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 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 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 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.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Doesn't that look "fun"?

These things always look so good on paper. But then its event-eve and I'm trying to pack thinking "exactly what part of this did I think would be fun?"

This is another classic example. Two days of biking. 150 miles from Milwaukee to Sturgeon Bay. Camping on Lake Michigan along the way.

OK, I'll admit that in a romantic sense it seems like fun. Can't you just picture the glossy flier...jovial cyclists all easily rolling along...laughing, enjoying the scenery, making new friends, not a bead of sweat to be found.

But here's how the situation looks mere hours before the event:
  • Delusional cyclist hasn't really been training. Has only done one ride over 50 miles this year. And just came off a 10-day vacation. ( the flier everyone looked so fit and happy?)
  • The weather is predicted to include oppressive heat, suffocating humidity, and thunderstorms. (where's the sunshine and 70 degrees from the flier?)
  • Less-than-enthused and under trained cyclist will be sleeping on the floor of a hotel room she's sharing with three other people the night before the ride. (This was definitely not in the flier.)

Moral of the story: Never believe the promotional material. PR people lie.

The good news is that I've managed to convince someone else that this looked like fun too, (the benefits of peer pressure!) so I will not be suffering alone. Then again, she is the same friend that emailed to see if I was opting for the century on day one. -- uh, no thanks. 150 miles in one weekend will be plenty. --

So kick back and have a beer for me this weekend while I roast on the pavement of Wisconsin's back country roads. If I'm not back Monday will someone come peel me off the road where I melted into a puddle of goo before another thunderstorm washes me away forever. Thanks. :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lessons learned on the hike to the top of the world

So we didn't summit Rainier. We did, however, drive through the campground that many of those attempting the summit leave from to gawk at them like groupies. Its the same way I get when Ironman WI weekend rolls around. I walk around all googlie-eyed at all the athletes thinking "Wow, you're about to do something amazing. Well done you crazy nut-job. Now go hug your significant other and/or family members and thank them for sticking with you through the madness."
Anyway, after stalking the pseudo-celebs of the hiking world, what we did do was a lot of hiking...through a lot more snow than I expected....with views that quite honestly blew me away.

I don't know why I had low expectations for Rainier, I just did. Something about it being a volcano struck me as very "Devil's Tower" and I assumed it was something of a drive-by geologic feature (I don't rock-climb otherwise I'm sure I wouldn't categorize Devil's Tower as a drive-by anything...but that's another story for another time).

So I was wrong. Way wrong. Mt. Rainer National Park is beautiful. I'm definitely putting our day of hiking on my short list of most beautiful workouts. Followed closely by America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride (100 miles around Lake Tahoe), and the All Hallow's Eve Trail Half Marathon in Vancouver, BC. Although kayaking the Apostle Islands National Seashore at sunset didn't exactly suck either.

So back to the point I was trying to make here....there is something about thin air and scenic vistas that makes my brain work overtime. And inevitably I come away with a few little nuggets of life perspective that I carry home with me. So here are a few from Rainier:
  • If you've done an "Iron" anything people have some preconceived notions about your athletic abilities (as ill-founded as they may be). So when your little sister knows she's going hiking with alleged "Irongirl" her competitive nature will kick in and she's gonna bring her A game. Don't expect to be able to slack off. You've got a reputation to live up to.

  • Theory holds: Things that are harder have a better reward. (i.e. steeper = prettier)

  • The early bird gets something better than worms....she gets the trail to herself.

  • Those trails that you see in running shoe ads really do exist.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Number 1

I had a lot of time to observe triathlon as a spectator last weekend (dang those 70.3's are long!). One of the things I took a minute to ponder was this:

How does one humbly roll up to packet pick up and get number one? I mean, I know (at least I think) the numbers are randomly assigned for the most part. And those itty-bitty numbers are reserved for the crazy-elite. But still. I think I'd have to request another number. Number one is a lot to live up to. And a little presumptuous, is it not? I wouldn't want that kind of pressure. How about friendly number there's an expectation I might live up to.

Yes, clearly me and my non-competitive attitude are not going to be mingling in the little numbers anytime soon. So if you'll excuse me, I'm off to gorge on some i'm-home-from-vacation-and-i-can-be-depressed-if-i-want-to ice cream now.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Meet Tomorrow's Interval Training

I am predicting intervals of crippling quad-burn interspersed with periods of gasping for oxygen. Or....we could take the "cush" tourist trail....2 miles and only 150 feet of elevation change. I'm guessing we'll end up somewhere between summiting and dodging the strollers and wheelchairs.

Vacation workouts rock!

(and incidentally so does the weather here in the NW ....rain? hasn't rained once in 6 days! just look at that blue sky over Rainier)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

There's an empty spot in transition

Tomorrow they'll be a little extra room in transition for two lucky half Ironman competitors. It makes me a little sad. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't nice to be strolling around the transition area today without feeling like I was going to throw up.

