Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It was the best of (bike) times. . .

And it was the worst of (run) times.  In other words, the IMAZ Race Report . . .

One year ago today, I signed up of Ironman Arizona.  When you sign up for an event, you have so many goals, so many hopes, so many plans.  And then, over the course of 365 days, you have so many opportunities to make them come true.   When I started this journey, I hoped to 1) drop 3 minutes off my swim; 2) drop 30 minutes from my bike and 3) drop 30 minutes from my run from IM Louisville. 
But then life got in the way.  I agreed to be fundraising chair for my kids school-- responsible for raising over 112,000 in the months of September, October, and November; I agreed to coach not one, but 2 soccer teams with weekly practices and weekend games; I agreed to teach 6th grade religious education on Monday nights, and I agreed to help run Soccerfest again.  Needless to say, life happens and sometimes gets in the way of your best made plans. 
With that background, I found myself on an airplane, headed to Phoenix, Arizona for Ironman Arizona.  Had I trained?  Sure I had.  I'd done a lot of medium length workouts.  Bike rides of 80 miles.  2.5 mile swims.  22 mile runs.  VERY FEW longer rides.  Almost no combination workouts-- where I combined bikes and runs or swims and bikes.  Was I worried?  YES.  I really was.  I knew how hard it was to get to the finish line at Louisville.  I knew how bad I'd felt.  And, most importantly, I knew how much harder I'd trained.  Multiple workouts of over 10 hours.  Many, many over distance swims.  Many combination workouts.  I had no real race plan-- in fact, I didn't develop a race plan until Saturday Night before the race.  I wasn't 100% certain of my nutrition plan.  In fact, I was pretty certain it was going to be a long hard day and was under no delusions as to the likelihood of my finishing the race. 

The folks in Tempe were amazing.  I got to athlete registration and it took me about 37 minutes to pick up my number, my swim cap, my timing chip, my "swag" bag, my bike and my gear bag.  I found myself back in my hotel room with some wondrous free time before the Welcome Dinner.  At the welcome dinner, I got my first eyeball of the AMAZING Arizona skyline at dusk and marveled at the beautiful colors-- thinking to myself how much I was going to enjoy seeing those colors as I headed out onto the run--presuming I made it that far-- which I wasn't guaranteeing.  By far the best part, however, of the welcome dinner was getting to see my IronTeam Mates from 2010.  Susie, Mary, Phil, Nate, Michelle, Nick and some new Iron Team friends were all competing.  Just being around them started to ease my nerves. 
This is just one of the places the all Iron Family cheer
Team had written my name in chalk on the course. 
I think all told, they chalk-fetti'ed about 1/2 the course
with inspiration!
Saturday Morning started with the practice swim.  I'd heard so much about how cold the water was going to be in Tempe Town Lake, so with much trepidation, I wiggled into my wetsuit-- one of my least favorite things to do.  Walking down the stairs (which would be our exit stairs on Sunday), I silently cursed Sandy Shepherd and Margaret Mackey for getting me into this nonsense! With one hand on my goggles, I took a deep breath and jumped in. 
It was cold-- no San Francisco Bay Cold, but chilly non-the-less.  The good news was it wasn't as cold as I thought it was going to be-- the bad news? I couldn't keep my goggles from fogging up AND I managed to get that super dizzy vertigo feeling that is associated with having your ears in cold water. .
Great-- after about 5 minutes I pulled my dizzy self out of the water, was so dizzy I tripped on the way to get out of my wetsuit, and started worrying that I wasn't even going to make it past the swim!

 Sunday Morning came quickly. As I made sure my bike tires were pumped up and got my special needs bags to the right places, the sun started to rise over Tempe Town Lake.  The yellow buoys marking out the course seemed to go on for ever-- from the starting line it was almost impossible to see the red turn around buoy. 
Transition was like family time.  Sedonia, Dana, Mike K, Kristie, Helen and so many others from IronTeam who had come out to cheer us on and volunteer to help out were everywhere.  Mike K applied my number to my arms and my age to my calf and gave me a zip into my wetsuit.  Sedonia stood in line at the port-a-potties we me. Kristie was there securing the starting line.  It was amazing.  There was no way to get too nervous-- everyone was there to calm me down.  I borrowed a sharpie one last time, remembering at the last minute that I needed to bring my passengers with me:  writing Jack on my right hand and Will on my left.   Before I was ready, I was in the water.

I had been worried about the swim start.  There were 2500 people pushed to one side of the lake. This is called a deep water start.  And I wasn't sure I was going to like it.  Sedonia had advised me to lie flat on my front (i.e. dead man's float) to take up more space.  SO I did. But, one of the things that I noticed was that there was a lot more space in the water than I was anticipating.  I looked over and saw that about 2/3 of the field had positioned themselves sitting on the wall on the right hand side of the lake.  As my brain started to work, I realized that once that cannon went off, and all those people pushed in from the right hand side, it was not going to be much fun for anyone.  So, I tried to move towards the center of the lake.  And as I moved left, BANG-- the cannon went off.  I changed direction and started moving forward. 

My fear was realized when I saw the 1000 people converging from the right hand side.  Holy Rugby match.  I've got a dandy bruise on my right hand shoulder from someone's foot.  I fought my way down to the turn around-- probably never taking more than 2 strokes at a time without getting some part of my body clawed (legs, back, feet-- some guy (or woman, hard to tell in the water) grabbed my breast as they clawed by).  It was not a swim to get a rhythm going. 

The way back was slightly better.  I found some room to swim and the bridge that started far in the distance slowly got closer until it was time to exit.

Upon reaching the stairs, I pulled myself out of the water and climbed up.  I pulled off my caps and goggles and pulled down the strap of my wetsuit-- I found the strippers, sat down, and they pulled my wetsuit off me and handed it to me.  I was on my way to T1.  

Off with the Bikini bottom; on with the bike shorts, socks and shoes.  The little old lady who was helping me get dressed was befuddled by my toe socks. . . Helmet, Chin Strap and out the door-- stopping only to get a quick hug from Ironteamer Dana (who was applying sunscreen to participants as we exited transition).  A volunteer brought me my bike and I was off to the races.

If there is one place I always struggle, it is on that damned carbon torture contraption. So, I dread this part of the race.  I hopped on, and headed out, making sure to turn my Garmin on so that it would remind me to drink, let me know how far I'd gone, how fast I'd gone, and, most importantly, how long I had until the cut off time (after which, I'd be pulled from the course and not allowed to finish--given my lack of long rides, this was something I was VERY concerned about).  About 5 minutes in, my front tire started to make a funny noise. . . thunk, thunk. thunk. . . and then BANG a gunshot went off-- or, more accurately, my front tire blew out.  Over to the side of the road.  Take off the water bottles (because otherwise when you turn your bike over the liquid spills out-- done that before).  Pull out the spare tube, CO2, and tire levers. 

As I sat there changing my tire, at least 200 people whizzed past me.   About 100 of them uttered the following: "dude, that sucks" or some variation there of.  I sang to myself as I changed the tire:  "nice and slow, nice and slow, nice and slow is the way to go," reminding myself that haste makes waste and all that good stuff.  About 8 minutes later (maybe 10-- I don't know how anyone changes a tire faster than than), I was off again.  

I fought a headwind on the way out to the turnaround.  On top of that, it was also slightly (very slightly if you are from the Bay Area) uphill.  The MPH on my Garmin averaged about 12 MPH -- or, as I translated for myself-- not making the bike cut off.  Not even coming close.  But I felt OK, just grumpy about the flat and worried about the time.  Finally, I saw the turn around.  I turned, grabbed some water at the stop, used the port-a-loo and headed back towards town.  Now I had a slight downhill AND a tailwind.  Now my Garmin read 28 MPH.  Yes, I'm serious.  I averaged about 25 miles back into town.  It was like an E ticket ride all the way back down.  Needless to say, by the time I got back into town, I had the biggest smile on my face.  Which only got bigger (and caused a few tears to roll down) when I saw the humongous cheering section set up calling my name. 

Note the HUGE smile on my face!!!
 I was anticipating a pretty major headwind heading back out on loop #2-- so you can only imagine my pleasure to find that I was averaging about 15 MPH.  I hit the turn around, looking forward to making that turn again and getting back to the carnival.  Well, the joke was on me.  The wind had shifted-- it hit me in the face HARD.  Smack.  Felt like I was being blown backwards.  It was also about here that I lost Garmin.  She'd been threatening to die for the last few months, but she made a final beep and off she went-- so far not to be resurrected despite multiple attempts at resuscitation.  Quick visit to special needs to pick up my new bottles and take a potty break and back into town, and back off on the last loop.  Felt OK-- no real boost like I was hoping (since the wind had shifted right, that was the only reason it could have been hitting me in the face at that point?? so confused.)  It turns out the wind had shifted again.  Reaching the turn for the third and final time I was heading back--with my friend the tail wind.  I took one more potty stop and found myself pulling into transition.  The time on my watch was about 3:30. Or about 2 hours BEFORE the time cut off-- I'd made it with plenty of time to spare-- now all I needed was to run a marathon-- in 8 1/2 hours or so.

