Chris King Gourmet Century

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About a month ago, a friend and former co-worker of T’s reached out to us about doing this ride with him. A friend of his had dropped out, leaving him with an extra ticket. He was willing to give T or I that ticket, basically making it half price for the other to buy a ticket, which, given how expensive this ride is, was very generous of him. It’s been a while since we’ve ridden with Luke and he’s an absolute monster on the bike.

My previous ride experience with he and T always resulted in the two of them riding ahead and waiting for me at various points in the ride to catch up. I had no belief that today was going to be any different, with the exception of there being aid stations for them to wait at and it perhaps being a shorter wait time.

We had to get up absurdly early to meet Luke and carpool out to McMinnville, where the ride was held. After checking in and registration, we had a quick breakfast and a little more coffee. The SWAG on this ride was pretty good – a cute t-shirt, a bike bottle and a musette bag. (The bike geek in me was most excited about this.)

Then it was time to get ready to hit the road. In an unfortunate bit of poor planning, I forgot to bring my arm warmers or anything other than shorts and a short-sleeved jersey. (I also managed to forget to bring socks with me.) Luckily, Luke had an extra pair of clean socks and I’d happened to put a long-sleeved cotton shirt in my bag, so I was able to cobble together some warmer clothes. Here are the boys finishing the last touches of pre-ride prep:

We set out at a nice, easy pace. Everyone was in warm-up mode, so I assumed it would pick up as we went along. Luke talked some smack to me and earned himself a little showing off of how quickly I can accelerate on the new bike, but by and large the first section was at a nice reasonable pace. We got to the first aid station to be greeted with delicious butter-laden cookies:

The aid station was in a park, complete with restrooms and a playground. I successfully taunted the boys into the see-saw and took some pictures:

Enough of this silliness, it’s time to hit the road again! Luke was having issues with his back, so we stopped on the road to stretch a bit. I appreciated this, because it gave me a chance to take some pictures of the pretty scenery.

T is unamused by my antics:

But I’m amused enough for the both of us:

Finally, Luke finished stretching out the back and we were back on the road. The next section was a little more rolling, but I was still keeping up with the boys without much difficulty. We stopped at the second aid station for some lunch (very lovely tuna or eggplant sandwiches with roasted veggies. I should have gotten a picture before I devoured it, but c’est la vie… ) While at the aid station, I spotted this crazy bike:

I really wanted to get a picture of the dude it belonged to, but couldn’t think of a discrete way to pull it off. He was tall and with a pretty short torso, so I guess this build makes sense – but it still looks crazy.

The next section contained the most significant climb on the route, (one described by Luke as “crazy”, so I was a little scared.) Luke pulled off to stretch again before the climb to minimize potential leg cramping. I took the opportunity to take more pictures:

The hill was no joke, but I managed to climb the whole thing. As expected the boys passed me and went flying up it. A pair of roadies also passed me, but I was okay with that. I did see a few folks stopped on the side of the road resting and no one else passed me, so I was pretty happy about that. And the boys didn’t have to wait too long for me at the top, so I counted it as a success. After the climb, we were treated to a fun, twisty descent that felt like the Tour de France – especially with the lack of cars. When we regrouped at the bottom of the hill, this double-decker wine bus came around the corner:

The boys waiting impatiently to be off again:

I was feeling the effects of all of the coffee I’d drunk earlier in the morning and had quite the caffeine headache. Luckily, we rolled through an intersection that had a market on the corner with a coke machine, so I made the boys pull over. Next to the blessed coke machine was this hilarious sign:

Ummm… as opposed to?

The climb energized Luke and he and T attacked the rollers leading to the third aid station, which was at a winery. We didn’t partake of the wine, but T and I did enjoy the panna-cotta and fruit served on top of a lemon cookie. Yum. Luke was being good and skipped it. We realized that we were going to have to pick up the pace to make our early dinner seating (thanks Luke!) so we headed out.

