it’s just $50 more…

Once upon a time, I was standing in the kitchen, declaring to my hubby my decision to do a half-Ironman. It was a somewhat random decision and a little out of the blue, so not surprisingly, Hubby asked “Why?” To which I confidently responded, “Well, I know I can swim. And I know I can run. And any fool can ride a bike!

That was then. But now?

Turns out, NOT every fool can bike. SIGH. Almost every fool can bike… I appear to be the grand exception.

Ok, maybe I’m not a completely awful biker but that is how it feels a lot of days. More days than not an individual who I’ve deemed NOT worthy of passing me for one reason or another goes whizzing, I mean WHIZZING past me with what appears to be virtually ZERO effort. Let’s agree that: a) there is a good, valid reason they’re faster than me, like the fact that they’ve probably put a lot of time and effort (and $$) into biking and therefore deserve to be faster and b) I’m not a great biker, probably because I haven’t put in as much into it as the speedy bugger that just passed me. 

Here’s the thing about biking that I’ve discovered. Unlike running, which you can do with really pretty minimal equipment, and swimming, which is almost purely technique-driven, biking is hugely gear-driven in my opinion and way more so than the other 2 sports involved in Ironman.

Weight, rolling weight, cadence, road vs-tri bikes, racing wheels, threads-per-inch, carbon frames and super fantastic components and accessories just to name a few things… All of these things can add up to have an effect on race day. And each of them is “Just $50 more…”. (Actually many of them are just $100 more or $200 more, but I digress.)

If you’re me, you learn about them 5 or 6 weeks before race day.You know, when you’re spazzing out about making cut-off times and freaking out about trying to figure out all of the logistical stuff and squeezing in a couple of last looooong bike rides and its too late to do much about a lot of them.

Cool gadgets. Aero bar hammocks? Whoa, what’s that? (I’m sure I need one…)

The latest and greatest tri shorts? Spandex colorful enough that your family and friends can find you in the crowd of athletes (and flattering enough that you’d dare drape yourself in skin-tight fabric from your neck to knees for the duration of the day (12-17 hours?) when thousands of athletes better looking and in better shape than you and thousands of spectators will see you and judge you based on how well you are pulling off said spandex…). And more importantly, comfortable enough that it’s tolerable for that long?

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

There are stats that will show you just how expensive completing an Ironman is. And I’ll admit I was pretty skeptical of the numbers. The popular figure seems to be $10,000. That seemed like an exaggeration at the time but I may be changing my tune.

But here we are, just 29 days from race day and new gear seems to be appearing at our house – if we don’t pick it up in the store, it magically arrives at our doorstep almost daily (oh, e-commerce, how I love and loathe you…). Cases of energy gels for training. Protein powder. New running shoes. Drink mixes. Water bottles. Shorts. New tires for race day. Neoprene cap and swim booties, just in case the water is freezing.

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

Another bike fit to fine tune a few last minute things (Cha-ching)…which leads to a new bike seat or two to make the aero position tolerable (Cha-ching, cha-ching). You may even be as (un)lucky as me and have to try a bunch of different seats to find the one that will work.

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

I haven’t kept track of our spending for Ironman. I guess if I were to add anything to that $10,000 figure it would be to say that I think a lot of the spending is front and back-loaded. Gear to get you up and going. And then all the last minute stuff you discover you “need”.

And that’s where we’re at. Broke, exhausted, grumpy, tired of energy gels and surrounded by a mess of FedEx boxes. There are a lot of things we’ve decided to pass on (like $300 on renting race day wheels to save 10-15 minutes).  But hopefully there are also a lot of things that we’ve “invested” in that besides draining our accounts will hopefully also more and more ready for race day. Here’s hoping…

It’s like this – only my bank account does NOT say 1-0-0-0-0-0-oh so you can’t help but  feel broke when you get home!

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the weather gods must hate me…

Springtime in the Pacific Northwest is an awful and horribly unpredictable time to be trying to train for an Ironman.

Each weekend, as training progresses, there is a longer and longer ride staring up at me from that piece of paper on the counter. And each weekend, there is a terrible weather forecast staring at me from the computer screen. Bad on Friday, bad on Saturday and worse on Sunday. Substantial chance of rain, slight to middling chance of snow, windy as all get-out, a very good chance of you getting wet on the bike ride and 100% chance of freezing your bum off on your bike.

