Friday, April 1, 2016

The Verdict: Orchestra may be warming up, but that lady ain't singing....yet.

A short update with the verdict from today's visit with the orthopedist.

First, I liked him.  Straight shooter; dry sense of humor; understands athletes.  My kind of guy.

We talked through all my symptoms and issues;  he looked at the last couple of scans.  He did some manipulation maneuvers on my knee and shin.    Then he broke it down for me ever so gently:

"Your hip is destroyed; use it till you can't".  


"Meaning it is what it is.  But until it really interferes with your normal daily activities, it is not time to replace it. You'll know."

(Love that he believes that swimming, biking, running, trying to get in 10,000 steps per day, etc are my "normal" daily activities.)

"What about Ironman this year?"

"Go for it".


So what about the knee/shin pain?  He doesn't think there is any thing wrong with my knee (based on what he did to check it).  He doubts it is a stress fracture, but we are looking in to that.

He thinks it might be a pinched nerve in my back.


"You'd be surprised."

So he set me up for an MRI to rule out or in a stress fracture.  (He said if it was a stress fracture, IM was out.), but he really doesn't think that is the problem.

The pinched nerve is a new potential diagnosis.  Don't really have back pain; some nagging now and then, but my back is not something I generally complain about.

The MRI took about 30 minutes; I'll have the results of that soon.  Assuming it is not a stress fracture, I'll go to see a back guy and we'll go from there.

So, while that fat lady might be itchy to sing her song, this fit lady is itching to get to the bottom of this and then back to training.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Will the Fat Lady Sing?

Over the last week or so, a whole bunch of our appliances have shown signs of age.

First, the handle on our microwave ripped off.  Sheared the screws that held the handle in place right in half.  We did a little investigative work and discovered the microwave was built (and installed above the stove) in 1997.   More investigation revealed that they no longer make the model OR the replacement handle.  Until we have the time to go shopping for a new one, we are left with plying open the door with a screwdriver in order to nuke our food.

The "full power" button on hairdryer we've had for more than 15 years no longer holds.  We are left with either holding the button on in order to get the big blast of air, or settling for "style" mode, which means spending an extra chunk of time trying to get "the look".

I dropped my protein shake shaker bottle on the floor and it cracked.  I'm a big fan of my protein shakes and liked that bottle a lot.  Perfect size; shaker-blender thingie worked perfectly; even liked the color.  For now, until I can get a replacement one, I'm stuck using one that is bigger, clunkier and the shaker-blender thingie is a piece of c*#&.

The final blow came two days ago.  I opened the doors to our refrigerator and smelled the distinct smell of burning plastic.


The unit at the top of the fridge that houses the light bulbs and controls the temp within the fridge and freezer looked strange. I could actually see part of the light bulbs.  I gentle pulled on the unit and it came off in my hand. I could see obvious burn marks near the light sockets.   I pulled the plug on the fridge and called the repair guy.

Seems this happens a lot with the particular model we have, said the repair guy.  He ordered parts, which will be here in a couple days.  We threw out boatloads of food (which I hate doing), packed up some stuff in coolers and are waiting it out.

With all these age related-failures, I find it hard to not think that this is an omen of what's to come tomorrow.  After all I, too, am just an aging machine.

Tomorrow, I finally, finally, FINALLY get back in to see an orthopedist to get the word on what is happening with my hip and more recently, my knee and shin.

I know that I have hip arthritis.  That was diagnosed in 2014.  I also know it is worse (had an xray which confirmed this last October.).  What is new is the knee/shin thing, which I think is result of my gait changing.

I have been mostly ignoring all of this.  My rationalization?  Better to have my head in the sand than a scar on my hip.

I really am just looking for one more year of long distance triathlon.  I've been bargaining with the Ironman Gods to let me get through IM WI and IM AZ this year and then I'll be okay with stopping.  I promise.  (I sound like a crack addict.  "Just one more ride on the loop, baby...")

I've been doing some rehab with a physical therapist, who finally got me to agree to get an official evaluation.  Tomorrow is the big day.

While I don't think the doc will tell me I can't do these races this year, I am pretty sure he will tell me that this is the last song of the Ironman opera.  It will be very hard to hear that fat lady sing the final aria.

I am guessing there may be some more rehab in my future, maybe some cortisone, probably a lot of duct tape.

One way or another, I'll be at the start line of those races this year.  And, Ironman Gods willing, I'll be crossing those finish lines with moments to spare.

I just need the fat lady to be silent tomorrow.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Joy of Indoor Tris

They say Minnesota has two seasons:  winter and road construction. 

I think our two seasons are:  outdoor triathlon and indoor triathlon.

While I will say that outdoor tri season is the best, with its warm days, open water and the thrill of riding on the open road, I live in Minnesota, where, even in the best of winters, I'm not swimming in Lake Calhoun, just because it is open.  (All props due to Total Immersion Coach, Dave Cameron, who DID get in to Lake Calhoun last December.  Nutball.  And I say that with the utmost respect.)

