Thursday, December 20, 2007
I had initially been torn between deciding whether to coach or to race this season. I gave it some thought, and concluded that I need to take advantage of the opportunity to coach this team while the option is open to me!
It's going to be a big job. The spring team usually has around 100 participants, and we train them to participate in one (in some cases both) of two of triathlon's marquee events: the Wildflower Triathlon Festival at Lake San Antonio and King's Trail in Maui.
I'm so excited!
Thursday, December 06, 2007
1) I had the good fortune of spending last weekend at a tri clinic with Dave Scott. He added volumes to what I learned earlier this year at USAT in Colorado Springs. More to come.
2) I have a new favorite LBS (that's local bike shop). Trek Bikes (formerly ST Bikes) in South San Jose. Excellent customer service, knowledgable staff, and one kickass Tuesday night spin class...for free! More to come.
Now, off to the dentist to finish the major overhaul. :-)
Monday, November 12, 2007
Due to a huge, horrible oil spill in the bay, the SF tri at Treasure Island was a bit altered. While this was disappointing for our participants, me, and the other coaches, it was obviously far more detrimental to the delicate and already tenuous ecology of the SF bay. I feel terrible thinking about all the birds and fish that are dying.
At any rate, once we heard about the oil spill and the extent of the damage, the event was touch and go. On Friday afternoon Tri Cal finally posted the official announcement, the water was deemed unsafe for swimming and the swim portion of the event was to be cancelled.
However...the show had to go on! This year's tri at T.I. just happened to be the ITU Pan Am championships, and a double points event for pros and elites trying to qualify for slots at Beijing next summer. It was settled then--the event would happen anyway, modified to be a duathlon.
This was great news, but I still felt pretty bad for our participants. These people had been training for a triathlon for the past 14 weeks. For most of them, it would have been their first tri. Between them (and there were barely 30 of them) they have raised over $75k for cancer research. For some of them, their triumph would have been magnified by the fact that they could barely swim at the beginning of the season! All of them were ready for their first competitive open water swim.
Luckily, the LLS stepped in at the last minute and gave them the choice of rolling 75% of the money in their Paycor accounts to another fundraising season; that way they'd be able to salvage most of their fundraising efforts and train for a different event.
It was a tough choice for some members of the team. Some people had friends and family that had arrived from out of town to support them. All of them had made room in their lives for nearly 3 months to train for a multisport event--a time consuming committment, especially for people who already have full-time jobs and families--and were unsure about committing to another season.
In the end, about 40% of the team went through with the event as a duathlon. I don't think a single one of them regretted it. By the time you finish a 10k run immediately after a 40k bike ride, evidently you're too tired to care (or even remember) that you didn't get to start with a swim as originally planned.
In training for a triathlon (or any endurance event), it's the journey that counts. Race day is one day. Only ONE DAY. What's to say you won't wake up that morning with the stomach flu? What if you get a flat or two and run out of tubes? What if there IS a catastrophic oil spill? Whether the race gods are with you or not--if you didn't enjoy the training leading up to it, it was all pointless.
I think TNT people are better off for it than others. They spent the season changing their lives, and getting in shape. They made connections, networked, laughed, smiled, and learned about things like how to change a bike tire, what the hell Body Glide is, and that you're never too old to pick up a new hobby. At the end of the day, they did something selfless; they raised thoursands of dollars that will save lives. They honored their fighting and fallen friends and family members stricken with blood cancers.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Right now the team is in the middle of a taper: a period of reduced activity following intense training. This allows for tissue repair/rebuilding and gives the body a chance to top off its liver glycogen and muscle glycogen stores.
Most of our participants are racing Saturday morning in the Olympic distance event, and a handful are doing the sprint on Sunday morning instead.
I'm so excited--I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone finish on their big day! So many of our participants have come so far, and I'm so proud of them. There isn't anyone who isn't fully capable of finishing on race day. I'll just keep my fingers crossed and will away illness, injury, disqualifications, and mechanical issues with bikes!
I hope we've truly prepared them. I hope we haven't forgotten anything in training, and that they have all the information they need. I hope it doesn't RAIN!
Saturday morning, met up with the team for a light swim and run down in Aptos. Two laps around the USS Palo Alto, followed by a two mile run along the shore.
Saturday afternoon, went surfing for a couple hours. The weather was beautiful and the waves were perfect. Low tide was smack dab in the middle of the day. Conditions at the Hook were just right: nicely formed, regular sets, about shoulder high. A bit crowded, but didn't get barked at by any locals.
Saturday night, dinner with friends, followed by an awful (if not slightly amusing) movie.
Sunday morning, an easy bike ride out and back on Canada with a few members of the team (who had joined me in surfing the day before).
Sunday afternoon, a friend's baby shower.
Sunday night, dinner at home with my cousin: scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits, and champagne. ;-)
"How long does it take for the water I drink to enter my bloodstream?"
Hmm. I'll have to give my usual answer to such questions: it all depends. It depends on...
1) The temperature of the water
2) Your current activity level (are you sitting around drinking water, or are you racing in a triathlon and drinking water?)
3) What is already in your stomach (a high carb concentration slows stomach emptying)
4) How much is in your stomach
5) How fast or slow you drink the water (If you drink a lot, enough to slightly distend the stomach itself, stretch receptors in your digestive tissue will trigger faster emptying)
Thursday, November 01, 2007
I tried to buy candy that I didn't like, really, I did. And some of it WAS stuff I hated. Twizzlers, for instance, taste like plastic. Why are Twizzlers so popular? I think I might stuff one or two in my bike tool kit--they might be useful next time I need to change a flat or something...
I digress. On top of the fact that I've been consuming way too much garbage this week, I've also been a lazy, lazy girl.
So, today...speed squats.
*10 minutes spinning
*Followed by specific speed squat warmup (as detailed previously)
*8x2 speed squats @ 95# (That's right. Sets of TWO. I'm trying to get fast, here! And there was exactly 1 minute of rest between each set).
SS 1: Zercher press 3x12x95#/Single-leg Deadlift, 3x12x15#DB (each side)
SS 2: BB walking lunge, front squat hold, 3x24x30#/BB side lunge, 3x12x30# (each side)
Now, the hour hath arrived. I must go pull out onto the parking lot usually known as the freeway. But hey, on the way home, I'll get to see my little god-daughter.
Maybe I can muster up the motivation for a run around the neighborhood tonight...or at least a spin on the trainer.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Everything seemed to go off pretty smoothly. We had all the volunteers we could have hoped for, mostly from the spring team. It was a great chance to catch up with some people, however briefly! It further cemented my decision to hang around for one more spring season.
I spent the morning as a buddy swimmer--helping less confident swimmers cover the distance without psyching themselves out too much. The water was colder than any of the swims we've done so far this season, I'd guess neighborhood of 59-60 degrees. The reservoir sits in a narrow canyon that holds onto cold air and sees less sunlight than open areas.
By the time I got out of the water, the faster cyclists were finishing up and heading out on the run. Everyone did a fantastic job and completed all three disciplines looking strong.
I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone does at their event in two weeks.
Sunday, I managed to drag my butt out of bed for the captains' ride up in Portola Valley. It felt good to be out and about on Eddie again. I've limited myself to spinning while my car has been in the body shop; my bike rack didn't fit too well on the rental and I didn't want to risk getting grease all over the backseat interior. Anyway, the ride was meant to be leisurely, but since I'M not tapering for anything, I kept it at a brisk spin the whole way. No hills or anything, anyway.
Unfortunately, in Woodside, one of the guys on our team got a vicious tongue-lashing from a motorist in a Land Rover. I'm not sure why she singled him out--there were about ten of us sitting at a red light together and we'd all been descending Woodside Road single file. She kept screaming at him to share the road, and that she'd had to get into the left lane to get around him. He held it together pretty well, and for how I tend to react to those situations, so did I...in that I managed to keep my mouth shut. Nothing constructive would have come from me at that moment. I had to bite back the urge to tell her if she didn't need such a big gas-guzzling car for her lazy, bony, day-spa lurking ass, maybe there would have been enough room to pass him safely without changing lanes. Followed, of course, by the extension of a strategically chosen digit.
In any case, what someone should have said was that California law states that motorists are to treat cyclists like slow-moving vehicles, and if you must change lanes to safely pass them, SO BE IT. Besides, the bike lane on Woodside road is, like, eight feet wide. So, she was full of crap to begin with.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Physiologically, it makes sense to me. Hey, I wrote [most of] a thesis on DOMS. :-D Still gets me every time.
Anyway, yeah, legs were talking a little bit today. Adductors mostly. Could have to do with the leaping around I did at track last night--I ended up circuit training with the AG's, half of whom had run the Nike half on Sunday. They were dead. I don't think even a hit of crystal meth would have energized them, but I did my darnedest and led some rather spritely strength drills, if I do say so myself. Good thing, too--I ended up not having time to get any sort of a run in.
Today, I set the stage for six weeks of speed benching. Got a 3 rep max (so shi-shi I am not sure I want to post it) and did some other work, too. I was feeling a bit uninspired, so I didn't work any functional stuff in,unfortunately.
