Thursday, August 07, 2014

Strummer Days Drifting Away

It's flying by.  Was greeted by this stunning sunrise at the Rez this morning, a sure sign that summer is starting to wind down and fall will be here before we know it.

I'll have to remember to start bringing my real camera and maybe even try some video with the GoPro.  But somehow the craptastic iPhone camera did o.k. this morning.  Some things are so amazing that even crappy iPhone can't screw them up.

I realize I've been neglecting the blog.  I post quick things over on Facebook and forget to come here.  Stupid Facebook, I like reading blogs so much better but I'm in the minority.

I love this time of year and we've been having a stellar summer, relatively cool and just enough rain to keep the fire danger down, I'm not even starting to get burnt out on the heat and sun.  Wish all summers could be like this, it's like it was when we first moved here 24 years ago before all the droughts and global warming and Too Many People driving Too Many Cars.  I've even been able to do some backyard agility training with Strummer in the afternoon if I happen to be home.  Unheard of in August. 

Strummer sez, 'Yay for summer backyard ganes'.

Lola sez, 'Yay for summer backyard naps'.  She's 13 1/2 so she can nap all she wants.

And in other news Strummer went to the Boulder Ironman to cheer on the cyclists and got some cheers of his own from the cyclists.  And some snugs off of a lady with a cowbell.

I have a lot I could write about the Ironman in general but it's long winded and not very positive so I'll keep my yap shut.  Was interesting to watch the race though.  These photos are taken with 4-6 miles left on a 112 mile bike ride all of which had been in blazing sun up until that point.  The course went way out east where you may as well be in Kansas and it was probably poke your eyes out boring and these riders were just returning to town.  Some were happy for some crowd support, others had their heads down and were on a mission.  Some looked like they had a marathon left in them and others . . . not so much.  I avoided the downtown Finish Line hoopla but I did watch a bit of the finish on the Ironman website and it seemed like it wasn't a super deep field, ie not many people finishing at the pointy end.  But I don't know, maybe there are so many races these days that that's normal. 

Despite what the media were reporting this was not Boulder's first ironman.  There was an ironman back in 2001 that lasted a couple few years then turned into a half ironman then the Ironman cartel bought the half and added a full and this is the first year the full has been an Ironman under the official Ironman brand.  Which for some reason matters to people.  There was an ironman in Grand Junction this May and only 17 people went to that one vs over 3000 for the Official Ironman Brand race in Boulder.  Registration fee for the 2015 Grand Junction race was $200 on this year's race weekend, $250 until May 19 of this year and is currently at $400.  Registration for Official Ironman Brand race for this year's Boulder Race?  $760!  And I think the one in New York is/was over $1000.  Being an Ironman vs an ironman is a spendy proposition, not for the weak of wallet.  Whole new tax bracket.  Lots of super fancy cars parked at the Rez for masters swims and races in the couple few weeks before the race.  Quite an education in Ironman Culture over the past couple few weeks.  On the plus side my masters swim group must have made a nice profit this year.

Meanwhile my race season is still in full swing.  I have Xterra Buffalo Creek in 2 1/2 weeks then Xterra Nationals in September.  And maybe a non-Xterra sactioned off-road tri the week before Nationals just so I can get in the open water before Nats.  I'm not as fussy as the Ironman folk, non-Xterra is fine with me.  I'm pretty sure I already have enough points to qualify for Nationals even without Buffalo Creek.  I'm currently sitting in 8th place (top 10 go to Nationals) and with the exception of one person I don't think anyone else below me will do another race let alone 2.  The past 2 years I've finished in 7th place, we'll see if it happens again this year.

Then there's hiking in the high country, another summer treat.  Wildflowers are epic this year due to the snowy winter and wet spring.

I know you're jealous of my loud purple shorts. 

Oh yeah, and the rattlesnake.  We saw 2 on different trails but I only got a photo of this one.  The other one was angry and rattling and there were people between me and it so I couldn't see it before it slithered into a hole right next to the trail.  Still rattling and angry and I could still see it's silhouette.  Let a few other people go past it before I went and put my bike between me and it.  A little scary but I made it past.

Still a few more weeks to squeeze out as much as I can.  Better go throw another load of laundry into the washer.

Monday, July 28, 2014

XTERRA Aspen Valley - All The Carnage

XTERRA Aspen Valley
1200 meter/1312 yard swim, 12 mile mountain bike, 5k/3.1 mile trail run
Starting Elevation 6483' 
El Jebel, Colorado (between Glenwood Spring and Aspen)

I'll admit I came this close to bailing on the race and driving up to the Maroon Bells for a hike on race morning.  It's one of my favorite areas and it's perfect timing for wildflowers which I'll bet are epic this year due to the heavy winter snow and wet spring.  So much more tempting than torturing myself again on that bike course.  I barely made it through one lap yesterday on the pre-ride and now I have to do two laps and my legs are still a little stiff from yesterday.  And run and swim as well.  I'm not a fan of self-flagellation or being scraped off the side of a mountain but I'm also not a fan of bailing on committments.  But can I finish this course in one piece?  For the first time ever I'm not entirely sure.  It's not just scary, it's also very physically demanding.  So many hills I had to push my bike up because they were too steep to ride.  But eventually I convince myself that I have to try.  At the very least the swim looks fun.

The race doesn't start until 10:00 a.m. and transition doesn't open until 8:30 so I have a lot of time to kill.  At 7:45 I have a plate of scrambled eggs from the Whole Foods across the street from the race site.  It's a little nutrition experiment since I don't usually have solid food other than maybe an energy bar before a race.  But no energy bars or Gu's for me this year, just  regular food and Ucan.  I had bought a Gu packet yesterday since the race was going to be nearly twice as long as I'd anticipated and I'm not sure if the Ucan I have on hand will be enough but I never use it.  Two portions of Ucan gets me through no problem and the eggs are a great choice, enough to get me through to the race start without any stomach upset.

Some guy asks me to take a picture of his buddy while we're waiting around in transition so I ask him to do the same as long as we're doing photo shoots.

I get a great spot in transition and I'm ready to go in plenty of time.  Surprisingly relaxed despite the challenges that await me.