What, then, is a triathlete to do a l l  w i n t e r  l o n g.... Just spend hours pedaling on the trainer, while binge watching episodes of Mr. Robot or Girls?  Bundle up in layers of reflective running gear, wear a headlamp  and yaktrax and pray you don't fall in to a snowbank, because you'll never be able to pull yourself out?  

No.  You take advantage of indoor triathlons.  

Why?  Well, first and foremost, they are fun.  And, they keep you in the game.  AND, in the dead of winter, when you don't think you can take one more dreary, freezing cold day, you have a reminder that summer will come and you will be able to put that wetsuit on again.  

If you are a tri veteran, indoor tris offer you a way to check your fitness level and spark your competitive nature.  

But, if your are a tri newbie, or a tri wannabe, indoor tris are a wonderful way to put your toe in the pool, so to speak.  You swim in a nice, clean pool with a lane line; you don't have to deal with wind or hills on the spin bike, and you run either on a treadmill or a track.  You still get nice swag, enjoy post race food and you get to call yourself a triathlete.  

So even though this year's indoor tri season is coming to a close, I thought I'd share a review of the indoor races I have come to love.  A couple of them still have upcoming dates available.    If you haven't done an indoor tri, you owe it to yourself to check one out.

Tri U Mah:  University of Minnesota -- Rec Center, race is in February, registration opens in October:   The format is 30 minute swim/ 30 minute bike/ 30 minute run.  Can race individually or as a team.  Transition between swim and bike is a flat 10 minutes; transition between bike and run is a flat 5 minutes. Winners are determined by the overall distance covered.  

This race is my all time favorite of indoor tris.  Maybe because it was the first one I ever did, way back in 2005.  Maybe because I love the venue.  Who knows.  What I do know I look forward every October to the second registration opens up.  

  • The deep water pool at the U is great.  You get your own 25 yard swim lane (no sharing), temp is always just right.  Volunteers keep track of the number of laps you complete during the 30 minute time frame.  
  • The bike portion is done on Matrix-S series bikes.  Distance is determined by the number of RPMs of the flywheel, so doesn't really match what riding outside is like, but hey, it is February, and you are doing a tri.
  • Run is on a treadmill.   You can set your own incline and pace.   Again, volunteers keep track of your distance covered on both the bike and the run.
  • Changing facilities are collegiate:  shared locker and shower space; smallish lockers (bring your own lock), and bring your own towel.
After race:  Tri U Mah usually provides some nice and useful swag.  In years past, I've gotten an embroidered down vest; a nice winter hat; some nice technical tee shirts.  This year, we got a cotton tee (meh) and a embroidered, weather resistant baseball cap (liked it) and a small carry bag.  Post race food this year was bagels and beverages.

Y-tris:  YWCA - Midtown location.   You don't have to be a YWCA member to participate.  Various dates from late fall until spring.  Next race, April 10th.  Registration still open.  Can race individually or as a team:   Format: 

  • Mini: 400yd swim/8mi bike/1mi run
  • Sprint: 500yd swim/10mi bike/2mi run
  • Long: 600yd swim/12mi bike/5k (3.1mi run)
  • Relay: long distance, one person each leg
Whether the race is an indoor tri, or the really wonderful Women's Triathlon, held in August, Race Directors and Endurance Coaches Nicole Cueno and Kym Zest know how to put on a race. Very friendly, peppy volunteers, nice swag, good post race food (including COFFEE !!) and a masseuse!  

The Y also has several great tri training and prep programs, offering indoor and outdoor brick classes (bike/run); running and biking clinics, and lots of open water swim opportunities at Cedar Lake during the summer. 

I've done several of these races over the years and have loved each one.  I've had my hat handed to me by a young boy, with whom I shared my swim lane, and I've been able to cheer on a number of brand, new triathletes as they crossed the finish line for the first time.  These events are highly supportive and well organized.  

  • Indoor tri facilities at the Y are terrific.  Nice, 25 yard pool.  Two participants per lane.  
  • Bike portion is done on a Kaiser spin bike.  Again, distance is calculated by RPM and doesn't quite equate to what it is like on a real bike outside.  (Details.)
  • Run is done on a 200-meter indoor track. 
  • Changing facilities:  Typical locker room, bring a lock and a towel.  Whirlpool, sauna and steam available after the race.  
LifeTime Fitness Indoor Tris:  Lifetime Fitness health clubs across the cities;  don't have to be a member to register.  Various dates from January through April.  Next race date in Twin Cities is April 24th.  Registration still open.   Format:  10 minute swim; 30 minute bike; 20 minute run.  Winner determined by a points system. 

So, I'm a Lifetime member.  Love the clubs; love a lot of their programs.  Like this tri.  (Notice I said "like").   It could be the way that the tri is run at the club I race at; it could be that the race is simultaneously run at a number of their facilities across the country the same day, but the process hasn't been "Starbucked" (meaning the same experience regardless of what location you visit.)  

