Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pregnant Performance Ponderings

I'm going to use the term "performance" loosely for the next, oh, 6 months at least. But it is all relative, and I'm trying to keep tabs on what I'm doing and how I'm feeling while pregnant just in case I find myself in this position again.

There are a lot of general guidelines about pregnancy involving exercise, weight gain, nutrition, and whatnot, but I really went into this unsure of what exactly to expect. The general population probably doesn't exercise even as much as my slacker self has the past couple of years, so I feel like I have to come up with my own averages for pregnant athletic types based on articles, books, and blogs. I've had a lot of help from one book in particular, Dr. James Clapp's Exercising Through Your Pregnancy. I can't recommend this book highly enough. More on it later. (I love the 80s clothing.)

The first few weeks of being pregnant, before I knew, I won a small triathlon but felt a bit slow and out of breath. My training was just starting to pick up for the summer since I had an Ironman scheduled for November. I found out I was pregnant just before going to Italy, where morning sickness hit and travel interfered with training; I kept running as best I could those 2 weeks. Until about 16 weeks along, I was sick and losing weight. So it was rough for a while.

But since then, I've felt good and have been keeping track of what's going on in my "athletic" life. I'll be 25 weeks tomorrow, and things are changing quickly. But so far:

Swimming: The first thing I noticed at a few months was the feeling that I had this bobbly floating buoy in my belly. I instantly looked more pregnant standing shoulder deep in the pool, not that anybody could see me. Obviously, I also look more pregnant just wearing a swimsuit. While not looking at my times or doing many intervals, I know I'm slower. It's probably more a lack of swim fitness than anything, but hey, it's a potential excuse. My feet cramp a lot, in the pool as well as at night. Must be my lack of potassium (haha, kidding). So far I have a couple of swimsuits that still fit, but I keep threatening the lifeguard that I'll be breaking out the 2-piece soon. And doing lots of backstroke.

Bike: I was still riding regularly, from an hour all the way up to the mountainous metric century, while the weather was nice, but now it is quite a bit colder, and I realized that two waistbands that both hit at an awkward spot is just not worth it. There are fears in the back of my mind of falling or getting hit by a car and the potential placental abruption following, so combined with discomfort, moving indoors was the logical solution. Teaching a few spin classes when a sub is needed, or just taking the class has kept me feeling somewhat comfortable on the bike. I wear super old, stretchy shorts that I can move up and down, and have only had a few pains in my abs when going hard. Probably not coincidentally, I had this same pain the last few times I was outside on my bike, while climbing a small hill. My doctors and I attribute it to round ligament pain. I tend to get really out of breath early on in spin class, but my HR settles later; I really should start getting to class early to warm up when I'm teaching so my huffs and puffs aren't broadcast through a microphone.

Run:  Most surprisingly to me, running has been pretty enjoyable, with just a few adaptations I've had to make. The first was having to pee every mile or two. Luckily the route I almost always take goes through a pretty undeveloped neighborhood with tall bushes, and as a bonus, they're recently closed one main entrance to all traffic. Aha, privacy to squat. It's amazing the feeling of having to go right now so badly, then finding that it was approximately one tablespoon's worth of urgency.

I've kept up my "long" run, trying to do an 8.25 mile loop every week. Thanksgiving week, I actually hit the 35 mile mark, which is definitely more than the average winter week for me. Back in town and adding spinning and swimming in, I do 5-6 miles every other day or so, hitting 20-25 miles/wk. It's slow, but steady. Going the usual out and back route takes me uphill for over 2.5 miles, which means I'm crawling, especially since it takes 25 minutes for me to feel good lately. But a few times I've negative split a 6 mile run by 3 or 4 minutes. The extra weight + gravity can help sometimes I suppose. I can average a 9:00-9:10 pace for most of my runs. While in flat, closer-to-sea-level Tempe, I ran part of the IM course several times. one day I decided to do a few 1 minute pickups, while wearing my Garmin, and was really surprised to see my fast minutes peak in the low 6 min pace range. I was sure the Garmin was malfunctioning, but it was so consistent. I'll take it.

The last couple of weeks, as my ab muscles continue to s-t-r-e-t-c-h, I've felt more stitch-like pains, especially in the lower abdomen. The baby tends to settle low when I first start running, so I've started faithfully wearing a belly band. It seemed a little early to me to start wearing it, but the difference in comfort is amazing. Plus I look super cute.

Strength Training: It's been on and off, with the main difference being my weakened, separating rectus abdominus. It really limits pushups and pullups, and I try not to stress it or encourage any future herniation.

General: With my last set of labs I found out my hematocrit was low, and immediately felt tired the rest of the day. :) But honestly I haven't been very fatigued, even in the 1st trimester. Some days I sleep a bit more or less (which not having a job helps me accomplish).

Weight gain is an interesting topic for me. Having never faced an inevitable,  somewhat uncontrollable, imminent gain in my future, it was a scary thought at first. I've never been overly concerned about my weight, since Ironman training has always kept it pretty regulated for me. I was at a normal summer weight when morning sickness first hit me upside the head. From there I lost somewhere around 4 pounds. After about 16 weeks I leveled off and started the uphill gain. From that low sickly point, I am currently up about 10 pounds--mostly in the belly and butt, of course. Normally in the winter off season I tend to put on a few pounds, so this weight is only about a pound more than where I often am. I know the next 15 weeks could add up to another 15 pounds+, but I feel more prepared now, especially knowing that I won't just wake up one morning 8 pounds heavier (well, fingers crossed). I am running out of running and gym shirts that cover the entire expanse of my stomach. Luckily the shorts and tights are just fine. Now if my feet will stay the same length and still fit into my 8.5s.

Back to my Clapp book. The first time through, I skimmed it. I'm not sure what I was looking for exactly, but I didn't find it very specific, much like many reviewers. No, it doesn't say "do this, not that." So I started at the beginning and read every word. Really it takes some common sense and putting together concepts.

