Monday, July 26, 2010

Dam it Man Tri

We traveled up to Truth or Consequences to race on Saturday at Elephant Butte Lake, in Dam it Man Triathlon. It was another inaugural race, but unlike some others that I have not had awesome experiences with (IMCdA, Degray Lake 1/2...), this one went smoothly. The lake is a reservoir of the river that runs through town, which means I swam in the Rio Grande, more or less. Completely different from what I think of when I think of major rivers (ahem, the Mississippi, the Ohio), it was clear enough to see your hand in front of you!

Friday evening we did a little course preview to see just what 1400+ft of climbing in 12.5 miles looks like. The first thing we noticed was just how far down the lake was from transition. That picture from my last post? Yeah, it was taken from near transition, looking down at the dock that was the swim start/exit.

Here's another view of the run to T1. Or maybe hike is a better word for it.

It looks even more intimidating from this view:

Anyway, we managed to get through registration despite some rudeness from a volunteer and headed to our pre-race dinner at Pizza Hut.

The next morning we awoke to overcast skies, but thankfully no rain. I wasn't up for those descents, gravel included, in the rain. The temperatures have been really cool around these parts due to this whole monsoon season thing, and we were lucky to have our long sleeves!

We got all set up in transition,

and I taught the first time volunteer about where to mark what. Unfortunately this was after someone had marked J. So which is he, 29 or 33? Glad I wasn't trying to run him down.

The race organizer had measured the water temp at 77F just before the race, but somehow the USAT official thermometer read 80, so wetsuits were out. I'm always amazed at how many comments I get about my blueseventy speedsuit. People like to remind me wetsuits aren't legal, and I quickly tell them this has neutral buoyancy. Do you think I'd really be that slow if it did?

So down to the ramp all 60 of us participants hiked, and we did a deep water start in the clear-ish green water. Out and back around one buoy, for only 400ish meters (they're always long, aren't they?), and out onto a small temporary ramp. The race directors told us that "the football players" would be there to help us out. I got a few feet from the ramp, held my arms in the air, and I was hoisted up onto, well, my knees (ouch), in a split second. I had brought my extra running shoes down for the uphill hike, which turned out to be insignificant climbing for this race. Still T1 took almost 4 minutes.

Onto the bike, I immediately climbed up out of the parking lot, down a hill, made a few sharp turns, and found myself on the dam. We went over two dams that are not normally open to the public. That's fun in a "nobody else gets to do this" sort of way, but it also means that the cars don't clean up all the patches of grass along the rugged road. Here's the dam.

Over 1400 feet of climbing in 12.5 miles is like doing over 9 Jackson Hills. Which means that even though we got a couple of great downhills, those times are slow! Most of the time I couldn't see anyone ahead of me on the course. I passed a few guys and a couple of girls; one stalled out on the first hill, and the other one, who kept looking behind her going up one of the long hills, eventually just pulled over to the side of the road. Suddenly I was in third place, although I got reports of everything from first to fourth. I knew I wasn't near the fastest swimmers, so I went with the fourth. One of these days I'll learn to ride hills!

Onto the run. Similar to the bike, we had to climb up up and up out of T2. This short run was only 2.25 miles, and was almost all up the first half. During the brief downhill on the way out I saw J and the first place girl coming back in. Then another girl. Then I got distracted by the massive gravel road of switchbacks that lead up to the turnaround loop. I walked a few steps here just to get my feet on solid ground. The rocks were as big as my feet! Finally the long downhill came and I found my rhythm. My, how I love running downhill. I crossed the line after a sloooooow run and was determined to be 3rd.

J had finished as 4th place male! He and I compared times and found that he'd beaten me by over 3 minutes. We knew the swim was a given, and he had beaten me on the bike this time too. I knew it was coming. He maxed out at 40 on one of the downhills. Me and my scared self couldn't get over 30. But since they had messed up the initial results (adding 5 mins here, taking away 5 there), we could only calculate that he'd also beaten my run time! I didn't think that would happen anytime soon. I felt a little fire of motivation return with this news.

