without falling, tripping or crashing into anyone, which is quite a feat for me. I ran to my spot in transition, racked my bike, took off my helmet and sunglass, put on my running hat and slipped on my running shoes. I have been using Yankz shoelaces for a few weeks now and they really helped with my transition.

I then headed out of transition and onto the course - which was basically the first part of the bike course with a few additions. It felt like I was moving so slowly, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. It took me about a mile to get my legs underneath me - which is really similar to how my brick training has gone. This tells me that this is an area I definitely need to work on. Once I hit mile 1.5, I started looking at my watch. It was at this point that I realized, wow I am going to finish under 1:30! I kept on plugging along and soon enough, the finish line was in my view. I passed Chad and I said "I'm going to finish under 1:30!!" and he was like "Yeah you are! You are doing great!" I was so happy, and I gave it my all for those last few 100 yards. I crossed the line in 1:27:50! I just checked the race site (www.lameduck.freeservers.com), and I found out that I also got 2nd out of 11 in my age group!

Info from the website (the swim time and T1 time are combined in the results below, but they are working on getting the times separated out):
Place Place Name Bib No Age Rnk
2 99 Meredith Brooks 250 25 3

----- Swim, T1 --
Pace Rnk
21:58.4 2
----- Bike -----
Rate Rnk
39:26.4 13.8 7

----- T2 -----
Time Pace Rnk
2:09.3 5

--- Run ---
24:16.4 9:20

Total Time

Everything that you could ever need to complete a sprint triathlon!

Packed and ready, just waiting to be loaded!

The swim finish area - see the big yellow duck?

Coming out of the water, thinking "I'm really doing this!"

Heading out on the bike

Action shot!

Feeling good on the bike

Running out of T2 (transition from bike to run)

Starting on the downhill to the finish line!
(I forgot my race belt with my number during the run...oops!)

Done. A triathlete! (I put the race belt on just for the picture!)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Its tomorrow...

Breathe in, breathe out. That's what I've been telling myself for the past few days, every time I start to think about competing in my first triathlon tomorrow morning. I've prepared myself physically for the event, but I don't know that I have fully prepared myself mentally for the event.

I had a great 9.5 mile easy ride last night that really boosted my overall confidence. Throughout the ride I tried to visualize getting in the water, swimming the course, going into transition, getting on the bike, riding the course, getting off the bike, transitioning to the run, and then crossing the finish line with my hands held high. This is really out there for me, but I am trying to visualize myself completing the course and finishing strong. It would be very ease to visualize myself flapping through the swim, struggling on the bike, and crawling through the run - landing in a soggy heap at the finish line, but I'm not going to let myself do that. I am physically prepared, and I will be mentally prepared.

Training for this triathlon has been fun, really fun actually. I've tried to compare it to marathon training, but there really is no comparison. When I first got into running, it was a huge challenge physically and mentally. After two years of running seriously and completing 1 marathon, 5 half-marathons, and countless 5ks and 10ks, the "challenge" aspect has kind of faded. By no means am I a fast or even good runner. I know that I can always, always improve - I need to work on getting faster, having a more efficient form, setting new PR's, all that. But last spring I realized that what I really needed was a new challenge, something to shake things up a bit.

When my sister sent me her Specialized Allez bike last fall, it solidified my desire to compete in a triathlon. When I was able to join a gym with an Olympic size pool for only $60 a year (yes, a year!) it further solidified my desire to do a triathlon. So this spring, I set to it. I taught myself how to swim, and found a great cycling coach in our friend Cody. I spent so much time learning my new trades of swimming and cycling that I let my old friend running slip to the back burner. During my brick workouts, I could really tell that I needed to focus on my running as much as I focused on swimming and cycling. So I began adding in more miles and now I am back in a good place.

I keep thinking, wow I am only training for a sprint triathlon. Really, it is a little shorter than the standard distances for sprint races. It is a .54 mile swim (roughly 1000 yds)/9 mile bike/2.6 mile run. This has been my basic training schedule since May:

Monday: run 3-5 miles (am); ride 15-18 miles (pm)
Tuesday: swim 800-1000 yards (am)
Wednesday: run 4-6 miles (am)
Thursday: swim 800-1000 yards (am); ride 22-25 miles (pm)
Friday: rest
Saturday: run 5-7 miles, swim 600-800 yards
Sunday: ride 9-12 miles, run 2-4 miles (brick workout)

I have absolutely no idea how someone would train for an 70.3 race or an Ironman while balancing work, family and other obligations. I've had a hard time balancing things, and I'm just doing a teeny sprint race!

But I do feel prepared for the race tomorrow. I certainly have lots of butterflies and quite a bit of nervous energy. After getting off work at noon today, I am going to go home and get my bag packed and practice setting up my transition areas. I will go pick up my packet tonight and preview the course - something I am really excited about being able to do.

I will be up at 4:45 tomorrow morning to get dressed, and eat a good breakfast. I will head to the race site at 6:00 to get marked and to get my transition area set up. I will be getting there really early, and I am hoping to be able to ride a little bit on the first part of the bike course (if that's allowed) so that I can be in the right gears when I start out on the course.

