Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The worst part of the taper

This is notoriously when I start to go completely insane leading up to an Ironman. Especially the big one that marks the last race of the season. I'm mentally drained. I'm physically drained. I'm constantly hungry. I'm having a hard time sleeping. And this time I have the added annoyance of the foot that refuses to get better. The next visit with the doctor is tomorrow, so hopefully there will be some good news to report there.

I'm sure you've heard or experienced first hand how triathletes tend to go a little crazy during the taper. There is less training to be done, and that gives the mind a lot more time to wander and fixate on all sorts of things. Am I ready? Did I do enough? I hope I don't get sick. I hope I don't do something stupid like trip walking down the stairs. I really wish I could eat some ice cream right now. I should be in better shape. Why are my workouts not going better? Why is my swimming so sloppy lately? Why am I still training in the cold when my race is going to be hot? Why haven't I started to pack yet? When will the pain in my foot go away?

Yep, it's no wonder I'm starting to go crazy. Add to that the new fun thing where I can't seem to fall asleep at night and the fact that I am hungry all of the time but can't really do much about it and you have one cranky athlete. I'm probably better off being left completely alone for the next week and a half. On the odd occasion that I actually do fall asleep, lately my dreams have involved food. I remember one about a week ago where I was at a make your own sundae bar and I did quite a bit of damage. Last night I had a big bag of those little powdered donuts. It's ridiculous. I try not to think about it too much, and for the past week and a half I've basically eaten the same things every day so that way I don't even have to think about it. That's just what I'm going to eat. Not that the food tastes bad, but man, I could really use a cookie or something. Or even just a sandwich.

Then there is the training. This week is probably the hardest. I guess a lot of triathletes tend to go a little crazy with the lack of training, but frankly, I'd be happy if there was nothing at all left to do. This week is still pretty substantial as far as training volume goes and I have just about zero motivation to get it done, especially when some of it involves water running. I miss real running. This is such a great time of year to be out running and I'm missing it. The weather is cooling off and starting tomorrow I think we are expecting highs in the 50's, and that never makes it easier to get out the door and train. I just feel so done. I'm betting the change of scenery will help when I head to Hawaii on Sunday, but the next few days are going to be brutal.

Now if only I could get out the door for that bike ride...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Now I'm a water runner

Upon completion of the shortest run ever, it has now been decided that there will be no more actual running until I exit T2 on October 10th. Nobody has any idea why my foot still hurts this much, and my consistent denial doesn't seem to be speeding up the healing process. You know, my typical approach to things: if I ignore it long enough, maybe it will just go away. Well, so far, that hasn't worked out so well. Friday was set to be a non-running day anyway although I wound up quite sore that evening due to a massage with a woman I hadn't been to before. I found it somewhat ironic that a woman with almost zero grip in a handshake gave me the deepest, most painful massage I had ever received. In a good way, though. She was particularly fond of this one spot around my left shoulderblade which she just kept going back to and digging into again and again and again to the point where it hurt until the next morning. She also loved destroying my incredibly tight calf muscles.

But anyway, this was supposed to be about water running. The adventure began with a trip to Sports Authority to pick up one of those flotation devices embarrassingly referred to as the "Aqua Jogger". I had been told I'd be water running, not aqua jogging. Fortunately, they had a few there and I was able to at least have the right equipment. The only downside was that when I finally took it out of the box I saw that it was marked with a L/XL on it. Wait, these things come in different sizes? Admittedly, I am not the smallest person, but considering the types of people you'd probably be most likely to find "aqua jogging" it seemed a tad unlikely that I'd be considered an XL among them. Fortunately, I was able to pull the belt tight enough to get it around my waist, there just happens to be an awful lot of extra slack.

Yesterday, Saturday, was the first day I'd have to try it. It was set to be a somewhat interesting day. Saturday of course is usually long ride day, but this being a lower volume week I "only" had to ride for 3:30, then "run" for 1:15. It was also set to be an incredibly cold morning, in the 30's with possibilities of frost. My sister and some of my friends were running a local half marathon that I wanted to go watch. So what I decided to do was to start really early on the trainer, so I could start while it was still dark and stay much warmer since it is unlikely that it will be in the 30's in Kona in 2 weeks. Then I'd grab my water running gear and head over to Silver Lake to get my water run in. The convenient thing about this plan was that the Silver Lake parking lot also happened to be the parking area used for the race.

After my first long trainer ride in a while, during which time I thought a lot about how much of that I'll have to do when training for IM Utah, I grabbed my stuff and headed over to the lake. I was convinced that I'd spend an hour and fifteen minutes shivering. I parked the car about 45 minutes before the race start and headed over to the water. It was definitely still chilly, but there was not a cloud in the sky, so that helped. Silver Lake is only maybe a half-mile across, if that, so it's not the kind of place I'd have to worry about boat traffic. On went the belt and off I went into the water.

The water was a lot warmer than the air and I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable it was. I waded out until I couldn't touch the bottom anymore, and I started "running". Ok, it was weird. I'm not sure I ever really got used to it. It felt almost more like faking a biking motion than a running motion. There were two things that I kept thinking about: how hard it was to get my heart rate up, and how legitimately hot I was. Oh, and I guess I was also hoping that not too many people would see me out there and wonder what the heck I was doing. I pumped my legs and arms wildly trying to hit my newly determined water running heart rate zones. My quads were burning and it was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Sweat was pouring down my face and I found myself dunking my head in the water rather than trying not to get my face wet as I figured I'd be doing on that chilly morning.

It went by a whole lot faster than I thought it would. The best part was that the half marathon course actually went right by the lake. I was somewhere around mile 4 and spent close to an hour without anything to look at, but eventually got to see the racers come by and even got to say hi to my friends who knew to look for me there since I told them my plans. Of course when it was time to get out there was a woman playing with her dog on the beach, when for almost the entire time there was nobody. I really didn't want anyone to see me exiting the water with a wetsuit and this stupid floatie belt on. I'm 30, not 90. But anyway, I got my stuff together and got on my bike to ride just the mile and a half or so up to the high school to watch the finishers come in. This was the Applefest half marathon that I've run once before. It's really a great race if you can work it into your schedule. Unfortunately for me lately, it just hasn't worked. The best part of the whole thing aside from the fact that the weather is usually absolutely perfect is that they serve apple crisp at the finish line. I can't tell you how badly I wanted some yesterday. I tried to remind myself that at least it wasn't warm apple crisp, otherwise I would've been in real trouble. Apple crisp is definitely on "the list" for after Kona.

