Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Race That Wasn't (Steelhead Specialty: Week 5)

I was scheduled to do my first Olympic distance triathlon this morning.  I was all packed up, dinner was eaten, and I was almost on schedule to get to bed at a reasonable hour before my 3am alarm.

So much stuff!

All packed into one very big backpack

Then it all came apart.

We gave Walter and Spot dinner around 10pm and Walter, who is usually a very enthusiastic eater, just nosed the food around and put his head down on his paw.  Uh oh...not good.  When a bunny stops eating (and subsequently pooping), it's an emergency.  Normally this would be cause for a trip to the emergency room, but thanks to Dr. Beast, we have the required drugs at home and we know how to use them.  Before we started the drugs, we decided to try using abdominal massage to jump start Walter's gut.

Long story short...Mr. R&R and I were massaging Walter's belly until about 2am and he finally produced a little poop!  That meant that we didn't have to resort to using drugs, but it also meant that we were an hour away from the alarm going off.  I curled up on the floor next to Walter and Mr. R&R and hoped for the best.  When the alarm went of at 3am, there was just no way I was going to be able to drive 90 minutes to the race site and race.  It would have been the equivalent of driving/racing drunk.

I went back to sleep and by 9am Walter was doing even better.  We're still not out of the woods by a long shot, but I think we're on the road to recovery.  He's continuing to nibble on kale, making poop, and we're starting to hear little gurgles in his belly meaning that his digestive tract is starting to work again.

Ultimately, I'm really bummed out that I missed my chance to swim nearly the half iron distance in race conditions before Steelhead, but as much as I wanted this race, I want my sweet little baby bunny more.  There's always another race, but there's only one Walter.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sickness and Recovery (Steelhead Specialty: Weeks 1 & 2)

I kind of ran out of time to post last week, so we'll just lump the first two weeks of this training phase into one post - okay?

Week 1 was kind of horrible.  I was doing battle with some nasty mix of a cold and allergies, so sleeping through the night didn't happen and training was minimal.  I did manage to get out to the lake and finally swam my first full open water mile, so that made me happy.  I really needed to get that done for my peace of mind before my first olympic tri later this moth - and obviously before Steelhead.  Next on the swimming agenda is to get my ass in Lake Michigan for a swim.

Week 2 was a lot better.  I was finally able to sleep through the night again, so that really helped a lot.  Of course Mother Nature made running a little difficult since it kept storming!  Mr. R&R and I actually had to turn back on a ride on Thursday night because there was fairly deep water flowing across the bike path!

I'm really happy that the bike feels good again.  For a few weeks I was having a really hard time getting any speed on the bike and I couldn't stand being in aero for more than a minute or two at a time.  I was really starting to worry.

I rode a solid 40 miles with Mr. R&R today and I wasn't that far behind him for the most part!  The hour long run after that ride was another story.  My legs did not want to cooperate.  At least I have 6 more weeks to get it together!

Week 1 Stats:
Swim:     1,785 yards (1.01 miles)
Bike:       27.49 miles
Run:        3.76 miles
Strength: none

Total Time:        3 hours, 47 minutes
Total Distance:  32.26 miles

Week 2 Stats:
Swim:      2,025 yards (1.15 miles)
Bike:       62.81 miles
Run:        5.51 miles
Strength: 1 session (30 minutes)

Total Time:       4 hours, 25 minutes
Total Distance: 62.81 miles

June Totals:
Swim:       4.39 miles
Bike:        186.73 miles
Run:         31.97 miles
Strength:  2 sessions

Total Time:       23 hours, 54 minutes
Total Distance: 223.02 miles

Cumulative Distance: 1241.18 miles - the distance from Milwaukee to Salt Lake City, Utah!

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Whole Lot Of Miles (Steelhead Build: Week 8)

Not a whole lot happening around here except more swim, bike, run!  

Mr. R&R and I were planning on doing a metric century ride (62.1 miles) on Saturday, but when we checked the forecast on the way home from the lake on Friday night it didn't look good.  55-60% chance of severe thunderstorms during the ride?  No way were we going to pack up all our stuff, get up at 4:30am, and drive over an hour just to get rained out.   We ordered a pizza and crashed hard.