Swim - 1200 meters/1312 yards

I'm most looking forward to the swim.  The water is warm, around 74-75 degrees, and the air temperature is hot so I can wear my sleeveless wetsuit and enjoy the mobility in my arms.  The lake is a man-made water ski lake that isn't super deep and only about 5' around the edges so if people panic they don't have far to swim to to be able to stand up.  A perfect swim situation for first timers or nervous swimmers.  It's a unique course in that the turn around buoys are little islands, one at each end of the lake.

There's ample time to warm up both before the race and after it starts for those of us in the later waves.  I was initially in wave 4 of 6 but at check-in I asked to be moved to the last wave so I could take my time through the bike course.  I start off waiting for my wave in the water because the sun is beating down and it's hot but a woman standing next to me has a crab crawl across her foot so I run for shore.  Then get too hot again and decide to risk the crabs and whatever else may be crawling around.  Thankfully nothing bites or pinches me.

The swim goes well, I push myself to experiment with pacing.  At one point my hand scrapes the bottom and I realize I've drifted off course and I'm near enough at the shore.  Not sure how that happened but I quickly get back on course.  My wave is small so there's little congestion at the start and I quickly have clear water for the rest of the race, swimming on my own.  I catch a few people from the previous wave and pass a few from my own but other than that I have no idea how I'm doing relative to the rest of the field.  In the end my time is 25:30 (by my watch) or 1:57 per 100 yards which seems slow but the course feels a wee bit long and there is my off course yardage.  Official time is 25:53 which includes the short dash to transition.

Mountain Bike - 12 miles

Now the fun starts.  My goal is simply to finish with enough gas in the tank for the run.  I'm not scared on the course like I was the day before because I know what to expect and where to get off and walk.  I'm prepared for lots of walking due to the technical parts that are over my head, the super steep, loose downhills, and the super steep uphills that are too steep for me to ride.

The course is two 6 mile laps but those laps are composed of two different 3 mile loops that go back to the transition area so I'm never more than 3 miles from transition which gives me many opportunities to bail.  In my mind I break the course up into those four 3 mile loops.

The first loop starts off a little crazy since lots of people from previous waves are starting their second lap.  Also this part of the course is super steep and very narrow single track much of it on a ledge so passing is very difficult.  I end up spending a lot of time pressed against the hillside with my bike as I have to wait for lines of people to pass.  The only good thing about this is that I climb the steep part a bit then get to recover while letting people by then climb some more and on and on.

You can get an idea of the steepness of that first hill from the elevation profile.  It's a max. 11.7% grade on the uphill and 14.8% on the downhill.

I start off the steep climb with a guy writhing in pain on the side of the trail, his bike blocking the trail.  He dislocated his shoulder earlier, popped it back into place and now it has dislocated again and he can't move.  A girl who has just made a big deal of having to pass me on a particularly narrow portion of ledge is now stuck with the task of moving his bike off trail.  And she's not happy about it or the least bit concerned about the guy.  Thankfully a medic is on his way down to help the guy.  Rather than put her own bike down to move the guy's bike, she asks the medic to do it.  Because apparently her race is more important than this poor guy getting help.  A bottle neck is forming around all of this so I pull over and take a breather and let everyone by.  I have to stop many more times and it's kind of a mess but in the end this probably helps me because I'm able to recover and tackle the next portion of hill.  My second loop is clear of people but slower but this can also be because it's hotter and I'm more tired.

Anyway, there's a very steep portion of downhill with a switchback that I had tried to ride the day before and realized too late that it was too steep and nearly ended up in a tree but managed to stop myself.  Today I notice it's marked with yellow caution tape so I have plenty of time to get off ahead of time to walk down it.  It's even more dangerous today because the dirt is looser and deeper from all the previous racers.  Some guy insists on passing me as I'm trying to walk down it and he's going too fast, misses the turn and goes down in the bushes/trees.  He tells his buddy he's too hurt to go on.  The race organizers have positioned medics all over the course so that if you notice an injured racer you tell the next medic that you see so I tell the next medic.  So much excitement and only the first 1 1/2 miles and it doesn't end there.  Throughout the race I see people covered in dirt and blood too injured to go on, one guy with his face cut up pretty good.  Or guys on the side of the trail bent over their bikes hyperventilating.  And a guy's tire explodes in a flat as he tries to go down a super steep rocky bit at an alarming speed.  So much carnage.  I've never seen so much in a race.  Thankfully there were plenty of medics on hand.

The course then flattens a bit and enters a motocross track.  This part is not technically difficult and yet I manage to fall.  Since it's so wide and easy I decide to adjust my Camelbak hose and I'm not paying good attention and drift into the soft shoulder.  My wheels go out from under me sideways and I land on my side just below my butt.  Thankfully I'm not hurt, I just feel stupid for falling in such a ridiculous place.

There are no hard technical challenges but there are some super steep hills, more like walls, that I have to walk up.  Pretty much everybody has to walk up these.  And we have to go up them again on the run.

Then there is some steep climbing, so steep I'm mostly walking as is another woman.  We end up walking/riding together for a bit.

At the top of one of the climbs.  You can see a big wood structure at the top of the hill.  Thankfully we didn't have to go on that thing though there are some wood bridges and structures later on.

One more big steep climb then it's a quick downhill to transition for the second loop of the lap 1.  This loop has most of the technical riding and steep climbs, a lot of steep climbs. Lots of getting off and getting back on my bike.  And all the bridges and wood structures.  This one is the biggest.

The ramp to the right is a drop off , great if you're looking to get some air.  The ramp to the left slopes down very steeply and then there's another drop-off but smaller than the one on the right.  Still, I'm not for riding it and during the pre-ride I walk down it which is also sketchy.  However after the pre-ride someone tells me there's a trail that bypasses the whole thing so I take that during the race.  Phew.

But there are others with no bypasses.  This one doesn't look so bad but you can't see that's it's a fairly decent drop-off and then there's another drop-off/rock ledge after it.  There's a medic standing at the top of this ramp warning people.  I tell him no worries, I'm walking down it all.  On my second lap I'm so hot and overheating and tired that he looks a bit alarmed when he sees me and asks me if I'm o.k.  And I tell him yeah, I'm just hot.  There's a good steep little climb just before this ramp so I'm particularly red.

