Saturday, December 31, 2011

Release the Inner Artisan

I've been under the weather this week and as such, have been seeking out comfort food. Next to Mom's meatloaf, nothing screams comfort like home baked bread. Problem is, I've never made it. And I'm on a mission to eat clean, which means most recipes for homemade bread were off limits.

I found a recipe for whole wheat bread that sounded pretty simple. Plus it was "artisan" which implies that this is extra special bread. Perhaps even magical bread. It might have powers. I figured what the hell, I would give it my best shot.

Armed with a recipe printed off the interwebz, I brought out the largest bowl that we own. It's actually for potato chips or popcorn but it would do.  Into this bowl, I mixed the following. Also, the instructions implicitly stated do not knead the dough, just get it mixed up.
1 1/2 packets of yeast
1/2 cup honey
5 TBS oil (I used EVOO)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
6 2/3 cups whole wheat flour

The instructions called for allowing this concoction to rest for exactly one hour and 40 minutes and then place it overnight into the refrigerator, so I covered the bowl with a towel and set it aside. Problem is, I started this venture at 7 o'clock at night. My timing was poor, I was on Nyquil and fading fast. So Steve was entrusted with the task of moving the dough into the basement fridge.

In the morning I retrieved the dough. It had risen slightly and looked a little bit like an oversized wart, crouching in the big bowl. Steve was doubtful and said that it didn't look right.  I got defensive and reminded him that this was ARTISAN bread and it was supposed to look kind of dense and lumpy. I could tell from his confused expression that he did not have a clue what artisan bread was. Just to be sure, I googled the term and found an entire page devoted to explaining this concept.

Two lumpy loaves of dough

Dusted with flour and SLASHED with a serrated knife, the
loaves are ready for the oven.

Mmmmmm...delicious whole wheat bread
I turned the bread out onto a pizza stone in two big lumps and shaped them into loafy forms. Then I dusted the tops with flour and a little oatmeal, slashed (yes, slashed) the top with a serrated knife, and popped them in the oven for 50 minutes, 350 degrees. An important thing to note is that you have to put a broiler pan in the oven on the shelf beneath the bread and just as you are putting the bread in, pour a cup of water into the pan.  I guess it steams the bread.

As the 50 minutes ticked away, I peered through the glass door occasionally, wondering how this experiment was going to turn out. Maybe Steve was right. It looked pretty strange.

But pretty soon that awesome smell of baked bread began to fill the house and the lumps puffed up a bit and began to brown. The bread was a winner. I could hardly wait to let it cool enough to slice it. I had a couple of slices with butter and a bowl of soup for lunch.

The recipe made two pretty good-sized loaves. If you wanted a "deeper" bread that would be easier to toast, you could use a loaf pan and probably increase the baking time somewhat. I think this would be really good with apple butter or strawberry preserves.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Ahead to 2012

There's a mean virus making the rounds and it caught up with me earlier this week. I don't know if chicken soup really helps with colds but I have to say there's something about the overly salty broth that holds a special appeal when I'm under the weather.

Still working on my 2012 schedule but tentatively, it's looking like:
  • February - Rock N Roll Half Marathon, St. Petersburg, Florida
  • This was a bittersweet choice. For the past five years I have run in the Gasparilla Half Marathon in Tampa around the same time. It's become a tradition to get some girls together, fly down and run the race, then hang out at our friend Karen's house for a couple of days.
  • This year the marathon was eliminated. The course changed. Still a beautiful course, but the long out-and-back along Bayshore Boulevard was now even longer. Like you were running and running and would never get to the turnaround. Expo felt kind of picked over and the energy just wasn't there for me. It seemed like time for a change.  I love this race and hope to make it back there another year.
  • April - Sprint Triathlon either Petersburg, IL or Sullivan, IL.
  • May - Lake Carlyle Olympic. Armed with proper asthma medicine, I need to go back and do that race the right way.
  • June - June 2 - Tri Shark, Bloomington, IL.
  • June 9-10 - Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinic, Brown County, Indiana
  • July - Probably the Evergreen Triathlon in Bloomington, IL
  • August - Rev3 Wisconsin Dells 70.3. Should be a blast. Reindeer Mary is doing this race with me, and her husband Troy is making his debut at the Olympic distance. 
  • Also in August is the Xterra Illinois Wilds Triathlon in Peoria, Illinois.
Not one to make a lot of New Years resolutions, but I do plan to drop the Diet Pepsi habit. That's going to be a rough one.  I drink one can per day, every day, and have done so for years. But there seems to be a lot of evidence that drinking diet soda actually contributes to weight gain. I'm anticipating some nasty headaches for a while.

The other thing to work on is dropping 8-10 pounds by the time the Dells 70.3 rolls around. It stands to reason that reducing or eliminating the spare tire should help with aerodynamics in the water and on the bike, not to mention it would be nice to not cringe in horror at race pictures.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Grand Canyon Vacation - November 2011

We started at roughly 7 a.m. with the goal of hiking down via the South Kaibob and back up on the Bright Angel trail. It was quite dark initially and temperatures were in the 20s at the top of the rim.

Scene along the South Kaibob Trail.

My batteries were dead on my "good" camera so I used my iphone and got this interesting shot.

The sunrise created dramatic effects on the red rock.

There are small stations along the trail that provide water and restrooms. This is fairly early on the South Kaibob.

Wow, what a view. Looking downward at switchbacks on the South Kaibob trail. We were starting to get into the 'challenging" terrain, hugging the side of the canyon. My fear of heights took a real beating.

Shot of a trail. Stay to the left...the left.

Stopping at Indian Point (I think) campground on the way back up on Bright Angel trail. The cottonwood trees were beautiful in their autumn foliage.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Well, it's been over a month since my last post. Once the race season wound down, my motivation took a nose dive and I just kind of stopped. The tri bike is propped against the wall, about to be affixed to the trainer, where it will reside until spring. My road bike has made a few brief appearances, notably a 60 mile ride in September and then a 30 mile ride three weeks later. And swimming...what is that? Oh yeah, I guess I should hit the pool once in a while.
I did run a half marathon in late September -- the Quad Cities Half to be exact, and I really enjoyed the experience since it was a new race for me, and a well run one at that. And I surprised myself by PRing by a minute. Still a slow pace but slightly "less slow".  Maybe it's true about cross training being the best thing you can do for your running, because since my 70.3 in July, I had pretty much quit running altogether.
Now that the weather is turning mean, I'm falling in love all over again with mountain biking.
Oh, and I turned 50. And I'm cool with that, although lately when I see a photo of myself, it's more like I am looking at a picture of my mom, and that always catches me by surprise.

Friday, September 2, 2011

SEP 2 - Picture of the Day

The boys (Latte on left, Ollie on right) fixated on a bird that was hanging out on the back deck.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shrimp and Orzo

In my quest for healthier eating, I came across a recipe for
Shrimp and Orzo with Cherry Tomatoes . It took me about 45 minutes from start to finish, and that includes thawing out a bag of frozen shrimp, harvesting some basil leaves, and getting in a 20 minute Butt Bible workout.

