Holy crap

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Today I volunteered at a bike race down in Salem. It’s sponsored by a family friend’s bike shop (Susan’s third ex-husband Joe) and it’s our third year helping out with it. Because of this, we get the cushy job of getting people registered and compiling the race start lists for the officials. It’s a great job because we get to sit under a nice awning and watch the race go on when things slow down a bit. Here’s our set-up:

It’s a pretty typical bike race. The course consists of a nearly 2-mile loop that riders in various categories race around for a set amount of time in a big pack while trying not to crash into each other. Cyclists are rated Category 5-1 with 5 being the least-experienced riders and 1 being the best cyclists. (Women’s categories start at Cat. 4, for some unknown reason.)

The day started with the Cat 4/5 men and the juniors (basically riders 13-17) It’s pretty cool to watch pre-teen boys doing something besides PlayStation:

Here are the Cat 4/5 men lining up:

At the start line…

And they’re off and racing…

The most exciting race of the day was the Cat 1/2 men. A local pro from Rock Racing showed up and kicked everyone’s butt. It’s pretty amazing to watch the difference in person, because the “normal” guys are pretty freakin’ fast from my perspective and then you watch someone who’s that next level of faster. It’s pretty crazy. I didn’t have a chance to take too many pictures of this one, but here’s them taking off for the start:

(It’s pretty hard to see him, but the guy who won is in the bright green in the back of the group, to the left of the guy in white… )

Since volunteers get to race for free, I was toying with the idea of riding with the Cat 4 women. I was a little unsure about it because my big race is next weekend and I was worried about going way too hard and totally cooking my legs for the rest of the week or worse crashing. In previous years, the womens races have been very small – like 2-3 people per race small, so I was sort of waiting to see how many ladies showed up. Then I remembered that road racing often doesn’t allow the aero bars I have on my bike, so I asked about it and no, they wouldn’t let me ride with them, I’d have to take them off. With only one week before Lake Stevens, there was no way I was messing with that, so I decided that I’d do my bike workout either after volunteering or when we had some down time.

A few hours before race time and there was a lone woman who was signed up for the Women’s Cat 1-3 race and she was getting nervous about it. We chatted for a little bit and she asked me if I was racing and I explained why I wasn’t. She scoffed at my reasons and asked if she could find a bike for me to ride, would I race. I stammered that I wasn’t in her Category and borrowing a bike for me might not do her any good. “Oh, they’ll combine them. It’ll be fine.” and she was off. A few minutes later, a nice man named Adam came over with a beautiful Orbea road bike and the same pedals as I ride. At just like that, I was racing.

As it turned out, they couldn’t combine the women’s races because the Cat. 4 race was part of a points series. And because of that same series there were approximately 16 women in the race. Holy crap. Luckily, there were eight women riding in the race with Eva (the girl who got me into all of this mess, so she wasn’t alone.) Before her race, I checked with Eva to make sure they didn’t mind hanging out for my race (half-hoping that she wouldn’t be and I wouldn’t have to do this crazy race… ) but she was really nice about it and told me not to worry. Ha!

Before I knew it, it was time for the Cat 1-3 women’s race. I cheered Eva on for a bit and then took the bike out for a warm-up. The bike was a little big for me, but I felt okay on it. I rode around for a bit, getting more and more nervous as I did. For those readers who aren’t familiar with triathlon/road cycling differences and are thinking “you ride your bike all the time, why so nervous?” In a triathlon, you aren’t allowed to ride in a pack or even get close to another rider, so it’s all you. In road cycling, you ride in a pack and use tactics to pass and all that good stuff.  Needless to say, there’s a big difference between the two.

Then it was time to line up. I was torn between wanting to barf and wanting to go. T and Susan were so excited for me to race and were cheering me on. The official gave us some instruction and some of the Cat 1/2 girls were riding along so that they could give us feedback at the clinic afterwards. And we were off, I’d lined up at the back, so after clipping in I had to catch up with the pack a bit. The cat 1/2 ladies were behind me giving me advice and I had to let them know that I was going to stay back a bit and get used to the new style of racing. They were really nice about it and gave me a few pointers

I hung with the group for a lap, then their superior cornering skills on the last turn opened up a small gap which quickly became a larger gap. I tried to ride harder and catch up, but there was a headwind and it just wasn’t happening. I was feeling really bummed until I looked down at my bike computer and realized I was going 18 mph, into a headwind which is much faster than I usually ride. I headed onto the second lap and hoped not to get too far behind.

