Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Finish Line

Let's talk about The Finish Line; of any race, be it an Ironman, marathon, or 'just' a 5k. While people are all unique and there are few things that we can ALL agree on, I have to wonder if a poll were taken, how many people would agree that one of their favorite parts of a race is the sight of and the approach to The Finish Line.

You know that feeling...when you round the last corner, and you k
now what is just ahead. Your body hurts (or it should if you have been going hard enough!) and you want to find that one last gear in your body. Maybe you are shooting for a certain time, and you know you are going to barely make it. This past weekend, at the Decker Half Marathon, the last few miles I realized that a 1:22 was a good 'in race goal' (that being a race whereby you only really set a goal time once you are almost finished with it, often the kind of race that you are just racing to race). The body started to fatigue, and I realized that I needed to wait until the very last mile to drop any hammer in me. And it was such a low-key event, that even the last 1/2 mile, I could not 'see' a finish line. The clock ticked away, and I knew that even a 1:22-high was not happening. So, I pushed in for about a 1:23.04 (ish). But that last turn, seeing The Finish Line is such a great feeling. Whether this was your first time to do the distance, or you are just out to race and have fun, The Finish Line seems to make it all worth waking up early for.So as I sit here contemplating doing the Jingle Bell 5k on Sunday, I looked at the course map. I tried to recall how it looked last year when I did it. I can recall some false flats on the course, and appropriately, I recall feeling a bit sick from having pushed too hard too early within the race. Will I go out again this year? I think so. Because even though it is only 3.1 miles, the feeling of pushing the body to it's limits (for that day), the burn in the legs and lungs, the support of all your fellow runners out there doing the same thing, and of course that Lovely Finish Line make it all worth it. And try to smile if even just a bit when you go under It. The race may have been perfect, it may have been disappointing; it may have been 'raise your arms up'-worthy or it may have been 'I cannot wait to stop this' miserable; but the important thing is that you went out, set aside the nerves and fear and you did it. Every finish is something to be proud of.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December, Decker Half & Acupuncture!

Derick winning the Decker 1/2 Marathon - December 6, 2009

I love December! Not only is it my birthday (which at 32, while I am not phobic of growing old, it is not quite as exciting as say when I was 21), but it is the one month of the year whereby I do what I WANT TO DO each and every day, in terms of 'training' (if you call it that). I am horrible at taking time off, or even taking a day off, but when I have complete and total flexibility at simply being 'active' each day, I am in heaven. What has that consisted of lately? If in the pool, anywhere between 2k and 3k, if running... usually anything from an easy 30 minutes to 1 hour or even hill repeats for fun, and cycling, lots of time catching up on old 90210 re-runs or Ellen if I ride in the morning. If I had my choice, I would swim, run and do yoga all the time! But ya know; to do triathlons, I have to ride the bicycle. Not that I hate cycling, it is just that we all have those activities (or an activity) which just makes us feel good. For me, that is swimming and running.

Also in the month of December (and January), it is fun to just jump into races. I took this idea to an extreme this past weekend and 'jumped into' the Decker Half Marathon! If you live in Austin, you know that this race has a reputation for always having shitty weather. I did it as a 20k back in 2007, and it was about 75 with 90% humidity. This year, it was about 42 with rain! A rather chilly race, but fun nonetheless. Derick and I were quite lame especially for us, who never pass up a good time, and bailed in a pretty big party on Saturday night which most all of our good 'triathlon friends' in Austin were fully partaking in. He is doing the Distance Challenge (a series of races culminating in the Austin Marathon in February), so I knew he would be up for the Decker 1/2 on Sunday. So, I figured I would follow suit and race with him. It felt great, surprisingly, as I told myself "I do not want to hurt today" going into it and I really did not hurt until the unrelenting hills and cold took a toll on the quads at about mile 11. We both came away with wins, which was fun (Derick in a 1:12, and me in a 1:23) and had a great time catching up with many friends other crazies who were out there racing as well. I kind of like really bad weather for racing, because it becomes a race of RACING. You kind of forget how you feel and everything being 'perfect' and you deal with the conditions. And, the dirtier, messier and more uncomfortable you get, the better the food and hot shower is after the race! THANKS to Leilani and the gang at RED LICORICE EVENTS for putting on a great event!

And I cannot mention Decker Half without mentioning the wonderful care I received 2 days post race. Karen Smith is a local running coach, great friend, running nut and acupuncturist who has helped me out for the past few years, poking needles into me and making me feel good when the body is a bit out of whack. I had a session with her on Tuesday post-race, when my quads were quite recked and my lower back was still a bit tweaked from the traveling for Thanksgiving. If you have not had acupuncture before, you need to try it. It is such an amazing experience. She has one needle she calls the 'better than drugs' needle. :) This one goes right between your eyes; this is usually put in after all other needles are stuck, and then she leave the room for 10 minutes or so while you take a 'nap'. Yesterday, she worked on my front and back side, so I had two 'naps' and it was the deepest 10 minutes of sleep (?) I have had in a long time. Hard to explain, but very much like an out of body experience. Interestingly enough, when she put in the needle referring to my gall bladder, it was very painful (as I am scheduled to have my gall bladder REMOVED in January due to gallstones). I repeat... FASCINATING! Thank you Karen!

That is about it going on in Austin. As I said earlier, jumping into races at this time of year is fun. I may hop into the Jingle Bell 5K on Sunday which benefits MADD. It is a festive event and it sure feels good to go out and push yourself until you feel you'll puke! Even in the off-season! Oh come on, you know what I am talking about...and if you don't, go and hop into your local Jingle Bell 5k!

Thanks for stopping by... Happy Holidays! Indulge a bit. It is good for the soul.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dirty Duathlon...There's no crying on trails...

It is good to sometimes do things that scare us.
We all know this to be true, but it is easier said than done.

This past weekend, I decided very last minute and very decisively that I would do the Dirty Du here in Austin, put on by Jack and Adams. It was out in Smithville, which is about 45 minutes east of Austin. It had been raining most of Friday and Saturday, but Derick and I decided to head out to camp and race on Sunday despite the (high) possibility of substantial mud. We arrived at about 6:00, with some Little Ceasers pizzas for all (supporting good friend Pat Evoe a bit) and just in time for the bike toss contest. Yes, a bike toss. Everyone takes turns throwing a mountain bike as far as they can. Jack Murray has always been the champ of this, but I believe he may have gotten shown up on Saturday night...yes, by Chris Vasiottis, with a throw of 29 feet 12 inches. A heavy mountain bike! Imagine. I however was saving my energy for the 5k run, 12 mile mountain bike and 5k run on Sunday. And, I was enjoying drinking Dales Pale Ale and watching the festivities.

We hit up the little local bar at the campsite (see pictures above, I made a little friend there!) and were off to bed at about 10:30, in my opinion, pretty darn early for camping but that is comparing camping to what we did in Colorado with our wild and crazy friends where most nights of camping ended with a bottle of whiskey being passed around. I slept great and was up at at'em by 7:30 am for coffee, oatmeal, and some mountain bike shifting practice as I had not been on it since about February.

To make a long story short and to put it mildly, I don't know WHAT I was thinking by jumping into this race! The mud was unreal, and it ended up taking me (brace yourself) 2.5 HOURS to mountain bike (or rather, hop on/hop off) 12 miles. It was mostly single track and there were many water (stream) crossings, but 12 miles?! In 2.5 hours? It was probably the longest I had ever been on (or off) a mountain bike, but it sure did feel good to run the 5k on either end. The 5k run was on a different course, which had it's own fair share of steep, muddy hills as well. There were at least a few times I found myself pushing my bike up a very steep muddy slope, while battling sliding back down a few times. I did not cry; I whimpered a few times, and twice (to be exact) I almost cried. But, I didn't. The pedals whacked my right leg quite a few times as well, as evidenced by the scratches and bruises on my leg, and the tendon behind my right knee is not only bruised but sore to the touch (imagine throwing one leg over and back off of your bike probably every 5 minutes for 2.5 hours!). But, I am alive, I am in one piece and well, I have to think that my mountain bike skills got at least a smidge better after Sunday!