I find the LTF events "flat".  The event itself is fun, but a bit disorganized.  The volunteers aren't too peppy; the swag is okay (tee shirt and small bag.)  You do get some offers, including a free month of masters swim; 30 minutes consultation with a tri coach and a discount at the Ironman store.  (LTF has an affiliation with Ironman, primarily to help promote the sport, and LTF sold a couple of their branded races to Ironman, for example  the old Soma 1/2 is now Ironman Arizona 70.3).    After the January event, the Women for Tri facebook page lit up with hundreds of selfies of co-branded swim caps worn by LTF tri participants.  The reviews from participants across the country was pretty mixed.  Some sites seem to have their act together, others not so much.  Biggest surprise for me was that many clubs had post race food (bananas).  My club?  Not even a bottle of water....

Having dissed the organization of the race, I still sign up for these races.  They still allow me to get a good workout in and to have some fun.  As a former boss of mine profoundly said, "It is what it is".  

  • Swim:  in a pool, most of them are 25 yard (the one I swim in is 23 yards);  two participants to a lane.
  • Bike: on a standard spin bike.  The most "true" to an outdoor bike experience.  
  • Run:  on a treadmill, where you can adjust the incline and speed.
  • Amenities:  nice locker rooms, many provide towels, soap and shampoo.  Sauna, whirlpool and steam available after the race.  
So there you have it.  The lowdown on indoor tris.  Just another way I am keepin' it joyful in 2016.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The goal: 60% JOY

Yeah, right.  That last blog post from October, 2015, told you all to "check back soon to learn about my Action Plan!". 

So does over 2 months since I last posted count as "soon"?

Why so long?  Well, it turns out I was still working on that action plan

Not that things haven't been happening and moving along.  No indeed!  November and December passed in a blaze of action packed minutes.  Lots of work, stress and high pressure deadlines.  AND lots of relaxation and easy days off. 

Hubby and I went on a cruise in early December with my sister and brother-in-law.  You may not think I am a cruise person, but let me correct your thinking.  I totally am.  I should say, Hubby and I totally are.  

We are very particular about our cruises, though.  No fussy formal nights or assigned seating for us.  Noooo.  We like Norwegian Cruise Line, the "do what you want, when you want" cruise line.  No formal nights (unless you want to dress up);  no assigned seating for dinner; no nuthin' but fresh air, views of the ocean, endless food and adventurous shore excursions. 

We went from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten and three, count them -- THREE -- days at sea.  (Love the sea days!).  I swam in the ocean in the Bahamas and St. Maarten.  We snorkeled in St. Thomas and saw sea turtles, sting rays and the most fish ever on a snorkel trip.  It was heaven.

I also had several days off in-between Christmas and New Year's.   I started to declutter the house and am proud to say that I'm finally willing to get rid of things that no longer serve me/us.   I don't want or need to hold on to "stuff".  I do need to let (it) go.

I also came up with my race schedule for 2016.  Lessons learned from 2015 will help shape what this new race season will may also be the beginning of the real, actual end of some of my racing life.

You see, the hip issue that has been plaguing me since winter, 2014, is not going away.  It is, in fact, arthritis, which is, in fact, getting worse, not better.  (I know this because I had a scan in 2014 when they diagnosed it and another one last fall, which revealed more deterioration.)

Generally, I'm choosing to ignore the problem.  While the actual pain is hit or miss, my range of motion is definitely impacted, which impacts both my gait and pace when I run.  I have a definite giddyup in my step (meaning I limp), but I am not yet at the point where I am really acknowledging any of this.   Sometimes denial is a very powerful thing.

I have done some (lots) of research though, and most of what I read says that, when the time comes for a little snip, snip, snip, I will still be able to swim and bike and golf.  Running will probably be D O N E, though.  And for as slow and clompy as I am right now running, I'm not ready (willing) to stop yet.

I have stuff to do this year.   Like several of my fave indoor tris;  Like running Grandma's 1/2 marathon again.  Like doing Ironman Wisconsin this fall. And Ironman Arizona.  

You see, I look at it this way:  if I am going to potentially stop doing something I LOVE, I'm going to make sure that this year is a great year.  If my hip is the problem, then the plan is to grind it down to dust before I'm finished with triathlon.  (Might as well make that surgeon work for his or her money and insurance reimbursement, right?)

I've thought long and hard about what I want my 2016 to be and I've come up with this:  By Sunday, every week, I want my week to have been joyful at least 60% of the time.  This means I spend my time doing things I love to do, with people that I love to be with, and have adventures that are meaningful. 

If I find that I'm less than joyful 60% of the time, I need to consciously eliminate the people, places and things that are causing the angst. 

Life is way too short and time passes way too quickly. 

Spend time joyfully.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ironman 70.3 Arizona: Part I: Lessons Learned

We'll start with the finish.  Or, lack thereof.  

