Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Slowest Triathlete -- on SNOW!

Greetings from Colorado! I'm very much enjoying "off season."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ladies....

here's something that'll add a little heat to the this cold, bitter winter....

The top ten hottest male triathletes

I was so distracted by the collection of hotness that I almost forgot I was reading this in the pajamas I've been rockin' all day, with a kleenex box under one arm and my greasy hair going every which way from being in ever-changing horizontal positions for the past 16 hours. Ugh. Two colds in six weeks. How does that happen? I'm ready for flu season to be over!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Twenty levels of hell

I'm gonna feel this one for sure. This morning's boot camp was circuits. 90-seconds (read: an eternity) per activity the first time around, and 45 seconds the second.

Ouch.

I had a hard time holding my arms up long enough to blow-dry my hair after class. The likely culprit -- well, there are a few offenders, but I think walking push ups are the most guilty. Ya, who thought those up? Like regular push-ups weren't enough to make my wimpy little arms feel noodle-icious, lets add a core component and sideways motion. These were definitely directly out of the devil's playbook.

And can we talk for a minute about my bottom? Cuz that hurts too. There seemed to be a lunge theme throughout the workout. Pick a format for workin' the booty and I think we did it.

If that's really what hell is like, and I end up there, I'll probably have a very nice ass.

Monday, December 15, 2008

You've got mail

I love mail. Especially when it comes in box form. And especially boxes that contain gear. Look what the friendly UPS person brought me today. Brand spankin' new trail runners. Love them. Supportive, stable, yet surprisingly cushioned. Perfectly sized. Oh, and did I mention they are waterproof. Oh yeah. Gore-tex. Bring it on winter. These puppies are gonna cut through sidewalk crud like my sweet K2's cut through the spring slush on the last run of the day. No need to join a gym now.

In fact, I kinda justified my purchase based on the fact that I got them for about the cost of one month of a gym membership. Wouldn't you rather have new gear and the opportunity for fresh air over a previously sweated-on treadmill? I would.

And I should be able to pair them up with my gaiters for snowshoeing in the mountains. Hmmm.....mountains.....that makes me smile. Did you know I leave in less than two weeks? 12 days from now actually. Not that I'm counting.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chasing Santa

This weekend's workout.....chasing 150 santas down Michigan Avenue. No, I'm not kidding.


Throw in a little shopping and window viewing at Macy's, some puddle jumping in the rain (so wish it had been snow), and some great Indian food and it adds up to one great winter weekend in the windy city.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Colorado on the brain

Came across this little gem of a mini-ski video today.

I cannot even tell you excited I am to have two whole weeks to play in the mountains. That's many, many chairlifts to ponder life. And many, many hours of driving across Nebraska....uhh, lets not think about that part.

My goal is hit the workouts hard right up until I leave. Then, that drive across middle america isn't just 18 hours of horrible-ness -- its my taper. :) I'd like to think I'll be using the chairlift for solving all life's little problems and not administering Advil.

However, based on how I feel after my first week of "hitting the workouts hard" I think my Colorado scene might look a little more like the crash reel from the filming of Under the Influence.

Actually, right now I feel like I may have been in the crash reel. Ouch. Amazing how a couple boot camp classes can make you feel like you're body's been pummled by an avalanche.

This will be good for me

In another week, I will feel really buff. But right now, putting on my sports bra seems to be a bit more of a challenge than it used to be. Did you know there are muscles around your rib cage? Ya, I never thought about those muscles either....until now!

Another muscle group I enjoy forgetting about....abs. Those are demanding attention today as well. Did you know that you use your abs to turn corners IN YOUR CAR? Well, trust me, you do.

I actually think I would really enjoy this boot camp nonsense, if it wasn't so - freakin - early. I'm struggling with the mornings. I like the class, I like the people, I think the workout is exactly what I need and I enjoy getting it out of the way before the day starts. But round about 2pm there is not enough caffeine to keep me alert.

Maybe the mornings will get easier as my body adjusts to it, but right now I just feel a little....off.

And *bonus*, I told a friend I would do spin class with her tonight. What was I thinking? Tonight could be my first spin bike injury....when I fall asleep in the middle of class and fall off my bike.

But this is good for me. I will thank myself for this later. Just like I'm now thanking myself for buying that ankle length down coat in August. This will pay off later. It will. In the meantime I'll be stocking up on Ibuprofen and coffee.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Than Running

A great post from conversation with myself. Sometimes people don't really get it. The running. The triathlons. All the workouts. But I think I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again....its so much more than just workouts.

Monday, December 8, 2008

As if I wasn't annoyed enough today....

I just saw my favorite little (and by 'little' I mean totally epic but undeveloped) secret ski spot get a big fat mention in The New York Times.

Crap.

Well, maybe the current state of the economy will slow development....even if just temporarily. I may have just found the only perk to this little recession.

Had it not been FIVE IN THE MORNING...

I like to think I'm a pretty easy-going girl. But there are things that try my patience just by their nature. The two that come to mind are mornings....and wasting time, especially when this is not by choice but caused by someone else.

I knew this morning would be rough. I don't even try to be a morning person, and my sleep schedule is adjusted accordingly, so I was ready for a little early morning pain on day one of boot camp. Something like jet-lag but without the fun travel part.

The alarm goes off at 4:37am and from there I partake in a series of major accomplishments that get me out the door. You know, big impressive feats like getting my feet on the floor....brushing my teeth.....and finding something to wear.

The bleariness of morning doesn't lend itself to luxuries. Actions become minimized to survival. Roll to the edge of the bed such that you must put your feet down or fall on your face. Fumble for the light. Overcome temporary blindness. Locate clothing. Then water. Food. Car keys.

As I was standing in the dimly lit kitchen contemplating nutrition....seemingly monumental decisions like cereal? or banana?.....I tried to pretend I was traveling....or maybe getting up early to catch the first chair on a powder day. In the dark, your mind can't prove that their aren't mountains out there. Then I daydream a bit about my upcoming trip. That is, after all, why I'm up at this hour.

So in a nutshell...I'm having a pretty successful and tolerable morning.

I pull into the parking lot of the location that was specified on the website's google map. And wait.
I'm about 10 minutes early so I figure, maybe its a small group and they're just running late? I wait some more. I drive down the road wondering if maybe I got the wrong building. No. I'm definitely at the only school on this road. I wait some more. I think about a nap, but decide I don't want to be found frozen to death in my car by a bunch of school kids. About one minute before class is supposed to be starting another girl shows up. We converse a bit about what the deal is and then conclude that we are most definitely at the location on the website map, but either class was cancelled or the map was wrong.

We head off to the only other school I know in the area (not really nearby either....so this was an entry error not a google error) and manage to find where we are supposed to be on the third attempt. 25 minutes after class started.

I could have stayed at that point, but I was annoyed. And if you know me you know I'm not good at hiding my emotions -- annoyance in particular. I tried to be at least pleasant about the mix-up but I didn't think I could put on a happy face for another 30 minutes. And realistically by the time we warmed up we'd have about 5 minutes of workout before the cool down probably started. So it seemed rather pointless to me.

I knew I had a speed workout planned for after work anyway so I went home and enjoyed a nice pre-work latte.

I'll give it another try tomorrow. But it is supposed to snow buckets tonight (6-9 inches by the end of the day tomorrow) so we'll see. I won't be surprised if I end up doing a shoveling workout instead. Ugh. Oh well, the important part is doing something. I'll try not to think about the fact that shoveling is FREE.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Boot Camp

I might hate myself for this.

But then, I might hate my upcoming two weeks in Colorado if I don't do this.

For the next two weeks, this non-morning-don't-talk-to-me-'til-I've-had-my-latte girl will be getting up at 4:45AM to attend "boot camp." And when I say "the next two weeks" that means EVERY BLESSED MORNING for the next two weeks.

I guess that's just what I get for my serious lack of self-motivation. If I knew I could force myself onto the treadmill in my office building a couple times a week I wouldn't have to do this. But the truth is, I lugged my workout bag to work more than once over the last two weeks and failed to make it on the treadmill once.

So I had to throw down my $100 for the privilege of rolling out of bed in the cold, cold, darkness at obscenely early hours that no one should see unless they are catching a flight for an unbelievable vacation.

I know it'll be good for me AND for my upcoming two-week mountain adventure. But right now the only thing that looks good about this idea is it being over.

I'm sensing a renewed addiction to caffeine in my future. And possibly ibuprofen.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Best To-do List Ever

As is customary this time of year, Outside Magazine posted their take on the top skiing destinations in North America. I immediately adopted this as an off-season "to-do" list.