Point being... it was fun, despite the fear, despite the getting passed by most people out there. I was able to get extremely muddy, which is very fun, and I learned it is easier to pedal through large bodies of water and piles of mud than to get off and run the bike. The nerves were similar to when I did a rope swing with Derick back in September. We climbed up the rock, and I realized that once up there, the only way down was grab the rope and hang on (and let go) for dear life. (I did ok, minus a slight bit of whiplash). I committed to the Dirty Du and I was going to complete it, even if I did suck! Once I fully get over the soreness then I think I'll realize truly how much I loved it. I think. And that it will be a long time until I do another mountain bike event. At least, until I can ride it a few times.

Someone once said "Do something every day that scares you." We may not be able to do this EVERY day, but it is wise advice to adhere to, every so often. Out of the fear comes growth and this can only make us stronger. And who doesn't like to feel strong?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Clearwater 70.3 Worlds...A Steady Improvement!

Photo from

Clearwater 70.3 World Championships. I have done this race 4 times, all 4 times they have held it (2006-2009). I am on a steady progression of improvement, but at this rate, it will take me 6 more years to win the event! My past finishes have been:

2006 - 4:36 (18th)
2007 - 4:26 (16th)
2008 - 4:24 (14th)
2009 - 4:19 (you guessed it...12th)

I went into this event coming off of a great season, excited to compete, and ready to make a jump in my finishes. I was hungry for a Top 10 finish (ideally, Top 6) and I felt prepared to put up this performance. Unfortunately, the desired place was not in the cards, however as the race unfolded and I reflect upon it, I have nothing to be disappointed about.

I went with my parents (which is tradition, this trip gets them out of the Indiana November gloom!) and my husband Derick, and we all arrived Thursday and settled in. Friday was the typical pre-race meeting, transition bag preparations, bike racking and as much rest as possible. It was very convenient that we stayed in a small local motel which had a kitchen, so we enjoyed a pre-race dinner of spaghetti, salad and bread all in the comfort of the balcony off of our room. Good meal, small glass of wine, and relaxing evening, and I felt ready to roll the next morning.

I woke up on Saturday a bit sluggish; but, no worries. This is fairly common and not often a prediction of what will happen on race day. I arrived to the transition area (which was a 5 minute walk) with plenty of time to spare and the buzz of excitement got me ready to go. The swim had been diverted from the ocean to a small bay, due to choppy water conditions. I was actually pleased with this, as I tend to get pummeled a bit in the ocean. I suited up in my Zoot long-sleeved wetsuit and was ready for our 6:45 swim start; a short swim warmup and I felt ready to go. Beautiful morning! The sun came up just as the gun went off. Unfortunately, my speed did not go off quite as readily. I fell into the second swim pack, but never quite felt strong and relaxed. Small mistake on my part, the water was about 70-F and I wore a full sleeve suit. I get warm very quickly, and I think I would have been better off in my sleeveless suit. I used the full sleeves because I have been told they are 'faster', however, I think comfort is very important, and I may have been better off keeping my core body temp a bit lower. In any case, I tried not to let it get to me, but upon exiting the swim up the short ramp, I actually felt quite tired and a bit dizzy. I ran through and grabbed my T1 bag, but got to the change tent and realized I had the wrong bag! Probably only cost me about 20 seconds, but still frustrating. Good thing was, it lit a bit of a fire under me to hurry it up and keep my head in the game.

I got out onto the bike and knew that I had my work cut out for me. I was not sure how far ahead the lead women were, but I expected it was a couple of minutes based on how the swim felt. It took a few miles to feel my heart rate settle down, but I did relax and got into a good rhythm. At first, I thought I may have to write this off as 'one of those days' where nothing felt easy and the result would not be good. But, the legs seemed to come around and I started to feel stronger. I stuck to my regular nutrition plan, about 6 gels over the course of the 56 miles, and tried to keep my distance from the swarms of professional men that cycled by me early in the ride. The majority of the ride, I was alone, which was alright with me as it kept me out of the 'packs' that form on this course. Despite still being quite a ways behind the lead women, I finished the bike feeling strong and ready to see what my running legs had in store.

The transitions at this event are great. Volunteers grabbed my Orbea Ordu upon entering T2 and racked it for me, while I just bolted to my T2 bag and headed to the change tent. I quickly threw on my Jack and Adams visor, Zoot Ultra TT shoes, and Gu flask and bolted out of there for the 13 miles left of my season.

The run in Clearwater is, in my opinion, deceivingly tough. You run flat for about 2 miles then head up a long bridge, and run down the other side, to continue through about mile 4, when you head back up the bridge towards transition for the second loop. While most of the run is flat, this bridge gives you 4 pretty long hills and can really sneak up to zap your energy mid- to late-run. I started out at what felt like a strong yet controlled pace, still not feeling 'snappy' as I would have liked, but trying to just stay positive and focus on running some women down. I did not check too many mile splits, as I moreso wanted to find a smooth rhythm and a strong pace to settle into. From my perspective, a half-ironman run is really a "controlled hard" pace. It is right at the point where I feel if I pushed much harder, I may blow up, but a pace that seems sustainable for at least 6 miles; at which point, I'll try to pick up if I can. I came through the first loop having caught a few women, and I believe being told I was in 12th place about 6.5 miles in. Not where I wanted to be, but little I could do other than keep on running. I believe I came through the first half in about 41 minutes or so. Not quite the pace I was hoping for, but again, doing what the body was giving me on the day.

The second loop was pretty uneventful. I think I caught one or two more women but the next one up ahead was Kelly Couch, who was having a very solid day up ahead of me. I could tell I was putting time on her, but I was likely going to run out of real estate. At the 12 mile mark, I gave it absolutely everything I had left, looking at my watch and aiming to run the fastest possible last mile. I did not see the 13 mile mark, but I came to the finish line in just over 6 minutes, so that last mile really was dropping all that was left in me. Kelly had about 15 seconds on me at the finish, but I knew that I had left it all out there.

It was great to be greeted by my parents and Derick. The day was gorgeous, the race was solid and given how I felt, the result was good. I ended up 12th, which given my past finishes, I should not have been surprised! I wanted to be in the Top 10 (solid in the Top 10) but on this day, 12th was the best in me. The time was 4:19, just a minute off of what I did in Augusta but on a very legit course (fast swim in Augusta). Given this fact, I'd say this was PR for the distance, and was a 5 minute improvement on past Clearwater races.

I am sure you may be wondering about the 'drafting' out there. This is something I am so tired of thinking about, but to touch on it, yes, I know that it went on and I also know that I was nowhere near any of it. Maybe I just did not have the 'chance' to be up there mixed in, since my swim was mediocre today (about 90-seconds back from the top pack). But had I of been up there, I will say I would have had a hard time getting pulled along to a ridiculously fast bike split, something which I know I could not ever do on my own. I finished the bike in 2:25, the best I have done on this course, and I ran a 1:23, also a PR run for this course, on yes, tired legs (as they should be). Unfortunately this is what the event has come to; you are either up in the mix, or you are not. I was not. However, I cannot walk away upset at my finish, because I know that it was my finish, my race and my effort. Either the event will change (hillier course, more strict rule enforcement) or it will remain a fast albeit drafting event.

