Friday, September 14, 2012

A Ride Down Memory Lane

While not my exact bike growing up, I recall having something similar to this.  

Sometimes, quit literally, taking a ride down memory lane is helpful to remind us of how far we have come.   
This past week I had to change from my normal riding routes and choose a different one.   Thursday, due to a schedule change late in the week, I had to be at Riverside most of the day for work and work related meetings.   I had a bike ride on my schedule and not alot of time to do it unless I wanted to get up at 4am and ride the trainer, which I didn't.   So I opted to bring my bike with me and ride the  Olentangy Trail, as I wouldn't have time to really do much else.   I normally avoid the Trail on my bike because it is busy, it is twisty, and I have to be more aware of all the other people on the trail, resulting in a slower ride.      I also hate looking like a Lance wannabe and being that cyclist that should be on the road instead.    So late in the afternoon, between work meetings,  I headed out on the trail for a 1.5 hour ride.    I started South first and as I got to certain sections I started remembering back to when, as an adult, I purchased my first bike, which also eventually led to my first venture into the world of duathlon and multisport.  

Many people have asked me how long I have been doing triathlons and how I got started.   To be honest, I am not really sure exactly when I did my first triathlon, but I very distinctly remember my first duathlon.    Up to that point in my life I had mostly been a soccer player.   I played in gradeschool, highschool, intramurals in college, and then rec league after college.   In fact for the first 7-8 years after college I kept busy playing soccer, flag football, and volleyball almost every night of the week.    I actually hated running in general and played these sports (instead)  to keep fit.    In fact I used to hate running so much, I actually quit playing soccer my senior year of highschool because I didn't want to do the conditioning.   Fast forward to 2001.    I met a boy and fell in love.   At least for a short while.   And while that relationship didn't last, his passion for triathlon and the bike, especially the bike, has stuck with me.   You see this guy was a cyclist, he took amazing trips out to Colorado and Montana every year and rode the moutains for a week at a time.   He also had just started getting into triathlon.   So when I met him, he spent alot of time running and biking.    Both of these things honestly bored me to tears at first.    But, as I spent more time with him, I also realized that I probably needed to try these things in order to spend more time with him and have something in common.    So I tackled running first (it was cheaper). I had done the Komen 5k before, but walked part of it.   This time, I wanted to run a whole 5k.    And he helped me to train for my "first" 5k.    It was miserable.    The race was on a weekend in early April.    So of course, it was about 40 degrees and raining.    And I ran in cotton sweat pants, cotton long sleeve shirt, and some sort of pullover GAP jacket.    I remember being completely out of breath and wondering when the hell this race was going to get over.   And this boy stayed with me, and told me, in another few miles.   A few miles?   Hadn't we come that far already?   No.   Only 1 mile.   I was freezing, out of breath, and miserable, but I kept running.   And eventually finished.    And completely underwhelmed, decided maybe a bike would be better...

That summer he introduced me to the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong.    I thought it was boring.   But, this was before DVR and he was glued to the tv.  Everyday.   So to spend time with him.   I too was glued to the t.v.    And by the end of the race I loved Lance Armstrong and the battle to the finish.   And maybe, just maybe, the bike was a little cool too.    So the boy convinced me to go buy a bike.   We went to the Bikesource in Clintonville.   And I bought a comfort/hybrid bike.   And I couldn't believe how much money I was spending on this thing.  I am pretty sure it cost somewhere in the ballpark of $250-$300!!  

Although not my exact bike, my first adult bike was pretty similar to this.  

So after that we started going out on the Olentangy Trail as he taught me how to ride again and learn some of the concepts of gearing.    I still remember the first time I rode 10 miles!   I felt like I had come so far and it was so hard for me, but such a sense of accomplishment!    It was that time that I remembered Thursday on my ride.   And it really did make me realize how far I have come since that time.   I rode around 25 miles on Thursday on those same trails and it probably took me only a little longer to do that than the 10 miles I rode so many years ago!   And some of the little hills that are on the trail now...I recall thinking the 161 bridge felt like a mountain!    Not so much these days.      