I was doing a full change in transition. So I grabbed my bag; pulled off my bike shorts, pulled on my run shorts and got myself out of my bike shoes and into my running ones. I pulled on my Worcester Academy Tank Top-- Veteran of I'm Not Sure How Many Campaigns.  I grabbed my waist pack with my calorie source and I was off.  7 minutes in T2 (instead of 14 like last year).  I was pretty surprised by 
how good I felt. It was still daylight (which I hadn't been anticipating) and I felt good.  I started out on the run-- knowing the first few miles would be rocky, and started my run/walk strategy. 4 minutes of running followed by 1 minute of running.  I had no Garmin to tell me how fast (or how slow) I was going.  But, I felt strong.  Not FAST, but strong.  My legs didn't feel wobbly (like they had at Louisville).  My stomach felt a little wonky (which would continue throughout) but not terrible.  I was ready to go.   And off I was. Notice in the picture that I'm still smiling.  I have a lot of time, and I am feeling good!!! How is that for 2/3 of an Ironman?!?  (when I hadn't trained as much as I wanted to). 

 I kept going with my run/walk strategy but felt like I was getting stronger as I entered into lap 2.  My friend Flick, on her way to a 10:41 finish patted my on the shoulder as she turned left to the finish line while I turned right to begin my second loop.  The sky got darker, my pace probably slowed some (but who can tell with no Garmin) but I was still having fun.  In the picture I'm telling Sedonia that I feel GREAT!!! (as we walked up the only hill around).  Strong legs,  Good Heart.  Good deal! 

Needless to say, it wasn't to last long.  I started out on my third, and final loop and immediately my stomach started rebelling.  I could not, could not take another sip of lemon-lime Infinite sports drink.  REALLY I couldn't; wouldn't.  I spent the rest of the run choosing coke and cookies (and dipping the cookies into the coke) to get my calories in without causing my stomach to rebel.  Aside from some fairly unlady-like burps, this strategy at least worked!

The second rebellion came from my right shin and calf.  Basically, an instant shin-splint.  Felt like my calf muscle was separating from my shin bone. 

Rebellion #3 came from my right baby toe.  I've been wearing toe socks for 2 years-- no blisters no matter what I did to my feets.  But, there formed, and popped the biggest blister I've even gotten.

I wasn't smiling any more.  Oh-- and did I mention I was tired??? 

The good news was I had given myself enough time to walk the last 8 miles if I needed to and still make the midnight finish deadline.

About this time I heard, for the first time, the whine of an ambulance siren.  I noticed it, mainly because it wasn't the constant drone of ambulances that I heard last year at Louisville.  In fact, now that I think about it-- the one ambulance and EMT I saw on the bike course was sitting on a chair outside his ambulance looking bored.  What a huge difference 30 degrees makes.

As I came up on the last .5 miles, I ran into my own cheering section AGAIN.  As I finally made the left hand turn into the finisher's chute, I was smiling again. 

Swim: 1:19
T1: 0:07
Bike: 7:02
T2: 0:06
Run: 6:48
Total time is 30 minutes faster than my Louisville Ironman time!

I'd done it-- I was an Iron Man again.  I'm happy with my swim (faster that Louisville, slower than Vineman-- I've got some to learn about how to manage that funky swim start thing); MORE THAN HAPPY with my bike.  I never thought I'd potty 3 times, get a flat and still beat my bike time by more than an HOUR!!! and increase my MPH from 13.6 to 15.9.  Disappointed in the run.  Knew I wasn't going fast, but wish I could have held on to the 14 MPH pace I held between miles 1 and 11.  I slowed to 16.5 over the last 15 miles.  BUT, given that when I started I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to finish; Given I was not as trained as I wanted to be (and had planned to be); Given I had been fundraising chair, Given I'd coached 2 soccer teams, Given I'd chaired SoccerFest, Given I'd taught religious education AND am mom to two amazing boys, I'm proud to call myself a 2 time Iron Mom!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Going Home To Falmouth

A couple of friends of mine mentioned that they were actually reading this the other day. . . so I felt like I'd better update it !

And this is one of those times.  As faithful readers know, I'm not fast.  Never going to be fast.  At this point, don't even really want to be fast.  BUT, for some reason, Falmouth is the one race where I feel like I've got a yardstick for how much better at this I've gotten from where I started. 

My earliest Falmouth times were REALLY pathetic.  1 hour 36 minutes to cover the 7.1 miles comes to mind.  I also remember the one race where I had to walk before I reached the 1 mile mark.  (those may have been the same race, I don't remember).  The race where I saw the girl passed out on the side of the road around mile 2 and decided that walking was good enough for me at that point!  Then, as I "got more serious" to the extent I'm ever serious, I watched my times slowly improve.  From the 1:36 minute to the 1:28 minute to the 1:24 minute and finally, last year in 2010 to my best Falmouth time ever. 

As we do every year, my "family" met up at the flagpole down by the school to board the buses to the start line.  New friends, old friend, new friends that feel like old friends, cousins, my dad. . we all board the bus and head up to Woods Hole to wait for a few hours.  This year was nothing new, other than new race management not realizing that adding 1200 runners and reducing the number of buses by 30 probably was not a good idea. . .

Long after we were ready (due to a 15 minute delay caused by the fact there were not enough buses), it was time to go.  I had in my head I need to beat 1:17 minutes to improve on last year's time as my primary goal and as a secondary goal:  to finally beat my dad !!    I headed out at a steady pace and was right on track as I climbed up the hill by the Nobska Lighthouse to the music from Rocky (I think that music has been on constant replay up that hill for the past 20 years).  

Still feeling good, and on pace as we pulled out of the shade and down to the beach.  Starting to get hot and sticky (it always does down there by the beach)  but otherwise enjoying the music and the amazing amount of spectators who made it out this year.  I enjoyed the "Worcester" cheers-- spoken in the proper accent for once-- as I hit the west end of the harbor. 

At this point every year, I wish that this was a duathlon.  You could have a choice-- run the additional 1.4 mile up and around the Harbor OR take a quick swim of about 200 yards across the mouth of the harbor and be less than a 1/2 mile from the finish line.  Just saying. .. its an idea. . . (although those that go around the Harbor are often treated to Tedy Bruschi sightings-- which may just make it worth it).

Around the harbor-- no Tedy, but the ability to kiss a blow up copy of Lord Stanley's Cup and up the final hill to the finish.  I'd taken no walk breaks and was feeling strong.  My watch had me right on pace to cruise in just around 1:17.   All was right with the world.

I got to the top of the hill and there was the real reason I come home to run Falmouth every year-- my mom with the two boys.  I've chronicled at length my trials and tribulations with getting my kids to my events, but at Falmouth, Grandma doesn't allow any other options.  There they were-In their running shoes and ready to cruise across the finish line with mommy-- Down the hill we ran-- checking ourselves out in the great big jumbotron as we made our way under the giant American Flag. 
I hit my watch and saw 1:17:04.  Ohh-- it was going to be close-- did I make it?

Hours later-- after the family reunion party that follows every Falmouth-- I jumped online to see my results:  1:17:09-- Did I make it??  Well, my did ran a 1:22:03 so I beat him.  I checked the Falmouth 2010 stats to see if I had run over 1:17:09 last year. . . and realized that I'd been wrong.  I had run a 1:13 last year.  I WAS 4 MINUTES OVER!!! and had no one to blame but myself.  By letting myself think that I had to run a 1:17-- I paced myself to run a 1:17-- and ran a 1:17. 
Could I have run the 1:13?  Probably so if I'd been smart enough to realize I needed to. . . but there is always next year. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Or I REALLY Hope There Is Something To The Old Adage About Mechanical Problems in Training,

Amongst triathletes, there is an old adage passed around that goes something like this. . . "Its a good thing to have mechanical problems in training because that means you won't have them in your race."  Well, after yesterday, I hope that that is the case.

Last year, while training with TNT for Ironman Kentucky, we had 3/4 to Iron Weekend.  This year, since I wasn't able to be a member of the team, I didn't have one.  So, I decided early on that I was going to do the Vineman Aquabike as a training race.  The Aquabike is 2/3 of a triathlon.  It is the full 2.4 mile open water swim followed by the full 112 mile bike ride.  It was supposed to be a training weekend.  Really. A training weekend. 

Until about a month ago, I was not remotely concerned about this weekend.   I kept thinking that it was "no big deal" and "just the aquabike" How hard could it be??  As last week wore on, I started to get more and more nervous. I started thinking about the year people last year on IronTeam who trained for 9 months in order to do the aquabike. . .  Then, I started getting pretty nervous.  I'd been "training" for months, but I'd just started with a new coach last month, she'd dropped my swimming yardage and I hadn't swim over 2 miles in the last month.  I hadn't ridden over 84 miles yet this season (although I'd never ridden a hundred at 3/4 to iron weekend). 

Thus, I was pretty nervous going in. I was also unprepared, but we will get to that later.

I picked up my packet on Friday and it was already like old home week.  I ran in to Mary, Dana, and Susie from IronTeam last year.  I ran into David Parks, a neighbor who was competing in the full Vineman.  I ran into one of TNT's honoree's Laura Warren-- a truly amazing person.  I heard that the water temperature was about 71 degrees-- well within USAT's guidelines for wearing a wetsuit but given that I don't love my wetsuit, really couldn't make a decision whether to wear my wetsuit or not.

