Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Lasts

We are moving in less than three weeks, after almost three years here. I can't say that I'll miss a lot, but I am trying to get in some lasts. I need to finish up the last of the 25lbs of roasted, frozen green chiles from two Augusts ago. Hot chiles last a lot longer than one might expect. Broccoli, bean and green chile soup, green chile biscuits with chipotle gravy, green chile lasagna, quiche with onion and green chile, and a few pieces of diced chiles in other usual dishes have been on the menu frequently around here. I think Hunter is getting a taste of some spice and liking it. That's my New Mexican baby!

I will miss riding in the mountains. Jeremy doesn't have quite the same affinity for it, so last week when he had a day off, I headed up the back roads solo to the town half way up the mountain, High Rolls: elevation 6600ft. It involves some rough roads and a dismount for a water crossing, then another for a long gravel section.

Twisting and turning through Fresnal canyon, I see a few farms, a few cows, no cougar tracks (this time), and one car. It's very calm and peaceful except for my heavy breathing. Finally at the top I get to the highway which is smooth and a bit winding for the 8 or so miles downhill. No pedaling is required at all. I really enjoyed the downhill this last time since the road was empty and the gusts were minimal. The tunnel still scares me; it's dark in there! But the view on the other side is fantastic.

The hardest part of this loop was the last few hundred feet downhill in the last 9 miles. The south wind had picked up and beat me almost to submission. I eventually made it home after almost crying a few times. Here it seems March winds bring the stronger April winds, which being even worse May winds. And that brings the June heat. Probably won't miss the wind.

Meters and kilometers? Ok, whatever. Makes it sound harder.

I am counting down my last runs here. It's time to say goodbye to my roadrunner friend. And maybe my coyote friend, although, well, I would be ok skipping that. My usual runs from home, regardless of distance, go the same direction for the first 2.5 miles--always, since any other direction leads me to unfathomable boredom. It's a tough first few, almost all a steady incline. It's nothing steep, but it does make my already slow warm up miles even slower. BUT that means almost every run is negatively split. Sometimes the wind is stiff enough that even going downhill is nothing spectacular, but that nice gradual downhill makes me feel speedy on calm days. This was my flattest 11 miles, with only 400 ft gained, but whew, that uneven pacing! I am sooo slow to warm up.

My last race out here was last weekend in El Paso, and it was a great ending to my southwestern triathlon career. We got off to a rocky start in '10 when our first race in NM centered around making the volunteers feel good about themselves, and not the paying customers who were racing. I was scared that it was the local culture. I'm happy to say it is not, and I'm leaving with such a good last experience.

Mighty Mujer: time to RUN! to the bike, that is

It may be the last of my low humidity caused, straight-haired, dry skin days. Around 8% is where it was hovering the other day. I won't miss the way my throat dries into sandpaper when I'm breathing hard on the bike, or how my lips get stuck to my teeth in a grimacing smile. The ridiculous amount of sunscreen needed...well I may miss that. I stopped myself before washing off our dirty, dusty umbrella, since I realized the absurdity of that. It'll be put to use soon enough.

Walmart grocery shopping will soon be a thing of the past. Goodbye to you and your gimpy-wheeled carts that won't steer straight! We joined the CSA at Heifer Farms in Little Rock, and it has already started arriving at the cousins' house. No more 6am Sunday trips to Wally World just to get the first pick of the not-even-organic produce (that was Jeremy's job, obviously).

I keep thinking I'm going to miss the huge outdoor pool that has just been unbubbled at the rec center. But since they've recently shortened the afternoon hours to ONE hour a few days a week, and the gym we plan to join in Little Rock also has an outdoor pool, I can't say that I will miss anything besides the mountain and palm tree view.

Some significant lasts remain on my to do list. My favorite ride up in Cloudcroft is on my schedule for the last weekend we are here. I want to go back to Ruidoso for some hiking and rellenos one day. And White Sands sledding is close enough for an evening venture.

We didn't make it to the Gila Wilderness, Carlsbad Caverns, Albuquerque, or Mexico. But that's ok; we have a new state to explore this summer, and if we are really dying to come back for a visit some day, I'm sure we can stay with our creepy neighbor.

I'm such a sentimental person sometimes that I keep thinking, "oh I'm going to miss (fill in the blank)!" It is, after all, Hunter's first home. But then I snap back to the reality of where I am, and I think of all the exciting upcoming firsts.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mighty Mujer Sprint

After a tiny amount of training and a lot of resting, I felt uber prepared for a super sprint triathlon in nearby El Paso on Saturday. Since my focus of the last few months has been longer distance, a sprint would feel really good,right? I've so missed that lung searing, stomach churning feeling of sub-hour races, so this race fit perfectly into my schedule.