A lot of the research is pretty exciting (wish I could've been in on something like this in grad school). Exercise and pregnancy adaptations do compliment each other. Increased blood volume, improved oxygen transfer, better thermoregulation, and an increase in maximal oxygen uptake by a small amount are some of the additive and overlapping effects of exercise in pregnancy. There are definitely some risk factors, especially for abnormal pregnancy, but in general Dr. Clapp is very liberal in his approach to exercise. I am careful to check that the baby is moving within a half hour of my exercise, and I try to keep fueled at appropriate times. While I don't believe it would have been ok for me to do Ironman Arizona, (sorry "coach" dude who told me it was too bad I withdrew since I have so many performance enhancing adaptations-- yeah that may be part of the story, but I also have extra weight, two people to supply oxygen to, stretched muscles, the works, not to mention the potential negative effects on the baby from raising his HR for 11 or 12 hours), I do feel good about the exercise I am doing, and I hope that like Clapp says, I'm helping make him a stronger baby.

So where my exercise goes from here is just a guess, but for now I'm sticking to my loose schedule as best baby lets me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

IMAZ: the spectator's report

I have been so slow in getting around to reporting MY experience, you know, the important one, in Tempe. Jeremy stole the show, as well as all my fabulous pictures (just kidding, I really fell down on the job).

I'm just so excited for him. He did (most of) the training, he stuck to his plan (except for some of the nutrition part), and had an overall great first Ironman. But since you can read the firsthand report from him, I'll just go over my day.

In the days leading up to the race, there was no worry of resting, eating the wrong foods, stressing about gear or how much it was going to hurt. I was totally relaxed; I knew he'd be fine and have fun. We ate sushi (cooked for me) and a few In and Out Burgers. All the fit athletes walking around outdoing each other in their compression socks and tri suits made me feel more happy that I was not competing. Or racing. :)

My friend Rob, a longtime coach and amazing athlete, who has done over 250 triathlons, was there to spectate as well, and I was lucky enough to get some swimming form tips from him on Saturday. We met up at the Arizona State pool, a huge, outdoor, Olympic-sized, clean, clear paradise. I'd swim every day if I had something like that (and the weather to match). I took my mountain bike along to get around easier and realized that I was crazy for not  having attended ASU at some point in my life. I left the pool and rode along a palm-lined pedestrian path right through campus to get to our favorite pizza place.

Race morning was the usual crowded, crazy, cold madness, still with a certain calmness and seriousness among the racers. After watching him do his last preparations, I bid Jeremy farewell for the day, took the bike pump back to the car that was parked ridiculously close to the finish line, and headed up to the bridge over the lake to squeeze in front of 3 rows of people, next to Rob and his friend Tom, who had been up there 45 minutes. I've never seen an Ironman start from such a vantage point, and it was impressive.

We made it to the swim-T1 chute, and I was ecstatic to see Jeremy out running the chute, already stripped, in just over 1:08 (officially in the 1:07s).  The next stop was the bike out/turnaround, and we spent several hours there with me picking Rob's and Tom's brains about coaching theory (Tom is a good friend of the Friels), trying to sweep some glass out of the road (big football games the night before do not help the cleaning crews), and tracking  racers from our phones as best we could. There was a coffee break in there at some point, some attempted pictures, and some worry over Jeremy looking what we thought to be distressed (turns out he was pissed).

We headed back down to the lake to watch the runners come out after our friends had all  headed out on loop 3 of the bike, and we ended up spending hours there. After losing Tom for a bit, we respotted him, wearing a volunteer t-shirt, directing traffic around the run out/start of loop 2. He was much needed! I snapped a few pics of Jeremy, we got some fast food, and I ran back to the car to paint my belly with a Go Daddy for Jeremy's last loop.

Rob kept me entertained throughout the race. He's had so much experience and was around way back when this whole sport started, so he has a great point of view on what's necessary, what's ridiculous, and when you're just being really stupid. I laughed for hours.

Jeremy wasn't doing so well in the middle of the marathon due to stomach issues, and I just really hoped he wouldn't be too disappointed. But when I saw him come around that last turn to the finish line, he was all smiles and running on air. It was either my happiness for him or pregnancy hormones that almost had me crying.

"Dr. Jeremy Harwood, you are an Ironman!"

Thursday, November 17, 2011


It's only 3 days until IMAZ and I'm getting nervous and excited for it. I'm pulling up my IM playlist that has been compiling for the last, oh, 10 years. Some of those songs are going to take me back to the afternoon before IMFL 08 when Nancy and I were relaxing in our room at the Ironman house in Panama City. I can vividly remember it. Some songs calmed me and some got me excited (side note: will these same songs work as "birth music"? hmmm).

I've gone over and over the packing list, worked on taping up the tubular and fitting it snugly under the seat, and tried to remember every last item that could possibly be needed. I've gone through race day in my head, and I've even dreamed about getting to the race late, as usual. This time it was Laura who we were taking to race, but luckily she didn't care that she was starting behind everyone. 

My runs have been feeling ok, but I'm having strange pains crop up, like today in my hip flexor. I'm feeling smooth while swimming, but I have been stressing over the water temperature (currently 65F, but was 62 a few days ago).

And all of this for the husband! It won't be my first time as a spectathlete, but I definitely have more invested in this race than ones from the past. Wish us luck!

Friday, November 4, 2011

10 years and 11 Ironmans

It's unbelievable to me that this weekend marks the 10 year anniversary of my first Ironman. It started in 2001 with Ironman Florida when I was just 24, and my 11th one was 2 years ago in Hawaii. To honor my big Ironiversary, I've gone back and looked at some numbers that I've compiled from these 11 races.

4 days, 21 hours, and 26 minutes I have spent racing Ironmans
26.4 miles of swimming in those races
1232 miles of cycling
288.2 miles of running (um, give or take; more on that later)
11:39 the average of those 11 times
244 approximate number of slices of Pizza Hut pan pizza that could fuel that many calories of exercise

I know a lot of people have much more impressive numbers, but I have a few other stats that may be a little more unique.

