2011 Blog Archive

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas

My sister, Kelly and my Mom skiing on Christmas My sister, Kelly and my Mom skiing on Christmas
Pete on his new skis and me on my new back Pete on his new skis and me on my new back

I was anxiously awaiting Christmas because it was the three month anniversary of my bike wreck and it meant that I was officially recovered. I’m finding that recovered is a long way from being back to where I was but it’s still a good milestone. The doctor said I could cross country ski once I was recovered. So I dragged my family up to ski on Christmas morning.

My other reason for wanting to ski was that I bought Pete skate skis for Christmas. He always wants to get up and rip open all the presents right away, the wayhe did when he was little. My family always takes turns opening presents and it takes all morning. I thought a good compromise would be for Pete to open his skis right away, go ski and then open the rest of the presents.

Once Pete was asleep on Christmas Eve I sneaked out and leaned his skis and poles against the wall by the tree. We got a treadmill a few days before Christmas so Pete was up early to run on it before we went to ski (Role reversal: I was sleeping in the recliner while he crammed in the workouts). Pete put his shoes on, which were a couple inches from his new skis, and headed out to the treadmill. Just before he walked out the door he turned to look at the floor by the skis. I said, “Whatcha lookin’ at?”

“The cord for the Christmas tree lights,” he said and went out the door. Huh. After a while he came back in, took his shoes off and left them in front of the skis, walking away.From the recliner I asked, “Will you plug the Christmas tree lights in?”

My brother's dog Clifford jumping for joy in the snow My brother's dog Clifford jumping for joy in the snow

He walked back over and plugged the tree in then stood up and said, “Oh, whose skis are these?”

Finally! I thought I was going to have to hit him over the head with them. Once it sunk in he was excited and we took off for Mt. Spokane.

I wasn’t sure how it would feel to ski but it was fine. Pushing, gliding and smoothly rushing down the first little hill was great! It felt so good to have the wind against my face. Going up hills felt a little like running and I started to get tears in my eyes. When I got to the first junction my teeth hurt from the wind on them and I realized it was because I had such a big smile on my face.

We skied for less than an hour but it was great to be out there in the sun and snow. My back was tired by the end but didn’t really hurt. I was a little tight the next day but it didn’t stop me from going again a couple days later.

The rest of Christmas was filled with family, friends, gifts and food. It was all fun but the best part might have been starting the day with a little exercise outside.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Brace Free!

I went to the doctor on Tuesday and am now completely out of my brace and I can start trying to swim and ride my bike a little. So I’m trying a new way of training, it’s called being conservative. I can exercise for a little bit them stop before I’m tired or sore. When the doctor told me this I wasn’t as excited to get started as I thought I would be. Why do something if I’m going to stop before I feel like I did it. I might as well just stay on the couch with my book if I’m going to feel like that’s all I did anyway?

As it turns out, it doesn’t take much to feel something. I headed out to the pool with plans to only swim 500 yards without flip turns. That didn’t sound like too much. I slid into the pool, not diving-that would not be conservative. I took a couple of strokes, everything was tight, and my right arm didn’t rotate very well and couldn’t reach out as far as I wanted it to. Turning to breath made pain shoot through my back. I made it 100 yards (as I write this I realize that that was not stopping before it hurt). Not quite as far as I’d expected. When I stopped, I realized I’d automatically done flip turns and that was the easy part. I kicked, sculled and did a little more swimming to make it a mile.

Even though I hadn’t done much, the rest of the day I was tired but I couldn’t get myself to lie down and rest. My back was aching but I seemed to have extra energy running though my body and couldn’t sit still. I guess it’s true what they say-you have more energy if you exercise. Until now, I never went without exercise long enough to notice the difference.

The next morning I went out to the pool again. As I started to put the key in the door something push at my arm. I turned to find a deer nuzzling up to my arm. She was so quite I didn’t even hear her approach. She kept pushing on my arm then sniffed my face. I turned my face away and she nuzzled my hood but wouldn’t leave. I didn’t know what to do. Pet it? Run? Do deer bite? I was afraid if I opened the door she would run inside. I just stood there dumbly talking to it like it was a dog, “Nice deer, go away now. Oh, you’re a good deer…” After a couple of minutes it finally walked away. That was more exciting than my swim but I was able to swim a little longer as long as I split it up with kicking.

I’ve been doing a lot of squats on the TotalGym and I’m up to 20 minutes on my bike. The first day I tried to do pushups it took all my concentration to remember what muscles to use to lift myself up. Now I’m up to ten pushups, two sets of five. The doctor said that at the end of the week I could try running a little if longer walks didn’t bother my back. Pete and I went to a trail and did 2’walk/1’run for 20 minutes. My back seemed okay but my legs were stiff and sore. I felt like I’d just raced hard, set in the car for a couple of hours then got out and tried to run. By the fifth minute of running it felt a little better but a minute at a time was enough. It was fun just to be out on the trail with Pete again.

Pete has been supporting me, keeping my spirits up and doing everything for me in the last couple of months. Since I’m done with my brace he wanted to wear for 24 hours to see what it was like. He made it for 12…minutes. He put it on at about 9pm and found he couldn’t really get comfortable. Then he remembered that wearing it for 24 hours would mean wearing all Saturday as we went Christmas shopping and to a basketball game. Then he decided that just wearing it to bed would be bad enough. I knew how bad it was and I could see how uncomfortable he was so I called it off. Nobody should have to wear that thing if they don’t have to.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Could it be?

Well, it’s happened. My metabolism has FINALLY slowed down. Unfortunately, my jeans started to feel tight a couple of weeks before my metabolism got the message that I don’t need to eat like a triathlete anymore. It’s a good thing I have a lot more elastic band warm-up pants than jeans.

I noticed this metabolic phenomenon a couple weeks ago but I really realized how many fewer calories I neededwhile travelling last week. I survived all day with just a banana and the meager offerings of the airline while flying. I kept checking to see if I had a headache, if I could see straight, if my stomach hurt. Nothing, not a growl. The next day I actually uttered the phrase, “I don’t need dinner, I had a big lunch.” I have never understood how someone could not need dinner. Now I’m one of those people.

This could be a good side effect of being unable to train. I could save a lot of time and money and make less of a mess in the kitchen. For now I’m going to enjoy it, it makes travelling a lot easier. But I look forward to doing a long workout and dreaming about what I’m going to eat for the last half hour. I miss that feeling of my body really needing food, of calories being burned as I’m eating them.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Paralympic CanAms

I had intentions of wearing my brace during the break between the prelims and finals at the swim meet last weekend. But by the time we got back to the hotel from prelims we only had an hour before we had to go back to the meet. So I justtook a much needed nap. Whether I should have or not, I went without my brace all day!

Wednesday we travelled most of the day and I was exhausted. By the time I hit the LA traffic I just wanted to be home in bed. But after several wrong turns we finally made it to the pool and the sunshine helped revive me a little. We finally got to the hotel about 9:00 and I crashed.

My swimmer, Michelle, didn’t have a great meet, she was off of her best times but she made finals in many events. For an early season meet it was pretty good. Sitting on the bleachers made me sore but I found a patio chair that was better for my back and for tanning. On day one I was pretty sore after a couple hours but each day the soreness kicked in later. It was encouraging see how much strengthening and healing could happen over the course of just a few days.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Watch out I’m behind the wheel!

Tomorrow I leave for California to coach at a Paralympic swim meet. This means flying, driving and standing on the pool deck, things I haven’t done in a long time. Yesterday I decided I better make sure that I could at least drive.

The smart way to test this would have been to go straight to the physical therapist and then come right home. But that didn’t occur to me because I was excited to be able to run errands on my own. Working backwards from my 2:00 PT appointment I scheduled in several stops at stores and a trip to the Y to water jog and ride the recumbent bike. I was out of the house right on schedule at 9:45.

Driving didn’t seem too bad; I could see my blind spots and the rules of the road were still with me. But by 10:30 I was wondering how I was going to make it until my appointment at 2:00. My neck and back were tired and I wanted to lie down. I couldn’t think of anywhere to take a nap but luckily my back and neck seemed to loosen up and I was getting stronger the longer I went! While my body was strong, my willpower was not and I bought a pair of shoes I hadn’t intended to buy. But when you haven’t gone to a store on your own in over two months you lose your sense of self control.

I was looking forward to water jogging in the deep end at the Y. At home and the pool isn’t deep enough. So at home I kick and scull and last week made it a mile. For the first time I could straighten my neck enough to float on my stomach but couldn’t turn my neck to breath so I had to use a snorkel. It took me 48 minutes and lots of stops to empty my snorkel. It seemed like a lot of work but water jogging in the deep end took more twisting. I didn’t really notice the twisting but I did notice my back hurting. The doctor said I could water jog so I didn’t worry too much about the discomfort I was feeling. Today I’m quite sore in my back. This morning as I laid in bed with my back throbbing I realized that when the doctor said I could water jog he probably meant with one of those floaty belts so that I wouldn’t be twisting my upper body. But a belt would have made it too easy. I guess I’ll just pay for that extra challenge for a couple of days. Hopefully it didn’t do any real damage to my back.

So that was my day of over doing things, which seems to be a pattern for me. I made it to the physical therapist without any trouble and then went straight home to lie down.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Big Bake-off

My mom’s sisters in Seattle have a bake-off for Christmas each year. I’ve never gone because I usually have a swim meet to coach and training to do. And nobody’s making gluten free Christmas cookies anyway. On Friday I had my normal day of riding the recumbent bike, walking, sitting at the computer and reading and then we left for the airport at 2:00. By the time I got to Seattle at 4:30 I realized that the reason I usually lay down all afternoon and night until bed is because I need to, not just because I don’t have anything else to do. Flying, driving, visiting and going out to dinner really wore me out. I was exhausted by the time I got to bed.

Saturday morning I skipped the walk I had planned to go on and saved my energy until it was time to go to the store and to the bake-off at 11:00. I got a feeling for what it’s like for my Grandma who is ready for one short outing a day but has to plan and rest up for it. Even with saving my energy I was pretty tired when I got to the bake-off. I had to sit down and watch the Gonzaga game before I felt ready to bake. Convenient. Too bad they lost.

Once rested, I attached my Bon Appetite pistachio nougat with dried cherry recipe. Somewhere between doubling the size and trying to find space to cook in a kitchen full of a dozen bakers, I let my sugar mixture overflow. All over the stove. Sorry Trish, hopefully the burner still works. Thanks Poppy for cleaning up after me while I finished the recipe. My recipe that didn’t set up. Oh well, I usually leave a path of destruction behind me when I cook and I didn’t really want to take home a bunch of nougat anyway. Now I know I’m lucky to have Pete around to avert the disasters that he foresees and clean up the ones he doesn’t. I did bring home some gluten-full cookies for Pete and some fun memories of baking with family for me.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving

Pete and I were in charge of making the chicken dish for Thanksgiving. Last year we vetoed all tradition for Thanksgiving and had a Mexican Fiesta. This year we decided to go with a more updated Thanksgiving dinner with chicken instead of Turkey. We made a recipe that I had at a homestay’s house in Pacific Grove, CA. My back was too sore to help make it on Wednesday night so Pete laboriously spent 2 hours skinning 30 chicken thighs and making the marinade for the dish. There was so much chicken and marinade that we had to marinade it in a big plastic garbage bag.

For how much time it took to make and for the room it took in the fridge, you would think we would remember to take it to Thanksgiving dinner with us. We didn’t.

We stopped on the way into town for Thanksgiving to run/hike on the Knot Head trail along the Little Spokane River. Pete ran the loop and I hiked. It was my longest walk so far, 3.5 miles and without my brace! As I returned to the car I started to think we might not have brought the pan to cook the chicken in. As I got even closer I started to think we might not have brought the chicken! Sure enough, the chicken was missing.

The doctor said that once I could turn my head to see my blind spot I could drive. Thanks to my physical therapy appointment the day before, I could turn my head. Just not enough to see my blind spot. Pete was still running and wouldn’t be back for a while. If I waited until he got back and then we went home and back to town we would be late for dinner. So, I left a note stuck in the parking bumper and took the car. I could turn my head enough to get out of the parking lot and then it was a straight shot on the highway back to the house, there wasn’t even an opportunity to check my blind spot. So another first for the day, driving.

I got home and bounded up the stairs (another first that might have been premature), hoisted the chicken out of the fridge (my heaviest lift in two months and again, premature) and was back in the car. I was safely back to pick Pete up in no time. We both started laughing when we saw each other. How could we forget that much chicken?

The chicken dish ended up being a success. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it:

Chicken Marbella

  • 12-15 chicken skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
  • 1/4 cup oregano
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
  • 1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup Italian Parsley finely chopped
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white wine

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and evenly spoon marinade over the chicken. Sprinkle chicken with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
  4. Bake for 50-60 minutes, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.
  5. With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Back to the Doctor

Water Jogging without my neck brace - BRR!