There are some who say that training in poor weather makes us stronger. And to an extent, I would agree.

But there are times when I cannot take any more. These are those times.

Each weekend that I have a horrible, awful, no good, very bad ride, I think it can’t get any worse. Two weekends ago, I had a 4 hour ride to squeeze in and the option between a bad weather forecast on Satruday and an even colder, wetter, nastier forecast for Sunday. So I took my chances with Saturday and found myself riding for hours in blowing gusting 25 mph winds  with snow, rain and hail to boot. My feet were frozen after 50 minutes. After 2 hours, I wondered at what point I should be concerned. At 2 1/2 hours, I stopped in a outhouse for shelter to warm up my feet. At 3 hours and fifteen minutes I had to stop in another outhouse to re-warm up my purplish, reddish feet. At 4 hours and fifteen minutes, I was relieved to see the “finish line” but I couldn’t show it because my face was frozen in a perma-scowl due to the blowing rain and snow (and the tears and snot running down my face probably didn’t help).

Last weekend, we had sun. But the wind was possible worse than the week before – strong and constant. At one point, I realized that I should’ve easily been cruising down the hill, but instead I was cranking away as hard as I could to go TWELVE MILES PER HOUR. DOWNHILL. That’s how windy it was. Not cool. Not cool.

Mentally, these rides are taxing too! I’m worried I have a limited amount of mental toughness and that I’m going to use it all up on getting through these dumb ol’ training rides…

I had high hopes for this weekend, but once again we have projected sunshine and nice weather until Friday, with WIND projected again for this Saturday and Sunday.

I’m not sure what I did to offend the weather gods, but I sure hope race day brings nicer weather. Because right now, more than anything, I just want to ride in calm, pleasant weather. Especially on race day. I need to find a sacrificial lamb or groundhog or something to appease them before then… anyone got the inside track on what the weather gods prefer? Squirrel? Deer? Gold? Anything?

training with a pack of dudes…

Over the weekend we found ourselves at a little tri-clinic with about a dozen to fifteen others getting pep-talked, drilled and advised by pros.

(Now before you read any further, the events described here did really happen and my thoughts on the whole thing, while accurately reflected here are largely intended to be somewhat humorous and tongue-in-cheek description of the day…)

Cliche as it is, most of the guys, being triathletes and, well, boys, spent much of their day trying to feel each other out, impress (someone? each other?) and out-do each other to find their place in the sausage-y totem pole. Who’s faster? Who can run further? Who’s done the most races? Who’s got the sleekest, most tricked-out tri bike? Who’s going to cry “uncle” during the workouts first and perhaps most importantly, who’s going to WIN?

Naturally, part of the day included swim drills so we divided up into 2 lanes according to speed / ability and did sculling drills, catch-up drills, drills to help with rotation and position, drafting drills and mass starts. It was all fine and good until the mass starts… we had to jockey for position and then swim out about 200 or so. In 1 lane. In a 25 yard pool. There were 6 or 7 of us in each lane. Seems like a good idea, right?

Being the smallest in the lane and also the only female in the fast lane, I let the hot headed dudes sort themselves out, not wanting to be on the wrong end of a testosterone fueled elbow or fist. Generally in these kinds of situations, including triathlon starts, that is how I roll. I’m usually faster than the average person and underestimated as well. Let others throw elbows in the pack, I’ll draft up the chain and pass later. No biggie. Better that than needing stitches.

But at the clinic, holding back meant I sacrificed my position further up in the line  for the entire drill. With just 25 yards to work with and 6+ people to the lane, there was almost always other people coming straight at you at high speeds and with not enough room to go 3-wide in the lane, you were basically were stuck in line until at least halfway down the lane when the oncoming traffic cleared. Then you had 10 yards or so to make a break for it, pass the other person and get back onto the right side of the lane before you got plowed over by oncoming traffic.

Sure enough, after just 25 yards I found myself behind a dude whose weiner, ahem – I mean ego, wouldn’t get out of my way. Every time I made a break for it, I’d pass him and hit the wall first – me on the left and him on a right. I’d push off strong with every intention of escaping quickly and unscathed and most importantly in front of him so I could swim at my own pace and not his snail pace. But being a dude, he couldn’t take getting beat by a girl so he’d push off to the right and crash into me, run me over and I’d find myself getting ramrodded into the laneline and stuck behind him again. (As obnoxious as this was, I can only assume he identified this as his last-ditch option to prevent a girl from passing him as he didn’t appear to be able to outswim me…) And then, just a few yards into the lane, I’m smacking the bottom of his feet, his ankle, even the back of his calf with every stroke, having to pull back and breaststroke even (the slowest of all swimming), waiting for my opening to make a break for it again. It got old real fast. But I did get some good drafting practice in, so at least there’s that.