On the second lap, I managed to take a wrong turn and decided to call it when I got back to the start/finish line. I felt fine with my decision. I learned a lot from the one lap I’d ridden with the group and this way I could still ride my own bike and do a little run afterwards. I handed in my bike to Adam’s friend with my sincere thanks and got my own bike ready to go. I had a bike/run (brick) workout on my schedule, which I decided to split into two smaller sets of bike/run, partly because it was easier schedule-wise and partly because of the heat, which was considerable. I headed out for a 20 minute ride followed by a 10 minute run and then rode home from the race, followed by another short run.

I was pretty hot, but felt surprisingly good. T went out for Jamba Juices, which I drank in the shady backyard. Heaven! Then we met up with Husband #2 for dinner (different yummy Mexican food) and headed home. A very busy but very good day. Thanks to all who helped make my first race happen, it was terrifying and awesome all at the same time!

Short timer

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I don’t usually blog about work, but one of my co-workers was apparently bored on his night shift last night and decorated my work space with my highlighter pens. (Don’t you just love my phone? Talk about state of the art… )

As part of my revenge, I snapped this picture (to put on his desktop before I covered his monitor in mini Post-It notes) and it made me think about how much I’m going to miss this silly place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a perfect job by any means (I’m not sure such a thing exists… ) but I generally enjoy the folks I work with and I’m good at it.

I’ve done my fair share of job leaving over the years and it’s always such a strange thing. This time it’s a lot like graduating from high school, before heading off to college. My current job is safe and predictable with lots of time to train. But it’s also not pushing me at all and all of the lovely design and web design skills that I’m about to pay a fortune in student loans for are going to waste. So, it’s time to move on to the big-girl job and say good-bye.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. I’ll try to be more entertaining next time! 🙂

Big news

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As some of you know, I’ve been going up to Seattle for job searching and finally have an offer. Starting on July 14th, I will be the new Graphic Designer for a company that makes educational software for kids. They are pretty small and fairly new. This means that my design work will have a huge impact on the direction of their business and there’s a likely possibility I’ll end up managing the “design department” even if that’s just me an another designer or two.

I’m super excited about moving up to Seattle so I can hang out with my pals up there and so that T. can return to school and finish up his degree already! (Seriously, we need to buy the house for him to put all this interior design schoolin’ to some use!) 😀

My Seattle peeps

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So, I had another “weekend” (in my world this means Sunday-Tuesday morning) up in Seattle. I promise to post more on that soon, but I wanted to take a moment to give a quick shout out to my cross-country Seattle girls, Ms. Cyclone and M. These are friends that I had in New York, who both moved to Seattle a little over a year ago and it’s been really great having them on the Left Coast and relatively close by. They are the kind of friends where we tease each other mercilessly, but when it comes down to it I know they have my back and vice versa.

After finishing up my agenda items, I found myself with pretty much the whole day to play and relatively nice weather to do it. So, I shanghai-ed M into going to Green Lake for a run (for me) and a walk/read for her. I’m not the hugest fan of Green Lake for running, as it tends to always be pretty crowded, but for convenience factor it can’t be beat. M and I walked together for a while as a warm up and then I started my run. It wasn’t a great run, for some reason I was plagued with side-stitches pretty much the whole way, but there were some fun highlights including a little girl on her bike REFUSING to let me pass her – I had to seriously sprint it out with her before I could get past. I think we’re looking at a future world champion of something there!

After Cramp-run ’08, we hit Jamba Juice and back to M’s place for a little shower/change of clothes and then headed over to Ballard for some window-shopping and hanging out. Ballard has changed a ton since I lived in Seattle in the early ’90’s and I always find it so amusing to see how “hip” it’s become. (Back in the mid-90’s it was pretty much old people and actors living over there… ) I took a few pics of amusing things seen while walking in Ballard. Apparently, there’s quite a crime spree going on in Ballard, as someone apparently stole an old rusty arrow off of the sign at the Olympic Health Club sign that they were planning to restore and then there was this graffiti (those darn kids!) I really like that it’s in chalk…

This was the door of this weird little place where they gave cooking classes and you could host dinner parties amidst very tired looking period furniture…

We stopped in at Archie McPhee, where M pondered if she should trade in her camera for something more portable. (It’s a seriously awesome store, if you like silly little gee-gaws… )

Then it was time for a little snack to tide us over until we met Ms. Cyclone for dinner, so we headed up to Cupcake Royale. (I don’t know that it was as good as Saint Cupcake, especially since they didn’t have the mini cupcakes, so I only felt right ordering a single cupcake, but it was still pretty tasty… ) I had a red velvet cupcake that M pronounced “disgusting” (her customary response to pretty much anything I order… ) but then tried a bite and upgraded it to “okay” status. 🙂

