This has been an interesting year for me. As far as racing goes, it was great. I set a new PR in the 1/2 marathon and 70.3. I knocked a few items off my bucket list, including run naked, average over 20 mph in a 70.3 and finished two adventure races. I started mountain biking and got to watch John finish his first triathlon and talk with several old friends back in WI while they did their first triathlon. I bought my first carbon fiber road bike. For Christmas, I got snowshoes, a Camelback, and a compass. It was a good year.
On a more personal level, it was much more "interesting". I lost a close friend in June. It was the first person I lost that I was close to and who had a profound impact on my life. My dad lost his job and health insurance. My mom picked up a second job. My oldest niece (at the age of 5) is being bullied. One friend started having heart problems and another close friend was diagnosed with cancer. Other than my parents, all these people are 36 or younger. My brothers have had their own challenges and I've had my own personal struggles. It was a challenging year.
I'm ready to leave 2010 behind me. PRs are great, but I will gladly sacrifice all the PRs in my future if that will guarantee good health and happiness to the people I love. I always thought those wishes were empty, like a sales clerk saying "Have a nice day." But now I meant it sincerely to everyone around me:
I wish you nothing but love and happiness, good fortune and great health in 2011.
John and I drove it tonight and it's pretty darn good. The highlight of the route: George Brett's house and the spectacular tree. The highlight after the route: $1.50 beer night at the Moose!
What was last night's activities, you ask? Well, here's a hint:
That's not a dentist chair. Still not sure? Here's another shot:
So then there were six. Other than SF, I didn't know any of my teammates, which was a little unnerving since I was going to be spending all day with them out in the woods. Oh well, I thought it would be interesting no matter what, and I still believe that an 8-hour race is good training for a 50 mile ultra. Did I mention that I was racing with a sinus cold which just happened to move into my chest the day before the race? I am a snot-rocketing machine!
OK, so the race. We parked at the finish and were taken by bus to the start at a different park. They could have used a few more porta potties. I don't actually know what time we started or what time we finished. This course was a little different than Smithville in that almost all of the CPs could be done in any order. Since there is usually a bottleneck at the first CP, we decided to go to #5 first.
The race started and we took off. Josh was moving fast, and I was working hard to keep him in my sight. SF was just ahead of me and one of the Jasons passed me. I looked back, but I didn't see the other two guys. So I walked. Still nothing. Crap. I yelled ahead to get the rest to stop. The other two guys missed the turnoff and followed the main pack to CP #1 so we had to backtrack to find them. Not a good way to start the race at all.
We got the first orienteering section with no other problems and headed for the first paddle. I had taken off my fleece since we were running pretty hard and I didn't put it back on. Big mistake. I was freezing by the time we made it to the first bike section. It didn't help Jake dropped his paddle in the water and I had to pull it out for him.
Back on land, I put my fleece back on, put my heavy MTB gloves on and tried to warm up. There were teams everywhere on the bike trails going in every direction. We lost two of the guys again. Crap. We waited at an intersection until we found everyone. By this point, I think we all knew any chance of finishing well had flown out the window and it became a race to finish and not freeze. This MTB section was pretty tame, boring almost. We hit all the CPs and headed back to the canoes.
This is where is gets interesting. We had to put both of our bikes in the canoe with us and paddle to the next orienteering section. We took off and Jake and I got ahead of our leader and almost missed a CP that was in a back channel off the river. We navigated through some downed trees and other obstacles and made good time. At this point, paddling was still fun.
The sun started to peak out during the first paddle, but then changed its mind. There was no sun, only clouds and wind followed by more clouds and more wind. We'd work up a sweat only to freeze the next time the wind blew. You had to keep moving.
The last orienteering section was brutal. Hills and bluffs are an understatement. We were trekking into and out of 200-300 ft steep ravines. Everyone was getting tired and a couple of the guys were having knee issues. Team dynamics were... let's just say sketchy. It was probably good Shelley and I were there to buffer a little of the tension.
