Monday, December 22, 2008


This house is called Phillip. Tim and Rebecca named the house Phillip, and it's a very special house. It's where Aaron lived when we first met. I suppose it was actually where he lived when we second met, because we first met in a bike shop and I buggered back off to New Zealand and blew him off for a year. After Aaron and I second met, Aaron wooed me on Phillip's front porch with his apple tart. At that point, I was too polite to tell him that I don't like pastries. He really won me over when he took my superfluous zucchini and cauliflower from the garden and made delicious concoctions from it while I studied microbiology. That porch was the first place that Aaron and I ever kissed, and I've been known to drag him over there for a smooch on special occasions. Aaron moved all the way across the street, so Phillip's porch is always at our disposal.

For the past few years, Aaron and I have had a tradition of celebrating the solstices. I (the triathlete) am in charge of the summer solstice celebration, since long days and minimal clothing make me happiest. Aaron (the biathlete) is in charge of the winter solstice celebrations, as he is thrilled by long underwear, copious amounts of snow, and cozy fires on frigid nights. I wasn't surprised when I came home from work last night (the winter solstice) to a fairly untraditional but delicious 5 course meal. I wasn't surprised when we went for a walk after dinner in the snow. We walked around Cannon Park and checked out the christmas lights until I began to freeze and whine. I was distracted for a while when we assisted a family recently transplanted from Maui (yikes!) that was stuck in the snow. In the end, there were so many people helping that we all just ended up pushing the stuck car the 2 blocks to their house.

When Aaron told me to join him on Phillip's porch after the walk, I thought he was being sweet and romantic. I didn't know that he was going to ask me to marry him. I was surprised, but it was sweet and I said yes. Actually, I think I said "sure." The stuff of princess dreams, eh?

I suppose I should have been more onto it. I did receive several queries over the past few months: "Are you sure you don't want an engagement ring? You're not just saying that?" My (truthful) answer was no - I don't have any desire to wear a ring, and I think buying one would be a waste of money and resources. Aaron wasn't completely satisfied with that answer, so he superglued (the man loves epoxy) a pebble from the foundation of the now-burned-down bike shop to a simple band. So ladies, if you ever want to check out my "rock," I've really got one. The difficulty that ensued when I tried to replace my mittens post proposal reaffirmed my desire to remain ring-free.

I know that this is a tri blog and not a relationship blog, but I think it's worth mentioning that Aaron actually wanted to do this 6 months ago on the summer solstice, but it was the day before IM Cd'A. Then, he postponed his plans until the equinox, but I was traveling back from training camp in Victoria, so he had to wait another 3 months. Kona would have been a romantic spot for a proposal, but hours of sustained vomiting left me rather cranky. He is one patient triathlete partner. And I sure do love him.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

9 posts

There are officially 9 blog posts between this one and the last one in which I complained about snow. I was actually about to complain about lack of snow last week. It was the day before National Club XC Championships, and a doozy was forcasted. 4-8 inches of snow and bitterly cold temps and winds. What a perfect day for running, ay? Well, the sub-zero temps and 25 mph winds transpired, but not a whole lot on the snow front. Perhaps a couple of inches on the South hill and a mere skiff in the Valley where the race was to take place. And despite my whinging of 9 posts past, I was disappointed in the lack of snow. Mid-December, not enough snow on the mountain to groom for skating, and winter tri nationals less than a month away!

Nonetheless, with the high temp reaching 4 degrees on the mountain (a great improvement over the previous day's -2) Aaron and I took the classic skis out and followed some of the tracks cut by others around the Mt Spokane nordic center. Cutting classic tracks isn't nearly as fun as it is to skate really fast, but it satisfied my need to see snow and sun and participate in a sport that doesn't involve swimming, biking, or running. Plus, I experienced the unique pleasure of having my eyelashes encrusted in ice.

Then, just when I was going to sit down and write a blog about Spokane's tragically snowless state, I noticed that there was a slight chance of snow in the forecast mid-week. A few inches were possible, they said. As predicted, snow was falling steadily when I left for work on Wednesday (my usual 15 minute commute took 50) and with noone coming through the doors all day, my co-workers and I entertained ourselves by watching the snow pile up on our cars. There was at least a foot by the time I left work and the roads were a disaster. This is Spokane - people are supposed to know how to drive in inclement weather, but there are only so many plows in this world and the snow was falling incessantly. I went for a swim after work and watching the snow fall past the window every time I breathed was very cool. The next morning was stunningly beautiful. The snow continued to fall, and we had about 2 feet on the ground already.

The best thing about a city-stopping snowstorm (yes, even the malls were closed, and it's prime holiday shopping season), is the extent to which it brings everyone outside. Even in single digit temperatures, the whole neighborhood was out shoveling. And shoveling and shoveling. It turned out to be a recored-setting storm, with 25 inches in 24 hours at our house. That's my dad (an industrious sort) plowing his driveway (it's a long one) for the umpteenth time.

The worst part of a city-stopping snowstorm? Trying to train. I like to think that I'm pretty hard-core when it comes to running, but it is simply impossible to do so in knee-deep snow. So I tricked myself out in my teal Sorrells left over from my middle school days and Aaron's Carharts. I tucked my sweatshirt into the Carharts to make them fit (and to make myself look extra cool) and trucked into town to go to the gym. I love that pedetrians completely take over the streets when cars can't pass. There were people out snowshoeing and xc skiing, and I even saw a couple of snowboarders carving down Monroe street. Regretably, the storm took its toll on the gym, and with a single person staffing the place, the pool was closed :( I did manage to get in a decent treadmill workout (yawn) and trudged back up the South Hill to make dinner.
The following day was another snow day, so Aaron and I headed back up to Mt. Spokane where some preliminary grooming had taken place. It wasn't quite set up enough for skating, and my classic skis were slow (think I need to lose weight or shorten my wax pocket a bit), but it was absolutely gorgeous. I love that mountain in all seasons, but winter is particularly special. We didn't finish skiing until after dark. A fine day indeed.

Now I'm at my dad's house in a desperate attempt to facilitate a run outside on traffic-free country roads that are still decently packed tomorrow morning, but it looks like we're in for more snow tonight. In fact the only pictures on the 10-day weather forecast are snowflakes. I'd like it to be known that I'm not complaining about snow in this post. Lots of cold, feathery, light snow is perfect for holiday cheer (and for skiing). If it's still doing this in April, I'll be writing something reminiscint of 9 blogs ago, but now it's time for celebration. Even though my ability to run outdoors is presently compromised, yay for snow! I can't wait for my brother and sister to come home so we can do some ultimate sledding (full-contact sled racing down my dad's driveway). Aaron and Bri have joined in the action in years past, and I fully expect optimal conditions this year.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The videos

Very funny grand canyon videos. 1st up . . . "Alice cookin' beans she's got the hot dogs on."

Dee's modified version

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I pray that no potential sponsors will read the following photo essay of my IM AZ week. It seems that I am presently incapable of taking any photo opportunity seriously. With a bit of time to kill in the Phoenix airport, I'm trying to think of a cohesive way to recap the previous weeks events. I suppose it started in this very place last Wednesday, when fellow athlete Miranda Aldritt was kind enough to pick me up en route from Borrego Springs and share her homestay with me. With over 90 professional athletes registered for the race, the homestay situation was supersaturated, but I was really lucky that the Norquists had extra space for me and that Miranda so generously shared that space. Miranda did the race in April, so she was incredibly helpful in the days leading to the race in terms of negotiating annoying race logistics.

We trained a bit (including one beautiful evening ride through paradise valley) ate a lot, attended all the requisite meetings, and just when it was time to do nothing else except get nervous, my all-star support team of Phaedra and Shelby showed up. My pre-race mindset was so remarkably different than it has been before any other ironman this season. I knew that I could be strong over the distance, but didn't know how much speed I would have after a lackluster 5 weeks of training since Kona. So I didn't worry about it, and instead I got in a hard-core ab workout laughing hysterically with S&P for hours on end. In addition to the laughing there was a bit of dancing.

I have no idea what to call the following move, though it probably deserves a patent . . .