Dynamic ball warm up
Speed Bench warmup (Superset 6x6 rep sets of powerbench--with giant rubber bands for resistance, would have to draw a picture for it to make sense, I think--with wide-grip lat pulls, 5x12 at 70#)
Speed bench to 3 rep max (It was 85#, okay--now stop laughing)
SS1: DB row 3x12x60#/Invert tri DB extension 3x12x20#
SS2: SA DB Incline press 3x12x20#/Tricep pushups (narrow hands) 3x12
And then the upper body was good and tapped. Nice transient hypertrophy, too. I had to resist the urge to flex it like Aaahnold. I held off on the abs, because after a good session of powerlifting technique, I am really feeling them anyway. They were pulling pretty hard under the bar.
Would be nice to spin for an hour tonight...yeah, right, like that'll happen. Dinner is mine to cook this evening, and it's not like I have an event hanging over my head...yet. :-)
Monday, October 22, 2007
I think I'd like to train for Wildflower again I also had a friend remind me the other night that we'd been talking about doing the tri at Memphis in May next year.
In any case...I decided that just because I have not made a definite decision as to whether I'll be training for more races next spring, I can go ahead and get on with my off-season as if I WERE going to train for more races in the spring.
So...today. Back to strength training, this time with a specific focus on bring up absolute strength rather than muscle mass:
10 minute spin
- Superset 1x3: Speed squat 6x55#/GH raise x8
- Superset 2x3: Speed squat 6x75#/Reverse hyperx12
- Box squat to 3 rep max: 95, 115, 135, 155# (ROM started to suffer @ 155)
- Superset 3x3: Split squat 12x45#/Sumo squat 12x60#
- Superset 4x3: Diag. woodchop 12x50#/Leg raise x12
Then, I got my butt on the foam roller to work the IT bands a bit.
Everything felt pretty good. Hamstrings a little tight, left knee did okay. I've lost some strength in the past two years, but for it I gained endurance. Not so bad. I'd like to bring my max squat up to 200# by January. I'd also like to start cycling some Olympic lifting back in to work on flexbility and on fast twitch fibers in my lower body.
I also need to make sure I work in lots of single leg strength and stability work.
I'm such a different athlete than I was two years ago. I used to focus mainly on Olympic lifting and could regularly clean ank jerk 100#+. I used to love to speed squat and got up to 305#. I'm not so interested in that anymore, but I would like to be stronger than I am now...maybe somewhere in the middle.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
I wouldn't say I ran it, but it sure was a lot of fun!
I've become the coach I didn't want to be--detrained, unorganized and unmotivated in terms of my own training and workout schedule.
On the other hand, coaching is rewarding. It's been wonderful to watch the fall team progress. A great thing about working with the "everyman" population of Team in Training is that they continually amaze me and more importantly, themselves. Their changes are not about a podium spot, a better PR, or even a finer physique. It's about discovering (or sometimes re-discovering) the athlete they always were. It's about adopting (and usually keeping) a new lifestyle. It's about about finding out they CAN run all the way around the track, or clip in and out of bike pedals, or transform from a total non-swimmer to an open water stud!
Today I ran the whole distance with two great ladies from my team, Kathryn and Meredith. We had a blast! It was smiles and high-fives all around from miles 8-13. Neither of them had ever run farther than 7ish miles in their lives! They did awesome, and though they kept telling me at first that I could go ahead if I wanted, the truth is, I couldn't have gone faster. They've been doing speedwork; I have not. They have been swimming, spinning, and biking regularly. Even if I were in the same shape I was in back in May and June, I'd much rather have run with them anyway!!!
I felt great fitness wise, and of course, mentally. I wasn't nervous about this one; it was just for fun. As for tissue integrity....starting at about mile 6 or 7, my left knee started to complain a bit. IT band was not happy--I haven't been giving it the appropriate attention lately. No surprise, this has been a challenging week. Amazing, I heard barely a peep from the calves, which were hurting so much during my two runs earlier this week that I had to cut them short by a mile or two. So overall, did okay. As of my last couple rides, the post-WF knee issues seem to have completely resolved themselves with diligent rolling and stretching.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Saturday: rode an easy 12 miles with the sprinters. should've done more, but was swamped by chores at home.
Sunday: long run, on my own because i forgot to set my alarm to run with the team at 8. just went out to campbell park and knocked off 90 minutes at L1-2. bit slow; think I only covered 7.5-8 miles.
Friday, September 07, 2007
I drove over to Almaden Lake Park and set out toward Santa Teresa at about 440pm. I'd mapped out a modified version of the Bailey loop so that it was about 10 miles longer. I headed south out Santa Teresa for a long, flat spin to warm up my jello-y legs.
Now...Santa Teresa is notorious for becoming a wind tunnel in the late afternoon, but I can never seem to remember which way the wind usually blows. It seems like I battle unrelenting headwinds everytime I roll out there, whether it's north or south. I figured I'd be okay, since the last time I was out there the wind was markedly worse as I headed back home (north).
Holy shite. Whatta headwind! It was worse than the winds at Wildflower back in May...and I'm not even in long course shape anymore. Seriously, I was spinning along at a moderate-high gear, and I was making about 12 mph on flat ground. By the time I got to Bailey, I was feeling a little wiped. My right trapezius was screaming bloody murder, having not had much time to recover from shouldering a heavy backpack over Labor Day weekend.
I hunkered down into my drops to get as aero as I could and kept grinding my way forward, getting buzzed by the occasional jerkoff in a sports car or F-150.
8 miles...9 miles...10 miles...11 miles... I was getting a bit demoralized. Shouldn't the turn be coming up soon? The headwind was fierce, and I kept having to squirm around and rub my neck to make it feel better--it was STINGING.
Finally, I rolled up on the turn to Willow Springs Road. I pulled around the corner and stopped for a drink and to much a few sport beans. As I set off again, I sighed with relief. No wind here; I was headed between some hills. The climb up to Chesbro reservoir was winding but not at all steep. I was only passed by a few cars, including one of those stupid stretch Hummer limos. Huh?!? When I reached the reservoir, my jaw dropped. I could see why CaliMan had been cancelled earlier in the year...it was dead empty! Only a few puddles and there. Eek. I turned right and skirted the eastern edge of the reservoir, and then turned right onto Uvas road.
After a brief flat spin followed by a short climb, I was rewarded with a long, smooth descent. I relaxed and actually went kinda fast...for me, anyway. I looked up at the sky to the west. The sun was beginning to set behind the smoky haze, making a weird fireball above the horizon.
Uvas turns into McKean before it hooks back up with Almaden. At Almaden, I started to feel the right knee a little bit...but not so much that I was overly concerned. It was okay out of the saddle. In fact, it is the worst now when I'm getting started from a dead stop in the middle of the ride, but other than that it's okay.
I spun comfortably down Almaden back to the park and my car.
31.5 miles in 2:04:00. A bit pokey, but not bad.
And you know what? I didn't even need to ice my knee. :-)
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I have not posted in a while. I was out of town for a week because of the death of my grandmother, followed by a planned backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail.
My own training has been a bit sluggish, but coaching has been going well.
I enjoy working with the team on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It's a small group of people (about 30 or so) and attendance has been sparse, but I expect that to change now that Labor Day has come and gone. We just started our first build phase and added our first brick workout last night. Everyone is doing well and most are proficient swimmers...unusual for a group of complete beginners. I love answering questions about injuries and strength and conditioning. Yesterday a guy on the team asked me if I felt like I was still at work when I came to practice. I realized I hadn't thought of it before, but the answer is no--it's just too much fun!
I now have to get a bit more serious about my own training; I've got an half-marathon looming on the horizon. Last night I did a timed 2 miler after a decent warmup and some speed drills. I still suck, but not as badly as I'd thought. I ran a 17:26, mile 1 in 8:22 and mile 2 in 9:04. Pretty crappy split, but I have some time to improve it. I'll fit in some hill work tomorrow, a long run this weekend, hopefully 7+ miles, and maybe some mile repeats or a pyramid next week at the track. I guess, in retrospect, I don't have to feel too bad about my timed 2 mile run...after all, I was recovering from hauling a 40# pack around at 10k of altitude for 4 days!
Sigh. Off to swim a bit.
Friday, August 17, 2007
I emerged from the whole to-do feeling like I'd had a great workout, and above all else, feeling like....I. Suck. Ass.
There are many reasons for this. Some of them were my fault, some of them were not.
1) I have been slacking since SJIT. I had not been in the pool for the past month (I swam TODAY!). I've been running maybe twice a week, no more than 45 minutes slow, maybe 30 minutes tempo at a time. No track work.
2) I did not wear a wetsuit (they actually make you swim faster). But then, the water was 78 degress; I might have cooked. Anyway, the drag from my tri-top was definitely noticeable on the second loop.
Not my fault:
1) The swim course was mismarked. Normally I can swim 1500m in 30-35 minutes. This swim took me 43:25. As I exited the water, a race volunteer read me my time and said sorry, the buoys had been blown around by the wind...or something. No biggie--it's pretty much entirely volunteers out there, out of the goodness of their hearts. Besides, I needed the workout.
