Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Race #1 of the Season: Big Sky Duathlon

As I posted last Monday, I signed up for a duathlon for last Sunday, April 13. If I had known what the weather was going to be, I might never have done it.

It was GORGEOUS weather all last week. Beautiful, sunny, 70s ... and it all went to utter poop on Sunday. It was raining, going to turn to snow and in the 30s. Jenna, who was supposed to race it, backed out since her coach didn't want her to chance injury biking in possible snow. I don't have such voices of reason in my life - and I didn't want to waste the 70 bucks I paid - so I begrudgingly drove up to Commerce City and Dick's Sporting Goods Park. I got there right about 7am - when packet pick-up and transition opened - got my packet and set up my bike right near the bike-out.

 photo big_sky_zps76f37091.jpg

As you can see, trash bags on everything trying to keep everything dry. Bag on my seat, bags covering my aero bars/pads, helmet in a bag, bike shoes in a bag.

I will deviate for a second to say that packing for this race, my first in five months since IMAZ, was SO WEIRD. I didn't need that much stuff since it was a duathlon and I'd be wearing the stuff I'd need for the run, but I brought SO MUCH STUFF because I had no idea of the weather and what I'd want to wear. I also brought a whole bunch of dry clothes to change into just in case (this, I might add, was excellent foresight on my part). I didn't even bother with my transition bag.

Anyway, after setting up, I essentially sat in my car for two hours until my wave started to stay warm. I was parked just on the other side of trans and I could hear everything the race people said on the megaphones, so I figured I was good. I got out every now and then to check things on the bike and put my helmet sticker on and so forth.

At this point, I also decided on a few extra layers. I was wearing:

- sports bra
- arm warmers
- a pink Brooks base-layer thingy (which you can see here)
- tri top
- tri shorts
- blue Nike MHTC pullover
- MaccaX cycling jacket
- race belt skirt
- knee-high compression socks
- cycling leg warmers (after much deliberation)

I also had on my ear mitts (really gotta put those in a "things I love" post soon), a hat and a pair of running glove/mitten hybrids.

 photo big_sky2_zpsf4b1dbeb.jpg

Happily, I found out that Jenna was still coming up to cheer - she made it sound that she was only going to stay for a while since she had to run 22 miles that day since she wasn't racing, but she ended up staying until I finished, which was AWESOME.

She got there, we talked for a bit and soon enough, it was 9:15 and time for my wave to start.

 photo bigskyy_zps93985952.jpg
Collage Jenna made that I stole from facebook. The one on the right is me starting the first run.

Run #1:

The first run went surprisingly well, all things considered. It was cold and my lungs hated me, but I didn't have to walk for the first time until about 1.25 miles in (of the ~2.5 miles - 4K run). There was some wind, but by the end of the run, I felt like it actually had cleared up a bit, precipitation-wise.

I was also warming up - I'm a hot runner - so that was nice. I also knew not to peel off layers though since I had a bike coming up ...

My race plan going in was to take the first run "easy," but that didn't happen as much as I probably would have liked since I was so! happy! to be racing again. Oops.

Soon enough, I saw Jenna and was running into transition.

Time: 24:25 (105th overall; 36th gender; 6th division)

T1:

Peeled off the hat and gloves and changed into my bike shoes. Had some issues getting the plastic bags off, but let me tell you - it was nice having a dry seat and dry shoes/helmet/aeros.

Time: 1:18 (49th overall; 18th gender; 3rd division)

The Bike:

 photo bigsky_zpsf55af841.jpg

Whatever precipitation that might have stopped definitely started back up again by the time I hit the bike. I don't really ride much in wet conditions, so I made sure to take it somewhat easy, but push what was comfortably uncomfortable ... and keep my cadence around 90 (finished with a 93 avg - woo!). The just about 12 mile course (they shortened it slightly for safety) was three loops.

Funny. Last race I did had a three loop bike course. This one, however, didn't suck NEARLY as badly. It sucked, but in different ways.

Each loop went out a bit on a road near the stadium, turned right onto a main road for a few miles, you turned around, turned back on the stadium road, made another turn up a little hill into a parking lot and back around again. Each loop on the main road was into the wind and into the precipitation. On loop one, I'm pretty sure it was hail or something else that hurt like a mofo when it hit my face. On the way out, speeds were slow.

