Trek Women
July 30, 2008

B+

Img_2938My first Olympic triathlon (1.5K swim, 39 K bike, 10K run), the NJ State Triathlon this past Sunday gave me a heck of a good blog story for all of you. . . .

I didn't sleep well on Saturday night - just couldn't get myself to sleep, although I don't think it was nerves.  At 4:30 AM on Sunday morning I was up, dressed and ready to rack my bike on the car.  I ate some oatmeal and then came to the realization that it was actually too early to eat.  In this race, all of the sprint distance waves were going to go out prior to the Olympic distance waves.  My wave was scheduled for 8:36.  Food eaten, to be used for race energy, is best consumed 2-3 hours before the race start.  Hmmmm.  The pre-cooked eggs, along with a fork, got loaded into the car to eat at the race site.

I got to the race site around 5:30 and decided to watch some of the arriving chaos while I ate my eggs in the car.   Once I got through the bodymarking line (yum, the smell of Sharpie in the morning), I got to transition and set up.  There were a TON of very serious USAT officials walking around with notebooks checking bikes and racking (have to have your bar ends plugged or they kick you out).   Once I was set-up there wasn't a lot to do so I used the time to mill about and check out the gear people have and ask them about it, plus, people-watch a lot of nerves, and pre-race rituals.

After doing the porta-potty line wait, some friends (whom I apparently talked into the Olympic distance) headed to the start area.  About 15 minutes before my wave was called I downed a packet of GU (and made the appropriate "I just ate GU" face).  I had originally planned to start well back of the start line buoys so that I could remain standing, rather than treading water, but I changed my mind once in the water.  The water was warm (81 degrees) and I scoped out a nice space on the very left of the start line.  Once we started I found a nice easy rhythm and headed for my first buoy.  About halfway through the course I passed a man from the wave ahead of me.  Once I made the turn for the short side of the rectangle we were making, I ran out of stuff to think about.  I actually felt mentally done with swimming - bored in a way - I was ready to move on.  Problem was, I still had more to swim.   I got out of the water in 32 minutes and heard cheers from some Team Survivor friends.

I transitioned and then headed out with my bike.  I crossed the timing mat out of transition and ran.  Then I ran some more.  Then I ran up a hill.  All I could think was - "I hate running, why am I running, in bike shoes no less, during the bike leg of this race?"  It was a long 150 yards to get to the bike mount.  Once I got on my bike, my legs took over and I settled in.  I panicked around mile 4 when a girl near me made a turn that the rest of us didn't.  She had turned too early.  Mile 7 a guy tried to pass me - on the right, coming out of a sharp tight curve where volunteers were yelling "Slow down."  Apparently, he thought calling out "Watch out" would suffice for his rule-breaking.  Instead he got me yelling at him, "You CAN'T pass on the right!"  Geez - where is a USAT official with a notebook when you need them! Around mile 9 a man pulled past me and yelled out, "NICE color bike. . . ."  Around mile 17 things got funny - not funny ha-ha exactly - more of a funny, you've got to be kidding me way.

It started as a slight tickle/itch.  I was cruising into the last small loop I had to do and was down tight in my aerobars.  I pulled my tri top to scratch/rub and was met face-to-face with a bee flying around in my tri-top and sports bra.  So, is clipped in at 20+ mph with a bee in your bra cause for panic?  I rapidly flapped my top back and forth praying the bee would leave.  Um, it did, but not until it stung me good.  I recovered for about 30 seconds and then the searing pain of bee-sting, mixed with salty sweat hit me.  Luckily, I stayed on the bike for the remaining 6 miles, all the while hoping I wasn't allergic to bees.

Once I abandoned my bike and donned running shoes my thoughts just alternated between, "Oh my, SERIOUSLY I have to run 6.2 miles now and I can't BELIEVE I just got stung by a bee, down my bra in the middle of a race."  My goal for the run was to hang on.  I had resigned myself to walking if I had to but I was able to run, slowly, the whole course.  I'm sure the water station volunteers got a kick out of me because at every station I pulled open the top of my tri top and dumped the glass of water down to try and rinse away the salt that was killing the sting.  Three miles in and I started praying that my hamstrings would somehow miraculously get at least 3 inches longer.  I felt like someone had put a rubber-band, 2 sizes too small, in my legs in place of hamstrings.

