Monday, August 23, 2010

Sweet & Twisted 2010

Ah Sweet & Twisted, you have not yet failed to live up to your name. Why is it that the all-women’s races (I’m thinking of the Danskin and the Sweet & Twisted) are harder courses than the co-ed races?

I saw a shooting star on my drive out to Pace Bend- which I hoped would be a good luck sign. I noticed a LOT of athletes on their way to the race this time. Usually I don’t see anyone until closer to the site but there were quite a few of us caravanning in. I also passed the Kool Kones trailer, yum!

At the race site, I set up my transition spot, greeted friends (like my partner in crime, Buffy Weaver) and began to think about what kind of race I wanted to have. I visualized a swim with quick arm turnover, a bike with big power climbing up the hills and a run where I not only ran the whole way- but I spent more time running than jogging. Then I placed those thoughts in a little mental envelope and tucked it into my bra.

SWIM: I don’t know what my deal was. I was kept swimming off to the right for the first part of the swim. That was not part of my visualization. I made the turn to head back to the swim exit and I See Terri Stamm pass me on my left. She was haulin’! Again, I had to fight not to be pulled off to the right- those reeds were pokey! Good think I had on goggles! I must have a little imbalance in my stroke somewhere.
Hit the swim exit and ensured that I let the swim volunteers (who happened to be Austin firefighters) help me out of the water. I may have played it up a little. I checked my watch time and it read 00:00:00. Mermph.

Up to transition where a few ants had were curiously milling around on my stuff so I squirted them with my water bottle and got suited up for the bike.  Crap- forgot to take off the tri top (too hot to wear tri top and singlet) so off goes the helmet, off goes the tri top, on goes the singlet on goes the helmet. Sweet- let’s do this!

BIKE: Bike felt pretty solid. Although it took a while to get my legs back. The first time I hit the first hill is always the hardest for me because I’m not yet warmed up. But up and onward I went. A few friends passed me on the bike and we got to cheer each other on- I passed a few people and tried to give them some friendly encouragement. There was a little wind on the backside of the course but nothing daunting. By mile 9, I was already going through the run in my head. As I ran my back back to transition, I passed a bunch of Team Survivor and relay team athletes waiting for their turn and they gave me a big cheer. That felt great and really warmed my spirit.

RUN: On went the run shoes. There were now only 3.1 miles separating me from Lick It Bite It Or Both cupcakes. And that is 3.1 miles too many. I heard Ron on the loudspeaker announce that I was on the run course and that gave me another extra boost. Things felt okay until I hit the big hill- the only real hill on the course- but I could only manage a shuffle up that hill. In fact, I took a little break at the top of the hill to down more water and take in a Hammer gel. And harass Joey Trimyer. The run down was great- it re-energized my legs and I was able to keep a nice little pace for a while- until I hit the sandy part of the course. I tried to run on the more stable parts but the ground still shifted enough to make me work harder than I wanted to.

As it turned out, two friends of mine were the most crucial volunteers (for me) of the day. Tanner Hunt was on the course handing out icy cold towels and giving cheers to everyone and Angela Laidecker was the key volunteer at the final turnaround point. Those two could not have been in better positions as I needed a little extra oomph.
Once I left Angela, I began to open up my stride.  I finished pretty strong and aside from the break at the first water stop- I ran the whole thing.

Unfortunately, I ran it really slow. It’s my only disappointment of the race- my run time. Everything else had improved (I think my swim improved- the run to T1 and T1 times are currently included with the swim time). It seems that my run got slower from last year- when I walked most of it.

What an amazing turnout! It truly was a party- with so many great people from RLE, Rogue, Team Survivor and my friends form other training teams. And getting friendly cheers from strangers- it makes all the heat and burrs and sweat and hills more than worth it!

Truthfully I’m a little discouraged but I’ve decided to stay in the Austin Tri Olympic distance this coming Labor Day. My overall paces are faster at the longer distances and I think if I really focus over the next 2 weeks, I can improve my time over last year. After that… its back to focus on running to get ready for the Warrior Dash in November! Rawrr!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ring of Fire: I Rode Luckenbach!