2) Most people interested in a quickie aquathon on a Thursday night are, um, kind of hardcore. So I was dusted. I"m used to the Everyman crowd...who I usually outswim without even trying. But these peeps? FAST. Every time I tried to draft off somebody, they were just a little bit faster than me. Every time I sighted, I could see the pack ahead of me, just a little further away. Kinda demoralizing for a girl who thinks she's a fast swimmer.
The good things:
1) I had a chance see some old teammates. Mary was there, and Sachin, and of course Trista from the fall team. Also, Christine's friend Sarah--poor girl is terrified of open water!
2) I got a kick-ass workout, for how much I've been slacking. The swim was tiring, and I got to see what an open water swim sans wetsuit feels like. The run was beautiful, and not too tough. I could have gone out harder, but I was enjoyng the twilight and not sure where and when the hills would strike.
3) Knee feels awesome!
Now...time for me schedule some speed work during the week, and some long runs on the weekends. I have officially signed up for the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon, on October 14th!
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Last night was our first track practice as a team for the fall tri season. It went pretty well; just a light run and some stretching and dynamic flexibility drills. We're hurting for participants, which is a bit disappointing for me. Our goal had been to recruit 50 people and so far we've only got 22. :-( I'm trying to stay optimistic; we've got three more weeks to accept new participants, after all! The staff is a really great crew; a few familiar faces from spring season, including one of my ride buddies, Trista, as a training captain. Awesome.
I've just come off a two-week hiatus from training. I was on vacation in China! I went for one short run, but it was so hot, humid, and smoggy that I was pretty well toasted after about 20 minutes. Other than that, I did LOTS of walking, including quite a few steps hoofing it up and down the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Turns out that a total break was a good thing. The knee is doing a lot better, and I was able to get some good bodywork, including a Shen (Xen?) session and a couple Taiwan style sessions.
Since my return on Monday, I have been trying to get back on the California clock. Last night at practice I ran a pretty easy mile. Today I went for a nice, easy ride--about 24 miles to Calero and back. I went up Bailey--my first sustained climb since Escape from Alcatraz on June 3rd--and the knee felt pretty good! Didn't pinch at all until I only had about 5 miles left...not bad. As I was coming down McKean, Linda Gallo passed me and said hello! Always fun to sight a local pro. :-) If only I could swim like her! Now I'm at home, kicking back with the knee on ice. I'm feeling pretty good. The break did me good, and I don't think I've lost too much fitness.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
It's a 15 mile paved recreational trail that runs from San Jose down to Morgan Hill. I've been on it a few times to run or to rollerblade and seen lots of cyclists, so I thought I would give it a try. Talk about an awesome spin course!
It's not a challenging trail by any means. It's pretty flat along its entire course, although there is a gradual gain in elevation as you head south, which makes for some pretty fun, fast spinning on the way north. Also, at 630pm last night it was deserted. I biked a total of 16.53 miles and passed 3 cyclists and two park rangers.
The northern end of the trail is not necessarily in the greatest neighborhoods, but once you get south of Bailey, the fields open up around you and there are awesome views of the hills to the east and west. Quail and wild turkeys abound. *Once when I was out for a run on this trail, I saw a great big red bobcat crossing up ahead of me.* As I was headed northwest back to my car, the sun was setting dead ahead and the breeze was filled with the scent of manzanita.
Anyway, it made for the perfect low-key ride. Knee kicked a bit after 6 miles or so, but not too bad. Best of all...today I don't even feel it! It's finally showing signs of being on the mend. :-)
Monday, July 09, 2007
I did end up going for that ride on Tuesday evening. I followed my client and his friend (a former racer, as it turns out) on the Portola Loop...or so I thought. We took a couple new twists on one of my old favorites, making it a hiller, slightly longer ride. It was fun!
My knee held up. It didn't feel great, but it certainly didn't feel as crappy as it did on my last ride. Interestingly, it feels just fine when I'm climbing out of the saddle. Maybe I need yet another seat height adjustment; I still find myself shifting my position backwards an awful lot.
I also learned how to draft. Whee!
Since then, it's been active recovery all the way. A light (somewhat hot) hike on the 4th, a light functional hip workout on the 6th, and swimming in Lake San Antonio for about 45 minutes on the 7th. Incedentally, it was about 20 degrees warmer than the last time I was in it. :-)
Today I took my first real swim since SJIT. For a total of 2300m:
100 cool down
Yes, I will definitely sign up for Ti2Y and, I think, the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon.
Nothing new yet! Next meeting is this Thursday evening.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
On the training side:
Aaaahhhhh... After SJIT I took 8 days completely off from training. A little bit of flexibility thrown in as stretching, sticking, and foam rolling. My body and mind both needed the time, I think. Knees are feeling up to par for ADL's, which for me is saying a lot, demonstrating lunges and squats as I do all the livelong day.
My first real workout was about 30 minutes ago. I headed over to the pool for a short session, only about 1600m or so. I didn't even do a good job of keeping track! Felt great, though. Christine was there when I got there, so I shared a lane with her for a while. What luck, huh? She hardly ever swims at Burgess. We made tentative plans for a morning 4th of July ride.
Next, I'm meeting a client (and one of his friends) for a short ride at 530 today. Just the Portola Loop. I'm hoping it goes well--last time I got onto my bike was two weeks ago, and about 5 miles in my right knee was screaming for mercy. Oh, when will I ever learn that superhero-personal-trainer-girls need to stretch, too?
With nothing to traing for or look forward to at the moment, I'm feeling a little drifty. I need something to sign up for. Unfortunately, now that I'm a coach I can't race at Treasure Island; it's now my job to help others through it on their big day.
Some thoughts in the meantime:
*Treasure Island to Embarcadero open water swim
*Happy Fish 10k run (Kinda gotta do that one!)
*Santa Cruz Sentinal Olympic Tri
*Triathlon at Pacific Grove (Maybe I'll try a sprint for fun!)
On the coaching side:
Not too much is happening quite yet.
I signed up to work three informational meetings, and the first was last night, down in Gilroy. We actually got THREE people to sign up! You may be saying "big whoop," but at a meeting where only 15 people show up, snagging three of them is quite a haul for the tri team! Most people are interested in the run and cycle teams; I guess a triathlon just sounds hard to them or something... *wink*
Anyway, other than that, the coaching staff has been finalized. Seems like a pretty good crew; I'm looking forward to a fun season!
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Today was the San Jose International Triathlon. The good people at J&A Productions were kind enough to let me change my individual entry to a relay entry at the last minute.
Christine bravely volunteered to ride the bike leg for me, to spare my tricky knees. It was her first official event since being diagnosed with Crohn's this past winter.
I had a great swim, very fast, I think. I'm still waiting for the results. I ran out of the water up to transition, handed the timing chip to Christine, and she was off! I was a teeny bit jealous of her for getting to ride the bike course; it's a very fast, straightforward course, along roads that I am accustomed to riding. Only difference was that Christine wouldn't have to heed the red lights!
I gave her about an hour and a half, and she rolled back into transition right about on time. She ran her bike up to me and threw her arms around me, crying. She was back. It was sweet.
I took the timing chip and ran my little heart out for 6.2 miles. It probably wasn't my greatest run. My left knee started to complain around mile 3.5 and wouldn't shut up. I focused on cadence and ran off pavement when I could. It was hot and the course was uncomfortably flat. I ran across the finish where Christine was waiting for me and grabbed a couple bottles of water, a bagel, and some excellent barbecued chicken.
I spent the rest of the afternoon on my laptop with my knee on ice, and rewarded myself later with a Thai chicken burrito from Aqui.
Altogether a good day and a fun race.
Now...time to shift my focus to coaching newcomers to the sport of triathlon, and to designing and implementing a new resistance training regimen for myself.
Friday, June 15, 2007
It will be fun; it will give me a chance to see a lot of my friends from TNT who I haven't really seen at all in the past month. I'm looking forward to it, but still and all, I'm ready for a break.
My knee has been holding steady, but it's definitely not 100%. I had a great session with Kristi before she went on maternity leave that helped immensely for Alcatraz, but I have not been as diligent about stretching as I should be, and the effects are starting to accumulate once again.
I'm suddenly less motivated. I don't look forward to my workouts as much; it's been close to 100 degrees out for a couple days, and I haven't even wanted to go for a swim.
Perhaps it was the added volume of training for a longer event. Perhaps getting REALLY sick, twice this past winter, derailed me more than I've realized. Maybe I've just got a lot on my mind--I'm trying to plan the next couple years of my life and need to figure out if triathlon will even fit into it at all for a while.
I want to get back to strength training and rebuild my platform. While in many ways my overall fitness has improved since I took up triathlon, in many ways it has also deteriorated--particularly in the past six months. I know I'm nearly 30, but I don't think that accounts for all the extra aches, pains, and slower recovery turnaround I've had this season. I take care not to overtrain, so I don't think that's the problem. Rather, I think that the heart of it is kinetic imbalance. I simply don't have enough hours available to me to train myself in what I feel is the proper way for a longer event. Because of what I do for a living, it is very important to me to maintain a position of overall fitness, not just fitness for swimming, biking, and running forward in a straight line. If I were a pro and training were essentially my day job, I'd have the extra time to devote to ancillary functional training to maintain balance, stability, and overall joint integrity.