I went to the doctor on the 22nd with hopes of getting my brace off. My back was sore and I didn’t feel like I was really ready to have it off but I really wanted out of it. I was hoping that the doctor would say I was fine and that I was free to do whatever I wanted. Then I would just ignore the pain since it wasn’t going to do further damage. Not the case.

I can take the brace off for 3 to 4 hours this week and increase the time out of the brace each week and then hopefully take it off completely in mid-December. I was pretty disappointed. I was really hoping I would be able to swim (I admit, I even packed my suit just in case). The doctor said I could do water aerobics and to continue to ride a recumbent bike, I was hoping for a real bike.

Once the doctor’s news sunk in and I realized I was still able to do more than before, I was kind of excited to try water aerobics. At least I would be soaking in chlorine, moving around and out of my brace. So I switched alliances from the lap swimmers to the aerobic-movers and -talkers who would normally be my nemesis when looking for a lap lane. When I walked in, a little late, I felt the eyes of the hard working aerobic-excercisers and -chatters alike follow me around the pool. Their looks said, “Who does she think she is? She can’t swim laps while we are churning up waves in the entire pool.” I bravely approached the teacher and asked to join the class. He looked surprised but said, “Sure, hop in.”

The class wasn’t real challenging but it felt nice to get my arms and legs moving. We used Styrofoam dumbbells for added resistance. My arms started to feel fatigued after several repetitions with the dumbbells. It was nice to have tired arms. A woman named Julie introduced herself and I somehow ended up talking to a man about the craftsman style homes in the Shadle Park area. I felt like I might be accepted in water aerobics group after all. Since we worked so hard we got to play water volleyball for the last 15 minutes. That just might keep me coming back.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Neck Brace

I’m about a week from getting my brace off and I can’t wait. But before I’m out I thought I’d highlight the opportunities you will have if you ever end up in a back and neck brace:

  • You get chauffeured around (but it might be at 6am when your husband is leaving for work).
  • If you wake up on a Tuesday morning and you don’t feel like doing anything (as in reading a book or listening to an audiobook) you can watch the Hangover instead.
  • You can sit at the kitchen table all morning and watch as more and more turkeys wonder in the backyard (Once there were 45 I was glad I didn’t have to get out to the pool)
  • At major sporting events when parking attendants see your Grandma’s handicap placard and your neck brace they will incorrectly put two and two together and give you a really good parking spot.
  • You have lots of time to find good costumes at Value Village for your next Expo 74-themed party, feel free to represent a country or just dress in Expo 74 colors.
  • You can feel young and healthy when riding the recumbent bike at the YMCA as the octogenarians come by to tell you they just got out of a similar brace and that you will be fine since you’re so young. (I could have gone without the woman who kept petting my shoulder and tucking my hair behind my ear as she imparted her words of wisdom.)
  • You can go to Becky Clark at Apex Physical Therapy and she can work on fixing you and she can’t even give you exercises to do while at home, it’s really the best of both worlds.
  • You can get a day’s workout in in 60 minutes or less and you hardly need a shower afterwards (although these workouts might be better described as movement than exercise)

If these are reason enough for you to want a brace, let me know, in a week we can set up a time for you to try it out.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On The Road to Recovery and Yellowstone

Pete dressed like the cinder cone Pete dressed like the cinder cone since it was almost Halloween
The pictures of me looked like this After I made fun of Pete for looking like a cinder cone the pictures of me looked like this
Lots of steam at the Grand Prismatic Spring Lots of steam at the Grand Prismatic Spring

Last Wednesday the doctor said I could be up as much as I wanted and use the recumbent bike. (Who knew how exciting this would sound?) So, early Thursday morning I was on recumbent bike. I only lasted 20 minutes but it was nice to be moving again.

And since the doctor said I could be up as much as I wanted, Pete and I took off for Yellowstone Thursday afternoon.

We stopped in Helena and stayed with our friends Laura and Dave that night. Dave made a great apple crisp that was ready when we arrived. It was late so after a short visit we headed off to bed so we could get to Yellowstone early the next day.

We spent all day Friday and Saturday in Yellowstone. There were lots of places to stop and look at waterfalls, geysers and other strange geological sites. On a normal day stopping to get out of the car every few minutes and walking a few hundred yards would have gone unnoticed but I found myself mentally preparing for each short walk as I hauled myself out of the car. Being at 6000ft or higher added to the challenge on my first big weekend of walking. I stayed in the car for a much needed break while Pete went on a run near Old Faithful. When we got back to the hotel I took a long nap before dinner. This was different from our normal trips where I don’t want to sit down for a minute, but a big improvement over the last month.

There were lots of Bison out in the fields and one crossed the road in front of us. We wondered what the difference was between a Buffalo and a Bison. We googled it on the way home only to find out that there aren’t even Buffalo in the US, they are only in Asia. Made us glad we opted out of the ‘Buffalo’ burgers at dinner the night before. The highlight of our animal sightings was seeing a Grizzly Bear lumbering along the road near Yellowstone Lake.

To have to start to get back in shape by walking seems like a waste of time, I kind of want to wait until I can just go out for a run or a bike ride. Walking through Yellowstone was a good way to build up my walking endurance without really realizing that it was a way to get in shape.

Sunday was a long day of driving but we got to stop in Missoula and take my cousin Josie to dinner. She’s in her first year at UM and hopefully was glad to get away from cafeteria food.

On Wednesday I go to the physical therapist for the first time. I also get to take my brace off to sleep at night as long as I don’t move around too much. Both seem like big steps towards being recovered. I’m a little nervous about sleeping without the brace though. I don’t think I jump up in the air and flop back down on my other side like Pete does, but how much moving is too much?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Craft time!

Today was a big day for me; I had an activity planned! My friend Laura and her daughter Ella came over for a craft day. Ella wasn’t really interested, she watched cartoons, but Laura and I made some great felted soaps for the shower. Laura’s website is www.spinandstitch.com and she spins and dyes her own yarns and also makes patterns that she sells on her site. She brought some of her hand dyed felt over. We wrapped it around bars of soup, put it in an old nylon (I had to dig WAY down in my sock drawer to find those) and then dipped it in hot water so that the felt would shrink around the soap. Then we rubbed it on sushi mats. The rough mat helps to mat the wool fiber together. We made several each and started to get the hang of it by the end. I hate to admit it, but it was the most exercise my arms have had in weeks, and I felt it. But after a nap I was recovered enough to type.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday, October 19

Today I went on a walk! I headed out to get the mail and it was so sunny and warm I just kept walking. Right away I took off my jacket, the sun felt so nice on my arms and face. I haven’t seen much sun lately. In my head I imagined myself walking all the way around the block, although I knew I wouldn’t, it’s 2.5 miles. I walked all the way to the yellow mail box down the street. It takes one minute to run there. It took me a few more to walk and by the time I got there my back had started to get sore and I turned around. I was so happy to be outside and see all the changing leaves and the blue sky. I reminded myself to notice these things the next time I was running. Running. That’s what my legs really wanted to do. It was all I could do to keep them from just trying it, just a little. They just wanted to remember what it felt like. To move quickly. To be pushing off from the toe. To be pumping arms and leaning. But I knew my back didn’t want to know those feelings yet. So I got the mail and went inside. Soon maybe I’ll walk to the blue mailbox that is a 2 minute run away.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oh, We’re Halfway There...

This weekend marked the third week since my crash at Nationals. I can see a lot of improvement. It’s exciting to see what a body can do to heal itself in a short amount of time. I’m only taking one pain pill to sleep at night. Before I was taking one every four hours and spent the second half of that four hours waiting to take the next one. I can lift with my arms without pain shooting through my back. I’m not back to taking the garbage out or anything, but I feel good enough to make a mess in the kitchen. Just not well enough to clean it up. I’m also able to sit without pain for extended periods. It’s nice to have an option besides the bed.

One positive side effect of this injury, the medication or the brace-I’m warm. I don’t know what’s causing it but normally by mid-October, I would be in mittens and my winter jacket. But I’m still in short sleeve shirts. Yesterday Pete and I were driving into town. I had a t-shirt on, my warm-up pants pulled up to my knees and my window unrolled. It was such a nice warm day. I looked over at Pete when he put his ice cold hand on my arm. He was shivering. I’ve only seen him shivering a couple of times since I’ve known him. “Oh, are you cold? I can roll up my window.” I said in surprise. His answer might just have been chattering teeth. I rolled up my window and looked at the temperature on the dash. 50 degrees. Hmmm. Well, just let me have my moment in the sun. Soon I’ll probably be back to wearing my winter jacket all the time, indoor and out.

Since I can lift I can now read a book. Pete’s Kindle contraption served me well, but my newfound strength couldn’t have come at a better time. Friday a box arrived from my friend Shelby. In it was The Hunger Game Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The first few pages didn’t seem like my kind of book. But Shelby told me not to question it, just read it. So I did. And I was hooked. The story follows a game that is a strange mix between something like a beauty pageant and a Roman Gladiator competition where contestants fight to their death. It’s kind of disturbing but I couldn’t stop reading it. I thought I’d read a little in bed last night and couldn’t stop until I finished the first book. I looked at the clock thinking it was about 11:30 but it was 1:00am. Thanks for the books Shelby but I blame you for my lack of sleep and strange dreams.

If I’m lucky, this is the halfway point of my days in the back brace. When I get it off I can try some easy swimming and riding. I can’t wait. Until then, I’m going to finish off the Hunger Games Trilogy.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday, October 7

Reading with my neck brace

I imagined myself reading lots of books during this forced recovery period. Unfortunately, my brace forces me to lie on my back and stare at the ceiling. It makes my back to sore to hold my hands over my head and read a book. My friends Brian and Ellen brought me a Kindle to borrow. Pete, loving a challenge, found a way to hang it from the ceiling above my head so that I can read and I only have to reach up to push the ‘next page’ button. When you turn off a Kindle it shows a picture of an author on the screen. I was surprised this morning to make up and find myself staring Emily Dickens in the eye. I’m getting used to it and I’m getting into my first book, The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. So far, so good.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wednesday, October 5th

I’ve decided to write a short blog post every week or so to share how I’m feeling about this whole mess, how I’m entertaining myself or some other topic that comes to mind.

Pete and I were on a trip and eating trail mix earlier this summer. We kept losing it below the seats to that place of no return where the last pretzel, cheerio or skittle always escapes to. We decided that those lost morsels were all sacrifices for some time down the road. Like if you are driving on a mountain road in Oregon in the middle of a snow storm and you got buried in a snow bank. You could probably last quite a while on the things you could unearth from below your seat.

When wearing a neck brace you have similar opportunities to create survival food. I can’t lean forward or move my head towards my spoon as I eat because of my brace. Further complicating things, I’ve been wearing my glasses most of the time and this leaves a pretty big gap in my vision as I bring my spoon to my mouth because I’m looking below the lenses. I’ve been eating a lot of plain white rice because my stomach has been upset from my pain meds. Rice is hard to get a hold of on a good day. Every few bites I either spill the rice into my lap or I run the spoon into my neck brace and the rice careens off my chin and dives down the shoot that is formed by my throat and my brace. It scurries down this slide and lands somewhere in my shirt or brace. I write these lost grains off as survival food and try again.

This morning I woke up to find rice in bed. I’ve been known to eat a midnight snack in bed, but it’s never been rice. It was survival food making itself available to me in my time of need. I wasn’t that desperate; I got up and had oatmeal.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Buffalo

Putting the Pho in Faith

Niagra Falls at night Niagra Falls at night

On Thursday I was walking to the YMCA in Buffalo to swim and wondering what I was going to do for dinner. I just talked to my homestay, Sherrill,she wasn’t going to make it back to town until Friday. Her son broke his nose in a soccer game several hours away and she had to pick him up. What she imagined was a straight forward break was a lot more complicated, James’ nose was nearly ripped off and it was taking a lot longer to fix than she thought.

As I walked and talked to Pete on the phone, I told him that I didn’t know what I’d do for dinner, then,like a gift from heaven, a sign reading Pho Multis materialized in the distance. A noodle bowl for dinner! And within walking distance! Life is perfect. But as I told Pete about my great luck I walked closers and realized it actually said “PROMultis, Catholic Store”! It wasn’t a sign from heaven, it was just a sign that I needed a new contact prescription. Pete suggested going in and praying for Pho but I was already late to swim.

I got to the pool and it was closed because someone had gotten sick in it. Two ambitious older women informed me that we just had to wait until 2:45 and we could swim. They were more anxious than me and at exactly 2:45 they started pounding on the door and demanding to swim. The lifeguard wasn’t happy but he let us in to swim grumbling how it was our health at stake.

Sherrill ended up getting back really late on Thursday night. She was up early to take me to the bike course to ride. She was a tireless host, taking my friend Kalen and I to get food, or registration, dinner and finally, on a tour of Niagara Falls.

Elite Nationals in Buffalo, NY

I loaded my bike on the car to go to the race and realized I had a flat. Better before than during the racebut in hindsight, I would’ve been better off missing the race. I called my coach Barb and she found a wheel for me by the time I arrived. I was a little rushed getting the wheel an abbreviated warm-up in but by the time the race started I was ready to go.