Getting home; getting through the disappointment of John not wanting to bring the kids up to the race; getting to sleep was hard.  Nothing like Louisville where I'd been in a hotel alone for 3 days before the race.  I was EXHAUSTED when I got up at 255 am to get ready. I picked up David and we headed up to Gernsville.  To say that Gernsville is a small town is an understatement.  To say it is in the middle of no where is also an understatement.  But there we were at 530 am in advance of David's 6:38 am start.  Old home week continued as I saw Tony, Les, Jenn, Marina, Sandy and Nick from last year's team.  Sedonia, swim coach extraordinaire, was there.  Jeremy Schwab, absolute rock star coach from TNT's spring team was there; Mike Kyle, as always, was there with a big smile, a bike pump, and a wetsuit wedgie.  Oh, by the way, I wore my wetsuit.

Finally it was time for the start. Another old friend, Jennifer Jay (JJ) and I entered into the water together.  Wishing all the ladies around me a great race, the horn blew and we were off. 
Anyway. I was 1:20 on the swim in Louisville. This number was in the back of my head as I started out pretty slow. Hard to get room to swim (a very congested course in the beginning) but the crowded course doesn't worry me. . . just slows me down. I was a little hyped up.  Wondering if I was going to make it for the full 2.4 miles.  Then, about 1/2 way down the first loop, the water got so shallow that my fingers were scraping the bottom of the river.  NO, I'm not kidding.  Like many others, I stood up and walked until my fingers were no longer hitting the bottom. 

Actually, this break gave me some perspective, I'd caught up to a lot of men, who had started more than 10 minutes before me, and I felt pretty good. After having to walk again at the turn around (same reason), and coming back down on lap 2, I noticed that I was not seeing a whole bunch of green swim caps like those that my wave was wearing, so I figured I was either a) flying or  b) so slow it wasn't even funny.

As I rounded the turn around on the second loop, I was feeling really good.  I went under the bridge and knew that the swim end was close.  I was hoping to see 1:41 on the clock as I came out of the water here. . . That would mean that I had gone no slower than I had at Louisville.  As I ran under the clock, I thought I saw a 1:31-- or 10 minutes faster than Louisville. . . Turns out (by race results, I swam a 1:13. . . still 7 minutes off my Louisville time.  (I was hoping to take 2 minutes off the 1:20 for Arizona, so we may want to reevaluate that goal).  I ran up the beach and found Mike Kyle standing there to strip off my wetsuit-- considering the number of wetsuits that he'd help me get in to over the years, it was just fitting.  .  . I had a decent T1-- 5:16-- that included packing up all my swim gear since T1 goes away after the last swimmer leaves the beach. Not professional level, but good enough and a four minute improvement over my Louisville transition. 

One of the places I shaved time in transition was in the change.  In Louisville, I'd changed out a bikini bottom for bike shorts.  Here, since there was no changing tent and public nudity is a USAT penalty, I was headed out onto the bike course in nothing but a pair of triathlon shorts.  You know, the one with the minimally cushioned liner.  This would later, and still, prove to be a mistake.

Onto the bike. I was feeling pretty happy so far as I left T1. Then all hell broke loose. Seriously. NOT 5 FREAKING MINUTES INTO THE BIKE I GOT A REAR FLAT. Seriously, Garmin said 4:46. I stopped. Fixed the flat with my only spare tube, blew my CO2, packed back up, and got on my bike again as the 15 minute timer went off on my garmin saying "nutrition."  There was 10 minutes gone. 
Well, I must admit I was somewhat demoralized. But onward and upward. About 10 minutes after that I realized that anytime I coasted (wasn't pedaling) my chain would wobble left and right so violently that it would hit both my spokes and my bike shoe. I stopped. I messed about with the chain. I couldn't fix it. I wasted about 5 minutes. Made a decision to keep riding until it:
a) stopped;or
b) broke.
This did not do much for my mood.  I felt like I couldn't stop pedaling.  Coming on every water stop, I thought about quitting.  I really thought about quitting at mile 56 where the 1/2 ironman distance bikers turned into the finish line.  I was, however, pretty happy to get to the mile 56 water stop at slightly under 4 hours (14 minutes ahead of my 56 mile time at Wildflower, AND, remember I'd wasted about 15 minutes mucking with the bike). That knowledge gave me a first, second wind. I switched out my nutrition bottles, hit the potty and off I went.
My chain was still wonky, but I was doing OK. Then it hit me. . . no, not the wall (that comes later) or the second flat (that too came later) but the pavement. A chunk under my left eye. Still have a sexy bruise. At least this reminded me that I should put on my sun glasses (now that the sun had materialized).

Then came, at mile 72, the second flat. This time it was the front tire. Seriously. Now, here is where my lack of preparation (i.e. not taking this race seriously) comes in. Instead of having stocked my special needs bag with extra tubes, I was EMPTY. So,  I hung on the side of the road for a bit until a passing cyclist took pity on me and threw me his tube. About 10 minutes here. . . maybe a few more. . . not sure. This is an easily fixed mistake and one that I won't be making again.

So then I was back on my way.  Coming down Canyon Road, my wonky chain finally bit me in the ass. OK-- really all it did was finally fall off my crankset causing me to pull over (AGAIN). This time, however, it turned out to be a blessing. One of the lovely course officials cruised up on his motorcycle to see if I was OK.  I was, but I asked him if he knew anything about how to fix my chain. . . He not only diagnosed the problem. . . rear cassette was grabbing my chain and causing my wheel not to spin freely --- good to know I'd been fighting that for 75 some miles. We took my tire off and mucked about with it for a while and somehow he fixed it. I was on my way again. I'd like to say that knowing the bike was fixed really picked up my spirits but it didn't. I was

Mentally. I was begging for a SAG wagon. I was seeing friends on the course (TnT folk) and they would make me cry. I was saying out loud how much I didn't really want to do this. . . that it was a training weekend. That it would be OK if I quit because I'd already gone farther that I had all season. I was mentally quitting. BIG TIME.

But, (and this is the good thing). I knew it was all in my mind. I knew that my body felt pretty good (other than tight shoulders and sore girl parts). The working parts of my body didn't feel bad at all. So, every time I would tell myself to quit, I'd then give myself a reason not to quit. At one point I listed the reasons: Will, Jack, bringing them home a medal (not that they care); I'd never not finished; I'd be embarrassed; David was going to finish; Flick was going to finish; Marlene was going to finish; I'd already gone 86 miles, how much farther is a 112 really? (OK wise ass, I know its 26).

One of the biggest reasons I kept going was Laura Warren.  Laura is a Leukemia Survivor and TNT Honoree who's 1980's chemo gave her breast cancer,.  I knew Laura was sitting at mile 99--3/4 of the way up Chalk Hill (the only big hill on the course-- it comes at mile 44 and 99) waiting for me to get there in her shirt that says "you think an Ironman is hard? Try Chemotherapy" and her IronTeam jacket. God Bless Laura Warren.  I can tell you that had she not been there, I may really and truly have given up.  As I rode by, I told her that having her there was going to make me cry today. Her response? "Pull it together Paula and get up the fucking hill." I credit her for the reappearance of my workout tourettes. And, I've got to admit that the workout tourettes actually helped.  Perhaps I should have tried it earlier, but at that point, I was at 100 miles and I was feeling great. I did get a second wind or maybe a third. I passed people who had passed me. One of them even mentioned "Oh-- you must have gotten a second wind!" I felt pretty good. I actually thought I might be able to equal my Louisville time (8:04) even though I'd had so many problems. I had just enough in my legs for a final push to the finish line.

I didn't, but I wasn't all that far off. . . I finished in 8:14. Not a great bike time by any stretch. 

Sitting here now, I'm not sure how I feel about the day. I probably could have done a faster swim. I learned some lessons on the bike. I pushed though my longest ride of the year (by about 30 miles-- In contrast, I'd done about 6 100 milers before Louisville last year); I feel like I did a good job with my nutrition and I'm glad that I knew enough to realize that it was my MIND saying stop and not my BODY saying stop. All that being said, I'm disappointed with both my times. My swim only because I thought I'd done the 1:10. On my bike it is somewhat more complicated.  If my bike split had been 7:54 (i.e without the conservative 20 minutes I've allocated for the flats and mechanical problems), I would have been thrilled.  I recognize that I probably should be thrilled to have pulled together an 8:14 under those circumstances and with my head playing so many games on me, but I'm also disappointed.  I wanted to do better. . . be better. . . even though this was a training weekend and I wasn't ready yet.  Does it give me a good baseline for Arizona? yep, sure does.  Do I have a lot of work to do?  Yep. I sure do. Have I had my mechanical problems for the season?  God I hope so. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

On the Road Again. . .

"Just can't wait to get on the road again. . . seeing places that I might never see again. . . I can't wait to get on the road again."

Saturday Morning, 4:45 AM. Shocking. Its 445 am and guess what I'm doing? Sleeping? NO. Of course not. Who needs sleep? I'm packing up my bike, getting the magic potions out of the refrigerator and hitting the road. The agenda for the day? Best of the Bay Century. I was headed to Orinda and would be retracing some (but not all) of the Tour of the East Bay Alps--you know, the ride where I cried almost the last 50 miles last year. You know, my favorite ride. There were 4 options: 83 miles, 99 miles, 106 miles, and 123 miles.

