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I’m not sure what possessed me today. I think it was the spirit of my friend, Heidi, who is the best runabler I know (and running blogger extraordinaire). Maybe it was all the caffeine. Maybe I just lost my damn mind.
So now my schedule is full of insanity. Oh, and I also still need to make sure I make progress on that whole Ph.D. thing. No big deal.
This past weekend, I went to the Human Potential Running Series‘ Fatass Frozen Front Range Marathon and had an absolute blast. The fatass runs aren’t races. They’re just loosely organized group runs. There’s no registration fee, and you can bail from the “course” at any time. Even though I hadn’t been training much (cough::at all::cough), I figured, why the hell not?
Saturday morning, Heidi, Cheryl, and I gathered at the Centennial trail head with about 80-something other runners in the pre-dawn light.
Everyone headed out to begin the trek across what’s known as “The Skyline.” This traverse covers all five of the large peaks in Boulder’s front range: Sanitas, Flagstaff, Green, Bear, and South Boulder Peak. A few individuals would also continue on to summit Eldorado at the end of the day.
Sanitas was up first. Heidi, Cheryl, and I started out together, but Cheryl quickly left us (mostly me) in her dust. Heidi was nice enough to stick along with my slow butt and we power-hiked our way to the top of Sanitas, shedding warmer layers and telling stories as we went. Heidi was also highly entertained by my “short girl problems” as she would hop up onto boulders that I had to hoist myself up.
On our way back down Sanitas, we caught back up to Cheryl – who only recently saw the light and moved from LA to Boulder, and wasn’t yet used to running on snow and ice. The downhills were much easier for me, so I often led the way on those sections, while trailing behind on the ascents.
Up next: Flagstaff!
I’ve driven up Flagstaff a number of times, and have always thought how ridiculous it was that people ran and rode up it. Apparently Cheryl and Heidi had the same thoughts. We were all amused by the fact that we were now the ridiculous ones.
At this point, Heidi and Cheryl started to get into their climbing groove, and I was always bringing up the rear. But every once in a while they would stop and wait a minute for me to catch up. Fortunately, about 1/3 of the way up Flagstaff, we caught up with another girl with the fatass group – Holly. Holly seemed to be going at a fairly similar pace as me, and she seemed pretty cool, so we adopted her into our band of ladies, and continued on together for the rest of the day.
At the summit of Flagstaff, we made a brief detour to stop at the overlook and take a goofy group selfie.
We left the Flagstaff summit, and started off toward Green. There wasn’t much of a downhill before it was time to start climbing again, so we settled into our now fairly well-established climbing order: Heidi, Cheryl, Holly, and then me, and continued our way up.
After a bit of scrambling at the top, we arrived at the summit of Green!
There was a guy and his kid playing around at the summit, and he was nice enough to take our picture for us. It wasn’t until later that day that we realized it was the amazing pro ultrarunner, Timothy Olsen. Interactions like this are part of what makes living in Boulder so unique and awesome.
At that point, we were going to continue on to Bear and South Boulder Peaks, but the thoughts of pizza, beer, and donuts had gotten the better of us, so we decided to head back to town. We made our way down Bear Canyon, with visions of food and drink in our heads.
Overall, we ended up doing 15.67 miles with 4,500 feet of climbing, in just under 7 hours. Slow, but super fun, and a fantastic way to spend a Saturday. Can’t wait for the next one!
Read Heidi’s (much better) version of this run here.
Now that I got that last part of the race report out of the way, the off season is beginning! I had originally planned to start at the beginning of September, but this month has been insane with work and school and lots of travel, so I pushed it back a few weeks.
The Starting Point
After two solid months of eating like crap and not training, I feel like total garbage. I am WAY beyond my “oh shit” weight, and into “WTF?” territory. The main cause of this has been the past month. With all the travel I’ve been doing for school, I’ve barely been home, and have basically had no groceries for the last month. Because of this, I’ve been scrounging and eating whatever I can find in my cupboard/fridge, which usually results in breakfast, lunch, and dinner consisting of eating peanut butter off a spoon.
Also, the current class that I’m taking is a field class. That means an entire semester of field trips and work is crammed into the month of September, because after that, the weather is a crap shoot. So aside from eating like crap, I’ve had virtually no time to do anything outside of work and school. No training. Nothing. Nada.
Put those two together, and I am generally feeling cruddy. I still look perfectly fine on the surface. But I don’t feel that way. But that ends starting now.
Once my field class ends after this coming week, my schedule gets much more flexible. Tuesdays and Thursdays are still a hot mess, but the rest of the week is pretty good. The plan is to swim, bike, and run a couple times a week, while getting in a few decent strength sessions too. I don’t want to try to do too much, because that’s when things fall apart. So I’m planning on doing short, quality sessions for the swim/bike/run workouts, with a couple longer sessions on the weekends.
Other important things are staying on top of my groceries, and bringing lunch to school/work every day. Whenever I don’t, I end up so starving by the end of the day, that I come home and inhale everything in my kitchen. But with a little bit of planning ahead, I don’t have that problem.
I have a few goals for this off season.
- Lose the excess weight. I’m sick of it.
- Improve strength and flexibility through weightlifting and yoga.
- Make some good power gains on the bike through HIIT workouts.
- Improve my swimming technique and pace through focused workouts. My swims are always so unfocused.
- Be consistent in writing at least a weekly post on here. I haven’t written much in the past year or so, and I miss it!
So that’s that for now. Time to prep my lunch for tomorrow, and head to bed!
This past weekend was the Boulder 70.3, which I was really looking forward to – even with mixed feelings (nervous about contact and choppy waters on the swim, and not sure if my foot would hold up).
On Friday afternoon, I biked up to the Boulder Reservoir (“The Res” for us lazy locals) for athlete check in. The whole process was super fast and smooth, and within just a few minutes, I was all tagged and ready to go.
As I was wandering out of the Ironman Village area, I glanced to my left and saw some familiar faces hanging out and doing autographs and pictures.
Well, that was cool!
On Saturday, I headed over to the Res and checked in my bike (they now have a mandatory bike check on the day before to the race). Everything was quick and easy, and I was even surprised that the traffic and parking at the Res wasn’t that bad.
Sunday dawned bright and early at 4am. Fortunately, I live right by the race venue, so I didn’t have any crazy travel time. It was actually a rather relaxed morning!