At least the views are nice, not that I notice much during the race.

There is still a lot of climbing, up and down, and I find myself riding/walking with a group of 4 other women, two of whom are friends doing the race together.  It's their first Xterra.  Full on baptism by fire.  Only one other woman is planning on a second lap.  After all the shell shocked people coming off the trail from the pre-ride the race director decides to offer the option of doing only one lap.  Your time is 'unofficial' and you don't get points for Nationals or any awards but you're allowed to go on and do the run and you get a time so you can compare your results to the other one-lappers.  27 people decide to go for this option.  Many people also opt to form last minute relay teams and many people simply bail.  The race is sold out and limited to 200 people and only 142 of those finish the whole enchilada.  So I'm tired and having the opposite of a lot of fun but I'm determined to finish and happy that at least one other woman is with me.

Lap two starts and I'm having a brief little chat with the other woman.  We're encouraging each other on, telling each other how awesome we are for attempting another loop of this madness and a volunteer says to us, 'What is this, a social ride?'  I respond, 'Are you crazy??!!  A social ride??!!  Maybe if my friends are sadists or masochists!'.  He realizes his mistake and says he's joking and encourages us on.

After a bit I hear some women behind me and it's the two first timer friends.  I tell them, 'Good for you' and they respond, 'Yeah, we decided we'd feel like shitheads if we didn't finish'.  And so lap two goes.  It's slower and hotter and quieter but we soldier on.  Walking, riding, walking, riding.  By the final loop I'm very hot and I have to stop a few times to let my core temp. come down a little so the others get ahead of me.  But all of us finish the bike.

Run - 5k/3.1 miles

The run is only a 5k but it's so hot and I'm so tired.  The start of the run is on some wooden bridges that go over some ponds.  Before I get on I stop and the pond's edge and splash loads of water over me.  I would get in all the way and dunk myself but there's no easy way so I settle for some splashing.  It's not the nicest water but I'm not picky at this point.

Eventually I catch up to the pair of women.  They tell me they're from Salida and I'm excited about this because Jonny and I are contemplating a move there at some point.  Boulder has gotten so overcrowded and busy and full of traffic and rich people.  Selling up and moving onward gets more appealing each day.  They love it except for the lack of city amenities, ie shopping.  I hate shopping so this is no problem for me.  But we're all too tired and hot for too much of a conversation.

The course goes through some nice cool woods then spits you out on the hot, exposed motocross track.  Up, down, up, etc.  Then onto the singletrack and up a steep trail we did on the bike but it keeps going up and up, neverending.  Such a cruel joke for the last mile or so of the run.  But I can hear the finish line.  I wonder if I'm going to be DFL for the first time ever but I hear a finish time announced that's way slower than what I'm likely to finish in.  And I see a guy starting the motocross section as I'm finishing and despite the huge mountain we have to climb I don't think there's enough race left for him to catch me.  Not that I care.  I just want to finish and for the first time ever I don't care if it's DFL.

Finally the trail heads downward and spits me out on the road that leads to the final wood structure.

(photo taken from the Without Limits folks)

My coach's husband rides up on his bike and he's cheering me on to the finish.  He isn't racing but he's there to cheer on his wife and many friends.  He rides with me up to the final wood bridge and my coach is on the other side cheering me on and taking a picture as I descend.  Then it's just a short run to the finish and she runs a bit with me.

Ah the finish!!!

SO so happy to see the finish.  I can't believe I did it but I did.  And I got third place in my age group.  Apparently the course scared a good portion of my age group away.  I got a nice medal, icing on the cake.

My poor socks.  Shouldn't have worn my favorite pair.

But look, the magic of Oxyclean!  That stuff is amazing.

I then had a not so fun drive through rain and flooding roadways in the mountains.  Stopped at the top of Vail Pass in the hope it would blow through.

It lightened a bit then got worse again and I pulled over in Dillon.  Where a guy ran a red light and almost hit the car in front of me.

Didn't get home until 8:00 p.m.  So tired, so hungry but so happy to be able to say I finished that beast of a race.

Final Stats

Swim:  1200 meters/1312 yards, 25:30 swimming time (1:57/100 yards), official time 25:53 includes dash to transition [according to gmaps pedometer course is closer to 1300 m/1425 yards for a pace of 1:47 which is closer to what it felt like]

T1: 2:54  (struggled with gloves on wet hands)

Mountain Bike:  12 miles,  2:53:27 hrs.,    4.9 mph

T2:  1:45

Trail Run:  5k/3.1 miles, 45:35/14:42 min./mile 
Total:  4:09:31 

139/146 Overall 
42/43 Women
3/3 Age Group 

Swim:  2/3 Age Group

T1:  2/3 Age Group

Bike:  3/3 Age Group

T2:  2/3 Age Group

Run:  3/3 Age Group

Friday, July 25, 2014

What Was I Saying Again About That Course Looking Fun?

Because I pre-rode the Xterra Aspen Valley course today and it was the opposite of fun.  I'm sure I walked way more of the course than I rode.  If it wasn't too late to get a refund on my hotel I was going to turn around and drive right back home today.  But it was too late.  So I'll at least go and do the swim, possibly a 6 mile loop of the course (there are 2) then do the run.  It's a DNF (did not finish) and no points for Nationals but at least I'd get in a good hard training day.  Or maybe I'll gut out the whole enchilada.  I've never DNF'd a race before and once you pin a race number on me I'm not likely to quit.  Maybe I'll gut out that second lap.  Because hiking with my bike is super fun.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mountain Photos, We Gots Em, and Wow I Have a Race This Weekend

Summer is in full swing and this means lots of time in the mountains.

Buffalo Creek

Red Tail Hawk barely batted an eye at us.

Gashouse Gulch Trail, part of the Xterra course

The one super technical part of the Xterra course that everyone has to walk.

But it's mostly stuff like this.