2 hours, 52 minutes the time difference between my best and worst IM marathons
30 approximate number of minutes spent lying in the grass on the side of the road in a cute Coeur d'Alene neighborhood (that makes up for some of the above stat)
22 minutes and 44 seconds how much slower my run split was than my bike split that year
10 times I have run that loop through St. Andrew's State Park (17 if you also count the Gulf Coast half)
12.52 miles per hour that I averaged in the last 22 miles of the Queen K in my first Kona, 2002. Proof here.
17:28 minutes and seconds I spent in T2 that year
17 approx number of times I was asked what the hell I was doing in there (answer: lying on a cot, eating chips, and getting my blood pressure taken)
1 the number of marathons I've run in the 4 hour range. I had seven 3's, three 5's, and one 6+.
 4 number of different bikes I have ridden in those 11 Ironmans
2 number of those bikes stolen since then (one didn't even last long enough to get me to an IM, see here for a better listing)

It's been such a fun 10 years, and I'm not done yet. I have a few race reports written here of Kona '07, IMFL '08, IMLou '09, and Kona '09. And now for some fun pictures.

IMFL 2001 My very first, and I'm all smiles. Must be first loop.

Notice the required reflective tape. I'm sure satellites could see me from space.

Sadly, I can't find pictures from my first Kona in 2002. I know they're around somewhere. They sure had plenty of time to take pictures of me.

Next was Coeur d'Alene 2003, the inaugural, infamous, 100F race (stats above). Proof that I actually ran at some point (this is before the nap). The guy next to me helped me along, even commandeering a chair from a spectator when I could no longer stand on my own two feet.
I was probably most proud of this finish. I'm even smiling. And no, this wasn't quite my worst time ever.

IMFL 2003 was 5 months later. Much better. Although it looks like this may be my worst run ever based on my shuffle, I actually had my best marathon so far. And look, it's St. Andrew's park!

I waited a whole year to race again. IMFL 2004. I was actually running hard for me, and had a 26 minute PR. Um, St. Andrew's again.

Went to Kona again in 2005 and improved a bit! It helped that Gary raced right next to me, and even waved at me, in the swim. He smoked me later.
But I did improve that year and "ran" under 5 hours.

2006 was back in Florida for a super cold year. This is when I got my "ironman jacket" from Walmart, and 2nd in my AG by 2 minutes. She passed me back in the run when I wasn't looking.

2007 I was back in Kona, and had my best race there so far. I actually ran. Truly. Even smiled on the bike!

2008 was my PR race back in Florida. We had calm winds, but the best part was the friends racing with me. Hey the sun is still up!

Apparently I'm very consistent with my run faces and postures. Check out these two from 2008 and 2004. There's the crooked hat, the arms, the frown. Ha!

IM Louisville was #10

And the final Ironman thus far was Kona in 2009. I'll just put a picture of one of the actual fun parts and just skip the rest.
And while going through pictures I noticed several that feature none other than  GaryIronman. My first one, 2 Konas, CdA, and Louisville, not to mention many other Floridas. We may be about equal in wins-losses to each other, but he's almost tripled my total number!

If only I could count the number of mistakes, hours of training, calories of Gu and Gatorade, meltdowns, blisters, tubes, salt tablets... Looking back has made me a little more nostalgic for the days of training for my old friend Ironman. I plan to get my fix through Jeremy in just two weeks (!!), again in June, and maybe next November in Florida when I go participate in Girls' Zone once again, baby in tow. My friendship with Ironman isn't over yet!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Racing pregnant

Being pregnant has brought me luck in triathlons. We (the baby and I) are 2 for 2 in overall wins. It's been almost 3 weeks since this race, so I may be fuzzy on some of the details (like how freezing cold it was after the race -- oh no wait, it's coming back).

If you recall, I had to race this race since a) it was put on by the base, and b) I had trained a group to race what was mostly first races, and maybe a little c) showing that even at 16 weeks preggo I could win. I have managed to pick races with low attendance for these two OAF wins, but it wasn't intentional, I promise!

The Gord had some cool nights leading up to the race, but nothing like we got Saturday night. We awoke to 35 degrees. Luckily in this case, the swim was the last event due to the lack of water in these parts as well as the lack of experience by the non-triathlete race directors in the use of that technology called "timing chips." So at least there would be no cycling in a wet trisuit. However, to put a wrinkle in my plans, the pool is located outside, and hasn't been used since Labor Day. I did what any logical, hypothermia-fearing triathlete would do: I brought my wetsuit. The logistics of getting the suit on in T2 occupied me on the drive over. I still figured the time lost would be more than made up for in the warmth and speed of my swim. Right?

When we got to the check in we were told that indeed the pool was heated (wait, and they still don't let us swim in it for 9 months of the year??). Thank goodness I now did not have to plead to use the indoor pool, beg to turn it into a duathlon, or explain that wetsuits should absolutely be legal in this race.

The warm up run got me good and out of breath, which is very usual for the first 10 minutes of running these days. Jeremy was on call and had to stop in the middle of the warm up to call a patient back. We rode through our gears and did not swim beforehand, needless to say. 

The run was a mass start of men and women from a parking lot across from transition. It was supposed to be a 5k, but I knew last year's was significantly short, and hoped this year's would be as well. I really had no idea how fast I could run, and forgot my Garmin anyway, so just went by how hard I was breathing. It was a good crowd with lots of people I knew from working on base, and a great group that I had helped train. We ran along roads and cut over to a pedestrian path, and I tried to stay on the heels of a Col I knew who had a good pace going on. Jeremy was almost out of sight. A woman was ahead of me for a few hundred yards, but her attire told me she wouldn't be an overall contender (and she probably thought the same-- I was wearing my favorite "IMFL jacket" I'd bought from Walmart before a particularly cold one). I knew at least one other woman was right on my heels. Pulling back into transition, it was immediately apparent that even as slow as I've gotten, it was well over a 5k. Later, after measuring it to be at least 3.8 miles, I calculated that I'd somehow run under 7:15 pace. Woohoo! (I should probably mention that the run elevation gain I'd estimate to be, oh... 8 feet.)