After a short and restless night's sleep, race morning dawned and it still seemed a bit surreal that I was about to do an Ironman. It really didn't seem like a big deal. The real question was whether Phaedra and Shelby were prepared for the long day of iron-fan duties that awaited them. It was a reasonably chilly, dark morning, but after the heat-related disaster that was Kona, I relished the cooler weather. The water was about 63 degrees and calm. Perfect. Everything went smoothly in transition and then it was time to jump in the water. I got in a decent warm-up, given that we were only allowed in the water 10 minutes before the start and I lined myself up amongst the enormous pro field. It was awesome treading water in the dark below the Mill St Bridge with the Killers playing over the sound system. Linsey had her sea turtle in Kona and I had the Killers in AZ. I finally had the swim that I've been believing myself capable of for the past year. Granted, the conditions were calm and I actually had people to swim with, but I was still psyched when I exited the water in 1:02. A 4 minute swim PR. I'll take it.

Tyler Stewart exited T1 right in front of me, and I figured that if anyone knew how to pace well and ride oneself back into a race, it would be the female world record holder over the distance. I positioned myself about 20 meters back (there was NO WAY I was about to risk a drafting penalty in this race) and followed her lead. It seemed a bit slow at the start, but it always does, and I usually pay the price later in the day. About a quarter of the way through the 1st lap, Tyler had a water bottle cage fly off, so my little pacing plan was derailed while she got some mechanical help.

At that point I figured I'd better hold my pace for the rest of the bike, lest everyone following online shake their heads in disappointment (Manny). That wasn't my real motivation, but it did cross my mind a few times. The bike just got easier throughout the day as the winds that were challenging during the first lap actually died down and changed directions. Also absent were the hoards of age-group men that swarmed around me in Kona. We only had a 10 minute head start, but given that my swim wasn't completely atrocious, I was able to stay ahead of most of the age-groupers and keep a safe distance from all other racers. I almost expected the marshals to motor by and give me a gold star (or a 4 minute advantage?) for playing so gosh darn fairly. It was the same smugness that comes when I cruise by a cop car going under the speed limit. "Aren't I so good officer?" I knew that I had worked my way up the field, but had no idea where I actually was in the standings. At one point I tried to estimate how far behind Joanna Zeiger I was as she biked by in the opposite direction, but the only landmark by which to judge her position was a lone saguaro cactus. Needless to say, I didn't locate the very same cactus on my return. 5:09 bike split - my best ever. Yes, this course is way faster than Coeur d'Alene, but I'm celebrating it nonetheless.

My proudest moment of the race? T2. 55 seconds. I wasn't particularly trying to win that split, but I'm pretty sure it was one of the race's fastest. I credit my new silver Zoot shoes. Without the need to wear socks or tie laces, why dilly dally in the change tent? Ultimately, T2 was the difference between 6th and 7th place, so I won't underestimate the value of Ironman transitions ever again.

The run was scary. I saw S & P just out of transition and they informed me that I was in 8th. As much as it stunk, the Hawaii run was almost easy because I was already doing so terribly that going slowly wasn't going to change a whole lot. The effective difference between a 4:10 and 4:30 run split isn't as great as the difference between a 3:10 and a 3:30. Standing in 8th place (in the money) meant that I couldn't screw up. I was passed in the 1st 4 miles by 2 very quickly moving women, but I decided to stay conservative and hope to pick off a few women in return. Around mile 3, my calves started cramping - not a good sign. I'm not usually a cramper, but the cramps may have been due to some nutritional dealings that I won't go into. Also, the Arizona run course was predominantly on concrete with a few short trail sections, and I've been running almost exclusively on trails for the past 6 weeks. I figured that if I was STILL training for an IM after Kona, then I would do it on my terms, but if I do this race again, I'll certainly do more running on pavement and concrete.

Concrete is very hard. By 13 miles my legs were completely shattered, but I had a constant internal dialogue going on. It was really exciting. It went something like this: "left foot right food left foot right foot . . . " Yep. My energy levels were fantastic, but my legs were like rubber. There were plenty of times that I wanted to slow down, but I reminded myself of all of the kick-ass training sessions I had back in August. That training didn't make itself evident in Kona as I had intended it to, but I had still done it. Those rides and runs happened so long ago that it was easy forget that I had in fact worked hard for this race (because I certainly didn't do so during the 6 week Kona - AZ interlude). With a few miles to go, people were telling me that I was only 1 minute behind the girl in front and that I was gaining. Oh great. So I had to speed up a bit and ended up catching her at the very place where she had passed me in the 1st loop. It turns out that it was the 24 year-old's 1st ever IM, so I imagine she'll be a real force when she figures out how to pace a little better.

The finish happened rather abruptly and that was that. Not a culmination of a season specifically focused on this race nor a life-changing event, but a solidly executed IM, a paycheck, and certain evidence of progress in the sport. As much as I know that bad races happen, Kona shattered me a little, and Arizona was the necessary antidote. I'm excited about having a productive off-season now, whereas before I just wanted an off-season. I have some real ideas about what I need to do to get better results next year, but before this race I thought maybe I'd need to start all over again in square one with a brutally honest self-assessment. I could go on, but in the end it was a worthwhile experience that I shared with two of my most wonderful friends and a vast support network following online. I never expected so many people to care about my progress, but I'm touched by everyone who does.

Now for the fun part - a 3 day post-IM road trip with Shelby through Northern Arizona and to the Grand Canyon. 1st stop, Sedona.

Not bad . . .

Pretty awesome actually. Unfortunately, Sedona was a little out of our price range, so we headed farther afield to Flagstaff. Flagstaff is a decidedly cool town, and at 8000 ft, I found myself gasping for air when I tried to hold a conversation and walk at the same time. Strenuous stuff, I know. To bring myself further back to reality, I tried to jog across a busy street in Flagstaff to avoid oncoming cars. I was completely incapable of even one running step and a brilliant idea occurred to me. A true test of IM fitness would involve stopping every racer with one mile left in the marathon and force them to run the last mile 24 hours later. I'm quite sure that I would have finished well behind where I did.

I have never, ever, ever been so sore. It made for some interesting Grand Canyon adventures. Instead of an epic decent deep into the canyon, Shelby and I had to content ourselves with a gentle rim walk. Even thought the rim walk paralleled the road, it wasn't without some seriously technical sections. The following picture shows a particularly gnarly section and the deftness with which I descended it by going backwards. Sign me up for Everest please.

It turns out that Shelby and I both hate posing for pictures solo so we resorted to taking cryptic shots of one another. Shelby enjoying a beer at the canyon's edgeShelby snagging an uber-flattering shot of me laughing at something (probably a fart joke)....

Finally, we decided to set up a self timer shot, but getting me from camera to scenic spot in 12 seconds proved to be a challenge and Shelby was too short to set up the camera in the tree. Does it look like she's trying to save me from going over the edge or trying to throw me over here?

If you want to read an eloquent and genuine recap of visiting the Grand Canyon, see Liz Fedofsky's blog ( ). If you want to see why Shelby and I kept yelling "Bobby . . . Cindy" over the canyon edge, watch the following Youtube video and then Shelby's brother's special edit here.
Actually, I can't seem to load the video in mind. . . Keep watching this space and I'll work on it. It's really funny, I promise.
p.s. Shelby was actually carrying around an empty RedBull can, not a beer. A beer would have been funnier though.

Monday, November 24, 2008

quick update

I woke up at 5:30 after 4 hours of sleep to eat a leftover burrito in bed and still haven't managed to get back to sleep. 6th place in IM Arizona yesterday (9:45:59), which was way better than I had expected with a pro field so large and deep. Can something be better than expected when you have no expectations to begin with? Regardless, it was certainly better than I deserved, given the fervency with which I didn't train for this one. I suppose going in to a race fat and happy is often better than going in overtrained and tired. I also think that my mental status was greatly improved by the presence of my elfin support crew, Phaedra and Shelby. I spent Saturday laughing so hard that I was worried about becoming dehydrated due to tearage. That resulted in my thinking about and being anxious about the race on maybe 2 brief occasions. I'll go into details later, but just want to thank everyone who sent txts and e-mails of support and congratulations. Now it's off to the Grand Canyon. Che emozionante!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October 11, 2008

The day after the race, the Ali'i Tropical Hideaway clan (Coopers and Debenhams) headed to Hapuna beach to swim with beautiful fish and to meet with the Nelsons and Piccicis. It was a typical post-ironman gathering. Hideous tan-lines abounded (mine mostly), and small talk was dominated by total race digestion, complaints about the weather, and personal moments of triumph and tragedy. I lamely tried to explain away my 4:30something run split, still confused as to what exactly went wrong. Sam proffered my favorite explanation:

"Well Coops, if I were you, I wouldn't have even raced."
"Well, your number was obviously terrible. 139?! First of all, it starts with a 13, and if you add all the numbers together, you get 13 again!"

