Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gratuitiously Cute's been a while since I've posted gratuitously cute bunny pictures!

Awww, Mom...why do I have to take a bath?
All clean and cuddled up in a towel.
Playtime in the kitchen!
I swear I see another bunny.
I see one too!
All that fun makes us hungry!
Are you overloaded on cute yet?  No? more.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Shoreline Duathlon

I was so excited to race the Shoreline Duathlon on Saturday morning for the silliest reason: I finally got to wear my team tri top! It almost made the 4:45 am wake up time seem bearable.

Going in, I had exactly zero expectations for the run course.  They changed it up a bit from last year and now the run legs are substantially longer and feature the series of switchbacks twice: once going down hill and again...going up hill. 

The gun went off and I hauled ass, knowing that most of the first mile was flat or down hill and the big hill was going to kill my pace.  I hit Mile 1 in 8:11!  The course followed the Shoreline for about 1/10th of a mile before it began the wicked climb back up the bluff.  I ran for as long as I could, before power walking the rest of it.
As predicted...the hill killed my pace.
Once we reached the top of the hill we ran through the woods on the cross country portion of the course. It was cool and shady which made it a lot easier to recover my pace.  Before long, I was back on concrete and running into T1.

Run 1: 20:21

I flew into T1, threw on my helmet and bike shoes, and jogged out to the mount line.

T1: 1:45

Once I was out on the bike course, I spun easy for a little bit as I pulled on my gloves, took a drink, and settled into my saddle.  Last year, my legs felt like lead for the entire ride and I loathed every minute of the rolling hills.  This year was a complete 180. It was possibly one of the most perfect rides I've ever had. I passed people, rarely got passed, and only really struggled on a couple of random miles (mostly because my booty was getting kind of sore). I was almost finished, when I took a turn at about Mile 20.5 a little too fast, hit some gravel, and lost control of my bike.  The next thing I knew, I was laying on my right side in the gravel with my bike resting on my helmet.  The good news is that I didn't break any bones, my bike (once I fixed the dropped chain) was rideable - although the left brake hood, brake lever, and shift lever were unusable since they were bent inward and I had to ride with my handle bars sideways since the stem got knocked 90 degrees in the crash, and I managed not to tear my new tri top!
The bad news: A girl saw me crash and tried to stop to see if I was okay. Unfortunately, she stopped too fast and ended up crashing (and damaging her bike) herself.  I felt awful and apologized profusely as we both picked ourselves up and remounted our bikes. I limped my bike into T2 and have never been happier to be off the bike.

Bike Time: 1 hour, 17 minutes
Avg. Speed: 17.1 mph

Can you tell where the crash occurred?
I jogged my bike back to the rack and switched back to my running shoes, while simultaneously waving off the medical volunteer who asked if I wanted to get the scrape on my elbow looked at.  I promised I'd stop at the med tent...after I finished the race! 

T2: 1:41

The second run course was identical to the first; only in reverse.  The cross-country portion wasn't too bad and I did more running than walking and running the long hill down the bluff was my favorite part of the whole course - just like it was last year. The view of Lake Michigan was absolutely magnificent and I had one of those "This is why I do these things" moments. Of course, hitting the bottom of the hill meant having to go back up...via those miserable switchbacks.  I won't lie. My arm was hurting pretty bad and my legs were absolutely toasted, so I walked most of them. I hit the top and dropped right back down to a respectable running pace, knowing it was almost over. 

I took the final turn and broke into a sprint.  I was almost to the finish line when I heard the announcer say, "And here comes #121 from Tri Wisconsin...and it looks like she's sporting a little road rash!".  I felt a little rush of pride, to be recognized as a member of Tri Wisconsin, and it put a smile on my face as I crossed the finish line...less than 2 minutes behind Mr. R&R (the closest I've ever come to catching him in a race).

Run 2: 23:03

Official Finishing Time: 2:04:11

I made my way through the finishing chute, locating Mr. R&R and saying hello to Dr. Beast (who kicked some serious usual), before the vultures from medical insisted on looking at my arm.  The hydrogen peroxide stung like hell and when the girl scrubbed out the gravel, I may have been biting on my knuckles.  Before long, I was sporting a nifty little elbow wrap, collecting my stuff from transition (after hugging it out with my fellow crash victim) and was on my way to Emery's to drop my bike off to be fixed. 

The owner, Brent, was outside when we walked up (still in race clothes) and he took the time to assess the damage himself instead of handing it off to one of his guys.  We browsed the store as I steeled myself to hear a huge number and a long wait time to get my bike back in working order.  It turns out that in addition to knocking my stem out of alignment and bending the brake hood/brakes/shifter, I also managed to screw up the rear derailleur, and knock both wheels out of true (which doesn't surprise me in the least) - and the grand total to fix my idiocy was a whopping $45...and he'd have it done later in the afternoon!  Wow.  I mean I've always had a really high opinion of Emery's, but this just raised the bar another notch.