At this point, the conditions were so ridiculous I couldn't help but laugh. It made it easy to keep a smile on my face.

Each loop on the main road on the way back was calm and you could barely tell it was raining/hailing/snowing/whatever. Speeds were also pretty quick. When you turned back toward the stadium, though, you noticed the wind/precipitation again, though.

The few hills on the course didn't seem to bother me - I paid them absolutely no mind. I guess my "embrace the hill" mentality is working ...? Or hills didn't really matter in the grand scheme of cold and wetness?

Loop two was fairly uneventful.

Loop three was notable for the fact that my toes were soaked and I could barely feel them anymore. My hands - gloveless, by the way - were weirdly fine.

Back into transition, seeing Jenna again, yelling that I couldn't feel my toes.

Time: 42:31 (74th overall; 19th gender; 2nd division)

T2:

Transition would have gone a lot smoother had I been able to feel my fingers well enough (okay, I guess they got cold) to change out my shoes with any speed/efficiency.

I also neglected to put my hat/gloves back on. Forgetting the hat, at least, was stupid. Oh well.

Time: 1:17 (60th overall; 18th gender; 4th division)

Run #2:

 photo bigsky2_zpsdac5690e.jpg

I was able to sort of run out of transition, but I will say that very shortly after Jenna took this picture, I walked with her for a minute. I couldn't feel my toes or my face, but oh well.

The last 4K run was the same loop as before, but reversed. That meant that going out, we were running into the wind. That, combined with the fact that I couldn't really feel my feet, meant that I really didn't run much until about 3/4 of a mile in ... at which point my being a hot runner actually paid off for a change and I thawed out. Or at least my feet did enough to run.

Running was still a struggle, but after my feet thawed, it was more due to the fact that the cold hurt my damn lungs and it was really hard to breathe. Still, I pushed it as much as I could. I'm pretty sure it had actually started to snow by this point, too. It wasn't sticking, but it was definitely still doing something wet and miserable.

Not soon enough for my tastes, I was coming into the finish. I should say that except for the first bit of the run, I really didn't get passed too much. In fact, I was actually passing people - I did quite a bit in this race, which is unusual for me, but was REALLY nice. I got passed by this one chick right near the finish, but said "screw you" (internally, of course) and ended up passing her in the final stretch.

As always, I managed my final sprint to the finish, but oh dear lord was it rough.

 photo bigsky3_zpsf9d763e9.jpg
You can't really tell, but there's a girl behind that left post underneath the finish sign - she's the one I passed.

Time: 26:28 (102nd overall; 37th gender; 6th division)

I essentially dragged Jenna straight to the (very crappy, but very welcome) hot chocolate soon as I finished to get something warm into my system. I then grabbed the very reason I signed up for the race - my glorious pancakes and sausage that were actually really tasty.

 photo big_sky3_zps248b2a37.jpg
Being consumed in my warm car.

After I stuffed my face with pancakes, I proceeded to change out of the vast majority of my wet race clothes into dry clothes and socks. Jenna and I then checked out the results.

Overall Stats:
Time: 1:36:01
4/7 division (F30-34)
24/50 females
86/130 overall

I missed third place (and my first ever multisport podium spot) by about three minutes. I had a faster bike (age group winner had the only faster bike than me in the division), faster transitions ... I just got screwed with my run.

I will also say that this race is the first and probably only time I will have a bike split that is that high up in my division. It's usually respectable in the shorter races, but I doubt it will ever be this high up again. I can try to disprove myself though!

In any case, I'm pretty happy with this race. I signed up for it on a whim. I haven't raced in five months. I haven't been training that much ... especially on the bike. I also did it in some pretty bad-ass conditions, so what is there to be sad about?

That being said, I do hope I get some better weather the next few times I race ...

(Much thanks to Jenna - not only for cheering, but also for taking the collage photo and all race photos seen!)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boston Strong

Today is a day that reminds us all that we are mortals.  Potent.  And that our way of life, our ideas, and the things we hold sacred, are under attack from people who just don't see it that way.

Last year, at 2:49 P.M. EST, two Chechen terrorists set off a pair of pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing 3 and injuring hundreds.  After a shooting spree that left a MIT police officer dead and several police injured, as well as one of the terrorists, a massive manhunt ensued in the city of Boston, effectively shutting down the city, until the other punk could be apprehended.  He eventually was, making instant heroes of the Boston PD and the city in general.  

