Monday, July 20, 2015

Xterra Mountain Champs

This is the t-shirt from this year's event and it sums up my race perfectly.

Well, aside from the fact that it says the 'man' to beat, which chaps my ass a bit but oh well.  I mean c'mon, it's 2015 already.

Anyway, this was a hard race, stupid hard.  Didn't I say that about this race 3 years ago?  It's not like I forgot yet somehow I entered it again anyway.  The main reason was because I felt it would be great prep for Nationals.  I think it's actually harder than Nationals though others will disagree.  It's a little shorter distance-wise and has about the same amount of climbing for the bike and run but it starts at 7400' elevation and finishes at 9400' whereas Nats. starts at about 5000' and finishes at 7400'.  This is a huge difference and significant for me because I've barely made it up above 7500'-8000' this year.  I went up to Beaver Creek at the end of June to pre-ride the course with my coach but the majority of the course was closed due to elk calving.  Of course it opened up 2 days later.  We were able to ride a short portion of the course at the top but mostly spent the day climbing up paved roads.  Which kicked my ass anyway.  With only 3 weeks until the race I knew I wouldn't be super acclimated or prepared so I was ready for a hard day.  And it was a hard day.

Except the swim went well.  I positioned myself well at the start, didn't get too caught up in the crowd, swam on course pretty well as far as I could tell, turned tight on the buoys.  Noticed a woman swimming next to me at my exact pace so I fell behind her and let her pull me in for the last few hundred yards.  Wish I'd thought of it a few hundred yards sooner.  Felt good coming out of the swim and my time was good.

Interminable is the best way to describe the climbing on the bike course which is point to point with a supposed elevation gain of 3600' though my Garmin showed 'only' 2700'.  Someone else on Strava who was at the race showed 3000'.  So who knows.  It was freaking steep, I promise you.  17% grade, 22% grade, I finally stopped looking down at the percent grade because it was too scary.  Interminably long.  Cruel.  But so beautiful.  Wildflowers, mountain views, momma and baby bears.  Yes I saw a momma bear and her cub.  Supposedly there were 4 of them but I only saw 1 cub.  They were laying down next to someone's house just off the run course across the road from an aid station.  I think they were waiting to see if there would be any leftover snorfies for them at the aid station.

The run was different from 3 years ago, also stupid hard.  Garmin claims 1000' of elevation gain.  Again, 21% grade in places, I stopped looking at Garmin.  I had to walk most of the steep uphills which is to say I walked almost all the uphills.  My quads were fried, I was even unable to bomb the downhills.  So tired for this run.  The one good thing was that it clouded over and there was even a bit of rain to keep me cool.  The bad thing about this was the thunder.  Thankfully it only lasted for about a mile or so and I was in deep forest rather than on some exposed hillside.  But overheating was not an issue.  Still, so tired.

Overall I was slower than 3 years ago by about 18 minutes.  Looking at the results many people were slower by 8-10 minutes so the course was clearly harder.  Or longer.  Or something.  My swim time was nearly identical, bike was 19 minutes slower, run was 11 minutes slower.  I was tired in the week leading up to the race and my heart rate and heart rate variability numbers were terrible on race morning.  I'd had a poor night's sleep because my pre-historic digital alarm clock radio kept buzzing loudly for some reason waking me up every couple of hours.  I couldn't unplug it because I needed it to wake me up at 4:10.  I also wasn't thrilled about the 2 1/4 hour drive in the mountains so early which didn't help my numbers either.  But they'd been sketchy all week, especially heart rate which was elevated.  So it simply wasn't a great day for me which is how it goes sometimes.  I was looking at the race more as prep for Nationals and it certainly was that, pointing out the weaknesses I need to work on between now and September.  The next 2 months will be all about the climbing.  Once I can feel my quads again and not start crying at the sight of my bike or running shoes.


All numbers are per Garmin, not the posted race distances.

Swim:  1712 yards, 30:34 mins., 1:48/100 yards (Garmin might be overstating the distance, Strava says 1657 yds, 1:51 min./100 yards)

Run to T1:  1:33?  

T1:  1:24?  Had trouble with Garmin

Mountain Bike:  15.1 miles, 2:33 approx., 6.0 mph

T2: 1:29

Trail Run:  5.38 miles, 1:27:31, 16:16 min./mile

Finish:  4:38:10

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Xterra Double Header - Lory and Pagosa Springs

A bit late with the race reports because we stayed in Pagosa/Durango for the week after the race and now it's all a blur.


I left the house at around 4:45 and decided to take a highway further from the foothills to avoid hitting wildlife in the dark. And just as I was applauding myself for that decision I turned onto a road in my neighborhood and was faced with a pair of bucks who were completely unconcerned about the giant metal beast of death hurtling towards them. Thankfully I had slowed for the turn and I saw them in time. Then a few minutes after that I had an impatient jeep on my ass and soon a line of traffic behind me and I couldn't figure out where all these uptight, impatient people were going at 4:45 in the morning in my quiet neighborhood. Until I passed the road to the Rez and remembered the Half Ironman going on in Boulder. And as crazy as my double header sounded I was very grateful not to be heading to that starting line with all those wound up people.  Love the relatively chill atmosphere of the typical Xterra/off-road transition zone.

