Monday, June 28, 2010

QT2 Training Weekend Report

Well, needless to say, I'm just a little tired this morning. But there is a good reason for that. Yesterday I returned from three days of heavy-duty training in Ludlow, VT with 25-ish other QT2 teammates. The schedule was a bit different this year and I believe actually included slightly less volume than last year (not by much!) but it was no less taxing.

I arrived on Thursday after a roughly 2-hour drive from NH without even once having to drive on the interstate which makes for a much more scenic ride in which I passed no less than a dozen roadside ice cream stands and wanted to stop at each, but settled on zero. I arrived with barely enough time to get my bike off the car before a nice thunderstorm rolled through after seeing the lightning high above Okemo just down the road. This year I was smart enough not to save my run for when I arrived, so once I got there, I just got to relax. Once everyone arrived we ate some giant Subway subs (well, we shared them, we didn't each eat a giant sub) and got some sleep for the big day ahead.

Last year the first day included an easy swim in the morning followed by a 7-hour ride. This year, we started with a 2-hour easy bike ride. It was a bit overcast to start, but no rain as we rode down the flattest roads we could find to get the time in on a nice out-and-back route by the river. We had a break that was just long enough to get our swim and run stuff together and drive over to the Echo Lake State Park so we could swim and run. Since it's been so warm in the northeast this year the lake was nice and warm for our 30-minute easy swim. I took full advantage of the "easy" tag.

Up next was a 2-and-a-half hour long run. I really can't express how much I dread most run workouts lately, and this one especially. Last year the long run was the last thing on the schedule though, so it was nice this year to get it over with the first day. And on fresher legs, no less. It was about that time that the sun decided to come out, on top of running at about high noon and we were in for a real treat. Since nobody on the team is as slow as I am, I knew I'd be running on my own, which was fine since I'm used to that. We were set up on a roughly 10-mile loop and told that there was Powerbar Endurance waiting for us about 5 miles in at one of the turns off the main road.

When we started, I slowly watched my teammates disappear off in the distance and went along on my own. The route started with some nice, rolling hills on a dirt road and it's actually quite a nice place to run before turning onto the main road. In Vermont, "main road" means there might be a few cars occasionally, but you are certainly not going to be inundated with traffic. Then I was in search of that drink stop, because I was sweaty and thirsty. 5 miles gone. No drink. 6 miles. Um, where was it supposed to be? 7 miles. Uh, did I miss the turn? I actually decided to start running back in the other direction because I was convinced that I had missed it. So I ran back for a while before coming across one of my teammates who told me that he was pretty sure that I hadn't missed it, so I turned and ran back in the other direction again.

Finally, there was that blessed orange beacon with the little cups next to it. I drank the first two in 5 seconds. Had a third and was thinking about the fourth, thinking that would be it. Nah, how about just one more. And another one after that. Ok, now you really do have to start running again. Six cups later I was back on the route and ready to hit the really hard hills I remembered from the year before. I pretty much zoned out and spent most of the remainder of the run dreaming about the water fountain I had seen near the bathrooms at the state park, so upon my return I finished my run off with a trot down towards that water fountain, only to find that it wasn't functioning. It was devastating. Fortunately, a few teammates appeared and saved me by purchasing a few bottles of water at the snack stand and giving me one.

Oh, it was so good to get that long run out of the way first thing. Plus, it was a nice, early finish. We headed back to the house and got cleaned up and I had time enough for a nap before my 5:15 massage. Yes, another great aspect of this camp is the included 30-minute massage right there at the house. I was glad to only have general soreness to get worked out and no injuries or issues. After more lying around with my feet up we ate some pizza and I wound up going to bed really early since we had a really, REALLY big day coming up.

I slept a lot that night. In fact, Saturday morning I heard the door opening of the adjoining room I shared with Michelle and wondered where she was going since it was so early. Then I saw it was already 7. Uh oh, better get up. Because the 7-hour ride and 30-minute run afterward just weren't enough, we started the day off with a little swim. We had the state park to ourselves and did a little warm-up before setting off on a 1-mile time trial marked by the paddle boats of Chrissie and Mikaela. I was at least glad to know that it was only a mile as opposed to two miles, like last year. The water was pretty warm, which made for a steamy swim.

We started off in one big pack that broke up quite a bit once we hit the turn boat the first time (we did two "laps") and being the kind of swimmer I am, pretty much right in the middle of the group, I definitely did not have to worry about getting beat up or anything. I started off swimming hard but not "I'm gonna throw up" hard. I was saving that for later. Occasionally I'd find someone's feet for a hundred yards or so, but usually they'd just as quickly completely disappear, so I mostly swam on my own. It went by pretty fast, actually, and although I felt like I was overheating towards the end I tried to swim hard to finish it out and hit a few moments where I started to hit what I like to refer to as "puke-pace". Just as I was approaching the finish buoy I saw the unmistakable swim cap of Michelle coming around to my right (we have a friendly competition going with our swimming - I'm a much faster biker, she's a much faster runner but we are both equally mediocre at swimming) and I tried not to let her beat me but I was reminded of my total lack of sprinting ability and she got me by a few seconds. Apparently I dragged one of the guys the whole way, and thanks, Jon for never touching my feet and letting me know you were there.

I would've been quite content at that point to go back to the house and call it a day. But I had this pesky 7-hour bike ride to get through first. While we were all getting ready to head out I was thinking a lot about how at 10am the prior Saturday I was nearly done with riding 6 hours, and this time I hadn't even gotten started yet. But hey, had we started early instead of at 10:30 in the morning, then I wouldn't have gotten to spend so much time riding in the rain. If the weather report says that there is a 40% chance of showers, you can probably bet it is going to rain on you something like 80% of the time.

