45 Day Beer-Free Challenge

Why wait for New Year's to make a positive change?  After the Packer game on the 18th and a few days home for Christmas, I was feeling rather like an over-stuffed sausage.  Based on the meals I had in Wisconsin, I'm currently under belief that there isn't a vegetable in the entire state that isn't covered in cheese or cream-of-something soup.

My favorite quote of the holidays: "You have to finish your bacon before you can have a cupcake."


It is no wonder that I gain a pound a day when I'm home.  My mom always tells me I can go back on my diet when I get back to KC.  I tried to explain that I'm not on a diet - this is how I always eat.  And after 5 days with too many cookies and too little fiber, my body is more than a little unhappy.

I don't do resolutions.  I've never understood why people wait for one day of the year to try to make a change.  I didn't see why I should wait until Jan.1 so I started a 45 Day Beer-Free Challenge on Dec. 26.  My last beer was a New Glarus Spotted Cow, one of my favorites, and a good one to be my last for a while.  Why 45 days?  I thought about 30 days, then I thought about Feb 1 and then I realized it would be 45 days to my birthday, so that seemed like a good mark.

Besides going beer-free, I'm also eating at least one leafy-green salad every day for a week and working out 5 days a week.  I am hoping that this will help me get back on track.  I'm still trying to decide on a race, so hopefully a better diet and reduced calories will help me find some motivation.


Christmas Lights Run Recap

Elf Hands!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Last week was the Prairie Village Christmas Lights run and we had a fantastic turnout!  We had 23 people (3 kids) and 3 dogs show up for the run.  We also had a lot of festive costumes.  I think the bar for next year has been set fairly high.

We made 3 main stops.  Here is the first:

Don't let it fool you, the moving dolls are actually more creepy than festive.  Stop #2 was at the high school for the mayor's lights set to music.  The last stop was Candycane Lane, which has been putting on a lights display since 1954.

This was such a hit, we will definitely be doing it again next year!


New motivation? Or something close to it?

This weekend the coverage from the Ironman World Championship was shown.  I watched the end of the women's race live on the internet and I read all about the men's race so I knew how it ended.  Even though I already knew the ending, I was glued to the TV.  Watching Chrissie Wellington battling back from a serious bike crash and still dominating the women's race was just awesome.  I'm a big fan of Craig Alexander as well (since I did share an elevator with him in Boise) so watching him win back the title was awesome.  John and I watched it together on Sunday morning.

As soon as it was over, I thought "Damn.  Now I want to do one of those again." 


I'm still not quite sure what I want to do.  I'm still throwing around the idea of doing a bike race (or series) this summer since I can train this spring instead of study. 

On Sunday night John and I exchanged gifts.  I opened up wrapping paper to this:

In case you can't read it, John wrote

There was a girl named Sam
who did whatever she could
to go as far as she should,
but unfortunately her crash cast
doubt in her ability to go fast and
that she was a star.  From a dirigible
view a solution to be had that she
better check in the convertible

Aww, what a guy, right?  It takes some serious dedication to work the word 'dirigible' into a poem!  So I went to the garage and looked in the convertible.  Inside I found these babies.  They're Zipp 101 aluminum wheels.

Well, it looks like I'm racing in 2012 for sure, just not sure what kind of race it will be!


Christmas Lights Run II

It's almost time for the Second Prairie Village Christmas Lights run.  I went out tonight scouting out good streets to run down.  It's a lot more difficult to plan out a Christmas Lights run route than you'd think.  It has to be a loop, an out-and-back route doesn't really cut it.  It needs to be on fairly quiet streets, since lots of traffic tends to ruin the appeal.  It has to start and end at a convenient place for parking and meeting, preferably some place well lit and with the option of getting a holiday cocktail afterwards.

I had a great route last year from Prairie Village through Mission Hills, to Brookside and back.  Unfortunately, I've driven most of the route and only half the houses that were lit last year are not lit this year.  The biggest disappointment: George Brett did not light his Magnificent Tree.  In case you missed the Magnificent Tree last year, it was a 30+ foot tall lit up like the tree at Rockefeller Center.  Has the economy really gotten that bad that the rich people can't afford to pay someone to put up a little Christmas cheer on their behalf?

Now just so you know, I put up a little Christmas cheer myself.  We stayed in KC for the first time so I took the opportunity to get decorations up over the holiday weekend. 

While the Mission Hills route is out, I think I have the start of a new route.  A few more evening runs and possibly a trip in the car and I'll have another festive route mapped out.  Oh, if you're in the KC area, keep the evening of Decemeber 21 open.


Lost joy

I haven't posted much because I don't have anything to post about.  I was on my road bike for 10 min this week, but other than that I haven't touched any of my bikes.  I ran a 4 mile trail race which didn't go well last weekend and haven't run since.  I think I might have ran 20 miles total since Austin.  I don't have any races planned and I quite honestly don't have any desire to find a race.  I don't have have any desire to do much of anything.  Call it a rut, call it a funk.  It is what it is.


Crossroads Bootcamp

This summer I bought a Groupon for 12 CrossFit classes for $30 at Crossroads Bootcamp here in KC.  I wanted to wait until after Austin to start since I knew I would be crazy-sore once I started.  So Austin is over and I started my 12 classes.

The first class I did was a bootcamp class.  After months of Austin training, a one hour class on a Saturday morning felt like a cop out for a real workout.  Later that night, I was out with friends wearing high heels.  At some point, I dropped something and squatted down to pick it up.  Except I got down tot he floor and then realized I couldn't' stand back up.  Turns out that the hour long workout wasn't a cop out after all.  Not only was a crazy-sore the next day, I was crazy-stupid sore.  And everything was sore: arms, shoulders, back, abs, quads, hamstrings.  My calves were about the only thing that didn't hurt.

The first class I did was on a Saturday.  I was so sore I couldn't go back to class until Wednesday.  But it was a good sore, the kind that reminds you of muscles you forgot you had.  So Wednesday I went to another class and since I was not paying attention, I signed up for one of the real CrossFit classes instead of bootcamp.  The CrossFit is definitely more intense and focused.  I was sore again, but it was more localized.

I've gone to a few more classes and I really like it.  I know I'm still in good shape from Austin, but I feel strong.  I feel good.  I can see exactly why they make you take 12 classes in 45 days for the Groupon - you're pretty much guaranteed to see results in that amount of time.

My only complaint: the cost of an actual membership.  I think it's about $150/month or $25/class.  I just can't justify that cost when there are so many other activities I like to do.  I looked into a different CrossFit gym in the area and it was even more expensive.  For that kind of money, I could probably get a personal trainer or coach.  We'll see.  I do love the class and I'm sure after my 12 classes I'll be seriously considering a membership, at least through the winter months.


Quinoa Salad, Take 1

So what have I been doing with all my free time now that I'm not training for anything?  Besides getting my ass kicked by CrossFit classes, I'm doing a little more cooking.

Quinoa Salad with Pineapple-Roasted Pepper Puree

I had an awesome quinoa salad while in Austin and I really want to try to recreate it.  This is attempt No. 1.  I'll give it a B+.  It was good, but not quite great.  Here's the recipe if you want to try it as is.  All measurements are guesses

2 cups quinoa, rinsed, cooked, and cooled
2 cups greens, coarsely chopped
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

2 poblano peppers, roasted under broiler until skin blisters
4 pineapple rings, reserve juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
Pulse all ingredients in food processor

Drizzle quinoa with a little olive oil and toss with greens and crumbled goat cheese until mixed.  Serve on a plate with puree on the side.  Garnish with a grilled pineapple ring and 1/2 sliced avocado.