Being that M is a brilliant photographer, she was inspired to photograph cupcake and wrapper. I love watching her photograph things, because generally what I imagine her picture is going to look like is a far cry from the beautiful images she’s able to produce. It’s like watching magic happen. Naturally, I had to try to mess up her concentration by capturing her with my crappy digital camera:

She’s a good sport. (For a little while anyway… )

We then headed over to meet Ms. Cyclone for dinner with plans to see the Sex and the City movie afterward. We met up at the McMenamins in Lower Queen Anne and learned that we’d also have Shelly, a friend of Ms. Cyclone who’d joined us for the evening on our last camping trip along for the festivities. It was great to get to hang out with her, as I’d really enjoyed chatting with her while camping. After some burgers, we headed over to the theater. Unfortunately, it turned out to be this weird bar-theatre that only had a limited number of seats and was completely sold out. Obviously, not what we were expecting on a Monday night three weeks after the show’s opening. After a brief scramble to see what other theaters were showing it and realizing that all of them were at ten o clock, we switched gears and headed over to Ms. Cyclone’s cute studio apartment for some wine drinking and girl talk.

On the way there, Ms. Cyclone warned us that her place was a bit of a mess, as she’s been traveling for work and hadn’t even had a chance to make her bed. Ordinarily, I’d be totally understanding and would never even think of taking a picture of said unmade bed and posting it on my blog. However, this is what she was referring to as an “unmade bed”:

I don’t know about y’all – but in my house that’s a MADE bed. 🙂 Ms. Cyclone was none too pleased with my photographing her scandalously unmade bed, so I captured these very amusing photos:

But finally, order was restored and here is a photo of the usual state of Ms. Cyclone’s bed:

(Sorry, Ms. C – it was too hilarious not to share with the group. You know I tease out of love!)

Afterward, it was a really enjoyable evening of yummy wine and good conversation. I don’t think I ever laugh as often or as hard as I do with this group. Which is never a bad thing. Ms. Cyclone just got a promotion and will be moving down to California, where she’ll get to rejoin Mr. Cyclone and potentially buy a house. I’m really excited for her and am hard-pressed to think of anyone who deserves it more. I’m very sad to see her go, but I know it’s what she wants and as such I am very happy for her.

So, here’s to the Seattle ladies – M, thanks for letting me crash on your couch and torture your felines, not to mention all of the early morning coffee making! And Ms. Cyclone, thanks for the excellent advice, the pep talks when I need them and all of that delightful wine. You bitches rock! 😀

Scouting the course, 3 Stooges style…

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While I was up in Seattle, I had the opportunity to scout the Lake Stevens course, which is coming up in three short weeks. My friend M was kind enough to accompany me for this outing and the weather was absolutely beautiful, so I was looking forward to a fun day. I’ve been a little nervous about this course since the elevation profile of the bike course looks like this:

Hills aren’t exactly my strong suit and this looked like it had some doozies! (It’s a two loop course, so it’s the same hill twice… )

Because most of the races I’ve done are either in parks or very well publicized sections of major cities, I didn’t really think it would be hard to find the race site. So, I took a quick look at Google maps and we hit the road, armed with a copy of the bike course map as our only real map of the area:

As you can see, it’s very detailed… 🙂

As it so happens, Lake Stevens isn’t really a park so much as a small town next to Everett, WA. And with the exception of two public parks, the lake is bordered by a bunch of privately owned docks and houses. Since our very excellent map didn’t have the name of the park marked on it (nor did I think to look it up, since I’d assumed it would be self-explanatory) we weren’t really sure where the starting point was. We’d driven in, sort of at random and followed the lake around, eventually landing at a little park in the “downtown” Lake Stevens area. I didn’t walk down to the water, but it looked like it was much too small for a triathlon and the street it was on didn’t appear on our map, so we decided to keep going.

Circling the lake and turning into various access points didn’t seem to be working, but then I got the bright idea to look at the run course map, which would have more streets around the transition area on it. So we found one of the roads on that and followed it along… right to the park that we’d started at. D’oh! While I changed into my bike clothes, M went into the town hall (conveniently located right next to the public restrooms) and double checked that this was in fact the right spot, which it was.

M had brought her bike along also, but our extensive circling of the lake showed no really good areas for her to ride, so she set off with her camera and a good book to find something to do while I rode and I headed out onto the bike course. It all started well enough, but my first left was onto a fairly busy highway, which I thought was a little odd, but the race starts at 6:30 in the morning, so maybe it was better then. It had a nice wide shoulder, but a lot of big trucks, so it kind of sucked. Then the next turn was an even bigger highway… hmmm… this doesn’t seem right, better check the map. Nope, I’m definitely not on the course. Luckily, there was a sign directing me back to Lake Stevens and thanks to our earlier circling of the lake, I knew exactly how to get back into town.