When we hit the road, several people were riding for 4 hours, a few were riding for 6, and the rest of us were the lucky ones who got to do 7. We started off by riding this loop that showed us the huge hill we'd be riding the following day for our uphill time trial. I have to say, 16 miles into your 120+ mile ride it isn't that fun to toast yourself with a 1000' climb. You take it as easy as you can, but there are only so many gears on a bike. I started out with the faster group but my power-to-weight ratio is not what it used to be (not because I'm weaker) so I let them go and did most of the climb alone.

Once down the other side I was caught by Cait, Jay, Michelle and Mark and stayed with them for quite a while. To that point, it hadn't rained yet, but it was overcast most of the way. The next part of the ride was an out-and-back up towards Killington and down route 100 until it was time to turn back. Mikaela followed along in her car and every 20 miles or so supplied us with food and drink, which was always nice. I think I drank something like 10 bottles over 7 hours and due to my combination of incredibly high sweat rate and unbelievable bladder capacity I never once had to go to the bathroom. Or maybe I just didn't drink enough.

I don't recall exactly when the rain began, but it stayed pretty constant, even if most of the time it was more of just a barely spitting rain. You know, just enough to be annoying and leave you covered in sand and dirt by the end of the ride. About 100 miles in I managed to get poured on for maybe 10 minutes, but fortunately there were no thunderstorms to be ridden through, so that was good. All in all, it was an incredibly uneventful ride. Nobody flatted, no strange animal sightings, just lots of miles covered. I wound up spending most of the time riding by myself when I let my little group go and the time passed much faster than you'd think. I think that first loop, while tough, made it more tolerable since the entire ride wasn't just an out-and-back, because those can be pretty mind-numbing.

I arrived back at the house with about 4 more minutes to ride to finish it up, which was much better than being 10 minutes late the year before. 10 minutes more of riding may not sound like much, but after 7 hours, you just want to be DONE. So I rode back and forth a bit to finish it up and then quickly changed for my transition run, even though I'd have vastly preferred a nap at that point. But 30 more minutes in the grand scheme of things really isn't that big of a deal. The rain was done at that point too, which also made it more tolerable.

Finally, at about 6:30, my day was done. I somehow mustered the strength to shower and change and then collapsed on my bed with my feet up and my body tingling all over. Everything was sore to touch. But we did have dinner reservations that night. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to stay awake at the table, and I must say, towards the end there, it was close. Strangely, in spite of the incredible tiredness, I had a really hard time falling asleep that night. Staying asleep, too. So did Michelle apparently, as at about 4:30 in the morning I heard the unmistakable sound of some sort of bar wrapper and could tell that someone woke up hungry.

Ah, day three. I woke up and could FEEL the puffiness under my eyes. I knew it was going to be tough. But at least we had a "late" start of 8:30 that morning. The plan was to ride nice and easy out to the base of the hill and then do our time trial the 6.35 miles to the top. I spent much of that 16 miles trying to keep my heart rate right around 100, which is well below my recovery zone. But with the way my legs felt, I figured I needed all the help I could get. It was another overcast morning, but there didn't appear to be any rain headed our way, so that was good.

Once we arrived at the base of the hill we spent some time just hanging around waiting until we were organized and ready to go. We drew numbers to see who went in what place, as we would be going off in 30-second increments. Then we had our numbers drawn on our legs to make it more official before we lined up. I was #10 of 21, which was just fine with me. It seemed that just as we were about to start the sun came out and decided to make it nice and hot. I opted to ride without my sunglasses as I figured they'd either wind up foggy or just dripping with sweat. Somehow Tim Tapply, who we were all pretty sure would win anyway, got to go off first and probably got to hang around the top for several minutes before anyone else showed up. But thanks, Tim, for coming back and giving us encouragement just as we were cresting the last uphill part of the course.

One by one everyone took off up the hill, and 4:30 into it, it was my turn. At least I managed to get clipped in pretty quick. Right away it was apparent that my climbing muscles were pretty well exhausted from the day before. My legs burned, but my heart rate wasn't really all that high. That usually means that the legs are just too tired to push the kind of effort really required. I also knew, given my tendency to start out these time trials too hard, that I'd be better off starting a bit more conservatively so that I wouldn't have to call for a ride before I reached the top.

Yes, it was considered an "uphill" time trial, but I have to disclose here that by no means was the entire course uphill. In fact, it ended on a screaming downhill in which I maxed out at 42mph. Unfortunately I averaged just under 13, but still. I caught and passed I think two people in front of me, and got passed by three who were coming up behind me, so not too bad, I guess. I am certainly not in a position right now to be doing well on this kind of course, not to mention the fact that I lacked the leg power to stimulate a heart rate average that was even at my threshold. Although there were one or two times where the breathing got heavy, I never came close to hitting puke-pace, which probably should've happened at least a couple of times.

All in all, that 29 minutes went by faster than I thought it would and wasn't nearly as painful as I feared it would be. It was tough and I didn't do very well, but for some reason it was kind of fun, and I hope we are planning on doing it again next year. By the time I got to the top it appeared that I had probably lost about 10 pounds of sweat and maybe should've gone down to the bottom and tried again to test that theory, but instead we just all finished it up and rode the last 10-ish miles back to the house to get ready for our transition runs, the last thing to get through before camp was over. As usual, I wasn't looking forward to it. Especially given the efforts that had just been put out. My legs felt pretty spent. I was also starving, so after I changed my clothes I downed an entire Powerbar before I set out for that run. I have an iron stomach, I probably could've eaten a chicken parmesan sub at that point and gone for my run and been fine. I've never tested that theory, though.