The morning arrived too early, as always. I didn’t have the usual race day jitters as on this sticky Saturday, I planned to just ride, not race, the hills of Luckenbach and the surrounding areas. I felt prepared for the 40 or so miles of rolling hills but I was mildly concerned about the heat. I’ve learned my lesson about hydration this year and took the time to drink plenty of water and nuun in the days leading up to the ride. I was already slathered in sunscreen when I got into my car at 5:15 am and would reapply just before ride time.

I arrived at Luckenbach in plenty of time- despite a few missed turns and improvised paths. I’m not at my best until 7 or 7:30. Luckenbach isn’t so much a town as a collection of buildings- a dance hall, a bar, and a barn. It has a very Western feel. In fact, scratch that- Luckenbach IS Western. It feels like any minute a trio of cowboys will come loping into town on snorting horses, tie their mounts to the tie post and order three fingers of whiskey at the bar. But instead of dusty faced cowhands, today Luckenbach was filled with brightly colored bike jerseys, two wheeled steeds and water bottles filled with nuun, pure sport and other sports drinks.

Red Licorice Events Brand Ambassador Buffy Weaver and I decided to ride the 40 miler together. Michelle and Terri were also riding the 40- but they set a pace that I was not eager to match. After all, I was simply riding! We rolled out and started on the first part of the course- a lovely little 12 mile loop though the hill country. It was most flat-ish with a couple of short but steep hills. With shady vistas and pastures of goats and cows, I was definitely in a happy place.

I rolled up to the first rest stop managed by AJ’s Cyclery and got a big hug from Tough Cookie and Team Survivor Leticia Olivarez. I downed a couple of Nutter Butters- my favorite, then pedaled on to the next part of the course- a tough out and back. I don’t know if I like out and back or not. In one sense it’s good because you know what the return ride will be like. On the other hand, it’s bad because you know what the return ride will be like! Every hill I flew down made me grimace because I know that on this course, what goes down must come up. One downhill in particular made me wince. I’m normally all for downhills, but as I descended and descended for what seemed like ten minutes I knew this would become my white whale of the race.

The next rest stop was Eli Cohen’s REI Meet Rack and home of my birthday cake! Eli brought a cake for me and his coworker Sarah. I regret that I couldn’t eat more than 2-3 bites but I didn’t want anything that was not essential in my tummy. Pretty soon we began to see some of the other riders heading back our way. These would be the fast 40 milers and the 110/65 milers headed home. They were cruising! Michelle Lopez blasted past us looking strong as ever. What an athlete!

After some merriment and photo ops, we continued along. The sun decided to stay behind the clouds for most of the ride and a pleasant cross wind kept me comfortable. I was sweating heavily but never overheated or felt unduly hot. The hills rolled under my wheels as I passed by more farms and fields and groves of trees. The next stop was hosted by the Ronald McDonald House. I gratefully accepted an icy cold towel from an insistent little girl. I did not need to be asked twice, but she did because I wasn’t fast enough!

Then- it was time to go back. Now, it seemed as though the majority of the hills would be in my favor on the way back- many more downhills than uphills. Except the one. That one. I rode along, trying to remember which hill it was but when we came to the base, there was no mistaking it. Holy cow! That was a long hill. More than a mile of up. So I popped Skippy into an easy gear, looked about 5 feet ahead of my front wheel and dug in.

When I go uphill, I usually like to get a mantra going, or a peppy song of some kind. Sometimes it’s Metallica, sometimes it’s Beastie Boys, sometimes it’s Tool. Today, it was John Denver. For real. WTF? The ONLY song I could get my head to play was “Sunshine on My Shoulders”. Yeah, you know it- you just don’t know that you know it. Here’s a listen.
Yeah. Rock on.

But John somehow crooned me up that hill- I even got some props from a rider who said I inspired him to get up that monster. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was really because of a bespectacled folk singer with a bowl cut.