I'm a list maker myself. I really enjoy lists. They keep the chaos in order and my little brain from exploding. Checking things off lists is one of my favorite little joys in life. So I'm pretty excited to get to work on this one.

Top 15
1. Alta/Snowbird, Utah (scheduled, Jan 09)
2. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia (been there, done that, over it)
3. Vail, Colorado (been there, going again Dec 08)
4. Jackson Hole, Wyoming (been there many times, but may never consider this "done")
5. Snowbasin, Utah (scheduled, Jan 09)
6. Fernie Alpine Resort, British Columbia (done, may do again March 09)
7. Silverton Mountain, Colorado (uhhh, might need to hold off on this one 'til I gets me some better skilz)
8. Aspen Highlands and Snowmass, Colorado (may be paying them a visit in Jan 09)
9. Squaw Valley, California (I've biked by here....but I guess that doesn't count)
10. Steamboat, Colorado (scheduled, Jan 09)
11. Mammoth, California
12. Telluride, Colorado (hmmm....maybe Jan?)
13. Solitude, Utah (might make the list for Jan 09)
14. Alyeska Resort, Alaska (ya, I WISH!)
15. Taos, New Mexico (New Mexico....really? I've got a few that I think should make the list before this one....but I'll just have to keep them my little secret lest I not be able to have the gondola to myself. on. every. epic. run.)

In case you couldn't tell, I've been frantically plotting ways to spend as many days as possible in the mountains this winter. And I have to say, its going pretty well so far. Right now I'm booked for two weeks in Colorado to ring in 2009, and then I'll be following that up with 5 days in Utah later in January.

Now....all that's left is to get my lazy off-season booty into mountain-girl shape. I see a lot of lunges in my future....perhaps I should just forgo the office chair and do squats and wall sits all day? I think Bode used to put one of his friends in a wheelbarrow and push them uphill for a mile or two....any volunteers to ride? You're only likely to get dumped on your head a couple hundred times. It'll be fun. ;)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Off-season

What...what is this? I have a blog? Oh yeah, I have a blog.

Sorry about my recent hiatus from blogging, but you see I've been taking the off-season very seriously. And by that I mean, take OFF to another country, then take OFF to another state, totally blow OFF all your workouts while you try to recover from your travels, then have nothing to say and no time to say it so just blow OFF blogging too while your at it.

Off-season is going very well.

Truth be told, I had been trying to keep up with at least the speed workouts but managed to catch a nasty cold that put me out of commission just as I was getting back on top of work and whatnot again.

Then came time for the annual trip to Iowa. For four years I've been making the 5+ hour drive to Des Moines for the Living History Farms X-Country Race. I was starting to feel a little better before the trip, but still decided not to do the race. Another addition to the OFF-season accomplishment list, I guess. But I figured running through streams and up muddy embankments for 7-miles in 26-degree weather wasn't really going to help me kick the cold for good, and another week of being sick wasn't something I was interested in dealing with. So when my friends were pulling on their warmest mud-loving clothes Saturday morning, I was happily heading off in search of coffee.

The race has always been an excuse to visit some friends in the area, but this year the visit was all about the friends. So there was ample time to catch up, with no regrets about another glass of wine, and lots of extra energy for shopping (thankfully, because I'm pretty sure I tried on 100 pairs of jeans at Blond Genius!).

I think I'm really starting to get the hang of this off-season stuff.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New running gear, pain, and other reasons to love speedwork


Today it was cold, cloudy, rainy and windy all day. With it getting dark at 5pm now I envisioned dropping temps, biting wind, and drizzle for my speedwork session tonight, so I had to roll out some new gear.....well, maybe not so much "new" as "totally forgotten since the spring thaw."
You see we're lucky like that here in Wisconsin. With every change of the season its like shopping in your own closet. You end up digging in the back of that dresser drawer, or in that box you had to retrieve from storage, and pulling out all kinds of stuff you forgot you had. And it's the best kind of shopping because its FREE.
So I dug deep, and busted out the fleece hat and the headlamp for tonight's workout. And yes, we may have looked a little silly running around the track with our little headlamps on. But is the headlamp not one of the great inventions of all time? Dork factor aside, those little guys are pretty handy.
Ok, back to the workout....
I can be a bit of wimp sometimes. Today was no exception. The weather was not the "oh yay, lets go running" kind of weather that gets you pumped about leaving work and heading for the track. Today was more of a "I'd really like to stay late and get some more work done" kind of day. So mid-afternoon I was starting to look for excuses. I knew, no matter how miserable the conditions, I would feel great after doing the workout. But I went fishing for an out anyway.
I sent off a quick email to my 'coach'....."we run rain or shine?".....secretly hoping she was thinking about bailing. She wasn't. (well actually I found out later she was, but she didn't want to let on)

Darn. Still on.
So we rolled into the parking lot at 5pm ready for the worst mother nature could throw at us. Except that mother nature wasn't feeling nearly as crabby as she was earlier in the day and it was downright pleasant out. Aside from it being almost dark that is.

Turns out, it was probably best that it was dark seeing how I'm not all that attractive when I'm in pain. 800m repeats tonight. Whole new pain experience. In fact during our cool down we had a very in depth discussion of the varying types of pain and each of their benefits.
I have a feeling these speedwork sessions are just going to get more and more "fun" as the winter wears on. ;)
But its all good, because now I have plan. Really, an actual black and white plan. With quantifiable goals. So it all makes sense. And I understand that the pain is just a necessary step toward the end result. Which makes it surprisingly more tolerable.

Monday, November 3, 2008

bust out your DayGlo

Hello daylight savings time.....a five o'clock run is in the dark now? Time for my PSA of the day: If you are going to play in traffic, wear something reflective.

There is a little part of the route I ran tonight that is sans sidewalk. Which meant that tonight for about 800 meters I was out running on the road in my little pale yellow t-shirt and grey runner-girl skirt. Way cute, (and quite speedy, I might add -- yes, I believe that what you wear CAN and DOES affect your speed) but not reflective.

Although, fear of getting run down by a car does apparently make me run faster. So I guess there are perks. But I think I'll be digging out my ankle reflectors before I try that again.

Aside from the traffic part, tonight's run was awesome. I am loving these short, fast workouts. I really feel faster. And tonight, I had enough energy left at the end of the run to suggest that a few hill repeats sounded like fun. Yes, fun. I really used that word. And I really did a few hill repeats -- just. for. fun. I don't know what's gotten into me lately.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I WANT my weekend back

Seriously, where did the weekend go? It cannot possibly be Sunday night. Because what feels like three hours ago it was Friday afternoon and I was contemplating an early exit from work to enjoy the great weather. (which didn't happen)

And even with an extra daylight-saving hour of productivity thrown in there I swear my 'to do' list got longer over the weekend. How is that even possible?

Its like the vacation hangover that will not end.

In other news, which I failed to report, last week I completely rocked my speed workout. No, really. I was monumentally faster than the workout before I left for vacation. I have no idea how. But I'll take it. Guess all those stairs climbed to castle towers really paid off. Or maybe it was the three week "taper." Not sure, but the way I see it, if I go to Europe one or two more times before tri season starts, I'm feeling some podiums in my future. I'm altering my training schedule accordingly.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween


Don't eat more candy that you can burn off tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Guggenheim: A good reason to work out


Driving in Spain was not something I would say I succeeded at. Directions, even less so. Which was a major source of stress, and inevitably wasted time, before arrival and enjoyment of any given location.

Bilbao was probably the most extreme example of this. We drove around for what felt like hours trying to figure out how to get to the city center. Bouncing off (sometimes literally) freakishly big roundabouts...some more than once. Once near the city center we did laps around the Guggenheim. Laps. Paint the Budweiser logo on the car and we could have started our own euro-style NASCAR circuit. We could see the Guggenheim but how do we get there? Better yet, where was our hotel? And where can we park this godforsaken BMW so we can walk?!

After finally checking into the hotel with the car safely stashed in and underground parking ramp we receive the dreaded news....
--the Guggenheim closes in 45 minutes and is not open tomorrow due to it being a national holiday--

Thus starts the vacation version of transition. Up the elevator, deposit suitcases, grab essential items, and head out. No time for messing around, this was potentially once-in-a-lifetime stuff. We hit the pavement and it was a full on power walk for 15 minutes. No time for chatting, or pictures. This was all business. But with 30 minutes still on the clock we stared at the information booth agent in disbelief when she informed us they were no longer selling tickets. We had missed our window of opportunity. Sort of like being at mile 24 when the Ironman clock turns hour 17. No Guggenheim for us.

But I'm hesitant to write it off as a total negative.