So nutrition/pacing/heat issues/etc. didn't foil my race after all, it was just my number. It's so easy! Unfortunately I don't believe in superstition, and the reality is that I'm responsible for what did and didn't happen in Kona this year. Besides, my number in Sooke was 1309 and I had a great time there. Just to prove to myself that the whole 13 thing is BS, I booked seat number 13C on my flight to Phoenix next month. It was one of the few aisle seats that didn't incur an additional charge - go figure.

Before getting into the gritty details of race day, I should first mention how awesome it was to return to Kona. I got in on the evening of Saturday the 4th, with less of a delay than most others I know. It was so deliciously familiar and exciting. Picked up the Ford Focus rental and headed straight to my favorite Thai restaurant for veggie curry before checking into the Seaside for the night. I was excited. I knew that the time change meant I would wake up super early the next morning and get in pre-dawn swim with fish and coral and turtles and (hopefully) dolphins.

Everything contrasted with last year's experience wherein I arrived after dark in a foreign landscape with no idea where I was going and really no idea why I was bothering to race on zero fitness. Last year, I was really not excited for race day. This year, I couldn't wait. Last year, I was the recipient of the amazing hospitality of Rick and Karen Rubio who wholeheartedly took me in an introduced me to the town and its people to an extent that I never would have known otherwise. This year I was initially flying solo and doing so with a naiive confidence.

I wasn't really alone though. The next several days were spent training with the Lifesport Kona camp, picking up a continual stream of friends and family from the airport (including fellow athlete Aubre), and running into friends and acquaintances everywhere. In fact every errand, training session, meal, etc took way more time than I allotted for such activities because I always ended up talking to someone ad largum.

And then it was race day. Aubre and I got up at 4:00 am to eat breakfast, have a moment of pre-race calm, and take the Ali'i shuttle into town. Aubre's enthusiasm is contagious and we both headed for transition with high hopes and focused excitement. Body marking and setting up T1 was smooth and easy. I got a pre-race hug from a body marker named Lu who was Shelby's boss back in her skydiving days. It was sweet. I then found myself with nothing left to do. I usually rush around until the absolute last minute with a panic that I carry through the swim start, for better or for worse. With all of the pre-race details taken care of, I plopped myself down next to Craig Alexander to keep my feet up until my swim warm up. Why not begin the day seated next to an incredibly talented athlete, I thought. Poor guy had cameras in his face the whole time. He's obviously good at dealing with the pressure.

As per my coach's insistence, I did a much longer swim warm-up than I used to do (which was basically none), and was feeling pretty good in the water in my hot new 20" Speedzoot. Right before I headed to the start, a giant turtle swam underneath me. Linsey wasn't far away, and I waved her over. It was so peaceful floating over huge turtle right before the insane beginning of what would be a long day of racing. Katya joined us to gawk, and we all surfaced grinning. "It means we're going to have a good swim," Linsey said. Linsey did have a good swim. In fact, she had a good race. 5th place is pretty darn good, I'm told :)

I found a good start position towards the inside, but because the pro start is so much smaller than the mass start,, crowding really isn't an issue and it's much better to seed oneself aggressively. My start was the best I've ever had and after pushing 200 m hard, I settled in with a good group of about 12 people. We worked well together, bu there was the inevitable fighting for feet and more contact than I like. As swimmers battled me for a draft, I kept dropping back to get on the feet of the aggressor. We made it around the far turn buoys pretty uneventfully, and just after we turned to head home I felt like our group slowed substantially. I looked up to see what happened to realize the the swimmer whose feet I was on had lost the group. Panic set in and I tried to catch the group, but it was all for naught and they steadily pulled away until out of sight. It was the two of us for a while until another group of swimmers caught us. Yay! I repeatedly tried to cut into the paceline of swimmers, but, understandably, people weren't too eager to let me steal their drafts. Fair enough, I thought, and tacked myself onto the end of the paceline. Bad idea. Not 100 m later, the exact same thing happened, and the person in front of me dropped off the back of the pack. I didn't do a very good job of learning from the first experience! I stayed on her feet for a while before realizing that we'd probably be better off I just sucked it up and pulled us in. So I did. And I was really, really angry with myself. 1:10 in the water. Four minutes slower than last year, and I know I'm a better, fitter swimmer.

I at least had confidence in my ability to ride a bike. Of all 3 disciplines, I've improved the most in cycling this summer, and I was sure that with smart pacing I would ride back into the mix. I'd been dealing with an SI/piriformis issue for a while, and was expecting an uncomfortable ride, but discomfort shouldn't slow a person down in a race. My focus for the first 10 miles through town was to get my heart rate to settle and not get caught up in the insanity of riding through town on fresh legs. I think I did a good job of that. As people stood to power up Palani, I stayed seated and felt like a dork as I lazily pedaled up to the Queen K. There weren't many distinctive moments during the ride. I stayed pretty focused on not over-riding, as can be my tendency, and spent a great deal of time dropping back and dropping back and dropping back as huge packs of age-group men streamed by. It was frustrating to have my rhythm continually broken by trying to follow the rules on the crowded course, but I trusted that all that dropping back was better than a 4 minute drafting penalty. There were motorcycles everywhere.

Conditions on the bike course were much tougher than last year. Granted, last year my goal was to survive rather than to race, but the heat and winds this year were much more intense. I was SO thirsty the whole ride. Normally, I have to force myself to eat and drink when riding, but on this day, all I wanted was ice water all the time. I knew that the gut can only absorb so much fluid, especially in extreme heat and under extreme physical exertion, but it was hard to refrain from constantly chugging water. I supplemented with Gatorade and my tried and true nutrition plan of a GU every 20 minutes. I'm not sure what stimulated such a strong thirst reflex, as I thought I had done a good job of hydrating all week prior to the race.

With screaming glute and a raging thirst, I put my head down and ground through what for me is the toughest part of the bike - the last 30 miles along the Queen K. A super strong quarter wind, lava everywhere, and an SI joint that was less than thrilled at the thought of another 1.5 hours in aero position. I was proud of how focused and positive I was able to stay, especially now that the field had spread out and fewer AG men passed.

With less than 4 miles to go, I approached another cyclist who had slowed on the hill. I moved left 2 meters to pass him (pros are not allowed to slipstream like AGers are). I probably moved to within about 8 m (10 m is the legal distance) when he sped up. I decided that I wasn't worth killing myself with so few miles left to ride and moved back to the right and abandoned my effort to pass. I heard a motorcycle behind me the whole time, but didn't think I would get in trouble, because I hadn't actually moved in to the draft zone, and if I had, I would have barely done so. Besides, there is the rule (no riding within a 10x2 m zone, 20 seconds to complete a pass once initiated) and the spirit of the rule (don't gain an unfair advantage by slipstreaming behinds someone), and I certainly hadn't violated that latter. Nonetheless, I violated the former and got pegged. My first ever red card. Did I deserve it? Probably, I broke the passing rule. Had I gained an unfair advantage? Certainly not, but everything I've learned suggests that arguing with the referees is pointless, so despite being devastated, I tried to make it a positive experience. I would be able to spend the 4 minutes in the penalty tent cooling down, getting medical assistance for my bleeding heels, stretching and fueling . . . what a joy!

Part of me wished that I had just sat in the middle of those giant packs of men during the ride out to Hawi - the ones that the motorcyclists just told to "break it up," because it's too hard for them to single out and penalize everyone. Herd mentality. At least then I would have felt genuinely deserving of the penalty. Instead, I was really discouraged. Especially when I got to the penalty tent and we weren't allowed to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, get medical assistance, or do anything useful. So I swung the stopwatch in circles and listened with great compassion as everyone told their drafting sob stories. We were a grumpy bunch, and we were obviously all innocent :) I really do understand that the "spirit" of the rules can really only come about by enforcing the technicalities, it's was just a tough lesson to learn. 5:29 for the bike. 11 minutes faster than last year, and average HR was 4 bpm lower than Cd'A. It was still slower than I had anticipated, but maybe I'm just crazy.

