Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ironman Hawaii 2009: Good practice

I just saw this quoted on Slowtwitch:

"Rule 5.10c): Right-of-Way: [in part] a cyclist shall not crowd the other participant and shall allow reasonable space for the other participant to make normal movement without making contact. "

I just thought I'd put that up there in case any of the multitudes of shamelessly cheating male age groupers happen to read my blog (doubtful, I know). It's bad enough that a "world championship" event is illegitimized by packs of 30+ guys riding together into the wind, but they could at least have the decency to not try to run the women they're overtaking off of the road in the process. I suppose I'm used to pro rules where it is required to move 2 meters to the left before entering the 10 meter draft zone, but it is insane how close these guys come in their efforts to suck as much wind as possible. Just for the record. It is considerate to at least make sure your rear tire has cleared the front tire of the person you're passing before moving right again. And I don't want you riding so close that I get splattered by the sweat blowing off your elbows.

Yep, there was a lot of getting passed in store for me on race day. But perhaps I should start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you begin with "a-b-c." When you sing you begin with do re mi. I digress. And I respect the dorks who actually get the reference.
I showed up in Kona on September 22nd, grabbed my rental car, and headed for the Rubios place in Kailua. I stayed with the Rick and Karen for a spell in 2007, and I intended to do the same for a while this year. Little did I know that a "while" would end up being the entire 2.5 weeks I spent in Kona. Holy generosity! I settled in, went for a swim (my favorite thing to do in Kona) and called Aaron before going to bed. He started the conversation by telling me that he had a very interesting day. Apparently, while studying in a coffee shop, he knee went from looking and feeling normal to looking like this

He went to the ER, was diagnosed with a cellulitis, administered a course of IV antibiotics and sent home. The next day, sicker, and with his knee more inflamed and swollen, he returned to the ER. I, meanwhile, was beginning to tackle training in the steam room that is Kona. On the third day, Aaron was admitted to the hospital and prepped for surgery, and I rode the IM bike course. When I got back to the house that afternoon, I booked tickets back to Spokane. Attempting to fly back to Kona 1 week prior to the Ironman made for a very expensive plane ticket. But hey, he was my husband of two weeks, what else was I to do? I returned to Spokane to find this. . .

. . . and a significantly less sick spouse. I was only home for 5 days, so we had to find unvigorous activities that involved zero risk of falling on one's knee. Luckily, the honeycrisp apples had just come into season at Greenbluff, and we received a hard-core potato gun as a wedding gift (Aaron's favorite gift by far). After picking up lots of apples and squash, we stopped on a quiet dirt road to have some real hick fun.

Don't be fooled by the use of an innocent Joe Blow bike pump to power this thing. At 60 PSI a potato shot straight into the air can't even be seen. And it can be used up to 100 PSI. It put a hole in Aaron's cousin's fence and essentially atomizes any vegetable matter that it shoots into tree trunk or cement wall. Apparently, this is really fun for boys. I find it mildly entertaining. Note the rather entertaining looking squash we couldn't resist purchasing in the trunk. t

A side note; the morning before I flew back to Spokane, Rick and I got to do a really fun local tri - my first race since Canada. It was called the Mangoman, and it was a blast. Totally low key Kona local style. Naturally, I ran into Wee there, but her coach wouldn't let her do the whole race. Instead, she just obliterated the swim, and left the rest of us to bike and run up Hualalai 4 times total.

Back to Kona then. I got off the plane and squeaked in a 3 hour ride out to Kawaihai and back before dark. It may well have been the most fun ride I've ever had in Kona because I had a ridiculous tailwind on the way home. Like spinning out at 35 mph on the flats style tailwind. Yeehaw. I almost felt like I do when racing in Kona except that it was about a million times more fun.
The next day marked the beginning of the Lifesport Prep camp which made for some quality training opportunities, including getting to swim with Linsey and Wee (or watching Bree's bubbles grow ever more distant. Whatever).

As per usual, the camp was comprised of great people from disparate parts of the country and world. It was an insanely likable group of people. What fun.

Once camp ended, "race week" began. Race week is meant to be relaxing, but it tends to be anything but. I did a pretty good job of managing my obligations promptly and heading straight back to the sanctuary that was the Rubios' house, but there were still plenty of days when bedtime rolled around and I asked myself how it was possible to have been so busy. Nonetheless, I was lucky to have such a relaxing, quiet place to stay with hosts who really made me feel at home and kept me well fed, to boot.