We had to hop back into our bike-laden canoes and paddle to the final bike section. The paddle never seemed to end! Then, Jake and I were on an open section of water when a huge gust of wind hit us broadside and the canoe tipped. Holy shit! We had two bikes tied to the canoe, if it tipped over, we were screwed. We held on and then wind calmed down but our hearts were racing. OK, paddling isn't fun anymore. I couldn't feel my finger tips and I was having a hard time gripping the paddle. I just wanted to be warm. I started daydreaming about warm, cheesy pasta.
SF and I were so cold after the last paddle that we put our rain jackets on as a wind breaker for the last bike. This section included carrying our bikes up a huge stair and some major descents over loose rocks. We hit all our points and headed for the finish.
We finished in 8:50 and we were glad to be done. We did make it back in time to get some of the free beer at the finish, always a priority. It was a great experience and a gorgeous and challenging course. I'm really looking forward to getting a mountain bike of my own. But in all honesty, it might be the last cold-weather AR I do for a while.
Afterwards, we went out for Italian and I had the best penne alla vodka con mare I've ever tasted. I slept like a baby that night.
After buying my Felt and keeping in touch with the guys up at Cycle City, I decided to drop in on their Wednesday night spin last night. I'm sure I'll spend some time in the garage, I'm just hoping not 3 times a week.
I'll be honest - I was kinda sand-bagging it last night. I'm trying to kick the last of this stupid sinus cold and I'm racing on Saturday, so I didn't want to go all out and pay for it dearly. But I had a blast. There were 17 people there total, good music and it was a good set. Actually, I was a little disappointed when we finished after an hour - I wanted to keep going! I think the one-legged drills were the most interesting for me - clearly something I can benefit from.
I'm hoping to make the Wednesday night a weekly thing and I'd like to make it to the occasional Monday night ride, too. It sure beats my (stinky) garage.
The only problem I foresee is this damn cold. I was hoping it would pass quickly, but I'm feeling worse today than I did yesterday. It could be a very long day on Saturday. And with Rocky Raccoon just around the corner, I need to run 10 miles on Sunday after we get back to KC. Oh the endurance life!
Actually, I have a feeling that Rocky will be my last ultra for quite a while. After doing an adventure race, I don't see myself doing more ultras anytime soon. I'd rather train for an 18- 24- or 48- hour AR than train for another 50. There is no course, there is no boredom. I never once asked myself "Why in God's name am I doing this?" which goes through my head regularly during an ultra. Adventure racing requires you to pay attention and requires a much greater skill-set than ultras. And, a repeated theme here is this: I like to go fast. And going fast in an ultra can be devastating. My goal for Rocky is to just have a good race so when I'm done I don't feel like I have any unfinished business. I'm sure I'll come back to ultras eventually. Just not anytime in the near future.
So I'm taking it a little easy, drinking lots of water, and going to bed early. Hopefully the worst passes and I can breathe freely again before Castlewood on Saturday. Yikes!
I am well into my Rocky training, I'm doing an 8-hr adventure race next weekend in STL, and I've been climbing well and actually started a 5.10a route at the gym which I'm confident I can finish. So while I haven't been blogging consistenly, I haven't been hibernating, either. I recently joined www.dailymile.com and have been tracking my workouts there. I'll post more on that later. I have some holiday shopping, a winter run, and a nap on my to-do list today.
Tonight I'm going to go through the gear list and pack my day pack. It is a 3 hour time penalty if you don't have any of the required gear. They have posted a little more information on the website and they said the check points will all be plotted on the maps for us. Which is good, but I'm also a little disappointed. I wanted to try that out, too. But if all we have to do is find the pre-plotted point on the map, then we should have no problems getting our points. I'm not saying we'll be fast, but I thought I would be more likely to incorrectly plot a point than not be able to find a point.
I'm excited. Smithville is fast becoming my favorite set of trails to bike/run in the area. I just wish it was closer.
I haven't quite figured out if I'm going too fast or going too slow or if I'm just too stubborn and trying to ride through large, jagged rocks that I should not be riding through. I fall. I fall a lot. In fact, on Saturday, if I fell once, I fell at least two dozen times. I managed to re-open the cuts on my right leg and I also managed to fall squarely on the end of my handle bar. That one left a perfectly round mark and bruise on my chest. It didn't knock the wind out of me, but it was close. Ironically enough, it hit me in the same place that I was hit one time by a golf ball. But that's another story.
