Saturday, August 24, 2013


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


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.


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.


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".

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.


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!


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....)

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 ( 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!