Why do I always have to make these choices? I got the Bart station and made my way over to the starting line. Now I admit, when I signed up for this thing, I was thinking about doing the 123 miles. I really was. . . and, I probably could have done all 123-- maybe. But, as I did more research on the ride and I factored in that my longest ride to date was 60--- I decided that maybe I shouldn't do the 123 miles. That left me with 3 options: 83, 99, and 106.

The 83 mile ride was a straight shot from Orinda t0 Fremont. The 99 was the straight shot from Orinda to Fremont and then added a loop that included a Category 1 climb up Sierra Road (I like to climb remember)? The 106 added a loop BEFORE the trek to Fremont-- the first loop visited Happy Valley Road and the 3 bears. The 99 and 106 milers both had the same elevation-- about 2000 feet more than the 83.

So what to do? I really couldn't make up my mind. I would feel like a wimp for the 83. I didn't know if I could do the 106. The 99 looked like a good distance but there was that CLIMB where you went up 2000 feet in 3 miles. . . .No idea what to do.

I decided I wasn't going to do the 106. I would have had to make my decision at mile 2 if I was going to do that and I wasn't ready to make the decision yet. So I took the route sheets for 83 and 99 and decided that I would make the decision at mile 66 whether to head for home or head up Sierra. . .

The route started off with a quick little flat through Orinda, but by mile 2 I was into the first climb of the day. Over the next 5 miles, I gained 1500 feet until I reached Inspiration Point. Now like most East Bay cycling, the views are unbelievable-- except for at 700 am. . . there was nothing but FOG as far as the eye can see. From there it was up to Grizzly Peak and onto Skyline Drive (both of these I was familiar with from TOEBA last year). I actually felt pretty good at this point as I rode along, imagining the vistas to my right-- the view is over the top of Oakland to San Francisco and is amazing-- if there is no fog. From the top of Grizzly it was down, down, down to the little town of Canyon and the cutest elementary school I've ever seen.

Let me say right now that these cyclists have got it figured out. Runners, we call our events races and our water stops serve. . . water and, if you are lucky, some version of Gatorade. Swimmers? Seriously, ever tried to eat while you are swimming? Didn't you mother tell you that you aren't supposed to swim after eating? Triathletes? Water stops on the bike; water stops on the run. Iron Distance-- admittedly there is a huge selection of food on the run. . .everything from cookies to fruit to Coke to chicken broth but for most of the day its been yucky carbohydrate drinks and, remember-- you are running a marathon after 112 miles on a bike and 2.4 miles in the water. . . There is always a start time, a start line, and you wear a chip to tell you your time.

A Century Ride-- note that its not called a race. The start time was anywhere between 6-8 am. There were no cut off times. The REST stops were amazing-- everything from deviled eggs to chocolate macaroons. THERE WAS A LUNCH STOP. The "ride' finished at a restaurant and your all you can eat buffet was included. Did I mention that these cyclists have got it figured out?

Unfortunately, I was using the ride as a prep for an Iron man. SO I ignored all that good food and stuck with my Infinite. . . (still not sure if I like it better than Carbo Pro by the way).

Rest stop #1 out of the way, it was time to climb again.

Now lets climb some rollers. I must admit-- I still don't know what rollers are. People use the term all the time-- little hills that come right after another? Here the "rollers" were twin gains of 500 feet. A wild turkey ran across my path causing me to hit the brakes hard. I didn't hit it-- which surprised me. . . seriously? A freaking wild turkey? Are you kidding me? For the next 10 miles or so I thought about all the funny things I was going to write about "hitting the wild turkey" but, lucky for you Gentle Reader, I don't remember any of them any more.

Came down into the second rest stop at mile 33 feeling pretty good and pretty strong. I also am happy to admit that I was able to pick up a dropped chain while rolling down hill!! I'd never don this before and I must give a big thank you to Mike Kyle for teaching me how to do it last year.

This was where the fun was to start-- I was about to venture off the course I'd done before and into new territory. So I no longer knew what to expect.

284 Feet Above Sea Level. . . to 1207 Feet Above Sea Level-Really, do I have to say much more than that? Well, maybe I do. At the second rest stop I picked up someone to ride with. She was prepping for the Death Ride and this 83 mile ride was to be her shortest ride of the season so far (did I mention that 83 would be 23 miles greater than my longest ride of the season so far?) She was afraid of riding on Hicks Valley Road at the end of Palomares by herself-- apparently a number of cyclists have been hit on Hick's Valley but what she thought I was going to do about it I DON'T KNOW. . maybe just having the extra rider out there with her decreased her chances of getting hit by 50%? Anyway, after my multiple warnings that I was really slow--can't people take a hint-- she and I pulled out together.
At mile 33.1 we were at 284 feet---by 38.8 we had reached the top of that climb. I was in front of her-- but I was struggling. I was breathing hard and my legs were getting tired. I was looking forward to getting to the lunch stop-- even if I wasn't eating.

The backside there was one of those long "bomber" hills and of course my riding "partner" blew by me on the downhill. She was, however, kind enough to wait for me at the stop sign before the left turn onto the scary road. And it was a pretty scary road. That being said, I probably would have felt better alone since my "friend" decided that that would be a good place to chit chat about life.

At the lunch stop, I lost my partner. And I've got to admit, I wasn't unhappy about it. She stopped to eat-- I didn't. I headed out down Caliverdes Road. I was 49 miles in and a little tired but generally feeling good. I still hadn't made my decision about whether to do the 99 or the 83. . .

Caliverdes Road was where the rubber hit the road-- OK, not literally, that came later. . . Essentially a 15 mile climb. I kept seeing signs saying "curvy road" 10 miles and thinking. . . at least 5 must be the down hill portion of that -- right?? WRONG-- so very wrong. A deer jumped out in front of me. Not surprisingly I got around him pretty easily since its like the 5th time that has happened this season. At the top of the first hill-- where I was REALLY 12 miles in and REALLY REALLY ready to start going down, the ride organizers had set up a bare bones water stop-- and god bless them for it. I pulled over, filled up, and chit chatted. A few people caught up to me up at point. I asked if were were headed down yet?? The response. . Yep-- but its a working descent. . .

WTF is a working descent? I don't know what a working descent is. . . I still don't know what a working descent it . . . BUT I do know that there was another what felt like hour of climbing and VERY LITTLE descent. . . As in, all I could think was that I WAS STILL GOING UP and UP and I was really, really ready to not be going up anymore. It was about here I started seriously realizing that I was NOT climbing Category 1 Sierra. My legs were tiring. I was hitting my mileage top for the season. I was ready to be home. I wasn't hurting... my breathing was OK. . .but mentally I was done. I convinced myself that I was better off only increasing my mileage by 23 miles. I told myself that I was a beginning cyclist and probably wasn't ready to get to the top of Sierra. . .I told myself that I probably could get to the top (and, frankly, I probably could have) but that, with such a long season to go, I didn't want to take a chance of getting injured. I was also getting mentally fatigued as well as the physical fatigue.

Zipping into the last rest stop at Mile 66, I was fairly confident in my decision to skip Sierra. As I was pulling in, some guy commented "you look good on that bike." I'm still not sure if he was kidding. . . but I will admit that it made me uncomfortable. It also made me feel like I was being lazy. That feeling was only increased with the same guy pulled out with me. He again commented on how strong and muscular my legs looked on the bike and asked me if I was "doing Sierra." Shamefacedly, I admitted that I was not "doing Sierra" and blamed my relative novice status on the bike, my lack of preparation this season, the blue moon, and everything else I could think of. . .
I turned right, he turned left and I was alone again on my way home.

AND THAT IS WHEN IT HAPPENED. CLANK, PFFFT, POP. OK-- I have a flat. I can't believe that I have a flat. Did I mention it was a rear flat? On my new bike? I was in a pretty good place so I pulled over to the side and started the procedure. I took off my water bottles (having ended up with empty bottles in the past after setting my bike on its side); I took out my bike tools. . . they were all there thank goodness. . .; I took off my tire. I am happy to report that I was able to get the tire off the rim in about 2 minutes. I was able to get the old tube out and the new tube in about 2 more minutes. Another 2 minutes to get the tire back into the rim, make sure that there was no pinch (thanks coach dave) and get the darn thing inflated. . . NOW I HAD TO PUT IT BACK ON. I've got to admit-- I've changed rear flats before. BUT on my new bike the brake is in a weird place and it took me about 9 minutes to get that think back on and settled. . . I could not believe it. But, 1) I've had my flat for the year 2) I've changed a flat on the new bike; and most importantly 3) every time you change a flat is good practice-- or so I tell myself. In any event, it is always empowering to change a flat all by yourself.

After that, the little hills were just adding insult to injury. I was ready to be done. I was ready to be home. I was ready to see the restaurant. . . and eventually I got there. 83 miles; 7783 feet of climbing. All in all a good day. . . Now all that was left was to BART back home, pick up the car, and head to home.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

At Least One of the Seven Sisters is a Bitch

I'm not sure which one. . . Actually, if the part of this ride that is called the "seven sisters" is the part that the other blogs say it is. . . its actually the easiest part of this stupid ride.