It was overcast and humid, and I hit the road just behind everyone else so I could let them start in front of me instead of passing me later. I have no idea how or why, but this was by far the best run I've had in a very long time. It's not like my legs felt great, I was just finally able to maintain a good pace. I think I've mentioned that we've had me running by pace lately instead of heart rate because I was practically walking to keep my heart rate down and that wasn't going to get me anywhere. So I set out at something close to my pre-determined pace and stayed under it the entire time. The most amazing part probably was that for close to the first half of the run, my heart rate was actually legitimately in my zone 1. In fact, the first mile heart rate average was barely at the bottom of zone 1. Now, by the second half the heart rate went way up, but to be fair, the 6th mile especially was 25 seconds faster than the pace I was supposed to run and by far the fastest of all of them. So it was a very nice note to end on and even gave me a little ray of hope.

And with that, camp was over. I spent the weekend playing with my friends and now I had to go home. We had one last little meeting of the troops and then went our separate ways. All in all, it was a pretty solid weekend of training and I am very glad to have a rest week now. I am incredibly tired, but in a good way. Now I just have to survive a few more weeks and it will be time to redeem my poor performance in Utah (hopefully) on the new and improved Lake Placid bike course. For those of you who are unaware, due to some bridge construction, the course has been altered slightly. Shouldn't make a huge difference either way, though.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

QT2 Training Weekend Time Again

Tomorrow I am off for my second annual QT2 training weekend. MY second, I'm sure there were more before me. I'm pretty sure the weather looks good, which is nice to take care of one of those things we have no control over. Last year we lucked out in that in a month where it literally rained almost ever single day we really didn't have it too bad, only a bit of rain on I think one of our rides (although I was definitely awakened in the middle of the night due to a nasty thunderstorm once)

When I signed on to this camp it was supposed to be more of an intensity-oriented camp rather than last year where the focus was putting in huge miles in the final push to Lake Placid. See, I wasn't supposed to have to do another Ironman in July, but you know, circumstances change and I somehow procured a slot and now it is all about volume again. The volume will be less than last time, but a 7-hour bike ride is arduous whether or not you have to ride a whole lot more on the other days of the weekend. Fortunately, I am not the only one of my teammates who is racing in a month, so I will be far from alone. While I don't make a habit of training with other people, it is definitely a nice change of pace, especially when you get close to the race and mentally the training becomes a lot more difficult.

So I will be gone Thursday through Sunday, getting in plenty of swimming, biking and running. I'm not really upset that I've found myself in the position to race in Lake Placid again. In fact, all season long I was thinking how strange it would be to let the end of July show up and not be heading up there to race for the first time since 2003. Sure, it'd be nice not to have to do it, but at the same time, I'm kind of glad not to be missing out. Now if I could somehow find my long lost confidence in my racing abilities, things would be a lot better.

So I may or may not be able to update while I'm there. I remember from last year that theoretically we were supposed to have wifi at the house we were staying at, but it was definitely not the case. All I know is that I am sure that whatever happens, I will be ready to thoroughly enjoy a bit of rest starting on Monday before the final taper weeks of training. I can't believe I have to do it all again so soon. But it will be nice to take on a much "easier" course than last time.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My ears! My ears!

It's motorcycle weekend here in the lakes region. Well, more accurately, it is the culmination of motorcycle week. It used to be just one weekend of rumbling engines at all hours of the day and night, but for some reason they decided to make it 9 days long, so that we get to experience it on two separate weekends. For those of you who are unaware, it is a time in which literally thousands and thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts converge on Laconia to.... um, wear leather, skip the helmet since we're in New Hampshire and you don't have to so they can show off that awesome 'do-rag, show off their shoulder tattoos in their tube tops (this is usually limited to just the women, but hey...) eat, drink, wave at other motorcycles, sleep on people's lawns in tents, take up all of the hotel rooms, and drive around revving those ridiculously loud engines in my ear when I'm just trying to get in a bike ride. Will someone please explain to me why these machines that are a third the size of a car require engines that must be so loud?

Ok, usually the motorcyclists at least don't seem to mind people like me, their two-wheeled but non-motorized counterpart. In fact, I've had a few occasions where one might pull up and decide to tell me how fast I'm riding, obviously unaware that I have a little computer on my bike that is already telling me that. Although I am positive that on several occasions one will ride by and decide to purposely pop the engine right when it is closest to my ear. Even if they don't, it gets a little old riding down the road being passed by pack after pack of the things rumbling along. I don't mind them every once in a while, but during this particular weekend it becomes constant. It also makes it hard to sleep at night, because they never, ever stop and I happen to be about 15 miles from the center of it all.

So, that is one of the major reasons why today my long ride began at such a ridiculous hour. If you saw my last post, you know that I have gained last-minute entry into Lake Placid. I have known about this for a few weeks now - or at least was pretty sure, as I hadn't been sent any info on how to register, just told yeah, you can race - so I didn't want to say anything until they took my money and made it official. The details of my entry aren't really important, but I would like to note that it had absolutely nothing to do with my being a previous "winner". I actually tried that angle, and it turns out they don't care. So to be clear, in 2006, I did not "win" the race. I was the first female age-grouper. I did not get recognized at the awards, I do not have a plaque or anything that says I won, and it was really just a case of good timing. There, I feel better.