So that summer was also when this boy started talking about duathlons and triathlons.   And although he didn't do one that year, he had picked out a few that he wanted to train for in the following year.   Shortly after this we broke up.   But he had planted the seed and for some reason the idea of doing a duathlon really intrigued me.    I had done a 5 k and I could bike 10 miles.   So I looked for a race that would combine the 2 of these distances.    And I found one!   

The Olentangy Duathlon was in May of 2004.   This gave me time to get out and train some in the spring before the race.   It was a 2 mile run, a 11.5 mile bike, and a 2 mile run out of the Olentangy Caverns.    That morning I woke up and it was in the low 50s, it was raining, and there were 15-20 mph winds.    My mom, dad, and my two best friends went with me to the race.    I remember walking up to the transition area to drop off my bike and my dad asking me if I was going to lock up my bike.   Why?   I remember asking him.   Well, "aren't you worried someone is going to steal it?"    I still laugh thinking about that.   No,  I told him, and pointed to another bike, that one is way better than mine and I am pretty sure someone would steal that one first!    Pretty sure it was also the winner.     The run was pretty good, out and back from the caverns, mostly uphill on the way out, but then you turn around and run down the hill, so that was fun.    The bike was difficult for me.   Not at first because I had a tailwind and it was somewhat downhill towards 315.   Then we were on 315, which is fun on your bike.   Then we turned into a neighborhood that went uphill.   And yes, I was riding my $250 comfort bike.   And getting mad.   EVERYONE was passing me.   And they hardly looked like they had to put forth any effort.   The fat guys, the old guys, and it was pissing me off.     We finally made it out of the neighborhood.   And as we were turning out of the neighborhood, I took my water bottle out and was taking a drink out of it when I hit the headwind.    I almost got knocked off my bike.    And rather than put my waterbottle back in its cage, I threw it into the ditch on the side of the road.   And I had a deathgrip on those bike handles the rest of the ride.    You see, riding on the trail, most of the winds are blocked and you are somewhat protected.    I had never ridden in something like this before.   And it was really hard.   And I am pretty sure my heartrate was near its max effort.   And I remember having a long talk with God along this stretch of the road.    Actually I think I was pleading with God..."God I promise, if I get through this race, I will make a better effort to go to church..."  or something along those lines.    And I eventually got through the bike and back to transition in one piece.    The second run was harder and I was much slower.    But I made it.   And my drenched family and friends were there at the finish to cheer me on as I crossed that finish line.   And I was so proud of myself that day.   I had never done anything that hard in my life and I was absolutely elated that I had been able to train and do that race that day.    And I knew eventually, I would do another one someday.   

Over the next year I met another boy.  And fell in love.   And he was a soccer player, long distance runner, and triathlete.    It was through him that my biking skills were able to improve more and I was able to get a better bike.   One of his training partner's wife was in the process of getting a new road bike so I inherited one from her.    It was a little too small for me, but it allowed me to really feel the difference a road bike made and decide if cycling and multisport was truely something I wanted to continue to do.    What a difference the road bike made for me!   I could really feel how much easier it was to ride and with much less effort.   And I still had regular old pedals on there...too scared to try clip in shoes.    So the next year I did the Olentangy Duathlon again.   I don't have alot of memories from that one, but I remember it being much easier.  

