Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wrapping up a Loose End Before the End of the Year--Polar Bear Results

Polar Bear results are posted and my blissfully ignorant "I think I did OK" is now "I wonder who just totally kicked my bootay all over the missile range?"

Sarah Crewe.
That's who.

I have no idea if this is the same Sarah Crewe mentioned in Don Fink's training book: "Be Iron-Fit: Time-Efficient Training Secrets for Ultimate Fitness."

Or, if this is the same Sarah Crewe with a sub 12 hour Ironman under her belt, and multiple Ironman results, including Lanzarote, Florida, and Placid.

Unfortunately, the Polar Bear results lack splits.
I came in 7th of 30 females overall, second in my age group, with a grievous mid-winter run, and a 20+ mph bike under windy conditions.
Sarah Crewe was 1st female overall, and first in my age group.
Yeay to my age group!

I would have dearly liked to see her bike split, as she was 3.5 minutes faster than me on the run, but 9 minutes faster overall. With a 5:32 IM bike, (if this is the same Sarah) then Sarah can ride a bike.
Plus, she uses a disc.
When will I ever learn?

I can see that Sarah Crewe has been showing up at the local races: Ruidoso and Santa Fe--all races I didn't do this year.

Whether or not.
Sarah of the IM results or a new face in the crowd.
Hats off.
Welcome to the neighborhood.

Monday, December 15, 2008

36 degree early morning temps with a predicted 20 mph wind...

T and I signed up for the Polar Bear triathlon before we knew it was actually going to live up to it's name and be a truly COLD race.

We signed up for it because we had earned a year end award for the Southwest Challenge Series (SWCS), and the awards banquet was going take place right after the Polar Bear race. The dedicated SW Challenge administrators (Flip, Mark B, Mariana, John and his wife) put a lot of time into the awards and food, and we felt if they were going to make the effort on their end, then we were going to make the effort to be there.

Each year, I kind of wonder why I sign up for a race in the middle of winter. I say "kind of wonder" because it's a legitimate thought that just barely makes it to the surface of my awareness before getting steamrolled by years of habit and thoughtless race commitments.

Thoughtlessly and based on habit, I signed up for this race in November, when I was a month out from my final '08 race and squarely ensconced in the "off-season."

A month off from triathlon training colors all things triathlon with a rosy glow.

I spent a few more weeks doing nothing and feeling invincible. After all, I was the '08 SWCS champion for my age group, so I must be doing OK.

Two weeks before the race, I started to get a niggle of worry.

From the depths of my not very attentive brain, I started to remember how difficult the race had been the year before. In particular, one memory stood out--me coming off the bike, fumbling through transition with virtually nothing left, feeling overcooked and feverish, holding onto my goggles and barely moving toward the pool, then looking up into the eyes of the number one guy, as he encouraged me--and how embarrassed I felt. I didn't include that moment in my race report, but I did include memories of how sore my muscles were after the race, and how ill prepared I was.

Flash back to 2003, when I had a very up and down year, and T named my training efforts, "The Eight Day Training Plan." That was the year I met Bones, who took me under his wing--and I believe it was the following year that TriTeam Southwest was formed, which eventually morphed into our current Outlaws triathlon team. In 2003 everything triathlon just seemed so hard. I couldn't run three miles hard without feeling wiped out, and I certainly couldn't swim. T was gone at the time and I had a hard time focusing on training but I still, somehow, made it to 6 races that year--all due in part to my 8 day training plan. This plan consisted of procrastinating for as long as possible, than galvanized by the specter of totally making a fool of myself, squeezing in a few key workouts before the impending event...

It was this memory that cropped up as the Polar Bear neared, and I realized I had done virtually no training, except for the very occasional run, since the Longhorn 70.3 on October 5th. My memory of the Eight Day Training Plan gave me some confidence--despite the fact that I also remembered how hard those races were. I had done it before, I could do it again.

Here's a brief summary of my calendar entries for the month before the Polar Bear race:

Week of Nov. 16: 2 days "Sickish," 2 days of rock climbing, 3 days of "no exercise."
Week of Nov. 23: 2 days "short run", 3 days "no exercise," 2 days of Thanksgiving hullaballoo.
Week of Nov. 30: 3 days of "headache," 3 days of "no exercise," 1 day of rock climbing
Week of Dec. 7th: This is where my EIGHT DAY TRAINING PROGRAM kicked in: 7-mile run, 29-mile bike ride, 1500-yard swim, 3-mile run, 1 hour indoor trainer ride, 2 days of rest, then RACE DAY.

Unfortunately, I can't report on how I did, because the results are still not up. However, I felt pretty good throughout the race--turned in a decent run, caught a bazillion on a very windy bike (OK-maybe only 20, since not that many people did the race), and didn't panic in the swim.

The best indicator of how my fitness has improved over the past year? Not one iota of muscle soreness, except in the back of my neck, from not being used to the aero bike position. The race was a 5k run, 40k (25 mile) bike, and 400 yard swim, and I finished in 1:59+, second in my AG. I'm sure when I see my times, I'll wish I had gone faster, but I right now I feel pretty good about the ability to push my limits--especially with the kind of prep I had.

Now, it's firmly back to the off-season for me--especially since its snowing outside right now...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cyclocross State Championship racing

On the way out the door this morning, for the State Championship Cyclocross race at Polk middle school, T almost didn't take his second bike. But since he's finished two races on his pit bike this year, and Murphy's law seems to be a theme for this season, he decided to bring it along.

Lucky for him, he didn't need it--except as a warm up on the mud, sand, and grass course. A clean bike is a faster bike, and when the sprinklers are on the night before (at this time of year?) it's nice to warm up on your 'other' bike, and save the real deal for the race. Apparently, the sprinkler water froze in the night, and the early racers had to race on icy grass. By the time T started, the ice had melted and the grass was wet. Riding through wet grass, then into a sand pit makes for an awfully dirty bike...

When I asked him if Murphy's Law came into effect today (since it has been a season of such) he said, "Oh no, but I over cooked a bunch of corners because I forgot my prescription glasses and I couldn't judge the distance." He ended up getting the course marking tape tangled up in his handlebars twice, lost momentum, and probably lost a couple of places, too.

In the end, he placed 5th in his Age Group.
Most of all, though, "it was just fun!"

Now it's time to put up the cyclocross bike (although sometimes it doubles as a commuter), and start studying for finals (T, not me, thank goodness!). The way law school works is that they give you a whole semester of education, then one "high stakes" test at the end, for each course. I expect T's nose will be buried in books for the next two weeks....

I, on the other had, will be writing cards, mailing out packages, and trying to think of the best present ever (!) for T and my sister.

After all the end-of-year fuss is over, we are both dreaming of a warm weather vacation...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Riding Circles in the Sand

Murphy's Law reigns again.

There was a giant hole on the left side of the start line.
It was a ditch.
Hidden by a small berm.
When the gun went off, so did T.
Full speed ahead.
Then a frantic sudden hard-as-nails braking to a sudden stop just short of the ditch.
Leaving T in last place.
Not the best way to start a race.

It was a race of ditches.
Another ditch was not quite small enough to bunny hop, but not wide enough to ride easily. One foot drop off, two foot width, one foot rise. T hit this one full speed ahead, endo'd, came out of the pedals, and somehow landed on his feet running while his bike got left in the ditch. He said later at one point he saw 3 out of 4 riders go over their bars there. Eventually people just started hopping off their bikes and running it.

On lap three T got a flat.
Kind of the theme for this years 'cross season.
He finished the lap, grabbed his pit bike, worked hard, and ended up something like 14 places out of the money.
Not even a point-is-a-point-is-a-point (thanks DC) for this race.
But, as always, he had fun, "Riding circles in the sand at the Bosque school."

Next week is San Francisco for Thanksgiving and family, then the following week is the cyclocross state championships.

Tomorrow we're taking a break for some non-aerobic fun, rock climbing and cheering on the Outlaws at IMAZ.

Go everyone!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cyclecross and a Veterans Day Salute

Last weekend was a double header for T: A cyclocross race Saturday at Mesa Del Sol, followed on Sunday by a race in Santa Fe.
Even though it is the off-season, T puts out more excitement and verve for 'cross than he does for anything else.
As he puts it, "It's the most fun you'll ever have on a bicycle."
Although this year, his 'cross efforts are sharing the stage with our re-budding rock climbing skills, as well as jockeying side by side with school, life, and all that jazz....