This really wasn't the ride I planned on doing this morning. I'd planned on doing the Marin Metric Century course that starts in San Rafael. It has some pretty big hills and is a fairly challenging 60 mile (ish) ride. I'd wanted to leave at 615-- or first light so that I could get home to the family before the kids spent the entire day playing video games, watching TV, and eating junk food. . . . But the more I thought about it, the more I started thinking that maybe a different ride. . one where I didn't have to drive to San Rafael and could leave right from home would be better. I decided to ride from Mill Valley to Ridgecrest to Fairfax-Bolinas Road to the Dam and then back to Mill Valley (detouring through Tiburon for a Paradise loop). Total anticipated mileage= 48. I mapped the route and knew, both on the map and in reality, that there was going to be a ridiculous amount of climbing on this ride. But I figured that it was all at the beginning and I'd be left with a pretty leisurely ride back home. . .

Well, best laid plans (or what was a hastily constructed thrown together hodge podge of last minute decisions) . . . I headed out at about 630. The first challenge occurred early in the ride. Montford to Molino. OH MY GOODNESS. I got about 1/2 way up the first stretch of that hill and had to turn around (thank god there were no cars coming). I got to the bottom, caught my breath, and headed back up again. This time I made it--but I will tell you. . . it wasn't easy. I was already chuffing like a freight train and I had about another 10 miles to climb before I found some somewhat level ground.

Grinding it out. One of the reasons people think I'm a good climber is that I'm generally able to get into a low gear and just grind it out. And grind it out I did. There wasn't a lot of traffic on the narrow, twisty road so I didn't have to worry about cars. There were also no other cyclists out there this morning. I was me, my bike and one really, really big hill.

My plan had been to pull into the Pan toll ranger station and take a little break. But when I got there I realized that I would have to make a left turn into the ranger station AND I was feeling pretty good. I was breathing hard but my freight train breath had subsided and I my legs were turning over fairly quickly. SO, I took the right hand turn and started up Pan Toll Road. This is another 1.3 mile hill. It isn't as steep as the Molino debacle but it is definitely a hill-- especially when you have been climbing for 9.2 miles (and 1500 feet). By mile 10.5 I'd gained another 500 feet. Here was the three way convergence of road that I'd been looking for. One way leads back down Pan Toll (effectively turning around); one road leads to the top of Mt. Tam; and the final road, Ridgecrest Boulevard, leads to my destination, Bolinas-Fairfax Road and the Alpine Dam.

I was feeling pretty good when what to my wandering eyes did appear but a great big orange barrier across Ridgecrest. SERIOUSLY?? I've climbed all the way up here-- done 10.5 miles and I'm going to have to turn around and be satisfied with a 22 mile bike ride??? How pathetic. I crept closer. . . hoping that I was mistaken. I wasn't-- BUT the sign said that Ridgecrest would open at 9:00 am.

Three Bad Choices:

I hit a few buttons on my Garmin and realized it was 8:06. I had 3 choices:

1) turn around and go home;

2) sit here and wait for 54 minutes until the road opened;

3) head on up to the top of Mt. Tam (3.2 miles away) and back. That should take about an hour. . .

And of course, guess which one I chose.

You guessed it-- I figured, "I'll just head out to the top of the mountain and back down. . . how bad can it be? I'm already almost there."

Yeah-- famous last words. At 11.8 miles I'd climbed to 2479 feet. By the time I reached the top (or in this case where the road ends and you must continue to the top on foot) I'd climbed and descended to 2341. I also had a long haired hare (ha ha) jump in front of my path. I love bunnies but the 2 ft tall version is a bit disturbing. This thing looked like what you'd envision the Easter Bunny looking like. I reached the parking lot and hopped off to use the port-a-potty. . .

In an only in Marin/only happens to those of us out at the crack of dawn moment, I caught a couple getting engaged as they walked down the mountain. AWWWWW. .

Enough sentimentality, I was back on my bike. And NOT feeling the love. This time it was up to 2500 feet before getting back to where I started. No cars, no more people, no more scary bunnies (I now know what Anya was talking about). I was thrilled to see that Ridgecrest was now open for business and I zipped on out to start riding the 7 sisters.

I've got to admit, I didn't really think that this part was all that bad today. Maybe because I was glad to be out of the mountain, maybe because I'd ridden this part before or maybe because I was delirious. . . your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, those 3.4 miles went pretty quickly and I was taking the right to head down Fairfax-Bolinas Road.

On the way down: Descending is not my thing. Never has been. Probably never will be. In fact, here I was passed by the only person who passed me all day long-- an Asian gentleman wearing a pink bike shirt and no helmet. On top of it all-- he passed my on the right. Some people. I arrived at the bottom (and the Dam) in one piece. I was glad to have made it down safely but I was not looking forward to the climb back out of the Dam. I was back down to 645 feet! But I had to climb back up to 1100 before I would be off the hills for good. I've got to admit-- I was over it. I was in that place where all I wanted to be was off my bike. But I was only about 26.4 miles in to the ride. ( you know, another 22 miles to go).

I made it to the top AND I survived the barking, charging dog as I finally entered the town of Fairfax. From there on it was all bike path all the time. Headed into town on the fairly flat, fast bike path was great-- except for all the stop signs. Trust me, when your legs feel like my did, the last thing you want to do is stop on put your foot down at the stop signs. BUT given that I was in Ross, Kentfield and Larkspur-- or, for those of you outside the Bay area, three communities where the cops have absolutely NOTHING better to do than ticket cyclists, stop and tap I did.

I had a decision to make. I'd planned on adding a Paradise Loop to the basic bike ride (about an extra 8 miles-- about 1.2 of them climbing miles). . . and I had plenty of time. . . so, I decided I'd head out that way. There was a bail out clause built in-- If I didn't think I'd make it, I could take Trestle Glen and head home effectively cutting out about 75% of the climbing. . . I hate to admit it, but I did. I'd been on the bike for 4 hours (which was about what I was planning on riding); my legs were tired and I was congratulating myself on getting to the top of Mt. Tam.

So was it a success?? Yes and no. I'm proud of the ride I did-- which ended up being 45 miles and 5900 feet of climbing (in my metric-- any time you climb more hundred feet than you rode in miles it is a pretty hard ride) I'm glad that I had a good ride and felt pretty strong but I'm also a little worried. I don't usually choose the bail out options. I also am worried that my longest (time not distance) ride of the season so far is only 4:45 (56 miles). I need to get back out on that bike soon and get a good ride in that will judge where I am. I've got to admit neither the 56 on the Wildflower course (into the wind and up those hills) nor the 45 today are good metrics.

Thanks for reading

Friday, May 6, 2011

What a Long Way

I've come. I've just read back through some of my older posts on this blog and on facebook. The confidence that I've gained being a slow, not so skinny triathlete is amazing. It is amazing to remember what your body can do. . . and more amazing to think what my mind can trick my body into doing.

See you next week in training.

2X3000 yard swims;
50 mile bike ride
10 mile run
1x spin class
6 mile run.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Wildflower is known as a tough course. It's not for the faint of heart or for the faint of training. I know this. I've had 2 experiences there-- both of them, to say the least, difficult. But here I was going back for more. Not just more. . . but MORE.

This picture of the Long course doesn't really give the location credit. It shows the how long things look-- but it doesn't show the beauty of the area. . . it doesn't show the elevation of the hills. . . it doesn't show the chop on the water. It also doesn't show what I consider to be the most difficult part of a Tri-California Event-- the Wave Starts. Wave starts are a good thing. . . I believe that. Otherwise we have 2000 athletes crawling over each other in the water trying to get ahead. Tri-Cal (the producer of Wildflower) uses a gender based philosophy.

THE CURSE ON THE OLD LADY-- PART ONE: Women are slower than men. . . we just are. Yeah, I know that there are women who are faster than men. I know there are men who are slower than women but as a general statement-- men are faster-- there I said it. Its not politically correct-- get over it.

If you thought the last paragraph was not politically correct, wait until you read this one. Men are also more reckless than women. (there is a reason they pay more in car insurance). Now that I've pissed off BOTH the men and women readers, I'll approach my point. . . Given the previous assumptions, Tri-Cal starts all of the women's waves after they get done with the men's waves. SO, if you are. . . for example. . . an 18 year old boy, you start at 830 am. . . if you are a 38 year old woman (eh hum), you don't start until 940. Why does this matter? Well-- the time cut offs are the same. SO, if you are an strapping young buck of 18. . . you have 6 hours to complete the swim and the bike. . . if you are a slow, old lady. . . like someone writing this blog, you have about an hour less. AND BELIEVE ME-- this matters.

Needless to say, given that I was not feeling as well trained (due to my own insanity) as I was at this time last year. . . knowing that I had 8 hours and 30 minutes to finish. . . AND knowing that last year I'd finished in 8 hours and 38 minutes over the course (wasn't an official race so I still finished). . . well, let's just say I'd decided that I was OK with this becoming an aquabike. . .
Seriously, for 4 hours on the way down there I was making excuses for why I wasn't going to make the bike cut off. . . admonishing myself about how I was going to train harder next time. . .
trying to decide if I was going to go ahead and do the run after I got chipped-- gotta love the positive attitude here.