 In 2005 I  watched my first Ironman.   My boyfriend at the time, his brother, and one of their friends all did Ironman Arizona.   I went out and spectated the whole day.   And I was completely fascinated and in awe of all of the athletes that day.   I saw people of all shapes and sizes out there.   I watched an 80 year old man cross the finishline 10 minutes before an 18 yo kid.   I saw a man that looked to be at least 300 lbs finish that race.    And everyone we cheered for finished as well.    I definately fell more in love with this boy after that race, completely dumbfounded by what he did that day.    That is also when my love of triathlon really started.  I can still hear Mike Riley's voice, very clearly announcing "You are an Ironman" as all the racers crossed the finishline.    After we returned home to Columbus I remember someone asking me if I wanted to do the Ironman race now?   "I would never do that!"  I answered.   "That is crazy!"   Famous last words.  

I really didn't have confidence that I could do something like an Ironman (or even a simple triathlon at that point)  but I did start to think about what I was currently doing, and I felt I could do more.   So with the help of some friends, I signed up and did my first half marathon that year.   And that internal sense of accomplishment and pride in what I could do kept growing.    And I kept running and did another half marathon that spring.     And each race I did and all of the training kept improving my self confidence.    In the fall of 2006 my training buddies decided they didn't want to train anymore.   And I was really lonely and realized how hard it was to train without them.    And that is when I found MIT and started training with them.    And it truely did change my life and that is when I actually started to truely enjoy running.    And with the help of my MIT friends, I did my first marathon in 2007.   Talk about a sense of accomplishment!   And my self confidence grew by leaps and bounds.   I wasn't very fast, but I could run a marathon!!!   

  I also upgraded my bike that year.    I  finally decided that the hand me down wouldn't do it anymore.   I needed something faster and more my size if I was going to ride longer than 25 miles...
My trusty road bike.   Love this thing.   Aluminum frame, carbon parts.   Eventually I added arrow bars as well.  

By 2008 I had several half marathons and triathlons under my belt by the end of the year.   I also had watched a loved one pass away from cancer, a close friend was diagnosed with lymphoma, and my dad's Parkinsons disease seemed to be progressing more.   In Novemeber of that year, I found myself back in Arizona.   Spectating for another friend at the Ironman.   And that year I saw an amputee doing the race.    And as I sat there watching the race and thinking about the people there doing the race and thinking about my friends and family who couldn't do these things for various reasons, a thought occured to me.   What was stopping me from doing this?   I had two good legs.   I had done a marathon.  I had done several triathlons.   It was fear that was stopping me.    And a crazy idea popped into my head.   I could do this.   Or at least I needed to try.   And the next morning before I could change my mind, I signed up for the race.   "Holy shit!"  was the first thing that I remember thinking when I signed up.   What was I thinking?    But it was good shit.   Because I trained hard.   And I did that race.   And in 2009, in Arizona, I heard "Ann Kurtenbach, you are an Ironman" announced by Mike Riley!!  

So, as I rode my bike around the Olentangy Trail this past week, I started remembering all these things.   And I cannot believe how far I have come from that girl that hated running along those trails all those years ago, as she practiced soccer for the Watterson Eagles.   To the girl that was elated with the 10 miles on the bike.    To the girl who is now training for her 3rd Ironman.    I have told people before, but I truely believe that if I have been able to accomplish all these things, I think anyone can.   You just have to have the confidence to trust in yourself.   And believe in yourself.   And be willing to push through some discomfort.   And you will get there.   

My newest bike purchase this year!   Love my Shiv!  

Monday, September 10, 2012

2012 A Year in Review so far...

I cannot believe it is already September.   Where the heck has this year gone?   It seems I have been remiss in my blogging for the better part of the year.   Maybe it is because I haven't felt that I have had that much to blog about.    To date I have completed one running race this year and was involved in one triathlon relay.   That is right one race.   And it was a 5k.   On January 1, 2012.   And it was uneventful enough that I don't even remember my time for the race.   I know it wasn't a PR and I know it wasn't my slowest race, but beyond that, no idea.

Me at the start of 1st on the 1st!