A major perk this year was not having to worry about my bike being race-ready. The Zoot Ultra team was provided with our own super-duper bike mechanic, Chris Davidson, who not only got my Orbea perfectly tuned and road-worthy, he washed it too. Like straight off the showroom floor clean. If only Kona was my real life . . .

so pretty

But all of these meeting and camps and flights and training sessions were intended to set me up for a great race, right? Unfortunately, despite all of this, my mind and body weren't totally invested in the race. I was certainly calm and focused, but I knew where I stood fitness-wise and recovery-wise, and neither of those were very good. I was confident that I could pull off a decent Ironman, but when a Kona slot makes itself available only 6 weeks prior to the race, it can't be an "A" race. Especially when the fitness was already much diminished those 6 weeks prior and there was a wedding thrown into the mix as well.

These aren't excuses as to why I had a mediocre race, but rather my understanding of the ramifications of structuring my season the way I chose to. I was honored to be able to participate in the race, and I was ready to take the steps necessary to prevent total disaster a la 2008, but it was my "dessert" race - a reward for having put in the hard yards during a relatively long season. Time to have fun and to practice the famed Hawaii Ironman. I won't lie and deny that I wasn't hoping for some undeserved flash of athletic genius that would propel me to a PR, but I was pretty realistic regarding my chances of that.

Race morning was smooth and fun. Rick dropped me off and walked me to transition. Then it was just a matter of preparing myself and my gear as I have done so many times. It was great to bump into so many friends. In fact, it was the fist time that I saw Eve all week.

The swim was pretty wretched. I got off to a great start (how many times have I said that this season?), and actually swam with a big fast pack for a long while. I think I got bumped off the back just a bit too soon because I swam alone for a LONG while before getting caught by a group of 6 or so near the far turn buoy. I would like to think that if I had just hung on to the fast pack a little longer I might have gotten spat out with some slightly stronger swimmers, but who knows. The group that caught me wasn't actually going that slowly, they were just going all over the place. After turning back towards the pier, the guy leading the group repeatedly sighted off of the buoys on the other side of the course and was oblivious to numerous water patrol volunteers who tried to steer him straight. A couple of times I left his wake and headed for the correct buoy, but it was always a lost cause because he was just that much faster than me and we usually reconvened at the next buoy anyway. Eventually, I resigned myself to being thankful for the tow and made the most of the tiki tour of the Ironman swim course.

I have to admit to being gutted when I saw my time though.

The bike wasn't a whole lot better, but at least it was done on my terms (except when sitting up and trying not to be run off the road by the aforementioned AG cheaters). I revisited my super-conservative bike strategy from Canada and mostly enjoyed the course, oblivious to how slow I was going. Again, it was my plan to be conservative, but it was not my plan to be so conservative that I sucked. A bit harsh, sure, but even given my relative lack of cycling fitness, that bike split was ugly! Once I start swimming better I'll have a better gauge of what the other girls are doing on the bike, and I won't be tooling around in lala land like I did.

Despite being slow, the bike felt like it flew by and then it was time to run. This was going to be my trump card. After such a conservative bike, I was going to slowly motor through the girls who pushed too hard early on. But it didn't happen. Despite a rock solid stomach, perfectly executed nutrition plan, and positive spirits, it just wasn't in me. The reality of my running form became evident fairly early on, but I promised myself that I would be nice to myself (lots of self love, eh?) and enjoy the day. And I did! After the sauna that was Ali'i, I got up to the Queen K and focused on how pretty the ocean was and how easy it actually was to put one foot in front of the other, albeit slowly. I had some good conversations with fellow competitors, some real bonding moments with aid station volunteers, and smiled about as much as I ever have during an IM marathon.

Of course, pulling out and saving myself for Arizona or Florida came to mind, but I knew realistically where my physical and mental fitness stood and that this would be my last Ironman of the season. Why not make it a party? The party really got started at mile 18 when I finally resorted to drinking Coke, which, it turns out, is a miracle beverage. I hate the taste (always have), I hate its role in diabetes and tooth decay around the world, and I hate how it feels against my teeth, but it instantly made me run 1 min/mi faster. Again, these weren't very fast miles to begin with, but those 8 minutes stood for 8 minutes sooner that I would be able to celebrate my day down the finish chute on Ali'i and get a post-race massage (one of my best ever, I might add).
It was the first Ironman that I finished feeling almost normal. No dizziness or nausea, just a roaring appetite for pizza, which was promptly satiated. Satiated by 6 pieces, in fact. Then I took the world's most blissful cold shower in the outdoor showers by the pier (Tyler Stewart planned ahead and brought soap) and stopped by the Lifesport lounge for a tad. The result was this:

Not sad, not happy, but done and badly tan-lined. Those beautiful bike short lines are still with me and will likely persist for the remainder of a cold, northwestern winter. Rick and Karen's friends had made balcony reservations at the Fish Hopper, a restaurant right above the finish line, so I got to spend another few hours eating and watching competitors in their final seconds of their races, completing what was for some a life-changing accomplishment. Even if my race wasn't brilliant, knowing that I had just shared the experience with 1800 others and that we had collectively undergone just about every possible physical and emotional sensation, well, that was cool.
Thanks are, of course, in order. Thanks firstly to Rick and Karen, who not only agreed to take in a relative stranger in a pickle 2 years ago, but who treated me like family for 2.5 weeks. Their hospitality and friendship were unparalleled. Thanks also to Aaron for sacrificing me to triathlon for yet another 2 weeks and for being endlessly supportive. And to Lifesport and Coach Dan - thanks for another brilliant camp in Kona and for letting me fully recline while "on duty" in the Lifesport Lounge. And many thanks to Zoot and to Team sports for treating us so well while in Kona. The dinners, goodies, and bike mechanic were invaluable.
Now it's on to 2010. A great year it will be. I have plans and they start with getting fully recovered earlier than I have in the past so that I can commence a quality "off-season" a little sooner. Should be fun. Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I didn't get married and ride my bike on the same day. Apparently that was unclear to certain readers. The wedding and the bike ride were simply the only two things that I had photo evidence of doing in between blog posts. I did, however, go for a short run before the wedding. It provided clarity for vow-writing.

In other news, I'm in Kona with 5 days left until the race. The trip hasn't been without its drama, but all in all, I've been lucky to be able to spend some extra time here acclimating with some gracious friends, the Rubios. I'll pull out my camera before too long and tell some stories.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I got married and then I rode my bike

Well, I officially registered for Kona as Haley Cooper-Scott. I haven't yet gotten used to identifying myself as such, but there was that one gesture. Married life is . . . really not terribly different at this point. As for the wedding, it was brilliant. In terms of planning, all I had to do was tell Dudley, the events coordinator at Gozzer Ranch, how many tables I wanted and which fixings to include at the taco bar. This is what I ended up with.

The huckleberry lemonade vodka thingies served in the plastic cowboy boots were a hit.
Brianna took care of the flower arrangements, which basically involved finding Lily a bouquet that wasn't bigger than she.
The 5 minute ceremony looked something like this . . .
. . . . but the emphasis was on fun and games

The antics in the pool were legendary, including inflatable shark wrestling, but the only pictures I have from the day are from one of Aaron's cousins. The pool still looks so placid in this photo.
And that was that. I've been dreading my wedding since the first one I remember attending, and I actually had fun. We did it on our own terms and we were lucky enough to have perfect weather, a spectacular venue, and amazing friends and family to share the day with. When Rachael told me that she overheard a woman telling her friend that her kids had just had the best day of their lives, I knew that we had accomplished our mission. I only regret not being able to spend more time with everyone.

In the meantime, Coach Dan decided that my spare time in my post-Ironman/peri-wedding phase would be consumed with . . . virtually nothing. Nothingness makes me uncomfortable, and with another Ironman looming in 3 weeks (it's not an important one or anything), I just HAD to get on my bike and go exploring. We've been having amazing warm weather during the day and cool evenings - climatic perfection. I know that as of next Tuesday, my photos will be of black lava, palm trees, tropical flowers, and sandy beaches. Kona is indeed photogenic, but I'm from Spokane, and I needed a good dose of home before heading to the islands. It's the time of year when a hundred mile ride can be fueled entirely by feral apples and plums found along roadsides. The juicy sweetness of fresh fruit makes the prospect of an energy bar completely unappealing. The only consequences of fueling in this manner are mild gut aches and supreme gustatory satisfaction.

There are old barns everywhere in the Palouse. And probably all across America for that matter. I didn't want to stop riding to take pictures, but when photo opportunities conveniently coincided with fruit stops, I had to take advantage.

The town of Rosalia functions as a water stop.

Waverly is good-for-nothing in the amenities department, but descending into the town from the south is FUN.

The fields got prettier as the sun got lower (which happens entirely too early this time of year!), but just as things got really pretty, I had to put the camera away, forgo some of my favorite pear trees, and haul home. Darkness came all too soon, but it was a special day.

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Oh Canada

The music in Safeway continues to astound me with its terribleness. It's not even that they're playing a specific genre of music that I dislike. It's eclectic badness. That being said, I don't feel like hanging out here much longer. Well, that and the fact that indoor business establishments in hot climes tend to be over air-conditioned.

There were some good things about yesterday. Firstly, I don't think that the weather rose as high into the 90s as expected. The northerly winds brought with them a thick layer of wildfire smoke that protected us from the direct solar radiation. Also, after a bit of a rough swim start, I found some great feet to jump onto for 2/3 of the swim. Swim conditions were perfect - wetsuit legal but not too warm, and relatively flat. I PR'ed with a 1:01:12. I had a similar swim in Arizona, but in this race I started the bike leg with women who it usually takes me a while to catch. This suggests to me that I swam relatively better than I did in AZ.