Needless to say, the weekend was a great one, and I have so much to be proud of. I feel I have finished my most successful season of my 8-year career as a professional, and I am excited at what 2010 has to hold. I have the most supportive network of people around me, from my sponsors (Zoot, Jack and Adams, Hill Country Running, 3 Cosas, Orbea, Gu, Suunto, Go with the Flo, Alcis, Advanced Rehabilitation, and Katalyst Multisport) to my incredible parents to my husband Derick to my amazing friends. The day in Clearwater did not feel as 'easy' as I would have liked, but that is the beauty of sport. You prepare your best, you do all you can in your power to be 110% on the day it matters, and despite how you feel, you get out there and throw it all on the line. You take the good days and run with them, but you get stronger from the days when it does not come easy. This event made clear what I need to focus on for 2010, but first in order is some down time, rest and recovery and focusing a little bit on my life outside of triathlon. And, of course, some reflection on what a great season '09 had been and excitement at what 2010 has in store.

As always, thanks for reading and have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Stop to appreciate all the good in your life.
And, jump into the local Turkey Trot. It makes the food and drink taste that much better.

Take care ~ Kelly

Monday, November 9, 2009

Off Season = Play Season

It's about that time for many of us. The end of the season is here or is right around the corner. In Austin, the end of the season never seems "finite" as it is not marked by the start of ski season as it was in Colorado. Here, many people take the "off-season" to train running or even to focus on a marathon. It's a great shift of focus, but not quite the same as truly taking some downtime and maintaining fitness by getting away from the swimming, cycling and running routine. That being said, I think it is so important to do something different during the off-season. Break from the routine. Explore some other activities. Back in 2006, when we moved to Austin, I got into climbing. Derick bought me some climbing shoes, a harness and all the basics that I needed. I got a local gym membership and for a month, I spent my evenings scrambling around the rocks, looking for the biggest holds and feeling pretty cool (until I realized there were 'real' climbers there who actually knew what they were doing). I finally got outside on real rock with our friend John a few months later, and boy did I suck. I recall getting to one spot and just standing there, trying to reach up for another hold with my leg quivering. To my credit, it was wet and very slippery so maybe I did not suck that bad, but it was pretty humbling. I guess the gym fooled me into believing I actually knew what I was doing. I was also doing some Bikram Yoga at the time, and I simply noticed that my body felt different (read: lean, dehydrated, water-loss- lighter). But, it was kind of cool to take a month or two in the winter here to explore some other activities. I was still running, cycling and swimming but much less and really just enough to make me feel good. You know, sane amounts of exercise.

Last winter, Derick and I got into mountain biking. Well, I got into mountain biking. Kind of. We ventured over to Jack and Adams, and they helped set me up with a beautiful, fancy and very bouncy Felt Virtue (2? 3?) full-suspension mountain bike. We took it out to Reimers Ranch a few times, about 45 minutes west of Austin, and we cruised around the endless trails. The terrain was perfect for a beginner like me (not like Intemann Trail in Colorado Springs that Derick took me on my first time on a mountain bike, when we were both carrying them the first 10 minutes because it was so technical, and I popped over my handlebars soon after, which yes, resulted in me... crying...) and we even went back a few times throughout the winter. Enough to get use out of my expensive bike? Of course not; but that is what THIS off-season is for!

Another thing I am going to explore in the coming weeks is Pilates, as in full on pilates classes with an instuctor and the 'machines'. I have done a handful of mat classes (to any Austin-ites out there, RAMSAY at PURE AUSTIN kicks ass for basic mat classes) but with my scoliosis, I tend to have frequent upper back pain which feels better upon doing solid regular core work. Pilates seems to go far beyond 'core work' in that it engages very deep muscles and seems to work entirely around posture and alignment.

So, you ask yourself, what can I DO in the off season? If you are blessed to have mountains within driving distance, SKI! Downhill, cross-country, whatever suites you most. Be careful, but realize that if you plan to be a triathlete for the next 10-20 years like many of us do, do you really want to never experience alpine skiing for fear of an injury? Not me. Again, just be smart, know your limits. If you happen to be in a mountain-less state as we are in Austin, get creative. Thus far I have experimented with climbing (albeit in a gym), Bikram Yoga classes, mountain biking and soon to come, Pilates. But remember, you do not have to completely ignore the basic 3 sports. I did train for my first ever marathon in the winter of 2007-2008, and as long as you can stay healthy in the off-season, this can be a nice change of pace while allowing you to maintain incredible fitness (or rather improve your fitness) while also training significantly less (time-wise).

Whatever you do, get away from your regular routine, relax a bit more and realize that when you do kick off your training for a goal event, the season is long. So even during the season, allow yourself some slack sometimes. Consistency is the key to improving but balance is the key to living!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Something to Sleep On

Life is interesting when we slow down a bit to enjoy what we are doing. Last night, I headed over to Stacy Pool, a small local (free) outdoor pool that is 33.3 yds long. It is heated in the winter, so it is currently about 80-degrees. With the time change, it was already starting to get dark at 5:45 pm, so a 6:00 swim was beautiful because when I started it was light and mid-way through my swim, night closed in. I was there to do a short 3K swim workout to complete a rather hard training day (short track workout in the morning, intervals on the bike mid-day and then a quality swim). Right when I got in, I felt spectacular. The water felt warm yet the cool air made it very comfortable. I felt like I almost 'floated' through a 1K warmup, to then start my set of 12x100s on 1:30 (goal being fast). I got through about 8 of them, feeling great and putting up very solid times, with only about 3 or 4 other people in the pool. I took a brief stop with 4 to go and I had noticed a very good swimmer had hopped into my lane. Derek Yorek, a fellow triathlete here in Austin and phenomenal runner, was in the lane next to us, so I 'invited' Derek and Bruce (my lane mate) to hop into the last 4x100s. We clipped them off, and since I swim solo all of the time, I realized how nice the company was on this beautiful evening.

I rested after the set, enjoying the leisurely pace of my workout and chatted with Bruce for awhile. What an interesting person he turned out to be! He was a swimmer in college, so we had that in common, but he went on to tell me that he has a PhD from University of Texas where he studied human biology, kinesiology and brain wave activity. This is something I was very interested in at University of Illinois, what they called 'psychophysiology'. He works for a company called "Intellibed", which at first may sound gimmick-ey, but essentially he and his partners in the business are trying to get the customer the best sleep possible via their product. Check out the site and product. When you that the company is backed by educated, knowledgable people it makes the product much more valid. I guess what I found interesting is that I met him, just a day after Derick had put an article on Durata's site regarding the importance of sleep.

I left the pool at around 7:00, feeling refreshed and invigorated. Not only because I had completed a quality, satisfying swim, but I realized how interesting people can be. It is so easy to rush through our day, complete our tasks and simply want to get through it all. But, every so often, it's good to slow down and enjoy what you are doing; talk to a 'stranger'. You never know what you may learn! Now, I think it's time for a short nap... just 20-30 minutes, of course. :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Longhorn 70.3...Still Something to Celebrate

Photo Courtesy of Mario Cantu

It is a cold, dreary, rainy Monday morning in Austin today; the morning after Longhorn 70.3. All of those whom competed, spectated and volunteered are probably quite happy that this weather did not hit 24 hours earlier. On the contrary, we lucked out with an absolutely perfect day for yesterdays event of 2500 people.

Derick (husband and fellow racer today) dropped me off at the lake (or) swim-to-bike transition at about 5:45, and he then drove himself to the arena to park and take a shuttle. Nice husband he is...he did not back to the lake (start area) for over an hour! Seeing that my start time was 7:30 AM, I would have been flipping out had I of rolled in there at 7:00. It was a pretty dark and chilly (but not cold) morning. In all reality, it was ideal weather. The swim was wetsuit legal for both pros and amateurs, so I put on my sleeveless Zoot wetsuit around 7:00 and headed to the water. I often opt for sleeveless in any water temperatures above 70-degrees, as I get warm pretty easily. Once the Run Far gang corralled the pros back behind the timing mats, we made our way into Decker Lake for the in-water start promptly at 7:30.

