IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Friday, June 29, 2007

Upcoming Ride - Tips Needed!

I'll be participating in an organized ride on the 4th. It's a metric century, or 62 miles. What's different about this ride is that my brother will be joining me! Now, here we have a kid who doesn't own a road bike, just started riding about a month ago on an old, ratty mountain bike and probably hasn't put in any rides over 25 miles.

I think I've got him covered for the essentials, but I'm wondering if anyone can offer any tips for him. Sometimes I forget to mention things to newbies (like mentioning to our newbie Luna Chic that the Subaru bike course was TWO loops!).

What did you wish you did before your first long ride?
What did you wish someone told you before your first long ride?
Anything you wish you HADN'T done before or during a ride?

Stuff like that. I think I've dumped a bunch of this on him, but I know he reads the blog and your tips would be helpful. And if you're going to be sarcastic, Mike is just as sarcastic, so bring it. If I'm lucky, we'll turn him into a triathlete (or at least a cyclist!). He told me he loves wearing spandex.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Suba-Super Newbie-ru Race

The same things I love about this race are the same things I hate about this race. The Subaru Women's Triathlon is really geared toward first-timers. Everyone is supported, no matter how fast or slow they are and many people come to this race with their only goal being to finish. In fact, I trained with and walked many first-timers through the events to be expected and was routing for them every step of the way. So don't get me wrong, I love first-timers!!

But in the same breath, I can get so frustrated with them in a race like today. First of all, the race is pretty darn crowded already. Couple that with narrow paths for faster racers to get by and the fact that many of these women clearly have no idea they should be riding as far to the right as they can and, well, I lose my patience. So why not try to get into the Elite wave? Well, before today, I figured I had a better shot of placing higher in my age group. Now I'm convinced I could have a better time result if I didn't spend half the race trying to get around people. Cocky? Yeah, probably. Still worth a shot.

Karen and I were in the same wave and she racked her bike just next to mine. It was nice to have someone to chat with as I set up my stuff. Karen and I were wearing our awesome Luna Chix uniforms and many newbies came up to us to ask questions and for advice. It feels really great to be approached and asked your opinion on how to set up your transition area. I was flattered and happy to help! Some women, though, were simply beyond help. I'm not bashing, I used to be one of them! And seeing some of those things just makes me realize how far I've come.

We made our way over to our rookie Luna Chix, Krissy, and practically made her rearrange her whole transition area! But Krissy was a great sport and moved everything around without even questioning. I went back again to my transition to make sure "no one touched my stuff!" Karen told me to let it go now. She's so good for me...she's way more calm about these things and I tend to obsess about the most nit-picky little things. In the long run, it probably wouldn't make a bit of difference, but I must move those shoes just one inch further from the main aisle! Yes, that's how it must be!

We found the rest of the Luna Chix and headed toward the start, but we were pretty much in staggered waves, so everyone was pretty much doing their own thing, except that Karen kindly hung around with me and kept me from freaking out. Why do I freak out before a small race like this? I have no idea, and every time, I tell myself it isn't going to happen...but it does! Pre-race nerves, I guess.

My Aunt and Uncle from Naperville were going to be coming to watch today. That's pretty special to me. I don't really get a lot of family coming out to the races, so I was happy to have them out to see what triathlon is all about. The Saint was going to be dragging them around all day, showing them the best places to spot me as I raced. I jumped over to the start and yelled to my swim angel friends, Pat and BC. They seemed like they were having way too much fun out there.

I had to jockey a little for position at the beginning of the start. It's weird, in the most competitive of races, I never have as hard of time getting myself to the front of the swim start as I have at this race. All these women think they got it goin' on as far as the swim goes. And many of them do, for the first 25 yards! Then they start dropping like flies. Pent up adrenaline, I guess.

Here I am running to get to the front with Karen right on my heels. This is just to line up at the edge of the water. The woman on my right sort of had me rialed up, she did NOT want me in front of her and she made it quite obvious. Bring it, sister! The countdown was quick and we were off in a hurry! Interestingly enough, I didn't get hit much at the start. We start in such a narrow area, I usually get hit with a lot of arms and elbows. I saw 2 even with me on the right and two on the left. I caught a quick draft for about 25 yards, but I hit her way too many times and I saw the lead swimmer in our wave pulling away from me, so I had to go around.