What followed in the coming weeks was nothing short of incredible and inspiring.  Runners everywhere ran with purpose.  The Boston Marathon, viewed in the mainstream as "crazy", was suddenly respected and commended.  The phrase "Boston Strong" entered our lexicon, and everyone in America knew what the number "617" meant.  Blue and yellow ribbons, the colors of the BAA were worn by runners and non-runners alike.  The National Anthem once again carried weight, as did the American flag.  Bruins fans expressed their appreciation.  David Ortiz fired off an impassioned speech that shows how much that city has an effect on people who call it or who have called it home.





When the dust had settled, like with any tragedy, the conspiracy theories flowed and the passion that engulfed the nation calmed down.  Rolling Stone featured the younger brother on its cover, pleading with us to understand this lost individual.  I did a blog post on it, calling out a friend for him supporting both the terrorist and RS.  

Today though, there isn't room to point fingers.  This isn't about the terrorists.  This is about the Boston Marathon.  This is about that awful day.  A day that struck fear in all of us, bringing back images of 9/11.  It's a day to remember.  

I was on the phone with T, and we both observed the moment of silence at 2:49 pm.  Even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes.  I keep thinking about the beauty that came out of that day.  The runners who ran to donate blood.  The spectators that helped out others, even though they were injured themselves.  The increase in interest in the race itself.

Boston Strong.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Perspective and Attitude

As you know from last week, I signed up for and subsequently raced a duathlon yesterday. Had I known what the weather was going to be when I plunked down my money ... I may never have signed up. While you'll get the full recap on Wednesday, I'll give you a teaser:

Rain.
Snow.
Cold.
Wind.
Hail.

Everything weather-related that you could experience in a race - save for heat - I experienced.

And it's funny how perspective and attitude make a difference.

It was miserable weather.

Yet I had already paid my race fee and was off work, so why not race?

I kept a smile on my face.

I enjoy racing. Jenna is awesome and came out and watched (weather conditions caused her coach to make her scrap racing so instead she returned the favor and cheered) and couldn't believe I was smiling the whole time. Neither could the volunteers. But really, what was the alternative? Be miserable and complain? The only way out is through and the way out can be easier if it's enjoyable. In the case of the bike at IMAZ, it was a fake it until you make it kind of situation. Yesterday, I actually, weirdly enough, had fun racing in the conditions. They were so ridiculous that I couldn't help but laugh.

90 minutes of racing is a lot different than 16 hours of racing.

After Ironman, a short duathlon? Pfffft. It was hard and painful, but nothing in comparison. It was also nice knowing how quickly the "race brain" comes back. It was also nice to see that, despite a comparative lack of training this year, how relatively well I did.

Racing is COMPLETELY different than training.

Jenna didn't race and instead ran 20 miles in the same crap. She called me a bad-ass for racing in the weather; me? I think she's more of a bad-ass for training in it! Although training in days like that are what make you a competitor (and Jenna's 20-miler in shit weather is the reason she's a top-amateur triathlete gunning for a pro card ...), racing in it, to me, is so much easier. I would NEVER train outside on the bike in wind, rain and hail ... but race in it? Why not?

I also do believe that I'm a tougher athlete now thanks to Ironman. I've done that; a little duathlon in craptastic weather is nothing.

(Okay, not really, but if that's the way my brain is going to play it, why not use it?)

Perspective. Attitude. Two things I've always had, but two things that have changed over the course of my triathlon journey and two things that will always continue to change.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

3/31-4/6: Mini Day Hike

Once again, we waited until the last day of the month to get in our non-S/B/R-related workout. We had tossed around the idea of throwing a softball ... but the wind made us put the kibosh on that.

So, we thought of what's super easy to do that doesn't require a lot of time (Brandon was on a time-constraint) or effort? We're in Colorado - duh, go hiking!