All in all, it was a great I just have to hope my damned elbow heals fast!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

USAT Age Group Sprint National Championships

The USAT Age Group National Championships came to Milwaukee this weekend, featuring an Olympic distance race on Saturday and a sprint distance race on Sunday.  The Olympic distance event (which requires qualification) boasts an incredible field of top age-groupers and also serves as a qualifier for Team USA.  The sprint distance event was open to all age groupers and I had the chance to volunteer at it.  I originally signed up to volunteer on the run course along with the Iron Cheerleader and 3 other members of the Newbie Herd, but when we arrived this morning they were over-staffed on the run course and under-staffed on the bike course, so we agreed to help out there while the Iron Cheerleader stayed on the run course.

Our day began with a walk up the long hill onto the Hoan Bridge - which is normally closed to pedestrian traffic.

Once we were up top, we split into two groups to man the rubber mats covering the expansion joints on the bridge.

These nasty joints suck to drive over and are so wide that a bike tire could get caught and cause serious injury to the riders - especially at the speeds they were traveling downhill.
Our job was to direct the riders over the mats as they traveled both down the hill and back up it and to reposition the mat as needed - we had to do this quite often since all the bikes traveling over them made them move a lot!

From our position on the bridge, A and I had  great views of the swim venue, Lake Michigan, the City, and a water treatment plant.

Before long, the lead cyclist came over the hill.  From there on, there was a steady stream of athletes.  A and I were cracking up as they popped up from their saddles at our shouts of 'Speed Bump'!
Some of the athletes looked like they were hurting, and I didn't blame them. They'd had a rough climb to the top of the bridge and the knowledge that they'd hit the turnaround point and have to climb it again in reverse.  Others had the biggest smiles on their faces - like they couldn't believe that they were actually at the Age Group National Championships!  They were all incredible to watch.
A & I screamed and cheered for every single one of them, complete with an impromptu dance party and singing of Lady Gaga tunes, until the very last athlete made her way back up the hill.  She was last by several minutes, had the sweep vehicle right on her tail, and she didn't quit. That takes a lot of guts (at least in my opinion).

Once she passed us by, our duties were complete, so the four of us made our way back down to the finish area, grabbed a snack, and chatted about our race plans for the rest of the season - and next season!  The USAT Age Group Nationals will be in Milwaukee again next year, and we're all seriously considering going for it.  After all, how many people can say they raced in a national championship in their hometown?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Road Gunk, Graduation, and Warm Fuzzy Feelings

This week was a really nice mix of workouts, fun, and good food - with a side of warm, fuzzy feelings.

I may have pissed off a few people in the process, but I finally made it to the beach for open water swim practice tonight.  I signed in, pulled on my wetsuit for the first time in two weeks, promptly discovered that my Garmin was dead. Okay, not the most ideal situation, but I was willing to deal with it - I already knew the distance. Time...well...probably better not to know!  I waded in and spent a little time hanging out in the shallow area acclimating to the water temperature (cold) and hoping A would make an appearance so I'd have someone to swim with. I know I swam the same distance two weeks ago, but without the huge turn buoys, the course looked really imposing and scary.  It became obvious that A wasn't going to make it, so I had to screw up my courage and swim the whole thing solo.  I started out super slow, popped my head up a lot to sight (note to self: scratched up goggles suck in open water), and swam a lot of breaststroke so I wouldn't go off course, but I never had to flip onto my back (which is a sign that I'm either super tired or super freaked out)!  My reward for surviving a solo open water swim was a close encounter with a flock of ducks and dinner with Little Brother!

While I was thrashing around in the water on Monday night, Mr. R&R took his bike to Emery's in hopes of figuring out what has been causing him so much knee pain every time he rides.  After some adjustments to his pedals and cleats, he was sent on his way and told to come back if the problem wasn't solved.  We decided to go for a ride on Tuesday night to test it out.  We arrived at the Rail Trail just as a light rain was beginning to fall and decided to ride anyway. The 7 miles out wasn't too bad. My biggest complaints were low visibility (my glasses kept fogging up), road grit accumulating on my water bottle spout (If you want to experience it for yourself, roll your water bottle in a sandbox and then try to take a drink.), and water running down the back of my shorts!  The ride home was just an exercise in misery, but it was good practice both mentally and physically.  There's always a chance that it will rain on race day.
Not too bad for pouring rain
I think I'm doomed not to make it to track practice.  Once again, I found myself still parked at my desk when I should have been warming up.  The night wasn't a total loss though. Mr. R&R and I took a nice walk on the Eastside, grabbed dinner at our favorite Greek place, and stopped at Whole Foods to pick up greens for Walter and Spot.