Cyclocross racing is a little different than triathlon. Due to the nature of the beast, T always brings a second bicycle which he leaves in "the pit," a designated zone for changing bikes and wheels.

For the Mesa del Sol race, he pre-rode the course on his pit bike--and his pedals broke, allowing him to still clip in, but only if the pedals were in a certain position. Still, he placed the bike in the pit as a back up. On lap two of the race, he flatted and rode the entire 3rd lap with a flat. Here is the race in his own words:

"I flatted on lap two, rode the third lap with a flat, lost two positions, switched bikes in the pit, immediately made up two positions, crashed in a loose, sandy corner because my tire pressure was too high (it's the bike he uses for commuting), lost two positions, kept crashing and had a hard time clipping in while racing, barely hung on, and finished in 10th place--just inside the points."

With all of that, he actually did not finish last.
And, gained a point for the series.
Pretty big effort, if you ask me.

The next day, we drove up to Santa Fe for a late starting race at Fort Marcy.

As T was getting ready for warm up, we heard that a Veterans Day parade was about to start just up the street.

Since I had already planned on going for a short run before settling in to watch the race, I ran out to take a look.

This was the start of the parade.

I loved it's homegrown nature.

That was one heck of an organized fire crew.

The veterans bring tears to my eyes, for the stories they carry inside and the paths of their lives. Through work, I met one man who spanned 3 wars. He was 99 years old and had lied about his age as a teenager. He remembered the kindesses of an enemy boy who saved his life. Another spoke of hand to hand combat--and had bayonet scars to show for it. So many. WWII, the Bataan Death March, Vietnam, Korea, the Gulf and current war.

When T was gone, I received a home quilted Blue Star from the local chapter. For some reason it meant a lot to me, I think because of the historical context, the significance and recognition of family, as well as the link to so many others who knew what it felt like to have someone in combat. That blue star still hangs in T's study. It's a bit hidden, so I don't even know if he knows it is there...

This was my favorite. My camera stuck so, unfortunately, I didn't get the whole group.

I didn't know the police had a 'vette. Now, who do you suppose gets to drive that?

The end of the parade.

After the parade, I went for a short run, then settled in to watch T in action. This was the first cyclocross race to be hosted in Santa Fe. A lot of new and fast faces showed up. The competition was deeper than usual, the racing was hard, but the course was "really fun." This year, the race was a shot at a new venue, but, already, the Santa Fe Police Department has volunteered to sponsor the race for next year.

T leading a chase pack

Snaking through an S-curve in the dirt.

Taking it up the steps

Gaining speed and getting ready to jump onto the bike

A tired T at the finish.

T's comment at the end of the weekend was "that was an awful lot of effort for one measly point, but that was fun."

He's getting ready for another double header next week, one under the full moon in Tijeras, the other at The Academy. Meanwhile, we'll be hitting the climbing gym, and, oh yeah...more yoga!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How to Be Competitive At Yoga

Yesterday, T and I decided to try a yoga class.

The yoga class came as an extra benefit for membership at the local rock climbing gym.

Since I am up for anything that is "extra benefit," and since we were planning on going to the rock gym anyway, we decided to give it a whirl.

When we got there, the gym was REALLY crowded. It looked like there were about 100 people. Every wall was taken except for the really hard stuff. The really hard stuff, is REALLY HARD, and has climbs where you hang up side down and traverse upside down under and across the roof of the gym--but even that had some people on it.

T and I were the only ones to show up for the yoga class.

The yoga room was brightly lit, compared to the relative dimness in the rock gym, and had a sheer glass wall (not "window", but wall) , that allowed for a very clear view, so that T and I felt just a wee bit exposed.

We told the teacher we were beginners.

So in this bright, bare room, with the floor to ceiling glass wall, and nowhere to hide, she was kind enough to give us a private class.

Let me tell you, that stuff is hard.

After the warm up sequence (in which I realized I wasn't limber at all), she had us stand in "mountain", "tree" or "stork" pose. I don't know which one it was, but we had to stand on one leg, while reaching over head.

I was thankful that I still have good balance from my younger days as a gymnast, and my current work, in which I stand on one leg all the time.

We stood in this one-legged pose for a while.

I was proud of T, who was standing next to me, and who I could sense was keeping good balance.

A year or so ago, I had told him that people start losing their balance sense in their 40's or 50's. He had quietly taken this to heart, spent time challenging his balance, and had made some noticeable improvements.

Now, in this yoga class, his balance homework was carrying over and paying off.

At first it was OK.
Then, my leg muscles started to feel a little tired.
Then I began to wobble a bit and had to make corrections.
Then my calf started to burn and I wondered if I was going to be able to climb after yoga.
We kept holding the pose.
And I mean for a long time.
Talk about Feel The Burn.

And then we FINALLY got to stop.
So we could do it all over again on the other leg.
I thought, "There is no way I am going climbing after this."

When we done, we politely asked the teacher how long she holds these poses. Her reply was, "For as long as people can hold them without losing their balance."

But we're beginners.

The problem, we realized later, is that T and I are both competitive people, plus we like to rise to the challenge. When someone gives us a challenge, we'll do everything we can to be as good as possible. So both of us attempted to stand on one leg for as long as we could--waiting for the teacher to call it--while she was waiting for one of us to lose our balance.
Whew! Was I thankful when she finally called it.
Were my legs POOPED!!!

We did end up climbing afterwards, but it was a short session.

I didn't like the yoga and thought it was hard and uncomfortable--which means I should probably keep doing it.
T liked it.
As T puts it, "Once a week is enough."
So, he is dragging me back next week....

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Longhorn 70.3 in Photos

This is how we got ready for the race:

Mr. T carbo-loading on blueberry, strawberry, and walnut pancakes in the parking lot adjacent to the sponsoring Jack and Adams bicycle shop, the day before the race.

Then, we went for a swim in the local spring. Notice how clear the water is. It's a sinkhole, home to a rare, endemic newt, 68 degrees year 'round, and about 300 meters long. Very refreshing on an Austin summer day...
This is how we finished the race. Those are my shoes covered in muddy dust. We were given burritos with pico de gallo, red chile, and chile verde salsa, beer, a tall Longhorn water bottle, and Pickle Juice ("for the cramps"). Dessert was mint chip ice cream.

In between, the race looked like this:

T exiting the swim with a lot of helping hands.

Each of us on the bike.

T enjoying the run.

Life is sweet...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Off-Season Sport Climbing at Jack's

More fun.

Another weekend at Jack's.

This time we had a new moon, flanked by off set planets on either side (which could have been Venus, Jupiter or Mars)--then as the sun set completely, a few hundred million stars.

In contrast to our previous weekend, there were other climbers--from Alaska, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and, of course, Arizona.

Dierdre Burton was there, one of the original route setters in the mid-90's.

We took it easy, yet pushed our limits.

On the second day, we actually got up early to make the most of our second day--and were the first one's into the canyon. VERY uncharacteristic of us.

We're regaining some of our former climbing ability.

This weekend included the following grades: 8(2), 9(1), 10a(3), 10+(4), and two 12a's for Mr T.
The climbs were steeper, edgier, with smaller crimps, more balance, smears, and power.

In comparison, our first weekend had softer grades: 6(1), 9(3), 10a(4), 10+(1), and a 10a, and 11c for T.

The highlight of my weekend was Dealers Choice, a thin 10c with a tips only layback at the bottom and which was my first 10+ clean in years.

The low lights included hanging on Genesis under the high roof and not getting the sequence for the second time, despite kibitzing from T, as well as the gusty high winds on the second day that blew dried seared leaves and dust in swirls around my eyes. (The canyon was very dry this year, and the vegetation looked like it had been crisped in an oven...)

T's highlight was working the 12's, especially Genocide (next to Genesis), his first 12's outside of the gym in years.

There were no lowlights for T.

Route Roll Call:

Second Weekend (November 1-2):
Fistful of Dollars 10a
Dealers Choice 10c--(clean for me)
Slots Full of Fun 10a
Edge Your Bets 9a
Genesis 10c/d (1 hang)
(Genocide 12a--T on TR, fun)
Last Episode 10d

Jackpot 5.8
Unnamed 10a
Total Lack of Jack 10c
(Jacking for Change 12a--T clipstick lead, then TR; sharp, steep with reachy bulge)

First weekend (October 16-17)
Progressive Slots 5.6
Unnamed 5.9
Fistful of Dollars 10a
Sports Book 10a
Genesis 10c/d (2 hangs)
Blackened 10a
(One Armed Bandit 10a--T rapped due to worn anchors)

Edge Your Bets 9
Slots Full of Fun 10a
You Don't Know Jack-- 9
(Jack the Gripper 11c--T clipstick lead)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Bisbee 1000

Running up 1034 steps.
Against the clock.
Just for the fun of it.