Go figure, we woke up Saturday morning to a completely revised forecast (no rain until late evening), but by that time it was too late to make it to the ride.  Time to improvise!

We hopped on our bikes and ended up riding 55 miles...not bad for improvisation!

Any way, I hate to cut this short, but it's my rest day and I really need to crash.  I'm hurting pretty good after a 55 mile bike ride on Saturday and a 10 mile run yesterday.  The Build Phase of my training is done.  The 8 week Specialty Phase is all that remains between me and the start line at Steelhead!

Week 8 Stats:
Swim:     1,453 yards (0.83 miles)
Bike:       70.2 miles
Run:        16.01 miles
Strength: 1 session (30 minutes)

Total Time:       8 hours, 36 minutes
Total Distance: 87.04 miles

*Cumulative Distance: 1139.45 miles - that would put me just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Elkhart Lake Sprint Triathlon (Steelhead Build: Week 7)

The first tri of the season is in the history books, and it was definitely a rough one. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that I got my ass kicked...hard.


I escaped from the office around 4:15 on Friday and arrived home to discover that Mr. R&R had escaped even earlier and had cleaned, lubed, and polished both of our bikes which was awesome because we were facing a 90+ minute drive up to Elkhart Lake for packet pickup.

Unlike many (if not most) of the triathlons we've done, Elkhart is a USAT sanctioned race which means that you have to show up in person, with a photo ID to pick up your packet, so we had no other choice but to make the trip for a 5 minute process.  As long as we were out there, we took a walk down to the lake to check out the swim venue and then a drive to check out both the sprint and olympic bike courses.

The lake looked clear and inviting and, when we dipped our toes in, was pretty warm! The buoys were already out and the sprint buoys looked like they were practically on shore - the olympic buoys (Mr. R&R's distance) looked really far, but less scary to me than they would have a year ago and I started silently berating myself for having signed up to do the sprint instead of the oly.

The bike course was a whole lot of bumpy pavement, sharp turns, and big hills.  I started getting the feeling that my bike average wasn't going to be what I was hoping for and I felt particularly sorry for Mr. R&R and the rest of the oly athletes when we drove that part of the course!  Maybe the choice to do the sprint wasn't such a bad one after all!

The drive home took considerably longer than either of us planned since Siri couldn't seem to find a route that didn't involve driving every friggin' backroad in the middle of nowhere!  We rolled in the door after 9:30pm and still needed to eat dinner and pack up all our stuff.  Ugh.    Packing was done quickly, but carefully since running home for any forgotten items was out of the question.  Dinner was a hurried affair at 10:30pm involving a couple of eggs since neither of was hungry at that point.  I finally got to bed at 11:30pm.

The 3:30am wake up call was particularly painful.  Coffee was made, bikes were loaded, bags were crammed into the car, and bodies were stuffed into tri clothes. We were on the road by 4:30am and I watched the sun rise while occupying myself with forcing down breakfast (Clif Bar Sierra Trail Mix and 20oz Pineapple Skratch Labs).

Thankfully, the drive went quickly and we arrived at the Osthoff Resort right on schedule at 6:00am.  Bikes were unloaded, bottles filled, bags shouldered, and we hoofed it to our respective transition areas to get set up.  I wasn't really nervous, but for some reason (I suspect it was the combination of late dinner, little sleep, and early wake up) my gut started gurgling and I had to deal with that before I could finish my race prep rituals.  Post porto stop, I found Mr. R&R outside the oly transition area and we walked back to the car to drop off our bags (no room in transition for them) before wiggling into our wetsuits for a warm up swim.

On the way to the beach we ran into Mr. R&R's parents who had come to check out what this triathlon thing was all about. I said a quick hello, posed for a pic with Mr. R&R, and hauled ass into the water since the water was closing in 15 minutes.

The water was fairly warm as it flooded my suit, the bottom was soft and sandy, and when I pulled on my goggles and started to swim, it was really clear and so shallow that I could see the bottom as I swam out toward the first buoy.  This was good news to me.  I was ready to rock 'n roll by the time I made it back onto the beach.  I said goodbye to my in-laws, wished Mr. R&R a good race, and made my way over to the sprint start corral.  In the 15 minutes it took for me to get to the swim start, the wind started kicking up and the water got really choppy.  Not ideal, but as soon as the race official said 'Go', I ran into the water and dropped onto my belly and started swimming as soon as the water hit my thighs.