There was no real 'start line', so when the countdown started ("10, 9, 8") and everyone (men and women together) began to inch forward (with comments like, "It's not me, it's the current!") I had to laugh when Joanna Zeiger yelled out, "OH, come on, guys! Seriously!" She had a point, but what could be done?! I started inching as well. I need all the help I can get with the starts, especially with men. Unfortunately, I had a horrible start, got pretty buried and pushed by the crowd into the first buoy. I've got great, steady speed in the water, but when it comes to fast, brutal, crowded starts, I do not fare so well. I finally found some clean water after about 5 minutes and settled in, as usual, solo! The swim was very legit this year, but I did not ever feel great. I just tried to keep on pushing, getting stronger as I went, and actually looking forward to the bike (my how things have changed over the years).

The big question I found myself asking as I came to the finish was, wetsuit strippers or not? In Canada, I used them and they could not get the suit off of my feet. So this time, I ran by them, in part because I knew I had a few women ahead of me and I did not want to sit down. However, I got to my bike and fumbled for what seemed like minutes with getting my suit off my ankles. Note to self: Cut the ankles higher. I got onto my Orbea Ordu, still only the second race with the new bike, rather, shall we say, angry? (putting it nicely). I knew there were a few women ahead of me, and I also knew they were strong on the bike. I put my head down and just went, as hard as I could within reason. I stuck to my regular nutrition plan, plenty of water and about 6 gels in the course of the 2.5 hrs on the bike. I know for some professional women, a 2:30 bike split is nothing to write home about. But it is all about improving within onself. Last year, I did a 2:39. So this year, I will take 2:32 and run with it. There is something about my Orbea in which I feel I can truly push power that I have not been able to do in the past, very comfortable in the TT position. I exited my bike, headed out on the run, and heard that I was in 9th or 10th place; not at all where I had hoped to be. But, what can you do except keep your chin up, stay focused and execute a plan? That I did.

I ran through the Luedecke Arena (Keith Jordan had the finish line indoors in the arena, a very cool setup!) for the 3-loop run course. I could see a few women up ahead, but I knew that the top few women were quite a ways up on me. I definitely had my work cut out for me, but the legs felt strong. I pushed out for the first few miles, up and down (the course was not too often flat, mostly rolling hills and some dirt/rocky sections) and moved into about 6th place after the first loop. Better, but still not where I wanted to be. The crowd support was amazing! My husband Derick said the same thing that I did, it was so motivating and awesome to hear our names by so many people cheering. I was feeling good, checking my mile splits occasionally, and knew I was running about as fast as I could without blowing up. I stayed on top of my nutrition, which was a gel flask with 4 gels in it. I tried to sip on it about every 2 miles or so. I could tell each time that Joanna passed me in the opposite direction, I was gaining on her, but probably not quickly enough to catch her. And the amazing bike split of 2:16 that Heather Jackson threw down was very tough to gain time on. But, I kept plugging away. With about 2 miles to go, I started to pick it up a bit more, and at mile 12, I just put it all out there. I knew that noone was in my sight, but I like to know I have left it all on the line. I approached the arena, ran through the finish chute and raised my arms in thanks to all those cheering. There is always something to be thankful for after finishing any race.

It was not the finish that I had been seeking at this race, a huge hometown event. I ended up 4th, only about 1 minute out of 3rd, but with a 1:19.45 run split, a PR for me. My race overall was 4:21, which is another PR overall time next to Augusta. I cannot complain. We cannot control who shows up, who is going to have a stellar day, and what our bodies are going to give to us on race day. We can control how we react to situations, what our attitude is and what kind of fight is within us each and every time. I never like to make excuses; and today, in Austin, I did all I could to finish my absolute best. The support of the crowd, my family who was here (my mom, sister Robin and 6-year old nephew Will), my husband Derick racing, and all of those in Austin who have helped us out the past 3 years made this a great day. A big thanks to all of the Jack and Adams crew for their hard work in helping this race come together; especially Adam, the announcer. I think that Adam expended more energy than any of us racing!

And a big congrats to all who competed on Sunday. The vibe of this event (ie: Jamie and Andrea at their disco aid station!) truly epitomizes Austin. Keeping it weird, but at the same time, extremely supportive of each and every competitor. If you have not raced in Austin before, put it on your 2010 calendar!

Thanks for reading. Onward to Clearwater in 3 weeks! El Season Finale.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Augusta 70.3

Augusta was a bit of a 'last minute' race. I knew when I did not finish Canada that I would want to do something else. Ironman Wisconsin was just too soon, and the timing for this seemed pretty perfect. The bonus was that Derick's parents live in Greenwood, SC, only 1 hour from Augusta, so I could wrap a visit in with them along with doing a 70.3 race. Always a plus! I flew in on Friday, and had a very smooth day of travel. I arrived to Augusta early afternoon, got my little Kia Rio rental car (note: bike boxes DO fit into the back seat of tiny cars!) and headed to my hotel. The rest of the day really consisted of nothing more than building my bike and laying around my hotel room. It was awesome. I had dinner with some friends at Nacho Mama, a great little mexican place in downtown, enjoying a tasty margarita to wash it down with.

Saturday I awoke to some gloomy, rainy weather, so I opted to do a short run then eat breakfast. It cleared up by about 10, so I headed out on my bike for 20-30 minutes just to loosen up the legs and make sure the bike was in working order. All felt great. I then found myself with about 6 hours to spare! Lovely! I again proceeded to lounge in the room for awhile. Watched TV, computed, snacked for lunch. I went to the pro meeting at 4:00, but opted to not rack my bike; we had an 'option' to do this. There were thunderstorms predicted overnight, which hit us VERY hard, so I am very glad I kept the Orbea safe in my room until race morning. I had dinner with Fred and Donna (Derick's parents) at Macaroni Grill (salmon, orzo, and a Peroni... same meal I had before Redman in 2007! superstitious? maybe...) and was back in the room by 7:00 or so. Feeling very relaxed and excited to race!

Sunday morning I woke pretty easily and headed to transition area VERY early
. Transporting myself, I wanted to be safe with my time. I frequently have a 'transporter', that being my parents, Derick, or a friend not racing. I had to be responsible for ME! Oh so stressful. But, I made it there by 5:30 or so and got everything set up. We had a 1-mile walk or shuttle to the swim start. I waited for the shuttle at about 6:30 but it was not coming, so I opted to walk the 1-mile. BAREFOOT! I had my swim gear with me and nothing else (goggles, cap, and Zoot speedsuit) so away I went walking, in the dark, towards the start, some on dirt, some on rocks. I used to like to walk barefoot as a child; I believed it made me 'tough'. I guess I have not changed much since then.

The start was quite a scene! There was some jazz music playing, and it was very lit up and had a 'festive' feeling. They had a large dock jutting out into the Savannah River for us to start on, and the pros had a 'dive start' for the swim. How unique! When we wandered down, I tried to position myself right next to Pip Taylor and Laura Bennett, as I knew they would be the 2 fastest swimmers. We were off promptly 4 min after the men. We had a favorable current, so all you had to do was keep up with it! I was able to stay with them for a few minutes, then they gapped me a bit. I exited the swim in a comfortable 3rd place, just 20 seconds behind Laura, which pleased me considering she is an ITU specialist. Onto the bike...

I have been on a new Orbea Ordu for only 2 weeks, and I was excited to try this out in a race. I felt very strong from the start, but I did make a mistake which I knew going into it; I did not take enough gels with me. I had a Gu flask filled with 4 gels, and I had one stashed in a pocket. This is only 500 calories, and I can often take up to 700 on the bike. Stupid mistake. But, thankfully the aid stations had PowerGels, so I grabbed 2 of them about halfway through and was good to go. I held my position for awhile, but got passed by 2 women on the bike. I tried to keep them in sight, but for the majority of this 56 miles, we were all quite spread out. The course was deceivingly a bit tough, as it was not 'hilly' but not 'flat' and the wind picked up as we progressed. I really enjoyed it. There were quite a few false flats, which entailed a lot of gradual uphill work. On the fast sections, I got as low and little as possible and tried to conserve. By the time we headed back towards transition, I was (as usual) READY to get off the bike! But, the Orbea (and my legs) served me well, as I was right in the mix (5th place) coming off the bike.