A week before the race, we all got an email about our race numbers for the time trial pool swim start, which were based on our submitted estimations for 300 yds. Jeremy signed me up with a 4:30, which I can do, but not with anyone else touching me, and only while flip turning in one lane. A good warm up is also required. So when my number was 354 out of 500, I was a little worried. Must be a lot of fast women! The email I got back from the race director failed to calm my fears, since I was to be at the beginning of the second wave, since I failed to "certify" my time. Oops. Interpreted those emails wrong. I couldn't wait to start 10 seconds after the person who certified that she swims 300 yds in 14 minutes. And then the potential bike course catastrophes! My plan was to talk someone into spacing the waves a little more.

I should mention that this was an all women's race set up to cater to beginners. I really love beginners. It's always so much fun to see their excitement. Not surprisingly, I was the only person I saw warming up, I got an awesome transition spot, and there were actually more cruisers than tri bikes there. I did see another aero helmet that stuck out more than the bike with the front basket. And bless her heart, one lady came in off the bike with a backwards helmet. At least she wasn't the aero helmet owner.

I didn't manage to talk to anyone that knew anything about the waves. Nobody could tell me anything other than "there will be a break between waves, we just don't know how long." I was relaying this to my fellow second wavers when someone said, that sounds just like something a Mexican would say. Ha! I had just been laughing at how everyone else there was speaking Spanish. I think I like this culture; I wouldn't be late ever again!

The race started with 10 seconds between women. 10! That meant I'd be starting almost an hour later. I recounted at some point and realized they had moved the space up to 15 seconds. I really needed a second breakfast and another warm up before race time. Luckily I'd brought some trail mix with chocolate covered espresso beans, so I stayed nice and wired while waiting around and jogging a few more minutes, then a few MORE minutes.

Let me stop here and interject "Things I like about all-women races":
1. We took over both men's and women's locker rooms. No lines.
2. Porta potty was lacking usual drippings around the urinal thing.
3. I had no problem sitting down while waiting in line for the start and nursing Hunter, while chatting with other racers.
4. Everyone is so excited. It's like "girl power" everywhere. I even was told "we did it!" upon finishing.

Around 90 minutes after the race started, having seen several fast chicks finish, we had an untimed break of maybe 7-8 minutes. Who's counting anyway? I jumped in first, just waiting for the girl behind me to pass me, which she did within 75 yards. It was super stress-free, and I actually felt lucky to have such open lanes. We stayed on the left though, and I cannot flip turn that way, so it was mostly touch and turn style.

On to the bike, I knew it was uphill for the first 2.5 miles, but I was surprised by the steepness and my inability to catch my breath. I wanted to cheer for the girls walking their bikes up the hill and tell them not to feel bad, their cruisers weigh about 3 times what my bike weighs. I'm sure my heavy breathing comforted them instead; they knew I was paying for any speed I had.

The eternal hill ascended, we turned around on the wide, clear, and closed road, and headed downhill with a nice view of just about all of Juarez just across the border. I ended up spinning out in my hardest gear, at least until I had to sit up to avoid the many, but very well marked, potholes. Heartbreak hill actually consisted of two very short but steep little inclines with more bike walkers and a nice cheering section.

A few more turns and back uphill again led us toward T2. Just before the dismount line, I pulled my feet out, ready to cruise right into my parking spot, first rack on the left, closest spot to the aisle. The volunteers started shouting, "Stop! Dismount! Stop!" Since there's no stopping in triathlon, I continued my flying dismount, and got a "Nice!" from the sidelines. I'm guessing nobody else did this?

Jeremy was there giving me the updated current standings, with the time I needed to beat to win. He asked me if I heard him and thought I said yes. I recall none of his. In an oxygen deprived state, my brain apparently has an inability to process numbers, people's faces, words... Or it could have been the water in my ears and the echo from the aero helmet.

I had actually ridden the run course. It was a two mile, two lap course. Yes, two laps. For two miles. With bracelets given out after the first lap, so you didn't forget how many you'd done? Anyway, I again had trouble catching my breath with the small rolling hills straight out of transition. Mostly it was a blur, but there were some ups, some downs, and my racing flat's insole that was all bunched up under my toes.

I saw my cute boys just before finishing, and Jeremy told me I'd won! By 2 minutes! Cool!

Everybody was so friendly at this race. Afterwards when chatting with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places, one asked about Kona and said something to the effect of, "Ack, open water swim!!" That made me laugh since I often fail to remember just how little water there is around these parts. I assured her that the swim was not the worst part of that race. And I'm not a swimmer.

