Thursday, October 16, 2014

So when I said "I'm retired", what I meant was... (2014 in review)

Ah yes, fall leaves swirling around outside on this picture perfect, Indian Summer day.

For the most part, my 2014 race season is over, save for a couple of potential short running races I may do including Monster Dash 10 miler, Drumstick 10k and Polar Dash....

Except for a nagging hip and psoas issue, it's been a pretty good year filled with lots of fun races and events.

The capstone was, of course, Ironman Wisconsin.   Finished with a big smile on my face and with time on the clock to spare, while reaching my overarching goal of enjoying the day and taking it all in.  More on that day in a bit.

Before I get there, just a few other thoughts, comments and pics from my 2014 season:

Switching coaches:  After my former coach, Greg Rhodes, moved to Colorado last May, I started to work with Cathy Yndestad.  I can not say enough about working with her.  She knew just how to push me enough but not too much to cause bigger problems with my hip/posas.  I've been lucky to work with a lot of really great coaches over the year and she certainly ranks in the top two.

Race Recaps:
Fargo "1/2" -- May:   My hip was really bad at this point. Psoas issue hadn't been diagnosed yet....  Limited range of motion, choppy and slow gait.  Although I was signed up for the 1/2 marathon, I was lucky to eek out a finish of the 10K.  One of my slowest times for that distance, but got through the event.   Fargo does a bang up job with this race (marathon, 1/2, 10k and 5k.)  Great course, great course support.  Loads of fun.

Liberty Oly: -- early June:  Our spring was cold and wet.  Race day at Liberty was super cold and super wet.  Transition was filled with loads of deep puddles.  Race was delayed by many minutes.   As I stood under a picnic area awning, watching the cold, wet rain fall and listening to the thunder clap, I decided to bag the race.  There was no reason to risk freezing and/or having my bike slip out from under me on wet pavement so early in the season.  I got my bike,  went to my health club and did the race as an indoor event. Didn't freeze; didn't fall on pavement;  didn't get a medal.

ITU Oly - Chicago - late June:  I had high hopes for this race.  At Ironman events, athletes are treated like royalty.  The courses are well marked, great support, great volunteers.  I figured ITU would have to put on an equal caliber event, if not even better!  Not so much.

Frankly, this was the least organized event I've ever done.  From package pickup to finish line, it was uninformed volunteers and officials; badly marked courses; uninforced rules (can't tell you how many times I got passed on the right by hyped-up, watts driven guys).  It was one of the only races where I actually thought that I might not make it out of the water.


The swim course was out and back, only two buoys, only about 3 support boats.  Lots of swimmers crashing in to each other. Not good.  I thought if I got in trouble in the water, no one would know.

To tell you how bad this was, over 20% of the sprint distance field got disqualified because the run course was marked so poorly.   I got through the race but wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

However, trying to end on a high note here, I will say that the highlight of the race was riding the closed bike course on Lower Wacker Drive.  Completely smooth pavement, course protected from wind.  This helped my bike average to over 22 mph for the 24 plus miles.

Timberman Oly -- July:  I love this triathlon.  My friend, Gary Kubat, turned me on to this race a few years ago.  It is smaller in size; the swim is in Sugar Lake (very pretty, very clear); the bike course has just enough hills to keep it interesting; the run can be a little hot and challenging (lots of horseflies).  This year, the weather was cooler and overcast.  There were still some horseflies, but not too many and I didn't cook on the course.  Time was a whopping 25 seconds faster than 2013.

Nice to be able to do this one with Gary and my Ironman friend, Natalie.

Ironman Racine 70.3 - July:  This was my second year doing this race.  In 2013, race morning, Lake Michigan welcomed us with big waves.  This year, the lake was as calm as could be and COLD.  Sixty one degrees.  Neoprene booties and caps were the order of the day.  Swimming in Lake Michigan is really fun, though.  Much clearer than you'd expect.  I like swimming parallel to shore, so you can see spectators the whole time.  Bike course is pretty flat.  Some sections are incredibly bumpy.  Not very scenic.  Just a course where you can hammer out the miles.  I had a very good bike split (about 18 mph).

My run was typical for this year.  Slow, ploddy, bad gait.  But, I got through it and had some fun. Despite being a bit lame, I beat my 2013 time by 9:00 plus minutes.

My Ironman buddy, Mark Loken, also did this race.  We had some fun hanging out in transition prior to the race and he pointed out all the really spendy bikes.  We drooled a lot.

Madison Open Water Swim - August:  While the weekend itself was sort of a FUBAR mess, the event was fun.  This is another race that I really enjoy doing.   I love being in Madison; I love swimming in Lake Monona.  I have great memories of this race from years past.  Had a good, smooth swim and a PR time.  How bad can that be?

Ironman Wisconsin - September:  Ahhhh.  Ironman.  There is just something about it.  Not just the race, but the whole training thing; the lead up, the build up.  The DAY.

I spent at least one weekend in Madison from May through August training on the course.   Those famous hills on the bike course never really got much easier, but I knew them inside and out.  When to shift, when to push it a little, when to look up and appreciate the scenery.

I learned from 2012 that the trick (for me) is to have race day feel as "normal" as possible.  Doing so many training rides and runs on the course, I knew what to expect at every turn.

