Grown-up time

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This weekend, Heidi came up for a visit. Much has changed since her visit last year, (new house!) but the best was the ability to FaceTime with Tom & the twins. Even with the technical difficulties, (there were a number of calls where we could only see a gray screen), it was awesome for the girls to get to see their mom and vice versa. Plus, watching three year olds interact with a web-camera was so entertaining. They were either too close or not in the frame at all. At one point, Kenley put her stuffed Pooh bear up in front of the lens. It was fantastic…

Meanwhile, up in Seattle we enjoyed fun grown-up excursions, like going out for sushi on Friday night and a trip to the sculpture garden on Saturday. We also took Heidi to Staple & Fancy, a fantastic Ballard restaurant that we went to last year for T’s birthday. T had won a gift card for it at work, so we figured it would be a really fun place for Heidi to experience some of the local food scene. Naturally, we had to get dressed up:

(In one of Heidi and my patented weird similarities, we are wearing the same lip gloss. For reals… )

We had a late-ish reservation, so we got cocktails at a bar down the street. Then some more cocktails at Staple & Fancy:

Dinner was delicious. We enjoyed many different courses, each one amazing. Perhaps it was all of the cocktails, but I was very enamored of the secret ceramic cow hook on the wall above our table:

(oooooh, artsy!)

In addition to all of the gastronomic adventures, we had some great girl talk and a good time hanging out. I love getting to spend time with Heidi, it’s hard to believe we’ve been friends for nearly 20 years. And even more amazing to think of how much our lives have changed over those years.

 

 

 

Truth in advertising: Leadman Epic 125 race report

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I’m going to try (TRY) to constrain myself and not write a Russian novel. We’ll see what happens…

PRE-RACE:
M dropped me off at 0-dark-thirty to catch my bus up to the race start. (She wisely opted not to spend two hours of bus riding for the privilege of freezing her butt off and watching me swim for a few minutes/then bike away.) The bus got lost (we’d later learn that most of the buses would have this problem) and had to make a u-turn on the highway. As punishment for his lack of preparedness, the driver had to endure a bunch of Type-A triathletes giving him directions and consulting their various smart phones. So, getting on the bus at 5:30 was well worth it, as I still had plenty of time to set up and get ready, unlike the two people doing the longer race which was supposed to start in ten minutes. Whoopsie.

Artistic representation of how the race start feels…

It was very chilly and there was lots of nervous chatter as we set up our racks about what people were planning to do for the start of the bike. I was apparently the only person who wasn’t freaked out about being cold. I put the toe covers on my bike shoes and prepared some arm warmers. My reasoning was that it was only likely to be cold for the first 20 minutes, but could be very warm for the other 3+ hours…

I ran into AndyPants in the change tent, so I hung out with her while she got into her wetsuit. It was hard to leave the warm tent, but we forced ourselves. I was grateful to have she and Phil to hang out with pre-race. Joking around took away a lot of my pre-race jitters.

SWIM: (2.5K, 47:49)
It was an in-water start at a buoy maybe 300 yards away. My wave was the last of four, but there was apparently some confusion with the other waves because it was a bit of a free-for-all. There were people on the shore whose waves had already gone off, (who clearly didn’t realize how far away the buoy was), so there were people sprinting to get out to the buoy for the start. Not helping matters was the fact that the 250k racers (who had to do two laps of our course) were having to come up out of the water, around the dock and back into the water. It was chaos. Plus the water was very shallow, so as we were swimming, we’d hit our hands on the rocks at the bottom. The good news was that when we got out to the buoy we could still stand on the bottom, which made for a very relaxing way to wait for our wave to go off. Sadly, there were only about half the women that should have been there, so a number of peoples race were off to a bad start…

My start was a bit rough. My lack of swim fitness + the altitude + the adrenaline of the race start = I couldn’t catch my breath. But luckily, I could stop, stand up and gather my wits. After a few deep breaths, I was off again. The water was crystal clear and I could see the bottom for much of the swim. At one point, I saw a teeny tiny lobster (crayfish) on the bottom. There were folks around me, but nobody got in my way or jostled me. I focused on a nice steady stroke and tried not to get too distracted by all of the various things we could see on the crystal clear lake. (ooh, lava rocks! Oooh, another lobster/crayfish… )

The end of my swim matched the start. I was following the buoy line, blissfully unaware that I should have been angling to my left toward the swim exit. A nice woman in a kayak pointed me in the right direction, which was unfortunately right into the sun. Since I couldn’t see anything except for the sun, it was a bit of a mess. I also didn’t want to hit the rocks again, so I kept stopping and starting. Not my best swim ever. Good news was that the course was almost certainly short, so my time was better than I expected.

