Wednesday, November 22, 2006

El Tour de Tucson

This past weekend, Greg and I decided to travel to Tucson for the Tour. This event is a big deal in our family not because we have done it every year, but really because we have talked about it every year. In fact, I have only done the Tour one other time and that was in 1999. That year I did a 75 mile option and was fairly certain I was going to die. I am not sure how I could have been so much younger and in such worse shape then, but it was awful. My average speed was around 12 mph and I remember my mom and dad slowing down a lot to wait for me. Even my parents, for all their cycling experience, had never done the full tour. I think they had each registered for it a few times, but something always came up.

For this year's Tour, I waited until the last week to actually register. I had concentrated so much on SOMA, that I knew I could ride 50-60 miles fairly well, but I wasn't so sure about 109. My husband, being who he is, had only been riding around 15-30 miles per week. All those miles were at break-neck speed which meant he was fast, but had very little saddle time. After evaluating our training, I tried to convince my husband we should do one of the shorter mileage options, like the 66 mile event. He used typical Greg logic to say "Well, if we can do 66, we can do 85, and if we can do 85 we can do 109." Therefore, race morning found us bundled up at the starting line for the 109 mile event

I wasn't sure what I wanted to wear for the race because it was really cold at the start, but I knew it would warm up. I decided to go with a long bra, cycling jersey, long wicking shirt, jacket and toe warmers. .
However, after waiting around a bit at the start, I decided I was too warm. I raced back to the car and dropped off the wicking shirt. Later I would be so glad I unloaded this shirt.

We had all heard bad things about the mass start of the tour, so when the event started we took our time. We had timing chips afterall, so we saw no need to hurry. -We later found out that the timing chips didn't record our start time. This meant the 11 minutes it took us to get to the starting line was actually included in our race time. This was a huge bummer and my biggest complaint of the event.

Shortly after we finally got going, I decided to shift into a harder gear. I had borrowed my mom's old road bike for the event since it is much more comfortable than my road bike. (Besides shouldn't everyone's first 100+ mile event be on a bike they are unfamiliar with?) However, I wasn't used to the Campy gears and promptly shifted incorrectly and dropped my chain. Boy did a I feel like a dork so early in the event!

Greg and I had talked about our race strategy beforehand and we anticipated that he would pull more in the beginning and I would pull more at the end. Honestly the first 10-15 miles were pretty frustrating for me. We had a bit of a head wind and he smartly wanted to draft off other riders. However, I couldn't hold their pace and kept getting dropped and then he would have to slow down to ride with me. I could tell I was bringing him down and I was frustrated with myself for not being able to ride faster. We later got more into a groove and it became more fun.

Part of the "charm" of the Tour de Tucson is that there are two river crossings in the event. Since this is Southern Arizona we are talking about, the rivers are almost always dry. When we came to the crossings, everyone got off their bikes and carried them across the thick sand. It was actually sort of comical seeing everyone off their bike crossing the sand. The first crossing was probably about 200 yards, but the other was much longer and harder. The second was where I really cursed my mom's steel framed bike! In fact, days later, my arms are the main part of me still sore!

Around mile twenty we were getting hot and looking forward to meeting up with Nikki. Nikki is a family friend who graciously volunteered to watch our boys and meet us along the course. We were planning to drop our cold weather gear off with her at the next aid station. Unfortunately, we never saw them at that station and ended up having to carry our jackets until around mile 50. By then we were so ready to unload them!

As each mile ticked by, I began to get more and more excited. I was really worried that I would hit mile 60 and just collapse, but as 60 came and went I was feeling pretty good. I began to think I could do the distance and I grew confident in my strength and athleticism. At mile 70 the coolest thing happened. One rider passed me at a good speed and then another passed quickly grabbing his wheel. I decided not to miss this opportunity and jumped on board as well. Greg of course stayed with us and a few more riders joined in. For the next 15 miles we had the coolest pace line going. Everyone pulled, everyone stayed together and everyone actually worked as a team. My adrenaline was pumping so hard! I think right then and there I could have converted and become a hardcore roadie! I knew Nikki and the boys were at mile 85, so it was a little bit bittersweet when we saw them and had to stop. It was tough saying good bye to our cool baseline. Greg later said that he was happy to stop because he couldn't have kept it up much longer, but I was fairly confident I could have kept going.