I spent a lot of time moving around people, but yeah, it's like this every time I do the race and I've learned to expect it. I still couldn't catch fast-lady swimmer, though. I could see her, but I just couldn't catch up. The water was warm and I never really felt like I caught a rhythym. My swim angel friend Pat encouraged me to swim faster by yelling "you suck" as I swam by her. I almost choked from laughing so hard.

Out of the water and across the timing mat, I could hear my Aunt and Uncle cheering me on, but I was out of breath and pretty disappointed with the swim time. It was about 30 seconds slower than I have been before. Could be the fact that I haven't been swimming at all. DOH! Note to self: get back to the pool! The run to transition is pretty long and, surprise, surprise, who do I find still getting her bike gear on is fast-lady swimmer! Aw yeah, she's mine! I was a bit shaky putting my socks and shoes on (I always am), but transition was pretty quick and I said "nice swim" to the fast chick as I ran past her toward the bike out.

It didn't help that my transition rack was one of the furthest from the bike out/in. The bike shoes are VERY slippery on the asphalt and I slid around a lot and had to slow down to make sure I wasn't going to fall. That would suck! I crossed the mount line and had just a little trouble clipping in. I was breathing hard and trying to avoid the mass chaos of bikes in front of me for the next 13.8 miles. I truly think a lot of these women did NOT know the rules because they were blatantly breaking them. I remind myself, this is a "feel good" race, where people just want to finish. Try to be nice to them as you pass.

I did feel a bit like a rock star when I passed some women. Then again, when they're sitting up catching wind like a sail, have their helmet on backwards and are riding a 20 year old mountain bike, they don't really care how fast you pass them. There were a couple of sections that I felt some wind, but nothing too bad. The course is flat and fast, except that there are a LOT of turns. And women who don't know the rules and turns don't mix well, so I tried to be cautious around them. I was almost taken out by someone who realized at the last second she should be going toward the finish instead of toward the second loop. It was scary, but she heard me yell when she tried to cut over, and she stayed straight to let me pass. Not sure how bad the crash would've been, but I was thankful that for once, my loud mouth paid off. I think I scared her out of turning her front wheel!!

I hit a huge bottleneck off the bike and literally had to stand and wait for women to cross the line to get into T2. There must've been 8 women trying to get through when there was only room for 2. I became agitated and yelled, "come on, let's GO!" and I was sorry almost immediately after I said it. One poor woman picked up her bike and practically threw herself into the fence to get out of my way. I felt bad...well, only for a second or two. Back to the slippery shoes on pavement. Maybe I need to learn how to keep my shoes on the bike!

Off to the run where I felt my legs burning almost immediately. I wished I had taken it just a little easier this week! My legs hurt way too soon on this run and I was breathing heavy from start to finish. Another couple sections where I had to ask women to move out of the way...the path they had for us was pretty narrow and women were running 3-4 wide. You couldn't get through without getting them to move. Again, I heard my Aunt and Uncle cheering me on and I gave them a quick thumbs up...too winded to speak. I tried catching this quick little woman in front of me, but I never gained on her. Toward the final mile, I kicked it in and gave it my best effort I could to get her. Still didn't get her, but had a good last mile split. The last half mile of the run is on very narrow sidewalk through the park and the last section is on grass. I could hear the announcer now, addressing each finisher as she came across the line. I was happy the end was near, my legs hurt!! I passed a few ladies down the last stretch and finished strong.

I think Aunt and Uncle had fun. Of course, they think my friends are crazy after seeing Pat try to hide my bike in an effort to freak me out, but they stuck around for a while and asked lots of questions. And even though I only saw them once on the course, I heard them a lot and always knew they were there. I've decided that if I do this race again, I will attempt the Elite wave. Or will I?

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Horribly Hilly

I can't imagine anyone welcoming the sound of the alarm clock at 2:45am, even if they were going on vacation. Well, I wasn't going on vacation this particular morning. I was headed up to Blue Mounds, WI to participate in the Horribly Hilly Hundreds bike ride. There are 2 options, the 100K or the 200K. When I signed up for the ride, I eagerly signed up for the 200K, vowing to be strong enough to tackle it. But as the days passed, I began to wonder why I even signed up for this ride. I mean, not ONE of my races for the rest of the year has any hills to speak of. So long ago, I decided that 100K would be quite enough for me.

I met up with all the SCTC'ers: Brett, Tom, Chris and Laura. Charlie and Sevy were expected, but hadn't called anyone and we were well past the scheduled start time, so we wandered off to the start without them. There is a very long, somewhat steep downhill one must ride down to get to the start of the event. I remember my first time doing this ride that there was NO WAY we'd have to ride up this awful hill. But this time, I knew...better save some for the end.