I'll be honest, it was a miserable swim in all that chop.  Every time I put my head down to swim properly, I'd make it 9-12 strokes before I started feeling seasick.  One of my major goals for this race was not to freak out on the swim and I didn't.  I figured out that if I did my 9-12 strokes and then did what I call 'The Tarzan Swim' (freestyle with head out of the water) for about 10 strokes, the seasickness stayed mostly under control. The whole swim was so shallow that people started standing up way too soon and I ended up having to stand up before my hands touched the bottom to avoid getting stepped on.  Whatever.  The swim was done.  Time to focus on T1.

Swim: 9:52 (2:02/100 yards)

Goggles went on top of my head and I had the top of my wetsuit off before I started running up the hill toward transition.  The run to T1 was really long and the official end of the swim was pretty far out of the water - which annoys me because I think I ended up having a really fast (for me) swim, but I'll never know for sure.  I easily found my rack and finished stripping my wetsuit.  On went the bike shoes, glasses and helmet and I jogged to the mount line.  I could really feel my lack of transition practice because it took forever!

T1: 3:46

Almost immediately the bike started climbing hills.  I tried to settle in and find a rhythm, but it was rough. Around Mile 2 there were 2 really sharp turns that actually had signs and volunteers screaming  at us to 'Slow Down'.  I'm glad I heeded the advice, but every time I would get up to a good speed, I'd have to hit the brakes to take a turn and then start over again - usually while climbing a hill into a headwind.  I spent the entire ride grinding up hills and flying down the other side.  I did quite a bit of passing on the bike, so that was encouraging, but I was more than happy to take those two ugly turns on the way back in since the wind was starting to hit me from the side and I had no desire to go flying sideways.

Official Time: 49:24 (15.1mph)
Garmin Time: 49:25 (15.6mph)
*The official length of the bike course was 12.4 miles, but my Garmin clocked it at 12.89 miles.

The run into T2 was short and I arrived at my rack to find that someone had either dumped their bike or it had fallen off the rack and onto my stuff!  I re-racked my bike, re-racked the other person's bike, threw on my running gear and booked it out of there.  The run out of T2 was long (almost the same as the run to T1, but in reverse).

T2: 3:04

I felt like I was running pretty well as I left transition.  Breathing was even and controlled.  Jello legs were minimal.  Maybe there was something salvageable in this race.  Then the climbing started.  At first, it was a subtle uphill to Mile 1. It wasn't a great mile, but it was manageable.  All of Mile 2 was a very steep uphill climb.  The wind that had been such a pain in the ass for the swim and the bike seemed to have disappeared and the sun was scorching.  I walked a lot - along with a bunch of really fit looking dudes sporting M-Dot tattoos on their legs - so that made me feel a little better about the walking.  I drank half a cup of water at the aid station and dumped another one over my head - which made me feel better for about 2 minutes.  Fortunately, what went up finally got to come down.  The last mile was mostly downhill, so I started forcing myself to pick up the pace.  I saw my mother in-law cheering as I took the final turn into the chute and did my best to sprint it in.

Run: 32:18 (10:15/mile)

My father in-law was waiting on the other side of the chute in the shade, so I hung out with my in-laws after I exited the finish, and waited for Mr. R&R to come into T2.  He came in looking pretty good for a guy who just survived double the hell I endured on the bike course and headed out for a 10k run.  I figured that I had about 50 minutes from the time he started the run, so I left my in-laws in the shade and made my way back to transition to collect all my crap (they started tearing it down before the last sprint athlete finished) and haul it back to the car.  Once I rejoined Mr. R&R's parents, my best guess was that he was less than 15 minutes away from finishing, but I was wrong.  When he'd been out for an hour, I started getting a little worried.  At an hour and ten minutes, I knew something was definitely wrong.  I was about 1 minute away from starting to walk back along the course to see if I could figure out what was going on when I spotted him coming down the chute.