I flew through T2 and was off on the run. They had a great transition area, with blue carpeting over much of it for us to run on. I came out feeling very strong, and I could see women in sight right off the bat. Yay! I had my 4 gels in hand and was ready to try to run some people down. My legs felt quite strong, but I try not to get too wrapped up in this the first mile or so...I just try to find a steady rhythm. One key thing in races is to keep your composure. (this lesson I'll learn fully in a few more miles). I plugged along the streets of downtown Augusta, which were lined with spectators; it was awesome! Great job to the crew at Premier Events Management on this run course. We did 2 loops whereby the fans could see us multiple times. By mile 6, I had moved into 3rd place. I saw Derick's father Fred at this point, which was nice to hear his encouragement. By about mile 8 or 9, I finally closed the gap on Laura Bennett. It seemed I was able to pass her feeling strong, but she is one tough girl and as I looked back, she was sticking right to me! I joked to her about 'loving sprint finishes' (but in my mind was like 'shit, she does those all the time!'). She is an awesome person and great competitor. We ran shoulder to shoulder for a few miles, which started to become rather painful. At mile 12, a small group cheered loudly for me. I have to admit, I got excited and surged. I believed that I had a 1-mile 'sprint' in me, and this was a not-so-smart move. At about mile 12.5, Laura passed me back and I thought 'damn...I went too early'. I did not give up, but by the time we turned the last corner, about 100 yds from the finish, she had a good gap on me and I was pretty waxed. I ran into the wonderful finish area, greeted by so many spectators, and despite being 6 seconds too slow today, I have to say I was one happy camper.

Final thoughts? I noticed that the week of the event,
a few 'big names' popped onto the list. I will not say this makes me more nervous, but it makes me realize that I will have to up my game to really be a top contender. In all honesty, I love it. I love knowing that there are some bad-ass women stepping up to the start line, and it will take a great performance to be at the top that day. I fully believe that on any day, anyone is beatable. I went into this event with my game face on, and I think the bad luck in Canada contributed to some added fire in my belly. And while the finish is awesome, and the PR is a huge accomplishment, there is nothing better than walking away knowing that I am finally seeing results from the years of work I have put in. Today, finally, I found myself in CONTENTION off of the bike. A strong run split put me in the mix for first... not the frequent 4th or 5th, due to a weak bike. I have to give a huge thanks to the other women out there racing, notably to Laura, for being a damn tough competitor who never gave up; and also good friend Desiree, as I am always trying hard to keep her behind me on the bike! We have to appreciate our competition, because if not for them, we would not have the motivation to constantly be upping our own game.

Also a huge thanks to those who have supported me all year long, Zoot Sports, Hill Country Running, Jack and Adams, Karen at Go with the Flo, Cecilia at 3 Cosas, and AJ and his crew at Advanced Rehabilitation. I finally feel that years of hard work are paying off, and I firmly believe that this is the tip of the iceburg! Take home lesson... TAKE WHAT THE DAY GIVES YOU and enjoy every minute. Those spectacular days of racing are sometimes few and far between, so take them, run with them and let them propel you forward. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

why NOT race...?

After a pretty horrendous week in Canada, and a slow recovery from what I am going to say was Swine Flu so that I will now officially be 'immune', I began to feel more like myself this past weekend. Well, I actually started this a few days ago, so now this would be LAST weekend... Labor Day weekend. Derick and I went out for a ride on Saturday and I tried to stay on his wheel for about 15 minutes. Seeing that it did not cook me too terribly bad, I decided... 'ah, what the hey! I'll race Austin Tri on Monday!'. I had a hard time not doing this, especially seeing that I was not able to 'sit back, relax and watch it' with the extreme fatigue and feelings of elation I had hoped for from the previous weekend (ie: not finishing Canada). So, Sunday at the pro panel, I decided to enter and hope for the best!

This was a completely unplanned race, so for some reason, I don't see it worthy of a 'full on' race report. I have to think that those get so old sometimes... so, I'll just do a brief synopsis of the event. I got up Monday morning pretty easily, along with Derick who was racing too!, and we meandered down the hill to Auditorium Shores for the 7am start. Nice morning, but muggy and warm as you could imagine. But, that is Austin and we are all used to it. We were off right at 7:00 (from what I heard from Dan with High Five Events, it was PROMPTLY at 7:00!) and we began a-swimmin'. I quickly got into my typical no-mans-land (or, let's call it "Kelly's Land") and proceeded to swim the 1500 solo. After about 5 minutes, I thought, "Oh shit. I feel weak. No snap. This was a bad idea." to which I countered my thought, "To bad missy. You came out here and you'll race and you'll love it and you'll do fine." Guess you could say I am pretty hard on myself, especially when racing! I definitely have a 'game face'.

Out of swim behind speedy girl Sierra Snyder, and onto the bike, whereby she and I seemed to leapfrog one another for about 1.5 of the 3 laps. She is one strong swimmer-cyclist! Watch for her in Kona. I was feeling rather decent, though I will say pushing myself extremely hard (I think I was taking out my anger about Canada out there!) and thinking "It'll either be great or I'll blow up bigtime." Derick passed me about 1.5 miles into it and was looking great. I could still see a few women behind me, but was not sure if they were gaining ground. Come to find out, they were...I came off the bike still in first! but, Des was right on my heels. She had a solid bike, as did Mina Pizzini from Dallas. They both gained about 2 minutes on me on the bike. But, I kind of expected that... Derick racing! 6th OA in Open :)

Onto the run! And I was so excited, I forgot my gel! Crap. But nothing to do at this point, I was well on my way out of transition and I could hear Des's 'pitter patter' of feet behind me. I know that she has been doing a lot of running, and she is already speedy so I had no doubt that she would be strong on the run. We exited transition and took the long run on the grass, out onto the road and began lap 1 of 2. I actually held her off for about 2-3 miles, then she swiftly passed me to which I think I responded, "It's yours. I don't have another gear. Go for it." By no means was I giving up, but I was truly shocked that my body was giving me this much after the past week, and I knew that I was not physically up for a battle of a race. I was pleased that she did still only have me by about 30 seconds at the finish, so I was good for a solid 2nd place, right ahead of fellow Austin-er Terra Castro, which was great to see her right there as well. race report? I guess I got carried away. I guess the take home lesson from this one is, don't be afraid to JUST RACE because it is fun! I knew that I was not going into this optimally (rested? yes... a bit weak? yes, too) but I just wanted to get right back on the horse from Canada. I knew that this was a 'backyard' race, and I love to support Jack and Adams, so in my opinion watching it would have been so much harder. And, it was not easy racing it! I am so glad I did it, and pushed my worries of "Am I 'well' enough?" out of my mind. To top it off, Derick finished in a solid 6th place among a very strong field of men! So fun to have him out there racing. Congrats to all those finishers out there on Monday, it was a hot day and no matter when you were running, it was challenging. Also, a special THANKS to Jamie and Andrea at Hill Country Running for their support, as well as Cecilia at 3 Cosas, Zoot, Jack and Adams , AJ at Advanced Rehab and Karen at Go With the Flo (my acupuncturist). You all make this entire process a lot of fun and a bit easier on me, so I cannot thank you enough.

Thanks for reading and don't be afraid to JUST GO RACE! Throw aside your doubts, worries or fears. We'll always have them, but best to just jump into the game and give it what you've got. That's living. :)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Ironman Canada... A Little Hurdle in the Journey

Try as we might, we simply cannot control for all things with our lives. We can prepare our best, we can cover all of our bases... we can 'expect the unexpected' but until the unexpected happens, we have to just push on assuming all is good and as planned. And when situations do arise that are less than what we had hoped for, the question becomes, What will you DO about it? How will you react? It is in this that truly makes us who we are and also allows us to be constantly learning, growing and improving.