Once I got to the "1/2 mile to go" sign I felt home-free.  I knew I was going to make it.  I started rounding the last curve and. . . had to stop. . . to tie my shoe.  There was a collective gasp from the few spectators who were lining the fence at that point.  They shouted, "You can do it, you're almost there!!!!"  I didn't really have the energy to tell them that if I didn't tie my shoe, odds were that I would trip on the lace and actually not finish the race.  (Yes, I know, I need to get some Yankz or lace-locks or something).

I ran strong to the finish and was immediately handed a water bottle.  I forgot which leg my chip was on so I did a strange dance when trying to figure which leg to offer the volunteer who was trying to get the chip back.  I then looked left.  I looked right.  Dazed, I asked a volunteer holding medals, "Can I have my medal?"  Her answer, "No, these are for the DC Tri Club participants."  And then, someone handed me a hat.  A hat?@!??  "Where's my medal???"    No medal, just the hat.  I'm still struggling to get over the fact that after a 3 hour effort, all I got was a hat.  I can go out and buy a hat.  You have to EARN a medal and I definitely thought I earned it.

So, overall I give myself a B+ for the race. . .I got a bee, PLUS I learned that I can do an Olympic event  and that I have more in me than I ever give myself credit - especially when it comes to digging deep for the run.

Swim: 32:16; T1: 2:12; Bike: 1:15:29 (18.4 mph); T2: 1:39; Run: 1:09:18

Finish Time: 3:00:52;  541/760 ; 27th in my age group.

Swim. Bike. Run. Don't Have Bee-Appealing Tri Cleavage. Repeat.

-Jen

PS.  Sorry for the lengthy race report and lack of pictures - I haven't yet mastered the art of competing with camera!

July 26, 2008

Race Ready (or Not)

It's 9:06 PM and tomorrow morning is my first Olympic distance triathlon ever.  I wanted to be showered and in bed by now.   Soon.

I picked up my race packet today and listened to the pre-race meeting.  I had consulted the maps of the course enough this week to have a firm grasp on the bike course - it's a bit tricky as one section has a loop that's done twice (just not in a row).  The only thing I didn't know until I was at the course today, was just how far away transition is from the actual bike mount.  When I exit transition tomorrow there will be about a 150 yard run over grass and up a grassy hill, across a road to the other road where I will then mount my bike.  Darn - bringing down my overall bike time already. . .

I filled up tonight on my favorite pre-race meal - salmon and pasta.  Got my bag packed.  Water bottles filled.  Racing gear laid out.  Breakfast pre-made.  Bike rack on the car.  Okay, now bike - flat tire.  What???!!!@@??  Yes, a flat tire.  I've now pulled out the bike stand, dismantled the bike, and changed my rear tire.  NOW, I can shower and go to bed.

I don't feel at all prepared for what I may encounter tomorrow morning but I will be with friends and no matter what happens, at the end of the day, there will be a story to tell. . .

Swim. Bike-please-no-flats.Run. Repeat. . . .

-Jen

July 23, 2008

Working It Out

Img_2896 Sometimes you just have to work things out.  Ask any cyclist, runner, or triathlete and I bet they'll tell you that training sessions often become the source of clarity and order to the other things in their life.  Training does this for me.  But today, 18 of my speediest training bike miles could not work it out.  I knew it at the time but had to stop due to boy-pick-up constraints.

Tomorrow morning, Brendan will say goodbye to his tonsils and adenoid.  Apparently, we didn't notice that he couldn't breathe through his nose for 7 years.  "I can't believe no one has treated him for this," were the exact words of the ENT doctor.  Um, yeah, well, we were kinda busy with cancer for the past 3 years. . . is what I wanted to say.

My emotions about hospitals, operating rooms (and how scared I was during my lymph node removal for biopsy) are all wrapped up my emotions as a mom and how I just don't want anyone having to come near my child with a scalpel.  I actually can identify and almost laugh at the realization that my subconscious is trying to find an outlet for my fear.  I recognize it for what it is. 