I did not finish this 70.3 mile race.  I did cover 64 miles (meaning got the 1.2 mile swim, the 56 mile bike and 6.55 miles of the 1/2 marathon (which, I recently found out was really measured at 13.6 miles. so I covered 6.8 miles), but could not pull it together to finish this one out.

As the last outdoor tri for 2015,  this was disappointing and embarrassing, but I did learn a lot from this race that I can take with me in to 2016 and beyond.  

I had gone to watch Ironman Arizona last year to watch my 2015 coach, Cathy Yndestad and my friend, Mark Loken, do the race. The venue looked interesting and very different from Ironman Wisconsin's course.  I was toying with the idea of doing "one more Ironman" in 2016 and was thinking that a flatter bike course would be more forgiving on my ailing hip.  When Ironman announced it had taken over the former Soma tri, I signed up for this new 70.3 race the day registration opened.  

I thought this would be a perfect way to try some things that I've never done before:  shipping my bike to a race location; traveling more than 400 miles for a triathlon; swimming in notoriously cold Tempe Town Lake.  I also thought that, since I've finished a number of 1/2 iron distance tris before, that this would be a distance that would be "easy" to cover.  

The day turned out differently than I had thought it would.  Some of the reasons were out of my control.  But, if I'm being totally honest here, there was a lot in my control in both what I did and didn't do in the months leading up to the race which impacted yesterday's results.  

Lessons Learned:  
  • You can't fake your way through a 1/2 iron distance tri.
  • Training Plans and Coaches are worth every penny you pay for them. (At least the good ones are.)
  • Practice on the bike you are going to ride.  
  • Do some open water swimming with and without a wet suit.
  • The strongest muscle you have is the one in your head.
Let's start with the obvious:  You get the race you train for:  After finishing IM WI last year, I wanted this year to be fun and easy.  I did a lot of races, but mostly sprints and a couple of Olys.  I had a lot of fun doing some new things, like covering 70 miles on the second day of Iowa's Ragbrai; going back to SuperiorMan for its 41.5 mile event, and running the Looney Challenge (comprised of running the Twin Cities Marathon weekend's 5K, 10K on Saturday and then the 10 Miler on Sunday.)  I was able to finish all of these events without a doing a lot work to get through them.  However, I really did not spend a lot of time "in training" this year.  I may have worked out more frequently and regularly than the average person, but there is no way I can say, with a straight face, that I spent my summer "in training".  

Self coaching is not the best plan for me:   I didn't really swim with a Masters group this year; I didn't have a formal relationship with a Coach, I certainly didn't follow any thing remotely like a training plan.  I did a little work with a group out of LifetimeFitness, but I did that mostly for the social aspect, not for the actual training.  I thought, since I had covered the distances for the 70.3, I'd be okay.  I didn't string any of them together in any meaningful way in training, and that came back to bite me yesterday in a big way.   

I need to be held accountable.  I need someone to tell me what to do, when to do it and then to either bust my chops for not doing it or to congratulate me when I do do it.  In other words, I need a Coach.

Train on the bike you are going to ride:  Outside of races, I spent the bulk of the year riding my road bike.  I should have spent a lot more time riding my tri bike.  Both my position and my saddle are very different one bike to the other.  It is also very different being in aero versus up on the hoods.  I did do a few longer rides on my tri bike as IM 70.3 AZ approached, but in retrospect, probably not enough time.  My tush was quite accustomed to longer miles on my cushier road bike saddle.  Less so on the tri bike's Cobb.

Practice Open Water Swimming both with and without a wet suit:   All the tris I did this year had been wet suit legal.  I also wore a wet suit for all the OWS practice swims I did during the summer.  I love the extra buoyancy and the sense of security the suit gives me.  (If/when I have to tread water before a race, or adjust my goggles or pee, I basically go vertical and can bob like a cork.  No energy, no muss, no fuss....).  

Tempe Town Lake is known for being cold, even though it is in the desert.  The thought of the race being wet suit questionable never even entered my mind. A few days before leaving for Arizona, I happened to see a post on the event's Facebook page. Someone was questioning whether the swim would happen at all, given all the rain Tempe has been having.  (The lake is part of a reservoir and, apparently, after heavy rains, catches storm water run off, increasing changes of unsafe E coli levels.).  Another person responded that E coli wasn't an issue, but the warm lake temps could make the race wet suit illegal.  

Warm water?  I looked up the water temp online and it was in the mid 70's.  Glad I checked this out before traveling because I ended up packing both a wet suit and a swim skin.  Race morning, the water was 78 degrees.  The race officials made the event 'wet suit optional'.  If a racer chose to wear a wet suit, they would move to a "new" final wave, regardless of which heat they should be racing in.  Racers in that last wave would still have to make the 11:20 am cut off of starting the 3rd bike loop.  

Although I was already one of the final waves for the day, I did not want to sit out any additional time and risk maybe not making the bike cut off, so I opted to not wear the wet suit and wore the skin instead. (In retrospect, the cut off for the last loop was a non issue for me.  I was well on my way on that last loop at 11:20 am....)