I have had so many amazingly supportive friends who have already contacted me asking 'what happened?' in IM Canada. While I am the last person to come up with excuses, sometimes it's not so much an 'excuse' but a 'shit happens' situation. I went into my first Ironman as prepared as I could possibly be, extremely relaxed, and amped at the totally new challenge I was about to face. Confident, yet realistic. Additionally Derick was there, which is a nice rarity with us, as I usually solo it to races or meet my parents there. We were ready for an awesome trip to Penticton, BC with some time in Chelan, Washington; not only to do this race but to enjoy the beauty of a new trip and the WINERIES! Oh, the wineries!

Well, the wineries were not to be. I started feeling crummy on Wednesday afternoon, but with simply a strong headache, I thought nothing of it. The headache moved into Thursday, but still... just the travel. No big deal. Thursday we arrived to Penticton and after a short bike and swim, we went for dinner, some 6 hours since having eaten and I could not force myself to eat my delectable meal of salmon, rice and veggies. I may lose my appetite when tapering (simply due to less activity), but I can ALWAYS EAT! Long story short, Friday was no better, and I realized then that I was definitely not 'well'. The headache and lack of appetite turned into nausea, slight fever, body aches and again a SEVERE inability to eat. I tried to force things down on Friday and Saturday, realizing that if I did get better, at least I would be stocked up nutritionally. I went to bed on Saturday night with a fever of 100.5, after gagging down a dinner of ... rice.

I was just so damn determined to do this race. By Sunday, I was fully aware that it was likely not in the cards to finish, but damned if I was not going to swim. I know I can get through the swim! I was raised in water! I started the morning very, very relaxed. As I got into the swim, I found myself not feeling 'strong' but also not feeling awful; definitely a bit weak. It was beautiful! I did not even position myself next to the stronger swimmers, because I knew that I should not and could not push that hard... I simply put it on cruise control and tried to enjoy it, strong and steady. I came out and hopped onto the bike.

The big question here was, could I stomach food? I got out there and was doing alright with gels and some Gu Chomps. However, by mile 65-70, I was forcing it in and my stomach was reacting badly. I came through one aid station and stopped to go potty... could not go... I could not 'rid' my stomach of anything, which made it all worse. So, I carried on... stopped again at the special needs bags and debated quitting. I had this retching pain in my stomach, up under my ribs. I just thought that this HAD to work itself out! So, I climbed back aboard the bike and kept plugging away. Oddly enough, at about mile 90, I started to feel good (the climb at Yellow Lake) and was passing people. Yes, it was happening! A turnaround! However, it was very short lived. I finally descended into Penticton, and I was having to sit up on my bars because the TT position hurt too badly. Upon dismounting into T2, it hurt my stomach to run. I jogged in, grabbed my bike-run bag and spent about 5 minutes in the tent. I was so far already! But, I knew I probably did not have much more in me. But QUIT? I just could not do it. I slowly ventured out on the run.

Derick saw me between miles 1 and 2, and as he said, my belly up by my ribs was sticking out. Every step hurt, but again I thought maybe it will go away. I was resigned to a walk by mile 3 and up through mile 6, it was mostly a brisk walk, as any attempt at even a slow jog and the pain got worse. Any gel consumption and it got worse. I finally stopped and got into the ambulance, was taken to medical and spent about 2 hours there. They had to give me IV's to rehydrate and gave me magnesium to help calm the stomach. I finally saw Derick at about 6:00, when we went got out of there.

And there stands my official first Ironman. Well, I will not really call this my official 'first one' since I did not finish it. I wanted so badly to finish it, and I could have yes walked for another 21 miles, but my biggest worry was that there was something seriously wrong in my stomach and I could be making it worse. I was already questioning how 'tough' I was to start today, or how 'stupid and stubborn' I was. There is a big difference between being tough and being stupid. Luckily, since I came out of this in one piece, I think I can say I was the former. We had planned to stay in Canada until Tuesday or Wednesday, however for fear that I may need to see a doctor, we headed back to Washington on Monday. It was not until really today (Thursday) that I started to truly feel 'normal' again, and I am able to eat fairly regularly, without any nausea.

All in all, yes, it sucked. And I did get very sad when I was packing my bike back up, it seemed the 'emotion' kind of hit me. But, what here was GOOD? Well, I did have my first IM experience. I experienced the HYPE (oh, the hype! it really is bigger than any other race!), and I have now actually ridden 112 miles... my longest ride before this race was 100 miles. I have seen the course, which was by far the most beautiful consecutive 112 miles I have ever seen, and I know the climbs (I loved the climbs!). I got to spend a week with my husband in a beautiful area that was new for both of us (whom, by the way, could not have been more supportive). I have always wondered how truly slow I might be in an IM bike... well, now I know on a pretty bad day with a few stops, I was just over 6 hrs... so on a good day, it cannot be THAT bad! I really have a lot to be thankful for. I got to the start line healthy (well, physically speaking) and I know I was prepared to put up a great effort. My body had other things in mind, and I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. At the moment, I am not quite sure what that reason is... but, I will figure things out and move forward. Life really is so short. This is just one little, tiny hurdle to jump over. I guess it's these unexpecteds that keep things interesting and keep us on our toes.

Thanks for reading, and thank you again to all those who showed your support and concern. It truly means so much to me, and it makes this journey all the more fun to know that there are those of you out there who care.

Monday, August 24, 2009

3 Cosas Massage

I just finished up with my FINAL massage before Canada!

Just a little shout out here to Cecilia Llanos, who has been helping me out immensely this season. She opened her own business awhile back, 3 Cosas , which is Massage, Yoga and Mental Skills training. Cecilia is attentive and always hits those areas that I need working on... for me, that is often my upper back and my quads. I have had scoliosis since I was young, and while it has not limited my physical activity, I frequently get huge knots in my back right where the curvature is (near my shoulder blade). Yoga and pilates help, but this summer I have been lacking the energy to do much of that, so massage has been a great supplement to my regimen to keep me moving comfortably. The higher cycling volume this year has contributed to also very knotted, fatigued quads, so she is great at working on this as well. The added riding in my aero bars this summer too has made the back problem even worse; I have to hope that 112 miles on Sunday will not cause me pain, but all I can do is try to shift position as much as possible. The hillier course will be good for this.

So, if you are in Austin and looking for a great massage therapist, check out Cecilia; additionally, her rates are very reasonable. Never a bad time in this economy. :) While it is easy to overlook getting regular massages, I think it is very important, especially when you are training more than you have in the past. They can get to things that we cannot do via simple stretching. And of course, it just feels good, too.

Friday, August 21, 2009

78745: Keeping Austin Weird, One Neighborhood at a Time...

If you know Austin, you know Austin's motto (see title). In our new little 'hood, the neighbors are doing their best to uphold the Austin lifestyle...