I headed out to the Res at 4:45am, and by 5:15, I was through the traffic, parked, and getting my things organized in the transition area. The first thing to do was pump up my tires, since you always make sure to let the air out when you have to rack it the day before (sitting out in the sun all day can overheat your tires and cause a blowout – not good). As soon as my tires were pumped up, I stashed the pump back in my car and headed back into the transition area.
On my way back into transition, I found a tri club friend who was doing body marking. She wrote all over me (and only now, several days later, is it almost gone – that was some magic sharpie!), and then I headed back to the rack to finish sorting out my space.
In transition, I found a few friends from my tri club (including one who was racked right next to me), and chatted with some of the women in my age group. This race had our bib numbers organized by age group, so all the 30-35 women were racked together. Some people didn’t like that (theoretically, this could cause crowding in the transition area since we were starting the swim with our age groups), but I didn’t notice a problem. Plus, these ladies were super nice, and great company during a chilly pre-race morning.
I laid down my small towel (NOT a full size towel – don’t be that guy), on top of which go:
- Bike gear (in the front half of the towel)
- A small throwaway squeeze-type water bottle (to wash the sand and gunk off my feet before putting on my shoes)
- Bike shoes and socks
- Jersey/tri top
- Spray sunscreen
- Run gear (in the back half of the towel)
- Running shoes
- Belt with bib number already attached
- Handheld water bottle with run nutrition in the pocket
- On my bike went:
- Bike garmin
- All nutrition
After laying out my transition area, I stalled as long as possible before having to ditch the jacket and flip flops at the tri club tent – it was chilly out! But once the sun really started to come out, things got much better. And by the end of the day, we would all be wishing for those cool temperatures again.
I wandered down to the beach with my tri club friend who was racked next to me. We had quite a long wait until it was our turn to start. The pros were starting just after 7am, and our wave wasn’t until 8:05.
We ended up hanging out on the beach and watching the waves go before us, and before we knew it, it was almost our turn. The few of us who had been chatting headed over and joined in with the other silver-capped swimmers just a few feet from the start line.
Oh shit, now I was really nervous.
I should mention that I haven’t done much swimming during this round of training. It’s always the first thing to go when things get busy and you’re trying to squeeze things in. Plus, the last race-setting open water swim I had done was Ironman Lake Placid, where I was miserable and getting beat up the entire time. PLUS, on top of that, the day before this race, I had gone for a “nice little open water practice” at a local reservoir, and it had been HORRIBLE. It was super choppy, and everyone was having a terrible time fighting the chop.
So now I was panicking a bit.
I could see that the water was calm, so that was fine, thank goodness. But I still was really nervous about contact on the swim. When you’re just watching from the shore, you can’t see the free-for-all that can be an open water swim. People get punched, kicked, and smacked all over. I have been kicked and punched in the face and chest while swimming on more than one occasion, and let me tell you, it’s not fun.
While we were all standing around waiting for our turn, we were chatting a bit. Turns out, the women in my age group are AWESOME. Everyone was so nice and sweet. And all everybody wanted to do was get in the water, do their thing, and not get beat to crap. There were plenty of us saying “if you don’t hit me, I won’t hit you, buddy!” So it was good to know that I would hopefully be surrounded by like-minded individuals.
The 30-35 men went off.
Oh shit. Now it’s our turn. Shit shit shit. I don’t want to get punched in the face. Ahhhhhhh!
We shuffled into the water, about waist/chest deep, and waited. There was a five minute gap between each wave. People (myself included) were bouncing around, talking, laughing, and “dancing” to the music. (I was mostly doing this to distract myself, and not let others know how much I was freaking out.)
I positioned myself in the back of the group, to give myself even more of a chance to not get caught up with anyone who was going to beat me up in the water.
The gun went off.
Oh crap. Here we go. Just stop thinking and start swimming. It will be fine.
For all my worrying, this swim was fantastic. I have never had a better, or more contact-free swim in a race. And I think that had everything to do with the age group wave start. So, thank you, 30-35 women. You are a pleasure to swim with.
One of the annoying things about swimming at the Res is how murky the water is. I had heard about this ahead of time, so it wasn’t a surprise, but I was still amazed at how little I could really see. I could barely see my own fingertips when they were stretched out in front of me. Where this could become a problem is that you can’t see the feet of a person who is swimming ahead of you. So to prevent face kicks, you have to keep an eye out for people as you are sighting for the buoys. It took me a couple minutes to get used to this, but as soon as I did, things opened right up, and I had pretty much clear water the whole way. There were a handful of accidental body bumps along the way, but nothing that was problematic.
We swam out from the shore for quite a way, then made a right to do the top end of the upside-down triangle that was the swim course. On this second leg of the swim, I noticed a couple hot pink swim caps creeping up on me. These were the fast people from the wave behind me (women, 25-29 – those young whippersnappers – before the start, our wave had been joking about forming a human wall to block them on the swim). But no major problems here. At this point, we were spread out enough that they could navigate through us slower folk.
After what felt like an eternity, we made another right turn and started heading back to the shore.
Oh my god, this leg of the swim took forever. I think I was just getting tired, but WOW did it feel long.
I kept wondering when that stupid arch would look any bigger. Plus, I was starting to get a bit toasty in my full wetsuit. The water was warm enough (high 60’s) that I could have managed just fine with a sleeveless.
Just keep swimming… just keep swimming…
FINALLY, I put my feet down and felt the bottom. Hooray!
I’m always a little dizzy and lightheaded after a long swim, so I took my time standing up and walking out of the water. I felt like it took a bit longer than normal for me to get my bearings back, which I’m guessing has to do something with the altitude (even when you live here, you can still get a bit oxygen-deprived on the swim). Or it could just be a lack of swim conditioning. Also highly likely.
I crossed the timing mat, stopped my watch, and made my way to the transition area.
Swim time: 45:17 (Just a couple minutes slower than I had hoped, but I’ll take it, given my nerves and lack of swim training.)
After walking off the dizziness, I jogged down the bike racks, found my spot, stripped off the wetsuit, and got to work cleaning off my feet.
Shoes and socks go on, jersey on, helmet on, sunglasses on. (Always put your helmet on before unracking your bike – you can get DQ’d if you don’t.)
Good to go!
I took my bike off the rack and jogged to the mount line.
Transition time: 5:51 (Not bad. Could be faster.)