I ran into my brother-in-law and my niece and we got a nice spot to watch the finishers come in and wait for my sister. She was a bit slower than last year, but she said she felt good and seemed in good spirits, so congratulations, Katy, on another half marathon! Now you just have to find another one to run and do even better.

So the first water run was a success, I guess, except for a too-low heart rate. Attempt #2 was today. First up this morning was a 90-minute easy spin which I again opted to do on the trainer because it was raining and cold outside. I only had to "run" for 20 minutes. Now, to water run apparently you need to not be able to touch the bottom. The pool I swim in for workouts is I think 5' at its deepest, which certainly doesn't do it for me. So lakes are going to be my go-to, even though it's almost October and I am running out of time. However, I happened to notice that my grandmother's backyard pool is for some reason actually still open. I'm not sure it's ever been open this late in the season, but given its convenient location, right next door, I'm glad it is.

After my ride that was spent watching the poignant MTV documentary Return to Fat Camp, I put on my swimsuit and walked over in the rain and temps right around 50. I decided to forgo the wetsuit since it probably would've taken me at least 20 minutes to get it on after being so sweaty from the trainer and I thought I'd be fine for just a 20-minute water run. Again, I don't like to be seen when doing stupid stuff like this, and figured at 8am on a rainy Sunday morning I'd be safe. Even Nana might still be in bed and doesn't make much of a habit of looking out the back window. But of course I ran into one of my uncles who was headed over to get something at Dunkin' Donuts. He offered to get me something, and of course I had to decline. I think the only thing I'd be able to get from there aside from the bottled water is green tea with nothing in it, and frankly, at this point, I'd rather have nothing.

I had thought that given that the water was warmer than the air it might actually feel pretty good. I was wrong. The thermometer read 66 and even though the air was colder, the water felt no better. I immediately regretted my decision not to wear the wetsuit, but I wasn't going back to get it now, so I just got in and started moving. Yep, it was cold. And I found myself doing these sort of small circular laps in the deep end, feeling a lot like a hampster on one of those wheels. But of course I survived all 20 minutes again at too low of a heart rate, and thankfully realized that I only have to water run in the cold northeast 4 more times before I head to the warmth of Hawaii.

Hot shower, built a fire in the wood stove and now I plan on soaking up the last day of my "rest" week. I'm still trying not to think about my foot too much, because if I do I just get increasingly frustrated with its refusal to get better. I'm going to see another doctor on Wednesday who is apparently a world-renowned podiatrist who just happens to practice in my home town. We'll see if he has any good news for me. If he doesn't, well, I still will only have to get through that second weekend in October. The time off is inevitable either way. The news will likely just determine if I'll be finishing in daylight or not.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

...and now it's time to panic

Ok, so, when last I left you, I was basking in the glory of having finished an epic weekend of training, comprised of a little swimming and an insane amount of biking. No running because my foot has issues. I had a follow-up appointment with my body's Dr. Fix-it, Carlos, on Tuesday and things seemed to be moving along well and it was almost time to try a run. So in talking to the coach, Jesse, we decided that today we would throw in a 25-minute easy run and see how things went. Carlos figured I'd have some pain to start but once I got going it would work itself out, as it seems to when I get up in the morning - the first few steps hurt, but then it's fine. So after some swim drills and excessive kicking in the pool this morning, and then a 90-minute bike ride that probably went way better than it should have (although considering the bike training I'm coming off, I think I've got the biking pretty well covered) I was feeling pretty good about my little run.

Searched threw the neglected run clothes drawer to find an outfit suitable for the still-summer-like weather, put on the under-used run shoes, headed out the door, took a deep breath and hoped for the best. Hoping doesn't get you very far, I learned. The push-off with that foot was WAY too painful for something that was supposed to be nearly healed. I thought maybe it would loosen up, but it actually seemed to get worse until it finally hit maximum painfulness and continuing on seemed futile. I tried to alter my stride a bit, see if hitting it in a different spot might make it better, but it didn't. I ran for a grand total of about 2 minutes and essentially it turned into nothing but a post-bike trip to the mailbox in my running clothes. The minute I start walking the pain completely disappears. It's like there's nothing wrong at all.

I called Carlos to see what he thinks and he is stumped. I got recommended to a podiatrist who can't see me for another week, just to maybe rule out some other possibilities. As I sit here typing, it's like there is nothing wrong at all with my foot. When I walk around, again, usually nothing. Like I need any more running setbacks considering my running already sucks.

So now I just get to spend the next few days at least worried again, wondering what the heck is wrong with me and why this had to happen right now, thinking back to the run that started it all and wishing I had stayed on the pavement rather than opting for that dirt road. Oh, sure, I figured the dirt road might be a bit easier on my legs. That sure was a horrendous decision. Also wondering what will happen on October 10th. My foot only has to hold up for a tad over 2 weeks. I will walk 26.2 miles if I have to, although I do hope I don't have to. I suppose the one thing that is giving me hope is that it seems that inevitably in these situations, when I've got some stubborn little nagging issue that doesn't want to go away, right about when I think things are done for good it turns around and it all turns out ok. But for now, PANIC.

I guess I could also just spend my time fixating on how freakin' hungry I am. It's funny how you can trick the stomach into feeling full with lots of vegetables and such, but it doesn't take long before it realizes that hey, that is not a whole lot of calories, give me more! No, you can't have more. Not for another 2 weeks. I must seriously be in trouble right now if thoughts of pre-race pancakes aren't even cheering me up. So that's where we're at. May need to be talked down from the ledge at some point over the next few days...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kona training weekend.... in Maine

I spent this past weekend up in Maine training with some of my Kona qualifying QT2 teammates. Heading into the weekend, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I know, you'd think that in the final weeks of training heading into the biggest race in the sport of triathlon it'd be hard to calm yourself down from the intense motivation. Actually, it is quite the opposite. Maybe it has to do with the fact that Lake Placid and Kona are awfully close together, but it was nice to find out that pretty much everyone feels the same way. Tired, beat up, starving, and looking forward to some time off after the race. So being on the same page made it all the easier to train together.

I arrived in Maine on Thursday afternoon after getting my morning workouts out of the way, including a bike ride that was a lot colder than I thought it should've been. I hadn't been to Maine in quite a while, and we would be staying at Hannah and Noah Freeman's in Trevett. Hannah will be racing with us in Kona and her husband Noah is training to do Beach to Battleship in November, so he did a somewhat modified version of our ridiculously high volume training since his race is several weeks further out. I am not sure how I managed to find the roads to get to the house without a GPS, but Yahoo! maps were surprisingly accurate and I made it to the long, dirt driveway, the first to arrive for the weekend. It was a gorgeous house on an island, but fortunately we did not have to swim in the frigid ocean in front of us. Everyone else arrived a while later and we demolished some core diet friendly fajitas before heading to bed.