Chad will be coming to cheer me on and I can't wait to see him as I exit the swim and head into transition. He has been extremely supportive of me in my training, and I hope to make him proud! I also want to thank those who read my blog and are always so supportive of me - mom, Megan, Michelle, Kelly, Kat, Sarah J., Sarah M., Dru, Jen, and I know there are more that I am forgetting right now, but I really, really thank you for your support.

My ultimate goal for the race would be to finish within 1:30-1:45, and I will be happy to finish under 2 hours. I am excited to see how I do in this race, because I am already thinking about registering for another tri at the end of September. Once I get my first one under my belt, I will have a really good idea of how I can improve, what I need to focus on, how I can speed up my transitions, etc.

Whew...breathe in, breathe out! I will be updating Twitter and hopefully posting "Twitpics" from my phone in the morning, so check out the sidebar for updates. A race report will hopefully follow in the next few days!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Vacation part 2

One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to see my family in Shreveport, LA on a Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately, I got a call from my cousin Emily on Monday afternoon letting me know that she wouldn't be able to make it to Shreveport. She and her husband had just returned from a trip to New York City with their youth group, where approximately 20 out of the 50 students contracted the swine flu!! What are the odds!? While Emily was not experiencing any of the symptoms, we all felt it would be too risky for her to possibly expose Michael (her sister Amy's 4th month old son) to the swine flu virus. It was definitely very depressing to not be able to see Emily!

But I was very glad I was able to see everyone else - my cousin Amy, her husband Tim and their baby Michael, my aunt Debbie, and my grandparents, whom we affectionately call Boss and Darling. My aunt Debbie fixed a delicious meal for us all, and it was nice to catch up with everyone, if only for a little bit. I wish I would have taken more pictures of everyone, but I was able to get one with Boss Darling:

Now that's a good looking group, if I do say so myself!

I headed back to Alexandria late Tuesday night (ok, it was 8:00pm) in a hellacious thunderstorm. I kept thinking I would drive through it, but nope - the storm was with me the whole way! To make matters worse, I was on the verge of running out of gas. The few gas stations I passed along I-20 were out of power and dark, so I didn't stop at them. I kept thinking "I just have to make it to Natchitoches!" and I did - with a few miles to spare. That was definitley an answered prayer.

On Thursday, my mom, dad, sister Megan, sister Michelle, neice Brittany, and "nephew" Pod arrived in Alexandria. It was so good to see them! We spent some time in the pool, and then went out for catfish, shrimp and po-boys that night.

On Friday, we had a birthday party for Brittany. In one of my last posts I said that I couldn't believe she was turning 10 - well, imagine my surprise when I found out she was turning 11! So yes, she is 11. That is crazy to me! We swam, cooked out hamburgers and hot dogs, had birthday cake and homeade ice cream, and opened presents. It was a great time! I was so happy that I could celebrate this birthday with her, even though we were one week shy of her actual birthday. It has really worked out in her favor - she has had three weeks of birthday celebrations!

Chad, manning the grill. This is such a good picture of him!

Brittany, getting ready to blow out the candles

Me ("Mer Mer") and Brittany

Opening presents - I found this Dr. Seuss hat in the "Dollar Spot" at Target and added it into her present - it was a surprise hit!

Brit with her spoils - crazy hat, Mario Kart for Nintendo DS, and a Webkinz bird

Megan with the hat, and Pod impersonating a flying squirrel

Chad and my dad - with that crazy hat!

We took several "family photos" - but I don't have any of them. Maybe if my mom is reading this (hint hint) she will send me some and I will post them here!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Gone to the dogs!

We had a wonderful time in Louisiana! The time went by way too quickly, but we were grateful for the opportunity to spend a week with our families. I'll have a few posts of pictures, and then I will post about my upcoming triathlon - it is in just 3 days...yikes!

One of the most entertaining aspects of our time at the Brooks' house was the amount of dogs that were at the house at any given time. The Brooks' have three dogs - Dana, Copper, and Murphy. Copper and Murphy are outside dogs, while Dana is an inside dog and truly the "queen bee" of the household.

We added Emma into the mix, my sister brought her Chihuaua named Pod, and Chad's sister Payton and her husband Jay brought their German Shepherd, Miles, to round out the total number of dogs present at any given time to six. It was so much fun! Dana, Emma and Pod were all roughly the same size, and anyone who came to the door was immediately greeted by a little troupe of excited small dogs. Here are some pictures!

Emma, relaxing in an "Emma cave"

Emma and Dana, struggling to sit still for the camera!

Me with Emma and Dana - Emma is so cute with that yawn!

Dana, sniffing on the patio

Murphy, the Brooks' sweet, aged Springer Spaniel. My sister remarked that he looks like a Supreme Court Justice - I think it is the bushy, gray eyebrows!

My niece Brittany with Dana and Emma

I didn't get any pictures of Miles or Pod, so I took these from Facebook:

Miles, with Payton

Pod, posing for the camera in L.A.

Not pictured: Copper - and he is one of the cutest of the bunch! I will have to get pictures of him at Christmas.