The reality is that I work full time--in a profession that requires me to be strong, agile, and competent moving in all planes, all day long. If I train for a longer event, most of my training hours are allocated to longer swim, bike, and run workouts--I simply don't have much time to train function. I don't have a desk job, so I'm not as willing to tolerate the breakdown caused by extended workouts. I can't sit on my ass the next day from 9 to 5 drinking Endurox to recover.
I know I'm pontificating. What does it all mean?
Next time maybe I'll stick with Olympic distance and sprint tris.
Next time I might schedule my races closer together, so I can peak for a month and be done with it.
Next time I'll stretch more.
Next time I'll bump a couple of mid-season swim/bike/run workouts for light functional training.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Saturday morning, I got up and checked all my gear. Packing for Alcatraz was not nearly as complicated as packing for Wildflower--no camping involved, and I would be eating dinner out that night. I met up with Liz E. (also doing the race) around 11-noon and we headed up to the city to pick up our race packets and go to the pre-race information meeting. We got to the city a bit after 1, checked out where our hotel was, and headed down to Crissy Field.
We picked up our race packets and got the best race swag I've gotten yet: a solid drawstring messenger bag, nice t-shirt (not dry-fit, unfortunately), a race number belt, and a new pair of goggles. Cool! Toured the expo (same old stuff) and then headed over to the Sports Basement, so I could replace my arm warmers (they'd fallen into a vortex earlier in the week and I could not find them ANYWHERE). Ran back to the hotel and checked in--is it just me, or does San Francisco have more than it's fair share of scuzzy-ass hotels? And then zipped back down for the 4pm meeting.
About 300 athletes hunkered down in the damp grass at Crissy Field. It was cold, less than 60 degrees, and foggy. I had my beanie pulled down tight over my ears, and I'd already switched out the lenses in my sunglasses to red for low light conditions. The weather was supposed to me more of the same on Sunday, and of course, I'd be out MUCH earlier. The course review was pretty comprehensive, and the info about the swim turned out to be very helpful. I found out later that they have someone swim the course the day before the race every year to determine conditions as accurately as possible. Anyway, the water temperature was 57 degrees, which, if you can believe it, is WARM for an Alcatraz swim. The current at 7am would be flowing west toward the Golden Gate at roughly 4.8 knots, about 5-6mph. It sounded like my best bet would be to sight on the middle pier at Fort Mason as long as I could, and once past it, swim straight toward the Palace of Fine Arts. I'd already driven the bike course, and the run didn't sound all that daunting (aside from the Sand Ladder) so I was feeling pretty confident.
After a light chicken and pasta dinner and Pasta Pomodoro, Liz and I turned in around 830-9pm.
The alarm went off at 2:55am. Why so early? First-timers are expected to be on the first few shuttles to the San Francisco Belle.
Anyway, I got up, pulled on my tri shorts and tri top, sweats, fleece, fluffy socks, Crocs, and beanie. Choked down a pear bar and a Clif bar and chased it with some Propel. Geeesh. Tummy not so happy with having to accept food at such an obscene hour. Scrambled to get all our gear and other stuff out the door, and managed to get down to the parking area under 101 at about 350am. Loaded down precariously with our heavy transition bags, we mounted our bikes and rode down Mason Avenue to the Marina Green. It was dark, and it was a bit eerie to ride our bikes without lights on them. We could see the transition area up ahead, awash in bright splashes of headlights and the hurried ministrations of several hundred nervous triathletes.
At the entrance to the transition area, there was a big Enterprise truck waiting with race volunteers to collect our swim-out gear. I handed them a white bag with my bib number on it, trusting that the spare running shoes, socks, powergel, and hoodie it contained would be waiting for me when I emerged from the Bay onto the Marina Beach sometime about 745am.
I then made my way to my transition area and did my best to set it up properly. I was a bit addled being up at that hour, and I'd never set up a transition in the dark before. I remembered to fill my fuel belt flasks and set up my run gear. Bike gear no problem; I'm used to that. Set out my arm warmers and a pack towel to dry off with...later it would turn out to be even harder than I thought it would be to pull arm warmers onto damp arms.
I stepped back, took a deep breath, and walked away from all my beloved tri gear--trusting that it would be well-guarded in the interim. Hardest of all: I'd decided to do the race WITHOUT my contacts, meaning that I would essentially be blind until I got to my bike and pulled on my sunglasses, which have prescription clip-ins. I found Liz and we hopped onto the nearest bus.
The bus took us down to the San Francisco Belle, a Hornblower Yacht. I can't remember which Pier it leaves from...28? Maybe 30? Anyway, we got off the bus and found that we were among the first to arrive at the boat. I immediately lined up for body marking. The smell of the ink caused my nervous stomach to churn restlessly. Soon my bib number, 665, was branded in heavy black permanent marker on my hands, biceps, and across my quads. My not-yet age, 30, was written in HUGE numbers across the back of my left calf. Grr.
That chick did a good job, too. Today is Wednesday and I'm still covered with black ink.
After that, it was time to hurry-up-and-wait. We stood around on the pier, willing the sun to come up and the breeze to die down. It was 450am. The conversation was nervous and speculative; after all, we were all early, which meant we were all first-timers.
Gradually, the pier filled up as busload after busload of triathletes arrived from the transition area. Before I knew it, it was 615 and time to board the Belle! I managed to get up front with Liz, and we stepped aboard. Signs posted inside the boat indicated the general areas we were to stage ourselves. 29 and under, first deck fore. 30-39, first deck aft. Everyone else older than that, upstairs. Not sure where the pros were.
I understand that Hornblower cruises are boozy dinner cruises. Well, you can tell! The moment we stepped on board, Liz turned to me and exclaimed "This boat smells like VOMIT!" And it did. Their was no furniture inside and we just tried to carve out a little personal space on the carpet. Lined up at the bar (which was huge, by the way) were hundreds of plastic cups and pitchers filled with ice water, a nice touch.
Once full, the boat pulled away from the pier for the half-hour slog out to the island. Suddenly, you could feel the adrenaline in the air. I looked around, and most people around me were already in their wetsuits. I personally like to wait a bit to avoid overheating. To our left, there were a couple of guys from Canada in SPEEDOS, with no wetsuits in sight. They looked surprisingly laid back about the whole thing. People were hopping up and down, stretching, doing frantic arm circles. I went ahead and put Body Glide on my neck, shoulders, wrists, ankles, elbows and knees, in preparation for the squirm into my wetsuit. At 645, I downed one last shot of powergel and chased it with a big slug of water, then pulled on my suit. I pulled on both swim caps (one for warmth and a red one to indicate my age group) and screwed my earplugs into place.
As we approached the starting point, Terry Davis (the director of Tri California) came over the boat's PA system and led a prayer. Then some girl sang the national anthem. Then, they began announcing the pros and the challenged athletes that would be in the first wave, at 7am. It was pretty cool, actually--there was a relay team of veterans from Iraq who were all amputees.
With 3 minutes to go, I grabbed some ice water and poured it into my suit through the neck. I shuddered and then it immediately began to create an insulating layer. Steph had recommended doing this to help mitigate the initial shock of jumping into the icy-cold bay.
7am, we heard the blast of a horn and the pros were off! Then the excitement really began. Because it is so hard for a boat to hold its position in the bay with the strong currents, there was only a six minute window to unload all 2000 of us off the boat. For perspective, most triathlons that size have a wave of maybe 100 athletes going every five minutes or so...so this had to be FAST. We filed toward the exits on the starboard side in a big crush. It was very WWII, with volunteers jabbing us and shouting "You, GO! You, GO! You, GO! You, GO!"
All my fear and nervousness were gone. Adrenaline and excitement took over. I looked back at Liz, shouted, "see you after the race!" ...and leaped down into the frothy water, shrieking with joy as I did it!
The SWIM: Once in the water, I struck out hard to get away from the boat. I was in an early "wave" so there were still better than 1000 athletes jumping over the side. I didn't want to end up underneath one of them! I went about 100 yards, and then stopped to get my bearings. I could see Fort Mason, a big yellow building, a bit to the west. I began to swim in that direction. There was a bit of a headwind and the swells were a couple feet high for the first 1/4 mile or so. Swimmers were still all bunched up at this point, so I kept having to adjust to get around people or speed up when my foot got grabbed. After I'd gone about 1/3 of a mile, I flipped over on my back to have a look.
Not many people get the opportunity to do this swim; it's really the swim of a lifetime. I had a "seal's eye" view of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate, and city laid out right in front of me. It was amazing, and I probably spent about 90 seconds just gazing around in awe. I knew I would have a slower swim, but I didn't care. It's all in the name of recreation, after all!
After that, I put my head down and set to work. I had to sight pretty frequently. The current didn't so much pull me off course as it turned me in the wrong direction. I kept popping my head up and finding myself veering to far to the west. I got to the point where Fort Mason was to my east, and started sighting for the golden dome of the Palace of Fine Arts.
At this point, I could feel the current picking up. The beach got closer and closer, faster and faster! Unfortunately, because I didn't have my contacts in, I couldn't see where I was supposed to get out of the water until it was too late and the current had pulled me past! A volunteer in a kayak paddled over and hollered at me to swim to my left. I turned and pulled my way in toward the beach, against the current, for about 100 yards. According to my dad, several hundred swimmers got pulled pretty far off course--it tends to be a newbie mistake at Alcatraz. I kept swimming, past wading triathletes, until I could feel the sand touch my hand. Then I popped up and ran onto the beach.