It was about 70 degrees at the start and the fast downhill gave me the chills. No sooner do we turn the first corner and the ascent begins! It's all coming back to me now, around every corner, there is an uphill. So would be the theme for the day.

Just as I remembered, there really are no flat sections of this ride. You're either struggling, gritting out a long, slow incline, or flying down a hill at speeds that can make anyone a little nervous. Each time I came upon an incline, I practiced shifting down before my speed dropped too much. And every time, I ran out of "easy" gears, my speed would decline and I would begin huffing and puffing to climb up to the top of each ascent. My riding partner for the day, Whiz, was struggling right along with me and I could hear her breathing just as heavily and she'd let out the occasional grunt, especially up the most grueling of hills.

The steep hill up to the first SAG stop was miserable. As we slowly made our way up to the stop, we saw all the rest of the SCTC'ers cruising on down, going too fast to even recognize that it was us on our way up. I could barely yell hello to them as I needed to conserve all my energy for this brutal nuisance of a hill. And this was just 15 miles into the ride! Heck yeah, we can do this just 3 more times!

As the temperature rose for the day and the sweat poured down our faces, we continued the journey, all the while I was counting off the miles backwards in my head. "OK, only 42 more to go...OK, just 40 miles left..." I've done it before, I can do this again. This year, however, I used a road bike instead of a TT (or triathlon) bike. And in my mind, either I was more prepared for the day having done this before, or the road bike made the ride considerably easier. I only HAD to get out of the saddle twice the entire day.

We were running out of fluids quickly now and I reminded myself to conserve until the next rest stop. The last place we stopped was simply a picnic bench in front of a residence with a hose running out from the house with a sign saying "This is your LAST CHANCE for water." Whiz and I didn't miss that opportunity! We were determined to get this ride over with. I knew the end was near as I had stopped at this same picnic bench to refill my water bottles 2 years ago.

Before I knew it, I was turning right into the Blue Mounds picnic area where the ride started. I cringed as I realized the end was near, as was the most difficult climb of the day. I hunkered down in my seat, shifted down into the easiest gear I had, put my head down and focused on keeping forward momentum. This part nearly made me cry 2 years ago and this day, I was not about to let it get the better of me. I pushed on, slowly but surely at an embarrassing pace of 3.2 mph, veering around many cyclists turned walkers. Oh believe me, it would be so easy to walk up that last hill. But I cannot. MUST....GET....UP....UGH....THIS....HILL....I...CAN....DO....THIS...OMIGOD, IT'S SO HOT....KEEP...GOING....ALMOST...JEEZ!...THERE....

Then there were spectators. This year, there were no encouraging words scribbled on the pavement. I was bummed as they offered me much motivation 2 years ago. So I kept on, cranking, pushing, breathing, sweating, cursing, fighting back tears, shooting daggers with my eyes at the people cheering us on...I mean hey, it LOOKS a lot easier than it really is and I'd much rather have been one of those cheering spectators at that moment!

Finally, I saw it. The finish line. I could hear the woman with the bullhorn, cheering us on, encouraging us to finish this ride PEDALING. I saw Chris on the sidelines offering encouragement and I could only muster a small smile as I continued to torture myself up this obnoxious hill. WHY again did I sign up for this?? Just a few pedal strokes later, that was it, I crossed the finish! I stayed in the saddle for that entire last climb and the only time I felt the need to almost clip out was when a cyclist-turned-walker jetted out in front of me and almost made me lose my balance. And another year of HHH goes down in the record books. Wish I could say, "Cool, can't wait for next year!" but eh, not so much.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Great Midwest Relay

I had mixed feelings when I found out that the Salt Creek Pirates needed to call me up from the reserved ranks to round out the 2007 team. I have done this relay before, and yes, it was a lot of fun, but it would also mean missing some of the other things I had planned. But as I told the Cap'n early on, if you need me, I will be there for you. After all, what good is an alternate if, when called for duty, you don't show up or the task? With just about 7 hours until the team headed out to Madison, it started to sink in that I would be doing the GMR relay this weekend.

The Saint dropped me off at the Cap'n's house (late, of course) and we were off to pick up the final Pirate, Heather. Heather was the only unknown of the group. With an event such as this relay, you need to have the right combination of personalities to make it a fun event. I was quite sure the rest of the van (6 team members) was going to be fine, but who was this newcomer and would she fit in?