Good stuff and it makes enough for leftovers the next day. I jazzed it up by tossing a handful of Kalamata olives into the mix.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cat Number 1

There are three cats in my life. For what it's worth, I always thought of myself as a dog person. There was always a dog associated with a particular phase in my life. Cats were there too but they kind of drifted in and out and existed in the background.

Cat Number 1 is an overweight and high maintenance calico named BeeBee. She was a barn kitten, born to a feral momma cat who set up house in a barn on my parents' property. At the tender age of 4 weeks, she contracted a particularly nasty respiratory infection that should have killed her. My daughter discovered the tiny, dying creature and my parents sprang into action, taking the kitten to our vet. I think Beebee lived at the clinic for about two weeks, enduring IVs and electrolyte treatments. The bill was astronomical.

Once you spend money on a wild cat, it becomes a domesticated cat. The question was what to do with this kitten once she recovered. Since my parents already had a crotchety older cat who would not have tolerated an annoying young thing and the thought of adopting the kitten out was unacceptable, I grudgingly accepted BeeBee into the household.

BeeBee, or Miss B, is a pretty good cat as cats go. She begs for food and tears up the rugs sometimes. She also attempts to prevent people from leaving the house by lying on their possessions. Here she is trying to keep me from leaving by staging a sitdown on my gym bag.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Begin Training and Clean Up My Act

So it's official, I signed up for the Quad City Half Marathon on September 25th. That's not much of a horizon and I have done some serious slacking since Racine (July). During my period of slothitude that lasted from approximately July 18th to mid August, I learned that, like many runners, I crave the structure of a training program.

This morning I slogged through 6.61 miles by myself. To make things interesting I drove to downtown, parked my car and ran a different route -- over to Washington Park (drinking fountains and bathrooms) and back. There are a few respectable hills. Overall the run went well, maybe it was just the change of scenery more than anything. I really intended for this to be a little over 7 miles but was meeting Reindeer Mary for coffee at 8 and didn't get my ass out of bed early enough.

We had a great breakfast at Cafe Moxo in downtown Springfield. Mary's out for a while with what may possibly be a Morton's Neuroma and some nerve damage to her foot (can't believe that girl toughed out a half marathon with all this going on). Then perused the Old Capitol Farmers Market.

I recently decided to clean up my diet. Nothing too fancy, mostly just minimize or eliminate processed food, more fruits and vegetables ---- you know the story. My goal is to drop about ten pounds. After a week I have lost zero. But I feel a little better, maybe less like a bloated cow. My rings are looser on my fingers.

Couple of things I did this week:
  • Made some grilled chicken using a marinade of honey, vinegar and herbs (delicious). The chicken came from a local farm, supposedly the chickens get to eat grass and bugs and other stuff that chickens are meant to eat. The honey is from a farm just up the road. Not sure if it's just me but I did think the chicken tasted better.
  • Started using sea salt in place of the finely ground "regular" salt
  • Using plain yogurt -- delicious mixed with fresh fruit. Makes wonderful smoothies (add a little orange juice or honey for sweetness)
  • Made some spaghetti sauce from scratch (and broke food processor in the process :( )
  • Picked up a loaf of whole grain bread from a local bakery

Thursday, August 4, 2011

So what is next?

Following Racine, I took a week off from any kind of physical activity whatsoever. Then I kind of woke up, looked around and wondered, jeez, what do I do now? Eight months of intense training had just come to a grinding halt.

I entertained the thought of doing an Xterra triathlon. It sounded fun and outdoorsy. I have the base for swimming and running, but mountain biking is a whole different animal. A couple of rides convinced me that road riding fitness does not translate very well to mountain biking fitness. I was exhausted after a couple of miles. I wondered what the cutoff times for the race might be.

I also slowly came to realize that my beloved bike, a 2001 GF Tassajara, could double as a boat anchor, needs new brakes and a better drivetrain, and doesn't quite fit me right. Having dropped a ton of cash on my tri bike over the summer, I could hardly justify upgrading it.

So I took S's bike out and gave it a whirl. It's a newer Specialized Hardrock, a pretty basic bike with disc brakes. I am used to the Tass's anemic V brakes. The Hardrock bucked me off on the first turn and left me with some nasty bruises and contusions. I love that word. Contusions.

Fortunately for me, a conflict came up and I was relieved to have an excuse NOT to try the Xterra. Next year perhaps, no way am I ready this year.

So maybe the Quad Cities Half Marathon in late September. I need to work on my running and having this goal might be just the ticket.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Camp Ondessonk Moccasin Gap Trail Run

Let me give a shameless plug for a new race --- Camp Ondessonk is a Christian youth camp in Ozark, Illinois. The camp is located in the beautiful Shawnee forest. It's a trail runner's dream and for the first time, they are hosting a 10-mile and 5k distance trail race.

Date is October 22nd. From the brochure "The Moccasin Gap Trail Run will utilize a series of scenic and challenging trails within and surrounding Camp Ondessonk. This rugged 10-mile route will take runners past some of the outdoor highlights...such as Cedar Falls (the highest free-falling waterfall in the state) and past one of the 11 known Native American Stone Fort sites in Southern Illinois. The trail departs Camp to wind up the ridges and through the sandstone creek valleys of the surrounding Shawnee National Forest, eventually joining up with the River to River Trail. Runners will cross rock-bottom creeks, traverse ridge lines on old Forest Service roads, and climb a series of switchbacks including a stretch of trail boasting over a mile of sustained climb to a historic U.S. Forest Service fire observation tower."

My family has a long history with this camp, so this event is near and dear to my heart. I will definitely be making the three-hour drive south that weeekend. Now to start running trails...

Link to Race Website

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ironman Racine 70.3

Total time: 7:31
Swim Time: 49:35
T1: 5;39
Bike: 3:22
T2: 3:52
Run: 3:00

Ironman Racine 70.3 was on Sunday, July 17th. It's about a five-hour drive from Springfield, Illinois to Racine, so Reindeer Mary and I opted to take off work on Friday and drive up there. That way we would have some time to get a practice swim in and hopefully get some rest.

Mary managed to injure her foot in a freak bike accident about ten days earlier, so there was uncertainty as to whether or not she would even be able to complete this race. I was worried about the forecast, which called for temperatures in the 90s and a heat index over 100.

We packed everything into Mary's vehicle and made the long drive. Despite a couple of detours, the Radisson hotel was easy to find. Packet pickup was at Festival Park, just about a block from the hotel.

I got Bib number 1161. Mary was 972. I have been to expos at some of the big races -- Chicago Marathon, Flying Pig, Indy 500 Mini, etc. You can get lost at those. This expo was small but well organized. We bought some posters, I picked up a cool coffee mug and a tee shirt with the names of all participants printed on the back. Mary eyed the Ironman Racine bike jersey. It was $70. We then decided to go for a swim off North Beach, where the swim would be staged.