T1: (6:10)
Thanks to my decision not to change clothes, I had a pretty quick transition. A nice lady helped me out of my wetsuit and I was able to change into my gear relatively quickly, considering my frozen hands. There was an Asian family waiting for a racer the next rack over watching me, which was disconcerting (especially since transition is supposed to be for racers only) but they weren’t in my way, so I just ignored them and went on with my day.

Bike: (106K, 4:28)
I felt surprisingly good at the start of the bike. Usually I feel a bit dizzy and disoriented, but I felt great right away. I got into my aero bars and just focused on taking advantage of my legs feeling strong. I also kept on top of my eating and drinking and not surprisingly, that helped me continue feeling good. I was largely by myself, except for the faster 250k racers who would pass me every so often. It was actually nice to be around the fast people, it made me feel like a really good swimmer. 😉

There was a long section of slight uphill as we approached the mid-way point of the course. There was an aid station around mile 30 and I stopped to use the port-a-potty. A number of racers were there as I got in and I was surprised to hear how much complaining about the “climbing” there was. Since we weren’t at the actual climb yet, I felt bad for them. As for myself, I felt really good. I was a bit worried about the long climb ahead. I remembered it as being rather brutal. But as I climbed I kept waiting for that “really bad climb” that I remembered from Pacific Crest, but it never came. That was nice.

Finally I hit the long descent back into town. There was brand new pavement, which was really fun to ride on. There were some cross-winds that made it a little scary at times. I willed myself to relax and tried not to think about crashing. There was a distinct smell of smoke and a brownish tint to the air ahead, which meant the winds from the area wildfires were not in our favor. Hmmm… I came around the turn into transition to see M waiting for me, cameraphone in hand:

(I apologize to my former coach for the locked elbows… )

T2: (3:34)
I gave M the highlights as I changed into my run gear. She had me pose for a quick picture:

And then yelled at me to get moving. (Love that girl!)

“Run”: (16.5K, 2:29)
I headed out, feeling good about my race thus far. My feet and legs felt like they usually do after a long bike. I plodded along for a bit, waiting for everything to loosen up. What was different this time was my lungs. I kept having to take walk breaks to cough up a lung. It was getting a bit ridiculous and kept getting worse the more I tried to run. I stopped at the first aid station to get some water and cough for a bit. It eventually became clear that the only way to make forward progress without hacking up a lung was to walk. If I’d had more run fitness, a jog might have been possible, but c’est la vie.

The run course itself was gorgeous, but definitely tough. There were lots of rolling hills and spots where it wasn’t entire clear where I was supposed to go. But there were aid stations every mile and they had these wonderful icy cold wet towels. And potato chips. And coke. Ahhhh… So, while I was sad at how slowly I was going, I was pretty pleased at how good my stomach felt. I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on this whole nutrition situation…

I forced myself to run the last mile, smokers cough be damned, and FINALLY found myself crossing the bridge to the finish line. M was there to snap a photo:

Given my lack of swim and run training for this race, I was actually really happy with the whole experience. I felt great right away (as opposed to the post-race nausea I usually suffer from.) AndyPants was at the finish line, so M & I hung out with her for a little while. I felt so good that I was able to claim my free post-race Deschutes beer:

There was a band that was good, but a little loud for the usual post-race chit-chat. So, we only stayed for a little while before packing up and heading back to the hotel.