The drive up to Madison was nice and uneventful. We got Heather talking and she seemed quite comfortable with the group almost immediately. I thought she had a lot of guts to do an event like this without ever meeting any of us before. She must really love running. We met our other van (the other 6 Pirates) at the packet pick-up. Then all 12 of us headed out for our pasta dinner. We found an excellent little Italian place in downtown Madison almost by accident. Everyone was pretty much buzzing with anxiety for our upcoming race.

We checked into the hotel and another team must've recognized the Pirates because they went crazy in the lobby, acting like they were our best friends. The kid behind the desk in the hotel lobby had to ask them to keep it down. It seems they were already celebrating before we even started the event! I quickly hopped in the elevator and pressed the "Close Door" button about 10 times. I needed to get away from these people!

In the morning, we were able to go down as a team and have a nice, relaxed breakfast. Each of us had been given our Pirate shirt the night before and most of us were wearing it for the start of the race. I think everyone had their Pirate name on the back except for me. Since I was a last-minute addition, there wasn't time to get a name printed on for me.

The start line was in the parking lot of some bar just off John Nolen Drive. Start times were staggered based on predicted finish time. The Pirates started at 7am last year, but this year, we "graduated" to the 9am start. Deb would be our first Pirate on the course.
The teams starting at this time are the groups in it for fun. Everyone was friendly, cheerful and out there just to have a good time. With just a few announcements, the gun sounded!

Immediately, the teams dispersed and we were off in our vans. Since I was in van #2, we had to wait for all the runners in Van #1 to run their leg before we even needed to start thinking about running. We headed out for some coffee (yes, I had pre-packed some Diet Coke for myself!), did some shopping at a Nike outlet, then went to the local Wal-Mart to pick up some markers to write on the van windows.

We got to the first van transition and Cap'n and Matey Mark did a nice little job of decorating our van. Our van then drops off our first runner and moves ahead to the next transition area. Sometimes, we need to move quickly. If our runner only has a 3 mile leg and we're not following along directly, since the first section of the run was on a trail, we didn't have much time to get to the next stop and get the next runner prepared to go.

Things moved along smoothly and soon it was my turn to run. The first leg I had to do was 5.8 miles. Since it was on trail, I knew I'd find a mile marker and would start to watch what my pace was like. Thankfully, when I got the wrist-baton slapped on and started to run, I had 2 runners, both teams from Algonquin, in my sights. They provided nice motivation for me to run faster to catch them. As I ran past, I gave them the Pirate cheer, "ARGH!" and kept on going. I kept glancing at my watch at the mile markers and I was cruising along. The weather was perfect for me and the trail was just beautiful. I had a great first run, though I was happy to pass the baton to Peg Leg at the end of my stretch.

At each transition, we'd roll down the van windows and play our Theme Song - "Yo ho, yo ho, I Pirate's Life for Me!" Most teams smiled and cheered us on and we did get quite a bit of attention. We waved "the hook" as we drove by runners on the road or anyone who gave us a second look. Our van laughed, joked and encouraged each other the whole time. There was a little bit of frustration when we couldn't find a decent place to eat dinner. "Eagle-Eyes" Matey Mark spotted a Chauncey's tucked behind a building and it ended up being a great meal for all of us. We were getting sick of eating granola bars, Combos, and the fancy-pants food (black licorice, some toffee bars, some seaweed wraps, etc.) we had packed in the van. (No worries, the fancy-pants food was excellent! We just needed "real" food).

Each of us had to run the next leg in the dark. Every runner was required to wear a reflective vest, have a blinking light on the back and we all had some form of head light. It was getting quite cool out and I was upset with myself for not bringing a long-sleeved shirt. I only had short sleeves, a hooded sweatshirt and a jacket. The problem with running with the jacket would be that I'd get it all sweaty and once I finished, I'd have nothing warm and dry to wear. This stressed me out for about 2.5 hours. At the last minute, I decided I'd "tough" it out by wearing just the short sleeves. I shivered as I waited to receive the baton from J. Sparrow. Then I was off, starting my 6.9 mile leg at about 1:50am. This run was on all streets and the first mile or so was quite well-lit and I was able to pass 2 women. I talked to each of them on my way by and they were both very friendly. Then it got dark. REAL dark. I questioned the sanity of running in the middle of the night alone. Oh sure, there were other relay runners coming through, but no one nearby. I heard footsteps behind me and a guy ran right by without saying a word. "NICE JOB!" I yelled to him. He did say nice job back to me, but I don't think he meant it. There was a van that kept pulling up in front of me, waited for me to run by, then would pull up again. I wondered if they knew I wasn't their teammate. Then I thought their runner must be just behind me and they are trying to use the headlights from their van to light the way for their runner. But as I made ground on that runner, the fan fell back and I lost any light from their headlight beams. I only had the light from the headlamp I had strapped over my hat. Spooky! I felt like I was running at a good pace and the end came near. I realized that I was not cold at all during that run and all my stressing about not having a long-sleeved shirt was just a waste!