Training serves a means to a race finish line but, it also has become a link to my own ability to give my self a psychological look-see.  In fact, it took me a long time training to realize that I thought I was swimming, biking, and running toward a goal rather than from my fear - fear of cancer, fear of its return, fear of what had become of my body. . .  These days, I know that the miles I put in the pool, on the bike or pounding the pavement are also the times I feel most able to look at where I am and where I am going.

I was hoping for a brisk-paced run this evening to continue to work on my emotions about seeing my child in a hospital gown but severe thunder and lightning along with flash-flood rain has kept me indoors.  So, apparently, when I couldn't work it out in training, I turned to the bathroom - cleaning it, that is.  My previously soap-scummed shower doors now shine.  I think cleaning the refrigerator is next.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a young seven-year old to tuck back in to bed, who "can't sleep" for a variety of reasons. . .I'll have patience for it tonight, I know that he, like me, is really just trying to work it out. . .

Swim. Bike. Run. Clean Something. Repeat.

-Jen

July 22, 2008

A New Recipe

Cooking_2 Ingredients:

Six (6) straight days of cycling, 2-3 times per day: (bike type used at your discretion - mountain, road, hybrid, tri, commuter)

temperatures consistently in the mid 90's

high humidity

sweat (use a heavy hand, there can not be too much in this recipe)

a number of pairs of bike shorts

Instructions:

Mix thoroughly, rubbing all ingredients together in a way that creates just enough friction to be unnoticed at the time of riding.

Voila!! - there you have the perfect recipe for saddle sores - at least for me.  By Wednesday last week I couldn't understand why my rear felt kind of chafed.  There didn't seem to be any evidence of such.  By Friday night I had chafing and some small red sores and was walking around complaining just enough to get a laugh (although I did not find it quite as amusing.)  In some ways, now I feel I have a badge in the cycling world - I've experienced saddle sores.  Now I just want to NOT experience them again.  I hear Chamois Butt'r is the way to go - non-greasy, soften and protects skin, washes out of shorts - yup, that's what I need.  I ordered some pronto.

I laid off the cycling this weekend to give myself a chance to heal (don't worry, I swapped in running and swimming). 

Swim. Bike -ow. Run. Repeat. . . .

-Jen

July 19, 2008

Habit 101

Even before last weekend's race I was frustrated with my training rut.  No that's not the word.  My chasm.  My vast deep hole that is training wasteland.  Why is it that all the words to describe how big a rut I am in are so short?  None of those words - rut, hole, chasm - come close to describing the place in which I feel my training has sunk.

But, last weeks race pushed me up and out - mostly.  No, it's not a disappointing performance that somehow magically made me want to renew my zeal for training to avoid future disappointment.  I wasn't that unhappy with my race (except for the segment which must not be spoken about ever again).  Quite the opposite is true.  It was the racing - the activity - the swimming, the biking, the running that made me feel alive again - something that has gotten lost in the past 6 weeks of medical mystery land.  I remain a medical mystery, stuck in a quagmire of new doctors and endless "that will be a $30, $100, $250 co-pay please. . . "  So, to feel alive, sweating and accomplishing something that not everyone can do opened up my mind and body to the possibilities for the rest of the season - or maybe it was just the endorphins talking.

So, I am taking myself by the hand and marching straight back to Habit 101.  Habit 101 is that place where they - isn't it always a they and we never know who they are and why they are always telling us stuff, as if they know everything - say that it takes at least 21 days to form a habit for something.  I'm calling myself a beginner again - at least with my training habits.  I'm borrowing a page from my mom-book and this morning I made myself a training chart (See it here).  Each day of the week has two spaces to give room for two workouts each day.  In my previous dedicated training life - oh, it feels so long ago - I always strived for (not always accomplished) a week that had one off day, 3 days that held two workouts, and 3 days that had 1 workout (often times the long workouts of each discipline).  Each time I complete a workout (I'm cutting myself some slack on whether it is the EXACT planned workout - I still respect that sometimes the body can't be forced to obey) I am sticking a sticker on the chart.

Habit 101 also lectures us about accountability and reward - the principles of "someone's gotta be in charge of checking up on you" and the "oh, yeah, what do I get if I do it?".  I have the accountability - all I have to do is introduce the chart to  my kids (oh, and also the blog-world).  Believe me they will be slave drivers on whether I have done the work to justify the sticker.  But, I have yet to come up with the reward for sticking to the plan.  Should it be after a complete week, two weeks, the 21 days it's gonna take to re-program my brain?  I'm not the "go get a pedicure as reward" type (besides it's not a good idea during training because they can mess up your calluses for running).  So, any ideas on reward?