Swim Transition: Once on the beach, I ran up a ramp to a lawn just above the sand. I had my wetsuit unzipped and around my waist and my cap and goggles off pretty quick. I looked around the cheering crowd for my family, but couldn't see them. Once I was in the transition area, a race volunteer grabbed my arm and steered me down an aisle of bags, 650-699! I guess he must have seen the number written on my hand. I ran down the row right to my bag.
I was pretty disoriented and couldn't feel my hands very well. I was moving pretty slow, and decided I was okay with that. I stepped out of my wetsuit and flung off my Under Armour (added on the boat as an extra layer for the cold swim). I downed a gel, dumped baby powder on my feet to soak up the water, and managed to pull on my hoodie, socks and spare running shoes. Then it was off and running toward the bike transition, about 1/2 mile away on the Marina Green. On the way, I ran past my smiling, shouting family and friends!
Bike Transition: Once there, I pulled off my shoes and hoodie and tried to pull on my arm warmers. NOT! It took me a bit of effort to get my arms dry enough. I threw on my helmet and sunglasses. Hallelujah--I could see again! Stepped into my shoes, grabbed my bike, and ran to the mount line. By this time, my family had caught up. I jumped on my bike and accelerated down Mason Ave, past their smiling faces.
The BIKE: I would have smoked this bike course, wimpy descending and all, if I hadn't dropped my chain THREE TIMES. Grrr. I need to get a compact double crank! But I digress.
This was a beautiful, beautiful ride. That alone made it amazing, speed (or lack thereof) aside. We climbed up to the Presidio through thick fog and rode past the Legion of Honor. As I began the second decent ascent on the way out, I had a piece of good fortune. Heading back in descending the other side of the road were the first of the pros! I managed to pick out a few that I recognized. They looked amazing, hunched low over their pursuit bars, announced by the low rumble of carbon disc wheels.
After a few more descents followed by hard corners, I'd made it out to Point Lobos. I'd almost reached the Cliff House when I dropped my chain the first time. It was okay; I was headed downhill and it was off the front chainring. Pretty typical. I hopped off and managed to get it back on in no time, and had no trouble getting started since it was on a descent to the Great Highway.
After heading down the Great Highway for about a mile, the course looped into and around the western half of Golden Gate Park. By this time I was cruising pretty well--I like the flats and my knee was feeling good. Nobody was passing me anymore, and except for the rough pavement here and there in the park I was able to get down and crank pretty hard.
We popped back out onto the Great Highway and went back the way we came, up Point Lobos. As we curved back to the east, the road steepened. I shifted down so I could save a little for the steepest part of Clement...
...and dropped my chain again. I was headed uphill, and this time it had come off my rear cassette. Crap and double crap. I swore profusely, much to the apparent amusement of a nearby cop marshaling the course. I managed to dismount fast enough to avoid tipping over, and then had to walk uphill to a parking lot so I'd be in a spot flat enough to clip back in and get started again. After wrestling with the chain awhile, I finally got it back on. I mounted, clipped in, started pedaling, and promptly dropped the chain AGAIN. I hopped off, pretty mad now. This time I threaded it onto one of the cogs in the middle, and decided I would just go without a few of the easiest gears for the remaining hills.
I jumped on and began spinning madly up the rest of Point Lobos. Everyone I'd flown by in the park was now up ahead of me. Grrrrrrr! We swung a quick right back onto Clement for a nasty short steep SF hill. I was so mad I didn't even downshift, just cranked through it.
The ride back in was uneventful for me; a few noticeable hills and one BAD accident on the last sizeable descent. Evidently it involved four riders. It was so bad that there were THREE fire trucks parked around the scene, blocking it from view, as we went past. Scary.
I made it back down to Mason Avenue and cranked all the way in to transition. I passed Liz on my way in; she was already running out. I hit the dismount, and ran in to transition.
Run Transition: I took my time a bit here. My family was right by the fence, taking pictures of me, asking me if I was okay and how was I feeling, so I chatted with them a bit. I'd forgotten to leave my shoe laces loosened and untied, so that slowed me down a bit. Other than that, no problem. I ran out on legs that were feeling pretty fresh--could have gone a bit harder in the hills on the bike! As I ran out, the first of the professional women were approaching the finish. It was pretty exciting; there were news crews everywhere and a helicopter hovering over the finsh line and transition area.
Run: The run was my best event Sunday. It's 8 miles, and it starts out flat through Crissy Field, then heads under the Golden Gate Bridge, and climbs up some stairs and trails toward the Presidio. After a while on the road, it drops back down to Baker Beach, and there's about 1/2 mile out and then back in the sand. After that, it's the dreaded Sand Ladder, several hundred steep steps back up to the road. Then there are 3 miles to go--a long, gradual uphill (which was pretty easy after the Sand Ladder) and then downhill and flat back in.
I was feeling pretty fresh and solid the whole time. I ran it all except the steepest, narrowest parts of the trails and stairs and the Sand Ladder. I even had the opportunity to chat with a few out-of-towners along the way.
It was such a beautiful race, and I couldn't believe it was almost over already! I slowed down a bit under the bridge to have a lok around me. I watched a huge cargo ship pulling into the bay under the bridge, and marveled at the thought that it would soon be motoring its way right through the course I'd just swum. I wondered if it had had to wait outside the bay awhile, until everyone was finished.
As the course flattened out onto Crissy Field, I focused on picking up my cadence. I wanted a strong finish with a smile so my family could get some good pictures. It was almost like I could feel their engery pulling me in; I picked it up for the last two miles of the course.
I hit the Green, rounded the corner into the finish chute, and took one more look back out at the island. My family was right there to my left, cheering me on. I had done it--hailed as one of the toughest tris in the world, something that hundreds of triathletes would love the chance for, I had "escaped" from Alcatraz!
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Saturday, May 26, 2007
This is as much of the transition area as I could fit into my lens. 3500 bikes racked in there! Can be hard to find yours when your brain is a bit addled after an adrenaline fueled open-water swim. The bike and run terrain is pretty much like the hills you see in the background--dusty, exposed, and neverending. :-)
Friday, May 18, 2007
I went for a light run last Friday that felt awesome, and then got up early for practice with the rest of the team (still training for King's Trail in Maui) on Saturday. I had an awesome swim. Jumped on the bike headed out with the fasties for a 30 mile ride, and was soon met with an unpleasant surprise.
Knee pain. Persistant knee pain. Instead of coming right, it got worse and worse the farther we went out. At the intersection of Arastradero and Alpine, I opted to head back in with the people doing 25 miles. Even spinning hurt.
I assumed I'd just neglected stretching too much after the previous weekend's hard effort. My knee really bothered me for the rest of the day, making it hard to get in and out of a seated position. Went for a hike the following day, and by the end of the hike, the pain was all worked out and gone.
Forgot about it until I went out for a nasty little hill ride on Tuesday afternoon. Not ten minutes into the ride, the knee kicked up again. Dammit. I thought a little bit--well, I HAVE been scooting back constantly on my saddle for the last few months. I wonder.... Hopped off my bike somewhere deep in Atherton and raised my seat by about 1/2 inch, just to see what would happen.
Immediate relief, for a bit anyway. By now the knee was so pissed off that it just kept getting more and more irritated.
And since I'm so type A about my workouts, I went ahead and did Valparaiso 4x like an idiot.
This time the pain (which I'd now self-evaluated as acute patellofemoral syndrome) stuck around longer. I talked to Steph in a panic and made a few calls to try and get in for some bodywork (no dice yet). Made another call to Mark over at the Bicycle Outfitter to get back in for another fitting on my bike.
Um, yeah, so it turns out that as you become a better and better cyclist, your pedal stroke changes and becomes much more efficient...thus you should periodically get refitted to your bike.
The long and short of it--after about 45 minutes of Mark taking measurements, dropping plumb lines, and evaluating my pedal stroke on a trainer, he concluded that my seat was a WHOLE INCH too low. Oh yeah, and that my saddle had too severe a slant on it and was dumping me way too far forward.
I can't believe I trained for and raced a long course tri on that shit. No wonder it hurts.
So, this is troubling me for several reasons.
1) I used to being invincible. I am a total headcase when anything hurts.
2) I have Alcatraz in 2 weeks, which is very hilly, was very expensive, and which several members of my family are coming out to see me participate in.
3) I'm signed up for a century ride on Sunday (as in, the day after tomorrow). Bought, paid for, and subjecting me to major peer pressure if I wimp out.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
I woke up at 530am after shivering against the cold air all night long. I didn't want to leave my toasty sleeping bag, and so I layed in a bit listening to tent city stirring around me. I could hear car doors slamming, the hiss-fssht of floor pumps, and the frantic ticking of drive-trains as bikes wheeled past on the camp road.
I quickly pulled on my tri-suit, taking care not to snag the honoree ribbons I'd pinned all over the back. A fleece and beanie to ward of the chill, and stepped into the Crocs. Grabbed my transition bag and emerged from my tent, into the clear light of what would be a beautiful day.