A minute lead on the next female didn't give me too much confidence, but since I was expecting to be behind after the run, it was a bonus. The flat but for some reason not fast bike course was maybe a bit windy, but passing some men, including my pacing Col made me feel better. At the turnaround I was only 2 minutes ahead by my best estimation, but I didn't get the tailwind I was expecting. 

During the 700m swim (this was SOOO long for a 5k run, 30k bike!), I was well aware of how my nervousness affected my breathing. I'd start looking at the earlier lanes to see who might be catching me, and I'd start breathing harder, gulping water, and panicking. Interesting that I'm such a mental case. 

In the end, I was almost caught by one of my first time triathlete guys who happens to be an excellent swimmer, but held off all other females by at least 8 minutes, most of which was, surprisingly, created in the swim. I had a handful of my first timers finish happy and wanting more. Success.

Jeremy had a really good race and ended up 2nd OA, whooping the rest of the family by 7 minutes! But if you consider that my legs did it for two people.... 

Since I've been taking some weekly pictures to track my progress in the girth expansion area, I got extra dorky for this one and wore my medal and tri shorts. Surely this baby BOY will turn out to be a triathlete!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

It's race weekend for me too!

I am actually attempting one last triathlon of the season. It's the base's annual sprint that I've trained a few people for, and therefore I had to register myself. In my last race back in July, I was very newly pregnant and didn't know it, and while I did run slow and breathe hard, it was nothing compared to the wind sucking I've been doing lately.

I have run 5Ks and probably even a few 10Ks and half marathons holding back in the past, but I've never signed up for a triathlon knowing I'd have to take it somewhat easy. It's a RACE after all! My heavy breathing may scare my fellow competitors, and I keep hearing of this "pregnancy bonk" thing, so I'm going to do my best to limit the chances of both. 

I don't know if it's fortunately or unfortunately, but I'm not really looking super pregnant yet. I have a "I just ate too many chips with queso and several pints of beer" look, especially after eating. And yesterday's slow jog felt like I was competing in the Beer Mile from how my bloated tummy felt. So most people won't know that I'm actually pregnant at this race tomorrow. 

If only I could wear the awesome present I got this week:

But the low is 42 and I imagine I'll be covering up more. But I am considering wearing the top that makes me look most pregnant, and hopefully not most beer-gutted. 

I had one of my newbies text me today to say that it was that time of the month. I'm 4 months pregnant!! No excuses. But I'm probably a little unsympathetic, because I'm sure, in the 70 or 80+ triathlons I've done that at some point, I have had the same issue. I don't remember it affecting me. The pain of racing is always worse to me. Plus, upon a little reading, I was reminded that that part of the cycle is probably best for sprint racing.

Speaking of racing, of course I'm glued to the computer today watching Ironman Hawaii. Seeing the bay, the church, Ali'i, the pier, all of that, kind of makes me want to be there. Ok, I'd really like to be there, just not racing. Still not ready for that. When I see those huge windmills like they have near Hawi I still get a little queasy. And let me just have one moment of jealousy: it is always "calm and cool" when I'm not there?? Really it just depends on how far back you start the bike :)
Thanks to Damie, I now have links to lots of race coverage over the years from this race! I first started watching IMs while on the trainer after recording the 1997 NBC coverage. I never thought I'd actually do the race, but it looked so amazing, it was nice to dream. If anybody wants to borrow my VCR tape, let me know!

While I don't see anyone out there from my computer screen that looks pregnant or even more than a pound or two overweight, I'm going to use today to motivate myself for my big end of the season race tomorrow.

Happy end of season racing to all!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I'll just take the metric version

This may become a new trend. Whatever distance Jeremy does in his Ironman training, I'll do kilometers to his miles! I think it'll work perfectly. 

This past Saturday was the 10th annual Tour de Ruidoso, which hosted a 100 miler and a 100K. This is the city up on our "big" mountain (I know I keep calling it that, but it does go up to 11,000ft, which is over 1000 higher than the one just up the road from us). So we trekked up to the cooler weather, where I decided at the last minute to shed the arm warmers. The sun was coming up and standing at the car felt warm. I regretted this decision for about 2 miles. I told Jeremy to get up there with the front group when we started, and realized that I was so concerned about him that I forgot to position myself accordingly. I know I'm slower lately, but I should still beat some of the mountain bikes and guys in cotton t-shirts. Plus it would be nice to have somebody to draft off of. The first 2 miles I worked by myself up a little incline, trying to catch the pack that had formed in front that Jeremy had gotten onto in time. Not wanting to go out too hard, but not wanting to ride completely by myself, it was a tough decision, but I kept pushing. THEN, we made a turn onto the highway which went straight uphill. 

Ah ha, it was the beginning of what had been described on the registration form! 
Beginning with a climb from 6840 to 7485, a downhill and a climb back to 7482 and then dropping down to 7257 ... and this is in the first 6 miles!

Of course after the hills started, everyone spread out and the usual happened. I would make up ground on the uphills, people would fly by me on the downhills. I was being particularly careful with my downhill speed due to this whole pregnancy thing-- I really don't want to fall-- so I was getting left behind. Every so often the road would flatten a bit and I would ride with a few others, or a small group. There were several groups of Mexican cycling teams, and I think they particularly appreciated my Los Locos kit. I got at least one chuckle. 

I rode in a nice little paceline for a few miles with about 4 men. One was of the t-shirt wearing type, and he was all over the road. You know those people who can't be still to save their lives? He was fidgeting all over the bike. I think he burned three times as many calories as I did per pound. After each person had had their turn behind him, someone finally broke away off the front and let him scare the next group for a while. 

Losing those guys somewhere between the braking on the downhills and passing on the uphills, I found myself mostly alone again, until a few hills later when I passed a guy in white. Some people don't say a word in passing (especially when being passed on an uphill by a girl), but Juan Carlos was not one of those people! We started chatting from the moment I pulled up beside him, and he had a lot of encouragement to give. It turns out my new friend is a former pro cyclist from Columbia. He says he was much smaller back in the 80s when he was racing (he weighed about the same as I do now), but still, I kept up with a Columbian pro! He let me go on one of the climbs, and I said I'd see him later. 