I felt incredibly satisfied with myself after that hill and although I knew the worst was over, the course taunted me with several more short steep hills. With quads rapidly turning to jello, I finally pulled into Luckenbach and finished the ride. A sweaty, satisfying 45 mile ride that I cannot wait to challenge myself with next year! Perhaps if I bump up to the 65 miler next year, the Carpenters will serenade me.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Jack’s Generic Triathlon. 2010

Sunday was my return to triathlon after a two month break from racing. I was so frustrated with my performance at the CapTex Tri on Memorial Day that I vowed to stay away until I felt truly ready to race again. (You may ask, “Carol, where is your CapTex  Tri race report?” To that I say, the dog ate it). The best thing that came out of that race was what Ginny Rolich told me: “It's the races that you want to quit but don’t, that are your real successes.”

So what did I learn from CapTex?

Pre-race: I hydrated like a – well, I hydrated big time. The whole week leading up to the race, I increased my water intake to drinking 5-6 water bottles worth of water (at least 2 of them with nuun).

Race Prep: I practiced transition and had my race bag packed before dinner on Saturday night. Dinner was light, lean and consumed before 8pm.

Swim: We’ve been practicing bilateral breathing during workouts and I put it to use. No surprise- it works! I got into a really good rhythm: stroke stroke breathe, stroke stroke breathe, stroke breathe sight. My time was a full 10 seconds faster per hundred than my last swim at the Ski Ranch at the Rookie!

In order to stay cool, I stripped my tri top off and slipped my running singlet over my jogbra. This was a HUGE help. I’m not comfortable in just my trisuit for the run so I usually wear my singlet over it but that gets HOT. This time- although I was hot, I was never at risk for over heating. Maybe someday I’ll feel secure enough in just a trisuit but until then, I’m doing the top-swap!

Bike: The bike felt good but ultimately proved to be my slowest MPH. I remember there was one point when I was really moving with a good cadence and I couldn’t suppress a “woohoo!” Although I felt pretty solid, a fair portion of the bike course is incredibly bumpy which makes for a slow ride and tired legs.

On my way down the hill I saw a sight that none of us ever wants to see- medics on course. I could see a bike propped up but two police cars, an ambulance and a civilian car blocked my vision. I know it sounds cheesy, but I had a really weird feeling. I couldn’t see who was down or even how many people were involved but given how close our tri community is, I had a feeling I knew someone involved.

Run: Ah the run. My old nemesis. At CapTex it defeated me and I ended up walking most of the way- but not today. Today I was determined not to walk. I would jog, I would shuffle, I would trot- but I would not walk. Along my run I crossed paths with many friends and we gave each other cheers. In fact, just about everyone I made eye contact with returned my thumbs up or encouragement.
A few minutes into the run, I saw Jen Ritchie coming back towards me. “It was Stacey!” she shouted. “Stacey crashed.” I was stunned. My friend Stacey is has been a training buddy for two years. She’s a cheerful, positive bundle of energy who just completed her first 70.3 (half Ironman) earlier this year. She is currently training for her first marathon and now she’s on her way to a hospital. Knowing there was nothing I could do at this point, I kept on and decided to catch up with Jen once I was done.

Soon I realized that I was at the turnaround point and my legs were still cruising along. So yeah, I took a few walk steps in order to get some water down but other than that- I did it! I ran the whole thing!

I came into the finish and saw fellow RLE Brand Ambassador Buffy cheering me on at the end. I gave it just a little extra across the sand and it was over.  I was very pleased with my run but anxious to find out about Stacey. I soon learned that she was taken to a local hospital and several of our friends were either there with her working to help get her car and gear back to her house.

Buffy and I gulped down our burgers (hers veggie, mine cow) and beers and decided to call it a day. I checked in on Stacey’s status and learned that although she had broken her collarbone and suffered a fair amount of road rash, she was handling it well.

So all in all, a good day for me but with a little more road rash than any of us would like to see. I’ve been in touch with Stacey and she’s managing very very well. None of us are surprised to know she’ll be back at it in a few weeks. That’s just how Rogues roll.