We hung out around the lake for a while and kept checking results again to see if they'd been fixed. After some discussion with fellow racers, someone said, "I heard that some people didn't go all the way to the water tower." Ah ha! Suddenly, there was an explanation for why 1) J had beaten me on the run, and 2) the two girls in front of me had outrun me by 3 minutes! It seems most of the first finishers had not been directed by the little girls manning the water station to keep running up the hill before turning around. No fault of their own, but they skipped all of this:

Of course I didn't report this to anyone since my husband had done it and the girls would've beaten me anyway. The men's standings wouldn't have changed either. No harm done, we just had to race longer. This does give me a sense of relief that I may still be able to outrun J and beat him overall, but he sure is breathing down my neck.

Next up is a 10k this Saturday night, followed by another sprint up north the next weekend. Quality workouts to come!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Irrational fears

I have a terrible fear of deep dark water. I know I've mentioned it before, but it seems to be getting worse. I think it's the upcoming swim in a *new* lake, the same lake that a small airplane crash landed into last week (the pilot is fine). So what bothers me about this is the fact that the airplane sank to the bottom of the lake and they haven't pulled it out yet. I was slightly relieved to read that it's only ~45 feet deep, but I still don't want to know that something that large is down there under me and I can't see it. Or maybe I will be able to see it, I don't know. In reality, I doubt we'll even be in the vicinity of that plane, but still. 

To keep myself calm in deep dark waters of triathlon swims I usually close my eyes while my face is in the water, but it sure is hard to see the foot that is coming at your face when you do that. When the water is really clear and I can see the bottom (ummm, let's see, that's early on in IMFL or in the shallower parts in Hawaii), I'm calmed by it. Sometimes I can get distracted watching the fish or coral. And I have no problem scuba diving to depths of over 100ft. So what's my problem, and what do I do about it??

Speaking of this weekend's race, here's a picture of the lake.

So I'm guessing it'll be an uphill run into T1? :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

We are New Mexicans!

We finally arrived! Actually it's been a week now; a week filled with unpacking and figuring out where everything is in town. We did the drive in one long long day, but I managed to entertain myself with talking on the phone and, once in west Texas, looking for and trying to avoid smashing tarantulas on the road. Exciting! Thankfully we have not seen any of the monsters in our neighborhood.

A lot of work on the house was needed and we've done a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. Two bathroom floors have been redone (vinyl tiled), three rooms have been painted, and LOTS of unpacking has been accomplished.

Between all that we've gotten in some running, a couple of rides, and a swim. We are at ~4300ft of elevation, and given the equation for the amount of oxygen in the air, P = P0 exp(-M g z / RT), means we were breathing HARD the first few days. Really just walking up and down the stairs and moving boxes was enough for an aerobic workout. But we had to explore on foot, so we ran here:

No, not up in the mountains; that we saved for our ride. We drove up to 8800ft to begin our ride on Saturday. Below was our ride elevation, the first half of which took less than an hour; the second half took well over an hour.

We gained 2800ft in those 20 miles. It definitely wasn't steep, but it kept going and going. The fun part about going up the hill was definitely the seven cattle gaps we had to cross with our bikes and cleats on our shoes. I was cursing the farmers that couldn't just fence in their $%&!# cows! It's hard to get momentum back again when you have to stop, dismount, try not to break your ankle, get back on going uphill, etc, every quarter mile. I think we can find a route that goes up from our starting point instead of down for next time. That way we get the hard part over with early on.

Not sure what the hawks are after... this was the downhill part of the ride, so we weren't looking too bad!

After the ride we put on our running shoes for our brick, which consisted of a couple of miles of hiking on the nearby trails. It was cool up there and beautiful. I'm definitely coming back to run and mountain bike here. Supposedly there are miles and miles of Rim Trail around those mountains in the picture above. I can't wait to find them.

The weather has definitely been different from home. The first day we were here it was cold and wet, no kidding. It was in the 70s all day and rained 2 inches. It's "monsoon season." And the locals are dying in the humidity. Luckily when it gets hotter, it gets drier. Like this afternoon it's around 100F but 20% humidity, so when you start dripping with sweat, you just go stand in the shade a few minutes. It's 15 degrees cooler in the shade! We have this crazy humid air conditioning system that makes everything sticky inside, which isn't pleasant when it's raining, but it's supposed to feel great when it dries up outside.