I picked up some great awards and we headed for the showers and brunch at our favorite place; it was a great way to end my last race in the desert. I'm certainly not planning on racing in an overpriced boring duathlon on base next weekend just to get a T-shirt and a medal.

Sweet Hunter is getting good at race spectating. I think he really had a good time. There are dogs everywhere, flowers to pick, grass to pull, and so many things to taste. We are back in the tasting stage again, but mostly with flowers and plants. I think he sees me smelling them and sticks his little tongue out for a taste.

He picks up on things sooo fast now! He knows how to close his eyes and walk backward on command-- not at the same time--yet, he does lots of signs like milk, cracker, more, all done, hurt (darn rose bushes), duck, and several more I haven't figured out yet. He really pays attention to what I'm saying and tries to not do anything "wrong" (I may get overly excited when he picks up bird poop). Stair climbing, holding our hands, is his latest physical feat. He's quick! Bouncing on the hammock outside is working his future jumping muscles. My little lefty has started drawing on the chalkboard, and we are still working that pitching/shooting arm.

Now his stuffed animals all get to share what he's eating, and I have to nurse them too! We found him cross referencing animals among several books the other day; there are multiple bunnies, cows, and goats (who chew on your clothes, as he will demonstrate). We love his sweet kisses; he kisses us and his stuffed animals, and the cats, much to their dismay. He is just so funny, smart, and cute, and I could go on and on.

He's really keeping me on my toes, and strong, from picking him up, bouncing him to sleep, carrying him around the grocery store, running up and down stairs... I guess we know who really gets the award for last weekend: my coach and cheerleader, Hunter.

Sunset with the ducks at the pond

Saturday, April 13, 2013

10k in Mission Bay

I was recovering from my race in San Diego on Wednesday with my feet propped up, which is rare when Hunter is awake. The TV in the hotel room was on and Jeremy noticed a commercial for a race at the Mission Bay park right down the street and said, hey you should do that--we will still be here!

I ran a few miles on Thursday to make sure my legs still worked after no training for four days. They did, but in slow motion. Good enough. We headed down to the park early Saturday morning and paid an extraordinary amount for a 10k, all in the name of children.

How simple it is to just run after the whole triathlon-with-two-transitions event. Armed with the garmin this time, I ran about two miles as a warm up, with a few strides, nursed a baby, then lined up with a couple hundred others.

The race was the usual kind of race for me for the first mile. I started out easy, but ran my fastest mile anyway. I passed tons of people just before the mile mark, including all the women in front of me. Most people just go out waaay too fast and don't run the tangents! I even told one guy that he was running extra around all the sweeping curves, but I think his music was too loud. Dropped him and his traffic cone shorts around the next curve.

I learned around mile 2, which was already slower than the first, that we had a nice tailwind for the beginning, and coming around the back side of Fiesta Island we were in for a nice strong gusty couple of miles. A large man tried to draft off me, and the race was small enough that once I dropped him and passed a few others, I was in no man's land, with my mind wandering to breakfast plans. This island is basically a pile of dirt with a few flowers-- no trees, nothing to block wind. It was grinding.

I made it to the turn out of the headwind around mile 4-ish, having only run one mile over 6-something, right at 7:00, thankfully, and I caught a hard breather who was not ready to let me drop him. He matched me stride for stride through an out-and-back, but I was picking the pace back up and he didn't hang for the final stretch.

I haven't done a 10k in so long I wasn't sure what to expect, but was happy with my unevenly paced 41:22 and a victory. No cooldowns for me other than walking to a tree to plop down and nurse Hunter. Jeremy said just after the gun started us, Hunter started signing milk.

Before we hopped on the plane that afternoon I got a post race treat: an In and Out burger. There we saw tutu-clad, pink- and blue-skinned girls fresh from a color run, I'm guessing. I wonder if they had as much fun at their race as I did? :)

 Someone needs to work on her awful arm crossover!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Oceanside: the extended race report

I guess I am actually behind on two race reports now, but I'll start with the long race first. Can I start at the end? I sure felt a sense of relief when I finished the race, because in all honesty, I had been getting a bit anxious about the logistics of it all (meaning, Hunter logistics). Surely it gave me something to worry about other than my race and the sharks that could be encountered in that cold, cold water. 