So, we drove to Matthews-Winters Park, a small little park near Red Rocks and one that I spent a lot of time at as a kid as a picnic stop after various field trips up that way. It's got a (very non-technical) trail that a lot of trail-runners use. We decided to just hike it and it was pretty awesome.

 photo dw_hike_zps0743a8cc.jpg
The two of us. You see the wind making my hair all crazy?

 photo dw_hike2_zps678ef1e1.jpg

The park is mainly open to the public, but there's a section fenced off that contains an old graveyard. The sun was such (and the gravestones are at the perfect angles) that we couldn't tell the dates on anything, but I'm guessing late-1800s to maybe early-1900s. Totally cool, though.

 photo dw_hike3_zpse9d7f3ed.jpg
Brandon climbing up a hill.

 photo dw_hike4_zps4a81564f.jpg
"Man, this elevation stuff sucks."

 photo dw_hike5_zpsad6d1fd0.jpg
My lungs don't like rapid changes in elevation.

 photo dw_hike6_zpsb6441f40.jpg
Action shot of Brandon jumping over a stream.

 photo dw_hike7_zps0399894b.jpg
Sitting on a tree branch.

Just a quick, fun adventure that was definitely a workout as both our butts were sore the next day. Silly quick elevation changes ...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Climbed a Mountain! (sort of)

One of the great things about being a pilot is I get the chance to explore cities that I might not otherwise.  I've been to a lot of places and gotten to see some pretty cool things.  And typically, I try to explore a place by running.

Take Grand Junction, CO.  Situated on the "Western Slope" of Colorado, it's a deserty town close to the Utah border, not far from Moab.  It's about a 4.5 hour drive from Denver, and when I'm there, while I'm still in the state of Colorado, I might as well be a weeks drive from home.  It's a little town in between a set of cliffs knows as the "book cliffs" and the mountains of eastern Utah.  It's a pretty town, known for good mountain biking and farming, specifically peaches, wine, cherries, and figs and dates.  

I first went there in mid-2008 when I was with Lynx.  I fell in love with the peaches and missed going there a lot when I left Lynx.  Now that I'm Kansas City based, flying the Q again, I'm overnighting there a lot.  And Junction, more or less, is where my running comeback has started.

As most/all of you know, I have been very lazy since Ironman.  I know, I know.  But it's time to get going again.  And the best way for me to get going is by running.  So I've been doing a lot of running in Grand Junction.  Our hotel is close to the airport, but nothing is too far away in this city, and if you run about a mile away, you're in the middle of the desert.

Yesterday I ventured out for a 5 miler.  I quickly found myself running by dirt bike tracks and some prickly pear cactus.  There's a lot of sand bluffs around, and on impulse, I decided to climb one.  It might have been a 30 foot climb, but to me, it was amazing.  Even being 30 feet above the dirt trail, I could see far out into the valley of Junction, got a great look at the Book Cliffs, could see the airport, etc.  It was truly one of those breathtaking moments, and just felt great.

Like I said, I've explored some great cities in our country simply by putting on my running shoes and going out. :-)

Monday, April 7, 2014

I May Be Insane ...

... because look what I just did:

 photo ohgodwhy_zpsa8720117.jpg

Crescent Moon has been on my list of races this season for a while ... but look at the date of that du. Yep, April 13th. That is THIS SUNDAY. I am in no way prepared for this race, but hey, pancakes and sausage afterward? And Jenna gets to see me suffer and die ... because this race will involve a LOT of suffering.

Still, I'm weirdly excited at the same time ... which just proves I am a competitor albeit an extremely out of shape one.

Wish me luck, peeps.

Friday, April 4, 2014

3/24-3/30: Longest Run Since IMAZ

Since I have a pesky half-marathon in about a month, I'm starting to up my run mileage and I'm starting to run longer distances. On Sunday the 30th, I went for a five-miler ... the longest run I've done since AZ (something that will happen a lot over the next few weeks).

 photo 3-30run_zps61e7c721.jpg
I look like spring! Also: still excited.

That run was hard. It was windy and ugh, awful. I made it, though. Barely.

 photo 3-30run2_zps3d6830f9.jpg
Dead on the living room floor.

There were a few upsides to the run - my legs didn't feel that awful. It was mostly my lungs. There is still residual strength in my muscles and my brain definitely wanted to go.

I've got 6 to 7 on deck for this weekend; we'll see how well it goes.

Other highlights:
- I also got in a decent trainer ride later that day:
 photo 3-30trainer_zps778bf5ed.jpg
- I may have had my fastest recorded swim EVER early before work Thursday (27th) - 1:59/100m! Pool toy assisted, obviously, but it was still nice to see.