Look, I’m as competitive as anyone. But seriously dudes? We all know you’re all big and tough. Strong and fast. The best and the baddest, right? The supercoolest. We know. Your egos are fragile and getting passed by a girl is only the worse thing that can happen. But please move out of my way. You’re embarrassing yourself and I’m embarrassed for you. Isn’t it worse to have a girl have to slow down and clearly cut back to 50% effort than to just let me go by? I’m promise I’ll be discreet – no one will even see it…

on being cinderella…

Alright, so time to talk about running shoes. I never felt like I had to a problem finding running shoes. Before this time. How did we find ourselves here, feet?

The story goes like this:

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a girl who was learning to love to run. She ran and ran and ran. Just 5ks. Until one day, a 10k. And a half marathon. And another. And then, she thought she’d tackle a marathon. So she registered. Nashville was on the books.

But it was not to be. Not at this time. For she had some serious and persistent IT band issues that kept her from running loooooong. What a pain. Literally and figuratively. Seriously.

She could muscle through 13.1 miles. The first nine were good. The last four were always pain. (I grimace just thinking of it.) Marathons would have to wait.

Eventually, a physical therapist prescribed Superfeet inserts. Some strengthening exercises. Foam rolling (“therapy”… you may recall my feelings on this. And if not, you can find out here). Ah, relief was ahead, right? Wrong.

Years of supportive shoes and Superfeet seemed to do just enough to keep running tolerable. To keep 13.1 within reach (and within her pain tolerance).

And then one day, someone recommended custom orthotics. Well, what the heck. It made sense. Fix the base and the rest would fall into line. Funny enough, it worked. Three glorious years of pain-free running passed, a few more half marathons (faster and faster half marathons!), a 70.3 and a marathon (!) and things were seeming pretty good for our heroine.

Sigh. What a lovely story.

But wait. All good things must come to an end. Three years of near-constant training. Miles upon miles took their toll. Custom orthotics break down, need replacing. And easy fix, right? Ah. Wrong again.

Fast forward to two months ago. The 1st replacements were much too small and much too narrow for running shoes and had to be reordered. And the 2nd set (nearly a full month later) – went into a new pair of the same running shoes I’ve been running in – weren’t a good fit in the new shoes. I felt like I was running on the outsides of my feet. Like I was double-correcting by being in a custom orthotic AND supportive shoes. Possible… yes. But that was also the dynamic duo that got me through 13.1, 26.2 and 70.3. Huh.

So back went the shoes. Out came another pair. A neutral pair with a smaller drop from the heel to the toe. Good, except my fat feet, sitting on top of the inserts, were rubbing along one of the outlays along the outside of the shoe along the outside of my foot. As a side note, my sweet sweet hubby insists I do not have fat feet, just that I have “a part of my foot right under my pinkie toe that seems to be slightly wider than the average”. So sweet. Fat feet. But I digress.

So back went #2. Out came #3 (less support than #1, more than #2) for a run. But potentially too narrow. And? Well. The jury’s still out.  They’ll be running with me again.

I think deep down, the answer is: they don’t work. But at this point, I just. Want. Shoes. Shoes that work. And I’m totally totally totally willing #3 to work. You know, so my feet can have their happily ever after. I don’t want to be the fat-footed running Cinderella. When, oh when did finding shoes get to be so complicated?

battles with the evil foam roller…

I’ve recently resumed foam rolling out of, uh, necessity. I find it helps my running – it’s one of the magic components of a flexibility and strength plan that keeps me on track and trucking along. For those of you who haven’t experienced the torture that is foam rolling, let me warn you: While disguised as docile creators and lauded for their many therapeutic benefits, foam rollers are really quite evil, nasty creatures.

Therapeutic benefits may lead you to think… therapy. And therapy’s  a good thing, right? Immediately, visions of serene spas. The peaceful sounds of a gentle fountain in the background. Perhaps some quiet, relaxing music. Maybe the smell of lavender. Ahhh. Well that sounds perfectly lovely, you think to yourself. Why not?