Cooked up my favorite pre-race breakfast: Cornmeal mush with buttermilk, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Some fat-free yogurt. Perked a little coffee, but didn't have much time to get it down before it was time to meet up with the rest of the team and roll down Lynch to the transition area.
We met up at the edge of the TNT camping area for a quick picture and a sendoff from our teammates, who weren't racing until the following morning. I opted to take the walking path down to the transition with Trista, Denise, and Jeremiah; I don't much like riding down Lynch anyway, and certainly not with a heavy transition bag on my back. It's a pleasant walk, but mostly on trails....and since I was a little nervous about flats, Jeremiah carried my bike down for me so I wouldn't get any goat heads stuck in my tires. Whatta nice guy! As we were headed along the most crowded section of road to Lynch, I caught sight of Christine's crazy-green Element in the line of cars. I knew she'd been planning to come to the race, but wasn't sure when I'd find her. I waved madly, and lo and behold, two hands waved back! Stephanie had stowed away with Christine to surprise me! I was overjoyed. Two of the most awesome buddies I've got came to support me! I grinned all the way down the hill.
Once at the bottom, I headed straight into transition. I know the drill by now and don't need any help; this is a time when I actually enjoy a little solitude and I found myself wishing I'd had my mp3 player. When I found my assigned space, I was a little taken aback--there in it was another girl...and of course, it was one of THOSE girls...she had a pink saddle on her bike, need I say more? I heaved a sigh... I really didn't want to deal with this. Luckily, before I even had time to point out her mistake, a race official appeared out of nowhere and started giving her a hard time, asking her if she'd "paid for two race entries or was she just saving my spot for me?" I stifled a laugh and thanked her as she silently got her crap out of my way!
I then went about setting up my transition area methodically. Racked my bike by the saddle. Towel on the ground beside it, under all. Back row: running shoes, race belt/bib, fuel belt, running hat. Front row: cycling shoes, socks (rolled), baby powder for the feet, spray sunblock, spare water bottle, gel. Set on the bike: Helmet, shades, gloves stuck on the handlebars, watch stuck around the left bar. Set my transition bag behind it all, with recovery shake powder, second spare water bottle, spare t-shirt, and money/keys inside it. I slung my wetsuit over the transition rack and set my goggles, race cap, and bodyglide on the ground next to my gear. I grabbed a packet of Fig Newtons and some dried strawberries and headed to the long line for the porta-potties...
I wove my way through hundreds of lean, muscular triathletes standing around waiting to be bodymarked by fresh-faced young volunteers from Cal Poly SLO. The sun was hovering above the hills to the east end of the lake, and not a cloud was in the sky. It was shaping up to be a gorgeous day in central California. I queued up behind a nice guy who'd come from the east coast to do Wildflower....Huh....It really is quite the experience, one that every triathlete must have at least once...Checked out his right calf...He was forty...Being in shape always makes people look so much younger than they are....I looked around at everyone else in line...orange is evidently the color of choice this year in tri-wear....Finally, it was my turn!
Whew. After that was taken care of, I hooked up with Trista to watch the pros come through. They had started at 8 and 8:05 am (men, then women) and about 20 minutes had passed. Time to start watching for them! According to the event program, a few of the pros I like to follow were racing today, including a some bay area locals. We got a prim spot right in front of their transition area. I stood in awe watching them come tearing up the boat ramp. They all slipped smoothly out of their wetsuits and put on helmets and sunglasses, then grabbed their bikes and ran for the mount line. It amazes me that they can set their shoes in their pedals ahead of time and somehow step into them while pedaling, putting on gloves, grabbing a quick drink, and in some cases putting on sunblock! Pretty cool stuff.
After most of the pros came through, I asked Trista for the time. 9 o'clock! EEEEK! I had 10 minutes to cross the race course, run into transition, wiggle into my wetsuit, and run down to the ramp in time for a quick warmup. Somehow I managed it in about 5 minutes, Body Glide and all!
Once down on the boat ramp, I was able to find some of my teammates. There are no exclusive Team in Training waves for the long course race, so we were all parceled out into our various age groups. I managed to hook up with all 3 other girls in mine, Emily, Paige, and Nami. I heard a shout off to my left, and there were Steph and Christine! I ran up and hugged them both, and told them how much I loved them. I really wished they were doing this with me, but life gets in the way.
By now I was hot and uncomfortable in my wetsuit, and ready to plunge into the water for a bit of a warmup. Last year at WF I was able to run into the water several waves ahead of time to acclimate, but this year the timing mat set-up made it possible to get in only 1 wave ahead of time. As soon as the wave ahead of mine went off, I ran into the water. I pulled out the neck of my suit to let as much water as possible in. A balmy 65 degrees...mmm...bracing! But really, and ideal temp for a triathlon. I stroked out 50 yards or so, and before I knew it, they were clearing the water for us to start!
The SWIM: 1.2 miles (39:47)
I positioned myself in my usual spot: All the way to the left, somewhat close to the front. The countdown...Christine and Steph waving and cheering for me...the sound of the horn! I ran into the water with 100+ other women my age, and it was ON!
It turned out to be the most physical open water swim I've been part of yet. I had yet to start in anything but a TNT wave, and I'd heard the year before from Susan that the age group swim starts can get pretty aggressive. They sure can! Either my swimming suddenly sucked (not bloody likely) or there are a lot of damn good swimmers in the F30-34 age group (more probable). The long and short of it is that I was kicked, punched, slapped, elbowed, swum over, bumped, humped, and grabbed at (seriously) for all 1.2 miles of the swim! Don't feel too sorry for me--I was doing my share, too. It made it tough to get into a rhythm, but on the flipside, I was able to draft off a few other swimmers for a while.
At the first buoy, about 200m out, I did a quick check of myself. Right side of my chest (rib was out for several weeks) was feeling okay, but I was having a little trouble getting a breathing rhythm. Focused on gliding and bringing the heart rate back into line. Also, I noticed...my wetsuit is now too big! I could feel water sluicing over my shoulders where it shouldn't have been. (Have since picked up Steph's to try out before Alcatraz).
From there, I just focused on sighting, one buoy after another, out to the turnaround. I'm a whole lot better at sighting now, and so can swim in a pretty straight line for some distance. Hmmm...that's probably another reason my swim felt like a rugby match!
Once at the turnaround, I did another self check. I'd found a solid rhythm by now, and I'd been drafting consistently off a girl in a Blue Seventy wetsuit for the past 6 or 700m. Rounded the buoy to head back to the boat ramp. The first 100m felt okay, and then...
Waves! It felt like I was caught in the wake of a passing speedboat. My whole body was sloshed back and forth, and I felt like a rag doll being tossed about. I remember getting really irritated, wondering if someone was out ripping around on the lake in a ski boat. Then in occurred to me that they might be doing it to rescue a distressed or fatigued swimmer. Then, I realized the "wake" wasn't going away, and was in fact getting worse and worse. The wind was picking up and tossing water directly in the path of returning swimmers.
It was tough--every 3rd breath I took was mostly water. I put my head down and just tried to charge through the waves, staying as streamlined as possible. It got more and more challenging as I kept catching up with slower swimmers from previous waves who were having a lot of difficulty with the conditions; some were breaststroking with their heads high above the waterline, others had resorted to rolling onto their backs and kicking their way back in.
I took a few extra seconds sighting here and there and saw that the ramp wasn't far off. I could see crowds of spectators lining the sides of the ramp and could here them cheering swimmers exiting the water. With about 150 yards to go, I put my head down low and kicked as hard and fast as I could without blowing up, to get blood flowing to my legs again. The ramp got closer...closer...my hand touched the bottom and I popped up and ran the rest of the way out of the water.
I ran up the boat ramp past cheering spectators (interspersed with teammates). I reached back and unzipped my westsuit, then managed to pull off my swim cap and goggles in one motion. I peeled the wetsuit down to my waist and left the cap and goggles in the sleeve.
I ran past my cheering coaches. Grabbed a cup of water from a race volunteer and tried to slug some of it. Found my row and took off down it to my bike and gear. The girl with the pink saddle was long gone. Probably younger than me, in an earlier wave. In fact, there weren't all that many people around me at all. I stepped out my wetsuit as quickly as I could and tossed it over the rack. Dumped baby powder on my feet (Thanks, Lynn!) and put on my socks and shoes. Someday I'll be hardcore and try racing without socks, but for now, I'll take 'em for the long distances. A quick shot of sunblock, on with the helmet and shades, an extra mo to stuff an extra tube and CO2 into my jersey pocket, gloves on, and I was off, running for the mount line.
The BIKE: 56 miles (3:57:a few seconds)
I hit the mount line and ran past it to avoid the bottleneck. I jumped onto Eddie and we were off! The start of the long course bike is kind of cool, because it's routed right through the finishing chute. It goes right through a bunch of cheering spectators. Unfortunately, the first 2 miles of the course are along the same course that the mountain bikers take. They were ALL over the place. A lot of them were on slow beater bikes or just kind of pokey and unfit and tough to get around. Between those folks and the bumps and twists and gravelly patches that dot the first two miles of the road, it was like an obstacle course! The road was so bumpy, people were losing things left and right. The course was littered with water bottles, gel flasks, spare tubes...I even saw an entire flat kit that had fallen off someone's bike!