Friday was the really big day. We all trickled downstairs to get something to eat before heading over to a nearby fresh water pond to just do an easy, 30-minute swim. The sun was out, but it was a chilly September morning. We reluctantly got in the water, which wasn't quite as cold as I thought it might be, and got our swim done and headed back to the house to change for our bike ride. Even though it was fairly sunny, it was still a bit on the cool side, so we all opted for long sleeves of some sort. We were all quite proud of ourselves for starting on time, especially considering the fact that we had done the math and knew that if we started late, we'd be finishing in the dark. So at 10:15am, we were off to ride for 7 hours.

The first part of the ride offered the biggest challenge: tri bikes on close to a mile of dirt road and some loose sand. I got better and better at this as the weekend went along, but it certainly made me nervous! There were 7 of us riding: me, Cait, Pat, Michelle, Hannah, Jamie and Noah. Fortunately we are all close enough in ability that we stayed together for the most part, because I had no idea where we were most of the time. 7 hours on the bike is challenging enough, but this was probably the hilliest ride I have ever done. There was basically zero flat riding. It was either up, or down... mostly up, if I remember correctly. At one point I was riding with Michelle in front and we came to an intersection and didn't know which way we were headed so we stopped to wait. She said that when in doubt, we should probably just pick the hill. Usually that was the case. Left or right? Answer: UP. I'm looking forward to hearing exactly how much climbing was involved. Jesse and Tim rode 6 hours on Saturday on I think a lot of the same roads and I believe got 13,000 feet of climbing. Yikes. The climbs weren't usually incredibly long, it was just constantly up and down.

The nice thing about riding somewhere that you are not familiar with is the change of scenery makes you a lot less aware of the mileage and time, which is perfect when riding for such a long time. When you ride the same routes over and over again you know exactly when you are at 20 miles, 30 miles, 4 hours, etc. because you do it all the time. This made the time pass by a lot more quickly. We had our first refuelling stop at about 34 miles where most bought Gatorade while Noah went with American chop suey. This was a recurring theme of the weekend - not the chop suey, but Noah blatantly ignoring the diet that the rest of us are doomed to forever follow. Unfortunately, the rest of us have race weights a heck of a lot lower than 184 pounds, otherwise we might have been right there with him. Nope, Powerbars for us.

The ups and downs continued, but the time actually passed surprisingly fast... for a 7-hour ride, anyway. The pavement was incredibly rough in spots, often with grass growing out of it, but fortunately the traffic wasn't usually an issue so we didn't have to ride off to the side. We did ride through some beautiful scenery, sometimes near the ocean, sometimes off in the woods in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes near areas where it was very apparent that they were spraying manure. In fact, at one point we got passed by the manure-spraying truck as it drove way too slow and stayed in front of us for far too long of a time. I think for the next few weeks, any time I find myself hungry when I probably shouldn't be eating anymore, I will think of that truck and completely lose my appetite.

Our second refueling stop came way too long after the first one, and just before I finished my last sip of fluid. We might've stopped sooner, but we probably rode about 35 miles when there just wasn't anywhere to get anything. Most of us got Gatorade, Noah had an ice cream sandwich and some Combos. The longest part of these rides I always find is reaching the halfway point. It's really hard in your mind to see that you've been riding for 3 hours and know that you're still less than halfway done. But once you get past that, it gets easier. Oh, gee, "only" 3 hours to go? I can handle that. Plus, considering our slow average speed due to all of those hills, at least we didn't have to cover a ridiculous amount of miles... as long as you don't think over 120 miles on the bike is ridiculous.

I have never experienced that level of temperature fluctuation on a ride before. I swear it went up and down 10 degrees or so just constantly. I know I've started rides when it was cold and it got a whole lot warmer, but this was all over the place the whole time. I guess that is to be expected near the ocean. So the arm warmers stayed on the whole time, because anytime I thought it might be warm enough to take them off, it would get cool again and I'd be glad I still had them on.

One of the last sections we rode was a nice, smooth stretch of pavement with a lot less ridiculous hills. Somewhere around there I found myself riding alone in the middle of two small groups, 3 ahead of me, 3 behind me. At one point I did catch up to Cait, Michelle and Hannah again, who said they were wondering where I went. I told them that I had not only lost the will to pedal, but I had lost the will to live. It didn't take that long for me to fall back again before I finally had to wait for the rest to catch up so I wouldn't get lost on some random island, never to be heard from again.

The sun was getting lower and it actually started raining a tiny bit, even though we were in the sun. Luckily that didn't last long enough to even get us wet. We finally made it back to the driveway, which is when I left everyone else to go do their 30-minute transition run while I went to ride another 3o minutes. Oh, I definitely forgot to mention that I can't run right now. You see, last week on my second 90-minute run on Sunday, I was about halfway through, running on a dirt road when I stepped awkwardly on a rock. I only made it a few more steps before I realized something was not right. I sat down for a few minutes, poking at my feet and trying to figure out what was going on before I just got up and decided I needed to get home. I ran a tiny bit before I decided it wasn't going to happen, so I had to walk home 4 miles. I did the last mile in my socks because I was getting blisters. Initial fear was stress fracture, so I had my first non-routine-dental x-ray on Monday and left the doctor's office incredibly fast when they told me that there was nothing on the x-ray. Another doctor visit tells me that I probably strained some ligaments in between my metatarsals. Glad it's not a stress fracture, but no running as of yet. So my big bike volume week just got a whole lot bigger since the lost run volume was to be made up for with biking. So 7 hours for everyone else became 7 and a half for me. I had never spent 7 and a half hours on my bike before. I have covered more miles - 143 - but that was nice and flat and fast.

At that point, honestly, what's another 30 minutes? I survived the deadly driveway again and was incredibly happy to not be sitting in my bike saddle anymore. And also to be done with eating Powerbars for the day. The funny thing was, I wasn't actually all that hungry, amazingly enough. We went out to dinner pretty late that night and I didn't even care that I had to order a salad with grilled chicken for the millionth time. I was far too tired to care about food at that point. I'm surprised I remained awake the entire time at the table. Needless to say, it didn't take me long to fall asleep that night.