First and foremost, its all part of the experience of the trip. The driving, the stress, the crazy roundabouts, all leading up to a sprint to the finish. It's one of those memories that will long outlive anything we might have seen inside that building.

It was also a good little reminder of how working out has benefits that trickle over into other avenues of your life. Had I been out of shape that might have been a really miserable, low-point of the trip. Instead, we were laughing as we sailed along to our target. Laughing at how completely chaotic and ridiculous the entire day had been, and how somehow this crazy sprint-finish was just par for the course.

And anyway, we were told that "the best views are from the outside."

I agree. But then, I may have a slight bias.

Monday, October 27, 2008

delayed effect

I'm home.... I think.

For a few days I wasn't quite sure where I was but now I think I have been in one place long enough for my over-extended life to catch up with me and reality is setting in hard.

I'm so, so tired. And I should be. Its just funny to me that it didn't hit me until now. The dark setting in so early now and the cold days are probably not helping this either. But I think going from sunny and 95 in Phoenix to 40 and flurries here is a tough transition no matter how much travel preceded it.

And I'm sore. And again, I should be. Last night was my first strength session after pretty much not working out for three weeks. I tried to take it easy on myself and was actually thinking I had been too easy....until today, the day after. Ouch. Apparently carrying your camera around Europe for week or so doesn't really get you in triathlon shape. And logging almost 50 hours of airport and flight time in 2.5 weeks doesn't build muscle? Huh? Total bummer. I was really hoping I was onto the latest workout craze with that one.

Ah well, its back to life. The workout planning is in full effect. Speedwork picks up again on Wednesday. I'll be able to make the strength sessions now until December. The race schedule has been unexpectedly altered but is in the process of being reworked and nailed down. And road trips to races are in the works for November. So you know....same old, same old. Just the way I like it!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

More vacation workouts

More stairs.

More rewards.

OMG, the walking. Seriously. So - much - walking. In some ways I think running 10 miles and then sitting on your bum for the rest of the day is easier than the non-stop walking.

Even my brain is getting a workout. The constant language barrier can be exhausting. I'm not complaining. On the contrary, I love it. I'm just sayin'....it can wear a girl out. Uno mas Vino por favor? And please don't correct my Spanish....its horrible, I know this. I took German in High School, OK. Today at lunch I accidentally asked for the "hill" instead of the "bill"....cuesta, instead of cuento....so close, but still not impressing anyone (though our waiter was a good sport about it). I wish people in Illinois and Minnesota spoke different languages. We mid-westerners would be much more "worldly."

I'm going to try to go for a run tomorrow morning before we hit the road. :) Buenos noches, amigos!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The vacation half marathon

I'm sure I easily walked 13 miles today. Easily. If America were more like Europe we wouldn't have the obesity problem that we have. The car is such a hassle that I ditch it at any opportunity (or available parking stall) immediately and walk.

We walked A LOT today because of my total refusal to move the car once we found a free overnight parking spot. We even hauled our bags about a mile uphill to our hotel because I didn't want to mess with driving around, having to call the police (apparently its routine?) to get let into the square temporarily, and then getting back down to where we parked and hoping a spot would be there.

We also did stairs. 151 steps to the top of Alcazar on the world's oldest stairmaster.
A little sketchy at times but the end of workout reward is well worth it.


Then, after the obligatory siesta (I love a country that naps!), we went out in search of dinner and walked at least four miles so that we could end up eating right across the street from the hotel. Figures. But again, can't complain about the scenery on the hike.




Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ahhh, Spain

Well unless you count 14 hours of travel as a workout....not much training going on around here. But there's a lot of, well, "life training" happening. Which I think is just as valuable.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Speed -- in black and white

OK. I'm going to put this out there just to keep it all 100% real here.

Here are the times from my second (ever, probably -- or at least in the last decade) speed workout. This blog is no gimmick people. I am slow. Here is the proof....
  • about a mile warm up
  • 4x400 w/2:00 rest---
  • time - pace
    1:58 - 7:56
    2:07 - 8:28
    2:09 - 8:36
    2:10 - 8:40
  • 1 mile cool down at roughly 9:30 pace.
I'm not going to pretend I really understand everything that the numbers mean, although I'm pretty sure they confirm I'm not going to be making the Olympic team anytime soon. But these numbers are encouraging in a couple of ways,

1. They prove that I can run at my goal pace.

2. Even my cool down is already faster than my last race pace, so improvement is possible.

3. Hitting these numbers felt slightly less horrible than what I did last week (which was not on the track so I don't have exact numbers, but the workout was roughly the same), which is encouraging.

The run is by far my weakest link in triathlon (well, aside from the swim but that's a mental issue not a physical one), which means its where I have the most room for improvement. So that's where I'm going to be putting my efforts this off-season. Hopefully it will pay off come spring.

WHAT??! Shut out by my sponsor?

Full? How can this be? Does The North Face not know they are practically sponsoring all my athletic endeavors (at a profit for them, I might add)?? Clearly they have forgotten to save me a spot in the Endurance Challenge. Clearly.

I was a teeny bit pre-occupied with my upcoming BIG HONKIN' MONTH OF TRAVEL and put off registering. Can't a girl get a little leniency?

I'm so, so bummed. I was really looking forward to this race. A 10k trail run, how completely perfect. The perfect distance. Fun terrain. Good eye candy ('cuz you know Dean Karnazes was going to lap me at least twice during the race). And an environmentally friendly carpool of good company all lined up.

But no. It was not to be. I will just have to take my $45 and spend it elsewhere. (like at Patagonia or Nau)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Dreaded Trainer

I know. Most people don't want to think about it yet, but soon there will be SNOW. So get your netflix pics all lined up now. Here's something to keep you from wanting to slit your wrists every time you have to get on the trainer in front of your TV this winter: Skinet's Top Ten Ski Movie List

However, I think I'll be skipping the one that shows the guy breaking both his ankles. If I pass out on the trainer I'd prefer it to be because I worked out too hard. Not because I have a low tolerance for other people's pain.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

That big shiny object -- Ironman

Everyone has a big horizon goal in some aspect of their life (or they should). That seemingly unattainable shiny object just out of reach. In triathlon, we call it Ironman. (see, told ya i'd get around to writing about it eventually)

When Ironman comes to town, Madison sees the effect of trickle-down athleticism. Even if you're not dreaming about Ironman, Ironman makes you dream. It makes average Joe's get up off the couch and do something. Whether that's dig the bike out of the back of the garage and ride around the block with your kids, or sign up for your first 5k, the energy of the event is contagious and undeniable.

Anything that can drag me out of bed at 5am must be pretty spectacular. I couldn't muster 5:30am to get sunrise pictures of Rainier, but for 2000 swimmers in Lake Monona I'm up without a peep of complaint. It makes no sense. And thats what makes it Ironman.
There is nothing logical about a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike, and finished off with a 26.2 mile marathon run. Even the numbers don't make sense. And yet when I rolled out of bed at 5am to watch the start of this Iron day, all was right with my world.