I was doing well, actually. I had gone out by myself last week and then MO and I went out on Saturday. We were having a blast and I was doing well until the Dreaded Red Trail. It is a rocky and twisty new section of trail and that trail clearly had a bone to pick to me. I fell once, twice. Then I got frustrated. The more frustrated I got, the more I fell and the more I fell, the more frustrated I became. I was on the verge of tears (and I'm not a cryer) so about 1/2 mile into the trail (yep, that's all it took - 1/2 mile) I told MO I was going back. I was not going to cry. I was not going to cry. There's no crying in mountain biking. I didn't cry.
Almost back to the trail head, and on a much easier trail, I fell for the last time. That was when I landed on my chest. It hurt. It hurt a lot. But I was not going to cry. Instead, I was doubled over in the middle of the trail, gasping and wheezing and cursing at that stupid rock. I gave up and walked a good portion of the trail back in. Not my best moment, but I was scared shitless to go over another rocky section and I could walk faster anyway. I hurt, I was bleeding, and covered in bruises.
So yeah, more than I can chew. Every time I rolled over Saturday night, I groaned in pain. At least my chest doesn't hurt as much. John told me if I wanted to start doing 2-a-days, he would beat me with a stick before bed. The good news is that we also practiced orienteering and that part, I loved. I can rock a topo map and hold a wicked bearing. So I will be holding up my end of the bargain. I just hope MO brings enough bandages.
I have to admit, I know next to nothing about mountain biking and I have WAY underestimated the concentration, skill, and athleticism that mountain biking requires. Not to mention the risks involved. Mountain bikers are serious bad asses, and I totally understand why they think road cyclists are pansies. Cuz we are.
Bumps and bruises aside, I am having a ton of fun out on the trails. I love being outside and I love adrenaline, so this is an awesome combination for me. I think I'm going to try to continue mountain biking into the winter as cross training for Rocky. That seems like a more-attractive option than biking on the road in the winter or sitting on the trainer. Just what I need - one more sport!
Team Member: Old Dog
Age: Old as dirt
Occupation: Doctor (to stitch up SK when she crashes)
Interests: Dressing up as prima ballerinas
Turn ons: Women
Team Member: New Trick
Age: Younger than dirt, wasn't born yesterday
Occupation: Engineer (to keep MO from getting completely lost)
Interests: Beer and bicycles
Turn ons: Bike shorts
We signed up and made it official. Someone should start a pool for how many checkpoints we get before we're totally stinkin' lost. I'm excited - this is something totally new for me. I was out on a mountain bike for the first time today and luckily only lost a little blood. Talk about adrenaline rush! I'm hoping to get at least 3 bikes in a week between now and then. As for the orienteering, well, hopefully I remember something about topo maps that I learned in school.
One look at the soil and it's clear where the race and the state of Oklahoma got their names (Okla means red, homa mean man in one of the local Native American languages). I didn't have any expectations for this race other than I wanted the swim to go smoothly and I wanted to have fun. And I was hoping for a PR on the bike legs since it's flat, and really I was hoping for an overall PR too. Ok, there were expectations. Let's be honest - I don't think I can actually enter a race with no expectations, unless there is beer or costumes involved.
In the days leading up to the race, MO caught some nasty GI bug and was vomiting with a fever at 4am on Thursday. Friday morning on the drive down, he was finally able to eat something. Not exactly a good way to taper.
Luckily, MO was feeling well enough to race. It was an interesting race... MO and I took our friendship to a whole new level. Not only did I apply Body Glide (photo above) and help pull his wetsuit into place (photo below), but John was there photographing the whole giggling mess.
Thankfully, the water was calm and it was perfect condition. Ironically, the environmental conditions were probably the best I've ever swam in and it was the most physical contact in a race I've experienced. There seemed to be a lot of first-timers, thrashing and splashing and freaking out in general. Until the realized it was shallow enough, all they had to to was stand up.