Saturday morning was to start off with a 2-mile swim time trial. We needed to get going fairly early in order to get in the other training for the day. It was bright and sunny, but windy and quite cold that morning. The drive to the pond provided the most comical moment of the weekend. Without going into incredible detail, for future reference, when looking at the wrapper on a vanilla Powergel, that would be 0mg caffeine - that is, ZERO milligrams. Not OMG - Oh My God - caffeine! We made it to the pond around 9:00 and all stood shivering just getting into our wetsuits. Mine also currently has a hole in it, which doesn't help matters. You've never seen athletes so reluctant to get in the water. The wind was whipping at us and making the water look more ocean-like than pond-like. We had tried to map out a good course to swim, but fortunately quickly decided it was too complicated, so we picked a red-leaved tree on the other side to swim to and come back, thinking we'd probably have to do it 3 times in order to make it about 2 miles.

Into the water we went, and Cait's sister Mikaela was standing on the dock as our official timer, layered in many of the clothes the rest of us wouldn't be needing again until we got out. With a very low-key, "go" we were off. Cait, Pat and Hannah are far and away better swimmers than the rest of us, so it was no surprise that they were off in the front. I took in a few mouthfuls of water as the wind blew the waves in our faces for the entire trip across toward the red tree. That stupid red tree never seemed to get any closer no matter how hard I was swimming. It was like trying to swim to the end of a rainbow: it didn't exist, just kept getting further and further away. The water was definitely cold, although tolerable at that point. I felt someone on my feet for a while but eventually found myself swimming the entire time trial all by myself.

After what seemed like an eternity, I saw Cait's orange cap coming back in my direction, so I knew that sooner or later I'd probably reach the other side. Once I got there I glanced at my watch and saw that I had been swimming already for over 17 minutes, so I knew that unless the current that was in our faces on the way out carried us back about twice as fast, we were definitely going to be swimming more than 2 miles that day. At least on the way back I wasn't fighting with waves breaking over my face, although they certainly didn't seem to be aiding my forward progress in the other direction.

The problem with swimming in an unfamiliar body of water is that unless you check it out first, you have no idea what it looks like to swim back where you came from. Yes, we were swimming for a dock on the other side, but it is pretty much impossible to spot a dock low in the water from over half a mile away while swimming. I had no landmarks, just a general idea to swim in the opposite direction from where I came. We were also swimming back into the sun, which didn't help matters. At one point I finally thought I could see where I was going only to find myself swimming into two buoys that I had no recollection of seeing on the way out. I actually stopped for a minute, removed my goggles and looked around. I was convinvced I had swum into some inlet that I wasn't supposed to, but finally I spotted Mikaela off in the distance standing on the dock, thankfully wearing a red jacket as the outermost of her many layers. I hoped the second time back would be easier.

I made it to the dock, touched it with my hand and quickly said, "I'm assuming we're only doing this twice, right?" I got an affirmative and started back against the waves 33 minutes or so in. The first time out I could see the arms of those swimming in front of me, this time I did not have that advantage. I saw one or two of the people behind me, but mostly just felt completely alone in the water. At some point on that second crossing I started to feel colder. Much colder. You know the water is cold when you are swimming hard and instead of getting warmer as you go along, you feel much worse. My feet were going numb. My hands and face were frozen. It was going to be a long second crossing.

The tree once again never got any closer, and I was relieved to finally see I think Pat coming back in the other direction so I knew I wasn't totally alone out there. The coldness continued to seep into my body, and when I reached the other side for the last time to come back, I was determined to not hit those buoys again and maybe swim a more direct route. I have no idea if I did or not, but I do know that I at least didn't have to stop this time, except for one brief pulling down of the swim cap since it started slipping off my head. I don't know why it did that suddenly. Maybe my head was shrinking from being in cold water for such a long time.

Up ahead I finally saw Mikaela, who was getting closer as slowly as the stupid tree, but finally I made it to the dock in I think just under 1:08. Essentially, I probably just did my Ironman swim. Only this water was nothing like Kona. I was so happy that I had thought ahead and brought a warm winter hat to put on when I got out of the water. Without a doubt I could've gone right back to bed at that moment, but instead, I had to get dressed to go ride my bike for 5 more hours. Had I been running, it would've been 4 with a 1-hour transition run, but nope, 5 more for me!

It was cooler that day, but at least sunny again. We were supposed to be doing a recovery ride, but this is incredibly difficult to accomplish when riding so many hills. I had to pedal incredibly softly when going up so as not to destroy my already trashed legs, which resulted in the slowest average speed I have ever accomplished on a bike ride - and that includes when I used to trail behind my dad on a mountain bike. Although it actually wasn't so much my legs that were the big problem, but rather that I couldn't stand being in my bike saddle anymore. At least we had some more nice scenery to help pass the time once again. At one point Cait rode up to me and said, "We have a pretty sweet life, huh?" She's right. It's like getting to go off and play with your friends all of the time. I used to ride bikes with my friends when I was a kid and now I get to do it again as an "adult". Just for a little longer. It's sort of like perpetual summer camp.

I left everyone else off to run while I rode another hour by myself. I don't even remember really how I passed that last hour, but I got it done. At least this time we were done close to 2 hours earlier than the night before. That night we had a great cookout, sat around the fire and only once or twice mentioned how it would've been better if we were allowed to eat s'mores. Lobster for the seafood eaters, chicken and turkey burgers for the rest of us. It was a fun evening.

Sunday morning came quick and somehow I didn't sleep well the night before. I felt like my eyes had 20 pound bags under them when I got up. I moved pretty slowly while getting ready to head out for my ride. On the schedule was a 1-hour bike and a 2 and a half hour run. Which for me meant another 3 and a half hours on the bike. Yep, I spent 16 hours on my bike over 3 days. I've definitely never done that before. But at that point, 3 and a half hours seemed like nothing. Everyone else had some different variations, 1-hour ride before the run, maybe a shorter run, some no ride, so we all were sort of on our own this time. I rode out to a 9-mile stretch of smooth pavement and not ridiculously hilly roads and went around in circles a bunch of times because it was just the simplest thing to do. It worked out well and the ride actually went a lot better than I thought it would. Before I knew it, I was done. A few others were finished already and the rest came in one by one. Noah with a Kit Kat in his pocket from his run. His response as to why he had a Kit Kat in his pocket? "Why wouldn't I have a Kit Kat in my pocket?"