For most of the ride, there would be a variety of paces and folks would fall back and catch back up. T had been hammering the rollers pretty hard, so when he fell back initially I didn’t think too much of it. Especially when he caught back up going up a hill. But then he fell behind and stayed behind. I let Luke go ahead and sat up to wait for him. I asked him how he was and he responded with an uncharacteristic “I’m done.” Unfortunately, we still had about 15 miles to ride, so that wasn’t an option.

Luke waited for us to catch up and gave T one of his packets of Cliff shots, to see if that perked him up any. It didn’t. We headed out again and Luke went on ahead to chat with a female rider that was passing us and I opted to stay with T. (He’s stayed with me on so many rides, it was the least I could do!) I tried to keep his spirits up and even rode in front for him to draft off of when we hit a headwind. We opted to skip the last aid station, where Luke was waiting for us.

By this time the sun had come out, so I offered T a chance to rest for a second while I took pictures. It also gave Luke a chance to catch up:

Pretty, pretty scenery:

Luke was now experiencing leg cramps and we stopped one last time for him to stretch them out. I teased the boys that their new nicknames were “Crampy” and “Bonk” (and was very pleased that I felt fine!) We hobbled our way through the last part of the ride, making it back with fifteen minutes to spare.

We changed clothes and cleaned up as best we could. There was a cash bar with wine/beer (which I must confess annoyed me, given the ride’s price tag) and I grabbed a glass of white wine while the boys opted for beer. There were various appetizers being circulated and we chatted with a few other riders while we waited for dinner. It had a nice “cocktail party” atmosphere, which was fun.

Then they opened the doors for dinner and the feeding frenzy began. There were tons of appetizers/salads to start as well as some delicious oysters on the half-shell:

These were so good, it was hard to save room for the actual dinner – pan-roasted chicken, potatoes, veggie custard and some kind of sauce. I ate way too much food, per usual and didn’t even have room for dessert. All in all, it was really fun, but I’m not sure I’d pay full price for it next year.

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The menagerie next door

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T and I came down to Portland for a very short visit to join an old friend on an organized bike ride. Unfortunately, my plan to work remotely from my family’s house coincided with a web launch deadline getting moved up by a week, so it was a little stressful trying to get the website up and running from my parent’s family room. Thankfully, the hub-bub died down a little bit by late afternoon and I could join my youngest brother, who was feeding the neighbor’s ducks while they were out of town – including a new batch of baby ducks.

My parents live in a rural area of Oregon City and they have a collection of unusual neighbors. There’s the guy to the left who collects vintage tractors and to the right are the neighbors we’d be visiting today, who rescue cats and have a number of ducks in a pen. There apparently was a raccoon attack on the duck pen a few weeks ago and they lost a bunch. But a few weeks ago, they had a new batch of babies and now another batch, so the duck population is coming in strong.

But on our way to the duck pen, we were greeted by my parent’s pug Jasmine’s new best friend, a pretty cat named Grayson:

He likes to follow Jasmine around and play with her leash or rub up against her. It’s pretty adorable. (I was unable to get any pictures of these interactions, but trust me – it’s pretty ridiculous.) Speaking of ridiculous levels of adorable, let’s get to the baby ducks!

(The larger ones were babies last week… )

They didn’t like me getting too close, so I kept my distance. We also met a few more of the cats, including this friendly fellow:

Jasmine was unamused at being left out of all of the festivities and fussed at us from her dog run:

Nothing like some cute baby animals and kitty-cat love to restore your mood after a tough work day.

Jinxed!

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So, this week has been rough going. There are some rumblings around my office that our company is about to be acquired. The uncertainty that this creates just makes everything a little nerve-wracking, especially with me being the primary breadwinner in the family right now. Add to that the fact that I’m transitioning back to a regular training schedule, it’s just been a tough week. I managed to put together a plan for my last big race and even got some workouts in, but everything feels “off.” The final straw was motivating myself to go swim on Friday evening, only to be greeted by a swim meet that meant no lap swim hours at the pool. Boo!