Xterra Lory went well except for my exceptionally slow time. I took it easy, tried my best to keep my heart rate in Zone 3 for the bike and run and didn't go crazy on the short swim. At times the bike felt like I was out for a casual ride in the park, other times I had to push in Zone 4 because of having to pass someone and stay ahead to avoid leap frogging on the single track. Overall an uneventful race. No cramps on the run which was good and for once I had some gas in the tank for the final mile which pushed my heart rate into Zone 5 but I really wanted to be done and was sick of farting around in Zone 3. And there was a woman running right behind me for the last couple few miles who insisted she didn't want to pass me and somehow I didn't want her sprinting by me at the finish because that happens to me all the time. In the end I put a bit of distance on her in the last 1/4 mile or so.

The bike course was awesome, mostly hero dirt where usually it's a dust bowl. There was one huge mud bog that I had to walk through but otherwise you couldn't ask for better conditions. Water was nice as well, supposedly 70 degrees though it felt a bit colder than that. Still, nice water temp. and a warm sunny morning. It was hot for the run but not as bad as I was anticipating. I threw some ice in my hat and down my sports bra and that did the trick. Carried a water bottle but didn't really need it, the ice was enough and I regretted having to carry it. Only problem was that T2 was WAY too long with farting around with the ice. Got to be a better way to work it but ice is way better than carrying a bottle.

The only serious mishap I had was on the run.  There's a steep, cliffy, rocky part just before the top of the big climb and some idiot woman came up behind and insisted very loudly, aggressively and repeatedly that she needed to pass me on the cliffy part.  I waited until I thought it was safe-ish but she still ended up running me off the cliff and I nearly fell down the side of the hill but managed to catch myself.  Just.  To add insult to injury she was a DNF due to a technical on the bike and was doing the run just because.  I managed to twist my back and shoulders pretty good but thankfully by Sunday I had forgotten about it.  I realize now that this is partly why Mile 2 was 3 1/2 minutes slower than last year.  I easily lost  a minute or two.

On an interesting note I finished Xterra Lory in 3:02:36 and Xterra Pagosa Springs in 3:02:59.  Weird that the finish times would be so close given the big differences in distance, elevation gain and terrain.

I was tired for the drive back to Boulder, not entirely sure how I made it. Took the back roads to avoid the half Ironman in Boulder and it took about the same amount of time, maybe even a couple of minutes quicker, than the highway I took on the way there, just under an hour 20 minutes. Which is only significant because then we had a 6 hour or so drive to Pagosa Springs. It's normally supposed to be 5 1/2 hours but lucky us, the highway was shut in Fairplay due to flooding so we had a detour. And even more drama because I wasn't sure there was a detour when I first saw the sign about the closure on the highway about an hour or so from the shut road. Had to pull off, call the hotel, have a panic attack, etc. until the front desk guy assured me there was a way. Thankfully Jonny drove the whole way but I was unable to sleep in the car as I thought I would. Pulled into Pagosa Springs at around 8:50 to find that the town shuts down at 9:00. Most places wouldn't let us in but we finally found a mexican food place with very mediocre food but hey, it was food and at least it didn't make me sick.

XTERRA Pagosa Springs

The Pagosa race didn't start until 10:00 a.m. so I was able to sleep in but found myself awake before 6:00 anyway. I'm learning to sleep better in hotels, I can mostly sleep through the night but still find myself waking up too early. Though I do this at home in the summer too. Should probably get a Fitbit or similar gizmo to monitor my sleep better. Hate to buy more Stuff though and the Garmin gizmo was a big enough expense.

The transition area was flooded in places, people ended up racking their bikes in the bushes or on the ground. I talked to some women who had pre-ridden the course and they said it was muddy in places, huge puddles that sometime you make it through, sometimes you don't. I so wish I could have pre-ridden the course, this was my one regret about the back to back races and did figure into my results.

The swim went well, water was 65 degrees and another sunny warm morning. I clicked the wrong button on my Garmin and never started it for the swim so I have no data and the race didn't provide splits in the results. Best I can work out is 24 minutes for swim, T1 and a bit of bike before I realized the Garmin wasn't on. The swim started in deep water but I hung onto the pier until the starting horn so as not to waste energy treading water. I'm not sure this put me in a great position but the first buoy was so far away and the course was a bit confusing so I followed the crowd and didn't worry about it. I did an open water swim race a week later with a deep water start and it turns out its no problem treading water if you have a wetsuit, you practically float in that thing so next time I'll put myself in a better position and not worry about treading water. Swim was short and sweet (750 m/820 yards) and went down without a hitch, I even had some feet to follow. The only problem was that it somehow took 2 guys to haul my carcass out of the water and back onto the pier. You would think my parkour skills would have kicked in but no I just flailed stupidly until the second guy came to the rescue. In retrospect I probably could have gotten out on my own more easily using both arms and no help from the guys.