Amazingly, the last big weekend of training had come to a close. I never would've made it through without having everyone else there, even if I did have to spend a good amount of time on my bike by myself. I'm choosing not to panic over my foot and the lack of running. I'm heading back to the doctor to have it checked out again tomorow and hopefully will have good news to report. For now, I certainly have the bike base to get me through the race. Thanks to Hannah and Noah (and Noah's mom) for letting us stay at the house and for the delicious food. Thanks to my teammates for keeping me going all weekend and for reminding me that I'm not the only one who is feeling a little exhausted right now. I'll see you all in a few weeks where it will be much, much warmer!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Four weeks to go

This morning, like most Saturdays, I was on my bike just after the sun came up. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it, this now means much closer to 6:30 than to 5am, as it used to be back in June. Sure, I get to stay in bed longer, but I also thoroughly enjoyed being done with a really long workout by noon and now have to wait until closer to 2. Oh, well. Anyway, there was a chance of rain, and the roads were wet when I went out, but it didn't take too long before the sun actually made an appearance. It wasn't really warm, never got to be much more than 60 after starting out right around 50, and the sun did go away again after about 2 hours, but it never did rain. I think I really lucked out on that one, because it seems that it rained almost everywhere else in New England today. It did start raining a bit this afternoon, but I was warm and dry inside with my feet up, so it didn't really make any difference to me at that point.

Somewhere early on in the ride it suddenly occurred to me that it was probably going to be my last long ride I'd have to do solo. Next weekend a few of us are doing a training weekend, so of course that will be a group ride. And well, after that, we're kind of out of weekends for long rides. It's almost time to taper. That's just crazy! My schedule for the next 4 weeks confirms it: no more 6-hour bike rides. Ok, so there's a 7-hour ride next weekend, but after that, they just get shorter and shorter. Knowing that I wouldn't have to do too many more of these made today's ride a lot easier to tolerate.

Although not warm, it was certainly humid out today. It was one of those days where every bit of sweat just seemed to sit in my soaking clothes and never evaporate. I may as well have been wearing cotton. I really picked it up for the last 90 minutes, and my legs certainly weren't happy with me when I then had to go out and run for over an hour. But like all workouts, even the long ones, eventually it was over. Now if only I didn't have that pesky 5 more hours of training to get through tomorrow. I feel like I've hardly had a chance to really soak up the rest after today's workout and now I'm ready to go to bed so I can wake up and do it all again tomorrow. So close now though....

And a big congratulations to the QT2ers who raced this morning at Pumpkinman. Plus my good friends who raced at the Clough Triathlon. Sounds like everyone had great days!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Apparently fall is here

It's amazing to me how it is almost as though a switch is thrown and suddenly 90-degree days turn so quickly into dry, crisp days and the leaves on the trees changing colors. I actually really love fall. I love the weather - it hasn't rained a drop in nearly two weeks - I love the trees, I love the fall food... but I'm not really ready for it all just yet. The running weather is absolutely perfect. Or at least it would be for anyone who is not currently training to run a marathon at high noon on shadeless pavement under blazing sun, temperatures in the 90's and oppressive humidity. I actually lucked out the first year I raced in Kona as most of September was incredibly hot and humid and I got a lot of 85-90-degree runs in during the final few weeks of training.

The one thing I am definitely not ready for with this weather, is riding my bike in the cold. I was thinking last week as I pedaled along in the warm sun and temperatures in the mid 70's how much more pleasant riding my bike can be when the weather is nice. Then this past Tuesday morning I went out very early and after about 20 minutes I couldn't feel my fingers. That's just one of the reasons that these last few weeks of training are always so difficult for me.

This week was just more of the same, typical mass quantities of training. I won't bore you with the details. I hit the track yesterday morning, this time bright and early because now that school is back in session I have to make sure I get things done before kids start having gym class out there. I forgot how much I love running first thing in the morning. Given that almost every single run I do now comes after at least a 2-hour bike ride, I don't get to do it really ever. But there is nothing like running when the sun comes up... or sometimes before.

The good thing about fall is now I can go back to one of my favorite cooking things: soup! A nice, big vat, one afternoon of work, lunch and dinner for days! I'm thinking my first project for the season is going to be butternut squash and apple soup. It's been too long, and it is so easy and delicious. Another favorite is turkey chili, but that is a bit more labor intensive, although certainly more of a meal.

I'm boring even myself right now with this post, so I think that's enough.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Circle Triathlon Race Report: succesfully defending the title

Today was the second annual Circle Triathlon held in Ashland, NH. This race is conveniently located a bit over 3 miles from my parents' lake house, and falls right at the end of a rest week, so the timing and location make it a no-brainer. I went to bed nice and early last night but found it incredibly difficult to actually fall asleep for some unknown reason. The funny thing was, once I did finally fall asleep, I wound up having not one, but two anxiety dreams about the race. I am not generally the kind of person who gets incredibly nervous before a race - I kind of just try to focus on the process and the things I can control - so it seemed just plain silly for me to have these kinds of nervous dreams before such a tiny race. The first one had me trying to get to the swim start, and I was watching the waves go off and there were fewer and fewer people and I just wanted to be there in time, and then finally one of the officials at the start looked down over the water and called to someone else, "All of the swimmers are in the water." What, no! I'm not there yet! I woke up at that exact moment and almost started laughing at how ludicrous that was.

The second dream had me on the run portion, trying to run as hard as I could but seemingly not getting anywhere, like trying to run on loose sand. Let me just say that my entire life I have had dreams of trying to run and just barely moving. Sometimes in the case of trying to get away from something, sometimes, back when I was playing basketball, it would be me on the court trying to get to the other side and hardly moving, and now that I am doing races, sometimes now the same thing pops up in racing scenarios, making me painfully frustrated even in my sleep. I guess it's safe to say that not being able to run has been a recurring theme in my life. But anyway, I was trying to run as hard as I could, with one guy in front of me and hoping I could pass him, thinking I was doing well. He started moving back and forth, slapping hands of spectators and getting in my way, but then we turned a corner to cross a bridge and it was like there was this whole line of people just standing still, waiting to cross the finish line. So apparently in that one I thought I was doing really well, only to find out that there were so many people in front of me that the line to cross the finish had come to a dead stop. No wonder I didn't get much sleep last night.

Anyway, in spite of the limited sleep and anxiety dreams, I had no trouble getting out of bed at 6:00. When is the last time you got to sleep until 6 before a triathlon? The race was supposed to start at 8, and I needed to eat 2 hours before, but of course I knew that it was bound to start a bit late, and I was right about that. I stumbled downstairs to immediately down my applesauce, banana and protein shake while I made my nephew some peanut butter and jelly toast since the two of us were the only ones up. I was jealous of his breakfast, and thankful that he didn't want to taste my protein powder that looks suspiciously like chocolate milk but certainly doesn't taste the same. Overnight I had heard the wind picking up and I knew that fall would be blowing in, so I definitely needed a jacket and long pants to start my morning.