But yesterday morning, it was back in the saddle and over to the east side of Lake Washington for some nice country road riding. T & I are doing a metric century next weekend (that’s 63 miles for the non-metric folk) and I wanted to get a longer ride in to prepare for it. I’d plotted out a lovely 50 mile route for T and I, with M leaving from the same place but doing a shorter 30 mile route on the multi-use paths. It was a lovely day and everyone was in high spirits as we set out:

After riding a brief warm-up with M to show her our proposed post-ride meeting spot, we parted ways. No more than ten minutes after we started riding, I hear this loud noise behind me. T had blown a tire. It was the first time I’d ever been so close to a blow-out and I was surprised by how loud it was. Luckily, T is an expert tire changer so he settled in to start fixing it while I texted M and took his photo to amuse myself:

While I was waiting I noticed this sign:

Very suspicious. T has a blow out right next to a glass place… Clever viral marketing campaign or coincidence, you decide!

But T had the tire fixed pretty quickly and we were back on the road. Despite having a cue sheet and checking it a number of times, I still managed to get us lost and we ended up dead-ending into a road that I knew to have a crazy steep, twisty descent on crappy pavement with lots of traffic but would take us down to the road that would get us back on course. I told T about it and was treated to his “I’m sure *you* think it’s bad, but it’s probably fine” expression.

The descent was every bit as bad as I remembered and as I made the final sharp right off of it and onto the course once again, I hear my name being shouted by T and pulled over to see him gesture that he’d gotten ANOTHER flat. I gave him my spare tube (the last one we had with us) and we crossed the street to a shady spot for him to change it. I shared my handy tip about patching a tire with a dollar bill or gel wrapper, that I’d gleaned from the internet. And again, I amused myself by taking pictures:

At least the scenery was pretty!

I was also vindicated by T admitting that the hill we’d just descended was really scary. (And admitting that he’d thought exactly what I said above.) Woo! 😉 So, at this point, we have no spare tubes and are in the middle of nowhere. We have the option of riding to another road to climb back to the meeting sport or head out to Carnation on the flat roads and have M pick us up there. The advantage of the second plan is that we were closer to Carnation and on flatter roads, so we had less time on the road with our current luck, so that’s what we decided to do.

We made it back on course eventually and had a pretty nice ride, all things considered. We saw a group of fancy sports cars speeding down the road toward us, which was pretty cool. It was fun to ride with T and have someone to enjoy the scenery with and we ended up getting 32 miles done in 2 hours, which I’m happy with. We called M from the road and agreed to meet up in at the Starbucks in Carnation. While we were waiting for her, we saw this spectacle. You know you’re in the country when…

Hopefully, this week will go better. Fingers crossed!

Are we having fun yet?

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So, the race photos from Seafair were finally posted and as expected, they are awesome. (More in the ironic sense of that word, but whatever.) Let’s start with some traumatic swim photos:

(Mine should have a speech bubble that says “Stupid swim. I hate you so much!”) Then it’s on to the bike, where I look like my mood clearly hasn’t improved much:

Well, that’s at the beginning – surely it will get better as the race goes along. Right?

Okay, maybe not on the bike, but now that you’re on the last leg…

Nope! All right, I knew mine weren’t going to be very cheery, but I’m sure T has some happy pics:

Maybe not… Okay, M had a kick-ass race, surely she’ll be crazy smiley…

Or not. So, apparently the race photographers are frown-inducing or have bad timing or we’re all just crazy serious racers. Who knows?

Seafair Tri: race report

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Another way too early race morning after a terrible night’s sleep. I’ve since learned that I never sleep well the night before a race, so I just focus on getting good night’s sleep the two days prior and not sweat it so much. Thanks to yesterday’s prep work, including packing the car last night, it was a relatively smooth process getting out the door. I think we hit every red light possible between our house and the race site, but made it there a little after 6, giving us tons of time before our race starts of 7:30/35. (The biggest downside of turning 40 so far has been my wave assignments this year, both Pacific Crest and Seafair have me starting in the later waves, which sucks.) We did the body mark ourselves routine to avoid that line and went to find our spots.