We wore wetsuits on our two lap swim in Lake Erie. I was on the far left of the pontoon. After a few strokes I could see that I was leading. By the time we reached the first turn buoy I was next to Helen Jenkins and Laura Bennett. I couldn’t believe it, it was the first time I’d swam with that caliber of swimmer. I came out of the water in fourth, shortly behind the two leaders.

I lost a little time in transition when my rubber band keeping my shoe upright broke and my shoe flipped upside down so that I couldn’t step on it. Once on the bike, I was 30 seconds behind Jenkins and Bennett. I worked with two other cyclists to try to catch the leaders. We weren’t able to make up the time and eventually the pack behind us caught up. That’s when my race came crashing to a halt.

We started the sixth lap and suddenly we were crashing. The rider next to me was pushing against my shoulder, I tried to regain my balance but by then it was too late and I hit the curb. I went over my handlebars and landed on my head.I felt three inches tall. My spine felt so compressed. I’d never felt anything like it. I couldn’t breathe. I knew something was seriously wrong and I was scared. When asked if I was okay I couldn’t get any words out. I kept trying to repeat that I couldn’t breathe but there wasn’t any sound.

Several other riders went down but were able to get back on their bikes. I wasn’t going anywhere. Someone put cones around me so the other riders wouldn’t hit me. Another person told me not to move and checked that my toes could move. Once I realized that they could I was relieved to know that I wasn’t paralyzedbut I still couldn’t breathe. It felt like all the muscles in my back where clenched so tightly that my lungs couldn’t expand. It was like getting the wind knocked out of me, having terrible heart burn and the worst of side aches all at once. Not to mention I couldn’t sit up straight or bend side to side. My first thought was that I really needed to get to Becky, my physical therapist. As it turned out, I needed a lot more help than just physical therapy.

I was put on a backboard and taken on a bumpy ride to the ambulance at the finish. I thought I hurt before, but being strapped to the backboard and hitting all the bumps in the road was ten times as painful as sitting on the ground. I finally made it to the ER, Sherrill ran in, out of breath, having followed us the whole way then sprinting from her parking spot down the street. She went above and beyond her hosting duties this weekend. She waited for me while I made three trips to the x-ray machine and three separate trips to the CT scan. She asked questions of the 10 different doctors that came in to poke, prod and double check that I hadn’t somehow become pregnant between trips to the CT scanner. She kept my family at home up to date.

For the most part the doctors didn’t really tell us anything and ignored us for long periods of time. We waited forever for CT scan results. I couldn’t have anything to eat in case they needed to operate. So I hadn’t eaten anything since before the race until about 9pm when I had a Luna Bar. Oh, I exaggerate; the nurse fed me two ice chips on a wooden stick(gag) at 6pm.Eventually Barb took over for Sherrill and stayed with me until sometime well after both of our bedtimes when they shoved me in a different ER room. I fell right to sleep the minute Barb left. I thought I slept for a few hours but I think Barb’s watch was still on Wyoming time, two hours earlier, so really I slept for an hour and a half. Finally at 2am, they wheeled me into a real room for the night. The nurses up there were great, they were very attentive and thought it was funny but gladly hurried down to the cafeteria to get me a plate of fries when we decided that was probably the only Gluten Free food available. As it turned out, I was in too much pain to swallow them anyway.

The Best Layed Plans

My name was wiped off in the crash but no holes in my Blueseventy racing suit My name got wiped off but my Blueseventy racing suit didn't rip

I was supposed to fly to Newark, NJ Sunday morning to visit my friend Erin who is at Princeton. That wasn’t realistic, so while we waited, Barb and I made alternative plans. We booked a flight for Erin to fly up and get me in Buffalo and drive me the 6 hours to Princeton since I had to fly out of there Tuesday. By the time we set up the plan, Erin had three hours to sleep before needing to get to the airport. She picked up the rental car we reserved her and was at the hospital by 8am. I was so thankful to see her. We’ve been friends since we were 12 and I always knew that we would do anything for each other but I’d never had to put her to the test. She was great. I think I’d still be sitting in the hospital room waiting for meds if she hadn’t been there. The night shift was great but when the day shift came on they were worthless. I don’t think I would have trusted the nurse to get my order right at Baskin ‘n Robbins, let alone my pain meds. When we left she gave me my prescription but said the pharmacy was closed on Sundays. She didn’t think it was a problem that I wouldn’t be able to fill it for 12 hours when I needed the pills every 3.

Keeping my sense of humor without actually laughing

Through all of this I tried to stay positive and keep my sense of humor. It was a long ride to Princeton but it was fun to have lots of quality time with Erin. We thought I looked pretty great in my neck brace that the nurse put on me, it kept slipping all the way up to cover my nose. I sent a picture of it to my mom. She responded that it looked like Darth Vader on a bad hair day. This made me laugh. Ouch. From then on I learned to laugh only from the neck up. But then I was talking to my sister who was at the grocery store and got the button of her pants caught in her shopping basket I couldn’t hold back my laughter. That about killed me.

Help is on the way!

I stayed with Erin and her husband Zolton for a couple of nights. They did everything for me. I didn’t realize that all the muscles in mythoracic spine contributed to every movement that I made. I couldn’t lift a glass, open drawers or get into bed. They were there to do it all for me. Pete flew in on Monday night so that we could fly home on Tuesday. From trains to planes to cars it was a painful day. We were lucky to have a row of seats to ourselves on both flights so I could shift positions. For a while Pete even sat on the floor while I used all three seats. I must have looked miserable because the flight attendants ignored that Pete was on the floor.

Home Sweet Home

Now that I’m back in Spokane I’m spending most of my time sleeping. I went to the doctor but we are waiting to get the CT scan results from the hospital in Buffalo so that he can see the full extent of the damage. He thinks I should recover fully from my injuries. My compressed vertebrae won’t ever go back to their full height but if I let them recover they will become stronger and won’t be at risk to fracture more. I tried to get the okay to go see my physical therapist Becky so that she could work her magic and loosen up my back but he thought it was too soon.

We left the doctor with prescriptions in hand and a sense of relief over the outlook of my recovery. My new meds make me sleepy but manage the pain better than my last batch. I’ve been sleeping from 9pm until 10am with a few breaks for pills and food. Then I nap off and on throughout the day. I thought I would need a new hobby or a lot of books to get through these three months of recovery. But, so far, I’m just sleeping through it.

End of the Season

I didn’t see the end of my season coming so suddenly. As I lay in ER room I was really sad that my season was over. I didn’t know if I would want to ride again but I knew I still wanted to race. So, within an hour of my accident, I started thinking about next season. To me, Wildflower signifies the start of the racing season, but it seemed like a long and difficult race to start out with. Then I started thinking about Bloomsday and that I haven’t gotten to run Spokane’s biggest road race in several years. I immediately decided that it would be my first race back and then I started thinking about goal times. The last couple times I ran it I was sick or just didn’t run very well, so it’s been on my list of races to get back to.Once I had that goal set I felt much better. I was ready to start working towards it. My body isn’t ready to make any steps towards training but my mind wants to start now. As I lay in bed I think about how nice it will be to swim, bike and run again. I picture what it feels like, I go through queues in my head that remind me to have good form and I think about the importance of having goals in front of me and then I fall asleep again. I used to feel like I was wasting time if I took a nap, but now I think of sleep as the first step towards healing. One of these days when I wake from a nap I’ll feel well enough to go for a walk or maybe try swimming and even though it will be a small step I will know that I’m one step closer to getting back to where I left off.

Thanks to my sponsors, family and friends who supported me over a great season of racing. Thanks also to all of you who have helped me pick up the pieces and encouraged me after my crash.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pacific Grove

After two days at home, I flew to San Jose to do The Triathlon at Pacific Grove. I think it might have been better to fly straight from Des Moines to California. All the errands I need to do to get ready to leave again made my two days at home hectic.

I landed in San Jose on Thursday evening, two hours later than planned due to microbursts on the runway in Vegas. There was no further explanation, so your guess is as good as mine. My friend Leia picked me up and we went to her house where she had dinner waiting. Thank you Leia! I was starving since I was two hours short on food. I even resorted to eating the smashed banana from the bottom of my backpack while sitting on the runway but it only held the hunger off until we took off.

We drove to Pacific Grove on Friday in time to ride and run on the course then went to our homestay’s house. This was our second year staying with Anne and Jim Hall and we were excited to see them again. They made us the same great dinner as last year. We caught up on the past year and then headed to bed early.

The clouds cleared off just in time for the race at noon on Saturday, but not in time for me to be reminded to put sunscreen on before leaving the house. The women’s race started ten minutes after then men’s. This coincided precisely with the men’s reentry into the water for their second lap on the swim course. So we dove in and just as we were hitting the kelp and trying to pull ourselves across it they were trying to swim up over us. It made for an interesting first lap. After that it was a little easier, we just had to navigate the kelp. I came out of the water in third and was out on the bike course with a pack of three.

I’d been excited to race all week after the Hy-Vee Triathlon in Des Moines. But when race day came around I wasn’t feeling that recovered. I stayed with the pack on the bike for the first two and a half laps but I was pushing harder than I could sustain for the full course. The two cyclists in the pack pulled away and I was on my own. I hoped that if I didn’t let them get too far ahead I would be able to catch them on the run.

Down by a little over a minute, I ran out of transition telling myself I could catch them like last week. My legs weren’t feeling very fresh and even though I cut into their lead, I couldn’t catch them. I finished third, my run was about a minute and a half slower than last year but my bike split was six minutes faster and my finish time was six minutes faster. Overall it was a good race and I guess having a race that doesn’t feel very good makes you appreciate the ones that do even more.

Leia and I drove back to San Jose after the race and I flew to Seattle on Sunday morning. My mom, sister and Pete picked me up at the airport in time to go to the Seattle Storm vs. Chicago Sky basketball game. We watched Courtney Vandersloot play a great game against the reigning WNBA Champions the Seattle Storm. Now we’re on our way back to Spokane and hoping to beat the road closures for blasting on Snoqualmie pass.

I’ll be at a home for a little over a week then I’m going to Buffalo, NY for Elite Nationals. This week will be another week of running errands and final hard workouts before backing off for the race on the 25th.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Des Moines

Des Moines, Iowa opened its arms to the triathletes who came to race in the Hy-Vee Triathlon over the weekend. So often, we travel to a town for a race and nobody even knows why we are there, this wasn’t the case this weekend. When Pete and I arrived at the airport on Thursday, there was a Hy-Vee employee there to see that we got on a shuttle for the hotel. Once at the hotel, we checked in and found a gift bag, gift card and case of waterin our suite.(Ironic since this was the first time Pete has ever remembered to pack a waterbottle).

I went on a ride and stopped to use a bike pump at Ichi Bikes, a bike shop that specialized in cruiser bikes. I don’t think they get tri bikes in there very often but they were happy to help pump up my tires and offered me water for the rest of my ride. The first mechanic wasn’t big enough to pump my tires up past 90psi but he called someone out from the back to do it.

I went on a short run to loosen up after travelling. We were staying near the Capital and the courthouses. They all seemed to have closed for the long weekend so the streets were empty. So, I was surprised when I saw a city bus and heard it honking. I looked up and realized he was honking and waving at me. I smiled and waved back. It was fun to know the town was excited to have us there.

The Embassy Suites was host to all of the 30 men and women in the professional field and many age groupers. It was a busy place with bikes going in and out all day and the shuttle driver was kept busy with trips to the YMCA pool. The cook at the breakfast buffet learned quickly not to automatically put cheese on all of the omelets and he got really good at separating egg yolks and whites since so many people were ordering egg white omelets. I started to think I should order an egg yolk omelet just to save some of the wasted yolks. As I took the elevator down to the lobby for the pro meeting I looked around and realized I was in the elevator with Olympians and Kona winners. Yikes, this is serious. But Adrianne reminded me that my body knew what to do, I just had to get to the start and it would happen, so I remembered that and was excited to race.

Time kind of dragged on in the days before the race. There wasn’t a lot of training to do and we were staying on the race course so we didn’t even have to go far to check out the course. We spent some time watching the weather become more and more favorable. When we arrived it was 95 and humid. The temperature dropped by 10 degrees each day. On Saturday it poured most of the day, washing the humidity away for Sunday. By noon on Sunday it was 68. I think we were all pretty anxious to race, and we still had 90 minutes until start time!

Swimming upstream

We were called out to the pontoon in our order of ranking in the 5150 series. They announced our name and a person carrying the flag of our National Federation led us down to the pontoon. I was 3rd on the list so I had a pretty good choice for start position. I followed second place, Alicia Kaye and lined up third from the right. As we stood and waited for the rest of the athletes to be called down we contemplated the current. It was rushing; branches neared the pontoon and were gone in seconds.

Earlier, as we were warming up couldn’t even get to the farthest buoy because the current was too strong. Before our start, the officials moved the buoys in closer and made it a 3 lap swim instead of the planned 2 laps. This way we didn’t have to swim as far upstream where the current was even stronger.