I forgot my Camelbak in T1 and had to run back for it wasting some time.

The bike course was beautiful. Wonderful flowy singletrack through the woods, loads of wildflowers. I think the only spots I had to walk were some of the mud bogs. And there were lots and lots of mud bogs. Apparently the rainpocalypse was not restricted to the Front Range. The course was a big loop and unfortunately the directional signs at the start of the loop were confusing and there was no volunteer directing people. Many people went off course including me. I can't remember if I followed the line of people off course or if I misinterpreted the signs for the turn but either way I had about a half mile of climbing before some guys came back down the trail saying we were going the wrong way. And at that point I had the dilemma of 'do I trust those guys?' I went with my gut and trusted them and was glad I did. Lost just over 9 minutes and went an extra 1.15 miles but at least I ended up going the right way and unlike agility, an off course in Xterra is not an elimination as long as you fix it. One poor woman ended up seriously lost for a couple of hours and several people came down the course the opposite way. Not sure what they did about those folks completing the loop in the wrong direction in the results.

T2 was quick. The transition area was not neutral, meaning some spots gave you an advantage with the ins/outs and I had a great spot near the bike out/bike in/run out gate.

The run was ridiculous, not a run at all. My Garmin was giving grades of 30-40%. This was a hike, not a run. In addition it was an out and back on narrow single track so you had to stop and step out of the single track to let the person in the opposite direction go by or to pass. Which was super annoying. And once again the course markings led me astray and I missed a turn, going down a wrong trail that eventually got faint so I knew I was wrong. I looked up and saw people on the correct trail yelling down to me. This was the stupidest 'run' course I've ever done. At least it was short, 2.88 miles, which nonetheless took me over 46 minutes. Oh well, at least the bike was worth it.

Covered in mud.

Overall I did well juggling 2 races in 2 days. Don't think I'd ever intentionally do it again though I know if the situation came up again, ie a race gets postponed or something, that I can do it. I didn't try to keep to a heart rate for Pagosa, just went as fast as I could which was diminished of course but I don't think by a whole lot. I wasn't super stiff or sore Sunday morning for Pagosa and I felt o.k. on Monday. The key was to keep to a reasonable pace for Lory but still push myself. It's weird though and a little frustrating to hold back during a race but a good mental management lesson and I felt I did well with that part. But the whole weekend was a blur and it was hard to savor the races with them being so close together.  

Final Stats


Swim:  880 yards (I swam 869 yards), water temp. 70 degrees, 16:35 swimming (1:55/100 yards)/1:00 dash up the beach for official time 17:35

T1: 2:45  Wore gloves, slow T1 for some reason

Mountain Bike:  12.2 miles (12.54 by my Garmin, similar to last year), 794' elevation gain, 1:24:05/9.2 mph (13 mins./1.1 mph slower than last year)

T2:  2:15 (last year, 1:02)   Lost time messing around with the ice but shouldn't be that slow.

Trail Run:  4.8 miles (5.03 per Garmin), 623' elevation gain, 1:15:57/15:06 min./mile (per Garmin)

               Mile Splits:
               Mile 1:  15:07  (all uphill) (14:07 last year)
               Mile 2:  18:51  (all uphill) (15:13 last year)
               Mile 3:  16:27  (mix of uphill, flat and downhill) (13:11 last year)
               Mile 4:  12:49  (all downhill) (12:48 last year)
               Mile 4.8:  11:57  (mostly downhill, some slight uphill and flat-ish) (11:25 last year)

Total:  3:02:36  (last year, 2:39:20)

177/204 Overall
52/66 Women
3/5 Age Group

Swim:  2/5

T1:  1/5

Bike:  2/5

T2:  3/5

Run:  4/5 

(Placements include DNF's)



 Swim + T1 + a little biking:  750 meters/820 yards, 65 degrees, 24 minutes

Bike:  17.04 miles (was supposed to be 14.6), 945' elevation gain, 1:53:54/9.2 mph 

T2:  ?

Run:   2.88 miles, 479' elevation gain, 45:23/16:03 min./mile

Total:  3:02:59

Friday, June 12, 2015

They're Coming and I'm Ready

Xterra Lory is tomorrow.

And Xterra Pagosa Springs is on Sunday.