A few additional notes:  The original recipe used red quinoa, I only had plain.  It also originally called for sheep's cheese but I only found goat's cheese in the grocery store.  Sheep's cheese is probably a little sweeter, goat's cheese is a little more tangy. 

I thought it was missing a little zing.  So I added champagne vinegar to the puree for the leftovers tomorrow.  On the next try, I might add one roasted jalapeno and some lime juice to the puree to make more of a vinaigrette.  I'm going to track down red quinoa and sheep's cheese for the next time, too.


Austin 70.3 - a big, fat DNF

Disclaimer:  This race report took several days, glasses of wine and even a few beers to complete.  Read at your own risk.

I haven't been looking forward to writing this race report but I also felt like I would be taking the easy way out to just try to forget it ever happened.  I'm sure with a few more days I will have a better perspective on this race.  For now I'm angry, frustrated, disappointed, and seriously questioning my chosen hobby.

"But what about all your training?" you ask.  What about the speed work, over-distance rides, the fancy new shoes, the expensive race wheels?  What happened to the best training cycle and recovery strategy?  The new diet?  The gluten-free fueling?  Shit, if I knew any of the answers I wouldn't be the Grumpasaurus Rex that I have been for the last few days.

I will say that the organization the morning of the race was superb.  They had ample Porta Potties and plenty of shuttles to get everyone to the start on time.  Unfortunately, that is just about all the positive comments I have to say about this race.

Part of why I signed up for Austin was that I had never been to Austin but have heard great things.  If you're thinking about this race for the same reason, let me save you a whole lot of time and money: Just go visit Austin and skip the race.

The race was staged entirely out of the Travis County Fairgrounds.  We were no where near the city.  I suppose at one time on the course, you could see downtown for about 3 minutes.  But if you looked up for that long, you would have crashed.  I'll get to that later.  The bike course took us through the countryside where we did get to see not one, but two different power plants.  Oooh.  Aahhh. 

The run course was in full sun between the fairgrounds and the lake we swam in.  It was a 3-loop course (about 4.4 miles per loop) and of the 4.4 miles, 3 miles were on the fairgrounds access road.  Oooh.  Aahhh.

Ultimately, the reason I dropped out was because of my hip.  I knew it wasn't 100% going into the race but I thought it would be OK.  Going up the first hill, it started hurting and it only got worse.  By mile 3, I was shuffling and decided I was not going out for the last 2 loops and risk making my hip even worse.  The fact it was almost 90 degrees, 90% humidity didn't help.  I turned in my chip at mile 4.5 on the run.

But the real story is the bike course.

I've completed Ironman Kansas, Boise, and New Orleans (all 70.3) and Redman 70.3  I've raced in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Vermont, and Wisconsin besides the 70.3 races.  So I've ridden a variety of courses and I'd like to think that I have very realistic expectations when it comes to racing.  Without exception, Austin was the worst, most dangerous bike course I have ever been on.

There were huge cracks, pot holes and slumping pavement.  The race organizers tried to patch the worst of it.  If what we rode on was the fix, I can only imagine how bad it was before.  The coal patches were uneven, rough, and there was loose patch material everywhere.  Since the road was so rough, anything people carried on their bike ended up in the road: full bottles, food, gel, spare tubes, CO2 cartridges, glasses, anything that wasn't fully attached.  So not only were we dodging cracks and God-awful pavement, we were dodging all the shit in the road the 15 previous waves had dropped.  The road was so rough that I lost most of my water before mile 20.  I had to stop and get a bottle at an aid station since I was low before I even was halfway through the course.  I usually keep close track of my fluids since I have over-hydrated before and I had no idea how much I had drank.  Not good.

But it doesn't end there.  There also was a 70 meter gravel section we had to ride through.  On tri-bikes.  At the race briefing the director said, and I quote "There won't be any loose gravel on the course.  We have people out there sweeping the course right now."  I don't think you have to be an engineer to see the problem with that logic. 

On top of shitty pavement, shit in the road, and a shitty gravel section, there were over 35 turns that were 90 degrees or sharper.  I stopped counting at 37.  Over 37 sharp turns on a 56 mile course.

Let's recap the bike course: 2600 racers on shitty pavement, through gravel, trying to avoid shit in the road and navigate over 37 sharp turns.  Awesome.  Like I said, the most dangerous course I've been on.  I saw 2 people being loaded into different ambulances, 2 people who had crashed but gotten back on their bikes (torn clothes, bloody backs), 3 people sitting in the ditch with their bikes (not even attempting to fix whatever was wrong) and at least a dozen flats, maybe more.

It's hard to explain what a rough road feels like.  By mile 35 I was starting to get sore and uncomfortable.  I had 3 rides over 60 miles and 3 rides over 50 miles in my training.  There is no reason that I should have been fatigued at mile 35.  Everything just fell apart. 

The disappointing thing is that the terrain had the potential to be AMAZING.  It was wonderfully rolling hills.  I love a hilly course and this was the kind of terrain that I do well in.  I could tell a big difference in the race wheels when climbing.  I could attack uphill with the same effort.  It's too bad that I spent more energy avoiding rough pavement and absorbing vibrations than I spent climbing hills.  Comparatively, I still did OK on the bike.  Out of 85 in my AG, I was 15th on the bike and I didn't consider that a good ride at all.  Clearly the entire field suffered.

I've never had my bike shoes blister and I've done all my races in them, all of my training rides, and even a 112 mile ride.  Both feet blistered during the bike.  I had never blistered in my new running shoes.  But the run course was on broken pavement, gravel and dirt.  I never took my Zoot shoes trail running, and I blistered from my running shoes.  I chafed under my left arm and I've never had an issue with that top.  Everything about this race was awful.

The first mile on the run didn't feel bad.  But then I hit the first big hill and problems really started.  My hip hurt, a deep throbbing pain in my left hip joint.  My hip flexor was tight which was also unusual.  It eased up on the downhill and into mile 2.  But by mile 3, it hurt and didn't stop.  I was shuffling somewhere between 10 and 12 min/mile pace.  Between my hip and my blisters, my form was terrible.  It was hot and getting hotter.  Aid stations had already started running out of ice and sponges.  Somewhere between mile 3 and 4, I decided I wasn't going back out for my 2nd and 3rd loops.  With my hip hurting, I didn't want to risk making it worse.  And I didn't feel the need to grind out a 1/2 marathon in 2.5 hours when it was 90 degrees in full sun.  I've done this distance before.  I had nothing to prove.

I'm glad I dropped.  Based on how my hip felt Sunday night and Monday, it was the right decision.  But I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me.  Clearly, it has bothered me a lot.  The trip actually got worse after the race, but those details don't matter.  Let's just say this was a very expensive trip and I wish I had never gone to Texas.  I dropped the f-bomb more times that weekend than I usually do in a year.