After the penalty I thought I would be really refreshed and that my heart rate would have calmed down for the start of the run. My goal was to really build through the run, even if it meant running 9 minute miles at the start while my HR settled. Running up Palani out of transition I saw so many familiar faces. Aaron, Cassy, Andy, Bri, Manny, Teri, Tanya, Heather G. . . . I wanted to explain to them that it was okay that I was so slow, I was going to speed up later and pick off all of the women who went out too fast and suffered as a result. Dropping down to Palani, going slower and slower, and the HR just kept rising. Run slower, HR rises. Repeat over and over. By mile 2 I was running 9:30s and feeling increasingly awful. Then my stomach started to cramp and heave. Oh boy. A bit of undigested bagel. Really?! That was like almost 9 hours ago! Mile 3 aid station and all I want is ice water, but should probably try to get some Gatorade down. Heave it all up. I wanted ice water. Shuffle to the next aid station and go through the exact same thing. Who said that insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

Did I mention that it was really effing hot? The clouds that had shaded and cooled Kona all week were absent on race day, and I was roasting. Around mile 5 I faced my greatest fear. Walking. "The more you walk, the more you will walk" is advice that I really believe in, but my stomach and lethargy left no other option. I thought that if I walked long enough to get my HR down, I might start to absorb some nutrition and get back into a groove. No dice. Until about mile 14, I settled into a eat, walk, jog, vomit routine. Then the chicken broth came out. I'm willing to put aside my vegetarianism for chicken broth in the latter stages of an IM. The stuff is magic. By mile 16, the vomiting had stopped and I was actually running 8:30s down to the energy lab. I had known from mile 2 that my competitive race was over, but it finally became evident at that point that I would at least be able to finish the event. And even though I had very little to give, I wanted it to be finished ASAP, because I was really not having a fun day.

Coming out of the energy lab I was happy to see Dewain's txt message "Run like Ashenafi." I smiled for the first time all day, even though I'm quite sure Ashenafi would be killing me if he were racing. I even found a buddy to run with for several miles until the 22 mile marker when I was abruptly stopped by another wave of nausea. I am amazed and disgusted by how much coke, chicken broth, and ice water, I had consumed in the previous 6 miles. It gave me a whole lot of respect for my stomach capacity. But that was my last puke of the day. Even after a slow, discourging, painful day, 4 miles seemed like no problem. They were slow and ugly miles, but I got them done. And I ran down Ali'i drive towards the finish line with a whole new respect for the course and the conditions. Run time: 4:34. Yup.

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I finished that race, and ultimately, I think I was too scared to quit. Scared to learn that I might be the kind of person who chooses the easy way out. Scared of how disappointed I would be at the awards ceremony the next night, knowing full well that I would be disappointed regardless. I was scared about what others would think. Rachel Ross, who flew by on the run and encouraged me to (briefly) run with her. Liz Fedofsky, who rode her bike along the course and made me stick to it. The random spectators and aid station volunteers who watched me vomit and then offered the glib, albeit truthful "keep going, you can do it." Kona kicked a lot of people's butts' that day, and a lot of pros were smart, pulling out of the race and saving their bodies for Florida and Arizona. I honestly don't think any less of them. From a career standpoint, there is absolutely no reason to beat oneself up on a course that won't offer any prizemoney or glory, especially when a DNF will look better on the resume than an 11:23. But then there were the pros like Belinda Granger, one of the fastest girls in the sport, who trotted down the Queen K chatting to friend. I saw Hillary Biscay ask a walking male AGer to run with her "I'm not going very fast," she offered. And it was inspirational to see Rutger Beke finish 3rd after walking the marathon last year.

We all have good days and bad. It's what keeps sport interesting and passionate. Bad days aren't fun, but they're amazing learning experiences and they make me truly appreciate the good ones. I'm going into IM AZ with one motto: "have fun!" Granted, having fun for me usually involves being competitive, but this one is really just the icing on the cake. It can't be my "A" race because that happened rather unsuccessfully on October 11th, but I can run with a smile on my face.

These are the only race photos so far. When I get my act together, I'll show pictures of Hawaii and my lovely family and friends.



Run, Walk, Shuffle, Puke, Scowl

Bike boxes make great tables in long airport queues

Monday, September 29, 2008


Kona has come and gone, and the day was one that I would rather forget (except that forgetting would preclude learning from it, and there was so much to learn from the experience). I'm not going to get into details yet because I want to finish this post that I started before I left. Even though my race wasn't what I expected it would be, the people who helped me to get there are just as amazing as they were 2 weeks ago when my hopes were high.

From Monday, September 29:

Che giornata! I love Mondays. Typically it is my day off of training and rarely do I have to work. Aside from the obligatory class time and homework, today was a beautiful, sunny blank slate of a day. Last minute Kona preparations were in order, as was a giant pile of soaking laundry (I've been overdressing in an attempt to heat acclimate). My first order of business was to address a wee issue with my bike, so I called Robin, my boss at Fitness Fanatics, for a consult, and she immediately got to work and on the phone with Scott. Lo and behold, I have a new Scott Plasma frame headed my way on Wednesday. It doesn't leave a lot of time to get all of my components switched over and then packed up for Kona, but I am so lucky for the opportunity to head into this competition with a brand new frame and the peace of mind that my machine will be in perfect working order. I spent the entire walk home from the bus stop (all 10 blocks of it) thinking about all of the people who have stepped up to help me get to Kona happy, well trained, nourished, and just shy of broke. Now that no one reads this blog anymore on account of my delinquent posting, I figured I would take the opportunity to thank my supporters. This isn't an insincere sponsor-pushing segment - it's a thank you to the people responsible for the services and products upon which I depend.

The goodwill of others today wasn't expended in the morning's bike lobbying. I abandoned the Cataldo Cougars (the elementary xc team that I help to coach) in the middle 0f their time trials this afternoon for a last minute PT appointment with Mike Lauffer at B&B Physical Therapy. I went to several physical therapists last summer in a desperate attempt to heal my unwieldy knee, and finally found a gem in Bill Codd at B&B. Ever since I started going there, I've found the entire staff to be helpful, interesting, and best of all, healing. I'm remarkably fortunate to have their support. The best part is that is was fun. Not a modifier traditionally associated with PT, I know. Even as Mike had his elbow lodged squarely in my burning piriformis, I chatted about racing, training, ice baths and Moms in Motion with Mike, Bill (runner extraordinnaire and enthusiast), Lanaia (Bill's protege and also a stellar runner), and Kirsten (all around triathlete stud who runs the local Moms in Motion chapter). Sometime Bill has me close to tears with his crazy core strengthening workouts, but I still chalk it up as good, clean fun.

After PT it was off to the Spokane Club for a sauna session. This was not so fun, but I'm still trying to get my body used to heat. The Spokane Club is the nicest gym in town and I get to go there! The only downside is that I spend way too much time lingering in the locker rooms because they are so nice. Given that my old gym was closed for reconstruction all summer and that the public pools were only available when I was at work, being able to swim anytime at the Spokane Club has been a lifesaver (triathlon saver?). The athletic director Jerrod Crowley lined up some great triathlon training clinics throughout the summer where I was able to "earn" my membership and meet a lot of the members. It was really fun to see more people get involved in triathlon and to get them really enthusiastic about the sport. My thanks go to Jerry O'Neill who lobbied for my membership and sponsored me as a new member.

The two other local businesses who have offered endless support and encouragement are the Metabolic Institute and Runners Soul. The Metabolic Institute offers all kinds of metabolic testing (VO2 max, lactate threshold, resting metabolic rate, etc), and nutritional analysis and counseling. They have make themselves endlessly available to me and never cease to send good luck wishes before big competitions.

Curt, the owner of Runners Soul, was probably my first ever "sponsor," and I'm sure I'm not the only local athlete who can make that claim. He is perhaps the most involved small business owner in the area. Most of the things he does for the community I only learn about in roundabout ways. Curt donates shoes to underprivileged children and teens for high school cross country, track, and Bloomsday. He has a microphone in hand at most local road races and triathlons announcing the finishers as they cross the line. I've seen him out hoofing the streets setting up the BRRC race courses. He has a fleet of Spokane Chiefs and Spokane Indians tickets that he donates to local schools and charities. He sponsors our local NPR stations and heavens knows how many schools and individual athletes he supports. He's even helping our women's xc team (the Spokane Swifts) as we prepare for the national xc team championships in December.

