Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wish me luck this weekend!

A few pictures from the 2005 swim...

Escape from Alcatraz is this Sunday. Wish me luck!

SF forecast that day calls for clouds, a high of 61 and a low of 54. Water temp should be about 55 degrees. Brrrr.

I'm going to check the tide table to see if the current will be a help or a hinderance. Evidently, when the tide is rushing out, the current travels at about 7-8 mph. That may sound slow, but it isn't when you only swim about 2+ mph.

My start time will be between 7 and 7:06 am...actually, all of us will be starting then. Eeek.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

a few pics from wildflower 2007

Christine, me, and Stephanie, shortly after my successful finish back up at camp. My personal cheerleaders/coaches, inspiration, and two of my dearest friends! :-)

I took this photo of one a the Olympic swim starts on Sunday. You really do feel kinda like you're in a blender full of humans.

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. :-)

This is what a swim start looks like from the front. This is a professional ASI photo.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Patellofemoral blues

After Wildflower, I took most of a week off from training. I was amazed at my lack of soreness--I raced Saturday, then Sunday I was tired and my hips and legs were stiff, and then for the rest of the week I was fine--except for being unusually and persistantly sleepy until Wednesday.

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

Wildflower Long Course 2007: Race report (REALLY LONG)

The build-up

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 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 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 hand touched the bottom and I popped up and ran the rest of the way out of the water.

Transition 1

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 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!

Transition 2

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 of the toughest long course triathlons in the world, and I had a finishers medal!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

WINDY Wildflower 2007: a successful finish!

I'm not quite up to posting a full race report yet, but thought I'd better acknowledge my finish at Wildflower.

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

pre-race visualization #2: the start

At 855am, I snuck back into the transition area and tossed my fleece, beanie, and flip flops with the rest of my gear. I had to be careful to avoid getting in the way of athletes already well on their way, running into T1 from the swim while stripping off their wetsuits. I rushed out through a gap between them. I could smell the wet asphalt. The slap of their bare feet was somehow loud even with the screaming of the crowd. I shivered with anticipation. In less than an hour, that would be ME!

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!

pre-race visualization #1: breakfast and set-up

According to Bobby McGee, visualizations are most effective and empowering if they are in the past tense. The idea is that you feel more confident if you've already experienced the event. By visualizing in the past tense, you create your own past experience to draw from, despite having never raced that particular event.

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, 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

if you care...

to follow my progress this saturday.

click on the event results link on the left.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

hearkening back to days of yore...

...when i was majoring in English/journalism. that's right, cats, i used to write. a lot. okay, okay, usually about more interesting stuff than you've been finding in this here blog.

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!

oh, my god...

wildflower long course is THIS SATURDAY.

send me your good vibes.

my wave starts at 915am.

i'm pretty sure there's a way you can follow my progress if you want--i think there's a link from the tricalifornia website.

the exercise avoidance zone...

so...i never intend to do absolutely nothing when i taper, but it always seems to shake out that way.

i had a nice bike ride saturday morning with some of the girls from the team (instead of the open water swim at RWS), and since then, nothing.

i meant to swim yesterday. i meant to spin today, and i've got yoga in mind for this evening. i mean to swim tomorrow as well, which will probably consist of me bringing my swim gear to work and, well, NOT swimming. :-D

i've been falling back on my usual pre-event week plan: eating whatever the hell i want to. luckily this time around i'm craving healthier foods. last year before wildflower olympic, all i wanted to eat was chocolate--and not necessarily the good stuff, loaded with antioxidants and exotic tidbits like chili peppers and candied orange peel. no, what i wanted was good old hershey bar chocolate, sans s'more ingredients.

i must have eaten 10 hershey bars that week.

maybe they did me good. i went a lot faster than i thought i was going to...then again, it was my first triathlon--i pretty much thought i was going to be carted across the finish line in an ambulance. my expectations were pretty low.

hmmmm...what to make for dinner? *eyeballs 1/2 gallon of cake-batter ice cream*