I was making dinner last night at about 8:00 when went outside to do something... I cannot recall exactly what, but I saw this HUGE turtle moving quickly into our neighbors yard across the street. I freaked out and yelled to Derick to come see, and I then called up Courtney who lives across the street to 'come quick there is this big ass turtle that is walking right up to their house!' I heard her say something about 'oh that's Hank', but by this point I was in her yard and then she and her husband Mark (and daughter Freya) had all come outside already. What exactly was I talking about?
Come to find out his name is TANK. He lives about 3 houses down from us, near the end of the street and his owners also have 20 chickens, a few dogs, a parakeet and a baby turtle that can be held in your hand. He likes bananas, as you can see here; when Tank's dad Brian told us this, I ran inside so that I could feed Tank. Derick was very worried that he may run away, so he picked Tank up to carry him back home; but, he did not get too far as he was very heavy and his reaction to fear is to pee. Right when Derick picked him up, Tanks's dad showed up (and proceeded to pee on Brian, not Derick).So, this was the excitement for the night for us. I have to say that my life has been rather boring this week, really. Starting to rest for Canada but blah, blah blah... training gets quite boring to hear about. I have been taking advantage of a pretty quiet week, as work has been minimal and training has scaled back, to get in some naps when I so feel the need. We take off next Wednesday, fly to Seattle then drive from Seattle to Penticton. We'll stay overnight in Chelan, WA, which is supposed to be beautiful. Quite an adventure ahead of me; but for all of my friends doing the Leadville 100 Trail Run tomorrow morning, I have to say that their task seems much more daunting than does mine! Puts things into perspective... on that note, good luck to Cindy, Jack and Joseph in Leadville! Um, what kind of advice do you say for a 100 mile trail race? I guess, 'just keep on running...', kind of like Forest.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

'Recovery Smoothie' a-la Derick

I finished up my 12 mile 'long' run today around 10 am (so nice that 12 miles is 'long'!). I walked into the house, and Derick has been Mr. Motivated this week. He had done his run at 6:30 with Gilbert, which is something I cannot recall ever happening... that is, he finishing a run on a Sunday morning before I started mine. Anyhoo, I walk into the house a bit after 10 and he is cookin' up a big breakfast. He says to me, "I have a recovery smoothie in the fridge for you!" Nothing sounds better after a long time in 85-degrees with 80% humidity! I am imagining a nice big blend of blueberries, mango, yogurt, and who knows what else. So thirst quenching! I open the fridge to see a pitcher of orange drink with mangos floating in it. Smoothie? I look at him and I said, "Hmm... does this smoothie have champagne in it?" He just smiled. Ah well, it was Simply Orange OJ with extra calcium and fresh mangos. What's a little champagne going to hurt you? :) After a few very big gulps of water, I moved on to my recovery smoothie.

Oh, and breakfast included redskin potatoes, eggs scrambled with bell peppers, onion, and fresh sausage, fresh and very tasty mango and applewood smoked bacon! If that ain't a recovery meal, I don't know what is. That is after we went to the new Black Sheep Lodge, a small pub off of Lamar which is rather close to our house, upon Jack and Stacy's recommendation (Saturday night). We tried their burger, as it was ranked in the Texas Monthly's '50 Best Burgers in Texas' (#27, to be exact). So after a huge burger on Saturday night, then a breakfast with both bacon and sausage, I have to say I am at my quota of meat for a couple of days. Which is all good, Derick's birthday is tomorrow (guess how old? YOUNGER THAN ME!) and I have a veggie-based recipe in the works. Unfortunately, Sugar Mama's bakery on 1st street is closed on Mondays, so I'll have to find a good backup for his cake...

And finally, I finished the weekend off with a nice 30-min pilates class at Pure Austin gym. If you have not tried Pilates, I highly recommend it. However, it ALL depends upon the quality of the instructor. Ramsay Wall is AWESOME. She is enthusiastic, knowledgable and she keeps the class moving. It's fun to do a session whereby your HR does not rise and you are not pouring sweat; but, you come out of there just feeling stronger; I do it mostly for my scoliosis, which causes upper back pain, especially after a lot of cycling or a long run. So... try something new, do a Pilates class! But, ask recommendations on good instructors.

On that note...I hope ya'll enjoyed the weekend. Oh and by the way, here in Austin, the hot-streak continues...check it out:

The National Weather Service reports that Austin, Texas broke its all-time monthly heat record in July. Records in Austin date back to 1854. San Antonio also had its hottest month since records began there in 1885. San Antonio also broke its record for the number of 100-degree days in a month.
(reported on Monday, August 10th, 2009)

Um, when you are a big fan of cold weather, and an even bigger fan of skiing, this is not great news. This is why we are sucking it up and making the best of it; why not train for triathlon all the time, since there is sure as hell no other cold-weather outdoor activities calling your name, tempting you away from the training regimen? In all honesty, I figured that if I am going to take the insane jump of doing an Ironman, better to do it now while we live here and we are not tempted by other things to be doing (such as downhill skiing, xc skiing, mountain biking, ...essentially, playing in the mountains). And, on THAT note, I cannot imagine how Canada will not at least SEEM cool to me! But, if it is warm, I have to say bring it on, because I sure have had the heat training!

Happy Sunday evening, and Happy Birthday Derick. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Know your limits. And drink a cold beer.

I am through the longest weekend that I'll do leading up to Canada. I have to say, the volume is not terribly impressive and definitely not ideal, but it is all that I a) have time for and b) feel that I can physically do in these conditions in Austin. I consider myself fairly good at handling the heat, but when you are out in it for about 9 hours in 2 days, that is just plain tough. I kicked things off on Friday with a 5000 meter swim. That is the longest swim of the summer for me! :) I swim on my own and usually do about 4000-4500 3x/week. On Friday, I went to a local 50-meter pool and did my typical 1000 'warmup and think about what kind of set I'll do today' easy. After 900, I figured I should just swim a straight 3000-3800; that being, at least 3000 and if I am feeling particularly ambitious, 3800 just to simulate the 'real' distance of race day. So, I chatted with my friend Peg (owner of Farm to Market grocery here in South Austin, a regular at any south Austin pool between 9 and 11 am) and then said, "Alright Peg, I am not coming up for air for at least 45 more minutes." She looked at me like I was crazy. Then I told her what I was doing. She made an interesting comment. She said, "You know, I think the reason that I have never wanted to race anything (triathlons, running, etc) is because I don't want to win, but I don't want to lose either." Think about it... I think this is something we can all relate to on some level.

Anyhoo, away I went, for 53:15 and 3800 meters! Not spectacular but on tired legs, I was pleased with myself. That kicked off my weekend. Ya-hoo! Saturday was an early one, as I met a friend for a 100 mile ride to Johnson City. Again; this was my 3rd ride of 100 miles and while I was considering 110, I just could not do it. It was the hardest one (in terms of power) that I have done, and of course it was another 100+ degree day in Austin. I also had NOT yet run off of a ride of over 90 miles. So, today was the day. Shockingly, Derick threw his running shoes on and headed out with me. We were off, 4 miles around our house, and Derick told me something I needed to hear: I go out too fast! We finished this in about 6:42 pace, though at the end, I was a bit shaky and my legs were cramping. No doubt I was highly lacking in sodium, but I finished it and have to say, the feeling kind of freaked me out. Limits? I knew there was no way that at 1:00 in the afternoon, I could possibly run more than this in this weather. I could have maybe gone to a treadmill, but I really just wanted to get this workout in the bag.

We relaxed Saturday afternoon, watched TV and polished off some P Terrys cheeseburgers, fries ($5.50 for a double cheeseburger and fries!) and a nice cold beer for an early evening. Seriously; after water, gels, and coke, the beer was MUCH needed and as I say, everything in moderation.

Sunday was an early morning, up for toast and coffee and out the door by 7:15 for what was meant to be 20-22 miles of running. I did 45 minutes on my own, and then met up with Derick, James and James-Brad at Jack and Adams for their 14 miles. I NEVER run with others, but today I figured it may be a good way to knock out ~2.5 hours more quickly than solo-ing it. First 30 minutes with them, I could tell I felt very mediocre. I took a gel at about 1 hr 15 min into the run; which I thought made me feel better, but then we hit some hills and I fell back a bit. By 1 hr 50 minutes, we hit another much larger hill and I was walking. I took my second gel and then realized again that whole LIMITS thing again, damnit. I was just toast. We made many frequent stops for water, but Derick and James went ahead while myself and Brad finished up the last 30 minutes or so together, at a very very modest pace. I did end up doing 2.5 hours, though I have no idea how many miles it was which is likely a good thing... thus officially ended my biggest trainign weekend ever, at about 8.5 hours.