Final time: 7:54:56.
Despite this being one of my slower races, I was really proud of my race. The course and conditions were definitely epic and I didn’t come to this race nearly as well-prepared as I’ve been in races past. But I had fun and for the most part felt great. I definitely want to come back again for a rematch. I think I have the potential to have a really great race here. Plus, I ended up getting third in my age group (due to the fact that four of the seven people in my age group didn’t start), but it’s closer to the podium than I’ve ever been before, so I’ll take it. 🙂

Post-race:
We stopped at a Jamba Juice for a little post-race treat. M got the tiniest smoothie I’ve ever seen:

And we returned to the room for a date with the giant bathtub, followed by putting our feet up and watching The Proposal on TV.

It was a heavenly way to end a long day.

 

 

 

 

Get the lead out

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This has been a crazy summer, so I was a little shocked at how quickly this race snuck up on me. Joining me on this weekend’s festivities was M, due to a last minute work commitment for T. I was actually really happy to have an excuse for one last girl’s trip with M before she crosses that motherhood bridge, so it worked out just fine. We had originally planned to break the trip up with a stop in Salem, but upon further thought decided to just suck it up and do the whole long drive yesterday. I was sooooooo happy we did, given that we could just wake up in Bend and take care of all of my pre-race stuff in a leisurely manner.

After some Holiday Inn Express free breakfast, we headed over to packet pick-up. We were the first one’s there (it turns out they weren’t even open yet. Oops!) And I got an insane amount of free stuff:

(bike jersey, long-sleeve tech t, visor, nice bag, etc… )

We then wandered over to where the second transition area and finish line were being set up. Here’s where the magic will happen tomorrow:

The next order of business was to make the long drive up to drop my bike off at T1. It’s about an hour drive (which really gives you a context for how long I’ll be on that bike tomorrow… ) I like point to point races, but the set-up is a bit of a pain. We did get an opportunity to take pictures of the bike course, which won’t be happening tomorrow. It’s beyond gorgeous:

Much of the course is the same as Pacific Crest, which I know from experience is tough. It’s where I got my epic sunburn two years ago. I knew I had a lot more bike training this time, but I was still nervous about some of the climbing that I’d be facing.

We were starting in a different (and MUCH nicer) lake and I was sad that I hadn’t brought my wetsuit for a pre-race practice swim. The water was crystal clear and the surrounding scenery was amazing:

The boat was coming in from setting up the buoys when I snapped this picture:

The scenery was so pretty that pregnant M clambered over some rocks and balanced on a log to get a good shot. She’s such a dedicated photographer:

You can see how clear the water is behind her. And I love that the swim course was just a long straight line with tons of buoys, rather than the usual lopsided triangle with the buoys way spread out.

Once again, we were very early in our set-up so Slim was very lonely on the rack:

(It’s how he frequently looks when I get out of the water, ha ha!) Luckily, he had a nice view to look at.

We grabbed some lunch at the Red Robin in the shopping center where the packet pick-up/finish line area were. We ate outside next to a river and a multi-use path, so the people watching was sublime. The view wasn’t bad either:

We also saw these hilarious signs out on the path. What is wrong with people?

We then headed back to the hotel to rest up for a little bit. M crashed pretty hard, so I left her to chill while I went to the athlete meeting. (With all of the logistics of this race, I was VERY glad I went. Even though it was full of douchebags.) I did run into AndyPants and P, who had just driven down from Vancouver BC. They still had to go out to the lake to drop off their bikes, so I felt very sad for them and the crazy amount of driving.

Then I picked up some roast chicken, bread and salad for a nice simple pre-race meal and headed back to the room. M had taken a three hour nap while I was gone, so we were both probably going to have the same difficulty going to bed early. A glass of wine and a soak in this bad boy would certainly help me:

I had M help me put my race number tattoos on (which I really wish I had a picture of, there was lots of bracing against the bathroom counter while M pressed a wet washcloth against my arm/calf. It was awesome.) But the end result was bad-ass:

Then it was early to bed for a crazy early morning (I needed to be on the bus at 5:30 am. Oy vey!) Good night, y’all!