I came out of the water in 39:47, a full 6 min faster than NOLA and my fastest swim to date. I averaged 1:53/100yd. MO was out in about 35 min.
The bike was gently rolling with not-so-gentle pavement. I thought it was a slightly more difficult course than NOLA, but I took about 1 min off my time. 2:45:36 for an average of 20.3 mph. At this point, I knew I could PR but I also knew my stomach was already a little off and it was going to be hot on the run.
Usually, I hate tapering. It drives me crazy and makes me feel bloated. But for once, I'm actually looking forward to this taper. Rest, food, stretching, and sleep sound great. This morning was my last run before the race. I've been riding a lot and my quads are praying for a few days off. I was going to swim tonight, but when I realized my legs were tired walking down the stairs, I thought an afternoon off was a good idea.
I haven't really set any goals for this race other than I want to have fun. Of course, I'd love to PR and I think I'm capable if I have a good day. But as anyone who races can tell you, a bad day can throw a monkey wrench into any race. So I'm going into this race without any expectations.
And my Felt now has a name. Anyone who's known me for a while knows that for some reason, going all the way back to high school, Hispanic men seem to have a thing for me. I can't explain it, but I get cat calls and honks on a regular basis. So, I decided to name my bike Mamasita. That way the next time some guy in a low-rider yells "Hey! Mamasita!" out his truck window, I can pretend he's yelling at my bike and not at me.
Weight: 17 lb
Name: Well, it's too early for that but I have a few ideas.
I would like to officially welcome the newest set of wheels to the family! She's a 2010 Felt ZW6 frame with 2011 ZW5 components (carbon fiber, full 105 group set). The saddle is a demo Fizik saddle from the bike shop. It's a little pricey, but I'm pretty close to ordering one. On her inaugural ride yesterday, the saddle got more comfortable the longer we rode. That never happens! I'm going to ride it the rest of the week before I decide.
I have to give a huge thanks to Cycle City up in Parkville, MO. Those guys were awesome! When they couldn't get the 2011 ZW5 in before November, they offered to take the new 105s off the only 2011 they had and put it on the 2010 frame, which was my size. And for once, I had a positive customer service experience with a bike shop. My only complaint - I wish they were closer. Thanks Joe!
I have 4 other friends running it and KM is coming down to crew so it seemed like a good idea. Then I ran 11 miles this weekend and it totally kicked my butt. Clearly, I've been riding more than running and I'm a little worried about my running base. Forget Rocky for a minute, I'm worried about Redman. I'll be disappointed in myself if I survive the swim, have a good bike and then burn up 3 miles into the run. We'll have to wait and see for Redman.
Rocky will be fun, at least as much fun as running 50 miles can be. Sometimes I wonder about the decisions I make. When it comes to racing, I just can't say no. The good thing is my friends all seem excited about it and their enthusiasm is contagious.
But more exciting than that, I've also been doing a little window shopping for a new road bike. I think I've found The One. It's a Felt 2011 ZW5. Why the 2011 you ask? Because this year, Shimano revamped the 105 group set. After test riding the 2011, I can't justify the cost upgrade to Ultegras. With a carbon fiber frame, I can always upgrade components later and not lose any thing. Ain't she purty?
Besides the sweet ride, it was also more than $100 less than the comparable Trek and Cannondale. I also have a %15 off coupon for one of the local dealers, which will save me an extra $300. I haven't put in the order yet, but I'm pretty darn close.
And with the future requisition of a road bike, I'm also doing some preliminary research into bike racing for next season. I plan on going to watch some cyclo cross races this fall to get a feel for it, but I may look into a race series for next season.
Then, I have a few friends that want to run their first 50 mile trail race in Feb and asked if I was interested. After very little arm-twisting (or none at all) I agreed to train for it and if my PF flares up, I'll just head down to crew.
Since I don't have enough hobbies and WAY too much free time on my hands, I'm also looking at a 24-hour endurance climbing competition next Sept with some of my lady climbing friends. It would mean getting lead-certified sometime this winter and adding more climbing into training. But I heard "24-hour climbing comp" and I was in.