 February:  Unfortunately about a month later I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my tibia.    It is actually amazing that I discovered it so early.   You see, I wasn't really having any pain with running, walking, etc.    I don't even know exactly when it started.    I just know that one night in bed I rolled over and noticed my bone was sore, thought I must have a bruise there.    Next morning I checked, nothing.   But when I pressed on the bone, just above my ankle, it hurt.   The PT in me decided this wasn't really a good thing, but since I wasn't having pain any other time, I just watched it for a few weeks.   What I did notice was during my runs, my leg felt a little different...not painful, just weak.   But I also noticed the bone soreness wasn't going away.   So I consulted a friend, my fav running guy, Dr. Bright.   I cornered him after a meeting at work.   He agreed with me the signs were worrisome.   Bone tenderness is a hallmark sign of a stress fracture.   He suggested decrease running for a week, ice, etc.   and then see how it felt.   I did this and no change.    So at this point I made an official appointment and saw Dr. Diehl (one of Dr. Bright's parnters).   He ordered an xray, which was negative, and just looked at me.   Finally he suggested MRI.   He knows my history of training and also my goal of Ironman Arizona this year.   He wanted to rule out stress reaction vs. stress fracture, as the treatments are a little different.    So the following day I had an MRI scheduled late after work.   And the MRI machine broke, while I was in the machine.   And so my MRI had to be rescheduled...a few days because it was right before the weekend.    Over the weekend I ran again.  Hey, I decided that it might be the last I could run for awhile.    And I noticed again that it didn't hurt while I ran.   And I started to doubt myself and almost talked myself out of having the MRI done.    But Monday morning I decided I needed to listen to my hasn't failed me so far.     So at 7:45am I had my MRI done.   At 9:15am my doctor called me.   Bad news.   Positive stress fracture, distal tibia, measuring 1.5cm, plus moderate bone edema (or swelling).   I was to stop by the physican office for a boot and no running for at least 6-8 weeks.    Fortunately, I was still able to bike and swim, but had to restrict myself to no pushing off the wall with swimming.   For biking I could only spin, no speed workouts, no hills, no standing on the bike for at least the first 3-4 weeks, as long as there was no pain.   Doc also wanted me to use an aircast for the bike.    It was winter, so I did alot of indoor trainer workouts and caught up on my movie and DVR watching.     Fortunately I had hired a coach and he had some really good workouts for me to do.  

At my 3 week checkup Dr. Diehl decided since I was low pain I could come out of the boot.    But still no pushing off the wall during the swim or any sort of hill work or speedwork on the bike.    One-legged drills were okay on the bike as long as they didn't hurt.     Then we talked about my race plans.   Uh, doc?   I signed up for a 1/2 marathon in California at the end of March and a full Marathon in Louisville at the end of April...what do you think?    At this point it was mid-Feb and I hadn't run in 3 weeks.   Doubtful was his response.    What if I did half the distance for each (both had multiple races)?    This would be a 10k and 1/2 marathon.    Maybe.   So, I contacted each race director and was able to change each of the races.      And thus begun my love/hate relationship with one-legged drills.   Since all I could do was bike/swim, coach Brett decided to test me.   We started with 30 sec intervals and slowly worked up to 2 minutes.   One legged, 5-10 sets on the bike.   They sucked.   They were hard to do.   But they didn't hurt my leg.    They also really helped my efficiency on the bike.  And, as much as I hate to admit it, I will likely be doing more one-legged drills this winter when I start back into indoor trainer rides.   In the pool, I was doing more mileage and more speedwork as well.   Although I have to admit, pushing off the wall with one leg really is quite weird. 

March:   At the 6 week follow up doc decided elliptical was okay but still no running for at least 2 weeks and he gave me a plan to follow once I started running again.   But I was not allowed to start running until all the bone tenderness went away.   So I started the elliptical and hated it.   I have no idea why, but I didn't like it.   I don't like the treadmill either, but for some reason to me it was worse.   I also re-evaluated my spring race plans and realized neither one was going to happen.   Unfortunately, neither race would give me a refund or defer the race entry to next year.   Oh well, in my reasoning the money is helping someone to make a living, I guess.    But, this made me really cautious to enter any other races for the season...At the end of March I did get to go out to LA and watch my sister do a 10k!   This was actually pretty cool as she has spectated for me many times, but I have never spectated for her, so that was fun!