I made my way out of the Res and onto the bike course. The first several miles of the course are a long, gradual, nearly imperceptible uphill. This, combined with the fact that it’s the start of the bike and I don’t yet have my bike legs going, is so frustrating. I felt like I was working so hard, and going nowhere.
In addition to that, due to the age group wave start, I was constantly being passed by the fast people from the waves behind me, which is incredibly demoralizing. The wave starts were wonderful for the swim. Less so for the bike. But after 20-25 miles, people were mostly settled in with riders of similar speeds, and that stopped.
We made our way up Route 36 and north out of Boulder. This part of the course is really beautiful as you ride right along the edge of the foothills. There are some decent-sized hills that aren’t quite rollers, and aren’t quite climbs. They’re just enough to make you work hard. But they’re over in a minute or two. I’ve ridden this part of the course many times with my tri club, so I felt very comfortable on it, and just kept chugging along.
Eventually, we made a right onto Route 66. Once you get to this part of the course, things flatten out and you can really start to get some speed. I actually averaged 16.3 mph for the first hour (which included all of that long gradual climb, and just a little bit on 66), which I was happy to see. 16.3 is still slow for many people, but it’s improvement for me! In previous years, I always seemed stuck at 15 mph, so I’m very happy to see those numbers creeping up (albeit slowly) now.
The next hour of the course was the fastest section. It’s mostly flat, with some rollers, and just a couple steep (but very short) climbs. I was feeling good, and picked up the pace a bit. For the second hour, I averaged 17.2 mph. I was starting to get excited now.
The third hour of the bike, I was unfamiliar with the course, and didn’t know what to expect. All the times I’ve been out to ride, I’ve ridden the course for the full. The courses are the same for the first 30 miles or so, but then the split. I was anticipating that this last part of the course would be mostly flat with some rollers, and a fast ride back to the Res.
I was wrong.
There were a LOT of long, gradual (but somewhat steep) climbs in this section! I was getting frustrated, because I had been excited and getting my hopes up to keep my average speed around 17mph, and now I knew that wasn’t going to happen. But then, I realized that I was still averaging more than 16mph, which is what I was originally estimating, so I couldn’t really complain. For the third hour, I averaged 16.3 mph
Eventually, we turned right back onto Diagonal Highway, and we were nearly done. We rode our way back into the Res and to the dismount line. I got off my bike feeling good, and very happy with how the ride went.
Bike time: 3:23:01 (16.55 mph average)
T2 was a quick change. Rack the bike, helmet off, shoes off, jersey off.
Running shoes on, tri top on (it was getting hot and I was desperate for a sleeveless), hat and sunglasses on, race belt on, grab water bottle, and GO.
Transition time: 4:52
Heading out of the transition area for the run, I had absolutely NO idea what to expect. My foot had been painful on only a two mile run just a few days earlier, so I wasn’t expecting anything good. I was fully prepared to stop running and accept the DNF the minute my foot started hurting. This race was not my A race for the season, and it just wasn’t worth risking the Ironman – which was only 7 weeks away.
I started running out of the Res and made the right onto the dirt road that goes around the lake.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it very far before I started to notice some tightening in my foot. This was not a good sign. I was only two miles in, and had 11 to go. I wasn’t in pain, but I knew that I would be long before I finished the entire run.
The question was, was it worth it?
I stopped on the side of the road for a minute and thought about my options.
- Keep running and finish the whole thing, regardless.
- Keep running, finish this loop (it’s a two loop run course, so each loop is 6.55 miles), and see what happens.
- Stop running, and walk the rest.
- Stop running now, accept the DNF, and don’t do any more damage.
I ended up picking door #4.
I know I could have run further that day, but I really had no idea how much further. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the whole 13.1 miles, so finishing the run wasn’t going to happen anyway. I figured it was smarter of me to stop at 2 miles before my foot started to get painful (at this point it was just getting a little tight, but that’s how it starts), and avoid any further damage. I may have been able to make it through the whole first loop, but even that was questionable.
As I was standing there on the side of the road, the roving medic came by and asked if I needed anything. I told him I just had an ongoing foot injury and wasn’t going to be finishing the run today. So he took my timing chip, and I slowly walked back along the course, cheering as I went.
It was a bummer to DNF, but I know it was the right choice. I really didn’t want to make my foot worse and not be able to race Ironman Boulder in a few weeks. So even though having a DNF sucks, in this case, it’s better than the alternative.
Somehow, the year is flying by, and we’re already only one week out from Ironman 70.3 Boulder. When did that happen???
It’s been a tough couple months trying to get training in, but I’ve been doing alright. As usual, not as well as I had originally hoped, but my conditioning is pretty decent, and somehow I seem to be getting faster (thank you, living at altitude!), so that’s good.
Going into the 70.3 this coming weekend, my goals are pretty much the same as usual:
- Have fun and enjoy the day.
- Give it my best effort.
- PR if possible – given my recent biking and running paces, I should be able to do this if nothing unexpected happens.
Ideally, I’m expecting something like:
- Swim: 42-43 minutes (I might be a bit slower on this one since I haven’t swam much.)
- T1: 5 minutes
- Bike: 3:30 (16 mph average)
- T2: 5 minutes
- Run: 2:04 (9:30/mi average)
- Total time: 6:27:00
So we’ll see what happens. The foot has been doing much better, but it’s still a question mark on anything longer than a few miles. I’ve been trying to take it easy and give it a chance to rest and let the irritation go away. So far, so good. I’ve been able to run 3 miles with no pain during or after, so that’s progress. I’m hoping to get in a couple 6 mile runs this week to get a better sense of how things are going with the recovery.
This weekend I got to do my first open water swim of the season, and it went surprisingly well. The first OWS is usually a bit bumpy and there are usually a bit of early season jitters. But this time I felt great. I never got jittery, and actually had a really nice time in the water. My swim conditioning could use a bit of work between now and the full in August, but I should be fine for this coming weekend. And I have a few more OWS practices coming up this week to make sure I’m comfortable and ready to go.
One thing that’s been really great is riding with people from my tri club. There’s a fantastic group that goes out for a weekly no-drop ride, and I’ve been loving riding with them. We had a great 59 mile ride after our OWS on Saturday. It’s fun to ride with them because it’s a low stress group that still pushes me a bit, so I’m improving quite a lot every time I ride with them. Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people, since I’m still pretty new to the area.