All year, I had told myself that this would more than likely be my last Ironman.  I've got the heart and the endurance, but the reality is that I'm getting older and slower.  That 17 hour cut off looms large....

So for this -- my swan song -- I just needed to control the controllables and let go of the rest.

A major uncontrollable is always the weather.  It turned out to be a PERFECT day.  Clear, cool, no wind.

Setting up in transition on race morning, things just all sort of fell in to place.  The sunrise was unbelievably beautiful.  Dark blue end-of-night sky set off by bright orange band bringing up the sun.

Once I was set up, Warren and I headed to my "secret spot" -- a place inside Monona Terrace that not many people know about.  It is quiet and calm, unlike the chaos of the main floor where the thousands of other athletes are hanging out.  (For me, I need a little calm and quiet before this event.  Otherwise I get too sucked in to too much and it is very draining to me.)  We sat until it was time to get in to my wetsuit and then I headed to the water.

I tried a new strategy this year for the swim.  In years past, I've queued up closer to shore and then angle to the first buoy.  This year, I swam out so I was even with the buoy line.  This was a much easier strategy to get me to the inside of the buoy line, where there are less people and an "easier" swim.

The first turn buoy is known as the "moo buoy".  You are supposed to pop your head out of the water and moo loudly.   Not everyone does this.  I do.  I LOVE the moo buoy.   I mooed, and mooed and mooed.  And then I went on.

Swim was done, wet suit stripped off; in and out of transition and the bike ride began.

A controlable -- although a tricky one --is nutrition.  That went as smoothly as it could for race day.  I have a watch that I can program to beep to remind me to eat and to drink.  On the bike, it reminded me every 15 minutes to drink and every 20 minutes to have a little bite to eat.

I was right on schedule for the first 56 miles.  I got to Special Needs and knew there was no risk in me not meeting the bike cut off, so I decided to embrace the day and to really just take it all in.  I got off my bike, I got my turkey sandwich out of my Special Needs bag and took my sweet time eating it (a full 10 minutes).

Another rider came in to Special Needs and the volunteers couldn't find his bag.  I happily shared the extra food I had in my bag with him and then got on my bike and pedaled away.

Warren found me at the top of Timber Lane on both loops.  (He found a golf course near by so he could spend some time swinging a club and still timed it perfectly to cheer me on....)

I made it in to transition with plenty of time, got changed and got out on to the run course.

My plan all along was to do a walk/run.  As per usual, I walked more than I probably should have the first several miles, but finally got in to a little bit of a groove.  I knew that I'd have no appetite for food, but happily drank Coke and chicken broth.

Running through the University of Wisconsin campus (and by my old dorm, a couple old apartments, though Camp Randall,  by Memorial Union and up/down State Street) is always a nostalgic time for me. Lots and lots of memories from my college days.

My darkest spot came as I was coming in for the 1/2 way turn.  I was doing math calculations in my head to try to figure out if I was going to finish on time,and I wasn't so sure.  At this point in to the race, you are tired and a bit fuzzy mentally.

Like a beacon of light, there was my coach.  She got up, cheered me on, gave me a little pep talk and I mentally turned a corner.  I knew I could pull a finish off.

Got to run Special Needs and got to the lemonade I had put in my bag.  Drinking that was like a magic elixir. Sweet and tart.  Sugary but not coca-cola.  Perfect.

Trotted out for the second and last loop.  Warren found me at mile 14.  He, too, gave me a little pep talk and I just trotted off.  I actually picked up my pace for a few miles and then, at mile 23 with lots of time to get to the finish, I decided to just walk it in.  I wanted to open up my senses and my memory to just take it all in:  the sights (full moon), the sounds (cheering crowds); the feeling (pinched baby toe, happy to be getting to the finish).

When I finished in 2012, it was a total blur.  I don't remember Mike Reilly calling my name or telling me that I was an Ironman.

This year, I made it a priority to really take in the finish line.  The crowds, the high fives, seeing the Finish Line banner and listening for Mike.  Not only did I hear him loud and clear, I got to shake his hand.  It was great.

After finishing the race, I posted on Facebook, that I was now retired from 140.6.

Well..... it didn't take long and I rescinded my retirement.  I'll toe the Ironman line again.  Not at Madison, though.  Oh, I'll go ride that course for "fun".   But I think I'll need to tackle a flatter bike course.  I'm thinking about Ironman Arizona, Florida or Louisville for 2016.




Looney Challenge -- October:  The last race for me was the Looney Challenge:  This is part of the Twin Cities Marathon weekend.  The event consists of running the 10k and 5k on marathon weekend Saturday followed with the TC 10 mile run on Sunday.  Signing up for the Looney guarantees a spot in to the 10 mile race.  Otherwise, you take your chances trying to get in to that very popular race via the lottery.

Warren and I signed up for the Looney last spring...Warren ended up having a golf tournament pop up for the same day as the 10 miler, so we both did the 5 and 10K events and then I did the 10 miler on my own.

My pace was slow for each of the events, but still and all, had a blast.  (I'd taken a fall off the bike a week before misjudging a curb in the road.  Landed squarely on the "bad" hip, which re triggered some issues).