Once we were lined up the National Anthem was played then we were quickly told to ‘take our marks,’ and the gun went off. I had a great start and timed the buoy and current just right, swimming hard past the buoy and then turning and swimming across the current, making it around the second buoy before the current pulled me down stream. Suddenly I realized I was in second place! I wasn’t sure what was going on and then realized that regardless of what was going on, I had better get on McLarty’s feet before she was gone. I drafted off her and we narrowly missed running into the bridge piling, apparently, some swimmers weren’t as lucky, the current was so strong that by the time you realized you were going to hit it there wasn’t time to steer around it. When we reached the next turn buoy the fastest swimmer had overcame their poor start positions and caught us(or at least me, McLarty was probably still off the front). I swam with the pack for the rest of the first lap where we fought like salmon going up a ladder to get up the ramp to the pontoon while the water eddied and did its best to pull us away.

I climbed onto the pontoon hoping that someone would tell us to just do 2 laps because it was too hard. Nobody did. I dove in and kept going. I didn’t timethe buoy and the turn as well and got clothes lined by the rope anchoring the buoy. The current was pulling me into the rope and I struggled to get away and keep swimming. By the time I got away I had lost the main pack but was still swimming with a few others. On my third dive I timed it better and got ahead of those swimming with me. By the end of the third lap I caught back up to the end of the lead pack and came out of the swim in 14th.

A time and place for everything. But here and now?

For some reason I decided to do a flying mount for the first time. The mount went well but my shoes flipped so I couldn’t step down on them. I lost a little momentum and swerved but as I nearly ran into the fence Pete was right there telling me that it was ok I could do it. That helped because it would have been a good time to panic and get frustrated. I got things under control and took off. I guess the neighbors can expect to see me practicing that move in the street a little more.

Into the wind

The bike course was deceivingly difficult. The headwind and crosswinds seemed constant although in reality there must have been some tailwind somewhere. The hills on the course were interrupted by turns so whether going up or down it seemed like I couldn’t hold a steady speed because I was always going in or out of a turn. In the week before the race I met with Mike Gaertner from Vertical Earth and Steve Sanders and we practiced some cornering skills (ok, we also tried out the cyclocross course and the pump park, not something I’d normally do on a tri bike). I was glad I had because I was able to gain some ground on a few riders on the turns.

Although I never felt very good, it was a fun course, there were spectators lining the streets and we rode through the grandstands twice on each lap where there was lots of cheering. The layout of the course gave us many opportunities to see the other racers on the course. It was easy to stay focused and see if I was catching anyone or getting caught. I caught a few and a few caught me. I started the run in about the same position that I’d started the bike.

Off and running

The run course ran through the grandstands then quickly turned downhill and around the block to a long straight away. We ran down the road to a U-turn at the bike transition then back the way we came until we came to a right turn and headed around the block and uphill to run through the grandstands again. It was a great course with people shouting encouragement the whole way. We could see where our competitors where most of time. Pete was scoping out the competition from the turn at the uphill and he kept telling me who was ahead that I could catch. Having him there and knowing he believed I could catch the next person in front of me made me believe it too.

I passed one runner as we turned down the straight away. I then started to look ahead for the next runners. I could see them several blocks up the road and I wanted to catch them. My plan for the run was to run steady for the first two laps, going my pace without pushing myself too hard to pass anyone then build the third and fourth laps. I was patient and passed the next two runners as I was making the U-turn on my second lap. From there I could see a couple of runners a long ways up the road but I didn’t know if I would have time to catch them. After the second lap I began to build a little and try some surges to see if I could go faster. I was feeling pretty good. A runner coming towards me was holding her side and looked like she was slowing down. I thought, ‘I feel good and she’s hurting, I can catch her.’ I picked up my pace (not that I take joy in other people’s pain, but it was motivating). I had two more laps and she was about 5 blocks ahead of me.

The next time I saw Pete he was really excited, he knew I was getting close to her. A spectator told me I was doing a good job of driving with my arms; I made a mental note to tell my coach Barb, since we had been working on that. I pushed hard up the hill, recovered on the flat through the grandstands and then started downhill on the forth lap. My friend Cindy yelled to let it flow down the hill and I tried, hoping it would give me a little more time to recover. As I turned onto the straight section, the runners ahead of me were now within two blocks.

I ran another couple of blocks when I heard footsteps behind me. I knew it was probably Gwen Jorgenson. It was and when she past me I stayed with her long enough to pass the two runners ahead of me and then I settled back into my pace. I’d passed five people, there wasn’t anyone else close to me and I was at the U-turn on the last lap. I just had to make it 4 more minutes-a few blocks, one more hill, through the grandstands- and I’d be finished. I was tired but really happy with my race and enjoying the last few minutes of it.

I crossed the finish line while they were interviewing the first place finisher. It was kind of anticlimactic; we didn’t even know what place I finished. We hurried down to the swim start to watch the men. After our struggle in the current, we wanted to see how the men would do in the river. As we sat watching, our friend Kevin in Spokane found the results and posted them on Facebook, our friend Brian who was on vacation in Montana saw the post and sent us a text telling us that I finished 10th.Nothing like finding out first hand. I was really excited. Early in the season my goal was to qualify for Hy-Vee. Once I saw the start list I thought I would be ecstatic to be in the top 10. And it all worked out.

The Des Moines hospitality didn’t end at the finish line. Hy-Vee supplied the post-race food and they didn’t stop at bananas and bagels. There were deli sandwiches, salads, fruit trays, veggie platters…I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a chocolate fountain. A group of Massage Therapists gave massages to the finishers. Kari (spelling?) was my massage therapist and she spent a long time taking care of all my post-race aches and pains. She could really zero in on knots that I didn’t know I had, whether I wanted her to or not. On Monday I wasn’t too sore so I think it really helped.

Thanks

During the long hours of sitting in the hotel room waiting to race I had lots of encouraging texts, calls and posts on Facebook wishing me a good race. It was great to know that so many people were out there pulling for me. Thanks to everyone who followed my results this summer and helped me get here.

Thanks to Fitness Fanatics for the last minute bike adjustments and supplies. Blueseventy thanks for fast, comfortable racing suits and leading edge technology in swimskins and wetsuits. Metabolic Institute, thanks for keeping me healthy.Genesis Pure, thanks for keeping me hydrated and recovering quickly. TotalGym thanks for helping me get strong at home. Computrainer thanks for challenging me on the bike.Runners Soul, thanks for fast shoes and quick transitions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Road Trip

For the first time in five years I headed to Kelowna, BC for the ITU Apple Triathlon without Pete. He had to work so my friend Ellen went with me. She did the sprint race in the morning before I did my race, finishing in the top 10 in her age group. We had a fun time and met up with Liz and Andrew, friends from Spokane, who were up there visiting Liz’s parents. Her parents made us a great prerace meal of salmon, chicken, quinoa, rice, rolls, homemade pickles, peaches, cherries, and the list goes on. Apparently, this is a standard meal for them, but for us it was pretty amazing and beat any restaurant meal we would have found.

ITU Apple Triathlon

The weather was supposed to be in the 90’s for the race, which is somewhere in the 30’s Celsius. I decided not to try to convert and pretend I didn’t know that it was pretty hot. Before the race I put an ice bag in my suit to lower my core temperature and drank a little more GPS Hydration than usual. When my race started at 11:30, cloud cover had come in and it was actually a little cooler than expected.

As our names were called to take our positions on the start line, everyone was lining up right to left. Pete’s last words of advice before the race where to line up on the outside because, “that’s what Hunter Kemper does.” So I ran to the far left. Afterwards, Andrew congratulated me on, “psyching the rest of them out by going to the other side.” But as I stood there alone I was kind of psyching myself out wondering if I should have lined up next to everyone else. Eventually the other spots filled in, we got ready to go and before we even had time to step up to the starting line and without the standard, “take your marks,” or “you are now in the hands of the starter,” the gun went off. We sprinted in, I briefly wondered if it was a false start, but nobody stopped so I just kept swimming.

“I’m so sick of playing defense and I don’t even have hockey skates.” - Kathleen Edwards

For some reason, the swim in Kelowna is always rough. Maybe the Canadians were hockey players before becoming triathletes and they still have that fighting spirit. Whatever the reason, I always seem to get beat up. The pack never really spread out so we were elbowing and swimming over each other for most of the race. The girl next to me didn’t have goggles on, I don’t know if they got knocked off or if she didn’t start with them but it seemed to make sighting difficult for her because she kept veering left into me. I didn’t care though, I was in the lead pack, just where I wanted to be so, like Nemo, I just kept swimming.

I came out of the water with the lead pack of about eight. There were three swimmers that came out ahead of us but they weren’t able to form a pack and get a lead before our pack caught them. Sometimes the hill on the bike course can break up the pack. This year the nine of us stayed together the whole time. We took turns pulling and built a lead on the chase pack. Since nobody wanted to try to break away on the hill I stayed with the pack and didn’t let my heart rate get too high during the climb. I was happy to notice that it wasn’t as hard as last year. I did the Mt. Spokane Hill Climb last weekend which made the race hill seem pretty quick and easy.

Our pack was just finishing our last lap when we approached two racers where still had one more lap. If we passed them they were going to get lapped out. I felt bad that they were so close to making it and we were going to catch them and they wouldn’t get to finish their race. We entered transition just as they started their final lap so I think they got to continue to ride.

I was near the front as I entered transition and tied for the fastest bike split with Lindsay Jerdonek. I got new shoes before the race and they were much easier to get on so I flew into transition, slipped them on and was first out on the run course. My lead ended after about 10 seconds as Paula Finlay came flying past me. Her pace was fast and I didn’t really have a chance to think about speeding up before she was gone. Sara-Anne Brault came by next, followed closely by Jerdonek. I stayed with them for a block or two but felt like they were going too fast for me. I settled into my pace. Somewhere around half way, Brault caught Finlay and moved into first. Jerdonek pulled farther away from me. I tried surging to make up some distance on her. I never could catch her again. She was about 40 seconds ahead and 5th place was almost 2 minutes behind me. I wanted to see what I could split so I stayed focused and kept up my pace. I finished 4th with a run split of 36:29 which was almost 2 minutes faster than last year and maybe my fastest run split.

After the race Liz’s mom hurried home to make us lunch while we collected my bike and met back at the house. I took a shower and when I was done there were paper plates lined with parchment paper heaping with food. I felt like I was at the local fish n’ chip joint or something. At that point I was ready to stay another week or so, I could get used to meals like that. She wasn’t sure what burgers would have gluten in them so she made Ellen and I each a veggie burger, a salmon burger and a huge tilapia fillet. There was also a salad made up for each of us and local peaches and fresh figs. The figs were brought out as desert the night before but we weren’t sure we should try something like that before a race but we had the chance post-race. They were a little strange but pretty good. We quickly refueled then headed back to the award ceremony.

We were sad to have to leave for home right after the awards. Kelowna is such a nice place it would have been fun to stay another day or two. Unfortunately, Ellen had to work Monday morning so we had to get back. When we got back Sunday night she had a message from Friday saying she didn’t need to work but she couldn’t get her messages in Canada so we didn’t know. It would have been nice to stay but it was pretty nice to wake up in my own bed this morning.

This weekend I’m in town or in the area I guess. I’m going to do the CAST Classic 5k Open Water Swim in Coeur d’ Alene. Pete and I leave a week from Thursday for Des Moines, IA for the HyVee 5150 Championship. I’m really excited for the race and hopefully my results in Kelowna show that I’m on my way to peaking at the right time for this championship race.

Thanks Ellen for being a fun travel partner, Andrew, Liz and family for the great hospitality and cheering section and thanks sponsors for your support.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Giant Eagle Triathlon

Columbus, Ohio

For the last five years my best friend Erin has lived in Columbus, OH and I’ve been meaning to visit her. When I heard about the Giant Eagle Triathlon in Columbus, it seemed like the perfect excuse to visit, and just in the time since she just defended her dissertation, became a DOCTOR and is packing to move to Princeton for a fellowship.

Erin picked me up at the airport and we headed to her apartment and to bed since I got in after midnight. It was hot and sticky there, even after the thunderstorm they’d had earlier that night. She had a window air conditioner in her bedroom that made it just bearable if you held really still. But I’m not complaining, Erin’s husband, Zolton, was nice enough to give me the bed while he camped out on the floor.

Erin was doing the sprint triathlon on Sunday so we both headed out to the race area on Saturday to pick up our packets. It was nice to have a partner for all the prerace preparations. She was patient and waited for me to swim, go to the meet and greet and the pro meeting. She didn’t complain when we had to go to 3 bike shops to try to get a Pit Stop in case I got a flat. It turns out that bike shops in Columbus don’t like Pit Stops so I just hoped for the best and was fine.

Giant Eagle Triathlon

Zolton was nice enough to get up and drive us out to the race start at 5:30am. I thanked Zolton, wished Erin a fun and fast race and then got ready to race.