Another awesome thing about Boulder – so many group workouts and races to choose from! I now have SIX different OWS chances throughout the week, plus the weekly Stroke and Stride series, and multiple weekly tri club rides and runs. It’s fantastic!
Anyway, it’s late, and I need to get some sleep. Lots to do tomorrow!
This morning I ran my first standalone marathon since I started doing Ironmans. I was really curious to see how it went, given that my perspective has changed quite a bit over the last two years. All I really wanted going into the race was to FINALLY have a marathon time that started with a 4, instead of a 5. For the past several years, I’ve been consistently doing my long runs at a 10:00-10:30/mi pace, but come race day, I’ve had a knee injury (My first marathon: The 2010 Adirondack Marathon), heat exhaustion (the 2011 Buffalo Marathon), and peroneal tendonitis (the 2012 DC Rock n’ Roll Marathon – my standing PR at 5:00:24). My other two marathon attempts ended at the half due to a knee injury (the 2010 Buffalo Marathon), and illness (the 2011 Adirondack Marathon). So suffice it to say, I really wanted to have a decent race for once. Just once.
As per usual, I didn’t train as well as I had hoped. This was the first year of my Ph.D. program, and things were quite busy between school, work, and trying to have some semblance of a social life since I’m living in a new city and trying to make friends. I could get in the occasional short run or two (5-6 miles) during the week, and a long run just about every other weekend. I’ve also gotten in a few decent bike rides (65 miles and 75 miles of the IM Boulder course) in the last couple weeks. So I wasn’t in a horrible place. But it certainly wasn’t ideal either. My recent short runs are usually in the 9:00-9:15/mi range, and my longest run topped out at 18 miles at a 9:59/mi pace. I was really happy with how that run went, so going into the race this morning, I was feeling good.
The biggest thing that has changed since my last marathon was the completion of my two Ironmans (the 2012 Beach2Battleship – race report parts 1, 2, and 3, and the 2013 Ironman Lake Placid – race report parts 1, 2, 3, and 4). Doing Ironmans has significantly changed my view of what exactly is a “long” day. Now, 4.5 hours doesn’t seem all that bad.
So going into the race this morning, I was stress-free and relaxed. I was just going out for a nice fun run and whatever happened, happened. No big deal. I looked at it more as a nice training run for Ironman Boulder, which is coming up in August. That said, I still wanted to have a good race and enjoy myself. But it wasn’t my A race like marathons have been in the past. Removing that A race stress is really great.
My mom had come out to visit this weekend, so we spent the few days before the race doing what essentially amounted to a “food tour of Boulder.” I had so many good restaurants that I wanted to take her to, and limited time to do it in. So we ate. A LOT. No chance of not having enough fuel in my system here.
Race morning dawned painfully early. The start was at 6 am down in Denver (about 30-45 minutes away, depending on where you’re trying to get to), and we also had to account for the inevitable race day traffic. So I was up at 3am and out the door by 4:15. Ouch.
The drive to City Park was uneventful. We didn’t hit any traffic until we pulled in to the park, and even then we were able to find a parking spot right near the start line – score! At this point, it was about 5:15 am. We had 45 minutes to kill before the start, so my mom and my friend got some coffee, while I did the ever-important pre-race port-a-potty stop. Then we hung around the starting corrals until about 5:50, when I got in line in my corral.
Right at 6 am sharp, we were off. They were pausing in between corrals, so one group would take off roughly every minute. I was in corral E, and at 6:06 am, we were at the start line and on our way.
I crossed the start line and headed out with my group. Amazingly, I ended up passing most of my corral, and was in the front of our little pack. I was feeling really good! I did the first mile coming out of the park at a 9:15 pace. Sweet! Also, the spacing out of the corrals was perfect – we weren’t bunched up at all. Even right in the very beginning.
The first 5.5 miles were pretty uneventful. We made our way out of City Park, and west along Colfax (one of the main drags through Denver – not the prettiest street in the world). Around mile 4, we passed through a fire station (fun), and ended up on the Cherry Creek bike path. It was really pretty and peaceful running along the creek, and Confluence Park was a cool spot. There were two guys on SUP boards at the confluence, cheering and playing some game where they have to jump over a floating bar thing. One guy fell in. It was entertaining.
We turned southwest and continued along the South Platte River bike path, past the amusement park, and headed toward the Broncos stadium. I was still feeling awesome, and super excited to be running WAY better than I had anticipated (first 6 splits: 9:15, 9:28, 9:03 – sweet!, 9:16, 9:27, and 9:20). I was averaging a 9:18/mi pace. This was fantastic!
* Note: At this point, the splits from my watch were just a bit ahead of the mile markers (about 0.1 mi – it got more exaggerated in the second half of the race), so I was probably a second or two slower per mile than that, but I’m just going off my watch.
Around mile 6, we entered the Broncos stadium. This was really a neat touch for the course. We ran in through the tunnel, and came out on the field. It was so cool to look up at all the seats and see it from a player’s perspective. It must be so amazing when those seats are all full.
We ran around the field, and headed out the other side of the stadium, past the first relay exchange, and back onto Colfax.
Coming out of the stadium, we hit our first decent hill. It really wasn’t too bad. Overall, this course is mostly flat. There are some long gradual inclines, and two or three small hills that are worse, but it’s a pretty flat and fast course. I just slowed a teeny bit and chugged up it.
Around 7.5 miles, we hung a right onto Perry Street and headed north to run around the beautiful Sloans Lake. I really enjoyed this part of the course. First, it was the first time I saw my mom and my friend, so that was really nice (they did a kickass job of running all over that course – it was impressive), and it was just a super pretty spot. When I saw my people, I ran over, showed them my watch, yelled “I’m killing it!” and then ran off smiling. I was in a good mood.
We ran all around the lake, and then headed back south on Perry to get back on Colfax. We continued west for a bit until about mile 12.5, where we turned north to head to the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. We ran around the campus, and hit the halfway point. According to the race clock, my half time was around 2:04:00, and I was holding a 9:28/mi average pace (estimating with my start time). I was currently 7 minutes ahead of where I thought I would be on a good day. That was awesome!!!
