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.