On the one hand, the skin was perfect because the water temp was great.  Had I wore the wet suit, I would have overheated.  On the other hand, I had not done any open water swimming without a wet suit in a long time.  The swimming part was easy, but waiting treading water waiting for the race to start was a little tiring; stopping to adjust my goggles and to pee, there was no bobbing.  It was more floundering.  

The water was pretty choppy and I got swallowed more of the lake that I wanted to.  I also had a couple of close encounters with other swimmers that, had I been in a wet suit, would not have rattled me.  Without the suit, I went under unexpectedly, which caused me to be a little uncomfortable. 

I got through the swim, but all it all, it was not nearly as enjoyable as other swims.  I felt more like I practiced water survival skills....

Head Muscle:  Ahhh yes.  My brain.  All things being equal yesterday, it was my brain that caused me my biggest issues.  I knew I had not done the training I should have.  But that was also the case with the Looney Challenge and I managed to get through those three races, AND did the 10 miler with a knot in both my glute and posas.  The big difference was the conversation I had with myself about those races.  For Looney, my focus was on getting the races done, no matter what.  

For IM 70.3 AZ, the negative thoughts started early -- in the swim, which felt like it went on forever.  I felt mostly good on the bike, although my tush was screaming during that last loop and it got mentally tiring riding in to the wind, which had picked up quite a bit.  I may have gotten behind on my nutrition a bit too, which never helps the thinking pattern.  

When I got back in to T2, I thought I had plenty of time to cover the miles of the run.  The course seemed pretty straight forward: two pretty flat loops around sections of Tempe Town Lake.  I started the run at 12:30 pm; the sun broke out and it was hot and humid.  I struggled from the get-go to get my legs to run.  I just did. not. want. to.  Period.  

I can be very stubborn and headstrong.  Sometimes this works very well for me.  Other times, this does not.  This was one of those times.  I tried a few tricks in hopes to turn things around.  I picked places out on the course and said "I'll start running there".  I'd get to that place and then find another place that looked better.  Finally, I just gave in and said "Screw it.  I'm walking'.  

That would have been fine until the detour.

The Race Organizers had to make a modification to the run course, due to a tragic accident (independent of the race) the night before.  This modification added another 4/10s to the total course (not a big number), but the actual change to the course made a big difference psychological to me.

I was walking on the Rural Road bridge and could see other racers on the path on the south side of the lake.  It looked like they came off the bridge, took a left, went away from the race site for about a few hundred yards and then turned to loop back to the site and the start of the second loop or the finish line.

I looked at my watch and thought that I had enough time to get through the second loop before the race cut off.  I was feeling pretty good.

When I got off the bridge, and took the turn to the left, I realized that the turn around was not a couple hundred yards ahead of me, but rather more than 1/2 a mile ahead of me.

That realization took any and all of the wind right out of my sails and my brain said "Game over. Get to the start of the second loop, but you are probably out of time to complete the second loop."

I got to the start of the second loop and Warren was there waiting for me.  I told him that I was done.  He tired to get me to start the second loop, but I knew I wasn't going to run it (or any of it) and with less than 90 minutes to the cut off, it was highly unlikely that I would make the cutoff. 

Had I been able to get my head right, I may have been able to get myself on that second loop and to push to meet the 90 minute deadline.  

But yesterday, for whatever reason, when I was done, I was done.

No matter what I tried to tell myself made a difference.  Internal conversation points included including "You spent a boatload of money to ship your bike here and to travel here to DNF", "You will never live down the embarrassment of not finishing." "You've done this a million times.  Get your stuff together.".  "You want that hat and medal".  Nothing made a difference.  

I'm not sure why I struggle with this so much.  Why sometimes I can right the ship and push forward and other times, I just can't / won't.  

I'll be pondering this for the next few days in order to come up with my next post:  Ironman 70.3 Arizona:  Part II: Putting Those Lessons to Work.

Check back in a few days as I come up with my Action Plan.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Whaddya mean the season is over?

When I arrive at a race site, it's always a pleasure to hear Jerry MacNeil's voice announcing the action. He has done much to support and promote the sport we all love. He is quick to provide color commentary about races and racers and provides a wealth of information to us all via MinnesotaTriNews. He has also always been very nice to me when we bump in to each other. He likes to promote this blog, which I appreciate. I may not have the same exciting stories that those who win races have, but it is nice that he allows me to share my tales of being a middle-aged, grateful to be at the start line, mid to back of the packer.  Here's my recap of SuperiorMan 41.5.

My 2015 “local” triathlon outdoor season ended last Sunday after I crossed the finish line of SuperiorMan‘s “short” course in Duluth. It was a fun day in a fun town.

The race initially intrigued me because of the swim start. Racers are loaded on to a Vista Fleet ferry boat and taken out on to Lake Superior and get to jump off the boat in to the lake. How fun is that?