In fact, I really didn't start to feel too bad until about mile 102. Around then, everything hurt: my lower back, my neck, my crotch. I went from a little achiness to intense pain. Those last few miles seemed so long. Greg was also dragging at this point and pretty much stayed in my draft. This was probably the only thing that kept me going. I was encouraged to actually be the stronger half of our team, something that is very rare when we workout together.

When we finished I was very relieved, but then of course I had to ask myself two important questions: could I have biked three more miles? And could I then run a marathon? To answer the first, hell yes! For the second question, while I was relieved to not be running a marathon that day, I think if IRONMAN had been on the line, I could have done it. It would have been slow, ugly and painful, but I still think it would have been possible. Hopefully by April I will be even stronger and it will be slightly less painful!

Greg and I finished in 6:51:32 according to their clock. According to mine, we did 6:40:32. This was a 16.32mph. Considering how long the river crossing took, the fact that we stopped for 5 minutes to help a rider who crashed, and about 4 minutes for traffic lights, this was very good. My parents also had an excellent time and finished in just over 8 hours. They both looked great and were feeling good enough to go out that night! The next day Greg and I went for a four mile run. It was supposed to be a recovery run at a low HR, but since I ran with Mr. Zippy, it was of course too fast. Still I felt good about it. My only lingering problems are the sore arms from carrying the bike across the river beds, and sore crotch.

Extra Kudos for El Tour De Tucson: Despite a few shortcomings, like misleading timing chips (what were those for again?) and few mile markers, this is really a great event. The volunteers are spectacular. At each aid station, they held my bike, refilled water, and constantly offered me food. I took up an offer for pretzels at one station and the volunteer quickly went out of his way to find them and deliver them so I didn't have to wander around. They were all friendly, helpful and just as importantly encouraging. At one of the last stations I chewed on a saladito (salted plum, if you are from Tucson you probably know them and like them, if you are from any place else, you probably think it sounds nasty). I asked the volunteer there where to throw my pit. He actually had me spit it in his hand so he could throw it away. Poor guy said he had touched worse things during the day! Next year is the 25th anniversary of this event. I highly recommend it to everyone!!

Friday, November 10, 2006

SOMA Triathlon

The weekend before the SOMA triathlon, my mom sister and I met up in San Francisco for the Nike Women's Marathon and Half Marathon. My mom and I walked the half marathon together. We had no goals other than to spend a leisurely morning doing the event and to enjoy our time together. We carried a cell phone and periodically called my sister who was running the full. To our amazement, despite a tougher course and knee problems, she was able to PR! Her finish line photo says it all and we are so proud of her!!

Since I had such a nice weekend up in San Francisco, the following weekend I wanted to give my husband a chance to sleep in and relax. For this reason, my husband did not go to Phoenix with me for the SOMA race but my sons did. At first I was worried about having them there right before my event, but it turned out to be the greatest thing ever. The night before the race they helped me mix my bottles and prepare my gear. For two (almost five year old) boys who are normally super active and slightly crazy, they were actually helpful. The morning of the race I woke up and got dressed and went through my gear one last time. My guys looked so cute sleeping in their bed that I was a little hesitant to wake them. Finally, I had to get them up. I pulled back their covers and said "Who wants to see Mommy do a triathlon today?" Not suprisingly little bub tried to crawl back under the covers and asked if I could do the race a little bit later when he wasn't so tired. Big bub surprised me by hopping out of bed and announcing that it looked like a good day to see mommy race. (How cute is that?) As we walked to the race site, people kept stopping to ask us if we were a relay team. We decided I would do the swim, Big Bub would bike and Little Bub would run. Someday... Once we got to the race site, we met up with my friends Erin and Brenda as well as my Mom and Dad. This was my Dad's second triathlon and his first half ironman. I thought he looked noticeably nervous, but then again so did I! My mom took the boys to watch the start of the race and we all did more last minute prep. Dad's wave started before mine so we watched his start. Brenda, Erin and I all started in the same wave. Erin is a much faster swimmer so she seeded herself towards the front while Brenda and I were further back. My swim coach gave me the advice that I should go out harder than I think I can. I did this, but about five minutes into it I had a little panic attack. I felt tired, and out of breath and couldn't imagine finishing the whole thing. It was really bad. Then I remembered her second bit of advice to not let negative thoughts creep in, to live in the moment and think positive. So, I told myself to keep up the pace and just see what happens. I did that and was able to relax. By the end I felt really great. Not only was I passing orange caps (the wave in front) but I was also passing pink (two waves in front)! I was a little disappointed that my time wasn't a few minutes faster, but overall I was happy.