My watch splits up to this point: (my watch was reading 0.25 miles ahead of the course at this point)
- Mile 7 – 9:24
- Mile 8 – 9:46
- Mile 9 – 9:04
- Mile 10 – 9:13
- Mile 11 – 9:34
- Mile 12 – 9:28
- Mile 13 – 9:20
We headed out of the campus, and continued north on Pierce Street. Then west on 20th. There was a decent hill right after we turned on to 20th, but nothing too terrible.
We headed west on 20th for a while, and I saw my mom and friend again. I was amazed they had made it all the way over to the west end of the course! That was some dedication!
A little after 14.5 miles, we turned south and headed through a really nice little neighborhood. There were a bunch of residents out cheering, and manning their own aid stations – including one that had bacon and donuts for the runners. (Also, this reminds me, I thought it was really entertaining every time I passed someone wearing the “Team Beef” shirt, since I was wearing my awesome No Meat Athlete top. Oh, the irony.). Also in this neighborhood, I decided to begin my “walk two minutes at every mile marker” strategy to keep my energy up for the second half. It seemed to work well. When I started running again after my quick break at mile 15, I felt rather good.
Around 15.5 miles, we emerged back out onto Colfax, and headed east to begin our trip to the finish line.
We ran down Colfax for a LONG time. But fortunately, most of this was a very gradual downhill. It was a nice little reprieve for the legs. I decided to skip the walk breaks through here and just enjoy the downhill. My official 16.1 mile split was 2:33:00. I was still holding a 9:30/mi average pace!
Then, at mile 18, I had my first twinges of unpleasantness. I recognized it immediately. It was the beginnings of the same peroneal tendonitis that had plagued me at the 2012 DC Rock n’ Roll Marathon, except in my right foot this time. I decided to implement an “I can walk for two minutes at a time whenever I need it” strategy to keep things under control. After the first minute of my two minute walk break, I saw my mom and my friend a few blocks down the road. I couldn’t stand to walk past them, so I picked it back up again. As I passed them, I waved and yelled something along the lines of “remember how happy I was to do my 18 miler at a 9:59 pace??? Look at this!!!” and showed them my watch again. Then I took off down the road. A few blocks later, I walked for another minute.
My splits through 18 miles: (watch was running about 0.6 miles ahead of the mile markers at this point)
- Mile 14 – 9:22
- Mile 15 – 10:17 (First walk break)
- Mile 16 – 10:18
- Mile 17 – 9:10 (Yay! Downhill!)
- Mile 18 – 9:15
We continued down Colfax, all the way to the Broncos stadium. At this point, my foot was pretty rough, so I was doing a bit of hobbling, but I could still run most of the time.
We ran back through the stadium, and out onto the bike path along the South Platte River. My official 20.1 mile split was 3:14:22, and a 9:40/mi pace. I was happy with that!
This was when the foot really started to become unpleasant.
A little way down the bike path, the 4:15 pacer passed me. I wouldn’t have it. I started running again, passed him, and stayed a head for a minute. Then he passed me again. Then I caught and passed him. We went back and forth like this a few times. I really didn’t want to lose him. Even though 4:15 was way ahead of what I had planned on doing today, I had fallen in love with the idea of it, and I didn’t want to let it go. Eventually, I had to. But that’s okay. I was still far exceeding my expectations, so I really couldn’t complain.
Along the bike path, there was much limping and stopping to wince, but I slowly made my way back toward City Park and the finish line.
We came off the bike path at Lawrence Street, and made our way down 17th Street and closed in on the park. At mile 23, I managed to find another friend who was spectating, and at that point, I was feeling good (the pain in my foot would come and go, depending on the particulars of how I would move it), so I happily ran past, waved, and said hello.
Somewhere around mile 24 was the last somewhat unpleasant uphill. My foot wouldn’t have it, so I walked (well, limped). I did much limping in those last few miles, but I was feeling alright. I was SO happy with how the first 18 miles had gone, and I knew I would finish under 5 hours at this point, so really, that was JUST FINE. I just needed to keep moving, that’s all.
At mile 25, I tried to run it in the rest of the way, but had to stop to hobble here and there. I eventually entered into the park, and ran it the rest of the way in.
Final splits from my watch: (my watch was reading 0.8 miles ahead of the course by the end)
- Mile 19 – 9:50
- Mile 20 – 11:20
- Mile 21 – 9:27
- Mile 22 – 12:00
- Mile 23 – 10:06
- Mile 24 – 10:00
- Mile 25 – 12:51
- Mile 26 – 12:43
- Mile 27 – 11:37
I came into the finish area, and ran my way down the chute. I saw my mom and my friends right at the finish line, cheering, and carrying the wonderful box of Voodoo Donuts that I knew would be waiting for me at the finish line.
I crossed the finish line with a final time of 4:34:10, and an average pace of 10:27/mi. I’ll take that! New PR! By 26 minutes!
- Final time: 4:34:10 (PR!)
- Average pace: 10:27/mi
- Overall place: 771/1329
- Women: 239/554
- Age group: 87/200
I’m so proud that for ONCE, I was actually in the top half of my age group AND women! I’m always bringing up the rear!
I started out my week feeling stressed and overwhelmed. School, money (or lack thereof, thanks to returning to a grad student income), a general lack of time to do the things I need to do (nevermind that I’m sitting here writing a blog post when I should be reading more journal articles), and lots of self-doubt in terms of my ability to come up with a research project idea that I could really get behind and not feel like I was just spinning my wheels on something that didn’t really get me excited. It wasn’t pretty.
But I decided that rather than let it get to me, I was just going to slowly chip away at the things that were looming over me and causing me stress. I got an exam back in class (my first exam since 2005), and ended up doing better than I anticipated – thank goodness. It still wasn’t wonderful, but I’ll take it. In the afternoon, I taught my class, and then had my office hours. No one ever comes to office hours, so I spent that time playing around with my budget and really making it bare bones. It’s still super tight, but at least it’s not as bad as it was before. It’s been a big adjustment to go from a salary with extra summer income on top of that, to a sad, sad little grad student stipend. But I can’t complain. In a lot of fields, you get nothing. So I’m extremely thankful that I get funding to cover my tuition and most of my living expenses.
After getting to the point where looking at my budget at least didn’t make my heart start to pound, I found a couple part time faculty jobs that were posted and applied for those. So hopefully I hear something back soon. That would be ideal – extra income, and I get to continue teaching. Fingers crossed.