The start gate was narrow so we all crammed in and got ready to go. The course was two laps and the first turn buoy was only about 25 meters from the beach. I started to the outside so as not to get caught up in the pack while trying to get to the first buoy. It worked pretty well; I had open water and got to the turn with a couple of other swimmers to turn smoothly before the main pack arrived. I stayed on the feet ahead of me for most of the two laps and came out of the water in fourth, not far behind 3rd.

Starting first, we were lucky that the hottest part of our race was probably the 85 degree water. When we got on the bike it was still cool felt good to cool off a little. The first 10 miles of the bike wound in and out of neighborhoods on newly paved roads. There were a few rolling hills and a couple of roundabouts to make it interesting. The last 15 miles went straight down a major arterial into downtown Columbus. I thought it might be hard to focus on such a long straight stretch. However, broken glass, cars parked in our lane and a car nearly hitting me kept me pretty focused. This was the first year for the race so I think there are a few bugs to work out but other than that it was a really nice course and a well run race.

I had a strong bike leg, finishing right at an hour. I passed a few people and was passed by a couple, and went into the run in a good position.

I wasn’t far from second place when I left T2. I caught up after a couple blocks but decided to stay behind her and let her set the pace. It felt pretty comfortable but I wanted to stay conservative because of the heat and humidity. I’ve learned in the last few humid races that I just can’t outrun the inevitable collapse; I have to hold back and sneak up on it. My plan was to be conservative on the first lap and speed up on the second lap. There were a few times when I got anxious and wanted to speed up but I waited. Towards the end of the first lap I was starting to feel a little light headed and my legs were getting tingly, a sign that the heat was getting to me.

“1:25 behind Jenna,” yelled a spectator as we started the second lap. We were making up time on 1st place. That’s when second place, Nichole Kelleher, sped up a little. I went with her but over the duration of the second lap I dropped back a little. At one point we caught sight of 1st place and I caught back up to Kelleher but couldn’t stay with her. Kelleher put in a great effort to catch Jenna Parker, getting second by only 9 seconds. I finished 30 seconds behind Kelleher for a third place finish.

I think I was smart in not trying to surge and pass Kelleher in the first lap since I was starting to feel the effects of the heat. There’s that little part of me that thinks it would have been more fun to have tried to pass her. Common sense tells me I would probably have been hurting at the end if I had and she probably would have passed me thanks to a steady pace. But still…I’m very happy to have another podium finish and to have raced a smart race.

Erin’s race started after mine so I was able to watch her race and I must say, I was really on, I had the best spectating day of my life to date. I saw her in four different places. Each time I thought that I had probably missed her but I would turn and she would be coming at me! I hadn’t had occasion to cheer for her since our swim meets in high school, so it brought back memories. I didn’t do any SAS cheers though, just yelled “Nice Job!”

Beating the Heat

After the race, out of desperation, Erin and I went to the mall get out of the heat. We stayed for 3 hours! Our last big mall adventure was in 7th or 8th grade and we thought we were going to stay something like 6 hours but got bored after 45 minutes, so this was impressive.

In another effort to escape the heat we went to see The Lincoln Lawyer at the cheap theatre. Zolton offered to pay, which was very generous, especially since he didn’t know it was family Monday. Tickets were only $.75 per person for groups of three or more. It was a pretty good movie; we agreed that we might even have paid the full ticket price of $1.50.

I’m back on my road bike in preparation for my next race, Canadian Nationals in Kelowna, BC, which will be draft-legal. I’m looking forward to another ITU race and the beautiful town of Kelowna.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Boulder Peak

Here I am again perfect timing
the strings are ringing and the words are rhyming
   - Drive-By Truckers

I flew into Denver on Friday. All day I kept thinking that everything was going perfectly. I woke up before my alarm, was only charged $20 for my bike box instead of $75, my flight was a half hour early, it only took ten minutes to get my rental car. I found the YMCA on the way to my homestay so I was able to stop and run and swim on the way to the house. This, of course, made me hungry and there was a Whole Foods around the corner from the Y so I got lunch. The more I thought about my great day, the better it got. Somehow I always manage to misplaceor forget my chapstick when I leave on a trip. As usual I did and my lips were so chapped. When I pulled my shorts out of my bag my chapstick fell out of the pocket. I mean, does it get any better than that?

My homestay, Melissa, was great, we had a lot in common and it was fun to stay with her. I put my bike together in her garage and headed out to ride the bike course. I wanted to ride the big hill so I would know what to expect on race day. It was closed because they were paving it. I turned around and road the flats. It didn’t occur to me that this was a negative blemish on my perfect day because I was still so happy with all the good things that were happening. I read a book a while ago by Wayne Dyer called “Manifest Your Destiny”. It talked about how you can attract what you desire if your thoughts are positive and you have faith in those ideas.After a while you start noticing little things that lead you to the outcome you desire. For the first time, I felt like this was happening.

Boulder Peak 5150

The race started under overcast skies in the Boulder Reservoir. The water was 74 degrees so I wore my Blueseventy PZ3TX swim skin instead of a wetsuit. It took a little while for the main pack to spread out but right away I could see a couple swimmers pulling away and I wasn’t with them! I had hoped to come out with the lead pack. I realized I was kicking harder than usual. I backed off and focused on keeping my body position high and pulling all the way through with my stroke. I pulled a little ahead of the swimmers next to me. The swimmers in the lead separated in their pursuit of the first buoy. One of them veered to the right, off course, and then back to the left. I was able to get in her draft when she crossed in front of me. I focused on the bubbles from her feet and let her lead the way. After that, the swim was fairly uneventful. It seemed like a long way back to the beach, we didn’t seem to be getting there very quickly. For some reason my feet were falling asleep which was strange since the water was warm. I came out of the water about 45 seconds behind the leaders. After looking at the splits I think that maybe the altitude affected me more than I was hoping it would. Maybe lack of oxygen caused my feet to fall asleep?

I didn’t let the lack of oxygen deter me as I ran into transition. I beat the two women I swam next to and almost caught another swimmer who exited the water shortly before me. My transition went smoothly and I was off on the bike. I could see two cyclists ahead of me, closer than I expected. Actually I saw several cyclists ahead of me. It seems that in Boulder, no matter where you go, you see cyclists. This is pretty cool unless you are trying to figure out which cyclists matter and which don’t. Either way, it gave me a target as I pedaled on. The first two I came to where just recreational cyclists. The guy on the recumbent was definitely recreational. But finally, as I got to the base of the climb, I passed a cyclist who mattered. I could see another cyclist with her name on the back of her suit. Probably not a recreational rider. I didn’t want to go too hard on the climb since it was only at mile 6 and I wasn’t sure how the altitude would affect me the rest of the race. I slowly cut into her lead until I passed her at the crest of the hill. The next 8 miles where mostly downhill, winding through big mountains and forested canyons. It was a really pretty course. I tried to push hard because I knew the cyclist I had just passed was fast on the flats and I wanted to get a lead. I stayed ahead for a while then we passed back and forth a couple of times but eventually she pulled away. I’m glad she was there to push me for a while. One more cyclist passed me with 10 miles to go. I kept both cyclists in sight for the rest of the ride and hoped to catch them on the run. It was a warmer than the last couple of races I’d done so I made sure to finish my last bottle of Genesis Pure Hydration before entering transition to start the run.

The one mile stretch of road we ran on was lined with spectators. There was lots of cheering as I ran out of transition. I could see one pro woman ahead of me among the age groupers on the course. I gave myself a couple minutes to get comfortable on my running legs. Halfway through the first lap I could tell I was gaining on the runner ahead of me. I passed her and started to look for the next runner. There were just enough twist and turns and age groupers to make it hard to pick out my targets. At one point I thought there were only two runners ahead of me. Unfortunatelythere were two in similar black and red racing suits. I passed one so I thought I was in second but there was still another up there. I realized this on the last lap but I was a minute behind her and couldn’t catch her. I continued my podium streak with a 3rd place finish.

3rd place earned me 650 points in the 5150 point series and moved me into 4th place on the qualifying list for the Hy-Vee Triathlon, the 5150 Championship, in September in Des Moines, Iowa. The top 20 on the list as of July 11th qualify for Hy-Vee, so Iowa, here I come!

After the race, I met my friend Jen whom I went to college with at Northern Arizona University. We hadn’t seen each other since my first ITU race in Phoenix several years ago. We got caught in a big down pour but we were able to catch up while dashing from store to store to avoid the rain. Then half soaked, we found a restaurant where both of us could eat with our rather restrictive diets. It was a nice end to a fun weekend.

Next weekend I have to step out of the comfort of a racing suit and into a dress! I’m a Bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding. Then at the end of July I’m headed to Columbus, Ohio for the Giant Eagle Triathlon and to visit my best friend Erin.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Monroe

For the first time since Bellingham hosted the Baker’s Cookie Triathlon, Washington hosted an ITU Triathlon. Pete and I picked up our friend Amanda Hahn at the airport in Seattle then drove to Monroe for the race. My brother Chris, cousin Jesse, his girlfriend Mandy, cousin Natalie and her husband Jake came to watch the race. We were just at Natalie and Jake’s wedding last weekend so we were honored to have them include us in their honeymoon. It was great to have all of them out there cheering on each lap of the race.

The Pacific Northwest has great lakes and even though Tye Lake was just a small neighborhood lake, it was a great place for a race. We swam two laps in the clean and clear, 67 degree water. The bike course was a flat 8 lap course in front of the park with 3 U-turns per lap. We finished with a fast, flat 4 laps around Lake Tye.

I started the race on the far right. When I dove in and started swimming, I had open water ahead of me. There was one swimmer to the left, everyone else was farther back. I cut over and got on her feet. I was excited; I’d never been in the lead pack in an ITU swim before. I stayed on her feet for the first lap. As I excited the water my cheering squad was yelling and screaming. Later they credited my orange blueseventy goggles for quick recognition. Oh, and Pete said he knew me by my elbows. Not sure if that’s a compliment or not.

We dove back in for the second lap and I was shoulder to shoulder with another swimmer, just behindthe lead swimmers. The two of us couldn’t seem to get back on the feet of the leaders. They slowly pulled ahead on the way back into the beach. I came out of the water in third, not far behind the leaders.

I ran from transition with fourth place. Luckily my coach had pointed out prerace that the mount line was just before a right turn. While fourth place stopped immediately after the mount line to mount, I ran a few more steps to round the curve and then mounted. I was able to take off faster without having to start riding on a turn. This made up for starting to grab my bike before putting my helmet on, knocking my helmet to the ground, reracking my bike, picking my helmet up and putting it on and then finally leaving with my bike. If I’d just put my helmet on first I wouldn’t have had to race fourth place out of transition, but then, I always have liked a challenge.

The 2nd place cyclist was only about 10 meters ahead of me and I could see the leader an equal distance in front of her. I cut into second place’s lead and by the end of the first lap we had worked together to catch the leader. The three of us switched leads until a pack of four caught us. Then the seven of us worked together, or at times against each other, to stay ahead of the rest of the riders. There was some yelling and surging but nobody broke away and we built our lead on the chase pack to nearly two minutes. Sometimes it’s hard to remember nutrition while working hard in a pack but after not having enough calories in Boise I made sure I drank my GenesisPure Hydration. At the end of the bike I felt like I’d had enough calories and electrolytes and was ready to run.

At the end of the last lap I made sure I was at the front of the pack so I could get into transition without a lot of traffic. After the blood blisters I got in Boise I switched to Brookes Green Silence racing flats. My toes got a little tangled in the tongue (the downfall to long finger-like toes) since I wasn’t used to the new shoe but I still made it out of transition with the main pack. It’s funny, at some races, like Wildflower, the highlight of the race is having the fastest transitions, which isn’t that important in a four-plus hour race. Then, when they really count I seem to fumble around, but at least the swim, bike and run worked out for me.

We took off in a pack, going fast. I thought it might have been too fast but I decided to keep with the pace for a little while and see if it slowed. We were able to reel in a couple of runners but Chantell Widney pulled away early on. I ran in a pack with 3 others for three laps. I’d never run with a pack for that long. The pace felt pretty comfortable and the race flew by. I didn’t have to think about my pace, I just stayed with the other runners.Near the end of the course there were some metal posts to keep cars off the pedestrian trail. On the third lap the girl next to me moved into me and tried to elbow me into the post and then yelled at me to stop pushing her. If I’d had extra oxygen to laugh it would have been kind of funny. But instead of laughing I just surged to move around her and to find room to get around the next poles and cones without getting shoved. But it did make me more determined to outrun her.

On the final lap we picked up the pace some. Kaitlin Shiver was leading, with me close behind, sometimes too close behind since I hit her feet a couple times. I guess I need some practice running in a pack. We switched leads a couple of times then with half a lap left, we made a right turn and she and Annabell Luxford pulled ahead, opening a gap. In the past I might have figured that was it but this time I ran harder and was back with them shortly. Shiver eventually pulled ahead, I couldn’t stay with her but I continued to throw in some surges and was able to pull into third place. After being yelled at on the bike and shoved on the run I didn’t want to be outrun too so I kept pushing and when I knew I only had about 200 meters left I sprinted to a third place finish, my highest placing in an ITU race.