Just before 7 I got on my bike and pedaled down to the marina where the transition area is. It was a very cool morning, but pleasantly sunny, and with the still-warm water that meant pretty good race conditions. I registered yesterday so I just had to get body-marked and rack my bike. They had actually numbered the racks this year, 10 numbers on each rack, although honestly it was a pretty tight squeeze for 10 bikes - especially given the fact that one of the bikes on my rack was a beach-cruiser with a rear-view mirror. However, it was also pretty much the first rack I've come across that was easily tall enough for me to rack my bike by the seat, so that was kind of nice. Transition set-up was minimal, got to use the bathroom which is in this really nice bath-house with flushing toilets and each stall has its own little sink, put on my wetsuit and headed down to the water.

I ran into my family on the beach and checked out the swim course, which was set up slightly different from last year, but not by much. Most of the people in the race were not wearing wetsuits. Last year we had a mass start, but this year we were sent off in waves separated by a mere 30 seconds. I didn't actually have to experience it to know that 30 seconds is not enough time between waves. You might as well not even bother. Plus, all they did was go by numbers: 50 people in each wave, 100-150 in the first wave, 151-200 in the second, 201-250 in the third (my wave as #212) and then I think there was just one more, 251-300 in the last wave. I'm pretty sure that numbers were assigned only based on what order we signed up, which is not the best way to do things. Of course, if they had tried to seed us I'd probably have just been stuck in the women's wave, which would've been last. It also seemed odd to me that basically if you wanted, you could probably have started in whichever wave you wanted, but I opted to wait that whole 60 seconds for my wave to start.

The first wave lined up and the air horn went off and they were on their way. The other thing about this 30 seconds is that it doesn't give the next wave in line much time to wade into the water, not that they had to go far. Due to the fact that this is an extremely beginner-friendly race, when the second wave went off, there were still people in the wave in front of them who had probably only made it about 15 yards off-shore. Yep, I knew that was going to happen. But we were next. I got a good spot heading right for the first buoy, not really near anyone in my own wave, but already dangerously close to the people in front of me who hadn't even really started swimming yet. But the horn sounded, so off I went.

It took me about 10 strokes before I came across the first side-stroke kick. I managed to avoid it and continued on into the sea of people in front of me. It was like a swimming obstacle course: try and find the quickest route to that buoy while weaving between all of these people. There was some light contact, and a few scary moments with flailing legs in front of me, but it literally probably only took me about 90 seconds to get clear of the worst offenders, and then I could just swim. After I made the turn at the first buoy, the second buoy was almost directly into the sun, but thankfully it was large enough that I could actually see it. I could've sworn I was heading right for it, although I was completely alone and most of the other swimmers seemed to be far off to my right. I hoped I was the one on the more direct path, but who can ever tell.

It seemed to take forever to get to that buoy, but at least then I got to turn and head back towards shore. Now that the sun was behind me I assumed that would make sighting on this last stretch pretty easy. Wow, I was so wrong. The rest of the course was marked by a swim raft at the town beach and a small buoy - the size of a basketball - that we were supposed to swim between before hitting the ramp on the beach. I could see none of these things. The buoy was too small and the raft must've just blended in with the beach and the spectators. I was still completely by myself, still seeing a few people off to my right and still wondering if I was heading in the right direction. At some point I could at least make out the exit ramp, so I aimed for that. Eventually, I finally saw that tiny buoy and it looked like I was heading where I was supposed to be going, so I was glad for that. I exited the water and ran up the ramp, pretty much by myself. There were 144 people in this race. The results, like most, rank everyone in each individual leg. Somehow, compared with the rest of the field, I had the 4th fastest swim. That was even better than my bike compared to everyone else (5th) You know it might not be the deepest field if this is the case.

My swim time was a lot slower than last year, by a good 3 minutes. But after the race in talking with some other people who had also done it last year, we decided the swim was definitely longer than last time. Also, I am pretty sure T1 was included in the time. I am still staggeringly bad at T1 -emphasis on staggering. I actually got my wetsuit off ok but for some reason still had my cap and goggles on my head. Oops. At least I took them off before I tried to get on my helmet. Another slow bike mount as well, and then it was time to put the hammer down and gain as much time as possible.

I had no idea where I was in the field. Last year with the mass start, when I got on the bike I could see the police car in front of the race leader and I could count the bikes in front of me. This year it was just a pretty empty road. I passed a couple of people immediately and then was by myself for a few miles. The beginning of the course is a stretch of road I've ridden hundreds of times, a series of rolling hills, not too steep, but with some good downhills to pick up the pace and keep the momentum going to head up the next one. Unfortunately, this stretch was only about two miles, and I had to bear right onto another road and begin the climbing.

I turned onto Shepard Hill Road. You can be pretty sure in this state that if a road has the word "Hill" in it, they aren't kidding. I'm pretty sure I mentioned already that I had ridden the course I think four times in the past week, so at least I knew exactly what I was getting into. This first climb was probably the longest, but certainly not the steepest. The burning in my throat was apparent right from the beginning, but I knew I'd get a bit of a rest once I got to the top, so I pressed on. I was quite happy that I did not get passed at that point. I got to fly down some hills after that and then tackle the second-longest, but probably steepest part of the course. This one was sort of a 3-tiered climb, and it's pretty mean because just when you think you're done, you get to the top and find out that there is another, quite-steep section you have to climb up before you can rest. There's nothing worse than a sneaky hill hiding after what you think is the top, but again, I had prepared myself and I knew it was coming. I believe it was there that I got passed by Dave of the Granite State Tri club. I had met Dave at a clinic I went to and of course being a local, I run into him at a lot of races. I spent the rest of the ride going back and forth with Dave, he putting some good distance between us when we were going up the hills, and me getting it all back and more once we hit the downhills and flats.