Now that most of the packing and logistics are worked out I'm excited for my first races of the season.  And I'm as ready as I'll ever be.   I've been measuring heart rate variability which is a measure of how trained/overtrained you are (among other things) for the past 2 months.  You want a high heart rate variability number and a low heart rate number.  Heart rate variability started off in the mid-70's and dropped to high 60's during training then shot up to the low 80's last week which was the end of my training block.  Heart rate started off in the mid-50's and slowly dropped to the high 40's.  A big drop in heart rate isn't good either but this was fairly gradual.  Today's numbers after 4 days of taper?  Heart rate variability hit 90 and heart rate is 46.  And more importantly I feel good.  It's a little weird that heart rate variability went up during my hardest training week but I'm taking it as a sign of conditioning, meaning the training taking effect.

I was sick with chest congestion (or had allergies) about a month ago, finally felt over it last week then Jonny came home sick on Thursday or so last week and I felt the congestion come back.  I stuffed in loads of vegetables and bone broth and finally feel like it's gone today.  Hopefully by tomorrow it'll be a distant memory.

One good thing about two races in a weekend is that it's hard to obsess over either one.  Water temp. was 60 degrees (brrrr) on Tuesday for Lory and 64 degrees for Pagosa.  Cold swims for both but at least they're both short - 880 yards for Lory, 820 for Pagosa.  17 minutes or so in the cold water, very do-able.  I keep thinking of Jack Kruse and his Cold Thermogensis Protocol.  45 minutes in an ice bath kept at 50-55 degrees.  These swims are a piece of cake by comparison.

So far weather looks good for both races, sunny and low/mid 60's for the start and highs in the low to mid 70's for the run.  Again it's hard to get too obsessive when you have to track 2 different towns.  Lory will be a little hot for the run, around 73 degrees and sunny with no shade, but it easily could have been in the 80's or 90's so I'll take it.  Pagosa weather looks similar.  Given the persistent rain and cold spring I'm feeling lucky for the forecasts.

Still unsure if I'll race with a heart rate monitor.  I don't usually and I find the strap to be binding and bothersome around my chest.  But it would be interesting to have the data.  And I'm supposed to keep my heart rate in a certain zone so that I can pull off both races so it would be good to have that feedback.  I'll make the call tomorrow.

In the meantime, Iron Cowboy has started his 50 ironmans in 50 days in 50 states adventure.  You can follow him here if you like.  Hard to get too wound up about my own double header when you think about this.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Embrace the Stress

Ah stress.  It can be debilitating for people who suffer with it, both for themselves and their dogs.  But the interesting thing about stress is that it's not the stress itself that's the problem but rather a person's belief about the stress.  A study found that people with a lot of stress in their lives and a belief that stress is harmful had a 43% increase in their risk of dying prematurely.  However those who had a lot of stress in their lives but didn't believe that stress is harmful had no more risk of dying and in fact had even less risk than those with light stress.  The mind is a powerful beast.

That's fascinating and all but how does this apply to agility?  Well what if we could turn stress around, make it an asset by changing our belief about our stress?  If you're currently struggling with ring nerves you're probably standing outside the ring with any number of physical symptoms - rapid heart beat, breathing fast, butterflies in the stomach, feeling shaky, gotta pee, sweating, nausea, anxiety, etc.  Maybe these symptoms start sooner than ringside - while you're driving to the trial or even the day before.  Most of us interpret these physical symptoms of stress as signs of trouble, that we're not coping well with the situation, that things will go badly.  But instead what if we interpreted these physical symptoms as our body preparing ourselves for the challenge we're about to face?

This is me at Xterra Nationals in 2013 (off road triathlon nationals).

This was the year of the devastating floods in Boulder (and surrounding areas) and I was unable to train for about 3 weeks before the race.  I didn't get my car back from the shop until 2 days before the race (a necessary part was delayed because of flooded roads) so I had to do the 7 1/2 hour drive the day before.  No time to pre-ride the course or swim in the reservoir.  I was stiff from the long car ride.  And honestly my mind was elsewhere.  On top of it all I'd had to put down my 15 year old dog the day the rains started and I'd lost my grandmother who raised me about 3 weeks before that.

Standing on that start line I was a bundle of nerves.  The swim is a mass start which means 350 people jump into the water at once and start thrashing around.  You can get kicked, smacked, goggles knocked off, etc.  None of the regular season Xterras have a start like this and though I tried to prepare by entering some open water swims the biggest start was maybe 90 people.  I hadn't been in the open water for 3 weeks or so and the water temp. was significantly warmer at that time so I wasn't acclimated to swimming in the colder water.  These were hardly ideal conditions.

But as I stood on that start line and felt the tingly shakiness, rapid heart beat, butterflies flitting I told myself that these things were an energy, they were making me stronger, preparing me for the long day ahead.  They were going to help me go faster, be stronger, be more mentally alert.  They were a gift, a strength, something to embrace.

And it worked.  I got through the swim no problem, no panicking, I felt strong, energized.  I got out of the water excited for the rest of the race.  I didn't have a fabulous race due to all the factors mentioned already but this was due to things I couldn't control (lack of training, long car ride, etc.), not because I was stressed.  And though it wasn't a great result I was very happy with my performance given the limiters.  I put in the best race I could with the conditions I had.