Now it was time to get some sleep. Last time I did this race, we slept outside. This time, we were able to go into a church. However, we slept on the floor and it was just a slab of concrete with a thin, cheap layer of commercial carpet laid down. Five us us grabbed a room and J. Sparrow was lucky enough to find a chair to curl up in. She was in a different section of the church and I actually think she thought we might forget about her! The night was rough, Matey snores a bit and we all stank. I had to get up to go to the bathroom and when I walked back in the room, it was funkified! I think we slept a total of maybe 3 hours, then we got up to head toward Chicago. It was nice to have a sink to brush our teeth in this year.

The sun came up and the temperature started to rise as we prepared for our final legs of the relay. I was pleased that the members in our van were still in good spirits and getting along quite well. This is a very long time to spend with a bunch of people in such close proximity. As I prepared for my last leg, the volunteer at the transition area warned me to bring my map or memorize the turns. He said there were some sections that were not marked. Only problem was, my map had about 16 turns on it and there was no way I was going to memorize all that! I folded up the map and stuck it in my pocket, but I knew that after a mile or 2 of running, that map would be soaking wet and useless. I got the baton slapped on and started to run. My plan was to follow the runner ahead of me.

Lots more trail for this run. Hot. Somewhat shady. No cicadas. Really hot. Gaining on the runner in front of me. LOTS of people on the trail. Bikers, roller bladers, other runners, walkers, kids, old people, bird watchers, you name it, they were out on this trail! One lady walking her dog asked me how many miles the run was. I think she almost passed out when I yelled back "180". Well, I didn't have time to explain it to her!

I lost the guy in front of me when the trail curved. Then I came to a section with no arrow. I knew at some point, I needed to get off the trail and onto the streets. Was this it? I turned around in a full circle to try and spot an arrow. I see nothing! A little panic sets in and I wonder if I'm already off course. I do another full circle, slower this time and see way off to my left, an arrow that belonged to the relay. As I took this route, I spotted the guy I had been following the whole time...but he didn't take this route. He went straight and I wondered if he was going to get lost or if he was taking a shortcut and would gain more time on me. Either way, I needed to follow the arrows. Most of you know how directionally challenged I am, and I know my team was stressing out about me getting lost out there. They, too, had been warned about the lack of markings on this section.

I was passed by a skinny dude wearing a singlet. I tried to pick up my pace to catch him, but it was no use, he was too fast. Now we're back on the trail, zig zagging around the many people who have come out to use the trail today. Man, I'm sweating! I was happy to have a sweat rag wrapped around my wrist for this leg! Now we're going off the trail again. Again, I can't find the marking. Another runner and I stopped and both started looking around for where to go. I was happy that I wasn't the only one who was having trouble. Then I spotted the arrow and sprinted off. I tried to run faster to make up for all the time I spent looking for the stupid arrows!

Now I was on shaded streets and there was a bit of a breeze. I was much more comfortable and I picked up the pace a bit more. I passed a guy who looked like his van had just dropped him off! I wondered if they had just stopped to give him water or if they had driven him to this spot!! Ah, whatever, just need to get away from his heavy breathing right now! He was struggling and he told me they were doing this relay with only 8 runners. No wonder why he's tired!

I felt smooth and...oh...looky here - skinny singlet dude is on his cell phone, probably asking his team if he's going the right way. I stayed on the left-hand side of the street and he was over on the right, up on the sidewalk. Maybe I can just scoot right by him without even knowing. But game on, dude, I'm takin' you down! A turn came up and I had to get over so now I knew he'd see me. I said nothing as I passed by....he didn't say anything to me when he passed before, so I just kept quiet. And then I could see the transition and could see Peg Leg waiting for me to pass the baton to him for the final leg of the relay! I left skinny singlet guy far behind and was happy about that little feat for about 5 minutes!