 

 

 

 

T kicks it

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In yet another example of T’s hilarious job, he had a work kickball tournament to go to. His team was “The Suits” (which is particularly hilarious if you know where T works… ) He didn’t have the suggested white tube socks, so we improvised with stuff from his closet:

 

It’s just too awesome. It was a lovely day, so I went along to spectate. I didn’t get a ton of pictures of the actual game, but here’s a good one of the warm-up:

 

In the end, T’s team got taken out by the Lynnwood store (who were dressed like bees. You’re welcome.), but it was fun to watch. We were supposed to go for a run after the game, but went and drank margaritas instead. Yeah!

Peachy keen

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On our way back from Coeur d’Alene, I had us stop at a huge fruit stand along I-90 that I’ve seen a million times. (Thorpe fruit stand for the locals out there.) We’re usually in that “just want to get home” mode when we pass it (or nervous about impending pass traffic jams) and have never managed to stop. While there I scored a big box of peaches for 8.95. They were hard as rocks, so I put them in the basement with plans to can them over the weekend.

What I didn’t really think through was the volume:

The peaches covered my counter and were going to require quart jars, which don’t fit in my stockpot. So, after a quick internet search and a phone call to the local True Value, I was on my way to buy a proper canning pot. Which is HUMONGOUS!

(But it does make me feel like a legit canning goddess, so that’s something.)

Thankfully, T stepped in to help me peel and slice the peaches, or I might still be working on it. Together, we peeled, sliced, cooked and ladled peaches into jars. The end result was 10 jars of delicious looking peaches:

I’m really looking forward to having these over the winter to break up the apple/pear rut we frequently find ourselves in.

 

Rocky road

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So, I’ve whined talked about the haphazard quality of my training this year enough already. Both T and I have entered the futile “trying to cram some last fitness in before the race” phase. T has drastically altered his marathon plan to a more reasonable “finish the distance uninjured” plan and is running short distances more often with some carefully selected long runs thrown into the mix. I’ve been trying to run and swim as often as I can and am hoping that all of the bike riding for RSVP translates into some kind of bike fitness. So today, while T was running his 15-miler, I was going to test out that theoretical bike fitness by doing the toughest route in my arsenal – the Cougar Mountain loop.

I’ve only written a little bit about this loop before, it’s got some crazy climbing on it and was good practice for Grand Columbian last year. Not only was this the first time doing the ride this year, it would be the first time riding it solo. I brought my new gels to try out, so I could get some more practice with them. I bid T farewell and hit the road.

The first part of the ride was nice and smooth. I felt great and the weather was perfect. When I started to approach the first big climb, I felt myself getting nervous and had to focus on calming down and finding a positive mental place. I made it up the first section of the climb in my usual fashion (panting, sweaty, cursing under my breath, and wanting to quit in about four different spots) but I made it to the top of that part. Then there is a tiny bit of flat where you think you’re done, followed by another section of climbing. I’d previously called this section the hydra, because it has three big hills on it. I think the hydra has sprouted more heads because I swear there were more hills than I remember. Or I can’t count. As I was climbing what I thought was the third hill, I stood up and worked really hard to get to the top, thinking that I’d be able to rest on the downhill. Only to see the third (and biggest) climb ahead of me. I was breathing so hard, I thought I was going to hyperventilate, so I had to stop and pant on the side of the road. Boo-urns… Okay, let’s chalk that up to bad pacing…

But now I was rattled and I let the last climb get in my head. Something that hasn’t happened in a while. There was another stop and then some walking up the hill. I’d forgotten how much that sucks and vowed not to do it any more. I also realized that one of my gel flasks that I’d thought was half full was in fact a quarter full and I was down to one gel flask. So much for testing nutrition! Throw in some getting lost and today was turning into a real comedy of errors. Awesome race prep. 😦

As I was riding on the lovely multi-use path section of the ride, there’s a sign announcing that the trail is closed ahead. Since I have no idea where I am, or how to get where I need to go save for on this path, I’m reduced to praying that the path will end after my turn. No such luck, I reach the closure with still a little ways to go. Good news: there’s a detour! Bad news: it involves riding the wrong way on the shoulder of a busy 2-lane highway. Followed by this:

Honestly, this actually made me laugh out loud. Talk about “duh!” Since I was running way later than expected and nearly out of food and water with another two hours of riding ahead of me, I made an executive decision to call the boy and change our meeting spot to a shorter ride. I was sad not to get the distance I’d originally planned on, but since the main point was to test my race nutrition, it didn’t seem sensible to buy food I wouldn’t have access to on race day, in order to ride a distance I wasn’t worried about.