I believe we only passed one or two other cyclists out there as the course was pretty spread out. After a couple of fast descents we turned onto this really nice, freshly paved road and I tried to keep the effort up. For one thing, it was kind of chilly and it made my quads feel sort of stiff. It also left my feet numb, but that's nothing new. The hills never cut us a break and as soon as you'd get a good rhythm going, you'd find yourself having to ride up for a while again. But at least the worst of it was over. I passed the town line sign indicating that we had returned to Ashland and I knew it wouldn't be much longer. It's amazing how fast 12 miles can go by as compared to say, 112. The last time I trained on this route I averaged 15.9mph due to its awesome hilliness. The official race results have me at 24.4mph. While I think that's totally awesome and everything, that is so not what my average speed was. If you do the math that would've been my speed if the course had been 15 miles, not 12. It's kind of like how last year they had my pace down as 5:03's when I couldn't even manage sub 7's. Oh well, perhaps I shouldn't have just blown my cover and let you all think that I was that fast, but, sadly, I was not. 19.6 though, which given the course I was pretty happy with. Especially since it was about 5 minutes faster than my split last year, would've been the fastest overall last year (this year 5th) and even a year ago that 5-minutes-slower split put me in a pretty good position, so things were good.

I believe the bike split on the results page includes the second transition, but luckily although I am bad at T1, I am decent at T2. I had passed Dave in the last stretch and came off the bike before he did, managed to get my shoes off and ran barefoot into the transition area. I didn't really bother to look around at how many bikes were already there, because, frankly, it didn't matter. Off with the helmet and on with the run shoes and I was out of there in no time.

Ah, the run. The frustrating, have-bad-dreams-about-it run. I have been accused of over-biking sometimes due to just thinking it's cool to pass people and be fast on the bike. The truth is, I just have no confidence in my run. Part of me thinks that for like the next year I should do a 5K or something similar pretty much weekly just to break my constant habit of running so freakin' slow and not being comfortable with red-lining. My cadence seemed decent, but I couldn't be bothered with trying to count my steps or keep track of numbers on my watch. I just wanted to run. Dave passed me pretty quick, which I figured would happen, and I wondered if anyone else was behind me but was afraid to look back. For the longest time I could've sworn I was hearing someone back there, but it was just my own footsteps. I was completely alone. We ran out along the main road and then turned down a side street to head back in the opposite direction back to the marina. I was breathing to the point of wheezing, but that didn't seem right since although my heart rate was pretty high right around 181, I didn't really think that should've brought about wheezing. Again, maybe someday I'll figure out this running fast thing.

I approached the first mile marker and looked at my watch. 6:46. Darn. I used to "accidentally" start half marathons at that pace and sometimes even faster, and I'm pretty sure it never felt like I was working this hard. Still beat the 7+ from last year. When I made the turn on the side road I was able to see back and notice that there was not a soul in sight. Good, I won't have to destroy myself trying to stay in front of anyone! Sure, I was going to run as hard as I could still, it just might not have the same sense of urgency. The wheezing continued, and I was thankful that this was probably one of the flattest run courses I had come across, the complete opposite of the bike course. I still suck at running hills and somehow need to figure it out in the next several months before I attempt to tackle the reportedly insanely hilly marathon course at Ironman Utah, but anyway... I hit mile two and glanced down to see 13:39 on the watch. Well, if anything, at least I hadn't slowed down too much. The course is listed at 2.5 miles, but in reality it is more like a little over 2.7. Again, at least I was prepared for this, so the fact that it took me more than another 3:30 to get to the finish didn't alarm me.

I ran along, wheezing and keeping my eyes up ahead, taking note of the landmarks I had carefully ingrained in my memory so I would know how close I was to the end. There's that street sign, there's that spot where you can finally see the river, getting closer now... it actually came up quicker than I had anticipated, and there was the orange mesh fencing directing me to the finish. The bikers were still coming in on the same road by the dozens, but lucky for me, I just got to turn and cross the finish line. I was announced as the first female finisher, which I had been pretty sure about anyway. Later found out I was 4th overall across the line. I completed the run in 18:25, about 3 minutes faster than last year. At first I was kind of disappointed that I wasn't even faster than that, but once I did the math and figured out that that made me over a minute per mile faster, I decided that yeah, that was probably an adequate improvement. Also, 10th fastest run split overall. Granted, if you had seen most of the people competing you might not have been so impressed, but I will take the small victories where I can get them.

My parents had come to watch, as had my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew. Everyone seemed to have a good time. Certainly watching a race that only takes a little over an hour is a lot easier to handle, not to mention the fact that they had to drive about 5 minutes to get there. My overall time was only 4 minutes faster than the year before, but I'm giving myself a 3-minute credit on the swim and calling it 7 minutes faster. Not bad, although beating the 2008 version of Molly really isn't a lot to brag about! So I successfully defended my title and won my fourth race overall. I'd like to thank all the rest of QT2, most notably Cait, for staying home today :) Then again, they don't even acknowledge winners at this race so I'm not sure it really matters anyway. Of the four races I've won, I actually only have 1 actual award that says I won. Nope, not Lake Placid, but a tiny Olympic distance race I won out in Arizona in 2007. I certainly don't do it for the accolades, but it'd be nice to have something to commemorate the accomplishment.

I decided to stick around and watch the two kids races that took place after ours. Actually, technically, all of the races were open to everyone, although most of the competitors were kids since the distances were so short. There were a few adults in them though, a few who had obviously signed up as a way to accompany their kids the entire time, which I suppose wasn't such a bad idea. It was fun, the kids all seemed to have a blast. Even the one girl who I saw start the run with her bike helmet still on her head. Also, while the third and final race was still going on, I saw this one woman who had done my race cross the line 3 and a half hours after we had started. I must say, I do have a lot of respect for some of these people who go ahead and challenge themselves like that and don't worry about the fact that they might not be a "real" triathlete. That's what races like today are for, so that anyone can go out and give it a go.

I packed up and rode home, time to rest for a bit and then head out on my bike for another ride. At least now I don't have to torture myself on that race course anymore with those nasty hills. My throat still burns, but I'm not too sore... yet. Fortunately for once I was actually able to get to my recovery drink almost immediately upon crossing the finish line, so I'm hoping that helps. Now I'm showered, scrubbed of my body marking and if it weren't only 6:45, might just be getting into bed. I have a ridiculous week of training coming up, followed by one that will likely be even ridiculouser (is that a word? I kind of think it fits here).

So fun day, good times, someday I need to learn how to sprint!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What the heck do people do on Saturdays?

Because this is a rest week, there was no long ride today. There was also no race today. Not even one to go watch, as can often be the case. My entire training schedule for today consisted of a 1-hour easy bike ride. I was awake at 6:30, on the road at 7, done at 8, showered and clean by 8:30. Now what? I had no idea. It's Labor Day weekend of course, and I am spending it at my parents' lake house. My younger brother is here, my older sister arrived this morning with her husband, my 7-year old niece and 3-year old nephew. So it's nice to have the whole family around and not be the one who is off riding around for hours thinking that everyone is back at the house having lots of fun. I learned a secret today: they aren't really having a whole lot of fun. I mean, sure, lying around and relaxing and not doing much of anything can often seem like a better alternative when you have already ridden, say, 4 hours on your bike and yet still have two more to go plus a transition run. But it sure does get old fast. I'm honestly not even sure how exactly I managed to pass this entire day away.