That's what T and I did last Saturday.

It all started with our annual 4-day Fall Break rock climbing trip......

Many years ago, T and I started out as climbing partners--T at the "rock royalty" level, myself at the "I'm just trying to figure out which end of the rope I'm supposed to use--it's the 'sharp' end, right?"

When I wasn't too busy studying for an exam, and when T was in-between climbing with all manner of cute girls from the gym--we would hold the rope for each other, and go on weekend trips around NM, AZ, CO, NV, and TX.

Since those days, we've migrated into the world of triathlon, but rock climbing has always been there, a simmering desire on the back burner playing second fiddle to our triathlon training. In fact, we haven't really been rock climbing in 3 years, except for a few sporadic climbing sessions and at least one annual trip. Climbing, like triathlon, takes consistent focus and training. We've missed our weekend trips, but haven't pursued the skill it takes, or taken the time, to really be good again.

This year we tried, once again, to tap into fall season rock climbing.
And for some reason, this year, it stuck.

Reveling in the freedom of the off season, we finished our last big tri-effort (Longhorn 70.3), took 3 days to recover (GI issues, sore muscles and all), and then Thursday, less than a week after the Longhorn race, went on our first rock climbing foray to the climbing gym in almost a year.

We had to get re-acquainted with the gym environment (now much more crowded than it was several years ago), our equipment, new people, finding different muscles, and using our bodies in an unaccustomed way.

We saw several old friends and familiar faces.

We had a great time.
And were pretty sore the next day.

Feeling like Newbies, we decided to go to Jack's canyon for a long weekend of relatively easy, fun Arizona rock. We returned to the gym 2 more times, climbing progressively higher grades, then, one week after our first foray to the gym and 10 days after Longhorn, we left Wednesday night for Arizona.

Two days before the trip, I happened to glance at a magazine and saw a brief description of a running event in Bisbee, Arizona. The description went like this:

"Climb a Thousand Steps.
Put your quads to the test by entering the Bisbee 1000 stair climb. The race honors the heritage of the small Old West mining town east of Tucson--the stairs, built during the Depression by the WPA, follow old mule paths that once connected Bisbee's copper mines. The run is 5K and climbs 1034 steps and a few steep roads."

Since we were planning on being in Arizona, we didn't think twice.
"Looks like fun."
"We aren't strong enough to climb more than 2 days in a row anyways."
"Look, it says "historic" and it's about a WPA project."
"Lets bring our running gear, and see how we feel..."

And so we brought our run gear...

Jack's was absolutely beautiful and eerily deserted.
We were the only ones there--first time that has ever happened.
The full moon was gorgeous.
We picked a site, camped, and climbed for two days
Mostly 5.10, which was a grade or two higher than I had been practicing in the gym.
Two days was enough.

1. T at the top of a 5.11c ......... 2. Abseiling the climb (on rappel)

On the second day, as we headed out of the canyon, we ran into one other party who had just arrived. Turned out to be climbing friend "D" from NM, from days long past. Small world.

We then drove to Bisbee, about 5 hours across the state, near the southern border of Arizona.

Bisbee is a cute, historic copper mining town built into the side of Mule Mountain. Population: ~ 6000; Elevation: ~ 5530'
In the early 1900's Bisbee was the largest city in the Southwest between St. Louis and San Francisco with about 20,000 people.

We camped overnight, then arrived early for 7 am race day registration at the courthouse. By the end of registration there were almost 1500 people signed up; last year there were less than 800.

Town business was still pretty much closed so we hiked up the street for a Circle K coffee and egg muffin breakfast.

The run start was to the right (downhill) of the Ironman statue. T and I started up front, in the first wave, to avoid getting caught behind the walkers. Last year, there had been waits of up to five minutes at the bottom of the stairs due to the bottle necking of so many participants. Since everyone wanted to get to the stairs first, and the run started on a downhill going into a turn, the start was a bit of a wild free-for-all. You had to have your wits about you, and watch for flailing feet and arms. One person tripped and went down hard less than 50' from the start. T was elbowed hard enough to cause a charlie-horse for several days by "a large, chubby woman who looked like she shouldn't have been in the front anyway..."

By the time we got to the first set of stairs, T had disappeared off the front, and I was bordering on anaerobic due to the fast start and being swept downhill by the get-to-the-stairs-first fervor. T says he ran up the first steps without feeling a thing. I, on the other hand, attempted to run, but quickly backed off due to the feeling that I was pushing my max, and was probably going to kill myself. This feeling persisted throughout the entire event. I don't think my heart and lungs have ever worked so hard. After I got to the top of the first set of steps, I thought, "I can't believe there are still 8 more to go. I am never going to make it." The thought of running 5K up these stairs made the distance seem like an eternity. In fact, I was breathing so hard, I could do no more than walk up the remaining 8 flights, gulping oxygen and with occasional thoughts of what if my heart can't take this?
The course took us all around Bisbee, up steps, and down curvy roads, along main street, and through some kind of factory. After the 7th flight, we had a longish road run to the back of a valley, which should have allowed recovery and a resumption of pace, but which neither T nor I were able to take advantage of. My finish was characterized by passing two women who could have been in my age group, than pouring on the 'speed', as best I could up the last 2 flights of steps, to keep them behind me. T's finish was notable for being passed by a 13 year old boy just as he was flying downhill into the finish. The boy came up to about T's rib cage and he was being coached by a paternal figure who kept yelling "Get him! Get him!"

We had thought of the run as a fun way to see Bisbee, but neither T nor I remember much except for looking at the steps right in front of us. There was live music situated in drive ways and decks along the steps and lots of people cheering us on, just by stepping outside of their houses. The finish was a whole lot of fun, free samples of Xood, energy drinks, wine tasting, and cheese, crackers, bread, and meat tasting. While waiting for the awards, we stopped into the Made in Bisbee Marketplace for shredded beef burritos and tamales, and watched the Ice Man competition, which honors the history of the men who delivered ice before there was refrigeration, by having competitors climb 155 steps while carrying a 10 pound block of ice using antique metal tongs.

Despite how difficult the race felt, T finished 2nd out of 43 in his AG, in 37:40, earning himself some hardware and a spot on the podium with Smokey the Bear.

I finished 7th out of 69 AG in 48:44.

To give you an idea of how hard this 5K is, the fastest time was 29:48.
To give you an idea of the versatility this race attracts, the youngest competitor was 6 and the oldest 83.
As for talent? I was awed by Bobby Widhalm, who at 69 years young, completed the course in 40:08, and Don Branaman, at 70, winning his age group in 44:56

All in all, we had a great weekend, driving 1100 miles in 3 days, climbing, camping, and racing. The run was a huge effort, but a whole lot of fun, and we're thinking of going back.

In closing, here is an image of T perusing a rock wall....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Longhorn 70.3--after the race....

T and I got back to the normal routine of things on the day after the race--stumping around at work on a level of soreness that T called "Worse than moderate," and that I defined as "Moderate?! I can't @#k&* move!"

I spent the day in a way that no one who has that kind of muscle pain should have to do, crawling around on my knees, stooping, kneeling, smiling and swallowing my "ooufs"--jealous of a fellow co-worker who had done the Xterra Championship race in Nevada the same day, and who had wisely taken Monday off...

Monday afternoon my tummy felt a little off and by that evening I was sure I had picked up some kind of food poisoning from workplace cafeteria food. A miserable night followed.

Then a miserable day.

Another miserable night.

And another miserable day.

Epidermal hypersensitivity.

Almost no food intake--a little broth, instant mashed potatoes, half a banana.

No one else at work had a miserable tummy, so on the second day it dawned on me that I might be ill from the water I had swallowed in the lake during my pre-race practice swim on Saturday.

It did cross my mind that I might have gotten ill from Austin tap water--which tasted like dirt and algae--just not quite as strong as the lake water, but nearly so--then realized that T wasn't sick. Only I.

I was sick through Wednesday. Fortunately, my tummy cleared on Thursday--the same day my legs finally felt good enough to allow T and I to truly start our "off" season with our first rock climbing session in almost a year.

After that, T and I were pretty much recovered--just continuing to allow ourselves to completely lose all muscle fatigue and regain our desire. 8 days after the race, the following Monday, I went for my first run, a brisk, at-tempo 5 miler, that felt fresh in a way I hadn't felt for some time. Triathlon training doesn't leave much time for "fresh, fully recovered legs" running, but this run felt just like that. It brought back the fun and made me look forward to more.