Again, probably not ideal. I am sure that ideally heading into an Ironman, I would have liked to have done a ride of 115+ miles and a run the next day of 24+ miles, but it just was not in the cards. I was completely wiped out on Sunday, got a great meal in me and took a much needed nap. But I think that between Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I did all that I could do and I also walked that fine line of 'enough but not too much'. In these conditions in Austin, you have to be VERY cautious of this line.

And on that note, onward! Time to bring it all down a notch and get rested up. Especially if you are dealing with extreme conditions training, know your limits and don't be afraid to back it off. Finishing is a good thing. This is what I am going to be telling myself going forward, too!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Steelhead 70.3 & Swimming with Turtles

I am still in Indiana, at my parents cabin, savoring the last few hours here. This place is true heaven; it is tucked in the hills of Southern Indiana, on about 100 acres, surrounded by forest, with a small private lake right off the deck. I was able to wrap in a few days visit here with a race this weekend, which makes for a mildly stressful (race) but in turn very relaxing trip away from Austin. Not to mention, I have had about 5 days out of the heat. Additionally, I get to swim in their lake every day. The water is the clearest they have seen it in 6 years, and I can stand on their deck and see anywhere from 3-5 turtles at one time floating on the surface! Luckily, none are snapping.

I opted to do Steelhead 70.3 about 3 weeks ago. My mom said "Find a race in Michigan to do!" Little did she know, I would do just that! I had no idea that this race was putting up a pro prize purse this year, and seeing that it was 4 weeks out from IM Canada, I figured it would be a great little tune-up. I tried some things I'll do in Canada, including 1) Zipp 808 clinchers (courtesy of Zoot team) which worked great, and 2) supplies in a cut open water bottle on my bike frame for a flat. Much to my surprise, all stayed in tact and the setup seemed to work well. I did not have the time to figure out my nutrition setup yet (ie: using a bento box, likely) so on that, I will have to wing it in Canada.

I arrived in Thursday to Indianapolis, spent a night here at 'the cabin' and then Friday my mom and I drove up to Benton Harbor. Beautiful drive! Indiana is so green and the weather so cool right now, actually made me miss Indiana. The logistics seemed a bit whacky when we arrived, as I did packet pickup, then back to the college for a meeting at 4, then to dinner then at about 7:00 we checked out where we would go in the morning (the transition area). It was a very pretty setting (I am still shocked that Lake Michigan is actually a 'lake', looked very much like an ocean to me) and despite being pretty tired by 8:00 pm from the hectic-nes of the day, I slept well for the 3:45 AM wake up call.

We headed out the door at about 5:00 to the race, all checked out of our hotel and ready to go. Arrived early, set up my transition area in the dark; noticed that when I spun my rear wheel, it stopped. Hmm... not good. I found a mechanic who fixed it, but I also noticed when racing every time I stood, I heard a 'swoosh, swoosh' so I need to get that figured out before Canada. We were off promptly at 7:02, 2 minutes behind the men.

Swim: The swim was what I call 'bouncy'. We did not go too far out in the ocean (sorry, um... 'lake') but there were big rolling waves. I would sight and either see a big swell, or perhaps catch a glimpse of the buoy. So, you needed to sight frequently or you could end up getting pushed into the shore. I felt alright; though this swim felt long (one straight line). I was just off the back of the lead pack, ended with a 25-something which was OK. I mostly swam on my own. I tend to always do this. I like my space; though, the drafting would have been nice. :)

Bike: T1 was a transition, rather long run to the bike but I got there and headed out as quickly as I could. I believe I was told I was in 5th place. Unfortnately, I would not come back in in 5th place. :) I felt rather strong for the first 25 miles, but I could tell that it was not coming easy. I was passed by a few women out there, all of whom looked stronger than I felt, but I tried to stay positive. The course was nice, yet the roads were rather bumpy (chip-seal-ey) and the last 10-15 miles, we faced a pretty strong headwind. However, I felt bad for all those racers after us, because a storm was blowing in so they likely felt more of this than we did! Needless to say, the last 10 miles of the bike, all I could think about was "I cannot WAIT to be running." I came off the bike in probably 8th or 9th place, so I had my work cut out for me if I wanted to finish within the top 5.

Run: I entered our LONG transition area, threw on my new Zoot racing shoes, grabbed some gels and was out of there. I passed 2 women within the first couple of miles, so that felt good. I was checking my watch every so often, running anywhere between 6:10 and 6:25 miles. Not bad, but not scorching fast. But it was OK, I could not see many women in sight so I knew all I could do was stick the pace where I felt good and grind away. I felt a sharp pain in my lower right leg, it hurt every time my foot landed, starting at about mile 3. Pretty odd, but I just tried to ignore it; definitely something I had not felt before. Almost felt like an anterior tendon near my ankle. The run course was nice, it was a mix of roads, neighborhoods and even a cool little running path through the woods. Michael Lovato was out there telling us where we were, so at halfway through, he told me I was closing in on 5th place. That was nice to hear. The next time I saw him, I had about 4 miles left, and he told me that I was 2:00-2:20 down from Amanda, his wife; but finished it with "Keep it up!" Talk about class. I did not think I could catch her, as I know she is a great runner but with about 1 mile to go I saw what I thought was her up ahead. I tried to mentally do the "Only 1 mile, all you've got!" and just give it whatever I had left. I was able to push hard that last mile and run my way into 4th place, which considering the hideous bike I had, I was pleased with. Big props to the other women out there racing; I sure had to work my ass off for that finish today!

All in all, a solid race, beautiful day and nice setting. I was very excited to hear that I had posted the fastest pro womens run split by 4 minutes! However, looking at the bike splits, I still have a ways to go. It is tough to work so hard at one discipline (for me, the bike) and still see little progress. But, you know this is the sport; we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I am willing to accept this, and when racing, try to gain as much time as I can on the swim and the run and then on the bike, try to minimize my losses. While I often bike like there is no run in a 1/2 IM (or shorter), I am just not as strong as the other women. That is OK, my focus in Canada is to ride within myself. This is a huge challenge that lies ahead of me. I am sure the nerves will start to surface these next few weeks, and I'll put in one more BIG ride. But, I need to simply get out there, race smart and enjoy the process. 'Cause if I am not enjoying it, it is a LONG time to be in misery! The toughest part will be staying positive and strong, (especially mentally) on the bike. I think this is where we all struggle most in triathlon, not beating ourselves up from our weakest discipline; especially during the race.

I want to give a big thanks to those who have helped me out so much this summer and season thus far: Jamie and Andrea at Hill Country Running, Cecilia at 3 Cosas massage, AJ Zelinski and his crew at Advanced Rehabilitation, Zoot Ultra team (including Suunto, Gu, Nutrafig, Zipp, Alcis, and Orbea) and of course Jack and Adams bike shop in Austin. You all help me so much and it is very much appreciated. And of course, my husband Derick, who is aways nothing but supportive; even when I get stressed and slightly crazy. :)

Thanks for reading. Another day of chillaxin' in Indiana, then back to Hot Austin for the final push to Canada!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pictures from Eagleman/Cambridge Trip

Courtesy of my dad, Charlie Handel. They are a bit late, but better late than never, right? I rarely have a multitude of pictures from races, because I am not a picture taker. So even if I have family there, I never hand them a camera and say 'here take pictures of me'. So it is fun when my dad is out there because he is quite the camera-man. The above is a great picture of Derick; we were roaming around downtown Cambridge the night before the race and there was some street-fest. He didn't like the rule here. But, no need to worry! We found a little boutique beforehand where I tried on dresses (see below), and they were serving free wine! YAY! Good in my opinion to have a bit pre-race night. Relaxes the jitters and makes you a bit sleepy....
We were also so fortunate to spend time with my dad's brother (Tom Handel) and his family in Annapolis. They took us to a REAL seafood dinner on Sunday night! Very fun trip overall... Enjoy the pictures and thanks for stopping by...