I was excited and nervous about the bike leg. I was excited because I love the bike portion, but I have been dealing with a nagging knee pain so I wasn't sure how well I would do. The bike leg was three loops, so right after I started I was passed by the faster riders in the early waves. A group of about 6 tightly packed riders rode by and I thought about saying something about what a nice pack they were, but restrained myself. A couldn't help smiling a moment later though when a motor bike rolled up and reminded them that this was "not a group effort." It was sure nice to see the draft marshals out working.

Predictably my knee started hurting about six miles into the race. I tried not to let it bring me down but I know it effected my power. I saw my mom and kids twice during the race which was awesome. Having their support there meant so much to me. Each time I saw them I was thankful I decided to bring my boys and so grateful my mom was there to cheer for me and play with them. I saw my Dad one on the second loop and he looked great. He was significantly ahead and I knew there was no way I could catch him. I was proud that he was having such an awesome race. I also saw my friend Brenda on each lap. Although I started the bike leg a few minutes ahead of her, she closed the gap on each lap. We entered T2 together and started the run together. We have done a lot of our weekend training together so it was definitely comforting to have her with me.

Brenda was feeling bad on the run but I encouraged her to stay with me. Even though she kept saying she felt awful, we were able to keep up a pretty good pace. When I began the second loop of the run my mom told me that my dad was just ahead of me. She also said that he had crashed on the bike and was looking pretty bad. We caught up with him shortly after that and he definitely looked injured. Apparently he had tried to throw his water bottle away while still in aero position and lost his balance. He crashed on the second loop but managed to do the rest of the race despite injured shoulders, hip, and ribs. His helmet was also severely cracked and his rear derailler was broken so he couldn't switch gears. Man my Dad is tough! When we caught him on the run we asked if he wanted to run with us. He encouraged us to go ahead and he promised to keep going. We saw him a few more times along the run, and although he was noticeably limping, I always saw him running. (He claims he walked, but I never saw it!)

After awhile Brenda encouraged me to go ahead because I was feeling so strong. In fact for most of the run I felt incredible. I was passing people all the time and offering words of encouragement. Mile 10 was my wall though. I don't know if I ran out of nutrition or what, but when I got to mile 10 I suddenly just wanted to be done. I starting slowly noticeably but couldn't do anything about it. About 200 yards before the finish line I saw my family again and they ran to give me high fives. It was great! Shortly after that, Brenda caught back up with me and we crossed the line together.

Swim: 42:36 T1: 2:08 (I peed in my transition area!) Bike: 3:13:10 T2: 2:41 Run: 2:10:04 Total: 6:11:51 The race was a totally awesome experience and I was so happy with my time. I know now that I have the potential to break six hours. Considering most of my training for the last few months have been base miles at low HR, I think I did very well. After the race I got the crazy idea that I should just drive home that night. I showered, ate some Baja Fresh and loaded the boys in the car. My plan would have been only semi-stupid, except I didn't know that a portion of I-10 leading out of Phoenix was closed. What should have been about a 5.5 hour drive became 8 and I was completely exhausted by the time I got home. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 06, 2006

Making a Comeback

The bad news is that I have been a terrible blogger since June. I have still tried to read blogs, but have been horrible about commenting and even worse about writing my own. The good news is that the journey is still on. I have just been very busy with my sons. I have one year left before they go to kindergarten and I want to enjoy this time with them as much as possible. We have been traveling some, visiting our normal museums and zoos, and just being together a lot. They are in preschool four days a week, but I work with them there two days, so I really have very little "me" time. This isn't a complaint because I realize what's important, just a statement. Since life seemed so simple, I decided in July to expand our family. We are now the proud parents of a dog. Her name is Bisbee, after the Arizona town. We adopted her from the local pound (of course!), and she has been a challenge but a good one. She was very sick when we got her, but now she is well and tons of fun. We don't have a yard, but thankfully the boys are very active so we go for lots of family walks and try to take her to the dog park at least a few times a week. I am looking forward to when she is older so she can run a little with me!

