Monday, January 18, 2016

2011: Reach for the stars. And if you don't grab em, at least you're on top of the world.

At about this time last year I had finished my 2010 season and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do athletically in 2011. My running felt somewhat aimless and duathlons were a dead-end road so I decided to take the plunge and train for triathlons again, except this time seriously. I'd done a few in '07 and '08 but barely earned the term "finisher." This time I was in it to win it. I logged endless hours of time on the bike and in the pool (I still hated the pool) and cut back significantly on running. Unfortunately, it was all for not as I came up pretty darn short of my goal at the Columbia Triathlon in May. I had a complete nervous breakdown in the lake for no logical reason and never fully recovered the rest of the race. Chicken poop.

This is what happens when you try new things you shouldn't do. You catch on fire. (

However, all was not lost as I managed to hit some road PRs despite only logging about 30 miles a week. Cherry Blossom was a big success and the good times continued to roll at Pike’s Peek and Race for the Cure. Also around this time I made the big decision to part with Pacers and jump on board with GRC. I owe a lot to Bridget’s guidance and my training partners for bringing me along from someone who, in the fall of 2008, was scrambling to run sub-20 minute 5ks and sub-40 minute 10ks. Two years and many growing pains later I was legitimately competitive in the area. However, the logistics of AU and Pacers just ended up being too much. The workout time and location for GRC was much friendlier for someone working full-time and once I heard that there were actually women training as well, I knew what my next move was going to be.

I joined GRC in mid- March and started working with Jerry who quickly decided that I was “made for the marathon.” I, on the other hand, wasn’t as quick to believe him since up until that point I thought marathons were lame (I ran 800's and 1500's in college. Even the 5k was lame). After about 3 months of subtle and not-so-subtle hints I was finally convinced a marathon might actually be doable and committed to running the full monty in the fall. I figured if I was going to do it, this might as well be the time as we were coming up on an Olympic year. Carpe Diem! I closed down my spring season in June and turned everything towards training for the marathon with the distant hope of qualifying for the Olympic Trials in Houston in 2012.

How I imagined things would go down when I qualified (Rudy)

I had a month hiccup in training due to my own stupidity (the great orthotic debacle of 2011), so my goal marathon shifted from Twin Cities to Philadelphia. Other than that, training could not have gone better. I had no idea what to expect as I had never spent that much time running before in my life. Lucky for me, Kate was also on board with training for Philly and she proved to be an essential piece to the puzzle. Her experience and overall awesomeness was just what I needed to keep my head on straight as we built up to 22 mile long runs and 10 mile tempo runs without issue. We also picked up Drea along the way (she suffered an injury that forced her out of Chicago, but refocused her for the Philly half) and the three of us became the splintered group of nutjobs on the team training for super distance. On mileage ravaged legs I managed to run a couple PRs at the Run Geek Run 8k and Wilson Bridge half. And before I knew it, we were tapering for the big day. And then it happened. And then it was over. Just like that. All the details have been erased, like any other traumatic experience one might have. All I know is I dedicated almost 6 months to the Philadelphia Marathon and in return the wily bastard delivered me a big ol’ slice of humble pie. Live and learn.

I know now that I won't let the marathon defeat me and in a few years I will try again. However, it's taken me almost a month to even consider racing again, let alone running another marathon. The first week post-race I fed my inner Chunk and ate cake and donuts for lunch and drank beer for dinner. Why not? I just ran a marathon. I deserved it. I had to replace like 46,000 calories. I've read that's how many you burn in the race. I'd burn off any surplus calories I consumed with a little truffle shufflin'.

Fractured Prune donuts are the cat's meow.

Week two resulted in more gluttony but my feasting had devolved and was driven by a need to feed the growing sadness.

When making holiday treat boxes, it is customary to adopt the strategy of "one for you, one or so for me."

I swore off running for eternity and bought the new Zelda game for Wii. I’d rather live in a fantasy world where you are rewarded with beautiful rupees for slashing your neighbor’s pumpkins. (Ironically, in my escape world I discovered Link has absolutely no aerobic fitness and practically has an asthma attack if you make him run for any more than 10 seconds. I yelled at him to do some damn cardio as I shoved food in my face hole). By week three I was a sad dumpy version of my former self and had hit rock bottom. It was about that time that GRC sent troops to do battle at the XC Club Nationals in Seattle and I saw this photo:

courtesy of Mike Scott

I mean, seriously... SRSLY. Wertz, you are an animal. My competitive fire, which had been thoroughly snuffed out, kinda sparked a little when I saw it. You can’t ignore that kind of intensity, you can only hope to contain it. I suddenly wanted to be like that again.

