70.3 #2 recap…

We have had a crazy couple of weeks, hence my unintended absence from here…apologies.

Immediately after the Olympic tri, we headed out for a long backpacking trip. The backpacking trip tied into ‘taper week’ – does hiking with a 40 pound pack up to 13 miles a day count as tapering? Funny, it didn’t feel like I was training. At least not the race-specific training that I’d been so focused on for the past 19 weeks. But it’s not like I was sitting on a beach, reading. And I will fully admit that it was nice to do something that was active that wasn’t swimming, biking or running. The change of scenery was good too. Plus,it’s always nice to be out in the middle of nowhere where no one can reach you by cell phone or email or even the pony express.

We got back into town and had enough time to do a few last minute things – purchase last minute gear, last minute fuel and race day food, check in for the race, drive the bike course. 70.3 race day was yesterday for both hubby and me.

First, I will say this – from the get-go, I wasn’t entirely impressed with the race. It didn’t strike me as being very well organized and I didn’t get the impression that it was going to be very well supported. The shirt we got for doing the race was a baby blue sweatshirt, which my hubby was none too thrilled about… I will never understand why race directors don’t default to more gender-neutral shirts. As the race day progressed, I found more reasons to be unimpressed. For example, there were bathrooms and portapotties at the start. But throughout the course, options were woefully slim – just 1 portapotty on the bike (56 miles) and 1 portapotty on the run (13.1 miles). A learning experience, I suppose – we wanted to save a little money by doing a non-WTC, non-Ironman brand event, which I think in many cases is fine especially if the race is well-established and there are a decent number of athletes participating. However, this was a good example of  getting what you pay for…

Anyway, enough venting and on to the actual race:

The swim was alright – nothing too notable here. The turnaround was not the halfway point, it was earlier, so the second half really seemed to drag. The waters were real murky and there were FORESTS of milfoil growing… every once in a while, some would catch my hand or ankle and kind of make me recoil a bit, but knowing what was touching me helped the jumpiness.  A little. But I was in and out without incidence.

women’s wave start at the 70.3

By the time we jumped on the bike, it was probably 80 degrees and climbing. Too hot too early. I knew temperature was going to be an issue and combined with my lack of faith in the level of race support, I was pretty concerned with having enough water to survive, let alone thrive. We’d heard that we should plan to carry at least 90 minutes worth. To ease my concern, we purchased extra bottle holders so that we could each carry multiple water bottles. We sent out with 2-21 oz bottles + 1 24 oz aero bar bottle – 1 bottle loaded with frozen Hammer Perpetuem (a 3 hour bottle) and one of the water bottles was frozen the night before as well. The aero bottle was loaded with ice only the morning of the race and filled at the first aid station 12 miles into the bike.

It was a long, hot, lonely bike course and as I suspected, not well supported. It was good that we had driven the course in advance as they did not have volunteers at each turn – only some of the course turns, so you had to be paying attention. At the turns were there were volunteers stationed, many of them were sitting in their cars, just tiredly waving their hand out the window. Who knows if most of the racers even saw them. I’m usually very appreciative of volunteers and I try to always thank as many as I can, but yesterday I remember thinking at one point, “Really?  I’m out here biking 56 miles in the heat and you can’t even stand outside your car to make sure I go the right way? Just go home.”

I did a good job of hydrating – drank 1/3 of the 3 hour Perpeteum bottle and had Gus / Gels every 45 minutes. I also tried to drink enough water as well. I filled my aero bottle 2x on the course, but also finished with quite a bit. No cramps or fuel issues. Just mental stuff that had a lot to do with the fact that the course was so lonely. I’ll fully confess that I’m not the strongest biker. I have a lot of work to do on that front before Ironman next year. But I also wouldn’t consider myself to be a bad or poor biker necessarily, usually just middle of the pack… At one point in the race, I looked behind me and there was NO ONE. And I looked in front of me: NO ONE. And I thought, “holy crap, I’m going to be the LAST PERSON OFF THE BIKE!” How awful and depressing. It was totally demoralizing. Honestly, I lost some time off of it. I mean, I tried to laugh it off a little, thinking “well, someone’s gotta be the last person”. I tried to use  it as inspiration. But honestly, I didn’t think it should or would be me! I didn’t see anyone for a good 15 or 20 miles, from about mile marker 30 to mile marker 45 or 50 when I FINALLY found the bathroom.