Anyway, somehow I am already in the peak weeks of training, even though I feel like since St. George I've been training for about 3 weeks. I had a nice, long ride on tap for today and decided to start insanely early for a few reasons. First, just because I can. It's light enough to ride before 5am for only a brief time during the year, so I might as well take advantage of it to make up for those times I used to have to run before work in a reflective vest even though it was already 7am, and having to finish outdoor workouts by 4:15 in December or be caught in the dark. Second, because I knew it was going to be hot today. We all know that riding when it is in the 70's tends to be a bit more pleasant than riding when it is in the 90's. At least for a long ride. Third, the motorcycles. I figured if I started early enough I could get a good deal of miles in before they started buzzing by me and causing permanent damage to my eardrums.

So my alarm went off at 4:20 this morning. Let me tell you, getting up that early for a long ride seems like a really bad idea until about noon, when you are totally done. Then it seems like it was a fantastic idea. I thought maybe it would be pretty hot out even early, but it wasn't at all. In fact, I probably didn't feel hot at all until about 45 minutes to go, which was nice. It's these kinds of rides in which I usually run into moose or bears, but today at that hour all that was out there were some baby turkeys. I rode about 17 miles before seeing a car, started riding at about 4:40. My plan seemed to work out quite well, as it was hours before enough motorcycles were out riding to really bother me. The early morning motorcycles don't tend to be the ones to travel in packs of 10 to, um, infinity, it seems.

It does tend to make for some interesting sights, though. First, there is the obvious fact that most of the hotels have dozens of motorcycles parked outside. But there are also many yards strewn with tents and motorcycles. One house in particular is only a few miles from my parents' place, and there are dozens of tents on the lawn as well as a sign by the driveway written in big, bubbly, polka-dotted letters with the name of their "gang". I'm a little scared to tell you what they're called for fear that I will get hunted down for telling you that if it weren't for all of those motorcycles that obviously require a license to drive, you'd think there was a bunch of 12-year old boys camping on their mom's lawn and that was the name of their little club.

Anyway, I was a good 4 hours or so in before I started getting annoyed with the motorcycles, which was good. And it really wasn't until the final hour before they started really driving me nuts. It's just the noise, really that bothers me. And the traffic that is usually so absent from these nice roads. One pleasant surprise today was that a long stretch of one of my favorite routes has been repaved. The horrible condition of the pavement there was the only thing I did not like about that route, so it was great to have it nice and smooth.

I rode by myself, as usual. It's funny, some people wonder how anyone can do long rides alone, but I don't mind it at all. Maybe because it's how I've almost always done it, I don't know. Someone once asked me what I think about for that long. I honestly don't know. Looking back I'm sure that I cannot come up with six hours worth of thoughts that went through my head to fill the time, but I don't think I was completely zoned out the whole time. Of course today there were thoughts of motorcycles, thoughts wondering when it was going to start to get hot out, thinking about racing, how I was actually having a good ride today, thinking about when I'm going to see Toy Story 3... See? It could be anything. Sometimes I'll even zone out to the point of not remembering riding the last few miles.

Anyway, after a loud end to the ride, it was time to run. It was definitely hot by then. It was funny though, I ran into my friend, John, who was out on his Placid training ride not long into my run and at least got a sip of Gatorade to help me out. Thanks, John. He doesn't live that close to hear, so it was very unusual to run into him, or really anybody I know. The run went great... for about half of it. Then I think I became very aware that if given the opportunity, I could down about 5 gallons of water in short order. So the rest of the run wasn't quite so pleasant, but like I said, finishing an incredibly long workout before noon isn't such a bad thing. And neither is downing some Endurox and then immediately jumping into the lake in my already-soaked workout clothes. If you've never finished a long workout that way, you really have to try it sometime.

So that's about it for now. Tomorrow is way too much running and I'm absolutely dreading it, but by Monday it will be all over, right?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Very Quick Update

Registration Confirmation for:

Dear Molly,

Congratulations! You are now registered for 2010 Ford Ironman Lake Placid.

-That is all.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nothing much

So, currently I am watching my 4-year old nephew while his parents take his older sister out to celebrate her "graduation" from first grade. Apparently she wanted it to be just for the "grown-ups." Where does a 7-year old want to go for a big, celebration dinner? IHOP, of course. A brand new one opened in town and at the moment it is all the rage. Not sure what makes people so excited for chain restaurant pancakes when there are so many other good breakfast for dinner places around, but I will freely admit that when I was 7, I probably would've thought it was cool, too. Actually, now that I think about it, I don't think I was a big fan of pancakes when I was a kid. I actually think I didn't like pancake syrup. I can't for the life of me figure out why that was the case. Maybe since the majority of my diet consisted of ham and cheese sandwiches on a very specific kind of bread (I thought wheat was gross - it had to be Pepperidge Farm white) before I eventually ate a turkey sandwich every day for lunch for probably at least 10 years, hot dogs, Kraft macaroni and cheese, the occasional McDonalds cheeseburger happy meal, and Doritos. Had I actually eaten any fruits or vegetables before the age of 20, I'd probably be at least 6'6" but I guess I'll have to settle for being an even 6'.

My nephew doesn't care at all about food, so we'll see if he wants dinner. Mostly I'm just wondering as we watch episode after episode of Scooby Doo on demand just how many haunted houses one can possible run into in their youth? You'd think after a while they'd stop going into scary-looking, abandoned houses.