Transition was about a mile from the hotel and it was a long hot walk. There were some questionable characters in the area and for a while it seemed someone was following us. It made me nervous. But we got to the beach without incident and tested the water. Cold but not unbearable. There were a lot of kids swimming in the water and none of them were wearing wetsuits. The water in Lake Michigan at this beach is very clear and you could see pretty far down. I saw some small silver fish slip past, and also a rotted dead fish that drifted just before my eyes when I looked up once.

Back at the Radisson, we enjoyed some beer and light fare at the Friki Tiki restaurant, then called it a night. There was a very cool Samoyed dog hanging out with his people there, and it turns out that one of them was attending classes at the University of Springfield.

Mary's family planned to make the trip, so I had reserved my own room for Saturday and Sunday nights. I was pleasantly surprised to be allowed a very early check in, thus beating the throngs of racers who would be trickling in as the day wore on. Got re-situated and we rode our bikes down to transition. Hot. So stinking hot. I rode in flipflops with no helmet and naturally ran into a couple of people from Springfield who recognized me practicing unsafe cycling.

You had to rack your bike by 8 PM and leave it overnight. A bit of cloud cover had blown in off Lake Michigan, prompting us to cover saddle and handlebars with plastic bags. I was also, for the first time, leaving my shoes clipped to the pedals and so I squeezed some ziplock bags over them. I stressed over this. Was it best to leave the shoes overnight or deal with them in the morning? Would they get wet? Did it matter?

We met up with some folks from Beginner Triathlete on Saturday evening at Salutes, an Italian restaurant on Main Street. Thanks to Ben (chasingkona) for organizing. It is always good to meet people IRL. In particular was Lena (lyoshka), whom I had gotten to know pretty well over the past few months. Lena is an amazing lady, her bike tire blew up into shreds and she still managed to finish the race. I would have thrown in the towel.

The portions were enormous. Like many of the people at the table, I ordered the lasagna and when it was rolled out it reminded me of a big tomatoey yule log. I probably could have eaten the whole thing but figured that would be a bad thing to do and just nibbled on the ends. Gave the leftovers to Mary, since I had no way to reheat it in the room. Mary's husband, Troy, purportedly has no qualms about eating cold leftovers.

Up at 4 a.m. I was quietly freaking out and went into full-blown OCD mode, checking and rechecking my gear bag. I had brought Fig Newtons and Triscuits and couldn't make a decision as to how many of each to carry. I was utterly stymied. Frustrated, I threw the entire box of each into my bag and met Mary and Troy in the lobby.

Setting up transition went all right. It was crowded, we didn't have a lot of space between bikes, but I had the "end of the rack" so had a few inches of extra space. Set out a Scooby Do towel and laid everything out on it. Rescue inhaler was in a pouch on my race belt, posed so that there was no way I could miss it before heading out. Rubber banded my shoes to the water bottle carrier so they wouldn't flop around and detach on the long trip to Bike Out.

Everyone would be kicked out of transition at 6:30. I tried to find Mary but she had vanished, rapture-style. I picked up my wetsuit and marched slowly up North Beach, following the others. It seemed too early to be getting to the swim but I didn't really know what to do with myself. You had to hike nearly a mile and there were no porta potties at the swim start. It was already very hot. People who were wearing their wetsuits were sweating.

I sat on a big concrete pier for a while. There was at least a bit of shade here, but soon that grew too crowded and hot. There was a nervous, tangible energy in the air. I put the wetsuit on up to my waist and went to sit in the water, where I sat and looked out at the peaceful Lake Michigan. It was really beautiful. I felt perfectly calm and ready for the day to begin. I put my ear plugs in.

The Swim
I heard the announcer say something about Wave 12 on deck. Holy crap, I am in Wave 15! I had zoned out for too long! I would miss my wave! It would be embarassing and bad.

But the volunteer holding the Wave 15 sign had just stepped out into sight. I worked my way into the crowd of "mature" athletes, all sporting Florida Green swim caps. One lady danced and sang and high fived people as they joined the wave. I wish I had found out her name, I saw her later on the run and she was clearly struggling but still smiling.

Our wave went off at 7:59 on the dot. There was none of the aggressive "run and dive" stuff going on, most just waded out until the water was waist high and started swimming easily. I kept it slow and stayed mostly to the far left. My swim went great. After my DNF last month, I was very concerned about what the day would bring. The clear water was wonderful and I had no issues. It got a little scary when the faster swimmers from the waves behind mine caught up and passed me, but the clear water made it easy to stay out of the way. A guy in my wave was panicking and thrashing around a few feet away, it took all my mental fortitude to not get rattled from the drama. The earplugs helped immensely.

Just before standing up, I moved off to the side into shallow water, sat down and peeled off the wetsuit. This worked like a dream and had the added advantage of allowing me to cool off in the water before running up the long stretch of sand to transition.

The Bike
Transition was crowded around my area and it seemed it took forever to get out of there. I made sure to take a hit off the rescue inhaler. For the first time I had left my shoes clipped to the pedals and rubber banded them to the water bottle cages. This worked very well since there is a short but steep hill right out of transition with no way to get a running start. I rode with feet on top of the shoes to the top of the hill.

The race wheels were great. They didn't necessarily make me go faster but did seem to save the wear and tear on my legs. The course was very crowded. You had to be very careful about not drafting, as it was easy to creep up too close to the cyclist in front of you. Portions of the road were not in good condition and people were losing water bottles right and left. I was carrying two water bottles in cages and a Profile Design bottle between the aerobars, which I repeatedly filled up.

At one point my spare water bottle launched itself from the cage, never to be seen again.

Around mile 40 I could tell the heat was getting to me. It was in the 90s with a heat index over 100. Had some minor stomach cramping and had to ease up on the fluids. At the last aid station, I dumped a bottle of cold water over my head and down my back.

Passed a gal who was vomiting uncontrollably. She would puke, ride a few yards, puke again. It was hard to watch.

The Run
The last mile of the bike parallels part of the run and as I drew nearer to transition, I could tell people were suffering from the heat. They seemed to be shuffling rather than running. I was not looking forward to this part at all. Transition went fine, I took another hit off the inhaler and headed out.

There is a pretty decent hill right at the very start of the run and the race photographers were stationed there, catching people at the halfway point. I made sure to be jogging and smiled, then walked once I was past the camera. It was just plain hot and not much shade. Homeowners along the path had set out sprinklers for the runners, and I took full advantage, dousing my head in the water every chance I got. I jog/walked the first 7 miles, then had a bout of lightheadedness, complete with a burst of stars. It came out of nowhere. Now I understand how people in marathons can be running along and simply crumple to the ground.

After the head rush I walked. It was a long six miles but I had plenty of company and talked to some amazing people out there. I talked to a firefighter who was doing the entire 70.3 in his fire gear. I met a young man who had lost 170 pounds and was fighting diabetes. I saw a young woman with an artificial leg who was struggling bravely. Every single person at these events has his or her own story. They are all inspirational.