More goodness came in the first 30 miles of the bike to Osooyos. They were just as fast and windless as everyone promised they would be. I was careful to soft pedal and I actually saw my heart rate dipping into the 130s for sections of the ride. It was a little mentally tough to be so conservative, but I knew that I would need to save my energy for the two mountain passes on the course. Richter was the first pass, and it actually wasn't very hard, but again, I sat up, spun, and kept the effort in check.

Then the badness began. The wind started blowing. Hard. The rollers after Richter were at least a little protected by virtue of it being hilly, but the flat section before Yellow Lake was mind-numbing. The winds were by no means Kona-esque, but they aren't supposed to be and I had been assailed with tale after tale of being blown home for the last 20 miles after Yellow Lake. If I hadn't expected to average 30 mph for the last 20 miles, pedaling hard on the downhills wouldn't have been too frustrating. However, the wind was relentless and the last 4 mile false flat back into town was downright demoralizing. I certainly didn't have the bike split I expected based on previous years' times, but it doesn't look like anybody did really. I think my split was a 5:22, but I'll have to check.

I always get a little daunted in T2. Marathon time. Just a marathon. After a 112 mile bike ride. That's all. Here we go. Surprisingly, despite the heat, winds, and smoke, I felt really good starting the run. My goal was to start at 7:40 pace and to build from there, but I got caught up in it all.

I feel so good right now . . . I should go with it. . . after all, I have a tail wind . . . and I think I'm going downhill . . .

So I ran a few miles at 7:00/mi pace before settling into a more realistic speed. Around mile 5 I caught Kat just as Janelle caught me. Janelle was hauling and I didn't try to go with her in the hope that she would fade. There are some pretty substantial hills on the course, especially towards the turn-around at Okanagan Falls and, as on the bike, I backed way off of the pace and tried to conserve energy for the final stretch.

I suspected that Sarah Gross might catch me on the run, as I didn't get a very comfortable lead on her after the bike, and the girl can run. Just after the turn she did just that and passed me with assertion. At that point, there was no going with her. It was survival mode all the way back to town and with some steep hills and headwinds, the pace slowed slowed substantially. I was nervous that the group of girls behind me would catch up as I watched my pace get slower and slower, but apparently the carnage back there was even uglier. I also got occasional snippets of information about a few girls ahead who were falling apart, and I chugged my way back into 4th after falling to 6th at one point. Apparently, I had the 3rd fastest female marathon split, which astounds me because I felt like a snail out there. It just goes to show what a hot, windy day with high stakes can do to a high caliber field of competitors. I'll take that as a learning day for Kona (yes, I'm crazy and I'm going).

In the end, it didn't feel like a very fast race, but I had one of my better executed Ironmans in terms of patience and energy conservation. It's frustrating to spend a day going so slowly, but when the last few miles of a marathon feel that bad, it suggests to me that my new laid back approach to the bike and early stages of the run is working. That being said, I have a LOT of work to do fitness-wise before Kona. I suppose I can only accomplish so much in 6 weeks and I am getting married next weekend, which means I won't be 100% dedicated to training until after the friends and family have departed. It's not an ideal build towards a world championships, but once I figure out how to get my bike and me affordably to Kona, I plan to enjoy it thoroughly. This season has been a blast so far, and I don't regret a single day spent racing or training.

Now, I have to give a shout out to my partners in crime for the past 6 days - Mark and Katya. Traveling to races and staying with other pro athletes can be a bit dicey, but I have to give these two huge thumbs up with regards to being super-interesting, fun, laid back and talented housemates. Their willingness to indulge in post-race McFlurries and nightly episodes of Da Ali G Show adds greatly to their excellency as human beings. Our shenanigans were highly photo documented, but I won't have many of those pictures at my disposal until they are e-mailed to me. Ahem.
Of course thanks are also due to my awesome support network, including those Spokanites who traveled to the race to watch: Robin, Manny, John, Jeff, Kathy, Kevin, Erica, Craig, Steve, Liz, Natalie, Suzanne and Shaun(okay, the last two are Coeur d'aleneites). Also, nice job to my comrades who raced: Mark and Katya, Martin and Vicki, Greg, John, Pete, Cheryl, Mark W., Jeff, Corey, and Sabrina (women's amateur champ, yay!). Also, thanks to Zoot and Lifesport for providing on-site assistance, and to GU for getting me through the entire race on the yummy new uncaffeinated pineapple flavored Roctane (though I admit that there was a bit of Pepsi thrown into the mix towards the end). Just wait until this stuff hits shelves folks! Special thanks to Coach Dan for listening to me prattle on about whether or not to take a Kona slot before it was even an issue. We have a lot of work to do now, Coach. Wedding first though. Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 3, 2009