The start to a perfect day....camera in hand....the current of nervous anticipation in the air.....sunrise over Lake Monona....and the flutter of 2000 swimmers as they start the last 140.1 miles of their journey to this dream.
I watched them swim until the crowd thinned and they started the second lap, then it was time to start the logistical nightmare of being an Iron-fan. First task, find Kelly. I had her location pinned down but crowd control wasn't letting me get to her (they were on the helix). I did, however run into Kelly's friend en route, who's fiance was racing and who randomly enough I've cheered for at a race before (Verona tri...when I bailed and became official race photographer). So my new found friend and I made our way to the helix exit to get pics of her man heading out on the bike.
He's super speedy and goes by right at his target time. (its much, much easier to be an Ironfan when your Iron-athlete stays within reasonable range of the goal pace, whatever that pace may be)
We also were there to see all the pros head out, including Madison native Blake Becker, who says he didn't end up having such a great race. But look at that rockin' bike. How could you possibly have a bad day on that thing?
And check out Amanda Lovato's set up. I totally heart her whole ensemble...bike, racewear, even the pink aero helmet (though someone who finishes races where I do can't actually wear one without looking completely ridiculous....so I'll be holding off on the aero helmet purchase). Amanda reported having an extremely tough race too. Tummy troubles (totally can relate to that, probably the only thing I'll ever have in common with anyone that does this for a living!).
Oh, and we did see some poor guy come down and slam into one of the partitions for the parking ticket dispenser machine as he was exiting the helix. Um, ouch. I'm guessing he was messing with getting into his shoes and not paying attention. Guy was a champ though. Stopped, fixed bike, heads out, rides back in (the wrong way!) about 5 minutes later, heads up the helix (kelly reported later that he changed out his back tire and then headed back out). Champ.
Next step, we head back up to the Hilton to meet up with Kelly and crew. Just in time to part ways as they head out on the bike course and I am off to find some much needed caffeine.
I head to State Street to meet up with Chrissy at a coffee shop. Where we sit and chat and watch the diligent fans chalk up State Street with words of encouragement. At this point I'm clearly high on Ironman crack and ask Chrissy to "coach" me in some speedwork this fall. Guess I got caught up in that crazy Ironman momentum too. Chrissy and her friends have brought bikes, so they head out for a ride and I head back to my car to do some reading. (I ended up talking on the phone and then sitting outside at yet another coffee shop enjoying the perfect day)
Until its time for the leaders to be coming back from the run. And I'm there to catch Hilary Biscay head out on her 26.2 mile run to victory -- her first Ironman victory, and it comes after doing an Ironman the weekend before. Ya, that's right. Two Ironman races within 8 days. Um, wow.
And here's another little interesting tidbit....when the leaders were coming off the bike I was standing on the first corner they round onto the capital square. Primo location. But not a soul around. Its just such a contrast to what that same location would like like hours later at 11:59pm as an enormous crowd cheers in that last runner to finish before the midnight cutoff, and I love that about this race and its amazing fans.
From there it was on to the top of State Street to meet up with yet another friend to cheer on our Team in Training coaches as they completely breezed through the day, Jackie taking home a first place age group finish and big fat trip to Kona! Not bad for her first Ironman.
Overall it was just an amazing, inspiring day spent enjoying the beautiful weather with good friends watching a bunch of crazy triathletes live a dream. I wish every weekend could be Ironman weekend!

Strength and Stretching

I'm sure that a famous person or two once said you'll never learn anything if you don't push yourself outside what you already know. I'm sure the famous people put it much more eloquently than that, but you get the idea.

Its a philosophy that I try to apply to my life every day. Some days its easier to live the philosophy than others. When opportunity knocks, you have the choice to answer...but its a no brainer. Of course you say yes. Even if whatever it is might scare you a bit, you say yes....if for no other reason than because you can.

But its easy to get into a rut. And when opportunity stops knocking you have to really make that effort to seek out the unfamiliar. To search for new ways to push yourself rather than just react to what's thrown at you.

When I signed up for my first triathlon, the fact that I was doing one at all was well outside my boundary of what was known. But now that I've got a couple races under my belt, its not enough to just do them. Now its time to look a little harder for that next boundary to stretch.

When I wake up tomorrow and can't lift my arms....I will definitely know that I am stretching my boundaries. I have never worked arms like I did tonight....a circuit that seemed to go on for eternity. My legs get tired, but overall are pretty strong. My arms.....wimpy miserable little gumby appendages. I'm wondering how I have the ability to do my hair everyday, really. Because the weight I was using probably wasn't much heavier than my blow dryer.

Before I left I heard the trainer say, "if the only strength training you do is this class once a week, it will just keep feeling horrible." Motivation enough. Hopefully soon what I'm doing now will be the routine, and I'll be able to start searching out the next boundary to stretch. But for now, I'll just try to squeeze in strength stuff one other day during the week and hope my blow dryer starts to feel lighter.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

There should be rules against this

I would like to propose an amendment to the rules of the universe as we currently know them. That amendment would hereby proclaim the following:
  • a human should not be able to get sick immediately preceding a major trip
  • a human should not be able to get sick immediately following a commitment to a new and highly motivated workout plan
  • a human should not be allowed to get sick when it is nice outside (the months of May through October here in Wisconsin)
because any of the above options are just mean. But all three at the same time. Torture, really.

I'm about to leave for what amounts to three weeks of travel....two separate trips....both involving work....one involving a passport. So to say I have a million things to do right now is an understatement. The desire to do nothing but nap and nose-blow is not helping me accomplish anything.

I also just committed to two workouts/week outside the realm of my workout comfort zone (speed and strength)....I'm working on a long term plan for next year's success...I've got races lined up for my return from these trips that I need to be ready for. I'm highly motivated right now. I don't need germs to come along and suck all the energy out of my little plan. Its not fair.

And did I mention it's been absolutely b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l these past few days. And living here on the tundra I know that these may be the last beautiful days until June of 2009 so I want to savor and enjoy them. I want to ride my bike. I want to run outside while I don't have to worry about falling on the ice or what the windchill is. I do not want to be moping around my house with a Kleenex box.

So frustrating. At first I was in denial. I thought it was just allergies. But now I've accepted my fate and am trying to nurse myself back to health. I'm hoping to be good to go for my first strength class tomorrow. Crossing my fingers anyway.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Speed, or lack thereof

I survived my first speed workout. I learned a lot in the process. And the learning process feels very similar to what I imagine it would feel like to be hit by a truck.

The speed thing really is an entirely different experience than endurance. Here are my Cliff's Notes:

Endurance -- try to pre-occupy your brain with thoughts of anything else but what you are doing. Zone out.
Speed -- just shut your brain off completely, you'll need that extra oxygen.

Endurance -- try to just keep going
Speed -- try to go until you find that line between as fast as possible and puking

Endurance -- find a rhythm, your arms, legs and breathing all working together "zen-like"
Speed -- just try to move everything as fast as possible until you fear one of your limbs may bust loose and go flying through the air

Needless to say the first of my speed workouts was a very humbling experience. But I think it will really help me so I'm determined to stick with it.

And now I have numbers...actual workout numbers...to base my training and progress off of. Its really a whole new ball game now! One that hopefully ends with a winning season. ;)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Where do I find this stuff?

I have no idea how I came across this but these people are NUTS....that, or maybe they just don't have any of the open water phobias that I do. But seriously???

CHECK THIS OUT

You couldn't pay me enough to jump off the back of a ship in the dark in the middle of a fjord in Norway. I don't care how awesome the race tshirt is.

Though I have to admit I like the mindset of the race director. The website said this about him:

"Hårek used to be the slowest long distance triathlete in Norway. Instead of training harder, he decided to try to recruit other slow moving sportsmen. First he found the most beautiful and hilly part of Norway, and then he invited them to do the toughest triathlon on earth. This is the history of Norseman."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Running, ugh

So I had a race this weekend. A 5k. Ya, that's right a 5k. Don't laugh. 3.1 miles is pretty far when you HAVEN'T TRAINED AT ALL. I was rockin' an 11 minute mile. I got passed by quite a few people pushing strollers. Seriously. And one was a double wide. For a while I ran with a girl that was all of 10. I'm pretty sure she beat me.

What does this mean?

It means I need to get my growing toochie back on a training schedule that's what it means. And quick-like before the holidays add another 5lbs of dead weight to my frame making me EVEN SLOWER.

As a little reward for my stellar performance I signed myself up for nine weeks of strength and conditioning sessions. Small group training for women triathletes, meeting once a week to work on strength and injury preventative conditioning. I think it will make me sore in ways I cannot even imagine, but I'm excited. Excited to meet some new tri-geeks. And excited to be committed to a strength plan that lasts until December. Right up to ski season. Its perfect!

This should also compliment my other latest commitment. My commitment to speed. Yes, that's right. I'm going to actually try to get FASTER. Or really, maybe it should more appropriately be referred to as "less slow" in my case. One of my speedster friends has agreed to take me under her wing for track workouts once a week. I think there may be actual running tools like stop watches involved. Ah! Scary.

I have a few more races coming up, but for the most part I've pretty much written off this season now and am looking toward 2009. I've got big plans. And preparation really needs to start now if I'm going to do it right. No more "cram session" training. I want to head into 2009 with a solid base, ready to put in real work for an awesome race season. So everything I do from here on out is with 2009 in mind and that's actually surprisingly motivating. Because there's still hope for 2009 and still time to get there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Not to be overshadowed by Ironman -- a milestone of a different kind

I know how to change a flat, sort of. I mean, I've seen it done a few times. I know the steps. But technically I've never actually changed my own flat.

I know...avid cyclists everywhere are cringing. Yes, its horrible. Yes, I'm that girl that got a flat on a ride and called her boyfriend to come pick her up. I'm an embarrassment to women cyclists everywhere. ......though I know I'm not the only one out there -- you know who you are miss "i got a flat before a race in which I podiumed but had to rely on the mercy of the woman next to me in transition to change my tube out before the race"...... :)

I tried to change a flat on the hybrid once way back in the dawn of my cycling career....I was using an air compressor to blow up the newly reassembled tire and, well, it BLEW UP alright, making me violently aware of the definition of "pinch flat". I thought I was going to be permanently hearing impaired and I'm pretty sure the neighbors thought someone had just been shot. I promptly piled the bike in the car and paid $10 to have my friendly bike shop correct the problem. And that was the last time I attempted a flat change.