I don't know when I will travel to race again.  I have a hard time justifying something so selfish and expensive when it could go as poorly as Austin.  Maybe I'm spoiled since I've never had a race where everything just fell apart and I dropped.  Maybe I just don't handle failure well.  But what's the point?  I put in months of training to drop out.  I did speed work, I drank protein shakes after my hard work outs, I cut out gluten, I wore compression socks.  I had the best level of fitness I've ever had and for what?  I didn't even finish and I should have PR'd.

I need another beer.


All dressed up

Just a quick post before Kelly and I leave for Austin.  Thelma is sporting some new wheels.  No, I can't afford 404s, they're rentals from Cycle City.  But don't she look purty?

There's been a few last-minute changes.  The run course was changed to a 3 loop course due to the drought in Texas.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  The high is now 88 (the average high is 78) and I know how I feel about that.  My friend Erin is flying to Dallas to make the drive back with me, which is awesome since it really wouldn't be safe for me to drive solo 12+ hours the day after a 70.3.

Recently, I saw a Prefontaine poster with one of his many quotes: "The best pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die."  While I know it's a little over-dramatic, since I've been training for a PR I think a suicide pace just might be what's in store, at least it will feel that way on lap #3 on the run.  That is, if you'd consider a 9 min/mile a suicide pace. :)

See you after Austin!


Running Mantras

Besides my speedy new kicks, I've fallen into using running mantras on my tough speed sessions and as corny as it sounds, I think it makes a big difference.  The more I do quality rides and runs, the more I find my inner dialogue sounding like a cheerleader.  I think I miss running regularly with Kelly more than I'll admit.  She's usually the cheerleader while I'm huffing and puffing half a block back.

But based on the success of my last few speed work sessions, I would say the positive thinking is working.  Since it works so well for me, I thought I'd share a few of my favorites. Some have been stolen from magazines, TV sports coverage and other runners.  I don't have any swimming mantras, probably because if I stop concentrating, I'll loose track of what lap I'm on.  Do you have any great mantras that get you through tough places?

Do the job at hand.
Girl's got game.
Time to work.
Dig in.
Push it, push it, push it.
Engine's running, pistons' pumping.

I will not give up.
The faster I run, the sooner I'm done.
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
Quick steps, light feet.
This is where it counts.
Quicker, faster, stronger.

And when things are really falling apart and all I can think about is finishing my work out, then my mantras usually turn to food:
Bison burger and sweet potato fries, sweet potato fries
Pizza, pizza, pizza
Chicken pad thai

And if all else fails:  B double E double R, U N, beer run, beer run!


Running Shoes or Ruby Slippers?

I'd like to show off my newest gear, Zoot Ultra Race 2.0.  I've had them for a few weeks and did several track sessions and tempo runs in them.  The longest I've done in them is 9 miles but I plan on wearing them for Austin.

They only weigh about 7 ounces.  They're triathlon running shoes, so they have a sock liner and are meant to be worn sockless.  They have a quick-lace system and drain holes in the soles.  The also have a hole in the tongue and heel so you can pull them on easily.  In the sole, there is an arch-shaped carbon fiber piece.  (I'm not quite sure of the benefit other than it forces you onto the front of your foot.)

These are a minimalist shoe, like all my other running shoes right now.  They're even lighter and lower profile than the Kinvaras, which is saying a lot.  I love the sockliner and have had no issues with blisters or hot spots. 

It seems like the soles are a little more durable than the Kinvaras as well.  I feel like I chew through my Kinvaras quickly since the lightweight sole can't handle a lot of miles.  The Zoots so far still look brand-new.

I was pretty surprised with the lace-lock system.  I've had bad luck with lace-locks either coming loose during a run or being too tight right across my ankle in order to keep the shoe tight enough the rest of my foot doesn't slide around.  The lace-locks stay in place and when tightened, there isn't a tight spot at the top.  They also have fairly small ends so they don't flop around when I run.  I put lace-locks on my Kinvaras and I hate how much the plastic piece on the end flops around and hit my foot with each step.

So what's the downside you ask?  Well, price for one.  I found these online for half price.  Full price they're $140, which is more than I'm willing to pay for a pair of shoes that will last less than a year.  The other downside is availability.  There's no local stores that I know of that carry Zoot shoes, so I ordered mine online and hoped they fit.  Luckily, they fit my foot perfectly.  But to be honest, I love these shoes so much, I might switch to these for my regular running shoes, not just speed work.

The biggest advantage might not even be a real one.  They are so  freaking light, and I didn't start using them until I was well into my training, so all my runs have been great.  The mental effect of me putting these shoes on is a lot like Dorothy putting on the Ruby Slippers.  Except when I put my shoes on, "home" is 7:50 min/mi tempo pace or 6:20 min/mi interval pace.  There is no place like home.


It was bound to happen some time...

If you're a cyclist, the saying goes it's not if you crash but when.  After several years of riding and racing, it was finally my turn.  But I was lucky - there were no other cyclist involved or cars.  I didn't flip over my handle bars or wreck my bike.  But I still did a good job.

It didn't take long.  I was riding at the Downtown Airport and just got on the road.  They have been repaving down there and they finally finished.  I was excited since it was brand-new pavement and smooth. 

It was windier than I expected.  Apparently, I didn't pay attention to the weather and it was the windiest day of the year so far.  John told me wind gust were 35 mph or more.  In retrospect, I won't argue.

The road construction was finished, but there were cones with Caution tape tied between them where the construction company had put down new shoulder gravel and grass seed.  I was about 3' from the edge of the road and down in my aero bars, going over 19 mph.  A strong gust of wind blew, which blew the Caution tape into the traffic lane.  It all happened so fast.

Top speed 22 mph and just over 19 mph at the end.  All in less than 1:30.
The tape caught my right front brake lever.  It caused my front end to jackknife and I went down.  But when you start at 19 mph, you don't just go down.  I kept moving forward, too.  I landed on my left side, mostly on my hip and slid at least 10' into the opposing side of the street.  I used my shoulder and elbow to stop myself and left a good portion of skin on the road.  I managed to keep my head up, so my very important noggin was just fine.

Two guys were fairly close when it happened.  The first rode on.  The second was a good Samaritan and stopped to check on me.  He had me drink water and calm down while he tended to my bike.  The caution tape was wrapped through my bars, around the pedal, and around the gearing about 10 times.  Luckily, Thelma was OK.  I need to replace the bar tape on the front, the seat is chewed up, the front brake needs to be adjusted, and she has some minor scrapes, but no real damage.  The Caution tape stopped her from sliding as far as I did.

John had class so I showed up at Kelly's house since I needed help cleaning my wounds.  The pain in my hips was pretty bad and getting worse.  It hurt to use the clutch.  It hurt to bend it.  After talking with Kelly and my personal doctor, MO, I decided it was probably a good idea to go to the ER and have it x-rayed just to make sure I didn't crack or fracture anything.

Nothing is broken and I got some good pain meds.  I'm sore and moving slow but otherwise just fine.  I was very lucky.  I'm not yet sure how this will impact my training, but I suppose that's not a big priority at the moment.  Now that it's a day later, I'm starting to get even more sore.  My rib cage, back, and neck are getting sore and it hurts to sit on my hip.  It looks like I'm sleeping in tomorrow morning.


You Stink! But I can help.

Don't take it personally, but if you run or ride you probably know your favorite technical shirt stinks.  Even straight out of the wash, well-worn technical fabrics stink.  Or you get 5 min into a ride and realize you reek.  Maybe this only happens to me.  Either way, I have a solution.  Drum roll please!