Pre-race beach combing

We stayed just about 3 miles from the start of the race, on Camp Pendleton, in an awesome little one bedroom villa right on the beach. That is a big $$ and location benefit of being a military family, and we got super lucky when someone cancelled their stay and we got to book. I technically could've ridden or driven the whole bike course too, with my dependent ID, but it is one big loop, and, well... OK, so I maybe should have taken advantage of that, since most people aren't able to access the base. But I knew the profile (are the elevation charts always wrong? Just so they don't scare you?). There was also NO WAY I was getting in that ocean. It was cold, murky, shark-infested, and did I mention cold, and there's no swimming of the actual course allowed before race day. I had a brief view of most of the run course, and anyway, maps are all online, so I called myself prepared and packed up my bags. 

Race morning I woke up trying to keep Hunter asleep next to me, but of course he had to see what the commotion was about and got up too. I had taken my T2 bag to T2 the day before, so all I had to do was pack for T1 and ride out the south gate of the base, part of the course, to the pier. The air was not cold, just about 55F; 80% humidity will help retain some heat overnight.

Side note: Hunter and I also realized we both have much curlier hair than we had thought (or remembered) -- wow!

I got to T1 before 6, and my wave, #16, was set to start at 7:27. I set up, chatted a bit, used the porta potty, then wandered down the jetty to watch the pros swim. I did a double take when I saw something dark skim the surface of the water near the women, and my HR shot up. It surfaced again and I saw that it was a seal! He swam along beside them for a bit. Better them than me! I finally got into my wetsuit and about 15 minutes before my start, I headed to the long, long line of people grouped by waves. I had of course forgotten which wave I was in, so not spotting any other white caps, I searched out an answer, and found I was 7 waves back. Time to hustle through some men! Ooops! I caught up to my group of 35-39ers in time to relax before we all entered the water to swim 100yds to the start line. The water was a warm 62F -- it could've been worse -- but I had some pee saved up to help ease my entry. :) I got just a bit out of breath with that first face dunk, and by the time I had slowly gotten to the back of the group at the line, we started. A few beats to the head and a kick or two was all I had to deal with at the start, and I actually settled into a rhythm relatively quickly for me (you know, 1/3 of the way through). I only panicked when some kelp brushed me a few times, but I just closed my eyes to settle down. If you wonder why I have such a fear of large sea creatures after growing up going to the beach all the time and even scuba diving with several dozen sharks at once, I blame it on seeing some movie about divers getting eaten by sharks years ago. It's very rational, really.

An 8-foot-long sea monster like the ones that grabbed me. You'd be scared too.

Coming out of the water in 37 minutes actually made me happy, even though I've swum a good 5 minutes faster in warm calm lakes. I was just happy to have all my appendages and fingers and toes that worked after that ice bath. My T1 seemed awfully slow; we had to run all the way up the long narrow parking lot, then down to the bikes, where my wetsuit would. not. come. off. I was stepping on it and yanking and pulling, and it was still glued to my right ankle. Finally, 6-something minutes later, I was out on the bike. I knew the first half was fast and flat, and I took it a little easy, probably too easy, since I didn't want to be one of the uphill bike walkers. Looking back, I should've just busted ass on that first 25 miles. It was scenic with the ocean and green trees (I notice these things while living in the brown desert), and then suddenly we rounded a corner and I saw the first big hill ahead. A line of bikes crawled up the right side, and I couldn't help but smile; it looked like fun. Only about 5 or 6 were walking their bikes up, and I really felt sorry for them, since it wasn't too bad of an incline. Before the race I was told that it was 15% in some places, which really is not much compared to the mountains around our house. Cresting the top after maybe half a mile, I was expecting more, but it was over before I knew it. 

A few more steep hills came after, and I knew there was a big descent ahead. We were working our way through some base buildings when I heard a pop and a fizzzzzzzzzzzz. I looked around for someone to feel sorry for, and found no one near me. Dammit, it's mine! My back tire was completely flat. Funny how I am starting my 18th triathlon season and this is only my 2nd flat in a race (the first was just 2 years ago, when I first got these wheels). I stayed calm, changed gears, got the wheel and supplies off, and sat down in the grass. You are never supposed to do things for the first time in races, but when do I ever get the chance to change a tubular? The bike shop always does it for me. :) This seemed like the perfect opportunity for a pit stop as well, so I had my next race first: peeing in my shorts (while not swimming, of course). I was sitting in the grass anyway. TMI? Sorry! I could NOT find the spot across from the valve stem where the tire should not be glued, so I started mashing on the valve and got a little separation. From there I used my tools to detach it. This took much longer than I would have expected, but finally it came free. I pulled out my old but very unused spare and unrolled it onto the rim, and then decided it looked too big. A flash of horror crossed my mind when I thought it might be a 700c of Jeremy's, but thankfully it was not. Still, I didn't see how this would work. I was super careful with my CO2 cartridge, remembering a certain Ironman champion and blowing hers up. Somewhat surprised that it worked and very excited to be successful, despite the grass I got stuck between the rim and tire, I poked at it a few times, remembered that a mechanic told me that he'd done a crit on an unglued tubular (mine was pre-glued like 50 years ago), and collected my stuff strewn about. I tried not to be disappointed that all my hard work in training was suddenly pointless--I didn't want to think that negatively--but really I was very let down. I kept telling myself I could still have a good run as consolation. 