Next up: Boulder Peak 5150 on July 10th

Thanks to blueSeventy, Genesis Pure, Fitness Fanatics, Runner’s Soul, my Cheering Squad, friends and family for all your support!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Boise

Well, I’m not leaving Boise with the same sense of accomplishment as when I left New Orleans and Memphis a few weeks ago. But I’m not completely disappointed. Lucky Peak Reservoir was only 53 degrees so the swim was cold. My feet, hands and face hurt really badly when I was warming up for all of a minute. After that, I just sat on the dock and hoped to feel warmer once I was swimming hard. The cannon went off for the men’s start. It was about five feet from my head. When the starter warned us it was going to be loud, he didn’t really explain how loud. So, with ringing ears, I jumped back into the water and tried to hold my hands out of the water as long as possible to keep them warm.

When the cannon went off we started swimming. It was a small field so the start wasn’t too rough. I had a swimmer at either shoulder. I kept pulling back, trying to force my arms to go where they were supposed to; it was too cold to really feel if they were. After a minute or two, the swimmers where still at my shoulders, I was wondering who was going to fall back first, me or them. I decided to kick hard and see if I could drop them. With a few hard kicks they fell back and I had the open water to myself. At that point, the swim was going as planned if not better. I figured the other swimmers where on my feet but when I got to the first turn buoy I looked back and they were quite a ways back. From then on I was on my own.

At the end of the swim I started kicking harder to see if I could feel my feet. My calves seemed like they were going to cramp. When I started running my feet felt floppy, I didn’t know if they were running or not. But I wasn’t falling so I went with it. I struggled to get my wetsuit unzipped because my fingers where numb. So, for the first time, I used the wetsuit strippers. They struggled to get the wetsuit over my ankles. I have trouble getting it off too, so I was glad to know it wasn’t just me.

My bike went really well, I kept pushing, trying to get as far as possible before getting caught. It wasn’t until mile 20 that MagaliTisseyre passed me and at Wildflower shehad passed me at 10 miles. My stomach wasn’t feeling very good from about 10 miles on. I was concerned with how it would feel on the run but I kept telling myself that it would settle by the end of the ride. I wasn’t drinking my sports drink, it had gotten warm and didn’t taste right. But since it was still in my aerobottle I couldn’t dump it out to refill with water. The bottles they were handing out didn’t fit in bottle cages so I couldn’t trade my emptybottle for water. I ended up only drinking one and a half bottles when I usually shoot for three. By the time I finished the bike I was in fifth place which was a good place to start the run but I was really thirsty.

At the beginning of the run I felt pretty good but all I could think about was how thirsty I was. I couldn’t wait to get to an aid station to get water. I had a little but it’s hard to drink much out of a paper cup while running. I started to get side aches at mile three and had to slow down a little. I knew that I could start feeling better at any time so I just tried to keep a steady pace and stay positive. Then my feet started to hurt but I was ignoring that. On the second lap the side aches and cramping in my stomach got worse. I realized at mile 8 that I really needed a bathroom. I couldn’t find one until about 9.5 miles so that was a rough several minutes. I felt better after that but if I tried to increase my pace my side ache came back. The balls of my feet where really hurting, making it hard to run. I finally ended up walking at about 10.5 miles. I tenderly walked on my feet, wondering how bad my blisters were and if it really made since to finish and make them worse. But I wanted to finish and I wouldn’t have a way back anyway. At that point an age group racer came from behind me and encouraged me to run with him. It really helped. He got me going and I was able to run at a slow pace without getting a side ache. From there I just plodded along until I finally finished. My friend Ellen was volunteering at the finish line. She caught me and helped me hobble to a chair. It was so nice to have a familiar face at the end after a hard run.I took my shoes off and there was a big blood blister on the ball of my left foot. Now I’m hobbling around, hoping it will heal soon so I can run again.

Overall, I was really happy with my swim, when I came to the crucial moment when I could have just backed off and drafted, I didn’t, I kicked harder and got ahead. I was focused and pushed hard on the bike. I need to go back to working on my nutrition and then I think I can finish my next 70.3 with a solid run.

Next weekend brings a break from racing with my cousin Natalie’s wedding. It’s at Priest Lake were Pete and I got married so it will be fun to go to a wedding there without the pressure of being in the wedding. The following weekend is an ITU race in Monroe, WA. I’m looking forward to seeing how my swim compares to those athletes and it will be fun to be in a draft legal race again.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pre Boise

Today I’m leaving for Boise to race the Boise 70.3 on Saturday. As I was swimming today, I was thinking about how fun it will be to travel with my friend Lora, whom I’ve run with off and on the last few years, but don’t know that well. There’s no better time to get to know someone than a long car ride. Tonight we will stay with my Aunt Shannon. I’ve only seen her a couple of times in the last few years so it will be nice to spend some time with her.

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to travel to different places and meet new, wonderful people. I think that I take a little something from each person I meet and it influences my life even after I go back home. Just since being in the South a couple of weeks ago I’ve made some additions to my life that I wouldn’t have even known about if it weren’t for my great homestays.

Last week my sister Kelly and I went out on a limb and tried a Vietnamese restaurant in an area of town not known for its restaurants. It was amazing! Thanks to Shira in New Orleans, I knew what to order. We ended up with heaping bowls of noodles with stirfried veggies, chicken and a delicious sauce. The waitress said she could make our orders without MSG’s and neither Kelly nor I got sick, so she must have been true to her word.

Pete and I played a fun game in Memphis with our homestay Amy and her boyfriend Terry. When we got home I bought the game and we’ve been playing it often. I didn’t think I’d find a game that Pete would actually play! Amy’s home decorating ability rubbed off on me a little too. She has a great house that she has remodeled on her own over the years. She has fun mirrors throughout the house, bright colored walls and interesting decorations on the tables. One thing I really liked where her bowls of buttons. I went to a thrift store this week and found some buttons of my own for our living room table.

Now I’m off on another adventure in hopes of creating more great memories and finding new friends along the way.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chance of Showers

On race morning, Pete and I drove to Memphis in May in one of those rain storms where you wonder if you should pull over and wait for it to subside so that you can actually see where you’re going. Lightning was flashing all around us, followed immediately by thunder. The age group race was in progress but the pro race wasn’t supposed to start for another two hours so we were hoping the storm would pass.

Brave or stupid?

Apparently the age group race started off amid lightning but we weren’t so sure we wanted to do the same. It doesn’t seem like a safe way to start a swim. We all stood around in the pouring rain wondering how to warm up for whatever kind of race we might end up doing. The race was scheduled to start at 10:30. At 10:15 we had a meeting and the race director said he thought we might as well start on time since the weather wasn’t going to get better so delaying it wouldn’t help.

We got in the water to warm up. After about 50 strokes a clap of thunder seemed to vibrate through water. The kayakers yelled at us to get out of the water. We sprinted back and waited in the tent for a decision from the race director. We waited 20 minutes only to have more lightning. After another 20 minutes we were finally able to start the race

I was really excited to race! At first, when the race director said the weather wasn’t going to improve I thought he was going to say they were cancelling it. I thought I was going to cry. I hadn’t known how much I wanted to race until I thought I wasn’t going to be able to. Lesson one: I really want to race.

10, 9, 8...

Memphis in May has a time trial start. Each athlete is given a number based on last name, alternating male female. The name that always put me at the end of every list in school was actually an advantage. “Warner” put me last on the list of females so I got to chase everyone. Lesson two: be thankful for what you’re given.

They sent us off every 10 seconds. When the buzzer went off I sprinted down the ramp and dove in. The water was calm and a great temperature. I was able to catch a couple of people on the way out. I wore my new Blueseventy swim skin for the first time and felt great. My body position seemed really high and I was able to get a great pull. I passed a few more people on the way back. I swam hard, knowing that any time I could make up on the other swimmers ahead of me would help.

After a day of rain the transition area was a big mud puddle. My feet were sinking in as I tried to run to my bike. At least we were all dealing with the same conditions. I grabbed my aero helmet and dumped about 2 inches of water on my head. Lesson three: dump helmet out before putting it on because that water is really sweaty from the last race.

The bike course was flat and fast. We seemed to have favorable wind in every direction. I kept expecting a head wind but it never came. I finished the bike in about an hour. I passed a couple of people and only got passed by one. I didn’t really know where I was in the race but I hoped that I’d held my own and would be able to out split some of those ahead of me.

By the time the run started it was raining pretty hard and we were splashing through big puddles.D’Ann Arthur flew past me as we left transition. She was running really fast but I knew that she had started first so I had over four minutes on her. I ran my pace and hoped she wouldn’t be able to out run me by four minutes. I could see a lot of people ahead of me but they seemed a long ways off. I passed a couple of runners but couldn’t catch up to anyone else. It looked like I was gaining on them but I didn’t know. With .2 miles to go I heard my friend Cindi cheering for me. She yelled, “Go, Annie, you know every second counts!” I didn’t know where anyone else was but I tried to push harder. It seemed like a long .2 miles. At the final turn I heard Pete, Kalen Darling’s family, and Amy, my homestay,cheering for me. I gave what I had left to sprint through the mud to the finish line.

It’s kind of anticlimactic to finish a time trial because you don’t know where you finished. We all stood around in the pouring rain trying to calculate, from the start and finish times, who won. We thought I was 2nd then 1st and finally 2nd, by 5 seconds! So what could I have done to be five seconds faster and win? I don’t know. I was really happy with my race, I was focused and positive. I pushed the whole time. I didn’t have any mistake in transition that would have added time. So I’m not going to worry about it. I’m happy with second place. There were a lot of strong athletes there and I’m proud to have finished five seconds behind Amanda Stevens.

Now we start the drive back to New Orleans. We will stay in Jackson, MS tonight. Then drive the rest of the way tomorrow and fly back to Spokane tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to my own bed and getting back to training. My next race will be the Boise 70.3. I’m excitedto do some longer rides and runs in preparation for the race.

Thank you to my sponsors for your support. Blueseventy your products keep my swimming fast. Fitness Fanatics my bike wouldn’t run as smoothly without you. Metabolic Institute, my body wouldn’t run as smoothly without you. Genesis Pure you keep me hydrated and recovered with your quality nutritional products.

Thanks to my family and friends who are always cheering me on!

photos View photos

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Locals and Yokels in New Orleans

Travelling and trying to train can really make me appreciate training in Spokane. In New Orleans, the only place to ride is the levee trail and the roads are bad enough that it’s best to drive there. Pete and I were doing just that when we stopped downtown to buy a couple paintings from a street vendor. We’d seen the painting while walking around the French Quarter but they only took cash so we had to find an ATM and go back to get the paintings. Pete dropped me off in my bike shorts and jersey to get the picture then went around the block to pick me up.

Here’s part of my exchange with the vendor:

“You ride yo bike here or you jus’ dress like dat?” asked the artist in his aviator glasses and jeans.

“I’m going to go riding,” I replied.

“Oh, I like dat, yo goin’ ta go ridin.’ He responded. “My girlfriend, she like ta sit aroun, she fat, she Jewish, and she mad all da time. She hate people like you,” lamented the artist.

Proudly patting his belly (ok, potbelly) he continued, “I tell her, I lif weights, that’s why I got a body like dis. I admire people like you, ya put yo exercise ferst. I don’t hate nobody at the gym that looks like you cause I know ya wurkin’ fo it.”

Handing me my paintings, which I managed to get for $50 instead of $60, he said “I see you ladda, keep doin’ whatch ya doin’, ya lookin’ gooood.”

Feeling quite proud of my haggling abilities, not to mention my hard fought for physique, we headed to the levee to ride. I rode along the levee, which wasn’t easy. There were kids drawing on the trail with chalk, endless people standing on the trail gawking at the rising Mississippi River, andhorses, dogs and turtles on the trail. I did a lot of stopping and slowing to avoid obstacles. I finished my ride in the adjacent park and was walking my bike across the grass to the car when a large man with a long flowing gray beard, camo pants and a fishing vest rang his bike bell as he nearly ran into me. He stopped his Huffy Mountain Bike in front of me and blocked my path.

Here’s part of my exchange with the self-appointed bike policeman:

“You really need to watch what you are doing! You were going way too fast for the conditions. You were missing kids by six inches. You weren’t announcing, you don’t have a light, no bell. You could have killed someone. These people aren’t paying attention to you; they are just watching the water.” He gasped for a breath after this long tirade, then, throwing his arms wide he exclaimed in disgust, “You look like you just stepped out of a spinning class!”

“Um, sorry. I’m not from here; I don’t know your rules.” I replied.

“Announce, announce, announce.” He uttered as he pushed his bike with flashing light past me.

So around here, they build you up then they beat you down. I headed to the car with my head hung.