The bad part of this recovery was the several nights without sleep (unhappy tummy nights) combined with the poor nutritonal intake for several days after a big race effort for a definite double whammy to my system.

The good part is that I took off a few pounds--allowing me to feel confidant about fitting into my costume (built around a $3 find at the Kaimuki Goodwill a few years ago) for the upcoming Halloween bash in 2 weeks.

The moral of the story is be cautious when it comes to drinking Austin water--whether from a lake or the tap (it really did taste bad).

Walter E. Long Lake aka Decker Lake, Austin, TX

Monday, October 6, 2008

Austin in a Weekend: The Longhorn Ironman 70.3

This was our PLAN:

Thursday: Work until 5, drive as far as possible, spend night on the road.
Friday: Wake early, finish drive, start pre-race check-in-drop-off-race-course-preview busy-ness.
Saturday: Finish pre-race check-in-drop-off-race-course-preview busy-ness--THEN get race gear ready.
Sunday: Pre-race rigamarole, RACE, drive as far as possible, spend night on the road.
Monday: Wake early, finish drive, then go to work.

Kind of like taking the red-eye Sunday night, back from Hawaii, so you can get to work on time in NM on Monday morning.

OR, kind of like a whirlwind race weekend--only with a 70.3 thrown in and a destination in another state...

This is what WE GOT:
A deep blue quiet night on the edge of a lake, complete with Milky Way and the distant light of large trucks.
A city with wall to wall traffic--even during non-commute hours.
A blueberry, walnut, and strawberry pancake breakfast--hand cooked in individual skillets--with like minded pre-race focused tri-athletes
A cool swim in a 300 yard long crystal blue sink-hole--chill enough to take your breath away, but refreshing on a warm 94 degree day.
A drive by Mellow Johnnies and Juan Pelota.
The Whole Foods mothership. Man--that was a LARGE and temptacious store.
A race day saved by partially cloudy conditions.
Pleasant lake water that you could actually see your feet through.
A run course that caused both of us to dig deep.
Some new PR's.
And a TON of cool schwag--including race towel, long sleeve tech T, mesh hat, pound of coffee (each), swim bag, race nutrition samples (notice the pleural), almond butter and sunscreen samples, the ever-present Longhorn water bottles, AND
burritos, tacos, beer, and ice cream.

Getting lost.
Downtown traffic.
Lightning from one side of the sky to the other, and non-visibility conditions.
4 hours of sleep, followed by a 4 am alarm, and the mesmerizing sameness of the open road.
Sore, SORE muscles--the kind where you can't take a step, much less get into and out of the car without groaning....

Fun. In spite of it all.

AND, the happy surprise of seeing an Outlaw uniform on the course (even if you did call the guy by the wrong name, so he didn't even know you were there...)

The magic of the swim was me JUST DOING IT.

A bit of a big deal, because I was sure I was going to DNF, but secretly hoping I wouldn't.

T was so concerned for me, that the first thing we did when we got to Austin--during the afternoon commute traffic hour--was seek out the lake, so we could jump in and check out my panic factor.

It was pretty much a given that the water would be too warm for wetsuits, same as the year before. But when we got in the water, the coolness of the water didn't jive with the 88 degree temps noted for the week before. We did a small out-to-the-buoy-and-back swim in which I felt fine, and we exited ready to get to check in. It wasn't until the next day practice swim, when the wind came up, and I swallowed water, then went into a panic and had to hang on a buoy, that I became concerned about another DNF.

I hung on that buoy (200 yards off shore) and wondered if a boat could come out and rescue me.
I started envisioning how when I got old, that I would look back and remember all these DNF's.
I started making plans for my future in meditation and yogic body control.
T hung with me and stabilized the buoy, especially when I yelped, "Why is it moving?"
He said, "Because it's not anchored," so I promptly envisioned floating further out into the lake while hyperventilating and clutching this bobbing, floating, slippery, uncontrollable object that I had THOUGHT was put there for my own safety.
It was a bit disconcerting to look up and see all the super-fit, lean, shaven athletes congregating on the shore for their practice swim.

Fortunately, I was able to get my breathing under control and swim easily back to shore (so no boat needed), but my confidence was beat up.

T decided to bring the wetsuits on the chance of a chance that it might be wetsuit legal--and at the last minute, word came down that the lake was 77.8 degrees. Phew! What a way to save my sorry, sinking, non-swimmer swim.

Still I was concerned.

DNF'ing a large race doesn't go away easily, and I'm obviously still traumatized by the DNF in Idaho (even if T does tell me that Idaho was the "perfect storm" of cold, wind chop, and noisy, overstimulating conditions).

But the EndorFun way of doing the race just made everything so easy, casual, and yet, really well organized. Which kept me relaxed. And made it a whole lot easier for me, then being corralled in a pen and being limited on my warm up....

As per Ironman 70.3 organization, my wave started after the pro men and women, and the 50 plus men. Once again, I got lucky, as the swim course was changed to allow the initial swim leg to parallel the shore. I knew this would give me confidence and allow me to warm up and get going before the middle of the lake swim started. My plan was to step into the lake and start all the way to the right, so as to avoid the pack, and be closer to the shoreline. Seems like most of the women had the same plan also. Instead of being out to the side and isolated, I ended up standing in a large group--so I quickly made my way back toward the shore, and waited for the pack to go without me.

You feel pretty exposed when you're the only one standing in the shallow water, as your age group peeps swim away from you, and there are at least 2000, if not more, people standing behind you on shore--all looking at your back and feeling sorry for you...

This is what happens when you wait for everyone else to swim first.
That nice clear water gets churned into a brown muddy mess.
All the plant life growing on the lake bottom gets broken off and you end up somewhat clawing through large handfuls of floating greenery.
The kayakers think you don't know where you're going and try to herd you onto the main swim path, which you are emphatically trying to avoid.
Since you are the only swimmer, you can hear what's going on around you--and suddenly you hear this ever-growing wall of noise, as the 35 -39 year old men come charging (swimming) from behind.
Near panic sets in as the noise grows louder.
I made a hard turn to the right to get out of the path of the focused, PR seeking men, then asked a kayaker if he could paddle along next to me "not too close" for a little while.
How nice to have my own guardian angel in a red kayak.

By the first buoy turn, I was comfortable enough to pick up the pace.
By the second buoy turn, I got too warm in my wetsuit.
But, voila, it was a triangular course, so at this point I just finished up the swim, and got the heck out of dodge...i.e., I ran up the long grassy hill to transition.

Since T and I hadn't previewed the course, I had no idea where I was going.
Rolling hills to start, followed by stretches of relatively flat, curving road.
Wind. Lots of it.
Bumps and cracks everywhere.
The bike course was crowded. 2000 participants.
You had to have good bike handling skills and be polite at a fairly high rate of speed, while trying not to draft.
Lots of chatter to let people know where you were in relation to them, since there was so much passing going on.
Eyes focused on the bikes constantly jockeying for position around you, and not the surrounding countryside--which could have been pretty, but I never noticed.
I received the comment: "N! I guess we're going to get to know each other, since we're passing each other so d*mn much!" (Our names were on our bibs).
My problem was that I would slow down on the uphills, than regain speed on the downhills.
That bike course just seemed to go on forever.
I literally wanted to fall asleep on the bike.
I felt like I couldn't keep my eyes open.
A reflection of the sleep deprivation I obviously had.
By mile 40 I had a thought which I have never had before in a race, "Just get me off this d*** bike."
The last section went hilly again, which was just plain cruel and tortuous.
But I survived it with a 2:57 PR--wind, hills, sleep deprivation and all.
Which, what with all the wind, hills, sleep deprivation and all, probably meant I had gone out too hard...

The RUN:
A hilly and unaesthetic course.
By the second mile I knew it wasn't going to be a good run.
I felt encased in a sticky, sweaty layer that wouldn't let my skin breath.
Elvis, Batman, the Joker, and the Pusherman lightened the day.
The Pusherman made me laugh, by whispering sweet enticements into my ear--which meant, obviously, that I was walking.
But it was a good laugh.
The 12 bands advertised turned out to be 5 or 6 bands, but each was welcome, and I wished there were more.
I poured ice down my shirt and under my run hat. Sponges for each shoulder and the back of the neck. Water, Gatorade, Coke. 3 gels.
Eventually, I did another first. I walked for several short distances.
The downhill into the bat-zone was too painful for my sore quads.
Funny enough, I actually ran the Quadzilla hill.
On the second lap, when I asked someone the time, I realized that I had a slim chance for a PR, so suddenly, and from somewhere deep, I picked up the pace, up the hill, through the dry, dusty forest, and around the corner to the finishing chute. I have no idea how I was able to run so fast for that last 1.5 miles, and conversely, why I had been running so slow previously.
My finish was a PR by 7 minutes.
Just think, I could have jogged in that last mile, and still PR'd.