On the agenda for the rest of 2014:  The plan is to heal up my hip and psoas and to work on getting my run pace back.  Warren and I will be spending some time doing strength training and yoga.  Oh, yeah.  And catching up on some sleep and bad t.v.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Call me a weenie if you must....

Best laid plans and all....

Woke up last Saturday morning at 4:00 am to rain.  Not drizzle.  Rain.  And thunder.

Nothing like a thunderstorm on race day.  The only thing better is a cold, windy rainstorm, which we had.  Trifecta!

The ever hopeful optimistic I am, I still packed up and headed out to Lake Rebecca.  Storm had to blow over sometime, right?

It did!

As I got to the venue, the rain stopped.  It was still cold and windy, but at least the rain had stopped.  But what a difference a couple weeks of rain makes.

My friend, Teresa, and I had done a preview ride on the course a couple weeks prior to race day.   The river that runs parallel of part of the bike course had been high, but not THIS high.  Two weeks prior, the transition area was grassy and dry.  Race day,  huge, two-inch deep water-filled puddles dotted the transition area.

Still, I got body marked, set up transition and went down to the lake for a look.  I bumped in t my friend, Shaun, who was also racing the Oly.   He came with me to inspect the lake..... Despite the lousy weather, the lake was calm and warm.  It's the small victories....

We wandered back to transition when BOOM.   Thunder.  FLASH.  Lightening.  Pitter, patter.  Rain.

I grabbed my wetsuit and went back towards the lake to wait out the rain in the bathroom (also has the private stall where I can get in to my wetsuit.  No one really needs to watch that.)

While I was suiting up, another woman came in to the bathroom.  She told me they had just announced a 30 minute rain delay.

"Perfect", I thought.

Once in the suit, I went back up to transition.  It was raining harder now.  I sat with other racers and volunteers under protection of the pavilion and just watched it rain.  And rain. And rain.

The more it rained, the less I wanted to do the race.  Wet roads are slippery roads.  The last thing I needed/wanted was to crash.  The wind and cold temps were not getting any better.  It was in the mid 50's.   I don't mind the rain if it is warm.  But I really hate being cold and wet.  I also have Raynaud's syndrome, which means if my hands get too cold, I lose circulation in some of my finger tips.  This typically is only a problem in the winter.  This kind of cold, wet weather would have been an issue last Saturday for sure.

Thirty minutes went by and no announcement to start the race.  Just more rain.

I pulled the plug at that point and turned in my chip.    I got my things out of transition and made the long, humiliating walk back to my car.  Walked by another friend, Julia, who was sitting in her car.  She rolled down her window and we chatted for a minute.  She wasn't sure what she was going to do.... said that radar was looking ugly.  (She decided to stick it out and raced.  Had a great day out on the course.  Go Julia!)

It wasn't a total loss, however.  I drove from the race venue to my health club and did an indoor version of the triathlon, swimming in the pool, riding a stationary bike and running the track.

No medal, but no road rash, no frozen hands, no season opener.  But, did the distance and stayed safe.

The race finally did happen.  Numbers were way down.  Lots of folks didn't show up;  about 70 of us pulled out once we were there....

Next up, the ITU Oly in Chicago.  Let's hope for better weather.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Here goes nuthin'

Every year, it's been the same.  Triathlon season comes and it goes by in the blink of an eye.  Every October, event registrations start opening up for the next year.   Who is first in line?  Me.  By the end of the year, I pretty much have my race schedule nailed down and paid for.   Then, the waiting begins until Triathlon season.

Last year was not different.  By December 31st, I had registered for most of what I plan to race in 2014.  Money was spent; dates and hotels were secured; all I had to do was wait patiently.

I just needed to keep my base up and get through the winter so I could race Tri U Mah, Fargo 1/2 Marathon, Liberty half, the ITU Oly, Timberman oly, Racine 70.3, Point to LaPoint swim and, the biggie, Ironman Wisconsin.  Then, fall fun, my husband and I signed to run the Twin Cities Marathon's TC Loony Challenge, which is doing the 5K and 10K on October 4th and then the TC 10 Miler on October 5th. 

Why would I think anything would break the pattern?

Enter:  Winterpalooza. 

It was the coldest winter in decades across the country.  Minneapolis had an unprecedented 60 days BELOW zero last winter.  Usually, we can brace ourselves for the normal week or two in January.  Last year, pretty much mid-December though February the mercury refused to go above zero degrees.  (We did have an odd warm day, but mostly, we were frozen solid.)

I started a new job last October and, as a new employee, was not able to take any vacation time for the first 90 days. This meant that my husband and I were stuck in Minneapolis for the winter with no relief.

What did I do?

Instead of making friends with the gym and the trainer, I reintroduced myself to the couch.  And snacks.  Lots and lots of snacks. 

It was also the winter that ended my long streak of being mostly injury free.  For all the years I've spent swimming, biking and running, I have managed to stay healthy.

I had the first hints of trouble training for and running New York Marathon last year.  My husband and I ran the race together.  He was feeling good and running strong.  I did okay up about mile 15   and then my right hip started to bug me.  Nothing terrible, just that nagging ickiness.  I ended up having to stretch it out more than once, which slowed us way down.

My husband (The Trooper), stayed with me the whole time, even though he could have had a much faster finish time. 