I did the long course in 2013. It was the hottest day of the year in Duluth – heat index was well in to the 100s along with some pretty heavy humidity. Very unexpected for this time of year upnord der.  
I have long thought about doing the Escape from Alcatraz race, which also has a “jump off the boat” swim start. There are just a few other things about that race that keeps me away (sharks, currents, cold temperatures and a lot of hills to name a few).

SuperiorMan offers the same cool start without worrying about Jaws. It does have its fair share of currents, cold water and hills, though.

I had planned to race the long course again this year, but when Ironman Arizona 70.3 opened up, I made it my “A” race for the season. (And, truth be told, my pretty lazy training season left me not really ready to pull a ½ out of my legs yet. Fortunately, I have six weeks to get them ready for Tempe).

I pulled back to the short course in early August, which consists of a 0.5 mile swim; 35.4 mile bike and 5.6 mile run.

I’m not really sure why everyone calls the 41.5 mile race “short”. It is longer than an Oly but I guess in comparison to the event’s original 70.3 mile event (now known as the long course or ½ iron distance), I guess it is “short”.

The weather was much more cooperative last Sunday than it was in 2013. Morning temps were in the 60s and the sunny skies predicted didn’t really break out until late morning, so we had some UV protection while out on the bike course. What wasn’t predicted was the wind off the lake. Forecasts had called for mild winds, but we ended up with solid and steady winds.

The first of the long course athletes got on the ferry boat at 5:45 am. I was still in transition at that point with the second wave of long course folks and all the short course people. Transition is inside the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC), which is also a nice feature of this race. Plenty of room; lots of nice bathrooms and showers.

The shower feature was helpful prerace too. Because there is no beach near transition, racers can’t get in to the water before the big jump. I like to have some water down my wetsuit before I start a race. The water helps to loosen up the wetsuit a bit and provides a little bit of added insulation.

After putting my wetsuit half way on, I went to the shower room, filled a throwaway water bottle with water and poured it down the inside of my wetsuit. Almost as good as a prerace dip....

I filled up the water bottle again to take on to the ferry with me and went out to queue up for my ride. I bumped in to Nicole Cueno, Endurance Coach and Race Director for the YWCA Women’s Tri. She was racing the long course. Nicole is a phenomenal athlete and one of the nicest people you can meet. We caught up on our summers for a bit and then I left her to get in to her race head. (I found out later that she got a flat on the bike course and STILL came in third of all long-course women. A-maaaay-zing.)

I got on to the ferry at 6:45 am and we took the short ride to the swim starting point. We had heard that the water temp was 62 degrees. Plenty cold. Many of us were prepared with our neoprene booties and skull caps in addition to long sleeved wetsuits. I saw a couple of racers who were wearing sleeveless wet suits. All I could think was “brrrr”.

Organizers queued us up so that the rest of the long course folks jumped off the boat first; then short course folks. I was in Wave 1 of the short course. As I got closer to the open gate that I’d be jumping through, I squirted the rest of the water from my water bottle underneath the neck of my wetsuit, adjusted my goggles in-between my skull cap and my race cap and tried to stay calm.

The person in front of me jumped in; the nice lady who was staggering the jumpers held me back for about 4 seconds. I just looked down and the churning water, she tapped me on the shoulder and said “go” and I did.

Keeersplash! YIKES that water was cold! My body and head were plenty warm, but my face was very cold. I knew I needed to get out of the way so the next jumper wouldn’t land on me, so I paddled off.

My breathing was a little too rapid, though, so I stopped a couple of strokes in to just calm down for a few seconds. Then put my face back in and started to swim toward the first buoys. The water was much choppier now than it had been for the first set of racers. I took in much more water than I normally do and had to stop a couple of times to cough it out. I was never panicky about it, though. Just inconvenienced.

Short course swimmers swam a three-quarter loop for our 0.5 mile swim. I got to the final turn buoy and angled in only to bump in to a couple of swimmers also trying to make it to the exit. (I don’t know why this happens. Big, old lake with lots of room and there is always someone who swims right in the same path as you are trying to get out. …)

They had a ramp in place to helps swimmers get out, which made exiting the water pretty easy. My swim time was very average for me for a half-mile. Plenty happy about that.

A quick little jog back in to T1; and the fun of getting out of my wet suit and neoprene booties began. I got “stuck” trying to pull the dang thing off. I eventually had to sit down to get the thing off. My T1 times have been pitiful this year. If it isn’t the wetsuit being stubborn, it is the socks begin tough to get on wet feet. I know there is plenty of room for improvement on my T1 times. Will give me something to practice over winter (HA!)

Bike: the long course takes you out to just past Two Harbors out Old Hwy 61. The route back follows
the Grandma’s Marathon route. For the short course, the turn around comes at Homestead Road, and joins the marathon route just beyond the halfway point.

The way out was very straightforward. Road conditions were pretty good, scenery along the way was nice. I kept a very solid pace and passed a bunch of folks (always a great feeling). I got to mile 20 in 1 hour and 4 minutes.