Of course no thank you list would be complete without including my amazing friends and family. Thanks to my dad who unwittingly paid for my first year's worth of triathlon entry fees with absolutely no idea what was to come from the innocent little pastime. If I'm thanking him for paying for things, I should probably also include his essentially paying for my entire life prior to my financial semi-independence. My dad also does lots of cool things like toting my gear to his house on Lake Coeur d'Alene so I can ride my bike there and sometimes he drops off his garden fresh potatoes, tomatoes, grapes, zucchini, raspberries, blueberries, snowpeas, and green beans on my doorstep. He also takes me out to dinner at Gordy's, which is so yummy. And he loves me, which is a good quality in a dad :)

I wouldn't know where to start thanking my mom. She bestowed upon me not only her mitochondrial DNA, but also a competitive spirit and is responsible for probably every ounce of me that is a good human being. She cried when I announced that I would like to compete as a professional triathlete someday (she thought it would be a waste of a brain), but I'm pretty sure that she would be proud. I'm definitely sure that every single day I wish she was still here. And I promise to use my brain.

My brother and sister have shaped me more than anyone else on earth. I am at my most primal state of goofiness with them, and am occasionally surprised at how similar our mannerisms and facial expressions are, even after long periods apart. Andy is one of the more enthusiastic people I have ever known and has driven to Coeur d'Alene for all of my ironmans. He's the exuberant guy with the video camera. Andy's wife Bri is now a triathlete as well and he still manages to be enthusiastic about sport. Cassy is a way cooler version of me + a bit of hippy. Among the many ways she enriches my life is her passion for and interest in music. If I'm ever in a new artist drought, I can count on Cass to introduce me to something worth listening to.

The friends. Phaedra and Shelby warrant special mention as my most ardent supporters (and believers). They deserve a post unto itself. Troy was a most excellent riding companion this summer, but his wife Eve is perhaps even cooler. Morgan, Jim, Holly, Robin and Manny at work are the best people I have ever worked with. I genuinely enjoy all of their company, and can't wait to see how Morgan and Manny do in IM next year. Katie and Conrad abandoned me for Colorado, but I forgive them so long as they come back some day. Roger Thompson and his wife Jessi are absolute staples in our local tri community, and I owe Roger a great deal in the moral support and model athlete department. Annie was the first pro triathlete I ever knew, and I still call on her regularly when I need to bounce ideas, frustrations, or excitement off on somebody. Annie knows the ropes and has a wicked sense of humor to boot. Aubre is my idol. She is the most contagiously friendly and good person that I know, and she also happens to be the most naturally athletic friend I have. The Sullivans are my second family and people that I know I can count on for anything. This includes one particularly frustrating ride through a scary electrical storm last spring. Aaron and my dad were working and there was lightening everywhere, so Julianne and Camrynne drove out to Spangle to collect my wet muddy self and bicycle from underneath a railroad overpass. The homestays. The Antonneaus in Racine and Dewain and Judy in Victoria. My "away" races were so enriched by having these families to stay with, and I think I've made longtime friends in doing so. Coach Dan proved himself a worthy friend as he listened repeatedly to my teary post-race digestion with endless calm and reassurance. Oh, he heard a bit of it during the race as well - when he passed me. The same goes for Coaches Paul and Mark and the rest of the Lifesport crew who let me hang out with them all week even as I transformed from excited, happy Haley to disappointed, teary Haley. I really appreciate the support.

Then of course, there is Aaron. In an attempt at IM redemption, or perhaps just an attempt to do some justice for the months of uninjured, quality training I spent leading up to Kona, I signed up to do Ironman Arizona on November 23. I felt it necessary to check with Aaron before I registered, because I understand that training for and competing in ultra-distance events is physically and emotionally taxing in addition to being seriously time-consuming. Aaron has never given me any indication that he begrudges any of that, but I wanted to make sure that he wasn't festering. To the contrary, he fully supported my decision to do the race, and he continues to be the best possible teammate I could have. He is my best friend, and I could get a lot sappier, but I don't want to embarrass him. All I'm going to say is that I realize more and more each day how lucky we are.

I'll try to post a race report soon, and I'll also try to keep the blog more up-to-date as Arizona approaches. Whoever is left reading at this point . . . thanks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Racine's Got Spirit!

In keeping with my trend of tardy race reports, I suppose it's time to give a recap of the Spirit of Racine, a race that I have wanted to do for several years. A couple of weeks before Ironman Cd'A, I went ahead and booked my ticket, as the fares I had been watching for months continued to climb. As a side note, I was actually really excited to take the train to this race, but Amtrak turned out to be equally expensive and it would have taken two full days to get there and back. I think the train would have come out marginally cheaper in the end if the $100 each way to take my bike on Northwest Airlines were considered, but then I wouldn't have gotten such a yummy thai burrito in the Minneapolis airport. Talk about fusion. I'm always tempted to lie when the customer service agent checking me in asks if it's a bike I'm travelling with. I once countered with "what if it's not?" only to receive an icy glare from an obviously unamused ticket agent. This time I just asked if there was anything else that warranted a $100 fee, and I learned that windsurfing equipment is equally reviled by the airline industry as are bicycles. Am I silly to believe that a completely manageable 40 lb bike box is less cumbersome than a windsurfing sail?

All of which is irrelevant to the Spirit of Racine. . . This race is awesome. I knew absolutely nothing about Racine, Wisconsin before going there. Randomly, I got seated across the airplane isle from a former pro-triathlete who knew all about the race and my competition, and we swapped race stories for most of the flight, which was fun. My homestay, Jenny, picked me up from the airport and even stopped at the grocery so I could pick up my oats, raisins, and soymilk for the weekend. Jenny's sister Kris is a 2x Ironman triathlete who actually raced in Coeur d'Alene this year, and I'm bummed that I didn't know her when she was in this area. Kris and her husband Dan volunteered their home to Aussie pro Gavin Scott and let the homestay director know that her sister (Jenny) would be happy to take an athlete as well. And that's how I ended up in an amazing house with Jenny, her husband Chris, and their two fantastic kids Nick and Libby.
Libby, Jenny, and Nick

Perhaps, for some, the details of the race are more riveting than the particulars of my accomodation, but I mention all of this, because there is no way to actually quantify how immensely enhanced my experience of the race was by these families. I had wanted to do this race last year, and I imagine I would have spent as little time in Wisconsin as possible to avoid accruing accommodation costs. I would have traveled alone, picked up my packet, done the event, and thought "cool, I did that" as I shuttled my rental car back to the airport. I'm sure I would have liked it, because it's a great event, but I wouldn't have felt attached to it. This race experience was entirely different. I got to spend Saturday with Jenny, Kris, and Gavin, checking out the race venue and playing with the kids (in addition to Nick and Libby, Kris has 3 fantastic children).
Libby and Kris in Kris's most awesome screened in porch

Because Kris, Jenny, Chris, Gavin and I were all doing the race, getting to the race venue the next morning was supremely slick. I just sipped tea, read the paper and listened to the birds while I waited on the porch for Kris to pick me up early on race morning. We made our way down to the transition in the fog, and eagerly waited a water temp report. 55 degrees the announcer said.What?! I hadn't even brought my neoprene cap because it was mid-July. I set up my transition area trying to avoid all of the water that had accumulated into puddles during the overnight rainstorm. The porta-potty lines were an absolute fright, especially given that we were expected to additionally walk a mile down the beach to the race start. I started to panic about getting to the start on time, but I needn't have worried because the race was on a 15 minute rolling delay due to the fog. The rolling delay turned into an hour and as we waited on the far end of the beach for the go-ahead I started to get really hungry! I was very strangely relaxed, however. The women's pro field was pretty small, so it was a good chance to meet some of my competitors, including ZOOT teammate Kelly Handel who had a great race. I was a bit worried about my lack of anxiety, as the last time that happened, I had a lackluster race (Wildflower).

The swim start was really good for me. A few dolphin dives in the spectacularly clear, shallow (and CHILLY) waters of Lake Michigan, and I set out for the far buoy. The field immediately broke up with the 3 fast swimmers (Kelly, Becky, and Lauren) leaving me and the others in the dust. I hung out with Kim Dunker for a short while, but we got separated in the fog. It was bizarre - a point-to-point swim paralleling the shore in very shallow water, but impossible nonetheless to find the buoys in the fog. At one point Kim started swimming back towards shore, and I followed her thinking that perhaps she saw a buoy (because heavens knows I didn't see one). Finally, I swam over to a paddler and asked him where the buoy was. He pointed vaguely in one direction and I went that way, still not seeing the marker. For the rest of the race I stopped at every paddler I saw and asked him/her to point out the next buoy. It was a good strategy, I think. It didn't take long for the elite men in the next wave to swallow me up and provide some sort of sighting opportunity, even though they seemed as confused and spread out over the course as I did. Even though the fog was thick, I'm glad the race started when it did, or I would have been too hungry to race.