What a painful day.

The after race festivities were characterized by live music, lots of food, a lot of wandering around, and a previously grassy transition area now turned to dust.

When we were ready to pack up, we found that the roads were still closed for the final racers, and the shuttle buses weren't going to start running until 5 pm. This meant we had a 3/4's of a mile walk to get to the truck.

Since my quads were so sore, I was happier to walk than ride my bike.

At the truck we did a quick clothing change, packed up, and headed out of town.
Our drive was delayed by a HUGE lightning storm with downpour conditions between Fort Stockton and Sheffield in Texas.
By midnight, we were in NM, setting our alarms for 4 am, and laying down for a few hours sleep in the deep quiet by Brantley Lake.
Daylight brought another few hours of driving, and a happy arrival at home.

What a weekend.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cotton Country Sprint

Sam McGlone is a pro triathlete I admire. She's a long-course racer. She came to my attention at the Honu 2007, the most recent year that T and I did the race--and the year she chose to jump up to the full IM distance after her impressive 70.3 wins, including the 2006 70.3 championship in Clearwater, Florida, which qualified her for Kona in '07.

In the 2008 October issue of Triathlete magazine, Sam wrote about the difference between pros and the "average Joe" triathlete: "A common problem among triathletes is training way too much and not racing enough."

This sentence jumped out at me.

Earlier this year I mixed up my season by taking a 3 month hiatus from racing, with only a fairly recent return to the circuit. I tend to train long, as this is the most comfortable distance for me. But starting in August, I've been sprinkling in some weekend sprint competitions--with progressively improving results. I've never been good at threshold efforts--they hurt too much, and my threshold is disappointingly slow--but these sprint races have served a purpose and challenged my capacity. Sam's words have helped me to realize that rather than wallowing in the self-absorption of my points standing in the SW Challenge series, these races have built on my early season base, extended my skill level, and touched up my speed. I have never been a "sprint" type athlete, but coupled with the external reward of placing on the podium, and the internal reward of pushing my limits, I now call these weekend forays, "fun" (whodathunk?), functional and applied interval training.

Yesterday, T and I decided to drive south to Levelland, Texas for the SPC Cotton Country Sprint Triathlon: 5K run, 13 mile bike, 300 yard pool swim. Since I work until 5 pm, and the drive is 308 miles, we broke up the distance by spending the night in Clovis (clean, new, unused (!) Comfort Inn), got up early, and finished the final 87 miles by watching a pastel sunrise across wide open Texas fields of cotton.

Cotton Country is a small race, which has grown every year to now having about 100 participants. T and I registered in a matter of minutes, set up our transitions, had about 20 minutes for warm up, then gathered in the street to get ready for the start. I hadn't recognized any of the 3 (!) names listed in my age group category, but one of the women happened to announce her age loudly while we were waiting at the start line, so I immediately honed in and marked her as someone to keep an eye on.

The Run:
The men started two minutes in front of us.

Due to my generally poor running performance, I seeded myself at the back of the pack, started at a steady pace, then found my stride and gradually made my way up to the 4th place position--right behind the woman who had identified herself as my competition. She ran well, and kept me on the edge. Another young, blonde woman passed me, and she and my competition spent the next two miles testing each other and surging ahead--which meant I spent my run playing keep-up and hoping I wasn't going out too hard.

Since the run is an out and back course, and the men started two minutes in front of us, we could see the men on the return as we headed for the turn-around. Bobby Gonzales looked up at me as he came flying by. T says that I was breathing so loud he could hear me across the road. He couldn't hear anyone else. Was I making such a ruckus that I disturbed Bobby's run concentration? I was merely trying to make sure I had enough oxygen, but probably sounded like I was drawing my last gasp.

The two women kept up the pace, but at 2 miles started to flag, and definitelylooked tired when they picked up water at the aid station. I went by without pausing for a drink, still worried that I was over doing it, and expected them to match me, but they fell off the back. Instead two other women passed me, neatly, like I was running my standard slow slog. Still, I managed to keep up the pace, reduce the damage, and pass one in transition, while the other disappeared--probably a team. Cotton Country doesn't take splits. I finished 5th on the run. A rough estimate of my time was 26:50, on a course that Muffin thought was longer than 3.1 miles.

The Bike:
The bike was well protected this year, including the turn-around which had both a volunteer and police officer. Even the sandy corner had been swept--or just hadn't gathered sand this year. The course felt a whole lot safer, even if the large trucks on the road certainly had no idea what we were doing...

After reviewing two race reports, 2007 and 2006, I thought I was going to fun on the bike with one humdinger of a tail wind. Instead we had a crosswind, so that after working hard to get to the turnaround and my headwind reward, I found I had to work even harder--and battle thoughts of "there's only 3 in my age group, so why am I working so hard?"--until it suddenly struck me--I could go for the overall, instead of age group, win. Since it was a bit late to suddenly realize I might have a shot at the overall, it was a bit like blowing air into a leaky balloon, but the thought still worked enough to pick up my sagging-in-the-wind bike effort and overtake more men, and one of the females in front of me, to bring me up to 3rd overall on the bike. A rough estimate of my bike time on the 13 miles course was 35:30.

The Swim:
In transition, one of the women I had passed on the bike caught up to me. I was busy trying to get my bike shoes off, so I said, "Don't worry, I'm not in your age group," then looked up and thought,"Uh-oh, did I just lie to that woman?" I felt so bad about unintentionally misleading her that when we got to the pool, together, and she motioned for me to go first, I said, "No, you go." She took off, with me right behind her--and I'll be darned if I didn't pass her within 25 yards, without even trying. T said we both lost time with our polite sillyness.

The swim was down and back in the same lane, for another thrashfest. However, this time, I didn't hover on the edge of panic, just kept on warming up to the water and gradually, opening up my speed. Unfortunately, in a deja vu moment, a large guy passed me--then couldn't keep up the speed. He blocked me from passing, and couldn't negotiate the turns, so as I found myself having to slow down my swim, I got worried that the woman behind me was catching up. I also, now, had no chance of catching any woman in front of me. It was very frustrating, since this was one of the only swims this year where I wasn't panicking. I thought about passing hiimon the right, but there wasn't quite enough room. By the finish, I was pretty irritated, but T, who had watched the whole thing, immediately spirited me away from the pool, which gave me time to pack up my gear, put my irritation behind me, and enjoy the lunch and awards that followed.

T and I both did well.
I love it when we have dual-twin finishes.
He was 3rd place Overall male, I was 3rd place Overall female.
Unfortunately, T had tummy problems on the bike, and ended up placing 2nd in his age group--first in the pool off the bike, but with not enough lead to hold off his competition.
I won my age group.
The woman I passed in the pool was a couple of age groups behind me, and won her age group.
Here is how T congratulated me: "Do you have to keep hogging all the national championship slots?"
Which is how I realized I had qualified again.

The best part about this race, is feeling that I was able to push my pace on the run, and not panicking in the pool.

Sam's advice about training too much, and not racing enough seems to be working for me. Every race brings up my skill--and this year, I'm enjoying it.

We broke up the drive home by stopping in Santa Rosa for a half mile swim in Park Lake, a sink hole 200 yards across with relatively clear water (like Bottomless Lakes in Roswell), large fish, and coolish temps. Lightning came up from the east and cut our swim short, but it was a nice interlude, and made us feel we had done more than "just" a sprint distance work out for the day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Good Day: The Patriot Triathlon

When I finished the Patriot Tri I thought "It figures. I'm having a really bad day."

This was because a number of events leading up to the race had been auspiciously adverse.
Not that I'm superstitious, or anything like that.
It's just that when enough things go wrong, you start to wonder if maybe the universe is trying to tell you something....

It all started when I tried to sign up for the race, on the day of the deadline--and I couldn't get Active to give me anything past the waiver page. Signing up for the race was pretty important to me, but as it was a race I really wasn't sure I wanted to do, I'd left it until the last minute. I'd already completed my 8 races to qualify for the SW Challenge Series, and was really looking forward to a change in focus--but during my 3 month hiatus, unbeknownst to me, a rival Age Grouper had taken my absence as a sign that maybe she could take the prize--so she'd turned up the heat by participating in a number of races, and was fast closing in on my first place status.