I was playing it safe here--it would have been dumb to have a spill or penalty in the first two miles.
A few minutes later, the road took a bend and turned right, up Beach Hill. Mountain bikers shot off to the left, onto a trail. Beach Hill is a mile long and probably the steepest climb on the whole course. I wasn't warm yet, so I went ahead and shifted into my bailout gear. I comfortably spun my way uphill. About halfway up, I started passing people who had underestimated the climb and tried to charge up it in bigger gears. Some were already walking their bikes...at mile 3!
Since we were still in the park, the course was lined with spectators and coaches, shouting words of encouragement and ringing cowbells (ah, cowbells...they permeate all endurance sports!). At the top of Beach, we turned right again and passed a large group of college students flinging water at us. They were really hamming it up, having a lot of fun...I even got a marriage proposal. :-) Shortly thereafter, we turned left and headed out of the park. I saw/heard Stephanie and Christine at the intersection, shouting for me. How had they made it up from transition so quickly?
The next 16-17 miles of the course are pretty straightforward. Rolling hills on Interlake Road. It was a beautiful day, sunny and breezy. I concentrated on spinning a high cadence, holding back so I would have plenty of energy left for the last part of the course. I had decided to stay out of my biggest chainring on all but the longest descents. Owing to the wind, this turned out to be a good decision. *One cool thing--about 5 miles out, the leading pro passed us going the other way, headed back in! I assume it was Bjorn Andersson; he looked incredible and was surrounded by about 4 race officials on motorcycles.*
At mile 20, the course took a left turn onto Jolon Road. HOLY HEADWIND...For the next 14 miles. This is the "flattest" section of the course and I had expected to be able to hold 17-18mph pretty comfortably. Nope. With the wind, it was 12-14mph. I tried to focus on getting in some extra calories, but the wind was gusting enough to make it hard to control my bike with one hand. I managed a few Fig Newtons and a couple Enduralytes. By mile 23 or so I had dusted one of my bottles of Accelerade. I tossed it at the mile 26 aid station and grabbed a bottle of water from a volunteer. First time I'd ever done that. :-)
The ride on Jolon Road is gorgeous. It's lined with vineyards and small farms, with golden rolling hills to each side. The strong headwind brought the smell of the ocean from the coast. I spent most of the time in my drops, trying to stay as aero as possible against the wind. I started to think it might be time to cowgirl up and get an aerobar set-up for Eddie.
At mile 34, the course turned right onto Nacimiento Road. 7 miles to get fueled and hydrated for Nasty Grade! I switched from Fig Newtons to Powergel so that it would get into my bloodstream a little faster. I spun easy to give my legs a little recovery. I caught up to and passed a teammate. We exchanged words of encouragement. The atmosphere among riders on the road was changing--we were all getting ready for a long effort. People chatted back and forth. The cameraderie was almost palpable.
The road cut left at mile 41, and thus began Nasty Grade. Everyone had been strung out along the course for the past 35 miles or so--now, on the grade, we all bunched up again, set to the slow, grim work of grinding uphill. The couple miles of Nasty are pretty gentle, and I was able to stay a few rings above my bailout gear. I smiled to myself as I passed rider after rider...I really am pretty good at sustained climbing. Halfway up we passed an aid station, and a lot of racers were pulled over to the side of the road, catching a breather. After the aid station, the mean part of Nasty kicked up, hard. I shifted down into the bailout and kept spinning. Passed more and more riders. I glimpsed an LG TNT jersey up ahead about 30 yards...a familiar blue Trek. I shouted, "Hey Lynn, is that you?" (Everyone around me looked at me in some amazement, yes, I am that awesome that I can yell at this point!) She turned around and nodded. Hopefully I'd be able to hang with her for the rest of the ride--she descends fast, but I can climb pretty quick, so we're pretty even on a hilly ride.
At the top of Nasty, we saw the famed Energizer Bunny (really just some random local guy in pink pajamas and bunny ears with a big-ass drum). Then we turned right...for more climbing! I was prepared for the false summit, but got quite a kick out of hearing the moans, groans, and curses from others who weren't. I caught up to Lynn on the way to the top, but once there, she immediately dusted me on an intermediate descent along the ridge. The course follows a ridge (of rollers, of course) that allows an amazing view of Lake Nacimiento to the left and Lak San Antonio to the right. A quick climb at the north end of the ridge, and then it's the Descent.
The Descent. The one I'd been dreading. 1.5 miles of smooth pavement, with virtually no turns until a wide, sweeping, banked turn to the left at the bottom. I had teammates who claimed to have reached 55mph on this descent. NO THANKS. I was planning to be extra cautious because 1) the prevailing headwind was now a crosswind, 2) last time I'd descended here, I'd flatted halfway down, and 3) I'm a major wuss. I took a deep breath, shifted into my highest gear, and took off.
I fully expected to have 20-30 riders FLY past me on this descent. As it happened, the winds were so powerful, only about 8 people did. I feathered my brakes constantly, and kept it to about 30mph. I found out later than the fastest people I knew were only able to reach 35 or so against the winds. I reached the bottom and rounded the banked turn. Immediately I was greeted by the sight of two fire trucks on the side of the road and a race official flagging me to slow down.
The pavement suddenly turned to Swiss cheese under my tires, and as I flew past, I could see two riders down on the side of the road. Didn't look too good. As I kept going, two more emergency vehicles passed my headed the other way. I'd have to hear about it later.
I put my head down and focused. I'd heard the last 10 miles of the course were the hardest and the hilliest. To the contrary, I felt pretty good and had no troubles climbing the rest of the way in. I rode up to Lynn again and we managed to ride into the park together. At the intersection above Lynch, I saw Christine and Stephanie again. Then it was 1 mile down Lynch (past earlier waves alrady finishing the run, lucky dogs) and into the transition area!
No trouble off the bike at the dismount line. Legs felt fine, even though they'd been pedaling for 4 hours straight! No cramping. I ran my bike all the way back to my gear, and even managed to run down the right row of racks! :-) I got into my hat and running shoes pretty quickly. Then I grabbed my fuel belt...aaahhh...I'd put it in a mini-cooler on ice. I felt like the smartest woman alive. ;-) A quick spray of sunblock and I was off.
The (really painful) RUN: 2:43: a few seconds
I caught up to Lynn out of T2. We agreed to try and do the whole run together. She had a bad stitch and was hurting a little. I was just trying to run easy and find my legs. The first two miles were okay; then we peeled off the road and onto a trail. About 60% of the run is on trails. We ran along the shore of the lake, and all I could think about was jumping into the water. I wanted so badly to go for a nice, relaxing swim! About this time, my stomach started to hurt. It felt weird and bloated, and I was a little nauseated. I was frustrated because for once, my legs actually felt pretty good off the bike. Still, Lynn and I pushed on. When we first started hitting the hills in the backcountry, we walked up them.
We got to mile 4-5 and walked most of them--they are just awful, steep and riddled with switchbacks. We passed Jeremiah, who took a photo of us and didn;t even give us a hard time for walking. :-) When we got to the top of the hill at mile 5, I looked over at Lynn, grinned, and said "this is it...the worst of it is all behind us now!" Then it was a long downhill cruising into a meadow. As we approached mile 8, we started saving up what little energy we had left. Mile 8 is routed through the campground that TNT is always located in--so we'd be seeing all our cheering teammates...of course we had to make it look easy!
We hit the campground running strong, and it was awesome! All our friends were there, cheering and yelling and singing "Happy Birthday" to Lynn. (A long course tri on her birthday, awesome, huh?) A real energy boost.
Once through the campground, we had 5 miles to go. This is when I really started to feel kinda bad. I tried to run, but it made my stomach so upset that I had to stop to avoid hurling. When I walked, my legs screamed in protest and my quads, calves, and hamstrings threatened to cramp up. I knew I needed more electrolytes and managed to swallow a couple Enduralytes. I managed to make it to mile 10, running most of the way with Lynn.
At mile 9, we hit the Pit. The Pit is a mile downhill...that you then turn around and run back up. The Pit doesn't feel so bad if all you're doing that day is running, but it felt pretty crappy after swimming and biking all day. I ran all the way to the bottom with Lynn, and then told her to go ahead and run up without me if she was feeling better. She really wanted to finish under 7:30 and had started 5 minutes before me, so she ran up ahead. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. By now I had my hand on my stomach and was just rubbing it in a clockwise motion to try and help it empty out a little bit. I walked past coaches Harold, Dave, and Denise. Harold ran over and asked me if I was okay and if I needed anything--you don't often see me walking. I told him I was fine, just needed to keep moving forward.
And so I did. At the top of the Pit, I grabbed a little water to try and dilute my stomach contents a little bit. I dumped the rest on the back of my neck and pressed on, alternating walking with running a little. Only 2 miles to go...only 1.5 miles to go...only 1 mile to go, and it's all downhill!