I knew we were getting close to the airport, with one more hill to go. As I crested one and made a turn, a lone crow the size of a bear cub, cawed at me as I passed. I could tell exactly when Juan Carlos and another guy passed. I think he was cheering us on. 

So back to this flat section that I'd been looking forward to. The straight on headwind that we turned into made my speed much slower than I'd expected. The most brutal part was that I could see several miles ahead of me, and I knew that it wasn't ending anytime soon. I later described this "flat section by the airport" as the worst one for me. I was told it "wasn't exactly flat." 

Garmin tells me they were right: 

As a side note, this reminds me of how mean I am. There's a section on our "flat ride" from home that I always get onto Jeremy for going so slow on. I had in it my head that he had it in his head that it was actually an uphill when it was clearly not.
Again, Garmin was there to settle it: 


Yes, I'm mean. Or just really bad at judging grade. But back to the ride. I did take a break at the final rest stop for a delicious PB&J, and I figured it might be a long time getting home. As soon as I saddled back up I saw Juan Carlos up the road just a bit and hoped to catch him for a nice draft. About 5 miles later, I finally got within his view, and I think he slowed down for me. And he left me draft! But it ended quickly as we got to "the final downhill." A very nice volunteer lady cheered us on and told us it was all downhill. This being JC's specialty these days with the extra weight, he took off. But around the corner we found that the nice lady lied. Twice. My Garmin had called it quits for the day at about 54 miles, and left me by myself for those last few hundred feet up and thankfully down as well.

Finally finished, with nothing to do but eat green chile burgers and wait for Jeremy, but not drink the free beer, I found some good people to chat with, I won a recycled bike chain bottle opener (to match my recycled bike chain picture frame), and even saw some football. 

I'll let Jeremy describe his long, flat tiring (haha) day with a few more thousand feet of climbing thrown in there. But I want to remind everybody that he only carried himself over that course, while I was biking for two. :)

P.S. Does anyone else have a 405 that only holds a 100% charge for 3 hours??

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Smells Like Ironman Season

I really love this time of year. It's Ironman season! I love the excitement surrounding Ironmans and the last few weeks of training and taper when you either know you have this one nailed, or the nervousness is setting in about the weather, the heat, your bike being in the shop, or your tendinitis acting up. 

So far the season is well under way, with IM Coeur d'Alene, Lake Placid, Louisville, Canada, Wisconsin, and Wales over. First timers like Keith had solid first races and got hooked, and veterans like Damie overcame tough conditions to finish with a great race. I've personally only done 2 IMs earlier than October, so I feel like we've still got a lot of excitement coming. 

Around these parts it's quite different from what I'm used to. Normally it's me, just me, leaving piles of dirty laundry and water bottles everywhere. I'd scrounge for my own meals in the late evening after a long mid-week brick. But not this year. I've never had a husband train for an Ironman before (or even a IM-training roommate for that matter), and while I'm not giving him his specific training plan, I still feel somewhat responsible for how he races on Nov 20th. I want him to succeed almost as much as I always wanted to, but it's mostly out of my control. That's a weird feeling! I think some of my own "I didn't do a far/ fast/ hard/ windy enough swim/ bike/ run" guilt feelings have been rubbing off on him. It could be for the better, but I know I can be particularly OCD about that, and I hope it doesn't affect him negatively.

My responsibility should be providing nutritious, delicious foods for him, washing 3 loads of laundry a day, moving all 12 water bottles from sink to dishwasher daily, and possibly doing yardwork and extra cleaning for him (ooops, he just mowed the grass; maybe next week). I keep putting that stuff off until 1) my job ends in 2 weeks, 2) my appetite returns from the land of morning sickness purgatory, and/or 3) I figure out which of his athletic clothing actually goes in the dryer (I'm sure I'll shrink something to cut-off 80s tank length). 

He's really being a good Ironman athlete so far. He's not complaining too much; only rarely does he admit to tiredness. Despite my heightened olfactory senses, he really almost never smells after working out (I need to start using his deodorant more often). Since I'm only doing partial rides and runs with him, he lets me sleep in most weekends and picks me up for the second loop. He hasn't complained that I rarely cook these days; he doesn't mind the occasional Sonic or Taco Bell run (ok, yes it's more than occasional). 

I do need to work on my spectating endurance, since I know an all day Ironman spectathlon is a tiring, energy consuming event. Last weekend I practiced with a half, but it honestly seemed to fly by. I was ready for it. Double the distance will take some work, but I look forward to having friends there to sherpa me through it. Luckily I have 9 more weeks of training.

And now to leave you with our featured Ironman athlete, finishing off his last race with a bang head-first slide.

Immediately from stepping over the finish line, to a full speed dive onto this:

Don't let that Garmin get submerged in the...! oh, well, that's ok, it'll dry.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The open trails

I had the afternoon off yesterday (have to take all my vacation time before the job ends this month), so I left town at a few degrees over 100 and intensely sunny and headed up a few thousand feet to the trailhead at the top of the mountain. It was drizzling rain and my car reported that the outside temp was 55. In degrees Farenheit. I waited a few minutes until the rain slacked off and headed out to the trails. It definitely didn't feel 55 degrees cool, but it was such a relief to shed the sweaty clothes and breathe a few breaths of moist cool air. 

I went to the Trestle trail where I'd been once before with Mom and Dad last fall, but wasn't sure where I'd go after. I hadn't really explored the area, but ended up finding intersection after intersection, all well marked and pointing me to familiar places. 

I had forgotten my trail shoes and foot calluses, as it has been several months since I've done any trail running up there (the forest has been closed!), and wound up with a few blisters, but it was so worth it. I kept finding myself just smiling about being out there on the trails. I'm sure the few others out there hiking thought I was a bit psycho, but then again, maybe they understood. I kept marveling at the smell of trees. There are mostly pines up in that area, with a few aspens thrown in for fall color, and I couldn't get enough of the smell. I just wanted to bottle up the air and bring it back down. 