It turns out that Mr. R&R's usually very stable gut had started giving him serious problems at Mile 2 and he'd been forced to walk for large chunks of time.  Ugh...not the way to start a season!

We said goodbye to his parents and I accompanied Mr. R&R into his transition area to help him collect all his gear since he still wasn't feeling the greatest and we were on our way home...both happy with some parts of our respective race, disappointed in others, and seriously craving a nap!

Overall, I'm happy I did this race and got my ass kicked by it.  It showed me where I'm making improvements (not freaking out in far from ideal open water situation and still meeting my age group placement goal) and where I need to do some serious work in the 9 weeks remaining until Steelhead (bike a lot more big hills and do more bricks).

Time: 1:38:26
Overall Place: 200/298
Gender Place: 65/126
Age Group Place: 7/17

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Harborview 8k Race Recap (Steelhead Build: Week 6)

My 2017 race season kicked off on Saturday night at the inaugural Harborview 8k in Port Washington.  Obviously my focus this year is on multisport racing, not road racing, but this race was a) a night race b) a hard to find distance c) a distance I haven't raced in 5 years and d) associated with a Pirate Festival, so...why not!?!?

Mr. R&R and I got to Port Washington a bit early so we'd have time to find parking, pick up our packets, and scope out the Pirate Festival.  Walking from the car to packet pick up I was boiling to death, but as soon as we walked out onto the pier it was freezing!  I've lived close to Lake Michigan my entire life and I'm no stranger to hearing 'cooler temperatures near the lake' but this was something else.  Pick up was a breeze and right next to Wisconsin's only tall ship, the Dennis Sullivan. 

We walked through the Pirate Festival (lots of cosplay), checked out the ginormous fish swimming in the harbor (did not make me want to swim in Lake Michigan), and sized up the competition! 

Mr. R&R and I went back to the car to drop off our sweats and grab our race belts and let me tell you - I did not want to walk back onto the pier where it was cold and windy!

There was only about 20 minutes to go until gun time, but it was a cold wait.  I occupied myself by trotting after Mr. R&R doing a warm up jog, strides, and stretching.  Finally, the announcer called us onto the pier.  The pier (on the right side of the picture above) was really narrow, so I seeded myself a little farther forward than I normally would have in hopes of getting a clean start.

The count down came.  5...4...3...2...1...GO!  And we were off.  I knew from the beginning that I was going to get passed a ton in the beginning, but at least I didn't spend the first 1/4 mile trying to dodge around people.  As soon as I hit the end of the pier it was like someone opened an oven door.  The wall of heat was insane. We took a couple of quick turns and I found myself running right through the Pirate Festival!  I focused on taking even breaths, controlling my pace, and high five-ing little kids as I ran past.  After the festival there was a short stretch of flat road followed by a massive, ugly hill.  I dropped to a power walk to lower my heart rate  before remembering that I had some goals for this race and picked it back up.

My race goals were simple:

#1 The Nearly Foolproof Goal: Beat my 8k time from 2012 (50:07).  To do this, all I had to do was maintain a 10:04/mile pace or faster.  I was 99.999% sure this was possible even if everything went to hell.

#2 The Probable Goal: Finish in under 50 minutes (pace of 10:03/mile or faster).

#3 The Stretch Goal: Finish in under 48 minutes (pace of 9:51/mile or faster).

Coming back down the monster hill, I hit Mile 1 in 9:19.  This was encouraging since I still 3.97 miles to go and since I tend to slow down as the miles pass I was banking time.

We turned onto the Ozaukee Interurban trail and a subtle downhill. Mile 2 clicked by in 9:27 - still way ahead of plan!  I was pleasantly inside my own head until some random girl came up behind me blasting music on her phone - without headphones!  There were definitely some WTF thoughts running through my head at that point. I briefly considered saying something to the effect of "Dude, did it ever occur to you that not everyone enjoys listening to slow country tunes as much as you do?" I really thought about saying something when she started singing!  I realized that all this irritation was actually sucking energy from me and that was something I couldn't afford, so I focused on tuning it out and getting back inside my head - and it worked.  My pace started falling again.