I think the nagging ickiness conspired with the couch and snacks so that by February, I had a lot of hip pain and a very, very limited range of motion when trying to lift my right leg.  Sometimes I had to think long and hard about whether or not I could lift it high enough to get up a stair

This was a big and unexpected surprise, which I tried to ignore for a long time.  ("It will go away... I just know it!").

My base training was very sparse.  (Did I tell you the couch called my name every night?  It wooed me.)  I kept "active", but mostly walking to and from the fridge.

It didn't help that my long-time coach had some life events of his own.  His medical student girlfriend got through her studies and was placed out of state for her residency.  He was busy concentrating on moving so I, and my love affair with the couch and snacks, were able to slip under the radar for a long time.

Finally, last February, I had to face the reality.  My hip was not getting better.  If I was going to do Ironman, training would start soon and there was not way I could fake it across the finish line. 

I finally made an appointment with Tria Orthopaedic Center.  They have a great reputation and work with a lot of athletes -- pro and amateur.   I met with a nice (young) lady doctor, who is also an endurance athlete.  I told her that I didn't care if they had to hold me together with duct tape, I just wanted to be able to finish Ironman   She promised me I could.   I love her.

X-rays indicated some hip arthritis (WHAT?).  Again, a huge surprise.  In my head, I am 35.  In my joints and muscles, I'm in my mid-50s.  Dagnabbit. 

The hip arthritis wasn't so bad as to stop me from being able to stay active, but it, along with the combo of snacks, winter, the couch and the cold, my glutes, groin, SI joint and all of the "stuff" in that area, just seized up and every thing failed.  At once.

So, I've been working on trying to get better with physical therapy, chiropractic work, stretching, ice, heat and compression.  The good news is that, after 3 months, I am much, much, MUCH better.  I don't think about climbing stairs any more.  I can actually swing my leg over the bike again (as opposed to lifting it, resting it on the stem and then hoisting it over to the other side, which is what I did for most of January and February).  I don't wake up in the middle of the night anymore in so much pain I can hardly stand it. 

The bad news is that, I'm still not at 100%.  I have a definite limp, which is much more noticeable when I'm tired.  I can swim just fine; I can bike just fine.  It is the running that is a problem.  My gait is very short and choppy.  My pace has sunk like a stone.  Some days I run fine with no after issues.  Other days, I run and the hip nags for a few hours after.

Ironman training happens over many, many weeks.  In theory, for a September race, people start training in earnest in February.  The fact that I'm trying to rehab while training for a 140.6 mile race maybe slowing down the recovery. 

But, will I stopNo.   Why?  Because I'm determined (translate to stubborn).  And, because I am cheap.  I have a lot of green skin in the game, having registered -- and paid for -- all those races last January.   Why leave money on the table?

What HAS happened has been:
  • A pullback from some of the races.   I wasn't ready for Fargo 1/2, so dropped that down to the 10K.  (Slowest 10K I've run in my entire life).  I am doing better and don't want to push it yet, so dropped from the half at Liberty to the Oly distance.  Lake Superior reported ice on the lake as late as last week.  I do not need to swim 2.4 miles in a slushy, so I've dropped Point to LaPoint this year.  (Also happens to be an Ironman Wisconsin camp that weekend that my training buddies are going to, so wanted to spend time there with them).
  • A new coach.  Sometimes you just gotta switch things up.  I moved on to a new coach and things have been going great.  She is on top of me if I start to slack.   This is what I need -- especially since the couch is always beckoning.
  • An agreement with myself.  Although I want to do well at each race, I am really looking at each one as a training day helping me prepare for Ironman.   My primary goal is to do everything in my power to get to September 7th as healthy and prepared as I can possibly be so I can cross that finish line before midnight.

Tomorrow is my first summer race -- Liberty Oly.   Wish me luck!

Here goes nuthin'.....






Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ten Years of Tri U Mah

I'm going to take you back a bit.  To July, 2004 as a matter of fact.  One of my good running buddies, Marcia Lee, had entered the LifeTime Fitness triathlon as part of a relay team.  Her daughter would swim; her son would bike and she would run.

This "triathlon" thing was sort of a puzzle to me.  I didn't quite get how the whole thing fit together, how you'd have energy enough to finish the dang thing, and, oh yeah:  the swim.  The D R E A D E D swim in a L A K E.  With other people.  And fish. 

I'd done plenty of road races up until this point.  Every thing from 5Ks to marathons.  Didn't do them fast, but finished them.  Through them, I had found a great bunch of friends and had certainly challenged myself in ways I never thought possible.  But triathlon?  You'd have to be crazy to do one of those, right?

I wandered down to Lake Nokomis and got sucked right in by the triathlon sirens.  I watched the race and by the time my friend crossed the finish line, I was hooked.  I wanted to try my hand at this swim, bike and run thing.  I wanted it bad.

One tiny problem though: I couldn't really swim.  Oh, I could dog paddle with the best of 'em.  I did a lot of "splashy, splashy" in the pool if I was on vacation somewhere, but swim?  For several hundred yards?  And in a lake where I couldn't easily touch the bottom or get to the side wall if I got in trouble?  Hmmmmmm.....no.  Not so much.