It was a long transition out of the water across the amazing white sand beach of Racine. I had stupidly seen the "EXIT" sign right near my transition spot, and so I didn't clip my bike shoes onto my pedals. I figured it would be quicker to put my shoes on first and then to run the 3 steps out of transition and then get immediately clipped in. It turned out that it was the run exit sign near my transition spot, so I got the run the entire distance of the very large transition area in my bike shoes. Brilliant. I also got to wrestle the plastic bag off of my bike seat that I had securely tied on the night before to keep my gel seat from becoming completely water logged. Minor details.

Onto the bike and back into the race. I correctly assumed that I had exited the water in 4th, in what was a PR swim time for me (28:36). However, given that my effort on the swim was average and my nagivation was well below average, I assumed that the swim was fast for all and that I probably had the typical amount of catch up to do. I was right. No cycle computer, HR monitor, or GPS for me this race. Totally gauging myself on perceived effort. Since this was my first major race since IM, I continually self-assessed. Is this IM effort, or 1/2 IM effort? I think maybe it's only IM effort. Pick it up. I assume it was very scenic, riding through rural, green Wisconsin, but in reality it was too foggy to see much. There were no major climbs but very subtle and constant grade changes and a rough surface made the course feel very slow. I kept expecting to catch up to the other girls, or at least to see them, but it never happened. I tried not to get too demoralized and trust that my cycling was as strong as I believed it to be, but it was hard to do an entire 56 mile bike and to never see my competition. It turns out that when I was swimming a PR 28 minutes, those girls were swimming 23s. A fast swim, yes. And yes, I did make up my time on the bike with a 2:27:10 split - I would have just needed a few more miles to see the other ladies.

As I entered T2 I heard the announcer calling out Kelly and Lauren's names as they left, so only then did I know that I was back in the game. T2 was much less eventful than T1, and in a split second decision, I passed on the visor, as it was still foggy. About 5 minutes into the run the clouds parted and I regretted that decision. Oh well, it's just 13.1 miles. Nothing like and IM. The first 6 miles went really well. A scenic lakeside run past the zoo, out to a lighthouse and back to transition to start the 2nd lap. The spectators that I ran past kept telling me that I looked better than the girls ahead, which was encouraging, but again, I couldn't see them. Finally, at the turnaround I got an idea of how far back I was and I caught Lauren just before the end of the 1st lap. And that was just before I started to feel like crap. I just hoped that Lauren didn't sense how crappy I felt because I really didn't feel like a side-by-side run. My descent into feeling awful was pretty abrupt. It was 87 degrees with 100 percent humidity, and at this point the sun was beating down. It was unlike anything I get to experience very often. My energy levels felt good, my muscles didn't feel exhausted, but my legs felt like they were made of lead. At the 2nd turnaround, I realized that I had lost time to both Kelly and Becky, and I went into survival mode for the rest of the run. One foot in front of the other gets you to the finish line faster than not doing that does.

And that was that. After a semi-disappointing run I finished in 4:32 and took 3rd place. Then I got to hang out and cheer for Kris, Chris, and Jenny. With the hard part done, it was a gorgeous day for spectating.Ironwoman Kris simultaneously running and cheering through the fog.
Jenny running towards the finish with Racine's gorgeous beach as a backdrop.

Post race celebrations couldn't have been better - a shower followed by SUSHI! The kids played on the slip-and-slide and the adults gorged on raw fish and beer. It was an awesome evening. Being that this is being posted so late after the fact, it makes me incredibly nostalgic for long summer days. Not only was the evening after the race supreme, but the next day Kris gifted me a massage certificate! Does it get any better?! If Aaron hadn't been convalescing at home with a sprained ankle and knee, I might not have left. Indeed, I was very sad to do so. Thanks so much to everyone who made me love Racine - I can't wait to come back!

It's off to bed now, but I promise more updates soon. Troika, Coeur d'Alene Olympic, Sooke International, and the awesome week spent at training camp in Victoria, BC with my Lifesport teammates. I should have the blog up to date by December. I still maintain that my favorite ever triathlon was my first, but I'm presently as excited about the sport as I have ever been. It's amazing what healthy knees and a solid training block will do for the spirits. Can't wait for Kona!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ironman Coeur d'Alene is so much fun.

Ironman Coeur d'Alene gets better every time I do it. 2006 was a complete disaster (albeit a fantastic learning experience), 2007 was physically painful but exceedingly fun, and 2008 will be hard to beat. I am certainly hopeful though! This was my first Ironman as a pro and perhaps the greatest of my many concerns was our 35 minute swim lead on the 2 lap swim course. I swam one lap of the course a couple of times before the event and it took me roughly 31 minutes each time, so I felt confident that a 4 minute lead on the mass start would be sufficient to avoid being swallowed up by the thousands of swimmers who are faster than I.

My confidence in this matter was buoyed by my great stroke of luck after the cannon sounded. About 200 m into the swim (well after getting dropped by the majority of the female field), I came across a male pro who was was treading water, presumably fixing his goggles. Just as I swam up to him, he began to swim again, and I jumped on his feet. Staying in his draft was a lot of work for me, so I assumed we were going to nail the first lap. I got dropped with about 300 m left in the 1st lap, but was still excited by my stroke of drafting luck. I was gutted to see 33:43 on my watch as I rounded the turn buoy on the beach and belly flopped back into the lake. WTF?!
I was a bit demoralized, but greeted by the most amazing site every time I breathed to my right side. Or every time I breathed, as the case would be. Carrying on. Thousands of athletes in brightly colored caps crammed onto the flood-shrunk beach. I imagined how much power could be generated if one could harness the collective electricity of their nerves. It was really exciting to watch the athletes in the mass start pile into the lake like an undulating superorganism. The excitement lasted about 1 minute until I got CREAMED by the fast swimmers. I mean it. Being just ahead of the mass start was my biggest fear, but it was actually way worse than I had imagined. I kept trying to slip behind the people squeezing around each side of me (or over the top), but the succession of swimmers never stopped. It was morally exhausting. The far turn buoys were as horrendously slow and crowed as I had experienced in '06 and '07, but I finally found some clean water once I was around them. I was too exhausted to even consider looking for a draft somewhere. The cold headache had set in, and I just wanted out of the water. Let the real race begin, I thought.
Awwww. Nuts!

I know that it doesn't serve me to discount the swim in this way, and I will only ever be genuinely competive once I can hang with the main pro gals, but at that point I knew my only way back into the race was on the bike. I stumbled in the deep sand a couple of times getting out of the water, but saved my real wipeout for the transition area proper. Running in bike shoes and making a hard left turn on a wet sports court = bloody knees. Just so you know. It wasn't like I was the only person in transition or anything. I had to laugh at myself but unfortunately, it made for a real let down of a post-race story. The dialogue was typically something like this: "Holy cow, did you fall off your bike or something?" "Nah, I just fell over in T1."

Have I mentioned that I love my bike? I LOVE my bike. My Scott Plasma fits me perfectly, is so smooth and light, handles well, and performs brilliantly. I really love it. I desperately hope that Scott sponsors the Zoot Ultra team again next year, because I really don't want to let go of this bike. Sometimes I have to rein in my bike. Like during the first 20 miles or so of IM Cd'A when it's easy for a slow swimmer like me to desperately chase down the rest of the field. I kept a pretty steady pace heading out to Higgins Point and figured out that I was about 10 minutes down on Heather Wurtele and 8 minutes back of the main field. I was in 9th place at that point.

Then it was time to time trial out to Hayden where I would have another chance to see my competition at Ohio Match. I passed a couple of girls on my way out there, and saw 2 more within reach at the turnaround. I made a point of not "chasing" anyone, but rather maintaining my effort and taking it as a bonus when I passed someone. It is a bit addictive though, passing one person makes me really want to find another. The bike felt really easy. Reflecting on my run split, I might have gone a little bit hard, but I felt comfortable, and had pretty even splits for both of the laps.

So green

It was gorgeous out there. Our long winter and cold spring didn't make for much decent training weather, but they kept the fields and forests of N. Idaho amazingly green. I was proud to be a local at such a beautiful race venue. In the end, I finished the bike in 3rd place, about 14 minutes behind eventual champion Heather Wurtele, and a couple of minutes behind 5x IM champ Heather Gollnick.