So when Chrissy and I met up in the parking lot a while back for a ride and found her tire to be flat in a way that pumping wouldn't fix, we had quite a conundrum on our hands. Chrissy being of equal experience in the flat changing arena and there being no bike shop in the town we rode from. It was either fix the flat ourselves or skip the ride.

The day was way too beautiful to skip the ride. I'm quite sure, had we given up on the ride that day, the cycling gods would have cursed us with rain and perpetual headwinds from there to eternity.

So we set to the work of flat changing, armed with a new tube, a little never-been-used plastic do-jobber that was in my seat bag, and one pink bicycle pump. You can quite imagine the dialogue and scene that followed. Something like a sequel to Legally Blond....Elle Woods takes on cycling, conquers the world, and learns something in the process -- all without breaking a nail. Though in this sequel there was no need to call in the emergency sorority support crew.

We were determined as we got comfortable on the pavement and set to work, but things didn't start well. We both took a try at getting the tire off with the little tool and were failing miserably.
Are we really this wimpy?

Chrissy: "aren't there supposed to be more of these little tools?"

Me: "uhh, I think there were three but that seemed a little excessive so I only put one in my bag. Was that a mistake?"

Both shrugging. Who knows?

Chrissy: "maybe we should let the air out of the tire"

Me: "oh yea....I think that's right.....less pressure should make it easier"
($100k science education comes in handy, eh)

Success!

There were a few more ah-ha moments like this as the process went along....and a few very contortionistic arm-tire-tube entanglements but we finally got the tube changed and the tire back on.

Then we stared at it.

"Do we dare blow it up? What if there's a pinch flat?"

More staring.

"Well, we've gotta try. I've got another tube if we blow this one up."

Shockingly, no explosive pinch flatting. Even more shocking were the two test loops around the parking lot without the need to fix our fixed flat. In disbelief we discuss the possibility that we actually just successfully changed a flat. And then tentatively, we head out on what was to be a beautiful 20-some mile ride.

And I am SO PROUD of us! That was quite an empowering little exercise.

I just feel bad for the guys at the bike shop....they are really going to miss me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

When minds wander....

I'll get back to my thoughts on Ironman....sometime soon (hopefully) when I have three minutes or more to put together my thoughts. But right now, when I do get a few seconds to let my brain wander this is where it goes. And that should pretty much sum up how life has been lately.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Beauty of Ironman


What a beautiful, perfect day. I have so much to say about Sunday. But for now....a picture to speak my 1000 words.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

When pondering Ironman '09

A little piece of the conversation with my father:

Me --- "....its just that its in my hometown. My backyard. If there was no Ironman in Madison I probably wouldn't want to do it....."

My dad ---- "....they have rodeos in Madison, does this mean you want to ride a bull?"

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ironman

How could you not want to do this?

Darn Ironman and their tear-jerking inspirational videos. Watch out...Ironman fever is going around. And once you catch it it's very hard to get rid of.

Hello weekend!

Heading out of town for a little camping.....and a lot of roasted marshmallows! We're not bringing bikes this time, but we are traveling with two crazy Ironman finishers so we've already talked about doing some trail running to fill the time.

Coming back from a three day weekend is usually hard, except guess what next week is.....its IRONMAN week. I can hardly wait. Its one of my favorite Madison holidays! All that Ironman energy....its more addicting than crack. And every year I can't wait to soak up some more.

But first, I have many campfire beers to drink and hours of lakeside lounging to complete.

Happy weekend! Stay safe!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Remembering what you forgot

The email request came through....and without even thinking I was looking at my week and scheduling a ride. Something I used to do so often that the actions of planning were effortlessly routine.

If only the biking could be so effortless after weeks of delinquency.

Last night I enjoyed an easy two hours of riding that was more about just being on the bike than how fast the bike was moving. Which is good, because I wasn't moving very fast. And as we rolled along toward the country roads on the edge of town I was cursing myself for being such a slacker and letting all the fitness of early summer just evaporate.

But the beauty of routine, is that you can always return to it...adjust it...and make it what you need. Last night's ride was a great reminder to not let those things that you love fall prey to the other nonsense that creeps into your life.

One simple ride, that's all it took, to remind me that I need the time on the bike as much as I need the workout....to remind me of the me that I knew a few months ago...and even a few years ago. And why I need to give that part of me what it needs to stay happy, to make everything else in life a little easier.

Rides are so much more than workouts. They are therapy. Our training partners the therapists. Philosophy on two wheels. A road of stories, interrupted by hills for pondering perspective and challenge. Life simplified, if only temporarily.....but what a wonderful break from reality.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Limits

Everyone has their limits. Including this blog. So today, in order to better define what will or will not be covered on this blog I'd like to lay out a few examples:

I will NOT be talking about things like jLo as a triathlete. That's great that you want to lose some baby weight and raise a little money for charity. Hey, guess what.....thousands of other people have done that too. Except they did it without the help of a personal trainer or a personal chef....or a personal assistant...or whatever other assistance jLo has the resources to employ. So ya, we're just not talking about that.

I WILL talk about other people who have celebrity status that was earned for athletic achievement as they continue to amaze me. So as if winning a few Tours and rockin' the Boston Marathon weren't enough...apparently Lance felt the need to hop on a mountain bike and give the Leadville 100 a go of it. Here's little video that sums up the race. Ran with the leader most of the way and took second. The guy's amazing. I realize its biking, something he's familiar with, but there's a whole other technical aspect to mountain biking that you don't have to deal with on pavement (probably why I steer clear of that sport altogether -- looks like a trip to the ER if I've ever seen one).

And another thing I WILL talk about on this blog....changing the world with bicycles. Seriously. How cool is this organization -- Project Rwanda. Its amazing how much something as simple as a bike can change the quality of life for someone. I'll talk all day long about cool stuff like that. :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Urban Assault Ride

Short version: I really wanted to like this event, I totally believe in what they are trying to be and promote....but in the end it was just, eh...ok. Maybe just not really my thing.



Long version: It was a beautiful (if somewhat chilly) morning. Arguably a perfect day for a ride.

Over 100 teams of two showed up for the second annual ride. A crowd that was looking a lot more serious about this "fun and crazy" ride than I expected. I figured I could rule out the Ironmen-in-training for this event, seeing how IM WI is only two weeks away....but I did not expect the caliber of racers that showed. I was half wishing I hadn't been too lazy to switch out the pedals on my road bike instead of just grabbing the hybrid.

Personally, my morning started a little slow. My stomach wasn't feeling so great and in retrospect I think I may have had a tiny bit of food poisoning (maybe raw cookie dough that's been sitting in the fridge for a week or so should just be thrown away?). I managed to eat a banana and figured I could just suck it up for the day. The ride's only supposed to be about 20 miles.

We get to the start with plenty of (really way too much) time to spare. I've got to remember that non-tri events don't need the pre-race set-up time, but in this case I did need to visit the mechanic to see what was up with my tires so we had something to keep us busy. I had new tires put on they hybrid right before we went to Manitowoc and haven't been able to blow them up since (had to visit a bike shop in Manitowoc too). So they got pretty flat from me putzing around trying to get them to blow up.

There was a surprising amount of confusion about whether or not there was actually mechanical support at the race. (Guess I'm used to tri's where this is a no brainer...there is ALWAYS mechanical support) The race director said that Trek was supposed to have 'people' there. The Trek 'people' said they were just demo people...although in their defense they did try to do what they could to help me. In the end it was the Pedro's tent guy that saved the day and ONE ARM pumped my tires with his personal pump (the little kind you carry on your bike when you ride for use only in emergencies...their regular size pump was broken, cuz it just can never be easy with me). I'm still not sure if he was actually supposed to be mechanical support of if he was just a great guy helping me out. Huge thanks. I believe they have a new customer.

So we line up with the other people in the first wave (still not sure how we managed to weasel ourselves in there). The people behind us were haggling....but they only started about 5 minutes behind us so really....they had nothing to whine about. Quite frankly, that little headstart was soooo not worth the time put into that quiz. Especially considering we weren't trying to win.

The start was not on your bike. You had to first run around the building and then find your bike laying on the hill...then you're off. And these people were RUNing. I was a little shocked by this. I mean, I know I'm slow but these people were out of the blocks like they were running the 50-yard dash.