New neighbors and lots of racing

I’m sitting in a mostly peaceful backyard in Skaha, British Columbia with no training to do and no internet. Both are a little strange. But I’ve been excessively delinquent in the blogosphere, so I’m going to attempt to recap my last 6 races before the inevitable IM Canada race report. I worry that it will be a novelette of sorts, but I’m going to colo(u)r (I’m in Canada, after all) each race report so as the facilitate the jumping in between races of interest. The legend is as follows:

Red = Vancouver International ½ IM – July 12
Blue = Xterra Bozeman Wild Horse Creek – July 26
Green = Troika ½ Ironman – August 2
Purple = Coeur d’Alene Scenic Challenge (Olympic) – August 8
Orange = Hulaman ½ IM – August 16

I’m going to start on a tangent (is that possible?) by mentioning that a few weeks ago, when I was up before dawn getting ready for a race, I noticed two juvenile skunks playing in the backyard. They were so feisty and cute that I nearly let my oatmeal boil over while watching them. Oatmeal lovers will understand the potential for disaster here. I forgot about the skunklets until that evening, when Aaron saw them running around again and then darting under the shed – their apparent home.

I know that certain neighbors would immediately call any number of exterminators whose numbers they likely have on hand, but I really like skunks (especially little ones) and I don’t even think they smell too badly. My only experience to the contrary was the time that my mom and I accidentally captured a skunk in a Sherman trap while trying to instead catch a feral cat that had left me with numerous stitches in my lower lip. A humane society official told us that spraying the skunk with a hose would make its tail so heavy that it wouldn’t be able to raise it to spray. Let my official record state that spraying a skunk with a hose does not, in fact, incapacitate it. Instead, it makes the skunk really eager to spray. That particular skunk musk was a little intense. Nonetheless, these little guys are welcome. I certainly have no use for the underside of our shed, and I’m glad they’ve found one.

At this point it may appear as though I’ve been spending way too much time staring at the backyard and not enough time doing blog-worthy things, i.e. training and racing. Such an assertion wouldn’t be too far off. I really do spend an inordinate amount of time watering my plants and making sure every last weed is plucked from my meager veggie garden. But there has been racing aplenty and below I will attempt to summarize it in as unboring a fashion as possible.

July 12: Vancouver International ½ Ironman.

I had wanted to do this race for a while. The course gets rave reviews, there was a purse at stake, and it was to be the precursor for Lifesport pro camp in Victoria – a not-to-be-missed training extravaganza. Sure, it was only 3 weeks after IM Coeur d’Alene, but I felt lively and I seriously wanted something to break up the post-IM feeling of sloth and chubbiness. Silly, I know, but Ironmans can have that effect on a person. This person remedies those feelings by doing more races, though a psychiatrist might be a more fitting solution.

One of the nicer aspects of the Vancouver race experience was being put up by Lifesport coach Mark Shorter and his wife Cara in beautiful North Vancouver. My “roomie” was teammate Magali Tisseyre, who, it turns out, is good for a load of laughs. It also turns out that she is very good at triathlons. A swell combination indeed.

I just have to briefly explain (because it’s one of the few pictures that I actually took while away) that we accosted and seized the keys of an outstandingly drunk driver while previewing the bike course the day before the race. I actually had very little to do with the whole ordeal except to shout things like “holy cow!” while Mark was on the phone with the cops and we were following said driver as he swerved into medians, losing bits of his car along the way. Now you know the rest of the story, but really I just think it’s funny that Magali actually looks like a bit of a heroin addict in trouble with the authorities in this photo. And Mark may well be pretending not to know her.

ANYWAY, the race itself was a bit of a disaster. The swim was decent because it was a mass start and I found myself in a solid group of swimmers. For the first time ever, I was kicked in the face, but it wasn’t as bad as everyone makes is out to be. Thanks Sam J My biking legs weren’t as trashed from Ironman as I feared they might be, and I did enjoy segments of the course, but the run was a WHOLE different story. The first 5km were okay, and then I descended into survival mode. I struggled to stay below my full ironman run pace for the entire 2nd half of the run. In the end, I finished 4th and discouraged. It was the perfect way to start training camp.

Lifesport training camp – 13-20 July:

I am proud to report that, after getting off to a slow start, I put all of my bad-ass triathlete teammates to shame . . . in croquet. Beyond that one opportunity for total sporting domination, I didn’t have a whole lot to give. Camp was a challenge, both physically and mentally. I was dealing with a level of fatigue and burnout that was actually quite novel to me, but camp did prove what camps always tend to prove – every time I think I can’t climb one more hill or complete one more interval, I can. Ultimately, I am so thankful for my coach and my teammates, and my awesome homestays Dewain (pictured below – don’t ask), and Judy.
Heather lakeside on our solo ride after we got dropped by the group before we even started. It was fun to catch up though.