Be careful. Don’t let the vicious foam roller lull you into complacency. Don’t be fooled by its soothing colors (ours is many shades of blue, presumably designed to make you think calming thoughts of nice cool waters, ocean breezes and beautiful blue cloudless skies). Sitting there in the corner it looks so harmless. How could such a little piece of foam be bad?

But once it has pulled you in by convincing you that somehow it will be a peaceful therapy session, the delusions it has created in your mind will come crashing down. You find yourself rolling up and down along your IT band and your world becomes one of violent pain. In no time, you’ll be gritting your teeth, clenching your jaw, cursing its very existence, thinking and at times, maybe even yelling obscenities of which you weren’t entirely sure you were capable. And, if you’re anything like me, within minutes of this torturous “therapy” you’ll find yourself hurling the cursed foam roller out of the room with a yell that is one part anger and one part victory (albeit a small one, one more of survival than anything), leading others in your house to wonder about your sanity and indeed, your very well being.

Experts suggest this so-called therapy several times a week to keep muscles and tendons pliable and flexible. Ironically, this painful therapy is supposed to help with sore muscles, as well as increase flexibility, decrease muscle tension and help to prevent injury. I was introduced to the foam roller years ago when I was first having IT band issues. Unfortunately, I find that if I do not stay up on a few key core strengthening exercises and foam rolling, my IT band starts to complain. Eventually if I slack off for long enough, I’ll be out running and my tight, neglected IT bands begin the mutter and complain. And without foam rolling, this muttering soon turns into a constant yell. Apparently, I have a couple of masochistic IT bands. Dang.

Anyhoo. If you, too, find the need for more pain in your life and feel that trading a few minutes of pain and suffering each night for the promise of less pain in the long term, here’s a video for you to check out and also a couple of links to articles that explain some other foam rolling exercises.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Runners World – Foam Rolling for Runners

Running Times – The (almost) Magical Foam Roller

rules of the road…

Our community is very biker and runner friendly. Tons of triathletes… maybe its a ‘birds of a feather’ thing directly inspired by Ironman that has rolled through town every year since 2003, maybe not. Either way, we’re fortunate to have some really great trails that get pretty significant use by all of those folks training (including yours truly), especially when the sun finally decides to shine.

Spend as much time as I do running and biking on these roads and trails and you’ll see a lot. Obviously, there are a lot of people out and about – many of whom have headphones in. Runners are weaving back and forth, trying to avoid the walkers who inevitably come with zigzagging dogs who are sometimes on those leashes that seemingly have no end (or zigzagging dogs who have no leash as all), and trying to avoid what often comes with dogs who have irresponsible owners (roadside poo). Long boarders and skate boarders are trying to avoid the runners and the walkers and the dogs. And bikers, trying to keep their pace and their cadence up and get through the traffic and into the clear just as fast as possible, are zooming through the traffic with their fingers crossed, “no whammies, no whammies, no whammies!”  Eeek- Scary.

I’ve seen a few things over the past few weeks already that I thought I’d share here while they’re fresh in my mind (and I’ll add to this list as I think of things):

– Obviously, respect all users.

– If you have earbuds or headphones, keep one ear free so you can hear what’s going on around you.

– Give everyone their space. Overestimate how much space they need and how much space you need.

– If you want to, pass. But slow down, make sure you’re clear of oncoming traffic and pass safely – don’t be a ninja and especially don’t be a ninja on a bike. Let people know you’re coming – I prefer a simple “passing please” as I approach folks I need to pass. (I find this is easier than “On your left” because for some funny reason this phrase seems to confuse people. People freak out and forget which way to move and end up moving directly into your path. I imagine if I could see their face as they hear “On your left”, they’d resemble a deer in the head lights, eyes as wide as saucers. What is this nonsense?) If you’re somewhere super congested, avoid the congested areas or buy a bell.

– If you have a dog (and for the record I do – we have 2 actually), keep him or her on a leash close to your side and know what his or her reaction to runners and strangers biking will be before you go out. And please, please pick up after your dog. Nobody likes those warm squishy stinky surprises left on the side of the road, not even other dog owners. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us dog owners and trail users.  Please and thank you!

Anyhoo… off my soapbox for now…

PS- watch out for mountain goats.

photo by MollySVH