That's right, OxiClean!  Seriously.  My home-brewer of a brother recommended it, it's what he uses to sanitize his bottles.  I bought a tub and took out the nastiest "white" technical shirt I had to try it out.  This was one of my favorite shirts but it stunk.  It was pitted-out beyond belief.  I was meaning to throw it out, but I just never got around to it.  So I filled a metal bowl with water, put 1/2 scoop in and let it soak over night.

I wish I had taken before and after pictures, but it was unbelievable.  It no longer smelled AND the pit stains were gone.  I soaked all of my offensive shirt and I even soaked all of my white dress shirts and tank tops.  At $6 a tub, this stuff is awesome.  Now, every load of workout clothes and whites gets a full scoop.  For particularly funky workout clothes, we'll let the whole load soak overnight before closing the lid of the washer.

If you still need convincing, I have it on good authority that it also removes red wine stains.  It takes out blood.  Seriously, try it.  But be careful of the spray.  I've heard it can bleach fabrics.


The Adventures of Sam and Thelma

I had a nice 60 mile ride planned for this weekend.  I decided to try out a new route that I never rode before.  Let's call it an epic ride.  I didn't get a flat tire, but just about everything else that could go wrong, did.
Can you see my detours?  There's more than one!
First, there was road construction that forced me onto KS 32, which is a state road where the speed limit is 65 mph.  Not good.  I rode it for about a mile and got off on the first paved road I found.  A little later, I stopped to check my map and make sure I was on the right track.  I forgot to zip up my seat pack and on the next uphill, I head "Smash! Clatter!"  Oh no, that sounded like my phone. I turned around and sure enough, my phone was sliding down the hill in several pieces.  Don't worry, it was just fine.  But I had to walk up the hill since it was too steep to get back on my bike. 
I went looking for hills and I found them!
 So I kept on.  Later, I missed a turn and that put me on KS 24, another 65 mph route.  I quickly back-tracked and was headed to the next town.  I stopped at a gas station and refilled my aero bottle with water and bought a Gatorade.  Good thing I did, too.

Just south of town, I saw a sign "Road Construction Next 10 Miles."  Oh no, I need this road for at least 8 miles.  The road wasn't closed, but it was milled, which is very rough pavement.  I tried to ride it and I couldn't.  I stopped and called John.

"Please tell me you can find me a paved detour."

"Um, it's gravel in all directions.  Sorry Sweetie.  Do you want me to come and get you?"

"No, I'll tough it out."

I rode on the rough pavement about 2 miles until I found a side road that was paved.  The rough pavement seriously hurt my hands, arms, legs, and butt. 12 mph was the best I could do.  I was so glad to see smooth pavement.  I was feeling good until that point and after the rough pavement, everything just fell apart.  Then, two miles later that pavement turned to gravel.  Shit.

Now I'm several miles off the nearest "paved" road, which isn't much help anyway.  My aero bottle developed a crack on the rough pavement and I lost all my water.  I'm somewhere around 55 miles in this day, I'm down to one bottle, and I hurt. I was on the verge of tears.  The only option was to head south on the gravel road and hope I hit pavement soon. 

So south I rode.  I couldn't use my aero bars and couldn't go over 15 mph without losing control.  I did another 2-3 miles on gravel (on a tri-bike) and finally hit pavement.  Thank God.  I headed back toward Kill Creek Park.

But my bad luck wasn't over yet.  On one of the last big uphills, a car that had passed me and was clearly lost, decided to come to a stop in the middle of the uphill. 

"You stupid piece of @(*$^(*ing  $#@)(!!!"  I wasn't happy and too tired to have to re-start on a steep uphill.  I just wanted to get back to my car.

I made it back and finished 62.5 miles in 3:30.  I'm hoping that I used up all of my negative karma on this ride so everything goes smoothly at Austin.  It actually would have been a nice ride if not for the milled pavement.  But on the bright side, my legs still felt fresh over 40 miles in.  I'm still feeling good about Austin.


Another week closer

Austin is about a month away and so far I'd say I'm having the best training cycle ever.  I knocked out 8x400 intervals this weekend, all at a 6:30 pace.  The rain kept me on the trainer inside, but I did 2:45 on the trainer and followed that with 4 miles at an 8:30 pace.  It was a good weekend.

Tonight I did 11 and while I felt great this weekend, my legs are definitely feeling the accumulated fatigue of the last few weeks.  I did 8:30 until mile 6 but my time fell off quickly after that.  My quads were heavy, my hamstrings were tight, and my calves were stiff.  But I stuck it out and did the full 11.  I might need to take it a little easy as a recover weekend.  I know I should, I'm about 4 weeks out, so it would be the perfect time for a little recovery before my last two big weeks.  I just hate taking recovery weeks.  They make me...squirrelly.

The gluten-free experience is still going well.  John and I have been eating gluten-free most of the weekend and we've both noticed a difference.  This just might be the silver bullet to ending my major GI distress issues.  I'm no expert, but if you're prone to GI issues when working out, you should seriously consider trying a gluten free diet the day before a big race or training run.  It can't hurt right?  My fingers are crossed this keeps up!


Oooh, my tummy doesn't feel so good...

Some days everything works well and your run goes great.  Other times, you spend your post-run in the bathroom.  I don't think details are necessary.


Sunshine and High Hopes

I took this picture while I was out on a 50 mile ride this weekend.  I love the sunflower fields in Kansas.  The weather has finally broken and I've gotten some good workouts in lately.  It only took 8+ months, but I finally found my motivation and have high hopes for Austin.  I usually only get one or two rides in over 50 miles before a race.  I'm hoping for 5, including some over distance rides and long ride/long run bricks.  Besides that, I have Kelly running with me for some weekend intervals and weekday long runs.

Once the pools reopen after the local cryptosporidium outbreak (gross) I'll be back in the pool.

The biggest difference this race is 1) motivation and 2) food.  Since we've become, well, I don't really know how to describe our eating other than flexitarian.  Anyway, we've been eating a lot more vegetables and I bought a vegetarian cookbook that has been amazing.  Spicy tofu and broccoli stir fry, confetti vegetable stew, avocado and pinto bean salad with salsa, and the list goes on.  Today, I made cucumber crab salad over mixed greens.  Cooking fresh food makes such a big difference.

We've been trying to eat gluten free the nights before long runs and John and I have both noticed a difference there, too.  The downside to a few weeks of good training - I was starving all weekend.  I was hungry at 9 am.  I was hungry at 3 pm.  The upside to good training - I was finally able to fit back into my size 4 pants.  That's the first time I've been able to wear them all year!  Today's my day off and I almost feel guilty not working out.  Yoga it is!


More food stuff

I recently had another food Aha! moment, this time race-related.  My favorite pre-race meal has been Thai food; I've never had stomach issues after having Thai food.  Maybe I should clarify, neutral Thai food.  I know better than to order the triple spicy curry before a race.

Unfortunately, I've had several races where I've had stomach issues but I had a hard time figuring it out.  Two things are required for my stomach to turn south: heat and high exertion level.  I've never had a problem during ultras or even running races, only triathlons.  But I think part of the problem is that it's usually 11 am when I'm starting the running portion of a 70.3 versus starting a 1/2 marathon at 7 or 8 am. 

