Sunday, November 2, 2008

Canal Connection 10K - Post Race Pizza

Starved Rock Runners holds their Canal Connection 10K every year in November. 2008 was the third year for me. Some IT band issues in late August forced me to back off the running mileage substantially, so my expectations were pretty low for this race. I figured just finishing would be enough.
Nancy was the driver today. She picked me up at 7:45 a.m., then we collected Linda and sped off to Lincoln, where we collected Deb. Here is Deb vacating her vehicle in the parking lot of a truck stop off the interstate.

With Deb safely stowed away, it was on to McLean and the Dixie Truck Stop where Helen was waiting.

It is worth mentioning that Linda was in an accident on Halloween where she was rear-ended by a young man wearing a yellow tutu. Linda herself was sporting a witch's outfit complete with cape. The police must have had a lot of fun with that one. But unruffled by this bit of bad luck, she was gracious enough to get Panera bagels and coffee for everyone.

In 2007 we took a wrong turn and ended up going through Peoria. This turned into a terrifying odyssey across northern Illinois that took us past a wind farm. A wind farm. Thanks to Nancy's stuntwoman-quality driving, we made it to the start of the race but it was touch and go. In an effort to ward this off, the Sutzmobile was equipped with a road atlas and no less than three Mapquest printouts. Travel time was supposed to be 2 hours 13 minutes. I think we hit Utica in 2 hours, and that was with three stops.

This shot of the interstate shows the first of many signs to Peoria, which is where it all went wrong last year. We're a much savvier bunch now.

We had some delicious coffee from Panera. With all of that caffeine, you would think it would be possible to run pretty fast.

Utica is a picturesque little river town. Race headquarters is in the elementary school. Basically you take the main drag into town and just follow the cars. Next to the school was an old house in the process of being refurbished. There was a bunch of old stuff in the garbage, and I saw this amazing light fixture!!!

It was a great race, I PR'd. Still slow, but two minutes faster than last year. But who's counting? Not me, I'll never get an age group award unless everyone else stays home that day. For me, a solid B.O.P., the appeal of this race is a) the awesome sweatshirts that they give away and b) delicious pizza. Just take a look at this pizza. Yeah, it's as good as it looks.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Road Ride today

Perfect weather for a 35-mile ride from Chatham to Thayer to Auburn. Legs were dead at the end.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ike Strikes

Hurricane Ike is destroying Texas. Here in the midwest, we're far enough away so as to be unaffected by such things, although we do get our share of tornadoes and even a respectable earthquake this year.
But 2008 is different. We're 17 inches over the normal rainfall for the year. Think about it. That's like a foot and a half of water.
It started raining last night. Hard driving rain that pounded the roof of my house and made our old dog pace the floor. The cats huddled next to me for security. When my four-footed friends are nervous, I know the weather is going to be bad.
The worst of it hit this morning around 5 a.m. Which meant the biathlon that I intended to run might be cancelled. But it wasn't, instead the bike leg was cancelled and we ran a 5k at 9 am in pouring rain and strong winds. It sucked big time. I don't like short races to begin with since my strength is long slow distance (and I mean slow, really), but this was HARD. I had faint but realistic hopes of PRing today, but running through 3-4 inches of cold water, against the wind, just made conditions tough.
Lounged around on the couch all afternoon with a headache and feeling kind of feverish. Probably picked up a virus somewhere. My mom has been under the weather this week. It's a fitting end to a nasty day.
S and I have hardly been able to get out the mountain bikes at all this year with so much rain. And I have beautiful new tires that need to be broken in.
Just noticed that one of the maple trees in the front yard is sporting brilliant red leaves. Fall's definitely on its way.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Oral Surgery

The two back molars on my lower left jaw have quietly staged little riots for about five years. I can't say I blame them. Riddled with ancient mercury fillings from childhood, cracked from horseback riding incidents, they were just tired and ready to call it quits.

I took Friday off from work. Nervous about the impending work, I swam at 5 a.m., drove home and went for a five mile run on a hilly route. This wore me out sufficiently so that I was only mildly nervous upon reaching the dentist's office. Laughing gas quelled my remaining fears. For an hour and a half, the dentist pushed and pulled, cut and sutured. He discovered a fractured root on one tooth and had to drag out what i think might have been a miniature bone saw at one point.