It took a couple of tries to reach the boy, but “luckily” I missed a few more turns of my route, so I had plenty of chances to stop and call him. 😉 But I did finally reach him and arranged for him to meet me in Issaquah. Luckily, the last section of climbing is just long and not particularly steep. Plus it ends in the FUNNEST DESCENT EVER!!! And while I was feeling the lack of hydration and calories, my legs actually felt fine.

The best part of the decision to meet in Issaquah was the proximity to this:

Home of giant root beer floats, the perfect reward for a 15 mile run or a hot and frustrating bike ride:

So, now I’m trying to manage my expectations for Leadman. It could be a total disaster. I think, like T, I’ll have to reframe it to be more of an “experience” and just do the best I can. And look forward to tracking down a giant root beer float in Bend. 🙂

Special bonus day

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Today was supposed to be my long ride day. I am trying to hold onto to some of my riding fitness, since it’s about the only activity I’ve done with any consistency this summer. So T & I dutifully suited up and hit the road to ride a loop of the Ironman course. As we rode through downtown, I was extremely bitter about the beautiful calm lake with no wind. Why couldn’t that have been yesterday? Grr… The more I rode, the sadder I got about not getting a good long swim in while we were here. I could do one before we left in the morning, but then I’d have a gross wetsuit moldering in my trunk and it wouldn’t be relaxing. Finally, I made T pull over to look at our route and discuss the situation.

He reasonably pointed out that I was far more concerned with my swim than I was with my bike and that it would be fine to do a shorter ride and a swim instead. I felt guilty about calling the long ride, but agreed that the swim needed more work. Plus, I’d feel a lot better about Leadman if I could do an hour of uninterrupted open water swimming, rather than the laps of Green Lake that I usually do. To make life easier on T, I just walked across the street to the dock that the folks renting us the house owned. It was sort of weird to stare at a view like this with the idea of just swimming along the shore for half an hour and then turning around:

I’ve swum across lakes a number of times, but never just an out and back with no destination in mind. (That was not an option here with all of the boats, even if I went to a part of the lake where the distance was reasonable.) It was odd. It’s also a bit unnerving to be swimming along in a giant lake with motorized boats and jet-skis and whatnot. I was staying fairly close to shore, but I still kept stopping to make sure I wasn’t about to be run over by a jet-ski or something. Thankfully, nothing even came close to me and it was a nice peaceful swim.

Afterward, I walked back across the street to the house, grabbed the boy and we got on our bikes for a little bike ride. We just stayed on the Centennial Trail heading west and had a gorgeous ride. They do something cool on the trail and label most of the hills with the percentage of grade (i.e. 8%, etc.) It was very validating to know exactly how big the hill you just climbed was and helpful to know exactly what you were facing heading back. I (sort of) wish that they’d do that around here with all of our hills. Plus, because the trail was pretty uncrowded, I could stay in my aerobars and hammer along. Combined with the fact of it being after a long open water swim, it was great race practice and a chance to test out a new gel that I’d picked up in Spokane.

We got cleaned up and hung out back at the house for a few hours, catching up with M & J on their adventures. Then headed to a local brew-pub that we think is connected to one that we go to here in Seattle. They had an unusual condiment on the table:

I ordered the world’s largest turkey burger:

And we stepped out of the restaurant to see a lovely sunset:

We then went to Safeway and bought way too many dessert items (a frozen pie and three pints of ice cream!), some of which we ate while playing a DIY version of Mexican Dominos with the regular box of dominos we’d bought in town. It was a fun way to end a very enjoyable weekend. Tomorrow, we head back to real life. Hopefully, the effects of a fun, relaxing weekend will carry me through the rest of the week.