Swim.Bike.Run.Get a Sticker.Repeat. . . .

-Jen

PS.  I did try to do this sans chart this week.  We'll see what happens when I go back and apply stickers to the week.  I did do a 6 mile run yesterday so that I could ensure it was still possible to do a 6 mile run in preparation for the Olympic distance next week.

July 17, 2008

Eggs-cellent!

Img_2847_2 We ran out of eggs yesterday morning.  We also ran out of coffee (gasp!).  What worried me more than the thought of no morning cup of coffee today was the all out fragile nature of eggs and the mess they can create.  You see, all week the boys and I have been commuting by bike to their morning day camp.  It's only 1.75 miles away and there is a safe way to get there through neighborhoods, all the way until we have to cross and walk our bikes on grass for about 50 feet or so.  The first day we got A LOT of strange looks.  By day three I actually had another mom who said, "I saw you and I think you actually beat me here on your bike."

Anyway, back to the egg issue. . .  Each day after I drop the boys off, I have Brendanturns7rounded the bend to the grocery store and picked up a few necessary ingredients for whatever I am serving that day with the plethora of cucumbers that our garden is spitting out.  But, eggs, they're a whole different story.  The eggs, me, bike and car were in a showdown of sorts.  Well, I'm happy to say that victory, in the form of 18 unbroken eggs, is mine.  My haul home (in an old backpack - in case of mess) included:  18 eggs, coffee, buttermilk, heavy cream, 2 lbs., strawberries, and 2 pints of blueberries.  (Yesterday was Brendan's 7th birthday and he wanted berry shortcake as his birthday dessert).

Jeff just rolled his eyes and shook his head - but then he did enjoy the shortcake. . .

-Jen

PS.  As you can see, the key, at least in this case, was a gob of rubber bands that I brought from home to keep all lids securely fastened for the ride home. . .

July 15, 2008

Upstream, Headwind, Ugh, Ugh, Ugh. . .

Img_2817 So, here it is - my recap of the Philadelphia Women's Triathlon, from this past Sunday.

I was up, right on schedule at 4:30.  I had premade my scrambled eggs the night before and just needed to nuke them.  Then I nuked my oatmeal and loaded my bike.  I have had success with both the eggs and the oatmeal alone before races so I thought, "Maybe I'll double the good if I do both."  I was not smart enough to realize I should perhaps cut the portions if I was going to do both.  I was glad for the 3 hours to digest.

I hit my next setback at 5:03 when, faced pressed against the glass, I found out that Starbucks only opens at 5 AM Mon-Sat.  Plan B.  Got my super-large coffee elsewhere and headed to the race site.  I got to transition, got body-marked, and set-up.  It was 6:15 AM.  The race started at 8 AM.  So, I milled about with friends (there were 7 other Team Survivor women doing the race too).  I was actually calm enough (I think thanks to the "C" race designation) that I was able to help out a few women with tools, bike racking, etc. .

At 8AM we waded into the water for the start.  The water was warm and right away I got a good easy stroke going and knew this swim would be much better than last year.  The only hiccup was that while swimming upstream, I hit a patch of leaves and weeds flowing downstream.   My final swim was slower this year, which was a momentary disappointment, but in looking at all the swim times I'm thinking there was actually enough current to slow everyone going upstream.  I hit the T1 transition only to find a couple of women sitting down transitioning right in front of my gear and bike.  (I think that I yelled "EXCUSE ME" loud enough to clear some space - I didn't care so much about them encroaching on my stuff but more about the fact that when it comes to unracking your bike in a hurry I am not a master and their heads would be in serious jeopardy if they didn't move.)

It took me a good 4 miles on the bike to really hit my stride.  The bike course was two loops and the entire back half of the loop was headwind.  I was happy to stay in the aerobars which helped.  The one funny thing I noticed on the bike was that the incline that slowed me considerably last year seemed to have been flattened - either that or I'm a stronger biker this year!  The Aero Drink bottle worked great although I think I need to trim the straw slightly.  It took me a couple of tries to master drinking from it and so I was covered with orange Accelerade and was quite sticky by the time I got to the run, but I drank far more than I ever have before on the bike.  There was a good deal of the course where I was able to hold 20 MPH and even get it up to 23-24 MPH but not enough to deal with the transitioning portion of the bike leg that pulls your average down. 