Time to put the Pirate shirt back on and wait for Peg Leg to run 'er home. The Pirate music was blasting as we pulled into the lot at Montrose Harbor. Our other van was already there with a cooler full of beverages for the celebration. The Saint also was cool enough to hook us up with another cooler of beverages. Once we spotted Peg Leg, we all were ready to run in together! We looked hilarious with our little Pirate masks, but I don't think any other team had quite as much fun as we did. Another successful GMR. Now there is some talk about doing it as an ultra (meaning 6 runners) next year. Hmmm....

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Back to the Pool!

Today was my first day back in the pool for approximately two months. Some of you know, but probably most of you don’t know that I’ve been having some rotator cuff issues that have been keeping me from my regular chlorination routine. What did I do? Not sure, but I think it happened some time around the Boston Marathon that I was in the front seat of my car and went to reach into the back seat to lift up a gym bag to get something out of it. Said gym bag was much too heavy for me to try and lift given the position of my arm, so I ended up injuring myself.

This has happened to me before and my old coach, Brett Petersen, had given me some exercises to strengthen my rotator cuff. Well, I haven’t done those exercises in just about a year, but after this little incident, I had to break out the stretchy bands. I tried swimming a couple of times since then, but just lifting my arm out of the water proved to be painful. It was a tolerable pain, but this is the beginning of the season, so I decided to “rest” the arm a bit. Each swim morning, I’d wake up at the alarm, set for 4:11am, sit up in bed and try to move my arm in swim stroke fashion. If I felt any pain at all, I turned the alarm off and went back to bed. Finally last week, the pain seemed to be non-existent. Unfortunately, I had to be at a client that day, which wouldn’t give me enough time to swim in the morning, so I promised myself I’d get back to the pool this week.

I forced myself to get to bed at 9:30pm last night. But, just as the little kid who’s not tired when you try to make them sleep, I tossed, turned, got up to check and make sure I had a cap and goggles for this morning, had to go to the bathroom, went downstairs to make sure I could find my YMCA membership card, while I was down there I went to check email, crawled back in bed, went back downstairs to get a drink of water, and finally, I think it was after 11:00pm when I was finally able to fall asleep. I was up several times during the night because of the storm. I love to sleep with the windows open and listen to the rain.

It’s no surprise that when the alarm blared at 4:11am this morning, I was in a deep sleep. I slammed my hand on the snooze button and cursed myself for not going to bed earlier. I rolled over and went back to sleep. BEEP BEEP BEEP! Nine minutes went by in the wink of an eye, and I slammed my hand back on the snooze button. Why is getting up so hard? Come on, just one more alarm, I thought. This time, I rolled, tossed, looked at the clock a couple of times, all before the next 9 minutes elapsed. And now I could hear the dog walking around downstairs, just waiting for someone to come down and let him out. Yep, it was now time to get up.

Once I’m up and about, I’m fine. It’s just those first few minutes of being woken by the rude interruption of the obnoxious alarm that are difficult for me. I had already packed everything in my bag the night before, so it didn’t take me but 10 minutes to be ready to go. I flew down the stairs and shooed the dog out the door. He doesn’t move quite as quickly as he used to. I quickly scanned my email – why I feel the need to do this before I leave the house in the morning, I don’t know, but it has become quite the habit. Sort of like brushing your teeth, can’t leave the house without doing it. The dog was waiting for me when I went to the back door and I left the house a little early.

Early is good when it comes to my Masters team. You must be in the pool right on time if you swim in my lane. If you’re even just a couple minutes late, they will whip right through the warm up and you just need to jump in wherever they are – they don’t wait for the late comers. This is the only lane of this team that operates this way. Swimmers in other lanes kind of stroll in at their leisure and are welcomed with open arms. But if you show up late to Lane 4, you should expect to be taunted when you arrive.

I walked in with Elaine and, as has become the norm in the past year, we are among the first swimmers in the pool. My coach, Vlatko, has a surprised look on his face and welcomed me back. I was both excited and nervous to be back in the pool. I jumped in behind Elaine for the warm up and Greg joined us after just the first 50 yards. The water was a little cool, but I’d say the temperature was near perfect for our workout. My stroke felt good and strong and I was feeling no pain in my rotator cuff.

The pool began to fill as the other Masters swimmers arrived. We needed to move Shawn over to our lane and now we were ready to go. The set of 12 x 75 IM order seemed like it took FOREVER, but I was a bit happy to be swimming IM because it’s less repetitive, therefore putting less strain on my arm. I managed to get through that with ease and I began to wonder how fast I would’ve been able to swim those had I not been out of the pool for so long.