Running down Lynch at the end of a 1/2 Iron is no easy feat. Your quads are screaming by now and they want no part of preventing gravity from pulling you right down onto your face. I tried to open up and just keep my feet moving, letting gravity do most of the work. I caught up with a girl from SF Ironteam and ran in with her. At the bottom of Lynch, there's a quick turn left into the finishing chute. I ran over the red timing mats, and before I knew it, they were announcing my name approaching the finish! I smiled for the cameras so my finishing shot would look better than last year's grimace of agony. Once across, a volunteer put my medal around my neck and tossed an icy towel over my shoulders. I stood patiently while another removed the timing chip from my left ankle, and there on the other side of the barrier were Christine and Steph! I had done it...one of the toughest long course triathlons in the world, and I had a finishers medal!
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
It was a great day--beautiful. I couldn't get the smile off my face the entire time.
I finished in about 7 hours and 29 minutes. A little slower than I'd hoped, but conditions were a bit gnarlier (very windy!) than anticipated.
A long course finish at Wildflower is success enough. 3500 athletes started my race. 1966 actually crossed the finish line. The race gods were with me; I was lucky enough (and well enough prepared) to be one of them!
A more detailed race report will be coming soon. :-)
Thursday, May 03, 2007
I joined the crowd of athletes milling around on the boat ramp. Safety in numbers--I made sure I was surrounded by athletes with the same color swim cap as me. No way I could miss the start then. I found the other girls from my team in my wave: Emily, Nami, and Paige (an honoree). I thanked Paige for coming out and training and racing with us, and told her how much I admired her for doing so.
An air horn blast cut through the air as a wave of men ahead of us rushed into the water for their start. Waves go every 5 minutes at Wildflower, so you have to get your swim warm-up in stolen, 5 minute intervals before they clear the water for the next start.
I took advantage of this window, and waded out into the water on the boat ramp. I stretched my race cap over my head and put on my goggles. The pavement was rough under my feet. The water was cold, but nothing compared to Stevens Creek Reservoir. I stroked out 20 or 30 yards and took care to let water in the top of my wetsuit. Eeeeek. Cold. I steadied my breathing and adjusted my goggles. They seemed watertight, so I went ahead and swam another 50-60 yards, focusing on gliding. The water in my mouth tasted almost tropical, full of life. There was a lot of algae in the lake this year. I didn't mind; I grew up learning to swim in lakes.
I felt strong. I love to swim. I am a beginner cyclist, and an okay runner, but I feel comfortable saying that I am one hell of a swimmer. I felt light and strong and buoyant. My chest was full of tight anticipation. I was bursting out of my skin, wanting to get started and mix it up!
I swam back in to the ramp and waded back out. Tri wetsuits are so weird--I can never quite get used to the sensation of water dumping out the legs when you stand up straight on land after a swim. I giggled and found my teammates again. The announcers cleared the water and started another wave with the blast of the airhorn.
I repeated the warmup cycle for the next wave or two.
914am. The announcer shouted to clear the water. There was music blasting in the background from the grandstand above the chute. I positioned myself to the left of the pack, hlafway between the front and the back. My mind slowed to a crawl. I thought, "Strong and serene...Slow is smooth, smooth is fast...softly, softly..." The crowd was whipped into a frenzy, counting down with the announcer. "Five, four, three, two, one, GO!" The airhorn shrieks again, and this time it is for me!
I opened my eyes at about 5am. I didn't sleep very well at all, despite having earplugs in. Nervous anticipation and frequent nocturnal bathroom trips saw to that. I was feeling rested and ready to go nonetheless. I'd made sure to lighten my workload and get plenty of sleep for the past 4 or 5 days.
I lay for a moment and listened to the sounds of Tent City waking up around me. Slamming porta-potty doors. The high-pitched whine of tent zippers. The muffled roar of a Coleman stove, heating up water for coffee and other pre-race victuals. I crawled out of my toasty warm cocoon and pulled on my tri-suit, wobbling on my air mattress. One more full body sunblock application, to add to the layer I'd put on to soak in the night before. On with a fleece, a beanie, and some flip flops. I unzipped my tent fly and crawled out, heading for the picnic table to make breakfast.
I had my trusty little camp coffee pot so I could perk myself a cup of coffee with a Gatorade chaser. Cooked up a quick batch of my favorite pre-race meal: cornmeal mush with cinnamon and brown sugar. A little bit of yogurt as well. Percolated coffee tastes so good...dark and ground-y and delicious.
The sky gradually lightened to reveal a misty cloud cover over the golden central California hills. I knew it wouldn't be too long before the sun began to peep through and the day slowly heat up.
I took one last look at my bike. Adjusted the race number on my top tube, tightened the wiry twist ties securing it in place. Pumped both tires up to 120 PSI. Grabbed my transition bag, carefully packed the night before.
Coach Barney called us all together for a quick picture before we all headed down to the transition area together. The team gathered in a precious empty space, the dew on the grass cool on our feet. The stomach was full of fluttering butterflies. I could taste the vague metallic-fruity aftertaste of Gatorade in my mouth. Hurry up and take the picture already!
The Olympic athletes, not due to race until the next morning, started to stir. A few of them bid us good luck as we headed down to the transition area. A few brave souls confident in balancing a heavy transition bag on a twitchy racing bike took the short route and rode down Lynch hill. I stuck with a more conservative approach and took the roundabout footpath down to the lake, through soft, loose dirt and cracked asphalt.
Fog hung low over the distant reaches of Lake San Antonio. The vendors were setting up their booths at the expo. Hundreds of athletes thronged the transition area. The air was permeated by the hiss of floor pumps and the sharp smell of permanent marker where athletes were lining up to get body marked. The line for the porta-potties was hundreds of yards long and the smell of Coppertone Sport was overwhelming.
I found my transition area quickly, having noted its location the day before. After racking my bike, I opened my bag. Spread a towel on the ground. In the back, running shoes, race belt with bib number, fuel belt, running hat. In the front, bike shoes, socks, gloves, talcum powder, chamois butter, sunblock. I opened a packet of Fig Newtons halfway and placed in gently in one bike shoe. I perched my helmet on my bike handlebars. Sunglasses poked through the vents. I stood back and took a look, satisfied.
I slung my wetsuit over my shoulder, grabbed my goggles, cap, earplugs, and body glide, plus a spare water bottle and extra gel. I went to stand in line to get body marked. I found a volunteer near the front, where all the pros had their gear racked and ready to go. I love to look at fancy tri-bikes, and this was heaven. Cervelos, Gurus, Kuotas, Cannondales, Kestrels...my eyes popped at the array of carbon glory before them. I counted the gels duct-taped to the top tubes. Pros ride so fast that they hardly need to bring anything with them!
Finally, my turn. I exposed my arms and legs for marking. The volunteer was nice, but in a hurry. She had a lot of athletes to mark. The marker poked rudely into my bicep. The smell of it was nauseating, but exciting. Bib number written down each arm, the outside of each thigh, on the back of each hand. Age written on the back of my left calf.
I found a few teammates and headed over to the swim start to watch the pros go off at 8am.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
anyway, i entered Trek bikes' contest thingie for women who ride. why they should pick me in 500 words or less. here it is. :-)
The Art of the Timid Descent
I, for one, have grown tired of listening to cyclists and triathletes bandy about numbers in the high forties when discussing their fastest descent speeds. They casually write off their superior descending skills. They know full well that lesser cyclists are secretly in awe of the psychotic speeds they manage to attain while slaloming their way down roads with more hairpins than your granny’s church-do.
Perhaps the cycling set sees a screaming descent as a mark of superior handling skills. Possibly, they see it as a sign of that forceful, powerful, can-do, go-forth-and-conquer attitude that we, as Americans, prize so highly.
I beg to differ.
I am a timid descender.
As a reluctant roller, I have been gifted with keen senses. I have some of the most “interesting” bike handling skills you will ever see. My timid descents have given me some of the greatest appreciation for the sport of cycling.
My sense of personal safety has been honed to an edge by a near paralyzing fear of death. At any given moment, I am thinking about the fact that there is very little between my tender flesh and the pavement--save a thin layer of overpriced spandex. When faced with a 12% downhill grade, I’m liable to besmirch my chamois. To me, every blind corner hides a drunken maniac piloting a runaway Mack truck. Every shaded pothole goes straight to Shanghai.
My bike handling is second to none. I can roll through a hairpin turn at 3MPH and still stay upright! I have figured out how to ride with my butt entirely behind my saddle. You can identify me by the smell of my brakes and the plume of smoke trailing behind me. Shake my hand—your fingers might crumple under my steely grip, cultivated by long, careful hours of steady brake application.
I can never make up any speed on the descent. As a result I have become a fairly proficient climber. I would rather grind my way uphill for 10 miles hoping to stumble across an escalator or cable car than turn around and let gravity have its way with me.
I have found that my timidity has served to heighten my appreciation of my new life as a cyclist. I roll merrily along with plenty of time to check out the scenery. I give myself plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of life, and other important questions. Is God a man or a woman? Aluminum or steel? Who invented liquid soap, and why? Who really needs a Hummer?
Finally, being a timid descender has given me room to improve. I defend my right to creep slowly down hills, but I don’t plan to do it forever. In truth, I love descending. Someday I hope to be able to carve a line like no other down the road that torments me. Until then…you’d better believe I’m checking that speedometer at the bottom of every hill!