The headwinds hit on the way back. Solid, sustaining winds but a damper on the speed train. There isn’t much foliage on the lake side of the road to soften the impact of the wind. You just have to keep aero and pedal.

Right before Lemondrop Hill, they route goes off the road and on to a narrow bike path. I saw two crashes along this section. One looked pretty painful and the other was just a rider that misjudged a sharp turn at the bottom of a hill. I just slowed down, made sure that the riders were okay and then kept on.

I was hoping for about 2 hours for the ride and came back in to transition at 2:04, averaging 16.9 miles per hour.

T2 was faster (no wetsuit involved!). Then out to the run. In 2013, my coach at the time, Greg Rhodes, and his girlfriend Devon, both surprised me by coming up to watch the race. By the time I got out on to the run course that year, I was very much in “mule” mode.

You know that mode: stubborn, headstrong, will only do what you want to do and nothing more…..

The temps were super high and the sun was blazing. Devon, who runs like a deer, found me on the run course where I was walking (and cursing the sun.) She tried her very best to coax me in to running with her, but I was having nothing of it. I pretty much walked the entire 13 miles.

This year, I vowed to run the run course. This was a tough vow to make because of my continuing, stupid hip issue that does not seem to want to go away. The problem impacts my gait, which is reduced to sort of a stride/clomp; stride/clomp. (Because I think I want to do another Ironman next year, I am in complete denial about what this hip issue really means. I do NOT want to go back to Tria and have them tell me that the jig is up. But, that is a story for another day….)

I did “run” most of the 5.6 mile run, and It wasn’t bad. It was just slow. Pitifully, pitifully slow. (I did take some perverse pleasure in seeing at least two other runners who were 50 plus that seemed to have the same stride/clomp gait that I do….).

Always trying to find a little bit of a silverlining in my slow run, I enjoyed the beautiful views of the lake from the run course; I thanked the volunteers; I sent up some prayers of gratitude for being healthy enough to be able to jump off a perfectly good ferry boat in to the very cold waters of Lake Superior. And then I crossed the finish line.

This year’s outdoor season passed in a blur. Thirteen weeks and seven tris, each of which were super fun. One outdoor tri left on the calendar for this year: Ironman Arizona 70.3 on October 18th.  
The season ain't over quite yet....

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer of Fun: Mid Season Recap

I am not really sure how this happened, but it is July 22nd.  More than half the summer is over but it has been jam packed full of fun and adventure.

I  really wanted this year's race season to be relatively easy and not full of pressure.

 My plan has been to do some new races and events and to  revisit some old favorites that I haven't done for a while.

So far, so good.  It has been nice to pull back a bit on training intensity this year and to work on resting and rehabbing my hip a bit.  I've also made some new tri and running friends, which is always a plus.
There are still lots of races to come this season, with my "A" race being Ironman Arizona 70.3 on October 18th.  The big unknown is whether or not I'll do another Ironman in 2016.   I'll be volunteering at Madison in September and at Arizona in November.  Madison pulls at me like the Sirens.  Realistically, Arizona may be a more "friendly" venue for me at this point.   Lots of time to decide if either one is reasonable.  If not, I may have found some other really wonderful activities to fill my time, my interest and my future summers.

Here is a recap of my season so far:

Minnetonka 1/2 marathon:  An oldie but a goodie.  I had done this race many times, many years ago, when it was known as the Wells Fargo 1/2.  It was always a fun race, even though, with the sheer number of speedy runners, I was generally at the back of the pack within the first 1/4 mile of the race.   I wanted to do this one this year as it was one of the events that the tri team i've been doing some training with was also doing.  I was NOT ready for a 1/2 by the time I wanted to register, so I enlisted the help of my good friend Gary to run the race as a rely team.  I had to run the first half and he got to finish it up.  All in all, a good day.

Esprit de She Duathlon:  My first new event for the year and my third duathlon ever.  It turned out to be very enjoyable, despite cold, windy and rainy weather.  The course distances of a 2 mile run/11 mile bike/2 mile run were very do-able for an early season start.  The field was all women, and plenty of newbies.  Both the pre and post race events were pretty fun too.  This event will be on my list for 2016. 

Buffalo Sprint:  Summer kicked off with an old favorite.  Buffalo was the first outdoor tri I ever did, way back in 2005.  I love the venue, the field is friendly and it is always a lot of fun. With the early June race date, the lake temps can be cold, but we lucked out this year.  The water temperature was very pleasant.  I had forgotten that the bike course had some hills, but still and all, very pretty course.  The run course was changed due to construction.  Instead of a fairly flat out and back, we had some hills.  Of all the disciplines, I'm most disappointed with my running this year.  When my hip and psoas flare up, I have a hard time with my gait, so I end up sort of plodding.  My left stride is fine, my right stride gets clunky, but clunky is better than sitting on the couch, so... it's all good.