Then Saturday was Jonny's birthday hike up near Indian Peaks Wilderness though on a fairly remote, quiet stretch of trail so we saw only a handful of people.

Beaver Reservoir, our starting point

Pretty meadow.  Sometimes there's a moose but not today.

I know you're all jealous of my groovy purple shorts.

Then Sunday started off with my master's group's Bare Bones swim race.

SO many people.  Ironman Boulder is in 2 weeks so people flocked to the race to get some swim practice in at the Rez where the swim will take place.  These are the 2-milers.  I only did the 1-mile race because that's closest to the swim portion of the triathlons I do and I wanted to practice going FAST without having to worry about a bike or run afterwards.  I ended up with a time of 32:16 mins. or 1:50/100 yards, not exactly the zippy pace I was hoping for but it felt like I was moving.  I did drift off course a bit but not too drastically.  I was 15/44 people overall (men and women, all ages) and 9/32 of the women.  The top 3 spots went to women and 2nd and 3rd went to women in their 50's.

Compare to a Stroke-n-Stride I did a little over a week ago:  14:53 for 750 m/820 yards or 1:49/100 yards then 28:47 for a 5k or 9:17 min/mile (2/5 age group, 15/30 women, 33/72 overall).  I guess about a 1:50 pace is what I can expect these days.  A little frustrating considering how much time and effort I've put into swimming but I guess we're still only at mid-season and Nationals isn't until September.

Then a trail run with hill repeats at Walker Ranch.  Sure beats the track.

Walker Ranch was my last hard effort before Xterra Aspen Valley this coming Saturday though today's swim/bike workout and tomorrow's swim/run workout are keeping me busy.  I'm feeling good for the race, fit and feisty and excited and ready to go.  Should be feeling even better after this taper week.  And how awesome does this course look?

I can't pre-ride the course until Friday and I was a little curious about what the wooden bridges/features would be like for the bike but they look o.k.  And how cool to run on the funky wooden bridges over all the ponds and marshes?  A very unique race.

It's the first year of the race and I won't be able to pre-ride until Friday since it's on private land so I have no idea of goals.  It's a relatively short race so my plan is to go hard.  Challenge myself.  Have fun.  Soak up every last bit of summer in the mountains.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Historic UKI Trial

Laramie, WY

Went to my second UKI trial and Wyoming's first ever UKI trial on Sunday in Laramie.  Very fun, very laid back trial.  Unbeknownst to me it was held in conjunction with Stacy Peardot's agility camp so there were people there from all over the country.  In fact out-of-towners made up most of the crowd, there were only five of us that were local.  There's only ever been one other UKI trial in Colorado and that was 4 years ago.  I think I may be the only person who's competed in both.  Anyway, it was a very fun trial - small, laid back, super fun courses, 5 runs.  My idea of a perfect day.  Except for the part where we had a whole hour and only 2 dogs ran.  There were a lot of procedural delays because the venue is new and the trial was put on by a skeleton crew so there were unexpected glitches here and there.  But still the trial started at 11:00 a.m. so I was able to sleep in for the 2 hour drive and I was done by 5:30 so I was home in daylight.  Not too bad all things considered.

We didn't get course maps so I can't post those but I do have videos of all my runs.  I split them into Jumpers runs and Agility runs.  One thing about my GoPro camera is that the high quality of the video footage means huge files and my computer doesn't have enough oomph to handle them so I have to split things up.

Speedstakes, Fancy Jumping and Super Fancy Jumping

UKI Fancy Jumpers from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Fancy Agility and Super Fancy Agility

I have to confess to not being clear on what UKI calls their various classes and the premium is off the website so I'm not sure what they were called.  What I'm calling Fancy Jumping and Agility were the regular masters level titling classes and Super Fancy Jumping and Agility were the combined Biathlon classes that qualify you for something or other that is probably way too far away for us to attend.  Not that we qualified anyway.  But those courses were the most challenging and very fun.  We had off courses in both because I managed to get momentarily lost in both but I thought we did pretty well considering we don't see this stuff very often in trials and Strummer never saw the back side of a jump before a few years ago.  We've come a long way in our international handling at trials and I was super happy with his runs.  We did have a nice fast clean run in Speedstakes for 1st place though we were the only dog in our height.  Our titling jumpers run had only 2 refusals, thrilled to get through that without an off course. 

Strummer had a blast getting so many runs in.  Normally I would never enter so many in a day but with a 2 hour drive I figured I'd enter everything and pull if he looked tired.  Strummer very rarely looks tired and he was raring to go for all his runs.

Was fun to see so many new people running their dogs.  Definitely different from your everyday local trial without the pressure of a national or regional event.  UKI is by far the most fun of all the venues, I so wish we had more trials.

And apparently we can't have a UKI trial without pigs.  During the hour delay I took Strum for a walk around the Animal Sciences barn at the trial site and found the pigs.

I couldn't get any closer for pictures because do you see that moat of muck in front of their pens?  SO gross, no way I was stepping in that.  Also the pigs were getting agitated by the sight of me and/or Strummer and making angry snorting noises, getting stiff aggressive postures, etc. so I backed off pretty quickly.  And somebody was very, very scared of the pigs and pulling my arm off to get away.

So I snapped a couple rushed photos and got out of there.  Plus the smell.  OMG, the SMELL.  Just as bad as the other UKI trial.  Horribly dirty animals, I don't care how smart they supposedly are.

No more trials until maybe DOCNA in August and then USDAA in Sept. but sadly they'll never approach the fun and challenge of UKI.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lookout Mountain Triathlon 2014

Lookout Mountain Triathlon
525 yard pool swim, 10 mile bike (10.37 by cyclometer in 2012, 10.56 by MapMyRide), 3.1 mile run
7600' elevation, 837' elevation gain on the bike, steepest climb is an average 4% grade for 1.32 miles

Another perfect day for racing.  Cloudy and overcast with a little breeze but not too cold.  Doesn't get any better, especially in summer.  And of course the sun came out a bit after the finish for foods and awards.

Transition area was crowded by the time I arrived at just past 7:00 a.m.  The race had started at around 6:30 a.m.  I didn't start my swim until 8:30.  Such are the logistics of a pool swim.