I had to find another computer to get Active to allow me to register, but not before I had a momentary panic and internally berated myself for waiting until the last minute....

Then, I went to pick up my packet.
I call this section "LOST IN RIO RANCHO."
It took me two hours to get my packet.
I could have just about driven to Farmington, which is on the northern border of this state. Instead, I spent 2 hours in a neighboring suburb.

It all began when my excessively literal self read the race brochure which stated that packets could be picked up at the sponsoring bicycle shop OR at the race site.

I thought it was odd that there were two packet pick up sites, but thought maybe they had some kind of computer system that would cross check...or...err....something like that.

So, I plugged in my address to the "map" link on Active, got my directions, and proceeded to the race site. I figured I might as well kill two (or three) birds with one stone: pick up my packet, figure out the location of the race site, as well as take a look at the course.

Trouble was, the directions dead-ended in dirt. So, I drove around a bit and, fortuitously, found my way.

Trouble was, there was no packet pick up at the race site.

And, without a packet, I couldn't scope out the course.

So I left the race site and immediately got lost. I thought I knew what direction I was going in, but after a while it became painfully obvious, I didn't have a clue. I tried going a different way, but ended up dead-ending into dirt roads. I thought, "No wonder they come out here to film movies." There's this vast dirtness in Rio Rancho. Skyline that just goes on forever. Sparse vehicles. Occasional cacti. And no traffic on smooth, wide, sweeping roads.

Which was my undoing.

I got stopped for speeding 55 mph in a 45 mph zone.
Truthfully, I hadn't seen a sign, so I didn't know what the speed limit was.
The officer was polite but firm.
I ended up parked for an extended length of time in direct sunlight magnified by the windshield, while she checked for priors. I was dripping sweat by the time she came back. Cooked, and getting browner by the minute.

Then, I couldn't find my insurance card.

Even though I have an envelope with insurance stubs going back 5 years, it was the most recent one that was missing.
I have this memory of tearing out the perforated card and walking out to the car with it.
But, obviously, I didn't.
I think that insurance cards should be mandatorily delivered directly to the vehicle they belong to--just to prevent the number of forgotten insurance cards that get left at home.

So, even though the officer was very nice, and gave me a warning for the speeding infraction, I now have a court date in Rio Rancho at 8:00 am on a weekday morning. Before I left, she warned me that if I got stopped again, I would get a ticket.

So, after my run-in and sauna with the law, I proceeded at a very sedate pace to the actual packet pick up site.

Well, no, actually I didn't.
First, I got lost again.
You see, after the officer left, I realized that I hadn't asked her for directions.
So, at this point, I wisely decided to back track everything, and eventually, finally made it out of the maze.

Then I proceeded to the packet pick up.
Where I was told, "You know, there was this woman who wanted to know if you were doing the race. I mean she really, really, really wanted to know. It was kind of funny."

Which immediately told me that the rival Age Grouper was here, and that she had me in her high beams--which made me feel under the gun.

The funny thing is, any time we've had a head to head competition, I've always buried her. But, you never know. Plus, she's moved up (elevation -wise, about 2300' above my home) to Los Alamos, and is training with the Tri-atomics, who seem to turn out nothing but utterly awesome athletes.

So, race day morning, I drove out to the race site at the Rio Rancho Aquatics Center, anticipating a smack-down show-down--and really not too happy about it.

The race itself had a festive, chaotic atmosphere:
Lines for packet pick up
Lines for bodymarking
Lines for chip timing
A live military band played some fun rock 'n roll.
Loud PA announcements.
Parking was in an adjacent lot a little ways up the street, so you had to pack up your items, and ride your bike to the transition--if you had a pack.
There seemed to be plenty of room on the racks.
There were a lot of first timers, which was nice.
Someone told me there were over 300 registered.
In the end it looked like there were more women participants, than men (Can you believe it? Remember those races when it was 80 men to 7 women?).

Remember what I said about auspiciously adverse events?

I got myself set up at an ideal spot, helped the new girl next to me, got chipped and body marked, ran to the bathroom a few times, went out for a warm up run, returned with minutes to spare for the 8:00 am start, THEN noticed that my bike number and run number did not match.
Aw, gee.

Since this race was important to me, I went to the poor overworked race director to make sure my race effort would be recorded correctly. She probably saw me as a giant irritation that wouldn't go away, since yesterday I had told her they probably needed to tweak the wording on the race brochure to make it correct for their future races. She determined my correct number and assured me my chip would time me just fine. Than, handed me my correct bike number.

I couldn't help myself.
The time was 8:04 am.
The race was supposed to start at 8:00 am.
I looked at the number and said, "I'm not going to put this on my bike now."
It just came out like that. I didn't mean to come off as rude, and I certainly hope I didn't. But I couldn't understand how they could think that I was going to take the time to undo my current number, and a-fix a new one--after the start time for the race--and when I didn't have any twist-ties or tape with me, as it was all in the car in the parking lot that was up the hill across the dirt field....

So, I left everything as it was, and decided just to have faith in my chip.

The Swim:
A time trial start for 400 yards, 8 laps in an 8 lane pool. That means down and back in the same lane. What a splash fest.

I had put my estimated swim time as 9:25. Which is right on par with my best pool practice times. Ha. I always go in with this wide eyed expectation that this time I'll have a smooth controlled strong swim in which I'll just sail over the water without a hint of panic. I guess hope springs eternal.

When I stood in line, I realized I was surrounded by large human beings with huge limbs--and they all looked FAST. Then, I got a glimpse of the pool. It was so splashy, you couldn't even really see the people--at least that's what it seemed to me. Then the guy behind me in line said he usually swims a 400 in 7 minutes. WHAT?! What are you doing behind me? I realize I am going to get mowed down like Muffin's lawn, so I helpfully tell him he should make his way to the front and get in the pool with his own kind. But, by now, I'm getting nervous.

I actually didn't have a bad swim. I hugged the lane line so close, to allow others to pass, that I hit my left goggle, which dislodged and filled with water. My panic didn't tip over into hyperventilation--but it did hover just on the brink. A breast stroker passed me, then slowed down, so his large, paddle like feet and enormously long limbs kept waving back and forth just in front of my nose--so I tapped him a few times to get him to move along--and he did. My swim time, including getting out of the pool and running outside across the timing mat, was 9:46.

Swim note to remember: Running from the pool, outside and around to the front of the building, on cement, was dangerous in wet feet. One person slipped and fell running across a metal plate. It would be nice to see some old indoor/outdoor carpeting laid along the runway to make the transition run safer.
Also, the swim started late. There was some confusion regarding the start order.
So, eventually, people just started to line up and enter the water, according to a hazy "What's your swim time?" question to the person standing next to them.

The Bike:
4th female bike split all age groups included. Need I say more?
Actually, I didn't know I was having such a good bike.
In fact, it seemed pretty poor at the time.

I knew when I exited T1 that Age Group Rival was in front of me. I had seen her enter the pool, and didn't think she could be too far ahead. However, I also remembered that at the F1 in Roswell, I hadn't caught up with her on the bike until the latter 3/4's of the bike, so I knew she could put the hammer down when she needed to.

The bike was an immediate hill that just kept on going. It was one of those days when the wind just seemed to come from the front--no matter what direction you were going in. I picked off 35 people, then stopped counting. No matter how hard I looked, or how many people I passed, I couldn't spot the bright orange of the Triatomic uniform that Age Group Rival had been wearing at the start of the swim. I started calculating--if the pool entries were 10 seconds apart than passing 6 people meant I had made up a minute. But what if they had telescoped the time trial start, and the pool entries had been 6 seconds apart? Then 10 people equaled a minute--and I had only made up 3 minutes so far on the bike. Pretty poor. Why hadn't I seen her yet? Could I really be that far behind? She weighed more than me, so I bet her downhills were screaming. Living up in Los Alamos meant she must be riding hills. Had she gotten so much better since the last time we had raced?

Not catching up to her was demoralizing.
By the end of the bike I had all but conceded.
I started to let up a bit, than thought, you never know.
Lance's mantra--every second counts--came into my head.
In a time trial every second does count.
How awful would it be to let up, just a wee bit, then find I had lost by mere seconds.
So I resumed the hammer once more.
Even though the hills were starting to get to me.
And the headwind just never let up.
And the traffic.
At one point, a large truck passed me on a downhill, than took the right turn at the bottom of the hill at the speed of molasses: Hey--you're slowing me up. Please move!