This morning the left side of my face was pretty swollen. It looked like an enormous jowl protruding straight out. Ice packs bring the swelling down temporarily, then it puffs back up.

I've been told to "take it easy on the exercise this weekend". I don't think that means give up the planned ten mile run on Sunday. But I didn't ask. I'm compromising by not exercising today. Bored out of my mind, I've done quite a few home improvement projects.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Swimming at the Crack of Dawn

The first triathlon season is behind me, so now it's a matter of maintaining a base level of fitness in bike and swim. Those weeks before the Stoneman were a crazy juggling act of swim one day, bike/run the next. Swimming on lunch hour is a logistical pain in the ass, what with having to haul all my beauty stuff down to the Y. And it's not as if I wear a bunch of makeup.

Jenni experimented with the 5 a.m. lap swim at the YMCA last week and pronounced it a success, so today I rolled out of bed at 4:15 and drove downtown. Very cool driving at this time of day. There is absolutely no one out except for paper delivery folks. I did see a taxicab on West Washington Street, which struck me as odd. Probably someone headed to the airport or the Amtrak.

There were a couple of guys hanging out in the lighted stairwell area, then Jenni showed up. The pool was absolutely still and pristine, the water a comfortable temp. With just half an hour, I wasn't able to complete my workout but got in a good 950 yards.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Swim Another Day

Even though it's Thursday, today is my Friday. Tomorrow is a solo long run on a new route. So to avoid being a complete slug today, I opted to swim after work. Drove down to the YMCA, got all the way to the locker room, pulled swimsuit out of my gym bag. Something looked strange.

The right shoulder strap had been cleanly sliced and was missing most of the material. So I was faced with either swimming with a one-strap Speedo that probably would present modesty problems or aborting the swim mission. Went for the latter.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


4:30 a.m.
I love the predawn rituals associated with early morning running and cycling. The house is dark and quiet. Beebee, the little calico cat, sleeps to my left. Her soft little body is like a living, breathing beanbag. When I move, her head pops up and her eyes blink sleepily. She springs to life and runs ahead to the kitchen, making the tribble noise. I have never seen a creature so full of love and life as Beebee. Ollie the gigantic kitten (ok, he's a year now so more like a teen cat) sleeps on the back of the couch and lifts his head, but does not get up. And Snoopy the geriatric dog is oblivious to the activity.

Coffee's on. I turn on the light to the front porch. The feral cats that sleep on the porch are scattered about, their lanky forms deflated in complete repose. They look like a bunch of discarded pelts. But they're up and looking for some food.

The dog wakes and crips out into the living room. She's a great dog, 14 this month, with bad arthritis and hip dysplasia. Two ACL surgeries. A benign tumor on her spleen. A bout with Frontline-resistant fleas earlier this summer left her anemic and weakened, but she's coming back stronger than ever. She gets Deramaxx every day and cannot get up without it. She hesitates at the front door, then puts her head down and marches out into the light on the porch.
Summer's on a downward slide. The State Fair is in full swing. As a kid, it always meant that school was just around the corner. There's a lot of dew in the grass and a smell of cut hay from the farm across the road. Down the driveway to the mailbox to get the newspaper. The world is dark and sleeping. Far up the road are two red lights where Bradfordton Road tees at Old Jacksonville Road.

Someone has been burning and the smell of woodsmoke is faint and pleasurable. Pink streaks in the eastern sky. Temps in the 60s. Today's a riding day. I pull the bike out of the garage and lean it against my car. Too dark to see to load it onto the rack. A dog barks somewhere, an owl is hooting from the hills behind the farm next door.

Snoopy's ready to go back inside. She can't get up the four steps to the porch, so I carry her. She's a dignified old girl, a Chow mix, but submits to this humiliation with grace. The feral cats crowd closer. They have some kittens and I don't know what will happen to them in the winter.