We went to the AF base pool for a swim the other day. They have an indoor 25 yd pool for lap swimming that is to be closed for 10 days or so. Because of that we got to swim in the 50 meter outdoor pool on Friday. It was fantastic. But it just hurts that they don't have regular lap swimming hours!

We've signed up for a little (hilly) sprint on Saturday. Look, I'm back to racing already! I knew it wouldn't take long.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

the heat is on

I've had my fair share of meltdowns. And I mean physically melting. For some reason this summer has hit me harder than usual. I think it may come from the cumulative effect of several incidences in my past, including my bout with hyponatremia, and most recently, some heat sickness in Hawaii. Last week, hitting a new PR of sweating out 5 pounds in a 1:05 run, I think I became a little dehydrated and unable to adequately rehydrate. Runs in particular got worse and worse, until I was unable to go for more than about 25 minutes continuously. 

It has been hot, but I wouldn't say hotter than normal, and it's not like all this heat and humidity is new to me. So I've been doing a little reading to see what is normal and what is not. 

I've learned first of all that I am lucky to be as small as I am. I thought maybe having less surface area (especially with a stockier build) was inhibiting the heat from escaping. Apparently this isn't the case, as "smaller runners are still able to lose more heat relative to heat production than larger runners." Period. Well ok then, I'll lose a few pounds. Yet another reason. :)

At least I only have a slight chance of cooking my brain. Like the poor cheetahs that were run to heat exhaustion on a treadmill, humans tend to cease all activity at a body temp of 40C as well. This is regardless of heat adaptation, the rate of heat storage, pre-run cooling, and any external "intervention." And not only that, your central governor (remember that one?) will cause an anticipatory regulation of pacing so that if it feels you are increasing your temperature too quickly, it slows you down. I think this is what is going on with me. But for some reason it doesn't switch on until 25 minutes into my run... need to get that switch checked out.

So you wonder if my previous dehydration causes any of this core temperature rise? It seems it doesn't. (It's metabolic rate.) I'm still not sure exactly what to do about all of this. I think a move to the desert may be the solution (hooray! that's what I'm doing!). There's so much more information  about all this at, one of my favorite websites. So if you suffer like I do, check out their series on fatigue and heat.

Until New Mexico!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

busy summer days

I've had the pleasure of lots of company this past week, starting with Mom on Wednesday and Thursday. She brought me some furniture just in time, and finally got to eat the sushi Jeremy and I have been raving about. She also brought the rest of my plants down, who will all accompany on my 15 hour drive this weekend. The car will be full of fresh O2.

Friday, Damie and Laura came down for a girls' training weekend! They are much better at picture taking and already have pictures posted (pictures that I'm stealing, thanks!). We did a little training Saturday on the bike before I melted and went home early, watched some World Cup soccer, ate sushi, had some yummy drinks, and got a trail run in Sunday morning before watching internet coverage of IMCDA.

I think I was supposed to plan an open water swim in there somewhere, but swimming always seems to slip my mind lately. 

On a side note, I've discovered that as bad as I am at swimming, I'm even worse when I don't do it regularly. We did get back in today, for the first time since before Dragonfly. Oops!

Sunday, about 20 minutes after the girls had said goodbye (it was very sad!), Sheila came to keep me company for the night and the next day! We (surprise surprise) had sushi, did a little shopping, and of course a little actual work.

Jeremy and I have started doing some "last" things before moving to the desert, and we spend a few days over the fourth weekend at the beach. It was clear and beautiful, and we were so thankful that the oil has stayed out of the waters of Panama City Beach. 
We are going on some last bike rides and taking some pictures, and I'm sure we'll get in a few more stops at the sushi place before packing up and leaving before dawn on Saturday. Hopefully around sunset that evening we'll be in our house in New Mexico, watching le Tour coverage on a laptop on our sleeping bags. Except our internet won't be hooked up....

I'm looking forward to exploring a new area, new running and biking trails, a new climate. Hopefully I've finally found a place where sweat actually works (as a means of cooling, that is)!