So my niece is moving on to second grade and her new teacher sent her home with a list of school supply needs for next year. Remember buying your stuff for school? I definitely remember thinking I had finally grown up a little bit when I no longer bought one of those big boxes of crayons for school. You know the ones I'm talking about. With the sharpener in the back and even though there were 64 colors to choose from you still only used the same 6 or 7 and those were almost completely used up, which was annoying, but you still hardly ever used those other colors. Those boxes probably should've contained only 48 colors, but doubles and triples of the most widely-used ones.

So, oh yeah, probably nobody cares that much about my crayon pondering. How about a training update? Have I mentioned how much I love swimming in the lake? This time of year rocks. The sun is up insanely early and makes it almost impossible to get up at some hour that is dark enough to make you totally aware of just how early you are getting up. It is also good timing because as always seems to be the case this time of year, one of my longest rides will fall on a Saturday in with the temperatures will climb into the mid 90's. However, I know from experience that I can literally start riding at about 4:40 in the morning and it is light enough. Yeah, I know starting that early doesn't sound too appealing, but let me tell you, when it's not even noon and you're already done with the training and it's over 90 out, you will not regret for one second having gotten up at that ridiculous hour. It also helps to have parents with a lake house where I can finish my workout and then plunge directly into the lake in what will probably be already completely soaked clothing. Not such a bad way to start the day.

I should go now. After a dinner of oatmeal (hey, it's what the kid wanted for some reason) I am attempting to fix what I consider to be a pretty big issue in my nephew's upbringing: he cannot identify any Muppets aside from Kermit the Frog. I'm sorry, but that is just plain wrong! So, we will be watching The Muppets Take Manhattan in the hopes that he starts to understand just how awesome they are.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ashland Race Report

If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought I'd stepped into a time warp. I did this race last year under the exact same circumstances and the weather was absolutely identical. The Kropelnickis were nice enough to let me stay at their house like last year, and that morning I drove Jesse and I over and it was a nice change from last week when Mooseman has gotten too big to do a nice, incredibly low-key race. We parked right next to transition - as did everyone else who was there, I signed up when I arrived, the transition area wasn't even entirely set up. The start time said 8am, but in reality it should've read, "Somewhere around 8-ish" but you know, as long as you are aware of that fact, then it's not a big deal to me.

It was a dreary morning of course, as a lot of them have been lately, and it started to rain right about the time we arrived, which again, was exactly like 2009. Also, once the race started, the rain stopped, which again was exactly like 2009. After hiding out in the car during the worst of the rain, I quickly got my transition are set up and headed down to the water - and I do mean down. You arrive at this venue wondering to yourself, um, where the heck is the water? The answer is that it is down a muddy trail, about a quarter-mile from transition. Last year I made it nearly all the way to the lake before I slipped on the last downslope and had myself a little mudslide in my wetsuit. Fortunately, this year I managed to remain on my feet the entire time.

I was in the third swim wave - out of three, with the rest of the women. One other thing I enjoy about small races is small swim waves and knowing that it is very unlikely that I am going to get the crap kicked out of me. I was right. The water was incredibly comfortable, maybe a tiny bit choppy, but the swim is very well-marked and easy to follow. So I knew I had the opportunity to have a good swim and I went for it. I think the waves were something like three minutes apart and I managed to come out with quite a few people from the first swim wave so I figured I had at least set myself up in a good spot.

Then came time to climb the mountain to get back to transition. After about two minutes of this, I was pretty sure I was about to throw up, so I decided to ease back a bit and just make sure I got up there without falling or vomiting up my applesauce. Once I finally made it to my bike it was pretty quick to get out of there.

Now, since my training and racing has not gone so much according to plan this season, we are playing around with some new tactics. For example, this week we decided that I am now going to do my run workouts by pace instead of heart rate for fear that I might never be able to run faster than I can walk backwards if left to fight with heart rate limits. For the race, my goal was to "keep the heart rate stimulated." That is, find a heart rate on the bike - Jesse didn't care what it was - keep it there and make sure it doesn't drop at all on the run. So that was the little game I was left to play on the day.

Right out onto the bike my usual response is to pedal as hard as I can. Right out of the gate my heart rate was in the low 180's, although probably partly due to the swim still and that run up the trail, but I knew that was going to be nearly impossible to maintain for two more hours, so going against my normal instincts, I eased up quite a bit. It was incredibly hard for me to do that, especially early on and going up hills while I watched other people pass me.

It's a two-loop course that has more uphills on the first loop and more downhills on the second loop right after you cross the Boston Marathon start line painted in the road. It was wet and dreary, but not raining, so that was nice. I managed to pass a lot of people on the downhills and flats, so that was nice, but I knew I wasn't going nearly as hard as I could've. I settled on targeting 172 as my heart rate for the bike, which is my threshold. It was really tough to keep it down on the hills, but for once I was actually trying to practice a bit of patience on the bike. It wasn't that fun, and I'd say that's more of a heart rate that I used to ride a half ironman at, but hey, I had to try something new.

After a nice, short bike ride of 26 miles it was already time to get off and run. I think I might've been the first woman off the bike, but I know from recent experience that was not to last long. Transition was quick and I headed out on the run course to wonder what was going to happen. The run starts with a long, gradual uphill before taking a hard right and heading down a long hill. It's sort of a lollipop-shaped course through some little neighborhoods that leave you wondering if you are still on the correct course since there are many occasions in which you are out there all by yourself. I started out with the heart rate approaching 180 again but I didn't want to burn myself out so early, especially given my awesome running "skills" so I dialed it back just a bit and hoped that maybe that would leave me something for the end. I saw some of my teammates headed back to claim most of the top 10 spots in the race.