So. . Friday night came and went-- the TNT inspiration dinner was fine-- I ended up sitting near one of my coaches-- the one who had asked me the week before "you still racing?-- I'm surprised." (Gee Thanks, Samir). An early night and a good sleep in the Tahoe brought me quickly to race day morning.

I met my mentees (who were all doing the mountain bike sprint (300 yard swim, 11 mile mountain bike, and a 2 mile run)) and we headed down to transition. At Wildflower-- one of the most interesting things is who you find in transition. The girl to my right. . . trains with Mark Allen (a godfather of the sport). . . the girl to my left. . . has no idea who Mark Allen is. . . Got body marked and started running into old coaches. First it was Mike Kyle (from Iron Team), then Coach Dave (IronTeam), then Paul Kinney (First Ever Tri Team). . . then it was Jeremy S. A current team coach.

Jeremy had the best words of the morning.

Jeremy, "How you doing?"
Me, "Well, I've already made the decision-"
Jeremy, "to Fuck it?-- I thought you'd made that decision 3 months ago"
Me, "what I was going to say was that if it becomes an aquabike because of the time cut offs I'm OK with it."

On that exciting note-- we were off.

The Old Lady Wave got the gun and we were off. Now generally I try to get up towards the front of the swim start simply because I generally have a good swim time. This year, knowing that I'd only been in the water 5 times all season (my shoulder has been bothering me and, frankly, I just can't seem to get in the pool), I figured I'd hang back a little. I knew my past times on this course at this distance (40 minutes) and hoped to be within shouting distance (by 50 at least). As I swam on, I kept finding myself off position-- I definitely did not have a good sighting day-- probably over swam by at least 1/4 mile. . . but I digress. I reached the far turn buoy, found myself passing a few caps of different colors and then found myself headed for home.

Sounds easy right?? Yeah-- that is because I haven't mentioned the wind and chop yet. There had been considerable wind on the drive down (more on that later) so I was expecting it on the bike BUT what I wasn't expecting was the chop in the water-- seriously, I think I've done Alcatraz swims with less chop. I felt like I was standing still. I started to worry if I was going to make the SWIM CUT OFF (much less the bike or run cuts). I lengthened my stroke and tried to calm down. I was glad we were in lake water because every time I took a breath I swallowed a gallon.

As I approached home the water got rougher-- and WAY more congested. Tri-cal had started the mountain bike sprint while we were out there. SO, in addition to having less time to finish the course, I now had the pleasure of having to swim through a bunch of mountain bike sprinter newbie triathletes on my way back to the dock.

I was rewarded with the sight of my coach, Samir on the sidelines-- the look on his face when he said "Paula?!?!?!?!?" was worth the whole swim right there. I hit my watch and looked down expecting the worst (was he shocked I was so slow?). . . 39 minutes 17 seconds. (in other words, a great swim).

Got myself ready to go in transition and narrowly avoided being hit by the woman who fell over in my rack. She dropped her bike-- knocked at least a few more off the racks and fell down. I'd see her about a mile later actually as well-- walking her bike as it appears she damaged it on her way out of transition. Reminder to self-- slow is smooth; smooth is fast.

I headed out on the bike and found the second scourge visited upon us old people by the race organizers-- the mountain bikers. Yep, them again. This time, they were riding their mountain bikes at blazing speeds all over the course. Two crashed as they headed up the hill out of transition. One more couldn't get his feet in his clip less pedals on the mount line-- of course, he was ahead of me. Here were the crazy, aggressive males that they must of have been talking about-- but I was forced to fight my way through. At the mountain bike turn off (they go left-- we go right) a right leaning mountain biker had to cross 4 lanes of bike traffic to get on his path. This did not end well. . . well, at least for the 2 women he knocked off their bikes as they tried to start up beach hill. . . it may have ended well for him-- he made his turn.

I'd never been so happy to be heading uphill. The road had thinned. I was passing a few of the slower male bikers and I was good to go. Settling down and headed out for a long day in the saddle.

My training weekend time of 4:45 minutes for this course would not have me making the dreaded cut off. . . so I knew I had to move it a bit. I was worried. . . strong winds had buffeted the Chevy Tahoe as I drove down to the lake. . . If those were present on race day. . .

Which, of course, they were. The wind hit us in the face the entire ride down interlake (about 20 miles). It was slow going as we went up and down those hills. It was also pretty warm out there (a vast improvement over the freezing rain of training weekend). I was in no real hurry but began to take a quick inventory of the time as the miles went by. I was on pace to match my fastest time on this course from Iron Team training weekend.

Figured I'd better slow down; used the portapotty. Got to the turn onto Jolon road and the wind started hitting me from the side-- Love that. The bike went from side to side. Eventually I found myself coming up on an ambulance and a fire truck. I figured this was the crash of the day (there is always one on the long course). I later found out that one of the stronger male cyclists had been BLOWN OFF his bike by the strong wind. . . and broke his hip hitting the ground. . . and had to be airlifted off the course. (when I learned this, I then changed my wording from "there was a little wind" to "yeah, that headwind was INSANE.")

At Mile 40, AKA the bottom of Nasty Grade, I felt pretty good. I'd found another portapotty, conveniently placed right there at the bottom of nasty (nothing worse than climbing when you have gotta pee) and settled in for the long haul up the big hill.

About 1/2 way up (as I passed walkers) I saw Jeremy sitting on the side of the road-- he looked at me; looked at his watch; and said.
"you are so going to make it-- you are so going to have to run."


Powering through to the top of nasty, and surviving the 10 miles back into the park-- and getting passed by Jeremy as he road his bike back into the park from his perch on Nasty-- all I knew was that it was going to come down to a final long 1/2 marathon through the trails and hills of Lake San Antonio to determine whether I could finish this course in the time allowed.

Four hours on a bike is a long time. A Super Duper Long Time. There are a million things to think about. There is nothing to think about. You can focus on the pain in your who who. You can focus on the twinges in your legs. You can focus on the people in front of you (Gotta Love the girl from Palm Beach Florida who had never seen this course before and had not trained on a single hill). You can focus on the people you pass on the uphills who pass you on the down hills. You can block all this out. What you don't want to do is start thinking about how long it is taking you OR how far you have to run.
I focused on making everyone else happy. I thank volunteers; I call encouragement to fellow cyclists; I look for cool wildlife (saw some Wild Turkey's this time).

I came down the final hill into transition and saw a line up of my current and former coaches and teammates standing there. Ray, Dave, Mike, Frances, Mark. I've always said that my TNT family is amazing and they were even more so today. I jumped off my bike; looked down at my watch and was amazed. 4 hours 14 minutes-- or probably my best time ever. I screamed "BEST BIKE EVER" at my adoring fans and did a happy dance as I ran by.

I jumped into my running shoes, laced up, put on my race belt, changed into my Worcester Academy Tank Top (from track season 1990) and headed out on the course. Before I got out of transition I realized that I'd forgotten my hat. . . but at that point I wasn't willing to turn around and go get it-- thus, I set off on the 13.1 mile trek into the sun.

The trouble with having done a full ironman (140.6 miles) is that a half (70.3 miles) seems totally reasonable. Even the 1/2 at Wildflower-- which is no ordinary 1/2. I'd definitely done some distance running in training 15 and 16 milers, but I had been neglecting my bike/run transition runs. Not that I think it would have made much of a difference. . .

So back to the curse. . . The longer the day goes on, the hotter it gets. So, us old, slow people on the course get to spend the hottest part of the day on the course. And what a course.
I must admit-- for the first 3 miles I did a good job sticking to my run/walk plan. But then up went the hills-- and down went my pace. . . I was a walkin'.

The good news, however, was that I was walking on the uphills. I ran the downs. . . I ran or walked the flats depending on how I felt. At least at first.

One thing that I noticed? The unfailing optimism of the Cal Poly students at the water stops. All of these kids college kids. 18-22? I'm so old that I don't even remember how young college students are. BUT I do remember college. There is NO WAY you could have had me standing outside all day handing out water to slow, fat people. AND THERE IS NO WAY-- NO WAY AT ALL I would have done it in such a positive, encouraging manner. Every time I thanked a volunteer I was given a "no-- thank you-- you are our inspiration" Seriously. These kids were amazing. I can only hope that my kids are willing to do things like this when they grow up.

I was watching my watch-- but I couldn't figure out how long I had. After my turn through the mountains, I turned into the park and headed through the campsites-- all of the tri teams -- my fellow TNT's included-- were sitting outside cheering us on. That was good for a lift in my step.

In addition, Coach Jeremy made another appearance-- he was on his bike and he rode along next to me for a while--it was nice and all-- he even offered me his shades-- but I finally made him go away-- the energy to be nice to him was more than I had at that point.
Conversation went something like this:
Me: "you can go on now."
Jeremy: "that's OK, I don't have anywhere else to be."
Me: "No really, leave. You being here makes me feel like I have to be nice to you and everything."
Jeremy: "OK" Riding off and flipping me the bird.

I also mentioned that right about now was when I was wishing that I'd trained a bit harder. . . the response? Yeah-- right about now that is how everyone feels-- so you aren't that far off.
I was also regretting the energy expended in my little celebration dance at the end of the bike.