But the seed was planted and triathlon became a goal.  I started swimming.  To make it to 100 yards I'd break up the four lengths by doing freestyle, then backstroke, then breaststroke, then side stroke.  Then I'd have to catch my breath for a bit.  Then I'd do it again.  And again, and again.  

I finally figured out that I could benefit from some swim lessons and found David Cameron, Total Immersion guru, who helped me become more efficient in the water.  Sayonara, back, breast and side strokes.  Now, it was freestyle all the way.

By the end of 2004, I felt confident that I could sign up for a triathlon in 2005, but which one? 

Enter:  Tri U Mah

Tri U Mah, an indoor triathlon hosted by the University of Minnesota, debuted in February 2005.   Slightly different than other triathlons, which have a stated race distance that participants cover, Tri U Mah breaks its race up in to 30 minute swim, bike and run segments with 10 minute transitions between swim/bike and bike/run.  Participants cover as much distance as they can during the time blocks and winners are determined by the total distance covered.

The venue is terrific -- the University of Minnesota Rec Center.  Participants get to swim in a great pool AND have the lane all to themselves.  After the swim, participants transition to a stationary (spin) bike, and then finish up by running on the treadmill.   Volunteers are pretty peppy and very helpful.  The swag is always great.  (Good shirt; sometimes a bag; lots of yummy post race snacks). 

It was the PERFECT first time triathlon for me.  I signed up for the race, was nervous as hell when I started and beaming, beaming, BEAMING when I was finished.  I've done the race each and every year since 2005, making my 2014 race the first of my 10th year of triathlon. My, how times flies....

The race has become the 'season opener ritual" for me and several of my friends.  We find it to be the perfect reminder that outdoor season is coming for sure and it is time to get back to training. 

I fell in love with triathlon that February and haven't looked back since.

After that, I moved on to outdoor tris and conquered my fear of open water swimming (OWS). (Candidly, the OWS thing took me a long time to embrace.  It really wasn't until I did a training swim with my coach, Greg Rhodes, at Lake Ann Park in 2009, that I let go of my OWS fear.  He got me over it by tricking me.  At the beginning of a practice swim, he told me that, if I made it from one side of the lake to the other, I could walk back to our starting point.   Greg, who is a terrific swimmer, took off in the water.  I hemmed, hawed;  I adjusted my goggles a million times.  I stopped to bob for a bit.  I finally got over to the other side and was going to get out to walk back when he said "Oh, no.  You are swimming back and you aren't going to stop.  You can do this".  And I did.)

Sprints led to Olys, which led to half-irons, which led to Ironman.  Took me three times to cross that finish line at Wisconsin, but I did.  And I'll do it one more time this year in September.
 
So, thank you, Tri U Mah, for giving me something to look forward to each February.  See you in 2015.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Blink

If you are like most Minnesotans, you are probably anxious for summer to start.

Blink.

Waaaaaiiiiit.....earlier this week, Fall said "Top of the morning to ya", when the entrance gates to the "foods-on-a-stick" fest (aka the Minnesota State Fair) opened up.

Huh....

After last year's success (finally) at Ironman Wisconsin, I was all revved up for a terrific 2013 triathlon season. My goal was to focus on getting faster at shorter distances, trying out some new events and really getting lean and mean.

Blink.

I am now getting ready for my last outdoor tri of the 2013 season, which takes place tomorrow -- (SuperiorMan Half-Iron Distance in Duluth) and I'm STILL trying to get rid of my "winter weight".
 
Huh....

Just where, exactly,  does time go?

This year really has been a giant blur and not my most satisfying on many levels.   Not all was bad, but it does feel like I spent a lot of time waiting around for things to get "better" for me to get my head in the game.

The weather had to get "better" for me to feel motivated to train the way I really should have trained. Other aspects of my life needed to get "better" before I wanted to do more than just crawl back in to my house and eat comfort food and watch bad T.V.

Now, almost three-quarters of the year is over (Blink) and I'm finally feeling like I am getting in to the swing of things.   (Actually, this theme is not necessarily a new or different one for me.   I was went to college at 17 and was really not prepared at the time.  In what feels like a SUPER BLINK, it is oh-so-many-years-later, I am ready for college life and would gladly go back to hang at the Terrace at Memorial Union any time.  I would also actually show up for the majority of classes this time around....)

Although my triathlon year hasn't been as stupendous as hoped, there certainly were a lot of high points and I had a lot of great fun.   Truth also be told, after three years of training to cross the finish line at Imoo, I was probably emotionally, mentally and physically ready for a back off year.  (As was predicted by my very wise coach, Greg Rhodes.....).

Here are some of the highlights:

Podium Finisher:
One advantage of moving up in an Age Group category is that, at a certain point, the odds go up in your favor for higher finishing placement.   I moved up in AGs this year, and, although there are certainly PLENTY of speedier women in my AG that can kick my arse around the block several times, I did have solid, top five finish times at Buffalo Tri, Liberty Oly and Waconia.

I even was on the podium, coming in 3rd in my AG at Timberman Oly.   Now, before I get too all up in my badself, I also have to admit that there weren't too many women actually IN my AG at Timberman (or any of the other events).  Still and all, 3rd is 3rd and a prize is a prize.  Booyah.

Tried some new stuff:
Waconia was a new event for me this year.  Loved it.  We lucked out with the swim.  Although the water was chilly, it wasn't too rough.   The course was challenging but beautiful.