After reading several articles, and taking my personal history into account, I decided to try going gluten-free for Nationals.  Shelley's family was planning on veggies and pasta so I picked up some quinoa pasta.  And while it's not rock-solid science, I didn't have any problems in Burlington.  During the run, it was in the upper 70s to low 80s with full sun and I was definitely working hard.  I think gluten-free the day before might be the trick.  I still had Pop-Tarts for breakfast and I'm assuming there is gluten in them.  But my current theory is that Pop-Tarts are such simple carbs that I can digest those without a problem.

The hydration and nutrition part of racing is beyond complicated.  I'm still learning and I can see how having a lot of racing experience can make a huge difference in performance.  And it's all so personal.  It doesn't really matter if the latest research says pickle juice is the best thing to drink while racing if the thought of taking a big swig of pickle juice makes you want to vomit.  I know that GU sits well, Hammer Gel does not.  On a cool day when my hydration is good, I can drink Gatorade.  On a hot day or if I'm over-hydrated, Gatorade makes a bad situation worse.  Ice water always tastes good, but it's easy to get salt levels out of whack.  Contrary to my previously held belief, vegetables the night before a race will not wreak havoc on my system.  And I will NEVER drink Gatorade G3 Recovery again.  I took a huge gulp of that crap after Nationals and then spit it out, almost ruining some lady's shoes.  Man, if this keeps up, I'm going to have to tattoo a list of food guidelines on my arm so I can remember what to eat and what to avoid.


The Omnivore's Dilemma

I know this book has been out for a while and has won a bunch of awards.  But it was new to me.  A co-worker read it and we got into a discussion about food and food sources over lunch at The Farmhouse.  Great restaurant if you're in downtown Kansas City, by the way.

As a disclaimer, I should note that I am exactly this author's target-audience.  I grew up on a farm, eating meat from our animals, dairy straight from the tank or our creamery, and helping my mom with our garden.  I raised the baby calves from 0-8 weeks old and helped milk the cows, along with the usual work of pitching pens, throwing hay, and the like.  I have a soft spot for all animals and can't bring myself to eat veal.  Now, I live in a city and get my food the way most Americans do - from the store.

The first part of the book is all about corn and how it has infiltrated every aspect of our diet.   It's interesting information, but it moves a little slow.  Once you get past the corn section, it moves much faster.

The author went around the country and visited all types of farms.  He spent time on a corn farm in Iowa, at organic farms on the west coast, and a grazing farm in Virginia.  He follows our food, as best he can, from the farm through the system.  He also makes an attempt at hunting and gathering.  Again, I found it humorous since I used to hunt growing up and now have a large garden.  I took so much of my upbringing for granted.  I remeber when I was little, I thought everyone had cows.  Who didn't own a cow?

I'm well aware of the conditions of most commercial farms and I'm well aware of what animal slaughtering processes entail.  But it's easy to put that kind of stuff out of your mind when you don't have to deal with it every day.  To be perfectly honest, there was a large section of the book that I was almost in tears.

If you've never hunted, gardened, or lived on a farm, you absolutely have to read this book.  There is such a disconnect between us and our food.  The best information in the book was the website http://www.eatwild.com/.  If you're interested in getting your food from local sources, you should check that website out.  If you'd rather stay oblivious, then don't read this book.  I don't blame you, there is a lot of information that most people would find disturbing.  I'm not trying to start a food revolution. 

But John and I are starting our own personal food revolution.

As a results of the book, and several previous conversations between John and I, we have decided that we're going to eat only locally raised meat.  There are the health reason of lower saturated fats and higher essential fats from grass-fed meat, but for me, there is also the moral aspect of it.  I'm not going to preach on what I think your personal moral code should be.  But I know that if I were to walk through a commercial laying farm or stock yard that I wouldn't be able to eat that meat.  (I might also be inclined to stage a midnight animal rescue)  I don't have a problem with locally raised and humanely slaughtered animals.  I'm not going completely vegetarian.  But I am going to do my best to avoid all commercially-fed meat and eggs. 

I don't want people to have to cater to me, so I'm sure I'll still eat mass-produced meat on occasion.  I'd don't want to inconvenience others or force my agenda on them.  Now if you're a guest in my house, then all's fair in the kitchen.  So if you're over for dinner, don't be surprised if what we're serving is mostly vegetarian.  Or the most delicious grass-fed beef you've ever eaten.


USAT Age Group Nationals Race Report

Intimidating. Humbling. Awesome. That sums up the USAT Age Groups Nationals in three words. When I was wandering around the expo looking at all of the incredibly fit people with incredibly expensive bikes and incredibly serious looks on their faces, I kept thinking "I do not belong here. I am in way over my head." I was under trained going in and I suddenly felt self-conscious of my aluminum frame bike and $40 helmet from REI. Intimidating.

As a side note, I stayed in Burlington with Shelley's family. They are as amazing as Shelley is, big surprise. I'll have another post just on Vermont and travelling later. But I would not have done this race if Shelley's family wasn't close and I owe them a HUGE thank you. Shelley's step-mom Mary, also raced. She is a BAMF and qualified for the World championship in New Zealand. She's my hero.

I knew before the race that I was in the 3rd to the last wave to go and I had more race-anxiety than normal. The men's 24 and under was after my wave and I wasn't looking forward to that for good reason. They had every wave corralled up at the dock and then lead us down to the water as a group. I felt like we were cattle being lead to slaughter. Did I mention race anxiety? My wetsuit didn't help the feeling of suffocation. It was a treading-water start, which was a great opportunity to get used to the water before the chaos began.

After waiting for the countdown and gun, we were off. This was probably the most physical swim I've ever done; physical meaning lots of contact with other bodies. The beginning went well - cool water temps and a good draft. Then at the halfway point, the youngsters caught us. The 24 and under men just started swimming over the top of us. Fuck, fuck, fuck, this is not good. Arms and legs everywhere. Yellow caps. Green caps. The water tasted like diesel fuel. I started leading with my elbows just to keep my head above water. Keep calm and breathe. Keep calm and breathe. Those damn whipper-snappers. No manners in the water. I'm ready for the 30-34 age group, just to get away from the 24 and under men.

I came out of the water in about 32 min, a good swim for me. I was a little dazed and had the feeling of vertigo. I found my bike and ran out the end of transition. Then kept running. Jeeze, how far is the mount line? I felt like I ran a quarter mile with my bike! The transition area routing was poor at best. Bike-in crossed over swim-in, bike-out crossed over run-out. I'm surprised there weren't any crashes.

I got on the bike and took off, ready to have some fun. It was a gorgeous course through the rolling hills outside of Burlington. I was trying not to pay too much attention to my Garmin since I knew I wouldn't place well overall. I was setting my pace based on my body and having fun. About halfway into the bike I realized why I like 70.3 races so much. It takes me 12-15 miles to get warmed up on the bike and by that time in an Olympic distance race, there's only 10 miles left. Oh well, I had a great ride and averaged 20 mph.

I passed one woman on an all-carbon set up, solid disc wheel in the back. Let's just say her rear wheel was more expensive than my whole bike. And I passed her on an uphill like she was standing still. I felt good! After the results were posted, I checked all my splits and when I looked at the bike my jaw dropped. A 20 mph average speed was in the bottom half of my age group. Damn. 20 mph average usually puts me 1st or 2nd in my age group. Humbling.