Best part of the race was spending the day with some friends from masters, one whom I had convinced to race and another whom I'd met once or twice and a nice lady.  We were spanning all 3 age groups from 50-64.

It's a low key race with lots of beginners.  The race announcer was hassling people as they left transition, saying things like, 'Geez dude, how old is that bike???!!!  Time to get a new one'.  He was also playing loads of good 80s' music.  For once I didn't have to suffer through Bruce Springsteen which I guess is also 80's music but so bad, such a bad cliche to play 'Born to Run' at a race.  And no Queen/We Will Rock You either!  Yay!  So I started the race in a good mood.


My good mood ended with the swim.  I swam a 9:30 pace for 525 yards last year and the race organizer lady puts me in a lane with a guy who swims a 6:30 and a woman who is also way faster than me.  They're from Kansas and claim they will be slower which of course they will but not that much slower.  The third woman is more my pace, shooting for 10:00 minutes.  I was hoping for a lane with 3 people faster than me so I could go last and go my own pace.  It takes me a while to warm up and there's nowhere really to warm up so I know I'll start slower and pick up speed.  Which is exactly what happens so the woman behind me, who starts out fast, has to pass me.  And I end up stuck behind her for almost the rest of the race.  I should have passed her back but then she'd by drafting off of me and we'd spend the whole swim going back and forth so I just swam behind her and enjoyed the draft.  Meanwhile we had to stop twice to let the speedy guy pass us, my goggles fell off which has never happened, and once again I lost count of my laps and the woman minding our lane did not signal the last lap for me, probably because she lost track of it all as well with all the lapping going on.  So I turned to do another lap and nearly ran into the woman behind me who I'd passed after stopping for the other guy and who was trying to exit the pool in the lane I turned into.  Which was confusing anyway but the whole thing was a big mess and as a result my swim time was not so fabulous, 10:17 compared to 10:25 the year before when I'd done an extra 50 yards.  Oh well.  On to the next.

Bike - 10 miles advertised, probably more like 10.5 according to other measuring sources

I borrowed Jonny's road bike this year and supposedly it's around 4 lbs lighter than mine which is a big deal in the road bike world.  I didn't ride it a whole lot before the race, about an hour total if that which is typically not advisable for a race but I'm almost as much a stranger to my own road bike so I figured what the heck.  I'd forgotten to ask my coach to add in some road rides so all bike training has been mountain biking.  Which is fine because this course is all about the climbing and descending with little to no flat bits.  And it's FUN.  Short hard climbs, fun fast descents.  This year it feels easy, maybe because of the fancy bike but probably a bit because of the training.  In any case I have a blast on the bike, even end up passing some super fit looking guys including my super fast lane swim mate.  As I pass I say, 'Good job' and he laughs a bit and says, 'Way to make me look bad.'  But I think it's awesome that someone from Kansas would attempt such a race at 7600'.

I also ended up passing a guy back and forth near the end of the race, I'd fly past on the downhills and he'd catch me on the climbs.  I wasn't thinking about him beyond trying not to hit him or cut him off when I passed but at the end of the race he came up to be and said he'd enjoyed racing me which made me laugh because I hadn't thought of it that way at all.  I was racing the clock, hoping to break 45 minutes.  I didn't have a cyclometer but when I hit the final climb to the transition area I knew where I was and figured I could do it if I pushed hard up last hill.  And I did, finishing in 44:25, over 4 mins. faster than last year's 48:11 and placed 3/11 in my age group.  So very happy with that even if it might have been partly due to a lighter bike.  On the other side though his bike has a harder gearing than mine so I had to push some harder gears up those steep hills which takes a bit more strength than my bike so I was pleased I was able to handle the hills with the harder gears.


My nemesis the run.  Was hoping for a faster time, any amount faster than last year after being so much slower at Lory in May.  I've been working so hard on my run, it's frustrating to end up slower in a race.  But this race was held at the same time last year unlike Lory so finally I'm comparing apples to apples.

I start off plodding along, trying to get my breath back, feeling the all too familiar cramps coming on.  Not bad but there in the background.  I ignore them and plod on, up a steep hill, stopping to walk for a few steps here and there in hopes of getting my wind back but it makes no difference so I go back to running.  Such a short run, can't waste any time.  It gets better but not a whole lot better.  But it seems to be going by fast.  I'm going up the steep hill through the subdivision before I know it and then it's almost all down hill.  I pick up the pace on the downhills but my breathing is keeping me in check more than I'd like.  I pass my friends on their way up the hill and they're looking good.  I also pass some girls in their 20's who are yacking away to each other, moving at a casual pace and oblivious to the fact that they're in a race.  So weird to me.  I'm not super competitive but if I pay and entry fee and you slap a bib on my chest I'm going to race as hard as I can.  But whatever.  It's they're race to run as they want.

Their voices disappear behind me and I hit the final short hill to the finish.  A guy holding a GoPro  passes me and says, 'Smile for the GoPro'.  I smile and wave and I don't mind that he's filming me but I imagine someone somewhere out there does.  The internets and availability of cheap video cameras have created some interesting privacy issues.

Meanwhile I hear those girls again behind me and the heck I'm letting them beat me to the finish.  I don't have a whole lot in my but I push with what little I have and cross the line out of earshot of them.  And I have to stand for a moment and support myself on the finish gate railing or I'm going to pass out.  I see a guy looking concerned but thankfully I don't black out and in a minute or so I'm fine.  The run was slower than last year by 49 seconds but my overall time is 1:33:40, 3 minutes 33 seconds faster than last year.  I'll take it.  Excited about that, especially given the swim debacle.

Transition times were fast, 1st in age group for both T1 and T2 and high in the rankings overall and for women.  I end up 5th out of 11 in my age group which is super competitive this year.  If I'd been in my old 45-49 age group I would have ended up in 3rd on the podium.  Funny to think that 50-54 would be more competitive.

My friend ends up winning her age group so we stay to get her award.  Some very amazing athletes in the older age groups.

Overall a fun race and a great day in the mountains.  Doesn't get any better than that.