Ironman Racine 70.3 was also new for 2013.   After not signing up for this year's Ironman Wisconsin, I still wanted to have an Ironman experience.  Racine was a close enough drive and I thought it might be fun to swim in Lake Michigan.  (Added plus:  a fairly flat bike course.).

Lake Michigan was beeeeuteeefull on the Saturday before the race.  Calm, cool, but not cold, clear (could see the bottom in 15 feet of water). 

Race day?  Not so much.  Four-foot waved greeted swimmers the morning of the race.  The only way I could convince myself to get in the water was to promise myself that I could pull out any time I wanted to or needed to.  Then I just swam from buoy to buoy and before I knew it, I was getting out of the lake.  (It was a tough swim for many racers.  I heard about 50 people got pulled from the water and many others didn't even get in to start).  

The bike was fine, flat and fast.  The run was a bit of a slog, but I made it fun by chatting up with other runners and enjoying the course.  Great race; would do it again in a heartbeat.

Point to LaPoint (P2LaP) swim -- another new adventure and certainly a highlight of the year.  When putting together my race schedule for the year, Greg added P2LaP, which is a 2.4 mile swim in Lake Superior from Bayfield, Wisconsin to Madeline Island.

At first, I thought the event might over my head (pun intended). Not because of the distance, but the swim in big, deep, cold Lake Superior.   I also had in my head that the course was going to be long and lonely, with me paddling in the lake looking at nothing but water and hoping that I wasn't getting lost. 

Au contraire!

First, you can see the island from Bayfield (phew).  The water temp, while cold, turned out to be perfect with the help of neoprene booties and cap.  The race is very well organized and I love the sweatshirt they give to racers.

Two other pluses were that my sister came with me to watch the race and we both met John,  the owner of Schoep the dog.  My sister and I are both HUGE animal people and the story of John and his wonderful dog had really touched our hearts.  It was sheer coincidence that we met John.... but we did and we were able to convey our condolences and to share a hug. 

Final new event for 2013 will be the tri tomorrow:  SuperiorMan.   It starts with a leap off a ferry boat in to Lake Superior, followed by a bike ride up to Two Harbors and back down to Duluth and then a little 1/2 marathon trot around the city.   It is supposed to be unusually hot tomorrow (90s', humid, windy) so, I'm just hoping for the best. 

Oldies but goodies:
The new stuff certainly was fun, but there is also something to be said for tradition.  Tri U Mah last February; Buffalo in June, Madison Open Water Swim last week.... all fun, fun, fun. 

Looking forward: 
Hubby and I are doing New York Marathon this fall (baring any hurricanes or other problems).   We'll also do the TC 10Miler and Victory 10k for training races as prep for the marathon.  

But before we lace up our shoes in November, my friend (and NEW MOM!) Natalie and I will be volunteering at Ironman Wisconsin on September 8th.   Then, early in the morning on Monday, September 9th, we'll be lining up with hundreds of others to sign up for Imoo 2014.

BLINK

It will be here before we know it.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Let's Be Careful Out There.... (thank you, Phil Esterhaus)

Spring is in the air and it it time to get the bike off the trainer and back on the road!

NOT!

I write this on April 11th -- a date far enough along the calendar that we SHOULD be able to be out on the roads, but alas, in case you haven't heard, Minneapolis (and much of the midwest) has been the victim of a very lousy spring.  Rain, cold, wind followed by more rain, cold, wind and today -- yes, today, the city received 7 - 10 inches of wet, heavy snow.

What a difference a year makes.  Last year at this time, the weather was warm, lakes were open, people were out on bikes, and golfing and living large.

This year, we are all slowly going a little stir crazy and are anxiously awaiting the first real whiff of spring so we can GET OUT and get moving.

I have braved the roads and bike paths a couple of times this year....all three times were on days when the weather was somewhat cooperative.   I had to get out.  I just couldn't take the trainer any more.

Well, I wasn't the only one out there.  The bike paths were jam packed with people and, since at this time of year, bikers and pedestrians share the paths, I thought it might be a good time to send out a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder to cyclists and pedestrians (aka peds) alike focused on good and safe bike etiquette in the hopes of keeping us all safe and sane out there on the roads.

(Disclaimer:  although the suggestions below come from me and represent my personal point of view,. I make them in the spirit of offering them up to help us all avoid injury and aggravation).

Who Are You?  I can't stress enough the importance of getting and wearing a Road ID.   This handy ID will not only provide you and your loved ones peace-of-mind that you can be identified, your 'in case of emergency" people can be contacted and any allergies are listed so they are avoided if you need emergency treatment, wearing it makes you look cool.  Whether you wear the wrist or ankle band version, or use the hip, cool and groovy dog tag (like I have), you'll feel safer out there.  (And your significant others will breath a little easier when you are out there for those long rides....)  www.roadid.com

See and Be Seen:   I've gotten in to the habit of hooking a blinking light on to my back jersey pocket every time I ride.   SUPER important at night or dusk, I'm wearing one now during the day to help alert (distracted) drivers that I'm sharing the road.   Bright colors also help distinguish me from foliage and increase the liklihood that I'll be seen. 