Just after we turned off the Interurban Trail there was another water station (again with no water and a few boiling hot cups of blue Gatorade) and the Mile 3 marker!  I was absolutely amazed to see 9:04 on my watch.  I started having thoughts of what was possible.  My watch was set to show current pace, distance, and average pace for the entire run and I was seeing an average far below even my stretch goal. Of course, then shit got real.  Mile 4 was a whole lot of uphill climbs and my pace went to crap since I took a couple of walk breaks up the hills.  I hit the Mile 4 marker in 10:08.  Ugh.

Fortunately, what goes up must come down. As soon as I topped that last hill there was a long, beautiful stretch of downhill.  I just let go and let my legs and gravity do their thing. My pace for that stretch ranged between 7:30-8:22/mile.  It was awesome!  After that it was a quick turn over a lighted bridge and a wall of cool air hit me as I turned back out toward the water.  There was less than half a mile left and I was pacing in the 8's.  It was starting to hurt, but there was no way I was letting up now.  I took the final turn toward home, saw Mr. R&R, and started sprinting for the line.

I crossed the finish line in 46:08 - eclipsing my 5 year old PR by 3 minutes and 59 seconds! 

I may be looking down, but I liked what I saw!

Going into this race, I knew that setting a new PR was almost a given as long as I didn't blow up completely, but what actually happened surprised the hell out of me.  I guess all this tri training is paying dividends a little early!

Time: 46:08 (9:17/mile pace)
Overall Place: 182/582
Gender Place: 89/413
Age Group Place: 19/83 (F35-39)

Up next: Elkhart Lake Sprint Triathlon on June 10th.

Week 6 Stats:
Swim:    1,986 yards (1.13 miles) - all open water
Bike:      41.5 miles
Run:        8.27 miles
Strength: 1 session (30 minutes)

Total Time:       5 hours, 39 minutes
Total Distance: 50.90 miles

Cumulative Distance: 1020.52 miles - about the distance from Milwaukee to Orlando, Florida.  Say hi to Mickey for me!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Taking The Plunge (Steelhead Build: Week 5)

Memorial Day Weekend:  A time to honor the fallen, parades, barbecues, and shimmying into a wetsuit so you can jump into a lake!  What, just me on that last one?

I approached this weekend with a mix of excitement and fear since I knew I would be doing my first open water swim of the year - and my open water issues are well documented.  Mr. R&R and I packed up all of our stuff (and our paddle boards and the required stuff for that) and headed up to the lake near Yada Yada's house.  I think I've described it before, but I really like this lake because it is a) small b) does not allow motorized boats (and therefore tastes like a lake rather than like gasoline and oil) and c) usually has sighting buoys set up in a 1000 meter course around the lake.

We got to the lake mid-afternoon and prepared to be stared at and peppered with questions - which is what generally happens when people see you pulling on a full body wetsuit, donning a swim cap, and strapping a trailer/rescue buoy around your waist when most people there don't venture more than 10 feet from shore.  As it turns out, we weren't the only weirdos that day.  Another couple was fully suited up and on their way back from the other side of the lake!  We waded into the water as they came in and the four of us chatted for a bit about wetsuits (this was their first wetsuit experience), water temp (cold, but not as bad as I expected), and weed levels (really high already).  I think just hanging out, talking, letting my suit flood, and getting used to the water helped a lot.  Finally, it was time. The buoys weren't out yet, so Mr. R&R took the lead and I followed him.  We took it really slow, but I'm happy to report that I swam 800 yards and DID. NOT. FREAK. OUT.  In fact, we were bobbing around in the middle of the lake and I said something like, "I'm ready.  I want to race - soon!"   I'm not saying that my open water issues are cured, but this was by far the most successful first open water swim ever.

Post-swim we dragged our paddle boards down to the beach, inflated them (holy arm-burning workout), and took them for their maiden voyages.  I was a little concerned that an inflatable board would feel different/not be as stable as the ones we rented last summer in North Carolina. I had nothing to fear.  The boards were rock solid, speedy, and easy to maneuver.  We paddled all over the lake, checking where the buoys would likely be and seeing just how weedy the lake was (answer: very) for over an hour.  I can't wait to take my board out again.