From the moment I got off the bike all I could think was "Ugh, Ugh, Ugh, why do I have to run now."  The transition came out into a long chute along a grassy/dirt/rocky area that led to the road.  Jeff and the boys were along the side and Jeff's comment later was , "you didn't look so good."  Let's just say, I survived the run.  It took me until mile 1 to feel like I was even doing anything like running.  Then I was just ticking off the mileage until the end.  With 300 yards to go, a friend caught up with me and she proposed finishing together, which we did, hand in hand, arms held high.

Final Time: 1:47:28

Swim: 14:42; T1: 1:38 (holy smokes! - one of the faster times in T1 for the field);

Bike: 56:35 (18.0 MPH - The 20 MPH bike leg remains elusive), T2: 1:21 (what was I doing?);

Run: 33:15 (let's NEVER speak of this again)

It was a really fun race and I definitely came away with things that I can use in other races (like say for example that I need to run more and ignoring running will NOT in fact make it easier).

My first Olympic distance is only two weeks away. . .YIKES!

-Jen

July 12, 2008

The Triathlete ABC's

Img_2814 Now that I've crossed the triathlon point of no return - the point from which you strive to complete a race as the goal to now wanting to go faster - there is actually some thought that goes into training and race planning.  When planning races for this year, Coach Tom gave thought to things like base training, building, and tapering appropriately.  My thoughts in race planning involved, what races were fun, what would work around family vacations, and which had nice flat run courses (flat bike courses are a plus too).

This is when Coach Tom schooled me on race planning and the triathlete ABC's.  When planning a race season with more than one race, each race is given a designation of A, B, or C.  The "C" race(s) are where you training plan continues normally, there is no taper before the race, and the race itself is actually part of your training for the week.  Additionally, "C" races are the experiment races - it might be the time to pick something in your racing strategy and try it out without consequence to see what happens.  The "B" races involve some taper and the "A" race is the one where you are aiming to be in peak form, rested and ready to win (however that may be defined for you - in my mind doesn't have a darn thing to do with a first place finish).

Tomorrow morning is my first race of the season - the Philadelphia Women's Triathlon.  It is my "C" race, although given my training as of late I have questioned whether I can move it to a designated D, E, or even Z race.  But, I do know that the idea of having a "C" race does seem to make sense.  I am trying new things and new strategies tomorrow and I won't be disappointed if they don't work.  I'm just going to be out there to have fun and learn some stuff that I can use in future races.

So, here's the scoop on my plan:

1)  Was planning on making this my test race for the wetsuit BUT as of today at the race expo, water temp is 81 degrees so that is a no-go.  But, I will be testing out the new goggles in a race setting.

2)  Am trying a new hydration strategy on the bike using a Profile Design Aero Drink water bottle that fits in my aero bars.   I am hoping this will help me continually hydrate - especially given that the humidity is up today.  Also still toying with nutrition and when to eat in order to avoid the "bonk" on the run.

3)  I am going to let it all out on the bike portion to see a) where my biking legs are at right now and b) what happens to my run if I push my bike leg (perhaps the run will then turn into a walk.)  I thought about trying my run with my orthotics in my running shoes but that just seemed over the top in "things to mess around with."

So, here's hoping I get a decent night's sleep and have a fun race tomorrow.  Starbucks - please make sure my coffee is ready right at 5 AM.  I've never looked forward to getting a "C" before. . .

Swim. Bike. Run. Repeat. . .

-Jen

July 11, 2008

It's a Bird, It's a Plane. . .

Img_2811 . . .it's me in my new tri goggles.  I'm a little disgruntled when I mail-order purchased these new goggles for races and they came and I looked like, well, a cross between a bug and some super-nerdy Clark Kent.  Talk about deceptive advertising - I look nothing like the sleek Olympic swimmer goddesses that pose on the packaging.  Just add these goggles to the list of reasons why there are not mirrors at triathlons.