Final Stats

525 yard swim:

10:17/1:58/100 yards, much confusion in lane, goggles fell off, started to do extra lap  (Last year did 575, 9:31 mins. pro-rated, 1:49/100 yards pace (10:25 for 575 yards)

                            83/219 overall (men and women) (86/206 overall in 2012)
                            39/115 women
                            4/11 age group (2/14 age group in 2012)

Dash from pool to transition:  34 sec (46 sec. in 2012)

T1:  1:17 (1:10 in 2012)

        31/219 overall
        6/115 women
        1/11 age group

Bike:  10 miles advertised, 10.37 by cyclometer (in 2011), 10.61 by gmaps pedometer

44:25 (48:41 mins. in 2012)

82/219 (129/206 overall in 2012)
22/115 women
3/11 age group (9/14 age group in 2012)

T2:  1:05 (1:04 in 2012)

        18/219 age group
        4/115 women

        1/11 age group (1/14 in age group in 2012)

3.1 mile Run:

35:59 mins., 11:36 min/mile
(35:10 mins., 11:21 min/mile in 2012)

161/219 overall (147/206in 2012)
74/115 women
7/11 age group (9/14 age group in 2012)


1:33: 40 hours
(1:37:13 hours in 2012)

94/219 overall (127/206 in 2012)
33/115 women (50/113 women in 2012)
5/11 age group (5/14 age group in 2012)

Results do not include DNF's if there were any.

Monday, June 16, 2014

ALL the Vegetables and a Bit of Meat

Is it weird that I'm excited to go to the doctor for my yearly general check-up?  Well, not so much the check-up itself but rather the blood work.  I wanted to see the results of my last 4 months of nutritional experiments.  Last February I started cutting out wheat, grains, and all other extraneous carbs from my diet and increased the healthy fats and at the start of May I increased the vegetables.  These days I'm all about the vegetables.  Lots and lots of vegetables.  Vegetables with my vegetables.  Covered in lots of lovely fat.  Healthy fats of course.  Cream sauces, sprinkles of cheese, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, butter.   Mmmmmmm butter.  ALL the butter.  I've also managed to introduce some fish into my diet - wild caught salmon and some shrimp and scallops.  Even had some red meat for the first time in 30 years.  That took some bravery because I'd read that you lose your ability to digest red meat after several years of giving it up and indeed I had gotten sick once from a 'friend' inviting me to dinner and feeding me ground beef in the lasagna without telling me.  Even though he knew I was a vegetarian.  Thankfully I figured it out pretty quickly and didn't eat too much but my boyfriend, also a vegetarian, gobbled loads of it down and was sick as a dog, throwing up all night.  And I have another vegetarian friend who gets sick to the point of throwing up if he has meat.  So I was hesitant.  It's taken me years to work up the nerve.

Last week the local grocery had grass fed sirloin on sale for $6.99 a lb, about half the cost of wild caught salmon on sale, and I finally felt good about taking the plunge.  I bought 5 oz and cut it in half for my first try.  Fasted until lunch so I was good and hungry and looked up how to cook sirloin on the internets.  Good old internets.  Did some re-framing about how healthy this stuff is for me and how I'm going to feel good after eating it.  Mixed it in with a nice big salad so the majority of food was something I felt comfortable with.  And it actually tasted sort of, kind of good.  When I was done I put it out of my mind so I wouldn't mentally make myself sick.  And I was totally fine.  Phew!  The second piece a few days later did cause a little bit of G.I. issues but nothing too serious.  Yay!  I didn't have the red meat until after my blood work so it didn't effect the results.

Anyway, back to the lab work.  I was expecting to see triglycerides go down from last year and they did, from 61 mg/dL to 42 mg/dL, a huge improvement (normal range is 35-135), very happy about that.  Having low triglycerides is a very very very good thing.  Was a little concerned that bad cholesterol (LDL) would go up which they did by 2 points but they went up to 68 mg/dL which is still 2 points below the normal range of 70-100 mg/dL.  And non-high density lipoprotein actually went down from 78 to 76 mg/dL which is also well below the normal range of 90-129.  HDL (good cholesterol) remained the same at 68 mg/dL with normal being 40-95.  Overall LDL/HDL risk stayed the same at 0.4 with normal being 0.2-1.0.  The point being that lots of healthy fats, even saturated animal fats which I mostly have in the form of dairy (eggs, butter, cheese, cream, full fat yogurt, sour cream) do not necessarily give you high cholesterol as long as you eat keep the carbs low and don't eat processed food/sugar and eat lots of vegetables.  IOW, lots of plants, plenty of good healthy fats, little to no processed food, sugar or grains, healthy whole foods that don't come out of a box works pretty well.  At least for me.  Of course we're all experiments of one but this result does fit with much of the current research.

All other blood work was pretty awesome as well-protein, creatinine, hemoglobin, glucose (74 mg/dL with 70-100 being normal).  Vitamin D was 59.9 ng/mL with 30-100 being normal.  Thank you Colorado sunshine.  My weight is good too, 118.6 lbs at 5'-4 1/4" (about what I weighed when I was on the track team in high school) puts my BMI at 20.2 with normal being 18.5-25.9.  I won't bore the internets with any more details than that.

Time Magazine just published a cover story called, 'Ending the War on Fat', and the cover features a plea to, 'Eat Butter'.  And while I'm happy that we're finally having a national discussion about the wrong-headed vilification of healthy fats I also worry that Americans will miss the point without the equally important message about the harm of processed foods, grains, sugar, etc.  You can't eat lots of fat and lots of carbs and sugar and processed food.  The message here is not to start spreading loads of butter on your oversized blueberry muffin.  Or to start chopping loads of bacon into your pancake batter.  It's important to take the wide view when looking at nutrition.  What does your total diet look like?  And if you look at the diets of the current leading voices in nutrition - not typical doctors and registered dieticians but folks who are on the front lines of actually helping people.  Folks who've healed themselves with nutrition.  Whether they're promoting paleo or low carb/high fat or ketosis or even veganism the common theme is loads of vegetables with healthy fats thrown in (and supplements if you're vegan).  The bulk of the meal is veggies and the meats and/or fats are the side dish.  I laughed hearing one paleo guy saying his diet was 70% vegan while discussing with a vegan friend the big similarities between their diets.  I don't fall into any particular camp, I'm all about whatever foods and percentages of macro-nutrients work for a particular individual.  Quibbling over the details as many in these camps do is pointless in the face of the huge health crisis the world faces (and this problem is global).  Hopefully the Time article will have people re-thinking and overhauling their diets or at least becoming interested and looking into the research and experimenting for themselves.  After all everybody deserves to feel so good that they look forward to their yearly physical.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Death or Lory - Xterra Lory 2014

Xterra Lory
1/2 mile swim, 12.2 mile bike, 4.8 mile run
6500' elevation, Lory State Park, Fort Collins area

Don't mean to sound overdramatic, I just can't resist a Clash lyric when it runs through my head.