My sister, Lora and her friends at the end of the race, showing off their swag!

April:   At 8 weeks, I had no more bone tenderness, so with my running plan and coach's assistance, I started back into running again.   Yay!!!   I have missed it so much!!    Unfortunately somewhere between weeks 2-3 I started noticing bone tenderness again and some pain after I ran.   By week 4 it hadn't gone away.   So, I went back to Dr. Diehl and he felt it was probably a reinjury.   Unfortunately the area of the tibia I had fractured is the slowest  to heal and has the highest risk of re-occurance.    That combined with my asthma, raynaud's syndrom, and osteopenia, puts me in a high risk group.    At this point I went back in a boot for 6 weeks and the doc added a bone growth stimulator to my daily routine.   He also sent my MRI and notes onto a foot and ankle surgeon for a second opinion.   Fortunately, surgery wasn't an option due to the location of the fracture and the surgeon felt this was the best course of action for me.   

May: At this point I had to re-evaluate my race goals for the season (it was the beginning of May).   I had signed up for Muncie 70.3 (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run) and IMAZ.   Otherwise I had nothing else on the schedule.   And I was itching to race.   So I scanned the internet and found an open water swimming event in Columbus!   I talked with my coach about it and he felt like it would be a good thing to try out and give me something to focus on during recovery. As far as Muncie was concerned, I knew I wouldn't be up to the run portion of it.   So, I contacted the race director and they said I could transfer over to the relay if I would like.   Great!   All I would have to do is find someone to run the 13.1 miles for me.   Easy enough, I put out a facebook message and in less than one day, found a running partner...Elizabeth Feltner was going to be there anyway to watch her significant other race, so it was a win/win situation for both of us!  

 I focused entirely on improving my bike and swim.   Oh, and I decided to buy a new bike.   A fast and cool looking bike.   A bike that would help me with my triathlons!  
My new bike, I call her "Shiv"


June:   I did my open water swim event.  The event was put on through Greenswell.  When I initially signed up I thought I was signing up for the 2 mile swim (you could choose from 2 miles, 1 mile, or .5 miles)  you could also sign up for a series of 3 races.   Great, I thought this would give me 3 separate weekends of a 2 mile swim!   I found out later, that I hadn't signed up for 3 different days of swimming, but rather all 3 distances.  In one day.   This would total 3.5 miles of swimming open water!   Well, I had wanted a challange, so I did it.   Race day came and there was a staggered start for the races.    At 7am there was a race for the 1 mile swim.   We then waited until 9am for the .5 distance.   And then another hour or so for the 2 mile distance.   It was windy and somewhat cool outside for June.   So wetsuit legal, but my times were really slow.   On the flip side, I have never swam that much before in the open water.   So, I was really pleased to be able to finish the 3.5 miles (this is a little more than 5k distance)!   Good experience, but not sure it is one I want to try again!

Another thing I have worked on this year is spectating.   I figured since I couldn't race, I could put extra work into volunteering at different events and also cheering on my friends that could race. I volunteered at the Columbus Half in the spring in the medical tent.  Kind of ironic since I was in a boot.   I also spectated/cheered at the Wendy's Triathlon, the Tri Tech triathlon, and another triathlon put on through Greenswell.   Muncie spectating was also on the agenda since I would only be doing the swim and bike.    So, my good friends Tani and Susan came up with the idea of making tutu's for the Muncie race.   Since I wasn't doing the run, I decided I could do that too and just change into the tutu after getting off the bike.    They were a huge success (more on this later) and we had a lot of fun making them!!