After a couple of minutes some of the women came from behind me to pass and disappear pretty quick, as expected. I was just running and trying to keep my heart rate in the same place, which resulted in an amazing ascending pace, but, well, again I was doing what I was asked to do. At one point a woman passed me and for some reason decided to take a right on the next street where there were cones that very clearly (or at least I thought it was clear, apparently she did not) had arrows on them for us to continue straight. I have to admit, it took me a while to decide whether to let her continue running down the wrong road by herself or tell her to get back on course. Finally, I yelled, "I think you took a wrong turn." She shouted back, "Are you sure?" Probably thinking I was lying to her. At that point there was nobody in front or behind us in sight, but yeah, I was pretty sure. She chose to believe me and eventually caught and passed me again. So due to my being stupid? Too nice? Not competitive enough? You decide, I came in 6th instead of 5th.

The final ascent had my heart rate climbing over 180 and my pace climbing to new lows, but I knew as soon as I reached the top of the hill I'd be able to pick it up and run down to the finish. It was a new thing for me, actually picking up the pace for the finish. It was painful, but I did manage to do it, at least. The result of my heart rate experiment was not a fast race at all, but apparently fairly well-executed. So I wasn't really disappointed with the race even though I was quite a bit slower than last year. I'm tired of being high-maintenance. I just want to do the training and get faster like everybody else.

But anyway, congrats to Tim who won again but is so over it that he doesn't even stick around for awards anymore. In all fairness, he did have to go ride his bike for another 4 hours. Jesse came in second, Pat I think was 4th and Jay was 6th, so nice job, guys. Then I got to drive home in the rain and that was that. Now it's already time for some big training for some big race that I may or may not be doing in several weeks.

As a total side note, to continue the trend of my siblings being injury prone lately, my sister's foot is still broken from that jump-roping injury back in March. My brother's sprained ankle had finally healed enough for him to start playing again in his softball league which he did for a few weeks without incident until yesterday, when he reverse dislocated his shoulder and apparently might need surgery. I have to say, between the three of us, based on our hobbies and interests, if you had to pick one who had never had a ride in an ambulance, I don't think you'd pick me, but so far (and hopefully the trend will continue) that has been the case.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Ever since 2005, Mooseman has signaled the beginning of tri season in New Hampshire for me. Normally, the ice is just barely gone and all you hear is people asking constantly what the water temperature is, which is usually in the low 50's only to warm up just barely enough by race day for us all not to freeze to death. I think the biggest irony of the weekend was the fact that the water in Newfound Lake was by far the warmest it's ever been for Mooseman, and yet this time the swim gets canceled. But I'll get to that...

On Friday afternoon I headed over to Wellington State Park to pick up my race number for the international distance race. This was the first time I've ever not done the half, and I must say that I don't really like doing the shorter of two races. It's no secret that the longer the race, the better I do. Actually, I should start considering double or triple ironmans, to be honest. But it was too soon after St. George to really be ready for the half, so the short version it was for me this time.

This was the first year that WTC, or the official Ironman people have owned and run Mooseman. I am going to have to say that the difference was clear immediately. I can't even really pinpoint what it was right away, but it just wasn't the same. The big "official" Ironman gear merchandise tent, the huge flatbed trucks taking up the parking lot they used to let the athletes park in, the 6 different tables you had to stop by in the registration tent to pick up various pieces of your packet, the lack of almost anything in the goodie bags... yep, it's not my race anymore. It's funny, when Ironman took over Timberman it didn't really bother me because that has always been a really big event and that's what I expect, so nothing really seems different. But Mooseman always felt like a smaller local race even though it was at least a little bigger than your typical little race, and I liked it that way. A lot of us liked it that way. It's not that way anymore.

But anyway, I got a shirt in my bag, and once again, thanks for mentioning that the shirts are women specific for the first time in the history of my racing and not letting me exchange it for one that might actually fit. It's actually a pretty cool shirt, too. Anyway... then I was back at home to rest for the remainder of the afternoon. One nice thing is being within 30 minutes of the race venue and still getting to sleep in my own bed. My friends and teammates Michelle and Trent stayed at the house with me, so we had a little pasta dinner on the porch and then went to bed early.

Race morning came awfully early. I was having a dream that I was watching a thunderstorm across a field and there was some nasty lightning. Then I woke up and found out I was dreaming that because there was, in fact, a nasty thunderstorm going on outside. Well, there's an interesting way for race morning to start. I admit I'm a bit obnoxious when it comes to race morning, and in a big race that I have to drive to and park, I want to be there right when the parking lot opens just to get that part out of the way. So we headed out at about 5am for the supposed 5:30 parking lot opening. It was pouring when we left Squam Lake, but not so bad when we got over to Newfound.

In years past when I have arrived at Mooseman upon the opening of the parking lot, I have gotten a great spot right in the park so that I can stumble over to the transition area in about 90 seconds. Well, thanks for mentioning that NONE of us were going to get to park there, but rather were all diverted to what used to be the late-comers parking in some field a mile down the road. A muddy field at that, which left me wondering if I was going to be able to get my car out later. So that irritated me a bit unreasonably. Apparently they never let anyone park at the Wellington lot the entire weekend. Not to pick up your numbers, not for the athlete's meeting, not for anything. I'm sorry, but a little warning might've been nice on that one, and it seems ridiculous to make everyone park so far away when LOTS of cars used to be able to park right there. Not only is it bad for athletes, but it's terrible for spectators as well. And had I known I'd be stuck parking that far away anyway, I would've left an hour later.