It's a cloudy, foggy start to the morning and an interesting early morning drive up to Fort Collins through the foggy soup.  I arrive at 6:09, 10 minutes earlier than last year and yet I end up with an even worse parking spot about 1/4 mile from transition.  The race is sold out and already it's busy and crowded, a theme for the race this year.  The sun is supposed to come out by 7:00 a.m. but transition looks like this at 7:00 a.m-ish.

I'm not overly concerned but with the water so cold (supposedly 64 degrees but there are pockets of warmer and colder) it would be nice for the sun to be shining to take the edge off.  The water at Horsetooth is the highest it's been in maybe ten years.

I did manage 2 open water swims in the Boulder Rez before the race and the first swim was also cold, 65 degrees but also with pockets of cold, so I've had a small opportunity to acclimate to the cold water and get used to open water swimming again.  The first Rez swim took me about 7-8 minutes to get used to the cold and get rid of any worried feelings but after that I did a solid 1200 yards and had no problem at all on the second swim though the water wasn't cold at all (68 degrees and sun shining).  I'm concerned about the cold but not letting myself get worked up about it.  Nothing I can do about it and the swim is short.  It's impossible not to remember the panic attack I had at this race many years ago but I push it to the back of my mind and remind myself of all the successful, fun swims I've had here.

I pull up my pants leg to put on my sunscreen and am greeted by this sight.

There will be blood.

A freshly bleeding wound before the race starts and I don't even know how I got it.  Again, not much I can do.  Wash it off a bit with some water and try not to think about the possible bugs I might pick up in Horsetooth is about all I can do.

Swim - 880 yards

I get in the freezing water to warm up and acclimate as soon as the first wave goes off.  Thankfully the sun is finally starting to break through the clouds and the fog is burning off.  I dive under water and as soon as my face hits the freezing cold I decide 'screw this noise, I'm out of here, this is twelve ways to crazy, what ever possessed me?'  But after a minute or so I calm down and get a little used to it.  I set off swimming and I'm totally calm.  Freakishly calm.  Don't know why but I'll take it.  I swim about 5-6 minutes or so and get out.  It's another 15 minutes until my wave starts and if I stay in that long I'll start shivering.  So I run up and down a short hill, soaking up the sun as it starts to warm up.  I get in again with 8 minutes to go, do another 4-5 minutes of warm-up, trying to kick hard and go fast to get my heart rate up.  Still freakishly calm.

And then we're off.  And as per usual the crowd goes flying away from me.  And as per usual I work my way up, passing the people who are now freaking out and backstroking/breast stroking.  Swim training has been going well as as I swim I work on some the stroke technique things I've been working on.  The turn-around buoy seems farther this year and it almost certainly is due to the high water.  For once the course is probably close to the advertised distance.

After I turn the buoy I get boxed in by a guy kind of flailing in front of me and someone to my side.  The guy in front is hard to pass because he's zig-zagging in an unpredictable fashion and because if I pass on his left I risk running into oncoming traffic from the other direction.  So I hang out for a while enjoying the draft but soon realize this is much too slow a pace and I squeeze in front of the guy on my right.  I don't realize how much they're holding me back until I break free of them and quickly pull away.  I need to do more open water races this summer to learn some better tactics, get a better idea of my race pace, learn how to pass, etc.

The rest of the swim is uneventful except for a kayaker who comes over and yells at some of us to move away from the buoys to avoid oncoming traffic.  But nobody seems to be in sight and I'm not far from the finish so I don't understand what it's about.  I move a little but not too much, don't want to be too far off course for no reason.  My pace feels slow-ish but the cold water seems to be restricting my movement a bit.  I finish in 17:47/2:01 per 100 yards, slow for me but I'm mostly relieved I made it through feeling calm and confident.  It's not a spectacular swim but a good start to my season especially given the cold and lack of open water practice.


I'm hoping for a big improvement in my bike this year partly due to training and partly due to my new bike with bigger wheels and disk brakes.  Especially the disk brakes.  My time last year was 1:12 and I'm hoping to break an hour but not sure if that's realistic given how early in the season it is.  I decide to ride as hard as I can and hope for some improvement.

The course is so crowded this year and as soon as I hit the single track I'm swept up in the crowd of fast people going out on their second lap.  On the one hand it's kind of exciting trying to keep up with them and I know I'm going faster on the downhill than I normally would.  On the other hand I'm still not as fast and lots of people have to pass me.  I pass a couple of people from my age group right away and that makes me feel good.  My age group is huge this year, 17-18 people or so are registered which is crazy for the 50-54 age group in Xterra.  Maybe even unprecedented for almost any Xterra race.

The first lap goes by quickly and when I reach the start of the second loop my speed is 11.1 mph, a full 1 mph faster than last year and I'm thrilled with that though can't quite do the math on a possible finishing time.  However after a bit I can feel myself slowing down.  Now I'm caught up behind people from later waves starting their first lap and they're not as confident so it's harder to pass them.  I don't want to freak out the newbies so I get held up a bit.  Most people are pretty good with the passing issue in this race but it seems like there's always one hot head.  This year it's a guy from a faster wave who comes up behind just before one of the few kind of, sort of technical places.  There are some tight s-curves then a switchback and this guy's being impatient and I don't want him on my tail through this section so I actually stop and pull off the trail to let him since there are no good places coming up.  Technically we don't have to do this, it's up to the person behind to wait until there's a good spot, but I can tell this guy is a jerk.  As he goes to pass me he doesn't slow down enough or something and he falls off his bike even though he has the whole trail to himself.  He gets up all angry and at this point a crowd of 5-6 riders comes up behind him.  He gets back on in front of them all (and of course I now have to wait even longer for the train of people to pass).  He then proceeds to go over his handlebars at the switchback.  More loud angry words.  Stupid thing is he was so close to the bike finish.  A little patience would have gone a long way here.