Oh yeah, I have a completely different kind of endurance event this spring. I'm going to take my licensing exam for structural engineering. It's 16 hours of testing over two days. So some of this may get pushed back or dropped completely since I will also have some endurance study sessions. But for now, I'm happy with planning for everything and letting the execution take care of itself.
Then last Friday, I got together with 50 of my sweatiest friends and ran a sweaty ass run. It's kinda like a fat ass for you ultra runners, just done in summer at night. I didn't do any ultra distances but had a blast.
KM and I ripped off 9 miles at a decent pace and beat *most* of the storm. The lightning show off in the distance was awesome. It was not so awesome when it was overhead, but it was one of the coolest experiences I've had running.
Even without a training plan, I have been training consistently. 40 mile weekend rides, intervals on Mondays, long weekend runs, two days of swimming a week, and whatever else I can fit in between 90 degree days and thunderstorms. I just can't seem to commit to a training plan. At least I have a couple 70.3 races under my belt and I know what I need to do to feel comfortable.
After thinking about it for a little while, I think I might know what my problem is. It was a the swim at NOLA. The swim was so rough for me, I actually took almost 3 months off of swimming completely. I hadn't gotten back in the pool until just 3 weeks ago. Even a turquoise pool with a solid black line didn't feel safe. That swim... it was awful. It was beyond awful. I have never seriously considered throwing up my hand and ending my day in the water until NOLA. I have never been that SCARED in the water. I had no desire to do any race of any kind after that one.
But that changed. And I am racing. I am swimming. I just need to get over my fear and have faith in my abilities. My swim at NOLA wasn't that much slower than Boise or even Kansas, so even if I felt it was that much harder, either I'm exaggerating or getting better, or some combination of the two.
Training plan or not, I'm hoping for calm waters in OKC. Even if it's not a PR or a fast race, I'm just hoping to have some fun.
Here's the rules:
- No processed or refined carbs like flour, pasta, sugar, etc.
- No pre-packaged meals or meals out of boxes, including cereal. *Gasp!*
- Limited meat. Grass fed instead of traditionally raised.
- Lots of fruits and veggies.
- Lots of beans and whole grains.
We made a few other changes to our food as well. We decided to switch to organic apples and peppers, Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt and bison instead of beef. I prefer bison anyway, it's always grass fed, has lower fat naturally, and I think it tastes better.
The verdict so far: good. Our groceries are more expensive, but we're eating out less, so our actual food cost hasn't changed. We don't have any easy crap in the pantry, so we're snacking less as well. And the garden and abundance of in-season produce is making this easier than expected.
But it is more work and planning for meals. I gave up cereal cold-turkey and John has given up his favorite meal of chili mac with hot dogs (could you find a meal more artificially processed??) I need to eat more often since carrots, cucumbers, apples and berries don't really last through a whole afternoon. I'm trying to bring more food in to work so I can eat at my desk throughout the day. It can be inconvenient when I'm in a meeting all afternoon and can't eat.
We've been doing this for almost a month now and we are not strict with this by any means. We're just trying to make permanent changes to how we shop and eat. I will say I've noticed an increase in energy. Another side affect: we grilled out last Friday night and I ate a brat, which promptly made me nauseous. Too bad, I really enjoy the occasional brat even though I know they're not exactly a health food. Don't worry, it was boiled before it was grilled, so it wasn't a raw meat issue.
I'm going to try to share recipes as I go. We made a turkey/bison meatloaf, bison chili, fish tacos, catfish ceveche (sp?), and pictured below, black bean and corn couscous salad.I made the salad up on the fly, so all amounts are approximations. Feel free to adjust to taste. It's a cold salad, so it's great for picnics, too. And seriously delicious.
1-1.5 cup dry couscous, cooked to directions
1 can black beans, drained and well rinsed
1 cup corn
1 red peppers, chopped to about the same size as the corn and beans
1/4 cup jalapeno, finely chopped (more or less to taste)
1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
Fluff couscous with fork, let cool. Mix all ingredients. Add dressing and mix again. Salt and pepper to taste. You may want to add more cilantro and jalapeno as well. Chill for several hours before serving.