Hillfest:  Ahhh, Hillfest.  I have a love/hate relationship with Hillfest.  it is a great event; well organized; good course options, really good training opportunity to practice climbs and descents.  However, when they say Hillfest, the operative word is HILL.  This event reminded me that I was NOT training for Iornman Wisconsin.  My rides up to this point had been mostly on the flats, so some of the climbs were a rude awakening for me.  The day started with rain, which is not a great combination with hills.  Wet pavement makes it hard for me to feel too comfortable to be ride more aggressively on the downhills and is also a little tricky on the uphills.  (Right or wrong, I get nervous about my wheel slipping out from underneath me).  I guess some of my concern may have been warranted.  My brakes were not reacting or gripping normally.  I stopped at one of the rest stops to have a mechanic look at them.  The very nice man told me that my brake pads were basically nonexistent.  I decided that I had had enough and was not going to temp the Brakes Gods, so I took the sag wagon back to transition with a couple of other guys, who also had also decided to call it a day.

Grandma's 1/2 marathon:  I went back to my roots with this one.  This was my 6th G'mas event (3 marathons and two prior 1/2 marathons).  More recently, I've opted out of this one to run Fargo.  Both events are really well organized, and Fargo can be a little more pocketbook friendly, but for whatever reason, I really wanted to go back to Duluth this year.  I applied for the lottery and miraculously got in.  I'm so very glad I did.  I had forgotten how really beautiful the course is and how fun the people of Duluth make the event.  Race day was another rainy one, but it wasn't so bad as to make the run uncomfortable.  I ran the race with no expectations for a finish time, but rather just to have fun and take it in.  I ran a nice and even run/walk rhythm and even my hip held up until right after Lemondrop Hill (about mile 10).  After that, I just shuffled along (literally) until I hit the finish line.

HER Madison 5K:  The timing for this event was perfect.  I had planned to be in Madison to do a little riding on the Ironman course when this new event popped up on the calendar, so I had the opportunity to run too.  The race also hosted a 1/2 marathon, but I was really only interested in doing the 5K.  As its name suggested, it was another women-only event, and for an inaugural event, they drew pretty good numbers for both races.   The 5K course was surprisingly hilly (and how they managed to have more UP than DOWN, is a mystery to me...) but I managed to pull off my first race in a very long time with a running pace in the 10s.  This may not sound like a big deal to the average person, but to me,  with my pacing struggles since this hip thing started last year, it was a welcome, welcome gift.   Great medal; lots of really good and useful swag too.

Timberman Oly:  Another annual favorite of mine.  I really love this race. It has a small field, the lake is really clean and the bike course has enough up and down to be both interesting and challenging.  The oly run course is a bit of a bear though.  Runners are on pavement until just after the 5K turnaround spot  where we then move on to dirt road.  It is not very shady and there are always horseflies, who seem to find sweaty, tired runners delicious.  This year, though, I was not on their menu.   I had a great swim and was humming along on the bike when, at mile 19.41, I ended up with a punctured tire.   A nice policeman gave me and my bike a ride back to transition, where I called it a day.  I did go out for a run, but didn't do the official course, hence avoiding the horseflies.

Heart of the Lakes Sprint:  First time on this course and it was terrific.   The race itself is fun, but the piece de resistance was being able to do this event with my cousin, Cindy.  It was her very first triathlon EVER.  She trained hard all spring, and all on her own (she lives in California). Open water swimming was a totally new concept for her, along with stringing together the swim, bike and run in to one event.  We had a blast doing each leg of the event together and she did wonderfully.   I am very, very proud of her.

Ragbrai One Day Ride:  So if I don't do Iornman next year (or after I really DO retire form long course events), I think I could get my head (and legs) around doing bike events like Ragbrai (or Bike Across Minnesota or Ride Across Wisconsin or ANY of the Escape Adventure rides).  Another good friend, Cheryl, had done the full week ride in 2011.  (She loved it and hated it... sound familiar?)  This year, the Monday ride started in her home town of Storm Lake and finished 68 miles later in Fort Dodge.  She invited a few friends to join her for the one day ride.  I am so glad I did this ride and got a chance to be part of the experience.  There are about 18,000 riders that take part in the event.  Yes, 18,000.  You are never alone out on the bike course.  There are all shapes, sizes and kind of riders and bikes.  There were five official stops along the way, where the town pretty much opens its arms to riders.  Lots of food, entertainment and hospitality.  Farms along the route also set up rest stops complete with COFFEE, food, water and friendliness.  I imagine that this event is similar to Sturgis, but for healthy people.  I could not have had more fun.  

At least I don't THINK I could have had more fun.  But that is TBD.  

Coming up for the rest of this year are a couple of new races:  Graniteman - Big Lake Oly and Maple Grove sprint.  I'm also going back to Duluth to do SuperiorMan again, and Warren and I will line up for the Loony Challenge in October (running the Twin Cities Marathon's 5K and 10K events on Saturday and the 10 miler on Sunday.)

I'll wrap up 2015 in Tempe, about the time I'll get to register for Tru U Mah, 2016.....

A girl can't have too much fun!