It was the next set, all free, that I started to feel a twinge in my arm. Nothing serious, but just enough to let me know that I have not fully recovered. I backed down on the pace. We were near the end of the workout now, so I knew I’d be able to finish. Even after we’d completed the workout Vlatko had listed for us, we had to do another 50 yards. See, I can’t end the work out on a “50.” In other words, if the total workout reads 3350 yards, I need to do 3400 yards. Vlatko KNOWS this, but said I haven’t been there in so long, he didn’t think it would matter. It did. Our whole lane did an extra 50 yards just to round it out. Why do coaches have you end on a 50? That’s crazy, I tell you!

Workout is done and I feel pretty good. I’ve missed the team!! It was a great workout and I’m happy to finally be back in the pool. I figure it’s going to take me several weeks to build back up to the place I was before my arm started to hurt. The key is to not overdo it and re-injure myself before I even get recovered. Easier said than done.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Tri Shark

In the last 2 weeks, my training has been...shall we say...non-existent? That's right, I have taken more "rest" days in the past 2 weeks than I have in the months of Jan-Apr combined. The combination of oral surgery (which took more out of me and was more painful than expected) and work in the past couple weeks has left me with very little time and motivation to train. And, once again, another race sneaks up on me.

I got home from work on Friday very late and scrambled for my triathlon checklist. My bike has been sitting in the closet since Memphis in May and I wasn't going to have time for, nor did I feel like, a test ride. My goggles have also been sitting dormant since MIM. And my running shoes sit where I kicked them off the minute I got home from the Ridge Run. With all those things going for me, I wasn't holding too much hope for myself today. I kept telling myself, "It's just a sprint. No big deal."

The thing is, races of all distances can be tough. It all depends on the amount of effort you put in. So a sprint can be just as tough as Ironman. (Did I just say that?) OK, well, maybe not...but a sprint CAN be just as tough as an Olympic-distance triathlon. And this race wasn't really a true sprint. The swim, my strength, is shorter than the standard sprint distance race. This doesn't play into my favor, and I began wondering why in the world I signed up for this race!

We arrived in transition later than usual and all the "good" spots on my rack were taken. I ended up in the very last rack of my wave and I figured it probably wasn't going to make much difference anyway. I had a little mental block when I set my bag down and couldn't remember how to lay out my things. It was almost like I had never done a triathlon before and I struggled to get the things out in the order I'd need them. I caught up with Kim K. and she ended up racking her bike just a few down from mine and I welcomed the company so close by.

Kim and I went to find BC and RT for a short warm-up run. JQ had already gotten his in and JM was out warming up on his bike. I saw lots of familiar faces, and quite honestly, I'm starting to find that is a detriment as it's very distracting. When I first started triathlon and knew no one, I was very methodical and religious about my pre-race rituals. Today, it was obvious I was winging it.

After the run, we're back at the bikes and Kim and I get the last of our things together and start putting on the wetsuits. Most of the other athletes are down at the beach and we missed seeing the first wave go off. I am feeling very last-minute about everything and having a hard time staying focused on what I was here to do.

As we walked toward the water, I was bummed by how short the swim looked. For someone like me, it takes me a good 200-300 yards to warm up before I can put it on cruise control. The distance of this swim meant that soon after I'd hit my stride, the swim would be over! I saw fellow Luna Chix, Liz, who wanted to tuck in behind me for a draft in the water. Kim and I wished each other luck as we were called into the water.

There was a 10 second countdown and our wave was started! With just a few strokes, I could see 2 women even with me on the left. A couple breaths to the right and I could see no one there. I headed straight for the buoy and wanted the 2 women on the right to slide in front, but no, they were a little further out, so right at the turn, I believed them to have tucked in behind me. The next stretch was nice and smooth and I only had a few people to swim around. The final turn put me right into a pack of the pink-capped athletes - the women under 30 wave. It was a bit of a cluster for about 10-15 seconds as I struggled for a clean path straight for the finish. I couldn't really see the finish and I hoped this pack of ladies was headed in the right direction!