The weather was too nice to sit inside and watch TV all day, but I also didn't really feel all that much like sitting in the sun all day, either. Actually, what I really wanted to do was take out the old windsurfer I bought of craigslist last summer, but I figured there was too much chance of that leaving me either really sore or with some stupid injury. I can't afford to be sore right now because not only am I about to embark on the first of two really big, important training weeks, but also, I am racing tomorrow. That's right, another little sprint. And I do mean little.

I did this race last year, and it is conveniently located about 3 miles from my parents house. Actually, my father came over by boat last year. I will be riding my bike. It's a quarter-mile swim, 12-mile bike and advertised as a 2.5-mile run, although I'd argue that it's at least a quarter-mile longer than that. So definitely one of the shorter races you're going t find anywhere. It's also incredibly small. Considering the only "advertising" I've seen for this race is a painted sign outside a local visitor's center, I can see why. But then again, the venue probably can't handle a whole lot of people anyway.

I did this race last year a few weeks after the most demoralizing race I've ever done, the Timberman half. I needed something to make me feel better, and a small, local race that specifically catered to first-timers probably at least wouldn't make me feel any worse. I stuffed my blobbly (that's a new word someone recently used and I liked it so I'm adding it here) self into my tri clothes and went and registered on the morning of the race. Incredible that there are still places you can do that. It was a mass swim start, consisting of something like 95 of us. Probably 15 of us were wearing wetsuits and the majority of participants raised their hands when we were all asked if this was our first tri. You know it is a beginner's race when I am 6th overall out of the water.

This bike course, though short, is one close to the hilliest 12-mile stretch I've ever come across. It is tough. I have ridden it about 4 times in the past week to confirm that it wasn't just because I was hauling around 30 extra pounds last year, it's just plain hard. Somehow I managed to keep most of the people in front of me in sight last year, all 3 of them I think it was at the time. Lucky for that, since my run was ridiculous last year. Ridiculously bad, that is. I mean, I was happy at the time doing it because it was the first run that wasn't physically painful, due to my foot injury, since I raced in Lake Placid 6 weeks earlier. My time, however, was atrocious. Luckily, I had built enough of a lead on the bike that I only got passed by one runner and managed to come in 5th overall and first female. There are 2 or 3 pictures of me during that race that I'd like never to surface. "Blobbly" is probably a kind word to describe it, but I sure did have fun anyway.

So tomorrow I am off to see if I can do it again. You never know who might show up to these things. I have picked up my race packet and apparently they are doing wave starts this year, and I believe I am in the third one, which sort of annoys me. But then again, I was also told that the waves are going off 30 seconds apart, which hardly seems to me it would make much of a difference between that and just starting us all at the same time, so it shouldn't take me too long to get back in front of the people who are likely to be breast-stroking in front of me. The other fun thing is that it looks like the whole family is going to come down, so I will do my best to make it worth their efforts!

As for today, well, it was boring. After Kona I'll have a few weeks off and I'll be sure to plan and have more fun on these Saturdays off. Maybe go out to a late, long breakfast. I'm pretty sure there will be some race spectating involved. Maybe I'll re-join Netflix so I have something to watch. I guess I should feel good to know that every Saturday from now through October 10th is pretty solidly booked with training and some race on an island somewhere. Next week when I'm on my bike though somewhere around hour 5 I may be wishing I was doing what I am right now though!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Soaking up the down time

Did I mention that I had been looking forward to this rest week? Because I definitely was. So far, it is not disappointing. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I'll be super-psyched to dive into 29 hours of training next week, including something like 8 hours of running (run focus week) but I'm pretty sure I would've found it impossible to face had it not been for this wonderfully low-volume week.

Day 1 started out pretty normal as far as any week goes. A nice recovery swim, luckily still able to be done in open water. I love open water recovery swims so much more than pool recovery swims. There is no counting of laps, I just set a countdown timer on my watch and swim through the non-chlorinated water until it beeps at me - hopefully timed in such a way that I end up back at the dock instead of somewhere in the middle of the lake! After that a nice, easy 90-minute bike ride that didn't have to be spoiled by having to run after. In fact, I got two days in a row off from running, and it was definitely needed. Not only that, but Tuesday was a complete day off! I haven't had one of those in a month. I guess I may have spoiled it a bit by taking the kayak out for two hours or so, maybe it wasn't complete rest, but at least I was resting my legs. It is becoming far too apparent to me that summer is slipping away, so I figure I need to take advantage of those kinds of things while I can.

Yesterday was a bit less restful with a good, hard swim workout in the morning followed up with an easy bike ride and a 45-minute Z1/Z2 run. I was proud of myself for feeling like I was running hard the entire time, but still frustrated that that level of effort still results in pretty slow run paces. I mean, for me it is an improvement, but if anyone else saw it, they'd be like, you were tired after that?

Other big news on the week, I have signed up for a USAT Level I Coaching Clinic to be held in Las Vegas in December. Luckily, the registration opened on my rest day, because I quickly learned that signing up for one of these clinics is more intense than signing up online for an ironman (or at least how it used to be to sign up online for an ironman, since lately they seem to take several hours and in some cases days - even Ironman Canada) I think it was full in 5 minutes. So apparently I am going to Vegas. I am definitely not the kind of person who ever thought Vegas would be my kind of vacation destination. I don't drink. I go to bed at like 8:30 so I'm not really into "nightlife". I have zero interest in gambling because I'm not that kind of lucky and it seems like a total waste of money that I don't have. But then again, none of those things are why I'm going, right? My only experience with Vegas is being in the airport for an hour or two on my way back from California this spring. It will be interesting to venture beyond the airport. And if anyone has any ideas on what I might want to do when not in the clinic, let me know. And of course if anyone wants to let me know what the clinic is like, you can let me know that too!

Not much else going on, I guess. A little bike ride and run today, then two more days off running to get ready for the insane amount of running next week. The weather has been incredibly gorgeous, sunny, high 70's to just about 80, and dry. Oh, next week I will start my third season as assistant coach of the Main Dunstable cross country team in Nashua, a team of 4th and 5th graders. It's a short season, but it's also a lot of fun and so far some good kids. And luckily I will return home from Hawaii in time for the big meet on October 17th!