After camp I headed back to Spokane for a week of solo training before another “just for fun” race. The drive was a little scenic.

Xterra Bozeman Wild Horse Creek – 26 July:

I’m not exactly sure what compelled me to climb aboard a mountain bike again after the Righteous Richland debacle, but I was eager to take a road trip, and where better to go than Bozeman, MT. After all, my sister lives there, as do good friends of Aaron. The race venue was gorgeous. Hyalite canyon is a must visit location for anyone fond of mountain scenery. I hadn’t taken the altitude into account, however (~7000 ft), and the first few strokes of my swim warm-up proved to be a preview of the gasping that would ensue for the rest of the day.

The race officials said that the water temperature was 55 degrees, and it did seem chilly, but not that bad. Surprisingly, the swim went just fine. I had a crummy start, and ended up having to swim around a lot of people after the first buoy. Nonetheless, once I found clean water and committed myself to breathing every two strokes, it was super-easy. I was the first woman out of the water. Miraculous.

The problem with being the first woman out of the water in an Xterra race, is that it meant that I spent the next 30 minutes pulling off to the side of the very technical single track to let people pass. I didn’t want to be “that person” who holds everyone up, and since I didn’t have a whole lot invested in the event, I was happy to let some outstanding mountain bikers pass me by. The first 4-5 miles were ridiculously difficult for me – roots, rocks, mud, and steep pitches. I’m a road biker, that’s my excuse. I remember thinking that there was no way I could do 16 miles of that. Then, there was a 1 mile section of dirt road followed by a long climb up a fire road, and I passed nearly everyone back. I couldn’t believe how casually people were rolling along the “easy” parts.

I felt like I had a pretty good lead over the other women at the top of the climb, and I would only have to just down the other side. But it wasn’t that easy. The climb hadn’t been technical, but the descent was. Not only was it very steep, but it was rocky and the lightweight wheels on my borrowed mountain bike were getting tossed around by the uneven terrain. It was very disconcerting, and I really didn’t want to get hurt and thereby sabotage the rest of my triathlon season. So I did a lot of pulling over and letting people pass again. The woman who eventually won was going absolutely gangbusters down that descent. She was one gutsy gal!

Even with my granny-like timidity (now I’m just waiting to be sent a youtube video of some kick-ass granny mountain biker), I ended up sliding out around a corner on the descent. I wasn’t going very fast, but I fell hard on some sharp rocks and it hurt! My hip throbbed the most, but I knew that my shoulder and knee were probably the most damaged. My foot was still clipped in when my knee hit the rocks and there was a scary twist in addition to the impact that made me want to cry. I felt it start to swell and I took a few moments to indulge my “what am I doing here?” self pity. But I still had to get down the mountain, so I got back on the bike for loop number two.

Loop two unfolded in essentially the same way. I rode past everyone on the non-technical climb and got annihilated on the descent. Just as I was about to reach the corner where I had fallen on the first loop, I found Aaron on the side of the trail walking his bike. He had flatted and hadn’t brought any spares and was in a pretty foul mood. I tossed him my spares bag and carried on. It’s pretty cool to be able to genuinely assist another competitor during a race, but it’s especially rewarding when he’s your fiancĂ©.

My knee had swollen a bit more by the time I got to the run, and the impact of running was uncomfortable. But running on trails is WAY more fun than biking on trails. I was so much happier to have my legs in contact with the ground. It was a two loop run, and I happily ran along with no expectations over the relentlessly hilly course. At the turnaround for the 2nd loop my sister told me that I could “catch her.” I assumed that she was referring to crazy brave mountain biker woman, but my lungs could only take in so much oxygen on the climbs, so my overall effort in the chase was limited. In the end, I lost by 1 minute. I got a little frustrated thinking about all the time I spent dinking around on the mountain bike course, but had to remind myself that it was a “for fun” race and that was the mentality that I adhered to during the race.

Despite feeling rather banged up and having a worrisome shoulder condition (sprained biceps tendon, it turned out), it was a really fun trip. I love when Aaron and I get to race together, and we got to spend the rest of a beautiful Bozeman afternoon hanging out with the Kalinowskis. It basically involved a lot of swinging, watermelon, and chickens. Then I got to grab lunch with my sister, her boyfriend, and her new kitten Spike. Spike is SO cute; the photos just don’t do him justice. Ultimately, we were treated to a classic Montanan thunderstorm – a perfect weekend.

The next few days of training were pretty rough, as swimming was compromised by my shoulder, and running was compromised by my knee. I could tell that both were improving though, so I tried not to get too anxious about it. Then I got hit by a car while riding home from work. It was my first such incident, and the driver was very apologetic. It made me not hate her, even though she is a VERY lousy driver. I’m tempted to put her name on the blog, since she never actually returned my phone calls after the incident (I wasn’t clever enough to get insurance information or call the police at the time of impact), but I don’t really believe in vigilante justice.