I kept swimming and I knew the end was near. I like to swim as far as I can before I stand up. I was headed full-steam for the finish and all of a sudden, my right arm slaps some guy in the back. He was walking well before where he should have been and it completely took me off guard. And now since he broke my momentum, I stood up prematurely. I ripped off the cap and goggles and see a woman just in front of me. Son of a beotch, she must've drafted off me the whole time after that first turn! Damn, she's a good swimmer and an excellent drafter...I never even knew she was there! I thought about trying to out-sprint her to the T1 mat and then thought it wasn't worth it. She clocked exactly 1 second faster than me.

Here's where the race began to fall apart for me. I ran to the bike rack, but couldn't find my bike. I yelled out a couple of unpleasantries as I ran back and forth along the racks of bikes for my age group. I could not believe this was happening. It's such a rookie move to not be able to find your stuff. And this race was so small, there was really no excuse for it. The volunteers in transition were probably cracking up at the sight of me running back and forth like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find my bike. I felt like they all looked the same. I was in this bad dream and I couldn't wake up!

After what felt like 10 minutes, I finally found my bike and now the adrenaline was pumping so hard, I was shaking pretty hard. I found it difficult to steady myself to get my socks and shoes on. And I also knew that drafter girl was getting a lengthy head start on that bike.

I get to the end of transition and to the dismount line and it was crowded with athletes. Then a guy fell down not 10 feet from the start. He got up and tried to get going, and he was really unsteady. I couldn't figure out which way to go around him because he kept turning his front wheel erratically! Dude, next time, put the bike in an easy gear before you start! After all that chaos, I finally was out and pumping on the bike.

The roads were a bit rough the first several miles. I was struggling to catch my breath and was trying to mentally bring my heart rate down. I needed to just settle in. Pains shot through my quads and I chastised myself for being such a slacker in the past few weeks. Of course it hurts when you don't train, I told myself! I passed a few people here and there. And about 5-6 miles into the course, there she was: drafter girl. The unmistakeable one-piece blue swimsuit was easy to spot. I thought of Lori and how she must "break spirits" by blowing by someone at the speed of light. See, the trick is to pass with "authoritAY". As I rode by, I did yell to her "nice swim!" She didn't yell anything back, so I rode on trying to keep a nice, steady pace. There were more hills and harder hills than I expected on the ride. At one point, when my speedometer read 12, I thought I had a flat, I was going so slow! How is it that during some of my races, I've gone down to 3mph? Ugh! Where is the downhill on this course? There were also some stretches where I felt like I was just flying, only those don't last as long as you'd like!

Just as I got up the longest hill of the day, I heard a woman yell something to me...and it was Liz! Holy crap, that girl can ride a bike! And her passing me is just what I needed to kick it back into high gear. I accused her of "toying with me" as I passed her back with less than a minute of riding left. And we rode into T2 at the same time. We got caught up in a little bit of chaos again and I felt like there were people just running around everywhere with their bikes! In reality, it was probably just one person that cut me off as I made my way back to my transition area.

Thankfully, it didn't take me long to find my stuff in this transition! I made what felt like a pretty quick transition and got out onto the run course. And then Deanna (another fellow Luna Chic!) scoots on past me. She's quite the little runner! She made it look so easy! I could hear myself breathing hard and, as has been the case in all my races this year, I wondered if other racers were annoyed by it. I could ALSO hear Liz's footsteps behind me. I thought I was giving it everything I had and I was extremely disappointed when I hit the mile 1 mark and saw I had only clocked an 8:15. I was faster during my 10K in Memphis. Once again, I berated myself for being such a slacker in my training. I was breathing even heavier now and I wondered how much longer I could keep this up.

I got to see JQ and BC on their way back in. And in true MJ fashion, the second mile was faster than the first. It made me a little happier, but I also started thinking that I had a whole more mile to do and it just seemed like a long way. I wondered how the heck I can do a marathon when I feel so crappy with having run just 2 miles, and they weren't really that fast! I was passed by a few women, but I was passing more people than were passing me and it felt good. It's so rare that happens for me (damn all those fast runners!). I saw Kim on her way out, just behind me and I could see she was making up ground fast! And at the mile 3 mark, the split was the fastest yet, and I wonder why it is that I do that! I really felt like I was giving it my all in the first mile, yet it was obvious that wasn't the case.

The last tenth of a mile went by painfully slowly and I could hear people I knew cheering me in. I wanted to smile and give a cheer back, but I was breathing too hard. I just needed to finish.

This was the first time I'd done this race, and I'd have to agree with BC, it's a great one! Close to home, small, competitive, great venue, good post-race spread and lots of familiar faces. And even better than that, it was so short, I feel like I could go out and do it all over again tomorrow!