I also took the figurative plunge this weekend and registered for some B races leading up to Steelhead.  I'll be taking on a 8k (that ends at a pirate festival) next weekend, a sprint tri a week later, and my first olympic triathlon  three weeks before Steelhead.

Other weekend activities included a long run (didn't go well) followed by a really fun bike ride with Mr. R&R - complete with setting a new PR on the 'Til Death Do Us Part segment. I recall glancing down and seeing a speed of 23.9 mph at one point!

Week 5 Stats:
Swim:     3401 yards (1.93 miles)
Bike:       30.68 miles
Run:        12.11 miles
Strength: 1 session (30 minutes)

Total Time: 6 hours, 41 minutes
Total Distance: 44.73 miles

Cumulative Distance: 969.62 miles - that would put me somewhere in the vicinity of Regina, Saskatchewan!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Somewhat Slow Sprint (Steelhead Build: Week 4)

As of this week, I'm half way through my Steelhead training plan.  It certainly hasn't been perfect, but I never expected it to be.  When you write a training plan, it represents what would happen in a perfect world - you know, that place where life doesn't occasionally happen!  That said, I've been missing a few more workouts than is reasonable, so I'm going to try very hard to improve on that for the second half.

Build Week 4's highlights included:

Racing the sunset on a new-to-me bike route with Mr. R&R on Thursday night:

How have I lived in this area for 37 years and I never knew about this?!?!

We also made a stop at Emery's to pick up a veritable buffet of hydration options.  I've learned that my stomach doesn't tolerate Gatorade at all, so I'm going to have to bring my own electrolyte replacement to Steelhead.  A while back I tried Nuun at the recommendation of one of the guys at the bike shop and it was foul, so that's out.

Also, I need to feed myself some calories on the bike, and while I really like Clif Shot Bloks, I wanted to see what else was out there.

I mixed up the Skratch Labs raspberry when we got home and I'm glad I did it before I was riding.  I hated the taste.  It sort of tasted like a less sweet version of Lipton Raspberry Iced Tea - it's not going to work for me.  Mr. R&R mixed up a bottle of Skratch Labs Pineapple for himself and that was much better!  I'll get back to you on the Lemons & Limes flavor and the HEED at a later date.

Sunday brought a whole lot of sweat and a chance to test out Skratch Labs in action. My training plan called for either a sprint tri or a triple brick.  Since it's a little early for triathlon season here, I went for a triple brick with really long transitions!  Mr. R&R and I hit the pool in the early afternoon for a swim.  I swam 1800 yards (my Garmin skipped 25 yards, so I only get credit for 1775 yards) in 43:29.  A sprint tri would have only required 400-500 yards, but I figured if I was going to go to the trouble of getting wet, I'd do the swim equivalent of an Olympic triathlon.

We headed home, changed into tri clothes, got our bikes set up, and got down to business.  Since the weather was overcast and windy, we opted to ride indoors and run outdoors.  I rode for 75 minutes (about 15.5 miles) and consumed an entire bottle of Skratch Labs and the GU Stroopwafel pictured above.  The Stroopwafel was really tasty, but it was really messy and difficult to eat on the bike.  I think it would be better suited to hiking or as a pre/post race snack.  When the ride program ended, I shut off my computer, hustled upstairs to put on running shoes/hat/jacket and got out the door.  The first mile felt pretty good (along with a stop to stare at what was likely a mink swimming in a retention pond).  Mile 2 was a little more uncomfortable since my route turned into rolling hills, but it was still my fastest mile of the day.  Mile 3 was rough, but I got through it.  When I hit the end, Mr. R&R was waiting for me and we walked the chilly mile home together (with another stop to admire the mink)!

12 weeks down.  12 to go!

Week 4 Stats:

Swim:    1775 yards (1.01 miles)
Bike:      40.26 miles
Run:       7.38 miles
Strength: 1 session (30 min)

Total Time:       5 hours, 18 minutes
Total Distance: 48.65 miles

Cumulative Distance: 924.9 miles - approximately the distance between Milwaukee and Denver, CO. And as of this week, I've officially surpassed my total mileage for 2016 - and it's only May!