The good thing about the heat is that it has inspired me to get back in the pool. It's just too darn hot after work for much else. My morning runs with KM have been miserable, even at 5:15 in the morning. The only bright spot was my weekend brick with MO and one of the Jaybirds. We did 40 miles and then ran two. I felt fantastic during the ride. The run was a little sticky and in full sun, no one really wanted any more than 2 miles.
Between the heat and thunderstorms, it's been a little hard to get consistently good workouts in. I was going to swim tonight, but the lightning flashing in the skylights is telling me to keep my butt inside tonight. I needed a rest day anyway. I actually had a good weekend, 40 mile ride/2 mile run Saturday morning, and an evening 5k race Saturday night followed by WAY too much cheap beer (but it was cold! I mean really, really cold!). Actually, even though I was just running for fun with yet another Jaybird, I ended up 15th in my AG out of 170+ and she was 10th in her AG. Not bad for wanting to puke the entire last mile! Then a 20 mile ride on Sunday and 5 miles of "speed work" Monday morning. I use the term speed work here very generously.
I should probably take advantage of being forced indoors to *finally* put my training plan on paper. One of these days, I swear I am going to seriously train for a race and see what I can do. Until then, I think I'm getting pretty good at faking it! Ha!
Before NOLA, I noticed my front shifter cable was starting to fray. I've slowly been watching the deterioration of the cable, waiting until it had to be replaced. On my ride last weekend, it started making an unnatural screeching noise when I popped it up into the big chain ring. Between the banshee-like sound effects and the seriously frayed cable, I decided it was finally time to replace it.
Off to the LBS I go! (Where I also got a lead on a used Madone 5.2, size 52 WSD. Cross your fingers and pray for me that the deal works out.)
After John got his bike, he realized there was a reason I've been asking for a bike stand. We finally got one, and it has made my life much easier. Up you go, Thelma!
I pulled out my tools, degreaser, new parts, and put on some tunes. Ready to rock.
Here's the frayed wire before.
This was actually really easy. I made sure it was in the small chain ring, then removed the screw that clamps the cable in place. I took wire cutters and cut below the frayed cable so I wasn't pulling loose wire pieces through the cable housing. Then I removed the shifting lever so I could get at the top of the housing easier.
I used degreaser with a narrow nozzle to clean out the housing. I basically sprayed until it was dripping out the other side. Then I (carefully) blew air through the housing to force any crap out the back and help it dry. While it dried, I took off the bar tape from my aero bars and rewrapped the right side in melon green. I should have picked up another package so I could have done the bullhorns at the same time.
Once it was dry enough, I took the new cable and greased it. I threaded it through the shifting lever and into the housing, then replaced the shifting lever and tightening it down. The cable went through easy enough and I had plenty on the other side.
I tightened it down and shifted a few times to make sure it was working. I had to give it a little slack, but it went in easily. I clipped the cable off, put on a cap and crimped the end. Viola! Easy peasy.
After I cleaned up the grease and degreaser, I wrapped the left bar and took her out for a test ride. The shifter works well and the banshee screeching has disappeared. All in all, this took me less than an hour, and that included wrapping bars and waiting for the housing to dry.
This was an easy task and I would say anyone who knows how to use an allen wrench could do it. The bike stand definitely made the work more comfortable, and you should read your owner's manual before starting work you've never done. Mine had very basic instructions on how to replace a cable, which was all the information I needed. I asked a few basic questions at the bike shop and I didn't have a problem.
If you need to replace a cable, you may be able to get a leftover piece of cable for free from your LBS. If you do this, I have one recommendation. Before you try to thread the cable into the housing, make a clean cut on the end and solder the wire together or ask the LBS if they can solder the tip for you. When I tried to push the leftover cable through, one of the wires got caught on the narrow tube at the end of the housing and unravelled the wire. New cable comes with the end pre-soldered and the new cable went through without a problem.
Cost of the cable - $4.99. Doing your own maintenance - priceless.