Crossing Unser was the only dangerous intersection. Otherwise, the route was well protected.

And even though it was remarkably hilly and windy, it was fun. And pretty. Even if it was in the vast open dirtness that is Rio Rancho.

Bike note to remember: The bike is HARD. Have faith in oneself and practice more hills. In the wind.

The Run:
Not much to say here. The run was just a never ending hill also. Then it went onto sand.
Soft sand.
I kept looking for water.
There wasn't any as I exited T2.
And there wasn't any at the bottom of the driveway before the left turn and the sustained up hill.
I asked a volunteer, and he said he didn't think there was any.
More demoralization.
I had a real need for water.
Even if I only needed to take a sip, and then toss the rest over my head.
And I still hadn't caught up to Age Group Rival.
So my run was one more of resignation than of smack down.
It was kind of a trudge.
With a lot of out of hard breathing.
Is Rio Rancho at elevation?
That's what I started to think.
Finally, at the mid way point, there was an aid station.
But not enough volunteers.
I needed 3 cups of water at this point. And there was only one person holding one cup out and the other I kind of snatched from her other hand.
I took what I could get.
I finally started feeling good on the during the last half mile of the run.
Then I went up the driveway to the finishers shoot.
A lot of people were there cheering. I heard my name. I heard a number of "good race" type comments. Since I was sure I had just had one of the worst days of my sprint tri career, I thought, "Wow, everyone is so nice. They say the nicest things, even when it's obvious your just trudging along."

As far as I could tell, I hadn't caught up with Age Group Rival.
To not catch up with someone on the bike is always demoralizing to me. And I really didn't think she had been that far ahead.

Some time ago there was a debate in which one side asserted that you can't win a triathlon on the bike. I think Norman Stadler put that opinion to rest.

I'm one who does best on the bike.
I can't run and I can't swim.
But I can ride a bike.
Today, I placed 10th female overall out of 140 women.
I had the 4th fastest bike out of 140 women.
Right behind the first place woman (who had an amazingly fast swim and who, I was told, is on a swim scholarship), the second place woman, and the third place woman, Tove Shere, holder of a number of national cycling awards.
I was first out of 21 women in my Age Group.
That hasn't happened to me before in these larger races.
I buried my Age Group Rival.
I have no idea when I passed her, but I must have.
Even though I felt like I was having a bad day, I really wasn't.

I had a really nice time. Met some of the newer Outlaw triathletes, including Cindy, who recognized me, and one of the Kathies. Saw H., Miguel and Lorraine, Lazy Mike and his girlfriend, "Trouble," and my partner in pace, Kenneth O'Conner. Michi was volunteering.

"Trouble" made it fun by doing the race in a pink shower cap, arm floaties, and a hello kitty theme, on a 3 speed child's cruiser bike. I wonder how she did on those hills?

So, what do you do after an effort like that?
T and I had a nice afternoon swim, 2300 in an outdoor pool.
What a good day.

p.s. This post is dedicated to Mr. T, who when the alarm went off, and I could barely open my eyes, got himself up to pack my bike in the dark, brew coffee, make sure I was awake, wish me well, and then return to bed. He's had to miss a lot of races this year, but always supports me in mine.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Race and a Run: The WSMR Yucca Triathlon

Today I ran way too far on too little sleep, food, and drink, and on not much in the way of legs.
My quad muscles didn't start hurting until mile 11.
Then they gave me a lactic acid burn as if I'd been lifting in the gym.
Before that, they had felt tired and slow, but pretty unremarkable.
I ate my gels (miles 5 and 10), drank my water (miles 4, 5, 7, and 10).
Re-filled my water, but couldn't re-fill my gels.
Then, I REALLY got hungry, like there was NO food left in me.
I walked the last 3 miles and the last mile was a real doozy.

Of course, I thought, "Maybe my legs will lose weight."
This was after a not very happy moment two nights before between a hotel room mirror and myself.
I think they make those mirrors intentionally to bring out the worst in you. Kind of like the Fun-House mirrors at the used-to-be Playland at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Although those actually let you play around with your size.

Then, I got home and ate a giant pot of macaroni and cheese--with extra cheese.

Mr .T said, "I told you so."
So, sometimes, I just don't listen.
Like maybe a lot of the time.
He said, "You can't do runs like that when you're getting ready to do a race."
Mr. T was right.

My legs were tired because yesterday I had done the Yucca Triathlon at White Sands Missile Range. I had driven down after work, stayed at the Super 8, on the Bataan Highway (where I encountered the mirror), not gotten enough sleep, and hauled myself over to the race start in time to arrive at the gate at 6:30 am. Contrary to the usual scene at the always popular Polar Bear Triathlon in December, this morning I was the only car around. It was so quiet I thought maybe I had driven to the wrong location for the race. Or that the race had been cancelled.

However, I was in the right place and 53 people had signed up, so the race was a go.
10K run, 48 K (30 mile) bike, 400 yard swim.
Unfortunately for me, I had seen the "400 swim" on the brochure, and had just assumed I was doing a short sprint race with an extra long bike. Not a good "whoops" for me, since I don't run very well.

There was a very fast contingent from El Paso.
9 women were present, each distributed one per age group--except for the 34-39 and 45-49 age groups.
Of course, my AG was the only competitive one. Age-Group-Nemesis was there. Checking out what colors I was wearing so she could track me, and subtly dropping a number of tri-excuses to tell me she "wasn't really going to race." We finished 2 minutes apart. She's a runner. Three marathons under her belt so far this year, and training for a 4th. She got me by 7 minutes in the run. I took back 6 minutes on the bike. It would have been closer, but when I realized I wasn't going to catch my competition, I thought, "why push it for second place?" and took it easy for the last leg in the pool.

The run was a mile of gentle downhill and flat, then a good, steady 2 mile uphill on pavement, with the remainder on moderately soft dirt roads. As Age-Group-Nemesis says about herself, "I'm the queen of dirt." And she certainly was.

The bike just seemed hard. A head wind all the way, even though we first headed out south, then west, then north. I felt like I couldn't get any speed on the downhills. About half way into it, I got a headache. The rhythmic bump-bump-bump of the rough roads turned my head into agony. I ate a Gu Roctane, which may have been the reason my headache went away. Yeay for sodium, potassium, calcium, amino acids, and caffeine. When my head was hurting, I thought, "I am never doing another race on these roads again." The wind just never let up. I was exhausted by the last leg of the ride, and barely hung in for the final up hill. I kept wishing for the pool--which truly isn't something I usually do.

The swim was short and sweet. There were so few participants that no one was around me and the water was smooth with no splashing or passing.

Age-Group-Nemesis made sure I didn't hit my head on the water slide.
We had lunch together.
We talked about "bad" mirrors and unhappy mirror moments (she thought the WSMR pool mirrors were bad).
She invited me to stay at her house next time.
She really is the better athlete than me.

I made 4th out of the 9 women total, 2nd in my AG, and earned another 9 points towards the SW Challenge annual AG competition. Trying to win it, but I suspect Age-Group-Nemesis may have her eye on the prize, too.

Yesterday really was a pretty good, sustained effort.
Running extra long today probably really wasn't the best thing to do.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Paula Higgens Memorial Record Challenge Time Trial: 40K on a National Record Setting Course

This is what we forgot today:
*Rain jackets
*A portable waterproof canopy
*Plastic bags for wet, muddy clothes and wet muddy tarp
*Newspapers or cardboard for the floor of the truck
*Two sets of warm, dry clothes--one to wear before for walking around in the rain and warming up, and one for after, to take the place of the first set of clothes that got wet during the warm up, and
*Two sets of shoes--for the same reason listed above.

A portable heating device would have been nice.

Especially while waiting in our "dry" clothes for the results after the race.
The organizers provided good eats during the wait, plus beer and fizzy fruit juice. And good, cycling-devotee company. But that wind still had a bite to it.

What we did remember is just how good the conditions had been the previous year: Perfect temps, dry weather, NO wind. A lot of people showed up last year.

This year, we saw people leaving without unloading their bikes.
Maybe 40 people did the 40K distance. Maybe.
The race still drew people from around the U.S.
The winner came from Colorado.
30.14 m.p.h.
Two minutes behind the record holder, John Frey.
Martha Hansen, the 85 year old who set a National Record last year, didn't show up.
But a man in the 70-74 AG set a National Record in the 20K at 29:08.21
That's 25.6 m.p.h.
So, T and I really have no excuse.