The best imaginable friends and race supporters. Shelby up from San Diego, Aaron and Kali (the dog), Laura D, and Roger and other Tri-fusioners yelling out splits over a megaphone. Phaedra was busy taking the bike pic above.

I ran my first few miles too quickly. I knew that I should start out at a slower pace, but it just felt WAAAY too slow. Familiar story. So naturally I convinced myself that I could hold that too-quick pace for the entire marathon and heck, why not just go ahead and win the dang thing. Obviously, I paid the price later. Again, familiar story. The majority of the run is a bit of a blur, with the majority of the memories being of running through so many familiar faces in town and then seeing my lovedest ones on the outskirts of town. I also remember Desiree Ficker motoring past me at a pace that seemed appropriate for a 5 km race. My lead bikers were rad (they changed frequently as I got passed by 3 successive women and then repassed one). There are some real perks to racing as a pro!

My original lead cyclist. He didn't last very long . . .

Unfocused eyes. Must have been a rough patch.

In the end I finished 5th. I was really happy. My final time, 10:08, was 34 minutes faster than last year and I secured my first ever pro paycheck. Best of all, it was a really fun day. It sounds corny, but I felt genuinely loved by my friends and family who came out to support me, and I was grateful to be able to smile back at them. Most of the time. Miles 4-8 of the marathon were really tough physically and mentally, but the finish line gave me shivers. I know I could do it more descriptive justice if I weren't writing about it 1.5 months after the fact, but the knowledge that I have a lot of races to catch up on is making me want to wrap this entry up. I do need to thank the special people who not only helped me get to the start line, but made my entire day epic. Aaron, Phaedra, Shelby, Laura, Andy & Bri, Dad, Roger & Jessi, and of course my friends who were out there on the course with me: Conrad, Katie, Troy, Aubre, Sam, Rick, Amanda & Michael, Robin & John, Kelli, Al, Keats, Tim, Vicky & Martin (haha) . . . congrats to all.

Post-race with my little Phaedra. Supporter and organizer extraordinaaire. I only hope that someday I'll begin to be able to repay her for everything. Notice the giant camera lens? She and Jessi Thompson are responsible for the majority of my photos of this event.

Kali was relatively new to our lives at this point, but she astounded everyone with her good behavior and downright awesome personality. Thanks for the support little doggy.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Boise 70.3

div>With a bit of spare time before my LAST DAY OF LECTURE, I'll start on my Boise 70.3 race recap. Without adding too many boring details about the travel to the race,etc., I'll say that we arrived at the Grove Hotel pretty late on Friday night and with light exclusion shut firmly, I was determined to get a good night's sleep. In this, I was mostly successful, waking around 8 am with some time for breakfast and studies before meeting up with Annie for the pre-race meeting. I had envisioned a day of relaxation and exploration of Boise, which is a city I have not visited since the Le Bois soccer tournament in high school. I had no idea how logsitics-intensive the day before the race was to be, however. After the meeting, registration lines, bike shuttling, and the mandatory viewing of last hour of the ever classic The Fugitive (Aaron and I get a little TV crazy in hotel rooms. The stations aren't fuzzy and there are more than two of them!), I was quite seriously the last person to drop off my run bag at 5:59:49.

Still in my sweaty run singlet, Aaron and I then headed straight to dinner with Eve, Annie, Conrad, Katie, Annie's parents, and the genuinely missed Dan Schremmp who is interning in the optometry department at Shopko in Boise this summer. That guy is hilarious. It was a great way to relax, chow and enjoy (?) some excessively loud live music. If you're an Idaho voter with interest in the senate race, LaRocco is all about "change" and has a really loud rock cover band supporting him. For what it's worth.

Then it was time for all of the obligatory last minute race prep, which wasn't too difficult given that we had already set up our bikes at the Lucky peak reservoir and dropped off our run gear bags. Eve, Annie, and I did, however, need to ensure that our neoprene swim caps were in good working order. We're still waiting for Triathlete magazine to come begging for a photo shoot.
Race morning was cold and windy, and being on the western end of a time zone, the sun didn't come up until it was nearly time to start the race. I got a ride to the start with Conrad, Eve, Annie, and Katie, who was a champ shuttler/supporter. Being with responsible sorts of people, we were there very early, and I found myself wandering aimlessly for a long while. Lots of time spent dreading the cold and increasingly choppy water.

That's me wearing my neoprene swim cap underneath my hoodie for extra warmth and protection from the wind.

I really did not enjoy the swim. Not only was it very cold, but there was serious chop on the water and my brand new goggles leaked the whole time. With my whole body immersed in ice water, I at least wanted my eyeballs to stay dry. No such luck. Heading out to the first turn buoy, I considered for a second what it would be like to stop, raise my hand, and be saved from the discomfort, but I pushed on knowing that it was merely that. A remarkable thing happened during the swim however, and I was actually surrounded by a handful of women for a while. Even though I felt like my whole body was discoordinatedly flopping, flailing and essentially not going anywhere, there must have been others in a similar state of stagnation. A few times, I stopped to empty my goggles and had no trouble catching right back up to the others. Then, my only regret of the race happened. A girl with whom I had been swimming mostly side by side made a move for the group ahead, and I had to make the split second decision of whether or not to go with her. In the end, I was a coward. I was already feeling so distressed by the cold and my eyeballs that I make the decision not to push the pace and fell away from her feet. Then I decided to re-empty my goggles. For this act of un-bravery, I was rewarded with the view of that woman swimming ahead to two women ahead and I then watched the three of them pull farther away with each buoy. I won't pretend that the outcome of the race would have been remotely different had I tried to stay with that girl, but I do know that I need to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable in the swim.

The photo below isn't terribly interesting except for the fact that there are actually women behind me exiting the water. I think maybe they were even on my feet the whole way? The picture also does no justice to the chop. Even the top swimmers' swim times were five minutes slower than would be expected.

My goal for the race was to push myself on the bike, which is something I haven't been able to do so far this season. That is likely due to the fact that only now do we have enough (marginally) decent cycling weather behind us for training, and partially due to the fact that my legs haven't been feeling terribly spunky on the bike so far this year. It was a good goal to have, because my legs felt great on the bike. I wore a heart rate monitor for the first ever time in a race, and I learned that I race at a much higher heart rate than I even knew was possible for me on the bike. Very interesting. Regardless, it went really well, and I thought it was a fun course. Fast without being completely flat, and open enough to be able to see my competition (another first). I moved from 13th to 8th place on the bike and my bike time was very much on par with the top elite women, so I was thrilled with that. I was passed by one woman named Teri Albertazzi who had a crazy fast bike split and who additionally turned out to be a super-nice person. That is always fun.

The run course was pretty fast with the exception of a few tight turns and hairpins that were a bit awkward. I loved the support on the course and there were some really scenic bits along the river though Boise's green belt. I felt really good on the run and just tried to run a consistent pace that would score me a sub 1:30 run split. The weather was probably in the upper 70s and overcast with brief sprinkle sessions. Perfect. Even though Boise is 7 hours away from Spokane, a lot of Spokanites made the trip to race and to support. It is always special to hear my name shouted by people I know at an "away" race. Katie, Natalie Gallagher and Steve Kramer were notably awesome. Thank you for your support and vocalizations guys. Steve snapped the picture below. I love that it captures some of the awkwardness of racing. Normally, somebody would have to pay me to run through orange gatorade (and to litter!), but with four miles left to run, who cares?! Did I mention that the aid station volunteers were fantastic?

In the end I held that 8th place position, but had no idea until the finish line that I had been so close to the rest of the field. When I saw Kate Major, Desiree Ficker, Linsey Corbin, and Teri Albertazzi still milling around in the finish area, I realized that they hadn't finished much earlier. It's was a bit gutting to learn after the fact that I was only a minute away from 5th place and $1000, but I was happy with my race, and that's priceless, right? Right? Oh, I barely got my sub 1:30 run split (1:29:38). Annie, in her first ever 1/2 ironman ran even faster, which testifies to her athleticism and potential at the distance.