Everyone gets fed. I make toast, fire up the computer and check email. What to wear for the ride. Is it tank top weather or short sleeve jersey weather? Opt for the latter. Dress, load up the bike, down the driveway I go. Most of the world is sleeping now, it's almost spiritual being out and about so early.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tour de Donut 7/12/08

Short Report: 31 miles, 7 doughnuts

For the past four years I have run the Women's Distance Festival two-mile race in Washington Park. It's a great race that gets better every year. But sometimes a change is in order. For reasons that defy logic, Steve and I signed up for the Tour de Donut Bike Ride in Staunton, IL.

The premise is simple. Ride 10 miles, eat as many donuts as you care to, ride 10 more miles, eat more donuts, ride the remaining 11.something miles back to the starting line. For every donut you eat, five minutes are knocked off your total time. It is a beautiful concept.

Weather was nasty the night before. A violent thunderstorm rolled through the area around midnight and pummeled the area for a couple of hours. I didn't sleep very well and in the back of my mind was the thought that I really didn't want to ride in the rain. We struck out for Staunton at 7 a.m. It's about an hour's drive south, and we drove through pockets of rain all the way. In the west you could see that the sun was trying to bust through the clouds.

Staunton is a town of 5100 people. We still took a wrong turn and had to ask directions. The race starts in a little park. There had been 4 inches of rain and the park was waterlogged. When you walked across the grassy parking area, water squished up out of the ground. The restrooms were flooded (rain, I hope). There was just water everywhere. And it was hot. Steamy even. You can see in the first pic how the ditch is flooded and the pavement is wet.

The race got a late start. We stood out in the street with masses of cyclists, sweating and hoping the rain would hold off. There was a record turnout, despite the weather, of about 975 cyclists. It was pretty cool seeing the solid mass of colorful jerseys and riders of every shape and size. And any kind of bike, road bikes, tri bikes, mountain bikes, name it. There were a surprising number of tandems too. I guess one person could pedal, the other could eat?

Prior to the event, I had been hashing out the details with training buddy and partner-in-crime, Jenni, and pondering what a good race strategy might be. Being of a competitive nature, Jenni had some wise counsel which she offered up in an email:

Training Advice from JenniG on the Tour De Donut

I'm thinking to myself "What makes me want to eat alot of donuts on Saturday morning?" and the first thing that comes to mind is a hangover. My advise is to go home, ride your bike HARD for at least an hour. Get really tired. Then, start in on your beverage of choice and comsume only slightly more than you normally might. You are just looking for that tired, light-headedness feeling, but not crappy enough to be debilitating. Make sure you undereat tonight, too so that a dozen donuts looks appealing tomorrow. That should be a recipie for a win, sister!

Don't forget your smasher tool. Have you reviewed the rules? What are the conditions for disqualification? Do you have to keep everything down? or can you empty the vessel from time to time?

My strategy was simple. I ate virtually nothing for breakfast and drank very little. My goal was a conservative 8 doughnuts. I opted for the pink FatCyclist jersey. Got a lot of comments on it too, everything from "hey, I like the horse" to "hey, it's one of those FatCyclist jerseys." (Win Susan) There were a bunch of St. Louis club riders next to us at the start and one guy talked about having the black jersey. He also mentioned that it did not look like I had to suck it in quite as much as he did. Here I am sucking it in for all I'm worth.

The horn (?) sounded, everyone took off. It was hard to get rolling initially with so many people crammed into such a tight space. After a mile the crowd thinned a bit and we were able to stretch it out a little.

And then the hills started. Holy crap were there a lot of hills on this ride. Not necessarily steep, but long steady climbs. The humidity had to be in the neighborhood of 95% and I was pouring sweat by the time we rolled into the first stop at Prairietown (isn't that a cool name for a small Illinois town?).

If you don't want to eat doughuts, they mark a zero on your bib and you bypass the eating orgy. I was on a mission though. We eased through the crowd and elbowed up to a shelter where boxes and boxes of Mel-O-Creme doughnuts were heaped on long tables. It was a free-for-all. I don't know what I expected, at first I stood back timidly, trying to get into a line. But there was no line. No one handed you the doughnuts. It was like Sunday morning at the Country Buffet. You pretty much had to reach into the box and make a grab. This was loosely supervised by "markers" -- volunteers who would put tic marks on your bib for every doughnut you ate.