As for front lights, I always have one if I'm going to ride at dusk or night.   Helps me to be seen aslo for me to see problems like pot holes or other obstructions in the road. 

ET, Phone Home:  If you are going to bring you cell phone with you, carry it ON you in a pocket, not IN your bento box.  Why?  On the off chance you get thrown from your bike, you can access the phone that is in pocket to call for help.  If it is in your bento box, and your bento box is on your bike, and your bike is  100 feet below you on a cliff, you have a very different set of problems. 

Call it.  Period.   I'm sure this has happened to you.  You are on the bike path, minding your very own business, when ZOOM.  Some stoked up, Super Rider zips by you so closely that you can almost feel their body heat.  Yet, you had no clue they were behind you, much less next to you until they left you in their dust. 

I ask you, Super Rider:  how hard it is to just say "ON YOUR LEFT" before you pass?  (Actually, I ask everyone, just how taxing is it for you to call this safety signal out to alert other riders or runners/peds sharing the path with you?)

Without calling this out, how do you know that I won't suddenly veer to the left to avoid pot hole, or "just because" I decide to turn left, cutting directly in to your path ?  (See SIGNAL YOUR INTENT below).  If I don't know you're on my flank, a slight move to the left could cause disaster for both of us. 

Calling out your intent is an easy thing to do, will cost you ZERO in watts, and could potentially save us both in bike repair and bandage costs.

On a related note, when you hear "On Your Left", this is not a cue for you to crank your head to look behind you, which will cause you also turn your arms to the left, which will cause you to steer the bike to veer to the left and  in to the path of the person passing.  No, no, no.   When you hear the call, you simply have to steer a little to the RIGHT of the path to help provide a little more space between you the person passing you.   It is a simple as that. 

Signal Your Intent:  Ahhh.  Another of my favorites.  I'm riding behind you on the bike path, just enjoying the day, when BOOM, you decide you are going to make a left-hand turn, RIGHT NOW.  

I don't care if you are turning left, right or stopping.  Signal your intent so those behind you have a clue as to what we need to do to help keep us all safe.  If you are stopping, we'll slow down so we don't ram in to you.   If you are turning left, we won't try to pass you at the exact same second you decide to turn your wheel.  If you are turning right, we'll just keep moving along.  We just need to know.

Bike Paths = Moving Lanes of Traffic:  Imagine this:  you are driving down 35W, when you see your best friend's car in the lane next to you.  You haven't seen your friend in a couple of days, so you both decide to stop, in the middle of the freeway, so the two of you can chat and catch up for a few minutes. 

Common scenario?  NO.  Why?  Because we know better than to stop and block traffic in a live, moving lane.

Why, then, do some riders think this is perfectly okay to do on a bike path?  Aren't bikes moving along the path when you decide to stop and chat with friends?   Bike paths are moving lanes of traffic.

If you stop on the path to chat, or to adjust your helmet, or to look at the lake, or to grab a drink of water, eat a power bar, take a picture to upload to Facebook or just to rest, PULL OFF THE PATH.   

Get yourself and your bike on to that little patch of grass that separates the bike path from the walking path and feel free to stay there as long -- and as safely -- as you want.

Oh, and, when you decide to get back on the path, look both ways before pulling back in to the moving lane of bike traffic.   I know this sounds like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised....

Rock, Paper, Scissor = Ped, Bike, Car:  I look at it this way:  When I'm walking, I need very little time or distance to be able to stop my forward momentum to get out of harms way.   I need a lot less time or distance than if I am on a bike, where my speed is greater, and if something happens suddenly in front of me that I have to avoid, I need a lot more distance to slow myself down to a stop (without catapulting myself over my handle bars), or turning to avoid a collision.  If I'm driving a car and going even faster than on my bike, I need a whole lot more room to avoid sudden disaster. 

Therefore, if I'm walking and want to cross the bike path, it is up to ME, the WALKER to wait a couple of seconds for the bike to pass before I meander across the pathway.  

Same logic applies if I'm on a bike and come to stop sign at an intersection and meet up with a car that wants to cross my path.   It is up to ME, the BIKER to give that car lots and lots of leeway to go before me.  I will let the car go first even if I have the right of way.  WHY?  Because the car outweighs me in a big way and getting hit would really put a dent in my day (and the car's fender).

Family Fun:  I'm guessing that my opinion on the following will be controversial:  it is not my job to watch out for your kid.  (Yes, I said it.).  I will also say, that I do my very, very, VERY best to not do any training rides on bike paths during peak times of the day when families want to be out for a nice spin around the lake(s).  However I will also reiterate that, it is your job as a parent to make sure that your kid is riding in a manner that keeps us all safe.

Things that help: 
  • If you have little riders with you, keep them in front of you, so you can see what they are doing and how they are riding.  (Are they swerving, are they staying on the right side of the path?).   If you ride in front of them, you have no idea where they are on the path, how far they are behind you or if they stopped because they got tired. 
  • Make sure your kid knows "right" from "left", so they know to move to the right when being passed (and hearing the call), and that they know how to signal their intent.  Good biking habits start early!
  • Speaking of kids, the other thing that scares me is when I see a family walking back to their car and needing to cross the bike path.   I see a lot of grown-ups that let the kids run in front of them as they are moving toward the street and the kids just don't realize that they need to LOOK before they cross on to the bike path.  I might be moving like a snail on my bike, but if your kid runs in to the path and I can't stop, it is will be a very unhappy end to a day at the lake.
Little things -- like the suggestions above -- can go a long way in helping keep all of us safe on the roads.   Once the weather cooperates enought so that we can get back on the roads, that is.