I’m actually really, really lucky because I had a split second to react, which lessened the impact. Also, because I was riding home from work, I was wearing a backpack and that cushioned me when I endoed. I considered calling the cops after the fact, but like the shoulder and knee, I could tell that my injuries were going to heal sufficiently with a bit of time. The sore neck and coccyx were to be expected, and they got better within a week. The most lingering malady was curious – my xiphoid process. I have no idea how one injures a xiphoid process by getting hit by a car, but it was 2 full weeks before I could do any core work again.

The xiphoid couldn’t keep me from doing my very favorite race the following weekend though – our local half ironman, the Troika. Troika was my first ever half ironman, and I learned a thing or two about running 13.1 miles on exposed asphalt in 97 degrees. It’s never very fun, and Troika invariably delivers in this regard. Actually, last year was the exception – it was only about 82, if I remember correctly. This year, the forecast was a nice even 100 degrees. My training was going miserably, and I didn’t know if I was just exhausted or if the incessant July heat was undermining my run sessions. I was surprised to be dreading the race. Even the day before, when everyone stopped into work to pick up their race packets, I regretted signing up. Packet pick-up is usually the peak of pre-race excitement, and I was flagging. I think it was the number 100 that loomed and the knowledge of how horribly exposed and miserable that run course can be.

But I went. Buddy Rick picked me up for the whatever consecutive week of racing at way too early an hour. I wasn’t as organized as I should probably have been, and I was probably way too social in transition before the race (someone had to stay busy informing all of her friends that wetsuits were a ridiculous idea on such a hot day). In the end, I didn’t convince anyone to join me in the wetsuitless brigade (flotilla?), but I personally enjoyed the single half hour of the entire day that I did not spend sweating profusely. My swim time (32:07) was a bit demoralizing and I entered T1 feeling unmotivated and distracted. That may be why I lost track of my race number. I ran out of the transition area, realized it was missing, laid my bike on the ground, took off my timing chip, and ran back into transition to look for it. I couldn’t find it, so I pleaded with the officials to not disqualify me. What I hadn’t considered was that in laying my bike on its side, I had allowed all of the water to spill out of my aero bottle, leaving me with a few sips until the aid station at mile 26. Brilliant.

The motivation didn’t really come. I saw Manny cheering on the side of the road around mile 20 and it occurred to me. “I am having the laziest race of my life,” I proclaimed to him. I do love the Troika bike course, so tooling along well below ordinary race effort was kind of nice. It had the added benefit of keeping my legs feeling fresh and light. The short, steep hills in the last few miles of the course that were historically tough for me felt like nothing.

I had two goals for the race. The first was to not completely melt on the run, and the second was to beat my T2 time from last year – 17 seconds. Unfortunately, my numberless status led to some confusion in the volunteers procuring the proper gear bag, so I didn’t meet my goal. In fact, it took me nearly twice as long to get through T2 this year. I did meet my run goal though. The second I started running, I felt fantastic. It was hot, but perhaps after 4 weeks of dealing with July, I was finally acclimated. One hundred degrees is nothing that a cupful of ice in the sports bra can’t combat. I saw loads of friends heading the opposite way on the out-and-back run (local races rock) and pretty much just had a jolly time. It was my 3rd Troika win, but truly, my best ever Troika because I managed a negative split on the run for the first time.

Afterwards, I got to hang out in the medical tent with the awesome B&B crew and Aaron, who I coerced into spending the day volunteering there. It was actually pretty fun, especially given that they had ample amount of ice and fans.

Coach Dan and I made an agreement when I was in Victoria. He didn’t want me to race six consecutive weekends in a row, but I did. So I conceded and we removed the Coeur d’Alene Scenic Challenge from the race schedule. He loaded me up with training all week after Troika, and it would seem logical that 60-odd miles of running would take the edge off of my desire to race. Unfortunately, it didn’t, so two days before the Coeur d’Alene race, I pleaded with my poor coach, who ultimately conceded.

Dan even let me race knowing that I looked like this. Not the result of a mountain bike crash nor a bike/car collision. Rather, it was a paper wasp who had my number. Running is very strange with one eye shut.

Much better by day 3 . . .