It was sickening to see the crazed cyclists smashing the doughnuts into flat gobs of dough in their hands and shoving the goo into their mouths. And for all of the activity, the scene was strangely silent. Just spandex-clad people standing around chewing. There was very little talk, so focused were they. Just chewing and the soft click-click of bike shoes on cement. It was surreal.

My grand plan was to start off with three doughnuts. I put them into a ziplok bag and smashed and rolled the doughnuts around into a sort of crude cruller, which was surprisingly easy to eat. See how fast I'm eating? I'm just a frothing blur.

After the initial three doughnuts I felt good enough to eat one more at Prairietown, for a total of four. Steve choked down one doughnut. I told him he needed to man up.

There was a hose for people to wash their hands off (thank you race organizers!) and I chatted briefly with a big fellow who had polished off a dozen. He was thinking he might need to draft off somebody for the remaining 20 miles.

Back on the road. Feeling a bit heavy and disoriented, I had to slow down for the first mile, but the blast of sugar and grease worked like some super Hammer Gel and pretty soon we were rolling right along.

The route began to dip down into a creek bottom where there had been some serious flooding. There was a bridge at the bottom that had been flooded over the night before. Lots of mud and debris washed up across the roads. It was like a humid hot jungle down in the bottoms, with trees on either side.

Quote of the Day
There is a seriously steep hill at one point. Someone had warned us about this hill, it was unfairly placed, you crossed a bridge, turned sharp right and there it was. No way to work up the inertia to coast up, and by the half-way point I was in the granny gear and standing up on the pedals. Sugar-fueled sweat was pouring off of me. And nausea...It would have been easier to just get off and walk up the hill. Cyclometer read 7 mph. Ouch...climbing, grinding, yank the wheel left and right to keep from tipping over. More climbing...a gal next to me was matching me one stabbing step after another. We hit the top and sort of coasted, panting. I looked over and said something stupid like "wow, that was quite a hill." She responded with a grim "yeah, that was a motherf*cker."

We hit the town of Worden, stop number 2. Last stop, business time. By now the sun was blazing, temps were in the 80s. Steve choked down one doughnut. I grabbed two and smashed them grimly in the baggie. The doughnuts were hot and the glaze had melted. They went down all right, so I grabbed another one. Seven. Not my goal but my stomach was starting to feel strange. Not willing to risk a reversal, I decided to stop.

There were some old guys working the water table. I think they were VFW fellows, super nice people. I was handed a cup of ice cold water by a sweet man who reminded me of my dad. There was another gentleman had to be in his 80s and he was filling big water coolers of ice from a hose. The only hose in sight. I needed to rinse my hands off. Tried to get his attention with"excuse me, sir? Sir?" He didn't respond. I assumed he did not hear me.

I tried "Young man?" and he turned around! What a cutie!

We hammered it back to Staunton. There were a lot of people out along the roads with impromptu water stops, kind of like a marathon. It was awesome to see these people out cheering everyone on.

Back on the main road, 5 miles to go. We had the hills to cover but I didn't care, we were almost done. Pedal, pedal, push, pull. Passing people with zero tic marks. Sick feeling rising...We made it back to the finish line at a little over two hours.

Rehydration and Recovery
So hot and drenched with sweat. We ditched the helmets and hot shoes and rode a couple of blocks to Main Street where the Ribfest was going on. You had to ride right through the festival before crossing the finish line and smell all of the grilling going this point I wasn't really hungry but something salty sounded good. And something alcoholic too. But Too hot for beer. And the doughnuts were swelling and tossing around in my stomach. I rehydrated with a couple of Mike's Hard Lemonades. Man were those good!

And now for the most important part -- the post race food
The picture doesn't do this justice. That is a BLUEGILL SANDWICH I am tackling. Those wormy looking things are squiggles of tartar sauce. It was dipped in cornmeal and was just about the best piece of fried fish I can remember. Steve opted for the riblets. We sat under a tent and let the a/c from a vendor's trailer blow on us.

Then it was back to Springfield for a nap, shower, then an evening at Taste of Downtown.