Being concerned about the water situation, I had hydrated-up the day before the race and the morning of the race. So even though I used the restroom before the swim, I had to go again by the time I hit 8 miles on my bike. Oy. I kept my eyes peeled for a portapotty, but none came. Mile after mile, came and went and NO PORTAPOTTY. I considered a pit stop along the side of the road, but it was lined with, well, a road (it was not a closed course), and also private property. I have heard that some triathletes just pee on themselves and wash it off, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that either. I tried, 30 miles an hour, down a hill, not moving my legs and just trying to focus on peeing… couldn’t do it. I have never been so happy to see a portapotty as I was to see that one after 45 miles of holding all that water! Yikes!

Aside from all of that – being lonely and having to pee SO bad, the bike course was mechanically frustrating for me – I dropped my chain half a dozen times, something that used to happen a lot, but hasn’t happened to me ALL year. It was ridiculous. And SO frustrating. Did I mention that?

The bike is my weakest link, so I was relieved to get off the bike (as I always am) and (finally) see people again! But by this point, it was 92 or 95 or 100 degrees out, depending on who you asked. And almost immediately, you could see the impact the heat was having on people. Fortunately, the one thing the race directors did right was to have an aid station almost every mile along the run. And they were well stocked with water, ice, spots drink, electrolyte tablets, and gels. I’m not sure I would’ve survived without all of the aid stations, honestly. Or at least I would’ve had to have walked the entire thing, which would have stunk. I wasn’t necessarily moving that slowly on the run, but I stopped at every aid station to dump water on my head and back, and refill my water bottle with ice and water which is time consuming over the course of 11 or 12 aid stations. I was able to run 95% of the course, but the heat definitely threw a monkey wrench into all of my plans for beating my previous time, even if by just barely.

At the end of the day, I crossed the finish line running and feeling relatively good. Relieved to be done. The entire ordeal took about 7 minutes longer than last time, but I know that the heat on the run course had everything to do with that. It could have been a lot worse. I was happy to have avoided cramping, bonking, crashing, and DNFing so I’ll chalk it up to a success along the road to the Ironman.

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in the blink of an eye…

Yesterday we took advantage of the cool, but very pleasant weather, the Memorial Day holiday (day off) and a really fantabulous 70 mile long multi-use trail we have in the area that we had (remarkably) never used before. We were slated for a 3 hour bike ride this coming weekend (the end of week 11), but bumped it to yesterday because we had all the time in the world and who knows what the weekend would look like.

Along the way, we were graced by 3 moose and countless great blue herons in the river and marshes alongside the trail. It was quite easy to get distracted by the abundance of wildlife. And it would have made the time go by really quite quickly if it weren’t for a persistent headwind that kept us from really cruisin’.

We were making pretty good time despite the headwind. But our heads were on swivel sticks. Looking this way and that to glimpse all of the creatures we could see. And somewhere along the way, I decided to look down – at my shoulder, I think – and in that second, maybe two, I drove my bike right off the side of the trail into the soft gravel that grabbed my tire and threatened to take me down.

Now, I know what you’re thinking right now.  “Didn’t she just fall off of her bike not too long ago?”  I’m not going to justify that ridiculously inquiring line of thought with a straight answer (see answers here and here); suffice it to say I may or may not have some injuries that may or may not have originated from a certain incident approximately 5 weeks ago.

As is always the case when you’re falling off of your bike, it all happens in slow motion. Well, steering off of the trail happened in the blink of an eye, but what happened after that was Matrix-dodging bullets-slow.

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”

“Not…”

“a-”

“-gain…!”

“(insert self-scolding)”

“@#%$^%)*!”

“Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

Fortunately, in this particular instance, I was able to steer myself back onto the path and slow my bike to a stop. Rather gracefully considering the circumstances if I do say so myself.

And eventually, I was able to swallow my heart and put it back into its rightful place in my chest and get it to beat at a less frantic pace. Eventually.

Talk about a close call. I mean, really.

And I can hear you judging me – “GOOOOOOD-ness! Someone get that girl some training wheels!”  At this point, I can’t say I blame you. I will certainly not turn down training wheels. Elbow pads. A-D-D meds. Whatever would help. This is madness.

All I can say is this – please be careful out there. You may not have the same tenuous relationship with your bike as I do, but all it takes is the blink of an eye to steer off the trail, hit some gravel, or lose control and turn your training ride into a trip to the hospital or worse. I’ve had enough mishaps on my bike for a lifetime (or at least it feels that way with how things have gone lately). I think I might even start taking my own advice: Take ‘er nice and easy out there. Happy riding.

the kindness of strangers…

As you may recall, we had quite the flat-a-palooza last weekend on our bikes. Well, as I was leaving for my brick workout today, I didn’t exactly forget about it, I wouldn’t say that… but I didn’t exactly “remember” what it had done to my flat-fixin’ supplies. You know. Spare tubes. Cartridges. Things that come in handy when you have a flat and want to be able to keep going. Things that keep you from phoning a friend and calling in a favor. Let’s just say, I was tempting fate. Or tempting flats. Foreshadowing, anyone?