I love the Coeur d’Alene Scenic Challenge. The bike leg is really challenging, as it consists primarily of a sustained climb with an awesomely fun, fast descent. After my experience of seriously under biking in Troika, and thus feeling good on the run, I decided to take a similar approach to the bike in Cd’A. Especially on the climb, I really backed of, but I don’t truthfully know how much more I had in me, given the week’s training. The real hilarity of this race is that it was super cold and windy. Six days after racing a half ironman 30 miles away in 100 degrees, I was on my bike and shivering with numb feet. My bike computer went flying off at bottom of the long descent, so I didn’t know how my time was stacking up to previous years, but I was a little disappointed to see after the fact that it was 2 minutes slower than the year before. Sure, I had trained harder in the previous week, conditions were a bit tougher with the wind, and last year I spent most of the bike chasing Annie and Ali Fitch, but I retrospectively don’t think that my under biking strategy was appropriate for an Olympic distance race. Race and learn, race and learn.

The run was a non-event really. My legs felt a tad dissociated from my body and 6.35 miles felt ridiculously short after the half 6 days prior. But I wanted to have a good time and that I did. Like Troika, the course is an out and back so I pretty much got to see the entire Inland Northwest triathlon crowd racing and there were smiles all around. It was a good training day, and I made a point of thanking Coach for letting me do it.

I think that Dan perhaps didn’t want me to race every weekend because races increase the chance of injury. Indeed, when Annie, her mom, and I went huckleberry picking the next day, my calves were feeling ominously tight when we scrambled up hillsides. It was strange because I hadn’t even run very fast. My attempt at a fartlek run the following day was a non-event, and I started to get worried and coerced my co-worker into giving me a calf massage in exchange for GUs. A race much more important than my prior 3 was on tap for the next weekend, and I was worried.

Nonetheless, I packed up the Subaru the next weekend and headed down the Columbia River gorge to Portland, trusting that a fully compressed day in the car would set my calves straight. If nothing else, I figured that the weekend would make for a fun reunion with my Midd friend Kitt, who I shared an apartment with in Italy during our junior year. Kitt is in naturopathy school in Portland and she suggested heavy doses of magnesium and calcium in addition to some additional herbs that I had to turn down because I had no idea what they were. WADA scares me. After meeting up with some other pro athletes, the race director, and some local Ironhead club athletes for dinner, I navigated through SW Portland to find Kitt. It did turn out to be a fun reunion. We hit the Portland farmers market and scored some awesome fresh produce, we made Tuscan ribollita, went for a beautiful walk up some paths along the river and watched some corny old movies. And I raced the Hulaman half IM the next day.

The Hulaman was a lot of fun for me. The swim in Hagg Lake was gorgeous, but it was impossible to see the buoys on the far end of the course from shore because of the glare on the water. I sat on another athlete’s feet for the first 2/3 of the swim though, so I never actually had to do any of the navigating into the sun. I don’t think that the swim course was particularly short, given that I came out of the water with athletes who usually swim faster than I, and I swam a 28:30. That’s good for me! I got onto my bike in T1 only to realize that my front brake was rubbing even though I had checked it meticulously before the race. I wasn’t able to straighten the calipers out, so I just opened up the brake. Naturally, I forgot that my front brake was so loose on the first lap around Hagg Lake when I had to make a turn at the bottom of a descent. Ooops – good thing it wasn’t the rear brake that I had left open!

I loved biking around Hagg Lake. It’s constantly rolling, and while the hills aren’t particularly grueling, it is always going up or down. We biked around the lake 2.5 times before heading north to Forest Grove. I didn’t love that section as much. The gently rolling, surrounding farmland was scenic, but the chip was rough, the headwind incessant, and it was LONELY. I had no idea whether I was gaining on the girls ahead or whether I was losing time to those behind, so I plugged away at an intensity that was somewhere in between my normal ½ bike pace and my relaxed Troika pace. The pace with the headwind was admittedly demoralizing, but I knew that the other girls were fighting the same elements.

When I came into T2, I found out that I was 7 minutes behind Amy and 4 behind Kelly. That was a little more time than I had planned to lose, so I focused on staying ahead of Sam. I kept the pace on the out and back run fairly conservative, so as to be able to respond to any challenge. I was about a mile behind both Kelly and Amy at the turn and about 3 minutes ahead of Sam. So I decided to stay below 6:30 min/miles. I didn’t think that Sam would have sub 6’s in her so soon after Lake Placid, but this is also the girl who placed 2nd in Clearwater a few weeks after placing 2nd in Kona, so I didn’t rest easy until I crossed the finish line in 3rd.

It was great to see fellow Zooter Kelly Couch race so well and to catch up with former Zoot Ultra teammate Amy Marsh after the race. It was a superbly laid back, relaxed post-race atmosphere, complete with a Luau. I met several solid personalities and left the race in a very good mood. It was a nice confidence booster going into Canada, a beautiful day, and a well run event. A paycheck never hurts either.

And now I’m listening to some horrific music whilst I pilfer internet in the Penticton Safeway with Katya and Mark. I have to say, regardless of how the race goes tomorrow (I know only that it will be HOT), it’s been a fun time hanging out with these two all week.