I have still been training a lot and I think it is going very well. I am following an online schedule that Fe-Lady found for me. I have essentially been working out 6 days a week and most days are double days. It has been manageable so far. Although I am sure that in the next ten weeks it will be getting pretty crazy! Over the summer, my swim coach at the Y (Coach "You will never get anywhere with that stroke" Ivan) moved on to bluer pools. For awhile I tried to do the workouts on my own, but this just didn't work for me. I am not a very strong swimmer and I need coaching in a desperate way. I found a new master's program in Torrance with an AWESOME coach. This program is pretty intense. At the Y, there were seven of us and I was right in the middle skills-wise. Now, there are about 50 swimmers and I am honestly better than two of them. Three mornings a week I leave my ego at home and challenge myself to keep up in whatever way I can. My old practice was for one hour, but now we practice for 1.5 hours. That was a tough adjustment but I think in the long run the longer practice will really benefit my ironman training. Depending on the workout, we do between 2700 and 3500 yards each practice! Starting in December, my coach will also start giving me some Ironman specific workouts. Did I mention the start time of this group? It is 5 am! yawn!!! This means I get up at 4:35 in order to get dressed, take Bisbee out, bring Bisbee to our bedroom where she sleeps next to the bed, and get to practice. Despite the early hour, I do try to appreciate the sunrise when I can. In five months I am going to see the sunrise over Tempe Townlake. When I am waiting for the canon to go off, I want to think about these early morning practices and know I am prepared.

Over the summer I competed in the Santa Barbara Triathlon. This was a very special event because my dad did it as his first triathlon!! I cannot tell you how cool that was. He has long been a strong cyclist, and a decent runner, but he swam like a rock. I tell ya, he was an awful swimmer. He absolutely worked his butt off learning how to swim, training for the event and doing an awesome job there. The coolest thing was that we left T1 together and leap frogged each other a few times on the bike. Eventually he took a strong lead on the bike, but I passed him in T2. The course was: 1 mi ocean swim, 35 mile bike, 10 mile run. Here are our results:

Swim 40:26 (this time inspired me to find the masters group!)
T1 3:55
Bike 2:07:01
T2 2:01
Run 1:36:36 (I was stoked with this split!)

Swim 44:07
T1 5:13
Bike 2:06:26
T2 3:38
Run 1:49:12

Dad and I also finished the SOMA Half Ironman last weekend. Later this week I will do a separate post with a race report and pics.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sunday Ride

This Sunday Robo Stu and I planned to go on a nice little bike ride around Palos Verdes. I wanted to show him a route that involved a tougher hill than we normally do, but the distance would be slightly less. I was figuring we would end up doing about 25 hilly miles, in about 2 hours. For some "strange reason," the Kahuna decided NOT to join us on this ride.

When I got to his house, Robo Stu was finishing getting everything together so we chatted about training. He asked if I had done my planned run and swim the day before. I had actually switched my schedule around so that I had done those events Friday and taken Saturday off so I could have some family time. This seemed perfectly reasonable to me, but somehow when I explained it to Robo Stu I could just tell he was aghast. I know he was thinking "What kind of wanna-be ironman triathlete opts to take days off and spend time with their family?" I couldn't blame him for thinking this, afterall he had been programmed this way, and yet I felt guilty.

Our ride ended up being super great. I was able to show him a new route around Palos Verdes. I was slightly stronger on the way up the hill, but not surprisingly he is a better descender. Once we reached the top, we realized that we were going to return home faster than the two hours expected, so Robo Stu asked if I wanted to extend our ride and head to Venice Beach. This is pretty much a rhetorical question because I am pretty sure that whenever one of us suggests going longer/harder, the other will always agree and go along with it. This second half of our ride was mostly flat with a few little rollers. I have to warn all of you IMFL people that RS is awesome on this type of course! I was working hard to keep up and it seemed fairly easy for him. He was super strong and I just know that come November he will be amazing!