The workout for the day was to be a brick workout, calling for a 1:15 bike ride followed immediately by a 20 minute run. I decided to do a 1:30 bike to make up for the 1:30 bike I had skipped earlier this week (which, I should add, was the only workout I skipped this week!).

I left the trailhead, headed west straight into a vicious headwind. Ugh. But better to have it on the way out than on the way back, I thought to myself. Not even 2 miles in, the trail, which follows the river, was completely flooded. No passage to the sides of the trail. Too chilly of a day to ride through. Fortunately, I knew of a detour that required more street travel, but would still do the trick. No big deal, I was off on my merry way.

One of the things I love about being out in the spring is seeing all of the new flowers pop up and today I saw the first of the purple silky lupines that grow on both sides of the trail, and also lots and lots of happy mule’s ears. See?

Fairly close to my turnaround point, around 40 minutes, I came across another puddle and debated my options. It was not huge and it was passable, but a couple out walking their dog informed me that another puddle lay just around the corner and the only option there was to go through it. So I opted to turn around and head back. No big deal.

Around this time, my headphones decided to poop out on me. Well, I should be more specific – the right ear pooped out the other day. Today, the left ear called it quits too. Bummer, but not the end of the world (today at least).

The rest of the trip was uneventful, until it wasn’t. As I made my way along the shoulder of the road – the detour on my way back) – I remember thinking, “I never even notice how much junk is on the road. Or maybe there’s not this much junk on the road, just in the bike lanes. Lots of land mines and potential flats in these parts, eh? Oh…. I hope I don’t get a flat… watch out for that twisted metal shrapnel looking thing…” You know the drill by now. I’m not sure what I caught, but just as I had finished that stream of thoughts, I could swear I heard a slight hissing noise. Nah, maybe my mind is playing tricks on me.

Pssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssst. Psssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssst. Psssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssst. Psssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssst.

Really? Sure enough.

And only then did it actually occur to me that this was one flat I was not going to be able to fix.

Fortunately, I had made good time and good progress. By my estimates, I was between 3-4 miles from my car. Not too far if you’re biking. Or running. But pushing a bike and walking in bike shoes, well. Doable, definitely. I mean, if you had to…

I decided to pop the tire off and switch out the tube. Knowing I had no cartridge, I was only hoping that someone would pass by and check on me. And then I would be ready.

It was my lucky day. First, having seen Jason change not one but two flats last weekend, I had recently gotten a refresher course. And second, just as I putting the tire back on the bike, a couple passed by and asked if I needed help. Me? Well… now that you mention it, I could sure use a pump if you happen to be carrying one! As we were pumping up the tire, two guys also passed by and asked if we were good.

Thank you to those kind strangers that helped me get back on the road this afternoon! While we weren’t able to get the tire fully inflated (to 120 psi – kind of hard on those little travel pumps), we were able to get it full enough for me to make it back to the car without having to walk. And I still had plenty of time to go run a couple miles. All in all, my day was better because some people I didn’t know took the time to help me. Some days it’s hard to feel good about the future of mankind, but days like today really make you appreciate the camaraderie of sports and the generosity of others.

And I promise that next time I head out on my bike, I will be prepared. Not only for my own potential mini-catastrophe, but also armed and prepared to help in case we see another rider who needs a hand.  Guess I’ve got some shopping to do before tomorrow…

 

 

Weekend warriors (with the wounds to prove it…)

Weekends are a great time for relaxing and recovery. Unless you’re training for a 70.3. Then weekends are a great time for those long workouts that just can’t fit into the workweek (there is only so much daylight, right?).  Only, we like to get away on the weekends, go exploring, get out and see the world. Which presents quite the dilemma.

Thus, we find ourselves “multitasking” as we attempted to do this weekend.

This weekend we trekked out north of Seattle to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival based in Mount Vernon, WA. We hit it just right – beautiful weather, blue skies and brilliant tulips fields.

Apparently this is a very popular thing to do and we were lucky to have enough foresight to bring our bikes along with us, thinking this would be a great way to 1) avoid the traffic and 2) get a 40 miler in as our training recommended for the weekend. Two birds, one stone?  Excellent (or so we thought…)!