In the afternoon, I came home and walked the dogs for an hour. The day started out quite freezing (I biked to work in my winter jacket with another one underneath it, plus two layers of gloves, a hat, and a scarf), but by the afternoon, it was pretty glorious. So the dogs and I walked and enjoyed the amazing views of the mountains (they never get old).
I was supposed to meet a friend for a ride in the afternoon, but things were just too crazy, so we pushed it back to later in the week. Instead, later that night, I set up my new pain cave, turned out the lights, put on my headphones (so I didn’t drive my sweet roommate too crazy), and powered away to a Sufferfest video (There Is No Try). I made sure that I could be proud of myself and my effort when I was done. It was hard, but it also felt great at the same time. I’m pretty sure my roommate heard me grunting and swearing all through it though. There was many a “sonofabitch!” thrown around for that hour.
The other good thing about adjusting the budget is that my food budget has significantly decreased. Now, normally, this wouldn’t be a good thing. But I think it’s going to help keep me from all my mindless snacking. I do it ALL. THE. TIME. And I don’t need to. My challenge is to eat very healthily, and do it for very cheaply.
Tuesday was a great day! I was planning on getting out for a run in between my classes, but that didn’t happen. However, it was for a really good reason. While I was in my first class, someone said something and it was like a light bulb going off. I came up with my Ph.D. research project! So I spent the time in between classes digging into that. It was a HUGE relief. I had been so incredibly stressed about that for months now. I had had this nagging feeling of I had a job that I loved, with coworkers that I loved, that paid well. I lived in a place I loved. I had the best friends. I had a wonderful relationship. And I gave it all up. FOR WHAT??? At least now I feel like I’m getting somewhere.
Wednesday was also a really great day. I had a meeting with a couple faculty members, in which I ended up walking out of there with a side project/job that is really incredible and I’m super excited about.
Then, after my meeting, I went out for a run. I decided to keep with the HIIT theme, so I did some ass-busting intervals. I had to be back for another class soon after that, so it had to be short. But I did 3 miles, with an overall average pace of 10:00/mile. HOWEVER, that was including my walk intervals. My run intervals were around 8:30/mile. I was huffing and puffing, but it felt good!
Thursday was pretty uneventful. Went to class and had a rest day. Not much to report here. But sometimes that’s a good thing.
Friday, my awesome week of progress continued! In the morning, I received an email from someone at one of the local community colleges asking if I was interested in teaching one of their spring courses. This wasn’t even one of the positions I applied for earlier in the week. This was just out of the blue! AND the class is the one that is my absolute favorite to teach. Sign me up!
Most of the day was productive, and then in the afternoon, I got out for a great (but slow) ride with a friend. We climbed up Red Rocks, which was awesome and gorgeous, and rode all around that area. I absolutely love riding out here. Everywhere you turn, it’s just one beautiful place after another.
After a great post-ride beer and dinner, it was time to head home and get ready for Saturday’s field trip.
Saturday started out promising. The field trip was supposed to be down to southern Colorado to look at the KT boundary layer (material from the impact that killed the dinosaurs). We stopped at a couple places on the way down – including lunch at Garden of the Gods, which was beautiful.
After lunch and walking around Garden of the Gods, we attempted to drive about two hours south to check out the impact layer. But there was a football game at the Air Force Academy that afternoon, and they were playing Notre Dame, so the traffic was horrendous. So much so, that we barely moved at all. Eventually, we gave up, and turned around. Bummer.
Later that night, I got home to a sick dog. After cleaning up the disgusting mess, I had to rush her to the emergency vet. Thankfully, everything was completely fine, but I didn’t want to risk it. My dogs are my kids, and I don’t mess around when things could be serious. I’m so glad she was fine.
Overall, it was a long day.
Sunday dawned puke-free, so that was good. I ended up spending the whole day in Denver for a conference. It was really great to see several of my former coworkers, former students, and my old masters adviser. The conference continues into this coming week, so I have plenty of things coming up too!
So on Sunday, I got out for a run. It was my first one in quite a while – except for two short ones with the dogs, which don’t really count. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel.
I felt awesome!
Well, not totally awesome. I was definitely huffing and puffing, but that was because I was pushing myself. My comfortable pace is around 10:00/mile. I was all fired up from watching Kona (still am), and I really want to get faster for IM Boulder (August 3, 2014!). So I need to start pushing my pace on the bike and run. I have some lofty time goals that I won’t say yet. Let’s just say, it would be a big improvement from my 15:33 and 16:0X.
So I got out for a run, and tried not to look at my garmin. Instead, I just ran a pace that felt fast but sustainable. My first two miles were at a 9:15/mile pace. Then I ended up over at the Valmont Bike Park, where a big cyclocross race was going on. I actually had a friend from school who was racing, so I hung out there for a while and watched. It was awesome!!! I already wanted to try cross before Sunday. Now I REALLY want to! I need a cross bike first though… Stinking N+1…
Then I turned around and headed home. At that point, I decided to bust my butt, and did some HIIT sprints. I ended up doing 3.5 miles total, at a 8:50/mile pace. Woot!
Granted, there was a decent break in there where I was at Valmont, but it’s still a massive improvement from my 10 minute miles. I just need to keep at it and not let myself get back into that comfortable zone. I’ve run there long enough.
Today I did my first run at altitude (aside from the one four miler I did back in May when I was visiting to get my apartment set up). I’ve been in Boulder for a week now, so I figured I would have acclimated at least a bit.
It felt great!
I took the dogs out with me and the three of us did a nice fun 2.25 mile run on the bike path. I didn’t wear a watch, or a garmin. We just ran and enjoyed it. We ran on some dirt trail for a bit (I tripped a lot), the dogs got taunted by some gophers, and went in the creek a couple times, and we had a great time. They did better than I expected too! But they were definitely wiped out by the time we got home. They’ve done nothing but sleep since we walked in the door.
I felt really good on this little run. My legs felt fresh (rested!), and I could breathe just fine. I wanted to run more (I originally typed that as “I wanted to fun more” – I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something!), but the dogs couldn’t handle that – not only because of the altitude, but it’s also hot and dry. So we just stuck with a short one today.
I’ve got some longer runs mapped out that I want to try. Perhaps I can do one tomorrow?
I can see why everyone loves Boulder so much. I miss NY and everybody at home, but I’ve only been here a week and I’m already in love.