It was total pandemonium in the transition area, not helped by the idiot announcer saying they were closing the transition area at 6:30 – a full fifteen minutes earlier than the posted/equally absurd 6:45. (Allow me a short rant: if your race has waves that span up to an hour, it is already unfair to the later racers to kick them out of the transition area up to an hour and fifteen minutes before their wave goes off. Don’t cut another 15 minutes off of the time frame and send everyone into a frenzy. I’m sorry if the elites have to potentially deal with someone getting in their way in transition. Guess what? They are going to have to deal with it on the second transition and I’m going to have to deal with it in all three transitions. It happens. Thanks, I feel better now!) But right from the start, this race had a totally different vibe from my fond memories of last year, from the weather to the announcer.

Usually, I like to walk from my spot to the entrances/exits and count the number of racks, etc. but that was out the window this morning. T & I found spots next to each other and at the end of the rack, which was awesome. I had time to snap a couple of pre-race shots:

M & T gave me their pre-race “bad-ass” poses:

And a shout out to our poor lone spectator J, taking pre-race photos as well. (You’ll see his work a little later on… ) It sucks getting up early to stand around for a few hours watching other people exercise.

Then it was time to head down to the start and see M off. J got a good shot of her wave lining up:

(I think M is the swimmer in the blue goggles at the far left of the photo, right next to the wooden piling, but I’m not sure… )

After watching her get off to what looked  like a great start, T & I went over to the side of the lake in an attempt to warm up, since the same idiot announce was telling people there was no warming up once the race started, despite there being a perfectly fine place to warm up in the swim area between where the race started and ended, behind a big pier. (Another rant: Really? I’m supposed to start a triathlon with no warm up and only a few minutes in the water to acclimated. F-you, Seafair announcer!) The spot we found was chock full of seaweed and not so great, so we decided to join the other rebels warming up any way, which was better. Plus, I got to see M come in from her swim at 20-ish minutes (ROCK!) J also caught this awesome picture of her finishing:

It was great to start the race knowing that she’d had a kick-ass swim. And before we knew it, T’s wave was off and I was on deck. My plan for the swim start was to line up closer to the front, in the hopes that following the fast girls would get me out of the breast-stroking madness I got caught in last year. I was really hoping for a 16 minute swim, which was well within my capabilities, based on my open water practice. Unfortunately, the chaos of the race start still got me and it was just total pandemonium. There were legs and arms everywhere and I tried to put my head down and get through it, but still found myself panicked and had to stop and breaststroke for a second to get my bearings. I got swimming again, but couldn’t find a rhythm and it just sucked. Of all of the aspects of the short-course racing, it’s probably the swim that I have the hardest time with – there’s just not enough time for me to find my groove. I need to get back to masters swimming, as that was the best thing for getting me prepped for the faster pace/feeling of being caught by other swimmers.

But I made it through and looked at my watch to see an 18 minutes had gone by. Boo! I made my way up to my transition spot, fumbled my wetsuit off, bike stuff on, grabbed Slim and hit the road. I spent the first five or so minutes of the bike lamenting my terrible swim and hating on the whole general race experience before shaking it off and focusing on catching some people on the bike. (Usually while chanting “Take that, stupid fast swimmer!” “In your face, mountain bike guy!” Nobody ever said I was a good person.) I am still waiting to see what the event photographer got, but I’m pretty sure the bike photos of me will be particularly hilarious. There was less congestion getting up the bridge than last year, which was good, but once on the bridge there were some crazy side gusts of wind that made handling a bit tricky and kept me from going quite as fast as I was hoping for. I still passed a ton of people and for the most part, they didn’t pass me back. My second mini goal for the race was to break 40 minutes on the bike, which was looking tantalizingly possible for a little while.

As I got closer to the end of the bike, I realized that I wasn’t going to break 40 minutes, which bummed me out a little bit. But the nice thing about triathlon is that you don’t have time to brood on it because it’s time to get to the next thing. It was the usual chaos at the dismount line, with one person falling over just before I got there and another woman managing to take up the whole thing with the world’s slowest dismount. I put my patience hat on and tried to get through it as best I could, then ran like hell to my spot to make up some of the time. I fumbled a bit on the second transition, which I’m blaming on the fact that my feet were numb from being wet and cold on the bike. (Gotta love Seattle!) But I finally got changed and booked it for the run start.