I am no stranger to goggles and their eyeball sucking, eye socket mark leaving feeling.  I was a swimmer in high school and back then I wore my goggles super tight.  I would have rather had my eyeballs sucked out but contained within the goggles than having my goggles pull off on the dive off the blocks.  But, triathlon swimming is a bit of a different ball game.  You still don't want your goggles to come off but there are other considerations.  Peripheral vision in open water swimming is a plus.  The swim in a tri is a melee of arms, legs, bodies and large bouys in the distance.  No Miss Manners lane lines and a clear painted line on the bottom of a pool.  Being able to see as much as possible, both in front of you and to your sides in open water is helpful.  A lot of triathletes choose to wear a goggle mask that gives a ton of vision.  For me that was just something I couldn't handle with a swim racing background - just too big and different from my comfort zone.  I wore regular old clear goggles during my first triathlon and learned about blinding, water level, rising sun when I made the first turn on the swim course.  (Note to self: Duh, most races occur right at sunrise. .)  So, right after that race I got some tinted goggles which, alas, I have renamed holy-painful-eye-socket goggles.  Hence my latest purchase.

Unfortunately, these Aquasphere Kaiman goggles weren't available tinted where I was shopping but I still thought them worthy of a shot - I have noticed the brand being worn by lots of triathletes.  Other than my overall "look", I am liking them so far.  They definitely are giving me a wider more comfortable fit on my eye sockets and there is a ton of peripheral vision.  Bonus - the straps are actually EASY to adjust.  There is a little buckle on the side that allows you to push it and let out the strap, you can then just pull it the number of "notches" you need when its on your head.

I've tested them out at the pool but this weekend they will get their first race test.  I just found out that in late-breaking race news there has had to be a modification to the swim course.  No longer will we swim point to point down the river.  We will now be making a rectangle.  Here's hoping that its cloudy, the sun is up enough by the time I hit the water, or I don't have to swim due East. . . .

-Jen

July 10, 2008

The DaVinci in My Garage

Img_2672 I grew up in a family where the garage was a place for two cars, tools and some storage, all nicely arranged.  Jeff grew up in a family who doesn't quite understand why a car would actually go inside a garage.  In our marriage Jeff and I have gone back and forth on this issue, often times creating clutter that gets cleaned up inevitably in mid-October when I declare, "my car must be able to get in the garage for the winter!"  Now, I'm not sure if cars have a place among what looks to be a sporting goods store (albeit a VERY poorly organized one).  We've got hockey gear for two small boys and one big, sleds, skates (both ice and roller), kayaks - and their associated life vests, rackets, bats, sticks, helmets - batting and bike, nets, cleats, golf clubs, soccer balls, tennis balls, etc. . .  Oh, and did I mention six bikes?

In fighting this clutter of discarded gear, be it from that day or that season, things just get shoved aside in the whirlwind of motion that is our lives.  Yes, this mess is our fault but who can really blame us?  Isn't a perfect hour of kayaking on a local lake much more inviting than a session of "Where should I put this garage organization?"

But, the one thing that has annoyed me is the lack of solutions for our bike storage.  I'll admit it, mostly I mean my bike storage.  Ever since I got my bike I've tried to create a "no touching" perimeter in the garage to no avail.  I've combed catalogs and websites, measured and sketched trying to find the solution that will keep my bike safe and yet accessible without me having to call the neighbor for help while Jeff is at work.Davincirack

Enter the Delta Leonardo Single Bicycle Rack with DaVinci Tire Tray!  For $15 (yes, only $15), my bike has become a work of art on our garage wall.  This little rack installed in less than 10 minutes (and that is a serious record for people who often take a good 3 hours and 4 trips to Home Depot to do any project that says "installs in minutes".)  The DaVinci Tire Tray is a small plastic tray that installs on the wall where the bottom tire touches so that you don't mark up your wall.  (If you don't care about marks on the wall you can just get the rack solo for $11).

We laughed when reading the install directions - Step 8 states: "Stand back and enjoy aesthetic appeal of Leonardo on your wall.  Hang bike in a pleasing manner."  Funnier was when we actually did stand back and find ourselves admiring the aesthetic appeal.  We admired, we patted ourselves on the back, we came in and ordered two more. . .

-Jen