Miles 9-11 are "affectionately" referred to as "The Pit" as in the pit of despair; the pit of doom; the pits. . . I've described this before. Basically it is a one mile run (or trot) down the hill-- a turn around and a walk right back up the hill. Coaches Samir and Tom were there on the side-- and Samir made a comment about my Worcester Tank Top. . .
On my way back up out of the Pit I learned that he was a WPI alumni. . . he'd spent some serious quality time in Woo-Town. I was missing my high school reunion to be at Wildflower-- and that tank has been through some serious racing with me. So I was so happy to be representing.

At the top of the Pit I had 2 miles left. I had 40 minutes according to coach Tom. I WAS GOING TO MAKE IT before the course closed. At least I thought I was going to . . . There was still 2 miles to go. . . mostly downhill. Down hill is generally good-- you know Gravity and all that. . . . . Speaking of which. . . I ran with a guy who was using Lamaze breathing for a while-- he actually said to me "I'm a Lamaze coach-- it makes a difference" going down the hill he passed me and said "like labor, gravity helps" I must admit--- at that point I pulled the 2 c-section card. . . but I digress. . .
I found the finish line and coming down the chute I found, yet again, Mike Kyle. Mike is an Iron Team coach (head coach this year). I can't begin to tell you how supportive he is. He is at every race. He is always encouraging. This is at least the 2nd time that he has been waiting for me at the finish line. Seeing him there at the end of the chute just made my day--
I was done. I had made the time cut off. I had 10 minutes to spare! It didn't matter that I'd run a 3:09 1/2 marathon (which actually wasn't so bad); it didn't matter that I was the last one of my TNT spring team mates to finish (the closest 2 were 10 minutes ahead of me). I was done; I had made the cut offs AND I had felt good.

This was a great wake up call for me. . . I have about 6 months to go before getting to IronMan Arizona. . . it is time to get serious. . .
I finished in 8 hours and 19 minutes. Not a stellar time. Not amazing. But I'm still pretty happy with the day. I overcame the fact that I didn't trust the training I'd done. I overcame the mental games I'd played with myself in convincing myself that I was only going to aquabike. I even managed to keep a pretty good pace on the run (14 minute miles-- sad I know but given the fact that I was walking and there were all uphill (or at least 10 of them were) I really can't complain.)
All in all it was a good day.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Is a 50 mile ride ever embarassing?

I'm not sure-- All I know is that I'm not particularly proud of today's ride but I'm not exactly sure why I'm not proud of it. . . To start at the beginning. . . its been a long week. Last Saturday we did a 7 sisters ride-- and let me tell you something-- 7 sisters is at least 1 too many. . . We started about 9 am; I was riding sweep so I had to be the last one out on the course; there were multiple (and I mean multiple) bike problems out there on the road that I needed to stop for -- from the girl who had somehow bent her fork and her wheel was rubbing at mile 1 to the girl who had managed to have her spare tire fall out of her saddle bag and lodge in her back tire at mile 10 to the girl who took a nasty spill on a flat about mile 29. All of that coupled with the 32 miles of riding and 3200 feet of climbing made for a really long day. . . so long, in fact, that when I got off the bike at 1:00 after 5 hours on the bike and headed out to sweep the 6 mile run I was a wreck. I couldn't believe that I'd been on that bike for 5 hours. . . 5 hours. I got to the water stop and headed out onto the trail. When the last participants passed me going down the hill I actually turned around. I was so late, given that the ride had taken 2 hours longer than I'd expected. I got back into town. Grabbed my recovery drink and headed home. Just about then was when I figured out that the ride hadn't taken me 5 hours. . . it had been 4 hours. Including the stopping time to try, unsuccessfully, to fix the fork. . . to remove the back wheel and gearing, successfully, and get that girl moving again. . . and to make sure that the face planter was OK and ready to ride. Suddenly my ride felt more respectable AND I wished I'd done the full 6 miles instead of the 4 that I did instead. After having to take Sunday off. . . I was back to it on Monday with my usual 5:45 am spin class and 9 am run. Not so bad as days go. Tuesday I was back in spin class. . . and Wednesday it was time for spin class (5:45 again) and then a trail run. I headed down to Tennessee Valley after dropping off the kids at school and headed out. A quick and easy trot down to the beach before I headed up on the hills. Up to the top of the Coastal Fire Road. . . over the hill to Muir Beach and back followed by the rest of the climb to the top of the Ridge and then back down the mountain. Total run distance is about 9 miles. Total climb-- about 2500 feet. Does anyone else treat the trail breaks like moguls? I tend to. . . there is something so amazing about coming back down off the ridge. I find myself jumping into the air trying to "clear" as much air as possible before coming back to earth. . . OK-- so I realize that this is probably not the smartest thing in the world-- and one of these days I'm going to lose an ankle-- but it is so much fun. Friday dawned with the prospect of a good hard swim. I've been blowing off swimming for the last 3 months-- I'm not sure why but I can't seem to get myself into the pool. I had a good swim at WF weekend but that is really about it. So, into the pool I went for as long as I could stand. I ended up doing pretty well. . . 500 yards warm up; 600 yards of drills; 400 yards swim; 5 sets of 50 hard 100 slow; 5 sets of 100 slow, 50 hard; and 200 yards cool down. By far the hardest swim of the year for me. . . And then we were on the weekend. Saturday's scheduled workout was a 13.1 mile run (also known as a half marathon). Because I wanted to go on Sunday's scheduled workout (and we didn't have CCD), I negotiated with John to run the 13.1 on my own. It was the first long run from the new house so I was a little curious where I was going to go. I headed out along Strawberry Hill and had my first surprise in my second mile-- I ran right by my friend Judith-- as I turned around to say Hi I felt guilty-- I don't usually recognize people when I run-- now that I live so close to all of my friends I will need to pay more attention. Out to Blackie's Pasture and along the water down into the Belevedere Peninsula. Here the road takes a sharp turn to the left and you start up the hill-- up about 400 feet in about .3 miles. At the top of this hill, however, lives "the other half." As in "oh. . . so this is how the other half lives." The houses are the most amazing things you will find in California-- they are huge. . . they have yards. . . they have views out into San Francisco Bay and of the Golden Gate Bridge. They also have some pretty big price tags. . . but they sure are fun to run by. Coming into Downtown Tiburon I was at mile 9 and I was feeling really really strong. The I-pod was in full force-- And if I may digress for a moment-- is anyone else embarrassed to tell people what is on their IPod? What I listen to when I run is just not anything I would want to acknowledge in front of an audience. By the time I got to mile 10 I was starting to get a bit tired. I had 3 to go and wasn't exactly sure if I had enough real estate left to get them. I had a choice-- either retrace my steps back around Strawberry Hill -- and probably hit 15 miles-- OR come up the huge hill on Ricardo and risk going slightly less than 13.1. . . I went with the hill-- but I did a lap around the rec center first-- this got me to 12.78 miles. Or. . . CLOSE ENOUGH-- I hope. Sunday's ride was going to be a 65 miler. Now, I've never been on a team where we've done "over distance" rides (or runs) before-- so I'm not sure whether this was part of my problem going into the ride or not. . . We met at the College of Marin Indian Valley Campus in Novato at 830-- and it was immediately into the pool. Because the workout wasn't written down, I'm not sure how far I went-- although I think it was about 2300 yards and it included a 10 minute time trial-- something I'd not done before. After the swim, which didn't feel so great, it was off on the bike. Or it should have been-- one of the things that has annoyed me all season this time is the amount of time that it takes to get moving. . . So 40 minutes later we were finally starting on the bike. Good grief. The first part of the ride was though Novato-- no really, downtown Novato. Must have stopped at 5 traffic lights AND 4 stop signs before finally reaching some open road. The clock was ticking. I had promised John that I would be home by 230 since 1) he'd let me run a 1/2 marathon the day before AND 2) he had to get some work done. It was already about 11 when I pulled up to the water stop and filled up my aero bottle. I've got to admit-- up to this point I was both feeling great and feeling terrible. There was a huge headwind, so I was taking serious advantage of my aero position. I was riding pretty strong-- not the last person out on the course and my legs felt pretty good too. Where then was the problem? I HAD TO PEE. Not just a little. . . A LOT! and let me tell you, there is no more uncomfortable position than the aero position when you have a full bladder. Each pedal stroke jostles your bladder. . . each bump-- excruciating. So, I was pretty uncomfortable. There was no where-- Sandy, not even you would have been able to find a place-- to pull over and squat. Even when I reached the water stop there was no where to find relief. I was so uncomfortable I started ignoring my "nutrition" bells on my Garmin. (probably not a good idea). So, when I finally found a somewhat secluded spot I basically dropped my bike and found sweet relief. . . . After that I was basically rocking and rolling. Legs felt good. . . body was starting to recover. . . I was starting to get rolling again. It was, however, getting late. I was getting worried that I wasn't going to make it home in time. Then I hit the bottom of the hill. Now, after 3 TNT season, countless triathlons, and the Tour of the East Bay Alps, I figured I'd seen them all-- but today they threw a new one at me. . . Marshall Wall-- yes, Wall. I had started up when I realized I had, yet another, problem. My right bar shifter was wobbly. It was turning left and right as I rode and, as it turned left and right, it stopped working until I could get it in line again. This made shifting up this hill a bit more complicated. Once I found granny (my favorite gear), I was good to go on the climb and started to make up some time on my teammates AND some nutrition. I was thinking about turning around at the top of the wall to make sure that I was home in time for my husband, and I bent down to grab a drink out of my bottle. There I met the factor that made up my mind for me. When I'd stopped to potty and unceremoniously dropped my bike on the ground, my entire water supply had spilled out as well. So, no water, no time, and a wonky shifter? I got to the top of Marshall Wall and turned myself around. I was 24 miles into the ride. The way home went pretty quickly. Feeling guilty for not doing the whole 65, I made myself stay in the big ring and hammer the hills. No GRANNY GEAR. My quads burned. My freight train breath made a reappearance but it was good. I hurt. I pushed hard. I felt really guilty. Cutting workouts short is not something I usually do. Was I making excuses? Could I have finished? (sure) Could I have finished in time to be home (or a reasonable closeness there to?) Was my bar shifter really that bad? (it rattled like crazy the entire way home. . . ) Am I a bad person for stopping early? Is ONLY riding 50 mile something to be ashamed of? The short answer is I don't know. I feel bad that I didn't do the whole 65. I am proud, however, that I hammered the final 25 and didn't take it easy. I'm not sure. Generally I'd say NO-- but it feels like I made a lot of excuses today for not finishing the workout and that really isn't like me. . . Anyone have any thoughts?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Top 10 things I learned taking my new bike out for its first ride of the season