I called M to tell her what happened and make sure she was cool with hanging out while I went back out and tried to figure out where I went wrong. Turns out, I made a left instead of a right pretty much right away and was doomed from the start, but my misadventure had a great up-side because this time around I noticed a really great bike path that would be perfect for M to ride her bike on. So, I called her again and had her bring the car down to meet me, so that I could help assemble her bike (we’d had to take it apart to get it into the backseat of my Saturn and she’s only had it for a week… ) So, we both set out on our respective rides, enjoying the bright sunshine.

For the record, the correct route is MUCH nicer than my first attempt and is very pretty. There were a few trucks on the road because of a construction site, but they were few and far between and shouldn’t be an issue on a Sunday morning. The hills were no where near as bad as they look on the elevation chart, even after racing yesterday, so I felt much better about the race. I decided to just ride the hilly part and then turn around, rather than doing the whole loop, as I was getting hungry and didn’t want to be driving back to Seattle too late in the day. It was actually a good idea, because I got a second look at the hills and got a better idea of how much of an uphill there was on some of the flat sections.

I met up with M and we decided to head into town for some lunch. We’d seen a place by the park that both of us were intrigued by:

I mean, come on – who doesn’t love a chicken drive in? It turned out to be a walk/drive-up restaurant with no tables, so we figured we’d eat in the park. While we were waiting, we noticed the awesome special they had on the board:

Mmmm… taco shells. Made by ho’s. Get it, ho-made? (I also really like the idea of eating taco shells for lunch.) I also snapped this picture of M, while I was taking a picture of the restaurant. Isn’t she so cute?

(I was trying to take a picture of her taking a picture of the homade special, but my camera is too slow… ) After getting our cheeseburger/french fries (presumably not made by ho’s) we headed back to the park for a nice lunch. This is the view from our table:

My totally unhealthy but very delicious lunch:

And my delightful company:

We had a great day and I’m really looking forward to coming back in three weeks. (Especially to the post-race milkshake I’ve got my eye on!) Many thanks to M for making what could have been a really frustrating day so much fun.

Now, that’s more like it!

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I saw that T posted my results in the comments section of my last post, but I figure I’ll post a little side by side comparison as a good intro to bragging that I knocked 30 MINUTES off of last year’s time – oh yeah!

Overall time – 2007: 3:46:03 / 2008: 3:16:22
Swim time – 2007: 0:43:46 / 2008: 0:37:04
1st transition – 2007: 5:17 / 2008: 4:54
Bike time – 2007: 1:35:40 / 2008: 1:20:53
2nd transition – 2007: 3:50 / 2008: 3:43
Run time – 2007: 1:17:29 / 2008: 1:09:41

So, needless to say it was a much better race than last year. There’s still some stuff I’d like to improve upon, but I’m very, VERY pleased with the results. T also gets points for being best sherpa ever! I rousted him at 5:30 am so that we could leave by 6 (I like getting there super early… )

Before the race, I was pretty nervous and spent a lot of time fiddling around setting up my transition area and visiting the bathroom 47 times. (I know, more than you probably wanted to know… ) But before I knew it, the time had flown by and it was time to get into the wetsuit and line up with the rest of my wave:

Ah, flattering wetsuit. Our wave was the third one, after the elites and the 30-39 year old men.

I actually lined up pretty well this time, but still had a pack of crazy swimmers diagonal into my line. I managed to get though that (apologies to the girl I accidentally punched in the stomach… ) and back into some clear water. It was a much better swim than Hagg Lake (partly because it’s shorter) but also I was better at staying on course. I managed to stay with the back of my group and even passed some folks. And unlike last year I only saw the caps from the wave behind mine and the very speedy swimmers from the next wave.

Here’s me coming out of the swim (note the other yellow cap in the shot!)

There’s a ridiculously long run up to the transition area, during which I had plenty of time to think about how I’d really like a little nap instead of getting on my bike. Another first for me, other bikes still on the rack – in fact I ran past my rack to the empty one behind it, because I’m so used to finding my bike that way! It took me forever because I needed to put a jacket and some gloves on so that I didn’t freeze my ass off, but I managed to get on the bike and get going.

My pacing plan for the bike was to go “one click past comfortable” and push the pace just a little bit, which worked pretty well. I managed to pass some people and get passed by a bunch of others. The bike course is really flat and gets pretty congested with everyone out on the course at the same time. I didn’t see too much cheating, though there were some folks that were definitely pushing it.