When I got back to transition and tried to rack my bike, I noticed that almost all the bikes were back already. Again, humbling. This race sold out faster than it ever has and because of that, USAT opened up an addition 500 slots for the race. I don't think the organizers in Burlington got the memo. Our personal transition area was exactly the width of a bike. It was so tight, we had to rack by our seats. So as I tried to re-rack my bike, the back wheel kept getting caught in the bars of the bikes on the opposing side. I probably spent an extra 30 seconds just trying to get my bike wedged in my spot. It was worse for the women since the racks were set so high none of our front wheels touched the ground. So if you bumped into one, they all spun around. It was a mess.

The run course was less than inspiring and there's not much to say. It was 10:15 when I started, so the sun was out and it was getting warm. I knew what pace I needed to keep to meet my 2:45 goal time and I was working hard to maintain that. The last two miles I was starting to over heat and I knew it. Two miles, anyone can run two miles. I came in at 2:43:36, a great time by my standards and also a PR. (Since this was my first true Olympic distance race, I was going to PR no matter what. Minor details.) Awesome.

It was probably my best personal race, and it was also the worst finish I've ever had if you're judging by overall finish. But I wasn't concerned with that, it was an amazing race experience and I am so glad I went. I usually finish in the top part of my age group, and top half of all racers. It was such a great and humbling experience to race against the fastest people in the country. In case you're curious, a 2:43:36 was good enough for 60/79 in my AG.

And I am damn happy with that.



...just not yet.

Let's see, there's a book review, travel and race report, new race nutrition strategy (success!), my personal food revolution, training plan and training goals, and the list goes on. But I've been swamped and I'm hoping for race pics before getting into a race report. Here's the 30 second version: I read a good book, took an awesome trip for an amazing race, tried new fuel, am changing the way I regularly eat, have a plan, have a goal, and keeping busy! Phew!!

Tonight John and I are cooking for Shelley, Kelly, and Shelley's dad, Gerry. Shelley has her second round of chemo today, so send her your positive thoughts. On the menu: homemade Vegetable Confetti Stew, homemade sour dough bread (with wild yeast John has cultivated), and mixed greens salad. I hear that fresh meals prepared with love are the best way to fight cancer. The point is you'll have to wait a few more days for any real updates.


Nothing Says "Tri-Geek" Like Compression Socks

I know you've seen them. Maybe you use them. One thing we can agree on: they look ridiculous.

I swore up and down that I would never, NEVER own compression socks. You would think that by this point in my life I would learn not to use absolutes. Because "never, NEVER" has turned into LOVE THEM!

That's right, I own compression socks and I love 'em. I don't exercise in them. All the literature I've read is inconclusive on whether or not wearing them while working out is even beneficial. And the tan lines are less than attractive. I fully believe compression socks belong in one place - underneath pants.

But no one argues that they're good for recovery. I've been wearing them after long or particularly hard workouts and I'm ready to get another pair. I wore them in the car up to WI (8+ hours of driving). I wore them on the plane to Colorado. I even wore them the day after an outdoor concert in hot weather since my legs felt like stuffed sausages the next morning. I'll be wearing them flying to and from Burlington this weekend and possibly the evening after the race.

I don't know if it's a placebo effect or if they actually help, but I do feel like my legs recover faster after a tough workout when I use them. They seems to reduce the "my legs are dog-tired" feeling when you wake up in the morning, too.

So if you've been thinking about getting a pair, I would highly recommend them. But be warned: if I ever see you wearing compression socks or sleeves during a race, I will still make fun of you.


Count Down

Summer seems to be flying by, and not necessarily in a good way. Nationals are this coming Saturday and to say that I am under prepared would be an understatement. Oh well, this race wasn't on my radar in time to actually train for and signing up for a race less than 6 weeks out doesn't leave a whole lot of room for improvement. I almost feel guilty going to this race. I am no where near the shape I was in when I qualified and I don't think even in that shape I should have qualified. So I may try to qualify again, and next time put in a 12 week training plan. Hopefully this is just the first Nationals I compete in.

This might be the first race that I feel unprepared for. It's not an issue of finishing, it's an issue of competing against some of the best age-groupers in the country. I don't like to do things half-assed and I feel like I am only half-ass prepared. I do have a goal, and I'm really trying to talk myself into a sub-2:45 time goal and forget about the other girls. I'll let you know how that works out.

That said, I am looking toward Austin with some amount of optimism. I'm going to use my plane time to Burlington to lay out my training plan. I don't really know what my goal is going to be, maybe a 2 hour run? I just really want to get back into the shape I was in last year.


Golden is Gorgeous

John and I managed a trail run while we were in Golden. We ran up the Chimney Gulch Trail. An hour up and 25 min down. This was easily the most enjoyable run I've had all year.

At the top.

We also managed to sample a few of the local brews while we were in town.

Coors put on one of the best brewery tours that I've been on. Three full sample beers at the end and a great gift shop. It was a fun weekend and nice to have a break from the hot temps here.


Mental Clarity

One of, if not THE best benefits of working out regularly is the ability of exercise to clear my head and burn off negative energy. The temperature today was forecasted to be 106 degrees, and that doesn't include the heat index. I cleared it with my boss to come in late to work so I could get a bike ride in this morning. It was great - cool temps compared to what I have been riding in, and I love getting done about the same time the sun is cresting the tops of the trees. There wasn't much traffic, just like-minded hikey-bikey people trying to beat the heat without enduring a treadmill or trainer.

Driving into work, I felt refreshed and calm, and ready to face the day. Little did I know just how much I would need that.

Today, I decided to finally speak up about an issue at work. I had been planning on meeting with my bosses tomorrow, but due to scheduling issues, my bosses asked if we could do it today. I wasn't quite prepared, but sometimes you just have to roll with it.

Afterwards, I was incredibly glad that I had gotten a good ride in before work. Even though the circumstances weren't what I was hoping for, I was at least focused and as calm as could be expected. Things at work will play out in time.

After work, I did my second favorite thing to achieve mental clarity - I went for a drink with Kelly.


Midwest Mayhem RR

I suppose it's about time I write a race report, if I even remember what one of these is supposed to be.

Big surprise, it was hot. The water was bath-water warm and not pleasant at all. But I shouldn't complain because it was pancake flat and there were no broken-off sheet pile walls for me to cut myself on. I went slow on the swim since I was worried about overheating before I got out of the water. That wouldn't have been good. I didn't realize how slow I was going, but based on my swim split I was really dilly-dallying around. This isn't a water tour, Sam.

I should explain my strategy for this race. Due to the heat, I was hoping to ride hard, maybe get the best female bike split, and then jog the run. I was hoping for a sub-3 hour finish. I am not built for hot-weather running and things go downhill fast when I overheat. My German-Scandinavian ancestors were laughing at me all day. I've always said if there is a race that involves throwing bales of hay and hauling buckets of grain, I would WIN! At least I've learned to take it easy during hot-weather races. I've done more damage than good in the past.

Race strategy aside, I wasn't planning on coming out of the water in 37:54 (over 2:30/100m). I just shook my head when I looked and my watch and knew I had to make up time on the bike (wait, I thought I wasn't racing hard?). For comparison, in the last short race I did I average 1:42/100m.