So it goes for agility.  What if that rapid heartbeat is going to help you move faster, have better reflexes, get that front cross in?  What if the shakiness is making you more mentally alert so that you can easily remember the course?  What if the butterflies in your stomach are energizing you, pushing you to rise to the challenge?

Another reason to embrace stress is that it serves as a pre-cursor to the flow state, ie that state of high performance where you're fully immersed in what you're doing.  Flow is a wonderful thing but in order to get to it you first have to experience stress.  The neurobiology of the flow state is fascinating but I don't want to send people to snozzling with the details.  The important thing to know is that the adrenaline rush that sends your heart to pounding is a good thing because you have to go through it to get to flow.  For more details on this I refer you to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his book, 'Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience'  and Steven Kotler and his book, 'The Rise of Superman'.  I plan to write more about flow in the future so stay tuned for that.  Anyway, the take home point here is that you can view the appearance of stress hormones as important and necessary cues for flow.  Get through the initial unpleasantness and you'll be handsomely rewarded.

Now certainly there's value in learning how to calm yourself down.  There are many techniques for this and I've written about them before in my Clean Run article and this blog.  But there are times when embracing the stress can be beneficial so why not play around with it?  Come up with your own re-frames and metaphors.  Be creative.  Use that nervous energy to your advantage.

Mr. Bundle of Nervous Energy himself

This post is part of Dog Agility Blog Event Day.  For more posts on 'Stress' click here.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

April Showers Bring May Showers Bring Double Xterras

I almost made it through all of May without a single post and this is largely thanks to Rainpocalypse 2015, or 25 out of 28 days in May were rain. This is not normal for Colorado. Record breaking. Crazy making. I know my memory is sometimes not so great these days but I swear I don't remember signing up for Seattle.  But finally FINALLY we are having sunshine and temperatures in the 60's which is much better than the 40's and SUNSHINE.  Blue Skies.  Normal.

But the crazy days of rain and rain and rain had their consequences.  An outdoor agility trial a few weeks ago got moved to an indoor venue at the last minute.  And even so I only just made it there, the rain and roads were sketchy.  But we had a lot of fun, especially poor stir crazy Strummer, and he won him a masters jumpers class with some very strong world class competition.   Also a nice Grand Prix run with weave pole entry and beautiful turn off of dogwalk but alas a teeter fault that was my fault.  Fun courses, good times with my crazy buddy.

But the biggest disruption that has lead to an interesting goal is Xterra Lory.  Once again poor Xterra Lory is postponed.  A couple of years ago due to an early season fire that destroyed all the bridges and now due to flood.  Or rather super muddy trails.  Too muddy for racing.  Riding on muddy trails is very bad for the trails and Lory State Park doesn't want their trails trashed and I don't blame them.  I was very happy when they postponed the race mostly because the weather called for mid-40's and raining on race day morning and let's not even talk about how cold Horsetooth Reservoir must be right now.  O.k., let's talk about it.  52 degrees today which is race day.  Pretty sure I would have bailed.  As it happened it was sunny and in the 50's (air temp.) this a.m. but still, 52 degree water temp.  I've never been in water that cold.  Can you say hypothermia?  So I'm not shedding any tears about not racing today.

But here's the pickle.  They've moved to race to the day before another Xterra that I had on my schedule.  I had to option to enter any other Xterra that the race director offered and at first I put my name down for a transfer to a race in August.  Then an evil little voice put an evil idea in my head.  Why not do both?  When does that opportunity ever present itself?  So an Xterra Double Weekend it is.  I think the hardest part will be the driving.  1 hour 20 minutes to get home from Lory then 5 1/2 hours to the next race.  All told over 8 hours of driving in one day.  A horrible proposition.  If it's true that 'the more you drive, the less intelligent you are' then I'm in trouble with this endeavor. 

That classic Repo Man quote is at the end of this clip.

But I'm taking it on nonetheless.  Not a huge crazy thing in light of all the huge crazy things people are taking on these days.  Like 50 ironmans in 50 days in 50 states.  That guy better hope Otto is well of the mark about driving.  I can't even imagine the logistics of 50 states in 50 days let alone throwing an ironman into the mix.  That endeavor makes mine seem easy peasy by comparison.  But I'm not a dude in my 30's who trains for triathlons for a living.  I think my goal is plenty ambitious for a nearly 51 year old with gimpy knees and an extreme distaste for driving, someone who whines about only 2 weeks of recovery between races.  I think a part of me was hoping my coach would talk me out of it but she's supportive of it and says it'll help me build muscle.  So no excuses not to do it.  Will be an interesting experiment if nothing else.