But then again, I shouldn't complain too much, because as soon as I walked my bike to the road I saw a friend of mine driving through - who shall remain nameless in spite of his awesomeness so nobody is aware of how good he is at simply pretending he is allowed to do anything so that the police don't make him park far away - and I jumped in his car and he drove me up to the park and very easily talked his way into a parking spot right next to the transition area without any actual credentials. He reminded me that he has taught me these tricks before and I should learn to listen better, but I'm just too much of a rule-follower, I guess, and obviously got the advantage of his tactics anyway.

So, upon my arrival, it was, of course, raining. It wasn't cold at least, and incredibly humid. I got body-marked and racked my bike then decided to go use the porta-potty since it was early, there weren't a lot of people there yet and there was no line. The second I got in there, it started pouring. I briefly wondered if maybe I should just hang out in there for a while and hide from the rain, but, well, I guess I'd rather be in the rain than sit in a porta-potty for an extended period of time. Call me crazy. So once I was back out and exposed to the elements it became apparent by the loudness of the thunder, the brightness of the lightning and the closeness of the time between the two that the thunderstorm was pretty much right on top of us. It is this kind of situation in which I would've normally just gone back to my nice little car, parked 100 yards away. But instead, I walked over toward the finish chute where QT2 had a tent set up. On my way over there, as I meandered under the tall trees and saw maybe two or three other people walking around that one particular bolt of lightning struck what appeared to be maybe half a mile away, and judging by the loud crack of thunder that followed almost immediately afterward, I'd say that it finally dawned on me how dangerous it was for me to be walking around in the woods during a ridiculous thunderstorm. But really, how often are you trapped outside in a thunderstorm? I had nowhere else to go, so I found my way to the tent and fortunately there was a picnic table under it.

There were very few people around at that point, and I could faintly hear the announcer asking people to go under the merchandise tent or into a vehicle (again, everyone's cars were parked a mile away!) So essentially, the transition area was evacuated. What fun. I sat on that picnic table for a very long time while a pond formed on the ground around us and made me happy to have flip flops on. It didn't take that long for me to feel as though my life was no longer in danger, but the rain was persistent. Slowly but surely, more and more of my teammates trickled in and we all waited out the storm and waited to hear what the heck was going to happen with the race. If we had a deck of cards I'm sure we would've utilized them. It was a weird morning.

Finally we heard the verdict: the swim was canceled (duh, there were never even any swim buoys set up) and the bike would be shortened to 17 miles and the run would be the same. Yeah, that's just what I need, make the bike SHORTER but not the run. I knew I was done right there. The new race would start at 9 in time trial fashion, going out by race number. A rather large number of people just picked up their bikes and left. I mean, come on, the hardest part of race morning is waking up early and getting there, you might as well do at least a little bit of what you paid for. It was probably only 7:30 in the morning when that announcement was made, so we had even more time to kill.

Eventually, we made our way back to transition and set up a very modified little transition area and looked at all of the empty rack space from people who had gone home. The funny thing was, by then the sky was clearing, the water was dead calm and nice and warm, and there was no wind at all. Right before the first racers went off, the sun even came out. It was certainly a weird morning. Since the bike was shortened, it now became a contest in simply going as hard as humanly possible. That is not really a gear I possess, but at least I'm a bit better at it on the bike than the run. So one at a time, off we went. I set off about 22 minutes after the first athlete, and learned very quickly that I need to prep my bike for this kind of start and have the right pedal down, how I like to start, instead of up because I got all thrown off and had a spectacularly bad mount.

It was tough in the beginning between the no shoulder road and the cones on the yellow line to pass everyone I needed to pass, but it didn't take long for the road to open up a bit. I started hard enough that when I got to the top of some of the first few hills, I was fairly certain I was going to have to throw up. Fortunately, I kept things down, but I was also a little unsure of how to tackle fueling for this modified effort. I had a couple of gels, but I thought I'd hurl them right back up if I tried to eat them. So on a few downhills I at least tried to drink.

Of course 17 miles goes by awfully fast, and I was mostly just thinking about how sunny and nice it had turned out... and how incredibly humid it was. Sweat was raining off my helmet into my face. Then it was into T2, where I really, really had to pee. Sure, a few weeks ago I raced for almost 14 hours and never had to pee (didn't actually go until about midnight that night) and yet I was 40-something minutes into this race and I had to go. I guess that's what happens when you don't get that last-minute pee in the wetsuit right before the race start.

Anyway, then it was time to hit the run course. For about 10 seconds I wondered if maybe that would finally be the day where I'd finish the run feeling good about myself. I spent the remainder of the time mostly wondering when someone was finally going to pull me aside and break the news that really, enough is enough and I need to move on with my life. Or if I'd get kicked off my team, and thinking about how once upon a time I ran a 1:32 half marathon on that course. Where did that go? Has someone been slipping me performance DE-hancing drugs? Basically, to put it simply, I very quickly gave up. I got passed by old people, fat people, old fat people, fat old people, 16-year old kids who would sprint and then walk up the hills, only to repeat. I'm getting pretty sick of this, and I don't know what to do about it anymore. It doesn't light a fire under me and make me angry and determined, it's essentially just sucking the life out of me.