I didn't carry any animal repellent this time, since I was staying so close to the highway, but I did get to see a tiny snake and what I am positive was bear poop. I almost took a picture of the poop, but instead just stood there trying to figure out what it had eaten instead. I'm not a poopaphile, I just like knowing what lives on those trails besides deer (which make themselves very known). 

Apparently I went down down down many hundred feet at the beginning of the run (I have sore glute meds to prove it), because that last mile and a half was all uphill. I may have even interspersed my running with a few seconds of walking so as to not make it a complete zone 5 effort. When I got back to my car, it told me that the temp was up to almost 80, which felt much more realistic. For some reason I always expect the basin to have cooled off while I was up on the mountain cooling off, but it has yet to happen. So it was back to August and bright sun. It was a nice little vacation though. 

I have GOT to make this at least a weekly trip, and with all the time off I'm about to have, it may be a realistic possibility.

Here's my trail, but last year, when it was sunny and dry.

This little snake didn't move a millimeter even when I got up right next to him to check him out. I think he thinks he blends a little better amongst those rocks than he actually does.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

new end of season goals

I've decided that this is definitely not my year for Ironman, so instead of demonstrating another famous Joy meltdown, I'm going to take my $150 and run. Or just spectate. Or maybe do a little running while I spectate. But Jeremy's still in, so I need to at least do partial workouts with him, so I don't sit on the couch gaining weight while he gets leaner and meaner. Plus, I'm totally doing the base triathlon in 6 weeks. If I can win by 40 minutes like I did at a small race last year (I beat 6 whole women), that will be the icing on the cake. I haven't actually been challenged by one of my tri class participants, but I took it as a challenge when she proclaimed that another beginner would "probably win overall." I'm pretty sure she based this on looks and attendance in aerobics classes. You know, because that translates to triathlon speed. 

So I'm running, swimming and riding my bike a little. I even did a run on base in the middle of the day yesterday, since it was partly cloudy, not super hot, and I had brought my sunscreen and sleeves. I wasn't running very fast, so I was caught off guard when suddenly I needed a bathroom. The problem was that I was not within 15 minutes of one, and the places to squat were minimal. Here's my trail.

It may appear that I'm running in the middle of nowhere, but actually there was a road a few hundred feet to my right. And while the bush in the center looks substantial, I quickly remembered that there are many surveillance methods in use out here. Namely that unmanned aerial vehicle that flew about 50 feet over my head. So no escape.

And while I can handle the heat of the noon sun when I have some cloud cover, I am barely able to handle the heat in my office or house these days. It's regularly 85 in the office, which for some reason is not being cooled appropriately this week. Then I get home to a house that will not cool down in time for me to sleep before midnight. While looking at the temperature last night -- it was still 95F at 8pm -- I came across this.

Ouch, Phoenix! I hope y'all don't have swamp coolers. It's 8pm there and still 112?? And the LOWS are in the 90s? As Jeremy said, how did that ever become a city? And thank goodness we're at a higher elevation.

There better be some kind of big cool down that happens between now and 12 weeks from now, when IMAZ happens. I'm not spectating in that weather.

And as a final note, I'm very excited that my friend Rob, the super badass 65-year-old, won his age group at Sprint Nationals despite the heat and giving up after the swim. Turns out even fast people give up on their races sometimes. Except then they come back and win. 

I've maybe given up on speed as a triathlete, so maybe I'll just come back some day and win something.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

back to work, back to work

I don't think I've even logged into my blogger account since we returned to the States! Good thing I remembered my password. We returned just over a week ago and my internal time clock has yet to reset to Mountain Time. I could go to sleep at 8pm every night, and now getting up in the mornings has gotten harder and harder.

I got some exciting news and some disappointing news when I got back to work last Wednesday. Let's get the bad out of the way: due to a hiring freeze and some financial cuts, my job will be ending earlier than expected. I have 5 more weeks there. At least they gave me warning so I could use up all my PTO. 

The good news upon returning was my triathlon training class was ready to commence. I left with just the proposal of starting this class the Monday after my return and was excited that it was approved and had been advertised (a little). 

I think  it was about 7-8 years ago that I first started a triathlon class back at the U of Memphis. I had been recruiting spinning participants to come run or swim with me afterward for a few semesters, and finally we made it official. It was one of my best memories from grad school. I had a great time spinning, running, swimming and hopping across the aerobics room (those plyometrics really helped the running!), and I made some really great friends from it too. It's amazing how you can bond over looking ridiculous. 

This group training for the base triathlon has no idea what they're in for (I can make them also look ridiculous), but they seem to be willing participants and a really fun group. 

So, thinking back to your very first triathlon, what are some good tips for these guys and girls? I'm not even sure what I stressed over those first few times. By the way, it's a pool swim, so no swamp creatures to nibble toes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

One Year Down

We've officially been here in NM for over a year now (and as Jeremy just told me tonight, we have 683 or so days to go). And while the first few months crept along, since starting work, the days go by pretty fast. And that's one reason I've been such a terrible blog writer and even blog reader: work. Anything blogspot is blocked. I don't know what they expect me to do during my hours of boredom there.

It's a new season in southern NM, since the rains finally started. I think today was the first time I have driven through water on base. I even used the wipers once on my way home. Crazy, I know! And then it stopped. Thankfully I hadn't ridden my bike to work today. Since I have no races on the horizon, I've begun racing myself and those unfortunate mountain bike riders with the fat tires on my commutes. Usually in the mornings it's cool and calm, plus the ride descends about 300 feet from my house to work in a nice long false flat. Then it's the complete opposite on the way home: hot, sunny, windy, almost always a headwind, and a false flat that ascends. I can cruise at an easy 25 on the way out, and grind at 15 on the way back, if I'm lucky. I've tried to chat with the people I've caught on the road, but usually they just give a nod and go back to concentrating on their ride, so I go on by. Apparently I've been recognized as the one who does the chicking (it's not my fault they don't know it's a race), so that's more encouragement.

It has cooled down a bit; tonight's run was downright pleasant. June is supposedly the hottest month in this desert, and it proved to be this year. Even without significant humidity, I can tell you that 107F with the sun blazing down and no shade within a 30 minute drive can make for a tough run. But with cloud cover, and especially rain, comes relief!