In the meantime I've been training despite the weather and a busy schedule with clients this month.  I did get very lucky with some short blocks of rain free time falling between clients and other appointments.  And I got to see the baby buffaloes.  Sometimes I miss them because I'm always on trails but the trails are shut due to mud so I had a few long rides out on the dirt roads to see the baby buffs.

I made it up to Hall Ranch at the end of April before Rainpocalypse started in earnest and ran into this crew.

Still a lot of snow on the high peaks even before the deluge.

The forecast looks more seasonal, even hot, for next week so I should be back to normal training, normal spring/summer type activities.  Which is good because 2 Xterra's in 2 days?  I'm going to need it.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

U Don't Dans 2 Tekno Anymore

A3, what a great band, and summing up my trying week with the gizmos.

I'm not a Luddite technology hater but I'm not a Cell Phone Zombie either.  Sometimes walking the line between the two gets wobbly and I end up falling in the drink.  Thus I've spent this past week drowning in techno gizmo gibberish frrustration of why doesn't the effing thing work if it's so effing smart??!!  Just once why can't there be a 'Send to Device' button right there where the website says it's supposed to be in their gibbering instructions?  And for the love of . . . where's my #$%&ing ANT stick??!!  My refrain of woe used to be 'where's my #$%&ing phone' but now my life is all about the ANT stick.

By way of explanation, I started back up working with my triathlon coach which meant I had to dig my heart rate monitor and cyclometer out of hibernation which lead to all the troubles.  Because I'd lost my cyclometer last fall and my HR (heart rate) monitor died.  My attempts at bathroom surgeries to resurrect it worked for precisely one workout.  Why just the one?  To tease and confuse me I suppose.  It would have made to much sense if the thing had flat out refused to come back to life, but getting a hearbeat for one workout, well, that's more complicated and gives you hope that more surgery will work and sucks more time and aggravation from your life and in the end you finally break down and spend the $$$ on the fancypants Garmin GPS gizmo that you've been avoiding for the past 15 years or so.  I'm the only 15 year triathlete in Boulder and maybe in all of triathlete-land that has never had a Garmin.  Because that's crossing the line into Cell Phone Zombie Land.  A HR monitor is nuisance enough, do I really need to know how many times I farted during that last interval and what was my % of max. heart rate, elevation gain and average pace during those farts?  In the end will it make this any more fun?

But on the other side of that line is data and I loves me my data.  Is there any better porn than a spreadsheet?  Graphs, charts, overlays of said graphs and charts - total geek porn.  I could stare at that stuff all day and that's the problem.  And Garmin gives you data, SO much data, you can set up 4 metrics to watch per screen and there are 4 screens you can toggle between.  16 data points you can monitor during your workout.  Cell Phone Zombies Unite.  When do you get to look at the sky and the birds and the angry rattlesnake who hasn't had his morning latte yet and is about to bite you on the leg?  And yes that nearly happened to me last weekend.  Too bad I wasn't wearing my HR monitor strap because that would have been an excellent way to measure maximum heart rate.  I was able to re-live the whole thing in graphs though, thanks to Garmin.  That huge spike in speed on the uphill before the gulch?  Yeah, that would be where the snake and I had our rendevous.  Another story for another day.

It all sounds well and good but it's taken an enormous amount of time and mental energy to get this gizmo up and running and doing even the simplest of things that it's capable of doing.  And the thing is so stinkin' smart that I don't even know half the things it can do never mind what it's doing behind my back.  Kind of like Strummer.  Just like Strummer.  And I have about as much control over it.

Can't I please just go for a run or a bike ride without the gizmo tattling on me?  Because it tells my coach everything whether I want it to or not.  She knows all about that 20 minute super slow old dog Lola walk I took with it as a test.  Whether she wants to or not.  Because I have no freaking clue what that thing is sending out into the universe.  And I've put in all the effort I care to to find out.

Then I got a new phone after over 2 years of iPhone purgatory.  Lo I am delivered from both iPhone and Sprint!!!  Oh happy gloriousness of freedom from the tyranny of that dynamic duo!  Except now I have more gizmo gibberish to deal with.  Fixing my contacts, setting up email, setting up voicemail box.  Because after less than a day of joyous freedom and a phone that actually works I got an email from someone telling me my voice mail box is full so I have to email you.  And then there's the Scooby Doo Mystery of the blinking blue light.  Why?  And how do I make it stop?  And what other basic thing isn't set up properly and how will I find out about it?

So after a week of tekno burn out I think it's time to hit the bike and see if there are baby buffaloes yet.  Because baby buffalo wallpaper will take the edge of the techno-hassle of the last week.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Punk Rock Chicken Carving Night and Other Obsessions

The butcher department of my local grocery store announced that they'd be having a free class on chicken preparation which I imagined would be cooking lessons so I eagerly signed up.  I'm iffy enough with cooking as it is and when it comes to meat I'm utterly clueless.  It's been a little over a year since I started eating meat and I still haven't had any chicken, mostly because I think of it as dog food and an inferior source of fat.  But a free cooking class can't hurt.