I came out of the transition area just elated that I had made the bike cutoff, and with time to spare. The crowds of spectators were thickly lining both sides of the road, and it took me a minute to remember that my name was on my bib. So many people were cheering me on by name and it threw me off for a minute.
Starting the run, my legs actually felt really good. Way better than they had at Beach 2 Battleship in October. I started out on the run course around 4:40 pm. I knew I had until right around 11:40 pm to finish, which gave me just about 7 hours to complete the marathon. That was doable. I felt slightly relieved knowing how much time I had, but I was also feeling good, and didn’t want to cut it close – so I ran my way down the hill and out of town. Somewhere just after coming out of the transition area, I spotted my support crew. I had asked them to be nearby to make sure I made the cutoff, and sure enough, there they were, cheering away.
At this point in the day, most people were on the run course, so the roads were crowded. At this point, most of the people I met were starting out on their second loop and were a whole 13.1 miles ahead of me. It was humbling, but I was just happy to be off the bike, and not pulled from the course. I know I’m slow, I made my peace with it.
For nutrition, I started out with some strawberry Gu chomps – my personal favorite. But at this point in the day, my stomach really can’t take much sugary stuff. It just doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. So after a few pieces of Gu chomps, I switched to nothing but water and pretzels from the aid stations. The salt was spectacularly delicious, and it was a nice change from all the sugar I had been downing all day.
I made my way down the big hill just outside of T2, out of town, past the ski jumps, and down the other big hill (both of which we had to come back up later – twice). Then it was time to turn left onto River Road for the nice peaceful out-and-back. The scenery was beautiful through here, and I was still feeling really good. I was doing the same run/walk system that I had done at my half iron a few weeks before – walk the uphills and aid stations, and run everything else. At this point, I was pretty surprised with how good I felt. Sure, I was tired, but I wasn’t in any pain. For the first 8 miles or so, my pace seemed to be hovering in or around the 11-12 min/mile range, which I was very happy with. One of my favorite signs at this point of the course was “You win. Andy Potts never did a 17 hour ironman.” (If you are unfamiliar with ironman, Andy Potts has won Ironman Lake Placid two years in a row now.)
I continued on with my run/walk out to the turnaround on River Road, just before mile 9. Coming back, I chatted with a guy near me who had just graduated college, and was in a similar field as me, and was considering moving out to Boulder, Colorado after the race (which I just did – hence the delay in posting this part of the race report). We had a lot in common and ran/walked along together for a few miles. He was very sweet and encouraging and pushed me to run just a little farther, and just a little faster than I would have otherwise, and I really appreciated the company.
On out-and-backs, I’m always keeping my eye out on the other side of the road to see who’s around. I spotted several friends from my tri club, kicking butt and taking names. One of them, Jeff (who raced Lake Placid with a broken collarbone last year), actually lost all his nutrition off his bike early in the day, and ended up having to spend an hour in the med tent getting fixed up. And he was still doing amazing. We exchanged a quick hug and some encouragements, and then ran off in opposite directions. Also at this point, I saw my other favorite sign of the run leg. It said “Prancercise the next 1/4 mile to loosen up.” I especially enjoyed this one because I had just been talking with people about prancercise the day before. I laughed for a long time about that one.
Eventually, my buddy and I parted ways, and then it was time to climb back up the big hill by the ski jumps, and head into town again.
At the top of the big hill, there was a woman at the end of her driveway. She was cheering through a construction cone and was completely awesome. Also, possibly drunk. But damn entertaining.
Past the ski jumps, there was another awesome cheering section that had a table filled with beer. There was another “free beer” sign, and, while I’m sure it would have tasted delicious, I figured now probably wasn’t the best time. Some people were taking them up on it though. Shortly after the free beer, I passed my hotel, where I spotted my support crew again. And they had gained a person! I saw her from waaaaaay down the road. My best friend had planned on coming up for the race, but I really didn’t expect her to make it through all the traffic. From about 500 yards away I screamed “YOU MADE IT!!!!!” and ran for a hug. I was so happy she was there.
Heading back into town, the cheering crowds were everywhere. The other big hill of the run course is just as you’re coming back to swing past the Olympic oval. On this hill, there was a guy with a bullhorn, yelling at people who were walking. I told him I would run up it on the second loop (I may have lied there…). Just at the top of the hill, I finally saw my student who I had been looking for at the top of the Keene Descent earlier in the morning. I gave her a big sweaty hug, and headed on my way.
When I got to the top of the hill, I was right in front of the Olympic oval, which functions as the transition area, and the finish line. The party was raging, and I couldn’t wait to get there. But first, it was time to turn right onto Mirror Lake Drive for the next out-and-back.
Running down Mirror Lake Drive was great. The roads were lined with barricades, and the crowds were jam packed in along them. People were cheering my name everywhere (which I still found weird, but nice). Also in here, I kept bumping into several people from my tri club, most of whom were about to finish their second leg, and the entire thing. I was a bit jealous. But they bust their butts to be that fast. One day, I will too. For now, I’ll keep slogging away at the back of the pack, and having fun doing it!
I ran my way down Mirror Lake Drive, past all the crowds, tents, parties, DJ’s, and the aid station. One mile down the road, I hit the turnaround, and started back towards the oval.
Coming back down Mirror Lake Drive was awesome but hard at the same time – for no other reason than at the end of it, you either go right or left. Right to finish, left to do the loop all over again. And I had to go left.
13.1 miles to go!
I turned left and started out on loop 2. My student was nearby, and jogged along with me for a few minutes to chat, and then headed back to her friends. By now, the amount of people running was significantly less, but I was never alone. I ran out of town, past the ski jumps, down the hill, and turned left to do my second out-and-back on River Road.
The hardest part at this point was that no matter where you were on the course – even all the way out at the end of River Road – you could hear Mike Reilly echoing through the night. It was such a tease! It was starting to get dark, and I was doing obsessive race math to constantly know what was the absolute slowest I had to maintain to finish by the cutoff. At this point, I knew I could walk the rest and be just fine, so I decided to take a little walk break for a couple miles to stretch out my legs and re-energize myself. I walked from somewhere around mile 15 to somewhere around mile 18, and then it was time to go back to my run/walk system again. It was working well for me, and I was still feeling great, which was shocking. The only slightly unpleasant thing was that I knew I had a bit of chafing going on, but it was tolerable, so I just gritted my teeth and tried not to think about getting in the shower later.