Thankfully, my big stud of a teammate didn't feel the need to be too competitive so we brought up the tail end of the wave. Then we hit the bike trail along the lake, as planned, over to the Willy St Coop...the first mystery checkpoint (we got this clue ahead of time). On the way, I got fed up with the bike traffic and in my frustration trying get out of the crowd we decided to just head for the Gorham checkpoint first and dodge the crowd.

This was good and bad. Good because there wasn't a crowd yet. Bad, well because it was still pretty chilly and this (below) was the challenge....

That's right. One teammate on the duck, one teammate pushing the duck. One teammate must be on the duck at all times. Duck must travel out and around a buoy.

Staying on the duck was a little trickier than it looks. My duck bucked me off so I ended up as wet as my teammate. I've had some bad triathlon transitions but I can't say that I've ever went swimming with my helmet on before...so that was new. But hey, it just wouldn't be a race if you couldn't get a little lake slime on ya!

Then we headed back toward the coop. Found the clue easily. I knew the answer without having to call reinforcements and we were off to the TrekStop at Machinery Row Bikes.

Here's where it gets interesting. Walk up to the clue. I read it and say "we must be going to the zoo". But rather than trust my gut I had to call to confirm one of the "tricks" in the clue, which actually had us heading for the Recycling center for a brief period, before a quick text from the my whiz of a sister that put us back on track to the zoo.

Now somewhere between the first mystery checkpoint and the zoo there was a major communication breakdown on the team. And since there were only two of us there are fingers pointing at everyone on the team as to who's to blame. The teamwork wasn't clicking. And there was some navigational error that ensued. And some stoplights that seriously slowed us down. Not that we were trying to win this race, but if we were....this is where the race was lost.

This is about the time I had the realization that I am seriously directionally challenged, that or I just don't pay as much attention as I thought when I drive through the city EVERY day. The city looks very different when one is sitting on a bike. And, you can't bike across a lake. One should remember that when trying to navigate a city with three lakes.

Once we found the zoo stop (which we, of course, had to find the hard way after a loop around the entire zoo...apparently I've never entered the zoo from the actual zoo entrance) we had to truck it to the far west side. Trying to take less traveled roads to get there meant lots of stop signs. (annoying, and slow) We also had to stop a few times to consult the map. I know Madison pretty well, but once off the main thoroughfares I'm not as sure of myself.

This is the part of the race that kind of sucked. You're basically just off biking around town....with numbers on and no other riders around, for the most part....getting odd looks from people out mowing their lawns. I was just trying to act like we were in The Amazing Race or something so we seemed cool.

We stopped to check the map at one point and got passed by two other girls coming from an entirely wrong direction. They say "oh, are you guys lost too.....doesn't this suck?", making me feel a little better. So we weren't the only team to put a few more miles onto the course.

Once to the west side there were four challenge checkpoints, all within five minutes of each other. Which was kind of lame since there was only one road to take between them. Where's the challenge in that? First we hit Chipotle and Fleet Feet on Old Sauk, where we rode miniature bikes through cones, and played a little newspaper route game that involved one teammate throwing rolled up papers from the basket of a little kids bike (while riding) and the other teammate catching these papers in a box.

Then it was down the road to Trek West, where we played a little bicycle limbo (which is a skill I do not possess, in case you were curious). Then on to Princeton Club West, where we donned oven mits and had to pick up enough poker chips from the football field to fill a bowl while being doused with SuperSoakers.

Then (finally) the last challenge was at REI....where my muscle bound teammate held us together for a strong finish in the human wheel barrel challenge. (incidentally the girls to the right of us took a major digger on this challenge and one teammate took a wheel to the head that looked a little painful)

Then we cut through the parking lot at West Town Mall (something I doubt they see very often at the mall) and headed back to Olin via Odana (yes, through the major intersection at Gammon and Odana acting like cars) - Monroe - and a time saving jaunt down Drake and around the south side of Monona Bay.

Once back to Olin park there was a big wheels course to run, and then this thing -- which pretty much did me in:



28+ miles later (course ran a little long I guess! haha!) we were finally FINISHED. Bring on the beer and burritos please! After only eating a banana for breakfast I was starving.

We weren't last, but it sure felt like it.

Would I do the race again.....well, I'm never one to say 'never' but this event probably won't be on the top of my list of ways to spend my hard earned race entry fees.

Did I learn something from this....yes.

  • Communication is KEY to teamwork. (maybe this was more of a reminder than something learned)

  • Madison really is a pretty bike friendly town. A lot of the day we found ourselves either on bike trails or following little green "bike route" signs that I didn't even know existed.

  • Madison is surprisingly hilly. Roads I drive on every day and thought were flat became hills on my bike.

  • My hybrid bike is HEAVY. I have a new found respect for carbon.

  • A banana is not enough fuel for 28 miles on your bike.

  • Biking in traffic really isn't as bad as I make it out to be.

I was really hoping this event wouldn't draw the usual uber-competitive crowd, but it seemed to. I think in order to really draw out the casual cyclist and promote urban cycling to the crowd that hasn't already discovered it, they need to make the race a little shorter. And a few more mystery checkpoints would really make it a little more interesting. But that's just my opinion.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reasons I am dreading the Urban Assault Ride

The night before....always a good time for pondering why what seemed like a fantastically fun way to blow 100 bucks really -- is not.

1. I don't really like traffic. I don't like it in my car. I like it even less on my bike. You see traffic and I have had encounters in the past that didn't go so well (but did get me one very entertaining visit to the ER). And if anyone has been paying attention you'll notice that lately traffic is totally beating the pants off cycling in the game of life. I'd prefer not to be a pawn in that ongoing game. But this race takes place entirely in the metro Madison area and no one blocks off a route for you because...well, there is no route. Granted its not Chicago or Seattle, but I think traffic is a guarantee.


2. The homework SUCKED. First, what kind of race has homework? I just want to ride my bike. Add to that the fact that the pre-race quiz was perhaps the most pointless, tedious thing I have completed (though completion is arguable) ever. It was something of a wild goose chase on the Internet where five other unrelated geese needed to be found prior to getting the goose you were originally looking for. And the geese are clever, and at times invisible, and able to outmaneuver you and your wimpy little weapon (aka "Google" which I have far less faith in these days). And in the end, no one really cares about the geese anyway. There is nothing interesting about the geese that you will be better off in life by knowing. You are simply capturing really annoying and crafty geese. If the race is anything like the quiz I am likely to fry a circuit in my brain and cannot be responsible for my actions.

**It should be known that your start time is determined by your score on the pre-race quiz which is the only reason i spent the limited amount of time on it that I did....when i turned it in my score was a 57%. yes 57. I'm pretty sure that's failing on most curves. Well we roll up to packet pickup and I'm even more bitter about the quiz because I'm thinking I have wasted my time and we still won't get any benefit from it. I overhear the guy say 'if you have a 57 or better on the quiz you're in the first wave". WHAT. Oh ya. Can you say min-i-mum com-pe-ten-cy. I've never been so happy to have a 57 in my entire life.....why? Because it means I spent exactly the minimum amount of effort needed to get the maximum result. Perfectly played. The guy in front of us in line said he spent 9 hours on the quiz. NINE HOURS. Are you kidding me? I would have shot myself long before 9 hours had I continued to let myself plug away at that quiz. Moral of the story here kids: Aim low, get lucky.**

3. Navigation will play a large part in the race and my teammate and I have been known to have minor vocal disagreements about navigation methods. In fact just today we had one of these little disagreements about whether or not it was faster to take the beltline or Odana to get from 151 to westgate mall. (for the record, its the beltline, read: I was right) We did drive roughly 1300 miles across British Colombia in search of fresh pow earlier this year and manage not to kill each other though....so I guess we've got that goin' for us. Then again, there's pretty much one road across most of Canada. There are a few more options in Madison.

4. Did I mention I don't like biking in traffic?

5. I'm too smart. And I don't mean that in a "I'm a brilliant rocket scientist" kind of way. I mean, my brain works too hard. I can't shut it off and I over think pretty much everything. Probably why I thought my head might explode while taking the pre-race quiz, but also potentially the cause of us not being able to come up with the answers to simple clues about where the mystery checkpoints are. Thus leading to a wild-goose chase around Madison, this time by bike rather than electronically around the Internet. Much more tiring.

I'm starting to think I figured out why they offer copious amounts of free beer post-ride....
Oh well, I paid my hundred bucks, suckered someone into playing teammate for the day....I'm doin' it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This race has homework?

This bike ride is hard already and its still days away. Even registration stumped me when the first thing I was asked was to enter my "team name."