When the finish line was in sight, I picked up the pace and jogged across the finish line. It was my slowest time for a half marathon but somehow I didn't care, the feeling of satisfaction at having simply finished was compensation enough.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ready to Roll

My first HIM is this coming Sunday at Racine, Wisconsin. The last 8 months have sort of all run together and this weekend I get to test it out. Coach Joe loaned me a set of carbon racing wheels and last night I took the bike over to a local bike mechanic and had the wheels installed. It was quite a process, to say the least, not something I would have ever attempted on my own.

Am I ready? I think so. At this point there is nothing training-wise left to be done. I would have liked to have dropped about 8 pounds, but that didn't happen. It's ok. I have my nutrition plan, or at least a vague idea. I have my asthma control plan in place. The forecast is crappy - temps in the high 80s. But I can't do anything about that, I just have to deal with it and move forward.

This morning my horoscope said "prepare to enjoy a time of a more normal schedule" . I think this suggests that I am going to enjoy NOT training. Amen to that...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tour De Donut 2011

My last training ride for Racine was to be a 2:30 minute ride at 80%. This sounded just about right for the Staunton, Illinois Tour De Donut. I won't go into a lot of detail, as this is the fourth year Steve and I have participated in this 31-mile race/event. We enjoy it a lot.

In 2010, I ate 10 doughnuts and had a decent enough ride to come in first place overall for women. There was some question about the times being correct, probably rightfully so. For 2011, they branched out and had chip timing which i am sure helped make scoring 1600 riders a LOT easier for the race directors.

It was pretty hot and steamy, I think temps were in the high 80s when the race kicked off at 9 a.m. The first ten miles were spent dodging and weaving other riders. We made good time and got to the first stop. I had budgeted five minutes for each stop (there are two), but quickly had to re-evaluate. The doughnuts this year were from a different supplier. I believe they were from Walmart. They were a heavier glazed doughnut that did not compress down very well and were pretty chewy. People seemed to be having trouble getting them down. Nevertheless I managed to choke down 6 doughnuts and was off.

The first stop took me a disappointing 7 minutes. But I felt good and kicked it in on the way to Stop Number 2. I even flew up the quick steep hill that surprises a lot of people. Two years I have been in the wrong gear and had to walk up that hill.

Stop Number 2 about killed me. I figured I might as well try to beat my time of ten doughnuts from 2010 and dumped 5 of the now-warm heavy doughnuts into my "smashing bag". They would flatten out a bit but it was kind of like eating a big wad of chewing gum. I kept walking around, breaking off little bites and washing them down with water. This stop took a whopping 9 minutes, making a total of 16 minutes added to my race time.

My chip time was 2:10. Eating 11 doughnuts knocked 55 minutes off that time, for a net time of 1:15. At the awards ceremony, my name was called for first place in the W40-49 age group, and I got my hard-earned medal. The next day I studied the results and was disappointed to see that there must have been a timing glitch, as a gal from St. Louis was listed as first in the division. I am not so disappointed to take second place but feel bad that the real first place winner didn't get her medal.

I emailed the race director to see how we could fix this, so at least my conscience is clear!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Strange People at the Pool

Stereotypes abound at gyms and pools are no exception. There are the elite swimmers, the lane walkers, the floggers, the dog paddlers, the reachers. I am the slow flailer. I am ok with that.

Some people defy labeling. We have a guy who loves to dive into the deep end of the pool and then swim slowly underwater across the lanes, periodically rolling over to gaze up at those above him who are churning out the laps. He can hold his breahte for a long time. He should get a job diving for golf balls or oysters. His behavior is seriously creepy. The older lifeguards won't tolerate that kind of shit and he is just smart enough to know this, and so tends to stick to times when the lifeguard is bound to be a young teenager who lets the grownups fight it out amongst themselves.

Mr. Bottom Swimmer (Mr. BS) nearly took me out last night. It was a crowded evening with a big variety of swimmers, and people who didn't want to circle swim were waiting for lanes. Reindeer Mary and I shared a lane. I was headed down to the deep end when suddenly a blur of baggy shorts streaked through the water inches from my face. I was kind of like "WTF???!!" I then realized it was Mr. BS. He was now lazily trolling across the bottom of the pool, flipping over now and then to smile up at me. Shaken, I continued my swim and Mr. BS tooled on down to the shallow end where Reindeer Mary was standing, hands on hips, in disbelief.

I won't go into a lot of detail but suffice it to say that Mary let him know in no uncertain terms that his behavior was fairly unacceptable and attempted to educate him on the nuances of lap swim. He agreed to try circle swimming but just couldn't grasp the concept. Say it with me. Cirrrrrrrrclllllle. Round and round. Swim round in ciiiiiirrrrrrrcccclllle.

Stay on top of the water? Huh? Water is for diving! He asserted that his family paid a lot of money for him to swim at this place, as if this somehow made it acceptable for him to have his own set of rules.

Because the rest of us get to swim for free???

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Off the Beaten Path

S and I took a break from the grind and got out of town for the Independence Day weekend. We enjoy off road riding but there's not a lot to choose from in our area. We opted for St. Charles, Missouri. Good restaurants, quaint shops (did I really just use the term 'quaint"?), wineries and some fabulous mountain biking trails nearby.

After some research with the help of the Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC) website, we settled on the Lost Valley trail (spoken in loud, echoing voice). Given our low level of off-road fitness for the year, a ten mile trail seemed like just the way to kill a morning but hopefully not ourselves.

GORC's website offers the following description: "The name comes from the bootleggers who once made use of the area, getting lost among the numerous hollows. It was also near the site of an ammunition works and uranium processing plant which necessitated the cleanup that lies under the large mound on Hwy. 94. Now, the trail is a 10.5 mile loop with a mixture of double and singletrack punctuated with old homesteads, rock formations, natural springs, and a waterfall crossing. This is a very scenic and enjoyable mountain bike experience. The trail has gone from essentially having no singletrack to more than 4 miles in a matter of a few years. The gravel/doubletrack sections are fairly flat, with the exception of 2 big climbs. The singletrack sections are super flowy and will reward you with great views and better riding. There is a central fire road that cuts the loop almost in half which can be used to shorten or lengthen your ride. "

"Trail surface varies from dirt to rock throughout the trail, and drains very well, except in the flats of the lower creek bottom. "

We rode the trail clockwise, which turned out to be a good idea given the long downhill at the end of the trail. The first couple of miles were on an old rock road, similar to the KATY trail. The trail meandered through the bottomlands alongside a creek. Pic: We stumbled across what appeared to be an old fireplace right in the middle of the forest. As the trail started to climb and twist up a steep hillside, the rock road dissolved into very nice, dry singletrack. There are a lot of rocks, which was new but manageable as long as you went kind of slow, which is not really a problem for me. Let me just say that fitness gained from running and road riding does not necessarily carry over into mountain biking, which is a lot more anaerobic.