Though, I will plead my case:

  • I did say “excuse me” and “on your left” many times.
  • It was light out, so I don’t think a light would have made a big difference.
  • My average pace was less than 15 mph since the trail was so crowded. I think a regular spin class attendee would go faster than that.
  • The self-appointed trail policeman pulled me over in the park and the water watchers where on the levee, I don’t think he could have kept up with me long enough to follow me from the scene of the crime, so it may just have been a case of mistaken identity.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Big Easy

photo photo

We arrived at our homestay in New Orleans and Diane, Scott and Shira were ready for a run at a nearby park and Snowballs at the best Snowball stand in New Orleans. So we jumped right into everyday life in New Orleans. After our run we went to a Thai Restaurant that also serves waffles. Then to William’s Plum Street Snowball shop where they have these amazing snow cone like treats. Apparently, New Orleans is known for these deserts andthese were by far the best in town. They are shaved ice with so much flavoring on it that the ice is almost gone by the time they serve it to you. Scott goes there three times a week for a banana fosters flavored snowball. I tried mango and blueberry and it was good but I didn’t understand just how great they were until I tried the bananas foster flavor. It’s like they packed a whole banana in one bite, and a cup of sugar. If you’re really feeling it you can order it with condensed milk on top. Turns out the condensed milk is actually butter flavored shortening and sugar, but who’s keeping track of cholesterol in this town anyway?

Our helpful hosts continued to lead us to all the key eateries in town. Pete had a po-boy with fries on it, no meat. He also had New Orlean’s best jambalaya. I started out making a photo documentary of Pete’s road to a heart attack but I just couldn’t keep up.

New Orleans 5150

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On race morning it was 65 degrees, which is unheard of in New Orleans in May. Unfortunately, there were really strong winds coming off the lake as well. The race officials couldn’t set buoys out because of the waves and it was too dangerous for the kayaks to be out in the water. So, the triathlon became a duathlon. We ran 2 miles then continued onto the triathlon’s bike and run.

The male and female pro race started together, soon five of the women were in a pack. We ran the 2 together and all finished in 12:11. I tucked in behind the first two women to stay out of the wind. I felt like I was running controlled and wasn’t expending too much energy on the first run.

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The bike spread out a little as we crossed the mount line and hopped on our bikes. I was in the lead for a couple minutes and then Evelyn Blouin and Mandy McLane passed me. We rode west along the lake for 4 miles then turned and rode east past transition for 8 miles before turning back to the start. The course was closed to traffic and I was really impressed that there was a police person and police car at every intersection on the course. I worked hard to keep Blouin andMcLane in sight. At the end of the bike I entered transition in third as second place, McLane, was leaving.

I put my running shoes back on and started chasing McLane. Because I was expecting it to be hot on the run course, I had planned to try to hold back a little on the first two miles, build the third and then go hard on the last three miles once I turned around. I still stuck to this plan but didn’t hold back as much as I’d planned since it wasn’t that hot. I could see McLane a little ways ahead of me but didn’t want to push too hard to catch her early on in the race. I kept reeling myself in, telling myself that I was going to be ready to take off on the last three miles. I was able to pass McLane around mile two. I started to build during mile three and was then able to see Blouin up ahead. It looked like she was a long way ahead of me and I was pretty excited to be in second place. Then spectators started to tell me that I’dalready cut her lead in half. I realized that I’d done that in the first three miles and that I still had three miles to go so I might be able to catch her. I sped up a little and threw in some surges to make sure I wasn’t slowing down. Little by little I gainedon her. With a mile left, as we ran up a small overpass I surged and passed her. I kept surging in the last mile and picked up my pace, hoping I would be able to stay ahead of her and I did! I crossed the finish line in 1st, looking terrible, as it turns out. I didn’t realize how bad my hair could look and how tired I could appear. I thought I was smiling but the picture on the New Orleans 5150 website shows what is more like the look of someone dealing with some serious constipation than that of someone who just won a race. So maybe that is motivation enough to win another race so that I can look happier about it.

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Thanks to everyone for your support and confidence in me leading into this race, it made all the difference!

Pete and I are spending a few more days in New Orleans where I will train and he will run to justify eating more New Orleans food. We saw the Ninth Ward and the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina before the race now we hope to see more of the French Quarter and some plantations.

“I’m goin’ to Graceland”

On Wednesday we will spend the day driving to Memphis if we can find roads that aren’t flooded. We’ll check out Graceland and a few other sights in Memphis and then I’ll race Memphis in May on Sunday.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wildflower

Last weekend brought the annual road trip to California for the Wildflower half iron distance triathlon. Adrianne and Pam were new road trip companions for the race, they were a little nervous since they were going into an unknown race and I was a little nervous because I already knew the race. I was determined to the race without any mechanical issues after last year’s DNF due to a broken chain.

All was going well until about 30 minutes into the 18 hour drive when Pam’s bike started to rattle off the rear bike rack. We took the disc wheel off of the other bike on the back and they stayed in place better. We were back on the road and confident that we were going to make good time to California. Then we caught sight of my bike flying off of the roof rack. We pulled over while watching the rear view mirror, hoping not to see it bouncing down the freeway. Luckily it was holding on by the rear wheel. The frame never hit the car so it wasn’t damaged. The wheel looked like it was okay too. (The mechanic at the race said it was fine and it was fine during the race but when I got home I found out that it had a crack in it and would need to be replaced. Bummer.)

The rest of the drive was long but uneventful. We got to Lake San Antonio on Friday and got our packets, rode and ran a little then headed to our hotel. For dinner we picked a Thai restaurant in downtown Paso Robles. “Thai, prerace?” You might ask. Well, it worked for us last year. Adrianne has a peanut allergy so we told the waiter and he assured us that there were no peanuts in her dish. “Thai, with a peanut allergy?” You might ask. Well, I have no answer for that. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

After a bite and a half Adrianne said there was a peanut in her food. And she would know. Her throat began to swell up and she had trouble breathing. We got her to the emergency room where she got medication to stop the swelling. After a few hours she was released and we headed back to the hotel. Not the best prerace preparation. Adrianne was sick most of the night but still started the race. She had to pull out halfway through the run. She was just too dehydrated and exhausted from the night before. She did get to take a nap in the sun, so all was not lost.

So it was close but my bike and I made to the race in one piece.

I hadn’t worn my new Blueseventy wetsuit yet but, when I dove in and started swimming, it felt great. Julie Swallow pulled away quickly. I was in the lead pack with three others. I exited the water in 5th in 24:44. I’ve been swimming faster in the pool and was anxious to see if it would transfer to open water. My time was a few minutes faster than the past few years. It’s hard to compare one year to the next in open water swimming but I think I’ll still take it as a good sign.

I entered transition even with the others from my pack. We raced through transition and onto the bike course. Windy conditions made the bike harder than I remembered. The first 20 miles we faced strong head winds. I kept reminding myself that at least the direction of the wind would change when we turned at mile 20. Variety is always nice, even if it doesn’t get any easier. Or so I thought. I turned the corner and the crosswind was so strong I struggled to stay upright. For 12 miles I fought to stay up, a lot of the time I wasn’t in my aero bars because I needed to brace myself against the wind. At mile 37 the wind eased up as the course turned and headed back towards the lake. I hit some downhill and finally felt like I was going somewhere. I got to the top of the Nasty Grade and smiled, knowing I was already doing better than last year because that’s where my chain broke.

The last twelve miles were hilly but not too windy. I felt good by the end of the bike leg. Instead of alternating between Paydays and gels on the bike I had a bite of Payday every 10 minutes and skipped the gels. I drank Genesis Pure Systems Hydration throughout the ride. My energy seemed more level; I didn’t feel a sugar rush from eating a whole gel pack at once. Peanuts where a bad omen the night before but on race day they were the ticket!

I started the run in 9th place. I was excited to run, I looked forward to the challenging course that lay ahead of me. A woman passed me at mile 49 on the bike and I saw her leave transition ahead of me. I was hoping to catch her on the run. I passed her going into a short steep hill around mile two. I built a lead on her by mile 6. There weren’t any more women in sight ahead of me. I was hoping that if I held my pace I could keep my position. But I might have backed off, thinking that I was safe. At mile 7 I looked back and the woman I had passed was gaining on me again. I started pushing harder. I surged up the hills. But after a mile she was next to me. She passed me as we entered the campground and headed up a long paved hill. I was sticking right on her shoulder. Then someone yelled, “Go Desiree!” I thought “Oh, isn’t she a fast runner?” Then I looked at my watch and realized I was running a pace that I couldn’t keep up for another 5 miles. Towards the top of the hill Desiree pulled away and I couldn’t catch her again. Now I question whether I backed off because I thought she was a faster runner than me or if I just couldn’t keep up. I think I was probably smart by backing off and racing my own race. By the end I was tired and had I kept up that pace for much longer I would have really struggled at the end. I think I can thank Desiree for pushing me. It was good to have to force myself to run faster to make sure that I wasn’t going to easy. So for a few miles I moved to 8th place but in the end I finished in 9th, my highest placing at Wildflower. I also had my fastest splits in all three disciplines and my fastest overall time. Overall it was a great race.

And then I remember I still had an 18 hour car ride ahead of me. 18 hours that turned into 21. I never knew how much we relied on the GPS until we didn’t have it. Next year we will bring a map that has all of the highways listed with their respective names rather than just a few blue squiggles. Oh well, San Francisco was sunny and I think that’s rare. The gas station attendant in Medford, OR was a friendly fella and I’d never been to Yreka or approached Crater Lake from the West. If we hadn’t been really far behind schedule we wouldn’t have been sitting in the Black Bear Diner in Bend when Adrianne’s mom called to say that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. That’s probably something I’ll always remember.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Travel Log

I’ve been doing some non-race related travel lately, which has proven to be a little less complicated than hauling a bike box around. Here are a few things I learned about training while on our trip:

  • The Dillon, MT YMCA pool is really hot but you have the place to yourself and if you wear a Gonzaga shirt they let non-members in for free. (A non-training related lesson learned in Dillon-If, on your fourth time driving through town you go 37mph in a 25mph zone, you will get pulled over. If the policeman wonders why you would have driven through town 4 times, he might let you off with a warning.)
  • If you ride into Red Rocks State Park, don’t just fly through the entry booth, you have to stop and pay.
  • The Vegas YMCA pool is 25meters so you’ll feel those last few strokes by the end. There’s an 84 year-old man in the weight room who promises not to bench more than 350lbs if his trainer will let him compete in the Sr. Games. The trainer doesn’t trust him to hold back and not go for the win.
  • It’s hard to hit a tempo pace when running on the Vegas strip.
  • Don’t ride east from Barstow unless you like a headwind.
  • The YMCA in Sacramento is busy at noon but the water temperature is great.

My husband Pete and I drove to Southern California by way of Las Vegas. Pete climbed in Red Rocks State Park while I battled the hills and wind on my bike. We spent a nerve-rattling, sleepless night in the back of the truck in the desert near Red Rocks. It poured most of the night and the 50mph gusts shook us awake if we even thought about sleeping. The next night was a bit of a culture shock when we stayed on the strip in Vegas. Luckily we had a night to acclimate before going to the Lady Gaga concert.

Lady Gaga puts on quite a show. When she tells her “Little Monsters (fans)” it’s time to find their selves, they do it. I don’t think Pete and I or our friends Brian and Elle tried hard enough, or else there just wasn’t much to find. Pete didn’t find the need wear tights and to grow a beard and then shave flames into. I didn’t even THINK to wear my wedding dress. Missed opportunities.

From the land of high rollers we drove to Southern California and the Fisch family. Pete’s brother Scott was turning 50 so most of the family got together to celebrate. We had fun seeing relatives we don’t get to see often. We were thankful that Scott and his family were big sports fans when, at 6pm, the living room had to be cleared out so that we could watch the Lady Zags beat Louisville to go onto the Elite Eight. By the end of the night everyone was a Zag fan!

Two days later we arrived in Redding, CA just in time to watch the Lady Zags battle UCLA. We ate tacos at Pete’s brother’s house then drove a few more hours towards home. We set out on this last leg of the trip sad to know that we had just watched Courtney Vandersloot’s last game with Gonzaga. It was such a different feeling than a week earlier when we left on our trip. We were so excited, having just watched the game against Iowa State where Courtney hit 2000 points.

We pulled into the driveway with just long enough for me to panic over the realization that I had a Bridal Shower and an Easter scavenger hunt to plan. But not enough time to do anything about either event before leaving on my next trip.

I’m writing this on my way back from Paralympic CanAms in Minneapolis, MN. I took Michelle, a member of Spokane Area Swimming, to the meet. She had a great meet, getting best times in all of her events and finagling in one race.

Last year this meet was in San Antonio. I rented a bike there, which didn’t fit and led to months of hip problems. This year I took my swimming suit and running shoes and left my helmet at home.

I think that the University of Minnesota gets a bad name (maybe just in my head) because their mascot is the Golden Gopher. However, it’s actually a great place. Our hotel was across the street from the pool so we could go back and forth between swims. I was able to swim in the 50meter pool between prelims and finals. I hardly ever find a 50 Meter pool during the winter and once I got used to the longer distance it felt great. There was a running trail along the Mississippi River that I ran on between Michelle’s events. The sun shone and I felt like I’d finally found spring. I was running with a smile on my face in shorts and t-shirt!