Uh...ok...lemme think.....uhhhh......email a few friends and ask for ideas....they've got nothin'........ok lemme think some more......maybe I should do this later.... [insert about 7 hours] ...ok, gotta register.....nuts, still need a "team name".....still got nothin'......text message race partner......he's no help at all....ugh.

I was totally stumped. Everything that seemed remotely clever or cute ended up coming across as totally cheesy or self-righteous. In the end I went with something relatively innocuous just to get it done. Lame, but done.

Then today I get an email with the standard "we're looking forward to a great race" but also including a link to the pre-race quiz.

HOMEWORK? This race has homework?

Apparently its optional, but your quiz results determine your start time so if you want a fighting chance you better do your homework. Not like I think we're going to win....but remember I'm slow, so coming in dead last is always a fear.

The funny part about this is that I feel much more pressure to be smart than fast. If it was just a bike race and I came in dead last, well that would suck a little but I'd just be all "oh well, I'm slow." But sucking on the quiz -- not an option. Slow is somehow acceptable but there's just no excuse for not being smart. Though I'm not sure why I think the quiz is going to be such a big deal...I doubt they're gonna bust out some differential equation problems (right?) or make us calculate mass properties....center of gravity of an unsymmetrical object anyone?.....how about dipole moments in magnetic fields....ohhh, now I'm really having some bad flashbacks to college. Ummm....maybe I should go study.....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Notes from yesterday

I busted out some of my least favorite running shorts last night and found a remnant from times gone by....times when I used to run far enough so as to need to stop at convenience stores and replenish my food/water supplies.....*surprise* $5 in the pocket. Sweet! Too bad I still hate those running shorts. Which may be why I could not be motivated to go for an actual run in my running shorts last night.

However, there is another likely culprit in the "Who's sucking all the motivation out of my workout life lately" mystery -- allergies. They are HORRIBLE right now and it seems every last bit of energy I have is going toward defending my body from the evils of ragweed.

I also tried to give up caffeine yesterday. That was a very bad and short-lived idea. Because caffeine is a necessary weapon in my ongoing battle with ragweed. As is my new best friend Fexofenadine.

And as a parting thought in this completely random assortment of thoughts from yesterday....if ever there was a time to eat cantaloupe, the time is now. Tis the season to be stopping at the little farmer stands in parking lots here in the Midwest and O-M-G is it worth it. You never knew cantaloupe could be so good. Try it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

To race, or not to race...

I have a scheduled sprint tri next weekend. I haven't registered yet, which means now I have the luxury of weighing my options. Training since late June has dwindled to barely existent. And things have gotten a tad busy as of late. Not that busy is an excuse, its just a fact.

So lets weigh the pros and cons:

PRO - The race is relatively cheap ($45 entry fee) -- about half the average cost of a sprint tri.
CON - The race is about a 45-50 minute drive from my house which adds a decent amount of cost in time and gas and means getting up at 4am on race day.

PRO - I have been a lazy slob and racing would make me feel like a triathlete again.
CON - Racing without training will only confirm my laziness and will likely be very painful.

PRO - I'll get in a good workout.
CON - If I had any sort of dedication and commitment I could also get in a very good workout from home, for FREE. (Which actually gives me an idea.....)

Ok, so what if I have my own little mini sprint tri next Saturday? Sponsored by -- ME.

I'll go for a swim at the local pool, head out for a quick 15 mile bike (I already have a 12 mile loop that leaves from my house so the added miles from the pool will work out perfectly), and finish up with a little 3 mile run (again, I already have a loop right from my front door that's about 3 miles). Yes, this is a fabulous idea. I love it. And as a bonus....I am SURE to finish first! The only time in my life that will probably ever happen.

This way I can save my $50 entry fee for Sunday's Urban Assault Ride (entry fee totally justified by free beer and burritos at the end). And save a few pounds of carbon emissions by not driving an hour away to race.

I still have one more race on the calendar in September, so skipping this race is not a season ending decision. And I'm guessing I'll have a few friends racing in September too, which will make it more fun.

Hmmm....I think the first annual Slowest Triathlete Sprint Tri is ON! We'll just call it The Slowest Sprint Tri. Contact me if you want to "register" -- its FREE -- but I'll need you to sign a waiver saying that you won't be faster than me. ;)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

As long as I'm promoting Wisconsin businesses....

It should be noted that someone who parks their bike between my car and my office every day has VERY good taste in bikes.


This little beauty popped up on the walk portion of my commute a few days ago. Meet the Trek Soho S. The photo from the Trek site does not do this bike justice. It is quite possibly the sexiest commuter bike I've seen. I try not to drool on it as I walk by every morning.

Different in a good way

So this morning on my daily quest for caffeine I noticed something a little, well...different. A different mix of people milling about the Starbucks. Stuffy suits and shiny shoes were replaced with Keen sandals (worn with socks, of course) and messenger bags with flashy logos.

Yes, something was different....in the best kind of way.

My conclusion: The annual Trek meeting is underway. (Their headquarters are here in the great state of Wisconsin, in case you were wondering why in the world they would have a meeting here....well, besides this town being consistently ranked one of the top towns for cycling...)

Anyway, why is this important, you might ask? Well a certain cyclist who happens to be sponsored by Trek has been known to make appearances at the annual meeting. (ahem....starts with L, rhymes with dance)

How freakin' cool would it be to bump into a 7-time Tour de France winner on your way to get coffee? (way, way cool....in case you were looking for an answer there....WAY freakin' cool)

It makes me want to go for a ride just because of the increased chance of bumping into a world-class cyclist out on the road. 'Cuz that would be freakin' cool.

Ok, I'm going to stop talking like a 12-year-old skater now. I've got to start mentally planning my wardrobe for tonight's workout....'cuz you just never know who you're going to be riding/running along next to (ie getting passed by) out on the road....and since I've never been known to impress anyone with my speed I've gotta bring my A-game in the fashion department.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A message from ski season...

I recently ordered some ski poles online -- because that's a totally logical thing to do in August. Guess I was thinking ahead to triathlon off-season.....

Anyway, I ordered these super awesome ski poles and was eagerly anticipating their arrival (so I could test them out on carpet in my air conditioned house, of course...how exciting). The oddly shaped box finally shows up on my doorstep and then.....what appeared were not the K2 6-karat super-sweet carbon composite ski poles that I was hoping for, but LIFE-LINK Carbon Pro avalanche probes.

Huh?

Even the snow gods are subtly trying to tell me I need to step up my game. Do they know I've been a workout slacker? The only people who need avalanche probes are the crazies who head out under the ropes and consider hitchhiking more efficient than the lift lines and I'm quite sure those people are hucking themselves off waterfalls in kayaks or screaming through boulder fields on mountain bikes right now. The pole mix-up was a little message from winter that "people who ski the best secret powder stashes are not enjoying leisurely summers of ice cream eating and comfort bike riding so GET OFF YOUR LAZY BUM."

Right. Point taken. Thank you ski season.

I don't know what to say

Another one. Yesterday evening in Milwaukee. Cyclist killed in fatal hit and run.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Don't feel much like biking today

Yesterday was a bad day for travel in this town.

Before 9am a 21-year old cyclist was run over by the rear wheels of a water delivery truck within spitting distance of my office.

Around 4:30pm three people were killed and one seriously injured when a car crossed the median and entered oncoming traffic.

And at 6:30pm I witnessed what I assume was a bike vs car accident that has etched an unforgettable image into my soul. I didn't see it happen, but if I had been one car further ahead I would have. I heard screams through my open sunroof. I saw car doors open and people run. But it wasn't until the man in the car in front of me turned in my direction that I knew something horrible had just happened. His eyes were saucers of shock and panic. His actions were frantic as he tried to decide what he should do. He got out of the car, took a few steps, turned back toward the car maybe thinking it was better to stay out of the way, and then finally turned and ran toward the gathering crowd. Cars started to move around the congestion, eager to get past, not knowing what had just happened. I moved with traffic. And as I came around the cars abandoned by drivers who had gone to help, I saw her laying in the road. Completely motionless. And I will spare you the details. I will simply say all was not as it should be.

I thought I was going to have to pull over to throw up. And then I started to get a little clammy like I do before I pass out.

I didn't see what happened. (And oddly, I couldn't find it in the news, though the other two incidents were covered). I don't know who was at fault, if anyone. But I do know that the whole thing felt like a sock to the gut. An unequivocal reminder of how your life can be changed in an instant.

The more I hear the stories of cyclists being hit by cars (a woman in Milwaukee killed just last month, a woman on the Scenic Shore ride who ended up with a broken pelvis...), the more it seems its "not if, but when" for those who bike regularly. And I'm not blaming anyone, cyclists can cause accidents too. Its just that the cyclist usually doesn't fare too well in the fight. And whether the injured or the one who caused injury, you are not likely to walk away from something like that unaffected.