The forest is thick and old here. I had a tough time in the humidity and had to walk some of the steeper climbs. I also walked through some of the more technical sections, mostly because much of the time if you missed and fell there was the very real danger of falling down a ravine. That just wasn't on the radar for the weekend. And here I am pushing my bike across a rocky creekbed.
Something tells me that an Xterra Triathlon is NOT in my future.

We kept leapfrogging with two college-age kids, one who was doing great and obviously did quite a bit of this type of thing. He seemed to be serving as a sherpa to the other, who we learned was out on his first mountain bike ride. This kid was struggling worse than I was with the climbing and the rocks. Evidently he had lost his lunch on one of the climbs, which leads me to suspect the decision to ride this trail had been influenced by alcohol the night before. His buddy was nice enough to snap our picture for us.

I would have liked to have ridden more, but S didn't pack nearly enough fluid. One measly bottle of Gatorade was not going to cut it. On the other hand, I could have put out a small fire with all the water I was carrying between a 70 liter camelbak and two water bottles. Drenched and hungry, we headed out for winery country.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

DNF at Rockford

Reindeer Mary and I set out for Rockford at 10 a.m on Friday. Mary decided that her cold was probably allergies and was taming it with Sudafed. Blue skies and mild temps made for a nice ride although we did get stuck in some pretty serious traffic just south of Rockford. The last 19 miles took about 45 minutes to navigate, and for no apparent reason! No wrecks, no construction...just sloooooooooowwwww moving traffic. I don't know how people who commute in this kind of crap do it every day.

Stopped at the Holiday Inn Express to check in. Mary had booked a suite using her State employee rate and was disappointed and a little baffled to learn that this did not apply since we weren't actually on official state business. My AARP discount didn't help us either. Neither did USAT membership.

The hotel lady asked if we were there for the "BMX event". That explained all the cars with bike racks and teeny tiny little bikes in the parking lot. Our tri bikes were gargantuan in comparison.

We kept smelling something delicious. The hotel lady said she was "baking the cookies". Is this a Holiday Inn thing? A ploy to quell our discontent over the increased room rate? Whatever it was, it worked. There is nothing quite like a chocolate chip cookie still warm from the oven.

Drove up the street to Rock Cut State Park. The hotel was literally 3 minutes away from the race site. We scoped out the lake situation. There are two lakes in this park and the triathlon is held in Olson Lake, the smaller of the two. There is a very nice public beach that was pretty crowded. Not much chance of getting a practice swim in today. The terrain is rolling and the lake sat in a low area, with parking lots and the transition up higher on a hillside. Looked like T1 was going to be a long one, judging by the distance from the beach to transition.

We checked out the vegetation issue. Being somewhat of an aquarium/nature nut, I was impressed by the variety of aquatic plants that were absolutely flourishing in this lake. There is a healthy population of lily pads that were in full bloom, arrowhead, duckweed and what I think is cabomba. You can buy cabomba in aquarium stores, it's a cold water plant that goldfish like to eat. It also gets incredibly long, stringy and its tiny leaves collect poo particles and other unspeakable things. Ugh...that would be the seaweed people talked about. It did seem to be contained to the outer edges of the lake. The race crew had done a good job of chopping it back.

There were people fishing at a little dock and by the spillway. Wait, a SPILLWAY AT A TRIATHLON????? WTF???? The water had a tiny bit of chop to it, and you could tell there was some current down that way. Not sure what that round thing is in the water, maybe a lily pad? Or some toothed creature pissed about the weeds being chopped back...

We decided to bike the run course. It was all beautiful rolling, i.e. steep hilly roads winding through the pine forests. Mary held the bikes while I visited a rustic "aid station". I was impressed how clean the facilities were. No wasps at all! No poo on the toilet seat. It even smelled ok in there.

This has nothing to do with triathlon --- Pit toilets are scary things. I will show my age here by stating that pit toilets remind me of an episode of the Xfiles where a tapeworm/fluke thing somehow was crossed with a human thanks to Chernobyl. The "flukeman" made it over to the United States where it was captured and subsequently escaped to a park NOT UNLIKE ROCK CUT STATE PARK. Flukeman hunkered down in a pit toilet and went on to kill a whole bunch of unsuspecting people. Shudder...would Flukeman be in the weeds tomorrow?

We then drove the bike course. Very beautiful, mostly flat with some gentle climbs through gorgeous rural areas.

It was about time for dinner. We ditched the bikes at the hotel and drove up the main drag in search of pizza or pasta. Found a place called "Happy Joes'". This seemed like an omen since our coach is named Joe.

Happy Joe's was kind of like Chuck E Cheese for adults. The system whereby you actually order and manage to receive food was confusing to us. Blame it on a long day, I guess. There was about three people in the whole place at 6:30 on a Friday night. That is usually never a good sign. But we went ahead and ordered pizza and a glass of wine and it was pretty good stuff after a long day. We boxed up the leftovers and called it a day.

Race Day

In the morning we arrived at the race site around 6. The skies were clear with no indication of the thunderstorms that had been forecast. Humidity was a little high, otherwise it was perfect weather.

There were three waves and women were in the last wave. Unique about this swim is that you swim out from the beach, execute a roughly rectangular course, exit the water and run around some orange cones and then repeat this.

I never did find out what the water temperature was, but suspect it was just on the borderline of being too warm for a full wetsuit. A sleeveless might have been a better choice. One woman actually ran into the water at the start, then turned around, stripped off her suit and jumped back in.

The first lap went very well. You had to do a lot of siting, which was easy to do since there were a lot of volunteers in bright orange life vests at every buoy. Really, there were an amazing number of cheerful volunteers out there. Swimming near the spillway was kind of weird for me, I could feel the current and see the gates when I breathed to the right. Stayed with my wave pretty much and passed a couple of men from the prior wave. Things were going well.

I was a little out of breath when I ran out on the beach and I stood up in some seaweedy muck that felt really gross. Around the cones and back into the water. Halfway to the first buoy, I got too close to a guy who was breaststroking and got kicked in the side of the face. Not hard, but I was turning to breathe and ended up inhaling a full breath's worth of lakewater.

It was pretty much over at that point. I flipped over on my back to regain some composure and coughed. Then I puked lakewater and whatever was in my stomach. It was disgusting and awful.

I finished the swim but had to rest on a kayak twice. My time coming out of the water was something like 41 minutes. The walk up to transition seemed to take an eternity and it was hard to breathe. Got out of wetsuit and geared up and trotted over to bike out. At about a mile, I felt lightheaded and nauseous, was having trouble getting a full breath of air. Got sick again, nasty salty stuff.

I was done. I rode back to transition, turned my chip in and said I was dropping out. I have never done this before and it felt strange. I didn't know what to do with myself. Some people would probably have gotten emotional but I just had an odd sense of peace. This was not my "A" race, things had not gone well but it didn't matter in the big scheme of things. It was just a race, nothing more.