Villa Terrace Museum at Sunset
And since it was the last day of July, I also tallied up my mileage for the month.
Swim: 5,720 yards (3.25 miles)
Bike: 59.31 miles
Run: 25.94 miles
Total Distance: 88.93 Miles
Total Time: 11 hours, 30 minutes

I wasn't really in the mood to run when I made it home on Thursday night, but eventually I talked myself into an easy 3.  I wore my Mirage 3's and had a great run as far as mile splits go. Unfortunately, I kept getting shin splints in my right leg (usually a rookie problem) and my right ankle was a little sore when I got home.  An icepack helped a lot.

The plan for Friday was to leave work (summer hours), hit the pool for a while, and meet a few of The Usual Suspects for drinks. What actually happened: I got sucked in by the gravitational pull of my bed and ended up taking a 2 hour nap before I met The Suspects!

On Saturday, the Newbie Herd celebrated our "graduation" at the Iron Cheerleader's house.  There were burgers, beers (so many varieties of beer, far too much fruit (this is what happens when you generically say 'bring a dish to pass'), and a few tears.  The first tears belonged to the Iron Cheerleader and then to the rest of us!  We all chipped in for a little "thank you" gift and it turns out that it couldn't have come at a better time for him.  He told us a the story of what had transpired the night before the party and by the time he was finished, there wasn't a dry eye in the place. It turns out that the Iron Cheerleader's Ironman training isn't going well at all.  He's drastically under-trained and the race is in 5 weeks - that's the blink of an eye in the scope of Ironman training.  He met with his life coach on Friday night and unburdened himself  to her about how badly things were going, how overextended he was, how he wasn't sure if he should continue leading the tri club's Newbie program next year, and that he was having serious doubts about his ability to finish his final Ironman, much less to break his PR - which was his goal from the outset. The life coach worked with him to evaluate and revamp his goals. Instead of chasing a monster PR, his new goal is to finish the race 1 minute faster than his current PR - and if he doesn't pull it off, he'll still finish and be proud to hear Mike Reilly call him and Ironman for the fourth time.  Apparently the life coach decided that that was also the moment to spring part of our gift on him.  She told him that he needed to believe in himself - after all, his most recent pack of Newbies believed in him enough to pay for the session that they were having that night - and the next one.   By this point, the Iron Cheerleader had tears running down his face and he thanked us for inspiring him enough to keep at it.  We were all stunned - and a little teary eyed as well.  When he opened our other little gift, he was shocked.  It turns out that he's been having massive bike problems - and our gift card to the bike shop we all use will help alleviate some of the financial burden of the repairs.  

After all the emotional stuff, it was time for cake!
The bakery couldn't spell, but the cake was good.
While we were munching away, the Iron Cheerleader mentioned that no one has ever been at his 3 previous Ironman's to cheer him on. Sure, there were other people from the tri team along the course, but no one had ever come out specifically for him.  Oops...we made him all emotional again when we told him that 4 of us had volunteered to work a water station during the marathon portion (our shift will likely be during the time that the pros will be on the course) and that after our shift, we were planning to be at the finish line (and possibly at another point along the course - which we haven't told him yet).  We want to be there to push him - the way he pushed us - and to see him become an Ironman for the final time.

Long story short: If you do good things for others, eventually others will do good things for you.

Sunday was kind of a lost cause. I was up at 6am to take Mr. R&R to the airport, did some yard work, spent over 4 hours removing viruses and other little nasties from my mom's computer, and had absolutely no energy left to swim, bike, or run.  Instead, I settled for cleaning my bike. It desperately needed it after Tuesday night's rain ride. Between rainwater, chain grease, road grime, and sweat it was GROSS.

A mixture of chain grease and rainwater
I hosed. I scrubbed. I de-greased. I de-greased again while scrubbing with an old toothbrush and getting spattered with lots of icky stuff.

Nasty road grime in my rear derailleur and cassette
It took forever to get all the gritty crap out of the chain, cassette, and derailleurs. Every time I thought I'd gotten all of it, I found more.  Eventually, I deemed it "clean enough", reattached my front wheel, polished the bike, and hauled it back to the basement so I could put it in the trainer and re-lube the chain.  Normally re-lubing is a two person operation. One person sprays and wipes. The other turns the pedals and runs through the gears so everything gets greased. Since I was on my own, I did a lot of hopping on and off the bike, but so far I think it worked out.  I guess I'll find out the next time I take it for a ride!