Right out of the gate, I heard my name and saw a tri-friend JenHS yelling at me to “Pick it up! Go faster! MOVE!” which was hilarious. It made my desire to barf and the numb feet much more tolerable. Thanks to all of the brick practices, I knew I just had to get through the initial five minutes of suck and that it would get better. So, I just focused on standing up straight and keeping my cadence (the number of times my feet leave the ground) nice and high. I saw a woman in front of me that seemed to be running the same pace and focused on staying with her. Before I knew it, I was passing her. So, I kept picking off people and keeping myself entertained with various running styles and states of agony of my fellow competitors.

I got to the horrid hill just before the second mile marker and it was just as bad as I remembered, at least this time I was expecting it and did a few speed walk breaks at the steeper places that were sending my calves into a cramping frenzy. I ran on the flatter sections of the hill and then hammered back down and pushed the pace for the last mile. I was very pleased with my run leg, I felt like I paced it well and pushed hard, which is always a problem for me. I knew that I wasn’t going to get the 1:30 finish that I wanted, but a “sub-1:35” was within reach. I also hadn’t seen T at all during the race, so I knew he’d definitely won the smackdown, but didn’t know by how much.

Coming into the final home stretch, I could see T, M & J but knew if I was going to get my sub-1:35 I was going to have to sprint it out, so I focused on the finish line and ran as hard as I could. M caught some pictures of my finish:

You think you’re going to catch me, Blue Shirt? Think again!


M also caught pictures of T on his way to an awesome 1:30:30!

Is he smiling? Looks like he should have been running harder!

And here’s Ms. M on her way to decimating last year’s times, including a 28 minute run leg:

And her triumphant post-race photo:

Here are the actual splits:

My results:
Swim: 18:28 (41 seconds faster than last year)
T1: 2:47 (4 seconds faster than last year)
Bike: 41:15 (3 minutes, 41 seconds faster than last year)
T2: 2:18 (36 seconds slower than last year)
Run: 29:58 (55 seconds faster than last year)
Overall: 1:34:47 (4 minutes, 43 seconds faster than last year)

T’s results:
Swim: 18:48
T1: 3:00
Bike: 37:35
T2: 2:06
Run: 28:58
Overall: 1:30:28

M’s results:
Swim: 21:19 (4 minutes, 57  seconds faster than last year)
T1: 2:34 (31 seconds faster than last year)
Bike: 45:12 (2 minutes, 25 seconds faster than last year)
T2: 1:30 (19 seconds faster than last year)
Run: 28:59 (1 minute, 33 seconds faster than last year)
Overall: 1:39:34 (9 minutes, 42 seconds faster than last year)

So, it was a good day for our group. I must confess the hardest part of the whole smackdown wasn’t that I didn’t beat T, it’s that I’ve trained so much harder than he has. It’s a little hard to take. I’m choosing to focus on the fact that nearly all of my training is for longer races and had this been twice as long, I’d have mopped the floor with him! Luckily, it will be a while yet before he works up to the longer distances to challenge that, so I can cling to my delusions a little longer. I’ll post some of the official race photos if there are any worth sharing when they put them up. Until then, I’m going to lay on the couch. Chao!

Smackdown!

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Tomorrow marks T’s first triathlon since 2006. He hasn’t really been able to train too much since school has kept him hopping this year, but naturally he wants to magically PR (which isn’t going to happen – his PR is crazy fast.) and kick ass. I’ve been trying to stress that he should use this race as a test to see where he is and to set goals for his “A race” at Grand Columbian in September. I suspect all of this is falling on deaf ears though because I start in the wave five minutes after him and a bit of a showdown is brewing.