I was worried that I'd registered too late and wouldn't get in to the class but as it turned out I was the only person who showed up.  Which meant I got to pick the music and what better music for learning to cut up a chicken than the Ramones?  And Social Distortion?  And after that the guys giving the lesson turned off the music because apparently 'Sheena is a Punk Rocker' is an acquired taste and maybe a bit too distracting for the precise work of chicken butchery.  The funny thing is that the instructor initially was trying to find Classical music for me before he asked what I wanted to hear.

The class turned out to be more about how to cut up a whole chicken, bones and all, with some cooking advice thrown in.  One of the instructors grew up in New Orleans and I guess they know a thing or two about cooking down there.  It turns out that there's an art to chicken carving, at times it looked like magic.  I'll have to consult YouTube to jog my memory if I ever need to do this for myself but at least I have an idea of what to do.  Because whole chickens are way cheaper than buying the individual parts plus you get some parts of meat like the 'oyster' that are supposedly the tastiest parts that don't get sold with the individual parts.  And the bones.  The instructors sent me home with the demo chicken and Lola was about the happiest I've seen her in years when I gave her the back bone to munch.  So hard to find chicken backs these days.

Which leads me to my next obsession - bones.  Or rather trying to find good grass fed joint bones, chicken or pig feet, etc. to make broth.  Because I've become seriously obsessed with the broth.  I know, you're thinking when is this crazy lady going to stop carrying on about the gelatinous meat juice?  I will, I promise, but I woke up the other night plotting my next broth and trying to think of a dog proof place in the house for a crock pot where I won't start a fire.  Because surely I have nothing else to worry about at 2 a.m.?  Now many of you dog people can't judge because I know you wake up in the wee dark hours agonizing over your running dogwalk.  And I know because I've been there too.  At least the broth leads to wonderful, magical health benefits whereas the running dogwalk leads to Manic Depressive Neurotic Crazyland and Not Enough Therapy on the Planet.  Jonny came home from a biking trip in Utah with some horrible plague cough of sinus infection bronchitis ick that lasted nearly 3 weeks and thanks to the magically delicious mystical healingness of the broth I never caught it.  Plus the dogs love it.  LOVE it.  So much craziness for my broth.  We have some every day.

Which means I need to keep a pot going on the stove every week which means lots and lots of bones.  Must be grass fed as well.  No Monsanto GM glyphosate ridden feed for me or the bones in my broth.  The local grocery sometimes has grass fed marrow bones for $2.99 per lb which is good but the oxtail or shin bones are $5.99/lb and I need about 5-6 lbs of bones per stock pot so that adds up quickly.  I've been calling around to the local farms but so far no luck.  My kingdom for some grass fed knuckle bones and chicken feet.

I've even been hatching a plot for a Broth Stall on the Pearl St. Mall.  Welcome to 'Madame Fitwell's Naughty Broth-el'.  Except that I'd rather shove hot pokers in my eyes while listening to the Grateful Dead than deal with tourists and Boulderites on the Pearl St. Mall.  And I'd end up running a soup kitchen for all the homeless people downtown because I wouldn't be able to turn them away, even the scamster ones because how do you tell 'real' homeless from the con artists?  I'd be out of business in a day.  Plus it turns out someone already beat me to it.  Apparently broth is trendy.  Who knew?  I don't think I've ever been on the front edge of a trend ever.  You can even mail order your bone broth.  But then you'd miss the fun of making it yourself and the awesome smell in the house and the joy of skimming the tallow off the top.  Plus the mystery of how it'll turn out.  Will it be super jiggly?  You want it super jiggly, definitely want your broth to have some junk in the trunk, not all runny skinny Boulder triathlete.  It's a fun science experiment each time with the bonus of delicious immune boosting power juice at the end.

I swore I'd never do it but I'm going to be one of those crazy dog ladies with the chest freezer in the garage for when I finally find a bone source.  A terrible horror chest full of all manner of frozen animal body parts.  Jonny can get a deal on a freezer through his work, we're just waiting for a free shipping deal to come along and I'm there.  I think I'll write a book, 'The Secret Life of Bone Broth'.  Long live the weirdo obsessions.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Middle Age Parkour Ladies Are the New Black

I had my last parkour class last Wednesday night, Class #8.  We started off with the same timed obstacle course we did on the first day of class.  I was a bit nervous on the start line, this course had been quite terrifying to me on the first day, especially climbing the wall.  I fell on my ass trying to jump from one floor rail to the other and skinned and bruised my knees pretty badly trying to get up the wall.  This time however it was mostly a piece of cake.  I still don't have the balance and jumping skills to go from rail to rail so I just put a foot down and took the fault for that part rather than possible hurt myself falling again.  And the wall?  No problemo, scampered up that thing like it was nothing.  I did forget and very lightly and briefly put weight my knees to get up a different wall but a lot of other people forgot too.  My time was around 2:30 mins. on the first day and went down to 1:30 or so on the last day.  But best of all the course was no problem (except for the rail jumping which is a pretty advanced skill if you've not done it much).