Aaron's wave started WAY after mine, so I had time to get my post-race massage (awesome), change my clothes, and to catch up with Annie and Eve before heading back to the finish line to cheer him in. The timing was great, and he PRed his run and overall 70.3 time (without a ton of focused training, I might add). Everyone I know was happy with their respective races, which made for smiles all around. Less than a week after a nasty bike spill, Conrad finished 5th in his ultra-competitive age-group, Annie finished 9th pro in her first ever 1/2 Ironman, and Eve won the entire masters division in a sprint finish that involved flying elbows. Very exciting.
After crashing Eve etc.'s hotel room for showers afterwards, Aaron and I had to hit the road in order to be back to the Can in time for work/school etc. on Monday. We made a last minute decision to take the scenic route home, which is technically 100 miles shorter, but over an hour longer due to the narrow and windy roads. It was a fantastic choice and I recommend the route to anyone travelling that direction. The landscape was stunning and the stormy conditions and late day sun added phenomenal texture. It was so much more exciting than driving through the Tri Cities! The only low point was trying to find somewhere besides Subway to eat in Pullman at 9:30 on a Sunday night, and then proceeding try to eat a Subway sandwich while driving a stick shift home. I think Aaron will be finding peppers and cucumbers in his car's various crevices for months. Molly, can I join you in the "Subway'ed out" club?

All in all, it was a fun race. My "it" was intact, having Aaron along was immensely enjoyable, Spokane represented in a major way, and I am feeling happy and grateful to be healthy heading into this Ironman Coeur d'Alene. Fourteen days, yay!

Many thanks to Steve Kramer for the pictures and encouragement, and to Katie for the pictures and all other kinds of associated race support. She and Conrad are now officially engaged, so congrats to them!

Saturday, May 10, 2008


In the past, I have showed up to races exhausted, sick, hungry, and/or hungover (in my much younger, less mature days, of course) and, every once in a while, my performace far exceeds what I deserve. I spent the week of the 2006 Ironman 70.3 world championships very sick, exhausted, and mad at my poor little sister for passing her bug onto me. I ended up feeling fantastic on raceday (crash included). Likewise, I remember a particular half marathon in college in which the first several miles were tainted by Long Island Iced Tea burps from beverages consumed mere hours prior to the gun . . . PR. The point of this blog entry isn't to corrupt my underaged readers nor to convince all of you who know me better that I really am wild and hip (it is Saturday night and I'm blogging after all), but really to affirm my long-held belief that some days my body is up for racing and sometimes it isn't. I don't know that I necessarily have a whole lot of control over it. I know many triathletes who would insist that this isn't the case, and that optimal performances are always possible with proper training, rest, tapering, nutrition, supplementation, weather, etc, but having "failed" at several races for which I was, in my opinion, properly prepared, I really do think that in some races, I just don't have "it." IM Coeur d'Alene 2006 and the Grand Columbian half come to mind. I know this isn't a very proactive approach to a race, but it doesn't mean that I don't attempt to learn something from every failure, nor that and "it"less race much end in disaster.

Wildflower was one such race. Last year I made the 17 hour road trip to Lake San Antonio, California in Conrad's Xterra with Troy, Dan Schrempp, Conrad, 4 bikes, 3 tents, lots of smelly shoes and a canoe-sized cooler. It was epically fun. We scored a killer camp site with a picnic table, my college roommate Rachael came up from LA, and I laughed for all but the 5 hours I was actually racing. As an amateur, I had a breakthrough race at Lake San Antonio last year, winning the amateur race by over 11 minutes. I remember reflecting on the bike course thinking that its difficulty was seriously over-rated and that the run course was under-rated. I also remember watching the pro women start over 1 hour before me last year and thinking "I sure am glad I don't have to start yet." Fast forward 1 year . . .

It turns out that starting in the pro wave is a bit of mixed blessing. Brilliant because there aren't heaps of slow swimmers from previous waves to swim through and there is plenty of clean water to be had. However, most of you know that swimming is not my strong suit and I have an unfortunate tendency to get dropped by the rest of the pro women in the first 50 meters. Too much clean water for me really. It is going to be a lonely IM Coeur d'Alene this year if I have to do the whole 4 km by myself. I honestly haven't even been able to see the rest of the pack in my past two races. Oi Vey. My swim still ended up being 3 minutes faster than last year (mostly due to the lack of 2007's wind and chop) and 2 minutes faster than the California 70.3, so I didn't much mind heading out onto the bike by myself (as fast male age-groupers streamed by, that is).

After all the pre-race nerves before Oceanside, I was strangely calm before this swim start. Too calm perhaps. I suppose I experience the worst in Oceanside (a completely solo swim), so there wasn't anything to fear.

The second I got out of the water, however, I felt horrible. T1 went smoothly enough, but as soon as I mounted my bike, the hurt began. This sensation usually happens when I'm tired and training hard and my thighs feel "burny," but despite several days of reduced training, there wasn't an ounce of freshness in my muscles. I don't imagine that 2 days in the car is the best pre-race regime, but it's enforced rest, and it worked for me in 2007. The first big climb out of the lake basin had me wheezing like a shameless asthmatic, which is a very unusual occurence for me.

After 20 miles or so, I was able to settle into a so-so pace. It's a bit demoralizing being steadily passed by top age-group men, as opposed to steadily passing slow age-group men as I had the year before, but I know I have no control over the people around me and I can only focus on my race. I didn't do that terribly well, especially after the brutal climb at mile 40 when I caught myself repeatedly flaking out. Remember when I said that last year I thought the bike course was over-rated? I changed my mind. All said, I biked about 20 seconds faster than last year, though I was convinced that I was riding about 10 minutes slower. I don't race with a speedo or heart-rate monitor, so it's often anyone's guess.

The run stunk. I never ever felt good. I spent the first few lightly rolling miles just trying to get my heart, stomach, and breathing under control in preparation for the ruthless hills that I knew were to come. Just as I seemed to do that, the hills indeed began. So did the heat. It was probably only in the low 80s, but to us northerners, we may as well have been vortexed to Death Valley. We had a weekend once when it got above 60 and have otherwise not been able to train in anything with short sleeves. Booties remain the standard on the bike.

Disheartened from the omission of the naked aid station at mile 4 (it cracked me up last year) I inched up the mile long, cambered dirt hill thinking "after this, everything else will feel easy." Wrong again. Somehow, in the midst of feeling awesome last year, I neglected to notice how tough all of the subsequent rollers are. I fell off the pace pretty substantially from miles 6 - 10. I actually swore off the race ever again at that point, but I reserve the right to retract that swearing off. A couple of gels at mile 10 restored a bit of wind to my sails (glycogen to my muscles?) and I pushed through to the end. I didn't realize it until after I got home, but I actually ran almost 2 minutes faster than last year, so I am retrospectively pleased with that fact. It just felt so slow.
Pushing down the finish chute my lips and fingers went numb and began to tingle. That's usually the sign that I've reached my limit. 12th place finish. Same as I would have been last year had I been racing pro. I'm really excited to do Boise so I can stop comparing all of my performances to last year!

Now the ode to my peeps. It turns out that the Spokane contingent pretty much rocked Wildflower! Jeff Blackwell, Sam Piccici, and Molly Obetz were all 5th in their age-groups, Ben Greenfield was 4th in his, Phaedra and Sean Linder were 8th in their age groups (Sean hadn't run in weeks due to a hip injury and still had a great race with painful aftermath, and Phaedra had a stomach bug), and Troy was 9th in his. These are huge age-groups, by the way, so everyone from our community was in the top 10% of their respective divisions. That is especially phenomenal given our cold spring and the difficult, hot conditions in California!

My carpool and camping mates, Sean, Troy, and Molly deserve special credit for being phenomenal company. They were even courteous enough to eat their post-race double doubles outside the car. Our campsite (above) wasn't exactly the paradise we scored last year, but it's amazing how a patch of grass can become home. Sean even sacrificed his tent fly so we had something to sit on. Unfortunately, this didn't provide much in the way of shade or peace from the early morning parking directors with megaphones. "Why did Ken send those guys down the hill?!!" When there are 30-something hours of driving, several nights of camping, and a mere 5 hours of racing, the race itself is almost seems like an afterthought. I cannot believe how well the trip has gone both years. I do not like sitting in cars, and the hours on the road flew by (perhaps that's easy for me to say since Troy did all of the driving). It may have been our reminicing about Conrad and his love for horses, the sagacious advice of Dr. Laura, or Molly's constant narrative (I can clearly see yr nuts!), but regardless, it was so fun I think I might just have to do it again.
Many thanks to Laura D. and Troy for the pictures!