T’s goal is to stay ahead of me the whole time. My goal is to catch him on the swim, hold him off on the bike for as long as I can and then pass him on the run. In reality, I don’t know that I can do any of those things, but it will be fun to try and help motivate me to go as fast as possible. I’ve never raced a sprint all out before and I’m looking forward to it (as much as you can look forward to something that hurts so much… )

Here’s the official pre-race smackdown photo:

And yes, that’s a Nuun sticker T is wearing. He’s a corporate shill:

M is also racing tomorrow (She starts a safe 30 minutes ahead of T, so she doesn’t have to mix it up with the likes of us.) I believe she is on track to beat last year’s time. She, of course, doesn’t believe that she can, so more so than usual I really want to be proven right. She was super psyched to race about 2-3 weeks ago and now isn’t feeling the love. Hopefully, we can figure out a way to get the timing down so that the “psyched to race” feeling can coincide with actual racing. But we still managed to have some laughs goofing around at the expo:

After packet pick up, we had some odds and ends to take care of. T had made pancakes for breakfast, with a big stack of extras for tomorrow morning:

Smokey Joe was very disappointed that he didn’t get any pancakes…

I gave Slim a good cleaning so he’d look good tomorrow morning. (Everyone knows clean bikes go faster!) Here he is posing in the driveway:

(Such a handsome devil!) So, a lot brewing for tomorrow. I’m hoping that everyone has a fun and a good race. Worst case scenario, there will be brunch! I, of course, will have a full report of the race day hi jinks, regardless of outcome.

Speedy weekend

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The race prep continued this weekend. On Saturday, M & I did a nice 16 tempo ride on the Burke Gilman, followed by a tasty snack at Metro Market. The nice thing about shorter races is that you can have your long ride done in an hour and fifteen minutes. That’s pretty sweet. And it left me the rest of Saturday to do laundry and take care of T, who’s cold returned with a vengeance and had him napping all day long.

Sunday reminded me of the hard part of shorter races when we did race pace brick intervals. It was M & I doing the intervals, with T on bike watching duty so that he wouldn’t relapse. (His new training plan is “get healthy for Sunday.”) The goal was 3 sets of 20 minutes bike/10 minute run at or slightly above our desired race goal pace. We’d initially planned to do these early in the morning, but got lulled into a false sense of security with gray and cloudy weather. Naturally, the weather burned off right at the time we were heading out and was gorgeous and sunny when we were getting started.

So, when we headed out for Brick #1, there were tons of folks on the path and it was very nerve-wracking trying to go fast and dodge everyone. I tried to pretend these were the legions of slower people I’d be passing in the race, but it was hard when the other racers were small children on bicycles or teenage boys on skateboards. (These were at least amusing to me, as they ignored my initial “On your left” so I said “Move it or lose it, boys” which prompted them to at least turn around and apologize as I rode between them. It has to be a little deflating to have a woman your mom’s age giving you a hard time on a multi-use path… )

When I got back to our transition area, M was laying on the grass next to T. I gave her a hard time about not practicing her transition while hustling into my shoes and then she headed out with me. It turned out that she’d turned around early on her bike interval out of frustration with all the stupid people on the trail. Trying to run fast after riding fast hurts. A lot. But we managed a negative split, getting back to the finish about fifteen seconds faster than we went out, which was pretty cool even if I wanted to die too much to enjoy it in the moment. Then I laid in the grass and panted for a while. Seriously, going fast HURTS!

Then it was time for round two. In trying to calculate how far we’d run using my bike computer, I managed to forget what time I started which meant I had no idea when I should turn around. I ended up picking an arbitrary spot that looked about like where I’d turned around the first time and just re-set the computer from there. The trail was still crowded and toward the end it was getting harder and harder to deal with, culminating in two douchebag roadies that either on purpose or inadvertently wouldn’t let me pass them. So the last five minutes was constrained to 17 mph, two mph slower than I wanted to go. Grrrr…

My irritation with the roadies at least spurred me to a quick transition and run time. T told me M had left a minute earlier and that I should “Run her down” Yeah, right! As I was nearing my turnaround, I saw her running toward me. To my surprise, she turned to run back out with me and made me laugh by describing the way T made her transition and run back out instead of waiting for me to get back. Apparently, T was being hardcore today. We gutted out the last five minutes, even managing to go slightly further than we had on the first interval (I think. We used a crack in the pavement as a turnaround point and then forgot which one it was. Oh well.) After another laying in the grass recovery interval, we called the last repeat. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it physically, I just didn’t want to get in a fist-fight on the multiuse path.

We capped off our weekend with a lovely dinner of grilled pizzas in M & J’s backyard. It was a great way to end a lovely weekend.