Anyway, I can feel my quads losing power on the second lap but I still keep going hard as I can.  I finish the bike in 1:11:03, a bit over a minute faster than last year.  Not the huge improvement I was hoping for but still faster than last year and it is early in the season so I'll take it.  And the bike was still pretty fun despite the congestion.


I'm hoping for the biggest improvement here.  I've been working with a coach, diligently following the program and pushing myself with my running.  Not a lot of volume but lots of intervals.  Lots and lots of intervals.  Short but sweet.  Well, maybe sweet isn't the word.  But I've been working on it and I'm hoping to at least break 1 hour this year (last year I missed breaking and hour by 33 seconds).  But it's early season and I didn't have a very long taper for this race so it's hard to say.

I start out on the run feeling good, like I'm moving pretty well.  It's a gradual uphill for about 1/3-1/2 a mile or so then it's a steep climb up the side of a steep hill for another 1 3/4 miles or so.  I'm doing o.k. at the start of the steep part but after a few minutes I feel like I'm not going as fast as last year.  Even the run course is crowded this year and I have lots of people wanting to pass and each time someone passes it breaks my rhythm and focus a bit more.  I passed 3 people in my age group on the bike and 2 people quickly pass me back in the first mile or two of the run.  Which would be fine if I felt like I was running as fast as last year but somehow I feel slower.  My brain tells my feet to turn over faster but my quads are tired now and they don't want to oblige.  It's a long slog to the top.

And when I finally get to the downhill I can't quite get my legs moving as fast as last year.  I've got a bit of a cramp which is never helpful but somehow I can't get the downhill to work for me this year.  And in fact the all downhill mile is a whopping 1:48 min. slower than last year (oddly the all uphill climb is 47 seconds faster, the only mile that's faster despite feeling slower).  My legs are feeling pretty beat for the last 2 miles despite the mostly downhill course.  I make it to the end of the singletrack with about 1/3 of a mile to go until the finish and a woman from my age group passes me.  And the worst part is that she doesn't even look like she's going fast.  But she's going faster than me and try as I might I can't catch her back up.  She ends up beating me by 31 seconds.  But at least I have someone to chase to the finish even if she is too far ahead to catch and I pick up the pace with whatever last little bit of strength my legs can muster.  I finish the run in 1:06:44, well off what I was hoping for.

Final time is 2:39:20, over 7 minutes slower than last year.  Not what I was hoping for or expecting but it is so early in the season and I didn't have a nice long taper since this isn't an 'A' race.  Hard to compare times to a race that's normally held in August.  Next race is in 3 weeks in Golden, a little sprint road tri that I'm doing for fun and to keep me going with racing since I have no Xterras in June.

Some interesting stats - there were 327 people in the race this year and only 206 last year which explains all the extra crowding on the course.  There were 59 women last year and 116 this year, almost double the amount.  There were 5 women in the 50-54 age group last year and 15 this year.  The woman who won my age group (50-54) came in 10th overall of the women, 5 of whom were pros so she was 5th overall of the age group women.  The top 3 age group women were all in the 40-44 age group.  There were only 11 seconds separating the top 3 women in the 45-49 age group.

Aside from the cold water, race conditions were about as perfect as they get.  Sunny but not hot, maybe high 60's for the run with a little breeze to keep things cool.  Bike trails were tacky, easily the best I've ever seen them on race day.  The race was crowded but people were mostly good about it.  My coach was there to cheer me and some of her other clients on.  It was fun to have somebody there.  And I met a couple few other women from my age group which was fun.  The big take home lessons?  I need more run training, I need more of a taper after a hard training block if I want to do really well, it's not fair to compare times from a race run in May to a race run in August.

For more pictures from the race course that I took on my pre-ride last year, click here.

Final Stats

Swim:  880 yards, water temp. 64 degrees but felt colder in places, 17:47 swimming (2:01/100 yards)/1:22 dash up the beach for official time 18:30 (last year 15:01 mins. swimming, 1:22 dash up from beach for official time of 16:23-swim was short)

T1: 1:59  (last year, 1:54) Didn't wear gloves this year but did have swim socks to deal with.

Mountain Bike:  12.2 miles, 1:11:03/10.3 mph (last year 12.6 miles by my cyclometer, 1:12:14 hrs./10.1 mph)

T2:  1:02 (last year, 1:02)   How freaky is that?

Trail Run:  4.8 miles, 1:06:44/13:54 min./mile  (last year, 1:00:32 hrs./12:07 min./miles)
               Mile Splits:
               Mile 1:  14:07  (all uphill) (11:40 last year)
               Mile 2:  15:13  (all uphill) (16:00 last year)
               Mile 3:  13:11  (mix of uphill, flat and downhill) (12:26 last year)
               Mile 4:  12:48  (all downhill) (10:02 last year)
               Mile 4.8:  11:25  (mostly downhill, some slight uphill and flat-ish) (10:22 last year)

Total:  2:39:20  (last year, 2:32:02)

254/327 Overall  (last year, 148/206 Overall)
78/116 Women  (last year, 30/59 Women)
10/15 Age Group  (last year, 5/7 Age Group)

Swim:  10/15  (last year, 2/7 Age Group, 116/206 Overall)

T1:  5/15  (last year, 3/7 Age Group)

Bike:  8/15  (last year, 5/7 Age Group, 141/206 Overall)

T2:  2/15  (last year, 1/7 Age Group)

Run:  13/15  (last year, 4/7 Age Group, 152/206 Overall) 

(Placements include DNF's)