Since Mary was still out racing, I knew I had a couple of hours to hang out before watching her cross the finish line. I walked for a bit, tried to drink some water but it threatened to come back up. An awesome volunteer named Cat (Kat?) said I could help in several areas if I wanted to, and so for the next two hours I sat in a chair and helped with timing the racers coming across the mat. It was great to watch the fast people come in.

Wherein I Do Not Quit
So that's the story of my first DNF. I didn't take home a medal but I sure had a story to tell. I spent Father's Day kind of mulling around why I do this stuff, whether or not I will want to continue, and if it all ends this summer, what will takes its place. A big part of my identity is vested in multisport and I'm not ready to roll over, sell my bike and start scrapbooking (no offense intended for any scrapbookers out there), but today was hard, much harder than it should have been and mentally exhausting and I don't think I have another DNF in me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gearing up for Rockford

My next race is the Rockford Olympic Triathlon on Saturday, June 18th. I am going into this with foolish optimism and uncharacteristic bravery. But really, after the beatdown my allergies dealt at Lake Carlyle triathlon, things have got to be better this time, right?

This race is held in Rock Cut State Park in northern Illinois. The swim is in Olson Lake. It is a flat swim, per the race director's informational email. The start is on a beach, and you complete a lap, get out and run across a mat, then repeat the lap. This sounds like grand fun.

Supposedly there is a lot of seaweed type vegetation in this lake.

I read a race report wherein the triathlete described nearly losing his watch to the plant life and having his arms "exfoliated" by the leaves.

The race director sent out an announcement to participants that they had used something called a chopper to cut the greenery back. It sounds to me like they hacked a swath through the seaweed, probably pissing off all of the sea monsters that lurked beneath. Not that there are alligators or pythons, but it's Northern Illinois...aren't there muskies in this lake? Those things have teeth. And snapping turtles. It's something about swimming in murky, plant laden water that makes my skin crawl. It makes me think of horrible, spiny reptilian things snatching at the swimmers from beneath and pulling them down under the seaweed.

Thank God we will all be wearing wetsuits. Whatever gets me will have to chew its way through 5/8ths of an inch of neoprene first.

The bike course is relatively flat with some rollers, and the run course has a bunch of hills. The forecast is for 'scattered thunderstorms". So it could be an interesting day.

Reindeer Mary reports that for the first time in two years, she has a cold. I hope it clears up, it would suck to have to deal with that. Also she is driving.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nutrition Fail

Today's run workout was a 15 minute warmup followed by 3 x 10 minutes at 85% with 5 minutes at 65% in between. I was looking forward to something different. The temperature had dropped into the low 70s and there were clouds blotting out the sun, making for perfect running conditions.

I have been eating these little crunchy peanut butter Clif Bars on long bike runs, alternating with GU with success. They seem to fulfill the need for something solid and salty, while there is a somewhat sweet tasting gooey center. Sort of like a Payday bar except it doesn't taste as good.

I got home from work and slammed down a Cliff Bar, chased it with a big glass of water and out the door I went. The warmup went just fine, I eased into a slightly faster pace and started the first interval. It didn't take long to realize that I had forgotten to use my inhaler. Oh well, not the end of the world, it would just be a slightly uncomfortable run. And more like a 75% effort.

Judging by the math this should have been about a 6.5 mile run. At exactly mile 4, my stomach did that sickening lurch thing, you know...the one where you have to stop running or it will be too late. I was about a mile from home. Decided to walk a bit and maybe that would calm things down. And so it went, walk a little, jog a little, get that "oh shit" feeling. Walk again.

Ended up with 5 miles and invaluable knowledge about what NOT to eat before a run.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Hate the Heat

Mother Nature must be really pissed off this year. We went from monsoon-like rains and dozens of tornadoes straight into 90+ degree heat with high humidity. I'm a little worried about how I'll do at Racine since I tend to wilt in the heat. If it snowed that day I would be soooo happy.

Last Friday after work I tried running in Washington Park, aiming for a mix of heat and hills. I chose a hilly two mile loop with a number of side streets and played a game wherein I had to run each hill twice. This was fun for about a mile, then it became torture. There is shade in the park but since much of the route is in a low lying area with ponds and a lot of vegetation, it is also rather humid.

I stopped at a water fountain to dip my bandanna in cold water and some people asked me if I was all right. My face was tomato red.

"Oh I'm fine," I tried bravely. They seemed unconvinced.

Made it to 4.5 miles and called it a day.

My schedule for Saturday called for a 70-mile bike ride. Steve, being the good sport that he is, agreed to tackle this epic distance with me. We opted to head out at 6:30, which, by the time I was done putzing around and procrastinating, turned out to be closer to 7. I loaded up Jack-the-tri-bike with two bottles of mostly ice, 4 GUs, some Triscuits, a handful of Saltstix and some gum. Our route was new and bold --- we would ride through the towns of Loami, New Berlin, Pleasant Plains and Salisbury. I knew the location of gas stations and/or friends/family so that we were covered for pitstops and water refills.

Things went pretty well for the first 25 miles. The pollen was pretty high, I had forgotten my inhaler and could feel my lungs burning, but my breathing felt ok. We got to Pleasant Plains and stopped at a gas station populated mostly by farmers and high school football players. I felt kind of silly stomping through the store in my clicky cycling shoes. There was no water fountain that I could find, so I slipped into the restroom to refill water bottles.

Noteworthy on this leg is that we saw a large animal at a distance trundling along the side of the road. Initially it appeared to be a groundhog, but it was barely moving. This was no groundhog, it was an enormous snapping turtle that had just crossed a two-lane county blacktop and was ambling down the embankment on the far side. I could see a pond about a quarter mile off the road, which was probably the turtle's point of origin. It appeared to be headed into a cornfield. To lay eggs? I have no idea. I have been known to stop driving or running or whatever to help turtles cross roads safely, but this monster didn't appear to want or need assistance, so we traveled on.

It was getting really hot. A road I intended for us to turn on near Salisbury had recently been white rocked and looked like a flat tire waiting to happen, so we stayed on Route 97, which is a little too busy and narrow for cycling.

In Salisbury we stopped in the shade of some huge maple trees and took a little break. Lo and behold, along came two cyclists, one of them the husband of a friend of mine. He also owns the Corkscrew, a very nice wine store in Springfield. We learned from them that there was some white rock on one of the popular roads ahead, but chose to ignore this warning.

Yup, Stagecoach Road had some fairly new, loose white gravel. There was really no good way to turn around and backtrack, so we just sort of slogged along and hoped for the best.

Steve didn't get a flat tire until we were about two miles from my brother's house. By then the wind had picked up, the ride was starting to suck. I was craving an ice cold Pepsi and wanting to get off the bike.

We made it to my brother's and hung out there for about half an hour, rehydrating and visiting. My legs were pretty tired and it sucked to have to get back on the bike and head out into the wind, which was gusting about 20 mph by this point.