But we're leaving all this behind in just a few short hours! Thirty-six to be exact (and I haven't started packing). Most of my internet time is spent planning for the Italy trip. There's so much history, and so many things to see, that it's almost impossible to narrow down into 14 days everything I'm interested in. So back to the travel plans, and maybe a little packing. And hopefully in a few days, with a little internet service, I can post some updates and pictures. Ciao!

Saturday, July 23, 2011


My summer seems to be divided up in my mind based on visitors and vacations. Races have been sprinkled in there, adding to the trip side. I got started with a trip to Santa Fe, that marked the official beginning of summer on Memorial Day weekend. Then it was off to California, followed by a visit from Charlie, and then last week was a visit from Jenny and her clan. 

We filled the days with hiking

swimming in the waterfall (naked, if you were under 2)



and playing Rock Band.

The extra long weekend went by super fast, and next thing I knew it was Sunday and we were headed to the airport in El Paso to say goodbye :(

The weather has gotten a lot cooler around here and the rains are coming. We had a few sprinkles in the basin, and up on the mountain, the Forest has even reopened. Mornings are so nice with cool temps and little wind, so I've been trying to ride my bike to work more often. It really only takes about 30 minutes as opposed to 15 to go those 10 miles. Some afternoons, I get a straight on headwind for the 7 miles on the highway, but it's going by faster and faster. They keep adding obstacles in my path. For the last few months a section of road right outside my neighborhood has been torn up, leaving rough pavement and thick gravel for a few hundred yards. This week they dug a 4 foot trench on my only exit road from the neighborhood. It requires a dismount and hike of the bike, but doesn't slow me down too much. We'll see what they throw at me next.

One more week of riding and then we are off to Italia for two weeks! The itinerary isn't set quite yet, and I keep thinking of more and more places to visit. There will be little riding, hopefully a good bit of running and hiking, and definitely some swimming in the Mediterranean. One week from tomorrow we leave!

Monday, July 11, 2011

racing from a different perspective

I've definitely admitted my fear of deep dark water before. And the name of the triathlon on Saturday didn't ease my fears: "Bottomless Tri." So did this mean the lake was some abyss in the middle of the desert that nobody had found the bottom of yet? Maybe it was just so dark down there that it looked like an ocean trench? *shivers* 

As it turns out, this Bottomless Lake, which is in a string of them near Roswell, has a bottom which is 90 feet below the surface. I don't know exactly why they have to tell me the depths of these things; I always had to look away from the depth finders on ski boats before I'd get into the water. And googling images of the lake didn't help. Exactly how big is this fish??

Lake Lea, the one we swam in, is a water filled sink hole (so it could be getting deeper all the time?), and was really beautiful. The water was clear enough to see at least 10 feet, which is saying a lot for this southerner used to swimming in mud.

So I busied myself before the race doing the usual setting up, helping the man who blew up THREE tubes before the start (if I hadn't been starting in 5 minutes, I probably would've grabbed it from him and done it myself), and getting a good warm up ride and run in. 

This was a the shortest triathlon I've ever done at 450ish meter swim, 8ish mile bike, and 2.6ish mile run. Or something like that. And while I'm not in sprinting shape by any means, I was looking forward to being finished well under an hour. 

I got in the water to warm up cool off in my awesome new wetsuit and paddled around just a bit before they called the women to the starting line. Good, no time to panic. All 18 of us lined up waist deep waiting for the gun. It was a straight out and back, almost all the way across the clear blue water. Within 100 yards I found myself checking out who was around me. I found some feet, kept bumping into them, moved over and did the same to more feet, and realized that these two were the lead girls. I WAS IN THE LEAD PACK! Never before have I been in the lead pack in the swim. Not even for 5 yards. Really. 

I never start too quickly in the swim for fear of panicking, and found that I was staying steady while one of the girls was fading. Getting close to the turn buoy, I was coming up on the inside of the lead girl, who, by the way, was not wearing a wetsuit. I rounded the buoy first and pulled a little ahead. Sure enough, I did it. I pulled to the front of the pack! Now to hang on... When I don't want to panic, I have the tendency to close my eyes while my head is in the water, only opening them to sight above the surface. Because of this and my excitement of leading a swim, I managed to keep images of lake monsters out of my head. I had nothing but smooth clear water in front of me. And I did it! I held them off and came out first to the sound of the men and spectators cheering and my name being announced on the loudspeaker! 

I ran through a quick hose shower and even told the kid holding it, "I've never been first out of the water before!" I heard a comment from the water table, "Is that the first swimmer?" I might've said, "YES! Can you believe it?" 

I could just end the race report there, since I've never been so proud of my swimming. 

The short story is I won overall. But here's the rest, which is a little less exciting. Into T1 I was closely followed by a couple of other girls, including the non-wetsuit wearers. The one right behind me hopped on her bike just as I was, and I kind of let her get ahead of me, just to check her out. Despite the big college trisuit, she had no TT bars of any sort, so I felt a little relief that maybe the swim was really her strong suit.

Immediately out of T1 was the longest hill of the day. I'd been warned of this, but we'd ridden it in warm up and knew these were flatlanders talking about the size of it. Big school tri suit was hurting right at the start and I couldn't just sit there behind her, so I passed. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't look back. Before the top of the hill, a motorcycle with a yellow clad rider passed and stayed 200 yards ahead of me. A pace vehicle! In yellow, no less! I was fully expecting a woman on the back holding a chalkboard with my lead scrawled in minutes and seconds. 
The road surface was definitely the hardest part of the bike ride. It was standard chip seal, like 90% of the roads around here are, but it had a bumpy, wave-like quality. So not only was it rough enough to take a few millimeters of rubber off my tires, but it was so bumpy I couldn't make out the biggest numbers on my computer, and drinking from my profile straw the little Gatorade that hadn't splashed out of the bottle was almost impossible without stabbing the roof of my mouth. 

A few sections of road were decent enough to get some speed going, even in the TT bars (without falling off of them), and occasionally I'd gain on the pace bike. Then he'd pull away. Each race monitor sitting in his truck on the route would radio when I went by. I;d have felt like a celebrity, if only the paparazzi had been there.