So it felt like an eternity to get to the turn around, the second-longest 3 miles of my life, next to basically any 3-mile stretch during the St. George marathon. So I ran, sort of, whatever you call the thing I do that is a little faster than walking, and eventually I crossed the finish line. I'm pretty sick of getting asked how my races go and not being able to say anything positive. Um, I didn't crash or throw up? I may have come in ahead of at least a couple of AARP members?

Good news though is that as usual, several of my teammates did well, including two athletes that I coach, one of whom won his age group. So I was very happy about that. The day was long from over though. After more running and watching the maple syrup get handed out, a few of us headed back to Chrissie's parents' house down the road so we could go bike for three hours. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am not a fan of doing more training after the race is over. I was also convinced that we were going to get caught in a thunderstorm and rain again, but thankfully that held off. So Jesse, Cait, Michelle, Pat and I headed off in the humid sun to do a little ride. For some reason Jesse decided we should ride the new Mooseman 70.3 course which included a new hill, 1000' gained in 3 miles. I realize that the race we did wasn't exactly strenuous, especially considering the fact that I didn't even "race" the run, but my legs were not prepared to handle that much sustained climbing. It did, however, make me very, very glad that I was not doing that course in the race the following day.

After some time our little group got further and further apart, Cait and Jesse went off, Pat decided to find the flattest stretch of road possible and ride back and forth for the final hour, and Michelle and I went a little further down the road before turning around to do one final out-and-back to finish out our 3 hours. I was definitely ready for that ride to be over. After getting cleaned up we headed over to the BHOP (Bristol House of Pizza) for a huge team dinner. I was tired and starved out of my mind, which of course meant that my salad and Michelle's were the last items to be delivered to the table, about an hour after we had gotten there and I stared at people eating dinner rolls.

We finally arrived back at the house at about 8 after what was obviously a very, very long day. My own mother, who was at a wedding that day and had looked at the race results online, made fun of my run. So that was my first altered race due to conditions. Of all the races I've ever done, I must say I didn't so much mind that that one was changed. I would've liked to have done the whole thing, but I wasn't annoyed and I understood the decision. I'm glad that they were able to at least give us something to do that day. I'm telling you, that morning it did not look good! It left me wondering a lot about what might happen the next day, when the forecast was pretty similar.

Michelle had gone home so the next day Trent and I were going over to watch the half. This time we did not bother getting there really early, although for some reason I was awake at about 4:30 anyway, even though this time there was no thunderstorm. We didn't leave until after 6 when we parked way down the road and rode our bikes to the park. It wasn't raining on the drive over, but it started raining the minute we parked the cars pretty much.

The moment we pulled into the park we heard the cannon fire and knew the race had started. What good timing. This was the first time I'd be spectating at a half Ironman, and I will say that it was nicer on Mooseman weekend to be spectating AFTER my race instead of before, so I didn't have to worry about being on my feet or eating or drinking enough. Basically, it just rained harder and harder as the day went along. It reminded me an awful lot of Lake Placid in 2008, where it would look like maybe it was going to let up, but then it would just rain harder instead. I saw a ton of people I knew, which was fun of course, and I was convinced that there would be some bike accidents on the steep descent but was glad to learn later that there wasn't.

It was a long wait while the athletes were out biking, and it was very nice to have our QT2 tent to sit under while it just kept raining and raining and raining. It was also a lot colder Sunday than it was on Saturday. Eventually we went over and watched the run out on a trail and had a great vantage point. Again, this just made me think again about how Mooseman and the big, "Ironman" feel just don't go together. I'm telling you, it was just plain weird seeing people like Kate Major and Sam McGlone running our little race. I mean, come on, even I've come in third overall at that race. (I can't believe it either. Again, what the heck happened?)

But, we saw lots of friends, went back to the finish chute to watch people run and slip in the mud and get their foil blankets at the finish and had seen lots and lots of people shivering like crazy as they came off their bikes. It was a pretty epic day, that's for sure. Mooseman is always either cold and rainy or ridiculously hot and sunny, but never something mild and in between. I guess that's just what makes it Mooseman.

Finally, we decided we had had enough sitting around in the rain. You know how everyone has their limit to how long they can hold out and be a real trooper? Yeah, you can stand around in wet clothes and pruned fingers and toes for a while and ignore the weather and stick it out for a while, but eventually, you come to the realization that you've been standing around in the rain for what feels like two days straight and you've finally had enough. I felt bad, knowing that the day could've been a lot more pleasant if the weather was nicer, but enough was enough. So I rode my bike in my flip flops through the rain and the mud trail from the cars leaving the muddy field parking lot and left Bristol for the last time.

So Mooseman has come and gone once again. It has been the sight of several great season kick-offs for me, including the first time I broke 5 hours in a half, the first time I ever came in top 3 overall, my half IM PR and my half marathon PR... although admittedly it's pretty universally accepted that the course is short, but I'll take it. Also, last year it was the first race where I felt like I was really, really getting close to being "back." None of those things happened this time around, although it was admittedly less demoralizing than 2008 when it was my first triathlon back after injury and excessive weight gain and it was 90 degrees out and I had my worst half ironman finish in years and years (a few months later I went nearly an hour worse at Timberman, so I'm getting really good at doing really bad) But I did get to see a lot of other people have great races, so that was nice.

Why are you still reading this? I just went on for like 3 hours for a ridiculous non-triathlon and a lot of whining about standing around in rain and thunderstorms.

PS: It didn't rain at all today.