We got home with 66 miles, 4 short of 70. I contemplated riding a few laps around the neighborhood to make the full distance, but decided I didn't give a crap.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Recovery Ride

The nasty allergies turned into bronchitis, sidelining me for most of the week following the Lake Carlyle triathlon. I stayed home on Monday, made a brave attempt to gut out a full day on Tuesday, made it half a day Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were very long days at the office, full of coughing and repeated dosing with Robitussin.

The worst part of being sick, as everyone knows, is missing the workouts. I envisioned the ailment stretching into the next week and robbing me of precious training time.
Saturday was supposed to be a 3:30 ride, outside if possible. Weather forecast called for thunderstorms later in the day, so Reindeer Mary and I set up a ride for 7:00 a.m. A new girl wanted to join us, she was in my Abes Army group last year and is a great runner. She's giving multisport a shot this coming weekend, having managed to procure a spot in the Tri Shark Classic in Hudson, Illinois.

I rode to the designated meeting place and saw a hybrid camped out, complete with a kickstand. So it was going to be a moderate pace, at least for part of the ride. New Girl also did not have a helmet, which bothered me but I kept my mouth shut. She did just fine and promised to get a helmet.

Had a pretty decent ride and no problem with coughing as long as I kept moving. Zyrtec twice a day and a new inhaler are in my arsenal now.

Reindeer Mary and I parted on Koke Mill and I opted to take a different route home. There was a bit of a southwest wind and I wanted to ride against this, rather than avoid it like I usually do. A little rainstorm opened up about 8 miles from home, it was almost refreshing although the pavement seemed a little slick.

All in all a decent recovery ride. Will try running tomorrow and see how the lungs hold. up.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lake Carlyle - Epic Olympic Fail

I will preface my race report by stating that I have MILD seasonal allergies and a touch of exercise-induced asthma. So mild in fact that I ditched the inhaler a couple of years ago, feeling that the slight improvement in breathing wasn't worth the anxious jittery sensation and high heart rate.

Sometime during the night before the race, I woke feeling like I couldn't catch my breath. It was a scary, suffocating throat-swelled-shut sensation. I got up and paced around the hotel room and guzzled some water. The feeling passed although my throat felt strange and raspy. There was a strong smell of fresh cigarette smoke, perhaps from the room next door.

Crawled back into bed and slept for a couple more hours. At 5:30, my voice was raspy and my throat sore. Chest felt tight. I'm no doctor, but I'll guess that exposure to the smoke triggered some kind of allergic reaction.

Mary and I loaded up and headed to the race site. Weather was good, clear blue skies and warm. It was almost too warm.

Transition spots were assigned by your bib number. Being Number 8, I was in the first row, near the bike out. This meant that once out of the water I would have a longish hike up a hill and then go all the way across the transition area. It also meant I didn't have to worry about counting rows of racks, or losing my bike as I did in Petersburg the month before.
Got set up and went down to the water for a warm up swim. Wearing the full wetsuit in the sun was HOT. We stood in the water and I immediately recognized Derek from the Running Center, who had decided to drive down that morning. Felt pretty calm and composed.

There were three waves and Mary and I were in Wave 3. Watching the two waves before us go off, I started to get nervous. For the most part, however, the swim went very well. I forced myself to hold back and focus on just breathing and not worry about keeping up with anyone. Just took long, easy strokes and moved from buoy to buoy. I caught up with some of the women in my wave who had gone out too fast and even passed a couple of men from the prior wave.

Got pretty tired on the return and took a few breast stroke breaks. Chatted it up with a gal who was not only doing her first Olympic distance, but her first open water swim. Yikes! Kudos to her for bravery!!!
I came out of the water feeling extremely fatigued but pleased that I had met my goal time of 35 minutes for the 1640 yard swim. Walked to the top of the hill peeling off the wetsuit. The warm sun felt good. I jogged across transition and saw Steve and Carol O'Connor cheering me on. This perked me up considerably and I got out on the bike and took off.
This is where things started to go to crap.

I was cruising at 20-22 mph and it was feeling way too easy, which usually means there's a tailwind. At mile 8 I came to the first of a couple of good hills and noticed that my throat felt really dry and scratchy. I was taking water and GU and chewing gym, but by the top of the hill I was even wheezing a little. That is a definite first. I watched my speed drop to 7 mph on the hill and I wondered if maybe I should unclip in anticipation of falling over.

At the turnaround, the headwind blasted me. Nothing pisses me off like a sturdy headwind. After the rainy, cold and windy spring we have had, I am so over the wind. I pedaled grimly back, pissed off about the wind and mad that I couldn't breathe. I was just so pissed off. I had trained really hard for this day and my allergies/asthma were teaming with the wind to screw it all up. Passed a couple of people who were having just as much fun as I was. Comments ranged from "this wind sucks" to "this fucking wind sucks."

It seemed to take an eternity to get back to transition and by then, I was done. Instead of the 1:15 I was hoping for, my time for the 24 mile course was 1:35. 20 minutes is a lot of lost time to make up, especially for someone whose weakest sport is running. My legs felt great, no fatigue at all, and despite the bright sun and temps close to 80, I did not feel overheated.
I just...could not...catch my breath. My throat was closing up and my lungs were burning. It felt like I was breathing through a tiny, tiny straw.

And that is how the entire 6.2 miles went. Pollen and the ammonia smell of fertilizer being sprayed on a farm field nearby only made the sucktastic run suck more. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the worst run, this was a -2. I crossed the finish line with a 10K time of a blistering 1:29:41. Total time was 3:40

Still, on the upside I had finished my first Olympic distance and by virtue of having a bad day, had set the bar so low that there was nowhere to go but up. I had entered the Athena category, and since there were only three women in this category, I won a great beer glass as a trophy.

Mary had a great race day, coming in just a hair over 3 hours. She is smoking fast!

After the awards ceremony, I drove home alone (Mary's husband and daughter had come down to watch and she rode home with them) and splurged at the drive-through McDonalds in Greenville. A fish sandwich and chocolate shake really hit the spot.

The allergy issue turned into a nasty respiratory infection, so three days later I am coughing up pieces of lung. I did manage to get a new inhaler prescribed, plus now I'm on Zyrtec twice a day. When this crud clears up it will be fun to see if the new meds help.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lake Carlyle Olympic Tri -Gearing Up and Getting There

My first Olympic distance triathlon was Sunday. In a rare moment of lucidity, I realized that I had NO IDEA what people do with spare tires, CO2 cartridges, etc. on these races. All I have ever raced are sprint distances and I figure if I get a flat, I am a DNF since it takes me about a day to change a tire. Normally while out riding I wear a jersey with huge pockets that can carry pretty much everything one would ever need.

But I would be sporting a Tri singlet - not much room there. There are two tiny slit pockets on the side, enough to hold a GU maybe. A bento box would hold important nutritional items like GU, fig newtons and possibly a ham sandwich. I realized that I had no idea what the big kids do with this kind of stuff.

Email advice from Coach Joe was "just use a small seat bag". Well duh...So off to the LBS I went to spend some money. I settled on this great little kit. I love that it is pretty much self contained and compact.