July:  The week of Muncie we hit record highs in the weather and the week of the race the temps soared to the low 100's and the heat index was predicted to be well over 100 degrees on race day.    Still, we had all trained in the heat and wanted to race, we just knew we would have to lower our expectations for finish times.   So all 25+ central Ohio atheletes (plus friends/family) traveled to Muncie for race weekend.   And, during the afternoon athlete briefing, it was announced that they were going to shorten the course because of the heat...1 mile swim, 30 mile bike, 10k run.   Great.   A glorified Oly distance.   Needless to say, this upset a lot of people.   I felt bad for my race buddy.   She paid $125 (1/3 the cost of the relay) to run a 10k.   Fortunately for me, my race plan pretty much stayed the same.   Practice siting on the swim course and "go balls to the walls" on the bike to see what I could do.   My personal goal was to also improve on my swim time from last year.  

Race morning rolled around and I have to admit I am very glad they shortened the race.   It was the kind of weather that even at 4:30am, you walked outside and "ugh" is the only word I could think of...the air was so hot it was hard to breath.    The relay group had the last swim wave.   So I got to wait around for 1.5 hours while everyone else started.   By the time we got started, I was ready to go.   And I have to say, this was my best triathlon swim.  Ever.    I got right in the water, found my line, and got into a groove right away.   I had none of that initial panic, no madly trying to get away from swinging arms/legs, and I found my breathing rhythm right away.   The water was gross and felt like bath water, but for whatever reason it didn't bother me.    Then I came up with an idea.   I wanted to see how many wave groups I could catch up to during the swim (each wave had different colored swim caps).   So I swam, stayed on course, and counted caps.   By the time I finished I counted 5 different colored caps, not including my own.    And I improved my swim time (44 min last year for 1.2 miles, 33 min this year for 1 mile)!!    Out of the water I jogged to my bike.   And got really winded.   I did a longish transition and eventually got on my bike and went.   I pushed on the bike as hard as I could and used breathing as my guideline.   My HR was high the full time.   And my breathing was restricted almost the whole ride despite using my inhaler.   By mile 20 I started to get chills.   Hmmm, that isn't right.   And it dawned on my I was getting dehydrated.   So I started chugging my bottles and had to slow down slightly.    My last few miles I just kept focusing on moving forward.    Finally found the finish.  And  my running buddy.   I expected Elizabeth to be right there, but she wasn't.   I didn't realize for a few minutes that they had the runners in a separate area by the exit, eventually I found her and handed off our timing chip.   Then quickly changed into my tutu so I could cheer on the rest of my friends as they finished.    Oh, and my bike time was the fastest I have ever done...avg 18.9mph!!!      And I did discover I was dehydrated, didn't pee for nearly 6 hours after the race!   So, definately have to work on this for future races.    And, all of my friends did finish the race that day and only one ended up in medical for an IV!   
 Base Tri Team Members after the race: Julie, me, Coach Lauren (aka LU), Richard, Tommy, Tony
 Transition Race Morning
 End of the bike!
Waiting for the swim to start with Tim

Elizabeth and I after the race!

August:  I spent time training alot on the bike, completing both Pelotonia and a fantastic ride through the Colorado Mountains for the US Pro Tour via Lizard Head Cycling Tours (378 miles of riding in one week).   For all 250 pictures of my Colorado riding adventure, you can look here.   The trip was fantastic and I really can't put into words how awesome it was.    You can also check out our itinerary and daily rides on the Lizard Head Cycling website.     
 My jersey
 Tani and Jeanne, my riding buddies for the day!
 My Aunt Debbie and I at the finish!
Michelle, Barb, Jim, Susan, Jeanne, Rocco, Tani...we all made it through the ride!
In August I also was cleared to start running again!   Coach LU and I have been really conservative with it, but so far so good.    Happy to report that this past weekend I did my longest run in over 6 months, just shy of 5 miles!   So, at this point in time, I am still on for IMAZ...