I flew through T1 in 1:05, fastest transition in my AG. I got on the bike and then started to work. This race is a sadistically hilly course with the Kansas wind pushing you around the whole time. I have not been training in the hills. But I did catch every other female except 2, and I was close. Considering the hills and wind, I was happy with my bike time of 1:18:18 (19.1 mph). I was the 2nd fastest female on the day and I blame that on the farmer who decided on taking his thresher out to cruise the course. Jerk.
I took a little more time in T2 because I wanted salt before starting the run. I downed 2 S-caps and shuffled off in 3rd place in the women's race.

The best part of the run? Seeing Shelley and Kelly at the first and last aid station. I kept a modest 9:20+ min/mi pace, not bad considering it was now well above 90 degrees and humid. I held on to 3rd place until the last 1.5 miles in the race and was passed by two women, clearly with a runner's build. A volunteer tried to get me to chase "You're only 30 sec out of 3rd!". No thanks. There was no chase in that weather. I finished the run in 56:39 for an overall time of 2:55:37. I made my sub-3 hour goal.

I ended up 5th overall female, which also happened to be 5th in my AG. Nuts! There was 13 min between me and the winner and 25 min between me and the 6th place finisher in our AG. Less than 2 min separated 3rd-5th places. Oh well, since I was using it as a training race, I would say it was a success. Best part? No diaphragm pain! I think I finally have that problem figured out.

Now I'm focusing on Nationals, increasing my hill training and long runs. I'm looking forward to VT just for a break in the weather!


TDF Junkie

It's Friday night, John is out of town and my big plans are... watching Stage 19 of the TDF! I couldn't be happier. Yes, I have been dreaming about passing Contador while climbing up the Alps. Yes, I have been trying to find a red polka dot dress. Yes, I find men in spandex sexy.

Hi. My name is Sam and I'm a Touraholic.

I temporarily renamed our cat Thor, in honor of Thor Hushovd of Norway, one of my favorite riders who has two Stage wins to his name. Unlike the real Thor, Thor the cat is in a heated race for who can nap on the couch the longest.

My weekend plans involve running, swimming, biking, watching the tour, and making a training plan. I'm a month out from Nationals and a couple months from Austin. The intense heat we're under is making it difficult to get out and definitely not enjoyable to train. But it's the Midwest in July so I just need to suck it up.

Training plans to follow, but for now, time to watch the Tour!!


Not Again

I am beyond blessed to have amazing women in my life. I feel honored to call them friends and their strength, compassion, grace, and humility leave me wanting to be a better person. You should all know my friend Kelly by now. Well, in case you're unfamiliar, it's time to meet Shelley. This is not my story to tell, I'm just here to love and support along the way. But to make a long story short, Shelley was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Read her blog. Send her hugs. Keep her in your thoughts. Love you Shelley!!

On a lighter note, John is now concerned that breast cancer is contagious. He is insisting on twice-daily breast exams, and he feels it necessary that he perform them, just to be sure. I can't get anything done around the house!


Motivation Aplenty!

After spending all winter studying, I had a hard time getting motivated to get back to training. I picked an off-road race and a long-distance local triathlon to force myself to do something. Anything. Well, that is not a problem any more.

First, within a few days of learning I passed my test, I signed up for Austin 70.3 in October. I was hoping to get another 70.3 in before the end of the year and before I age up to the 30-34 age group. For those of you who may already be into the 30s and beyond, that is in no way an insult. In fact, I'm little nervous about aging up; women in their 30s are fast!
And as I posted yesterday, I'm now signed up for AG Nationals in August. That was enough motivation that when I got to work today I was able to walk right past the Bavarian cream donuts someone brought in without hesitating. OK, I was hesitating and possibly drooling but I did not eat one and that's the important thing.

And last, John and I have been religiously following the Tour, which has been exciting this year to say the least.
Maybe it's because I ride more, but there is nothing more motivating than watching those men hang it out on the line every day. And unlike most races, they're not done after a hard effort, or two or three. They have 3 weeks of killer riding, with crashes and flats and weather to deal with. The more I watch, the more hooked I get. Whenever I see a bad wreck, it almost breaks my heart to see the injuries and watch someone abandon the race. There is so much strategy, timing, luck, and pure guts involved... Man, I'm getting excited just writing about it! It truly is the most epic race on the planet.

Needless to say, I'm no longer lacking in the motivation department. Possibly setting a new bike goal for this year? It could happen.


USAT AG Nationals? What??

I logged in to USAT today to print out a temporary card for my race this weekend, and this was the page that greeted me! Huh? OK, I'll be honest, I really had no idea what it takes to qualify and I'm still not exactly sure if this is a big deal. I had to do a little bit of research on Nationals.

For USAT Nationals, in special events, the top 33% of the AG qualifies. For other sanctioned, pre-determined events, the top 10% qualifies. I qualified at Redman, but I was 3rd in my AG, which was the top 15% since it was a small field. So I think they opened up the field to a roll down, which is why I only recently figured out I qualified. Although, to be honest, if I had been emailed with the notification I probably deleted it anyway.

Anyway, it's the first Nationals I qualified for. And in other news, today I received official notification the I am a licensed Professional Structural Engineer (in the state of Nebraksa). Since I celebrated passing my tests with a registration for Austin 70.3 (oh yeah, I need to update on that) I decided that signing up for Nationals for receiving my official license number was appropriate.

When is Nationals, you ask? August 20th, which only gives me about 3 weeks to really train. But let's be honest, it's not like I was expecting to go to Nationals or consider that my "A" race for the year.

I'm loving life right now and everything seems to be coming up roses. More details to come! Shelley says I should buy a lotto ticket! But to quote my brother-in-law, "It's better to be good than lucky." Then again, a lotto ticket won't hurt!

Hey Christi! I'll be in CO soon, I'm going to email you about running trails!


You Can't Pick Your Genes

Every now and then I'm reminded about the real reason I train and race. Sure it's fun and I love to go fast, but it really comes down to health.

Back in November, my mom had a couple nasty falls that she blamed on her "good" knee. Unfortunately, my mom is one of many people who pay for their own insurance and she didn't want to go to the doctor because she was afraid of the cost. She finally went in on Friday to see a specialist (yes, that is 8 months after she fell) and she had surgery today.

Everything went well but she has arthritis in her knee and she had torn her meniscus in three places. She's on crutches for a few days and then starts rehab. I keep trying to gently nudge her in the direction of exercise (in the form of walking) and making small changes in her diet to lose weight, given her knee issues.

I should explain that I am not blessed with good genes. Most of the women in my family tip the scale over 250 pounds. At my heaviest I was about 165, and it wasn't pretty. My mom has the family record for age at first knee surgery; she was 30. Type 1 diabetes is in the family and several family members have been diagnosed with Type 2. So exercising and being conscious of what I eat is important. Between my mom's surgery and watching the Tour, I've been highly motivated to ride my bikes. I've seen the alternative, and it usually ends up in the hospital.



If you've ever heard a 14 year old screaming in glee at Justin Bieber, then you know what I sounded like on Saturday morning. For the last 4 weeks, I have been obsessively checking the mailbox waiting for my licensing exam results. It was the first thing I'd do when I got home and sometimes I'd check it again before bed (you know, those midnight mail deliveries are sneaky). Everyday. As soon as it was 8 weeks after my test, it was like I was the kid in A Christmas Story - "Where's my decoder ring?!?!" Well, on Saturday my decoder ring finally showed up.