I dusted the cookie crumbles off of my shirt, put Zelda on indefinite pause, and vowed to get back on the bike and get my butt in gear. I would have run right out the door right there and then but I was still on running bed rest as I healed from the cortisone injection (which, btw, CHANGED MY LIFE. My foot is healed!) There's nothing like squeezing into snugger than usual, hug every fold and curve, lycra to really motivate you to get back at it!

So, in a tidy end to this story, yesterday I celebrated, er, acknowledged, the one month anniversary of my first marathon by running for the first time since that fateful day. It was most awkward but at the same time felt like a big welcome home hug. I was happy to be running again. I was even happier that I WANTED to be running again. It's been one helluva year, and an even more helluva fall, but I am now super amped for next year. While I didn't manage to grab a star, at least I now stand on a higher earthly elevation than I did before. I credit the great philosophical teachings of Pitbull for this gained perspective. I am now ready to kick it Sloane-style and use my marathon experience as a springboard to obliterate my 5k to 10 mile PRs in the spring. Here's to high rollin' in 2012!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Black Hills Circuit Race Report

Saturday I celebrated Wiggtasticfestapalooza 2012, aka Joe's 30th birthday, by eating completely normally for the first time since my stomach suffered a deadly Salmonella bomb two weeks ago. Not only did I eat a cheeseburger and fries, but I was also able to crush buffalo wings and wash it down with a Belgian. If that isn't proof things are back in order, I don't know what is.

Today I utilized the 4 billion calories I happily consumed last night to fuel my first race of any kind in four months and second bike race ever (besides the TT in 2010, but that doesn't really count I don't think). I did this race last year for funsies but this year I have committed to seriously getting my bike game on. I even joined Artemis to help me get on point with all this bike racing business. And why not? I can get my competitive energy out while I slowly make the climb back to running race shape once again.

The Black Hills Circuit Race is located a convenient 15 minute drive from my house at Black Hills Regional Park in Boyds, MD. It's a 1.5 mile loop done 10 times over fairly hilly roads. Each lap concludes with a long and merciless climb. Let's just say by the 10th one, you really start to feel the effects. And by that, I mean you would consider amputation a less painful alternative to ascending that forkin thing one more time. I am going to ballpark that about 30 women assembled at the start for our race. Lucky for us, the rain had finally sputtered out by go time. At noon, we rolled off the line and were on our way.

I wish I could recall all of the details of the race but I seem to slip into a subconscious state when put in these situations and my brain focuses on the two critical tasks of not crashing and embracing intense periods of pain without (too much) complaint. Quite frankly, unicorns could have been riding unicycles on the sidelines while catching donuts on their horns tossed by monkeys dressed as butlers, and there is no way my brain would have noticed. The only thing I was able to decipher were the shouts of encouragement from Brian, Andy and my new teammates on the sidelines. They helped carry me up that mother of a hill each time.

While I can't remember specifics, I'll still try to summarize the basic story line of this quick, down and dirty race. We diddle daddled for a few laps before the surges started. I made the plan to sit in the front quarter of the race which meant matching surge after surge, including a fierce one up the giant hill at around lap 5 or so. Each surge felt like fire but I knew the bursts of suffering would soon pass. At some point the eventual winner from ABRT got away during one of these attacks and put a solid minute on us. We weren't able to assemble much of an organized rebuttal (no thanks to me, I had no idea what to do so I just sort of watched and learned) and she powered away to an eventual victory. We did manage to close a little time on her but there was never danger of her losing the win. The race was for second.

I made the mistake last year of being in the front coming into the final sprint. This year, I positioned myself in third as we started the final descent and then swung over to jump on the train of women coming up from behind as their momentum carried them up the first part of the incline. Unfortunately, I still messed up and positioned myself poorly and got caught on the inside of the group. Despite hitting unprecedented wattage on the final sprint, I didn't have enough real estate or momentum to fight for a win (er, second) on the steep pitch to the finish line.
I'd be the one in purple and blue... grimacing.
(thanks for the shots, Iris!)

Luckily, I was the only Artemis rider in the race and was easily identified at the finish. Like a completely uncool newbie, I put my number ON THE WRONG SIDE. Facepalm... times 50. Never again. Anyway, I ended up 4th for the cat 4 race. I had quiet hopes of snagging a win, but my lack of race experience and toothpick non-sprinter legs were too much of a handicap. Live and learn.