Here’s me coming in from the bike:



I was so happy because this is what I was looking at on my bike computer – a ride time of 1:21, a much better bike split than usual:
Then it was time for the run, which was probably the roughest part of the race. My feet were numb coming off the bike, I’m assuming because of the cold and it just took a while to get into the rhythm. (I need new laces for my shoes… ) I’m not a huge fan of photos of myself while running, but this one isn’t too bad:

Around mile 2 I started to feel okay again and was able to pick up the pace and start passing a few people. I was doing fine until I started getting side stitches around mile 6. Then I got this really awful cramp, that felt like one of those chest exploding things in the movie Aliens, which I dubbed “alien baby” and I actually had to walk for a minute – which sucked because I literally had .2 miles left and all of the people I’d diligently worked to pass were now flying past me. Grrrrr! T ran alongside me shouting encouragement while I swore at the alien baby. I finally managed to grit my way through the last little bit and across the finish line.
I didn’t know my exact time, because I’d forgotten to start my watch but even just estimating based on my wave start time, I knew I’d broken 3 hours and 20 minutes and was so overwhelmed and proud of myself, I cried for the second time at Blue Lake’s finish line. Here’s a picture of myself and my amazing race support T:

I couldn’t have done this without him. Not only is he a fantastic cheerleader, but he puts up with my training and it’s aftermath and helps kick my butt out of bed when I need him to. I probably don’t thank him often enough, so just in case – THANK YOU!
After the race, I got to say hi to my friend Erika from Tri-Camp. She had a booth at the expo for her fantastic company TriBabe. (If you need sporty cute clothes, definitely check her out!) She was so sweet and congratulatory (is that a word?) and it was nice to see her again. Her husband Bill also did the race, after doing Alcatraz last weekend, so he gets super-stud points from me! After a little post-race food, we packed up my crap and headed to the car. T snapped this picture of me still grinning from my success: (This is probably one of the only pictures of me post-race that I’ve liked.)

We then hurried home for a quick shower and then off to meet my parents for a Father’s Day brunch at Jam. It was great to see my folks and have a nice breakfast with them. The clouds had burned off and the weather was gorgeous. So we had some great food and caught up with each other, which was nice. Then I had to hit the road and drive up to Seattle. Busy, busy, day!

Pre-race jitters

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So, tomorrow is my first race of the season and as much as I keep telling myself that this is a “B race” (a lower priority race in the training plan) and I’m just doing it as a preparation for the big dance at Lake Stevens in three weeks, I’m a little nervous about it. I think it’s mostly because I did this event last year and had a terrible race. The weather was gray and drizzly, which didn’t help. But I certainly did my part.

I kicked things off by deciding to wear my brand new wetsuit for the first time (turns out it was too small) – huge rookie mistake. It was like swimming in a corset. Every three strokes I’d have to stop and pant for a bit, which made my goggles fog up. Rinse and repeat. As you can imagine, this did not set me up for success in the other two events. As I wheezed my way onto the bike, the remaining five people who hadn’t passed me in the swim got their chance on the bike. Then leaving onto the run, I managed to stay in front of this other guy, who eventually passed me so that I could see that he was 77. And passing me.

I ended up being third from last and bursting into tears after I crossed the finish line, totally humiliated by how badly I’d done. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been training and I had a half-ironman in three weeks (sound familiar?) That race was supposed to build up my confidence and instead it completely shattered it, which is what I think is triggering my nerves today. So, I’m using this blog for a little free therapy and self-confidence boosting.

This year’s training has been much better than last year, both in consistency and the amount of training I’ve put in. I’m better prepared than I was last year and I’m much more capable than I give myself credit for. But I have always had a mental block when it comes to actually racing. I always seem to be holding myself back and am a little scared that I won’t be able to finish if I go too hard. So, here are my goals for this year:

Push myself harder and actually race – push harder on the swim and the bike, then run the whole thing. This race is half the distance of Lake Stevens, so there’s no reason to worry that I can’t do the distance, even while pushing the pace.

Beat last year’s times. (Preferably by A LOT!) Here’s what I’m up against:

Overall time: 3:46:03
Swim time: 0:43:46
1st transition: 5:17
Bike time: 1:35:40
2nd transition: 3:50
Run time: 1:17:29

There is lot’s of room to improve. I want to go under 3 and a half hours, by as much as I can. I know that’s not fast in the grand scheme of things, but it will prove to me that I can put all of the hard work to use in a race day situation, which will be a huge hurdle to overcome. Win or lose, I’ll post a race report tomorrow and see if I can get sleepy T to take some pictures that I’d be willing to show people (didn’t happen last year – yikes!)

Happy Saturday everyone!