While at the LBS, I bought some new water bottle cages that actually MATCH. I then went over to the Springfield Running Center to pick up some sundries and talked up the race to Derek, co-owner of the store.

Back home, I laid out my practice transition area in the middle of the kitchen. The cats, in true cat fashion, realized that something was up and attempted to block my escape.

Reindeer Mary worked at the Girls on the Run 5K Saturday morning and then came straight over. We loaded up my Escape and hit the road for Carlyle. Weather forecast for race day looked terrible -- wind and thunderstorms. The rain would be ok, I would take that over wind on a bike ride any day.

The drive to Carlyle was uneventful. Getting there is easy. You hop on I-55 and take that south to Raymond, then follow 127 the rest of the way. You pass through a lot of little towns that have been hit hard by the recession.

In Greenville we stopped at McDonalds and got grilled chicken sandwiches. It seemed like one of the healthier options. There are some very cool old mansions in Greenville and the town has a distinctly southern feel to it.

Once through Carlyle, we took Route 50 to Salem, Illinois and passed through more sleepy little towns and rolling pastures. Lake Carlyle is a Corps of Engineers lake that was formed by damming the Kaskaskia River and there has been a LOT of flooding this spring. So much in fact that as recently as a week before the race, there was some question about whether or not this event would actually occur.

I had made reservations at the Comfort Inn in Salem, so we went there first and checked in. It was hard to find a hotel room for the weekend. We learned that there were graduations going on, plus there were two huge weddings, so hotels were at a premium.

Dumped my stuff in the room and although it had a "nonsmoking" sign on the door, I was pretty sure the room had a distinct odor of stale smoke. Being in a hurry, I thought nothing of this.

We got to packet pickup, which was uneventful. They checked licenses and USAT status. Mary had mistakenly grabbed her Blue Cross card rather than driver's license. Fortunately the good people at pickup accepted this as a form of identification. We were handed shirts, race bibs and bright yellow swim caps.

We Meet Some BT Folks

Walking through the parking lot, I saw a guy who looked really familiar. He looked like Mike (code name ransick) of Beginner Triathlete fame. We introduced ourselves and exchanged phone numbers. While typing in "ransick" my iphone autocorrected his name to "ransack". I knew better than to fight an iphone and left it.

Down to the water we went for a practice swim. While shoehorning ourselves into our wetsuits, I noticed another BT'r, also named Mike. He was there camping with his family and had just tried out the chilly waters of Lake Carlyle. Mary and I stood on the shore and looked out across the waters at the orange buoys. This picture doesn't really do it justice. It looked like the last buoy was at least a mile out there.

The water was a brisk 65 degrees and kind of a murky greenish brown. You couldn't see much more than a foot in front of your face. We decided to swim out to the yellow buoy that marked the sprint course and then come back. This went well although I could feel the slight wave action on the return. We clambered out onto shore, went to the restroom/bathhouse and hosed the skanky lake water off.

It was getting late in the afternoon. JHouse and his lovely wife, Michele, their baby William, and their giant dog Haans rolled into town. They had missed packet pickup by about a half hour. The website for the Gateway Olympic gave two different times, so it was a litte confusing. We sat around on a picnic table and searched for a restaurant on our iphones. Ransa(i)ck made a call to his brother-in-law to get a recommendation and came up with nothing.

Applebees in Salem seemed to be the safest option. Everyone piled in their cars and drove the 24 miles. The House clan were lodging at the Super 8 next door to the Comfort Inn (dog friendly kind of place) and went to check in while we got a table. The place was absolutely packed with softball players, triathletes, and some people who had so many tattoos that I wondered if a carnival was in town.

We had some pretty good fare at Applebees. This is a cajun shrimp pasta that was tasty and came with a nice breadstick.

Mary enjoyed some kind of shrimp-on-a-stick that looked really nice. Coach Joe's baby enjoyed what I think was some kind of pureed chicken with vegetables. It was about the color of Lake Carlyle.

A highlight of the dinner was watching Suzie the Giraffe be tortured in a deep pool of ice water.

After dinner it was off to the hotel for an early bedtime.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Open Water Swim is Good Stuff

Reindeer Mary and I have been trying to get an OWS in for a month, ever since temps started creeping up. Just when it seemed the planets were aligned, Mother Nature would turn mean and pelt the area with cold rain and wind. We decided we had to go for it, cold weather be damned. With temps in the 60s and a water temperature hovering around 59 degrees, Mary and I headed to Lake Petersburg, where the parents of a friend live. They are gracious hosts and always have beer.

This is their back yard. It's a gorgeous private lake (which means no idiot party cove types) with clean, spring fed (which means COLD water). I think that trout could live in this lake, it's so cold. You go down a very steep hill to a dock. The yard is full of oak trees so you are stepping on acorns and sticks and crap and wishing you had remembered to wear flip flops. At the dock is a pontoon boat, a motorboat and a kayak tied up.

And (right) here is Kenny, landowner and kayaker supreme. His awesome wife Bev helped him disembark on the little craft while Mary and I wedged ourselves into our wetsuits up on the back deck.

Xterra ran a sale earlier this year so we both bought the same wetsuit. Worked just great although getting the darned thing on is a little tricky. (left) Mary did a strange dance while (below right) I fought, in true straitjacket mode, to get my second arm in. I need to practice a bit.

Handy Tip: I had read somewhere that people swimming the English Channel used to slather themselves with lard for warmth. Not having any lard handy, I used plain old vaseline on my face, feet and hands. This trick actually seems to help keep skin warmer and I am not sure but it seemed like it made me slip through the water more efficiently.

Getting into the cold water was the worst part. I stood on the edge of the dock and stared out at the greenish-grey water and wondered just what it would feel like. Remember the movie Titanic where Jack is explaining how falling into cold water felt like "thousands of needles all stabbing you at once"? That line was going through my head. I sat on the edge of the dock and stirred the water with my toes, screaming silently inside "This is too fricking cold!!!".

Best to just get it over with, I pushed off the dock and plunged into the water. At first it was shocking. I had also read where putting your face into the cold water can make your lungs contract and induce panic. I think I need to stop reading so much because this DID NOT HAPPEN. I put my face in the cold water and...nothing! It was just like swimming in Eisenhower Pool (public pool in our area that is notorious for the heater breaking).

I heard Reindeer Mary splash in and make some comments about the cold. We griped for about a minute and then struck out.

It was amazing and awesome. Out in the open water, away from the crowded lap lanes and 25-yard limits, it was easy to stretch out and fall into a groove. We swam about 500 yards total, circling a buoy at the end of a cove and back to the dock. Not a long swim but I feel confident about sighting (siting?) and swimming in a straight line. I discovered that it is easy to sight when I breathe to the left and am not sure exactly why this is, but I can live with it.

We plan to test the water at Lake Carlyle Saturday afternoon when we get down there and also drive the bike course. I feel like I'm pretty much ready for this race. Starting to get the pre-race jitters.