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 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, racewear, even the pink aero helmet (though someone who finishes races where I do can't actually wear one without looking completely 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 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 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???


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)


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?"