By the time that we returned home, we had completed 47 miles! Our total ride time was almost exactly three hours. Our average was 15.4, but that is a little deceptive because the hills in the beginning were so tough and we had to go super slowly through some of the more congested beach sections. My legs felt like mush by the end, but I have promised myself to try to do runs after every long ride, so I headed to the local track. My heart rate was pretty high after the ride, so on the run I had to go so slowly to bring it down. I think I ended up running four miles at a 12 minute pace. Like I said, it was SLOW! My husband brought the boys to the track to cheer for me, so that was fun. Nothing like having two four year olds running by saying "Wow, look how much faster I am than you mommy! I am going to play on the grass for a little bit, but I will come back and race you when you come back around." I was tired for the rest of the day, but felt great about the brick workout.

***Anyone want to place bets on whether Robo Stu took a long way home just so he could add three more miles for an even 50? Hmmm....

Friday, June 23, 2006

Technology Question

My mother finally upgraded to a Garmin 305, which means I am now the proud owner of a garmin 201. I installed the regular software and it looks pretty cool, but I know there is even better software out there that some of you use. So, if you can, please point me in the direction of some cool programs that I can use with my new garmin. Soon I should be able to dazzle you all with really interested graphs. :) I feel so high-tech now.

As a continuation of my foray into technology I am finally getting digital video recording! We have been looking at TIVO for a long time, but we kept putting it off because we didn't want to spend the money to watch more tv then we already do. I think my husband in particular was worried about me having easier access to shows like "Real World/Road Rules Challenge" and "The Hills." Not that I watch those shows... However, when it became apparent that the only time he could go on vacation would be during the first week of the Tour de France, even he had to give in. We are getting it through our Cable company which means we can cancel it at any time.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Any Race Suggestions?

Picking a page from the Kahuna's registration manual, I apparently screwed myself out of registering for my next race. I was supposed to race the Camp Pendleton Olympic Tri in July, but it is sold out. To add misery to my pain, it apparently just sold out YESTERDAY! That's right, I waited exactly one day too long. UGH I am going to blame my husband on this one because he kept delaying telling me when he could get vacation this summer. Finally, on Monday night he told me we would be gone the first week in July. So, technically I only procrastinated one day.

So, I need help from the tri community. Can anyone suggest a good Olympic+ race in the So Cal area for the mid-July through August time frame? I would also be up for going to Arizona in August, but cannot really do that in July. Please help!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Weighing In

Every morning I weigh myself. I know I shouldn't do this, but I have done it for years, and frankly I have a tough time stopping. When my weight is low, the morning weigh-in provides proof that I am doing something right. However, when it is high let's just say it can be a real bummer. For the last couple of weeks my weight has been high. In fact, I weigh more now than I ever have my entire life. Well, except those wonderful pregnancy months when I eventually weighed more than my 6'2" hunk-a-hunk-a-burnin'-feet husband. But I digress...

So, now I am in a quandary. Should I care? I mean, in the last six weeks I completed two marathons, and one of the toughest half-ironman races around. Clearly I am in pretty kick-ass shape. Most of my clothes fit, although the legs on some are getting tight. Could this be cycling muscles? Or am I overcompensating for my exercise and eating too much? I don't really know.

I have an older Tanita scale at home that tells me each morning my body fat is between 22 and 23%. Okay numbers, but not great for a triathlete. At the San Diego marathon, I visited the Tanita booth where the scales there said my bf was 20.5%. I want one of those new scales. Or maybe I don't. Maybe I just need to get over this and learn to move on.

For those of you that are curious, here are the numbers from the Tanita BC554 Ironman scale:
Weight: 135 up one more lb today :(
Body Fat: 20.3%
% Today Body Water: 55% (normal female range was 45-60%, so I was well hydrated)
Muscle Mass: 102
Physique Rating: 8 (This meant "This and Muscular-Athlete)
Bone Mass: 5.4
BMR: 1441 Cal
Metabolic Age: 13 ("Age level the user's body is rated at according to the BMR")
Visceral Fat Rating: 1 (this was the lowest # possible, so at least that is good)

FYI: I am 5'7.5"