We had a nice day and put in some good effort--it's just remarkably disappointing to put in all that effort for a slo-o-o-w-er time than the previous year.
Even with Bones' disc AND a different gear ratio.
Which, incidentally, I had fun maxing out in the tailwind.
It just wasn't enough to make up for the beating I took going into the headwind.

This is how I feel right now:
*2:36 slower than last year REALLY STINKS,
*I know I'm being a whiner,
*I am glad it's over

Part of me feels that I didn't push hard enough. And that's probably because I didn't. I started with a poor, not long enough warm-up and possibly too much caffeine--even though I only had one cup of coffee. T adjusted my bike the day before, and since I hadn't been able to check it out, I was NERVOUS. Hyperventilatory-from-the-cold-and-unknown nervous. I couldn't get my breathing right. There was mud everywhere, and the roads were puddling wet. Rain, cold, poor warm-up, hyperventilation, am I going to slip on the road? my wheel feels too narrow, what's that funny noise?, stop-adjust-ride-stop-adjust-ride, DID I MISS MY START TIME?!?

Not a good way to start a Time Trial effort.

So the initial part of my ride was slow, while I hyperventilated and went into O2 debt. I finally got myself under control, settled in, and battled a headwind for out to the turn-around speeds of something like 19 mph--I just couldn't get myself go any faster. I passed my 30-second and minute-man (woman), but didn't make up anymore ground. Laurie Mauderly passed me like I was standing still--and from her perspective, I probably was. She won the women's division in a time of 57:50.78, which comes out to 25.77 mph. At the turn-around, I was able to bring up my speed to 24.5 mph with occasional forays up to 25 and down to 23 mph. I didn't see another female because unknown to me, they were all in front and rapidly riding away from me. I think 8 men passed me.

So it goes.

There were only two women in my Age Group. A Cat 1-2 racer and myself. Once again, I came in 7 minutes behind for second place.
21.095 miles per hour.
I should be grateful, I know.

Things I learned from today:
*Number one and most importantly: IT WOULD BE HELPFUL IF I WOULD TAKE THIS RACE SERIOUSLY AND ACTUALLY TRAIN FOR IT. I only rode 187 bike miles this month, none of which were race specific.
*I need a longer warm-up time
*My computer calibration is in error--the read-out showed that I had averaged well over 22 mph.
*I can ride without slipping on wet road in slick rain and wind conditions.
*For some reason, that darn clock means an awful lot to me--I need to re-balance my perspective,
*I definitely have improved in my focus and concentration, and
*Despite my slo-o-o-w-er time and all my complaints, I really do like the feeling of tapping into that deep internal force of will that makes for a good Time Trial effort.

After it's all done and I get warm, of course.

T says I need to remember that it's usually the hard-core that stick around for a race in these conditions--which is why I placed 9th out of 11 women.

I can't say I'm hard-core--but I do look forward to riding more TT's.
Just, hopefully, not in the rain.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's This About An Internet Push-Up Challenge?

I did 55 push-ups yesterday.

I started by thinking I would do 3 sets of 10.

On a Bosu ball.

Then, I figured, why not add a few. So, I brought it up to 3 sets of 15.

Good push-ups, with plank like form, and deep elbows to bring my rib cage all the way down to the ball. NO bend at the hips. Head, neck and back all in good alignment. Breathing deep.

That's because the guys at work are always checking out my form.
They can't help themselves.
It's their job.

And it keeps me on my toes.

My co-worker, S. (of course, checking out what I was doing) came bounding over with two bolsters in this hands. "Have you tried this?"
He said I looked bored.
So, he set me up with one palm on each bolster, laying lengthwise, parallel to me, and had me simultaneously push each bolster laterally away from me as I lowered, then pull them in until they were under me as I pushed up.
Boredom hadn't really crossed my mind, when I was doing the initial push-ups.
In fact, I thought I looked like I was concentrating on my form and breathing--and making it to the last push-up of the last set.
But these new push-ups were fun.
And challenging.
So, I did 10, then ran out of time.

Good thing I was saved by the bell.
My pecs and delts (anterior) are remarkably sore today!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A (wandering) Race Report: Socorro and the F1 '08

Usually T and I do a lot more SW Challenge Series racing, but this year we've both taken a several month hiatus.

T--because he was in another state.

Myself--because, well, just because. I felt a need to get away from the numbers and competitiveness that sometimes can take on a life of it's own. In my last race (April), I found myself wishing everyone in the event would just go away--so I could focus on bettering myself against my own personal times and records, without thinking about if someone was in my age group--and if they were faster than me. It made me realize why, sometimes, I like the anonymity of racing in another state. Here, even though I'm not a stellar or star racer, I sometimes feel like I have a target on my back. More than once, women in different age groups have aggressively taken me on as a project to beat--physically communicating their intentions by brushing against me at high speed on the run, attempting to pass and re-pass me on the bike (I dislike leap frogging--if you're going to pass, make sure you have the strength and endurance to maintain the pass. I had to pass "Texas" 3 times today, before he gave up the ghost and I finished decisively in front of him), and in general, focusing a beam of competition in my direction. I expect it from my AG competition, but still, one of these moments occurred earlier this year while finishing the final swim leg of a race--dripping, out of breath, refocusing from the pool environment to land, climbing the ladder to get out of the pool and having Mary (my AG) standing over the ladder as I'm climbing out and saying, "Dale (my AG) wants to know how old you are." No small talk like, "Great race, " "You flew by me on the bike," "Whew, glad that's over," etc. Just pure, high-beam, competitive focus. Since I'm not good at screening out the external competitive pressure, and it was interfering with my own internal focus, I took some time out.

Earlier this month, I returned to the local racing scene, by attending the Socorro Chile Harvest Sprint Triathlon. I had a great race--for someone who hadn't been training or racing sprint for the past 3 months. There were some quirks, of course, and some of those "I wish..." thoughts, but overall, I took two minutes off my previous PR, came in 5th of 16 in my age group, and was 32nd out of 148 total women.

The quirks and "I wishes...."

The swim was a Time Trial start--every 15 seconds according to the flyer, but it seemed like a 5 second interval to me. As soon as I jumped into the water to get ready for the start--someone said "Go!" Taking off so suddenly, and as per my usual, I went into a respiratory panic and hyperventilated the first 50 meters. It took a lot of self-talk to continue swimming, when every survival fiber in my body wanted to stop and stand up. The next 100 meters were a cautious progression to prevent another episode of panic, and then I eased into my rhythm, and completed the swim feeling good. The man who started right behind me, passed me at 50 meters (I smunched into his legs as he attempted to pass me on the left and cross in front of me to the right to make the turn into the next lane), but didn't gain any ground after that first 50. Several months earlier, I had predicted my swim time at 9:35. My true time was 9:59.

The bike was just a heck of a lot of fun. I felt good, but could feel the weakness in my legs from not sprint racing, especially on hills, for several months. Since I'm a slow swimmer, there are always a lot of people to pick off on the bike, which is entertaining, and gives me an external measure of progress along the course. My wish, of course, was to not feel the weakness in my legs, and to be able to ride faster. I averaged 20 mph on a moderately hilly course and was 17th out of 148 women on the bike.

My transition was quirky in that I racked my bike on the wrong rack, and didn't realize it until I looked down, and didn't recognize my clothes. Since I have a small bike, and the racks were high, I actually grabbed my bike, dipped under the rack with it, and ran forward to my rack. Definitely a bit of time loss there.

The run was what it always is--an effort to pick up the pace and not give in to fatigue and the heat of the day. I started too slow while my legs un-wound themselves from the bike, and ended at a good pace, for an average of 9:10 miles.

T didn't attend this race. He was camping in the mountains near Washington DC, with members of the DC Tri-Club. The trip was actually a two day training fest with 88 and 37 mile hilly bike rides, followed by runs. He said by the end of the second day, everyone was cooked.

As for today, "Texas" and I were dueling it out at the Formula-1 (F1) draft legal triathlon in Roswell, the story I started to write about, but obviously went in a different direction.

Another time.

Suffice it to say, it was a fun race, I finished as "female champion" in first place--out of 3 female entrants, had more fun catching up with the Outlaws, met some new people, was very grateful for the endless support and encouragement, and as always, enjoyed a beautiful venue and the cool, clear waters of the lake. And, even though my overall win was due to the small field, as T reminded me, "everyone is invited to the dance..."