By the time I got to the turnaround at the end of River Road, and mile 18.something, it was dark. At some point, someone handed me my glow necklace, which does little to help you see, but they’re still fun. I went around the cone, and started heading back towards the village. There were still several people behind me on the course, and I really wondered if some of them would make the cutoff. I was still worried about making it myself, even though I knew the math all worked out. I was paranoid.
With paranoia as my fuel, I ran as much as I could back down River Road. At one point, I passed a guy. We exchanged our hellos, and I muttered something about running because I was just trying to make sure I would make it in in time. His response was “don’t worry, you can walk and finish at this point.” It was reassuring to hear it from someone else (I never trust mental math at this point in an ironman), but I still wanted to bank as much time as I could. So I kept running.
I got to the end of River Road, and made the right to go up the hill near the ski jumps. Lo and behold, the drunk construction cone lady was STILL THERE. I would bet she hadn’t stopped cheering all day. She was awesome. As I ran past her, I gave her a high five and told her as much.
The free beer table was quiet, but there were still a few cans out. I didn’t take one (I would be drunk off one sip at this point in the day), but there didn’t seem to be many left. Clearly, it was a popular pit stop.
I got back into town, and it was time for the last uphill of the day. I didn’t really have the gas to run it (it’s pretty steep), so I walked – quickly. As soon as I crested the top, it was back to running. The crowds were amazing. The closer it gets to midnight, the crazier the party gets. People were everywhere! I passed the oval, made a right, and headed out for the out-and-back (essentially the victory lap) down Mirror Lake Drive.
Since 6:40am, I had completed 138.4 miles. I had 2.2 miles to go.
I ran down Mirror Lake Drive, got a couple high fives from some kids along the barricade, and exchanged many “congratulations” with others around me. A few minutes later, I reached the turnaround point, and the last 1.1 miles of my day.
I told myself earlier that I HAD to run the entire thing once I hit that turnaround. It was a slow run (11:03/mi pace), but at that point in the day, I felt like I was flying. Congratulations were being cheered back and forth from one runner to another, and everyone was smiling. As I approached the oval and the finish line, I could hear Mike Reilly getting louder and louder.
I reached the end of Mirror Lake Drive, and it was finally my turn to go right and enter the Olympic oval.
The crowds were amazing. The lights were blazing (which can be a bit of a shock when you’ve been out on the dark course for the last few hours), and everyone was cheering. The moment I turned and entered the oval was such an awesome feeling. The curve of the oval was laid out in front of me, just begging me to go around the corner and see the finish.
Entering the oval, I felt awesome. I was running strong, and passed three other people who had also just entered it. We exchanged congratulations, and they told me to go ahead of them. Everyone wants their own moment at the finish line, and they appeared to be waiting until no one else was coming in around them.
On the curve, I saw my support crew. I was so happy to see them.
Then it was the moment I had been working for. I rounded the last curve of the Olympic oval, and there was the finish line. It was a huge sea of people on both sides of the finish chute. Everyone was cheering, music was blaring, and somewhere in there, Mike Reilly said “Sarah, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”
(My friend took a picture of the jumbotron since they couldn’t be right at the finish.)
Run time: 5:54:35 (still slow, but significantly faster than B2B!)
Final time: 16:02:36
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was met by two catchers, who grabbed me by my elbows, wrapped me in a space blanket, put my medal around my neck, gave me a bottle of water, and steered me toward the table to get a finisher’s shirt and hat. Those ladies were efficient. After getting my medal, shirt, and hat, my one catcher stayed with me (to make sure I didn’t pass out, etc.), made sure I got some food (best watermelon EVER), and got my finishers picture taken. Once I had done all that, and she was sure I wasn’t going to fall down, she headed back to the finish line, and I headed off to find my support crew.
Just beyond the finishers area, I saw my student again. I gave her a big hug, and we chatted for a few minutes until my crew appeared. Then it was time for sweaty hugs all around.
They are the BEST!
They brought me my post-race bag, so I had a chance to change into flip flops and put on warmer clothes. When I sat down to take off my shoes, it felt so nice, I didn’t want to get back up.
They collected my bike and gear bags, and I hobbled slowly for a few blocks to get back to the car. (Come on guys, get it together! The car should be on top of the finish line!) Then it was time to head back to the hotel, shower (ow, ow, OW), and SLEEP!
So it’s been seven and a half months since Beach 2 Battleship, and since then I’ve written all of three or four blog posts. None of them have been very interesting or worth reading, really. I didn’t write much for a number of reasons. One was that after B2B, I didn’t do much training. I mostly spent my time with my friends (which was great), or eating and watching TV (which was less great). I felt so horribly gross and guilty, and I didn’t want to acknowledge that. Whenever I don’t work out regularly, I feel so guilty and like a failure. It eats away at me, and creates this downward spiral into frustration and self-loathing.
Sounds super fun.
The other thing that kept me from writing much was the divorce. Ultimately, I was the one who made the decision, and I know it was the right decision. But I was afraid to write much because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I know there are people out there who read this who may be upset if I had been writing something about being happy and spending time with friends, or eventually beginning to date again. In relationships, I am always afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. And this was no exception. But starting now, I am going to stop censoring myself. If my social life is not something you wish to know about, stop reading now.
So I am just over seven weeks away from Ironman Lake Placid, and I’m feeling slightly more optimistic about things. Since my last post, I have biked the course (just one loop so far), and managed the hills much better than I thought I would. I averaged 13.97 mph, which gives me some – not a ton – of breathing room for the first bike cutoff. And I’m sure I can improve a bit still before the race. I also did my 16 mile run yesterday and felt pretty good for most of that too. My knees and ankles got a little stiff here and there, but they worked themselves back out as long as I kept moving.
Last week I went to my tri club’s first open water swim practice of the year. Uugh. I felt like crap. I have been neglecting the swim, and it showed. I know I’ll be okay on race day, but that was one crappy OWS. I think part of it was the typical “first OWS of the year” nerves, and then on top of that, I was getting very dizzy. I didn’t know what that was about until later. But then I learned that’s pretty common when swimming in cold water without earplugs. So next time I’ll try those.
So what’s next?
Next week I’ve got a 75 mile bike (hopefully), and an 18 mile run. Hopefully I’ll get to OWS practice and things will be better with the earplugs. I still have a few weeks to make some improvements, and I’m feeling more and more like that might actually be possible. So that’s good.