Next up was the downhill with a no passing zone. I didn't go over 25 mph around those sweeping curves, and I apologized to the guy who had to hang behind me during it. I was so nervous about the stability of the tire. Suppose I hadn't gotten enough air in it and it rolled right off the rim! Every downhill, corner, and even flats where I could get some speed, I had crashing in the back of my mind. But still, the last third of the course was fun, except for having to pass ALL those people again that I'd already passed. So many had passed me back!

Coming into T2, I was so relieved to be off the bike, where the malfunction possibilities are endless. And can I get an asterisk next to my bike time? I'm sure I did well in the Flat Tire division. I made quick work of dumping my T2 bag out and finding my shoes, then getting out of there! I usually outsplit everybody in transitions, and I think I did a good job here to make up for the sticky wetsuit of T1.

The run started with a quick turnaround and then we headed down the ramp from the pier to the beach level boardwalk-- The Strand. I went bombing down the steep decline, rounded the corner, and found that this cute little beach house lined path was extremely narrow. Who says you don't use your lateral movement muscles while running? I was dodging people and jumping up and down off the sidewalk through spectators, since the path was only wide enough for about a person and a half in each direction. After a short out and back we were headed back up the ramp to the street for a while, then back down to the Strand, back up to the street, and through a neighborhood that was mostly flat, surrounded by concrete, and sunny with a tailwind. It did get hot!

Liz and I decided I would run without my Garmin, so I ran by feel, not even knowing my distance. I saw exactly zero mile markers, unless you count a six inch long strip of tape on the road that I think said 11 miles. So i didn't bother looking at my watch much; it told me very little. I had to keep myself calm at the beginning. I was excited to be off the bike, running at sea level, and I didn't want to blow up in my first correct-order tri in a couple of years. One man passed me, but otherwise I just kept picking people off. Luckily the neighborhood road was wide and I had room to do just that.

All along the Strand were spectators yelling my name, thanks to the bib, but I kept looking for Jeremy and Hunter. I really wanted to see them, but they had gotten stuck in harbor traffic an hour before, so they parked and played in the shade. I checked my watch with what i figured was over 3 miles to go, and thought I could definitely run under 1:40. It turned out to be much shorter and I hit the finish with a 1:33 run. I'm happy with our decision to run garminless, and according to the adjusted online splits, I ran very steadily for the middle miles (though I'm quite certain their marks are off for the first and last splits).

I gathered my finisher's stuff, some pizza, then headed uphill to T2. Jeremy had texted that the tracker was down, so I called and finally met up with them after riding my bike and all my gear around town. I don't know who was more relieved-- Hunter or I-- when he finally nursed those painful boulders! My sunburn was already starting to feel tight on my shoulders, but my lips turned out to take the worst of it. Why does this always happen to me? A race picture explained it. 

Oh. Now I see where the sun hits my face.

It was a great race, and I'm really happy to have finally done it after years of having it on my list. I have to let go of the unavoidables and disappointment; but if I had just ridden ONE INCH to the right or left it would've been avoidable! If only, if only.

The details of our week long vacation that followed will have to be saved for another post, as will the 10k race report-- oh yeah! I jumped into a 10k the next Saturday-- since I think I've exceeded my word limit here!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Oceanside: the highlights

There's just too much to do in So Cal for me to find time to write much about the race yet, so I'll give the brief summary now, with details later.

I didn't panic in the swim, but I admit, I'm slow! The bike was beautiful and scenic, and I really enjoyed it until I flatted on my rear tire at mile 32 and got my first experience changing a tubular. I was super timid afterward, and of course that didn't help me make up for lost time.

The run got warm and had more challenges than I expected, but without knowing my pace at all, I pulled off a decent split.

Thirteenth in my AG and a 5:23 isn't exactly what I hoped for, but I feel like it was a success under the circumstances!

It's a really great race, and all the stress of the travel and logistics was actually worth it! Hunter seemed to miss me, and especially his milk; he can't get enough since then. I'm convincing Jeremy to come back and race here soon I hope.

Now off to Sea World!