Tonight's class was the start of the flashy stuff - flips and spins.  We started off with the wall spin, which looks like this:

Now it's important to point out that I was working on a much easier progression of this with a padded wall and padded mat to land on and putting one hand on the ground, one on the wall (see the video at 2:18).  Of course I was much better in one direction than the other, even the instructor noticed.  I have an even greater respect for dogs that struggle with jumping and turning to their off side.

The we worked on the Palm Spin which is a wall spin but on a flat surface.  By this time my head was spinning a bit and I struggled with the mechanics of it.  We had another substitute instructor who I once again couldn't quite follow as easily as our regular instructor.  He wasn't bad and most of the rest of the class got it, I just need this sort of stuff broken down and explained a little more.  It was o.k. though, I'll work on it on my own.  It's not a skill I'm passionate about having anyway.

Then some work on the bars that was way beyond me.  It was mostly various ways to get up into a muscle up position.  For those unfamiliar with the muscle up, well, it's hard, it can take strong athletic guys up to 6 months to learn and it was way beyond my strength capability.

This is a pure muscle up.

And this is a progression using momentum to make it easier.  But I'm not even at this level yet.  Not even close.  It looks easy but I double dog dare you to give it a try.

So I had to pretty much sit this part out.  I'd say maybe only a third of the class was able to do these.

Next we were on to flips on the trampoline and into the foam pit.  Those of us like me who were unfamiliar with flipping could start off with easy  progressions of the front flip on the trampoline.  Those with more experience did front and side and maybe even back flips into the foam pit.  I was happy enough to stay out of the foam pit.  I saw it swallow up the other small woman who was my size and it was very hard for her to get out.  Never mind the grossness.  I don't even want to think about what was festering in there.

Anyway, the trampoline was very bouncy, way more bouncy than any regular trampoline I've ever been on.  Very VERY fun!!!  I never quite got to a full front flip but I got to maybe 3/4 of the way and landed on my butt/back.  I could only do maybe 3-4 reps at a time then I'd have to get off and let the room stop spinning for a while.  I started having problems with this sort of thing in my 20's so I can't even blame my age.  I get super dizzy with any kind of spinning motion for too long.  I can do it, just not over and over.  I have low blood pressure and it may be something to do with that.  I sometimes even have problems getting up from the couch or sitting for a long time and I'll sometimes almost black out and I've passed out a few times in the past few years under various circumstances.  So I don't know how much flipping is in my future but it sure was fun to do it for a little bit and I was glad I had the nerve to give it a go.  At some point during that last class the other woman in the class turned to me and said, 'It's funny all the things I've discovered that I'm afraid of because of this class' and yet she seemed pretty brave to me throughout the class.  She did a great job of hiding and/or getting over her fears in any case.

And me too.  I have to say after that first class I would have some building dread before class each week and I knew it was silly and that I'd be fine but there was always some point where I debated not going, especially on those couple nights when the roads were snowy/icy and it was snowing.  But I made it through all 8 classes and once I got there I had a great time at every single class.  The stuff in these classes was well outside my comfort zone on many levels and I'm SO glad I went and learned this stuff and overcame my fears each week.  What an awesomely amazing experience it was!  And I have a huge list of skills to work on and movements to perfect and super fun strength training exercises that will be so much more fun than boring old hand weights.  I've already made up a huge list of things I want to work on, can't wait to get started.

On a funny note, I was in the sauna today after masters swim practice and coincidentally we'd been working on dives off the blocks.  I was yammering to this guy from the masters workout about parkour class and the front flips on the trampoline and I wondered if it would be fun/possible to try a front flip off the diving blocks.  A woman caught my attention and said, 'You were at parkour on Wednesday?  I was there too working on flips into the foam pit.'  Now what are the chances of that?  And she's 42.  Middle Age Parkour Ladies are the New Black, in Boulder anyway.

She was there for the next level class above mine and the stuff they do is pretty impressive.  And scary.  I had already decided that if I take more classes next fall after triathlon season that I'd just repeat the intro. class because Level One looked too intimidating.  But she said you work up to it and you get used to it and you can do a drop-in class while taking the intro. class again if you want.  These classes are way smaller and you get a lot more personal attention.  So I don't know but maybe she's inspired me to maybe think about it.  Or at least consider one of the other types of classes like a tricks class that would be learning flips and similar type stuff.  I noticed they had a break dancing class too, now THAT would be funny.  But it'll have to wait until fall because I'm thinking I may start up with my coach for triathlon next month.  Can't believe I have a race in 9 weeks and I done hardly any running and almost no biking.  Better dust off the heart rate monitor and try to get my interval legs back.