10. They moved the bottle cage on this bike from my last one-- I can't reach it. Why would they do this and how was I supposed to know when I bought the new one? Along those lines, they removed the cage holder from the seat tube. . . only 1 cage??? Not cool. Gotta figure out one of those butt pack ones now.
9. Almost all the confidence I gained on my old bike did not transfer to my new bike-- took 18 miles (or so) to feel even close to comfortable on the new bike. Still not sure I like the new shifters either
8. My new bike needs a name. Problem is I liked the name of my old bike (see #6, below).
7. Double spin class (2hr) in the gym is nothing like 2 hours on the real bike. Nothing.
6. Who ever stole my old bike is really an asshole. And I'm not a big fan of whoever bought it and is riding it now either.
5. I still climb better than I descend. Why do I keep signing up for Ironman races with no climbing? IM St. George (Utah) still has spaces-- what am I waiting for?
4. I missed both of my better cycling halfs. . . Sandy and or Norma, we need to ride soon.
3, You can't tell from the first ride whether your aerobars are in the correct position (or at least I can't). . . Felt short for the first 18 or so, then started to be OK. . . think I need another good road ride to figure it out.
2. God bless my Adamo saddle.
1. Just because you rode 112 miles 4 months ago does not mean you can jump on a bike and ride 25 easily.

Friday, January 7, 2011

My Dance Card

Who is on your dance card?
Knowing that I'm doing Iron Man Arizona on November 21, 2011 leaves me with a long long time to figure out what, exactly, I want to do between now and then. My first temptation, sitting on my butt and hoping that I can just show up and have a good race probably isn't all that realistic, so I've been designing a training plan/race plan for the year.

So here is my dance card (definite races in bold-- tentative races in italics)
Solvang Century Ride, March 9, 2011 (100 mile bike ride)
Oakland Marathon, March 27, 2011 (26.2 miles)
Wildflower Long Course Triathlon, April 30, 2011 (1.2 mile swim; 56 mile bike; 13.1 mile run)
100th Anniversary Bay to Breakers May 15, 2011 (7.4 miles across San Francisco)
Escape From Alcatraz June 5, 2011 (1.5 mile swim; 18 mile bike; 8.4 mile run)
Dipsea Footrace June 12, 2011 (8.4 mile trail run)
Peachtree Road Race July 4, 2011 (6.2 mile run)
Vineman Aquabike July 30, 2011 (2.4 mile swim; 112 mile bike)
Falmouth Road Race August 13, 2011 (7.1 mile run)
San Francisco Triathlon @ Alcatraz August 21, 2011 (1.5 mile swim; 24 mile bike; 7 mile run)
Nike Women's Marathon (or 1/2) October, 2011 (26.2 mile run)

Guess I gotta start training
So I've got the races picked out-- and it looks like a pretty full year to keep me motivated. Now, gotta actually start training for those races. I've started back pretty slowly-- I'd not been doing nothing for the last two months, but I've definitely not been doing 100 mile bike rides either. So, this week-- with plenty of time to get my act together-- I started my run focused training with some brick workouts (a bike ride followed by a run) and some longer runs.

Monday's spin class at 6:45 am was great-- then, after getting the kids ready for and to school it was off to Blackie's Pasture for my run. I did a six mile "lollipop" loop and felt great-- I even made it back in time to make it to Reader's Workshop in Will's class.

On Wednesday it was another 6:45 spin class followed by an 8 mile run (after getting the kids off to school). The out and back to was a good run. The way out was nice and toasty-- my gloves came off; my shirt sleeves got rolled up I stopped to take a picture of the seal floating in the bay. Then came the turn around. Yikes-- Holy Head Wind Batman. It took me an extra 5 minutes to make it home the wind was so strong. All in all, however, it was a pretty strong run for my first longer run since November.

It was even colder on Friday. The temperature dropped to 39, and while not particularly cold for most parts of the world, it is pretty chilly for here. This is partially my own fault since I've managed to not acquire a lot of really cold weather gear. That being said, gloves, ear warmers, full tights and long sleeves on-- I headed out.

I'd decided to run a Dipsea Loop. Not the Dipsea Trail, but a loop through Mill Valley that includes the famous dipsea steps (you can check out other editions of my blog or www.runnersworld.com for a discussion of the famous Dipsea Footrace.

Anyway, this is a really up hill course and includes all 671 steps. Yes, 671 steps. They are steep. They are uneven. They are really hard to run. So, I ran the first set. . .

Walked the second set. . .

And ran the third. To say that I was sucking wind is an understatement. By the time you get to the top of that third set it is a "freight train" breath moment. . .
Followed by a three mile run down hill back into town and to my house. All in all-- a good training day.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Week One-- Sort of

Wow-- so last year, when I knew I was going to do an Iron man, I had the benefit of knowing that I was going to do it with Team in Training's IronTeam-- a group of folks dedicated to curing cancer AND training for distance events. I'd have coaches (three of them no less) to design workouts; team captains to provide routes, mentors and other captains to provide support on the courses. . . Basically, all was taken care of and I had nothing to worry about.

This year? I have nothing.

O.K. well, not completely nothing, I've got books with triathlon workouts in them; I've got 1/2- 3/4 of my season's materials from last year; I've got maps of good routes here in Marin county; I've got the Internet-- try a quick search for Iron man triathlon training. . . I'll wait right here. . .

See what happens? By my computer, there are almost 2.8 million articles, stories, plans, groups to train you, and coaches on the web. . . Yeah-- that helps. Not to mention that most of these coaches, plans etc cost money-- the one thing that (after having to pay the Foundation Fee to get my race entry) I'd rather not do.

Yep, you guessed it. I'm already feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of doing this all by myself.

That being said, I know that there are some things that I want to do this time.

If you've read my previous entries, you know that I was not happy with my run-- to the extent that you can call it a run. Throughout last year's season, I didn't feel like I was running enough-- never felt like I was going to be prepared for the run part of the course-- and I was right. Now, I think that the reasons for that are twofold-- first, we didn't run enough and second, no one (no matter how much they try) can fully mentally prepare you for the way you feel starting out on that marathon at 4 in the afternoon. So, one thing I want to do is improve my run (and my run time).

Most of you also know by now of my off again love affair with my bike. I've never been a biker. I'm generally terrified of my bike. BUT, at some point during last year's season, I developed a confidence on the bike. I was slow, but I was capable. I climbed some killer hills. I pedaled some killer distances. I was able to do this. By the time race day came around, I knew that I could complete the 112 miles on the bike. . . and I thought I could do it in the time limits.
I was hoping to do the distance between 7hours 45 minutes and 8 hours. Due to the heat (103 degrees on the bike) and some problems with water (the race not having any at a few water stops) I pushed the higher end of that envelope and finished in 8 hours and 4 minutes. This year, I'd like to do better.

Finally, or more appropriately, first off, the swim. I'm generally pretty strong here and put forth a confident swim time. That being said, I do think I could do it a little faster next time-- I know that while I was in the water I kept thinking about one of my coaches, our swim coach, who left too much of her energy in the swim during her first triathlon and had a rough afternoon because of it. So, I don't want to change too much here-- maybe shave off a minute or 2.

I know my goals:
Swim- 2 minutes off my time
Bike-30 minutes off my time (8 to 7h 30 min)
Run-30 minutes off my time (6 to 5h 30 min)

and now you do too. . . now we just have to figure out how to get there.

As an afterthought, the other think I'd like to do better is transitions. I spent about 5 minutes in the first transition (changed from bikini bottom to bike shorts, socks, and got shoes, bike helmet and sunglasses and bike)-- which was respectable. I spent 14 minutes or so in T2. Changed shorts, top, hat, socks, and got out the door. . . not sure what happened here. . . OK-- it had something to do with a 103 degree bike ride and a large (3 ft) fan in the changing tent . . . but I know I can do better here as well.