Here’s what actually went down. We parked our car at a local park near the river and launched from there. Three miles in, these bikes are already paying off big time. We’re soaring past lines and lines of cars. We’re really applauding our wisdom. Freaking geniuses, we are. Four miles in, we’re quietly taunting the cars as we go by, making faces at the kids trapped in the back seats.

And less than five miles in, I say something to the tune of “hmmm, I wonder if we have an spare tubes on us?” or “hmmm, I’m not sure if I have any backup tubes… sure hope we don’t get a flat!” and mere seconds later, Jason gets a flat tire. Bad timing? Karma for the taunting? That’s what we get for being ill-prepared? Eh. Yeah.

Here we realize that my hunch was correct – we hadn’t checked our backup supplies before we left home. But fortunately, I had a spare tube and just as we’re getting ready to use the only CO2 cartridge I had to inflate the tire, a guy in a truck pulls up and pulls a pump out of the back of his truck. (Turns out there was an official ride going on and his bike shop was providing the support vehicle.) Anyhoo, we pumped up the new tube, patched the old one so it would be ready for next time and we were in business, once again flying past those poor fools sitting in miles-long lines to get into the parking lot. The tulips were well worth the trouble (though had I been sitting in a line of cars, I might have thought differently…).

Here’s the kind of views were treated with:

What did I tell you? Totally worth it, right?

We left the first field and decided to take the long road to the next field and get some extra miles in… the weather was marvelous, the views were great and the riding was mostly good, except for the parts where you had to squeeze by the sitting cars on a narrow shoulder (which were fortunately few and far between considering and we avoided those roads as much as possible. About 2 miles from the second field, we rode past a huge field of daffodils on private property. Daffodils! At the end of the field, I had an opportunity to turn off the road so we could view the field safely (i.e. out of the way of moving traffic and other bikes), so I turned. As I’m turning, my back tire caught a pretty bad patch of loose gravel and… Down. I. Went.

Now, it’s been YEARS since I fell off my bike (excluding that time I fell off of the spinning bike, but I digress…). The last time I fell, I caught some gravel and ate it. I screamed bloody murder until someone came out to check on me. I was fine, but I wanted to some attention. You know how kids are… I was no different. I was hurt, I wanted some love.

The difference between then and now? Let’s see. I was going faster this time. Definitely. But I fell in slooooooooow motion. And my foot was securely clipped into my pedal, leaving me no choice but to go down with the bike.  And I’m a big girl now, so presumably, I fell much harder than before.  At the last minute, I distinctly remember thinking “holy crap, I’m going to land on my face” so I put my hands down.

The good news? Well, I didn’t land on my face. I took the brunt of the fall on my left elbow, the heel of my left hand, and my left knee.

I don’t remember if that’s how I landed last time. I didn’t scream bloody murder this time. There was almost definitely some cursing this time. And for a minute I thought I might throw up.

So now I am the walking wounded. I hadn’t put my bike gloves on because we were only going a few miles. I sliced the top layer of skin off the heel of my left hand, my elbow is swollen and bruised (and I can’t put any pressure on it without yelling), and my knee’s all skinned up and bruised (ditto on putting pressure on it) and I have varying levels of road rash from my ankle up to the side of my thigh. Awesome.

Being as prepared as we were, we of course had no bandaids. But Jason did for some reason have a little bit of toilet paper. We washed the dirt out of my knee and hand the best we could and me, being as stubborn as I am, pouted for a while about taking a spill and then determined that we would go see the rest of the flowers.

As fate would have it, as we arrived at the second field and changed out of our biking shoes, Jason looked at his rear bike tire (the one that we had changed out earlier) and wouldn’t you know it, it was flat again. Really? Really?!

Out come the tools again and we borrowed a pump from a more prepared soul who was locking their bike up next to ours. Sigh. A few minutes later, we had the old patched tube back on the tire and inflated and marched our stubborn butts across the street to the tulip display gardens with our fingers crossed the patched tube would get us back to our car.

Our very last stop was the street festival, which was within walking distance of the park where we had parked our car for the day, so we made one last stop figuring if we got yet ANOTHER flat, we’d just hoof it back to the car.

Luckily, we made it home without further incident, but suffice it to say, Saturday was a very tough day for biking. And did we make it the whole 40 miles we had planned, you ask? Oh heck no. We finished out the day with 12 miles under our belts. And which workout from this week called for 12 miles on the bike? Well, none. But sometimes you’ve got to know when to throw in the towel and live to fight another day.