(Although, I am positive that's an orangutan,
not a chimp. C'mon people.)

Now time to crush some mad squats and get my sprint in order!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I SO Need a Safety Bubble

"Michelle, what happened?!"

I heard these words of my coworkers through a fog and snapped back to consciousness. What did happen? I was sitting at my work desk and was wearing my scrub pants but I had absolutely no idea how I got there. The vet, whose office is conveniently just down the hall, appeared and started asking questions about my incident. I began to remember that I had been riding my bike and that at some point I was flying through the air and assumed that meant I crashed. That's it. She asked where I had biked from, how I crashed, and how I got to the animal center and I had no answers. My brain was a blank slate. All I knew was that my head and shoulder hurt like crazy and I was in a complete panic as I had no idea what had just happened to me.

The vet proceeded to contact Brian so that he could take me to the ER (she later told me she didn't want to call an ambulance since I looked completely terrified as it was). In the meantime, she fashioned a makeshift sling for my arm and wrapped a towel around my neck to provide stabilization. While we waited for Brian to arrive my coworkers and the vet kept probing for answers. Things started to slowly come back to my memory. Well, at least the things that happened previous to the crash. I could remember that it was Tuesday, where I parked my car, and how I managed to initiate the crash. I remembered that as I was rolling up to the animal center road I shifted my backpack in order to reach my badge from my back jersey pocket. The backpack overshifted and swung completely around my shoulder and over the front of the bike. That, of course, got caught up in the front wheel and abruptly halted the bike's forward momentum. Inertia took over and I kept moving right over the top of the handlebars. I remember flying over the bars, flipping completely over in the process, and landing on the side of my head/face/shoulders. (DUMB MOVE, Michelle).

Brian got to the Animal Center pretty quickly and escorted me to my second ER visit of 2012. Many x-rays and a ct scan later proved that I had suffered a concussion and separated my shoulder but there were no life-threatening injuries. I learned that while a dislocation is when the humerus pops out of the socket, a separation involves the clavicle separating from the shoulder joint when the ligaments are traumatically stretched or torn. I was relieved to hear nothing was broken but unfortunately I will still be in a sling while scar tissue forms for an amount of time TBD tomorrow at the orthopedist. Surgery used to be the default for this type of injury until recently when it was determined the risk of arthritis was too high. In any case, we left the ER, picked up my precious prescription of vicodin, and spent the rest of the afternoon finishing up the last few episodes of Firefly.

Against my better judgement I then decided to go to work today. My face felt like it had undergone dental surgery, my head throbbed with migraine-like pains, and my shoulder was a swollen mess. But the monkeys needed me, right?  It was tough going but at least I did find out a few more details that helped fill in some blanks my traumatized brain refused to fill. I found out that after my accident I must have gotten back on my bike and rode the half mile to the guard gate. I then showed the guard my badge about 8 times before he convinced me I could go in (apparently he's in big trouble for not reporting to anyone that zombie Michelle showed up to work yesterday). I rode the additional quarter mile to my building, parked my bike where I always do, and proceeded to go to my office and pulled on a pair of scrubs. I sat down at my desk at around 7:40 and went undead until 8:00 which is when my coworkers showed up and found me, as they described, pale, bug-eyed, shaking, and staring at the wall. What is absolutely amazing to me is that I still remember NONE of that. It's like my brain went into survival mode upon impact but still decided getting to work...on my bike... and preparing to feed baby monkeys was a component of survival. I think I need a vacation!

This pile o' fun comes after a recent bout of overtraining coupled with a respiratory tract infection that required two weeks of excessive sleep and absolutely no athletic endeavors in order to remedy. How did I manage to overtrain despite hardly running? Well, in my mind no amount of cycling could ever equal running so I basically biked myself stupid (which warrants another "DUMB MOVE, Michelle"). After the two weeks off I finally regained energy and motivation and just this past weekend I enthusiastically put together a running program to build to a fall half marathon. Just two days into the new training plan I go and smash myself into the ground. Of course.

2012 has been a lesson in patience, for sure. This particular incident was also a lesson in the HUGE importance of wearing a helmet. While I can't remember a few details (ok, 30 continuous minutes) of my day yesterday, I can't even imagine how much worse off I would be had I not had one on. 

And, as a random aside, in order to type this and anything else today I have had to position the keyboard next to my side so that my slinged hand can reach. It's almost like the way you would play a keytar. After making this connection, my next thought was of this cartoon which I find absolutely awesome and a positive way to end this entry :)