Happy riding, everyone!



Saturday, February 2, 2013

Real butter, real cream, real cheese....

I'm a Wisconsin girl. 

Yes, I know I live in  Minnesota, but that doesn't dispute the fact that I was born and bred in good, old Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Land of the free, home of the bratwurst.

I love all things Wisconsin -- from its cities to its cows and all things in between.   I always tell people about our favorite state motto:  Come smell our Dairy Air (.....to get the joke on this, say the motto out loud, but slowly...... now get it?)

I grew up the child of a father with German and Polish heritage and a mother, with roots from Sweden and Ireland, so my love of potatos (and all foods considered to be hearty) is more than likely in embedded in my DNA. 

Well, maybe not potatoes, but certainly frozen custard -- a Milwaukee staple. 

The story goes that, on a warm summer evening before I could walk, my parents drove the Oldsmobile convertible to the local drivein to enjoy a refreshing cone of frozen custard deliciousness.   My dad thought it has high time that I had my first taste of the wondrous treat and pushed his cone towards my lips.



Apparently, I licked the cone, swallowed and then my eyes widened.  I grabbed on to the cone and held on for dear life, as I buried my face in to the custard, and literally COOED, and went to town on the custard.

This explains so, so much.

My love of food has never waned, but it has, at times, been a very complicated love affair (think Alec Baldwin and Kim Bassinger). 

I also have the unfortunate luck to not understand the concept of "rich" when it comes to food.  You know, the type of food that is typically high in calories (and goodness) that people taste, then push away the dish and say some to the effect of "Ooooohh...that is toooo rich for me'.

I say "I'll have it!" and could not only finish their portion (including the licking of the plate) and then ask for more. 

Left to my own devices, I could very well become one of those people you read about, where they have to cut a hole out of the side of the house to extract them to get them to the hospital.

Except for two very important things:  Vanity and Triathlon.

The biggest influence for me and my eating choices was running.  I started to run when I was in my late 30s and when I was training for my first 10k, the light bulb went on.  I finally made a connection between what goes in my mouth and the results that come out of my feet. 

I gave up all fast food that year, with the exception of Subway.  That was probably 12 years ago.  I've pretty much converted off of white bread and white rice, opting instead for whole wheat, pumpernickel (see, those German roots are never too far away), brown rice and quinoa.

I gave up all soda about the same time as I gave up McDonalds.    The only time I've had soda over the last couple of years was on the runs while doing Ironman Wisconsin.  Nothing like a few sips of real Coke to get you to the next water stop.

After spending a few summers riding my bike through the hills around Dane County training for the big race and mooing at the cows I'd pass, I finally decided that it was bad form to eat my friends, so I quit eating beef and pork about 15 months ago.

I did fall victim to the "fake" food fad for a little while and ate no fat, crappy substitutes for things like cheese, butter and cream.   No taste, no flavor, too many chemicals.   I now am a firm believer in the benefits (and flavor) of the real stuff, but don't go too crazy when I choose to eat them.

I'm a significantly healthier eater today than I was when I was a kid or young adult.   My pants size(es) fall in the "normal" range and haven't had to shop Lane Bryant for decades......

So you'd think I'd finally overcome this whole weight/food thing, right?

Well, not so much. 

Every summer, by the time I get to my "A" race for the season, I finally get to a "great" weight for me.  (Other athletes will know this as their "racing weight').   This comes perfectly timed after months of training hard and burning lots of calories.   I get to race day, get on the scale and am IN LOVE with that number.  I race and then forget about the scale for months.   But I don't forget about changing my "hey, I'm in training" eating patterns.  And, oh by the way, the season changes from summer to fall, then winter; days get shorter, meals get heartier, I get lazier. 

Why, then, am I always so surprised that, when I finally get brave enough to get back on the scale, the number reflected back to me isn't even close to that race weight number?

I'm a smart girl.  I understand the concept of portion control (notice I said CONCEPT, not daily practice).   I also understand that it is easier to right the ship when it is slightly off course (aka 5 pounds) than when it is when it is more off course (like double digits). 

But, every year, I seem to be here -- again -- looking at the beginning of training season with some extra lbs and an internally screaming fat-self that says "HEY -- don't you be thinking of taking my second helping away!!"

But away it must go, along with my "friend" sugar.  I've given up a lot of stuff, but the white stuff has always been my nemesis.  It is puzzling to me why....

I had a long conversation with my coach about this weight thing....he reminded me that race weight is one thing (and not a sustainable thing) and what I should really be striving for is my "every day" weight (which is not my "2nd day of February" weight. 

He understands that weight fluctuations are a part of every athletes life (right, Kent Hurbek?) but doing our best to not let the high number too high.  (He says a good number to track for is about 8% above your "best" weight).

When I look at it that way, I'm not too far out of the (weight) ball park.

But it is time to get back on the pony (or in my case, tri bke and trainer) because spring IS coming. 

And so is my first race!