Into T2 I was still in the lead, experiencing this race from a perspective I've never experienced before. Never have I lead a women's field with no men ahead of me. The run was an out and back, with almost no elevation gain, but luckily the few feet we gained was in the first half. It was already hot by this point, and there was exactly one tree that provided shade on the course. When I got to the turnaround and saw that second place was not in sight, I let myself slow down a bit more and tried to relax. I didn't do a good job of checking  my gap on her, but decided it was a two or three minutes. Getting to see some men going out on the run helped pass the second half, and before I knew it, I was finishing very first. 

I realized the stress that good swimmers must have. I can't take the pressure of being chased like that! Of course in these reverse order triathlons, I get a taste of it by knowing those fast swimmers are chasing me. But that one still goes down in the record books as the day I won the swim. :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I've been so bad about blogging for the last 2 weeks, or however long it's been since we got home from California. It was a great trip, and we followed it up by picking Charlie up at El Paso International for a long weekend of desert activities.

We started with a road ride followed by trying to keep up with him for a brick. I thought this altitude was supposed to slow him down! Maybe it did; I'm just that slow. And can I comment on his trail running, you know, as a triathlon coach and regular gait analyzer? He glides over those rocks like it's nothing, so his upcoming stage race shouldn't be much of a problem.

A few trails outside of our closed national forest are still open, so mountain biking was an option after all. The bike shop owner where we rented surprised us in accepting our offer to come along for the ride, and ended up being our tour guide. Here's some scenery for you. And the view of the mountain is nice too :)

I would've gotten more pictures, but was doing too many white knuckle descents to get out the phone. They were scary due to my extreme lack of mtbiking ability. We were excited that CBD brought some rain for us (see those clouds?). It sprinkled on us on the way home, but ended up being more tragic than it was worth: another forest fire was started by the lightening. Ugh, will this ever stop? We're a little late getting started on monsoon season, but have had a couple of minutes' worth of rain at the house in the last month.

We were sad to see Charlie go after his short stay. This week we've found ourselves wrapped up in something else: the Tour de France. I think I mostly watch it for the commentating by Phil and Paul, and for getting nervous for Cavendish at the end of the sprints. I like him.

I was amused at Contador yesterday when after crashing, he threw his bike off in the ditch like, "get this piece of $*** out of here." If I was that spectator I'd be on that thing riding off into the distance before he could turn around. I'll take his toss-asides.

It's around :40 in this video if you missed it (and poor Janez Brajkovic).

Side note: For some really good analyses of TdF power data, see my favorite sports science blog.

Besides visitors and tours of France, we've started picking up the training around here, and that includes a few bike commutes to work on the very wide but very dirty shoulder of the highway that's not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. It really only takes me 15 or 20 more minutes than usual, so if I can just get everything together, it's not overly inconvenient.

We're leaving tomorrow for Roswell again, to do the Bottomless Lakes Triathlon. It's super short, but we swim first, just like I like it. The only stress I'm having is from reading about this Bottomless Lake, which is 90 feet deep, but clear. I keep telling myself that I've done Ironmans in deeper, with shark potential to boot. This won't make me panic. THIS WON'T MAKE ME PANIC.

Next week we host a long weekend again, but filled with some different activities. Jenny and family will be here to check out the desert and see if it's up to Jackson's standards. I'll report back on that.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CA: Monterey down to Ventura

Jeremy once again is on the ball and blogging before I wake up in the mornings. So he has all the good pictures and stories of our adventures. I'm not sure I can even add anything to what he's said, except he's such a good travel buddy. It seems we get hungry at the same times, need a restroom break together, and want to do the exact same stuff. And what else do you need in a husband?? :)

Monterey was an awesome city, with a bike path stretching at least from one end of the other. We actually never saw either end; it was left to the imagination. Around Fisherman's Wharf, it was crowded with walkers and those 2 seater side by side cart bikes where you can put your 4-year-old sister in the front basket and do all the pedaling for you and your older sister who pretends to be carrying her weight... sorry! Memories of pedaling around Point Clear, AL.

Anyway, I loved Monterey and all of its coastal bike paths, people, historic canneries, mansions, and flowers. I think I might do this with my front yard instead of the multicolored rocks.

After an amazingly filling breakfast (we didn't eat again until dinner) on Sunday morning, we headed south on Highway 1 along the breathtaking cliffs high up over the water. I found myself actually holding my breath along the winding route, pushing that imaginary brake pedal that only driver's ed instructors actually have (mental note, add one to the Jetta).

Jeremy had picked for us 4 state parks to stop by, and I have to admit the first one looked boring upon entrance. It was the most scenic, beautiful park I've probably ever visited. We decided to do a slow run along the smooth dirt paths through flowers, over hills, and along the shoreline. At some point I realized that I take pictures mostly of flowers and/or cliffs. Usually both.

Big Sur state park was pretty impressive as well, though we spent less time here, and even less at Julia Burns park. This was the site of a house in the early 1900s, and it overlooked this waterfall onto the beach.

We finally finished most of the day's journey in San Luis Obispo, where there were many restaurants to choose from, and Mama's Meatballs won our vote. We took a short drive to Lompoc, right next to Vandenberg AFB to spend the night. That got us close to our riding destination for today, which was to Solvang. If you saw the Tour of California this year, or you know Gary Ironman, you also know that Solvang is in some great riding country. We did an out and back to the Danish settled Solvang to have lunch and see the town, then rode through the vineyards and flower fields back to Lompoc.

Our last side trip of the day was to the beach in Carpinteria, which supposedly is one of the safest for swimming. And there were many people doing just that. With the water nowhere near the 70F mark, and the air in the mid 60s, a toe in the water was all I needed to convince me that I was not joining the hardened local kids in that surf. A lounge in the sand was how I spent my time.

And tonight will be spent in Ventura, where 5 large sushi rolls were consumed by the two of us before retiring to our hotel. Tomorrow's ventures may include the Channel Islands, and who knows where we'll end up. Until then.