So today, I just can't find it in me to want to ride my bike. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe this weekend. But today I just don't have it in me.

Be safe out there. Drive kindly. Ride smart. Wear your seat belt. Wear a helmet. And remember that life is too short to put off chasing a few crazy dreams.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I'm obviously messed up in the head

Why am I oddly jealous that this guy gets to bike across Nebraska?

Perhaps its my overly romantic view of the open road? I always have been a somewhat overzealous fan of road trips. Half the wheels must = double the fun. I mean how fun would it be to show up at some bar in the middle of nowhere Nebraska and be all...ya, I biked here... Mind if I sleep in your hay barn?

Ya. Fun with a capital F is what that would be. Beats a Monday in cubicle-land anyway.

Manitowoc -- an oceanside city right here in the midwest


Ahh, weekends away.....aren't they great? And doesn't this seriously look like it could be the ocean? This is what the Scenic Shore 150 would have looked like had it not been totally fogged in the weekend of the ride.

We ended up with great weather this weekend. Spent some time on the Mariner's Trail. Pretty much rode our bikes anywhere we needed to go. And just generally enjoyed ourselves.

Notice I did not say anything about running. There was no running. I packed not one, but TWO running outfits and didn't run once (I actually do this a lot more than I care to admit to). So, um, that new "motivated workout" thing....that starts today. Really. Today. No more excuses.

And after eating four-course B&B breakfasts for two days and following up bike rides with homemade ice cream at the old fashioned candy shop....I NEED to run or those new running shorts aren't going to fit me when I do get around to wearing them!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Whatever gets you out the door

When it is 90+ humid outside and your gym membership expired a month ago (no more climate-controlled workouts) it can be hard to find the motivation to workout. Ok, who am I kidding, sometimes when its 70 and sunny its hard to find the motivation to workout.

-- enter addiction to technical wear --

I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for anything in a wicking fabric. I probably need a twelve step program. But workout clothes are just so cute...and comfy. And because they're used for something other than lounging around looking cute and drinking martinis, they seem like a less frivoulous purchase to me. If you spent a minute in my closet you would think I was sponsored by The North Face. My little zip-up running jackets are hung in the closet in an equal-opportunity fashion right next to my tailored suits...and to be honest I wear the running jackets far more than the suit jackets.

Because sometimes I suffer from a problem far worse than an affinity for dri-fit fabric....I get a case of the lazy. And if buying a new piece of gear can get me out on that dreaded weeknight post-work run, well I consider that money well spent. My checkcard will just have to get over it.

This is my latest purchase: the best little running skirt ever. Totally got me out the door in the melting heat last night. And managed to keep me cute (while dripping with sweat) for post-run wine and appatizers at the bar near the trailhead.

And while on the same little shopping spree I also picked up the best little running shorts ever. Though I have yet to actually run in them....but seeing how these shorts did not suck immediately upon touching my body as most running shorts do (seriously, can it really be that hard to find shorts that fit?) I have high hopes. And I'll GET to wear them this weekend if I actually make it out the door for a run.

I'm hoping that these new purchases can help me out of the mid-summer slump I've been having. I realize that someone who biked 150-miles in last two weeks should find it hard to think they're in a slump....but its true. My motivation for workouts is completely gone. And that needs to change -- like, IMMEDIATELY. At this point I'm worried about completing the sprint tri on my calendar in a few weeks....a SPRINT for cryin' out loud.

From "I'm doing a half Ironman" to "I don't know if I can do a sprint tri" in two months. What happened?

I wonder if those shorts came with a magic-no-workout-get-in-shape feature.....wouldn't that be nice? But just in case, I guess I'll be upping the running and trying to remember where the pool is for the next three weeks. Hmmm....I bet a new training suit would help me find the pool....and maybe new goggles.....

Monday, July 28, 2008

Did I unknowingly birth something?

This weekend i had the root-canal-caliber fun of buying a new car. I know, it should be exciting and all...but I really don't see how spending a wad of hard-earned money on something that is only going to depreciate could be considered fun.

Regardless, I needed a car...so off to the sales lots I went.

I drove, I bartered, I debated. And all through the process I found myself saying things like, "well what kind of rack can I get for this car?" .... "Is there enough room in the back for my bike?" .... "How many people, gear bags, and bikes will this car hold?" .... "Well....I think I could put my bike in here, but then how much cargo space will I have left..."

You'd think I was talking about my family of four the way I was all "well, I don't know if that will work with the bikes."

In the end I walked away with something that should work out quite nicely for me and the bikes. I hope the bikes appreciate this. But then, kids these days have such a sense of entitlement.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Scenic Shore 150

Lets go biking.....in the rain!

Ok, so I ended up having fun after all. I always do.

My butt, however, did not. If there was a limiting factor in my completion of 150 miles it was not muscle fatigue or proper nutrition....it was my bottom. There is a reason people train for cycling events like this that has nothing to do with strength or speed and everything to do with getting your backside and your bike seat to play nice together.
Mine are currently fighting. The relationship may be permanently doomed if I don't start some regular counseling sessions very soon. I'm thinking 80-100 miles a week on a regular basis might be a good place to start.

The fact that I brushed cobwebs off my bike when I packed it up might put in perspective my strategy for this ride -- survive.

That said, I didn't start off so good. Flying along with some of the other Team in Training alumni at speeds of 19-21mph is probably not a smart way to start off 150 miles for the training impaired. But I felt good, I was dirty from falling in a mud puddle at the first rest stop and feeling tough, so I went with it.

Those first 40 miles of speed likely contributed to the whopping numbers like TWELVE and NINE that I was pushing the last six miles of day one. Longest - six - miles - of - my - life.
But there was beer at the end and all was right with the world again.

The weather for the weekend was pretty crazy. Complete downpour Saturday morning. Followed by some drizzle here and there. Then an eerie fog. Which was cool in a way, but did put a damper on most of the "scenic" aspect of the ride.
But with a little creativity the fog and the wacky town names here in Wisconsin (St. Moritz, Belgium, etc...) made it easy for bored cyclists to imagine themselves somewhere other than the Midwest.
A little cyclist community was formed as people rolled into Manitowoc and started setting up tents on the lawn of the college. We set up our tent, hit the showers, got a massage, and then kicked back with a Sprecher and a few good friends. What could be better, really?
A room with a view?
A little walk on the beach maybe?
It poured again Saturday night. Lightening and thunder starting around 11:30pm. Not what you want to hear when all that separates you from the elements is a thin sheet of nylon. But we managed to stay dry, and even get a little sleep (due to sheer exhaustion, no doubt).

Sunday morning we rolled out just before 8am -- well behind a good number of more motivated cyclists (the official start was 7:30am). I seriously contemplated the possibility of 75 miles without actually sitting on the bicycle. After I determined that defied all the laws of physics (and the endurance limitations of my quads) I seriously considered sag-ing to the finish if I could hold out 'til lunch.

I clung to the back of Kelly's wheel for dear life the better part of the morning. It wasn't "windy" but there was a steady and somewhat annoying headwind so drafting saved me a little more energy for hovering over the seat.

I really didn't think I was going to make it. But then....then, I was introduced to the miracle snack food....uncrustables. WHY DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THESE BEFORE? My addiction to PB&J is widely known, yet no one felt the need to introduce me to these?!
Ok, I know its not honey wheat bread from Wild Oats with natural peanut butter and organic preserves (ohhh...moment to savor the perfect road-trip food memories.....). But still.

When I got to the second rest stop (we blew by the first one) and put my hands on this little goo-ey blob of goodness....still slightly chilled....well, instant rejuvenation is what happened. Ok, maybe not instant, but darn did it make me happy.
I managed to make it lunch and fuel up on the best fruit salad ever. And whether it was that, or the 7 ibuprofen I'd popped throughout the morning, I don't know, but something gave me a little kick in the pants. The last 25 miles seemed to sail by and before I knew it we were pulling into the state park in Sturgeon Bay and loading our bikes onto truck #1.

Ya, that's right. Truck #1! I don't know how it happened either, considering our late start and my slogging along for most of the morning, but we managed to finish fast enough to get our bikes on the first of three trucks. Not bad.

All in all a great weekend. I was kind of a slacker about picture taking but here are a few more....

There was a lot of this scenario....barns, cornfields, and what you can't see is lake michigan is about 1000 yards to our right.

And there was some of this too....a beautiful sight for a cyclist...a straight, flat road all to yourself.