Just Like Swimming

Ahhh....vacation is good. Who needs triathlon anyway. This was much more enjoyable than open water swimming -- I got nearly as wet, and my arms still felt like they were going to fall off when I was done, but I got to enjoy some scenery along the way.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On the bright side...

Since deciding not to do the half Ironman and backing the training volume down to virtually nothing, I have had the very enjoyable experience of being a normal human being again.

When I started feeling bad about my decision I took a minute to think about all the things I have done in place of three hour bike rides, and two hour runs, and it makes me pretty darn pleased with myself.

Here are a few:
  • Golfed with my dad.
  • Got the brakes checked on my car (ya, this was loooong overdue....$600 estimate overdue)
  • Enjoyed a Saturday morning at the farmers market.
  • Went out on a Friday night and didn't worry about how many drinks I was having.
  • Had a campfire after spending the day at "the farm" and grilling out with the fam.
  • Caught up on filing the paperwork of life....the bill statements, the receipts, and other assorted fun stuff.
  • Shopped for and bought a fancy-schmanz new camera and have attempted to learn how to use it.
  • Played personal photographer and support crew for friends at a race, rather than racing.
  • Finally took a load of stuff to Goodwill.
  • Had a long dinner with some of my favorite girlfriends....the kind of dinner where you're not worried about what time you'd like to get home so you can get x hours of sleep, or where you have to be the next you can actually relax, enjoy the good company, and catch up in a way that's more than just "here's what I've been up to."

I'm sure there are many more that I'm not thinking of, but you get the picture. Could I have done these things while working and training full time....sure, if I didn't need to sleep and had a personal chef. But in reality, a lot of these things just got pushed to the back burner because time and energy were being diverted to all things triathlon.

Not to say that devoting your life to triathlon is bad. But its a choice. Its the unspoken requirement that you commit to when deciding to tackle something like a half Ironman. Eventually your life begins to revolve around your workout schedule because it has to or you won't be able to fit it all in. If you want to succeed, triathlon will rise to the top your prioritization list.

When I opted out of the race and deleted triathlon from my priority list (even if just temporarily), I kinda freaked out. I was relieved to not have to train in pain anymore, but if I wasn't doing triathlon what WAS I doing? In reality, this break has been a nice reminder of the things I wasn't doing.

In the future, I'm hoping triathlon can play nice and bounce around harmoniously with all the other things on my prioritization list, without having to always monopolize the top slot.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Quitting Defined

I've been putting off this post -- hence the long absence from the blogworld -- but I'm back and I'm ready to wrap my brain around my triathlete status as it stands now.

At the moment I'm consumed with packing for a 10-day trip to Seattle. A trip that was supposed to be the celebration of 6 long months of training and another successful half Ironman.

Instead, I'm simply packing for vacation.

To make a long story short, my body gave out before I could reach the goal. Injuries got the best of me, both physically and mentally, and I threw in the towel four weeks from the big race.

I know, I know....four weeks. That's practically taper time. Why give up then? And I assure you I have bounced that question around in my brain enough to give myself quite a concussion over the whole ordeal.

In the end, I know that its the right decision for me long term. I would rather back off training now and have a shot at maintaining some manageable and sustainable training, than try to gut it out only to put myself completely out of commission for the rest of the year. The 'gut it out and pay later' option is what I've been using up 'til now and its not going so well. It usually means a mediocre and painful race followed by a brief (but not brief enough) period of complete and total inactivity. Then after sitting around like a slug long enough for the aches and pains to subside, I sign up for the next big, crazy goal and have to start from scratch. I end up pushing my body too much, too fast, and inevitably I've put myself on the road to another situation like the one I'm presented with right now.

I'm hoping the decision to drop out of this race will help me put an end to this painful cycle. But mentally....its hard not to feel like a big quitter.

Its been quite an emotional roller coaster these past few weeks. There was the initial relief of the decision, then a feeling of failure, then guilt, then acceptance, then back to one point a few days ago I almost decided to go ahead and do the race, after three weeks of thinking I was backing out (and the workouts based on that....which means, none). Crazy.

And after a few weeks without a stupid-big goal on the horizon I freaked out and signed up for a 150 mile two-day bike ride and started pulling together a training plan for a fall half marathon. Double crazy.

But I needed to feel like I wasn't giving up on up on workout goals....and just giving up, period.

I'm sure I'll be dragging my soggy backside out of another horrible open water swim again very soon. But in the meantime, I'm looking forward to a great trip to the northwest full of hiking, kayaking, lounging, and just enjoying the company of my various travel companions. Hopefully, I'll come back rejuvenated with a new "manageable and sustainable" training plan. (but I'll be happy with just some good pictures!)