Actually, it was much more boring than a decoder ring, it was just a letter. But this letter had four sweet, sweet words that I have been waiting for.

Vertical: Pass
Lateral: Pass

Sweet monkey livers, I did it. Pass rate was 27%. I'm still a little in shock that I actually did it on my first try. Clearly, I didn't screw up the double integration of the trigonometric function as I thought I did. Sorry, I digress.

The important thing here is that I DON'T HAVE TO STUDY THIS FALL!!! Which means......


I'm eyeing up Austin 70.3 in October. It is a little over 12 weeks away, which is a perfect training cycle for me. I need to work out some of the logistics yet, but I'm 80% sure. The bad thing is that John has to take his licensing exam the last weekend of October, so he won't be travelling with me. It's a bummer, but I'd really like to get one more 70.3 in before I age up to the 30-34 age group. I'd also like to keep my streak of at least one 70.3 race a year.

The bottom line is I'm back on the training wagon and I have my life back. It feels so good.


An Open Letter to Spectators

This letter was inspired while I was mountain biking this afternoon. I was off my bike, walking a rocky section when I came up to two hikers going in the opposite direction. The heavier of the two said to me "It looks like you bit off more than you can chew." Her comment turned an already difficult ride into a full blown sufferfest, with a little parrot sitting on my shoulder repeating "More than you can chew, more than you can chew." Her comment shouldn't have bothered me, but it did. Since she obviously was not an avid athlete, I'm hoping she was well meaning. I have seen and heard many well-meaning but destructive spectators, and I was inspired to come up with a Spectator's Guide after my confidence was crushed by an overweight hiker on a Sunday afternoon.

Dear Spectator,

Congratulations! Your athlete is about to participate in _________ race, which I know he/she has been dedicated in training for and you have graciously tolerated all the antics that go with training for said race. We appreciate you. We love having you at races. But if you're new to the scene, there are a few things you need to know that will make every one's day go much better.

  1. Do not get in line for the Porta Potties before the race. There are literally hundreds of athletes that have pre-race nerves, are taking care of "business", or are regretting the jalapeno bacon cheeseburger they ate last night. Do not make them wait for the bathroom. One minute after the start, there will be plenty of Porta Johns available for you to use. As soon as you see your athlete off, you'll have plenty of time to kill anyway.

  2. Do not wander onto or try to cross the course. If you absolutely have to cross the course for some reason, check left, then right, then left again and make sure there are no athletes coming or going. Then check left and right again. Only when you know you can cross without interfering with someone's race should you do so. People who are racing move fast. Bikes racing move even faster. If in doubt, wait some more. When you do cross, be quick about it. Don't stroll or dillydally. Don't get onto the course to take pictures. I know you want the best picture of your stud muffin as possible, but with your nose in the camera, you may miss a tired and fatigued athlete who wanders into your path, knocks you down and breaks your camera. Wait, you wandered into HER path. Take pictures from the sidelines or well beyond the finish line area.

  3. Keep an eye on your kids. I love seeing kids at races and I think one of the best things you can do for your child is to introduce them to an active lifestyle. But please don't bring your kids and let them run wild. It's annoying to have to avoid kids in transition areas, starting corrals, and finish line chutes but it's not about the inconvenience. If some guy riding at 25 mph isn't smart enough to slow down when approaching transition and happens to hit Junior, well, let's just say no one wants that to happen. Again, people move fast and bikes move faster. Junior may not be paying attention. Maybe you don't care that your perfectly behaved child just ruined someone's race, but you should care that your offspring could be hurt. My favorite place to see kids: on their parent's shoulders. This is great for 3 reasons. Junior can't wander off and get hurt, he is in a much better position to see racing Mom or racing Dad, and the spectating parent gets a workout. Everyone wins!

  4. Watch your language. I don't mean swearing. In fact, sometimes a properly placed expletive can be quite motivating. Watch what you say to athletes, whether you know them or not. This requires sub-guidelines. 1) NEVER be negative. 2) It's OK to lie, e.g. "Lookin' good!" We know that's a lie and we appreciate it. 3) If you can't lie and can't think of anything nice to say, non-words are good too. Woo hoo, Wahoo, Ooo Ooo, Yay, Yee Haw, and barn animal noises are preferable to negativity or silence. 4) Use names if you can or specifics. Lots of bibs now have names, but "Go Girl" or "You're kicking ass, Man" are also good. 5) Use phrases like "Push harder" or "Pick up the pace" with caution. If that works for your athlete, great. For people like me, when someone says "Push harder" I feel like they're telling me I'm not working hard enough already when I'm usually going as hard as I can and ready to puke. If I'm in a really bad place, that just might get you clothes lined. The same goes for critiques on form. My training partner can tell me to lengthen my stride or relax my shoulders and it's a good thing for me. A stranger saying the same thing only makes me feel worse. 6) DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT say "You're almost there" unless you can see and hear the finish line from where you are. You may think that 5 miles left in a marathon, ultramarathon, Ironman or 1/2 Ironman is almost finished. But any athlete can tell you a lot can happen in 5 miles and to tell someone they are almost finished when they may have another hour of running left is cruel.

  5. Only athletes get to enjoy the post-race finish line spread. It is really unfair to the racers for you to grab a water and some fruit for yourself or your kids. The athletes had to pay a fee to race and part of that covers food. There are exceptions. If the race is almost or completely over and there are leftovers, ask a volunteer if it's OK to take something. If you or a family member are diabetic and need sugar, seriously, grab what you need. But don't just help yourself because you want a snack. I was in a multi-distance race and finished towards the front of the long course. The short-course athletes had mostly finished and I saw multiple families and spectators with their hands full of food, Gatorade and Mountain Dew. When I came through, no Gatorade, pop, or grapes, they had run out. And there were still at least 50 athletes that hadn't finished yet. It's a bummer to race hard for over 2 hours and only get water and some brownish bananas. Leave the goods for the athletes who need them. Same goes for chairs in the finish chute. Let the athletes sit, that's the least they deserve.

I know that's a lot of things not to do. But there are things you can do that every athlete will appreciate.

  1. Cheer. Clap. Do anything that makes a positive noise when any racer goes by, not just your athlete. Trust me, everyone appreciates it. And don't you want every other spectator cheering for your athlete when they go by?

  2. The cowbell is your friend. You can never have too much cowbell.

  3. Signs, posters, and sidewalk chalk are great. (Don't put sidewalk chalk down after the race has started. You have to plan that one in advance.) Put your athlete's name on a poster and make some generic ones, too. Funny quotes, inspiring words and phrases, trust me, we see it. Your poster saying "You are tough!" just might help someone push past a cramp or catch a second wind.

  4. Thank the volunteers and race officials. Thank the course marshals. They are keeping your athlete safe out there.

On one last note, I believe in race karma. Be polite and courteous. Don't push and shove. It's a big day for everyone. Maybe it's your athletes first race or maybe they're trying for a new PR. But there are most likely people there who are racing in memory of a loved one they lost, just lost 100 lb and are reclaiming their life, or it's their first race after having a child or beating cancer. Just remember, this is an important day for everyone.

See you on the course!

A Girl Named Sam