On the last day we took the light rail to the Mall of America where we shopped for 3.5 hours! This was about 3 hours longer than I ever spend in a mall. I was exhausted. The highlight of the day was Legoland. They had blocks in every imaginable color. You could buy blocks individually and take them home in a little to-go container to build your dream home in the color you always wanted, not just red, blue or yellow. I built a Lego figure for my sister. She’s clad in a star-clad tank top, wearing her Justin Bieber hair (which she claims she had before Justin Bieber did) and holding a wine glass since she will soon be running the new Vintage Vines wine shop in Spokane Valley.

Today when I get home I’ll ride and run. Hopefully some of the Minnesota sun followed me to Spokane. Maybe a few days without my bike is a good thing because now I can’t wait to ride!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring Nationals, Clermont, FL

Spring Nationals was in Clermont, Florida over the weekend. The field was large for a US race with over 30 women. It looked like it was going to be a fast race with top athletes like Helen Jenkins and Sara Haskins on the start list.

Lake Louisa, where we swam, was very shallow it was only about chest deep at the first buoy. Our names were called and we lined up on the beach. As the gun sounded we sprinted through three inches of stagnant water, over mounds of sand and through weeds until we finally reached the Lipton Tea-colored water of Lake Luisa, or at least eight inches of it. We splashed through the water until it was too deep to run then we did dolphin dives until it was finally deep enough to swim. At least that’s what everyone else did. Instead, having had little experience in shallow water, I started my dolphin dives too soon and then started swimming too soon. As I sighted I watched the rest of the swimmers dolphin dive away from me.

This wasn’t the best approach. However, it did give me a sense of how my swimming has improved because I was able to swim back up through the pack. I came out of the water in the first half, which seemed pretty good for the way I started. In the past, if I lost the pack I couldn’t catch them again. Our swim times for the 750 meter swim were around eight minutes and we probably only swam for about five minutes of that.

The run to transition was long and ALL OUT. Trying to run through the deep sand to get to the boardwalk felt like running in place. My heart rate was really high by the time I got to my bike. I clipped my helmet, grabbed my bike and ran across the mount line, swerving around riders to get an open spot to mount. I mounted with five others and there were a few a short distance ahead. I sprinted with my feet on top of my shoes half way out on the first lap until I was safely in the pack and knew I wouldn’t get dropped as I got my feet in.

The lead pack had six or eight riders in it. By the end of the first lap almost everyone else was in the chase pack. This was the biggest pack I had been a part of in a triathlon. Since the race was only 20k, the pack was moving fast. However, we weren’t really working together and not everyone had the same level of bike handling skills. Jill Peterson and Amanda Felder were strong and pulled a lot of the time. I stayed near the front where it was a safer. With all of us hitting the U-turn at the same time I was just happy that no one crashed.

We made up a little time on the lead pack but never really got organized enough to catch them. We entered transition about 30 seconds behind. I was near the front of the pack as we ran to our racks.

You wouldn’t think it would make a big difference, but that’s when I learned the importance of not putting off that much needed haircut. And to think, I thought it was just a matter of split end. As I bent over and pulled my helmet off, one side of my sunglasses caught in my helmet and came off my face. “Oh, just leave ‘em,” I thought. But the other side was all tangled in my too-long hair. I couldn’t get them out and I couldn’t disconnect them from the helmet. Finally I ripped them free of my hair-Oh; the split ends-and slipped my shoes on and started to run. I probably only lost a few second but in that short of a race, and with that large of a pack it made a difference. I left transition with a few runners but not the first few that I entered transition along side.

The run was 2-2.5k laps. The first one seemed to pass quickly, the second didn’t. My goal was to run under 18 minutes. It was windy on the way out so I stayed on the shoulder of the runner in front of me. It didn’t feel hard but I knew it would be worse if I were in front running into the wind. On the way back I tried to relax and feel like the tail wind was carrying me. I was running with the women I left transition with. A couple runners from the lead pack fell back and a couple from the chase pack moved up. Overall, I stayed about where I was when I came off of the bike. I was well under 18 minutes on my run so I was happy. I finished 11th, I was a little disappointed not to finish in the Top 10 but everything happens so quickly in a sprint that the time separating finishers was very small. I was happy to have felt strong on the swim and bike and to have PR’d on the run.

Starting this week I’ll switch back to my tri bike and get going on longer rides in preparation for Wildflower. And I’ll get a haircut.

Thanks to everyone who has helped support and encourage me over the winter and into the new season.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Rev3 Costa Rica

I’m on my way home from Costa Rica after racing Rev3 Costa Rica, an Olympic distance race near Playa Conchal, Costa Rica. Getting home will be nice, I’m looking forward to seeing Pete, but I’m going to miss the warm weather. I stay overnight in Boulder tonight then fly home tomorrow. Before leaving Boulder I’ll run and swim with my friend Amanda. She just broke it to me that in Boulder they swim outdoors year-round! Hopefully by the time we swim tomorrow I will have adjusted to that idea. Burrr!

The people at Rev3 took really good care of us in Costa Rica. We had rooms in a condo about 35 minutes from the race site. This led to all kinds of interesting taxi rides but once we were there it was really nice. Krista Baker helped with anything we needed from guarding our bikes to finding us water and setting up taxis. Without her, the race logistics would have been much more complicated.

Hopping Good Luck

When I arrived at my room, I lifted the toilet lid and there was a big frog in the toilet. Frogs are one of my favorite animals so I ran to get my camera but the splash I heard told me I was too late. For the next few days I had my camera when I opened the toilet (As I write this I’m aware that it sounds kind of strange.). He never returned. Finally, the night before the race he was back! But by then I had moved the camera and I missed him. The last time I went into the bathroom before bed he was sitting on the floor. I considered him a good luck sign. I wanted to put him back in his home but since he lives in a toilet I decided not to touch him. He stayed there the rest of the night or at least until 3:30 when I got up and left for the race.

Pre Race Excitement

I had a few issues to resolve before the race. I bought a six Liter jug of water the day before the race thinking that it would last me two days. It didn’t. It was so hot and humid that I drank it all the day before the race. The pro race started at 6:15 and the water in the expo wasn’t set up before our start. I ran all over but couldn’t find any. Finally I settled for the water from the bathroom sink. So far it seems to have been potable. Maybe that can be a separate blog update if it catches up with me later.

I headed down to the beach with lots of time for a good swim warm-up. I put my speed suit on and turned to have my friend zip it up. That’s when I realized that there wasn’t a string attached to the zipper. I wouldn’t be able to unzip it myself in transition. I ran back up to transition, dug through my bag and happened to find an old shoelace. I love MacGyver moments. I asked a volunteer to tie it on then ran back to the water just in time for my usual warm up of about 10 rushed strokes. Oh well, first races are to work the bugs out, right?

Elusive Buoys

The course was great, probably one of my favorites! The ocean was a perfect temperature. The buoys drifted apart, making our swims 25 minutes and up instead of 20 or less. This extra water time probably worked in my favor since I was one of the stronger swimmers. I came out of the water in 4th behind Amanda Stevens, Kelly Williamson and Hillary Biscay. Amanda led the first lap with Hillary and I on her feet but we got off course and Kelly went straight so she led us home in the end.

Wildlife sightings

The start of the bike was unpaved for about 100 meters. Apparently it was Coati Mundi habitat (an animal similar to an aardvark or a raccoon, according to google) so they couldn’t pave it. Nobody was sure why they only lived on that section of the 3 mile road through the resort but we didn’t worry much about it as we tried to stay upright.

As soon as the pavement started the hills began. The first 3 miles of the course consisted of big climbs with fast descents complicated by round-abouts at the bottoms. It was similar to climbing up from Lake San Antonio at Wildflower but more hills and steeper. I looked forward to this part; I love a chance to climb. I was able to get a lead on the riders behind me and I knew I needed it because there were some strong cyclists back there.

Once we were out of the resort area we got to experience what Costa Rica was really like. Cheering locals ran along side of us. Dogs chased each other and the little kids along the side of the road. A herd of cows stayed mostly to the right lane. And one unlucky Coati Mundi who didn’t realize that his habitat was the unpaved portion of the road stood petrified on the yellow line. There was some debate over whether he was dead or alive. Someone said his right front leg was frozen mid-step on the way out and that it was his left that was lifted on the way back. So maybe Coati Mundis freeze as a mode of self-preservation. Someone else saw him standing in place on one lap and toppled over but still in the same position on the way back. She thought the mariachi band that was playing nearby might have put him there as a joke. Obviously, there was way too much thinking about local wildlife.

I kept setting goals for myself on the bike, “don’t let anyone pass until 5 miles…10 miles…the next turn-around.” I made it until about 19 miles. We had one mile left until we headed back into the resort and onto the hills. I kept her in sight but eased off a little to get ready for the hills. I was able to catch her and one other cyclist on the biggest hill. We all came into transition together with the leader a minute ahead.

Sand and Sun

The run course varied a lot with beach, trails, hills, shade and sun. I started out conservatively, wanting to get used to running on the beach and in the heat and humidity. I was running comfortably behind another runner. I debated if I should pass or not but decided to stay a little longer. I didn’t want to go out too hard when we had two laps with the hard hills at the end of each lap.

A couple of minutes later, Kate Major came charging past. I decided to try to stay with her. I kept doing checks of my body and felt like I could keep the pace. I stayed on her shoulder across the beach, through the dirt roads of the little beachside town, around the soccer field, up the gradual climb to the resort and up the steep hills to finish the first lap.

Next we ran downhill on a path through the golf course, the shade was gone and we had a tailwind. I started to feel a little headache coming on from the heat. I ate my gel and focused on getting to the next aid station so I could pour water on myself. Kate started to pull away a little. I was happy that I stayed with her for one lap. I tried not to let the gap between us increase. It seemed like it got hotter and hotter on the last half of the run. The last climb felt never ending but I crested the hill and coasted down the other side and through the finish shoot. It was a good day, I finished 3rd, a good way to start the season.

After the race my roommates (minus Amanda, somehow we didn’t see her when we left which is surprising since she was wearing lime green and yellow argyle golf pants) and I got a taxi and headed to Tamarindo to surf. Kate and Bree taught Malaika and I how to ride the waves, or at least go tumbling head first into them. It was fun to hang out together away form the race and see more of Costa Rica. After all, how can you go to Costa Rica and not try surfing?

Now I head back to winter and real life, but not for too long. Next weekend I’ll be coaching a swim meet all weekend so workouts will be done early morning and late night. The following weekend I head to Clermont, FL for ITU Sprint Nationals and a couple of training clinics. Hopefully I can make it the 9 days until I can get back to warm weather.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Winter Training

Where does the time go? It seems like I was just writing a blog about my last race in Puerto Vallarta and now I’m already getting ready to leave for the first race of the new racing season! I’m kicking off this season earlier than usual with the Rev3 Costa Rica. It will be a chance to find some warm weather, explore a new destination and see where my fitness is at before going into the next training phase in preparation for Wildflower.

This winter my training approach was a little different than the past few years. After being injured last season I started to notice a pattern of training hard all winter and then having some kind of problem in the spring that would hinder my first few races. From saddle sores to mysterious hip problems, it was enough to make me wonder if I was training too much or not specifically enough over the winter. The doctors have finally decided that my left leg is longer than my right and that’s what has been causing my hip pain, so maybe this wasn’t from over training after all but my new plan is going well, I’m swimming and running faster than before and I’m starting to feel strong on the bike, so I’m going to go with it.

From CX to XC

So what have I done all winter? Since my last race was earlier than usual I had a chance to try a couple of cyclocross races in November. I had a great time! It was the dirtiest, wettest and coldest I’ve been without getting yelled at by my parents. I wish I’d known about cyclocross when I was 10. I did the races on my mountain bike in the mountain bike category but next year I think I’ll have to get a cross bike so I can find some more competition and race longer races.

When the snow fell I switched from cyclocross to cross country skiing. We were lucky to have a lot of snow in November. (It’s still here but not nearly as appealing as it once was.) My sister got new skis for Christmas so we skied on the Centennial Trail through Riverside State Park throughout December and January. Pete and I took a couple trips to Winthrop where we worked on our skate skiing technique. Just when we started to improve, we learned the hard way that we needed to work on our map reading ability. (Don’t tell Pete I said that, he will never admit to map reading troubles) We picked a trail that looked like it would climb for a while to a pass and would then gradually descend to the start. We should have looked a little more closely at the topo map. The return trip may have had a net loss in elevation, but there were a ton of uphill in there! Kind of rough for Pete’s second time out on the skate skis.

I have cut out some of the TRX classes, yoga classes and lifting I’ve done in the past. A lot of this I was just doing because I was at the Y anyway, waiting to coach swim team. Now I try to make myself relax which usually turns into running errands or teaching swimming lessons, but overall it’s less tiring than one more exercise class. I’m finding that I’m going into my workouts with more energy, which gives me more desire to push myself. I’m continually surprised at the paces and times I’m able to hold. So maybe there’s something to this whole rest and recovery thing…

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